In Sarah’s back yard

Robert Stacy McCain is in Wasilla, Alaska, which he describes thusly:

For a town with an official population of 5,468, Wasilla is a bustling community. It’s by no means the backward rural outpost you might imagine. I’m filing this post from a coffee shop that serves organic fair-trade coffee from Columbia, Guatamala, Peru and Bolivia. They’ve got Ethiopian coffee, too, but evidently the “organic fair-trade” craze hasn’t taken hold among East African coffee-growers yet.

Actually, the Census Bureau guesstimated over 10,000 in Wasilla in 2008, which is a heck of a growth rate.

And it could have been more than that, government being the growth industry (for nonstandard definitions of both “growth” and “industry”) that it is. From 1994:

For the fifth time in two decades, a measure to move the state capital from Juneau, a waterfront city of 26,000 people, to Wasilla, a frontier-like town of 4,000 people, failed, partly because of voter concerns about the cost of the move. This time, 54.7 percent of the voters said no while 45.3 percent were for the change.

This is slightly misleading, because while this indeed was the fifth attempt to move the capital, different initiatives had different destinations in mind. In 1976, for instance, Alaskans actually passed a measure to move the capital to Willow, not far from Wasilla, but they subsequently defeated a measure that would have paid for the move.

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Quote of the week

Expert, texpert. “Don’t you think the joker laughs at you?” asked John Lennon. Walter Russell Mead says we’re all laughing at ‘em:

Expert, prizewinning Democratic economists now tell us that without more Keynesian stimulus the economy is doomed. Expert, prizewinning Republican economists tell us that more Keynesian stimulus will ruin us all.

The mining experts said that deep water drilling was OK. Then the environmental experts said that the oil in the Gulf was an immeasurable disaster that would drag on for years. The clean up experts then used dispersant that, other experts now tell us, may have worse consequences than the original oil. Then experts warned us that huge plumes of underwater oil were drifting murderously through the Gulf. The last I looked the experts were now saying that a previously undiscovered microbe had been eating the oil. The only thing that the public is sure about at this point is that the experts are likely to be surprised and confounded several more times before this whole ghastly fiasco plays out.

The score so far: Complexity and unexpected consequences 1000, experts zip. Public skepticism in “experts” is off the charts.

Even among the choking smokers, I’d bet.

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Maybe I should ask Encyclopedia Brown

My toaster is somewhere around thirty years old; it bears the ancient symbol “Montgomery Ward” on its base. It looks like, well, a thirty-year-old toaster, with two parallel slots, one of which is labeled “SINGLE SLICE”.

While toasting a single slice last night — in the proper slot, you may be sure — I got to wondering just what the hell difference it makes. My mother had a similarly-configured toaster, and she couldn’t explain it either. Is there a difference? Or is this just a ruse to keep us OCD types from agonizing over it? “Let’s see, I used the left slot all during August…”

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Power shift

Ric Locke projects the political future on the right side of the aisle:

The Tea Parties have said repeatedly that they don’t want and won’t support leaders, and conservatives don’t have any real national leadership. If Palin provides both with somewhere to go, she can be a mover and shaker without subjecting herself to a full-court MSM push in a run for office — and my reading of her indicates that she’d think that just delightful.

If the process continues, Michael Steele could wake up one morning and find himself in charge of a near-irrelevant rump. There’s no reason to support a centrist Democrat Lite if a real Democrat is available, and the only reason conservatives do business with them at all is to plump up the numbers a bit.

There’s only one piece of that with which I’d take issue: “Michael Steele could wake up.” Not a chance.

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A sort of multiplier effect

Although it’s hard to see where any value is being created:

Some enterprising youths have made a killing on eBay with my son’s TI-83 calculators — four stolen in two years. My husband is convinced he has bought back the exact same calculator four times.

Three times, I’d believe. (First time it was new, right?)

Then again, this might be the result of a limited pool of equipment. Halfway through the 1975 model year, Toyota apparently changed the starter design on the Celica — and then changed it again for the ’76 models. Which meant that starters for the 1975½ (for lack of a better term) were few and far between. In 195,000 miles, I went through three starters; I’d bet the third one was the first one with a coat of paint and a fresh Bendix.

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The 389th Carnival of the Vanities is titled “Last fight of summer,” and indeed summer is drawing to a close in the Northern Hemisphere.

On the other hand, fighting goes on, some of it near the US/Mexican border, which extends for 389 miles west of the Rio Grande.

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The mad cyclist

There are two left turn lanes at Northwest Distressway and Penn; I first saw him between them, sandwiched between me and someone else’s truck. He wasn’t taking up a lot of space, to be sure, but it did mean an extra bit of caution when the light changed and we started through the intersection.

Or so I thought. The second the green appeared, he was gone and halfway across before any of us lowly motorists could do the lateral move from brake pedal to gas.

And then he hung a right on 50th westbound, precisely where I was headed — except that he was going right down the center strip.

The guy was doing an honest 20 mph, which, all things considered, is fairly speedy; the SUV in front of me hung back so as not to crowd him off the road, and then exited to the side. I slowly pulled even with him, and then left him behind.

This experience left me with two thoughts:

  • We really could use more bike lanes in this town;
  • But where would you put one on this stretch of 50th? It’s one of the narrower two-lanes around.

I’m assuming he got home, wherever home is, okay.

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Somebody must have passed this

Universities, with few exceptions, want new students, and Drake has come up with a campaign to attract undergraduates. The “Drake Advantage” reads well enough:

At Drake, learning doesn’t just take place in a classroom. Nor is traditional learning the only goal. Sure you’ll get an excellent education here, but you’ll also be transformed by an experience that puts opportunity into action and gives purpose to your passion.

Okay, maybe not that well enough. Let’s see some of the next paragraph:

Every moment at Drake is one that has the power to educate, to transform, to open minds and to unleash potential — to introduce who you are, to who you hope to become.

To whom did this appear to be correct English?

Were this one of those lolcat-obsessed sites, you’d see the simple word FAIL. But technically, this isn’t a FAIL at all:

Drake University Advantage

See what I mean?

(From Sheena Dooley of the Des Moines Register, via Nancy Friedman.)

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More government hack work

The FDA is worried about your cough suppressant:

Federal health regulators are weighing restrictions on Robitussin, NyQuil and other cough suppressants to curb cases of abuse that send thousands of people to the hospital each year.

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday posted its review of dextromethorphan, an ingredient found in more than 100 over-the-counter medications that is sometimes abused for its euphoric effects. The practice, dubbed “robotripping,” involves taking more than 25 times the recommended dose of a cold medicine and is mainly associated with teenagers.

Twenty-five times?

The alarm is being sounded because something is unsafe if you take more than two dozen doses at once? Hello, McFly? Twenty-five doses of anything is risky. And the riskiest of all, I’m starting to believe, is listening to the government gin up threat noises.

Sarah notes:

Out here in The Sticks, there’s no such thing as an open pharmacy at three a.m. You can go into the pharmacy section at Wally World and buy whatever’s on the shelves, but you can’t get your hands on anything that’s either locked up or a prescription drug. Put medicines like Robitussin and NyQuil out of our reach and we’re going to suffer for it. We already pay the price for meth cooks when we have sinus problems; when I go to buy a box of meds, my photo ID is put into the record books along with the amount of sinus medicine that I purchased. The state treats me with undue suspicion because I dare to properly use a sinus treatment that used to be an OTC product. Oh, the horrors.

My own best guess here: some clod at GS-whatever level figured out that you can’t spell “dextromethorphan” without “meth.”

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Blues with clues

I have Joanie to thank for introducing me to Chris James and Patrick Rynn, whose first collection of traditional Chicago blues, Stop and Think About It, was a heady mixture of originals and reimaginings, of solid instrumental chops and worthy words.

She’s since reviewed the second album, Gonna Boogie Anyway, which gives me the opportunity to express a bit of gratitude for that introduction by pointing you all to Blues Lens, her new music site.

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Huge yard

This clip from Zillow pretty much redefines the term:


That’s a little over 10,000 acres, or about 15 square miles.

Comparison: the present-day Biltmore Estate covers about 8,000 acres.

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To be new baptized

A promotion earlier today by Allied Arts:

GIVEAWAY: 1st to tweet their fave Shakespearean line wins 2 tickets to OK Shakespeare in the Park! Romeo & Juliet this weekend!

I missed out on that, because I was contemplating this:

Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!

And I was contemplating that because of this: “I don’t have any girl names.”

Because, you know, she wasn’t expecting a girl, except in the sense that (1) she’d been expecting and (2) it was in fact a girl.

And after that, things got complicated.

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The mistress of spices

It’s the highly-underrated Padma Lakshmi’s 40th birthday, and since I have no idea what she’s doing tonight, here’s a photo from the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival, in which she’s apparently wrapped in a layer of unobtainium foil.

Padma Lakshmi at Tribeca 2008

I admit here that I’d never seen The Scar before. The Grauniad told me where it came from:

At the time, she had been very unwell and had just spent three weeks in hospital before being diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, caused by hypersensitivity to an infection or to certain medicines. “I got out of hospital on a Friday and on that Sunday my mother, who is very religious, took me to temple so we could thank God for making me better.” Driving home from the Hindu temple in Malibu, the car was caught in a collision that sent it spinning off the freeway and 40ft down an embankment, hitting a tree. Paramedics had to cut open the car roof, on to which the tree had fallen. Lakshmi, her mother and stepfather ended up back in the hospital she had left two days earlier. All three recovered, but Lakshmi was left with a seven-inch scar along her right arm.

I suspect she probably doesn’t refer to it as “road rash,” either.

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a + bi

It’s real! It’s imaginary! It’s two numbers in one! And it’s how our days are numbered. Maybe.

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MT bliss

I was young (twenty-four) and horribly immature when I got married, so I was wholly unprepared to discover one of the Primary Purposes of a Wife, which is to advise her husband that he is a bonehead. John Phillips of Car and Driver explains how this works, during a three-week vacation in Montana:

Items observed: four feet of snow at 2:30 p.m. on June 21 in blinding sunlight at a site called Valieaux Spring. When my wife saw me shift our red Chevy Silverado into 4WD low, she said, “You know what? Feel free to get out and walk ahead to see if it’s passable.” I did. I can’t express the unalloyed joy on her face when I sank to my crotch in wet snow. I was wearing khaki shorts, and my groinal region instantly triggered a phalanx of DEFCON 1 synaptic klaxons that all males understand intuitively. Then I performed a Gerald Ford-quality face plant.

Phillips does not record whether she pointed out that they’d actually strayed into Idaho.

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Fairest of them all

And really, the risk of poisoned apples is pretty small:

Luke, tagging along with his mom on her errands, saw the display of girls’ Halloween costumes, sniffed out the Snow White ensemble, rejoiced, and insisted on trying it on. The surprise of finding the costume, the low price tag, the flattering fit: It was the perfect storm. What mother could say no?

Besides, it’s a major character. Nobody wants to be Just Another Dwarf.

(Via Miss Cellania.)

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