Depressing milestone

At least, I think it is. From the WordPress admin, just now:

Akismet reports 30,000 spam

That’s a lot of damn spam.

On the upside, at the moment there are 42,242 comments here which are not spam. Surely that’s worth something.

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Tracked all the way to the grave

Yes, I know that those wicked online-ad providers follow me around like a lost puppy, and then toss up stuff on the screen they hope I’ll appreciate, but I am perplexed by this box, which showed up last night on, of all places, Equestria Daily:

Latuda ad

That stuff off to the right is apparently an FDA-required Black Box Warning, and this is what it says in the box in the prescribing information:

WARNINGS: INCREASED MORTALITY IN ELDERLY PATIENTS WITH DEMENTIA-RELATED PSYCHOSIS; AND SUICIDAL THOUGHTS AND BEHAVIORS

See full prescribing information for complete boxed warning.

  • Elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis treated with
    antipsychotic drugs are at an increased risk of death.
  • LATUDA is not approved for the treatment of patients with dementia related psychosis
  • Increased risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children, adolescents, and young adults taking antidepressants
  • Monitor for worsening and emergence of suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Based on my limited experience with antipsychotics, I’d say this is actually about average for the species, though this one is billed as “atypical,” which essentially translates to “second-generation.”

Still, I’m wondering what the hell I saw that would lead this ad provider to think I wanted to see this — and on a page about pastel-colored ponies, no less.

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One more down

It would have been easy to write off the last-place (in the West, anyway) Utah Jazz, especially twelve minutes into this game, where they were trailing by a ghastly 26-9. For the rest of the afternoon, however, the Jazz played some fairly respectable basketball, knocking down 31 points in the second quarter and 37 in the third. Unfortunately, any Thunder lapses were temporary at best, and OKC was still up 15 points at the start of the fourth; after that, the Thunder reserves and Serge Ibaka — I suppose Serge probably needed an extra block or two for statistical purposes — quietly put the Jazz out of their misery, 116-96, securing the system series 3-1.

And Ibaka turned in a decent line, with 17 points, six rebounds and, yes, four blocks. Kevin Durant departed after a 25-foot trey just ahead of the third-quarter buzzer, having garnered 31 points, his 38th game in a row with at least 25. (Scoring-leader title isn’t even slightly in doubt.) With Reggie Jackson still ailing and Russell Westbrook deemed rested, Russ got the call for starting point guard, and in 25 minutes collected 19 points, nine of which came from nine free throws. Caron Butler led the bench with 15 points on five three-pointers. (Weirdly, Butler made all his treys, but missed all four of his closer-in shots.)

Of the four Jazzmen in double figures, we must mention Eres Kanter, with a team-high 18 and the game’s only double-double (12 rebounds), and reliable Richard Jefferson, who knocked down 17. Derrick Favors retrieved 13 boards, more than anyone else, to go with his eight points.

In a rare example of scheduling kindness, the Thunder get half a week off. But Thursday, the Spurs, three games ahead of OKC in the standings, will arrive at the ‘Peake. Jackson, who is renowned for his ability to torch the Spurs, is expected to be back. And the punchline: the next night, the Thunder go to Houston to face the Rockets. Westbrook will presumably be resting. On the other hand, or knee, there won’t be any antics with Patrick Beverley, either.

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Can your Barbie do this?

The trouble with dolls might be not so much that they give a distorted view of Real Life, but that they don’t:

I didn’t like toys as representations of people. Was I a budding misanthropist? I don’t think so, but I’m sure back then, I probably couldn’t have been able to articulate exactly why I disliked those sorts of toys. In hindsight, it had far more to do with my personality and my priorities for play rather than cultural baggage or any feminist notions.

So what the heck do I mean by “priorities for play”? It means my reasons for playing with toys. I wanted to have fun, of course, but my idea of fun involves imagination and curiosity. Robots and microscopes and, yes, even ponies are toys built for imagination and/or curiosity. Dolls (and to some extent, action figures) don’t fit those two purposes so well. When you’re playing with a doll in the typical way (and not setting fire to it to figure out its combustible properties), you are mimicking real life. And personally, when I play, I look for the extraordinary, the wonderful, the fascinating. Not the mundane.

Setting fire to a doll, incidentally, isn’t necessarily easy. And sooner or later, most of our cultural baggage is going to go up in smoke simply because it’s no longer supportable.

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Pedals to be pushed

You soon could be driving a bit faster on Idaho roads:

Governor Otter signed a bill that lawmakers passed to increase the legal speed limit on highways and interstates.

However, the Idaho Transportation Department did not back the bill.

“There isn’t really direction on where we want to go on this as far as the Transportation Department. This wasn’t a bill that was driven by ITD, this is something that came from the legislatures to push this forward and change the speed limits,” said Nathan Jerke, ITD.

Thanks for nothing, Jerke. Otter will hear of this.

Similar ructions are being heard in Wyoming:

Lawmakers passed the 80 mph law during the budget session that ended earlier this month. Even though legislators have left the Capitol, debate over the bill continues. The discussion centers around safety and has caused many to question what the future will look like on Wyoming’s main thoroughfares. Will there be more accidents? Will the de facto speed limit become 85 mph?

Wyoming Department of Transportation officials are starting work on those answers by conducting speed studies on stretches of interstates 25 and 80 before the law takes effect July 1.

The occasional speed demon aside, people generally won’t exceed their comfort zone except in unusual circumstances. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I get antsy above 85 (formerly 90) or so. And the last time I had a tolerably long drive on a reasonably fast road — Kansas Turnpike south of Emporia, posted 75 — I kept things down around 80 or so, which is about as fast as one dares go without drawing the attention of John Law, and probably faster than one should go with questionable wheel bearings. (These have since been replaced.)

I’ve driven on 80-mph roads in Texas; seldom did I see anyone blasting past me at my sedate 82.

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Songs for a hole in the ground

Something called Dark Asylum Radio is asking:

Today is your funeral - what song is playing as they lower your body?

Given my modest but solid military record, I’m pretty sure that the local detachment of something or other will dispatch a bugler to send me off with “Taps.”

During the ceremony — perhaps as a recessional — I have requested the playing of this. The kids, I think, will honor this request.

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Perennial Elle

“There’s so much discussion surrounding health and fitness,” said Elle Macpherson to the Daily Express on the occasion of her 50th birthday, “but what I really aspire to is wellness.”

Elle Macpherson, highly stylized

Looks pretty well to me.

There is, incidentally, some disagreement over Macpherson’s age: some sources put her date of birth as 29 March 1964, which would make her 50 today, or 29 March 1963, which would make her 51. I submit that it doesn’t matter a whole lot one way or another, at least until she’s eligible for Medicare.

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For those who think dung

I’m sure this book would prove useful to someone in a very specific set of circumstances:

How to Poo on a Date has won the 36th annual Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year.

The book, by Mats & Enzo, published by Prion Press, topped a public vote to find the oddest title, in one of the closest contests in prize history. In the end, How to Poo on a Date: The Lovers’ Guide to Toilet Etiquette, took home the title with 30% of the vote, beating into second place Are Trout South African? by Duncan Brown (Pan South Africa) and The Origin of Feces by David Waltner-Toews (ECW Press), which both captured 23% of voters.

Were I a minion at ECW Press, I’d be bragging right about now: “The Origin of Feces ties for Number Two!”

Regrettably, the founder of the Diagram Prize has just passed on:

Bruce Robertson, who has died aged 79, was managing director of the book design and artwork partnership Diagram and founder of the Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title, an award presented annually by The Bookseller magazine.

Robertson and his business partner Trevor Bounford dreamed up the award in 1978 to avoid boredom at the annual Frankfurt Book Fair. The first award went to Proceedings Of The Second International Workshop On Nude Mice. Other winners over the years have included How to Avoid Huge Ships; Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop; and Managing a Dental Practice the Genghis Khan Way.

Essentials to the modern library, you may be sure.

Incidentally, this is the second crap-related title to win the Diagram this decade: Saiyuud Diwong’s Cooking with Poo won in 2011. And winning the Diagram can do wonders for one’s profile, even if one’s book is out of print: Amazon merchants are asking over $50 for the 2003 winner, The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories.

(With thanks to Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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A fool such as I

An operation called Grandiloquent Word of the Day came up with this polysyllabic portmanteau:

tibuloconcupiscent

A Facebook friend was kind enough to paste this on my wall, suggesting that it was right up my alley. I argued that “I’m just as interested in watching her take them off.” And besides, ZZ Top has already described this phenomenon more than adequately.

Morley, a famed British brand since 1795, was rebooted in 2011, though today they manufacture men’s wear only.

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Sexist hardware

It wasn’t planned that way, of course:

In the fall of 1997, my university built a CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment) to help scientists, artists, and archeologists embrace 3D immersion to advance the state of those fields. Ecstatic at seeing a real-life instantiation of the Metaverse, the virtual world imagined in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, I donned a set of goggles and jumped inside. And then I promptly vomited.

I never managed to overcome my nausea. I couldn’t last more than a minute in that CAVE and I still can’t watch an IMAX movie. Looking around me, I started to notice something. By and large, my male friends and colleagues had no problem with these systems. My female peers, on the other hand, turned green.

Clearly, further experimentation was called for:

I created scenarios in which motion parallax suggested an object was at one distance, and shape-from-shading suggested it was further away or closer. The idea was to see which of these conflicting depth cues the brain would prioritize. (The brain prioritizes between conflicting cues all the time; for example, if you hold out your finger and stare at it through one eye and then the other, it will appear to be in different positions, but if you look at it through both eyes, it will be on the side of your “dominant” eye.)

What I found was startling [pdf]. Although there was variability across the board, biological men were significantly more likely to prioritize motion parallax. Biological women relied more heavily on shape-from-shading. In other words, men are more likely to use the cues that 3D virtual reality systems relied on.

And that word “biological” is there for a very specific reason:

Scholars in the gender clinic [in Utrecht] were doing fascinating research on tasks like spatial rotation skills. They found that people taking androgens (a steroid hormone similar to testosterone) improved at tasks that required them to rotate Tetris-like shapes in their mind to determine if one shape was simply a rotation of another shape. Meanwhile, male-to-female transsexuals saw a decline in performance during their hormone replacement therapy.

The spiffy new Oculus Rift may compensate for this — or it might not. I’ve never seen one, and for that matter I never was any good at rotating random polygons. I’m thinking, though, that of the various differences between the sexes, this is one of the more easily minimized.

(Swiped from Erica Mauter’s Facebook page.)

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One impossible thing before breakfast

The state treasurer is requesting a budget cut — again:

For a second consecutive year, State Treasurer Ken Miller is asking the Legislature to cut appropriations for his office. And for the second year in a row, he is the only agency head to do so.

Miller said his request for a five-percent budget cut is made possible by focusing office operations on core treasury functions. He also requested and was granted a five-percent appropriations reduction last year.

Staff inflation? Not here:

Prior to the last recession, the treasurer’s office had 72 employees working in three locations in Oklahoma City, including two leased offices. Now the staff is 40 percent smaller and all treasury employees work in one location in the State Capitol Building after closing external offices.

If everybody got a 5-percent budget cut — but forget it. Just under 100 percent of all agency heads will tell you with a straight face that cutting spending at a time like this is immoral.

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Brrr

Below-normal temperatures today and tomorrow morning here in the Big Breezy. Not that Rebecca Black would have any reason to know that, but if you ask me, she definitely picked a fine time to do her second one-take unequalized cover, a version of the Neighbourhood’s “Sweater Weather,” which you’ll find below the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

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A Sac of kittens

When Russell Westbrook is gone — but never mind, let’s not think about that again. One thing we haven’t thought about at all, though, is this: what happens when Reggie Jackson is gone? The Regmeister hosed up his back at practice yesterday and was scratched for tonight, which almost certainly explains why the Thunder signed the nearest available Reggie, the 66ers’ Reggie Williams, to a second 10-day contract, and brought him in just in case they needed him against the Kings.

Maybe not so much. The Kings played even with the Thunder for just over three minutes, at which time the score was 4-4. After that, Sacramento appeared to go to pieces; four minutes into the second quarter, they were down 37-15. Then the Kings started to make some shots, pulling into the 30-percent range after wallowing in the 20s. But everything they gained in the second quarter (Sacramento 23, OKC 22) they lost in the third, and more, with the Thunder claiming a 31-point lead, 82-51. Still, the Kings weren’t giving in, and OKC finally caught on at the four-minute mark, having been outscored by Sacramento 21-6 in the fourth quarter. (Williams was then put in, and promptly made a couple of jumpers.) The Kings cut that 31-point deficit down to 13 at the horn, losing by a not-that-embarrassing 94-81 count, and they did that without their big names: Rudy Gay (3-11, 7 points) played only 21 minutes, DeMarcus Cousins (2-8, 4 points) only 17, and neither showed up in the fourth.

With the OKC defense apparently watching everything else, the Kings sustained themselves with the occasional trey (9 of 18, but 22-67 from within the arc) and rebound dominance (49-38, 17-3 offensive). Guards Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum played almost the whole game (46 minutes each); McLemore was the Kings’ high scorer with 18. From the bench, Travis Outlaw contributed 17; Jason Thompson rang up 10 points and 14 boards, and Quincy Acy added 13 boards more.

Still, the Thunder starters wouldn’t be seen in the fourth quarter, Kevin Durant retiring for the night with 29 on an efficient 9-11. Westbrook worked 24 minutes, as always flat-out, and collected 18 points on 7-12. And Jeremy Lamb put in a team-high 33 to lead the reserves with 13. OKC hit nine treys, but it took them 23 tries to get them.

The Jazz will be here Sunday afternoon, which might be a yawner; the Spurs will show up Thursday, which almost definitely won’t.

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Circulation beginning

Yours truly, from about this time last year:

One of the niftier ideas of recent years is the Little Free Library, bigger than a breadbox but just barely, located in urban neighborhoods and rural areas. And we’re about to get this one in our neck of the woods.

It’s now up and awaiting further stock:

Little Free Library in Mayfair Heights neighborhood

I dropped off a couple of books yesterday; if the neighborhood follows through, and they almost always do, it should be pretty well stuffed by this time next week.

(Photo by Taryn Evans, shot Wednesday. If you’re unclear on the concept, this is how it all started.)

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At least it isn’t head cheese

Just calling it “beer” seems suddenly inadequate:

[M]icrobrewers at Dock Street Brewing Co. did go that extra mile for fans of AMC’s The Walking Dead — or any zombie fans, really — by cooking up some goat brains for a new brew called Dock Street Walker.

Yes, goat brains. Smoked brains, to be specific, an ingredient enjoyed by others around the world but perhaps not so much the American public.

According to the brewery’s press release, it’s “an American Pale Stout brewed with wheat, oats, flaked barley, organic cranberry, and Smoked Goat Brains!”

Enjoy it with a slab of goat cheese, and toast The Governor. (Oh, wait, The Governor is already toast.)

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Multi-tusking

Let us stipulate that no one wants to see further endangerment of elephants. That said, the Feds blew another one:

New federal rules aimed at blocking the sale of ivory to protect endangered elephants are causing an uproar among musicians, antiques dealers, gun collectors and thousands of others whose ability to sell, repair or travel with legally acquired ivory objects will soon be prohibited.

An example:

To illustrate the confusion ahead, experts gave the example of what would happen under the new regulations if someone attempted the interstate sale of a 100-year-old Steinway piano with ivory keys. Such a sale has long been permissible, because the piano qualified as an antique that contained ivory imported long before the mid-1970s, when officials began proscribing the material.

But the new regulations would prohibit such a sale unless the owner could prove the ivory in the keys had entered the country through one of 13 American ports authorized to sanction ivory goods.

Given that none of those entry points had such legal power until 1982, the regulations would make it virtually impossible to legitimize the piano’s ivory, the experts said. That predicament would apply to virtually all the antique ivory in the country, barring millions of Americans from ever selling items as innocuous as teacups, dice or fountain pens.

The Feds are not backing down, because smugglers:

[T]he eight-member advisory panel that formulated the new restrictions is aware they impose insurmountable hurdles. But … the efforts by some smugglers to disguise recently poached ivory as antique material have made the additional restrictions necessary.

My own suggestion — place a bounty on smugglers, and when they’re brought in, feed them to animals — apparently has not been considered.

(Via a Steinway owner.)

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