Archive for January 2010

Not exactly commando

Akaky Bashmachkin is in receipt of boxer shorts with some sort of camouflage pattern, and while he’s certainly grateful, he’s also somewhat puzzled:

I must tell you now that I regard the sudden militarization of my underwear drawer with no small degree of trepidation. I do not know right now what my policy should be in the event these new boxers attempt to extend their control from the underwear drawer to the sock drawer or, worse yet, should they attempt a violent overthrow of my tee-shirt drawer, which may lead to a destabilization of the world underwear order and the possibility of a conflict hitherto unheard of in the annals of underwear. Appeasement does not appear to be the right policy; we all know what ultimately happens to appeasing powers when they passively face an aggressor; but nothing in the boxers’ current behavior suggests that there is any immediate cause for alarm. There is merely a vague disquiet settling over this particular chest of drawers, a troubling disquiet similar to the psychic tension that haunted Europe in the years between 1933 and 1936.

I must note here that I own garments of this sort in white, grey, black, and blue, and they seem to coexist just fine. (White, I note in passing, is a minority.)

Still, there’s something vaguely pointless about this particular pattern:

The purpose of camouflage is, as I understand it, is concealment from people who are naturally, politically, or personally hostile to you. To achieve this admirable circumstance, nature and the world’s militaries do their best to blend into their natural surroundings. Given that underwear’s natural surroundings are under your trousers, hence the origins of the word underwear, the whole point of camouflaged boxer shorts would seem an exercise in inutility, if not just plain dumb. The wearer, of course, might choose to make use of the boxers’ camouflage effect by wearing the shorts on the outside of their pants, but this will cause chafing after a while, especially on a hot day, and the practice does tend to lead to political and social upheaval in Central America, a tragic and for most part unforeseen consequence that the American political philosopher Allen Konigsberg first pointed out in the early 1970’s.

The difficulty in the banana republic in question, however, was not so much with the design, such as it is, as with the regime’s demand that the citizens change their underwear every half hour.

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Warts and all, were there warts

Australian beauty queen (and 2004 Miss Universe) Jennifer Hawkins doffs her duds for the Oz version of Marie Claire, and there’s controversy afoot:

She is working with the Butterfly Foundation to promote a positive body image. However, the cover isn’t receiving too much praise. Some deem her “brave” for going un-airbrushed and nude while others are pointing out the obvious… Jennifer is 26 and is a lingerie model and it’s hardly “brave” for someone with a near perfect body to go un-airbrushed.

Others say it promotes the fight against obesity. Overall, the main goal of the Butterfly Foundation is healthy body images while fighting eating disorders. The argument is that a lingerie model’s body is not an average representative of a normal woman’s body.

One could argue that the “average representative” isn’t likely to appear on the cover of Marie Claire, Photoshopped or otherwise, but I tend to align with the critics on this one: women fighting body-image issues are not likely to find comfort in the example of a former Miss Universe, unless at some point she ballooned up to [fill in some unthinkable number] pounds or suffered some rare skin disease.

That said, she is sorta cute, and if she strikes a blow against the damn-near-universal practice of retouching everything to the point of unreality, she’ll have performed a genuine public service.

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Let there be crap (4)

From Santa’s Sack O’ Crap, 25 December:

2 Sanford PhD mechanical pencils [$17.58]
1 LG Bluetooth Stereo Headset HBS-250 [$117.99]
1 Belkin Zipper Case for XM Xpress [$19.99]
1 GFM Digital Camera and Camcorder [$179.99]
1 Décor Digital Picture Frame [$69.99]

Total crap: $405.54

Total price: $3 (plus $5 shipping)

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How it’s done

Smitty reveals some of the secrets of maintaining a WordPress blog:

I ratcheted down my resolution to 800X600 and confirmed the email reports that, yes, this blog is slammed to the left side of the screen.

To work on this, I save the blog locally, open that copy in the browser, get out the BFH, and tweak the .css.

Except that there is enough voodoo in the .css for the page to thumb its nose at me. So your indulgence is sought. I’m still standing up my local LAMP stack so I can break this thing in a blatantly irresponsible manner without any anguished screams peeling down at me from out along I-70. One can blog or one can geek, but I know of none doing both simultaneously. Hats off to those who are more graceful task switchers than I.

CSS has pretty much always been voodoo to me; I comprehend maybe twenty-five percent of it on a good day, which for this purpose is defined as “any day I don’t have to bring out the BFH to fix something.” Fortunately, traffic around here is low enough that anguished emails about how farging horrible the site looks are few and far between.

On the other hand, I finally persuaded this ancient theme to accept up-to-the-minute widgets, whereupon I discovered that the widgets I might have actually used, I’ve already essentially duplicated in the sidebar the old-fashioned way.

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Frostbitten digits

At the far end of Gwendolyn’s HVAC panel is a squarish button marked AMB; give it a push and it switches the display to a readout of the current exterior temperature, as measured just inside the grille. This might seem antiquated, compared to some of the data-happy displays in contemporary cars, but keep in mind: she’s ten years old now.

(How I’d have done it differently: set that temperature display as the default, and switch back to the interior temperature whenever someone touches the knob to adjust said temperature. I leave the thing sitting on “75° F” year round, so I don’t really need that on display.)

And actually, it’s a fairly smart system: it will not suddenly change temperatures on you just because you backed out of a marginally-warm garage into a horribly-cold street. This almost compensates for Nissan’s refusal to pump any air into the floor vents until the coolant-temperature gauge has budged from below-C level. (You can switch to the upper vents, but of course it’s cold air, and you had enough of that on the way out to the car.)

Having said all that, it’s time to reveal the real reason I brought this up: to show you why David is just loving it in Great Falls.

Twenty-nine below

No, I don’t have a compass. At least, not in the car.

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Peak turmoil

“If you love somebody,” said Sting, ungrammatically, “set them free.”

Well, screw that.

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Quote of the week

Matt A. Mayer wonders when the heads are going to start rolling:

Snickering aside, how does anyone expect accountability in government when those who fail suffer no real consequences? Other than Mike “Heckuva Job, Brownie” Brown, I am not aware of one federal employee who was fired due to the failures involved with the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina. What does a federal bureaucrat need to do to get fired? If we want accountability, then we need to change how federal employees in national-security fields are protected from being fired for failing to do their jobs.

So, yes, Secretary Janet Napolitano should go, but she should go because her tenure as a whole has been a wreck. From her response to the “right-wing” threat report, to the counterproductive reverses made on immigration policy, to the continued pork-barrel feeding frenzy of the homeland-security grants, to the semantic sleight of hand on “man-made disasters,” to her clueless claim that “the system worked,” she does not instill confidence in either the American public or the DHS bureaucracy. Napolitano is just plain ineffective, which is deadly. DHS is hard enough to manage already; an ineffective leader will only ensure further failures. But it shouldn’t just be token political appointees who get fired when failures occur.

Napolitano’s boss, at least, knows where the buck is supposed to stop.

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Can she bake a carrot cake?

Jessica Rabbit comes to life, kinda sorta:

Annette Edwards as Jessica Rabbit

This is Annette Edwards, 57, former model and present-day rabbit breeder, who has decided that it’s worth rather a lot of dieting and plastic surgery to look like Mrs. Roger Rabbit.

The surgery reportedly cost in excess of £10,000. She’s not bad; she’s just overdrawn that way.

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Six appeal

Enjoy it while you can, says Scott Burgess of the Detroit News, because the V-6 is headed for oblivion:

The days of the V-8 in passenger cars are over and things are starting to look bleak for the venerable V-6, as the four-cylinder engine starts to replace it in bigger cars and crossovers. It’s a sign of the times: Small engines offer more power than ever before and consumers want a fallback vehicle in case gas prices jump again.

Yes, there will be a couple of mega-powerful V-8 asphalt eaters at the Detroit show, including the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe and the 2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0, but, it turns out, destiny has determined that the meek four-banger will inherit the earth.

With normally-aspirated fours now producing up to 180 hp, and turbocharged versions adding half again as many ponies, “meek” doesn’t seem to fit. And what’s this, farther down the page?

Smaller engines allow cars to have lighter suspensions, lighter bodies, lighter brakes and an overall lighter curb weight. Less weight leads to better fuel economy and also creates a vehicle that might get an even smaller engine in the future.

Think I’m overstating things? This plan is exactly what Ford Motor Co.’s EcoBoost engines aim to do. The Lincoln MKS is a luxury flagship that comes with more power than the 2010 Mustang GT and two fewer cylinders.

Two fewer cylinders than the V-8 Mustang? You don’t suppose this could be … a V-6, do you?

And Lincoln hasn’t had a four-banger since, well, ever, actually; the very first Lincolns (the L-series, starting in 1920) had V-8s, deemed necessary to compete with Cadillac, which was selling V-8s way back in 1914. I’ll be surprised if they get one any time soon.

(Suggested by The Truth About Cars.)

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Tougher than they’d seemed

It’s been hard to get a handle on this year’s Pacers, because you never saw all of them together in one place: Indiana has been plagued by injuries all season. Tonight, we actually saw most of them. Jeff Foster is still out, and T. J. Ford is in Jim O’Brien’s doghouse of late, so this was about as full-strength as the Pacers could reasonably be expected to be. Still, the bench has sustained the Pacers most of the year, and it was the bench that kept Indiana competitive tonight, especially rookie point guard A. J. Price, who recorded a career-high 23 points in 24 minutes. Down eighteen late in the third quarter, Indiana pulled to within one with 5:15 left after Price sank a trey, at which point it began to sink in that the Thunder wasn’t going to win this one in a walk after all. Still, the Thunder started getting stops, and pulled out the win, 108-102.

The Pacers had put up 32 treys last night against Minnesota, and made half of them; they hit only 10 of 26 tonight. (Price got three of five.) Danny Granger didn’t seem to be at 100 percent, but he still got 25 points (four of ten from beyond the arc), and Troy Murphy doubled up with 15 points and 15 rebounds. Still, Indiana managed only 39.6 percent from the floor, and they had the displeasure of watching Nick Collison get two blocks against them on the same possession.

Byron Mullens, who’d played about two minutes in garbage time this year, showed up for seven minutes in the second quarter; he logged four points and three rebounds. We got to see Russell Westbrook actually foul out with twenty seconds left, by which time he had 18 points. Jeff Green, who played more minutes than anyone tonight (39:30), scored 12; Kevin Durant’s two last-minute free throws gave him 40 for the night. The Thunder shot 51.4 percent, including six of 13 treys, three of which were dropped in by James Harden. Still, the player to watch was Thabo Sefolosha, whose numbers (five points, eight boards) didn’t reflect how busy he got. Bodies hit the floor in his presence, I tell you.

The home stand continues with the Knicks on Monday and the Spurs on Wednesday.

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Do you suppose he meant it?

From the AP wire:

Some House Democrats say the proposed government insurance option remains alive, although they speak publicly of its possible demise as long as insurance companies aren’t let off the hook.

California Rep. Xavier Becerra, who’s on the leadership team, said House members would only be willing to abandon the public plan if they were certain the final bill achieves the goals they want, as [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi described.

“We’re willing to give up what’s good for America as long as we get something good back,” he said.

Oh, those crazy Democrats, always willing to give up what’s good for America.

Amazingly, this hasn’t been all over Twitter. Yet.

(Hat tip: farblondzhet, via email.)

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Where the yellow went

Last year’s Oklahoma City Yellowbook: 8¾ inches by 10¾ inches, 1,712 pages.

This year’s Oklahoma City Yellowbook: 7¾ inches by 8¾ inches, 2,088 pages.

By 2020, we should have a foot-thick Yellowbook with the pages about two inches square. God only knows how tiny the print will be by then.

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And she should know, right?

The single most popular subject line in this weekend’s email has been “Grow your manhood with Free trial.”

Of late, most of this particular variety of spam seems to contain the following email-address pattern: plausible word + two random letters at otherwise-legitimate domain. This particular sample pretended to be from The body of the message is amazingly cluttered up with extraneous Microsoft Word markup, though I didn’t notice this until I started peering under the hood; as a rule, I insist that my mail client not display HTML mail, which is an abomination unto the Lord and an invitation for phishers.

Semi-amusingly, the sender’s name was given as “Michelle Wang.” Purely accidental, I’m sure.

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And you thought forecasts were tricky

Lurking in the footer on the bottom of several National Weather Service Web pages, including this one:

NOAA glitch

I have no idea what it’s supposed to say, though. Local NWS address, maybe?

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Ceci n’est pas une pipe utilisable

All the interior water lines survived the Great Freeze. The ones out in the garage, serving the laundry gear, didn’t do so well.

And this disturbs me greatly, not so much because I have two loads of wash to do, but because these lines are nicely wrapped and buried inside a layer or two of insulation, which in turn is covered by a sheet of plywood. Add to this the fact that the garage seldom drops as low as 25° F on the coldest days. Then again, a string of four “coldest” days in a row (lows below 10°) is extremely rare.

I can’t very well leave the washing machine running — the pump therein will commit suicide if it doesn’t get some timely H2O — so I’m playing a waiting game while the temperatures finally climb above freezing. I really don’t see what choice I have, as pointing a heat source at a 13-year-old piece of plywood is a really good way to start a fire. Maybe by Wednesday things will be back to normal.

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Where’s Dr. Jekyll when you need him?

McGehee (8 January) looks for Hyde to be tanned:

Back in 1995, after his party took over the majority in the House of Representatives on the strength of the Contract With America — of which one of the points was congressional term limits — Rep. Henry Hyde took to the floor to argue against term limits by claiming you couldn’t find effective representation by taking names at random from the phone book.

With that comment — along with his longtime support for federal gun control — Hyde eclipsed, to my mind, everything worthwhile he ever had done or ever would do. That idea, of the indispensable political veteran who must intermediate between the people and their government, has been the single most corrosive concept ever introduced into American politics. For his part in blocking that legislation, Hyde deserved to depart Washington by rail in a sticky, feathery suit.

As has been pointed out on occasion — thank you, Lisa — the electorate can always throw the bums out, should they be so inclined. But McGehee has hit on the subtext here: we’ve become accustomed to thinking in terms of hiring the expert rather than doing the job ourselves. And I appreciate this concept: after recently failing to reduce the size of an overgrown holly which was threatening to take over a section of roof, I had to call in a tree surgeon. But the American political system is based on the idea of, yes, doing the job ourselves. You could argue that the job is now too big for us; what is needed, I believe, is to cut it back down to size.

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Expelled from the Gardens of Marvin

Some of the economic lessons we’ve learned from playing Monopoly:

Winners are determined by random chance early in the game. If you land on Boardwalk the first time you are living large. Otherwise it is low rent forever.

You can’t do anything to encourage patrons to visit. They either roll your number or they pass you by.

If you can just make it to the end of the board, someone will hand you enough money to keep you afloat.

Some people can buy their way out of trouble and others are stuck in jail no matter what they do.

I could swear I’ve heard this before from [insert name of politician].

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Strange search-engine queries (206)

Now guaranteed to contain less than 385 ppm CO2, or your money back.

god hates us all tattoo:  Which is why He makes you pay good money to have your skin punctured, I assume.

i just lie there during sex:  Well, at least you’re not lying over here.

waxing less frontal nudity:  It seems to me that the more you wax, the nuder you are, so to speak.

taco bell hiring:  Which is good news if you expect rather a lot of Congressmen to be leaving office soon: at least they’ll have some place to go.

montgomery ward catalog penis flaws:  You want a lifetime warranty on your tool, you have to go to Sears.

pantyhose for penis:  I wouldn’t try this trade at Montgomery Ward, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

Lola sports a tattoo on her thigh that reads “Death by rabbit”:  Jimmy Carter, lust in his heart notwithstanding, has avoided her ever since.

old farts age 50:  Hell, boy, when I was your age you couldn’t be an old fart ’til you were sixty-two. They’ve been raising the age ever since. Now get off my lawn.

concrete rotary dustbury:  Which, if you think about it, makes even less sense than “Honey Nut Cheerios.”

dustbury state fair:  Next year, we’re deep-frying Honey Nut Cheerios on the midway.

Obligatory Rule 34 item: maureen dowd pix sexy.

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Actually, a fairly regular name

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Filling potholes on the road to hell

Some of the WordPress guys are floating the notion of “canonical” plugins:

Canonical plugins would be plugins that are community developed (multiple developers, not just one person) and address the most popular functionality requests with superlative execution. These plugins would be GPL and live in the repo, and would be developed in close connection with WordPress core. There would be a very strong relationship between core and these plugins that ensured that a) the plugin code would be secure and the best possible example of coding standards, and b) that new versions of WordPress would be tested against these plugins prior to release to ensure compatibility. There would be a screen within the Plugins section of the WordPress admin to feature these canonical plugins as a kind of Editor’s Choice or Verified guarantee. These plugins would be a true extension of core WordPress in terms of compatibility, security and support.

If that’s the objective, why not just incorporate them into the core and be done with it? Because if you have government-approved canonical and non-canonical plugins, J. Random User is simply going to assume that canonical is better, whether it is or not:

When only 75% of users at a WordCamp are using the latest versions, we have a problem. Using a simple extrapolation — of course, not a statistically perfect method — of that number, assume 15% of the market is running outdated, insecure versions of the software. That’s a huge problem, considering the number of WordPress blogs out there. While I strongly believe that it’s one’s responsibility to maintain and update a site, that assumed number is that of irresponsible blog-owners who present a danger not just to the reputation of the WordPress community but to the general online health of all online people.

These same lazy people are the ones who won’t be bothered to pick a plugin based on how it performs. They’ll reach for the closest solution accessible and go with it. In today’s plugin/theme marketplace, the market leaders may not be the best of best of the very darned best, but they come close. In tomorrow’s canonical marketplace, the majority of users won’t be bothered to move beyond that which is canonical. Why would they, when those selfsame plugins and themes carry not just the approval that a theme is safe, but that it’s endorsed by and is considered “official” by the WordPress leadership itself?

But … but … their intentions are good!

This whole we-know-better-than-you-do attitude pervades every aspect of contemporary culture and most aspects of contemporary American politics. If you don’t consider it insulting, I suggest that you aren’t paying enough attention.

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Still no sign of a free lunch

This comment from Mike on an Antiplanner post seemed worth repeating:

“Selfishness” is a virtue when it means rational self-interest, or to put it another way “rational egoism.” The rational egoist understands that benefits come with costs; they recognize that TANSTAAFL. The rational egoist acts in accordance with his or her long-term best interests, which may require the individual to forgo immediate pleasure or comfort. Past generations understood this because there was no immediacy of media entertainment or immediacy of revolving credit or ubiquity of 24-hour-a-day goods and services. They had to save up if they wanted something, and bargain for it at arm’s length. In our society’s admirable effort to truly democratize communications and so create the “eternal now,” the notion that one must plan ahead and accept prerequisite costs in money and time has fallen by the wayside.

In the otherwise forgettable movie In the Line of Fire, the villain tells a group of financial brokers “American CEOs plan to deliver good numbers after the next quarter. Japanese CEOs plan to deliver great numbers after the next quarter-century.”

That’s how you know the villain in a financial movie: he’s the guy who tells you the truth. Before Gordon Gekko ever said “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good,” he said this:

Teldar Paper has 33 different vice presidents each earning over 200 thousand dollars a year. Now, I have spent the last two months analyzing what all these guys do, and I still can’t figure it out. One thing I do know is that our paper company lost 110 million dollars last year, and I’ll bet that half of that was spent in all the paperwork going back and forth between all these vice presidents. The new law of evolution in corporate America seems to be survival of the unfittest. Well, in my book you either do it right or you get eliminated.

I have no idea if this is why they named a reptile after him.

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New York nixed

The Knickerbockers brought a whole lot of good shooters to the Ford Center, and were duly shot down by the Oklahoma City defense; the Thunder led by 10 after the first quarter, by 16 at the half, and ultimately won it by 18, 106-88.

“Shot down” defined: (1) Chris Duhon got only three points. (2) Danilo Gallinari didn’t score at all, though he did reel in 11 rebounds. (3) The Knicks as a whole shot only 38.2 percent, (4) and 21.4 percent — 6 of 28 — from the three-point line. New York was competitive on the boards, recording 46 rebounds (the Thunder had 47), but the Thunder did a better job of keeping a lid on the basket, Nate Robinson’s 19 points off the bench notwithstanding. Some of the Knicks, however, blame supernatural phenomena.

The tenth man in Scott Brooks’ nine-man rotation, Byron Mullens, played the last six minutes of the game; he got four points. In fact, everyone got at least four points; Serge Ibaka, who logged 24 minutes, made it to 10, Russell Westbrook scored 17 without turning the ball over once, and Kevin Durant improved his per-game average a couple of slivers by posting another 30-point game. OKC shot an adequate 46.6 percent.

Three and one on this homestand, with one game left: the Spurs. The Thunder leads that series 1-0, having won already in San Antonio.

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Whatever happened to that ragtop Tucker?

From last year:

1. The Tucker Corp. never “officially” built any topless Tucker automobiles. It built 50 four-door sedans and one prototype. That’s it.

2. Today, a Tucker convertible DOES exist, its legitimacy, its history, and its significance depends on your interpretation and, ultimately, who you want to believe.

Further background here. The frame is stamped #57, which suggests a legitimate leftover, and the powertrain is correct.

Besides, just take a look at it:

Tucker convertible

Vera Tucker, it is said, owned a dress this color.

Russo and Steele will auction off this car in a couple of weeks. It’s never been titled, and the odometer reads 00002. It will almost certainly command a seven-digit price.

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The Web don’t work ’cause the vandals got a handle

Why are we constantly beset with malware and other horrible digital excrescences? Too much tolerance for things that go wrong, maybe:

We’ve become an eight-cylinder SUV society. For all the nonsense we babble about global warming and how worried we are about it, we’ve become a culture in which we just press the gas down when we want to go somewhere, and we really don’t care about the imperfections in the system that makes it all go until the bill for gassing it up again is ten dollars higher than what we’re used to paying. And then, we don’t fix anything until the power steering makes a godawful squealing sound or the transmission conks out. Then we bitch and cuss about how it cost three thousand dollars and the mechanic must be out to screw us over.

I’ve had one transmission rebuilt. Then again, it was a two-speed Powerglide, which is about as complicated as a Waring Blendor.

Still, I’m not sure this is the answer:

I will expand the government to start a Bureau of Malware Damage Compensation. It will be responsible for filing civil suits against these guilty parties and placing liens on their property and income. It will accept and validate claims for anti-virus software licensing, computer services, and time lost by the victims, and as the proceeds of these liens are collected, it will compensate them.

Which is admittedly easier than, oh, say, creating a digital buzzbomb which will trace these evil little scripts to their evil little masters and setting off an explosion in their evil little shorts, but it’s a hell of a lot less gratifying. And if I have to scrape things off a hard drive, I want the culprit to suffer before I want him to pay; I want his attitude adjusted in such a manner as to make his testicles flee halfway up his abdomen at the very thought of trying that crap again. (If there are in fact any women writing malware, make the appropriate alterations.)

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Scared shotless

The Thunder beat the Knicks last night, and most observers believe it was the result of Oklahoma City’s superior defense.

At least some of the Knicks, however, believe it was the result of Oklahoma City’s dearly departed:

For two days, several players had trouble sleeping because they were convinced that their downtown hotel is haunted.

“I definitely believe it,” Jared Jeffries said. “The place is haunted. It’s scary.”

Eddy Curry claims he slept for only two hours Sunday night because he couldn’t stop thinking about ghosts roaming the hotel.

Jeffries scored eight points, about twice his average so far this season. Curry did not play (coach’s decision).

For years, guests staying at the Skirvin Hilton have reported ghost sightings and strange noises. Legend has it that sometime in the 1930s, a woman jumped to her death while holding her baby in her hands.

“They said it happened on the 10th floor and I’m the only one staying on the 10th floor,” Curry said. “That’s why I spent most of my time in (Nate Robinson’s) room. I definitely believe there are ghosts in that hotel.”

Robinson had 19 points, about half again his average so far this season.

Next game with the Knicks is at Madison Square Garden; they won’t be back here until next season. Wonder where they’ll stay?

(Tweeted by FanFeedr.)

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Out of stalk

My first car, a mid-60s Chevrolet, had one stalk sprouting from the steering column: a flimsy little stick on the left which worked the turn signals. As I recall, the signals would almost always cancel properly if I turned right, and would almost never cancel properly if I turned left.

In later years, I adjusted to multiple stalks. Gwendolyn has a pair, the left side working the turn signals, the lights, and the fog lights, and the right side handling the windshield wiper/washer combo. And I vaguely remember a rental car that had the horn on a stalk: you’d push in on the end of the left stalk.

The next step, if you believe Ferrari, is no stalks at all: the Italia 458 steering wheel incorporates all those functions. The only protrusions from the column are the shift paddles for the seven-speed dual-clutch sort-of-automatic.

I think I’d have trouble with those turn signals, mounted at nine o’clock and three o’clock. Then again, nobody’s going to lend me a Ferrari to verify this.

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A peacock with egg on its face

NBC is about to learn the most important lesson in the industry: you do not screw around with your most-talented individuals. Period.

Conan O’Brien says he will not be a part of the “destruction” of The Tonight Show so enthusiastically promoted by the network:

So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn’t matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.

There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.

Yeah. Good luck with that. NBC has sold O’Brien, indeed the whole franchise, down the river, to compensate for its own questionable judgment.

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These aren’t the droplets you’re looking for

The nearest printer cartridge to the old work desk is an HP 56, and the packaging claims that it’s good for ~520 pages, subject to the following qualifications:

Tested in HP DeskJet 5550 Color Inkjet Printer. Average based on ISO/IEC 24711 or HP testing metholodogy and continuous printing. Actual yield varies considerably based on content of printed pages and other factors. For details see

This isn’t particularly heinous in and of itself; anyone who’s been within door-opening distance of a car in recent years already knows that Your Mileage May Vary, yadda, yadda. But calculating miles per gallon isn’t so difficult, since you know how many gallons you’re using. How many milliliters of ink are you using? Nowhere on the HP 56 package is there a reference to the actual liquid volume. (Last I looked, it was 19 ml, but that was three years ago; I am loath to open up a brand-new cartridge just to see if they’re still bothering to put this information in the usual tiny print.)

If Lexmark had its way, you wouldn’t know these things anyway:

Lexmark International Inc., one company that sells the cartridges, argued in a recent letter that disclosing ink volumes would actually be misleading to consumers.

The cartridges, which Lexmark describes as micro-machines, can use varying amounts of ink based on print quality and the amount of ink deposited on a page, so a comparison based on quantity of ink would be misleading, the company says. And the cost of the ink is only a small part of the cartridges’ cost, the letter said.

“Treating these sophisticated machines as though they were mere containers for ink is inappropriate,” said Charles Kratzer, an attorney for Lexmark.

I’ve only owned one Lexmark printer, and it was about as sophisticated as a hatchet. Its paper handling, in fact, was about on par with a hatchet. Still, someone has to take the Malevolent Scum position, right?

I am less perturbed by this, though, than I am with the ink-monitoring “systems” used to make the machines more, um, “sophisticated”; they inevitably are set to give off dire warnings that OMG you’re almost out of ink! at the point where you’ve used maybe two-thirds of the contents. Not even the most alarmist low-fuel light in any car I’ve ever driven is that pushy. One reason I’ve retained an old HP 720C all these years is that the only warning it gives is the only warning that means anything: the print is starting to look like crap.

Still, if the states want to regulate this sort of thing, let ’em try. I don’t think it will do much good — except maybe for Kodak, largely an also-ran in the printer biz despite having genuinely inexpensive ink. (Try $15 for a color cartridge, $10 for black.)

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Who is this bint?

Received in yesterday’s email (and unedited by me):

My name is binta,i am good looking. I saw your profile on and i pick intrest on you after going through your profile and was delighted to contact you, I hope you will be the true loving, honest and caring,i will tell you more about me on my next mail to you,please contact me directly through my email address and i will also send my pictures to you on my next mail.

She also included a link to HGTV’s Dream Home pages, which indicates — well, nothing, actually. On the other hand, inspection of the mail headers revealed that it was apparently sent from, Scripps being the parent company of HGTV. Did someone flood a “Send this page to a friend” link with spammage?

We’ll see if there’s a “next mail.”

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Flat comfy

Often as not, the shoes reviewed here fall into the general category of “None of the actual readership would wear these, but what the hell.” Once in a while, though, I happen upon a pair that gets the strongest possible form of endorsement from a reader: she bought it.

Paddie by Pr!vo

This is “Paddie,” from Clarks’ Pr!vo (that’s apparently the way they spell it) label, and these are some of the selling points:

Shock-absorbing Soleassage™ insole features textured bumps for a massage effect.

Lightweight EVA midsole with durable rubber outsole for added traction.

Cement construction ensures increased flexibility without twisting.

You want to be careful how you enunciate “Soleassage.” And “cement construction” gave me a turn, until I realized that all it meant was that the sole is glued in place. Then again, you probably have a pair of shoes that feel like cement, or, more properly, concrete.

Fillyjonk says of “Paddie”:

I would have liked the heels to be a bit higher — it’s nice to have an inch or so of extra height when you are teaching and such — but these were the nicest looking and best-fitting shoes the store had.

Dressy, but not too dressy. And at under $100, not too expensive, either.

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Monitored for quality-control purposes

LeeAnn reported her Visa card missing, and oh, the fun she had:

“Frank”, in deep Southern accent… southern New Delhi, I mean: “Good afternoon, madame, my name is Frank how may I assist you?”

Me: “I seem to have misplaced my card and I need to report it.”

“Frank”: “Ah yes, you have not taken the care and have displaced your valuable credit card, is this correct?”

Me: “Uh… yes, sort of. I didn’t do it on purpose.”

“Frank”: “But you are of the calling to remind me your card is gone, is this correct?”

Me: “Right, it’s missing and I need to cancel it and get a new one.”

“Frank”: “So you would of like to receive a new card for the one that is valuably lost not to be found again?”

Me: “Yes, Frank, I need a new card. Please.”

“Frank”: “Would the insurancing of this new card be wanted to prevent unwanted charges and occurrences on this, the new card to replace the card that was tragically gone to the missing, yes?”

And so on, and so on, and scooby-dooby-doo. Finally:

[A]nd today I got my new card in the mail … with exactly the same number on it.

It is of an unclearness with regarding of the concept, we would be thinking, yes?

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Featuring “Rayra”

Eric Crapton CD

Shot by Elisson, who presumably did not shoot the deputy.

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Harshing your melanoma

Little Miss Attila reminds us:

[N]o matter what Big Dermatology tells you, everyone looks better with a tan. Especially Caucasians.

Which is why I’ll never run for public office. Too pale.

This looks like a really good time not to mention the youngish woman of African-American extraction I tried to sell on the idea of clothing-optional vacations: “I’m brown enough,” she said.

And besides, they might revive the idea of the Tanning Tax.

Addendum: No, I don’t actually have melanoma. So far as I know.

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Welcome to the grindhouse

For sheer ferocity, it’s hard to beat a Thunder-Spurs game. This one didn’t start out that way, though: San Antonio ran up a 35-18 lead after the first quarter, was still up 12 at the half, and then Oklahoma City clamped down, holding the Spurs to 13 points in the third. It was 99-all at the end of regulation, and with nine seconds left in overtime, Richard Jefferson landed the 12-footer that put the Spurs up 109-108; the Thunder got one last look, but it was not to be.

And the Spurs produced all that offense with Tim Duncan resting on the bench. In his place, rookie DeJuan Blair generated numbers even Duncan could envy: 28 points, 21 rebounds, before fouling out early in overtime. Tony Parker, who never shoots treys, shot three of them while scoring 28. The sharpest of the sharpshooters, though, was George Hill, who earned the wrath of Harry Kim by hitting seven of nine for 16 points.

The Thunder, of course, had nearly as much offense of their own, led by Kevin Durant with 35; Russell Westbrook logged a double-double (25 points, 13 assists, and only three turnovers), as did Jeff Green (16 points, 10 rebounds). OKC barely outshot San Antonio, 46.1 to 45.3 percent; the Spurs won the rebounding battle, 50-45. I have to wonder, though, if things would had been different if Duncan hadn’t been given the night off.

And so begins another hairy segment of the schedule: coming up, the Mavericks (Friday at Dallas), the Heat (Saturday at the Ford), and the Hawks (Monday afternoon at Atlanta).

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The cupboard was bare

And the result was something like this:

I know other bloggers often publish recipes. If I were to do so, it might look like this (from an, unfortunately, actual experience)

  • 1 bowl of Cap’n Crunch
  • Substitute ½ cup cheap vodka for milk
  • Preparation notes: Never, ever do this again

Don’t tell me you’ve never tried to work up an emergency Bloody Mary with half a dozen ketchup packets and a couple of Alka-Seltzer.

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Outer dispersal loop

Getting around Tulsa is tricky if what you want to do is literally get around Tulsa; the sort of beltway found in places like Houston and Indianapolis, and vaguely approximated in Oklahoma City, doesn’t yet exist in T-town, though they’ve been working towards one for decades. The Gilcrease Expressway, which began at I-244 east of Memorial, is now complete as far west as L. L. Tisdale Parkway, and construction is about to begin on a section to extend to 41st West Avenue; there’s a short stretch north of I-44 that’s designated as part of the Gilcrease, but it’s only two lanes for the moment.

To fill in the gap, they’ll have to cross the Arkansas River somewhere, and right now they’re pondering a toll bridge:

A working group made up of private citizens and public officials has raised the funds needed to study the feasibility of constructing a toll bridge across the Arkansas River in west Tulsa.

The group sees construction of the bridge — which would connect 21st Street and Charles Page Boulevard at approximately 57th West Avenue — as the integral next step in completing the Gilcrease Expressway.

What’s needed, of course, is actual funding:

About $7.5 million a year in federal and local funds are currently dedicated to construction of the expressway. But with the remaining work expected to cost $200 million to $300 million, city officials estimate the project won’t be done until about 2052.

Twenty fifty-two? Geez. OKC’s Crosstown Expressway will already be done by then. I think.

(Via Jeff Shaw.)

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Ayez l’âme aguerrie

Even in the best of times, Haiti was a jumble, a disorganized mess, a ball of confusion; we may never know how many people were killed in this week’s earthquake.

This much I’m pretty sure of: the Haitians did nothing to deserve this, no matter what Pat Robertson says. (I am not, of course, in a position to know Robertson’s ultimate fate, but I’m thinking he and Fred Phelps ought to be fused together, twins conjoined by the force of their own blasphemy. I’m not even going to imagine where they’re joined.)

But this is the part that gets me: if you search Wikipedia for “Haiti earthquakes,” you get a disambiguation page. Somehow that makes it even harder to take.

The title is from the last verse of “La Dessalinienne,” the Haitian national anthem. Good advice even when the earth isn’t shuddering: “Have a strong soul.”

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The old 401(k) is up a shade under 14 percent for 2009, which means I’ve made up about two-thirds of the 2008 loss. None of the components showed a loss, though the small sum invested in traditional money-market funds earned a meager, but predictable, 0.19 percent.

Once I cash in the proceeds, I figure I have enough to live on for three, maybe four weeks. The fund manager thinks I need $60,000 a year in retirement income, which I suppose would be nice, since I’ve never made $60,000 in any year of my life; I assume they’re expecting some major inflation between Now and some so-far-inchoate Then.

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Thinking the unthinkable

So what happens if both Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno decide that they’ve been screwed by NBC and will take their business elsewhere, thank you very much? Who will take the reins at America’s Late Night Leader? For NBC, it’s time to come up with some new shows, or at least some shows that can be sold as new. Suggestions:

  1. How I Met Your Brother
  2. Law & Order: Wichita
  3. So You Think You Can Run for President
  4. As long as it has cute vampires, who cares?
  5. The Sham-Wow Hour of Power
  6. Olympic Classics: Summer 1988
  7. How I Met Your Sister
  8. Tim Russert: Defining a Century
  9. The Best of Carson
  10. Armenian Idol

Check your local listings for your NBC station, if it hasn’t already defected to Fox.

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Local girl makes good

Once one of the super-er of supermodels, Angela Lindvall was born 31 years ago today in Midwest City, Oklahoma, just east of the OKC, and grew up in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. About ten years ago she looked like this:

Angela Lindvall for Tommy Hilfiger

Angela Lindvall and her childrenToday Lindvall, divorced, lives in Topanga Canyon with her two seriously-cute boys and devotes herself to environmental causes and sustainability; she started the Collage Foundation to support, she says, “an engaged alternative to apathy.” The camera, for its part, clearly still thinks she’s wonderful; the shot to the right comes from a summer ’09 session for the British edition of Vogue, and demonstrates pretty nicely that bewitching and bucolic aren’t mutually exclusive. Those jeans, though, have pretty much had it.

Disclosure: I used to have a picture of Lindvall — a trifle more revealing than either of these — as wallpaper on my trusty Toshiba notebook.

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