The last Big Top

It’s the end of the line for the Greatest Show on Earth:

After much evaluation and deliberation, my family and I have made the difficult business decision that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® will hold its final performances in May of this year. Ringling Bros. ticket sales have been declining, but following the transition of the elephants off the road, we saw an even more dramatic drop. This, coupled with high operating costs, made the circus an unsustainable business for the company.

Nearly 50 years ago, my father founded our company with the acquisition of Ringling Bros. The circus and its people have continually been a source of inspiration and joy to my family and me, which is why this was such a tough business decision to make. The decision was even more difficult because of the amazing fans that have become part of our extended circus family over the years, and we are extremely grateful to the millions of families who have made Ringling Bros. part of their lives for generations. We know Ringling Bros. isn’t only our family business, but also your family tradition.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents Circus XTREME will conclude its tour at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, R.I., on May 7, 2017, and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents Out Of This World will conclude its tour at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., on May 21, 2017. We hope you will come to celebrate this American icon for one last time before our tours conclude.

Our company provides quality, live family entertainment, and we invite you to bring your family to one of our other events, including Marvel Universe LIVE!, Monster Jam, Monster Energy Supercross, AMSOIL Arenacross, Disney On Ice and Disney Live!, as well as future productions.

So says Kenneth Feld, head of Feld Entertainment, which bought the circus in 1967, continued to manage it after its acquisition by Mattel in 1971, and bought it back in 1982.

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First-degree Bern

For the moment, Simonetta Sommaruga is head of the Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police, a position she has held since 2010. In 2014, she served as Vice President of the Swiss Confederation; the following year, she ascended to the Presidency — which, under Swiss law, is something like being Mayor rather than a head of state — and resumed her previous duties a year later. Born in Zug in 1960, she’s a Social Democrat and a gardener.

Simonetta Sommaruga on the sofa

Simonetta Sommaruga in the garden

Simonetta Sommaruga in black

Switzerland has four official languages, and we know she speaks at least two of them. Here, on her first day as President, she gives basically the same interview in French and in German:

The French version, for some reason, runs twenty-two seconds longer.

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Drugs R us, eh?

There was a time when “Canadian pharmacy” was nearly as much a guarantee of Questionable Spam as Nigerian, um, just about anything, and I remembered that time well enough to be bewildered when I received a brochure, in hard copy no less, from a Canadian pharmacy. Well, sort of. This is the opening sentence to the Patient Acknowledgement:

I appoint Global Pharmacy Plus to act as my agent for the sole purpose of conveying my order and prescriptions to a licensed pharmacy in India, Europe and/or Singapore.

No chance you’re getting anything from the Great White North, even though you’re sending your order to Vancouver.

The six-page booklet contains one FAQ page, on which I find:

My prescriptions are on file at my regular pharmacy. What should I do?

You can either make an appointment with your doctor to get new prescriptions, send us a copy/photo of your pill bottle’s label, or send us your detailed pharmacy receipt/invoice.

This is not exactly Prescriptions Filled Without A Prescription, but it’s close.

Though the price list gives brand names, most of the products offered are generic equivalents. One of the exceptions is Vesicare (solifenacin), which in 5-mg strength they sell for $200 for a 90-day supply, quoting a US list price of $580. To me this sounds a little low. A 90-day supply through CFI Care (not their real initials) runs me a $225 copay, so I’d save $13 — shipping is a flat $12 — were I to take them up on their offer. On the downside, they don’t take American Express.

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What work clothes?

There are, I suspect, rather a lot of people who do housework in their birthday suits — their own housework, anyway. I have no idea how many will do so in other people’s houses:

A London-based cleaning company moving into Wales is looking for female cleaners who are prepared to work completely naked.

Naturalist Cleaners is willing to pay their staff £45 an hour with the unusual job description reading: “We are looking for female naturist cleaners who can clean private houses nude.

“The job will require doing all general cleaning like dusting, tidying up, vacuuming, watering plants, making beds, using the washing machine, ironing clothes and cleaning windows.”

If staff are getting £45, what must the company be charging?

Prices for nude cleaning start at £65 for the first hour and £55 each hour thereafter… Fully-clothed cleaning is cheaper, at £25 for the first hour and £20 for additional hours.

Most of their clients, says the company, are nudists themselves.

(Via Breaking Shame.)

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Joystick optional

Computer magazines of the 1980s, as I recall, occasionally had difficulty differentiating themselves from the competition, though I’m pretty sure no one went so far as the Yugoslavians who published this mag:

May '89 computer magazine from Yugoslavia

Definitely gets one’s attention. And it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a package of Xywrite.

At the link: a couple of dozen more covers with similar intent.

(Via Jeff Faria.)

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Bubbleheaded reasoning

As of the first of the year, Philadelphia has imposed a 1.5-cent per ounce tax on soft drinks. Inevitably, this has meant an increase in retail prices, much to the surprise of the Mayor:

Mayor Jim Kenney, who proposed the soda tax and championed its passage through city council last year, told reporters on Tuesday it’s not the new 1.5-cents-per-ounce tax that’s making it more expensive to buy a can of Coke in Philly. No, according to the mayor, those higher prices are caused by city businesses price gouging their customers in order to stir up opposition to the tax.

Is he kidding or what?

[T]he new tax technically is applied at the wholesale level. That is, the city is charging a tax on the transaction that takes place when a business, like a sandwich shop or grocery store, purchases soda (or the syrup used to make soda in a fountain) from a distributor. In the mayor’s mind, it seems, distributors and retailers are supposed to eat the cost of the tax and continue selling their products at the same price as before the tax went into effect.

In the real world, those sandwich shops and grocery stores, of course, are adjusting the retail price of sugary drinks to make up for the added cost imposed by the tax. Some of them have posted signs to inform customers why drink prices have skyrocketed.

Kenney doesn’t like that. He called those efforts “wrong” and “misleading” and suggested that it could be an extension of the expensive fight put up by soda companies, retailers, and even the city’s Teamsters Union in a failing effort to prevent the tax from passing in the first place.

How does someone this dumb-with-a-capital-D get elected, anyway?

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Hungrier in the wintertime

“Sometimes you get the Wolf,” Judge Radar noted, “and sometimes the Wolf gets you.” It was cold in the Twin Cities tonight — single digits at gametime — and the young Wolves were hungry. During most of their recent history, that hunger would go unsated. But not tonight. Down five at halftime, Minnesota flattened the Thunder 29-18 in the third quarter, Russell Westbrook failing to score so much as a single point, and in the fourth quarter, the Wolves gradually pulled away, and His Zeroness was pulled with two minutes left, having managed only a single additional bucket. Minnesota 96, Oklahoma City 86, as this six-game road trip starts off on the wrong foot.

Lots of weak points for the Thunder tonight. For one, they gave up 33 points on 19 turnovers. (Does this count as a quadruple-double? Westbrook finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds, 12 assists — and 10 turnovers.) The Thunder shot just under 39 percent, dismal by any standard, and factoring out Westbrook’s dire 7-23 still leaves only 42 percent. OKC put up 20 treys; exactly three fell. (Minnesota made five of 18.) Enes Kanter did contribute 21 points to the cause, and Victor Oladipo managed 19, but nobody else made it to double digits.

Meanwhile, Karl-Anthony Towns cranked it up to the tune of 29 points and 17 rebounds, Andrew Wiggins added 19 points, and Ricky Rubio, having discovered he can handle the ball, produced 14 points and 14 assists. The Wolves shot a decent 45 percent and missed only one of 14 free throws.

And now it’s off to relatively balmier California, where over four days the Thunder will visit the Kings, the Clippers and the Warriors. It will take at least two wins for anyone to declare a moral victory.

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Appropriate to the date

This won’t happen again until October, and possibly never again after that.

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Boost your shelf-esteem

Fourteen “Weird Al” Yankovic albums in one humongous (and tuneful!) box set:

Yes, even UHF.

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Oh, Snap

The story sounded ominous enough: Snapchat deleted the account belonging to tween singer/ukulele virtuoso Grace VanderWaal. “Whatever for?” I wondered, and then it occurred to me. And really, it should have been obvious:

Having grown up right as the internet was really becoming a thing that people of all ages used all the time for entertainment, millennials know more than most how easy it is to tell websites that want you to be a certain age that you are, actually, that age, even if you’re not. We’d like to say we learned this from alcohol websites that require you to be twenty-one because we’re cool and edgy, but honestly we learned it from Neopets and Livejournal. We’re old, get off of our lawn, etc. America’s Got Talent star Grace VanderWaal found out being famous makes it hard to spoof your age when Snapchat deleted her account for a very simple reason: She’s not yet thirteen, and that’s their age requirement. Hey, them’s the rules!

I should have caught on, knowing that Facebook believes my 18-year-old grandson to be 24 or thereabouts.

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No mat left unchewed

It’s the perfect Oregon pastime:

Back in August, we discovered potentially the perfect Oregon pastime: goat yoga. Basically, goat yoga is yoga except instead of with no goats, goat yoga has goats.

Those goats walk through the class, blending farm animal with asana. In August, Lainey Morse, owner of No Regrets Farm in Albany where the class takes place, told us, “My goats are very social and friendly animals and love to interact with people.”

“Animals are known to have so many health benefits for humans as well,” she added, “so the mix of goats and yoga seemed to fit.”

Oh, and this is what you wear to participate. If you want to, anyway.

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Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs

It had to happen eventually, I suppose:

Loren Ipsum was not available for comment.

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Unidentical twins

Received last night as comment spam:

On the other hand, a bad credit history won’t customize the rates much until you have high valued collateral to aid your buy (in the case of Secured Auto Loans). Such things as prepayment penalties, interest amounts and any other fee included will directly impact on your repayment ability. Of course, one must pay for that benefits of obtaining instant cash easily available as interest.

Seven minutes later, attached to the same post:

On the other hand, a bad credit standing won’t modify the rates much if you don’t have high valued collateral to help your buy (in the case of Secured Auto Loans). All you have to do is to fill a fairly easy application with all the details. Of course, you have to pay to the benefits of obtaining instant cash easily available as interest.

This bot apparently owns a thesaurus, but not a very good thesaurus. You can block it at 37.229.35.169.

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More mud pie, sir?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Someone really blue it

I remember griping about blue nail polish, particularly on one’s toes, thusly: “an enamel color more appropriate for minor trim pieces in a pediatrician’s office.” I think, though, that this is closer to the true demotivation:

[O]ne of my students (who worked as an orderly in an ER) talked about he could never get used to blue nail polish because … well, because of MORGUE reasons.

That would do it, yes.

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Called for icing

They keep on ratcheting up the potential damage from the impending (Thursday night through Saturday afternoon) ice storm. The higher it gets, the greater my fright level. Last Big Ice Storm, I had to be rescued from a dark house, trapped behind stacks of broken tree branches. And I was in fairly good condition back then. Today, not so much. I am seriously worried about survival here.

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