December 2010 Archives

Here are some links, briefly introduced, to blog entries of interest around Oklahoma. A few may be a month or two old, which is a reflection on how far behind I am.

First, some blogs that are not necessarily new, but they're new to me and are worth a visit:

Joy Franklin is a Stephens County-based photographer, and her blog Expedition Oklahoma is filled with beautiful photographs of our great state. A few recent entries: the Glancy Motel on Route 66 in Clinton, an old abandoned family farm, Monument Hill, on the Chisholm Trail near Addington.

If you're on Facebook, you should go and "like" Expedition Oklahoma. As of yesterday, I was the fifth "like-er" and Joy's work deserves far more recognition than that. You can also follow @ExpeditionOK on Twitter. Although I'm only a rank amateur photographer, I can identify with a couple of her tweets from earlier today:

I think I enjoy photography because it takes away the need to have a friend to go places with you. #sadbuttrue

I can be a loner without looking like a loser. #photography #cameraismyfriend

Random Dafydd grew up in Tulsa is based in Bartlesville. In addition to his main blog he has blogs devoted to Tulsa Architectural History, medieval art and medievalism, his work as a surgical technologist, and Celtic and British folk music. I liked his latest entry on "The Weekend Scrub":

The surgeon gave me the specimen, said it was ileum. A bit later the circulator asked me what we calling the specimen. I told her ileum, or Troy, her choice. She said "Oh".

Nobody gets my jokes.

An entry from May explains why our legislature should encourage the widespread deployment of defibrillators by providing unqualified immunity to owners of the devices, notwithstanding the self-serving objections of the trial lawyers:

If you have a heart attack in public, what is your chance of survival? It depends. If there is not a defibrillator near by, 6%. If there is one, 50%. Modern defribillators are marvels. It takes five minutes of training to learn how to use one. Actually, since they are designed to talk the uninitiated though the process it doesn't even take that....

Many states offer some form of immunity to owners of defibrillators. If a local convenience store owner buys one, and has to use it, and the patient dies, then the store owner can't be sued, even if the store owner used the device incorrectly. California offers qualified immunity. The store owner only has immunity if they jump through several hoops, including training employees in the use of the devices and monthly checks of the equipment for good working order, and developing a written plan for their use. Failure to jump through every hoop loses the store owner immunity and exposes them to liability. Of course, standing there and watching the customer die exposes the store owner to no liability at all. Given his legal environment, many business owners rationally choose to not buy defibrillators.

Now for some quick links:

Natasha Ball reviews a kid- and parent-friendly cafe recently opened in Owasso.

Tulsa Food Blog suggests you pick up a cup of coffee from a locally owned coffeehouse on your way to see the spectacular Christmas light display at the Rhema campus in Broken Arrow. In the comments, I pointed out that Stonewood Coffee and Tea Company is just a mile or so from Rhema, on the east side of 161st East Ave (Elm Pl), just north of the Broken Arrow Expressway.

Steven Roemerman says that the T in Bartlett stands for Totally Inept (twice), particularly when it comes to river development in Tulsa, referring to the December 3 open letter from Jerry Gordon, who developed the Jenks Riverwalk and apparently was working on a similar plan for city-owned land in Tulsa. You can see a sketch of Gordon's concept (named "Belt Street River District) at the bottom of his website's Projects page. (The sketch is via Nick Roberts, who was unimpressed.)

Man of the West has an extended quote from Bones of Contention about Rudolf Virchow, a renowned late 19th c. German anthropologist and the father of the science of pathology, and his diagnosis that the first Neanderthal skeleton was that of a victim of rickets.

Preserve Midtown believes that timely code enforcement with meaningful penalties would prevent wasteful demolition of neglected older homes. When an irresponsible owner allows a house to fall to pieces, the city winds up condemning and demolishing it at taxpayer expense and the basis for ad valorem tax drops to the value of the bare ground. If demolition is unavoidable, Preserve Midtown suggests giving an opportunity to salvage architectural elements and materials (e.g. hardwood flooring, bathroom fixtures) that would otherwise go to the landfill. I'm reminded of a suggestion Recycle Michael Patton made some years ago -- charge those seeking a demolition permit for the full cost of disposing of the debris.

Mike McCarville is keeping up with developments as Oklahoma's newly elected officials and new legislative leaders name their teams. A recent entry lists the members of the Senate Redistricting Committee named by Senate President Pro Tempore-designate Brian Bingman. Sen. Dan Newberry (R-Tulsa) will be the point man for northeast Oklahoma, freshman Sen. Kim David (R-Wagoner) will head up the congressional redistricting committee, and Sen. Judy Eason-McIntyre (D-Tulsa) will be one of the co-vice chairmen representing the Democrat minority.

Stan Geiger came across his mother's 1952 tax return and crunches some numbers that illustrate the huge rise in the Social Security tax rate. He says there his mom has more documents from that period that he may analyze; I hope he will. I can't think of anything better than original documents from the past to put the present in proper perspective.

Nick Roberts has posted his wishlist for central Oklahoma City development in the coming year. The blog entry packs some great urban analysis. It's sad to read how OKC is squandering the Core2Shore opportunity with superblocks (which never work) and poor placement of the convention center. He's also worried about development stalling in Bricktown and the city's failure to follow through on plans to promote downtown housing growth. (I don't appreciate his frequent call for OKCers with bad urban planning ideas to be sent to Tulsa. We don't need them here either!)

It's cold season, and Oklahoma's whipsaw weather has Sooner noggins clogged with snot and in search of a solution.

A few minutes ago at a nearby chain drug store, I heard one of the assistants say that, at the moment, no one in the state of Oklahoma can buy products containing pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient in Sudafed and dozens of cold and sinus medications. The reason, she said, was that the state's electronic pseudoephedrine tracking system was down. This is the system that tracks how much pseudoephedrine you've bought in the last 30 days.

When you go to the pharmacy counter to buy any product containing pseudoephedrine, they submit your name, address, and ID, and what you're buying and how much to a state computer, which reports whether you're eligible for the purchase or not. With the state tracking system offline, they can't sell any pseudoephedrine. (Or so the pharmacy said. The text of the regulation seems to provide an out if the state system is unable to respond in a timely fashion.)

This Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics slideshow on the history of pseudoephedrine tracking has screenshots of the state's PSE tracking system, and it illustrates the dramatic decline in meth lab busts following passage of the first limits on the sale of pseudoephedrine in 2004. The real-time electronic tracking system to replace paper logs was in operation in October 2006; its use became mandatory through an emergency regulatory order in December 2006.

While I appreciate the threat that meth itself and meth labs pose to public health and safety, I wonder about the wisdom of putting a cold sufferer's access to an effective decongestant at the mercy of a state-run computer system.

Phenylephrine, the substitute now used in over-the-counter cold medicines, just isn't as effective as pseudoephedrine; some studies say it works no better than a placebo. The Wikipedia article on phenylephrine has a summary of concerns about its effectiveness with links to reports on studies.

A 2006 review of research in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology concluded:

PE [Phenylephrine] is a poor substitute for PDE [pseudoephedrine] as an orally administered decongestant as it is extensively metabolized in the gut and its efficacy as a decongestant is unproven. Both PDE and PE have a good safety record, but the efficacy of PDE as a nasal decongestant is supported by clinical trials. Studies in the USA indicate that restricting the sale of PDE to the public as a medicine has had little impact on the morbidity and number of arrests associated with methamphetamine abuse. Restricting the sale of PDE in order to control the illicit production of methamphetamine will deprive the public of a safe and effective nasal decongestant and force the pharmaceutical industry to replace PDE with PE, which may be an ineffective decongestant.

That review may have been too early to take into account the results of Oklahoma's 2004 laws and was definitely too early to include the impact of the electronic tracking system on number of arrests and morbidity.

Oklahoma has recently added another restriction: forbidding previous meth offenders from buying any pseudoephedrine at all. The idea is to stop meth manufacturers from buying amounts of pseudoephedrine big enough to make meth but too small to hit the limit. That seems sensible; it avoids adding additional burdens to those who use the cold medicine for its intended purpose.

But if we're going to have an electronic tracking system, is it too much to ask that the state keeps it up and running?

Maetenloch at Ace of Spades HQ has linked a short USA Today quiz on generational identification. For each question, you pick one answer among six, choosing the cultural experience that comes closest to your own (the hot toy of childhood, first major news event you remember, the big movie of your teen years, etc.). Then the program guesses your birth year based on your answer.

What I noticed on each question was a big gap where my experiences should have been. For first major news event, they had the RFK assassination (1968 -- I was four and didn't hear about it) and Chuck and Di's wedding (1981), but not the moon landing (1969 -- every kid remembered that) or Nixon's resignation (1974). For major sports figure you could pick from Joe Namath (won the 1969 Super Bowl) and Larry Bird (with the Celtics in 1980), but not Hank Aaron (broke Ruth's career home run record in 1974) or Mark Spitz (won a record number of medals at the 1972 Olympics). For technological advances the choices included color TV (1965) and cell phones (1983), but not the Walkman (1979), Pong, or digital watches. They had picks that would have worked for boomers and or for Gen X, but not for those of us born in the first half of the '60s, on the cusp between the two generations.

Based on my answers they guessed I was born in 1952. I'm guessing that was influenced by picks like Joe Namath and Tonka trucks, both of which were on the wane when I was growing up, but were still around. (I knew about Namath more as a celebrity who did Noxzema ads and wore pantyhose than as an active football player.) The next available picks chronologically were too late on my personal timeline to be good answers.

It's interesting to see that, using USA Today's generational boundaries, not only do I fall into a Gap, so do my parents, who were born just before WW II: too late to know the depression, but too early to be considered Boomers. (Interestingly, the Beatles fall into that same crack.)

Speaking of Namath and Noxzema:

Chuck Lamson, majority owner of the Tulsa Drillers since 2006, has sold his ownership shares back to longtime owner Went Hubbard. Hubbard owned the team from 1986 to 2006, retained a minority interest after selling to Lamson, and now has sole ownership once again. Lamson played for the Drillers in the late '70s, began working in the front office while still a player, and made his way up the ladder, serving a decade as general manager before taking over as owner.

Hubbard's previous tenure as sole owner was marked by almost annual improvements in old Driller Stadium: expanding seating, re-angling the seating along the foul lines toward the infield, replacing the original artificial turf with real grass, lowering the box seats nearer to field level, improving concession stands and locker rooms, adding a party suite, picnic area, and a new front office. Driller Stadium was (still is) a great facility for minor league baseball. In 1986 Hubbard took over a new but very incomplete ballpark, turning it into a gem. Now he has a facility that has every convenience and luxury already built in.

I have yet to see a reason given for Lamson's decision to sell. The quotes in the KWGS story hint at reluctance to leave:

"I knew this day would eventually come, but it has arrived a little quicker than I imagined. It is a bittersweet day for me as I have loved my 30-plus years with the Drillers, but I am excited about the new challenges that await me...."

"This change allows me to pursue new opportunities, but more importantly, it insures a positive future for the Drillers...."

Was he forced out? Was he in over his head financially? Anyone have a clue? It all seems rather sudden and strange.

MORE: Here's an item from the Gloucester County (N.J.) Times from a couple of months ago about Lamson's induction into the Woodbury High School Hall of Fame. The story, which covers his impressive high school and junior college pitching career, the injury that stopped him from reaching the majors, and his rise from Drillers groundskeeper to president, adds the detail that he was a 51% owner of the Drillers. As of October, he was in no hurry to move on:

Although Lamson has enjoyed immense overall success in Tulsa, he's in no hurry to make a move.

"I've had opportunities, but nothing has piqued my interest," he says. "With our new ball park, our future is secure. And I love Tulsa."

Once in royal David's city

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Once in royal David's city,
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby,
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ, her little Child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall:
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Saviour holy.

For He is our childhood's pattern;
Day by day, like us, He grew;
He was little, weak, and helpless,
Tears and smiles, like us He knew;
And He cares when we are sad,
And he shares when we are glad.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that Child so dear and gentle,
Is our Lord in heaven above:
And He leads His children on,
To the place where He is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see him, but in heaven,
Set at God's right hand on high,
When, like stars, his children crowned
All in white shall wait around.

Lyrics and video via Northern Plains Anglicans and via, where you'll find a meditation on the lyrics of this hymn.

KWTU 88.7, the University of Tulsa's classical music station, is giving listeners the gift of traditional sacred Christmas music. (Thanks to David Rollo for calling this to my attention.) Some highlights:

Thursday, 12/23/2010, 9 - 11 pm: St Olaf Christmas Special:

A service in song and word that has become one of the nation's most cherished holiday celebrations. Tickets to the event, which takes place at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, are always gone months in advance. The festival includes hymns, carols, choral works, and orchestral selections celebrating the Nativity and featuring more than 500 student musicians who are members of five choirs and the St. Olaf Orchestra.

Friday, 12/24/2010, 9 - 11 am: Kings College Lessons and Carol live from Cambridge, England:

Hosted by Michael Barone, a live music and spoken-word broadcast from the chapel of King's College in Cambridge, England. The 30-voice King's College Choir performs the legendary Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols service of Biblical readings and music.

Friday,12/24/2010, 12 - 1 pm: A Chanticleer Christmas:

A Chanticleer Christmas is a one-hour celebration of the season as told through the glorious voices of Chanticleer, the 12-voice San Francisco-based men's choir. The program spans the globe and the centuries -- from England in the 1300s to new arrangements of classic contemporary carols.

Friday, 12/24/2010, 5-6 pm: Lessons and carols from the Washington National Cathedral:

Our annual special broadcast from the National Cathedral with the Cathedral choirs and Cathedral Choral Society, the Bishop of Washington, Dean and canons of the cathedral.

On Christmas Day, KWTU 88.7 will be broadcasting classical Christmas music all day long.

Math, maps, and politics come together in the decennial effort to enumerate the population of the United States and apportion political representation in accordance with those numbers.

Today the Census Bureau released the official 2010 population for each state, with the calculated number of U. S. Representatives to be assigned to each, based on the longstanding "method of equal proportions."

Oklahoma doesn't lose any ground, retaining our current five seats, but neither have we grown fast enough to regain the seat we lost in 2000 (a seat we nearly lost in 1990). Our neighbor to the south picks up four new seats

The Census Bureau has a brief video explaining the apportionment process (with captions if you can't have your sound on).

Apportionment is an iterative process: Every state gets one seat, then a priority number is calculated for each state:

A = P / sqrt ( n * ( n + 1 ) )

where A is the priority number, P is the state's population, n is the number of seats currently assigned. The state with the highest priority number gets the next seat, and that state's priority number is recalculated based on the additional seat. The process repeats until 435 seats are assigned. Because the seats are assigned in order, you'll hear talk about a certain state receiving the 435th seat. The states that just miss getting that last seat -- 436th or 437th on the list -- may take legal action to try to adjust their numbers. The method used to assign of US citizens residing overseas (military, foreign service, missionaries) to a particular state for the purposes of apportionment has been the basis for such disputes in the past.

The detailed data needed by the states to redraw the lines for congressional districts and local districts -- known as Public Law 94-171 data -- will be released sometime before March 31, 2011. This will provide population down to the city block, with counts by race, by Hispanic ancestry, by total population, and by voting age population. The racial numbers are used to demonstrate that new district lines comply with the current incarnation of the Voting Rights Act.

The number of House seats has been a fixed number (except for two brief periods) for 100 years. In 1911, Congress set the number at 433, plus one each for Arizona and New Mexico upon their admission to the Union. The number went up by one each for Alaska and Hawaii, but reverted to 435 after the 1960 census. In the last 100 years the average number of constituents per seat has grown from 210,328 to 710,767. The largest congressional district will be the entire state of Montana: 994,416. That's nearly twice the average size of Rhode Island's two districts: 527,624 each.

A decade ago, when Oklahoma was just about to lose a seat, then-Congressman Ernest Istook proposed a hold-harmless approach to reapportionment: Set the number of seats a bit higher (by about 30) so that no state would lose a seat while fast-growing seats would still get their due. (Note that, while Istook's article on his House website lives on only intermittently in the Wayback Machine, the Dustbury piece linking to it is still there.)

Here are a few key paragraphs from Istook's essay. He points out that the country's population had tripled in the 90 years since the number of seats had been frozen.

After every Census until early this century, it was normal to adjust the size of the House, and also to prevent states from losing seats in Congress. But political disputes stopped this after 1911, and the House has been at 435 seats ever since, although the country has grown from 90-million people to almost 270-million today. Each Congressman has three times as many people to represent, making it tougher for folks to vie for attention from their Representative.

Nobody wants a bulky, unwieldy body, but after almost 90 years, we can solve many problems with a minor adjustment to the size of the House. Adding 30 seats after 90 years is only a 6.5% adjustment, but it would mean that Oklahoma would not lose a seat in the House, and neither would several other states that expect and fear that they will.

The adjustment avoids a ton of controversies already surfacing around the Year 2000 Census, minimizing the gerrymandering mischief that erupts when states' delegations are forced to shrink. Adding a handful of seats is less enlarging the House than it is shrinking Congressional districts. Rather than representing 660,000 folks, each Oklahoma Congressman would represent about 550,000. Rather than a national average of 630,000 constituents per seat, it would be about 590,000. points to the number of constituents per district found in the Constitution and argues that a larger House of Representatives with smaller districts would be more... representative. Certainly it would be easier to win a seat in Congress by personal candidate-to-voter contact if the districts were smaller than our City Council (about 43,000 after the 2000 census) and State House districts (about 33,000 after the last census). Smaller districts would make the average population per seat nearly equal across all the states, bringing us closer to one man, one vote: At 30K per, Montana would have 33 congressmen and Rhode Island would have 34. The resulting body would be harder to gerrymander and more representative of America's diversity.

The Founders -- George Washington, in particular -- were concerned that too few representatives would be "an insufficient security for the rights & interests of the people."

The 112th Congress could choose to increase the size of the 113th. It's worth considering.

LINKS on congressional apportionment:

And finally: The apportionment machine:

UPDATE: More info on the Tommy Duncan gala and the special guests on Billy Mata's schedule page -- scroll down to January 15 for all the details.

The life and music of legendary western swing vocalist Tommy Duncan will be celebrated in his hometown of Whitney, Texas, with an all-day festival on the centennial of his birth this coming January 15. Whitney is southwest of Fort Worth, about 10 miles west of the southern junction of I-35 W and I-35 E at Hillsboro. It's a bit over 300 miles from Tulsa.

Events will begin with a parade at 11:30 a.m. in downtown Whitney, to be followed by a classic car show.

At 4:30 p.m., the doors will open for the Cowboy Formal Dinner-Dance at The Forum, where Tommy Duncan used to play. The dance will feature Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition with "very special guests," according to the flyer.

There will be a raffle for a custom pair of commemorative boots, and you can "visit the Texas Mint to see the future location of the Tommy Duncan and Western Swing Museum, Tommy Duncan Mural, and Tribute Walk." You can also sponsor a brick in the Tribute Walk.

Seating at The Forum is limited. Some overnight accommodation is available.

For tickets, more information, or to sponsor the event, contact:

Pam Townley, Project Director
254-694-0888 or 817-456-4601

I spoke to Billy Mata during a break in the Texas Tradition's performance at the newly restored Sisterdale Dance Hall. He had sung "Misery" in the previous set; I was struck by how much he sounded like Tommy Duncan on that tune and told him so. (In particular, his smooth baritone reminds me of Duncan's voice at its mellow peak in the late '40s.)

Mata told me about his efforts to give Tommy Duncan his due; people know Bob Wills's music, but often they don't know anything about the man singing the song. Duncan was with Wills from their days together as Light Crust Doughboys in the early '30s until they parted ways in the late '40s, and neither Wills nor Duncan did as well without the other. Although they reunited in 1959, it was too late -- rock-and-roll was ascendant and western swing was in decline. Duncan died in 1967, too young and too soon to enjoy the western swing resurgence of the 1970s, led by the Original Texas Playboys and Asleep at the Wheel.

I mentioned that I'm from Tulsa; Billy and his band have played Cain's Ballroom as part of the annual Bob Wills Birthday celebration. I told him that was the second dance hall I'd visited during my sojourn in San Antonio (I'd heard Jody Nix at Anhalt Halle a few weeks earlier) and had found out about this dance from a Texas dance hall calendar on the web. There are an impressive number of dance halls, particularly in the Hill Country, that hold at least monthly events, and a large number of bands that travel the circuit, but I'm not aware of anything like that in Oklahoma.

Mata said there's a strong dance hall preservation movement in Texas. Texas takes a lot of pride in its history and traditions, and he mentioned San Antonio's successful preservation of historic buildings as an example. He'd like to see the dance hall movement spread north into Oklahoma. Those country dance halls used to exist in Oklahoma -- my grandpa danced to the Texas Playboys at Glenoak, Oklahoma, back in the 1930s -- but I don't know how many are still up and running or even standing.

At the dance, I picked up the first disc in a planned three-volume tribute by Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition: This is Tommy Duncan: Volume 1, covering his early years with Bob Wills. It's a great album, and, in addition to Billy singing 16 Tommy Duncan tunes, the album features playing and reminiscences from Tommy's former bandmates Johnny Gimble and Herb Remington. When Herb joined the Texas Playboys in 1946, he was assigned to room with Tommy on the road, and he has some funny stories to tell.

Here's Tommy Duncan singing "Home in San Antone," from the western film Lawless Empire.

MORE about Sisterdale Dance Hall, recently restored and reopened to the public by attorney Wayne Wright and his family:

Boerne Star, March 3, 2010:

"All of us owe a commitment to future generations to preserve our Texas culture and heritage. Our historical buildings are an integral part of that culture and heritage," he said. "Our family feels fortunate that we can play our small part in this instance to further the Texas Dance Hall Preservation movement. Our family are only caretakers for the Sisterdale Dance Hall. The real owners are the future generations who live the Sisterdale area."

The dance hall was built by the German settlers of Sisterdale in the late 1880s as an Opry House and Dance Hall. Vereins of that period were often used for community meeting places, post offices and places for socializing and most certainly music and dance. The Wrights want to revive that tradition for future generations.

Also, on the property is a stone, fort-like structure with gun ports thought to have been used to protect its occupants from Comanche Indian attacks. The original ranch house and some of its furnishing are in very good condition and had been in use by the previous owner. There are several other buildings on the site that will be researched and considered for use.

Houston Chronicle, May 8, 2010

"If we lose our dance halls, we've lost a major treasure -- like losing our missions," Wright said...

His commitment to preservation goes back to his upbringing on a North Dakota farm. Sisterdale's beauty also has taken a hold on Wright since he's purchased ranches in the area over the years.

"I think it's the prettiest part of the Hill Country," Wright said. "The trees are a little greener. The water is a little fresher. There's nothing like it."

His interest in the state's dance hall preservation movement has intensified his determination to make an impact.

"We'll set up a preservation trust to maintain it in perpetuity. That's the goal," Wright said. "Maybe we can establish a precedent with this."

He believes the Sisterdale Dancehall was constructed between 1884 and 1890 and may have been used as an opera house by German intellectuals who immigrated to the Hill Country several decades earlier.

Spending too many hours staring at ancient assembly language (SEL/Gould Macro Assembler for the 32/87, running under MPX-32) brought to mind an old bit of often-mimeographed humor which may date back to the 1970s, if not earlier: A list of fictitious assembly language instructions, including


And here's another trip down random-access memory lane: The Jargon File version 3.1.0. Born in 1975 at Stanford, this collection of computer geek jargon made its way by FTP across the nascent ARPAnet to the MIT AI Lab, went dormant in the mid- to late-80s, then was reborn in 1990 and gave birth to a book version (The New Hacker's Dictionary). The linked version is from October 1994, but here's a version from 2000.

Fellow geeks: What's your favorite ancient bit of tech humor or insider geek culture? Tell us about it in the comments.

[Regarding assembly language, for you non-programmers: Imagine having to describe a simple act, like turning a door knob, as a series of commands to each individual muscle in your fingers, hand, arm, and shoulder. A simple action on your computer is accomplished by what may be a lengthy and complex series of simple instructions to the machine's brain -- the central processing unit (CPU). Those simple instructions are represented in somewhat human-readable terms by mnemonics. Programmers would have to know these mnemonics to write a computer program. Another program, called an assembler, would turn these arcane mnemonics into even more incomprehensible 1s and 0s understood by the CPU. Nowadays, programmers use somewhat less arcane computer languages to describe what the computer is supposed to do, and a program called a compiler turns a program written by a human into 1s and 0s for the CPU.]

Mark your calendars! This coming Friday night, December 17, 2010, offers two opportunities to hear talented young musicians in downtown Tulsa:

At 6 p.m., Barthelmes Conservatory will present their Winter Open Concert, a series of short pieces presented by the conservatory's students, in the Great Hall on the 4th floor of the Bernsen Community Life Center, 700 S. Boston Ave. The program of classical music will include music for solo piano, violin, and cello, and small ensembles. Admission is free.

At 8 p.m., the Tulsa Boy Singers will be presenting their annual Christmas concert this coming Friday night, December 17, 2010, at 8:00 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 501 S. Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa. Tickets are $10 for adults; children are free. It's a beautiful setting for beautiful music.

From the Friday, December 10, 2010, Wall Street Journal:

A federal investigation into the Tulsa Police Department that began nearly two years ago has unearthed a flood of corruption allegations.

Federal prosecutors allege that a handful of veteran officers, aided by a federal agent, fabricated informants, planted evidence, stole drugs and cash from criminal suspects, coerced perjured testimony, intimidated witnesses and trafficked in cocaine and methamphetamine.

Two former officers are cooperating with prosecutors in exchange for immunity. Another former officer has pleaded guilty to stealing money from an individual he thought was a drug dealer, but who was really an undercover federal agent. A different federal agent, who worked for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Tulsa, has pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy.

Four additional officers and one retired officer are under indictment on multiple charges including depriving suspects of their civil rights and distributing drugs. Trials are set for January. All five men deny wrongdoing.

The story covers the case of Bobby Wayne Haley, Sr., who was convicted of drug crimes based on false testimony, and it outlines Chief Chuck Jordan's new policies on the use of informants. The story also reminds that Tulsa property owners are on the hook from any lawsuits brought by those wrongly accused or convicted:

Mr. Haley, 56, has sued the city of Tulsa for damages. Bracing for a wave of similar lawsuits, the city is setting aside $900,000 to hire outside counsel.

If the city is found liable for failing to supervise its police officers, Tulsa taxpayers will be on the hook. Oklahoma law requires cities to raise property taxes to cover legal judgments.

Seems to me that the police chiefs who were supposed to be keeping an eye on the department and the mayors who hired them ought to be personally on the hook for a share of the damages. At the very least, they ought to bear a share of the blame.

Even though it happens every year, it always seems to sneak up on me, coming as it does between Thankgsiving and Christmas. The filing period for the Oklahoma 2011 public school board elections is underway. It began today and will continue through 5 p.m., Wednesday, December 8. Filing takes place at your county's election board.

Most independent school districts have five board members with five-year terms, with one up for election each year. In 2011, Office Number 1 is on the ballot. While candidates must live in the election district for the particular office they seek, the whole school district votes on the candidates.

For dependent districts (K-8) with three board members, it's Office Number 3's turn. In Tulsa County, that means Keystone School, the last remnant of the drowned town for which the reservoir was named.

As a large independent district, Tulsa has 7 members with four-year terms. This is the year that only one district is on the ballot: Office 1. Candidates must live in the district, and they are elected only by district residents. Election District 1 covers all of the Tulsa school district west of the river, the area west of downtown along the Sand Springs Line, downtown (within the inner dispersal loop), Brady Heights, Crowell Heights, Owen Park, Country Club Heights, Gilcrease Hills south of Newton St., Riverview, North Maple Ridge, Swan Lake, and Forest Orchard neighborhoods. (Here's the Tulsa County Election Board map of Tulsa Public School election districts.)

The technology school districts (vo-tech for us old-timers) also elect a board member: Tulsa Technology Center Zone 2 will be on the ballot in 2011, and 9-year member, former legislator, and Tulsa TV legend Betty Boyd is not running for re-election. Three candidates have filed as of 5 p.m. Monday: DuWayne N. Barnett Sr., former Tulsa Police chief Drew Diamond, and Rick Kibbe. Barnett is a registered independent; Diamond and Kibbe are registered Democrats. Zone 2 is roughly between 46th St N. and 31st St. S, east of Yale. (Here's the Tulsa County Election Board map of Tulsa Technology Center election districts.)

After the first day of filing, there are only two contested races for K-12 school board in Tulsa County. Tulsa Office 1 member Gary Percefull is being challenged again by former Booker T. Washington school teacher Brenda Barre, both Democrats. A vacancy in Skiatook Office 3 has drawn Mike Mullins (a Democrat) and Linda Loftis (a Republican) to compete for a two-year unexpired term.

I am amazed that seats in two schools notable for financial and administrative scandals -- Skiatook and Broken Arrow -- did not draw any candidates at all on the first day of filing. Neither did the Office 1 seat in Liberty district.

The rest of the seats in Tulsa County have so far drawn only one candidate. That's a shame. Our public schools need careful scrutiny (Skiatook and Broken Arrow are exhibits A and B). The school board election is the best way to influence a school's operation.

If you are concerned about the kind of fiscal mismanagement evident in the Skiatook case, if you are worried that political correctness and educational fads are pushing aside tried-and-true methods of instruction, you should consider running.

It would not be difficult for a hard-working campaigner with a few dedicated volunteers to win a school board seat. If you could identify 500 people to vote for you and pester them on election day until they go to the polls, you would win in a landslide. This last February, challengers beat both Tulsa school board incumbents. Fewer than 600 voters cast ballots in each race. Lois Jacobs beat long-time incumbent Matt Livingood by a mere 6 votes. (February 2010 Tulsa County school board election results.) Four years ago, Percefull beat Barre by 37 votes -- about two votes per precinct. Less than 900 voters turned out in that race.

(School board turnout is a great example of the depressive effect of non-partisan elections.)

Tulsa Election District 1 includes several neighborhoods that are attracting young urbanophiles, the kind of civic-minded folks who are restoring historic homes, tending community gardens, and trying to resurrect the notion of the corner grocery. A combination of good public schools and school choice (and public schools that make themselves better as a result of school choice) are vital to keeping these young adults in the central city when they begin raising children.

Perhaps one of those young urbanophiles will file for this seat. While I endorsed Barre four years ago and still consider her a far better alternative to Percefull, it wouldn't hurt to have more candidates in the race. In particular, I'd like to see a conservative run, maybe someone with the skills to bring strong financial oversight to the board. If there are more than two candidates, and no one gets a majority in the February election, a runoff will be held on the 1st Tuesday in April.


There was a nice feature in the daily paper on Thursday about the guy I've called Dad for the last four decades or so, but who's known around Philbrook this time of year as Santa Claus.

The Philbrook Museum's Festival of Trees is in full swing - and one jolly guy has been a star of the event for five years. Santa Claus, decked out in an elaborate red suit and full white beard, meets with children and happily allows them to sit on his lap for photos....

Bates became Philbrook's Santa in 2005.

"We love our Santa," said Karen Fraser, fundraising events manager at the museum. "He is so wonderful with everyone, always patient and ready to listen and smile."

Bates knows he has a good job at the Philbrook.

"It's one of the best places to be Santa because you have so many great kids come in," he said. "Most of the time they're really respectful of the property, and the best part is when you get a group of them jumping in your lap giving you hugs."

The article mentions the Santa conventions that he's attended. Over on his website,, you can read his daily reports from the Celebrate Santa 2009 gathering and find links to an Urban Tulsa Weekly feature story on his Santa career and the tribute I wrote a couple of years ago.

Santa will be at Philbrook this weekend and next as part of the Festival of Trees. Come get your picture taken with him! For details, see the website.


During a recent business trip to San Antonio I had to stay over the weekend. Making the best of it, I looked around for some good live music. Texas, particularly the part settled by central European immigrants (Germans, Czechs, Poles, Alsatians, etc.), has an impressive number of dance halls, some in town and some in the middle of nowhere. You may have heard of Austin's Broken Spoke or the dance hall at Luckenbach, but there are dozens more that hold dances every month or so.

I found out that Jody Nix and His Texas Cowboys would be performing at Anhalt Hall, north of San Antonio and in between Boerne and New Braunfels. The dance hall at Anhalt has been around over 100 years, and it belongs to what may be the oldest farmers' co-op in Texas, the Germania Farmer Verein.

Jody Nix is a singer and a southpaw fiddler. He sang several numbers and played drums on Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys: For the Last Time, the Playboys' final 1973 recording session under Bob Wills's leadership. (Jody's dad, bandleader Hoyle Nix, played fiddle and was substitute hollerer on that session.) Over the four-hour dance, Jody took a lot of requests, and it seemed that every second or third song was a Bob Wills tune, ranging from traditional fiddle tunes like "Ida Red" to New Orleans jazz tunes like "Four or Five Times."

Next to the big dance floor there were long picnic tables where the regulars set up camp, bringing in snacks and hard liquor (the bar had beer and setups). Smoking was restricted to outside. Another concession stand offered sausage wraps (smoked sausage in a tortilla), chips, candy bars, and soft drinks. Signs warned "POSITIVELY NO DRINKING IN HALL" and "NOTICE: INDECENT-UNCOMMONLY DANCING IN THIS HALL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED -- THE VEREIN." Another sign banned blue jeans, which nearly everyone was wearing.

It was a fun evening. The only downside: I didn't dance. I seemed to be the only person there on my own. That meant I had no dance partner, and I thought it'd be rude to try to horn in on a group or a family. In hindsight, I might have mentioned to the ticket taker or the bartender that I was from out of town, and that might have gotten me introduced around to some folks.

If you're way down Texas way on a Saturday night, find yourself a dance hall and treat yourself to some traditional country, western swing, rockabilly, tejano, red dirt, polka music or some combination of the aforementioned. Here are some helpful Texas dance hall websites:

Texas Dance Hall Preservation, Inc.: Includes a calendar of upcoming dances with links to dance hall and performer websites.

A long list of dance halls with photos and historical information at

An article about dance halls on the Texas Hill Country Trail website, featuring dance halls at Anhalt, Kendalia, Gruene, and Luckenbach.

And here's the song by Asleep at the Wheel that inspired this entry's title:

This warms my heart:

Current House members who were not elected to the next Congress have had to vacate their office suites and move into small cubicles in a pair of dining rooms in the Rayburn House Office Building....

More than 90 departing House members from both parties have been assigned to cubicles set up in a banquet room and in the back section of a cafeteria dining room. Overflow space for aides has been set up in the Ways and Means and Homeland Security committee hearing rooms in the Longworth House Office Building.

Diane Watson of California said she and her staff are operating out of a cubicle furnished with a single computer, a desk and two chairs. "If they wanted to have a prolonged session, they should have thought about letting us stay in our offices," Watson said. "I chose to retire. I think it's harder on members that lost their race for re-election."

We say that congressmen should be subject to the same laws as the rest of us. We note that after too many years in Congress, they start to lose touch with the concerns and experiences of their constituents. Working in the noise and distraction of a cube farm ought to bring them back down to earth.

But perhaps we shouldn't reserve the Congressman Dilbert experience for lame ducks. Think of the money we could save if we could herd all 535 into a cube farm. We could sell off some of the House and Senate office buildings (I see them being converted to luxury hotels conveniently located on Capitol Hill). And perhaps, in less comfortable surroundings, they wouldn't be tempted to spend any more time than absolutely necessary inside the beltway.

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