1 June 2006
Collective wisdom and other myths
I've made four attempts at trying to summarize this essay by Jaron Lanier, and I couldn't do it without quoting half of it.
Very likely this is the same problem Scott Chaffin had with it:
It's long and it's impossible for me to accurately excerpt. You're just going to have to take my word for it, and read it, if you're interested in web stuff, and what's going on online.
This much, however, I can say: if you have two people with IQs of 100, you do not necessarily have the equivalent of one person with a 200 IQ. The much-heralded "hive mind," except under very specific circumstances, is way less than the sum of its parts.
Naturally, it's being oversold.
Three deuces and a four-speed
You won't see that, nor will there be a 389. For that matter, there won't be any GTO for a couple of years. But General Motors has apparently figured out that if Pontiac has a future, it's as a purveyor of performance cars without front-wheel drive.
And without SUVs and minivans, either; the Montana SV6 has already been banished, and they'd just as soon you didn't remember the Aztek.
This plan fits into the overall repositioning of GM's "minor" labels, with Buick to be pushed as a near-luxury brand and also to be shorn of its trucks, which presumably will wind up as GMCs.
What I'd want from Pontiac, though, is something along the lines of the '59 Catalina: spacious (Wide-Track, even), not overly decorated, a family car for the faster-than-average family. It may be a while before we see this. Too much of a while, says Mickey Kaus:
If GM were a software company they'd be out of business due to a fatally slow reaction-time. Heck, if they were a blog they might be out of business.
How long have I been running this same template?
Last week marked the 193rd anniversary of the birth of composer Richard Wagner.
Wagner was a dog person, which means that even if he were still alive he might not have read Catymology, which means that he'd have missed the 193rd edition of Carnival of the Vanities, posted by a cat with occasional assistance by a resident biped.
An actual interview with Greg Gutfeld, and it's chock full of snarky goodness:
[B]estiality's a tough call, mainly because of PETA.
What would be their stance? Is it rape? Or is it reward? How can you tell if the animal really wanted it? If animals are equal to humans, as PETA believes, then animals should have power of consent. But if we say it's a crime, then we are saying that animals are incapable of making their minds up about their sex lives, which strikes me as out and out bigotry. Another thing about PETA: They never protest when ugly animals are killed. Vultures are an endangered species, because there's not enough roadkill anymore to keep them alive. PETA has been strangely silent on this issue. Why? Is it because you can't cuddle a vulture? Probably.
For all I know, Ingrid Newkirk could keep a shrike in her shorts.
On celebrities, in and out of the HuffPost:
There are many pleasant, down to earth stars, but in general, it's good to steer clear. There was a study that just came out on the top 10 desires of children. Number one: to be famous. Others on the list: to get free stuff like ice cream and presents, pets that would live forever, no war. This is exactly the same list you'd get from a Hollywood celebrity.
Stars are exactly like children, in that they play all day and never buy stuff like light bulbs. And that makes them susceptible to destructive stuff like new age religions and Michael Moore movies. It's why stars give their kids such funny names. Those are EXACTLY the names you'd give your kid, if you were, say, a kid! Naming a kid, to them, is like naming a turtle. A box turtle.
On America's place in the world:
Brits go on about our bigness. Brits say we have big food, big asses, big teeth. All true. The obsession about being small makes most European countries feel small and hate us for our hugeness. It's the whole point behind the EU. It has absolutely nothing to do with what America does. It's what America is. That's why it's completely pointless to apologize for anything America does. People hate apologists.
Life is, alas, not all sweetness and light:
[In the UK], people are accustomed to seeing naked chicks in the dailies. But you won't see Maureen Dowd's yams in The New York Times. Sadly.
[insert "Times Select" joke here]
(Snarfed from Al Maviva.)
Well, somebody got a big box here
The saga of Tulsa's Eastland Mall (only slightly hinted at here) has taken some strange twists.
Jennifer Weaver reports:
I have been in communication with Councilor [Dennis K.] Troyer and he told me the [rezoning] application would be withdrawn, and he even came by in person to tell me the application had been withdrawn. Then, the following day, the Tulsa World had an article (pdf) that states [Ed] Kallay realizes he doesn't need the IL zoning, but some "variances". Mr. Kallay made a point to reemphasize his initial plan. But, as Roemerman on Record states, the application has not been withdrawn, as of today. Councilor Troyer was awaiting a call to verify this.
In the meantime, the rumor mill is churning with even talk of a casino. Now, if Mr. Kallay is seeking variances, that leaves more questions. Moreover, Mr. Kallay does not actually own the mall, it still belongs to [Haywood] Whichard of NSC New Markets Real Estate, LLC. Variances are very wide ranging, and will follow the ownership of the mall.
So who's calling the shots here? Or are Kallay and Whichard in cahoots? And if they are, what's the harm in saying so? Or is there a third party, yet unnamed, tugging at both their strings?
Skullduggery, thy name is Tulsa.
Drinking out of the Tidal Basin again
Wonkette, reporting on the assault on an aide to Senator Jim Inhofe outside the Bricktown Ballpark:
If you name your nightlife district "Bricktown," you're just asking for shit like this to happen.
Now that's hitting below the Beltway.
I did like their article title, even though it will prevent me from using it myself: "Welcome to the OKC, bitch."
Then again, maybe it won't.
2 June 2006
The truth at seventy-nine
Dear Old Dad kicks off his 80th year today.
And there is reason to think it may be one of the more difficult years he's had to face, what with the general dissolution we all suffer as we get older even I'm starting to notice it, and if there's anything I hate, it's reminders of my mortality and his being tethered to that damned oxygen tank, the inevitable result of financing R. J. Reynolds' expansion, 70 mm at a time, thirty times a day.
Then again, reminders of his mortality I hate even more than reminders of my own. And I'd like to persuade myself that it's good old-fashioned self-interest: longevity does not exactly run in this family, and I'm screwy enough to believe at some way-below-consciousness level that the longer he goes on, the longer I go on. (Which obviously can't be true, since only three of the five children survive, but this is not the sort of notion that is affected by mere facts.)
Still: just one more year. Just one. And after that, let's hope for one more, and pray that we're not pressing our luck.
Somewhere short of obsession
I cannot believe I downloaded twelve meg of stuff, mostly from Microsoft, just so I could watch two minutes of Condi basically ignoring Wolf Blitzer.
(Well, actually I can, but I'd rather not.)
I'll sue your glass off
This is not going to be pretty. Glass artist Dale Chihuly is suing two other artists, including one who was associated with him for over a decade, for copyright infringement: says Chihuly, the rival glassmen are copying his free-flowing technique.
The defendants reply that Chihuly is trying to extend his brand name well beyond reasonable limits:
"Just because he was inspired by the sea does not mean that no one else can use the sea to make glass art," said Bryan Rubino, the former acolyte named in the suit who worked for Chihuly as a contractor or employee for 14 years. "If anything, Mother Nature should be suing Dale Chihuly."
Tulsa glass artist Sarah Diggdon says that it's inappropriate to assert ownership of a given shape:
To copyright a shape like that, it's like in pottery if you copyrighted the traditional vase. It's ridiculous.
And Rubino's attorney points out:
If the first guy who painted Madonna and Child had tried to copyright it, half of the Louvre would be empty.
"What it boils down to," says Carolyn Hill of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, which owns a substantial Chihuly collection, "is intent." And intent is a tricky thing to prove.
Note: First paragraph reworded slightly since publication.
One new hat in the ring
Blogger, Web designer, political activist, and occasional dustbury reader J. M. Branum has announced his candidacy for the District 99 House seat being vacated by Opio Toure due to state term limits. The District covers most of the east side of the city south of NE 23rd Street, with a strip extending more or less parallel to the Broadway Extension to within a mile and a half of Edmond.
Branum is filing as an independent, but he's also seeking support from the Green Party, and he may do well in this heavily-Democratic district.
His issues include a moratorium on the death penalty while seeking support for discontinuing it altogether; a more-progressive tax system and a state minimum wage based on the "living wage" concept; support for alternative transportation; and the improvement of ballot access for non-major party candidates.
Snake on a plane
Okay, it's just one snake, but it's a start, right?
Addendum: "Norman Mineta condemned this incident of species profiling," sez See-Dubya.
The girl I used to be
The things you find in referrer logs.
Actually, this is bait for something called regender, which takes your average Web page (and mine is nothing if not average) and, well, does this:
Have you ever wondered ...
I did notice, on my first trip through, that the parser inverts the gender of pronouns, nouns where appropriate, even some proper nouns. The city of Edmond, I noticed, is rendered "Edna," which is kinda cute; I can't wait to see what they do with "Enid." Meanwhile, making an appearance are such luminaries as artist Dawn Chihuly, Senator Jill Inhofe, Governor Brandy Henrietta, composer Rita Wagner, and former President Wilma Jennifer Clinton. On the blogroll: Australian journalist Tina Blanche, crazy Canadian ranter Samuel Burns, both Susan and Phillip Gleeson, Michael Malkin, Melvin Yourish, and the ineffable Brianna J. Noggle. (Ken Layne got mutated into "Kendra Larry," which is utterly wonderful.)
On the other hand, I don't even want to mention what happened to my "Screwing for Chastity" post.
Regender might be more effective as a parlor game than as a Tool for Change, but as M. C. Escher (her friends called her Marilyn) used to say, there's nothing wrong with having your perceptions upended once in a while.
3 June 2006
And no blow-in subscription cards
Exact Editions is a British startup that seeks to preserve what's good about the magazine experience in a Web context. For instance:
It turns out that if you treat them right, magazines work fine on the web pretty much exactly the way they are. This means that we can read a magazine as a sequence of web pages, or we can browse it rapidly by viewing a section of 16 pages in a browse mode, individual web pages can be bookmarked or referenced, and we can print out a page if it particularly interests us or we want to take a recipe into the kitchen. These are natural uses for magazines and magazine articles and the web simply extends our familiarity with the magazine format.
And no, it's not a PDF; each page is an image file, but the words are indexed in a database somewhere behind the scenes and can be searched, and embedded links and such are live.
Exact Editions started in Britain with four titles this spring; they're now up to 15. Can American editions be far behind?
(Courtesy of Richard Charkin.)
The brain that wouldn't die
This is not the sequel.
(Probably not safe for work during one particular scene.)
The next voice you hear
As part of a promotion for The Da Vinci Code, a Japanese scientist was asked to determine the actual sound of the voice of the mysterious woman we know as the Mona Lisa.
The methodology is sorta neat: based on body measurements (such as we have), the dimensions of the skull and its chambers are determined, and from them, voice parameters pitch, timbre, maybe even speed of delivery are calculated.
Dr. Matsumi Suzuki originated this technique for police work, to determine possible voices for suspects; whether Leonardo (whose voice is also "sampled") gives more or fewer clues than your average perp is a question for the ages.
And assuming that Dr. Suzuki's research is extensible beyond identification to modification, would someone please do something about Gilbert Gottfried?
Somebody out there doesn't like me
Actually, I doubt it was animosity toward me specifically, but Ye Olde Web Host reports an attack of the Farging Cyber Vandals this afternoon, which prevented any and all access to this here site.
And if it was animosity toward me specifically, well, you already know what I think, and it extends equally to the horse they rode in on.
Saturday spottings (spirit of 66)
The City says that the new Route 66 Park is "Oklahoma City's newest recreational hot spot", and while it was certainly warm there today, the crowds were conspicuous by their absence. Perhaps they got lost on the way; the park's address 9901 NW 23rd Street is fairly simple, but you can't just head west on 23rd until you get to 9901: once you get past the 8600s you're in the middle of Lake Overholser. So you either come down Sara Road and turn back east, or you thread your way around the lake itself. I chose the latter, mainly because it gave me an excuse to cross the old 66 bridge north of the lake, which is now down to a 9-ton vehicle limit.
Viewed as a work in progress, though, Route 66 Park is seriously spiffy. There's a three-story observation tower, which unfortunately was locked when I got there; it's named for Cyrus Avery, acknowledged today as the Father of Route 66. On the plaza west of the tower is a "stamped map" call it a horizontal mural which depicts the path of the Mother Road from Chicago to the Pacific; Oklahoma, geographically and stylistically, is right in the middle. The park also boasts what the city says is its largest playground, which wasn't getting any noticeable use today, though cyclists were out and about all around. No fishing in the ponds yet: they have yet to be fully stocked. (There was plenty of fishing going on around the lake, but a marked absence of boaters; Overholser, in this regard, is the anti-Hefner.)
Elsewhere, I saw something I'd never seen before: a garage sale in Nichols Hills. It looked pretty much like any other garage sale, except that it seemed to be much, much bigger. And there was one sort-of-ingenious aspect to it: for signage, they'd hijacked a couple of political signs, stapling their sale notice right over the candidate's name. I think this qualifies as a mixed blessing.
Dear God, what have I done?
Actually, what I've done is jump over a few intervening releases (like almost three years' worth) and installed MovableType 3.2.
There may be some anomalies during the first few days as I discover all the things I did wrong during this two-hour adventure, and comments will be accepted but probably will not immediately appear, as I am trying to establish a baseline for, um, Trusted Commenters. (I am trying to avoid having to send everyone to TypePad if I can help it, but the default comment process in 3.2 is convoluted in the extreme.)
I figure, though, if I moved over an 18-megabyte database with over 6600 posts, and nothing crashed right away, I have some sort of angel looking over my shoulder, and not that dimwit from Capital One either.
Addendum: It's everywhere. Terra Extraneus is going to first-comment moderation to ward off the dirtballs.
4 June 2006
The morning after the night before
Well, I think we can avoid the vagaries of TypePad. I've found a plugin called EmailWhitelister which checks an incoming email address against a list and automagically approves comments from persons appearing thereupon.
The downside is that for some unrelated reason I'm not getting my usual email notification of comments, which means a possibly-longer wait for those who aren't on the list, which is rather a lot, inasmuch as I tried to do these from memory at one-thirty in the morning, a time when normally I'm hard-pressed to tell you which side of the floor the pillows fell on.
TrackBacks are on again, at least for items within the last eight days, though all of them will go into the holding tank pending inspection.
Weekend in New Mexico
For now, it's imaging as "Barry 99": KXPZ-FM in Las Cruces, New Mexico is playing all Barry Manilow, all the time.
I assume that this is a stunt to attract attention, and that the real format, whatever it may be, will show up later this week.
On the other hand, it's hard not to buy this simulated scenario from Nick Gillespie:
Las Cruces is less than 50 miles from the border with Mexico. This is part of a psy-ops designed to circumvent concerns over building a physical fence between down there and up here: Instead build a series of Manilow-only stations across the Southwest, creating a sonic barrier every bit as punishing as the feds bombarding the Branch Davidians with repeated playings of "Achy-Breaky Heart" (where's the ACLU when you really need them?). Here's hoping that the all-Manilow station doesn't end in a fiery conflagration and the murder of children. But if it does, will it really surprise anyone?
Then again, somehow I doubt the Feds are ready to take a chance again.
You must be this smart to shop here
The Gateway in downtown Salt Lake City is Utah's biggest outdoor retail center; it's the sort of integrated mixed-use community that we're only just starting to see take shape in this neck of the woods.
You'd think that retailers would be queueing up to get space in this place, and, well, some of them are. On the other hand:
Two national stores planning to come here changed their minds when they learned how few Utah residents have college degrees. In fact, the numbers have taken such a downward turn, even state leaders are taking action.
The Gateway was supposed to be a new home for store Crate and Barrel and restaurant The Cheesecake Factory.
The reason in this case is eye opening. These businesses prefer areas where at least 35-percent of the population has college degrees. Everyone assumed Utah would clear. To the dismay of even Gateway developers, we didn't come close, with just 28 percent.
Considering that Oklahomans got out of the fourth grade only after two tries and only just recently got indoor plumbing, or so the stereotype says, I've got to wonder if maybe the Utahns are being handed a line; the Cheesecake Factory is building a location on an outlot at Penn Square, even as we speak. (Well, okay, it's Sunday, they may have the day off.) We don't, however, have a Crate and Barrel. Yet.
CT finds a bargain New York City rental:
Naturally, all of these one-bed dealios are in the outer boroughs; Manhattan probably has its share (especially counting rent controls), but they tend to not stay vacant long enough to get listed. And bear in mind, what counts is location, not dimensions:
For $1,125 per month, with a month's rent free, everything was brand-new just really small. The bedroom measured about 10 feet by 12 feet, and the whole apartment was only 350 square feet.
My garage is 290 square feet.
If you can scrape up an extra $25 a month, you can get into this place in Oklahoma City's MidTown if you can't afford that much, how about a three-bedroom house in Mustang for a thousand or so?
Yeah, I know: "location, not dimensions." I suspect New York real estate exists in some inchoate fourth dimension where there are actually people who can afford to write checks this big for quarters this small. And I have no doubt that it's a wondrous place. Then again, if property taxes are routinely being expressed in scientific notation, it had darned well better be.
5 June 2006
Strange search-engine queries (18)
In a week's time, six thousand people visit this site; a lot of them are just looking for something, and some of them are looking for something peculiar. Examples:
nude beach security clearance: You must be cleared for at least Topless Secret.
emily's pantyhose: They're in the second drawer, left side.
instrumental batman: If I remember correctly, it wasn't an instrumental; there was one word.
blowjobs in connecticut: I'm sure they exist, but you're asking the wrong person.
Lesley Gore wearing sandals: You would smile, too, if she wore them for you.
how much r134a is in a 2002 dodge caravan: Probably none in yours, or you wouldn't be asking.
Ann Coulter's nude: I can neither confirm nor deny at this time.
what happens if you eat expired pillsbury biscuits: Same thing that killed off the Doughgirl: a yeast infection.
big political scandal called something-gate: For the last thirty-odd years, that would be almost all of them.
Farts Penalty: All your friends move away.
Is Taye Diggs Gaye? Actually, I think they cast Jesse L. Martin as Marvin Gaye.
windows 98 screen blue screen show fetal error: Moral: Unborn children should not use Windows.
the rockstar Bono's illuminati contacts: See your local Fnord dealer for details.
Hear ye, hear ye
With two entries on the subject, surely it's time to nominate swirlspice as the world leader in earwax blogging.
All the rest of you, presumably, are tied for third.
(Second? That would be, um, me.)
Evolving toward the land shark
Evidently the take from the Nigerian email scam wasn't enough, so the scammers are now escalating: they're sending actual mail.
From the standpoint of economics, this makes no damned sense at all:
[E]mail's cheap, postage isn't. You can send out a million emails for pennies; on the other hand, the number of letters you'd have to send out to make this scam work would soak up any profit you'd make off of the lone sucker. What's next? Singing candygram?
Then again, it takes only one finger to push the Delete key; you've got to use both hands to tear up a letter. (Unless you're unusually gifted, dexterity-wise, in which case ... um, never mind.)
Peru rejects Chavism, sort of
Hugo Chavez perhaps doesn't have as much influence outside Venezuela as he might have thought; he strongly supported Ollanta Humala for president of Peru, but Peruvian voters, 5 to 4, spurned him in favor of Alan Garcia, who will return to the presidency after an 11-year absence.
Not that Garcia is expected to be all that wonderful. During his previous term, 1985-1990, inflation spiraled out of control and the nation's Gross Domestic Product actually dropped by a fifth. Deficit spending and Garcia's indifference to debt left Lima broke and poverty rampant. Alberto Fujimori, who succeeded Garcia as president, was able to reverse some of these trends, but only by repeated use of the iron fist.
And this sounds entirely too familiar:
In their desperation to gain an advantage, Peru's two candidates left a climate of distrust and confusion in a country where voting is compulsory. Many Peruvians said they would not vote for either man and would destroy their ballot papers.
Even more said neither candidate appealed and they would have to decide which of the pair was the lesser of two evils.
Mr Garcia evidently isn't going to start out with enormous reserves of political capital. Still, rejection of a Chavist will probably sit well with Washington, which is not at the moment exactly enamored of Hugo Chavez' Castro Lite regime in Caracas.
"I'm not dead yet!"
About four weeks ago, I lost a tree, and I did not take it well. Oh, I was not at all remiss about having the remains removed, and much of what was left of it was eventually ground down into a fine, inedible paste, but still: of all the trees I have, this is one of the ones I would have most hated to lose. So I'm quite possibly overreacting to the presence of this ... this branch suddenly pushing itself up from the ground at the intersection of grass and wood chips, and I'm trying not to see it as, say, a reenactment of the last few frames of Carrie. But I know this branch-in-the-making on sight I'd trimmed quite a few of them off that tree, and some more off its sister to the east and if I didn't know better, and let's face it, I don't, I'd swear the tree was trying to come back. And I'm thinking I may as well let it. (Click the picture and it grows, so to speak.)
6 June 2006
Play that dead man's song
"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.
One such person is Miriam:
[T]he best composers of classical music are dead. I used to attend lots of concerts, living in New Jersey, in close proximity to New York. We heard the best musicians in the world. But every once in a while, these same musicians would perform work by modern composers. I can only guess that they went to Juilliard with these composers, or had borrowed money from them. There was absolutely no esthetic reason for these compositions to be given air time. Nine out of ten no, make that 99 out of 100 were earscreechingly awful. If the program notes revealed that these works were to be performed after the intermission, most of the audience had departed before the concert resumed.
Seriously, I suppose these musicians are trying conscientiously to introduce modern works to a wider audience in the hope that we will learn to appreciate them. But I don't attend concerts to be administered acoustic cod-liver oil. It may be good for me but I don't want it.
One possible explanation:
Actually, I've always suspected that there is one underlying theme in all of this dry, academic, uncompelling stuff: the urge to produce the sort of music which induces foundations and other benefactors to write checks.
And this, of course, becomes a self-replicating phenomenon in no time at all. If somebody comes up with a piece for three violas and a cello that sounds like Webern on Quaaludes and manages to get a sizable grant, you can expect half a dozen more such works to be premiered to yawning audiences in the next few years.
Which suggests a return to solid Marxist principles:
Groucho: What do you get an hour?
Chico: For playing, we get-a ten dollars an hour.
Groucho: I see. What do you get for not playing?
Chico: Twelve dollars an hour. Now for rehearsing we make special rates. That's-a fifteen dollars an hour.
Groucho: And what do you get for not rehearsing?
Chico: You couldn't afford it. You see, if we don't rehearse, and if we don't-a play, that runs into money.
Not the most unheard-of thing I ever heard of, by any means.
So far, so good. I've tweaked the spam settings and the WhiteList, and most of the regulars who have reported in are getting through without tripping the moderation alarm. So far, no actual trash comments have appeared; six TrackBacks of dubious origin showed up in the Junk box, three at a time, but never made it to the site. I pronounce this upgrade a success, and to further push my luck, I've deleted the four hundred or so IP addresses I had on my ban list, which may speed up the site a few milliseconds here and there. (Actually, since at least half of the items on that list were not individual IPs, but ranges of IPs, I may have had millions of addresses banned, which of course means nothing in the context of spam.)
MT 3.3 beta is out; I don't think I want to be a guinea pig just now.
One minor functionality change: under 2.64, if you provided an email address but not a URL in your comment header, the comment would appear with the email address linked to the commenter's name. Under this implementation of 3.2, while you still need to provide an email address to get through the WhiteLister, it's no longer linked anywhere; the commenter name, if there's no URL, is provided as bare text only. Next time there's a site rebuild (something I resist greatly), this should apply to all entries, old and new.
Update, 10 pm: The WhiteLister is apparently no longer working. See this.
Anyone for an F?
Just like it says:
A school has changed the names of its primary one classes after complaints that they left some children feeling inferior, BBC Scotland has learned.
Bonnyrigg Primary School had called its classes 1a and 1b but some parents of children in 1b said it left the youngsters feeling second best.
The classes will now be known as 1ar and 1ap, incorporating teachers' surnames in the new titles.
In reality, the a and b divisions were based on age, but apparently one's self-esteem takes precedence over one's date of birth.
I wonder when someone's going to notice that B classes in American Kennel Club performance events are actually more advanced than A classes.
(Via Girl on the Right.)
Down in the tubes
The City is asking for bids for the renovation of the pedestrian tunnels beneath downtown, and has issued bonds to cover the expense.
The estimated cost, says City Manager Jim Couch, is $1,627,179. [Link requires Adobe Reader.] The renovation will include new carpet, wall paint, lighting, portals, panels, signage, sound system, and upgrades of the electrical and HVAC systems. Also planned: sixteen above-ground kiosks.
Bids will be opened on the 27th of June. DowntownOKC's Dave Lopez is predicting completion by February 2007.
See how they run
The State Election Board is posting to the Web a regularly-updated list of candidates during this filing period (hat tip: BatesLine), and a few things jumped out at me, as things occasionally do:
The filing period ends tomorrow.
So much for that idea
Well, the Whitelister is no longer working; I suspect that it was causing some major server load for the host and they simply blocked it. Until I come up with some alternative, everyone (myself included) will have to wait for the agony of moderation.
7 June 2006
You are not expected to know this
We're all being forced into a vast national kindergarten, says Eric Scheie:
For many years I lived in a crummy Berkeley neighborhood which had a lot of low income, Section 8 apartment buildings, drive-by shootings, that sort of thing. There was a Safeway a few blocks away and a local liquor store and "convenience" store which sold groceries at prices I thought laughable. It never ceased to amaze me how able bodied adults would prefer to spend a lot more money on groceries at ripoff prices rather than walk an extra two blocks to Safeway. They weren't being ripped off, though. They were paying more for the convenience. I never felt sorry for them at all, as I considered them fully capable of making choices.
Others used to tell me that the corner store was "taking advantage" of "the poor." Were they? What advantage was being taken? If I were wiped out financially and had to get by on food stamps or something, I'd buy rice, beans, powdered milk and tortillas for whatever were the lowest prices I could find, and I'd have food for the month. If someone else wants to buy grape soda and cheese puffs at $4.95 a bag, why is he being taken advantage of any more than I am? Don't we both have the same ability to select which items to buy? Unless the person is mentally retarded or something, I've never understood the "taking advantage" argument. Sounds like "exploitation" (another meaningless word). Or insisting that "the poor" have a "right" to live in Manhattan at an "affordable rent."
Then there's "economic apartheid." This ill-defined concept (dreamed up by Harvard Ph.Ds who specialize in undefined undefinables) involves things like "forcing" poor people to things like use check cashing centers instead of banks, and furniture rental stores instead of thrift stores. I mean, really, if you can't afford a new couch or a TV, there are plenty of used ones for sale cheap. Why would anyone pay more to rent a new item for one month than it costs to buy it used?
It's not quite that cut and dried evidence suggests that lenders are neither perfectly infallible nor particularly color-blind, at least when mortgages are at stake but some people don't do the math, and when they see that they can get a computer, and not some off-brand clunker but an actual Dell, for a mere $18.99 a week (I actually saw this on an ad yesterday, it doesn't occur to them to look at the tiny print on the bottom of the screen to see how many weeks it will take. (In a year, it's up to $987; you can buy a heck of a lot of hardware for quite a bit less than that.) Besides, they're not just selling (or renting) goods, they're selling convenience:
[W]e have a great selection of name brand home furnishings, appliances and electronics that can be yours with no hassles and no big down payment.
For some people, that may be worth the extra cost. (This survey of "unbanked" individuals, who rely on check-cashing services and such, suggests some reasons why.) I think the key is in the phrase "no hassles": if you expect to be ill-treated by guys in suits, you might well prefer the guys in the strip mall, even if they're going to charge you out the wazoo.
Ultimately it still comes down to consumer choices, and inevitably some of those choices are going to be better than others. Quantitatively, what's the difference between paying a buck at the 7-Eleven for a 20-ounce soda because it's close by and paying a buck at Whole Foods for a 20-ounce soda because you get that warm feeling from shopping there? You can't legislate thrift unless, of course, you want to force everyone to shop at Wal-Mart.
Panic in the seats
To whom it may concern:
If you slide this far into the abyss when I'm not here for one hour, what are you going to do when I'm not here for three weeks?
No need to reply.
I seem to have misplaced my Dentyne
Lileks is talking Busby Berkeley this morning, and in the midst of a discussion of Footlight Parade, he tosses up a larger version of this particular picture, along with the following exposition:
The second number, "By a Waterfall," concerns a young woman who meets her boyfriend by the aforementioned water feature. He falls asleep, and she enters a fantasy world wherein she takes all her clothes off and joins several dozen equally unclad women in a waterfall of their own. Well of Loneliness, indeed: it's standing room only. When you see it now, you have to peel back 70 years to grasp the power of this particular image. That's the lass en route to the waterfall. The upper-floor nudity is implied, of course. But the impact in part comes from the scale. These legs projected on a big screen were probably enough to make half the people in the audience swallow their gum.
Not that I'd like to see a return to the old Production Code, necessarily, but today, with unclad bodies on the big screen nearly as common as strategically-placed Pepsi-Cola cans, and having just about as much impact, we've pretty much killed this kind of scene, and we didn't even get paid for the hit. (And yes, this may seem odd coming from a person with a tendency to spurn clothing, but then I'm not in the habit, as it were, of putting myself on display, except in the form of text.)
And we grumble about George Shinn
The mismanagement of the New York Knicks is about more than just basketball. James Dolan is a spoiled brat with zero business acumen. His legacy will consist of botched deals, frivolous spending, and PR nightmares. This man is in no way fit to run the Knicks.
Which is followed by a list of Dolan's putative transgressions and misdeeds.
Dolan, you may be sure, is not pleased.
Fallout from the Albertson's buyout
The new owners of Albertson's supermarkets in this area will close five Oklahoma stores: two in Tulsa, two in Broken Arrow, and one in Edmond. A total of 30 locations in the 188-store Dallas-Fort Worth Division, which includes Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, are being shuttered.
Dan Lovejoy once noted that the Edmond location was "nothing special."
Mere death is no impediment
There is customer retention, and there is well, this:
Her father passed away recently, and she had to cancel or close all of his various accounts. When she called to cancel his AOL account, they asked her why she was cancelling the account. "It was my father's account, and he died." "Is that the only reason?" was their reply. She was dumbfounded. They did cancel the account, incidentally.
Occasionally dead people (their estates, anyway) are taxed; in some parts of the country, dead people vote; there's no obvious reason why dead people couldn't use AOL. Besides, they never call for tech support.
8 June 2006
Scariest news of the week
What, the Democrats couldn't find an opponent for Sally Kern? Sheesh.
Meanwhile, Vince Orza snarks in the Gazette:
Political logic disproves the theory of "intelligent design." If [Ernest] Istook had any sense, he'd run for re-election instead of governor, [Mary] Fallin would remain lieutenant governor, and they'd save all of us a lot of grief.
I think it proves merely that some designs are more intelligent than others. And I derive no grief whatever from the knowledge that I can go to the polls this fall and vote, as I always do, for Anyone But Istook, and be assured that this time, Anyone But Istook will actually win.
Oh, and is anyone besides me hoping that Mary Fallin smacks down Mick Cornett in the GOP primary? Geez, Mickey, you're so fine you blow my mind, but dammit, you're getting too big for your britches too fast.
Five by five
That's twenty-five, isn't it?
5 things in my fridge:
5 things in my closet:
5 things in my briefcase:
5 things in my car:
5 people I want to torture with this meme:
(Imported through Rocket Jones.)
Some strange sense of entitlement
Late last year, various cities and towns in Georgia filed suit against eighteen travel-booking sites, claiming that the sites' booking of discounted hotel rooms en masse was cutting into tax revenues. The defendants filed for dismissal; in May, a judge ordered that the suits could proceed.
The argument, as presented by a Savannah TV station:
Let's say you make your reservation directly with the hotel for a hundred dollars. You'll pay a 6 percent hotel/motel tax of $6. The hotel gets the $100 and pays the city $6. If you book your reservation through a travel website, you'll still pay a hundred dollars and a 6 percent hotel/motel tax. But since the website bought the room at a discounted rate, say $60, it only pays the city 6 percent of that, or $3.60.
My first reaction, of course, is "You can get hotel reservations in Savannah for $100?"
The assumption here is that demand is completely inelastic, that if those rooms hadn't been booked at $60, every last one of them would inevitably have been booked at $100. The idea that someone might pass up a hundred-dollar room entirely and stay in some less-expensive lodging or some less-expensive location never quite occurs to them. (When I went to Charleston during World Tour '01, I stayed, not in the high-zoot South Of Broad district, but in decidedly-unhip North Charleston. Didn't affect my ability to see the sights in the slightest.)
Were you to extend this premise logically, eventually retail stores would not be allowed to put items on sale: the lower price inevitably means lower sales tax being remitted.
Allow me to express this in the form of a metalaw:
No one is ever obliged to arrange his affairs to maximize his taxes.
Governments should keep this in mind. Not that they will.
(Suggested by Fark.com.)
It's been a long time
Tamara K. observes:
You know what's the most poignant thing about seeing those Cadillac commercials set to Led Zeppelin's "Rock And Roll"?
Knowing that Cadillac's demographic hasn't changed; it's Zeppelin's that has.
In a related story, each individual rung to the Stairway to Heaven is now available as a time-share.
The Gas Game (June)
For those of you just joining us, Oklahoma Natural Gas pitched a fixed price for 12 months of $8.393 per dekatherm last fall, which I declined on the basis that surely it can't get that high for any length of time. This exhibition shows (sort of) precisely how wrong I was.
After this many months, rounding errors start to creep in, though they should still be well below two cents. And obviously I'm not going to come out even two cents ahead this year.
9 June 2006
Some of that Weston swing
Oh, man, this would have been so great. Bill Crow tells DevraDoWrite:
I'm sorry Paul Weston, a great joker, passed on before he had a chance to do anything with an idea I gave him: having Jonathan and Darlene [Edwards] do an album of minor tunes made more upbeat by changing all the chords and melodies to major. "Moanin'," "Saint Louis Blues," "Alone Together," "Comes Love," and "Gloomy Sunday" all sound much more cheerful when played and sung this way.
And I did not know this at all:
Years ago, when Johnny Mercer first started Capitol Records, Paul did some country and western records for the label featuring a guy he called "Shug Fisher," who stuttered while he sang, adding extra beats of guitar strumming during the stuttered sections of the lyrics, and putting the meter deliriously out of whack.
Most days I get at least some Ann Coulter-related search-engine traffic, mostly due to this and this and this and even this, but it's picked up considerably this week, no doubt due to the arrival of her new book and the inevitable hypefest that accompanied it.
Yesterday was something of a peak. People were asking for her shoe size (I have no idea), her height (Andrea Harris once assured me that Ann's not as tall as I thought), nude photos (got none), and even fake nude photos (got none, and I can't see hauling out Photoshop Elements to do one).
This, too, shall pass; in the meantime, I may as well try to snag a reader or two.
United Nations General Assembly Resolution No. 194, passed near the end of the Arab-Israeli War in 1948, attempted to deal with the situation by establishing a Conciliation Commission and setting forth a list of desiderata.
Speaking of lists, a roster of last week's better bloggage can be seen at Punny Money, which is hosting Carnival of the Vanities #194. Right of return is guaranteed by your browser back button.
A screen as big as all outdoors
Well, okay, not that big, but:
Inflatable home theater screen and your own projector let you create a "drive-in" experience right in your own backyard. Big, weatherproof 8-ft. screen inflates in just 4 minutes with the powered air pump. Connect the two weatherized outdoor amplified speakers with full range sound and you're ready to watch a movie or the big game with your family or friends. Screen secures to the ground for steady viewing. Theater deflates for easy storage. Screen is durable, weatherproof PVC. Two nylon rope screen tie-downs keep it stable. Amplified speakers are weatherized for outdoor use. Theater works with most projectors (not included). 8-ft. l x 7-ft. h.
I see one possible downside. If you think looking for a missing remote in the living room is a pain, imagine the joy of trying to find one in the grass late at night.
And, of course, free ice cream
News item: The federal government should guarantee that all Americans have basic health insurance coverage, says a committee set up by Congress to find out what people want when it comes to health care.
Tam starts in at the subheadline:
"Report doesn't say who would pay for such a plan, or its cost"
Hey, Sparky, why don't you go ask these same 23,000 people if they're in favor of paying an additional $1k/yr in taxes? Think the response will be similarly overwhelming? People are always in favor of free stuff. The headline couldn't be any dumber if it read "Americans in favor of gold houses, rocket cars."
Meanwhile in Hades, polls report steady support for ice water and new pitchfork-control measures.
Come in, John Doe #2
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) will lead a Congressional investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, saying that "we need to answer some very serious questions in order to have confidence that the truth of this monstrous crime is fully known.
The McCurtain Daily Gazette in Idabel, Oklahoma reports that Rohrabacher had asked House International Relations Committee chairman Henry Hyde (R-IL) for authority to conduct the probe, and that he was looking for evidence connecting convicted bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols to Arab terrorists and/or to Andreas Carl Strassmeier, a German national who was head of security at Elohim City in Adair County near the Arkansas border.
An excerpt from Rohrabacher's letter to Hyde:
It is highly likely that the Arab connection and/or the Strassmeir connection played a significant role in the planning and execution of the murderous bombing of the OKC federal building. In both possible scenarios, the official investigation fell short and further investigation has been discouraged ever since.
(The complete Daily Gazette story has been reprinted here.)
I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist by nature, but I do believe in getting to the bottom of things, especially when there's a nagging suspicion that those who wrote the Official Story penciled a false floor into the blueprints.
More at Wild Bill's.
10 June 2006
Once there was a Roadmaster
Now here's a story:
In 1906 automobiles were still in their infancy and an unproven mode of transportation. Early in that year a representative from BUICK MOTOR CARS came to Quincy [Illinois] to find someone to market their automobile, Henry A. Geise Sr. was the person they chose. At the time Henry was already a well known Quincy businessman who operated a sporting goods store that sold hunting and fishing supplies as well as bicycles and motorcycles. Henry agreed to show the new Buick and was soon taking orders. Henry realized he had found a life long business. Later as Henry married and had sons Henry Jr. and Robert he realized the posibility of passing on the business to them. Today the tradition is continuing into the third generation of Geises with the latest Buicks and Pontiacs.
But this is where it ends:
Geise Buick Pontiac at 930 Maine the oldest Buick dealership in the nation is selling its assets to Poage Auto Plaza and will be closing after a century of service.
The dealership has been a downtown Quincy institution since Henry Geise Sr. launched the business in 1906. His sons, Henry Geise Jr. and the late Robert Geise, along with grandson Henry Geise III, continued to keep the Buick dealership going after the elder Geise retired in 1953.
"By the end of the year, Geise Buick will be a thing of the past," said Henry Geise Jr.
Geise, 83, said the time seemed right to bring an end to the family-owned business where he first started working for his father in 1939.
"It's still a profitable business, but it's much more competitive than it used to be," he said. "At my age, I just felt I'd be better off to try to sit back and relax and take it easy."
In 1906, when the Geise dealership was organized, Buick had been selling cars for a total of three years, and founder David Dunbar Buick, inventor of the OHV engine, had already been squeezed out of the company. Tough business, then and now.
A treat for the Census
I sorta hope this catches on:
At the call center ... I am required to ask the following question of a number of candidates who are applying for any of a number of jobs with any of a number of potential employer. Response is voluntary and does not affect the outcome of the application:
Which of the following racial categories best describes you?
One respondent considered for several seconds and then: "I don't know, I'm from Arkansas."
My favorite response to "Race?" is "Mile relay."
All the things you are
It takes more to do drag than just putting on a dress. (Don't even ask.) And while the exact ratio of attitude to cosmetics is debatable, it's always seemed pretty clear to me that if you're going to do this sort of thing, you need a name that will stick in people's minds.
Hence this list:
Disclosure #1: Only some of these are fictitious.
Disclosure #2: In my early online days, one of the nyms I used was "Patty O'Furniture." I claim no credit for its invention.
(Via Steph Mineart.)
The music is reversible
But time is not, and in days gone by, if you wanted to play a record backwards, your options were decidedly limited.
A stereo four-track open-reel recorder used tracks 1 and 3 in the forward direction, and 4 and 2 in reverse, either by way of a complicated autoreverse mechanism or by the lower-tech expedient of switching the reels at the end of the tape. When quadraphonics came along, the four-track machine was adapted to do all four tracks in the same direction; however, two-track stereo tapes were handled the same way as before, which meant that if you were desperately searching for those secret backwards messages, all you had to do was record forward on tracks 2 and 4 and then swap the reels.
Computers, of course, simplified this task immensely, but the purists, even today, spurn digital trickery. For them, there's the Record Reverser [includes 5-minute video clip], a device that clamps your disc above the turntable platter. You can then rebalance your tone arm to exert tracking force upwards instead of downwards; this will only work, of course, if you have a cartridge mount that permits you to reverse the orientation of the cartridge.
Were this picked up from Fark, there would probably be a caption to the effect that "All other problems having been solved...." I'm not quite so snide; I believe everything can be improved. And if you don't believe me, ask Penn Jillette, who patented a hot tub which directs the water jet into the naughty bits of a female user instead of to random areas around the periphery. There may be nothing new under the sun, but there's never any shortage of brightness.
Which way will he go?
More or less this-a-way, sorta counterclockwise, subject, as always, to change without notice.
U Can't Stand This
Just for the heck of it, I decided to sample AOL Radio tonight. (Yes, I have an AOL account. I've had it for seven years. No, I will not tell you why.) One of the channels being offered was a countdown of the 111 Worst Songs Ever, which of course I had to check out.
The very first thing I heard was Terry Jacks' "Seasons in the Sun," which to me has never been more than slightly annoying, but which a lot of people, including some readers of this very site, absolutely abhor.
AOL doesn't give out the entire list, but this guy does, and I have to admit, there's some pretty freaking terrible stuff on there. (And yes, there is a handful of tracks I like.)
11 June 2006
Can you relate to the blues if you're, well, not all that blue? Manitoba's Mutt-Man contemplates the matter:
As much as I like harmonica and electric guitar, I am finding it difficult to really take in the full Blues experience. My problem is ... no problem. How do you relate to the pain and sorrow of a Blues artist when your life is actually pretty good? Should I take up smoking? I have considered causing myself pain while listening, by, say, squeezing the flesh between my thumb and forefinger with pliers, but this seems rather superficial compared to the heartfelt angst of someone like Etta James.
I'm just cynical enough to say "Just you wait, Bunky," but as Darcey explains in a comment:
[T]he key to the blues is that there is always someone else who feels worse than you do, hence you feel better. The blues is about joy over sorrow.
And even the most minor sorrows demand some sort of response, as Martin Mull demonstrated in "Ukulele Blues":
I woke up this morning
Saw both cars were gone
I said I woke up this morning
I saw both cars were gone
I felt so low down deep inside
I threw my drink across the lawn
It's not something you have to be from the Delta to understand.
Bombing outside the Bronx
Former New York Mayor and perennial Yankees fan Rudy Giuliani is seeking to become an owner of the Chicago Cubs.
Possible comparisons, in terms of sheer incongruity:
More to the point: Is the nation ready for a Republican presidential candidate with "baseball club owner" on his CV?
(Via Plum Crazy, where Jon notes, "At least it's not the Boston Red Sox.")
Istook in the mud
When Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) starts his investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, apparently he won't get much support from the city's own Representative.
Said Congressman Ernest Istook:
I'm afraid we have to get used to this. Every few years someone wants to revisit the Kennedy assassination, and every few years someone will want to revisit the Murrah Building bombing. I feel for the families who have to relive tragic memories every time this happens.
"Avert your eyes, and let us never speak of this again." Remember, feelings trump truth.
I'm waiting for someone to pop up a link to the effect that "Istook" is actually an old Sanskrit word for "ostrich."
It's just like tattoo removal
It's been a while since I looked at any television at all, so I'm sure I'm coming late to this: KAUT, channel 43, which is losing its network affiliation this fall when UPN is merged into the CW, has scraped the UPN logo off its local-program bug, though the station is still promoting UPN43.com as its Web site.
Most observers, myself included, had thought that KAUT would pick up the CW; however, Sinclair, which had been snubbing the new network, had a change of heart last month, and agreed to switch its WB affliates to CW.
I don't know if Fox's My Network TV (a name there's still time to change) has come calling yet.
Well, blow me down
Sometimes the suits eventually get it right.
Hearst's King Features Syndicate and Warner Home Video have finally come to terms, and 231 classic Popeye cartoons originally distributed to theaters by Paramount will be available on DVD.
The package also includes some made-for-TV cartoons, but what you care about here are the originals, produced from 1933 to 1942 by the Fleischer Studios and from then until 1957 (using some of the same animators) by Paramount's own Famous Studios.
A few of these shorts notably, three two-reelers done by Fleischer in Technicolor have drifted into the public domain and onto video releases of varying quality, but the vast majority of them have been locked away for ages.
Here's hoping that Warners' restoration job packs a punch, and that the first DVDs, due out next year, are strong to the, um, finich.
12 June 2006
Strange search-engine queries (19)
Once again, we are proud/embarrassed [choose one] to present Actual Search Strings that brought people to this very site, as recorded by this very site's meter.
Yogi Bear You'll have a gay old time Mister Ranger, Sir! (Actually, this line comes from the theme to The Flintstones.)
men scared of smart women: They don't scare me; usually they don't hang around long enough to instill fear.
gonad tattoo shop: I believe I speak for everyone here when I say "Ow!"
Hornets Staying in OKC: David Stern begs to differ.
what percentage of men have a nine inch penis? Are we letting them do their own measuring?
cities with the best female to male ratio: Depends on what you're looking for.
your log saw something that night: Wasn't my log, I assure you.
taco bell allows 2% human flesh in meat: They have meat at Taco Bell?
gingerbread man and marriage: They're sweet, but no good for the long haul.
mary rode joseph's ass all the way to bethlehem: It was one of those pregnancy things. Cut her some slack already.
number of sexual partners in a year: Um, which year?
Teenager nude around the house: Not until he finishes his damn homework.
pictures of Britney Spears in a bikini that isn't showing her privates or blocked by McAfee Privacy Service: Now there's someone who really knows what he wants. Such people should be rewarded, although not with much.
For lo, it beginneth
Oil changed and tires rotated? Check.
Then that's that. The next post will be from Texas or Arkansas, depending on which side of the road the hotel is on.
Update, 6 pm: Well, actually, it wasn't.
Abort, something else here, fail
Coalgate, Oklahoma 114.5 miles
Omen, n. A miraculous sign, a natural disaster, or a disturbance in nature that reveals the will of the gods in the arena of politics or social behavior or predicts a coming change in human history.
6:16 am: In the words of Don Martin, "SPROING KZIT KZIT." As the button scurries across the wooden floor, I shrug. It's just pants, fercrissake. So I carry one fewer pair than I'd planned. It's no big deal.
8:15 am: Out the door.
10:00 am: I did remember to pack my Dopp kit, didn't I?
10:15 am: Well, this is settling into a nice, easy OMGWTF!!?!
Upside: Knocked her all the way to the opposite shoulder, clear of traffic.
You want to know the following: I'm fine.
You do not want to know the following: The price of a 114.5-mile tow.
Now I am going to order a pizza, crank the A/C all the way down to 72, and go quietly to pieces.
Who was it who said "Wait 'til next year?" Besides me, I mean.
And, well, why wouldn't they be?
Time to save some real money
I can definitely get behind this idea:
So far, outsourcing manufacturing and services has led to higher chief executive compensation, at the expense of shareholder profit. For example, IBM's chief executive, Samuel J. Palmisano, who has been moving jobs to India, last year saw his total compensation rise 19 percent to $18.9 million even as the total return for his company's stock fell 16 percent.
That's proof that globalization hasn't gone far enough. China, India and other emerging markets offer shareholders a virtually unlimited talent pool from which to draw chief executives. With an increased supply of candidates, a truly independent corporate compensation committee would be easily able to hire superior leaders at salaries and benefits that are a small fraction of what their American counterparts in those fancy corner offices demand.
And saving money isn't the only upside, either:
Major American corporations have been shifting their factories and labor force to China and India for some time now. It would make sense for the chief executive of an American corporation to come from, and be based in, those areas of the world where the potential for market growth is the greatest. It would be reassuring to have a chief executive who understood the local business practices, the country's cultural underpinnings and the language.
Also, given the importance placed on performing well in science and math in countries like China and India, it would be more likely that an offshored chief executive would have had a rigorous technical education instead of degrees in the "softer" management disciplines that are common at American business schools.
A win-win situation all around. Admittedly, saving $10 million or so on a CEO pay package isn't that huge a deal, given the sheer size of some of these operations, but given the fact that the guy's going to get his contracted salary-plus-benefits even if he runs the place into the ground, it is only prudent to minimize the company's potential expense, and, well, $10 million is $10 million. If they've got a hundred million shares in play, their earnings per share just went up a dime.
This does not mean, of course, that every business should immediately outsource its CEO. There would be no benefit, for instance, from filling the top slot at 42nd and Treadmill from New Delhi; it requires an uncommonly-specific skill set, one which is not easily duplicated at a distance, and one for which no effective curriculum exists.
But the outsourcing of CEOs, I think, might help to address, perhaps even ameliorate slightly the post-Enron perception of corporate executives as common thieves with uncommon expense accounts.
(Via Population Statistic.)
13 June 2006
Although Gerry V would love it
While attempting to follow up on a HoopsHype rumor that Spanish team FC Barcelona might deal for Hornets bench-dweller Arvydas Macijauskas should their Juan Carlos Navarro decamp for the NBA, I turned up an article on an FCB power forward who will never, ever be welcomed Stateside simply because you can't put him on television.
In review, as it were
Random bits from the Day of Wreckoning:
And one pertinent quote from one of the good ol' boys, on the subject of mortality:
If it's not your time, it doesn't matter what you do. And if it is your time, it doesn't matter what you do.
It would appear that it wasn't my time. I once attempted to quantify this:
[T]he number of times you cheat Death equals the number of times you cross his path minus one.
I continue to be one up on that scythe-wielding son of a bitch.
Let not thy left hand know, etc.
A New Jersey auto dealer is planning on revising its building for greater energy efficiency, and one thing they're doing is installing a Building-Integrated Photovoltaic System as part of the dealership's new roof. The Garden State will kick in some of the cost: New Jersey offers some significant tax advantages for solar installations.
And what sort of clean-and-green tools for mobility does this dealership sell? Why, Hummers, of course.
Can you hear me now?
A kid's dream come true: a cell-phone ringtone that grownups can't hear, so you can take that important call in English class without tipping off the teacher.
The argument is persuasive:
While most human communication takes place in a frequency range between 200 and 8,000 hertz (a hertz being the scientific unit of frequency equal to one cycle per second), most adults' ability to hear frequencies higher than that begins to deteriorate in early middle age.
Indeed. Just ask Pete Townshend.
Since the Times was kind enough to provide a sample of the 17-kHz tone (scroll down on the left side of the article, or use this link to the MP3 file), I figured the least I could do, as an old man who has spent most of his life with the headphones cranked up to near-Spinal Tap levels, was to make sure that I wouldn't be hearing this thing next time I hit the mall. With the expectation of finding some small amount of residual hearing in these old ears, I spun the volume knob over to the right ...
... and just as quickly spun it back, my ears ringing.
This demanded an investigation, so I loaded the proffered file into Audacity and got this:
How to explain this? For one thing, my listening post is rather a lot quieter than your average classroom; for another, while the center frequency is indeed around 17 kHz, there is substantial acoustical energy well below 17 kHz, and that's probably what I'm hearing, even though it's 40, even 50 dB below the peak level. (That peak near 25.5 kHz is likely some sort of distortion product.) And at "normal" sound levels, for this purpose defined as "where I normally run my sound card and speakers," it's pretty close to inaudible; running the air conditioner is more than enough to drown it out.
Still: don't they use vibrate anymore?
(Via Tinkerty Tonk.)
"Spane" and "Frantz" were okay, though
There's a World Cup going on, and if you're watching anywhere, you can't help but see the Adidas logo: this is their turf, and has been for years.
Nike wants a piece of that action, and I can't say as I blame them, but this isn't going to help them:
Generally if you're going to make, market, and sell gear for a country it's important that words on the gear are spelled correctly. Especially if the misspelled word is the NAME OF THE COUNTRY. My friend (who speaks Russian) noticed this at the Nike Town in NYC this weekend. Russia, though spelled correctly in the tag, is spelled Ruusia on the clothes.
Expect a corporate decree from Nike to the effect that all sweatshops will in future be equipped with dictionaries.
(Found at Deadspin.)
She's dead, Jim
A moment of Vroom! for Sandy, born September 1999 in Flat Rock, Michigan, released from the nursery in October 2000, and now to be officially put to death in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, June 2006.
Occasionally Friendly Lizards Insurance has informed me that the poor girl is being totaled, and that I can expect a check for about one-fifth the price of a new one, if they were making this model anymore, which they aren't.
From the looks of things, I have about as many choices as Hobson. I hate that.
Update, 3 pm, 14 June: The lizards behave in a non-reptilian manner. I had made up my mind that I would squawk if the amount proffered was more than a grand short of the Kelley Blue Book value as tweaked for my particular vehicle. After scissoring out the deductible, the difference between the two is $176. I hereby pronounce myself Not Pissed Off.
Unless, of course, you're an Odocoileus virginianus, in which case I want nothing to do with you.
14 June 2006
It's that time again
If you liked the 2005 Okie Blog Awards, and I'm sure at least ten of us did, get ready for the 2006 version now with eleven categories!
To be nominated, you have to post at least something on your Oklahoma-based blog in the 60 days before nominations open on the 14th of August, which is why it's being mentioned now.
I, of course, expect to lock up the trophy for Least Improved, once I persuade Mike that we actually ought to have such a thing.
Joad, party of thirteen
Chase McInerney, January '05:
According to the L.A. Times, even Oklahoma's gung-ho love for college football has its roots in the destitute hellhole of the Dust Bowl and its era of toothless, gangly, bug-eyed, backwoods, mattress-strapped to-the-top-of-the-jalopy Okies.
How often do you think a newspaper or magazine story about Dallas, Texas, dredges up the Kennedy assassination? How often do articles about modern-day California delve into the 1906 San Francisco earthquake? When will mainstream media be able to mention Oklahoma without a reflex nod to the Dust Bowl?
Evidently not yet. Chase McInerney, June '06:
Witness this ostensibly benign review in The New York Times Review of Books for a new book about Oklahoma's alt-rock band, the Flaming Lips:
"[Author Jim] DeRogatis, the pop music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and the author of a biography of Lester Bangs, does a nice job rendering the 60's and 70's cultural dust bowl that produced these alt-rock lifers ..."
Huh? Is it possible for The New York Times to get past Oklahoma's dust bowl?
Maybe not. From a Jan. 14, 2004, feature in the Times about Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips:
"Onstage [Coyne] usually dresses in a white suit and an open-collar shirt, looking something like a charismatic New Age guru. More than anything else, though, he and his bandmates come across as Dust Bowl Everymen with Bible Belt work ethics."
Is it possible for any major metropolitan newspaper to write about the Flaming Lips without conjuring up the 70-year-old specter of the dust bowl?
Not gonna happen. I explained why here:
[T]here are surprisingly many grassy-knoll references in East Coast coverage of Dallas, and for pretty much the same reason the Times harps on Steinbeck's version of Oklahoma: they don't know anything else about the damn place. It's convenient shorthand, and it fills up column space, and their local audiences, having heard exactly the same stereotypes all their lives, sit back and nod, "Yes, that's true."
The Lips book by DeRogatis is titled Staring at Sound: The True Story of Oklahoma's Fabulous Flaming Lips: I mumbled something about it back in April.
As a temporary measure, I am sliding around town in a Dodge Stratus SXT in Frigidaire White. Despite the jumble of letters, this is the bottom-feeder of the line, with a nothing-special four-banger driving the front wheels. It's an acceptable grocery-getter, but not the least bit amusing to drive, and while the seats are better than average, their adjustment range doesn't include any position in which I'm comfortable. I am contemplating returning it to the rental yard and asking for something I can actually deal with. Inasmuch as I'm having to pay for it myself, I can't think of any reason why they'd object.
CarMax has one of Sandy's sisters: a 2002 with the V6 instead of the four. While 40 extra horsepower would be nice, the V6 version is also nose-heavier, which might cut into tossability. Besides, they want twelve thousand dollars, which I presume is somewhere between two and three times what I'm getting for the remains of the old one. Four-cylinder models (I am not looking at anything older than '00) run eight grand and up, and up. (No '03s were made.)
This is the first time I've ever actually given serious thought to installing a tip jar.
In the early 1950s, Ferrari replaced its successful 166 roadgoing car with two new models using modified versions of the existing Columbo engine. Fewer than 30 195s were produced. (In accordance with standard Ferrari parlance, "195" refers to the individual cylinder volume in cubic centimeters: 195 x 12 = 2340.) The more powerful 212, introduced at the same time, would hang around longer.
"195" also is the number of weeks since the beginning of the Carnival of the Vanities, and Generic Confusion hosts this week's edition, on time and complete despite horrid hardware issues.
I shot the desktop
But I did not shoot the monitor:
A Midwest City man was arrested after shooting his computer during a dispute with his wife over an Internet password.
William Lawrence Perras, 36, was released after he agreed to turn over his eight firearms and underwent a mental health evaluation, police chief Brandon Clabes said.
Clabes said Perras told police he was tired from working a graveyard shift and wanted to unwind by surfing the Internet, but his wife had changed the password without telling him. When the argument over the password escalated, Perras shot the computer with a .40-caliber handgun, he said.
Me, I'm usually not tempted to shoot a computer unless Windows is acting up, which happens less than, oh, eighty percent of the time.
Colors in the sky
About ten-thirty this morning I remembered: "Geez, I bought a new flag the other day." It took me a minute to find it, and another minute to remember the rest of it: "And I forgot to buy a freaking bracket for it." Fortunately, I am not entirely incapable of improvisation, and the winds fell short of maximum ferocity today, so this expedient worked out better than I had any right to expect. And even a brand-new flag is still a Grand Old Flag, don't you think?
The hippest harpist
I'm thumbing through the new stuff at iTunes, noting with no particular irritation that three-quarters of these names don't mean anything to me, and then no! It can't be!
It can, and it is. Three complete albums by harpist/raconteur/dreamboat Deborah Henson-Conant, and best of all, three albums I don't already have. (I've got four so far.)
To check these against the Official List, I dialed over to her Web site, and found that she's just turned loose a DVD called Invention & Alchemy: A Collection of Musical Short Stories, which I can't possibly pass up.
And, just in time, I discovered she was having a Webcast, live from Times Square, part of a Yahoo! Answers promotion, and you know, anyone who can get Hendrix-like sounds out of a harp simply demands my attention.
It's been 16 years since I snagged her first album, On the Rise (GRP 9578, now out of print); Deborah continues to dazzle. If you're in New York City, you can see her solo show Saturday night at Symphony Space.
15 June 2006
Close encounters of the Dowd kind
Lindsay Beyerstein reports from YearlyKos:
There was a traffic jam in the hall. As I got closer it became clear that a small woman with red hair was locked in a very intense conversation with Matt Stoller from MyDD in the middle of the corridor.
Kombiz from Eduwonk pulled me aside.
"Do you know who that is?" he whispered.
I assumed that the small but vital woman undressing Matt Stoller with her eyes was Arianna Huffington.
"That's Maureen Dowd."
"No way!" I blurted out, "My grandfather has a crush on Maureen Dowd!"
I must have said it louder than I thought, because Dowd instantly severed her laser-like eye contact with Stoller and swiveled at the waist to glare at me.
I mention this mostly to remind people that I am not anywhere near old enough to be Beyerstein's grandpa.
Well, that and to puzzle over the phrase "small but vital."
The kids in the overhaul
Donna makes a decision she characterizes as "impetuous":
I spent $100.00 to have donnaville.com hosted by a new company for the next two years. Instead of an Indian family from Jersey, I am now using surfer dudes in California. Their grasp of English is slightly better. So why the move? I preach to my clients that it is important to have the latest technology yet I was using one of the oldest versions of Movable Type. The version I was using gave me no control over comments or trackbacks and so I was pretty much at the mercy of spammers and trolls.
Which, of course, is a quite-reasonable justification for upgrading MT. (I bit the bullet myself a couple weeks ago, jumping from 2.64 to 3.2.) And while playing Mr. Moderator is not among my favorite things, I can't deny its efficiency: spammage has dropped something like 90 percent from its heights (depths?) in mid-May, and the number of items that got on the site that shouldn't have is hovering right at zero. I suppose I could install TypePad functionality to cut out some of my work, but really, there hasn't been that much of it, and complaints from the field have been conspicuous by their absence. Besides, keeping Schmuckdom Assembled from battering their way into the scripts around here helps to keep the surfer dudes in California who host this site happy.
Gerard Van der Leun, presumably not in his capacity as editor-in-chief for Pajamas Media, is asking bloggers to disclose their preferred sleepwear.
For the most obvious reason, I had to decline. Still, for those who must wear something, this sounds pretty good:
These days what I most like to sleep in are huge men's XXXL cotton t-shirts washed within an inch of their life for premium softness.
If I really thought it would help, I'd go start the washing machine. On the other hand, I'd have to go down a size.
There's a thrill upon the hill
Specifically, at Jaime's Grill on the Hill, between Hudson and Harvey on Commerce Street, an old-school diner adapted to an uptown storefront, home of the 40-calorie coconut cake. (That's just to look at it, mind you. Eating it is a whole 'nother matter entirely.)
Dr. Jan has been trying to lure me to this place for lunch for months now, a situation complicated by the fact that Jaime closes on Saturdays and work doesn't generally permit during the rest of the week and, of course, by my legendary fear of fast-talking blondes in the Ed Biz. Today the pieces fell into place for once: I got to meet some of her henchpersons, polished off a Classic American Burger, and even sampled some of that coconut cake. And I was amused to see one of my theories reenacted in Real Life: if you have a Suthun accent, you can only suppress it for so long.
There are few things in life quite as rewarding as good food and good friends. Lucky is he who gets to combine them both.
Cookies tossed at school
Forsyth County, Georgia is working on a new "wellness" policy for its public schools, and one of the provisions they're considering is banning homemade treats for classroom consumption: you can bring them for yourself, but you're not allowed to share them with classmates.
This will have one salutary effect: no more "Did you bring enough for everyone?"
Take a deep breath
There was a Clean Air Alert today, which, as a term, is risible: "Omigod, we have clean air! Hide the children, quick!"
Actually, I suspect the "Clean Air" tag is related to the Clean Air Act, which mandated this sort of thing. There were seven cities with Action Days today: Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Lawton, Dallas, Houston, Birmingham and Memphis. Tomorrow's list eliminates the more-westerly cities and adds some to the east, as you might expect given the standard west-to-east motion of weather patterns in the Northern Hemipshere. (The list is posted here.) The three pollutants considered important enough to spring into Action are ozone, carbon monoxide and particulate matter; each day in each city monitored an Air Quality Index is issued, along with the most significant pollutant for that day.
This is the third such Alert this year; there was one Monday, and one in May. There were nine last year, though two of them covered more than one day. All these alerts were for ozone; for some time ozone has been the only pollutant within spitting distance of putting Oklahoma metro areas out of compliance with the Clean Air Act. (Currently we're not on the EPA's blacklist.)
There's one other weird aspect of these things: the mandated wording. It is common to run into statements like "The Air Quality Index was 46, with the air quality rated Good. The primary pollutant causing this condition was ozone." This bumps up against the brain every time I hear it, even though I know perfectly well that the EPA doesn't have any higher praise than "Good."
Cabeza del aero
It never takes long, does it? Introducing the Ben Roethlisberger Replica Motorcycle Helmet.
16 June 2006
Thinning the flophouse herd
Greg Banta, lately the go-to guy for anything you need done in MidTown, last seen refurbishing the Plaza Court at the 10th and Walker roundabout, has now turned his attentions a few blocks eastward, buying up the Marion and Cline Hotels along 10th, both of which need considerable freshening to get to the "eyesore" stage.
Banta hasn't announced formal plans for the two buildings yet: the first order of business is to get at the interiors and see what, if anything, is worth keeping from these almost 100-year-old structures. One of the city's ongoing projects calls for turning 10th into a "medical corridor" with St Anthony's at one end and the Oklahoma Health Center at the other, and restoring buildings in between is a high priority with the city, so I expect Banta's efforts will be blessed by the Urban Design Commission without a great deal of fuss.
A tradition in the making
Well, they tried it last year, anyway, and nobody seemed particularly embarrassed, so let it be known that this is the 2nd International Co-Ed Nekkid Blogging Day, and while there are some things I have to do today with actual clothes on (shudder), today's posts will not be among them.
Be grateful I don't have a webcam.
Among the participants: Air Force Wife, miriam's ideas, Scribal Terror, Lies and Statistics, Curses and Chrome, Cream of the Crock, is this blog on?, Sereena X, Tinkerty Tonk, Wind Rider, Cowboy Blob.
Crap for the pure of heart
Now you can get your very own unicorn droppings, just to wave in the face of unbelievers. I assume that they, um, don't stink.
Tears are not an option
They come standard, dammit.
I bade farewell to my faithful traveling companion today, cleaning out what was left of my personal possessions and sending off the paperwork to sign her over to the ghouls of the salvage business.
(Aside: This is not intended as a slur against the nation's auto recyclers, from whom I've bought parts before and will presumably at some point do so again, but there's still some residual grief here. She was only six, fercrissake. Beyond adolescence, surely, but way too young to retire, especially this way.)
(Further aside: If the eventual auction buyer decides to fix her up and put her back on the road, I'd love to hear about it. I promise not to tell your insurance company that you have a salvage title.)
Found in various nooks and crannies, and retrieved:
I was on a very tight onramp today when it dawned on me: you don't know how much you miss a car that can handle these things with aplomb until you start driving one that can't. And maybe it's a bad idea from a purely-psychological standpoint, but it was at that moment that I decided that I did not want to go test drive everything I could possibly afford: I want a known quantity, a car I can drive without having to relearn the fine points, reestablish the rapport, redevelop the finesse, all over again.
So my beloved Sandy will be replaced, in my garage if not necessarily my heart, with one of her sisters: I'm looking for another 626, not the same color if at all possible, model years 2000 through 2002. This was not a popular car sales dropped in each of these three years so there are damned few to choose from in town. (And by "damned few" I mean one, plus one I found in Duncan.)
Accordingly, I addressed myself to CarMax, which had one yesterday but doesn't today, and if none arrives over the weekend, I will have them truck one in from another location. (I've already spotted a likely prospect, in Nashville.)
I hasten to add that I'm not looking for a girlfriend who resembles my ex-wife; that's a totally different dynamic.
Back on the 5th, I took a shot of a sweetgum tree in the making, rising Flagstaff-like (it's hardly big enough for Phoenix yet) from the pile of sawdust that remained of its felled predecessor. I am ordinarily fairly stingy with the water around here trying to support two elm trees costs just about as much as cooling off a volcano but I gave this little sub-sapling about three quarts' worth over the last ten days for the purpose of experimentation, and by George (not Washington, he's a cherry-tree kind of guy), it's showing some serious growth: it's now a foot tall. (Ridiculously large 350k photo is behind the thumbnail.) I have to wonder, of course, given its position at the Surlywood Wind Vortex, if it will survive the thunderstorms promised for the next 24 to 36 hours, but most of the plants around here are simply too mean to die, or something; I've done my damnedest to kill off a few of the shrubs around the periphery, yet they keep on shrubbing, or whatever it is they do, and at some point I'll probably shrug and give in. Nature, they say, bats last. (And if you've ever seen her bat cleanup, you'd be happy to have her ninth in the order.)
17 June 2006
A ride from the past
There haven't been that many, considering how old I am; then again, I started fairly late never owned a car until I got off active duty and I tend to keep them for a long, long time.
But I should acknowledge Dymphna, a 1975 Toyota Celica GT in Hi, Officer Red, which somehow I managed to keep running until the middle 1990s.
I got married in 1978. At the time, I was driving Susannah, a 1966 Chevrolet Nova two-door sedan with the 230-cubic-inch straight six, an upgrade of sorts from the base 194. Horsepower was 140 gross, probably around 115 net; despite the slugabed two-speed Powerglide automatic, Susannah was fairly quick, and might actually have handled better had there been less of a disparity between front wheels and back, not to mention the fact that the goal at the time was to buy the cheapest tires possible.
My wife did not like this car, and eventually refused to get in it; I gave it to my younger sister, who gave it a proper destruction on her own schedule. Perhaps as a sop to my sentimentality, my lovely bride consented to buying another Nova: a '76, with an actual small-block V8 (the 305). This was my first experience with unleaded gas, and I wasn't impressed, but the family was starting to grow, and the car she had had wasn't really suitable for Mom's Taxi duty, so it devolved upon me.
What she had been driving, of course, was that Celica. It had a considerable set of virtues: a bulletproof SOHC four; a slick five-speed stick, which I eventually learned how to operate well, as opposed to merely well enough to avoid damage; air conditioning that worked at least some of the time; an actual factory FM radio; and real live gauges of the sort Chevy couldn't be bothered to put on its non-sporting models. Despite its Japanese underpinnings, it was not particularly fuel-efficient; she was hard-pressed to wring more than 16 mpg out of it. (EPA numbers were something like 18/23.) I did somewhat better, which annoyed her greatly, since she was careful to upshift around 3000 rpm and minimize the time spent in the lower gears; I, of course, did not. The record for this car was 29 mpg, which was recorded on Interstate 35 in Kansas with a curio cabinet lashed to the roof; I can only conclude that the aerodynamics of this car were so awful that carrying around furniture actually improved them. (I recounted a story of the two of us on a drive here; I ask you kindly not to inquire as to what road this was.)
Over time, I grew to think of Dymphna (she got the name some time around 1983) as damned near indestructible; the Petroleum Tanker Incident in '85 iced the car's rep for the next decade. The Celica was small to begin with, and the truck making the left turn didn't see me just beyond the corner: it was perfectly obvious that I was going to be crushed to death and subsequenly vaporized in a gigantic fireball. Not wanting to miss this for anything in the world I was not a happy camper in those days I floored it.
And bounced off the tire carrier, hanging below the belly of the beast, winding up about three feet from where I'd started. One headlight was crushed, its bezel bent, and the hood angled upward as though it were giving one of Mr. Spock's patented eyebrow raises, but not only was the car still drivable, that bent hood still opened more or less properly. Total damage was $489, for which the transport company cut me a check. I repaired the lights and drove on. Theologians should note that my period of Serious Agnosticism ended at this time.
In 1988, feeling that I'd played out my last hand in Oklahoma the divorce was final in late '87 I drove to Los Angeles, where the first order of business was to register with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Here I discovered the wondrous world of smog checks. As a '75, Dymphna needed only to meet the California 1975 standards; unfortunately, Toyota didn't fit catalysts to this model in 1975 except in California, meaning I had to meet standards established for cats without actual cats. I reasoned that surely I wasn't the only person who had faced this situation before, and a gearhead at an Exxon station in Redondo Beach futzed around with the carb and the timing for about half an hour before presenting me with an actual smog certificate. She'd passed, barely; more surprising, she didn't drive much worse than before. (Keep in mind that this was now a 13-year-old car.)
The California experiment didn't last all that long, and I returned to Oklahoma, my savings depleted and my sense of well-being back down to zero. But I still had Dymphna, even though she was nickel-and-diming me to death. It got to the quarter level in 1995, when I was leaving a supermarket parking lot and discovered I could no longer turn right. (The old recirculating-ball steering wouldn't quite recirculate all the way.) I sold her for $100 to someone who thought he could do something with her; it turned out that indeed he could. I gave her up at 195,000 miles, and I am told that she cleared 200,000 before being clobbered in a hit-and-run on the southside.
I wandered in the automotive wilderness for the next couple of years before discovering that what I really should have been driving was the Mazda 626. But that's another story entirely.
A three-finger salute
Bill Gates knows when to leave, says Jeff Jarvis:
Gates was merely the best businessman ever born. He was ruthless. But capitalism is ruthless. It is a system. And it is that system not his operating systems that made Gates so damned big. Gates was not an inventor and innovator and I'll argue that his prognosticating books aside he was no visionary. He was an exploiter. His first product was another version of the Basic programming language. His master stroke was taking the essence of a now-forgotten operating system called CP/M and turning it into MS-DOS, the neurology of the personal-computer revolution. He took the tool that truly created the technology age, VisiCalc the spreadsheet that let business people ask "what if?", which is what put computers on every office desk in the world and turned it into Excel, part of his Office suite that also included Word, which itself was really just an adaptation of WordStar. He took the art of the Apple Lisa and Mac and turned it into the clumsy painting-on-velvet, Windows. Gates took others' innovations and turned them into products and profits. Every great invention needs a business genius to bring it to market. For software, that was Gates.
But then came the internet, the great invention that by its very open essence defies productization. In spite of government fears in the U.S. and the EU and try as he might Gates couldn't take it over and exploit it. This was not his only failure. Gates tried to become a media mogul in a local listings service, in a news magazine, in a TV network, and in a web portal but that eluded him. In an era when everyone can now master media, Gates could not. So perhaps this is indeed the end of the Gates era. And if anyone is smart and ruthless enough to know that, it's probably Gates.
While going through the stacks last night, I found a manual for MS-DOS 3.3 (1987). I'm pretty sure that it doesn't qualify as any sort of cultural artifact, but it does, I think, add to Gates' rep as Perennial Looming Presence. Still, it wasn't a presence that awed anyone: by now everybody knows the joke about how if Microsoft built cars, they would run only on MS-GAS, and they would crash twice a day for no apparent reason.
Today, old business models are crumbling into dust. If Bill Gates is getting out when the getting is good, he's maintaining his edge; there are plenty of the walking dead (the phone company, the music industry, and Old Media generally) whose transition and/or exit strategies haven't even been imagined yet.
Update, 7 pm, 18 June: Jon Swift explains why this is no big deal:
Although Bill Gates announced that he would be retiring in two years, there are sure to be delays in the transition schedule and the date of his retirement will probably be postponed many times. In fact, it may never happen at all.
It is also possible that Gates may be retired prematurely before all the bugs are worked out. Microsoft may decide to go through a retirement beta testing phase to work out these bugs. Even when Gates does officially retire, there may still be problems, so he may be forced to announce his Retirement 2.0, although you can be sure new problems will then crop up, some of which, but not all, will be fixed in the Second Edition of Retirement 2.0, followed by some patches.
Another Genuine Advantage from Redmond.
Keep yer stinkin' plastic
Because, you know, the landfills were just dying for more paper: in the first quarter of 2006, Americans found 1.7 billion credit-card solicitations in their mailboxes, up from 1.4 billion in the first quarter of 2005.
It's not hard to see why, either: the response rate is falling, from 1.2 percent eight years ago to 0.2 percent today. Out of every 500 "You're pre-selected!" pitches, 499 wind up in the trash.
You can, of course, ask to be left off the list, and it might even work.
Tall guy at the far end of the table
"Call me Dad," says Chuck Cohen to his progeny:
One reason I liked being a Dad is that Dad definitely sounds as if the person referred to is younger than the age on his driver's license. Someone who is called "Father" by his children belongs in a Victorian novel. He wears a coat and tie to the dinner table, "harrumphs" a lot, looks disparagingly upon all attempts at levity, and refers to his wife as "Mother." He belongs in a stiffly posed portrait hung above a mantle.
I harrumph a lot, but getting me into a coat and tie usually requires a funeral. And I'm all in favor of that level of informality that stops just short of "breezy."
Still, there are times when "Dad" doesn't seem to fit:
"Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your dad."
"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my dad. Prepare to die."
But if they ever come out with a pain reliever specifically for men women have Midol and Pamprin and such I hope they have the temerity to call it "Dadvil."
No, let's go this way
As previously reported, the city is changing some one-way streets downtown back to two-way. City Council next Tuesday is expected to approve the first batch of proposed changes, which include:
Note that 5th east of the Memorial will not be affected. No completion date has been set; however, funding ($1.4 million) is in place.
Ride the mild surf
The Zeitgeist and I grow ever farther apart; I actually had to go look up what "wakeboarding" is.
That said, we're getting some of it next month: it's the First Annual (okay, a trifle presumptuous, but let's be optimistic here) Oklahoma River Wakeboard Series, starting 7 July on The River Formerly Known as the North Canadian.
For some reason, "New York's a Lonely Town" comes to mind:
My folks moved to New York from California
I should have listened when my buddy said "I warn ya" (warn ya)
"There'll be no surfin' there and no one even cares"
(My woody's outside) covered with snow
(Nowhere to go now)
New York's a lonely town
When you're the only surfer boy around
And now there's quasi-semi-surfing in Oklahoma. If this upsurge of kewlitude persists, it's going to be that much harder to pull off "But there's nothing to do!"
Look! Up in the sky!
Not much argument here:
If somebody gave you $200 million to make a movie that could reach the most people you could who would it be about? The answer is either going to be Superman or Jesus.
So says James Marsden, who plays Richard White, nephew of Perry, in Superman Returns.
Of course, it's easy to tell the two apart. Details after the jump.
Advice to the new blogger
Courtesy of the inimitable Greg Gutfeld:
The best thing would be to change your name to Ira Blogger. Because then people will write about how cool it is that there's a blogger whose name is Blogger!
The same thing happened with Charles Manson. He got all that press because he killed those people but his name was also, you know, Manson which is a serial killer's name! Coincidences like that make the front pages.
This is right up there with Lou Gehrig dying of Lou Gehrig's disease. I mean, what are the chances of that?
18 June 2006
Quote of the week
From Andrea Harris:
Most writers, it is true, are crazy as cats in paper bags, but the really good ones don't write exclusively about the inside of the bag.
I claim no particular experience with cats, but hey, who refolded the top? I was enjoying the light. Sheesh.
Still lotsa blue around here
Mike in Little Axe turns up a Tulsa World map of the state's Senate districts color-coded by voter-registration totals. (Actual voter performance and turnout, of course, cannot be predicted; the straight-party ballot, while still allowed under state law, is pretty much ignored.)
There aren't any real surprises here, unless you thought that maybe they could do the whole map in red, in which case you were quite wrong.
(Disclosure: I live in District 40, which was close to evenly balanced in recent years, and which the World now reports as "Republican plurality." Through most of the 1990s I lived in District 48.)
Basically, it's a wash
The Sunday paper came with a packet of what looked like fruit juice but turned out to be laundry detergent, a new series from Gain called "Joyful Expressions." This variant was called "Apple Mango Tango", and when I slit the side of the envelope and poured it into the washer, I got the distinct impression that I was upending a jar of applesauce on top of my shirts.
If applesauce came in a shiny green tint, that is.
Now I am normally not particularly finicky about detergent my rule has generally been to buy whatever product is priced the lowest that doesn't look like it was packaged in Burma but I have to admit, this is way more fragrance than one gets in, say, Surf Mountain Breeze. (Surf, incidentally, seems to have been subsumed by All of late.) Still, as artificial scents go, this is a good one, and Procter & Gamble might do well to hire out its trompe le nez staff to food processors.
I feel like letting go
When I was younger, still had some hair, many years ago,
Every month it seemed like there would be another record, really great,
Venus and Mars are alright tonight, but nobody cares;
(Based on a theme)
Toyota plays hardball
Toyota passed Ford a couple of years ago and is now the world's second-largest automaker. Who, then, do they see as the biggest potential obstacle to world conquest? Number One General Motors? Not even close.
No automaker in recent years has engineered a bigger turnaround than Hyundai, which landed Stateside in the 1980s as a purveyor of cheap Korean crap and now owns the low end of the American market, providing quality vehicles for ten percent less than the competition. In 1998, Hyundai sold about 90,000 cars in the US; last year, they moved 455,000, not counting sales by corporate cousin Kia (about 275,000), and hope to reach a million by 2010.
To do this, though, Hyundai had to banish forever that cheap-Korean-crap stigma, and one of the ways they did it was to upgrade their supplier base in fact, they're now buying some parts from suppliers who also make parts for Toyota. Toyota is not pleased with this development:
"It's like fattening a rival company at Toyota's own development expenses," says [a] Toyota official. Some Toyota executives said, "We may have to pressure (the parts makers) not to do business with Hyundai. It may sound extremely drastic, but we may have to think of raising the stockholdings of our affiliates to make them do as we tell them."
Toyota hasn't always been this possessive:
Honda does not have its own affiliated parts makers and procures necessary parts mainly from Toyota-affiliated makers. Such Toyota-affiliated parts makers as Denso and Aisin Seiki Co., Ltd. have been supplying parts to Honda and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. As a result, production costs for the parts went down, consequently making it possible for Toyota to buy parts at lower prices. There was an indication that Toyota was encouraging its affiliated parts makers to sell their products to other automakers also. "There was ... a time when we were told to sell as much parts as possible to other carmakers, except for Nissan," one of the Toyota-affiliated companies said.
And now, apparently, except for Hyundai.
The great wheel hunt
The old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times," isn't a curse and isn't Chinese, and probably isn't that old either, so I recommend you replace it with the threat of something more specifically horrible, like "May you go shopping for used cars."
I mentioned earlier that I would like to get another 626 from the same general time period, 2000 through 2002, but inasmuch as this was not a particularly popular car, there aren't a lot of them around, and the ones around town are dubious at best. (CARFAX is your friend; I fed them the VINs for three local cars, and each and every one of them had some derogatory information: one of them had actually been wrecked and rebuilt.)
The pickings are somewhat better at CarMax, but they move stuff quickly, and I suspect I may have problems meeting my self-imposed deadline of Tuesday afternoon. The following alternate models are under consideration if all else fails, assuming they can be had for my desired ceiling price or below:
Of those five, I think I'd prefer the Acura. Oddly, Honda Accords of the same vintage don't seem to be appreciably less expensive, even the four-cylinder models.
Curious CarMax fact: Sales personnel receive a fixed commission on each sale regardless of the dollar amount except in California, where apparently this sort of forced egalitarianism is illegal. (California is also the place where your 60,000-mile timing-belt replacement occurs at 105,000 miles, because the Assembly hath so decreed.)
Addendum, 8 pm: I found the VIN for Molly, my previous 626, traded away in 2000, and on an impulse, fed it to CARFAX. Last item:
Accident Reported in Cowley County [KS]
Vehicle involved in crash with an animal
Now I'm thoroughly spooked.
19 June 2006
Strange search-engine queries (20)
Just like it says: these were search-engine queries that came to this site, and I thought they were strange.
Body Modifications Within Housepets: A terrier makes a lovely fish.
1 minute video of blowjobs: Anything worth doing is worth doing for longer than sixty seconds. I think.
"i was handed a" vegan: Egad, PETA's figured out how to make a debigulator.
does anyone pay an average natural gas bill in oklahoma: In fact, almost half of us pay more.
illegal aliens shovel child mailboxes: Probably postage-due, too.
correlation "frequency of sex" IQ couples: I have no data on this, and no reasonable expectation of acquiring any.
Bomont, texas does it exist: Sure it does. It's just east of Heweston.
john mellencamp and his cholesterol and high blood pressure: Man, it's a veritable cherry bomb.
any advisable medicine that will enhance the brain especially for college students during exams, test or quiz and that is available in any drugstore: Dr Pepper worked for me.
nude septuagenarian women: Sophia Loren is still hot, but she's not gonna strip for the likes of you.
ann coulter has a nice rack: Since when?
ann coulter topless: See above.
sensible putty: You'd think the people would have had enough of Silly Putty.
eye of newt placebo: Now there's a clinical trial I'd like to see.
Watching the meter
Jay's been checking the numbers:
I want to host a domain for my nephew, and I was comparing space available under elhide versus AV. Elhide has this odd problem where it thinks it is out of disk space. I upload large zip files of pictures, 50 mb or so each, four at a time. Deb's father downloads them. I delete them. Rinse, repeat. Last time I deleted them, they didn't release the space, but they are gone. So that account is technically fine, if I have HM support do whatever they have to do to make the disk space counter tally properly, but I also have other stuff going on there that maybe makes me not want to host an extra domain.
So I checked AV and it's so-so on disk space, but instead of almost no bandwidth, we're already at 60% for this month, which puts us on target to almost exactly use the whole deal. But ... I see that in may we used 27.6 GB out of our 23 GB available! See, there's a great thing about Hosting Matters. Another hosting company might have been all over us, looking to collect the extra charge.
The sad thing is that the next plan up includes 28 GB, which would have just covered that. We may have to switch.
We tip our hat to HM, who are generally considered to be among the goodest of the Good Guys.
I run two blogs off this account and park a third domain here: so far this month (my months begin on the 29th) I have managed to burn through 6 GB, which should work out to right at 9 GB for the month. Current disk usage is 210 MB.
What I'm allowed before they crank up the cash register: 51520 MB (50.3 GB) of disk: 1618 GB (1.58 TB) of bandwidth.
Site Meter reports 5970 visitors a week (853 per day) at this domain; I do not run Site Meter at the other blog.
Six cylinders, no waiting
Traveling Companion Data Sheet
The 99-cent solution
"Weird Al" Yankovic has an Ask Al page, and this question came up:
Al, which of these purchasing methods should I use in order to make sure the most profit gets to you: Buying one of your albums on CD, or buying one of your albums on iTunes?
I am extremely grateful for your support, no matter which format you choose to legally obtain my music in, so you should do whatever makes the most sense for you personally. But since you ASKED ... I actually do get significantly more money from CD sales, as opposed to downloads. This is the one thing about my renegotiated record contract that never made much sense to me. It costs the label NOTHING for somebody to download an album (no manufacturing costs, shipping, or really any overhead of any kind) and yet the artist (me) winds up making less from it. Go figure.
Grant Robinson of the Digital Music Weblog decided to go figure:
According to DownhillBattle, Apple pays the labels $0.65 (some say it's as high as $0.80) of the $0.99 paid for your song.
So, for an album with the average 12 songs, like your current release "Poodle Hat" which has exactly 12, Apple takes in $11.88. Apple sends the label $7.80. That's $4.08 cents for the boys in Cupertino. And, it might be a pretty reasonable split if you then received the whole $7.80.
Not even close:
According to widely circulated data from the coverage of the Allman Brothers' suit against Sony BMG, you could expect something like $45 of each thousand songs sold to be paid to you in royalties. That's around 4% of the amount paid to Apple for your work, and around 5.7% of what was paid to the label. For the Allmans, that works out to $24,000 when taking Nielsen SoundScan data of 538,000 Allmans songs sold as downloads since mid-2002.
A couple of points here:
That said, I think it's time for Al and other aggrieved artists to re-renegotiate.
(And I buy more stuff from CDBaby than from iTunes and amazon.com combined. As the man said, go figure.)
20 June 2006
After 53 miles
Test drives can tell you some things, but not everything, so some of yesterday evening was devoted to putting Gwendolyn through her paces.
Objectively, this car isn't screamingly fast sub-nine-second 0-to-60 runs aren't all that remarkable but when you're used to the eleven-second range at best, somewhere in the middle eights seems amazing. I will have to relearn my usual tip-into-the-throttle technique. Also, with this many ponies, there's a theoretical risk of torque steer, though I was unable to produce more than a perfunctory tug at the wheel.
Nissan was maligned for sticking a beam axle at the back of this thing instead of a proper independent rear suspension, but it took some seriously bumpy curves to make it lose its composure, and then only for the slightest of moments. Still, the 626, with irs, is slightly better, though the suspension tuning (after '99, anyway) is way stiffer than Infiniti's and a lot of bumps that would get your attention in a 626 are smothered in an I30.
In terms of transient response, they seem about equal, though the tires are at least as much a factor as the cars themselves: Gwendolyn runs on BFGoodrich Touring T/As; Sandy wore Dunlop SP A2 Sport Pluses. I am thinking of switching to the Dunlops when the BFGs wear out, which should take a while since they still have rather a lot of tread left. Gwen takes a 215/55R16, which unfortunately costs about 20 percent more than Sandy's 205/60R15.
This was my first experience with Nissan's RE4F04B transmission. It's slicker, and reputedly less unreliable, than any automatic Mazda put in a 626, but its wisdom is just as questionable; certain combinations of throttle position and engine speed will give it a brief case of WTF? The 626, by general agreement, was far happier with a stick anyway; Infiniti didn't offer one for this model year.
Potential difficulties: the aforementioned Right Now throttle response; tach and speedo are reversed compared to the 626; I still think Bose audio is overrated; speedo reads to an implausible 160 mph. (Top speed is around 130, which is all you'd want to do on H-rated tires anyway; I have yet to hit 80.)
Still, this is not a heck of a lot to complain about, and the car is almost deathly quiet inside; I panicked for a moment after filling the tank, thinking it had failed to start. It hadn't. This will never happen in a 626.
What can Brown do for you?
I thought I'd already covered this, so to speak, but it is an unfortunate fact of life that not everyone is in a position to benefit from my misexperience, as witness the following:
As the season of high grass and even higher pollen counts is upon us I thought this an opportune time to pass along a useful yard care tip: NEVER use a weed whacker in the nude.
You may wonder how I came by this insight. The Lady of the House had re-reminded me (not too gently) that something around our shack was going to get a whack and it was going to be either domestic tranquility or weeds. Well, it was a pretty hot day and I figured whacking weeds would also lead to washing dirty, sweaty clothes. Unless, and here a little light went on in my head, unless I wasn't wearing any clothes! Why not? We're on a steep hill with big trees. No one can see into our back yard. So I put on my black Converse high-tops, took off everything else, and fired up the noisiest contraption west of Cape Canaveral.
This in itself isn't necessarily troublesome. But then:
I suppose that elsewhere there are UPS deliverymen, but none, as far as I can tell, have been assigned our address. No, we have delivery persons. As everyone knows, person is a non-gender specific term meaning female.
I was swinging to my right to cut a swath when I saw her standing there with a package in her hands and a grin on her face. This took my attention off what I was doing, which is never a good idea with power tools.
The thing came after me faster than you can say things you ought not say. Who would have thought a little nylon string could hurt so much? The next instant I was hopping around like crazy trying to grab my mutilated left leg and regain control of the weed whacker at the same time. Tears were rolling down both our faces, but for entirely different reasons.
To give the guy credit, at least he wore some semi-substantial shoes. I still have scars from a non-powered incident, involving sport sandals and some clumsy handling of an ordinary garden rake.
And, well, you have to figure that UPS has seen everything by now.
John Hinderaker, this morning:
I've considered the suggestion that the Democrats will re-nominate either John Kerry or Al Gore somewhat ludicrous. It seems clear to me that the Democrats have seen all they want to of Kerry, and, while most Democrats have nothing against Gore, he had his chance in 2000 and has been mostly invisible since then.
"Mostly invisible"? Gore's PowerPoint-on-film An Inconvenient Truth added 282 screens over the weekend and has now grossed about $7 million, right up there with Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties. The Blogger Formerly Known As Hindrocket is evidently not paying attention.
Brick by brick
What do you do with 350,000 bricks?
Boral Bricks' newest plant is in Union City, and when its test production run proved to be up to industry standards, Boral first thought about selling the bricks at a discount.
But no, you can't buy them: instead, Boral is donating the entire run to Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity, enough to build 54 houses. Says Habitat's Ann Felton:
We are truly blessed to get this because brick is very expensive. We really try to blend into the neighborhoods we build in and a lot of the areas we're building in right now require brick.
The gift from Boral is worth an estimated $103,000, including storage and subsequent delivery to the build sites.
So I'm dropping back into my armchair here, and off goes one of those damn car alarms that everybody hates and no one pays attention to anymore. No funky Atari noises, though: this is straight classical car horn, staccato.
And eventually it dawns on me where this racket is coming from: my freaking garage.
There's a red button on Gwendolyn's key fob that says PANIC, and, says the manual, if you lean on it for more than half a second, the car whoops and hollers and flashes its lights and generally behaves in a frightening and/or embarrassing manner. I got outside with the key and silenced the poor girl, but I felt like a total idiot.
This is not, incidentally, the key fob that we used for the test drive; that one was a different color and had three buttons instead of four. I had used it yesterday, and noticed that while it worked the doors correctly, it didn't pop the trunk lid. Fine, I thought, it just needs to be reprogrammed. With this thought in mind, I retrieved the official Infiniti fob, the one with the red button, and attempted to establish a learning mode. It did not work. The third button on this nonstandard remote had an unrecognizable symbol; thinking that maybe it was required to acknowledge the learning signal, I promptly pushed it.
And Gwendolyn started with a flash of her lights and the usual Vroom.
Being no fan of carbon monoxide, I sprang to open the garage door, then inserted the key to shut her off. No luck; I had to hit that mystery button once more.
I have since identified the odd fob as a product of Avital, though they make dozens of these critters and I couldn't tell you which one this is without downloading all their PDFs, not all of which have actual photos, and it's probably not a current model anyway.
I called the one Infiniti dealer in town. "Can the Panic function be disabled, either internally or by reprogramming the fob?" It can't, at least on an I30; there are ways to do it on some later models, and anyway, whoever heard of someone hitting the Panic button accidentally?
So add this to the learning curve: don't schlep the car keys around the house. If nothing else, it's a good argument for not wearing pants. (We'll discuss seat heaters some other time.)
Next: the Road Runner Fund
Sometimes there really isn't much else to say:
Movie giant Warner Brothers is joining the campaign to safeguard Tasmania's most famous mascot the Tasmanian devil.
The endangered species currently under threat from a facial tumour disease has attracted the interest of studio bosses who own the rights to cartoon spin-off TAZ.
After lengthy talks with the Tasmanian Government, the film firm has promised to look into substantial funding for the declining creatures.
More on the disease here (some photos may be unsettling).
21 June 2006
The best years have come and gone
This observation from Alan Sullivan took me by surprise:
Four years ago there was much excitement over weblogs. Now the fever has broken, the bubble has deflated pick your metaphor. Blogs are familiar, routine, even (horrors!) dull. A few blogs have become new media outlets with large, growing audiences. The rest have stagnated, according to various articles and commentators.
I never had this problem; this place has been stagnant for a lot more than a measly four years.
Not that anyone is going away, necessarily:
A decade or two from now, the Y2K period will be recalled as the golden era of blogging, as the Sixties were a golden era of rock. LGF and Kos will still be seething, like the Stones on perpetual tour. Kids will be imitating the classics, forming garage blogs, and occasionally hitting the big time themselves. But their work will be comfortable and derivative, though they will pretend otherwise.
Which, of course, invites the question: If LGF and Kos are the Stones, where do the rest of us fit into the jukebox? I have no problem with Kottke as Dylan, Glenn Reynolds as Neil Diamond, and Power Line as Grand Funk, but I really don't see a slot for myself in the grand scheme, inasmuch as it would require both incredible longevity and minor notoriety at best. Perhaps the archetype here is the late John Fred Gourrier, who started making records in the Fifties, got one humongous hit, and then dropped below the national radar for the rest of his life.
But then I'd have to have one humongous hit, wouldn't I?
Summer's here and the time is right
For dancing in the street? Sure, if you're so inclined.
We tend to think of Summer as starting right around Memorial Day, but the actual solstice is this morning.
On the wall there are bottles of beer
Some poor soul Googled his way into this place in search of "Henry the eighth I am" verse sixty-eight.
Second verse, of course, is same as the first, and the third turns out to be identical to the the second so I conclude that the 68th verse is likewise unchanged, except for the inevitable effects of vocal fatigue.
Still, I can't imagine anyone singing sixty-eight verses of this; it's got to be one of those rhetorical questions for which you don't really want an answer, like "If M&M's melt in your mouth but not in your hand, what do they do under your arm?"
SQ 729 shot down
The State Supreme Court, which of late has been sympathetic to the plight of landholders in eminent-domain cases, yesterday struck down an initiative petition to restrict the application of eminent domain and to provide for compensation for property holders losing value as a result of zoning decisions, not because the Court has necessarily had a change of heart, but because the petition appeared to deal with two separate matters, which the State forbids.
Opponents of the measure, including the State Chamber, were happy to point this out to the Court.
How about those 'Hawks?
I'm almost afraid to bring this up, lest I jinx the team at the beginning of a homestand, but geez, the RedHawks have practically redeemed themselves.
After going 11-22 under the suspended, then sacked, Tim Ireland, the Beaked Wonders under Mike Boulanger have gone on a 24-13 tear. Yeah, they're still in last place, but they're back up to .500 now, and they trail the first-place Round Rock Express by a mere 7½ games, the narrowest first-to-last gap in the PCL.
So the next nine games may be even more important than they look: five against the New Orleans Zephyrs, who have a one-game edge over the 'Hawks, and then four against the aforementioned Express. The Zephyrs have lost their last four; unfortunately, the Express have won their last seven.
22 June 2006
Take a number. (Please.) Reverse its digits and add the two together. Take the sum, reverse its digits, and add the two together. Lather, rinse, repeat. Eventually you will reach a numeric palindrome, where the digits read the same forwards and backwards. (For instance, 57 becomes palindromic after two iterations: 57 + 75 = 132, 132 + 231 = 363.)
Or, on rare occasions, you won't. Numbers that don't do this are called Lychrel numbers, and the lowest one known is 196.
Not at all low in any sense is the 196th edition of Carnival of the Vanities, hosted by Rethink(IP), and to their credit, they didn't attempt to rethink the formula at all.
I've run out of ideas before, but never quite like this: "A Fashionable Life," a regular department in Harper's Bazaar, this month explores the undoubtedly busy but inevitably fascinating life of Veronica Hearst.
If your eyeballs stopped on "Hearst," they should have; Veronica is otherwise known as Mrs. Randolph A. Hearst, the third wife of William Randolph Hearst's last surviving son. (The first Mrs. Hearst was Patty's mom.) The Hearst corporation, of course, will outlive them all; by no particular coincidence, it has owned Harper's Bazaar for nearly 100 years. (The magazine dates back to 1867; it was at one time a corporate sister to Harper's New Monthly Magazine, founded in 1850 and still in existence with a shorter name.)
Still, if you're looking for socialites, you can do worse than Mrs. Hearst. This paragraph gets me somehow:
Ascending a staircase, you find Veronica Hearst on the landing, wearing one of her simple haute-couture columns by John Galliano for Dior. A statuesque, dark-haired beauty, she has been asked to pose for a photograph in front of a 1982 portrait by Andy Warhol. "This is so unfair," she says with alarm, "to be standing in front of a picture from almost 25 years ago!" Warhol's work is remarkably stylized, and though nearly a quarter of a century has passed, one thing is crystal clear: Hearst looks exactly the same. Even her old friend Karl Lagerfeld agrees: "She's very beautiful she's always been very beautiful, and above all, she never changes."
That's a lot of time not to change. She was about 20 years younger than Randolph Hearst when they were wed in 1987 he died in 2000 at eighty-five so she's got to be pushing, or just breezing past, seventy. And given kindly treatment by a careful photographer, she does look pretty good. (A more candid shot might be less flattering.) Also featured is Veronica's daughter (from her first marriage) Fabiola Beracasa, who doesn't seem to resemble her much physically, but who has the same general taste in couture.
Still, I keep coming back to that shot with the Warhol portrait. (It presumably will be at the magazine's Web site eventually.) And I keep coming back for the same reason: I keep imagining Donna in that dress.
Covering your baseness
Advice from the Universal Donor:
Don't write anything that reveals how small-minded, ignorant or bigoted you are it will come back and bite you on the ass if you ever pursue a career in politics. You have two options for your racist diatribes:
Here's the chart. Take a first name from Column A and a last name from Column B:
Leather-lined money pits
I was looking for something else at the time and happened upon this; it seems just as pertinent. From the summer of '03, Doc Searls warns against hyperexpensive automotive options:
The Active Suspension was a brilliant innovation. Developed for Formula One racecars, it suspends the car on four electronically controlled "actuators" instead of the usual springs and shock absorbers. When you turn hard, the body doesn't lean; and when you hit the brakes, the nose doesn't dive. Bumps leave no memory in the springs, because the system soaks bumps up and forgets they happened.
It was a magnificent design, a true innovation, and a big selling point that failed to sell because it also added $5000 to the sticker price of the car, and most drivers failed to notice the difference in ordinary conditions. (One review of a basic [Infiniti] Q in 1990 noted that the car could "outmaneuver a Miata." So it wasn't like handling was a problem without the fancy suspension.
When we bought the '92 new, we managed to get an "a" for the price of the base model. This seemed like a bargain at the time, even though we knew the fluid-driven active suspension system sapped a bit of engine energy (as does, say, air conditioning) and lowered gas mileage a bit. (The mother would get to 60mph in 6.7 seconds and had a governor that held top speed to "just" 150mph.)
Then we discovered, when the actuators wore out at 110k miles, that they each cost more than $1200. Just for parts. Finally, at 210k miles, something went wrong with the fluid drive for the suspension system, which is deeply involved with the engine, at about the same time as the actuators surely needed replacing again. Things went so wrong, in fact, that the Active Suspension system killed the engine completely: it seized up. So we sold the car to a guy who loves old Infinitis for about the price of one actuator. A shame because we loved that car.
Nissan had long since abandoned this technology by the time they got around to building the I30 I just bought, but there is still plenty of reason to be fearful of tricky/spendy stuff especially since it took me 24 hours to figure out that I had seat heaters, fercryingoutloud.
The narrowest possible broadband
Reason's Nick Gillespie asks:
Isn't there every reason to believe that cable companies and telecoms would similarly use whatever revenues they generate via tiered services to develop the next big thing in terms of networked communications? And isn't there also reason to believe that some of the cable companies and telecoms might not go the tiered-service route, just as some political commentary magazines including this one offer free online access to their material?
In a word, no. Innovations from the telephone company? We're years, maybe decades, behind the rest of the world already in this realm, and suddenly Verizon or, even more preposterous, AT&T will bring us into the New Tomorrow? It is to laugh.
"Trust us" is barely plausible as a slogan for a bank; for a former government-approved monopoly whose fondest desire is to regain that status, it's somewhere between laughable and ludicrous. If the Bell System were still around, you'd still be paying $3 a month to rent a frigging Princess phone.
23 June 2006
Careful with that airbag, Eugene
The ever-quotable Doc Searls is looking for "pounding-on-the-steering-wheel songs" for a 350-mile trip. Having banged on the button a few times in my day, I can appreciate the premise. (To the Ronettes' "Be My Baby," I pound in stereo.)
Suggestions are welcomed.
(Actual Technorati tag)
The Germans are getting their keisters kicked in the new J. D. Power Initial Quality Survey, and it's not because the cars are falling apart. (That comes later.) They're just incomprehensible:
It turns out that this year's IQS factored in a whole new set of data on design flaws, which included the usability of each car's cabin technology. And it will come as little surprise to those who have spent hours wrangling with the iDrive and COMAND (BMW and Mercedes's driver interfaces, respectively) that the results show the integration of many advanced technology systems leaving quite a bit to be desired. In the list of the "most troublesome design failure problems," BMW drivers identified the "difficult to use" and "poorly located" front audio and entertainment system as their number one complaint. Third on their list was the location and usability of the Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) system, with the inability of the voice-recognition system to understand commands and the placement and usability of cup holders rounding out the list of top five gripes. For Mercedes drivers, the top five complaints were excessive brake dust; a poorly located and difficult-to-use clock; poor visibility/usability of HVAC controls; troublesome cruise-control systems; and issues with usability and lack of accurate information of the navigation system. In previous IQS studies, which focused mainly on engineering defects and malfunctions, most of these complaints would not have registered.
Because I can, the major ergonomic failures of my last three cars:
Molly, 1993 Mazda 626:
Sandy, 2000 Mazda 626:
Gwendolyn, 2000 Infiniti I30:
Minor difficulties, perhaps. Still, I have to agree with the CNET guy:
[T]he message to the designers is clear: If you're going to install technology to make drivers' lives easier, start by making it easy to use.
At the very least.
We can be bought
Right off the press release this morning:
Oklahoma City, June 23, 2006 - Kerr-McGee Corp. (NYSE: KMG) announced today that its board of directors has unanimously approved an all cash offer of $70.50 per common share to merge into Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: APC). The transaction is subject to the approval of Kerr-McGee shareholders as well as other customary regulatory approvals and is expected to close by the end of the third quarter.
"This compelling offer represents a 40% premium to yesterday's closing stock price and immediately recognizes the value of Kerr-McGee's strategy and assets for our shareholders," said Luke R. Corbett, Kerr-McGee chairman and chief executive officer. "The merger with Anadarko combines two companies with similar strategies and creates the largest U.S.-based independent exploration and production company.
"Kerr-McGee has a long history as an innovator in the energy industry. I thank each of our employees for their many contributions that have helped build the company and achieve the successes that enabled stockholders to realize the significant value this transaction will deliver."
Anadarko is paying approximately $16 billion for Kerr-McGee, and in a separate transaction is acquiring Western Gas Resources, based in Denver. Review, then dismemberment, will follow.
So long, guys. It was a nice ride while it lasted.
The Mick begs off
This weekend's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered & Intersex Pride Parade and Festival is the nineteenth in Oklahoma City, and it's always something to see.
Something I saw perplexed me. On page 4 of Hard News Online's Pride Guide (pdf version here), there are welcome letters from Jim Roth (District 1 County Commissioner), John Whetsel (County Sheriff), Sam Bowman (Council Ward 2) and Ann Simank (Council Ward 6). Conspicuously absent: Mayor Cornett. Says an Editor's Note:
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett did not respond to Hard News Online's request for a welcome letter to be included in this Pride Guide.
Not even a perfunctory "Welcome to the city, and please don't litter." Sheesh. Hizzoner must really be sweating that Congressional primary.
Got any of that Conscience Salve?
This is a New Jersey story, but I suspect it has cousins from sea to shining sea:
When we lived in New Jersey, we used to recycle newspapers and other paper stuff. Some agency for reformed drug addicts picked it up and sold it for a pittance. This worked fine until New York City came onstream with their paper recycling, when the bottom dropped out of the paper market, and it became more expensive to recycle it than to dump it. The agency then refused to have their clients pick up the stuff; addicts or not, they were able to do the math.
Did this stop the city from having separate pickups for paper? Nosiree. They had special trucks which picked it up on a different schedule than the other garbage and then dumped it in the very same landfill. This cost the taxpayer extra but it made the politicians feel virtuous, and in New Jersey that is no little matter.
My own thinking in this matter is that the value of recycling derives from the "natural resources" you don't have to use, by buying products made out of recycled materials; actual dollar savings, while nice to have, are really, I believe, secondary. Not everyone, however, is likely to agree with this premise.
One minute to auto-destruct
This almost seems sensible:
I postulate that the reason why GPS voices are predominantly female, drone-like and monotone is due to the influence of the Star Trek: TNG "Computer," circa 1987, whose voice was also female, drone-like and monotone.
I demur, if only because ST:TNG doesn't begin until 2364, and we already have GPS.
And really, almost all computerized voices, "male" or "female," are drone-like. Monotone, even. Suits me. I'm not ready for Eddie; he just doesn't seem Sirius.
24 June 2006
As a temporary measure, I am sliding around town in a Dodge Stratus SXT in Frigidaire White. Despite the jumble of letters, this is the bottom-feeder of the line, with a nothing-special four-banger driving the front wheels. It's an acceptable grocery-getter, but not the least bit amusing to drive.
This week in Auburn Hills:
Chrysler officials say a lot of conversations have taken place about whether to keep the Sebring name [for the 2007 model]. "In the end, we felt the convertible has given the name good equity, and the racing origin of the name works well too," said one Chrysler honcho at the unveiling. The company is betting that the new design and some compelling advertising around the car will make it a success.
Not so for the Dodge Stratus. When that car debuts, it will have a new name. The Stratus had no equity with anyone, it turns out, and no positive imagery.
On the other hand, it outlasted the other Mopar "cloud cars" Chrysler Cirrus, Plymouth Breeze.
Last one out, turn off the lights
Tulsa Chiggers sees the Oil Capital's population decline as "ominous":
Tulsa's population has declined every year since the 2000 census. In fact, our population has declined by 2.7% in the past five years. Over that same period, three of Tulsa's suburbs, Bixby, Jenks and Owasso had the highest percentage growth rate in the state of Oklahoma over the same 5 year period. By the way, Broken Arrow, Catoosa and Claremore all had substantial gains over the period.
Oklahoma City had a respectable 5% gain over the period.
On the other hand, some municipalities would love to have lost only 2.7 percent:
Cincinnati's population declined by 22,555 people between April 2000 and July 2005, or 6.8 percent, shrinking to 308,728 from 331,283. Detroit also fell 6.8 percent, losing 64,599 people. New Orleans was next, losing 6.2 percent of its population, and this was well before the Katrina disaster. Pittsburgh lost 5.3 percent of its population. Rounding out the bottom five was Cleveland, which shed 5.3 percent of its inhabitants.
St. Louis, which dropped by 1.8 percent in one year, now has 344,362 people. Improbable as it may seem today, in 1900, St. Louis was the fourth-largest city in the country, with a population of 575,238; the peak was 1950, with 856,796.) Is St. Louis "dying on the vine"? Not even close.
Tulsa indisputably has its problems, but there's no way it's about to collapse.
Politics is hell
Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT) has drawn a primary opponent this year: John Jacob. It goes without saying that Cannon's incumbency is working against Jacob. But there's a far more insidious foe besides:
"There's another force that wants to keep us from going to Washington, D.C.," Jacob said. "It's the devil is what it is. I don't want you to print that, but it feels like that's what it is."
Jacob said Thursday that since he decided to run for Congress against Rep. Chris Cannon, Satan has bollixed his business deals, preventing him from putting as much money into the race as he had hoped.
Numerous business deals he had lined up have been delayed, freezing money he had counted on to finance his race.
"You know, you plan, you organize, you put your budget together and when you have 10 things fall through, not just one, there's some other, something else that is happening," Jacob said.
Asked if he actually believed that "something else" was indeed Satan, Jacob said: "I don't know who else it would be if it wasn't him. Now when that gets out in the paper, I'm going to be one of the screw-loose people."
Cue Archie Bell and the Drells: "Tighten Up."
Satan was unavailable for comment, though rumor has it the Prince of Darkness has been in a summit meeting with Karl Rove.
(Via Independent Christian Voice.)
How depressing is this?
Google lists 1,020,000 results for what do you do if you hit a deer on the highway, and suddenly I'm #10.
Actually, it's almost exactly the same thing you'd do if you were trying to dodge suicidal 200-pound chipmunks on meth, to quote #5.
Dream with strings
I've never had a Muse, and it never occurred to me to ask for one. For one thing, we're talking daughters of Zeus here, and while he might go slumming, it's simply not their style; for another, they specialize in things like comedy and epic poetry and dance, and so far as I can tell, the Greeks never assigned a Muse for marginally-competent wordsmithery.
But if I ever were to work up the nerve to put in a request, the Muse of my dreams would be something like this:
Far as I know, she's not available for Muse duty, but otherwise, this is exactly how I'd describe Deborah Henson-Conant, whose Invention & Alchemy concert video, as mentioned here, arrived this week and which absolutely flattened me. I have never seen anything like this before. The influences are clear you can hear bits of Robert Burns, Raymond Scott, Rimsky-Korsakov, here and there but it's all Deborah and her amazing harp and her marvelously-crafted orchestrations, telling stories you had no idea you wanted to hear right up to the point where you don't ever want her to stop. If this sounds like the Arabian Nights writ small, well, there's a wonderfully-inventive number from about a week before the end of the Thousand and One. (Call it, as she did, "996.")
But Deborah has many more stories to tell, from a shaggy-dog tale about how she became a harpist, to an ode to someone who's indispensable but whom you don't ever think about, to vector analysis of the top half of an evening gown, to the best birthday song ever. The music is sometimes soft, sometimes ferocious, but always infused with the sort of spirit you'd want looking over your shoulder. And when she sings but never mind that; she's always singing, even if it's through her fingers across the strings. The verve is contagious: you can actually see it catching the members of the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra as they play along. The only problem with Invention & Alchemy is that at 97 minutes, it's about a thousand days too short. Then again, you need some time to catch your breath.
25 June 2006
Quote of the week
Mary Stella, trying not to sound like Simon Cowell:
I guess anybody is capable of Oscar-caliber work. Too bad there aren't too many openings for a gig as a garbage can-dwelling Muppet.
Yeah, but the opening's at the top.
Off the top of the headcount
When the Census Bureau puts out its annual estimates, the wire services report on maybe the top 100 cities, and local papers concentrate on the town in which they're published. But the complete "subcounty" list is an enormous spreadsheet (about 7 megabytes) which breaks down each state by county, and then each county by municipality or whatever therein.
Oklahoma City spills into three counties, and there's a tiny sliver in a fourth. In the Sixties, there was a fifth McClain but that area was eventually deannexed and now belongs to Newcastle. The 2005 estimate for OKC, just released, was 531,324, up 4624 from the revised 2004 count of 526,700, and here's how they're distributed:
Canadian County: 32,536, up 1511.
The Cleveland County section of the city is still larger than Moore (47,697), but Moore is growing faster these days and may catch up by 2010.
Elsewhere among the numbers:
Fascinating things, these numbers.
Not from around here
The status of the Skirvin Hilton:
The inside of the hotel has been completely gutted, saving historic elements of course. The GM of the Skirvin Hilton told me that at the present time it looks like a bomb went off inside the hotel. Kim Searls [of Downtown OKC, Inc.] noted that he was not from OKC and that maybe he shouldn't be using those phrases.
I'm not quite sure what I think about that.
Thereby redefining "download"
It's called Je Joue ("I play"), and, um, it's sort of an iPod for your pants.
Well, not my pants, technically.
(Safety for work may be questionable.)
Honey, disconnect the phone
Banned in the U.S.S.R.:
While the Kremlin fretted over Afghanistan and an economy creaking under the strain of the Cold War, it also had time to keep a beady eye on the baleful influence of popular Western music.
The blacklist, which was meant to clamp down on disco playlists, was distributed to party officials in January 1985, two months before Mikhail Gorbachev succeeded Konstantin Chernenko as the leader of the USSR.
Its existence has been revealed in a new book, Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More, by Russian emigre and author Alexei Yurchak.
Some of the Listed:
Despite their left-wing street-cred in the West, the Clash were banned for "punk and violence", as were, among others, the B-52s, the Stranglers and Blondie.
Heavy metal acts such as Black Sabbath, Nazareth, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest were blacklisted for supposed offences including religious obscurantism, violence, racism and anti-communism.
Talking Heads joined the list for "myth of the Soviet military threat" and Pink Floyd were blacklisted for "distortion of Soviet foreign policy".
"All in all, you're just another brick in the Berlin Wall."
But more mainstream acts also fell foul of the communist authorities. The Village People were deemed "violent", Tina Turner was banned for "sex", Summer for "eroticism" and several artists, including [Julio] Iglesias and 10cc, for "neo-fascism".
Oh, come on. There are lots of reasons to ban Julio Iglesias besides "neo-fascism," starting with "environmental protection."
The present-day KGB playlist is here.
26 June 2006
Strange search-engine queries (21)
This shtick is now old enough to drink. Sheesh.
fake hamburgers: Deserve real mayonnaise.
where have all the liberals gone? Deep depression, every one. (When will they ever learn?)
clothes disappearing raygun: This could be as big as Click.
rival of jesus, netgeo: I don't think NetGeo has been around long enough.
nudist "wearing any clothes" Well, yeah, if she wants to keep her day job.
John Shartel Avenue, named for: I'll just bet it's John Shartel.
what to expect with a bikini wax: The word OWWW! comes immediately to mind.
when do mercury cougars need a new transmission: Offhand, I'd say when they won't move.
bacon not stirred: Like we need martinis with cholesterol.
"smart men" lonely single: Not necessarily in that order.
backyard nude swimming statistics: Number of swimsuits: 0.
brown bunny mp3 Vincent Gallo: Well, you certainly wouldn't want to look at him.
cvs bizarro sex: Must have been over in the photo department.
postfeminist l'oreal: Because we're all worth it.
This I can appreciate
I know this reaction:
I've had the new car for two days. Do I like it? Yes!
I miss the Little Girl (the Escort ZX2) because she was so good and reliable for so long, but the ragtop really is stealing my heart. Good weather is part of that, I am sure, but...
I think I'm going to like my Sammy (Samantha the Sebring). Now I just need to find a reasonable (ha-ha) blonde for the passenger seat. Ah, well.
Six days and a little over 200 miles with Gwendolyn so far. I wouldn't call her a two-fisted drinker, exactly: maybe 1.3, 1.4 fists. Of course, this could just be due to some quirk in Japanese fuel-gauge mechanisms that causes them to plummet during the first half of their range and then slow down a bit as the bottom approaches. And if this seems to run counter to the laws of physics, well, why do we buy these things in the first place, if not to circumvent our limitations as we know them?
Oh, and "reasonable blondes" do exist, though the chance of seeing one sitting next to me is essentially nil.
Madness spilling into April
Fixing things that ain't broke is generally not a good idea:
In its present state, the NCAA basketball tournament approaches perfection. Not too many teams, not too few, unknowns upsetting the enormous schools wall-to-wall hoops for 3 weeks in March. And then you have the astounding run of George Mason.
Now, the coaches want to nearly double the size of the 65-team field. They will ask the NCAA to expand the field at meetings in Orlando, Fla., this week.
"They'd love to see the tournament double to 128," said Jim Haney, executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. "It's based on several things. First, there are a lot of good teams worthy of making the NCAA field, and second, the size of 64 or 65 has been in place for a number of years."
Two immediate questions:
The cynic in me sees this as an attempt at increasing job security for coaches: you make the NCAA, you're probably not going to be fired.
A brief history of the Renaissance
The "most massive quality of life package ever devised in this nation."
That's a tall claim, but Oklahoma City's MAPS delivered on its promises and then some. Here's an interesting perspective on MAPS from someone who worked to get the package passed by voters. This quote jumped out at me:
Nine projects totaling $329 million dollars and ... not related to directly recruiting a major employer.
Which may have been the genius of MAPS: we're going to do all these things, and none of them will be dependent on whether enough corporate money gets lined up.
Then there's this:
Promoter boasts of private investment of $140 million were wildly off the mark; they have topped $500 million.
I can only hope that the successor to MAPS, the $700 million upgrade to area public schools, will be similarly successful.
(Suggested by Matt Deatherage.)
No way for a story to end
A moment of silence, if you please, for Rob "Acidman" Smith (1952-2006).
The last time we looked at Baby Sweetgum, ten days ago, we had a foot or so of trunk-in-the-making to look at. There's not much change in its appearance, so no new picture, but in a week and a half the treelet has grown a little more than half a foot: height is now 19½ inches. I'm not quite sure at which point the term "sapling" kicks in Wikipedia suggests one meter in height and 7 cm in stem diameter, which seems a little early to me but if we go by one meter, we're halfway there now.
27 June 2006
$600 an hour (follow-up)
The bill has come in for my four-hour sojourn in the Emergency Room, and it's just under $2500. Our insurance carrier, CFI Care (not its real initials), is presumably even now gleefully disallowing bits and pieces of the claim; how big a check I will have to write remains to be seen, but I will be surprised if it's under four figures.
$1018, not including various small amounts (under a hundred in aggregate) dribbled out to the support troops.
I think next time I'm just going to go on a two-day bender.
While looking into the machinations of the Astrology-Based Community (you know who you are), Eric Scheie discovered that all of Ann Coulter's major planets are in Sagittarius, which presumably explains a great deal, especially since they're all square with Pluto.
Inasmuch as my own Sun is in Sag and square with Pluto well, here are some excerpts from an actual chart run on me:
This aspect can reveal itself with some level of frustration due [to] a resistance to environmental change and a need to rehash or destroy personal creative work.
As regular readers know, I generally opt for "rehash," which is a lot easier when hash is what you start with.
Any involvement with power often results [in] forcing your will on others, sometimes in a vehement and dominant manner. This is contrasted by an inner emotional desire to reveal your affection to others. This push-pull action often results in others rejecting you, particularly those of the opposite sex.
Um, maybe we'd better leave it at that.
For those curious: Sun in Sagittarius; Moon in Leo; Mercury and Venus in Scorpio; Mars in Libra; Infiniti in garage.
Oh, but we can't live there
Michael Bates turned up this plea from a woman in the Tulsa 'burbs, circa 1990:
I am a mother of four children who are not able to leave the yard because of our city's design. Ever since we have moved here I have felt like a caged animal only let out for a ride in the car. It is impossible to walk even to the grocery store two blocks away. If our family wants to go for a ride we need to load two cars with four bikes and a baby cart and drive four miles to the only bike path in this city of over a quarter million people. I cannot exercise unless I drive to a health club that I had to pay $300 to, and that is four and a half miles away. There is no sense of community here on my street either, because we all have to drive around in our own little worlds that take us fifty miles a day to every corner of the surrounding five miles.
I want to walk somewhere so badly that I could cry. I miss walking! I want the kids to walk to school. I want to walk to the store for a pound of butter. I want to take the kids on a neighborhood stroll or bike. My husband wants to walk to work because it is so close, but none of these things is possible ... And if you saw my neighborhood, you would think that I had it all according to the great American dream.
Unspoken is the answer to the question: "If this is what you want, why did you move there?"
SeeDubya is a bit blunter:
So get in your car. So walk the two blocks to the grocery store. So bike in the street. So bake a casserole and take it over to your neighbors. So exercise in your home. So adapt, improvise, overcome.
Bad city planning exists. Bad architecture exists. Both are depressing and irritating. But, lady, but nothing stops you from going for a walk if you want to. So why don't you take responsibility for your own happiness instead of depending on the architects to do it for you?
I live halfway between an elementary school and a grocery store: it's about three blocks each way. And there were walkers out this morning at six-thirty, even a runner or two.
What we don't have around here is a lot of children: this neighborhood is largely young couples and empty-nesters, and not much in between. And I don't expect this to change any time soon: if you're buying a house in town and you've got school-age kids, your friendly agent will steer you away from my neighborhood, despite its manifest advantages, because it's in an urban school district and you can't possibly want that. No one will mention that this particular school is among the best in the district and competitive with what you'll find on the edges of town; they won't go out of their way to slander the place, exactly, but if you're already thinking the worst, because that's what you've always heard, they'll be happy to agree with you, if only implicitly.
Yeah, of course, "we want what's best for the kids." But the best often comes wrapped in a heavy blanket of the worst, just to keep you on your toes; "I can have everything I want" is pernicious Boomer nonsense that works only if you decide that you don't want all that much.
Of course, if you really need three thousand square feet, sorry, we can't accommodate you, and thanks for dropping by.
Shoot it and move on
From about three years ago, the following was Marked for Death:
Whoever had the bright idea of designing an EPROM that can't survive being powered off and somehow managed to sell it to a major printer manufacturer.
(Said printer manufacturer should also be dispatched, for buying such an asinine idea.)
Frighteningly, said printer is still here, though the Visigoths (presumably using VisiCalc) have determined that it will not survive the summer. (At the moment, it won't survive a power-up cycle, but they don't have to know that, so long as they get it the hell out of here and replace it with something that actually works more than twenty percent of the time.)
Maybe Nike was on to something
Jordan Summers is weary of wannabes:
"Jordan, what do you do for a living?"
I smile that brittle 'get me the hell out of here' kind of smile before answering, "I write."
"Oh, do you have anything published?"
I debate whether to answer truthfully because I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't. "Yes, a few."
"What do you write?"
At this point, I'm ready to throw up my salad. "Erotic romance, urban fantasy, and paranormal stuff," I say, declining to go into detail about vampires and werewolves at the table for fear of sounding insane.
"I've always wanted to write a book. I even have an idea that I think would be great."
You and every other person in this outdoor mall. Stop talking about it and just do it.
No, I don't say that last part aloud ... at least not all of the time.
I thought about this for a minute, and realized that I don't want to write a book; I want to have written a book. All of the benefits with none of the paperwork. Unfortunately, it doesn't work quite that way.
The million or so words I've put up here might fill a volume or three, but God forbid they should be gathered into one even one of these.
28 June 2006
Somehow I should have guessed
Discover Your Sins - Click Here
Does this mean something?
Normally, my auto-insurance company sends me two copies of the required-by-law Security Verification Form: one to be kept in the vehicle, and one to be turned in when purchasing a plate.
I'm still under the same policy, though on a different (and pricier) car; it of course costs more to insure, and I bumped up my liability limits threefold while I was at it. For some reason, they sent me four copies of the form.
Those who remained
Kerr-McGee and its 200 or so employees in Oklahoma City will soon be gone; by contrast, about 300 former KMG employees will likely be sticking around.
Tronox Inc., the former Kerr-McGee chemical division, spun off from the parent company last year, is looking for local office space for its 200-member downtown staff. (Another 100 work at the former KMG Technical Center on NW 150th St.) They've been leasing space from KMG on a month-to-month basis; the 100,000 square feet they need would take up only about a fifth of the Kerr-McGee Center downtown.
Hmmm. I wonder if there's any thought of reclaiming the Kermac name once the KMG-Anadarko merger is complete.
Charles Darwin would have been 197 years old in 2006, had he lived.
And if he had, he'd probably be impressed that actual ducks are hosting the Carnival of the Vanities, which is 197 weeks old and still alive. Our thanks to Lil' Duck Duck and all the other ducks in a row.
The title gives this one away:
Holy Vortex Valve! Dealership Retrofits Hummers with Dubious Mileage Booster
How dubious is it?
The modification uses a device manufactured by Air Synergy Labs Inc., one of hundreds of aftermarket parts companies across the country that are using homegrown methods to try to boost fuel efficiency. Spencer Robley, chairman and president of the Las Vegas-based company says his company's product which it calls a "Vortex Valve" can help drivers increase fuel efficiency as much as 30%, though he concedes there's no official verification of that claim. "Federal, state, local [government agencies], nobody will certify anything that has to do with us," Mr. Robley says. "Nobody wants to hang their hat on it and certify anything that has to do with mileage." The company says it has sold 120,000 valves since they launched the product in 1998; the Detroit area stores are the first car dealers to feature it.
But this is what gets me:
[T]he promotion has helped ignite H2 and H3 sales at ... two Detroit area locations, says Gary Krupa, general manager of Hummer of Novi. The dealerships are charging customers $189.95 for the "Mileage Maximizer." Mr. Krupa says they sold about a dozen modified Hummers in the first three weeks of the promotion. The chain is now considering modifying vehicles at other Detroit-area Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge stores it owns "within the next month or so," according to Russ Reimer, the service director who runs the service shops at both Hummer dealerships.
I spoke with an actual Vortex user, and he says the retail price of this contraption is around seventy bucks. (Ah, dealer markups.) He also says he's getting 1.5 to 2 mpg better from his
Diane poses a puzzler:
If Gore invented the Internet, why do so many Internet addresses start off with Dubya, Dubya, Dubya?
Tangled Web, indeed.
In last week's Vent I set about to describe the thought processes that led up to Gwendolyn's arrival in my garage, and I think I did a creditable job of it, but there was one question I failed to anticipate, and I'm taking it on now: "Did you ever consider going down a class or two, back a year or two, or otherwise finding yourself something that could have been completely paid for by the insurance settlement?"
The answer is no, and the reason is this: I didn't want to be reminded, every time I got into the darn thing, of what I'd lost. Had I found another suitable 626, I would have wanted at least the Premium package, and maybe even the V6; going sideways and one level (or so) up might have cost me even more, but it keeps me out of yearn mode.
Perhaps I should thank Dr. Jan for planting the Lexus notion in my head to begin with; absurd as it sounded, it became more defensible the more I thought about it.
29 June 2006
Throne a fit
It's stuff like this that makes for a Grrl Genius:
[O]ur number one tip for sharing a bathroom is this: Don't.
A survey was done by some homebuilding association that showed that relationship happiness within a dwelling increased with the number of bathrooms available. Interestingly, there was no cutoff: even above a one person/one bathroom ratio, the people just got happier and happier.
Even if it means renting a porta-potty and sticking it on the patio, you will be happier.
I get that it's not always practical, but whenever possible, try to accumulate as many bathrooms as possible.
I have always suspected that the woman who used to own this house let it go because (1) she had a boyfriend and (2) there's but one bathroom, and a small one at that.
Besides, Tom likes her
There's something faintly disquieting about this:
[T]he Boston PD has been posing as a twenty-year-old hottie on MySpace.com in an attempt to get you to turn in your guns.
Okay, not so faintly.
(You know about Tom, right?)
Please, Mr. Post Man
Byron Scott, last week:
If we can get a big at 12 and 15, we'll take that and then we'll take our chances in free agency as far as getting a shooter. Bigs are hard to get, so if you can get a 6-11 and a 7-footer or 6-11 and 6-10 that can help clog up that middle and block shots and rebound, then I think it helps make us an even more attractive team as far as free agency goes to try to land a guy that can flat-out shoot the ball.
They indeed took that. The Oklahoman's Jenni Carlson is impressed:
Hilton Armstrong and Cedric Simmons are difference-makers for this franchise. For other teams, they might've just been nice additions. For this team, they'll put the Hornets over the edge.
Not immediately, of course. But if you're looking for guys who can slash and burn in the lane, these are the guys you're looking for.
In the second round (at 43), the Bees opted for Brazilian forward Marcus Vinicius, whom I suspect will be dangled as trade bait.
A Swedish firm is offering RIAA insurance: if you are busted by the music industry for file-sharing, they say they will pay whatever fines are assessed against you. The annual premium is 140 kronor, which is nineteen American simoleons.
Says Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow:
I have no idea if these insurers can be trusted with $19/year, but it actually sounds like a pretty plausible business model. If you count up all the file-sharers on the net, and divide it by the all the fines and settlements ever paid to the RIAA, my guess is that it's way less than $19/year.
I'd recommend it to all those dead grandmothers who wind up on the RIAA's hit list.
(Via The Consumerist.)
The flap over flip-flops, says Eric Scheie, is a "tacit admission of a double standard":
On men, they're slovenly; on women, they're stylish. The difference lies not in the footwear, but in the difference between the sexes.
Of course, whether flip-flops are allowed and whether they're a good career move are two different issues.
Given the minimalist nature of some other shoes being sold these days, it's hard for me to get upset about flip-flops. I've often wondered if the objection is price-based: flip-flops tend to be at the cheap end of the scale, sometimes obviously so. Would there be complaints if they cost $500 instead of $5? (By the Arbiters of Corporate Taste, I mean; certainly the buyers would not be happy.)
If you love them, set them free
Six Flags didn't love either of its Oklahoma City properties, or so it seemed to me, but just the same, White Water Bay and Frontier City have been set free: an Oklahoma-based investment group headed by Ed Lynn and Franklin Boyer has acquired the two parks for an undisclosed sum.
Six Flags, once headquartered in Oklahoma City, relocated earlier this year after a buyout and vowed to concentrate on its bigger-volume theme parks, a business plan which essentially doomed the Oklahoma facilities.
Lynn, a director of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association, owns the local Buffalo Wild Wings franchise.
Update, 30 June: Six Flags claims there is no deal.
VQ very much
I'd seen some pieces like this, and they'd always tripped the Hyperbole Alert: yeah, gearheads rave about engines, but that's what they're supposed to do. So I might not have noticed something along these lines:
How else to describe the VQ but pre-eminent? The inherent excellence of this design absolutely stunned us and many of Nissan's competitors when launched for the '95 model year, and the same basic engine today still stands out from a growing cadre of sophisticated V-6 engines.
The VQ's uncanny refinement and lack of vibration always seemed practically supernatural; its unrivaled noise, vibration and harshness characteristics are a large contributor to the VQ V-6's insouciant, exuberant power delivery.
I'd owned one V-6 prior to this year. It wore a blue oval, and was a nice little torque monster when it wasn't chewing on its head gaskets. Still, this was 1980s technology, and I'd had no experience with any contemporary bent six.
This afternoon I'm climbing onto one of this state's infamously-short onramps. Having mostly gotten out of the Sandy-era habit of flooring it and hanging on, I was doing a sedate fifty-five or so as the merge area began, when a truck (no trailer) which had been sandbagging it in the slow lane decided it was going too slow after all.
Two things I knew:
"What would Sandy do?" flashed into my head, and I gave the loud pedal a shove, though not quite enough of one to hit the floorboards. The expected noise burst didn't. I checked the left-side mirror for the truck which wasn't there anymore.
And then it appeared behind me. Way behind me. Gauge check: revs, 5400 or so; speed, 85 mph. Elapsed time: seemingly hardly any.
I eased back on the pedal and slid into the left lane: 80, 75, 70, back to some semblance of normal; it was as though nothing had happened.
Sandy, bless her little four-cylinder heart, would have been winded but happy: "Let's do it again later." Gwendolyn didn't even break into a sweat: "You need anything else while I'm up?"
If you're any good, and I was fairly decent at it, you can do some wondrous things with an underpowered car: it's simply a matter of knowing its limitations and being willing to work right up to the edge of them. While I've about figured Gwendolyn's chassis limits she is a front-driver, after all, and there's no button on the dash to suspend the laws of physics I suspect all that insouciance and exuberance comes at speeds inadvisable at rush hour.
There is, of course, plenty of time to get acquainted, but for now, I think we're going to get along just fine. A little serenity is good for the soul.
30 June 2006
Drip, drop, ka-ching
File this under "Wouldn't It Be Nice":
Given that you are essentially subscribing to Hewlett-Packard's or Brother's or whatever your brand's printing subscription program, you should be privy to a little more information on how much your subscription is going to cost. Few people really need to know how many Pages Per Minute their printer is going to spit out. As long as it's above ten, the average consumer can be content. Pages Per Minute is a stat that is similar to the time it takes to go from zero to sixty, featured in car commercials. Whose driveway is a highway onramp? What consumers need is a statistic that is more similar to the gas mileage stat. Consumers need to know about how many pages their printer will print before exhausting a cartridge of black and a cartridge of color ink. And we need that stat in both draft and standard modes. It should be listed on the informational card so that the office supply store employees can provide you with useful information.
Gwendolyn does zero to sixty in eight and a half seconds not in my driveway, which is fairly long, but not that long, and you've already seen how I deal with onramps.
Still, absent any consumption specs, we're at the mercy of the printer makers, and they'd pretty much like to keep us that way. Once I did the math:
An HP 56 cartridge (black and white) for the DeskJet I use at work runs $35 and contains 19 ml; one liter of the stuff 52.6 cartridges full comes to $1842. Multiply by 159.05 liters per barrel, and you're looking at $292,900 for a barrel of ink.
By comparison, $70 oil is cheaper than dirt. And it adds a whole new dimension to that old saw about "Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel."
I have a very old DeskJet at home: a 720C. It takes the HP 45 cartridge, which holds a startling 42 ml and costs less than $35. No wonder it's been discontinued.
(Seen at BatesLine.)
Judge Thompson gets hard time
Retired District Judge Donald Thompson has been sentenced to four years behind bars and fined $40,000 for various crimes against whatever public decency exists in an Oklahoma courtroom.
Dave at Garfield Ridge sums it up nicely:
If a man can't use a vacuum-sealed device to inspire an erection in the comfort of his own place of business, this is truly a sad day for us all. I mean, c'mon he was behind a bench! Aside from the pumping sound, and the whimsical look of detached euphoria on his face, this judge wasn't bothering anybody with his penis inserted into a plastic tube while supervising his courtroom. Except, you know, the defendants' rights to a fair trial. But who cares about them anyway?
That's what I need around here: some detached euphoria.
Quote of the week
An open letter from Heather in New York to a woman in Houston:
Your friends on myspace are really touched by your latest post, Azure and Coincidence. They should be touched. That post came right from the heart. My heart. In 2003. You didn't even change the title of the post. Ballsy. Anyway, one of your friends was so touched he ratted you out. That guy has class. You should keep him around, spend more time with him and maybe pick up a few things. Like, a moral compass.
This is properly credited. I think.
Kirk Kerkorian, who holds just under 10 percent of the outstanding shares of General Motors, has proposed that the General join forces with French automaker Renault and its Japanese affiliate Nissan.
This is, of course, the perfect time for such a deal, with Renault absent from the US market entirely and Nissan wrestling with quality-control issues and the relocation of its North American headquarters from the West Coast to Tennessee.
Meanwhile in Detroit, GM chair Rick Wagoner is Googling for "le mot de Cambronne".
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