December 2005 Archives

Isn't modern technology amazing? Be amazed at this selection of boy names selected by the Baby Name Wizard at BabyZone.com:

babynamewizard.JPG

Without knowing it, I must have selected the "name sounds like Grandpa clearing his throat" criterion.

Suddenly "Moe Tell" looks like a good alternative. (By the way, Jan, my wife said to tell you that she knows where you live.... :) )

(And, no, the baby isn't here yet -- just trying on the name for size.)

An urban design reading list

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Late getting 'round to this, but here's a link to my column in the current issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly, with some recommended reading on urban design. As I wrote in the column:

Urban design and architecture are too important to be left to the professionals.

You and I may not have diplomas hanging on the wall, but we're experts in those fields, because we live, work, play, drive, and walk in the results of the design decisions made by others. We may not have the vocabulary to explain what we're experiencing, but we know what we like. We remember being in urban places that feel alive and exciting, places that feel comfortable, places that seem dead, places that seem foreboding. Some places invite you to linger, others make you feel like hurrying along to get some place else as quickly as possible.

Architects and urban planners can help the layman put words to his gut feelings about good and bad urban design, but some of the best books on urban design have been written by journalists, and I recommend three that I've found especially insightful and useful, plus a couple of books by an architect. (At the bottom of this entry, I've provided some links to supplemental reading.) The ideas in these books can help to equip you to participate more effectively in the public debate over urban design, zoning, and land use policy.

The current issue of UTW includes Barry Friedman's end-of-year Double Take on the Sooner State and the city's most comprehensive listing of New Year's Eve entertainment. Music writer G. K. Hizer provides his recommended list of places to ring in the New Year. (Here are links to the regular weekly listing of live music and events, which include some New Year's Events. There's a Western Swing dance and covered dish supper in Bixby that looks like fun, but I don't think my wife is up to two-stepping right now.) You'll need the dead-tree edition to get the full listing and all the ads.

Gretchen Collins has a story about the 6th Street Task Force and the exciting plans for remaking that area, particularly the creative ways they propose for dealing with the flooding problem in what is, after 20 years of stormwater improvements, still one of the city's last unimproved drainage basins.

Also, in the web edition this week (although I think it was in last week's print edition) is Barry Friedman's review of an uneventful City Council meeting.

Now for some supplemental links that go with this week's column:

Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language -- a summary of each of the patterns described in the book, and the connections between them.

The introduction to Cities Back from the Edge: New Life for Downtown

Jim Kunstler interviews Jane Jacobs -- two of the authors I list in my column.

The website of Jim Kunstler: If you can look beyond the use of foul words for emphasis, there's a lot of food for thought here. His "Eyesore of the Month" is a photo and commentary on an example of bad architecture or urban design, and the feature is coming up on its eighth anniversary. (This month, in the spirit of the holidays, he gives us a break and presents some positive examples.)

Not mentioned in the column is the website for the Project for Public Spaces, which is full of examples of parks, squares, plazas, and streetscapes that work well, with explanations of why they succeed at attracting people. (New York City's Bryant Park is a great example of a once-failed public space that is now thriving.) There are also examples of failed public spaces, like Boston's hideous City Hall Plaza, which replaced lively, unruly Scollay Square.

Time's running out...

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...to nominate the best posts of 2005 to Mister Snitch! (Deadline is today.)

...to submit questions for Greta (Hooah Wife) Perry's blog interview to Basil. (Deadline is tomorrow.)

...to submit questions for Basil's blog interview to Greta. (Deadline is also tomorrow.)

And TulipGirl suggests an interesting end-of-year exercise -- making a Mondo Beyondo list.

This isn't a resolutions list of eating healthier and spending wiser. This is the mondo beyondo list, the ideas that tug at your heart and are almost out of reach even of day dreams.

It's also the last chance for giving to count as a 2005 tax deduction. Here are some of my recommendations for end-of-year giving:

Prison Fellowship
Mend Pregnancy Resource Center
John 3:16 Mission
Cornerstone Assistance Network

These groups are all involved not only in helping people through tough circumstances, but helping them build a better foundation for the future, and as far as I am aware, they receive no government funds are entirely dependent on donations for support. And they're easy to overlook in a year of natural disasters here and abroad.

Another group that often gets an end-of-year gift from us is Peculiar People. It's hard to describe what they do. They're actors and writers and use their skills to communicate the Gospel to believers and non-believers alike, but that doesn't tell the whole story. They are not of the all-too-common belief that a good message makes up for bad art. They work for (and achieve) excellence in their own craft and in those they train and encourage. (They also put out the funniest fundraising letters I've ever seen.) The only time I've seen them perform was 15 years ago at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, but I've never forgotten it. They did a sketch called "The Clicker," which goes beneath the surface of the standard missionary slide show to give the audience a glimpse of the dreams and struggles of a missionary couple. Christians ought to be engaged in the arts, not only in explicitly religious ways but ars gratia artis, glorifying God by the excellence of their work. Groups like Peculiar People are worth encouraging with your donations and prayers.

The website US Social Security Administration offers some fascinating statistics on baby names. Even if you aren't a parent or aren't likely to be anytime in the near future, you may find it interesting for what these lists reveal about the evolution of American culture over the last 120 years.

From the main page you can generate lists of popular names by birth year, going back to 1879; track the popularity of a particular name over a number of years; list the top 5 names for each state, for any year going back to 1980.

For any year from 1960 to the present, you can look up the top 100 names for each state.

My favorite is the top 1000 names by decade, from the 1880s to the present. It's striking that, in olden days, a much higher percentage of babies were given the most popular names. In the 1880s, 15% of boys were named either John or William, and 38% were given names in the top 10. For girls, 21% were given names in the top 10. So far in this decade, the numbers are 12% and 9% respectively. You can see the same trend in Scotland, although the percentages are almost double those of America both 100 years ago and today.

It would be interesting to combine the stats from different decades to see which names are the most timeless, which are tied most closely to their decades, and which display generational cycles. It would also be interesting to look at the top names for each state over the years to see how naming trends spread through the country.

Here's a question for you: In the top 100 girls names in Oklahoma for 2004, there's a name I've never seen before -- Cadence. Any idea where this name came from? Nationally, it was 958th in 2002, 474th in 2003, 218th in 2004. A cadence is something you sing when running or marching in a group, so why has it become a popular girl's name? Anyone?

My entry about the Tulsa World's legal threats against this blog and other websites is number 11 on BlogPulse's ranking of 2005's top blog posts.

A few items down is this funny bit -- imagining what the tech blog Engadget would have looked like circa 1985.

Bananafana fo ... what?

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Must be something in the air, or maybe it's just aftershocks from 2004, the Year of the Blogger. Bloggers are getting well-deserved recognition from old dead-tree media. I know of at least two bloggers who are under contract for books related to the content of their blogs.

That good news comes at a cost to the Blogosphere, however. With book deadlines swiftly approaching, one of those two book-writing bloggers has cut down to one blog post a week, and the other, who also writes a weekly newspaper column, has put her blog in hibernation until the manuscript is finished.

You're about to see something similar happen here. I've already cut back on blogging. My column in Urban Tulsa Weekly is taking up a lot of my creative energy, and anytime I start writing a long blog entry, I think, "That could be a column." (I could write 1,000 words for free... or I could get paid for them. What a dilemma.)

My volume and frequency is about to take another hit. Like other bloggers who have cut back on posting, here at BatesLine HQ we've got a major project in the works that's about to come to fruition.

It's not a book, although it is a bit like writing a book. It all starts as a concept (a word related to "concept", anyway) and there's a good deal of time and labor involved in the production.

In one respect, it's easier than writing a book. If you have a book in you (everyone does, they say), it may stay in there forever. If you have a baby in you, after nine months it's coming out, one way or another, even if they have to slice you open to get it. (As far as I'm aware, there is no procedure analogous to a Caesarean section to get a book out of an author. I'm sure there are some book editors out there who wish such a thing existed.)

On the other hand, once you've delivered a book manuscript most of the hard work is over. Once you've delivered a baby, the hard work has just begun.

Did I mention that we're having a baby?

I've dropped a few hints on the blog, and of course the people who know us in Real Life have known for quite some time, but I haven't come right out and said anything here about the major milestone just around the corner for our family. In a little over a week, my wife and I will have our third child. Despite the fact that we feel too old for this sort of thing, the pregnancy has gone well, the baby is vigorous and big, and my wife has been pretty healthy throughout.

This will be the first time I will have had a new baby and a blog at the same time. In a competition for attention between the blog and the baby, the baby is going to win. For one thing, the blog is not anywhere as cute as this baby is bound to be. (Those who have met my first two kids will know I'm telling the truth.) The frequency and length of my posting has already decreased, as job responsibilities, writing a column, and doing things around the house to get ready for the baby have taken more of my time.

I'm not going to put BatesLine into hibernation. (The word makes me think of HAL 9000, astronauts, and freezer burn.) We've got an important city election coming up, and I'm sure I'll have some things to say about it. Urban Tulsa Weekly will get dibs on my thoughts on the subject, and I'll continue to post a link here to each week's column.

(And speaking of that city election, there has been some speculation that I might run for office again in 2006, especially now that the incumbent councilor in my district, Tom Baker, is giving up his seat to run for Mayor. It's not going to happen, not this next year, and probably not for a decade or so.)

There will still be reasons to check in here every couple of days. Most of my blogging is likely to be more linking than thinking -- pointers to interesting items, but not much commentary -- and there will of course be a certain amount of baby blogging. I will probably expand the linkblog, and I'm working on ways to aggregate and present headlines from my favorite blogs -- a sort of extension of my blogroll, so you can see titles and easily get to the latest entries from a select group of the most interesting writers in the blogosphere.

Now, back to the baby, and the reason for the title of this post. Taking a page from meeciteewurkor's book, I'm having a contest, with two prizes, each a $10 Amazon gift certificate.

With our boy, I had had a name in mind for a few years in advance. With our girl, we went through a long process of elimination and finally settled on a name two days before delivery (over dinner at the Green Onion, as it happens).

With the first two, we knew in advance the sex of the child. This time, at my wife's request, it'll be a surprise. So we need to have two names picked out. My suggestions (Margaret Hilda for a girl, Winston Spencer for a boy) have been vetoed by She Who Must Be Obeyed, so I'm asking you, dear reader, for some ideas.

The prizes will go to the best suggestions for a girl's name and a boy's name (even if we ultimately choose something else).

Here are some guidelines to point you in the right direction:

  1. The name ought to clearly indicate gender. Preferably, the common nickname for the name should be unambiguous as well.
  2. That means, among other things, no last names as first names.
  3. Euphony matters -- the name ought to roll easily off the tongue and be easily understood when spoken.
  4. For euphony's sake, monosyllabic names ought to be avoided, because of our monosyllabic last name.
  5. We'd prefer traditional names within our ethnic heritage, which is mainly Ulster Scots (Scotch-Irish), English, Irish, German, Swiss German, Dutch, and (very slightly and not officially) Cherokee. Hadassah, Luigi, Svetlana, and Fernando are fine names each representing a fine heritage, but they'd be misleading attached to someone in our family.
  6. I won't rule out "M" names, but we've already got two MBs in the family and would prefer not to have a third.
  7. Norman is right out.

Joke suggestions are welcome as long as they're within the bounds of good taste, as defined by the Arbiter of Good Taste (me).

Deadline is midnight Central Time on New Year's Eve or when the baby arrives, whichever happens first.

Pajamas Media launched in November amidst much fanfare and a certain amount of confusion, thanks to their last minute name switch to Open Source Media, followed by a quick reversal to Pajamas. As I understand it, the point of Pajamas Media is to get mainstream advertisers to support blogging by offering an attractive package of the most popular and prominent blogs.

That may be useful for advertisers and ultimately successful, but it doesn't seem to have had an immediate impact on content. Over time, the extra income may free up member bloggers to spend more time researching and writing, but most of the members are bloggers who became popular because they're already writing a lot and updating frequently.

I was thinking today about another potential benefit from bloggers banding together, and I didn't see anything on Pajamas Media's website addressing this: Affordable access to online research tools.

There's an amazing amount of information that is hidden away in pay-for-access databases. newslibrary.com has archives from 818 news sources across the country, including Tulsa Whirled and Tulsa Tribune content going back to 1989. LexisNexis has content ranging from news and magazine articles to court cases to voter registration records to incorporation documents to land records, information that can provide background for a story and help a writer follow the money and connect the dots.

Professional journalists sometimes have access to these databases through the publications they write for. A freelancer might be able to deduct the cost of a subscription, provided he has enough income to cover the cost in the first place, but even then, if the information he needs is scattered through several different databases, he'll end up paying a fee to each, and may not get enough benefit out of any one source to take advantage of volume discounts.

But bloggers have to make do with the free samples. Archives for the most recent week of a newspaper may be free, but anything before that is $2 an article. A database may provide free access to limited information or relatively weak search capability, but you have to pay a monthly fee to get the full information in a usable format or to be able to use full-featured search tools to find what you're after.

For example: I recently used GuideStar to look up the most recent IRS Form 990 for Planned Parenthood Golden Gate, to find out how much of the organization's income came from government funding. (See my linkblog archive, scroll down to 2005-12-13. Sorry; one of these days, I'll add permalinks.) Money is fungible, and the money they get from the government for less controversial services frees up donor money to pay for cartoons of pro-choice superheros destroying abstinence advocates. Bloggers have used GuideStar recently to find out who funds a think-tank advocating against prescription drugs from Canada , to look into the finances of certain megachurch-related businesses, and to find out how much government money goes to a group that has produced a puppet video to urge teens to lobby the FDA for emergency contraception without a prescription.

For free, you can look at the three most recent Form 990s for an organization, but if you subscribe for $30 or $100 a month, you can get lists of board members and executives and access to all Form 990s on file. Paid access gets you more powerful search tools, as well.

Some research sources are available for free through your local library system, but that means having to schedule research time during their hours, using their computers, and being limited to so many minutes of access per day. (Occasionally, the database owner will allow library patrons to log in from anywhere on the Internet, but that isn't the case with some of the most powerful and useful databases.) It's good enough for casual use, but not sufficient for intensive research.

Most of the database sites I've visited mention that they can arrange special rates for libraries, corporations, and news organizations which need access for multiple users in the same organization. So here's my idea, and perhaps it can be done through the Media Bloggers Association: Negotiate group rates for unlimited or at least less expensive access to these databases for member bloggers. Access could be offered as part of an enhanced package of membership benefits. A blogger would pay one annual fee to the bloggers' association, and it would entitle him to access to a dozen key databases. The association would accumulate membership fees and pay group fees to the database services.

Does this seem worth pursuing? I think it would add depth to blog entries and would encourage more investigative blogging. How much would you be willing to pay to have this kind of information at your disposal? Let me know what you think, especially if you're a fellow blogger, by posting a comment or emailing me at blog AT batesline DOT com.

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I received an email from someone who had twice tried to post a comment here yesterday, but neither comment showed up as waiting for my approval. It may be that the connection is timing out before the comment script can add the comment to the database. If you've tried to post a comment in the last couple of days, please email me at blog AT batesline DOT com and let me know about it, so I can get some sense of the extent of the problem. Thanks.

Julie R. Neidlinger writes of a Christmas Eve service at the Church of the Living Powerpoint:

And therein lies another problem: we were not a congregation, but an audience. We were performed to by a bunch of talented musicians and a music pastor and a pastor who had planned the service to a T, with few glitches, all quite lovely. I looked around at the rest of the people, and everyone seemed to be really into it.

Except me, because I am an alien.

The start of the service should have served as a warning. The music pastor took his place behind the keyboard and as a non-Christmas chorus flashed on the screen, he told us he was going to teach us a new chorus.

Teach us a new chorus. During the Christmas Eve service.

I got up and walked out of the sanctuary. I was absolutely angry, because it just bothers me so much and I couldn't even say why. I waited outside in the hallway, pretending to read a bulletin board, while a few other choruses that had little, if any, Christmas connection were sung. A few parishioners came in and out of the sanctuary, but I avoided eye contact for fear they would attempt to share the four spiritual laws with me, assuming I was a pagan visiting family for Christmas and was unable to sit through the service.

If Julie's an alien, so am I. I remember being just as disturbed some years ago at a Christmas eve service. We were visiting out-of-town family and went to worship at a megachurch I call the Bobble Barn. (That's the way they say "Bible" in those parts.) I walked out, too.

Two things really got to me. At the beginning of the service, the music pastor told the parents not to correct their kids' behavior because, after all, it was Christmas eve. It struck me as the same sort of idolatry of the family to which evangelicalism is prone, the idea that Christianity is all about happy marriages and well-adjusted children (never mind all that gross stuff about God's wrath and a perfectly holy God-man offering himself as a bloody sacrifice to satisfy that wrath). The music pastor's admonition reflects a world-view in which Christmas is a holiday for children -- "tiny tots, with their eyes all aglow" -- not a day of rejoicing for all the redeemed.

And then, through most of the service, the house lights were down, and there was a spotlight on the music pastor. It was as if we were at his concert, and he was graciously allowing us to sing along. What was missing was any sense that we were assembled there corporately (as a body) to offer praise and adoration to the Word Made Flesh. A pagan wouldn't have had any trouble sitting through the service -- there wasn't anything that would have offended a pagan in this comfy, cozy, cardigan-clad Christmas concert.

Julie's essay is a re-run from a year ago, brought back because it articulated the feelings of many readers, all of whom no doubt wondered if they were aliens, too. I found myself nodding in agreement, especially when she comes to the issue of emotional manipulation:

I fear that evangelical denominations are desensitizing their own parishioners with this constant manipulation, to the point that their hearts are no longer moved by the simpleness of the Gospel, as well the complexity and wonder of the Gospel. They need a minor chord progression in the background before they know the presence of God, or appreciate something He's done.

The Bible says to let our yes be yes, and our no be no. It doesn't say anything about a violin in the background.

Julie plans to post an update, revisiting the ideas she was trying to get across in this entry. I'll look forward to that.

This morning I met up with Steve Patterson of Urban Review - St. Louis at Shades of Brown Coffee in Brookside to talk about urban developments here and there.

Steve was heading back to St. Louis after visiting family in Oklahoma City. True city aficionado that he is, he wanted to get a sense of the urban situation here in Tulsa and set aside some time this morning on his way home to explore and take a few photos. He quizzed me about interesting urban places in Tulsa, and I look forward to reading his observations of our city.

One topic that came up in our conversation was Tulsa's "East Village", the 115 acres between 1st and 7th, Elgin and Lansing. A St. Louis developer, Desco, had won a contract to redevelop the area, but they failed to do anything, which Steve indicated was a good thing. Desco is a suburban developer, connected with the Schnucks supermarket chain. Here's an example of how Desco builds in an urban environment -- cookie-cutter suburban design with the big parking lot, no pedestrian connection to the neighborhood, no respect for the traditional street grid. Looks like we dodged a bullet.

Lately he's been writing about the fight to preserve a historic church building, St. Aloysius Gonzaga and about revitalization in Old North St. Louis. This entry about the conversion of a north St. Louis middle school into apartments not only reviews the project itself, but gives you a sense of the context -- the surrounding neighborhood.

If we're going to make headway in preserving and recreating urban places in Tulsa, we'll have to learn lessons from other cities. The number of urban design blogs is growing, and Steve's blog is a great example of the emerging genre.

The five-year-old added the thought balloons to the cover of this morning's order of service.

Baby Jesus loves his mama

To the young lady who waited on me in the department store this evening:

I felt sorry for you, as I walked toward your counter with my purchase. From 30 feet away I could see the bright red spot there at the fold of your nostril. That's a spot that's prone to clogged pores, I thought. It was obviously inflamed, festering. It almost seemed shiny.

When I got to the counter, I realized it really was shiny, and it was a tiny red gem, not a zit. (It might have been a carbuncle, albeit not the kind you lance.)

You seemed to have a flawless complexion, and you must spend a lot of time caring for it. Why would you mess it up with a piece of jewelry that looks like a bad skin condition? Are you wearing it to demonstrate solidarity with your acne-afflicted peers?

I don't get it. Do any of my fellow fortyish fogeys get it?

Motley and crew

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I was thinking of all that we need to get done in the next week or so, and the phrase "miles to go before I sleep," from Robert Frost's poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. That took me down some mental pathways I haven't traveled in a while.

That phrase reminded me of a comic strip that ran in the early 1980s called Miles to Go, about a dog named Miles who worked in a used pet store. I remember clipping a Christmastime strip where Miles reviews the gifts he received from the other pets -- the payoff panel has him making a face over Mrs. Rabbit's raisin bread.

A Google search turns up the artist's name -- Phil Frank. Frank has another strip called Farley which has been running for 30 years; for the last 20 years exclusively in the San Francisco Chronicle. Somewhere in my Googling I read that Miles has made some appearances in Farley since the end of his own strip.

The Tulsa Tribune carried Miles to Go, and they also carried a strip called Wright Angles, which wasn't an animal strip, but the breakout character was a cat named Motley. Motley really captured the essence of finicky, self-centered cat-ness, and his attitude and appearance reminded me of our family's beloved cat, Flakey. The artist, Larry Wright, retired the strip sometime around 1990, but it's being serialized on United Media's website, retitled in honor of the cat.

Both strips ended before the advent of the World Wide Web, which would explain why neither has much of a presence on the 'net. (Yes, the old Wright Angles strips are on United Media's site under the name Motley, you won't find many references beyond that. And I haven't found anything that says that Motley is a repeat of Wright Angles, as obvious as that is.)

I am pleased to see classic comic strips running alongside new strips -- online at least. There are networks dedicated to classic TV shows, radio stations that play classic rock and classic country, so why not rerun the best cartoons?

Hypnotic Vision

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This week I managed to lead off my Urban Tulsa Weekly column, about the urban design characteristics of the new downtown Tulsa arena, with a Monty Python reference.

UPDATE: Charles G. Hill comments: "Oklahoma City's Ford Center isn't particularly iconic either, but it's intended to fit into an existing urban environment, not to anchor a new one." Precisely. If the building works well as urban design, it doesn't matter if it's iconic.

I thought of another TV reference, as I was writing about iconic structures, like the Eiffel Tower and the U. S. Capitol, which serve as widely-recognized symbols of their cities. There was a Green Acres episode in which Oliver and Lisa were going to Washington, and everyone in Hooterville told them to be sure to see the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. Oliver would scoff in reply: "Those aren't in Washington!" At the end of the episode, Oliver and Lisa are in their Washington hotel room and Lisa flings open the curtains to reveal... the Eiffel Tower. Just one of those surreal moments that made Green Acres a classic.

Elsewhere in the latest issue of UTW:

Katharine Kelly doesn't care for Qdoba. I tried it the other night and didn't care for it much myself. The food was OK, but the decor was very barren, the lights were so bright you couldn't see out the window to Cherry Street, and (worst of all) the free Wi-Fi didn't work.

Gretchen Collins reviews Philbrook's special exhibit of the works of Thomas Moran, the great landscape painter of the American west. It only runs through New Year's Day, so don't delay.

Lance Salyers has posted his first blog entry in a few months, stepping out of hiatus with a post at Eternal Revolution about the War on the War on Christmas. He begins with vocal Christians who have their knickers in a twist over this year's White House Christmas Card, which has a Bible verse but also says "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas":

This is just the latest in a series of skirmishes in the war to save our culture from itself. The call of Christ to help rescue fellow sheep that are lost often gets tabled for bigger missions, like ’saving Christmas’ by boycotting Wal-Mart, or ’saving marriage’ by boycotting Disney. How can the Enemy not love these morality crusades? They accomplish two things, neither of which are good:

1. They create an image of Christianity that is easily (and understandably) disdained: a shallow religion that concerns itself most with coercing others into an appearance of uniform morality.

2. They distract attention and divert resources of Christians away from doing the work Jesus actually calls us to do: bringing hope to the lost by personifying God’s love for them.

Lance goes on to suggest what we really ought to be doing to ensure that Christmas has meaning for us and for others.

I'm happy to see Lance posting again, even if this is only a brief cameo. I'm also happy to report that Lance's old URL, ragged-edges.blogspot.com, is now back under his control. When he decided to step away from blogging for a while, he deleted his blog. A spammer grabbed the URL to take advantage of the strong search engine page rank the URL enjoyed, thanks to all of the links to Lance's writing on other blogs. (His is not the only blog to have been hijacked in this way. I wrote about this phenomenon back in October.) The spammer went away, or more likely was booted, the URL became available again, and I was able to help Lance reclaim it before some other spammer could get hold of it.

Historic Tulsa photo request

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Reader Russell Litterell writes from Memphis:

I am writing on behalf of my mother who is terminally ill. I am a native Tulsan who has not lived in Tulsa for 30 years. I am trying to find a photo or photos of the old Seidenbachs Specialty store (High-End Womens Clothier) that was located at 4th & Main in Downtown Tulsa (circa 1920-1960's). Also any photos of the Colonial Furniture Company located on So.Harvard between 15th and 21st. Colonial Furniture closed around 1965. I think there is a hardware store now located in the same building.

My mother worked for Seidenbachs and Dad worked at Colonial Furniture. Mom would love to see any photos. Any help you can provide in locating these would be greatly appreciated.

If you have photos of these places, or have spotted such photos on the Internet, please contact Russell at Russell.Litterell@pilot.fedex.com. And let me know, too, please, as I'm sure others would be interested.

(That stammered "order" was an attempt at a Betty Boothroyd impression, for you incurable C-SPAN Question Time fans.)

Basil of basil's blog has been conducting interviews of bloggers this fall, collecting questions from readers, then allowing the subject blogger to respond, unedited, and presenting the results in an entertaining format. Here's my interview. I notice that sometime early next year Sean Gleeson and Don Singleton will be on the hotseat.

Coming up very shortly will be an interview with Hooah Wife Greta Perry, who is based here in the Tulsa area. If you've read her blog, you know she isn't shy about speaking her mind, so the interview should be a fun read. Click here to submit questions for her interview; the deadline is December 31.

Now Greta is turning the tables on Basil. She's collecting questions for an interview of him, and the deadline for those questions is also December 31. So here's your chance to learn about the enigma who uses a cute chubby-cheeked toddler photo as his avatar.

Not "free" the adjective, but "free" the imperative verb. America's most public-transit-dependent city has been hit with a strike of public transit workers, and the solution is to liberate public transit from the state-owned monopoly that controls it.

Karol at Alarming News sees a silver lining in the cloud of the transit strike:

I like that people get to see what Unions really are, and what they really do. What private sector employee gets a mandatory 8% non-performance-based raise each year? What private sector employee has a standard retirement age of 55?

In the comments one of her readers defended the union's strike as an exercise of freedom of association and good ol' capitalism, using the leverage they have to get more money. Here's my reply:

If this were a situation where free markets and freedom of association were at work, the city would be able to fire every worker who didn't show up today and replace them with someone willing to work. Instead, the union can put city government over a barrel because they have a federally-enforced monopoly over the labor supply for the transit system. That, in turn, puts the citizens of New York over a barrel because of laws that keep the private sector out and give city government a monopoly over mass transit.

I linked to a background paper by the Institute for Justice, which was involved in a case in New York defending entrepreneurs who wanted to provide bus service in areas that aren't well-served by the city's system. Click through and read that paper -- these are classic examples of creative people who saw a need and a way to earn a fair wage by filling that need, but they were shut down by unnecessary regulation. Ultimately, state law in New York allows the city to keep private bus companies out, which is the case in most of the country. Laws against private bus companies don't serve the public interest -- they serve entrenched interests like the union and the city transit bureaucracy.

Beyond our Ken, again

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I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by the backlog of material I'd like to cover here, and I tip my hat to my fellow Tulsa Bloggers for their continuing coverage of all things local.

Ken Neal, editorial page editor of the Tulsa Whirled, has made some noise lately -- even more than usual. I was going to comment on some of his latest stuff, including a very funny little email he sent to the South Tulsa Citizens Coalition, but Dan Paden and Steve Roemerman have done a very fine job, so go read them.

I'm still wondering about something: News stories about editorial cartoonist Dave Simpson's dismissal a few weeks ago for a plagiarized cartoon that was published in July mentioned that the Hartford Courant, where the purloined cartoon was published, complained to an editor at the Whirled, who apparemtly didn't pursue the matter. Was Ken Neal the editor who let the ball drop? It would have been his department. Why is the Whirled so reluctant to name the editor who failed to respond to the Courant?

To balance out that last post, I should mention that my dad has been having a lot of fun as Santa's helper this month. He filled in at Philbrook a couple of weekends and has appeared at some Christmas parties. He's had kids from 9 weeks to 94 years on his lap. He was the first Santa a Tunisian visitor to Tulsa had ever met.

I gave him a free BlogAd, and he's had several leads from the ad. A reader in Conway, Arkansas, mentioned him to a Tulsa relative who needed a Santa for an event. A Santa who needed a last-minute substitute gave him a call.

As the blurb says, "A BatesLine ad is great value." For $10 a week, your ad appears on every page on the site, including all my archived entries. It averages out to less than 2/10ths of a cent per view. For a ridiculous $45, you can have an ad for three months -- that averages less than a tenth of a penny per view.

A big portion of the readership is in Tulsa or interested in Tulsa because they still have family and friends here and they visit once in a while, so it's a cheap way to attract local customers to your locally-owned business. You could even use a BlogAd to wish a friend a happy birthday -- it's cheaper than flowers.

Click the "Advertise on BatesLine" button to set up your own cheap ad. If you need help setting things up, drop me an e-mail at blog AT batesline DOT com.

My friend Daaaaaave Russ wrote from Florida to tip me off about a nifty electronics project that was done right here in Tulsa by one Josh McCormick -- modifying a $50 singing/dancing Wal-Mart Santa to produce different sounds and movements:

I've had a Parallax BASIC Stamp for some time. The nice BS2P40 model. For those not familiar with the BASIC Stamp, it is a computer chip that you can program in a simple language that can monitor and control things. It is nowhere near as complex as a full-blown computer, but it requires just a minimum of wiring and electronics to run. It just takes some good programming and some very basic electronics....

The problem is that I hadn't been able to find many interesting things to do with it. I created a little display toy (persistence of vision) with some full color (RGB) LEDs. That was about it. But last month, an interesting announcement hit my mailbox. It was a call for entries [Word Document] for a local non-conformist art show in Tulsa!

I've got to do something. But what can I do? LEDs? No, too boring. So I went browsing the isles of Wal*Mart and see if there were any good hackable items to be had there. Sure enough, there were a few candidates. But one item out of the entire store screamed "hack me" more than anything else. The $49.84 animatronic Santa Claus.

Sadly, the non-conformist art show folks didn't appreciate his efforts:

Two days later, the judging came, and I got a phone call from the art gallery. They said they had a lot of entries this year, and they apologize that the judging was "rather ruthless". My entry did not qualify for the exhibit. I was slightly disappointed, but I was a little confused. From what I was told, the judges leaned more towards mainsteam art. You know... sculpture, painting, etc. No big deal, I really didn't put my self worth on the line with this one. But they wanted it out of their gallery by the end of the day.

I arrive at the art gallery and checked out the remaing artworks. Most of them seem sexual in nature. You know. George Bush with an erection, that sort of thing. Were these the winners, or other losers like myself?

Click through for videos of Hacked Santa in action, plus all the gory technical details. If you can handle dark humor, don't miss the list of candidate phrases for Hacked Santa to say: "I can give you free stuff because I skimp on Elf health care! HO HO HO!!"

Mister Snitch! wants your help in identifying the best 100 blog entries of 2005:

Even if most web awards weren't an exercise in driving traffic (compare traffic numbers with Wizbang's list of award winners, and you'll understand), they still don't direct us to the best posts of the year. Great posts happen independently of traffic stats. In fact, some bloggers are likely to create great (and unknown) posts precisely because they spend less time doing self-promotion and more time writing. Those are the posts we want to acknowledge.

To get you thinking, he lists ten types of posts that fit what he's looking for, including "milk-out-your-nose funny," "a great comment thread," "something you'd stick in a time capsule."

I'm going to go back through my archives and take another look at the things I found link-worthy in the course of 2005 for a half-dozen or so that rise above the rest, maybe one of each type. (I have a feeling one of the Bayly Brothers' reports and reflections from Terri Schiavo's hospice will be among them.)

To make it easy for you to participate, I'll be adding a link in the sidebar on my homepage. Click through and follow the instructions to participate.

Bobby of Tulsa Topics has done a great service by collecting in one place, in chronological order, the petition origins of the recent drive to dismember three Tulsa City Council districts and add three at-large seats on the Council, and the parallel thread leading to the Mayor's "Citizens' Commission on City Government".

It's especially interesting to notice the timing of Tulsa Whirled editorials and news stories on the subject.

There's an interesting discussion over in the TulsaNow forums about the new Office Depot at 15th and Lewis. It sits awkwardly in the middle of the lot, roughly where the previous structure, a Safeway / Homeland / Alps supermarket, sat, but facing north, with a small parking lot to the north and another separate lot on the south side. The old supermarket had its main entrance facing Lewis, very near the sidewalk. The Office Depot also comes up to the sidewalk, but presents passers-by with a blank wall.

The discussion led to some questions about the relatively new McDonald's at 15th and Peoria, namely, "How could they build that plain ol' McDonald's there, right on Cherry Street?" I've posted an explanation and elaborated on what Oklahoma City has done to encourage good urban infill. Specifically, I talk about OKC's urban design districts, which are overlay districts that add some restrictions while relaxing others in order that new development fits the character of historic commercial districts like 23rd Street (west of the State Capitol, home to many Asian businesses) and Capitol Hill (a neighborhood south of the river which is nowhere near the Capitol).

In researching my response, which contains links to a lot of info about Oklahoma City, I found a link to a browsable zoning map of Oklahoma City. It would be awfully nice if Tulsa had something like that available online.

There's always funny stuff over on Purgatorio, but the latest batch is laugh-until-you-cry quality:

  • Religious LP covers: "The Addicts Sing" (nice sketch of someone shooting up on the back), "From Nightclubs to Christ" (the conversion of a debauched accordionist), "Lynne and Gwynne" (the singing twins), and Christmas adventures with the Six Million Dollar Man.
  • 10 Reasons Why You Probably Shouldn't Be Amish Anymore: Number 10: "You start what you think is a really good Amish blog and your only visitors are Hutterites."
  • Kitschy nativity sets, including Peanuts and Veggie Tales characters, Precious Moments figurines, and an all-dog cast (including a dog in the manger, natch).
  • Nuns with guns: It's a caption contest; be sure to read the comments.
  • Snake handlers: In memory of snake-handling pioneer George W. Hensley, who died 50 years ago... you can guess what from.

Bookmark it, blogroll it, enjoy.

P.S. Yes, I will get back to serious stuff, and I will analyze the 4 to Fix the County vote and the latest developments with the Mayor's "Citizens' Commission on City Government" -- but not tonight.

Tulsa Boy Singers, Saturday at 8

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My son performed in his first Tulsa Boy Singers concert this evening, and it was a wonderful performance. They'll be performing again Saturday evening.

If you enjoy sacred choral music of the Christmas season, if you'd like to imagine for an hour or so that you are in an ancient Gothic chapel in England listening to a sung service, come to Trinity Episcopal Church, 5th and Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa, tomorrow night to hear TBS. The performance begins at 8 p.m., lasts about 90 minutes with an intermission, and there's a reception afterwards in the Great Hall.

There were some scrapbooks of years past on display during the reception, so if you're an alumnus of the group, come by and relive tours and concerts past.

Admission is free, but tax-deductible donations are gratefully received. TBS's first-ever CD will be available for purchase, too.

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Nothing new from me tonight -- sorry about that. I've been busy wrapping up Christmas shopping and working on next week's column. In the meantime, if you're a displaced Oklahoma Citian and homesick for the B. C. Clark jingle, Charles G. Hill has some good news for you. Unfortunately for you, you won't get to hear it in the same spectacular fashion that I first did -- sung by Charles, Jan, Dwayne (and his Lovely Bride), and Dan. (I think Sean had left by then, and I don't remember whether Don or John joined in.)

Blue ribbon jeer

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This week's column is about the demise of the late, unlamented petition pushing for at-large members of the Tulsa City Council, and Bill LaFortune's new "Citizens' Commission," which appears to be intended to push the same agenda by other means.

Elsewhere in the current Urban Tulsa Weekly:

Have you wondered about the huge clouds of birds that swirl around and roost at sunset this time of year? The birds that are incredibly noisy and seem to love Bradford ornamental pear trees? Emily Berman has the scoop.

G. W. Schulz has a story about city employee unionization, with extensive quotes from City Councilors Martinson, Mautino, and Medlock on their reasons for their votes on the issue (Mautino voted yes, Medlock and Martinson voted no), from national and local representatives of AFSCME, the public sector employee union, and from one of the other Michael Bateses in town, Michael S. Bates, the city human resources director.

Apparently, I've been "allowed to hijack" the UTW op/ed page, or so says a letter writer named Joe Gaudet. Sir, if I could hijack an op/ed page, I'd have it fly me some place warm.

The Tulsa Whirled is advertising for a cartoonist to replace Dave Simpson, who was fired a month ago for plagiarism:

Unlike many newspapers, the Tulsa World is seeking a cartoonist. The Tulsa World is one of an elite few of daily newspapers that remain family owned. We believe the venerable political cartoon is, and should be, one of the most visible and popular parts of the newspaper. We have been advised to hire a cartoonist with the same careful consideration that we would use in selecting a new dog. Not that cartoonists are dogs, but both situations require mutual like and respect and long commitment.

Our requirements are simple: Our new cartoonist has to be a great caricaturist; be up to the minute on news developments locally and nationally and produce a funny cartoon at least five times a week, or at the drop of a hat. Now, that won't be too hard, will it? If you believe you measure up and will work for something less than an arm and a leg, (maybe an occasional bone), let us hear from you. We promise great working conditions, colleagues who like to laugh and enjoy their work, and a lot of ideas, most of which you can feel free to reject.

Please contact Laura McIntosh at laura.mcintosh(at)tulsaworld.com OR send resume, samples of work and salary requirements to my attention at the Tulsa World, 315 S. Boulder Avenue, Tulsa, OK 74103.

The ad appeared on the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists bulletin board on Monday, which happened to be Black Ink Monday, when cartoonists published cartoons protesting the decision of the Los Angeles Times and the Baltimore Sun, both owned by Tribune Corp., to lay off their cartoonists.

Simpson's cartoons were a highlight of the Tulsa Tribune, one of the ways the evening paper distinguished itself from the Whirled. (The Whirled had been without a cartoonist for as long as I could remember.)

Back in the '70s and '80s, Simpson could be funny. I have a paperback of his cartoons from the period and still get a chuckle out of them. When the Whirled killed the Tribune, they hired Simpson, but they seem to have put him on a short leash, and every cartoon reflected the Whirled's editorial line. A good cartoonist makes everyone look ridiculous, but Simpson, during his Whirled years, may as well have drawn a nimbus behind Susan Savage's head in every cartoon she appeared in. Not to make excuses for plagiarism, but I suspect working at the Whirled would kill anyone's creativity over time.

Many of the commenters on the EditorialCartoonists.com bulletin board think that the editorial cartoon has had its day. Laurence Simon posted this comment about the Black Ink Monday cartoon gallery. (He posted comments about the individual cartoons on his blog.)

Let's treat this gallery not as a protest, but a pop quiz. "Can you draw an editorial cartoon that's simple, effective, and conveys the message?"

Well, I've graded the class, and there's lots of C's, D's, and F's.

Most of the cartoons failed to convey the basic message, used pointless or goofy symbols that required labels to demonstrate what they represented, showed poor quality artwork, employed pointless dialogue, used a Boss Tweed reference most readers wouldn't understand, or engaged in non sequitur Bush bashing.

If columnists were to engage in such rambling off-topic and obscure activities, they'd find their space replaced with syndicated material and bra ads, too.

Other commenters point out that cartoonists will be more valuable to their papers if they adapt to new technologies (why not cartoon in color?), focus on local issues, and draw well and be funny. Pat Crowley, an illustrator/cartoonist for the Palm Beach Post, wrote:

With the internet ANYONE can be a political cartoonist these days. Your newspapers pay you to draw 250 cartoons every year. That gives you the edge over the internet. Are you using it? Are you a better cartoonist than you were last year? ... The art of editorial cartooning has deteriorated over the years and you can't blame it on the accountants. A lot of the work I see out there looks like it was executed- and written- in less than an hour.... When the editors start rejecting your work because it's too well-drawn, too timely, too local or too funny, you have a case.

A new cartoonist at the Whirled could be a great asset to the community, but not if he's restricted from making fun of the politicians and programs that the Whirled supports. If you're a cartoonist and want to work for a Tulsa publication that will allow you a great deal of creative freedom, you should get in touch with this paper instead.

There's an oddly ambivalent editorial about abortion in today's Daily Telegraph, Britain's leading conservative broadsheet, citing the University of Oslo study on the psychological effects of abortion. The paper calls for tightening abortion laws by making the gestational age limit earlier than the current 24 weeks. The article's headline is "The shame of our abortion laws." The editorial is careful not to condemn abortion:

Abortion, like miscarriage, involves the loss of a baby; unlike miscarriage, the loss is the result of a conscious decision. And the operation itself, as Germaine Greer has taken to reminding her fellow feminists, is a gruesome one. No wonder that a fifth of women continue to feel depression, shame or guilt.

At this point we should stress that those feelings may be (and probably are) inappropriate. This newspaper has never offered a view on the morality of abortion per se.

So, according to the Telegraph, the feelings of guilt, shame, and depression are inappropriate, and they say that presumably because they believe there's nothing wrong with having an abortion. Yet they chide Prime Minister Tony Blair for not supporting an earlier cutoff for late-term abortions:

In the short term, more post-abortion counselling is needed. In the long term, the need for it should be reduced by a change in the law. The current limit of 24 weeks is appallingly high; yet Tony Blair, a practising Christian, has opposed efforts to reduce it even slightly. It is he, rather than women who have been pressurised into having abortions, who should feel ashamed.

While I'm glad to see the Telegraph support any further restrictions on abortion, the reasoning in this piece is incoherent, and it reflects an incoherence that I observe in the British Conservative Party, and in the Republican Party in the "blue states". There's a recognition that sound traditional values are being violated, to the detriment of individuals, families, and society, but there's an unwillingness to contradict the spirit of the age by bluntly calling a practice wrong, immoral, or evil.

Voters who hold to traditional values in Britain and in Blue State America have no political home. No major party is speaking to their concerns and priorities, so they stay home on election day. The Conservative Party in Britain and the Republican Party in the US should be the natural homes of these voters, but they're kept at arms' length by the entrenched party apparatus. In Red State America, these motivated values voters have been able to dominate state and local Republican organizations, but the older, once-influential Republican organizations in the Blue States are designed to resist grassroots influence and keep the same people in control of an ever-shrinking party.

Show and kvell: He's a treble

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My nine-year-old son started this fall with Tulsa Boy Singers, which he dearly loves. This weekend he will be singing in the TBS Christmas concert (this Friday and Saturday evening), and he'll also be singing a solo at the school's Christmas chapel and a solo in our church's Christmas program on Sunday night.

This evening, I had the privilege of listening as he rehearsed the piece for Sunday. He has a beautiful tone, clear and straight (i.e. no vibrato), and was right on pitch with a challenging melody. He seems very confident with the music.

Can you tell I'm proud of him?

Ain't that a kick?

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"He's kicking," said of a child in utero, is somewhat misleading, because it suggests that the child is otherwise stationary. The reality, I am reliably told, feels more like someone doing Taebo in a gym that is barely bigger than the person exercising. Which is a rather odd sensation for the gym.

4-to-Fix roundup

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Here's a roundup of local opinion and information on Tulsa County's "4 to Fix" tax. I've picked out some of the choicest blog-bites, but be sure to click the links to read the whole thing:

Here's what appears to be the official website for the vote yes campaign.

Here are the ballot resolutions passed by the Tulsa County Commission, and a sample ballot (PDF).

Do the River First is one of the groups opposing the tax, specifically propositions 2, 3, and 4.

The South Tulsa Citizens Coalition opposes the entire package.

Councilor Chris Medlock explains his opposition to the tax, and his proposal for using the money to fund public safety in the City of Tulsa.

On the radio:

Joe Kelley, KRMG morning host, on his blog, The Sake of Argument:

I’ve met with many of these politicians and have found many of them to be in outright glee over the windfall of cash from Vision 2025 and the current Four-to-Fix. Not once have I heard a single politician say, "Yes, the extra money would be nice, but if we need more funding for any of our projects, we should first look at cutting spending somewhere else. Until we work harder to eliminate waste, we should not ask the taxpayers to shoulder a great burden than what they already pay."

KFAQ morning host Michael DelGiorno has frequently expressed his opposition to the new county tax.

In print:

The Tulsa Beacon:

The projects on the list have merit but some are just not high priorities. County government is essentially closed to public comment on its capital priorities and that is another reason to vote no.... County government serves an appropriate function. But the land area served by Tulsa County is shrinking as cities take in more annexed land. The county shouldn’t be involved in municipal projects.

Here's the Tulsa Beacon's news story on the tax vote, with a list of projects.

Here's my latest Urban Tulsa Weekly column on 4-to-Fix, a column about the tax proposal from when renewal was beginning to be discussed, a column about Tulsa County Commissioners' aversion to competitive bidding.

The weekly Owasso Reporter opposes propositions 2, 3, and 4, saying that it's a bad deal for north Tulsa County towns, too, because the money for road projects in the area is a token amount that won't actually get anything fixed.

In the blogosphere:

Dan Paden:

I know it's only a pittance, but dadgummit, it makes Tulsa a donor city and I'm not at all convinced that it's worth it. Let's set a precedent and actually stop renewing some of these taxes.

Dave the Oklahomilist:

It's not like last time where we were having to replace facilities at the fairgrounds that were to the point of being unsafe. And as far as we can tell a no vote does not take bread out of anyone's mouth.... Saying no on Tuesday is a shot across the bow to all units of local government as we tell them to quit taking us for granted. Get lean and mean. Figure out what is essential. Get creative.

Steve Roemerman:

Due to increasing construction and higher property values, Tulsa County is enjoying increased revenue from property taxes. Meanwhile Tulsa is withering on the vine. Any sales tax that The County levies will only serve to limit the funding options of Tulsa, or any other city in Tulsa County for that matter.

Mad Okie:

Which is more important?

Pick one:

  1. Golf Cart Storage
  2. Police
  3. River Development

If you selected #1 then vote Yes for 4 to fix, otherwise vote NO on 4 to Fix so financing can be available for the more important things.

MeeCiteeWurkor:

Just a reminder to those of you who think you are being taxed to death. This Tuesday on the 13th, if you live in Tulsa County, you need to go vote NO on all five items on the “4 to fix” ballot.

Homeowners for Fair Zoning:

Bottom line: The county is in great shape, the surrounding towns' tax revenues are way up, Tulsa's revenues are down and our city infrastructure is falling down around us! That sales tax revenue should now come back to City of Tulsa for police, streets, etc. and the county should go back to living on THEIR OWN INCOME -- property taxes.

Tulsa Chiggers:

It is obvious to everyone that the CITY OF TULSA needs the municipal sales tax income stream instead of the County. Although we can all see the fruits of the County's improvements to such things as LaFortune Park and the Fairgrounds, 4 to Fix was always supposed to be a temporary tax.... The County is not broke, so let's don't fix it!

Charles G. Hill provides some insight from the other end of the Turner Turnpike.

If I've missed anything significant, drop me an e-mail at blog AT batesline DOT com.

A few questions I haven't seen answered anywhere about the 50 cent per month per wireless phone tax on Tuesday's ballot, which is supposed to pay for a 911 system that can pinpoint the location of an emergency call made from a wireless phone:

Who will be collecting these funds?

How much will the new 911 equipment cost?

How much are the estimated annual operating costs?

How much money is the tax expected to raise?

How will any surplus money be spent?

What funds will be used to compensate for any shortfalls?

Anyone know?

A quick round up

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We were at a very entertaining Christmas program at our church tonight, a dinner theatre play called "In Bethlehem Inn," written by John Carter. The audience members are guests eating at the inn as strange things begin to happen outside. It was well written, well acted, and well directed -- with a lot of very funny moments. (The innkeeper's conniption upon realizing the star is hovering over his house is priceless. He does not regard it as a good omen.)

No time to write more tonight, but I do want to call your attention to some good blogging elsewhere.

Dan Paden is on a roll over at his badly misnamed No Blog of Significance, making a point about the Piltdown Man hoax, expressing some cynicism about LaFortune's "citizens' commission", analyzing the latest Mayoral race polls, and telling us about the subversive literature his 16-year-old reading.

Bobby's got his latest Tulsa Topics podcast up, with coverage of Friday's press conference by Tulsans Defending Democracy, the opposition to the at-large councilor petition.

Dave Schuttler of Our Tulsa World has video from recent public meetings, including a City Council discussion about the proposed 50 cent wireless phone tax, from an airport official's appearance before the Board of Adjustment. And he's keeping an eye on Cinnabar's involvement in Vision 2025.

Steve Roemerman links to some sites where you can test the permeability of your computer network's firewall.

Chris Medlock has comments on the Tulsa Beacon's opposition to the new "4 to Fix the County" sales tax.

Don't forget to mail your Christmas card to the ACLU. And don't forget to vote in the 2005 Weblog Awards. (If you're a nominee and a reader of this site, and I overlooked your blog, please let me know.)

The above title differs only slightly from that of a song by Mark Russell, circa 1978. In one of his, at the time, fresh and original PBS specials, he lampooned President Jimmy Carter's $50 rebate, intended to stimulate our stagflated economy.

Now in 2005, just about anyone who filed an Oklahoma tax return for 2004 have received rebate checks in the mail: $45 for individual taxpayers, $90 for joint filers. The money's being sent back because the state had more money than it needed this year, enough to pay the bills and top up the "Rainy Day Fund."

A friend e-mailed to complain about the inequity of the rebate:

The $45 I received yesterday is exactly the amount my assistant got the same day, yet I paid ten times the state tax she paid. This is a form of communism (what appears to be mine is actually "ours", so we're here to take it). If this were a true refund and not a redistribution of wealth, I would have received ($45+$45)x(10)/(10+1) or $82 and my assistant would have received $8, but instead, Gov Henry has taken some of my money and given it to my assistant.

It ain't right, Mike, yet no one I've spoken with about this had realized they'd just had their farm collectivized. Had you even realized it?

Hadn't even occurred to me, but he has a point. At least it wasn't the whole farm. And no kulaks were harmed in this redistribution process, which is nice.

Keep praying...

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The latest reports from Mike Mansur regarding his son, who was born prematurely and with a congenital heart defect, are encouraging.

I don't know how often Mike will be able to check his blog, but you might leave an encouraging comment, just in case.

More blogging elsewhere

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I encourage you, as always, to explore the links on the right side of the page, as well as the linkblog above. (And note, too, that there's an archive of all previous linkblog entries.)

If you're a Tulsan, be sure to check out the TulsaBloggers.net aggregator. And MeeCiteeWurkor offers the convenience of the same set of blogs combined into a single set of links, in reverse chronological order.

Beyond our city limits (well beyond, in one case), you will find a couple of blogs that always have something new and interesting: Dustbury and Mister Snitch!

Welcome back to...

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...Will of Caffeinated Musings, who is learning to be less caffeinated and more active.

...Missy of Marsupial Mom, who has posted her first entry ("a hodge-podge") since giving birth to her new baby boy back in August. Her latest post links to a Reformation Day entry by Jollyblogger, in an attempt to explain "why coming into the Reformed faith has been such a life-changing experience." She writes:

I was in despair when I was trying to figure out what I could do to get closer to God. I have spent the last two years being reminded of what God has done for me. Huge difference.

(There are also some smile- and tear-inducing entries on her and her husband's family blog, Little House, including a lovely remembrance of his recently departed aunt.)

Street closing denied

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At last night's City Council meeting, the Indian Health Care Resource Center (IHCRC), on the northwest corner of 6th and Peoria, applied to have Owasso Avenue vacated by the city, so that it could close the street, and expand its surface parking lot.

My friend Jamie Jamieson, developer of the Village at Central Park, and a guiding light of the 6th Street Task Force, spoke in opposition to the closing, making a very eloquent case for keeping urban streets open and showing how other measures could address the needs of the IHCRC while still allowing pedestrian and vehicular traffic to pass through on Owasso Ave. (Thanks to Steve Roemerman for posting the outline of his remarks.)

The Council sided with the neighbors and voted unanimously to deny the street closure.

Way back in 1999, I served on the committee that selected Jamie's team to redevelop the area between Central (Centennial) Park and Oaklawn Cemetery. One of the things I liked about the Village at Central Park plan was the determination to keep the new development connected to the surrounding areas, like a real city. Many new developments are walled enclaves, with private streets, but there are no walls around the Village, and the streets and alleys are all public ways.

This week in Urban Tulsa Weekly, an up-close look at next Tuesday's Tulsa County sales tax election. (You can find an earlier column about this tax proposal here, and here's a column about Tulsa County Commissioners' aversion to competitive bidding.

G. W. Schulz has a lengthy profile of Ray and Robin Siegfried, the company they built, their lavish lifestyles, and the legal dispute that divides the two brothers even after Ray's death earlier this year. And he's got a story about Oklahoma's TABOR initiative.

All that and much more, in the latest issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly.

Why are projected revenues from Oklahoma's new tobacco tax so much lower than projected? An e-mail from Daniel Keating has the explanation:

I was recently asked how things are going with the tobacco compact issue since I serve as chairman of the Cigarette and Tobacco Tax Advisory Committee and there seems to be tobacco related stories each day in the newspaper.

Our committee has held two meetings with another scheduled on December 12. What we have been asked to do is make recommendations to the Tax Commission and the legislature on issues relating to enforcement of the levy, collections and remittances of taxes on cigarette and tobacco products in the state. As you are aware, Oklahoma passed state question 713 last year.

This question was intended to raise taxes on cigarettes and use the proceeds to fund a number of worthy health programs. Most people also thought and were told, it would eliminate the tribal tax advantage over non-tribal stores, which had been 42 cents a pack, to 17 cents a pack.

And how are things going today? Well today, the state is nearly $ 70 million behind on the projected collections, a large portion of Oklahoma's convience store industry is facing financial ruin and layoffs, and a number of major Indian nations and tribes are accused of being "cheaters" as they try to compete with other tribes who have been given compact preferences.

The fact is in 2003, a full year before passage of state question 713, Governor Henry and then Finance Director Scott Meacham negotiated and approved a great number of new tobacco compacts that gave certain tribes a tax advantage of 97 cents a pack, a 130% increase over what had been clearly out of line.

As the administration tries to square this raw deal, we were told it only affects shops located on the border. This is not true. Tribes near Stillwater, Seminole and Norman operate at the 6 cent exception rate. Those tribes not so fortunate pay 87 cents and non-tribal retailers pay $ 1.03. The Governor's compacts cannot be overturned and run until June 30, 2013. The Tax Commission, in my opinion, has little or no jurisdiction. It is not an enforcement body.

Against this background, the committee hopes to bring parity back to the convience store industry and make sure this anti-small business tactic is never used again.

Effectively, Oklahoma now has, at six cents per pack, the second-lowest cigarette tax in the nation. Not exactly what voters were sold, is it?

Weblog Awards 2005

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Speaking of the Weblog Awards, I should mention that a number of BatesLine's blogpals (defined as blogs that link here) are finalists this year:

Best New Blog (Established after November 19, 2004): basil's blog
Best Liberal Blog: Clarified
Best of the Top 1001 - 1750 Blogs: The Gleeson Bloglomerate
Best of the Top 1001 - 1750 Blogs: Dustbury
Best of the Top 1751 - 2500 Blogs: Sean Gleeson
Best of the Top 2501 - 3500 Blogs: Different River
Best of the Top 6751 - 8750 Blogs: Save the GOP
Best of the Rest: Hooah Kid

Congratulations on being nominated!

Remember, you can vote once a day in each category, every day through the 15th.

Right Wing and Right Minded has a seven-question interview with Lt. Col. Brett Perry, husband of Hooah Wife Greta Perry. He is with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, and was a part of the reconstruction effort in Iraq, which is the focus of the interview.

Also, the Perrys' seven-year-old son is up for a Weblog Award -- Best of the Rest. You can vote once a day, every day between now and the 15th.

is when my no-longer-baby girl lost her first tooth. She was very concerned to remember the exact date and time of this momentous occasion. And she is very excited.

Tulsans for Badder Government halted their petition for at-large councilors on Monday, and Mayor Bill LaFortune announced formation of a new "Citizens' Commission" to study Tulsa's form of government. The Mayor says he doesn't want any politicians involved in the process, but he's handpicking all the members. Council members weren't consulted, nor have they had the opportunity to recommend members of this task force. Bobby's got details at Tulsa Topics.

I really did hear Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune say this tonight:

"More police officers mean more arrests mean a higher crime rate."

Here's the audio of my question and his answer (500 KB MP3), at a "Mayor's Night In" meeting for neighborhood leaders. (Thanks to Bobby of Tulsa Topics for capturing it.)

I always thought crime rate was based on crimes reported, not arrests.

Also, LaFortune seems to say that it's just fine for Tulsa to be a donor city on the "4 to Fix the County" tax. (If the tax passes next week, Tulsa sales will generate $50 million of the tax, but only $40 million will pay for projects in or near the City of Tulsa. The rest will go to the suburbs.)

Church on Christmas?

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Michael Spencer has a roundup of responses (including his own) to the news that many of the nation's evangelical megachurches are punting services on Christmas morning, although they will have Christmas eve services.

Cancelling Sunday service on Christmas day is not as novel as some of the reaction seems to suppose. There was one Sunday Christmas during my schoolyears -- 1977 -- and if I recall correctly, the little Southern Baptist congregation we belonged to cancelled Sunday services.

Also, it was our church's practice to sing Christmas carols only on the Sunday nearest to Christmas. The Sunday School quarterly (it was a long time before I knew it wasn't spelled cordalee) had a lesson from the nativity accounts on that Sunday, and the pastor would preach a Christmas sermon, and that was about it for our church's observance of the holiday.

It wasn't that Christmas-themed content was banned on other Sundays, it's just that we stuck to the usual pattern the rest of the time -- gospel hymns from the late 1800s and early 1900s, and the pastor preaching from wherever he happened to be on his expository preaching through the Bible. No Advent, no Christmastide, no Christmas eve or Christmas day service.

We did have our own family Christmas traditions -- reading the nativity story and a time of prayer as a family, driving around to look at Christmas lights, then opening one gift each on Christmas eve -- new pajamas. Christmas day was always about gifts, food, and family.

I'm glad the church we now belong to has a Christmas eve service. I think it's right to come together as a church to celebrate the Incarnation of Christ. I agree that our country's biggest and most visible churches ought to be open on Christmas day and ready to receive and minister to those who will only enter a church on Christmas. But, for what it's worth, closing a church on Christmas day is nothing new, and nothing especially progressive.

UPDATE: Our church, Christ Presbyterian Church, 51st and Columbia, will have services at 6 and 11 p.m. on Christmas eve, and at the usual time, 10:45 a.m. on Christmas day, with Sunday School at 9:15. No services that Sunday evening.

In the comments, Elaine Dodd has posted times for her church's Christmas eve and Christmas day services. If you're part of a Tulsa area church having services on those days, feel free to post a brief comment with the details.

The good news is that Tulsans for Badder Government has decided to drop its petition effort for dismembering three Tulsa City Council districts and replacing them with three elected city-wide. The bad news is that, word has it, Mayor Bill LaFortune is going to set up a blue-ribbon panel to study the form of government headed up by the same wealthy Utica Square types who supported the petition. Either way, their goal is the same -- dilute the influence of citizens from the outlying parts of Tulsa at City Hall.

Bobby at Tulsa Topics went by to sign the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) state initiative petition at a storefront near 51st and Harvard today, and he learned that the same company was soliciting and paying for signatures on TABOR, the eminent domain reform petition, and Tulsans for Badder Government's petition. Go read what Bobby learned when he visited the office and returned again later. Then go visit politicalactivists.org and learn about the world of professional petition signature gathering.

MORE: On the home page of politicalactivists.org, the first sentence says, "At politicalactivists.org we are a non partisan organization dedicated to putting conservative issues on the ballet for voter approval." But they go on to say that they've done work for the Kerry for President campaign and the Democratic National Committee and an anti-Bush 527 called America Coming Together.

And here's one of politicalactivists.org's proud accomplishments on behalf of "conservative issues": "We were directly responsible for rallying over 5,000 people to attend our promotion of John Kerry with Michael Moore (Producer of Fahrenheit911) and Carl Pope (Executive Director of Sierra Club) on the Portland State University Campus."

Please pray....

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Dean Dennis of Global Spectrum, an unsuccessful bidder for the right to manage Tulsa's new arena and old convention center, flew to Tulsa on Thursday to ask a question: "How could they have more points on the scoring sheet for compensation?" "They" is SMG, the successful bidder, and the question refers to the fact that Global Spectrum made a lower (better) bid for compensation -- their management fees -- than SMG, and yet the committee that evaluated the bids ranked SMG higher in that category. No one answered his question. Chris Medlock has more on the story, with audio of the unanswered question. In this kind of a bid process, each evaluator ranks the bidders in each of several categories, and the ranking is added up for a total score. It's sort of like scoring a boxing match. It increasingly appears that the committee members tweaked their numbers in individual categories to make sure that SMG came out on top, even if SMG wasn't objectively the best bid in a particular category.

If companies don't think they'll get a fair hearing, who will want to do business with the City of Tulsa? I'm glad that Global Spectrum and Professional Bull Riders are making some noise about the way they were treated by Mayor Bill LaFortune, his staff, and his handpicked committee. Nothing will change until people are willing to speak out.

Kevin McCullough, New York radio talk show host, blogger, and columnist, has come up with a positive way to protest the push to turn Christmas into Generic Winter Holiday.

I'm joining Kevin and a number of other bloggers around the country to urge you to send a Merry Christmas card to the ACLU national office in New York City. Not "Season's Greetings," not "Happy Holidays," not "Harry Eidiwalihanukwanzamas," but "Merry Christmas." ("Happy Christmas" is acceptable if you're an Anglophile.) And make it as specifically Christmassy as you can. You might even write a note explaining what Christmas means to you.

Here's the address:

ACLU
"Wishing You Merry Christmas"
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004

Kevin reminds us to be respectful: "[P]lease be kind, even cheerful in sending the card. Trust me - kindness will produce more smoke out of their ears than anything untoward you could think of anyway..."

Some of you may object that the ACLU doesn't deserve all the credit or blame for the increasing secularization of Christmas, and that's fair enough. And although I'm sure the ACLU would not interfere with our ability to observe Christmas in our homes or churches, they have damaged the ability for a community to come together and acknowledge Christmas. And ACLU litigation has created a "chilling effect" that has led to overreactions by public schools (like banning the school choir from singing Handel's Messiah) and private companies who genericize the holiday season in their advertising.

I think the chilling effect is not just fear of being sued, but the ACLU's efforts give the impression that more people are offended by explicit references to Christmas than really are. The message is starting to get through to retailers that avoiding "Merry Christmas" offends more people than are offended by using it.

As Greta (Hooah Wife), who is Jewish and lives in the Tulsa area, wrote, "Merry Christmas is a holiday greeting to me - it does not and should not offend me. If it does, then I need to re-examine my own values."

I'll update here periodically, but read Kevin's blog for the latest on the effort.

Basil's Blog interview

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Now up on Basil's Blog: a blog interview of me. People submitted questions to Basil, who passed them to me, along with a few of his own, and I had about a week to put together a response. Basil uses icons to represent the questioners and the interviewee; for my icon, he picked a photo of me, age 6 days. Observant readers will recognize a few other Tulsa area bloggers among the participants.

Basil does two of these each weekend. Here's the category page with all the interviews to date.

It was fun and challenging. Thanks to Basil for hosting, and thanks to all those who asked questions. (Even you, W.!)

Dining out

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A couple of good recent meals out:

My wife and I ate tonight at the Golden Saddle Barbecue and Steakhouse, on Admiral east of Sheridan. My wife had the filet, I had a three-meat BBQ plate -- pork ribs, pork loin, and pulled pork. It was all very good, but the pulled pork was especially good. You can tell good barbecue when it's tender and flavorful enough to eat without sauce. Good coleslaw and tabouli, too. The owner and the waitstaff were very attentive and very concerned to make sure we enjoyed our meal. The prices were very good for the quantity and quality of the food, and the restaurant was clean and bright. We'll visit again.

For lunch, I tried a little Indian restaurant just south of the Taco Bueno at 61st and Garnett. They had a small but tasty buffet for $5.99 for lunch, but the best part of lunch was watching part of a Bollywood comedy/melodrama/tragedy/musical called "Ishq", in Hindi with English subtitles. Rich boy loves poor girl, poor boy loves rich girl, wealthy dads try to interfere. Way too many musical "stings" to add drama. The actors playing the dads were both good at eye-popping, vein-bulging rage. No one said "Curses! Foiled again!" but it wouldn't have been amiss. A musical number featuring the four young lovers includes an attack by a bumbling assassin; the song and dance continues without missing a beat. Another killer for hire looks quite menacing, but when he speaks, the subtitles have him saying, "You will bling a vely high plice," followed by the young people repeating the phrase and mocking the thug's accent. (Reminds me of the translation of Lysistrata which had the Spartans speaking like the Joads, to correspond to the less-sophisticated manner of speaking ascribed to the Spartans in the original Greek.) It was all wonderfully and unintentionally over the top, at least for American sensibilities.

The deal fell through?

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MeeCiteeWurkor was at last night's City Council meeting for the last item on the agenda: Whether to extend the right to unionize to more city employees. The proposal failed at the previous meeting: Turner, Henderson, Baker, and Mautino voted yes; Sullivan, Medlock, Neal, and Martinson voted no; Christiansen was absent, effectively a no vote, since five votes were required for passage. Councilors Turner and Henderson put a motion to reconsider on this week's agenda, but someone who voted against the proposal would have to make the motion to reconsider. And no one did.

MeeCiteeWurkor reports much anger at Councilor Randy Sullivan after no motion to reconsider was made. He writes about what he was told in trying to understand the cause of the anger, and he writes about his disgust, if what he was told is true.

Here's what I found shocking: If what was said is true, Randy Sullivan is raising campaign money. Will he run in the district he currently purports to represent, District 7, or will he run in the district in which he lives, District 9?

My column in the current Urban Tulsa Weekly is a review of the City Charter amendment proposals Tulsans will vote on next spring, as well as a few that didn't make the cut, along with a look at the politics behind what passed and what didn't.

There were a couple of new developments tonight. Illegitimate Councilor Randy Sullivan tried to move the zoning protest petition amendment from the March primary election ballot to the April general election ballot. He tried to make the case that voters would be disenfranchised by having the vote on the primary ballot, when turnout would be lighter.

Councilor Chris Medlock pointed out that homeowners were promised back in 2004, when the courts ruled that the protest petition ordinance was in conflict with the charter, that the amendment to restore that protection would be on the next citywide election ballot. That would have been the December 2004 library bond issue, but the Council held off at the request of library officials. The next opportunity was the city bond issue in April 2005. The Council called the election, but something happened -- the dog ate Bill LaFortune's homework -- and the required public notices weren't placed in the Tulsa Legal News. The March 2006 is the next available citywide date to vote, and because there will be a mayoral primary, every precinct will be open anyway.

The other councilors were apparently persuaded by Medlock's argument -- Sullivan's motion died for lack of a second.

Councilor Roscoe Turner brought the recall amendment up for reconsideration, as I was hoping he would. The original proposal was modified by two complementary amendments proposed by Councilor Tom Baker. The requirement for signature comparison for the recall petitions was dropped (by a unanimous vote). Added in its place was a requirement for each signer to provide a valid contact phone number. That passed by a 5-4 vote (Baker, Henderson, Mautino, Medlock, Turner in favor; Christiansen, Martinson, Neal, Sullivan against). The amended amendment was sent to the voters by a 7-2 vote -- Martinson and Sullivan voted against. Although it isn't my ideal, the proposed amendment would require that recall be for cause, provides a consistent standard for number of signatures across all offices, and requires that signature gatherers be residents of the district. If we pass it in April, it will help ensure that a recall only happens when genuine constituents have a genuine and grave complaint against an elected official.

Finally, a District 7 resident (and a friend of mine), John Eagleton, protests that he did raise the issue of Randy Sullivan's non-residency with members of the City Council when it was publicly acknowledged in February 2005. Eagleton asked the Councilors to seek the City Attorney's opinion on the effect of filing a bogus declaration of candidacy; he believes it would render the election null and void and cause the office to become vacant. That was never done, apparently, perhaps because everyone was distracted by the recall effort underway at the time.

I remember, too, that there were District 7 residents who wanted to recall Randy Sullivan, but they restrained themselves at the request of Councilors Medlock and Mautino, who were themselves under threat of recall at the time.

Here's a link to all the articles in the current issue. Don't forget -- just a few more days to donate gifts for children in the DHS foster care system. Pick up a copy of the dead-tree version of UTW for a list of kids, ages, and the gifts they'd like for Christmas.

Do the River First website

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I've been remiss in not calling attention to the website that David McKinney has set up urging Tulsa to "do the river first" -- to put capital improvements money toward the Arkansas River master plan, making the long-deferred dream of many Tulsans a priority.

It's a well-designed and well-written site, and it has -- as far as I've seen -- the only list of projects for the new "4 to Fix the County" taxes anywhere on the Internet. He takes humorous jabs at three of the projects -- a road to nowhere, more comfortable accommodations for golf carts, and more money for soccer fields.

McKinney is calling on Tulsa County voters to turn down propositions 2, 3, and 4 on the December 13th ballot. His hope is that the county will come back with a revised package that starts to implement the Arkansas River plan. Tulsa City Councilor Chris Medlock would prefer to use the money at the city level to improve public safety; as much as he cares about river development, he thinks it's a higher priority to deal with a violent crime rate that is nearly twice the national average.

We have time to debate between those priorities after December 13. The first step is to vote no on December 13. Both McKinney and Medlock would agree that both the river and public safety are more important than spending $3,000,000 to make sure the golf carts at LaFortune Park are cozy at night.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2005 is the previous archive.

January 2006 is the next archive.

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