Archive for February 2017

The ties that unbind

Roger explains the relative dearth of rail-based passenger service in the US:

Most of the greatest concentration of potential train use, because of population patterns, is in the Northeast corridor from Boston to DC, and California. And do you know who lives there? LIBERALS, those arrogant prigs who fuss about energy conservation and don’t REALLY share American values. So screw ’em. We have the fix for the problems of some of the recent rail crashes, but we’re not going to spend money for THAT.

OK, that was exaggerated, but only slightly. There are also pockets of density in the eastern Midwest, and in parts of Texas suitable for rail transportation. Still, fixing the rails, usually shared by freight, and needing to defer to cargo, is considered “subsidizing” Amtrak. Fixing the roads is … oh, never mind, we don’t do that either.

If you saw “Texas” and blinked, think “Texas Eagle,” which actually runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, entering Texas sort of parallel to Interstate 20 (west as far as Fort Worth, where it joins the Heartland Flyer to Oklahoma City), down Interstate 35 to San Antonio, and along Interstate 10 to El Paso and points west. Admittedly, density along I-10 is somewhere between zero and barely above, but I-35 is prodigiously busy and getting more so. (Fort Worth is the nation’s 16th largest city; San Antonio the 7th; in between is Austin, which is now 11th.)

And it must be conceded that we get farther behind on infrastructure repairs just about every single year.

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I didn’t even notice

But Warren Meyer did:

For some reason, WordPress has removed the underline button in the editor. I can bold, and italicize, but not underline for some reason. I have zero idea why there was such a burning need to eliminate this pretty basic feature of an editor. I suppose I can go in and manually add in html codes, but why bother with an editor if I have to do that kind of cr*p.

Evidently it’s been so long since I felt the need to underline that the disappearance of the button didn’t draw my attention at all.

That said, almost any deficiency in WordPress can be addressed in some way or another, and usually it’s via plugin, which it is here.

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Not so noble after all

The so-called “noble” gases occupy the right-hand column of the periodic table; their “nobility,” as it were, derives from their general disdain for forming compounds. Which doesn’t mean it can never happen: when I was still a lab rat, stuff like xenon hexafluoride (XeF6) was known to exist, and krypton was considered a reasonable shot for the occasional compound. But neon and especially helium? Not gonna happen.

Helium’s staunch stability is due to its closed-shell electronic configuration — its outer shell is complete, which means there’s no room for it to bond with other atoms by sharing electrons.

But that’s assuming the conditions are consistent with what we experience on Earth’s surface.

Ay, there’s the rub:

Being one of the most abundant elements in the Universe, responsible for forming stars and gas giant planets, helium could play by very different rules out in space and deep within our planet, and researchers have just found the first evidence yet of that weird behaviour.

“[E]xtremely high pressure, like that found at Earth’s core or giant neighbours, completely alters helium’s chemistry,” one of the team, Alex Boldyrev from Utah State, told Mary-Ann Muffoletto at Phys.org.

The researchers used a “crystal structure-predicting” computer model to predict that under extreme pressures, a stable helium-sodium compound could form.

They then physically created the never-before-seen compound, Na2He, in a diamond anvil cell experiment, which allowed them to subject helium and sodium atoms to pressures of around 1.1 million times Earth’s atmospheric pressure.

“These findings were so unexpected, Boldyrev says, that he and colleagues struggled for more than two years to convince science reviewers and editors to publish their results,” says Muffoletto.

Sodium, of course, is darn near hyperactive, as anyone who’s dropped it into water has found out terribly quickly; you’d need something that fierce to get helium out of its shell, so to speak. Still, these aren’t your standard chemical bonds; they’re Something Else Entirely.

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

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V for Vanished

“Why just this year?” is my only comment to this proposal:

If I were an activist of any stripe, and someone who people actually listened to, instead of, you know, me … I’d put out a call to “cancel” Valentine’s Day this year.

Not for any reason about frustration with romantic love (though there is that, and I get tired of how V-Day is all about the romance, and so those of us who have none in our lives are left standing on the outside of the restaurant on a cold night, looking in at the happy couples eating good food in the warmth).

No. It’s because I see precious little love in the world: humanity, at least the US culture form of it I see, is becoming more separated and fractionated and I’ve said several times this week that maybe the future of humanity is for all of us to live solo, with as little contact with other humans as possible, because it seems we can’t do interpersonal stuff without it turning into either a fight or a virtue-signalling contest.

Nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

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Let there be torque

Erin Palette, celebrating her tenth anniversary here in blogdom, is still plenty fast with a quip:

On a related note, I’d like be the first to announce that the transgender version of Uncle Tom is an Aunt Dorothy, and the transgender version of “House Negro” is “Performance Tranny.” I figure that if I’m going to be called names for going off-narrative, I might as well pick those names myself.

Oh, and before you ask, I’m a 4:11 final drive, with a 6-speed double-overdrive and a competition clutch.

May her throwout bearing never need to be thrown out.

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Duly quarter-noted

The Oklahoma City Philharmonic stuck this up on their Facebook page with the promise that it would improve your dating life 110 percent:

S'up babe?

After that much sightreading, I could use a rest.

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Unpsyched

Tyronn Lue was trolling, evidently; all that pre-game talk about possibly sitting his stars on the second night of a back-to-back proved to be nothing more than talk. Lue’s Cavaliers, minus the walking-wounded Iman Shumpert, were close to full strength, and they pretty much played like it, with Kyrie Irving running the point to perfection and LeBron James being LeBron James. Add a Kevin Love double-double, and you have to wonder how the Thunder were going to respond. Answer: Strongly, and late. After plenty of time on the teeter-totter in the fourth quarter, the Thunder found themselves up 111-101 with two minutes left, still led by 10 after one minute more, and had thoroughly stymied the Cavs’ big three. Lue knew he was licked, the aforementioned big three withdrew, and OKC won it 118-109, their first win over Cleveland in over a year.

Lots of good numbers: Russell Westbrook was 29-12-11, Steven Adams scored 20 and retrieved 13 boards, Victor Oladipo knocked down 23. Perhaps the most remarkable was this: despite losing the shooting percentage battle by something like 0.9, the Thunder made tons of shots: 50 out of 106. (The Cavs were 38-79.) Cleveland made more trips to the stripe — the Cavs never, ever foul — but King James, who had a healthy 16-point first half, finished with, um, 18. Andre Roberson can so guard LeBron. Irving was the default sharpshooter, and he wound up with a respectable 28. The Cavs’ bench, however, was held to 20, or about what Enes Kanter gets on a good night. Despite Kanter’s absence, the Thunder reserves popped up 30, half of them from Cameron Payne.

Once you’ve beaten the champs — well, the runners-up are showing up Saturday night. Heaven knows how the Loud City crowd will respond to the appearance of Kevin Iscariot, and you can be absolutely certain Heaven will hear it. We won’t think about that for a while.

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When it rains, it pours

I get the impression that Samsung is somehow on the wrong side of the Wheel of Karma these days:

Just when you almost forgot about what a shitty time Samsung’s been having, a literal garbage fire broke out at the company’s battery supplier in Tianjin, China. The cause? Discarded faulty batteries.

Reuters reports that it was just a “minor fire,” but we all know that this is a major “fuck you” for the company that lost a reported $5.3 billion in profits due to exploding Galaxy Note 7 phones. That extended nightmare, of course, was also caused by faulty batteries that were made by Samsung SDI, the aforementioned victim of the garbage fire. It’s so far unclear if the discarded faulty batteries were related to the Note 7 debacle.

Some days it just doesn’t pay to gnaw through the straps.

(Via Jeff Faria.)

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A change of hands and feet

The late Aubrey McClendon’s last enterprise, American Energy Partners, decided last year to liquidate, which prompted this question from me: “What happens to that supercool fitness center the company owned?”

Now we know:

The intricate dance to allow professional dancers, young students and their parents to fit into Oklahoma City Ballet’s 8,000-square-foot building won’t be necessary much longer.

The nonprofit organization announced Wednesday that [it] is acquiring two facilities that will help it expand its mission of bringing high-quality classical and contemporary dance to Oklahoma City.

The organization is under contract to purchase the former American Energy Partners Fitness Center, 6800 N Classen Blvd., and convert it into the new home for the professional company, its administrative offices, and its school, The Dance Center of Oklahoma City Ballet.

In addition, Chesapeake Energy Corp. recently donated the current OKC Ballet building, 7421 N Classen Blvd., to the arts organization. It will become overflow for dance classes and house the company’s costume and prop shop.

Next production is The Sleeping Beauty, music by Tchaikovsky (via the OKC Philharmonic), beginning a week from today.

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Unanticipated mail

Stuffed into my mailbox yesterday: the March ’17 issue of Reader’s Digest.

No, really. It’s a little smaller than I remember it in several dimensions — 136 pages this month — but otherwise it’s much the same as it used to be. (On page 131, for instance, there’s the old reliable “It Pays to Increase Your Word Power,” now being run by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon, once the operators of The Atlantic Puzzler.) Single-copy price is now $3.99, and they offered me 10 issues (one year) for $10.

The corporation in charge is billed as “Trusted Media Brands, Inc.”, which sounds incredibly bland; it is, however, the same old Reader’s Digest Association under a new name, inasmuch as they’ve acquired some special-interest magazines.

And there’s this:

“The pen is mightier than the sword, if you shoot that pen out of a gun.”

So saith Stephen Colbert, in, yes, “Quotable Quotes.”

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The ink conspiracy exposed

Everyone who’s ever owned an inkjet printer knows that the major expense is not the printer itself, but the ink it keeps demanding. Meh.com was frank about this day before yesterday:

The cheap-printer hustle is just a recent iteration of an age-old game. The manufacturer takes a loss to get you hooked with a cheap printer. They give you all this molded plastic and tooled metal, all this sophisticated circuitry, this array of precision sprayers, for less than it cost them to make.

Because they know that once you buy the printer, they can put the screws to you for years of overpriced ink. Only once you see the eye-watering prices of replacement ink do you realize you’ve been conned. You’ll be paying over and over for that “good deal” on the printer. But what are you gonna do? Go buy some other printer and start the dance all over again?

So we decided to stretch the absurdity. Heighten the contradiction. Bend this angle to its ultimate extreme. We found a good, cheap inkjet printer for an even cheaper price and slashed our margin to the cheapest possible point.

And so it came to pass that they would sell a Canon 2820 printer, with no ink cartridges and no USB cable, for the absurd sum of ten bucks. (Plus, of course, five bucks shipping.) Limit one per customer, and that’s what I bought.

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McCrab?

Well, not in Topeka, but you gotta start somewhere:

McDonald’s is planning to launch a crab sandwich in the San Francisco Bay area.

The fast food giant says the sandwich consists of snow crab meat mixed with mayonnaise and served with tomato and lettuce on a sourdough bun. It says it worked with San Francisco chef and former Top Chef contestant Ryan Scott to create the sandwich.

Current testing is taking place in four locations in San Jose; if things go well, McCrab (or whatever it’s called) will spread across the Bay area, and perhaps even beyond.

Best snark so far:

(Via Fark.)

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Chapeau de Reynolds Wrap

We have here a nimrod who says he “needs [an] attorney in Boston.” What he needs, if you ask me, is a tailor who can provide him with 60-inch sleeves:

I am a very smart 30 year old male. The last 2 year’s I have been relentlessly bullied online, here is what I think has happened for I have been using my PC every day for 20 years.. I am being used as an experiment for the government, I do have proof and my word, I never lie. I can tell you thing’s you never would of imagined and I know I am right because of the action’s I see take place online interacting with people online from all over the world. One thing I am very passionate about, is retrieving my transscripts from an internet chat site called Omegle, I been using this site every day speaking my theories and random stuff like a robot for 4 years, there could be over 1 million chats, I feel the items I have wrote into this site can be very valuble and I believe they are being used by the government for i Have seen some of my possible work in the public. I need help, I am just trying to learn about life as I go and make for better things but I am being tortured, I know I am. I really want all my chats back in paper form and data form from Omegle. I have that right, please give me the info to an attorney who can do this for me. My name is Roy and yes I LOVE my PC and using my PC and people are ruining it for me by their words and now corrupting my working PC.

There are no “very smart 30 year old” males on Omegele, which exists largely to provide adolescents the opportunity to look at each other’s naughty bits. And while under copyright laws he does in fact own his words, this does not obligate anyone to provide him hard copy. (I am something of a legend in chat rooms, but I don’t delude myself that anything I wrote is valuable.)

And if you were a very smart 30-year-old male and had been bullied for two years, what would you do? Hint: you wouldn’t hang around at the same place all the damned time.

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Still more of the best-unlaid plans

Almost certainly you’ve seen this before:

I am an American man, and I have decided to boycott American women. In a nutshell, American women are the most likely to cheat on you, to divorce you, to get fat, to steal half of your money in the divorce courts, don’t know how to cook or clean, don’t want to have children, etc. Therefore, what intelligent man would want to get involved with American women?

American women are generally immature, selfish, extremely arrogant and self-centered, mentally unstable, irresponsible, and highly unchaste. The behavior of most American women is utterly disgusting, to say the least.

This blog is my attempt to explain why I feel American women are inferior to foreign women (non-American women), and why American men should boycott American women, and date/marry only foreign (non-American) women.

In fact, you’ve seen it here twice before. Both incidents were in 2011, which tells me that this character can carry a grudge nearly as long as I can, and he might even have a long memory.

I sum him up this way: “He wants you to know he’s taken the Red Pill. He doesn’t want you to know that he begged for a chewable version.”

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This big-eyed girl

If you, like me, tend to think of Christina Ricci in terms of Wednesday Addams, you will flinch, as I did, when you hear that she’ll be thirty-eight tomorrow. What she won’t be, however, is any taller:

Christina Ricci says she doesn’t think she’ll ever be a major star because she’s too short. “I don’t think that’s ever going to happen for me,” the Black Snake Moan star tells Premiere. “I’m five-one first thing in the morning, and I tend to look really small on camera. I can probably go as far as Holly Hunter went, then I think that’s going to be it. I have a feeling I am way too small.”

Perhaps being small enough to fit into the fridge is indeed too small. However, she’s hard to overlook:

Christina Ricci at the British Academy Awards

Christina Ricci stretches out, sort of

Christina Ricci goes blonde

Of late, she seems to have opted for blondness. She still does a good disembodied voice, though: you’ll be able to hear her as Terra in Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, due later this year, and if you don’t want to wait that long, you can hear her in bite-size (sorry) segments in Beck’s 2005 record “Hell Yes.”

(Title, if you were curious, comes from Siouxsie and the Banshees.)

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When we were 35

Ross Stracke states the case for not booing Kevin Durant tonight:

If we were just talking basketball, I’d say boo away. And I get why we want to boo him. He was our prodigal adopted son. He took on our ideals, displayed our hopes, and then squashed our dreams by fleeing to our biggest rival. I’ve seen all the quotes of his forgotten promises and insincere loyalty. I get it, I do.

This is why I’m not advocating for cheers or a standing ovation. That comes later, a few years down the road when the wounds aren’t so fresh.

But KD was more than a star athlete in a forgotten city. He adopted us back and did all that he could to bring our city with him on his journey to success. No other superstar did that, or at least they didn’t succeed in the way KD did. And for that, he is one of a kind.

So put aside his bullshit for a night, because when it mattered and counted KD shined for us the past 9 years.

Besides, we’ll always (or for several years, anyway) have Patrick Beverley to boo.

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Grudge match

First, to get Crowd Response out of the way:

Subtle, Mr. Mayor, sir.

Anyway, were there collars on NBA uniforms, they would have been hot under; late in the third, KD and Andre Roberson nearly came to blows, and trash talk was the rule rather than the exception. Down 23 at the half — the Warriors had a picture-perfect 43 points in the second quarter — the Thunder managed to pull within 12 in the fourth. But that was as close as they would get; a 27-footer by Yonder Cupcake (I have no idea where KD picked up that pejorative) put Golden State up 19 with three and a half minutes left, and with all the air sucked out of the room at 1:52, both benches were emptied. Warriors 130, Thunder 114, the season series goes to 3-0, and if nothing else, Houston’s James Harden probably went up a couple of points in local regard.

In the Battle of the Superstars, Russell Westbrook, 47-11-8, edged KD, 34-9-3, though both committed five fouls. Only four Warriors scored in double figures, but the Thunder had only three. The scary aspect was that JaVale McGee came within one point of a season high, with 16; it’s never a good sign when the more marginal players come up big. This wasn’t a great night for either bench — Golden State’s scored 22, OKC’s 19 — but note should be taken of Andre Iguodala’s +30 for the night, far and away the greatest plusser.

There will be one face-saver in March in OKC. Maybe Kanter will be back. Maybe one of the Warriors will develop flu-like symptoms. But definitely, things will be loud.

Two games before the All-Star break: at Washington on Monday, followed by a visit from the Knicks on Wednesday. I expect little snarling in either case.

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The Death Panels approve

The Food and Drug Administration, by law, takes no position on pricing. The advantages of their neutrality are occasionally offset, though, by stories like this:

Here’s yet another facet of the U.S. drug pricing conundrum: older treatments which have been around for years can win label expansions that significantly increase their value, and consequently, their list prices. That appears to be the case with Marathon Pharmaceuticals’ deflazacort, a steroid that has now achieved FDA approval for treating the devastating muscle-wasting disorder Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). There’s a dearth of available DMD treatments (and the most recently approved one in the U.S. was cleared under a cloud of controversy), so it’s not hard to see why the FDA wants to speed treatments to the finish line. But Marathon also decided to price the drug, which is available for less than $1 per pill in Canada as a steroid, at $89,000 per year. And since the treatment isn’t already approved in the U.S. for other, cheaper indications, there’s no risk of doctors prescribing it for off-label purposes to Duchenne patients.

Then again, this sort of news is by now old news:

In recent years, companies that have gotten old or existing drugs approved to treat rare diseases have reaped big financial rewards. For example, tetrabenazine, a drug that was available from abroad and used for years to treat the uncontrollable tremors of Huntington’s disease, was approved as an orphan drug in 2008. In 1998, it cost $42.28 for a bottle of tetrabenazine pills from a European pharmacy, according to Joseph Jankovic, a neurologist at Baylor College of Medicine. After receiving approval as an orphan drug, that bottle of pills — now known by the brand name Xenazine — carried a list price of more than $6,000 in the U.S. in 2008. The price was repeatedly ratcheted up to more than $21,243 a bottle, according to Truven Health Analytics data. Xenazine accounted for $325 million in U.S. sales in 2015, the year it went generic, according to data from Evaluate, a market intelligence firm.

I suppose I should be grateful that none of the stuff I take costs as much as $10,000 a year. (Yet.)

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At the end of Electric Avenue

Roger Green’s slice-of-life story yesterday centered on Eddy Grant’s humongous hit record “Electric Avenue,” to which I tacked on a bit of marketing history. It gave me an idea, and I stumbled down several roads that didn’t go anywhere before finding this exquisite bit of silliness. From 1998, this is Eurodance combo Duck, from beautiful downtown Serbia, with “Kako si mogao” (“How could you?”):

This is, of course, a rewrite of Eddy Grant’s “Romancing the Stone,” a song written for the 20th Century-Fox movie of the same name but not used therein.

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Quote of the week

Whomever you choose to take the blame for our Parlous Times, you’re sort of missing the point:

You know what the reality is? Every one of those guys — even the sneakiest, cleverest, richest of the lot, pick your choice, is floundering. Oh, they may stumble a little less than we do, and get a little more light shed in one corner or another, but they, like you or me, are doing good to keep up. It’s 2017 and a goatherd barely out of the Stone Age armed with a can of gasoline can, for a short while, speak just as loudly and influentially as the greasiest éminence grise. Those fellows who look so confident, generals and zillionaires, Congressthings and shady wheeler-dealers? It’s a front; they’ve got their refuges and boltholes and they hope their ride will wait, but they have no better handle on the future than you do and their only real plan is to see the next sunrise with their skin intact. They rely on custom and habit and the dull goodwill of their fellow humans every bit as much as you do.

Which explains the current state of things:

In January, we saw one of the great civil miracles of modern civilization: the peaceful transfer of power of a major nation going off without a hitch in a ceremony that’s been performed every four years since the end of April, 1789, and you know what people did? They went after trivia. After speculative nonsense. And it has only become worse every day since.

If you’re heavily emotionally invested in contemporary politics, you’re wasting the best part of your life.

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So! Sad!

I’m almost surprised it took this long:

Opening act: the Stephen Miller Band.

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Since this has become an issue of late

Which wine goes with which Girl Scout cookies?

However, you should feel free to experiment, because you can be absolutely certain that everyone else will.

Complete analysis here.

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Strange search-engine queries (576)

What we have here, as we have had most Monday mornings for the last decade or so, is a collection of the weirder search strings that led people to this very site. (Don’t worry if one of them is yours: yes, we do record your IP address, but yes, we’re too lazy to track you down.)

how to replace a toilet:  Inevitably, this must have come up on a weekend when the plumbers charge extra.

from the albums released by a musician, the recording company wishes to release in a boxed set. how many different boxed sets are possible, assuming that the order in which the albums are chosen for a boxed set is irrelevant?  Which, judging from some of the box sets I’ve seen lately, should be assumed.

russell westbrook points:  And then laughs.

pony insurance:  In case you were wondering how Filthy Rich earned his cutie mark.

judge jeanine naked:  Fox News doesn’t need ratings that badly.

bail bonds near me:  Which makes more sense than, say, bail bonds at the other end of the county.

2017 surly troll:  Steve Bannon, had he not gotten a government job.

written episode legs:  Including several pages of shoe dangle, presumably for fanservice.

a few inches later:  She told him to get off and quit wasting her time.

626 number meaning:  It is the number of the man half a block from the Beast.

suppose ford, gm, and dodge make the majority of pick-up trucks sold in the united states if they all sell for approximately the same price, and ford offers a $2,000 rebate on new truck sales, what can ford expect to see?  The same old thing, because competitors will immediately throw cash on their hoods.

are they ill tempered:  Ever since the election.

nudist fiction:  Presumably taking place in the summer, for what I would consider obvious reasons.

foreskin news:  With your host, fast-talkin’, slow walkin’, good-lookin’ Mohel Sam.

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Took about six, actually

The first two, circa 1972, were singer Lyn Collins and producer-writer James Brown, in a semi-massive hit called “Think (About It),” circa 1972, which floundered on the pop chart but became a legitimate Top Ten soul record. Its staying power was demonstrated sixteen years later when Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock turned it into “It Takes Two,” old-school hip-hop of the highest grade.

In 1988, when “It Takes Two” forced its way onto the dance floor, Carly Rae Jepsen was not quite three years old, and Lil Yachty hadn’t even been thought of yet. At the behest of Target, they gave it their all:

Sanitary, as Target demands, but still James Brown-level danceable. (That spectral-sounding opening line, incidentally, is a shout-out to producer Mike Will Made It.)

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Thakoonery

The Spring ’17 debut at Thakoon carries a whole lot of Future Imperative baggage:

The models are kept at just enough distance to make sure you don’t recognize that these are rather conservative looks, as befits a designer born in Thailand who went to high school in the suburbs of Omaha.

Nosy person that I am, though, I want a closer look:

From the Thakoon Spring 2017 debut

More looks, should you so desire. I suggest that someone needs to make these models a sandwich or two.

Who What Wear, covering the event, singled out the shoes for special comment:

Gracing the feet of nearly every model were brightly colored block heel sandals that had a very prominent loop for your toe. This is not the first time we have seen this shape, but it’s been semi absent for a while and we are guessing the funky and once considered “weird” footwear style will become a sweeping trend faster than we realize. As the fashion industry continuously surprises us with approachable trends and forward-thinking designs, Thakoon hit the nail on the head with an item that is wearable, unique, and perfect for this season and beyond.

If you ask me, those shoes should always be ordered with dual color-block, because this is how they look in monochrome:

From the Thakoon Spring 2017 debut

How will this play in flyover country? Pretty well, I think, inasmuch as I was tipped off to this show by a 50ish woman in northern Alabama.

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The post-ACA future

Assuming the GOP delivers on a campaign promise, which admittedly is a hell of a lot to assume, Obamacare is good as gone. Then what? Fred speculates:

When national medical care is considered in America, nobody — so far as I am aware, anyway — thinks to look at other countries, see what they are doing, and ask, “Does it work?” To do so would make sense, and so is rejected out of hand, and anyway Americans apparently cannot conceive that other countries might do things well. Instead we hear about this that economic theory, and freedom, and what Adam Smith said about bypass surgery, and tyranny.

Invariably you hear of the pregnant woman in London who couldn’t see a doctor under national health care and had to giver herself a Caesarian with a chainsaw. These nightmares are offered as proof that national care doesn’t work. In fact the medical business lobbies to underfund national care, ensuring that it won’t work well. Then they talk about the evils of socialism.

By comparison:

Military medical care is the obvious, available, and easily studied alternative to Obamacare. So far as I know, nobody thought of this. In the military you go to the hospital or clinic, show your ID card, get done whatever you need, and leave. Thank you, good day. No paperwork. No paperwork. No insurance forms, deductibles, receipts. No insurance companies trying to pay as little as possible, since that’s how they make money. The doctor doesn’t order a PET scan, three MRIs, and a DNA analysis of your grandmother’s dog to run up the bill.

This would never do, and it didn’t. Say hello to Tricare. But don’t look directly at it.

From the taxpayer’s point of view, real national care involves no insurance companies. For this reason Congress, for sale to the highest bidder, will never consider such a system.

Any meaningful improvement would have to get rid of at least one, and preferably two, of the established middlemen: either Big Insurance, or Big Government. Both of them, of course, are dug in for the long haul.

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No sorcery required

You have to figure that any night Russell Westbrook finished with a -36 is a night that did not go well, and indeed it didn’t; the Wizards hit their first eight shots, and about five minutes in, they had an absurd 22-6 lead. The Thunder stabilized a bit, and were down a workable 67-54 at the half; however, coming out of the locker room, they missed a dozen shots in a row, and by then the Wizards had sailed. In a game notable mostly for its extensive garbage minutes, Washington, coached by Thunder castoff Scott Brooks, thoroughly trounced OKC, 120-98, in a game that wasn’t even that close: the Wizards, at one point in the third, were up 34.

Mainly, the Thunder couldn’t shoot. We’re talking 34-96, which is barely 35 percent. (The Wizards took only 73 shots, but made 42.) Westbrook managed only 17 points on 5-19 shooting. Andre Roberson got two early fouls and basically was never heard from again. On the upside, Kyle Singler came up with six points in 16 minutes. OKC won the battle of the boards, 47-40, but was otherwise eclipsed. Meanwhile, all five D.C. starters managed double figures, Marcin Gortat getting the least with 12, and two double-doubles to show: John Wall with 15 points and 14 assists, Otto Porter with 18 points and 11 boards. Game-high? That would be Markieff Morris, with 23, and right behind, Bradley Beal with 22.

One to go before the All-Star break: the Knicks come to OKC on Wednesday. New York has been inconsistent, and has been rewarded for its inconsistency with a sub-.500 record; they’d dearly love to trip up the Thunder, and if the Thunder play like this, it won’t get the Knicks out of eleventh place, but it will make OKC’s playoff chances that much dimmer.

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Waiting for 222

It’s Valentine’s Day. Why don’t we hear anything about Karen Valentine anymore?

Well, she’s not working as hard as she used to. Her most recent credit was opposite John Larroquette in a 2004 Hallmark Channel movie, Wedding Daze, directed by Georg Stanford Brown, who appeared in an episode of (yes!) Room 222, the series that made her famous. A long way from Walt Whitman High, perhaps, but aren’t we all?

Karen Valentine with John Larroquette in 2004

I did learn that at five foot four, she’s about two inches taller than I thought.

Karen Valentine in some insubstantial shoes

Karen Valentine at practice

Can you ignore this face?  I didn't think so

A lot of the vintage pictures of Karen have turned up in this five-minute video thing:

The first half of that was a B-side by the Surfaris (“Wipe Out”) that later was recorded by the Beach Boys for a TV series called Karen, which was not Karen Valentine’s 1975 series Karen.

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Assuming that’s what it takes

It’s not my business to inquire.

(I wonder how many years this same sign has been popping up.)

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Spam is everywhere

Spam can in the Mariana TrenchWhich includes, yes, the “most remote place on the planet.” The caption on this picture, as reproduced in the Guardian: “A container of Spam rests at 4,947 meters on the slopes of a canyon leading to the Sirena Deep in the Mariana trench. Photograph: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration.” Three miles down! Is this unusual? Not in the slightest:

Small crustaceans that live in the pitch-black waters of the trench, captured by a robotic submarine, were contaminated with 50 times more toxic chemicals than crabs that survive in heavily polluted rivers in China.

Not a good sign. Remember PCBs? They’ve never truly gone away:

PCBs were manufactured from the 1930s to the 1970s, when their appalling impact on people and wildlife was realised. About a third of the 1.3m tonnes produced has already leaked into coastal sediments and the open oceans, with a steady stream still thought to be coming from poorly protected landfill sites.

And “landfill” may explain the artifact pictured above:

An expedition conducted by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last year also found various manmade items on the slopes leading to the Sirena Deep, part of the Mariana trench, and the nearby Enigma Seamount. They included a tin of Spam, a can of Budweiser beer and several plastic bags.

The appalling impact of Budweiser beer has long been established.

(Via Holly Brockwell.)

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News for the pre-deceased

This advice is worth considerably less than what you paid for it, even if you got it for free:

I just get frustrated at all the unwanted health advice we seem to get pushed at us. There’s also a series of PSAs now about pre-diabetes, and there’s apparently a website you can go to if you are wondering “Am I pre-diabetic?” (I suspect it’s just a page with a big red YES written on it, and GO TO YOUR DOCTOR and DON’T EAT ANYTHING BUT VEGETABLES on there)

Well, this is what Wikipedia says on the topic:

The page “Pre-diabetic” does not exist. You can ask for it to be created, but consider checking the search results below to see whether the topic is already covered.

I did eventually turn this up:

Fasting blood glucose levels are in a continuum within a given population, with higher fasting glucose levels corresponding to a higher risk for complications caused by the high glucose levels. Impaired fasting glucose is defined as a fasting glucose that is higher than the upper limit of normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes mellitus. Some patients with impaired fasting glucose can also be diagnosed with impaired glucose tolerance, but many have normal responses to a glucose tolerance test.

Allow me to point out that the only people with no risk factors are already dead, and they could not possibly care less about glucose levels.

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He was the bravest of them all

The Z Man titled a post “We Need a Tom Doniphon,” and I knew at once what he meant. Just to make sure we’re paying attention, though, Z plugged in this last paragraph:

America is headed for a bad end unless things change quickly and radically. The suicide cult that has control of our society is not going to stop until we’re all dead. At some point, you have to use every means necessary to prevent a catastrophe. If that means Lindsay Graham winds up in a pit covered in lime, so be it. If Bill Kristol has to write his tantrums from exile in Israel, I can live with that. In order to have a world run by Senator Ranse Stoddard, you first need a Tom Doniphon to do the dirty work of clearing out Liberty Valance.

Burt Bacharach and Hal David put together a wonderful song called “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” after John Ford’s film; however, the song does not appear in the film. (Ask Eddy Grant what that’s like.) Some latter-day genius came up with the idea of creating a video for the song, based on the original trailer plus a couple of pertinent scenes. (Jimmy Stewart was Ranse Stoddard, and John Wayne was Tom Doniphon.)

Gene Pitney was never better, and today, 55 years after the film, Liberty Valance is as relevant as ever.

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Meet the invalid

Spare me those euphemisms like “differently-abled.” I’m well on my way to becoming a full-fledged cripple, and I can’t say I’m enjoying the trip.

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No carbs for you

There are folks who never get near carbohydrates, and they’re perfectly happy about that. And then there are the rest of us:

My take has long been that if you like low carb — if you find it a pleasant way of eating, feel good on it, and lose the weight you want — then by all means, great. I’ve written several posts explaining that my experience on such diets has consistently been the opposite. I find them tremendously unpleasant, feel physically bad while adhering to them, and to top it all off I don’t even lose weight.

My own rule on such matters is simply this: any dietary advice intended to be all-inclusive will eventually prove to be utterly worthless. For all I know, by 2030 they’ll be pushing Cool Whip as the One Perfect Food, and Cheez Whiz as the Indispensable Supplement. Or they won’t. I don’t plan to give a damn one way or the other.

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Snow is your friend, officer

It’s just as simple as this:

Mother Nature gave Olympia [Washington] Police officers a crime-fighting boost when they responded to a burglary call Monday morning.

Footprints in fresh snow greeted officers who responded to the 911 call about a commercial burglary alarm at the Taco Bell in the 1100 block of Cooper Point Road at 3:30 a.m. Monday.

Officers saw footprints approaching the building, according to Lt. Paul Lower. The footprints led to a ladder where the snow also was disturbed, Lower said.

The ladder led to the roof, where more fresh footprints led to an open hatch with more disturbed snow.

That’s some mighty fine police work there, Paul. But it’s also eminently sensible:

Lt. Lower’s conclusion? “Snow makes crime scene investigation much easier.”

(Via American Digest.)

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Knowing when to hold ’em

Long before this year’s Superb Owl, I’d learned never to underestimate Lady Gaga — especially not if she’s doing an acoustic set:

In case you were thinking “Poker Face” was some kind of mechanical dance tune, fercrissake.

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New York regrooved

So the Knickerbockers came to town, and they proceeded to beat the living snot out of the Thunder — for the first quarter, anyway, in which New York rolled up a 39-27 lead. It turned out that OKC took rather a lot of time to figure out how to defend against the Knicks’ mostly half-court offense, and once they did, they ran off 61 points in the next two quarters, against a mere 41 for the Knicks. New York stiffened, as New York will, in the last twelve minutes, but so did OKC, rolling to a 15-point lead just outside the four-minute mark and dispatching the New Yorkers, 116-105, sweeping the two-game season series.

Admittedly, it wasn’t exactly a well-oiled machine running at the Peake:

Still, the work got done when it had to be. Carmelo Anthony rolled up the majority of his 30 points before Andre Roberson put the squeeze on him; Derrick Rose knocked down 25; but the four Knick reserves who saw playing time managed a mere 15 points. (The Thunder bench produced 30, 13 from Jerami Grant.) There was, yet again, a Russell Westbrook triple-double (38-14-12), another big outing for Victor Oladipo (21 points), and there was something of an anomaly: both sides shot better from the three-point line than they did overall. Really. The Knicks were 41-86 overall (48 percent) and 11-21 from downtown (52 percent); the Thunder went 41-88 (47 percent) and 12-23 from way out there (52 percent). If your job is to make the dullest highlight reel possible, this is your game.

And that concludes the first half, so to speak, of the season. (Actually, about two-thirds of the season is done, but there’s that whole All-Star weekend thing.) The Thunder are 32-25, which projects to 46-36 for the season. Might be enough for seventh or eighth. It doesn’t hurt that six of the next nine games are against lottery likelies; on the other hand, one’s against the Spurs and two are against the Jazz. Where this one ends up, nobody knows.

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Shell and Jaguar, sitting in a tree

For now, with exclusivity:

The two companies partnered together to develop the system, which is part of 2018 model year updates to Jaguar XE, XF, F-Pace, and Land Rover models (when equipped with the InControl app system). It would seem F-Type and XJ owners do not need the benefit of in-car fuel purchases at this time.

Designed to simplify the life of the customer, the Shell payment system can also log trips and save receipts for those who use their Jaguar as a company vehicle.

It works by allowing the driver to drive up to the pump at a Shell station and use the vehicle’s touchscreen to select how much fuel they’d like to purchase. The transaction is conducted using PayPal or Apple Pay for the time being. Android Pay will be added as an option later in the year. Upon payment, the touchscreen will display the fuel receipt, and further send a copy to a driver’s email address.

A nice way to bypass sub rosa card scanners, anyway.

Still, given the price of a Jag these days, the system ought to actually pump the damn gas for you. Maybe next update.

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Goodbye, American woman

You won’t hear Jack Baruth — or, for that matter, me — singing that. But the fact is, things have changed, and I’m not prepared to say that it’s for the better:

I grew up in an era and environment where moms spent their lives raising children and dads bought them cars to make that task easier. We didn’t know that we were racist and sexist and evil tools of the patriarchy. Our moms looked after us and our dads sat in the recliner in the evenings after earning the daily bread. Everybody was pretty happy, as far as I could tell. Most of my friends who grew up in this antiquated, hateful state of affairs grew up to be attorneys and doctors and successful businessmen.

Since then, however, I’ve been properly re-educated to understand how hellish and repressive the suburbs truly are. I’ve learned that women are only happy when they focus on their careers until the atomic clock of their fertility reaches two minutes to midnight, at which point they stop the game of musical chairs, marry the guy who happens to be sitting in said chair, and immediately pay a fertility specialist $250,000 to get one designer baby named Kayden with strong signs of autism-spectrum disorders and a light case of measles from lack of vaccination. How this is better than being one of the pretty 27-year-old mommies of my youth in Columbia, Maryland, I don’t know, but my opinion on the matter is no more valid than, say, that of the GEICO caveman, and for pretty much the same reasons.

The truly hard-core, of course, would prefer it if that chair were occupied by someone who isn’t a guy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

And the hellishness and repression of the suburbs will be deemed Properly Corrected at the moment the residents therein stop voting for Republicans, and not one second sooner. Feminism isn’t about women anymore; it’s about being the largest Democrat voting bloc. Despite wearing the sacred D (as distinguished from others) for four and a half decades, I’m considered obsolete, passé, my eyes incorrectly sparkled.

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I was wondering about that

Patch Tuesday came and went this week, and Microsoft issued no Windows patches. What gives? This is the explanation they provided:

Our top priority is to provide the best possible experience for customers in maintaining and protecting their systems. This month, we discovered a last minute issue that could impact some customers and was not resolved in time for our planned updates today.

After considering all options, we made the decision to delay this month’s updates.

Apparently dropping one update out of a batch is no longer a thing:

Previously, Microsoft could delay a single patch — when, for example, that patch had been previously announced but had not been completed in time — without impeding the company’s ability to release all other fixes. That occurrence, while uncommon, was not extraordinary.

But as soon as Microsoft began packaging all patches into single item — as it did with Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 in November — it lost the power to postpone one fix while still releasing others. Although Microsoft security updates have become all-or-nothing affairs for customers, who must accept every patch or none, without any middle way, the same holds true for the Redmond, Wash. company as well: It must release all its scheduled patches, or none of them.

So the next Patch Tuesday will be on the 14th of March, which is in fact a Tuesday.

(Via Fark.)

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