The six-percent solution

State law requires retailers to sell their goods at a minimum of six percent above cost, unless a lower cost basis can be proven. This curious legislation is designated the Unfair Sales Act [pdf]; it was enacted in 1984 to replace a similar law dating to 1941. Even Matthew Yglesias finds it risible:

The theory of the case is that absent such legal protection a deep-pocketed national chain could come to town and operate at a loss until all the local competition is driven out of business. But real world discounting can serve many other purposes. A typical retail discounting strategy involves amazing bargains on a relatively small number of items, with the purpose of the bargain being to get shoppers in the door in the first place.

Now what deep-pocketed national chains can you think of? No, not them. The first-ever Sam’s Club, intended to beat local competition over the head, opened on SE 29th in, um, 1983.

Senator David Holt (R-OKC) is introducing a measure to repeal this law:

Holt said the outdated law puts Oklahomans at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring states where retailers can legally offer significant bargains for “Back-to-School” and holiday sales, including “Black Friday”, the biggest shopping day of the year. By forcing Oklahomans to leave the state to shop, retailers, consumers, and core government services are all negatively impacted.

One perhaps might wonder how much out-of-state shopping it takes to offset the $40 worth of gas it takes to get across the state line and back to Holt’s district on Oklahoma City’s northwest side.

Oh, and Holt’s Senate Bill 550 excludes fuel and prescription drugs, two of the heavier items in my budget. I’m sure he didn’t mean it personally.

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Now with Customer Repellent

Once upon a time, we had record stores. (Records, for you young folks, are flat vinyl — occasionally styrene — disks which, when spun at the correct speed under a suitable tracing device, will yield up music. Never mind what happens when they’re spun at the incorrect speed.) And these record stores would occasionally spin those records in the hope of spurring sales.

Not all of them, though:

A Fye Music Store I used to visit was frequently, for some reason, playing uniquely vapid tunes over its PA system (and often no other kinds of music, which would sort of make you wonder about their inventory). Unless I had a specific purchase in mind, I usually didn’t linger when one of those albums showed up and left to shop another day. I recall one day cutting my browsing short and heading to the counter to check out. The clerk asked, “Find everything you were looking for?” and I answered, “No, but I can feel myself getting stupider with every second of that song.”

Sometimes the temptation to break that record becomes overwhelming.

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It’s also your little pony

The possibly-pseudonymous (ya think?) Twilight Farkle defends My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, not for its cultural impact, but for its near-seismic shift in attitudes toward intellectual property:

The traditional business model:

1) Make content.
2) ???
3) PROFIT! (sell ad space, sell toys)

Step 2 is the hard part. The sensible move is to lock down the IP, keep it in the vault, and let it out only on special occasions, or when the price is right. Disney is the traditional example of this approach. But then, what fun is there in making sense?

There are times when I wonder if there is any sense in making fun. But maybe that’s just me.

Hasbro took the opposite tack. They’ve been incredibly generous with permitting the use of their IP. In part, because they never expected this to happen in the first place, and it takes a while for a large corporation to react to anything. When they realized that something was happening, even if they didn’t understand what or why, they made the brilliant (but highly unorthodox) move of just going with it.

Letting the internet remix your IP turned out to be a low-risk, high-reward bet. If it’s just a fad, it dies out in a few months and doesn’t affect sales. If it actually goes viral, the experiment succeeds. In this case, it succeeded beyond any expectation. There are now hundreds of thousands of young adults who will be watching reruns of the show with their kids in 5-10 years, and Hasbro doesn’t have to spend a dime to reach them.

This assumes we’re not presented with Generation 5, which I suspect will be a trifle less inspired than G4, if only because there will be a bunch of new faces in the Hasbro conference rooms.


Step 2 — the magical step that comes before profit — is that you maintain ownership of the IP, but otherwise let the fans run wild with it. It’s profitable to let your fans remix and mash your property up, than it is to lock it down.

If the Brony phenomenon teaches content producers that lesson, and nothing else, the world will be a better place for it.

It may be too much to assume that content producers can be taught anything, but it’s surely worth the effort.

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I have long been skeptical of efforts to “strengthen” passwords by throwing in oddball characters — if they were serious, they’d allow us to use dîacritiçal märkß and such — but the system has problems at a more fundamental level:

I have difficulty remembering what the username and passwords are anyway. As soon as I finally hit the jackpot, I go into the accounts section and change the username to something I am going to remember. Then I go to change the password, knowing that the old password didn’t meet requirements anyway.

Well, okay. I can see that. But:

The problem is that because my old password didn’t meet requirements, they wouldn’t let me change to a new password. I get logged off, and then it won’t let me log back in because the password doesn’t meet the new requirements. Not that the password is wrong, mind you. And nevermind that it let me log into the password a half-hour before.

An awful lot of tomfoolery for something that can’t save you anyway.

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Shoe it yourself

One of the rules I work by is this: “If you think you can do it better, you’re welcome to try.” Um, no, we’re not mad, really we’re not, please just go ahead and carry on.

Then again, there are objective criteria governing the shop. Fashion is a trifle more subjective. So if you were thinking some of the shoes featured here are just a trifle outré, and that you can do it better, you’re welcome to try:

Here’s how this works: go to our design now page and click through the various different toe shapes (round, pointy, peep, etc.), heel backs (sling backs, closed backs), heel height (height preference, platforms preference) ankle straps (Mary Jane, around the ankle, etc.) to create the silhouette of the exact shoe you want. Next, have fun with color! Play around with different color combinations and material combinations to come up with something uniquely yours.

The process works something like this:

(Suggested by Patti of Not Dead Yet Style, who conjured up a low-heeled red peep-toe in faux croc.)

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Quelle fromage

Who knew? Apparently some cheese is flammable:

Some 27 metric tons of flaming brown cheese (brunost), a Norwegian delicacy, blocked off a three-km (1.9 mile) tunnel near the northern coastal town of Narvik when it caught fire last Thursday. The fire was finally put out on Monday.

The hefty fat content — somewhere around 30 percent — is to blame. Kjell Bjoern Vinje, who’s spent fifteen years at the Norwegian Public Roads Administration, reports that this is the first time he can recall a cheese fire on the nation’s roads.

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Unmitigated gallium

We’re all entirely too familiar with the phrase “all the good ones are taken.” Several times a week I hear from someone who wants a really good — and really relevant! — user name for Twitter or Tumblr or Instagram, or a short and snappy domain name. I used to inform them that the time to have asked for such a thing was N months ago, where N = more than they ever imagined. And it’s true even in highly specialized areas of interest:

So, you’re a chemist and you’ve finally decided to find out what all the fuss is about with this thing called Twitter. You decide to sign up, but, for whatever reason, you don’t fancy using your own name. Maybe an element; that would be cool wouldn’t it?

Indeed it would. But how many elements are there, anyway?

[T]here are 114 named elements (we’re ignoring those ununelementium placeholder names) to choose from. Surely some of the more exotic elements must be there for the taking? Well, no. Gone. All of ’em.

“There may be many others,” said Tom Lehrer, “but they haven’t been discovered.” Fat lot of good that does you now, though.

And what about @gallium, anyway? He is a chemist, but not a very talkative one.

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Unweakened Warriors

For rather a long time, the Golden State Warriors were kind of meh, but occasionally dangerous. This season, the meh-ness has subsided — the Warriors are second only to the Clippers in the Pacific — but the danger they present is undiminished, maybe even escalated. Oklahoma City got more of it than they had hoped for: up 88-80 with seven minutes left, the Thunder ultimately was sent away with a 104-99 loss.

Among the major contributors: Stephen Curry (31 points, seven assists, four steals), who started out making treys, and when those began failing to drop, shifted to playmaker; iron man David Lee (22 points, 12 rebounds); reliable sixth man Carl Landry (20 points to lead the bench); sophomore swingman Klay Thompson (19 before fouling out). The Warriors did not shoot especially well, at 44 percent, but this was a case of “It’s not how many you get, it’s when you get them.”

The Thunder was not getting them late in the fourth, and finished the frame 6-18. Kevin Durant turned in a typical KD night, 33 points and nine assists, while Russell Westbrook struggled with his shot (3-16 for 10 points) and the rebounds were spread around. (All the starters had five or six rebounds each, as did reserve point guard Reggie Jackson.) Kevin Martin was more like himself, with 16 off the bench, and Kendrick Perkins actually scored 12. Still, what undid the Thunder was inability to control the rock: they gave up 19 turnovers, including two in the final minute.

The West Coast quest continues at Sacramento on Friday and goes back to L.A. on Sunday afternoon to take on that other team, the one whose name suggests bodies of water.

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What’s your sign?

Probably not STOP:

I can sort of understand city dwellers not understanding how four way stops work. I mean, they’re still dumbasses, but at least we can understand why. It’s not a part of their everyday driving experience.

Nearest four-way stop: either end of my block. I can’t drive much of anywhere without encountering one. I do in fact understand how they work, though I figure I probably have some compensating dumbassery elsewhere.

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Tiff time

Tiffani Thiessen is on my mind again, and this time there are plausible reasons why: yesterday USA began airing the five remaining episodes of season four of White Collar, and today she turned thirty-nine.

Two rationalizations, so how about two photos?

Tiffani Thiessen courtesy Spoiler TV

Tiffani Thiessen in Esquire

That latter photo is from a “Me in My Place” piece in Esquire.

(Suggested by McGehee, who reminded me that White Collar was still on, last time I had anything to say about Tiffani Thiessen.)

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Where all your time has gone

And by “your time,” I suspect I really mean “James Lileks’ time”:

Every day I encounter some site I like, but rarely promote to the daily bookmark. I find this interesting. Why wouldn’t I? Because it’s a peripheral interest, and I really don’t need to check up on someone’s vintage kitchen remodel for a month. If ever. So the list of secondary bookmarks grows and grows, until weeded out six months later after a cursory revisit. Each of these pages usually has a Facebook page. Never go there. Why would I?

I am something like that, though you should probably figure that if you read it here, I don’t consider that interest “peripheral.”

What I don’t like about all of this: the fragmentation of presence. If you just have Facebook, lucky you. If that’s what you want. But if you have a blog, you should tweet, and if you tweet, isn’t there a Facebook account and a Google+ account you might want to link to that? Ought not the Tumblr be chained as well, so all updates everywhere are sprayed across all possible platforms?

Short answer: no. Slightly longer answer: there are different audiences, at least in my case, for each of these platforms. (I don’t have a presence on Tumblr.) And nothing I say is so gosh-darn important that I have to push it out to everyone who’s ever heard of me.

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For the analog diehards

As I get older — which I intend to continue to do for some time — I’m becoming increasingly persuaded that while our immediate future is digital, it’s got to be analog for the long haul, if only because whoever explores the ruins of our civilization will be able to comprehend the analog stuff without enormous difficulty, while bits are just, well, bits.

To that end, the Lomography community, which introduced a new B&W 110 film (dubbed “Orca”) last year, has now brought forth color film in 110, called “Peacock.” The new film is ISO 200 and sells for $7.90.

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Staples? That was easy

Okay, it wasn’t that easy, and both Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups were conspicuous by their absence, but the Thunder finally found a way to beat the Clippers in Los Angeles: don’t miss a lot of shots. The Clips weren’t going to give it away, and OKC harshed their own mellow by two consecutive moving-screen fouls — didn’t we see this in Denver day before yesterday? — but the Thunder held on for a 109-97 win.

A lot of shots were indeed not missed. OKC shot 53 percent, and hit an implausible 15 of 27 treys. That’s an Academy a franchise record. The Clips, however, shut down the Thunder’s free-throw machine by the simple expedient of not fouling: OKC attempted 14, half their average, and made 12. Both Kevin Durant (12-19, 32 points) and Russell Westbrook (9-19, 26) had good nights, but the man at the top of the plus/minus tower was glue guy Nick Collison (+20), who played more than 40 minutes, largely because Kendrick Perkins rolled up four fouls in less than seven minutes.

In the absence of their major playmakers, Blake Griffin assumed a lot of the load for L.A., and he racked up a season-high 31 points. The Clips kept their hands on the ball, generally — only 10 turnovers — but Eric Bledsoe, good as he was (12 points, four assists) just isn’t CP3. The L.A. bench did outscore the OKC reserves, 38-25.

The West Coast swing continues tomorrow night at Golden State, the team that beat the Clippers on Monday. It’s not going to get any easier.

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Give ’em enough trope

TV Tropes may be the most effective time suck on the entire Web; it’s the pixel equivalent of those potato chips you couldn’t eat just one of. I’ve spent hours, sometimes consecutive, wandering through its endless collection of schemes, plans, plot complications, clichés, and whatnot, and I never know quite what to expect.

I most especially did not expect to find a page titled “Fanfic Recs: My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic Humans,” which is really digging into deep obscurity, though some of the legitimate greats of the genre are listed and recommended: Anthropology, Project: Sunflower, and yes, My Little Dashie.

Why I would be on this page, I have no idea; yet somehow I am.

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Uncomfortable flats

BoingBoing was passing around this variation on a theme: R.E.M.’s downbeat classic “Losing My Religion,” retuned, the minor keys replaced with major keys. It was startling, especially for someone like me who wallows in mournful songs until all hours of the night.

The same audio wizard has similarly reworked this classic from my past:

Major Scaled #3: The Doors-“Riders On The Rainbow” from major scaled on Vimeo.

It’s like they’re almost happy to be going.

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Taking it personally

I’ve encountered a few folks like this, and they’re not really all trying to mess with Robert Stacy McCain — but McCain understands that their motivation is something other than idealism incarnate:

Whether or not [John] Tiessen is really a danger to me, he’s fairly representative of a certain type of personality that is attracted to anti-social protest movements. Tiessen has a lot of frustration and resentment of a strictly personal nature, and his interest in “politics” is not really about electing candidates or advancing specific policies so much as it is about symbolic vindication of his resentments. Amorphous ill-organized protest movements offer opportunities for disgruntled misfits to Be Somebody — to be applauded by their fellow misfits for “speaking out” against their commonly hated scapegoats — without having to do anything to establish their credibility in advance. It’s the Moment of Glory fantasy.

Of course, I live in Oklahoma, so the windbags I’m likely to encounter aren’t necessarily going to be #OccupyMyShorts types; still, the nature of ill winds is that they blow nobody good. Or, I suspect, well.

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