Not yet a destination

Ben Felder is beginning a series in the Oklahoma Gazette on local urban neighborhoods, and about halfway through the middle of the first installment is a point I’ve tried to make:

“The collaboration between the public-private partnership is vital,” said Grant Soderberg of Square Deal Capital — Soderberg is also an investor in The Windsor Hills Station Shopping Center, the hub of the growing Windsor District in west OKC. “Simple investments in lighting, road improvements and other things from the city can make a huge difference in a neighborhood’s revival.”

Soderberg also said that part of the success of The Windsor District is that it continues to serve many of the low- and middle-class community residents who lived there before revitalization efforts began.

“There is a difference that needs to be made between low-income housing and problem housing,” said Soderberg, noting that many working-class residents benefit from recent commercial growth.

Windsor Hills Station sits on 23rd just west of Meridian; in general, 23rd is the boundary between upscale and down. Neighbors from both sides shop at the Crest Foods store at the eastern edge of the shopping center.

About a decade ago, I wrote about a neighborhood closer to downtown:

Now the roads through there aren’t great, and I suspect the rest of the city’s infrastructure is probably an upgrade or two behind schedule, but this struck me as a relatively nice, if obviously not at all upscale, neighborhood. (I spot-checked a couple of houses for sale, and you can still buy in around here for thirty-five to fifty-five thousand.) Professional worriers, faced with a few blocks like this, would undoubtedly start screaming “Blight!” and calling for intervention. And indeed, there’s room for improvement, starting with what appears to be, at first glance, a higher-than-average crime rate. But I am becoming persuaded that the kiss of death for any neighborhood comes at the exact moment when the studies and the surveys and the recommendations start coming out and the focus shifts from “How can we make this area better?” to “How can we get these people out of here?” I, for my part, am loath to tear up an area of affordable housing just because it’s not pretty.

And visitors are often perplexed that upper- and lower-income tracts sit side by side, all across town. A lot of this is simply a function of who did the development, and when. My own neighborhood was developed in the 1940s by Clyde B. Warr, who was relatively, but not ostentatiously, bucks-up; however, we don’t have a full-line grocery store — a Target just up the road comes closest — so often as not, I’m shopping at that Crest store in Windsor.

Addendum: Back in the days when this sort of thing mattered, there was a Windsor telephone exchange covering this area: it reaches just far enough north to include me.

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Close quarters

There was a lot of rumbling in recent days, not so much about holding on to eighth place in the West, but going for seventh place, on the sensible basis that it’s better to play anyone other than the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs. The current occupant of seventh, the Dallas Mavericks, might have something to say about that, but hey, they’re 5-5 in their last ten and are averaging something like 90 points a game of late. Then those same Mavericks showed up at the ‘Peake shooting 60 percent and collecting something like three points in the paint every 60 seconds. OKC stayed with them, though: it was tied 101-all after three. Dallas then ran off the first ten points of the fourth quarter, but the Thunder came back; at the 2:20 mark it was 125-all. Defense? Nobody had any, but Dallas’ lack of D wasn’t as blatant as OKC’s. With forty seconds to go, it was Mavs 132-129. Russell Westbrook knocked down two foul shots to pull within one; Chandler Parsons burned up most of the rest of the clock and finished with a turnaround jumper; the Thunder came up empty, Steven Adams limped away, and Monta Ellis completed the rout with a free throw. Dallas 135, Oklahoma City 131, and that’s the last we’ll hear about seventh place; the Mavs have beaten the Thunder three times this year, each time by four points.

Of those 135 Dallas points, 72 were earned in the paint, and seven Mavs — all five starters plus Amar’e Stoudemire and Al-Farouq Aminu — scored in double figures. Ellis (26) and Parsons (22) had the most; Dirk Nowitzki nailed 18, and double-doubles were collected by Rajon Rondo (10 points, 10 assists) and Tyson Chandler (14 points, 10 rebounds). The startling figure, though, is this: 56 of 91 from the floor, 61.5 percent, despite a lousy 4-15 from beyond the arc. Rick Carlisle, if you asked him, would tell you that if you make enough two-pointers, you don’t need treys, and of course he would be correct.

And then you wonder what in the heck happened to the Thunder in a game when Enes Kanter had a double-double and a career high in points (30, with 16 rebounds), Russell Westbrook had a triple-double (31-11-11), and Anthony Morrow outscored both (32 on 11-16 shooting). Well, Adams spent much of the evening in foul trouble; the bench, apart from Morrow, didn’t have much to contribute; and OKC’s 11 turnovers handed Dallas 18 points. The Mavs coughed up the rock only six times, costing eight. And maybe if Westbrook hadn’t started out so cold: he finished at 10-32, 2-11 from outside. (The rest of the team managed 12 treys, half of them from Morrow.)

What could be worse than a home loss this late in the season? Answer: a home loss this late in the season followed by a trip to Memphis. The Grizzlies, you should pardon the expression, are always loaded for bear.


Go with the name you know

There’s a lot to be said, I suppose, for personal branding, but this isn’t it [warning: autostart video]:

A man said he accidentally shot himself when a gun he bought on the street jammed.

Police met up with the 36-year-old after he showed up at Miami Valley Hospital Saturday afternoon, according to the Dayton police report.

He was treated for a gunshot wound to his upper left arm. He told police it happened in a creek area off Norris Drive, according to the report.

The man reported he went there to test fire a gun he had bought from a man named “Crack Head Dave,” according to the report.

Does Dave stand behind his products? I’m betting he sure as hell doesn’t stand in front of them.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Unmagical realism

For those of you who might have thought that academia is overrun with sexual non-binary types and other individuals hard to characterize, well, that might be true in the Ivies, but it doesn’t work out here on the Plains.

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Flexibility is mandated

If this product actually exists, we’re going to have Rockette-level high kicks on every Main Street in the nation:

Perhaps these are repurposed High Tide Heels.


Quitting time

If I ever again have to leave a job, I hope I have the presence of mind to do it this way:

I actually did give a letter of notice. I wrote it that morning, backdated of course, and shoved it under the rat’s nest of papers on BossMan’s desk. Archaeologists, later on in the millenia, find it and say “What does that mean, die in a crotchfire?” To which another archaeologist will sneer, “Let me Google that for you.”

“Crotchfire,” incidentally, is one of very few words that will reliably trigger involuntary leg-crossing.

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Your piece of the pie

As of yesterday, there were 46,250 comments on the site — that is, comments within the current WordPress database, which goes back to the first week of September 2006. (There were about 17,000 more in the first Movable Type database, from August 2002 to that point, all converted to static files.)

Now this figure seems amazing to some, and by “some” I mean “people who hang out in Twitter chats to bewail their lack of response.” Forty-six thousand sounds like a lot of comments, but that’s a slow month over at Ace’s.

Still, I’m happy with the participation level here. And inasmuch as I have a gizmo that counts these for me, I’m tossing this question to you guys: how many of those 46,000 do you think you wrote? Be sure to show your work.

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Backstage at Security Theater

The Transportation Security Authority has guidelines it uses to determine if someone is more suspicious-looking than someone else. Quelle surprise:

The checklist is part of TSA’s controversial program to identify potential terrorists based on behaviors that it thinks indicate stress or deception — known as the Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT. The program employs specially trained officers, known as Behavior Detection Officers, to watch and interact with passengers going through screening.

Cute names for government operations almost always indicate something controversial is afoot.

The checklist ranges from the mind-numbingly obvious, like “appears to be in disguise,” which is worth three points, to the downright dubious, like a bobbing Adam’s apple. Many indicators, like “trembling” and “arriving late for flight,” appear to confirm allegations that the program picks out signs and emotions that are common to many people who fly.

Stripped of point values, here are some of the behaviors that may trigger Double Secret Screening:

Things TSA is looking for

A sample SPOT form is here for your inspection.

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Questionable titling

And if anyone knows about questionable titles, c’est moi, n’est-ce pas?

Motor Trend’s Big Test in the May ’15 issue covers five luxury compact crossovers, and it’s titled “Diversity Report”: “Mucking around autodom’s hippest segment with the most colorful crew in town.”

Excuse me while I pull out my “Yeah, right” specs. All five of these not-quite cars have 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines, and by “2.0-liter” we mean — well, the smallest mill of the bunch is 1969cc. The others? One each at 1997 and 1998, and two at 1999, though the latter are basically the same engine (from Ford) with different fitments and tunings.

Perhaps more to the point, how can you call this bunch “diverse” if four of them are white? The Bimmer is perhaps explainable — an X3 in any color other than white or black costs $550 extra — but surely Land Rover, Volvo and Lexus could have come up with something else. The one, um, vehicle of color is the Lincoln, which is a spiffy blue, and it appears that Ford has seen fit to tone down the whale-baleen grille.

Oh, a sixth automaker was invited: Audi, which had no Q5 with that size engine. Instead, they sent a Q5 with a 3.0-liter turbodiesel six. It was faster than all the fours, the humonogous torque standing in for the extra horsepower the diesel doesn’t have. However, it was mutely conformist in one regard: it, too, was white.

Disclosure: I drive a white car, from none of these manufacturers.

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Creativity awakened the wrong way

Sir Ken Robinson, a couple of years ago, boiled down to a single paragraph:

Robinson has suggested that to engage and succeed, education has to develop on three fronts. First, that it should foster diversity by offering a broad curriculum and encourage individualisation of the learning process; secondly, it should foster curiosity through creative teaching, which depends on high quality teacher training and development; and finally, it should focus on awakening creativity through alternative didactic processes that put less emphasis on standardised testing, thereby giving the responsibility for defining the course of education to individual schools and teachers. He believes that much of the present education system in the United States fosters conformity, compliance and standardisation rather than creative approaches to learning. Robinson emphasises that we can only succeed if we recognise that education is an organic system, not a mechanical one. Successful school administration is a matter of fostering a helpful climate rather than “command and control.”

And presumably it would help if the youngsters got enough sleep. Sir Ken Robinson, last night:

The powers that be were profusely apologetic.

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Weed killer on the rocks

Whatever the opposite of “well played” is, that’s what this incident was:

Dr. Patrick Moore tells the host that glyphosate, an active ingredient in Roundup that was recently linked to cancer by the World Health Organization, is not linked to Argentina’s increasing cancer rate.

“You can drink a whole quart of it and it won’t hurt you,” says Moore.

At which point, the host actually offers Dr. Moore a glass of glyphosate. He declines, of course.

The standard for stunts of this sort, you should know, was set back in the early 1980s by, um, me:

All of a sudden this workaday chemical became a Major Hazard, and there was enough water-fountain chatter about it for me to justify a prank. This would require a confederate who was in on the gag: no problem there. The mystery fluid is furnished in brown bottles, the same shade used for hydrogen peroxide. (Whether it’s for the same reason or not, I couldn’t tell you.) We bought the stuff in case lots. We sabotaged one case: took one bottle, drained it, replaced the contents with tap water, marked the edge in some inconspicuous way, and resealed the case.

When the discussion came:

[S]omeone asked about whether this … stuff was really, you know, safe. The confederate chimed in with the opinion that it was highly dangerous and that we should switch to, for instance, some sort of correction tape. I scoffed. (Even then I was a good scoffer.) “You think this stuff is dangerous?” I fetched the rigged case, seized the faked-up bottle, and chugged its six-ounce contents. People stared at me as though I were Bruce Banner about to undergo Hulkification.

Now that’s how it’s done. Monsanto says it wasn’t paying Dr. Moore to speak on behalf of Roundup; whoever was, however, clearly didn’t get his money’s worth.

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Policy wonks may be excused

In fact, they may be escorted to the border and left there:

[W]hat’s a non-politico to do during election season? Here’s an idea: Escape to Oklahoma, the best state to get away from the political circus.

Oklahomans consistently rank near the bottom on a variety of measures of political obsession — or engagement, depending on your perspective. Only two states saw a smaller share of eligible voters cast ballots in 2012, and just seven states had a smaller share of residents registered to vote, according to census data. People in Oklahoma were 10th most likely to say they never vote in local elections, 11th most likely to say they infrequently discuss politics with family and friends, and 14th most likely to say they don’t express their political or community opinions online, according to data collected by the census in 2013.

A major benefit of this disengagement:

You won’t just be avoiding conversations about the presidential election in Oklahoma, you’ll also be shielded from campaign ads. During the seven months leading up to the 2012 election, the major parties spent just $1,300 on ads in the state, according to FairVote, a nonprofit that promotes fair elections.

There are people who truly believe that there is no higher calling than politics. In this state, there is no higher calling than making banana splits at Braum’s, and we don’t give a flying feather about the machinations of those retards at 23rd and Lincoln or of the criminals in the District of Columbia: worthless, the lot of them. And you think we’re going to get out the vote for such pinheads? Life is too short to encourage people who can’t even make proper banana splits.

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It never gets that warm

ComfortMeter by LaCrosseYou’ve seen this contraption before; it sits by the bedroom door “so I can feel some sort of justification when I start kvetching about how frakking uncomfortable it’s gotten all of a sudden.” In that photo, it is reading 74.3° F. In the six years since then, it has never once read 74.4°.

In fact, it routinely skips various possible temperatures. It will show 74.5, but not 74.6; if a warming trend is afoot, it will update at 74.7. After noting that it seems to skip three or four out of every ten conceivable readings, it dawned on me what the issue might be: the manufacturer has to sell this device in lots of countries, most of which measure their temperatures in Celsius, thank you very much, and this would require the little electronic brain to update in tenths of a degree Celsius — and 0.1 Celsius degree is 0.18 Fahrenheit degree. This explains it well enough: 74.3° F is 23.5° C, 74.5 is a hair over 23.6, 74.7 is somewhat thicker hair over 23.7. And it will display 74.8, which rounds to 23.8.

I’m not sure which is less useful: the fact that it took me so long to notice that, or that it took even longer to explain it. And while I’m thinking that maybe the Canadians might be pleased, forty years ago they had few kind words for Celsius.


And yet it used to move

You want symbolism? We got symbolism:

Galileo Galilei’s middle finger has been meticulously preserved and can be viewed today at the Museo Galileo in Florence, for eight euros. The digit was plucked from his dead body by a souvenir-hunter named Anton Francesco Gori in 1737 when Gori detached the finger while moving the body from a storage closet to a nearby chapel. For a great man who was tried by the Inquisition, found “vehemently suspect of heresy,” forced to recant, and who spent the rest of his life under house arrest, isn’t it fitting that Galileo is still flipping the bird to the Catholic Church for condemning him for his theory of heliocentrism?

Even then, everybody knew that the bird is the word.


Marginal improvements

Any human endeavor which requires spending money eventually reaches a point of diminishing returns, and health care is no different:

Health care reached the point of diminishing returns about fifty years ago. 100 years ago America spent 3% of GDP on health care and people lived to about 60. Today we spend about 15% on health care and people live to about 80. A good portion of that increase in life expectancy is due to better food and less violence. It is axiomatic that as things like health care improve, the cost of further improvement escalates. The marginal return on investment declines.

Getting people to about 100 would cost — what, 75% of GDP? Inevitably there will be some starry-eyed character who cries “But you can’t put a price on people’s lives!” Sure you can. In fact, it’s the only thing you can do, inasmuch as the money tree in the back yard is not producing.

I figure everything that threatens me on a regular basis — blood-sugar anomalies, hypertension, osteoarthritis, Al Gore — will be gone shortly after I am. However, I don’t even want to imagine the price tag for any one of those developments.

Then again, we do know how to do health care right. We just don’t:

America has the greatest health care system on earth. It is super cheap, with lots of options and a high degree of customer satisfaction. It is called veterinary medicine. American pets get better health care than 95% of the world population for pennies. The reason is there are few barriers to suppliers so there are many options along the price curve. There’s also incentives to innovate. My Vet has world class lab equipment because it helps attract business.

On the other hand, few pets live to 100 or 80 or even 60.

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Mayo presumably to be held

Because standing in the parking lot and taking a deep breath just isn’t enough:

For hamburger aficionados who can’t get enough of it, Burger King has an answer: a grilled burger-scented fragrance.

Burger King said Friday that the limited “Whopper” grilled beef burger-scented cologne will be sold only one day on April 1, and only in Japan.

And no, the date is not the joke. The King is serious enough about this to ask 5000 yen (forty bucks) for the bottle — with purchase of an actual Whopper.

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