This does seem like the hard way to get there...

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Jennifer Figge pressed her toes into the Caribbean sand, exhilarated and exhausted as she touched land this week for the first time in almost a month....

The original plan was for her to swim to the Bahamas — a distance of about 2,100 miles (3,380 miles) — but inclement forced them to change their plans and she arrived at Trinidad on Feb. 5. She now plans to swim from Trinidad to the British Virgin Islands, ending her odyssey at the Bitter End Yacht Club in late February.

[From 56-year-old becomes 1st woman to swim Atlantic - USATODAY.com]

...but the Bitter End Yacht Club is a great place to have dinner, as our Midwest bureau chief and others will attest.

Awesome cool

OK, maybe no big deal to those of you folks who have GPS in your cars, but I don't. I did this with an iPhone - first time I've tried. It starts in our driveway (right) and ends in the parking lot of the grocery store, and all the time I was driving the phone was lying on the passenger seat.

So it works, and pretty amazingly well.

(The track was made with an iPhone app called MotionX and imported to Google Maps as a KMZ file.)


Photo: Lynn C.

Are Too Many Newspaper Comic Polls a Sham?

It's the ugly little secret that, within the newspaper comics industry and among avid comics followers, is nobody's secret at all:

Namely, that the frequently used Newspaper Comics Reader Poll might be long-standing, but it is hardly upstanding. It has walked on the wrong side of the statistical tracks far too often, stirring so much scorn, skepticism and controversy that it might as well wear a scarlet "A" -- for "adulterated accuracy."

[From Are Too Many Newspaper Comic Polls a Sham? - Comic Riffs - Michael Cavna strips down the funnies]

The most startling news here isn't that some low-lifes would try to rig a comics poll -- horrors! -- but that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution employs a comics editor. Holy Batman! How do I get a job like that? I think this is my true calling. Maybe if YAME's Curmudgeon-In-Chief would step up to the big time and add a comics page...

...notes Midwest Bureau Cub Reporter Paul Knue

The horse thief

Charlie from Southern California forwards an email relating the story of a researcher who discovers a long-ago relative of Harry Reid was hanged for train robbery and horse stealing in the late 19th century...

On the back of the picture Judy obtained during her research is this inscription: 'Remus Reid, horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in   1889.'

So Judy recently e-mailed Congressman Harry Reid for information about their great-great uncle.

Believe it or not, Harry Reid's staff sent back the following biographical sketch for her genealogy research:

'Remus Reid was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to government service, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the   railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.'

Now, that's spin.

(The story is labeled false by Snopes, which web site points out it has been also used with the names Rodham, Gore, Dion, and Stevens (but not Palin yet). Still, you gotta admire.)

And what's your problem with skateboarding dogs?

Wireless Internet service is starting to spread among airlines in the United States — Delta and American have installed it on more than a dozen planes each, and several other carriers are planning to test it....

Delta has told its flight attendants to treat overly enthusiastic users of Wi-Fi — who might, say, forget to mute the volume on YouTube videos of skateboarding dogs — like people who imbibe too much. In other words, cut them off if they start bothering others around them.

[From Not Everyone Is Cheering as Wi-Fi Takes to the Air - NYTimes.com]

Worse, the author contends, is that now even getting yourself stuffed into a flying tube is not excuse enough to be out of touch with the office.

Once upon a time, boys and girls, there was the "Gee, it's finished but the messenger service can't pick it up till first thing in the morning" dodge, guaranteed to buy you at least another evening on your deadline. But that began losing its mojo sometime in the 80's when it became possible to send documents on the net. Then cell phones and Wi-Fi began creeping in and working from the beach became possible, eventually expected. So I'm told.

I'm not in that game any more. Looks like I got out just in time. (But I'm wondering how long it will be before I can blog in the shower.)


All That Glitters

Photo: Lynn C.


In the four months since TARP was signed into law, the Treasury has switched the focus of the program; regulators have been denied access to information about how the bailout money is being spent; executives of bailed-out Wall Street firms have received billions in bonuses; and, despite the injection of nearly $300 billion into the struggling finance market, lending in the fourth quarter of 2008 actually fell relative to the quarter before.

[From The Washington Independent » For Banks, an $80 Billion Gift ]

Good question

The only question remaining after "New in Town" is: How come there's never a movie where a small-town girl leaves the snarly, greedy, job-ladder-climbing people behind and moves to the big city, where she is embraced by friendly folks, fed meat loaf and tapioca, and fixed up with Harry Connick Jr.?

[From New in Town :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews]

How come, indeed.


Not in Kansas

Photo: Lynn C.

Dumping the Refrigerator for a Greener Planet

FOR the last two years, Rachel Muston, a 32-year-old information-technology worker for the Canadian government in Ottawa, has been taking steps to reduce her carbon footprint — composting, line-drying clothes, installing an efficient furnace in her three-story house downtown.

About a year ago, though, she decided to “go big” in her effort to be more environmentally responsible, she said. After mulling the idea over for several weeks, she and her husband, Scott Young, did something many would find unthinkable: they unplugged their refrigerator. For good.

[From Dumping the Refrigerator for a Greener Planet - NYTimes.com]

-Noted by Midwest Bureau Cub Reporter Paul Knue, who adds...

Interesting idea, but the part about no cold beer seems to be a fatal flaw.

For the easily amused

On Friday the 13th this month, February, 2009...

In an event that's sure to bring a burst of adrenalin to computer geeks everywhere, the official Unix calendar is about to pass a milestone: exactly 1234567890 seconds since the clock first started ticking.

POSIX is the official a widely used time-keeping method for Unix and is measured in the number of seconds that have passed since January 1, 1970 at midnight UTC (not counting leap seconds). It has since been adopted by many other computer systems.

[From Geekerati brace for Unix timestamp milestone • The Register]

The event occurs at 11:31:30pm UTC.

Who cares about the potholes - this is serious

US pranksters are hacking into electronic road signs to post hoax warnings such as "Nazi zombies" and "Raptors ahead".

[From Ananova - 'Warning - zombies ahead!' ]

"Baffling," says Sweet

The Obama White House came to office pledging to have high ethical standards and change the Washington-insider culture. It's just baffling that the Daschle flap was allowed to develop....

Either the Obama vetting team knew about Daschle's tax lapses and didn't realize how politically damaging they would be -- or they didn't figure out that he had a problem. Either alternative is not good.

[From How did 'no-drama' team let tax fiasco happen? :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Lynn Sweet]

His father's son

Mayor Richard Daley said today Chicago has compiled a wish list of "shovel-ready projects" to spend federal economic stimulus funds on should Congress approve a plan.

Unlike hundreds of other cities, however, Daley said Chicago won't make its list public....

Daley was asked why he wasn't being more transparent.

"Read some of your newspapers. Heh heh," he replied.

[From Clout Street - local political coverage | Chicago Tribune | Blog]

K Street blues

Daschle, with his $5 million in influence-peddling income and surprise at having to pay taxes on a limo and driver, is road kill on the way to the kind of common sense governance that Obama promised to bring to Washington.

Daschle’s circle of sympathy goes no further than K Street, which if it were based in Omaha would be shut down as a vice problem and public menace.

[From Boo Hoo in the Boardroom - Timothy Egan Blog - NYTimes.com]

Near-perfect fool near-perfect foil

Or so reports Steve Benen at Washington Monthly.

Since [Cheney] and Bush left office, and Barack Obama started governing, al Qaeda seems to be in a bit of a panic. A former CIA counterterrorism official recently said, "For al-Qaeda, as a matter of image and tone, George W. Bush had been a near-perfect foil." Rita Katz, head of a private company that monitors jihadist communications, said the terrorists' hysterical rants against the new president show "just how much al-Qaeda is intimidated by Obama."

[From The Washington Monthly]

No surprise there. I'm an old war gamer (OK, now I'm just old but I was a war gamer for 20 or 30 years) and way early in this "war on terror" thing I asked myself, if this were a war game and I were playing the other side, what would I be thinking? What I'd be thinking was, how could I be so freaking lucky? Stage one attack, involving only a couple of dozen people and four airplanes I didn't even have to buy and the entire "world power" country obligingly self-destructs.

And everything's been coming up roses ever since. Treaties and alliances get trashed; a massive army gets itself tied up on two fronts, bleeding troops, equipment, and hundreds of billions per year; they re-elect the village idiot as their leader and, never mind what damage the fools do to their own so-called rights and ideals, in time their whole economy tanks. All for a couple dozen guys and four borrowed airplanes.

But now this Obama guy, what's with him? Oh oh. What if he's not that dumb?


Where winter is real

-Passed along, with evident glee, by Charlie in warm, sunny, Southern California.

Oh no! Not policies!

According to this story from the AP via Yahoo News, Obama is cracking down - I say cracking, Bunky - on execs of institutions receiving bailout money by imposing all sorts of onerous - I say onerous, Bunky - new rules, such as...

_A requirement that boards of directors adopt policies on spending such as corporate jets, renovations and entertainment.

[From Obama caps executive pay tied to bailout money - Yahoo! News]

Policies! That's cold.

Imagine my horror.

A little chuckling in China?

Since Obama was inducted his email address has been “the most important national secret,” and only those “real henchmen” are permitted to know “the most secret email address in the world”. According to White House rules, Obama can only contact a few people by email in order to avoid giving away state secrets.

[From Watching America  :   » Who Are Obama’s Henchmen? (translated from People's Daily)]


GoDaddy's famously risque Super Bowl ads always pull lots of eyeballs, but the company's latest spots may have resulted in a little too much attention of the wrong kind.

Entrepreneur Brian Harrell, who manages hosting services for dozens of Christian churches and faith-based organizations and uses GoDaddy to host over 160 domains, says he's pulled several of his clients off of GoDaddy's servers after receiving numerous complaints about the company's racy ads that aired during Sunday's game.

"I know they're trying to make sales, but that kind of content is not going to fly in the Christian community," he says.

[From Christians Bailing on GoDaddy Due to 'Immoral' Advertising | Epicenter from Wired.com]

Continues the virtuous Mr. Harrell in an email provided to Wired...

Please re-think how your morals and values are looking to the public. It seems that the GoDaddy President seems like a bit of a sex addict or pervert.

I'm assuming you will just respond in "corporate speak" that "I'm sorry you feel that way. It was not our intention to offend (translation to blah blah blah) and we will take your comments under advisement (meaning we will delete your email shortly as we really don't give a crap about morals and Christians, only sales, no really, we don't give a crap.)

Take that.

The coolest thing about computers, really...

...is they don't freakin' think. Yeah. We've got way too much thinking going on already. Computers? They just do what they're told. Exactly.

A typing mistake led search giant Google this weekend to briefly classify the entire Internet as potentially malicious.

On Saturday morning, every search result began to display the "This site may harm your computer" link that Google uses to flag potentially malicious sites.

[From Google mistakenly calls entire Net malicious]

Some guy in an Excel class the other day was amazed: "You just get one keystroke wrong and it doesn't work!" Tell Google.

How perfect is that?

Scary stuff down under

In Australia...

Officials Nab Traveler With Pigeons in His Pants

[From ABC News: Officials Nab Traveler With Pigeons in His Pants]

Also an undeclared eggplant.

Really. No kidding.

So sorry now

Why do some apologies exonerate, while others just make a sorry bastard appear even more disingenuous? Here are some that persuaded us—or at least entertained.

[From The Apology Smackdown - The Daily Beast]


Long live the king

Ford F-series pickups were the top-selling vehicles in America in 2008, the 27th consecutive year that the F-series has held that title. Still, Ford shouldn't be celebrating too heartily. It's looking increasingly likely that its amazing streak won't last another year....

The problem with a truck-based empire is that gas doesn't always stay cheap. As prices spiked above $4 per gallon in May and June, the F-150 was overtaken on the monthly sales charts by a bunch of puny sedans with good fuel economy: the Toyota Corolla, Toyota Camry, and Honda Civic.

[From Is the Ford F-series' 27-year reign at the top of America's sales charts about to end? - By Josh Levin - Slate Magazine ]

Decades ago, I wrote this headline: The best-selling car in the world is a truck. I thought it was rather clever, and it had the added benefit of being true. And for 27 years, the Ford F-150 has been king of the hill. But here comes Camry, the unstoppable soon-to-be champ. Just a matter of time, and the price of gas.

We've owned both. We've had two Camrys, and put more than 100,000 miles on each. And they were both solid, dependable cars. Fantastic value for the money. We still own one. We also have a 2001 Ford F-250 Super Duty Giant Cab Diesel Lariat Kick-Ass Truck with 120,000 miles on the odometer and going strong. We've owned a lot of cars and trucks over the years, and this will go down as our all-time favorite.

Yeah, I know, it's not the same as the F-150 with its puny gas V-8s, but it's a brother, or first cousin, or something. And it's a fantastic piece of engineering. It seats six comfortably, with a plush leather interior. It has the smooth ride of a sedan. Yet it is a serious workhorse of a truck with four-wheel drive and the capacity to carry whatever you've got. I plan to drive it for another 100,000 miles, even though Diesel prices are $1 a gallon more than they should be (what's up with that?)

I'll understand when Camry becomes No. 1. It's a great car, and it has been great for almost as long as the F-150 has been on top. It will be a very sad day when the king is dethroned. But I'll still be driving Diesel Dan.

Got anything you need towed?

-Paul Knue

In the old tapioca factory

In the old tapioca factory, originally uploaded by tedcompton.

Joe the Economist

The ubiquitous Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, aka “Joe the Plumber” and “Joe the War Correspondent,” will soon add a new moniker to his profile — “Joe the Economist.” Politico reports that House GOP congressional aides decided to invite Wurzelbacher to a meeting on the stimulus in hopes that it will attract some media attention...:

Steve Benen comments, “This is what it’s come to for Republican staffers in Congress. In the midst of an economic crisis, and after balking at a stimulus package, the GOP is turning to an unlicensed plumber/campaign prop to discuss legislative strategy on economic policy.”

[From Think Progress » Joe the Economist. ]

Never mind about the taxes...

President Obama’s choice for the position of chief White House performance officer has withdrawn from consideration for the post, an administration official said Tuesday, after coming forward with concerns about her tax returns.

[From Citing Tax Troubles, An Obama Appointee Withdraws - The Caucus Blog - NYTimes.com]

WTF is a chief performance officer?

If cash doesn't work, what about tar and feathers?

The federal government has invested almost $200 billion in U.S. banks over the last three months to spark new lending to consumers and businesses.

So far, it hasn't worked. Lending has declined, and banks that got government money on average have reduced lending more sharply than banks that didn't.

[From Despite Federal Aid, Many Banks Fail to Revive Lending - washingtonpost.com]

$200 billion and it hasn't freaking worked? That's it? Hasn't worked?

More on electric cars

NEW YORK (Reuters) - More than 200,000 homes and businesses remained without power Tuesday after snow and ice storms January 27-28 left almost 1.7 million customers in the dark from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania, local utilities reported.

[From Over 200,000 still without power in the Midwest | Reuters]

New York: Abstract city


[From I LEGO N.Y. - Abstract City Blog - NYTimes.com]

From our Midwest Bureau Chief:

Have a look at the LEGO story in the Times (above) and then visit Christoph Neimann's web site for more goodies.

Neimann's web site will henceforth be found on our Work Avoidance List.

[And a note about the list. Blogrolling, the service that hosts the list, has been unavailable for a while due to a renovation project now underway. During this time it's been possible to add items but not possible to remove them, for which reason several of the work avoidance links are no longer valid. We will remedy this situation as soon as the list becomes available and correct any problems or reconstruct the list in another place.]

This is big news in Indiana?

A new Indiana University study finds that some women are extremely good at faking it....

Turns out the observers were pretty good at judging how the men felt but almost uniformly terrible at figuring out what some of the women were thinking.

[From Women fake dating interest better than men, Indiana University study finds -- chicagotribune.com]

"Promises" become "campaign rhetoric"

WASHINGTON — During almost two years on the campaign trail, Barack Obama vowed to slay the demons of Washington, bar lobbyists from his administration and usher in what he would later call in his Inaugural Address a “new era of responsibility.” What he did not talk much about were the asterisks....

Every four or eight years a new president arrives in town, declares his determination to cleanse a dirty process and invariably winds up trying to reconcile the clear ideals of electioneering with the muddy business of governing. Mr. Obama on his first day in office imposed perhaps the toughest ethics rules of any president in modern times, and since then he and his advisers have been trying to explain why they do not cover this case or that case.

[From Obama’s Ethics Reform Pledge Faces an Early Test - NYTimes.com]

Krugman on "lemon socialism"

“We have a financial system that is run by private shareholders, managed by private institutions, and we’d like to do our best to preserve that system,” says Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary — as he prepares to put taxpayers on the hook for that system’s immense losses.

Meanwhile, a Washington Post report based on administration sources says that Mr. Geithner and Lawrence Summers, President Obama’s top economic adviser, “think governments make poor bank managers” — as opposed, presumably, to the private-sector geniuses who managed to lose more than a trillion dollars in the space of a few years.

[From Op-Ed Columnist - Bailouts for Bunglers - NYTimes.com]

Forecast: More of the same

Tom Daschle, tapped to be President Obama's health czar, was paid more than $200,000 by the health-care industry in the past two years, according to documents obtained by Politico.

The former Senate majority leader, who gave speeches to firms and groups with a vested-interest in the administration's upcoming health reform, collected the checks as part of a $5 million windfall after he lost reelection to his South Dakota seat.

[From Health care groups paid Daschle $220K - Kenneth P. Vogel - Politico.com]

Obama stiffs Pentagon - increases budget a mere $40 bil

As CQ's Josh Rogin reports, Team Obama wants an eight percent, $40 billion increase in the Defense Department budget -- from $487.7 billion in 2009 to $527.7 billion in 2010. But this uptick is only about half the size as the one the Joint Chiefs originally requested, in a $584 billion draft budget, complied last fall. So cue the all-too-predictable cries of Obama-as-hippie. "When it comes to the budget it appears that the choices Obama is making are all too reflective of a man who not long ago had the most liberal voting record in the Senate," sniffs Max Boot.

Oh, please. The $527 billion figure is "what the Bush people thought was the right number last February and that’s the number we’re going with," an Office of Management and Budget official tells Rogin. "The Joint Chiefs did that to lay down a marker for the incoming administration that was unrealistic. It’s more of a wish list than anything else."

[From $40 Billion Increase Billed as Pentagon Budget 'Cut' (Updated) | Danger Room from Wired.com]

Did you ever see that Das Boot movie, by the way? I saw it in a movie theater in Hinsdale, Illinois, with a sound system so spectacularly awful it made watching foreign movies with sub-titles a special joy, but even without that edge it was a heckuva flick. If sub-titles are not your thing, I think they later made an English version with the prosaic title, The Boat, but it's better seen in German because, you know, it's about Germans and whatever.

Max Boot is Das's brother, which is what got me thinking about Das Boot.


Iraq reconstruction history details waste, failures

After U.S. forces toppled the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003, it was "unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with what came next: a 'post-conflict' environment torn by violence, looters, criminals, a nascent insurgency; a governmental system in a state of complete collapse; and an economy that had slipped into idle and then switched off."

The raging Iraqi insurgency, crime and sectarian fighting "informed and complicated every decision" in funding such tasks as infrastructure building, security force development, job creation, economic reform and governance.

"The U.S. reconstruction management structure was overwhelmed by the challenges of building in a war zone," the report said.

[From Iraq reconstruction history details waste, failures - CNN.com]

And much more (click the link), notes Midwest Bureau Cub Reporter Paul Knue, who adds...

Good thing those fiscally conservative, financially responsible Republicans were in charge. Otherwise the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq could have gotten way out of hand.

So I'm driving home today...

...listening to some people discussing Tom Daschle's nomination and one of them said, more or less, Daschle underpaid his taxes even more than the Secretary of the Treasury did...

Dude, is it just me or is there something profoundly wrong with that picture?

How far back to we have to go to remember when describing government officials as bumbling incompetents - mopes, Royko would say - was not considered the most flattering face one could put on things?

From a collection of post-financial crisis logos

(Thanks to Kellie and our Seattle Bureau.)

Even the rodent cheats

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. – The world's most famous groundhog saw his shadow Monday morning, predicting that this already long winter will last for six more weeks....

In reality, Phil doesn't see much of anything. The result is actually decided in advance by 14 members of the [Punxsutawney groundhog] club's Inner Circle, who don tuxedos and top hats for the event.

[From Punxsutawney Phil sees shadow; winter to continue - Yahoo! News]

Financial crash: 1929 / 2008

From Charlie in California...

Back in the 1929 Financial Crash it was said that some Wall Street Stockbrokers and Bankers JUMPED from their office windows and committed suicide when confronted with the news of their firms and clients financial ruin . . . Many people were said to almost feel a little sorry for them

In 2008 the attitude has changed somewhat:


A little ice...

...in Versoix, Switzerland:

(Passed along by Charlie in warm, sunny, Southern California.)

And the word of the moment is, "usually"

[Jamming cellphones] is an increasingly common technology, with federal agencies expanding its use as state and local agencies are pushing for permission to do the same. Police and others say it could stop terrorists from coordinating during an attack, prevent suspects from erasing evidence on wireless devices, simplify arrests and keep inmates from using contraband phones.

But jamming remains strictly illegal for state and local agencies. Federal officials barely acknowledge that they use it inside the United States, and the few federal agencies that can jam signals usually must seek a legal waiver first.

[From Local Police Want Right to Jam Wireless Signals - washingtonpost.com]

Heckofa job

President Obama's plans to expeditiously determine the fates of about 245 terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and quickly close the military prison there were set back last week when incoming legal and national security officials -- barred until the inauguration from examining classified material on the detainees -- discovered that there were no comprehensive case files on many of them.

Instead, they found that information on individual prisoners is "scattered throughout the executive branch," a senior administration official said. The executive order Obama signed Thursday orders the prison closed within one year, and a Cabinet-level panel named to review each case separately will have to spend its initial weeks and perhaps months scouring the corners of the federal government in search of relevant material.

Several former Bush administration officials agreed that the files are incomplete and that no single government entity was charged with pulling together all the facts and the range of options for each prisoner....

[From Guantanamo Case Files in Disarray - washingtonpost.com]

YOU make The Beast's "50 must loathsome people" list

43. You

Charges: You think it’s your patriotic duty to spend money you don’t have on crap you don’t need. You think Hillary lost because of sexism, when it’s actually because she’s just a bad liar. You think Iraq is better off now than before we invaded, and don’t understand why they’re so ungrateful. You think Tim Russert was a great journalist. You’re hopping mad about an auto industry bailout that cost a squirt of piss compared to a Wall Street heist of galactic dimensions, due to a housing crash you somehow have blamed on minorities. It took you six years to figure out what a tool Bush is, but you think Obama will make it all better. You deem it hunky dory that we conduct national policy debates via 8-second clips from “The View.” You think God zapped humans into existence a few thousand years ago, although your appendix and wisdom teeth disagree. You like watching vicious assholes insult each other on TV. You support gun rights, because firing one gives you a chubby. You cuddle falsehoods and resent enlightenment. You think the fact that 43% of whites could stomach voting for an incredibly charismatic and eloquent light-skinned black guy who was raised by white people means racism is over. You think progressive taxation is socialism. 1 in 100 of you are in jail, and you think it should be more. You are shallow, inconsiderate, afraid, brand-conscious, sedentary, and totally self-obsessed. You are American.

Exhibit A: You’re more upset by Miley Cyrus’s glamour shots than the fact that you are a grown adult who is upset about Miley Cyrus.

Sentence: Invaded and occupied by Canada; all military units busy overseas without enough fuel to get back.

[From The BEAST: America's Best Fiend]

Could we make that Mexico? They have better food.

Oh, and a tax break too. Did we mention tax break?

The Wall Street Journal tops its Web site with news that General Motors is seeking more assistance from Washington, this time in the form of a tax break. The automaker may have to pay up to $7 billion in income taxes, stemming from stipulations of a $13.4 billion loan from the federal government. At the root of the issue is the company's plan to mete out its remaining stock to debt holders, the United Auto Workers union, and the federal government, in effect reducing its debt to $33.5 billion from $62 billion. In the past, the government has limited this type of transaction; however, doing so this time around impede "the government's effort to keep GM afloat," the WSJ says.

[From GM Pleads for Tax Break | The Big Money]

Outgrown that chemistry set?

The problem with Super Bowl snacks is that they're boring. It's time for something new....

Wired Science asked leading molecular gastronomists for their own preferred finger foods recipes....

[From Make Your Own Scientific Super Bowl Snacks | Wired Science from Wired.com]

There'll always be an England

A sports club in Bristol has been forced to remove the word "boys" from its name after councillors ruled that it was sexist.

Broad Plain Boys' Club, which has gone under the name since 1894, faced the loss of funding unless it could show it was inclusive, so submitted an alteration.

The sports club, which does now have girl members, has changed the name to Broad Plain Working With Young People Group.

[From Sports club removes 'sexist' word from name - Telegraph]

How about those broads?


Photo: Phil Compton

Let's forget we ever read this

The Turritopsis Nutricula is able to revert back to a juvenile form once it mates after becoming sexually mature.

Marine biologists say the jellyfish numbers are rocketing because they need not die.

Dr Maria Miglietta of the Smithsonian Tropical Marine Institute said: "We are looking at a worldwide silent invasion."

[From 'Immortal' jellyfish swarming across the world - Telegraph]

Virgin: the world's best passenger complaint letter?

Dear Mr Branson

REF: Mumbai to Heathrow 7th December 2008

I love the Virgin brand, I really do which is why I continue to use it despite a series of unfortunate incidents over the last few years. This latest incident takes the biscuit.

Ironically, by the end of the flight I would have gladly paid over a thousand rupees for a single biscuit following the culinary journey of hell I was subjected to at the hands of your corporation

[From Virgin: the world's best passenger complaint letter? - Telegraph]

[Good but, for my money, not as good as Mark Twain, who wrote to the gas company:

Dear Sirs:

Some day you will move me almost to the verge of irritation by your chuckle-headed Goddamned fashion of shutting your Goddamned gas off without giving any notice to your Goddamned parishioners. Several times you have come within an ace of smothering half of this household in their beds and blowing up the other half by this idiotic, not to say criminal, custom of yours. And it has happened again today. Haven’t you a telephone?


                                        S L Clemens (Mark Twain)]

Our Love Affair With Shopping Malls Is on the Rocks

Here, ladies and gentlemen, is the crux of the problem: We are reliably informed that whatever part of the economic crisis can’t be pinned on Wall Street — or on mortgage-related financial insanity — can be pinned on consumers who overspent. But personal consumption amounts to some 70 percent of the American economy. So if we don’t spend, we don’t recover. Fiscal health isn’t possible until money is again sloshing into cash registers, including those at this mall and every other retailer.

In other words, shopping was part of the problem and now it’s part of the cure. And once we’re cured, economists report, we really need to learn how to save, which suggests that we will need to quit shopping again.

So the mall we married has become the toxic spouse we can’t quit, though we really must quit, but just not any time soon. The mall, for its part, is wounded by our ambivalence and feels financially adrift.

[From Our Love Affair With Shopping Malls Is on the Rocks - NYTimes.com]