A failure of leadership

More Than 1 Million Americans Lose Unemployment Benefits : The Two-Way : NPR

About 1.3 million Americans lost their long-term unemployment benefits today. This means anyone who has been out of work and getting benefits for than six months will stop receiving their weekly check.

The problem with being good is that it's so freaking annoying: nag, nag, nag

News from The Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- Office workers in search of snacks will be counting calories along with their change under new labeling regulations for vending machines included in President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law.

A very cool thing

How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk - Interactive Graphic - NYTimes.com

What does the way you speak say about where you’re from? Answer all the questions below to see your personal dialect map.

Alas, it may require a subscription to do this but at the link above is a fascinating quiz about word pronounciation that attempts to devine where you were born. It failed in my case, but instead picked three possibilities (Madison, WI, and Rockford and Aurora, IL)—places I've never lived but have visited and which lie between two places I did do most of my growing up in Illinois and Minnesota. And also includes within its "likely" range every place I have lived with only one exception of any consequence: Atlanta. So I'd call that a success. All in all I'd call it a pretty good performance and an excellent demonstration of that, you know, data stuff.


Or care? At all?

Bean soup is good4U…

…and easy to make, too—you just cook up a pot of beans and add some other stuff, whatever you want. And even better, there's always some left over for lunch, which a good squirt of two of Tabasco will turn into a whole new thing. Just mentioning. Also, it's cheap.

Add a red (or green) Christmas cookie (or two) and you're good to go.

Twitter implodes

Here's a rule: When people start writing books about it, it's over. (And it's only a matter of time before some university offers a degree.)

Also, it is just me or has Twitter gone headlong downhill since it wen't public? I don't twit much but I do use Twitter as an ersatz news feed, following an assortment of journalists and other sources. Recently, though, my timeline is full of advertising and posts from people I've never heard of and (sorry, Scott) really don't care about. Feels like I'm just watching it crash and burn.

Also the sky is blue and—here's a shocker—grass is green

Grad student proves NSA can link metadata to your identity with ‘marginal effort’ | The Raw Story

A Stanford graduate student has shown just how easily names can be matched with phone records

And you thought the Pennsylvania Turnpike was bad

VIDEO: Rescuers Are Drawing Near To Ship Stuck In Antarctic : The Two-Way : NPR

…passengers and crew on the stranded ship spent Christmas "at a frozen standstill 100 nautical miles east of the French base Dumont D'Urville, about 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Tasmania."

Setting a new standard for silliness

Vista Workers Told Their U.S. Health Plan Fails Test - Today’s Paper

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has told Vista volunteers and other AmeriCorps workers that their government-provided health coverage does not measure up to the standards of the new health care law, and that they may be subject to financial penalties unless they obtain insurance elsewhere.


Memo to people in northern-tier states:

It feaking snows every freaking winter. Snowy highways get slippery. Work on remembering that.

Pileup blocks turnpike, interstate in eastern Pa. | New York Post

READING, Pa. — Portions of both the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Interstate 78 are shut down in snowy eastern Pennsylvania after chain-reaction pileups involved dozens of vehicles on slippery highways.

(The photo with this story is definitely worth a click.)

Planning a party? Try the T…

I had (well, have)…

…a really nifty little pocket-sized portable USB hub just sitting here on my desk for a year or so and then one sorry day I decided I really didn't need it at the moment and put it away. Now I want it. And I can. Not. Find. It. Anywhere.

I know it's somewhere and eventually I'll find it but in the meantime, this kind of thing makes me craZy. I swear, I will never put anything away again. Ever. (OK, I already never put anything away, mostly, but still.) I mean it, too.

Now that it's over…

Chocolate Chip Mint

Just be glad you don't have to pay for healthcare for a bunch of elves.

Just take a deep breath, Bunky

Delayed Packages Ruined Christmas This Year - The Wire

Due to shipping delays, an unexpectedly large number of people this Christmas were forced to do dumb stuff like interact with family members instead of playing with their cool new gifts. Both UPS and FedEx acknowledged that more packages than expected did not meet their anticipated Christmas Eve delivery date.

Curmudgeons unite

An Ode to Spam - NYTimes.com

In self-protection, [author] Brunton says he’s avoided ever getting a Facebook page: “Whenever there’s a new privacy scandal I say — being friendless pays off again.”


My prediction, for what it's worth…

Snowden to warn Brits on Xmas telly: Your children will NEVER have privacy • The Register

Last week, Snowden talked about smartphone snooping by the US in a second plea to Brazil for asylum, an unsuccessful bid in which he offered to help uncover Uncle Sam's surveillance of South America.

…is that this whole Snowden affair, in the end, will result in less privacy for U.S. citizens, not more: First, because more intelligence gathering will be outsourced to private concerns (this has already been recommended by presidential advisors), resulting in less control over the information collected; second, because employers will become more intrusive about screening the backgrounds and monitoring the communications of employees. 

Dot promoted

Lynn C Dot is promoted to chief or our Pacific Rim Bureau, and the Seattle Desk position will be assumed by some guy.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…

Sign-Up Period Extended Again for Health Plan - NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said Tuesday that it would provide more time for people to complete their applications for health insurance if they could show that they missed the deadline because of problems with the federal health care website.



Not exactly jolly, but still

Before he wrote The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson authored another book called Isaac's Storm. It's about the history of meteorology and the U.S. Weather Bureau, for which agency a man named Isaac Cline worked, and a massive hurricane that struck Galveston in September of 1900, leveling the city and leaving 6,000 dead, the most destructive natural disaster that's ever occured in the United States. It's a gripping tale told skillfully, and if you've enjoyed any of Larson's other books you can't miss with this. Now on our book list.

Reliable to a fault

My calendar just buzzed to remind me that tomorrow is Christmas. I'm clicking "snooze."

Not dampen too much, at least

News from The Associated Press

Not to dampen any spirits, but studies show heart troubles spike this time of year.

And where is the tomato sauce?

Pouring Cheese on Icy Roads in (Where Else?) Wisconsin - NYTimes.com

MILWAUKEE — In a state whose license plates advertise it as America’s Dairyland, where lawmakers once honored the bacterium in Monterey Jack as the state’s official microbe and where otherwise sober citizens wear foam cheesehead hats, road crews are trying to thaw freezing Wisconsin streets with a material that smells a little like mozzarella.

Today in deadlines

Day Is Added to Deadline as Rush Hits Health Portal - NYTimes.com

A record-setting crush of last-minute shoppers descended on HealthCare.gov on Monday…

The high volume of visitors also prompted White House officials to…effectively extend the deadline, allowing those who sign up on Tuesday to still receive coverage from Jan. 1.

U.S. Softens Deadline for Deal to Keep Troops in Afghanistan - NYTimes.com

With about a week left in the year, the Obama administration is backing away from a Dec. 31 deadline for securing a deal to keep American troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014…


He did, he didn't, he didn't, he…what?

W.H.: Obama has signed up for insurance under Obamacare - Jennifer Epstein - POLITICO.com

President Barack Obama has signed up for health insurance through an Affordable Care Act exchange, the White House said Monday.

In what an official acknowledged is a “symbolic” move since the president gets his medical care from the military, Obama selected a low-cost bronze plan through the District of Columbia exchange.…

But Obama did not directly sign up for insurance. Rather, his staff went in person to sign him up, an official told POLITICO.…

Obama signed up for coverage only for himself and not for the rest of the first family, and will pay a premium that’s under $400 per month, the official said.

Foggy December

Wait, didn't we try this once?

Look at This Amazing Animated Typography, Built by a Google Whiz | Wired Design | Wired.com

“There’s something about animated typography that feels deeply personal,” Brandel says. “Letters start to take on lives when they saunter or skip in a certain way. It offers a new avenue for expression.”

Nobody remembers <blink>? (In 1996 Jakob Nielsen described the element as "simply evil" in his Alertbox column Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design.)

Do we really need to go through all that again?

One guy you definitely don't want to party with

Kim Jong-un 'very drunk' when he ordered execution of uncle's two aides - Telegraph


OK, stop right there

News from The Associated Press

Of course reindeer can't fly…


We weren't wondering


Companies haven't further enhanced security because it can be expensive.

No Bunky, we're not nuts, we're bananas


Elf advocates have joined forces with environmentalists to urge the Icelandic Road and Coastal Commission and local authorities to abandon a highway project building a direct route from the Alftanes peninsula, where the president has a home, to the Reykjavik suburb of Gardabaer. They fear disturbing elf habitat and claim the area is particularly important because it contains an elf church.

A million sign up for Obamacare…hooray!

Unemployment Benefits Are Ending for 1.3 Million Americans. What's That All About? | Mother Jones

On December 28, 1.3 million people will lose their unemployment insurance. That's because Congress failed to add an extension of those benefits into the budget deal that will likely pass the Senate this week. Here is some background:

But a million dumped off unemployment benefits? Eh. 

What Indiana knew

Hitler’s Hunt for the Holy Grail and the Ghent Altarpiece - The Daily Beast

The Ahnenerbe sent expeditions all over the world. To Tibet, to search for traces of the original, uncorrupted Aryan race, and for a creature called the Yeti, what we would call the Abominable Snowman. To Ethiopia, in search of the Ark of the Covenant. To the Languedoc, to find the Holy Grail. To steal the Spear of Destiny, which Longinus used to pierce Christ’s side as Christ hung on the cross, and which disappeared from a locked vault in Nurnberg. To Iceland, to find the entrance to a magical land of telepathic giants and faeries called Thule…

[H/T a guy in Seattle]

Not Christmas maybe, but white

(And an excellent day to just stay in bed.)

The last English major

Triumph of the English Major - NYTimes.com

The point is truth and beauty, without which our lives will lack grace and meaning and our civilization will be spiritually hollowed out…

Right, right. But just try stuffing truth and beauty into the coffee machine.