Soak cycle

Bank of Oklahoma is being sued for some of the same practices used by Wells Fargo to maximize overdraft fees:

The action, filed last week in Tulsa County District Court, lists Susan Eaton as the lead plaintiff and seeks certification as a class action.

The complaint alleges that BOK reorders electronic debit transactions from the highest dollar amount to lowest dollar amount, which depletes customers’ available funds as quickly as possible and maximizes the number of overdraft fees. According to the lawsuit, the bank did not adequately disclose in its account agreement that it posts transactions from the highest to lowest dollar amount. The lawsuit further alleges that “BOK’s practices ensure that smaller charges will result in multiple overdraft fees.”

As an example, “transactions made by the plaintiff on or before April 17, 2010, were improperly reordered from high to low, causing two separate overdraft fees. BOK’s improper high-to-low reordering of those transactions doubled the total number of overdraft fees,” the suit states.

A BOk Financial spokesman sent this response to the Tulsa World:

“This is an opportunistic lawsuit. It was filed on the heels of a trial court judgment against a national bank in California under different circumstances, and it is not reflective of our policies which we are confident are entirely appropriate.”

Wells Fargo, upon losing said judgment, was ordered to pay $203 million to its California customers — which sounds more impressive than it is, since for the period in question (2005-07) WF rolled up $1.8 billion in overdraft fees.

Notes the Consumerist:

In their defense, Wells Fargo argued that their customers wanted and benefited from high to low transaction processing, saying that depositors would rather have multiple small transactions bounce than a single rent payment bounce. However, at trial they did not present any evidence beyond the hypothetical to support this notion.

And if they had, the snickering in the courtroom would likely have drowned out the presentation.

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Meanwhile amidst the grey matter

Those who might have wondered how (or if at all) my mind works might be interested in the events of this afternoon, starting at Braum’s at 39th and Penn.

5:11 pm: I open the passenger-side door so I can toss in my bag of goodies. I glance backwards for no good reason. Tires, generally, are black; the right rear one is showing a spot of shiny silver. Panic mode ensues.

5:12 pm: My tire shop of choice is not far — 10th and May — but they close at 5:30. “I’ll make it,” I decide, and head down Penn.

5:13 pm: It occurs to me that if I hang a right on 10th, I’ll have to make a left turn across traffic, which at this hour of the day sucks [your choice of vulgarity]. I decide to turn on 23rd instead and come down May. A thousand feet farther, trivial in the grand scheme of things.

5:15 pm: I actually turn on 23rd.

5:16 pm: I discover they’re repaving 23rd from just east of Villa all the way west to God knows where. Traffic, however, is not bad.

5:17 pm: Traffic has suddenly become bad. Three vehicles ahead is a city bus, which most certainly won’t be in a hurry.

5:18 pm: Red light, green light, red light, no progress. Choice Anglo-Saxonisms can be heard if you’re close enough.

5:20 pm: Green light, four vehicles get through. I am the fourth.

5:22 pm: I arrive at the tire place with a “Shoot me now, fercrissake” expression. They pull the offending screw, about ¾ inch wide — and ½ inch long, nestled neatly in the tread, never broke the surface. A splash of the usual soapy solution: no leak.

5:27 pm: I depart, and while waiting for an opening, I cast my eyes upward. “Um, thank You, I guess, but You could have saved the favor for someone who needed it more.” And then I shut up, fearing I’d said too much, and Journey came up on the stereo.

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The thousand-ear Reich

Headline: “Swastika the size of a tennis court is trampled into a German cornfield”.

And apparently it was well executed:

The swastika is so perfectly aligned that authorities believe they are dealing with hard-core neo-Nazis, rather than drunken yobs.

Given the EU’s biofuel goals, I suspect the perpetrators may argue that they had just done a small, orderly harvest to run their automobiles.

(Via Fark, as is the title.)

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Poetry on the sidelines

And the benching appears to be self-imposed:

Despite the panoply of awards and prizes and fellowships (including the Pulitzer), most people get along fine without poetry. This is probably due to the fact that poetry has sidelined itself. It has divorced itself from the fairy tale, to be sure: and despite a raft of indications that its language has devolved into Warholian childishness, it has eloped from childhood. It is full of fantasia and false, passion-toxified images: it is empty of fantasy.

The sidelining of poetry has been abetted by a rejection of work in language. I will list some concepts that have been renounced in most contemporary poetry: structure, decorum, tradition and myth, real symbol. Everything today is negotiable. There seems to be one axiom, and that is the hegemony of self-consciousness: everything else is arbitrary and absurd.

This is not to insist that every poem must consist of, say, fourteen lines of iambic pentameter with a rhyme scheme that never goes farther afield than E; but a fragment of prose with variable line length and seemingly-random capitalization doesn’t suddenly become a poem, no matter how much we may want it to.

Now we are bobbing up and down, as flotsam, in an age of fractured thought. Memories are not organized. Stories are not remembered. The experiences of a day are not threaded onto the skein of meaning.

This is distressing, because — I think — poetry is the threading of meaning, and thus a little bit of poetry is necessary to the work of belief. And if you think that there is no work to belief, then you will never be able to read a poem.

There are times that belief seems to be the hardest thing in the world. A poem which seeks to punch holes in that belief, seemingly for no other reason than that it can, ought not to be silenced: belief must be tested, must pass the test, or it is nothing more than wishful thinking. But that same poem is more likely than most to be hailed as the Harbinger of a Coming Age or some such tautological twaddle (“Contemporary standards are neither contemporary nor standards. Discuss.”), so I reserve the right to take it exactly as seriously as I think I should.

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While you’re at it, make them look green

A recent GAO report says that the Department of Energy spent $1.9 billion in stimulus funds to produce 10,018 full-time jobs, which works out to $194,213 per job.

Joe Sherlock says he can do better:

Dear President Obama,

Please hire me to run the Department of Energy. And please fire Steven Chu, the present Secretary of Energy and head of DOE. Yes, I know that he’s a fellow Nobel Prize winner and I’m not. (Although I have sometimes told people that I won one for plastic fabrication back in 1983. Still, that’s far less resume padding than has been done by some of your closest advisors.)

To say nothing of outright, um, fabrication.

At the heart of the Sherlock plan:

Those U.S. jobs which have gone to Asia and East Asia have done so because of cheap labor — $2 per hour versus $15/hour for light assembly work at a small to mid-size firm. So, with a $13 per hour government subsidy, I could “buy back” many of these jobs and bring them home to the good ol’ USA.

And if there’s one thing the DOE does consistently, it’s hand out subsidies. Ten thousand of these jobs would presumably run something like $260 million. Of course, we don’t have $260 million, but then we didn’t have that $1.9 billion either.

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Where was this when we were growing up?

Sarah Chalke for Hanes

The aspiring-to-be-wedgieless wonder here is actress Sarah Chalke, thirty-four on Friday the 27th, who appears this fall on the CBS-TV series Mad Love, perhaps not exactly in this position.

This Hanes campaign in question ran a couple of years ago, including some weird little TV spots like this.

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Many a winding turn

“Health,” I said, “is the slowest possible rate of dropping dead.”

My brother, who’s hospitalized with a mysterious dearth of platelets, managed to work up a grin, though guffaws are unfortunately out of the question right now.

Anyway, while I’m pretty sure he’ll pull through this — the man’s survived things that make me hurt just to contemplate them — I know I’d appreciate it if you’d think about him next time you’re on the line to $DEITY.

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Didn’t you hear me?

I have never had voice-recognition anything, so I can’t be sure that I’d really hate it as much as I think I would. But I find these observations fairly inarguable:

a) I feel like an idiot. If I’m going to have voice recognition, I want to start commands with “Computer —” and have Majel Barrett reply. Anything else is unacceptable.

b) I don’t want to have to turn down A State Of Trance to raise the temperature. I know voice recognition has improved, but I doubt it can recognize my command over 97db of Dutch club music.

This latter gives me an idea: how about a sound-level meter installed in the car’s audio system? Two digits, nothing more. You could crank it to 99 dB and see for yourself just how deaf you’re going to be; push the volume control one notch higher and it simply displays 11.

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The obligatory turnout description

At 5:38 I cast ballot #482, which doesn’t mean much of anything, inasmuch as Republican voters had to deal with two separate ballots, what with the Lankford/Calvey runoff, and everyone else had just one: the Oklahoma Natural Gas franchise renewal. This precinct is about evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, but the GOP, I presume, had a bit more motivation to turn out. (Unless Democrats are really outraged at the gas company, and if they aren’t, I hadn’t heard about it.)

There were three staffers on hand, instead of the usual four or five, so I have to assume that they were expecting a light turnout at best, and that’s pretty much what they got.

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Somebody may have been Shanghaied

A story off the Reuters wire that demanded my attention:

The Great Typo Hunt describes a nationwide mission by Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson, both 30, to rid America of signs that add an extra “n” to “dining”, or insist that “shipping” is spelled with one “p”.

Deck, a magazine editor, and Herson, a bookseller, drove across the country in the spring of 2008 armed with sharpies, pens and whiteout, correcting spelling, removing surplus apostrophes and untangling subject-verb disagreement on signs outside stores, gas stations, parks and public buildings.

Having completed their book, they’re presumably going to count coup on the Reuters staffers who failed to notice that Sharpie® is a registered trademark of Sanford — unless, of course, our intrepid syntactical troops had fallen for fakes:

Counterfeit Sharpies appear on the market. Products labeled “Shamark”, “Shankie”, “Shanghai”, “Shapley”, “Shoupie”, “Scarple”, “Staunion”, “Skerple”, “Sherple”, and “Shounion” in a font similar to that of the Sharpie, are sometimes sold at dollar stores and flea markets.

The question of “whiteout,” and whether it pertains to Sanford’s Liquid Paper, BIC’s Wite-Out, or something else entirely, is left as an exercise for the English student.

(Tip of the sunshade to Lisa Paul.)

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Wow, I coulda had a VO5

Are we putting more vegetables on our heads than we are on our plates?

Sometimes, when I read the contents of organic personal care products like shampoo and lotion, I find myself wondering if we shouldn’t be getting these fruits and vegetables to starving people instead of dumping them on our hair.

I suspect the actual quantity of edible vegetable matter in your average 15-ounce (waitaminnit, weren’t these 16 ounces last year?) bottle of shampoo, even the good stuff — as distinguished from the 99-cents-per-bottle stuff I buy — is probably pretty insignificant.

On the other hand, in the process of looking up potential sources of snark, I did manage to get an answer for a question I remember posing when I was a bratty schoolboy: “Is it V-letter O-5, or V-zero-5?”

It’s an O, which apparently stands for “oil”:

Under the harsh, hair-frying lights of Hollywood motion picture studios, word was spreading about a product named after the chemist who invented it: Alberto VO5 Conditioning Hairdressing. With a unique water-free, five-oil formula, VO5 had been developed at the request of studios and had proven successful at rescuing hair from dryness and damage.

Well, thank you, Alberto, wherever you are.

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Score one for Max

In 1926, physicist Max Born formulated a rule for quantum interactions. The tricky aspect of any quantum calculations, historically, has been that you can’t be exactly sure where the pesky little quanta actually are. Born postulated that the probability to find a quantum object at a certain place at a certain time equals the square of its wave function (as distinguished from its particle function). This axiom is at the very heart of quantum mechanics as we know it.

And now we know it to be true, within the limits of experimental error:

What’s neat about this, to me anyway, is that it’s not much more complicated than the traditional double-slit diffraction experiment: there’s a third slit, and much tighter controls on the photons. (It apparently took two years to get the error component reduced to an acceptable minimum.)

Max Born, for this particular insight, shared the 1954 Nobel Prize for physics. He’d surely have been happy to see that he was right.

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In lieu of actual inspiration

There used to be a Webzine called Inspire, which I don’t remember ever seeing; it was, apparently, celebrity culture for women 18-21. Anyway, they’ve abandoned the name, presumably for one or both of the following reasons:

  • The arrival in July of a print magazine called Inspire, which reportedly was published by Al-Qaeda;
  • Their own move into print, starting with the September issue.

The new magazine will be called, for reasons I cannot fathom, Zooey. It has, so far as I can tell, no connection to anyone actually named Zooey. Not that I’d be paying attention to something like that.

Still, I wish them well, because — well, how can I not?

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A few more years of evolution

The next shoe is no shoe at all:

Overstepping by Julie Rrap

I don’t see this catching on with the Sex and the City crowd.

Anyway, this originated as a print by Australian artist Julie Rrap. I found this description in an education kit for a Rrap exhibition put on by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney [pdf] a couple of years ago:

Overstepping is a large format, glossy digital image in which the artist’s feet sprout into fleshy high heels. The visual realism of the feet indicates they “belong to a real woman… We are simultaneously given both a sense of style and of exquisite pain. No woman who has ever worn stilettos can look at Overstepping without wincing. This single image has it all. It describes the female body and the way it is fragmented and manipulated in the interests of appearance as well as the personal cost of those transformations.”

The readers at If Shoes Could Kill were almost uniformly horrified, which may have been the artist’s point all along.

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Barns unennobled

Never been to a dressbarn store, for reasons that should be obvious, but the name has its charms, which were echoed in its slogan: “Live within your means. Dress beyond them.”

Wall Street types, however, don’t seem to respond to the same sort of stimuli as us regular folks, who might wear tennis shoes or an occasional python boot, and so Dress Barn, Inc. (NASDAQ: DBRN), which owns two other brands, is seeking to change the corporate name to the faceless, uninteresting “Ascena Retail Group.”

There are good and bad explanations for this move, both emanating from CFO Armand Correia. The good one:

The name change also allows the company to buy brands that aren’t necessarily in the same industry, he said.

The bad one:

The retailer chose Ascena, after consulting with outside experts, because it’s reminiscent of the word “ascend.”

Right. “Honey, does this dress make my ascend look big?”

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Second-best historical marker ever

Reported to be “on the outside wall of a gas station” in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands:

Historical marker of sorts

(Via Oddly Specific. The best historical marker ever is here.)

Addendum: You might like this one even better.

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