And we just got new plates, too

I didn’t catch this, but it doesn’t surprise me in the least:

An amendment passed today that would create an Anti-Stimulus license plate. Will you be able to buy those at a government owned DMV?

I’m sure you could, though Oklahoma has outsourced much of this stuff to a network of tag agents. Still: WTF? Don’t we have enough freaking “special plates” already? And while I’m no big fan of the stimulus package, if I really wanted to kvetch about it, I wouldn’t spend however many dollars it takes — the “Global War on Terrorism” tag, for instance, costs $37 — to buy a whole new tag: semi-thrifty conservative that I am, I’d go buy a bumper sticker instead. Except that I hate bumper stickers.

Whoever introduced this dumb amendment, please go to your room. We’ll send you some Flaming Lips albums to kill the time.

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The shoe that wouldn’t die

Yes, it’s the Earth shoe:

Talia by Earth

This is “Talia,” and it’s a bit less unstylish than you may remember these from the 1970s, but the negative heel (it’s 3.7° lower than the toe) is still in place, the upper is calf leather, the footbed is leather and suede, and you can have this in three other colors besides black: Almond, Rosso and Smoky Grey. Sizing goes up to 12. Zappos will sell you this for $112.95, and for that final Seventies touch, there’s a $10 factory rebate for the next week or so.

(Via Shoe Smitten.)

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It was just a matter of time

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I blame the Grand Am

It was never much more than a Good Am, anyway.

The imminent death of Pontiac doesn’t really choke me up inside; I never owned one, never even seriously coveted one.

The only Pontiac memory I can actually recall had to do with the kid next door, and the fact that once in a while his mom, a long-legged redhead, would take me to school in her GTO. This did choke me up somewhat, though for the longest time I assumed it had something to do with the car.

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Strange search-engine queries (169)

What’s that? Monday, is it? Best get cracking on those search-log extracts, then.

edible grackle:  I’m waiting for someone to tell me it tastes like chicken.

fox logo tattoo:  I don’t think even Bill O’Reilly has one of those.

airbag gas generator:  Sorry, only one Bill O’Reilly joke per week.

girl hoses man with tattoos:  Don’t tell me this and not give me a YouTube link.

transgender v-string review:  I’m guessing that mere G-strings won’t do the job here.

Sweet Is The Smell Of Newly Cut Grass:  Especially, you know, if you can get someone else to cut it.

apologize for my clanger:  Bells are so self-conscious these days.

the lowest paid rappers:  Target audience for Rent-A-Bling, coming soon to a street near you.

kb961373 delete lotus notes:  Oh, if only it were that simple.

“the greatest thing since chopped liver”:  Sliced bread, maybe?

100 dollar bill tattooed on penis:  When he’s sleeping, it’s only a twenty.

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Briefless lesson in economics

A nude cruise will likely cost you more than an “ordinary” cruise:

Prices for the eight day, Caribbean cruise aboard the Carnival Miracle, October 27- November 4, 2009, advertised on the Bare Necessities web site, average at about $1500-$1700 for least desirable cabin selections. The Carnival Cruise web site advertises the regular eight day, Caribbean cruises, sailing on comparable ships, traveling to comparable ports of call during the same time period for an average of $500-$800 per persons and with better cabin selections. In fact on the regular cruises, one can actually get a suite for the same price as they can expect to pay for an interior cabin on a less desirable deck on the nude cruise.

This, of course, is inevitable; since there are no full-time nude cruise lines, organizers of a nude cruise must negotiate a deal with a standard cruise operator, who may or may not be inclined to cut them a price break. Besides which, there’s that whole supply-and-demand thing:

[I]t does seem Bare Necessities has no trouble finding customers willing and able to bear the prices offered as all of the nude cruises advertised on their site for 2009-2010 are close to selling out.

The Mid-Summer Bliss I cruise, along the western Mediterranean, is sold out.

Oh, well, no changes to the Bucket List at this time.

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Virtually erased

Former NBA star Marvin Williams, 56, was found dead in a Tulsa hotel room earlier this month.

Did the league turn out to give the man his final sendoff? Well, no, not really:

[N]ary a single soul from the NBA, NBPA, NBA Retired Players Association, Knicks, Sonics, Nuggets, or a solitary current or former NBA player showed up for the funeral services of Marvin Webster, reports Charles Bennett, a former union official/player agent and current Tulsa CPA who had The Human Eraser’s back and bankbook throughout his troubled years.

“David Stern did send a real nice flower spread. So did the Oklahoma City team. And I think the Knicks sent a rose,” Bennett said.

The Baltimore crowd of 300-plus, including most of his college and high school teammates, was extremely disappointed as they searched in vain for NBA representation, Bennett added. “I tried to represent the league but the crowd didn’t buy it. Here is an area where a small investment by the league would’ve yielded priceless goodwill amongst retirees and fans of the game, and it struck out looking.”

Note to self: Do not die right before the NBA playoffs.

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Not watching the clock

No time for that:

That my co-worker had died before his time seemed unnatural, almost unjust, to me. I could still send an email to him on the network, and not get an out of office message back. He was there, but he was gone. People spoke of him in the present tense, but he existed only in the past.

The poor man should have lived to see his children grow up, as I have. But on what grounds did I make that demand? What is the span of a life? Who is the judge to whom we can appeal?

Since then I have wondered: why him, and not me?

I have said before that the purpose of morality, from a certain perspective, is to teach us how to die. But I don’t wish to moralize here. I only offer my perplexity about the human condition, which is so transient, so ephemeral. So brief. If I live to a hundred, I’ll still be like one of those soap bubbles kids blow into the air: bright, light, gone.

Why don’t I worry much about it? That seems foolish too — but maybe not. The flavor of life would turn bitter with constant fear and anticipation of the end. My son the proto-economist tells me that value is defined in terms of scarcity, and the value of life, its dramatic significance, flows from its brevity. A play that went on forever would be a painful bore.

(Seen here.)

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Your basic dumb filter

Yahoo! Answers renders the name of the coach of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls as Vinny Del *****.

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However Doobieous

From The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, 1983:

Fans of the Doobie Brothers’ first incarnation — as a California country-boogie band — have no use for the band’s second, even more popular sound: an intricate jazz-inflected white funk.

Or, as Jeffro says:

I still say Michael McDonald ruined the band in the long run.

I’m still making up my mind on that one. The Doobies charted 27 singles, not counting “Wynken, Blynken and Nod,” a track they did for a Sesame Street project that actually made the Hot 100, and counting “Nobody,” the lead track from their first album, only once, despite the fact that it had two chart runs three years apart. Thirteen of them had McDonald involvement, including the biggest of them all, “What a Fool Believes.”

But that leaves fourteen that didn’t, including the only one everyone knows the words to: “Listen to the Music.” And the last two — “The Doctor” and “Need a Little Taste of Love,” both from Cycles, were recorded long after McDonald’s departure.

Interestingly, the one Doobie disc I like the least is the transitional “Takin’ It to the Streets,” which has McDonald’s burry vocal grafted onto a backing instrumental track that would have sounded right at home on either side of The Captain and Me. For me, though, the sound was established with “Feelin’ Down Farther,” a track from their eponymous first album, which wasn’t a hit but which did get enough airplay to remind me, when “Listen to the Music” came out the next year, that I’d already heard that riff before. Then again, they’re a California band: they recycle. Besides, their take on “Jesus Is Just Alright” blows away the Byrds’ version.

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First, the things that matter

Adrienne goes to the local WaMu Chase branch, and things are really hopping:

“Wow, what’s going on?”, says I to the nubile and not very bright little gal behind the brand spanking new counter. “This was a great looking place and it was practically brand new.”

“Oh, I think Chase wants all the banks and branches to look alike”, she says with a lovely smile on her face.

“But didn’t we just give a pack of money to bail out these banks? I’m not so sure this is a good use of their money.”

She looked at me with some confusion as she sifted through this piece of information and her best explanation was, “but it’s given jobs to a lot of nice men.”

This is the bank that says they can only pay me .01% interest on my savings account and is asking for more taxpayer bailout money but somehow still has money for major and unnecessary renovations.

I’m not so sure that burying every last trace of Washington Mutual is “unnecessary,” but I’ll add that to the ongoing “Banks Are Not Your Friends” file, along with this.

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A couple of ounces of image

He seemed to be a “stereotypical Jock-boy Slacker,” said the Professor, but then this happened:

My curiosity was piqued when I sat in the caf, munching an English muffin and reading the bombastic rag that passes as a college newspaper, when I overheard his bitching to a team mate about … how that bitch Prof. Cranky gave him a damn “C” on the paper he slaved at least two hours on … the paper I had handed back as the only “A” in the crop of 18 students.

So she looked into the matter, and discovered:

[H]e was a 4.0 student from one of the area’s most prestigious all-men’s college prep academies — where he had also been a full-ride scholarship student. Thus I learned his dark secret: he’s attending on a full academic scholarship, not a sports scholarship.

At midterm conferences I called him on it; he sheepishly gave me his explanation: “Yeah, that was unfair of me to say that about you, and a dick move on my part. I owe you a big apology. See, I lose street cred with the team if they think I’m brainy, and if they find out, I’ll be doing their homework as well as mine. So I let ‘em think I’m a dumb jock and complain about my shit grades, and none of them are any the wiser.”

Some people wondered, back in the day, why my high-school GPA dropped all the way to 3.76 in my senior year. Someone please tell me I didn’t just now find out why.

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And then there’s Maude

Bea Arthur is gone, and that seems impossible: she’s always been here, and we just automatically assumed she always would be.

Since you’re familiar with The Golden Girls and you’ve probably heard of Maude, I decided to go back to her very first TV credit — she’d done theatre before that — in the spring of 1951, a little thing called Once Upon a Tune, which did a quickie sixty-minute musical every Tuesday night on the forgotten Du Mont network, generally written by Reginald Deane and Coleman Dowell. Only about a dozen episodes were ever made, and most of them are long gone. Charlotte Rae, Alice Ghostley and Elaine Stritch also made appearances on Once Upon a Tune, suggesting that the producers had an eye for no-nonsense women with razor-sharp comedic timing.

Bea Arthur as MaudeMaude Findlay, it was explained to us one day on All in the Family, was Edith Bunker’s cousin, and she proved to be a worthy foil for Carroll O’Connor’s Archie, which explains how she got spun off into her own series, which lasted six seasons. It was a difficult character, one which probably couldn’t be played today without all manner of outcry from all sides. Among the plot complications: domestic violence; attempted suicide; an abortion, several months before Roe v. Wade. For a Seventies sitcom, this was a seriously heavy topic load, which may or may not explain why Arthur decided she didn’t want to go on with it any further.

Still, everyone’s going to remember “Golden Girl” Dorothy Zbornak, a very Maude-like character really, which Arthur readily acknowledged: “Look — I’m 5-feet-9, I have a deep voice and I have a way with a line,” she told an interviewer. “What can I do about it? I can’t stay home waiting for something different. I think it’s a total waste of energy worrying about typecasting.”

One does not sustain an acting career for five decades and more without being eminently sensible about such things.

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The camera never lies

It’s just not smart enough to ascertain the truth:

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is fed up with the state of Illinois for issuing toll road photo tickets and collection notices to innocent drivers in her state. Swanson yesterday fired off a 75-page complaint to the Illinois Tollway, the Illinois Office of the Executive Inspector General and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. Swanson enumerated the problems Minnesotans described when calling her office for help:

  • Citizens were sent tickets for alleged toll violations involving automobiles they had previously sold.
  • Citizens were sent tickets for violations involving automobiles they had not yet purchased at the time of the alleged toll violation.
  • Citizens were threatened by collection agencies that their driver’s license or vehicle registration will be suspended if they do not pay a fine to the collection agency — even in cases where they were not responsible for the alleged infraction.
  • Citizens reported receiving missed-toll tickets even though they have not driven in Illinois. (The latter category is believed to result from errors in visually processing license plate numbers from Tollway photographs.)

All of these incidents, you may be sure, were perfectly predictable, given the limitations of the system being used and the philosophy — blame the car, not the driver, because cars can’t fight back — under which that system was deployed.

Therefore:

Swanson called on Illinois officials to stop sending photo tickets to Minnesota residents until Illinois can certify that its vehicle registration database contains up-to-date, accurate information. She also insisted that Illinois call off the collection agencies threatening Minnesota motorists with license suspensions for failure to pay the bogus citations.

Let’s hope this idea spreads.

(Via TTAC.)

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Ethnic flensing

“Anglo-Saxon”? Moi?

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The purple ones

This is not a reference to The Artist Formerly Known As The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, but there will be one shortly, since I picked up his new 3-CD set yesterday.

In the meantime, a cluster of irises that hadn’t coughed up anything in years suddenly brought forth these this week:

Purple iris

The flower box out front has white and orange; these appeared in the back yard under the cottonwood tree. (There’s another collection of plants under an elm, which, in the years when they bothered to produce, produced blue flowers.)

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Not New York

Back in 2004, I kicked out a Vent called “NYC vs. OKC,” which highlighted some of the differences between the two towns. A further difference presents itself at the moment of typing: Firefox’s ostensible spell-checker recognizes “NYC” but doesn’t recognize “OKC.” Okay, fine, they’ve been around longer, and if you ask J. Random Ukrainian for the name of a city in the United States, he’s far more likely to mention New York than Oklahoma City.

But that’s not what I was going to tell you. There is, evidently, one further difference between the two cities that I hadn’t come close to imagining, let alone proclaiming to the world:

Perhaps I need a “Who knew?” category.

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Mow betta

Simplifying one’s life starts with simplifying one’s motivations. My refusal to crank up the A/C in the house until the temperature got into the 90s this week, for instance, was motivated by the simple desire to keep the electricity bill down. And I’ve ignored the lawn up to now, because I was basically in dolce far niente mode all week and utterly lacked motivation. I can’t put it off forever, of course, so I took a trip down to the factory parts depot (which inexplicably is closed Saturday) and bought a new blade for the mower. (Yeah, I could probably have the old one sharpened, but a new one was less than $25.) The idea was to install it this afternoon, and then hit the grass running, or at least loping, tomorrow.

And then the clouds came in, dark and menacing. Mindful of the weather forecast — it’s supposed to start raining by tomorrow night and keep it up for a couple of days — I blew off the installation and gave the yard one last trim with the old blade. To my surprise, it worked fairly well, considering I’d accidentally set the cut height at around an inch and a half instead of my preferred two inches.

Incidentally, the packaging for the new blade consists of about 20 square feet of Saran Wrap and a sticker with a barcode. This works about as well as you think it does at the task of protecting one’s mitts. I wonder how they package them if you order them from the Web site (same price).

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Quote of the week

I’ve written before about some people’s exaggerated sense of entitlement, thusly:

I don’t automatically assume that I have X coming to me by dint of Y; it has always seemed to me that my only legitimate and unassailable birthright is death. And this, I suspect, is not a commonly-held belief; on the contrary, the world seems to be largely filled with people who think that on the basis of some Y or other, they deserve all the X they can get.

Megan McArdle expounds on this in the context of the current financial situation:

When I was laid off for a long time in 2002, I felt as betrayed by the universe as if the law of gravity had suddenly ceased to operate. I had worked hard, gone to an excellent business school, and I was supposed to have a job, just as an apple thrown into the air falls back to earth. I was angry, but also deeply shaken, by the notion that I could work hard, do everything right, and still end up unemployed.

We’re watching the entire investment banking industry go through what I endured seven years ago. They aren’t going to be paid so well in the future, even though they made the colossal mistake of giving up the best years of their lives to the finance industry. It feels — and it is — massively, nearly unfathomably unfair. On the other hand, that’s a pretty good description of the universe: massive. nearly unfathomable. unfair. Just ask any manager at Chrysler with two swell kids and a nice house in a Detroit suburb.

The last word on the subject, though, goes to Babylon 5′s Marcus Cole:

You know, I used to think that it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn’t it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.

Which, the regulars will note, I’d already quoted here.

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Insist on the genuine article

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