Archive for May 2007

The latest poop

Last fall I posted something about TerraCycle, which produces an organic fertilizer from, um, worm droppings. (Do they really drop? I mean, we’re talking worms here.)

Scotts, now the manufacturer of the Miracle-Gro line of fertilizer products — they acquired it in 1995, subject to an FTC decree that they get rid of their old line — is now suing TerraCycle on two grounds. One of them seems a bit preposterous to me: the product packages, Scotts’ claim to the contrary, look nothing alike, and TerraCycle’s containers are almost infinitely variable anyway, inasmuch as they’re actually used beverage bottles. The other may be more serious: TerraCycle is claiming results equal to or better than synthetics like, well, Miracle-Gro, and Scotts won’t stand for that. (Complete complaint here: PDF, 177 pages.)

TerraCycle has set up to tell its side of the story, and sent out PR announcements to various newsies — including the Oklahoman’s Steve Lackmeyer, who put his copy out on the paper’s blog, to be found by the likes of me.

(Disclosure: Earlier this year I actually bought a different Scotts product. I was not particularly impressed.)

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A brunch trodden

Brandon Dutcher of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs comes up with a story to explains Brad Henry’s suddenly-busy veto pen:

For years the docs (the OSMA, Eli Reshef, and many others) have been working tirelessly for tort reform. Finally in 2007 it’s within their grasp. Then a couple of weeks before a possible victory, the white coats (with honorable exceptions like baby doc Tom Coburn) spend quite a bit of energy lobbying Gov. Henry to veto a bill which would get Oklahoma taxpayers out of the abortion business. Henry does so, but in order for the veto to be upheld one Democrat state senator who had previously voted pro-life is going to have to fall on his sword. Sen. Charles Laster isn’t going to do this for nothing, of course, so he tells his Shawnee buddy Brad Henry that he will flip flop only if the governor assures him that he will veto tort reform. Laster knows this would make him a hero among deep-pocketed trial lawyers, so he sacrifices the little ones and votes against the same bill he had just voted for three times. The anagram gods are watching, of course, and promptly remind us that “state Senator Charles Laster” can be anagrammed “heartless Senate tort rascal.”

So it is that the docs, by choosing to spend so much capital defending that repugnant procedure that doesn’t pass the dinner party test, help to guarantee that their beloved tort reform is dead on arrival on the governor’s desk. Cause of death: irony.

“I’m not sure that it’s true,” says Dutcher, “but it’s certainly plausible.” Not to mention consistent with a century of wheeling and dealing.

(Via BatesLine.)

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Philately will get you nowhere

Yet it persists:

One hundred and sixty-seven years ago today, the UK issued the first adhesive postage stamp, the “Penny Black”.

One hundred sixty-six years and three hundred sixty-four days ago, the first philatelist stuck one in an album rather than on a letter.

Then again, any stamp you buy and don’t actually use represents pure profit for the Post Office, so it’s not like it’s a complete waste of time.

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Right up your alley

Or maybe not. Today’s City Council agenda calls for spending $72 million from the 2000 General Bond Obligation Authorization, a little more than half of which will go to road projects. None of these are in my back yard, exactly, but some of these are major: $2.8 million will go to doing something about NW 164th from Western to Penn, which is spectacularly sucky. About half a million will be spent on Wilshire from Kelley to Bryant, which is slightly less so. (The complete list is here.)

And this item looked interesting:

(ABC-646) Application by Oklahoma City Redevelopment Authority for an ABC-3, Alcoholic Beverage Consumption, Club with Alcohol District overlaying the C-CBD Central Business District (pending DBD Downtown Business District), located at One Park Avenue. (Ward 7)

One Park Avenue, of course, is the Skirvin Hilton, which opened in late February. No wonder this has an Emergency declaration.

(All links are to PDF files.)

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Less-hysteric preservation

Also on the Council agenda today is a change to the Historic Preservation ordinance which strikes me as worthwhile: all public hearings will now be recorded on video and retained for at least 60 days; all participants giving testimony will be sworn; anything reasonably related to an individual case will be admitted as evidence; all such evidence will be made available to the Board of Adjustment in the event of an appeal. (The Board is not required to hear additional evidence at that time, but may do so at its discretion.) All such appeals will be on the record.

I expect this to pass easily: the Historic Preservation Commission, the Planning Department and the Municipal Counselor have all signed off on it, and the proposal originated with a member of the Board of Adjustment in the first place.

(All links are to PDF files.)

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Less cruel than anticipated

Two weeks ago:

It appears we’re going into a slightly-warmer-than-normal period for the next couple of weeks, and that’s a good thing, not only because I’ll have to write a smaller check to the gas company, but because it increases the possibility that this might not wind up as the coldest April in recorded history, at least as far back as they’ve recorded it here.

And it didn’t, either; in fact, at an average 57.4 degrees, it didn’t make the Bottom Ten, though it was still well short of the normal 59.7.

Still, this is yet another example of how truly screwy Oklahoma weather is, and why any prospective Worldwide Weather Czar will go quietly (one hopes) to pieces while trying to understand the local climatological models.

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Gimme a c

Pontiac is running a four-page ad in the buff books this month, black with illumination seemingly right out of the sun’s corona — Toyota never does this, and they used to sell a car called Corona — and on page two, you are asked, RANK THESE, FASTEST TO SLOWEST. The choices:

  • Porsche Boxster
  • Audi TT 2.0
  • Speed of Light
  • Pontiac Solstice GXP
  • BMW Z4

Knowing what you know about advertising, and what Scotty told you about the laws of physics, you’d probably guess that on the next two pages, the Poncho comes in second, and you would be correct. But there’s this: YEAH, BUT LIGHT CAN’T CORNER.

Okay, kinda goofy. But this is the first Pontiac ad I can remember in years that, well, I can actually remember. And the first commandment of advertising, after all, is Get Their Attention.

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Standing on the verge of not getting it on

There are dozens, hundreds, thousands of songs about winding up in the sack together. Are there any songs about not winding up in the sack together?

Well, there’s at least one:

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Oh, that wicked ink

You might be forgiven if you thought that the Oklahoma Legislature was utterly afraid of tattoo artists: while they finally got around to letting the decorators ply their trade, they also stuck them with some locational limitations. The law provides, for instance, that no tattoo parlor can be located within 1000 feet of a school, a church, or a playground, a restriction consistent with — well, nothing, really:

[B]ars which serve alcohol for on-premise consumption must only be 300 feet away from any public or private school or church. Strip clubs must be 500 feet away from playgrounds.

In February, the Association of Body Art, a tattoo trade organization (and who knew there was one of those?), filed suit against the state; yesterday, an Oklahoma County District Judge ruled that the distance regulations, and the requirement for a $100,000 bond, were unconstitutional.

I presume that neither bars nor strip clubs will have to move in the wake of this decision.

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And then, in the dead of night…

Sonics-watcher Peter Nussbaum has inevitably been watching the team’s new ownership, and he says he’s seen this pattern before:

I think if you checked the “Robert Irsay Guide to Moving a Franchise,” you’d see that [Clay] Bennett and Co. have gone according to plan:

STEP ONE — Check
Find team to purchase. This is important.

STEP TWO — Check
Attempt to put positive spin on non-local ownership taking over a beloved local institution. Make not-so-funny jokes about the differences between your hometown and your new team’s location.

Find some local types to put in “important” positions.

Make obligatory efforts to keep team in town, keeping Commissioner and League happy, as well as intimating that you don’t want to move. Be sure that the requests you make would never be accepted by local government, though; you don’t want to screw up and not be able to move the team!

Gut front office.

STEP SIX — Check
Start stonewalling media. Remember, no news is good news for your plan. The more you get people to hate you and your team, the easier it will be to move!

Call Bekins.

I can find only one flaw with this premise: Bob Irsay actually called Mayflower.

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Delete before reading

As a proud BOFH, I see it as my bounden duty to defend our IT departments against those horrible wretched nasty creatures known as “users.”

Except, of course, when we pull stunts like this:

trumwill: Over the weekend the company changed everything on the network. They sent out an email with our new network passwords.

morequen: Wait, they sent out *an* email?

morequen: with everyone’s password?

trumwill: Everyone’s password being the same, yes. They advised us to create a new one.

morequen: wow

trumwill: Which would be possible if we could, you know, log in to see the email. Which of course we couldn’t because our passwords didn’t work.

All this needs is “Yeah, we did just upgrade Lotus Notes. How did you know?”

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Because you can never suffer enough

At least, I think that’s the idea here:

Let’s see. We’ve got a high maintenance dog, parental health issues, one career that demands continual 10-11 hour days and another that’s just barely scraping by, plus four years of college tuition glaring from the horizon like the Eye of Mordor. I wonder what we could do to ratchet up the stress level? Hmmm. . . .

I know! What if we build a big honkin’ new house and try to sell the old one, tapping into the funds that might otherwise ensure that we have a long and secure retirement? Yeah, that’s the ticket!

Might as well trade in the car, while we’re at it.

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In three Canadian provinces, you can find franchises of 241 Pizza, which opened its first location in Toronto in 1986. The name was intended to suggest, well, two for one.

The Carnival of the Vanities isn’t offering a two-for-one deal. Yet. It is, however, still dishing up select bloggage from the last week, as it has for 241 weeks now.

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Why don’t you all f… fall asleep?

My generation? Maybe the one before.

(A reader recommendation. I have some, um, remarkable readers.)

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Initial reaction

I am not hopeful about Senator Jim Inhofe’s not-necessarily-new immigration bill, partially because, well, it’s Jim Inhofe’s, but mostly because it’s called ENFORCE: The Engaging the Nation to Fight for Our Right to Control Entry Act.

Stupid acronyms contribute to stupid governance, and this particular example is flagrantly ugly, charmlessly kludgy, insipidly, nonsensically, grotesquely stupid.

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Can you Digg it?

I’ve pretty much stayed out of the flap over at, where DMCA takedown notices have been thicker than London fog, mostly because I couldn’t figure out a way to work “09 F9 11 20 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0” into casual conversation.

It would be different, of course, if I could sing it. Besides, Lileks has already explained the matter:

[D]igital content is the future. I make that bold prediction well aware that it’s also the present. But the days of the video store are numbered — ones and zeroes, to be exact — and someday all the entertainment you buy will be digital. But you’ll own nothing but a lah-sance, and those can be revoked. Imagine every book on your shelf was locked because your license to read them had expired, or the Master Controller in your Internet provider determined that you’d violated section B subsection (302) clause 09f91102, and revoked your right to access the content. Imagine all the players are coded to check whether you license is up to date, and lock out your licensed media for reasons you can’t decipher. Puts a hell of a crimp in family movie night.

Who will be to blame? A sclerotic industry that couldn’t figure out a way to maintain its profit levels in the new paradigm, and every dork who can’t be arsed to pay for cable but downloads the shows he wants to see anyway. And for every noble dedicated anti-statist idealist who wants to protect us from the concentration of media power and content control, I swear there are ten who’d post the security door codes for a nuclear power plant if they could, shout down their critics as censors, then hold a contest to embed the codes in a LOLcats picture. Because nothing really means anything, in the end. It’s just keystrokes, joysticks, pizza and wanking.

Pizza, I suspect, actually comes second.

Incidentally, one of the hex bytes in the string above is, um, wrong. No points for so noticing.

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Even higher hybrids

Yours truly, last fall:

[Y]ou can get quite a luxe-ish Prius if the check you write is big enough, and I keep wondering when Lexus is going to get its own version in the $35-45k range.

It might look something like this:

Jemca Toyota in London has finally gone and done what dealers are wont to do: prep a car to a buyer’s specific requirements. In this case, the car in question is a Prius, and while the changes are subtle, they certainly do look quite nice. The exterior is finished in Brechin Slate, a blue/silver metallic finish that’s normally used on Lexus cars. Inside, the cabin is redone with hand-stitched leather. And not just the seats, mind you, from the photo in the gallery you’ll see that the center armrest and door panels also get the luxe treatment. Finally, a spiffy set of multi-spoke polished steel wheels finish the look nicely. All that work drove the price tag up to £32,900, no small amount for a Prius, but for that money, the new owner has a unique car he can truly call his own.

Indeed. Of course, all that handwork keeps the price high: we’re talking sixty-five grand for a Prius, fercrissake. But I still believe there’s a market for a Lexusized Prius. And even if the only buyers turn out to be people who are desperate to be seen as green but who wouldn’t be caught dead in a Toyota dealership, that’s more than enough to turn a tidy profit.

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Wearing a new face is now serving up its new site design, which officially is still in beta. I looked at it a couple of weeks ago, and deemed it a smidgen cleaner, though apparently one of the major goals is to make sure you see at least one 600-pixel-wide ad before you scroll. And one horrid feature has been made slightly less so: they still have the exploding Flash ads popping out of nowhere, but so far they haven’t actually made it impossible to click on the menu bar, which the old interface did.

B-minus, maybe a solid B. So far.

(Update, Cuatro de Mayo: The menu bar is hosed under the area defined by the exploding Flash ad, which of late has been sold to the Oklahoma Lottery. This is not endearing.)

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That wristful feeling

I own three watches. The Helbros, acquired in 1966, stopped working in 1980 but still looks pretty good. (It’s been to the repair shop once; a new crystal was installed some time in the middle Seventies.) At the time, the combination of penury and hardware lust led me to acquire a Casio digital watch — pace Megadodo Publications, I still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea — which is still in use today, though its band (a knockoff of the Speidel Twist-O-Flex) is seriously worn and the pins that hold it in place, well, don’t.

As usual with me, Plan B took precedence over Plan A, and I purchased an Abacus “atomic” watch from Woot. It was incredibly bulky compared to my old Casio; more to the point, it had a Rolexoid bracelet that Fossil, Abacus’ parent, had thoughtfully prepared for the wrist of one of the Kansas City Chiefs. I spent about an hour and a half resizing the band, mostly because I had only the vaguest comprehension of how to work the pins. I wasn’t even sure that “pins” was the proper term.

A few minutes of Googlage led me to the storefront of The Watch Prince, which patiently explained that these things are properly called “spring bars.” What’s more, they actually offered a tool to compress the skinny little troublemakers, for a measly nine bucks. It looks vaguely dental, except for its matte black finish, which is probably useful if you have bad eyes since it contrasts with the band and the watch itself. I had to have one, even though I’d finished redoing the Abacus’ band, simply because at some point in the next 40 or 50 years I may have to do this again.

While I was at the site, I picked up some spare spring bars (a stunningly-negligible dollar a pair), and just for the heck of it, dialed over to the bands and ordered a genuine Speidel Twist-O-Flex for the old Casio. The Prince, reasoning from my shopping cart that I didn’t have a farging clue, threw in two sets of bars to fit the Speidel. The Casio is now back in play, the Abacus is sitting on my dresser downloading a time signal from WWVB, and I’m starting to wonder if maybe I should have the old Helbros fixed.

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Architectural indigest

The palatial estate at Surlywood was constructed in 1948, which may mean that I am fortunate indeed:

You have to wonder: have Americans forgotten how to build dignified houses, or are we simply not dignified people anymore? Virtually every building put up after 1950 looked terrible and many of them were rotting into the ground. Most of them are little more than elaborate packing crates with a few doo-dads screwed on — exactly the kind of buildings, by the way, that [Robert] Venturi and [Denise] Scott-Brown celebrated in their writings. They called them “decorated sheds,” the vernacular expression of the mainstream American soul.

The design failures of these things might be attributed to a loss of knowledge and a lack of attention to details, but I think a deeper explanation has to do with the diminishing returns of technology. We’ve never had more awesome power tools for workers in the building trades. We have compound miter saws, electric spline joiners, laser-guided tape measures, and many other nifty innovations, and we’ve never seen, in the aggregate, worse work done by so many carpenters. For most of them, apparently, getting a plain one-by-four door-surround to meet at a 45-degree miter without a quarter-inch gap is asking too much. In other words, we now have amazing tools and no skill. What you wonder is whether the latter is a function of the former. Is the work so bad because we expect the tools to have all the skill?

Another issue is the choice of materials. As you march down the decades from the 1950s, the materials-of-choice for finishing the exterior are more and more materials not found in nature. Aluminum siding was a big favorite for a while — and you can always spot it because of the dents below the three-foot high level, where the lawnmower has shot stones at the panels for decades. After the 1980s, there is a distinct acceleration in the use of vinyl for practically everything. The vinyl clapboards, soffits, window-surrounds, et cetera, are often little more than stapled onto the house. And naturally they begin to sag and pull apart instantly. After twenty-odd years of that you end up with a house that looks like a birthday present wrapped by a five-year-old.

I think I’ve just been talked out of some vinyl trim.

More on the sheds, from Elaine Brownell’s Master’s thesis:

The problem with the decorated shed is not that it exists; the justifications for its widespread use are all too clear. The problem is that as architects have become less involved with the space, structure, and program of a building, they have focused primarily on the ornament. In our time of widespread standardization and unquestioning pragmatism, the program, siting, massing, structure, and general floor layout for a building are already decided by the time an architect is hired to finesse the details of the curtain wall. Realizing the limitations of the architect, Cesar Pelli has become a champion of the skin. Herzog and De Meuron have followed in due course. In the day of the triumph of the corporate logo, it has become all too tempting to leave one’s stamp on the box, without much consideration for what happens inside it. And, as building development processes become more complex, increasingly specialized, and faster paced, architects are hard-pressed to keep up, applying their talents solely to the creation of an image, which is manifest in a thinner and thinner envelope.

I am not suggesting that the wrapper is inconsequential; it is unfortunately only too rare that the envelope of a building be truly beautiful. However, substance is more important than skin. In their 1971 treatise on “ugly and ordinary” architecture, Venturi and Scott-Brown distinguished between “urban sprawl” and the “megastructure”, which they presumed to be opposites.

And now, of course, they’re right on top of one another, so to speak.

Cesar Pelli, you’ll remember, designed Tulsa’s BOK Center. Is it all skin, no structure? Guess we’ll find out soon enough.

In the meantime, when visitors ask me about the house, I will continue to explain, “It comes from the period when they’d learned how to build one-story houses with a certain degree of panache, but before they figured out how to make them all alike.”

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Juice box

For every Monopoly, every Scrabble, there are hundreds of board games that for whatever reason Never Quite Made It.

Just now showing up on eBay is the original (there are no copies) of Toad J. Simpson’s Get Away With Murder Game. From the description thereupon:

This board game is based on the events surrounding the O.J. Simpson murder trial. All the characters have been renamed with amphibious titles. Toad J. Simpson, Katoad Kaelin, Mark Frogman, Lance Itoad, and Alan Does-Show-Warts are just a few of the characters. The object of the game is to get away with murder by being the first player to advance and leave the board by throwing a die and drawing Black Glove Cards. The rules consist of 8 pages of typed guides as to what each player does as he or she lands on a numbered space. Some of the game pieces are a 911 Hot Line Phone, Slow, White Escape Vehicle, The Murder Weapon and the Sock With Blood Spots as Court Evidence.

As part of the deal, the buyer will be assigned copyright to the concept and characters; it’s the whole package. If you ever wanted to make your own game, perhaps this is your starting point, and to borrow a phrase, should the idea fly, you must bid high.

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Snooze on the march

The Hilton Garden Inn hotels are pushing something called the Garden Sleep System, a sort of superbed, billed as an order of magnitude better than what one usually finds in a hotel room.

Hilton put out a press release to trumpet the results of a sleep survey they’d ordered; Christopher Elliott reads between the lines, and finds:

The Hilton data suggests guests are indifferent to hotel bedding. When picking a hotel, 41 percent said they took bedding into consideration, “but it isn’t a dealbreaker.” One-third of the respondents said bedding wasn’t part of their decision at all. Only 24 percent described it as an “important” part of the selection.

To be honest, I never give it much thought at all, except for the choice between Queen and King. (I stay at about a dozen different hotels each year during the World Tours.) And anyway, there are other factors besides mere bedding:

Asked about the most important part of sleep experience at a hotel, few said it had anything to do with the bed. One-third said it was having a quiet room. Another third of the respondents said it was the room temperature. Bringing up the rear were the pillows (17 percent) the sheets (9 percent) and the covers (6 percent).

Hilton also mentioned that about 20 percent of men (they give no figures for women) sleep in the buff at their facilities, which may or may not explain the concern over sheets.

(Via Upgrade: Travel Better.)

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Ward, it’s the Beaver again

Dear Mr. Cleaver:

This paragraph has absolutely nothing to do with anything. It is here merely to fill up space. Still, it is words, rather than repeated letters, since the latter might not give the proper appearance, namely, that of an actual note.

For that matter, all of this is nonsense, and the only part of this that is to be read is the last paragraph, which part is the inspired creation of the producers of this very fine series.

I hope you can find a suitable explanation for Theodore’s unusual conduct.

Lorem Ipsum was not available for comment.

(Via Jason Toon.)

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We’ve got a fuzz issue and we’re gonna use it

Schick Quattro ad

This is the third of four frames in an animated GIF advertising Schick’s Quattro for Women razor, which I spotted today while browsing Popgadget. (That “Energizer” tag might seem odd until you remember that the battery maker acquired Schick and Wilkinson Sword in 2003.) I had to ask myself, “Self, are you that easily distracted by a nice pair of gams?” (Yes.) I suppose it’s a good thing they’re not taking things too seriously. To make sure they weren’t, I wandered over to their Web site and found something called Quattro Lingo, which introduces some new terms into the vernacular. I was most amused by this description: when you “intentionally go without shaving before a date as a way of making yourself behave,” you’re said to be wearing a “chastity pelt.” I have no idea what Dawn Eden thinks of this notion, though I’m sure she’d endorse behaving oneself.

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Odd that these days should be adjacent

Okay, I missed this, but I don’t intend to miss this.

Even though it’s technically more work.

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This is not how they make Gatorade

If you’ve been on the Net for any substantial length of time, you’ve almost certainly seen the Joe Cartoon about the frog in the blender.

And if you haven’t, well, maybe the Peruvians have:

Carmen Gonzalez plucks one of the 50 frogs from the aquarium at her bus stop restaurant, bangs it against tiles to kill it and then makes two incisions along its belly and peels off the skin as if husking corn. She’s preparing frog juice, a beverage revered by some Andean cultures for having the power to cure asthma, bronchitis, sluggishness and a low sex drive. A drink of so-called “Peruvian Viagra” sells for about 90 cents.

Gonzalez adds three ladles of hot, white bean broth, two generous spoonfuls of honey, raw aloe vera plant and several tablespoons of maca — an Andean root also believed to boost stamina and sex drive — into a household blender.

Then she drops the frog in.

Now when they start offering this at Starbucks, then I’ll worry.

(Via Scribal Terror.)

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Twisted almost out of existence

KAKE-TV in Wichita has extensive video footage of the tornado that destroyed Greensburg, Kansas late last night, and truth be told, I can’t watch more than a few seconds of it: it’s that horrendous.

The town of 1600 was evacuated; so far, four deaths have been reported, but not everyone has been accounted for.

Blogger Patsy Terrell writes, from about an hour away in Hutchinson:

Greensburg is about 80 miles from where I live and famous for the world’s largest hand dug well, 109 feet deep and 32 feet in diameter, that served as the city’s water supply until 1932. You can walk 105 steps down to the bottom and it’s worth the trip.

What we hear at this point is that large parts of the town are simply gone, including everything on the west side of the main street. This includes a nice old drug store. Houses, the hospital, the school, the grocery store, the Coastal Mart, the Pizza Hut — everything is gone. Patients are being taken to Pratt, where they have only 69 beds. They just reported they now have 50 patients from Greensburg — ranging in condition from good to critical.

Here’s a Google Map of the storm’s approximate path, courtesy of GIS/space blogger LordKingSquirrel.

And KSHippyChick posts some lightning shots, and reminds us:

When you live in Kansas, the only question you have is — when. When will the big one hit your town? This one was not the kind I would wish to see, much less chase. I did go out along the edges to catch some lightning, but when a strike hit the ground about 200 yards from my face — I went home. I actually got lucky I didn’t get hurt this time.

It’s going to be a long day on the Plains.

Update, 10:30 pm: Patsy Terrell continues to follow the story:

There is a curfew in Greensburg — 8 to 8.

If you’re trying to reach family, understand there is no power of any sort. Electricity has been shut down because if you turn it back on you generally have fires to deal with. Officials are keeping it off. AT&T is working to get landlines working at the command center, but there are no landlines and no cell towers left. I posted a phone number in the post below you can call about loved ones. Media are saying most people have left Greensburg now.

That phone number is 620-672-3651. The current death toll is nine.

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Deux Chevaux, part deux

Citroën’s 2CV was to France what the Volkswagen Beetle was to Germany or the Austin/Morris Mini was to Britain: a low-end transportation device that unexpectedly turned into an icon. Designed in the 1930s, the first production 2CVs appeared in 1948, with front-wheel drive, an air-cooled flat-2 engine delivering a modest 9 hp, and windshield wipers powered by the speedometer drive. Eventually the little twin was expanded enough to kick out 30 or so horses, which accelerated the 1100-lb 2CV, um, eventually.

The last 2CV was produced in 1990; the Beetle and the Mini were still being made, albeit in small quantities. When VW introduced the New Beetle and BMW acquired Mini and gave it a complete updating, it seemed a shame that Citroën wasn’t thinking about bringing back the 2CV.

Now they are. Presumably based on Citroën’s C3, the new 2CV will be pitched as a premium product, where once again it will be competing against the Mini and the New Beetle. Powerplant? Maybe a new hybrid diesel. No sense in producing a retromobile unless it’s fully up to date. And don’t look for it here: PSA Group, which owns Citroën (and Peugeot), doesn’t have any firm plans to sell anything in the States. Yet.

(Via Autoblog Green.)

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The whole one yard

Actually, I got rather a lot done today, terrain-wise, considering the stiff winds and all. After finishing up, I hit the shower, got dressed, and dragged myself off to the grocery store, and to prove that timing is everything, approximately two minutes after I’d left, the Yard Guys came by and punched several hundred holes in the topsoil. Just as well. And the rain started up later this afternoon, so we’ll see if any additional moisture makes it down to where the roots are. They noted a heck of a lot of crabgrass; on the other hand, last time they were here, of the eleven “controllable” weeds on their list, I had five of them, so evidently four are more or less under control. And I’ve noticed that some of the bare spots out front, among my chief sources of despair, are indeed starting to fill in around the edges.

It dawned on me while pushing the mower that I probably overpaid for the darn thing, not so much for its Honda-sourced engine but for its front-wheel drive, which I think I’ve used once this year: most of the time I leave the drive disengaged and just push, even uphill. On the upside, it’s still running in its fourth year, which, given the way I tend to treat mowers, is sort of remarkable. It is, however, on its second blade, and twice it’s tried to throw a wheel. (The wheel is attached to the height adjustment, which in turn is bolted to the frame; this bolt doesn’t like to stay as tight as I’d prefer. It’s always the same wheel: left rear.) And it’s taking very kindly to the three-dollar-and-odd premium gasoline it’s getting, as it damned well ought to be, if you ask me.

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Peter is Torked off

Former Monkee Peter Tork says the Prefab Four would be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by now were it not for Jann Wenner:

Bitter Tork tells Newsday, “The only person … holding a grudge is Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone. He has never written a gracious word (about us).” Tork has spoken out about the snub after watching groups like the Sex Pistols and Run-DMC, who have covered Monkees tunes, get inducted to the Hall of Fame in recent years. R.E.M. star Michael Stipe offered the guitarist some hope when he told Rolling Stone the Monkees were more important to him than the Beatles, reportedly stating he would refuse an induction if it meant getting into the Hall of Fame before Tork and co. But R.E.M. were inducted into the Cleveland museum in March (2007).

Maybe he’ll have better luck with his current band.

(Via Fark.)

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The Java jive

Clearly, it does not love me.

Last night I was going through one of my periodic bring-the-notebook-up-to-speed sessions, a process which involves, among other things, gathering all the inevitable software updates. One of these was for the Java runtime, version 6, update 1. Having had no Java-related problems, I went ahead and installed it.

As always at the end of these sessions, I checked to see if I had any disk space left, and found a lower-than-anticipated 5.6 GB left. (The drive is a 20 GB, which means of course 18.6 GB.) After cleaning out temp files and other detritus, I pulled up the Add/Remove Programs applet to see if there might be anything I wouldn’t miss, and what do I see? Six previous Java runtime updates, dating back to the days of the Ink Spots, each sucking up more than 100 MB. You’d think, inasmuch as there’s an automatic update function, that the installer would remove the previous version; but no. I suppose it’s a good thing that all these separate versions play well together.

Anyway, armed with this knowledge, I duly trashed those six installs, which bought me back about 0.7 GB, some of which I used up on Trillian.

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The power of a little metal strip

Some of us would consider ourselves fortunate were this to occur:

Yesterday morning, on the way to the office, I unexpectedly had a very pleasant conversation on the train. She was quite articulate, very engaging, full of wit, and — oh yeah — a knockout.

And, of course, Not Available:

And I feel like a jerk. Because I spotted her wedding ring straight away, and pretty much auto-responded to her for the whole 20 minute ride.

Yes, I went into shut-down mode because, since she was married, my interest level dropped precipitously. Knowing I didn’t have a chance with her made me lose interest instantly, despite her very obvious social charms. (The idea that I would have a chance with her, despite the wedding band — and I’m not saying that that was the case — is something I’d rather not explore.)

Yeah, there are some serious Thou Shalt Nots involved, and we won’t go there. But it gets more complicated:

I’d like to think that I’m not at the point where I won’t bother trying to befriend a woman if the possibility of sexual gratification wasn’t high. But reflecting upon this episode, I have to conclude that this is probably where my head is at. And I’m not too thrilled about it.

Were I to adopt this as a policy, I’d never speak to women at all. This is obviously not acceptable, at least to me; the women might feel otherwise.

Once seen on a T-shirt: “Since I gave up hope, I feel much better.” Purely in the romantic sense, this has worked rather well for me: I don’t have to worry about jeopardizing a future relationship because, well, there isn’t any future relationship to jeopardize. Thus freed from the burden of trying to avoid screwing up, I do much better, or at least less horrendously. Okay, there’s no obvious payoff at the end: but I feel that I’ve gained something from the experience, even if it’s only the satisfaction of not having bored her to tears.

As regular readers know, I am subject to deep and inexplicable crushes. I used to worry about this. Now it’s more like “Enjoy it, what there is to it that can be enjoyed. Just don’t be a jerk about it.”

Speaking of which:

So am I being a complete jerk in not wanting to “bother” with a woman who’s already attached? Brutal frankness is encouraged, and appreciated.

Complete? No. But I think you should give her a chance to respond to you in some small way. You can’t assume that she’s interested, or that you could persuade her to become interested; however, she’s off to the daily grind just like you are, and if she comes away from that 20-minute stretch thinking that, well, at least somebody appreciates me today, perhaps you’ve done her a kindness, which needs no justification. And it’s a fair trade, since if you’re anything like me you’re getting memories which will stick with you indefinitely, possibly useful as part of the evaluation should someone actually available show up.

And who knows? Four years from now, you’ll meet on the D train, and her divorce will have just become final, and — no, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

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Bjørn under a bad sign

Oklahoma doesn’t have a front license plate, and some cars sold here are never equipped with a bracket for mounting a front plate — though plenty of people have those brackets installed anyway and fill the space with various pleasantries of dubious artistic merit. (Gwendolyn, originally registered in Missouri, has a bracket, upon which I have mounted a picture of a goldfinch. Imagine that.)

One plate I see on a regular basis around here is easily explained but never really defended. It’s always on a Volvo, it’s sized like a European plate, and it says simply: SWEDISH. Well, duh. I’ve more than once grumbled “No shvit, Sven” upon seeing the silly thing. And it is silly: is there anyone who doesn’t know where Volvos come from? And why do you never see it on a Saab? (Okay, it makes no sense on a 9-7X, but still.)

Should I ever find myself with the keys to a Hyundai, I think I will have a KOREAN plate made up to these specs, just to gauge the reactions from passersby.

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Genesis 101

Courtesy of Happy Catholic, the Top Ten ways the Bible would have been different if it had been written by college students:

10. Last Supper would have been eaten the next morning cold.

  9. The Ten Commandments are actually only five, double-spaced, and written in a large font.

  8. New edition every two years in order to limit reselling.

  7. Forbidden fruit would have been eaten because it wasn’t cafeteria.

  6. Paul’s letter to the Romans becomes Paul’s e-mail to

  5. Reason Cain killed Abel: They were roommates.

  4. The place where the end of the world occurs: Finals, not Armageddon.

  3. Out go the mules, in come the mountain bikes.

  2. Reason why Moses and followers walked in desert for 40 years: They didn’t want to ask directions and look like freshmen.

  1. Instead of God creating the world in six days and resting on the seventh, He would have put it off until the night before it was due and then pulled an all-nighter.

It is not true, however, that part of those forty years in the desert was spent at Burning Man.

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Thank you for making this day necessary

The commencement speaker at St Louis University this spring will be Zen master Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra.

Of course, if people don’t want to go to the commencement, you can’t stop them.

(Via Fark.)

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Strange search-engine queries (66)

What we have here, basically, is an excuse to go back through the last week’s worth of visitors (we’re talking around four thousand or so), weed out the ones who got here through search engines, and them mock a dozen or so that seem mockable. It’s a nasty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

floppy penis jumping jacks:  That, um, goes without saying. (Next time, go without saying it.)

does anyone know what interior home door vents are:  Nope. Nobody knows. There’s been research funded by the National Science Foundation, but so far nothing.

oklahoma sheds:  On average, once a year.

“nudism” “google earth”:  “Good lord, it’s a satellite! Get inside and get your clothes on!”

seven of nine naked pictures:  Who has the other two?

i hate pharmacists rude overpaid customer service:  Somebody didn’t get his tranqs.

why does my suburban’s fuel gauge needle shake:  It’s trying to keep up with the gas consumption.

are detentions on your permanent record?  The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that they be deleted after seven years.

where is Hilary Bullings?  She’s taking a shower. Call back in about 45 minutes.

iq score locker number:  No correlation. Then again, I had locker #12.

when will mazda 626 transmission fail:  About 5:30. I suggest you call for a service appointment early.

six feet tall 34dd:  And I thought I was picky.

Oklahomans have good manners:  Damn right we do. Now sit down and shut up.

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Chases, and the cutting thereto

Two complaints about recent films that you may have heard, maybe even have spoken before:

  • “Everything worth seeing is already in the trailer.”
  • “There’s no story, it’s all special effects.”

Not at all intending to address these issues, Britain’s Team TV has something for you called V3:

V3 was a project conceived of as a series of test Special-Effects shots to improve our capabilities and push what we could do in terms of fakery to the limit. The shots were very successful, and as they followed some form of storyline, it seemed fitting to put them together into this concept trailer.

The full version of the film and the story behind it will probably never be shown or made in its entirety, but it is enjoyable in this form nonetheless. It serves best as an example of what we can achieve on next to no budget.

In the meantime, you have 63 seconds of stuff which fits right into the mix at the multiplex. (You’ll need QuickTime to watch it.)

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Respect my Technoratah

Or maybe not so much. This is the pitch:

On Fri. May 4th, we updated to include the Technorati Authority for blogs listed on the Blog page and in search results. This update changed the earlier references of “N blogs link here” and “X links from Y blogs” with the single Technorati Authority number. On the blog page, we also show the Technorati Rank.

Technorati Authority is the number of blogs linking to a website in the last six months. The higher the number, the more Technorati Authority the blog has.

This is simple enough, I suppose. And so is this:

Since at the lower end of the scale many blogs will have the same Technorati Authority, they will share the same Technorati Rank.

And that Rank approaches infinity (not really, but you know what I mean) because they have garnered no links. My two side blogs have earned Authority of 1 and 3, which puts them — well, nowhere special.

(Via Sophistpundit [65].)

Note: Slightly reedited to remove non sequiturs and signs of having ditched Statistics 203.

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No box lunch on this flight

The Transportation Security Agency apparently has no respect for the Mile-High Club:

A California man may pay with prison time for a public display of affection on a plane. Carl Persing was convicted Thursday of interfering with flight attendants and crew members after he and his girlfriend, Dawn Sewell, were seen “embracing, kissing and acting in a manner that made other passengers uncomfortable,” according to a criminal complaint.

According to an FBI indictment, Persing’s face was pressed to Sewell’s vaginal area during the September Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Raleigh, N.C. When a flight attendant gave them a second warning, Persing reacted angrily and the couple, both in their early 40s, were arrested when the plane reached its destination. At the time, the couple’s lawyer claimed that Persing had his head in Sewell’s lap because he wasn’t feeling well and that the flight attendant had humiliated and harassed them.

So much for “You are now free to move about the cabin.” Although I have to admit the “he wasn’t feeling well” excuse adds considerably to the sheer risibility of the case. (How was she feeling?)

“As a potential act of terrorism, it’s being a little oversensitive,” Charles Slepian, an aviation security expert at the Foreseeable Risk Analysis Center, said about Persing’s case. “After all, the mile-high club has been around for at least 50 years. But flight crews are sensitive that some passengers get upset when others get cozy, and that could erupt into an altercation.”

Yet another reason to drive, I’d say.

(Via The Consumerist.)

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Minnesota lice

I’d be willing to bet the Star Tribune would never have bumped Lileks off his column had he been, oh, let’s say, a transsexual sportswriter.

I console myself with the thought of, say, Norm Coleman dispatched to Zimbabwe to cover Robert Mugabe — in the Strib tradition, with two coats of whitewash.

Bonus quote from Bill Peschel:

This is like taking a Kentucky Derby winner and having it pull a cart.

Incidentally, the old Star-Journal and Tribune ad Lileks is using for Bleat art this week boasts daily circulation of 400,000. Currently, the Strib claims 361,172. Somehow I don’t think this is going to help.

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