Archive for General Disinterest

Resetting the Scrutinizer

I almost called this “Totality Achieved,” since I wrecked my car this summer, and Unblinking Insurance declared the ancient Japanese sled a total loss. Unwilling to accept this verdict, I reacquired the vehicle from them and had the appropriate body repairs done.

I puzzled for a while as to what I should do with my existing insurance policy: obviously there’s no point in continuing to pay for collision coverage, but the other coverages are likely to cost more, because — duh! — I’d just had a wreck. And this week, when the renewal arrived, I judged it to be pretty much a wash: for the next six months I’ll pay an extra $60. If this sounds like a lot to you, you probably aren’t carrying the absurd level of coverage I do.

Usually this is the point where I detail how much each component of the policy went up or down. But inasmuch as this event constitutes a major change, the new numbers are, in my view, no longer statistically significant. So I’m declaring a new baseline, and we’ll see what happens in May. For the moment, I’m grateful for not having being dropped entirely.

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Waiting for the Traveling Salvation Show

First there was Sean John Combs. At some point he became Puff Daddy, then simply Puffy; later on, he declared himself P. Diddy, eventually truncated to Diddy.

Lot of names for a young man. And on his 48th birthday, he changed once more:

I’m not saying this won’t last long: past performance is no guarantee of future results. For the record, though, he’s still @Diddy on Twitter — for now.

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These are not lazy circles in the sky

“The cactus is our friend,” sang Maria Muldaur in “Midnight at the Oasis.” Not if you’re a hawk who happened to get stuck:

I’m trying to imagine the editing job it took to get this down to less than a minute forty. “We got 99 seconds, and this bird” — well, you get the idea.

(Speaking of editing, or the lack thereof, our Bird Healer tosses several F-bombs and such, which are duly reproduced in the captions. You have been warned.)

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Aaaand… it’s gone

Old Kosciuszko Bridge, born 1939, died 2017

This was the old Kosciuszko Bridge, connecting Brooklyn and Queens. (The first span of its replacement was opened this past spring.) By the time you read this, all that remains will be a whole lot of rubble.

At noon yesterday, this announcement was made:

Tomorrow, 10/1, the NYS Department of Transportation will conduct an implosion of the old Kosciuszko Bridge between Brooklyn and Queens. The work will involve the use of explosives and will consist of warning sirens followed by a loud explosion at approximately 8:00 AM.

Motorists and pedestrians should expect traffic disruptions in the immediate area surrounding the bridge beginning tonight at approximately 10:00 PM. In addition, traffic on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway over the new Kosciuszko Bridge will be temporarily stopped in both directions shortly before and after the implosion. Please use alternate routes on Sunday, 10/1 if possible.

How it will be done:

It will be demolished using a process called energetic felling, which requires the placement of little charges at key joints on the bridge so that when the charges go off, the bridge breaks apart and falls directly down. The pieces will then be dismantled and removed.

About 22 million pounds of steel from the demolition will be recycled as scrap metal, according to [Governor] Cuomo’s office.

The old bridge, opened in 1939, was designed for 10,000 vehicles a day. When it closed this past April, it was somehow carrying 180,000.

(Via Kevin J. Walsh.)

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The tale of the Giant Rat of the Solomons

It’s a Rodent of Really Unusual Size:

Though researchers working in the Solomon Islands have suspected the existence of the vika for two decades, the rat found by [Tyrone] Lavery and his colleagues John Vendi and Hikuna Judge is the first specimen recorded by scientists. They spotted it scurrying out of a felled tree, and judging by the shape of its skull, could tell that it wasn’t like other species of rats native to the area. Before its discovery, Lavery had spent so long looking for the elusive rat that he was beginning to think that maybe the children’s rhymes and folk songs referencing vika were just referring to regular black rats.

But his first instinct was correct. Uromys vika is more than four times the size of a regular rat, measuring about 18 inches long. It lives in trees, and its teeth are strong enough to crack into coconuts, chewing circular holes in the shells to reach the meat inside.

This is enough to cause nightmares. Me, I’m looking for dreams without so much rat in them.

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Less than wily

This young coyote was in the wrong place at the wrong time:

And, well, they couldn’t just leave him there.

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You otter know

A recent mental floss piece on underrated dog breeds includes these uncommon hounds:

Soon, the Otterhound may join the ranks of the Paisley Terrier and Braque du Puy as an extinct dog breed. Fewer than 1000 of the rough-coated hounds are presently accounted for, making the breed rarer than the Giant Panda.

Their origins can be traced back to Medieval England. During that time, most English families relied on stream-caught fish as a dietary cornerstone. Any decline in the local fish stock could spell disaster for entire communities — so, naturally, carnivorous river otters weren’t too popular. Enter the Otterhound. Bred with webbed feet and powerful tails that could act as rudders, the dogs were great amphibious hunters. Also, their keen sense of smell made them expert otter-trackers. (Other traits are less utilitarian: Many keepers have commented that otterhounds have a habit of sleeping with all four paws in the air.) When the English government banned otter-hunting in 1982, the breed became scarce and its long-term survival is now very uncertain. As owner Betsy Conway put it to The New York Times, “You’re talking about an ancient breed that no longer has a job.”

Here, Ms Conway shows you one of these critters:

I’ve seen only one Otterhound in my entire life, and that was a quarter-century ago. Six of them made it to Westminster this year.

Of the 189 breeds currently recognized by the American Kennel Club, the Otterhound ranks 160th, meaning there are 30 breeds even rarer, at least according to their records. Of the three at the bottom, two are foxhounds, in American and English versions. You don’t see a lot of fox hunting these days, either.

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Back into the light

A post-eclipse statement from Lynn:

I have something to say to all those people who made a point of declaring their lack of interest: Nobody is impressed with you and nobody cares what you think. Just shut up and go on with your sad, pathetic little lives and leave the joyful people alone.

So there.

I did watch some of the coverage on TV. It was nice to have a couple of hours when the country was focused on something besides politics. And you know, we could do that on any day — focus on something else, at least for a while. Most of us ignore the common, everyday wonders. Our sense of wonder and joy in nature are only awakened when a rare event occurs but there are wonders all around us all the time. I know that sounds like a cliche but it’s true and if we don’t, at least occasionally, slow down and enjoy those wonders we are not much different from those pathetic people who felt compelled to tell everyone that the eclipse was not a big deal.

If you don’t stop and smell the roses, what are you going to do when there are no roses?

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Outlaw to lead the police force

Danielle Outlaw from her days in the Oakland PDPersonal choice of the Mayor of Portland, Oregon, in fact:

Mayor Ted Wheeler today announced that he has selected Danielle Outlaw to become the next Chief of the Portland Police Bureau.

Outlaw is a 19-year veteran of the Oakland Police Department, where she served as a Deputy Chief since 2013. Outlaw will be formally introduced at a press conference on Thursday, August 10.

This file photo shows her in the uniform of the Oakland PD, in fact.

During the selection process, Mayor Wheeler emphasized the qualities he wants in a police chief, based upon the principles of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The Mayor selected Outlaw based on her ability to provide leadership and supervision to over 950 sworn and 270 non-sworn employees, to work effectively with diverse communities, and to lead an organization committed to community policing, transparency and accountability.

I read her bio, and she served in several positions in the Oakland PD before being named Deputy Chief. I have every reason to think she’ll do a fine job, and I wish her well.

But needless to say, I’m not going to pass up an opportunity for a post title like this.

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Our chief weapon is annoyance

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition in the self-checkout line

And not one of you had better try to give her rack a turn, either.

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Live deadbolt

“I should have changed that stupid lock, I should have made you leave your key.” — Gloria Gaynor, “I Will Survive”

Here’s how to do the first part of that:

How you persuade someone to leave a key presumably comes much later.

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The length of a dog’s memory

It reaches from the tip of his tail to the very end of time, and back again:

If there’s a lesson in this, it’s that none of us, human, canine, or whatever, is a blank slate; we are the product of what we have done and what has been done to us.

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Reptile dysfunction

Actually, there’s nothing wrong with your iguana; it’s just your time of the month. Dr. Beth Breitweiser, a veterinarian at All Wild Things Exotic Hospital in Indianapolis, explains to Broadly:

“We recommend you don’t handle male iguanas during menstruation,” warned Breitweiser. While iguanas are usually very calm pets, they have been known to attack their owners that are menstruating. Breitweiser attributes these attacks to their owner’s changed pheromonal odor and the iguana’s characteristic stoicism that makes the reptiles hard to read. “Because they’re stoic, you can’t really tell if iguanas love their owners. I have anecdotal evidence that they love their owners, such as when they change colors or recognize their owners,” Breitweiser explained. “But some get males aggressive for whatever reason with these different pheromone levels. Especially if you’re at eye level.”

And “aggressive” may be just the beginning:

In Male Iguanas in Breeding Season and Human Females by Melissa Kaplan, author of Iguanas for Dummies, we learn that not only do iguanas attack menstruating women, but they also attempt to mate with them. Kaplan explains that some iguanas have special organs that can detect a menstruating woman’s hormones, and that these abilities might lead them to feel they’ve detected a mate: their unsuspecting female owners.

Scary stuff, this.

(Via HelloGiggles.)

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The password is “beans”

Public-service announcement from Jeff Faria on Facebook:

PSA: Wikipedia sez don’t stuff beans up your nose.

Remarkably, they do sez that:

In our zeal to head off others’ unwise action, we may put forth ideas they have not entertained before. It may be wise not to caution against such possibilities. Prophylactic admonition may trigger novel mischief. As the popular saying goes, “don’t give ’em any ideas”. In other words, don’t give examples of how to cause disruption (e.g., don’t click on this link or you’ll crash Wikipedia) because this may will actually tempt people to do it.

This principle even works with no nose at all:

This was the second hit by the Singers, who’d charted earlier in 1964 with “Don’t Let the Rain Come Down (Crooked Little Man).” It made Top 30, barely.

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Seriously, we do not discriminate

A local medical group sent me a flyer on behalf of one of their member physicians, who apparently is taking new patients. I was curious enough to pull up their Web site, and across the very bottom was the de rigueur Notice of Nondiscrimination. And by gum, they want you to be able to read it:

Lots of languages

You’ll probably have to embiggen it — click on it to blow it up to twice the size — to read all of those. My browser blew off the Burmese, rendering it as a row of ten squares. And the Cherokee entry is not rendered in the standard Cherokee syllabary, but in a phoneticized version. I guess I’m surprised they didn’t give us a version in Esperanto. (Not that we have any native speakers of Esperanto in the neighborhood.)

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Déjà scrutiny

Six months ago, I got my newly-increased auto-insurance bill; five months ago, I was advised of a decrease (by $24.70) in the semiannual premium. I figured the next time around, they’d raise it back to the previous amount.

Well, they didn’t. It’s just the same as the final version of the last bill. It’s still a trifle pricey; but then, being a defensive person by nature, I tend to load up on the coverages.

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Go Generics!

Daytime television has long counted on trade schools to fill up commercial slots, and of late I’ve been seeing spots for something called National American University, a name I assumed was chosen for the sake of sheer vagueness. Apparently this is not at all the case:

National American University was established in 1941 as a one-year secretarial school by Clarence Jacobson. It was called National College of Business and was located in a downtown Rapid City building. In 1960, Jacobson had the building that now houses administration for the Rapid City campus constructed at 321 Kansas City Street and moved National College to that location.

In 1962, NCB was acquired by Harold D. Buckingham and members of his family. Shortly after the Buckinghams purchased the school, a period of growth began which led to the construction of the classroom buildings, dormitories, a library, gymnasium, and an auditorium.

NCB was granted collegiate accreditation as a junior college by the Accrediting Commission of the Association of Independent Colleges and Schools in 1966. Senior college accreditation was granted in 1970.

Onward and upward:

In 1985, NCB earned accreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and in 1997 the university name was changed to National American University.

NAU has several remote campuses, including Wichita and Tulsa. The name, however, still sounds seriously generic, as though they were trying to get away with something, and some people resist the idea of for-profit schools on general principle. Probably why the stock is sitting around $2.50 and market cap around $60 million.

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Tru enough

Just across town:

Hilton spent about $4 million on this 86-room facility, five miles north of Will Rogers World Airport at 802 S. Meridian. The target market, apparently, is the Millennial on a budget — and aren’t all Millennials on a budget?

Picture a Quality Inn or a Comfort Inn with a makeover along the lines of an Ace hotel, without the hipster restaurants, and you may have Tru by Hilton, which features bright colors, a lobby designed with areas for eating, playing games, working and lounging and efficiently designed guest rooms.

“The rooms got smaller and the lobby got bigger,” said Phil Cordell, global head of Hilton Worldwide’s focused service brands, highlighting the social aspects of the new concept.

About those rooms:

The goal was to create rooms of 228 square feet with “clever” bathrooms. The brand uses platform beds instead of box springs and uses a landing zone where guests can place their luggage and hang their clothes rather than a dresser. Hilton realized that they could shrink the width of the room from the typical 12 feet to 10 feet because typically the TV cabinet would take up 2 feet, but with flat screen TV’s the space could be spared. The desk … to be used is a portable chair attached to a table allowing the guest to use the chair wherever they want in the room.

The Tru by Hilton in McDonough, Georgia was the first to break ground, but the Oklahoma City location is the first to open. And on Day One, yes, there was a food truck out front:

Right on target.

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Their reputation notwithstanding

Really, cats are nice:

Thanks to new research from Oregon State University, published on Friday in Behavioural Processes, there is scientific evidence that cats are, according to empirical study, nice. In fact, the study concluded, cats like interacting with humans more than they like eating food. Let that sink in: more than food. I don’t like anybody more than food.

The motivation for the study was to apply cognitive tests that have already be tried out on dogs and tortoises on cats, in order to clear up some misconceptions around cats’ bad reputation for being unsociable.

“Increasingly cat cognition research is providing evidence of their complex socio-cognitive and problem solving abilities,” the authors wrote in the paper. “Nonetheless, it is still common belief that cats are not especially sociable or trainable. This disconnect may be due, in part, to a lack of knowledge of what stimuli cats prefer, and thus may be most motivated to work for.”

I wonder if this sample is large enough:

The test took 50 cats both from people’s homes and from a shelter and deprived them of food, toys, and people for a few hours. Then, researchers presented the cats with different stimuli within four categories: human socialization, food, scent, and toys.

The researchers concluded that there were no significant differences between the homed and the shelter cats, and that most cats preferred human socialization to any of the other categories. Half of the cats preferred social interaction to every other stimulus type, while only 37 percent preferred food.

This suggests that if you’re in a position to feed a cat, you’re in what Red Barber used to call the catbird seat. Now make with the Meow Mix already.

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Curly bracket

She wandered into the shop and asked if we’d filled out our brackets yet. We hadn’t, and said so.

Shortly thereafter, we arrived at the truth of the matter: she wanted to play, but her knowledge of college hoops was right up there with my fluency in conversational Urdu. “I’d just pick them at random,” she wailed. As practicing members of Guydom, we were expected to be conversant in all aspects of sportsball, but she’d never had the time or the inclination.

In other words, she was the opposite of this March Madness stereotype:

Folks who know diddly about basketball opine on the relative merits of teams they have never seen play a single game. These so-called experts lament the inclusion and exclusion of marginal teams, each of which one could make an argument for and against.

I accepted a sheet from her, and then proceeded to just pick them at random. (Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad. And I will divulge how badly I failed shortly after I do actually fail.)

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More mud pie, sir?

Newspaper clipping about Ryan DirteaterIn the Oklahoman’s seemingly interminable notes of everything conceivably connected to last night’s OKC Thunder/Memphis Grizzlies game, I found this little squib without the least bit of snark, which tells me that this is no laughing matter:

Seldom does a day pass when bull rider Ryan Dirteater isn’t asked if that’s his real last name.

“They think it’s fake,” he said. “It’s ironic that I’m a bull rider. You don’t want to eat dirt. But it is my real last name. I grew up with it.”

Dirteater might be a cool last name for a cowboy, but it was ripe for getting picked on when the Oklahoma native was a boy.

“I’ve heard it since I was a kid growing up, especially in high school,” said Dirteater, [27]. “Some of them made fun of my name back then, and now most of them want my autograph.”

The best revenge, as the phrase goes. To which I say: “See what the gentleman is drinking.”

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Interim scrutiny

As usual, I had my auto-insurance premium billed to a card; not as usual, the amount billed was substantially less than I had been led to expect. We’re talking $24.70 less for the six-month period, which is nothing to sneeze at. I pulled up the online version of the policy, and each of the coverages has been repriced downward a smidgen. Compared with the actual November bill:

  • Liability (injury): down $5.40.
  • Liability (property): down $4.90.
  • Uninsured motorists: down $5.30.
  • Comprehensive: down $3.80.
  • Collision: down $5.30.
  • Road service: no change.
  • Rental reimbursement: no change.

I don’t know what brought this on — the actual amount of coverage is unchanged — but for some reason, last week they decided they were overcharging me, and the sensible thing to do when you’re overcharging someone is to not do that.

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Wheel Barrow away

The town has reverted to its original name:

The northernmost community in the United States has officially restored its original name.

In October, the people of the Alaskan town formerly known as Barrow, on the edge of the Arctic Ocean, voted to restore its indigenous name, Utqiagvik. Zachariah Hughes of Alaska Public Media reported that the traditional Iñupiaq name Utqiagvik refers to a place to gather wild roots.

The vote was close: 381-375. (The town has a population of a bit over 4,000.)

Point Barrow, the actual northernmost point in the States, nine miles to the northeast, is remaining Point Barrow for now.

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A quarter to nine

It was vague, as most premonitions are, except in one distinct area: the time. At 8:45 on Monday, something dreadfully terrible would be happening. I shrugged it off — it’s not like I haven’t had such things before — and let it go.

It came back.

Several times last week, starting late Tuesday, the day I was most recently let out of the emergency room, this same premonition came to me. In my current easily-scared mode, I should not have been surprised to find myself dwelling on it.

Monday morning came: first a doctor’s appointment, then presumably back to work. It’s a long haul, so I pulled out early.

The noises began around I-44 eastbound and the Broadway Distention. Sounded like a wheel bearing on the fritz, though it could just as easily have been the riced-up Honda that was hugging the right lane.

They got louder. Finally, an explosion. The Honda had pulled away. I eased myself over to the shoulder and called 911.

It was a quarter to nine.

The right rear tire was pronounced by a gentleman from the Highway Patrol to be a total loss. Unbidden, he offered to swap the spare for it, and who am I to say no to the OHP?

Shortly thereafter, my boss arrived, and noted that the spare looked pretty low but was probably better than nothing. “There’s a compressor in the trunk,” I said, because of course there is. I am as defensive a person as you’ll find anywhere.

I then hied myself to my usual tire shop, on the basis that all these tires were about the same age — going on four years — and therefore I should probably replace the lot.

Which I did.

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As we Scrutinize once more

On hand: the latest auto-insurance bill, which has gone up $40.90 in the last six months. Here’s where:

  • Liability (injury): up $9.30.
  • Liability (property): up $8.30.
  • Uninsured motorists: up $5.30.
  • Comprehensive: up $3.80.
  • Collision: up $9.40.
  • Road service: no change.
  • Rental reimbursement: up $4.80.

In addition, total discounts were cut by $19.30.

For the first time in a while, uninsured-motorist coverage is not the most expensive item on the menu: liability (injury) is now 40 cents more.

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Entropy takes it on the chin

“Lisa,” Homer said in his sternest voice, “in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics.”

But maybe Lisa was a little bit ahead of the game:

For more than a century and a half of physics, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that entropy always increases, has been as close to inviolable as any law we know. In this universe, chaos reigns supreme.

But researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory announced recently that they may have discovered a little loophole in this famous maxim.

Their research, published in Scientific Reports, lays out a possible avenue to a situation where the Second Law is violated on the microscopic level.

Still, the violation was actually anticipated, yes, a century and a half ago:

As far back as 1867, physicist James Clerk Maxwell described a hypothetical way to violate the Second Law: if a small theoretical being sat at the door between the hot and cold rooms and only let through particles traveling at a certain speed. This theoretical imp is called “Maxwell’s demon.”

And you can’t get much more impish than quantum effects, am I right?

Citation: Lesovik, G. B. et al. H-theorem in quantum physics. Sci. Rep. 6, 32815; doi: 10.1038/srep32815 (2016).

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Not a scorpion

Skunks, it appears, have a more robust moral code:

The human involved says he thinks the can had been reused to collect BBQ drippings, which better explains its critter appeal.

(Via Kim Komando.)

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Not that you wanted to know or anything

For absolutely no good reason I can tell, I’m taking questions from the field at Morbid curiosity, maybe.

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As though there were any doubt

Um, no. I am not smart enough, not beautiful enough, not focused enough, and incidentally not female enough, to be Twilight Sparkle.

That said, she does mean a lot to me.

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Saith W

And you know, he’s right:

Excellent call, sir.

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