Category Archives: Seeking answers

Is it safe to use my prescription specs with my eclipse glasses?

error 2

Stupid Internet! Nobody had this problem the last time we had a total solar eclipse.

We have been drowning in information, much of it useless, about today’s celestial event. We’ve had no end of warnings, all of which should be unnecessary, since anyone who’s spent five minutes on this planet should know not to stare at the sun. But we are a curious species, both in the sense of “strange” and “interested in novelties,” so we need the warnings.

And a lot of those warnings involve not looking at the phenomenon through lenses. You know, “Don’t look at the eclipse through a telescope,” etc.

So… what about my glasses? Can I look through them, with my special eclipse glasses over or under them?

Reasonable inference tells me that it’s safe. After all, there have been SO many warnings about unsafe practices, and anyone with any sense knows that people who need their prescription spectacles to see anything won’t be able to see the eclipse without them. So, you know, telling those millions of people it’s unsafe to do so, if it is, would be one of your very first important safety tips to share.

Still, reasonable surmise doesn’t seem enough where my eyesight is concerned. So I’d like a definite affirmative from an authoritative source: Yes, it’s OK to use your eclipse glasses with your regular glasses.

And surely someone out there has answered that question.

The trouble is, it’s a tricky question to ask clearly on a search engine. You end up repeating “glasses” in a confusing way. I tried being technical and saying, “Is it safe to wear prescription eyeglasses with eclipse glasses?”

But however I search, I only find one web page that seems to answer the question directly. (The second result Google offers in response to that query says, “No, You Can’t Use 3D Movie Glasses As Eclipse Glasses – Here’s Why,” a response so idiotic that it makes me want to slap somebody upside the head.)

But there is that one page, the first result, with the headline “Can I wear eclipse glasses over my regular eyeglasses …

Yes! Just what I need!

But every time I try to call it up, I get the above error message.

So… can anyone help me out her in the couple of hours we have left? Preferably, by giving me a link to an authoritative source?

If so, it will be appreciated…

What is the appeal of the Ivanka brand?

Ivanka

This is a follow on this previous post, in which I wrote about the bizarre personal-business hustling engaged in by the Trump family even as daughter and son-in-law are (even more bizarrely) engaged in high-level diplomacy and policymaking.

It leads me to this tangentially related thought:

You know what absolutely floors me? The fact that there’s a market for Ivanka Trump clothing, or whatever it is she sells. (Yep. Just checked. It’s clothing.)

What would motivate people to dig into their pockets and buy such things — and not other items that clothe one’s nakedness just as effectively? It’s a complete mystery to me. And yet they do. I heard on the radio this morning that her sales are up 166 percent since last year.

And I’m not really talking about Ivanka Trump in particular. What makes people want to buy, I don’t know, things branded with the names of Martha Stewart or whomever? What does the buyer think he (or, I suppose in these instances, more likely she) is getting by paying for that brand? What void is being filled by obtaining these products? How is one’s life made better?

Come on, it's Steve McQueen -- that's a special category.

Come on, it’s Steve McQueen!

I’ve tried to think of when I’ve bought or yearned for things for similar reasons, and I guess I have to go back to my childhood. I thought a toy sawed-off rifle like the one carried by Steve McQueen in “Wanted: Dead or Alive” was amazingly awesome, but come on — that was Steve McQueen. Anything associated with the King of Cool — such as the poster of him on a motorcycle from “The Great Escape” that adorned the wall of my room in my high school days — should be in a separate category.

In junior high, my friends and I were briefly interested in cheap plastic “spy” gadgets that bore the 007 logo were pretty great.

Also, I was attracted in part to my first set (half-set, actually) of golf clubs (also in high school) by the fact that they were Arnold Palmer brand. I liked Arnie. I wanted to play like Arnie (he always went straight at ’em).

But since then, I can’t think of anything along those lines. Which means that to the extent that I understand the impulse to buy celebrity brands, I regard it as a mark of the immature mind.

And perhaps it’s very young people who are buying the Ivanka stuff. But I have a feeling that that’s not entirely the case.

Taking it from the general to the specific, of course, I suppose the appeal of her stuff in particular is related to whatever the Trump appeal is, which also remains unfathomable to me. I suppose there’s a certain desperate, sad sort who sees the Trumps as glamorous rather than tacky.

But my question is broader than that…

In the '60s, the head of an Arnold Palmer driver was considered fairly large, which seems ridiculous now...

In the ’60s, the head of an Arnold Palmer driver was considered fairly large, which seems ridiculous now…

How does ‘One-Note Samba’ work?

OK, one more pop-music-oriented post. It’s obliquely related to the one on Leonard Cohen.

Remember long ago when I asked whether Phillip or other musical experts here could explain how “Hallelujah” worked, what it was about it that was so appealing? Phillip and many others rose to the occasion.getz-gilberto-from-tv-show

Well, I’ve got a tougher one today. This morning, I was listening to “One-Note Samba,” and wondered how in the world that could reach out and grab me or anyone else.

Maybe it doesn’t speak to you, but I’ve always had a thing for samba music ever since my Dad brought back some records from a trip to Rio when I was a kid (sort of the way Liverpool kids learned about rock ‘n’ roll from the discs brought into port by sailors). And obviously some people besides me like this one, since it’s been covered so often.

So tell me:

Why does it work? Why isn’t it too monotonous? Does it keep us listening purely because of the rhythm? Is that it? Or is it the fact that we know, as we endure the one-note parts, that it’s going to change, and that change is what rewards us? Or is it because of what the instruments are playing while the singer is stuck on the one note?

Just wondering. Because to me, music is just magic, and far beyond my ken…

What IS this thing I found on the street today?

Thing 1

This morning, as usual, I parked my car in a metered space along the median on Assembly Street, just north of Gervais. As I got out, I almost stepped on the pictured item.

When I first saw it, it was on its side with the hollow bottom was pointed toward me, and I thought it was a particularly heavy-duty thimble. Which was odd enough.Thing 3

But then I picked it up, and I don’t know what it is.

The round thingy on top makes it look like a charm for a charm bracelet. But it’s way too heavy for that. A woman with seven or eight of these dangling from her wrist would find ordinary use of her hand rather tiring.

As you see, it’s shaped like a helmet of some kind. Like a cross between those worn by a “Star Wars” storm trooper, Iron Man and those guys dressed as ancient hoplites who were wandering about the Greek Festival over the weekend, posing for pictures with the public.

It seems to be made out of pewter. And as I said, it’s heavier than it looks.

It must be of value to somebody. I debated whether to leave it there on the pavement, or bring it with me and publicize on the blog that I had it. This way seemed slightly more likely as a means of getting it back to its owner.

But before I give it back, I need you to satisfy my curiosity by telling me what on Earth it is

Thing 2

What do you think will happen tomorrow?

A graphic that ran with the Post/ABC results.

Someone asked me that at Rotary today, and I say that in the presidential contest (which is what the question was about), if you force me to pick a winner, I say it will be President Obama. In the Electoral College at least. Although it’s close enough that I could be wrong, at this point I think we’re where we were months ago: A slight edge for the incumbent.

As more than one poll has indicated, I’m with most Americans in making that prediction. The latest one I’ve seen shows that 55 percent of the electorate thinks Obama will win, and only 35 percent thinks Mitt Romney will.

Here’s the boiled-down-to-essentials way Nate Silver over at FiveThirtyEight put it several days ago:

Mr. Obama is leading in the polls of Ohio and other states that would suffice for him to win 270 electoral votes, and by a margin that has historically translated into victory a fairly high percentage of the time.

Over the weekend, Silver noted that various polls also show a slight Obama advantage in the popular vote, but generally within the margin of error.

Now comes the last Washington Post/ABC p0ll of the election, showing that same pattern:

Heading into Election Day, likely voters divide 50 percent for President Obama and 47 percent for his challenger, Republican Mitt Romney, according to the latest, final weekend release of the Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll.

A nail-biter throughout, the presidential contest remains closely competitive through its last days, even as most voters perceive a likely win for the president.

In regular polls since early July, neither candidate ever gathered more than 50 percent of likely voters, and neither ever slipped below 46 percent. Across nearly 7,000 interviews with likely voters from Oct. 18 through Sunday evening, less than four-tenths of a percentage point separates Obama and Romney.

The difference between the candidates in the final weekend tally is right at the 2.5 percentage margin of sampling error for the final four-night sample of 2,345 likely voters. This makes Obama’s being at plus three points over Romney an edge only by the slimmest of margins, well below conventional measures of statistical significance…

So how are you seeing it?

What was so interesting here on May 25?

Traffic continues to ratchet up here on the blog. I had thought May was sort of run-of-the-mill, in terms of interesting news and lively discussions. I thought we’d be doing well to break 200,000 page views, which for the blog has been the absolute floor per month for a year now. That’s where we seemed to be headed about mid-month.

Then, I didn’t look at my stats until June had arrived, and I saw that we just broke a quarter of a million (253,331) for the fifth time. A happy surprise.

Apparently, this happened in large part because of three big days — big days by bradwarthen.com standards, that is, not by Drudge Report standards, or even Will Folks’. They were:

Basically, it was just a big finish to the month, since May 30 saw 9,859 page views, just falling short of five figures.

What’s the norm? Well, in May, the daily average (somewhat pulled up by those days) was 8,171. Over the past year, the lowest daily average was 6,768 in December, and the highest was 8,787 in January — the month of the SC presidential primary.

It’s gratifying to see things ratcheting up, but I remain puzzled sometimes by the spikes. I’m pretty sure that May 25 was my largest number of page views in one day ever. But when I go back and look what I posted that day, it seems unremarkable.

Do y’all have any idea what it was that drew all that traffic? This inquiring mind wants to know.

‘It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift…’

This is a question for Phillip Bush (or maybe Burl, or pretty much anyone who knows more about music than I do, which is a large set)…

After I posted that item about “Sulky Girl” and “So Like Candy” and other Elvis Costello songs that have an appeal to me that is mysterious, elemental and profound, I got to thinking about something else I’d heard in the last couple of days that had an equally mystifying appeal.

I had been watching the film noir comic-book movie “Watchmen,” and there was a scene that was utterly transformed by Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” So I went to YouTube (the one place you can find practically any piece of music you want to hear immediately and for free) and listened to several versions, and tried to plumb why it completely kicked my brain, my being, into another state as reliably as peyote did for Carlos Castaneda (although perhaps a tad less dramatically).

I have no idea. Is the secret revealed in this lyric?

It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth

The minor fall and the major lift

Are those particular changes where the magic happens? For that matter, do those words even describe what is happening in the music as I hear that line? I’ve looked up the guitar chords, and I see that they go like this:

  • It goes like this — C
  • the fourth — F
  • the fifth — E
  • the minor fall– Am
  • the major lift — F

Or, in another version, I see it’s G, C, D, Em, C…

Are those even the right chords? I expected them to be something more exotic, with “sus4” or something after them.

Is it even the music, or is it the lyrics, with their mixing of the transcendent divine with the transcendent sexual? No. I mean, yes, they’re evocative, and work as poetry (to my unsophisticated ear, they strike a literary note somewhere near that of the Song of Solomon), but they aren’t the secret. I remember when I first heard the song — the cover version used in “Shrek” — I was deeply impressed with the music without hearing the words beyond “Hallelujah.” (Yeah, I’m that uncool. I’m sufficiently unfamiliar with Leonard Cohen that I first remember hearing it watching “Shrek.”)

And how about the fact that it is used in such incongruous contexts as “Shrek” and “Scrubs” (which I discovered from Pandora), and works?

Speaking of Pandora (which I just did, parenthetically), it was little help. I tried creating a “Hallelujah” station, to see if it would give me other songs with that special something. And once or twice, it has moved in that direction — “Let it Be” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” do have something of that essence — but it’s played Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Over the Rainbow” so many times that it’s rapidly losing its charm for me. And “I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight,” and “The Times They Are a-Changin'”? I don’t think so. “The Sound of Silence”? Maybe. But I’m not sure.

Help me out, those of you who understand music. What is it?

District 3 voters: What motivated you to vote as you did?

I’m asking because I was somewhat surprised at how easily Moe Baddourah won the runoff yesterday. Nothing against Moe — I wish him all the best, and hope he’s a very successful council member — but that’s not the way I thought it would end up. I thought Daniel Coble would win, although not run away with it. I saw a Baddourah win as possible, but again, I figured it would be close.

My reasoning was as follows. I thought:

  • Moe had pretty much received all of his potential support in the first go-round. I had seen him as the pro-business, suspicious-of-government candidate in the race, and that he got all of those voters on April 3.
  • All voters who were attracted to Jenny Isgett’s theme that since the district had been represented by a woman for 30 years, it should go for her, seemed more likely to go for Coble in the runoff.
  • Coble’s support was more visible, and seemed more enthusiastic. I really felt for Moe at that neighborhood association meeting where Brett shot the video. At one point he mentioned that the small crowd seemed to be 90 percent for Coble, and I think he was right.
  • Everybody who I knew had declared for a candidate had declared for Coble. I can’t think of anybody who publicly endorsed Moe in the last couple of weeks. That doesn’t mean no one did, but the news didn’t get to me. (Yes, someone will inevitably say that personal endorsements are meaningless, as someone always does but they’ll be wrong. In fact, in an election with no reported polling, they’re about all you have to go by. And even if they didn’t mean much individually, they ALL seemed to go to Coble, which had to be indicative of something.)

But all that reasoning added up to nothing, which leaves me speculating as to the reason it went the other way:

  • Moe and Jenny were actually the anti-establishment vote, or the anti-Coble (as in Bob) vote, if you will.  Jenny voters only had one non-Coble candidate left, and so they went for him.
  • Voters reacted against Coble’s youth.
  • Every one of those public endorsements — Belinda Gergel, James Smith, Steve Morrison, Kit Smith and to a lesser extent Mike Miller — counted against Coble with an electorate that was in an anti-establishment mood. Coble was definitely the Shandonista candidate, and maybe voters in other areas (and perhaps in Shandon itself) reacted against that.
  • One of the few issues on which there was a noticeable difference between the candidates — the water/sewer money, funding the bus system — meant more to voters in those neighborhoods than I could tell as an outsider. (But this explanation seems unlikely, because the differences between them were mere matters of degree, not fundamental values.)
  • There’s more dissatisfaction with the current city council than I had thought (and voting for Baddourah was more of a vote for “change”). I had heard a lot less general grumbling since Benjamin, Plaugh, Gergel and Newman had been elected, but maybe the honeymoon is truly over.
  • Moe had told me he had learned a lot from losing to Seth Rose two years ago. And remember, Seth was an anti-establishment candidate, because he also beat Kit Smith’s chosen successor (a fellow Bennettsville boy). Part of that was a lot of knocking on doors. Of course, Coble did that, too. But maybe there were some organizational things I couldn’t see that really helped Moe turn out his identified supporters — which is everything in such a tiny-turnout election. (But I knew Moe didn’t do everything that Seth did, because Seth advertised on this blog. Ahem.)

As far as tactics are concerned, I could just ask Moe. And I will when I see him. But I’m more interested in why the tactics worked — that is to say, I’m more curious about what the voters themselves were thinking. And since there was no exit polling, I’m asking now.

So how about it, District 3 voters? Whether you backed Baddourah or Coble, why did you do so? Your answers may bear significantly on the future course of Columbia.

Why haven’t we seen a word cloud of the whole blog yet?

“Why haven’t we seen a photograph of the whole Earth yet?”

Stewart Brand, 1966

Here’s something that has frustrated me, and maybe some of y’all can advise me.

Several times, I’ve wondered what a word cloud of my whole blog — since I started it in 2009 — would show in terms of what has obsessed me over these last three tumultuous years. Or, more practically, what verbal habits I need to dial back on.

But all I can ever get, when I enter my URL, is a cloud made of the last few posts, as you can see above. That’s pretty useless. I mean, I know what I’ve written about today. What I want to see is what sort of result I get over time. That might actually tell me something.

Anyone know how to make that happen?

Translate, please: Is that some sort of threat?

So what do you think this other former speaker is saying about Newt Gingrich when she says, “There is something I know.”

Taegan Goddard over at Political Wire says, “It doesn’t seem like Pelosi is bluffing” when she says that.

But it seems to me it could be read two ways:

  1. She’s saying there’s a deep, dark secret, yet unknown except by her, that will do in Newt in a fall campaign.
  2. She’s simply emphasizing that, based on what is already widely known — especially among those who served with him — she knows that he won’t be president.

Which do you think it is? Or is it something else? Or nothing?

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney says he sure wishes he knew what that secret was. I’ll be he does.

And Gingrich’s reaction is pure Newt:

She lives in a San Francisco environment of very strange fantasies and very strange understandings of reality. I have no idea what’s in Nancy Pelosi’s head. If she knows something, I have a simple challenge: Spit it out.

Were these signs at the polling place kosher?

I was taken aback when I saw this sign taped up inside my voting “booth” on Saturday.

Is this official? Did they have them at your polling place? And if so, doesn’t it bother you a little?

On the one hand it’s sort of thoughtful — yes, these people are still on the ballot but no, they’re not still running. Sort of as a guide to the voters.

But on the other — do election officials have any business at all giving voters guidance on whom they should or should not vote for? No, it doesn’t say, “don’t vote for these people,” but the implication is there.

Yeah, I realize this is kinda how-many-angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin stuff, but still: Don’t I have a right to vote for anyone I want to, whether that person is a willing candidate or not? And should I be discouraged from doing so, however kindly or helpful the person who put up the sign meant to be?

My favorite part was Rick Perry being hastily added by hand. I mean, what was to stop the voter ahead of me from adding in red marker, “Mitt Romney?” (Hey, maybe somebody did. Maybe that explains the primary outcome.)

I’m curious what y’all think.

What “rights”? What is it that you’ve lost?

It always stumps me when libertarians say things like this:

SPARTANBURG — Madison Evans cupped her cell phone with her sparkly blue fingernails and shot photos of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas during a campaign stop here Tuesday.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen him, and it’s awesome,” said Evans, a 20-year-old Greenville waitress, subtly bouncing on her tiptoes with excitement.

“We young people are awake,” said Evans, who posts articles about the long-shot Republican presidential candidate on Facebook daily. “We are all a big family when it comes to Paul. He’s talking about peace. He’s talking about giving us back our rights that have been stripped from us.”

Let’s run that last bit again:

He’s talking about giving us back our rights that have been stripped from us.

Say what? I have no idea what she’s talking about. What rights? What happened? Who’s bothering you now, dear?

This is why I’m not a libertarian. These things that bother them so much are not even visible to me. I don’t feel harried, picked on, bullied. Government in no way threatens me. I marvel at these people (the Paulistas) who think it threatens THEM. People who don’t get it that they are the government, who instead see as something OUT THERE menacing them.

I ask again, what rights that have been stripped from you? What is that you used to have, and don’t have now? To me, that sort of statement demands explication, but to Paulistas, it’s just an article of faith. They don’t have to explain, because they all FEEL it. They are put-upon, picked on, by the big, bad “they” out there.

And I don’t know what the stimulus is that provokes that response.

Somebody explain this bowl thing to me…

Normally, I don’t think much about this sort of thing, which is probably why I’m puzzled. Perhaps y’all can explain it to me.

This morning, it was reported that Gamecocks are going to the Capital One Bowl. OK, sounds par for the course. In recent years, they have gone to one bowl or another named after some corporation.

But the Clemson Tigers are going to the Orange Bowl.

Now here’s what puzzles me. “Orange Bowl” is something I’ve heard of. It seems to imply a certain prestige. I mean, there’s the Rose Bowl, and the Sugar Bowl, and the Orange Bowl, and that pretty much sums up all the bowl games that I’ve been hearing about (admittedly, without actually trying) since my youth. Which in my mind confers a certain legitimacy, rightly or wrongly.

Meanwhile, these bowls named for sponsors — well, I have to wonder about the value of such naming rights. It seems that if you’re the sponsor of the Rose Bowl, that confers something on your brand. But if you rename it for your company — say, the ABC Corporation Bowl — do you thereby lose some of the cachet that you were trying to buy? (Vizio seems to agree.)

I don’t know. Not my particular marketing specialty. But it does seem to me that invitations to bowls named for commodities, rather than companies, carry greater prestige. Just inferring.

In any case, Wikipedia confirms my rough impression. The Rose Bowl dates back to 1902, and is the biggie. The Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl both date to 1935. Something called the Tangerine Bowl was played from 1947-1982, after which it was called the Florida Citrus Bowl from 1983 to 2002, after which it became the Capital One Citrus Bowl before dropping the “citrus.”

Anyway, fully acknowledging my gross ignorance on this subject, I nevertheless have the impression that being invited to the Orange Bowl is a bigger deal.

Given that, I have trouble squaring that with something else that I just sort of barely, halfway know — that the Gamecocks have had a better year.

I would never ask you to go by me, but I see that the AP sportwriters, or whoever does that weekly poll, have USC ranked 10th, and Clemson ranked 14th. (I glanced through other polls, and USC was always 9th or 10th, and Clemson was always 14th or 15th, so it seems we have something like consensus.) And I’m also aware that the Gamecocks pretty much cleaned Clemson’s clock just over a week ago.

So what gives? How does stuff like this happen? Is it random? Is it who you know?

Why did USC build the Greek Village, anyway?

Yes, I can think of some reasons, but since all of the ones I think of are… unpersuasive… I continue to wonder whether there are any defensible reasons for having devoted that choice real estate to such a purpose (not to mention putting the Strom Taj Mahal workout center in a location that only the Greeks could walk to conveniently and safely).

If you know of any, share them.

Here’s the thing about this sudden discovery by the university that fraternities tend to encourage unseemly behavior (“USC officials, Greeks debate hospital trips, strippers,” The State) — I’ve never understood why their presence is in any way encouraged at public institutions of higher learning.

At all of our colleges and universities today, administrators know that one of the most serious problems they face is binge drinking, and other activities that most of us associate with… well, Greek life. It astounds me that, in the 21st century, we even allow these organizations onto campuses, much less do anything to make them feel welcome. Not that we independents haven’t been known to chug a brew or two in college, but most of us didn’t join societies that, to the larger world, are essentially seen as drinking clubs.

I could see it if these associations had a salutary effect — say, if they militated against such irresponsible behavior. But I’m not seeing much indication of that.

Of course, I’m prejudiced. I went through college in the early 70s, which is actually the time that the cultural phenomena we associate with the 60s kicked in across most of the country. In my day, there were Greeks, but they seemed terribly anachronistic. It was something my Dad did (Pi Kappa Alpha), but not cool people in my generation. By the 70s — or at least by 1978 — they were associated with a benighted past, an object for satire. It was like, if you were in a frat, what century (or at least, what decade) were you living in? I understood that some people had their arms twisted by their parents into joining their frats and sororities, but what was the motivation beyond that? (There was this one guy who kept calling to invite me to check out his frat, and he only did it because he was bugged by his Dad, who worked with my Dad. I always came up with excuses to be elsewhere.)

The fact that people actually attached importance to this presumed bond — which is a perfect illustration of a granfalloon — has always puzzled me, and even caused me to think a little less of the human race. (While different, it’s distantly related to the way I feel about political parties.) To share another anecdote…

Once, when I was a student at Memphis State, a bunch of us were playing basketball on an outdoor court next to my dorm. Some guy got mad about something stupid and pointless, and put on a disgusting display of petulance, quickly convincing everyone that he was a total jerk. Finally, he decided to walk away, pouting. The attitude of every guy present was, Good Riddance. Every guy but one, who had to chase after him and try to… I don’t know, console him or commiserate or whatever. “We all said, what the hell, man? The guy’s a complete d__k! Come back and play.” There was some reason that his departure mattered to us, I forget what that reason was. Maybe he was taking the ball with him. Otherwise, we probably would have said Good Riddance to him as well.

Anyway, he said he had no choice but to run after that guy, because… he was his fraternity brother. We all looked on in disgust at this display of completely misplaced loyalty based on nothing more substantial than that.

But I’m sure some of you have a different perspective. Please, help me understand the ways that frats contribute to institutions of higher education.

Clue me in as to why those brick palaces, in the core of our community, add to our community.

What in the world are these things?

Went to Greenville over the weekend, and was puzzled the whole way by these things, which were spaced more or less 100 yards apart all along the median of I-26.

I have no idea what they are. They appear to be covered in some sort of synthetic fiber, but moving at 65-70 mph, it was hard to tell. (And no, I was not driving. It was hard enough capturing one of these in a frame on my iPhone as we whizzed by even as a passenger. It took a bunch of exposures to get one as clear as the one above. The blurry one below was second best.) I could not tell whether they were solid — made, say, of concrete — or mere covered frameworks. There may or may not have been gravel about the base.

They were four or five feet in diameter.

Drains of some sort? Shock-absorbing barriers for cars that wander into the median? UFOs? I don’t know. If they are drains, they seem … excessive. Like maybe DOT had some stimulus money it didn’t know what to do with.

Anyway, can anyone tell me the correct answer?

Which of these best exemplifies the uninhibited nature of the genre?

Really, really, REALLY have to get a bunch of nonblog stuff done today, and don’t know when I’ll get back to you. So while I’m doing it, ponder the question I just posed on Twitter:

What’s the best full-momentum, unleashed rock ‘n’ roll song: Seger’s “Katmandu,” CCR’s “Travelin’ Band,” or Elvis’ “Hard-Headed Woman”?

Why those three? Well, I was coming back from an errand with a cup of Starbucks, and “Katmandu” came on the radio. And I thought, what’s better — at what it does — than that? And the answer quickly came — “Travelin’ Band” and the best of all, “Hard-Headed Woman.”

Oops. I just gave away the answer. Well, my answer. This is one of these things where opinions are just that, without anyone being right (and despite what some people think, not everything is like that). So I’m really interested in what you think, as your opinions on the matter are just as valid as mine (he said with an air of self-congratulatory generosity and a tone of condescension).

Bonus question: To follow the Hornby orthodoxy, what other two songs sharing those characteristics would fill out the Top Five?

Woulda Coulda Shoulda: Could Sheheen have won with a better campaign?

Last night, when it was all over, I was struck by two things: How much better Vincent Sheheen’s concession speech was than any speech I heard during the campaign, and how much worse Nikki’s was.

As I said on the air last night, that “victory” speech was so… low… energy. The people in the studio laughed, saying, “It’s after midnight!” So what? I wasn’t tired (I didn’t hit the sack until about 3, and then only after a couple of beers). She shouldn’t have been, either. She should have been PUMPED! The crowd that had had the patience to wait for her (the folks in the WIS studio were puzzled she made the world wait for her so long; I told them to get used to it, because Nikki will have no more use for the people of SC going forward, as she continues to court national media) ALSO should have been pumped. But they sounded like an average group of supporters listening to an average, mid-campaign speech.

Maybe she was saving her energy to be on the Today show today. (Here we go again, folks. More of the same of what we got with Mark Sanford, Mr. FoxNews.)

As I urged people on TV last night — go to that clip I posted on the blog of her speech the day Sarah Palin endorsed her. Where was THAT enthusiasm? It’s like she had this finite supply, and it was just… enough… to carry her BARELY over the finish line in a remarkably close victory for a Republican in 2010.

As for Vincent, when he said that line about how he and his supporters “wished with all your might to take this state in a new direction,” it resonated so that I thought, “Where was THAT during the election?” Sure, he talked about not wanting more of what had under Sanford and such; he made the point — but he never said it in a way that rang out. He didn’t say it with that kind of passion.

It’s so OBVIOUS that that should have been his theme. Instead, we had the complete and utter absurdity of Nikki Haley running as a change agent. It’s so very clear that in electing Nikki Haley, the voters chose the course most likely to lead to more of the malaise that we’ve experience in recent years.

But hey, woulda coulda shoulda.

I just raise the point now to kick off a discussion: Is there something Vincent Sheheen could have done that he didn’t that would have put him over the top? Or did he come so close to winning, in the worst possible year to run as a Republican, because he ran the perfect campaign?

I mean, he came SO close. It was so evident that Nikki was the voters’ least favorite statewide Republican (yes, Mick Zais got a smaller percentage, but there were several “third party” candidates; Frank Holleman still got fewer votes than Vincent). I look at it this way: Mark Hammond sort of stands as the generic Republican. Nobody knows who he is or what he does, so he serves as a sort of laboratory specimen of what a Republican should have expected to get on Nov. 2, 2010, given the prevailing political winds. He got 62 percent of the vote.

Even Rich Eckstrom — and this is truly remarkable given his baggage, and the witheringly negative campaign that Robert Barber ran against him — got 58 percent.

So Nikki’s measly 51.4 percent, in the one race with the highest profile, is indicative to me of the degree to which voters either liked Vincent, or didn’t like her.

So the question remains: Could Vincent have won with a better campaign, or did he do as well as he did — ALMOST pulling off what would have been a miracle in this election year — because his campaign was so good?

Discuss.

Anyone know what this Wilson “ethics” thing is?

I haven’t written anything about the supposed ethics investigation of Joe Wilson because I don’t have the slightest clue what it is supposedly about. Neither the MSM nor the campaigns themselves have been particularly helpful on this point.

For instance, this release I just got from Rob Miller:

Dear Brad,

By now, I’m sure you have all heard the news.  Congressman Wilson is under investigation for breaking Congressional ethics rules.  Joe would have you believe that this is about some “glorified shot glasses” that he bought on one of his many taxpayer-funded junkets.  You and I both know that you don’t get investigated over $12 in trinkets.

Joe Wilson knows that, too– it’s why his staff won’t stop talking about $2 goblets, but won’t say if those are the limit of the investigation.

I believe in the iceberg rule.  The corruption we see in Washington is only 10% of the problem; the rest is hidden away, protecting the insiders, because if the public knew what was going on, they wouldn’t stand for it.  Joe Wilson was willing to steal $12 from taxpayers in public.  What is he willing to do in private?  Pocketing any amount of taxpayer money is not only wrong, it’s illegal.

From raising his own pay five times, to giving away hundreds of billions of dollars to Wall Street, to voting against South Carolina teachers and jobs, to being investigated for breaking the public trust, Joe Wilson is everything wrong with Washington today.  We deserve better.  Stand with me and fight for it.

Semper Fi,

… which as you see doesn’t indicate one way or the other what is allegedly going on. It merely insinuates, and lamely. Personally, when I see the tip of an iceberg I at least know, by implication, what lies below. I have no such helpful clues here.

Mr. Wilson himself is no more helpful, merely sending out such nonsense as the following:

Dear Subscriber,

Public disapproval with the liberal establishment in Washington is at an all time high. Folks have become aware that the path of smaller government and Reagan conservatism will lead us out of this dark era of liberal recklessness. This sentiment is felt all across the country, and people in South Carolina are demanding that their legislators respond with conservative solutions.While many representatives are hiding under their desks in fear of the public outrage, Congressman Joe Wilson is out touring the state to help cultivate this rich environment for change and reform. He is meeting with the real economic experts in this state – workers and small business owners.

On the “Joe Means Jobs” bus tour, folks in every corner of the state are talking with Joe and telling him how much they want the era of Big Government to end. Joe strongly agrees with this demand and is under attack from the liberals in Washington because of it. Nancy Pelosi and her liberal friends are funneling money into South Carolina’s liberal campaigns, in an effort to oust honest conservatives like Joe Wilson from office.

It is a long uphill battle that Joe must fight until November, but he is not backing down from Nancy Pelosi’s intimidation tactics. It is imperative that Joe stay out on the campaign trail to help spread the word about what liberals in Washington and even here in South Carolina are doing to bankrupt this state and country.  And to let folks know what he is going to do about it.

Click here to watch a video of Joe while on his bus tour!

Will you stand with Joe today and help him defeat the liberals in Washington? It is obvious that they desperately want Joe gone, since they specifically targeted him with their opposition money.

Please help Joe by clicking here to make a donation today!

I don’t know about you, but “It’s Nancy Pelosi’s fault” doesn’t help me any more than when the Dems moan about everything being Bush’s fault. Just another sad attempt at misdirection. In fact, he doesn’t even mention the charges in this particular piece, merely alluding darkly to “Nancy Pelosi’s intimidation tactics.” Sigh.

Has anyone read anything that I’ve missed that would shed a light? If so, please share…

Why are there tanning parlors in our world?

Reading about the new federal tax on artificial tanning, both in national and local media, and I find myself wondering: How come things like tanning beds and tanning parlors exist, anyway? In the 21st century and all.

I’m not saying we outlaw them or anything — taxing them heavily seems like a great way to produce needed revenue, as long as they exist — but how is it that anyone would ever pay money to do something so pointless — something that no one in the world needs, ever, and so likely to lead directly to cancer?

Aside from the fact that I just don’t think deep tans are becoming on white people. If you doubt me, look at Larry Marchant on the Jon Stewart video. Looks weird, doesn’t it? Unnatural? Like, what’s wrong with Larry?

Anyway, that’s how it strikes me — as something that exists with no rational underlying explanation. Another of life’s mysteries.

Is the M4 a lethal weapon (to the user)?

Something Burl wrote in a comment reminded me of this story the other day:

WASHINGTON — In the chaos of an early morning assault on a remote U.S. outpost in eastern Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Erich Phillips’ M4 carbine quit firing as militant forces surrounded the base. The machine gun he grabbed after tossing the rifle aside didn’t work either.

When the battle in the small village of Wanat ended, nine U.S. soldiers lay dead and 27 more were wounded. A detailed study of the attack by a military historian found that weapons failed repeatedly at a “critical moment” during the firefight on July 13, 2008, putting the outnumbered American troops at risk of being overrun by nearly 200 insurgents.

Which raises the question: Eight years into the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, do U.S. armed forces have the best guns money can buy?…

I’ve sort of wondered for years why this country couldn’t simply produce a weapon as simple, as effective, as cheap, and most of all as RELIABLE as the AK-47.

I read part of the recent book by Larry Kahaner about that remarkable weapon (one of the many books I’ve read “part of” while drinking coffee but not buying anything at Barnes & Noble, my favorite leisuretime activity), and it reads like pretty much an indictment of the free enterprise system. The way it developed was this: A soldier in the Red Army, dissatisfied with what guys like him had to rely on in battle, decided to design a multi-purpose infantry weapon that would get the job done, and always work. So he did, the Soviets mass-produced it, and it became the number-one weapon in the world, the favorite of rebels, terrorists, thugs, and child soldiers everywhere.

It’s cheap; it’s ubiquitous. It puts a LOT of high-impact bullets on a target in a big hurry, so you definitely don’t want to go up against one if you can help it. It’s simple, and easy to maintain. It requires so little skill — and upper-body strength — to operate that it makes a child soldier into a particularly dangerous person.

In other words, it’s pretty horrible. But it’s a way better weapon, in lots of ways, than anything we’ve mass-produced.

We’ve heard about the troubles with the M16 since Vietnam, and the M4 is its descendant. The M16 fires a lower-weight slug at a high velocity, so it rips up whatever it enters — although it doesn’t have much knockdown power. (In Black Hawk Down — the book, not the film — a Delta team member gripes about the M16 because when he shoots somebody who’s shooting at him, he wants to see the guy go down.)

Meanwhile, nothing ever seems to go wrong with Kalashnikovs, no matter what you do to them. The story Burl told matches one I’ve heard before:

A friend (now deceased) who was part of the Army test team for the M-16 told me this anecdote.
He thought the M-16 was delicate and undependable, told the Army so, he was told to shut up and buy stock in Colt.
A few years later, he’s in command of a firebase in Vietnam, and they’re clearing a kill zone. The bulldozer uncovers a dead Viet cong who has buried for a year or so, along with his AK-47. Dave jumped down in the hole, said “now here’s a REAL weapon,” and cocked the muddy, rusty AK, pointed it at the sky and pulled the trigger.
It fired.

So — are our soldiers taking unnecessary risks because of inadequate weapons?  I’d be interested in particular to hear from Capt. James Smith and others who have actually taken the M4 into battle (that’s him below getting his ACOG zeroed in on arriving in Afghanistan — at least, I think that’s an M4).

Smith