A hard day at the office

I might have expected something like this on Black Friday, but not on the following Monday:

An employee of Walmart in Ada faces felony charges after allegedly setting two fires in the bathrooms at work Monday morning.

Police say Lois Smith, 49, lit a fire in the trash can of the women’s bathroom and lit another fire in the trash can of the men’s bathroom.

Says the police spokesperson:

“[W]hen confronted she said that yes she had done it, that she was stressed out at her job and was upset so she started the fires.”

There are four degrees of arson in this state; this will be at most second-degree. (First-degree requires that the structure burned be an actual residence, and that it be 85% destroyed.)

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Sick as the nearest canine

About 8:30 this morning, it hit.

“It” may be a rhinovirus, or it may be something much worse. I’m not planning on something worse, mind you; but anything that keeps me awake at night is horrible by definition, and the longer it takes for me to drift off, the more likely I’ll pray for eternal surcease.

In one of God’s little jokes, I have an actual medical appointment scheduled for tomorrow. (I figured that CFI Care — not its real initials — would be jacking up the rates at the end of this month, and indeed they are: copays will rise up to 17 percent, and the annual deductible is now $5,000. I didn’t get the usual handout, but I suspect the base rate for this gold silver bronze pyrite policy is now up over $6,000 a year. It could be worse; and I expect it will be next year. And no, I qualify for no subsidies.)

Then again, if it actually kills me — well, something had to at some point.

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One step sideways, two steps back

My reaction to the latest redesign at Consumer Reports: meh. I figure it’s yet another milepost on the way to “Read our Web site, you jerk.” But that’s a fairly mild reaction compared to this:

I am not a particularly great fan of infographics-for-the-sake-of-being-infographics or big splashy things with large numbers or images and very little text. I GET that apparently most people have acquired an attention-span-destroying parasite and so they must be catered to (apparently), but the design is really ugly and it took what used to be a fairly useful magazine and now it just makes it so slick.

“Slick” as in “oil spill,” I’m guessing.

Oh, there’s an infographic at the link. Because reciprocity.


Because BlueHawks wasn’t happening

The announcement that the Oklahoma City RedHawks of the Pacific Coast League will be renamed “Dodgers,” what with the team being part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization — common ownership, and there’s a farm-club deal in place — did not go over well on Twitter, although some of us tried to temporize:

One common argument was that there is no history of dodging here in the Big Breezy. I demurred:

I don’t think this mollified anyone. Meanwhile, owners of the Iowa Cubs were not available for comment.

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Unsuit yourself

After a successful trial run, a naturist club in Buckinghamshire is planning to have skinny-dipping days for the general public:

Diogenes Sun Club in Shire Lane, Chalfont St Peter, will open its heated indoor pool on Saturdays, January 10, February 21 and March 7 from 7pm to 9pm.

The club has 300 members; if they should add a few more as a result of this promotion, they’re surely not going to complain.

Pre-booking is essential at www.diogenessunclub.co.uk. Entry is £5 for adults, under 18s must be accompanied and go free.

This pool of theirs is surely a far better vessel than the clay wine jar the original Diogenes the Cynic (c. 412-323 BC) is supposed to have used for a home.

(Via Nudiarist. Exercise discretion when clicking on some of these links.)


All about that face (no hijab)

Sıla Şahin, twenty-nine today, is a Turkish-German actress who has spent the last five years on the German soap opera Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten — more or less, Good Times, Bad Times, which could be the subtitle of any of a hundred soaps worldwide. You probably should not assume anything from her Muslim-sounding name.

Sıla Şahin in white

Sıla Şahin at a fashion show

A bit of controversy erupted when Şahin appeared in a pictorial for German Playboy (she was even on the cover [NSFW]) in 2011. News reports ran something like this:

A Turkish Muslim model appears naked on the May issue of Germany’s Playboy magazine, sparking debate in the country over Muslim women and sexuality as well as causing a rift with the model’s conservative family.

The Turkish German model, Sıla Şahin, had been living in Berlin and starring on the German television soap opera Good Times, Bad Times. In many ways, she had been an example of how a “well-integrated Turkish German should behave.”

Playboy’s German editor Florian Boitin pointed out some minor details:

“Sila isn’t Muslim. Her father doesn’t belong to any [religion] and her mother is Christian [sic]. And the Playboy cover with Sila Sahin is not a religious statement,” Boitin told FOX411.

Boitin continued to explain that as Editor in Chief he believed there was every reason to put Sahin on the cover to cater to a specific demographic within Germany.

Three million Muslims, half of whom presumably wanted a peek?

Şahin defended her appearance as one of those “freedom” things, though she probably didn’t help her cause by invoking the name of Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

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It’s the Rio deal

An observation by Annemarie Dooling: “You know you go to Brazil too often when your autocorrect goes Portuguese.”

For instance:

Just took some saudades and ate soup ... Sudafed

I looked at that, and darn near cried:

Saudade is a word in Portuguese and Galician that has no direct translation in English. It describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing may never return. A stronger form of saudade may be felt towards people and things whose whereabouts are unknown, such as a lost lover, or a family member who has gone missing, moved away, separated, or died.

And in those circumstances, no amount of Sudafed can help.

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Sea birds on glass

In fact, you couldn’t keep the Pelicans off the glass tonight: they rebounded seemingly at will, and when they weren’t rebounding, they were passing the ball all over the place, and when they weren’t passing the ball all over the place, they were collecting free throws. Fundamental stuff, but that’s how this game is played. “How was this team 7-8?” I was thinking as the fourth quarter blew by with New Orleans firmly in command, a position they’d been in since overcoming an early six-point Thunder lead in the first and rushing to 40 points in the second — a 12-0 run in two minutes — for a 69-52 halftime lead. As close as OKC would get after that would be five; the Pelicans win it 112-104 in the Big Easy.

The free-throw situation, said radio guy Matt Pinto, was exacerbated by some “horrific” officiating. The Birds took 45 foul shots, making 29; the Thunder were 23-27 from the stripe. But worse, I think, was OKC’s reversion to the two-man game: the starters scored only 56 points, and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook had 48 of them. One doesn’t expect points from Andre Roberson; one does expect, however, more than six from Serge Ibaka and more than two from Steven Adams. The bench acquitted itself decently, with Reggie Jackson checking in with 17 and Jeremy Lamb with 15; for Lamb, who is usually much better at home than he is on the road, this was definitely a plus.

But at the end, the most Durantean figure on the floor was not Durant, but New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, whose line included 25 points, ten rebounds, and six steals. And Davis wasn’t even the high scorer; that would be Tyreke Evans, who, upon seeing OKC within five in the fourth quarter, scored on the next three possessions. He finished with 30. Double-doubles for Jrue Holiday (16 points/10 assists) and sixth man Ryan Anderson (23 points/11 boards). How is this team only 8-8?

Next game is Friday at Philadelphia. We’re supposed to believe that any middle school in town can beat the Sixers. Doesn’t mean a thing, I assure you.


Unpleasantly steamy

The exhaust from Toyota’s new fuel-cell car, the Mirai, consists of water vapor and heat. I’m pretty sure nobody was thinking “Hey, water vapor! Let’s condense it and have a drink!” If anyone was, however, Toyota advises otherwise:

Automotive News reports the 2016 Toyota Mirai’s exhaust — consisting of water vapor and heat — may have “much fewer organic impurities” than milk, per the FCV’s fuel stack power generator designer, Seiji Mizuno, but what impurities the byproduct does have depend on what passed through the stack in the first place:

“Depending on the place you are driving, some parts of the world might have certain issues, such as organisms like E. coli, which could be hazardous to your health. You never know what the quality of the air intake is.”

Then again, knowing Toyota’s tendency to keep beavering away at these things, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see a fuel-cell Sienna with an actual water fountain somewhere down the line — and customers griping about having to have the filter changed every 30,000 miles.


Stuck in the sticks

From the “There must be something someone can do about this” files:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: ISP is charging a ridiculous amount for my internet what can I do?

My dad is paying $45/mo for 1 Mbps… Tier 2 speed is 2 Mbps at $49.99, tier 3 is 3 Mbps at 59.99, tier 5 is 5 Mbps at $135, and tier 6 is 6 Mbps at ******* $190.00!!!! I live in a rural area and this is pretty much the only ISP around. Is there anything I could do other than having to move or switch to satellite? Because this is so unfair, there should be laws against this. This is a monopoly so they have no reason to upgrade their infrastructure.

If there exists anywhere on earth an ISP that is undercharging, we’d certainly like to know about it.

In the meantime, if it’s truly a ridiculous amount, the least we can do is to ridicule it. (Fairness, of course, is not a factor, as it usually isn’t.)

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Is this worth Brownie points?

The Girl Scouts of America will be selling cookies online:

[T]he online sales program has only been rolled out in select areas, according to The New York Times, but the plan is to go national come January. So that’s one awesome way to start the new year.

Along with their practice of selling the cookies door-to-door and to your mom at her workplace, Girl Scouts will now be able to use a “Digital Cookie” to sell boxes online. It sounds like a cool mix between a cookie app, and a cookie website, where Girl Scouts can create their own page to reach friends and family.

“Girls across the country now can use modern tools to expand the size and scope of their cookie business, and learn vital entrepreneurial lessons in online marketing, application use and e-commerce,” Sarah Angel-Johnson, who is in charge of the new digital cookie approach, told the Times. That’s actually kind of awesome when you think about the business lessons these young girls will be learning well before they even reach high school.

I can see giving the girls an app to take orders — that piece of cardstock they’ve been carrying since the French and Indian War is as low-tech as you can possibly get without falling back on cuneiform — but I can’t help but think we’re losing something here.

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Half an anchor

Lett’s reply: “Look! I have no legs.”

This has to be a first: a female television anchor with no legs.

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A definite lack of curves

According to urban — or maybe rural — legend, one mile in every five of the Interstate Highway System is perfectly straight, so it can be used as an emergency runway for aircraft. (The Federal Highway Administration begs to differ.) A one-mile straightaway is no big deal, though: it’s not enough to get hypercars like the various Bugatti Veyrons up to top speed, and, based on my own road-trip experience, it’s not enough to put you to sleep.

At the other end of the spectrum, on the other side of the world, there’s this:

Imagine a drive, a thousand miles long with no turns or bends, across a vast featureless plain with repetitive landscape, and hundreds of kilometers between towns and service stations. That’s Eyre Highway, the road that connects Western Australia to Southern Australia via the Nullarbor Plain, a flat and treeless, giant bed of limestone 200,000 square kilometres in area. With no hills or lakes to obstruct, the highway was laid down as a straight road that runs for 1,675 km from Port Augusta in the east to Norseman in the west, and includes what is said to be the longest straight stretch of road in the world: 145.6 kilometres, between the small roadhouse communities of Balladonia and Caiguna.

The very name “Nullarbor” tells you how many trees you can expect, give or take a few.

While in the East you still find some towns like Kimba, Wudinna and Ceduna, the western three quarters is almost devoid of life. This section lies almost entirely on the Nullarbor Plain. The typical view is that of a straight highway and practically unchanging flat saltbush-covered terrain, although some parts are located on ridges. Spread throughout the length of the highway at approximately 200 km to 300 km apart are roadhouses providing basic services such as fuel, food, refreshments, accommodation and repairs, but not all are open 24 hours.

About this time of year, the Nullarbor seems almost inviting, at least to me, partly because it’s still spring for the next few weeks, but mostly because there’s not much of a crowd.

Oh, and there’s this:

Because of its remoteness, some sections of the Highway serve as emergency airstrips for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. These airstrips are signposted and have runway “piano keys” painted on the road, and turnaround bays for small aircraft.

You definitely won’t see that on the likes of I-35.

(Via The Presurfer.)

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Never need to doubt it

Pitchfork once claimed that the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” was the single best song of the 1960s, which would be startling only if it weren’t true. Herewith, some minor factoids concerning the song:

  • Only one of the Beach Boys — Carl Wilson, who also sang lead — actually plays on the track: he’s on twelve-string guitar.
  • Paul McCartney said it was his favorite song, period.
  • There’s a vocal version of it in the videogame Bioshock Infinite.

The BBC “Impossible Orchestra” version, recorded as a charity one-off in October, has detractors, like this guy in the Independent:

With its message, that the BBC “owns” the entire musical waterfront and licence-fee payers would do well to remember that, it is the kind of propaganda film an autocratic regime sensing that its legitimacy is crumbling might produce.

By which I infer that he’d be just fine with it had it come out on Channel 4 or ITV.

But the hell with that noise. It’s a stirring rendition of a seriously beautiful song, and I don’t care how preposterous the presentation might be.

You’re excused if you didn’t recognize Pharrell without a hat.

(Previous “God Only Knows” discussion here.)

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I remember this scheme

I spotted this on the back of Parade yesterday:

If your loved one is currently taking twice-a-day Namenda tablets, ask the doctor about transitioning to once-a-day Namenda XR.

Namenda (memantine) is recommended for, as Wikipedia says, “managing Alzheimer’s disease,” and by “managing” is meant slowing the clinical deterioration associated with the disease, since there is no actual cure.

Still, a once-a-day capsule would seem to have only marginal benefits over a twice-a-day tablet, but … Never mind. I might have known:

Forest Laboratories wants more people to use its once-daily version of Namenda. It is, after all, the formula launched just last year, the one that theoretically stays on patent till at least 2025. So, it’s planning a “forced switch.” Forest will discontinue its original Namenda pill in August, pushing current patients onto Namenda XR — and hoping they won’t bother to switch back when generics appear next April.

A third option, an oral solution, remains available for the moment.

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My back pages

Once I’ve posted something, I never, ever want to see it again — unless I do.

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