Toll you so

For some inscrutable reason, this press release landed in my inbox:

On February 13th, Tulsa attorney and former Gubernatorial candidate Gary Richardson will speak to the Tulsa County Republican Men’s Club about his plan to eliminate the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.

“The turnpike is a scam on the people of Oklahoma,” said Richardson. “It was a scam when they proposed it in the 1950s and it is a scam today.”

In Oklahoma there are 10 turnpikes with more of 600 miles of pavement, making the state tied for 1st in the nation for the amount of turnpikes.

Richardson will talk about the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority and how the tolls that are collected are actually spent.

“Most people don’t know that the State of Oklahoma does not make one red cent off of the turnpike,” said Richardson.

Well, yes, we did know that, if we were paying attention, and some of us were:

The authority will spend about $73 million on road and other improvements this year [2012]. Of remaining revenue, $66 million will be spent on operations and maintenance, including salaries, and $95 million on the debt service. About $26 million (39 percent) of its operations budget goes toward the cost of collection, including toll booth operators and the Pikepass system.

Then again, it’s not like I expect a road, even a toll road, to turn a profit.

My own viewpoint on toll roads, informed by 25,000 miles worth of World Tours, is simple: I’ll take them if I’m in a hurry. Otherwise, meh. (Trip to Kansas City last December for my daughter’s wedding? $12 for the Kansas Turnpike. Worth it.)

Oh, and if you want to attend, or hang around outside, Richardson’s presentation:

Richardson will speak at the Tulsa County Republican Men’s Club monthly meeting on Wednesday, February 13th, from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm at the Hibachi Grill, 74th and Memorial.

Hibachi Grill? Do they have an ATM machine?

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Questionable answers

At exam time, the most valuable commodity to be had, apparently, is someone else’s paper:

I gave a quiz the other day and there was one fellow I kept looking closely at to try to tell if his eyes were on his own paper. But I will solve that issue with Form A and Form B. And I’ve taken to handing out each exam INDIVIDUALLY rather than counting off a stack and having them pass them down — I learned last semester that there are people in the class devious enough to quickly grab two of the same form from the stack and hand the identical form to the patsy (or accomplice) next to them.

Is this disheartening? Totally:

It frustrates me that I have to be such a cop, and that I have to try to think deviously to figure out as many ways as possible that students might cheat (and confer with colleagues at other schools: it seems a current fad is to bring in a bottle of water where you have written notes under the label, and you can read them through the clear bottle).

It’s been four decades since I set foot in a college classroom, and maybe I’m behind the times, but it seems to me that if you spend more time working up a scheme to avoid studying than you do actually studying, you’ve pretty much defeated your own purpose.

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Two and away

Term limits, you say? Smitty contemplates the matter:

There is no way, given a 300 million+ population, that the number fit to hold office is that small. We can’t be that hurting for talent.

The problem here is that people who are fit to hold office won’t even try, because they suspect — correctly, as it turns out — that the fix is in. So we get the same parade of maladroits and malefactors, D’s and R’s, year after even-numbered year.

Perhaps we’ll have to draft candidates.

On the other hand, I have no argument with this:

There is no excuse for our system of government to overgrow itself to the point that it takes a professional cadre with a lifetime of knowing where the bodies are buried in order to operate the thing. No. We keep it simple, and we swap out the people in charge at a reasonable frequency so that the playing field stays level.

Though I suspect there may be a few more, or a lot more, burials before that cadre can be sent packing.

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Do not disturb tenants

I have on occasion been amused by the swings in the “Zestimate” of the value of the palatial estate at Surlywood, as issued by the real-estate site Zillow. Of course, pricier places are subject to greater volatility. Consider, for instance, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, Washington, DC 20006:

According to the latest Zestimate for the president’s home at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C., the White House has a current value of $294.9 million.

Since President Barack Obama and his family moved into the home in January 2009, its value has risen approximately 7%, from $275.6 million. In Washington, D.C., as a whole, the Zillow Home Value Index rose almost 13.6% — to $397,000, from $349,600 — between January 2009 and November 2012, the most recent month for which data are available.

So the White House is falling behind the comps. Quelle surprise.

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Robin Hoodlums

I have occasionally joked that I have enough tucked away in retirement savings to last me at least until a week from next Tuesday. Rumors persist that the D. C. extortion gang, in its flinty heart of hearts, wants to grab it and replace it with yet another government IOU; Maggie’s got a roundup of various reports on the subject, and the following warning:

When public comment has already been asked for, something is brewing, and it doesn’t matter what we want. They pander and then ignore us.

I’d say “When in doubt, assume the worst,” but who’s in doubt anymore?

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Royally orange

Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark, who turns 41 today, is nicely decked out in this orange Marc Jacobs number:

Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark

The occasion: the St. Petersburg Loye Prize and Medals ceremony at the Danish Museum of Art & Design in Copenhagen last summer.

Things you (by which I mean “I”) did not know about Mary:

  • She was born in Tasmania — her parents had emigrated from Scotland to Australia — and briefly attended grade school in Houston, Texas;
  • She was working for Microsoft in 2003 when Queen Margrethe II announced that she would consent to the wedding;
  • She and Crown Prince Frederik have four children: Christian, Isabella, and twins Vincent and Josephine.

And besides, it’s February. We need all the spring-ish looks we can get.

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Satin for the pink sheets

A panel advising the Securities and Exchange Commission thinks it would be really keen to have stock exchanges in both Original and Extra Crispy:

[T]he advisory committee on small and emerging companies … voted to urge the SEC to support the setting up of an exchange for small publicly traded companies that would only be accessible for high-income individuals such as so-called accredited investors, who must have net worths, excluding their homes, of $1 million or more or income of $200,000 or more for at least two years.

The reasoning behind this idea:

Companies listing on an exchange set up for high-net-worth investors may not be required to provide costly prospectuses and other disclosures that are necessary when retail investors are involved. Backers contend that this would drive down costs associated with public offerings and could encourage private companies to take the plunge into becoming almost-public companies.

I suppose, as a “retail” investor, and at the dollar-store level at that, I should resent the very idea, but I don’t. I mean, I don’t get bent out of shape because the bank has a separate division for Private Banking, presumably with more perks. Then again, I have motivations other than envy, so I’m probably disqualified from having any opinions on the financial system, if you call this a “system.”

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Thereby proving the rule

So how about that American Exceptionalism? Well, we’re not exceptionally so:

Now, when I talk about the US as being exceptional, one thing I am not willing to argue is that we are exceptional in our exceptionalism. Being the ugly American that I am, there aren’t many countries I actually know enough about to know how alike or different they are than we are. That’s not to say I sink into absolute relativism and decline to make judgments, though I try to be less judgmental of them than I am of US.

Not a problem. Absolute relativists (!) are a dime a dozen over at Almighty State University.

And besides:

In many ways, I don’t worry about when we are out of sync with the rest of the world. I mean, I look at our health care system and the fact that its different than elsewhere nearly isn’t as troublesome as the fact that it’s expensive and inefficient. I oppose the death penalty, but the fact that it is banned elsewhere doesn’t play much of a role, and so on. I have a not-admirable tendency to get irked when internationalists look at how we are out of step and seem to imply that such should be an indication that we are deficient. We are us. Exasperating, chaotic, diverse, gargantuan us. Unique, for better or worse.

Seems perfectly admirable to me. The argument that “But they have it!” is right out of second grade, when Junior discovers that the Joneses up the street have [name of expensive toy].

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Gone in 48 minutes

After two hard-fought overtime Thunder/Mavs battles, you had to figure that it would eventually get easier for one of those teams, and fortunately for the downtown crowd, it was OKC who disposed of Dallas rather handily tonight, running up a 33-point lead at one point and ultimately finishing off the Mavs 112-91.

And it didn’t take a 40-point-plus explosion by Kevin Durant to do it, either; KD had a quiet double-double (19 points, 10 rebounds, and the chance to sit out the fourth quarter). The Good Russell Westbrook showed up tonight, hitting 8-16 for 24 points and serving up seven dimes. Kevin Martin led the bench attack with 17 and a preposterous +31 for the night. And all 13 active players got minutes.

I’m not quite sure what went wrong for the Mavs, unless their X Factor really is Vince Carter, who in the past has been quite effective in OKC, and who sat tonight with the infamous flu-like symptoms. Dirk was present but barely recognizable, shooting an unDirklike 3-11 for 10 points, leaving Shawn Marion to carry the offensive load. Marion did what he could, scoring 23 points and accounting for three of Dallas’ seven steals, and the Thunder obligingly committed three technicals to help out, but after breaking out of a 22-22 tie near the end of the first with a 7-0 run, the Thunder simply crushed any further Dallas resistance. Maybe I should have called this “Gone in 11 minutes.”

So it’s three-up on the Mavs with one to play. Next: the Golden State Warriors, who thrashed the Thunder in Oakland during that distended road trip. On the upside, they have to get through Houston tomorrow before arriving in OKC Wednesday.

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Include/unclued

You can see where this is going a mile away:

The University of Michigan is accused of kicking an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter off campus because the group requires its leaders to be Christians — an apparent violation of the university’s nondiscrimination policy.

The nerve! Don’t they know about diversity?

In other news, the Pope is still Catholic, and I’m sure you can find someone in Ann Arbor who’s annoyed about that.

(Via Dyspeptic Mutterings.)

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The rhythms of the heart

The other day, Fillyjonk, in tribute to her high-school French teacher, kindly treated us to the first poem she’d ever memorized for his class: Victor Hugo’s “Demain, dés l’aube.” I’d never memorized it myself, not having progressed far in French, but I did remember reading it, circa 1967.

And then I wondered: Do students memorize poems anymore? Perhaps unsurprisingly, the answer seems to be No:

As a college professor of writing and literature, I regularly impose memorization assignments, and I’m struck by how burdensome my students typically find them. Give them a full week to memorize any Shakespeare sonnet (“Hey,” I tell them, “pick a really famous one — Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? — and you’ve already got the first line down”), and a number of them will painfully falter. They’re not used to memorizing much of anything.

And what are they missing?

The best argument for verse memorization may be that it provides us with knowledge of a qualitatively and physiologically different variety: you take the poem inside you, into your brain chemistry if not your blood, and you know it at a deeper, bodily level than if you simply read it off a screen. [Catherine] Robson puts the point succinctly: “If we do not learn by heart, the heart does not feel the rhythms of poetry as echoes or variations of its own insistent beat.”

Rhythms. “This is the forest primeval, the murmuring pines and the hemlocks.” The heart picks up the beat, the eyes turn skyward, and something in the soul, however briefly, is satisfied.

But rhythm alone isn’t enough, or we’d all be memorizing pop tunes. “Demain, dés l’aube” carries an emotional wallop, even if you didn’t know that Hugo wrote it for his daughter Léopoldine, married at eighteen and drowned with her husband in a boating accident on the Seine barely six months later.

(With thanks to Joanne Jacobs.)

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Imminent failure

Too big to fail? Cobb says that there’s a point where they must fail:

Xerox, for example, once owned American Express. Hard to believe, but true. While I was working there, ostensibly for the workstation business, Xerox’ most profitable division was Van Kampen Merritt Investments. They were playing money games on Wall Street but failing to be Xerox, the innovative product company. Soon, small companies like the PC printer division of HP and a company called Adobe kicked Xerox in what used to be some of their core competencies.

And then HP and Adobe started down the slippery slope, and so it goes.

As for Robert Van Kampen, who left his securities business in the hands of Xerox — who sold it to Morgan Stanley, who sold it to Invesco, who reduced it to a brand name — he spent his latter days in contemplation of the Rapture, Prewrath version. I’m pretty sure he didn’t believe in “too big to fail.”

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Strange search-engine queries (366)

And how was your weekend? Doesn’t matter now: it’s Monday morning, time for another wallow in the search strings. For those of you who care: this site is not hosted on GoDaddy.

whats the transmission in el ford:  Probably the same one you’ll find in los Mercurys.

kurt cobain is a loser:  Um, no. Beck is a loser (just ask him).

email address of products shipped in china -fraud cop scam 419.hackers spy web nigeria:  Do I need to mention that this came in from a Nigerian IP?

we want joe!! we want joe!! cmon joe stop foolin them. we all know you want to go to toros, have some hot dogs, deep dish pizza and of course be nba champs.lets start shall we? triple deal: toros get: joe johnson:  One assumes this isn’t just some average Joe.

i am 20 percent cooler than i was 2 years ago:  Say thank you to Rainbow Dash.

contact walmart about old bad check:  Or you could just call the district attorney directly and eliminate the middleman.

Rolf, a citizen of New Mexico, wants to file a suit against Sandy, a citizen of Texas, relating to a motorcycle accident in which Rolf’s injuries resulted in medical costs of more than $75,000:  Never mind that. Did either of them ever bounce a check at Walmart?

was ucsc ever university of santa cruz clothing optional:  Not formally; it was rare that you got to see anyone’s banana slug.

the church of bob dole:  First commandment: “Bob Dole is the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not have any gods before Bob Dole.”

meaning of are you into big tits or a huge ass:  I can’t tell whether this was sought by some nine-year-old kid or by Bob Dole.

how to spell fubar:  Now that’s got to be Bob Dole.

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You can no longer bank on these

For those who may have forgotten that such things existed, we bring you a Series 1902 banknote that listed on eBay last month for $267:

1907 National Bank Note obverse

1907 National Bank Note reverse

In 1863, the National Banking Act provided that nationally-chartered banks could issue banknotes, backed by US bonds purchased by the issuing banks. This practice continued until the Great Depression, when the government decided that all currency should be issued from a single source.

Hugh McCulloch, portrayed on this $20 note issued in Oklahoma City, served as Secretary of the Treasury in Abraham Lincoln’s second, rudely interrupted term, and continued into Andrew Johnson’s; he returned to Treasury for the last few months of the Chester A. Arthur administration. Interestingly, he had opposed the idea of paper money without gold backing, and in his first report called for the gradual replacement of greenbacks with specie.

The text on the lower reverse:

This note is receivable at par in all parts of the United States, except duties on imports, and also for all salaries and other debts and demands owing by the United States to individuals, corporations and associations within the United States except interest on public debt.

(Via user Praedura on OKCTalk.com.)

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Pine-tar Doritos

There being, I am told, some sort of football game today, it’s probably a good time to contemplate the appeal of sports. Fortunately, Francis W. Porretto has done the dirty work for us:

If there’s any rational reason for Americans’ enthusiasm for pro sports, it has to have something to do with our disgust with politics. There might be some politics in the operation of a sports league — in the sense of owners and franchisees jockeying for some financial advantage or other, at least — but once the players are on the field, the rules, however complex, don’t change in mid-game. At least, they’re not supposed to, and we don’t expect them to. That’s why the “Pine Tar Tragedy” of a few years back, in which Billy Martin’s citation of George Brett’s illegal bat — and it was illegal, by the rules under which the game was being played on that day — was retroactively overruled by the American League, was so reaving. That sort of nonsense belongs on Capitol Hill, not in the pure and undefiled cathedrals of pro sports. The demagoguery and ex-post-facto rationalizations were even worse. Don’t tell me about “the spirit of the rule;” tell me what the rule says in plain BLEEP!ing English — and abide by it.

Of course, we had this enthusiasm for sports before we became disgusted with politics, but that merely demonstrates our desire for simple, and, more important, immutable rules.

As for the disgust, start with Earl Wilson’s observation that “we have 35 million laws trying to enforce Ten Commandments,” and consider that now we have just as many trying to find loopholes therein.

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A note before the end of time

It is so daring, so brash, so fitfully frightening to be alive. It means smiling in the face of oblivion. It means galloping at full force when you know that a cliff is waiting for you at the end of of the next bend in the road. It takes a mad euphoria — an insane whimsy to be so courageous when all of the darkness around us begs that we accept defeat. To do anything but roll over is to be absurd, like chasing the rainbow, or performing the “running of the leaves” in July… in a town that has no living trees…

(From The End of Ponies by shortskirtsandexplosions, chapter fifty-two.)

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