Decidedly mixed signals

In the days of Ralph Spoilsport Motors, having both AM and FM in your car was not only optional at extra cost, but damned well worth it. Now, maybe not so much:

A Mark Kassof & Co. survey of radio station owners, general managers and group executives finds that 41% of them identify internet access in cars as the biggest “threat” to AM/FM radio. Following in descending order were: Pandora 18%; Sirius/XM Satellite Radio 13%; iPods/mp3 players 13%; podcasts 8%; iHeartRadio 7%; and YouTube 6%.

YouTube? Really?

The most discouraging aspect of this, perhaps, is that iHeartRadio, which actually aggregates content from major radio stations, is considered an actual threat to them.

Meanwhile, minor radio stations continue on the path to extinction, or at least format changes. The new owner at KKNG — Tyler had to sell it off to meet the government’s laughable ownership limits after buying Renda’s Oklahoma City cluster (KOMA/KOKC/KRXO/KMGL) — has dropped the classic-country twang in favor of religious programming. Atypically for this part of the world, though, it’s Catholic religious programming.

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Unwanted momentum

What’s the difference between turning 50 and turning 60? More than just 10 years, says Roger:

When I turned 50, I could think, “Maybe I still have another half a lifetime left.” After all, the number of centenarians in the United States has been growing… Now that I am 60, though, I have to acknowledge that I’m not going to live another 60 years, even if I move to Azerbaijan and start eating yogurt soup. (And if I’m wrong, which one of you is going to write to correct me?)

The trouble with the phrase “over the hill” is that it reminds you of the downward slope, which in turn, the laws of physics being what they are, implies picking up speed, precisely what you don’t want to do unless your life is as miserable as, oh, let’s say, mine when I was thirty-five. (It was not a very good year.) Still, in the event that someone doesn’t catch my last name, I will invariably say “As in ‘Over The’.” Dismayingly, it always works.

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How it’s done

At the higher levels of government, the people handing out tax breaks and similar largesse to their friends and relatives are required to appear at least marginally discreet: it would never do, for instance, for the House to pass a continuing resolution containing something like “[dollar amount] for [giant corporation] in exchange for services to be rendered,” or for the Senate, were it capable of writing a budget, to set aside [dollar amount] in such a budget specifically to hand out to groups raising money to fight [giant corporation].

Maryland, which surrounds the District of Columbia like a frightened, mentally retarded amoeba, has learned much from D.C. For example:

The Maryland Senate advanced a bill Friday that would exempt Lockheed Martin from paying about $450,000 a year in hotel taxes to Montgomery County related to a training center that the giant defense contractor operates in Bethesda.

As written, the bill applies to any company that operates a lodging facility in Maryland solely to support a training or conference facility that is not open to the general public. Sen. Nancy J. King (D-Montgomery), the bill’s chief sponsor, acknowledged that no company but Lockheed Martin currently qualifies for the exemption.

Oklahoma, perhaps due to its considerable distance (in several senses) from Washington, is slightly less adept at this scheme. This is the statute (68 O.S. Supp. 2005, §1356) that exempts Thunder tickets from sales tax:

58. [Exempt:] Sales of tickets made on or after September 21, 2005, and complimentary or free tickets for admission issued on or after September 21, 2005, which have a value equivalent to the charge that would have otherwise been made, for admission to a professional athletic event in which a team in the National Basketball Association is a participant, which is held in a facility owned or operated by a municipality, a county or a public trust of which a municipality or a county is the sole beneficiary, and sales of tickets made on or after the effective date of this act, and complimentary or free tickets for admission issued on or after the effective date of this act, which have a value equivalent to the charge that would have otherwise been made, for admission to a professional athletic event in which a team in the National Hockey League is a participant, which is held in a facility owned or operated by a municipality, a county or a public trust of which a municipality or a county is the sole beneficiary.

Note that there are two possibilities here, inasmuch as both NBA or NHL teams were being sought at the time. The facility currently known as Chesapeake Energy Arena is in fact owned by the city of Oklahoma City. And the statute would apply equally well to Tulsa, which owns the BOK Center, were they to get a team; since Tulsa wasn’t on the major-league radar at the time, it may be presumed that the wording was designed to ensure at least some support from hopeful and/or dreaming Tulsa legislators.

Still, what’s most alarming about that measure is not the fact that it’s yet another tax break on behalf of someone other than the grandly general “We the People,” but that by 2005 Title 68 had at least 1,356 sections. This is micromanagement on a megascale.

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Readers wanted

This unsourced quote has been making the rounds, and a friend on Facebook — as distinguished from “a Facebook friend” — posted it. I figure the least I can do is pass it on.

There are two people you’ll meet in your life. One will run a finger down the index of who you are and jump straight to the parts of you that peak their interest. The other will take his or her time reading through every one of your chapters and maybe fold corners of you that inspired them most.

You will meet these two people; it is a given. It is the third that you’ll never see coming. That one person who not only finishes your sentences, but keeps the book.

Maybe the reason this isn’t sourced is that no one will admit to using “peak” instead of “pique.”

Still, my own life is based on the library model: I am occasionally checked out, but never for more than two weeks.

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Quote of the week

Jack Baruth really doesn’t regret not going to the Geneva auto show:

[T]he people who went weren’t excited about the product either. Sure, they took Facebook pictures of their triple-seven sleeping pods and eighty-euro mystery dinners, but when it came to the actual rolling stock, the lack of enthusiasm among the professional enthusiasts could be viewed from space. Assuming, of course, you have an Internet connection in space and are willing to use it to read auto blogs. The closest thing to a universally acclaimed car at the show was a diesel version of a sporty hatchback. That’s like getting worked up over Diet Dr Pepper.

The responsibility for this dismal state of affairs can be clearly laid at the feet of three companies. Porsche, Ferrari, and Lamborghini were given a chance to render automotive equivalents of Miss Alex Morgan in steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber. Instead, they chose to give us Honey Boo-Boo’s mother, Snooki, and Janet Reno in a Predator mask, respectively.

Bonus snark, on what has been dubbed the “LaFerrari,” aka Snooki:

It’s far from beautiful but it isn’t beautiful from far.

File under “Damn, I wish I’d said that.”

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But it says you’re calling from Saskatchewan

Area codes just don’t mean that much anymore. Trini, who lives about ten miles from me, is in a wholly different area code, not because we’re on opposite sides of a boundary, or because there’s supposed to be an overlay (572?) coming to the 405 in the near future, but because she doesn’t have a land line, and she obtained her wireless service out of state. And if you feel compelled to fax me for some reason, there’s yet another code involved.

The FCC, not normally attuned to market reality, might conceivably scrap the whole idea of area codes attached to geographical areas:

[FCC chair Julius] Genachowski began circulating a series of proposals among fellow commissioners Wednesday that could make it easier for VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) providers to tap the national telephone numbers pool and eventually sever the relationship between an area code and an actual geographic area… [the] plan includes a notice of proposed rule-making that seeks comment on new rules governing the way VoIP providers get access to the pool of phone numbers. It also seeks to establish a pilot program to test direct numbers access and launches an inquiry into the way numbers are managed, including their relationship to a geographic area.

One of the stumbling blocks, I suspect, will be long-distance vendors, who already don’t make a dime if I call Trini on my cell phone, and who will resist any effort to make their business model look any more ludicrous than it already is.

(Via Outside the Beltway.)

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Kittehs tortured

Rumor has it that Charlotte may try to reclaim the Hornets name after New Orleans becomes the Boisterous Sea Birds during the off-season. I’d be in favor of this nomenclature adjustment, if only because the current CLT roundballers are, let’s face it, lacking in ferocity. (We won’t discuss their D-League affiliate, the Mad Ants of Fort Wayne.) In defense of the ‘Cats, they did have the lead after the first quarter, 29-28, but the Thunder were in the midst of what became a 21-0 run, and it was pretty much over after that. And while 116-94 qualifies as a rout, it was kinder than the thwacking the Bobcats got in Oklahoma City in November.

It didn’t help that Ramon Sessions was hors de combat with a sprained knee, but there were a few bright spots for Charlotte: Gerald Henderson’s game-high 21 points; Kemba Walker’s perceived adequacy as a stand-in for Sessions; Ben Gordon’s 19 to lead the bench; a mere eight turnovers all night; and Byron Mullens’ development into a plausible starting power forward. Still, the ‘Cats were clearly outclassed.

With the starters being pulled early, OKC had plenty of points to distribute evenly, what with 56.8 percent shooting and 12 of 24 treys going in. As usual, Kevin Durant led the parade, but playing less than half the game, he finished with a mere 19. And of the three point guards, Derek Fisher produced the most scoring: 13, versus 11 for Russell Westbrook and 9 for Reggie Jackson. I’m sure this means something to someone.

After this, things get a little more complicated for the Thunder. The Celtics will be in OKC Sunday afternoon; then a quick trip to San Antonio (Monday) before returning home to meet the Jazz (Wednesday) and the Magic (Friday). The crunch is on.

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Two wheels good

Most newfangled automotive options are intended to keep you from running into things. Running into people, well, that’s another matter.

This obviously cannot stand. So now we have a bicycle-friendly Volvo, sort of:

Volvo has just announced Cyclist Detection with full auto brake — a technology that detects and automatically applies a vehicle’s brakes when a cyclist swerves in front of a moving car. The basic components of the system include a radar unit integrated into the front grille, a camera fitted in front of the interior rear-view mirror and a central control unit. The radar is tasked with seeing obstacles in front of the vehicle and calculating distance, while the camera is responsible to determine what the object is. The central control unit, with rapid processing capabilities, monitors and evaluates the situation.

There’s a downside, but a logical one: to get this option, you must also get the related (and presumably using some of the same hardware) Pedestrian Detection technology. Production begins this spring.

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With the obligatory Big Voice

Little Peggy March rolled up five Hot 100 singles in eleven months, starting with “I Will Follow Him” in March 1963, an English-language remake of a French hit by Petula Clark. And she wasn’t that little: four foot nine. She was, however, well up to the music industry’s standard for Cute Girl Singers, and age didn’t dull her much:

Little Peggy March

“Every Little Move You Make” died at #84, and after RCA Victor set her free, she relocated to Germany, where she continued to have hits until 1980. (One curiosity from those years: the 1978 single “Oklahoma Bay,” a tribute to Soonerland’s endless shorelines. Or something like that.) Sixty-five today, she’s not even close to retired; her last album in English (Always and Forever) came out in 2010. The German version, however, had a bonus track: a duet with Dutch singer José Hoebee.

This song, you have to believe, is her destiny, even if John Waters did work “I Wish I Were a Princess” into Hairspray.

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Bullies for hire

A screed headed “Stop PAYDAY Companies from taking your HARD earned MONEY!” (emphasis as in original) landed in my email box yesterday. The pitch:

Eliminate payday Loans ASAP!

Before they take your next check stop them in their tracks with us!
We will keep them from taking your hard earned money.

We help protect you! We are the Payday BULLIES!!

They list a phone number, a post-office box in Woodstock, Georgia, and a URL which as of last night went to an Apache 2 test page.

Interestingly, arriving at about the same time was a GoFundMe solicitation for various anti-bullying efforts, including this one to support Rachel’s Challenge. Timing is everything.

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The hour is at hand

Not that I expected much from it, but the petition section at whitehouse dot gov is actually one of the more worthwhile achievements of the Obama administration, inasmuch as (1) it costs comparatively little to run and (2) if your intelligence should be insulted by what you see, it’s probably not the government’s fault.

And once in a while there’s something I can support:

Daylight Savings Time is an archaic practice in our modern society.
The original reasons for the policies are no longer applicable, and the most cited reason for keeping DST (energy savings) has never been shown to be true… We should either eliminate DST or make it the year-round standard time for the whole country.

Apart from the gratuitous S at the end of “Saving,” there isn’t much here for me to complain about.

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J. R. shot first

Actually, we didn’t see J. R. Smith until the second quarter, but the streakiest shooter in the NBA was having one of his streakiest streaks: 33 points in the next 30 minutes. (With six minutes left, J. R. had piled up the same number of points as all five New York starters.) When the Thunder finally managed to slow Smith’s progress, he complained; both Smith and Thabo Sefolosha, who’d been doing the slowing, wound up with technicals. And the Knicks had been doing a pretty good job of slowing the Thunder; Russell Westbrook, who’d had 19 points in the first half, was limited to two in the second, though Kevin Durant did his best to pick up the slack, scoring 21 of his 34 in the second half. With 38 seconds left, OKC clung to a 95-94 lead; Smith somehow missed a trey from the left wing, Durant got a good look but nothing more, and finally Westbrook disrupted Smith’s last-second fadeaway, leaving the Thunder out of breath but victorious.

Smith finished with a game-high 36, though Durant was right behind. The difference, though, may have been Kevin Martin. All season, K-Mart has been more effective at home than on the road; but tonight in the Garden, he made his relatively few shots count, going 4-6 for 16 points. OKC shot a mundane 44 percent from the floor; the Knicks barely broke 40, and apart from Smith’s 14-29 they didn’t break 37. And maybe the most interesting line of the night was Jason Kidd’s: he took only two shots, missed them both, but hauled in ten rebounds.

Tomorrow night against the Bobcats, who have had a rough time of it of late; the Admiral Ackbar sign is probably going up on the team plane to Charlotte.

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Capitalist running dog pulls up lame

If you’re not Goldman Sachs, says Steven Rattner, you ain’t squat:

Most troublesome is the legalization of “crowd funding,” the ability of start-up companies to raise capital from small investors on the Internet. While such lightly regulated capital raising has existed for years, until now, “investors” could receive only trinkets and other items of small value, similar to the way public television raises funds. As soon as regulations required to implement the new rules are completed, people who invest money in start-ups through sites similar to Kickstarter will be able to receive a financial interest in the soliciting company, much like buying shares on the stock exchange. But the enterprises soliciting these funds will hardly be big corporations like Wal-Mart or Exxon; they will be small start-ups with no track records.

And God, or Robert Reich, forbid that small investors should actually own anything, am I right?

Write this down and memorize it, Rattzo: “Too big to fail” is the functional equivalent of “too big to be useful,” and will remain so just as long as Wall Street’s sole interest is the care and feeding of Wall Street.

Oh, and before you express your oh-so-sincere concern about all us player wannabes, you might consider this from Warren Meyer:

I predict that over [time] that Internet entrepreneurs running such crowd-sourcing sites would develop reputation management and review tools for investors (similar to those at Amazon and eBay). Over time, it may be that these become far more trustworthy than current credit agency reports or investment bank recommendations. After all, which do you trust more — a 5-star Amazon review with 35 responses or a Goldman Sachs “buy” recommendation on an IPO like Facebook or Groupon? Besides, it would take a very long time, like eternity, for fraud losses in a crowd-sourcing site to equal 1/100 of the investor losses to heavily regulated Bernie Madoff.

Consider yourself downgraded, Rattski.

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Thank you for your support

What I know about brassieres isn’t enough to fill up one hand, as I’ve admitted in the past. And apparently the volume of information is growing by leaps and bounds:

I can remember a time not so long ago when the lingerie sections of department stores were relatively simple affairs, with choices adequate but not overwhelming. There were the strapless, the halter, and the regular; the wired and the wireless; the low-cut; and the padded and the un. Cotton, satin, and lace, and a relatively small number of manufacturers.

Now the styles have proliferated exponentially, and each has a very special task to do. Eliminate back fat. Minimize. Maximize. Do away with the side boob. Look good under clingy tank tops. Have comfortable straps. And on and on and on. And the efficacy of none of these things can be ascertained by merely looking at the bra on the hanger; all must be tried on.

And then presumably discarded because they didn’t actually fit.

Last December, I had the dubious pleasure of watching my daughter hunting down Exactly The Right Strapless to fit under her wedding gown. And she rationalized this purchase exactly the way she’d picked out the shoes: its lifespan is going to be measured in hours, and not so many hours at that, so maximum robustness of construction was not a priority. Downside: this tends to expand the number of choices exponentially, since you can’t rule out something that looks like it won’t survive more than a wash or two if it’s not going to get more than a wash or two.

It is seldom that I give thanks for my Y chromosome. This was one of those times.

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Schedule your rage accordingly

“Anger management,” if you ask me, is at just about the same level of pretentious donkey dust as “search-engine optimization,” and one should be very suspicious when encountering a recommendation for either.

And that goes double if it comes from a legislator:

The bill filed Saturday by state Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, would require a three-day waiting period for the sale of any firearm and the sale of ammunition to anyone who has not completed anger management courses. The proposal would require ammo buyers to take the anger management courses every 10 years.

“This is not about guns,” Gibson said. “This is about ammunition and not only for the safety of the general community, but also for the safety of law enforcement.”

This, buoys and gulls, is why Florida has its own Fark tag.

I’ll take this seriously when it comes with a rider that requires “law enforcement” to take the same silly classes, and not one second before.

(Via drach at Daily Pundit.)

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They can’t be Sirius

Nicole reports that her satellite-radio provider really has been dogging it of late:

It’s 2013. I can buy a car online. I haven’t looked but I bet I can buy a house online. Why the hell can’t I buy a lousy radio subscription online? Do they think they are going to sell me more if I talk to a live person? I suppose it does work like that for some people. Not us people, though.

It’s a significant cost difference. Penalized for not using an outdated technology that opens me to an attempt at sales pressure. Not sure it’s a company with whom I want to do business.

Along similar lines, I buy an email address from Earthlink — it’s one I had when I used them as a dial-up — so as to maintain continuity with certain of my online relationships. This is billed monthly: it’s possible to pay a year in advance and get a few bucks knocked off, but only if I endure a live (so to speak) chat session with a corporate drone who will try to sell me every damned thing under the sun. Worse, he types with an accent.

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Weedier than thou

For several years, I happily did business with one of the major national weed-control outfits, dropping them only when I realized that keeping the yard nicer was costing me a thousand dollars a year, far more than I could spare.

Two years and two-thirds the usual amount of rain later, you can actually hear the grass whine. I hunted around and found a local firm who offered me a yearly program for under $500. (If this sounds like a lot to you, keep in mind that the palatial estate at Surlywood sprawls over 11,000 square feet, more than 7,000 square feet of which is actual lawn.) I’m hoping that things will look a little better next year, or the next visit by Google Street View, whichever comes first.

And I’m hoping nopony reminds me of this:

Desert Brush took a bite of his sandwich. “If I’d known dandelions were this tasty I’d have never spent all that time trying to kill them.”

“I never understood that. Dandelions break up the monotony of grass, grass, nothing but grass, even if you’re not going to eat them.”

“It’s those crazy humans,” Brush explained. “They like the monotony of grass, grass, nothing but grass. It’s like the ideal place to live is on a golf course.”

Perhaps I need to renew my Crazy Human card.

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The non-profit motive

Yours truly in Vent #640:

There is no more exasperating aspect of modern-day leftism than its insistence that anything from which someone actually makes money is somehow impure and unworthy.

Which is not to say that nonprofits are either above reproach or above raking in the dough:

Since hospitals are responsible for the vast majority of medical costs in this country, slashing these outrageous charges brings incredible savings without even touching physician pay. Since we own our facility, we are content with solid fees for our professional services with no desire to plunder and bankrupt our patients with gigantic facility fees, unlike the so-called “not for profit” hospitals. We actually act more like a “not for profit” entity than those claiming this tax-free status.

Nor is this condition peculiar to the health-care industry:

Just because it’s “non-profit” doesn’t mean people aren’t getting paid. The entire environmentalist movement exists because, in the 1970s, a bunch of hippies figured out that protesting against pollution — everybody hates pollution, right? — could be a full-time job, if the hippies could convince a lot of big-money “philanthropic” foundations to cut them a check every year.

It worked out pretty good for those hippies, some of whom have long since retired in luxury after successful careers as professional (non-profit) environmental activists, having never done an honest day’s work in their entire worthless lives.

Just don’t ask them about their goddamn carbon footprints.

I suspect that not too long after I’m gone, the rules for nonprofits will be radically changed, not because of this particular plaint, but because government will be desperate to get its mitts (not to be confused with “Mitt’s”) on whatever hoards of cash still exist.

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Hitting the ‘Deck

Not wishing to face an immediate learning curve when Twitter kills off the original TweetDeck, I installed the new version on the home box last night. Observations:

  • Nobody needs a Reset Password button that big.
  • On the upside, they don’t actually reset it until you answer an email link.
  • There are lots of keyboard shortcuts.
  • I guess I’m used to the old yellow icon; the blue one just looks funny.
  • Memory usage seems to be about 40-50 percent less, which is clearly a boon.
  • On the other hand, I miss the “via” statements that tell which client an individual tweeter is using. (They were scraped off twitter.com long ago.)

So it goes. #vonnegut

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Step right up and get your certificate

Once it got to the point that it took a BA to get considered for a secretarial position, it was a short step to our present unhappy state:

So much any more, it seems that education is seen merely as the means to an end — that is, a diploma for a job. And I suppose given the cost of tuition and the state of the economy, that’s not all that surprising. But, darn it — I like the idea of learning for the sake of learning, and I like the idea of the joy of learning, and sometimes I wonder if we aren’t losing some of that in our mad rush to make education as coldly “efficient” as possible, so it can seem more “cost effective.” I will also note that once again, I now kind of wish I had been made to learn Latin. Oh, I think at the time, continuing on with French was a good decision (I had already learned some in middle school, and I was good at it), but still.

Since Job One at the so-called “Human Resources” department is to find excuses not to hire people, for the foreseeable future we can probably expect diplomas to be viewed merely as trade-school completion certificates. And it’s easy to snark about fields which don’t have a lot of lucrative job openings at the moment — art history is, you should pardon the expression, the poster child for this sort of thing — but what kind of world would we have without them?

Look around you. Quants and lawyers, lawyers and quants, hoping for that sixth (or seventh!) digit before the decimal point. I’m a hard-nosed numbers guy myself; but once in a while that nose has to get a whiff of the roses.

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