Improper use of force

The Thin Blue Line gets thinner, but better:

The Oklahoma City Police Department has fired an officer accused of rape and other misconduct last year.

Daniel Holtzclaw was arrested in 2014 in the parking lot of Gold’s Gym in northwest Oklahoma City… Police say Holtzclaw stopped women, threatened them and made them expose themselves and perform sexual acts. He pleaded not guilty to 36 counts of sexual assault.

An example:

One alleged victim was a 44-year-old woman who says Holtzclaw pulled up next to her, found a crack pipe, and told her “you know you could go to jail.” She says Holtzclaw then forced her to perform oral sex.

The Department has made public the letter dismissing Holtzclaw [pdf], which contains this statement by Chief Bill Citty:

Your offenses against women in this community constitute the greatest abuse of police authority I have witnessed in my 37 years as a member of this agency.

Words unminced.

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Not one mention of vodka

The derisive term “Safety Nazis” has yet to make any headway in Russia, but their regulators are even wackier than our regulators:

Russia has listed transsexual and transgender people among those who will no longer qualify for driving licences.

Fetishism, exhibitionism and voyeurism are also included as “mental disorders” now barring people from driving.

The government says it is tightening medical controls for drivers because Russia has too many road accidents.

I can see wanting to put the voyeurs and the exhibitionists on the bus — maybe even the same bus — but trans people? Are they mistranslating the term as “transit”?

“Pathological” gambling and compulsive stealing are also on the list. Russian psychiatrists and human rights lawyers have condemned the move.

In other news, there are psychiatrists and human rights lawyers in Russia.

(Via Jen Richards, who quips: “I have both the poor driving skills of a woman and the aggressive rage of a man. Please stop me from #drivingwhiletrans!”)

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Don’t blame Canada

Usually when it gets this cold, I start grumbling about the Great White North and the denizens therein for their failure to keep the damn cold air where it belongs, somewhere in the general vicinity of Baffin Bay.

I am told that this time, anyway, the stuff is coming from much farther away:

The cold comes courtesy of this wobble in the polar vortex, which is enabling pure, Arctic air from Siberia to migrate across the North Pole, head south across Canada, and cross the border at high speed — like a tourist without a passport. The Arctic invasion is occurring in the wake of a phenomenon that is well-known to temporarily destabilize the polar vortex, which is a sudden stratospheric warming event.

The unusually cold air mass is rotating around Hudson Bay, Canada, with spokes of frigid air descending into the U.S.

I guess the Russians should be grateful that their Arctic air is “pure.”

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It’s Deb, Jim

The disappearance of one-time mall stalwarts continues apace:

[A]nother mall staple is putting down the store gate for good: Deb is liquidating and closing all 295 of its stores.

You know, Deb. That store where you tried on a bunch of prom dresses but ultimately didn’t buy any of them. Or maybe that was me.¹ The chain was still in existence and almost 300 stores strong, but sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection at the end of 2014. Without a buyer, the company will close all of its stores and liquidate.

And actually, it’s not just Deb; dELiA*s is dead, and Wet Seal is shedding two-thirds of itself. This is not to say that retail targeting teens is in irreversible decline, but there seems to be a serious squeeze-out going on.

¹ [It wasn’t me.]

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The paper gets pricier

An unsigned letter from the circulation department (I assume) at the Oklahoman:

You will note that subscription rates are slightly increasing this renewal period. The increased rates are the result of the economic realities associated with publishing a newspaper 7-days a week that contains quality investigative journalism, like our coverage of the problems at the Department of Human Services, along with the extensive information we provide each day about community news, sports & events.

Has to be circulation: nobody on the news side of the business writes with so little flair.

“Slightly,” incidentally, is just over 11 percent. Then again, without going through a box of bank statements, I couldn’t tell you the last time they raised the rates, so it’s not like the price is suddenly spiraling out of sight.

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Bacteria put on notice

The major problem with antibiotics, as you know, is that the biotics are actually alive, and therefore evolve; bacterial strains with the greatest resistance to the drugs survive, and eventually resistance becomes the rule rather than the exception. (Viruses just laugh at antibiotics.) The result: a continuing need for new antibiotics. Unfortunately, creating new antibiotics in the laboratory isn’t especially simple or particularly inexpensive.

So when you find one out in the yard, it’s a big deal:

Scientists have discovered an antibiotic capable of fighting infections that kill hundreds of thousands of people each year, a breakthrough that could lead to the field’s first major new drug in more than a quarter-century.

The experimental drug, which was isolated from a sample of New England dirt, is called teixobactin. It hasn’t yet been tested in people, though it cured all mice infected with antibiotic-resistant staphylococci bacteria that usually kills 90 percent of the animals, according to a study published [Tuesday] in the journal Nature. Bacteria appear to have a particularly difficult time developing resistance to the drug, potentially overcoming a major problem with existing antibiotics.

Magic bullet? Not really. It’s not by any means a universal treatment:

The drug worked best against what are known as gram-positive bacteria, which have weaker cell walls and includes streptococcus and MRSA. Gram-negative bacteria have stronger walls and include pathogens such as E. coli.

Teixobactin was also able to successfully attack drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis, which is neither clearly gram-positive nor gram-negative. The researchers are working on adaptations to make teixobactin effective against gram-negative cells as well.

There are hurdles yet to come. Said the nearest microbiologist with whom I’m on speaking terms:

I’m not really impressed by the latest news that a new antibiotic has been discovered. Tell me again once it passes human clinical trials… In that paper, they tested their new antibiotic against lab strains rather than bacterial strains isolated from patients.

And if it’s ever going to be approved for human use, those clinical trials are a must.

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A couple of grand

Which is kinder than the more obvious answer:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Whats the difference between a 4 CYL AND A 6 CYL?

It’s just a darn shame that Volkswagen quit sending us five-cylinder cars.

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When it’s good to be the Kings

Sacramento, which has not been enormously successful against Oklahoma City in recent years, tonight managed to leverage these two possibly unrelated circumstances: a hitherto-unnoticed ability to draw fouls in mass quantities, and some downright clumsy play by the opponents. Multiply by the turnover differential, season with Michael Cage intonations of “Tough call,” and the Kings take a surprisingly easy win, 104-83.

As Royce Young put it ¾ of the way through: “Never seen the Thunder quite this discombobulated.” At the 3:45 mark, Scott Brooks opted to empty the bench; the Kings followed suit shortly thereafter, and life went on at subsonic speeds. The Thunder, who shot 31 percent against the Warriors night before last, managed to bring that up to almost, but not quite, 33 percent. Sacramento defense was okay, but not brilliant; OKC simply went through long periods of inability to buy a bucket. Kevin Durant was 8-20 (24 points), and that was one of the better showings: Anthony Morrow was 3-12 (8 points), and newly arrived sharpshooter Dion Waiters was 1-9 (4 points). To be fair to Waiters, who is widely considered to have next to nothing in defensive skills, he did come up with a block and a steal. What I want to know, though, was who was that wearing Russell Westbrook’s jersey? Westbrook himself would never tolerate 3-19 from the floor.

By general agreement, Sacramento has three starting scoring threats, and all lived up to their reputations tonight: both Rudy Gay and Darren Collison were 9-19 from the floor; Gay, who hit all three of his treys, finished with 28, and Collison, 5-10 from outside, with 24. In the middle was DeMarcus Cousins, who did not shoot well — 6-23 — but who still scored 23 while pulling down 15 rebounds and sinking 11 of 13 foul shots. And treys mattered: while the Kings shot only 39 percent, they knocked down 10 of 19 three-pointers. (The Thunder, should you ask, went 9-30.)

About the only good thing about this horrific road trip is that it’s only two games long, and therefore over. The Jazz will waltz into OKC Friday night, followed by a truly scary back-to-back: at Houston on the following Thursday, and back home to face the Warriors again. By then, perhaps, someone will have taught this team some offense, and it won’t be Josh Heupel. Meanwhile, I cede the last word to Royce Young: “The Thunder are 0-2 with losses of 26 and 21 since trading Lance Thomas. I think you can read between the lines here.”

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It’s crummier in the colonies

Having never stopped off in the UK to buy sweets, I wouldn’t have thought of this. A English journalist in Las Vegas started it off:

If you read the whole thread, you’ll hear that the American version of an English candy — like, for instance, Skittles — will be “always nasty in comparison,” and American Nutella is apparently something to be avoided.

[insert vague “spotted dick” reference here]

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One would certainly hope so

You may actually need this service more than you think:

We are a full laundry service that includes free pickup and delivery. Yes, you read correctly. Full. Delivery. Laundry. Service. No half jobs here! We will pick up your messy, wrinkled, and dirty laundry. All you have to do is throw them into a large bag(s) and schedule a pickup online or give us a call. We will come by and pick up your items. At our discussed delivery time, we will then return your items washed, folded and smelling fresh; all at a low rate.

And, as noted, no poop stains. The rate, at this writing, is a buck and a quarter per pound; there is a 30- to 60-lb minimum load depending on where in Los Angeles (hey, I know from 310) you happen to be. The driver does have a scale, but here’s a rule of thumb:

13 gallon (home) trash bags full of random clothes such as jeans, shirts, towels, and shorts … each bag weighed approximately between 10-13 lbs. So, roughly 2-3 full bags should typically meet our minimum in certain areas.

More than you’d spend feeding a laundromat, probably; but your time is worth something, is it not?

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A bigger Coach

There exist tags on this site for both Coach and Stuart Weitzman, which makes it almost mandatory for me to incorporate the news that the two brands are moving in together:

Footwear fanatics, rejoice: Two of your favorite labels are joining forces. In the latest fashion move, Coach has signed an agreement to purchase the Stuart Weitzman brand in a transaction valued at $574 million, WWD reports.

This is Coach’s first acquisition, and perhaps it was a wise one:

[F]ounder Stuart Weitzman and the existing management team will continue with the company to oversee the brand’s operations, working closely with Coach’s team to breathe new life into their designs.

This is not the first time Weitzman’s sold a business: after the death of his father, Weitzman and his brother sold the family shoe biz to a company in Spain. Twenty years later, Weitzman bought it back.

And maybe this is just me, but I tend to think of Coach as primarily a bag company with a shoe line on the side, so the combination of Coach and Weitzman seems to make a bit more sense than it might otherwise.

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Love is grand, divorce is several grand

I suppose that at first it really didn’t sink in that Harold Hamm, big wheel at Continental Resources downtown, offered his ex-wife a divorce settlement of just under a billion dollars; anything over about fifty thou strains my comprehension. And I’ve certainly never written a check anywhere close to that, let alone to this:

Settlement check from Harold Hamm

This was the exact amount of the settlement specified by the court in granting the divorce, but she says it’s inadequate:

[Sue Ann] Arnall, a former Continental executive who was married to Hamm for 26 years, contends that her award of around $1 billion in cash and assets was inadequate and allowed Hamm to keep the lion’s share of a fortune her lawyers valued as high as $18 billion.

Harold Hamm had already paid his former wife more than $20 million during the divorce proceedings.

Hamm’s appeal contends that the $1 billion award was too steep. Hamm has lost billions tied to the value of his 68 percent stake in Continental in recent months, which his legal team blames on the sharp fall in oil prices.

Um, technically “the lion’s share” is the whole ball of wax, lions being generally unwilling to share. And no doubt Hamm’s lost a fair chunk of change in the current oil bust: market cap for CLR has dropped to about $12 billion, which means Hamm’s equity in the company is a hair over $8 billion. Still, were someone to hand me a check for a billion dollars, I don’t think I’d fuss — once it cleared, anyway.

And frankly, I think it’s weird to see that sum literally written out.

Update, 8 January: She’s changed her mind and will take the $974 million.

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Mr. Lonely 2.0

Some will see this with Brianna Wu’s name on it, and assume she’s trying to trash some guy. From the looks of it, though, he’s done a pretty good job of trashing himself:

Let’s face it, calling your target market “stupid whores” is not likely to result in any sales, if you know what I mean.

Neither Chad nor Tyrone could be enticed into leaving a comment; I assume they’re out on dates.

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I has several Sads

There exists a Twitter application called Sad Tweets, which doesn’t play a trombone or anything, but does give you the definite sense that you’re wasting your time:

The concept: Connect the application to your Twitter account, and it presents you with a lowlights reel of your attempts at “sharing” that attracted no likes, and no retweets.

In short, it’s “a graveyard for your most depressing Twitter failures,” as my colleague Jason Gilbert put it earlier this year. And despite his (rather depressing!) wish that the service would expand to allow users to peruse other people’s sad tweets, for now it remains purely a mechanism for self-loathing.

And if there’s anything I need, it’s another mechanism for self-loathing.

I have somewhere upwards of 57,000 tweets; fewer than half of them were starred or retweeted, so I was pretty sure I’d have quite a horrifying display. Which I did; I gave it up after about six minutes simply because I couldn’t deal with it anymore.

“Another brutally descriptive name, which probably is as it should be,” says Nancy Friedman. She’s right; I very likely wouldn’t have looked at the site if they’d made an effort to soften the blow.

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Just Gopher it

There was an awful lot of Internet to be had before the World Wide Web, which dates to the early Nineties. But using it wasn’t the slightest bit intuitive, since everything needed either a properly configured terminal, a gateway from some online service, or a dedicated client. (That said, you can still get Gopher plugins for some Web browsers.)

One could argue that today’s wild and woolly Web is a step down from those halcyon days, and such an argument might begin this way:

The Internet has proven itself to be a place where any idiot can post anything he wants (I mean, look at this blog), and some other idiot will find it and agree with him. I long for a day that may never have existed in the first place, where the Internet was simply a repository of scholarly information about legitimate subjects. I look at the purity and innocence and wonderment with which my son has discovered it, and I remember my first internet searches in the library of Dublin Scioto High School in 1995. It was like finding the world’s greatest microfiche catalog.

Of course, in 1995, the Web had started to catch on, um, world-wide, a process that wasn’t even slightly accelerated by the opening of this site the following year. And, well, there were other factors:

Of course, being that I was seventeen years old in that library in 1995, my first web search ever was for “Pamela Anderson.” I then waited approximately ten minutes for a picture of her in that legendary red Baywatch bikini to load on my screen. It was a glorious day.

I may as well admit that I snagged a few pictures — GIF, of course, — from the barely raunchy Go Graphics forum on CompuServe, almost a decade earlier.

Which, in the end, proves that just having access to an encyclopedia won’t make anybody smarter. Teenaged boys will still look at pictures of girls in bikinis (or less). Old maids will still take pictures of cats. Twentysomethings living in their parents’ basements will still find ways to play RPGs. The Internet has just allowed us to be who we already were on a much grander scale. It hasn’t changed us. It’s magnified us.

Sometimes I think it’s engulfed us.

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Nor does she sweat

Every time I find myself thinking I might be just a little bit strange, I stumble across something like this subreddit devoted to Taylor Swift’s armpits.

The person who created the subreddit has now departed, but now that the Daily Dot has run an article about it, said founder is now speaking up:

Just for a bit of background the sub was created after someone posted a photo of Taylor in /r/taylorswift that had a nice shot of her armpit. I made a comment about how it looked nice and was subsequently banned for “being a creep is not tolerated” So I figured why not make a sub. I posted all the original links (which is why for the first few months of posted they are all by [Deleted] as well) and advertised the sub in relevant other posts. And so the sub grew. I routinely delete my reddit account and start a new one so as to not allow too much info to be displayed on one account.

Since when is “being a creep” not tolerated on reddit? There are some places where it’s mandatory.

And it’s not like this is the only body part of hers that has overly zealous fans: as one commenter noted, “Pretty much every (visible) part of Tay has a sub devoted to it!”

I realize that bringing this up without an actual sample of the wares is an unreasonable thing to do, so here’s a nicely revealing shot from the 2014 AMAs:

Taylor Swift at the American Music Awards

I didn’t check to see which other Swift-related subs might have the same picture. I did fish this one out of the archives, in which she gives the impression that she knows you’re looking under her shoulder and isn’t going to let you:

Taylor Swift in a 2009 London photoshoot

But I do try to keep all my obsessions balanced, so here’s a bona fide, ponified Tay.

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