Archive for Life and/or Death

Let us not speak of honor

Say hello — and then say goodbye — to Qandeel Baloch, twenty-six:

Qandeel Baloch

Qandeel Baloch

And in motion:

Now the bad news:

Qandeel Baloch, a Pakistani social media star, was strangled to death by her brother in Multan, Pakistan, on Friday. The fashion model garnered fame and notoriety with her unconventional and scandalous — by Pakistani standards — public persona, and she had recently caused a stir by posting selfies with a prominent Muslim cleric, Mufti Qawi, during Ramadan. Baloch, whose real name was Fauzia Azeem, had a huge social media fanbase, with 40,000 Twitter followers and more than 700,000 on her official Facebook page.

She wrote on Facebook on the 14th:

As a women we must stand up for ourselves..As a women we must stand up for each other… As a women we must stand up for justice

I believe I am a modern day feminist. I believe in equality. I need not to choose what type of women should be. I don’t think there is any need to label ourselves just for sake of society. I am just a women with free thoughts free mindset and I LOVE THE WAY I AM. :)

#QandeelBaloch #I_Am_The_Best #Stubborn_For_My_Dreams #One_Women_Army #High_Targets #DestinationBollywood #Will_Do_Things_My_Own_Way #Just_Watch_Me

As for the perp:

On 15 July 2016, Baloch was asphyxiated by her brother Waseem while she was asleep in her parents’ house in Multan. Her death was reported by her father Azeem. It was first reported as a shooting, but an autopsy report confirmed that Baloch was murdered by asphyxiation while she was asleep, on the night of 15–16 July around 11:15p.m. to 11:30p.m.; by the time her body was found she had already been dead for fifteen to thirty-six hours. Marks on Baloch’s body revealed that her mouth and nose were pinned shut to asphyxiate her. Police called the murder an honor killing.

Real honorable of you there, Waseem.

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This is spinal tapping

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Private sedentary

In which I consider the possibility of spending the rest of my days in a seated position. Not that I want to or anything, you may be sure.

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As the sand flows

Funny thing about that hourglass: if someone inverted it before the sand ran out, you’d never really know, would you?

I mean, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t.

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Beat the weevils

This AP story keeps a straight face for the most part:

Digging their way to the top, 18 two-man teams of Hungarian gravediggers displayed their skills Friday for a place in a regional championship to be held in Slovakia later this year.

Participants in the contest held in plot 37A of the public cemetery of the eastern Hungarian city of Debrecen were being judged on their speed but also getting points for style [for] the look of the finished grave mounds.

Janos Jonas, 63, who teamed with his son, Csaba, saw the competition run by the Hungarian Association of Cemetery Maintainers and Operators as a sort of last hurrah as he was just a few weeks from retirement.

“We didn’t have to prepare in any special way because we do this every day,” said Jonas, from the nearby village of Hosszupalyi. “This is good earth, quite soft and humid, just right for the event.”

There are, of course, drawbacks to such a competition:

“The hardest part of the job is to deal with the mourners,” said Debrecen gravedigger Laszlo Toth. “But it’s a good job, with good colleagues and a good environment.”

Toth, who won the event with teammate Janos Racz, will compete in a regional race planned to be held in November in Trencin, Slovakia.

This is not the same Laszlo Toth who took a hammer to Michelangelo’s Pietà in 1972 and was subsequently deported to Australia.

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A consummation he will surely miss

Gary Welsh at Advance Indiana calls the state Republican primary for Donald Trump:

If I’m not around to see the vote results, my prediction is that Trump wins Indiana with just shy of 50% of the vote, but he will carry every single congressional district and sweep the delegate race — assuming the party-chosen delegates honor their rules-bound commitment to support the winner on the first ballot. Most of those delegates favored John Kasich at the time they were chosen. Only two of the delegates named by state party officials publicly declared their support for Trump, although some have indicated they would feel obligated to support the voters’ wishes.

What’s surprising here is that opening phrase: “If I’m not around to see the vote results.” Because he won’t be:

Prominent Indianapolis blogger Gary Welsh has died, according to Indianapolis police, who say they are investigating the death as a “tragic suicide.”

Welsh, 53, wrote the widely followed conservative blog Advance Indiana, which he launched more than a decade ago. He also was a practicing attorney.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s incident report says officers were dispatched to the Lockerbie Glove Factory Lofts, 430 N. Park Ave., before 8 a.m. Sunday after receiving a report of a person found shot in the stairwell of the building. The witnesses who called 911 reported that a gun was next to the body.

That last post went up just after noon on Friday. I didn’t see anything in the preceding week’s worth of posts to suggest that this was coming.

(Via Aaron M. Renn.)

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The stars should never die

Eleanor Tiernan thinks that celebrities always deserve one more day. What does she say?

Ah, look at all the wacky people.

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And then you die

The suicide rate has gone off the scale among members of a Canadian First Nation:

The chief and council for the Attawapiskat First Nation on remote James Bay have declared a state of emergency, saying they’re overwhelmed by the number of attempted suicides in the community.

On Saturday night alone, 11 people attempted to take their own lives, Chief Bruce Shisheesh said.

Shisheesh and the council met Saturday night and unanimously voted to declare the state of emergency. That compels such agencies as the Weeneebayko Health Authority in Moose Factory, Ont., and Health Canada to bring in additional resources.

Including Saturday’s spate of suicide attempts, a total of 101 people of all ages have tried to kill themselves since September, Shisheesh said, with one person dying. The youngest was 11, the oldest 71.

On the upside, that’s a 99-percent failure rate among those attempting suicide, which must be considered a Good Thing. A 13-year-old girl was apparently the only one who died:

[Jackie] Hookimaw’s great-niece Sheridan took her own life in October. She was 13 years old. Hookimaw said Sheridan had a big heart, but she was plagued with multiple health conditions and was bullied at school.

More recently, Hookimaw said, she was at the community’s hospital where she saw a number of teenage girls being treated after purposely overdosing on drugs. As she was leaving, a man came in for treatment. Later, she would learn that he, too, had tried to take his own life.

Saddest of all, perhaps, is that this really isn’t anything new:

Overall, First Nations individuals have some of the highest rates of suicide globally. Suicide rates are more than twice the sex-specific rate and also three times the age-specific rates of non-Aboriginal Canadians. Residential Aboriginals between ages 10 and 29 show an elevated suicide risk as compared to non-residential Aboriginals by 5-6 times.

One theory for the increased incidences of suicide within Aboriginal populations as compared to the general Canadian population is called acculturation stress which results from the intersection of multiple cultures within one’s life. This leads to differing expectations and cultural clashes within the community, the family and the individual. At the community level, a general economic disadvantage is seen, exacerbated by unemployment and low education levels, leading to poverty, political disempowerment and community disorganization. The family suffers through a loss of tradition as they attempt to assimilate into Canadian culture. These lead to low self-esteem in the individual as First Nations culture and tradition are marginalized affecting one’s sense of self-identity. These factors combine to create a world where First Nations individuals feel they cannot identify completely as Aboriginal, nor can they fully identify as mainstream Canadians. When that balance cannot be found, many (particularly youths) turn to suicide as a way out.

The nearest major employer is De Beers, which operates a diamond mine about 90 km from the settlement of Attawapiskat. De Beers pours some money into the community, but generally they employ only about 100 members of the First Nation, which is not exactly overrun with experienced miners.

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Please don’t kill our bomber

There exists on change.org a petition to spare the life of Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, largely referencing the usual “Capital punishment is yucky” suspects. Most of it is fairly predictable — it’s not like we haven’t seen anything like this before — but this one paragraph toward the end is, well, striking:

Depriving Mr. Tsarnaev of his essential rights as a human being in response to his own disregard for human life is a senseless and counterproductive way of addressing the issues at hand.

Um, what issues might those be? Whether bombers should have their selfies on the cover of the Rolling Stone?

Last I looked, 34 people had their names affixed to this appeal.

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In the narrowest sense

Well, it’s life, Jim, but not as we know it. For one thing, it’s exceedingly uncomplicated compared to everything else alive:

The new life is born with a jolt: A fresh genome, built from scratch with human hands, is pushed into a host cell using an electric current. One cell quickly becomes a billion, and a completely unique living organism is born.

It’s not science fiction — or even a recent breakthrough. Scientists created the first synthetic bacterium back in 2010 using this method. But in a new study published Thursday in Science, they’ve taken this proof of concept a step further. Their latest single-cell creation has what they’re calling a “minimal genome.” They’ve created an organism that has just 473 genes, the smallest known genome of any living organism. With fewer, it wouldn’t be able to sustain itself. Their hope is that bringing a genome down to its minimum components will help scientists figure out the most basic building blocks of life.

Which is not to say that they understand the functions of all those genes, even at this minimal level:

[T]heir pared-down synthetic cell — dubbed JCVI-syn3.0 — has a whopping one-third of its genes totally unaccounted for.

“There were 149 genes of unknown function. We expected maybe 5 or 10 percent. I don’t think anyone would have imagined getting down to a minimal cell with 32 percent,” [J. Craig] Venter said. Even with a cell that can barely support itself, it seems, the task of hunting out gene function will still be daunting.

The closer we get, the more mysterious things seem.

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Bury amusing

Pat Sajak, host of Wheel of Fortune, is a smidgen (okay, seven whole years) older than I am. It’s not too surprising to see him expressing the occasional dark(ish) thought:

I mean, that’s worse than BANKRUPT.

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Formerly freewheeling

When the news came down, I was even more startled than I might have expected to be, mostly because I’ve visualized this scene so many times it seems like part of the background now: pretty much any time the phrase “bridge abutment” occurs on this site, there’s a thought of crashing into one for some reason.

And really, if your destiny lies in the concrete on the underside of an overpass, that might well be the one you’d pick: genuinely sturdy — the Turner Turnpike sits on top — and far enough out in the sticks that you wouldn’t be noticed quickly. We’re talking Midwest Boulevard between 122nd and Memorial Road, from which Aubrey McClendon’s crushed Chevy Tahoe was extracted earlier today. Was this deliberate? For what it’s worth, he wasn’t buckled in.

Then again, “restraint” wasn’t in McClendon’s vocabulary; the man built a remarkable empire on a perfectly ordinary commodity. More than once he ran afoul of protocol. When Clay Bennett’s syndicate, of whom McClendon was a member, purchased the Seattle SuperSonics, it was McClendon who let slip the destination of the team, which everyone knew but which everyone was bound to deny. (The NBA fined him a quarter of a million dollars, which would be like fining you or me a Quarter Pounder with cheese.) In Michigan, McClendon tangled with conservationists, and did not prevail. In 2013, his own board of directors sent him packing. Undaunted, he set up a rival firm just down the street from the Chesapeake campus where he’d once ruled. That campus, incidentally, was another bit of McClendon willfulness: while other oil barons went vertical downtown, he built horizontally out towards the ‘burbs.

And the day before yesterday, a little incident from his Chesapeake days came back to haunt him, in the form of an indictment: during the acquisition of new oil and gas leases, said the Feds, he’d engaged in a sneaky form of bid-rigging. Whatever he’d been doing, it must have worked; at one point, Chesapeake was the largest natural-gas producer in the nation.

But those days are gone, natural gas is selling for a comparative pittance, and McClendon burned up a few BTUs of it this morning to get to the last place he’d ever get to. The unraveling will fill several books: if there’s anything to that indictment, perhaps several sets of books. One should be written, I insist, about how Aubrey McClendon left his brand all over this town, and how we’re a better place for it.

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Multiple death syndrome

I’ve been wanting to know this myself: Why is Leslie Nielsen STILL dead?

This week there have been waves of online sympathy over the passing of actor Leslie Nielsen prompting many to quote their favourite and most memorable lines from films such as Airplane! and The Naked Gun.

The only trouble is Nielsen actually died in November 2010 aged 84.

That didn’t stop thousands of online users sharing this BBC story without checking the date and so it appeared that Nielsen had just died.

As a result the article popped up in the “Most Read” section which resulted in even more people sharing it. And the snowball rolled on gathering weight. Many people shared their own personal tributes on Twitter and then felt foolish when they discovered the truth.

One possible explanation:

[I]f a person’s celebrity is below a certain level some of their fans may have missed news of their original death. And if they randomly search to find out whatever happened to a star, they may discover a report of their hero’s death, but not notice the date stamp. And so another snowball starts rolling downhill.

It’s chaos theory making its presence known via social media. An entirely innocent variation of the Butterfly Effect.

Fortunately, it’s easy to check up on Abe Vigoda.

(Via Fark.)

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Program exit

I’m hoping this man had an orderly shutdown:

William Ralph “Bill” Fink, 46, of Belleville, Ill., born July 28, 1969, in Belleville, Ill., encountered an unhandled exception in his core operating system, which prematurely triggered a critical “STOP” condition on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015.

Bill was an avid technophile, program developer, and educator, whose master functions were harnessed by Microsoft Corp. as a technical evangelist. Some of Bill’s most impactful component subroutines centered around video games, coaching youth sports, building elaborate displays for Halloween, and spending time with family.

And because you need to know these things:

Diagnostics indicated multiple cascading hardware failures as the root problem. Though his hardware has been decommissioned, Bill’s application has been migrated to the Cloud and has been repurposed to run in a virtual machine on an infinite loop.

(Via Matt Prichard.)

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Now imagine something hitting it

Electric fans in South Korea, photo by Na-Rae Han

This picture from Wikipedia bears the following caption:

Electric fans sold in South Korea are equipped with a “timer knob” switch that turns them off after a set number of minutes. This is perceived as a life-saving function, particularly essential for bedtime use.

The reason for this? Electric fans are dangerous:

[F]ears about electric fans date almost to their introduction to Korea, with stories dating to the 1920s and 1930s warning of the risks of nausea, asphyxiation, and facial paralysis from the new technology.

One conspiracy theory is that the South Korean government created or perpetuated the myth as propaganda to curb the energy consumption of South Korean households during the 1970s energy crisis, but Slate.com reports that the myth is much older than that — dating almost as far back as the introduction of electric fans in Korea, and cites a 1927 article about “Strange Harm from Electric Fans.”

The Korean Consumer Protection Board has promoted this belief:

If bodies are exposed to electric fans or air conditioners for too long, it causes bodies to lose water and hypothermia. If directly in contact with a fan, this could lead to death from increase of carbon dioxide saturation concentration and decrease of oxygen concentration. The risks are higher for the elderly and patients with respiratory problems.

From 2003-2005, a total of 20 cases were reported through the CISS involving asphyxiations caused by leaving electric fans and air conditioners on while sleeping. To prevent asphyxiation, timers should be set, wind direction should be rotated and doors should be left open.

I suspect this belief to be less prevalent in North Korea, where there are only eight electric fans and they all belong to Kim Jong-un. Then again, possessing one under those circumstances might be hazardous to your health should the Dear Leader find out.

(Via @SwiftOnSecurity.)

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Murdered out

This did not give me a sugar rush:

A meme going around compares Syrian refugees to jelly beans:

“If i gave you a bag of 50000 jellybeans and told you 100 are poisonous, you wouldn’t accept them right? Then why would we accept 50000 refugees if some of them are bad?”

I like jelly beans and numbers so I did a back of the envelope calculation. In the US there are about 15,000 murders per year. Most murderers kill only one person. Even serial killers kill only 2.8 people on average. Thus, 15,000 is also approximately the number of murderers in a year.

A bit more number-juggling, and this is the conclusion:

The current US population is 322 million so there are .0023 murderers per capita or 2.33 murderers per 1000 or 116 murderers per 50,000 people in the United States. Put differently, about 116 American babies out of every 50,000 will grow up to murder someone… In contrast, only 100 of the 50000 jelly beans were poisonous.

It helps, perhaps, to know that neither murderous Americans nor poisonous jelly beans are what you’d call evenly distributed. However, someone doesn’t become a murderer until he actually commits a murder, and just how lethal are those jelly beans, anyway?

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Who would have guessed?

I mean, what are the chances?

Hartford Courant report on Do Not Resuscitate orders

Is DNR in some people’s DNA or something?

(From Bad Newspaper via Miss Cellania.)

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No country for (some) old men

The abstract is scary enough:

This paper documents a marked increase in the all-cause mortality of middle-aged white non-Hispanic men and women in the United States between 1999 and 2013. This change reversed decades of progress in mortality and was unique to the United States; no other rich country saw a similar turnaround. The midlife mortality reversal was confined to white non-Hispanics; black non-Hispanics and Hispanics at midlife, and those aged 65 and above in every racial and ethnic group, continued to see mortality rates fall. This increase for whites was largely accounted for by increasing death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis. Although all education groups saw increases in mortality from suicide and poisonings, and an overall increase in external cause mortality, those with less education saw the most marked increases. Rising midlife mortality rates of white non-Hispanics were paralleled by increases in midlife morbidity. Self-reported declines in health, mental health, and ability to conduct activities of daily living, and increases in chronic pain and inability to work, as well as clinically measured deteriorations in liver function, all point to growing distress in this population. We comment on potential economic causes and consequences of this deterioration.

In a box labeled “Significance”:

Midlife increases in suicides and drug poisonings have been previously noted. However, that these upward trends were persistent and large enough to drive up all-cause midlife mortality has, to our knowledge, been overlooked. If the white mortality rate for ages 45−54 had held at their 1998 value, 96,000 deaths would have been avoided from 1999–2013, 7,000 in 2013 alone. If it had continued to decline at its previous (1979‒1998) rate, half a million deaths would have been avoided in the period 1999‒2013, comparable to lives lost in the US AIDS epidemic through mid-2015. Concurrent declines in self-reported health, mental health, and ability to work, increased reports of pain, and deteriorating measures of liver function all point to increasing midlife distress.

Jen X interprets it this way:

Those boys we went to high school with who didn’t go to college and couldn’t find jobs and joined the Army to have something to do. Paroled from broken homes, lackluster high schools and a shrinking military (after all, there were NO manufacturing jobs), they roamed aimless through an endless array of side gigs. They lived off women — their mothers and lovers and sisters and friends.

They died, America, because THEY DID NOT HAVE JOBS. They died because they’d lost all hope.

Yes, the plane has crashed. It was crashing back in 1977 when their parents divorced and they basically became FATHERLESS. It’s tragic and they never got over it. Jobless and hopeless, they turned to drugs and alcohol to anesthetize the pain. One epidemic wrought another and so it goes on down the line.

Hmmm. My mother died in 1977. (Dad remarried and hung around until 2006.) I have difficulty believing that this is why I’m still around and the number of “in memoriam” entries on the blogroll continues to increase.

Or maybe it’s just that I never had all that much hope to begin with, and therefore losing some of it wasn’t that much of a change.

Study details:
doi: 10.1073/pnas.1518393112

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Protecting all the things you own

If you’ve lived here long enough, you know the phone number already:

Paul Meade died Saturday night at seventy-eight.

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So totally not cool

Except, of course, for … oh, never mind, this is getting complicated:

Like an episode of Bones but way freakier because it’s real, a 24-year-old Las Vegas woman was found dead inside a cryotherapy chamber Tuesday. Medical examiners suggest she was literally flash-frozen, dying within “seconds.”

According to the Washington Post, esthetician Chelsea Ake-Salvacion was alone in the medical spa she managed when she entered one of the -240-degree chambers, which allegedly reduce inflammation, boost immunity and metabolism, and improve skin tone, among other health and aesthetic benefits. Results from the autopsy are still pending, but investigators initially ruled “operator error,” a charge her family denies.

Hmmm. Alone in the spa, but it wasn’t operator error. Surely she wasn’t trying to freeze herself to death, was she?

And there’s some question of how therapeutic this technique really is:

“Although [whole-body cryotherapy] produces a large temperature gradient for tissue cooling, the relatively poor thermal conductivity of air prevents significant subcutaneous and core body cooling,” an article in the journal Sports Medicine explained last year. “There is weak evidence from controlled studies that WBC enhances antioxidant capacity and parasympathetic reactivation, and alters inflammatory pathways relevant to sports recovery. A series of small randomized studies found WBC offers improvements in subjective recovery and muscle soreness following metabolic or mechanical overload, but little benefit towards functional recovery.”

Then again, I am not one to complain about subjective recovery.

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Dying harder

If we’re going to have capital punishment at all — and the way things are going, I suspect that eventually the time may come when we won’t — state government is going to have to step up its game, or at least quit screwing around with it.

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So many years later

We know that Celestia and Luna are over a thousand years old: Luna spent a thousand years in exile, and she’s the younger sibling. What canon doesn’t say is how long they can live; fanfic writers generally work from the premise that there is no upper limit, but tend to shy away from the word “immortal.” Then again, some try to subvert the trope:

“Well, I was wondering. Just how immortal, if that’s the word, are you and your sister anyway?”

Celestia shook her mane, and he imagined he saw a map of the sky just beyond her head. “Having reached physical maturity, Luna and I do not age in the usual sense. But we know that there are forces in the Universe capable of taking us down.”

He nodded, remembering an incident at a previous Canterlot wedding.

“Which is why we shy away from the word ‘immortal’; it implies that we can survive anything, an implication that has some basis in reality, but one I would not like to put to the test.”

At the end of the third season, Twilight Sparkle ascended to alicornhood: she may not have the sheer size of the sisters, but she is presumed to have the same physical attributes, to include, though canon doesn’t say so, that indefinite lease on life.

Which creates a problem: what happens when she inevitably outlives all her friends?

I tucked a link to this in an earlier post, but inasmuch as this scenario is still haunting me, I’m going full Captain Obvious here:

I wept for rather a long time.

Eventually I did regain my composure. I sought out, and purchased, the two musical selections, both composed by Thomas J. Bergersen, before I realized that owning copies of these tracks meant I get to remind myself of this story, to relive my sorrow, that much more often.

In some ways, this is the most “me” thing I’ve ever done.

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Your moment of Zen

The New York Times comes up with exactly the headline you’d want for a send-off for Yogi Berra:

Well played all around.

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An enterprising young ghoul

Anyone who has more than a smidgen of archives — well, anyone who has more than a smidgen of archives and is goofy enough to disclose an email address — gets the occasional letter from someone more than happy to point out a broken link and suggest a replacement. Sometimes the replacement is relevant. Then there’s this earnest letter from one “Marlene” in Britain:

Good afternoon, I have found a broken resource on your site, I have listed all the details below so that you can find it and fix it easily. I have also included a link to an article that I wrote and as you will be fixing the broken link anyway, I thought you may like to add a link to my article about “The definitive guide to funeral flowers”.

What was fun about this was the nature of the rotted link: it connected to an old story about disgraced forensic chemist Joyce Gilchrist, who passed away earlier this year. Some of Gilchrist’s more dubious findings resulted in having to obtain funeral flowers, but somehow jamming Marlene’s article into the piece seemed just a hair inappropriate.

That said, however, it’s a very nice article, so should you be interested in funeral flowers — keep in mind, I am very old — this is the piece she offered. Meanwhile, I replaced the old Gilchrist link with a new Gilchrist link.

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Not that I’m aware of

Is it somehow pertinent to the matter at hand?

Insurance. It’s gotta be. Who else would care?

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Haunted, dead or alive

The problem with sticking to a format:

I guess it’s important to know that Sir Christopher died in real time.

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Really getting up there

My grandfather on my mother’s side was born in 1899; he earned his three score and ten, and then moved on to whatever was next. Incredibly, to me anyway, there are three people born in 1899 who are still alive today:

Recently crowned as the oldest person in the world, Michigan resident Jeralean Talley turned 116 years old on Saturday.

Talley is one of three living members of the 19th century club, having been born on May 23, 1899 in Montrose, Ga. In 1935, she moved to Michigan, where she married her husband, Alfred, who died at the age of 95 in 1988.

The other two:

Georgia resident Susannah Mushatt Jones (born July 6, 1899), and Italian citizen Emma Morano-Martinuzzi (born Nov. 29, 1899).

All women, of course. (The oldest man still around is Sakari Momoi, of Japan, who’s 112.)

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As the years go by

The clock keeps ticking, until such time as it stops altogether:

How getting old sucks is perfectly obvious: your body starts to fall off. And sometimes, and therefore, your mind too. And it’s simultaneously happening to all your friends. Nature is through with you and starts looking for a way to kill you. And it is perfectly clear to you that it is not a matter of if, but when, and how, and how bad. From now on you’ll be occupied with tossing parts of yourself you can live without to Captain Hook’s crocodile to postpone the inevitable; then, you’ll be smashing the crocodile in the snout with your rifle butt as its bad breath engulfs you. It’s the price of life. And it’s amazing to arrive at the threshold of old age and discover how very little of a dent the triumphs of science have made in it. Okay, more of us now make it to our three score and ten. And then, if not before, the shit starts hitting the fan, right on schedule. Knees are replaced, stents put in, breasts and bladders turn cancerous …

I’m not particularly concerned with efforts to kill me, except to the extent that I’m aware that one of them will eventually succeed. The skies have been taking potshots at me pretty much this entire damn month.

Still, one contemplates matters other than one’s eventual demise:

What’s more amazing to discover, though, is that it isn’t all loss and fear. If you have your mind. If you have your mind, it becomes like a study glowing with burnishing lamplight, with a deep, comfortable chair, with shelves of books on all sides receding into the darkness of the infinite. As you sit in that chair you have a magical arm that can reach out past Alpha Cygni in a languid gesture and pluck just the right apple from the farthest twig of the great tree.

Those who don’t have their minds, of course, will eventually have to retire from political office.

I remember coming back from the Monday grocery run — delayed from Saturday due to inclement weather — and thinking: Remember how Rainbow Dash memorizes what’s on the ground while she’s flying? I need some way to learn where all the new potholes are.

Obviously I’m not completely insane. Yet. The morning’s panic attack, however, makes me wonder if I’ve started on the downhill slope.

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And the cycle repeats

I do not, generally, endorse the notion of reincarnation. (Nor did I when I was here last time.) One of the problems I find with the concept is that its most fervent believers tend to assert that they were someone notable in a previous life; scarcely anyone claims to have been a serf who perished at twenty-two of some hitherto unnoticed disease.

This new toy by Slate will not change that tendency. What it does is take your birthdate, find someone in Wikipedia — someone notable by definition, right? — who died just before your arrival, and then run the cycle as many times as they have entries. In my specific case, they dug up Sir Philip Wigham Richardson:

Richardson competed in the 1908 Summer Olympics and 1912 Summer Olympics. In the 1908 Olympics he won a silver medal in the team military rifle event. Four years later he was 65th in the 300 metre military rifle, three positions event and 33rd in the 600 metre free rifle event.

Richardson was elected as Member of Parliament for Chertsey at a by-election in March 1922, and held the seat until he retired from the House of Commons at the 1931 general election. In 1929 he was created a Baronet, of Weybridge in the County of Surrey.

Not that I’d be surprised to have been a Tory, particularly. Sir Philip, apparently, had served a previous lifetime as British entomologist William Sharp Macleay. The line, says Slate, goes back to Louis the German (c. 810-876), grandson of Charlemagne and designated King of Bavaria while still a child, though Louis apparently did not actively participate in ruling Bavaria until adolescence. His youngest son, Charles the Fat, was the last Carolingian to rule over a united empire. Now if Slate had put him in my timeline, I might have believed some of this.

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N₂ darkness

Attorney General Scott Pruitt remains convinced that midazolam is the sedative of choice for executions:

Pruitt’s office will argue to the Supreme Court justices on Wednesday that the drugs Oklahoma used in Clayton Lockett’s execution in April 2014 met the test established when the high court upheld Kentucky’s lethal injection method in 2008.

There is not, the state contends, an “objectively intolerable risk of harm” when midazolam is used as a sedative, even though the drug does not have the same properties as the barbiturates that have been administered previously.

And, Pruitt said, inmates challenging the state’s use of midazolam must show there is a “widely available alternative” that would pose less risk of harm.

Speaking for myself, I’ve had exactly one dose of midazolam, and I’d say it was a pretty darn good sedative, but that’s just a single data point, and besides, they weren’t putting me to death, or at least they said they weren’t.

Then again: “widely available”? How about “all over the place”?

Before the first Shuttle launch, some ground crew died in the engine compartment of the orbiter, because they were in there during a nitrogen purge. They apparently never knew they had a problem, but simply passed out. If there’s a CO₂ buildup, the body knows it’s asphyxiating, and tries to do something about it, but no such warning mechanism has ever developed for a pure nitrogen atmosphere, because no animal would have ever encountered such an environment in nature.

So why not simply bring back the gas chamber, but instead of a toxin, simply remove the air and replace it with nitrogen? I’m sure there are other examples, but I fail to understand why this is such a difficult problem.

Governor Fallin has signed a bill to do essentially that as the state’s official backup execution protocol. I suspect the only reason it’s not moved to the head of the list is the fear of legal challenges — as though there weren’t legal challenges by the score already.

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