1 January 2005
All around the town
The axes are Sheridan and Santa Fe. Neither of these is exactly a major thoroughfare Sheridan runs only three and a half miles or so, and doesn't lie along a section line, while Santa Fe disappears entirely downtown but these are the avenues that determine the quadrants of Oklahoma City and its nearer suburbs.
I've lived in all four of those quadrants, which is not especially unique an experience, nor does it confer any particular wisdom upon me. But it perhaps does give me some sympathy for LilRed's defense of the southside:
I had no idea that we were seen as "southside trash" until I went to college and met kids from north OKC. And they were not at all discreet in letting me know how they felt about southsiders. I even dated a guy during college who, after introducing me to his father at a nice northside country club dinner, told me later that his dad thought I was a "great girl for a southsider."
What? That's the equivalent of saying, "Oh, she's pretty ... for a fat girl." Or, "He's a handsome black guy."
Another guy I went out with kept going on and on about how impressed he was when he went with me to my ten-year high school reunion. Well, what did he think? That just because I went to a southside high school that all of my classmates would be knuckle-draggers?
Since I never went to school here, I never got to see this particular phenomenon myself, but I suspect similar divisions exist in any town big enough to have two high schools. In fact, they can exist within the same school: I graduated from a, um, "faith-based" high school in Charleston, South Carolina, which drew most of its students from the prosperous areas east and west of downtown, while those of us who hailed from the comparatively-impoverished north side were few and far between and fairly defensive about it. (This is not, incidentally, why my romance with a westside girl was doomed, but that's yet another story.)
I am always amazed at how people talk about the "difference" between north and south Oklahoma City. Granted, there are areas south that are seedy, I get that. But there are seedy areas of north OKC as well. But somehow this seems to be overlooked.
Not by me. I live here, and I have to drive through them on a regular basis. And it's been that way for some time: Roy P. Stewart, in his legendary city history Born Grown, published way back in 1974, complained that "May Avenue, especially from Northwest Thirtieth on north, is a glaring neon alley." The neon has largely given way to plastic signage, but the glare is still there. Lincoln north of the Capitol is a wasteland. And I travel NW 10th west of I-44 only at gunpoint.
What's going to be interesting is how the City Council ward alignments shuffle after the 2010 Census. The 2000 numbers put the old southside troika Wards 3, 4, and 5 essentially out of business: Ward 3 now extends as far north as NW 36th, and Wards 6 and 7 reach as far south as SW/SE 44th. Ward 6's Ann Simank is certainly aware of spreading blight: last spring, she called for a reexamination of the city's Master Plan, saying that blight, far from an inner-city issue, was creeping southward toward I-240 and northward toward NW 63rd.
As I suggested earlier, what the southside needs is the kind of clout that near-northwest neighborhoods have developed over the last decade or so. The South Oklahoma City Council of Neighborhoods should not be the red-headed stepchild to the Neighborhood Alliance. Capitol Hill may not be Crown Heights, but it's not Calcutta either.
An insanely great deal
Could Apple talk me into an iMac if they dropped the price to $500 or so?
I think they could. It wouldn't necessarily supplant the succession of Wintel boxes that have been cluttering up my desktop, but it would give me an opportunity to play with some Mac-specific stuff for once, and it would give me some experience on yet another platform, which is always useful in case of, let us say, life-changing incidents.
Besides, a low-end Macintosh is hardly shameful; I've never owned a high-powered machine of any description, unless you were overly impressed by the Commodore 128 in 1986. (Then again, I did shoehorn 1.6 MB of RAM and 60 MB worth of hard drive into a lowly 10-MHz XT clone once upon a time.)
Saturday spottings (southern exposure)
First, a housekeeping note: The Soonerland and Spottings categories were re-merged, and things that were deemed OKC-specific were then broken out into a new category called City Scene. If you were goofy enough to bookmark any of these, consider yourself warned.
The emphasis around here lately has been on the city's southside, so that's where I started today's jaunt. Along SW 15 east of Portland, the earthmovers have started clearing the way for the new Dell Business Services Center. The empty space, occasionally interrupted by mounds of dirt, looks a lot more impressive at street level than it does from the I-44 bridge over the Oklahoma River.
I took Portland south to SW 44th, which is one of the streets I used to hit regularly when I lived out that way but haven't seen much of in the past couple of decades. From the looks of things, I haven't missed much. I did perk up when I saw that Penn 44 Lanes, my bowling alley of choice in those days, was apparently still around. And I was slightly disturbed by the (probably accurate) signage at a body-piercing place identified as "House of Pain."
I swung down Western and headed west on 74th, where a large mound of broken concrete and bent steel sat in the parking lot of what once was a Wal-Mart. The upscale center planned for this area seems an awfully long way off.
Back up Pennsylvania, and then east on 59th, which I remembered as being a traffic nightmare, especially around Blackwelder. This memory, at least, was correct. And I detoured into the residential area to see if I could find the old rock house where my younger sister had lived circa 1978. It was still there, and it looked even smaller than I remembered it; the official documents report 785 square feet, a number rather higher than I expected to find, and a recent (August) sale for $20,000. It may be uninspiring, I reminded myself, but it's somebody's home.
I returned up Walker, where starting around SW 29th the most common phrase seems to be Nosotros financiamos "We finance." Same signs that were there thirty years ago, just translated into Spanish.
And on the way home, I took Harvey through Heritage Hills, where I saw something I'd never seen before: a mother/daughter (I assume) team on a Segway, whirring along at a brisk 12 mph or so. It almost looked like fun. Not that you'll ever get me on one of those contraptions.
It's better than that; they're dead, Jim
Well, okay, they aren't yet, but if they croak off in 2005, they'll score me points in the IFOC Dead Pool.
Inasmuch as I didn't score so much as one freaking point last year, I'm sending most of the same still-undead losers back for another chance. My roster, from oldest to, um, less old:
Sargent Shriver (born 9 January 1915), former Democratic vice-presidential candidate
*Some sources say 1923.
And if you've seen this thing and wondering if it's legit, please be advised that I won a prize in the '03 pool and received it promptly.
2 January 2005
We also like pork rinds
The Los Angeles Times looks ahead to the Orange Bowl, and explains how it is that football is such a passion in this state:
The devotion reaches 75 years back to the Dust Bowl, dark winds that ravaged much of the state, desperate images etched into the popular conscience by John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Not long after that historic drought ended, the rains coming in 1939, Bud Wilkinson arrived as coach of the Sooners. Over the next two decades, his teams won three national championships and, during one stretch, went undefeated for nearly four seasons.
If you read that with a straight face, you'd almost think that Bud had been hiding out in Minnesota, where he'd played college ball, and waited for the weather to improve before he'd show up in Norman.
But Los Angeles, given its position at the far end of Route 66, still believes itself to be the Promised Land, and God help us poor, benighted sons of Tom Joad. As Chase McInerney grumbles:
According to the L.A. Times, even Oklahoma's gung-ho love for college football has its roots in the destitute hellhole of the Dust Bowl and its era of toothless, gangly, bug-eyed, backwoods, mattress-strapped to-the-top-of-the-jalopy Okies.
How often do you think a newspaper or magazine story about Dallas, Texas, dredges up the Kennedy assassination? How often do articles about modern-day California delve into the 1906 San Francisco earthquake? When will mainstream media be able to mention Oklahoma without a reflex nod to the Dust Bowl?
Actually, there are surprisingly many grassy-knoll references in East Coast coverage of Dallas, and for pretty much the same reason the Times harps on Steinbeck's version of Oklahoma: they don't know anything else about the damn place. It's convenient shorthand, and it fills up column space, and their local audiences, having heard exactly the same stereotypes all their lives, sit back and nod, "Yes, that's true."
Not that we've never been complicit in these stereotypes: longtime OU President George Lynn Cross once quipped to a legislative budget committee that "I would like to build a university of which the football team can be proud," a statement intended to reflect Cross' frustration with the appropriations process, but one which has gone into the record books implying more regard for pigskins than for sheepskins.
Besides, "Boomer Sooner," despite being basically the same song as Yale's "Boola Boola," is a lot more creative.
You are ----> here
A sound: loudest at first, then softer, then softer still, then finally gone. In technical terms, the wave diminishes in amplitude until eventually it's lost, faded into the background noise, indistinguishable from any other random quantity of air.
My father has always believed, perhaps with a nod to Zeno, that "finally gone" is never finally achieved, that under the right set of circumstances, or with the right set of tools, that sound can be reclaimed, amplified, restored to its original loudness: it never really went away to begin with.
I live in what the city calls an Urban Conservation District: there exists a zoning overlay which prescribes that changes to properties must be consonant with the character of the district, if not necessarily the actual building materials, that existed when it was built. Ideally, you should be able to turn off the main road and fall right into post-World War II America.
All this is by way of saying that the past never goes away. We have a path, a timeline, from which we do not deviate, but so does everything else. What we see as the present is simply the intersection of all those timelines: our own, those of our friends and families, the homes in which we live, the forests that were supplanted by the cities that now contain most of those homes. I'm not saying it's possible to walk up my street and suddenly jump back into 1948 the first Honda or Toyota you see would likely catch you in mid-jump and send you back where you came from but I am saying that an awful lot of 1948 remains, even in 2005.
The idea that different planes of time can co-exist is something talked about in science fiction novels, but taken seriously by very few. I don't know anything about quantum physics. I can understand very little of the mechanics of theories put forth on this subject. For me, it's not a matter of equations and calculations. It's just feeling. It's the knowing that something existed long before you did and lived and breathed on the very spot you are standing on now. Who is to say it is that January 2, 1894, 1900 or 1776 does not still linger there? Perhaps reaching those dates from 2005 is a scientific impossibility, but that doesn't mean they aren't here, unfolding right on top of us, unseen.
And, in the other direction, that something will exist long after we do: when our own timeline is terminated, interrupted, rerouted, whatever, the world goes on. Two thousand five will still exist in 2525, if man is still alive, if woman can survive.
We may not think of ourselves as time travelers, yet truly we are, even though we seem to be limited to a single route at a specified speed (one day equals, well, one day). And the fact that we are moving means that each present, each intersection with all those other timelines, is necessarily different. It's this very multiplicity of intersections that makes it impossible, so far as we know, to alter the past, but it's that same multiplicity that makes it possible, in fact necessary, to alter the future.
I've fretted before about the sad state of Heritage Park Mall, on East Reno west of Air Depot. The humongous Simon Property Group, which also owns Penn Square and two Tulsa malls, seemingly had lost interest in the place, and the number of tenants kept dwindling.
Simon has now officially bailed out. Dillard's and Sears will retain their equity in their respective stores, and the vacant Montgomery Ward store was spun off separately. I know nothing about Dan Dill's DDDD Corporation, which bought the mall for the fire-sale price of $4.1 million, except that it recently sold two Tuneup Masters locations in the city for $900,000, and that it's set up a limited-liability company to own the mall. Leasing will be handled by Sperry-Van Ness of Irvine, California, which opened an office in downtown Oklahoma City in 2004.
Logically, the first step will be a facelift, probably with a new logo. For the city of Midwest City, which has been spending big bucks to improve its facilities about $20 million went into the Atkinson Plaza replacement project this has to be some sort of good news.
3 January 2005
A case for doing without
"Your modern girl," wrote columnist Cynthia Heimel, "is often pondering the perils of birth control. As well she should be, since each and every method sucks."
This observation of hers dates from the early 1980s, but after looking at the Consumer Reports "Guide to Contraception" (February 2005; you'll have to be a subscriber to read it online), I'm inclined to agree: there is indeed a high level of suckage inherent in the process.
The highlight of the piece is bannered "Your comparative guide to contraceptives": it's one of those trusty CR charts, just like the one you look at when you're buying a used car. "Between the polar opposites of contraception, abstinence (0 percent failure rate) and doing nothing to prevent pregnancy (85 percent failure rate), there are myriad choices." Indeed there are. And to make it interesting, where there is the possibility of variability, two failure rates are cited for a method: one for when used "perfectly," another for when used "typically." Some of the users, I conclude, you really have to wonder about.
Each method, apart from the two listed in the banner, is listed with a failure rate or two, price, usage notes, "how it works," advantages and disadvantages. For most methods, the list of disadvantages is longer than the list of advantages, and when there are two failure rates, the variance is striking: the diaphragm, for instance, fails six percent of the time when used according to instructions, and 16 percent of the time in Real Life. These are not wonderful odds, yet this is one of the methods with the fewest drawbacks.
When I was married, we went through a number of these concoctions and contraptions, and didn't much like any of them: the Pill made her ill, various IUDs were rejected as too intrusive, and marketing efforts notwithstanding, no one, I submit, actually likes condoms. With the second child on the way, we decided on sterilization, and of the two possible paths, one was clearly easier.
While this has worked out well enough, I suppose, it's still a fairly drastic step. Then again, any of these methods should be considered drastic: having children is presumably not everyone's goal in life, but whether we like it or not, the biological reason we have the sexual drive we do is to produce those very children, and biology doesn't take being thwarted lying down, so to speak.
Oh, yes, they did mention abortion in a sidebar. It was, I think, a reasonable assessment of the actual process, though I'd question their definition of "fatality risk."
We don't need no stinkin' feedback
The Tulsa Tribune had a feature called "Call the Editor," where readers got to call, if not necessarily the Editor, certainly the Editor's answering machine, and a sampling of what they had to say was published in a subsequent edition. When the Tribune was killed off in 1992, the Tulsa World picked up the feature, which ran through 2004. It was an archaic system, I suppose, in this age of email and blogging, but it was open to everyone.
The World has now discontinued "Call the Editor," and their announcement to that effect [link requires Adobe Reader] is available in an annotated version by Michael Bates, as follows (Bates' notes in italics):
Since 1992, when The Tulsa Tribune ceased publication, Call the Editor has been a mainstay on A-2 of the Tulsa World.
We believe that it is time to take a more positive approach to commentary in our community. [We are sick and tired of all of you telling us how rotten the paper is.] Despite careful editing [censorship], we believe and many of you have told us that Call the Editor has become extremely negative and divisive within our communities. [Our feelings are wounded. Get the iodine.] Call the Sports Editor, which appeared in the Sports section, also has been discontinued.
We still want to hear from you and give you an opportunity to express your views on everything from the Tulsa World to the world at large. However, we ask that you write your comments to our Opinion section. [That way we can sit on them for three weeks until no one can remember the article to which you responded.]
There, you'll be given the opportunity to put your name with your comments and stand up for your point of view. [If we agree with it.] Editorial Pages Editor Ken Neal plans to run more of your letters [through the shredder], and we look forward to carrying on Call the Editor's history of commentary in those letters.
The Oklahoman, incidentally, will take letters through their Web site: click on Opinions, then use the tab for "Send Letter."
Do the Geneva Conventions apply?
Well, I started physical therapy today, and had I any secrets to tell, I'd have talked. In fact, I'd have yelled.
Actually, it wasn't as horrible as it could have been, considering. But, as any woman will testify, men have a low threshold of pain, and mine is lower than usual these days.
The big issue is range of knee movement. I'm managing around 95 degrees, which isn't particularly awful, but what they'd like to see is more like 130, and as a practical matter, the last increment of performance is always the hardest to achieve. (The other knee does 125 and up with relative ease.) So now I have a series of exercises to perform which should improve the range, and indeed at the end of the session I tested out at around 102.
Of necessity, deep-knee bends are going to be rather shallow for a while, but if I can do all these repetitions on schedule, things should gradually improve, though not to the extent that I'm going to be looking forward to a 10k run.
Instructions to the novice
I've already posted a template explaining how to post like me.
If your aspirations are higher than that and if they aren't, what's wrong with you? here's a really efficient template from Beautiful Atrocities.
4 January 2005
We wuz screwed
The Oklahoma Supreme Court has a Chief Justice and a Vice Chief Justice, who serve two years in these titles. After the two-year term expires, the Chief Justice drops back to the bottom of the list, and everyone else moves up, the Vice Chief Justice becoming Chief.
At least, that was the rule until last fall, when the Court changed its rule to allow the Chief Justice to serve a second consecutive term as Chief. Marion Opala, the Vice Chief Justice, has filed suit against Chief Justice Joseph Watt and the other Supremes, charging that the rule change was intentionally discriminatory and based largely on Opala's age he's 83.
According to the suit, "defendants participated in, condoned and ratified the denial of equal protection toward plaintiff," and what's more, "as [a] result of the rule change, plaintiff has been deprived of the opportunity to earn additional income and to achieve the prestige of the position of chief justice."
Senate Bill 1075, passed last year, set the annual salary of a Supreme Court Justice at $113,571, with an additional $4000 going to the Chief Justice, effective July 2005.
We're sending our love down a well
It began in 1984 with the godawful caterwauling of "Do They Know It's Christmas," a project by erstwhile Boomtown Rat Bob Geldof to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. Geldof's heart was in the right place, but the actual record, credited to "Band Aid," written by Geldof and Ultravox's Midge Ure, produced by Ure and Trevor Horn, split the difference between naïve and nauseating. "There won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime," indeed.
The most telling thing about the Band Aid project, though, is that it immediately spawned an imitator. "We Are the World", credited to "USA for Africa," managed levels of insipidness Bob Geldof never dreamed of, the result of having assembled an all-star cast and giving them not much to work with although it's a whole lot better than most of Michael Jackson's or Lionel Richie's later material.
So I view the possibility of a Tsunami Relief recording and/or concert with a certain amount of cynicism, though probably not as much as Michele admits to:
Any moment now Bruce Springsteen will hold a press conference, with Bono on one side and Sting on the other. They'll announce a huge show at some vast stadium, maybe two stadiums one in the U.S. and one in the U.K. Bob Geldof will come out of obscurity to smile for the cameras and remind people that he was at the forefront of the pop-star-as-philanthropist movement. Tickets will be $50 and up. There will be t-shirts, water and food for sale at the show, as well as frisbees and beach balls imprinted with the TsunamiAid logo, which will be copyrighted and trademarked and perhaps drawn by a famous artist. The shows will be simulcast on Pay-per-View. The second the concert is over and the now broke fans have gone home, the DVD and CD will be for sale. Millions and millions of dollars will be raised. By the fans of these stars. Yet the stars will get the credit for raising the money.
After all, they're so concerned and this is such an important issue and nobody would realize how important it is if it weren't for them.
And best of all, they get to bask in the glow without having to write big checks of their own:
I think, instead of spending time getting all these people together, renting a studio, writing a song, recording the song, putting the album in stores, waiting for the constant airplay to kick in and, in essence, begging their public to send money to whatever they are singing about why don't they all just reach into their pockets and donate a cool million each? Sondra did it. Leonardo did it. It seems a hell of lot more sensible, logistically and monetarily, to just cut a check and get the money where it's going. But, no. Rather than donate out of their own bank accounts, they'd rather reach out to you you who buys their albums and t-shirts, you who probably has $24 in your bank account at the moment and no gas in your car to put the dollars in the coffer because, hey, they are donating their time, man. They are donating their talents. And that should be enough. Right?
Call me if Sharon Stone puts on a telethon for varicose veins. Until then, I will continue to base my charitable donations on something other than the whims of the entertainment industry.
He's bad, he's nationwide
When I read that notorious Nick Coleman blast at the Power Line guys, I caught one line that gave me pause:
Time magazine's "Blog of the Year" is not run by Boy Scouts. It is the spear of a campaign aimed at making Minnesota into a state most of us won't recognize. Unless you came from Alabama with a keyboard on your knee.
"Nick, my man," said I, "when Susanna sees that, she's gonna tear you a new one."
The ripping starts here.
Look away, already
In 1971 Mickey Newbury put together a track he called "An American Trilogy," which, as advertised, incorporated three songs which qualified as quintessentially American: "All My Trials," "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Dixie." Issued on Newbury's Frisco Mabel Joy album, it became a Top 30 hit and prompted a cover version by a quintessential American in his own right, Elvis Presley.
At the Wisconsin Senate inaugural yesterday, the Richland Center High School band played "An American Trilogy," which disturbed Senator Spencer Coggs. Coggs wrote to Dale Schultz, the Senate's Majority Leader (who, incidentally, is from Richland Center), expressing his dismay:
In the future a list of songs should be submitted prior to a performance and the list should be reviewed for its appropriateness.
What's disturbing about "An American Trilogy"? That "Dixie" business. Reminds people of slavery, doncha know.
Um, Senator Coggs? That line about "old times there are not forgotten," like the rest of the song, was written by Dan Emmett. A white guy from Ohio. In 1859, fercrissake.
I expect your next legislative action to be a statewide ban on cotton products.
(Via Tongue Tied.)
The new digital age
5 January 2005
Things I never said
However much I might think I'd fancy the description, I am not, and likely never will be, hell on wheels.
Then there was this fellow named Don Alfonso Cabeza de Vaca y Leighton, Carvajal y Are, Conde de la Mejorada, Marquis de Portago. If anyone qualified as hell on wheels, surely it was Portago, and this is what he had said to Ken W. Purdy (Car and Driver, August 1957) about Life, The Universe, And Everything:
You know, people say that racing drivers are daredevils, who don't care whether they live or not, and you've seen stories about me and my flirting with death and all that. Nonsense, all nonsense. I want to live to be 105, and I mean to. I'm enchanted with life. But no matter how long I live, I still won't have time for all the things I want to do. I won't hear all the music I want to hear, I won't be able to read all the books I want to read. I won't have all the women I want to have. I won't be able to do a twentieth of the things I want to do. And besides just the doing, I insist on getting something out of what I do. For example, I wouldn't race unless I were sure I could be champion of the world.
He never quite got to be champion of the world, nor did he get to be 105. Teammate Edmund Nelson once said that "I know he says he'll live forever, but I say he won't live to be 30." And on the way to Brescia in the 1957 Mille Miglia, the Ferrari he was driving blew a tire, somewhere upward of 125 mph, and crashed spectacularly, killing Portago, Nelson, and nearly a dozen spectators. The Italian government, horrified, ordered an end to the annual "thousand-mile" race. Nelson was right: Portago was all of twenty-eight when the end came.
Die young, stay pretty? Not even. Portago may have done some foolhardy things, but he was no fool: he understood the risks, and he pressed on regardless. "Had he been cautious," said Purdy, "we would never have heard of him." And I, halfway to 105, wonder if anyone would ever have heard of me if I hadn't been so cautious.
Are you wired for 120?
Edition #120 of Carnival of the Vanities is now playing at Vessel of Honour, dozens of the best blog posts of the last week in one handy compendium.
He's just not into looking at you
Feminism, says Laura Kipnis, was supposed to obliterate a culture of female inadequacy. But look what happened:
Yet for all feminism's social achievements, what it never managed to accomplish was the eradication of the heterosexual beauty culture, meaning the time-consuming and expensive potions and procedures the pedicures, highlights, wax jobs on sensitive areas, "aesthetic surgery," and so on. For some reason, the majority of women simply would not give up the pursuit of beautification, even those armed with feminist theory. (And even those clearly destined to fail.)
Note that Kipnis can't just say feminism failed to extinguish the human love of beauty. It's not beauty, it's a beauty culture that is the problem, and a heterosexual one at that. There's some sort of crushing patriarchy imposing something on women, something unnatural, involving "expensive potions and procedures." The assumption actually quite incredible is that empowered women would not care how things looked. I think it's more likely that empowered women would demand that males meet a higher standard of beauty.
Or, as Andrew Sullivan once noted, "If women weren't so damn forgiving of slobbiness, if they weren't prepared to look for the diamond buried in the rough of a man's beer-belly, men might have to shape up a little."
And just to keep things interesting, a link to Dawn Eden's response thereto, which refutes the notion that the phenomenon bewailed by Kipnis is somehow heterosexual.
As your Standard Unattractive Guy, I just sit here and watch the (faux) fur fly.
Fame and/or fortune
[A] small-fry like me who's only been in operation for about eight months probably gets as much traffic as Glenn [Reynolds] did after his first eight months of operation. That's certainly more than I expected to get when I started out. As far as traffic goes I've already achieved the small goals I set for myself when I began.
Which sounds really neat even to us frustrated damned-to-the-D-list types.
Then there's this:
Blogs are the perfect Horatio Alger universe. If you have the ability and you work hard enough you can achieve your heart's desire.
But there's one more component, which Alger always mentions but which none of the folks who invoke his name ever seem to remember: luck. (There's a whole series of Alger novels under the umbrella title Luck and Pluck.) Keeping your nose to the grindstone is admirable enough, but in an Alger universe, unless the Fates lend a hand, all you're likely to wind up with is a very sharp nose.
That was the temperature (Fahrenheit) when I got home today.
Not to be confused with 30 degrees, which is the angle of the driveway it took me three tries to climb, no thanks to today's ice storm.
(Or with 9 degrees, which is the expected low tonight.)
6 January 2005
Are we there yet?
It's a nice little page, this Driving Directions page for Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport, but what's with the photograph? So far as I can tell, it was taken on the south side of Somerset, Pennsylvania, which has no particular relevance to Will Rogers.
No dice, son, you gotta stay here
Intercountry adoption is about finding parents for orphaned or abandoned children in another country. When this happens, the child's links with his/her biological family are completely severed.
UNICEF recognizes that intercountry adoptions may sometimes be necessary. However, UNICEF believes that appropriate domestic solutions can usually be found for children who might otherwise be considered as needing intercountry adoptions. UNICEF therefore focuses its efforts on facilitating solutions for the child to remain in his/her family, community or country of origin.
Intercountry adoption should take place in the following circumstances: a) Every effort has been made to keep the child in the family and community; b) When necessary, every effort has been made to successfully trace the parents of the child. This is particularly true in situations of emergency; c) When it complies with existing international instruments such as the CRC (particularly article 21), and the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption; d) All parties involved have given their informed consent; e) It is in the best interest of the child.
The Hague Convention sets down some fairly strict rules of its own, and there are lots of other hoops a family wishing to adopt an overseas child must jump through.
Still, the demand is there, and I've always looked at adoption as a win-win situation: the parents have a child of their own, and the child doesn't wind up in an institution, or something worse. And there's apparently lots of interest in adopting young tsunami victims; Dawn Eden reports that ten percent of her traffic has been search queries for "tsunami victims adoption." It is the apparent policy of non-governmental organizations, however, to make this as difficult as possible, and recent statements to the effect that "children are best left where they are in environments that are familiar to them," as Australian UNICEF boss Carolyn Hardy has said, might be true under the best conditions, but hardly the best conditions prevail in the wake of the killer wave: it's not an environment familiar to anyone.
You might conclude that UNICEF and other NGOs have an agenda beyond the welfare of children. Dawn Eden spells it out:
Nobody not UNICEF, and, as of yet, not the mainstream media wants to admit that the U.N. is holding back these children from adoption because it fears antagonizing the children's Islamic home countries, which shudder at the thought of Allah's people being raised by infidels.
But of course. Better a thousand children should be warehoused, better a hundred should perish, than a single imam be outraged. Thank you, O Religion of Peace.
Blowing hot and cold
Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) is the fellow who turned back the GOP's new ethics rules well, some of those rules, anyway which were widely seen as a Republican effort to preserve his job should he have been indicted.
Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) is the fellow who, at the Congressional Prayer Service this week, after a number of prayers on behalf of tsunami victims, decided this would be the perfect time to quote Matthew 7:
Everyone who listens to these words of mine, and acts on them, will be like a wise man, who built his house on a rock:
The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew, and buffeted the house, but it did not collapse; it has been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine, but does not act on them, will be like a fool who built his house on sand:
The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew, and buffeted the house, and it collapsed and was completely ruined.
"Shrewd" and "shortsighted" are evidently not mutually exclusive.
Slightly less tubby
Men's Fitness magazine has once again issued its list of 25 Fattest Cities, and both Oklahoma City and Tulsa still rank, but not quite so high: this year, OKC is 21st and Tulsa 22nd. (Last year OKC was 13th and Tulsa 19th.) As a practical matter, I refuse to believe that my own 30-lb weight loss last year was any kind of a factor in the ratings.
Houston rules as Fat City this year, followed by Philadelphia and Detroit. The magazine also rates fittest cities, which are topped by Seattle, Honolulu and Colorado Springs.
(The magazine's methodology is here.)
Dead horse beaten; film at 11
Inasmuch as Nick Coleman works for a Minnesota paper and has bashed only one other state recently, there's always the question of why I, down here in Oklahoma City, should care.
Actually, it's a New Year's resolution: to enjoy more Schadenfreude. And besides, the Net has seen to it that no one is purely local anymore; this morning I received a letter from a Twin Cities reader pointing me to a correction run by the Strib regarding that infamous Coleman outburst. (Power Line, of course, has much more to say about it.) "It seems," said my correspondent, "he was so busy blustering he didn't get his facts straight concerning the history of his own newspaper."
Of course, this cuts both ways: if I screw up, the first person to tell me about it probably won't be someone living down the street.
Like many organizations, the Green-Walled Garden Club (one of the Whittier names I've heard lately) of Frederick, Maryland has issued a cookbook as a fundraising tool.
Unlike many organizations, the Club has chosen to, um, spice up its cookbook: in addition to the recipes, there are a dozen photos of club members, aged 55 to 70, in varying degrees of undress. "Everyone does a cookbook," says member Marianne Coss. "We needed a gimmick."
It will be a while before I've sampled more than a handful of the 800-odd recipes in the book this Pork with Red Plum Sauce (page 177) looks interesting but I doubt I'll be able to convince anyone I bought this purely for prandial purposes.
7 January 2005
When things start to SAG
He's (well, I suppose it doesn't have to be a he, but there you go) called The Hollywood Elitist, a term of opprobrium by right-wingers, perhaps of irony by leftists. Which perhaps explains why I am not surprised to find the actual Elitist located somewhere in between:
See, I think that I am a conservative. I like the Constitution and the Bill of Rights just fine. I like the freedom of speech and religion and the press. I like the right to own firearms. I like the right to drink alcohol. I like the right to vote. Is that pinko hippie liberal Hollywood talk? I think not.
Who is the Elitist? I have no idea although I do know that the Elitist has a Bacon Number of 3, which narrows it down to a mere 421,696 or so people. A star that never was, parking cars and pumping gas? Maybe, maybe not. Let's see how this unfolds.
Six Apart, producer of Movable Type, is buying LiveJournal, and I don't quite see the fit.
Jump inside LJ culture. People who use LJ talk about their LJs, not their blogs. They mock bloggers who want to be pundits, journalists, experts. In essence, they mock the culture of bloggers that use Six Apart's tools. During interviews with LJ/Xanga folks, I've been told that MovableType is for people with no friends, people who just talk to be heard, people who are trying too hard.
Um... okay. But that's not where the merger will founder:
Movable Type is a product; LiveJournal is a community. Six Apart is seen as a community that provides tools, not culture. I suspect that if LJ goes to SA, there will be discontent from LJ users even though the media and blogosphere will hail it as an exceptionally [insert business rhetoric here] deal. Even if Six Apart doesn't change a damn thing, I suspect that LJers will feel wary, unloved and co-opted by The Man. I can't imagine them going anywhere fast but I can't see them being happy either, nor can I see them continuing to contribute economically.
Sort of like being acquired by Microsoft. Maybe we should ask the FoxPro team.
The line between journal and blog has always been slightly squiggly; LJ and MT, in their own ways, have been widening the gap, straightening the line. And I'm not sure anyone outside the actual financial players benefits therefrom.
A closed Ramada Plaza Hotel east of downtown Edmond will be refurbished and leased to the University of Central Oklahoma, which is in dire need of additional student housing.
UCO will pay about $350,000 a year for the 148-room structure, which presumably will house 296 students. The University had sought to acquire the hotel on its own, but was unable to come to terms with the seller.
The facility at 930 East Second Street is a block east of the southeastern corner of the campus.
A few more rings
I have never quite understood Saturn; as an experiment with Really Good Customer Service, it has to be considered a success Saturn customer loyalty is right up there with the high-priced brands, maybe higher but the cars have been, you should pardon the expression, rather pedestrian.
What to do? If your answer is this:
I, for one, would first get down on my knees and thank the Maker for the finest retail network in the industry. Then, I would set to work replenishing the product portfolio.
Then you're on the same page as General Motors Vice-Chairman for Product Development Bob Lutz.
Which would be this page here.
Forever and ever, amen
Eternity is a concept I find particularly troubling, if only because it seems to go on for so long. And while death is a scary prospect, one I'm not exactly anticipating with glee, I really don't think I want to live forever either, and I can give you lots of reasons. The top 10 follow:
10. Could single-handedly bankrupt Social Security
9. Methuselah, by age 969, had to endure over fifty thousand Mondays
8. Not looking forward to CSI: Bakersfield
7. Just imagine a metric ton of Metamucil
6. Might want to vote in King County, Washington some day
5. The oldies stations will have quit playing the Beatles
4. Things have just gone to hell since Lindsay Lohan retired as Chief Justice
3. We finally get flying cars and I'm too old to drive
2. New Reform Democrats bitching about the 2288 election
1. Deleting ten-trillionth comment spam
8 January 2005
Five years ago, I proposed a Federal Department of Pregnancy to deal with the thorny question of abortion. One paragraph began this way:
Upon pregnancy certification, a woman would be required to post $20,000 bond with the local Department office. (In the case of multiple births, the bond would be increased accordingly, once it is determined that twins or more have been conceived.) This bond is subject to forfeiture if she miscarries, or if, in the judgment of the Department, she has not exerted "maximum effort" to bring the pregnancy to term.
This was, I hasten to add, intended as satire. On the other hand, this isn't:
When a fetal death occurs without medical attendance, it shall be the woman's responsibility to report the death to the law-enforcement agency in the jurisdiction of which the delivery occurs within 12 hours after the delivery. A violation of this section shall be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.
"Sorry, honey, no time to mourn. You have to report this to the police."
At least there's no law requiring her to report the pregnancy. Yet.
(Swiped from Democracy for Virginia.)
Why vinyl still sells
Six times as much area for true art.
And, yes, maybe less than true art as well.
(Via Rocket Jones.)
Saturday spottings (easterly)
For the second day in a row, the promised sunshine failed to materialize, which was probably as good a reason as any for heading out to Heritage Park Mall in Midwest City, a shopping center that's had a Joe Btsfplk-ish cloud following it around for what seems like years now.
There's no sign of the regime change just yet: somewhere around a third of the spaces are vacant, and at the entrance to the old Wards store, the local blood bank was taking donations. The side of the mall facing Reno Avenue is not too badly deteriorated, but the back, having lain fallow for so long, is a couple of ticks beyond grungy. People I talked to seemed hopeful, but when your third largest retail store is a Hallmark shop, you've got a long way to go.
Then down Air Depot Boulevard, where a widening project between SE 15th and SE 29th is doing its part for auto-suspension shops. I suspect that the few remaining residences along Air Depot will eventually be removed; some are already gone, and what appears to be the new curb line is perilously close to the front doors of those which still remain. There was a scaffolding up at the old Sound Warehouse/Wherehouse Music store in the 2300 block, where it looked like new window treatments were being installed, so maybe someone's actually going to take over this building.
East on 29th, it's still a bit offputting to see nothing along the north side of the street: the steakhouse that was west of the old Atkinson Plaza remains, and the Firestone store that anchored Atkinson's east end is still in business, but everything in between is gone. Midwest City, understandably, would like to see some of this 90-acre patch of dirt filled up, and there are earth-movers on the scene near the eastern edge of it. And farther down, the old Powers Nissan lot is closed; there are cars parked in the old used-car lot in the back, but the place is otherwise shuttered. I assume they've shut down entirely, since the old Powers Web site now forwards to NissanUSA.com.
And yes, Dave, El Chico was serving, though they weren't too busy at 1:30 when I arrived.
He was the one
I suppose I should say something about Elvis, this being his seventieth and all, but by now there aren't any new insights about Elvis; everything you can imagine and way too many things you can't imagine, you can find already in an Elvis article somewhere.
Fortunately, what matters is the music, and with that in mind, I point you to The Big Trunk's astutely-chosen selection of ten Elvis greats, astute because (1) fully half of them are from the Sun sessions and (2) chart considerations are not a criterion for inclusion (although "Suspicious Minds" was a #1 hit, Elvis' last). I suspect that had Elvis never recorded anything beyond these ten tracks, he'd still be a legend.
9 January 2005
It occurs to me that despite some of the highest levels of thread drift this side of Usenet, there's never been an actual open-comment thread here.
There is now, and you're soaking in it. I request only that you try to avoid embarrassing yourself (or, well, me), and any truly heinous comments will be expunged with great vigor.
Maybe 3.5 flags, max
When you're talking theme parks, the Six Flags chain occupies a level of awareness right up there beside Disney; it's a huge operation, justly famed.
Which makes it even odder that Six Flags, which is based in Oklahoma City (which is odd in itself), has done so little with its hometown park, says OKCPulse:
Frontier City has a theme that is unique. It takes leaders with a strong vision to take the park far beyond what it is today, but those people obviously are not there. Frontier City will never see itself on the Travel Channel, because the park has nothing significant to leave out-of-state visitors impressed. Many park visitors feel they do not get the quality out of the admission they pay, which is $27.99 for adults as of 2004. The park [has] not done the surrounding area much good. Look at the businesses along the I-35 service road, they are failing alongside a string of dilapidated properties, and that is a bad impression.
Despite fairly-indifferent financial performance [link requires Adobe Reader] last year, Six Flags is going ahead with some improvements to some of its parks, says Chairman Kieran E. Burke:
Our 2005 capital plan encompasses new attractions in 13 of our 18 domestic theme parks, a major new ride in our park in Mexico City and a children's area in our Montreal park. We will be adding both teen and family attractions. Our largest initiatives will be concentrated in our major markets. We will be debuting a new water park at our Chicago park for 2005. At our New Jersey park, we will be creating a dramatic new jungle themed 11 acre entertainment section, anchored by a world-record setting roller coaster, and including a new stadium for unique tiger shows and exhibits and an expansive new children's area. Our San Francisco park will receive a new section including a dolphin cove and other interactive animal attractions. We will also continue to invest against in-park revenue growth; we have seen strong year over year in-park spending growth over the last several seasons. In all, we expect our capital program to entail an expenditure of $130-135 million. We believe that this capital program, when combined with our breakthrough marketing campaign, should yield solid attendance and revenue growth next year and set the stage for significant growth the next several years as we restore park performance to average historic levels.
Emphasis added by me. "Average historic levels," generally, means "before 9/11." I suspect there will be a few more lean years before there are any substantial upgrades to Frontier City.
Still: twenty-eight bucks? Universal Studios Orlando (neither a Disney nor a Six Flags property) will set you back $59.75.
Another fine meth
Last April, Oklahoma imposed limits on over-the-counter tablets containing pseudoephedrine, limiting the amount any one buyer can purchase to nine grams in thirty days and requiring pharmacies (the only legal outlets in the state for them) to obtain photo IDs and signatures. The idea, of course, was to put a dent in the state's methamphetamine production pseudoephedrine is the primary ingredient in meth and by all accounts it has worked fairly well.
"Yeah," you say, "they'll just drive out of state to get the stuff." And they're doing exactly that, leading other states in the region to ponder whether they should adopt similar restrictions. Governor Henry, of course, thinks they should:
Nationwide success in stopping the methamphetamine epidemic will come from a combined effort of states limiting access to key ingredients. That is why laws similar to Oklahoma's hold such tremendous potential in stamping out this scourge.
A second path suggests itself: replacing the tablets with liquids and gelcaps, from which pseudoephedrine is not so easily isolated. The Oklahoma statute, in fact, does not mandate the same restrictions on liquids and gels, though pharmacies might reasonably impose the restrictions themselves, as a matter of simplifying inventory control, or as a means of avoiding customer confusion: "How come you have Sudafed gelcaps on the shelf, but I have to sign for the tablets?" Some of us who have certain reservations about the War On [some] Drugs might find this approach a bit more palatable than shoving the entire class of products onto Schedule V.
Not a kid, nor does he rock
This is, I think, the definitive response to the Kid Rock "controversy":
Conservatives will be truly conservative again, at least in the sense of preserving some sort of aesthetic order, when they start demanding Kid Rock be removed from the inauguration festivities not because he uses dirty words, but because he sucks. Oh, I'm not saying he isn't a fine and decent human being; I'm just doubting his entertainment value. And please, someone remind Michelle Malkin that the last time pop music entertainers used clean language and were deemed family-friendly, it resulted in some jackass giving them a variety show, and the world suffered a lot more from that than it could ever suffer from Kid Rock.
And of course, there's this: at least it isn't Fred Durst.
10 January 2005
From the Unnecessary Expense Department: I got on the Kilpatrick Turnpike, duly stopped at the toll-basket, reached into my pocket, and did not find thirty cents. There was a Sacajawea dollar, though, so I grat my teeth and pitched the buckette into the basket.
This was not one of the toll stations with an actual bill changer, so I sat there. A truck pulled up behind me. I pondered running the toll light and sitting there waiting for the gendarmes, but decided this would be even more expensive. The occupants of the truck began to fidget.
Finally I flicked a second Sacajawea, my last, into the basket, and this time was granted admission.
Yeah, I suppose this is a good argument for a PikePass. Truth be told, I was holding out until they came up with some measure of compatibility with the East Coast E-Z Pass systems, into which I pour a lot of coin during (some of) the World Tours. On the other hand, if I'm running a regular risk of spending $2 for a thirty-cent fare, the transponder will justify itself rather quickly.
HP overlay zoning can only be applied to residential areas commercial buildings can't be covered. If a property owner wants to demolish an HP-zoned home, the most the City can do is delay demolition for four months, in hopes that the owner can be persuaded to sell it to someone who will keep the building standing.
Oklahoma City, conversely, applies the pertinent zoning overlay to an entire district, including both commercial and residential buildings within that district, and there are various gradations of overlay, from Historical Landmark (the most stringent) on down.
The point of an HP ordinance is to preserve the investment of homeowners who restore and improve their homes. When you demolish three historic homes to build a parking lot, you not only lose a part of a neighborhood, but homes that once were buffered from commercial development and major streets are now exposed, and they lose some of their value in the process. This can trigger a gradual erosion of the neighborhood from the outside in.
The criteria for demolition are stricter here also. (The Oklahoma City Municipal Code is kept in database form and can be searched.)
But the key to the issue, says Michael Bates:
[T]he Council should be working on improving our zoning code so that it recognizes the difference between 15th & Utica and 71st & Memorial. What works in one type of neighborhood may be destructive to another.
As we learned, more or less the hard way.
Selection of the month, so to speak
A joint venture between Columbia House and Playboy will be selling adult video under the name Hush.
The idea here, apparently, is to marry (temporarily, of course) Columbia House's famed distribution system to Playboy's extensive mailing list; Hush will apparently not be offered to existing Columbia House members unless they're also on Playboy's roster.
If nothing else, this should simplify matters for some consumers: instead of getting suspicious-looking plain brown mailing envelopes from the San Fernando Valley, they'll presumably be getting innocuous plain brown mailing envelopes from Terre Haute, Indiana.
(Via Dash Riprock.)
BBC News' Have Your Say, in the wake of the tsunami, asked for reader comment on this issue:
Should debt be cancelled? What more should governments do? How will the affected countries rebuild communities, livelihoods and economies?
Which moved Shawn Hampton of Colorado Springs to respond this way:
All debt should be cancelled for developing countries, and it is high time that we do away with the concept to rich and poor and strive for world-wide economic parody.
Meanwhile, tonight on The Money Programme, we're going to look at money.
License to pave
If you've occasionally wondered if maybe Oklahoma doesn't know its asphalt from a hole in the road, you might be pleased to hear that Rep. Jim Newport (R-Ponca City) has an idea to raise some bucks to patch our low-quality highways.
Newport's House Bill 1218 would change the distribution of license-tag receipts in this state. Right now, 45 percent of tag proceeds go into the state's General Revenue Fund; HB 1218, beginning in fiscal year 2006, would allocate the first $5 million in receipts each month to the Highway Construction and Maintenance Fund. In FY '07, the figure would be increased to $10 million per month; in FY '08 and afterwards, $15 million.
The General Revenue Fund allocates some money to ODOT, says Newport, but that's not enough:
[F]or years legislators seem to have had the misconception that, since the state Department of Transportation receives so much federal funding, they don't need too much in state funds. Therefore, ODOT has not been able to finance all of the projects in its budget.
I expect the argument to be made that since this proposal is technically revenue-neutral, something's going to have to be cut elsewhere. Well, duh.
Aside: Speaking of "revenue-neutral," P. J. O'Rourke, discussing the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 in the January/February Atlantic Monthly, disposes of this phrase for all time, thusly:
The House-Senate Joint Committee on Taxation produced a sheaf of charts showing that the bill's $8.678 billion in costs from 2005 to 2009 will be balanced by the bill's $8.679 billion in savings from 2010 to 2014. By this logic a Friday-night drunk too severe to prevent Saturday-afternoon mall shopping gives me revenue-neutral alcoholism.
Proof enough (80, maybe 86) for me.
11 January 2005
Waste is a terrible thing to mind
At last night's Neighborhood Association meeting, we discussed, among other things, the time frame during which Big Blue, the Oklahoma City trash cart, is allowed on the curb. For the record, there's a 25-hour window: 7 pm the night before pickup to 8 pm after pickup. On my block, the collectors usually arrive a few minutes before 7 am; separate runs are made for Big Blue and the teensy square recyclable-items bucket, which of course is called "Little Blue." I suppose theoretically one could be fined for exceeding the 25-hour period, but I've never seen it happen.
Meanwhile, in Reddish, Lancashire, England, there is a decidedly narrower window of opportunity: a woman was fined £50 for putting her trash out the night before.
A spokesperson for the council insisted that notice had been given to all area residents, and a copy was placed on display on the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of the Leopard," or something like that.
A hint of bloggadocio
They came for the Communists, and I didn't object for I wasn't a Communist;
They came for the Socialists, and I didn't object for I wasn't a Socialist;
They came for the labor leaders, and I didn't object for I wasn't a labor leader;
They came for the Jews, and I didn't object for I wasn't a Jew;
Then they came for the bloggers, and we kicked their ass.
After fact-checking it, of course.
Visions of dollar signs
The place three doors down closed for a startling $101,000.
I have never before lived on a block where a house actually sold for six figures. Geez, what must my humble little doll house be worth?
(No, I'm not moving. Don't even think that.)
Call it a "safety issue"
Last week I brought up the "Guide to Contraception" in the February 2005 issue of Consumer Reports, and noted that you'd have to be a subscriber to read it online, as has been the practice at ConsumerReports.org for some time now.
I have since learned that this is not so. For some reason, this section has been put on the site for free, which I find surprising, and which Annie at After Abortion finds appalling:
Looks like CR has sold out, with an apparent hidden agenda, wanting to propagate their personal ideology and gross misinformation free of charge to the unsuspecting, trusting public. I am incensed.
At the very least, they seem to consider this topic to be at least as important as product recalls, which are generally offered for free on the site.
Eric Scheie of Classical Values drove through these parts yesterday, and squeezed off a couple of good shots from the older (and more interesting) part of Sapulpa, plus one nicely-evocative sunrise composition west of Oklahoma City.
I do wish he'd had time to sit and gab, but, well, life is like that sometimes.
12 January 2005
Greener than thou
In 1999, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power came up with a program called Green Power, whose purpose was "to help us move from polluting power plants to energy generated in a cleaner way by using sources such as the sun, wind, and water."
Not that there's anything wrong with that. But participation has stagnated: at one time the DWP reported 100,000 Green Power users, who pay $3 a month to import renewable energy into the city grid, but apparently 60,000 of them were low-income DWP customers who were arbitrarily assigned to Green Power and weren't paying the monthly fee.
Currently, 27,000 of the DWP's 1.4 million electric-power customers are Green.
Meanwhile, out here in flyover country, 9,000 of OG&E's 730,000 customers have signed up for power from the Woodward wind farm, and while this is not quite as high a green percentage as the DWP can boast 1.2 versus 1.9 percent after only fifteen months of operation the company is already soliciting proposals for 80 megawatts of wind power to supplement the 50 it already controls. Obviously OG&E thinks it can sell renewable energy, even if the city of Los Angeles and its high-powered PR flacks can't.
(Armstrong Williams Disclosure: I am a voluntary participant in the OG&E Wind Power program; I receive no money from OG&E to promote it.)
Live from 38th and Classen
File this under Things I Didn't Know Existed.
Vietnamese Public Radio, based in northern Virginia, beams shortwave programs across America, and Oklahoma City, with its substantial (somewhere between 1.5 and 2 percent) Vietnamese population, provides a lot of listeners for VPR through a rebroadcast facility in Edmond.
What's more, there's a one-hour locally-originated news/talk program hosted by Mai Ly Do, which runs daily from 11 to noon and is rebroadcast at 5:30 pm. While no one is sure how many people are listening, the local station offers low-end shortwave receivers for $35, and they've sold 2200 of them so far.
Color me impressed.
(Updated broadcast time on 2 May; also, VPR's local office is moving about one mile south, to 21st and Classen.)
Which is one hundred twenty-one, the number, not of the Beast, but of the Carnival of the Vanities, which this week is being hosted at Multiple Mentality, hence the vague arithmetical reference.
Well, it was either that or [adult swim].
(Suggested by LilRed.)
Ain't nothing gonna break their stride
The tradition at Lyric Theatre has always been well within the mainstream, sometimes to the extent that you couldn't see the water's edge.
Last year Lyric floated closer to the edge with the inauguration of something called Second Stage, which would do projects a little beyond PG-13; the first such production was last winter's Pageant: The Musical Comedy Beauty Contest. I enjoyed this greatly, since it was prodigiously funny and generously stocked with gorgeous babes (Y chromosomes notwithstanding), and I noted at the time: "I have no idea what the second offering from Second Stage will be, but I'm there, Jack."
I'm not there yet the opening is still a week and a half off but I can't possibly miss this. I Want My 80's Musical, by Tom Stuart and Nick Demos Demos, of course, is Lyric's artistic director will be presented, as they say, for the first time anywhere. Or maybe not: what this is, mostly, is an expanded and extended version of Stuart's one-act Kids in America, which played Broadway in 2002, complete with nineteen songs from the period and seven different high-school students, a full 40-percent increase over The Breakfast Club.
And best of all, I get to see it before Michele does.
13 January 2005
Bricklin's Visionary Vehicles has signed a deal with the Chinese automaker Chery, and expects to bring over a line of cars in 2007 priced at, he says, 30 percent below the competition.
Whether this is good news or bad news remains to be seen: Bricklin's automotive track record is spotty (oil leaks?), and Chery's current designs aren't exactly noteworthy, with the possible exception of its QQ minicar, which General Motors believes to be a ripoff of the Chinese-market Chevrolet Spark, produced by GM's Korean affiliate Daewoo.
Still, the QQ sells for less than 30,000 yuan $6000 so at least Chery knows how to build them cheap. The question is whether they can build them well enough for the North American market. Hyundai and corporate sister Kia got a big boost by a 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty, which Visionary Vehicles will match, but the sales didn't really take off until the survey numbers were in and buyers discovered that Hyundai was building cars that might actually hold up that long. I'm guessing that the VV/Chery combine will do better than Bricklin's Yugos, but then it would be hard not to.
And if you'd prefer your Third World vehicle be procured from a non-Communist country, Romania has a sport-utility for you.
Second second thoughts
Last month you read here about Oklahoma's new collective-bargaining law, which allows municipal employees in cities with populations of 35,000 and over to unionize.
Cities have been challenging the law, and yesterday Enid, arguing that the arbitrary population threshold was constitutionally invalid, prevailed; District Judge Daniel Owens ruled that the law was indeed "unconstitutional as passed." Enid employees issued a statement to the effect that the city should recognize their organization effort, even without the sanction of law.
Representative Marian Cooksey (R-Edmond) has introduced a bill which would repeal the law outright.
Watch where you point that thing
A pilot departing Oklahoma City's Wiley Post Airport on New Year's Eve has reported that someone shone a laser beam in his face immediately after takeoff. The pilot contacted the control tower, and police searched the area adjacent to the airport.
Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta, who was in the city yesterday visiting the FAA's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, announced that beginning next Wednesday all laser incidents must be reported to air traffic controllers. I expect that in the interest of avoiding the appearance of profiling, all reported incidents will receive the same response, regardless of the color or angle of the laser involved.
Which is an odd phrase coming from me, since for most of my life I'd never thought of myself as having any assets worth managing.
Historically, I have done no worse than breaking even on the 401(k) while others around me were foundering, which I attribute to careful hedging. (I have contributions split among four investment options and still have holdings in two others to which contributions are no longer being made.) As a fan of at least partial Social Security privatization, I reasoned that breaking even would not impress opponents of the idea, which led me to this not-too-startling decision: don't change investment options this time around, and put your money where your mouth is already.
So I left things alone, and was rewarded with a return of slightly over 7 percent for calendar year 2004. The worst performer in the portfolio (which is one to which I no longer contribute) picked up slightly less than 1 percent; the best, a shade over 12. No doubt I could have done better had I tweaked things last January, but I wanted to prove, to my satisfaction anyway, that it's still possible to make money in an economy that doesn't impress Paul Krugman.
I'm a long way from wealthy, and I'm quite sure that with the combination of this nest egg, a pension I earned at a previous job, and whatever Social Security will be paying, I won't be buying any time-shares in Tahiti. But my position at the very bottom of the middle class or the top of the lower class, depending on your preferred index point isn't in jeopardy. Yet.
Whatever floats your volts
It's called "Pico Hydro," and it means pretty much what you think it does: hydroelectric power on a very small scale. James at the Alternative Energy Blog explains:
The streams at the bottom of the valleys are powering a low-tech grid for the people of Da Bac [province in northern Vietnam].
Pico Hydro units need only a constant water supply and a slope with a one-metre drop. This produces a flow rate that can drive a turbine fast enough to generate electricity, providing houses with a direct power supply.
In some villages nearly every household has one. Imported 300-watt turbines cost about US$20, and have proved to be the most popular.
Certainly you're not going to run a modern American home on 300 watts, but it's enough for a few lights into the night, and maybe the radio. About 120,000 Pico Hydro units are installed in Vietnam, says James, and while they're not incredibly reliable obviously you're not getting mil-spec for twenty bucks they're easy, and cheap, to fix.
14 January 2005
Give us your tired, your poor, your outsourced
CIBER Incorporated, a Colorado-based "application development center," has come to Oklahoma City, which means that some of the IT work you might have thought was going to Bangalore is coming here instead.
Why Oklahoma City? Says CIBER president/CEO Mac Slingerlend:
There are many American labor markets outside the traditional technology centers that have skilled but underutilized IT workers who can get IT projects done faster and cheaper.
And give Slingerlend credit for quoting David Ricardo's Theory of Competitive Advantage in the news release. CIBER is counting on the presence of a low-priced yet high-quality labor force out here on the Lone Prairie, as CIBERsites head Tim Boehm explains:
Though CIBERsite employees will be paid less than the national average, they will still earn more than their overseas counterparts. And, our CIBERsites clients will have another choice in avoiding the hidden costs of offshoring, such as language gaps, intellectual property protection, travel, time schedules, infrastructure vulnerability, political risks and increasingly high employee turnover.
About 200 underutilized IT professionals will be put to work at the Oklahoma City CIBERsite. I'm willing to bet they'll be happy to have the opportunity, even working for "less than the national average": hell, everyone here (except maybe the state legislature) makes less than the national average. The only thing that really bugs me is CIBER's corporate self-description:
CIBER, Inc. (NYSE: CBR) is a pure-play international system integration consultancy with superior value-priced services for both private and government sector clients.
A what? Now that's a "language gap."
Try the Iraq of Lamb
Tired of the same old chain restaurants?
Maybe you should try a Cheney restaurant.
Going down for the last time
Vonnie Boufford is retiring, and when she goes, a piece of Americana goes with her.
Boufford is apparently the last full-time elevator operator in the state; she's worked at the Hightower on Hudson for the past seventeen years, and before that she spent twenty-eight years running an elevator at the Cravens Building.
The building manager at Hightower says that parts for the old Dover manual elevator are impossible to find, so they're phasing in new automated elevators. One is already in place, which forced operator Bob Johnson to the sidelines though Johnson will return as a greeter next month, after Boufford's retirement.
And if you're wondering where this "Cravens Building" is, it's presently called Robinson Renaissance.
How dare you make fun of us?
Dawn Eden has been a thorn maybe the thorn in Planned Parenthood's side for some months now.
I presume now that they and their allies are starting to feel it. After this post, featuring a caption contest for one of NARAL's "I Am Pro-Choice America" posters, somebody at the home office called in the lawyers, and the lawyers called Dawn, and I have to assume that threats were made, since the picture was removed.
Having been on the receiving end of this sort of thing myself, I know how scary it can be. Still and keep in mind that I am not a lawyer I think she was within her rights to post it in the first place, especially since she made its origins and her intentions clear.
As Drudge would say, "Developing...."
(Update, 11:40 pm: Dawn has revised her contest and is linking to a photo at NARAL's own site; I've cleaned up some sloppy language at this end, although probably not all of it.)
15 January 2005
Splitting the difference
Last year the Oklahoma legislature more than doubled the mandatory minimum auto insurance in this state: the long-standing requirement of 10/20/10 ($10,000 for a single death, $20,000 for multiple deaths, $10,000 for property damage) was increased to 25/50/25.
This perturbed Rep. Jerry Shoemake (D-Morris), who is trying to roll back the increase, at least partially. Shoemake says the increase will create a hardship on agricultural and oil interests, who are likely to own motor vehicles that are seldom operated on the public roads but aren't exempt from liability coverage. And what's more, says Shoemake, we're discouraging uninsured motorists from buying insurance by jacking up the cost.
Shoemake's alternative proposal, 15/30/15, wins no points from Mike at Okiedoke:
Using Shoemake's logic, his proposal will still increase the number of uninsured motorists. And I doubt the few bucks saved with Shoemake's new minimum coverage will make any difference to already uninsured motorists. If that were actually the case, perhaps he should be thinking about lowering the requirement to 1/2/1 and then everyone would buy insurance.
I suspect that people go without auto insurance because they figure it's an acceptable risk. In Oklahoma City, the fine for failure to produce proof of insurance is $202. If the chance of getting busted is, say, one in twenty, the expected opportunity cost of driving uninsured is barely over ten bucks. Compare that to a thousand dollars or so in annual insurance premiums, and it's something of a miracle that only twenty or thirty percent of our drivers are uninsured. And it's not likely the city will raise the fine to $20,000 to compensate, either.
This measure affects me only peripherally, since I carry more than the new legal minimum anyway, but it's still an irritant, another example of the state's tradition of trying to micromanage everything possible. (The state Constitution is huge to the point of preposterousness; for example, its Bill of Rights contains, not a mere ten, but thirty-four items.) And I have to wonder just how much of the high cost of insurance is due simply to the fact that it's required by law.
No Civil War jokes, please
According to an ongoing survey by etiquette expert Marjabelle Young Stewart, Charleston, South Carolina is the most well-mannered city in America.
For twenty-eight years, Stewart has been compiling data from her readers and students, and Charleston has come out on top eleven times.
I grew up in Charleston, and I suspect that this gentility is the combination of three factors:
That's my thinking on the matter, for what it's worth, and I hope you'll consider it a worthwhile contribution to the discussion.
And if you don't, well, bite me.
Welcome to New Bohemia
From the High Plains Reader in Fargo, an ambitious, yet small-scale, plan:
New Bohemia, North Dakota, could be any one of dozens and dozens of small, rural towns or villages.
It could be in the Badlands or in the Pembina Hills. It could be near the Missouri, the Sheyenne, the Pembina, Goose or Red River. It could be in open prairie lands, or in rich farmlands.
New Bohemia, first, though, must exist as a possibility in our minds. We must have the ability to see opportunity where others see hopelessness. We must have the desire to see potentialities. We must trust visionaries.
New Bohemia could be a flourishing, bustling little town filled with artists, craftsmen, musicians and the likes. There could be painters, ceramicists, composers, cinematographers, photographers, writers, singers, carpenters, and anything else within the creative realm.
New Bohemia, North Dakota, could market products through the world via the world wide web.
Distance is no factor. Heart and community would be everything.
HPR editor John Strand wrote that in the fall of 2003. Since then, the idea has both withered and grown: the idea of turning one small, dying North Dakota town into a literal New Bohemia is all but dead, but the notion of a statewide North Dakota artists' network seems to have caught fire.
Julie Neidlinger, an actual North Dakota artist, has some thoughts on the possibilities:
[A]rts in North Dakota is possible, but it's a little different once you leave Fargo and Grand Forks.
For this New Bohemia to work, the goal must be one that does not force a group of grandma quilters in Cando, for example, to conform to some of what is coming out of the more urban areas. And if there is to be a movement beyond deer art, paintings on saw blades, four-line stanza covered wagon poems, and fiddling music, it must be gradual. An education element is necessary.
They seemed to stress more of a statewide collaboration, a way of connecting all artists for a stronger voice, a way to synchronize events, arts, galleries, etc. to create a state-wide functioning arts program that drew tourists in. I like the concept.
As do I, though I think it's probably easier to do this sort of thing one town at a time: small artists' communities, in places like Columbus, Indiana or Floyd, Virginia, or Oklahoma City's Paseo District, have become destinations in their own right, able to attract visitors, and more importantly, buyers. Still, virtual communities can thrive on the Net, and even the smallest towns can participate: Jud, ND, south of Jamestown off US 281, population around seventy-six, has become a village of murals, and a vintage-1905 grocery will soon become the town's Centennial Museum.
New Bohemia can work. The hardest part will be getting the word out.
Beyond the river
The Downtown Guy has started a series about Capitol Hill, one part of the city that's seemingly never mentioned in all the recent flurry of expansion and restoration and renovation.
I wrote up a lot of pertinent stuff to serve as supplemental material, and it got so long about 5.5k that I reformatted it and posted it on the other side of the site as a Vent. I hope that the latter-day historians in our midst will find it useful, and that the born-and-bred southsiders will find it interesting.
16 January 2005
Panix in the streets
Public Access Networks Corporation, an ISP which traces its origins back to 1989, had its primary panix.com domain hijacked this weekend.
A lot of DNS records get screwed up from time to time, and it's as often due to stupidity as it is to malice, but this particular incident looks, well, evil. The company briefly posted a notice on its alternate panix.net domain; it's gone now, but Dawn Eden transcribed it:
Panix's main domain name, panix.com, has been hijacked by parties unknown. The ownership of panix.com was moved to a company in Australia, the actual DNS records were moved to a company in the United Kingdom, and panix.com's mail has been redirected to yet another company in Canada. Panix staff are currently working around the clock to recover our domain, but this may take until Monday, due to the time differences and difficulties in reaching responsible parties over the weekend.
Indeed, a check of whois.sc last night, which I repeated this morning, identifies the registrar as Melbourne IT, Ltd. d/b/a Internet Names Worldwide, lists the owner as one Vanessa Miranda, 1010 Grand Cerritos Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89123, and designates the admin contact as Burnhill Business Center, Beckenham, Kent, England. At this writing, http://www.panix.com/ brings up the stock Under Construction screen from freeparking.co.uk; the specified nameserver is ns1.ukdnsservers.co.uk. The 126.96.36.199 IP address given resolves to Koallo Inc. in Canada.
As Dawn says, "This is bizarre and scary." It won't affect The Dawn Patrol, which is not hosted at Panix, but the potential for screwing with people's email is certainly substantial.
Panix, as it happens, was the victim of the first publicized Denial of Service attack, as Bruce Scheier reported in his book Secrets & Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World:
In Sept 1996, an unknown hacker attacked the Public Access Networks Corporation (aka Panix) which was a New York based internet service provider. What they did was send hello messages (SYN packets) to the Panix computers. What's supposed to happen is for the remote computer to send Panix this hello message, for Panix to respond, and then for the remote computer to continue the conversation. What the attackers did was to manipulate the return address of the remote computers, so Panix ended up trying to synchronize with computers that essentially did not exist. The Panix computers waited 75 seconds after responding for the remote computer to acknowledge the response before abandoning the attempt. The hackers flooded Panix with as many as 50 of these wake-up messages per second. This was too much for the Panix computers to handle, and they caused the computers to crash.
These days, SYN flooding is treatable: we know better. But the present-day Panix attack is something quite a bit more insidious, since it goes directly to the heart of a shared resource and screws with the allocations therein.
(Update, 8 pm: Progress is being made; the domain transfer back to the proper owners is underway. However, it will be a day or two before all the DNS servers worldwide are updated with the correct information.)
The Thin Film Festival
My old friend Bruce takes me and another Oklahoma blogger to task:
Dustbury and Red Dirt Blog frustrate me because both claim to represent a form of aww-shucks common sense that's really just a thin film of apologetics for their own cultural biases; an equal opportunity "They're all rats" form of thinking that allows them to take pot shots at the imaginary demons that are tearing down a idealized vision of society "as it should be."
The suggestion here is that my cultural biases are hidden, albeit poorly. I wasn't aware that they were hidden at all; to me, they seem perfectly obvious. (Still, if you, Gentle Reader, haven't noticed them, please let me know, and I will provide a list.)
As for my idealized version of society as it should be, I really haven't given as much thought to that as I could have, largely because I've long since figured out that society is going to do pretty much what it wants to do without paying a whole lot of attention to me, and those aforementioned cultural biases, which I might describe as "laissez-faire to partly cloudy," would prevent me from taking a more proactive* role to push it in the direction I might desire. I am not, by nature, the crusading type; I do better taking the occasional pot shot from the corner at those pesky rats.
In an earlier paragraph, though, Bruce accuses me of "moments of brilliance." Now that's just uncalled for.
You are here, almost
Late last summer, I made the following observations about real-estate classifieds:
Traditionally, ads of this sort are believed to require multiple grains of salt to counteract the evasions, misdirections, and outright fibs that are supposed to be inherent in the selling process. I didn't find a lot of those, though I was amused by one little place pitching itself as being in the "Crown Heights area," which is true if your definition of "area" is sufficiently broad. (Douglas Place sits north of Crown Heights; this house is on the opposite side of the street from the northern boundary of Douglas Place.) It's probably just as "absolutely darling" as the ad claims I think that's a reasonably spiffy neighborhood but Crown Heights it ain't.
On the other hand, some ads score for Brutal Truth. On this presumed handyman's special on the southside: "Not scared of repairs?" And one rental ad, for a westside apartment, cuts to what's really important: "No One Upstairs."
These, while worthy of comment, were hardly weird. But Rita tops them all:
The notorious "fixer-upper" is being replaced with "needs a little TLC", which I translate as "needs wrecking ball & demolition crew". "Secluded" in this neck of the woods translates as "need 4-wheel drive & winch to get there". "Wet weather creek" equals "prone to flash flooding". One ad even proudly proclaimed that you could pee off your deck without the neighbors complaining.
I am so not kidding.
But my favorite find of the week was in an ad for some undeveloped acreage, which boasted the property had "one sided fencing". Must be some new-fangled Möbius strip fence. That's no good. It would confuse the hell out of the dogs.... and how would you put a gate in it?
I'd love to put up one of those, just to see if it would persuade the milkman to deliver the ol' 2-percent in Klein bottles.
OG&E gave a reference to this the prime spot in Currents, the little ad piece that comes with the monthly bill:
Customers will see lower electric bills in 2005 thanks to the OG&E Cogeneration Credit Rider approved recently by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
The average OG&E residential customer will receive an approximate $5 per month reduction in their bill from the Cogeneration Credit Rider, which reduces customer bills by about $80 million. The reductions are due to a renegotiated contract with a power provider and planned reductions in another similar contract being passed on to consumers.
Now I could look at this news this way:
"Dad, who was that masked man who just saved us five whole dollars?"
"Son, that's the Cogeneration Credit Rider. No one knows who he is, or where he comes from, but we know when he's been here. Let's go splurge on some Tater Tots."
Or I could just note that in their haste to stuff this thing into my bloated-by-Christmas-lights bill, they forgot to give me a return envelope in which to send my payment. Won't save them $5, exactly, but maybe they'll make it up in volume.
17 January 2005
Why this day matters
Nineteen fifty-four. The big story was in Washington, where the Supreme Court, to the surprise of many, had thrown out school segregation:
[I]n the field of public education, the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.
This was the decision in Brown v. Board of Education, and the Board of Education in question was in Topeka, Kansas.
Farther south, down in Oklahoma City, Martin Luther King, Jr., all of twenty-five years old, was knocking on the door of the Calvary Baptist Church in Deep Deuce, hoping to fill a ministerial vacancy. They turned him down: too young, they said. So King headed east, and wound up the pastor of Dexter Avenue Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Clara Luper had studied Dr. King's work in Montgomery, where a twelve-month-long boycott of the bus system brought an end to segregation in Alabama public transit. In 1957, her play Brother President, about Dr. King's work, was presented in Oklahoma City with a cast of members of the local NAACP Youth Council, to which Luper was an advisor; the following year, she was able to present the play in New York.
The tour bus had taken a northern route to the Big Apple, where the children experienced for the first time the joys of non-segregated lunch counters. They came back through the south, where Jim Crow still held sway, and they vowed to do something about it. In her book Behold the Walls, Luper remembered it this way:
I though about my father who had died in 1957 in the Veterans' Hospital and who had never been able to sit down and eat a meal in a decent restaurant. I remembered how he used to tell us that someday he would take us to dinner and to parks and zoos. And when I asked him when was someday, he would always say, "Someday will be real soon," as tears ran down his cheeks. So my answer was, "Yes, tonight is the night. History compels us to go, and let History alone be our final judge."
And so it came to pass that Clara Luper and a dozen children walked into Katz Drug Store in downtown Oklahoma City and ordered thirteen Coca-Colas, and not to go, either. White customers left. A crowd gathered, mostly hostile. Luper and company stood their ground. Epithets were hurled. Finally, still thirsty, they abandoned their quest for the day.
The next day, all the children were back, and a dozen more besides, and they had but a single thought on their minds: "Let's go back downtown." They did. And this time, they got their drinks. Shortly thereafter, Katz headquarters in Kansas City ordered that their soda fountains in all their stores would henceforth serve all customers, period. The walls were coming down.
In 1960, Dr. King returned to Oklahoma City and spoke at Calvary. Fifteen hundred turned out to hear him. There would be no turning back.
Last week in the Oklahoma Gazette, reporter Deborah Benjamin asked former state senator E. Melvin Porter, who was among those 1500, where things stood today. Said Porter:
It's a legacy of hope, of inspiration, of overcoming. We've overcome many odds. But as long as you live, there will always be obstacles.... I doubt we can ever arrive to everybody being in a perfect society. But America is a better society, and I think that white people appreciate the legacy of Dr. King now more than they did when he was actually involved.
We're not there yet by any means. But we might not have gotten this far were it not for Dr. King. And that's why this day matters, to all of us, no matter which drinking fountain we got to use back then: today, the waters run more freely than ever.
If you're following the domain hijacking at Panix, you might be interested in today's MOTD, which reads as follows:
This is a (relatively) brief statement about the hijacking and return of the panix.com domain name. In the days and weeks to come, we'll have more to say, but at the moment, we need to continue to work on finding the perpetrators, or else catching up on missed sleep. (That's a lot of catching up!)
The domain was transferred by parties unknown. It took effect around 4-4:30 AM EST Friday night/Saturday morning. The incorrect data was replaced by correct data shortly after 6PM EST Sunday evening, by the new registrar. The domain will be transferred back to the old registrar soon, but this is no longer urgent.
Neither the hijacking or the return were under Panix's control. That is, they involved the manipulation of third parties (Dotster, MelbourneIT, and Verisign) that control the use of domain names on the Internet, and which neither Panix nor any other ISP controls.
The effect of the transfer was simple: the name "panix.com", and any name ending in ".panix.com", pointed to servers that did not belong to Panix. That meant that all services provided using the panix.com name failed, and mail to panix.com was accepted by the bogus servers, then bounced as undeliverable. Sometime on Saturday, however, the bogus mail servers became unavailable. So a lot of mail sent after that time will be (or has already been) delivered.
Customers with their own domain names were generally unaffected by this problem, with the notable exception of some web service customers. The problems they experienced were due to use "behind the scenes" of the panix.com name in the delivery of their service. This was fixed well before the domain was returned to us, as we changed our service to use "panix.net" instead.
The effects of the hijacking were not immediately apparent to everyone, because of the effect of "DNS caching". It takes up to 24 hours for DNS changes to become visible (depending on how recently, before the change, that name was used). So the failure wasn't noticed by some people for up to 24 hours after it started, and similarly, it will take until about 6:15PM EST on Monday for the fix to affect everyone.
This hijacking involved multiple felonies here and abroad. Many members of law enforcement agencies in the US and at least three other countries have already been involved. We hope to catch the perpetrators, just as we caught the last person to attack Panix (several years ago). For obvious reasons, we can't discuss the investigation.
Because of the scope of the problems caused by this hijacking, we may not be able to respond to each individual customer query (either by email or in the newsgroups) as well as we'd like to. We'll try to answer the questions as best we can, but we may resort to mailing back a "FAQ" (Frequently Asked Questions) sheet. I also recommend that Panix customers refer to the "panix.questions" newsgroup, which contains lots of questions and quite a few answers, though in a somewhat chaotic format.
Please be patient if we don't respond to your mail instantly. It's been an incredibly difficult weekend, and the next few days are going to be only marginally less so.
As always, I'd like to thank the many customers and friends who sent in expressions of loyalty and support (even financial support!).
This can't have been easy on anybody at Panix these past few days. It's good to see that some semblance of normalcy is being attained.
Why Panix, anyway? A support person at Panix, having read my previous article, detailing an earlier attack on them, noted:
I guess we're a favorite target because we have historical name recognition and a certain reputation for skill and know-how, so it's a bigger coup in the eyes of the fellow pond scum when one of them manages to make our lives difficult. Eh well.
If nothing else, this should demonstrate pretty clearly the kinship between computer vandals and terrorists: the mindset is almost identical.
They're here, we're used to them
The search for ways to attract the "creative class," as Dr. Richard Florida would have it, has reached Spokane, and activists have come up with the notion of creating a "gay district," an "actual physical part of town" that will cater to the GLBT (add initials as needed) lifestyle.
What bothers me about this is not so much that there would be a gay district in Spokane we have one in Oklahoma City, fairly diffuse but centered not far from me, that bothers me not at all but that they think it can be imposed from without. It can't. (The last time American cities made an effort to create separate neighborhoods, the symbol was not a rainbow, but a large black bird.) And if you're wise, you don't announce in advance that you're going to create a district: you just do it, a building or two, maybe a block or two, at a time, and then present the world with a fait accompli.
This is not to say that my home town is exactly a hotbed of tolerance. But organized opposition to the GLBT community is conspicuous by its sheer ineffectuality: there is the usual rattling from legislators, and State Question 711, passed last year, certainly didn't help matters, but there's a big difference between political posturing and actual harassment, and for all its bluster, SQ 711 didn't actually change the status quo. Oklahoma County quietly added sexual orientation to its non-discrimination policy a few weeks ago; the newest county commissioner squawked, but he's just one voice among eight on the county's Budget Board, which on a previous vote before his arrival passed it unanimously. (They will vote again on Thursday.)
Oklahoma City's Asian District is not the Asian District because there are signs posted that say so: it is the Asian District because these are the people who moved in, who rebuilt the structures, who created new businesses, who established a sense of community. It works the same way for districts that aren't based on ethnicity.
(Via Dawn Eden, who has a different set of objections.)
(Update, 20 January, 10 pm: The Oklahoma County non-discrimination policy will not be reversed.)
Out of sight, out of reach
If you could choose the power to fly or the power of invisibility, which would you choose and why?
I remember this very question from an episode of Lois and Clark, to which they responded just about the way you'd think they would. And as of this writing, Ms. Galt's commenters are split fairly evenly on the issue.
As the keeper of this silly thing, I of course throw in my lot with the unseen ones.
Hitting me where I live
Regular readers (all three of you) will know that shortly after I moved into these semi-swanky digs in the city, I bestowed upon the property the name "Surlywood," which, all things considered, isn't a bad name, even if it is a bit too reminiscent of Lileks' beloved Jasperwood.
We've never named our houses. We simply distinguish them by referencing the name of the street on which they are located. The one we are in the process of moving to is on a corner lot, and has a separate address for the upstairs apartment, but we do not refer to the place as "Thirtieth".
I spent too many years in apartments which deserved no names at least, none which are utterable in polite society.
Interestingly, the practice in my neighborhood is to denote a house by its color, should that color be distinctive. For reasons unknown, my place is referred to as the "Brown House," despite the fact that very little of it is brown (most of the wood framing is painted some sort of Hello Kitty-esque pink, and at some point before that it was green). Nor was it ever, to my knowledge, owned by anyone named Brown.
The yard, however, definitely qualifies as brown, at least for now.
18 January 2005
Like sands through the hourglass
This thing expects me to make it all the way into 2027.
(Via Craig Ceely, who will be around long after that.)
Is Oklahoma City seeking to expand again? At the last meeting of the city's Planning Commission, one of the items on the agenda was an "Ordinance for Public Hearing annexing 160 acres at N.W. 206th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue."
Currently, the city's farthest northern reach is halfway between Danforth (192nd) and Covell (206th) between approximately the 500 and 3400 blocks; there is a housing development (Danforth Farms) that extends to the north side of NW 199th Street. Edmond has a one-mile segment along Pennsylvania from about 200th to 213th, the only part of Edmond that extends west of Western Avenue.
(Well, okay, on the city's far northeast side, there is a stretch that's just as far north halfway between Danforth and Covell from Choctaw Road to Peebly Road. This includes a bit over 3 miles of old 66 west of Luther.)
The 160-acre tract, presumably, is on the southwest corner of Penn and Covell. I have to assume this is simply a preemptive move, should Edmond decide to push farther west.
Skinny legs and all
What is sexy? And I mean physically, so don't cop out and give me that "a woman with a brain is sooo sexy" line. Do you honestly like a woman who looks like she hasn't eaten since the last time the Mets won the World Series*? Is a woman whose protruding rib cage could conceivably pierce you during sex hot? Would you prefer a woman with a D cup and few pounds on her or an A cup with a child's waistline? Would you date a woman who is over a size 7? Over a size ten? Do you hold yourself to the same standards of physical perfection that you do the women you choose to date/pick up/marry?
Actually, the only standard of physical perfection I myself actually meet is "breathing," but this is true of rather a lot of us over here on the Y-chromosomed side of the aisle, as Paul notes:
I knew a lot of guys who were hard pressed to get a date, yet they talked as if they were George Clooney. I often pointed this out to them but never got a satisfactory response.
Being just as capable of hypocrisy as the next guy, I admit that I have, um, certain preferences, but that's all they are: preferences. Not requirements. (And if I did meet someone who looked exactly like the mythical Woman of My Dreams, I think it's a safe bet I wouldn't even be able to speak to her: I'd be too overwhelmed, and there's always the "What would she want with the likes of me?" angle.)
You might infer from that last bit that there have not been many women in my life, and indeed there have not, but they have been a fairly diverse lot, from sizes 2 to 22½, heights from 4'9" to 5'9", and don't even ask me to recall cup sizes. About the only thing they had in common was that at some point they thought I was acceptable, which is miraculous enough.
These go up to 111
I'd like to say that I'm surprised at this:
Fed up with complaints from sweaty men and shivering women, HVAC technicians install dummy thermostats to give workers the illusion of control. In some leased buildings, even the corporate tenants don't know the thermostats are useless. Other times, it's the companies themselves, barraged with calls from workers, who ask the landlord's HVAC technicians to "fix" things.
Richard Dawson, an HVAC specialist from Homer, Ill., estimates that 90 percent of office thermostats are dummies, but that figure is way too high, others say. Dawson is unrepentant about installing fakes.
"I did what my employer told me to do," he said. "You just get tired of dealing with them (the complainers) and you screw in a cheap thermostat. Guess what? They quit calling you."
But after learning last year that most of the pedestrian "Push Button/Wait for Walk Signal" controls in New York City don't work, I'm a lot harder to surprise.
(Via Deb at Accidental Verbosity.)
The ultimate road trip
Come July, I start my fifth annual World Tour. As usual, it won't come close to circumnavigating the world, but 4500 miles in three weeks is nothing to sneer at.
Unless you're Scott and Eileen, who start their road trip in July, and they're not coming back for fifty-two weeks.
Why, you ask?
Two reasons. One, to explore the less-charted areas of America and capture what we find in words, still photography, and moving images. Two, to audition thousands of small American towns for the role of our new hometown. At the end of our trip, we'll choose one of them as the place to start a family.
Makes me want to empty out the old money-market account and go pack.
These two get on the blogroll immediately, simply because I don't want to miss any of this. And if our paths should cross well, it's too early to make any plans.
19 January 2005
Just don't call it "sprawl"
Oklahoma City continues to grow, and our friendly urbanite/suburbanite explains the dynamics thereof:
Every ten years it seems that we add another chunk to our metro, about the size of Lawton, Oklahoma. We currently have 1.2 million proud residents, and excellent city leadership, that are not restricted to Oklahoma City.
I see growth lasting well through a while, simply because in matters of size, it is America's 3rd largest city. Enough land, that urbanities tend to dislike, that we are unrestricted by any boundaries. While other cities may not grow much more, this also dampers urban growth in Oklahoma City, and means the city must pay for unnecessary utility costs. But, think of it like this... if the main city in a metro grows, the rest of a metro benefits. The urban center benefits. The suburban centers grow. As long as we tend to provide our citizenry with an unmatched transportation infrastructure, we should have smooth sailing. If suburbs like Moore, inner suburbs, will grow, we can link outer suburbs like Norman, extreme suburbs like Newcastle to the urban center and see even more growth. Metropolitan growth starts from the center, and is sustained in the suburbs.
I'm not as impressed with the "transportation infrastructure" as he is, but otherwise this makes sense. Too many metropolitan areas are growing around the fringes and withering away at the center. It helps that Oklahoma City has filled up less than half of its available space; yes, extending city services halfway to Shawnee will run into some serious money, but most developers are working closer to the city center.
And there's one angle which is seldom discussed: school-district boundaries. Twenty-three different school districts cover the expanse of the city; this complicates figuring things like property taxes, but for those people who aren't waiting around for MAPS for Kids to transform Oklahoma City Public Schools into the promised "model urban district," it's possible to take advantage of whatever benefits are offered by suburban schools and still live in the city. (Nor are they paying the MAPS tax for nothing; 30 percent of the MAPS take goes to those suburban districts.)
Next census? Maybe 565,000, perhaps 1.25 million in the metro. Of course, nothing comes close to that first-day growth rate back in 1889: zero to ten thousand in twenty-four hours.
(Update, 12:30 pm: Dan Lovejoy talks about transportation issues.)
An important number in Oklahoma City: it's the major thoroughfare between Hefner Road (otherwise 108th) and Memorial Road (otherwise 136th). I expect one of these days it will be renamed after someone, and I'm reasonably certain it won't be yours truly.
Of course, what you want to hear about is the 122nd edition of Carnival of the Vanities, presented by The People's Republic of Seabrook. This is the third time the Carnival has stopped at this blue outpost in red Texas, and by now you've got to figure they're getting pretty good at it.
Some simple electoral reforms
[R]equiring proof of citizenship for voter registration; requiring every voter to show both a photo ID and a pulse; and requiring that an election can be certified only if the number of votes equals the number of voters.
This, of course, constitutes a form of disenfranchisement of individuals who aren't entitled to the franchise in the first place.
(Via The Big Trunk at Power Line.)
Plus $35 for a late charge
Barclays Bank, which acquired the Banco de Valladolid in 1981, was sued by Domingo Lopez Alonso, former majority owner of the Spanish bank. The bank had failed, and Lopez had turned over his shares to the Spanish government under its restructuring rules; Barclays basically picked up what was left after Madrid paid off the depositors, and, said Lopez, Barclays cheated him out of what would have been rightfully his.
The court found for Lopez, and awarded him, according to the order as printed, 1.1 quadrillion euros, roughly $1,400 trillion US, an amount far in excess of the Spanish gross domestic product, possibly almost enough money to bail out the US Medicare system.
Interested parties are operating on the assumption that this is a typo and a subsequent court order will correct the figure.
3434: the number of the Beast
Bill and Larry Mathis yes, they are brothers have snagged 14.5 acres of land in Ontario, California, on which they're going to build a monster of a furniture store, 150,000 square feet with 230,000 square feet of warehouse space.
The Mathis brothers are paying $11.50 per square foot cash for the property, a bit above market. The tract in question is part of 202 acres owned by the city of Ontario which once made up now-defunct Ontario Motor Speedway.
This will be the second Mathis Brothers store in California; a store in Indio, in the Low Desert, opened in 1999.
20 January 2005
Given population growth, deforestation, soil erosion, oil consumption, and diminishing biodiversity, Diamond declares, ''our world society is presently on an unsustainable course.''
Ehrlich's mistake, the same one that every prophet of doom has fallen into since academic doom saying was popularized by Thomas Malthus, was that he took a single current trend, in this the rate of population growth in the 1960's, and extrapolated it into the future, while at the same time assuming that, not only would nothing else change, but that the rate of population growth itself was a constant. As it turns out, it wasn't.
Here's a prediction, using the same kind of logic. Last Thursday, the temperature was 80 degrees outside. Today, it's 20. Given the current rate of change, the temperature will reach absolute zero sometime on March 8th. Better wrap up!
Climate-change (formerly known as "global-warming") buffs will note that 540 degrees Fahrenheit over seven weeks doesn't count; it's 0.54 degrees over seventy years that matters.
Waisted days and waisted nights
My control top pantyhose are not controlling my top.
If I understand the concept of "control top," it's technically not her top that's out of control.
(Of course, with my luck, by posting this I'll have totally alienated a woman with legs to die for and I'll spend the rest of my life trying to grow hair so I can tear it out.)
A while back, I heard the area bounded by I-44 on the North and West, I-40 on the South and I-235 on the East referred to as "The Loop." And, of course, everybody wants to be in the loop, right? You've got downtown, Bricktown, the Asian District, OCU, St. Anthony's, the Paseo, historic neighborhoods like Edgemere Park, Mesta Park, and the grandiose dwellings of Heritage Hills.
Which, I guess, is reasonably appropriate. I, of course, am out of the loop, albeit not by much; I-44's northern span is a bit on the irregular side, dropping from just north of 50th to down the middle of 39th, and as it drops, it passes me by.
Will this catch on as a local meme? It just might. One plausible rival is the Mid-City Advocate's circulation area, which is a square Reno to 63rd, Kelley to Portland but seldom (outside the pages of the Advocate, anyway) do you hear anyone talking about the Mid-City. And nobody ever describes an address as being inside or outside the Grand Boulevard circle.
And frankly, I'd prefer "The Loop" to "Near-Northwest," which is bandied about by some.
Dinner with Draco
Make it a couple of Slurpees.
So what did you buy today?
And then, the speech
I am, at best, a fumbling orator: I stumble over words I know perfectly well, and I tend to get two or three words ahead of myself, which means that at some point I'm going to leave out a word without which the sentence makes even less sense, and the WTF flags will go up among what's left of the audience. So I am disinclined to fault George W. Bush for lacking the charisma of a Jack Kennedy, the affability of a Ronald Reagan; I know I couldn't give him any pointers on how to sound persuasive.
Still, I did like this bit:
Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave.
And about the fifteenth mention of "freedom," it dawned on me why he'd mentioned it fourteen times before, and why that seemingly facile dismissal of the other side as people who "hate freedom" had more substance to it than I had thought.
Freedom, after all, implies demands, even the ability to make one's own choices, to the extent that they do not encroach upon the choices of others. It is perhaps regrettable, but nonetheless inevitable, that some of those choices will produce suboptimal (read "crappy") results. Some people can't, or won't, accept that fact. It is unthinkable to them that a person might want to worship with the damnable infidels, might desire to live in a place where the loudest noise is the rattling of the gate, might want to grab a Monster Burger some evening: after all, look at the harm they're doing to themselves, and we simply can't have that.
Daniel Schorr at NPR went into a snit this afternoon because the President didn't mention Iraq by name [Accept no substitutes! Ask for it by name!] or pitch any domestic agenda. Assuming Schorr isn't suffering from an incurable disease that will take him away in the next few days, he can wait for the State of the Union address with the rest of us. I want my pomp and circumstance unsullied by tedious political calculations.
The duck is lame; long live the duck.
(Full text is here. Outside the Beltway has a sampling of pundit reactions to the speech.)
21 January 2005
Tastes great, less signing
Your semi-humble scribe has been sniping about Oklahoma's ballot access laws for some time, so it's a pleasure to see the possibility of something being done about it.
Richard Winger's Ballot Access News reports that Rep. Marian Cooksey (R-Edmond) has introduced an access-reform bill. Under House Bill 1429, the number of signatures required to get a third-party candidate on the ballot would drop, from 5 percent of the vote in the previous general election (73,188 for 2006), to a flat 5,000. Third parties could retain official recognition with one percent (instead of five) of the vote for President or Governor, whichever is more recent.
Perhaps needless to say, I'm hoping this bill, or something very much like it, manages to pass.
The elevation of the national snout
You know this person, right?
"Oh, Muffy and I only watch educational shows or public television. Everything else is just dreadful. We just don't understand people who watch those what do you call them? oh yes, sitcoms. The bane of society, I tell you." Meanwhile, the guy knows damn well that you watch not only sitcoms, but cartoons, reality shows and late night movies with gratuitous sex and violence. He's talking at you, not to you.
And it doesn't stop with television, either:
There are musical elitists, book snobs, movie purists. They will scoff at your album collection, laugh at your bookshelf and recoil in horror at your DVD purchases. They will think less of you if own any romance novels. Never mind that you have a PhD, you spend ten hours a week volunteering at the homeless shelter and you take in stray cats. You're a lower class of human being because you own the Skid Row box set. You'll be the scourge of the next MENSA meeting when word gets out about your Harlequin collection.
I've mentioned before that I own both a complete Wagner Ring cycle and seven Debbie Gibson albums, and that doesn't even begin to cover the prodigious amount of stuff scattered (since I haven't had the time or the wherewithal to scrounge up new shelves) through my so-called library (which contains a romance or three), or the insults to the national cultural elite contained therein.
But I'll say this much: I can dash off a decent Shakespeare parody in fifteen minutes, and I can sing you almost anything from The Partridge Family Album. And if you see something wrong with that, perhaps it's the angle of your head: your nose extends too far into the air.
Taking the wrinkles out of the robe
Former judge Donald Thompson will be getting his day in court.
I believe I speak for many Oklahomans when I say "Ewwwwwww."
Also some original Mosaic Law tiles
Nobody bid on this early Bible on eBay, despite the seller's claim that it was "signed by jesus!"
I certainly wouldn't trust it without a corroborating statement from Dan Rather.
(Via Fritz Schranck.)
22 January 2005
Access to Zoom Zoom
Mazda North American Operations and software developer Nanonation have been rolling out something called the Retail Revolution Showroom, which adds a whole lot of computer stuff to a dealership. Most of it is the expected juggle-the-options screen, but there's an actual test-drive simulator that enables potential buyers to get the feel of Mazda vehicles, or so they say, without leaving the grounds.
I'm not so sure about that you can't really learn a car's basic qualities (or quirks) in the couple of miles you get to drive it for real, let alone a few minutes working a simulator but it is something different, and Mazda, which is on the comeback trail these days, needs to continue to present itself as a more interesting alternative to the usual brands.
Mazda sold 263,882 vehicles last year in the States, up slightly from the year before, which is a decent figure but a mere drop in the overall American automotive bucket; as a fan of the marque my last two cars have been Mazdas I'm keen to see them pick up some extra sales. And some of those sales might actually be in Oklahoma: at least, Nelson Mazda in Tulsa, which has the new showroom apparatus, certainly hopes so.
Take a look around
The rise of "place blogging" in recent weeks is heartening, not just because there are people here who know more about the city's history than I do (and I'm no slouch at these things), but because it's a form of documentation that bypasses the Official Versions, that helps to complete the picture.
My friend Fred First lives, not in a city, but on an 80-acre spread in the Blue Ridge. (I've been there, briefly, and if heaven isn't like that, I've wasted my time being good.) "Sometimes the most difficult ground to see," he says, "is that which is under our own feet." The value of writing about "place," therefore, is obvious:
Lenses are real, and they are metaphors for anything that lets us or makes us see the world differently. Each of us has a 'philosophical lens' that molds our thinking and our writing. It clarifies, magnifies, distorts, and colors our perceptions and understanding of the reality around us. When I write about my particular place here on Goose Creek, I portray it through a refracting lens that bends and molds my view of life in a way that is unique, even from my neighbor's. Your lens, too, is as distinct as your thumbprint, and when focused on that ground under your feet, your words about what you see, and your pictures offer us worlds about you in your place we would never have known.
There are half a million stories in Oklahoma City. More of them will be told. I believe there's a place for all of them, if not in some building across town, then certainly in this virtual world of ours.
Live from Will's
A couple of bloggers were whooping it up.... oh, wait, wrong saga.
Anyway, about a dozen of us are gathered here guzzling java and trading stories and generally acting like we're old friends.
Which, as of now, we are.
More as the time and the circumstances permit.
Who could ask for anything more?
A really good day makes up for a number of bad ones or a multitude of indifferent ones. And while it's impossible to plan everything to the last detail and expect it to work out exactly about a quarter to two, Dawn Eden was supposed to be taking off her clothes in the next room, which didn't actually happen things went pretty nicely today.
For me, the story began at 9:45, when Michael Bates pulled up to the curb in front of Surlywood. For a guy who just drove in from Tulsa, he was decidedly upbeat, which is always a good thing, and out of the passenger seat pops Dawn, looking tousled and fourteen as ever*, and I've got her all to myself for four whole hours.
If you have to ask what happened next, you don't know either of us very well. It was a search-and-acquire mission of the highest order, conducted on the premises of Happy Days Record Shop at SW 89th and Western. We got away, of course, with stacks of wax. ("One Little Answer" by Sonny Bono on Specialty 733, incidentally, apparently was released in 1973.)
Then to the TapWerks ale house in Bricktown, where Advanced Noshing was the order of the day, and back to Surlywood in not enough time for her to change into something a little dressier [oh, that's what he meant] before venturing off to Will's Coffee for an informal, breezy little Blogger Bash.
A splendid time wasn't necessarily guaranteed for all, but we had one anyway. Tulsa was represented by Don Danz and, of course, Mike Bates. From Lawton came John Owen Butler. "Wild Bill" Kerr joined us from Midwest City, or "MWC" as it's known in the trades. And from the far reaches of OKC, there were Jan the Happy Homemaker, Dwayne "AKA Donny Osmond" Hendrickson (and his lovely wife Barb), Dan Lovejoy, Sean Gleeson, and Brett Thomasson, who bloggeth not, but who has by now written more in the way of comments to blogs than some of us have in actual blogs and could not possibly be left out.
A wholesome group, to be sure. Just look at this if you don't believe me. And while there were no real low points, except for maybe the disappearance of the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile from its temporary lodging on Western Avenue before we could suck up to the management and get pictures of ourselves in front of (or, God forbid, astride) it, arguably the high point was when Dawn sought to demonstrate the Power of Advertising by giving us a taste of the Mister Softee theme music, and half a dozen of us burst into a spirited rendition of the B. C. Clark jingle.
A really good day indeed. To all of you who came down: thank you, and let's do it again some time.
And to Dawn: Surely Tony Romeo wrote something pertinent to this occasion. :)
Picks to click
It occurs to me that I should probably describe the singles I snagged earlier today, and so I shall.
The Bagdads, "Bring Back Those Doo-Wopps" (Double Shot 133, 1968)
The Bluebells, "I'm Falling" (Sire 29237, 1984)
Sonny Bono, "One Little Answer" (Specialty 733, 1973)
The Church Street Five, "A Night With Daddy G" (Legrand 1004, 1961)
The Mary Kaye Trio, "Man's Favorite Sport" (20th Century-Fox 457, 1964)
The Newbeats, "(The Bees Are For The Birds) The Birds Are For The Bees" (Hickory 1305, 1965)
Ohio Express, "Sausalito (Is The Place To Be)" (Buddah 129, 1969)
23 January 2005
Uphill both ways in the snow
Something I hadn't thought about for years, but John Owen Butler jogs the old memory: What was your school commute like?
Grades 1-2: Fraser Elementary, Corpus Christi, Texas
Grades 3-5: St. John's School, North Charleston, South Carolina
Grades 6-8: Pinewood School, Summerville, South Carolina
Grades 9-12: Bishop England High School, Charleston, South Carolina
Curiously, at least to me, of these four schools, only one remains in its original location: St John's. Pinewood moved out to Orangeburg Road; Bishop England is now on Daniel Island in the middle of the Cooper River. And Fraser Elementary, I understand, was razed to make room for a shopping center.
(Oh, and my college days? I bought a five-speed Schwinn and rode it all over Austin.)
From the official press release:
Effective February 18, 2005, the Fremont [California] Police Department will institute a program of "Verified Response" to all alarm calls with the exception of panic, duress and robbery alarms. For this reason, if you have a panic, robbery or duress feature to your alarm system, these will continue to be treated as high priority calls for service by the Police Department, and will need to continue with the Alarm Permit Program and be subject to false alarm fines if your system sends a false duress, robbery or panic alarm. Verified Response will require the alarm or monitoring company to verify there is an unusual occurrence at the location of the alarm. This can be done with video or sound feed, with an eyewitness, or by the alarm/monitoring company hiring private security to check out the location. No police will be dispatched until there is a verified problem.
Fremont police chief Craig Steckler points out that last year the department received about 7000 alarm calls, 98 percent of which proved to be false.
Meanwhile, Costa Tsiokos asks:
[R]eally, are the security companies going to bother with this? It'll increase their operating costs in a big way, which they'll have to pass on to their customers. Insurance incentives will make it hard for people and businesses to drop their alarm systems altogether, but at some point, it'll make more sense to just put in a dummy alarm system that's designed to just make noise without the monitoring.
Should my alarm go off, which has happened three times in fourteen months, each time due to a screw-up on my part, the security company has checked in with me average response time, 55 seconds before taking further steps. Oklahoma City imposes a fine if you've had too many false alarms; as far as they're concerned, I haven't had any, because the accidental alarms have been properly intercepted. And what I think is the most likely means of tripping the alarm accidentally in my absence (no, I'm not going to reveal it here) has yet to happen, despite multiple instances of conditions favorable for it.
It's hard to blame Fremont for wanting to conserve its limited resources for actual burglaries and such. But is this the leading edge of a trend where, in CT's words, "overworked and understaffed police departments would answer calls only made via security firms"? I hope not.
Good night, Johnny
Never wanting for material
Once you get "So what's a blog, anyway?" out of the way, the next question is usually "What can you put in a blog?"
My stock response runs along the lines of "Just about anything this side of a Publishers Clearing House mailing."
Obviously this response is too limited.
(Via Banana Oil.)
Timing is everything
I'm 33. A person who was my age on the day I was born would have been born before Hitler invaded Poland. He'd be old enough to remember the A-bomb being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He'd have been a few days past his 18th birthday when Ike was elected to his second term except he wouldn't be able to vote, because the 26th Amendment would still be 15 years away. He'd have been almost 25 when JFK was assassinated.
And he'd be 66, and probably retired by now.
I probably should have just gone on down the blogroll and ignored this, but for some reason I started thinking about some mythical fellow born in September 1902, which makes him a contemporary of my grandmother on my mother's side. He would have been fourteen and a half when the US entered World War I, and the first President he could have voted for would have been Calvin Coolidge in 1924. The Depression, I assume, was hard on him and his family. After Pearl Harbor, he would have had to register for the draft; the upper age limit for registration was 65, though 45 was the maximum age for actual conscription, and after the war ended, he would have been off the hook rather quickly anyway. Nearing 60 when Johnny Carson started doing the Tonight Show, he reached retirement age for Social Security purposes in late 1967, and if he's still alive today, he's a hundred and two.
Or to look at it another way: during the 1980s and 1990s, I put together a series of sixteen mix tapes (24 hours of tunes) from the Sixties, a period I define for purely personal reasons as November 1963 through May 1969. The most recent songs contained on these tapes (six of which I have since redone for CD) were already half a lifetime ago in 1985.
I think I'd best drop this line of thinking now, before I become despondent.
24 January 2005
The last resort
At least, the last one I'll ever be able to afford.
Exclusive Resorts, which offers access to about 150 Überrentals worldwise, has signed a deal with American Express, whose Centurion cardholders (annual fee: $2500) will now be able to sign up for Exclusive's membership package at less than the usual $375,000 fee and will get double the usual rewards bonuses for staying at Exclusive's properties.
Meanwhile, for the rest of us, Discover and Wal-Mart are teaming up on a store card.
Thank you for caring
I haven't seen it lately, but about fifteen, maybe twenty years ago, one argument that occasionally popped out from the pro-choice folks was "You know, if you guys are so dead set against abortion, perhaps you should assume responsibility for some of these babies you insist must be born." It wasn't a particularly persuasive argument, but it had good emotional resonance, and it persisted for quite some time before dropping below the rhetorical radar.
What I didn't anticipate was that its basic principle "You ban it, you deal with the consequences" was so readily extensible to other issues of dispute.
(Via Susanna Cornett.)
When you spend time with Dawn Eden, you learn to be prepared for almost any possible question. One thing she mentioned during her whirlwind trip through Oklahoma was the wide variety of auto license plates she saw; I pointed out that there were about a hundred specialty plates available for an additional fee. (Inexplicably, I forgot to mention that the major tribes in this state issue plates to their members.)
And then she asked: "Is there a pro-life plate?"
I told her that there was, and she was quite pleased to hear that.
She will not be quite so pleased to hear that the Supreme Court will not hear the appeal of a decision that overturned the law authorizing similar plates in South Carolina. A lawsuit similar to the one filed in South Carolina is pending in Oklahoma.
So far as I can tell, there has been no complaint from Camaro owners regarding the state's Oklahoma Mustang Club plate.
Not a trace of Hamilton
Inanity and calm
It's probably a good thing Meet the Fockers has dropped out of the No. 1 spot at the box office.
25 January 2005
Oklahoma County Commissioner Stan Inman is pushing for a vote this week on his proposal to eliminate the county's Budget Board, which consists of the three commissioners and the county's five other elected officials.
In his proposal, Inman pointed out several instances where the Board, he said, either exceeded its authority or acted ineptly.
Commissioner Jim Roth has suggested a home-rule ballot as an alternative: "We're still operating with an 1890 model, and if we disband the budget board, we get even closer to 1890."
And Treasurer Butch Freeman pointed out that most property-tax payments are made in the middle of the county's fiscal year, which leaves the till comparatively empty in the spring. A county lacking a budget board, he says, would have to borrow from banks to cover any shortages.
Is Inman truly unhappy with the Board's performance? Maybe. I think, though, what really has his BVDs knotted is the Board's vote last Thursday to support the addition of sexual orientation to the county's official non-discrimination policy. Local real-estate broker Jim Nimmo, who attended the Thursday session, is a bit blunter:
It appears there will be another showdown with the County Government this Wednesday, as Rinehart and Inman dissolve the Budget Board, the very device of their downfall. Is this revenge and retribution, or pretending to be an old-testament god masquerading as good government?
As I understand things, dissolution of the Board would not invalidate the nondiscrimination policy, nor would a 2-1 Commissioner vote be sufficient to establish personnel policies under state law.
And Assessor Leonard Sullivan, hardly gay-friendly, still won't support Inman and Rinehart. He remembers the county-commissioner scandals of the 1980s:
We had the biggest scandal in the history of the U.S., and we created a budget board to have accountability in county government. This would allow just two people to control the budget and be accountable to nobody. I can't believe taxpayers would stand for this.
Roth's home-rule proposal may look pretty good after all this blows over.
America Online has announced the discontinuance of its Usenet news servers, citing low usage.
AOL users will presumably still be able to access Usenet newsgroups through Google, or by signing on with an independent news server at their own expense.
There is no indication that AOL's decision was at all related to AOL users' legendary netiquette, or more precisely, the lack thereof. (Then again, in twelve years of newsgroup usage, I've seen lots of lusers who weren't on AOL.)
Plus a small allowance for bullets
A bank robber in the Netherlands was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to repay the bank the 6600 euros he stole less 2000 euros to cover the cost of buying the gun he used to rob the bank.
Dutch law apparently specifies that a convicted criminal must be in approximately the same financial position at the time of conviction that he was in before the crime was committed. The robber presumably would have been out 2000 euros had he bought this gun and not robbed the bank.
If there's a lesson here, it's simply this: if you're going to rob a bank in the Netherlands, you might as well buy a new, and preferably expensive, firearm.
(Via Tongue Tied.)
Out of the blue
The operator of a Deborah Gibson fan page is heartbroken at the news that the Debster will be appearing in a Playboy pictorial.
Says the fan, the news is "still not being officially released (except to paying fanclub members of the official Deborah website)."
Liz Smith has the story now, and her reaction is pretty much the same as mine:
I never know what to think of the taking-it-off-for-Playboy route. Sometimes it works, but just as often it doesn't. (Yes, everyone oohs and aahs and speculates if Playboy has furnished said naked lady with new breasts, a trimmer bottom, a perkier nose, whatever. But careers are not always enhanced.)
Personally, I can't think of anything of Deb's that needed improvement, but then I'm not the guy paying $5 for the issue. (The price by subscription is more like $2.91.)
And how surprised should I be, anyway? She did Broadway Bares way back in '98. Besides, she's in her middle thirties by now, and frankly, I grow weary of the endless procession of 19-year-olds chez Hef.
1040 or fight (part 3)
Last year I did my electronic filing through eSmartTax.com, for reasons having nothing to do with their cumbersome name, and things went well, so I went back to them this year.
The interface somehow seemed a little clunkier this time around, and I had a lot more stuff to include, what with an actual Schedule A and all, but things still seemed to go well, and I got through the entire return in less than half an hour, which is probably about as fast as I could do it by hand. The fee, $14.95 this year, wasn't outlandish. And there's more incentive to do this early if there's an actual refund at stake (last year there wasn't).
26 January 2005
This is a test
The new Movable Type "nofollow" plug-in is designed to undercut the value of comment spamming by instructing Google to ignore the links contained in comment spam when indexing a post, thereby depriving the spammer of the PageRank benefits he thought he deserved.
With both Yahoo! and MSN on board supporting "nofollow," I figured I'd install this thing, even though I am having relatively little trouble with comment spam. The README supplied with the plug-in, though, threw me a curve:
This plugin is supported on Movable Type 3.x and 2.661. If you are using an older version of Movable Type, we strongly suggest upgrading to the latest release.
I'm running 2.64 here, but I decided to go ahead with the install. So far, it's working correctly; the last comments posted do contain the "nofollow" tag. I don't know what conditions might exist in 2.64 (but not in 2.661 or 3.x) that could cause this code to act up, but I'll be on the lookout for them; please report any behavior you observe that is even weirder than usual.
(Update, 27 January, 10:45 am: Anomaly noted.)
The costs of Warr
Last summer, I suggested that Warr Acres' days in the low-tax sunshine might be ending, what with revenues declining and expenses going up.
It hasn't happened yet, but Warr Acres City Council is contemplating the matter: a city committee is recommending that an election be held this spring to raise the city sales tax from 2 percent to 3 percent, in line with other municipalities in the area. (Oklahoma City charges 3.875 percent; the state sales tax is 4.5 percent.)
This being Warr Acres, though, only half the extra penny would be a permanent increase; the other half would be collected for five years and placed in a trust fund, where it would presumably be harder to spend.
The City Council in Warr Acres has not yet acted on the committee recommendations, but I think it's a fairly safe bet that they'll go along with the basics, if not necessarily the amount. (Prediction: 0.75 percent, two-thirds permanent, balance to the trust fund, which would still enable them to claim the low-tax high ground.)
Filler? We got some
The Music Meme, by way of Syaffolee:
1) What is the total amount of music files on your computer?
11.5 GB, more or less, but probably more.
2) The CD you last bought was
3) What is the song you last listened to before reading this message?
"Last Night" by the Mar-Keys.
4) Write down five songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you:
"Runaway," Del Shannon (Del Shannon-Max Crook)
5) To whom (three people) are you going to pass this stick? And why?
It's open to anyone who wants it; I'm not going to email it or anything.
One two three
"Oh, that's how elementary it's going to be," sang ex-Dovell Leonard Borisoff, known far and wide as Len Barry, way back in the pop-music paradise that was 1965.
Forty years later, the Raving Atheist presents Carnival of the Vanities #123, your weekly compendium of all things blogalicious. It's at least as easy as taking candy from a baby, and I won't tell anyone if you say grace before digging in.
The roads not taken
Mistakes? We've made a few:
I've discovered that living life the best way you know how brings regrets and sadness and mourning the loss of things you were never quite sure you wanted, or don't even know now if you want them. It is the narrowing of possibilities that hurts, the knowledge that if you did decide you wanted a certain path, it is already irrevocably closed to you, slipping away behind you when you were looking for something else.
I have those regrets, and I've spent some time and tears mourning the things that never were and now never can be no matter how much I might wish for them. You hear about midlife crises, and when you're young they seem baffling, because when you're young you think by the time you're where they are, you'll know the answers and what kind of lame person doesn't? It's only as you age that you realize that change doesn't encompass the core of who you are, you're always you and never perfect. You begin to understand exactly what it meant when your grandmother, graying, still strong but so old in your eyes, told you that at 70 or 75 or 83 inside she felt the same as the 16 year old girl who married with such dreams and delight inside that she couldn't sleep.
The problem with change is not so much that it's inevitable, or even that it's superficial what we are deep inside was fixed long ago but that it's so blasted difficult to quantify: how much change can we handle at any given moment? In the past, I have tended to guess either too high or too low: I've done something drastic when minor modifications would have sufficed, or I've tweaked and twiddled when I should have walked (or run) away.
The saving grace in all these fumbling maneuvers is the fact that they exist at all. Doing something, even when it's wrong, or at least ill-advised, is generally to be preferred to doing nothing; a rut is a grave that extends to the horizon.
The important thing to remember, I think, for myself, and for Susanna as well, is that no one ever gets to try every single door, that our time in this world is too short to exercise every conceivable option. The best we can do is to keep our eyes and, when appropriate, our hearts open.
Or, as that Zen master Yogi Berra once said, "If you see a fork in the road, take it."
27 January 2005
It's a declining industry, but cities persist in believing that convention centers will bring a return on investment. They don't.
Tom at Undercaffeinated notes that this is no less true in his home town:
If the underlying assumption that 400,000 people will visit the convention center every year is true, then of course putting the [proposed new] convention center on the water is a good idea. The problem is, there is no way 350,000 more people will be having their conventions in Buffalo. The city has a horrible reputation, there is a glut of convention space around the country (since every city thinks building a convention center is the answer to all their woes), and the lakefront is windy and cold most of the year. The assumption is wrong common sense proves it wrong.
So what's it going to take?
No one is magically appearing in Buffalo until Buffalo rebuilds itself for itself. As we begin to migrate back to downtown, as downtown businesses and restaurants and bars and shops reappear to serve the new migrants, as the city's reputation slowly changes from cold, snowy, dead, depressed and boring to cold, snowy, lively, and historically significant, people will suddenly appear.
Not everyone in Tulsa has caught on to this, suggests Michael Bates:
[A]t the TulsaNow annual meeting, an urban planner commented that Tulsa's leaders seem to think that it's enough for downtown that we're building the arena, and no one is thinking about how Denver Avenue will develop, or what kind of development is needed to connect the arena to the Blue Dome district and the Brady district.
We're still playing it by ear in Oklahoma City, but I think we're (mostly) on the right track. As Tom says of his northern outpost:
It sounds corny, but before anyone else will love Buffalo, we Buffalonians must first love it ourselves.
Tulsa, that's your cue.
The role of quarters
One of the primary justifications for increasing the Oklahoma City room tax was to patch up the horse-show facilities at State Fair Park, lest horse shows decide to go elsewhere.
With the tax increase passed and $55 million worth of improvements scheduled, it appears the city knew what it was talking about: this week, the American Quarter Horse Association has agreed to continue staging its World Championship here for the next ten years.
The fifteen major horse shows annually in Oklahoma City are believed to add some $180 million to the local economy, rather a lot more than we can expect from convention business.
Insert Tyson joke here
Senator Frank Shurden (D-Doublewide) has never quite given up his quest to get the Oklahoma cockfighting ban reversed or modified; his latest tactic is to take the blood out of the blood sport by requiring the equivalent of tiny boxing gloves on the birds.
(Via Rodney Dill by way of Kevin McGehee, who is puzzled that this would show up at Outside the Beltway before it did here. Truth be told, I'm fairly sick of Shurden's endless posturing on this topic and would just as soon not give him any more publicity, but when the readers speak, I respond, or at least riposte. NewsOK.com's Sally Allen has a far better take on this cringeworthy topic.)
(Is this the first time I've had an article with more parenthetical asides than actual material?)
(Update, 11:10 am: Matt Deatherage says term limits can't come too soon for Shurden.)
Tuesday night I installed the "nofollow" plug-in for Movable Type, a routine which blocks participating search engines from indexing the links in comments and TrackBacks, making the efforts of comment spammers even less productive.
The plug-in isn't designed for versions of MT as old as this, so I was watching for anomalies, and I did find one: its placement of the new REL tags affected the appearance of my TrackBack window, though not the content. (Basically, it managed to trap out the CSS DIV used for TrackBack text.) This is exceedingly minor, but exceedingly minor is actually within my capabilities, so I rewrote the template slightly.
Anything else I notice will be passed on, for the benefit of others on this venerable platform.
Serves him right
Well, technically this is a serving suggestion only.
(Via Reflections in d minor.)
Malign snobs: nitpicky, but casual
Okay, this is three and a half years old fercryingoutloud, but I'm not always a quick study, and, well, I've been laboring under the delusion that "MSNBC" stood for, um, something else.
(Courtesy of Victory Soap.)
28 January 2005
By Dawn's early light
Dawn Eden has a few recollections of me, some of which might even be true.
It is not the case, however, that I turned up her name and Web site through a Google search after reading the liner notes of a Hollies box set. If I remember correctly, we occasionally ran into each other by means of the old CompuServe service, where there was a discussion area for pop artifacts, which I seem to recall was ruled over by the kindly Jeff Tamarkin. (The "hook," if you will, was the email address she had adopted after C$ allowed us to go beyond our Strings O' Digits, which sent me into guffaws and which, she claimed at the time, no one else ever "got.") Our last communication in those days was at the end of 1997, when she was taking down the Gaits for some reason.
Over the next six years, nothing, and then out of the blue, an unexpected sidelight to some Michael Brown research I was doing, there was this; after a couple of tentative emails, we were Old Friends again, this time for keeps. I think.
(If you follow the link off my December '03 piece, you'll have to do some scrolling. It's worth it, though.)
A man whose time has come
Lileks has already said that he will not run for Senate in '06.
You think he might consider being FCC Chairman?
Sprucing up the place
Professor Gary Hack of MIT has come up with Ten Commandments of Design Review, which, in a city like this with hopes of reinventing itself, probably should be heeded. And in Oklahoma City in particular, two or three should be emphasized:
6. Design review needs patronage, a core of supporters who stick with it over time. The support is necessary because in the process a lot of people will not be getting all they want. The supporters will help shore up the process when those who have not gotten what they want from it become frustrated. A review board of highly respected members can play this role, or there could be a group appointed to monitor and evaluate the process that also assumes this role.
You can't plan everything to the nth detail unless n is vanishingly small. There are going to be disagreements on just about everything. The phrase that pays is "We're going to do this," not "We're going to do this exactly this way."
7. Be prepared to break the rules. The best environments have landmarks, folly and divergence from the norm. This is especially true of public institutions, public locations or intersections.
Two words: Stage Center. Love it or hate it, you can't miss it.
9. Design review is not about creating beautiful buildings. It is not taste making. It is about creating good street, good communities and protecting important symbols and about determining whether new development fits in.
You can have the nicest neo-Victorian mansion in the three-county area, but if it's on a block that's gone to seed, who's going to care? A desirable urban environment takes a lot more than just remarkable architecture.
(Via The Downtown Guy.)
Insert stopped-clock metaphor here
Just in case you thought CNN was wrong about everything.
(As well you might, if you remember this.)
This is not a Java applet
29 January 2005
Neither blog nor snob
It was about four months ago that Blogsnob announced that they would be integrating actual paid ads into their text-ad system, which up to then had been used strictly as a blog-promotion device. At the time, I wondered how long it would take for one to show up.
I need wonder no longer. The vast majority of Blogsnob placements I see are still actual ads for blogs, including occasional spots for this one, but today I managed to hit an actual store site through a Blogsnob link.
What's interesting to me is that shortly after the announcement was made, subscribers (and former subscribers) were complaining that paid ads were making up the bulk of the two-place ad block. Maybe my traffic is just so meager that it took this long for me to see a paid ad, though this seems unlikely.
And unlike those former subscribers, I'm not complaining. I've gotten a fair number of referrals from Blogsnob, and I've discovered a few sites worth adding to my read schedule. Besides, the first thing I learned about free lunches is that there ain't no such thing.
Brain buckets required
In November I noted that the new skate park was nearing completion, and expressed support for its mission.
It's done. The park will open Friday, 3 February at 5 pm, and thereafter hours will be sunrise to 11 pm, seven days a week, all year. I still think this is a great idea: obviously I'm not going to be dropping into the bowl any time soon, but it's about time Oklahoma City put a different spin on the "recreation" part of "parks and recreation".
Whereas with a bicycle, you just climb back on
It's such a conundrum. I want things that are in conflict with each other. I crave intimacy but fear what it brings. I don't want to be alone but the word "commitment" sends shivers down my spine. I want to be close to a woman, but when that closeness is offered I back off. The fear of being hurt again causes me instead to hurt someone else. I want to go slow but then I race ahead, only to shift into reverse a little while down the road.
I feel like a caricature of guys I used to scorn as "assholes". I don't treat people like this. I'm an honest man who cares about the feelings of others. I wish I could use my grief, confusion, and general male stupidity as an excuse. But thats not good enough. When you become involved with someone as a friend, lover, or something more, you have some responsibility for their feelings. I've been so damn self-absorbed that I haven't done nearly enough of that. No more. I've always considered myself to be a nice guy. But even nice guys can hurt other people. If anything, they have greater potential to do just that.
I don't have any trouble using grief, confusion, and general male stupidity as an excuse, but that's just me. Still, I know this territory all too well: being alone has its drawbacks, but if someone were to offer to fill in some of this empty space, the first thing I'm going to think is not "Thank you, thank you," but "What's going on here, and what's going to screw it up?"
Not that anyone actually is offering, of course.
So what's the solution? I could just sit home and not date anyone. That would certainly solve the problem. But I crave adult female companionship. Other people who don't have it all figured out are out there dating. I should be able to do it too... right? Part of the problem is that I haven't done much real "dating". I got married when I was young. Got divorced and had a couple of torrid flings. Got married again. Now I'm 43 years old and less experienced in the dating area than your average 23 year old. I don't know the rules and I don't know how to manage the expectations.
I haven't had that second marriage, and I'm eight years older, but otherwise I could have written that paragraph. Sitting at home is the path of least resistance, and I've done quite a bit of that, but I'm doing less of it these days. And what's more important, I think, is that I'm doing less of it without any expectations: if something happens, wonderful, and if it doesn't, well, I'm no worse off than I was, and at least I got out of the house.
One of the reasons I've kept up this site for almost nine years is to document the details of my life while I still have the ability to do so. One unexpected fringe benefit is the fact that when I'm tempted to bewail how nothing ever happens in that life, there's an abundance of evidence to tell me to put down the damn hat already, or at least quit talking through it. And if nobody seems to be rising from the hormonal horizons with the visceral impact of, say, Ursula Andress in Dr. No, well, it could be just that I'm not paying attention.
Quote of the week
I must admit one reason I ceased to want to have anything to do with the Democratic Party was so I wouldn't have to hear the latest sob story about unaffordable medicine from people with $100-a-month cable bills.
By coincidence, $100 will buy one month of my blood-pressure meds.
Beyond bingo for Buckeyes
The modern-day Eastern Shawnee tribe is descended from the mixed Seneca-Shawnee group which left Ohio in the 1830s and settled in Indian Territory; tribal headquarters to this day is in Wyandotte, Oklahoma. The tribe has some modest business interests near its present-day home, but there's always been the urge to return to Ohio, and while the tribe has put its land claim on the back burner, gaming is in the offing.
Or maybe it isn't. Residents of Monroe, Ohio turned out in droves to oppose the Eastern Shawnee's plans for a casino complex near Interstate 75. Monroe officials favor the casino, but Governor Bob Taft generally opposes gambling in Ohio (with one exception), and the Monroe project is temporarily on hold while the tribe prepares a presentation for a proposed compact with Ohio that would give the state a piece of the action.
(Update, 31 January, 9:25 pm: Michael Meckler weighs in: he says that the gambling issue shows where the real divide is in American politics, and it's not along liberal/conservative lines.)
30 January 2005
Yet another silly meme
Not that I'm above silly memes, of course.
How this one works:
1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don't search around and look for the "coolest" book you can find. Do what's actually next to you.
From Born Grown: An Oklahoma City History by Roy P. Stewart (Oklahoma City: Fidelity Bank, National Association, 1974):
"In 1976 the American Bowling Congress tournament will come to Oklahoma City for the first time, setting up its own lanes in the Myriad."
Well, you know, I hate to leave a story unfinished.
(Via Phoebe Gleeson.)
A sense of the inevitable
Francis W. Porretto was watching Fox News this morning when this bit of information slid by:
FOX News has just reported that, according to Adel al-Lami of the Independent Electoral Commission, 72 percent of eligible Iraqis participated in the voting. The report also gives the toll taken by terrorist violence: 36 deaths tallied to date.
No one should be eager to depreciate the lives lost in this historic event. Still, your Curmudgeon is irresistibly moved to say: If that's the worst the terrorists can do, the Iraqi people have won their freedom.
Indeed. No one, apart from an occasional tire-slasher, threatens us at the polls, and we struggle to turn out 60 percent.
I'm waiting for the Iraqi equivalent of a blue-state Democrat to point out that the terrorists were effectively disenfranchised and therefore this election was stolen. Shouldn't take too long.
(Update, 8:30 pm: Later reports show somewhere in the 60s, which is still pretty good turnout, considering the occasional threat levels. I know Saddam used to get 99 percent or thereabouts, but then he had the two-box electoral system: you put his name in one box, or he put you in the other.)
Stretching the truth
The right side of blogdom has had a lot of fun with the most recent Consumer Reports condom test, which ranked a condom distributed by Planned Parenthood as the least effective.
Obviously their latex products, which are given away for free, are worth the price, but how about their advice?
Every reputable sexuality education organization in the U.S., as well as prominent health organizations including the American Medical Association, have denounced abstinence-only sexuality education. And a 1997 consensus statement from the National Institutes of Health concluded that legislation discouraging condom use on the grounds that condoms are ineffective "places policy in direct conflict with science because it ignores overwhelming evidence ... Abstinence-only programs cannot be justified in the face of effective programs and given the fact that we face an international emergency in the AIDS epidemic" (NIH, 1997).
I'd like them to try to explain this:
The African nation of Uganda, until recently suffering one of the worst cases of post-colonial political corruption and social misery, has surpassed all expectations in its AIDS program based on abstinence and social cohesion. Uganda has decreased its rate of AIDS by as much as 75% in some demographics, an unprecedented success in the story of African AIDS combat.
You want more statistics? Here you go.
This actually explains much about those crummy condoms Planned Parenthood distributes: after all, their logic is also full of holes.
(Addendum, 31 January, 5:50 pm: As apparently is mine, in spots. See comments. Also, see Bruce's take on this issue.)
Sweating the small stuff
My deodorant of choice for the past six or seven years has been Avon's Cool Confidence, a product which works the Secret turf ("strong enough for a man, but made for a woman"), and which has the distinct advantage of being kinder to pertinent articles of clothing than most of the products I've tried from the competition. And besides, it was shipped in this neat sort-of-cylindrical plastic bottle that could easily be stood on its top, the better to drain out those last few precious drops.
The Major Babe who vends Avon to us poor shlubs at 42nd and Treadmill duly delivered my periodic six-bottle order this week, and to my horror, they'd come up with a new bottle design with a vague hourglass shape which looks shorter, even though it isn't, and which looks like it holds less, even though it doesn't. Worse, it has a translucent blue top that looks for all the world like a gumball taken off the roof of a toy highway-patrol car. "How am I supposed to upend this darn thing?" I wondered, grumbling about the added expense I was surely facing.
Yeah, yeah, I know. I can afford the pound foolishness, though, only because I take the time to be pennywise elsewhere. (Over six years, I've probably saved a good two, maybe three bucks.) And after a little practice, I've figured out how to stand the new bottle on its top: it does a little bit of Weebling, then settles into a reasonable facsimile of stability. I am happy, especially since I don't have to complain to the Major Babe, who, like most of the rest of the world, hates it when I complain.
Could Michael Savage (Savage Nation) be the estranged older brother of Dan Savage (Savage Love)?
Well, no, probably not, especially since Michael's previous last name was, um, Weiner.
Of course, there's always the possibility that I've spoken too soon.
(Inspired, so to speak, by Brian J. Noggle.)
31 January 2005
Twelve physical-therapy sessions down, six to go, and I'm really starting to wonder if the projected bite exceeds my potential chew: while I'm getting the exercises done, generally with half again as many reps, sometimes twice as many reps, as when I started, I don't feel much better, and this persistent limp isn't going away. (I joked last week that it took me two years to learn how to walk, and I wasn't going to relearn it in a few weeks; it occurs to me now that perhaps it was no joke after all.)
Still, I persist. And even if I still do a bad imitation of Hopalong Cassidy across the parking lot, the additional physical activity is probably good for me even if it doesn't feel like it at the time.
And I wonder: would this have worked out better in some month other than cold, dreary January?
Michael Bates, on the sort of urban-design review that exists in Oklahoma City:
Tulsa doesn't have any design review districts, as such. We have historic preservation districts that are strictly residential and are concerned with maintaining the appearance of the appropriate period on a home's facade. Urban or neighborhood conservation districts focus less on the building in isolation and more on its relationship to other buildings and the street. The focus is not on preserving buildings of historical significance, but on preserving any valued characteristic of a neighborhood. It would be a great tool for preserving the small and shrinking parts of our city that are truly urban and pedestrian-friendly.
The destination, of course, is a lot more attractive than the journey. Two of four front-page stories in last week's Mid-City Advocate dealt with urban design, upside and downside. The city's Urban Design Commission turned down a plan for a new home on a vacant lot in Midtown because it was too much out of character with the rest of the street, what with the garage in front and all; the builders say that the lot is too small to construct a driveway that extends to the back yard. And a chain of convenience stores will have to give up its trademark color scheme to operate in the streetscape along 23rd.
This is not to say that Oklahoma City is single-minded about design considerations. In 1999, city planners and developers were so much at odds that a committee was convened to review the entirety of the standards and practices in use, and their report [link requires Adobe Reader] explains what happened:
[T]he ordinance and its processes and requirements mean different things to different people. The diversity of opinion about the intent and content of the limited design standards outlined in the ordinance, as well as a largely untrained Commission that has had inadequate guidance from its own enabling ordinance, has resulted in confusion and sometimes anger among residents, property owners and public policy makers throughout the community.
The Urban Conservation District rules also came in for some criticism:
The Purpose section suggests that one of the goals of the ordinance is to identify "resources worthy of conservation," yet it does not describe the types of resources that could be considered significant and the Criteria for Designation section sheds no more light on the question.
Unlike most communities' historic preservation or conservation district ordinances, the UCD statute fails to establish objective criteria against which a neighborhood, area or community is to be measured, thus usually leaving to neighborhood leaders the charge of devising their own review criteria, land use policies and any specific provisions that apply to a targeted area. The Planning Commission's charge to create an implementing ordinance that protects an area from "detrimental development action" and lists the type of regulation standards that may be included in such a district-designating ordinance does not specifically enable inclusion of architectural design standards.
In my district specifically, the architectural design standards are very loose, partly because there is such a wide variety of variations on the few basic themes that were used during its late-1940s construction. The neighborhood was conceived as slightly upscale, sort of entry-level junior executive, and the platting reflects that concept: the lots tend to be on the large side of average, and the houses range from contemporary for the period to downright eccentric. The primary focus is on retaining the relationship between house and street setbacks must be preserved, and front-yard modifications are restricted and on improving streetscapes themselves. (An ongoing lighting project will eventually install new mid-block lights to supplement the lights at intersections.)
The revised 2003 guidelines addressed most of the committee's concerns, though it's clear that there are always going to be some conflicts between property owners and the Planning Department. It's worth noting that while there is a single section in the Municipal Code which enables the Conservation Districts, each District has its own specific section that sets down its own particular rules: while there are similarities among them, there is no attempt to make one size fit all. If this approach smacks too much of "I know it when I see it," a more specific approach would probably be resisted as being too restrictive.
Still, the rules have been in place long enough the first historic district was so designated in the late 1960s that everyone has had time to get used to the idea. And for the most part, things work.
Old keyboards, at least on the Wintel side of the aisle, still have a great deal to offer: they have solid feel, they don't have a bunch of Windows-specific keys to mess with, and they last forever.
Well, almost forever. My work box had a genuine Big Blue-branded keyboard that managed a good thirteen years before starting to develop signs of erratic behavior, and when it wouldn't respond to a cleaning regimen, it was sent to the parts bin. Its replacement, you'll be happy to hear, is nine years old; it's quieter, but I won't hold that against it.
You'll wonder where the yellow went
Six million dollars in the Cleveland budget this year is supposed to come, says Mayor Jane Campbell, from as-yet-uninstalled cameras to catch drivers running red lights.
The city would have to issue about 150 tickets a day at $150 a shot to be able to meet Campbell's goal. What's most interesting about this is that she didn't even pay lip service to "public safety"; this is a revenue measure, pure and simple, and, says Director of Finance Robert Baker, "Cities that have done this have been astounded by the amount collected."
Cleveland is budgeting for $484 million in expenditures this year. Oklahoma City, about ten percent larger, will spend $697 million this year; the fine for running a red light or a STOP sign is $172.
(Update, 4 February, 7:40 pm: Her Honor has changed her tune slightly.)
Child consumes parent; film at 11
SBC, you'll remember, started out as Southwestern Bell, one of the Baby Bells set free when AT&T was more or less forcibly broken up in the 1980s; since then, they've absorbed three of their sisters and become something which in some ways resembles a communications powerhouse. What they want with AT&T is beyond me, though the most likely explanation seems to be a desire to bulk up and go head to head with Verizon, itself an unholy fusion of a Baby Bell with a non-Bell telco.
Of course, AT&T isn't what it used to be either. Still, putting the Death Star in its galaxy will put SBC in almost every American location where it isn't yet, an exceedingly comfortable position to be in while the communications industry as a whole flails about seemingly at random.
(Disclosure: If I don't drop dead in the next 15 years, and if a number of other things don't happen, I will presumably draw an SBC pension.)
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