This started when I happened upon a photo of Taraji P. Henson, and wondered, not for the first time: “What’s the P for?”

Says Wikipedia, it’s “Penda,” a Swahili word meaning “love.” (“Taraji” apparently means “hope.”) Her education was remarkable: she studied electrical engineering at North Carolina A&T, and graduated from Howard seven years later with a BFA in drama. (And I thought my career path was, um, unusual.)

Taraji P. Henson takes a break

Henson has done a couple of saucy ads for PETA, of which this is perhaps the more modest:

Taraji P. Henson for PETA

And sometimes she’s not quite so buttoned up:

Taraji P. Henson at VH1's Big In 2015

That’s the picture that caught my eye. But what I really wanted you to see was this bit that never quite made it to Saturday Night Live:

Nothing at all like Cookie Lyon in Empire, right?

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Latest snooze

I am not a morning person, in the sense that Death Valley is not a water park. Not that I’m claiming any of these characteristics, mind you:

When you’re getting up at 6 am, you’re usually passing out by nine, which means you’re already tired by five. You may start your day with a burst of energy, but by mid-afternoon you’re already checked out.

Early risers are, in fact, screwing themselves over for the second part of the day.

Researchers at the University of Liege in Belgium examined 15 “extreme early risers” and 15 “extreme night owls.” They measured the participants’ brain activity after they first woke up and then once again 10.5 hours later.

Both the night owls and the early birds had the same level of productivity when they first woke up. Ten hours later, however, early birds had “lower activity in brain regions linked to attention and the circadian master clock, compared to night owls.”

Weekdays, I get up a hair before six, and I can sustain pretty well until nine. By ten-thirty, though, I’m pretty much inert, and it takes lunch to revive me.

Weekends, I sleep as late as I dare, which is usually somewhere between 10:30 and noon. So the pattern is fixed, no matter how much I actually seem to deviate from it.

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A dime’s worth of difference

Of course, adjusted for inflation, it’s worth nothing at all:

A Bernie Sanders type has been running for president every four years for the last six decades. Sixties flower children had Gene McCarthy; George McGovern was the kumbayah kid of the 1970s; Ralph Nader captured the moonbat imagination in the 80s and 90s; Dennis Kucinich and his “Department of Peace” hung around in the Bush years … but those guys were all third- or -fourth-party jokes (except McGovern, I guess, though he should have been; the dude carried one state against Tricky Dick Nixon. In 1972). It’s only now that a Sanders type — an honest-to-god Socialist, running on out-and-proud Socialism — is finally viable.

Now, before you rush in to tell me that’s because Hillary Clinton is the lousiest, most corrupt candidate this side of Robert Mugabe, please note that she still leads most Republicans in most nationwide polls. And before you rush in to tell me that’s because the GOP’s candidates are also historically awful, please note that the leader of that pathetic pack may well be Ben Carson … and if it’s not, it’s Donald Trump.

The American electorate, in other words, is living in fantasyland. Nobody even pretends to be voting for a competent elected official. How could they? The only candidate with significant electoral experience is Sanders, and a Chicago city alderman makes bigger budget decisions, affecting way more people, than a Vermont senator. Hillary Clinton spends most of her free time dodging subpoenas from her limited government service, and Carson and Trump have never been elected to anything, anywhere. As late as 1992, the American public would’ve laughed itself into an aneurysm at the proposition that any of these clowns, or all of them combined Voltron-like into one uber-clown, could possibly be qualified for the Presidency of the United States.

And in 1992, we embraced chameleon Bill Clinton, all things to everyone. We should have run away when we had the chance.

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Sometimes stroked, always bored

P. J. O’Rourke once noted that pickup trucks tended to have eight cylinders, which was too many, or four cylinders, which was not enough. This would seems to be an argument for six cylinders, a happy medium if you will, but actual cars, as distinguished from trucks, to the extent that you can distinguish them from trucks (curse you, crossovers), seem to be migrating to four-bangers, a phenomenon which, to Jack Baruth, is just this side of hellish:

As a design, the inline-four is both banal and inadequate. The intake hangs off one side and the exhaust off the other, so when you open the hood it looks unbalanced and cheap. ​Enlarged to modern two-liter-plus proportions, this lack of balance makes it want to shake itself to death. At idle it rattles; at full revs it moans. Instead of the dual-megaphone mufflers associated with powerful V8s, the most efficient four-cylinder exhaust is a massive coffee can hanging off one side of the bumper.

Defending the fart can? Horrors!

Yet the unloved inline-four plows on. It’s cheap to make, cheap to modify. It fits in everything from a small motorcycle to a 5-Series BMW. It can be turbocharged to serve as a poor replacement for a more colorful six. This strategy, employed by the high-end German manufacturers and the Koreans alike, makes it easier to pass CO2-related regulations. So what if the resulting concoction sounds like a paint shaker? You muffle it to death and then play a fake engine sound through the stereo. Nobody knows the difference.

I am told that a hybrid system with an inline four is destined for the BMW 7-series, which just seems wrong for a car that can also be had with a V-12 fercrissake.

And fake engine noises, say I, are an abomination unto the Lord: if He had wanted us to waste our audio systems on such things He would have made AM the dominant form of radio.


Every time you buy a car that has something besides the ubiquitous inline-four, you are striking a blow for automotive character. You’re making a statement that you want steak, not Spam.

In my life I have owned six cars with a total of thirty cylinders: a straight six, two V-6s, and three inline fours. Then again, the budget doesn’t permit me to eat a whole hell of a lot of steak.

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School of Hard Knicks

Nobody expects the New York Knicks. Their chief weapon is surprise: how does such a motley-looking bunch, airily dismissed as Carmelo Anthony and however many dwarfs, manage to be so totally dominant for forty-seven minutes? Well, there’s defense, of which they had an abundance — for almost the entire night the Thunder shot well under 40 percent — and there’s offense, of which they had more than enough, what with knocking down 12 of 20 three-pointers. New York led by as many as 16 early in the fourth quarter; Oklahoma City whittled that lead down to four with a minute left, to three with 12 seconds left, and two trey attempts on the last possession failed, giving the Knicks the win, 93-90.

Then again, the failure of trey attempts is at the very heart of this loss: the Thunder put up 29 three-pointers, and 26 missed. Ten and a fraction percent. Somehow this managed to eclipse dominant positions on the boards (49-36) and in the paint (52-16). A 34-point night from Russell Westbrook and a double-double from Enes Kanter (11 points, 13 boards) went more or less for naught. Meanwhile, Melo played like Melo, José Calderón showed signs of life, and if Robin Lopez made just the one shot from the floor — well, he hasn’t missed a free throw all season.

Billy Donovan continues to mix up the lineup. Tonight he started Dion Waiters on the wing and shuffled Andre Roberson to the frontcourt; Waiters, after a slow beginning, managed to serve up 15 points, while Roberson had two points and four fouls. This apparently is not the Durant-less solution he was looking for, and there’s no indication KD will be back Sunday to play the Mavericks, or Monday to take on the Jazz. Meanwhile, this comment from the field:

Yep. Wouldn’t doubt it for a minute.

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What is this bouncy thing?

Few things online go viral faster than Formerly Tortured Animals; one I remember from not too long ago involved an elephant released from the concrete bunker where he’d spent most of his life, and then discovering the wonderfulness of grass. You never saw a critter so blissfully happy.

Although this bull terrier comes close:

“Sleep? On something like this? Are you kidding me?”

And that look at the end: “This is okay, isn’t it?”

(Via HelloGiggles.)

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Epidermis of inhuman thinness

Not that I needed another reason not to vote for this ridiculous individual or anything:

In what appears to be a first for a serious presidential contender, Hillary Clinton’s campaign is going after five comedians who made fun of the former Secretary of State in standup skits at a popular Hollywood comedy club.

She’s not a “serious presidential contender.” She expects the job to be handed to her, because [reasons].

A video of the short performance, which is less than three minutes, is posted on the website of the renowned club, Laugh Factory, and the Clinton campaign has tried to censor it. Besides demanding that the video be taken down, the Clinton campaign has demanded the personal contact information of the performers that appear in the recording. This is no laughing matter for club owner Jamie Masada, a comedy guru who opened Laugh Factory more than three decades ago and has been instrumental in launching the careers of many famous comics. “They threatened me,” Masada told Judicial Watch. ‘I have received complaints before but never a call like this, threatening to put me out of business if I don’t cut the video.”

If I’m Bernie Sanders, I’m passing along this story to the entire freaking world.

Disclaimer: I am not Bernie Sanders. Just the same, I’m passing along this story.

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Runaround Sioux

The kerfuffle over the names of the athletic teams at the University of North Dakota is apparently over:

Then again, there may be an explanation after all:

Dan Snyder to the red discourtesy phone, please.

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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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No shortage of nerve

Surviving Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols — partner in crime Timothy McVeigh was executed in 2001 — would like his guns back, please:

Domestic terrorist Terry Nichols wants more than a dozen guns seized in the investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing returned.

He says they had nothing to do with the bombing, and he wants his family to have them for the money the weapons are worth.

From his maximum security prison cell in Colorado, Nichols said he wants 13 guns in that currently are in federal custody, including handguns, rifles and a shotgun, to be turned over to one of his two ex-wives or to his sister.

The Feds, of course, disagree:

Federal authorities say the guns should not be released from FBI custody because someone might use them in a copycat crime. Instead, the feds want to destroy the guns and give Nichols credit for their fair market value of $7,000.

Not that the credit would do him or his family much good:

It would go toward the $14.5 million he owes in restitution.

Yeah, that’ll help.

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Small and Gawky

The restructuring at Gawker Media — basically, Gawker itself is going all politics, all the time, and some of the “lesser” brands are being shed — is likely no surprise to Robert Stacy McCain:

If Nick Denton could outsource Gawker’s editorial work to Guatemalan peasants working in squalid huts for a few pesos a day, I’m sure he wouldn’t hesitate to do so. There is no feasible limit to Nick Denton’s unscrupulous greed, and this is why investors put their money into Gawker media, because they trust Nick will be absolutely ruthless in his quest to make a dollar, and “diversity” is only of interest to Gawker’s investors if it somehow impacts Nick’s ability to produce revenue.

For myself, I thought it was odd that, having sold off an actual political blog a couple of restructurings ago, they’d now try to recreate one:

Wonkette editor/publisher Rebecca Schoenkopf begs to differ:

Hello, Gawker sirs, don’t mind us, we’re just a couple of country mice over here in the corner eating this tiny crust of bread. You remember us, Wonkette? We are the politics blog that sprang from your loins (gross) and which you then sold almost immediately because you couldn’t figure out how to make money from politics. (Have you asked Newsmax for some pointers? I hear they got a real good list.) So this other guy, who was not us, bought it from you, and four years later he realized American politics was rotting his wanderer’s soul, so he went out for a pack of cigarettes and never came back.

Which is how I came to be the owner, publisher and editrix of this teeny-tiny little politics place, which never hurt nobody, nobody at all. And here you are, and under your new editor — who used to be the editor of us, SMALL PUBLISHING WORLD — you are retooling into a “politics” site.

Really? Are you sure? Because while we’ve tripled our revenues and quintupled our staff in the past three years because it turns out I am awesome at capitalism and asking for money from readers like you, that actually means we’ve gone from “just-me” to “five.” I am pretty sure all Politico’s money comes from that godawful Newsletter Sponsored By Whatever Blackwater’s Called This Week. And Newsmax’s cheddar, while YOOOGE, comes from the fleecing of homebound, ill crackers. You do not want to sell cancer cures made of cinnamon do you? DO YOU?

As good a description of Ken Layne’s apostasy as I’ve yet heard, and the whole (read it all if you dare) is hilarious enough to justify my assertion.

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Strappier than thou

My fondness for strappy sandals — well, I won’t say it knows no bounds, since obviously I have my limits.

Meanwhile, Cristina of ShoeTease, everyone’s favorite Toronto-based shoe blog, finds a spiffy shoe that doesn’t overdo it with the horizontals:

Strappy sandal from Le Château

She writes:

With their fine straps & delicate leather covered buckles, I feel like I’m literally wearing a party on my feet! Not only are these shoes made in Brazil & out of actual leather uppers, but the gilded shimmery gold outsoles a[dd] the perfect amount of holiday shine. Talk about making a fancy entrance and exit!

These might be the easiest 4″ stiletto heels to walk in & by far the most spectacular pair of black pumps I own.

There is also a tan version. The Le Château store nearest you has them — assuming you’re in Canada, as are 221 of their 222 retail locations. Price is $170.

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Oldest known d14

Something else we didn’t invent in the last half-century or so:

Pieces from a mysterious board game that hasn’t been played for 1,500 years were discovered in a heavily looted 2,300-year-old tomb near Qingzhou City in China.

There, archaeologists found a 14-face die made of animal tooth, 21 rectangular game pieces with numbers painted on them and a broken tile which was once part of a game board. The tile when reconstructed was “decorated with two eyes, which are surrounded by cloud-and-thunder patterns,” wrote the archaeologists in a report published recently in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics.

The skeleton of possibly one of the grave robbers was also discovered in a shaft made within the tomb by looters.

A hint at the actual gameplay:

[A] poem written about 2,200 years ago by a man named Song Yu gives an idea as to what the game was like:

“Then, with bamboo dice and ivory pieces, the game of Liu Bo is begun; sides are taken; they advance together; keenly they threaten each other. Pieces are kinged, and the scoring doubled. Shouts of ‘five white!’ arise” (translation by David Hawkes).

Pictures for your examination, should you so desire.

(Via @BrowncoatPony.)

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Saved by the Bell

Original Taco Bell designThe very first Taco Bell, built in the dear, dead days of 1962, hasn’t served up anything from the mothership in nearly thirty years, and with its little corner lot in Downey worth a lot more than it used to be, corporate has decided to save Numero Uno by moving it:

Taco Bell is saving its first fast-food restaurant from the wrecking ball by relocating the iconic 400-square-foot food stand from Downey to its corporate headquarters in Irvine.

“This is arguably the most important restaurant in our company’s history,” said Taco Bell chief executive Brian Niccol. “When we heard about the chance of it being demolished, we had to step in. We owe that to our fans; we owe that to Glen Bell.”

Earlier this year, new development for the vacant Firestone Boulevard site triggered demolition plans for the nostalgic building, dubbed “Numero Uno.” An uproar in the community followed. Taco Bell remained relatively quiet, though it did encourage the #SaveTacoBell campaign on social media.

This particular design — I worked in one just like it briefly — was eventually abandoned because there was no real way to splice a drive-thru window into it.

The structure’s 45-mile overnight journey begins Thursday at 10:30 p.m. It should garner much attention as it traverses the cities of Downey, Norwalk, Cerritos, La Palma, Buena Park, Anaheim, Orange and Tustin. Throughout the four to five hour trip, Taco Bell is encouraging fans to follow the historic relocation via a live webcam.

Eventually, of course, all restaurants will be Taco Bell.

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Forget the script

This was supposed to be the most winnable game in this three-game homestand. Not only are the Pelicans doing relatively badly — 1-10 coming in, and 30th out of 30 in defense — but their ranks have been decimated and then some: Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Quincy Pondexter, Norris Cole and Kendrick Perkins are nursing injuries, and Omer Asik was quite ill with something flu-ish. With nine players, Alvin Gentry had basically one option: swap ’em in and out as needed and hope the roof doesn’t fall in. Well, either that last-place defense is better than it looks, or the Thunder are suffering from occasionally forgetting how to score. The Birds were up 27-21 after a quarter, and the 32-18 drubbing they got in the second didn’t daunt them in the least: twice they got within three in the fourth, and in between times, Perkins and the similarly sidelined Kevin Durant talked smack to one another. Oklahoma City eventually prevailed over New Orleans, 110-103, but no one is going to call it pretty.

There was some noise early on about fouls being called on the Pelicans and not on the Thunder, and maybe there’s something to that: New Orleans attempted only nine free throws all night. (Then again, they made them all. The Thunder were, um, 26 of 38 from the stripe.) Ryan Anderson, the one real Pelican shooter, had a Westbrookesque line: 30 points on 13-24, four of nine treys. The only problem with that was that Russell Westbrook doesn’t bother with mere Westbrookesque lines anymore: Number Zero scored 43 on 14-25 and 15 free throws. He needed all of that, too: Ish Smith, his counterpart on the Pelicans, rolled up 18 points mostly by zoom-zooming past everyone else, just the way Westbrook does. And Enes Kanter, almost a passable defender these days, dropped in 24 while retrieving 14 boards, sort of compensating for off nights by Serge Ibaka (2-11, six points) and Dion Waiters (2-10, four points). At least somebody on this squad can score.

The Knicks will be here Friday, and by all accounts, they are much improved over last year’s woeful aggregation: even Derek Fisher seems pleased. Of course, we all love Derek, as we all love Perk; but still we have to beat the socks off of him.

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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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