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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Barrage sale

First thought: this game would be a heck of an audition for Sixth Man of the Year, with both the Thunder’s Enes Kanter and the Clippers’ Jamal Crawford in the hunt. This was before I found out that Doc Rivers had decided to rest J. J. Redick, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan. With that dread threesome left behind in Los Angeles, and with Paul Pierce injured and Blake Griffin still suspended, Crawford wouldn’t be coming off the bench: he started in the backcourt alongside Austin Rivers. And some strange synergy between Rivers and Crawford created something amazing in the first half, with the two combining for 40 of L.A.’s 69 points, each hitting four treys with such alacrity you had to wonder if the Thunder’s famed defense had been rested. Or if not that, you had to wonder how it was that OKC was shooting 58 percent, had four more rebounds, hadn’t missed a free throw (out of 11), and was still trailing by four.

Crawford and Rivers didn’t slow down much in the second half, either, though they did actually miss a trey here and there. With 40 seconds left and the score tied at 117, Wesley Johnson grabbed a Kevin Durant miss, and Russell Westbrook stole it back. Westbrook couldn’t knock down the shot, but a Steven Adams putback gave the Thunder an actual two-point lead. Rivers saw an opportunity for an almost-last-second layup, but the ball wouldn’t drop, and Westbrook took that one away. Then came the Last Gesture, and it was a beaut: to avoid drawing a foul in those last two seconds, Westbrook cast the ball skyward. Buzzer, W, cheers. 119-117, despite 32 from Crawford, 32 (a career high) from Rivers, and 48 Clipper points off the long ball (16-29). Season series ends at 3-1 OKC, and if third place in the West isn’t officially clinched, it’s pretty darn secure.

Oddly, with this profusion of scoring, there was only one double-double all night: Westbrook (of course), with 26 points and 11 assists. (Eight rebounds, so two away from the triple.) KD finished with 31, because of course he did.

Next outing: Sunday afternoon at Houston. The Rockets just fell out of the eighth playoff spot, and will have something to prove.

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Enjoyably broke

So saith The New York Times:

Whatever problems are associated with having too much money, a vast majority of New Yorkers do not have them: 87 percent of the city’s households reported wages under $100,000 in 2013, according to tax data released on Tuesday [pdf] by the city’s Independent Budget Office.

The average household had wage income of $51,876. Half the city’s 3.6 million households reported wages at or under the city median of $24,239.

Well, yeah, that’s what “median” means: half over, half under. Maybe the tricky word here is “wages,” because out here in the middle of Soonerland, where the living is breezy and housing can be afforded by mere mortals, the median household income [2014] is $47,004.

Disclosure: I am a mere mortal.

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Dick Deux

The Z Man seems persuaded that Ted Cruz is the second coming of Richard Milhous Nixon:

Cruz, like Nixon, is a guy you instinctively want to avoid. There was an alien aspect to Nixon that even his friends found to be off-putting. His enemies, of course, pounced on these things, hence the name “Tricky Dick.” Cruz has this same problem. His friends are not enthusiastic about him, but his enemies are very enthusiastic.

Nixon, like Cruz, was never embraced by the GOP. Eisenhower picked him as his VP, but treated him like bad odor. Ike was universally revered, but Nixon, despite his talents, was despised by the WASP elite of both parties. Democrats hated him for Alger Hiss and Republicans hated him for being low-class. The fact that Nixon was smarter and more knowledgeable about international affairs made things worse as he could not be dismissed as a rube.

Then again, in Nixon’s day, the GOP actually went to the trouble to appear as though they believed in something. Today they can hardly be bothered.

And then there’s that whole 19th-century ethos, explained by Severian:

Pick any 19th century president — the odds are you’ll find a weirdo with limited interpersonal skills. In the newsprint-and-telegraph media era, the President was basically just his party’s designated flak-catcher. Nixon was a Martin van Buren type — an ideas guy, an organizer, a wire-puller, who through a weird confluence of circumstances ended up as the nominee. It’s only the media era, and really the tv era, where you get the “imperial presidency” (in that jerkoff’s condescending but wonderful phrase) and all the hoopla and nonsense that goes along with it. As I’ve said before, Cruz would’ve cleaned up in the 19th century.

And Van Buren, who arrived at the White House from the Andrew Jackson administration — he was Andy’s second-term Vice President — caught plenty of flak just from the Panic of 1837. At any rate, the electorate was disinclined to elevate any sitting Veeps thereafter, including Nixon in 1960; the only one since to break through was Bush 41. (Joe Biden? Don’t get your hopes up.)

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Everything means less than zero

Jack Baruth works out the Equation for Greatness:

Acceptable talent (multiplied by) acceptable work ethic = nothing

Peerless talent x iffy work ethic = Axl Rose, Latrell Sprewell, Paul Chambers, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Acceptable talent x peerless work ethic = Dave Grohl, Larry Bird, Charlie Haden, John Le Carré

Peerless talent x peerless work ethic = Jimmy Page, Michael Jordan, John Coltrane, Samuel Johnson

I’m a tad higher on work ethic than on talent, perhaps, but neither is sufficiently noteworthy to budge the needle on the scale.

Weirdly, or perhaps not so weirdly, the two jazz albums I am most likely to spin at the drop of a hat — Miles’ Kind of Blue and Trane’s Blue Train — both feature Paul Chambers’ bass work.

And Jack reminds you that there’s a third factor, perhaps harder to quantify:

Adversity builds character, which builds excellence. If you struggle your entire life, you won’t give up when it’s time to struggle for your art. A miserable childhood produces restlessness and discontent, which taken together are the pilot light without which talent doesn’t burn brightly enough to be noticed. You’ve heard all of that. It might even be true.

The problem today is that too many of us consider our minor inconveniences and frustrations to be True Adversity. I know I do.

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Down in the boondocks

“People put me down,” sang Billy Joe Royal, “’cause that’s the side of town I was born in.” And maybe that’s good for his existing romantic relationship, given the problematic nature of relationships with wealthy guys:

Turns out, if you give a man some money, he’ll think his partner is less attractive.

Researchers based out of Beijing Normal University in China invited 182 heterosexual college students (121 women, 61 men) in committed relationships into the lab and primed them to feel either rich or poor using two different forms of a questionnaire about financial status. Afterwards, participants rated their satisfaction with their romantic partners across various attributes, including job prospects, family background, and physical attractiveness. The ratings were completed on a 1 to 9 scale (1 = does not match my ideal at all, 9 = completely matches my ideal). Subjects also answered demographic questions about gender, age, and monthly income.

When the researchers examined the subjects’ answers, they found that men primed to feel wealthy were less satisfied with their partners’ physical attractiveness than men primed to feel poor. The difference was highly significant, a full point on the 9-point scale.

The women? They displayed no differences. None.

The only explanation I can think of for this is Miss Cellania’s: “With a few more bucks, they think they can do better.”

Source: Li YM, Li J, Chan DK-S and Zhang B (2016) When Love Meets Money: Priming the Possession of Money Influences Mating Strategies. Front. Psychol. 7:387. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00387

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Continuous reassessment

Leonard Sullivan, the County Assessor, is expected to come up with a new value for every single parcel of land in the 700-odd square miles that make up this rectangular-looking county, every single year. It’s a tag-team deal: Sullivan issues his assessments in the spring, and County Treasurer Butch Freeman figures the tax bills in the fall.

In the twelve years I’ve been here, the value has been on a bit of a roller coaster: it rose markedly once I got here, for which I claim no credit whatsoever, and then it plunged during the Great Recession. Things have leveled out a bit since then. This year, Sullivan says that the palatial estate at Surlywood is worth 1.7 percent more than it was last year, which should not result in a whopping tax increase unless Freeman goes berserk or the Feds decide to foreclose on the County Jail, and the latter has apparently been ruled out until 2018 at the earliest.

Last year’s tax bill was a hair over $900; I will be surprised should it rise to $1000. (It’s been there before, though.)

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You need to let it go

Robert Stacy McCain offers advice to the younger fellows among us:

Do not ever imagine that you can evade a woman’s radar in terms of what she wants.

One way to be a loser is to waste your time trying to overcome a woman’s instantaneous default “no.” You could spend years arguing with losers on pickup artist (PUA) forums about tactics, but you are never going to change human nature. Every woman’s default response is “no,” and if you can’t cope with rejection — if you don’t learn to walk away the minute she signals disinterest — you are squandering valuable time and energy.

Some guys (the upper 10% or 15% of overall attractiveness) can score reliably enough in almost any pickup scenario that they don’t really need “tactics” at all. What the rest of you fellows must learn is to stop wasting time trying to convert a “no” to a “yes,” or brooding over your failures.

Guys, if you’re at a frat party, when you approach a girl, understand this: She has sized you up — evaluating you in terms of your desirability — before you even say a word to her. Therefore, if her response to your opening line is not a total green-light reaction, take it in stride and move on. Just remember there are 3.5 billion women on this planet.

Maintain your cool, young man. Don’t flip out, don’t get angry, and don’t let yourself become demoralized by the fact that this girl shot you down. Just keep on blowing down the road, Mister Breeze.

Perhaps needless to say, Meghan Trainor was available for comment, though not a favorable comment.

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Hit ’em where they drive

Nothing, I suspect, makes a bogus email more persuasive than the inclusion of something actually (sort of) true. This particular scam, by that reckoning, is utterly convincing in its presentation:

A new malware scam is posing as a speeding ticket email with a fake link that is said to load malicious code onto users’ computers. The emails, sent to at least few local residents in Tredyffrin, Pennsylvania, purport to come from the local police department. Malware emails that masquerade as something official are not rare, but these messages are fairly unique: they are said to contain accurate speeding data, including street names, speed limits, and actual driving speeds, according to the Tredyffrin Police Department, located close to Philadelphia.

It’s suspected that the data is coming from an app with permission to track phone GPS data. That could either be a legitimate app that has been compromised, or a purpose-built malicious app that was uploaded online. As anyone who has used a GPS navigator knows, location data can be used to roughly calculate your travel speed. The emails ask for payment of the speeding ticket, but no apparatus is set up to receive such fines. Instead, a link that claims to lead to a photo of the user’s license plate instead loads malware onto the user’s device.

“Citations,” says the PD, “are never emailed or sent in the form of an email attachment.” Still, people believe that banks and such will send you email to ask you your email address — which they obviously already have.

“Tredyffrin,” incidentally, is Welsh; it only looks like a J. K. Rowling place name.

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Looks like her cousin

I was never that fascinated by The Patty Duke Show, partly because I couldn’t comprehend the genetics of “identical cousins.” (This business got particularly weird in season two, when there was an episode involving a third Lane clone.) Fortunately, I adored her singing; her voice wasn’t much more than serviceable, but the producer (studio pro Jack Gold, who’d been doing this sort of thing for two decades) knew how to get the maximum out of it.

Cover art for Don't Just Stand There by Patty DukeFrom the liner notes of the Don’t Just Stand There LP:

[J]ust like everything she touches, it is pure gold. It is certain to find a huge throng of eager fans waiting to purchase it and catapault [sic] it quickly high on the nation’s best-seller lists. In addition to the title tune, it contains a wonderful selection of the great songs of the day — all eminently youthful and all hand-picked for our star of stars.

This is not the first time I’ve read a liner apparently written by someone who hadn’t heard the record. (And track four is a cover of “Danke Schoen,” which wasn’t “youthful” when Wayne Newton put it out two years before.)

“Don’t Just Stand There” topped out at a respectable #8. (I’ve written about this track before.) To promote it, she appeared on Shindig; to my surprise, she did it live.

Patty Duke indisputably achieved Far Greater Things in her life. But this is what I remember best.

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I don’t want no damage

But how’m I gonna manage this?

North-central and northwestern Oklahoma are among the highest risk areas in the country for damage from earthquakes, according to an updated earthquake hazard report released by the U.S. Geological Survey on Monday.

The report marks the first time the USGS hazard map has included risk from both natural and human-induced earthquakes.

“By including human-induced events, our assessment of earthquake hazards has significantly increased in parts of the U.S.,” Mark Petersen, chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Mapping Project, said in a statement. “This research also shows that much more of the nation faces a significant chance of having damaging earthquakes over the next year, whether natural or human-induced.”

The fracking problem apparently isn’t actually fracking, per se, but the disposal, via injection, of waste water.

The probability diminishes the farther you get from Fairview, which endured a 5.1 quake in 2011, though there are areas of concern in Dallas and in northern Arkansas. Biggest ever in the state: 5.6. Now how big is 5.6? This big, at least in Big D:

If a 5.6 magnitude quake were to happen, northwest Dallas, West Dallas and downtown would bear the brunt, according to the U.S. Geological Survey ShakeMap included in the FEMA report.

Levees and dams could collapse. About 80,000 buildings would be at least slightly damaged, causing $9.5 billion in “direct economic losses.” Some 290 area bridges — those with a “10 percent or greater chance of exceeding slight damage” — would need to be inspected to make sure they didn’t crack or buckle.

I suspect some of us will crack or buckle when the ground shakes.

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Not what they meant by “rest”

As speculated, a couple of Thunder starters — Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant — were given the night off: in their stead, Billy Donovan opted to start Kyle Singler and Dion Waiters. He probably needn’t have bothered; after sort of holding their own through the first half, the Thunder basically fell asleep in the third quarter, outscored by an embarrassing 25-9. Detroit, of course, is actually fighting for a playoff spot: at gametime, they were occupying the #8 spot in the East, 2½ games ahead of the Bulls and the Wizards. And while the Pistons weren’t entirely brilliant, the Thunder were utterly terrible, especially in that third quarter, during which Royce Young observed: There is absolutely zero offensive movement for the Thunder. Just standing around waiting for Westbrook to create a shot for somebody.” Things improved a little in the fourth, with OKC briefly pulling to within one point; however, nothing, up to and including deliberately fouling Andre Drummond, would close the difference. (And once Stan Van Gundy saw successive hits on Drummond, the Notorious S.V.G. immediately swapped in Tobias Harris.) A Russell Westbrook trey in the last minute brought OKC to within two, but Reggie Jackson got two freebies to ice it, and Aron Baynes finished the job with two more, making the final 88-82 and evening the season series at 1-1. For a team averaging over 110 points the last couple of weeks, this qualifies as, um, feeble.

Then again, you want points, you gotta hit shots. The Thunder mostly didn’t do that: 38 percent from the field, 6-21 from Way Out There, and only two players in double figures, which would be Westbrook, who took 28 shots to get 24 points, and Enes Kanter, again making his case for Sixth Man of the Year with 14 points and 14 boards. Between them, Waiters and Singler managed a whole ten. Meanwhile, Marcus Morris, written off after being shipped out of Phoenix, turned in a 24-point performance on a mere 13 shots to lead the Pistons.

I don’t think the Thursday-night clash with the Los Angeles Clippers will be a snooze-fest like this, but I could be wrong. And once that happens, it’s back on the road for four more: Houston, Denver, Portland and Sacramento. Grind time is upon us, boys and girls.

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She was right about boys

First, the big hit:

Among people I know, far more hate that little 1982 number than love it. (Fellow Waitress Chris Butler had written it two years earlier, as the leader of Tin Huey.) I don’t care. Its sheer insouciance, give or take a dollop of rudeness, makes it work, and Patty Donahue can be just as rude as she needs:

Patty Donahue

Anyway, for sheer snark value, “Boys” takes second place to “The Smartest Person I Know,” from the EP I Could Rule the World If I Could Only Get the Parts.

And I mean in two directions. At about 2:16 there’s a brief spoken-word passage recorded backwards by Patty: “Anyone who worries about subliminal messages on pop records is a fool. Everyone else have a nice day.”

Lung cancer, not entirely unexpected given her devotion to tobacco, killed Patty Donahue at 40. She would have been 60 today.

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Amusingly stung

This brings up memories of the old motto: “a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun.” Meet the fish:

A police department northwest of Austin says a woman was arrested after she responded to their Facebook hoax about contaminated drugs.

The hoax, posted to Facebook on Tuesday [since pulled], stated “Breaking News: Area Meth and Heroin Supply Possibly Contaminated With Ebola. Meth and Heroin recently brought in to Central Texas as well as the ingredients used to make it could be contaminated with the life threatening disease Ebola. If you have recently purchased meth or heroin in Central Texas, please take it to the local police or sheriff department so it can be screened with a special device. DO NOT use it until it has been properly checked for possible Ebola contamination! Contact any Granite Shoals PD officer for testing. Please share in hopes we get this information to anyone who has any contaminated meth or heroin that needs tested.”

Two days later, Granite Shoals Police say a “concerned citizen” brought her drugs to the police station so officers could test it. The woman, identified by police as 29-year-old Chasity Hopson, was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance.

Is this entrapment? I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on television, and it’s been many months since I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, but it occurs to me that just possessing the drug is the actual crime, and she was in possession before she notified the police.

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Stuck to one’s guns, as it were

The National Rifle Association, presumably having noticed that I overpaid the next three years’ dues, sent me a spiffy NRA-branded baseball cap, black with gold trim, with an American flag embroidered on the back. (Or, I guess, on the front, were I the sort of atavistic throwback who wears baseball caps backwards.)

Not that they spent the maximum amount possible on this headgear, given the blatant “MADE IN CHINA” label. Still, it is 100-percent cotton (per the same label), and it’s infinitely adjustable, for a small number of values for infinity. For now, I may let Twilight Sparkle wear it.

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Vaguely mature

Cristina up in Toronto has been going off about “grandma shoes,” and she’s evidently serious enough to call them “fuddy-duddy-esque.” Some, she conceded, might be wearable, but the others, not so much. I weighed in with faint praise for this Aquazzura shoe, from the more-wearable group, though I was forced to admit: “I can’t envision it, though, on any of the grannies I know.” Then again, I know few grannies who can pony up high-triple-digit sums for a pair of shoes, even these shoes:

Alexa by Aquazzura

I think it’s that feeble-looking strappage that makes “Alexa” here look unreasonably jaunty.

Oddly enough, the same day I came up with that response to Cristina, I got a shoefie dropped into my timeline, yet another Aquazzura shoe:

Wild Thing by Aquazzura

Presumably this one, tagged “Wild Thing,” will not appeal to your grandma. But I could be wrong: actually wearing those shoes in this picture is former Homeland Security Advisor (2004-07) and occasional CNN contributor Frances Townsend, who at sixty is probably old enough to be a grandma, but isn’t one.

Should you wish to own either of these two styles, you will get some insignificant change back from a $700 bill — if you live somewhere where there’s no sales tax, anyway.

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