Archive for February 2010

Much more than this

What little karaoke I’ve done, I’ve done in New Jersey, more than a thousand miles from home. (I’m not entirely dim.) It might have been even better to have sung in the Philippines, which is even farther away, provided I didn’t sing “My Way”:

The authorities do not know exactly how many people have been killed warbling “My Way” in karaoke bars over the years in the Philippines, or how many fatal fights it has fueled. But the news media have recorded at least half a dozen victims in the past decade and includes them in a subcategory of crime dubbed the “My Way Killings.”

The killings have produced urban legends about the song and left Filipinos groping for answers. Are the killings the natural byproduct of the country’s culture of violence, drinking and machismo? Or is there something inherently sinister in the song?

We will pause for a second while you ponder the idea of an “inherently sinister” English lyric penned by Paul Anka.

One voice instructor in Manila explains it this way:

“I did it my way” — it’s so arrogant. The lyrics evoke feelings of pride and arrogance in the singer, as if you’re somebody when you’re really nobody. It covers up your failures. That’s why it leads to fights.

And, let’s face it, Sinatra was someone with whom you did not mess. Not that any of us are Sinatra.

Let us not, however, assume that karaoke-related killings are unique to the Philippines:

In the past two years alone, a Malaysian man was fatally stabbed for hogging the microphone at a bar and a Thai man killed eight of his neighbors in a rage after they sang John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Karaoke-related assaults have also occurred in the United States, including at a Seattle bar where a woman punched a man for singing Coldplay’s “Yellow” after criticizing his version.

There have been times when I wanted to punch Coldplay for singing “Yellow,” but that’s neither here nor there. Nor in New Jersey, for that matter.

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Triple duty

A man’s gotta do, we are told, what a man’s gotta do, which demonstrates, I suppose, that you can’t keep a good tautology down.

Over at Cobb’s, Maxambit has come to the conclusion that this is what a man’s gotta do:

(1) A man’s first duty is to strengthen his own mind, so he may recognize how institutions and cultures compete to control it and then defend himself.

(2) A man’s second duty is to strive to accumulate sufficient wealth so he and his loved ones will have the resources they’ll need to live freely in the U.S., unencumbered by enslaving debts, discomforting relationships, or unrewarding labor.

(3) A man’s third duty is to do no harm to others who are within his sphere of influence.

I think I am on reasonably-firm ground in saying that most of us will not be equally successful at all three — which does not excuse us from continuing to work at them.

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Strange search-engine queries (210)

What you’re looking at is a highly-unrepresentative sampling of the search requests that arrived on this site during the last seven days, chosen mostly for potential snark value. We do this once a week; the possibility of unintended acceleration of this schedule is essentially nil.

candid jailbait spy:  What’s worse than a perv? A perv by proxy.

please god piss it away this time:  Um, this is not how you pray for rain.

does meredith vieira wear a bikini:  Certainly not in front of Matt Lauer.

twit_dollars:  The new Twitter-based currency. In an effort to reduce individual debt, no one will be allowed to spend more than 140 of them at a time.

backstage pass to 101 dalmatians:  Spot remover is specifically prohibited.

crossdresser glute pads:  See your local booty consultant for details.

I’m not well known for my great social skills:  Which may explain why you’re on the computer in the middle of the night.

cognitive dissonance at pier 1 imports:  It starts with that one item in the store marked “Made in USA.”

middle aged men expect bikini wax:  Then let them get it themselves.

sally kern is a nazi:  I don’t think she even owns a pair of proper jackboots.

Why was Alfred Kinsey a trailblazer:  He was originally drafted by the Celtics, but he couldn’t hit a free throw to save his life, so they traded him to Portland.

paranoia is good for you:  Not so loud. Someone might be listening.

Obligatory Rule 34 item: maureen dowd flirting.

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FLOTUSes blossomed

Brief descriptions by JC of the last few First Ladies:

Nancy Reagan was America’s nagging mother, what with the “Just Say No” program. My mom would have suggested “just say no thank you”, but that’s another matter.

Barbara Bush was America’s grandmother, offering lemonade and cookies (careful of the lactose intolerant, you see), and reading to the kiddies at the public library. Full disclosure, she did in fact read to my kids at the library one time).

Hillary Clinton was best described by P. J. O’Rourke as “America’s Ex-Wife”, and that pretty much sums it up.

Laura Bush was an actual librarian, and did the official unveiling of the statue of Dr. Seuss. C’mon, that’s neat.

Michelle Obama strikes me as a playground monitor, an officious overpaid representative of the state who got the job through political connections.

If the pattern holds, the next FLOTUS ought to be pretty spiffy.

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Also, to serve and protect

Though that seems a secondary function, really:

Police shoes?

“Must be worn by a siren,” says SondraK.

(Hat tip: Jeffro.)

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Write now?

“Publish or perish” used to be, I am given to understand, a directive given to university faculty: you did the papers, or you’d never work on this tenure track again, Bunkie. Now it seems to have filtered down to the students. Dani Shapiro writes in the Los Angeles Times:

Today’s young writers don’t peruse the dusty shelves of previous generations. Instead, they are besotted with the latest success stories: The 18-year-old who receives a million dollars for his first novel; the blogger who stumbles into a book deal; the graduate student who sets out to write a bestselling thriller — and did.

The 5,000 students graduating each year from creative writing programs (not to mention the thousands more who attend literary festivals and conferences) do not include insecurity, rejection and disappointment in their plans. I see it in their faces: the almost evangelical belief in the possibility of the instant score. And why not? They are, after all, the product of a moment that doesn’t reward persistence, that doesn’t see the value in delaying recognition, that doesn’t trust in the process but only the outcome. As an acquaintance recently said to me: “So many crappy novels get published. Why not mine?”

I suspect that the ones who really want to write — as distinguished from those who really want to have written, which is not the same thing — are passing up the creative writing programs and the festivals and the conferences and are spending their time staring down a blank piece of paper until the words start to flow.

(Via Little Miss Attila, who asks: “[S]ince when has any artist been entitled to get along without a day job?”)

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Living in the 5-3-9

By now, everyone in the 918 knows that they’re about to get an overlay code.

Traditionally, overlay codes have been hated because they mean everyone has to dial ten digits, even to someone across the street. But who dials anymore? You call up the name on the cell and push a key.

And some places have more than one overlay, as Gothamist notes:

According to a press release, “929” will join “718” and the much-maligned “347” in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. That’s because all the existing phone numbers will be tapped out by 2012, reports Neustar.

After Costa Tsiokos linked to this, I had to ask:

Was [347] really maligned? For that matter, does anyone malign 646?

His answer:

347 is generally shunned. In fact, I personally shunned it: My first NY number was a 347, and I couldn’t wait to dump it in favor of 646. 646 is deemed worthy, and an acceptable alternative to 212 (which is fairly impossible to snag).

Is this a preference for palindromes over non-palindromes? Or just a distrust of the new kid on the block? (New Yorkers have had over a decade to get used to 646.)

I think it’s a safe bet, though, that the first time someone says he has a 539 number, the person being told this will say something like “Where the hell do you live?

And we here in the 405 should not be smug; we’ll be facing something like this ourselves in a couple of years. (572?)

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Water on the brain

Central Oklahoma Radar?I was glancing at the Enhanced Weather Page for this part of the world, which normally features four different radar views, from different segments of the County Warning Area. One of them this evening was a bit more different than usual: admittedly, we’ve had a fair amount of rain today, occasionally mixed with snow, but nowhere near enough to give us a farging ocean.

This didn’t last long, though: while I was cutting the image from the page, they did an update, which replaced the offending image with one a bit less geographically unacceptable.

Still, I have to figure it’s probably at least slightly nicer on the Carolina coast than it is here, at least right this minute.

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So vote already, dammit

Mike Hermes, father of the Okie Blog Awards, describing his offspring:

[M]y admiration goes to the entire Oklahoma blogging community, both readers and authors, for supporting such a fertile breeding ground of ideas, observations and entertainment. Just like a seething Petri dish, we may not like everything that comes out of it, but where one person sees mold, another finds penicillin. Or something like that.

Speaking of that which is moldy, I’m inexplicably on the final ballot in a couple of places, so you have ample opportunity to vote against me this week. (Deadline is midnight Sunday, 14 February.)

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Allowing yourself some screening room

The time for due diligence is before you do someone something else. Inevitably, there’s an app for that:

Even though dating should be about having fun and meeting new people, it’s also about finding out if this person is potential mate material. I mean you want to know if the person sitting across from you has had serious run-ins with the law or has picked their nose since age seven. Thanks to this new iPhone and Android app, you might not be able to check about the nose picking habit, but you can get the deets on just about everything else.

Date Check is an app that lets users pull up all those juicy secrets that you want to know, but might be too shy to ask on the first or second date. With a flick of the wrist you can find out if a person has a criminal history via the sleeze detector. You can also see if they own real estate, or if they’re living with someone — say a spouse they might have forgotten to mention.

I’m thinking that the slogan — “Lookup before you hookup” — is just a hair off-putting, at least to me.

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Examples set

Michael Bates goes through the Tulsa water-use statistics, and turns up one example of pure comedy gold:

On average, the six board members of Sustainable Tulsa use 173,167 gals/yr, a bit more than twice the average for a single-family home.

Big Saint Al wouldn’t have had it any other way.

(Disclosure: I use around 25,000 gallons a year.)

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Well, hello, Dalek

It’s so nice to have you back where you belong:

Trespassers will be exterminated

(From Mostly Forbidden Zone via Miss Cellania.)

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Just in case you think “race-baiter” is a recent addition to the Occupational Outlook Handbook:

I was shielded from a lot of the old ugly bigotry as a girl, albeit fully aware that there were small-minded people in the world. Even way back during that time my parents never allowed any hint of bigotry in their children. So I grew up very naive in thinking that a black person would accept my sincerity of personal interaction as a matter of course. It wasn’t until high school that I tasted the bitter edge of something new: I got played by a young Barack Obama-type. He was a transplant from Chicago, and he wanted to start a Race Forum, with the proposition of promoting more racial understanding in the student body. I was close friends with a black guy, a bright poet, which was still kinda tabu back then in the South (both poets and black guys as boyfriends. Heh.) Some had rumored us to be dating, though it wasn’t so. However, this led to my being asked to participate in the forum. I was excited to be a part, but it all came about that I had to pass a litmus test for which I was set up by the young “organizer” and was summarily found to be unsuitable for their purposes. It was not really a Race Forum because they were not going to allow any white students in it who couldn’t see themselves as oppressors and bigots. It turned out to be an Outrage Forum that bewildered those of good will.

Of course, they’d never concede that she had good will: she didn’t pass their damnfool test. And therefore:

Neither I nor my friend had anything more to do with them. Besides, he loved country music and Jesus and our little Chicago organizer was never going to allow either in a Forum for Understanding.

Of course not. It would drown out the sound of the axes being ground.

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Avoiding malparkage

I have been to Hoboken, New Jersey exactly once. (Believe me, I had my reasons.) I did not, however, attempt to park in the Mile Square City: it appeared that my one and only chance would have been to bring a parking space with me, in the manner of Acme’s Portable Hole, but not being a Super Genius, I couldn’t figure out a way to carry one in the trunk.

And apparently it wasn’t my imagination, either:

In recent decades, the city has been filled to the brim with cars parked parallel on street, double parked, triple parked (not so common nowadays), and further crippled by torturous three-year waiting lists for monthly spots at municipal lots where near-market rates are already well established (for the faint of heart, you might want to skip past this next piece of data: the price for a monthly space in a city-owned garage ranges from $180 to $215 per month). Efforts to protect pedestrians by enforcing sight-distances from intersections are met with heavy, emotional protest from weary drivers who hunt daily for a scant stretch of curb alongside which to wedge in their car.

It was less of a strain, I concluded, to book a room in North Bergen and take a cab into the midst of the fray. Once again, I was ahead of the trend:

Hoboken can leverage the large number of licensed taxis to make driving one’s personal car around town a silly idea. We are doing this by working with taxi owners and operators to identify locations for new pilot taxi stands, and to educate the public that hailing a cab is not just something to do in New York City.

Besides, unless you can claim Rand and McNally as dependents for tax purposes, a cabbie, even in New Jersey, is more likely to know the way around town.

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Of promises and the Rose Garden

I don’t think anyone anticipated this: a sweep of a three-game road trip. New Orleans, maybe; Golden State, probably; but Portland? No way. This team hasn’t won in the Rose Garden since the French and Indian War.

Until now. The Thunder shut down the Trail Blazers early on, watched them come back, and then dispatched them handily in the fourth quarter to win it 89-77.

One can argue that the Blazers weren’t at full strength, but they haven’t been at full strength all season and they were still seven games over .500. In Portland, you step up: Nicolas Batum got 12 points in his first start; rookie forward Dante Cunningham had 14 points (a career high) and six rebounds. LaMarcus Aldridge, who always bedevils the Thunder, had 15 points and 15 boards; Andre Miller dropped in 22 points. Yet the Blazers missed 17 of 20 treys; Steve Blake and Rudy Fernandez combined to miss ten of them.

So the Thunder saw their chance, and they took it. Down two after three quarters, they poured it on: James Harden, who had barely been seen up to that point, rolled up 14 points in the fourth. Jeff Green had yet another reliable 17-pointer; Kevin Durant did the double-double thing with 33 points and 11 boards. They weren’t so much better from beyond the arc — five of 16 — and in fact, the Blazers outrebounded the Thunder, 47-41. But OKC pulled off 17 steals, which gives them 33 in the last two games.

The West continues to knot up. Denver is second, 4½ back of the Lakers; OKC, now at 30-21 — did anyone expect this team to have won 30 games at the All-Star break? — is sixth, 4½ back of the Nuggets. And the Grizzlies, in 11th, are only four back of the Thunder.

The Thunder are on pace for 48-34. Maybe I can work up to uttering the P word later on.

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Watts cooking

I own a microwave oven. A small one. It is used for the lowest forms of cookery, by which I mean “warming up leftover pizza.”

(Certainly not so low as microwavable popcorn, which 98 times out of a hundred produces something so horrid and toxic you need hazmat assistance to dispose of the bag and gale-force winds rushing through the house to dispel the stench.)

It would never occur to me to do anything serious in the little metal box, and there’s a perfectly good reason for that:

My problem with the microwave, and my position against buying one lo these many years, is that they are essentially useless technology. By that, I mean that a microwave can’t do anything that another device can’t do better. Except the few things that it can do which are really not particularly needed.

Want to make a great meal fast? The pressure cooker can make a from-scratch meal just as fast and make it three times better. Microwaves seem to alter the texture of foods. And not for the better. By contrast, the pressure cooker infuses everything it cooks with concentrated flavor. My verdict: the ecological niche of “fast cooking” is more than adequately filled. No need for a microwave.

Even some of the crummier processed-to-death-and-then-some items I’ve been known to try out contain the following warning: “[Brand name] does not recommend microwave preparation.” When even vendors of extruded foodlike substances argue against it, you have to figure that something is dreadfully wrong somewhere.

Disclosure: Yes, when I was a newlywed, we had a genuine Amana Radarange, which weighed as much as a Delco battery and had damn near as much chrome as the Chevrolet that battery might have come out of. Someone actually stole the silly thing; I hope the hernia was worth it.

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Dobler down

From this very quarter, last month:

Julia Baird in Newsweek argues “the case against settling,” mostly as a shot across the bow of Lori Gottlieb, who’s written a book called Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. One problem, says Baird, is Gottlieb’s assertion that women expect too much.

Now The Last Psychiatrist has found another problematic assertion by Gottlieb, this time in The Atlantic:

To be fair, my conceptualization of what a good relationship is may be very different from hers. Here’s hers:

“In my formative years, romance was John Cusack and Ione Skye in Say Anything. But when I think about marriage nowadays, my role models are the television characters Will and Grace, who, though Will was gay and his relationship with Grace was platonic, were one of the most romantic couples I can think of.”

Nothing characterizes The Dumbest Generation Of Narcissists In The History Of The World better than using throw away cinema as a template for life. What kind of results did she expect?

The Atlantic article is here. Here’s the bit that gets me:

Each time I read about single women having babies on their own and thriving instead of settling for Mr. Wrong and hiring a divorce lawyer, I felt all jazzed and ready to go. At the time, I truly believed, “I can have it all — a baby now, my soul mate later!”

Well … ha! Hahahaha. And ha.

And so she did, and now she grumbles:

Just as the relationship books fail to mention what happens after you triumphantly land a husband (you actually have to live with each other), these single-mom books fail to mention that once you have a baby alone, not only do you age about 10 years in the first 10 months, but if you don’t have time to shower, eat, urinate in a timely manner, or even leave the house except for work, where you spend every waking moment that your child is at day care, there’s very little chance that a man — much less The One — is going to knock on your door and join that party.

On the other hand, as Lloyd Dobler once said, “If you start out depressed everything’s kind of a pleasant surprise.” But then, he’d say just about anything.

(Spotted by the Twisted Spinster of Spleenville.)

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The bigger Kahuna

Foot’s Forecast reports on the UltraKahuna from somewhere along I-95:

Two Mid-Atlantic blizzards in one week? It’s dangerous living on Earth sometimes; soon you’ll be living history right before your eyes.

I suppose it’s better than living, oh, Remedial Algebra.

Incidentally, Monday’s wet dusting brings the total snowfall at Will Rogers World Airport this winter to 19.9 inches, though we haven’t exactly been overrun with Kahunage since Christmas.

(Via Fishersville Mike.)

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Must be Pepsi drinkers

KFOR screen print, Coke-A-Cola

(Spotted by Trini. Original source here.)

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It’s the shop steward at the buzzer

The NFL Players Association, James Joyner suggests, is not your typical labor organization:

An NFL franchise employs 53 players (45 of whom may be active on game days) plus up to 8 more on their practice squads. There are 32 franchises, so that’s 1440 regular players plus 256 practice squaders who make a relative pittance. That’s not a lot of labor for a multi-billion dollar a year industry.

Like actors and musicians (who are also represented by unions) the marquee talent get most of the money paid to workers because they’re the draw. While using a different welder on a car frame won’t impact Ford’s bottom line, substituting an attractive brunette from the local community theater for Sandra Bullock, the guy who sings on the street corner for Prince, or Joe from the docks for Peyton Manning would significantly impact ticket sales. Similarly, the bottom dozen players on the roster — who Bill Parcells referred to as JAGs for “Just A Guy” — get the NFL’s version of minimum wage, as do the bit players in films or the session players on music recordings.

Admittedly, bit players don’t make much — most members of the Screen Actors Guild earn less than they’d make working at Carl’s Jr. — but “the NFL’s version of minimum wage” is, for the season just ended, $310,000.

The NBA, which has only 450 roster slots — fifteen for each of 30 teams — pays even better: $457,588 is this season’s minimum salary. Players in the Developmental League earn peanuts by comparison, though players already on NBA rosters who are sent to the D-League continue to draw their NBA-level salaries.

That said, there are some similarities between the various Players’ Associations and traditional trade unions:

Sports owners have been forced by labor laws and court decisions to bargain in good faith with their players. It wasn’t all that long ago that even superstar players had to accept whatever the boss deemed fair. And the various player’s unions have negotiated better working conditions, pension plans, injury settlement practices, and minimum scales for rookies and veterans. Further, the ability to negotiate these things collectively rather than on a player-by-player basis has doubtless made some things easier for owners, too.

Indeed. And the current NBA agreement ends in 2011; there weren’t that many changes from the 1999 agreement in 2005, but this time around, the owners are reportedly taking a hard line in an effort to control costs. Last time they did that, nearly half the season was wiped out.

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Turn reader upside down, shake

The Post-Star of Glens Falls, New York is partially retreating from the Web:

Today we started removing items from our free Web site — comics, letters to the editor, puzzles, TV grid and letters to the editor.

The idea is to wean people off the free Web site and either get them to buy the print version or the e-edition, which is just a PDF of the paper.

Evidently the letters to the editor are so heinous they have to be removed twice.

On the other hand, I suspect that those letters are the one thing people — the people who write the letters, anyway — will actually pay for. (Comics can be had from the syndicator, occasionally delayed, like it matters so much with Rex Morgan, M.D.)

And no one, Web or otherwise, has come up with a really good substitute for the old, dead TV Guide.

But here’s the kicker, from Wikipedia:

For a time, the Post-Star maintained two distinctly different online presences. was an all-inclusive, subscription-based offering; is freely available and advertising driven. As of April 2007, ceased operation.

See also “insanity, definition of.”

(Filtered out of the stream at the Professor’s.)

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Evolution of the Snuggie

In the beginning there was the Snuggie, and it was good. Or at least it was warm. Sort of. If you happened to be on a pub crawl in a Snuggie, you were probably warmed more by the ethanol than by the fabric.

Inevitably, there would be knockoffs of the Snuggie. There exists, for instance, something called the HoodieFootie, which stretches the concept about as far as it can go.

But the bottom line, I think, remains unchanged:

Snuggies flow chart

I figure every Snuggie defender from Taunton to Tacoma will be here shortly.

(Blame this on Lisa.)

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Because they said so

Iran, says President Ahmadinejad, is now a “nuclear state”:

In a nationally televised address in the square, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proclaimed that Iran has produced its first batch of uranium enriched to a higher level, saying his country will not be bullied by the West into curtailing its nuclear program a day after the U.S. imposed new sanctions.

“The first package of 20 percent fuel was produced and provided to the scientists,” he said, reiterating that Iran was now a “nuclear state.” He did not specify how much uranium had been enriched.

Leaders of the Democratic Party in the United States professed concern, but expressed their confidence that Ahmadinejad had pronounced “nuclear,” or its Farsi equivalent, correctly.

In other news, North Korea announced that it would rebrand itself as a tourist destination and would seek a partner to construct two five-star, or maybe it was five two-star, hotels in downtown Pyongyang; Somali pirates proposed a Safe Passage Weekend; and an item of intimate wear alleged to have been worn once by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin turned up on eBay, where it was purchased for $11,621. We are unable to confirm that Andrew Sullivan spent the next day begging Atlantic owner David Bradley for a raise.

(Iran story via Jenn, who apparently was expecting a lot more of an announcement from Tehran.)

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Of thee, icing

Generally, you won’t find the Lost Ogle among my choice of go-to guys for Biblical commentary, but while I was studying up on this new American Hockey League team we’re getting this fall, I happened upon this semi-exegesis of Luke 15:11-32:

[T]here is one question I have about this group … resurrecting minor league hockey in this town. They were previously called Express Sports which made sense considering that it was a branch of the Bob Funk empire (built around Express Personnel). Now, the group goes through a name change which was obviously meant as an allusion to the Biblical story of the prodigal son because, as anybody who knows House of Pain lyrics would recall, the son returned.

The thing is, the son was not called prodigal because of his yo-yo quality. In fact, here is the primary definition of prodigal from the dictionary:

1: characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure : lavish

See that’s the part of the story that gets left out. The returning son took his inheritance early and basically blew it on wine and whores. He went back to his father’s home after going flat broke in hopes he would no longer have to live on the street.

Technically, I think that Prodigal may still be an adequate name. Express Sports was accused of bankrupting the Blazers by getting visions of grandeur that they needed to be playing in the larger Ford Center rather than the cozy, and cheaper rent, Cox.

The NeoBlazers/Oil Kings/Puckheads/Whatever presumably won’t have these issues: they’re playing in the Cox (which is being updated to, they say, “NHL-caliber ice”), and Funkmaster Bob is being kept on a leash by the parent club in beautiful downtown Edmonton.

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At least one impossible thing before breakfast

The plumber stared in disbelief. “Roots, all right. But this is a plastic line.”

Which, as we used to say, can mean only one of one thing: the suckers had grown into the junction between the metal pipe inside the house and the plastic stuff that leads to the city sewer. It’s a good ten feet from any actual trees, but trees don’t much care about distance.

For now, the suckers have been cleared away. For later, I’m thinking in terms of something that works like copper sulfate but less likely to kill everything within a twelve-yard radius.

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And there’s always “Je t’aime”

Accent on “always.”

(Seen at Morgan Freeberg’s place. I heard somewhere that this was actually aired during some sort of football game.)

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Someone you never want to lose

As posted to her Facebook page:

Jan Graham Borelli, age 55, went to be with the Lord on Wednesday, February 10, 2010. Born April 10, 1954 in Chattanooga, TN. She is the daughter of Dr. Frank B. Graham, III and Dorothy Hall Graham. Jan was an outstanding educator of more than 30 years known for her dedication to her students no matter what their age. Most recently she was the principal at Westwood Elementary School in the Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) district where she had worked for a combined 17 years. While in the district she also served as principal at Roosevelt Middle School, Webster Middle School, Southeast High School and Northeast High School. Currently she was also employed as an adjunct professor at Southwest Baptist University and Kaplan University.

There’s a lot more, of course; we’re talking a seriously rich life. And somewhere it intersected with mine. On the subject of me, she once blogged:

If I weren’t happily married and tied down with all kinds of material debts, I would run off to Nova Scotia with him.

We never got that far, of course, though she did subsequently schlep me along to the Grill on the Hill. Capitol Hill, that is.

Some of you may remember this little incident:

The teachers and their students came up with the theme of the gift of education money from the lottery. The teachers gathered discarded, cancelled lottery tickets from convenience stores. The kids cut ornaments from the discarded tickets and even folded and cut some of the tickets into three-dimensional mathematical shapes. They cut the top tree star out of a lottery poster. Ping pong balls with numbers carefully written to mimic the big lottery drawing balls were strung together with twine and bows to complete the decoration. After school on Wednesday, the church across the street provided vans to take the kids up to the State Capitol to decorate the tree allocated for our school.

The Capitol was abuzz with excitement as children from schools from all over the state decorated their trees as we decorated ours. The Governor and his wife went from tree to tree and posed with the students from the different schools. Our children excitedly gathered around the Governor, the Mrs. and Santa Claus to get their pictures taken. We were so proud of our tree and our creative theme.

Then the bottom fell out:

[A radio] reporter accused us of having our children sell lottery tickets. We were accused of an inappropriate display to publicize the lottery. We were accused of a lot of heinous things. What had started out as a clever idea turned out to be a sinister plot to undermine the morality of our culture.

When our annual event was over that afternoon, I called the state representative whom the radio station (and subsequently the television station) told us had called them about the tree. I apologized to him for having caused such heart burn. I explained that we had no intention of making a political statement and would gladly remove the tree. I did not wish this nastiness to besmirch our children or embarrass our Governor who had allowed the children of our state to decorate Capitol Christmas trees. I hope our controversy will not ruin this event for all the children and schools.

I followed it up here, which is how she discovered my existence.

And you know, I’d miss someone like this even if she weren’t a pretty blonde with a fabulous smile and a brain the size of a planet.

Fare thee well, Dr. Jan. See if you can knock some sense into those angels.

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Brother tongues

“In German, or in English, I know how to count down,” said Tom Lehrer in his Wernher von Braun voice, “and I’m learning Chinese.”

The good Doctor perhaps should consider Smitty’s advice as an alternative:

[I]f I wasn’t using my spare language time learning German, I’d focus on Spanish. Among that blessings the country enjoys today is the English language. It’s as important to the country as the opposable thumb to the flesh. But it was born after Hastings, when Norman French ran roughshod over Anglo-Saxon.

I predict, by the power of the rectal pluck, that in another 400 years or so the slow merger of English and Spanish shall be shown to have been an overall win.

By then, of course, we’ll have adopted just as many words in lolcat. (“¿Puedo tener una hamburguesa con queso?” just seems too formal.)

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This week’s Carnival of the Vanities, the 364th, is titled “Snowpocalypse (except in Maine).”

Which, I suppose, means that it’s not difficult to get out to the Maine Mall in South Portland, located at 364 Maine Mall Road.

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Subtle T’s

Sara Blakely, inventor of Spanx, explains why she’s started making men’s garments:

Men’s undershirts have been underperforming for as long as they’ve been around, with stretched out necks and bulky cuts that do nothing for the male physique. The men in my life (and in Hollywood) have been asking me to make Spanx for men for years, so I was inspired to create comfortable and powerful undershirts that provide instant gratification without gimmicks.

Well, I suppose it’s a hell of a lot better than wife-beaters, which still hold the record for Worst-Named Garment.

As with Snuggies, there will inevitably be competition. I blame Steve Carell.

(A wave of the sleeve to the Left Coast Cowboy.)

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Quote of the week

This month in Playboy, singer John Mayer steps on his schwanz. (The heavier steps have been reproduced all over the place, including the HuffPo.) Those who track the Zeitgeist more effectively than I do, which is almost everyone, seem to be split on whether Mayer is some sort of racist for disdaining black women and blaming it on the Little Head, or whether he’s simply an asshat with a Big Mouth.

Aaryn B. leans toward the latter explanation:

Honey, you are an affront to frat boys everywhere and that’s a damn near impossible feat. You are not smart. You are not cute. You are not deep. You are not intellectual or witty or cool or hip or dope or fly or whatever it is you fancy yourself to be. You have a small, small, small brain and a very big mouth. You are a self-important asshat raised to the 11th power, quadrupled by dickheadery, topped with three servings of phony and one heaping scoop of overcompensation.

I’m glad I didn’t piss her off.

Warning: That page from which I quoted incorporates some photos that some people — those with taste — may find disturbing.

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Kerry the one

“Kerry Washington,” said noted asshat John Mayer, “will break your heart like a white girl.”

I have no idea what he meant by that, so here’s a picture of Kerry Washington in a little navy-blue dress by Luella, circa 2007.

Kerry Washington in Luella

Eat your heart out, John.

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Vintage Vicodin?

Drugs have expiration dates. But do they actually expire? Maybe not:

[M]edications in the US generally are stamped with a really, really conservative “expiration” date. Some foodstuffs that don’t actually expire have expiration dates stamped on them as well. The legal points for meds are that FDA regulations (which I’m sure the pharma industry didn’t fight too hard against) require the medicine manufacturers to stamp their products with a date to which they “guarantee the full effectiveness” of the medicine. For marketing reasons, they generally stamp them at the 2-3 year mark, not because the medicines lose effectiveness that quickly, but because they sell more meds if people don’t realize the things are good (with proper storage) up to 10 years.

During the days when I was having lots of dental work done, I’d be prescribed, say, 10 units of a painkiller after a procedure; usually the discomfort was gone after two or three, so after a while I had a decent-sized store of variations on the theme of Lortab. This came in handy during last year’s Horrible Farging Pain, and you may be sure that I took the oldest pills first. They weren’t quite ten years old, but they’d have gotten there quickly enough.

Then again:

On the one hand, if the manufacturer is required to “warranty” the efficacy of their product, it’s probably best for them to limit their liability by not guaranteeing it for too long. On the other hand, by mislabeling that date as an “expiration” date, they’re tricking unwary consumers.

Food products lately are often labeled “Best if used by [date]“; perhaps this is a reasonable statement for drugs as well.

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Lacktion sequences

“Lacktion” means exactly what you’d think it means, and nobody has been more enthusiastic about getting the word into the vernacular than the Basketbawful guys; in fact, they have regular lacktion reports on underachieving NBA players.

Of course, if you have a whole squad full of underachievers, you have — well, no, not the New Jersey Nets, even with their four-and-infinity record. But there’s one way to find out what you do have, and that’s what they did: a game, created with 2k Sports’ NBA 2k10, featuring the Null-Stars (!) of both conferences. The game was played, says Dan B., “with five-minute quarters because referees could not be expected to stay awake for that long.”

Lacktion or not, it’s massive fun to watch, with amazing airballs, suboptimal shot selection, and, via the 2k10 canned announcers, every roundball cliché of the last ten years. I thought it was flat wonderful, even especially when it was thoroughly horrid.

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Way below the McJob standard

I’ve had some fairly crummy jobs in my day, but nothing that even approaches this:

Back in the olden days (about 25 years ago), my job du jour was delivering balloons and singing telegrams. No, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket but people tend to cut you some slack if you’re wearing a bikini or leotard when you warble.

I had to work Valentine’s Day delivering multitudes of pink and red balloons, singing “You Are My Sunshine” to dozens of people whose significant others thought this was just what their partner wanted. I wore our traditional Cupid outfit… a pair of white tights, a white leotard with a big pink heart on the tush and pink heart pasties, and wings, and pink ballet slippers. When you imagine this, remember how long ago it was and that Time had not yet beat me to bits with the Large Cast Iron Skillet Of Reality And/Or Gravity. I looked pretty damn good.

And what’s the weather like in mid-February? Right:

That Valentine’s Day was the day we had blizzard warnings. That Valentine’s Day was well-digger’s-ass cold. That Valentine’s Day gave us over three feet of snow in about two hours. And that Valentine’s Day I still went to work because I was at the time married to a complete and utter waste of oxygen and I would have gone to work in a shark tank wearing a chum bikini rather than stay home with him.

So I got in my little bitty antique VW and picked up my balloons and drove/waddled off into the blizzard.

Frankly, I prefer a more scientific approach. Sometimes.

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Significant other songs

Valentine's Day MixA latter-day (well, 1977, anyway) single by the Carpenters advances the notion that “it’s a dirty old shame when all you get from love is a love song.” I certainly don’t expect anything more than that. On the other hand, a good love song is worth hearing on the 364¼ days each year that aren’t Valentine’s Day, and since JenX was kind enough to put up a playlist of some of her favorites, I figure this might be a good time to point you once again to my infamous V-Day mix, now six years old and not even slightly dated. (Then again, I’m fifty-six years old and not even slightly dated these days.) One of these years I’m going to have to knock out a Volume Two.

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So chilly in here

I’m not quite sure what to make of this:

Sue recently purchased a new home. She writes that she closed on the house … and then learned that the previous owner had committed suicide somewhere inside it. She wouldn’t have bought the house had she known. The real estate agents claim that they weren’t aware of the situation, but if they had, did they have any moral obligation to tell her?

They didn’t have any legal obligation. The pertinent Massachusetts General Law (Chapter 93, Section 114):

The fact or suspicion that real property may be or is psychologically impacted shall not be deemed to be a material fact required to be disclosed in a real estate transaction. “Psychologically impacted” shall mean an impact being the result of facts or suspicions including, but not limited to, the following:

(a) that an occupant of real property is now or has been suspected to be infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus or with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or any other disease which reasonable medical evidence suggests to be highly unlikely to be transmitted through the occupying of a dwelling;

(b) that the real property was the site of a felony, suicide or homicide; and

(c) that the real property has been the site of an alleged parapsychological or supernatural phenomenon.

No cause of action shall arise or be maintained against a seller or lessor of real property or a real estate broker or salesman, by statute or at common law, for failure to disclose to a buyer or tenant that the real property is or was psychologically impacted.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the provisions of this section shall not authorize a seller, lessor or real estate broker or salesman to make a misrepresentation of fact or false statement.

The Oklahoma law (O.S. Title 59, Section 858-513) is similar, at least as regards items (a) and (b). (Soonerland presumably ain’t ‘fraid of no ghosts.) In California, however, crimes within the past three years must be disclosed, and the result is often a lower price:

For example, the condo residence in the Los Angeles area where Nicole Simpson and friend Ronald Goldman were murdered was initially on the market for $795,000. It eventually sold for $595,000. The house where O.J. Simpson lived in Brentwood couldn’t be sold and was finally torn down.

The property where 39 Heaven’s Gate cult members committed suicide in San Diego County sold for less than half its listed price.

Nicole Simpson’s house, in fact, took two years to sell; the new owner remodeled it extensively and petitioned for a new street address to be assigned. (This is not unheard of in Los Angeles. Ronald and Nancy Reagan, after leaving Washington, moved into Bel-Air, at 666 St. Cloud Road; Nancy didn’t like the number at all, and eventually it was changed to 668. Across the street, if you’re curious, is 657.)

I once suspected one of the CrappiFlats™, perhaps the very one I lived in at the turn of the century, had been the location of some sort of killing; but hey, that was a rental, and geez, look at the neighborhood, what was I expecting? It wasn’t exactly Bel-Air.

I don’t know what I’d do were I in Sue’s circumstances. Officially, I snicker; late at night, though, every little noise speaks something to the contrary directly into my subconscious.

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Gaseous play

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Does this tax ever end?

The practice of Tax Increment Financing in Oklahoma is remarkably controversial, given the fact that it doesn’t involve actual tax increases; what happens in a TIF district is that revenue over and above a specified baseline figure is then spent on improvements in the actual district. (Michael Bates explained the process in Urban Tulsa Weekly some years ago.) Poster child for these things is the downtown Oklahoma City district set up around Devon Tower, expected to bring in about $225 million once the tower is in place; objections stem from the fact that this money is designated for upgrading that specific area, rather than spread around to all the usual open hands.

We also have something called Business Improvement Districts, which are financed by an additional assessment on property owners within their district. Since this does require a tax increase, approval by the majority of property owners is required. The Downtown OKC BID was approved in 2001.

While the BID is ongoing, TIFs tend to have an expiration date: Oklahoma TIFs are limited by law to 25 years, though most of the TIFs in Tulsa expire in 15 years. And Oklahoma City’s MAPS sales taxes have all had expiration dates, though you’d likely not have noticed it unless you read the small print on the ballot; each new collection began the day after the previous one expired. In general, people seem to like the idea that a tax can run out, which explains the actions of this guy in St. Louis County, Missouri:

The campaign for a sales tax for an emergency communications system in St. Louis County is not over although 67.74 percent of county voters approved a 0.1-cent sales tax for the system on Nov. 4.

State Sen. Jim Lembke, R-south St. Louis County, has introduced a bill (SB 638) in the state Senate that would limit the tax to five years, exempt food from the tax and prohibit the county from ever proposing the measure again.

The bill would protect taxpayers, he said. The tax needs a sunset, he said. “I don’t want to thwart the will of the taxpayers,” the senator said. The tax “should not go on in perpetuity,” he said.

I am surprised that the ballot measure didn’t specify an expiration date, since this was a one-time project. Or maybe I’m not so surprised:

Former County Councilman Skip Mange, chairman of the campaign committee for the tax, said Lembke’s bill would kill the system. “There is no other available tax revenue,” he said.

Does this constitute an admission that the measure as written would not produce the amount of revenue needed — or that the county was looking forward to that tenth-of-a-cent extra once the new system was paid for?

I don’t have a problem with dedicated sales taxes per se; apart from MAPS, OKC collects 0.75 cents on the dollar for public safety, and 0.125 cents to support the zoo. But those are ongoing activities, not one-shot projects, and they don’t have expiration dates, unlike the MAPS taxes. Jim Lembke seems to grasp the concept:

Lembke said he is willing to work with supporters to calculate a sunset for the tax. After that, the county should pay for the system’s operation and maintenance out of its general fund, he said. Or supporters should go back to voters for a special tax to maintain the system, he said.

Doesn’t sound so complicated to me.

(Triggered by a reference in this piece by Brian J. Noggle.)

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Dating myself

“Why, I wouldn’t go out with you, even if you were me.”

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