Archive for February 2008

From Bimmer to bummer

Earlier this week I mentioned that very few people I knew were buying BMWs, which I attributed at least partly to the fact that they’re not exactly rolling in dough.

Apparently some person I don’t know found that condition intolerable:

Anthony Lofink now faces up to 20 years in prison on each of three felony charges: wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He also faces a fine of up to $2.4 million when [Chief District Judge Gregory] Sleet sentences him on May 8.

In court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas McCann said that between May 2005 and October 2007, Lofink used the money to lease a BMW 330i, purchase a Porsche Cayman and get $3,800 worth of cosmetic surgery.

Oh, those irresistible BMW leases. They’ll get you every time.

Of course, my immediate thought is something like this: “If I had a 3-series BMW and a Porsche Cayman, why would I need plastic surgery?”

(With thanks to Fritz Schranck.)

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But not too much protection

The Indiana State Senate is considering a bill to require notification of citizens who may be at risk due to data-security breaches, and rather a lot of industry hotshots just hate that:

The bill would require that the state attorney general act as a single point of contact for data breaches. Any company that suffered a breach impacting one or more Indiana consumers would be required to notify the AG’s office. The bill would also make Indiana the only state in the country to require the attorney general to post a copy of each report to its Web site — so that consumers, members of the press, and academics would have a single place to go to in order to find out about data breaches.

Some of the arguments made against the bill were ludicrous in the extreme:

A lobbyist for Microsoft argued that phishing emails would be sent out to consumers, including a link to a real breach report on the AG’s site, and then include a link to a fake website where consumers wishing to protect themselves from fraud would be tricked into inputting their personal information.

And this would differ from every other phishing attempt on the face of the earth — how, exactly?

New Hampshire is already posting breach information, and no one’s using it for phishing.

Meanwhile, existing Indiana law is plainly inadequate, except where it’s plainly stupid:

The law, as currently written, exempts companies from having to notify consumers if a laptop containing customer data is stolen, as long as the laptop has a login password. This is extremely problematic, as a login password does nothing to protect the data if the hard disk is taken out of the computer.

You gotta wonder if Microsoft pushed for that provision, way back when.

The Indiana House, incidentally, has already passed this measure, 94-0.

(Via Hawthorn Mineart.)

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Missing the point

Alex Patel, owner of the Quality Inn on East Reno near MLK, would like to build a small (95-room) Holiday Inn Express on the northeast corner of Main and Oklahoma, on the old Steffen’s Ice Cream site in Bricktown.

I have to admire Patel’s pitch:

“There is in place now the new Hampton Inn [opening later this year], the Renaissance, the Colcord, the Skirvin … but we’re trying to appeal to the group that can’t afford $200 a night. We’re looking at $80 to $100.”

There’s only one drawback that I can see:

The facade, designed by Quinn & Associates, includes brick and synthetic stucco.

Hello? This is Bricktown, folks. You don’t sneak synthetic stucco into the mix. You want plasticky siding, you put it out on Memorial Road, where they don’t notice that sort of thing.

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The view from Lansdowne Street

I wasn’t much of a scenester during my brief sojourn near Boston — Uncle Sam, who owned my services at the time, saw to that — and I remember this part of town mostly because it was on the edge of Fenway Park, making for a different dynamic entirely; but somehow this rings a bell:

I walked down Lansdowne Street the other day, and saw the chain link fence that surrounded what used to be Axis and Avalon. The crews haven’t begun tearing the place apart, but you can tell it will only be a few days now….

My memories took me back to the late nineties, when my sister and I would dress up in our nicest cocktail dresses in our dorm room and board the T to head to Kenmore.

As I stood there in the rain I remembered my first concert at Avalon, Catherine Wheel, and I remembered seeing Our Lady Peace there. Though my memories are hazy, I think I also saw Placebo, Stabbing Westward, and Econoline Crush there at some point as well. One night, when they were sold out, I sat outside the door listening to Type O Negative. So many memories, being torn down to make way for another cookie cutter venue.

By which she means a House of Blues, which is nice enough, I suppose, but which is too common to be really special.

Sappy as it sounds, I started to cry as I realized that in truth, whether the buildings remained or not, those carefree days with childlike reckless abandon and irresponsibility are over. The buildings and clubs were just symbols of that time. They will be replaced with architecture that will become symbols for other people, and represent their youth. With any luck, they won’t be torn down in their lifetime, or at least not until they move away. But for me, every time I walk through Central Square or Kenmore, or Lansdowne, I see a gaping hole where my past used to be.

Perhaps there’s something in us older folks that kicks in to protect our memories. I remember lots of walking down Newbury Street. Last time I was in Boston, it occurs to me, I didn’t get near the Back Bay.

Disclosure: I bought my first Catherine Wheel recording in 2007. I am nothing if not anachronistic.

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Quote of the week

This dispatch from TJICistan is billed “wherein TJIC doesn’t understand the Progressive point of view (again)”:

Apparently kids with Down’s syndrome are better off with their brains sucked out and their skulls crushed than going to school and playing soccer in special leagues.

Soccer, wrestling with the family dog, and pizza dinner and movies with mom, dad, and siblings every Friday night is, I suppose “suffering”, and can be avoided through just a little bit of scalpel-vacuum-and-forceps work.

Similarly here:

In related news, the saying “You’re nobody until somebody loves you” looks less sappy and more horrifying.

Somehow I don’t think this is what Russ Morgan had in mind. But then, who am I?

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Traveler’s remorse

Megan Wallent calls the front desk:

“Hi, this is Janelle, can I help you?”

“Hi Janelle, this your favorite guest from room 723. I really hate to complain so much, but, um, I was just walking down the hall and noticed that all of the smoke and heat detectors in the hall are covered up by what appears to be shower caps and tape. I’m pretty sure this isn’t ok.”

“Uh huh.”

“Did you happen to see the news last week, where the Monte Carlo hotel in Vegas caught on fire during renovation, and they had to evacuate it?”

“No, I didn’t see that.”

“Janelle, I really don’t want to be served crispy.”

The matter was addressed quickly enough, but there’s just a hint of “What were they thinking?” that isn’t going away any time soon.

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Wind up your radios!

That’s the way Dr. Demento always started his radio program back in the day, and those of us among the dementians and/or dementites might giggle a bit because — well, a wind-up radio? Who ever heard of such a thing?

Then about fifteen years ago, Trevor Baylis built a radio that winds up: by 1997 there was a commercial product that would play for an hour after thirty seconds’ worth of winding. A lot simpler than hunting around for batteries, especially if the lights are out.

Cool enough, but not a patch on this:

Not content with simply being a piece of technological genius, the Eco Media Player is the very definition of convergence, playing as it does music, video and fm radio, as well as functioning as a torch, sound recorder, photo viewer, mobile phone charger, ebook viewer and data storage device. Oh, and if you want to, you can even record your old vinyl LPs onto it to truly bring your music collection into the digital age!

And yes, it winds up: it’s got a fairly standard lithium-ion battery which can be charged through a USB port, but turn it over and sure enough, there’s the hand crank. Player capacity is 2 GB, which can be supplemented with an SD card. It might even charge your cell phone for you.

(Via Popgadget.)

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With a single purpose

Advice to garage-sale types with old recordings, by Brian J. Noggle:

Jeez, you record and cassette sellers, you need to know your price point here. Individual songs are a buck on the Internet. If someone wants to buy your old record or cassette, that person probably wants one song for sure and perhaps the rest as “maybe I’ll like it, too.” So you need to beat that dollar price point. You cannot hope that the stuff you liked back in the day along with millions of other teenagers in your generation will somehow prove to be a “collector’s item.” Keep it under a buck, or you’ll keep it, period.

And one other thing: if something really is a collector’s item, the collector is not likely to tell you so. If you have a mint LP of, say, Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, you’re probably better off trying to move it on eBay.

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Rolling up the numbers

It’s taken ten months, apparently, but a thousand folks have dropped by Middledawn so far.

Inasmuch as we’re not dealing with the sort of person who will run up her own meter — I think she’s toggled off her own IP from the count — I propose that we run it up for her. It might even prod her into writing some more.

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“Playing what we want,” indeed

If that particular bit of radio-format imaging struck you as just a hair authoritarian, you’re ready for this: Jack FM in Russian.

Why, yes, they do stream. Here’s what Sean Ross heard:

Only about four songs an hour are in English and there are definitely some ’80s-sounding Russian music, but there’s also a lot of traditional sounding balladry and a lot of more generic pop/rock that is hard to place in any particular decade. The English language songs I heard in my first half hour were Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and Bryan Ferry’s “Slave To Love.”

The first track I recognized was Blondie’s “Call Me”, followed not too closely by Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer.” Very Jack-ish.

If you’re actually in Russia, you can hear the station on 89.9 in Moscow and on 91.1 in St. Petersburg.

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Parcels posted

An operation called Seneca Technologies wanted to put tax-assessment maps of West Virginia on the Web, interfaced through Seneca’s own search schemes. They duly wrote to the state, citing the Freedom of Information Act, and were informed that if they wanted these maps, they would have to pay the same rate as anyone else: $8 per map. There were over twenty thousand maps.

Seneca filed a suit under FOIA, and won: the state, the judge ruled, could not collect the fee for a paper copy if the files requested were in digital format. Charleston duly copied all the TIF files to CDs and dispatched them to Seneca. Copying fee: twenty dollars.

Upon receipt, Seneca put the maps online and began designing the interface, whereupon Kanawha County Assessor Phyllis Gatson filed a suit asking that Seneca be forced to take down the maps.

The Public Citizen organization filed an amicus brief opposing the suit. [Link to PDF file]. The opposition is simply stated:

In this action, a government official seeks a prior restraint to enjoin defendant from exercising free speech on its web site by providing to the public truthful information obtained from public tax records, on the supposed ground that dissemination of such information violates a state regulation. However, the regulation does not support the requested injunction; if it did apply, it would be preempted by federal copyright law; and, if the Court reaches the First Amendment issue, the requested injunction would violate the First Amendment. Accordingly, the request for a
preliminary injunction should be denied.

Gatson subsequently withdrew her request for a preliminary injunction against Seneca, but the suit remains active.

It could be that Gatson is simply trying to protect a source of income for the county, and it’s not like she’s about to be turned out of office or anything, but something about this doesn’t quite pass the smell test. After reading the amicus brief, Steve F. wonders if maybe it’s more than fees at issue here:

Do the politically connected have lower assessments? I’m sure the Kanawha County pooh-bahs, like all others, would like to keep this away from public scrutiny.

Which is a lot easier to do if a member of said public has to pay eight bucks for each and every map.

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Going to pieces over nothing

Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, there appears to be no impending epidemic of leprosy in northwest Arkansas; there are apparently nine known cases in Springdale, among transplanted Marshall Islanders, but these folks have evidently been under observation for some time.

The head of the Springdale Chamber of Commerce tries to be reassuring:

You may be aware of a media report that is suggesting there has been an outbreak of leprosy in Springdale. This is not true. The Chamber has been in touch this morning with Gov. Mike Beebe, Congressman John Boozman, the Center for Disease Control and the Washington County Health Department. Each of these entities are fully engaged and are reporting to us that there is no “outbreak” of leprosy in Springdale or Northwest Arkansas.

Just the same, it would not be wise to let one’s guard down, and damage control is going to cost, you should pardon the expression, an arm and a leg.

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Strange search-engine queries (106)

This weekly feature sifts through the last seven days of referrer logs — pretty spiffy for a mere feature to be able to do that, eh? — and pulls out a dozen or so search strings, ranked by snark potential. Or something like that. It’s getting harder to tell how this works.

Foot operated handbrake on Mercury Grand Marquis:  If it’s operated by the foot, it’s hardly a handbrake, is it?

schmuck von dollheads:  Originally named Peter, but he proved to be something of a putz.

“glass pains”:  For example, having to replace a windshield.

st.theresa sends any flowers:  There’s no record of her texting anyone.

is flatulence covered under the americans with disabilities act:  Not unless you have to do it on a ramp.

nudist beach marriage proposal:  Careful when you get down on your knees. That sand gets itchy.

Can doo gro cause hair to shed badly:  You want it should shed well?

Do Hydrocarbons burn?  I burned about six gallons in my car last week.

see fantasy nerd girls and a Britney Spears portrait made from chewed-up pastries:  When your fantasies become too specific, it’s probably time to move out of your mom’s basement.

cut and crown miter saw system green sucky things:  Or your dad’s workshop.

nudists vote republican:  Some of them do, though they’ll probably get dressed for the primaries in January and February.

what to do when your marriage falls apart because of sports:  Sell the second season ticket so it won’t go in the divorce settlement.

Is Dr. Phil McGraw’s Penis Uncut?  I couldn’t say, but I can assure you that his testicles are in Oprah’s pocket.

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No, it gets all cranky

Cadillac wants to know: “When you turn your car on, does it return the favor?” Seriously. This is an actual ad.

Does anybody — anybody outside an advertising agency, anyway — refer to the process of starting a car as “turning it on”? “Go ahead and finish getting ready. I’ll go out and turn the car on.” I don’t think even Prius owners talk like that.

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Not quite a slam dunk just yet

The Chamber of Commerce and the office of the Mayor are pushing hard for that penny sales tax to finance Ford Center upgrades with the arrival of the NBA in mind, and they’ve put out a flyer to boast of how much of an economic impact the Hornets had [link to PDF file] during their two-year tenure here.

This paragraph has drawn fire:

That level of attendance generated an estimated $33,243,908 in direct spending [one year]. The assumptions being that 20% of the attendees are from out of town and would spend $200 while the remaining 80% of the attendees are local and would spend $35 per event. Non-resident attendees would account for $528,520 per game and resident attendees would account for $369,964 per game for a total of $898,484 in direct spending for each game.

Opponents counter:

20% of the attendees … came from outside of OKC?
They spent $200 each when the average ticket price was under $30
These numbers appear to be grossly exaggerated.

I suspect the twenty-percent bit might be a tad high, but $200 seems plausible: you try booking a hotel room within a mile of the Ford Center on game night for under $100. And if I had had to drive all the way here from Somewhere Else, I wouldn’t have bought the ten-buck billets up in the stratospheric heights of Loud City. Economic projections tend to have all manner of fudge factors applied, though, so I’m not taking the Chamber’s numbers as gospel.

Were the opponents actually paying attention, they’d go after Sonics management’s argument that moving the team would have no economic impact on Seattle. After all, nobody ever drove all the way to Seattle from Somewhere Else and ran up $200 in expenses, right?

Just the same, whatever extra I wind up spending in sales tax — I expect the measure to pass, and I plan to vote for it — will pale in comparison to the cost of my eventual season ticket.

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The candidate as rock star

Doesn’t really apply to Barack Obama, says Stan Geiger:

Last night, 60 Minutes profiled Obama. A point was made to mention that 650,000 donors have written checks to his campaign. The point was intended to paint Obama as the most popular American icon since Farrah’s poster.

So 650,000 of 300 million — two-tenths of one percent of the population — have written Obama a check. My, my, that’s quite the show of widespread love. I’ll bet more people than that have sent checks to Oral freakin’ Roberts.

Yeah, but did Oral freakin’ Roberts ever win a Grammy Award? Barack has two.

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Hey, you missed one

Oklahoma apparently is not going to tax your stimulus-package receipts:

The rebates aren’t being treated as income at the federal level, which means they will not be considered income at the state level either, Paula Ross, spokeswoman for the Tax Commission, said.

So there.

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Score one for the girl next door

Few things in life are quite as gratifying as discovering that most people will happily ignore the very existence of a Paris Hilton film.

Meanwhile, as America’s Least Appealing Sex Symbol bombs out on the silver screen, we have a field report from the Land of the Normal:

Women who should worry about losing their looks are women who haven’t bothered to develop an appealing personality. They haven’t invested any effort in educating themselves and having something to say. They have no sense of humor and they’re superficial. Often, they haven’t managed to find a way to earn enough money to take care of themselves.

You can only get away with that when you’re young and beautiful. Some men will put up with a vacuum between the ears if you offer what they consider an acceptable alternative — being hot. Once you stop being hot, you’re screwed, because you’ve got nothing to counterbalance your shitty personality.

As much as I hate the stereotypes about what “all women” want, I equally hate the stereotypes about what “all men” want. The idea that every man is more interested in looks than anything else is BULLSHIT. It’s simply not true. I’m a perfectly average-looking female and I’ve had four serious relationships, all with high-quality, good-looking men, and every one of them liked me more than they liked better-looking women who were interested in them because I’m smart and because I’m not crazy. My lack of big boobs and perfect face haven’t hindered my man-catching adventures in the least, because smart men want women they can stand to be around outside of the bedroom.

There’s a lot to be said for both “smart” and “not crazy.”

And there’s this:

I’m not that smart or that interesting, trust me, but the point is that there are tons and tons of men out there just dying to find women who stand out from the masses of insipid drama queens with princess complexes who HAVE NOTHING TO SAY.

Not to mention the occasional lunatics and child murderesses. I consider myself fortunate that despite the extremely tenuous, even haphazard, anchoring of my heart, a serious disadvantage in the fine art of self-preservation, I’ve managed to avoid this genre of not-entirely-stereotypical female more or less entirely.

This is normally the part of the screed where I note wearily that, as usual, I’m copying down all these ideas from someone who is of course utterly unavailable. With the feast famine of Saint Valentine at hand, I think I’ll skip it.

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Sympathy for the announcers

Oklahoman sportswriter Berry Tramel, noting that the Dallas Cowboys remain the Dallas Cowboys despite not having played in Dallas in some time, worries about the branding of Oklahoma City’s eventual NBA squad:

Oklahoma City voters will have funded two arena projects — construction of the Ford Center and its renovation — yet have an elongated city name that afflicts places like Indianapolis and Minneapolis, who combined have placed their name on exactly one major-league franchise out of seven possibilities: the Indianapolis Colts. Oklahoma City would be the only six-syllable name in major league sports.

And yet no one, except perhaps the occasional Baltimore diehard, complains about the Indianapolis Colts, who work out of a seven-syllable city. For that matter, Tramel didn’t exactly fret over the nomenclature hung on the previous Ford Center tenants: the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. Eight, maybe nine syllables.

Still, he gets it right on the Big Question:

So would it be the Oklahoma City Sonics or the Oklahoma Sonics?

I vote for Oklahoma City. OKC voters and leaders will have made the NBA possible. Their name deserves top billing. And just to be sure, get it in writing.

Besides, “OKC” looks pretty good on those seemingly-endless sports tickers.

[Insert usual “The Sonics aren’t here yet, don’t be jumping the gun” caveat here.]

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Or even R50. With the demise of the Q, Infiniti doesn’t really have a flagship anymore, although the M35/M45 by all accounts is a better ride than the last Q45 was, but I find it hard to believe that Nissan is giving serious consideration to working up a GT-R variant to sell through Infiniti.

Still, Nissan design chief Shiro Nakamura told Britain’s Car magazine (January):

“We have developed the platform and the transaxle powertrain — an Infiniti version is a future possibility… I have not done a study yet, but we are thinking about it.”

The most logical reason for this, of course, is to improve the take: Nissan knows perfectly well that the GT-R will be priced in Upper Gougeland no matter what they tell their dealers, and at least they can ask a few grand more up front from an Infiniti store.

So: R38. Or a V8-powered R50 or R55. (Nissan is believed to be working up a 5-liter, maybe 5.5-liter, V8 for the FX, to move it a bit farther up from the new EX.) The price? Start around $80k and keep going. For this kind of money, I could — and would, if circumstances permitted — go for his-and-hers G37s, and buy lots of gas with what’s left.

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Rancid transit

The wheels on the bus go round and round, but some folks just refuse to be mesmerized by the sight:

The signs on the sides of Madison Metro buses show people enjoying expensive warm-weather vacations, asking “What would you do with the $7k a year you could save by taking Madison Metro?” Even after therapy, I’d take that $7000 and make lease payments on a nice, roomy SUV so I won’t have to park my backside in a too-narrow transit seat and travel to work in bodily contact with a stranger.

This, incidentally, is why people are clamoring for rail: for some reason it’s believed to have a lower creeps and weirdos factor.

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Another Choo drops

Lumiere by Jimmy ChooThis is Lumiere by Jimmy Choo, a sandal more conservative than fanciful. (And JC does fanciful pretty well: to see what I mean, take a look at “Lance,” worn in a Shoebunny feature by Kylie Minogue.) It’s a metric shoe, 100 mm high: for you unreconstructed fans of English measurements, that’s 3.9 inches or so. The cut is described as “sharp and modern,” which seems fair enough, though that squared-off buckle strikes me as being something of a period piece. As with any Choos, these will cost you dearly: $585, either in this shade or in fuchsia. Inevitably, I find myself wondering what the Lumière brothers would have thought of this shoe. It certainly lets in a fair amount of light.

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O frabjous morning commute!

Starting Monday, the Shields Blvd. bridge between downtown and Capitol Hill will be closed for about a year as work continues, kinda sorta, on the New Crosstown Expressway.

What makes this fun, of course, is that the next bridge over, at Robinson, is also closed for the next couple of weeks.

Not that I’m in any position to sneer: the nearest bridge to me is Belle Isle, and we know how wonderful it is, especially in the winter.

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I have no idea how that got there

It says here that in Pennsylvania, anyway, if you take your computer back to the store for repairs, you have no “reasonable expectation of privacy,” which means that if they find you’ve got scads and scads of smut — well, let’s not go there. You’re just going to have to do a better job of concealing the evidence — or keep it on a removable drive, fercryingoutloud.

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Doing the Full Lutz

To be able to do the Full Lutz, a patented maneuver by General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, you have to be able to shrug off what was widely reported as the largest single-quarter loss in automotive history.

Which, as Lutz says, was “a special charge in the third quarter” of 2007, and which was anticipated all the way back in November:

U.S. tax law allows a corporation that suffers net losses to carry forward the total loss balance into future years in order to use the negative numbers as offsets against future profits. The result is that future taxes are lower because the corporation is taxed only on the profits minus the forwarded loss. Meanwhile, the total losses that are carried forward are treated as assets on the balance sheet. That is where GM gets its total of $38.6 billion; it is the automaker’s cumulative loss total.

The [Financial Accounting Standards Board] has decided to toughen the criteria for asset valuations on the balance sheet of corporations. Adjustments are required for assets that don’t meet the tougher test by first quarter of 2008. This is a one time adjustment and it could be reduced in the future if it looks like GM will be more profitable.

Inasmuch as this explanation came from a former FASB chairman, I’m inclined to give it credence.

Meanwhile, Bob Lutz wants you to know that the General’s actual retail sales — none of that fleet stuff — rose a healthy 11 percent in January:

We used to grab every sale, including daily rentals, no matter how unprofitable or ultimately deteriorating to the value of vehicle and brand. And if we wanted to go back to that, we could probably boost our share back up to 27 percent or so tomorrow.

But we’re in this for the long haul now … to reestablish our brands, to boost our residuals, and to improve the value and image of our vehicles. That’s why the retail sales numbers are so important, and that’s why I’d like to get the word out there about them. Somebody has to.

Especially when all the chatter is about an accounting entry that sounds worse than it really is.

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A little DAB’ll do ya

Suddenly I don’t feel so bad about not spending any money on HD Radio. Look what’s (not) happening in Britain:

The whispers of discontent began after Richard Wheatley, ceo of The Local Radio Company compared the DAB platform to Betamax the video format that lost out to VHS in the 80’s.

This seems a curious analogy as it’s not like there’s a rival digital service or that DAB is especially superior in audio when compared to existing FM services quality (despite the hype, it’s often not). Mr Wheatley is correct when he mixes metaphors and says that despite a rapid original adoption rate for DAB radio purchases and falling prices of DAB sets the platform has failed to build a greater adoption and has no ‘killer application’ by which he means no ‘must listen’ digital only radio station that would help drive current non DAB radio owners to rush out and buy a DAB set.

There’s certainly nothing compelling on HD. (Aside: This is another case where we’re using a “standard” that isn’t really standard anywhere else; HD Radio has been adopted only in the US and Brazil.)

But there are other reasons to avoid buying a DAB set:

So restrictive was the technology that the DAB platform has already decided to slowly scrap the broadcast format currently employed and migrate to a new DAB+ format which would allow a higher quality broadcast signal to fit in a much smaller slice of the bandwidth pie. This would use the AAC+ audio format which I often use to post audio files on this blog for dial-up of bandwidth restricted users. This would mean that existing DAB radio owners would need to purchase new sets or own a rare upgradeable set already.

I guess the good thing is that so few people have bought DAB sets that the idea of changing the whole platform hasn’t caused wailing and gnashing of teeth and threats of litigation.

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Tax holidays in the sun

That business about your Federal tax rebate being not taxable by the state? You might want to adjust your perspective a tad. Stan Geiger explains:

[T]here is this thing called a sales tax. So if Oklahomans do that which they are asked to do with their checks (spend them), the state damn sure will tax the rebates. The state will tax them at a rate of 4.5 percent.

If a person spends his or her rebate money in Tulsa, the state will tax it, the county will tax it, and the city will tax it. In such a scenario, a federal rebate would be taxed at a rate of 8.517 percent. And that rate far exceeds even the top marginal state income tax rate.

Now I feel better about using mine for debt reduction.

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People who need Peep

And you need Peep whole, because you certainly won’t be eating the little sugary critters if you want to enter one of these competitions:

  • St. Paul Pioneer Press: “[W]inners of our fifth annual Peeps Diorama Contest won’t just get Pioneer Press swag, they’ll also get Just Born booty, like membership to the Peeps Fan Club, an official Peeps T-shirt and candy.”
  • Washington Post: “We want you to make a diorama of a famous occurrence or scene. It can be a historical, current or future event, or it can be a nod to pop culture. The main rule is that all the characters must be played by Peeps, those marshmallowy chicks and rabbits that start plaguing checkout lines in every grocery and convenience store this time of year.”
  • Chicago Tribune: “The idea is to build a diorama with Peeps as the leading characters. (We’re not being original here; we stole the idea from the Washington Post, which did it last year after stealing the idea from the St. Paul Pioneer Press.)”

Nothing like acknowledging a source, I always say.

Now for the real question: will there be an official Belhoste entry?

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Andrew Ian Dodge is clearly not suffering from Obamaitis, but he’s decided to hang the name on this week’s Carnival of the Vanities, the 270th edition, just the same.

Speaking of Obama, should he win his party’s nomination, he’ll need 270 electoral votes to become President.

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The radio station from hell

This is the derisive term I use for my iTunes installation at work, which includes about 2500 tracks at the moment. Usually when you walk in, it will be playing something you don’t like, hence the description. While inevitably the playlist reflects my highly-dubious sense of aesthetics, it certainly qualifies as eclectic: you will find therein, for instance, two actual 1910 Fruitgum Company tracks, and the entirety of Kind of Blue. I won’t, however, argue that this somehow represents “the full spectrum of music,” unlike a certain Kansas City radio station:

Even the most casual music fan can’t fail to notice that the full spectrum of music — even if we limit ourselves to the rock and roll era; hell, even if we limit ourselves to the post-Beatles/Dylan rock era — would necessarily include not only music from the 70s, 80s, 90s and now but from at least the 60s and probably the 50s, as well.

I don’t have a lot of Nineties stuff, but I’m working on it. Of course, you might not really want a “full-spectrum” station:

I’m not sure even I would really want a station to play the FULL spectrum of music, mixing in Mozart, Gregorian chants, and the Barney soundtrack along with the obvious rock staples. Maybe nobody does, really. The type of music we listen to, and the type we make it a point to let others know that we don’t listen to, is one of the ways we express our identities to the world, a way we signal to others that we are this kind of person and not (horrors!) that kind. What we usually downplay as merely personal aesthetics always come with loads of political implications. We had to learn to like what we like, after all, and these self-segregating lessons naturally mirror a society already segregated by race and class.

I’m wondering where this leaves me, since those 2500 tracks contain, for instance, lots of R&B and not a whole lot of classical. Not that I have any business pretending to have either erudition or street cred. (Nor, for that matter, do I really want to segue Britten’s Simple Symphony into Funkadelic’s “Cosmic Slop.”)

Still, I wonder what sort of radio show, or podcast, I could whip up out of that odd collection of ingredients, and whether more than one person could stand to listen to it for more than a couple of selections.

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Geeky, but not in a good way

Girl Gamer magazine

Nintendo was founded in 1889, which may or may not have something to do with this British magazine of theirs, which apparently is stuck somewhere in 1959. “Learn to cook on your DS”? Well, okay, I suppose you could — you can learn just about anything not involving personal relationships with a DS — but I suspect recipe-shuffling is a low priority for any female willing to call herself a Girl Gamer. And while you can certainly order a DS Lite (smaller than the average DS) in Coral Pink, I find it hard to believe that anyone actually would. (Despite my serious lack of belief, Trini informs me that someone she knows actually has such a thing.) Bonus minus (!) points for the “Wii Will Rock You” shtick. Says the guy at VG Cats: “That’s what you girls do, right? I heard they’re voting now … scandalous.” Indeed.

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Divisible by two

If you count the petals on a daisy, there’s a good chance you’ll come up with a Fibonacci number.

Me, I just get even numbers.

(Oh, there’s still time — barely — to assemble a Valentine’s Day Mix.)

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Bubble, bubble: what’s the trouble?

Remember all those foreclosure stories on the news? They’re always somewhere else, it seems. RealtyTrac, which monitors foreclosures nationwide, reports that the national foreclosure rate for 2007 was up 80 percent from 2006. Meanwhile:

Oklahoma City’s foreclosure rate dropped 15.4 percent in 2007 even with increased filings statewide late in the year, RealtyTrac reported this week.

Tulsa’s rate — the percentage of households in foreclosure — fell 3.6 percent last year compared with 2006.

Obviously we’re doing something right around here. Mortgage banker Lyne Tracy explains:

She said subprime loans were made here, but not enough for problems with them to set back housing as a whole, as seems to have happened in some places.

Questionable and risky borrowing and lending didn’t dominate in Oklahoma, Tracy said, because of lessons learned the hard way in the 1980s, when dicey lending and weak underwriting led to twin crashes, in energy and real estate.

Ah, the Beep Jennings era. Apparently we are capable of learning from our mistakes.

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The end of the world as we know it

Well, not really. On the other hand, my budget might take a beating: yes, folks, it’s another Woot-Off.

The best I can hope for is that I’ve already bought all this crap once before and don’t have to do it again.

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Fark blurb of the week

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Evil as a career option

While evil always attracts enthusiastic amateurs, to do it right, so to speak, you really need the grounding of a proper education, to the postgraduate level if necessary. Worthy advice:

Rule 1: Have a passion for evil
So many pursue evil science for the superficial reasons: power, wealth, and infamy. But while those rewards are ignoble, to be a successful evil scientist, you have to follow your heart and find true heartlessness. Most evil graduate programs are in lonely, isolated places — old castles, uncharted islands, under water. Those near populated areas tend to attract the scorn of the local citizens and the attention of authorities. Even the most evil of graduate students can’t help but feel a little bit alone and alienated. A true passion for evil will carry you through those rough spots until you can turn the tables on all those bastards who said you were mad.

And make sure that they haven’t changed the definitions on you:

Rule 6: Always reevaluate your work for its evilness
This may seem simple, but what is considered evil can change over time. A horrifying Brave New World can become an enticing brave new biotech investment option on the Nasdaq. Make sure what you’re doing inspires horror, not IPOs.

So much for Dr. Moreau’s® Cosmetic Surgery Shacks.

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The no-slot jukebox

First, you need to know both title and artist: then feed this information into Songerize, and maybe you’ll get to hear the song. I say “maybe” because there is a nonzero possibility that the site won’t be able to pull it up for you. On my first tries, I got two out of three: Cat Stevens’ “Wild World” and Little Peggy March’s “I Will Follow Him” came up, while Petula Clark’s “Chariot,” which is the French song from which “I Will Follow Him” was adapted, failed to appear.

How it works:

Songerize is a simplified interface for the music search engine. Think of us as SeeqPod’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” button.

To see what this was about, I went to SeeqPod, ascertained that there were results for “Hole in the Earth” by the Deftones, and came back to Songerize to listen. Weirdly, I got the right song at the wrong speed: imagine an LP played at 45 rpm. I’m wondering if maybe this might have been some sort of ruse to throw off the RIAA’s robot minions; I pulled the file out of cache, renamed it, and sent it to Winamp, where it played correctly.

I have a feeling I’m going to be playing with this gizmo entirely too often.

(Suggested by David.)

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Quote of the week

Tony Woodlief reveals the hidden contents of the Kansas Driver’s Manual:

Just as the humble Disciples harvested grain on the Sabbath, there will be times that you need to avail yourself of the right lane. You will need to exit the highway. But there may be other eager travelers, just like you, wishing to gain access to the highway. People in less civilized communities might consider this a moment of friction, when a car attempting to enter the highway finds another car zipping along in the right lane, square in its path. They might demand that the entering car “yield” to the oncoming traffic.

Not in the fair state of Kansas, friend. What right, after all, does the car in the right lane have to continue at such a great rate of speed, when his poor neighbor needs to avail himself of the road as well? The wide, level plains of Kansas reflect our great democracy of citizens, in that none should be considered greater than another. Therefore, good Christian temporarily in the right lane, it is incumbent upon you to slow down, that your poorer neighbor on the entrance ramp might partake of our glorious highway, and as rapidly as possible bring himself to the speed, no greater or less, of his neighbors.

I must also include this comment by Patrice, for contrast of course:

I’m from Oklahoma City and our driving style is similar with one major exception. We don’t brake for those entering the highway. The idea of the smooth highway merge is apparently missing from the collective driving consciousness here. Most drivers come to a complete stop at the end of the entrance ramp, especially during rush hour, apparently hoping (usually in vain) for a space large enough to accelerate from said dead stop into traffic flowing at around 75 mph. Those spaces are few and far between, unless, of course, a Kansan happens along who will break and allow the stopped Oklahoman the time and space to access the highway.

Gwendolyn, bless her little microfinished heart, makes her own spaces.

[Slightly edited after the fact.]

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Vegas? Who needs it?

The NBA All-Star Game, says Sports by Brooks, should be permanently relocated to New Orleans:

New Orleans is the first place the NBA should consider for a permanent home for the game. You can guffaw if you want, but if you think about it for three seconds, it makes perfect sense — even if the Hornets move. The Big Easy needs the business, the NBA needs a nice PR play, and the city has a favorable demographic and facility for the game. Perfect fit.

Besides, consider the alternatives:

We’ve heard a lot of lip service from the NBA and NFL about helping to rebuild what was once a great American city. The NFL has fallen down on the job (if we see that Saints Visa ad one more time, we’re going to spit up), but the NBA has a great opportunity to make a statement and follow through on David Stern’s never-ending rhetorical support of the town.

It’s either that or “Hello, Oklahoma City 2011!” How exhilarating.

Now that’s an argument I hadn’t anticipated.

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A simple matter of control

Steve Lackmeyer reports on a smoldering Bricktown issue:

On Tuesday Oklahoma City officials met with Bricktown merchants and updated them on their desire to build a fire station at the east entrance to the entertainment district. Several Bricktown merchants are worried about the department’s chosen location because they fear it will result in fire engines racing along Sheridan Avenue, endangering pedestrians on busy summer evenings.

The solution is simple: don’t ever have a fire on Sheridan Avenue. Make sure that all fires are on side streets only, and require the fire engines to take the long way round.

This problem solved, City Council is now working with the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman to come up with a way to keep the rain off the Festival of the Arts in April.

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