Archive for August 2007

Perennially Instant

To commemorate the sixth anniversary of Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds has pointed us to some of his first week’s work.

Interestingly, the shortest post in that group is three lines long, about the length of his longer posts these days. What can we learn from this? (I blame the news cycle.)

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Weapons of mass disposal

The very beginning of Oklahoma City’s Bulky Waste rules:

Bulky Waste should be placed at the curb no more than three days before your pickup date. Don’t make your neighbors look at your junk!

Why would they be looking at my junk in the first place?

Anyway, if this didn’t prove persuasive enough, you’ll find this across the bottom of your next utility bill:

Bulky set-out more than 3 days before pick-up date may be subject to fine up to $500.

Of course, if it’s really great bulky, it won’t stay out there for anywhere near 72 hours.

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Bumper stickers not included

Well, isn’t this sweet:

Global War on Terror tag

Proceeds from the sale of this tag will go to reducing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to his component atoms support the 45th Infantry Museum.

(Via Princess Sparkle Pony.)

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56, 72, 24, 36, 66, 52.

Not a lottery pick, but page numbers in the Table of Contents in a widely-circulated magazine.

Surely there must be some reason for this other than sheer perversity.

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The definitive word, I think

On the subject of Barry Bonds’ 756th, from the man who first hit 755:

[Hank] Aaron … said all along he had no interest in being there whenever and wherever his record was broken. He was true to his word, but he did offer a taped message of congratulations that played on the stadium’s video board during a 10-minute, in-game tribute.

“It is a great accomplishment which required skill, longevity and determination,” he said.

“Throughout the past century, the home run has held a special place in baseball and I have been privileged to hold this record for 33 of those years. I move over now and offer my best wishes to Barry and his family on this historic achievement. My hope today, as it was on that April evening in 1974, is that the achievement of this record will inspire others to chase their own dreams.”

I like that.

(Seen at Outside the Beltway.)

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Phaedra calls one last time

“When you’re born in Mannford, Oklahoma,” Lee Hazlewood once sang, “there ain’t no up in your cup; there’s just down.”

Hazlewood, who was diagnosed with terminal kidney cancer a couple of years ago, died Saturday in Las Vegas at 78. Inevitably folks will mention his work with Nancy Sinatra in the 1960s, which produced some remarkable singles, most amazing of which was their duet on “Some Velvet Morning,” among the least explainable records of the decade. But his solo work is legendary, and to borrow a line from WFMU’s Brian Turner, “Few can say they’ve had their songs performed by both Dean Martin (‘Houston’) and Einsturzende Neubauten (‘Sand’).”

Barton Lee Hazlewood was indeed born in Mannford, Oklahoma, in 1929; he studied medicine at SMU, served in the Army during the Korean war, and surfaced in the middle 1950s as a DJ and songwriter, scoring big with Sanford Clark’s version of “The Fool” in 1956. He made solo records in the Sixties, produced by Jimmy Bowen and Billy Strange, and it was likely the Bowen connection through Reprise Records that brought Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra together. (Bowen would later produce Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life.”) Hazlewood reshaped her voice, pushing her into a lower register, and provided lots of songs, including the infamous “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” which stomped its way to Number One in a hurry; the story goes that Hazlewood actually thought “Boots” was more suitable for a male singer, but gave it to her anyway.

To give the man a proper sendoff, here [was] “My Autumn’s Done Come,” a song from The Very Special World of Lee Hazlewood (1966) which might be better known in its 2003 remake by Hooverphonic.

(Note: MP3s expire after a time.)

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Time in a bottle

The following conversation took place early this morning in 42nd and Treadmill’s cavernous (watch for stalactites) break room:

“There’s cake, if you want any.”

“Who’s the unlucky person?”


As she walks away, she adds, “Forty-three.” And as she’s walking away, I’m trying to remember if she looked any different when she was twenty-six.

Not much, I conclude.

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The Brits recoil in horror

It’s called Gunt, and allegedly it’s a firearm for women, in three flavors: the hot-pink Classic Gunt revolver, the Charlotte Bronson semi-automatic, and the Golden Bassey. Posted prices in the UK range from £75 to twice that.

“Is this for real?” asks Dollymix:

We’re not sure. Firstly, they claim to have found a “loophole” in which the guns will be available for women in the UK. Secondly, there’s the matter of the name Gunt, and the fact that they have numerous quotes from celebrities. For example, Germaine Greer apparently said, “A Gunt is the most powerful weapon a girl has.” And Britney Spears supposedly thinks that, “I always like the boys to know I’m packing my Gunt.”

These guns aren’t even available for men in the UK, according to the polite fictions imposed by the 1997 firearms bill that outlawed ownership of handguns altogether.

There is some doubt that the Gunt even exists, except as a viral. I have to concur: for one thing, I don’t know any women who would be impressed by 9 millimeters. Besides, all that shiny stuff is counterproductive.

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Infidelity investments

Actual case filed in the Southern District of Texas, which requires no explanation:

Leroy Greer v. 1-800-Flowers.Com Inc.
H-07-2543 (Houston)

Breach of contract action in which the defendants agreed to keep the plaintiff’s order of flowers for his girlfriend private, with no record of the transaction mailed to him at his home or office.

Months later, the defendants sent a thank you card to the plaintiff’s home, and his wife called the defendants for proof of the purchase. The defendants faxed the plaintiff’s wife proof of his order of flowers for his girlfriend, which resulted in a divorce being filed.

Note to Mr Cheatypants: Next time, you might try a different florist — and pay cash.

(Via Consumerist.)

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Usually the monkey is on your back

Not this time:

A man has been questioned by police at LaGuardia airport in New York after smuggling a monkey onto a flight from Florida by hiding it under his hat.

Passengers spotted the animal when it climbed out and perched on the man’s ponytail, Spirit Airlines spokeswoman Alison Russell told reporters. Ms Russell said the monkey — a marmoset — spent the remainder of the flight in the man’s seat and was well-behaved.

Didn’t Johnny Carson warn us about marmosets on our heads?

(Via Majikthise.)

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Now it can be told

The new GM900 platform (Tahoe, Suburban, Denali, et al.) has gotten decent reviews, though sales are running a bit below expectations, perhaps due to the combination of a queasy stock market and ghastly gas prices. But whatever the problem, you can’t blame it on ignoring the needs of female drivers:

When the SUVs were in development, [line manager Mary] Sipes took the future, full-line SUV team out to the proving grounds to do some vehicle testing. They expected the usual driving exercises, but she had another idea. Hint, hint: On the way she stopped at a shoe store to buy several pairs of size-12 high heels.

“A few times a year we go off site and try to have a learning exercise that is a lot of fun,” said Sipes. “We took our group to the proving grounds and broke them into teams. One guy on each team had to be Mr. Mom. We dressed him in a garbage bag to simulate a tight skirt. We gave him rubber gloves with press-on nails, a purse, a baby, and a baby stroller and some chores like loading groceries.”

You might think this was kind of a drag, but there was a reason for it:

With all female handicaps in place, the men were then required to go through what women do routinely every day. They had to put the baby in a car seat and buckle them in, fold up the stroller, pull up the liftgate and stow the stroller, put grocery bags in the back. They then had to walk around the vehicle and step into it not using the running board. Wearing the gloves with press on nails they had to operate the key fob, adjust the radio and then figure out what to do with their purses — without breaking or losing a nail. Lost or broken fingernails or torn garbage bag skirts resulted in points against the final score.

And the production models reflected those experiences:

“As a result of our exercises, we made the liftgate easy to open and close, made the console big enough to hold a purse and put running boards on the vehicle,” says Sipes.

Chief engineer Mark Cieslak, one of the, um, testers, notes:

“I took for granted that my wife had all these things to do like put our child in a child seat. It isn’t that easy in pumps and a skirt.”

I draw the following conclusions:

  • This strikes me as a heck of a lot more scientific than listening to the yammering of focus groups;
  • General Motors (in fact, Detroit generally) could definitely use some more female engineers;
  • It’s about time to revive the Trans Am.

(Seen at Autoblog.)

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Things I learned today (12)

Keep in mind that this definition of “today” is a bit more flexible than, say, “the period since 12 midnight.”

The future: lies ahead.

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A procedure that takes balls

Britain’s National Health Service has about a two-year waiting list for sexual-reassignment surgery, leading one person to take matters into his own hands:

He found a website which gave a step-by-step guide to the eye-watering home surgery, then waited till [his] wife … went out before setting to work with a kitchen knife in the loo.

With the job done, he wrapped his severed appendages in a cloth and dropped them in the bin. Then he drove five miles to his local GP, explained what he’d done, and was packed off for treatment at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital, near Aylesbury.

And how did it feel?

“It was very painful, but the moment I cut them off I felt all woman. I’m the sort of guy who, when I make up my mind to do something, wants it done there and then. I didn’t want to be a man any more so I decided to do it myself.”

Of course, the real pain is yet to come: when they cut his salary by thirty percent.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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Rail rally reminder

I mentioned this already, but now there’s a posted agenda:

Citizens from around the state will be gathering this Saturday at Oklahoma City’s Union Station for what they call a rally to “Save the Rails” network that crisscross Oklahoma and provide a ready-made solution to mass transit needs for the entire region. They are inviting all concerned citizens to join them to demand better transportation choices by our politicians and business leaders.

The rally will start at 10 AM at Union Station, 300 SW 7th St (corner of S. Harvey and 7th). Confirmed speakers include State Senator Andrew Rice, Oklahoma State Representative Wallace Collins, Tom Elmore of North American Transportation Institute and Fannie Bates, candidate for Oklahoma County Commission.

And an addition:

After the rally, participants will be invited to walk to nearby Wheeler Park, which is itself set for destruction as part of the rerouting, for a BYO picnic lunch.

Note: I had previously reported the start time as 11 am. The correct start time is 10 am.

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I want a new drug

And here’s a whole shelf full of them, from the Physicians’ Derb Reference, compiled by John Derbyshire.


Rudivir (manhattanic acid)

Description: Purgative, internal cleanser. Strengthens immune system. Though developed in the same northeastern laboratory, Rudivir is not structurally related to the rinozines (rocefelerin, patakizine, blumbergicon, etc.)

Indications and Usage: In field trials 1994-2001 Rudivir proved highly effective against bureaucratic inertia, fiscal hemorrhage, ethnotomas, and criminal pathogens.

Contraindications: Contraindicated for social conservatives, esp. gun owners.

Adverse Reactions: Occasional uncontrollable loss of temper; dose-related impairment of balance control (most commonly, of ability [to] lean right), alienation of family members.

Positioned elsewhere:

Barax (obamalic articulate)

Description: Regulates melanin production.

Indications and Usage: Effective with patients suffering from chronic situational dermatochromal anxiety — i.e. self-perception as “not black enough” when among African Americans yet “too black” when among other groups. Barax induces a “chameleon effect” — increased/decreased melanin production corresponding to perceived average shade of nearby persons.

Contraindications: Barax is contraindicated in patients with non-health-threatening anxiety levels and should not be prescribed for patients with well-established perceptions of their own racial identity.

Adverse Reactions: May cause severe mood swings, from amiable passivity to sudden aggression.

See your politicial-science provider to determine if these or similar preparations are right for you. Follow label directions explicitly. If adverse reactions occur, discontinue use and seek political advice.

(Spotted at the BatesLine linkblog.)

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Perhaps not approved by Sam Brownback

What’s funny about this is not so much the satire, which is warmed-over Landover Baptist, but the fact that they’re using the “Contempt” WordPress theme.

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Quote of the week

Michael Weiss, from Slate’s “Culturebox,” on the dodgy subject of what to name one’s blog:

I’ve been covering the medium for Slate for two years, and of all the questions that have come from friends, family, and e-mail strangers, the most interesting is, “What should I name my blog?” Whether you plan to write about food, your miserable day job, or a viable exit strategy for Iraq, the answer is always a negation: It’s more a matter of what not to name your blog. When CNN calls to ask for your expert opinion on farm subsidies, do you really want to be known as the Intrepid Ploughman?

I have a better chance of getting to see Mary Katherine Ham’s underwear drawer than I do of getting a call from CNN. Still, this could work: “Call Mr Plough, that’s my name / That name again is Mr Plough.”

(Low-level rant: I named this place after a piece of unreal estate, only to find that some people assume it’s a personal pseudonym — which would be at the very least wholly unnecessary, since my name’s been on the front page since Day One.)

And I did smile at this:

Shakespeare’s Sister, the blogging name of Melissa McEwan, is a tip of the beret not to Virginia Woolf but to Morrissey, which is almost a distinction without a difference.

I’ll run it past the Department of Redundancy Department.

(Via Tinkerty Tonk, which is a pretty decent name even if you’re not a Wodehouse fan, in which case what’s wrong with you?)

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Now I feel better

More than once I’ve bought a book which turned out to be a book I’d already bought, and I hated to give it away, so — well, you get the idea.

Still, sometimes there’s a good reason for owning two copies of a book:

I suppose on first glance, it is sort of crazy to have two copies of Alberts. The thing is like a concrete door stopper. Not to mention, expensive. But if you’re in my field, you have to invest in these kind of things. I got my first copy as an undergrad. However, when I went to grad school, they came out with the next edition which had some new stuff in it. There’s always new stuff coming out in science and, well, you just have to keep up. Unlike 18th century British literature.

“Alberts” being The Molecular Biology of the Cell, by Bruce Alberts et al. It’s indeed a bruiser, with a triple-digit price.

On the other hand, if there is anything new coming out in 18th-century British literature, I’d like to know about it. Even if there’s no mention of mitochondria at all.

(I think I once had two copies — different vintages — of The Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, another massive tome that’s subject to change.)

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Slow progress

Lileks remembers this day in 1900 (by proxy):

All thirteen of the cars in Minneapolis race from the Hennepin County courthouse to Wayzata to demonstrate to the county commissioners the need for better roads. Harry Wilcox arrives in Wayzata first, making the twelve-mile run in forty-two minutes.

That’s right: 13 cars. They had 13 cars in Minneapolis in 1900. Doesn’t it take about 42 minutes to make it to Wayzata now?

Of course, these numbers can be deceptive. In 1988, I was in the process of relocating to Los Angeles when I heard a filler piece about average traffic on L.A. freeways moving at something like 32.5 mph. When I actually got there, it was obvious what they really meant: half the time traffic was moving along at 65, and half the time it wasn’t moving at all.

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More trains, less traffic

This is, in fact, a slogan of Virginia’s Independent Green Party, but it played well in downtown Oklahoma City this morning, as about a hundred rail buffs, progressive activists, and old-fashioned penny-pinchers — the latter group includes me — gathered in front of Union Station to “Save the Rails.”

And it’s probably a good thing that they specified “Rails,” because the station itself is in no danger. Heck, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places, and has been for nearly thirty years. But the New Crosstown Expressway, currently advancing beyond the drawing-board stages, was cunningly (I suspect) designed to rip out the railyard behind the station, turning it from a viable transport hub into a stately but static relic.

While it’s not surprising that the left would pick up on this issue — most of the support for public transportation comes from that side of the aisle — there’s a fiscal-conservative angle as well, and it comes at you from two directions:

  • Estimates of the cost of the New Crosstown continue to rise. Right now, it’s running around half a billion dollars. Repairing and upgrading the existing road wouldn’t be inexpensive, and I suspect the $50-million figure suggested is a tad low, but even if it’s twice that much it would still save $400 million. (Reminder: all the original MAPS projects combined cost less than $400 million.)
  • When Mayor Cornett put out a call for suggestions for a possible MAPS 3, the single most requested project, by more than three to one, was improved transit, so it’s not at all inconceivable that the city would actually put a commuter-rail system into the MAPS 3 package as early as next year. And it makes no sense to trash a railyard that already has all the necessary connections in place, only to replicate it somewhere else at greater expense.

I talked with J. M. Branum after the speechifying, and we took a walk to the back of the station where the passenger facilities are. They’ve been left to deteriorate, of course, but they’re not beyond repair, and the rail lines themselves need only a freshening here and there.

And we had one actual Presidential candidate on hand: Gail Parker, who hails these days from those Independent Greens in Virginia but who spent some of her childhood here in the Sooner State, and who was well received by the crowd. (She also schlepped along a Draft Bloomberg sign, which if nothing else indicates that she’s keeping the options open.) I was hoping to hear Rep. Andrew Rice, who’s working up a Senate campaign against Jim Inhofe next year, but he was stuck in traffic or something. The local NBC and Fox affiliates sent cameras to cover the event; so far as I know, only Branum and I represented local blogdom, and I’m pretty sure no one expected me. Certainly Tom Elmore didn’t.

As these things go, this one went pretty well; there may be more rallies in months to come as the price tag on the Crosstown continues to rise and some of its boosters start feeling the heat.

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Are all the good ones taken?

Was there ever a corps of Professional Street Namers? Because boy, do we need them now:

Main Streets, Oak Streets, Elm Streets. Must’ve been either people with a tree fetish, or NO imagination (1st Street, 2nd Street). I totally get Broadway, but just who exactly are all the King Streets named after, anyway?? King George? King Kong? King Vitaman?? And what’s the deal with Boulevard and Avenue?? A sign-maker who charged by the letter?? That would explain the names of two roads near where I live. “Upper Grassy Hill Road” and “Hoop Hole Hill Road.”

Nowadays, only the purveyors of suburban sprawl get to name their new cul-de-sacs, and they’ve got NO imagination whatsoever! They either name the roads after their daughters, or try to sound British, like “Wintonbury Court.”

The one thing you can be sure of is that King Street is not named for Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

And dare I mention that Bismarck, North Dakota has a Boulevard Avenue?

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More direct an approach

McGehee says Technorati is ignoring him, and offers a collection of random tags to get their attention, starting with “ron paul” and ending in “you tube.”

Drawing on my vast (or half-vast, anyway) experience in dealing with Technorati, I suggest he add a “david sifry” tag. They’ll be along in less than 24 hours.

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The train from Kansas City

The Save the Rails rally yesterday dealt specifically with the preservation of the Union Station railyard and the potential reinstatement of the old Interurban rail lines. This is not, however, the only passenger-rail issue facing the state, and at the rally there was a representative of the Northern Flyer Alliance, a group which seeks the expansion of Amtrak’s existing Heartland Flyer, which currently runs between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, into northern Oklahoma and eastern Kansas.

In late July, the Alliance organized a meeting in Wichita with various Kansas officials and an Amtrak representative, making the pitch that the existing Flyer was worth $3.8 million a year in economic development in Oklahoma and Texas. Nothing in transportation happens overnight, and Amtrak apparently is not permitted to undertake expansion studies using federal funds, so Kansas and Oklahoma (and maybe Texas) would have to put up the dollars for a route study.

NFA’s proposed route would extend the Heartland Flyer northward more or less parallel to US 77, connecting to the Southwest Chief at Newton, Kansas, and then northeastward to Kansas City. The Chief, which connects Chicago and Los Angeles, already runs between Newton and Kansas City, but in the wee hours of the morning.

Unspoken in any of this is the actual cost, and there’s an addtional problem: BNSF freight services are quite busy along the existing track, meaning windows of opportunity to run a passenger train will be limited. And if there’s an elephant in the room, it’s Amtrak’s always-tenuous financial condition. I don’t consider any of these to be entirely insurmountable, though it’s going to take a lot of work to pull this off.

And if you thought this should have been called “The train to Kansas City,” you’re obviously not a Shangri-Las fan.

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It’s not like they’re actually listening

It’s no particular secret that the main reason a firm installs a voice-response system is to reduce the number of incoming phone calls. I’ve suggested that we try this at 42nd and Treadmill, preferably in some language which none of our customers comprehend, such as, oh, English.

Of course, if you really, truly need to talk to the company, which does occasionally happen, this particular gatekeeper is more hellish than helpful:

Like so many companies AT&T uses voice recognition software that can only handle speech as produced by speech synthesis software. This leaves human callers getting ever more frustrated, and means the hapless human who finally picks up the call gets some rather hostile verbiage. It need not be this way.

The solution is elegantly simple:

[I]nstead of trying to answer that voice’s questions as clearly as we know how, what say we try singing? It’s not going to understand a damn thing we say, so sing whatever little ditty you feel like. You’ll end up talking with a person anyway, and singing one of your favorite songs will make you feel better.

And if your favorite song happens to be by, say, Nine Inch Nails, you’ll be in the proper frame of mind for engaging with the customer-service representative.

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Who was Merv Griffin?

“I’ll take Renaissance Men for a thousand, Alex.”

Okay, maybe if you run down the usual list of Renaissance Men, you probably won’t run into Merv Griffin. But Merv, who died this week at 82, had as diverse a life as exists in a Beverly Hills ZIP code, and probably more fun than most of his contemporaries.

Really. In a career that spanned more than half a century, Merv Griffin wore the following hats:

  • Singer
  • Actor
  • Talk-show host
  • Game-show host
  • Game-show creator/developer (Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune)
  • Real-estate developer
  • Thorn in the side of Donald Trump

See? Fun. What’s more, he was named “Merv,” a name with verve, even if it had been shortened from “Mervyn.” You just had to like this guy.

(Via Lorie Byrd, who did.)

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Meanwhile, ODOT stares at the floor

News Item: Oklahoma bridges are in the spotlight again, but the state’s Transportation Department has a plan to fix or replace nearly 800 of them in the next eight years if revenue comes in as projected.

An ambitious schedule, perhaps, but not one that will impress the Canadians, who managed to replace a bridge in seventeen hours:

In a feat of engineering never before performed in Canada known as “rapid replacement technology”, the east- and westbound Island Park Drive bridges were loaded onto giant transporters Saturday night and moved to make way for two new ones.

Of course, this doesn’t include the time for construction of the individual modules, but it’s still pretty impressive, and these pictures from Diana are just this side of inspirational.

And the punchline: the completion in seventeen hours was two hours late.

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Somehow this just seems wrong

Hello Kitty tarot cardYet here it is. Compare and contrast with this: “The High Priestess represents wisdom, or an interest in knowledge, intuition and education. She is the feminine consciousness — the virgin goddess, the moon daughter. She challenges you to find what is hidden below the surface of a situation and remember the possibilities you hold inside. It signifies a time to uncover secrets in life because something in the unconscious is waiting to come out. Be guided by intuition and inspiration. She is a bridge to higher plane. Passive and receptive, she guards the gate of the unconscious and connects you to dreams, psychic powers, lunar cycles, and female mysteries. She is a subtle but powerful connection with the collective unconscious or world soul. Sometimes the High Priestess represents an enlightened and chaste woman. She can also represent a mysterious woman, a femme fatale, sexual and charismatic without emotional involvement. She also represents feminine principles and grace. She also can be a signal for the need for solitude, seclusion and meditation as well as wisdom and education.” Maybe we should just turn it upside down.

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Strange search-engine queries (80)

In case you just wandered in here from Lower Slobbovia — we’re higher, though not tremendously so — once a week I shake out the contents of the referrer logs and assemble a compilation of search strings chosen for their sheer weirdness. The figure above in parentheses indicates that I’ve done this a few times before.

it ain’t gonna suck itself:  Too bad. I’d love to see that on video.

“second life” male bushy pubic hair:  Because it’s so hard to grow in real life.

steven tyler airbrushed paintings:  Didn’t help. Still looks like Steven Tyler.

naked montanans:  You just want to see somebody’s Butte.

erotic chrome female robots:  That will be $2000 extra.

jello in loincloth:  No wonder Tarzan looks so glum these days.

men invented pantyhose make them wear it:  I don’t think this is quite the sort of precedent you want to establish.

nudism in greenland:  See? There’s an upside to global warming.

worm poop x-games:  Now that’s “extreme.”

naked women in new jersey married looking to get laid:  So far as I know, there are no naked women in New Jersey.

john edwards 5000 square foot home:  Home? That’s the garage.

nude sunbath fence next door peek:  You do and I’ll poke your eye out.

treating coprophagia with flintstones vitamins:  “Here, honey, try some of these. They taste like crap.”

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Rhymes with “slithy tove”

News item: Karl Rove, the political adviser who masterminded President George W. Bush’s two winning presidential campaigns, is resigning, the White House confirmed Monday. In an interview published this morning in The Wall Street Journal, Rove said, “I just think it’s time.”

Top Ten items on Karl Rove’s agenda once he leaves the White House:

  1. Walk past Patrick Fitzgerald’s house, whistle
  2. Redesign secret weather machine to produce pure carbon dioxide, then place it in stationary orbit over Al Gore
  3. Sign on to Emperor Palpatine’s campaign
  4. Buy more Halliburton stock
  5. Join General Motors, become TV spokesman for Hummer
  6. Start fast-food chain to be called “Karl’s Sr.”
  7. Stop sending checks to right-wing bloggers
  8. Call up Harry Reid every half-hour, ask “Is your refrigerator running?”
  9. Cancel date with Maureen Dowd
  10. Mastermind George W. Bush’s campaign for President of Mexico in 2012

Busy man.

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Never mind the barracks

The Urban Land Institute has a nice little booklet (available here in PDF format) called “The Advantages of Multi-Family Housing.”

They do not, of course, address the disadvantages:

The family above us allows their children to do who knows what at all hours of the night (it sounds like they are attempting to juggle bowling balls while jumping on their bed and screaming) and the only way to get them to quiet down is to call security. At one point we thought that the mother was intervening, to which I would have applauded her, but it only made the problem worse.

I learned today just how devious these undisciplined children really are. We started having sewer issues last night which caused the hall bathroom, hallway carpet, and the kitchen to flood. (Can we say disgusting?) Maintenance came out last night, and checked the line. No problem found. Same issue happened this afternoon. Come to find out, some little brat has been shoving plastic cups, paper towels, and all sorts of various garbage items down the sewer drain located in the breezeway.

Which is why no one lives on my urban land but me, dammit.

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Do they have Baptists in Minnesota?

There must be some explanation for this question:

I have some rare whiskey that’s 45 years old. How can I get rid of it?

I don’t think of myself as particularly creative, but I’m pretty sure I could dispose of the stuff in a non-wasteful manner.

As for the religious stereotype in the title, well, we have a saying down here: if you can find four Baptists together, you can usually find a fifth.

(Via Spitbull.)

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The measure of a woman

Ramón Salazar’s 20 Centimeters, just to balance all its plot complications, assumes the frenetic pace of those people spinning plates on the tops of poles on the Ed Sullivan Show to the accompaniment of the Sabre Dance from Khachaturian’s Gayane. Certainly Salazar has loaded plenty on his plate: Marieta (Mónica Cervera) is a hooker and a pre-op M2F transsexual and a narcoleptic. What’s more, every time she nods off she has fantasies somewhere on the continuum between high-budget music videos and low-budget Hollywood musicals, and, oh, did I mention she lives with a dwarf who wants to learn the cello? You’d expect this to have a high WTF quotient, and of course it does, but it’s just insane enough to work.

Not as angry as Hedwig and the Angry Inch and a lot more European than Transamerica, 20 Centimeters fits into no particular niche: it’s a romantic comedy, maybe, but it’s also rather gritty in a dreamlike sort of way, as though Scorsese had been working for the old Arthur Freed unit at MGM, and there’s far more in the way of punchlines than I expected. The musical numbers are somewhere between wacky and wondrous, and my old rule of thumb — really drippy love songs work better in Spanish than in English — is seriously put to the test, especially when one Spanish-language number drifts imperceptibly into “I Only Want to Be With You.” The only real misfire is the finale, which is set up beautifully but which is choreographed to too earnest a version of Queen’s “I Want to Break Free,” and while Cervera is game, she succeeds mostly in reminding us how much we miss Freddie Mercury.

The title? Well, Marieta is every inch a woman, except for, um, eight inches. (Do the math.) As a motion-picture epic, it ranks somewhere below, say, Fellini’s ; as the answer to the question “What would you get if Pedro Almodóvar decided to remake Grease?” it’s very good indeed.

(Disclosure: Reviewed from DVD purchased by me.)

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Today at the polls

The primary election for Oklahoma County District 1 Commissioner is today. Five Democrats and two Republicans go in; one of each comes out. (There will be no runoff: the highest number of votes gets the nod.)

Also: Del City is looking to renew a 1.5-cent sales tax for five years; in Yukon. voters will be asked to approve a modification to a bond program; Forest Park is holding a franchise election for OG&E service.

The polls are open from 7 am to 7 pm.

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Because it’s so hard to get pizza here

From the press release:

Marco’s Pizza, founded in Toledo, OH 29 years ago and home of the Ah! Thentic Italian Pizza, announced plans to open 38 stores in Oklahoma including 21 in Oklahoma City and 17 in the Tulsa area. Jack Butorac, Jr., president of Marco’s Franchising, LLC, a franchise development veteran, announced the agreement with MG Pizza Ventures based [in Oklahoma City].

The first unit, which will represent the 9th state for Marco’s, is expected to open October 2007.

“Ah! Thentic”? Oh, geez.

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Are the stars out tonight?

I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright, because so-called “light pollution” from millions of urban light sources make it difficult to see much of anything in the sky.

Streetlights make up around 38 percent of those sources, so any serious attempt to reduce light pollution must include streetlights. You don’t want them too bright, for obvious reasons; you don’t want them too dim, lest you provide opportunities for the sort of people who use darkness to cover their misdeeds. The Civil Twilight Collective proposes an elegantly-simple solution:

What if streetlights could respond to ambient moonlight, dimming and brightening each month as the moon cycles through its phases? On clear nights when the moon is full, streetlights might even turn off completely. The scheme, which they call “lunar-resonant streetlights,” could save as much as 80-90 percent of the energy used in streetlighting while bringing back the experience of moonlight and stargazing to urban areas.

And come to think of it, the aforementioned evildoers don’t really need darkness:

[I]ronically, studies have shown no link between outdoor lighting intensity and crime or accident rates. What’s more dangerous, [Civil Twilight’s Anton] Willis says, is the drastic variation in light levels within an urban area. As you drive, for example, from a well-lit major thoroughfare to a darkened residential street, your eye does not have time to adjust, and your vision is impaired. Moonlight is much more even, he explains, and that makes it more effective for human vision. By filling in only what light is needed, lunar-resonant streetlights would help restore this evenness and actually improve nighttime visibility.

And this evenly-lit utopia won’t cost all that much, either:

Most of the necessary parts are available off the shelf. The standard cobra-head streetlights that we see on most American streets use a sodium-vapor bulb hooked to a photosensitive cell. The cell detects when the ambient light drops below a certain level (i.e. at sunset), and turns on the bulb. At sunrise the sensor perceives the increased light level and shuts the bulb off. The new sensor Civil Twilight has conceived would still respond to light levels but would be much more sensitive — enough to respond to light from the moon. Because sodium bulbs are not dimmable, Civil Twilight’s project would replace them with a cluster of white LEDs, which are also more efficient and require less maintenance.

The hard part, of course, will be selling it to cities and counties.

(Via AutoblogGreen.)

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Shady Pines, Ma

Only in L.A.: an art show where the centerpiece is a painting of a topless Bea Arthur. [Not safe for … um, anywhere, really.]

“Back in St Olaf you’d never see anything like this unless you happened to catch your blouse on a pitchfork,” said Rose.

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Turnout may be described as “light”

In fact, it might almost be described as “weightless.” At 5:15 I checked in at my local precinct, and the line was nonexistent; the precinct staffers gave me that “Thank God someone showed up” look I’ve seen entirely too many times before and the 116th ballot of the day.

There are those who say that low turnout means disgruntled voters, and surely some of them are — I’ve been short on grunt for some time now — but I prefer to think that in the main, instead of disgruntled, we are simply smug and complacent.

Update, 9:15 pm: It’s Willa Johnson (D) versus Forrest Claunch (R). There were 5,996 Democrats and 2,067 Republicans. Assuming District 1 has one-third of the county population, there being three districts, this means a shade over 8,000 voters out of 230,000 residents.

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The Keds are alright

This, however, is a tad weird: a patent-leather sneaker by Michael Kors.

What’s next? Chuck Taylors being upgraded to “Charles”?

(Via Shoewawa.)

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From the “As if” files

Something called Cavalry Portfolio Services, a collection agency with delusions of grandeur, left a message on my machine today for somebody who isn’t here and never has been: I assume they saw a similar name in the phone book and decided that yes, this is the woman we’re looking for.

And their pitch was one I hadn’t heard before: “If you are not [debtor’s name] you must hang up.” Pause. “By continuing to listen to this call you acknowledge that you are in fact [debtor’s name].”

On the off-chance that they might Google themselves:

Dear Cavalry: By reading this article you acknowledge that (1) you are complete and utter tools and (2) you are expected to remit one thousand dollars ($1,000) by cashier’s check or money order to me at my address, in partial compensation for wasting my time and for assuming that your feeble excuse for skip tracing somehow equates to actual identification.

I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, and it’s been almost a month since the last time I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, but I believe this is every bit as enforceable as the crap they put out over the phone.

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Something beyond “vibrate”

Nokia is warning that about 46 million batteries used in their mobile devices may contain a defect which causes them to short-circuit in the charging phase, causing overheating or worse. The affected batteries are type BL-5C, manufactured by Matsushita (Panasonic) between December 2005 and August 2006.

There are many suppliers of BL-5C batteries, says Nokia, so you’ll have to give them the serial number to be sure if it’s one of the affected units. (I have a Nokia phone which does not use the BL-5C.) This sort of thing does not make me feel better about upcoming battery-operated cars like Chevy’s Volt.

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