1 September 2005
Put me down on the side of saving as much of New Orleans as possible.
But if it's not possible, here's a suggestion from Hatless in Hattiesburg, who is not actually in Hattiesburg and for all I know might actually have a hat:
Allow petroleum refineries to be built on the sites of the military bases closed by the BRAC commission;
Relocate all hurricane refugees to the abandoned housing around these bases, and give them jobs at the new refineries (or in other support businesses).
Which, says H/H, solves three problems at once.
And, well, we haven't had a new refinery in almost 30 years, and gas prices are starting to look like this.
Addendum: A proposal from Engine of the Future to simplify the task of the refineries:
We can temporarily lift the EPA regulations on all of these different fuel blends. We can do it for gasoline and diesel. Others if need be. We do this nationwide, and do it for a known, extended period of time. Fear and uncertainty is causing the "market" (that's "traders in Chicago", not us average consumers) to drive these extreme price jumps. Putting a plan into action that the "market" can count on will ease those fears and relieve the uncertainty. We lift these EPA regs for two or three years.
That gives the refining industry a known time to work with. "The market" too. All operational refineries would now be able to run larger batches and be able to ship that fuel wherever it's needed. Think that's a bad idea? Well, the EPA thinks it's a good idea, sort of.
"B-b-but what about the environment?" I hear you cry. Yeah, you'll really miss that MTBE, won't you?
Sounds like a plan
It is a truism in Republican circles that Democrats simply don't understand how markets operate. Turnabout being fair play, it's great fun to point out a GOP partisan who, to be charitable as possible about it, was blinded by his rage.
The Gazette's "Chicken Fried News" took a potshot at state Republican chairman Gary Jones a few issues back, which prompted this fume from a fellow on a Republican message board:
"Attacking Gary is wrong and it is time to put this sad Chicken Fried Puppy to sleep. Boycott the OKGAZ, or better yet, whenever you see them on display, remove all copies and put them in the trash without reading them. If just 20 dedicated Republicans would do this it would kill the OKGAZ circulation. I imagine it would be a long time before they attacked Gary again."
What's wrong with this scenario? It's obvious:
[T]he Gazette is a free publication and bases its circulation on the number of copies picked up from stands. The more copies [he] and his GOP cohorts swipe, the more Gazette's circulation numbers go up.
Eventually, the poor schmuck figured this out, but by then his fellow Republicans were berating him for his cluelessness.
There is rivalry, and there is utter silliness. Tulsa Mayor LaFortune, speaking at the groundbreaking of T-town's new downtown sports arena, flirted with the line of demarcation, and then flopped right over it:
[Voters who supported Vision 2025] recognized that Tulsa had to build, invest, invest in our infrastructure, to remain competitive with similar cities. They recognized, those citizens who voted yes, that Tulsa had to build to provide facilities that would serve as the foundation for Tulsa's future economic growth. Those citizens, with their foresight, recognized that Tulsa had to build facilities and amenities that would serve us for decades to come. For us, but most importantly as I said and we should never tire of this theme for our kids and our grandkids, those same citizens rejected the negativism of some, those same individuals who were content with the status quo, content to go by decade after decade with no major public facility improvement, all the while watching almost every other comparable city, including Oklahoma City, move past us, leaving us in their construction dust.
But today I say to you: No more! No more to Oklahoma City, no more to Des Moines, no more to Omaha! Tulsa is alive and well!
Michael Bates calls this dementia exactly what it is:
"Fie upon you, Des Moines and Omaha, and fie, fie upon you, Oklahoma City! Your vaunted convention centers will be brought low and shall be no more! Not one stone will remain standing upon another. Your downtowns will run with blood! We will loot your concert tour dates, kill your men, enslave your women and children, and sow your fields with salt. My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings! Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Look back over that quote. What a paltry vision: Remain competitive with similar cities by building an arena. Nothing about developing our workforce, encouraging risk-takers to start new businesses, accommodating the needs of the elderly and disabled, rethinking our approach to urban design. Nothing about becoming a great city, just making sure Cher has a place to perform when she brings her Frankensteinish carcass to town.
Believe me, with Bill LaFortune running the show in Tulsa, Oklahoma City doesn't have a thing in the world to worry about except maybe Des Moines.
Good morning, America, how are you?
Lindsay Beyerstein remembers Steve Goodman's "City of New Orleans", a small hit for Goodman, a bigger one for Arlo Guthrie, a great song about trains and a great song about America. (The words are here.)
And I admit, it never occurred to me that ABC's morning show actually got its name from this song.
Timing is everything
A page stolen from Neal McCaleb's diary, late last night:
Three dollars a gallon? It's perfect! Now we can tell them that the additional tax will be less than two percent of the price at the pump. Why, they'll never even notice it!
You can't blame the guy for trying. (Or can you?)
Believing the guesstimates
Consumer Reports (October) is in a snit about fuel economy, specifically about the government-mandated mpg numbers that appear on the window sticker of new cars. According to CR, 90 percent of vehicles they tested failed to deliver the numbers on the sticker.
One reasonable complaint is that the EPA's test procedure, adopted in the 1970s, hasn't been updated to reflect changing driving conditions: combined fuel-economy ratings are still calculated on a 55-percent city, 45-percent highway mix, which is not always achievable in today's heavier traffic.
On the other hand, a couple pages into the story, they give away the game:
The mpg inflation has allowed automakers to trade fuel economy for performance features that draw buyers. Between 1987 and 2005, car and light-truck manufacturers slashed 0-60 acceleration times by 24 percent and bulked up average vehicle weight by 27 percent. Consequently, these vehicles got 1.1 fewer miles per gallon than they did in 1987.
"Draw buyers"? How dare they.
And if I got 24 percent faster from 0-60 in a car that weighed 27 percent more and it cost me only 1.1 mpg, I'd be delighted.
It gets better:
Automakers have lobbied against tougher standards, saying that higher mpg is technologically difficult to achieve and that they're making vehicles the public wants. If consumer demand were not a consideration, light trucks could be getting 28 mpg and cars, 38, says John German, manager of Honda's environmental and energy analysis. "The role of government is to create mandates or incentives so some of the ongoing engine-technology efficiency gains go to fuel economy and not just more horsepower."
Again with those damned customers.
Elsewhere in this issue, they seemed impressed with their Corvette, which returned "a respectable" 21 mpg. (EPA numbers are 18 city/28 highway with the 6-speed stick; they recorded 14/31.)
Then again, I have an underpowered car, out of which I routinely rev the living whee, and I still beat the government numbers. Maybe I should test the farging cars.
Sir George, a New Orleans refugee now holed up in Memphis, says all this could have been avoided:
None of the flooding would've happened if the city hadn't kept sweeping beads off the streets. They'd have beads packed thirty feet deep by now.
Yeah, but wouldn't that have made it difficult to step down into a restaurant?
(I'm just saying.)
2 September 2005
Like severe tire damage, only more so
A South African inventor has come up with a female condom incorporating a device to discourage sexual assault.
Called, indelicately enough, "rapex," the gizmo is worn tampon-style; when the intruder performs insertion, it hooks into the dingus with sharp barbs and literally will not let go. The perp will have to seek medical attention, and, well, your friendly physician knows how it got there.
In addition to this particular benefit, "rapex" also provides, like a proper condom, protection against STDs carried by the rapist. I suspect this would sell well here in the States if it could get past the usual regulatory hurdles.
(Via Phil Dennison.)
Because it deserves repeating
Yes, I have questions. I have complaints. I want to know a lot of things about the way this was (or wasn't) handled. As Americans, we deserve to know this, we have the right to know why hospitals weren't evacuated and why this seems like one fuck-up after another. But later. There is so much time for that later. Right now, we should not be stopping our leaders and politicians to answer our questions, we should just let them go do what they are supposed to be doing. Later. There is always later for the second guessing and and accusations and pitchforks and torches. And answers.
We are supposed to, as humans, be compassionate. I've seen some behavior in the past few days that make me doubt that compassion and empathy are inherent in human beings. But there are stories, the good stories, the heart-warming things, the people opening up their hearts and homes and wallets, that make me believe that all the scum of the earth can never outnumber the good.
It's simply that scum gets better press nothing more.
Yes, we have no new music
Composer Ned Rorem complains to The New York Times:
[W]hy not use more relevant programming? The last 80 years have been the sole period in history in which music of the past has taken precedence over music of the present. Today any work by a live composer is balanced against a hundred works by Mozart or Beethoven (or Brahms or Dvorak).
One is tempted to ask, "Have you heard any of the music of the last 80 years?" Rorem, of course, has; he's written quite a lot of it. But he's hardly a staple of the American repertoire, and I have to assume that he's not at all happy about that.
Lynn isn't buying Rorem's complaint:
Not to disparage modern composers, some of whom I like very well, but what the heck makes Ned Rorem and all the other self-righteous and out of touch residents of the Ivory Tower think that they are relevant? Go to any mall or street corner in the US and start asking people, "Who is John Adams?" and maybe as many as 20 percent will say that he was the second president of the United States, 40 percent will say, "Uh ... I don't know; someone in the American Revolution, maybe?" and the other 40 percent won't have a clue. Don't even waste your time asking anyone if they know who Ned Rorem is. Merely being alive and having the stamp of approval from one's fellow academics does not make one relevant.
Imagine asking them "Who is Samuel Adams?"
There are a number of factors at work here, but they all boil down to "We play what the audience wants." And if too often it seems that what the audience wants is the same old thing, it's partly because the present-day marketplace doesn't make it easy to seek out the new and unheard but it's also partly because some people, having heard it, don't particularly want to hear it again. And the conservatism of our orchestras and our ensembles and our radio stations is thus reinforced. The late Ainslee Cox, conductor and music director of the Oklahoma City Symphony Orchestra during the early 1980s, was a tireless champion of new music, premiering a number of new works every season; it was perhaps inevitable that he would clash with the mossbacks on the Symphony board, and he departed. (In a curious example of synchronicity, both Cox and the Symphony itself died in 1988.)
Cox's attitude, basically, was "Maybe they'll like it. It's certainly worth the effort." He certainly didn't seem to think that it was the audience's job to drag itself up to contemporary standards of au courant-ness, a sentiment Lynn would appreciate:
Composers ... have to quit acting as if it is the audience's responsibility to "catch up". Mozart and Haydn understood that it is possible to write challenging and technically sophisticated music that is also pleasing to less sophisticated ears. In their day composers were considered servants. Maybe the problem with modern classical music is that composers have forgotten their place.
I used to call this "I Am An Artist, Dammit" Syndrome. However, the onus isn't entirely upon the composer to make himself accessible: the trick, of course, is getting the audience to meet him halfway.
Rumors are flying that the NBA's New Orleans Hornets may relocate to Oklahoma City on a temporary basis, perhaps even permanently.
Nothing is graven in stone just yet, of course. The most logical move for the Hornets, I think, is to relocate to LSU's Pete Maravich Center, just up the road in Baton Rouge. The downside is capacity: the Maravich seats only 14,000. Both Houston and Dallas have offered to host the Hornets on a temporary basis, and indeed the team staff has taken office space in Houston, courtesy of the Rockets, while the home office is drowned out.
But there are a couple of advantages to having the Hornets in Oklahoma City. If nothing else, we'd see, once and for all, if there's enough community support for a major-league sports team. The Ford Center holds 18,500 for basketball, slightly more than the New Orleans Arena. (A few Blazers hockey games would have to be bumped to the Cox in 2005-06.)
Whatever happens, it has to happen quickly: the Hornets' season opens 2 November at Cleveland, and their first home game (vs. Sacramento) is only two days later.
Addendum: From OKPartisan's post on this subject:
It was quite a stunner to read such a mercenary-sounding article after just reading that the Astrodome is full, and more housing is needed for Hurricane Katrina's refugees. I had had hopes that our city would once again demonstrate the "Oklahoma Standard" and offer the Ford Center.
Another addendum: R. Alex contemplates the fate of that other New Orleans team:
I think the chances that there will be a New Orleans Saints a decade from now to be 2-1 against. It's possible, but they are a bubble city to begin with and I have my doubts that the city will ever again be as it was. San Antonio is also a bubble city and one unlikely to get a team while Los Angeles remains vacant unless they can demonstrate a whole lot of fan interest and LA demonstrates more apathy, but even if not the Saints, perhaps the Chiefs or another relocating team. Taking the Saints for a year would give them an opportunity to do that. And Birmingham isn't a bubble city, though it seems to believe itself to be.
To the extent that they've thought about it and they probably have not since they have much more dire concerns at the moment New Orleans has got to be pulling for Baton Rouge. It's in Louisiana, drive-able, and cannnot hold an NFL team of its own and so it would clearly be a placeholding rather than auditioning. The problem is that Baton Rouge was slammed pretty hard, too.
I suspect they'd rather have the Hornets close to home, too.
Gaia and eternal PMS
Bless you, Matt Welch:
[A]s a resident of Los Angeles, I'm particularly sensitive to the Hastertian vibe you always get from the rest of the country at times like these ... why do you crazy people live there? Instead of answering that, I'd like [to] turn the question around what parts of the country are actually sensible to live, in terms of avoiding natural catastrophes and constant reliance on guvmint to bail citizens out? Much of the Mississippi basin would be uninhabitable wetlands if we let the Big Muddy go where it actually wants to (for an account of this, and of the insanity of Southern California development, I highly recommend John McPhee's The Control of Nature). The Midwest is a tornado-generating sinkhole of federal farm subsidies; everything west of the Rockies is a nightmare of water mismanagement, Florida and California are famously doomed, the Pacific Northwest is filled with active volcanoes, whole chunks of the Canada-adjacent strip are uninhabitable for several months a year (in my judgment, at least), and the entire eastern seaboard could be swallowed by a tsunami if that volcano on Montserrat blows the wrong direction. Not to make light of a heartbreaking tragedy, but is there a sane, self-reliant place to live in this country? Or is wrestling with a hostile Mother Nature a feature, not a bug?
I'd say "San Diego," but someone is sure to bring up wildfires.
Meanwhile, I'm here in Tornado Alley, watching the sky. Anyone taking bets on the next asteroid strike?
Question of the day
Actually, I suppose this is technically two questions:
Is size important? And if not, why are there no two-inch, pencil-thin vibrators?
(No, this is not to cement my position at the top of searches for "Yugoslavian crotch bugle".)
3 September 2005
Which we celebrate on Tonsorial Day
The mark of the superior blogger is the ability to get a good story out of the most mundane incident you can possibly imagine.
With that in mind: Jeff gets a haircut.
Right up there with Y2k
We saw this before, when the prices first surged over one dollar:
Some gasoline stations are having a particularly difficult time keeping up with soaring prices because their antiquated pumps are incapable of charging more than $2.99 a gallon.
To get around the problem, the stations Friday received permission from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to use "half pricing," meaning the pump would read half the sales price, and the cost would be doubled inside the store. For example, $3.10 gasoline would be charged at $1.55 at the pump, but consumers would pay the cashier full price.
Anyone who lived through the previous gas crunches could have anticipated this sort of thing, which presumably includes this guy:
"Who would have ever thought prices would get so high we would have to worry about this?" said Vance McSpadden, executive director of the Oklahoma Petroleum Marketers Association.
McSpadden, in fact, owned four gas stations in 1973. He, of all people, should know better.
Form follows functionality
A British secondary school is taking the radical step of grouping students by ability instead of by age, reports the Guardian:
The 1,100 pupils starting the new academic year at Bridgemary community school in Gosport, Hampshire still regarded by some as the local sink school were for the first time being taught in mixed-age classes for every subject.
Pupils have been assessed through a series of internal and externally validated tests to determine their entry to one of five levels of ability which match a government-agreed framework, and will be subjected to monitoring.
In some cases extremely able 12-year-olds are beginning GCSE courses alongside pupils two years older at level two. Each child has been given an individual learning programme attached to a timetable, with the new arrangements designed to cater for different abilities.
"GCSE" expands to "General Certificate of Secondary Education," formerly known familiarly as "O-levels". The student must take a GCSE exam in each core subject, usually after the 11th year of school, before further progress can be made.
Bridgemary has been on the British equivalent of a Needs Improvement list, and the new regimen seems to be helping somewhat:
Four years ago, just four months after Mrs [Cheryl] Heron took over, the school was declared by Ofsted to have serious weaknesses. This year 33% of its youngsters got five or more GCSEs at the top grades of A-C an 8% improvement on last year's figure of 25% but below the national average.
And there will be more of this, says Mrs Heron:
Age differences within individual classes at this stage involving a margin of up to two years are likely to become more pronounced as the new system becomes more established, Mrs Heron said. GCSEs are typically taken by year 11 pupils at age 16 but at Bridgemary last year they were passed with flying colours by year 9s (in PE) and year 10s (in [Information and Communication Technology]). The school is also keen to encourage youngsters to take the wide range of modular exams now available at any time of year when they are ready for them.
The association for secondary-school heads seems to approve:
John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "Our education system is too age-related and this is reflected in the way the league tables are about the peformance of 16-year-olds and fail to reflect good results by pupils a year later. Moving away from an age-related system can have benefits. Colleges commonly have mixed age classes and I think more and more schools will be experimenting with with mixed age classes."
Of course, somebody had to object to this sort of thing:
Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "There are dangers that social difficulties can arise when you mix 11-year-olds with 15-year-olds. For example, if a 15-year-old was sent down to work with 11-year-olds that could lead to a serious loss of self-esteem and would be seen by peers as a sign of failure."
To which Erin O'Connor replies:
The Guardian does not mention whether Sinnott had anything to say about the damage not only to one's self-esteem, but also to one's prospects in life of not placing struggling students in level-appropriate classes where they can acquire the skills and knowledge that they lack.
Aside to Bob Moore, superintendent, Oklahoma City Public Schools: You ban the word "self-esteem" from all school correspondence from this day forward, and I promise faithfully to support any and all millage increases for the district, now and forever, so long as the ban remains in effect.
Tweaks and re-tweaks
Some time between now and early April, when this site
For that matter, I've got to decide what I'm going to do about the mechanisms behind the scenes. I have MT 2.64 pretty well under control, but by now they're up to 3.2, and there's a limit to just how retro I'm willing to remain: while I have far less spammage than I used to, and only a handful of occasional trolls, I'd like to have some more up-to-date tools to deal with those, um, individuals.
On the other hand, just for the hell of it, I installed WordPress on another domain I own, and I will be doing some fiddling with it; WordPress may turn out to be my option of choice for this site as well. At the very least, I figured I should give it a look-see.
Warm up the glow plugs
Whatever the difficulties with refining capacity may be, they don't seem to have had quite as much effect on diesel fuel; #2 diesel, which at the beginning of the summer was about twenty cents pricier than regular unleaded, is now about twenty cents cheaper. I didn't see any diesel today priced at more than $2.90, while 87-octane gas at most places is in the general vicinity of $3.10.
The simplest explanation is that the stations don't sell as much diesel, and therefore they're still running on price trends from a week or so ago, but this seems a bit unlikely, especially since truck stops sell plenty of diesel and they're not, for the moment, more expensive. Could it be that most of the refineries that produce diesel, at least for this area, were not located along the coast and therefore didn't suffer storm damage?
I'm guessing that this isn't enough of a price shift to motivate people to go buy diesel-powered cars it certainly wouldn't be for me but these days, anything seems possible.
A little advance planning
I suspect this was in the works long before Katrina, but it's here now: a twelve-page booklet issued by the state Department of Health, with the imprimaturs of the Department of Emergency Management and the Office of Homeland Security, dubbed the Family Readiness Guide: Plan, Prepare, Be Aware.
The booklet contains helpful hints for anticipating evacuations, government contact points, a wallet card upon which you can list emergency information, a list of documents you ought to try to protect (including computer backup media!), and other useful bits of information.
I got my copy in the Sunday Oklahoman, scattered among the two or three dozen ad pieces; other papers in the state will presumably be carrying it also.
Quote of the week
Almost any paragraph from this piece by Julie R. Neidlinger, though the one I want to single out is this one:
Some of the people you see on TV are survivors and some are victims. The difference is in their head and is easily seen in how they react. The survivors will naturally survive. The victims will never forgive whoever happens to be on their usual list of suspects to blame, and their lives will be permanently stuck on page Hurricane Katrina as an excuse for their future until the day they die. They won't survive this, though they will live.
Truer words have ne'er been spoken.
The first two sidewalk plaques have been placed in Deep Deuce, in honor of James "Doughbelly" Brooks, guardian of Deep Deuce history and beaming presence at the Golden Oak Barber Shop, and Russell M. Perry, publisher of the Black Chronicle and operator of a statewide radio group. (A dart to Leland Gourley of Friday, who was so proud to be there, and who misidentified Perry as the publisher of the Black Dispatch.)
At the dedication ceremony, Mayor Cornett recalled some of the fabled places of Deep Deuce (all addresses are on NE 2nd Street unless specified otherwise), including:
There were many, many more, but with the exception of Calvary Baptist, which is now Covenant Life Center, the one thing they all have in common is absence: this block of Deep Deuce was bulldozed years ago.
It's wonderful to have people actually living in Deep Deuce again, and it's good to see the city remembering its heritage, but there's still the sensation that maybe they waited just a little too long to remember.
Hail and farewell
Chief Justice William Rehnquist has died at his home in Arlington, his three children by his side.
Rehnquist, 80, had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer last fall, and had been widely expected to step down from the Supreme Court, a move he steadfastly refused to make.
The fall session of the Court begins on 3 October.
4 September 2005
The War on Error
That's Doc Searls' term for the unwinding of the Gulf Coast catastrophe and the inevitable drive to avoid a repeat performance, and while I think the title is just a little too facile, he understands the dynamics as well as anyone:
With nobody but God and ourselves to blame, and with nobody but ourselves to help, we will put people first. And we will do our best to protect our civilization from acts of God for which people must be prepared.
The next hard question is, Which "we"? Our federal, state and local governments? Or ourselves? Or both, together, in some new way?
Back during the last presidential campaign, Phil Windley made a useful distinction between the politics of elections and the politics of governance. The latter, he told me, was what mattered most. In governance, he said, the distinctions between parties are, while important, also irrelevant to the most basic concerns of citizens, which are about making sure the water runs and the roads get fixed.
Phil also told me about the emerging Net-based ecosystem of governance, in which government organizations were developing fresh and highly symbiotic relationships with Non-Governmental Organizations, or NGOs. In fact, some NGOs were one-person operations individuals obsessed with, say, auto safety or water quality.
When the blaming stops and the fixing truly begins, we'll need more than our government organizations to step forward. As citizens, and as groups of citizens, will need to do what government simply can't do.
Yes, we need bureaucracies. But bureaucracies can't imagine anything. Including predictable acts of God.
People, on the other hand, can.
In the War on Error, people will need to take the lead. Governments will need to follow or get out of the way.
The only problem with this scenario is that it didn't occur to enough people a week and a half ago.
Top of the heap
What does it take to make the best blog in the state?
Ramblings on politics, film, music, literature, current events, pop culture, what the voices are commanding and any other damned thing that strikes my synapses.
So says Chase McInerney, and the results bear him out.
My congratulations to Chase and his occasional co-bloggers on winning the hearts and minds of Oklahoma's blog community.
In praise of private wheels
I have no doubt that somewhere, some greener-than-thou type is watching the price of gasoline rise to $3.50, $4, $5, God knows where, and doing a Marv Albertesque "Yes! Now maybe those people will give up their damn cars and ride the bus like they should."
Not a chance, Snowflake:
I'd say people who believe that the automobile is a good thing are feeling pretty justified right now. People in New Orleans who owned cars mostly got themselves safely out of town before the storm (unless they chose to stick around). People who didn't, and were dependent upon on mass transit, wound up drowning, getting herded into the Superdome or the Convention Center or are still otherwise in harm's way, facing possible starvation as well as predation by looters and thugs. Many of them had little choice, of course they were poor people living in a big city. But obviously, they did not wind up better off for not owning a car.
The lesson here is that anybody who can afford a car is crazy not to have one, the dreams of bicycle-riding environmentalists and central planners the world over to the contrary. In addition to its other virtues, a car can get you out of harm's way without having to depend on the government in a time of crisis.
Also note that suicide bombers regularly target trains (London, Madrid, Tokyo), buses (London, Israel) and planes (9/11, the shoe bomber) but rarely if ever go after motorists, who remain more dispersed and therefore less vulnerable except when passing bridges and tunnels.
There remain those who resent the automobile, which puts the individual citizen literally in the driver's seat. But sometimes, the ability to get yourself out of town without waiting for the government to get you there makes all the difference.
And there remain those who are anxious to point out that poor people don't have all these options. This is, of course, one of many reasons why it sucks to be poor, and if you have any ambition and any sense, you'll reorient your life so at some point you become not poor. (Waiting around for the government to do things for you, incidentally, is neither ambitious nor sensible.)
Helping man's best friends
Reasons to support the American Veterinary Medical Foundation in these trying times:
Suggested by Liz Ditz.
The Centennial Land Run
A proposal by The Downtown Guy:
Do an inventory of all the innercity homes owned by either the city or county; ask for volunteers to fix them up and make them livable; then make them available to people who have lost their homes on the Gulf coast. Make them pay only for the utilities, and require only that they maintain the homes and not create blight.
Call it the Centennial Land Run. After all, is there any place better than Oklahoma for making a fresh start? Has there ever been a better place?
It will take some bold steps through the city bureaucracy, but I like it. Certainly we've got the inventory of homes, and the city has been willing in recent months to take unusual steps to reduce it, which suggests to me that it can be pulled off.
15:07 and creeping upward
Take that, Andy Warhol, and welcome, New York Daily News readers.
Sheesh. How am I supposed to keep a low profile these days?
Cross-beams out askew
On the treadle, even.
Roberts: (slightly irritatedly and with exaggeratedly clear accent) Sandra Day O'Connor has gone and retired from the Supreme Court.
Boxer: Well what on earth does that mean?
Roberts: I don't know! Mr Bush just told me to come in here and say that there was trouble at the Supreme Court, that's all. I didn't expect a kind of Democratic Inquisition.
Ted Kennedy: EVERYBODY expects the Democratic Inquisition! Our chief weapon is whining ... whining and fear ... fear and whining ... Our two weapons are fear and whining, and ruthless demagoguery ... Our three weapons are fear, whining, and ruthless demagoguery ... and an almost fanatical devotion to Karl Marx ... Our four ... (hic) ... Amongst our weapons ... Amongst our weaponry ... are such elements as fear, whining ... (hic) I'll come in again.
Roberts: I didn't expect a kind of Democratic Inquisition.
Brought to you at much greater length by Hatless in Hattiesburg.
The new Agent
Forté has brought out Agent 3.0, and it has more of a learning curve than previous versions of this venerable Usenet software: it now supports multiple news servers, which is a boon, but its new folder structure threw me at first.
Still, it's wicked fast compared to its predecessors: instead of queuing tasks, it splits them into threads and runs them simultaneously when system resources and user demands permit. I don't do that much nntp stuff anymore maybe twenty newsgroups or so but I'm guessing I'm using maybe a third less time negotiating those groups, which would justify the price, had they charged me anything for upgrading from a paid 2.x version, which they didn't.
The Oklahoman on 723
They're not exactly enthusiastic, but they're endorsing it:
We're not fond of tax increases. However, we see State Question 723 as a fair and reasonable way to deal with an issue that needs attention now.
They don't say so anywhere, but the entire editorial, to me anyway, seems to be a shrug and a tossed-off "Well, if this is the best we can do...."
What I fear is the possibility that maybe this is the best we can do. But the likelihood that it's going to pass while there's a big 3 up on the price board or worse, a 4 is, I suspect, next to nil.
Small socially-redeeming value: the people who use the most gas would pay the most tax, which seems at least somewhat fair, and the tax increases would not push us beyond the regional averages.
I think I could support this thing if it had an actual expiration date on it. But it doesn't, and there's no way they're going to let go of this revenue even if they actually get all the billions of bucks worth of backlog completed.
5 September 2005
It's your thing
Do what you wanna do.
By which is meant, I'm busy this morning, so here's another open thread. The last one wasn't abused, so I expect this one should work similarly well.
Is Harry Reid out of his depth? Get a load of this:
"Now that the president has said he will nominate Judge Roberts as chief justice, the stakes are higher and the Senate's advice and consent responsibility is even more important," Democratic leader Harry Reid said Monday in a statement. "The Senate must be vigilant."
How exactly are the stakes higher? The Chief Justice is but one vote among nine; his opinion counts no more than that of any other member of the Court. As a reward for his title, he gets some extra paperwork and the task of counting heads.
Of course, Reid once said he could back Antonin Scalia for Chief Justice, which suggests to me that Reid might be thinking the affable John Roberts would actually be more efficient at building a reliable conservative consensus on the Court than would the caustic Scalia.
Or it could just mean that they cut off a random thirty seconds from the big spool of audio clips in the back of Howard Dean's office, and this is the one Reid got.
In the land of grey and pink
Not the Caravan album, but a new Bill Whittle essay.
I don't watch a lot of porn for the same reason I don't watch a lot of cable-TV news: sound and fury, idiots, you know the drill.
On the other hand, I'd pay to get a look at this it were ever to come to, um, fruition. [Not even slightly safe for work.]
That WordPress project
I mentioned earlier that I was messing around with WordPress; while I'm not planning to convert this place at least, not yet I did want to familiarize myself with some of its operations and get used to the idea of working in a PHP environment.
What I did, therefore, was tear down an old static page elsewhere that had the graphics from the custom CDs I've burned, which has been sitting there for two or three years, and replaced it with what will eventually be a complete catalog, including track listings, for the forty-odd discs I've produced for around-the-house and motoring use. It will take a while, but the first seven discs are in place, and the others will follow as time permits.
If nothing else, this should help me cut down the number of duplicate tracks on subsequent issues.
The 23rd of never
I was out by Shepherd Mall today, and it occurred to me that I'd not actually been in the place for at least 15 years. Of course, now that it's been converted to the world's shortest office tower, there's little to attract random visitors, but I remember coming up there when I was much younger and thinking it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. (The greatest thing before sliced bread is still debatable.)
The city has been working on improving the general appearance of 23rd Street over the past few years, but the spiffed-up streetscapes end at Villa, on the western edge of Shepherd Mall. On an impulse, when I got home I decided to see if there are any plans to extend the beautification process, and sure enough, there are. In the proposed 2005-06 Oklahoma City budget document they haven't posted the final approved version yet there's this:
An important part of the City's program to enhance community appearance and renew inner city neighborhoods is the streetscape program, funded primarily through [General Obligation] Bonds. Next fiscal year projects will be started in several areas:
It's a little over a mile from Villa to I-44, and a mile and a half from Kelley to I-35, so this is a tall order indeed.
One other thing: I got lazy today and didn't bother to put on my usual shoes (various New Balance sorta-athletic types), and I discovered that my driving style is markedly different in sandals. I'm assuming it's because of the difference in foot pressure, but this seems too facile an answer.
A life full of sit
Everyone please be seated.
6 September 2005
Maybe I should have my Brosnan pierced
Yes, I used to watch this fairly regularly:
A popular dramedy of the early '80s, REMINGTON STEELE starred a young and dashing Pierce Brosnan before he became 007. Stephanie Zimbalist co-stars as Laura Holt, a beautiful young private eye trying to get her business off the ground. Unfortunately, she finds that female P.I.'s don't receive a lot of business, so she invents a male superior for whom she "works," and renames her business after him. Suddenly cases come pouring in, but Laura soon finds herself confronted by a handsome thief who calls himself Remington Steele; he cons her into a partnership in which she does the work and he "takes the bows." This works well for business purposes, but the two are constantly at odds, creating an exciting sexual tension and much opportunity for humor.
Now subtract all of the sexual tension, most of the humor, scroll back to the part about the technically-nonexistent individual created from whole cloth and imagine how she might feel.
Oh, well, I'm sure there's someone out there who insists you call him Ishmael, too.
Derailed, so to speak
The city and the Union Pacific Railroad are at odds again over the redesigned Walnut Avenue Bridge. Five months into the project, which is due to be completed next spring, the warring parties are still far apart on who pays how much for what, and the railroad is complaining that the city's design, which eliminates one side track, makes it unnecessarily difficult to switch trains below the bridge. The Corporation Commission agreed with the railroad and ordered the city to come up with an alternative design; the city responded with a design that relocates the single track for greater clearance.
Four years ago, the city wanted to demolish the bridge and put up a grade crossing; I can't help but wonder if maybe someone at City Hall is wishing they'd gone ahead with that plan.
Where the gouges are
There's a worthy debate going on between Mike and Sean on the dodgy subject of price gouging.
I tend toward the free-market approach in such matters the value of something is equal to what someone is willing to pay for it but Mike wonders just how free a market we have:
I'm not so sure about the lack of cartels; look at the defense industry. Look at the energy industry's influence in government and guiding our nation's energy policy behind closed doors. Look at the circle of business executives serving as Boards of Directors of various corporations, who richly compensate executives (each other) regardless of performance. And whose success is often determined by government hand-outs; welfare, if you will. Using your definition of price gouging, some folks might say the huge profits and executive compensation made during a time of war is gouging. The gap between executive compensation and hourly workers' continues to widen. But how do we define "excessive profit"?
Back during the Energy Crises of the late 20th century, there was a lot of thundering about "obscene" profits. Now to my way of thinking, losses are a lot more obscene than profits, but it was pretty clear that a very large number of people felt that they were being screwed by Big Oil, and I suspect that the same situation persists today. I don't believe that Big Oil, at least the domestic manifestation of it, is particularly cartel-like: most of these firms will happily stab each other in the back for a couple of points of market share. (Not that this has never happened in OPEC.) Defense contractors, however, work on a different dynamic; there is seldom competition on a given project, and they tend to build stuff for cost plus. Needless to say, "plus" leaves all kinds of opportunities to fatten the take at the expense of the taxpayers. Not that they make a habit of this, of course. (And I'm reasonably certain that they can explain away every last dime.)
Bottom line: I feel less gouged by $3.10 gas than I do by a $600 hammer, even if the hammer is mil-spec. Your mileage may vary.
Not to be confused with the Hokey Pokey
Britney Spears is having a new wedding ring made because, she says:
I want something that's not as pokey-outy. The one I'm getting is a little bit flatter.
And that, presumably, is what it's all about.
Goodbye, Little Buddy
Bob Denver, the least-clueful of seven stranded castaways on Gilligan's Island, has died at a North Carolina hospital at the age of 70.
His journey to heaven surely will be quite a bit less than a three-hour tour.
Nawlins in '08!
A National Review editorial makes this curious recommendation:
No single step would go further to dramatize the GOP's commitment to rebuilding New Orleans than announcing now that the party's 2008 convention will be held in the recovering city. Such a move would signal the party's confidence in the Big Easy's renewal, and put it at the forefront of what should be similar commitments from private actors to do their part to help New Orleans come back.
Assuming, of course, there's some, you know, recovery by mid-2008.
Although Reason's Nick Gillespie has a point:
If they really want to help a city "facing a bleak future" "after the Bush administration 'failed' with the initial relief effort" and chock full of logistical problems, how about holding the festivities in Baghdad?
I suspect I'll see the Democrats in East St. Louis first.
(Yeah, I know, I've been a hawk all this time. I still am. But I don't see Baghdad being any more ready for this sort of thing than New Orleans during the time frame specified.)
7 September 2005
Been here, done this:
When I review what I've written over the last few years, some of it I really like and I'm very proud of. Some of the rest of it I'm not proud of, and some I'm quite ashamed of. I've always thought of myself as laid back and not inclined to temper, but in recent years I've had to accept that that view is self-delusion. What I do is hold it in and hold it in and hold it in and then spew, often saying more than I meant to or speaking more harshly than I ought. One reason I've not written here in a while is that I'm struggling with a desire to be more measured thwarted by a tendency to fly off. While the rants may be interesting to read sometimes, they're not fun to look back on, especially when my imprudence remains bright and shiny right online for everyone to access in perpetuity.
Unlike Susanna, I haven't taken any time off from the blog. Maybe I should.
But it's probably not going to happen, because if I don't vent here, the places I do vent are apt to be very, very distraught once the translators arrive, that is.
Once a month the city picks up Big Junk from curbside, and in my neighborhood this happens on the first Wednesday of the month, which means that all manner of urban and/or suburban detritus is stacked up in people's yards awaiting disposal.
Usually I don't pay much attention to it, but this morning, someone had, not one, but two toilets, tank and bowl, sitting by the curb. Now there's nothing particularly unusual about having a pair of stools a bath and a half was the norm for houses one size class larger than mine, even 60 years ago but I shudder to think what would require that both be replaced at once. And if it's simply a matter of redecorating, well, I wish I had that kind of, you should pardon the expression, cash flow.
BushCo throughout history
Now that everyone knows George W. Bush, without Karl Rove's knowledge, broke into the Dark Lord's chambers and cranked up the weather-control device, thereby causing Hurricane Katrina, it's about time we looked into some other previous "accidents" in which the Bush family had an unsteady hand.
For instance, the Black Plague:
Acting on a dare from drinking buddy Alaster Kennedy, hard partying Barclay Bush releases a boxful of infected English Black Rats in his town's marketplace. This unwittingly caused millions of deaths and forever drove a wedge between the two dynastic political families.
And if you think that's bad, consider this:
After an all night whiskey and cocaine bender, Danny Terrio Bush entertains the early morning crowd at a Manhattan diner with his flashiest drug-induced moves. The eatery's young patrons liked what they saw and by the time Danny awoke two days later, disco had arrived.
That's the way, uh-huh, uh-huh, I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh.
(Borrowed from miriam's ideas.)
No spaces in them thar domain names
Which is why you run into issues like this, as I once discovered at The Spoon Sexperience.
They don't travel well
Emblazoned on a Whataburger bag:
Rarely do the fries make it all the way home.
Um, they did this time.
At least it wasn't a flat
I really wasn't expecting my lawn mower to throw a wheel this evening.
Actually, it didn't throw the wheel, exactly, but the attachment was looser than Paris Hilton's code of conduct: I pulled up the deck and there was about ¾ turn left before the wheel and the bolt parted company.
It was an easy-enough fix with the Vise-Grip®, but what I wonder is this: Why didn't I notice it when I put it away Saturday morning? A wheel skewed 15 degrees is, to say the least, kind of obvious.
Carnival is here.
8 September 2005
You don't own me
Almost anyone who's tried to make a living off an elpee's worth of toons, it seems, has had some sort of complaint about a record company.
Filling in at Majikthise Lindsay is in Baton Rouge helping out with relief efforts and other things under the auspices of the Swing State Project Thad points to one problem, and a solution in the making:
Non-musicians often wonder: "If record companies are so awful, why don't musicians organize to protect themselves?" A big part of the answer here is that the biggest existing collective organization for musicians the AFM has, in the past, been indifferent (at best) to the needs of independent musicians. So any collective organization that represents indie artists like Take It To The Bridge has to be built from scratch, and has a tendency to vanish once the specific issue it was created to address has been solved. That's why I'm so excited about this recent collaboration between Take It To The Bridge and [AFM] Local 802. This is exactly the direction the union ought to be taking. After all, if there's one task that a musician's collective is uniquely well-suited for, it's taking on the record companies.
What brought them together was, of course, the action of a record company, in this case Knitting Factory, whose new owners basically trashed all the existing contracts with their artists. What's worse, they started throwing out their inventory. Why? It's a record company. Who knows?
Eventually, an agreement was reached: the 28 plaintiffs will receive a full accounting of royalties, ownership rights to the material recorded, return of the original masters, and the right to buy up existing inventory at $2/unit.
I have to admit, I'm starting to understand why so many musicians are releasing their own CDs.
The Atlantic storm season, which runs through the end of November, has already seen
(Storms #22 and subsequent are designated by Greek letters, so the next storm after Wilma will be called Alpha. Just what we need: an Alpha storm.)
The height of presumption
"Oh, let's just send someone over with a cart and pick it up."
"Is it ready to be picked up?"
"I don't know. But I'm certainly ready for it."
One notch below ramen
If that's possible. Call it Garbage Soup:
Here?s what you need:
Throw the chicken bones into the sauce pan and cover them with water. Heat the water to boiling and then lower the temperature to simmer for about an hour. Pour out the broth into a mug or bowl. Presto! Chicken soup. As weird and disgusting as this sounds, it really does work and it tastes pretty good.
Having once attempted to simulate Bloody Mary mix with a fistful of ketchup packets, I'm not even going to scoff.
My three cents' worth
A couple weeks ago I brought up the topic of Tulsa's "third penny" sales tax, and suggested that its renewal wasn't exactly a sure thing despite Mayor LaFortune's town meetings to promote it:
Given what's been happening in Tulsa in recent years, I have to wonder if maybe someone in the Mayor's office has figured out that a lot of Tulsans feel the city government is out to screw them over, and the city might well lose that third penny when it expires in July 2006.
One such Tulsan is the Mad Okie:
After hearing LaFortune's ranting at the groundbreaking and later hearing plans to pump yet another 20 million into downtown using 3rd penny funds (specifically the East Village and yet another sports venue) I'm tempted to not vote for the 3rd penny extension ... If the Gov't can't spend our money properly, then it's time to take our money back.
Bobby at Tulsa Topics sees it similarly:
Citizens are the ultimate "checks and balances" of government via their vote. Not only does this include elections for Mayors and City Councillors, but it also includes the choice to continue or not continue giving an additional ... 1% of our hard earned money via the 3rd Penny Sales Tax to the city.
I think for the time being, I want to keep my voting power intact and say nope to making the 3rd Penny Sales Tax permanent.
Two people do not a movement make, but I'm thinking there's a lot more than two out there.
Changing the laws of physics
Mr Scott, of course, would tell you you canna do that, Captain, but nowhere does it say in the manual that you can't avoid facing them head on.
Your serious drivers eschew front-wheel drive: with two-thirds or so of their weight up front, fwd cars understeer at the limit and often well short of the limit, and sending your power through the same wheels you steer means that sooner or later you're going to put your foot in it and head off into the weeds. This latter phenomenon is called torque steer, and the only reason I don't often experience it in my fwd car is because it doesn't have enough power to force the issue. (Believe me, I've tried.)
Building a fwd performance sedan, therefore, requires some serious rethinking of those laws. The brain trust at Pontiac thought it over, and reasoned: "If we want to improve traction on a rear-driver, we'd put bigger tires on the back. What if ...."
And apparently no one thought of this before. The new Grand Prix GXP has fat 225/50-18 tires in back and fatter 255/45-18 tires in front. Wouldn't this bigger contact patch make torque steer worse? Apparently the controlling factor is the stiffness of the sidewall. (Tire pressures are the same 30 psi front and rear.)
Car and Driver has a full road test in the October issue. Between this and the new Solstice roadster, the We Build Excitement guys might actually be building some excitement these days.
9 September 2005
Just one of the girls
W the magazine, not the President sent me this lovely invitation yesterday:
You are among a very small group of women invited to receive our exclusive W BAG ABSOLUTELY FREE along with 12 issues of W for just $1 each.
Two things occur to me:
Of course, if I turn down this invitation, I won't be the "first to know where to buy jewelry from the designer who created Madonna's wedding ring," but I think I can survive a trauma of that magnitude.
Courtesy of Minneapolis candidate for mayor Marcus Harcus:
Minneapolis must collectively support the achievements of all of its life interested people, regardless of differing physical traits, accents, customs, views, languages, religions, finances, education, ideologies, etc. People who are willing to not only survive, but also strive to thrive deserve realistic, viable opportunities. Is not this the land of opportunity?
Anti-Racism must be integrated into the principles, cultures, practices and policies of Minneapolis people, government, businesses, organizations, schools, parks, public spaces, all institutions and private homes all throughout our beautiful city of lakes.
I'd hazard a guess that almost everyone in Minneapolis, perhaps the whole of Hennepin County, is "life interested."
But this is a bit too Oprahesque, if you ask me. And if you ask Lileks?
I am all for anti-racism, but I am not interested in a Mayor who wants to integrate "it" into the "policies" of "all private homes." Because such a Mayor will spend his days putting together impressive mass-mailed brochures full of stock art and URLs for websites I can use to eliminate racism in my pantry and office stairwell, paid for by property taxes. I'd prefer something like "All the citizens of Minneapolis are equal in the eyes of the law. No ifs ands or buts. End of discussion." But I'm a dreamer.
He can say he's a dreamer, but he's not the only one.
The first circle of Dell
A mere fourteen months after picking the site, Dell Inc. will be throwing open the doors to its new Oklahoma City customer-contact center on Monday. Dell CEO Kevin Rollins, Governor Henry and Mayor Cornett will be on hand for the grand opening.
A second building is already under construction at the Dell campus, south of the Oklahoma River and west of Portland Avenue.
Three parts touchy, two parts feely
The last good monument built in the United States is down the road from me a couple of miles.
We don't do good monuments anymore, partly because we're afraid that some segment of the society might take umbrage, a reasonable fear given the fact that so many segments have hired professional umbrage-takers. Beyond this, there's the belief among some people that a monument must contain within its scope an anti-monument, a statement that "Yes, this happened here, but we want to make sure you hear our side of the story," whether it's relevant or not. (Hint: It's not.)
Still, even allowing for that, I'm damned if I can understand what they're trying to do at the Pennsylvania site where the passengers of Flight 93 took down a plane rather than allow a squad of Muslim hijackers to crash it into a government facility. Maybe Sean Gleeson can figure it out.
How about "quasi-clumsy clod"?
There's a character on Ricky Gervais's brilliant British sitcom The Office who constantly refers to himself as "Assistant Regional Manager," and is quickly corrected by his boss, who says he is actually "assistant to the regional manager." This is eerily like Michael Brown's résumé problem. He said he was "assistant city manager" in Edmond, Okla. when he was in fact "assistant to the city manager." The character on The Office is a semi-malevolent clown. I leave it to you to decide what Brown is.
(From John Podhoretz on "The Corner" at NRO.)
There stands the glass
In the twenty-one years since county-option liquor by the drink was authorized in Oklahoma, forty-two counties have opted to open the taps at the watering holes.
That leaves thirty-five who haven't, one of which is Lincoln County, northeast of Oklahoma City, and this makes life perhaps a little more difficult for the county's winemakers: about half the state's grapes are grown in Lincoln, but you can't even get a taste at the vineyard.
The growers, therefore, have offered to foot the bill for a county-option election this December, which will cost them around $7000 or so.
Lincoln County last voted on this issue in 1986, and turned it down by a two-to-one margin.
When Brown isn't enough
Scott Lemieux happens upon the announcement of the new top man at FEMA, and his qualifications are just about perfect:
He has been Assistant Manager of the 3rd largest Carl's Jr. in Denton, Official Adjudicator of the Greater Dallas Area's cutest hamster competition, and starting left fielder for the Houston Astros.
Not even Michael Brown himself could make such claims.
10 September 2005
Sunshine on my shoulder
And elsewhere, today being World Naked Gardening Day.
Discover magazine (October) asked Dr Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, "Why aren't people getting enough Vitamin D these days?" His response:
Vitamin D is unusual in that we don't get it from our food: we synthesize it by being out in the sun. But our whole cultural evolution has been to remove us from sunlight. We live in houses, drive cars, work inside, watch television inside. In the northern part of the United States, even if you do go outside in the winter, the sun isn't high enough on the horizon to activate the synthesis of vitamin D in the skin. Meanwhile, we've also learned that skin cancer can result from excessive radiation, so we're now covering ourselves and putting on lotion to avoid sunburn. That further reduces the amount of vitamin D we can make. The truth is that we were made to run around in warm weather without our clothes on.
And, occasionally, to bend over and pull a weed or two.
Called for traveling
The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel is all over the court.
When horror hits Oklahoma and horrors have hit Oklahoma we pride ourselves on our response. Our helping hands, our indomitable spirit.
But the measure of a man is not how he treats his own. It's how he treats others.
And that doesn't mean taking an NBA team off New Orleans' hands. It means opening our arms to its refugees.
The NBA Hornets need refuge, too. It is not improper for [Mayor] Cornett and Oklahoma City to offer the Hornets a place to play the 2005-06 season. Not improper to aggressively promote OKC.
Truth is, the offer is a blessing.
The Hornets, as a franchise, don't need a kind word and a care package. They need a bustling city that wants an NBA team to hang out a shingle. They need a big-time arena with basketball-hungry fans. They need office space and housing and practice facilities. And they need it fast.
What caused this 180? A note from editor Ed Kelley? A promise of season tickets? I have no idea.
Al Gore, good neighbor
Former Vice President Al Gore put up 100k for two charter flights to New Orleans, airlifting about 270 residents of the beleaguered city, including patients at Charity Hospital, to points in Tennessee.
As James Joyner says:
Damned nice of him. Sure, he can afford $100,000 without batting an eye. But so can a lot of people who didn't do anything like this.
And yes, Gore was on the bash-Bush circuit yesterday, speaking to the Sierra Club, but he made a point of not tooting his own horn, which deserves some sort of credit.
Goldilocks vs. MS Word
Somehow I doubt she'd find this just right.
(This, incidentally, is one reason why you should never write HTML in Word; it can't keep track of tag attributes reliably.)
Saturday spottings (space considerations)
She was lovely, she was smiling, and she was driving a refrigerator, so naturally I had to talk to her, and that's why you're getting this report on an appliance-white Scion xB.
The top-selling vehicle at Toyota's youth-oriented brand the Scion Web site is larded with annoying hip-hop effluvia to remind you of its mission the xB is unmistakably and unabashedly a box, and Toyota was reportedly surprised that it was outselling its more-normal-looking cousin xA by two or three to one. What's more, its buyers are less likely to be 22-year-olds new to the automotive market than fortyish types who want practicality and don't want to pay out the nose for it.
So it was with this xB owner, who asserted that she could stash nearly as much stuff in the Scion as she could in her Suburban, and what's more, it drinks half the gas. She and the spousal unit prefer the Chevy for freeway duty, mostly because of that road-hugging weight, but most of the time, the fridge is more than adequate, which is a lot more than one expects for $15k right out of the, um, box.
Even feeding Suburbans is a little easier this week, with gas prices falling below $2.70 for the low-suds stuff in some parts of town; I'm not ready to characterize it as a free-fall, but I see a slow dropoff for the next couple of weeks as the Gulf Coast situation becomes less heinous.
Related, this sign on a church in Bethany: EVEN IF WE COULD DRIVE TO HEAVEN WE COULDN'T AFFORD TO GO. This seems a bit pessimistic for a Christian denomination, if you ask me.
There's a club on NW 50th called The Store, which sounds like the opening gambit in a domestic drama. ("Honey, where are you going?" "Oh, just to The Store.") Further down 50th is the Warr Acres line, and I noticed that they haven't updated the signs to reflect the new, higher sales tax not that I really expected them to.
The west side of the city presumably continues to pick up Spanish-speaking inhabitants: I caught a glimpse of an electronic church sign displaying the word MIERCOLES. Wednesday. Of course. I doubt this is the situation that's causing the death of the Baskin-Robbins east of 23rd and Meridian proximity to a Braum's is the more likely culprit but I have no doubt that a lot more changes are in store for this part of town.
11 September 2005
The dove takes a powder
I wasn't always hawkish on matters relating to the Middle East; the year or so I spent in that general region at the behest of Uncle Sam tended to make me a bit concilatory toward even the more wayward practitioners of Islam.
In fact, I wrote this on 13 September 2001:
The consensus around the Teeming Milieu seems to be that we should call up 1-800-TALIBAN and give them 72 hours to hand over Osama or prepare for involuntary induction into the Rotisserie League. This sort of maneuver is based upon the dubious assumption that all the various Islamic-fundamentalist wack squads are networked for our convenience, and I can't help but think pulling a stunt like this would cost us what few friends we have between Cyprus and Kuala Lumpur.
Then again, I'd pretty much made up my mind that I wasn't going to whine about things either:
Terrorists, by definition, seek to undermine a way of life; the theory is that their cause, whatever it may be, will carry more weight if people are forced to pay attention. Well, attention has been paid, and the way of life has not been undermined. At least, mine hasn't. Neither has yours, I'll bet. Guess what? We won. And while clearly I have my own preferences, I, like the good soldier I strove to be many years ago, defer to the President on the matter of determining how precisely to collect from the losers.
Four years later, I'd fault him for seriously underestimating the sheer quantity of said losers, and I'd fault some of my countrymen for doing their damnedest to make his task more difficult. The political unity we enjoyed after the 11th clearly didn't last. But the vast outpouring of help in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, from people on every point on the political curve, tells me that contrary to what some of the pundits would have us believe, we're not coming apart at the seams, not ripping ourselves to pieces over policy and politics, not turning the whole of the national dialogue into two overlapping monologues. It's simply not happening: we disagree on lots of things, but we still agree on some of the most important ones. And because it's not happening, the score, after four years, remains: Us 1, Terrorists 0.
It's a narrow lead, perhaps, but it's a lead just the same.
Do you know the way in San José?
Saturday, Jacqueline Passey, quite unintentionally, got her first taste of Costa Rican health care. What did she think? A report from the emergency room:
I saw a nurse (who spoke some English) who took my blood pressure and pulse and then I waited another 15 minutes or so for the doctor. He spoke fluent English, I described my symptoms, and he ordered a urine culture.
At this point I had to pay for the doctor's visit (18,500 colones or about $38) and pre-pay for the lab test (5000 colones or about $10). They told me to come back in one hour, so I went to a bookstore downtown and came back a little less than an hour later. My test was already ready and I was directed to wait to speak to the doctor. About 15 minutes later I saw the doctor, he confirmed that I did indeed have a bladder infection as I'd suspected, and he wrote down what type of antibiotic to take (200mg Floxstat twice a day for three days). It took about 15 minutes and 6,450 colones (about $13) to fill my prescription at the pharmacy attached to the hospital.
Altogether it took me about 2½ hours to get treated for a total cost of about $62. Much less expensive and even quicker than going to an emergency room or most walk in clinics in the US. This was at a private hospital, there are also public hospitals (Costa Rica has socialized medicine, but also allows a private market) where it might have cost less but probably would have taken longer.
But the true joy of the day came afterwards:
I asked Terrence for some Tylenol, and when I tried to line up the child proof tabs the lid popped off in my hand. Because there were no child proof tabs. It didn't have a child proof lid. THE GOVERNMENT OF COSTA RICA TRUSTS ME TO KEEP MY CHILDREN FROM POISONING THEMSELVES. I gleefully popped the lid on and off over and over in front of Terrence, which he found rather perplexing until I explained.
I trust the reader to draw his own conclusions.
Phish right at your ear
Today's bogus letter not actually from PayPal claims that the service will now actually call you on your cell phone every time there's a transaction as "fraud prevention," of course. Needless to say, you're supposed to key in all your PayPal information plus your wireless number to this handy site.
Which site, incidentally, is msg-paypal.com, owned, says joker.com's Whois, by a fellow up in British Columbia, and created, by chance, just yesterday.
Just one more way SMS is becoming the Scammer Message Service, I suppose.
Bush's numbers continue to drop
This Speculum poll spells it out:
[T]he public is not at all satisfied with the president's handling of the crisis. Delegating authority to the appropriate and qualified federal disaster agencies has shown a clear weakness of resolve, and the public would have much preferred if he had spent more time kissing babies in Baton Rouge and less on the phone telling the Louisiana government to get off their asses and do their jobs.
Should the President have parachuted into New Orleans with a 30mm Machinegun and a backpack full of MREs and Evian?
48% No, he might have fallen on an innocent looter.
(Disclosed by miriam's ideas.)
A kinder, gentler clusterphück
The problem with Louisiana's emergency planning, says Alan Sullivan, is vestigial Sixties feminism:
The Louisiana plan was the product of a matriarchy, not a patriarchy. This is the work of a caring, nurturing government, increasingly run by and for women, or men who think and emote like women. Consider the performance of the feckless Louisiana Governor, or the shrill Mayor of New Orleans. Granted, not all women think like women, and not all men are girlie men. But everything about our society, from elementary school to the nursing home, seems increasingly calculated to entrench the values of 1960's feminism. And I mean entrench in every possible sense.
Well, not exactly everything:
After 9/11 the US created huge new bureaucracies to remedy a signal failure of bureaucracy. Is America more secure? Only because airline passengers will beat the crap out of anyone who acts up. But now a totally predictable disaster has killed thousands and where was our vaunted Department of Homeland Security? Again the bureaucrats failed. Maybe a couple of placeholders will actually get fired this time, but nothing fundamental will change, except the deficit. Why not? Because women and ninnies run most governmental institutions, other than the military the only public sector organization that functioned well, when it was finally summoned.
Get into your time machine, go back fifty years, and walk the streets of any of the great cities of this continent. They were safe. They were almost perfectly clean. People didn't jostle one another, hurl obscene imprecations at one another, deface the sides of buildings with moronic scrawling, or pollute the air with pain-threshold levels of their preferred "music." Men treated women with courtesy, respect, and a certain protective affection. Even the poor, of which, though they were less numerous than they are today, there was no shortage, were clean, self-reliant, self-respecting, and courteous.
The police would sort out those who couldn't meet the prevailing standards and would unceremoniously tell them to "keep moving," in which effort they were overwhelmingly reinforced by the non-uniformed public. If you wanted to surround yourself with degeneracy, you had to find the local Skid Row, the only place where such things were tolerated. It wasn't a big place, and the folks you found there permitted themselves no pride about their condition. No one indulged in nonsense notions about the "dignity" of the homeless, of welfare dependents, of drug addicts, of gang members, or any of today's mascot-groups for the coercive-compassion camp. As a result, government, which fattens on public perceptions of danger and disorder, was relatively small and unintrusive.
And what happened during the fifty years that followed?
We made it unacceptable to be a man, at least in public.
The word "man" in the above is, for a change, not to be interpreted generically. I don't mean "a member of the human species," or even "a masculine human being." I mean a man, the sort that fathers used to try to raise their sons to be, even if Dad wasn't quite one himself, because he knew it was his duty, and because it was expected of him. In 1950, the chattering classes and their hangers-on were already at work trying to make the manly virtues into vices, and to promote their opposites in their place.
At some point, this was cutesified into "Real Men don't eat quiche." But Bruce Feirstein, who wrote the book which bore this title, pointed out that the Real Man wasn't necessarily retrosexual, inarticulate and possessed of an indiscriminate palate. The Real Man, in fact, wasn't even necessarily male (cf. Katharine Hepburn, Commander Susan Ivanova).
What does it take? The two criteria (Porretto again):
Louisiana, pre-Katrina, manifestly had problems with both of these.
There's always another wrong button
I managed to hose up the previous-page links on my WordPress site today, which eventually proved to be the fault of a badly-written (by me) .htaccess file. I wrote it in a text editor, not in the WordPress editor, and duly CHMODed it to 644, but the syntax was twisted beyond any reasonable parsing. This also explains why a copy of said file wasn't working properly at this site.
Incidentally, it is not wise to open forty-three (!) Firefox browser tabs at once, especially if you have a QuickTime video running in one of them, unless you have more RAM than God, which seems unlikely. (Then again, there is no evidence to indicate that God runs Windows, though I suspect He allowed Job to download a copy.)
12 September 2005
With a cameo by the Essenes
I am unabashedly theist, possibly even Deist, with vaguely-Christian leanings which of late have become somewhat less vague. This much you should know up front.
That said, I'd definitely like to see The God Who Wasn't There, a documentary by "former fundamentalist" Brian Flemming, last seen putting together Bat Boy: The Musical, likely the only theatrical production based upon a Weekly World News character. (Personally, I'm champing at the bit for My America: The Ed Anger Story.)
My curiosity is motivated by two factors:
And until there's a full-fledged exposé on the Pastafarians, this will have to satisfy my occasional thirst for rank heresy.
(Suggested by Leaning Towards the Dark Side.)
If I should call you up, invest a dime
Microsoft offers open-source advocate/theorist Eric S. Raymond a job.
Mr Raymond graciously declines:
I've ... been something pretty close to your company's worst nightmare since about 1997. You've maybe heard about this "open source" thing? You get one guess who wrote most of the theory and propaganda for it and talked IBM and Wall Street and the Fortune 500 into buying in. But don?t think I'm trying to destroy your company. Oh, no; I'd be just as determined to do in any other proprietary-software monopoly, and the community I helped found is well on its way to accomplishing that goal.
On the day I go to work for Microsoft, faint oinking sounds will be heard from far overhead, the moon will not merely turn blue but develop polkadots, and hell will freeze over so solid the brimstone will go superconductive.
But I must thank you for dropping a good joke on my afternoon. On that hopefully not too far distant day that I piss on Microsoft's grave, I sincerely hope none of it will splash on you.
I think we can take that as a No.
Why are we here?
Dan Li, graduate student in communications at Marquette, came up with this thesis for her Master's degree: Why Do You Blog: A Uses-and-Gratifications Inquiry into Bloggers' Motivations. I was not one of the respondents to her survey, or this section would surely have come out different:
Seven motivations for blogging emerge in this research: self-documentation, improving writing, self-expression, medium appeal, information, passing time, and socialization. Except for passing time, all the other six motivations were highly approved by bloggers. Most of those motivations are moderately correlated.
In the 179-page document itself is a set of gender variances:
Women tend to write about personal topics while men are more into coverage of public events or remote topics. In terms of particular topics, women write about their interests or hobbies, family and friends, their own creative work, and personal experiences more often than men. Men, on the other hand, are more interested in topics such as technology and science, politics and politicians, and business. Men are more prone to use their own real names for identification while women prefer a more implicit way by using variants of real names or simply pseudonyms. However, women tend to present their own and others' photos on blogs while men are less likely to do the same. In addition, women would like to disclose more personal content than men. Men are more likely to offer in-text links and send trackbacks than women. Women use default templates more frequently while men preferred to modify existing templates or design their own from scratch. Gender gap was also discovered in attitudes towards importance of feedback in the blogosphere. Generally men outnumber women in perception of feedback importance. The only exception is that women value readers' comments more than men. One of the most important intended readers of a female blogger is herself. She would write for friends too. Men focus more on colleagues. Furthermore they would be more likely to suppose anyone could be their reader while women preferred more specified readers.
The higher prevalence of pseudonyms among the females is no surprise, but I wouldn't have guessed that men prefer to futz around with their templates more than women do; women, after all, have designed a rather substantial percentage of the big-name blogs.
(Snagged from Population Statistic; Costa did participate in the Li study.)
Using our very own mascot, Fred explains how we got so many of these blooms staring us in the face:
[W]hat big fat seeds it has, wrapped in a thick, dry husk. What a loser in the game of seed dispersal and reproductive success.
I can pretty well say the tender seed inside the woody exocarp doesn't survive the goldfinch. Its beak, for a bird its size, is strong and sharp-pointed. They hang upsidedown from the nodding heads and deftly pluck the disk flower's fruit a single seed and crack it with their beak, select the oily, high-fat nut with their tongue, and it's bird 1, plant 0. But in the process of possessing that one tasty morsel, the bird has dislodged a dozen more.
The fallen seed waits on the garden soil for a vole, mouse or squirrel. The rodent will carry it off and bury it, forgetting where it planted some, thus planting a wild garden of sunflowers across the road, beside the barn and beyond the compost pile. The odds of survival probably aren't great with this approach to plant propagation, but then, look how many seeds a single flower produces to improve its odds of success! Depending on how close they grow, a single head will produce from 500 to over 800 seeds.
Sunflowers are produced commercially, for the oil or for the seeds, but I always think of them as old friends by the side of the road, waving as I go by.
Cleaning Jim Crow's droppings
The California Assembly has passed a bill which would simplify the task of removing old racial covenants from real-estate records. Since 1948, these "agreements" to sell only to [fill in name of ethnic group], or not to sell to [fill in name of other ethnic group], have been legally unenforceable the Supreme Court ruled in Shelley v. Kraemer that no court could be required to enforce such a covenant, per the 14th Amendment, though the Court did not actually invalidate the covenants themselves but actually getting them off the property records has required a lot of jumping through various legal hoops and had to be done one parcel at a time. (If you'd like to see what these looked like, a standard covenant used in Chicago may be found here.)
Under AB 394, should a property owner request, a copy of the covenant will be forwarded to counsel for the county; should the covenant be found by counsel to be racially discriminatory, the recorder will strike references to it from every parcel in the subdivision.
Out-of-date laws especially out-of-date bad laws are always worth the effort to expunge. Governor Schwarzenegger ought to sign this measure promptly.
The Big Greasy
Steel Turman throws cold water on the very idea of making New Orleans livable again; what's left behind after the flood water recedes "makes Chernobyl look like a small grease fire in your neighbor's kitchen." To wit:
Katrina flooded hundreds and hundreds of businesses and warehouses. These contained such nasties as solvents used in cleaning, degreasing, the manufacture of plastics, the computer industry, the making of paints and creation of other solvents. They also contained chemicals like sodium hydroxide (lye), potassium hydroxide (potash), dioxins found in older electrical transformers in the form of PCBs, chromic acid used for a myriad of applications llike rechroming, sulphuric, hydrochloric, nitric and ascorbic acids. So too, will be tons and tons of chemicals like carbon tetrachloride, tri-chlorethane, tri-chlorethylene, hexachlorophene and several others whose general use was banned in the early 1970s. Trust me, when they were banned, many enterprising folks stockpiled them. New Orleans is home to one of only a couple of plants where ethelylene glycol is made. That would be anti-freeze to you. The flooded hospitals will cough up radiological agents like strontium 90, plutonium and cesium all used for xrays. They will also yield many many biohazard critters like HIV AIDS, tuberculosis, streptococcus, staphlococcus, an assortment of exotic tropical disease samples and formeldahyde. It is impossible to imagine how many fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and other agricultural chemicals were innudated. There will be entire vats of tannic acid used in tanning, zinc used in galvanizing, 'liquor' from pulp facilities, alcohol, paint, a wide gamut of petroleum products, ether, MBE, mercury, chlorine, fluorine, a veritable pharmacopia of drugs and hormones from the health industry and assorted rare earths, salts and obscure heavy metals.
And that's just the inorganics:
There will be thousands of tons of human and animal waste, same for decaying flesh and plant matter. And then there's the bacteria. Just stop a second and consider the huge variety of bacteria to be found in sub-tropical New Orleans. And all of this organic material will LOVE all the vitamins and growth stimulants and nutrients in this slop. It will BLOOM.
Clean it up? Forget about it:
In any other place with even one 100th of this level of contamination, the topsoil would be scraped to a depth of 18 inches minimum and that soil would be incinerated. But the sheer size and scope of the affected area almost precludes that.
I think this would probably discourage me from Mardi Gras for a while.
(Via Daily Pundit.)
That power outage on the West Coast will be blamed for many things in the next few days, so I'm jumping in now to blame it for the three hours this site, the actual server for which is located in a Los Angeles suburb, was down today. (Power failed about 2:40 pm Central; they were able to keep running for 40-45 minutes on battery backup, but that's all she wrote. First visitor after the outage arrived at 6:21.)
There were a couple of emails asking where the heck I was. I had no idea I was so essential to anyone's entertainment. :)
13 September 2005
I can name that tune in 10 digits
"What the heck is the name of this song?" Radio formats often don't allow for such trivial details.
To the rescue: 411-SONG. Call them up, pick up your wireless phone, dial 866-411-SONG, wait for the beep, and then hold the phone up to the sound source for at least 15 seconds.
They will send you back a text message with the song's title and artist, and if it's available as a ringtone, they'll tell you that too.
For 99 cents (buying the ringtone, if any, will cost the usual price), this strikes me as a heck of a deal.
(Heard at Lifehacker.)
More clues in California
The South Coast Air Quality Management District has apparently figured out that pushing for next-to-nonexistent emissions levels in new vehicles doesn't do a blessed thing for actual South Coast air quality. While they're not going to relax the standards they have, the District's board has decided to go after real polluters: remote emissions-sensing devices will be placed in random locations in four smog-prone counties and will sniff out the dirtiest exhausts.
While they can't legally order the stinkers off the road, exactly, they will provide incentives:
[O]wners of the vehicles that cough out the most pollution will be contacted by mail and offered $500 for repairs through a local community college, or $1,000 cash to scrap their cars. Those who qualify as low-income residents would be offered an additional $2,000, or a total of $3,000, to retire their clunkers and buy cars that are state-certified as low-emission vehicles.
"Gross polluters," says board chairman William Burke, "make up about 10 percent of the passenger vehicle fleet, and yet they are responsible for at least 50 percent of the air pollution from that fleet."
I'd be happier if they could order the clunkers off the road, but give the members of the board credit for finally recognizing a problem and taking it on.
(Detected at Jalopnik.)
I no longer live in Senate District 48, so I don't have any particular reason to back anyone in the special election to replace Angela Monson, who is being term-limited out of her seat after the standard twelve years.
Why a special election? Because Monson will not be allowed to complete her full term. I explained this a couple of years ago:
Oklahoma's term-limits law, enacted as State Question 632 in 1990, allows a legislator a maximum of twelve years, whether in the state House, the state Senate, or both. The law specified that legislators serving as of January 1991 would be allowed to complete their current term before their 12-year clock would be started.
Which means that individuals who were serving in the subsequent legislature 1993-94 are now about to be squeezed out, and the first squeezee looks like Senator Angela Z. Monson, Oklahoma City Democrat, who began her career in the Senate in 1993 but who previously served one term in the House. (Disclosure: I used to live in Monson's district, and voted for her twice. Not in the same election.) The law says that Monson's clock starts with the beginning of her Senate service, which means that although she was elected to a full four-year term in 2002, she will have to leave the Senate in 2005.
On State Question 723, I have to go with my gut. I don't question the need to raise some bucks to fix these freaking roads, which seem to have deteriorated markedly in the last 48 hours, but 723 doesn't do anything to address one underlying issue: what causes roads to become substandard, and how properly to attribute the costs of maintenance and repair. Therefore I choose to wait for a more complete approach to the problem. One could argue that the perfect is the enemy of the good, and indeed it is, but 723, a temporary patch with a permanent tax increase, hardly qualifies as the "good".
Eating for two and a half
Britney Spears has reportedly gained 51 lb during her pregnancy, partially because of a weakness for fried chicken and milkshakes.
I knew we had something in common. Besides, in defense of Brit, she probably needs all the nutrients she can muster to ward off the ill effects of K-Fed genes.
Molasses uphill in February
So goes the SQL server today; I timed one actual update at seven minutes, 54 seconds, which is a bit on the slow side.
I suggest that you leave a comment first, then run to Mickey D's, and by the time you get back it should be finished. (One of mine today didn't finish at all: it crashed into one of Matt's.)
Eventually, this will improve, as the serfs at the server farm identify machines that didn't respond at all well to having their plugs pulled.
I hesitate to call this "renewable"
A German inventor says he's found a way to make cheap diesel fuel out of dead cats. Dr Christian Koch, 55, from Kleinhartmannsdorf, said his method uses old tyres, weeds and animal cadavers. They are heated up to 300 [degrees] Celsius to filter out hydrocarbon which is then turned into diesel by a catalytic converter.
He said the resulting "high quality bio-diesel" costs just 15 pence per litre. Koch said the cadaver of a fully grown cat can produce 2.5 litres of fuel meaning around 20 cats are needed for a full tank. He said: "I tank my car with my own diesel mixture and have driven it for 105,000 miles without any problems."
Annelise Krauss of the Dresden Animal Protection Association blasted Koch's new diesel though, saying: "This is as bad as experimenting on animals."
I assume this makes 102.
(By way of "Cosmo" at NRO's The Corner.)
Addendum, 16 September: Dr Koch says his work has been misrepresented:
I've never used cats and would never think of that. At most the odd toad may have jumped in.
Surely not an arroyo toad.
French moss hanging from a big oak tree
A paragraph from the back pages of Rich Appel's invaluable Hz So Good newsletter (10/05):
[I]s there actually a correct pronunciation for "New Orleans"? Or, has the official pronunciation changed over the years? If you let the music be your guide, it's New Or-LEANS, as sung by Chuck Berry, Labelle, Gary U.S. Bonds, Paul Simon, Freddy Cannon, Harry Connick Jr. and Johnny Horton, among others). Actually, Paul Simon refers to it as "The New Orleans." Arlo Guthrie pronounces it "New OR-leans" in "The City of New Orleans." If you go by the news media, the correct pronunciation is "New OR-lins"; Fats Domino comes closest to that, although it really sounds like he's "Walking to New Or-lun" (which is mighty French of him, since the 's' would indeed be silent). If you have an aircheck of WTIX from 1966, the top-of-the-hour jingle singers pronounce the city of license "New Or-lay-ans" (which is almost as French as you can get with it). And then there's "N'awlins," which I first heard when Fuddrucker's used it as the name of its cajun catfish sandwich. Of course, maybe the idea is that there's no one pronunciation, reflecting the beauty of the true melting pot that is New Orleans (and, will be again).
I've got to say, I like the way this (these?) sound(s).
(Get your own Hz So Good once a month from audiot.savantatverizon.net.)
State Question 723 is being tuned out faster than NBC sitcoms: as of last look, with about 93 percent of the precincts in, the proposed fuel-tax increase is pulling just short of 13 percent of the vote. My dating record is better than that, though just barely.
Over in District 48, the winner will be someone named Johnson. (At the moment, Connie Johnson has about a 1-percent lead over Willa Johnson.)
Update, 11 pm: It's Connie by 1.4 percent over Willa. SQ 723 pulled about 51,000 votes out of 400,000 or so; assuming the AP's figure of $2 million in the proponents' war chest is kosher, they forked over $39 per vote.
14 September 2005
The Christian imperative
One interpretation, by self-described "poor Christian" Dave Schuler:
What Jesus did not say was that there was an affirmative obligation to hire people whose putative duty was to help the poor or people in genuine need of help. He easily could have. He could have imagined the Samaritan as, rather than binding the wounds of the man who fell among thieves, taking him to an inn himself, and pressing money on the innkeeper to take care of him, tossing a shekel at him and hurrying on his way or speeding his way to the nearest town to notify the authorities. Or, rather than saying "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" he could have said, "Petition the authorities to feed the poor and clothe the naked".
And, in particular, I don't think Jesus taught that paying taxes (or voting for policies that caused other people to pay taxes) to support a government which, among other things, helped the poor and those genuinely in need of help was particularly virtuous. Quite to the contrary he said "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's".
If the central issue were helping the poor and those in need of help, it might have been more effective. But that's not what He said. He said to feel compassion and take direct action yourself and I think there's a very different spiritual conformation and commitment required to do that.
The new Luke 18:11: "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Republican."
Domine, non sum dignus.
Seasons change, and so do I
You need not wonder why. Besides, Lileks has already identified the phenomenon:
It's a common problem you find that an artist has a different view on taxation or industrial regulation, and you just don't feel the same way anymore. Happens to me, too. But must I deny myself Wagner because of his appalling anti-Semitism? Must I eschew early Elvis Costello because of his opposition to privatizing the British telecom industry? Look: Many artists are rather ... simple when it comes to politics. Or, to use the technical term, idiots. And many politicians are idiots. Ergo most politicians are artists. Which is why I have Biggy Diq Gephardt's "Amended Rules for Accelerated Depreciation Schedules Pursuant to Da Senatizzle Remix" on my iPod must-play list.
Of course, you can't get anything from Biggy Diq anymore, no thanks to iThunes.
But if you needed persuading that politics is mostly performance art, you need only look at the Roberts confirmation hearings.
An America of my own
If there is more than one America, there's no reason to think, as does seemingly every talking head on television, that the total number is only two: in fact, Joe Sherlock has identified eight.
I don't quite fit into any of Joe's pigeonholes. The pigeons are no doubt grateful. In the meantime, here's the description for my version of America:
Daily driver: Mid-sized, innocuous sedan.
Vehicle color: Beige, with beige interior. (See "innocuous," supra.)
Bumper sticker: None. (Clashes with the beige.)
Drive-time listening: Whatever CD I remembered to throw in before I left.
Today's entrée: To be determined, but yesterday's was an Arby's Super Roast Beef.
Most recent arrest: Not applicable.
Political theater: You're soaking in it.
(Andrea Harris saw this before I did.)
Now we are three
Barnes and Noble (I think) once issued a bulky book which incorporated three volumes of The MAD Bathroom Companion, under the umbrella title "The Mother Load"; while Volume 1 was undesignated as such, since they presumably didn't know there would be subsequent editions you have to figure that headlines after Armistice Day didn't read WWI ENDS the second was tagged "Number Two," followed by "Turd in a Series."
Not that this in any way relates to the Third Anniversary Edition of Carnival of the Vanities, back in its original home at Silflay Hraka, under the tender ministrations (or, at least, minestrone) of Bigwig.
Besides, what would I say about 156, anyway?
Rocket Jones has a message for you, Mr. SUV:
I'm sorry that it now costs you $180.00 every time you need to fill your gas tank, but that's the consequence of your decision to buy that oversized off-road vehicle for your daily commute on the interstate.
$180? Must be some Hummer.
What, are you nuts?
Yes, Tom DeLay, I'm talking to you:
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday that Republicans have done so well in cutting spending that he declared an "ongoing victory," and said there is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget.
Mr. DeLay was defending Republicans' choice to borrow money and add to this year's expected $331 billion deficit to pay for Hurricane Katrina relief. Some Republicans have said Congress should make cuts in other areas, but Mr. DeLay said that doesn't seem possible.
Mr. DeLay is evidently suffering from Deficit Inattention Disorder.
Says Jeff Taylor:
It is official. The GOP is now exactly in the same position Democrats were in circa 1993 the disconnected, unapologetic party of bloated federal government. Only demographic trends and the Democrats' steadfast refusal to evince a lick of sense will keep 2006 from being 1994 in reverse.
Of course, "unapologetic" is DeLay to the very core: if he backed over your cat, you had it coming.
Addendum, 7 pm: Bruce notes:
Maybe Tom DeLay is right? Maybe we've reached a Republican utopia wherein all government spending goes towards helping the politicians and their well connected friends and people no longer see their government as useful?
I wouldn't call it "utopia," exactly, but DeLay has always believed in taking care of his friends first.
Also second, third and fourth, should it get to that point.
15 September 2005
I am he as you are he as you are me (2)
Once again, Don Danz wants to know when poll watchers are going to start checking ID on a regular basis.
My best guess: The first election after a carded individual, his dignity putatively outraged, sues the Election Board, and loses and not one minute before.
Previous discussion here. Be it noted that the Code Warrior got to his polling place in northwest Oklahoma City on Tuesday and found someone had already cast a ballot on his behalf. I suspect, though, something other than garden-variety election fraud in this particular case.
Roger, of course, is jolly
Monday, of course, is the annual Talk Like a Pirate Day, and while this presents no particular problem for purely verbal communication, last year I remember wishing that there was some way I could simplify the task of keyboard communication.
And now there is. It's even ergonomic, sort of.
8 simple rules for being President
From "Mother Sally" Allen at NewsOK.com:
Rule One: When a catastrophe story is real, do NOT wait for the DVD.
Rule Two: One reporter with a satellite truck is worth more than a thousand "photo ops."
Rule Three: Turning off the bad news does not turn off the bad news.
Rule Four: When everyone around you is right, something is wrong.
Rule Five: A career change from equestrian arts to federal emergency management is like trading one end of the horse for the other.
Rule Six: Natural disasters, terror attacks and divorces all produce the same result somebody's gonna lose a trailer.
Rule Seven: Trading Sammy Sosa is not the worst mistake you could ever make.
Rule Eight: In case of rapture, call the Coast Guard!
Fortunately for me, I will never have to deal with Rule Four.
Preston Michael Spears Federline is the name given to the Britspawn, arrived via C-section yesterday.
The child is reportedly already on a diet.
The temporary-housing crunch
This is not at all my area of expertise. If it's yours, please offer suggestions and advice to Lindsay Beyerstein:
At the NAACP, we've been brainstorming about ways to solve the Katrina housing crisis. FEMA has purchased thousands of trailers for temporary housing, but it's not clear where to put them all.
Temporary housing is vital to recovery. One of the NAACP's top priorities is to get people out of camps/shelters and into temporary family housing. Jobs for evacuees are another critical dimension of recovery. We need to get people back to work in their own city.
Bob floated the idea of setting up trailers on barges in the Mississippi river. These barges would provide temporary housing for evacuees working on the reconstruction.
Is this feasible? I'm asking for input from anyone with expertise in the relevant areas: temporary housing, urban planning, nautical issues, engineering, etc.
I'm trying to find out whether this project would be feasible from a construction and engineering standpoint. What kinds of barges could we use? What kinds of trailers would be appropriate? How many trailers can fit on a barge?
If you have ideas, please post them as comments to her original post, as she's more likely to see them there than here.
And "Bob floated the idea"? Gotta love it.
The slow system response after the Los Angeles blackout this week seems to have improved somewhat today; it's still not exactly Incredibly Speedy, but I'll take a 45-second update over an eight-minute update anyday.
Four and forty-three
I was going to put something here about the acquisition of Oklahoma City UPN affiliate KAUT by The New York Times Company, which also owns NBC affiliate KFOR, but by the time I threw in everything I thought needed to be thrown, the piece had grown well over 5k, which suggested to me that maybe it might be better as a Vent.
16 September 2005
And more graduate work
James Torio wrote his Master's thesis on blogs as a "global conversation." Mr Torio studied advertising design, so his particular focus is on the business end of blogging, the potential for advertising revenue, and the connections between bloggers, as an extension of Stanley Milgram's famed "Small World" (known popularly as "Six Degrees") research.
Interestingly, 45 percent of the blogs surveyed report no revenue, and a further 40 percent earn under $5000 a year; at the far end, four percent claimed to be bringing in over $100,000 a year. No attempt was made to distinguish among ad sales, merch and tip jars.
(Disclosure: I was one of the bloggers surveyed as part of his research. You can count the dollars I've made here on the fingers of no hands.)
Let the degradation begin
Faithful Sandy, my long-suffering (for almost five years now) Mazda sedan, is now showing 49,999.9 miles: time to kiss the warranty goodbye.
Actually, the original factory coverage was three years/50,000 miles, so the warranty has been up for twenty-three months, but there's no string of digits on the dash to tell you when a date has passed.
Were I more cynical I am told this is possible I would assume that horrible things will start happening 500 feet from the parking lot.
And actually, I have one minor concern. I filled up last evening at a Valero station ($2.559, twenty cents below the price of my previous fill), and while the recorded 23.7 mpg is within spec, the last three tanks have been hovering in the just-under-24 range, about 0.5 to 1 mpg less than I usually expect this time of year. Apart from the age of the car, only one thing has changed: the windshield, which probably doesn't matter, and the molding around it, which might, since it's slightly smaller and tighter than the OEM product, leaving a seemingly-insignificant gap in the channel which, I'm guessing, has a small negative effect on airflow. Then again, I only got Bs in physics, and at least I can see out of the darn thing.
Hornets, no gremlins
New Orleans Hornets owner George Shinn is reported leaning toward playing about a dozen home games in Baton Rouge and the balance in Oklahoma City's Ford Center, a plan which would have two salutary effects: it would test the support for an NBA team here in Soonerland, and it would maintain, for now, the Hornets' ties to Louisiana.
The NFL's Saints, similarly, will be playing at least four games in Baton Rouge.
So what do you think about while you're on jury duty, waiting for your name to be called?
If you're Lileks, you think about Pink Floyd The Wall:
It gave us that catchy paean to ignorance, "Another Brick in the Wall (pt. 9,326)" with its schoolboy chorus: We don't need no education. Actually, the presence of a double negative would seem to indicate that you does. But I took away something else from this song, an intellectual puzzle spat out by the headmaster howling in the background. It's a conundrum that has plagued me to this day: How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat? An amusing idea coming from Rock Stars, whose lives consist of pudding in boundless quantities.
I hope this comes up in voir dire. "Sir, do you believe a defendant is entitled to pudding if they haven't had any meat?"
Trick question. I believe it's up to the state to establish that he hasn't had any meat before moving on to the matter of pudding.
John Roberts couldn't have handled it any better.
One of these things might be like the other
Bruce Reed in Slate:
No biographical profile of [John] Roberts is complete without a few references to his famous modesty. According to Google, the word "modesty" has already appeared alongside "John Roberts" more than 18,000 times. By contrast, the search engine records a grand total of 424 mentions lifetime for "modesty" and "Karen Hughes."
Maybe Bush should have put Roberts in charge of winning America some friends in the world. His message is coming through loud and clear: "Trust me I'm modest."
Patterico gives this blather the credence it deserves:
I thought I?d put the term "Bruce Reed" into a few searches. The search "Bruce Reed" and modesty: 123 hits. "Bruce Reed" and arrogance: 428 hits. Obviously, Bruce Reed is far more often described as arrogant than as modest. Who can deny the logic?
And just to prove how asinine this is as a survey tool, the search "dustbury" and "brilliant" produces 52,800 hits.
Tom Coburn: Master Psychic
From the John Roberts confirmation hearings, Dr Coburn speaks:
As you have been before our committee, I've tried to use my medical skills of observation of body language to ascertain your uncomfortableness and ill at ease with questions and responses.
And I've honed that over about 23, 24 years. And the other thing that I believe is integrity is at the basis of what we want in judges.
And I will tell you that I am very pleased, both in my observational capabilities as a physician to know that your answers have been honest and forthright as I watch the rest of your body respond to the stress that you're under. But I'm also pleased with our president that he's had the wisdom to pick somebody of such stature and such integrity.
The PoliBlogger has seen this sort of statement before:
This is the kind of dialog (or, monologue, as the case may be) that one expects from a bad comic book ("You see, Lois, using my super-vision and super-hearing I can tell if the criminal is telling the truth by monitoring his heart rate and other vital signs").
Really, if he is that talented, he is wasting his skills as a US Senator. He should be on the border somewhere asking people if they are terrorists or if they have drugs in their car.
Better yet, we could clone him.
You had me at "I do"
Renée Zellweger speaks:
I would personally be very grateful for your support in refraining from drawing derogatory, hurtful, sensationalized or untrue conclusions.... We hope to experience this transition as privately as possible.
She clearly doesn't mean my support, and anyway this doesn't sound much like Bridget Jones to me.
A dandy suggestion
How can your oldies station be just a little bit better? DragonAttack recommends more Herman's Hermits:
For some reason they are lumped into the teen idol category when they belong in the decent rock band category. Some groups (Bay City Rollers, Hanson) can be in both categories so why does everyone overlook Herman's Hermits? Is it their groovy lighthearted sound? The fact that four out of five members were teenagers when the first record came out and that Peter Noone remained a teenager during most of their hitmaking years? The fear that if they ever hear "I'm Henry VIII, I Am" again they are going to smash the stereo?
Seriously, what is wrong with Herman's Hermits? Nothing, that's what! They had terrific pop tunes and great remakes of early rock/doo-wop songs. How I wish the radio contained more Herman's Hermits.
You and me both, DA.
17 September 2005
I don't know Jack
But last night's dream, which purported to be a "Celebration of the Life of Jack Nicholson," was truly something to behold.
I'm not sure why I would have gotten an invitation to the Celebration: my name was on the program, listed under the subheading "Sports," which makes no sense. But this combination reenactment and estate sale was amazingly vivid. I had no idea, for instance, that Nicholson, before finding his Muse, had had a career in the design of garden tools. (For you doofus Googlers: He didn't. This is just a dream.) As you might expect, there was a bevy of incredibly beautiful and extraordinarily inaccessible women, although I did strike up a conversation with a short, pneumatic redhead who apparently had written something for Vogue that I had read. And all the detritus of Jack's life was priced to move: I made off with an open-reel tape recorder ($50) and a statue of some Polynesian god ($349) that looked vaguely like, and weighed as much as, an Evinrude outboard motor. There was even a "motivational speaker," a taller version of Edna Mode, or so she seemed, exhorting her audience to live a life with no compromises and no apologies, as Jack had, and as we had seen in the many skits that evening that had been taken right from Jack's own life.
It took a long time to wake up from this one, and the first thing I did once I had motor control was to summon the keepers of Google News to see if, in fact, Jack Nicholson had passed away in the night. He hadn't.
What caused this? I have no idea. But if the distributors of such dreams are planning a sequel with, say, Monica Bellucci, sign me up.
You're listening to Ipana FM
Michael Bates was talking about Bob Wills, but he dropped in this paragraph that resonated with me:
KVOO, 1170 on your AM dial, changed call letters and formats three years ago, and is now KFAQ, on which you can hear me Monday mornings at 6:10. One of KFAQ's FM sister stations kept the KVOO call letters. I wish the AM blowtorch had kept KVOO, too. Given what the letters stand for, KVOO seems appropriate for a news/talk station.
The Voice of Oklahoma aside, the endless rounds of call-swapping annoy the heck out of me. KOMA dropped its nearly-seventy-old identity last year in favor of the not-so-inspired "KOKC," dropping the old calls on the FM dial. Other sets of Oklahoma City calls are now far away from their original dial positions: KEBC, once 94.7, is now 1340; KOCY, which had been 1340, is now 1560; KKNG, previously 92.5, has drifted to 93.3. KOFM, once 104.1, has made it all the way to Enid at 103.1. But none of these latter sets is actually being used by the original owners; it's the radio equivalent of buying the rights to a forgotten brand of toothpaste and hoping someone might remember it.
And a cheer and a fraction to KJYO, which continues to use the "KJ103" branding even though everyone has moved to digital readouts and has presumably discovered that the station is actually at 102.7.
For four decades, there's been a McLain in what is now Bricktown, ever since R. T. McLain ran the old Bunte Candy factory at 1 East Sheridan. There's no more candy, but the three sons of R. T. have been acquiring adjacent properties, and now they own the entire block, BNSF tracks to Oklahoma Avenue, Sheridan to Main. You've probably been there yourself: this block is the home of the Bricktown Brewery and Abuelo's.
And now the McLains have decided that this is the time to cash in, and the entire block is up for auction, with a minimum bid of $8 million and an expected take way beyond that.
The sale effectively spells the end to The Factory, a proposed redevelopment of the Bunte facility and the Sherman Ironworks (on the south side of Main) into mixed residential/retail/restaurant with a parking garage, a plan which went on hold when the McLains' onetime partner backed away.
But I'd like to think that there's a visionary with the resources to pull off something like that, who'll see the sale of the block as exactly the opportunity he was looking for.
Willie Tee in New York
New Orleans musician Willie Tee his great single "Thank You John" is discussed here lost just about everything to Hurricane Katrina. It's not going to stop him from appearing in New York City next weekend in a benefit for MusiCares' hurricane-relief fund. This will be Tee's first appearance in the Apple since 1972.
It all takes place Saturday, 24 September, in the East Village, at Mo Pitkin's House of Satisfaction, 34 Avenue A (between 2nd and 3rd Streets). A donation of $30 minimum gets you in.
(If you might actually attend, RSVP to Jennifer.Grossbach-at-SonyBMG.com, and please let me know how it went. Via Steve Greenberg at Columbia Records.)
Saving a few energy bucks
At what point do renewables become less expensive than fossil fuels? I buy 600 kW from OG&E's wind farm every month at two bucks a 100-kW unit; in exchange, the fuel-adjustment factor is eliminated from the bill.
For the period ending 9/9, the wind option cost me the usual $12; the fuel-adjustment factor came to $11.77.
So with natural-gas prices out of sight for almost half the billing period, the difference between electricity from gas and electricity from wind was a whole twenty-three cents out of a $95 bill. I have to assume that the tipping point is well within reach.
Beyond my reach, but obviously within someone's, is Ideal Homes' prototype Zero Energy Home, funded in part by the Department of Energy with technical assistance from OG&E, and tucked away into the Valencia subdivision at 2508 NW 180th Street. The idea isn't new, but the price point is: this is, says Ideal, the first ZEH in the nation to carry a sub-$200k price tag.
"Zero," of course, is an approximation, but the house is designed to produce about as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year. Climate control comes from a ground-source heat pump, which takes advantage of the fact that ground temperatures vary a lot less than air temperatures. The roof of the south side of the house is fitted with an array of 28 photovoltaic cells, grabbing energy directly from sunlight. The glass is double-pane low-E; the water heater is tankless.
The house will be leased for twelve months, starting around the first of the new year, in testing mode, after which time it will be sold; the target price is $199,000, which is on the high side for a 3-bedroom, 2-bath house with 1650 square feet, but the energy savings should compensate for that, and Ideal has said that the proceeds from the sale will be donated to the local Habitat for Humanity. Two other houses currently in the Valencia development have some of the energy-saving features, but there's only the one full-on Zero Energy Home.
How to tell your computer store is in trouble
"We offer a service contract on this item for three years for only $5.99."
On a mouse, fercrissake.
Kevin Connors comments on Ariana Huffington's Sierra Club transport:
I actually know a lot of Sierra Clubber types who drive SUVs. And, when queried about this apparent paradox, the response is almost always the same, "well, I actually USE mine."
Which is okay by me, although:
Actually, if we based ... vehicle "allotment" on just what we absolutely needed most of the time, we'd almost all be riding motorcycles.
I could deal with that, I think, though I'm not about to argue "two wheels good, four wheels bad." Besides, it will never catch on in the Nanny State. P. J. O'Rourke once imagined what it might be like if the motorcycle had never been invented until now, and it went something like this:
"What, are you nuts? Two wheels? Two wheels? Are you out of your freaking mind? Where's the 5-mph bumper? Where's the airbag? You can't be serious about putting this insane thing on public roads!"
What they really want, I'm starting to think, is for each of us to own an impenetrable flying plastic bubble which runs on geese farts or something.
18 September 2005
A lot of flapping
For some reason, elements of the right wing have seized upon the notion that March of the Penguins somehow is an endorsement of contemporary conservatism.
As ideas go, this one is for the birds:
Consider: During its box-office run, Penguins started drawing comparisons with Fahrenheit 9/11, solely in terms of both movies being high-grossing documentaries.
But I guess this basis for comparison was too subtle for some people. Following the "if you?re not with us, you're against us" philosophy, suddenly everything about the two films went head-to-head. Basically, conservatives have grafted an anti-Fahrenheit mask onto a nature documentary.
And of course, the penguins' black-and-white symbolism probably helped forge this outlook.
If you really want a penguin story with some potential political connotations, I commend to you Chuck Jones' 1950 classic short 8 Ball Bunny, in which Bugs, having made a promise to a lost penguin to take him home, escorts the poor little bird all the way back to the South Pole, where there is, of course, an actual pole. The bird starts crying this being the Antarctic, the tears fall as ice cubes and when Bugs asks what's wrong, the penguin reaches into his top hat (well, they are formally dressed) and produces a theatrical handbill, in which it is revealed that he was born, not at the South Pole, but, uniquely as penguins go, in Hoboken, New Jersey. "I'm dyin'!" screams Bugs, and we know that he knows that he's provided too much of the wrong kind of help at too much expense to himself: you can almost see Daniel Patrick Moynihan calling for benign neglect in the background. Or, alternatively, 8 Ball Bunny shows the folly of tailoring one's actions to preconceived notions about individuals. Take your choice.
Luciano into the sunset
Don Danz reports in from Pavarotti's farewell tour:
The program consisted of eleven songs, an intermission and ten more songs followed by three encores. The main program included eleven Pavarotti solos, two duets with Cynthia Lawrence, six Lawrence solos and two of the Tulsa City Orchestra* by itself. Several of the evening's performances were immediately recognizable, many were vaguely familiar and all were incredibly performed.
Tulsa was the first of just three American cities on Pavarotti's forty-city Farewell Tour around the world after which he will permanently retire.
Oh, and there's a reason for that asterisk:
Interestingly, the program credited the "Tulsa City Orchestra" but that phrase does not appear on any internet search engine. The well known Tulsa Philharmonic, Oklahoma's last full-time orchestra, ceased operations on September 12, 2002, due to financial problems which have similarly plagued orchestras around the country.
They probably haven't all left town yet and were happy to have the work. (For the curious, the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, which rose from the ashes of the defunct Oklahoma Symphony Orchestra in 1988, contracts its musicians on a per-service basis, which precludes use of the term "full-time" despite the Phil's extensive schedule and $3.6-million budget.)
VH1's list of the 50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever has a few problems. For one thing, "ever" really should refer to a longer period than thirty years; I can rattle off all manner of wretched crap from the first half of the Seventies, and there are even, yes, it is true, heinous Fifties and Sixties songs. Besides, I sort of like "Sunglasses at Night."
On the other hand, I think it's a fairly safe bet that anything containing the word "pimp," or that is credited to A "featuring" B, is going to be complete and utter crap, and when they redo this list in five years, about the maximum extent of VH1's attention span, I expect to see many such recordings ("tunes" seems to be overly generous) so proclaimed.
Tales of the one-handed typist
Note: I have written this three times, rewritten it twice, and maybe twice isn't enough, but dammit, there comes a time when you have to put something out there and take your lumps. On the reasonable chance that some of you are encountering it for the first time on Monday at the office, I've set it after the jump, for reasons which will become distressingly evident.
I used to read Cynthia Heimel's column (called, with disarming simplicity, Women) in Playboy, where it ran as (not necessarily) a counterpoint to Men, by the late Asa Baber. Which led me to seek out some of her other stuff, which is why I remember this passage:
"If only I were a little prettier," she says to the men in the white coats, "and had better skin, and weren't a seething mass of psycho-neurotic schizophrenic paranoic manic depressiveness, someone would very probably love me."
This is a crock, said Heimel:
Ugly women have boyfriends, mean women have boyfriends, hopelessly insecure women have boyfriends, stupid women have boyfriends, women covered with hideous warts have boyfriends.
This would seem to suggest that what we define conventionally as "desirability" is not so essential as contemporary culture insists, which is why I picked up on this Aldahlia assertion:
I live by a simple rule concerning female attractiveness: As long as no one has called you "Grandma" yet, it's entirely likely that every male friend you've got has masturbated to you at least once.
It may be disgusting to consider in some cases. It may sound vain, and presumptuous, and inaccurate. But ? because I'm never gonna actually ask for confirmation, and no one can read their dirty little minds to factually disprove me, I assume that it's a basic law of male/female relations.
This means that my body image is probably healthier than it could be.
That's what it comes right down to, though. Being "pretty" is about attracting sexual attention, and 95% of girls are duly fuckable, so long as they don't smell funny or have oozing sores. And sometimes even that won?t get in the way.
Beyond the question of whether "oozing sores" and "hideous warts" are in any way equivalent, this is certainly worthy of attention.
As regards myself, I can say only the following:
What I'd like to know, frankly, is whether women are generally repelled by, delighted by, or utterly oblivious to, the thought that someone is thinking of them in this manner or possibly all of the above, depending on circumstances.
(And while we're on the subject, do the same patterns exist for homosexuals?)
Parry and thrust
Last week Lachlan had a complaint about some aspect of Technorati. In a remarkably short time Dave Sifry, who for all practical purposes is Technorati, had an explanation and an apology posted as a comment.
Yesterday Sean Gleeson dismissed Google's new Blogsearch "It's Beta, all right," he said and recommended use of Technorati instead. In a remarkably short time Dave Sifry, who for all practical purposes is Technorati, had a thank-you posted as a comment.
As an old Usenet guy, I knew I'd seen this sort of thing before:
Kibo is, um, well, sort of hard to explain. He was this guy, right, and he used to grep the newsfeed for his name.
Oh, um, "grep" is a UNIX command that searches. So "grepping the newsfeed" means that he knew about any mention of Kibo anywhere on Usenet, and he'd respond. Kibo was everywhere! So he was a full-on Usenet god.
In view of the above, I postulate the following:
Dave Sifry is the new Kibo.
(Not to be confused with the old Kibo.)
19 September 2005
You can always telecom
But you sure can't tell it much.
Five questions, swiped from ms7168:
1. Who is your mobile phone provider, and how many minutes are in your plan?
T-Mobile; 575 minutes. (I think the most I have ever used has been 206.)
2. What program do you primarily use for instant messaging?
Usually AIM, with an occasional foray into ICQ.
3. Who do you send and receive text messages from most?
I get maybe two text messages a year, so "most" is not meaningful. (Fifty are included with the wireless plan.) IMs are another matter.
4. What area code do you live in?
405. (This is one of only a handful of codes that dates back to the establishment of NPAs in 1949, though its size has been much diminished; 918 and later 580 were carved out of it.)
5. What year did you first get an e-mail address and do you still use it?
1985. It was from MCI Mail, the first independent commercial email service: you could use it anywhere you could find a dialup. The estimable Vint Cerf, inventor (with Bob Kahn) of TCP/IP, was the lead engineer on the project. It cost $35 a year to maintain a mailbox (I had two), and half a buck to send a message to another user. (Reading one cost you nothing, and yes, you could send mail to a non-user if you had his postal address: MCI would print it and drop it into snailmail for you.) In 1989, MCI Mail was ported over to the Internet and given @ addresses; I had dropped my account by then, inasmuch as CompuServe was setting up a mail gateway of its own.
Here there be Hornets
Mayor Cornett made it official yesterday: the NBA's New Orleans Hornets will play at least some of its home schedule in Oklahoma City's Ford Center during 2005-06. City Council will hold a special Wednesday meeting to approve the lease of city facilities to the team.
The Hornets will have a local staff of about 150, two-thirds of which will be relocating from Louisiana; the balance will be hired locally and will concentrate on sales and promotion.
Two October preseason games are still looking for a location: the season begins on 2 November at Cleveland, with the first home game on the 4th against Sacramento.
(Some of the details of the deal are here.)
It's gotta be the shoes
This particular pair of pumps spawned this amusing interchange:
Jan: "Can you just imagine how gorgeous the gams on the woman who wears these?"
Angi: "Yes, Gorgeous Gams, but I hope she's packing ibuprofen."
Which suggests a scenario: "Should I wear these?" "Oh, by all means. I'll carry the pill bottle."
Today being Talk Like a Pirate Day, I felt the least I could do (and doing the least is something I do well) is to point you to some pirate vernacular which you can use in the process of buckling your swash.
(Suggested by Michele, which is a polite way of saying I, um, pirated it from her.)
Addendum: The Putnam City High School Pirates took to this rather easily.
Slow rocket to oblivion
The last Oldsmobile was built in April 2004, but that doesn't mean there aren't any left on the dealer lots: Automotive News (thanks to the Autoextremist) reports that in August, 93 Oldsmobiles were sold, bringing the total for the year to date to 1,634.
It occurs to me that this would be a really good time to buy an Olds, not only because of presumably humongous sales incentives, but the sheer delight of shocking friends and neighbors ("Where in God's name did you find that?"). Not that my budget would permit anything much above, um, a Plymouth.
Put another nickel in
Actually, it's been a while since you've been able to get anything for five cents out of a jukebox.
And I can't say I'm surprised to see that Rowe International's new digital jukeboxes will accept credit cards.
Then again, that's really the least of their capabilities:
The cashless payment capability enables operators to install an optional terminal kit permitting payment with MasterCard and Visa credit cards. The kit is easily retrofitted to Rowe StarBrite", NiteStar" and Solara" jukeboxes connected to the AMI Entertainment Network; it interfaces to the core computer by means of a USB connector. In use, the new software detects when a card is swiped through the terminal, performs local security checks, then offers the patron the choice of purchasing $5, $10 or $20 of credit.
The other principal advance incorporated into the new software version is expanded flexibility in managing music categories. The Rowe downloading jukebox system has permitted operators to block individual selections, or entire categories of music, to conform to location desires and sensibilities. Until now, such blocking was "all or nothing" a category or a selection was available in a location, or it was blocked there.
The new software release introduces "schedules" to allow programmed blocking. Similarly, individual songs for example, those with explicit lyrics can be blocked or permitted according to a schedule. Also new is a provision for the operator subscriber to choose to apply "music lockouts" only to "Music on Demand" download selections those that the customer orders directly from AMI's remote music library, bypassing the jukebox's onboard hard drive while permitting access to all the "local" songs.
Somehow this makes me want to go home and stack up a bunch of 45s.
Not to mention toil and trouble
In years gone by, if you ran up late fees on your credit cards, it might actually be impossible ever to pay off a balance if you stuck to the minimum required payment, which is one reason why the Feds this year leaned on big banks to increase the minimum monthly payments on credit-card debt. It was widely reported that the minimums would in fact double, from the common industry practice of 2 percent of the balance, to a full 4 percent. This is not necessarily true, although they will certainly increase a bit; the goal is to get these things paid off within seven to ten years even at the minimum-payment level.
I have now seen the first of the new formulas, from one of the bigger banks, and it's interesting. The new minimum payment, starting December 2005, will be 1 percent of the balance, plus any finance charges incurred during the month, plus any late fees, rounded down to the nearest dollar. The example they gave: a balance of $3500 would produce a payment of $35 (1 percent) plus $49.55 (finance charges at some unspecified interest rate), or $84 when rounded down. If there are any late fees, they go on top. Under this bank's old system, the minimum payment would have been $64. (There is a minimum of $15 regardless, and a cap of 5 percent of the balance.)
The timing of this, of course, is perfect, what with the new rules for bankruptcy kicking in.
20 September 2005
The JPEG compression algorithm and who knew Al Gore had rhythm? is, according to Sean Gleeson's students, not cool.
Maybe I've been fortunate enough to hang on to bits and pieces of Young and Impressionable, but I think it's pretty swift.
Obligatory story: Many of you once owned the Commodore 64
One day someone handed me a 170k floppy, most of its 664 blocks filled with a mere two files: some sort of graphics-rendering tool, and a GIF. (Choosy dweebs choose GIF.) "Two hundred fifty-six colors," he said, and warned: "This will take a while."
Indeed, it took almost all night for the computer to crunch all those numbers actually, it sort of just brushed against them and fool the video display into producing sixteen times as many colors. (Gripe if you want about your slow machine: we were running at a breakneck 1.02 MHz.) But the results were simply incredible. I hate to think how long a C-64 would have to labor to cough up a JPEG (though it can be done), but I assure you, I have an appreciation for how these everyday things work; after all, I got to see them before they were everyday things.
Let me know when this stops being cool.
An aggrieved customer
Last Monday, while my Web host was shivering in the dark due to a citywide power failure, this came in on their voicemail.
No, it's not me. (Discovered here.)
The conscience of the Holocaust
Simon Wiesenthal has died.
A survivor of five of the infamous Nazi death camps, Wiesenthal devoted his subsequent life to tracking down the shadowy figures who controlled them, and to taking on the revisionists who insist that it never really happened.
In a 1999 interview with the Associated Press, Wiesenthal said:
The most important thing I have done is to fight against forgetting and to keep remembrance alive. It is very important to let people know that our enemies are not forgotten.
In an era of short attention spans, Simon Wiesenthal had the longest memory of all. He was ninety-six years old when he died in his sleep at his Vienna home today.
Meryl Yourish has a roundup of news reports and reaction.
(With thanks to Rachel.)
Nothing lasts forever
Except maybe some of those "temporary" taxes.
I lost a CD-R this week to actual bit rot, or something: it looked as though the edge of the aluminized layer had been eroded away, and the last audio track was unplayable. (It was a Maxell, if that matters to anyone.) I have backups, of course, but this was something of an annoyance, since it was the traveling copy of one of my music compilations (specifically, this one).
Still, I've ruined more of these in the production stages than I've ever seen victimized by entropy.
Yeah? Disenfranchise this, pal
Michael Bates wants to know:
State Rep. Sue Tibbs is trying to get her voter ID bill heard in the Democrat-controlled Oklahoma Senate, where it has been allowed to languish in the General Government Committee. The bill would require voters to show a driver's license or some other state-issued photo ID. Isn't this an obvious and sensible measure? Don't we want to make sure that only people who are eligible those who live in the appropriate district, city, or state cast a vote, and that they only vote once? Why do Democrats have such a problem with this?
This is why:
Voting and civil rights groups launched a legal assault Monday on the state's requirement that Georgians show a government-issued photo ID at the polls a law they call the most restrictive of its kind in the country.
A federal lawsuit filed on behalf of two African-American voters, the American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP, League of Women Voters, black legislators and others calls the new law a "poll tax" that will rob black, elderly and rural people of their right to vote.
Supporters of the new law condemned the suit, arguing that the law will eliminate the likelihood of fraud at the polls. House Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram) called it a "ludicrous lawsuit."
"This lawsuit is nothing more than liberal special interests using unconscionable scare tactics to frighten Georgia voters," Richardson said.
While long expected, the suit raises the stakes of a debate that has raged since last winter's session of the Legislature. The suit won't affect today's special elections in Cobb County and elsewhere, but opponents hope a judge throws out the law before elections being held in November in many Georgia cities.
"There is no place for a voter-suppression law," said Tisha Tallman, regional counsel for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and an attorney for the plaintiffs.
From Georgia, McGehee reports:
You pay $20 for a five-year driver's license or ID card, and over the course of two ID cycles that works out to an average of $4 per election, both primary and general. And that's without taking into account (1) special elections, (2) runoff elections, and (3) the fact you can get a ten-year license or ID for $35 instead of $40.
And then you take into account that a state-issued ID can be useful for a whole lot more than just voting. So let?s round it all off and say it works out to $3 per election.
Yeah, that's gonna suppress voter turnout one whole hell of a lot. Okay, sure, the state could reduce the cost and probably should. But calling this an illegal poll tax is tantamount to calling it censorship when somebody points out that your argument is hysterical and nonsensical.
When they yammer about "voter suppression" what they're really complaining about is that illegal aliens will no longer be able to vote fraudulently in Georgia's elections.
Simple as that.
This is hardly the only flavor of election fraud out there, but it's one that can be easily fixed. At the very least, the two voters at the center of the Georgia suit ought to be put on the stand so they can explain exactly why it's such a hardship for them to identify themselves at the polls. Vague claims of "racism" won't wash: the Georgia law applies to every voter. As for illegal aliens, I shouldn't have to point out that they have no business being at the polls in the first place.
(Update, 21 September, 2:15 pm: BatesLine shows exactly how this fraud could be pulled off.)
For all you teen angels out there
Resolved: That 1960s teenage death songs are better than 1970s teenage death songs.
Speaking for the proposition, DragonAttack:
[M]aybe it's because of the alteration of the formula. It's like Classic Coke versus New Coke. The premise was the same but the slightest adjustment made something that was genius become crap. In the sixties it was teens heading for the dance or whatnot, by the seventies a marriage and/or child and/or disease had been added to the mix and it didn't work. Instead of making the songs more tragic it just made them stupid.
Perhaps we should be grateful for the comparative dearth of 1980s teenage death songs.
Yet another fundraising calendar
What is it that makes middle-aged women want to take their clothes off? (Believe me, if I knew, I wouldn't have time to post here.)
Desperate times call for desperate measures, say the librarians of the Outagamie Waupaca Library System in Wisconsin, and so half a dozen of them have doffed their duds in the hopes of luring your dollars. (It started out as a gag, and, well, got totally out of hand; been there, done that.)
The Library System would like you to know that this is not an official project. That said, if you want a copy, send a check for $20 plus $2.50 shipping to Desperate Librarians, E6282 Slough Road, Weyauwega, WI 54983-8843.
Neese backs away
Terry Neese has asked that her nomination to be Director of the US Mint be dropped. Here's her statement:
I am honored that President Bush nominated me as the first Oklahoman to serve as Director of the United States Mint.
After clearing an exhaustive FBI investigation, an IRS review and the Office of Government Ethics requirements, I have reflected on my decision to move forward and have regretfully asked the President to withdraw my name from consideration.
I am deeply thankful to the President for placing his confidence in my abilities.
I am looking forward to spending meaningful, quality time with my 83-year-old mother, husband, daughter and grandchildren.
I also want to thank all of the Oklahomans for their counsel and support.
I will continue my longtime work and passion as an advocate for small business and women and minority business owners in Oklahoma and across the nation.
That's all she's saying. Given her track record, I seriously doubt anyone would have discovered anything negative. Publicist Brenda Jones, speaking to The Oklahoman, says it's just that Neese really didn't want to end up in Washington full-time:
She just had to come to grips with what this would mean to her family. She felt like being so far away is inconsistent with the priorities in her life, which has always been family. She regretfully but voluntarily had a change of heart.
And that would seem to be that.
21 September 2005
Breathe deep, the gathering spam
Last time I emptied the "Deleted Items" mail folder was the first of August.
There were 4,344 items in it last night.
This includes all of the items that were routed directly to this folder by my spam filters.
This does not include any of the items that were caught at server level by their spam filters and were never picked up via POP3, which includes probably three to five thousand more.
I'm figuring, as a SWAG, a thousand spams a week. And apart from some infinitesimal quantity of inexplicable net.fame, I am essentially nobody. I'd hate to have to go through [fill in name of someone who is legitimately well-known]'s mail.
Sam's bandwidth club
Someone wandered over here yesterday by way of Wal-Mart Connect: apparently the Behemoth of Bentonville now has its own presumably-discounted ISP. Any of you have any experience good, bad or indifferent with it? I'm not looking for a new ISP, but I'm curious to see how the home of Low Prices Über Alles handles this fairly mundane task.
Return of the hanging judge
Not that you or I or anyone in the courtroom wants to know how it's hanging, but oh, let's have Sean Gleeson finish the story:
The trial of former District Judge Donald Thompson, accused of onanistic impropriety in his Creek County courtroom, starts Monday in Bristow. Among the state?s evidence will be a masturbatory device which has been sawed in half, and 180 hours of audio tapes on which can be heard a telltale rhythmic whooshing sound.
Counsel for the former jurist, at least in public, is confident his client will beat the rap.
It's the number of the New York City carpenters' union local. Also in New York, you'll find The C-Note at 157 Avenue C (at 10th Street).
Not in New York, there's the 157th edition of Carnival of the Vanities, assembled for your perusal by Mark A. Rayner of The Skwib, last week's best blogstuff in a single handy Box O'Links.
That's the price for lower-level season tickets for the 35 New Orleans and/or Oklahoma City Hornets games to be played at the Ford Center this season. (Six games will be played in Louisiana; there are 41 road games.)
The deal that brought the team to town is fairly complex: the city must install an NBA-grade floor and do a couple other improvements at the Ford, and must seek tax credits and benefits from the state on behalf of the team. (One such benefit: a cancellation of the sales tax on Hornets tickets.) The team and the NBA are responsible for business plans and marketing, and there is an option for the Hornets to come back in 2006-07.
But more importantly, the city must guarantee the team a 5-percent improvement over its revenues last year in New Orleans, or make up the difference, which could be up to $10 million. (The state and a local business consortium are splitting the liability with the city.) However, should revenues exceed the 105-percent figure, the city stands to make a killing. This is actually reminiscent of the Skirvin Hotel deal: there is some upside risk, but unless things fall totally apart, the city comes out ahead. (This assumes that sports accounting is not like Hollywood accounting, which may be a lot to assume.)
"Totally apart," in this instance, means a half-full arena: City Manager Jim Couch says they will need to average more than 10,000 ticket sales per game to meet the revenue requirements.
Average ticket price should be around $45-50, and the home opener is 4 November against Sacramento.
(Update, 9 pm: AP is reporting that the Hornets have commitments for 2,000 season tickets already.)
The sighs of Kahlo youth
Back when I was still trying to pass myself off as a college student, I noticed that entirely too many girls seemed to be obsessed with Sylvia Plath. (And, truth be told, I was fond of "Soliloquy of a Solipsist", but that was my limit.)
Lately, Plath seems to have been displaced by Frida Kahlo. Anthony Perkins notes:
It is, I suspect, for her extra-artistic associations that Frida Kahlo is most appreciated. That she had an artistic talent is undeniable, and many of her pictures are memorable (do you really not remember them once you have seen them?), but it is surely going a little far, from the point of view of artistic considerations alone, to say, as the catalogue [of her exhibition at the Tate Modern, 2005] does, that she is one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century. The fact that she can be seriously regarded as such, however, surely tells us quite a lot about our modern sensibility.
No advertising man could have given her a better biographical profile for eliciting a favorable response at the present time. She had polio at the age of six and subsequently walked with a limp; she was severely injured in a crash, aged eighteen, and suffered from the results for the rest of her life (she died aged forty-seven), undergoing twenty-two operations in the meantime. She married a man, Diego Rivera, who was flagrantly unfaithful to her and who even had an affair with her sister; she was probably bisexual and had a couple of lesbian affairs; she had two miscarriages, either of which might have killed her, and was in any case ambivalent about having a child; her father was a German who settled in Mexico and her mother was half-Indian, thus conferring on her the original virtue of hybridity (though in fact she didn't so much live in non-European cultures as visit them or collect their artifacts, and turn them to her artistic use). Her politics were radical; she was anti-American, though in her case America always returned good for evil. She was Stalinist, at a time when all right-thinking people agreed that the killing of millions was the road to utopia, but she also had a fling with Trotsky and towards the end of her life displayed a less than dialectical-materialist attraction to the wisdom of the East, thus later appealing to the New Age, healing-power-of-crystals end of the dissent market. All in all, a pretty good C.V. for the modern age.
Which explains much about her current popularity:
I think that what has happened is that people with no objective right to do so have equated her suffering with their own, and have appropriated her work as a symbolic representation of their own minor dissatisfactions and frustrations, victimhood being the present equivalent of beatitude.
They say, "I too have known a faithless or a worthless man; I too have suffered from persistent headaches, dysmenorrhoea, or sciatica; therefore, Frida Kahlo has understood me, and I have understood Frida Kahlo. After all, I have suffered just like her. Moreover, like me, she was a moral person, which is to say that she had all the right attitudes; she was on the side of the oppressed, at least those who were not in the Gulag; she loved indigenes as a matter of principle; and she took part in the holy work of dissolving boundaries, the boundaries between sexes (or rather, genders) and between cultures."
You can practically hear Tom Lehrer singing: "We all hate poverty, war and injustice / Unlike the rest of you squares." For people who Really Care, and for whom it is vitally important that you know that they Really Care, this is manna from some spiritual but distinctly non-religious place which may or may not lie horizontally above, or parallel to, this plane of existence.
(Aside: Do not write me and tell me about how much I obviously must love poverty, war and injustice. I am not particularly fond of any of them. However, I am persuaded that they are inextricably bound to the human condition, and they will be erased permanently only when the human race is itself erased, a "solution" I consider just a tad too drastic.)
And in this Age of Narcissism, it seems only logical that one of the most revered artistic figures is one whose best work, arguably, was self-portraiture. Had she lived half a century later, she might well have spurned brush for Blogspot.
(Via Tinkerty Tonk.)
For those of you who have been following Jayna Davis' exploration of possible links between radical Islamists and Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, Tapscott's Copy Desk has a brief summary of Davis' current version of events.
Make of this what you will
John at OKCTalk.com ran a WHOIS on okchornets.com, and looky here:
NBA Media Ventures LLC
645 Fifth Ave
New York, NY 10022
Registrar Name....: REGISTER.COM, INC.
Domain Name: okchornets.com
Created on..............: Thu, Sep 15, 2005
Nothing there yet.
22 September 2005
Is our lanes open?
Tbilisi, the capital of the republic of Georgia, has named a city street after George W. Bush.
The President was last in Tbilisi in May; his trip was briefly interrupted by some nitwit with a grenade who missed by thirty yards.
Good news/bad news
Sean Kelley has discovered that his home in Mandeville, Louisiana, in St. Tammany Parish, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, is still more or less intact: there was some siding damage, but it's otherwise in decent shape.
Unfortunately, his job has more or less moved to Oklahoma City for the duration: Kelley was hired this summer to be the radio voice of the New Orleans Hornets of the NBA. (Which reminds me: Is there going to be local radio and television here? Cox Sports carried the games on television from New Orleans, and there was a radio network originating from WODT-AM/WRNO-FM.)
Levittown in Crescent City
Rebuilding the neighborhoods in New Orleans well, the analogy I thought of first involved Heracles cleaning out the Augean stables, but the method he used seems inapt here.
Regardless of my rhetorical non-flourishes, though, this is a daunting task. Fritz Schranck has an idea to make it a bit less daunting, based on a proven, if often derided, technique:
Levittown was one of the first, remarkably successful suburban tract development projects in the post-World War II era. It began on 1200 acres of former potato fields in Long Island, and one critical element of its success was copied all over the country the developers offered only two basic house designs.
Over the years, the homeowners added their own improvements to these very simple homes, including additional rooms and garages. For as much as these Levittown homes looked all the same at the beginning, they certainly aren't now.
The limitations of the city's lot dimensions also suggest that a similarly simple approach to reconstruction in New Orleans would be the fastest way to bring new housing stock online.
Modular home builders could quickly set up and install the basic elements of several fundamentally New Orleans home styles, including Creole cottages, shotgun houses, camelback houses, or sidehall homes.
This time, however, these homes can be significantly improved over the ruined homes they replace, with better insulation, duct work for heat pump/air conditioning systems, and updated plumbing and electrical fixtures.
And at a significantly lower price than designing them one at a time.
This summer I visited the second Levittown, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, and if I hadn't known beforehand that all these houses were created from a handful of models, I'd never have believed it; over the past half-century, nearly every house has been modified, some only slightly, some to the point of unrecognizability.
Fans of bespoke architecture will no doubt complain on aesthetic grounds. Let them. Right now, I'm thinking that a returning resident first wants a good, solid house, and whether it looks like another one in the same block is a secondary consideration at best.
Almost literally tragically hip
Joel Kotkin has been critical of Richard Florida's "creative class" notions, suggesting that catering to hipsters and such, emphasizing cultural amenities and some vague aura of "tolerance" over other attributes, as Florida recommends, is no way to run a contemporary city.
It was certainly no way to run New Orleans:
Perhaps there is no more searing evidence of the limitations of a culture-based economy than New Orleans. Once a great industrial and commercial centre, the city despite its huge port has roughly half the US average of jobs in manufacturing and wholesale trade. Other, more business-focused cities, notably Houston, have taken the lead in the high-paid service jobs connected to trade, such as finance, engineering and medical services. The energy industry, once the linchpin of the local economy, also decamped, primarily to Houston. All this happened despite New Orelans being a city that was heavily gay, very cool and extremely hip.
By the time of the flood, tourism and culture, along with a huge social service bureaucracy, was driving the economy. The problem, of course, is that tourism pays poorly; a 2002 study for the AFL-CIO showed that nearly half of all full-time hotel workers could not earn enough to keep a family out of poverty.
Lost in the ghastly images of New Orleans's poor is the fact that the city's whites, about 27 per cent of the population, are wealthier and more educated than their counterparts nationwide. They, of course, welcomed the new nightclubs, coffee shops and galleries that dotted their grander neighbourhoods. New Orleans epitomised the inequality of the hip cool city. While the national gap between black and white per capita income stands at about $9,000, in New Orleans it is almost $20,000.
I hear occasional rumblings from yupsters to the effect that this town is dull, repressive and soul-sucking. (The presumably temporary ascent to "major-league" status won't make the slightest bit of difference, the NBA being bourgeois entertainment for persons of insufficient brow elevation.) There is a common complaint that development in Lower Bricktown, under the aegis of Randy Hogan, is insufficiently brickulous: big-box things like the Bass Pro Shop and Toby Keith's theme eatery, they say, could have been built out in the 'burbs, making more room available for the sort of urban chic they desire. After wandering around the Northeast for a few summers, I'm inclined to think that the single most effective way of creating "urban ambiance" of this sort is to cut the street width by forty percent. Imagine how well that will go over.
There is some evidence, though, that Oklahoma City has some semblance of a clue. After all, they're spending twice the price of MAPS to spruce up an urban school district; it's clear that they're not going to cede the middle class to the second ring of suburbs without a fight. And what kind of a city has an uppercrust, an underclass, and nothing much in between?
(Found at Tinkerty Tonk.)
Been there, refused to endure that
It's déjà vu all over again, says Julie Neidlinger:
I'll be curious to see the post-Rita handling of news and press by journalists, since they've already squeezed every tear and used up all the journalistic sympathy tricks they had on Hurricane Katrina. Does Geraldo have it in him to stage more rescues? Do the Germans have more insults to sling our way or are they too busy trying to figure out their own version of Election 2000 to bother looking down their noses this time?
Don't underestimate the Germans. They invented the Mercedes-Benz, which proves they know something about scorn.
The problem with running the public through the emotional wringer is that, on the other side, they're all dried out. Luckily, the Red Cross has gazillions of dollars to work with, and this new disaster should give Kanye West and Jesse Jackson a chance to pee into the wind. Unless, of course, it's mainly white people affected. Then they'll have to get out their stop watches and make sure that the post-hurricane emergency response isn't any faster than after Katrina.
And you can be absolutely certain that they're timing it to the microsecond: West doesn't have much of a track record yet, but Jackson is as predictable as mud after a rainstorm, if substantially less useful.
On the other hand, maybe Sean Penn will bring a boat and a smaller entourage.
I declined to watch any of the Katrina farce on television; I will do the same for Rita, and for any storms which follow her.
Only temporarily silenced
Vlogger and deadpan heartthrob Amanda Congdon was apparently attacked in Manhattan last night. I wish her the very best, and hope that the perp (as I do with pretty much all perps) gets what's coming to him plus 50 percent for bad behavior.
(Update, Friday: She's back.)
23 September 2005
We live where?
Standardized postal addresses make life easier for big bulk mailers (like we can get any of our customers to use the farging things), but they can frustrate the people who actually live at those addresses.
Which may be why The Village City Council passed a resolution objecting to the practice of addressing mail to The Village as "Oklahoma City" (73120); the Postal Service, said a spokesperson, does not recognize The Village as a city.
Neither does USPS.com, evidently; I keyed half a dozen Village addresses into their ZIP lookup and came away empty-handed, or empty-formed, or something.
Bethany has its own post office, but its delivery area doesn't quite coincide with the city limits; there are a couple of nooks and crannies along the irregular town line which don't quite match up to the legal boundaries. And Oklahoma City being enormously spread out, there are extensive areas of the city where the mail goes to one of the suburbs, usually Edmond or Yukon or Spencer.
This is not exactly unheard of elsewhere. The New York post office serves Manhattan only; Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island have their own post offices, and Queens has a whole flock of them. The Los Angeles post office serves only the central area; the San Fernando Valley has plenty of offices of its own, as does the San Pedro / Wilmington / Harbor City area. And this doesn't even begin to get into Beverly Hills 90210 (which, if I remember correctly, will have an Inglewood postmark, just like Compton 90220).
But for sheer weirdness, you have to go to Nicoma Park, in the eastern half of Oklahoma County. They have a post office (73066), but it delivers only to boxes: street addresses are divided between Oklahoma City (73141) and Choctaw (73020).
Oklahoma Christian University has agreed to speed up construction on a block of 108 student apartments and make them available to New Orleans Hornets front-office staff for the 2005-06 season.
The project was supposed to be completed by January, for a spring-semester opening, but will be accelerated to make room for the influx of Hornets personnel, who will vacate the premises next summer so that the apartments can be made ready for OC students.
Oklahoma City will compensate OC to the tune of $500,000, which the school thinks will just about cover their costs: "It's probably going to be revenue neutral for us," said OC spokesman Ron Frost.
Sorry but costly
I was reasonably certain I wasn't the only one who ever went through something like this on a new-service installation:
The scheduled date was 26 November , same as the closing on the house. All the phone jacks were dead, so assuming this was a technical problem, I called the repair-service people, who informed me that (1) the business office had failed to complete the transfer and (2) said business office would be closed until Saturday because of the holidays.
Bright and early Saturday morning, I was on the cell phone to the business office, which after ten minutes or so, not counting six or seven minutes on hold, informed me that the previous occupants had called in last week asking that their disconnect order be canceled because well, just because. I pointed out that this was exceedingly implausible, inasmuch as the previous occupants were using last week to move out, and the closing date had been set more than a month earlier. "Well..." Ernestine Jr. began. "Well, nothing," I said. "They're gone. I live here now."
Back on hold for a few more minutes, and then the Tomlinette told me that she'd consulted with her manager, and that they would process the disconnect order that morning, followed by my connect order, and that each action would take two or three hours, after which time everything would be hunky-dory.
By closing time, of course, nothing had been done, and the next day was Sunday, so they were closed again. I eventually wound up with an automated voice telling me that the service order would be completed Monday "between 8 am and 5 pm", a mere five days late.
Apparently I got off easy:
"We're sorry, but we have determined that DSL service is not available at your new location."
They have been yanking us around for over a week and now they've suddenly discovered it's not available? After telling us that they had to disconnect our present service so that the new service could be installed? And then telling us that the new service couldn't be installed because the electricity wasn't on at the new house, even though it was?
"This is the way we do things," they explain. "It worked for us in 1915, and there's no reason it shouldn't work for us today."
Can you say "death throes"? Sure. I knew you could.
Chafing the Chief
A good summation of the Senate vote on John Roberts, by way of Chase McInerney:
The five Democratic Senators who voted "no" Dianne Feinstein, Ted Kennedy, Charles Schumer, Dick Durbin and Joe Biden should be ashamed of such craven partisanship.
While they thankfully did not scuttle Roberts' opportunity to serve as the 17th chief justice to the Supreme Court, they had the chutzpah to vote against him for one breathlessly boorish reason. Not because he is some wild-eyed conservative activist, because he's not one of those well, not a wild-eyed activist, at an rate. And they didn't vote against because he isn't qualified or up to the demands of the job, because he clearly is those things.
No, they voted against John Roberts because he is a conservative Republican nominated for the post by a President they hate.
And so what will be their reaction if, as is likely, Dumbya now moves forward and replaces swing-vote Sandra Day O'Connor with another extremist Bork wannabe? What credibility will the Senate Democrats have when the White House really tries to cram an ideologue down their wizened throats and they start pouting like a child who doesn't get to ride the pretty pony on her birthday? George W. Bush is on a major losing streak these days, and rightly so. But Congressional Democrats have never understood the merits of not overplaying their hand.
I, of course, am looking forward to the nomination of an ideologue in fact, I think I could probably live with a choice as seemingly wacky as Ann Coulter but Mr McInerney, I think, has this exactly right: the Democrats have pissed away whatever leverage they had. The only way they can come out of this without free-range egg on their faces is if Senate Republicans do something spectacularly stupid next time which, judging by past performance, is well within the realm of possibility or if the President comes up with a nominee coughGonzalescough who is satisfactory to no one.
Insert "down under" joke here
The Burnett Shire Council has proposed establishing a nude beach in Queensland, and not everyone, apparently, is clear on the concept. Council member Gillian Archibald supports the move, but first it had to be explained to her:
"The Free Beach Association came to me and I said 'all our beaches are free', cause I thought they actually meant by the cost," Ms Archibald explains, "but they were talking about clothes free."
But fellow Council member Maurice Chapman sees danger:
"Unadorned worms are preyed upon by birds. Whilst we may be animals we are superior to the others and we need to have human dignity."
I suspect most of the birds will have little interest in the worms on display, but maybe that's just me. And shopkeeper Michael Collins has a point:
"The tourists would be one thing but friends and neighbours? When you have a look at some of our neighbours here, that's a bit of a scary thought."
The shire's proposal to the Queensland government should be formalized by the end of the year.
Obligatory Hornets post for the day
(Expect to see this title occasionally, if not actually daily.)
Salon.com sportswriter King Kaufman on what's going on here:
Oh, Oklahoma City! Stand by for culture shock. The NBA is coming to town.
I love that the team will officially be known as the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets, a throwback kind of name that immediately made me think of the Kansas City-Omaha Kings, who had a history every bit as glorious as that of the New Orleans Hornets so far. If I were an older person it might make me think of the New York-Arcola Original Celtics.
It's all so retro. Maybe the NBA can help the mood by figuring out a way to keep from paying the N.O./Okla. City Hornets players their pensions when they get old.
No, he's not cynical. Really:
Once upon a time the Kansas City Kings, no longer splitting time in Omaha, moved to Sacramento. That seemed strange at the time, like the NBA was moving into a minor league town. Of course, it turned out quite nicely.
This move seems even stranger. Oklahoma City? Where the big teams are a Triple-A baseball club and a minor-league arena football team called the Yard Dawgz?
No, not that. What I mean is: Could it really be that the locals might not get screwed?
Only time (as distinguished from Time) will tell.
You can't get here from there
Greg Hlatky's Houston evacuation routes:
Um, two lumps, please.
24 September 2005
Maybe they'll rename it "The Harvey"
"Where the hell are these people going to park?"
That's the question raised by one soon-to-be-former tenant of the Park Harvey Center, which is morphing from a 17-story office tower into Richard Tanenbaum's newest residential development. There's plenty of space in the Galleria garage, but it's a block and a half away at best: the nearest entrance is on Hudson south of Park, and the Underground doesn't come within a block of Park Harvey.
Not everyone drives, of course, and perhaps this is Tanenbaum's target market: people who want to live where the presumed action is and don't want the inevitable hassle and expense of a motor vehicle. Such people do exist. But are there enough of them in Oklahoma City to fill up seventeen stories? I don't know, but I've learned not to bet against Richard Tanenbaum.
The threat of Jersey devils
From Pavement Narrows, New Jersey, The Prop observes that it won't be all peaches and cream in the big Hornets bowl:
[H]aving a major league franchise in your area has its downside as well. It tends to bring the pork-barrellers, land swindlers and real estate moguls out of the woodwork. You don't want Donald Trump showing up in your fair city, do you?
This presumes that they were in the woodwork to begin with. The history of Oklahoma being rife with such characters, I'm inclined to think that it won't make much difference in the long run.
As for The Donald, well, there's a new billboard in the God series on the north I-44 loop. It says: "As my apprentice, you're never fired." Not as funny as "Don't make me come down there," but what the, um, heck.
Where it's @
We're so used to reading @ as "at" that we assume the whole world does the same, and, well, they don't: I noted some time ago that in France this character is called "arobase," which is presumably related to the Spanish "arroba," which has Arabic antecedents, and the Germans apparently refer to it as "Affenschwanz," which supports the comic-book truism that monkeys are always funny.
A whole list of such variations (found via Tinkerty Tonk) is here.
A true reign of terror
In 2005, the term "Nazi" is tossed about seemingly with abandon: it's the 21st century's all-purpose pejorative. Apart from making Mike Godwin's name a household word, this sort of slander and it always is intended as such serves no purpose, and it invariably looks even more foolish in light of the atrocities committed by the real Nazis.
With this in mind, I betook myself today to Untitled (ArtSpace), which is presenting two exhibits pertinent to the stench of Nazism.
In the center of the building is Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945, one of the traveling exhibitions of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Some of this material I knew; some of it was startling but fit into context. The Nazis were devoted to eugenics, and the persecution of gay men was justified as a measure to purify the Aryan bloodlines; what I didn't know was the extent to which they would seek them out. In February 1934, for instance, the Reich ordered police surveillance of men who were thought to be likely violators of Paragraph 175, the law which criminalized male homosexuality and which had been substantially expanded by the Reich, and later that year, the Gestapo demanded lists of gay men from local police departments. The persecution did not extend to lesbians, who were, after all, only women, and therefore of no consequence to the Nazis.
Along the walls is an exhibition called Rescuers: Portraits of Moral Courage in the Holocaust, stories and photographs of people who literally risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazi extermination program. The exhibition, the work of Gay Block and Rabbi Malka Drucker, looks at these workaday heroes, from all walks of life and all strata of society. What they had in common was the willingness to step forward when most people were afraid even to speak up, and a general resistance to the word "hero": said Johte Vos, of the Netherlands, "This is totally the wrong thing to call us. We did what everyone should have done." And indeed, in the portraits, taken by Block in the late 1980s, you can see both the smile and the shrug: they were proud to do what they did, but they seem slightly embarrassed at being fussed over. (At any rate, this is what I saw: your mileage may vary.)
The Cimarron Alliance Foundation, which arranged for these exhibitions, has a simple objective:
By presenting this historical and scholarly exhibition, and by hosting a series of public, educational events, the Cimarron Alliance Foundation with its community partners hopes to preserve the memory of those who suffered and were lost in the Holocaust of Nazi Germany, and to encourage those who visit the exhibition to reflect upon the moral and spiritual questions raised by this unprecedented tragedy as well as their own responsibilities as citizens of a free and democratic society.
Two pertinent films were screened at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art last weekend, and there will be public forums as well: Monday at 7 pm, Bill Parsons, chief of staff at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, will speak at the Kerr-McGee Auditorium on the OCU campus, and on the 10th of October, there will be a panel discussion presented by the Norman Human Rights Commission in Norman's Council Chambers.
Why does this matter today? Because the ongoing misuse of the term "Nazi" today tends to trivialize the events of history; but more important, because, as General Eisenhower, after inspecting an actual concentration camp, wrote to General George C. Marshall in 1945, "I made the visit deliberately in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to 'propaganda'." Which there has.
And because each of us, I think, still possesses a conscience.
Untitled (ArtSpace) is a converted warehouse at 1 NE 3rd Street in downtown Oklahoma City. The exhibitions run through 23 October.
I'll show you a Blue Screen of Death, you miserable piece of ....
Pennies from wherever
Like rather a lot of people, I have a canister in which I accumulate pennies; it holds about $6, and when it's full I schlep it to the supermarket, dump it into the Coinstar box, and receive a slip which I can then hand to the cashier in exchange for $5.34.
I'd heard that Coinstar was going to issue Amazon.com gift certificates $6 worth for my 600 pennies instead of $5.34 and this seems extremely cool, but I have to admit I hadn't thought it out quite as far as Steph Mineart has:
[I]f you wanted to go completely off the grid, you could use your Amazon gift card to set up an Amazon account and pay, without ever entering personally identifying information, AND Coinstar will accept paper money and convert it to the Amazon card. So if you were on the run from the law, and you wanted to send someone a gift from Amazon and have it shipped to them, you could put your cash into a Coinstar machine, get a gift certificate, set up an anonymous Amazon account, and make purchases.
I don't expect to be on the lam, so to speak, any time soon, but this strikes me as downright ingenious, and, best of all, convenient.
25 September 2005
Concerto for Horn and Hardart
Mister Snitch! remembers the Automat, and already I'm hungry.
The title, of course, is that of P.D.Q. Bach's three-movement concerto (S. 27), written during his Soused Period. The horn you know; the hardart is explained by musicologist Peter Schickele of the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople as follows:
One of the strangest instruments of the 18th century, the Hardart has a range of two almost chromatic octaves, with each successive tone possessing a different quality or timbre. The sound-producing devices include plucked strings, bottles which are blown and struck, and a cooking timer. Windows in the center section, which can be opened after inserting the necessary coins in the slots, contain the different mallets required to play the percussion devices, as well as sandwiches and pieces of pie which are particularly welcome during long concerts. A spigot on the front serves coffee which is, however, not recommended. The balloons which are burst at the end of the concerto with an ice pick and a shotgun add a festive touch. Due to its unusual length (over nine feet) and the great variety of motions necessary to produce its tones, the Hardart requires of its player a certain amount of athletic as well as musical ability.
(From notes to the first recording of the Concerto, as issued on Vanguard VSD 79195, 1965.)
I wrote this three years ago:
The next office over has a couple of Authentic Beauties. I, of course, strive to avoid them, simply as a matter of maintaining equilibrium; I'll toss out an occasional flip remark, but it never goes beyond that.
Yesterday, one of them (the younger) was sporting an engagement ring. "It's about time," I said. Certainly she thought so; they'd been dating seemingly forever.
And for some reason, this stung me, and I can't come up with any justification for it. I'd never even considered her as a potential companion she's gorgeous, and she's fairly bright, but she's half my age (more or less literally) and we wouldn't have a whole lot to talk about so it shouldn't matter if she goes into the Permanently Unavailable file. Yet somehow I mourn, even as I wish her great heaping gobs of happiness, and I mutter deep, dark curses against the person who causes me all this heartbreak.
Which is, of course, myself.
I bring this up because the older of the two got married yesterday I reported on her engagement here (second paragraph) and I went to considerable effort during those twenty-four hours to avoid thinking about it, but obviously the reaction won't stay in its cage where it belongs.
I'm thinking I can hold out until the actual wedding photos show up, after which I will probably lose it. (She looks wonderful in pastels.)
What they really, really want
I have no particular expertise in contemporary feminist theory, but I believe Shouting Thomas might be oversimplifying matters slightly:
White heterosexual men are the cause of all that is wrong with the world. Oddly ... Marxist feminist women want to be married to or shacked up with a white heterosexual man, unless they are defiantly lesbian. Their partner is expected to strike a pose of abject contrition for his sins ... and still get it up in bed.
Thus, hetero marriage is an abomination that oppresses women, while gay marriage is a sacrament, especially in that it outrages the hated evangelical Christians.
According to this political theory, all the problems of the world would be solved if only all men were sissified homosexuals. (This creates a dilemma for homosexuals who are not sissified ... but they are forgiven because at least they aren't straight.) War, pollution, racism and crime would cease to exist if only all men were sissies. (Whoops! I forgot. Black men alone are entitled to be macho studs. This provides a much deserved kick in the shins to white hetero men.)
This political theory also posits that the great spiritual center of the world is Asia, and all enlightenment ensues from there. Asian religions are brilliant combinations of practice and centuries of wisdom. On the other hand (and it?s hard to tell how to reconcile this), Asian women are backward doormats who don't have the sense to be good feminists. So, the people who created those great spiritual systems are, in fact, stupid, backward and unenlightened.
White women must be allowed to sleep with any man of any race at any time, and white men must suffer in silence, lest they be accused of the most vicious racism. However, white men have an obligation to shack up with or marry a white feminist woman. If they prefer an Asian or Hispanic woman, it is because they are chauvinist pigs intent on oppressing a backward woman.
I have a few problems with this analysis. For one thing, the grandly general "Asia" is way too big to be a spiritual center: were there that many spiritual emanations from the world's largest continent, their influence would presumably be far greater. A spiritual center, I suggest, must be small and densely packed with the appropriate vibes; it seems unlikely that it would be much larger than, say, Columbus, Indiana. (This is, I hasten to add, not necessarily a pitch for Vatican City.)
The notion of Asian women as doormats originates in the legend of the geisha and the reports of Thai brothels; I see no reason to think that it prevails here in the Home of the Whopper, except as urban myth. (It certainly doesn't prevail any place on Classen.)
If all men were gay, the world, if not necessarily a happier place, would presumably at least be cleaner. On the other hand, there's this ongoing propagation-of-the-species business, and while they're certainly equal (I almost said "up") to the task, it seems like a cruel thing to ask.
And while Thomas is apparently surrounded by these "Marxist feminist" women who espouse this particular worldview, they are few and far between in my orbit. Then again, he lives in New York.
Jesus, what a documentary
A couple of weeks ago, I expressed the desire to see Brian Flemming's The God Who Wasn't There, and this being a desire that was not particularly difficult to fulfill either I could wait however long for a rental, or I could ante up $25 and get my own copy it has now come to fruition by way of Option B.
As a film, it's just this side of brilliant: despite an awful lot of talking heads, there isn't a dull moment in the 60-minute running time, and Flemming's narration pulls off the difficult task of balancing serious and snarky. The inclusion of some bloody footage from Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ "used without permission," reads the credit comes with a graphic reminder that it wasn't particularly bloody: once you're past the first reel, you're hard-pressed to find two consecutive minutes without some scenes of violence. (A handy minute-by-minute index to said gore is provided on screen.) A group of revival-goers interviewed outside a Billy Graham proves to be suitably fervent, but hardly what you'd call comparison shoppers. And Flemming's visit to the Christian school in southern California where he was first, um, indoctrinated turns ugly surprisingly quickly.
As an instrument of persuasion? Me, I remain unpersuaded. Then again, I was aware of the porous history of early Christianity, and the similarities in the Gospel stories to tales of other deities; I wrote about one here many years ago. And a few bits of talk on the commentary track bordered on paranoid: yes, we do have a lot of fundamentalists, and no, it's not likely that they're going to have the atheists rounded up and shot. To no surprise, the Raving Atheist, whose voice is heard on this track, doesn't rave at all: he's as sensible in person, apparently, as he is in text form.
Still, I recommend The God Who Wasn't There, even if it wasn't a life-changing experience (a phrase I truly despise) for me: it's consistently entertaining and it asks the right questions. To quote an earlier screenwriter: "I respect faith, but doubt is what gets you an education." This film, I'd say, can legitimately be considered educational, though I suspect that the truest of True Believers will remain unmoved.
(Addendum: Brian Flemming has a blog.)
26 September 2005
Out in the open
A question by Chris Medlock of the Tulsa City Council:
When Governor Henry gives the State-of-the-State Address, he delivers it before a joint session of the State Legislature. When President Bush gives the State-of-the-Union Address, he delivers it before a joint session of Congress. But when Mayor LaFortune delivers the State-of-the-City Address, he gives it to the Metro Chamber of Commerce.
Somewhat shows where the Mayor's priorities lie, doesn?t it?
Well, maybe. The same situation holds in Oklahoma City, where the Mayor gives his speech in January, with one notable exception: the city posted the speech, including some graphs, on its Web site, and broadcast it on tape-delay on the city's cable channel. If I remember correctly, it was also reprinted in full in the Oklahoman, so pretty much anyone who wanted to know what Mayor Cornett was talking about could find out easily enough.
Still, I have to take Medlock's side here:
The proper venue for the State-of-the-City Address is the Francis Campbell City Council Meeting Room. The proper audience is the Tulsa City Council and the citizens of Tulsa, via the gallery and the cable TV audience.
And we should do similarly here, I believe.
Sutter Hospitals in the San Francisco area are being struck by the SEIU United Healthcare Workers, and union members are blogging the strike.
The tendency of major corporations in situations like this is to clam up, to refer all questions to a single PR person who subsequently ignores them; Sutter, a large nonprofit, has made a couple of responses to the union, but they're buried at least one level deep on their Web site, and of course they're not taking comments from readers.
I think we can expect to see more of this in future job actions.
(Via Lindsay Beyerstein.)
Warding off excessive seriousness
Declares Sue Ellen Cooper, Queen Mother of the Red Hat Society:
The Red Hat Society began as a result of a few women deciding to greet middle age with verve, humor and elan. We believe silliness is the comedy relief of life, and since we are all in it together, we might as well join red-gloved hands and go for the gusto together. Underneath the frivolity, we share a bond of affection, forged by common life experiences and a genuine enthusiasm for wherever life takes us next.
There are RHS chapters all over the place, including the Dazzling Sophisticats and the Sun Kissed Natural Divas.
And the Society is apparently big enough nowadays to have its own credit card, so I have to assume that their message is being heard.
Brendan Gill once said that "Not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the idea that life is serious," which supports the idea of God as Comic Genius. Works for me.
One of those SCSI units
This is one of those cases where the item practically writes itself:
A defense attorney has asked a judge to bar any references to his client's nickname "Scuz" in his upcoming murder trial, saying the moniker could negatively influence jurors.
Demetrius "Scuz" Fiorentino, 31, of Coatesville [PA], is charged with the April 2004 robbery and shooting death of Joel "Wellz" Taylor, 19, of Queens, N.Y., during a botched drug deal in a Coatesville crack house.
Defense attorney Laurence Harmelin cited the dictionary definition of scuzzball as "an unpleasant, dirty or dangerous person; creep" and scuzzy as "dirty, shabby or foul in condition or nature."
Harmelin told Common Pleas Judge Phyllis Streitel on Friday that connotations of Fiorentino's nickname would prejudice jurors against the defendant.
Gee, ya think?
What'll you bet Fiorentino didn't get his nickname from his days as an altar boy at Our Lady of Perpetual Motion?
Separated at death
Then again, only one of them has a dead career.
Take your musical fruit elsewhere
Just to be sure, I called up the CASI Rules, and here it is:
2. NO FILLERS IN CHILI Beans, macaroni, rice, hominy, or other similar ingredients are not permitted.
And dissimilar ingredients, I submit, are even worse. (Pineapple? You might as well toss in a handful of alfalfa, or a couple of
The originator of KAOS theory
Don Adams, aka Maxwell Smart, agent of CONTROL, has been eighty-sixed out of existence.
Adams, who had paid dues on the standup-comedy circuit I have a copy of his LP The Detective (Roulette 25317), recorded live at one of his shows became a TV spy in the fall of 1965 at the behest of NBC, which had bought a pilot written by Buck Henry and Mel Brooks. Get Smart, which paired Adams' Agent 86 with the implausibly beautiful Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon), ran for four years.
You've heard his voice elsewhere, of course: in the Sixties Adams provided the voice of Tennessee Tuxedo, a penguin who wasn't quite up to the demands of Linux, and two decades later he got back into the action-hero business as the voice of Inspector Gadget.
Adams suffered a lung infection over the weekend, and died Sunday. He was 82. I'll miss him by about this much.
The Bleeding Brain Freedom Ratings
On a scale of 10 down to 1, where 10 is a "perfect bastion of liberty" and 1 is an "Islamofascist hell-hole," there aren't any 10s. Or even 9s.
A couple of 1s, though, and one of them isn't even Islamic.
From the Because I Can files
Apparently one way to get under Chase McInerney's hide is to have no permalinks.
Would a little mood music help?
27 September 2005
Bring on the dancing girls
Remind me not to be hanging around the exits when this happens:
Tryouts for the 2005-06 New Orleans/Oklahoma City Honeybees Dance Team will be held on Sunday, October 9 at the Cox Business Services Convention Center in Oklahoma City.
Registration will begin at 8:00 a.m., with tryouts beginning promptly at 9:00 a.m. (NOTE: Auditions will begin at 9 a.m. SHARP. No one will be allowed in the building after that) Applicants must be 18 years of age or older by October 9, 2005 (NO EXCEPTIONS) with a high school diploma in order to audition.
Applicants in top physical condition are preferred. Appropriate dance attire is required which consists of:
I'm sure there's a formal definition for "performance ready," but truth be told, I'm much happier thinking up one on my own.
Judge Thompson gets an extension
The trial of former judge Donald Thompson has been postponed until November because of a bad call by a sitting judge.
Creek County District Judge Joe Sam Vassar on Friday had started cutting down the jury pool; he'd gotten it down from 300 to 80 or so when Thompson's defense pointed out that Vassar had already removed himself from the case and had no business dealing with the jury. Prosecutors, fearing a retrial on this basis alone, agreed with the defense; Comanche County District Judge C. Allen McCall, who is hearing the case, concurred, and sent home the entire jury.
A new jury will be empaneled when the trial begins on 7 November.
Previous coverage, so to speak: here, and at links therein.
Elephants, donkeys and pigs
I've been inclined to think that there isn't that much difference between the Democrats and the Republicans when it comes to shoveling out the governmental largesse. PowerLine's John Hinderaker disagrees:
There is a basic difference between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to pork. No significant portion of the Democratic base objects in principle to ballooning government spending. Moreover, a Democratic politician who brings home the bacon can often attract votes from Republicans who value pork over principle, and thereby get elected even in a Republican-leaning state. (Tom Daschle was a perfect example.) So, for a Democrat, the issue is easy: pork is all good.
Republican Congressmen and Senators are in a different position. A significant number of their voters, probably a majority, prefer smaller government and oppose government waste on principle. Further, almost all Republican politicians have themselves endorsed limited government principles as candidates. So for a Republican politician, the calculus can be different. People like pork "local issues," as Paul [Mirengoff] says but in many districts, a Republican politician who offends a big chunk of his base, while looking like a hypocrite in the process, could be in trouble. Besides, most Republican politicians are sincere when they talk about cutting federal spending and eliminating waste. While aware of the political benefit of bacon, they are at best ambivalent about it.
As Jeff Goldstein might say: "BECAUSE OF THE HYPOCRISY!"
There is a definite split between the GOP base and Republican leaders in Congress on this matter the derision which greeted Tom DeLay's statement that there was no fat left to cut in the federal budget emanated from both sides of the aisle but it leaves fiscal conservatives with a quandary: how do you curb this stuff? I mean, it's not like they're going to vote Democratic next time around.
There are some serious penny-pinchers in the Senate. Oklahoma's Tom Coburn is one of them. On the other hand, Tom Coburn, to put it charitably, is not what you'd call a consensus-builder.
The ranker the page
"Everybody," says Rocket Jones, "should be #1 for something on Google."
Dan's got top of the page for this.
As for me, my one claim to Numero Uno is for, um, "corksoaking iceholes".
The cupboard was bare
So until I can think of something I feel like saying, well, consider it your turn.
This will remain open at least through the weekend, barring catastrophe, an invasion of idiots, or any other event I think justifies shutting off the spigot.
28 September 2005
I knew 46 of these
UltimateGuitar.com presents 101 Things You Didn't Know About Rock N' Roll.
(Regarding #19: "Teen Spirit" was a brand of deodorant.)
(Thank you, Lawren.)
Things to do in Denver when you're Bruce
Actually, I've never been to Denver, so I can't make any recommendations to Bruce, who's spending a "sort of vacation" there, except for the grandly-general one of "Have a good time, and see you soon."
Which, now that I think about it, is probably enough, since he's definitely got a grip on the process:
I took a litle drive up and down colorado blvd just to get a better feel for what the city looks like; very interesting.
Eminently sensible, say I.
The ever-popular What If
So ... what if the Indians, the Yankees and the Bosox all finish with identical records? Who gets to be the wild card?
The Baseball Crank has the answer. (Hint: it involves a single-game playoff.)
The city has settled a harassment lawsuit filed by Staff Sgt. Paula Schonauer, a twelve-year veteran of the OCPD, who had claimed she was persecuted by fellow officers and banished to desk duty after her sexual-reassignment surgery in 2002.
The OCPD has already returned her to her beat; the city will pay her $4000 and will reinstate some lost days of sick leave. Schonauer, who has been instrumental in the Department's community-outreach programs, says she's just happy to be back at work.
Secret Asian man
I thought I complained a lot about the horrors of the dating scene. [You do.ed. Shuddup.] Jacqueline Passey has an interesting bit about the romantic gripes of the Asian male:
I'd vaguely heard of complaints about interracial dating regarding white women "stealing" black men and white men "stealing" Asian women before, but I didn't realize just how heartbroken and bitter many Asian men felt about this.
And they don't score with the white girls, either, says one fellow:
"It boils down to the fact that most white girls don't even think about Asian men when they picture a 'datable' guy. The Asian guy they know is a nice guy, is polite, can help them with their math homework but is never somebody they would fantasize about wining and dining them."
Jacqueline (who incidentally is dating an Asian guy) says:
At this point I realized just how much my teenage boy-like taste in movies has probably warped my brain when it comes to stereotyping Asian men because when I think "Asian guy" I don't think "nice, polite, math tutor" I think hot, built, ass-kicking kung fu movie star.
The one Asian guy I know best he worked at 42nd and Treadmill for some years is definitely closer to the hot, built, ass-kicking side of the scale. (I have no doubt he could kick my ass.) We won't discuss his math skills.
Somehow, things like this make me feel better; being rejected by everyone suggests a refreshing lack of racial considerations.
We don't need no stinkin' bubble
Gawker fishes this out of the AP net:
Everything about Frank Fazio's new two-bedroom apartment on Manhattan?s Upper West Side is decidedly average, including its price: a hair under $1 million.
With five rooms and about 1,050 square feet of space, the place is a nice size, by New York standards, but it is no mansion. There are no chandeliers, no soaring cathedral ceilings and no doorman downstairs to help with groceries.
I must point out here that Surlywood, my humble abode, can be described this way:
"With five rooms and about 1,050 square feet of space, the place is a nice size, by New York standards, but it is no mansion. There are no chandeliers, no soaring cathedral ceilings and no doorman downstairs to help with groceries."
For that matter, there's no downstairs. (And if you count the bathroom, there are six rooms, though anyone who's ever seen my bathroom will argue that it shouldn't be counted.)
The price, were it for sale, would be a hair under $100,000. Maybe a few hairs.
Putting the Hammer down
"I have done nothing wrong," said Tom DeLay after receiving word that he was being indicted on a charge of criminal conspiracy. (Like there's a chance he'd say something else.)
DeLay, it's always seemed to me, has skated as close to the edge of the legal ice as he possibly could for as long as he possibly could; I don't know what the grand jury, or prosecutor Ronnie Earle, may have on DeLay, but at this point I'd be extremely surprised if it were absolutely nothing.
The indictment requires DeLay to step down from his position as House Majority Leader, which he has. He will retain his seat, representing the 22nd District of Texas.
The GOP over the years has tried their best to insulate DeLay, and the party's Congressional delegation today rallied around him, but unless this charge proves to be utterly baseless, he's pretty much done for as a Republican leader.
29 September 2005
And push a sofa in front of it
The ineffable Page lists individuals who she'd "like to see slapped senseless and locked in a closet until after the recovery efforts are done":
You know, some of those people are already senseless.
It's getting expensive around here
While following up on this, I poked through some of the local records, and for the first time I can remember, we've had a house in this neighborhood bring over $80 a square foot. I'd characterize said house as "pretty but unremarkable," but still: eighty?
Apparently this trend started a couple of years before I moved in, and accelerated when I got here. I'd attribute the acceleration, not to my presence (duh), but to the neighborhood's ascent into Urban Conservation District status, according to legend the next-best thing to Actual Historic, which took place right before I bought in.
The last time I marveled about such a thing was eight months ago. That house was more than 10 percent larger, and sold for almost exactly the same money.
I have the smallest house on the street; I'd probably be amazed if someone offered me this kind of money for it.
The march of progress
2004: Burger King, NW 23rd and Meridian, with playground for the kiddies.
2005: Burger King, NW 23rd and Meridian, no more playground, but 24-hour WiFi.
New franchise owner David Ostrowe explains:
Our power user is someone that eats 19-plus times a month in a burger place and is between the ages of 18 to 35. We're trying to make our market suited and comfortable to that customer someone who's maybe in town late at night on business, or who stops off on their way to work, or who is in college.
Hold the mayo on my Whopper, please.
I thought Pirate Day was last week
Matt Deatherage sees one serious problem with Google Print's Library Project:
Google wants a full, digital copy of a book it did not purchase or license. It wants to keep and use the full text of a book, without any permission from the copyright holder. What Google does with that copy is irrelevant.
This is the same argument as software piracy or music piracy, but now with books. The ability to copy the data doesn't mean it's legal. If this means Google Print can't work, then everyone involved will have to figure out some way to make it work. Google's "we'll do it and you'll like it, trust us" attitude does not trump intellectual property.
As a music collector, I've run up against this myself. Until recently, almost nothing released on the Cameo/Parkway labels was commercially available. I have on my shelf a lot of these old recordings. And even though you couldn't go to the store and buy any of this material, the law permits me only to make copies for myself: it quite clearly does not permit me to distribute them to others.
Google Print could be an invaluable tool for searching old public-domain material; but if they really want to include material under copyright, it's their responsibility to pony up the bucks for it.
A weight for a marriage, in pounds, according to John Irving.
And also the number of the Carnival of the Vanities, in a special Avignon edition by Laurence "HWIFOC" Simon, in case you were wondering where the hell it went this week. (Yes, it's out there somewhere, or so I'm told.)
(Addendum: Twice as nice, with a Pisa edition shouldn't Simon be doing these, under the "Pisa crap" rubric? from Conservative Cat.)
Strange search-engine queries
Some of what's come down the line just today:
"nancy sinatra" topless nude naked: I figure if she's either nude or naked, "topless" goes without saying.
can a woman get pregnant from a jackass: I could point you to a source, but it is contrary to site policy to post my ex-wife's email address here. I note in passing that I have two children.
What city in the US requires all businesses to have working condom machines on the premises?: Boston had such an ordinance for businesses that serve alcohol back in around 1993, but it was thrown out by a Superior Court judge.
Incredibles invisible girl picture: What kind of nimrod has pictures of invisible girls? (Oh. Right.)
ann coulter shoe size: I have no idea, but I suspect it's not a 5. (There were also two requests for her height.)
who bought fleet visa accounts?: Bank of America. Not to be confused with the similar Fleet enemas.
beach boy song includes a reference to hal and his famous ashtray: "Barbara Ann," from Beach Boys' Party! "Hal" is drummer Hal Blaine.
taco bell ingredients toxic: Well, duh.
(Note: This is not quite a sequel to this.)
30 September 2005
At least it doesn't run Windoze
Hundred-dollar laptop computers for Third World children? Sounds nice to me, but Tamara K's not so sure:
Does the screen have high enough resolution for serious pr0n usage by the cannon-fodder thugs of Third World strongmen, and is it equipped with WiFi for the surreptitious uploading of "419 Scam" emails through the local missionary school's network?
I guess it's easy, when coming up with a visionary system to wire every dusty schoolyard from Moyobamba to Mbala, to forget that no nascent computing technology seems to catch on with us great unwashed un-visionary types until it's adept at three things: Games, Porn, and Email.
Geez. Even I am adept at only one of those.
Addendum, 1 October: Andrea Harris thinks this is a really bad idea for different reasons:
As a matter of fact, typewriters might be more useful to Third World students than a laptop that won't hold much data, and won't be able to be on for more than ten minutes if you have to use the hand crank (really, what can you do on a computer in only ten minutes?). A manual typewriter needs no electricity, its ribbons can be re-inked to save money, and they are sturdy, especially if made entirely of metal no delicate, easy-to-break but impossible-to-fix parts. I used a typewriter throughout my highschool years that was a solid piece of iron from the forties. Will these laptops be useful two years from now, let alone twenty? I rather doubt it. The people that came up with this idea have rocks in their heads; they'd be better off offering them to schools here, instead of saddling overburdened school districts with expensive Dells and HPs that kids drop and spill soda on. As for the plight of Third World children in need of education, I think that the ongoing war against terrorists, who are the main cause of instability in vulnerable parts of the world, will do much more to help them than crates of shiny, useless toys.
We ought to get some of these for 42nd and Treadmill. We have people on staff who can break machines faster than four-year-olds in a sugar rush, and, well, $100 is quite a bit less than $1100.
In recent Presidential elections, much was made of a so-called "gender gap," a media attempt to grant Official Importance to the minor demographic observation that women tended to vote either more Democratic, or less Republican choose one than men. And since much was made of it, there was inevitably a lot of hand-wringing as to what could be done about it.
Andrea Harris, for her part, tends to take on knotty questions with sword in hand:
I know how to get government spending to drop through the floor: repeal the 19th amendment.
I'm serious. Take the vote away from women. Sure, this will bite for the minority of women who are actually politically aware and intelligent, but the majority of women's instinctive impulse to gather and hoard is what drives the soccer mom spend-more-money-on-the-nanny-state vote, when they aren't voting for the most spineless candidate because he looks like he wouldn't frighten their children, or if they are single, voting for the one with the best hair. The fact that women vote has meant that most politicians now spend most of their time trying to please women, who generally don't like things that make loud noise or smell bad like industry and war.
Personally, I blame Dianne Feinstein:
I'm trying to see your feelings as a man. I'm not asking you for a legal view.
But given the fact that men are also capable of coming up with similar cringe-inducing notions, I am disinclined to take my distaste for it out on women. And if we merely disenfranchised the clueless, which would require another Constitutional amendment well, let's not go there. Yet.
Just don't say "beep for bucks"
Despite consolidations and buyouts, Oklahoma City is one of the more competitive banking markets; even big boys like Chase and Bank of America find themselves unable to dictate the terms for the rest of the industry.
Which is probably one reason why Barry Switzer and Toby Keith are pouring some dollars into a proposed new Oklahoma City bank, which will be run by Joey Root, late of Stillwater National and a friend of Switzer's.
Statewide, a lot of new banks, it seems to me, are put together with the express purpose of inviting buyouts by bigger banks; I don't know what Barry and Toby are thinking, but I figure at least they're investing in the local economy.
(To explain the title: "Beep for Bucks," according to the ads, was the process by which you operated the then-new ATM at the infamous Penn Square Bank, headed by Bill "Beep" Jennings.)
Expunged at last
The very last Ford Excursion, the biggest, if not necessarily baddest, SUV on the market, will be built today in Louisville.
Perhaps Ford will have some leftover 44-gallon fuel tanks to bolt into an extended version of the Expedition.
Marie of Roumania is invited
Parkerfest 2005 starts this evening in New York at where else? the Algonquin Hotel, 59 West 44th Street, presumably around the Algonquin's nearly-new Round Table.
This is the seventh annual celebration of Dorothy Parker, a project of the Dorothy Parker Society of New York.
On the dubious basis that there's no fuel like an old fuel, I long ago got into the habit of combining several short trips into a single longer one, and when I moved two years ago and tripled the length of my commute, it became useful to run errands on the way home. (Running them on the way out is less useful, since it's usually around six-thirty in the morning.)
It didn't dawn on me how much I was relying on this technique until I got home this afternoon, when I noted it was the end of the month and I wasn't going anywhere tonight and duly reset Trip Meter A. (Trip Meter B is reset at every fill-up.) The total for September the meter was last reset on 31 August was 610 miles. Twenty-one workdays at 21.2 miles round trip comes to 445 miles and change, which means that I drove only about 165 miles for grocery-getting, Spottings, and other less-than-maximum-imperative trips. At $2.65 a gallon and 24.5 mpg (average for two fills during the month), my non-commuting fuel costs for the month ran less than $18.
I'm sure whatever money I saved got spent on something else, but that's a different issue entirely.
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