1 December 2004
Some green with that apple?
The National Education Association has released its annual teacher-salary survey, and once again Oklahoma is near the bottom: 50th, at $35,061. Only South Dakota ranks lower.
These figures do not take into account recent legislative moves to increase teacher pay and benefits, which will not be reflected in the NEA's numbers for at least a year.
The connection between teacher salaries and quality of education is at best somewhat frayed: the District of Columbia, ranked at a lofty #3 by NEA at $57,009, has some major problems in its schools. And Oklahoma's low cost of living, relatively low taxes, and (once fully in place) competitive benefits package tend to offset the low salary numbers.
Still, it is true that many teachers have left the classroom for greener pastures, and retention of experienced teachers is certainly a worthy goal. NEA's focus on salaries is to be expected it is a labor union, after all but last I looked, about 50 percent of teachers were paid salaries below the national median, and this isn't going to change no matter how many surveys get published.
A step beyond Ludovico's Technique
In the Netherlands, physician-assisted suicide is legal: a person of sound mind in extreme pain may request a lethal dose of sedatives.
Now the Groningen University Hospital has proposed guidelines for ending the lives of newborns, persons in irreversible coma, and other individuals who cannot make the decision for themselves. Scary enough and that's before the revelation that they've already begun implementing the procedure on their own.
The Groningen Protocol, estimates the hospital, might apply to as many as ten persons per year; in 2003, Groningen reported the euthanizing of four infants.
The idea of legalizing the medical execution there's no point in mincing words of "people with no free will," at the discretion of their attending physicians and a supposedly independent panel of other physicians, should be shot down at once.
Are there no exceptions?
It would be lunacy malevolent lunacy to premise a law allowing doctors to make such decisions on a handful of hard cases. Far better that the practice remain formally illegal under all circumstances, and trust juries to recognize and allow the exceptions as they arise.
I can bring myself to support doctor-assisted suicide, generally: it is, after all, a choice made by the patient. But where the patient can't make that choice? This is way too Clockwork Orange for me.
Speaking of "choice," the very word lately has been imbued with political implications. What would a "pro-choice" organization think about the Groningen Protocol? Dawn Eden suspects they'd like it just fine.
One hundred fifteen
Ashish's Niti hosts Carnival of the Vanities #115, your weekly one-stop compendium of bloggy goodness.
In Sanskrit, a "niti," says Ashish Hanwadikar, incorporates policy, strategy, and vision which, if you think about it, is quite a proper mission for a blogger.
Half the gas
Fred Alger Management, a New York-based financial-services operation, has sent a letter to the White House containing a plan which, it says, will cut gasoline consumption in half over the next ten years.
The highlight, if that's the word, of the Alger plan is a $1000 tax on any vehicle that doesn't get 30 mpg. Unlike current Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, this applies not only to new vehicles, but to vehicles already in use: my 25-mpg sedan and someone else's 12-mpg truck will each be assessed a tax of $1000. And that's for the first year: the tax goes up $500 a year thereafter.
In addition to all this gas we won't be buying, says Alger, we'll get a bump in the GDP from all the new fuel-efficient cars we'll have to buy to avoid the tax.
Something is a trifle askew here, and I think it's Alger's assumptions. In an Alger mid-November market commentary [link requires Adobe Reader], I found this paragraph:
Take Toyota, the Japanese auto giant that had been languishing until its new hybrid vehicle, the Prius, began to attract customers and attention. Now, in California alone, there is as much as a six-month waiting list for the Prius, and Toyota expects to up production to 100,000 units next year. It is no coincidence that Toyota is also seeing a surge in global demand and record profits, aided by the fact that hybrids command in the neighborhood of $4000 more than the equivalent non-hybrid vehicle. Toyota's management recognized a need early, and produced a viable, attractive, and innovative product to meet consumer needs. Now, Ford, Honda, and other rivals are scrambling to catch up.
Toyota has hardly been "languishing"; in the past few years they've scrambled past Ford to become the world's second-largest automaker. And the contribution of the Prius to Toyota's profits so far has been negligible: the first couple of model years were sold at a loss to establish the brand, and the price to dealers has not risen substantially since that time though dealers are happy to add their own markups to the factory sticker, what with that waiting list and all. Further, there is no non-hybrid Prius to compare on price, making that "neighborhood of $4000" rather illusory: Honda and Ford get about $3400 extra for their hybrids, and Ford has to pay some of that money to Toyota, some of whose technology they licensed for the Escape hybrid.
Meanwhile, the Autoextremist wonders:
Not a popular proposal for the auto companies, at least on the surface, and there are obviously naive assumptions throughout the proposal, but it does raise some interesting questions, as in, 1. Why does a proposal of this nature have to come from a financial company, instead of from people who are actively involved in the automobile business and heavily invested in its future?, and 2. Why isn't the auto industry coming up with an energy independence recommendation of its own, before someone does it for them?
Certainly "energy independence," as envisioned by Alger, is a Good Thing. But I can't help but wonder if we couldn't get most of the same results with a lot less hassle by simply increasing the gasoline tax by a buck or so.
Dean Robbins, reviewing television for the Oklahoma Gazette, on Tom Brokaw's swan song tonight:
In a time when men tend to hang onto power until the Grim Reaper pries it away from them (see Strom Thurmond, William Rehnquist, Yasser Arafat, etc.), it's encouraging to see Brokaw voluntarily step down at the tender age of 64.
Lord knows Peter Jennings won't be so graceful. The only way ABC will get him off the air is to sneak the words I QUIT, EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY onto the Teleprompter as he's reading the news.
This might have made Quote of the Week, had the Chief Justice been, um, you know, actually dead.
2 December 2004
Yeah, yeah, yeah
[I]f you're tossing out the Beatles as a "Force of Nature", isn't that the same as saying that no musical group can attain such heights? I'm not sure I buy that. Who would be more deserving of such reverence?
Yes, they made some forgettable and even ugly music. The "White Album" is mostly unlistenable; Sgt. Pepper is rather pretentious; various other stuff along the way does not wear well, at least to my ears.
But the Beatles basically remade popular music in their image. While I'm not crazy about some of the directions they took, especially later and especially John, I still marvel at the musical perfection of Rubber Soul and A Hard Day's Night. Those two albums alone are among the greatest rock/pop records ever made by anybody; not a single note wasted. Throw in Abbey Road and Revolver, and you have a body of work that still sounds largely fresh and vibrant today. Most artists/bands would kill to make one record in their career as good as any of those four.
I'd argue that "Run For Your Life," the last track on Rubber Soul, is a whole lot of wasted notes, but I have to give JB credit for knowing where the good stuff is (hint: it ain't Sgt. Pepper's).
The Beatles may have been pop music's ultimate syncretists: almost anything they ever heard, they found a way to work into their records. I mean, who else would cover both Buck Owens and Larry Williams on the same album?* It's probably no surprise that they found themselves with a kitchen-sink approach, and no surprise that they eventually felt compelled to get back to where they once belonged.
And while I remain unconvinced that the Beatles were some sort of avatars of a new age or anything like that, their place in the Pantheon of Pop was secured a long time ago; I'd have let them in on the basis of "I Saw Her Standing There," the very first track on their first British LP (and the B-side of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" in the States), a song that rocks as hard as Chuck Berry think of it as "Sweet Little Sixteen" one year older yet which clearly points toward the melodic wonders to come.
* By which is meant, the British version of Help! The American Help! contains neither of these tracks: "Dizzy Miss Lizzie" was on Beatles VI Stateside, and "Act Naturally" was held over until Yesterday and Today.
Instead of stuffing
You think you've seen a mass liberal hissy-fit in the wake of the 2004 election? This is nothing. Should Condoleezza Rice change her mind and run for president in 2008, I predict that 50% of the black vote will go toward the Republican ticket. And that's a conservative estimate. Pun intended.
Dr Rice has always said she wasn't interested in the top job, but would she take #2 if it were offered? Would a [fill in name of GOP Presidential wannabe]/Rice ticket draw somewhere between 11 percent and fifty?
And if it would, does it really matter at all whom the Democrats nominate?
Paging Hans Blix
(You just know Wal-Mart has to have something to do with this.)
I'm getting Hummers for Christmas
Well, actually, no, I'm not. But the annual gift catalog from Kambers, the first one I've received since the death of Eleanor Kamber two years ago, features two pages of Hummer-branded stuff, including a pewter-and-zinc windshield scraper for a mere thirty-five bucks. There's also a CD organizer that fastens to the visor, in case your discs aren't getting enough sun, for $25. All these things, produced under license from General Motors by a New York-based importer, are certainly justifiable as gifts, though I can't help but wonder if they could sell that CD case for $17.95 with a Hyundai label.
3 December 2004
Well, I just finished going through the 2004 Weblog Awards, and I am pleased to note that there was at least one blog in each category that I had actually read and could vote for with a clear conscience.
I am somewhat bemused by the fact that only about half a dozen of my choices turned out to be leading their categories.
And I would like to thank everyone who did not nominate me, which is everyone: considering how badly I lost last year, I was grateful not to see my name on the ballot.
Double unsecret probation
[T]he university will hire a licensed alcohol counselor. Let's see ... 27,000 enrolled binge-drinkers vs. one counselor ... that's about adequate for mass rehabilitation (insert sarcasm graphic).
Seventy-seven percent of respondents to NewsOK's recent poll agreed with OU's new policies banning campus drinking, which means exactly squat statistically since we all know college students don't vote.
There is good news for those pre-inebriated, orange-toting Sooner faithful football fans campus parking lots have been designated "Safe Havens of Intoxication" as the new alcohol ban won't affect tailgating. (Your parents' tuition dollars at work!)
Then again, this is the state that gave us "non-intoxicating" 3.2 beer.
No, no, close that other window
I don't often promote other blogs in my posts because I am vain and greedy and want all the traffic for myself. Why in the hell would I ask you all to leave my beautiful site, with prose so magical they make grown men weep...a talent so incredible, all the girls are jealous of me. Why on G-d's green earth would I do that? I don't.
My prose occasionally make me weep, but that's another issue entirely.
Not exactly navel-gazing
Still, give the Denton Empire credit for knowing the ins and outs of the Blogosphere:
It just goes to show, blogging's all about looking into your own ass. But be careful: as we dimly recall Nietzsche having said, "When you look long into an abyss, the abyss looks into you."
For remembering that quote, I can forgive Gawker for being slightly, um, behind.
Putting the wind farm to work
Friends and neighbors and total strangers and whatnot joined in the effort to get my Christmas decorations up today, and a considerable effort it was. (My own input was limited to reorienting a few things, removing a few things that came off as just too overwrought, and debris disposal.)
I would have been happier had this happened next Friday, after the electric meter is read, but what the hell. And Michele, and by extension presumably Lileks as well, will be happy to hear that there are at least four colors of lights involved.
Thanks, guys (and gals, as appropriate).
4 December 2004
This past year's Senate Bill 1529, passed by the legislature in March and signed by Governor Henry in April, permits municipal employees of cities with populations of 35,000 or more to unionize. (This would include Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Norman, Lawton, Broken Arrow, Edmond, Midwest City, Enid, Moore, Stillwater, Muskogee, and maybe Bartlesville, which recorded 34,748 at the last Census; it does not cover firefighters and police, who have their own collective-bargaining rules.)
The law took effect on the first of November. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees almost immediately announced that they would seek to organize Lawton, Enid, Bartlesville and Moore city employees, and employees of the Oklahoma City Zoo Trust, who are not covered under the agreement between Oklahoma City and AFSCME Local 2406.
Since then, Enid has filed suit to block the implementation of the law, arguing that it's unconstitutional because of that population standard; Lawton City Council has authorized a suit; Bartlesville, on that population cusp, would like to be excluded; and the Zoo Trust has won a restraining order against AFSCME until such time as the District Court decides whether its employees meet the definition of "municipal employees" in the new law.
The new House will be under Republican control, and Marian Cooksey (R-Edmond), in what seems to be her first official action, has introduced House Bill 1002, which would repeal the measure outright.
Bank Leumi, the leading bank in Israel, is working with Visa and MasterCard to produce a credit card that will not function on the Sabbath, for use six days a week by Jews who strictly observe the day of rest.
There is no indication whether Bank Leumi's US branch, which already offers a Visa card, will make the new card available to its Orthodox customers.
Been there, shrieked at that
Spoons goes to the MRI, and I get the impression he'd rather not do it again.
Inclusive, not conclusive
[T]here is no higher goal in life than to get laid without facing the wrath of Christendom Assembled a notion which persists in the American left to this very day.
This is where everyone goes off the rails, because modern Western society has been obsessed for decades now with the notion that the sex impulse in all its manifestations and above and separate from the reason for its existence is the All Good and must in no way be thwarted or denied.
A deity in its own right, even. With its own consequences:
As C.S. Lewis pointed out in, I think, Mere Christianity, when you worship anything other than the actual God that thing, no matter how good it may have been in the beginning, becomes a demon. It seems to me that whether you believe in God or not this observation is as true of human psychology as anything.
And this is why, she says, that television spot for the United Church of Christ is not likely to produce any worthwhile results:
One of the basic tenets of Christianity is that one must actually stop sinning, not that one must have never sinned before being allowed to be a Christian. Of course gay people can go to any mainstream Christian church they please; they just can't flaunt behavior that their own religion condemns and expect to get a pat on the back any more than adulterers or murderers can expect to get approbation for their acts of adultery or murder. The United Church of Christ, in its desperation to entice warm young bodies into its churches, has sold out to the sex worshippers. I don't think that this will have the salutary effect they seemed to think it will.
I reread John 8, in which Christ meets the woman charged with adultery, for context, and the scribes and Pharisees were saying: "Now Moses in the law commanded us that such should be stoned." I leave for the theologians the question of whether the forgiveness of this particular sin in this particular instant constitutes the invalidation of the whole of Mosaic law, but it seems pretty clear to me that the woman would never have been forgiven had Christ determined that she would go forth and do it all over again.
Now I don't buy the argument of various TV networks that the UCC spot is "too controversial"; it was run here as a test earlier this year and barely raised eyebrows. Nor do I believe that because almost everyone has had more sex than me, I have some claim to the moral high ground.
But one thing bugs me. The decision in Lawrence v. Texas effectively invalidated the nation's laws against "sodomy," and good riddance, say I. But while the Supreme Court has spoken, I missed any similar statement from the Supreme Being. Maybe I'm just out of the loop.
Saturday spottings (the shuffle)
The nascent Asian District is getting a bank at 2523 Classen, across the street from, and slightly north of, the fabled Milk Bottle. It's a branch of Edmond-based First Commercial Bank, which recently expanded into Oklahoma City with the acquisition of Rockwell Bank.
In other bank news, Americrest Bank, previously known as Guaranty Bank, is rebranding itself again, this time as Coppermark Bank. The "Americrest" name was coined when Guaranty planned to move into the Dallas-Fort Worth market, where a Guaranty Bank already existed; however, they ran afoul of trademark issues, and had to come up with yet another name. The name change was announced in November, but permanent signage is just now going up.
The Happy Homemaker reports on the impending construction of a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market in her neck of the woods, near NW 23rd and Pennsylvania. Typically for Wal-Mart, they're not filling the extant vacant space in Penn Crossing; I recall that when they took over an empty Homeland store in The Village, they razed the building and rebuilt. Still, the arrival was arguably good for Casady Square across the street, and The Village needed the sales-tax revenue, especially with Albertson's moving across Britton Road into Oklahoma City territory. Those who hate all things Wal-Mart will undoubtedly head for the Buy 4 Less across Penn, or drive elsewhere, but I've learned not to bet against Sam Walton's retail machine.
And there are still some small signs of life at Bradford Commons, apartments located south of the Oklahoma Health Center between NE 7th and NE 8th. The 247-unit complex was sold in 2001 for a startling $3.5 million dollars to 2012 LLC. This year, TV news has been coming up with regular stories about how the place has gone to hell: the water was supposed to have been turned off around Thanksgiving, and all the tenants are presumably going to have to be gone by the end of the month, when the complex shuts down. Rumors that the Commons would be sold have persisted, and KGOU radio reported this week that the University of Oklahoma, one rumored buyer, isn't interested. I haven't heard that the Commons are going to be Cabrini-Greened out of existence, but at this point, I wouldn't be surprised to see bulldozers heading down 8th Street.
5 December 2004
Let there be plugs
I normally don't toot the horn much for my Web host: while DreamHost has been good to me over the past three years, they're a little pricier than some, and a few of the big Movable Type-based blogs had difficulties with them some years back and moved elsewhere.
Their monthly newsletter, however, contained this remarkable statement:
[W]e've now got a new area of our web panel, "Goodies > WordPress Blog". From there you can install the open-source weblog software WordPress (see http://www.wordpress.org/) at any URL fully-hosted at DreamHost with just one click. It's pretty cool and pretty easy and pretty FREE!
Try it out if you ever wanted to have a weblog but were too crazy to install one yourself.
Translation: They'd like more blogs, but don't want the additional overhead of MT and its endless rebuilds.
(Aside: If you actually do sign up for one of these things, send me a click through the DH logo in the nav column, or drop my URL to the staff. I could use the
The squeeze is on
<sound of jaw striking parquet floor>
To run up a tax bill of that size in my neighborhood, she'd have to have a house worth $985,816.
She says elsewhere that the tax on the mythical average house in Madison, Wisconsin, worth $205,359, is $4,458.
This suggests a rate of 21.71 per thousand, which implies that her house is valued at about $549,400.
For comparison purposes, a home valued at $549,400 in my particular taxing district would be taxed $6,598. Not that there are any such; City-Data.com reports that as of 2000, there were only 11 homes in this entire ZIP code worth as much as half a million bucks, and Realtor.com says that the average home around here sells for a modest $93,541, which I calculate would run up taxes of $1031.
Since people are starting to post their browser distributions, sometimes to make a political point, sometimes to refute one, and since I don't have my SiteMeter results open to the public before you ask, it has something to do with the fact that I actually pay for the darn thing I'm posting my current market-share data here.
Possible skew factors: I browse with Firefox at home, but with IE 6 at work. SM seems to break out Netscape separately from other Gecko-based browsers, but Camino, for one, seems to be lumped in with the Mozillas (Mozillae?).
Snert and Ernie
From the Department of Half a Loaf:
A mid-level House aide said yesterday that he was the one who, during last month's drafting of a huge spending bill, added a provision that could give staffers on the House and Senate appropriations committees broad access to Americans' tax returns.
Richard E. Efford, a 19-year veteran of the House Appropriations Committee, said he did not inform any elected official before inserting the provision and advised his immediate boss, Rep. Ernest J. Istook Jr. (R-Okla.), only after it was too late to make changes.
Per The Washington Post.
Istook doesn't have anything to worry about; even if he's named as the culprit, some staffer will be sacked and things will be forgotten the next day.
Mr Efford, so far, still has his job, thus "half a loaf."
More bothersome, though, is this (same WaPo article):
[Efford] said other House and Senate appropriations staffers in both parties were aware of the provision, however, and believed it gave them needed authority to enter facilities of the Internal Revenue Service to inspect how taxpayer funds were being used.
"I would guess we all thought it was a housekeeping thing that would help our bosses but did not need to be elevated up to them," said Efford, who described himself as "dumbfounded" by the uproar.
Apparently nobody on Committee staff gives the farging stuff more than a perfunctory once-over after it's written.
6 December 2004
Freedom from merit badges
"From time to time," says a proposed disclaimer for material distributed through Portland, Oregon schools on behalf of groups not associated with the district, "you may receive materials from a group that holds values that may offend some of our families."
Like, for instance, the Boy Scouts of America.
Atheist and gay parents had fought the placing of Scout materials in Portland schools, and said that while the disclaimer was an improvement, the Scout booklets are still handed out by teachers, which, according to the AP story, "lends credibility to the group's message."
The Mandatory Serenity Amendment "The right of the peoples of the United States to be free from any ideas or materials or products, which they may find offensive, shall not be infringed" has so far been ratified by 0 states.
(Via Tongue Tied.)
Can't trust that day, as I have next to nothing to say. In the interim, here's some of the stuff you should have read already:
The Big She's plans
Scenario: Senator Clinton runs for re-election in 2006, knowing full well she's going to run for President in 2008. What's wrong with this picture?
This may surprise you, but I don't think it's terrible if Hillary does run for re-election to her Senate seat in 2006 with every intention of not serving out her term, especially if she discloses her intent. She has every right to run and the New Yorkers have every right to elect her knowing that it may be temporary. In fact, I'll even go so far as to say that it will help Hillary to stay in the Senate mix, if she does intend to go for the big one.
None of this is to say that I won't fervently oppose this uber-lib feminist for either or both positions, because I will. But let's be done with this idle speculation about whether her re-election to the Senate in 2006 will deter her from a presidential run in 2008. It won't in a million years, even if she promises under oath that she'll complete her Senate term no matter what. It's ridiculous to think otherwise. It's also ridiculous to think it will matter if she reneges on a promise to serve out for full term. Ridiculous. It will not sway .00000000000001% of the voters of NY, much less those of any other state.
I think Mr Limbaugh is exaggerating a bit. New York has about eleven million voters; .00000000000001 percent of that number would get you down to the level of mitochondria, unless he's counting Michael Moore. But I agree with his larger point: it doesn't make any meaningful difference to voters whether Mrs Clinton is still in the Senate or not when (as distinguished from if) she mounts her Presidential bid.
Beyond the best and the brightest
The National Bureau of Economic Research has conducted a study to answer the question: if racial preferences were abolished, would highly-qualified minority students be less willing to apply to top-rung schools?
And why would they be? Is it possible that not having a substantial minority population at these schools might discourage minority applicants?
The NBER study suggests otherwise:
Comparing data from all SAT-takers in California and Texas in the 1994 to 2001 admission cohorts with administrative data from the eight University of California campuses covering 1995 to 2001, [the researchers] determine that the probability that a student asks the College Board to send his SAT score to a particular campus is a good proxy for the probability that a student will apply to the same institution. They conclude that students' decisions to send SAT scores to a particular campus can substitute for actual applications data.
[T}he end of affirmative action [in those two states] produced few changes in before-and-after score-sending behavior. There was a small, short-lived dip of less than 5 percent in the relative probability of sending scores to selective schools in both states from 1997-9, but the probabilities recovered after 1999. There was no change in behavior for highly qualified students, with the exception of high-GPA Hispanic students in California. They were significantly more likely to send their scores to the most selective University of California schools after affirmative action was abolished.
I infer from this that the best students, minority or otherwise, pay little attention to racial preferences. But look farther down the scale:
After preferences were banned in California in 1998, admission rates among black freshmen applicants to Berkeley, UCLA, and UC San Diego fell from 45-55 percent in 1995-7 to 20-25 percent in 1998-2001. Between 1997 and 1998, the fraction of blacks and Hispanics in Berkeley's freshman class fell from 22 percent to 12 percent. System-wide, changes in minority admission were far more muted. In California, acceptance rates fell by about 7 percent for blacks and 4 percent for Hispanics.
Banning affirmative action admissions had similar effects at Texas schools. At Texas A&M the decline began in 1996. Black admission rates fell by an estimated 30 percent and Hispanic admission rates fell by an estimated 15 percent.
Or, as John Rosenberg explains:
Ending preferences, in short, tends to prevent the admission of students whose admission depends on receiving the preference.
Well, at least she won't have Kweisi Mfume to kick around anymore.
7 December 2004
Oklahoma became a state in 1907, and almost immediately became a segregated state: Senate Bill One was the first of many Jim Crow laws which took entirely too long to repeal.
One of the tactics used to undermine Jim Crow was the sit-in, and one of the first places it was used effectively was Katz Drug Store in downtown Oklahoma City. It was 1958, and teacher Clara Luper brought her students into Katz' soda fountain for soft drinks: when said drinks were not forthcoming, Luper and the kids resolved to stay put. They got their drinks, but the aftermath wasn't pretty, and it took five or six years before every lunch counter in town, every restaurant, got the message.
The Freedom Center on Oklahoma City's Eastern Avenue, now Martin Luther King Avenue, will be presenting a play written by Luper: The Dred Scott Story, about the slave whose suit for freedom was eventually denied by the US Supreme Court.
No gifts, please
I hadn't thought about this okay, I hadn't thought about this much but Andrea Harris has:
No man will respect a woman who spends money on him. No matter how much he may love her and appreciate her at the time of the present-giving or check-picking-up or whatever it is, deep down inside he'll be ashamed, and eventually he will leave her and find someone who doesn't remind him of his vulnerabilities.
Having once been married to someone who outearned me which doesn't take much, alas I must concede that there's something to this. So does Chi-Lite Eugene Record:
All my friends call me a fool
They say, "let the woman take care of you"
So I try to be hip and think like the crowd
But even the crowd can't help me now
Did this phenomenon play any role in the Presidential election? The Twisted Spinster thinks so:
Witness all the attacks on John F. Kerry's marriage to the millionaire ketchup lady. His exalted gigolo status in the eyes of many Americans may not have been the main reason he wasn't elected but I'm sure it helped.
It is an unfortunate fact of my life that anyone who catches my eye, quite apart from the usual array of obstacles, will inevitably prove to be way out of my league. So I strive to be as self-sufficient as I can, knowing that neediness, at least in my case, always seems to breed resentment.
Once France was accepted as a member of the Axis of Weasels and otherwise-rational people started asking for "Freedom Fries", it was perhaps inevitable that the Campbell Soup Company would put the 117-year-old "Franco-American" brand name out of its misery.
Then again, I always preferred Chef Boy-Ar-Dee (who was an Italian, anyway).
Getting a complex
The editors of Discover, a science mag published by a Disney subsidiary, replied to a letter from an intelligent-design advocate (January '05) with this comparison:
Language is an information medium, as is DNA. Language gets transmitted and transformed from generation to generation, just as the information in DNA gets transmitted and transformed. Many languages have appeared, changed, and vanished over the centuries, but nobody has ever seen a new language spontaneously appear. Nevertheless, people accept that languages evolve and that modern languages derive from earlier ones that were, in many cases, considerably different. Why then is it so hard to accept that the same process might happen to the information in our DNA?
Obviously, this doesn't settle anything. My own thinking here is that it would be a fairer comparison were there any languages as complex as DNA strands: there are, admittedly, only four different building blocks, but the structures are astoundingly convoluted.
Then again, my own thinking along these lines has always been something like "Evolution is God's standard upgrade path," a position that appeals neither to hard-core Darwinists nor to young-earth partisans. I'd like to hear some rational (or at least justifiable) arguments either way.
8 December 2004
For the 116th time
Vik Rubenfeld's The Big Picture is the host for Carnival of the Vanities #116, your weekly guide to Bloggy Goodness in a single handy page. As always, it's not to be missed.
Instead of dropping it from my thoughts, I've been thinking about how people I admire might react if faced with a similar situation. Jesus would turn the other cheek. Howard Roark would do nothing since he wouldn't care but more so, he wouldn't allow himself to be haunted by it. Wayne Newton would take the bastard to court because no one messes with the Wayne-meister. Emma Peel would probably flip the jerk over her shoulder after a well-aimed karate chop to his neck.
I'm inclined to think that with role models like these, she'll come out of this just fine.
Tanks for nothing
In case you thought that sport-utility vehicles were taking over the world, be advised that they're taking a break: the General Motors Oklahoma City Assembly facility, which produces seven-passenger Chevrolet TrailBlazers and its GMC and Isuzu brethren, will temporarily cut about 250 to 300 jobs next month in an effort to balance production and inventory.
This is perhaps an indication that Detroit really didn't expect that truck sales might drop in the wake of two-dollar-plus gas. I'm not persuaded that the SUV boom is over, but I'm fairly sure that it's past its peak.
Some of what I wrote on 8 December 2000:
It's probably not important to remember where you were, what you were doing, when John Lennon was murdered on that cold New York street in 1980. John would have scoffed at that sort of thing anyway. In fact, John scoffed at a lot of things: men in suits, "thick" Christians, the Maharishi, and other worthy targets of scorn. Eventually he even scoffed at Paul McCartney; you'd almost think he'd had enough of silly love songs.
The three remaining rusty old men continue, mostly separately but sometimes in aggregate; somehow it's not the same without John. Never as strong a melodist as Paul, never as adept a guitarist as George, never as cheerful a bloke as Ringo, he was still John, wordsmith and cutup and searing social critic, the one Beatle you could always count on to be in somebody's face, the idealist in spite of himself, the definitive Sixties archetype. Even if you believe, as cultural historian David Frum argues, that the Seventies are far more relevant to our time than the Sixties, you're still going to have to find a place in your worldview for John Lennon; many of us who've learned that delicate balance between righteousness and cynicism learned it right off the grooves of Plastic Ono Band.
Of course, now it's down to two remaining rusty old men, and link rot has demanded some shuffling, but otherwise, I could have written that today. And I suspect I'll probably write it again around 2010. (You may say I'm a slacker, but I'm not the only one.)
Robbing the dreidel
[T]he very foundation of the holiday is about maintaining a unique Jewish culture in the face of pressure to assimilate into a dominant surrounding culture. So taking the holiday, and making it as similar as possible to Christmas, to make the message "we all have something to celebrate at this time of year," to conflate it with the birth of a false Messiah (not to offend, but from a Jewish perspective, that's what Christmas is), is foolish, ignorant, and cultural suicide.
On the upside, Purim has got to be more fun than Lent.
Weirder than thou
Four hundred miles down I-35 is the city of Austin, the capital of Texas, a place where I have lots of roots, and a place that prides itself on its weirdness. Nothing wrong with that, say I, but I've been back a few times since my days at The University (yes, that one), and while there are aspects of it I dearly love, it never struck me as being, well, all that weird.
And lots more reasons. I don't think that Oklahoma City is destined to be, well, the "next Austin," but I don't lie awake at night wondering what I'm missing by living here either.
Not to be confused with Castro Convertibles
"You don't need a Weatherman," said Zimmerman, "to know which way the wind blows."
Which I suppose is true: no one is marketing, for instance, a wall-mounted climate-observation apparatus with the images of Bernadine Dohrn and Mark Rudd on the dial faces.
On the other hand, it's no particular trick to pick up a Ché Guevara watch.
9 December 2004
The ramp from I-44 eastbound to I-35 southbound is a fairly sharp 90-degree curve, followed by one of Oklahoma's infamous too-short-by-half merging lanes, and since it's all elevated but not at the same height, which means one heck of a blind spot the payback for not executing the merge properly is serious.
I've tackled this ramp maybe three hundred times, and under favorable conditions (which is to say "when it's dry") it's no particular trick, at least in my car, to maintain 60-mph speed from 44 all the way around the swoop and merge seamlessly into the southbound 35 traffic flow. Unfortunately, two members of the Anti-Destination League, puttering along at 48 mph or so, picked this moment to be occupying the space I'd normally be assuming post-merge. And it wasn't like their progress, if that's the word, was being thwarted by some rolling speed bump up ahead; there was at least a 1500-foot gap in front of them.
The solution was simple enough downshift to second, spin up to 6200 rpm, and zoom-zoom into the gap but I have to admit that this is not my favorite maneuver during pre-dawn darkness.
It's a Baldilanche!
Indeed, the combination of both those events wouldn't equal half the traffic I got from an offhand Baldilocks item.
Lesson learned: never underestimate the power of a smart woman with a sense of humor. (I already knew how to suck up.)
In case Dubya bugs you
In the town of Enterprise, Alabama, there is a monument to the boll weevil, a creature generally negatively viewed and usually characterized as destructive, which forced farmers in the Heart of Dixie to abandon their single-minded devotion to King Cotton, thereby ensuring their future.
And you know, what worked in the South might work just as well on the east side of New York City:
A statue of Oliver Cromwell, sword and Bible in hand, stands outside the Houses of Parliament in London. If the United Nations survives for another decade or so, it would be fitting for the organization to dedicate a statue of George W. Bush at its headquarters on Second Avenue, in tribute to the man who saved it from itself by offering it a final opportunity to get serious.
Had President Bush not held the Security Council to the requirements of its own resolutions on Iraq, the U.N.'s credibility as the principal forum for collective security would have collapsed. This U.S. effort to resuscitate the U.N. came against the background of the U.N.'s steep decline in the '90s. The [High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Changes] is refreshingly blunt about this. The reason the U.N. has not been effective in collective security, the panel admits, "has simply been an unwillingness to get serious about preventing deadly violence."
I can feel my numbers being crunched
This is Finance Girl.
I dare not hope that some day she'll balance my sheets, but oh, the interest she'll accrue.
Incidentally, "Snowman" has been moved to a more frontal location.
Fears on trial (the finale)
Daniel Fears, convicted of shooting up Sallisaw in October 2002, was sentenced today to life without parole. During the rampage, apparently prompted by a complaint about Fears' driving, two townspeople were killed and eight others wounded. As predicted here, counsel for the defense had attempted to show that Mr Fears was suffering from a mental disorder.
10 December 2004
The International House of Pancakes is coming to Bricktown, and The Downtown Guy considers the ramifications thereof:
So, what's going to come next, a Hampton Inn? A Starbucks? The time of Bricktown being a bastion of locally owned enterprises is coming to an end. They'll still be around. But the national chains and corporations are now taking a very serious look at our revived downtown.
Whether you liked the Bass Pro Shops deal or not, it's hard to argue the impact it's having on east Bricktown. Look further down Reno, past what we consider to be Bricktown, and you'll see where the next wave of development may likely occur. It won't be the sort of development we expect in Bricktown but it's looking like a lot of the former junk yards will at least be converted into a basic off-highway strip of fast food, motels and such. They'll try to seize on the Bricktown name as some already are (have you visited Bricktown Spas yet? Or Bricktown Central Plaza Inn?). Sum it all up as a sign of Bricktown's arrival as a destination.
If you think of Bass Pro as the easternmost outpost of Bricktown, the Central Plaza Inn is a mile and a half farther away. Still, this is a logical progression, with Martin Luther King Avenue the probable limit of expansion; farther south on Eastern will be the Native American Cultural Center and Museum, which likely will define the eastern boundary of the New Downtown.
He's with the band
He was a giant in the field, showing the greatest musical minds of our time, as well as snot-nosed kids like me, that beautiful, deep music does not require a string section.
To find someone who's done as much for the wind ensemble, you'd probably have to go all the way back to John Philip Sousa.
Grievings and salutations
TXU, of course, has no idea how this happened, although the incident does recall one of our Stateside legends:
Years ago, the story goes, when people still traveled in Pullman sleeping cars, a passenger found a bedbug in his berth. He immediately wrote a letter to George M. Pullman, president of the Pullman's Palace Car Company, informing him of this unhappy fact, and in reply he received a very apologetic letter from Pullman himself.
The company had never heard of such a thing, Pullman wrote, and as a result of the passenger's experience, all of the sleeping cars were being pulled off the line and fumigated. The Pullman's Palace Car Company was committed to providing its customers with the highest level of service, Pullman went on, and it would spare no expense in meeting that goal. Thank you for writing, he said, and if you ever have a similar problem or any problem do not hesitate to write again.
Enclosed with this letter, by accident, was the passenger's original letter to Pullman, across the bottom of which the president had written, "Send this S.O.B. the bedbug letter."
Good for what Ailes you
How about a nice cup of Shut the Fox Up?
The FOXBlocker is a line filter that attaches to your analog-cable line (no version for digital cable yet) and filters out the Fox News Channel. It's not channel-specific it works on channels 2 through 62 which suggests to me that it looks for Fox identifying information on line 21 of the NTSC signal, where closed captions and XDS reside.
Me, I'm waiting for a TiVo add-on that refuses to record anything mentioning Paris Hilton.
(Update, 4:20 pm: Submitted to Beltway Traffic Jam.)
[O]ur grandkids will look upon us with a mixture of disgust and amusement. Our teachers are grossly underpaid. Our values are in the toilet culture is coarsening. Kids go without health care, food, or coats in the winter. And we're worried about Christmas trees and Silent Night.
Glory, or alternate form of acclaim where appropriate, to the deity or deities of your choice, or none at all if so specified, in the highest, or to a comparable level conforming to official specifications, and on earth peace, or similar absence of conflict, and good will, as defined in paragraph 3, section C, "Federal Will Regulations," to men, women, children, and persons of indeterminate or ambiguous gender.
11 December 2004
Some people actually fall for this:
You pay your "registration fee" usually around $30.00, pure profit for the scam operator. The operator will then send you a copy of the ad you originally responded to, along with the wording to a classified ad, telling people about how much money they can make stuffing envelopes, and to send a self-addressed stamped envelope for information. When you receive someone's SASE, you send them a copy of the ad. There, you have stuffed your first envelope!
A chap from San Antonio named Alan Louis Chavis apparently got enough "pure profit," even at the discount price of $25, to operate two customer-response centers, which he was careful to locate in faraway Oklahoma. It didn't save him; in September, prosecutors in Oklahoma put him on trial for mail fraud, and yesterday Chavis was sentenced to 19 years and three months and ordered to forfeit $250,000.
One down, however many thousands to go.
Let them eat tofu
Anyone who reads some history of the French Revolution will see that the most vicious participants came from backgrounds that were noble, clerical, or both. Traison des clercs (betrayal by intellectuals) was the phrase coined to describe such characters. It was their pursuit of ideological purity that set the guillotines singing. Fidel Castro is a modern example of the type. MoveOn & Co. already have the chopping block ready for [Terry] McAuliffe.
So who's going to salvage what's left of this bunch?
Howard Dean still holds the future of the party in his hands. He's a clever fellow. I think the MoveOn folks will find themselves exiled to the political equivalent of Elba. If the party suffers another Waterloo in 2006, it will be Saint Helens for the Soros bunch next time. The electorate did not reject the Democrats because tepid mainstreamers watered down MoveOn's socialist ideology. Quite the reverse. The more power the ideologues gain in the party, the worse its candidates will fare at the polls. Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton know that perfectly well.
Or, as Greg Hlatky so tersely put it:
If the party is taken from those who have been elected or get people elected and falls into the hands of those who as was memorably said of Jesse Jackson have only run their mouths, the narrow losses the Democrats have suffered in 2000 and 2004 will become massive losses and the Democrats will go the way of the Whigs.
Not to mention the Know-Nothings.
Saturday spottings (urban/exurban)
For no particularly good reason today, I found myself traipsing around Newcastle, a McClain County town just down I-44/US 62 from southwest Oklahoma City, which, although it certainly doesn't look like it now, might be the next big Suburban Destination. At least some of the pieces are in place: it's a local call from anywhere in the city, it's relatively easy to get to, and both southwest Oklahoma City and west Norman, on the opposite side of the Canadian River, are experiencing something of a boom. What's more, perhaps in anticipation of their coming status, the city fathers have annexed basically everything in the county north of Highway 9 and west of I-35 that wasn't already incorporated into, or surrounded by, the city of Blanchard: they have almost 50 square miles to work with. Wal-Mart has put in a Supercenter on NW 32nd Street (SW 179th Street/Indian Hills Road if Oklahoma City or Norman extended this far), and a couple of housing developments are underway. And since the north Newcastle exit from I-44 (US 62/277, which is Main Street) is the last free exit before the road turns into the H. E. Bailey Turnpike but you can see the pattern here. The population is a modest 6,000 or so right now; I wouldn't be surprised if it hit 20,000 by 2020.
Meanwhile, things are still happening in the middle of town. Oklahoma City's Neighborhood Services department is putting in half a dozen new houses along NE 5th Terrace, between the Oklahoma Health Center and Washington Park, and I took a look this afternoon. They're quite nice, and the neighborhood itself I would characterize as "on the upswing": some of the older homes in the area are a bit on the ramshackle side, but they haven't been allowed to become seriously dilapidated, and the newer buildings are kept up well. For a "brownfield" an area whose proximity to industrial use may have resulted in ground or groundwater contamination it looks pretty good. One visual disappointment in the area is the boarded-up Page Woodson School, which served as the "Negro high school" in the early days of Jim Crow. However, the majestic old 1910 building may be getting a new lease on life: Oklahoma City Northeast Inc., with some serious backing from the local community, wants to reopen the school as an African-American cultural center, and has asked the city to include it in their project list for the local Empowerment Zone.
Marquee on a westside church: WHAT DID NOAH DO WITH THE WOODPECKERS? Your guess is as good as mine, maybe better.
And apparently Bricktown, as a trademark, is far more extensible than previously imagined; there's an inn called "Bricktown Guest Suites" going in on SE Grand Blvd. at I-35, a good four miles from the downtown district whose name it borrows.
Follow the bouncing ball
It was probably too much to expect that Mitchell William Miller would have been a rock and roll fan. For one thing, he was born in 1911; for another, he studied the oboe at Eastman, inspired by Pablo Casals' cello work, long, fluid melodic lines that melted into the air. By 1936 he was playing with the CBS Symphony Orchestra; he left in 1948 to take an A&R job at Chicago's Mercury Records under VP John Hammond.
In 1950, former classmate Goddard Lieberson lured Mitch Miller back to CBS, this time to run A&R at Columbia Records; Miller brought one of his Mercury stars, Frankie Laine, with him. At Columbia, Miller's tenure was a mixture of brilliance and banality. An example of the former: the invention of the Greatest Hits album. Johnny's Greatest Hits, a compilation of Johnny Mathis singles, entered the Billboard album charts in 1958. It was still there in nineteen sixty-eight. An example of the latter: Frank Sinatra's "duet" with Dagmar, "Mama Will Bark," which was thrown on the B-side of a real Sinatra single, "I'm a Fool to Want You," but still garnered enough airplay to make #21 on the charts.
That rock and roll stuff never did impress Mitch Miller much; "The reason kids like rock and roll," he said, "is that their parents don't." He did have more than a passing familiarity with country music, though, and when Sam Phillips put Elvis Presley's Sun contract on the market, Miller thought Elvis had enough potential to justify putting in a bid. And in one of the weirder ironies of pre-Beatles pop, one of Mitch Miller's biggest stars at Columbia was, yes, Mitch Miller, who put nineteen singles on the Hot 100, including one Number One ("The Yellow Rose of Texas," 1955). In 1960, the TV variety series "Ford Startime" gave him a one-shot special, titled "Sing Along with Mitch"; it became a series on NBC and ran for four years.
In the 80s and 90s, Miller returned to classical music, conducting the London Symphony on record, including a highly-regarded Gershwin collection no surprise, really, since Miller had played with George Gershwin on his 1934 American tour.
But when I think of Mitch Miller, being the crass pop-culture sub-maven I am, I'll probably remember his 1958 hit (it scraped the bottom of the Top 20) waxing of the Colonel Bogey March, the whistled tune that appeared in the film of Pierre Boulle's novel The Bridge on the River Kwai, and which, contrary to popular belief, did not originally accuse Hitler of monorchidism.
Riddle me this
Naomi Brown of Overbrook sent this to The Oklahoman; it will appear in their letters column ("Your Views") tomorrow.
What's the only difference between the Auburn Tigers and the Democratic Party? The Tigers have a legitimate complaint about a flawed voting system.
On the other hand, it's possible to comprehend, say, the Electoral College; nobody understands the BCS.
12 December 2004
The doctors are ordering their plasma TVs
Not that I'll get much of a chance to celebrate Spoons, either; that's the day I get the debris scraped out of my knee joint.
From the descriptions proffered, he's going to have the worst of this deal, so if you're in Pray For The Lost Souls mode, cut him in for the majority of the grace, wouldja please?
License to, um, something
The United Church of Christ has filed a petition with the FCC against two Miami-area television stations, WFOR-TV and WTVJ-TV, respectively CBS and NBC owned-and-operated stations, asserting that there is reason to question whether the stations' parent companies, Viacom (for WFOR) and General Electric (for WTVJ), were operating, in the FCC's catchphrase, "in the public interest." The petition stems from the networks' refusal to run the UCC's recent ad.
Oh way to go, you idiots: just what Americans respond to best a show of theocratic muscle!
Because you know that's how people will respond to it, despite the newsertainment media's weaselly parroting of the UCC's "tolerance" jive.
Then again, this is standard operating procedure for the UCC, which was formed through the merger of two smaller denominations in 1957; by 1964, they'd already set up an Office of Communication, and challenged the license of WLBT (Jackson, Mississippi) on the basis that it was racist. The FCC held that the church had no legal standing to challenge a broadcast license; the church took them to court, and the Supreme Court eventually overruled the FCC: "The broadcast industry," wrote Chief Justice Warren Burger, "does not seem to have grasped the simple fact that a broadcast license is a public trust subject to termination for breach of duty."
Of course, the Supremes' ruling in the WLBT affair made it possible for everyone up to and including Brent Bozell's boob-counters to get into the act. And in the 1960s, Jackson had a total of two television stations. Today, with half a dozen, plus cable and the Internet, it's difficult to argue with a straight face that any media operation is actually affecting the course of public discourse, let alone dominating it. The FCC answers to Congress, not to the Executive, so the President won't be taking a broom to the place any time soon; too bad, because I'd love to see a Commission with the temerity to laugh at both the UCC's "They should be forced to take our ads" stance and Fox's upcoming reality series "America's Scariest Brazilian Waxes."
(Update, 13 December, 3:45 pm: Fixed one set of call letters see comments.)
A slightly bigger ballot
Tuesday's election in Oklahoma City will feature the measure to increase the hotel/motel room tax from 2 percent to 5.5 percent not including the sales tax, which they conveniently forgot to mention in their promotional materials.
But that's not the only ballot issue you may see in the city. If you live in the Midwest City/Del City school district, whose boundaries [link requires Adobe Reader] include some parts of eastern Oklahoma City, you'll also be voting on a ten-year bond issue for Rose State College, which would raise $7.65 million for a facility for Tinker AFB civilians attending specialized classes.
The really interesting ballot measure in the area, though, is outside the city. In Choctaw, Mayor Don Griffin is facing a recall, and the story reads like a bad television drama. Two challengers, Robert Mabra and Randy Ross, will be seeking to unseat Griffin.
Since by nature I tend to be squarer than SpongeBob's pants, any revelation here that I am occasionally subject to the natural (and, well, okay, unnatural) urges that afflict us from time to time tends to get horrified emails, or worse, disgusted comments.
Still, some things arouse my, um, curiosity. For instance, the one question everyone seems to want to know about actress Lindsay Lohan is whether whether she's had the front line of her balcony resculpted. * I don't really want to know, but I'd love to catch a few outtakes from the photo session for the cover of Entertainment Weekly #797, which features Lindsay in nothing but tights yet shows scarcely any flesh. (Score one for the trompe l'oeil guys.)
Speaking of magazine pieces, whose idea was it to pose Dakota Fanning, not yet ten fercrissake, in the November Movieline's Hollywood Life with her hair tossed back and her legs crossed, like some sort of HO-scale Gwyneth Paltrow?
And oh, just because it sounds so utterly bizarre: imagine a porn film, preferably a short one, in which all the participants have Tourette's syndrome. **
* Link probably not safe for work.
** Link definitely not safe for work.
13 December 2004
Breaking the cycle of rent
The Oklahoman reports this morning that despite low mortgage-interest rates, 31 percent of black and Hispanic customers failed to qualify for conventional home loans during 2003, versus 23 percent of American Indians, 15 percent of whites and 12 percent of Asians.
This does not indicate any pattern of discrimination among lenders: the practice of "redlining" refusing to make loans in presumably-undesirable areas is essentially extinct. It does, however, indicate that black and Latino borrowers tend to have poorer credit scores. (Not that mine is all that wonderful.)
While no one has made a case that the scores themselves are discriminatory, it's reasonable, I think, to assume that not everyone understands the scores, and the factors that contribute to them, equally well. The Oklahoma Homebuyer Education Association, a joint venture of lenders and community groups, is working to upgrade people's knowledge of what it takes to qualify for a mortgage.
Lenders, to their credit, have been coming up with alternative mortgage programs to reach more buyers. (Disclosure: I took advantage of one such program myself, a pilot program by a major lender, directed at people with okay credit scores but iffy prospects for substantial down payments.) The upside, of course, is more homeowners, which means more people with tangible assets, and which, because people have more of a stake in their community, ultimately means better neighborhoods. This may be somewhat easier in Oklahoma, with its relatively low-priced housing stock, but the principles apply everywhere.
More than a big box o' books
When a new Grand Central Library was first proposed, it was going to be an urban building something that looked like it belonged downtown located in the "East Village" area as a catalyst for development, and tied in with the Centennial Walk, the Tulsa Tablets, and other urban amenities. Now it appears we will be approving a suburban-style spaceship building, complete with useless plaza, designed for easy expressway access and that means no likelihood of stimulating nearby redevelopment, as patrons will zip back home on the expressway rather than venture out on foot.
I don't believe anyone ever considered building the new downtown Oklahoma City library anywhere other than, well, downtown. While motor-vehicle access is a bit cumbersome, the facility, despite a certain similarity to buildings used by the United Federation of Planets, fits nicely into the city's notion of an Arts District along the western edge of downtown: Hudson Avenue southbound will also take you to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art (at Couch Drive) and StageCenter (at Sheridan Avenue), and the spring Festival of the Arts is conducted largely in the middle of Hudson.
Tulsa's growth over the years has been largely to the south and east, so downtown Tulsa is actually rather far removed from the geographical center of the city. Apparently it's been suggested that a Central Library be more, um, central. I don't think so, and neither does Mr Bates:
It makes sense for the main city-county library branch to be near the seat of government for both city and county, especially in its function as repository of government documents. Tulsa needs one densely developed urban district, and within the inner dispersal loop you have the land, the street grid, and the zoning rules that are most hospitable to that kind of development, and you don't have to worry about offending the neighbors. A well-designed and well-sited library could make a significant contribution to creating that kind of place. Better at 11th and Denver than in the middle of a massive parking lot at, say, 51st and Mingo.
Our big worry down here right now is finding places for the two new branch libraries. (We have the funding: the bond issue for them, and for upgrades at three existing branches, passed in 2000.) Right now, residents of far northwest Oklahoma City have to go at least as far as The Village (Pennsylvania north of Britton Road) or Warr Acres (63rd and MacArthur) branches, or to Edmond, and things aren't much better in the southwest quadrant. That new southwest library will be in Cleveland County and will be operated by the Pioneer Library System out of Norman; the 50,000 or so Oklahoma City residents in Cleveland County can get cards at both Pioneer and Metro [Oklahoma County] systems.
It comes with cheese, too
The French are apparently upset that the Carl's Jr. fast-food chain would mock their nation on the basis of three military defeats.
Then again, it was only a thirty-second spot.
"Slapout" was taken
Top Ten possible new names for the city of Lawton:
(Tip of the sombrero to Mike H.)
In case you thought I needed help
(Via Ryne McClaren.)
A somewhat muted fanfare
Oklahoma's seven Presidential electors officially cast their ballots for George W. Bush today, mostly because they believed in the man, and perhaps partly because they'd be fined a thousand bucks if they didn't.
14 December 2004
Crisp, not brittle
Sunset has started to advance again, after retreating back to 5:17 pm, but nights are still just about as long as they can be. Fortunately, last night was about as nice a period of winter darkness as you can find in Oklahoma: the air was cold but dry, clouds had been banished from the premises, and the lights of Bricktown seemed brighter than usual, even beyond the usual holiday decor.
Then came the morning, and the revelation that the Mother of All Potholes (well, I don't know if it's truly the Mother, but I recall addressing it in some related fashion) has now reached across almost an entire lane of traffic. And since it was filled with water yesterday afternoon, I can't think of any reason why I should have been surprised that this morning (low 24) it was full of ice, but I was definitely grateful not to be facing any oncoming traffic during the inevitable Swerve Mode.
Generally, I don't normally travel that direction in the morning, but I figured I'd go vote. I arrived at 7:09, and the poll workers were just getting things opened up. Given the amount of turnout one can reasonably expect for an election this minor, they probably needn't have rushed.
What's more, he saved 15 percent
Dave Pell of Davenetics notes that insurance giant Geico is suing Google for trademark infringement; the reptilian corporation asserts that Google, by selling Sponsored Links to Geico's competitors, which will come up when you run a Google search for Geico, is violating Geico's trademark rights.
File this under "Geez, I wish I'd thought of that."
(Update, 15 December, 8 pm: Google prevails.)
Well, it's not a trailer
If you'd like to own Bill and Hillary Clinton's house in Fayetteville, Arkansas, you'll have to outbid Mayor Dan Coody; he wants the University of Arkansas, where both B&H were on the law-school faculty in the 70s, to acquire the house and operate it as a tourist site.
Owners James and Janet Greeson are asking around $285,000 for the one-bedroom, one-bath house at 930 South California Boulevard. A recent appraisal suggested a price of $199,000, which does not include $75,000 in recommended improvements; I don't know whether the kitchen, which had been done up in the sort of Seventies orange and yellow that would make James Lileks cringe, has been restored to sanity.
If that price seems high to you, be advised the house is probably bigger than you think: 1790 square feet, which is more than half again as large as my palatial three-bedroom digs.
(Via Rita, who sees the house as a potential fuel source.)
One of the preparations for tomorrow's knee surgery is to defuzz the surrounding area, and so, razor in hand and center of gravity askew, I went to work.
Fifteen minutes and not so much blood later, I figure I'm done, and I figure I don't want to do this ever again unless I'm entered in some sort of contest. (Which, now that I think about it, was the reason I did it the last time.)
Women, I presume, have this down to a science, maybe even an art form.
(And this will be the last entry until I'm off the table and feigning being functional again.)
15 December 2004
Whatever else one may think of the American health-care system, when it works, it works efficiently. I got to the ambulatory facility a tick or two before seven-thirty, and by ten they were wheeling me to the curb. (Try that in the European Union.)
Of course, the offending joint is wrapped to Egyptian-sarcophagus standards, and it's carrying a portable glacier to boot, but this is just temporary, and I've laid in an additional stock of Rush Limbaugh's favorite painkiller, just in case.
I expect maybe a week of downtime. In the meantime, there are lots of places on the blogroll to fulfill your daily requirement of free ice cream. And anyway, old bloggers never die; as Spoons says, they just stop getting linked.
And thanks to Steffanie of the ELF Liberation Front for performing the tedious tasks this morning that, due to really bad pain followed by really good anesthesia, I was unable to undertake on my own.
What's happening elsewhere
Since I'm not exactly gathering my own news, I suppose I can play Manual Aggregator (not available for GameCube®) for a little while. Here's some of what's going on:
This ought to hold you for a couple of minutes, anyway.
There are two Pryhills, so far as I can tell, but Ace is the one who got stuck with the heavy lifting.
Still, thanks to them both for Carnival of the Vanities #117, the best bloggage of the week in handy, easily-digestible form, and since it's starting to look a lot like Christmas, this week's Carnival is at the mall.
Hey, it's not like you have to look for a parking space, fercryingoutloud. Go ye and read.
Betting on a lucky horseshoe
The city of Indianapolis says that a new stadium to replace the aging RCA Dome would add $30 million a year to the local economy, over and above the $75 million in revenue generated by the presence of an NFL team.
Which, out of a mere eight home games, sounds awfully impressive. And taking a leaf from the Oklahoma City playbook, Indy has bundled the stadium plan with an upgrade to the Indiana Convention Center, the total price to be some $700 million.
Still: seven hundred million American dollars? The entire set of MAPS projects here in the Okay City, including a convention-center upgrade, cost maybe half that. This new stadium must be absolutely incredible.
And even if it is, what's to stop the Irsay family from sneaking the Colts out of Indianapolis in the dead of night? It's not like such a thing has never happened before. I wish Indy well, but the numbers here don't seem to add up.
(Via Punch the Bag.)
16 December 2004
T plus 24 hours
My appreciation for things I can't do very well seems to have gone up now that I can't do them at all. The temporary fixed-knee-angle business has its uses, and I understand them, but movement, for the moment, seems more theoretical than actual. I did have the prescience to pick up a cane this fall, and it seems to help with the launch. (The actual cane is fussily high-tech, with a black metallic finish, a height-adjustment knob, and four points of contact with the floor, but this seems to be one of those situations where a shepherd's crook wouldn't have been quite so efficient.)
More annoying, in fact, is the sponge-baths-only edict for the next couple of days, inasmuch as the early-morning shower is one of the essential ingredients for enabling me to create the illusion that I'm awake.
Positive developments: I haven't had to dip into the stash of industrial-strength painkillers yet a couple of store-knockoff Excedrin PMs got me to sleep decently enough and so far, the only places that itch are within reach.
Won't somebody please tax us?
I don't normally pay much attention to the Tulsa World; they've never been known for having a surplus of clues anyway, and most of their really absurd statements end up dissected on BatesLine.
This morning's editorial page [link requires Adobe Reader], however, is silly enough to merit some pokes from my end of the turnpike. On the failure of a measure to issue bonds for the improvement of the Tulsa County library system, the World came up with this meaningless comparison:
The defeat of such a basic service as libraries came on the same day that Oklahoma City voters voted 10-1 to approve an increase in the city's hotel-motel tax from 2 percent to 5.5 percent. Oklahoma City is basking in the growth that has been prompted by more than $1 billion in tax increases to rebuild downtown and the school system in the capital city.
What, was the library system shutting down? Of course not. It's not even suffering. What was turned down was a bond issue to finance some improvements, the sort of thing they haven't seen in Tulsa since, oh, 1998 or so. Michael Bates explains:
No libraries will close, no librarians will be laid off as a result of the vote. The message of the library tax defeat wasn't "we hate taxes," or "we hate libraries," it was, "we love you, but you don't need any more money right now."
(In case you're curious, the library system accounts for 5.32 mills of the Tulsa County tax rate; it's 5.20 in Oklahoma County.)
But those crapheads in Oklahoma City why, they've taxed themselves a whole lot more than that, says the World. Well, yes, we did. Mere taxation, though, didn't produce the growth we're enjoying. We put $360 million into MAPS, but the private sector has forked over more than a billion. The $700 million for MAPS for Kids won't produce that kind of private investment, but bringing city schools up to the quality level expected (if not always achieved) in suburban schools will help keep the city growing at nearly the same rate as the 'burbs, while other central cities stagnate or contract as families with children flee. (Yeah, I know: vouchers. We'll get to them some other time.)
In other words, taxation is just a means to an end, not an end in itself. The World doesn't seem to grasp that idea:
Perhaps the central lesson from Tuesday should be that tax questions should be thoroughly aired before a vote. One thing that can be taken for granted is that there are a number of voters who always vote against tax measures.
Conversely, the great number of voters who vote for taxes have to be persuaded to do that.
This is eerily reminiscent of the post-election Democratic mantra "We didn't get our message out." Does it not occur to the World, or for that matter to the Democratic establishment, that the problem wasn't the distribution of the message but the message itself?
Just for icing on the cake, here's a bit from the second editorial on the page, concerning the distribution of federal highway funds:
Of course because [Rep. Ernest] Istook represents the Oklahoma City area it is only natural that the lion's share of federal money he procures will be spent there. Once again the biggest piece of the pie $51 million will go for the Interstate 44 Crosstown Expressway in Oklahoma City, a $350 million project that is being done almost entirely with federal funds.
Um, the Crosstown Expressway is Interstate 40. And lions aren't generally inclined to share.
Frankenradio comes to the Low Country
Air America Radio is up to 40 affiliates now. The liberal network has signed Clear Channel's WSCC, a 5-kw daytimer (there is nighttime authorization, but at a meager 103 watts) in Charleston, South Carolina at 730 kHz. The calls will be switched to WSSP, and the station's tag line is "Talk Radio for the Rest of Charleston."
WSCC's previous format, featuring Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, continues on WSCC-FM (94.3 MHz), which had been simulcasting the AM programs following the demise of its R&B/hip-hop format this summer. I, of course, find it interesting that Clear Channel owns both a "liberal" and a "conservative" station in the same market. The news/talk competition is Citadel's WTMA.
If the next question is "Will there ever be an Air America station here?" the answer is a definite maybe. Clear Channel, which has a dozen or so Air America affiliates, has two AM facilities here. If the move-in of Guymon's KGYN ever comes off, I'm thinking CC will move KTOK to 1210 and set up something entirely different (like, perhaps, AA) at 1000. (KEBC, at 1340, will be unavailable; part of the move-in deal is that CC will give the 1340 slot to First Choice, owner of the daytimer KTLV at 1220, which would die once 1210 becomes an Oklahoma City channel.) The other two talk stations in town, Renda's KOKC (previously KOMA) and Citadel's WKY, are struggling in the ratings; I have to assume that they've at least considered the AA package, and turned it down.
(Courtesy of Backcountry Conservative.)
Update: Apparently it lasted less than a year.
Over at Population Statistic, our old pal CT has been wrestling with a question he really doesn't care that much about: is hosiery obsolete?
"Since I'm not really a leg man," he says, "for me the point is moot. Do what you wanna do." Well, it's not even slightly moot for me, but I have to agree with him: do what you wanna do. Unless you're actually dating me, and I'm pretty sure you aren't, my tastes, or lack thereof, should play no role whatever in your wardrobe selection.
17 December 2004
Die hard with a name change
You expect me to live on this?
The Citizens League of Central Oklahoma held a panel discussion yesterday at Citychurch on the topic "Working Poverty: Is a Living Wage the Answer?" The League, which sponsored an appearance this fall by Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Making it In America, thought, reasonably enough, that their panel should include both advocates and opponents of the living wage, and an audience of about 100 showed up for the discussion. And, sure enough, the panel didn't agree on very much, except that wage scales here are on the low side.
I admit to some cynicism about the living wage myself. Living-wage ordinances tend to cover a small number of workers in a very specific environment: those who are covered by contracts with government agencies. Proponents can point to statistics which suggest that not only are increased costs minimal, but that they are offset by decreases in expenditures by government welfare organizations.
The argument against raising the minimum wage has always been that it tends to reduce the number of jobs available at the low end of the scale; however, since government demand for services is relatively inelastic, increased costs are generally greeted with shrugs rather than with layoffs. This suggests to me that while the living-wage programs may work, after a fashion, for the small number of employees they cover, extending them to the entirety of the private sector, where demand is elastic and cost control is more critical, is likely to be problematic at best.
Economist Larkin Warner of OSU, a member of the panel, remarked: "I would rather see someone employed at a lower wage than unemployed with higher wages." I once lost a job at nearly $12 an hour; after a series of sporadic temp jobs at $7 to $9, I wound up working for $6. At least the $6 was consistent: working for $6 proved to be a lot more lucrative than not working for $12. And I must point out that I had been turned down for a couple of jobs in the $5.50 range because, they said, I was so overqualified that I'd jump ship at the first opportunity. A substantial skill set, it appears, is the one sure way to get off any government-set wage floor. Perhaps this should be the topic of the next panel discussion.
(Update, 18 December, 8:00 am: Daniel Medley at LoboWalk notes: "The single most effective way of raising the minimum wage and improving the economy in this country is to secure our sovereignty and our borders.")
It was just a matter of time
Google's SafeSearch filter, within its limitations, will parse your search results and excise anything sexually explicit or otherwise not particularly safe for work. What they don't have is a filter for that undifferentiated mass of preverts who seek only the rude, crude, and occasionally screwed.
Enter the inevitable third party. Monzy.org's UnsafeSearch actually performs two Google searches on your string: first they pull in all the results, and then they run a SafeSearch to pull in only the "safe" results. It becomes then a simple matter of subtracting B from A.
And do read the statistics. Preferably not out loud.
(Via Cruel Site of the Day.)
I am not worthy
A most excellent robin's-egg-blue 1976 AMC Pacer, previously seen in the 1992 film Wayne's World, will be put up for auction by its current owner, the Volo Auto Museum, northwest of Chicago (and north of Aurora).
If you're looking for a MirthMobile of your very own, this one will cost you about $15,000, roughly two-thirds of which is due to reflected excellence from Wayne and Garth. And if the very thought of owning a '76 Pacer makes you hurl, I say hurl.
Well, it's better than USA Weekend
The International Bible Society, based in Colorado Springs, is planning similar inserts for other papers; they paid the Gazette $36,000 to distribute the 91,000 booklets.
Interestingly, the distribution was planned for last Sunday, but it was decided that handing out New Testaments in the middle of Chanukah might not have been the best possible public-relations move. The local Temple has a further objection: placing a Bible in a plastic bag and then pitching it onto the ground constitutes, well, desecration.
As for me, I'm waiting for a remark any remark from Andy at The World Wide Rant.
18 December 2004
Out of bondage
Oh, wait, that's "out of bandage." Sorry.
Seventy-two hours (well, actually, seventy and a fraction) after the fact, I got to look at the knee again, and apart from a couple of stitches here and there, it doesn't look bad; there doesn't seem to be any swelling still, and while I'm hardly restored to gymnast flexibility, at least I can move, after a fashion.
Which means, generally, that I can start to focus on other things now, such as the lame phishing attempt that arrived this morning from 188.8.131.52. In a better world, people who do this would immediately be put to death by someone using a fake name, of course.
Going the extra 1.6 km
UML Guy forgets to pay his satellite bill, and discovers a Great Truth:
So I went to the DirecTV billing site. This was almost midnight when I got in. I told them I wanted to pay my bill. I gave them the information. They gave me a confirmation page, and advised that I didn't need to call them: the service would be reinstated within an hour after I made the payment online. I was pretty pleased by that (and in fact, I'm almost always pleased by DirecTV's service), because so many places offer 24 or even 48 hour reconnect times for what these days almost always involves somebody pushing a button. One phone company I know can't reconnect service over weekends, period, even though they'll gladly take your money on the weekend. So I thought that promising a one hour turnaround was pretty impressive.
Then I clicked the Accept button. And from the office and the other room, I instantly heard TVs start playing. And I checked my email Inbox. There was a confirmation email.
That is how technology is supposed to work these days. Next time someone tells you it will take 48 hours to reconnect service, ask them why it only takes DirecTV 0.48 seconds.
Are you listening, SBC?
I have an example of my own to offer here, with the small electronics firm PhonoPreamps.com, which vends audio accessories pertinent to us diehard vinyl owners. I'd taken delivery on their midline TC-753 preamplifier, and while it performed up to specs and better than the decaying phono section in the 30-year-old receiver to which it was attached the DC power plug didn't seem to fit correctly. At 8:09 pm I wrote up an email query to the company; they responded by 8:22, and after a quick exchange of symptom descriptions, their mailer program sent me a confirmation that a new power brick was being sent out. It was still a few minutes before nine.
I mention this here because (1) one should reward those who have served you well and (2) once this gets into the Google system, it will probably carry more weight than the usual one-line entries in the Amazon.com Marketplace feedback system.
Gross National product
The Nationals might never be. Boo freaking Hoo. I'm an Orioles fan and it wouldn't break my heart at all not to have a "local" team (transplanted from Canada and known for its distinct Latin character) move in and take away televised games I actually care to see. Nobody local should be surprised, because it's Washington DC fer pete's sake! What did you expect?!?!?!?! The Nationals were a political hostage from the day they were announced, I'm just surprised their official uniforms weren't announced as orange jumpsuits.
In defense of the District, at least Council Chair Linda Cropp had the radical idea that stadia ought to be built with funds provided, at least in part, by someone other than taxpayers, a notion which was received poorly in some circles but which makes perfect sense to me.
That mean ol' Fox
The Oklahoma Gazette's Preston Jones is sorely vexed this week by the announcement (on the 6th) that Clear Channel has signed Fox News to produce national radio newscasts. The prospects are harrowing:
The ramifications of what Clear Channel and Fox News Channel are engaging in speaks volumes about the state of information flow in America and doesn't bode well for that most often-trampled privilege: freedom of the press. Now not only will the music you hear be neutered; the news you're hearing may not necessarily be the whole story, either.
Well, okay, if you say so, but try as I may, I can't much get worked up over this Beelzebub/Moloch joint venture. For one thing, it's going to displace, in this market at least, exactly one provider of news. KTOK, Clear Channel's primary news/talk outlet here, will presumably give up its ABC affiliation; rival KOKC, owned by Renda, has recently switched from CBS to ABC. (I have seen nothing to indicate that either Clear Channel's KEBC or Citadel's WKY, the two weaker talk stations, have any changes in store.) At most, we lose a CBS station, and one which trailed badly in the ratings at that.
More to the point, KTOK, already carrying Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, can hardly lurch farther rightward by the addition of five whole minutes (minus commercials) of Fox News on the hour.
Jones does the math:
[I]f all options are exercised, Fox News could have more than 500 affiliates by the middle of 2005.
The presumed big loser in this deal is ABC Radio, which has eleven networks, five of which are targeted to news/talk stations. ABC predominates among existing Clear Channel news/talk outlets; even if they were to lose 500 affiliates, which they won't, it would hurt, but they'd still have around 2000. Westwood One, which distributes CBS, NBC and CNN Radio, services about 1500 news/talk stations. National Public Radio has 750 affiliates. That evil Fox monolith is headed straight for fourth place.
Preston Jones finishes up his article with a mention of AlterNet's ongoing Fox coverage. I figure the least I can do is post a link to it. But the amount of sleep I plan to lose over the Clear Channel/Fox deal can be measured in microseconds.
Buy my house dot com
Anyone who's bought a house lately (which, I suppose, includes yours truly) has browsed real-estate Web sites of one sort or another, usually operated by Realtors® or other brokers and their respective companies. Homes offered For Sale By Owner generally don't have much of a Web presence.
Then there's this: 12608ArrowheadDrive.com, dedicated to the selling, by owner, of a home at, well, yeah, it's obvious.
(If you see this and subsequently buy the house, let me know. No, I don't want a finder's fee or anything like that.)
I guess I gotta buy it
File this under "Once in a Lifetime": there's an actual (albeit very small) picture of Michelle Malkin in Playboy.
No, not like that, ya perv. In the annual The Year in Sex roundup (January '05), there is, not entirely unexpectedly, a marginally-raunchy picture of Jessica "Washingtonienne" Cutler, and to give credence to her particular transgressions, there's a clip from the Post (which Post, I couldn't say) with Ms Malkin's column, complete with standard photo of the columnist. The column, incidentally, was given the title "Slut on the Hill" by the Post.
It is, I note in passing, a sign of something that InStyle arrived the same day, and comparing the cover photos, I was much more inspired (if that's the word) by Diane Lane than by Jenny McCarthy.
19 December 2004
We're at a flashpoint, says Bruce Prescott of the Oklahoma chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State:
We've got a lot of people who are much more militant trying to assert faith in the public square.
Um, much more than what? Is there an established standard for militancy? If you drive downtown at night this week, you'll see two crosses in the sky, one on the Bank One tower, one at Kerr-McGee, and if you swing by the Oklahoma City National Memorial, "Jesus wept" is translated into stone. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think of any of these manifestations as being in my face.
We need to dispel the myth that Christians are being persecuted in our public schools. Most of the instances I hear about Christians being persecuted are really examples about Christians no longer being permitted to dominate the stage and school or takeover the public square.
In Mustang, people are complaining because their children could not stage a dramatic visual climax to a play that was designed to give dramatic emphasis to one faith the Christian religion.
If public schools are going to talk about religion, they need to see that each faith gets [fair] and equal treatment. They cannot give token mention of minority faiths while providing catechisms and Sunday School lessons for the majority faith.
And they did get to sing "Silent Night" in Mustang, which is not exactly generic.
Where, however, is the line between "token mention" and running afoul of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause? Here's Mike Korenblit, co-founder of the Respect Diversity Foundation:
I think it's important that Jewish kids understand about Christmas and what Kwanzaa is. I want Christian kids to know about Hanukkah. When we do that, we're celebrating everybody, and I think that's important.
Hanukkah is certainly a legitimate Jewish celebration, albeit one which has been stretched almost beyond recognition, and certainly there's a good reason to go over the Muslim holidays which bracket the season. (There's something weirdly artificial about Kwanzaa.) But if the whole idea is to enhance the kids' self-esteem or some such business, then put me down for celebrating nobody.
Last word? I cede it to Dr Prescott, because I think this, at least, is one of the few inarguable points that can be made:
Some statement of the Golden Rule, either positively or negatively, is common to all faiths. It is not a controversial value. If everybody would practice it, we could put an end to about 90% of these church-state cases.
Sounds good to me.
As a matter of fact, I do own this damn road
Congress, says the Constitution, is empowered to establish post offices and post roads. Certainly this particular clause was never intended to give government a monopoly over road-building; there are plenty of private roads to this day, some in rural areas, some right here in Oklahoma City. (Often they're designated by street signs that look like the standard OKC sign, except they have green text on a white background instead of the white-on-green you find on city streets.)
Still, it's been a while since we saw anything like this:
Taking an historic step, the Texas Transportation Commission [Thursday] selected a proposal by Cintra an international group of engineering, construction and financial firms as the best value for the state in developing the Oklahoma-to-Mexico portion of the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC-35).
Cintra proposes to invest $6 billion in a toll road between Dallas and San Antonio by 2010, give the state $1.2 billion for additional transportation improvements between Oklahoma and Mexico, and to extend the corridor into the Lower Rio Grande Valley to Mexico.
"This is an historic change in the way major transportation assets are built and paid for in Texas," said Ric Williamson, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission. "Private investment, not taxpayer dollars, will be where we look first for funding."
To address the state's need for immediate congestion relief on Interstate 35, the first phase of Cintra's proposal calls for developing $6 billion in new roadways roughly paralleling the interstate by 2010. This includes building 316 miles of new four-lane divided highway from Dallas to San Antonio. According to the proposal, pending environmental clearance and the public-involvement process, construction could begin immediately after right-of-way acquisition.
A five-year period doesn't strike me as particularly "immediate," but it would probably take TxDOT longer than that to make any meaningful improvements on I-35; the Cintra proposal bypasses I-35 entirely and creates a whole new road. In exchange for its billions of investment and maintenance expenditures, Cintra will collect tolls on this road for its first fifty years of operation. (If this sounds like a long time, well, we've been paying tolls on the Turner Turnpike for 51 years now; at least Cintra, unlike the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, is announcing a termination date.)
This isn't Cintra's first toll road in the States they're a partner in the group which is buying the Chicago Skyway but this is the first one they're building from scratch.
It's no walk in the park
Long ago when I was a little skater I realized that places that feel public are really only public on the condition that you'll be spending money. We have so few public squares that don't exist for a reason other than shopping. There have been challenges to the idea that malls are public spaces. They are not. They exist as places where we can gather to purchase goods.
And not much else. The mall exists to facilitate commerce; any similarity to actual public gathering places is purely coincidental. Penn Square will never be a Town Square.
I don't have much of a problem spending money, especially on those rare occasions when I actually have some, but my favorite places tend to be those whose priorities don't begin and end with separating me from my cash.
Your tax dollars at work
[W]hen I went to school there, there were 2 kindergarten teachers, and I think 2 teachers from every other grade. We had a principal (I don't remember an assistant principal), I think there might have been a nurse, and we had a gym teacher as well. There may have been other support personnel, but I was not aware of it.
But now? They have 3 teachers at each grade, which means there are 18 class teachers, along with art, music, 2 gym teachers, gifted and talented, 2 reading teachers, and a math "coach." Ignoring the fact that the latter 3 seem to be redundant considering the fact that reading and math are classroom subjects, we'll add it all up and say there are 27 teachers and one principal.
But there are 13 faculty members unaccounted for. 13? What do they do? Well, there is/are:
And, for all we know, a partridge in a pear tree. Those positions aren't all staffed full-time: the Occupational Therapist, for instance, divides her time among three schools in the district.
To me, this seemed like a lot of people to run a single school, so I checked into the school nearest to me, a school generally well-regarded in this district, and there's pretty much the same complement of positions, plus, owing to the ethnic makeup of the area in which I live, two bilingual assistants.
I guess this is how many people it takes to run a grade school these days. But I can't help wondering: is the day coming when the admirals will outnumber the ships?
20 December 2004
Imagine my surprise
I didn't send anything to the Carnival of the Capitalists this week, hosted by XTremeBlog, but apparently they found me anyway. (This was the post to which they linked.) It's nice to know that some of this homegrown verbiage found a few additional buyers this week.
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And we hope you'll take it in the same spirit as does Xrlq:
Whether I remain an agnostic for the rest of my life or convert to any other of the world's major religions, I hereby promise that I do not now, nor will I ever, take offense at being wished a Merry Christmas by anybody. The only conditions of this promise are as follows: (1) it must actually be Christmas, or shortly before it (i.e., wishing me a Merry Christmas on the Fourth of July won't work) and (2) the wish must be sincere, i.e., you must really mean "Merry Christmas," and not "get your ass back in church, you heathen." To everyone else I say, if having someone wish you a "Merry Christmas" does not make you feel good, get help. The problem is with you, not with them.
Besides, where else, outside the legend of Robin Hood, are you going to hear "merry" in the first place?
The Deming business
I've stayed off the David Deming story, partly because our paths have crossed a few times, mostly in the context of Usenet, and I think it's reasonable to say that there's no love lost.
On the other hand, I am not at all pleased to note that Dr Deming has been gradually reclassified as an unperson by his employer, the University of Oklahoma, as he explained earlier this year in FrontPage:
My troubles began in March of 2000 when I published a "letter to the editor" in the campus newspaper that some people found offensive. Responding to a female columnist who claimed that possession of a firearm made every gun owner a potential murderer, I pointed out by way of analogy that her possession of an unregistered sexual organ made her a potential prostitute. For writing this letter, twenty-five charges of sexual harassment were filed against me by people I had never met. My attitudes, convictions, and beliefs were put on trial in a secret Star Chamber proceeding. After I admitted (gasp) that I was a member of the National Rifle Association, I was asked this question: do you think the Nazis were bad people?
For publishing "the letter," I received a formal letter of reprimand from Dean John T. Snow. After receiving the reprimand, I asked Dean Snow how the publication of my controversial letter would affect my position at OU with regard to issues such as promotion and raises. Instead of reassuring me that my expression of a political opinion would not affect my professional career, Snow said that the answer was "unclear." In a statement that I believe was intended to intimidate me, Snow said that in making future decisions he would "weigh in" how much I had learned from past experiences.
What Dr Deming learned is that the hand that feeds him was inclined to slap him around, and he continued to bite back. In the summer of '03, Deming ventured the opinion that the University was opening itself up to charges of conflict of interest by naming a new professor who happened to be an officer at a consulting firm in which other faculty members held interests. The University responded by stripping him of most of his classes and banishing him to the basement. Deming sued; OU filed a motion to dismiss; the University's motion has now been itself dismissed, meaning Deming's suit can go forward.
The complete text of Deming's complaint can be read here. [Link requires Adobe Reader.]
Kinsey is playing in town (at the AMC Quail Springs), which will undoubtedly surprise some folks. I'm a bit amazed myself. And whereas this is normally my cue to run right out and see the darn thing while I still can, I admit to some qualms about the whole premise, and not necessarily the most obvious ones either: Alfred Kinsey may indeed have been something of a perv, and I have no particular reason to doubt that his research and his jollies were occasionally commingled, but what bugs me about this particular enterprise is the bland assumption by some of our cultural arbiters that Alfred Kinsey was some kind of trailblazer, leading us out of the sexual backwaters into the sunshine of polymorphous perversity.
Borrowing Fametracker's Fame Barometer premise, I'd rank Dr Kinsey alongside, oh, Gabriel Fahrenheit, remembered today for his temperature scale. Kinsey's own scale, which attempted to measure one's degree of homosexuality, is useful as a form of shorthand, less useful as a psychological profile. Still, the zero-to-six continuum is probably the one product of Kinsey's research that has much of a chance of holding up as research: many of the ideas Kinsey promoted were second-hand (Freud and Krafft-Ebing generally were there first). What's more, Bruce Thornton suggests that Kinsey was the beneficiary of fortuitous timing:
Kinsey's success at becoming a media sensation occurred because the culture was ready for such a message, particularly in the flush triumphalism of the post-war years, when everybody was in the mood for cutting loose and enjoying the new freedom created by the war. Kinsey simply gave a patina of science to a message many Americans were already primed to hear.
I'm not buying the notion that Alfred Kinsey is responsible for all of the ills of society up to and including the heartbreak of psoriasis, as some would have us believe; to me, he's just another name in the history books with more footnotes than he probably deserves. Call me when Kevin Bacon stars in Fahrenheit! The Heat Is On.
(Inspired by, and with thanks to, Cassandra of Villainous Company, who disavows any knowledge of this screed.)
Why don't we do it in our heads?
I don't want a double-album. I think you ought to cut out some of these, concentrate on the really good ones and have yourself a really super album. Let's whittle them down to 14 to 16 titles and concentrate on those.
Of course, in those days the Beatles weren't taking advice from anyone, George Martin included, and The Beatles, otherwise known as the White Album, came out with an unwieldy thirty tracks running over an hour and a half. Boiling this down to a CD-R is easy throw out both the "Revolution" tracks and do a couple of early fades but how would you make a good single album, as Sir George had urged, out of all this?
The criteria I set for my own version: less than 45 minutes (to fit a preloaded cassette), alternate John and Paul where possible, two George songs, and find a place for Ringo.
This is what I came up with:
Timings: 21:12 + 20:31 = 41:43.
The excellent Turn Me On, Dead Man offers some alternative versions.
Note: Do not ask me to do this for Todd Rundgren's Something/Anything.
21 December 2004
Buy for me the air
The proposal to move Guymon's KGYN to Oklahoma City has been in the mill for a couple of years now, and it's not surprising that there would be counterapplications on the table. The rival applicants are Sharon Berlin Ingles, who wants to relocate the 1210 kHz facility to Bixby, Oklahoma, and Powell Meredith Communications, who would like to pair it with their KKHR-FM in Abilene, Texas.
Translating the announcement from FCCese, it appears that neither Ingles, nor Powell Meredith, nor TELNS, the current KGYN licensee, wins the prize for Best Overall Application. The commission, therefore, is going to throw the facility open to the highest bidder.
If nothing else, we'll see how badly Clear Channel, which has been programming KGYN under a local marketing agreement with TELNS, wants to spend money on it. I don't remember the FCC ever running an auction for an AM facility.
Form following fugly
The Oklahoman reports that the new Dell facility on the
"This," says Mayor Cornett, "will send a progressive message, a message that we have a presence of high tech industry."
Um, Your Honor, sir, we're not trying to lure American Standard here, are we?
There is, or was, a Braum's Ice Cream store off I-40 at Villa/Agnew; it's now shut down, acquired by the state as part of the process of laying down the new hyperexpensive alternate alignment to Interstate 40.
But when a door closes, they say, another opens, and The Downtown Guy sees an opening:
For anyone wanting a grocery store downtown, this might be the shot to get a good start. Braum's has had success with limited grocery / ice cream / restaurants across town. In addition to selling the typical assortment of burgers, sandwiches, etc., they also sell fresh meat, produce, eggs, milk, bread, cheese and other basic grocery items.
The only supermarket close to downtown, you'll remember, is a Homeland on 18th between Classen and Western adjacent to Mesta Park.
The Braum's nearest to me, at 39th and Pennsylvania, has made this conversion, and it's very handy; the selection is somewhat limited, but one could argue that the selection at one of the monster markets in the 'burbs might be too large, and what Braum's does carry in the way of actual groceries is well beyond what you'll find in most convenience stores.
(Aside: This store is careful to identify itself on the phone as "39th and North Penn," because, as they explained, there is also a store at 39th and South Penn.)
And this may be an answer, if not necessarily the answer, for the New Downtowners:
Braum's has got to be looking for a new I-40 store. Could they build a new full store and restaurant closer to downtown. They would get the same traffic that hit the old store, plus downtowners who want a Braum's breakfast or lunch, plus grocery access craved so badly by downtowners.
Which leads to a question: do you park the store along the new I-40 alignment, which is half a mile south of downtown at its closest approach, or do you locate it along the "parkway" they're supposed to make out of the old I-40?
I'd be really surprised if Bill Braum's kids weren't thinking this over already.
And boy, are my arms tired
And then, because it's a kindness to slake his blogthirst, you need to read Sean Gleeson's list of Rumsfeld's other high crimes and misdemeanors.
Go North, the rush is on
US News and World Report has an end-of-year cover story with the unlikely title 50 Ways To Improve Your Life In 2005. To give them credit, unlike Paul Simon, US News does actually list all 50 Ways; however, I doubt anyone is going to take them up on all 50, especially #8: Move to Bismarck.
My fondness for North Dakota is on the record, and indeed I can imagine some people for whom the Peace Garden state might be just this side of paradise, but the key word here is "some." From a hotel room in Fargo this summer, I wrote:
Not everyone can live here not everyone should live here, perhaps but the place has its rewards, if you know how to look for them.
US News found quite a few:
Yes, the winters are cold, the New York Philharmonic never visits, and it's more than 1,000 miles to the nearest coast. But North Dakota boasts shorter commutes, less violent crime, and better high school graduation rates than any other state in the union. Add in the capital's stable economy and low unemployment, affordable housing, sunny skies, and year-round recreation, and you've got a near-perfect recipe for low-stress living.
It helps, I suppose, if you're about my age or older and have lost the urge to go bar-hopping on a regular basis. And if that cold-winter business disturbs you, well, there's always South Dakota.
And a fa-la-la to you
While I am inclined to defend the trappings of Christmas anyway, I would probably do so more enthusiastically were it not the case that some of the most godawful, loudly-barking doggerel in the farging universe has been pressed into service on its behalf. No, I don't mean "Silent Night" or its brethren in the hymnal; I mean the crap they actually play on the radio between exudings of José Feliciano's incredibly-annoying "Feliz Navidad," which is in a subclass by itself.
And if you don't believe me, perhaps you'll believe Wendy.
22 December 2004
In parts of Italy, it brings you a medical-evacuation team; around blogdom, it's the 118th edition of Carnival of the Vanities, presented for your dancing and dining pleasure by Ravenwood's Universe. (This is Ravenwood's second shot at it, and it's even better than the first.) Bloggy goodness abounds.
For all you Irving Berlin fanatics
If a white Christmas is just like the ones you used to know, you're not from around here; Oklahoma City has had snowfall on the 25th of December a mere ten times since 1890, and only six times has there been more than an inch on the ground.
Then again, the stuff is falling right now, and the temperature is 28 degrees Fahrenheit, and this is as warm as it's going to get for the next couple of days, so....
A greener shade of warm
Old friend Fred in Floyd is much closer to the weather than most of the rest of us:
We heat with wood that we cut ourselves from our valley. We don't have air conditioning. We try to grow our own vegetables as the weather will allow. Our road becomes impassable in flood or blizzard. I suppose some would say we have romantic attachments to a simpler way of living. It is true we do find pleasure in adapting our rhythms to the season's vagaries. We are full-immersion types; a sprinkling of autumn or winter somehow doesn't seem efficacious in our relationship with the land.
But why, in this modern age, should the weather matter? With the exception of natural disasters, most Americans can control their comforts at the flip of a dial and give it not another thought. After all, isn't climate-independence a measure of our civilized victory over the elements and something we have worked long and hard to accomplish for our species?
The elements can give as good as they get, as the thermometer is about to demonstrate here on the Lone Prairie. Where we're getting disconnected, I think, is in our persistence in building big drafty castles on bare land, thinking we'll make up the difference in SEER ratings.
Until the rise of central heat and air, houses, of necessity, were built to minimize the effects of nature. The Criterion Group, a preservationist organization in central Oklahoma City, emphasizes this point:
Preserved historic structures are generally the ultimate in "green" buildings. By adaptively reusing old structures, we reduce the amount of energy and assets needed to create materials for the new structures that may replace them. Most historic structures are designed to passively heat and cool themselves, with high ceilings, southern exposures, and operating windows. More often than not, simply installing additional insulation and weatherstrip to a historic structure will drop those heating and cooling bills dramatically.
Surlywood, built in 1948 before the big switch to central air conditioning, ran up 20 percent less in electricity bills last summer than I spent on average for each of the three preceding summers in my old 1970s-vintage flat, which was 15 percent smaller and had fewer electrical appliances. I have little doubt that with energy monitoring turned up to the next level of finickiness, I could have scraped off another 5 percent or so.
I'm not at all weather-independent; I suffer some of the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, and recent arthritis has made me more sensitive to humidity. Nor do I believe that by spending X number of dollars I can buy myself out of the cycle of the seasons. (This excludes, say, moving to Ecuador, which requires a value for X that isn't even thinkable.) This is not to say I'm in the same league as Fred, who has this mostly-cheerful modern-pioneer vibe that I could seriously envy, but I put some effort into not being isolated from the world around me. Except when it's really, really cold.
This plate sucks
Someone please tell me this is Photoshopped.
(Purloined from Gawker.)
Some time tomorrow, visitor #600,000 will arrive, and if past performance is any indication, will leave almost immediately afterward.
(For those keeping score, the half-million mark was reached on the twenty-fourth of June.)
Popping off at Pop's Sodium Shoppe
Well, at least Fayetteville doesn't have to worry about snow on the streets:
[A]ccording to Field Operations Supervisor Bryan Hobbs, the city of Fayetteville has purchased three pickup trucks, with water tanks and sprayers in the back, that will pump a 23 percent saltwater solution onto roads before the snow falls. "It's supposed to rain before it snows, so we have to wait until after it rains to spray the streets, or else the salt will just get washed away," Hobbs said. "When the snow combines with the salt, it creates heat, which melts away ice."
In other news, the city plans to get its police helicopter airborne again some time in the next few weeks, soon as Sam's Club gets in a fresh shipment of Alka-Seltzer.
(Via Rita, who actually remembers her high-school chemistry.)
23 December 2004
Not including compound interest
One advantage of ancient music ancient, in this context, meaning "anything before 1980 or so" is that the first time you heard it, it's very likely that you heard it, as distinguished from having picked up on it as the background of some music video that may or may not be relevant to the song at all.
Still, this is not to say that earlier tunes can't be enhanced by some visuals, and here's a particularly nice example: Tom Lehrer's Savoyardian derangement of the Periodic Table, in a breezily elemental (sorry) style.
(Via Phoebe Gleeson.)
Tw4z t3h N1t3 B3f0r3 Xm4z
By John Bambenek, based on a possibly-recognizable theme.
(Via the easily-identifiable Dawn Eden.)
Failure to communicate
A fairly large area of town has no cable access today, owing to the failure, if not utter destruction, of some unspecified component; yours truly is among the irritated customers.
The Mrs Grace L. Ferguson Cable TV and Storm Door Company, of course, doesn't make this sort of information available to just anyone. (God forbid they should put word of a partial system outage up on their Web site, where at least those of us who have some form of alternate Net access might see it; why, someone might think badly of them.) No, you must negotiate the twists and turns of their phone system, cough up four-ninths of your Social Security number is this not illegal or anything? and hope you got to the right place, because none of the proffered options actually describe your problem.
Maybe I'll send them a note about this, after I tear them a new one for their spam-handling, which amounts to "Here you go, happy eating"; these people are loath to block an email even if it contains the words DANGER: WORM in caps in the subject line and has twelve different starving piglets as attachments.
(Update, 5:30 pm: They have no idea when things will be repaired.)
'Twas a New York Roadrunner user (184.108.40.206) at ten seconds before 5:30, Googling for playboy deborah gibson, which brought him here. (Um, the Debster has never actually posed for Hef and friends.)
As predicted yesterday, he left shortly afterwards, presumably unsatisfied. Further comment from me would undoubtedly be superfluous.
24 December 2004
Still cut off
Beyond the 24-hour mark now, and still no one knows when the cable will be back up. (And, of course, it's too late to switch to DSL, were I so inclined, until the middle of next week.)
This is less of an issue for me than it is for people who have put all their eggs television, Internet and telephone in a single basket, but it's still a major annoyance, and the resulting correspondence will not be pretty.
Passing of the baton
I have definitely learned my lesson this month. Forget about trying to wangle links from the Big Boys of Blogdom; it's far more rewarding to garner traffic from the Glorious Girls.
See this item for prior justification of this generalization. And if you're coming here from Michelle Malkin's place, as 162 of you have done in the last thirty minutes, this is the article she mentioned.
Take that, puppy blender.
Working at cross-purposes
When last we left the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, they were voting to change the official county seal in an effort to head off a lawsuit by the ACLU. Among the changes: the crosses over the Hollywood Bowl and the San Gabriel Mission were erased.
And they won't stay erased. The decals ordered by the county to be placed over the old seals don't seem to cover up the crosses at all; in fact, one cross shows up atop the Mission despite the fact that the image of the Mission was moved.
Wiser men than I might take this as a Sign.
(Via McGehee, a wise guy in his own right.)
Things to do when you're off the Net
My Web surfing is obviously off 80 or 90 percent, so I had to fill the time in other ways, preferably indoors, what with the temperature still below freezing outside.
One task that came up was replacing my shower curtain, which is trickier than you think, inasmuch as the standard 70-by-70 inch curtain is about a third too small for my purposes: not that I have this incredibly large tub or anything, but instead of a single horizontal bar, it has a semicircular ring which goes around one side and the back. Places like Bed Bath and Beyond, informed of this necessity, look at me as though I'd requested a replica of the Taj Mahal made out of cream cheese. To the rescue: Clawfoot Supply in northern Kentucky, which vends a 70-by-108 curtain that requires eighteen, rather than twelve hanging rings. Perfect, and at $39 not horribly overpriced.
Evil, wicked MP3s occasionally cross my path (please note: I have never had any file-sharing software installed), and inevitably some of them are better done than others. I had happened upon a nice needle-drop of the Honey Cone's last big hit, "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show" (Hot Wax 7110, late '71), and while it was decently clean, at about the 1:40 point the stylus had been thrown back six or seven revolutions, repeating a small section. I got it into my head that I can fix this, and after squeezing things down to the thousandth-of-a-second level, I came up with a decent, if probably not commercial-quality, re-edit and a distinctly sweaty forehead from trying to fixate on the same notes, and the same fractions of notes, over and over again.
And there's always food, aided and abetted by Wampy's Certified Edible Fruitcake (Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.) and an unexpected box of goodies from Dan and Angi Lovejoy, who dropped by briefly to say hi. It will take a while to finish these off; the days when I could polish off a whole box of vanilla wafers at a single sitting are gone forever, and it's probably just as well.
25 December 2004
Pieces of the action
The Feds are complaining that the profits from the three Cheyenne-Arapaho casinos in the state are not being spent properly.
Under an agreement with the Department of the Interior, tribal leaders have a template for disbursing the funds; the agreement has been challenged in court. While the casinos could theoretically be closed, the government has not yet imposed a deadline for compliance.
The Lucky Star casinos in Clinton and Concho the latter heavily advertised in Oklahoma City media earned around $10 million last year.
On a downhill pull
The minion from the Mrs Grace L. Ferguson Cable TV and Storm Door Company arrived today around noon and quickly identified the problem: there was a live connection for their phone service on site, I wasn't listed as a subscriber, so once they discovered this, they cut me off entirely. Inasmuch as I'm not a subscriber to their phone service and in the wake of this incident, wouldn't become one if they gave me a year for free and Carmen Electra's number on speed-dial I found this a bit egregious.
The minion removed the offending equipment, remounted the correct wiring, and that was that. Next comes the nastygram to Mrs Ferguson herself, which, in the tradition of Surlywood, will be a beaut.
Ever so slightly spiked
I mean, this was a slow day otherwise. Of the 3,080 visitors yesterday, 2,554 came to see that one silly little item. Needless to say, I'm inclined to think that the increased Malkinization of blogdom is a Good Thing.
26 December 2004
You're going where?
Tom Lindley's column in The Oklahoman today touches on a phenomenon I've noticed myself: while Bricktown is now firmly established as a tourist destination, a surprising number of people who live here have never ventured into the district.
The powers that be at 42nd and Treadmill decreed that this year's Christmas party would be held at the Bricktown Brewery, at twelve years old one of the more established, um, establishments in the area, and I spent something like half a day explaining to coworkers where it was, how to get there, where to park, and other logistical details which I tend to take for granted. And it occurred to me after about the seventh or eighth iteration of these details that had someone asked me about them a couple of years ago, when I was living out in the 'burbs, I probably would have drawn a blank myself.
Our newbies, once arrived in Bricktown, all responded with variations on the same theme: "I had no idea we had something like this here." Oklahoma City has a forty-year history of people avoiding downtown, which, I suggest, began when the old Shepherd homestead west of Pennsylvania on NW 23rd was developed for retail in the early 1960s, with Sears, Roebuck moving out of downtown altogether to anchor the east end of the development.
By now, there's enough critical mass of activity in Bricktown to insure things will keep growing, at least for a while. And people will come downtown for some things the Festival of the Arts, say, or Opening Night which was one of the motivations for this year's Downtown in December promotion, which had events scheduled all through the month. I'm thinking, though, that while restaurants and watering holes are wonderful things, Bricktown indeed, all of the downtown area needs some form of retail beyond Bass Pro: not necessarily big box stores, not necessarily the return of Sears or its K mart overlords, but the kind of funky little shops that have started to take hold in some of the spiffier strip centers. Something like Two Sisters, over by my place, might do well in a Bricktown storefront, or along Automobile Alley. Events are events, and they are glorious to behold, but shopping is part of everyday life.
(Update, 9 pm: The Downtown Guy suggests: "At the very least, maybe we need to encourage more office Christmas parties in Bricktown." Maybe next year.)
When the very ground shakes
The world's most powerful earthquake in 40 years triggered massive tidal waves that slammed into villages and seaside resorts across Asia on Sunday, killing more than 3,900 people in six countries.
Tourists, fishermen, homes and cars were swept away by walls of water up to 20 feet high that swept across the Bay of Bengal, unleashed by the 8.9-magnitude earthquake centered off the west coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
I root for hurricanes. When, courtesy of the Weather Channel, I see one forming in the ocean off the coast of Africa, I find myself longing for it to become big and strong Mother Nature's fist of fury, Gaia's stern rebuke. Considering the havoc mankind has wreaked upon nature with deforesting, stripmining, and the destruction of animal habitat, it only seems fair that nature get some of its own back and teach us that there are forces greater than our own.
You've got to figure he's champing at the bit for that killer asteroid to show up.
Snickering about architecture
Our man at the Red Dirt Blog is soliciting examples of Oklahoma kitsch, demonstrations of this state's long tradition of "creative freedumb."
And really, you can't get much kitschier than the Braum's (previously Townley's) Milk Bottle standing on top of that tiny storefront (lately, Saigon Baguette) at 24th and Classen; there's an Andy Warhol-on-Route 66 vibe to it that tickles me every time I see it, and its proximity to the Bucky Fuller geodesic dome across 23rd well, can you imagine the reaction of someone new to the city southbound on Classen for the first time? First the bottle, then the dome, then that missile gantry of a tower at 22nd, and by 21st he's thinking "Were these people out of their minds?"
Well, of course we were. Sheesh.
Sunday spottings (and despottings)
I have yet to wash my car in the driveway at Surlywood, partially out of some vague concern for the environment, but mostly because I am lazy and would rather have the machine at the Shell station do it for six bucks. But poor Sandy, having carried around the traces of last Wednesday's snow for half a week, was looking a lot older than her (just under) 40,000 miles, and this being still technically the holiday season, I was in the mood to indulge both myself and the car, so off we went to the Red Carpet Car Wash at 50th and Pennsylvania, an idea which apparently occurred to about a hundred other people today.
The amazing thing about this place is that it works despite its atmosphere of utter chaos, from the fellow who soaped something that looked like "GAS F 87 WAX CH" on the glass "fill up, 87 octane, wash and wax, cherry-scented air freshener" would accurately describe what I ordered to the person who found two quarters under the seat and left them on the console (I promptly lost one of them again), to the chap who wielded his blue towels like a toreador in a hurricane. And those are just the people I was watching when I wasn't trying to strike up a conversation with the gorgeous blonde with the gold Oldsmobile. I can remember times when I spent a lot more than $33 for a lot less entertainment.
I've seen this twice now: a Chrysler PT Cruiser with a Continental kit. I suppose it says something about Bryan Nesbitt's original retro design that this car doesn't actually look ridiculous with a fake spare tire sticking out of its rear bumper, though it may be a function of the original gunmetal-grey paint color; I don't want to see this in yellow or red.
The city's Thou Shalt Not Skate ordinance covers most of the downtown area, though it doesn't extend as far north as Winans Park (the circular park along Broadway south of 23rd), where I saw a few folks parked outside the old Borden plant packing up their boards. I did some temp work at Borden many years ago, and I seem to remember some strange stretches of concrete along there, which presumably explains the appeal.
And I hadn't thought about this before, but if I ran a moviehouse inside a mall with a marquee outside the mall, I'd surely place Meet the Fockers as high off the ground as I possibly could.
27 December 2004
Can it happen here?
A quake of magnitude 9.0 is almost unimaginable. The worst in the past century was a 9.5 quake (six times as severe) that struck the coast of Chile in 1960; nearly a thousand miles of fault line ruptured, and 80-foot waves were reported. Just over two thousand people were killed.
Still, in terms of sheer destructiveness, the 9.0 temblor off the coast of Sumatra is more than holding its own: deaths are now over ten thousand, and 40-foot waves have been reported more than half a mile inland in Sri Lanka.
[T]here is little to no high ground in my entire state until you get near the Georgia border; if a tidal wave as big as this one hits we're pretty screwed. We're also close to the Caribbean, where they have live volcanoes.
You have to figure that any tidal wave big enough to reach Oklahoma has already taken out Louisiana and much of Texas, but we have more than our share of earthquakes. The Meers fault in the southwestern part of the state is big enough to see for much of its 16-mile length; it was relatively dormant for a few millennia, but then exploded about 1600 years ago into a quake estimated at magnitude 7.0. The worst quake to hit the state in recent years, though, wasn't along the Meers, but along a fault line running from El Reno to Kingfisher; it struck El Reno in 1952.
A bigger danger, perhaps, comes from the New Madrid fault line, which runs from southern Illinois down the Missouri bootheel into northeastern Arkansas, crossing the Mississippi River three times (and the Ohio twice) along the way. In the winter of 1811-1812, three successive 8.0-plus quakes laid waste to the Mississippi Valley; church bells rang as far away as Boston. There is, say some experts, about a 1 in 4 chance of a quake as large as 7.5 between now and 2040, which would be enough to cause damage in northeastern Oklahoma; the chance of at least a 6.0 by 2040 is almost 90 percent.
The worst earthquake recorded in North America US struck Prince William Sound in Alaska in 1964; it was somewhere in the high eights, maybe low nines, about a point above the San Francisco quake of 1906.
I still plan to sleep tonight.
Glutton for punishment
I went back to work this morning at 7 am, which was perhaps not the wisest maneuver on my part. On the other hand, were I to delay longer, the amount of stuff waiting would grow definitely larger and probably more intractable.
So back into the fray I go. At least there won't be any of the creepy Christmas tunes on the radio.
Unresolved questions of 2004
Rich Appel's Hz So Good newsletter (get it from audiot.savant-at-verizon.net) asks the questions no one else dares:
Who's smarter, Smarty Jones or Anna Nicole?
Is it true that if you drive cross-country in a car with the new geomapping system, Howard Dean yells out each state as you cross the border?
Now that both Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Green Jeans have left us, who holds the keys to the Treasure House? Bunny Rabbit? Would you trust that manipulative son-of-a-bunny with that kind of real estate?
If poker's such a big deal on cable, how come there isn't "Celebrity Crazy 8s" on Nickelodeon?
If the Steelers go all the way, can someone convince Jennifer Beals to dump water over herself at the Super Bowl?
If several million folk can donate $1 to cancer research and get (and wear) a silly yellow rubber bracelet, why can't someone bring back Superballs and sell those to raise money for testicular cancer?
When the NHL hung it up for the season, did any sports page actually use the headline "Get the Puck Out of Here"?
Do you think Nicole Richie has ever actually listened to her stepdad's music?
Is it true there were no bad reviews of Fahrenheit 9/11 because Michael Moore ate them?
If Curt Schilling's favorite band wasn't Blood, Sweat & Tears, shouldn't it be by now?
And there are many, many more, some of which I don't dare answer.
Many fabulous dates
Three hundred sixty-five of them, in fact, illustrated by a couple of computers from my past (and about nine or ten from Terkish Payne's present, I'd bet).
Oh, wait. I have more than one wall, don't I?
28 December 2004
Moore than we bargained for
As a center-leftist (some might just [say] leftist-leftist), I wish Michael Moore would just disappear for a spell. While I give him props for his propagandist skills and unequivocal showmanship, ultimately his left-wing extremism hurts the cause of liberalism a hell of a lot more than it helps, and he provides the Right with as much of a straw man as loons like Pat Robertson to the Left.
In his younger days, he seemed quite a bit less doctrinaire about things. I remember his television series TV Nation, which had an interest in snark at least as high as my own, and which featured briefly something called the CEO Corporate Challenge, in which the chairmen would be pulled out of the boardroom long enough to demonstrate some actual familiarity with the products vended by the firms they ran. One of the CEOs targeted was Ford boss Alexander Trotman: Moore met him in Dearborn and challenged him to change the oil in a Ford truck. Trotman, to Moore's surprise, was a pretty fair shadetree mechanic, and finished up the task in less time than your local Spee-D-Loob; Moore, to his credit, left the segment in, and announced that Trotman had indeed passed the CEO Corporate Challenge.
This was, of course, almost a decade ago; I tend to doubt that Moore would be quite so good-humored today about being shown up on his own camera. And come to think of it, Trotman has since retired; I certainly can't imagine Bill Ford changing his own oil.
Be thankful I don't take it all
Senator Christopher S. "Kit" Bond (R-MO) calls it a "disaster tax," and has vowed to fight it.
"It" is a decision by the Internal Revenue Service to tax recipients of FEMA disaster-mitigation funds, and it's starting to hit close to home: Tulsa County residents who received an average of $50,000 to move out of designated floodplains will apparently be hit with a tax bill for those payments. And the state's Emergency Management has begun notifying counties and municipalities that the IRS is wanting its cut of tornado-shelter grants.
"The IRS," says Bond, "is an agency perpetually in search of your tax dollars, but I am stunned that they would even consider a tax on federal disaster mitigation aid."
Fair Tax, anyone?
Kitschy kitschy coo
The neon pig atop 50 Penn Place For the life of me I can't remember why that pig was there. I think it was a logo for a bank that was housed there. All I know is that when the pig was gone, I was hurt. It's kind of like insurance. You never really need it, but you just like knowing it's there.
Sooner Federal Savings and Loan, which failed in the Great 1980s S&L Bust. Its remains were acquired by First Gibraltar Bank, an association set up specifically to buy up the residue of failed S&Ls in this part of the country; First Gibraltar subsequently sold off the Sooner Federal facilities, mostly to Bank of Oklahoma.
The new vaguely-shamrock-like logo fills the space, but does not truly replace the pig.
And on the old Belle Isle Power Plant, she says:
Long gone are the days when the Belle Isle power plant, all funky and ugly, sat alone just north of I-44. Although it was an eyesore, I still dug it ... it's that history thing I mentioned before. And I'd rather look at the Belle Isle eyesore than the State Fair WalMart that went up in its place. Ugh.
Remind me to buy her a drink and not at the Sip, either.
In days of old when modems sold and BBSes flourished, one of my postings was given the **** treatment; it turned out that the post didn't pass muster because of the word "nightwatch."
It took me a while to figure it out, and then I promptly forgot about it, only to find Jeff Jarvis dealing with essentially the same issue with the word "socialism":
MT Blacklist prevents the spammer evildoers from posting comments linking to their dubious business endeavors. And so what's wrong with socialism? Well, at its heart, as you can see, socialism is all about erectile dysfunction. The opiate of the masses, indeed.
I'm just grateful I didn't catch this in the middle of Saturday.
29 December 2004
I suspect they all do that
This is what happens when I get seriously deranged and start doing quizzes, fercrissake.
For a complete synopsis, see http://www.metopera.org/synopses/cosi.html.
Here for a while
Well, I just peeled off the bucks for my 2005 hosting fees, buying another 365 days' worth, subject to bandwidth overages, which so far I have managed never to incur.
Yeah, you're stuck with me for another year.
You won't see me
The Metropolitan Police in England has adopted the term "visible minority ethnics" as a catchall term for black and Asian persons, rather than referring to them as, well, black or Asian.
Some white officers had apparently adopted the phrase so that they could avoid saying the words "black" or "Asian," lest someone be offended. And a police official, cited in The Telegraph, stated that the term would allow these communities to be distinguished from lighter-skinned "invisible" minority ethnics.
A bandaged fellow identified only as Griffin commented: "Little suffices to make us visible one to the other. For the most part the fibres of a living creature are no more opaque than water."
(Via Tongue Tied.)
Fighting for the lower rungs
Five years ago, The Oklahoman was sliced and diced by the Columbia Journalism Review, which pronounced it "The Worst Newspaper in America". (Your humble blogazoid duly reported on the announcement here.)
A lot has happened since 1999: Eddie Gaylord has shuffled off this mortal coil, Patrick B. McGuigan has departed the editorial page, and the paper has undergone some substantial visual upgrades. I still don't think it's anyone's dream daily, but I doubt it could qualify for Worst Newspaper in America anymore mostly because it doesn't employ as a columnist anyone as manifestly self-absorbed and ill-mannered as Nick Coleman of the StarTribune in Minneapolis.
There is, I suggest, something uniquely warped about someone who expends a whole column of presumably valuable newspaper space to vent spite, and not well-thought-out spite at that, upon a blog, while simultaneously explaining that he's much, much more important than mere bloggers.
I give Coleman this much: he's managed to wangle about half a million Google references to himself in a relatively short time, not an inconsiderable achievement. For me, one of the merest of the mere, this might seem like a good way to push my Warhol-allotted fifteen minutes up to, say, 16:05 or so. On the other hand, I can't see myself mocking, say, The Oklahoman's Tom Lindley, whose worst fault is an occasionally-aggressive blandness.
And, oh, a quandary: what happens if Nick Coleman bumps into Stribmate James Lileks in the hallway? Will there be total annihilation and the release of massive quantities of energy? Now I'm worried.
Waves of despair
Eighty thousand now. It's gone beyond anything I can possibly imagine.
I posted this as a comment elsewhere, and already it's obsolete:
Before I moved into the city, I lived in a 'burb with a population of around 53,000.
I tried to imagine it completely empty. Not only did it not work, but I felt even worse afterwards.
Yeah, I sent a few dollars through WorldVision. I had to. But I have to try to put it out of my mind before it makes me feel completely helpless, utterly at the mercy of forces beyond my control.
Which of course all of us are at some point.
Let there be prayers, and let there be the possibility that some families may yet be reunited, that some of the lost may yet be found.
30 December 2004
Do the Tootsie roll
If you've embarked on a cruise on the Good Ship Lollipop, the crew will wish you "Happy landing on a chocolate bar."
(Aside: One of the celebrated "one-hit wonders" of the rock era was the Wonder Who? actually a more famous band under a temporary nom de disque who scored a #12 smash with a cover of Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" at the end of 1965. Their, um, second hit was a version of "On The Good Ship Lollipop.")
911 backwards; also, the number of this week's Carnival of the Vanities, presented this week by The Radical Centrist. It's the last one of the year, so go enjoy.
On the eighth day, He chuckled
Why did God put most of the oil under a bunch of Muslims?
It's a manifestation of the divine sense of humor. And the punchline? The wasteland briefly known as Palestine, which the Israelis built into an actual country to the general irritation of Arab Muslims worldwide, is the one place in the Middle East that doesn't have any oil.
And one could consider it also a manifestation of the divine sense of mercy, since were it not for oil, the entire Arab world would be about as much of an economic power as Kansas City.
Kansas City, Kansas.
Dome on the range
The Golden Dome at 23rd and Classen has been undergoing refurbishment, and owner Irene Lam, whose optometry office will occupy part of the dome, is getting ready to start looking for tenants. Lam bought the building from Bank One in 2003 for $1.1 million, and estimates she's spent at least that much on the renovations; the city of Oklahoma City offered a loan guarantee to assist Lam.
Part of the structure will be reserved for a cultural center, but about 26,000 square feet will be available for office space. Construction work should be completed by early February.
The OKPartisan looks across the river, and she doesn't like what she sees:
We have a serious blight problem in many areas of OKC, but Southside is in particular trouble. I felt like I was driving through an encyclopedia entry on the Modern Great Depression. So many empty strip malls! Bargain stores, check cashing centers, "cheap cigarette" stores, broken up by a few chain drug stores and clusters of chain restaurants on I-240. Bricktown is great. Oklahoma City is coming into its own. But what can we do to help our decaying, sprawling city? Why is it that there is so much new building on the periphery with the very large center of the city languishing?
Well, the last question is the one most easily answered: families with children are used to hearing that one must avoid Oklahoma City schools at all cost, and therefore they're fleeing to Putnam City or Edmond or Moore schools, all of which have substantial numbers of students actually in Oklahoma City limits. (I'd be very surprised if the majority of students in the Moore district didn't actually live in OKC.) How much effect MAPS for Kids will eventually have on this perception remains to be seen, but I do know that right now in my neighborhood, adjacent to one of the better OKCPS grade schools, you'll find young couples and empty nesters, and not a whole lot in between.
One other factor that should not be overlooked is the fact that neighborhoods on the northside are far better organized than neighborhoods to the south; it's no accident that all the Historic Districts and all the Urban Conservation Districts are north of the river, and the grease tends to follow the squeaky wheels. And I suspect that organizing a neighborhood in the inner areas of the southside might be trickier than usual, if only because the increasing Latino population in this area tends to suggest the possibility of, um, undocumented residents, who just might be resistant to the idea of mentioning their existence to city committees.
It might be true that the southside suffered even more than the rest of the city during the Great Eighties Bust; the house we (I was married then) owned circa 1980, in the Almonte neighborhood west of May and north of SW 59th, which we sold at the end of 1981 for $60,000, was resold seven years later for less than half that. Prices have since recovered somewhat. And areas in Cleveland County (south of SW 89th) are clearly thriving. But there's no easy fix, and I'm sticking by what I said a few months ago, when I visited a less-than-beautiful area just west of downtown:
Now the roads through there aren't great, and I suspect the rest of the city's infrastructure is probably an upgrade or two behind schedule, but this struck me as a relatively nice, if obviously not at all upscale, neighborhood. (I spot-checked a couple of houses for sale, and you can still buy in around here for thirty-five to fifty-five thousand.) Professional worriers, faced with a few blocks like this, would undoubtedly start screaming "Blight!" and calling for intervention. And indeed, there's room for improvement, starting with what appears to be, at first glance, a higher-than-average crime rate. But I am becoming persuaded that the kiss of death for any neighborhood comes at the exact moment when the studies and the surveys and the recommendations start coming out and the focus shifts from "How can we make this area better?" to "How can we get these people out of here?" I, for my part, am loath to tear up an area of affordable housing just because it's not pretty.
The city can wave whatever magic wands are at its disposal, but change comes from the bottom up, one street, sometimes one building at a time.
(Update, 2 January, 9:15 am: Added a link to justify the claim of "one of the better OKCPS grade schools," and corrected a pronoun issue.)
31 December 2004
Because I said so
The tale of a dog who never quite has his day, as told by Lileks:
For reasons I cannot remember the Christmas Jell-O dessert was placed outside on the patio table after dinner. Covered with foil. The squirrels found it the next day, peeled back the foil, ate their fill, and departed. Jasper watched them from the back door, whining: impudent usurpers. When I let him out he went straight for the Jell-O. I moved it to the center of the table. (Easier than taking it inside and cleaning the pan.) For the next two days he was obsessed with the Jell-O. He circled the table. He would put his paws up then he would recall his lessons, which forbade such things. But still. But still. At some point he found a loophole: if he sat in a chair and leaned over to eat the Jell-O, and did not put his paws on the table, he was breaking no rules, committing no sin. I watched from the back door. He saw me; his ears went back, and he climbed off the chair. Then he came inside and watched the Jell-O from afar, waiting for the bushy-tailed vandals who knew no rules to return and feast. Nothing made him more miserable than the notion that the Jell-O existed, but nothing would have made him happier than to eat it without censure.
Morals in creatures without morals. They exist in the dog not because he understands why there are rules, only because he knows there are rules, and He Who Is Alpha might be watching.
A few ticks higher on the food chain, some of us have bought into the notion that there really aren't any rules; there is some antiquated stuff in old books on dusty shelves, yes, but how can that possibly be relevant today? And aren't we the Alpha, the top model in the product line, the biggest, the baddest, the most evolved? Forget the Hairy Thunderer and the Cosmic Muffin and all the gradations in between: we have no need to look anywhere beyond ourselves.
For most of us, this phase lasts maybe two and a half hours, until we do something prodigiously stupid and it dawns on us that the entire freaking universe is out there ready to fact-check our ass. Unless you were raised by wolves and even then you're acutely aware of the pack order and the rights and responsibilities derived therefrom you learn early on that there are rules, and that there are consequences for breaking them.
Or maybe not so early on. As JanJan notes:
Many of the kids whose journals I see catalog a miserable life spent trying to make sense out of their dysfunctional families. Actually it is heartbreaking to see how many cases of arrested development are masquerading as responsible adults. I see the inner thoughts of kids whose upbringing has been bereft of guidelines, rules and God. Kids whose parents are so busy "self actualizing" their children are involved in things which should make your hair curl, right under the radar.
Far be it from me to discourage anyone from pushing the envelope. But you should never be surprised if the envelope pushes back; we're not as Alpha as we think we are.
Two thousand four must go by midnight tonight, and in Oklahoma City, the Opening Night celebration will bring about 40,000 people maybe more, since it's fairly warm today downtown to watch it go. Six bucks will get you into as many individual events as you can manage to squeeze in, and the trolleys will schlep you back and forth, no charge.
(Update, 1:30 pm: The Downtown Guy gives thanks to the Arts Council and one piece of advice to the general public: avoid the Robinson exit from I-40.)
We're not as think as you dumb we are
How do you measure literacy, anyway? If you're Dr. Jack Miller, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, you use five major factors: newspaper circulation, numbers of bookstores, library resources, publishing and educational attainment. Variables derived from the data are then blended, poured into a pan, baked at 350 degrees, and served as America's Most Literate Cities 2004, which ranks the seventy-nine US cities with populations over two hundred thousand.
If you'd asked me out of the blue where, on a scale like this with criteria like these, I'd estimate Oklahoma City might fall, I'd have pointed to the middle: we're not really especially high or low in any of these areas. Turns out we're 39th of 79, which is pretty close to the center. On the individual factors:
Tulsa, which did better in three categories and worse in two, is up in 21st place.
I don't anticipate an increase in statewide braggadocio as a result of these findings, but anything that puts a dent in the persistent dumb-Okie stereotype is fine with me.
(Via Red Dirt Blog.)
For a few dollars more
It didn't, er, dawn on me until I'd followed a few links that this was a Blogmosis operation, and even then it took a while to sink in.
And then: "Holy mother of pearl, Matt and Vicky are behind this?"
Skinflint that I am, it took me almost a whole minute to kick in some coin of the realm to St. Gabriel's, and another three or four minutes to come up with a post about it.
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