1 October 2003
Whatever you do, don't eat it fast
And now, the recipe for Honey Pecan Ice Cream, the very recipe that won the blue ribbon at the Oklahoma State Fair this past month:
HONEY ROASTED PECANS:
1½ cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons honey
Whole milk, to fill ice cream canister ¾ full or to fill line
In saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and corn syrup. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until the sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.
Add the half and half and salt. Stir in egg yolks. Slowly bring to boil, stirring often.
Add vanilla, honey and caramel extract. Stir, strain, cover and chill.
Pour ice cream mixture and heavy cream into freezer canister and add enough whole milk to fill ¾ full or to fill line. Freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.
When ice cream is frozen, remove dasher, add Honey Roasted Pecans and mix into ice cream. Replace cover on canister, cover with ice and let ripen at least 1 hour before serving. Makes 1 gallon.
Winning recipe by Rosalie Seebeck, Bethany, Oklahoma.
And here's what she beat to get that blue ribbon.
Mine eyes glazeth over
The cop in the donut shop is perhaps as indelible an image of America as exists today.
But how about a cop on a donut shop?
Friday morning, 17 October, an Oklahoma City policeman will park himself on the roof of the Krispy Kreme shop at Pennsylvania and Memorial, and will remain there three days. Meanwhile, other members of the force will be on the grounds, collecting money for the state's Special Olympics. The scene will be duplicated at other Krispy Kreme locations in Oklahoma.
Hey, whatever works.
The insufficiently-beaten path
Poor Kelley, she's been some of the places I've been:
Some items in my personal history reach out and slap me in the face from time to time, reminding me that I am an idiot and that I really, really need to question my own decisions before I run off and do something stupid. I can be exceptionally impulsive, especially when I'm really, really bored. When I was younger and my ideals were higher, purer, and less realistic than they are today, I was prone to do some really silly stuff. And when every decision can change your life, doing silly stuff can be dangerous.
For sheer impulsiveness, I'm not in her league boredom, maybe but I've got no shortage of memories I might want to erase, and it's all due to, yes, doing silly stuff.
Lately, I've turned overcautious, the result of having been burned too many times flirting with the flames, and though I wouldn't have thought it possible a few (well, 15 or so) years ago, I seem to be embracing boredom. Maybe it's good for my blood pressure; it certainly doesn't do anything for my sense of well, I can hardly call it adventure, can I?
It's got to be the control-freak side of me, always lurking in the background, finally assuming dominance. I don't like it much, but I've had so much Thou Shalt Not Be Vulnerable drilled into me over the years that I don't know if there's any possibility of shaking it off. And if there's one thing that's common to all control freaks, it's the fact that sooner or later, they're going to be out of control.
Life, said Damon Runyon, is six to five against: "just enough to keep it interesting." Maybe. Or maybe it's just this:
That's life, that's the linear nature of time at work. It can be scary. It can be exciting. It is never certain, despite our protestations to the contrary.
Not to mention the New Orleans Sinners
A federal judge has decided that there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the Washington Redskins disparage Native Americans, and therefore the trademark on their name remains valid, despite a move to revoke it.
I'm waiting for someone to file suit against the New York Giants, claiming that despite the name, they aren't in fact any taller than anyone else in the NFC East.
(Muchas gracias: Phillip Coons.)
2 October 2003
Lake-effect snow job
What with my side careers in wholesale soft drinks and well thermometers going nowhere, it's probably time for me to get out of Cleveland once and for all.
No, I didn't know I was there either.
Party line? What party line?
R. Scott Moxley, writing in the leftish Orange County Weekly, says that liberals should embrace the candidacy of Tom McClintock:
Unlike his top competition [Gray] Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Cruz Bustamante McClintock does not lie, duck debates, accept illegal contributions, hide from reporters, flip-flop positions, defend crooks, pander to special interests, place party loyalty over principles, rely on one-liners, award no-bid contracts, surround himself with sleazy advisors or pretend good government is as simple as marketing a movie.
Issues of character aside, the biggest issue facing California isn't an item in McClintock's litany of standard social-conservative gripes; it's the financial bungling of Davis & Co. Precisely why, says Moxley, it's the perfect time for McClintock:
[T]he Democrats firmly control both the state Assembly and Senate. A governor can only sign a bill into law after it has been approved by the legislature, a legislature that is, in this case, as Democratic as a meeting of the ACLU.
An upset McClintock victory on Oct. 7 could give us the following scenario: Democrats in the state Legislature won’t get most of their Volvo spending programs and special-interest payouts. The Republican governor won't be able to enact any of his 1950s-era social initiatives. And because of McClintock's hard-wired stinginess, the rest of us Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Greens and Libertarians can finally see some financial sanity returned to Sacramento.
For those of us for whom it's more important to stop the patient's bleeding than to arrange for his facelift, this makes a fair amount of sense. And a successful McClintock term might actually sweep some of the moonbats in Sacramento out of their Assembly seats next time around.
(Via Matt Welch)
Traffic has been up substantially lately, and of course, it's not due to the scintillating quality of anything I've written; it's the incessant Googling for the video of "Stacy's Mom" by Fountains of Wayne, which was mentioned in passing here.
As of the last time I looked, I was #14 among 4990 hits, and since all the places that are actually streaming this video are ranked higher, I have to assume that the searchers are looking for a slightly-illicit non-streamed version to add to their collections.
In case this doesn't describe you, dear visitor, the pertinent official FoW/S-Curve Records site is here.
1921 and all that
I reported here in June about a lawsuit filed against two Tulsa newspapers, one of which is defunct, which claimed that The Tulsa Tribune had published inflammatory material which incited the 1921 riot on Tulsa's largely-black north side.
The suit, filed by two survivors of the riot, has now been dropped; the plaintiffs gave no reason for requesting the dismissal.
Meanwhile, an unrelated suit filed in February against the state of Oklahoma and the city of Tulsa is pending in federal court, charging conspiracy to incite the riot.
No way am I going to argue with Wendy M.:
I really think it's high time we purged the following words from blog titles, subtitles, tag lines and slogans: "musings," "rantings," "blatherings," "meanderings," "ponderings," "thoughts" (when "random"), "snippets," and, for Christ's sake, "tidbits."
Maybe a title filter inside Movable Type: "Are you sure you want to use this description? It is already in use on [insert random number here] blogs." Or maybe weblogs.com can search for the string and refuse a ping from an offending blog.
This is too meta for me, I think.
3 October 2003
Seeking a grand jury
A petition has been approved to initiate a grand jury investigation of Commissioner of Labor Brenda Reneau Wynn and Oklahoma County District Attorney Wes Lane; supporters of the investigation must now obtain 5000 signatures of residents to have the jury officially empaneled.
The petition charges that Reneau Wynn circumvented the state's competitive-bidding process, advised others how to get around the state's campaign laws, and conducted campaign affairs on state time. Lane is accused of taking a campaign contribution from Reneau Wynn under dubious circumstances, and of fudging evidence in the infamous Donald Pete case.
As opposed to "Uncle" Tom
Wake Forest University is wondering what to do about Doctor Tom.
Doctor Tom wasn't a real doctor; he didn't even play one on TV. In fact, inasmuch as he died in 1927, he never saw a TV at all.
Tom Jeffries was the maintenance man for the Demon Deacons for forty years, and a plaque to his memory was raised by alumni in 1933. When the new Wake Forest campus was built, a replica of the plaque was created.
None of this would be controversial except that (1) Doctor Tom, as he was known to everyone, administration, faculty and students alike, was of African-American descent, and (2) some in the university community have decided that the plaque "is a daily insult to Mr. Jeffries and every other person of African descent who walks onto this campus," in the words of Rev. Carlson Eversley, an adjunct professor at Wake Forest's school of divinity.
What should the university do? Eversley wants the plaque amended to show Tom's last name and an explanation on another plaque of why and how the omission of same is dehumanizing, complete with references to the practice as it existed in the antebellum South. Oh, and an apology from the administration.
It is, of course, fascinating how unpleasant memories from the pre-Civil War era are so easily evoked in people who weren't born until a century afterwards.
(Via Tongue Tied)
VeriSign gets a dope slap
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has ordered VeriSign to shut down its controversial (and, to some of us, incredibly stupid) SiteFinder facility. SiteFinder, which VeriSign designed to intercept requests for misspelled or otherwise defective .com and .net domains, has been accused of "breaking" various spam filters and other Internet systems.
VeriSign said they would comply with the ICANN request temporarily. Said VeriSign's Russell Lewis:
During the more than two weeks that SiteFinder has been operational, there is no data to indicate that the core operation of the Domain Name System or stability of the Internet has been adversely affected. ICANN is using anecdotal and isolated issues to attempt to regulate nonregistry services.
Inasmuch as SiteFinder must consult the VeriSign registry to be able to intercept requests for domains not registered, it's difficult to see how anyone can seriously consider the facility to be a "nonregistry" service.
For a limited time only
If you, like me, suspected that Strain was capable of more than Sketches, here's a short story that he's going to leave posted for, he says, "24 hours or so."
You're done here anyway. Go read David. He's worth it.
4 October 2003
When mere magic fails
For a while, anyway, it's just going to be Siegfried and, while Roy remains on the critical list after one of their famed white tigers turned on him during a performance.
It's a reminder that no matter how many precautions are taken beforehand, the art of illusion is very nearly as dangerous as it looks, and we probably wouldn't pay any attention to it if it didn't look dangerous. (The same is true of auto racing, only more so.) Still, that's not any kind of argument for abandoning the spectacle; it's just the way it is, and Roy knows this as well as anyone. He'll be back soon enough.
The new alphabetical order
As an actual registered Democrat with a current subscription to Mother Jones yes, really I get regular mailings from the activist Left. One operation with which I was unfamiliar is Syracuse Cultural Workers, which bills itself as a "Peace and Justice Publisher Since 1982", and whose catalog arrived here yesterday.
Most of the contents were pretty predictable T-shirts, posters, buttons, books like How Wal-Mart Is Destroying the World but one particular poster caught my eye. It's called The Alternative Alphabet Poster For Little And Big People, it appears to be an SCW exclusive, and here's the pitch:
Features words ranging from basic elements of a child's life to concepts likely to be met with puzzlement. It reflects respect for the Earth and all its creatures; for its variety of cultures, histories and peoples; for principals [sic] of justice and freedom; for wonder in the sky above and the soil below.
A is for Africa, B is for Bicycle, and so forth. Twenty-five of the twenty-six entries seem at least defensible, and they did come up with a reasonable X word (Xylem), but I'm puzzled by E: Echinacea?
And high time, too
KTOK, the dominant news/talk outlet in this part of the world, has finally figured out how to stream audio. (Okay, they hired a third party to do the scutwork. Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
You probably don't need this 24/7 finding local outlets for Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity or even Glenn Beck is a fairly simple task, unless you live thirty thousand feet under Berkeley but you'll definitely need it for First News with Cam Edwards. (In fact, given KTOK's incredibly-weird antenna pattern, some of us locals need the audio stream sometimes.)
These fuelish things
In days of old when knights were bold and blogging not invented, people would speak of carrying coals to Newcastle, a task not exactly Sisyphean but not particularly useful, either, since Newcastle-upon-Tyne, at least at the time, was up to its presumably-dusty lungs in coal.
Were it not for its war-ravaged infrastructure, shipping oil to Iraq might be considered similarly useless, but until production resumes on something resembling a reasonable scale, petroleum will have to be imported, and Dick Cheney's old friends at Halliburton have drawn this assignment.
And forget about conservation measures: they're regarded with even more suspicion in Baghdad than they are in Amarillo. Cut-rate gas, courtesy of the Oil Ministry, is a tradition that Iraqis aren't anxious to give up. The Coalition Provisional Authority says, perhaps optimistically, that oil production in Iraq will reach three million barrels per day, close to pre-Gulf War levels, by next summer. In the meantime, you and I will contribute a few cents to somebody's Friday drive in the desert.
Build a better mousetrap
The world may not beat a pathway to your door, but you'll earn the gratitude of Dr. Weevil, and surely that's worth something.
Got to roll me
By any reasonable estimation, this is one of the less-important outposts in blogdom, so no one is exactly champing at the bit to get onto my blogroll, which is notable for its high level of diversity and its low level of consistency. This is, I reckon, a Good Thing, since I don't have to write blistering articles about people clamoring to get in or sort-of-patient explanations of the rules of inclusion.
Still, self-referential navel-gazing is at the very heart (well, actually, somewhat below) of blogging, so I may as well reveal just how it is that people get on the left side (formerly the right side, and it may be again next time I redesign) of the front page.
There aren't any hard and fast rules, really. I do try to reciprocate when I catch an incoming link, but I always seem to be a couple of months behind in catching them, and besides, it's not like there's some Meta-Law of Symmetry governing blogroll links. Many of the sites listed, I was reading before I went to a daily blog format in the summer of '00; they're carried over from the old now-defunct separate links page. In general, if you're listed, it means only that I make a conscious effort to read your stuff once in a while; if not, it doesn't necessarily mean anything at all.
Exceedingly minor preference points are given to:
I have little faith in the power of email; so far, the main benefit it has brought me is the World's Smallest Instalanche". This doesn't mean you shouldn't send me things; this does mean that you shouldn't expect anything from so doing.
Beyond that, all you really have to do is be more brilliant than I am which shouldn't take much effort at all.
5 October 2003
We can be bought
The Democratic Party of South Carolina has been experiencing financial problems of late, and party chairman Joe Erwin, a marketroid by trade, proposes to take up the slack by selling corporate sponsorships.
By imprinting campaign materials even primary-election ballots with corporate logos, Erwin hopes to cover the half-million-dollar cost of the Presidential primary next February. (In South Carolina, the parties pay for their own primaries; the state kicks in no funding.)
And it might even work. It seems to me that if, say, Charmin has no trouble showing a bear using its product in the woods, they shouldn't shy away from buying ad space on a reprint of the party platform.
It's all in the title
Actually, it's probably not all in the title, but watching me muddle through in French is something I recommend only to the deeply sadistic among you.
Still, it's a great title for a blog: Mes amis, mes amours, mes emmerdes...
Covers all the bases, you might say. And besides, I'm predisposed to like anything that seems to be based on a song by Charles Aznavour.
Racked with indecision
The first Boobiethon was last year, and I ignored it, thinking it was silly. And maybe it was. Yet it raised over a thousand dollars for breast-cancer research perhaps not an enormous sum considering all the work that needs to be done, but if you check any bucket, you'll realize that it's filled with individual drops.
So I resolved to pay attention to version 2.0 this year, and as of this morning donations were over four grand. Which, of course, begs the question: how many of those donations would have come in were the site not, um, busting out with photos?
Given what I've seen of the Blogathons and other charity projects, I think most of them probably would have come in anyway; bloggers, when they can afford to be, are a generous bunch. Still, the incentives provided may have tilted a few people into kicking in a few extra bucks, and the tantalizing prospect of hotter photos for higher donations....
I agonized over that for a few minutes while checking my PayPal balance, and in the end, it was Johnny Carson who made the decision for me. One evening, Dolly Parton, bless her, was on the show, and in the midst of something unrelated, Carson quipped, "I'd give a year's pay for a peek under there." Dolly laughed as only a Southern girl can, and I was reminded that there have been many times during my life when I've thought things like this, and the rest was easy.
But when someone organizes a similar benefit for prostate-cancer research well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
A sort of Sunday drive
Just some of the things I read this weekend:
There otter be a law:
Too sweet and innocent:
Where have all the readers gone?
Whizzing in the revenue stream:
What are under the bridge?
This is not necessarily going to be a regular feature at least, not one that's regularly scheduled.
Themes with variations
In 1957, MGM's musicals unit remade the 1939 Ernst Lubitsch classic Ninotchka with a Cole Porter score. In Silk Stockings, directed by Rouben Mamoulian, Soviet composer Peter Ilyich Boroff (Wim Sonneveld) is hanging out in Paris with an American film producer (Fred Astaire), who plans to rework Boroff's socialistically-realistic Ode to a Tractor into a song for a Hollywood picture; the Kremlin dispatches three knuckleheads to retrieve Boroff from the the evil capitalists, and when the operatives, too, seem to have been seduced by the City of Lights, the deadly serious Nina Yoshenko Cyd Charisse, with a Russian accent indistinguishable from her Scottish burr in Brigadoon, three years earlier, and who cares? must salvage both the mission and the pride of the Soviet Union.
Boroff, once he heard the Hollywood version with lyrics, yet! was appalled, one reason why reworkings of these themes usually involve pieces by dead composers. (The other reason, very much related, is that if they've been dead long enough, the original work is out of copyright and therefore in the public domain.) The possibly-pseudonymous Ostin Allegro was no doubt aware of this when he put together Pop Meets the Classics, a guide to British hits (many also charting in North America) which draw from classical sources. Most of these I knew, and there are a couple which were not hits in the UK which I also know one that comes to mind is "For Elise", a discofied Beethoven number played by "The Philharmonics" which occupied the bottom of Billboard's Hot 100 for one week in 1977 but it's still startling to see how often composers of popular music have turned to the classics for themes, even today.
Scarily, I now have to track down a copy of S Club 7's "Natural", which, says Ostin, is based on Gabriel Fauré's Pavane, if only to see how it differs from the jazzy reworking of the same piece on Befour, a much-cherished (by me, anyway) early-Seventies album by Brian Auger and the Trinity.
6 October 2003
Damned lies and statistics
The research company Perseus has gazed upon the face of the blogosphere, and likes it not much.
The Perseus report, as described in The Register, says that over 90 percent of bloggers are under thirty, and more than half are teenagers. Which means the typical blog well, read it yourself:
[It] is written by a teenage girl who uses it twice a month to update her friends and classmates on happenings in her life.
On reflection, apart from the update schedule, this sounds rather more like my site than I'd care to admit.
Of 2.7 million blogs surveyed, one million had but a single post and then were presumably abandoned; the average blog is updated every two weeks.
I have to wonder, though: if Perseus actually looked at 2.7 million blogs, and one of those blogs was InstaPundit, which is updated approximately every 53.6 seconds, the vast majority of personal sites must be even worse than they report.
Of course, no report from Perseus is complete without commentary from Medusa, but that will have to wait.
(Update, 2 pm: A summary of the Perseus report is available here. It states up front that the blogs evaluated were all hosted by services specializing in same specifically, Blog-City, BlogSpot, Diaryland, LiveJournal, Pitas, TypePad, Weblogger and Xanga which means that no blog on its own domain was included in the survey. No wonder the results seem skewed. See also Xrlq's comments below.)
Even more Schwarzenegger stories
Just when you thought there couldn't possibly be any more last-minute revelations about the Running Man, Xrlq (pronounced "Xrlq") delivers the goods.
O little ton of bogus smarm
100000watts.com is reporting that WKXP radio in Kingston, New York has switched to an all-Christmas format.
The station recently had a call-letter change (it was previously WBPM), so this could be just a programming stunt in anticipation of a new format, but it's the first week of October, dammit.
(Update, 8 October, 8:40 pm: It was indeed a stunt.)
To no one's amazement
This Big Five Personality Test is currently making the rounds, and, well, how am I going to resist a deal like that?
Now go away before I have a panic attack.
A lot of nerve
Lesley goes all Positively 4th Street on those males (we won't dignify them by calling them "men") who have given her the treatment recently attributed to Mr. Schwarzenegger:
I wish that men magically became women for one week and had to put up with the shit that we put up with on a regular basis. Then maybe some wouldn’t so offhandedly dismiss the reports. Maybe they'd realize that it is demeaning and humiliating to have some guy grope you without your consent, and that it's not a sign of manliness. Maybe they'd realize that women actually can tell the difference between a man who is just saying he finds her attractive and one who is trying to intimidate her.
Bottom line: She'd rather see you paralyzed.
7 October 2003
The empire strikes back
While part of VeriSign's argument is technical SiteFinder, they insist, has minimal impact on the rest of the Net at the heart of the matter is not bits, but bucks:
If operators and businesses are discouraged from exploring the bounds of the Internet, it will mean less research and development and less investment into the network infrastructure.
So saith VeriSign senior VP Mark McLaughlin. And he doesn't stop there, either:
ICANN caved under the pressure from some in the Internet community for whom this is a technology-religion issue about whether the Internet should be used for these purposes. For this vocal minority, resentment lingers at the very fact that the Internet is used for commercial purpose, which ignores the fact that it's a critical part of our economy.
Which leads to the obvious question: Who should be pulling the strings, the techies or the money men? VeriSign obviously has decided on their answer.
Charles Austin may not be feeling well, but he can still squeeze off a barb with the best of them.
The polls close at 8 pm California time. What happens after that?
Between guessing when the election results will finally be certified and when all the legal challenges by "friends" of the electorate will finally be thrown out of court, my guess is that Gray Davis is going to be around until at least February. Oh, and I imagine we'll be hearing for a long time from the same people who still can't quite figure out the US Constitution works when it comes to the electoral college about how Gray got more votes to stay in office than Arnold did to replace him.
Count on it.
Nickles calls it a day
There have been rumors floating around, but today Senator Don Nickles made it official: his fourth term will be his last.
"Knowing when to leave," said Burt Bacharach and/or Hal David, "may be the smartest thing anyone can learn." Nickles is a smart fellow; I don't know what, if any, handwriting he may have seen on the wall, but I'm betting he's figured this one out to the last detail.
And now with a Senate seat opening up in 2004 we're in for some bumpy times, folks.
Dyslexia warns without striking
Jonah Goldberg reports:
Over the weekend I caught a CNN factoid thing on the bottom of the screen. It read: Schwarzenegger Accused of being a "Hitler Loving Serial Groper." Give the man this: few other politicians could win a race with that label following them around (even though I think the first part is outrageously unfair and the second part sounds awfully close to the truth).
It could be worse. Given CNN's tendency to come up with hopelessly mangled captions, they might just as easily have tarred Arnold as a "Hitler Groping Serial Lover".
They can always blame San Andreas
It is, of course, a foregone conclusion that should the Democrats not like the election results and they won't there will be delaying tactics not seen since the introduction of the shot clock. (Or, as McGehee puts it, the "flying monkeys have already descended on The Fugue State to try to keep Gray Davis in office as Governor for an additional three or four minutes.")
In anticipation of this event, Cold Fury has already ginned up a suitable poster, which you will undoubtedly see on sites full of FOG (Friends of Gray).
And probably uncredited, too.
8 October 2003
It is a measure of something, surely, that in a 178-page issue of Harper's Bazaar November '03, to be exact an issue with both a feature on Meg Ryan and a pictorial with Gisele Bündchen, the only photograph that got more than perfunctory attention from me was a shot of Christine Todd Whitman.
Well, yes, she's expensively-dressed, but everyone in Bazaar is expensively-dressed; it's their raison d'être. So it's probably not the $2680 Carolina Herrera jacket/skirt combo or even the $1100 Salvatore Ferragamo pumps; what I'm seeing, I think, is a woman who is absolutely thrilled to have a private life again, and I do believe it shows.
Not that I have extensive experience observing women being thrilled, mind you.
Today the Department of Justice is seeking an injunction against Tulsa-based Rx Depot, a company used by thousands of consumers to import prescription drugs from Canada and elsewhere. Rx Depot's Oklahoma locations were closed by an earlier action; DOJ wants the remaining 77 stores in 26 states to shut down.
Inasmuch as the FDA does not inspect Canadian drugs, the DOJ's request is likely to rely heavily on safety concerns. Rx Depot counsel Fred Stoops scoffs: "It's not like we're buying these drugs from Afghanistan."
Even if the DOJ prevails, there will still be sources for Canadian drugs. Can the process be stopped at all? Robert Prather takes the long view:
I'm somewhat surprised and pleased to see drug companies such as GlaxoSmithKline hold their drugs off the Canadian market rather than see their U.S. market get lacerated. This behavior may help put an end to the free-rider problem that's caused Americans to pay inflated prices for drugs.
It proves that the drug companies do have some pricing power and it also, regrettably, proves that reimportation is a threat to R&D. If it were not they would go ahead and sell in these countries just to get the marginal profit from the sale of additional pills. It bodes ill for the long-term prospects of other countries that have benefitted from high American drug prices because the companies have shown they are capable of holding the drugs off the market. This may force other countries to drop price controls or risk losing the newest medicines until patent protection expires.
The best possible outcome?
The silver lining in this cloud would be if other countries actually begin to pick up a fair share of the R&D cost of drugs. They've been free-riders too long.
A push toward freer markets in those other countries? Certainly a boon, but probably not a likely prospect.
Maybe it's in the job description
One of our language mavens probably Edwin Newman, author of Strictly Speaking once commented on the tendency of American news media to refer to Salvador Allende as the Marxist president of Chile: "You would almost think that 'Marxist President' had been the name of the office to which Allende had been elected."
Similar notions went through my head during NPR's Morning Edition today, about the third time Bob Edwards and friends described Arnold Schwarzenegger's new job as "Republican Governor of California."
The Hill (no relation) is reporting that Rep. Brad Carson, of Oklahoma's 2nd Congressional District, will seek the Senate seat to be vacated by Don Nickles, who has announced he will not run for a fifth term. Carson, a Democrat, is serving his second term in the House.
One likely Republican opponent, though he hasn't declared his candidacy yet, is Rep. Ernest Istook of the 5th District. Others reputedly waiting in the wings are Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys, a Republican serving in a nonpartisan office, and Attorney General Drew Edmondson, a Democrat.
For the GOP, this means a change from a seat that was safe to a seat that is...um, less safe. Were I a Democratic party operative, I wouldn't be ordering any champagne just yet.
Well, apparently it was a stunt; WKXP radio in Kingston, New York has now booted the Christmas cheer in favor of a conventional country format. Call them "Kicks 94.3" unless, of course, you were thinking of calling them something else entirely.
It's double-nickel time
Shanti's got Carnival of the Vanities #55 at Dancing with Dogs, and you're welcome to partake of all the goodies therein.
Yes, even you, Sammy.
It can't happen here
No way anyone will recall Oklahoma's governor, Brad Henry:
Oklahoma law doesn't allow for the recall of elected state officials. He could be "ousted", a procedure the Attorney General handles for neglect of duty, public intoxication or a criminal conviction. On the city level recalls are possible, for all elected officials including the mayor and city council.
Mike from OkieDoke, from whom I pilfered this story, comments:
Ousted for public intoxication? I hope that doesn't apply to all our elected officials. Enforcing that could get to be quite expensive.
They'd have to hire someone just to follow Carroll Fisher around.
9 October 2003
Marching to Shibboleth
New slogan at news/talk KOMA:
More talk. No rock.
(Dear Cam: It was on a billboard. It's not like I was actually listening to them.)
We gotta get out of this place
Some lowlife shot up a convenience store on a strip of US 62 just outside the city limits, wounding the owner and killing his wife.
I don't think I'm going to miss this neighborhood at all.
What he said
Frank (not to be confused with Frank J. or Dr. Frank or TV's Frank) considers yours truly to be an activist.
Activist? Moi? Do I look opinionated? The color scheme of this blog is beige on beige, fercrissake.
On the other hand, I have to give the guy credit for pointing me towards the most gorgeous picture extant of Emmylou Harris.
Call it a wash. (You want hot wax, it's a dollar extra.)
More than I can Bayer
Your health-insurance plan even one as blinkered and philistine as CFI Care (not its real initials), which pays a smidgen of our medical bills at 42nd and Treadmill will probably cover some measurable fraction of your expenses when you're suffering from a broken arm. It is less likely that they will cut a check when you're suffering from a broken heart. (If they actually did such things, I probably wouldn't have needed to spend an hour and a half importuning a loan officer this week; I could have bought a house out of pocket change.)
"But," says researcher Matthew Lieberman at UCLA, "the human brain sounds the same alarm system for emotional and physical distress." There may be no superficial resemblance between road rash and rejection, but the same two brain regions respond to both, and in very similar ways.
I'm not sure what the ultimate meaning of this may be, but I have noticed that I always have about a two-year supply of painkillers on the shelf. And that doesn't even include Jack Daniel's.
And we'll have funds, funds, funds
Vice President Dick Cheney is just now wrapping up his fundraiser at Civic Center Music Hall in Oklahoma City.
Now let's see: if Cheney sold out the place at $1000 a head not at all unthinkable that's $2.5 million before expenses.
Not a bad haul for a day's work, if I do say so myself.
10 October 2003
Rx Depot gets some time
On Day Two of the hearing in federal court in Tulsa, Judge Claire Eagan did not issue the injunction against Rx Depot requested by the Department of Justice, leaving the pharmaceutical importer free to operate through the end of the month. Judge Eagan said that on the 31st, she will receive supporting evidence from both DOJ and Rx Depot president Carl Moore.
Resisting the technological tide
The late Neil Postman was not a Luddite; while he decried the encroachment of technology, particularly media technology, he believed strongly in the ability of the human mind to deal with the sort of sensory overload which defined the last half-century or so.
Among observers of the media, Postman generally took second place behind Marshall McLuhan. But while McLuhan tended to stay on message (and therefore on the medium), Postman was all over the map. An educator by trade, his first shot across society's bow was Teaching as a Subversive Activity, written with frequent collaborator Charles Weingarten and published in 1969, a book which asks the ultimate question about education: "What's worth knowing?" (An excerpt is posted here.) The Disappearance of Childhood (1982) suggested that mass media were blurring the lines between children and adults, to the benefit of neither; Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985) blasted Hollywood for trivializing the human experience.
Former student Jay Rosen remembers Neil Postman in Salon this morning. It's worth some of your time.
We is well edumacated
Best of the Web (scroll down to the bottom of "The cognitive elite") is reprinting this paragraph found at DemocraticUnderground.com:
I would dare to assume that most of us here are in the upper 1%-20% of the population intelligence-wise. We must come to the realization that the majority of the population is in the lower 80% to 99% percent of the bell-curve. WE are not the norm. The Republicans understand that the average American is not very bright. They cater and pander to the masses. The Democratic Party tries to appeal to the population about "issues" that these people just don't understand.
Says James Taranto at BoW of this:
If it comes as a revelation to the Democratic Undergrounders that 20% is less than a majority, they're not exactly rocket scientists, are they?
What I find amusing is that these are generally the same sort of people who routinely castigate the GOP for its presumed lapses into voodoo economics. In their world, it's Lake Wobegon in reverse: most everyone is below average.
Make that an extra-thick crust
From the Government Is Your Friend files, courtesy of South Africa's News24:
Before you order your next pizza, think twice. It's now illegal to have a pizza delivered in South Africa.
This is just one of the bizarre effects of the new Post Office Amendment Bill, which was presented to parliament by the communications minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri and passed on September 11.
It gives the post office and its subsidiaries Speed Services and XPS the sole right to transport parcels that weigh under 1kg and leaves no room for any other delivery services to apply for a license to do so.
Disturbing visual: US Postmaster General John E. Potter giving himself a mock dope-slap and saying, "Why the hell didn't we think of that?"
You will, John, you will.
(Inspired by Jerry Scharf)
11 October 2003
The magnificent seven
Actually, I don't know how many, if any, of the houses I'm supposed to look at today are going to be magnificent; in this price range, it's more realistic to expect, well, seven dwarfs.
Still, my needs are modest never you mind about my desires and almost anything is likely to be an improvement over what I have now.
(Vent #360 has some backstory, if you're curious.)
More sunshine, less Gray
From her perch in Toronto, Debbye's sized up the California results very well:
The American media tried their best to portray the recall as a circus and thus not serious; California voters knew better. This was a opportunity which could not be manipulated by the Party Machines however hard they might try. On a national level, the Republican party wisely stayed out of the fray and the state Republican party endorsed Arnold only in the final weeks of the campaign. The Democrat Party brought in Clinton, Jackson, Dean and Clark, among others, to raise the Democrat profile of Davis and try to play the campaign with an "us vs. them" strategy (props to me for predicting that bringing in Clinton would hurt Davis' chances) and cynical moves to postpone the recall only further infuriated voters who correctly perceived that, after complying with all the requirements for a recall, they were being railroaded by the Party Machine in ACLU clothing.
Of course, there are those who remain convinced that it was all part of an Evil GOP Scheme. For example:
Gray Davis may have been a poor governor and a lackluster leader, but the Republicans should have defeated him when they had the chance in a scheduled election. If Schwartzenegger wanted to be governor, there was clearly nothing that could have kept him from victory in 2002, sparing the state a costly and disruptive process, and keeping the extreme measure of the recall on a high shelf, away from the hands of any ambitious politician or party (and please, spare me the pious lies about this being some kind of citizen initiative it was clearly bought and paid-for by Republican insiders and stage-managed from the White House, and to suggest otherwise deeply offends the intelligence of anyone who was paying attention).
If the Republicans had had any sense, they would have come up with someone other than Bill Simon, a right-wing Walter Mondale minus the charisma, to run against the Gray Eminence in 2002; they would never, ever have turned to the likes of the Terminator. The initial recall push was indeed the brainchild of an actual Republican, but nobody is arguing with a straight face that there weren't Democrats anxious to see Davis given the boot, and considering the sheer number of wicked plots attributed to the Republicans in recent years, it's amazing how few of them have actually worked: were the GOP truly in thrall to Satan, I'd be forced to conclude that the Prince of Darkness was way past his prime and should probably be replaced. Or recalled, even.
Now when you see recall movements catching fire in other places that have been run as badly as California say, Zimbabwe then you can start to think of it as a trend.
Stranger than truth
And they say chemotherapy sucks.
(Via Cruel Site of the Day)
That thing they do
One Hit Wonder Central would like to be your one-stop reference point for those musical acts who scored once on Billboard's Top 40 and were never heard from again. It's still under construction most of the promised Artist Profiles aren't in place yet but it's a reasonable sort of database, and there's a message board where inquiries can be posted. And, of course, I have a quibble or two: most egregiously, the Viscounts' version of "Harlem Nocturne" charted twice, in 1960 and in 1966, but the reissue made the Top 40 while the original didn't, so they've listed it as a 1966 song. Still, it definitely beats waiting around for me to get off my B-side to write a hundred or so new entries for Single File.
Househunting (part 1)
Well, The Expert and I started with a list of seven, but three were eliminated at the very beginning: under contract already or otherwise pulled from the market.
That leaves four, which we will cover in the order visited, followed by an Entertainment Weekly-style letter grade.
1. A cute little stone bungalow on a corner lot with a huge yard. Some newish amenities, lots of ceiling fans, and evidence of a fair amount of repainting over old paint. And whatever they'd painted the exterior stone with, it didn't stick worth a darn. C+
2. Modern, at least by Fifties standards, and about 30 percent larger than #1, and in a nicer neighborhood to boot. So why was it selling for only slightly more money? The Expert figured it out at once: basically, the entire block is sliding down the hill, a few centimeters at a time, and implementing the fixes would increase the price by half. There was also a general air of dinginess. D+
3. I should have known this 1941 frame house was wacky before I ever saw it; the MLS description contains the cryptic phrase "faux walls." Well, the walls looked genuine enough, but this was the first mock fireplace I'd ever seen that had been converted from a real fireplace. What's more, there was a single-car garage with two half-width doors, vertically hinged, which makes remote operation highly unlikely. Add to this an utterly gratuitous Florida room off the master bedroom, and porch steps the full width of the porch, and this place screams Insane Owner! at the top of its sixty-two-year-old lungs. Had it been about ten or twelve percent cheaper, I probably would have put in a bid. I may yet. A-
4. A noisy box in a quiet suburb, though the noise was due mostly to the people next door, who apparently were convinced that there was a special White Trash Edition of Architectural Digest coming out and they wanted to fix up their yard accordingly. Lots of clever space-utilization techniques to make the most of the smallish interior; The Expert, tipped off by a floor irregularity, spotted a couple of places where the foundation might be cracking or otherwise failing to behave itself. Otherwise, a solid B.
The search resumes once we get another fistful of prospects.
(Update, 10:15 pm: So that's a "faux wall.")
12 October 2003
The only gay Indian
Well, actually, she's not, but she might be the most visible these days.
(Muchas gracias: Steph Mineart.)
Come to Busted Flush Estates
The most expensive ZIP code, says Forbes, is not Beverly Hills 90210 or New York 10021; it's Jupiter Island, Florida 33455, where the median house price last year was a staggering $5.6 million, more than twice as high as second-place Aspen, Colorado 81611.
If you read this chart and feel dejected, come to Oklahoma City, where living in our toniest ZIP 73116 will set you back a modest $295,416.
Disclosure: While I once had a 90254 mailing address, I did not actually live in Hermosa Beach ($580,000).
Yes, I mean the Turtles recording, a massive Sixties hit (White Whale 244, 1967). It seemed perfectly obvious to me right off the bat that this wasn't your basic drippy love song, and a mere thirty-five years after the fact, I got around to blogging about it, thusly:
That the Turtles, one of our most prodigiously brilliant (if consistently inconsistent) bands, should score their only Number One (for three weeks!) with this piece of doggerel in the window, demonstrates as clearly as the Book of Job that God has a warped sense of humor.
And yet there is something besides bubblegum and "ba-ba-ba-ba" that brings us back, and it's given away right in the opening verse. "Imagine me and you. I do." That's precisely what he's doing imagining because he knows he would never, ever have the nerve to say these things out loud, let alone to the object of his forlorn affections. And he'd go on imagining it all the way through the fade, except that the Real World has this tendency to intrude on even the most intense of dreams. "So happy together," he's repeating to infinity and beyond, and then something (or, I'd be willing to bet, someone) interrupts, and caught with his defenses down, he has no choice but to fall back on conversational cliché: "How is the weather?" Everybody assumes this is a throwaway line, but it's the key to the whole song. And by the time he's regained enough composure to drift back into dreamland, the background singers and the brass have taken over, and the fantasy grinds to a cold, cold halt.
Well, okay, maybe the Turtles didn't quite sound like they meant it that way. And I expect someone will read this and scream "Projection!" But composers Gary Bonner and Alan Gordon were eminently capable of hiding subtext like this in the most innocent of corners (cf. "She's My Girl"), and absent any disagreement from either The Phlorescent Leech or Eddie, this is my interpretation and I'm sticking with it.
Why bring this up again? Because Alan Gordon is now on a mailing list to which I subscribe, and some kind soul beat me to the question of "What is this song really about?" And Mr Gordon responded with basically the same thing I told you in that second quoted paragraph, minus the snarkiness.
As coworkers will confirm, I derive way too much glee from vindication.
Come on back and do the Sac-roiliac
After a brief period of recreating a universe in her own image, Kelley is back for one last burst of Cul de Sac-tion before venturing into the Land of the Frequently Lei'd, and to tell you the truth, I still don't know how she finds all this stuff, or all the time it takes to write it up. Maybe it's a gift from the gods; maybe it's Maybelline. Perhaps we'll never know.
Marc Levin's You might be a leftist if... has gotten lots of play in blogdom, where the center often seems right of center.
The best comedy premises, of course, work just as well when you give them a quick 180-degree spin, and Aldahlia proves that she's very much up to the task.
And in the tradition of the fence-straddling centrist, I must report that there are items on both lists that sound something like me.
Robyn has posted the final totals for the 2003 Boobie-Thon, and they are awe-inspiring: $7045 from 169 donors, an average of $41.69 each, a heck of a lot of money considering how small and insignificant we're supposed to be down here in blogland. Pulling five digits next year should be a piece of cake.
Some of the photographs are awe-inspiring as well, but that's a different issue entirely.
13 October 2003
Thinning out the herd
Rep. Ernest Istook says he's not going to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Don Nickles next year.
Announcing he will seek reelection to his 5th District House seat, Istook cited the slight majorities held by the Republicans in Congress; he's not willing to risk the GOP House majority to take a shot at securing the Senate.
With J. C. Watts already having declined, this leaves the door open for Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys, who has a press conference scheduled for this afternoon. (Should Humphreys win the seat, the City Council would appoint an acting mayor until a special election could be called; a city charter change is on the ballot tomorrow to allow a special election immediately.)
As for the Democrats, well, Brad Carson is definitely in, and Drew Edmondson is surely thinking about it.
It's all about me
Self-absorption, probably a key component of the successful blogger mindset, has its uses, but it tends to be more of a drawback when the screen is off and people are approached one at a time.
Then again, I was that way before I got a Web site, and I suppose I'm in reasonably good company.
I'm too sexy for my desk
Desiree Goodwin is a research assistant in the Harvard University library system; she's been there nine years, and she's still a research assistant because, she says, she's black and she's beautiful.
Neither the EEOC nor the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination has found sufficient reason to challenge Harvard with Goodwin's complaint, so she's filed suit against the university herself.
"White women wore sexy clothes, were outgoing, attractive and they were getting mentored and getting promoted, while I was being ignored and asked to work extra hours," Goodwin says. "I think it is racist because they feel threatened by the success of someone they don't feel is like them."
She approached her supervisor, and was allegedly told that "her skimpy clothing and zealous search for promotion" had made her a "joke among her...colleagues" and that she could easily get a job anywhere else.
I'm thinking there's something here we're not being told.
Meanwhile, I refuse to believe there has ever existed such a thing as an excessively-sexy librarian. And if you don't believe me, ask Professor Harold Hill (no relation).
(Update, 21 March 2005: More recent developments here.)
(Update, 4 April 2005: She's lost her case.)
(Update, 9 December 2005: This post says nothing new, but it has a picture; her LISNews.org interview is here.)
A clock that always says 12:30
David Marcus of the San Jose Marital and Sexuality Centre has done the math:
Our research has shown that if you spend more than eleven hours a week looking at Internet pornography, then it is starting to become problematic.
This does not mean that 10:55 is okay and 11:05 is dangerous; what it does mean is that there is such a thing as a slippery slope, and porn serves as, shall we say, a lubricant for same.
A quote that jumped out at me:
Dr. Ursula Ofman, a Manhattan-based sex therapist, says that she's seen many young men coming in to chat about I-porn-related issues. "It's so accessible, and now, with things like streaming video and Webcams, guys are getting sucked into a compulsive behavior."
And they probably liked it better than not being sucked at all at least, at first.
(Muchas gracias: Susanna Cornett, who cheerfully wields the Fiskars" on the article in question.)
Swinging down the lane
I've driven on Massachusetts rotaries and New Jersey jughandles, and when I have, I've wondered, "Criminy, could they possibly make things any worse?"
Somehow, I managed to miss the Michigan Left.
(Via Altered Perceptions)
(Update, 8:30 pm, 14 October: The Webmaster of michiganhighways.org is grateful for the extra traffic, but he wonders about the hostility level. [You may need a Yahoo! account to read this.])
14 October 2003
Kirk will boldly go
With Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys on the brink of running for Don Nickles' Senate seat, candidates are positioning themselves for the top spot at City Hall.
Ward 1 Councilman and erstwhile media guy Mick Cornett is already in the ring with his own hat, and present-day media guy Cam Edwards says Cornett's a cinch to win a special election. (As noted yesterday, unless a city charter change is approved by voters, the position will be filled by the City Council upon Humphreys' resignation.)
Meanwhile, Senator Jim Inhofe announced that he would be more than happy to have Kirk Humphreys serve beside him in the Senate.
Can Hizzoner win it? I think he can, though there are plenty of people plenty of Republicans, even who can't stand him. The biggest problem, of course, is that he has no base outside the central part of the state, which the Inhofe endorsement presumably can help. But it's not going to be a walk, since the Democrats actually have candidates this time.
(Update, 15 October, 8 am: The charter change passed.)
La plume de ma tante
A parent with a child in a Tulsa school got this explanation of what's going on in the classroom:
The theme for the year is Discovery. The concept for the first 6 weeks is systems. Then the concepts are perspectives, celebrations, economics, exploration and adaptation.
The training I received this summer on the Tulsa Model for School Improvement stressed the importance of accessing the knowledge that students already have about the themes and concepts and then building on it. Building the background knowledge they will need for the new learning, introducing the themes and concepts is to be done in broad generalizations that they can apply to their lives now and in the future before it is "narrowed" for specific classroom use. After a summer of asking the experts what they would do/how they would do it, I decided to introduce the new learning in English to enable the students to more easily and quickly grasp the concepts that we will be using. New strategies and techniques are to be non-academic the first time the students use them to allow them to concentrate on learning the new strategies and techniques before they are used academically. To this end, I have been teaching the 7 Learning Community Guidelines and the Life Skills, class and team building activities to teach the new strategies and structures. Teachers are also expected to teach students about the 8 Multiple Intelligences and how they learn best, the 7 Learning Community Guidelines and the 18 Life Skills which are the basis of the Tulsa Model discipline plan. This is what we have spent the first several weeks concentrating on.
Um, yeah. Okay. Whatever you say.
Now what, exactly, does all this have to do with teaching French?
I can appreciate the idea of avoiding rote memorization, but in a foreign language for which total immersion is impracticable, there is really no choice but to learn all those irregular verbs and such.
Michael Bates, who brought this to light, comments:
Learning a language has nothing to do with grasping big ideas and key concepts. It's about learning spelling and pronunciation and verb forms and sentence structure many little details that you just have to learn. J'ai, tu as, il a, nous avons, vous avez, ils ont. Yes, a good teacher will draw on the student's experience to help explain concepts or teach vocabulary words, but much of a foreign language is by definition foreign and just has to be learned by heart. Yes, a good teacher will draw on different techniques to help students with different learning strengths, but memorization, learning by ear, and learning by sight are essential to learning a language well enough to use it.
Meanwhile, the school board, having been thwarted at every turn by the presence of trees, has rewritten the curriculum to avoid any mention of the forest.
"Theme for the year," indeed.
The usual trail mix
"I have never seen the middle class so stretched," said Senator Joseph Lieberman at a gathering at Fairview Baptist Church this morning. Unsurprisingly, he wants to jigger the tax brackets, preferably in a way that de-jiggers the Bush administration's changes over the past couple of years. I suspect the Senator's definition of "middle class" might be slightly different from yours or mine.
Dennis Kucinich is due in later today, and he too will probably say something about the beleaguered middle class.
Ah, the joys of an early primary.
(Update, 8:25 pm: Kucinich's pitch to us Average Folk involves dropping out of NAFTA and the WTO.)
Cool Ranch Buffy
Someone got to this site today searching for "sarah michelle gellar without dressing".
I dunno. Now, Alyson Hannigan with a simple vinaigrette....
Up in them thar hills
Former Kentucky state senator John Doug Hays is under indictment for vote fraud; prosecutors wanted to try him in Frankfort, the state capital, rather than in Pikeville, near Hays' home, out of fear that they couldn't raise a proper (read "prone to convict") jury on the senator's home turf. A temporary compromise was reached, and the case was moved to London, Kentucky.
A defense motion to move the trial back to Pikeville was met with objections from the prosecution, citing worries about pre-trial publicity. And then US Attorney Kenneth R. Taylor unleashed this bombshell: after everyone with an opinion on the case had been disqualified, he said, "all that would remain to try the case would be illiterate cave dwellers."
Sheesh. It's National Brotherhood Week, fercryingoutloud.
(Suggested by Fark)
Step by step
Bruce has a four-point plan for Brad Carson, 2nd District Congressman seeking to replace the retiring Don Nickles in the Senate, and it goes like this:
1) Become a Republican
2) Make obvious references to God / Jesus / Bible as often as humanly possible
3) Join the NRA
4) Be pro-life
"You do these things," says Bruce, "and you can spit in the face of everybody you meet in Oklahoma and they'll still vote for you."
As an Oklahoma Democrat, I advise against item 1. :)
15 October 2003
If you were an Evil Overlord, what would you do?
(Muchas gracias: Terkish Payne.)
Scheer on Rush
The often-bombastic Robert Scheer opens with "Free Rush Limbaugh!" and explains why:
Limbaugh's experience is the best argument against the demonization of all junkies this one throughout his addiction held a big job and presumably paid a lot in taxes. The considerable harm he inflicts daily on the larger society can hardly be blamed on his addiction. The drugs may have even tempered his verbal brutishness. In any case, there is no evidence that the drugs caused him to daily savage others he was equally offensive before and during his drug abuse. To put it another way, his drug use, if it has caused pain to others, is the least of his crimes.
But why be mean about it and wallow in the suffering of another?
At least Scheer isn't calling for Limbaugh's head on a pike, unlike some on the left.
Truth in Carnival advertising
The 56th edition of Carnival of the Vanities is hosted by Priorities and Frivolities, and if ever two words summed up blogdom, those two do.
Our man Boomshock has put it all together for you, so get over there and read the good stuff.
A word of thanks
Arnab Nandi isn't exactly a household name, but his handiwork is all over the Blogosphere"; it was Arnab who invented BlogSnob, the tiny text ad that gives you a random link to another blog.
Eventually, like so many such ventures, it got to be a full-time job and then some, and finally Arnab has decided to anoint a successor: Kalsey Consulting Group, which operates the TextAd exchange, will assume responsibility for BlogSnob.
I don't know how many new readers I got by way of BlogSnob; I do know that I discovered many new blogs from clicking on the random ads, and I'm grateful to Arnab for creating this little service and sticking with it long enough to make it work correctly.
Househunting (part 2)
We had three prospects for last night, but two of them evaporated recession or no recession, houses are moving in these parts. However, today we had half a dozen more to play with, and we got to see five of the seven in what must be considered better-than-average time.
5. Small, vacant, simple, but executed well, and there's a not-as-rickety-as-it-looks deck out back. Backing out of the driveway is a trick, since there's a blind corner backed up with a hedge, but not what I'd call heinous. Docked a quarter-point for that godawful metal script passing for a house number; these things should have proper digits as Allah intended. Still rates a B+.
6. A few touches of whimsy here: proper digits, vertical, mounted on a block of wood covered with fabric; an added-on den (I assume) lined with knotty pine; slightly eccentric floor plan. Otherwise fairly ordinary, but kept up well, although the change from individual climate-control units to a central system has clearly been on an as-time-permits basis. A-
7. Huge, huge lot, demanding a John Deere to maintain it and an empty storage building out back to keep one in. Decent interior, though I missed an actual step between the inside floor and the garage, 18 inches or so below. Very nice woodwork. B
8. Cute bungalow occupied by dog lover, maybe too cute. Gorgeous deck overlooking nicest backyard of the bunch. Floor plan leaves something to be desired, but exterior is nice and master-bedroom windows (on the corner of the house) strike me as brilliant. B
9. Tucked away in a neighborhood I'd never heard of, this is a smallish box with a big interior and 1¾ baths, something I hadn't seen yet. Nice kitchen. Exterior trim was actually being painted while we walked through. Good-sized backyard; neighbor's pecan tree will likely drop some freebies on this side of the fence. Slight cracking in the brickwork, though the slab looks solid. A-
Two more, plus anything else we catch between now and then, on Saturday.
16 October 2003
Apple turns a buck
Actually, 29 million of them for the quarter ending September, despite a couple of accounting charges. What's more, Apple's US retail stores, after a start which could charitably be characterized as slow, are now profitable.
Yeah, I know, I'm on one of those evil Wintel boxes. (Well, not precisely; my desktop at home has an AMD CPU, as did its three immediate predecessors.) But so long as the insanely great stuff starts on the Macintosh side of the aisle, it's clearly in my best interest to cheer Apple on.
The impudent finger, as the Romans called it. (Hint: it's not the thumb.) And, in Texas at least, it does not necessarily constitute a breach of the peace.
Two years ago, Robert Lee Coggin was trapped behind a member of the Anti-Destination League on US 183 in Lockhart. Annoyed at this obvious failure to observe Texas lane discipline, he tailgated the miscreant and flashed his lights. The perp, thinking the police were on his tail Coggin's Chevy Caprice was, at one time, a police cruiser duly pulled over, whereupon Coggin flew by and allegedly flipped him the bird. Hackles rose, police were called, and Coggin was charged with making an offensive gesture, drawing a $250 fine.
Coggin was sufficiently pissed off at this to try to get his conviction overturned, and the Texas Third Court of Appeals in Austin has now ruled in his favor.
I'm still not going to drive through Austin with a "Tuck Fexas" bumper sticker, though.
(Via Hit & Run)
Why I will croak at 53, again
(First such statement is here.)
Alan Farnham, writer for Forbes.com:
The best that modern science can say for sexual abstinence is that it's harmless when practiced in moderation. Having regular and enthusiastic sex, by contrast, confers a host of measurable physiological advantages, be you male or female.
In one of the most credible studies correlating overall health with sexual frequency, Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, tracked the mortality of about 1,000 middle-aged men over the course of a decade. The study was designed to compare persons of comparable circumstances, age and health.
Its findings, published in 1997 in the British Medical Journal, were that men who reported the highest frequency of orgasm enjoyed a death rate half that of the laggards.
Last I heard, the death rate in this species was around 100 percent, and the only man reported to have beaten those odds well, the extent of His sexual activity is not documented in detail.
Still, if there's something to this, my days (and my otherwise-empty nights) are obviously numbered.
And a side note to younger readers: That study was conducted among middle-aged men. Extrapolate at your own risk.
Everybody's getting into the act
The Daily Oklahoman, through its NewsOK.com site (jointly operated with KWTV), has started a blog.
Robb Hibbard's obligatory quip-as-tagline ("Figures of speech & speech about figures"): pretty good.
The complete and utter lack of individual-item permalinks: pretty bad.
Oh, well. They'll learn. And it's not like a dearth of permalinks has hurt kausfiles. [Since when do you read kausfiles?-ed. Oh, shut up.]
Spinning the color wheel
If you thought that Diversity Seminar you attended in college was intended to touch people's hearts and change their minds, Surlypundit has ascertained otherwise:
It's not. The point is to get together all the people with a chip on their shoulder or a bad case of white guilt, and let them decide on new racism rules. They sit around and feel bad about themselves for awhile, and then try to think of ways to keep racists from making them feel that way.
Given the tendency of those "new rules" to extend the definition of "racism" as far as possible, it's hard to take these gatherings at all seriously; while racism clearly exists, and takes some truly heinous forms sometimes, the committee approach isn't, and likely never will be, anything resembling a solution. As wiser folk than I have said, the change has to come from within. For many, it has. For others, it will take longer.
17 October 2003
United Progressive Network
Not to be confused with that other UPN, which is a standard capitalist outlet that is losing money faster than the Treasury can print it.
But the planned "liberal network" envisioned by the Left is widely expected to lose money just as fast, and without the benefit of Jake 2.0 or WWE Smackdown! either. UMLGuy, though, says that it really doesn't matter:
Remember how, when the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform went through, prominent Democrat legislators were shocked to discover that they would be most adversely affected by it? How their big soft-money backers the unions especially would be the most restricted contributors? And how the Republicans, with their ability to raise lots of hard money from small donors weren't going to be affected nearly as much?
Well, despite scare stories, I trust that the courts will protect major outlets of free speech like opinion journalism, including talk radio. Frankly, if independent talk radio voices aren't free to express their opinions, we no longer have a First Amendment. Somebody MAY be dumb enough to press a case against Limbaugh or Hannity under McCain-Feingold; but they'll lose, and free speech will win.
And so the Liberal Network becomes an outlet for, yes, Democrat soft money. They can't buy as many issue ads; but they can "buy" a losing network with sagging ratings and just keep pumping out their message long after any profit-oriented business would have given up on the "business".
Well, at least it isn't Homeboys in Outer Space.
It wasn't meant to be
Of course, in the event of an actual Cubs-Red Sox World Series, you can expect a blast from Gabriel's trumpet halfway through the National Anthem.
For now, there's the Baseball Crank:
Dreams do come true in life. David does beat Goliath. Hollywood endings do happen.
But not in the Bronx. The New York Yankees were put on this earth for one reason to remind us that Goliath usually wins, and that Hollywood endings are the stuff of dreams precisely because life so rarely works out that way. Cubs fans believed; Red Sox fans believed. Yankee fans just expect, and they are yet again rewarded. Yankee Stadium remains the place where dreams go to die.
The only question left is how many of this year's Marlins will be with the same club next year.
And no cholesterol, either
The warning labels affixed to cigarette packs may have had little effect upon the actual number of smokers, but they've provided the raw material for probably thousands of parodies over the years, some of them actually amusing. One of my favorites turned up in the National Lampoon, back when they mattered; it was a warning label for prepackaged marijuana that read something like this: "Warning: The Attorney General Has Determined That Reeferette Smoking Is Hazardous To Your Ass."
I don't know if Acidman read that particular piece, but he definitely has the same sort of spirit.
Elijah, if you're wondering, is the son of Dan and Angi Lovejoy, Oklahoma bloggers, and the story of how he got here is the stuff of legend, with perhaps the occasional miracle.
If you want to read that story, it's not exactly organized into neat little segments, but this is a good place to start.
Taunt them a second time
A fellow named Francis Carpenter, who works for a bank in Luxembourg, has evidently been drinking too much of the European Union's ersatz Kool-Aid.
In this piece in Le Figaro, Mr Carpenter proposes that British place names commemorating battles lost by the French Waterloo, Trafalgar, and such be changed, in the interest of furthering European unity.
This idea, fortunately, doesn't seem to be catching on in the UK, though no one seems to have responded officially with le mot de Cambronne.
18 October 2003
Hey, Tony, supersize this
American chef Anthony Bourdain apparently can eat almost anything, up to and including snake hearts and iguana, but he draws the line at Mickey D's.
Yep. The very thought of a McNugget strikes fear into the man. And it's not some Pamela Anderson-esque concern about what horrible things must happen to those poor birds to become McNuggets it's hard to imagine that any chicken at all goes into those weird little discs or anything like that. Bourdain's objections are rooted in ubiquity: American fast food is all over the globe, and therefore worthy of his contempt.
Tropiary (Friday, 7:57 pm) spins this attitude to its logical conclusion: What if some enterpreneurial types decided to make Bourdain's reptilian delights available to mass audiences?
"Hold the mayo, hold the venom, every sandwich wrapped in denim...."
Househunting (part 3)
No new listings since midweek, so The Expert and I had just two houses to check out this morning.
10. This place was a foreclosure, and it had been suggested in earlier discussions that despite what you see on those TV infomercials, there's not a lot of benefit to buying these things; apparently, once informed that they're about to be dispossessed, the occupants avenge themselves by trashing the premises. It was certainly the case here: non-functional appliances were scattered about, the window treatments were more trick than treat, and someone had made off with a couple of downspouts, fercrissake. This will be a beautiful home for someone someday provided that someone is willing to spend half again the purchase price to restore its dignity. I'm not. C-
11. Located in one of the neighborhoods of which I dared not allow myself to dream, this house should have been a disaster: how else could I afford it? Well, it's small for the area, but it's up to the local level of spiffiness, all the major functions have been renovated to at least late-90s standards, and the floor plan is ingenious, once the mind accepts the idea of, say, an L-shaped bathroom. When the biggest gripe is "The cylinder in that deadbolt seems to be a little loose," it's time to sign the papers. A
And if they sign the papers, this is the last installment of "Househunting" you'll have to endure.
Diverse that could happen
"The far right's dream judge."
That's what Ralph Neas of People for the American Way says about California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, nominated by President Bush to fill one of three vacancies on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. And being an African-American woman won't get Justice Brown a pass from the Congressional Black Caucus, either; DC House delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton complains that Brown is "cut from the same cloth as Clarence Thomas," and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) claims that Brown suggested that "affirmative action resembled segregationist laws from the Jim Crow era."
Which, of course, is patently false. Under Jim Crow, the majority was empowered to make foolish decisions at the expense of minorities; under affirmative action, minorities are empowered to make foolish decisions at the expense of the majority. No resemblance whatsoever.
(With thanks to Jerry Scharf and John Rosenberg.)
19 October 2003
Five easy theses
By now, El Tigre has been at this long enough to be able to draw some conclusions, and of course he has:
1. The lower your daily visitation rate, the easier it is to make your daily average.
This is true; when I see the seven-day average poking above 500 or so, I start wondering how much of a fall I'm going to take on a day like today when I'll be lucky to hit 350.
2. Very few people agree with everything posted on InstaPundit and even fewer agree with anything posted on your blog.
As the saying goes, if two people agree on everything, one of them is superfluous. And I don't worry about the occasional polite disagreement, even the occasional impolite disagreement; it's not like anyone is going to reach through the screen and thwap me upside the head.
3. Unless you have unlimited bandwidth in accordance with your server contract, there is such a thing as getting too many visits to your blog.
I don't have unlimited bandwidth, but if I had a whole month of the busiest day I ever had, I wouldn't exceed the quantity I'm paying for. (This begs the question: "Why are you paying so much?" The answer: I bought this package on the basis of disk space, and even now, after three years of daily bloggage, said bloggage occupies only a small fraction of the total disk space used. There is a lot of non-blog material at this domain.)
4. You get more visitors to your blog if you have breasts, and even more if you have breasts and post a picture of them at some time.
I am reasonably certain that no one is interested in any of my 2000 parts.
5. Bloggin' is fun, and although I haven't had sex in quite awhile, I am almost sure that sex is still more fun than bloggin'.
Having never experienced a day when both activities took place, I don't think I'm ready to issue a comprehensive opinion on this subject.
Househunting (part 3.5)
A mere half an hour before the deadline, the deal foundered, and I said to myself, "Self, do I really want to lose out on this over one lousy percent of the purchase price?"
They sent me a counteroffer, and I sweetened the deal to the extent requested.
Unless I hear otherwise and at this point I don't expect to, inasmuch as I have met their terms I'm going to assume that said deal is done.
General Orders don't upset us
The small cohort of Everything American Sucks malingerers will of course groan, but I find considerable delight in discovering that tucked away in a corner of what used to be Saddam International Airport, there's now a Burger King.
Iraqis generally have yet to grasp the concept of using both hands to handle a Whopper, but for members of the Coalition of the Hungry who comprise the occupation force, the Baghdad BK is a veritable oasis: despite a menu more limited than what's offered in Peoria, catering to the troops has brought this location, in a mere six months, to the worldwide top ten in sales. You gotta love it. I can hardly wait to see what happens when fast food moves into the Fertile Crescent at high speed.
(Muchas gracias: Phillip Coons.)
Future shock and awe
On 19 October 2000, I bought a car.
It appears, as of 19 October 2003, that I've bought a house.
God only knows what's going to happen on 19 October 2006. And so far, He isn't saying.
All things in immoderation
Chris Lawrence sees the center, and finds it somewhere between wanting and nonexistent:
[N]obody with a well-developed political ideology is a moderate. By definition, if you are liberal, conservative, libertarian, socialist, communist, Enviro-wacko, batshit neocon, or whatever the hell Pat Buchanan and Bob Novak are (paleo-pseudo-con?), you cannot be moderate. George Bush isn’t moderate. Nor is Colin Powell, Janet Reno, Howard Dean, Glenn Reynolds, Megan McArdle, or Kevin Drum. Nor am I.
(Links added by me.) I suppose I qualify as None of the Above, but that qualifies me as, well, nothing:
Most Americans and most people the world over, in fact don't have consistent, ideological belief systems. The absence of those belief systems makes them moderate, because they just react to whatever's going on in the political ether; if you're lucky, you might be able to pin their beliefs to some overarching fundamental value ("hard work", "equality", "liberty").
Give me two out of three; I'm definitely for liberty and equality, and violently opposed to hard work. :)
There are only two types of true moderate: people who don't care about politics, and centrist politicians (and this latter class of people generally care less about politics than they care about keeping their jobs I defy you to explain the behavior of Arlen Specter or Olympia Snowe otherwise). Bloggers and New York Times columnists aren't. Anyone who cares enough about politics enough to post several essays a day explicating his or her worldview is not a moderate, and neither is anyone who's taking time away from his academic career to publish two incoherent essays a week in America's flagship newspaper.
I'm usually good for a couple of incoherent pieces a day myself, though I don't have anywhere near the audience of The New York Times.
Still, I have to admit that Chris has me dead to rights. Not that I've ever claimed to have a consistent, ideological belief system extending beyond "This really sucks, you know?"
The WMD who got away
It's Saddam himself, of course; no mere tank car full of chemicals or hut stuffed with warheads could have caused the horrendous damage that routinely accrued to Saddam's discredit.
Robert Prather has passed along an email from a Marine stationed in Baghdad who says that from what he's seen, Saddam made "Hitler look like a schoolboy." Is the continuing occupation worth the cost in American lives? Says this American on the scene:
Yes there has been over a 100 troops and about the same amount of civilians that have passed as well. I will say that if we need to send another 100,000 people here to get the 10% that is causing all the trouble I say we do it.
What you really want to read, though, is the story of his encounter with a young Iraqi woman whose entire family was destroyed by the Baath party because, as Christians, they might be expected to side with the US.
I should think that would be enough "mass destruction" to fit anyone's definition.
20 October 2003
To preserve and protect
Oklahoma City has a dozen or so Urban Conservation Districts, one of which was created last month to include the neighborhood into which I'm buying. (Yes, I'm moving into the city, and yes, this was disclosed to me before signing the papers.) This district is so new that they haven't posted the rules and regulations on the online Municipal Code site, but I read the specs on some of the others, and so far as I can tell, it's the functional equivalent of an Historical District, without having any individual buildings which are defined as Historic.
In other words, now and forevermore, where I live will look like or is supposed to look like a typical neighborhood of the immediate post-World War II era. This has its advantages: for one thing, nobody is going to tear down a house and replace it with a double-wide McMansion too big for the lot. It also means that any improvements made have to be consonant with the character and the period of the neighborhood, which may limit the nature of those improvements in the future.
Now to find a '51 Kaiser to park in the driveway (not in the yard).
Yeah, but how does it handle?
The Buick LaCrosse sedan/sport/utility/whatever vehicle, replacement for the aged Regal, will be sold in Canada, but not with that name.
To us, "lacrosse" is a sport played on a field with sticks. To the Québécois, apparently, it's a solo act, practiced often in the bathroom, rumored to cause hair growth on one's palms and/or blindness.
General Motors product czar Bob Lutz, addressing GM dealers in Toronto, professed to be surprised: "I thought I knew every expression existing in the French language for self-gratification, including the crudest ones known to man," he said.
The new Canadian name has not been announced, though I suspect it will probably not be "Nova", the name of a Chevrolet model which according to legend (the facts say otherwise) didn't play well in Spanish-speaking countries.
Songs to hit Delete by
Brad Sucks, a self-described "one-man band with no fans," has compiled Outside the Inbox, fourteen songs (including one by Brad himself) inspired by the subject lines of junk email. Titles you'll recognize immediately: "Urgent Business Relationship"; "Look and Feel Years Younger"; "My Parents Are Gone for the Weekend".
About time somebody got something useful out of all this spam.
(Via The Register)
21 October 2003
Thinking outside the box
The last box the one which will be lowered six feet into the earth amid whispers of "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust" may no longer be adequate. As Americans bulk up, the standard 24-inch casket is becoming a tighter fit than a coach seat on a 737. Nor is cremation necessarily the answer: think "grease fire."
Goliath (!) Caskets of Lynn, Indiana manufactures a 52-inch casket, known informally (and perhaps inevitably) as the "B-52". It won't fit in a three-foot cemetery plot, to be sure, and instead of half a dozen pallbearers, you might need twelve or fifteen.
I'm starting to appreciate Lou Grant's comment: "When the time comes, just stand me outside in the trash can with my hat on."
Of little faith
In an op-ed in The Boston Globe, unfortunately titled Warring with God, James Carroll, in his haste to paint General William G. Boykin as some kind of religious extremist without actually saying so, reveals that he, Carroll, has only the vaguest idea of what Boykin's religion actually is.
It was unfashionable of [Boykin] to speak aloud the implications of his ''abiding faith,'' but exclusivist claims made for Jesus Christ by most Christians, from Vatican corridors to evangelical revival tents, implicitly insult the religion of others. When Catholics speak of ''salvation'' only through Jesus, or when Protestants limit ''justification'' to faith in Jesus, aspersions are cast on the entire non-Christian world.
In his effort to avoid implicitly insulting other religions, Carroll explicitly insults one. Those "exclusivist claims" are at the very heart of Christianity; you take them out and you have what? Certainly nothing recognizable as Christianity. What Moses brought down from Mount Sinai did not read "I am the Lord thy God, one of a panoply of such, all interchangeable." And Jesus Christ's statement that "No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6) quite clearly doesn't allow for alternate paths.
But Carroll isn't interested in simple messages. Instead, he wallows in this multicultural mishmash:
How to affirm one's own faith without denigrating the faith of others? The problem can seem unsolvable if religion is understood as inherently dialectic reality defined as oppositions between earth and heaven, the natural and the supernatural, knowledge and revelation, atheism and theism, secularism and faith, evil and good. If the religious imagination is necessarily structured on such polarities, then religion is inevitably a source of conflict, contempt, violence.
This teeters perilously close to an insistence that It's All Good, a notion that comes only from extreme blinders or high doses of Prozac. I don't think you could even sell this package to the Unitarians.
Susanna Cornett disposes of this premise more eloquently than I, and I find it interesting that while she is far more devout than I've ever been, we're pretty much on the same page here.
And where's the steel guitar?
Dam Strait at That Ain't Country dot Com skewers a Billboard decision to require country radio stations to play at least 60 percent new stuff (the previous standard was 33 percent) to get included in the magazine's survey:
While this might seem like a good move for, say, pop music or rock, or hip-hop, we believe that real Country & Western music should be treated like classic Rock, in that a good Country song is always a good country song. And the crap on today's Country music radio will always be crap.
Not since the 1970s, when Fogelberg-esque rock-pop garbage drove real Country fans away in droves has the C&W music industry suffered from such a surfeit of forgettable and sometimes outrageously inept music.
And now Billboard wants to change the way it reports C&W hits so that the current trend of crap like "I Melt" gets more weight than, say, "He Stopped Loving Her Today." Worse, "I Melt" will get played twice as much as before.
I'm assuming that KKNG, the only country station for which I save a preset, has long since been delisted by Billboard. Then again, they don't play anything Fogelberg-esque. (Now there's a term I wish I'd invented.)
Eric Berlin brings something new to this week's Carnival of the Vanities: dactyls.
And he didn't exactly waltz through it, either; the strain, it appears, was so great that he's going to give up blogging. In the meantime, enjoy another batch of blogdom's best.
22 October 2003
That 50s show
The new house, of course, is new only to me: it was built in 1948, and most of the neighborhood as it exists today was in place by 1953 or so. Inasmuch as it's the city's express desire to keep this place looking like 1953, I find myself contemplating the Fifties as we know them, and as they've been redefined in the half-century since.
Decades, of course, seldom conform to mere chronology, and the Fifties were arguably the longest decade of the twentieth century, beginning 25 June 1950 along the 38th parallel on the Korean peninsula and ending 22 November 1963 in the city of Dallas. In the intervening years, we've been taught that the Fifties were a perfectly dreadful era, riven with paranoia and choked with conformity, the spectres of Jim Crow and Joe McCarthy glaring down upon the landscape, and June Cleaver forever stuck behind her vacuum cleaner.
But a truer picture of the Fifties, I think, emerges when you stand these arguments on their heads. Tailgunner Joe's obsession with communists, however overwrought, was based on fact. Jim Crow was about to be plucked: in 1954, Linda Brown won out over the Topeka Board of Education, and the following year Rosa Parks was arrested, precipitating the Montgomery bus boycott. Innocuous pop tunes were displaced by rhythm and blues and its marginally-legitimate child, rock and roll. And while Ward may have been the nominal head of the Cleaver family, it takes less than half an hour to notice that June actually ran things.
And I think of the American automobile industry, which produced such marvels as the beautifully-understated '53 Studebaker and the wonderfully-overdone '57 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser, reminders that the Fifties were a time when Americans thought they could do just about anything. Then came the misadventure of Vietnam, which persuaded us that we weren't all that omnipotent after all. We haven't been quite the same since.
But in the Fifties, the sky was the limit, the bonds of earth still surly, and while I have no compelling urge to turn back the clock, I'd like to see some vestige of Fifties ebullience, that peculiarly American brand of self-confidence, take root and grow in the 21st century, while I put down roots of my own in a place (and not just a physical place) that remembers.
Drew takes a pass
Attorney General Drew Edmondson, defying early predictions, said today he would not run for Don Nickles' Senate seat in 2004.
With State Treasurer Robert Butkin also passing up the race, this leaves Congressman Brad Carson as the only Democrat in the running; the first avowed Republican candidate is soon-to-be-former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys.
I can't wait to see what Mike at Okiedoke has to say about this.
(Update, 9 pm: Chris thinks Butkin and Edmondson basically "wimped out.")
The Crimson Permanent Assurance
My desk is littered with Good Faith Estimates of how much all this real estate is actually going to cost me, and one thing I've noticed about all of them is that their annual insurance quotes seemed a bit low. I didn't realize how low, though, until I started talking to agents, and discovered that a policy tailored to my level of paranoia (I carry about five times the legal minimums on my car) will cost roughly twice what they're guessing.
This propels the monthly payment from the "tight, but not a problem" level to "Can I get one more week out of this basket of fruit?" It's not going to queer the deal by any means no way am I going to back out now but it's going to take more shuffling of priorities to make this thing work.
Babes in blogland
For about a week, James Joyner has been responding to a perceived demand by offering a supply of links to pictures of Women Who Blog.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. On the other hand, I do tend to worry about things like, well, whether the quality of the news as I perceive it is at all dependent upon the appearance of the person delivering it. In the best of all possible worlds, perhaps it would not matter, but I've never been within screaming distance of the best of all possible worlds, and I have what I consider to be too short an attention span anyway.
And I do strive for some semblance of sanity: there are only so many supermodels, after all, and their position at the top of the desirability pyramid is mostly undeserved, and does anyone really care what Laetitia Casta has to say about the North Korean nuclear situation? And I've certainly never dropped a blog off my roll for reasons of appearance, unless it was the appearance of the blog itself. But I'm no less susceptible to human frailty than the next guy, and I have to ask myself occasionally, "Would I pay less attention to [fill in name of blog] if [fill in name of blogger] weren't so damn cute?"
Ultimately, perhaps, this boils down to the old joke slogan: "Don't be a sexist. Chicks hate that." If I'm going to be hated, I'd rather it was for my dubious politics or my lack of common sense, not for my tendency to stare.
23 October 2003
The Saint stands pat
For some months now, St Anthony Hospital has been making noises about moving away from its near-downtown location and relocating in the 'burbs. The city was appalled at the prospect, and started working up incentives to keep the hospital and its 4000 employees close at hand.
It appears that now they've come up with a package acceptable to both sides; among other things, the city will create a medical corridor district from St Anthony to the existing medical complex east of downtown along 10th Street, a distance of about a mile and a half, which will link all the major downtown hospitals and contribute to the city's efforts to rehabilitate the near-northwest area.
Assuming no snags, the agreement could be signed as early as tomorrow.
The Voice of Doom calling
Over at Spathic, the Arbiter is assembling a fantasy cast for a remake of a movie that needs no remake: The Philadelphia Story.
Téa Leoni as Tracy and David Duchovny as Mike? Insane, or inspired, or maybe some combination thereof. On the other hand, Bruce Willis is Sidney Kidd.
Shades of Brown
Stuart Buck has been watching the Janice Rogers Brown confirmation hearings, and he's got a question:
Senator Dick Durbin asked her whether her legal and philosophical views were "within the political mainstream." Why do Democrats keep repeating this theme? Who cares whether a view is "mainstream"? Protecting slavery was once "mainstream," at least among the Democrats of that time, which should be at least prima facie evidence that the "mainstream" isn't always right.
And I suspect they'll keep repeating this theme so long as their strategy, such as it is, depends on painting as many Republicans as "extremist" as they possibly can.
Nothing matters, and what if it did?
From the official statement of John Mellencamp (and his lovely wife Elaine) on the way things are allegedly crumblin' down:
The Governor of California was removed from office based on finance troubles. And yet George W Bush has lied to us, failed to keep our own borders secure, entered a war under false pretense, endangered lives, and created financial chaos. How is it that he hasn't been recalled? Perhaps this time we could even have a real election...but that wouldn't fit the Bush administration's "take what you want and fire people later" policy. Take an election; take an oil field; take advantage of your own people a game of political Three-Card Monte.
The fight for freedom in this country has been long, painful, and ongoing. It is time to take back our country. Take it back from political agendas, corporate greed and overall manipulation. It is time to take action here in our land, in our own schools, neighborhoods, farms, and businesses. We have been lied to and terrorized by our own government, and it is time to take action. Now is the time to come together.
Well, I'd certainly be upset if someone were manipulating my overalls.
Actually, the last paragraph would be quite wonderful were it not for the one preceding it, which merely recites the standard anti-Bush litany to eye-glazing effect. Unlike the Dixie Chicks before him, Mellencamp doesn't come off here as opportunistic, and I don't expect him to have to perform acts of damage control as a result of this broadside, but I am surprised to see him hewing so closely to a line he neither invented nor improved upon.
I'm not one of those people who believe that celebrity-type persons have nothing to say about the human condition or political situations. On the other hand, I don't cut them any slack for being famous, either. And if Mellencamp gets fisked over this piece, well, ain't that America?
24 October 2003
The Acidman quiz
Well, why the hell not? The original is here.
1) Does anybody really see a correlation between the size of a man's feet or his nose and the size of his penis?
I wear a size 14 shoe, and my glasses fit; I don't think there is any such correlation.
2) If you are a woman, would you ever get a tit-job? If so, why?
Not applicable, though if I were, I don't think I could afford a good one, and I don't think I could afford the misery of a bad one.
3) If you are a man, would you buy a bionic Roscoe if your dick quit working? If so, why?
It's not like the ol' YCB* is getting any kind of a workout anyway, so probably not.
4) Did you ever sleep with someone and wake up in the morning unable to remember their name? If not, WHY NOT?
No, because the sample size is too small to justify this level of forgetfulness.
5) Which would you rather have for a pet? A DOG or a CAT? If you answer "cat," you've got some serious explaining to do.
Cats are more like me surly, uncommunicative, indifferent all of which are probably good arguments for dogs.
6) Do you eat grits for breakfast?
I have before, though not lately; usually I skip breakfast altogether, on the dubious basis that I need those few extra minutes of sleep more than I need a sloshing of nutrient-like substances.
7) What is the most dumb-ass thing you ever did in your life? Was it fun or has it haunted you for years?
I actually fell for the armorer's request for a left-handed barrel stabilizer while I was a lowly E-1.
8) Do you exceed the speed limit regularly when you drive, or just do it occasionally? Don't tell me that you NEVER SPEED you lying shit! Tell the truth!
Most places I go, going the speed limit is an invitation to tailgaters.
9) Describe the happiest day you can remember living.
Working on it yet.
10) Do you believe that some things are worth dying for? If so, name one thing worth dying for and tell me why you feel so strongly about it.
When I joined the Army in 1972, it was mostly because I expected to get drafted and wanted some small say in what they did to me. But a few years of wearing the uniform convinced me that there is merit in the traditional American approach to world affairs, i.e. issue platitudes then kick ass, and if the time comes when we're all needed, well, you've already seen my platitudes.
* Yugoslavian Crotch Bugle. Don't ask.
Should you be a writer?
According to a girl in love, Piers Anthony says you probably shouldn't.
In fact, he's said that rather a lot, now that I think about it.
Counting those ponies
At least at the higher end of the market, we're in something of a horsepower war these days, with automakers scrambling to outdo the competition with dazzling numbers. Routine V6 family sedans now pack 200 hp or more; dedicated sports machines can carry 300, 400, sometimes more. Generally, this is a Good Thing too small an engine will be strained, and gas mileage will be as bad, if not worse, than with a bigger mill but while the SAE net horsepower standard is pretty well established in North America, there are a few potential fudge factors baked into it, and a number of automakers have been tripped up when testing revealed fewer horses than advertised.
The proposed new SAE standard will tighten up the specs, and will allow for independent review of horsepower ratings. It's not a cure-all, and there's still going to be no conversion factor between SAE net and the pre-1970s SAE gross rating, but anything that improves the accuracy of automotive specifications gets a smile from me.
The new DemoCard
Providian Financial, the ninth-largest credit-card issuer in the US, will offer an affinity card to supporters of the Democratic Party. Cardholders will earn rebates on their purchases which they can designate for donation to the Democratic National Committee, and can earn rewards by donating directly to the DNC.
Given the Democrats' desire to don the mantle of the Party of Fiscal Responsibility, what with Bush administration budget deficits running into the bazillions these days, I find it amusing that they'd strike a deal with a credit-card company that built its business on customers with lousy credit ratings.
The GOP? They already have a card.
Your source for evil
As Al Franken can tell you, Fox News can dish it out, but they sure can't take it.
On NPR's Fresh Air, Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, revealed that Fox News had threatened a lawsuit (against, presumably, Fox Television, which owns The Simpsons) over a brief parody of an FNC newscast.
Regular viewers, of course, will note that The Simpsons has always mocked all things Fox unmercifully, having even written Rupert Murdoch into a script or two, with no complaints from the front office. Murdoch, it appears, has thicker skin than Roger Ailes. (And your average condom, it appears, has thicker skin than Bill O'Reilly.)
Eventually, FNC backed down, though they warned that the fake news crawl might, um, "confuse the viewers." Yeah, right. Maybe when Sean Hannity is on.
(Via Hit & Run)
(Update, 31 October, 7 pm: Groening now admits that he was pulling our chains. As always, at the base of the most effective satire and given the way so many of us were sucked in, this has to be considered effective there's a core of solid truth: yes, Fox News is that thin-skinned. Ask Al Franken.)
Are you a neoconservative?
You could always take that tedious test at The Christian Science Monitor, or you can try the ideology on for size with Bruce's Neocon Simulator.
(If anyone cares, the Monitor thinks I'm a realist. The results are, as they say, "not scientific".)
25 October 2003
Morpheus throws me a curve
This morning's nightmare (yeah, I know that sounds bizarre, but it had to start some time after 6 am) was set in some section of northeast Texas that must have been detached from the Lone Star State and then dropped over northern Alabama or something, because we had to get to Atlanta by daybreak, and to get there, we had two vehicles, neither of which was really up to the job.
The two R. Crumb characters had what was basically a heavily-modified Segway with a sidecar; its electrical power source had been swapped for good old internal combustion, and while it wasn't capable of freeway speeds, it was a heck of a lot faster than your stock scooter.
The two girls, one of whom inevitably was named Tanya I attribute this to having watched a CMT Inside Fame program on Tanya Tucker the night before were wheeling around some oddball kit car, one of Susanna Cornett's shoes blown up to the size of a 2+2 coupe, with seemingly effortless power from under its pointy hood but ergonomics that were questionable at best and brakes that were best described as "theoretical". A few miles with this little darb and I was suffering tread-separation anxiety.
The last thing I remember, we were at somebody's house on the wrong side of 285 I guess we made pretty good time after all popping 8-tracks into the stereo and checking the waffle iron for lizards.
I'm beginning to wonder if maybe my drug consumption is insufficient.
Revising public radio
Oklahoma City is served by two public-radio stations: KGOU handles NPR news programming, talk shows, and jazz in the evenings; KCSC runs classical music more or less 24/7. Culture-wise, this could be considered a boon, but there's an obvious downside to having two public-radio stations: four fundraisers every year. We're between two of them right now, and Doc Searls is contemplating what could, and should, happen in the future:
Though nonprofit in nature, Public TV and radio stations are still in the business of selling their programming to viewers and listeners. They buy that programming from PBS, NPR, PRI and other sources. In other words, PBS and NPR are producers and first tier wholesalers. They own no stations, though they sell programming to thousands of them.
In fact public radio stations are hugely advantaged in the new media market (the one fortified by the Internet). They no longer have to depend on boring and pathetic fundraising marathons to raise money. They can make it easy on the Net, with PayPal or any one of a number of direct-payment options.
Most of the stations have improved in this respect, but most sites remain woefully complicated affairs.
Anyway, I'm in favor of public broadcasting especially public radio doing exactly what [Bill] O'Reilly suggests. Get off the public dole completely. If you're down to just 2%, finish off the job. Turn to listeners and viewers. Operate in the real marketplace. You already have a huge advantage over commercial broadcasters, thanks to the fact that your listeners and viewers are customers and not just "consumers."
And let your listeners and viewers get involved in production. Embrace audio blogging. Embrace local video production. Wake up and smell the content, dudes. There's a huge pile of it out there. You don't have to get all of it from NPR and PRI. And I'll bet you can get a lot of it cheaper than from those bigtime sources, too.
Both our local stations originate some programming, but much of what they do is the same canned stuff you can get in Tampa or Tacoma. And the fundraisers aren't the long, arduous affairs they used to be: KGOU has trimmed its beg-a-thon from seven days to four with apparently no effect on the volume of donations, which I believe is due at least partly to the fact that no matter how long the scheduled event, there is always a last minute.
Ultimately, I think Congress will kill the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the right wing will present the death of CPB as an ideological triumph, of course, but CPB needs to go, not because it might offend a segment of the population, but because it's an anachronism, and one which adds (albeit only slightly) to the ongoing budget deficits at that. While public radio isn't exactly awash in money, they've learned how to turn a buck just like their rivals on the commercial side of things, and with most public-broadcasting frequencies reserved by long-established FCC rules (KGOU is one of very few public stations on a normally-commercial channel), it's highly unlikely that they're going to be swallowed up by the Clear Channel juggernaut.
I have my reasons
I thought about putting together some sort of FAQ for the new house, but somewhere in the midst of writing the thing, it occurred to me that there was only one question that truly qualified as "frequently asked":
"Why are you doing this now?"
(Presumably as opposed to, say, ten years ago, when prices were in a slump, or two years from now, when I expect to be substantially less broke.)
And so I came up with an answer.
Our road warriors cover much of the Mountain time zone, so while I was making notes for some future ('06?) World Tour, I popped the question to one of them: "How would you organize a trip to Montana from here without having to go through Denver?"
The warrior beamed, for he knew that this time he would not have to impart the lesson of a lifetime: Do not, under any circumstances, go through Denver.
As it happens, Fûz has been contemplating what it's like to go through Denver, and he thinks the plans being implemented are wrong-headed and utterly miss the point. His thesis:
A beltway is supposed to relieve the downtown of the traffic burden of mainline highways crossing the city. Travelers who want to go through Denver should be encouraged to drive the extra miles, on very nicely built roads with high speed limits, to skip the traffic and the hassle, and even to relocate some of the air pollution away from downtown. Ten bucks of tolls does not constitute encouragement to drive 46 miles instead of 32, especially for heavy trucks whose per-mile and per-minute costs are higher.
Those extra 14 miles come from taking the new E470 route instead of I-25. As an alternative, Fûz proposes a High Occupancy/Toll lane on I-25 with limited access and egress. For the Interstate traveler heading north (as I would be, except of course that I'm trying to avoid going through Denver), the Fûz plan offers three choices:
Even if it's ten bucks for #1, this strikes me as more sensible; the whole idea of E470 should be to divert people (especially local traffic) from I-25 in the first place, and you don't divert people by hitting them with both a toll and a greater distance to drive.
In Oklahoma, where we all hate toll roads with a passion, some of them are actually justified, and none of them more so than the Kilpatrick Turnpike, which describes a 120-degree arc from I-35 near the Oklahoma City/Edmond line to I-40 out near El Reno. The northern segment of the Kilpatrick runs more or less parallel to Memorial Road, a major east-west artery that is hopelessly clogged with local traffic. Is it worth a buck to bypass all that to go from the eastern terminus (roughly the 5000 block east) to, say, Quail Springs Mall (roughly 2500 west)? Easily. And if you use the RF devices, it's only 90 cents.
My new commute, once I'm into the new digs, will run about 11 miles, three times what I'm used to, and that includes a loop on I-44 east to I-35 south. Both of these roads are fairly heinous in the morning hours, and the I-44 segment includes the infamous Belle Isle Bridge. If I confine myself to surface streets, the distance shortens to about 9 miles, though the time required increases markedly. There are no plans to make either of the two Interstate segments toll roads at this time. (The portion of I-44 actually in Oklahoma City is one of the few stretches in the state that isn't a toll road.) And taking the Kilpatrick itself adds 15 miles to the trip. But would I pay, say, $2 a day for a 70-mph Kilpatrick-like breeze through the city? In a heartbeat. There's no room for another in-town loop, though, and I doubt that ODOT could get Fûz to go to work for them.
26 October 2003
Headline of the day
In Frosty Troy's Oklahoma Observer (not online), a cover story about retiring Senator Don Nickles: Requiem for a Lightweight.
Remind me to send Robb Hibberd a list of Oklahoma blogs; apparently the only one he's read is this one. (Sunday, 1:01 am)
On the other hand, give the guy 2.5 cheers for predicting a Cowboy upset in the Bedlam Series, not because I think he's right or anything, but because going against the grain ought to be rewarded once in a while.
Incidentally, if you're just arriving here from Tropiary and, as of this writing, it's a safe bet you're not drop what you're reading and see Anna's photo-essay on Saturday's batch of protests in D.C.
Barking out of the manger
This is, you should pardon the expression, rich.
Johnson County, Kansas, one of the wealthiest counties in the country, last year passed a three-year, 0.25-cent sales tax increase to raise money for the six county school districts.
Wyandotte County, just to the north (it includes the city of Kansas City, Kansas), has now sued those districts and the commissioners of Johnson County for violating Kansas' equal-opportunity education laws; apparently the $200 extra per pupil now available to Johnson County students puts them at an unfair advantage.
"We want everyone to have the same opportunities, and we want those opportunities to be few and far between." They're not saying so with their words, but they're certainly saying so with their actions.
From Irreconcilable Musings:
The reality that everyone in this debate refuses to acknowledge is that you cannot directly link suitability of education to dollars spent. While it goes without saying that communities must adequately invest in their schools, the truth of the matter is that it does not cost the same to educate a child in Blue Valley as it does in Coffeyville or Ulysses or Wichita or Hays. The cost of living is different, impacting salaries. The cost of facilities and utilities are different. The cost of transportation is different. Because of these and other cost variations, it makes no sense for the state government to impose a one-size-fits-all funding formula for rural, suburban and urban districts. They have tried and failed for ten years to do this, because we cling to the notion that the only way to measure the quality of a child's education is in dollars.
Dollars that they would rather spend in legal fees than in the classroom, apparently.
In the meantime, what's to stop Wyandotte County from enacting some form of supplemental funding in their schools? Naw. Too much like taxation. If we can't keep up with the Johnsons, let's just drag the Johnsons down.
It's easy being green
Condi Rice and...Joshua Claybourn? [Last paragraph.]
I am so jealous. Even if it doesn't happen.
When someone turns up an item on my want list that's been on said want list for forty years or so well, mere email isn't enough.
A shout-out, then, to John Quincy, program director for WTMA/WTMZ in Charleston, South Carolina (and miles around), who in his disguise as mild-mannered archivist and Webmaster Ted Tatman has a lot of stuff from the days when WTMA was the dominant Top 40 station on the Carolina coast, things which I heard zillions of times a day in the Sixties and missed a heck of a lot in the subsequent decades including the single most elusive 45 I've ever sought, which wasn't even a commercial release in the strict sense but to this day makes for a reliable earworm.
Thanks, Ted. If I find anything in this ol' footlocker that fits your archives, it's yours.
27 October 2003
Birds on a wire
This morning's convocation of the crows took place as scheduled, but for some reason it was more noticeable than usual, and after a couple of thwaps to the forehead it occurred to me why: it's actually daylight as I'm pushing out the door. With the return of standard time comes a brief period (a month or so) when I don't have to commute in the dark. The birds, of course, don't pay attention to these fine points of human existence: they just wait for a propitious moment to divebomb the cars in the parking lot. Meanwhile, I'm feeling this strange notion that maybe I overdid the fall-back bit, that I'm actually late.
Right on cue, the stereo pops up "Get Me To The World On Time", the second Electric Prunes hit. (If you think of the Prunes as one-hit wonders, well, think again.) And ultimately I was on time, though my sense of timing wasn't keen enough to let me sail through any of the intervening traffic lights.
He's only just begun
Dr Michael Newdow, physician and atheist, the man who will argue before the Supreme Court next year that the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment, has let it be known that he has more legal challenges coming up.
The Court minus Justice Scalia, who has recused himself is expected to hear Newdow's argument next spring. The "In God We Trust" motto on US currency is just one of Newdow's proposed future targets.
(Via Tongue Tied)
Not with a whim, but a banker
At any given moment, the best credit-card terms I have are the most likely to disappear.
Back in the early 90s, I got a MasterCard from Chemical Bank in New York, an operation renowned for customer service. Shortly thereafter, Chemical was acquired by Chase Manhattan, which was at least sentient enough to realize that their own credit-card operation wasn't as spiffy as Chemical's. Accordingly, Chase allowed the Chemical people to run the combined card service, and for a while it was good, though eventually attrition took its toll and Chase settled into what I would characterize as a decent but uninspiring averageness.
As a hedge, I picked up another MasterCard, this time from a joint venture between NationsBank and Discover (!) called Prime Option, which indeed offered a variety of options, including the ability to pick your own due date and the opportunity to blow off one payment per year. Needless to say, this couldn't last, and Prime Option sold me (and presumably its other customers) to the relentlessly-indifferent Household Bank, which continues to send me promotional material a year after I sliced up their card and returned it.
About a year ago, I overhauled my card portfolio, ditching higher-interest cards and replacing them with cards offering more favorable terms, and no one offered me more favorable terms than Fleet Boston, whose Visa now occupies the place of honor (such as it is) in my wallet. Naturally, Fleet's days are numbered.
If there's a bank you'd like to see bought out, write to their credit-card department and have them send me an application.
Sac transit glorious monday
Kelley's Cul-de-Sac is even easier to recommend this week, since (1) it's a little bit shorter and (2) there's nothing of mine to clutter it up.
Get it while it's a brand new bag.
28 October 2003
Not quite trepidation
Today is Inspection Day at the new digs, and while I'm expecting no surprises this is why The Expert was called in, after all surprises, by definition, are not expected.
So what we have here, essentially, is a manifestation of my innate pessimism. And that's no surprise either.
(Update, 8 pm: Not too shabby, if I say so myself. More important, someone who does this for a living said so himself, which makes me feel a little better.)
Roger, over and over
Fox News chief Roger Ailes does seem to cover the same ground a lot, but I suspect it's because everyone asks him the same questions every time.
In a piece for Broadcasting & Cable, Ailes is his usual part genial, part pugnacious self:
I've had a broad life experience that doesn't translate into going to the Columbia journalism school. That makes me a lot better journalist than some guys who had to listen to some pathetic professor who has been on the public dole all his life and really doesn't like this country much and hates the government and hates everybody and is angry because he's not making enough money.
Which naturally leads to the question of "objectivity" does it really exist?
I can be objective about the war and the coverage of the war. But, as a United States citizen, do I want the Taliban to win and subjugate all the women and execute people in stadiums? No, I'm sort of opposed to that. The concept that the journalists are totally objective is crazy. They have friends. They have an education. They've gone to some school where some professor spun their brain out. They've got a view of life. They've got history. They've got parents. They've got people they like and socialize with. They have a view based on their experience. And they bring all that to journalism. Their job is to try to sort through that and get to as much truth as they can get to, which is what we do, every day.
And Ailes describes an encounter with former New York Times editor Howell Raines:
Raines clearly was driving an agenda. I called Howell. I forget the story. It was their Afghanistan coverage. There was some stuff...that wasn't true. We had guys on the ground, and so I called him up and said, "Howell, you're going to get an award for fiction here." He said, "I'm hanging up." I said, "You don't seem to have a sense of humor, Howell." He said, "I don't have one about journalism." So then, later, when Jayson Blair happened, I sent a note and just said, "Maybe it's time to develop a sense of humor about journalism."
Maybe it is. And Roger, if you're reading this: you might want to impress that idea upon Bill O'Reilly.
(Muchas gracias: Debbye Stratigacos.)
Just don't get sick
As the saying goes, the American system of health care is the second worst in the world, with all the others tied for first; both left and right find it a suitable target, though the right tends to be somewhat more forgiving because, after all, it's making money.
James Joyner has the gumption to utter the S-phrase:
I support a single payer system in theory, but have no idea how to implement it while still preserving innovation, freedom of choice, and some degree of cost efficiency.
Government as gatekeeper well, you know how effective they are.
The insurance industry as gatekeeper well, you know how effective they are.
So, if we're stuck between a rock and a hard place, which way do we steer? Before we answer, Bruce would like an answer to this:
Right now, as the system stands, you quit your job and you lose your benefits. This means that you go through a period of time where you have no access to health insurance unless you pay for COBRA, which is extremely expensive.
Why is that in this day and age, your access to a doctor is determined by your employment status? It seems like an anomaly in the market system. You don't lose your car insurance when you lose your job.
Of course, you don't buy your car insurance through your employer, either. At least, you shouldn't.
But it's a valid point. There are vendors of individual health-care policies, but the prices would make your nose bleed, and the bleeding is probably not covered. The usual arguments for group policies economies of scale and such make some sort of sense; still, there's something a trifle disconcerting about ten or a hundred or fifty thousand people all having the same coverage, when no two of them have exactly the same needs.
So would I be better off if I could persuade the powers that be at 42nd and Treadmill to leave me out of the group policy and pay me the $3500 (I'm guessing) a year directly? Maybe. In only one of the last five years did my actual medical expenses exceed three grand. Of course, this doesn't mean that they will continue to remain relatively low. But it seems like a reasonable argument for a policy that kicks in only at very high levels $10,000 deductible? backed up by some form of savings, perhaps the Medical Savings Account that Democrats, by and large, have resisted.
This sort of scheme would work for me; it would probably not work for someone making $6.25 an hour. I think Bruce would agree that we would be better off if each of us had more individual say in the shape of our health-care coverage, though he seems to be thinking more along the lines of a co-op:
The collective power of free agent insurance buyers will force greater accountability by having the flexibility to shop around in the market.
Still, it's a market-based solution he's proposing, which a single-payer system isn't. I am concerned that whatever collective he envisions, be it a general cooperative or an affinity group, will be faced with some of the same issues facing employer-benefit systems, though it's generally a lot less common to be tossed out of an affinity group than to be thrown out of work.
One thing seems certain: we're not going to have the patchwork system we have now forever. Either health care will become less of an obstacle, or the government will come up with some fairly godawful proposal to take it over, just to shut us up. Let's hope that the system is amenable to improvements while it's still alive.
Speaking of dark horses
Dean Esmay sums up his feelings (which are not so far from my own) about Howard Dean:
He may be on the right side of issues like gay marriage (although he didn't used to be) and guns, but on the most important issue of the day (the war), he's utterly wrong. My take: if Dean were the nominee, and Bush died tomorrow, and Republicans dug up the corpse of Thomas Dewey and put it on the ballot, I'd vote Dewey.
Dewey? You bet we do. And if enough of us do, perhaps we can embarrass the Chicago Tribune again.
29 October 2003
We'll always have Carnival
Well, maybe not always, but the Carnival of the Vanities, the original weekly blog roundup, is still around, and this week it's at Who Censored Blogger Rabbit?
This is, I think, edition number 58, but it looks more like, um, 419.
I've passed by the building before, but I didn't know for sure what it was.
Now I do. Premium Beers, the local Anheuser-Busch distributor, has a new facility near I-240 and Eastern, a location chosen for optimum transportation availability. I-35 is a mile away; the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe railroad is running a spur line right into the Premium warehouse.
Not that I'm a major Budweiser fiend or anything, but some of the smaller, snootier brands are either brewed or marketed by A-B, and besides, I like the idea that Premium consolidated three facilities into one and actually added a handful of jobs in the process.
Part of the plan?
Michele wonders, as I have from time to time:
If you believe in God, do you believe he is an interventionist God? For instance, do you think that prayer can cure illnesses, help rescue people from burning buildings or bring a lost child home? Or do you believe that God is just an observer; he made the world and now just sitting back and watching what happens with his invention?
Michele herself doesn't believe in God at least, she doesn't believe she believes in God but it's a puzzle that has perplexed many of us over the years. She's getting good answers in her comment section, but I wanted to single out this one by Analog Mouse:
The best explanation I've heard, and the one that prevents me from being kept awake nights, is that all of creation is like a pointillist painting. We, being in the painting, see every dot as crucial and every change to those dots as a hugely significant event. But to God, the painter, he sees the whole picture. Changing a dot or two over here (answering prayers) may not be a big deal, but the placement of another dot may be completely crucial to the formation of the work of art ("allowing" 9-11 to happen). Then, factor in the fact that the dots can do whatever they want (free will), including destroying the other dots. In the end, the painting will be what God wants it to be, but there are a zillion ways it can happen.
I'm not entirely happy with this explanation for one thing, it invites higher levels of mockery than usual from happy atheists but as someone who has always tried to see a bigger picture than the one right in front of me, I find the concept appealing.
Suing for Columbine
I always figured someone would eventually sue Michael Moore over Bowling for Columbine, but I didn't figure it would be a relative of an Oklahoma City bombing conspirator.
James Nichols he's Terry Nichols' brother, living in Michigan says Moore interviewed him and deceived him about what he planned to do with the interview. He accuses Moore of libel, defamation of character, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. If you've seen the film, Nichols is the chap who tells Moore he's got a gun under his pillow.
Please include your address label
It's four weeks until closing on the house, so I sat down tonight to hit the Web sites of the magazines to which I subscribe, in the hope that I could run the standard change-of-address scheme without actually having to talk to some poor soul in Customer Service. (Not that I object to poor souls, mind you; it's just that they might hate picking up the phone as much as I do.)
Thirteen of fifteen magazines contacted over the Web were able to process the change with a minimum of folderol. The two exceptions were Automobile and Out, neither of whose databases seemed to recognize me, and Out further sinned by resizing my browser.
Two magazines Consumer Reports and Mother Jones actually responded with email confirmations, although the response from CR contained, inexplicably, the old address.
"What kind of nitwit subscribes to fifteen magazines?" you ask. I don't know. I have about a dozen yet to go.
30 October 2003
Because you love nice things
The title here is a slogan from the old Van Raalte company, which during the Forties and Fifties sold upscale lingerie and hosiery and such, moving into pantyhose in the Sixties and disappearing sometime in the Seventies. As commercial appeals go, it cuts straight to the chase; only L'Oreal's "Because I'm worth it" exceeds it for ego massage. But we wouldn't respond to it at all if it weren't true: we do love nice things.
I'm reading Virginia Postrel's The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value Is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness, and one paragraph continues to poke at me while I decide how to dress up my new home. It's from the very first chapter, The Aesthetic Imperative:
People have always decorated their homes. But the aesthetic quality and variety of home interiors have increased dramatically. Furnishings once reserved for rich aficionados are now the stuff of middle-class life. In the early 1990s, when Pottery Barn launched its interiors-oriented catalog, American home owners could not buy a wrought-iron curtain rod without hiring an interior designer. "We had to go to a little iron shop in Wisconsin and teach them how to make a curtain rod," recalls Hilary Billings, who turned the Pottery Barn catalog into a home-furnishings source for the aesthetically-aspiring middle-class, a niche that rival Crate and Barrel also filled. Now such once-exotic offerings can be found in discount stores. "Crate and Barrel changed the world," says [former Art Center College of Design president David] Brown, "and then Target changed it again."
Target certainly seems kinder to my pocketbook, anyway.
This week I received a catalog from an operation called Design Within Reach, which is presumably aimed at people with homes worthy of coverage in Architectural Digest, with budgets to match. In years gone by, I would have tossed it without a second look. Not today. I pored over the pages, wondered what it might be like to own a chaise longue based on Le Corbusier's 1928 design, or a Ludwig Mies van de Rohe daybed, and, for a few moments anyway, ignored the financial realities.
So maybe it's not quite so imperative, this aesthetic, at least just yet, at least for me; get a knockoff of this chaise into JCPenney, though, and I'm in.
Beef: it's what's for Christmas
A pound of 85/15 ground beef has been running $2.99 lately, and while occasionally steaks go on sale, most of the time you might as well put them on layaway.
Beef producers, on the other hand, are probably happy with the situation: the price they're getting, which had been hovering in the $90 (per 100 lb) range for some time, reached $102.92 this month, putting upward pressure on prices at the retail (and, yes, at the restaurant) level. Production levels are high, which means smaller herds more cattle are coming to market which means that unless there's a slackening of demand as the supply shrinks, prices will go even higher.
PETA and their friends will undoubtedly scoff while they chow down on their mesquite-grilled drywall, but I believe that the God of Texas Chili has very strict commandments about soybeans and such, so I will grit my teeth and write the check, however big it gets.
Blog post title of the month
While McGehee likes this one, my own personal favorite is this item at Hit & Run, by Julian Sanchez: Suits and the Suing Suers who File Them.
Even if you think the title is lame, you should read it anyway. And if you don't, here's the tempest brewing in this particular teapot: Atrios has been threatened with a lawsuit by a contributor to National Review Online who shall not be named (or linked) here.
The commenters at Eschaton have, shall we say, given this matter the seriousness it deserves.
The guys and ghouls of the Fright Club at Blogcritics (oops, sorry, I forgot, you do not talk about Fright Club) have put together an assemblage of horrifying films, books and whatnot, just in time for Halloween. The list is extensive enough to insure that something therein will scare the pants off you. (Offer not valid if you're not wearing pants.)
31 October 2003
Periods of transition
I wrote my last rent check last night.
Of course, there was a form to fill out, and they wanted to know what you liked about the place (four miles from work, two miles from Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits) and what you didn't like (the complex was built during a period when isolation between individual units was considered an expensive frill, and besides I suffer from Danny Glover's disease*). I doubt seriously anyone had ever stayed there for ten whole years before, but that's not something I plan to worry about. And as I left the office, my mood was closer to euphoric than to nostalgic. Clearly the time was right.
Six hours away (if you take the side roads, as you should), my daughter was seduced into the Matrix.
And actually, I wasn't surprised; she had never been all that happy with her Corolla, and while the Toyota folks replaced its starter, she spied this little wagon on the corner of the lot and fell, if not in love, certainly in like.
This is hardly the car of her dreams, I noted; in fact, it's the sort of vehicle that is generally derided as a mommymobile, a grocery-getter.
"I am a mommy," she declared, "and I do get groceries."
* "I'm getting too old for this shit."
The man who would be Senator
I don't live in Oklahoma City (though I will be moving there shortly), so I never bothered to work up much of an opinion about Mayor Kirk Humphreys; he struck me as a reasonable, if not particularly inspired, successor to Ron Norick, a visionary who was a hard act to follow.
No doubt Humphreys has his fans. But some folks don't like him at all.
(Via Fly Over Country, now endorsed by Robb Hibbard.)
How I know I'm on the D-list
Much of blogdom is playing with the infamous Gender Genie, as plugged not-so-enthusiastically by InstaPundit this week.
Of course, you read about it here in August.
Maybe I should stop this blogging and start that record store.
Tote that barge! Post that bail!
About two million residents of subsidized public housing are going to be put to work sort of. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has implemented a rule enacted in 2002 which requires many residents to contribute eight hours a month to community service projects and/or self-sufficiency programs.
Not everyone in public housing is affected; the elderly and the disabled are exempt, as are persons already working 30 hours or more per week.
And not everyone is enthusiastic about the requirement, either:
"I live my life just like everybody else, you know?" said Regina Morgan, a resident of public housing and mother of four. "The fact that you are tying it into my lease, that is inhumane."
To which Ravenwood replies:
Boo hoo hoo. Imagine having to work a mind-boggling 8 hours per month for taxpayer subsidized housing. How inhumane!
I'm surprised she hasn't thought of suing HUD on the grounds that raising four children takes at least 30 hours a week. Finding a lawyer looking to kick-start his 15 minutes of fame by arguing this case would probably be no more difficult than finding beer bottles behind a frat house.
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