Archive for September 2007

Dueling letters

Specifically, letters to the editor of the Oklahoman. First, from the 5th of September, Mark L. Johnson writes:

If Oklahoma City doesn’t demolish the rundown homes and businesses west of the downtown area, the city will return to mediocrity. A glorious downtown and Bricktown won’t stand on their own for the future of Oklahoma City. I propose a series of taxes to build a city worthy of all who live here. Quality, educated people will never move en masse to Oklahoma City if a beautification project doesn’t take place.

We need a greenbelt to the west of downtown. Statues of famous Oklahomans would fit well into such a park, along with fountains, vendors with food carts, a large swimming pool, etc. This could be accomplished with a 2-cent sales tax over a 10-year period. This would also help with the attempts by St. Anthony Hospital to beautify the area.

Today, by Dan Baker:

Mark L. Johnson (Your Views, Sept. 5) wants a taxpayer-funded greenbelt to the west of downtown Oklahoma City. He said this could be accomplished with a 2-cent sales tax over a 10-year period. I like greenbelts as much as the next guy and I can’t imagine anyone fussing about a mere 2 percent being added to everything we buy so we can have more grass to mow.

While we’re at it, we might even consider adding a 25-cent sales tax for better roads and bridges. That still leaves a whopping 73 percent that can be taxed for better education, entitlement programs, crime, saving the whales — you name it. I’d been wondering what I should do with all my extra money. Thanks, Mark, for this nifty idea!

For myself, I have a problem calling something a “greenbelt,” or indeed any kind of belt, unless it’s at least some semblance of circular; if you park some parkland west of downtown, it will indeed be green, but that doesn’t make it a “greenbelt” until you wrap it around the rest of the area.

That said, I don’t have any objections to some additional greenery west of downtown, though I’m pretty sure it can be done for less than the billion dollars Mr Johnson suggests: all the original MAPS projects, total price tag less than $400 million, were financed by a one-cent sales tax for 66 months. And more to the point, there is already development in the area: old buildings are being refurbished, new ones are going up. It’s not an overnight process, but it is happening. A good start, I think, would be a new streetscaping for Classen between Reno and 13th, a rather depressing-looking zone.

On the subject of parkland in general, I think our most crying deficiency as a city in this realm is the utter lack of parks in new subdivisions: you’ve got winding streets and big houses, but not much else. Mayor Cornett is reportedly thinking about impact fees for new development; I suggest he push for a requirement for neighborhood parks.

As for having “more grass to mow,” as Mr Baker points out: hey, at least we don’t have to mow the North Canadian Oklahoma River anymore.

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Such a tease

Christian Louboutin heels worn by Sarah Michelle GellarI have never quite made up my mind about toe cleavage: like its upstairs cousin, it hints at further delights, but I always wonder if maybe she’s wearing the wrong size, or wrong style, shoe. This particular shoe is a design by Christian Louboutin, who usually doesn’t push the envelope too much, but geez, Chris, if you’d cut this vamp any lower you’d have a sandal, fercryingoutloud. I suppose it would be fairer to see this shoe in context — Shoebunny, from whom I pilfered this thumbnail (!), has more pictures — and I figure that maybe the overall intent is to make legs look longer, not that Sarah Michelle Gellar, who’s wearing the shoes in the picture, needs any help in that regard. Ultimately, I suppose, this is more ammunition for the folks who think toe cleavage is some sort of freak show, and I suspect you’ll never get Miriam into a pair of these.

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And four for the sixty-minute man

I go through AA batteries like teenagers go through refrigerators: at high speed, with little if any regard for the potential expense. It’s not the only size that gets used around here — within twenty feet of this desk are items that take AAAs, Cs, and the occasional 9-volt bricklet — but a stack of remote controls and a digital camera guarantee that I’ll run out of AAs on a regular basis.

In days of old I experimented with batteries that could be recharged, and this worked only slightly well, mostly because you paid dearly for nickel-cadmium cells which took a long time to juice up, which eventually wouldn’t take even a fractional charge (the so-called “memory effect”), and which, when I eventually threw them out in frustration, contributed to environmental hazards.

Panasonic, which makes my camera, also makes a funky super-alkaline battery for it called Oxiride, which sounds like something you’d see for three payments of just $19.99 on late-night television. The camera shipped with a pair of them, and they lasted fairly well; unable to find them locally, I replaced them with your run-of-the-mill Duracells, which didn’t. A guy at a big-box electronics store which shall remain anonymous suggested something that just sounded wrong: new nickel-metal hydride batteries that charge up in 15 minutes flat. I bought six of them, and a charger that holds two at a time.

The charger, incidentally, is loud: there’s an internal fan that vents to the outside of the case, and it makes a fair amount of noise. It’s almost loud enough, in fact, to use as a signal to tell you when it’s done, if you don’t happen to be in the same room when the green indicator light goes off. The first batch of AAs (it also does AAAs) I put through finished in 16:07, which is not too far off the mark; the camera accepted them with alacrity.

The rules of TANSTAAFL require me to point out that in a quarter-hour, these cells don’t actually reach their maximum charge:

The Rayovac 2000 mAh cells appear to be of very good quality, testing higher than many 2100 mAh units when put through the standard Imaging Resource charging protocol. And the 15-minute Rayovac charger does indeed complete its charging cycle in 15 minutes, without detonating the batteries. The only catch is that after a 15 minute charge cycle, the cells have only reached about 85% of their maximum capacity. They do continue to drift up if left in the charger overnight, but the Rayovac charger never “tops them off” as completely as my DC trickle-charging protocol does.

I don’t consider this to be too much of a drawback, since I expect the lifespan of these batteries in use to be easily two to three times that of alkalines, and while there’s still some memory effect, it’s not anywhere nearly as horrid as it was with Ni-Cd cells.

So color me at least slightly impressed. I’ll be more so if I get the kind of battery life I’m expecting from this little investment.

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This item turned up in the Playboy “Raw Data” for October, and it piqued my curiosity:

According to a survey by Samsung, 39% of single women have sent a text message that they regretted the next day, a feeling known as “text shame.”

Wondering just what sort of survey this was, I revved up the search engines and came up with this:

A recent study commissioned by Samsung Telecommunications America shows that Single Mobile Females (SMFs) — young single women who have cell phones — are using their phones as much more than a communication device.

The SMF survey shows that women’s cell phones play an important role in relationships and dating, organizing their lives and fashion.

Some of the other findings:

More than one out of three SMFs have had a friend call them to interrupt a date (34%).

40 percent of respondents have faked technical difficulties to avoid someone they were not interested in dating.

More than 10 percent of females surveyed said that the “three day rule,” which is waiting to call someone until three days after a first date, only applies to calling and you can send a text message to someone before day three (13%).

12 percent of females surveyed said that they would be less likely to date someone if they had a big and bulky cell phone.

Well, that’s it for me and my six-year-old Nokia. Then again:

The survey, commissioned by Samsung, was conducted by Kelton Research and included more than 500 U.S. unmarried females ages 18 to 35 who have a cell phone.

Oh. Okay. They weren’t interested in me anyway.

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Dating in the District

Normally I don’t look to Ann Coulter for dating advice, but this bit from her column in George (4/99) struck me at an angle I know too well:

Boys in Washington don’t know how to ask for a date. What they do is try to trick you into asking them for a date. They say, “I know you’re really busy, so call me when you’d like to go out to dinner” or “Call me when you’re back in Washington” or, my favorite, “Are we ever going to get together?” What are you supposed to say to such completely insane things? I’ve never figured that out, which is why these conversations tend to end in hostile silences.

“Call me when you’d like to go out for dinner” isn’t asking for a date; it’s asking me to ask you for a date. For male readers in Washington, asking for a date entails these indispensable components: an express request for a female’s company on a particular date for a specific activity. Oh yes, and the request has to be made to the female herself.

Roughly once every two weeks, I get a woman on my answering machine asking me if I’d like to go out with some dumb-ass male friend of hers who’s too afraid to call me himself. (For those outside Washington, I’m not kidding.)

This isn’t a screeching, hate-filled, anti-male screed. It is a screeching, hate-filled anti-D.C. screed. There’s no large sociological point about relations between the sexes here. It’s Washington. I know this, because while D.C. males are on my answering machine with vague announcements that they’ve called, I still get messages from boys in New York saying, for example, “I have tickets for the opera next Friday. Would you like to go?”

Males in every other city know how to ask for dates. So it’s not me; it’s not feminism; it’s not the millennium.

Hmmm. Maybe I have a future as a policy wonk.

Salon, incidentally, put out a vicious (but sporadically funny) riposte to Coulter’s plaint.

(With thanks to Pagan Marbury.)

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Better than it was before

With the return to television of The Bionic Woman, the question just naturally arises: “If you could have one ‘bionic’ body part of your choice, which part would you prefer?”

Mo Rocca asked this question on the street, and I hope to God there was a lot of footage left on the cutting floor.

(Via Uppity Rib.)

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Things I learned today (13)

As always, the definition of “today” is as flexible as I need it to be.

(The preceding has been an irregularly-scheduled attempt at link-whoring feature of this site.)

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Strange search-engine queries (84)

Time to shake out the ol’ referrer logs and see what falls out.

don’t begin sentence with “it”:  It is simply not done.

how to pronounce nacogdoches:  As Groucho once said, it rhymes with “full of roaches.”

why isn’t golf on KFOR in HD:  Better yet, why isn’t golf on the radio?

“blackmail” bra:  Perhaps, if you catch the guy wearing it.

peek in his shorts:  You do and he’ll hit you with his bra.

pornographic zip codes:  This would make more sense if it were unzip codes.

“invisible woman” nude:  How would you know?

what is the chemical formula for Unobtainium:  If we knew that, we could tell you how to obtain it.

innies and outies torture photos:  This doesn’t sound like your ordinary, garden-variety navel-gazing.

Paul McCartney’s Ebony & Ivory, example of syncretism:  Example of boredom, maybe.

tips on how to produce tub farts in a bubble bath:  Really, does anyone need instructions for this?

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The cameras were kept in the fridge

The girls of Go Fug Yourself show up at New York Fashion Week, and something about it seems vaguely familiar:

Just as we … began eavesdropping, we were ushered to our seats. “PLEASE UNCROSS YOUR LEGS,” one of the photographers bellowed when he got a gander at the narrow runway lined with women in imposing shoes. This marks the first time a fashion show began the same way as an appointment with the gynecologist.

We will not entertain the idea that this particular Hasselbladder was trying to stirrup some trouble.

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Black Hawk downsized

The cell phone: the enemy of cinema, says director Ridley Scott, and not because people are texting each other during the fight scenes, either:

People sit there watching a movie on a tiny screen. You can’t beat it, you’ve got to join it and deal with it, and also get competitive with it. We try to do films which are in support of cinema, in a large room with good sound and a big picture. I’m sure we’re on a losing wicket but we’re fighting technology. Whilst it is wonderful in many aspects, it also has some big negative downsides.

One of which, perhaps, is that no one is going to pay $9 for a 320 x 240 download.

On the other hand, how likely is it that iPod-sized devices will become the favored medium for watching films? Aren’t the people with the portable-video boxes pretty much the same people with the monstrously-large television and/or monitor screens?

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Hey, you with the garbage

You know what would be really cool?

If you actually closed the top of that goddamn truck so cardboard boxes and such wouldn’t come spinning out of it every time you changed lanes.

But then, you’d be deprived of the joy of watching someone catching the edge of one of them and then schlepping it six miles down the highway, so I suppose that’s not part of your plan.

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Just a hint of apprehension

It’s not every day I get a notice from the Postal Service that I have a certified letter waiting, especially not one from the Oklahoma Tax Commission.

But wait! This isn’t for me at all: according to the notice, the letter is for someone named Sloan. I don’t believe anyone named Sloan has ever lived here; certainly no one named Sloan has lived here in the last four years.

So it’s a question of protocol: do I go down to the Post Office and tell them no, this isn’t for me, or do I just blow it off entirely and wait for the inevitable Return to Sender? I’m leaning toward the latter, mostly because it requires the least work, but I hate to leave stuff on my plate, especially if it isn’t my stuff.

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Remembering Lane Bryant

Now this is fascinating: Fashion-Incubator has scans from old Lane Bryant catalogs, 40 to 50 years ago.

Which, in turn, led me to look up Lane Bryant herself, who was born Lena Himmelstein in Lithuania in 1879 and shipped off to New York in 1895, supporting herself as a seamstress. (“Bryant” was David Bryant, her first husband, whom she married in 1899 and who died shortly after the birth of their child.) Mrs Bryant continued as a dressmaker, and some time after 1904, at the request of a customer, designed a chic maternity dress with an elasticized waist and a pleated skirt, a distinct departure from traditional maternity wear, which no one would ever see because you simply didn’t go out of the house while you were expecting. It was an immediate hit.

In 1909, Mrs Bryant remarried, to Albert Malsin, who took over the business end of the Lane Bryant shop while she concentrated on design. New York newspapers, however, would not accept advertising for the store, what with all those evil maternity outfits on display. Eventually one paper did agree to run an ad, and when it appeared, the store was completely sold out within twenty-four hours. A second store had been opened in 1915, in Chicago, but feeling that they could not rely on newspapers, the Malsins opened up a mail-order branch, which by 1917 was bringing in $1 million a year.

This, though, is the story that gets me:

Lane Bryant Malsin was a pioneer in customer relations and corporate philanthropy. At her suggestion, Lane Bryant, Inc. worked with the Red Cross to replace any Lane Bryant customer’s wardrobe that was destroyed in a disaster. In 1947, for example, after a major explosion and fire in Texas City, Texas, the company re-outfitted 58 mail order customers whose homes were destroyed. After World War II, Lane Bryant stores became clothing donation centers to benefit displaced persons in Europe.

This, boys and girls, is how you build customer loyalty.

The catalog excerpts are also instructive, because while they did list sizes, they encouraged you to send in a total of eight different measurements, and if based on those measurements they thought you had ordered the wrong size, they sent you what they thought was the correct size instead.

Mrs Malsin died in 1951; The Limited bought the company in 1982. The original catalog still exists as Woman Within, operated by Brylane/Redcats, and the retail chain (with Web storefront) continues under Charming Shoppes ownership.

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Maybe it fell between the sofa cushions

There’s something a trifle disquieting about this:

Cash slips through the pockets of Americans each day and by the end of the week memory fades. A new survey has found that 48% of Americans suffer from “mystery spending.” The VISA USA survey found that Americans lose track on average of $2,340 annually. Nearly half of consumers say they can’t account for more than one-third of their cash, spending an average of $120 in a typical week, but losing track of $45.

I am no one’s idea of a great money manager, but here is every cent I spent yesterday:

  • Breakfast, such as it was: $2.05
  • Copay for doctor’s appointment: $30.00
  • “Can I bum a buck, or a buck and a half?” $2.00
  • Packet of crackers to go with lunch (Dinty Moore stew): $0.75

Thirty-four dollars, eighty cents, nicely accounted for, and I’ll get the $2 back soon enough.

Of course:

VISA obviously suggests that the cure for “mystery spending” is to put small transactions onto plastic.

Out of sight (until the bill comes), out of mind, I guess.

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Six years on

From my single entry for 11 September 2001:

Blessed are the doubters; though they be thought indecisive and wishy, washy even, it would never occur to them to settle a petty grudge by mass murder.

Donald Rumsfeld was saying that the Pentagon bureaucracy needed to be shaken up, but this isn’t what he meant at all. So far, I’ve remained just as calm as can be — going through the Oklahoma City bombing perhaps has taken some of the fright out of me, and gallows humor will take care of some of the rest. But somehow I can still see myself tumbling from bed at the stroke of midnight, sweating to beat the band and screaming my fear into the night sky.

I haven’t had much occasion to scream since then, and whether I should credit this comparative placidity to the (perhaps inadvertent) efficiency of the government or to the fecklessness of the jihadis is a question on which I plan to spend no time. What matters is that faith has been kept; memories have been preserved; resolve, where it counts, has been maintained.

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Governor Kim?

The Oklahoma Observer floats a trial balloon (“Observations”, 10 September):

It’s never too early to ponder the next gubernatorial race. Quick question: Can Democrats extend their grip on Oklahoma government’s top job for a third term in a decidedly Red state?

Short answer: Yes, especially if the Republicans end up nominating a lightweight like, oh, say, Lance Cargill.

Unexpected answer from the Observer: Kimberly Ann Henry. Yes, really:

The First Lady never has held elective office, but knows first-hand the rigors of a statewide campaign. She’s a powerful, behind-the-scenes force in her husband’s administration.

As a former government, history and advanced placement teacher (eight years at Shawnee High School), she has street credibility as she advocates tirelessly for children and public education.

Further, she has charisma that would be the envy of any candidate.

I suspect her AP experience makes her overqualified to deal with the underachievers in the legislature. And there’s that whole Lurleen Wallace thing: would people assume Brad was pulling the strings from behind the curtain?

There is, to my knowledge, no evidence that Kim Henry is considering any such thing. But hey, it’s never too early to ponder the next gubernatorial race.

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And lo, there were nominees

The list has been pruned to the best of the best (well, not completely, since I’m still in there somewhere), and here they are: the nominees for the 2007 Okie Blog Awards.

It’s a good group, and it’s not just the usual suspects: I spotted several new blogs in contention. Do give them a look. Voting ends on the 26th of September.

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Cakes for geeks

I have, of course, no hope of finding my very own geek girl, but were there nuptials pending, I’d almost certainly endeavor to make room for spectacularly-techie confections like these on the day’s agenda — knowing full well that she’d come up with a better one.

(Via Syaffolee, who awards bonus points for familiarity with flow cytometry.)

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Beyond Bratz

News Item: Two Oklahoma City women were charged today with first-degree murder in the July 26 death of a man killed in a robbery attempt. Veronica Nicole Bruner, 19, and Trashena Loraine Rogers, 17, allegedly talked about robbing Jose Angel Ochoa before he wound up dead at the Granville Apartments, 705 N MacArthur, according to court papers.


Oklahoma City police found the 59-year-old man’s body after responding to a shooting call at the apartment complex, Sgt. Cris Cunningham wrote in an affidavit. Witnesses named two women known as “Jazzy” and “Grubby” as suspects, leading investigators to identify Bruner and Rogers.

Anyone want to guess which one was “Grubby”?

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Not too indifferent

Two hundred twenty ballots cast by 5:50 pm over at Precinct 453, about ten percent higher than I’d anticipated but something short of a madding crowd. I’m expecting something like 56-44, Johnson over Claunch, but I won’t be too unhappy whichever way it goes.

Update: Well, whaddaya know: 54-46, Johnson over Claunch.

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News from Logan County

The Logan County Report is a newsblog based, I presume, in Guthrie; their first posts went up on Sunday and they’re looking for readers. And if it weren’t for them, I’d have had no idea that on their ballot today was a measure to reduce the county sales tax from 1 percent to 0.75 percent, which means I probably should start paying attention to them myself.

Update: It passed by about 8 to 1.

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How to recognize True Love

“Do you realize this is the longest period we have been together? And we did really well; there were only maybe two times when I wanted to kill you.

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Cold shower time

“Oh, yeah?” I hear you ask. “New neighbor with disdain for clothing? High-definition smut? An actual, God help us, girlfriend?”

None of the above. What I have is a massive gas leak in the back yard, and the flow has been shut off pending replacement of the line.

How massive? This past month’s gas consumption was 5.6 dekatherms. That’s a December kind of number. This time last year, consumption was about 1.0. If nothing else, this explains the humongous-for-summer gas bills, which I attributed to, well, all those extra showers made necessary by a plethora of yard work — until I reviewed the water bills, which had not gone up despite actual sprinkler use.

So I’m out mowing the back yard, and the stuff (actually, the stuff they put in it so you can smell it) hits me square in the face. I call the gas company, and they dispatched a chap who duly traced a direct path from the meter to the house and found no trace of gas. “It wasn’t along there that I smelled it,” I insisted, and eventually the truth of the matter was discovered: the gas line isn’t where your geometry teacher would have put it, but dog-legged like the 12th hole at Southern Hills, if nowhere near as long.

Next step: they dig up the old line, install a new one. (I have been told that the gas meter will be relocated closer to the house.) How long this will take is anybody’s guess, so until then: cold showers.

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The city tightens its belt slightly

The General Obligation Bond issue, which will be voted on in December, got a smidgen thinner at yesterday’s Council meeting: Council voted to refurbish the old police headquarters rather than build a new one, saving about $8.3 million from the projected $760 million.

The vote was 6-3, which was also the vote (different three) to set the millage at the rate for the existing 2000 G.O. bonds, rather than raise it a couple of mills and pay the bonds off faster. (Me, I’d have bitten the bullet, which would have cost me somewhere between $15 and $20 a year.)

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Now for some extended memory

If you vaguely remember that phrase, be grateful you don’t have to mess with it anymore — and shed a tear for us Geeks of Yesteryear:

I’m completely lost when it comes to upgrades anymore. I used to actually read the gaming magazines and stay on top of what was cool. Now I know that my GeForce 4 Mx440 is old and busted, and I haven’t even got a clue what the new hotness is. I feel like an auto mechanic who knows how to set points and synchronize SU carburettors; that’s about how useful being able to write a good autoexec.bat file or set up a 10BASE2 network is these days. Four years of not paying attention, and I might as well have dropped out of computing back in the days of the Mattel Aquarius.

I console myself with the thought that even today, some fundamental operations at my workplace depend on a handful of .bat files ginned up by yours truly.

(My GeForce is a 6600; just as old, no less busted. It does, however, run through PCI Express.)

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A ripping yarn

Rebecca Brown gets a Brazilian, and You Are There.

Actually, I’m not so sure I want to be there: the very mention of the topic tends to induce involuntary nerve activity of a sort I do not particularly enjoy. But in the end, so to speak, morbid curiosity won out, and I found this quote from “San Francisco skincare and waxing goddess” Marilyn Jaeger, to this effect:

If you want to sell the house, you’ve got to mow the lawn.

[Insert joke about evicting tenants here.]

Terry saw the piece on Digg, and posed this question:

If Digg comments are any indication, there are a lot more men big on the idea than there are women willing to rip it out. I wonder what the reaction would be if the situation were reversed?

Honestly, I don’t know. I wince at the thought. But I’ll tell you what: you get a guy persuaded that the procedure will guarantee him more, um, attention paid to this region, and he’ll be down there with a frickin’ belt sander.

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Next: the Nursing Motherboard

Kitty MouseThere’s something fundamentally wrong with a mouse shaped like a cat, especially this cat. Quite apart from the species mismatch, the ergonomics of this thing don’t make sense: the scroll wheel and the buttons are located in the bow, which means that there’s a good chance your hand is hanging off the edge. Still, you and I both know people who will rush right out and buy this thing for $7.98, and at no point in the proceedings will they evaluate its capabilities as a pointing device.

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The Internet Movie Database counts the votes from its users to determine the Top 250 movies (and the Bottom 100, but that’s another matter entirely.)

Yes, you’ve seen this sort of shtick before, and yes, it’s exactly what you think it is: the announcement for the oft-delayed Carnival of the Vanities #250, the last Carnival to be hosted at Silflay Hraka — and the first in a couple of months. Next week Andrew Ian Dodge takes over, and I should have something for 251 by then.

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Perry presses ahead

Russell M. Perry’s radio empire has expanded into Georgia: the Oklahoma City-based broadcaster has acquired five stations in the Augusta, Georgia area from Radio One.

True to form, Perry is going with what’s worked for him in Oklahoma:

“Augusta [is] the second-largest city in the state of Georgia with a population that is about 40 to 45 percent African-Americans, and the stations I bought are gospel, hip-hip and R&B. We will change one of them to country and western.”

Perry’s six-station Duncan/Lawton cluster runs six different formats, including country station KKEN.

Apparently Perry won’t be able to use the “Blazin’ Hip-Hop and R&B” imaging from KVSP Anadarko/Oklahoma City in Georgia: Clear Channel is already using it on their urban-formatted outlet.

Radio One, which has had a rough year, owns 55 stations in 18 cities plus Giant magazine; Perry is paying them $3.1 million for the Augusta cluster.

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No taste for accounting

Normally I don’t pay any attention at all to the sort of spam that promises me sexual delights, but one caught my eye this week, mostly for the following declaration:

Less than 29% of all women can achieve a climax by having intercourse alone.

How do they do when they’re having it with someone?

(Just asking.)

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A low response rate

Back in the spring, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) complained to the Detroit Economic Club that the Motor City’s major economic powers, the makers of automobiles, were collectively dragging their feet on fuel-economy standards, “spending millions to prevent the very reforms that could’ve saved their industry.” Shortly thereafter, it was discovered that sitting in the Senator’s driveway was a gleefully-thirsty Chrysler 300C, and yeah, it’s got a Hemi. Obama, redfaced, as it were, went out and bought a Ford Escape hybrid.

Personally, I think the Senator got a bad rap: at least he has some semblance of automotive taste. (I wouldn’t cut him this slack were he tooling around in something with no discernible merit.) But this incident gave Frank Williams of The Truth About Cars an idea: he would write each member of the Senate and ask, “What’s in your garage?”

The results, I have no doubt, would have been entertaining, but Mr Williams got exactly one reply to his query. The lone response was from Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), who begged off on security grounds:

I am flattered that you have chosen to include me in your article on the personal transportation choices of national leaders. However, because of my public status, I am unable to answer personal questions such as these.

At least he responded, which is more than the 98 others — Craig Thomas (R-WY) had just passed away — bothered to do. And while I can sort of see the security issue here, I figure, you’ve seen one [fill in make and model of luxobarge], you’ve probably seen them all.

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This is not promising

Wednesday went by with no change in the level of gaslessness around here. The way things are set up in this state, before you go digging around utilities, you Call Okie and get all the lines marked off, which makes sense. Today the sewer line was marked; presumably the water and gas lines will be marked tomorrow. (I talked to a Call Okie rep; he said they have generally 48 hours from the initial dispatch to get everything in place, but it’s possible that things might hang until Monday.)

So I still have no idea when the gas will be back on, and ONG’s customer-service interface blows serious chunks is on the inscrutable side; if you call them and try to bypass the endless voice-response prompts by dialing 0, you are advised by the robot voice that your selection is invalid. Probably the best I can hope for, at this point, is that someone at corporate is in the habit of looking at Technorati tags that read “Oklahoma Natural Gas” or “ONG.”

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She’s so good with her stiletto

Or so Camilla Morton would have us believe:

Since writing the book How to Walk in High Heels, I have felt duty bound to practise what I preach. In my six-inch stilettos I keep my head held high and my eye on the goal. They are my shot of confidence and secret weapon against any rivals.

Well, of course they’re a weapon. They’d better be. Because you certainly aren’t going to run away from anyone in those six-inch heels.

There is a downside to living half a foot closer to the clouds, though:

It’s true that as a heels devotee, plasters, pedicures, paracetamol and taxis have become an integral part of life. I also have to admit that cobblestones have become the bane of my life. But then, what work of art was achieved without pain, tears and the occasional blister?

I suggest that if you’re going to think of yourself as a work of art, you should probably take better care of your canvas.

Then again, I suspect my viewpoint lies along a different axis than hers:

At a recent in-store evening at Browns, beautiful actress Rachel Weisz was wearing such incredible YSL high black patent heels that I didn’t notice anything above her ankles.

If I get to the point that I don’t notice anything above Rachel Weisz’ ankles, either I’ve been affected by a combination of pesticides and radiation or I’ve been epoxied to the floor.

(Via Jezebel.)

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Michael Wolff thinks I’m old

He wasn’t thinking of me personally, of course, but apparently anyone who values news qua news is damned near antediluvian:

[M]ost of the people I know who are interested in news, rather than, say, social networking, or solitary blogging, who believe news media might thrive, online or in more classic forms, are old.

Barry Diller, the former Hollywood kingpin, who has remade himself as an Internet titan, has talked about his desire to start a new news thing online (indeed, I briefly try to convince him he should help start mine). But is his interest in news the result, I wonder, of his Internet acumen, or just an older mogul’s hobby, similar to the interest of his friend the mogul David Geffen in buying the Los Angeles Times? Diller is 65. Geffen is 64. Rupert Murdoch may have paid billions for Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal, but he is 76.

Arianna Huffington, the gadfly and publicity hound, has, at 57, actually succeeded in starting her own online newspaper, the Huffington Post, a kind of left-wing broadsheet competing with the right-wing tabloid Drudge Report (Drudge himself must be getting on in years). Then there is Jeff Jarvis, one of the original bloggers. He is an implacable believer in all things Internet, but, at 53, also no spring chicken.

Drudge is reported to be forty, which qualifies him for poulet du printemps, at least compared to this bunch.

I note here that I am older than Jarvis, who has been 53 for all of two days at this writing.

And after three pages, Wolff eventually gets around to making his point, which is this:

My civics-class generation continues to put high value on public life: the president, the Congress, the courts. But increasingly these dysfunctional bureaucracies are of interest only to strangely fixated people. Politics itself is, more and more, a kind of obsession. (Indeed, people who do want news are people who seem dysfunctional themselves — obsessed, narrow-focused, militant, A.D.D.) Whereas a new generation, through the magic of the Internet, dispenses with this old idea of the commonweal and converts its private life into its public one.

In my capacity as someone who once sat through a civics class, I must demur: politics, at least to me, is less an obsession than a form of entertainment. And it’s not just the cynicism talking, either; having rejected out of hand the notion that “the personal is political” and the inversion thereof, I find that I get the same buzz watching the candidates that I get watching dinner theatre, train wrecks (cf. Spears, Britney Jean), and other decidedly low-tech amusements.

Michael Wolff, incidentally, is two months older than I am, and gets far more traffic at Newser, which name proves he’s around my age: he didn’t spell it “Newsr.”

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Quote of the week

We’re being overrun by assclowns, says Writer Chick, and their training starts early:

Back in the day when I was in school, you weren’t taught about sexuality and multiculturism, you were taught math, English, history and economics. You were expected to use your brain and be aware of the fact that there were actually other people in the world who also had opinions. And said opinions were expected to make sense by using facts and critical thinking. Can you say “debate club”? You were expected to actually earn your grades through study, hard work and turning in legible papers, reports and passing tests. You weren’t graded on a curve — you were graded on what you got right and what you got wrong.

Seems like these days you don’t need facts, the ability to think or even a valid argument of any kind. Having an opinion is more than enough. And since we’ve leveled the playing field, we are supposed to be willing to listen to anybody about anything, lest we show our racist, bigoted or intolerant selves. Hey, just because [someone] is a convicted serial killer and rapist doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a right to an opinion. Charles Manson is just a grossly misunderstood guy. Saddam wasn’t hurting us, why did we hurt him? That five-year-old who kissed the little girl in the playground awaits trial for sexual harrassment. If he’s lucky, he’ll get counseling and some mind altering drugs that will set him straight.

Meat is bad. Soybeans are good. Man is evil. Animals should be able to vote. Society’s right to survive must take a back seat to a rare and nearly extinct weed. Smoking causes cancer and should be outlawed. Marijuana should be legalized. Republicans who are gay must resign. But they must also embrace gayness because they are homophobic.

These are all products of the assclowns — well maybe not soybeans but I’ve seen some studies….

Actually, I haven’t seen any concerted efforts to extend the franchise to the animal kingdom, though I’m pretty sure that anyone who supports this notion will also insist that animals should not be expected to carry any form of ID. (Leave your rabies tag at home when you go to the polls, Bowser.)

And don’t worry about smoking being outlawed completely: your government desperately needs that tax revenue.

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Now here’s some ballot access

I’ve complained before about the difficulty in getting access to Oklahoma ballots faced by third-party candidates, and there are at least ten good reasons to loosen up the requirements.

Chris Lawrence has linked to a sample ballot for his precinct in New Orleans, and inevitably it reflects Louisiana’s unusual election system, which goes something like this:

Every state, local, and congressional election in Louisiana is decided by what’s called an open primary. The rules are that all candidates for a single office, regardless of party, appear on the same ballot on Election Day, and all voters (again regardless of party) can vote for any one of them. If no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote, a runoff between the top two vote-getters takes place a month later. It’s completely possible for the open primary to produce a runoff between two Democrats or between two Republicans.

Which no doubt explains why there are thirteen candidates for Governor: five Democrats, a Republican, a Libertarian, four listed as “No Party” and two as “Other.”

And running for State Senator District 6 is Louisiana’s answer to Virginia “Blue Jeans” Jenner, ophthalmologist Monica L. Monica, last seen (by me, anyway) running for the 1st Congressional District seat now occupied by David Vitter, who says that the only place you can get a bad meal in New Orleans is at her house, which strikes me as an odd but effective form of branding.

“Voting is hard,” complains Dr Lawrence. I don’t think he’d like it any better were it Oklahoma easy.

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So that’s how I got up to a 2

Wendy Shalit attempts to undermine Hot or Not:

Now, I’m a pretty busy person. But I found myself drawn to Hot or Not in the same horrible way people slow down to inspect highway accidents. Specifically, I felt a compulsion to rate people who were somewhat less attractive and give them a perfect “10.” I just felt so bad for them; I pictured how they would log on with great hope and anticipation, only to read that their hotness rating was a mere “2.3.” So I figured I would do my small part to increase their scores.

Do you think I did the wrong thing? I still feel a bit guilty about it — thus my very public confession. Was I corrupting a finely-tuned, scientific system, or actually making it a little more accurate by mixing in a little empathy?

It’s hard to imagine how Hot or Not could be any less accurate: even if the photos aren’t tweaked and twiddled, they don’t necessarily reflect what a person actually looks like, as anyone who’s ever been to the DMV should know. That said, though, I think giving someone false hope is somewhat unkind, even in the absence of malice, though “false hope” may be stretching it a bit, inasmuch as a 10 in the midst of two dozen 2s will raise the average only to 2.3.

Then again, if your entire sense of self-worth is based on ratings of this sort, your sense of hotness is old and busted.

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Gas update

Because who wants old gas?

The rest of the striping was done today, so now the palatial Surlywood estate is festooned with multicolored flags: green for the sewer line, blue for the water line, yellow for the gas line. (There are eight colors in all, but the rest don’t apply here: both electric and cable lines are overhead.)

Still no word on when they’re going to dig up the yard, but at least now they know where they’re going to dig up the yard.

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Thirty-buck Chuck

Michele doesn’t get the “shoe thing”:

I own three pairs of shoes: black dress shoes I wear to weddings, funerals and occasionally to work; one pair of brown Converse and one pair of black Converse, which I wear daily.

This is all I wear when I’m not at work and some days, like today, I even wear them to work. I’m not a shoe person. I’m like the opposite of Imelda Marcos. I live in Converse. It’s what I’ve always worn and wearing them makes me feel comfortable and confident and bouncy, all those things your favorite shampoo or dew-scented tampon is supposed to do for you. Or the way grandma’s pasta or a bowl of Haagen Daaz makes you feel. Some people have comfort food, I have comfort footwear.

This is not by any means some kind of moral position, you should know:

I’m not trying to disparage you women who love your expensive shoes and handbags; it’s just not for me and spending that kind of money on accessories is not something I can understand, perhaps because I’ve been poor and my mind is regulated to think frugally when spending money. It’s why I haven’t bought a Wii yet, even though I crave one. It’s why I’m right now wearing a sweatshirt I bought four years ago and why we don’t have a flat screen tv. I can’t bring myself to think outside the poor box.

Still, these are the Chuck Taylor facts:

I have a feeling that even if I were rich and could afford a walk in closet full of shoes, it would be filled with 100 different styles of Converse.

Disclosure: I own eight pairs of shoes, half of them by New Balance.

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Alternative currency

What’s its basis? Gold, silver, petroleum, T-bills? Nope. It’s the humble cuss jar:

A few years ago the spuds started to learn some ‘special’ words. In order to curtail this inappropriate communication we started charging them a quarter for each offense. As their pocket change dwindled and the quarter jar filled they started to get the hang of it. After a time, a simple reprimand of ‘quarter’ was all it took to get them to straighten up and fly right.

Lately they have taken to shorthand. When they wish to be inappropriate they just say things like ‘you quarter’ or ‘quarter, quarter, quarter!’ One truly irate spud yelled ‘a buck fifty’ the other day. I guess it is better than the alternative.

The March of Dimes was never like this.

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