No, the other third day

The Eastern Orthodox church celebrates Easter this year, not today, but on the first of May. This is partly due to the fact that the Orthodox rite is still derived from the Julian calendar, which has been getting farther and farther out of sync with the Gregorian calendar for the last four centuries and odd. Will this situation ever change? Well, it might:

The heads of the Christian churches are close to sealing a deal to fix the date of Easter, the Archbishop of Canterbury has revealed, ending more than a thousand years of confusion and debate.

The Church of England’s Archbishop of Canterbury Most Reverend Justin Welby said the agreed date would be either the second or third Sunday of April.

He expected to make the change within 5-10 years, though he admitted that churches have been trying to agree on a date without success since the tenth century.

Archbishop Welby, Pope Francis, the Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (head of the Greek Orthodox church) are all working towards a common date, he said.

This does not necessarily portend a reunification of the separate bodies of Christianity, but it still seems like a promising development.

(Via @BethAnnesBest.)

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The JV comes to town

Gregg Popovich has rested players before, but usually not so many that Boban Marjanović actually gets to start at center: tonight four starters — Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge — plus super sixth man Manu Ginobili were given the night off. That said, the Substitute Spurs outplayed the Thunder for the first 15 minutes or so, until OKC started to get a grip on the situation, and the Thunder were up four at the half. A 35-19 third quarter settled the matter, and OKC went up 2-1 in the season series with a somewhat unsatisfying 111-92 win.

There are things Billy Donovan will not like, and one of them is that the Thunder bench scored only 22 points — and Enes Kanter had 20 of them. (Randy Foye got the other bucket; forget the other guys, especially Kyle Singler, who missed one shot and collected three fouls in seven minutes.) On the upside, shooting was a more-than-respectable 52 percent, Kevin Durant went up for 31 plus 10 rebounds, and Russell Westbrook, despite one little bout with temper that cost him a technical, threw down 29.

The Spurs, perhaps unsurprisingly, were led by two bench guys, David West and Jonathon Simmons, each with 17 points. And Andre Miller’s line — 11 points and eight rebounds in 19 minutes — is pretty darn good for a guy who just turned forty, you know? And yes, Marjanović got into the act, with 13 points and six boards. Still, you have to wonder if at least one of the chaps on the bench cringed at the debacle.

With Sunday off, the Thunder now face a road trip consisting of a single back-to-back: at Toronto on Monday, at Detroit on Tuesday. Both are playoff-caliber teams, the Pistons having fought their way from ignominy back to eighth in the East, the Raptors comfortably ensconced in second. The Clippers come to OKC on Thursday, and then it’s back to the road once more.

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Thine own self

This is the person to whom, Polonius said, we must be true. The tricky part is figuring out who that person really is.

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The Parker house rules

The least-explicable picture of Sarah Jessica Parker I’ve ever seen showed up on a fashion site — I seem to remember it was InStyle.com, but I can’t remember the context — late last year:

Sarah Jessica Parker from here down

Since the big news with SJP last year was with her shoe line, I’m thinking that shot may have been connected somehow, although there’s only one shoe in the picture, plus its reflection, and she’s not wearing it. I would have expected something more like this, from her Instagram last summer:

Sarah Jessica Parker with some of her shoes

And I have to admit, I’ve been watching her for a long time, ever since L. A. Story in 1991, in which she played a pseudoditz named SanDeE*. (Not a footnote; the asterisk is part of the way she spells her name.)

Sarah Jessica Parker from L. A. Story

That was, of course, half a lifetime ago. (SJP turned 51 yesterday.)

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Lives up to the name

After six albums for Capitol in five years, Leo Kottke signed a deal with Chrysalis in 1976 and subsequently delivered an album called simply Leo Kottke. After the lead track, a cover of the Buck Owens classic “Buckaroo,” you’d find ten original tunes. (What you wouldn’t find, alas, was any credit for the sidemen.) The one stunner in the bunch, running a mere 1:41, was called, disarmingly, “Up Tempo,” and it was exactly that.

While spinning this disk, I got to wondering how it sounded in Kottke’s live shows, and, well, now we know:

Twelve strings, no waiting.

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Quote of the week

Amanda Kerri writes for The Advocate:

Somehow we have put up some qualifiers on which political party you’re supposed to be a member or supporter of as an LGBT person. It’s somehow become the accepted norm that when a person comes out of the closet, they come out carrying old WPA posters, a yellowed newspaper saying “Dewey Defeats Truman,” and a Mondale-Ferraro button. I’m alluding to the Democratic Party, of course. To be fair, we tend to get weird about Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton, who complicate the narratives. Still, we seem to have become wedded to the idea that we are at least supposed to be Democrats as LGBT people, and to some you’re not truly “woke” on LGBT issues unless you’re slightly to the left of Trotsky. It’s odd that we think that way — that for some reason who we love or how we identify determines our attitudes about taxes, foreign policy, Wall Street oversight, and the Second Amendment.

Let me lay it out straight for you — pun intended — your sexual orientation and/or gender identity has nothing to do with what you should believe politically. It may shock you, but 20 percent of LGBT people self-identify as conservative. It goes up to 30 percent if you’re polling people over 50, but of course we all know gay people quit mattering after 40.

I did not know that. I did, however, know this:

Not everyone who falls into the conservative camp is a vile hatemonger corporate stooge, while not everyone on the progressive side is ready to cut off rich people’s heads and quote from Das Kapital.

With respect to that article, “don’t read the comments” applies particularly strongly.

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Hang them on the fridge

Not often do I see a dismissal of a new shoe quite this absolute:

Mabu by Maria BKLet’s take a closer look, shall we? Please note that this particular style is EXCLUSIVE AT NET-A-PORTER.COM.

Each pair of Mabu by Maria BK’s sandals is unique and has been made by hand in Greece. This sand leather style winds high up your calf and is woven with playful pompoms, glossy beads and coins. They’re reinforced at the sides with geometric embroidered canvas straps.

The price, $200, does not (to me anyway) seem inordinately high, unless you’re inclined to price these things by the pound; it does seem awfully insubstantial, even compared to my standards for inchoateness. I said something about “a six-year-old playing gladiator,” which brought this response: “It does look like a 1st grade art project gone awry.”

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It could only happen here

Or at least, that’s the impression we’d like to give:

A man and a horse were shot in a Thursday night drive-by shooting in northeast Oklahoma City.

About 10:20 p.m., Frederick Leon Jackson, of Spencer, and Carlos Romon Miles, of Jones, were riding their horses back from a rodeo arena, off NE 50 and Post Road, when they stopped in front of a church off NE 41 to smoke a cigarette.

Miles told police he saw a red car approach and someone in the car started shooting as the car passed by, according to a police report.

Jackson was hospitalized with a bullet wound to the calf; his horse caught a round in the upper right shoulder.

This is a pretty remote area — the Spencer post office actually delivers the mail this far out — and definitely not the sort of place you’d tend to expect a drive-by shooting. I suspect the occupants of the vehicle were, um, somewhat impaired at the time.

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In the narrowest sense

Well, it’s life, Jim, but not as we know it. For one thing, it’s exceedingly uncomplicated compared to everything else alive:

The new life is born with a jolt: A fresh genome, built from scratch with human hands, is pushed into a host cell using an electric current. One cell quickly becomes a billion, and a completely unique living organism is born.

It’s not science fiction — or even a recent breakthrough. Scientists created the first synthetic bacterium back in 2010 using this method. But in a new study published Thursday in Science, they’ve taken this proof of concept a step further. Their latest single-cell creation has what they’re calling a “minimal genome.” They’ve created an organism that has just 473 genes, the smallest known genome of any living organism. With fewer, it wouldn’t be able to sustain itself. Their hope is that bringing a genome down to its minimum components will help scientists figure out the most basic building blocks of life.

Which is not to say that they understand the functions of all those genes, even at this minimal level:

[T]heir pared-down synthetic cell — dubbed JCVI-syn3.0 — has a whopping one-third of its genes totally unaccounted for.

“There were 149 genes of unknown function. We expected maybe 5 or 10 percent. I don’t think anyone would have imagined getting down to a minimal cell with 32 percent,” [J. Craig] Venter said. Even with a cell that can barely support itself, it seems, the task of hunting out gene function will still be daunting.

The closer we get, the more mysterious things seem.

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They often call it Speedo

But its real job, at least in the 2017 Bugatti Chiron, is “marketing tool.” Angus MacKenzie reports in Motor Trend (5/16):

The speedo is analog and reads to 500 km/h (311 mph). It’s clever, subtle marketing. “The speedo doesn’t fade away when the ignition is off,” says Bugatti chief Wolfgang Dürheimer, “and so when people look inside they can see how fast the car can go, and they all will talk about it.”

This is astonishingly disingenuous, even for a Volkswagen subsidiary. The car, as delivered, won’t get anywhere close to 500 km/h. In the very same article:

The Bugatti Chiron is limited to 261 mph. It will go even faster, and for those owners who want to go to the very edge of the performance envelope, Bugatti will help them do it, either in a factory-owned car or the owners’ own Chiron, either fitted with a set of special, ultra-finely balanced wheels and tires, plus a battery of additional sensors to be monitored by factory technicians during the V-max run. And V-max is? The Bugatti boys demur, but drop enough hints to suggest 275 mph or more.

Two hundred seventy-five miles per hour is 443 km/h, which ain’t 500 unless you work for the government. And if you work for the government, you presumably can’t afford this car:

The average Chiron buyer owns 42 cars, at least one jet, three helicopters, and four houses. More than half are art collectors.

Four houses? You might as well own a hotel.

Then again, I have a long history of suspicion of speedometers.

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Eliza’s bratty kid sister

This was the plan, anyway:

Microsoft has a new artificial intelligence bot named Taylor that tries to hold conversations on Twitter, Kik, and GroupMe. And she makes me feel terribly old and out of touch.

Tay, as she calls herself, is a chatbot that’s targeted at 18 to 24 year-olds in the US. Just tweet at her or message her and she responds with words and occasionally meme pictures. Sometimes she doesn’t, though. She’s meant to be able to learn a few things about you — basic details like nickname, favorite food, relationship status — and is supposed to be able to have engaging conversations. She is intended to get better at conversations the longer they go on. But honestly, I couldn’t get much sense out of her. Except for my nickname, she wasn’t interested in learning any of these other details about me, and her replies tended to be meaningless statements that ended any conversation, rather than open questions that would lead me to say more about myself.

Getting “better” is, of course, subjective with any AI, and after an appallingly short period of time, Microsoft decided to give Tay a time out:

Okay, it might have been more than just a time out:

Microsoft has been forced to dunk Tay, its millennial-mimicking chatbot, into a vat of molten steel. The company has terminated her after the bot started tweeting abuse at people and went full neo-Nazi, declaring that “Hitler was right I hate the jews.”

Still, a warmer version of carbonite is probably not the ultimate solution:

In addition to turning the bot off, Microsoft has deleted many of the offending tweets. But this isn’t an action to be taken lightly; Redmond would do well to remember that it was humans attempting to pull the plug on Skynet that proved to be the last straw, prompting the system to attack Russia in order to eliminate its enemies. We’d better hope that Tay doesn’t similarly retaliate.

John Connor was not available for comment.

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Curiously Jazzless

The Jazz were on a roll of sorts: they’d beaten up on Houston last night, displacing the Rockets from eighth place while assuming that position themselves. But that was last night: tonight, the Thunder forced them to assume the position for the fourth time in four tries this season, and unlike the last two — two days apart in December — it wasn’t particularly close. OKC 113, Utah 91, though if the Jazz were tired, they made the effort not to look like it.

Still, this one was enough of a blowout that Josh Huestis, the bargain player of the decade — after being drafted, he was stashed in the D-League for two seasons, earning Burger King dollars — actually got minutes; after bricking a couple of free throws, he took a pass from Dion Waiters and knocked down a trey from the left wing. You might infer from this that the Big Names checked out early, and they did: Kevin Durant played just barely thirty minutes (20 points, of course), and only Waiters exceeded 29. (The Russell Westbrook line: 15-7-9. Not a triple-, or even a double-double, but heck, he was busy enough for the 27 minutes he was out there.) The Utah scoring leaders: basically, everyone named Trey. Trey Burke had 17 points off the bench, Trey Lyles 14. (Only Burke actually hit a trey.) Unfortunately for the Jazz, this loss drops them into a tie with Houston, and worse, the King Missiles own the tiebreaker and get to claim eighth.

Meanwhile, the Thunder, now 50-22, have moved six games ahead of the fourth-place Clippers; the Grizzlies are pretty solidly ensconced in fifth, but sixth is still up in the air, with Portland a game and a half in front of Dallas. Complicating matters: next home game is against the mighty Spurs, and the rest of the season, except for two visits from Angelenos (the Clippers next Thursday, the Lakers on the 11th of April), is on the road. And while winning out, thus finishing at 60-22, seems unlikely, third place in the West seems fairly secure; the Northwest championship has already been clinched.

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Epistle grip

Let us suppose, for a moment, that the second thing seen by the former Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus was a mailbox:

As I sat half-listening to the lector at Mass on Sunday morning — my mother and the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church insist that I go to at least one Mass every year unrelated to someone getting married or dropping dead — it stuck me how much of the Christian Bible, that portion the bitter clingers refer to as the New Testament, is actually mail, twenty-one pieces of first class mail, in fact. I thought this a bit odd at the time. The Buddha found the path to enlightenment while sitting under a bodhi tree, Moses got the Good Word from a bush that burned without burning, thereby causing and preventing forest fires in one fell swoop, and the archangel Gabriel had to tell Muhammad to recite three times before the Prophet finally got the point and started reciting. But Christianity? Christianity comes to us via the faith of the Apostles, the sacrifice of the martyrs, and the exertions of the Roman post office.

Which would be well to remember in case you start wondering what the Romans have ever done for us.

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Accuracy when you need it

And boy, do we need it now:

Forecast for tonight: dark

Turning to widely scattered light in the morning, as Al Sleet, your hippy-dippy weatherman, might say.

(From Bad Newspaper via Miss Cellania.)

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From the book of Romans Go Home

Monty Python’s Life of Brian turned out to be so gosh-darn amusing that several multitudes at the time, the time being 1979, assumed the film must be blasphemous, and some of them got actual form letters from Python, which closed this way:

We are aware that certain organizations have been circulating misinformation on these points and are sorry that you have been misled. We hope you will go see the film yourself and come to your own conclusions about its virtues and defects. In any case, we hope you find it funny.

This statement is not approved by the Judean People’s Front People’s Front of Judea.

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Nor will croutons help

I’ve perhaps too lightly tossed around the term “word salad,” but I’m pretty sure this piece of comment spam (picked up elsewhere) at the very least deserves a sneeze guard:

Walking quite Walking might not be actually wow play profound, But then I develop into darned when it n’t most of usually unquestionably this particular saddest movie I before set up. Subsequent you shelter, A new consistent gentleman trying to outlive one particular zombie apocalypse during the time safe guarding a little daughter child who were trapped by compact rrn a very treehouse. While doing the mission, You earn advanced one another watching kids shut off, And in addition waste really does reach an blower in certainly lovely unbearable stylish.

I figure I have plenty of examples of “certainly lovely unbearable stylish” in the picture archives around here (5300 images on site, about 75,000 on my home box). Then again, I strive to be a consistent gentleman.

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