Archive for January 2016

Grown pains

“It’s never too late,” said Tom Robbins somewhere in the novel Still Life with Woodpecker, “to have a happy childhood.” Robert Stacy McCain, following up to a piece called “Marriage Matters,” notes that some people reject the very idea:

Since the phrase “dysfunctional family” become popular about 25 years ago, it has been used to condemn nearly all families. Basically, it gives young people an excuse for not becoming responsible adults: “I was raised in a dysfunctional family.” It leads to the belief that if your parents were less than ideal, or if your childhood was not perfect, you are a victim of society and entitled to whine and complain about your failures, for which you are not responsible. And this is bullshit. Your parents don’t have to be perfect to be good parents, and your childhood doesn’t have to be perfect to qualify as a happy childhood.

Parents, as a rule, are not perfect, and they’ll tell you so — eventually. Most of the ones I’ve met have basically felt that child-raising, at least at first, is like being thrown into the deep end of the pool and having someone yell “Swim, dammit!” at you. Certainly that was my reaction.

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Viernes

Rebecca Black has been vacationing in Mexico, which probably isn’t the worst place to be during a chilly January. And she sent up a few pictures, such as:

Time it took for someone to complain about her being, you know, clothed and all: one hour, forty-nine minutes.

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That’s some fine hoops work there, Lou

“When the Thunder defend,” began radio guy Matt Pinto — but never mind, there were times they didn’t do a whole lot of that, especially in the fourth quarter, when the Lakers went on a 19-4 run, 16 of which came from Lou Williams, who had what you’d call a Career Night, especially considering he’d had 21 points before that fourth quarter began. Inside the two-minute mark, Williams put the Lakers up 110-107 with a string of three free throws — his second such string in the quarter. Finally OKC put up seven in a row, a Russell Westbrook three-point play, a Steven Adams dunk, and two free throws from Adams, to go up 114-110. Jordan Clarkson came back with a trey to bring the Lakers to within one; Westbrook picked up one more freebie. Kobe Bryant then made a valiant try at the bucket, but it was not to be: Kevin Durant got in his face, Westbrook picked up two more freebies to ice it, 117-113.

And Kobe was having a pretty good night, too: 19 points and six assists. But Williams made the Staples Center crowd forget about Kobe, almost. We’re talking 44 points (12-25) including five treys, and 15 out of 15 free throws. OKC should consider itself fortunate that Williams missed nine treys. Then again, you know Westbrook had fans in the crowd, and he put on a 36-point show for them. Durant tacked on 24 more. The statistic that might matter most, though: Cameron Payne, now the de facto second-unit point guard, played almost 25 minutes, scoring 11. The rookie is making some noise.

And if you’re on the Left Coast, it helps to start with a win. Next game is Sunday at Portland, and the Fail Blazers have lost three straight. (Dare we say “rebuilding year”? Then again, the Blazers got beaten up by free agency in the offseason, as LaMarcus Aldridge could tell you from his new San Antonio digs.) But one should always be wary entering the Rose Garden Moda Center.

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Quote of the week

Columnist Cal Thomas would like you to watch Finding Your Roots (PBS: check local listings), which is, he says, “the best and most compelling television you will ever see:”

The greatest contribution of this show is that it helps viewers see beyond externals — such as race and politics — and into the hearts and minds of the guests where their real selves reside. My personal favorite in the opening program is Donna Brazile, a longtime liberal Democratic activist and an African-American, with whom I am acquainted. I wanted to measure my reaction to someone who holds political views opposite my own.

In addition to revealing to Brazile the source of her unusual name, Gates also discovered a female ancestor who, at age 14, was sold as a slave to a white man. Brazile shakes her head in sadness and begins to cry. At that moment she turns herself inside out and we realize Brazile’s depth of character has nothing to do with the political views she holds. Most importantly it reminds her and viewers that her ancestor’s value as a human being had nothing to do with the price put on her by a slave auctioneer.

And he quotes series creator Henry Louis Gates Jr.:

In a press release, Gates says, “We can’t truly know ourselves until we know something of our origins.” His goal is to “inspire people to find out more about their own personal family stories, and spark an interest among young people in genetics, anthropology, history and the pursuit of science.”

We may not be sure where we’re going; but it’s important to know where we came from.

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You didn’t have me at Hello

So this happened:

Which prompted an experiment:

The genre I selected was “honky-tonk,” perhaps to increase the difficulty level, and YouTube sent up the following on that Thursday night:

“Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” (Trace Adkins)

“She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” (Kenny Chesney)

“Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” (Joe Nichols)

“As Good As I Once Was” (Toby Keith)

“I Love This Bar” (Toby Keith)

And then, noticing a third Toby Keith track in the queue, I abandoned the experiment.

This reminds me of Zooey Deschanel’s plaintive wail, nearly five years ago, to the effect that no matter what she started with, the iTunes Genius function would end up sending her something by Gary Lewis and the Playboys.

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Right, what’s a unit?

Her Majesty’s Government thinks Her Majesty’s subjects are drinking too much:

Men and women should drink no more than six pints of beer or standard glasses of wine a week, according to new U.K. government guidelines that warn that any level of alcohol consumption raises the risk of cancer.

The new guidance, published in London on Friday, lowers the recommended maximum intake for men to 14 U.K. units of alcohol a week, the same as for women, from 21 units. A pint of beer with a 4 percent alcohol content or a medium-sized 175-milliliter glass of wine contains 2.3 units. People of both sexes are urged to have several alcohol-free days a week.

Nowhere in the world, other than in government offices, will you find alcohol by the “unit.” Then again, it was the UK that gave us the hilarious Drinking Banning Order.

Amazingly, there is, even in today’s Britain, opposition to this sort of thing:

U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, often pictured in a pub with a pint of beer in his hand, said he’d carry on drinking.

“Frankly if we choose to enjoy a few drinks, four or five nights a week after a hard day at work, whether it slightly shortens our lives or not, so what?” he said on a phone-in program on LBC Radio. “To basically tell us that any form of drinking is likely to lead to our deaths is just so over the top that we’ll probably behave in the opposite way. I certainly will, starting at midday today.”

Farage isn’t on my list of Favourite People, but I would happily buy him a unit drink.

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Metered perplexity

I opened up the water bill, and there, for the first time ever, was a reported usage of 4,000 gallons; I’d never before used more than 3,000 in a month. The details revealed the most likely reason why: the readings, usually 30 days apart, were this time 36 days apart.

Okay, fine, no big deal. Then I look at the actual return slip, and the bill is about half what it usually is. I comb through the details again, and here are two adjacent lines:

REFUSE W/90 GA — $20.42
ADV REFUSE CHG — $40.84CR

They’re refunding two months’ worth of trash pickup? Why? Is this some form of atonement for still not having picked up the late-November storm debris?

Very late addendum: I had tweeted this mystery earlier today, and right before hitting the Publish button, I went back to check the feed. Lo and behold:

Well, I’ll be durned.

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Dressed like a daydream

Taylor Swift explains “Blank Space” to GQ:

That is not my approach to relationships. But is it cool to write the narrative of a girl who’s crazy but seductive but glamorous but nuts but manipulative? That was the character I felt the media had written for me, and for a long time I felt hurt by it. I took it personally. But as time went by, I realized it was kind of hilarious.

So is Swift messing with her audience’s heads? Given the absurd variety of pictures of her one can find circulating on the Net, I think their heads will be messed with regardless of what she says.

Taylor Swift in a swimsuit

Taylor Swift in a writing mood

Taylor Swift gives you a peek

I’ve found it more useful to accept what she says at face value and leave it at that; it’s not like I want to know, or need to know, her innermost secrets or anything.

That said, Taylor Swift does keep her story straight. The making of “Blank Space,” live and unplugged:

And you’ll note it’s the same four chords she always uses: the high-dollar producers she hired were there mainly for their technological gloss. There’s something sort of comforting in that.

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Poorlio

No, not a rapper who’s fallen on hard times. Oddly enough, it’s a word we’re most likely to understand by contemplating its polar opposite.

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And lo, there was debugging

A cry from my techie side (which is actually barely more than a corner) from last month:

After installing WordPress 4.4, I encountered a minor anomaly. Short version: In posts included in two or more categories, the categories are now listed in the post heading, not in strict alphabetical order as they used to be, but in the order of their assigned ID numbers, whatever they may be. I left a note at the support forum, indicating what I thought might be the issue, and expressing some nominal amount of dismay.

Unusually, no one at the forum deigned to respond to my dismay, but the problem was quietly fixed in 4.4.1, possibly as a by-product from this bug.

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Delayed gratification defined

Then again, exactly how long it would be delayed is not at all clear:

The Playboy Mansion could be yours for $200 million — there’s just one catch.

The playboy himself, Hugh Hefner, comes with the property.

The 6-acre estate will be up for sale within the next month, TMZ reports. Built in 1927, the Holmby Hills mansion has 29 rooms — including a wine cellar, screening room and game room — in addition to three zoo and aviary buildings, koi pond, citrus orchard, tennis and basketball courts, a swimming pool and a waterfall.

However, the future owner has to provide Playboy founder Hefner, 89, with a life estate that will allow him to live in his infamous mansion until he dies.

Hmmm. What of the current Mrs. Hefner? I assume Hef will leave Crystal a ton of money when he goes, but I hate the idea of her being ordered off the premises. (Which she almost certainly will; the Mansion is probably worth more as a teardown than as an actual residence.)

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From some other time

There were two great eras of rock and roll pseudonyms. The later one was sustained mostly by punk bands, and featured names like Johnny Rotten and Rat Scabies and Poly Styrene and a whole handful of Ramones. The earlier one probably ended with Richard Starkey, aka Ringo Starr, but it featured names like Bobby Day and Bo Diddley and Del Shannon and Frankie Ford and, perhaps the most influential, not so much in music but in sheer nomenclature, was the late Troy Shondell, born Gary Wayne Schelton in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Shondell would have only one big hit, but it was a monster:

Sourced from Shondell’s official YouTube channel, this is (mostly) the original 1961 version, cut for infinitesimal Gaye Records, then issued on Goldcrest, a regional label distributed by Liberty; when it started gaining traction, Liberty reissued it themselves and watched it spend four months on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #6. I say “mostly” because the guitar solo in the middle was clumsily overdubbed long after the fact; the record as released had a piano break and nothing more.

Shondell’s last release for Liberty was “Na-Ne-No,” a Lloyd Price cover produced by Phil Spector, no less; after it went nowhere, he decamped for Nashville, where he cut a few sides for the TRX label, of which only “Let’s Go All the Way” managed to Bubble Under the Hot 100. The money, Shondell decided, was better on the publishing side, though he’d occasionally cut a side for the hell of it. The last one I know of, from 1981, was a cover of John Sebastian’s “Lovin’ You”.

In late 1964, a band from Illinois took the name The Shon-Dels, and self-released one single before changing their name to the Ides of March. An entirely different group of Shondels assembled in Winnipeg about the same time. But neither would be quite as successful as Tommy James’ Shondells from Michigan, originally the Tornadoes (not to be confused with Joe Meek’s British instrumental group), who would not be a factor on the charts until “Hanky Panky” in 1965, by which time they’d broken up. (James went on tour to support the record, and hired a bar band to be the new Shondells.)

As for Troy Shondell himself, he toured in 2001 in a show called “The Masters of Rock and Roll,” featuring some other wonderfully named guys like Ronnie Dove and Jimmy Clanton. He died last week of complications from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, two names that aren’t so wonderful.

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A little passive, not very aggressive

For a while now, Web sites that complain about ad blockers have been turning up the pitch, from grumbly to shrill to shrieky to feigning coma (Forbes.com, which won’t even budge beyond the lecture page, and you don’t want to know what happens if you give in).

It does not have to be that way, guys:

Ad-blocker request from knowable.com

Just to see what would happen, I turned off the blocker, and was not subjected to the usual advertising crapfest: they were running only three spots, one banner where you’d think a banner would be and two in the sidebar. By the standards that prevail, this was downright modest. The blocker stays off for them.

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Nose-free

These have been around a while, but this is the first time I’ve seen them pitched specifically to this market:

Support toward the outside, not so much pressure in the center. What’s not to love?

Well, maybe this:

We all tend to underestimate the danger from old-fashioned, familiar technologies, particularly when the effects aren’t immediately obvious. Young athletes focus on victory today, not the future damage to their bodies. And if the winner of the Tour de France doesn’t ride a no-nose saddle, then neither will riders who want to look like him.

Perhaps it will meet greater acceptance in non-competitive activities, such as the World Naked Bike Ride (hence the #wnbr hashtag). Lady G’s own bicycle, last I looked, still had a traditional saddle.

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There can be no victory

Portland’s Moda Center isn’t exactly Mordor, but just the same, one does not simply walk into it; the Thunder has a history of going to pieces in Portlandia, and at halftime it looked like the fragmentation had already begun. A 39-point Thunder burst in the third quarter sent OKC up five, and they gradually stretched out that lead to eight — until the Blazers, with about three and a half minutes left, connected on five consecutive three-pointers and tied it up; a sixth gave Portland a three-point lead, which grew to five at the horn, 115-110.

A lot of credit for turning this game around must go to Damien Lillard, who got 15 of his game-high 31 points by knocking down five treys in the fourth; he’d already hit three of them. Next to him in the backcourt, C. J. McCollum put up ten long balls, hitting four; the Blazers actually sent up forty-four attempts, cashing in 19 of them. That’s 57 points out of 115, as close to half as you can get. The key to this, perhaps: 20 offensive rebounds (versus 8), enabling the Blazers to put up 100 shots, 24 more than OKC. And while Oklahoma City actually outshot Portland, the Blazers ruled the boards, and the Portland reserves ginned up 35 points, while the OKC bench was held to a mere 16. Still, some individual performances stood out: Russell Westbrook had 25 points and 15 assists, Steven Adams 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Kevin Durant had rolled up 28 through three quarters, to finish with, um, 28. The season series stands at 1-1, with two yet to play.

So 1-1 on the West Coast trip, and then off to frigid Minnesota on Tuesday, followed by three home games: the Mavs on Wednesday, the Timberwolves (again!) on Friday, and the Heat on Sunday. Somewhere in all that activity, there’s got to be some perimeter defense.

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Strange search-engine queries (519)

Already weary of January? Well, this little excursion into the search-string logs will not do anything for the midwinter blues or the Christmas bills, but it will kill some time, time which might otherwise kill you.

two cars on a straight road at time zero are beside each other. the first car:  is hogging the faster lane at five under the speed limit, and you wish you had a grenade launcher at your command.

sex 1030:  Don’t worry, it will be over by eleven.

“securely and privately show videos to your friends and family around the world” wall mount gun racks:  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I see no advantage in letting everyone see how I store guns.

a texas city has a population of 100:  Well, it’s not in Loving County (population 82), then.

something different with steak:  Try making a smoothie out of a baked potato.

do they sell viagra at gas stations:  No, that’s not the secret ingredient in Shell V-Power.

rhymes with yell:  Gargamel?

what kind of sexualized, audacious, political, and scatological comedy was considered fit material for translation or publication only in recent times:  I’m gonna say U.S. News and World Report.

on a given morning, franco sold 40 pairs of shoes for a total of $80 at his shoe store:  Thereby posting a loss of $3,700.

how can i get more girth:  Right now, what you need is more depth.

sheila believes that all news reporters are cynical, doubting individuals who would sell their souls for an exclusive story. in this case, sheila’s beliefs about the traits and behaviors of news reporters are one example of:  Fallacious interpretation, since she assumes that all reporters have souls.

is artillery fungus harmful to humans:  Not as much as actual artillery.

how to tell my girlfriend i love her yahoo:  That’s a laugh. You’ve never even seen her yahoo.

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Do the Cram

Last week, I speculated that the National Football League, having received applications from three teams to relocate to Los Angeles, would probably approve one but might approve two.

Comes now the question: “Well, why not all three?”

Part of me thinks it would be fun if they decided to screw their fellow owners over by saying “Yes” to all three. Either the city of Los Angeles would finally bankrupt itself trying to sweeten the deal for three football teams with some ridiculous publicly funded stadium deal or the three teams would shred each other to pieces squabbling for adequate pieces of the metro fan pie.

If NFL owners are anything like NBA owners, they vote their pocketbooks first, and also second through fifth. When the Thunder moved from Seattle, there were two negative votes, and fairly obvious ones: Paul Allen of Portland, who liked the existing I-5 rivalry, and Mark Cuban of Dallas, who didn’t much like the thought of another I-35 rivalry. I’m wondering who thinks he has something to lose by moving Oakland or San Diego or even St Louis.

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Facing the no longer strange

From almost fifty years ago, or so it seems, David Bowie responds to his first American fan letter:

From just yesterday, or so it seems, David Bowie responds to the world at large:

Rest well, Starman. You have earned your place in history.

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That perches in the sole

There are always stops along the annual Architecture Tour, usually private residences, where Trini and I will be asked to remove our shoes, which of course we do because it’s the respectful thing to do in someone else’s house, and in all those years I’ve messed up only one pair of socks, and Trini’s never lost any. (Then again, she’s hard-nosed about socks; if I didn’t know better, and technically I don’t, I’d swear she wears socks in the shower fercrissake.)

I doubt, though, that anyone was actually worried about germs:

Unless you have a special circumstance, you probably wear shoes inside your house.

But several scientific studies suggest why that’s a bad idea — and the reasons are pretty gross.

Though some bacteria is good for us, if you’ve ever gotten a stomach virus, you’ll know that other kinds of bacteria are not.

A study done by the University of Arizona found an average of 421,000 different bacteria on shoes. Coliforms, a bacterial indicator of the level of sanitation of foods and water (and universally present in feces), were detected on the bottoms of 96% of shoes.

In addition, E. coli was detected on 27% of the shoes, along with seven other kinds of bacteria, including Klebsiella pneumoniae, which can cause urinary tract infection, and Serratia ficaria, which can cause respiratory infections.

Various cautions:

  • This study goes back to no later than 2008, and the supporting video has long since 404ed;
  • God only knows what might be living on the surfaces of our socks;
  • Since my normal (non-winter) after-work wear consists only of shoes, I should probably be dead by now;
  • Then again, I go through a hell of a lot of mop heads.

Conclusion: The guys who wrote the linked article were hard up for material.

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Worn down under

About three years ago, I did a piece on the French unmentionables company Clio, finishing with this paragraph:

There exists an Australian brand called CLiO — usually typeset that way — which is, to my knowledge, not related to the French company. This is not the most unheard-of thing I ever heard of, either; the down-under CLiOs can be found at Target stores in Australia, which have no connection with the Target stores in the US.

This Australian ad, and their Web site, indicates that CLiO is these days selling through Woolworths Limited, an Australian firm which is not actually related to other stores of that name worldwide — where have we heard that? — and through Woolworths Big W chain.

Advertisement for CLiO Hosiery, circa 2011-12

I do marvel at those shoes.

Their Facebook page occasionally coughs up some memeworthy commentary:

CLiO says: Some days you go eat salads and go to the gym.  Some days you eat cake and refuse to put on pants. It's called balance.

I understand. Really I do.

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Competition intensifies

In the summer of ’14, the New York Post mocked the rival Daily News for increasing its newsstand price to $1.25; the Post was holding at $1.00.

This week, the Daily News struck back:

The weekday print edition of the Daily News will drop from $1.25 to $1 in all five boroughs of New York City beginning Monday.

New York’s hometown paper will roll back its cover price while maintaining the city’s best coverage of national and local news, sports and entertainment.

“As New York’s hometown paper, we look for every opportunity to bring our loyal readers the news they need at a lower price point,” Daily News CEO William Holiber said in a statement.

The key here is “weekday”: Saturday and Sunday editions will remain at a buck and a quarter.

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Live by the link, die by the link

I should have left this tissue of organic fertilizer in the spam bin. It was titled “A few recommendations that can help both of us,” which inevitably means it will help the sender and may or may not do the recipient any good. Decide for yourself:

Webmaster,

We are writing to alert you to the presence of harmful backlinks on your website. These links, that direct to [domain name redacted], were placed on your site by our former SEO management company. That company willfully violated Google’s Terms of Service, which resulted in a penalty being levied against our company. In order to remove this penalty, we must ask your assistance. Please delete the known backlinks to [domain name redacted], hosted on your site at:

http://dustbury.com/archives/cat_blogorrhea.html

Your compliance with this request is greatly appreciate. Have a nice day.

Generally, anyone who uses the word “backlink” unironically can be assumed to be a scoundrel or a fool.

What’s hilarious about this is the origin of said, um, links: this domain, once upon a time, belonged to a blog which once — well, twice, actually — hosted the Carnival of the Vanities, and I always linked to the Carnival host as a matter of historical reference, since I contributed the first piece to the very first Carnival, way back when. There’s now a storefront sitting there, and their current SEO management company apparently got its BVDs horribly knotted at the thought of an incoming link that would not sell any product.

How much do these links harm me? I have a better chance of winning the freaking Powerball. Just the same, I took them out, on the basis that I don’t want to hear from these whimpering sons of bitches ever again.

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Strictly off the rack

I sit through live tweets of the red-carpet arrivals of things like the Golden Globes because, well, sometimes I get stories like this one to pass on.

This is Bryce Dallas Howard, resplendent in Jenny Packham:

Bryce Dallas Howard at the 2016 Golden Globes

Contrary to usual Hollywood practice, she did not borrow this gown from Packham’s atelier. It’s not the way Howard plays the game: “I like having lots of options for a size six as opposed to maybe one option, so I always go to department stores!”

As it turns out, she’d bought it last week from Neiman Marcus for $4800, which, as red-carpet gowns go, seems almost comically inexpensive.

Checking the archives, I see that she’s generally done a good job of finding her own frocks:

Bryce Dallas Howard street-styling

Maybe this one was a wee bit small for a six:

Bryce Dallas Howard at Terminator Salvation

But no matter.

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Yeah, right

I don’t think you could prove it by me, but here’s the assertion [warning: autostart video]:

Older adults are not as good at detecting sarcasm as their younger counterparts according to research from the University of Aberdeen.

Led by Professor Louise Phillips, Chair in Psychology, the team reported that adults over 65 were more likely to misinterpret sarcastic comments and take the literal meaning, rather than the intended jibe.

So in 2020, watch for me to take everything totally at face value.

In the study, published in Developmental Psychology, older adults were shown examples of conversations between people and asked them to judge whether the exchange was sarcastic or not. Professor Phillips and the team, including collaborators from the University of Geneva and University College London, found that younger and middle-aged adults were significantly better at identifying sarcasm than older adults.

Professor Phillips said: “Until now, no one has looked at how older adults interpret sarcasm, and specifically, if they can flip the literal meaning to understand the intended meaning. So, we are interested in finding out how whether our ability to understand other people’s intentions changes as we age.”

It couldn’t be that we Ancient Ones were taught, first and foremost, to be polite, could it?

Of course not.

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Rams to roam

The Cleveland/Los Angeles/St Louis Rams are the Los Angeles Rams once more [warning: autostart video];

NFL owners in Houston voted 30-2 to ratify the Rams’ relocation application for an immediate move to L.A., where the team will eventually begin play at owner Stan Kroenke’s proposed stadium site in Inglewood in 2019. It’s a seismic decision that returns the highest level of professional football to the country’s second-largest media market after a 21-year absence.

The Rams could be joined by the Chargers, who have a one-year option to decide if they want to relocate and join the Rams in Inglewood. The window creates the possibility — however slight — that the Chargers could remain in San Diego. The city is hosting a June vote for $350 million in public funding toward a new facility to replace Qualcomm Stadium. It is possible the Chargers put off a final decision until that vote takes place.

Naw. They’re outta there. (Unless, of course, they accept Roger Goodell’s offer of $100 million to stay put.)

The Raiders, however, will stay in Oakland; they withdrew their application for relocation. And they will cash a check from Goodell.

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Wolves being fed

The wrong thing to say at the end of a road trip is “Well, at least it’s only the Timberwolves.” Granted, Minnesota trailed by 11 after the first quarter. But from then on, the Wolves played the Thunder better than even up, largely on the strength of their bench. Yes, really. Oft-injured Shabazz Muhammad played like he’d never had so much as the sniffles, bagging 20 points on 8-15 shooting. Slumping Zack LaVine suddenly came out of his slump, going 7-10 for 21 points and retrieving eight rebounds. And while Gorgui Dieng didn’t score, he blocked six Thunder shots. Oklahoma City didn’t help itself by going nearly five minutes in the fourth quarter without a field goal. Royce Young said it best: “The Thunder have been trying to just coast to this win since the first quarter ended.” With three minutes left, the Wolves, who had been down as many as 18, pulled within three at 89-86. (Telltale Statistic: it was 60-48 at the half, which should tell you how feeble OKC’s offense really was.) Finally Kevin Durant called a halt to this sort of thing and connected on four consecutive shots plus four free throws, giving the Thunder a 101-96 win that they very nearly pissed away.

Maybe I’m wondering why Sam Mitchell started the five he did, scoring 41, more than half of which came from Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins, when he got 56 out of his bench. Maybe he’s no better a prognosticator than the rest of us. But his frontcourt is older than God: Tayshaun Prince and Kevin Garnett, who knocked down one shot between them. (Prince got it.) On the upside, everyone got a chance to look at Karl-Anthony Towns, who posted a double-double (14 points/10 boards) in the middle. He’s got some potential.

Durant, doing that Durant thing at last, finished with 30 points, though it took him 25 shots to get there. Russell Westbrook double-doubled again: 22 points, 11 dimes. But the only other Thunder player in double figures was Enes Kanter, whose 18 points was 62 percent of the bench total. And you have to figure that Billy Donovan was hoping not to play any of the starters more than 30 minutes tonight, what with a game against the Mavericks tomorrow night. File that hope under “dashed.”

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No boys allowed

No, they really do mean it:

To help women find somewhere to indulge their geeky hobbies in a welcoming environment without feeling self-conscious, a cafe which caters to only female Otaku has opened recently in Osaka. It’s called Ataraxia Cafe, and although there’s no membership fee required to enter, you do have to take a test to prove that you’re Otaku enough to be there and be over the age of 18. If you pass the test, you’ll be allowed entry into what sounds like a total haven.

There’s free WiFi, bookshelves filled with manga and magazines, work stations with sewing machines and mannequins where cosplayers can work on their costumes, a cosplay wig trimming service, and plenty of power outlets for keeping laptops and portable gaming devices fully charged. Plus, you can order food and drink to keep you going through whatever geeky activity you decide to take up that day. Why would you ever leave?

From what I know about my half (more or less) of the species, I have to figure that this place is going to do land-office business or better.

Still:

If you’re able to read Japanese and you’d love to know if you’d pass the Otaku test, you can find it here and visit the website here.

Something like this might even work in the States for women hobbyists, Otaku or otherwise.

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No Arial photography available

However, an emergency call was placed to the serif’s office:

(Via Dodd.)

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The cervid economy

The upcoming Volvo S90 has a feature I wish had existed, oh, several years ago:

Important for some parts of the country is “Large Animal Detection,” which, unsurprisingly, detects and warns of roadside deer, moose, and other large animals to minimize collisions.

Let’s hope this catches on and is replicated through less expensive makes, so that either I or Robert Stacy McCain will have a chance of getting it.

Note: Title changed since original publication.

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Bulbs for the future

And they’re incandescent, as God and Tom Edison intended:

Scientists in the US believe they have come up with a solution which could see a reprieve for incandescent bulbs.

Researchers at MIT have shown that by surrounding the filament with a special crystal structure in the glass they can bounce back the energy which is usually lost in heat, while still allowing the light through.

They refer to the technique as “recycling light” because the energy which would usually escape into the air is redirected back to the filament where it can create new light.

“It recycles the energy that would otherwise be wasted,” said Professor Marin Soljacic.

You’d get your colors back, too:

Traditional incandescent bulbs have a “colour rendering index” rating of 100, because they match the hue of objects seen in natural daylight. However even “warm” finish LED or florescent bulbs can only manage an index rating of 80 and most are far less.

And you might even get the goddamn Gaians off your case, too:

Usually traditional light bulbs are only about five per cent efficient, with 95 percent of the energy being lost to the atmosphere. In comparison LED or florescent bulbs manage around 14 percent efficiency. But the scientists believe that the new bulb could reach efficiency levels of 40 percent.

No estimated price was given, but my immediate reaction was “Twenty bucks each? Gimme a dozen.”

The research was published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

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It’s a madhouse down there

Surprise number one: Rick Carlisle decided to sit four starters tonight, including, yes, Dirk, after a tough overtime game last night against Cleveland. Surprise number two: The Mavericks came out in a 2-3 zone, and mostly stuck with it. Surprise number three: All hell broke loose in the second quarter, starting with a J. J. Barea/Russell Westbrook tiff which ended with five technical fouls assessed. Charlie Villanueva got two of them and was escorted to the locker room. Before the half ended, Barea and Westbrook were at it again, and Westbrook was thumbed. Surprise number three and a half: Westbrook had been fouled before being tossed, and Carlisle, under the rules, got to pick any active player to make those free throws. He chose Mitch McGary, who made one of them.

After all that, the game itself was almost anticlimactic. Oklahoma City led Dallas 65-43 at the half; the Mavs crept to within a dozen or so several times, but the high point in Loud City seemed to be the opportunity to boo Barea, the Mavs’ leading scorer with 18, who committed four personal fouls. Most interesting to Mavs watchers, perhaps, was an extended look at Salah Mejri, the 29-year-old rookie center from Tunisia, who collected 17 points and nine rebounds in just under 25 minutes. Without Mejri’s 7-8 shooting, the Mavs’ dismal 39-percent shooting would have been about five points worse.

Westbrook’s unscheduled departure left him with a very odd line: no points — he missed three shots from the floor and four from the stripe — but seven rebounds and eight assists. This left scoring opportunities for Serge Ibaka (20), Dion Waiters (18) and Cameron Payne (10). (Kevin Durant had a modest, for Kevin Durant, 29 points.) Billy Donovan even saw fit to bring out D. J. Augustin, who’d been epoxied to the bench all month; he went scoreless in eight minutes. Still, this game, askew as it was, answered no questions, and managed to propose yet another:

And either of them, I think, more than James Harden.

What? Oh, yes. The score. Oklahoma City 108, Dallas 89. OKC leads the season series two-zip.

Addendum: On the front page of the Oklahoman the next day:

Thunder tops Mavs in fiesty game

So, like a fiesta, then?

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Lamp unto thy feet

Yes, this Taiwanese structure is a church, and yes, it’s supposed to look like a giant high heel:

There is, of course, a perfectly good reason for this:

In a bid to attract female attendees, officials in Budai have finished work on a 55-foot tall glass pump-slash-church. It is ridiculous. It is amazing. It is very, very shiny.

Set to open before the Lunar New Year on February 8, the non-denominational church structure was created in just two months. Despite the fact that its design strikingly resembles that of Cinderella’s famous glass slippers, the shape and material actually come from a wedding tradition in which the bride steps on and shatters ceramic tiles before entering the groom’s family home. (Shattering things is a crosscultural wedding thing.)

And for God’s sake, I implore you, don’t go Googling “foot worship.” Not now, not ever.

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Remaining decent

Lynn reports on an online petition:

Fifteen-year-old Cassy James has started a petition requesting that American Eagle Outfitters, Urban Outfitters, and Forever 21 start selling “modest, but fashionable clothing.” I really wish I could speak to and be heard by this young lady and others like her. Of course, even if I could she wouldn’t listen. I’m “too old”; I just “don’t get it.” But I have things to say and I have a blog and I’m calling on my three readers to make this go viral.

Inasmuch as I now have a teenaged granddaughter, I am happy to endorse this effort.

Also, last week someone uploaded a class picture from the distant past, which included somebody I was once horribly in love with. She’d have understood this, even then.

And Lynn makes a sensible suggestion:

When you know what you want you need to start voting with your purse. Do you really have to shop at the three stores you mentioned? You say they are your favorite stores but why is that if they don’t have what you want? Look around. Try other stores. Try Amazon. You can find anything on Amazon. Also, you can improve clothes by the way you accessorize. If a garment is “too old looking” for you add some young jewelry. If a shirt or dress is too low cut add a scarf. If a shirt is too tight just buy the next larger size. That’s the easiest problem of all to solve.

Yea, verily.

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Phake phederal phish

This oddball item didn’t pass the first-level spam filter, but I fished it out just to see what it was all about:

Phony US Postal Service message

There is, as indicated, a .doc file attached, the sort of thing one clicks on only if one has a death wish, or if one’s picture accompanies the definition of gullible in the dictionary.

Oh, from the footnotes:

Note
Please do not reply to this message. This email message was sent from a notification-only address that cannot accept incoming email.

The nerve.

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Let’s get rude

It’ll take about four minutes:

Note: This song is not approved by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association.

(Fishersville Mike will explain.)

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Rather than detail

I admit, I would not have thought of this:

[Y]ou can shine your hubcaps in the dishwasher. Simply load the hubcaps into your dishwasher with a cup of white vinegar (if you’re also cleaning the lug nuts, place them in a mesh bag before loading them into the dishwasher) and they’ll come out squeaky clean.

Reasons I would not have thought of this:

  • I have actual aluminum wheels;
  • I don’t have an actual dishwasher.

These conditions have prevailed for nine and twelve years, respectively.

(Via Fark.)

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The medley lingers on

Why, of course you can do mashups of classical music. They might sound something like this:

I admit to being amused by the presence of the Star Wars Imperial March, and at exactly the right time, to boot.

Still, I can’t help thinking that Professor Peter Schickele was first.

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Unearned earnings

Believe it or not, there are those who will simply not accept such things:

I expect some readers to have to tweak their Suspension of Disbelief glands to be able to grasp all this.

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And then you wane

Or perhaps you whine. I’m just going to put this up and pretend I never, ever saw it:

If your daily life is riddled with manspreaders, consider showing them this article. They will clasp their knees together with the sort of speed you would normally associate with Star Trek.

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Feature not featured

I have entirely too much reason to trust Jack Baruth on this matter:

Like most cars built in the past 60 years or so, the VW Phaeton has a movable driver’s seat. Like the vast majority of the cars built in the past 30 years or so, the VW Phaeton has a center console. Now pay attention, because this is the important part. In pretty much every car I’ve driven since the day I got my license, ranging from raggedy old Escorts to brand-new Rolls-Royces, there is a small gap between the driver’s seat and the center console. If you are sitting in any of those cars and you are holding your phone, or your keys, or your wallet, or anything else that is less than an inch and a half wide, and you drop that item, it will fall between the seat and the center console. At that point, you will discover that, although the gap between the driver’s seat and the center console easily accommodates a smartphone or, say, an ex-West-Berlin-Police Walther PP pistol in caliber .32 ACP, it does not accommodate the hand of an adult male. Not without scratching and/or cutting it into ribbons.

For example: there was the time I dropped my phone during World Tour ’08, and the retrieval of same unearthed a wallet belonging to a teenaged girl, which had been hiding in the gap for over two years.

The gap also attracts coins; I think I’ve lost about $30 in change over nine and a half years.

So maybe I should have opted for the most expensive Volkswagen in creation, huh?

In the VW Phaeton, however, there is a thing. It’s a velour-covered molded piece and it fills in the gap between the driver’s seat and the center console. It’s made to flex a bit so even though the relationship of the seat to the console changes a bit throughout its range of travel, that piece still prevents anything from falling between the seat and the console. If you drop your phone or your keys or your Walther, it will land on that piece and there it will stay in easy reach of your hand.

This would not seem difficult to replicate in less-costly models, but so far nobody, not even Volkswagen, has seen fit to do so.

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