The man from Delight

Glen Campbell is doing one last tour while he still can, which strikes me as an admirable way to conduct one’s business. (I should be so sensible.) One song that will almost definitely not be on the set list is this obscurity from 1967 on which he sang lead, and on which he sounds nothing like the guy on “Gentle on My Mind,” which flopped at about the same time. (Reissued in ’68 after he’d had a few hits, “Gentle” became a smash — indeed, his signature song.) Our local Top 40 station played it once, maybe. Nothing to look at here, but if you’re anything like me, the words will be written in some dark corner of your heart.

(More than you might have wanted to know about that song here.)

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Playing it relatively safe

With Mr. Kelley going to Washington, the editor’s desk at the Oklahoman will be filled by seventeen-year OPUBCO veteran Kelly Dyer Fry. This is not exactly a controversial choice — you have to figure that she’s pretty well steeped in Gaylordia (not necessarily to be confused with Gaillardia) by now — but it does stand out in one way, since she spent the bulk of those seventeen years on the digital side of the news operation, following up with integration of the paper’s virtual and dead-tree offerings. Few other papers of any size have threaded their way that far into the dark scary cave that is, or is supposed to be, Future News.

So no boats are likely to to be rocked. Still, there’s at least a sense of continuity, and given NewsOK’s heavy video presence, she does seem at ease in front of the camera.

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DC14 to fly another year

Thunder reserve shooting guard Daequan Cook, acquired last year from Miami for a draft pick and a case of Gatorade, has received what the NBA calls a “qualifying offer” for next season, making him a restricted free agent: any team may send him an offer sheet, but Oklahoma City has the right to match the offer and keep him.

Cook, drafted #21 by the Sixers in 2007 and quickly traded to the Heat, made $2,169,856, give or take a few cents, last season; the least he can earn next season (assuming there is a next season) is $3,126,764.

I have to figure that this is a reward for Cook’s work ethic. He started the season poorly, and Scott Brooks’ nine-man rotation had no place for him. Despite being glued to the far end of the bench for two months, he kept on working, and eventually Brooks decided that, geez, somebody on this roster needed to hit some treys. And so it was that Cook became the 10th man, and he responded by knocking down 45 percent of his three-point attempts the rest of the season.

That makes 14 players signed; Reggie Jackson, drafted #24 by the Thunder, may or may not be added to the roster immediately. (Last #24 drafted by the organization, Serge Ibaka, spent two years in Europe first.) The last slot may go to the only other free agent on the squad, Nazr Mohammed, who’s said he’d like to stay.

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Range on the home (once more)

Indoor Comfort Meter by La CrosseYou may remember this contraption which I described back in March ’09, noting that it retained the highest and lowest values it recorded for such time as the batteries hold out. Said batteries are now no longer holding out, but I did managed to get the new extremes before slapping in the new cells. The warmest it’s been along the north wall of my bedroom — there are windows west, south, and east, which is a neat trick — is 92.9°F (recorded on a summer morning when the A/C failed), and the maximum humidity has been 82.7%, which I’m sure came about some evening with the windows open. (Previous low figures were unchanged.) I have a duplicate device in my office, which I suspect will start screaming for batteries shortly.

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They went that-a-way

Aaron Renn, the Urbanophile, in the course of explaining why it’s trickier to rebuild downtown employment cores in smaller cities, points out a historical trend that actively works against so doing:

Cities typically follow a so-called “favored quarter” development pattern. That is, development is not balanced throughout the region, but is biased to one quadrant, which is also home to a disproportionate number of the college degreed, white collar workers, and higher income groups. In the US, this is often the north side for historical reasons. Because the white collar labor force of the city is disproportionately located in the favored quarter, the approximate center of this labor shed is somewhere in the middle of that favored quarter. Thus a suburban location in the favored quarter may actually be closer to most workers than a downtown one.

In Oklahoma City, this is of course the northwest quadrant: the south side has always been a bit more blue-collar, and the northeast was Jim Crowed into submission. In Tulsa, which has a markedly different topography, the southeast quadrant is favored.

I’m wondering, though, how it is that the north side became dominant in so many cities. Was it simply a matter of segregation, or were there other factors in play?

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Meanwhile in Afghanistan

The blurb in the corner of the cover of The Week read “The world’s toughest TV host,” which all by itself wouldn’t make it an automatic read. There was, however, a photograph which did, although this isn’t it:

Mozhdah Jamalzadah

This is Mozhdah Jamalzadah, host of The Mozhdah Show on Afghanistan’s 1TV. Born in Kabul, she and her family fled to Canada when she was five, and she grew up in British Columbia. Time described her as “part Oprah, part Hannah Montana.”

Canada’s Breakfast Television, which interviewed her last year, reports:

[She] is working tirelessly to change social attitudes about women’s rights, domestic violence and access to education.

Her efforts come at a price. As you might imagine, Mozhdah’s message angers Afghans who still adhere to Taliban code. Her refusal to wear a head covering on television, for example, has prompted death threats. While in Kabul, she travels in an armoured convoy. But Mozhdah refuses to lose focus.

By the time The Mozhdah Show started in early 2010, she was already something of a household word, thanks to “Dukhtare Afghan” (“Afghan Girl”), which became a sizable pop hit. (It’s her melody, her father’s lyric.) Hard to believe she was a washout on Canadian Idol.

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Pedal to the meddle

I found this in a Usenet (rec.autos.tech) thread titled “Yes, there is a difference between American and Japanese cars.” The difference, suggests a fellow identified as “Brent,” is more philosophical than physical:

Japanese companies don’t understand a particular irrationality of americans. Americans by and large expect something to be done immediately… they don’t care about details such as if it fixes the problem or not… or even if makes things worse, they want something done. This is why we have the TSA, tire pressure monitors, countless government programs and agencies, tons of regulation, various wars in progress, and so on… because people want something ‘done about it’ and the US government takes full advantage. Essentially americans want to see a fix, no matter how slip shod or more damaging than the original problem immediately. That is if the attempt to cover up the problem failed.

Japanese culture on the other hand tends to cause people to deny there is a problem in the first place and then quietly fix it hoping nobody will notice. The fix will generally be a reasonable step or kludge that actually does at the very least make things better. Even when it doesn’t things don’t usually get worse and nobody seems to use it as a chance to expand their power. There is a sense of shame there was an error or problem in the first place.

This explains much about the Toyota “unintended acceleration” debacle, in which dozens of our aggrieved countrymen insisted it could not be floor-mat placement or, worse, driver error: something had to be wrong with the electronic throttle. Government research determined otherwise, but that made no difference to the aggrieved.

Then again, Americans always clamor for their day in court, and we didn’t get to be the world volume leader in litigation by telling would-be plaintiffs that their complaints have no merit.

And on the larger scale, this is how the government grew from manageable to unwieldy to Leviathan: voters demanded that something be done about Problem X, and the candidates proposed Action A or Action B, regardless of whether A or B had any relevance to X or of whether either A or B could possibly work. (Whether the Constitution permits any action at all is never even considered.) The candidate that says “Government doesn’t need to be involved in this sort of thing” goes home in third place, or worse, on election day.

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Uncharted territory

The Redneck Diva and family set off toward the mysterious East:

It was just as we crossed the state line into Arkansas a radio commercial came on with background music of a more hillbilly persuasion than we are used to. Sam reached over the touched my arm and whispered, “Drive faster, Momma. I hear banjos.” That sent us three girls into a laughing fit like no other. We also passed Connie’s House of Products which made us all howl with laughter. What a name. Not “House of Amazing Bargains” or “House of Stuff You’ll Put in a Garage Sale Next Summer” or even “House of Awesome”, but simply “House of Products”. I guess it’s up to you to decide what kind of adjective to put on those products.

I’m betting on “nondescript.”

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Strange search-engine queries (282)

It has occurred to me more than once that with about 18,000 pages under this domain, it’s difficult to construct a search string that can’t land here, though mercifully, most of your search engines cut off your spelunking once you’ve dug down through 1000 results. I must conclude that those who did get here have either remarkable persistence or are just plain weird, though the two qualities are not mutually exclusive.

jennifer warnes john cale:  But John Cale goes right on ahead and does it anyway.

bacon helper:  If there’s one food that needs no help, it’s bacon.

decoration for beef:  Maybe a quarter-cup of Bacon Helper around the periphery.

brave drawers:  From what I’ve heard, not all the braves actually wore drawers.

too stupid for love:  So they run for Congress instead.

Just this month the state has voted and passed a law that:  These days, it doesn’t seem to matter what comes next.

improve whisky “scientific american”:  We non-scientific Americans improve whisky by pouring another one.

amanda congdon licks teeth:  Yeah, but whose teeth?

ford probe rear:  They’d better not.

man with genitals protruding from shorts pics:  In the post-Weiner era? Don’t get your hopes up.

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Assignment: out there

We open with a paragraph that’s actually about halfway through:

«In any bar, in fact in any civilized establishment, in this volume of the void,» the barkeep said, punctuating the phrase with the thunk of another pitcher on the polished wood, «a being may call out the word “beer” in the Trade language, accompanied by the appropriate number of digits or other appendages, and depend upon being served appropriately. How is it that your people cannot achieve this minimal accomplishment?»

Passages like this are the strength of Ric Locke’s Temporary Duty, an ebook that seems to start out wanting to be a rollicking space opera, but won’t settle for the cardboard characters that usually inhabit that genre. Life among the lower ranks, as those of us who served terrestrial duty can tell you, may indeed put you at the mercy of forces you cannot control, but it doesn’t make you the sort of disposable individual that, for instance, Star Trek condemned to brief existence inside red shirts.

However, it’s not all thrills either:

The waves made wave sounds, the beach smelled like a beach, and the sun shone. If it hadn’t been for the red and yellow trees along the backshore they could have been somewhere around Mayport. “God damn space,” Todd complained. “Oughta be bug-eyed monsters ‘n all
that.”

You want B.E.M.s, though, you’re going to have to look elsewhere. What Locke has put together here is a detailed look at how several different species approach the task of getting along, whether those in command want to or not. And then over the P.A.: “Make ready for unfriendly visitors.” Turns out, “cooperate or die” makes a pretty good incentive. And the scariest creature of them all, who shows up near the very end — never mind, I won’t spoil it for you, but trust me: scary.

And you know, a rollicking space opera is nothing to sneer at, even especially if you’re not quite sure exactly when it began to rollick. There’s really no obvious opening for a sequel, but I have to hope Locke returns to this universe once more.

(Amazon link to Kindle version. Reviewed from PDF copy.)

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Almost pathologically truthful

Somebody had to think about this, and, well, I didn’t come up with it, and neither did you:

Wile E. Coyote. Running capitalist dog. That clever hunter spent a gadzillion dollars ordering exotic crap from the Acme Got-It-All catalogue, REALLY cool stuff, like rocket skates, giant sling-shots or big boxes of dynamite, which always blew up in his face, threw him off a cliff, or dropped a big rock on his head. All to catch a scrawny bird that weighed maybe 4.5 ounces WITH the feathers still attached.

Gimme a break! The show never tells how the coyote became so wealthy. Do ya suppose he just might be “disabled?” A “victim” of ADD? Getting a government check in the mail every month? Or was his daddy a Kennedy and he’s living an expensive lifestyle with inherited money?

Face it. Wile E. could have spent a FRACTION of that money he pissed away on Acme gadgets and bought himself a vibrating Barcalounger, a big-screen HDTV and had his meals catered, delivered still steaming, right to his cave. The message here? Beats me.

A typically deeper-than-you-were-expecting thought by the late Rob “Acidman” Smith, once described by Chris Muir as “Hemingway without the charm,” who departed the blogosphere en route to the New Jerusalem or some place like it five years ago today.

(Title from, well, me. See also this remembrance by DaGoddess.)

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The curse of 4

Much to Mozilla’s dismay, I’m still running 3.6.x, but horror stories about version 4 don’t seem to be dying down, which may or may not have had something to do with the imminent introduction of version 5 already. Dodd says this won’t fly with corporate America, either:

If you’re a Firefox user who was a little surprised by the rather sudden appearance of v.5, and the concomitant deprecation of the brand-new v.4, you’re not alone. Mozilla’s rapid-release program has roiled more than a few corporate IT programs.

Although any IT department old enough to drink will view a 4.0 release with suspicion, ever since Microsoft attempted to foist off DOS 4.0, a steaming pile of dud code, on its beleaguered users. Redmond would remember this when the follow-up to Windows 3.x appeared: it was called 95. (Or, as your average Apple fanboi would scoff, “Macintosh 87.”)

The downside of any new Mozilla release, of course, is the inevitable failure of your collection of add-ons, which will be dismissed with a curt little “Disabled!” notice until such time as the developer catches up. It’s almost enough to drive one to Safari (now in 5.0.5).

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Flashers everywhere

Rear-mounted turn signals in the States can be amber or red, at the discretion of the automaker. I’ve always leaned toward amber, mostly because, well, there are enough red lights back there already, but while my current ride (which has amber lights) was in the shop, I noticed that the car they lent me for two days had the red ones.

I’m not sure that this matters a whole lot. A 2009 NHTSA study of vehicles that had switched from one color to the other [pdf] suggests that amber is a tad better at reducing rear-end collisions, although it seems to me that this data will inevitably be skewed by the fact that generally you have to slow down to make a turn, and brake lights are always red.

And this presents another question: is it better to have a colorless bulb and an amber lens, or an amber bulb and a colorless lens? (I have the latter.)

Outside North America, the turn signals are always amber, which tends to suggest that Detroit likes red because it costs less. I don’t know about that, though it seems that you can’t actually get red bulbs: it’s always a colorless bulb behind a red lens.

Do you have a preference one way or another? If so, why?

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Groomed to perfection, sort of

Complaints about “fake” pop stars go back at least half a century, though the Frankies and Bobbys of the era did have one thing going for them: actual corporeal existence. Japanese singer Aimi Eguchi, not so much:

AKB48 is an all-female “idol” group — one of many comprising nubile young women who are idolised by Japanese geeks mainly because of their flawless looks.

Earlier this month Aimi Eguchi was announced as the newest member. ChannelNewsAsia reported that Eguchi received reams of publicity “because of her flawless looks and her uncanny resemblance to other AKB48 members”.

That uncanny resemblance, it turns out, is due to the fact that Eguchi is nothing more than a computer composite of half a dozen other group members, given virtual life via CGI.

Aimi Eguchi hawking candy

AKB48 hardly needs virtual members — last I looked, there were 58 girls in the group — and it’s not like J-pop isn’t highly artificial in the first place. Still, this is the sort of thing that happens when a style becomes an Industry. And while I admit to a certain fondness for this brand of ear candy, I’d still rather listen to, say, Shonen Knife.

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Let’s drive over for a free lunch

Nobody was particularly happy with GM CEO Dan Akerson’s call for a higher gas tax, especially since he couched it in decidedly self-serving terms: “We ought to just slap a 50-cent or a dollar tax on a gallon of gas. People will start buying more Cruzes and less Suburbans.”

This is, of course, a crock, and I told you so in Vent #729. This doesn’t mean, however, that the gas tax is fine where it is, thank you very much: at some point, it’s going to have to go up, simply because the Highway Trust Fund, where all those 18.4-cent imposts end up, is severely depleted, and as I said at the time, “Adding a few cents to the gas tax is a much more sensible approach than monitoring everyone’s mileage via GPS and charging them accordingly.”

TTAC’s Ed Niedermeyer conveys a bit more urgency:

Though in many ways a more fair system than a gas tax alone (as it apportions costs based on use of the infrastructure, without filtering it through the efficiency level of each individual car), the [Vehicle Miles Traveled] tax scheme is an Orwellian nightmare waiting to happen. Though privacy is not at the height of its popularity at the moment, those who oppose any increase in the gas tax would do well to consider the implications of this alternative (Who does the data belong to? Will law enforcement get access? Will others be able to track you by piggy-backing onto the system?), especially since no other alternative is even being seriously considered.

To put it bluntly, says Niedermeyer, “If we don’t pay for our gas with more money, we will do so with our privacy.”

And he has some words for Lieutenant Dan at GM:

Corporate leaders like Akerson who claim the policy is in their best interests need to stop throwing up their hands at the political challenge and start putting their money where their mouth is.

Glenn Beck, meanwhile, needs to stop throwing up, period.

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No warranty is given or implied

Men, we are told, live in paralyzing fear of getting involved with The Wrong Woman™, as though Big Brother might be keeping her in Room 101, just waiting for you to show up. At least part of this, suggests Robert Stacy McCain, is that the emptors just aren’t caveat-ing enough:

Everybody knows some unfortunate guy who is bitter about his ex-wife, but even after hearing the detailed (and often quite justifiable) complaints of these guys, it is sometimes a struggle to resist responding, “Yeah, but nobody forced you to marry that crazy two-timing evil vindictive bitch, did they?”

We will set aside, for the moment, the possibility of shotguns having been involved.

Now I am not bitter about my ex-wife, and I’m pretty sure she’s happier with Spouse #3. (Spouse #2 was given his walking papers after revealing that his primary goal in life was controlling the US balance of trade, to the extent that it was affected by the importation of Peruvian marching powder, and is now deceased; beyond that, I can say only that he had, um, a certain not-precisely-visceral appeal, or so I am given to understand.) Two-timing simply wasn’t on her agenda; one-timing was tricky enough. But enough about that.

And, in McCain’s words, it’s a freely-chosen transaction:

The FDA does not require a surgeon general’s warning label on crazy two-timing evil vindictive bitches. (“CAUTION: Her Butt May Look Kinda Cute in Cutoff Jeans, But She’s a Cruel Selfish Whore Who Will Make Your Life a Living Hell Some Day.”) It is up to the individual to avoid these hazards, and your failure to heed the warning signs does not make you a victim.

Then again, there’s a lot to be said for the Lewis Grizzard approach: “I don’t think I’ll get married again. I’ll just find a woman I don’t like and give her a house.”

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