A Low Wattage Tragedy

Cue the violins: 16 horses killed in trailer crash on I-44.

The grisly toll:

Officials say 26 of the 42 horses in trailer survived but nine had to be put down and the other seven died at the scene of the accident.

The authorities are taking heroic measures to save the survivors:

The surviving horses were taken to an arena at the St. Clair Saddle Club, where veterinary personnel were working on them. The highway was reopened to traffic about 11 a.m.

Cole said she did not know what would happen to the horses that survived. She was looking for places for them to stay until their status is cleared up.

“The Highway Patrol made them our responsibility,” she said. “The Humane Society is footing the bill for all of this. We are looking into the legalities as we go along.”

The bureaucracy and its attendant veterinarians are no doubt working through the night to make sure the survivors are healthy and can continue on their journey.

The horses were on their way to Cavel International Inc., a horse processing plant in DeKalb, Ill., authorities said. In a statement today, Cavel said even though the horses were bound for the slaughterhouse, “where they would have been euthanized under the supervision of federal inspectors and USDA veterinarians,” the horses belong to the horse trader who bought them until they reach the plant.

That’s right: these horses are being healed so that they’ll reach the slaughterhouse in prime shape.

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His Master’s Voice

Robert B. Parker has a new Web site and a real blog with comments and everything.

As you know, I give Robert B. Parker and his Spenser novels at least partial credit in raising me, as I read the bulk of his early work in my formative years (see also "Meeting Robert B. Parker").

It’s weird that after twenty years of admiration, he’s suddenly as accessible as, say, Michael Williams is a little odd. I don’t think I’ll have the nerve to actually leave a comment over there.

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Things You Can Find On The Internet

Back in the early 1991, I was a sophomore in college. I’d finally gotten a PC (we called them “clones” in those days) the year before, but I still had my Commodore 64 hooked up on the desk beside the PC, and I still hung out on C64 Bulletin Board Systems (BBSes). One, called the City of WISE (Waukesha Information System Exchange, as I recollect), I called every night (because in those days, you had to dial up with your modem to connect to a bulletin board system, and you often had to call late at night when you wouldn’t tie up the phone). I ran a trivia message board, and I even started a message board for a Call of Cthulhu game.

Someone else was going to run some sort of roleplaying game on a message board, and I signed up. But that gamemaster never showed. Instead, one of the other users (Brass Orchid, handle derived from a Samuel R. Delany book I still haven’t read) and I started riffing absurdly, playing somewhat to roleplaying game conventions. Eventually, Brass Orchid collected these messages and sent me a copy on disk to see if we could make some sort of story out of it.

Fast forward fifteen years to the present day, and I’m browsing TextFiles.com, a repository of text files from that era, and I get to thinking about The Forgotten Legacy (as the message board was called, undoubtedly some grand sweeping sword-and-sorcery campaign that we subverted to our own ends). So I Google Brass Orchid by his real name, and lo, there it is, on his Web site:

    12/21/91; 12:43PM
    From: Brass Orchid [3]
    We could always play without him. All the GM 
    does is provide structure and coherence to the game.
    12/21/91; 10:39PM
    From: L. S. Creetor [62]
    I'll take my bastard sword and stab the Ultimate 
    Reality in the gut.
    12/22/91; 5:08AM
    From: Brass Orchid [3]
    The Ultimate Reality suffers 120 HP's damage and 
    falls, semiconcious, to the ground, muttering, "That
    Bastard sure knows how to hurt a guy."
    L. S. Creetor collects 20 Exp. Points and finds
    the Medallion of Adaptation.
    Suddenly, the sky splits open and a stairway to
    the stars appears. Branches off of the main stairway can
    be seen, dwindling into the distance.
    Your move...

Suddenly, I’m nineteen years old again, connecting through LotusWorks, and casting spells I made up on the fly. I can see the wood paneling and smell the light must of my basement room, I can feel the keyboard in my lap (because that’s all we had for ergonomics, you damn kids–you could put your keyboard in your lap), and I played late into the night with my short stories, with my bulletin boards, and with simple games without 3D rendering. I had most of college and all of my life ahead of me, and I was as optimistic as a college Objectivist could be.

Crazy, the things you can find on the Internet. I am of the first generation that can find its youth.

UPDATE: Revised a sentence to make clear I looked for Brass Orchid elsewhere but TextFiles.com.

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Book Report: Priest-Kings of Gor by John Norman (1968, 1973)

This book is the third in the series. I haven’t read the first two. Although I have owned a large number of Gor books in my life, I currently have but four. Back near the turn of the century, I was an active eBayer, picking up books and whatnot at garage and estate sales and listing them on eBay. I bought a stack of Gor books at a quarter each and discovered, as they were first printings and second printings, that they were worth far more than a quarter each. I think I sold the 23rd book in the series for almost sixty dollars. So I made my money back on them and kept my eyes open for Gor books in the future. Needless to say, I didn’t sell all of them by the time I was done with the eBay thing. So I have a couple left, later printings.

The Gor books draw a lot of attention because of certain elements within them. Okay, one: women are about chattel in these books. They’re subservient at best and most of the time, they’re slaves. Apparently, some segments of the population like to re-enact this lifestyle according to the books (so much that Gorean sites are banned by some Web hosts). Weird, huh?

The storylines strike me as reminiscient of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Warlord of Mars or maybe John Jakes’ Brak stories. Elements of science fiction coupled with sword and sorcery that was kinda popular for much of the last century. In this book, Tarl Cabot, an Earthman transported to Gor, the planet on the opposite side of the sun from the Earth. Cabot is going to seek the forbidden priest-kings who rule the planet from afar to seek vengeance for their destruction of his city. He goes into Sardor, the mountains encircled by a wooden frontier, armed with only his sword, shield, and wits.

The book is very detailed in the description of Gor, its lifestyles, its species relationships, biology, and so on. Not bad for a third book in the series; Norman gave a lot of thought to what he was doing and what he was going to do.

I liked the book well enough. Enough to read more, but not enough to chain women at the foot of my bed. I’ll read the others I own in the series and maybe pick up a couple more. Because unlike some survivors of collegiate English programs, I can suspend my moral outrage along with my disbelief to enjoy a little hack’n’slashery, although this series probably rises above the most base in the genre in spite of its depictions of women.

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It Only Makes Sense

The CDC recommends regular AIDS testing for people 13-64.

Federal health officials Thursday recommended regular, routine testing for the AIDS virus for all Americans ages 13 to 64, saying an HIV test should be as common as a cholesterol check.

Because you’re just as likely on any given day to eat eggs and cheeseburgers as you are to have sex with an intravenous drug-using homosexuals who trades sex for drugs.

Oh, right, like I’m the only one who tosses that coin every morning.

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First, It’s Puppy Safety Seats, Then It’s Mandatory Booster Seats for Beagles

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch tells another heartwarming story of someone with a personal preference who would probably not mind government enforcement of his preference. This time, it’s car restraining systems for pets:

Since then, Rodriquez has beome an advocate for having all dogs in cars secured in the back with safety restraints.

Ad absurdum used to be a logical fallacy. Now, it’s standard operating procedure.

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Marketer-to-English Translation

Hasbro is using brand name products for token in its new Monopoly Here and Now game:

Five of the eight tokens in the new Monopoly Here and Now edition will be branded, offering players the chance to be represented by miniature versions of a Toyota Prius hybrid car, an order of McDonald’s french fries, a New Balance running shoe, a cup of Starbucks coffee or a Motorola Razr cell phone.

Hasbro Games senior vice president for marketing Mark Blecher assures us:

Hasbro chose not to brand all the new tokens, Blecher said, to minimize concerns that the new edition would be too commercialized.

Apparently, in Blecher’s world, 62.5% commercialized is acceptable, whereas 62.6% is not. However, as I am in marketing myself (obliquely), allow me to translate what Blecher really means:

Hasbro chose not to brand all the new tokens because it couldn’t find cross-promotional deals with an airline, a dog breeder, and a computer maker.

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Some Unfunded Government Mandates Are More Equal Than Others

Mandating $15 ID to vote, restoring some measure of faith and legitimacy to elections by making it harder to vote fraudlently? Bad.

Ordering citizens who would procreate (nowadays, that’s Republicans and the poor) to add a $49.99 (minimum) booster seat after the mandated $99.99 (minimum) infant car seat and the mandated $99.99 (minimum) toddler car seat on the off chance that the child will be in an automobile crash? Good.

Someone call me and ask me if I have faith in my government so I can add a couple hundredths of a percentage point to an inconvenient poll that our venal government betters will ignore.

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Probably Nothing To See, But

D.C. man charged with stealing desktop with info on thousands:

Authorities have charged a 21-year-old Unisys Corp. subcontractor with stealing a desktop computer with billing information on as many as 38,000 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical patients.

Khalil Abdulla-Raheem of Washington was charged Wednesday with theft of government property. He is the employee of an unnamed company that “provides temporary labor to Unisys,” according to a statement released by the VA’s Office of Inspector General.

The computer was stolen in late July from Unisys’ Reston, Va., offices. It contained records on about 16,000 living patients who had received treatment at VA medical centers in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, as well has information on another 2,000 who are deceased. Data on an additional 20,000 patients may have been stored on the computer, according to the VA.

The VA said these records may have contained Social Security numbers, addresses and insurance information. The FBI is analyzing the computer to determine whether the information was compromised, but investigators do not believe that Abdulla-Raheem was after the VA data.

Still, forgive us our sensitivity to fellows with Arabic names. No, probably, we won’t be forgiven; instead, we’ll be told to pay no attention to criminals of a certain faith.

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What, It’s Not Identity Genocide?

In the San Francisco Chronicle, a quote by a feminist equates theft of consumer data in a video game to, what else, rape:

“It’s identity rape,” said Lisa Stone, co-founder of Palo Alto’s BlogHer, an organization for female bloggers, and a sporadic resident of Second Life. “If this happened, it would be a personal violation. It’s completely unacceptable.”

She said she’s typically much more uninhibited in the virtual world of Second Life than she is in the real world. This is largely a factor of using a pseudonym when interacting with other Second Life members and having an invented digital image — an avatar — to hide behind.

“It’s fantastically freeing,” Stone said. “When I’m online, I can be anyone I want.”

So knowing your secret identity is exactly, or at least metaphorically, equivalent to forcible sexual penetration with actual violence or the threat of violence? I doubt it, seriously, and I haven’t even had to be raped to know the difference. Perhaps that makes me a chickenvictim or something.

You know, modern rhetoric and discourse has a distinct lack of imagination for metaphor. It’s either rape or Hitler to someone, somewhere, who lacks inventiveness to create his or her own turn of phrase. Yet these people get rewarded by a chorus of “Hell, yeah!”

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The St. Louis Cardinals Bring St. Louisians Together

Who would have thought it? Bill McClellan of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and I agree on something: the owners of the St. Louis Cardinals played the civic “leaders” like ballpark organs:

Not so with a ballpark. If developers thought a Ballpark Village were a great idea, they would have built a village around the old ballpark. They didn’t. So when the Cardinal owners wanted some financial help for their new stadium, they promised – and put that promise in writing – that they’d also build a Ballpark Village. This would be a big plus for the revitalization of downtown.

Now comes the word that yes, the Cardinal owners could live up to that promise, but the Village would be a lowercase sort of place: ballpark village. Doomed to failure. Who wants to live in ballpark village? On the other hand, the city could have something spectacular – three times the size of the original plan – but the taxpayers are going to have to help out again. Maybe $100 million or so worth of help.

Perhaps these crony capitalists are serving a function for the greater good.

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St. Louis Cardinals Pop Some More Seed Corn

Media Views: A cut in free-TV games seems to be in the Cards:

As the baseball season winds down, the clock also could be ticking on KPLR’s run of televising Cardinals games. It remains to be seen where the over-the-air games in the Cards’ local television package end up next season — or even if there will be a free-TV portion to the deal. The current agreement places 41 games on Channel 11.

FSN Midwest, the cable-satellite TV outlet that carries the bulk of the team’s local television package (110 games this season), has been negotiating with the club for months to increase its number of games as part of a new deal that would begin next year. (The club’s arrangement with KPLR allows for either side to opt out of after this season.)

This is a high stakes game not only for the team and TV outlets, but for a significant number of fans. Only about 80 percent of homes in the market subscribe to services that carry FSN Midwest, which is one of the lowest percentages of cable-satellite TV penetration in the country. That means that one in five homes in the area — about 244,000 total ­– could face a significant reduction in the number of telecasts available over free TV, as the club would be taking money over those fans’ interests and the fact more people watch on KPLR than FSN. That would parallel the team’s switch of flagship radio stations, from KMOX (1120 AM) to KTRS (550 AM).

Let’s not forget the Cardinals made the public build them a stadium with fewer seats in it, so they’ve got to dissuade the casual fans somehow. By making the games unavailable for free on television or the radio, they’re on their way.

You know, current sports owners remind me more and more of quick-turn real estate rehabbers. They buy a team, slap some wallpaper agreements raising revenue in the short term, and sell it for exorbitant profit after only a short time. The next investor group picks it up, does the same, and hopes to make their short term profits before the infrastructure–in this case, the fan base–crumbles entirely.

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Book Report: TV Now: Stars and Shows by Dorothy Scheuer (1984)

I picked this book up at a book fair for a quarter because it’s like TV Superstars ’83, and I already shot my credibility as a serious thinker by admitting a weird attraction to the Scholastic books covering television from the era in which these things mattered to me. Man, I remember the little one page tissue-paperesque book order forms from Scholastic, Tab, Arrow, and so on, and how one could buy real books for a buck or two for a paperback. Of course, we didn’t have a buck or two, so I just got to look at the catalogs and imagine (for the most part). And now, some twenty years later, I’m amassing a library which includes the occasional book I was denied in elementary school.

This book, like the other, deals with television shows in the 1983-1984 time frame, so there’s quite a bit of overlap–Mr. T., Tootie Fields, Gary Coleman, and so on. But where TV Superstars ’83 filled out its pages with stars who’ve faded from even my memory, this book delves into the television industry, including chapters on the portrayal of technology on television, cable television, a bit about ratings, adulation for commercials, and musings about the future of interactive television. So this work might be the slightly more serious of the two.

Like you’re going to run out and get it or click the link below to order it from Amazon. Still, I read it because it was a cheap and quick way to get another item on my annual list of what I’ve read and a last ditch Sunday night blog entry. But I read it, and here’s my post on it.

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That’s One Inept Conspiracy

Bush administration distances itself from ailing U.S. automakers:

Please call back after the election.

That’s the message from President George W. Bush’s business-friendly administration to executives of the ailing U.S. auto industry.

Twice this spring, Bush postponed a summit with the chief executives of Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler unit and General Motors Corp., citing scheduling problems.

In a Sept. 8 phone call to Ford Chairman Bill Ford Jr., Bush said he wanted to wait until after the Nov. 7 midterm elections to keep partisan politics from intruding on the event.

I mean, if the Bush administration is wholly owned by Big Oil, what the hell is it doing by not pandering to Big Auto, one of the best mechanisms through which citizens consume Big Oil’s products? I guess the two choices are:

  • The Bush administration isn’t wholly owned by Big Oil.
  • The Bush administration is incompetent in the service of its master, Big Oil.

Many people in the blogosphere will just expect it’s option 2.

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch Headline Writer Again Focuses Wrongly

Here’s the headline: Teen student shot by officer is charged with two felonies.

Note how the teen student’s major role in this headline is to be shot by the officer, and then passive-voicedly charged with two felonies. What, pray tell could those felonies be? Illegal Larceny of Government Rounds By Secreting Them Upon One’s Person Or In One’s Body? Failure to Be Dead From Government Shooting? Here’s the handy lead to shed some light on it:

A Westminster Christian Academy student who was shot in the leg by police during a confrontation at his school Wednesday has been charged with two felonies.

Well, a confrontation. Perhaps the young man exchanged words with the policeman. Perhaps he tried to speak truth to power or to enlighten the policeman to the policeman’s oppressive role in the existing order.

I guess the Post-Dispatch does get to the point eventually:

The officer fired at Vincent – first grazing his leg and then striking it – as the student sat on a curb on the campus with a .410-gauge shotgun, according to Creve Coeur police Capt. Bob Kayser.

Witnesses said Vincent, who had not been in school that day, was pointing the shotgun toward his head and that he had earlier sent a text message to another student, saying he was planning to kill himself.

After police arrived, they began talking to the teen, who threatened to kill himself, Kayser said. At one point, Vincent lowered the shotgun and pointed it at the officers, who told him to drop it, Kayser said. An officer shot him when he did not.

So, this isn’t just the teen student shot by police; this is the teen student who brought a gun to school to commit violence upon himself or others.

(More fun with the Post-Dispatch and its love of passive voice here, here, here, and here. More coming to a newstand near you tomorrow.)

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