Too morbid?

Back from the Tube to Hell — there’s a second plunge tomorrow — and I proposed an office pool to speculate on my Last Day On Earth. I am assured that it would bring in a ton (well, a few kilos) of money; I’m just wondering if this is the wrong approach.

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We can’t all be Rhett Butler

Fortunately, Western civilization has thoughtfully provided us with an alternative role model.

(He was at his best here, I think.)

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If only it were this simple

Cat scan

(Seen here.)

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Imagined acts of Prestidigitation

If they ever do a biography of Thunder general manager Sam Presti, the title you’re looking for is Inscrutable Man: his moves invite you — in fact, dare you — to second-guess him, and eventually you have to concede that the kid (he has yet to hit 32) was right all along.

Which is why the two deals most speculated about are probably not going to be the deals, if any, that actually come down by Thursday afternoon. Chris Wilcox, Joe Smith and a draft pick for the Hornets’ Tyson Chandler balances out salary-wise, and the Bees, never the most financially-secure of operations, find themselves staring into the grim visage of the luxury tax next year. Unloading Chandler’s $24 million over two years makes perfect sense financially. What I want to know is this: how much of Chandler’s value is due to the fact that he’s been working with the likes of Chris Paul and David West? Chandler was a fairly indifferent reserve big at Chicago before heading south. Under Hornets coach Byron Scott, Chandler has blossomed, although he’s been out for a month now and is questionable for tonight’s game at Oklahoma City. If Presti doesn’t see him play, I’m betting Presti doesn’t offer the trade.

The other much-bandied about swap involves Kings swingman John Salmons, who, like everyone on the Sacramento roster not named Kevin Martin, is up for grabs. Salmons’ price is barely over $5 million a year, so he’s not overly expensive for a guy averaging 18 points a game. Then again, he’s also got a trade kicker, so the deal (Smith again?) will have to be sweetened a bit. More to the point, while Salmons is usually your solid role player, he seems to worry about that role being diminished under Kenny Natt, who replaced sacked coach Reggie Theus earlier this season, and I’m guessing Presti sees him as a toothache waiting to happen.

Of course, this was written last night at 8 pm, so everything could have changed by now.

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Brief editorial comment

As seen, so to speak, on a Dodger Stadium tour:

Umpires Room at Dodger Stadium

(Posted without the express written consent of Major League Baseball. Via DailyThunder.com.)

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I won’t tweet, don’t ask me

So saith Steve Lackmeyer:

[T]here are those in this community who are talking about Twitter and online social networking as if … they are a religion.

Sorry, I’m not buying it. But the truth is there are more people out there than not who will never Twitter, who will never have a Facebook, Linked-In or MySpace page. I’ve dabbled in some of this and found much of it to be a waste of my time.

But let me spend time in a downtown coffee shop and I’m guaranteed to meet interesting new people and hear about the latest developments and scoops. Let me spend time mixing with business leaders and shop owners and I’ll get a better understanding of what’s going on in today’s economy than through Twitter and online social networking.

Then again, Steve Lackmeyer works the downtown Oklahoma City beat for the Oklahoman: he’s a reporter of the Old School. Twitter and such are just fine for those of us in the pundit/gasbag community, who need only react to things as they are reported; those who actually have to report those things in the first place need a different skill set and a different set of tools.

Disclosure: I dabble in some of this stuff, specifically to keep in touch with people I won’t necessarily be able to keep in touch with otherwise. (For instance: my children have presences on MySpace, where they’re reachable; for all I know, they may also have Facebook pages, but I don’t go there. In fact, my not going there may actually encourage them to have Facebook pages.)

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Saturn to be abandoned

Our intrepid explorers will be cleaning up what remains of the remote outpost, and then will relocate to — oh, wait, wrong story.

General Motors is likely to ditch the Saturn brand, says Bob Lutz:

The Maximum One told Automotive News that he wished Saturn would survive the current economic calamity, “But frankly, the reality is that that is probably not going to be the outcome.” When the Vice Chairman drops that kind of news, it doesn’t bode well for the struggling brand, which posted a 21% decline for 2008. Lutz went on to say that Saturn had the best, most fresh product lineup in the GM portfolio and that the company doesn’t have the time or money to spend trying to figure out what went wrong.

When your ostensibly-freshest product lineup contains only one vehicle unique to the division, you shouldn’t have to figure out what went wrong: too many cookie cutters, not enough dough.

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Apparently we’re not all broke

I had pulled into the Homeland store at Britton and May to snag some groceries (and to obtain some precious 91-octane fuelstuffs for Gwendolyn, who was threatening to throw an orange warning light into my line of sight), and I found myself parked next to a brand-new Geländewagen.

The G-Class is the Mercedes-Benz answer to the original Jeep and Land Rover: it fears no terrain, and it has no fewer than three locking diffs to insure that lack of fear. I didn’t see any AMG badges, so I assume this was the G500, with the five-liter V8; its Monroney sticker, still stuck to a nearly-vertical window, boasts 11 mpg in town and 15 out on the road, about all you can expect from a 5300-pound truck with the aerodynamics of a Jiffy Lube. It was all I could do to avoid looking for the actual price; the G-Class starts around $90k, but like all German automakers, Daimler has its ways of making you write bigger checks.

Gwendolyn, incidentally, returned 21.3 mpg on her last tankful.

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The shame of cheap brewskis

The mantra of 2009 is “You guys just aren’t being taxed enough,” and it will be used to justify all manner of imposts. For example: Oregon currently levies an excise tax on beer to the tune of $2.60 per 31-gallon barrel, one of the lower figures in the country, and one which arguably has contributed greatly to the growth of microbreweries in the Beaver State. (Oklahoma’s beer tax is $12.50 a barrel, though it is levied only on “strong” — stronger than 3.2, anyway — beer.)

Salem now proposes to increase that tax from $2.60 to $49.61, for reasons that are eminently predictable:

Whereas Oregon ranks 49th among states in its malt beverage taxation rate; and
Whereas Oregon’s malt beverage tax has not been raised in 32 years; and
Whereas Oregon’s untreated substance abuse costs $4.15 billion in lost earnings, $8.13 million for health care and $967 million for enforcement and social services for a total cost of $5.13 billion each year; and
Whereas ‘addiction’ is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is both preventable and treatable; and
Whereas treatment capacity is so low that less than 25 percent of Oregon adults and only two percent of Oregon youth who need substance abuse services receive the help they need; and
Whereas research, the Governor’s Statewide Leadership Team for Alcohol-Free Kids and the Governor’s Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs show that increasing alcohol taxes reduces access to and availability of alcohol to underage drinkers; and
Whereas underage drinkers consumed an estimated 15.3 percent of all alcohol sold in Oregon in 2005, totaling an estimated $278 million in sales and estimated profits of $135 million to the alcohol industry; and
Whereas alcohol use by Oregon’s eighth graders is 76 percent higher than the national average; and
Whereas on average, half of the students in every 11th grade classroom in Oregon drink; and
Whereas raising the malt beverage tax and indexing those taxes to the Consumer Price Index to keep pace with inflation is imperative to protecting Oregon’s citizens…

I think you could make a pretty good case that the urge to raise taxes is “a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is both preventable and treatable.”

Incidentally, if you read the fine print, you’ll see that 15 percent of the take will be diverted to drug programs that don’t involve alcohol at all, because, well, that’s what legislators do.

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OMG JCP WTF?

How do we know it’s really a recession? New York’s Fashion Week is being largely underwritten by — wait for it — J. C. Penney.

Cue Skeeter Davis: “Don’t they know it’s the end of the world?” But hold the sympathy:

It’s not enough that the economic downturn has cost many people huge chunks of their life savings or pension funds. It’s not enough that hundreds of thousands of real people are actually out of work, unlike those silliest of the sillyrati, fashion magazine writers and “junior editors.” Heck, it’s not even enough that rappers and their enormous entourages have to cut back on the bling. No, now we have to hear of the suffering and potential damage to the fashion industry. You know, that group of people who create clothes that no one outside of the Mos Eisley cantina would ever wear in real life and drape them over the bodies of 19-year-old bundles of flesh-covered sticks who spend their spare time learning The Walk and The Look and reading Eighty Different Ways to Prepare Your Grape for Lunch.

Not to say that Seventh Avenue is a wretched hive of scum and villainy or anything. (Although, well, you could.) And it could be worse, I suppose: it could be Fashion Week in Bentonville, Arkansas. Norma Kamali would be there anyway.

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Strange search-engine queries (159)

Well, let’s see what germs — um, what gems we can find in this week’s logs.

mnemonic wrist “national hockey league”:  You block a shot with your wrist, believe me, you’ll remember it.

where to go for a sunday drive in jew jersey:  Doesn’t matter on Sunday. You want to go on shabbos, you need to leave Friday evening.

mazda shit solenoid mx6:  Had I not owned a couple of Mazdas, I’d think he meant “shift” solenoid.

“older women” +Florida +vulnerable +gigolo: Not just Florida, and not just the older ones.

indoor water parks in donnaville, pennsylvania:  Sounds Erie to me.

EEL FIZZ:  Well, yeah, if you shake them up first.

yogurt deuce for vigina odor fishy smell:  Probably just eel fizz.

“fate is worse than death” what does it mean:  Never been grounded on a Friday night, have you?

BEAVER COMMERCIAL, SIMILAR TO HOOTERS:  Makes you wonder what they might serve instead of wings.

omg ioan gruffudd naked:  But is he Fantastic?

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I was never this cool

Even with glasses, which I didn’t wear until my mid-teens:

Jackson turns three

I used to argue that this sort of thing skipped a generation, but not so: my kids were decently cute, and their kids were more so. So it just skipped me.

More sizes at Flickr, with another shot from what appears to be the same session.

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The soundtrack of the Ministry of Love

O’Brien explained it to Winston Smith:

You asked me once, what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.

And sometimes that means the Bee Gees:

President Obama’s decision to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay and conduct a review of CIA interrogation techniques will doubtless have some as-yet-unknown impact on the use of music for coercive purposes. But speaking strictly as a critic, what I find most intriguing about this practice is the list of songs and performers reportedly used to “torture” detainees that Reprieve has posted on its Web site, www.reprieve.org.uk. It is an eclectic assemblage of tunes ranging from AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells,” a heavy-metal ditty that sounds as though it had been recorded by an orchestra of buzzsaws, to such seemingly innocuous fare as Don McLean’s “American Pie” and the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive.” To be sure, most of the records cited by Reprieve have one thing in common: They’re ear-burstingly loud. But the presence on the list of “I Love You,” the chirpy theme song of Barney & Friends, a longtime staple of children’s programming on PBS, suggests that the successful use of music as a tool of coercion entails more than mere volume.

What’s interesting here, apart from the list itself, is that no other art form does the job quite so effectively:

I’m also struck by the fact that music is, so far as I know, the only art form used for such purposes. No doubt it would be unpleasant to be locked in a windowless room that had bad paintings hung on all four walls, but I can’t envision even the most sensitive of spies blurting out the name of his controller to escape the looming presence of Andy Warhol or Thomas Kinkade.

The heinousness of the tunes is purely, of course, a function of the fact that listening is involuntary: you could probably bear most of these tracks on your own, on your own time. (Except maybe for that Barney number, which surely violates the Geneva Convention.) And the functionality goes both ways:

Anyone who’s paid a visit to New York’s Penn Station in recent years knows that chamber music is regularly played over the station’s public-address system. What most commuters don’t know, however, is that this innovation was introduced in 1995 as part of the station’s homelessness program, and that the purpose of the music, as an Amtrak official explained at the time, was both to “calm the frenzied traveler” and to “displace the negative element.” Translation: Mozart drives away vagrants.

Personally, I’d rather the practitioners of latter-day Rooms 101 simply put “Macarena” on a loop and be done with it. It will have the same general effect, plus a bonus: no one will appear in your tribunals to defend the tune.

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Erode into the night

If I ever run out of coasters, I suppose I can wait for my CD-Rs to deteriorate and become unplayable.

I’ve lost two so far, both to edge damage: the plastic coating somehow gave way, and the metal underneath began to disintegrate. In the most recent instance, the last track, the one closest to the outer edge, wasn’t playable at all, and the previous track ran maybe 50 seconds before skipping into oblivion.

Since I make a minimum of two copies of each of my CD-R projects, it was a simple matter to pull the backup off the shelf and check it over. (It was fine.) Ten minutes later (at 8x), I had another copy.

The two discs that have failed had nothing obvious in common: one was branded Memorex, the other Maxell, though it’s of course possible that they were made in the same plant.

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This much, and no more

Attila Girl, thinking she might be an “electronic glutton,” asks: “[W]hat if I have too many songs on iTunes?”

Which, of course, invites a further question: at what point does iTunes have too many songs?

My work-box install has 4200-odd, which hasn’t created any issues; Trini has about twice as many and has reported no problems; I know of people with upward of 10,000 tracks in their libraries.

In search of answers, I stumbled across this thread, which contains the following:

My client had an iMac that was accessing a PC formatted hard drive that was connected to a wireless network and when he got it up to 300GB with over 100,000 songs, it began to bog down and crash. The reason it was crashing and bogging down had nothing to do with limits of iTunes. It had everything to do with the following factors:

  • Hard Drive Format.
  • Wireless communication.
  • Permissions.
  • Corruption.

In short: Macs can talk to PC-formatted drives, but for optimum speed and security, they prefer something of their own kind, and wireless speeds are still markedly slower than what you can get with actual wire.

Still, 100,000 songs sounds like something to shoot for. I’m adding around 60 new tracks every month, so I should hit 100k right around my 190th birthday, at which time you should be able to fit an iMac into something the size of an early-21st-century Bluetooth headset.

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When do I get my life back?

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Proper libertarian footwear

It started with Brad DeLong running a photo of Virginia Postrel on a bench; a commenter asked about her shoes, and Postrel herself volunteered the information.

Jade by Nine West

This is “Jade” by Nine West, which is apparently discontinued: the $89 price tag shrinks to $29.99 if they still have your size in stock. Besides the blue, there are red and black versions, all in suede.

This is the second time I’ve said something about Virginia Postrel’s actual shoes. (Here’s the first.) What the two pairs have in common: a sort of strappiness; 3½-inch heels; a relatively low price point. Only the Jade, however, has been mentioned by Brad DeLong.

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Half of “dinner and a movie”

The local Homeland store had all the expected promotions for this Godforsaken week, plus one unexpected deal: they prepackaged an 8-ounce ribeye, a potato (presumably to be baked, wrapped in aluminum foil) and some mutant green stuff (serving suggestion) as a Valentine’s Day meal. Two of these came to a modest $8.

While I suppose we should support our local stores for being, um, proactive, I don’t expect anything from them a month from now.

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Cancel that “presumed innocent” jazz

Can you prove that isn’t your garbage? Norman says you have to:

A new ordinance unanimously approved Tuesday by the Norman City Council will require residents to prove, in a court of law, they did not litter, rather than having the city attempt to prove they did.

The council unanimously approved the ordinance that holds businesses and individuals accountable for unlawfully discarded trash or litter.

The rationale for this:

The ordinance creates a “rebuttable presumption” that an individual or business is littering if two or more items at one location bear a common address or company name “in a form which tends to identify the latest owner of the items.”

With approval of the ordinance, anyone convicted of littering will be subject to a fine of $50 to $750 and/or up to 60 days in jail.

And I said, “Yes, sir, Officer Obie, I cannot tell a lie, I put that envelope under that garbage.”

(Via Fark.)

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Tweets for you

I hadn’t noticed, but it’s true: the city of Oklahoma City is now using Twitter for various municipal updates and such.

They’re also on Facebook, which means I may have to bite the bullet just to stay on top of things, and by “on top” I mean “at least better than two months behind, like I was on this.”

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