Archive for General Disinterest

Tru enough

Just across town:

Hilton spent about $4 million on this 86-room facility, five miles north of Will Rogers World Airport at 802 S. Meridian. The target market, apparently, is the Millennial on a budget — and aren’t all Millennials on a budget?

Picture a Quality Inn or a Comfort Inn with a makeover along the lines of an Ace hotel, without the hipster restaurants, and you may have Tru by Hilton, which features bright colors, a lobby designed with areas for eating, playing games, working and lounging and efficiently designed guest rooms.

“The rooms got smaller and the lobby got bigger,” said Phil Cordell, global head of Hilton Worldwide’s focused service brands, highlighting the social aspects of the new concept.

About those rooms:

The goal was to create rooms of 228 square feet with “clever” bathrooms. The brand uses platform beds instead of box springs and uses a landing zone where guests can place their luggage and hang their clothes rather than a dresser. Hilton realized that they could shrink the width of the room from the typical 12 feet to 10 feet because typically the TV cabinet would take up 2 feet, but with flat screen TV’s the space could be spared. The desk … to be used is a portable chair attached to a table allowing the guest to use the chair wherever they want in the room.

The Tru by Hilton in McDonough, Georgia was the first to break ground, but the Oklahoma City location is the first to open. And on Day One, yes, there was a food truck out front:

Right on target.

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Their reputation notwithstanding

Really, cats are nice:

Thanks to new research from Oregon State University, published on Friday in Behavioural Processes, there is scientific evidence that cats are, according to empirical study, nice. In fact, the study concluded, cats like interacting with humans more than they like eating food. Let that sink in: more than food. I don’t like anybody more than food.

The motivation for the study was to apply cognitive tests that have already be tried out on dogs and tortoises on cats, in order to clear up some misconceptions around cats’ bad reputation for being unsociable.

“Increasingly cat cognition research is providing evidence of their complex socio-cognitive and problem solving abilities,” the authors wrote in the paper. “Nonetheless, it is still common belief that cats are not especially sociable or trainable. This disconnect may be due, in part, to a lack of knowledge of what stimuli cats prefer, and thus may be most motivated to work for.”

I wonder if this sample is large enough:

The test took 50 cats both from people’s homes and from a shelter and deprived them of food, toys, and people for a few hours. Then, researchers presented the cats with different stimuli within four categories: human socialization, food, scent, and toys.

The researchers concluded that there were no significant differences between the homed and the shelter cats, and that most cats preferred human socialization to any of the other categories. Half of the cats preferred social interaction to every other stimulus type, while only 37 percent preferred food.

This suggests that if you’re in a position to feed a cat, you’re in what Red Barber used to call the catbird seat. Now make with the Meow Mix already.

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Curly bracket

She wandered into the shop and asked if we’d filled out our brackets yet. We hadn’t, and said so.

Shortly thereafter, we arrived at the truth of the matter: she wanted to play, but her knowledge of college hoops was right up there with my fluency in conversational Urdu. “I’d just pick them at random,” she wailed. As practicing members of Guydom, we were expected to be conversant in all aspects of sportsball, but she’d never had the time or the inclination.

In other words, she was the opposite of this March Madness stereotype:

Folks who know diddly about basketball opine on the relative merits of teams they have never seen play a single game. These so-called experts lament the inclusion and exclusion of marginal teams, each of which one could make an argument for and against.

I accepted a sheet from her, and then proceeded to just pick them at random. (Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad. And I will divulge how badly I failed shortly after I do actually fail.)

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More mud pie, sir?

Newspaper clipping about Ryan DirteaterIn the Oklahoman’s seemingly interminable notes of everything conceivably connected to last night’s OKC Thunder/Memphis Grizzlies game, I found this little squib without the least bit of snark, which tells me that this is no laughing matter:

Seldom does a day pass when bull rider Ryan Dirteater isn’t asked if that’s his real last name.

“They think it’s fake,” he said. “It’s ironic that I’m a bull rider. You don’t want to eat dirt. But it is my real last name. I grew up with it.”

Dirteater might be a cool last name for a cowboy, but it was ripe for getting picked on when the Oklahoma native was a boy.

“I’ve heard it since I was a kid growing up, especially in high school,” said Dirteater, [27]. “Some of them made fun of my name back then, and now most of them want my autograph.”

The best revenge, as the phrase goes. To which I say: “See what the gentleman is drinking.”

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Interim scrutiny

As usual, I had my auto-insurance premium billed to a card; not as usual, the amount billed was substantially less than I had been led to expect. We’re talking $24.70 less for the six-month period, which is nothing to sneeze at. I pulled up the online version of the policy, and each of the coverages has been repriced downward a smidgen. Compared with the actual November bill:

  • Liability (injury): down $5.40.
  • Liability (property): down $4.90.
  • Uninsured motorists: down $5.30.
  • Comprehensive: down $3.80.
  • Collision: down $5.30.
  • Road service: no change.
  • Rental reimbursement: no change.

I don’t know what brought this on — the actual amount of coverage is unchanged — but for some reason, last week they decided they were overcharging me, and the sensible thing to do when you’re overcharging someone is to not do that.

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Wheel Barrow away

The town has reverted to its original name:

The northernmost community in the United States has officially restored its original name.

In October, the people of the Alaskan town formerly known as Barrow, on the edge of the Arctic Ocean, voted to restore its indigenous name, Utqiagvik. Zachariah Hughes of Alaska Public Media reported that the traditional Iñupiaq name Utqiagvik refers to a place to gather wild roots.

The vote was close: 381-375. (The town has a population of a bit over 4,000.)

Point Barrow, the actual northernmost point in the States, nine miles to the northeast, is remaining Point Barrow for now.

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A quarter to nine

It was vague, as most premonitions are, except in one distinct area: the time. At 8:45 on Monday, something dreadfully terrible would be happening. I shrugged it off — it’s not like I haven’t had such things before — and let it go.

It came back.

Several times last week, starting late Tuesday, the day I was most recently let out of the emergency room, this same premonition came to me. In my current easily-scared mode, I should not have been surprised to find myself dwelling on it.

Monday morning came: first a doctor’s appointment, then presumably back to work. It’s a long haul, so I pulled out early.

The noises began around I-44 eastbound and the Broadway Distention. Sounded like a wheel bearing on the fritz, though it could just as easily have been the riced-up Honda that was hugging the right lane.

They got louder. Finally, an explosion. The Honda had pulled away. I eased myself over to the shoulder and called 911.

It was a quarter to nine.

The right rear tire was pronounced by a gentleman from the Highway Patrol to be a total loss. Unbidden, he offered to swap the spare for it, and who am I to say no to the OHP?

Shortly thereafter, my boss arrived, and noted that the spare looked pretty low but was probably better than nothing. “There’s a compressor in the trunk,” I said, because of course there is. I am as defensive a person as you’ll find anywhere.

I then hied myself to my usual tire shop, on the basis that all these tires were about the same age — going on four years — and therefore I should probably replace the lot.

Which I did.

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As we Scrutinize once more

On hand: the latest auto-insurance bill, which has gone up $40.90 in the last six months. Here’s where:

  • Liability (injury): up $9.30.
  • Liability (property): up $8.30.
  • Uninsured motorists: up $5.30.
  • Comprehensive: up $3.80.
  • Collision: up $9.40.
  • Road service: no change.
  • Rental reimbursement: up $4.80.

In addition, total discounts were cut by $19.30.

For the first time in a while, uninsured-motorist coverage is not the most expensive item on the menu: liability (injury) is now 40 cents more.

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Entropy takes it on the chin

“Lisa,” Homer said in his sternest voice, “in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics.”

But maybe Lisa was a little bit ahead of the game:

For more than a century and a half of physics, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that entropy always increases, has been as close to inviolable as any law we know. In this universe, chaos reigns supreme.

But researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory announced recently that they may have discovered a little loophole in this famous maxim.

Their research, published in Scientific Reports, lays out a possible avenue to a situation where the Second Law is violated on the microscopic level.

Still, the violation was actually anticipated, yes, a century and a half ago:

As far back as 1867, physicist James Clerk Maxwell described a hypothetical way to violate the Second Law: if a small theoretical being sat at the door between the hot and cold rooms and only let through particles traveling at a certain speed. This theoretical imp is called “Maxwell’s demon.”

And you can’t get much more impish than quantum effects, am I right?

Citation: Lesovik, G. B. et al. H-theorem in quantum physics. Sci. Rep. 6, 32815; doi: 10.1038/srep32815 (2016).

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Not a scorpion

Skunks, it appears, have a more robust moral code:

The human involved says he thinks the can had been reused to collect BBQ drippings, which better explains its critter appeal.

(Via Kim Komando.)

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Not that you wanted to know or anything

For absolutely no good reason I can tell, I’m taking questions from the field at Morbid curiosity, maybe.

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As though there were any doubt

Um, no. I am not smart enough, not beautiful enough, not focused enough, and incidentally not female enough, to be Twilight Sparkle.

That said, she does mean a lot to me.

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Saith W

And you know, he’s right:

Excellent call, sir.

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Final insult to multiple injuries

I mean, seriously:

On December 31, 2016, a “leap second” will be added to the world’s clocks at 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). This corresponds to 6:59:59 pm Eastern Standard Time, when the extra second will be inserted at the U.S. Naval Observatory’s Master Clock Facility in Washington, DC.

In a better world, we’d already have abandoned the horrors of 2016. Who wanted this year to be even longer?

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Seemingly authoritative

This was waiting for me the last time I signed into Quora:

You are now a Most Viewed Writer in Bronies

This despite obviously not having been on Quora in a couple of weeks.

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Realer than thou

Lyman Stone weighs 20 sets of numbers from the American Community Survey in an attempt to find Real America, or at least Non-Weird America. And guess who’s the least weird?

Oklahoma City is less than 1 standard deviation from the mean on every single variable. It is exactly the mean for the poverty rate, and almost exactly the mean for educational attainment. Its biggest oddity is housing costs compared to income, which are a bit high, and the percent of households with a car, which is also just a teentsy bit high. Other than that? If you’re looking for “Normal America” then look to Oklahoma City.

I might have guessed a bit higher on that “households with car” business. The housing-costs number might surprise some of you, until you remember that you’re already being paid less because you live here. Or, looking at it sideways, housing is going up a bit faster than income.

And the weirdest? Austin? Portland? Nope. But you do know the way there:

San Jose tops the list as the weirdest city in the nation. This is driven by a very high foreign-born share, high white collar and educated shares, high annual earnings, high workers-per-household, a very low white share, and a low rural population.

Followed by New York City, home of perhaps the least inadequate transit system in the country, which means a lot more households without a car.

(Via Don Mecoy.)

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Strayed away

And the owner, singer-songwriter SZA, was frantic:

My dog is my BEST friend in the WHOLE world. Please if anyone finds her PLEASE contact the Maplewood police dept.

Anyway, little Piglet was found within two hours:

Last I heard, Piglet was being fitted with a microchip for tracking purposes.

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Worst. Color. Ever.

It goes with nothing:

Pantone 448 C

And yet it has a purpose:

Pantone 448 C, or “opaque couché,” is a greenish brown-gray that looks like it spent a few decades in a sewer. If you find it unpleasant, that’s the point.

The Australian government hired research agency GfK to redesign cigarette packaging in 2012, and they determined (with seven studies and 1,000 regular smokers) that this was the most deterring color to pair with the anti-smoking graphics.

Probably because they thought it looked like the inside of somebody’s lungs after three packs of Winfield every day for forty years.

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Fresh spring scrutiny

I am billed for auto insurance every six months, and every six months I go over the bill with a jaundiced eye. This time I had to look at it twice, because it was exactly the same as last time, and I mean no changes.

Now one could argue that the price has actually gone up, since the amount collision coverage will pay has diminished over the years: this little sled is worth maybe 20 or 25 percent what it was a decade ago. Then again, depreciation isn’t linear: it’s a lot slower now than it was then. (One could also argue that based on that observation, I shouldn’t even carry collision coverage at all; I figure it’s a relatively small percentage of the total premium, and I’d rather get a ridiculously small check after a crash than nothing at all.)

And I’m still unnerved by how much of said premium goes to cover costs inflicted by uninsured motorists, about a quarter of the state’s drivers. (Hint: It’s quite a bit more than collision.)

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How it works

One of the Tour stops this year was the Fitness Center at American Energy Partners, a startlingly modern-looking place which seemed, to us anyway, a cut above the usual gymnasium. I struggled to get a good shot of a wall hanging containing the corporate motto, but camera limitations foiled me: the sign’s in the entrance hall, which isn’t particularly wide, and I could zoom out only so far. Trini to the rescue:

Hard Work Works Here

This also works in video form:

Not the most popular sentiment these days, I grant you, but still valid after all these years.

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The last unicorn?

Well, not as we know them. This isn’t an equine; if anything, the creature in this painting resembles a cross between a horse and a rhinoceros:

Elasmotherium sibiricum by Heinrich Harder

And it’s not as ancient as we thought, either:

For decades, scientists have estimated that the Siberian unicorn (Elasmotherium sibiricum) — a long-extinct species of mammal that looked more like a rhino than a horse — died out some 350,000 years ago, but a beautifully preserved skull found in Kazakhstan has completely overturned that assumption. Turns out, these incredible creatures were still around as recently as 29,000 years ago.

Not only were they incredible, they were incredibly big:

According to early descriptions, the Siberian unicorn stood at roughly 2 metres tall, was 4.5 metres long, and weighed about 4 tonnes. That’s closer to woolly mammoth-sized than horse-sized. Despite its very impressive stature, the unicorn probably was a grazer that ate mostly grass. So, if you want a correct image in your head, think of a fuzzy rhinoceros with one long, slender horn protruding from its face instead of a short, stubby one like today’s rhinos.

And if you saw something like this, you would not soon forget it — which may explain as well as anything else why stories of unicorns have persisted for so long.

(Via Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)

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And now, the news for spiders

This creature is not a spider. Once again, this creature is not a spider:

Scientists say a 305 million-year-old fossil is the closest relative to “true spiders” ever discovered — but is not itself a spider.

Easily pre-dating the dinosaurs, the 1.5cm creature lived alongside the oldest known ancestors of modern spiders but its lineage is now extinct.

The specimen was dug up decades ago in France but never identified, because its front half was encased in rock.

Now, researchers have made a detailed reconstruction using CT scans.

Their findings are reported in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“This fossil is the most closely related thing we have to a spider that isn’t a spider,” said first author Russell Garwood from the University of Manchester.

The non-spider, Idmonarachne brasieri, definitely has spider-like legs and jaws, but it is utterly lacking in spinnerets, so — no web.

Still, we’re talking very, very close:

“The earliest known spider is actually from the same fossil deposit — and it definitely has spinnerets. So what we’re actually looking at is an extinct lineage that split off the spider line some time before 305 million years ago, and those two have evolved in parallel.”

Except, you know, for that whole “dying out” thing.

(Via Fark.)

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Rocking world explained

This was all over Facebook yesterday:

Pooh, what makes the world go round? asked Piglet. Fat bottomed girls, replied Pooh

Sorry for the earworm.

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I swear, this stuff is everywhere

There’s a Facebook page called Dihydrogen Monoxide Awareness, and this has something like 12,000 shares already, including one from me. I figured I’d drop a copy of it here, because why not?

Anti-DHMO poster based on pH

They noted helpfully that “Hydrochloric acid only has a pH of 2!”

Johannes Nicolaus Brønsted and Thomas Martin Lowry were not available for comment.

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Too many quarks for Muster Mark

You say you were reading one of those science-y web sites today? You say there was all this talk about protons and neutrons stuck together for dear life while electrons go whizzing around them at a zillion miles per hour? You say they told you that you were mostly empty space but you still feel like you swallowed an anvil? You say they told you all about strong and weak forces and you just know the weak force is gonna win and the electrons are all going to fall apart and crash into one another and knock your hat in the creek? Is that what’s troubling you, cousin?

Well, forget that:

Scientists at the Borexino detector in Italy experimented to see if they could detect electron decay and predict how long it would take for one to actually break down. Turns out a single electron would take 66,000 “yotta-years” to break down. This comes out to 660,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years, or five quintillion times the current age of the universe. In other words, we will probably never see even one electron break down anywhere in the universe for as long as beings exist to detect electrons and see if they are breaking down. So you may strike “death by unexpected subatomic decay” from your list of possible concerns, and Merry Christmas to you!

Phew. That’s a load off my mind.

(Particle Man was not available for comment. The opening paragraph, of course, was inspired by the late Eddie Lawrence; the title was adapted from a line in Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.)

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Scrutinizing the inscrutable

Auto insurance for the next six months will be $7.90 pricier than auto insurance for the last six months, as follows:

  • Liability (injury): up $3.30.
  • Liability (property): up $3.00.
  • Uninsured motorists: no change.
  • Comprehensive: no change.
  • Collision: up $1.60.
  • Road service: no change.
  • Rental reimbursement: no change.

Discounts in aggregate are up a buck-forty. Being the defensive person I am, I carry a hell of a lot of insurance, except on myself.

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No more Hassel

The Hoff he has been, and The Hoff he shall remain forevermore:

Actor David Hasselhoff has “dropped the Hassel” from his life, officially changing his name to David Hoff.

The Baywatch and Knight Rider star, whose nickname is The Hoff, made the announcement in a video uploaded to YouTube.

And why the hell not? I mean, it’s less dramatic a change than, say, that undergone by Jack Roy.

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More news for parrots

Apparently the birds don’t trust us anymore, at least in some parts of New York state:

I blame all the ne’er-do-wells who stand there cooing at the cage: “Can you talk? Can you talk?” Just once, I want to hear the bird snap back: “Yes, I can talk. Can you fly?”

“Rotterdam,” incidentally, represents a first-of-November curse: “My sister stole all my Halloween candy, and I hope it’ll Rotterdam teeth out.”

(Via Steve Lackmeyer.)

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This is not a manifesto

Robert Stacy McCain has already indicated that he intends to advise his six kids that they should never, ever write a manifesto.

And nobody’s manifesto ever needs to be longer than this:

My parents didn’t raise me to believe I was helpless, and certainly I would never want my children to believe their lives are a random accident. Our lives have meaning and purpose. The choices we make — our actions as individuals — have consequences for our own lives and for the lives of others. Having lived quite carelessly in my youth, I consider my rather miraculous survival must have served a purpose, if only to equip me to warn young people against careless living.

And this, essentially, is the bottom line:

Winners find a way to win, whatever the challenges may be.

Enduring hardship, overcoming obstacles, the survivor survives, and every day of survival is a victory unto itself. Today I have survived 56 years, and have already lived to see two grandsons born. My children are miracles, not accidents, and today when my daughter Reagan was leaving for school I told her, “Be excellent all day long.”

Don’t just be good. Be excellent. Excellence is expected.

Today is a very happy birthday. Hit the freaking tip jar.

With 62 coming up (next month!) and six grandchildren already out and about, I nod in agreement.

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For all your lunar events

Lynn’s thoughts on the Humongous Moon Thing from earlier this week:

I did watch the lunar eclipse Sunday night. Not quite the whole event though. Eclipses are both exciting and boring at the same time. They’re very slow. Our modern entertainments have conditioned us to expect things to happen quickly. But eclipses are exciting because … well, it’s hard to explain. It’s like I’m more aware of the reality of the solar system. We’ve all seen the diagrams and the models and it’s not that I ever doubted the reality; I didn’t, but when one object in space casts a shadow on another it really feels real. You know what I mean?

Yep. Textbooks, for all their wondrous detail — assuming they have wondrous detail — can only allow you to experience so much. At six or at sixty, your reaction is much the same, even if it’s not phrased this way: “Holy crap, it’s actually doing it!”

This, though, I’m not so sure about:

I was watching it alone and you really need to watch eclipses with someone else. They should be shared. While I was standing in my driveway looking at the moon I could hear the neighbors in their back yard talking and I was a little envious. I thought about how my mother would have enjoyed watching the eclipse and wished she was there. I also thought that people should have eclipse parties. Not us. We don’t really have any close friends, and family are all too far away to come to an event that late at night. But eclipse parties should definitely be a thing.

But aren’t they “slow?”

I do like the idea of shared experiences, but I’m way short on available sharers at the moment. Maybe things will pick up for the solar eclipse in August 2017.

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