Fluid levels unchecked

The last thing anyone wants to see at an auto show is some kind of leak.

Especially this kind.

(Warning: Not entirely tasteful.)

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Peacock blocker

Comcast has announced its intention to purchase majority control of NBC Universal, pending regulatory approval. Senator Al Franken (D-MN), who used to work at NBC, has decided that regulators ought not to approve, and has sent an eleven-page letter [pdf] to the FCC so stating.

Highlights:

By focusing solely on its ability to expand the breadth of its own programming and ignoring the merger’s effects on the communication ability of diverse and independent competitors, Comcast and NBCU fundamentally misinterpret the value of diversity in communications. Their myopic focus proves nothing as far as a market-wide, public interest benefit of diversity, and pretends that so long as one provider expands its programming lineup, that the source of the information is irrelevant. Viewpoint diversity cannot be achieved without a diversity of voices, and ultimately, programming that all emanates from a single corporation can only express so much in terms of viewpoint.

The FCC has long believed that larger cities should have more outlets, even at the expense of small towns, and they’ve never been particularly embarrassed by the fact that even in the biggest markets, there are only a handful of players.

Further, this deal harms consumers by further disadvantaging independent programmers, thereby limiting consumer choice in programming. Independent programming is already on the decline; according to an analysis done by the Independent Film and Television Alliance (IFTA), the percentage of independently produced prime-time fiction series on the national networks plunged from over 50% in 1989 to only 5% in 2008. Although Comcast and NBCU claim that this merger will help provide a wider array of programs, it gives one company tremendous control over what is on the air. Moreover, if this merger succeeds, AT&T and Verizon may also decide they have to buy a Hollywood studio in order to compete — which could directly threaten independent programming overall.

The idea of AT&T owning a Hollywood studio is very nearly as scary as the idea of the Feds owning an auto company.

Franken proposes nine restrictions he says ought to be imposed on the Comcast/NBC Universal combine, one of which the Consumerist enthusiastically endorses:

An MVPD subscription should not be required to view NBCU/Comcast content on the Internet.

MVPD = “Multichannel Video Programming Distributor.” In other words, you should not be required to subscribe to cable (or satellite) to watch TV programs over the Net.

I am generally distrustful of big-time mergers, and Franken’s analysis doesn’t make me feel any better about this one.

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Headline of the week

And Lackmeyer thinks he has problems dealing with downtown types:

Headline from Evening Herald, Ireland

The paper’s Web site wasn’t quite so exuberant with the Large Type.

Moral: Cosplay may have its drawbacks.

(From Alex Johnson via Pop Culture Junk Mail.)

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We’ve learned our lesson well

Something Stacy McCain said last week:

Kids starting out in the news business need to be shoved onto a beat where they are required to crank out hundreds of words a day of deadline reporting — sink or swim. Wherever your ambitions may ultimately take you, there is no substitute for that kind of experience.

Who knows? It might even have prevented this little contretemps:

I had a young twerp of an editor (not the editor who hired me) who is a perfect specimen of his generation’s educational accomplishments. He recently “clarified” one of my op-eds, altering a sentence to identify Neville Chamberlain as prime minister — of Czechoslovakia.

(Just consider the level of ignorance that implies. One, not knowing anything about the history of World War II. Two, not realizing that there is no way “Neville Chamberlain” is a Slavic name. Weirdly, the guy is not the least bit embarrassed by his abysmal ignorance. Worse, I fear this ignorance is not too uncommon among college-educated people of his generation. Worst of all, you can graduate from journalism school not knowing who Neville Chamberlain was — much less what he means to the history of the 20th century.)

And so this disgruntled journo is taking the Rick Nelson option: “I’d rather drive a truck.”

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How dare you not be broke?

Oklahoma County Commissioner Ray Vaughn, explaining why he cast the lone vote against approving the Metro Library System’s budget:

“I’m not against libraries. I’m not against reading. I’m not against books,” Vaughn said. “But I sit on a board that manages the entire county … and we are in our third year of cutting our budget, so when I saw what the budget was going to be for the library, I just couldn’t in good conscience vote to approve that.”

Metro Library will be operating on a budget of $55 million for the next fiscal year, which includes 4-percent raises for staff, allowances to cover increases in health-insurance costs, and a surplus of $18 million, which will be stashed away for future use.

Not-entirely-random factoid: The county-government levy, derived from local property taxes — Oklahoma County has no county-specific sales tax — has risen from 10.36 to 11.25 to 12.86 over the past three years. The library system has a separate levy of 5.20, which has remained unchanged since 1997. (Source.)

Meanwhile, Sterling Zearley of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association grumbles:

“Our association would not begrudge a public employee a pay raise in most circumstances but the timing of this along with the large carryover in their budget does not look good to the association nor is it easily sold to the public.”

Looks fine to me, Sterl. Apparently the $46.02 I paid to the Library Commission out of my property tax was well spent. I wish I could say the same for the rest of the ten grand or so extracted from me last year by various governments.

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You still have zombies on your lawn

You already know the song; what you didn’t expect — what I didn’t expect, anyway — is a live version by the composer herself.

Production values are just about nil, but who cares? This is still the catchiest song of the week.

(From Kotaku via Blog Oklahoma.)

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When “organic” isn’t enough

The next proposed buzzword, foodwise, is “authentic”:

To have an “authentic” label, food would have to be sold directly by the person or family who grew it — no middleman. (Of course, many farmers don’t have the time or desire to do their own retail selling. But if they did, customers could give useful feedback on varieties, ripeness, and taste.) “Fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, and meat [would be] produced within a 50-mile radius of their place of final sale,” [gardener Elliot] Coleman wrote, suggesting possible standards. “The seed and storage crops (grains, beans, nuts, potatoes, etc.) [would be] produced within a 300-mile radius.” Only “traditional processed foods” — cheese, bread, wine — could claim to be “made with authentic ingredients.”

A reply to this complains that “authentic” “adds a toxic level of smugness,” and adds:

What is needed is a term that:

  • denotes attributes that resist easy re-definition in counterfactual ways
  • corporations cannot or will not want to co-opt
  • is memorable, obvious and will not be confused with other descriptors
  • and it would be good if it spoke to the values or perspective of the target consumers.

I humbly suggest “Full of Shit (TM)” as it:

  • identifies the fertilizer used
  • is less likely to be appropriated by greedy corporations
  • will not be confused with product marketing
  • clearly aligned itself with the consumer demographic obsessed with the label.

More than this, you cannot ask from a trademark.

(Via Joseph Hertzlinger.)

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Yeah, yeah, we know

Apparently highly excellent bloggers have 8 habits, only two fewer than the highly irritating bloggers of half a decade ago.

I have habits associated with both camps, but not enough to ensure my acceptance by either. This surprises me even less than you think it does. And there does seem to be some overlap. From Excellent #6:

[I]t is the times when I share my worst experiences that my readers gain the most insights for themselves. Readers take the time to write personal comments and emails sharing in detail how the articles have opened their eyes to similar situations they are going through. If showing my vulnerabilities can help improve even just one person’s life, I say it’s well worth it.

But “worst experiences” can come awfully close to Irritating #5:

Bloggers who write about their latest illness, right down to the details of an infection and physical description of a rash.

(Via Breda, who opts for the “Rules be damned” approach. That one, I can endorse wholeheartedly, to the extent that I have anything resembling a whole heart. The “irritating” stuff was originally poached from La Shawn Barber.)

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Not the most effective approach

A recently-received spam for some wang-distention product and/or service was titled: “Feel 10 years younger in bed!”

I wasn’t doing any better ten years ago than I am now. (Come to think of it, I wasn’t doing much of anything ten years ago, other than, um, this.)

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379

This week, Andrew Ian Dodge is CoTVing to thunder for the 379th episode of the Carnival of the Vanities.

Lots of thunderous things happening around town tonight, what with the NBA Draft going on and the Oklahoma City Thunder, at the moment, having three first-round picks. That rumbling noise you hear, though, is not likely to be Thunder mascot Rumble, who’s kind of a slight fellow (if a decent dunker for all that), but one of the umpteen bazillion trucks that pass through this town every day, what with three Interstates going every which way. Might even be a Peterbilt 379.

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Non sense

To whom could they possibly be referring?

Non-old people more likely to support health care reform bill, poll finds

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wash my non-clean clothes and run some non-blue stray cat out of my yard.

(Via Fark.)

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Keeping those ballots thin

Dr Edward Shadid, who is running as an Independent for House District 85, took out a full-page ad in the Gazette this week to grumble about this state’s excessively-cumbersome ballot access:

There are no other democracies in the world in which only two political parties compete and who so aggressively conspire to erect Herculean obstacles to participation by competing parties. Oklahoma has been widely described as having the most restrictive election and ballot access policies in the country. An alternative party would need 73,102 valid signatures to get on the ballot, and since many signatures are typically thrown out, in practical terms roughly 100,000 signatures would be required. Given an average petition cost of $1/signature, a party would need $100,000 for that election just to get on the ballot.

The numbers vary slightly from year to year, but this is basically the same noise I’ve been trying to make on this subject for several years now. The last time there was any legislative action on ballot access was last year’s HB 1072, which passed the House 86-5 and the Senate 46-0, and then mysteriously disappeared into a conference committee. The last mention of it on the legislative Web site was 23 February 2010:

Conference granted, SCs named Brogdon, Lamb, Reynolds, Burrage, Johnson (Mike), Schulz, Marlatt

The bill hasn’t been seen since.

Shadid, incidentally, is running as an Independent because he can’t run as a Green because the Greens can’t get on the ballot in this state.

District 85 incumbent David Dank, who ran for this seat after his wife Odilia ran up against the term-limits wall (stop me if you’ve heard this one), has drawn a GOP primary challenge from Aaron Kaspereit, who seems to be running slightly to Dank’s left but still to the right of center. Gail Vines, last seen embroiled in the Joe Quigley case at Oklahoma City Public Schools, is the Democratic opponent. I still think Dank wins this one, but there’s no reason he should just have it handed to him.

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Things go better with less Coke

So I’m looking at a two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola with the “Join the Global Celebration” indicia thereupon — yes, there’s a vuvuzela — and there’s the not-particularly-cryptic nutrition information, outside the Federally-approved data box: “8 servings per package / 100 calories per serving.”

So I duly turn the bottle 90 degrees to inspect the data box. Sure enough, one serving is 8 ounces (240 ml), 100 calories. Now this isn’t precisely accurate if this is really two liters, which would be eight servings of 250 ml, but it’s close enough for government work.

But now I’m perplexed. If I go to the machine and fetch a 12-ounce can, which has been one serving / 140 calories for all these years, am I now going to find that it really contains a serving and a half? I’ve seen those little sawed-off cans in the stores, but never in a vending machine. And if this is a ruse to make the product look like it’s packing fewer calories than before, in a sop to the Nanny State, how long before, say, Frito-Lay starts quoting calories per individual Dorito?

Addendum: The machine had no 12-ounce cans, but did offer 20-ounce bottles, which contained, yes, 2.5 8-ounce servings.

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Zombie tennis

This explains yesterday’s marathon at Wimbledon better than anything else:

9.25pm: Last thoughts before I ring me a hearse. That was beyond tennis. I think it was even beyond survival, because there is a strong suggestion (soon to be confirmed by doctors) that John Isner actually expired at about the 20-20 mark, and [Nicolas] Mahut went soon afterwards, and the remainder of the match was contested by Undead Zombies who ate the spectators during the change of ends (again, this is pending a police investigation).

Still, if you’re going to watch a pair of zombies go at each other for eleventy-billion hours, far into the night, it might as well be these zombies. They were incredible, astonishing, indefatigable. They fell over frequently but they never stayed down. My hat goes off to these zombies. Possibly my head goes off to them too.

Before play was suspended due to darkness, Isner and Mahut were deadlocked, so to speak, at 59. (If anyone cares, the first four sets went 4-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-7; Mahut, the higher seed, is listed first.)

Update: Isner takes it, 70-68.

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Not necessarily a SandRidge update

The Lost Ogle (well, Patrick, anyway) puts this on their list of 10 Things We Want To See Happen This Summer:

8. Steve Lackmeyer kidnaps Tom Ward and hides out in the India Temple Building.

You see, Steve Lackmeyer is a smart guy, and he knows that if he kidnaps Tom Ward, the last place anyone will look is in one of those old decrepit buildings in Downtown. Let’s just hope it doesn’t turn into a Cask of Amontillado experience.

For the love of God, Patrick!

Actually, he’s probably right: the most likely place they’ll look is at the Centennial Fountain in Bricktown, but only because the light’s better.

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Excess Heat

The Miami Heat, looking to make some big moves in the free-agent market, have been working diligently to free up cap space, and today they went on the “Sam, we owe you one” roster: they dealt their first-round draft pick (#18) and backup shooting guard Daequan Cook to Oklahoma City for a second-round pick, #32, which Thunder GM Sam Presti keeps handy for just such occasions.

This move does two things for Miami: it gets Cook’s salary (about $2.17 million) off the books, and with no first-round pick, the Heat won’t have to ante up any rookie money. (Number eighteen earns $1,237,500 this season.) Cook, who backed up Dwyane Wade at the two, has averaged 8.0 points per game in 22 minutes in his three years with the Heat; Sam Presti says “He will add depth and shooting to our backcourt.” Sam not being the sort to elaborate on things, I’ll speculate that the addition of Cook, assuming he’s not being slated for trade bait, will provide the occasional opportunity for Thabo Sefolosha or James Harden to slide over to the three. Besides, how often do you get a chance to sign a guy named “Daequan”?

“I don’t know how he does it,” says Daily Thunder’s Royce Young. “That’s right, a quality shooter and a top 20 pick for the 32nd pick. I don’t really have much commentary other than this is obviously a fantastic deal.” Call it, as I often do, Prestidigitation.

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