The truth of the matter

You might have seen this on the Broadway Distention at Memorial earlier today:

Lamar digital billboard

The distortions imposed by the lens actually serve as a pretty accurate indicator of how bleary-eyed I was at the time.

Comments (4)




Not that I expect anyone to do this

Many sites have a FAQ file, for those frequently-asked questions. (Being on a lower plane of existence, I have a collection of occasionally-asked questions.) Once in a while, though, I have to fake up answer a question that was never asked at all, such as this:

“How can I get myself into one of your ____paloozas?”

Which, inevitably, means “How can I look like Zooey Deschanel?” The answer is here.

(Passed to me by the vacationing Uncapped in Uxbridge. Purely by coincidence, when the link arrived here, I was listening to She & Him.)

Comments off




What goes around, and so forth

Yours truly, from August 2002:

The election of county commissioners — there are three in each of Oklahoma’s 77 counties — would seem to be No Big Deal. Then again, about twenty years ago it was discovered that more than half of the state’s 231 commissioners had gotten their fingers into some very rich pies. The Legislature responded by requiring independent boards to oversee county budgets. Still, the position of commissioner carries considerable clout, and apparently Shirley Darrell, who used to be in charge of District 1 in Oklahoma County, would like to have her job back.

To do that, Darrell will have to beat former OKC council member Beverly Hodges, who defeated Darrell four years ago. But there’s a primary next Tuesday, and Darrell is being challenged by one of her former deputies, Jim Roth, who has mounted a fairly high-dollar direct-mail campaign. How high? He’s sent me seven postcards, roughly 7.5 by 10 inches, each with two-color art and a different pitch. It was the seventh of those cards in which Roth came out swinging against his old boss, complete with what purported to be a copy of a warrant for Darrell’s arrest on charges of racketeering, bribery, perjury, and other Bad Things. And indeed, Darrell was charged with all these at one time or another, but as anyone this side of Bill Clinton can tell you, a charge does not equal a conviction.

Jim Roth won that election, and eventually found himself on the Corporation Commission. Meanwhile, Shirley Darrell, who used to be in charge of District 1 in Oklahoma County, would like to have her job back. Again.

And Willa Johnson, the current incumbent, has come up with a campaign mailer along the same lines as Roth’s: in a mere 5½ x 8½ space, there are images of no fewer than ten Oklahoman headlines dating back to the original Days O’ Scandal, some of which mention Darrell directly, plus one grainy photo of Darrell and her attorney entering a Not Guilty plea to “charges of bribery and racketeering.” Johnson’s surname isn’t mentioned anywhere on the card, though there is a reference to the Friends of Willa Campaign. And the pitch: “Do You Want To Go Back To This?”

I have a feeling this one is going to be close, Johnson’s incumbency notwithstanding.

Comments (1)




They’re all right, Jack

Some thoughts from Marcel on what passes for employment these days:

Ideally, each of us would do honest work that needed to be done, and would earn enough at it to raise a family. (See Good Work and Good Works, by C.S. Lewis.) But just as we don’t have smallpox anymore, we don’t live in a rural village anymore, and we aren’t born into our father’s trade (lucky me). The work that needs to be done is more complex and varied than farming and smithing. Nobody’s grandfather was a Java programmer. The market is the best mechanism we’ve found to connect people who need work with work that needs to be done. Central planning doesn’t work, and leads to repression, misery, corruption, and death.

Then again, you can have that without central planning:

Rational profit maximization isn’t some kind of universal human paradigm. Doctors who are in it for the money should go do something else. Lawyers should go do something else. Teachers shouldn’t be compensated for teaching, they should be paid so they can teach. If you’re so miserable teaching you have to be compensated for it, or if you’re only doing it for the money, go and be a prison guard like everyone else. What? Oh, right. Never mind.

I don’t know anybody who teaches just for the money: the big bucks, of course, come in administration. On the other hand, I can think of lots of lawyers who should go do something else, just on general principle.

A lot of work that’s done for big profits shouldn’t be done at all. I’ve heard the US is the largest producer and exporter of pornography.

And the Department of Labor is doing its damnedest to keep it that way.

Besides the pornographers there are way too many lawyers (that juxtaposition is just a coincidence of course). It strikes me that our nation would be better off if Harvard suspended all admissions for twenty years. Most lawyers and financiers are simply parasites, doing no productive work themselves, interfering with those who are trying to accomplish something, and using their position and education to enrich themselves. That ambulance chasing or the more arcane forms of arbitrage are market-based makes the practitioners no less contemptible, but of course these creatures are long since dead to shame, and everybody takes their money and shakes their hands just as if they were honorable men. The idea of anyone being unable to appear in society out of shame for his conduct is incomprehensible today.

Emphasis added.

My lawyer did lots of productive work this year, and I have the bills to prove it. On the other hand, he’s not in Washington.

I concede, however, that there’s something disquieting about the remarkable ability of these folks to replicate themselves endlessly, when what we really need is someone to fix the air conditioner.

And we’ve been in the Post-Shame Era for several decades now, with no signs of anything resembling emergence. Then again, the parasite never, ever apologizes to the host.

Comments (8)




383

Raindrops keep falling on Andrew Ian Dodge: the 383rd Carnival of the Vanities, “CoTVing out of a Thunderstorm”, like its two predecessors, implies a damp meteorological phenomenon.

If you prefer a different sort of thunder, Argentine firearms manufacturer Bersa used to sell a Model 383 pistol, chambered in .380 ACP, which isn’t exactly a thunderous round, but one which can rain on an assailant’s parade.

Comments off




Another wet blanket

This would be Scott Blake Harris, general counsel for the Department of Energy, who lately is gunning for the makers of showerheads:

In May … Harris fined four showerhead makers $165,104 in civil penalties, alleging they failed to demonstrate compliance for some devices.

Manufacturers and retailers say the new rules affect not just upscale systems but also those with hand-held sprays used by the elderly and disabled. Multiple showerheads often found in shower rooms at schools or gyms could also be at risk, manufacturers say. Customers will be disgruntled because of limited product range, they add.

Actually, these aren’t new rules; the DOE has decided to reinterpret the 1992 law in a more restrictive manner.

“Did Congress limit consumer choice? Absolutely,” the DOE’s Mr. Harris says. “When you waste water, you waste energy.” Each multi-head shower fixture uses an extra 40 to 80 thermal units of energy per year, equivalent to 50 gallons of gasoline, or one barrel of oil, he says.

One whole barrel? Add this guy to the list of people who need to stop producing carbon dioxide. The greater good, doncha know.

(Via Tinkerty Tonk.)

Comments (1)




Okay, okay, don’t get testy


Addendum: I’m impressed. They had this cleared off the site before noon.

Comments off




We should probably assume we’re next

This particular Storm O’ Dung originates in Canberra:

The federal government has censored approximately 90 per cent of a secret document outlining its controversial plans to snoop on Australians’ web surfing, obtained under freedom of information (FoI) laws, out of fear the document could cause “premature unnecessary debate”.

The government has been consulting with the internet industry over the proposal, which would require ISPs to store certain internet activities of all Australians — regardless of whether they have been suspected of wrongdoing — for law-enforcement agencies to access.

Industry sources have claimed that the controversial regime could go as far as collecting the individual web browsing history of every Australian internet user, a claim denied by the spokesman for Attorney-General Robert McClelland.

Ninety percent of the document is censored? What’s left? A, and and the?

Claudia Hernandez of the AG’s office, in explaining why Australians are being kept in the dark, came up with doublespeak worthy of Oceania:

[She] wrote in her decision in releasing the highly censored document that the release of some sections of it “may lead to premature unnecessary debate and could potentially prejudice and impede government decision making”.

Hernandez said that the material in question related to information the department was “currently weighing up and evaluating in relation to competing considerations that may have a bearing on a particular course of action or decision”.

“More specifically, it is information concerning the development of government policy which has not been finalised, and there is a strong possibility that the policy will be amended prior to public consultation,” she wrote.

Further, she said that although she had acknowledged the public’s right to “participate in and influence the processes of government decision making and policy formulation … the premature release of the proposal could, more than likely, create a confusing and misleading impression”.

“In addition, as the matters are not settled and proposed recommendations may not necessarily be adopted, release of such documents would not make a valuable contribution to public debate.”

Shorter version: “We don’t want to look that bad this early.”

Not being an Australian myself, I could shrug this off, but I can’t; the major problem is that Washington, like Canberra, has no shortage of wicked little scumballs to whom a proposal like that would look peachy keen, and they might get the idea to implement such a thing before the general public has an opportunity to apply the time-tested methods of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether.

“Unnecessary debate.” Sheesh. Who does she think she is? Nancy Pelosi?

(Via Fark.)

Comments (3)




Quote of the week

TTAC’s Jack Baruth pauses his road trip in St. Louis, and makes the following non-automotive observation:

In the post-Patriot-Act America, it is necessary to stand in a long line, remove one’s belt, and grovel before security personnel just to enter the area beneath the [Gateway] Arch. Paying ten dollars secured me a ride in a very Tomorrowland-esque little capsule to the top, 630 feet above the river. I thought for a while about the America that would build a stainless-steel arch for no particular reason, and the America that would make you remove your belt to get close to it. They are not the same. I grew up in the former and I cannot stand the latter.

At least there’s still an America through which you can take road trips. For now, anyway.

Comments (2)




On a noisy corner

In 1969, Warner Bros. Records had just introduced a two-record sampler album, the first of many, and much of the six pages of liner was devoted to introducing acts you might not have heard of yet. Joni Mitchell’s “Nathan la Franeer” was placed on side 4, along with this effusive description of Joni live:

“Enter Joni at the Troubador with a floor-length witch shawl or better yet a velveteen mini that gets it out there with all but the last few inches of excellent Canada farm-bred legs.”

Yes, there was a lot of stuff about her songwriting chops (considerable) and her Friends in the Industry (substantial), but they were really anxious for you to know that she was purty.

Which she was:

Joni Mitchell

But by the time I picked up this sampler, deep into 1970, I’d already fallen hard for Ladies of the Canyon, her third LP, and wouldn’t have much cared what she looked like. (Which was this.)

Comments off




Oh, that’s bad

No, that’s good. Or maybe it’s somewhere in between. According to one report, China is now using more energy than the US. Lance Burri looks at this from both sides now:

Good: we’re not the bad guys anymore — the world can hate China now!

Bad: they’re making it more expensive to drive my car.

Good: they get 70% of their energy from coal, so forget that “more expensive to drive my car” thing.

Bad: China’s economy is growing that fast?

Good: China’s economy is growing that fast!

Bad: but I liked being number one.

Playing while I was copying and pasting: no, not the obvious Joni Mitchell number, or the ubiquitous Judy Collins cover, but the goofy “Oh That’s Good, No That’s Bad,” a Dewayne Blackwell (“Mr. Blue,” “Friends in Low Places”) number recorded by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs before either of those other discs.

Comments (3)




Drew attention

What makes for a bad attorney general? Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute lists the following, um, qualities:

1. Ethical Breaches and Selective Applications of the Law. Using campaign contributors to bring lawsuits. Using the attorney general’s office to promote personal gain or enrich cronies or relatives. Favoritism towards campaign donors and other uneven or unpredictable application of the law (including refusal to defend state laws or state agencies being sued when plausible defenses exist).

2. Fabricating Law. Advocating that courts, in effect, rewrite statutes or stretch constitutional norms in order to make new law — for example, seeking judicial imposition of new taxes or regulations, or restrictions on private citizens’ freedom to contract.

3. Usurping Legislative Powers. Bringing lawsuits that usurp regulatory powers granted to the federal government or other state entities, or that are untethered to any specific statutory or constitutional grant of authority.

4. Predatory Practices. Seeking to regulate conduct occurring wholly in other states — for example, preying on out-of-state businesses that have not violated state law and have no remedy at the polls.

Only three of the nation’s 50 AGs fail on all four counts, and lucky us, we have one: Drew Edmondson, says Bader, is the third-worst attorney general in the land.

Edmondson appears to have had no problem with accepting money from out-of-state lawyers, wealthy special interests, and even felons. He has violated state ethics rules and campaign laws. And he has steered lucrative government contracts to lawyers who give him donations (such as generous contingency fees for lawyers that give them up to $250 million simply for bringing copycat lawsuits that mimic pending lawsuits brought by other trial lawyers, and give the lawyers up to 50 percent of what the state recovers).

Now imagine the two worse than that. (If you’re keeping score: Jerry Brown of California, followed by Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. Blumenthal was actually #1 in 2007, the last time CEI put out such a list.)

This 30-page pdf lists the various sins of the six worst, plus references to appropriate documentation.

Comments (2)




The Master would not approve

Then again, it’s probably not up to him:

Sitting in the number eight position on IMDB’s Bottom 100, with more user votes than any other film in the final ten, sits the Texas-born oddity Manos: The Hands of Fate, a “thriller” about a vacationing family who run afoul of Manos-worshipping pagans. If you’ve been wondering if we’d ever get to return to the delightful universe of Manos and its infamous knock-kneed manservant Torgo, well, you’re in luck! Manos: The Search for Valley Lodge is expected to shoot in 2011, according to Dread Central.

I guess I’d better start saving up for the inevitable RiffTrax.

(“Please, no,” says Dave.)

Addendum: Scarily-detailed recap here. (Courtesy of Smitty.)

Comments (5)




Hoping to roll over

Can we make it to the two-millionth visitor by the end of the month? There’s only a little over six thousand to go.

(I was just going to quote Tam and be done with it, but why should she have to do all the work around here?)

Comments off




Still a jump ahead

In the spring, I told you about Michelin’s Smart Jumper Cables, which incorporate a sensor to see which clamp is where and adjust the polarity accordingly, thereby making it impossible for you to hose up your electrical system by hooking them up backwards.

If you saw and thought “I want,” now you can get. Amazon carries them at around $27, which is a third off the $40 list, but just for today, they’re on Woot for $12.99 plus the usual $5 shipping.

Comments off




Gene? Therapy

The WaPo’s Gene Weingarten laments the decline of the headline:

In old newsrooms, headline writing was considered an art. This might seem like a stretch to you, but not to copy editors, who graduated from college with a degree in English literature, did their master’s thesis on intimations of mortality in the early works of Molière, and then spent the next 20 years making sure to change commas to semicolons in the absence of a conjunction.

The only really creative opportunity copy editors had was writing headlines, and they took it seriously. This gave the American press some brilliant and memorable moments, including this one, when the Senate failed to convict President Clinton: CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR; and this one, when a meteor missed Earth: KISS YOUR ASTEROID GOODBYE. There were also memorably wonderful flops, like the famous one on a food story about home canning: YOU CAN PUT PICKLES UP YOURSELF.

Newspapers still have headlines, of course, but they don’t seem to strive for greatness or to risk flopping anymore, because editors know that when the stories arrive on the Web, even the best headlines will be changed to something dull but utilitarian. That’s because, on the Web, headlines aren’t designed to catch readers’ eyes. They are designed for “search engine optimization,” meaning that readers who are looking for information about something will find the story, giving the newspaper a coveted “eyeball.” Putting well-known names in headlines is considered shrewd, even if creativity suffers.

It appears that former copy editor Dawn Eden got out of the business just in time.

And I may as well get this out of my system: “Search engine optimization” is the 21st-century version of phrenology. Everybody and his brother-in-law has some scheme to game the system; every other month or so, Google, which owns half the search market, duly upsets the system and thus all the games. Blather, rinse, repeat. Were I more desperate for traffic, and had I money to lavish on this site, I would be better served by simply hiring a practitioner of vodou; at worst, I’d only have to clean the chicken blood out of the database once in a while.

Meanwhile, I will continue to come up with the worst post (as distinguished from Post) titles around, and I hope Gene Weingarten gets to feeling better.

(Via Population Statistic.)

Comments (6)