Carrying on unbowed

A medium-sized ice storm came to town in the third week of December, causing a bit more damage than the water volume might have led us to expect. I reported at the time that “one of the twin redbuds was cut almost in half,” which turned out to be about five percent too high. Still, losing 45 percent of a tree is tantamount to losing the whole thing, so I was worried that it was a goner.

“Not yet, I’m not,” it said:

Twin redbuds

Now this tree was an anomaly in the first place: a redbud that wasn’t even red, fercrissake. This is not unheard of in Cercis reniformis, but it’s not exactly common either, another reason for hoping for its survival. This shot was taken from about 12 feet away, where you can see both white and red trees beginning to put forth their ephemeral blooms. In less time than you think, these will be replaced by actual leaves and occasional seed pods.

(Full-sized version posted to Flickr.)

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Treated like crap

Why am I not surprised that (1) this is on Fark (2) with a FLORIDA tag?

A 49-year-old woman found herself in a pile of trouble after investigators linked her to apparent human poop in an elevator at the St. Lucie County Courthouse in downtown Fort Pierce.

The case against Patricia Ann Jamison, of Lake Worth, got rolling March 7 after court security staff learned of what looked to be “human fecal matter in the corner of the left public elevator by the buttons,” according to recently released St. Lucie County Sheriff’s records.

In case you’re not familiar with the substance in question — in which case, we welcome you, our new robot overlords — it’s like this:

Feces, also known as ordure, dung, stool, poo poo and feculence, typically is found in commodes or cow pastures, as opposed to public elevators.

And, if memory serves, it happens.

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Give or take a cubit

We’re not saying that they’d all fit, but we’re saying that they’d all float:

[R]esearch by physics students suggests that a structure on the scale of Noah’s ark as described in the ancient text could have been built.

And what’s more, they say it would have been buoyant even with two of every animal on Earth on board.

Okay, you’ve gotten my attention. How does this work?

  • The dimensions for the ark were provided in cubits in the Bible, an archaic measure based on the distance between the elbow and the tip of the middle finger.
  • Noah was commanded to make the boat out of ‘gopher wood’ and in order to calculate the weight of the empty ark they needed to know the density of the material the boat was constructed out of, but there is no modern-day equivalent of gopher wood.
  • English translations of the Bible refer to cypress wood instead, so this was the material that the students used.
  • In order to calculate the overall downward force of the ark, the students needed to know the mass of the animals on board; previous research has suggested that the average mass of an animal is approximately equal to that of one sheep, 23.47kg, which was the figure used.
  • “Our conclusions were that the ark would support the weight of 2.15 million sheep without sinking and that should be enough to support all of the species that were around at the time.”

Still unexplained: why Noah didn’t swat those frickin’ mosquitoes when he had the chance; and dammit, you expect unicorns to be smarter than that. Or at least I do.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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Not a serif in sight

Apparently I’m not the only person who thought Ariana Grande was a Windows font. She’s actually a young singer/actress who did three years on Nickelodeon’s series Victorious and has released one album, Yours Truly. She might look all of her twenty years — maybe — in this shot from Nick’s Kids’ Choice Awards last weekend:

Ariana Grande on Nickelodeon

The best track off Yours Truly, I think, is the retro-sounding “Baby I,” which supposedly was originally written for Beyoncé. Grande does well here, with only a couple of seconds of Mariah Carey-ish caterwauling.

Retro-looking, too, I suppose.

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Some renaissance this is

The Friar drops in at Norman’s Medieval Faire, and spots a rolling anachronism:

A local TV station’s “storm chaser” truck and weather frou-frou display, because heaven knows we don’t have enough reminders that we’re entering storm season in Oklahoma and that if we watch some other channel we’re all going to die.

The least they could do is give the guy — they never seem to send the women for some reason — a proper broadsword.

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Point and whatever

What could be handier for today’s electronic musician?

This is yet another Kickstarter that’s drawn my attention; I have no discernible musical talent, or so I’ve always believed, but just the idea of this puts me in Rapt Fascination Mode.

Of course, if I were a musician:

Most of us on our small team are musicians who are tired of being stuck behind computer screens, keyboards, faders, knobs, and buttons to make our music. We feel there could be a better way that is more like the experiences we have with traditional instruments: using the dexterity and mobility of the human body.

And, as Roberta X notes, “The UI options are huge.

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Lots and lots of red glare

Is there something in the Thunder playbook that says “Start out slow”? Once again, OKC fell behind early — 14-4 early on, 43-29 with five minutes left in the first half — and had to play catchup. Fortunately, by now they’re good at it, and the Thunder led Houston 84-82 after three quarters. But the Rockets evened it up quickly, aided by a sieve-like Thunder perimeter defense — if Houston wasn’t actually getting the treys, they were getting free throws — and pulled away in the last few minutes, winning 111-107, clinching a playoff spot, and avoiding the season sweep.

The man of the hour, unsurprisingly, was James Harden, whose 9-22 shooting was pretty decent, but whose performance at the stripe won it: The Beard was 17-20 on free throws. The entire Thunder team was 18-20. Remember what I said about the Oklahoma City perimeter defense? Harden cashed in big on both ends. And when it wasn’t Harden, it was Chandler Parsons (23 points, 10-11 from the stripe); Terrence Jones and Omer Asik combined for just over half of Houston’s 45 rebounds.

Weirdly, both teams had 45 rebounds, and both teams were 13-31 from three-point land. In Russell Westbrook’s absence, Reggie Jackson mostly acquitted himself well, with 17 points, seven assists, and only a couple of “WTF were you thinking?” moments. Steven Adams, starting in the middle while Kendrick Perkins rests up, rolled his ankle; this meant that most of the night, Serge Ibaka was playing something like center. And Serge was up to it; he hit 11-17 for a career-high-tying 27 points, reeled in nine boards, and swatted six shots. Kevin Durant, on the other hand, was having a bad day, at least by Kevin Durant standards: 28 points — that’s 40 games in a row at 25 or more, so scoot over on the bench there, MJ — albeit only 7-19 from the floor, six assists and 12 rebounds. Caron Butler led the bench with 13. (The entire Houston bench — Kevin McHale played only three reserves — had 14.) Jeremy Lamb, ostensibly the player from whom Butler was taking minutes, did show up for 22 tonight, 5-8 for 12 points.

This of course drops the Thunder to 3½ games behind San Antonio with seven to play. But I tell you what: if the seeding at the end is the same as the seeding tonight, I’d much rather play Dallas (#7) in the first round than Memphis (#8).

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Bank error in your favor

ATMs are not known for their generosity; in fact, they can be obstinate and obtuse, which surprisingly is not the fault of Windows XP.

But sometimes Things Happen:

This all started at one in the morning, when officers were called to a TD Bank branch on Maine Mall road. A transient was inside the bank sleeping beside the ATM. Officers went inside and moved him along. But, he came back.

At 5:30 in the morning, a woman waiting to use the ATM in this bank called police to report a man spending an unusual amount of time at the ATM. When South Portland police officers drove up, they saw this same homeless man inside filling a shopping bag with cash from the ATM. How much? It turns out it’s more than $37,000 in cash.

We can safely assume this sum exceeded his available balance:

[A police lieutenant] says the man used his bank card to withdraw $140 from his account, but then kept going. And the ATM just kept giving him money.

The cops returned the funds to the bank, which shut down the machine remotely; no charges were filed against the customer.

(Via Consumerist.)

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Tour preparation

This year’s model of the AIA Architecture Tour is a week from Saturday. Barring catastrophe, I will be there, as I have been every year since 2007.

Ticket acquisition is a bit different this year. In the past, I’ve just gone to their site, invoked PayPal, and a couple of days later a letter would come back with a pair of tickets enclosed. This time, they sent encoded PDF files which I’m supposed to print out and then exchange at any tour stop for proper tickets. This presents no problem, really, but I’m wondering if this is simply a way to save money on postage, which isn’t at all a bad thing, or if there’s some other motivation at work.

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Quote of the week

The first truth about sex, says the Nightfly, is that it unites people:

Physically this is indisputable; as one moves through the physical to the mental and spiritual, it becomes easier to hide and mislead on this basic fact, but couples themselves know better. In fact, sex is often enough the result of couples who catch each other’s attention for other reasons. In situations where the physical is the primary motive, these other motives for spending time together frequently arise; those couples without these other bonds nearly always dissolve. Sex also frequently leads to couples preferring each other to anyone else, and both expecting and promising exclusivity — a thing that could not happen if the physical bond were the only one to consider, since there are always times where one or both partner is unavailable sexually. Also, sexual attraction naturally leads to people pairing off in as beneficial a match to themselves as they can arrange: not necessarily where the greatest sensual delights lie, either. Nor is satisfaction in a lover’s relationship exclusively gauged by those couples as the greatest degree of physical sensation. And it all leads to family units that people are willing to defend to the death against all comers. A happy home is something worth protecting, and not surprisingly people will speak up about and oppose proposals destructive to that happiness — whether the family or the proposal are liberal or conservative. People with families to protect unite across political and social strata to do it.

Of course, there are those who resist the very idea of progressing to the spiritual:

This is a major protection from all the other nonsense peddled as alternatives to healthy and fully-realized humanity. Society can hardly be remade along statist or Marxist lines with that sort of thing going on. Thus the major thing to do is to destroy families … a tricky proposition.

Then again, if you’ve promised your heart to the state, at least you’ll have a chance to be faithful: no one worth having will stand in your way.

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Notice the quilting

It’s a Northern exclusive:

Original or Ultra Northern Bath Tissue

There are, of course, alternative products. Consider, for instance, the recommendations of François Rabelais’ infamous (and hefty) Gargantua:

Once I did wipe me with a gentlewoman’s velvet mask, and found it to be good; for the softness of the silk was very voluptuous and pleasant to my fundament. Another time with one of their hoods, and in like manner that was comfortable; at another time with a lady’s neckerchief, and after that some ear-pieces made of crimson satin; but there was such a number of golden spangles in them that they fetched away all the skin off my tail with a vengeance. This hurt I cured by wiping myself with a page’s cap, garnished with a feather after the Swiss fashion. Afterwards, in dunging behind a bush, I found a March-cat, and with it daubed my breech, but her claws were so sharp that they grievously exulcerated my perineum. Of this I recovered the next morning thereafter, by wiping myself with my mother’s gloves, of a most excellent perfume of Arabia. [He continues in this vein for several pages.] But to conclude, I say and maintain that of all arse-wisps, bum-fodders, tail-napkins, bung-hole-cleansers and wipe-breeches, there is none in this world comparable to the neck of a goose, that is well downed, if you hold her head betwixt your legs: and believe me therein upon mine honour; for you will thereby feel in your nockhole a most wonderful pleasure, both in regard of the softness of the said down, and of the temperate heat of the goose; which is easily communicated to the bumgut and the rest of the intestines, insofar as to come even to the regions of the heart and brains. And think not that the felicity of the heroes and demigods, in the Elysian fields, consisteth either in their Ambrosia or Nectar, but in this, that they wipe their tails with the necks of geese.

(Original ad pronounced a “good buy” at Bad Newspaper. No geese were harmed in the preparation of this article, unless François wasn’t kidding.)

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Nemesis unbound

Oklahoman sportswriter Anthony Slater came up with this startling statistic this morning: “Since the Thunder flipped the script back in late May 2012, San Antonio is 2-9 against OKC and 129-41 against everybody else.” Narrowing it to this season? “0-3 versus OKC and 59-13 against the rest of the league.” And yet the Spurs are still perched semi-comfortably on top of the Western Conference. The Thunder’s job, of course, is to make that perch less comfortable, and starting late in the second quarter, they did superbly well at doing exactly that, outscoring the Spurs 32-20 in the third quarter and keeping San Antonio off balance the rest of the way. The final was 106-94, and you have to figure Pop is relieved that the Spurs are in the Southwest and some years only have to play the Thunder three times.

How thwarted were the Spurs? Tony Parker wound up 3-10 for six points. Tiago Splitter, a good shooter for a big man, was 1-5 for two. Some slack was picked up elsewhere — Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan turned in 17 points each, and reserve guard Patty Mills came up huge with 21 on 8-13 including 5-7 from out by the canal. And the Spurs did enjoy a slight advantage rebounding, 42-39.

But San Antonio still has no answer for either Russell Westbrook, who stayed in for 31 minutes and knocked down 27 points, or for Reggie Jackson, who paced the bench with 14. And then there’s that Durant fellow, who came up with 28, the 39th time in a row he’s had at least 25. (There were a few “MVP” chants from the crowd, but not enough, if you ask me.) Kendrick Perkins was back, vacillating between stony silence and exercising the jawbone: he and Duncan got offsetting technicals early on.

Tomorrow night in Houston. Westbrook is supposed to have the night off. Patrick Beverley’s torn meniscus will keep him out, though he won’t be needing surgery, and Dwight Howard is sidelined with ankle issues. This could go all sorts of ways, though the scoreboard ultimately will show one of two.

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Now get down there and look busy

James Lileks contemplates life from the skyway above the street:

It’s a whole new world up there on the second floor — which annoys the planners, because they want everyone to be down on the street, for the sake of Vitality. This way you get more shops on the street level, and people are strolling and looking in the shop windows, something mentioned in each-and-every story I ever read about new urbanist ideas. Ideally people should live six blocks from work, walk on the sidewalk to work, pause twice en route to work and twice on the way back to examine the goods in the window, and then return to their home on the 23rd floor.

This will not happen downtown and it will never happen downtown, because there’s the skyway culture above. It will happen in outlying neighborhoods, where there aren’t skyways, and the residential complexes form actual neighborhoods. But the priests of The Street will continue to pound away against the skyway and for the model of Paris or New York. Which are wonderful: who doesn’t like window-shopping in New York? But that’s a city with the inherited density of a century and the population of the entire state of Minnesota.

The same is true here. They want New York, but in the convenient Home Version: open the box, put this over here, put that way back there, and garnish lovingly with pedestrians. This resembles the real New York hardly at all, but that doesn’t matter: the point is to be able to show off to people from Portland or Omaha or Charlotte.

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Perhaps she thought it was easy

Or maybe it was the only tool she had:

The Carter County [Tennessee] Sheriff’s Office says a substitute teacher is behind bars after allegations surfaced that she stapled three students at Central Elementary School. The incident happened Monday, according to Sheriff Chris Mathes.

Deputies arrested Alisha Lynn Cook, 43, of Elizabethton and charged her with three counts of simple assault Tuesday afternoon. According to Sheriff Mathes the victims were physically stapled by the substitute teacher.

This is why she’ll never climb above substitute status: for a full-time gig, you need to learn how to use duct tape.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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U can’t watch this

One of the great mysteries of contemporary life is how, as Springsteen put it, there seems to be 57 channels and nothing on. This is explained, I think, by the concept that they seek to cover every conceivable demographic except yours:

[T]here’s the “channel for men” (or so it used to be called), the channel for teens/twentysomethings, the LGBT channel, a couple kids’ channels, a tween channel. I wish there were a “middle aged spinster channel,” but I suppose we don’t count demographically. And anyway, what would they show? Programs about cats? (Maybe Hallmark is actually the middle-aged spinster channel, now that I think of it). I just wish there were still a channel that actually showed educational programming that was actually educational. PBS does sometimes, though most of the daily block here is taken up with kids’ educational shows rather than ones aimed at adults. I also wish HGTV still occasionally showed quilting or crafts shows, instead of just the “couples arguing over what home they want to buy” programs. (Why are so many programs now about conflict? I have enough conflict and arguing in my day-to-day life that I want something just kind of soothing for my entertainment.)

And of course you have to pay for all 57 of them, even the ones you wouldn’t watch if you were stuck on a desert island and nothing else was within range. Beyond that, there are additional tiers of service, presumably called that because when you see what they do to your bill you will weep.

Then again, I’m old enough to remember A&E as the Arts & Entertainment Network, which occasionally provided entertainment and once in a while some actual arts. And nobody would dare program like this anymore:

Among the programs broadcast on SPN were Video Concert Hall, an early music-video show (before the launch of MTV); News from Home, a program for Canadians in the US, hosted by early CNN news anchor Don Miller; The Shopping Game, a Nicholson-Muir game show produced in Nashville and hosted by Art James; The Susan Noon Show, featuring celebrity interviews; Nutrition Dialogue, hosted by Dr. Betty Kamen; Sewing with Nancy; and Moscow Meridian, a current-affairs program produced by Soviet authorities and hosted by Vladimir Posner. Reruns of old situation comedies and movies, mostly from low-budget studios, rounded out the schedule.

The Satellite Program Network, to give it its full name, was born in 1979; its rotting corpse is still operating as CNBC.

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It’s always 306.7 somewhere

Gee, and I thought it was because she was, um, smart:

[T]he iconic librarian’s desexualizing dress and hairstyle was intended to allow her to move freely and invisibly through the male public sphere. Under the conquering gaze of the man-as-dominator, though, this desexualization only serves to highlight the sexuality thus contained. Just as the North African woman was assumed to know secrets of pleasure far beyond those of The West (secrets worthy of being hidden), the sexy librarian is seen as not just a woman underneath, but a super-sexual being, a “freak”, a “wild one”. She is a prize to be taken, a treasure to be captured, an exotic animal barely tamed beneath her bun and shapeless cardigan.

If I’ve learned anything in a lifetime — and I’m prepared to argue that I haven’t — it’s that looking at the cover is at best a half-assed way to judge a book.

(We will not discuss the highly fictional dalliance with a librarian that I wrote about a couple of years ago.)

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