1 March 2003
The devil in the dial
I've never been to Vancleve, Kentucky, but last year's somewhat-unintended slide through a series of small Kentucky towns persuades me that I'd probably like the place. Only two things do I actually know about Vancleve: it has a long-established gospel radio station (WMTC AM/FM, the call letters meaning "Win Men To Christ"), and it's the home of the Kentucky Mountain Bible College, which for some time now has been trying to rid itself of its telephone number, which, like other numbers in Breathitt County, starts with 666.
Telephone companies move slowly, when they move at all, and I don't know if this particular bout of slowness is at all related to the need to conserve phone numbers to keep from adding more and more area codes, but finally the school has won: if you're wanting to call them, you need to call 693-5000.
Akron, Ohio may be the Rubber City, but the fact is, more tires are made in Oklahoma than in any other state. And Michelin North America, whose Uniroyal Goodrich unit has a huge plant in Ardmore, is about to spend $200 million to expand the facility, including $25 million kicked in by the state as incentive money.
Employment at Michelin will grow to about 1850, still smaller than Goodyear's Lawton operation, which started an expansion program of its own last year to will bring its workforce up to 2400. Bridgestone/Firestone operates a plant in Oklahoma City which employs about 1800.
Now get out there and drive. :)
Physician, **** thyself
Meet Jeffrey Schimandle, MD, non-practicing orthopedic surgeon in Oklahoma City. He became non-practicing rather involuntarily in 1999 following reports that he was swiping pain medication intended for patients for his personal use. This year Dr Schimandle applied for reinstatement, and got it; and within seconds of getting it, he whispered what The Daily Oklahoman called "a two-word, gender-specific obscenity" to the licensure board's attorney.
Said attorney is Elizabeth A. Scott, who also serves as an assistant attorney general; charges were brought, and Friday Dr Schimandle's license to practice was pulled yet again not because he called Scott whatever it was he called her, but because he denied having said it. He can apply for reinstatement next year, if he can keep his mouth shut.
As for that "two-word, gender-specific obscenity", well, I'm not quite sure what the good doctor actually said, but I'd be surprised if it's truly gender-specific. Even in Oklahoma.
The left side of the dial
The reaction to the news that a Chicago venture-capitalist group will front the bucks for a liberal radio network has been mostly yawns, with occasional remarks along the lines of "So what's NPR, chopped liver?" Certainly nothing in recent radio history would suggest that this venture could possibly make enough money to stay out of the red, let alone raise Rush Limbaugh's blood pressure, but hey, it's diversity, right?
Mark W. Anderson, writing as The American Sentimentalist, has some thoughts on this from a present-day liberal point of view, and they go like this:
[T]rue political progressiveness, of the kind that addresses social inequality, the relationship between capital and labor, environmental activism (and the sacrifices needed to undertake it), the Rights of Man, and the practice of inclusion and community, can't find a hearing in America today not because the message hasn't been gussied up enough, but because simply no one is interested in hearing these messages. At least, not enough to make a dent in the kinds of messages Americans are interested in: mythological freedom, protected self-reliance, denigrating a dangerous Other, and endless self-indulgence passing as consumer choice and free market effectiveness. In order to break through this wall of illusion, the kind of programming needed would be the kind that would send advertisers scurrying faster than European intellectuals in a room with Donald Rumsfeld: programming that would speak the truth about what happens in the country behind the facades and televised images we've all grown so used to accepting as fact. Programming, in fact, that would explain what it was like for the Americans rifling through the dumpster behind the mall where the good life is purchased, where the message of what it was like to worry about the transmission on the ten year-old car needed to get to work and not about whether the SUV is the best off-road vehicle money can buy, about the trade-offs between employment and health care for single moms, between prescription drugs and food for the elderly, and job training and the minimum wage for the chronically unemployed. Or how to effectively campaign to overturn, for example, politically-charged court decisions, replace reactionary judges, elect candidates not beholden to big-money concerns, or how to undertake the kind of neighborhood, grass-roots activism needed to reverse the incarceration rate for African-Americans. Or how to make ensure developers respect the socio-economic make-up of urban neighborhoods slated for gentrification. Or a million other unsexy, nuts-and bolts kinds of stories people need to know in order to go to work every day to change the world they live in for the better.
Some of these concerns make a certain amount of sense, and some of them bug me. The preservation of the "socio-economic make-up of urban neighborhoods", for one, strikes me as folly: if these neighborhoods were so wonderful, it seems to me that the property values would be sufficiently high that no one would be all that anxious to tear them down and start over in the name of gentrification. And the biggest improvement that could be made in the incarceration rate of African-Americans, I suggest, would be getting fewer of them to commit crimes in the first place.
Still, Anderson is right about the crux of the biscuit: things aren't hunky-dory for everyone, and if a bevy of AM-band leftists can actually contribute something to the debate, more power to them. They'll have to give up their Thou Shalt Not Offend Anyone posture, though; commercial talk radio is no place for mild-mannered Cory Flintoff types.
2 March 2003
Shadows wake me from my trance
About every three or four days, someone Googles up the phrase "damhnait doyle anal sex", which last I looked produced four results, three of which had something to do with me and none of which had a whole lot to do with Damhnait Doyle, a young singer from Newfoundland whose first two albums are often played in this household. Specifically, there was the one archive page which mentioned Ms Doyle, and the other two words were separated, not only from the reference to her, but from each other as well, but yes, all four words are on the page, so Google brings it up. I duly posted a report of the first incident to Disturbing Search Requests; my original post thereupon and an archive page containing it are the other two pertinent results.
The recurrence of this search has been something of an annoyance, but it did pay off this evening: it prompted me to see just what she's been up to, since it's been nearly three years since Hyperdramatic came out, and would you believe, she released a new album last week. Not in the US, of course; but this problem is easily remedied by a trip to HMV.com, which is happy to take my American dollars in exchange for Canadian content. So to my anonymous searcher(s): thank you. However, please be advised that I have no idea as to the young lady's sexual proclivities, and I would not be inclined to discuss them if I had.
Dehumidifying the sweatshop
Does this startle you?
According to a recent report by business futurists Roger and Joyce Herman of Greensboro, N.C, as many as 40 percent of workers already have "checked out" psychologically.
Feeling used and abused, these employees, they say, show up every day, but have lost passion for their work and are ready to jump on new opportunities.
I wonder if an entire company has ever up and quit....
You meet the nicest people on a Chonda
Two words: Jewish bikers.
You gotta love it.
(Muchas gracias: Max Power.)
Possible signs of spring
I've learned to be suspicious of these, but in view of last week, I need all the warmth I can get.
There was actual sunshine today after about 3 pm or so, and while the temperature is still on the low side (lower 40s), it beats the heck out of what we've been getting, and besides, we haven't seen the sun since Washington's birthday.
More to the point, perhaps, was the Austin-Healey Sprite (of course, a Bugeye) tootling along the boulevard, its driver apparently utterly unconcerned about being surrounded by vicious-looking vehicles like the Pontiac Aztek, an automotive boîte du merde that is as ugly as the Sprite is cute.
And while Bugeyes aren't very fast apart from being about 43 years old, they have only about 43 horsepower there's a certain thrill in driving the living whee out of something in an effort to stay just ahead of the traffic flow.
Besides, it was painted green, and British racing green at that. Just try to tell me that's not a sign of spring.
3 March 2003
With a song in his heart
Two songs, actually.
Go see what McGehee hath wrought, or hath writ, or anyway hath posted.
Bleary-eyed and then some
The good thing about the new kids upstairs (actually, judging from brief appearances, they're probably close to 40) is that they seem to be encumbered with neither loud offspring nor industrial-strength stereo.
The bad thing about the new kids upstairs is that while they seem to spend a fair amount of time in bed, not much of that time is devoted to, um, sleeping.
Which, of course, inevitably means that not much of my time is devoted to sleeping. (Noise reduction in the construction of multi-family units, as a priority, ranks somewhere between feng shui positioning and gemstone settings for bathroom fixtures.)
Eventually adjustments will be made, as they must, but for now I'm too tired to contemplate them.
Finger poppin' time
A moment of noise, if you please silence wasn't his thing for R&B legend Hank Ballard, who died yesterday in Los Angeles.
Ballard's Midnighters (originally the Royals, but confusion with the "5" Royales dictated a name change) scored many R&B hits, starting with the salacious "Work With Me Annie" in 1954. But he's perhaps best remembered for a throwaway B side, the flip of 1959's "Teardrops on Your Letter", a bouncy little number called "The Twist", which in a soundalike version by Chubby Checker Ballard once said when he first heard Checker's record on the radio in 1960, he thought it was his own became the only record to hit #1, drop off the charts completely, and then hit #1 again the next year, in the midst of dozens of Twist records.
Depending on whom you believe, Ballard was 66, or maybe he was 75. All together now:
There's a thrill
Up on the hill
Let's go, let's go, let's go
None dare call it English
The Timekeeper is back in the States and up to full fearsome strength. Not that it takes a whole lot of strength to fisk a high-school senior, but in four years or so the recipient will be a college senior and produce even higher cranial durometer readings, so the time to strike is now.
The student in question offers this startling revelation:
I recall sophomore English, where I stayed after class one day to inquire about the rest of the year's planned reading material. Of the 10 or 20 books required since I entered high school, only one had been written by a woman. Precious few of the others dealt with or even included issues pertaining to women.
Rebuffed by a teacher who pointed out that, hey, this is English class, not a women's studies course, she exploded:
"Doesn't it strike you as somewhat ridiculous that to get the slightest mention of a woman beyond her position as wife to a prominent male figure, I have to go hunt for it on my own, outside of school?! Does it not strike you as odd that half of the world's population is systematically rendered invisible through curriculums such as your own?"
To which the Timekeeper responds:
Does it not strike you as thoroughly ridiculous that the teacher is expected to change the curriculum from a study of literature to a politically correct sociology class to raise the self-esteem of a grievance group, rather than on the merits of the literature involved?
As she gets bitter, he gets better. Read the whole thing. (Good to have you home, Keep.)
4 March 2003
No further comment required
Somebody got here last night via a Google search for "mister rogers" illuminati.
It'll cost a few bucks
According to David Pearce, a state representative from Warrensburg, Missouri, the Show-Me State is not doing enough to limit the size of the state's deer herd, and he has introduced a bill (HB 386) to make the Department of Conservation liable for the first $250 of damage caused by deer/motor vehicle collisions.
Pearce himself has run into this situation; last year he hit a deer on Missouri 13 not far from home. Total damages came to $2400, of which Pearce's out-of-pocket expense was, um, $250. The Missouri Highway Patrol reported 5482 collisions with animals during 2001.
Conservation objects to the bill, saying that it would distract them from their primary function, to manage the herd; Pearce counters that if they'd managed the herd better, there'd be no need for the bill.
Tomorrow, HB 386 gets its first committee hearing.
If I'm reading Spiced Sass correctly, the problem with these proposed World Trade Center replacements is a lack of, well, divinity, something that's manifest elsewhere in society as well:
My theory, in a nutshell, is since we eliminated God, liberals have been trying desperately to fill the vacuum. You simply can not legislate into the human heart or genes all the moralistic altruistic utopian crap they try to sell.
Not that a return to things churchly is necessarily the answer either:
I still am never going to buy into man's rendering of God, but I sure like mankind better when they are seeking God rather than attempting to be God.
The precise mechanism which determines the sense of transcendence in architecture (and elsewhere) is assuredly beyond my comprehension, but, to borrow a phrase, I know it when I see it.
Former Congressman J. C. Watts is not lacking for titles these days. In addition to his gig as a columnist for The Sporting News, he's now on the board of directors of Dillard's, the Arkansas-based department-store chain.
In his new capacity, perhaps Watts can figure out how come Dillard's keeps getting into racial hot water. In 1996, the chain was sued after an African-American customer claimed that she was denied a routine cologne sample; the case wound up before the US Supreme Court, which declined to review the verdict or the $1.2-million penalty against Dillard's. And this was only the most visible of a number of cases in which the store was charged with some blatant form of discrimination.
Just in time for Ash Wednesday
It's Carnival of the Vanities #24, brought to you by the one and only Acidman. This week's edition features nearly three dozen articles by bloggers near and far, annotated and collected in fine style with just a hint (okay, maybe more than a hint) of that patented Gut Rumbles reflux. As always, miss this at your peril.
5 March 2003
The return of Jennifer Hawkings
When last we heard from the pseudonymous Ms Hawkings, she was trying to promote a Web site that sold T-shirts by persuading the unwary that somehow they'd been mentioned by CNN. I disposed of that notion quickly enough, but she's had almost three months to recuperate, and now she's back with a new, um, deal.
This time at <email@example.com>, which seems to be based in Moscow, she's pitching a list. And not just any list, either:
Our company possesses several business email lists which allow to contact commercial websites and companies offering their products and services on the Internet. These B2B email lists could be a perfect source for gaining many new clients for your company. Please take a moment to review the lists we have. The segregation is performed by the source where the websites/companies are listed:
1. 258,000 Companies from Yahoo's business directory:
I don't do B2B, being neither B nor B, but regardless, I fail to see the value of this service; I can click on those links just as easily as "Jennifer Hawkings" can.
And in fact, I tend to think that this is not the same person as before; this seems like part of an effort to create a fictional spokesperson for spamdom, the email equivalent of Betty Crocker or Aunt Jemima or Alfred E. Neuman. And hey, who knows? Maybe someday, instead of being spammed, you'll be jennifered. Who excepting perhaps Simon Lamont could possibly object?
The last of Lady Bird's radio empire
LBJS Broadcasting, the six-station group in Austin controlled by the family of Lady Bird Johnson, is selling out. Emmis Communications, owner of 21 radio stations and Texas Monthly magazine, is buying the Johnson family's 50.1% interest for $105 million. (The S in LBJS, David and Bob Sinclair, retain their 49.9% equity, but Emmis has an option to buy them out after five years.)
Originally, there was just the one station: KTBC, a low-powered AM daytimer acquired by Lady Bird for $17,500 in 1943. Being married to a Congressman paid off, though; the FCC soon approved an upgrade to full-time operation and 5000 watts. KTBC-TV soon followed, and by some strange coincidence it was the only commercial VHF TV allocation for Austin; competitors were forced to the struggling UHF band. (KTBC-TV is now owned by Fox Television Stations; the allocations haven't changed, though a UPN affiliate parked itself on channel 2 out in Fredericksburg, hoping to get audience from both Austin and San Antonio.)
The sale is subject to FCC approval, though no objections are expected. Flagship stations KLBJ-AM (formerly KTBC) and KLBJ-FM will retain their call letters.
The winds shifted around to the southwest yesterday, and the temperature climbed to a balmy 71 degrees.
Then the sun set, and the winds resumed their northerly angle of attack, and this morning it's snowing and the wind-chill factor is around 8.
It's enough to make you want to go buy a couple of SUVs and drive around town all day in second gear.
At best, a sort of greylist
TeeVee's Ben Boychuk disposes of this New Blacklist horsepuckey with due dispatch:
If anything, the more outspoken of the anti-war Hollywood Left stand to gain from the publicity. Janeane Garofalo has never been more famous. Marty Sheen will continue to work long after the creatively moribund West Wing retires to the Elysian Fields of syndication. One might argue that Sean Penn's career suffered because of his trip to Baghdad. But one could also point to the fact that his last couple of films were seen by all of two dozen people. Three dozen, tops.
Boychuk titled this piece Joe McCarthy is Back, And This Time, He's Pissed. Trademark infringment, I'd bet.
It probably wasn't any big surprise that failed Congressional candidate Walt Roberts entered a guilty plea to various counts of conspiracy; many of us have been wondering just where this good ol' boy was finding all this campaign financing.
Now the finger has been pointed, and it's pointed toward Senator Gene Stipe, a McAlester Democrat, whose own fingers have been found in all sorts of Oklahoma pies over many years. Chris at Fly Over Country says there's a 90-percent chance they're gonna nail him this time; I think that's a tad high, but I won't shed any tears if Chris is right.
Don't you give me no dirty looks
Way back in 1980, Vince Vance and the Valiants put out a single that resonated with a lot of us: they reworked Fred Fassert's doo-wop ditty "Barbara Ann", previously a hit for the Regents and later for the Beach Boys (with Hal and his famous ashtray), into the impossible-to-misinterpret "Bomb Iran". I still have the 45, on Paid Records #109.
It was of course inevitable that with the return of unrest to the Middle East (what, was there ever actually rest there?), Vince Vance too would return, and Sparkey's heard the new single, which is of course called "Bomb Iraq". And what's more, he's provided a link to download it in MP3 format if you want it. Which you do.
6 March 2003
Sizzled, not stirred
Two words: bacon martini.
Bless you, Weetabix. ("Pretty hot, but in a Ned Flanders kind of way?" Now that's descriptive.)
According to at least one poll, Oklahomans favor the establishment of a state lottery by a three-to-one margin. I find this surprising, since the issue has been up for a state vote before and did not come close to passage.
A few minutes before the poll results were announced, the State House had an announcement of its own: House Bill 1278, which would put the establishment of a lottery on the ballot, had failed, 52-49. Most Democrats voted Yes, most Republicans voted No, but there were defectors from both sides.
I expect Governor Henry will be back with a similar proposal next year, but for this session, it's dead.
Cutting to the chase
Jeff Lawson is persuaded that it's time to get down to business:
While I've supported the cause from early on actually, I've been advocating the forceful removal of Saddam Hussein for a long time, dating back to my days as a relatively liberal political science student I do look forward to the good that will ultimately come from it once the shooting stops. War sucks, no doubt about that. And I likely don't have much credibility when it comes to saying that, my generation not knowing war all too well, but I think it's an undeniable truth that war sucks. People die. But sometimes, despite one's best attempts to avoid war, it still has to happen. This war has been a long, long time coming...over a decade. Barring any sort of unforeseen event that can head things off in the final hour, this war is inevitable. The time is right, so better to get on with it.
Let me amplify: "War sucks."
This does not now, did not ever, equate to "War must be avoided at any cost."
And the forcible removal of Saddam Hussein will not magically result in Iraqi democracy. As Mark W. Anderson points out:
"[D]emocracy does not come to oppressed peoples in the way that God enabled Adam and Eve to discover that they were naked it comes from the long struggle to build free and fair civic institutions that support such a political system, ensuring that a minimum level of economic fairness exists throughout the society in question, and enabling citizens and those in power to see their own heretofore-hidden self-interests in cooperating on a political level."
Still, if the blinding flash alone likely can't do the job, the lack of the blinding flash certainly won't at least in this case.
I don't think of myself as being a particularly enthusiastic warmonger. On the other hand, I don't believe in procrastination either though I probably should have posted this yesterday.
Torture: not just fun, but effective
Fritz Schranck has come up with a plan for getting Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to talk, a plan which involves, among other things, essence of spirit duplicator, algebra, and Ben-Gay®.
Of course, I would just as soon not know where Fritz picked up this particular area of expertise, but if his recommendations are half as mind-warping as they appear to be, the problem won't be getting our captive to talk it will be getting him to shut up.
7 March 2003
Yes, it's another facelift
I figure, if I'm going to drone on in my usual monotone, I ought to have a backdrop that is closer to monochrome.
Besides, in tests on a 33.6k dialup, it loads 0.4 second faster.
The estimable Goof Beyou, who has been keeping tabs on the state-lottery measure (and keeping track of my fumbles on the story), has yet to weigh in on the prospects for getting the bill passed during its reconsideration phase, though I'm sure we'll hear from Beyou shortly.
In the meantime, House Republican leader Todd Hiett seems miffed at the prospect of seeing this bill again: "At this point," he said, "we should move on and do the people's business." Apparently Hiett's concept of "the people's business" does not include the possibility of voting on a controversial measure. All by itself, this ought to be enough to get him onto Frosty Troy's 10 Worst Legislators list this summer.
Lynn breaks free once more
Once upon a time, there was Poet and Peasant, hosted at Blogspot, and it was good.
Then there was Reflections in D minor, running Movable Type, and it was better.
Now there is the new and improved Reflections in D minor, and it's a pMachine.
One thing about Lynn: she's determined.
Putting the chill on Mugabe
American assets owned by President Robert Mugabe and about seventy other officials of the government of Zimbabwe have been frozen by the Bush administration.
President Bush took the action, according to the official order, because of ongoing political violence and a breakdown in the rule of law, for which Mugabe must take responsibility. The freeze follows a similar order imposed by the European Union in February. For the crumbling Zimbabwean government, this could be the last straw.
Making noise out of nothing at all
"Bad Love Songs For Corporate Drudgery Volume VI".
That's what Fraters Libertas' the Elder must endure out there in Cubicle City, and in between periods of mind-numbing boredom he roused himself just enough to deconstruct Air Supply's "Even the Nights Are Better", which apparently makes even less sense when analyzed.
8 March 2003
A piece of the action
Opposition to the proposed Oklahoma lottery comes from many quarters, but much of it emanates from the state's churches, dominated by conservative Christian denominations who have no qualms about calling 'em the way they see 'em.
Leaders of five of those denominations have signed a letter to Governor Henry asking him to give up the idea of a lottery, and urging him to set up a "task force made up of business, government, church and education leaders to seek long-term solutions for education funding."
The Guv, himself a Southern Baptist, says he appreciates the input but still would like the lottery put to a state vote. Personally, I think the task force idea might fly even without direct government involvement, though there's always the question of whether the state will give a reasonable hearing to the ideas of non-politicians.
Mind games for fun and prophet
Now if someone asked me this:
Why the hell has a secret faction built a SUPERSHIP on a man-made plateau in a mountain range high above sea level?
I'd respond something like "Because if it weren't secret, the place would be crawling with angry environmentalists."
Into the face of evil
What would you say to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the man behind September 11th?
Ever been to Farwell, Texas?
Neither have I. And I can't think of any particular reason to go there, unless I were driving to, say, Clovis, New Mexico, where Norman Petty and Buddy Holly created a unique rock-and-roll sound, in which case Farwell is the last town in Texas before crossing the border.
And that's actually an issue. According to the 1859 survey defining the border between Texas and New Mexico, the dividing line is supposed to be right on top of the 103rd meridian. The New Mexico/Oklahoma line is along the 103rd. But the Texas border, as drawn, was about three miles west of it, which makes for a weird-looking jog in the state map, and towns like Farwell, Texas are supposed to be in New Mexico.
At least, that's the argument being made in Santa Fe, where a bill has been introduced into the legislature to seek return to New Mexico of this narrow strip of land. Three miles doesn't sound like a lot, but we're talking Texas here, and the strip, which covers the western edges of ten Texas counties, includes 603,000 acres of land, more than 900 square miles. New Mexico's draft constitution in 1910 claimed the border should be on the 103rd meridian as intended; a Congressional investigation was convened, to which New Mexico, not yet a state, was not invited, and Congress opted to leave the border in place. Apparently dark hints from Austin suggested that if New Mexico really wanted to become a state, they would shut up about the border; they did, and they did.
That was 1912. Ninety-one years later, why pursue this? A clue might be found in the wording of the bill:
One hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) is appropriated from the general fund to the office of the attorney general for expenditure in fiscal years 2003 and 2004 to sue the state of Texas for the return of six hundred three thousand four hundred eighty-five acres of land taken from New Mexico due to an error in drawing the north-south boundary between New Mexico and Texas. The attorney general is further instructed to seek compensation for subsurface mineral rights, oil and gas royalties and income, property taxes and grazing privileges that New Mexico has not realized due to the boundary error.
I suspect the Texans are chuckling, but if I know Texans like I think I do, they won't take this lying down. Especially in Farwell.
John Paul II is still alive and kicking, but speculation as to his successor at the Holy See is rampant. One Spanish site has already winnowed down the 185 members of the College of Cardinals to an even dozen. (Who was that in the corner muttering about "March madness"?)
Meanwhile, Jesus Gil analyzes the results. What is perhaps most surprising is that five of the top seeds um, perceived front-runners come from Latin America. The Italians, of course, have four, but the balance of power has been shifting away from Italy ever since, well, the election of John Paul II.
It takes a two-thirds majority of the College to elect a Pope. Fortunately, they don't have to deal with things like butterfly ballots.
9 March 2003
And the feathers continue to fly
Tuesday, Senator Frank Shurden (D-Henryetta) expects a vote on Senate Bill 835, which proposes yet another cockfighting election, though this one will be limited to settling the penalties. Under State Question 687, passed last fall, taking part in a cockfight is a felony; Shurden wants this reduced to a misdemeanor, and he apparently thinks that while most people in Oklahoma do support the ban, which passed with 56 percent of the vote, they don't necessarily want people hauled into the pen for a year or more for it.
The House has already passed a similar measure, which suggests that Shurden might actually have a chance of getting this through. The anti-cockfighting forces are, unsurprisingly, highly incensed at all this. Meanwhile, there are legal challenges to SQ 687 in more than two dozen counties. We haven't heard the last of this issue by any means.
Aren't you glad you use dial?
I still have an actual rotary phone. You know, the kind that dials with a dial; you stick your finger in and move it around in circles and...uh, never mind.
This sort of thing would never do for the Oval Office, as The Third Kind's Phil illustrates.
I learned the truth from seventeen
Some people keep "delightful" and "silly" far apart in little mental boxes, lest the two meet and contaminate one another like chocolate and peanut butter.
Not being one of those people, I direct your attention to the Periodic Table of Haiku, a perfectly legitimate scientific tool with a three-line verse attached for each chemical element. (Scansion isn't always perfect, but what the hell; you try writing something about molybdenum in 17 syllables.)
Erdogan has his day
Justice and Development (AK) Party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, barred from running for office last fall, easily won a seat in the Turkish Parliament in Sunday's elections, which assures him the position of Prime Minister and puts the question of support for the US war on Iraq back on the table. One newspaper reports that Erdogan plans to dismiss four Cabinet members opposed to the US plan to attack Iraq from across the Turkish border.
Wednesday, Prime Minister Abdullah Gul is expected to resign in favor of Erdogan. While polls indicate Turks generally oppose the US deployment, Erdogan has supported it, and has already hinted that he'll call for a new parliamentary vote to try to get it approved and as Prime Minister, he'll be in a far better position to push for it.
10 March 2003
Conspiracy theory behind the dash
Americans have lots of thoughts about things automotive. (This is, in case you've forgotten or you've been living in Berkeley for the last ten years, because we actually have lots of cars and we get to drive them all over the place.) Inevitably, some of those thoughts prove to be erroneous, egregious, or downright excruciating (cf. an otherwise perfectly innocuous Honda Civic with two-thirds of its bodywork covered in bubbly decalcomania and its exhaust terminating in a Folger's can).
There is one thought which borders on the universal, though: the thought that the so-called Check Engine Light is a conspiracy against the laity, that the evil little glow means only that your local wrenchman has a boat payment due. At least once a week, I get an anguished letter from some poor soul asking how to shut the thing off, and I'm running out of variations on ways to say "Take it to the shop and have the farging codes pulled."
The truth of the matter is simply this: modern engines run with extremely tight calibrations to meet extremely tight (and becoming more so) emissions specifications, and if any one component of the twenty bazillion or so under the hood isn't pulling its weight, the Malfunction Indicator Light (to give it its correct name) snaps on and the engine computer records the appropriate error code. Unless you know what that error code is and what it means and I, buried in email, certainly can't read it from here you're out of luck. And present-day OBD II-equipped vehicles don't give up their codes to just anyone: you need the appropriate scan tool.
Which, of course, is part of the conspiracy. If you don't want to pay the dealer $75 to pull the codes, you probably also don't want to pay hundreds of dollars for your very own scanning device. But the unpleasant fact is this: the shadetree mechanic is well on his way to dropping off the Endangered Species list and into extinction. The techniques that used to work to squeeze a couple more months out of a worn set of points don't mean a thing to a mass airflow meter. And given the fact that most people think they're more mechanically inclined than they really are myself included twelve or thirteen times out of ten they're going to make matters worse by trying to fix these things themselves.
Please. Take it to the shop and have the farging codes pulled.
An outpost of non-corporate radio
If the phrase "Clear Channel" makes you break out in hives, this is for you.
In its last couple of years before it packs up and moves to Dallas to play with the big boys, AM daytimer KJON, just about the last station in Anadarko (KRPT-FM is moving northward toward the Oklahoma City market), has decided to stick to what it likes, and screw the consultants and their Armani-suited ilk.
So KJON's country format eschews the Shanias and the Faiths and the Dixie Chicks and plays stuff from the age of 78s, when you could still have a first name like "Red", when people heard the Wabash Cannonball and knew it was a train. The station manager says he's playing for guys on tractors, and you gotta believe it's true.
The Daily Oklahoman has a piece about KJON today, and it's worth your time even if Webb Pierce and Ernest Tubb don't mean a thing to you, simply because it illustrates the point that "non-corporate" radio does not necessarily mean stuff like NPR, which is waiting on a check from Archer Daniels Midland even as we speak, nor does it inevitably imply a staff with a whiter-shade-of-pale complexion from sitting in their bedrooms for ten years playing Nick Drake records.
Always honoring the protocols
My boss is seeking an answer to this:
"What wine goes best with watching the destruction of France?"
I'm inclined to think "anything bubbly," but I am no expert on such matters.
And you thought Lene Lovich was stateless
The Palestinian Authority, the government (except it isn't) of a nation (except it isn't) in the Middle East (well, it is that), has decided that it needs a prime minister.
Their next move, logically, should be the naming of an ambassador to the Sovereign Apartment Nation of Travistan.
11 March 2003
Beyond viral marketing
There was yet another ad on the radio this morning for Botox, and after the usual revulsion ("People are injecting a known toxin into their faces? Ewwww....") passed, I started wondering: Can other Nasty Substances be pressed into useful work? Can salmonella help your lawn? Does smallpox have a future as an industrial lubricant? Will anthrax kill termites?
Okay, it's too early in the morning for such things, and anyway it's been more than thirty years since I set foot in the lab. But who back then would have predicted that botulinum would have a commercial application?
Brand management writ large
In light (if "light" makes sense in this context, an arguable premise) of recent world developments, The Skeptician offers an updated United Nations logo, approved 14-0 by the Security Council. (France, of course, abstained.)
(Muchas gracias: Emperor Misha I, who notes, "We hope to see it proudly displayed at the new UN headquarters in Harare.")
Sharia stops here
The ever-erudite David "Clubbeaux" Sims notes that the Netherlands, Europe's ostensible Party Capital, is likely to become the first European nation to adopt Islamic law, and explains exactly why:
[D]octrinaire Islam believes in something. Contemporary Dutch society does not believe in anything. Therefore it's falling to an entity which believes in something.
A moral vacuum being filled. And just in case you missed the point:
Islam spits on the amoral valueless Western Europeans the way Japanese soldiers spit on opponents who surrendered during battle. This is why militant Islam doesn't bother terrorizing their friends France, Germany or Russia. They've already defanged them so why bother? They're not going to give Islam any trouble. They're toothless. America, though, that's a different story. Militant Islam hates and fears America because America is still, underneath it all, a nation of belief. And that is the only thing strong belief fears: Stronger belief. And right now America is the only counterweight to Islam in the world.
Now you know how we got to be the Great Satan. "It's no wonder," says Sims, "Europe wants to sit this one out." Of course. They don't want to piss off their new masters.
Huevos to go
West Hartford, Connecticut has spoken, and restaurant co-owner Bob Potter will comply: his new Mexican eatery there will not bear the name "C. O. Jones".
Customers of Potter's restaurant in New Haven don't seem to object to the name, or to the ballsy Mexican cuisine served, and so far there has been no uproar about a third location, to open in Storrs this spring, but West Hartford is evidently more testy than tickled.
Welcome to the Post-Stipe Era
Stipe's departure may or may not have something to do with the fallout from the failed Walt Roberts for Congress campaign of 1998, the investigation from which has so far resulted in charges against three individuals, one of whom is Stipe's assistant at his law firm. Stipe himself has not been named as a defendant.
As noted by Chris:
I am wildly speculating here, but his resignation seems to me the prelude to a plea agreement. The Feds got their pound of flesh by making him quit and he will probably get probation and a fine.
In defense of Stipe, he had better hair than Jim Traficant. And really, that's about it.
12 March 2003
And a long shot comes in
I wouldn't have thought it possible and, in fact, said so but Governor Henry's lottery bill isn't quite dead yet. When the vote for reconsideration came around, three Republicans who had opposed the measure the first time through voted for it, so instead of failing 52-49, it now passes 52-49 and will go on to the Senate.
Wayne Pettigrew, who represents a section of Edmond, was frank about the reasoning behind his switch:
I wasn't for this bill a week ago because of some very good reasons. I am still not for a state lottery. But any issue that has this much concern or this much interest I am not against sending it to a vote of the people.
The future of the bill in the Senate is unclear. Still, the fact that it got this far borders on miraculous.
From the How Dare You files
Huntington, West Virginia. The city council is discussing the ongoing practice of cannibalizing old vehicles for parts. Council chair Cal Kent comes up with the following quip:
Somebody said to me that the Mexicans now send their mechanics up here to find out how to salvage the parts. They?re so good at keeping the vehicles running.
A reference to Mexican ingenuity? A tribute to the Huntington motor pool? Tom McCallister, another member of the council, decided it was an ethnic slur, and called for Kent's ouster; Kent subsequently apologized.
(Via Tongue Tied)
Wailers for sale or rent
Reason's Jeff Taylor, on that mawkish country hit that's all over the airwaves:
Darryl Worley's ode to 9/11 is a staggeringly wretched tune. "Have You Forgotten?" sounds like a lost parody from The Simpsons except not as tuneful as Lurlene Lumpkin or as sharply focused as "We're Sending Our Love Down the Well."
Although what I really want you to read is a comment affixed to Taylor's post, signed by the pseudonymous (I assume) Garth Strait:
Modern country music is like fatty comfort food for the brain; it's all about making the listener feel good about their poor and stupid life by reinforcing a false sense of superiority over those who don't share their lifestyle or values.
That's why silly songs about unlikely events that make them feel good about their superstitions (think John Michael Montgomery's "The Little Girl" or Alabama's "Angels Among Us") are so popular.
Or why they like songs like John Conlee's "Common Man" or Aaron Tippin's "Working Man's PhD" or Randy Travis' "Better Class of Losers" that tell them it's not only okay, but it's a virtue to be a poor hourly laborer barely scraping by that lives in a doublewide, because rich and powerful equals evil.
Or that it's only natural to be stupid and irresponsible ("It Ain't No Thinkin' Thing," "Old Enough To Know Better But Still Too Young To Care," most of Hank Williams Jr.)
And the most manipulative, smaltzy songs that give them a good cry ("The Baby," "Almost Home," "What If She's An Angel," "Chain of Love," etc.) are okay no matter how badly written as long as they reinforce the listener's value system of God, Family, and Country. They actually like cliches and trite situations the familiar is comforting and you don't have to actually think about things that way. And if the songs are contradictory or contain illogical mental leaps it's because the belief system they are modeled on does and the songs merely accurately reflect that.
So, when a "God Bless The USA," a "Courtesy of the Red White and Blue" or a "Have You Forgotten?" comes along that reinforces their reflexive patriotism, they love it. It's a bonding thing between them, the artist, and the rest of the audience makes 'em feel like one big happy family united against the outsiders in a semi-religious way. That the song is musically amatureish and lyrically inept is beside the point.
My dislike for "God Bless The USA" is on record, so to speak. And truth be told, I have no particular objection to blatant emotional manipulation. But Nashville is hardly alone in its Us vs. Them insularity; there's a whole anti-Establishment Establishment out there, vending its debatable (though hardly ever debated) message to every genre there is.
And, if nothing else, this justifies someone like Shania who doesn't want to change anyone's hearts or adjust anyone's attitudes: she just wants to lay down some spiffy tunes. As virtues go, it's one of the best, if you ask me.
The Home Front
I hold this truth, spoken by Susanna Cornett, to be self-evident:
Supporting our troops is something every American should be doing, no matter where your stance on the war. They're the ones who make this country safe.
[W]ith the current force structure we have, we rely on National Guardsmen and Reservists to get the job done. The sacrifice common to all soldiers is amplified for these men and women. Our part-time warriors are required not only to maintain a sharp edge of readiness, knowledge, and ability, but to juggle their military service with the pursuit of their careers in the private sector as well. And they're required to walk away from those careers when necessary, to abandon the eternal quest for a better life for themselves and their children for the sake of all of us, and at a moment's notice. They do so willingly, gladly, and without expectation of any real notice or remark. They get the job done calmly, quietly, and without boast; they are deserving not only of our gratitude but of a more concrete recognition of their sacrifice as well, as are all of our men and women in uniform.
That's why. Most of you, I suspect, didn't really need the explanation.
Lessons from life (one in a series)
Do not ask so-called Value-Added Resellers for technical advice. You will have better luck getting diet hints from Krispy Kreme.
25 (or six to four)
What's the appropriate gift for the 25th anniversary?
Right you are: linkage.
Jay Caruso's Daily Rant hosts the 25th edition of Carnival of the Vanities. As always, it's the best of the blogs, compiled and unedited, and this week it's guaranteed CGH-free, since I didn't send anything.
It could happen to you
Well, not to me, anyway, but I still believe in all that hearts-and-flowers stuff.
And here's another reason why.
13 March 2003
Equinox, schmequinox; you know it's spring in Oklahoma when God's own tympani roar out of the sky and the rain falls hard, sometimes in drops that cut through your very skin and sometimes in little clumps of ice the size of a golf ball. Add to this the inevitable electric light show, and you've got a storm to reckon with; the one we got late last night dumped an inch of rain in half an hour, and while I didn't see any ice balls with "Titleist" enameled on their dimpled surface, there were lots of chunks the size of M&M's. Peanut, not plain.
I celebrated the event by verifying that my air conditioner wasn't working something one must do yearly, after all and pulling Silvetti's dance number "Spring Rain" off the shelf where it's sat for the last twelve months or so. You know there's been a shift of some sort when I start playing the disco stuff again.
Guys like him, they have it made
All in the Family creator Norman Lear will collaborate with Trey Parker and Matt Stone on several episodes of their Comedy Central series South Park.
[Insert terlet joke here]
This makes a certain amount of sense; Parker and Stone, like Lear, built their reputations by pushing the envelope without rendering it completely unreadable. And Lear's status as a full-fledged Hollywood liberal obviously didn't bother Matt and Trey, though it's unlikely they'd want to work with the likes of, say, Barbra Streisand.
And mister, we could use a man like Eric Cartman again.
Technically not an indulgence
When I am called to answer for my heinous life, I am going to demand mucho credit for time served based on the events of this day, which combined the worst 42nd and Treadmill has to offer (and believe me, they can dish it out in spades) with a crowning insult from an unexpected place.
I'm stopped at the grade crossing. The lights are flashing and the barriers are down. No train in sight. A few people have slid between the barriers, which I'm not going to do. Finally the lights go off and the barriers rise, and I slowly creep across the tracks. Too slowly; the right-side barrier suddenly falls and catches the roof of the car.
Damage: not a whole lot. Odd pattern of scratches, no scrapes or dents. But Christ on a crutch, what a way to end a perfectly horrible day.
If tomorrow is no better, I have probably just enough drugs on hand to OD.
She slices, she dices
In the absence of anything useful from this corner (like that's news), let me point you to an example of what happens when Susanna Cornett of cut on the bias brings out the industrial-strength Fiskars. To be sheared: a Dowd-y fellow from the Lexington Herald-Leader who (1) really, really doesn't like the President's war plans and (2) mixes metaphors faster than Tom Cruise mixes drinks. You really need to read the whole thing to get the full flavor, but since it's traditional to provide an excerpt, here's her explanation of why France is not our friend:
"Friend" does not mean "someone who makes really good cheese, bizarre yet freakishly pricey clothes and sometimes agrees with us if it benefits him".
I guess she's not going on vacation with Rod Dreher. No matter, though; she's in her element, and the offending scribe from the old weird Herald will never be the same.
Now you know why I fear her so. :)
14 March 2003
One to a customer
The parcel from HMV.com arrived this week, and surprises lay within. Most delightful of these was the complete absence of those irritating top-mounted title strips that never quite peel off the jewel box. (The Canadians have more sense about this, eh?) More offputting was the discovery, inside one of those jewel boxes, of an actual copy-protected disc.
On my desktop, Windows Media Player kicks in when presented with an audio CD, unless something else is set to autorun. (This is the case with so-called "enhanced" CDs that contain extraneous stuff of variable interest.) On Davnet by Damhnait Doyle, that "something else" is a little player utility that claims a bitrate about a third of what would be considered acceptable for ripping. The disc directory structure looks nothing like that of a proper audio CD.
I didn't have any particular plans to copy this disc, but I don't much enjoy having a red flag waved in my face either. And anyway, the history of copy-protection tells me that no scheme remains unbreakable for more than a few moments. So the major issue here is "Does it work properly elsewhere?" It plays in the car just fine. My JBL Harmony complained in spots, but then it's finicky; it's occasionally had difficulties with mundane Time-Life discs.
I suppose the next step is to report this to Fat Chuck's, and to grumble when called upon.
Many have tried, many have failed, to draw plausible parallels between Vietnam and Iraq.
Andrea Harris has succeeded:
It seems, in the end, to have turned out less horrid (at least in Vietnam) than it could have at least, the country is no North Korea but to this day I don't know why every Vietnamese person on earth just doesn't hate our guts. We dropped them like a hot rock and let the commies have them.
We dropped Iraq too, like a hot rock, though this was at the behest of the United Nations, an act which not only left Hitler Jr. in power, but in retrospect made the rest of the world think that we were the United Nations' bitch. No wonder everyone's so upset now. The high-class hooker thinks she can go into business without her pimp now, and you know nothing pisses pimps off more.
Not to mention those who depend on pimps for their livelihood or for their moral guidance.
Next on the to-do list is determining whether we've improved our handling of hot rocks.
It's just a Bill, dammit
Matt at Overtaken by Events has had it up to here with politicians who proclaim their lame little legislation to be a "Bill of Rights For [insert name of group]." While the specific target of his wrath is Charles Schumer's godawful cell-phone proposal, a measure so clueless you'd think it had originated with the junior senator from New York, it's not just Schumer who cheeses off Matt:
I think that calling any pet legislation a "bill of rights" is the absolute height of stupidity and arrogance, regardless of the party proposing it.
Which it is, though I'd suggest that it's even more annoying when the legislation in question seeks to extend government power, as does the Schumer proposal, rather than to limit it, as did the original Bill of Rights.
On the edge of dot.commerce
I never did quite understand the business model at Epinions.com. Paying consumers for their product reviews sounds like a heck of a good idea, but who's going to read them, and where does the money come from?
Well, it obviously came from somewhere, because the company was actually in the black, and now it's being acquired by shopping site DealTime for some unspecified sum. And I have to assume that some of the reviewers were making a few bucks; I wrote a handful of pieces for them (though none lately) and earned a smidgen under $100, which, while it isn't a lot, is more than I'll likely ever make off blogging.
Hmmm. I wonder if there's a shopping blog out there?
15 March 2003
C. D. "Dodd" Harris IV is persuaded that this new abortion bill, hailed as a victory by abortion foes, is actually anything but:
To the extent that the bill really is limited to the vanishingly small percentage of abortions that are both 1) performed using the D&X procedure and 2) "in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce", this law is not a victory; it's an active impediment to putting an end to this inconscionable form of infanticide once and for all. The bill fails to advance the cause either way you slice it. Either it's supposed to encompass all partial-birth abortions (in which case it exceeds Congress' Constitutional authority) or it only applies to abortions which involve a participant crossing state lines or some such (in which case it isn't worth the paper it's printed on).
The President will certainly sign it, and it will almost immediately be challenged in the courts. Dodd thinks if it gets to the Supreme Court, it will be struck down, perhaps for the very reasons he cites. I'm not so sure you can get five of the Supremes to reject it, but the point is this: whether you consider D&X a routine medical procedure or a heinous violation of the Hippocratic Oath, the Congress does not have the Constitutional authority to regulate it. (Which is why, of course, that lame bit about "in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce" was thrown into the bill to begin with.) If they're going to ban these procedures, and I have no doubt that they are it's damnably hard to defend something that gruesome they need to do it on a basis that will pass Constitutional muster: state by state, county by county if necessary, until one of those jurisdictions comes up with a ban that stands up to any challenges. It can be done. Eventually it will be. In the meantime, the current bill may be useful for rallying the troops on either side of the issue, but otherwise it's just window-dressing, and not particularly attractive window-dressing at that.
File under "Duh"
Did you really need to ask?
Your humor is: yellow bile
When yellow bile dominates, an individual is quick to anger. Choleric personalities (cholera meaning yellow as in yellow fever) are often violent and vengeful.
Black Hellebore, which is known for its laxative properties, purges lower tracts of phlegm and choleric humors.
Avoid herbs with a bitter taste, as they are most likely to promote yellow bile.
Choler is hot and dry, begotten of the hotter parts of the chylus, and gathered to the gall. It helps the natural heat and senses.
(Muchas gracias: LAN3 at The Sound and Fury, whose humors are far better balanced than mine.)
And we can't jump, either
Julie Peterson, speaking for the University of Michigan on the value of their (and presumably other) affirmative-action programs, as quoted in the Michigan Daily:
One of the benefits of having significant numbers of minority students on our campus is to break down stereotypes. One of the powerful aspects of learning in a diverse environment is to be able to see differences within groups, and similarities across racial boundaries.
John Rosenberg boils this down to the essentials:
Racial preferences are primarily for the benefit of whites, who...need to be exposed to minorities. They are not justified as a benefit to the preferred minorities, who, as I've pointed out here and elsewhere, would receive the same diversity benefit even if they attended a less selective university.
Thus, when Michigan defends racial preferences, it is essentially arguing that it is not fair to white and Asian students to deprive them of the benefit of being exposed to minority students who would not be admitted but for the racial preferences given them.
"We're not letting you guys in because you need a break; we're letting you guys in because we, personally, are devoid of soul. Uh, Microsoft Word to your mother."
And the Law of Unintended Consequences (a cousin of Murphy's, no doubt) proves itself supreme once more.
Hraka round the clock
Silflay Hraka's Bigwig has been lately plying his Muse with brewskis or something; whatever the circumstances, the result has been some scathingly good tunage. Most recently, he's unveiled a sea chantey for 21st-century pirates (you know who you are) and a not-quite-lighter-than-air followup to Madonna's "Vogue".
16 March 2003
She's so fine, my 419
How come I never think of things like this?
You talkin' to me?
If you've dialed somebody's 800 number, you might be talking to someone in Oklahoma; the state now boasts some seventy call centers which employ 35,000 people. One of the biggest is the AOL facility in Oklahoma City's Shepherd Mall, which has nearly 1500 staffers.
Why here? Three reasons come to mind:
Well, okay, we're not as cheap as Bombay or Manila, but we're marginally easier to understand on the phone.
Endless eggs from a golden turkey
Back around the Dawn of Video, Michael Medved and his brother Harry put together an orange-crate-coffee-table book called The Golden Turkey Awards, which purported to list the Worst Movies of All Time, the worst being Edward D. Wood Jr.'s messterpiece Plan 9 from Outer Space. Now anyone who's seen even one episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 knows that there are films out there that make Plan 9 look like Citizen Kane. Did the Medved brothers do any actual research on this book, or did they choose to rely on shtick and snark?
I can't tell you what Harry was thinking, but it seems to me that Michael's career since then has been nothing but shtick and snark. His "Hollywood hates America" premise is all over the place these days. And were I a failed screenwriter with an axe to grind, I suppose I'd keep the wheels spinning as long as possible myself.
Soundbitten's G. Beato has analyzed the situation, and he has reached the following conclusion:
Medved suffers from an inversion of the "liberal guilt" syndrome, a condition known as "conservative entitlement."
[F]or talking about movies, and not even talking about them in a particularly illuminating or entertaining way, Medved has made a pretty good living and achieved a fair measure of renown. Aware, no doubt, of how arbitrary his success has been, he insists that it is in fact the product of nothing but his "relentless hard work." Feeling restless and uneasy with his privileges, however, he feels compelled to discredit anyone who suggests that there are other factors in life besides "relentless hard work" that contribute to one's success. And thus his relentless attacks on Hollywood liberals.
I don't know how extensible this premise is, but I've always wondered how popular Ann Coulter would have been had she looked more like Golda Meir.
I should live so long
An impatient Tim Blair declared last week:
Women of Enron. Women of Starbucks. Women of Wall Street. Big deal! How long before Playboy hits us with Women of the Blogs?
The likelihood of this, I fear, is very low, but the collectibility of such an issue would be extremely high, and ten years from now the price for a single copy would be somewhere around:
[ ] $4.99
[ ] $20
[ ] $200
[ ] A year's worth of auto insurance in New Jersey
[ ] A week's worth of bombing strikes on Baghdad
[ ] Everyone at eBay could retire on this one commission alone
[ ] A buck times Avogadro's number
Suddenly mere tip jars seem inadequate.
17 March 2003
We want your data
NewsOK.com, the joint venture of The Daily Oklahoman and KWTV, has decided that if The New York Times can do it, so can they. Starting later today, you'll have to do the registration bit to get access to any NewsOK content.
It could be worse. TulsaWorld.com not only demands your demographic information but a monthly check as well.
The international trailer park
There has been much handwringing in the past few weeks over the very idea that the United States might actually seek to remove a dictator without the consent of the international community. I've thought this over, and the more I think about it, the more I think that it's not a community at all.
Seriously. Each of the nations in the United Nations, as you might reasonably expect, is basically looking out for its own interests. If there's any sense of "community" at all, it's found in the temporary alliances among nations who seek to curry favor with, or extort money from, larger nations. The archetype for the leader of this type of community is Tony Soprano. At best, we're in an International Trailer Park: we're stuck next to one another and those damn people around the corner won't pick up their yard and someone else is trying to tap into our utilities. Under the circumstances, it's hard to blame the Bush administration for making noises about packing up and moving out.
"But they're our neighbors!" I hear you cry. Fine. Let them act like it for once.
Spiegel, Chicago 9, chapter 11
Catalog retailer Spiegel besides its own huge fashion book twice yearly, it also produces the Newport News and Eddie Bauer books has filed for bankruptcy protection. Spiegel had been ailing for some time and had been delisted from the Nasdaq last year.
Spiegel's glory days, I suspect, coincided with the golden era of TV game shows, to which they often supplied prizes, always identified as coming from "Spiegel, Chicago 9, Illinois." (The arrival of the ZIP code, which rendered it "Spiegel, Chicago, Illinois 60609," seemed to deflate the announcement somewhat.) Their catalogs grew increasingly stylish, even arty, in recent years, and were sold at newsstands.
The effect the company's reorganization will have on director Spike Jonze, heir to the Spiegel empire, is unclear.
Watching it go
I was squishing my way down to the mailbox when F. (not necessarily her real initial) poked her head out of her door and acknowledged my presence.
In response, I pointed to the big elm tree out front and said, "What do you think? Dead?"
"Think so," she replied.
The big elm tree is about thirty percent less big this spring: a winter ice storm broke away one of the three major limbs, and while everything else is gradually going green well, except the cottonwood trees along 42nd, which are already sprouting Q-tips this tree is still barren, its branches grey, almost black in the March rain.
One does not romanticize trees on the prairie; they are there, and eventually they are not there, and you're supposed to shrug and go on. It's different in the Midwest, as H. Allen Smith once explained:
Midwesterners worship trees. I have frequent guests from the middle states and invariably I find that they venerate trees and that the cutting down of a tree is, to them, close to a mortal sin. I'll be walking around the premises with one of them, and I'll point to a tree and say, "Think I'll get the ax and take that damn tree out." They are horrified. They react as if I'd said, "Think I'll get the ax, since it's a nice day, and do away with my wife and kids."
I looked at the big elm again, and maybe I did, maybe I didn't, see the faintest hint of green along the lower branches, the tender beginnings of a leaf or two or a dozen or a thousand. Then again, I was born in Illinois.
Curiously, so was H. Allen Smith.
The countdown has begun.
"The tyrant will soon be gone," said the President.
One down, too many still to go but it's a start.
18 March 2003
Oklahoma gears up
With war now more or less inevitable, the state legislature has been working up fresh measures to deal with the possibility of terrorist attacks. Each of these bills has passed one house and must be approved by the other to become law.
HB 1467, perhaps the most controversial, empowers the state to quarantine individuals and property exposed to infectious diseases distributed by biological weapons.
SB 509 authorizes the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to investigate acts of terrorism, and instructs the Attorney General to seek judicial authority for electronic surveillance of terrorism suspects.
SB 696 would set up vaccination programs, contingent upon receiving federal funding.
Meanwhile, the state's Congressional delegation (four Republicans and one Democrat in the House, two Republicans in the Senate) has declared itself to be in full support of the war effort.
Did the diplomats fail?
Right on the heels of the President's address last night, ABC-TV ran a special called The Failure of Diplomacy. Chris Anderson at Queen City Soapbox takes issue with the very title:
One reason that I've been at least cautiously supportive of this war is that I never thought it was a diplomatic problem to begin with. To see it in those terms is like expecting a bully to back down because you've demonstrated that he's cruel, or to have the mob quit pouring the concrete around your shoes because what they're doing is, you know, illegal. Diplomacy requires a rational partner that just isn't there.
Diplomacy, according to Will Rogers, is "the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock." Rocks are now in position.
Zero for two
I took a look into alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.1950s this afternoon, and some yobo had hung a recording out on the line with the notation "Someone Make G. W. Bush Listen to this".
The song? Jackson Browne's "Lives in the Balance".
Not what I'd call a 1950s title by any stretch of the imagination. I was going to chide the individual posting the item, but someone beat me to it, opening with the following:
I can't believe how off topic and offensive this is.
Only in Usenet (and ASCII sort routines, I suppose) would "off topic" come before "offensive".
The rest of the response:
There are planes leaving for Paris and Baghdad every day.
Landing at Baghdad may be rather tricky toward the end of the week, but hey, no one said this was going to be easy.
All zings considered
Just in case the events of the week have left you wondering:
Everyone should be assured that NPR is committed to fair, balanced coverage of the news and seeks to serve all its listeners, from the thoughtful progressive activist to the knuckle-dragging hydrophobic red-state cross-burner.
You've just read the smooth, well-modulated words of National Public Radio ombudsman Godfrey Dvorak.
Well, okay, maybe you haven't.
19 March 2003
The lottery hangs on
The Oklahoma lottery remains stubbornly undead. The Senate Finance Committee, not quite along party lines, approved House Bill 1278, which will now be sent to the full Senate. Governor Henry is now officially optimistic about its passage: asked if the bill had enough votes to pass the Senate, he replied, "I think so."
The revised bill contains a provision which will discontinue the lottery should its presence open the legal door for expanded tribal gaming, which at least indicates that its proponents are aware of the Law of Unintended Consequences.
Correctives in Colorado
According to the Rocky Mountain News, two new firearms measures have been signed into law by Colorado Governor Bill Owens.
Senate Bill 24 mandates that carry permits be issued to residents who pass a background check and a gun-safety course. Senate Bill 25 requires that individual cities and counties comply with state gun laws: they can no longer pass more restrictive measures on their own. SB 25 also bans local gun registries.
(Muchas gracias: Kim du Toit, who objects to the News' headline writer's characterization of the measures as a "gun rights expansion". Says du Toit: "[T]hese laws don't expand gun rights, they've restored them, you journalistic morons.")
It's not easy being Greenspan
The Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee is evidently just as confused as the rest of us: while interest rates will remain unchanged for now, the Fed uncharacteristically gave out no hint of what it's thinking or where it's going.
Analysts, of course, rushed to interpret the Fed's lack of guidance.
And even Moore silliness
From Karen Croft's The Fix column at Salon.com:
Michael Moore, whom the NY Post whimsically calls a "wide-bottomed windbag," is pissed at a documentary about birds. He's claiming that Sony Pictures Classics is limiting the screenings of Winged Migration (its entry at the Academy Awards) so that fewer members can vote (the rule says you can't vote in the category unless you've seen all the nominated films). This, says Moore, will favor Sony's film over his own documentary Bowling for Columbine.
And people say (yes, I know you do) I'm paranoid.
I can't wait to see what Rachel Lucas makes of this.
Carnival of the Vanities #26
Twenty-six times that we've all shared,
It seems so distant, twenty-six weeks before,
Twenty-six times (repeat until fade)
Congress is duly notified
The following was dispatched to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and to the President (pro tempore) of the Senate:
Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)
Consistent with section 3(b) of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107-243), and based on information available to me, including that in the enclosed document, I determine that:
(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and
(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.
GEORGE W. BUSH
Fasten your seat belts.
Washington State Grange employees found Jody Mason about 11:45 a.m. Tuesday and asked what he was doing.
He told employees he'd chained himself to the building in civil disobedience Monday night after listening to President Bush's televised ultimatum to Saddam Hussein.
Grange employees explained that he was at the wrong building. The Grange is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that advocates for residents in rural areas.
Grange employees obviously have more patience than I.
20 March 2003
Don't get too comfortable
It's almost a mantra here in Oklahoma. Pleasant weather can change in a matter of minutes into something decidedly unpleasant. Large segments of the state's economy are still commodity-based oil, agriculture, methamphetamine leaving us highly vulnerable to marketplace volatility.
And, though nobody thinks about it very much, we have earthquakes. Nothing that will make a Californian shudder, but the state is riddled with fault lines, and seismic disturbances are even harder to predict than the weather.
Of course, if you don't like it, you can always wait a few minutes.
L'etat, c'est screwed
I think Ken Layne's called this one on the nose:
Nobody will ever take France seriously after this nightmare. Jacko Chirac will go down in history as the French politician who finally annoyed the world enough to have his country forever knocked off the Global Stage. France will continue to be a fine country to visit sort of like a very overpriced Slovenia but that's about it. Its smart, ambitious people will continue to flood the United States, and we will be a better country because of it.
Of course, the pursuit of irrelevance has been a favored pastime among French intellectuals for decades; how surprised should we be that the government has nationalized it?
The regular March Madness
King Kaufman in Salon:
When people are dying half a world away, does it really matter whether Kentucky or Texas wins the national men's basketball title, or whether Sam Houston State or Wagner can pull off a colossal first-round upset out of the 15th seed?
The answer is no, it doesn't matter any more than it ever does, which is not at all.
Except that it does matter. It matters because this is what we do, this is how we live our lives. There are always people dying half a world away and sometimes half a block away, or even closer. There are always serious issues, global, local and personal, that make the problems of an Oklahoma shooting guard with a pulled groin muscle not amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.
Exactly so. Some people get paid to wail and wring their hands, others choose to do it on a volunteer basis; but most of us have lives to lead, and the process of, um, "regime change" does not occupy center stage in those lives. We are a nation, but we're not all that nationalistic.
[T]here's room for point guards as well as paratroopers, tomahawk dunks as well as Tomahawk missiles.
That's how we enjoy playing games under the clouds of war. We fit both into our lives. It's a luxury we have because the war isn't being fought on our turf. We shouldn't take it lightly. But we should take it.
And you know what? When the war was being fought on our turf, in the frightening days of September 2001, we took it then, too. We took care of business, we mourned our losses, and we got back to work and to play. One of the finer aspects of living in the United States of America, I do believe.
Let the games begin.
Delaware's got them, and they've made over $800 million for the state's General Fund.
Oregon's got them too, and they've earned nearly $1.7 billion.
"They" are video lottery terminals, and they won't be coming to Oklahoma; at least some members of the legislature are convinced that if the boxes are allowed in the proposed state lottery, there will be no recourse should tribal-gaming associations choose to use them as well, and the state might not be able to compete with the ubiquitous Indian games. Competition, you know, makes you look like you're serious about this sort of thing, and God forbid we should look like we're serious about gambling.
Oh, well. Kansas doesn't have them either.
21 March 2003
That new retro look
Scads of blogs have moved from manual operation to content management systems such as pMachine and Movable Type. It's harder to find one that's gone the other way, from a CMS to manual maintenance.
Not impossible, though.
(And it looks pretty good so far.)
There's a little convenience store on US 62 heading out of Oklahoma City which always seems to be about 12 to 24 hours ahead of the curve on gas prices. This morning, they cut the low-octane stuff I use to $1.459, down three cents.
Some folks may still be unsure of things Dan Rather's radio commentary this morning went on and on about the grave uncertainty he thinks prevails in Iraq but the guys who have to make a living off the oil fields have clearly made up their minds already.
No shock, but plenty of awe
The definitive editorial cartoon for today, by Jeff Koterba in the Omaha World-Herald.
Thanks to Geitner Simmons, who saw it first.
Gently rolling keyboards
It took a while, but Finding My Way has found its way to my door, and it's a quite reasonable followup. Logan's melodies, as always, are just slightly off center yet relentlessly tuneful, sort of Enya unplugged; indeed, she takes on Enya's "Only Time" on track 5, and without the usual eleventy-one thousand overdubs, it's almost a whole new melody.
This particular instrumental road is not entirely unknown Tim Janis, for one, has found his way down it a few times but it still qualifies as scenic. And maybe that should be the name for this quiet little genre: not boisterous enough for "smooth jazz" and lacking the self-absorption of New Age, "scenic" is perhaps as good a description as any. It's probably not for everyone, but I've always enjoyed the ride.
22 March 2003
Spending more now and enjoying it less
[T]he rate of increase which was running at 8.3% a year in the 80's slowed to about 4.3% a year in the 90's. But this hardly seems tragic.
It's a phenomenon we've seen before. How is it that spending more money less quickly can be equated to spending less money? If it takes me eleven seconds to get from zero to sixty and twenty seconds to get from sixty to ninety, at what point during those 31 seconds did I actually slow down?
You'd expect this from advocates of Really Big Government, who see commitment to be directly proportional to dollars. Curiously, you can also expect it from investors and fund managers, who start to bail out when growth rates start to flatten; it is, after all, their fiduciary responsibility to go for the highest growth rates possible, even if they have to spend their last dime in trade commissions to get them.
Dozer to be expected
To no one's surprise, there's now an entry at petitiononline.com collecting signatures asking for an investigation into the death of Rachel Corrie, last seen meeting the business end of earth-moving equipment in the Gaza Strip.
But what's to investigate? She was playing Human Shield, and this particular role evidently took more out of her than she had intended. Nothing out of the ordinary. If anyone should be investigating this incident, it's the Darwin Awards committee.
Quote of the Weet
Weetabix takes on NASCAR:
I suspect that when the rapture comes and the demons run around looking for people to scoop up and bring to hell, they'll pick out the folks with the Dale Earnhardt memorial stickers in their window first.
Okay, I like NASCAR at least, I like the concept of people racing cars that bear an extraordinarily slight resemblance to vehicles that can be purchased at the local dealership by mere mortals but dammit, I thought it was funny.
What's more, I once defended Thomas Kinkade, and as Weet says,
[W]hy hang a Thomas Kinkade picture in your home when you can letter up a big sign on cardboard that reads "Hi I have no taste of my own. Would you like some delicious aerosol cheese?" and send the money you saved to the Make a Wish Foundation.
(Aside to Kevin McGehee: "Mmmmm...aerosol cheese....")
More things Blix missed
If it's seemed to you, as it has to me, that Baghdad isn't putting up much of a fight, well, their arsenal has been, um, rather inaccurately inventoried of late. To correct this error: from the Home Office, hurriedly being relocated to Mozambique even as we speak, Play One on TV presents the Top Ten Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction.
(Cripes, even I have one of these.)
23 March 2003
Where praise is due
The rationale behind The Command Post is simple enough:
So we can post breaking war news in one convenient place, and not all over the web.
And they're doing a bang-up (sorry about that) job of it, too; at this point, it's more practical, I think, to hit The Command Post before even thinking about those Big News sites. Collective blogs are nothing new, at least on the accelerated time scale to which blogdom is accustomed, but for maximum immediacy with a minimum of froth, there's never been anything quite like The Command Post.
(Update, 4:44 pm: New URL, so new link.)
Andrea Harris explains the thundering cluelessness in and around Tinseltown:
[Hollywood celebrities] actually live in a bell jar surrounded by yes-men and sycophants whose job it is to constantly puff up their egos and the fragile self-esteem that most entertainers seem to have, and to shield their charges from as much of unpleasant real life as possible. Even the lesser Hollywood lights get this sort of treatment, as much as their place on the Hollywood food chain will get them. But strip away all of this and you have a collection of people who are usually no more well-informed (and in many cases, are not capable of being any more well-informed) on politics and other matters outside their sphere than the average cashier at a suburban grocery store.
Perhaps this explains why Michelle Pfeiffer hasn't said anything remarkably dumb: she actually worked as a cashier at a suburban grocery store.
Fax off and die
In 1991, the Congress decided in enacting the Telephone Consumer Protection Act that unsolicited faxes, since they created not only inconvenience but actual cost to the recipients, could legitimately be legislated out of existence. Subsequently, the state of Missouri filed suit against two junk-fax operations, who claimed that their, um, product was protected by the First Amendment. The US District Court hearing the case sided with the faxers; the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has now reversed that decision.
The pertinent part of the ruling:
We conclude that [the TCPA] satisfies the constitutional test for regulation of commercial speech and thus withstands First Amendment scrutiny. There is a substantial governmental interest in protecting the public from the cost shifting and interference caused by unwanted fax advertisements, and the means chosen by Congress to address these harms directly and materially advances the governmental interest. The statute is also narrowly tailored to create a reasonable fit with its objective.
I tend to be somewhat uneasy about government involvement in matters of this sort, but in this case I'll make an exception, since someone calling my fax machine uses my consumables, and not all junk-fax purveyors honor do-not-call requests. I'm hoping that this finding by the 8th Circuit will serve as precedent for a national antispam law: I get maybe two dozen junk faxes a year, but I get three dozen spams every day, and I doubt the government would permit me to kill the miserable SOBs who send them.
A view from the Big Apple
The Blogosphere can seem to be closed and insular at times. The price of admission is low, but the price of acceptance is wildly variable.
Which leads me, occasionally, to wander outside the endless circle of blogrolls and into some unusual alleys. One of the places I've visited on a highly-sporadic basis is Faith's Dollheads Dot Com, and fortunately for me, she's got a new item in her Writing area that struck a few chords. It's yet another look at the antiwar folk, this particular bunch in New York City, but it's written from a perspective that's part irritated, part amused, which always scores points with me. What's more, this is the first attempt I've seen to classify the protesters into subgroups based on perceived motivations, and there are great photographs besides. Read it now before she writes another one and changes the URL. :) (Warning: Some photos may qualify as NSFW.)
Speaking of blogrolls
Mine is getting rather out of hand, but since I do actually read these things, they really need to be there.
Still, a line has to be drawn somewhere, and I can't think of a better place to draw it than where Shanti has drawn hers:
To get on the blogroll, $5US
To get off, $10US
For both together, $12US (best value for money)
The satisfaction of being delinked, priceless!!!
Speaking of Shanti, she's hosting Carnival of the Vanities #27 this week, and I hope I can think of something at least slightly interesting to say in the next couple of days.
Roiling at Reuters
As it happens, the Reuters staff isn't too happy either, what with the CEO drawing a bonus of nearly $1 million while leading the company to a staggering $630 million loss. Management, of course, defends this sort of thing.
24 March 2003
As previously mentioned, it's often possible to see where gas prices are headed by keeping an eye on one particular station out on 62.
This morning, they'd cut the low-suds stuff to $1.389, down seven cents from last report. Higher grades are declining more slowly. Competitors inevitably will follow.
Obligatory Oscar comment
Well, it sounded like Adam Sandler:
"That's it! When we do the sequel to Eight Crazy Nights, we pitch it to the Academy as a documentary about Jewish culture. We can't lose!"
Block that spam!
Phil Goldman says you get too much spam, which is almost certainly true, and he's going to do something about it, for a small fee.
Goldman's new Mailblocks service incorporates a so-called "Challenge/Response" mode. If you're sending mail to a Mailblocks user and you're not in that user's address book, the mail is not delivered until (1) you receive an auto-generated message from Mailblocks and (2) you reply with the authentication code included in that message. Spammers, of course, don't reply, since they sent out a bogus reply address to begin with and therefore will not receive the authentication code. Once in your recipient's address book, you can send mail with no interruptions.
Mailblocks also permits aliases which will allow computer-generated mail that is wanted mailing lists, newsletters, e-commerce confirmations and the like to pass through without challenge.
Undelivered mail is held in "quarantine" for two weeks and then automatically deleted; the recipient can inspect it at any time. Mailblocks supports both POP3 and IMAP, regular email clients or Web-based mail.
This service has only been up and running for a few hours, so I can't tell you how well it works. But for a mere ten bucks a year (twenty-five bucks for four times the storage space), it may be hard to resist.
Darn it, Arnett
Peter Arnett, we are told, is covering the war for MSNBC and for National Geographic Explorer, a narrower range than it sounds. At Regions of Mind, Geitner Simmons reports that Arnett's reportage so far has been, to be charitable, a bit on the soft side:
The overwrought segment last night [on NBC] showed Arnett's crew filming bombing footage from the balcony of a Baghdad hotel, but it didn?t present any actual reporting. It was merely a two-minute puff piece in which viewers were shown Arnett standing in his hotel room as the bombs fell, barking into a satellite phone about how spectacular everything was.
In his voiceover, Arnett talked about how brave his crew was and how smart they had been to chose that particular hotel room, because, he said, it turned out to offer the perfect location for shooting.
He sounded less like a journalist than like Robin Leach at his most insufferable.
It seems they could have saved some money by just hiring Robin Leach. He's got lots of free time these days, and who else can intone "Presidential palace" with such gravitas?
Resetting those hoop dreams
It's bad enough that college athletes so often fail to graduate, but what really bugs Ernie Chambers is knowing that the schools and the NCAA tend to look the other way when it happens. The proposed Chambers Rule would address this situation on a game-by-game basis by requiring that the school with the lower graduation rate spot the team with the higher graduation rate one point for each percentage point difference. An example:
Remember that near-upset of top-rated Georgetown by Princeton in the 1989 NCAA tournament? Had they played by my rules, Georgetown would have been required to spot Princeton about 49 points. Any rule that would have resulted in a John Thompson-led team losing is, in my estimation, a good rule.
I'm not holding my breath waiting for the NCAA to enact the Chambers Rule on a national basis, but I'm willing to bet it would result in more diplomas for these kids in a relatively short time.
25 March 2003
Billie Joe MacAllister, go home
Oklahoma Senate Bill 625, on its way to the House, would provide penalties in some cases, felony penalties for throwing something off a bridge.
Inspiration for the measure was a 2001 incident in which a Duncan resident was badly injured by a bottle of sulfuric acid dropped from an overpass into the windshield of her car.
Susanna Cornett would like you to know that she is excessively cool.
Of course, we knew that.
Passing of a pioneer
When I hit the keyboard on my svelte little Toshiba Satellite, I don't often think about some of the ostensible "portables" that preceded it, although I do remember what it was like to schlep around an Osborne 1, a machine that was considered "portable" if you had forearms like Popeye the Sailor. (At one time I had two of these things, which today would be like having separate anchors for port and starboard.)
Adam Osborne, who came up with the idea for this spiffy (for 1981) box and sold lots of them, died last week in India at 64.
No thanks to the state's ongoing budget woes, the Oklahoma Rainy Day Fund is now approaching the outskirts of Tap City. After drawing $10 million for an emergency funding package for state agencies, there's only about $100,000 left.
The Fund is replenished by a surplus of tax collections over the official revenue estimate at the end of the fiscal year (30 June); if collections are down, there will be no money to stash in the Fund.
Maybe we can try to win some money in the Kansas Lottery.
If you're pondering whether you should order something from ThoseShirts.com, providers of branded blog merchandise hither and yon, allow me to tilt you just slightly towards the Yes column. The Rachel Lucas mugs look absolutely splendid on my shelf next to (and, generally, compared with) my vast quantities of accumulated public-radio detritus. And besides, it puts a few coins in Rachel's too-often-empty pocket, which is also a Good Thing.
Bottom line: Buy something, dammit.
Origin of the term "dirtbag"
Kevin McGehee reports on the environmental anarchist/apparent mental case Craig Rosebraugh, who evidently relishes the thought of devoting his destructiveness, honed by years in the Earth Liberation Front, to a broader cause: ending the war in Iraq by fighting in the streets of America.
No, really. Rosebraugh actually said that.
With massive unrest and even state of emergencies declared in major cities across the country, the U.S. government will be forced to send U.S. troops into the domestic arena thereby taking resources and political focus away from the war.
If some of us get killed, well, hey, that's okay, huh?
McGehee describes Rosebraugh as "an honest-to-goodness dangerous lunatic," which is rather like describing the Mississippi River as "sort of damp." If nothing else, the distribution of Rosebraugh's little screed underscores the preposterous silliness of all those people (especially all those Hollywood people) whining about how their freedom of speech is somehow being trodden upon. Believe me, were there a tenth of the repression they claim, they'd have been duct-taped to a missile and fired into the desert by now.
(Update, 9:40 am, 26 March: Dodd is ahead of the curve on this; he calls Rosebraugh a "domestic terrorist".)
26 March 2003
Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends.
Yes, it's the Carnival of the Vanities, three times three times three, offered unto the world through the good graces of Dancing with Dogs, and if you're still hazy on the concept, it's the weekly roundup of the Best of the Blogs, now entering the second half of its first year, or something like that.
Thou shalt not joke about such
Britain's Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, reports The Register, is quite aware that the Bonsai Kitten site, "dedicated to preserving the long lost art of body modification in housepets," is a gag. Nonetheless, the RSPCA is going ahead with a campaign to get the site closed down anyway.
Did I miss something here? Did Her Majesty's Government convene a Ministry of Acceptable Humour while Tony Blair was busy with this dust-up in the Middle East?
All MMST-y eyed
It's called, blandly enough, the Multi-Mission Sensor Test. What it actually does is simulate a biological or chemical weapon attack to see if existing radar facilities can track the stuff. The fakes vary in composition, but the ones being used here in Oklahoma consist of powdered clay, ethanol and polyethylene glycol. (Oddly enough, these are three things I have had occasion to ingest, and don't ask.)
There had been some concern over the distribution of the fakes, mostly due to the potential for allergic reactions to the original formulations, which contained egg whites and a denatured pesticide.
The Army will spread the fakes over the next couple of weeks to see how well they can be picked up on radar.
Tax that man behind the tree
Actually, they probably do. The Buckeye Institute, which bills itself as "Ohio's Only Free Market Think Tank", has gathered data from the Tax Foundation and assembled a list of tax burdens as a percentage of personal income. Considering state and local taxes only, Oklahoma, at 9.9 percent, ranks 33rd; factoring in Federal taxes, we pay 29 percent, next to the bottom.
Maine residents pay the highest state and local taxes: 12.8 percent, about twice that of the 6.3 percent paid by Alaskans. Alaska, at 27 percent, also occupies the bottom position when you include Federal taxes; the hardest-hit of the states is Connecticut, at 36.7.
The District of Columbia, be it noted, pays higher local and Federal taxes than any state.
(Via Hit & Run)
A nice cup of 404
This has to be maddening.
Your friend and mine, Sgt. Stryker, got a namecheck and a screenshot at CNN.com today, which generated traffic far beyond any conceivable Instalanche, so much that it melted down the server into a heap of smoldering slag. They're back up, after the host moved the site to another machine, but I shudder to think what his bandwidth bill is going to look like next month.
Come to think of it, I shudder to think what mine is going to look like if this site ever becomes popular; about a hundred of the Sarge's visitors wended their way down his blogroll and wound up over here, which inflated my daily totals by twenty or twenty-five percent. Then again, I can remember when I could inflate my daily totals by twenty percent by hitting the Refresh button once.
27 March 2003
Technically, it blows
Any hawk making lazy circles in the sky today is likely to get caught in a downdraft and end up on somebody's windshield. Winds are running 30, 35 mph on a consistent basis, and will occasionally peak around 45 to 50. Great fun. The lawn-furniture alert has already been issued.
And then suddenly these winds, blowing from the south all day, will start blowing from the north and the temperature will drop from about 80 this afternoon to maybe 38 by tomorrow morning.
In other words, nothing especially unusual for March in Oklahoma.
Gene Stipe, having resigned his seat in the state Senate, has been formally charged with conspiracy and perjury in connection with the 1998 Congressional campaign of Stipe protégé Walt Roberts. No court hearing date has been set, and the charges were filed by information rather than through a grand-jury indictment, which suggests that a plea bargain has already been struck.
It's hard to imagine an Oklahoma legislature without Gene Stipe he first was elected to the Senate in 1956 but somehow I think we'll manage.
Microsoft's latest Security Bulletin discloses a hitherto-undetected flaw in Windows NT 4.0, 2000 and XP which affects the Remote Procedure Call Endpoint Mapper, usually accessible via port 135. While the flaw does not allow an attacker to gain access to the machine, it is susceptible to the dreaded Denial of Service attack.
What's interesting about this is that while Microsoft has rushed out patches for 2000 and for XP, there will be no patch for NT 4.0. Redmond explains:
Although Windows NT 4.0 is affected by this vulnerability, Microsoft cannot provide a patch for this vulnerabilty for Windows NT 4.0. The architectural limitations of Windows NT 4.0 do not support the changes that would be required to remove this vulnerability.
Instead, they suggest, you enable your firewall to block port 135. (What? You don't have a firewall? What's wrong with you?)
This is, I think, the first time that Microsoft has actually admitted they couldn't fix something.
Strike a pose, there's nothing to it
In an interview conducted by Q magazine, Madonna complained that the world of pop music had become "homogenised" and grumbled about "Svengalis holding talent searches" who dominate said world.
In a related story, Bowling for Columbine writer/director Michael Moore complained about a worldwide surplus of loud, chunky white guys in baseball caps.
Feel the benefit
Ernie Chambers found this on a listserv:
"[H]as there been any discussion about how [Social Network Analysis] may be applied in ways that may have little or no benefit either to the study population or society as a whole? For example, commercial marketers are understandably very interested in this research to improve opportunities to reach potential consumers. But what if this knowledge and technology is used to maximize exploitation, such as selling more things to poor people?"
Mr Chambers answers this way:
If you sell enough stuff to poor people, they won't be poor any more. I arrive at this conclusion based on the common-sense definition of poor, which is roughly: an absence of stuff.
This is not, apparently, the definition being used by the tender-hearted soul on the listserv.
He was using the Leftist intellectual's definition of poor, which is: "someone too stupid to stop buying potato chips and save his money, and who therefore needs 47 different federal programs and massive income redistribution in order to comfortably eat himself into early death from heart disease." The charge to the academic in this field becomes, then, restricting the holy body of knowledge to the worthy saints, who will only use it for good, like studies of the networking activities of one-armed lesbian pacifists, and not for evil, like analysis of how to streamline junk mail so that those "how to grow it" emails only go to people with small penises, instead of me.
While I'm inclined to accept this description as accurate on the face of it, I have one question:
Can I really get a Federal subsidy for a bag of Wavy Lay's?
And as to the question of spam, this entry from The BradLands says it all:
If I had responded to all of the spam e-mail I received in the past two weeks, I would have 350,000 free business cards, 250 miniature radio-controlled toy cars, and would have netted approximately $7.4 billion from assisting various deposed heads of state in securing their rightful fortunes.
Also, my penis would be 56 inches long and I would have seen more than a lifetime's worth of vaginas and boobies.
Not my lifetime, I hope.
28 March 2003
The sorted details
Keeping track of any music collection big enough to be called a "collection" can be a genuine pain, as Lileks notes:
Classical CDs are particularly hard to sort, since the track name is usually a reference to the tempo, not the title. I have spent no small amount of time stitching sundered movements together, and renaming everything so I know what it is when I see its name in the playlist window. "Movement II: 3 Bertwig Achtung (Adagio) Opus 23" doesn't really narrow it down.
And that's just the CDs. Toss MP3s into the mix, and things get much more complicated:
I went through allll the MP3s to impose a consistent naming regime on the tracks, so each has the same format - Symphony No. X, Movement # X. Thank God few but Gustav and Anton sketched out anything beyond a 10th movement, and thank God I don't have the collected works of Alan Hovhaness, who I believe wrote about 3,035 symphonies.
Well, sixty-seven, actually, not counting a handful he'd just as soon you didn't include in the total. Haydn, for his part, put out 104. Where it gets really tricky, though, is the symphonic catalog of Bruckner, which contains such anomalies as Symphony No. 0 (which, chronologically, comes after No. 1) and the early "Study" Symphony, which some list as No. 00.
At which time our frustrated collector throws his hands into the air and his portable MP3 player into the trash and immerses himself in the consumption of blessed ethanol in 80, 86 and 101 proof not necessarily in that order.
Coalition of the yawning
The Dynamic Duo (well, Matt, anyway) at Blogmosis issued this call for (in)action:
[A]n entire movement of bored bloggers who can't or don't wish to keep up with the onslaught of war coverage and or otherwise just sick of all of this ridiculous caterwauling. I can't fathom how it would ever work, because I myself have become fixated on criticising behavior I witness that in my opinion is ridiculous. But someone smarter than I should be able to get this Bored Bloggers movement off the ground.
I'll win no prizes for stunning (maybe stunted) brilliance, but I've been providing enervative bloggage for years now. Ask any of my nine regular readers, if they're still awake.
You gotta have Hart
Somewhere at an angle to his Presidential aspirations, Gary Hart is pushing a "primary of ideas", a discussion of the issues without any of that tedious political-campaign stuff. I don't know how well this will work, but I have to give the man credit for having the temerity to take on the Blogosphere on its own turf.
That's right, folks. Gary Hart has a blog. Unsurprisingly, his blogroll tilts a tad to the left, and there's already talk of an Official Comments Policy, but you gotta start somewhere. Make a note on your Trend-O-Meter and see if anyone else with his hat in the ring follows suit.
(Via The Professor)
Watching the wheels
John Lennon, says Yoko Ono, would have opposed the war in Iraq had he lived.
The SurlyPundit isn't so sure:
[F]or a man...prone to sudden and radical changes of mind and heart, twenty-three years is an eternity....9/11 might well have shaken him enough to realise that war is sometimes the only answer available.
Or not. I think it really is impossible to say, and Yoko shouldn't imply otherwise for the benefit of her own agenda. Her remarks about John would only hold true if he had been cryogenically frozen in the early seventies.
One thing is for sure: Lennon in high dudgeon (not to be confused with Gus Dudgeon, who produced Elton John's early hits) was almost scary to behold, whether the object of his wrath was the Maharishi ("Sexy Sadie"), McCartney ("How Do You Sleep?"), or us effing peasants ("Working Class Hero"). I suspect he still would have had little use for the sort of antiwar type that in earlier years would have been carrying pictures of Chairman Mao.
Forget it, Jake. It's Tinseltown.
All through this RoadSassy piece, one part nostalgia for the Hollywood that was and one part nausea at the Hollywood that is, you can hear the cry of the disillusioned lover, never denying the heartbreak, but not willing to go through that sort of thing ever again. Who knew the stuff our dreams were made of was just, well, stuff?
[U]nder star bedazzled skies, convertible tops down, nestled in the arm of our nervous dates, we lifted our face to the silver screen and allowed you to take us into your magic. We trusted you with the transport of our hearts and desires, we permitted you use of our sacred thoughts and our most eviscerating pains, we trusted you to pretend to be us, up there on that screen. We trusted you to safeguard the holy drama of the human condition, and to speak our stories, our lives well, with eloquence and passion, dignity and grace.. We trusted you to know us, because you were messengers from our finer selves, to the lands our dreams would never ever quite take us to. So you were our emissaries and you, for a very long time, honored yourselves, and us, by seeking the highest and best there is to being human and saying. "Hey guys.....you can be all that you dream. The human condition is sublime and we are so much a graced and wonderful people. We will share with you how to dream your highest dreams." The American dreams.
And we believed, and we never, ever thought to guard against you.
Why would we? We were on that silver screen, our hopes and our aspirations, larger than life; we were larger than life. Many years passed before it became necessary to cut us down to size.
Read the whole thing. Then drive out toward the local dodecaplex and then keep driving.
29 March 2003
Doing the math
Down here way below the A-list, even the B-list, it is an article of faith that we scramble for every reader we get. Still, I had no idea it had gotten this bad.
In a wholly-unrelated posting, DavidMSC this week mentioned his two regular readers.
Since David and I read each other's blogs on something resembling a regular basis, subtract 1 from each statement, and we're left with an 8:1 ratio. And try as I may, rationalize it as I will, I cannot bring myself to believe I have eight times David's readership.
Monday night, the Oklahoma City Public Schools board is expected to approve a plan to close seven facilities at the end of this school year. Six of the seven schools would have been closed by 2006 under the city's MAPS for Kids master plan, but closing them early is expected to save $1.9 million for the beleaguered district.
State Representative Opio Toure, complaining that the closures unfairly target poor and minority students, has suggested that parents keep their children home one day in protest. Toure's Coalition for Educational Progress and Equity will meet today to discuss possible options.
In the Oklahoma City Public Schools generally, it seems to me, almost any school closing will impact minority students: more than a third of the district's students are black, another quarter are Latino, and there are substantial Asian and Amerindian contingents as well. Still, under the MAPS for Kids plan, new schools would be in place at approximately the same time the old ones were to be closed; under this accelerated consolidation, there will be a handful of schools temporarily operating with twice as many students.
10 PRINT "HELLO WORLD"
Please welcome Laney Paige Marie Hill, about six pounds, about nineteen inches, and about two and a half weeks early, to the Big Wide Occasionally-Wonderful World.
Photographs when I can get them. For now, Russ and Alicia are getting some sleep, and it's a good thing, because they won't be getting much sleep for the next year or so.
Please amend all previous utterances of "But I'm too young to have a grandchild" to read "But I'm too young to have two grandchildren."
Waiting for the second boot to drop
I stay well away from the grapevine at 42nd and Treadmill, inasmuch as (1) usually the items borne thereupon are of marginal interest at best and (2) it's not above some of the more cunning types to use it as a channel for disinformation.
So I managed to look seriously blank earlier this week when someone barged into my office bearing a huge "Kick Saddam's Ass" poster. Explanation: staffer serving as Reservist had been advised that her unit was being deployed at 1300 hours on Friday, and the very least we could do was give her a proper sendoff. "Absolutely," I said, scrawling a pleasantry on the side of the poster.
I asked her about it later; she said that she'd also served in the Gulf in 1991, and quipped, "Every time there's a Bush in the White House, I end up in the Middle East." I promised to do what I could to thwart the Presidential ambitions of George P. and Jeb.
Comes Friday morning and she's still at work and out of uniform. Change of orders: she's going for a training period, but she's not being sent Over There. Yet.
One thing of which I am convinced, however: if by chance Saddam still has an ass to kick when she finally arrives, it will not remain unkicked for long.
30 March 2003
Skirvin: a long, strange trip
Opened in 1911, four years after statehood, Bill Skirvin's hotel in downtown Oklahoma City was the unquestioned social center of town. By 1930, with an oil boom underway, the Skirvin had grown to 14 stories and 525 rooms. Bill Skirvin died in 1944, his children decided to sell the property, and while the hotel did well for the next two decades, an ill-advised search-and-destroy urban-renewal program in the Sixties caused everything downtown to suffer, and by 1969 the Skirvin could keep only a third of its rooms filled.
Things picked up in the 1980s, as urban renewal took a new form: restoration and preservation of the remaining historic structures downtown. The Skirvin was now on the National Register of Historic Places. Still, a succession of managements could not make it profitable, and after Oklahoma City government decided that it was worth saving, the city last year acquired the property from its most recent owners for just under $3 million.
Tomorrow, the city will receive proposals for redevelopment of the Skirvin. And they're plenty serious: as the committee report says, "Saving the Skirvin is not about saving a bad real estate deal; it is about investing in the future and supporting continuing economic growth in the downtown district." With Bricktown, just to the east of downtown, still growing, those extra hotel rooms will definitely come in handy. The city is willing to entertain the idea of letting the Skirvin go condo, but will draw the line at converting it to office space: there's too much of that going begging already.
Howard be thy name
Having given sort of a plug to the Gary Hart blog, I figured the very least I could do was to check out the competition, and so I Googled up the Howard Dean campaign, which at least is an official campaign at this point, to see the comparative offerings.
And there are a couple of good Dean-related blogs, one by Rick Klau, the other a collective including, among others, the reliable Aziz Poonwalla. The Dean campaign itself has a Call to Action blog, but it's your basic minimal-effort Blogspot template (although it links a banner off the main Dean campaign site) and not especially interesting unless you're working on the Dean campaign yourself.
I'm going to have to watch that phrase "Googled up". It's capitalized good, like a trademark should, but verbing nouns (such as, um, "verb") has problems of its own:
"Governor, what do you think went wrong with your campaign?"
"Somewhere down the line, it got all Googled up."
Of course, I'd probably have the same issues with those yahoos at Yahoo!
Ne plus ultra
Sooner or later, someone always asks: "So who's the best actual writer with a blog?"
Easy enough. I point to James Lileks, and quickly comes the demurral: "But he's, like, a professional."
In that case, the question becomes: "Who's the best writer with a blog who also has a non-writing day job?"
Still easy enough. This time I point to Bill Whittle.
It's an honor to be on the same continent as these guys.
I was just following orders
In Minnesota, warning signs are yellow, and their meaning is clear:
You are responsible to recognize and react correctly.
So that's what Steve Gigl did. I think.
Nominee for the Junior Realists League
As we all know, teenage girls fill up their sites with boys, music, complaints about the parental units, boys, school happenings, angst, blissful innocence, and boys.
Well, sometimes. I offer the following item (no discernible permalinks, scroll to 20 March) from Jillian, almost sixteen, in some small Indiana town:
[Y]ou can't deal with someone like Saddam by not doing anything, slapping him on the wrist, and he'll promise to be a good little boy and change his ways. It would be nice if it was that simple, but the world does not work like that. People are living in a dream world thinking that everyone is going to be peaceful and easy to get along with. Yeah, war sucks, but which is worse: a smaller amount of lives lost for a just cause or even more death if we let Saddam persecute his people and one day use his weapons of mass destruction on any country he chooses? Besides, Bush and the military leaders [know] what they're doing; we're not just bombing the hell out of Iraq and killing all kinds of Iraqi citizens. It's definitely more planned out and complicated than that. Bush is going to make this war end as quickly and with as little casualties as possible. It's a small price to pay for the sake of who knows how many lives in the future. What really saddens me is that here everyone is bitching about how stupid Bush is and how the war is stupid, whenever Bush is doing the best he can to protect these very same people, America, etc. At least give the man a little more respect than that.
Apart from the obvious question there are standard antiwar types even in small Indiana towns? there's a definite sense of "I am so tired of having to explain this to you over and over and over." It's not a feeling you have to be almost sixteen to understand or appreciate, either.
31 March 2003
Oh, the caninity!
Formally, he's Yakee A Dangerous Liaison, but everyone knows him as Danny. He's a three-year-old Pekingese, and he beat out twenty-two thousand competitors to win the top prize at Britain's Crufts dog show, the world's largest. (By comparison, the Westminster Kennel Club show in New York is limited to 2500 dogs.)
Now there's a challenge to his title. The Times is reporting that Danny had had surgical alterations: a facelift. Danny's owners deny any such thing ever took place, but the Kennel Club will investigate.
(A facelift? On a Pekingese? The mind boggles.)
The last great boy band
It's easy, I suppose, to mock the Bay City Rollers, but it's hard to do it with any degree of meanspiritedness. Not even Nick Lowe, who assumed the nom de disque of "Tartan Horde" for his Roller-fan sendup, was able to assume the full Abominable Showman smirk: "Rollers Show" came out wistful, even kindly.
Besides, if you subtract the screaming teenage girls and why would you? you're left with the fact that the Rollers were a pretty damn decent band. The ever-eclectic DragonAttack analyzes the first Roller LP, and finds it solid:
A problem with most teen idol records is that they contain about three hit singles, and between six and eight songs of pure crap to round out the album. Not so with the Bay City Rollers. There is not one song that needs to be skipped. It is one pop gem after another.
Try that with the Backsync Boys, or whatever the hell they were called.
While the other guy Blixed
Brigadier General Yossi Kupperwasser of Israeli intelligence has suggested, in a statement to the Knesset, that Iraq may have stashed weapons in Syria, which would explain at least some of the failure of UN weapons inspectors to find them.
According to the general, these weapons might be made available to Hezbollah for use against Israel, although he said the likelihood of a direct attack on Israel remained low.
Forward to oblivion
The town of Hall Park, once on the edge of, now surrounded by, the city of Norman, is contemplating dissolving itself. Tomorrow town voters will face a measure to disincorporate, which requires a simple majority provided that 40 percent of the town's registered voters cast ballots.
Norman has already moved to annex the 1.13 square miles of Hall Park, contingent upon the passage of the ballot measure, effective 1 October. Residents would be billed $4200 per household for upgrading to Norman city services.
I'm not sure what I think about this. When I think "Hall Park", I tend to think "speed trap", but then I've never been ticketed by the town. Maybe the 1100 or so residents will be better off in Norman; Town Manager Susan Boehrer favors the measure, saying "It's the best long-term solution, the best economical solution and the solution that's best for the environment."
Say goodbye, Peter
Magazine lead time can be a genuine pain in the drain, but occasionally it accidentally generates something remarkable, and far be it from me to refrain from remarks.
J. Max Robins does a weekly piece for TV Guide called "The Robins Report", and in issue #2610 (dated 5-11 April), he has an interview with "the comeback kid in Iraq," none other than the recently-canned Peter Arnett.
And some of what Arnett said might bug you almost as much as it did me. After CNN did not renew his contract:
"I was furious with Ted Turner and Tom Johnson when they threw me to the wolves after I made them billions risking my life to cover the first Gulf War. I was resentful and wanted a way to redeem myself. Now [Turner and Johnson] are gone, the Iraqis have thrown the CNN crew out of Baghdad, and I'm still here. Any satisfaction in that? Ha, ha, ha, ha."
Why was Arnett allowed to remain? He explains:
"The Iraqis have let me stay because they see me as a fellow warrior. They know I might not agree with them, but I've got their respect."
You know, Pete, this might not have been the most useful admission right about now.
This particular edition of "The Robins Report" isn't up on the TV Guide Web site as of this writing, and given the events of the last couple of days, it may never be. All the more reason to preserve it here, I'd say. It's not like they're going to reprint it in the Mirror.
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