Archive for December 2009

Where’s a Dutch uncle when you need one?

Because somebody needs to say something about this:

People suffering from an incurable mental disease have the same legal right to euthanasia as physically terminally ill patients in the Netherlands, but they almost never get it.

OMG, we’re not killing enough people! We’re not doing our part!

The Dutch law that legalized euthanasia in 2002 also applies to the mentally ill, but psychiatrists have so far been extremely reluctant to resort to assisted suicide.

Of the 2,331 cases reviewed by the regional euthanasia review committees in 2008 only two involved psychiatric patients. All doctors are obligated to report assisted suicides to the committees, who then investigate if all the legal requirements were met.

It’s those shrinks, dammit. They’re not pulling their own weight:

“Psychiatrists have a holier-than-thou attitude,” Hans van Dam, a nurse and a teacher, said at a symposium organised by the Right to Die-NL foundation in the Dutch town of Ede on Monday [23 November]. The taboo on assisted suicide for mental patients needs to be broken, Van Dam argued. “To put it bluntly: cancer will kill you in a matter of years, but schizophrenia is forever.”

A modest proposal: Expose the schizophrenics to carcinogens.

As Roberta X says:

“Lebensunwertes Leben,” horror to public policy in three generations — Action T4 for the 21st Century!

Death panels, anyone?

(Thanks to Mike Flynn.)

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You’re darn tootin’

Elisson explains the history of a Great American Cookie:

In case you were wondering, Fig Newton® is a trademark of the National Biscuit Company, AKA Nabisco. It is not named for Isaac Newton, who discovered the principle of gravitic attraction that explains why your ass weighs so much more after you eat a whole package of Fig Newtons. Rather, it is named for the city of Newton, Massachusetts, a city whose inhabitants (one could surmise) enjoyed eating those eponymous confections… confections that, when consumed in sufficient quantities, could have a pronounced laxative effect.

In fact, the first Fig Newtons were made in nearby Cambridge (Our Fair City), Massachusetts, by the Kennedy Biscuit Company, circa 1891; Kennedy named all its products after Massachusetts communities, which makes me grateful they don’t sell something called Athol. Kennedy was one of the regional bakers that merged into Nabisco in 1898. (And the original bakery has now been converted to residential lofts.)

I have no doubt, though, that Elisson was correct: Newtonians could, and likely did, enjoy this definitive fig bar. Contrariwise, I doubt many folks staying at the Ritz ever indulged in Ritz crackers.

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Fark blurb of the week

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It seemed like a good idea at the time

Fifty years ago this month, Motor Trend anointed the brand-spanking-new 1960 Chevrolet Corvair as its Car of the Year, and who could blame them? It was a major departure from the longer-lower-wider paradigm that had dominated Detroit for over a decade, and it was packed with all sorts of gee-whiz stuff that appealed to the gearheads in the automotive press. The engine was a rear-mounted, air-cooled flat six — four years before Porsche got around to stuffing such an engine into the first 911 — and the suspension was independent at all four wheels, wishbones up front and swing axles at the back. This latter was the problem: swing axles are prone to substantial camber change, which can provoke oversteer, letting the rear end slide out during a turn, and it didn’t help that the Corvair had 62 percent of its weight over the rear wheels. Mercedes-Benz had addressed this issue by dropping the pivot point below the differential, which is easier to do when you have room for it, which the Corvair didn’t. Worse, to save a few bucks, GM decided not to include a sway bar, although suspension upgrades were made available at option starting in the 1962 model year, and to counteract oversteer, the General prescribed weird tire pressures: 15 psi front, 26 rear. Which was fine if your pump jockey knew this, but every other car he was likely to see took the same tire pressures front and rear, and he might well have taken it upon himself to pump up those flat-looking fronts while you and the kids went off to the rest room.

The rest, as they say, is history: Ralph Nader attacked the car in his 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed; GM tried to harass Nader into silence. It didn’t work, and eventually GM chair John Roche apologized to Nader in front of a Senate subcommittee. Ironically, by 1965 GM had already phased in a brand-new rear-suspension design that didn’t have any of these problems. But by then folks who wanted small Chevrolets were flocking to the ordinary-as-dirt Chevy II, which in Nova trim was way more profitable than the Corvair. Legend has it that GM kept the car going through 1969, despite anemic sales, mostly to spite Nader.

That said, I was always fond of the Corvair, and its price ($2377 in 1960, a shade over $17,000 today, no thanks to inflation) didn’t seem too far out of line. It was not really speedy — with the optional two-speed Powerglide, reported MT, zero to sixty was a stately procession of 21.2 seconds — but this was not really any slower than my six-cylinder ’66 Chevy II with half again the displacement. And if the first Corvairs were sorta cute, the last ones bordered on gorgeous.

After that debacle, GM took everything it had learned about small cars, then promptly forgot it and built the Vega. Eventually the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration more or less exonerated the Corvair, not that it mattered anymore. And Ralph Nader, last I heard, is still around.

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Slowing down the Warriors

Golden State, as a rule, scores lots of points: they have nine guys on the roster who average ten points or more per game, and most nights, they can come up with 110. Not tonight. After jumping out to a nine-point lead a couple times in the first half, they faced a tightened-up Oklahoma City defense. The turning point, though, was in the third quarter, when Corey Maggette drew a foul, expressed displeasure with the call and drew a technical, then expressed displeasure with that and was dispatched to the locker room. OKC dropped in four free throws, two for the foul and two for the T’s, and the Warriors were never the same after that; the Thunder posted a 104-88 win.

Despite Thunder rebound dominance — 57-37 — the Golden State scorers would get most of their numbers. Monta Ellis led all scorers, in fact, with 31, playing all 48 minutes of the game. Rookie guard Stephen Curry scored 22, his career high. However, the Warriors shot a below-par 43.4 percent and weren’t so hot from beyond the arc.

Then again, neither were the Thunder, who shot 42.2 percent. However, the Warriors rolled up 22 personal fouls, over and above Maggette’s outburst, which resulted in 29 points from the charity stripe for the Thunder. After a slow start, Kevin Durant made it up to 28; James Harden dropped in a personal-best 26; Jeff Green had a double-double in the first half and finished with 21 points and 13 boards. And Shaun Livingston got about 18 minutes; he missed his only shot, but he reeled in seven rebounds, served up three assists, and grabbed two steals.

And so ends the homestand, with a 3-2 mark. There’s a single road game Friday, at Memphis, and then LeBron and company arrive at the Ford on Sunday. The Grizzlies, who have been playing better of late, may be tough; the Cavs almost certainly will be.

Aside to Don Nelson: Pneumonia sucks. Hope you’re up and about soon.

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If it’s uncut and unsubtle

This news item has been circulating for a while; Amba throws the topic open for discussion:

Do all men watch porn? Or, better put, have all men watched porn? Have some sworn never to watch it, the way some people never smoke a cigarette? Has anyone watched it once and never again? Are there men who have watched it, found it dangerous or repellent or boring, and quit? Is it possible to consume porn regularly and not become addicted, or desensitized to real sex with real women? For those (if any) not at risk of addiction is porn even useful, as a harmless (no risk of disease, no actual infidelity) safety valve for the alleged innate superabundance and variety-craving of male desire? Note that frequent ejaculation appears protective against prostate cancer (though not against benign prostate enlargement). Are the possible benefits outweighed by spiritual and emotional harm? Or is that a lot of puritanical fussing, making a mountain out of a molehill?

I got the first comment in, but by now there are more than thirty, including an examination of Miller v. California by an actual Miller. And so far it’s been devoid of “Well, I never!

(Title poached from Professor Tom Lehrer.)

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In case I need this

Last time I got an actual traffic ticket, we had a Southern Democrat in the White House, and it wasn’t Bill Clinton.

Still, as my insurance company is fond of reminding me, this doesn’t mean I’ll never get another one, so I’m putting this up for future reference:

What I learned is this: if it’s in town and you don’t have to travel to do it, always fight your ticket. Just showing up guarantees you’ll save money on the ticket, and probably on your auto insurance as well. But be prepared for any witnesses to be very annoyed with you.

I’m assuming my mileage may vary, laws being something less than entirely uniform, but it’s got to be more satisfying than simply mailing a check.

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Some of us just lie there

My idea of a good sleeping pill is one that puts me to sleep. Quaint notion, I know, but it works for me. Then again, I’m not engaged in boinkage with an international superstar:

Rachel Uchitel, the Big Apple tart who has gone under the covers since being named as Tiger’s sex toy, is alleged to have told friends she popped sleeping pills before jumping into bed with Woods, Radar reports.

“Uchitel told friends that she and Tiger liked to have sex while taking the drug Ambien. Uchitel told one pal, ‘You know you have crazier sex on Ambien you get into that Ambien haze. We have crazy Ambien sex’,” Radar Online is reporting.

“Crazy”? How crazy? Stacy McCain evaluates the situation:

How crazy was it? they ignored the warning about not operating heavy machinery, IYKWIMAITYD.

Hell, supposedly you can drive under the influence of this stuff — if you’re a Kennedy, anyway.

I need a nap.

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Or perennial juniors, maybe. Testing on the ever-popular fruit fly has produced this youthful-sounding premise:

Researchers from the newly founded Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne have studied whether health benefit stem from a reduction in specific nutrients or calorie intake in general by manipulating the diet of female fruit flies. The fruit flies were fed a diet of yeast, sugar and water, but with differing amounts of key nutrients, such as vitamins, lipids and amino acids. The scientists were able to show that longevity and fertility are affected by a combination of the type and amount of amino acids; whilst varying the amount of the other nutrients had little or no effect. Furthermore, the researchers found out in previous studies that levels of a particular amino acid — methionine — were crucial to increasing lifespan without decreasing fertility. By carefully manipulating the balance of amino acids, both lifespan and fertility were maximised. For the first time, this indicates that it is possible to extend lifespan without wholesale dietary restriction and without lowering reproductive capacity.

Richard C. Grandison, Matthew D. W. Piper & Linda Partridge
Amino-acid imbalance explains extension of lifespan by dietary restriction in Drosophila
Nature, December 3, 2009, doi:10.1038/nature08619

It might be better to think of this, though, as just a start:

I suspect that continuing research will show that this is still too simple, that manipulating methionine levels is a blunt instrument, and that the issue is balance among the various nutrients rather than the amounts. My expectations — perhaps bias — comes from experience as a grower. It is often the case that better growth and more healthful produce comes from getting the nutrient balances in tune with one another in a context of nutrient availability rather than from broad manipulation of total nutrients or even targeted provision of selected nutrients.

Half the battle, I presume, will be finding out exactly where those balances are.

Still, this seems encouraging, given the similarities, in structure if not in scale, between Drosophila’s genome and ours.

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Motivated voters

At 4:57 pm, I cast the 597th ballot in my precinct. Not enormously huge turnout, but pretty decent. (“Sometimes we’re lucky to get 50,” said one poll worker.)

I won’t even speculate on how the measure fared; I have to figure that both sides had their own get-out-the-vote efforts, and my mailbox will back me up on this.

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How to jump-start puberty

Actually, you might not want to do that, but when I was twelve, I wasn’t making a lot of progress in that general direction.

And then this happened:

Nancy Sinatra and Sugar

Of course, the big draw was the single, the slinky, semi-seductive “Sugar Town”; it would be many years before it would ever occur to me that it might have something to do with Bad, Nasty Drugs.

And by “many years,” I mean “up until last night.”

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And let it be so

Yes, folks, we will continue taxing ourselves a whole cent for another eight years or so to pay for some civic goodies.

Unofficial total, with all 271 precincts reporting: Yes 40,956 (54.3%); No: 34,465 (45.7%).

To quote Nick Roberts (who wrote this before the vote):

The entire city will enjoy the system of hiking and bicycle trails. Each section of the city that gets a senior city will benefit from that. Businesses on the west side of town will benefit from more expo shows at the Fairgrounds and the entire city will benefit from more sales tax from the expo center and the convention center. The south side, particularly Capitol Hill, will benefit from the stadium seats to be placed on the south side of the river. The whole center city will benefit from 5-6 miles of streetcar track. This could connect C2S, Bricktown, the Medical District/OHC area, Capitol area, Uptown, Heritage Hills, MidTown, Downtown/Arts District, and back to C2S. And the entire center city, anything between I-44 and I-240, will benefit from a downtown renaissance. Before MAPS, how fashionable was it to live in neighborhoods like Heritage Hills, Mesta Park, Gatewood, Jefferson Park, The Paseo, et all? The answer is not very en vogue. Because of MAPS, the entire city is en vogue. You can’t put a pricetag on that.

It wasn’t going to be a landslide: everyone knew that. The first MAPS package, back in 1993, passed with 53 percent of the vote. But try to find someone today who says he voted against it.

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Don’t take my monochrome away

Silver, black, white, and grey = boring, says Lynn:

Are people’s tastes really that dull or is it just that those are the colors most available or best priced? We bought two white vehicles in a row and our latest is dark gray. Our choices were based on the prices which were significantly less than vehicles in the colors we preferred and we were quite annoyed with the lack of color choices.

The advantage of this greyscale stuff, I’ve always felt, is comparative invisibility: sports cars, perhaps, should be in colors like Arrest Me Red, but I’d just as soon not attract attention on the way to Point B. (This can go too far, I suppose: consider Wonder Woman’s aircraft.)

One of Lynn’s commenters notes:

I like a white car because the stuff in the trunk stays cooler. (White reflects the heat.) Good for beer, good for musical instruments.

Also cooler: the folks in the actual seats, though when it’s 105° out there (41°C), it’s only a small improvement.

And apparently there are motor-noters who take Lynn’s side. A letter in the January Car and Driver:

The cover of the October ’09 issue shows a yellow Mazda 3, but yellow isn’t an option for the 3.

Old cranky Ed. ‘fessed up:

Good eye. We Photoshopped the Mazda yellow to add some color to an oversupply of silver cars.

Under the circumstances, I don’t blame them.

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Too studiously polite, eh?

Free speech, says Scaramouche, has a better chance of survival in the States than in Canada:

[U]nlike Canadians, Americans aren’t afraid to be risky and rude and inappropriate. And that’s a function both of culture and history. American can draw upon a history that includes a Boston Tea Party and a Revolution and a First Amendment. What do we Canadians have? “Peace, order and good government,” Wile E. Trudeau’s legacy of multiculturalism, and our “ABCs” — agencies, boards and commissions (including all those delightful “human rights” commissions). Given that, how likely is it that “grassroots” Canadian will ever be able to summon up the gumption, the liberating “rudeness,” of Americans?

It may be, though, that the situation will never come up: right now in the States we’re being barraged by calls for “civility” and other vaguely un-American concepts. Had our government its druthers, the only difference between us and Canada would be that we’d have a goofy Spanish-speaking enclave instead of a goofy French-speaking enclave.

(Via Kathy Shaidle.)

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Not teetering

Susan SarandonYou know, it’s really not absolutely necessary to wear some monstrously high heel, even if (1) you’re an actress, (2) you’re at a Hollywood premiere, and (3) you’re known for, among other things, a better-than-decent pair of gams.

And I’m not about to demand an explanation from Susan Sarandon, either:

[Sarandon] looked glowing as she attended the U.S. premiere of The Lovely Bones at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

But, after wearing towering heels at the world opening in London last month, she slipped on a pair of comfy blue flats.

It had the unfortunate effect of making the 5ft 7in actress appear a little flat-footed and failed to match the rest of her sexy-at-63 look.

Well, they’re not exactly ballet flats, which are considered semi-trendy these days, but maybe you have to be Sofia Coppola to pull that off. Me, I might grumble about the color — it doesn’t really go with the dress — but I would argue that at this age, if you don’t do as you damn well please, there’s something seriously wrong.

(Via Fark.)

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Optimized for people who stay home

I’ve kvetched before about the Oklahoma Road Conditions map put out by the Department of Public Safety, but it’s at least readable, if not exactly optimized for the latest and greatest.

And then, reports Jeffro, there’s Kansas:

You are using an unsupported browser. Please use one of the browsers from the list below.

I was then informed that the site was optimized for the Microsoft or Macintosh operating system.

This gets the reaction it deserves:

So, let’s see if I have this right. A site set up for travelers to check the road conditions isn’t capable of displaying on mobile browsers — which would be what any traveling traveler would use? So, what am I gonna do — fire up my laptop and hope for a wireless connection somewhere? I don’t have an air card. Maybe after I’ve slid into a ditch somewhere that happens to have an unsecured wireless access point I can go online and see where I screwed up.

The iPhone probably has an app for that, dammit.

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In this town, we obey the laws of physics

Or maybe not, if we’re…

Screen grab from KUSA-TV Denver

(From KUSA-TV [since fixed] via Fark.)

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Eighty-two plus

ESPN’s John Hollinger seems to think this little roundball team of ours is headed for the playoffs.

Seriously. As of this writing, Hollinger predicts an 82.5 percent chance that the Thunder will nab a playoff spot, and a 4.9 percent chance that they will Win It All.

Now admittedly, if the season ended in the next half-hour, OKC would have a playoff spot: their 11-9 record is tied with Houston for 7th place in the West, but the Rockets have beaten us, so we’d be seeded 8th. Hollinger, though, is thinking fifth, right behind Dallas (whom, at fourth, we’d have to play in the first round), and ahead of the Jazz, the Rockets and the Spurs. The Thunder, in his model, finish at 48-34, nine games behind the Lakers.

Of course, they could do better: Hollinger’s Best Case puts the Thunder at a startling 64-18. This seems unlikely. Then again, he also projects a Worst Case: 28-54. (For amusement value, I looked at the numbers for the New Jersey Nets, whom Hollinger figures for 18-64. If all the stars align, the Nets might make it to — well, not .500.)

Royce at Daily Thunder gives Hollinger’s narrative version:

The projection for the Thunder is a 48-win season and, quite possibly, a top-4 seed in the loaded Western Conference. For an 11-9 team, that seems optimistic — until one sifts through the Thunder’s first 20 games. They beat the Magic senseless, beat San Antonio and Utah on the road, and have been outclassed only once (an 18-point home whuppin’ by Boston on Dec. 4). In contrast, the Thunder own eight double-digit wins.

The Playoff Odds project a 37-25 mark the rest of the way for Oklahoma City because it has played most of the tough teams on its schedule already — the Thunder are done with Orlando and face the Lakers and Boston just once more each. Oklahoma City’s opponents have a .553 winning percentage when not playing the Thunder; by that measure, only four teams have faced a tougher slate. Inevitably, the schedule evens out, and in the Thunder’s case it does so with a much cushier docket for their final 62 games.

Then again, at 11-9 we’re at .550, which spread over 82 works out to … 45-37. Maybe it could happen.

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Nor is Taco Bell hiring

Migration from California has pretty much ceased to be news — with the following exception:

There is an unwanted phenomenon happening in California, and Arizona is being pegged to clean up the mess: Chihuahuas — lots of them.

California is seeing an influx of chihuahuas popping up at animal shelters, and it’s becoming too much for the state to handle. Rather than take these unwanted pooches out back, and deal with them Old Yeller style, California shelters are pawning these rat-dogs off on the Grand Canyon State.

The shelters blame Hollywood generally, and one person particularly:

Shelter officials are associating the rise in the abandoned pooches to celebutards like Paris Hilton, who popularized use of animals as fashion accessories. When the reality of having to care for the dogs kicked in, it proved to be too much for a lot of wanna-be heiresses, and they dropped the quivering canines off at animal shelters.

It doesn’t help, I suggest, that LFDs (this means pretty much what you think it does) are classified by the American Kennel Club and its ilk as “toys.”

(Via Coyote Blog. I’m sure there’s a joke there somewhere.)

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Sun and sand and stuff

Last month, California’s Department of Parks and Recreation warned that they would crack down, so to speak, on nude use of San Onofre State Beach in Orange County, which prompted the Naturist Education Foundation to commission a poll. If the numbers are accurate, Californians weren’t all that upset about this sort of thing: 79 percent agreed “that people should be able to enjoy nude sunbathing on a beach or other location that is designated for that purpose.”

This, of course, requires another question: should locations actually be so designated? Seventy percent said they should.

I suppose my real question here is whether Californians, the majority of whom live within a reasonable distance of some sort of beach, are unusually tolerant of this sort of thing, or it’s simply that no one ever asks this of, say, Iowans.

Meanwhile, naturist activist Allen Baylis (previously mentioned here) points out:

“I think this poll mainly shows that the Parks Department should go ahead and designate clothing-optional beaches in California because that’s what the people of the state want. The people want to have safe, legal, clothing-optional beaches.”

Or at least, they’re not interested in seeing people prosecuted for doing without swimsuits, since, according to the poll, 40 percent of them have gone at least as far as going skinny-dipping.

(Seen here.)

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It was past its shelf date

I got home last night to hear a bizarre whirring coming from the far corner of the living room. Fortunately, there’s not a lot over there that’s capable of emitting a whir, so finding the culprit was pretty simple.

Apparently a combination VCR/DVD player was in its death throes; a motor was turning, but nothing was moving. There was no disc in the drawer. (The display actually read NO DISC, which turned out to be accurate.) There was a tape in the slot, but none of the transport controls had any effect, and Eject was fairly instantaneous, meaning the tape probably wasn’t wound around the head in playing position.

I hadn’t used this particular unit in about a year, so I’m not horribly put out about its demise, but salvaging the tape reminded me how much I hated the transition to on-screen menus. I couldn’t eject the tape until I started the unit, fired up the TV set, and then dropped down a couple of menu levels to make sure the tape section was selected; both Open/Close buttons, on the front panel and on the remote, apparently default to the DVD side. Which explains why I still have my very first DVD player, circa 2001, hooked up to the HDTV box: it doesn’t second-guess my every button push.

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Where shall we put a team? has come up with a methodology for determining whether a given metropolitan market can support a major-league sports team, based on available personal income for that market, less whatever it takes to support existing teams there.

On this basis, there are almost enough dollars to support MLS soccer in Oklahoma City without affecting the existing NBA team, but not close to the amount needed for the NHL or the NFL. (The requirements for Major League Baseball are considerably stiffer, no doubt owing to the utter lack of controls over salaries; only two additional markets could support MLB.) Interestingly, Seattle, which currently has three teams, falls slightly short of NBA support, as Clay Bennett could probably have told you.

But $40 billion in personal income is enough, says this study, to support a team other than baseball. And that leaves the field open for Tulsa, which comes in a hair short of $40 billion. The NBA is unlikely, for obvious reasons; but Tulsa has the potential to support soccer or hockey, or even the NFL, were there a suitable venue for the latter. (The NHL would likely be very happy with the BOk Center.)

Of course, gaining a team requires league expansion, which is happening only in MLS — or a Major Market Fail:

Nineteen areas are overextended, with Denver, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Tampa facing the worst problems. The income bases of these overextended markets are inadequate for their existing teams, let alone any new ones.

Not that you’re going to see the Tulsa Steelers any time soon.

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Give a little whistle

You can’t own a handgun in Oak Park, Illinois; it’s against the law.

You can, however, own a whistle:

Thousands of Oak Park residents are being equipped with a simple device to help fight crime in the village.

Police are passing out whistles that they are urging citizens to blow if they are victims of or witnesses to a crime.

Officers distributed hundreds of the shiny whistles at two stations along the CTA’s Green Line in Oak Park on Friday and will be passing out more Wednesday along the Blue Line. Giveaways elsewhere are expected to take place in the weeks ahead.

Just remember: when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

(Via Jeff Brokaw.)

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Oh, brotherly

This is the new logo for the City of Philadelphia:

City of Philadelphia logo

Now Trebuchet isn’t my favorite font, but I’ve seen worse, and so have you.

But whatever happened to “In this town, we obey the laws of physics”?

The bell’s tilt brings to mind those one-sided, designer-as-bitch dialogues brought on by a director of some sort. “It’s just not popping enough for me. What if you turn it a little, like it was ringing? More. More. Too much, go back. Stop right there! Now THAT’s cutting edge. They’re going to love this. You’re such a wizard in Adobe.” This is all evidenced by the fact that the red clapper is glued to the middle of the bell. If it were designed with the rotation in mind, the clapper would hang straight down as gravity dictates. Also, it doesn’t take a bell expert to notice that the wooden hold at the top of the bell will physically never tilt that way.

(Spotted at Nancy Friedman’s Fritinancy.)

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Quote of the week

A possibly-admirable observation from The House of David:

The suffix “-able,” in English, points to an objective fact. Where there is no such fact, the suffix is bullshit. I usually see it in Progressive propaganda.

Who consumes and develops sustainable development? Who rates the price for which buyer to afford affordable housing? Who pushes for and pulls against inevitable change?

In practice: Sustainable development means Progressives cut off your water and power. Affordable housing means Progressives build in your precinct a slum for their voters. Inevitable social change means Progressives have … well, look around.

I have a word for those who use this suffix — despicable.

I wonder, though, if spelling the suffix with an I is permissible.

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Not this opposition

There had been some thought that the entire MAPS 3 package was dead in the water: not all the proposals easily lent themselves to “Yeah, we really ought to do that,” there was loud and vocal opposition for once, and the weather on election day was fairly terrible.

Renzi Stone suggests that the proponents, having discovered that the opposition wasn’t going to go away quietly, doubled down:

[T]he union (perhaps inadvertently) woke up a business and Chamber community that may have taken MAPS passage for granted. The organized opposition actually united the “yes” coalition.

On the other hand, it wasn’t that organized, says Dan Lovejoy:

The opposition was undisciplined in its message, negative toward the city, and pessimistic overall. Its visual appeals were very poor. The “Not This Maps” signs were almost illegible — black signs with red and white text. Who wants to be affiliated with this dark imagery, with this negativity toward your own city?

I heard one radio ad in which the announcer had the thickest southeastern Oklahoma accent one could possibly imagine — it was really more of a parody than a real dialect. It didn’t speak to aspiration, and it certainly didn’t speak to urban voters. I don’t know who they thought their audience was, but they missed. Overall, the NO alliance depended on negativity — they didn’t offer any meaningful alternative.

Me, I like southeastern-Oklahoma accents, but I suppose they don’t play well on (semi)-big-city radio.

In the case where something truly horrid is about to be undertaken, not offering a meaningful alternative can be considered a Good Thing: if the Republicrats propose to poison the wells with arsenic, the Demopublicans need not respond with a counteroffer to use formaldehyde instead. (Extrapolate this to Real Life however you wish.) But the opposition wasn’t in any position to make the argument that MAPS 3 was truly horrid, only that it might be ill-timed in light of the less-than-robust economy, especially since they insisted that the vast sums involved be spent, not on these pet projects, but on their own pet projects.

And as it turned out, the weather didn’t seem to stop anyone anyway. You want to see weather-impacted voting, you go back to this week in 2007 when the city was seeking approval of new bond issues in the midst of a major ice storm. Five percent of the electorate, maybe.

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The dreaded Gender Imbalance

Someone wandered into the shop office, peered over my shoulder, saw the TweetDeck screen, and commented: “A lot of women.”

“A ‘lot’,” I noted, “is in the eye of the beholder,” but given the relative ease with which I am propelled into vaguely-related activities, later I went down through the list of people/places/things I follow on Twitter and counted the recognizable females.

The tally: 135 out of 249. Which, if you’re keeping score, is 54 percent. Not an overwhelming majority, but clearly a majority.

I wonder if I should have tried to argue that, well, the ladies talk more.

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Occasionally-topless chef

The American Association for Nude Recreation has posed a question to its membership:

Padma Lakshmi is just the latest in a long line of celebrities who reveal in interviews that they enjoy being naked, have gone skinny-dipping or have tried some kind of au naturel experience such as nude gardening. Do you think they help further the cause of nude recreation or not?

Hard to say, really. I don’t know anybody who, having dismissed the idea of trying it out, changed her mind after being told that [fill in name of celebrity] does it, so it’s not a direct benefit to The Cause. Then again, if she did change her mind, why would she tell me?

Padma Lakshmi

That said, Lakshmi, six months pregnant, posed in pretty near nothing — there’s a sandal strap visible, anyway — for Page Six magazine earlier this month. And she’s comfortable with pretty near nothing, as both that cover and an earlier photo indicate. Whether the individual reader will be inspired to go and do likewise, I have no idea. On the other hand, it makes for an obvious Rule 5 ploy.

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Brain drift

Like thread drift, but internal. If you’re wondering what sort of weirdness goes on between my ears, the following is actually fairly typical.

I caught this comment on Daily Pundit:

Strange how a language made up for TV and movies has more speakers than Esperanto. And in less time.

The language in question is tlhIngan Hol, otherwise known as Klingon, and not having access to the census records of the Klingon Empire, I suspect there may be more actual speakers of Esperanto, at least on this plain granite planet, though few, as the phrase goes, speak it like a native. (Among those few: Jim DiGriz and George Soros. Determining which of the two might be more slippery is left as an exercise for the student.)

There is, however, a distant Star Trek connection to Esperanto: Leslie Stevens’ 1965 horror film Incubus, entirely written in Esperanto, starring a pre-Starfleet William Shatner.

Tangents? What tangents?

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Turnabout and about

The Grizzlies scored first at the FedEx Forum; the Thunder then reeled off nine consecutive points, and led by 14 at the half. Memphis, however, refused to roll over and die. In the third quarter, the game plan seemed to be “Get it to Zach Randolph,” and if Randolph didn’t hit the first time, he’d surely get it the second. (Randolph finished with 19 points and 20 rebounds, 11 of them off the offensive glass.) The Griz outscored OKC 28-10 in that quarter to take a four-point lead. The Thunder, not used to this sort of thing, came back to regain the lead, ran it back to fourteen, and hung on to beat Memphis, 102-94.

All five Memphis starters made double figures; Mike Conley, who got the last score of the game, led with 20. And the Griz, with Randolph constantly up by the rim, pulled in a total of 51 boards, versus 47 for OKC. What may have undone them was their lack of suds at the stripe: they hit only 14 of 24 free throws. (Of the ten missed, Rudy Gay bricked five.)

You have to wonder how it is Oklahoma City was held to ten points in the third quarter yet got 36 in the fourth. Short answer: Nenad Krstić, who had four of his eight rebounds and nine of his 15 points in that final frame. Meanwhile, the Thunder were knocking down foul shots; they went 20-24, with Kevin Durant hitting 11 of 12 on the way to a 32-point showing. With ten boards, yet. Russell Westbrook worked the point nicely, rolling up 23 points, seven assists and only three turnovers. And the Thunder blocked 10 Memphis shots, which never hurts. Shooting percentage was an okay 46.4, which was five points better than the Grizzlies, though treys were few and far between for both squads.

These are the same Grizzlies who beat the Cavaliers in overtime Tuesday night. The Cavs will be here Sunday. Will the Thunder thrash the Cavs? I suspect a fellow named James may have something to say about that.

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Moving the product

There once was a time when the primary concern of a record company was something other than how many units were shipped, as Mark Alger notes:

There was a reason that music overtook the consciousness of so many people in the ’60s and it didn’t have anything to do with hippie ways or political movements. It had to do with who was running the record companies and their outlook toward their “product.” In fact, I would peg the start of the decline in the industry that we see the other end of today to the period in time when use of the term “product” to describe music became current and acceptable.

This is not to say that there weren’t some blatant examples of mercenary behavior, even among the revered record men of that era. Berry Gordy, Jr. was indisputably one of the Good Guys, but he was ruthless when he thought he had to be: irked that the Funk Brothers house band was moonlighting for Eddie Wingate’s small family of Detroit labels, and unable to persuade them to stop doing so, Gordy wrote a large check to Wingate, ostensibly to acquire Edwin Starr’s contract, and bade him go away.

Still, even on the Motown assembly line, it was never “product.” Nor was it at Warner Bros., where acts like Randy Newman, whose first two albums never charted at all — Harry Nilsson actually did better than Newman with Newman’s own songs, at least at first — weren’t threatened with loss of contract if they didn’t shape up.

It’s disheartening, to me anyway, that so many of the great labels are now nothing more than that: labels, logos slapped on the finished product.

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It appears I spoke too soon

Yours truly, commenting upon the condition of Atlanta roadways:

84 percent of their roads are rated “good” and none of them “poor”; if there’s a downside, it’s that 23 percent of them are named “Peachtree.”

You might suspect that the latter figure is indeed PDOOMA, and I plead — well, basically I plead that this hadn’t been posted yet.

(Found at Miss Cellania’s.)

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No accounting for counts

In the midst of this week’s FMJRA, which incidentally does not include this item, Smitty comes up with an idea for a technical improvement:

I need to write a cron job to go through Sitemeter and scrape this sort of hilarity more often.

Devoted as I am to SiteMeter — I actually pay for their numbers, which I suspect is a rarity in blogdom — I submit that better details are going to make no difference if you’re not getting all the numbers in the first place.

Which, I believe, we’re not. WordTwit, a WordPress plugin that automatically sends a tweet every time a new post is made, counts pretty consistently 20 to 30 clicks on each new post from this site; SiteMeter invariably shows one or two arrivals from This means, of course, that folks are arriving from sources other than — but SiteMeter isn’t always recognizing them. (Unfamiliar user-agent?)

And then there’s the ongoing feed issue. Since the first of the month, I’ve had a shade under 7,000 visitors, as counted by the Meter; however, this site has served up 10,700 copies of the feed. Not all XML transactions represent actual readers, of course, but clearly some people are reading this stuff and not being counted. I experimented briefly with embedding the actual SiteMeter count code in the feed, but this didn’t seem to work very well. (Perhaps Jscript and XML don’t play well together.)

Finally: does anyone comprehend Technorati anymore? I don’t.

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What to do while waiting for an ambulance

You can write a letter to The New York Times:

Who should bear responsibility when consumers use products, such as cellphones, in unreasonably dangerous ways? Generally, the narrative of personal responsibility has precluded courts from allocating a share of responsibility to product suppliers.

But when we focus on the aggregate things look different.

Cellphone suppliers know that in the aggregate a predictable and high percentage of consumers will fail to exercise reasonable personal responsibility and drive while texting or talking. These companies know that no warning will alter this predictable behavior.

Given the completely predictable way consumers will use the product, selling cellphones is not so different from releasing a deadly toxic agent. In both cases a certain predictable number of innocent people will die.

The misuse of cellphones by drivers is too predictable and too unavoidable to shield cellphone suppliers from partial responsibility.

Shorter version: “Joe Sixpack’s pockets are insufficiently deep. Let’s go after Motorola.”

There are people who will argue that our mutation from a nation of laws to a nation of lawyers is somehow a Good Thing. You will not find me among them.

(Spotted by Greg Hlatky.)

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It’s yobbolicious!

It’s a culture clash, and then some. Lisa reports from the field:

[A]s we finished dinner at Fido’s under one of the largest thatched roofs in the Caribbean, a posse of drunk English people came in and started screaming.

The local band, which was just warming up, was clearly experienced in dealing with such invasions. As the rest of the band continued setting up, the guitarist launched into an acoustic version of Oasis’s “Champagne Supernova”. Which immediately got the crowd maudlin and crying. Nothing like the oikiest song of the most loutish of English bands to pacify wild herds of Englishmen.

Just when we thought it was safe, the crowd started screaming for “Folsom Prison Blues.”

Talk about your lives living strange. And now I’m wondering if Johnny Cash kept a secret stash of oik.

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Something burrowed

Earworms, contrary to popular belief, were not invented by Khan Noonian Singh, but sometimes they can be persistent enough to qualify as some sort of weapon.

Some of the crawlers with which Francis W. Porretto is beset are TV themes, from the era when TV themes were actually given some thought. Of course, this gives me an opportunity to plug some of my latter-day favorites:

Try getting these out of your head.

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This never happens in Oklahoma City

Vancouver t-shirt“My mother always thought I lived in Canada,” says Gene Wigglesworth, owner of a muffler shop in Vancouver, who’s modeling a shirt of his own design at right.

That’s “Vancouver [not B.C.] Washington [not D.C.] Clark County [not Nevada] Near Portland, Or. [not Maine].”

Image crisis in the making? Maybe so:

How … can a former mill town that has become an increasingly assertive city, a place that courts high-tech companies and takes pride in its expanding university campus, make a name for itself when another city with the same name in the same misty vicinity of North America has already done so and then some?

It could be worse. You could be in Columbus:

It’s not that it is overshadowed by a more famous or bigger Columbus, but rather that Columbus is simply a common name for cities in America (Columbus, Indiana; Columbus, Georgia) and that the word Columbus to many people means the Columbus in their own state. Also, until recently Columbus was in the shadow of Cleveland and Cincinnati, so didn’t have longstanding historic recognition. It is probably the biggest city in America where you always have to give the state, not just the city name — Columbus, Ohio. It is probably the largest city out there where a Wikipedia search on its name takes you to a disambiguation page.

It’s enough to drive you to Bellevue. (No, this one.)

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Fit is not an issue

I have no idea what you’re talking about, so here’s a bunch of people with shoes on their heads.

(Recommended, for some inexplicable reason, by Jeffro.)

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Degrees of frustration

Daleela Farina of BloggingStocks perhaps doesn’t like financial writer James Altucher: her interview with him is titled “You can profit from James Altucher’s insanity.” She doesn’t succeed in baiting him, however:

BloggingStocks: Since you clearly oppose post-secondary education as stated in your New York Post article, “School of Hard Cash,” suggesting that our youths should find their entrepreneurial spirit and get experience starting new businesses instead, how does the recession affect your conclusion?

JA: The recession makes my conclusion stronger. Why should I fork over $200,000 to my kid (probably much more by the time they go to college) so they can emerge four to six years later, saddled with debt and more confusion than ever about what they should do with their lives. The costs of college have gone up 10-fold while cost of living has only gone up 3-fold and health care has gone up 6-fold in the past 30 years. Congress should be debating education reform rather than health care reform.

BloggingStocks: And the stats: Given the lack of banks’ willingness to lend — a decrease of 36% to be exact, which, some may argue, could be attributed to the 11.9% default rate of those loans; small business failure rate exceeding 95% within the first 5 years, and over the lifetime of the average small business only 39% are profitable, 30% break even, and 30% lose money; why do you believe uneducated, inexperienced adolescents can beat these horrible odds?

JA: They can’t. They will most likely fail. Failure is the best education. Best to get it done with as young as possible.

“Good judgment,” said Will Rogers, “comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”

Of course, we’re still going to need rocket scientists and such, so someone is going to have to finish college, but right now, the most immediate need, as I see it, is to see that Congress gets an education.

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Fermat’s last pepperoni

Okay, nothing quite so startling as that. On the other hand, some day you’ll order a pizza, and this will matter to you:

Suppose the harried waiter cuts the pizza off-centre, but with all the edge-to-edge cuts crossing at a single point, and with the same angle between adjacent cuts. The off-centre cuts mean the slices will not all be the same size, so if two people take turns to take neighbouring slices, will they get equal shares by the time they have gone right round the pizza — and if not, who will get more?

And so there evolved a Unified Theorem of Pizza, which states the following:

[I]f you cut a pizza through the chosen point with an even number of cuts more than 2, the pizza will be divided evenly between two diners who each take alternate slices.


[I]f you cut the pizza with 3, 7, 11, 15… cuts, and no cut goes through the centre, then the person who gets the slice that includes the centre of the pizza eats more in total. If you use 5, 9, 13, 17… cuts, the person who gets the centre ends up with less.

If you have $20 to spare, you could download the complete mathematical proof, or you could order a pretty darn big pizza. Make sure you tell them not to slice it.

(Via Jenn1964.)

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