Down easy

Reasoning that mortgage-interest rates are not going to drop much more, if at all, the city has a new plan to boost home ownership which concentrates on helping out with the down payment:

Qualifying Oklahoma City residents can receive assistance of up to $10,000 for making a down payment on a home in the city’s core as part of a program funded by the federal Housing and Urban Development Department. Those with incomes near or less than the area’s median income are eligible.

None of you exurban types need apply.

Additional qualifications: you have to have an actual lender willing to make you the loan, and you have to stay in the house for a minimum of five years. No flippers, no NINJAs. Says Teresa Smith of the city’s Planning Department: “What we’ve found is that, unless you have some skin in the game, you probably aren’t as good of a homeowner or investor.”

(If you read the NewsOK article linked above, you might want to stop before you get to the comments. In fact, this is true of almost any NewsOK article.)

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Preferred tilt

Maybe it’s just me, but I find this particular question risible:

Most objective and bias-free media outlets? (Does one exist? XD)?

Hi, my ip address was banned by CNN for speaking the truth. I am now looking for a bias-free news outlet. Any recommendations?

Now what are the chances his definition of “bias-free” is “agrees with me”? I mean, you have to be pretty damned bilious to get yourself banned by the likes of CNN. (And “speaking the truth” in a comment section of a news site, I suspect, equals “posting endless strands of copypasta.”)

And come to think of it, if there existed a site that agreed with him in every particular, what on earth would be the point in contributing to it? Is the echo chamber not loud enough or something?

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Let there be frivolity

I’m on a sort-of-strict budget these days, but with a bit of squeezing here and there, I can come up with a few cents for a treat now and then, which is not in the least bit objectionable:

[Y]ou shouldn’t always judge “frivolous” purchases. Neither my brother nor I grew up to be spendthrifts (despite the fact that I now wonder at the fact that I was willing to mow the near-acre of lawn — with a regular, walk-behind mower, not a lawn tractor — for $2.50, and then spend that money on stuff.) But I think, if the budget allows, the occasional “frivolous” purchase is good. For one thing, frivolity is fun. Without frivolity, we might as all wear black and grey all the time and farm rocks. And for another — spending money frivolously, I think, maybe reminds us (or at least, it reminds me) of the limitations of money. And that being grasping and tight and always worrying about money isn’t necessarily healthy either (as compared to throwing money away).

My first reaction to that was “Hmmm, why was I mowing for seventy-five cents?” (Well, it was about 15 years earlier, and the lots were lots smaller.) But on my second reading, what jumped out at me was that business about wearing black and grey all the time and farming rocks. Now where have I heard that?

Pinkie Pie as a filly and rock farmerMy sisters and I were raised on a rock farm outside of Ponyville. We spent our days working the fields. There was no talking. There was no smiling. [sigh] There were only rocks. We were in the south field, preparing to rotate the rocks to the east field when all of a sudden… I never felt joy like that before. It felt so good I just wanted to keep smiling forever. And I wanted everyone I knew to smile too, but rainbows don’t come along that often. I wondered, how else could I create some smiles?

And as we all know, that’s how Equestria was made.

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This is not my first pretty pony

To celebrate Liz Phair’s 45th birthday, here’s a picture of Liz Phair from about a year and a half ago:

Liz Phair circa 2010

The title, incidentally, is not a reference to that oft-discussed (here, anyway) pony show, but a line from “Bollywood,” a savage satire on The Industry, from her 2010 album Funstyle.

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Stumbling over objects

Laura Conaway at the Maddow Blog quoted Hob Bryan, a state senator from Mississippi:

What we have not done is to pass bill after bill after bill that was obviously unconstitutional just so we could all get on record one more time as casting another vote realizing that what was going to happen was someone would file suit the next day and the legislation would never take effect.

And “for the pure geek of it,” she invited Maddow readers to diagram that salamander of a sentence — which they did.

Mark Liberman of Language Log is pleased to nominate Bryan’s effort for the semi-coveted Trent Reznor Prize for Tricky Embedding.

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L’opprobre de tous les partis

If you think our Presidential election has all the elements of a French farce, well, you should see what the actual French have to deal with on a regular basis:

To ensure that the Élysée Palace is inhabited occasionally by bigamists (François Mitterand), megalomaniacs (Charles de Gaulle), diamond smugglers (Valéry d’Estaing), or influence peddlers (Jacques Chirac), the presidential electoral system works like this: In the first round on April 22nd, candidates from a diverse number of parties across the spectrum will face off. If none of the candidates get more than 50 percent of the vote (unlikely), a runoff is then held two weeks later, featuring the top two finishers of round one.

And who’s competing in Round One, Don Pardo?

In the current cycle, the major candidates are President Nicolas Sarkozy (right of center; best imagined as a tough detective on Law and Order), François Hollande (socialist; looks like Seinfeld’s friend George Costanza), Marine Le Pen (far-right nationalist; uses the word deportation as a noun, verb, adjective, and term of endearment), François Beyrou (centrist; keen on the moral purity of centrism), and Jean-Luc Mélenchon (far left; speaks for those whom Le Pen would deport).

If the name “Le Pen” seems familiar, it should be: Mme Le Pen (she’s currently unmarried, but this is standard French-government usage now) is the youngest daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the National Front, under whose banner she’s running.

This, however, I did not suspect:

François Hollande has four children with Ségolène Royal, the socialist party candidate for president in 2007. Imagine a relationship — they never officially married — in which both partners want to be president of France? Ségo lost to Sarko in 2007. During that election it turned out that life-partner Hollande was “campaigning” with a Madame de Pompadour-like magazine journalist, who now might become the first official live-in girlfriend at the Élysée Palace.

And to think we whined about Rick “Sanitary” Santorum.

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Way above their pay grade

There are meteorologists, and there are Big Media types who try to report on the weather. Nobody with a lick of sense will ever confuse the two, but unfortunately, sense is in short supply these days, so here’s an actual meteorologist to point out some minor details:

In January of this year, Diane Sawyer of ABC News went on a nightly network news broadcast and reported that a fatal Alabama tornado had “struck without warning.” Makes for great TV — it immediately incenses the audience and satisfies the desire to search for someone to blame. The only problem is that it was dead wrong.

A tornado warning had been issued well before the tornado struck. The average lead time that night was between 20-30 minutes.

Of course, Diane Sawyer is a Big Media star, so she can’t be expected to bother with trifling things like, um, facts.

More recently:

Oklahoma and Kansas just had a big tornado outbreak. In April. The national media calls it “cataclysmic, weird, extreme” … meteorologists call it “Spring.”

Then again, the national media have been possessed by the notion that anything that doesn’t look like Arbor Day in San Diego is part of that whole “climate-change” thing — which explains in part why so many of them are about to be repossessed.

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It’s a Young world

Nick Young, that is, the Clippers swingman who ran more or less roughshod through what passed for Thunder defense tonight as the Clips came back from an eleven-point deficit to tie the game at 66 after three quarters and utterly crush Oklahoma City in the fourth, 92-77, winning the season series and clinching a playoff spot in the process.

And Young, who got 19 points on 7-10 shooting, deserves as much credit as you can give him, because the L. A. offense was maybe half a tick better than meh. Still, Chris Paul moves the ball like nobody else — he had ten assists — and Blake Griffin mostly played like Blake Griffin, who scored 17 and retrieved 11 rebounds.

Apart from not being able to guard Young, Oklahoma City’s major problem was the inability to generate any offense in the second half. Kevin Durant, who had 19 points at halftime, finished with 24; Russell Westbrook, who had nine, finished with — nine. And the Thunder missed 11 of 29 free throws and 17 of 22 treys on the way to their worst numbers of the year.

But hey, it’s after midnight. Bring on the Suns. It can’t possibly get any worse. (Famous last words, indeed.)

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Doctor, please, some more of these

And as I discarded the empty pill bottle, I thought that someone, preferably someone other than myself, should write a story, a poem, something called “The Last Ambien.”

Zero point eight seconds of search later, here’s the poem.

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But how does it look?

Cameron Miquelon, last mentioned here in connection with Tabitha St. Germain’s favorite gladiator sandal, reminds us that cars just might require more than mere engineering:

Fashion and the automobile have been hanging out with each other since the first flapper stepped out of a Ford Model A back in the 1920s. Sometimes it works — any Bugatti that’s not a Veyron, Duesenberg or Talbot comes to mind — and sometimes it misses; AMC and Oleg Cassini, for example. Either way, both examples still have that certain zazz that a lot of today’s vehicles lack. And no, silver paint will not make it any better, I’m afraid.

El Camino by the Black KeysI can also tell you that there are people who view cars differently. They use adjectives like “cute” and “pretty.” They see cars not as appliances per se, but as accessories, as reflections of their own style. Maybe they’re into tech, or they want to be more “eco-conscious.” Maybe both. They could even be “ironic” in their love of minivans, if the album cover of El Camino by The Black Keys is anything to go by.

These people aren’t necessarily women, by the way.

Much as I’d like to earn a point or two on the Man Card by officially denouncing everything in a motor vehicle that isn’t routinely covered in grease, I must point out here that a major reason — apart from penury, of course — for keeping my current largish sedan, now in its twelfth year, is that unlike just about all the modern-day largish sedans, it doesn’t have that tortured-wedge cat’s-ass-in-your-face stance, which I freaking hate and always will, and I don’t give two-thirds of a damn what it does for the drag coefficient. (“Aerodynamics are for people who can’t build engines,” said Enzo.) It’s enough to drive me into a Lincoln Town Car, which, you’ll remember, offered a Cartier-branded trim package for two decades. And it will have to be a used one, because Ford, forced into TW-CAIYF cars by CAFE, dropped the Town Car after 2011.

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Of interest

Reuters finance blogger Felix Salmon snapped this on the tube in London:

QuickQuid advert in London tube

Said he: “Yes, it really does seem to be offering loans at 1,734% interest rates.”

Well, sort of. What we’re actually seeing here is the result of new British regulations, which state:

Under the new Advertisements Regulations, if an advertisement includes an interest rate or any amount relating to the cost of credit, it must also include a representative example. This must contain certain standard information including a representative APR. The example must be clear and concise and must be more prominent than the information that triggered the inclusion of the example.

The representative APR must reflect at least 51% of business expected to result from the advertisement. The standard information must be representative of agreements to which the representative APR applies.

This is, as one might expect of a EU-inspired regulation, simultaneously perfectly clear and incredibly obscure. A British credit guide attempts to explain it:

[W]hat the BSI is saying is that because APR rates can fluctuate so wildly between individual customers, the number that is put on billboards, fliers, and other forms of advertisement must represent the APR rate that the company expects to use on over half, or 51% of the business they get from those advertisements. If they only expect to get 15% of their customers that qualify for the lowest APR rate they offer, they can’t advertise that lower rate just to bring in more customers, because in a way it can be very misleading.

This is advantageous because it really helps out consumers who are often pulled into a loan office because of a low rate they saw and then find out that they are going to have to pay nearly twice that advertised rate. Thus, the advertised figure is “representative” of the rates that the majority of their customers will be receiving. Other charges are also taken into account with the Representative APR, including balance transfer fees that were previously never included.

This is an actual offer from this specific lender:

Representative example: Borrow £50 for 30 days. The total charge for credit is £14.75. Interest is fixed at a rate of £14.75 per £50 loan (359% per annum). The Total Repayable is £64.75.

While this particular example has a 359-percent APR, close to the number you might expect for short-term “payday” loans, more than half the lender’s customers for loans of this type end up paying an effective rate of 1734 percent, for whatever reason — historically, payday loans are often late, incurring late fees, or rolled over into subsequent loans, incurring further interest charges — and presumably that’s the “representative” APR being quoted in the ad.

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Nine Inch Pushrods

Saturday’s five hours’ worth of Architecture Tour involved about three hours of driving, and since Trini hadn’t yet heard it, I schlepped along the CDs from the Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross score to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Somewhere north of Norman, we reached the following conclusion: the biggest problem with listening to Reznor or any NIN-related project on the road is that at some point, you’re going to hear some strange noises, and unless you’re intimately familiar with the music in question, you’re going to respond to those noises with “What the hell just happened to my car?”

This might be especially true, I suspect, of my car, which is twelve years old and has tweeters at the base of the A-pillars.

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Strange search-engine queries (324)

Some of you have read about Big Farking Storms that descended upon us during the weekend, and yes, the carnage was dire in some locations, but less so in others. (Total losses here at my place: about 12 feet of dead elm branch, freshly separated from a still-living tree.) Not enough, in other words, to discourage rummaging through the server logs in search of cheap japes.

anvil draw:  The intermediate evolutionary stage between well drinks and the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster (q.v.).

“she’s wearing bike”:  Oh, come on, it’s not that tight.

deep cerebral intj ponder:  The peculiar genius of the INTJ is that he makes the shallow sound deep.

“no woman ever shot a man” “while he was doing the dishes”:  Unless, of course, he was doing them in such a manner as to insure that he never, ever had to do them again.

charles hill bastard:  I assure you, my parents were married. They told me so.

did margaret atwood receive a response to her letter to america:  Actually, no, since she didn’t enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

flirting with women is degrading:  Um, you’re doing it wrong.

car restoration from wreck to perfect:  And it will cost only four and a half times what the car cost originally, adjusted for inflation.

four letter word for smog:  For instance, “smog.”

16 april future predictions:  Whoops, too late for that now.

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Meanwhile in 66043

Kansas City real-estate man Mike Nielsen snapped this at the post office in Lansing, Kansas, up near Leavenworth:

New hours for the Lansing Post Office

This just reeks of “You’re lucky we didn’t close up shop entirely.”

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The Ides of April

Thoughts upon writing a rather large check and expecting the proceeds thereof to be utterly wasted.

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Advice to the young spammer

Links to this bit of verbiage were swimming in the spam trap this morning, and I got the semi-bright idea of actually trying to see what was being hawked. “Amazon Money Machine” contains the following advice:

The following step will probably be so that you compose the ebook and also accomplish it, making sure that you will find absolutely no spelling errors as well as grammatical faults in it. Bear in mind, this can be distributed to the common people and Amazon is not going to allow any kind of stories that contain grammatical faults only if they really are intended kinds (for example those used in fiction novels for talking). To prevent errors, use an experienced to verify and also revise your ebook for you to ensure a brand new point of view could be presented. Moreover, it could be wonderful when you can seek the services of one to build a story book cover to suit your needs particularly if you aren’t any good with artwork or design. A cover is very important because that could be at which your prospective buyers are going to analyze you to start with. Having an ill-drawn design would move clients off from your e-book, regardless of precisely how decent it will be to read.

You think maybe “Karl Daniels” read this?

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