And I wonder, still I wonder, who’ll tax the rain?

The answer is Maryland:

Chesapeake Bay faces a serious pollution problem. The Environmental Protection Agency decreed in 2010 that Maryland had to stop so much stormwater runoff from draining into the Bay, a project that would cost $14.8 billion. To pay for that, authorities decided to tax “impervious surfaces” — in the words of The Gazette, “anything that prevents rainwater from seeping into the earth (roofs, driveways, patios, sidewalks, etc.) thereby causing stormwater runoff.”

This solution is being called — with the combined goodwill these two concepts evoke — a rain tax.

Faced with the EPA’s orders, the state has required its 10 largest counties — Montgomery, Prince George’s, Howard, Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford, Charles, Frederick, Baltimore counties and Baltimore city — to raise the revenue. Rain taxes are to take effect in these areas by July 1.

And just how are they going to calculate this tax?

“Satellite imagery and geographic information systems” will be used to measure the area of roofs and driveways.

Governmental structures, of course, are exempt.

(Via Fark: “Residents wonder what precipitated the decision.”)

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Defective rate

I did the tax returns last night, and 20 percent of what I made last year went straight into federal or state coffers, there to be used or misused, and I’m betting more of the latter than the former. (This does not include the 8.375-percent sales tax around here, 4.5 of which goes to the state, or the property tax on the palatial estate at Surlywood, or various and sundry imposts on things like utility franchises and fuel. Add somewhere around 5 percent for those.)

Last year I talked with a candidate for the state House, and let it be known that I was less interested in seeing the income-tax rate cut than I was in seeing the brackets broadened: I’m not so damnably wealthy, yet I’m always at the top marginal rate. (That rate, for 2012, was 5.25 percent; it kicks in at — get this — $8700.)

I will, of course, postpone writing the checks for a day or two, just because.

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Quote of the week

In Virginia, where radar detectors are contraband, “distracted driving” is apparently becoming a primary offense. One could assume that Richmond needs, or thinks it needs, the money from fines, but Jack Baruth will tell you that there’s something more visceral to it:

I would suggest that the texting-and-driving hysteria we’re seeing now as a society is as outsized as it is for one simple reason: people just love to be Puritans about something and we live in a world now where it’s no longer acceptable to have any public views about sexual behavior or common decency besides those once held by Ol’ Little Roman Boots. Since the Puritanical impulse is likely genetic in nature and it is one of the reasons your Cro-Magnon ancestor survived while his neighbor died in an ill-fated attempt to reproduce with a tribe of bonobos, it’s hard to completely suppress it. Instead, we swallow those feelings and let them fester until one day we are busy nonjudgmentally watching Glee and we see a public-service ad about texting and driving and it erupts from our stomachs in a bile-covered, steel-toothed xenomorphic presence OMG SOMETHING MUST BE DONE BLEEEEARRRRRRGH.

Think of it as another baby step toward Utopia:

An exceptionally paranoid individual, which I am emphatically not or at least emphatically not really, might also wonder if the Illuminati think this: By removing all sorts of potential distractions from driving and forcing us to stare straight ahead at the stopped bumper of the Escalade in front of us, possibly with the aid of those hold-the-eyelids-open apparatus they used on Malcolm McDowell, the misery of operating a privately-owned vehicle might possibly be ratcheted up to the point where we will cheerfully accept being herded onto filthy cattle cars and shipped to our destinations in the most climate-friendly way possible. Just forget I said anything about it, though, because I’m not paranoid.

Then again, the events of this century have persuaded me that the pale has been relocated to a position where nothing is beyond it anymore.

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Squaring Circle City

Once again, the Thunder bring out the Enhanced Defense in the fourth quarter: nine minutes into the final frame in Indianapolis, the Pacers had produced exactly seven points on 2-14 shooting. Frank Vogel, no fool, found the nearest towel and threw it in; Indiana managed one more point before the horn, and the Thunder, thought to be dead tired from last night’s late game against the Spurs, knocked out the Pacers 97-75.

Signs of Total Domination: (1) Every Pacer finished on the minus side of the scale; (2) OKC owned the boards, 53-31; (3) Indiana put up 21 three-pointers, of which only two actually dropped into the cylinder. The Pacers’ mainstays, Roy Hibbert and David West, made a reasonable showing — both scored in double figures while making half their shots — but anyone named George (that would be Paul George and George Hill) found the going rough, and nobody on the bench managed more than four.

It’s difficult to find new ways to say “Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook took over the place,” simply because that’s what they do. KD cashed in 34 points, Russ 24 with nine assists and only two turnovers, and everyone else did just enough to remind you that hey, they’re here too. Daniel Orton (!) got an offensive rebound in garbage time, and who was predicting that?

So the good news: OKC 56-20, San Antonio 56-20. The bad news: the Knicks come to the ‘Peake on Sunday afternoon, and they’ve won 11 straight. Then again, the Pacers had won five straight, and the Thunder beat ’em in Indy. So maybe there’s no need to get, um, Melo-dramatic here.

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Longer form

Rock Forever Magazine spends eleven minutes talking with Rebecca Black:

Actual revelations: new single under way, still no release date for the album.

And since Playlist LIVE was mentioned, here’s RB at Playlist with guitarist Dave Days, doing Rihanna’s “Stay”:

It’s so much easier to do these when there’s actual material.

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As the balcony closes

Why, yes, I have kept this for twenty years:

A friend of mine likes to say, “When I have lots of free time, I feel wealthy.”

Roger Ebert, in an email to yours truly, 17 October 1993. (Before you ask: we were on CompuServe.) And I’d bet anything Gene Siskel is waiting with tickets to a premiere.

Addendum: A favorite Ebert story, from 2005.

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Zooeypalooza 18!

How long has it been since you had a big, heaping bowl of Deschanelity?

Well, that’s too long.

Zooeypalooza 18!

As per usual Palooza practice, click = embiggen.

Paloozas of yore: ZP 1, ZP 2, ZP 3, ZP 4, ZP 5, ZP 6, ZP 7, ZP 8, ZP 9, ZP 10, ZP 11, ZP 12, ZP 13, ZP 14, ZP 15, ZP 16, ZP 17.

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Battleaxes for peace

Severian has noticed what he calls “a curious fact”:

The “Sarah Palin must go away / Hillary Clinton is so wonderful” crowd are, themselves, almost invariably married.

These are women who, sometime in their early twenties, embraced politics as a religion. Then they hit their late twenties and, as women do, they wanted to get married and start families. But they had to obey the tenets of their faith, and so they went out and found the kind of skinny-yet-pudgy androgynous betaboy chump who does his shopping at Whole Foods and embraces, in all apparent sincerity, a nontraditional gender-neutral civil commitment ceremony with a Wiccan shaman as officiant and donations to “marriage equality” organizations in lieu of gifts.

Now they’re in their thirties, and stuck with these wusses forever.

I quoted this mostly because “skinny-yet-pudgy” sounds like random empty abuse until you actually see someone meeting that description. In this neck of the woods on any given Saturday it takes about forty-five seconds, except in Edmond, not because it has fewer such, but because you’re stuck in traffic.

Disclosures: I have donated to a “marriage equality” organization. I am not, however, skinny, and while I’m perfectly willing to shop at Sprouts, I draw the line at Whole Foods, mostly as an act of budget preservation, and besides, John Mackey has dropped out of sight.

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Jingle jangled

“Who are you, and what have you done with Tony Parker?” I mean, two points in 25 minutes, and not a trace of him in the fourth quarter. Which isn’t why the Spurs, after pulling to within three with four minutes left, wound up losing by 12 to the Thunder — that was OKC hustle, pure and simple — but apparently this was a night for short rotations: Scott Brooks played only nine guys, Gregg Popovich just eight. (Manu Ginobili was out, but Pop still issued five DNP-CDs.) And the 100-88 win puts OKC only half a game back of the wicked Texans.

Fearless forwards Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan — I swear, Duncan is getting younger despite being older than God, if not older than Derek Fisher — turned in stellar performances anyway: both bagged 24 points and double-digit rebounds. However, Tiago Splitter, previously a thorn in the Thunder’s side, was more of a vague, inchoate itch tonight, held to four points and six boards.

Speaking of Fisher, he got his usual 15 minutes; however, he got a highly unusual 17 points, including five of seven from the Crystal Bridge. (I’m waiting for Brooks to issue a single-word statement: “Nyah.”) And it’s a good thing Fisher did that, because Kevin Martin disappeared nearly as thoroughly as Tony Parker. Which means most of the rest of the offense, as usual, was Russell Westbrook (27) and Kevin Durant (25). The Thunder shot a nothing-special 46 percent, but with the Spurs failing to break 40, it was good enough. (How can the Spurs fail to break 40? Might be those thirteen OKC blocks.)

So the season series is split 2-2, but the bigger news is the in-conference record. A team plays 52 games against members of its own conference. The Thunder are 35-13; the Spurs are 32-15. If these two teams finish with an identical overall record, OKC gets the nod. But first, there’s a little obstacle called the Indiana Pacers, who have won five straight and will be happy to start off the Thunder’s weekend with a loss tomorrow night. The Pacers are, um, 29-8 at home.

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This one doesn’t count

SiteMeter still counts the visitors to this site, as it has for 14 years now, with occasional interruptions and a disparity of 40,000 or so between the two databases it maintains for me. This, however, is a whole new level of fail:

SiteMeter domain expiration

I’m guessing the guy in charge of keeping track of the domain is the same guy who doesn’t answer your tech-support questions.

Addendum: Robert Stacy McCain considers the possibility that it was suicide.

Further addendum: The reports of its death may be greatly exaggerated.

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Hacksaw alert

Amazon, to my surprise, asked for Packaging Feedback on my last order, which happened to be the little Sansa music player and the even littler microSD card, both of which were encased in plastic clamshells that would presumably resist North Korean missiles. I told them that nothing, even if it’s marked as Retail Packaging, should require a Leatherman tool to open. On the upside, the box, though too large (as distinguished from Way Too Large), arrived speedily.

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Baby got beak

Right now, parts of the Northeast are teeming with avian fiends:

In other nature news, the skies are suddenly full of carnivorous birds. You can hardly look up without spotting a red-tailed hawk. Driving along Rt 80 is like going to The Hawk Show. There was a very big fallen bird on the shoulder of the road when I was winding my way through the Delaware Water Gap last weekend and a band of about 8 red tails kept diving down to snatch off pieces of it despite the stream of cars right next to it. I even saw two turkey buzzards flapping up from the road side farther into NJ.

I have to admit, this is more entertaining than watching the adapted-to-the-burbs birds hanging around the A&W just waiting for you to drop a French fry.

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Everything’s for sale

And in the next few minutes, some schmuck will try to sell it to you:

[M]ore and more products and services are being provided to “consumers” who aren’t really consumers because we/they don’t want whatever they are. The phone calls from telemarketers, carefully positioned around our dinnertime, become more frequent. A lot of them have to do with “taking surveys,” which I dunno, is that some kind of effort to get around the do-not-call laws? Well, I suppose it is to be expected. If you’re in business to provide something people actually want, it won’t be enough for people to want it, they have to be willing to part with cash in order to get it. That would be a lot of wait between the wanting right now, so I can see how it’s more appealing to provide something people don’t want.

Or at least less work.

Even so-called “free” stuff, which of course does not actually exist, is desperately vended. CFI Care (not its real initials) called me twenty-seven times last month after I failed to respond to some tedious letter of theirs about some “free” program in which they thought I should enroll. I figure, I’m already paying a physician to shake his head at me and groan; why do they think they ought to be patched into the loop? It is exactly this sort of behavior that makes people wonder if single-payer could possibly be any worse. But they kept calling — until the first of the month, anyway, when I presume the phone bank’s upsell quotas were reset.

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Now they tell us

If you think about it, New Year’s Day is really a terrible time for resolutions:

I mean, the holiday is based on the turn of a calendar, an arbitrary cut-off of the revolution of the planet around the sun that comes in the middle of the deepest, darkest season: winter. To suddenly decide you’re going to change some element of yourself that you want to improve in the midst of the longest nights of the year seems a little, well, doomed to failure.

Winter Wrap-Up, anyone?

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A time for Sharon

Tomorrow would have been Sharon Sheeley’s 73rd birthday, and I figured I owe her some sort of tribute after expropriating her name for a piece of 1980s collaborative fiction. By trade, she was a songwriter, and she got her first Number One at the tender age of eighteen: “Poor Little Fool,” sung by Ricky Nelson.

Managed by Jerry Capehart, she eventually took up with one of Capehart’s major clients: Eddie Cochran, for whom she wrote “Love Again.” In 1960, Cochran, Sheeley and Gene Vincent had hired a cab to London following a Bristol concert: Sheeley and Vincent were badly roughed up, and Cochran died from his injuries.

Returning to the States, Sheeley partnered with singer/songwriter Jackie DeShannon; she eventually married deejay Jimmy O’Neill (a lad from Soonerland, you should know), and together they worked up a TV series for producer Chuck Barris, which was called Shindig. Eventually they split, and Sheeley retired from the music biz; she died in 2002.

My favorite Sheeley song, I think, is a collaboration with DeShannon titled “Breakaway” — or, more precisely, “Break-A-Way.” Tracey Ullman cut this as a single during her brief flirtation with pop music, and the giddy-schoolgirl video is pure Eighties. I’m sure Sharon loved it.

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Press Fsomething to continue

My Monday-night keyboard adventures took a wholly unexpected turn Tuesday. I had said that I was going to swap keyboards the next night, and I duly picked up a used but working model from the corporate parts locker. (I am one of the last people on earth using a PS/2 keyboard connector, it seems, so this won’t be missed, and yes, the sysadmin is aware of it.) But for the sheer hell of it, I decided to plug in my late, lamented IBM Model M, just to see what happened.

And the sucker worked perfectly, even on the keys that weren’t working before.

Conclusion: Despite my earlier diagnosis, something inside actually had gotten wet, and, in the manner of things gotten wet, dried out some time in the subsequent seven months.

Super Talent (!), the manufacturer of the keyboard gone bad, has since moved into products without moving parts. I’m not complaining, really: this particular keyboard was thrown in as a freebie when I had my current tower custom-built, and that was a good seven years ago.

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