Archive for October 2007

The day of reckoning is at hand

About thirty counties will have some sort of election today, and the one getting the most attention is Tulsa’s so-called River Tax, which won’t actually tax the river. I think. With all the misinformation floating around, it’s hard to be sure.

Speaking of floating, the Oklahoma City Public Schools hope to float a bond issue of just under a quarter of a billion dollars, over and beyond the MAPS for Kids collections. It’s been some time since anything of this sort hit the ballot, and I’m inclined to vote for it, because the district has worked steadily to improve itself in the last decade or so, and because the OCMAPS Trust, which oversees MAPS for Kids, will also oversee the bond projects. The lack of pie-in-the-sky promises in the pitch is also encouraging: this is a realistic package to meet ongoing capital needs for the district. Even the Oklahoman, not exactly the district’s best friend forever, is endorsing the bond issue.

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They don’t give up

More stubborn roses

These examples of Rosa recalcitransia are even now blooming in my flower box, one-quarter of the way through October fercrissake, and less than two weeks after one of the neighborhood kids got the best of the bunch. There has been rain, though not a lot, and I haven’t watered them otherwise, feeling that geez, guys, it’s time to hibernate, isn’t it? And it’s just this one bush: the others, while they continue to stretch their stems, aren’t putting forth any new buds. (Click here or on the photo to embiggen.) This not-having-a-girlfriend business may backfire on me yet.

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Teacher, teacher, I declare

Communistic fashion-wear:

The first time I see a Che t-shirt at this school, I will be hauling the wearer to the office. I’m sick to death of murderer-worship. It would be no different than if someone wore a Bundy or Gacy shirt.

Suggestion: 500-word essay on “Why it is important to honor the memory of a disreputable thug.”

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An American evolution

When I was knee-high to a Renault Dauphine, there was a lot of talk in automotive advertising about the “low-priced three.” Perennial number three Plymouth was taken out behind the barn and shot at the turn of the century, and judging from the Malibu ad I saw in the November Automobile, Chevrolet doesn’t want to be a member of this club any more:

Chevy is now the world’s fastest-growing nameplate, with a third of its sales outside the United States. At home, Chevy sells more cars and trucks costing over $35,000 than anybody.

Inasmuch as I can’t imagine any way to worry the sticker on an Impala all the way up to $35k, I have to assume that this means a whole bunch of Silverados and Suburbans, interrupted by the occasional Corvette. And thirty-five K is a serious price point: this is where Infiniti starts, where BMW’s 1-series is expected to land, where Accord and Camry so far fear to tread. Not that GM expects to get this kind of money for a mid-sized sedan that isn’t a Cadillac, of course:

The new Malibu demonstrates similar creativity and passion. Only Chevrolet would think of selling a $35,000 car for significantly less.

Cross-shop the Malibu and the Avalon? What color is the sky in this brave new world of Chevrolet?

Still, give the bow-tie boys credit for sheer, unadulterated guts: this is right up there with Lee Iacocca’s half-sneered “If you can find a better car, buy it.” The General, at least judging by its advertising, is getting downright ebullient. For instance: complaints about crummy-looking interiors have bedeviled Detroit for ages, so GM these days is showing actual interiors. In detail, yet. “Look upon our dashboards, ye Mighty, and despair!” If you go for the full-Lutz — er, full LTZ — you’re looking at twenty-seven or so.

And from this vantage point, the new ‘Bu has several things to recommend it: it’s not as soporific as the Camry, not as facially challenged as the Fusion, not as wonky as the Sebring/Avenger twins. This suggests a specific niche: the Anti-Accord. With Honda emphasizing Blackberry-style utility this year, Chevy might want to twist the fun controls up to ten. Maybe eleven.

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There appears to be turnout

At a quarter to six, my precinct had recorded 279 voters for the OCPS school-bond issue, which, owing to the way the laws are written, wound up as four separate issues on the ballot. This is about half again what I’d expected, although we’re still a long way from long lines at the polls. Traffic was hopelessly snarled, though this was due more to the reconstruction of 50th Street than to any likely electoral urgency.

Update, 9:20 pm: All four measures passed, by considerable margins:

  1. Gymnasiums, classrooms, roof replacements and HVAC work: 11,183 to 3,038.
  2. Classroom technology and programs to track student progress: 11,082 to 3,073.
  3. Replacement of old district buses: 11,003 to 3,121.
  4. Safety/security improvements: 11,080 to 3,018.

And really, turnout of a shade over 14,000 isn’t too shabby in a district with fewer than 40,000 students. (More detail on the individual propositions, should you so desire.)

New millages are due out this month, but the number for OCPS is not expected to vary much from the current 57.07. (Property taxes in Oklahoma County include separate millages for the county itself, for individual municipalities, for the pertinent school district, and the vocational school and/or junior-college district.)

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All you Donnas

Is this ambivalence I’m seeing?

Last night The Donnas played at World Cafe Live. I almost called up Rob to see if he wanted to meet me there but I was dressed in my business best and had nothing else to wear. The Donnas would definitely have made fun of me upon my entrance to the concert hall, just as they poke fun at my name every day of their existence. I really don’t understand why they chose Donna and not Angie or Sheila or Tanya? Certainly there are worse names out there.

Top Ten names rejected by the band before settling on “The Donnas”:

  1. Judy, Judy, Judy
  2. (Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame
  3. Hillary Dillary Dock
  4. The Cleopatronizers
  5. Shirley Shirley Bo Birley
  6. Betty Don’t
  7. Marge in alia
  8. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia
  9. Katrina and the Waves
  10. Tampon 20

Oh, and Sheila called to thank me for not mentioning her.

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Such cheapskates

Proponents of the new Tulsa river tax, which was rejected yesterday 52 percent to 48, might learn something from Oklahoma City’s school bond issues, which passed with percentages in the 70s: if you’re going to pitch something as For The Children™, you might want to assure that there’s some actual benefit to children other than vague pieties about “making the world a better place” and other things generally beyond the scope of county government.

Or, as Bobby from Tulsa Topics put it:

I decided to vote NO for the older generation. Although I don’t necessarily act it at times, I’m a bona fide member of the older Tulsan voter brigade. The group that has to pay the sales taxes for the groceries you kiddo’s eat and the property taxes that keep a roof over your head.

I still fail to understand why this was considered a county project when only a single municipality would benefit. (There was some loose talk about a riverfront for Broken Arrow, despite the fact that nothing in the measure actually said such a thing.) Perhaps Tulsa city government should have undertaken the project on their own — but then that would have required them to pay for it on their own, rather than hit up the suburbs for part of the bill. (Reminder: Oklahoma City’s original MAPS package was financed by a city, not a county, sales tax. Further reminder: Oklahoma County’s sales-tax rate is 0. Zero. Bupkis.)

As for The Children, they’ll get over it.

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Paul can has epifunny?

Srsly. Epistle to the Galatians, chapter 3:

  1. Silly Galatians! Wut dangles the string in frunt of u? U saw teh man on stix?
  2. U can haz no catnip from Ceiling Cat, win u playz nice! lol! Not less u can has trusts!
  3. U silly! U haz teh catnips, but you eated it! Now u try try to be good?
  4. Is u just chasin tail?
  5. Does Ceiling Cat has for u catnip and finger wigle trix cuz u gud? Or cuz u has trusts?
  6. Abraham can has trusts, and Ceiling Cat said good kitah!
  7. Win u can has trusts, us is like Abraham!
  8. A long book sayd the Ceiling Cat, even lieks ppl who ownz teh doogie when dey gots teh trusts! Das y Abraham wuz so kewl.

Note: In 6, “kitah” is evidently a variant spelling of “kitteh.”

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Think outside the bunk

Another day, another complaint from a plundered culture:

It sounds like a fast-food grudge match: Taco Bell is taking on the homeland of its namesake by reopening for the first time in 15 years in Mexico.

Defenders of Mexican culture see the chain’s re-entry as a crowning insult to a society already overrun by U.S. chains from Starbucks and Subway to KFC.

“It’s like bringing ice to the Arctic,” complained pop culture historian Carlos Monsivais.

Come on, Sr. Monsivais. Polar bears like ice. It keeps their Coca-Cola cool.

Besides, anyone who’s ever actually eaten there knows that Taco Bell these days is about as Mexican as lutefisk. (Not to mention Taco Ockerse, a Dutchman born in Indonesia who works in Germany.) But I’ll concede the defenders’ point about how Mexicans despise the trappings of American culture, since obviously no Mexicans ever come here.

(Via The Local Malcontent.)

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The newest wrinkle

It’s been literally years since I saw an Oklahoma Gazette that didn’t have at least one advertisement for cosmetic surgery: they don’t outnumber the restaurant ads — yet — but I figure it’s just a matter of time.

What I hadn’t seen before, though, was actual pricing in those ads. One surgeon is offering something called “Augtoberfest,” and a special: get your consultation by the end of the month and have the procedure before the first of December, and your new boobage is only $3700 (I assume per pair).

Turn the page, and there’s a whole list of “introductory prices” by another clinic. Rack jobbers they’re not: they specialize in skin care, and they have package deals for procedures that require repeat performances — say, laser hair removal, which is $400 a treatment or six for $2200 if you’re having it done to your legs, and rather a lot less if you’re tending to smaller areas.

I probably didn’t need to see this at dinnertime, but given the asymmetrical nature of medical information, the fact that they’re actually quoting prices is surely a Good Thing for the comparison shopper, and who among us can afford not to be?

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It’s only natural

The gas bill has come in, and it’s slightly less than half the size of the September bill; twiddling the figures, I’ve guesstimated that 100 cubic feet of natural gas escaped from my back yard every 24 hours for most of the summer. The greenhouse effect is probably minimal, but come first snow I’m probably going to complain that it wasn’t minimal enough.

And I have to figure that since methane is lighter than air, it rose rather quickly; certainly it didn’t hang around long enough to kill my lawn.

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Pyramid, schmyramid

While it’s still legal: the Food Pentagram.

Food Pentagram

Created by, and swiped from, Michele.

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Much more in hardcover

A note from Nate:

Over at Amazon, you can apparently buy the entire Penguin Classics library for $7,989.50, which, it turns out, is a savings of exactly $5,326.34 (40%).

Imagine that for a moment, if you will: this is a collection of exactly 1,082 books that — let’s be generous and say you actually WILL read one of them a week for 1,082 weeks — would take you damn near 21 years to read.

At the time I checked the link, there were only two sets left, and I’m assuming Brian J. Noggle will snag one of them. And yes, shipping is free.

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The official state sports car

Kentucky State Representative C. B. Embry (R-Morgantown) has proposed naming the Chevrolet Corvette the Official Sports Car of the Bluegrass State.

The premise seems at least reasonable, since the Corvette is built in semi-picturesque Bowling Green, Kentucky, and while other vehicles are built in the state, no one will ever accuse, say, the Toyota Camry, built in Georgetown, of being sporty.

Oklahoma doesn’t have an official sports car, and with the state’s one auto assembly plant mothballed and plans to build MGs in Ardmore on hold, we may not get one — in which case, please allow me to nominate the true sporting vehicle of Soonerland: a Ford F-150 pickup with worn shocks.

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Dead heat on the Diversity Train

The school where Ms. Cornelius teaches has been exhorted to improve the achievement of minority students, and this was the beginning of the exhortation:

First we listened to outside people read us really bad poetry. We listened to painfully clichéd free verse with no internal meter, imagery, or intellectual or emotional heft beyond bathos (which can be fun to those who are looking for it) about sad-eyed puppies left out in thunderstorms and birdies with broken wings and acrostics spelling out “I CAN” down the left-hand margin. And then there’s that R. Kelly song — don’t make me relive that. Those of us with a brain were then treated to these presenters then providing literary analysis of this treacle, too, since it was obviously so very deep that we just didn’t get it on our own.

R. Kelly needs to be understood by educators the way Jeffrey Dahmer needs to be understood by pastry chefs.

But the worst was yet to come:

Now, we are told that we should stop trying to impose “white” middle class values upon our students — that’s the problem, yeah.

Ah, now we see the racism inherent in the system, and as usual, it’s on the part of the haranguers, not the haranguees. Minority students should never, ever be asked to sacrifice their cultural imperatives for the sake of such bourgeois notions as “getting good grades” or “learning to think for oneself”; that’s just so injurious to their self-esteem.

You want to improve the achievement of minority students? Get them the hell away from people who think understanding R. Kelly is somehow important.

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Quote of the week

Doc Searls riffs on the same Vanity Fair piece by Michael Wolff I mentioned last month, the one about the imminent Death of News. But Searls, more thoughtful than I, comes up with a worthy metaphor:

Everything we invent is just a prototype for the next mistake. And that’s okay. The best we can do is leave the world a little better than we found it. All of us found it full of information only other people know. My youngest kid, at age two or less, grabbed me by the finger one day and pulled me outside. “Papa,” he said, “show me something”. Translated to the adult: “I’ve been here about six hundred days or so. You’ve been here forever. You know what all this stuff is. I don’t. Fill me in.”

News is how we fill each other in. The need for that will never go away.

I’m not canceling my subscription just yet.

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Life after Red Rock

The idea here was simple enough: the state’s three major electric providers would pool their resources and build a $1.75-billion plant near Red Rock, a plant big enough to produce 950 megawatts of power, running off comparatively-cheap coal. The plan drew fire almost immediately, not only from coal opponents, but from the likes of Aubrey McClendon at Chesapeake, who complained that it’s an Oklahoma plant and ought to be using Oklahoma’s gas supplies. (No points for guessing where Chesapeake makes its money.) The Corporation Commission took a dim view of the plant from day one, and yesterday officially denied preapproval, meaning the utilities could not begin recovering costs before the plant was actually built.

According to Assistant AG Bill Humes, the utilities really didn’t make their case:

They said the Red Rock plant was the least expensive alternative, but they could never conclusively prove that. There was a great deal of testimony to the contrary. The sad fact is they never presented to the commission the cost of a second alternative.

Or, for that matter, a first alternative.

The vote was 2-1, with Bob Anthony declining to sign the denial but issuing a separate opinion only partly supporting the Red Rock plant. Anthony noted that OG&E would need 300 megawatts of new capacity in the next five years, which is going to have to come from somewhere: the wind farm is up to speed but produces a maximum of 170 MW. PSO, in the same period, will have to come up with 450 MW.

Me, I can’t help but wonder if maybe they underestimated the cost of cleaning up after coal: you can’t just point the smokestacks upward and hope nothing happens.

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Household notes

I mowed the back yard last night; I hope this is the last time I have to do it this year, inasmuch as it’s October and all.

The County Assessor’s Web site lists nine comps for my house, based on the following criteria:

Sales are pulled over a 3 year period from current date: Compared by Built As and sorted by Sale Date, +/- 5 years of subject year built, +/- 20% sqft of subject, and Quality Rating.

I’m surprised they came up with as many as nine. All these are within two or three blocks, built in ’47 or ’48 as “Ranch 1 Story,” and run 950 to 1220 square feet. The price range, however, is considerable: at the low end, $60.84 per square foot (readers in New York may pause here to reposition their jaws), rising to $85.55 at the top. My place comes in at $83.85, which would be good for second place had the last sale been within three years.

Incidentally, the new property-tax rates are due out Real Soon Now. If they don’t go up, I’m facing a bill of $872 or so. If they go up to the level that prevailed in 2002, the highest on record in this particular district — yes, Virginia, the tax rates do occasionally trend downward — I’m looking at $900. Of course, Escrow T. Robot will take care of the check-writing detail and tweak the monthly payment as needed next spring.

I still have roses. I’ve decided to leave them there and see how long it takes for them to drop off.

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Now that’s an upgrade

I asked Trini about Lenovo desktops — we all know about their ThinkPads — and she pointed me to this product listing. The lowest of the low is a mere $399 and runs off an Intel Celeron processor; the OS is Windows Vista Home Basic.

For an extra $50, they’ll give you, instead of the Celeron, a real Pentium Dual-Core. And you get Windows XP Professional, rather than any flavor of Vista.

“Of course. It’s a better operating system,” said Trini.

She’d probably say it to Steve Ballmer, too.

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The number 254 looms large in the memory of anyone who hacked (in the canonical sense) the Commodore 64: it represents the number of bytes in a 1541-formatted floppy-disk sector. Why 254? Well, the sectors did contain two additional bytes, but they pointed to the location of the next sector used by that particular file, the sort of semi-elegance you might be able to appreciate if you’ve ever hosed up a FAT16 system, which I have. Steve Punter’s file-transfer protocol, designed specifically for the 64 and its kin, sent blocks of 254 bytes.

This week, Andrew Ian Dodge describes the Carnival of the Vanities, the 254th edition, as “tardy”, and blames it on Maine, where things just sort of saunter by. Kind of like a C-64 download at 300 baud, in fact.

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Groin elevator

In the 26th century of Mike Judge’s Idiocracy, the top-rated television show is called “Ow! My Balls!”

If you can’t wait that long, here’s a blog called Nad Shot.

(Via Fark.)

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The Sumner family of Sapulpa — Darrell D. Sumner, wife Patty, sons Darren and Derek — has bought three newspapers from the ginormous Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc., including their hometown Sapulpa Daily Herald.

The Sumners, who own four other papers in Oklahoma, will retain the newly-acquired Coffeyville [KS] Journal, but will spin off the Cushing Daily Citizen to David Reid, who had previously owned the Citizen but sold it to CNHI.

CNHI still owns several papers in Oklahoma, including the Edmond Sun and the Norman Transcript.

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I’ve heard worse approaches

Email from Shelley Batts:

Shelley here, blogger at Retrospectacle. I’m emailing you as a fellow blogger who has linked me recently, or I am in contact with. Frankly, I need your help. I’ve been nominated (1 of 20 nominees) for a $10,000 Student Blogging Scholarship and would REALLY appreciate any help you might give in sending voters my way. The highest # votes wins the scholarship, which is kind of silly, but I could really use the money towards my PhD (my thesis is related to a cure for deafness) and paying off my undergrad debt. The link to vote is here.

Thank you so much!

Apparently I linked to Ms Batts last month with this item.

I have to agree, it is kind of silly — the award criterion, not the scholarship itself — but I voted for her anyway. Last I looked she was in second place.

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What are you, Waring?

Blender has put up a list of the 50 Worst Songs Ever, and while I have to agree that most of them are pretty damn dire — I sort of liked “Broken Wings” by Mr. Mister, which proves that even the oldest and surliest of us still have a capacity for teenage angst — there’s one actual error of fact that I must address. Anent #18, Chicago, “You’re the Inspiration”:

It’s hard to believe, but at one point Chicago were a fairly well-respected rock band. Then Peter Cetera joined, and they jettisoned any remaining street cred in favor of soft-rock ballads your grandmother would deem harmless.

Cetera, in fact, was an original member of the band, going back to the Big Thing/Chicago Transit Authority days: in addition to playing bass, he sang up front with Robert Lamm on “Questions 67 and 68” (from CTA), wrote “Where Do We Go From Here?” and sang lead on Lamm’s “25 or 6 to 4” (both on Chicago II). Admittedly, “Where Do We Go” hinted at Cetera’s affinity for sub-power balladry, but it would be years before he transformed entirely into a dentist-office-friendly wuss, and anyway he left Chicago shortly after “You’re the Inspiration.”

Disclosure: Of the fifty, I actually paid for copies of ten.

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Going it alone

In my own postmortem on the Tulsa River Tax, I offered this notion:

I still fail to understand why this was considered a county project when only a single municipality would benefit… Perhaps Tulsa city government should have undertaken the project on their own — but then that would have required them to pay for it on their own, rather than hit up the suburbs for part of the bill. (Reminder: Oklahoma City’s original MAPS package was financed by a city, not a county, sales tax. Further reminder: Oklahoma County’s sales-tax rate is 0. Zero. Bupkis.)

Stan Geiger expands on this premise:

It was a clear strategic mistake, from a political standpoint, to make the river tax vote county-wide. The majority of people living in the burbs were opposed to paying a tax to fund a project they viewed as having no benefit for them. But I imagine the decision to go county-wide was less a political decision and more an economic decision.

Our metro area is a tightly-packed conglomeration of several municipalities. Tulsa sits in the middle. If sales taxes are hiked in Tulsa without a corresponding increase in tax rates for the surrounding cities, people will go to the surrounding cities to shop or dine out. Ergo, a unilateral tax bump in Tulsa could well backfire, dropping sales tax collections in total.

That logic works both ways, of course. If Broken Arrow bumps its sales tax to a level higher than its bordering communities, shoppers and diners will flee Broken Arrow for the cheaper confines of those adjoining communities.

It’s not an inexorable law, of course. There are some things you can get in the city that you can’t always get easily in the burbs. And it’s got to be a fairly substantial purchase to make that much of a difference, I suspect: when I acquired the palatial estate at Surlywood in 2003, I ordered new appliances from Sears — from the Midwest City store, because (1) I’d been shopping there since I’d moved out east in the early 1990s and (2) the tax rate was 0.875 cent less. In that order, I think. And even then, the total tax savings came to well under twenty bucks. Of late, about the only time I need to shop outside Oklahoma City limits is when I make a pilgrimage to the New Balance store in Edmond. (Total sales tax in Edmond is 7.75 percent, versus 8.375 in Oklahoma City; on a hundred-dollar pair of shoes, we’re looking at 63 cents, a bit less than what I’d spend for the gas to get there and back. I might think differently if I lived, say, north of 122nd.)

So these effects are real, but probably not so pronounced. And I’m not so sure that this wasn’t primarily a political decision: Tulsa county government, at the time, probably had better (or at least “less bad”) credibility than Tulsa city government, which in recent years has rivaled the Keystone Kops for comic ineffectuality.

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Budging myself

Dave Budge, a week or so ago, sought to evaluate bloggers from the leftosphere, Montana division, and devised this scale:

The points on which I will score a given blogger will be based in the following criteria each on a scale of 1 to 10 with a combined possible total of 70 (reserved for people like James Lileks):

  • Sense of humor
  • “Eruditeness”
  • Imagination
  • Originality
  • Level of vitriol (inverse relationship — the lower the number the higher the vitriol)
  • Overall quality (do they give “good blog”) and, last but not least
  • relative rank on the N-SHWP scale. (inverse relationship)

N-SHWP, you should know, standeth for “Neo-Socialist Hand-Wringing Pussy,” a subspecies for which Mr Budge presumably has no use.

Were I to rate myself on this scale, I’d see fives and sixes all around, maybe a seven for the last item. (I’m not much of a “neo-socialist,” but I’ve been known to engage in hand-wringing.) This puts me around 40.

I don’t, of course, take this sort of thing too seriously, but it does reflect the idea, one which I’ve held for some time, that there are criteria for blog evaluation other than “Do they agree with me?” And this probably explains the haphazard appearance (okay, it’s alphabetized, sort of, but that’s it) of my current blogroll, though it in no way should be taken to assume that I’ve scored each and every entry therein except in the most perfunctory manner.

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Personally, I blame Reed Richards

Did you ever wish that the entire Hello Kitty phenomenon would just vanish from the face of the earth?

Well, this is not what you had in mind.

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The art of the post-mortem interview

Michele has questions to ask the dead, and she doesn’t expect to get answers:

See, here is what I always wondered about [John] Edward and others who claim to speak to the dead: Why aren’t they telling us anything important?

Why waste time talking about Aunt Maude’s garden when there are so many other things to be learned from the dead? Surely, just one of those spirits that has been contacted is dying, pardon the pun, to tell us something about the afterlife.

Not that anyone would dare ask:

Now wait just a minute, John Edward. Here’s what I want to know, not what you want to tell me.

And I would ask grandpa about the mysteries of life. What happens when you die? Is there real life out there? Is there a heaven? A hell? Purgatory? Was there a God waiting for you? If so, which god was it? Greek? Jewish? Was it Buddha? Or is it the Catholic god? Do you get to see people who are still alive? Do you spy on us? Was that you at grandma’s funeral who knocked down the flowers?

And thus, grandpa would solve everything. He would tell us which god, if any, was the ruler of the afterlife. He would tell us what death is like. Why don’t the dead on Edward’s show ever say anything like that? Why has not one relative of the called-upon deceased ever thought to ask “Did it hurt to die? Was Aunt Maude waiting for you? Can you see us all the time? Do you watch us masturbate? IS THERE A GOD?” Not one person has ever asked a question like that. One might think they were led by the producers of the show as to what questions to ask.

I’ve not made a habit of watching this particular spectacle, but I’ve always wondered why no one ever seems to come up with something as simple as “What was the combination to the safety-deposit box?”

George Carlin once suggested that if you really wanted to test a faith healer, you should ask him for a smaller shoe size. And me, I’m ready to entertain questions from the dead: say, Will Rogers asking “What were you thinking, naming an airport after me?”

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When “vibrate” isn’t enough

The Toy is not a cell phone at all, but a vibrator with Bluetooth capability. And oh, the texting you’ll do:

  • Familiar sms text command system
  • Secret 6 digit Tag in text message controls The Toy
  • The Toy reacts only to your tagged sms messages
  • Write whatever you like, The Toy will respond
  • 26 letters have 3 different movement profiles
  • Each of these has 5 speeds, 3 time settings
  • 45 possible effects from any one letter
  • 7200 variations from a single text message

Meanwhile, Deb asks:

Apparently it can be operated via Bluetooth from remote locations by a loving partner … but what happens if your partner has an ornery streak? Orgasm in that business meeting? While in line at the grocery store? Random orgasm while driving down the road?

It never, ever occurred to me that someone at the supermarket, or in the sedan in the next lane over, might have one of these, um, appliances in place. I’m still recovering from the idea of stashing a cell phone in one’s brassiere, fercryingoutloud.

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At the left end of the dial

I’m thinking Dean’s a bit conflicted about National Public Radio:

I am confused as to why NPR exists.

I love NPR. I really do. Get in my car on any given morning, and it’s tuned to the local NPR station. You’d have to be an idiot not to notice that they’re left-wing biased, but, the quality of what they put out is extraordinary. I’m glad they’re there, and I’ve given them money.

Still, let’s tell the truth about NPR: pasty-white to semi-tan mid-to-upper class white people going on and on how important they are and how their cultural perspective is vital because they’re “non-profit.” Meanwhile, look at who really listens to them, and what they’re all about. This really demands taxpayer subsidy, eh?

It occurs to me that if they do put out stuff of extraordinary quality, their perceived pastiness and/or self-importance should become secondary considerations at best.

The taxpayer-subsidy argument carries a bit more heft, especially in Oklahoma, where two of the top three NPR outlets are operated by state universities. (The third, Tulsa’s KWGS, is operated by the private University of Tulsa.) In other areas, stations might be operated by private foundations. Pretty much all of them, though, draw some sort of funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — in fact, far more than does NPR itself. The station closest to this desk, KGOU (which, perhaps ironically, is located at the right end of the dial), gets maybe ten percent of its budget from CPB.

In 2003, Doc Searls suggested that it was time to get off the CPB dole:

Turn to listeners and viewers. Operate in the real marketplace. You already have a huge advantage over commercial broadcasters, thanks to the fact that your listeners and viewers are customers and not just “consumers.”

At the time, I, perhaps prematurely, predicted the death of CPB:

Ultimately, I think Congress will kill the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the right wing will present the death of CPB as an ideological triumph, of course, but CPB needs to go, not because it might offend a segment of the population, but because it’s an anachronism, and one which adds (albeit only slightly) to the ongoing budget deficits at that. While public radio isn’t exactly awash in money, they’ve learned how to turn a buck just like their rivals on the commercial side of things.

And the slack, I predict with somewhat greater assurance, will be taken up by the likes of Dean, and me, and Jennifer and Ted Stanley.

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Preliminary reckoner

I finally got around to downloading that Radiohead album, for which I paid 25p more than I’d announced: £4.75, plus the obligatory 45p service charge. Five days after the initial crunch, the download (48 MB or so) went fairly swiftly: the ten tracks are in MP3 format at a bit rate of 160.

I’ve also reported my price to What price did you choose?, which is taking a survey of buyers through the end of the month. Chicago is reporting that as of Thursday there had been 1.2 million downloads, though they don’t speculate as to how much (if anything) the band made off each one.

There’s still the question over whether anyone else can make this particular business model work, though I am at least somewhat hopeful: it likely would not have occurred to me to buy In Rainbows at retail next spring, meaning Radiohead scored about ten bucks in revenue they wouldn’t have had otherwise, and if there’s a substantial number of nonfans brought into the fold, then the effort, I think, is well justified.

Update, 15 October: Nate, more of a fan than I but not fanatically so, forked over $17.30.

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A plug for the ol’ hometown

The Salt Lake Tribune carries feature articles from Lonely Planet, and this one hits home, as it were:

The hit-the-highway anthem “Route 66” plugs one place on its 2,500-mile journey for its beauty. But that was only because no other place rhymed with “oh so pretty.”

For years, cross-country drivers pulling into Oklahoma City (“OKC”) found a flat, sprawling, dead-quiet city with three crisscrossing interstates begging to take you elsewhere. Pretty? No, a plain Jane at best.

But that was then. Now, as Oklahoma braces for its 100th birthday this November, its capital is strutting about a stunning makeover. After the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building downtown, the city surprisingly voted in an enormous sales tax, which has ushered on more than $2 billion in public/private projects.

Minor correction: the “enormous sales tax” was voted in during 1993.

But I have to give him this:

I know, because I was a local once. When I worked downtown in the early ’90s, you tore out at 5 p.m. sharp. Now many locals come then — for dinner and drinks, NBA games, Stones concerts, foreign films, rock climbing in a converted grain silo, or to feed Fido in new loft apartments on Bricktown’s mile-long canal.

The NBA, of course, is currently on hold for a year or two, maybe longer. Still, the old business about “rundown at sundown” was true: by six the concrete jungle was more of a mausoleum, and you never saw anyone downtown on weekends. And who would ever have imagined Oklahoma City as a rowing center?

We’re still not gorgeous, exactly, but if we haven’t turned sow’s ears into silk purses, we’re not turning them into pork rinds either. Unless, of course, you want pork rinds.

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Strange search-engine queries (89)

There was an unexpected uptick in traffic this past week. Did this result in more gems for this section? Well, let’s see:

women set to outearn men by 2025:  And it’s only 0630 now.

Maureen Dowd nipple:  Traditionally, these come in pairs.

barn to be wild:  You might try the Round Barn in Arcadia. No corners to hide in.

grandmas should not wear thongs:  Doesn’t this, like, depend on the grandma, and whether she also wears Depends?

daughter bathroom divestiture video frequency:  I dunno about you, but my daughter doesn’t want any video when she divests, not even once.

okc core to shore, what will happen, original crosstown:  It will be replaced by a ground-level boulevard that will have no parking spaces beneath it.

a cure for two old farts who stay at home:  Have you tried Febreze?

the beaufort gazette, students defecate in burger king bathroom:  Have you tried Febreze?

kia sedona has urine smell coming from air conditioning vents:  Have you tried Febreze?

girls laughing at penis:  Think of it as a very effective birth-control alternative.

wearing underpants to bed reduce size of penis:  I can report only that not wearing them does not make it grow.

crossdresser wears a bra 24/7 to grow bigger breasts:  But does he wear underpants to bed?

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None dare call it drizzle

The rainiest year on record in Oklahoma City was 1908, when the city recorded 52.03 inches of rain. (Average is around 35.)

The operative word here is “was.” A pretty hefty patch of stormage blew through here last night, dropping three-quarters of an inch at Wiley Post Airport in ten minutes. The official figure at Will Rogers for the night was 1.40, which brings the 2007 rain total to 53.34 inches.

Most surprising, I suppose, is the fact that the rain held off until after the Centennial Parade.

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“Well done” is hard work

Tam proposes a little something called “Adventure Dining”:

You enter the steakhouse and pay $2,000 and sign the waiver form. You’re then directed to the changing rooms where you strip from street clothes into a loincloth (provided gratis, of course; this is a classy establishment). The hostess then gives you a lasso and a Ka-Bar, and your steak is turned loose to charge freely up and down the aisles. You lasso it, bring it down, slit its throat, carve dinner free from the part that interests you, howl to the moon in bloody triumph to the cheers of your fellow diners (or at least the ones that weren’t trampled by your free range prime rib) and then eat. Or take your meal to the grill, if you’re some kind of wimp.

People would line up for the chance of getting trampled or gored trying to lasso dinner! Of course, we’d probably need to build the place in some godforsaken country that ends in “-stan” and has sketchy liability laws with plenty of loopholes, but still! This would be the must eat dining experience of the decade! It makes poisonous Japanese blowfish look like Cream O’ Wheat by comparison!

Suddenly I feel terrible, or at least wussy, about having made a pot of spaghetti last night.

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Future traveling music

Gwendolyn’s sound system comes from Bose: it’s got seven speakers, including a subwoofer hanging off the rear deck, 200 watts measured by some system or other, and a custom-fitted trapezoidal head unit that plays CDs, tapes, and AM/FM radio. It works just fine — I’ve had one CD get stuck in the slot, but I was able to get it out without implements, and the subwoofer mounting probably needs to be tightened up a tick — but if it ever breaks, it’s going to cost me on the far side of $200 to get it fixed, in which case I may look at something like this new double-DIN box from Clarion:

Aside from the CD drive, it also offers up a front-mounted USB port for loading up MP3 / WMA files, customizable accent lights, optional Bluetooth, AM / FM tuner, a 50-watt x 4 amplifier and a cutesy display to boot. Check ’em out later this month for ¥34,650 ($295) apiece.

The nature of Bose systems means I’ll presumably have to spring for new speakers as well, but better to do this all at once. And Clarion, at least, might have some ideas as to how to mount this in the Infiniti custom slot: they built the original OEM unit under license from Bose.

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More like this, please

From around this time last year:

Were you to make a list of Things That Just Don’t Happen, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if you included “insurance premium decreased,” though in my three years at the palatial Surlywood estate, this actually did happen once.

Make that twice.

I decided at the time to use the $100 difference to boost coverages on the house, rather than to reduce the outflow from the escrow account, putting last year’s policy at roughly the same price I’d paid the year before.

Now comes this year’s policy, which is about $25 less. Inasmuch as there are only two states where homeowner’s insurance costs more than it does here, I consider myself fortunate indeed. Then again, I am generally disinclined to do things like, oh, get stinking drunk and burn the place to the ground, which no doubt helps keep the premium in check.

If this pattern holds, someday I might actually be able to afford to live here. And I expect it to hold for about two more weeks, when the property-tax bills come out.

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Death in these United States

Reader’s Digest comes up with an odd statistic:

Antioxidants such as vitamins A, beta carotene (another form of vitamin A), E and C have long enjoyed a reputation as disease fighters because they’re thought to protect against free radicals that can damage cells and speed up aging. But in 47 randomized trials involving almost 181,000 adults, researchers found that taking vitamins A, beta carotene and E, alone or in combination, actually increased a person’s risk of dying by up to 16 percent.

Emphasis added. First thought: “As though it weren’t high enough already.” Brian J. Noggle notes:

Personally, I find my odds daunting, but at least they’re not 116% chance of dying.

Oh, that coward who dies a thousand deaths? Awash in supplements, I bet.

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Also see Tulsa’s Hanson Dam

The Lost Ogle is still doling out ideas, ten a week, for the Oklahoma 100 Ideas Initiative, and number 61 might actually have some traction:

Rename the portion of South Robinson between SW 15th and SW 44th as “Hinder Drive.”

This would satisfy the throngs of Hinder fans that are upset that the Flaming Lips have an alley in Bricktown and Hinder doesn’t. And since this section of South Robinson is notoriously known as the OKC red light district, there couldn’t be a more perfect road to honorably don the Hinder name.

I don’t know what’s scarier: the fact that I used to have a job along this stretch of Robinson (no, you twerp, a desk job), or the idea that Hinder has enough fans to make up a throng.

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Trick or debit?

A survey by VISA says the average consumer will spend $40 on Halloween this year.

I’d like to think that somewhere out there, somebody is compensating for my chintziness.

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