What we're missing by just being here

Raccoon: The Meal of Political Champions in Arkansas : Roll Call Politics: "Hundreds of pounds of raccoon meat will be served Saturday night inside a local school gymnasium at the 71st annual Gillett Coon Supper."


When it doubt, do the most fun thing first

This makes it easier to procrastinate the rest, the not-so-much-fun stuff, which you can always get around to later. 

Right now (and here’s a depressing thought) the most fun thing on our list is fooling around with cleaning up the blog a bit. Recent software woes, blah blah, plus a query from our Midwest bureau which reminded us we really ought to pay a little more attention to typography than we do (this a perfect example of of a project that would be completely unnecessary if we hadn’t thought of it in the first place). So, a second piece of advice: Quit thinking stuff up.

For example, “markdown.” Markdown is something somebody thought up when he (or possibly she) would have been better off with a work-avoidance strategy such as hanging around right here. It—markdown—is a system for marking up text to indicate the way it should appear when published. In other words, it’s an alternative to using HTML, or Rich Text, or a pencil. Writing with markdown is like writing with WordStar.

Long, long ago, near the dawn of time, before computers had graphic interfaces and therefore could not WYSIWIG documents, a word processor named WordStar ruled the earth. Writing with WordStar involved inserting specially formatted commands into the copy to indicate how it should appear in print. Like a guy with a pencil. Or Rich Text. Or HTML. Or…

…wait. Markdown is a work avoidance strategy. 

We are for it, one hundred percent.

It ain't over til it's over

NEW YORK (AP) -- Target's massive pre-Christmas security breach may have affected more than 70 million people.

(This is mostly an editor test, but useful information, nonetheless, at this AP story.)

How many bottles to a bath?

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As 300,000 people awoke on Friday to learn that their tap water was unsafe for brushing teeth, brewing coffee or showering…

But don't worry, says the Gov, there's plenty of bottled water on the way. Also National Guard, etc. Meanwhile, the cause of all this uproar is an industrial chemical leak. The chemical is 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, and nobody knows how dangerous it is. Or even if it's dangerous at all.

No word on any shortage of beer.


Opportunities we took a pass on

Hey, lay off the grandparents, OK?

Anyone with a grandparent who reminisces about walking five miles to school, uphill both ways, knows that people sometimes exaggerate the hardships they faced in their youth. Still, we can trust the basic facts about life a century and a half ago: School was open, even the day after a snowstorm. 
–The Atlantic
This piece in The Atlantic concludes, on the basis of a Laura Ingalls Wilder story, kids today are wimps because they can't get to school on snowy days. Partly, they're right. I am reminded by somebody who was there that schools in Duluth, in the 50's, didn't close until the temperature got down to -30º. (I don't know what the policy is now but I imagine it might be different. Also, the schools in Atlanta closed at +30º.)

The difference between then and now, though (according to the same somebody) isn't the kids or the temps, it's liability. More kids today are bussed to school than was the case back in the previous century, and the schools and their insurance companies are scared witless of slippery, snowy roads.

Maybe we were safer back in the old days walking, or maybe it was just that if anything had happened to us on the way to school it wouldn't have been the school's (or bus company's) fault.

Of course kids today are still wimps, but for some other reason—although we're not quite sure what that reason is.

Stuff we never finished reading

Like Blanche DuBois… 
New York Times, Diary of an Exit Poller


You appreciate it when people explain stuff like this, don't you?

My career as a food photographer

Pierce on Christie

Permit me to revise and extend my remarks from yesterday regarding Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, the putative Republican frontrunner for president in 2016, and, apparently, nothing but a delicate feather in the wind… 

But what I want to know is, did they cut their price accordingly

A new study released Thursday shows that major food companies sold 6.4 trillion fewer calories in 2012 than they did in 2007, following a 2010 pledge. 
The Daily Beast

Place your bets.

On the great Christie traffic jam conspiracy

Among the great political divides in this country is mass transit versus cars, and Republicans tend to be rather hostile toward the former. (Driving is individualistic; buses are communal. Driving is the wide open spaces; trains are sort of France.) 
Gail Collins, New York Times


Utah Says It Won’t Recognize Same-Sex Marriages It Licensed

Everybody should return their toasters.

Like they're dorky and who wants one anyway?

Both smartwatches and connected glasses must overcome several hurdles, analysts say, before mainstream consumers welcome them into their everyday lives. 
New York Times, Tech Attire, More Beta Than Chic

I happily stopped wearing wrist watches when I started carrying a phone that displays, not only the time and date, but the correct time and date. (Come on, does your wrist watch show the correct date? Can you even remember how to change the date?)

Sustainable blah blah

From TIME:

By 2016, McDonald’s will source only “verified sustainable beef.” The pledge, announced Tuesday, is an effort to make the fast-food chain’s meat production both greener and kinder to the animals whose meat winds up in its burgers. Just one problem: no one knows exactly what sustainable beef is.
Or sustainable anything, for that matter. We have a store near here that sells sustainable kitchenware, to all appearances the exact same items we used to call, in the old days, pots and pans. Maybe they were sustainable back then too but we just didn't know it. Or maybe  "sustainable" has become just another junk word. 


Beach Walk

iPhone photo art: Phil Compton

Because if you're sick enough to need Medicaid you really ought to be out sweeping the street

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is pushing a similar plan…which is under public review at the state level, [which] would also require any adult in expanded Medicaid to work at least 20 hours per week or register with the local employment agency and search for work. 
–USA Today

Quit complaining

CHICAGO (AP) -- Young teens aren't exactly embracing the government's Let's Move mantra, the latest fitness data suggest. 
Only 1 in 4 U.S. kids aged 12 to 15 meet the recommendations - an hour or more of moderate to vigorous activity every day. 
I'm not doing it today either. It's not the cold (a balmy 17º here at the moment, and plenty of sun), it's the ice. Which is everywhere. The streets are clear but walking is a real chore. And why do I need to be anywhere, anyway?

A work avoidance treat

Here's a series of videos from a web site called ulive entitled Real Actors Read beginning with a piece called No Soup for Her. View on.

[PS. And don't miss this one.]

And thanks for that

By now, we all know that a polar vortex is a cyclone of frigid air centered on the Arctic.

Every time the weather gets a little uppity everybody wants to jump in with the opinion du jour. Here's the NY Times editorial.

This blog's opinion is: Wear a hat. And mittens, not gloves.

Program note

From Discover magazine:
It has been three years since Penguin Press published The Poisoner’s Handbook, the NYT-bestseller from none other than the indescribably incredible Deborah Blum. Three years. You really have no excuse if you haven’t read it. But, if you are one of those unfortunate souls who has missed out, you’re in luck: The Poisoner’s Handbook has been adapted for TV, and will be premiering as a part of PBS’ American Experience next Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 8/7c.
This book was on our reading list a couple of years ago so of course you've read it, but JIC you want to watch it too.


Hockey game postponed because of snow, and other oddities

Like, for example, a photo of an upstate-NY woman operating a snow blower in "bitter wind and cold" (so says the Associated Press) without a hat. I hate to sound like someone's mother but that's really dumb. Also button up your overcoat. And don't go around with college girls.

First "polar vortex," and now…

Kraft says Velveeta running low
How much more of this can we take?

Things are about to get a lot more strange

Bioinformatics and more: Intel unveils wearable computers 
Intel will be producing a smartwatch with “geofencing” which allows families to get alerts if children or elderly parents leave a specific geographic area.… 
[And] a turtle-shaped sensor on baby clothing which can send information to a smart coffee cup about an infant’s breathing, temperature and position.
For the record, we use only dumb coffee cups and will not change. (Seriously? Smart coffee cups? They're kidding, right?)

And you thought the story about the frozen Amtrak train was weird

West Coast sardine crash could radiate throughout ecosystem

"Be honest: This is the moment you've been waiting for"

3D print yourself in chocolate and full-color sugar candy with the ChefJet Pro 

My very thought

Brutal temperatures are forcing those in the Midwest, East into virtual hibernation. 
-USA Today
It's solid ice out there. And by virtue of marching bravely through the raging slush yesterday there is no place at all I need to be today. It's highly unusual, my spending an entire day indoors, but I'm making an exception for this one. (This may sound like a pretty pointless exercise since it's not going to get any better by tomorrow, but read on.)

Right. It will not get better tomorrow. But at least tomorrow I will be one day more resigned to my fate. Meantime, yesterday, during the brutally ugly New England winter, the software that allowed me to blog lazily all these many years broke. Died. Went away. This means I will have to work a little harder at avoiding work, and introduce many exciting and innovative new features to Yet Another Media Empire in coming days. Like, for example, actually paying attention. Also, since I have nothing else to do today, whatever.

Think of it as getting an early start on cabin fever this year.

And who said we can't go backward in time?

Percentage of Republicans who believe in evolution is shrinking
Less than five years ago, 54 percent of Republicans and nearly two-thirds of Democrats said the human species evolved over time. Today, however, the share of Republicans adhering to modern theories of human evolution has dropped significantly – to 43 percent – while the number of Democrats has climbed to 67 percent, though within the sampling error range, according to a Pew Research Center study of the public’s views of human evolution, released Monday.…

Those with the most pronounced skeptical views on human evolution remain white evangelical Protestants, who are a potent force in conservative politics and a key base of support for the tea party movement.
-Christian Science Monitor 
But what about those Democrats? Sixty-seven percent? We are not impressed.

Disaster looms at CES

From Wired:
The tech market will shrink this year as gadget makers struggle to attract people content with the devices they already have.
Imagine the horror. If everybody's happy with what they've got there can be no more. It's over. Just like it was back in the day when everybody, everybody, had their own handsome black telephone. It's deja vu all over again. We can only mourn.

[CES is the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.]


Rained, most of the day

Temps in the low 40s. Ankle-deep puddles, slushy ice, misery and angst. Now the thermometer is dropping like a rock, it'll all freeze solid, and probably still be there in July. Or at least this weekend, which is the next time we'll be over freezing (but just barely). Nasty stuff. We want Spring.

So when you hear about high-speed trains…

Weather-related engine problems forced an Amtrak train carrying 200 passengers to stop for more than 8 1/2 hours in southwestern Michigan before arriving early Monday morning in Chicago. 

All assault rifles all the time

Soon-to-be-released government figures show a major cultural shift since the days of "shotgun weddings" aimed at avoiding family embarrassment.


City watch

At Mayor Bill de Blasio’s January 1 inauguration, speaker after speaker cataloged the inequalities of 21st-century New York (which are real, but would provoke envy in Oliver Twist). There were frequent references to the city as it existed before Mayors Mike Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani; we were wistfully transported back to the days of Fiorello La Guardia and David Dinkins, when New York was just about piss and grime, not piss and grime and runaway wealth. 
Daily Beast: The Poison of New York City Nostalgia

Soup for supper

Pea soup with ham and baby carrots (oh no! don't eat the babies!). At least maybe that will work. The Blogger service has been seriously off its feed today, or my software has (I haven't had time yet to figure out exactly which, but maybe this evening). I lost a couple of good posts; maybe if I can't recover them I can reconstruct them, more or less.

Meanwhile it's been raining most of the day (pretty hard for a little while, right while I was on my way to the grocery store), turning the street crossings into ankle-deep puddles and the rest of everything into icy slush. It's all going to freeze hard tonight and stay that way until next weekend at least, or maybe until July. This is extremely grumpy-making; everything, everything, is now twice as difficult as it was yesterday, and takes twice as long. It might be marginally better than -20º temps.

Or it might not.

(Well, OK, that seems to have worked so maybe things are on the mend.)

Patience, patience

We're working on this, really. A bunch of posts (one really good one!) from today have vanished. Maybe forever. We may have to go back to doing this with a quill pen. Stay tuned.

[Things might get a little messy later]

Something has gone wonky with the Blogger software and a post or two disappeared. If they return at once, well…. But never fear. See blog rule #4.

In the morning mail

Dear Boss,

Noticed something strange about the enclosed weather map. The lower 48 are cut off on a line just East of the Cascade Mountains. Seattle is out of the picture because we screw up the story. Even though WA state borders Canada, the high temperature in Seattle today was 46. All next week highs will be about the same. In order to offer relief to the rest of the nation I'd like to suggest the firm establish a seasonal desk, the Hawaii Tourist Information Desk. I have a promising applicant for the job. Watch for her email. Her name is Iwannawanna Hulanownow.

S. G. I. Seattle

[Wecan'twaitwait -Ed.]


The more things change…

Bummer: Colorado pot shops will run out of marijuana within days | The Raw Story

As one street dealer told The Pueblo Chieftain, “[w]hen the novelty wears off, people will be tired of having to go to the stores and paying much higher prices for the same weed. Street dealers will charge less, and we deliver.”

Winter does not disprove global warming any more than night disproves the day

Climate change deniers cite snowstorm: Debunking Donald Trump et al.

When it’s winter on Earth, it’s also summer on Earth ... somewhere else. Thus, allow us to counter anecdotal evidence about cold weather with more anecdotal evidence: It’s blazing hot in Australia, with temperatures in some regions set to possibly soar above 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the coming days.

Take that, you Trump, take that!

Sooner or later comes a time when women of a certain age call you Hon

Dude, that does not mean what it meant fifty years ago. But it might get you a free cup of coffee if you play it cool.

Clickflation arrives


SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Celebrities, businesses and even the U.S. State Department have bought bogus Facebook likes, Twitter followers or YouTube viewers from offshore "click farms," where workers tap, tap, tap the thumbs up button, view videos or retweet comments to inflate social media numbers.

Nineteen ninety what?

BBC News - N America weather: Polar vortex brings record temperatures

"The last really big Arctic outbreak was 1994," Reuters news agency quoted Bob Oravec, a forecaster with the National Weather Service, as saying.

This is what we mean by record low? It hasn't been this cold since a week ago last Thursday? I know, it's Brits saying this, but still. 

Ice Bowl!

Storms have killed 16 in the US and temperatures are set to reach lows not seen for a generation | The Raw Story

Green Bay Packers’ NFL wild-card playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field is expected to go ahead today, as the coldest NFL game ever played.

Go Pack. 

Fans…were warned to take extra precautions, such as dressing in layers and sipping warm drinks.

Also extra cheese on the hats might be a good idea.

The nice thing about looking at Duluth pictures…

is that it makes here feel warmer.

So which is scarier?

Listen to Pandora, and It Listens Back - NYTimes.com

A few services, like Pandora, Amazon and Netflix, were early in developing algorithms to recommend products based on an individual customer’s preferences or those of people with similar profiles. Now, some companies are trying to differentiate themselves by using their proprietary data sets to make deeper inferences about individuals and try to influence their behavior.