Perhaps they didn’t think this through

Chrysler’s 300 sedan is about one size class larger than my aspirations, but damn, it’s a sweet piece to look at these days, and maybe I’ll get a chance to get some proper seat time in a 300 between now and whenever. In the meantime, following a reasonably favorable TTAC review, a commenter has pointed out a possible drawback to the Majestic Mopar:

Q: Which features can only be controlled with the touchscreen?
A: The heated seats and steering wheel.

Q: When do you use them?
A: In the winter.

Q: What do you wear during winter?
A: Gloves.

Q: What doesn’t work when you wear gloves?
A: A touchscreen.

Q: Which features can only be controlled with the touchscreen?
A: The heated seats and steering wheel.

And so on, and so on, and scooby-dooby-doo. You’d think someone in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, Frozen North might have noticed this.

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As you may already know by now

I got a press release on this, embargoed until 5 pm Monday, but several hours before that the news was all over the place, so I’ll just link to the official announcement:

KOSU, the NPR station serving Oklahoma City at 91.7FM, Tulsa at 107.5FM and Stillwater at 88.3FM, will increase its audience services by adding new news/talk and music programs effective Monday, August 20, 2012. At the heart of KOSU’s schedule is a content partnership with The Spy, which produces original shows and brings a wide array of independent music to listeners. The Spy also engages in local partnerships that serve to educate the community and further the local culture.

“The Spy has done a tremendous job of tapping into the pulse of the community to provide a vibrant venue for music genres that are completely underserved in our state,” said Kelly Burley, KOSU Director. “Through our partnership, we look forward to amplifying what The Spy does best as we create more uniquely Oklahoma experiences for public radio listeners.”

Shorter version: KOSU will be simulcasting (presumably minus ad slots) The Spy’s evening and overnight programs, instead of whatever the hell they’re doing now. (Oh, right: classical music, which will now be demoted to the HD2 channel and a stream.) Still, getting Ferris and friends on actual radio, and with some measurable ERP instead of their former peashooter out in Los Boondocks, must be considered a boon.

Still: this must be some definition of “embargoed” that I missed back in Vocabulary Building and Maintenance. I had planned something for 5:01 yesterday afternoon, but scrapped it by noon after seeing the news all over my tweetstream.

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How she did

Earlier this month, I happened to mention that a friend of mine had put together, and was starring in, her very first play. A trip to Toronto was out of the question, but I did watch for the reviews, and here’s the first one:

Violent be Violet is a dark, disturbing surge of emotional extremes touching on the very delicate subject of mental illness. It is a performance at this year’s SummerWorks that will leave plenty of room for discussion and reflection, something that is sure to stay with you for a while.

Fourteen years ago, Violet (Tanisha Taitt) became the only survivor of a bloody massacre of her classmates, killing the murderer in her own defense.

The tragedy haunts her to this day, at age 36, and severely affects not only her life but the life of her family — her mother Yolande (Sandi Ross), brother Amos (Peter Bailey) — and Sister Genevieve (Sarah Dodd), her former Psych professor now a nun. Her internal battle spirals out of control culminating to the truth behind the massacre.

Not the sort of thing you’re going to be humming on the way out of the theater. But Tanisha pulls it off:

It’s not an easy production to watch, especially if the topic of mental illness hits close to home. Much applause to Taitt (also serving as playwright) who is unapologetic and is relentless in the torrent of emotions she unleashes for the audience to soak in. You feel for Violet, you feel a lot for her and your heart reaches out to her family who only want her to recover but end up triggering her outbursts accidentally.

Dammit, maybe I should have found a way to Toronto.

Her next project: working on V-Day.

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We laugh at your feeble funnels

At least, that’s the idea with this concept by 10 Design, putting a dwelling on a hydraulic lift, which can lower it below ground in the event of, um, rotation.

“Think of a turtle,” explains Call Me Stormy, “which can pull its head back within a protective shell whenever danger arises.”

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It’s a nice day for it

It got up into the 60s (Fahrenheit) in Johannesburg earlier today, so all the snow should be gone.

Yes, I know, it’s wintertime in South Africa, but they don’t get much snow there. Maybe you’ll see some heavy snow at higher elevations, but anything more than a dusting in Johannesburg is fairly rare, which probably explains this:

A South African couple married this week after a bout of unusually cold weather allowed them to fulfill a light-hearted promise to tie the knot the next time Johannesburg was covered in snow.

Portuguese emigre Rui Moca and Monique Joubert had planned to wed next year, but when South Africa’s biggest city was shrouded in a rare blanket of snow on Tuesday, Joubert’s sister called Jacaranda FM to tell them about the couple’s dream of a “real” white wedding.

The radio station leapt into action, organizing a minister, lawyer, photographer, flowers, cake and limousine, and the couple were married on air in the studio in the early evening — with Moca’s family listening in from Europe over the Internet.

“The entire wedding with all the bells and whistles was organized in just three hours,” Jacaranda DJ Martin Bester said.

It hadn’t snowed at all in Johannesburg for the last five years, and the last time they got this much — the highway to Durban was actually closed for 24 hours due to snowcover — was 1981, the year Billy Idol recorded “White Wedding.” (It was released in 1982.)

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H2Overwrought

We already have alternate-day watering restrictions, but that’s just not enough in an unusually-dry summer, so the city has now begun employing a costumed semi-superhero to encourage us to Squeeze Every Drop.

Okay, it’s goofy, but it will appeal to your first-grader, who will then nag you every time you turn on the tap.

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Just trying to be helpful

There are times when I just want to scream at the screen, and this was one of them:

Earlier today, I was on a message board. A woman was talking about how she’s 27 and still a virgin, and guys ignore her. She asked if there’s any chance that she’ll find someone.

I answered as honestly as I could. I said probably not. I wasn’t trying to be harsh, but I was blunt and honest. I told her that men are all about the visual. At 27, she wasn’t going to get any prettier. In fact, her looks had probably already started to decline. So if men hadn’t been interested in her when she was college age, they probably were going to be even less interested now. It is not as if she was 15 and an ugly duckling who could still potentially become a beautiful swan. Her time to be a swan (up to age 25 in most women) had already come and gone.

See also John Derbyshire’s attack on Jennifer Aniston from several years back.

Or, for that matter, this (fictional) discussion by Twilight Sparkle of an unfortunate event in her past:

“I told him to go away and he started screaming that I had no right to treat him this way and that he would tell all his friends about me and nopony would ever want me.” She was clearly fighting back the tears. “The rude suggestions, they didn’t matter. But it’s the worst thing in the world to tell a filly that nopony would ever want her, because she’ll believe it every time.”

Thirty or forty years of celibacy might be enough to pay back this jerk — maybe.

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Who let the doge out?

“It’s no longer necessary to be a doge to own a palazzo in Venice.” The current Italian government hopes to cut the country’s budget deficit by selling over three hundred historic buildings, including palaces and castles:

The government hopes to raise as much as €1.5 billion through the historic property sales, according to the Agenzia del Demanio, the agency that manages the state’s real estate assets. Currently the Italian state owns properties worth about €42 billion, according to a report by Edoardo Reviglio, chief economist of bank Cassa Depositi e Prestiti.

The city of Venice is going to sell 18 properties, including the 18th century Diedo Palace, which served as a criminal court for years. The price tag for the palace is €19 million. Milan intends to sell more than 100 buildings, including the Palazzo Bolis Gualdo. The city hopes to get as much as €31 million for that palace.

Not actually up for sale: the Palazzo Ducale in Venice, former primary residence of the Doge, which has been open as a museum since 1923.

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Strange search-engine queries (341)

Another week begins with another slog through the logs, in the hopes of finding just one search string funny enough to share with the world. And by “just one,” I mean “ten or so,” because otherwise this feature looks pretty darn pathetic.

beatles spice rack:  You have to be careful. I was looking for bay leaves the other day, and I wound up with pasta sauce redolent of Norwegian wood.

is there really a clock that always says 12:30:  Closest I ever got was a VCR that always said 1:00, except during DST, when it said 2:00.

how to revers a shrink ray:  First you switch off the power. (Actually, first you look for a ladder to climb up to where the device is located, and then you switch off the power, if you have the strength.)

ned ludd didn’t exist:  So they had to invent him, but no, they couldn’t have, could they?

how to extend range of nissan leaf:  Drive in only one direction: downhill.

how to dress as a nerd for prom:  Wear thicker glasses than usual, and show up in a Nissan Leaf.

erotica is like dog-whistle politics:  Watch for a new romance, tentatively set in the world of canine obedience training. Working title is 50 Shades of Stay.

can women have surgery on knee caps to look better:  Theoretically, but it’s a lot less complicated to wear a longer skirt.

“margaret cho used to be funny”:  Hell, Janeane Garofalo used to be cute.

spanking joni mitchell:  It’s pain’s illusions you recall; you really don’t know pain at all.

Paris Hilton a gold digger?  Paris Hilton doesn’t need your money. Then again, she’s probably not likely to date a clerk at Blockbuster either.

boy transforms into pretty woman porno:  In which a Blockbuster clerk wakes up one morning to find he’s been turned into Paris Hilton.

ask me about my vow of silence meaning:  Shhh. I can’t talk about that right now.

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Visors at the ready

This would seem logical enough:

People should live to the east of where they work. That way the sun would always be in your rearview mirror on your commute.

Instead of in your face, or more specifically in my face, inasmuch as I live west of where I work.

But this threw me a curve:

I heard once that cities tend to grow in a way that forms a 7 of developed, happening areas, but I don’t know why that would be true. Every city that I’ve lived in, it’s been either the west or the north (or both) that was the wealthier developing side, and the south and/or east that were poorer. I don’t know why any of these things would be intrinsic, but it’s a cliche that south and east are poor, no?

Definitely true of Oklahoma City; definitely not true of Tulsa.

I’ve brought this up before. At the time, Fishersville Mike advanced the theory that it was at least partially wind-related: “The wind blows the smells from west to east, so that side might be slightly more pleasant for an urbanized area.” Winds in the OKC are typically from the southwest and hot, or from the northwest and not quite so hot; as a result, I am generally spared two of the more godawful smells in this town, the Stockyards (on the near-southwest side) and the dog-food plant (on the far north end), which would fit this pattern.

There are 200 comments at that first link, containing explanations, outliers, and occasional randomness.

(Via Hit Coffee.)

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They can’t lose

Headline from this morning’s Oklahoman:

From page 4A of the Oklahoman 12 August 2012: Republicans hope to win new Senate seat

What are their chances? Pretty close to 100 percent, actually:

Voters in southern Oklahoma County and parts of Pottawatomie County will select their senator on Aug. 28 in the primary runoff between two Republican candidates.

Since no Democrat filed for the newly redistricted seat, the winner of the runoff will take office, replacing the incumbent Sen. Charlie Laster and giving the GOP one more seat in their super majority hold of the Senate.

Laster, a Democrat, did not file for reelection, so this is definitely a pickup for the GOP. (The online version of the story, otherwise identical to the print version, has a less-risible title.)

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Devoid of risk

So this, then, is the new NASA: low-risk, but still high-cost, excursions to Nowheresville. We used to be better than that:

I have nothing against space exploration. In fact, I absolutely love it. I’ve been wearing fake NASA helmets and crashing my head into trees since I was 5. Still do upon occasion. I have Gus Grissom mounted on a crucifix in my bedroom. But these Mars probes are weak tea. We’ll find nothing. Perhaps evidence life might have existed there once. What kind of life? The shoulders in Pasadena shrug in ignorance.

For two and a half billion dollars I want intrepid souls with unstable rockets under their asses, flying into the unknown. I want a man to say “That’s one small step for man, and one curiously parasitic beetle crawling underneath my fingernail.” I want to see brave men in hyperbaric quarantine while we observe mutations.

Not going to happen. What used to be the American culture has been overwritten by underwriters: rather than pursue the incredible, we purchase the insurance. If Star Trek had debuted in this decade instead of five decades ago, General Order 1 would read “Do not send anyone in a red shirt down to the planet’s surface.”

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There is a season

When I visited North Dakota in the summer of ’04, I found the weather delightful. It would not have been so at the other end of the calendar:

I talked to at least half a dozen Fargonians (if that’s the term) today, generally with kind words for the place, and always with the qualifier: “Of course, this is July. Had I arrived in February, I might think different.” All of them understood, but none took umbrage, and the general impression I got was “Yeah, we have horrible winters, but so what else is new?” Not that Oklahoma in February is particularly wonderful.

Jennifer Finney Boylan, writing in The New York Times, analyzes this mindset:

Most people consider the weather in their hometowns to be part of a cosmic bargain, without which we would all lose our minds. In Maine, the bucolic months of June through October are what we trade for the intense winter and the miserable late spring, also known as Mud Season. Likewise, during my D.C. days, the summer was as hot as an acetylene torch, but it still seemed like a fair price to pay for the jaw-dropping beauty of the cherry blossoms in April.

Walking out an Oklahoma front door in the summer of 2011, or for that matter the summer of 2012, has been the equivalent of volunteering to do a barrel roll or three in a Bessemer converter. Still, these things have a way of balancing themselves out:

In that horrible month of February ’11, I broke my snow shovel; after waiting for the spring price break, I bought one of those not quite industrial-strength, but still formidable-looking, pushers, and dared the stuff to occupy my driveway. Total snowfall for the winter of ’11-’12: 1.8 inches. The thing is standing in the garage, still wrapped. If I thought for a moment this would work again, I’d buy another one.

And Boylan just may be right about this:

The same Ruby Tuesdays and Walmarts might be found from Tulsa, Okla., to Bangor, Me., but the temperament of the souls who live in those cities will always be different, as long as Oklahomans have tornadoes and winter wheat and Mainers have blackflies and aurora borealis.

For myself, well, I could stand a lot more summer days like yesterday: low 65, high 96. (Normal high is 95.) It’s not the 100-plus afternoons that bother me so much; it’s the 80-degree sunrises, with the neighborhood runners sweating at 0530 and wondering what they did to deserve this.

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Vintage ’53

Now this is an idea I like:

The concept behind the Year of Your Birth Rally is simple: you must drive a vehicle with a model year the same as your own. Nick Pon, Assistant Perp of the 24 Hours of LeMons, created the idea and swears he’s going to organize such a rally someday.

Lincoln Capri badgeEverybody’s favorite ’53, allegedly, is the Studebaker, what with its ultra-sleek lines breathed upon by design icon Raymond Loewy. But if I’m driving, I won’t be looking at it, so I’d be hunting down a Lincoln Capri, which is about two sizes bigger than I need or than I’m used to but which, as the phrase goes, was Built Ford Tough. In the legendary 2000-mile Carrera Panamericana, Capris finished 1-2-3-4 in the stock-car class two years running. (The winning car, both years, was driven by Chuck Stevenson.) The ’53 had the new 205-hp version of Lincoln’s Y-block V8, fed by a Holley four-barrel. The underpinnings were what you’d call old and proven: tube shocks, leaves out back, worm-and-roller steering, drum brakes all around. I’m guessing that the existing Ford-O-Matic slushbox couldn’t take the gaff of the big Lincoln mill, which is why the Capri came with a GM Hydra-Matic (four speeds!) standard.

And there’s a nostalgia factor here: I remember riding in one of these things, circa 1959. If I’m remembering correctly, my grandfather owned a ’55, the last of that generation before Lincoln went into full-fledged Bloat Mode. The fact that I can remember riding in a Lincoln half a century ago, yet can’t remember much of anything about any current Lincoln, speaks volumes — to me, anyway — about how Ford has bungled its luxury brand in recent years.

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The Rawlsian standard

First, a bit of background:

John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice famously introduced the idea of an “original position,” a hypothetical situation in which citizens would come together behind a “veil of ignorance” to select principles of justice that can regulate their common life. There are different ways of understanding the OP, but one useful way — which Rawls himself favoured later in life — is to imagine that the “contracting parties” in the original position are not the members of society themselves, but rather their representatives. Each of these representatives — modelled as rational negotiators — is then supposed to bargain for the best possible “deal” acceptable to the citizens they represent on the terms of cooperation in society, but without knowing which specific set of citizens they represent. This is supposed to ensure that the negotiating parties will only agree on principles that would be acceptable to all citizens as “free and equal.”

There being no real-life analogue for such scenarios, please allow me to oversimplify by offering a scene from family life. Two children argue over who gets how much pie. Parental unit decrees that Child 1 gets the piece he desires — but that Child 2 will actually cut the pie. The Rawlsian legislator is never quite sure whether he is Child 1 or Child 2, and therefore he has to make his decision, not on behalf of a narrow constituency, but with the interests of all pie consumers in mind.

Implementing such a legislature, of course, is easier said than done:

An example [from New Zealand] may help. Imagine the electors for Wellington Central elect Grant Robertson their MP. At the end of his term, the Electoral Commission randomly assigns him a different constituency. Say he draws Auckland Central, for example. Robertson then has to go to Auckland Central to defend his record in parliament; let’s say he’s given one month to make his case. Auckland Central then holds an “up or down” vote deciding whether or not he can run in the next election. If he’s voted down, he cannot run in that electoral period (though he may run in later periods — no permanent disqualification is envisioned here); otherwise, he gets to run again, if he so wishes, in Wellington Central.

At no time does Mr Robertson’s official constituency change; however, whenever standing for election, he must make his case, not only to them, but to an entirely different district as well.

I don’t envision this happening in the States anytime soon — it would require substantial changes to the Constitution, and apparently no one currently holding national office has so much as read the Constitution — but it’s something to ponder while the politicians pander.

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There is no swoon

Hey girl it's Paul RyanMitt “Mitt” Romney has anointed Wisconsin Congressman and legendary [choose one] dreamboat/douchecanoe Paul “Hey Girl” Ryan as the offical winner of the 2012 Republican Veepstakes, probably not, I suspect, because of the something-less-than-ubiquitous #GiveUsRyan hashtag, but simply because he wanted to balance the ticket with a specific appeal to … um, to whom exactly? It certainly isn’t cheapskates:

While the press paints him as some maverick Ebenezer Scrooge for the budgetary Band-Aid he proposed slapping on our sucking fiscal chest wound, in reality, Ryan’s toes are firmly on the party line: he voted for Medicare Part D, TARP, auto industry bailouts, and the rest of the whole free-spending financial firehose that’s tried to float the ship of state on a fresh tide of fiat currency.

The dynamic, as it plays out, will veer away from those financial matters rather quickly, leaving a scenario worthy of an old UPN sitcom: a couple of colorless organization men versus a petulant child and his demented but lovable uncle. Bring on 2016 already.

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