In which I am triangulated

As has probably everyone else between Lake Superior and the Rio Grande, I’ve taken that dialect test which the New York Times calls “How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk,” and I admit to expecting answers somewhat less than definitive.

Sure enough, the three towns most similar to me, speech-pattern-wise, were very far apart: Madison, Wisconsin; Jacksonville, Florida; and Springfield, Missouri. Then again, I was born in the northern suburbs of Chicago, grew up in South Carolina, and now live in Oklahoma — so what else could it have said?

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One of your safer bets

General Motors has announced that Holden, its Australian brand since 1931, will be reduced to a sales-and-parts facility: actual production of Holden cars and utes will be moved offshore after 2017.

This drew more anguish in the Australian press than the similar move announced earlier by Ford, perhaps because Ford is, well, an American brand at heart, perhaps because the Australian government has turned rightward since then and therefore the political left, fond of anguish as a motivational tool, can now blame it all on the government.

One Victoria Rollison, described by Telegraph columnist Tim Blair as a “caring leftist,” sent an open letter to Holden chairman Mike Devereux which ended with “Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help keep Holden here.”

Blair scoffed: “Buying a new Holden would help.” And then he offered to put his money where his mouth is:

Readers are invited to speculate in comments about the car Victoria currently owns. If she provides proof that it’s a non-secondhand, locally-made Holden, I’ll walk into my nearest Holden dealer and hand over a $250 donation.

“Caring leftists,” after all, don’t buy big rear-wheel-drive sedans. (Well, Barack Obama did, once upon a time, but he decided that his Chrysler 300 was a campaign liability, and he went out and bought a hybrid.) No chance Tim Blair has to part with a single Australian dollar on this one.

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From the beginning at Madison Square Garden, there were exactly two factors that made a difference:

  • Carmelo Anthony always finds a way to beat the Thunder;
  • Carmelo Anthony was out with an ankle injury.

So the only real question turned out to be “How badly would the Knicks be thrashed on national television?” The answer was “Badly enough”; OKC led by six after one, by 14 at the half, by 20 after 3, and didn’t bother to bring out the starters for the fourth en route to a 123-94 rout.

With ‘Melo, Raymond Felton and even Metta World Peace sidelined, the most interesting story for the Knicks involved a couple of reserves: Tim Hardaway Jr., a rookie trying to prove himself worthy, and Amar’e Stoudemire, a veteran trying to prove himself still worthy. Both of them acquitted themselves well today, Hardaway tying his career high with 21 points and Stoudemire dropping in 22 on a mere 16 shots. (Sporadic sharpshooter J. R. Smith had 20, but it took him 22 shots, and he was basically done halfway through the third.) What the Knicks don’t do, mostly, is rebound: Andrea Bargnani, who started at power forward, and Stoudemire, who spelled him at the four, had a total of four between them. And Chris Smith, J. R.’s younger brother, made his first NBA appearance in the last sixty seconds.

The OKC starters were their usual shiny selves, with Kevin Durant knocking down 29 points on 16 shots and Russell Westbrook into triple-double territory in the third quarter: 14 points, ten assists, 13 rebounds. Serge Ibaka, seeing no need to play defense, collected the ball at the basket and stuffed it in, with 24 points on a pretty efficient 10-14. As usual, the bench was led by Reggie Jackson (18) and Jeremy Lamb (13), and not as usual, the Thunder was hitting for distance, nailing 13 of 24 treys. (The Knicks were 6-23.)

Still, I have to wonder, with the Knicks and their crosstown rivals the Nets both floundering at 9-19, if maybe Jason Kidd ought to come over from Brooklyn, and Mike Woodson might be happier working for, well, anybody other than James Dolan.

Next Thunder outing: Friday, against the Charlotte Soon-To-Be-Former Bobcats.

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Fueling concerns

If you think things here are being run into the ground, you might want to keep in mind that there is incompetence and venality beyond even the Washington standard. Look, for example, at Caracas. Leopoldo Martínez, leader of the Venezuelan opposition, wrote in the WSJ this week:

According to his government’s own figures, inflation currently stands at 54%, the highest in the Americas. Much as Chávez did, Mr. [Nicolás] Maduro has plundered Venezuela’s oil industry, which accounts for 95% of export earnings, by providing billions of dollars in oil subsidies to Cuba and other regime allies. Despite the regime’s much trumpeted commitment to wealth redistribution, the country is plagued by shortages of basic goods like cooking oil, milk and corn flour, while concerns over a government debt default have led Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the country’s credit rating to B-.

B-minus? Even Illinois is better than that.

(WSJ extract courtesy of Fausta’s blog.)

One of those oil subsidies is reserved for the Venezuelan public:

The idea of Venezuelans paying more for gasoline was first floated in early December, when Vice President Jorge Arreaza said it was time start discussing raising gas prices. Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said that the country having the world’s cheapest gas wasn’t a point of pride. Finally, last week Maduro himself said he favored gradually raising prices over three years.

“As an oil nation, Venezuelans should have a special price advantage for hydrocarbons compared to the international market,” the former bus driver told newly elected mayors on Dec. 18. “But it has to be an advantage, not a disadvantage. What converts it into a disadvantage is when the tip you give is more than what it cost to fill the tank.”

There are “special price advantages,” and then there is this: a gallon of gas costs about 90 cents in Kuwait, about 50 cents in Saudi Arabia — and about five cents in Venezuela, a price which has remained relatively constant for a decade and a half. There is, of course, a reason for that:

In 1989 the price of gasoline was raised, prompting deadly rioting that went on for days and killed over 300 people.

“Well, yeah,” some will cry, “but they have free health care.” Not so fast, Chucky.

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So this is Christmas

Remember when the holidays weren’t politicized to a fare-thee-well? Well, I do.

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Your holiday open thread

Pass along a greeting, utter a pleasantry, or suggest a way to scrape the reindeer dung off one’s shoes. This will remain top of the page for most of the day.

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50 ways to leave your lava

Just take it to court, Bjórt:

Elf advocates have joined forces with environmentalists to urge the Icelandic Road and Coastal Commission and local authorities to abandon a highway project building a direct route from the Alftanes peninsula, where the president has a home, to the Reykjavik suburb of Gardabær. They fear disturbing elf habitat and claim the area is particularly important because it contains an elf church.

The project has been halted until the Supreme Court of Iceland rules on a case brought by a group known as Friends of Lava, who cite both the environmental and the cultural impact — including the impact on elves — of the road project. The group has regularly brought hundreds of people out to block the bulldozers.

It’s not that Icelandic shelves are necessarily full of elves, mind you:

Andri Snær Magnason, a well-known environmentalist, said his major concern was that the road would cut the lava field in two, among other things, destroying nesting sites.

“Some feel that the elf thing is a bit annoying,” said Magnason, adding that personally he was not sure they existed. However, he added, “I got married in a church with a god just as invisible as the elves, so what might seem irrational is actually quite common” with Icelanders.

Me, I don’t mess with anything volcanic, just on general principle. And tick off elves in December? Bad for the bottom line.

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Pour décourager les autres

Certified Good Guy Marc Ensign has come up with “3 Reasons You Should Not Start a Blog,” and amazingly, “ridiculously hard work for not a whole lot of return on investment” doesn’t quite make the list.

Well, maybe it does. See #2 (Blog to Make Money):

I have good news and bad news! The good news is that you won’t have to work too hard! The bad news is that it’s because your blog isn’t going to last. Sorry!

As most of you know, this place runs red ink, though not a lot of it, and rather less than it used to back in the days when domains came from monopolies and server-space rental was pricey. Not to worry, however: I make it up in volume.

I recommend the piece mostly on the strength of #1, which cocks a snook at those folks who live and die by SEO:

These types of blogs were not written for us humans. Their only purpose is to appease Google.

Which, right there, is a pretty good recommendation for Bing.

(Via this Nathasha Alvarez tweet.)

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Fright duly induced

The very last thing I wanted to see this week — other than an inch of ice over everything, of course — was a letter from CFI Care (not its real initials), because it could only be one of one thing: “Your insurance is canceled, sucker! Good luck on the exchange.”

Well, that’s not what it was — it was the usual privacy, or lack thereof, policy statement — but my hands would have been shaking were they not already frozen in the process of wrangling the trash bin to the curb. (Memo for record: Thicker gloves, maybe?)

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Some crafty codes

And delicious, too. In the comment queue, swatted by Akismet:

Every one of the codes will work and appropriate for a range of os’s and web browsers.

If you wanna buy some local crafts, these are your good choices: Damagao, Matisu, Zhimatang, Changzhou Luobogan, Chaye, Liuqimushu, Dengxinrongbu, Luanzhencixiu, Liuqingzhuke, Liyaobaiqing, Liyangfenge, Tianmuhuyutou, Changdanghu Pangxie, Banli, Yanshanshun, Wumifan.

On the perfectly crunchy French roll, with sweetly tangy and moist chicken.

I’ll pass that on to the Wumifans.

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Drug us, for we are weak

Robert Stacy McCain has his doubts about everyday selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors:

Ever since Prozac started making headlines back in the 1990s, I’ve been dubious about the “brain chemistry” approach to treating mood disorders with SSRIs, because of a common-sense skepticism toward the claims of scientific “experts.” Is it really a smart idea to be loading people up on complex chemicals with all kinds of potential long-term effects? I mean, how many people who start on anti-depressants in their teens or 20s ever actually get well?

That is to say, shouldn’t the goal of psychiatric treatment be to get patients to the point where they don’t need treatment any more?

On the other hand, the goal of pharmaceutical manufacturers is to keep the cash coming in, which requires that patients not get well. There will never, for instance, be a cure for type 2 diabetes, because there’s so much money to be made by drugging the sufferers indefinitely. Besides, actual cures tend to be extraordinarily expensive; the Death Panels™ are loath to spend that sort of money on people, unless campaign contributions are at stake.

And yet I can’t remember anyone ever saying, “Yes, I was diagnosed with chronic depression, but I took these pills for six months and it went away, so now I don’t need the pills anymore and I’m as cheerful as a songbird all the time.” But I digress …

No songbird, I; however, during the last quarter-century I have been prescribed two industrial-strength anti-depressants — neither, admittedly, SSRIs — and after all that, mood regulation is now left to a single benzo at a low dosage.

Still, I’m not claiming to be “cured,” only to be somewhat better able to cope.

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I want my 212

An early-2010 discussion between Costa Tsiokos (@CostaHere) and yours truly on the subject of New York City area codes:

CGH: Was [347] really maligned? For that matter, does anyone malign 646?

CT: 347 is generally shunned. In fact, I personally shunned it: My first NY number was a 347, and I couldn’t wait to dump it in favor of 646. 646 is deemed worthy, and an acceptable alternative to 212 (which is fairly impossible to snag).

Especially if you don’t live in New York.

Oh, wait:

Anyone from the Deep South to the West Coast can now score the once-exclusive 212 area code.

New York wannabes from around the country can snag a Manhattan-esque number for prices ranging from $100 to $15,000 on the Web site

Buyers are instructed to consult their cellphone carrier companies to notify them of the change. They then pick from dozens of available 212 phone numbers, paying for it online via PayPal.

There’s just one thing that bugs me:

The Web site now claims to be perfectly legal, noting it’s “the ultimate source for a 212 area code.”

Things that are perfectly legal don’t generally have to say that they’re perfectly legal.

(Via Fark, which tagged it “STUPID.”)

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Best used-car ad ever

If I didn’t already have a newer model, I’d be sorely tempted:

Read the rest of this entry »

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But there’s no place to park

Even today, in the midst of what could legitimately be called a downtown renaissance in Oklahoma City, there are people who won’t set foot, or tire, in the urban core because it will cost them something to park. I have always suspected that this excuse was standing in for another, and I may have been right about that:

I’ve long argued that complaining about “there’s no parking” or having to “pay for parking” is just a convenient scapegoat excuse people give when the product on offer isn’t a compelling enough buy. If your downtown doesn’t offer enough value vs. a suburban office park location, naturally employees having to pay to park sounds like a huge imposition. If an attraction is lame, then of course people don’t want to pay to park there.

When lameness goes away, the demand surges. A recent example:

Attendance at Indiana Pacers games has spiked this year. It’s not hard to figure out why: they started winning games and have a team that doesn’t repel fans. Not long ago their arena was so empty it reminded me of the old days at Market Square where they used to hang a curtain around the upper deck to screen off the empty seats. Those Pacers were a team of thugs that got involved with fights with fans in the stands at the game, and shootouts at strip clubs afterwards. They also didn’t do a lot of winning.

Parking charges on game nights remained quite hefty throughout. The fluctuations in attendance had nothing to do with parking and high parking prices aren’t preventing sellouts this year. The lesson is clear: create a compelling product in your downtown or business district and parking won’t be an obstacle.

Yesterday in Oklahoma City was cold and icicles threatened anyone who walked near a tree. The Toronto Raptors were in town for a game with the Thunder. Attendance: the same old 18,203 it always is. Did anyone complain about parking? Maybe some guy who left his car under a tree.

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Bite your tongue and hold your breath

From Andy Crossett’s Celebrity Legs Gallery, the winner for 2013:

This year Katy Perry is the winner of the Best Celebrity Legs title. It’s her first win after several years of near-misses. She pulled into the lead literally in the closing hours of the contest, so I’m sure she worked up a nice glistening sweat. I’m pretty sure it was her turn as a sexy jungle girl in her “Roar” video and performances that put her over the top.

An image from the aforementioned video:

Katy Perry in Roar video

I can’t say I’m displeased with the selection, but just once I’d like to see a candidate from way outside the entertainment industry — say, Canadian author Sheila Heti, who is vastly more interesting to listen to. Not going to happen, though.

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Strange search-engine queries (412)

And so we come, once again, to the logs, where we shall seek the search strings that make you, or at least me, laugh. It might even work.

what causes mazda famila 2002 model not to respond fast in changing gears at the same time flashing the hold light when driving?  And here’s another guy thinking that he can get a car diagnosed over the Web. If I had a lick of sense, I’d figure out some way to charge for that.

cost to repair broken transmission clip/cable Mazda:  Like that, for instance. (That’ll be $35.00.)

tongue muscle hurt when yawning too hard:  Quit watching NBC. (That’ll be $35.00.)

saints slap house okc ok 73109 christmas haunted attraction:  “Slap house”? Why don’t you stay home and watch a good traditional holiday movie, like, um, Die Hard?

abkco music how long do they have rolling stones rights:  Until Keith Richards dies, or the sun goes supernova, whichever comes first.

dawn eden annoying:  She’s never bothered me. Maybe it’s just you?

create a car saying (bumper sticker) or a road sign (billboard) that would describe one main point you learned (florida virtual school):  “The wise teacher keeps her answers offline.”

tv show pics of kirsten vangsness in girdle:  As if. You’ll see The Rock defend a doctoral thesis on logical positivism before you see Vangsness in a girdle.

“christine chubbuck” “dateless”:  You know, if this bothered you, you could have asked her out yourself.

lufsig cleans up his act with a brand new name:  Which promptly got banned on Twitter.

shocked that he was manscaped:  Nobody wanted to see Lufsig’s junk, especially in a TwitPic.

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