Archive for Soonerland

He remarked dryly

Here we have snapshots from the US Drought Monitor for the last four and a half years:

Despite tons of rain this month, we’re not out of the choking dust just yet.

(Via Becky McCray.)

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Just say Charge It

The infrastructure of tomorrow — okay, the day after tomorrow — is here today:

Says Tesla: “Tesla Superchargers provide 170 miles of range in as little as 30 minutes.”

If there’s another set just this side of the Red River, there’s your 170-mile fillup. And there is: it’s in Ardmore, outside the Interurban Classic Grille.

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Plagues upon us

You name it, we got it yesterday: torrential rain — normal May rainfall is 4.65 inches, which we got in a couple of hours — randomly-appearing tornadoes, mostly, as usual, on the southside; and tigers.

Wait, what?

The tigers were rounded up before midnight — they say.

Pharaoh was not available for comment.

(Here be tigers.)

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I don’t think that’s snow

The National Weather Service will be deploying new icons later this year, which is a Good Thing if this one strikes you as absurd:

Screenshot from NWS Norman 8 pm 6 May 2015 showing snow/ice

Then again, what is a May in Oklahoma without Mother Nature throwing one (or in this case, several) of her hissy fits?

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N₂ darkness

Attorney General Scott Pruitt remains convinced that midazolam is the sedative of choice for executions:

Pruitt’s office will argue to the Supreme Court justices on Wednesday that the drugs Oklahoma used in Clayton Lockett’s execution in April 2014 met the test established when the high court upheld Kentucky’s lethal injection method in 2008.

There is not, the state contends, an “objectively intolerable risk of harm” when midazolam is used as a sedative, even though the drug does not have the same properties as the barbiturates that have been administered previously.

And, Pruitt said, inmates challenging the state’s use of midazolam must show there is a “widely available alternative” that would pose less risk of harm.

Speaking for myself, I’ve had exactly one dose of midazolam, and I’d say it was a pretty darn good sedative, but that’s just a single data point, and besides, they weren’t putting me to death, or at least they said they weren’t.

Then again: “widely available”? How about “all over the place”?

Before the first Shuttle launch, some ground crew died in the engine compartment of the orbiter, because they were in there during a nitrogen purge. They apparently never knew they had a problem, but simply passed out. If there’s a CO₂ buildup, the body knows it’s asphyxiating, and tries to do something about it, but no such warning mechanism has ever developed for a pure nitrogen atmosphere, because no animal would have ever encountered such an environment in nature.

So why not simply bring back the gas chamber, but instead of a toxin, simply remove the air and replace it with nitrogen? I’m sure there are other examples, but I fail to understand why this is such a difficult problem.

Governor Fallin has signed a bill to do essentially that as the state’s official backup execution protocol. I suspect the only reason it’s not moved to the head of the list is the fear of legal challenges — as though there weren’t legal challenges by the score already.

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Less than nothing left

Picher, Oklahoma, to borrow a Pythonism, is an ex-town:

Picher is a ghost town and former city in Ottawa County, Oklahoma, United States. Formerly a major national center of lead and zinc mining at the heart of the Tri-State Mining District, over a century of unrestricted subsurface excavation dangerously undermined most of Picher’s town buildings and left giant piles of toxic metal-contaminated mine tailings (known as chat) heaped throughout the area. The discovery of the cave-in risks, groundwater contamination and health effects associated with the chat piles and subsurface shafts — particularly an alarming 1996 study which showed lead poisoning in 34% of the children in Picher — eventually prompted a mandatory evacuation and buyout of the entire township by the State of Oklahoma and the incorporation of the town (along with the similarly contaminated satellite towns of Treece and Cardin) into the Tar Creek Superfund site.

Incorporated in 1918, Picher once had a population near 10,000; it is now somewhere around 6. From the Insult-to-Injury Department:

One of the few last remnants of an abandoned mining community in Ottawa County was destroyed by fire, said Sean Harrison, a Quapaw Tribe spokesman on Wednesday.

The Picher Mining Field Museum caught fire late Monday night or early Tuesday morning, he said.

The museum was on the National Register of Historic Places and was not demolished in a federally funded Tar Creek buyout.

“The roof had already caved in and there had been no attempt to preserve the building,” Harrison said.

The contents of the museum had long since been moved away, so nothing was lost except a piece of skyline that hardly anyone will ever see.

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Not that I care

Who didn’t see this coming?

Apathy discussion marked by lack of interest

(Another joyous clipping from Bad Newspaper, found, from the looks of it, in the OU student paper. Oh, and that should be “fewer than 15 people.”)

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Unmagical realism

For those of you who might have thought that academia is overrun with sexual non-binary types and other individuals hard to characterize, well, that might be true in the Ivies, but it doesn’t work out here on the Plains.

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Policy wonks may be excused

In fact, they may be escorted to the border and left there:

[W]hat’s a non-politico to do during election season? Here’s an idea: Escape to Oklahoma, the best state to get away from the political circus.

Oklahomans consistently rank near the bottom on a variety of measures of political obsession — or engagement, depending on your perspective. Only two states saw a smaller share of eligible voters cast ballots in 2012, and just seven states had a smaller share of residents registered to vote, according to census data. People in Oklahoma were 10th most likely to say they never vote in local elections, 11th most likely to say they infrequently discuss politics with family and friends, and 14th most likely to say they don’t express their political or community opinions online, according to data collected by the census in 2013.

A major benefit of this disengagement:

You won’t just be avoiding conversations about the presidential election in Oklahoma, you’ll also be shielded from campaign ads. During the seven months leading up to the 2012 election, the major parties spent just $1,300 on ads in the state, according to FairVote, a nonprofit that promotes fair elections.

There are people who truly believe that there is no higher calling than politics. In this state, there is no higher calling than making banana splits at Braum’s, and we don’t give a flying feather about the machinations of those retards at 23rd and Lincoln or of the criminals in the District of Columbia: worthless, the lot of them. And you think we’re going to get out the vote for such pinheads? Life is too short to encourage people who can’t even make proper banana splits.

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Dumb, dumb filter

This is why filtering for Improper Strings is ultimately a losing game:

Screenshot from OKCTalk 25 March 2015

I suppose it’s a good thing this happened on Wednesday and not on Sa****ay.

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The kind of evening it was

This picture almost says it all:

What this doesn’t tell you: KOMA (the AM side, anyway, which now uses a different call) is 50,000 watts directional, and to achieve the proper nulls — they must protect WWKB in Buffalo — they used three such towers.

Two of them are lying on the ground at this moment.

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Narrowish broadcasting

The FCC will put 131 vacant FM allocations up for auction on the 23rd of July, including four in small Oklahoma towns.

Minimum bid is $1,000 for a class-A (6,000 watts maximum) slot in Clayton (Pushmataha County) on 100.3. It will cost you at least $5,000 for a class-A slot in Hennessey (Kingfisher County) on 97.9. (Don’t even think of trying to move it to OKC.) Twenty-five thou might bring a class-A in Waukomis (Garfield County) on 106.3, or even a class-C2 (25,000 watts maximum) in Millerton (McCurtain County) on 100.9.

Elsewhere, minimum bids of as low as $750 are sought; a handful will command $75,000 or more.

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Solid psittacine

Good evening. Here is the news for parrots:

Bobby Pacino, our blue and gold macaw, will be ten years old this spring. He was hatched somewhere in the United States and sold to us at a pet store in Oklahoma City when he was just a pup. Err, baby? Kitten? Chick. When he was just a chick. A small, quiet one.

The first few days he was home with us were a lot like having a newborn infant, especially with regard to feeding and bonding. It was actually a very sweet time.

Then the next solid, unrelenting decade was a lot like having a dysfunctional toddler, especially with regard to, well, pretty much everything. A loud, messy, screaming, demanding, attention seeking, affectionate and VERY smart, un-CANNILY smart, but also disruptive and destructive, toddler. It’s been a whirlwind. A loving whirlwind.

And if ten years sounds like a long way to put up with a toddler, well, macaws often live 50 years or longer, so a lot of feathers are going to be ruffled.

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Silence for sale or rent

Opponents of hydraulic fracturing have been blaming the process for the upsurge in earthquakes in this state in recent years, and there’s very likely something to that, though obviously more research needs to be done, if only to figure why out it’s happening so much more here than it is elsewhere: are Oklahoma oil and gas operators doing something different? Is something in the fault-line pattern contributing to these incidents? A lot of factors merit consideration, and the Oklahoma Geological Survey in general, and State Seismologist Austin Holland in particular, have been strangely silent on the matter.

Or maybe not so strangely:

In October 2013, OGS joined the U.S. Geological Survey in issuing a statement about Oklahoma’s growing earthquake risk and possible links to oil and gas industry disposal wells. A week later, Holland was “summoned” to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission for a meeting with Jack Stark — then a senior vice president of exploration, now president and chief operating officer at Continental Resources — and then-Commissioner Patrice Douglas. Mike Soraghan of Energy Wire [behind paywall] reports:

“Douglas and the Continental executive were ‘concerned’ about the joint statement with USGS and a story about it by EnergyWire, Holland recounted later in an email.

“At the time, Douglas was about to run for Congress. She got more campaign money from Continental executives in 2014 than anyone except Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and the Republican National Committee, according to OpenSecrets.org. The $14,775 she received from Continental includes $6,575 from Hamm, who did not contribute to her Republican primary opponent, Steve Russell. Russell beat Douglas in the primary and is now a congressman.

“In the meeting, Douglas said she ‘wants to, of course, protect the safety of Oklahomans, but also balance that with industry in the state,’ according to Holland’s email.”

One meeting may mean nothing. But two?

After the OGS “cautiously” agreed with scientists about links between disposal wells and earthquakes, Holland in November 2013 was called into a meeting with University of Oklahoma President David Boren and oil executives, including Continental Resources Chairman Harold Hamm, “a leading donor to the university.” Boren also serves on Continental’s board of directors, where, in 2013, “he received $272,700 in cash and stock for his service,” Soraghan reports.

This is not to say that OGS presents a united front:

In April 2013, another OGS scientist, petroleum geologist Richard Andrews, said in a note to a family member on his agency email account that OGS shouldn’t be telling the public that the earthquakes are naturally occurring.

“Myself and a few other geologists that know of the Hunton dewatering oil operations in the affected areas and subsequent re-injection into the Arbuckle [are] the culprit,” wrote Andrews, who is now the interim director of OGS. “I am dismayed at our seismic people about this issue and believe they couldn’t track a bunny through fresh snow!”

You might want to ask the Bunny Protection League about that, Dr. Andrews.

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Thirst priority

Lawton is considering cloud-seeding to try to get some additional water into the city’s supply:

The Lawton City Council will consider adding a $1 surcharge to residents’ water bills to find alternate water resources.

Councilman Doug Wells, who put the item on the agenda, wants it to go toward cloud seeding. If passed, the surcharge will take effect on March 1.

He says it is an emergency situation and we can’t wait another month to make a decision that could be made now. The drought is one of the biggest problems plaguing the city, and he says something needs to be done immediately.

Wells says that over a year, this surcharge could bring in $400,000, enough to hire an expert for 12 months.

Some of us can remember when you could bring in a proper rainman for $100:

Then again, that was a long time ago.

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You shall not watch us

Yes, folks, it’s Stupid Bill Time again. Oklahoma still has an Open Records Act, for now, though evidently some legislators dislike the very idea of such a thing:

Fees for public records would be significantly expanded and 10 exemptions would be added to the Oklahoma Open Records Act under a bill approved Thursday by the House Public Safety Committee.

Government officials could even refuse records requests that they considered an “excessive disruption of the essential functions of the public body,” under the bill.

Committee Chairman Mike Christian put forth an amended HB 1361 that kept only the original effective date of next Nov. 1.

Christian is an Oklahoma City Republican, but that doesn’t mean this is nothing but a GOP thing:

The original bill [pdf] by Rep. Claudia Griffith, D-Norman, was not much better. It would have undone recent progress in open government by removing access to all law enforcement recordings and removing statutory language confirming that law enforcement records must be made available for copying by the public. The latter nonsense was likely spurred by the city of Norman’s contention that it didn’t have to allow copying of police records prior to the explicit language taking effect Nov. 1.

I assure you, I didn’t vote for either of these jerks, or for the ones who voted it out of committee. But hey, guys, if you didn’t want the public looking over your shoulder, you probably should be doing something with your lives other than pretending to be public servants.

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Outdoctrination

Last year, Oklahoma barred the use of any of that greasy Common Core stuff; said Governor Fallin, “We are capable of developing our own Oklahoma academic standards that will be better than Common Core.”

Maybe we are, and maybe we aren’t. This incident makes me wonder:

The legality of teaching Advanced Placement courses in Oklahoma public schools was raised Monday during a House Common Education Committee hearing on a bill aimed at the AP U.S. history guidelines.

That measure, House Bill 1380, by Rep. Dan Fisher, R-Yukon, would direct the state Board of Education to review those guidelines and bar the use of state funds for AP U.S. history courses.

Where Dan Fisher lurks, can Sally Kern be far behind?

It was also suggested that AP courses violate the legislation approved last year that repealed Common Core, with state Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, saying she has asked the state Attorney General’s Office for a ruling on the matter.

I sat down and read the actual course description in question — you can too [pdf] — and I think this guideline explains the knotted state of the GOP’s BVDs:

It is the nature of history as a discipline that claims and statements about the past are subject to differences in interpretation. But because the concept outline is the result of careful research into colleges’ requirements for credit and placement, it is essential for the AP Program to provide teachers with visibility into these findings.

And as we all know, for certain values of “we,” colleges today are primarily tasked with turning out neo-Bolsheviks for the New World Order, or some such business.

Fisher’s objection, basically, is that there’s not enough “We’re great! And they suck!” Like anyone would take his word for it. My most reasonable conclusion: yes, there is a reason for American exceptionalism — and there are also exceptions to it.

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Coldest before the sunrise

The Historical Weather item on NWS Radio this morning pointed to record highs on this date in 2011 — 80°F in Oklahoma City, 84 in Wichita Falls, 73 in Nowata — and then noted that record lows had been set just seven days before. I distinctly (accent on “stinct”) remember hitting five below. Which is a hell of a swing: 85 degrees Fahrenheit in one week. Still, that’s February in this state, and 85 isn’t even that notable. Look at Nowata. On 10 February 2011 they got down to a ghastly -31°F, followed by that rebound to 73. That’s a 104-degree swing.

Lynn was dealing with twenty below on that day in 2011:

It actually doesn’t feel that much colder than -10° but maybe I needed to stay out a little longer to really feel it. I keep looking at the weather forecast for the next seven days and seeing that it predicts 65°F for the middle of next week and it seems like the ravings of some lunatic prophet. Can it ever really be that warm again?

It can, and sure enough, it was. Even Boston and New York will thaw at some point this year — though probably not in one week.

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Late at nitrogen

You might remember this observation from last spring:

[T]echnically, the firing squad is still authorized in Oklahoma — if both lethal injection and the electric chair should be found to be Constitutionally impermissible. This was a semi-clever maneuver by the legislature to make sure they had something to fall back on if the courts took issue with the drug cocktail.

Add to these two options the possibility of a third:

With no debate, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 9-0 Tuesday to authorize “nitrogen hypoxia,” which depletes oxygen supply in the blood to cause death.

The bill’s author, Moore Republican Sen. Anthony Sykes, says it’s likely the bill will be amended before the session is over.

Three lethal injections remain on hold in Oklahoma while the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether Oklahoma’s three-drug method is constitutional.

At least they wouldn’t have to sweat supplies: half the tire shops in town have nitrogen-generating devices.

Last I looked, the title of SB 749 had been stricken, which requires some explanation:

Strike the Title: to change the title of a bill to a few words which are briefly descriptive but constitutionally unacceptable. The major intent of this action is to ensure that the bill will go to a conference committee. The same effect may be achieved by striking the enacting clause. Any Senate legislation being reported out of a Senate committee, with the exception of an appropriation bill, must have an enacting clause or resolving clause and a Senate and House author.

The opponents you might expect are, as expected, opposing:

Ryan Kiesel, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union argues there is no humane way to kill someone and a bigger question needs to be discussed.

“These types of bills really miss the point. They miss the opportunity for Oklahoma to have a much broader and deeper conversation about if we should be in the business of executing people at all,” Kiesel said.

Say “gas chamber” to me, and the first thing I think of is Susan Hayward as Barbara Graham.

That’s “gas chamber.” With an S:

You may track the bill here.

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Sixteen K

Down in the lower left corner of this Big Check Facsimile, there’s the legend “Rural Economic Action Plan.”

REAP funds a firehouse in Roosevelt, Oklahoma

To explain:

The Rural Economic Action Plan (REAP) Grant was created through legislation in 1996 to improve life in rural Oklahoma. Its purpose is to assist small communities, towns, counties and unincorporated with populations under 7,000, and which have little or no funding capabilities. REAP grants fund a variety of projects that enhance economic development, promote intergovernmental cooperation, promote and enhance public health and safety, and/or implement regional or local plans.

In this particular case, REAP issued a grant to the town of Roosevelt, population 250 or so, to convert a barn to a fire station, clearly a public-safety enhancement. But truth be told, what caught my eye was the amount of the check: $16,384. Those of you who have spent too much time hanging around binary stuff will recognize this number instantly as 214; old 16k RAM boards contained 16,384 bytes. Now I’m wondering if there’s some sort of binary grant formula.

(Photo from Jennifer James’ Instagram.)

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Or just wait fifteen minutes

Lynn defends the nine-season climate around here:

For the most part I actually like Oklahoma weather. We rarely have the same kind of weather long enough to get tired of it (except maybe the heat and drought in mid to late summer) and it’s an endless source of entertainment, especially if complaining is your favorite sport.

Hey, I run a blog. What do you think my favorite sport is?

(“Climate? I didn’t even see it!”)

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In lieu of a retractable bubble

The city of Moore is proposing a barrier of sorts:

Residents in south Moore will soon have a barrier protecting them from sound and highway debris.

The city is planning to build a protective wall along I-35, which will provide protection to those who live between South 4th and South 19th streets.

Moore city officials said the wall will shield residents as much as it can from daily debris, noise and strong winds.

That’s merely strong winds, not winds of mass destruction: this is not going to do much in case another EF5 tornado comes to town. I’m guessing they have some use-it-or-lose-it funding, and this was a safe, innocuous choice. (Don’t read the comments.)

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The man must love his work

Just the same, this is a sucky idea:

A constitutional amendment filed [Wednesday] by state Rep. Paul Wesselhoft would ask voters whether or not they want to replace current 12-year term limits with 16-year term limits.

Wesselhoft said House Joint Resolution 1007 would give Oklahomans a chance to cultivate more experience in their state legislators.

“Each time we term out we lose good people with a great deal of knowledge and leadership,” said Wesselhoft, R-Moore. “This empowers the lobbyist and the directors of agencies, which gives them too much influence over government.”

Or we lose terrible people who exploit the position for their own gain and self-aggrandizement, which also empowers the lobbyist and the directors of agencies.

The rule, says Wesselhoft, would not apply to current legislators. (Guess who hits the wall at the end of 2016?) And if we really want to cut the hangers-on out of the loop, we need something like Glenn Reynolds’ “revolving-door surtax.”

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Attendance will be taken

Tuesday, May 19: Brady Theater, Tulsa

Wednesday, May 20: Hudson Performance Hall, Oklahoma City

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You’re hearing this

The Tulsa Sound, says Wikipedia, is “a musical style that originated in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was a mix of rockabilly, country, rock ‘n’ roll, and blues sounds of the late 1950s and early 1960s.”

What's This I Hear cover artThere are occasional references to the Tulsa Sound in state publications, but this is the first compilation of recordings I’ve seen pop up. The prospectus:

From this vantage point, some 60 years later, and with so much water under the bridge, it’s hard to imagine just how much of a shockwave the emergence of Elvis Presley shot through the youth of America. This was no less true for the collection of young wannabe musicians who called Tulsa, Oklahoma, their home in the period of time the “Tupelo Tornado” twisted his way across the USA, leaving a trail of devastation and inspiration in his wake.

The “Tulsa Sound” would become one of the most influential strands of American Rock music in the 1970s, and beyond, and on this collection we take a detailed look at the early years of the artists that would go on to put Tulsa on the musical atlas. Featuring highlights from Tulsa pioneers like Clyde Stacy and David Gates, who would find fame as the lead-singer and chief songwriter for the massively popular Bread, this release also includes, for the first time, all 8 of the songs that the great JJ Cale recorded in his formative years in his hometown, before heading out to LA with other Tulsa friends, in search of glory.

Cale was recording as “Johnny Cale” in those days; by the time he’d signed to Liberty in the middle 1960s, he’d become JJ. (Birth name: John Weldon Cale.)

What’s This I Hear?, named for a pre-Bread song by David Gates, is due out from England’s Cherry Red label in February.

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Replete with chiefs

An amusing (for once) Oklahoman editorial this morning:

[W]e couldn’t help but chuckle when Democratic Leader Randy Bass of Lawton announced [Senate] caucus leadership positions and committee appointments. The leadership positions included one Democratic leader (Bass), two assistant Democratic leaders, a Democratic caucus chair, a Democratic caucus vice-chair, two Democratic whips, and four assistant Democratic floor leaders.

Which is, admittedly, a lot of positions to be filled by only seven legislators. (There were actually eight at the beginning of the year, but Jabar Shumate resigned a few days ago.)

Still, the electorate should not feel bad for the badly outnumbered Democratic caucus:

The Democrats’ numerical challenges also were reflected in their committee assignments. Every Democrat will serve on eight committees or appropriation subcommittees. As a point of comparison, there were Republican senators who served on just five committees or subcommittees last year. If Democratic legislators make every one of their assigned meetings, no one can accuse them of not giving the voters their money’s worth.

And you have to figure that the GOP isn’t going to hold 40 out of 48 seats forever, just out of sheer fractiousness.

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Approved by the Bureau of Appropriate Clothing

They’ll get my hoodie when they pry it off my (up to that point) warmly insulated body:

After consulting with the Department of Public Safety, Senator Don Barrington (R-Lawton) has authored a bill that would make it unlawful to wear a mask, hood or covering during the commission of a crime or to intentionally conceal his or her identity in a public place.

There are provisions. Such as, pranks of children on Halloween, religious beliefs and special events like a parade, masquerade party or weather.

But if you wear a hood with ill intentions, you could be slapped with a misdemeanor fine of $50 to $500 and or one year in jail.

I grumbled about this earlier:

This is the epitome of “Well, let’s give the prosecutors something else to hang on ’em.” And the first time some woman in a burqa gets busted for something like shoplifting, what you’ll see hitting the fan will not be at all halal.

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Although not Rainier

Not only do we obsess over the weather forecast, we’ve been known to review old forecasts:

For more than three weeks Oklahoma has been wrapped in fog, dark clouds, and just a flannelly cocoon of winter weather. We are not built for this much darkness! I really don’t know how people in the Pacific Northwest cope with it. So yesterday we all felt refreshed just seeing the sun. I went for a quick little 3 mile run wearing only a light jacket, and I had thoughts like better get the pool opened up soon!

“Light jacket” makes sense: the inversion layer sitting above us has produced indifferent highs but uncharacteristically above-freezing lows.

The National Weather Service properly caters to this tendency:

I missed that little bit of sunshine, being stuck in Post-Vacation Recovery Mode, but we’re actually getting some today. Which is good, since I am told that there’s no parking left at Byron’s, or as no one dares call it, Booze R Us.

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Meanwhile, up in the sky

The spring storm season in this place lasts 14, maybe 15 months. On the upside, when the sirens pipe down we get a glimpse of something like this:

There was a tornado warning at the time, at a far corner of the county.

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For which they stand

Because, you see, this kind of stuff is important:

Ruling [Thursday], Oklahoma County District Court Judge Bernard M. Jones denied Oklahoma City Public Schools’ request for an injunction that would force Locust Grove and Oklahoma City Douglass High Schools to replay their Class 3A quarterfinal game, or to replay the last 64 seconds of the game, starting from when a mistaken rule enforcement cost Douglass a touchdown to which it was by right entitled.

And God forbid anyone should fail to get something to which it is by right entitled. Meanwhile, there exist issues of lesser import:

You, O Fine Reader, being the perceptive sort of person that you are, will probably have noticed that no one is threatening to go to court over Douglass test scores or building facilities, or the fact that the statewide testing mark for the school dropped from a C+ in 2013 to a D- in 2014, or that nobody noticed that school staff had let so many academic requirements slide for the class of 2013 that the discovery only a fifth of them could graduate was not made until November 2012.

None of those things are worth disturbing a judge and packing a courtroom for, apparently.

It’s all in the priorities. And in this state, that’s football, followed by Everything Else.

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