Just an illusion

“Motown at its most mystical,” Dave Marsh wrote a quarter-century ago:

Ruffin wakes up in a bottomless pit of orchestration, and recounts a bad dream about his travels in “this land of broken dreams,” which he says means lack of romantic love but which everybody who’s ever heard him understands to signify something a lot more disturbing and universal.

That would include yours truly:

[M]aybe it’s just what John Mellencamp ascribed to those two American kids, Jack and Diane: “Life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone.” And, of course, if the thrill is gone, we’ve finished up Jimmy Ruffin’s record, and moved on to B. B. King’s.

Jimmy’s own record ground to a halt this week in a Las Vegas hospital. He was 78.

And because Gerard Van der Leun would have wanted it that way, here’s Joan Osborne’s Ruffin cover, eminently worthy in its own right.

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Unsatisfactory crap

It wasn’t a fresh idea, exactly, but it filled a perceived need:

On-demand fecal delivery (or “shit-tech”) is one of the hottest sectors around. And leading the way is Shit Express, whose super-simple elevator pitch is that for $16.95, or 0.05 bitcoin, it will anonymously send a piece of shit to someone on your behalf.

You might think “That’s some expensive shit.” And it is carefully packaged, including a slip of paper containing a gentle rebuke. But it misses out on one quintessential component:

[T]he thing that makes shit so supremely offensive isn’t just the fact that it came out of someone or something’s asshole. It’s the smell. And so I had to unseal the Tupperware, not only to verify to the best of my ability that it really is shit, but also to determine how powerful an insult this gift really was.

One sniff. Nothing. Hmm maybe the odor-causing chemicals and bacteria of the manure need a minute to steam off. Two more big inhalations and still nothing. According to other testimonials, the shipments gave off an appropriately unpleasant barnyard stench. It certainly looks like manure, and to be honest, it’d be a lot harder to fake manure than to just buy some from Home Depot or wherever. But it would seem that my delivery came from a bad batch of perhaps over-aged manure.

Could distance have been a factor? This parcel was shipped from Slovenia to Brooklyn. (Slovenia? “What did they put on the customs form?” asks Consumerist.) Anyway, this particular steaming pile proved to be, um, insufficiently steaming, suggesting an area where the company may need to work on its quality control.

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It can’t happen here

You know, if Scott Brooks could get decent performances from even six of his ten actual players, the Thunder surely would have a record better than 3-10. (A Tulsa woman on Twitter invoked the painful memory of 2008-09, which began 3-29.) But it didn’t happen in Denver, where the Thunder, down 17 at one point in the third quarter, mounted enough of a rally to pull within three late, only to see the Nuggets nail back-to-back treys, one by Wilson Chandler, one by Arron Afflalo, and squelch what was left of the Thunder’s hopes. Denver 107, Oklahoma City 100, evening the season series at 1-1.

Contrast: Sebastian Telfair, who didn’t miss a shot all night (7-7, 4-4 on treys, 18 points), and Reggie Jackson, who missed a lot of them (5-20, 0-3 on treys, 6-6 free throws for 16 points). Speaking of not hitting treys, Anthony Morrow went 0-4, and Andre Roberson, in limited minutes, was 1-4. Serge Ibaka had a good night: 22 points, 13 rebounds. Jeremy Lamb had a not-so-good night: 8 points. Kendrick Perkins spent more time in the middle than did Steven Adams, but neither was as much of a factor as Timofey Mozgov, who not only guarded the lane but scored 17 points from close in.

Four of five starting Nuggets hit double figures; Kenneth Faried, the one who didn’t, did grab ten rebounds to go with his eight points. Chandler led Denver with 21 and nine boards; Ty Lawson served up 15 points and 15 assists. Denver didn’t drop below 50% shooting until the very end, and finished with 49. (Thunder shooting was not awful: 46%, and 10-23 on treys, though they’re 6-19 if you factor out whatever alchemy was sending Telfair’s long shots into the cylinder.) There is, however, one Telltale Statistic: OKC blocked zero shots. None. Not Ibaka, not Collison, not nobody. Explains some of that highfalutin’ Denver shootin’, don’t it?

For what it’s worth, during the annus horribilis that was 2008-09, OKC got its fourth win on the 31st of December. It shouldn’t take that long this year. Then again, “shouldn’t” is a word one shouldn’t use in connection with sports.

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We got scrutiny

The twice-yearly examination of the auto-insurance bill discloses a premium increase of $4.50, broken down as follows:

  • Liability (injury): up $1.60.
  • Liability (property): up $1.30.
  • Uninsured motorists: no change.
  • Comprehensive: no change.
  • Collision: up $1.60.
  • Road service: no change.
  • Rental reimbursement: no change.

Total discounts were up a buck.

Once again, the single largest item on the bill is the uninsured-motorist coverage, which approximately 75 percent of drivers in this state carry. (The other 25 percent don’t carry any coverage at all.)

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Eaker than thou

The City of Durant has been requesting proposals for runway improvements at Durant Regional Airport-Eaker Field, south of town. What they want is an overlay on the existing 17/35 runway, to improve its surface, and to extend it beyond its current 5,001 feet. Nothing is planned for the secondary runway, 3000 feet, oriented 12/30. Proposals are due in tomorrow.

Historical note: Ira Clarence Eaker, who attended what was then Southeastern State Teachers College in Durant, was commissioned in December 1917, and 24 years later got his first star and a job organizing the VIII Bomber Command in England, later the Eighth Air Force. As commander of the Eighth, he delivered an address to the British garrison, including this pithy sentence: “We won’t do much talking until we’ve done more fighting. After we’ve gone, we hope you’ll be glad we came.” The character of Major General Pat Pritchard in the 1949 film Twelve O’Clock High is based largely on General Eaker. He died in 1987, aged 91.

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Possibly freezing it off

The only time I’ve ever had a fuel line freeze, I was in KCTV’s home town of Kansas City, so I sort of understand the metric:

I didn’t have heated seats back then, either.

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Early turkey

Surely you knew this was coming:

Ah, domestic sub-bliss.

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Bebopped on the head

Seven minutes into the second quarter, the Thunder owned a 39-22 lead over the Jazz. It was all downhill after that: Utah finished the half with an 18-3 run, outscored OKC 32-17 in the third quarter, and opened the fourth with an 8-2 run. Faced with a 19-point deficit, the Thunder did what they’ve done most often this season: rallied to make up a fraction of it. The Jazz won it by 17, 98-81, with all five starters in double figures and a 55-44 rebounding edge. Not going to pieces when the going is rough is a decided advantage, wouldn’t you say?

For the victorious Jazz, Alec Burks posted a game-high 20 points, and while he was at it gathered 14 rebounds. Enes Kanter scored 16, retrieved 15; Trey Burke scored 17 and served up nine assists. No real monster numbers here: just attention to the fundamentals. Meanwhile, OKC shot a subpar 36 percent and bagged 35 percent of their treys, seven points behind the Jazz on both counts. (Neither side did very well at the stripe, just under 70 percent.) Jeremy Lamb had a respectable night with 19 points, Steven Adams slid by with 11, Reggie Jackson struggled to 10. But this was the night that Lance Thomas would outrebound Serge Ibaka, 8-6. (Both scored six points.) And only one player hit all his shots tonight: Kendrick Perkins, 4-4 for eight points. Were it not for Nick Collison’s newfound 3-point prowess — he hoisted five, actually made two — well, do the math.

And there are, I suppose, worse places to be than 13th in the West. (Under five feet of snow in Buffalo is one of them.) But there’s no point wasting time in contemplation: it’s off to Denver, where the Nuggets are enjoying similar levels of disappointment so far this season. Four home games follow, one of them against these same Jazz.

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Whatever suits him

I admit to laughing at this:

Angered by the sexism he saw being heaped upon his female colleagues — and attempts to downplay it — Australian news reader Karl Stefanovic decided to conduct an experiment.

He wore the same blue suit on air, two days in a row. Then three. A month ticked by without a ripple.

Now, a full year has passed — and he is still wearing the same cheap Burberry knock-off, every morning, on Channel Nine’s Today program.

Not a single audience member has asked about it, he says. Fashion commentators and other media also seem oblivious. Yet co-host Lisa Wilkinson still receives regular and unsolicited fashion appraisals.

My particular interest, however, is not so much in exposing sexism where I find it — and believe me, I find a lot of it — than in recalling a bit of ancient history.

Back when I was on an assembly line of sorts in the early 1980s, I had learned lots of snark, not quite so much discretion. There was this proto-metrosexual type who wandered into the work unit on a regular basis, said something we couldn’t hear over the racket, and wandered back out again. For four days running, he wore, yes, a blue suit. I’d noticed on day two; on day three, I was perplexed; and on day four, I vowed to do something.

On day five, he showed up in a brown suit, and I blurted out, “Hey, I see you dyed the blue suit!”

I have no idea where that line came from; I’m guessing some cable comedy series. But my timing was impeccable, and amazingly, I was still working there four years later.

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Her Majesty takes a spin

The idea of Royalty Having Fun might run counter to our expectations, perhaps because we’ve never had a royal family of our own, despite decades of media attempts to simulate one. For some reason, this pair of shots of Queen Máxima of the Netherlands gave me a silly grin, and I pass them on to you. The event is the 2013 opening of a park in Utrecht named for Her Majesty, last seen here resplendent in orange but on this date doing that color-block thing to considerable advantage:

Queen Maxima prepares to meet her subjects

And then this happened:

Queen Maxima on a bicycle

Be warned: the usual click-to-embiggen works here, but we’re talking 2 to 4 megabytes. Each.

Still awaiting final resolution: the question of cycling while wearing heels.

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The first thousand years are the hardest

And by “thousand,” I think I mean “eighty”:

Charles Paul Brown wasn’t supposed to die.

He was supposed to live forever, along with disciples in a half-dozen countries all over the world who embraced his philosophy of physical immortality.

But Brown died in October of complications from Parkinson’s and heart disease, according to the website for People Unlimited, the group he began in Scottsdale more than 30 years ago. He was 79.

The community of immortals he founded is left without its figurehead — and with an apparent contradiction to reconcile. Yet its leaders continue to conduct business as usual, collecting thousands of dollars per year in fees for monthly meetings, retreats and coaching that they say lead to the secret to unlimited life.

The secret, of course, is not dying. If you can pull that off — but that’s not happening. If you can stretch out your days, fine; I keep hearing that massive increases in human lifespan are imminent, and I’m betting that some of them actually show up the day after I’m gone. But unless the laws of physics are somehow screwed, entropy bats last.

Perhaps needless to say, the late Mr. Brown’s group isn’t the only one with an interest in the topic.

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This would seem to go without saying

Nonetheless, it was said:

Jonathan Gruber was not available for comment.

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Bring out the Musketeers

3 Musketeers barThe legendary 3 Musketeers bar, reconfigured and downsized many times since its humble beginnings in 1932 — hint: there’s a reason for the “3” other than the obvious literary reference — may be threatened, along with most of the rest of the candy bars on earth, for the simplest (and scariest) of all reasons. To put it bluntly, we may be running short of chocolate:

Two global chocolate giants, Mars, Inc. and Barry Callebaut, are warning that global demand for one of the world’s most popular commodities will outpace supply by one million metric tons by 2020, Bloomberg reports.

Is there growing demand? Yes, but there’s also a supply issue. More precisely, there’s another supply issue:

As CBS Moneywatch reported last month, Ebola has been the most recent culprit. West Africa produces nearly three-quarters of the world’s cocoa — with the nations of Ivory Coast and Ghana responsible for 60 percent of that supply. Those nations’ proximity to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone — the current epicenters of the Ebola outbreak — have fueled worries that the virus could ultimately stall production, and trigger another spike in world cocoa prices.

Meanwhile, the existing supply issues continue:

The lack of rain has continued to wreak havoc on crops in Ivory Coast and Ghana. That means smaller, lower-quality cocoa beans that must be processed more to produce the same amount of chocolate.

The International Cocoa Organization estimates that pests and diseases — with menacing names like Witches’ Broom and Frosty Pod Rot — have cut up to 40 percent of global cocoa production.

“Frosty pod rot” doesn’t sound that menacing. But both those ailments come from similarly destructive fungi: Moniliophthora roreri for a case of the frosties, and M. perniciosa for witches’ broom. And having looked at a list of diseases that attack cocoa, now I wonder how I ever managed to get a single Mr. Goodbar.

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If I may horn in for a moment

Miss Swift’s experience as a unicorn being somewhat limited, I must point out that it really depends on what you’re used to and what shape your head is in:

DJ Pon3 wearing a headset: I'm all about that bass cannon

(Original by ezoisum.)

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All about that guilt reflex

At least twice a day something like this comes up:

Yahoo Answers screenshot:<br />
Will my parents come to know about my net history from the MTS internet bill?

Oh, you poor, porn-obsessed adolescent!

Actually, they’ll probably figure it out the moment you come down with a malware infection from chasing down stuff you thought was “free.”

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The return of the winter blues

Does this time of year actually suck, or is it just me?

Addendum: A second opinion:

Snow and inclement conditions aside, I think winter gets a bad rap. Believe me, I’m the first to complain when I am forced to grab a plastic shovel and dig my way to freedom. However, if you take away the ice, snow, and slush, winter can be a lazy person’s ticket to paradise. Although it may appear that I am trying to find the silver lining, trust me when I say: I lean more towards lethargic than evolved.

I’m definitely down with that latter point.

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