Taking the slow road

Obamacare rules on equal coverage delayed: NY Times | Reuters

"(Reuters) - The Obama administration is delaying enforcement of a provision of the new healthcare law that prohibits employers from providing better health benefits to top executives than to other employees, the New York Times reported on Saturday."

Now and then when I'm walking downtown…

…I take a detour through the men’s department (there’s only one) just to see if there’s anything interesting on sale; today I did and there isn’t. But there was another guy coming down the aisle in the opposite direction and what he said was:

I’m looking for two things but I can’t remember what they are.

I hope he found them and they were marked down.

See? This kind of stuff makes me nuts

Think Progress (for the record, a decidedly left-leaning web publication) runs a headline…

Mayor Claims Chris Christie Is Holding Sandy Relief Hostage To Help Private Developer | ThinkProgress

…followed by a lead that says something else.

"Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer has accused two aides to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) of withholding relief aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy” (Emphasis added.)

This happens a lot, most often, but not exclusively, on site with pronounced political leanings. And they only do it to make me craZy. 

Bugging Paul Revere's phone

Paul Revere could have been caught if the British crown collected metadata | The Verge

"This morning, President Barack Obama kicked off his speech on NSA surveillance reform with a reference to Paul Revere, the famous patriot of the American Revolution who warned that the British were coming. President Obama held up Revere as a symbol of the importance of US surveillance"

But, asks The Verge, what about British surveillance, thereby kicking off one of the dumbest debates of the day.

Just shut up and click

Amazon plans to ship your packages before you even buy them | The Verge

"The company today gained a new patent for 'anticipatory shipping,' a system that allows Amazon to send items to shipping hubs in areas where it believes said item will sell well."

Getting off the ground

Here's the World's Best Paper Plane Maker | Wired Design | Wired.com

"Iaconi-Stewart devoted an entire summer just to the seats (20 minutes for an economy seat, four to six hours for business class, and eight hours for first class). Tweezers helped."


The $1 Trillion Question - NYTimes.com

"Republicans give up the idea of killing off the Dodd-Frank reforms of the securities industry. Democrats give up the idea of giving the administration enough money to enforce them properly."

…and more on the recent budget bill from Gail Collins at the New York Times.


Alas, we are spoiled

A few warm days in a row and we are walking around here on a sunny, 40º afternoon thinking it’s cold. Forty degrees. Imagine. What wimps.

Fortunately for our sturdy New England souls, we are expecting some 10º weather next week.

Or we could all just take worry pills and we wouldn't need stuff like this at all

This Week’s Forecast: What Flu Season May Look Like - NYTimes.com

"Jeffrey Shaman, an environmental health scientist at Columbia University, hopes that he and his colleagues will someday change the nightly news. ‘The way you get pollution reports and pollen counts on the local weather report, you could also have a flu forecast on there,’ said Dr. Shaman."

NASA discovers evidence of cops on Mars

Mystery rock suddenly appears near Mars rover, puzzling scientists | The Verge

"A 'jelly doughnut-sized' rock has appeared in front of the Opportunity rover"

Me, I have no such list

Forbidden Zone for the Police: Places Ready-Made for a Nap - NYTimes.com

"A lieutenant in each precinct is required to keep an updated ‘integrity monitoring list’ that includes napping locations …"

But she turned out to be a real angel so we let her go

Naked Woman Wearing Angel Wings Is Busted | The Smoking Gun

"Christine Lawrence, 47, was busted for indecent exposure after a pair of Mountain Home Police Department officers responded to a 3:20 AM call about ‘a female walking down the middle of the road with nothing on besides angel wings,’ according to a police report."


Here's one of the things I don't understand

Obama's NSA Reforms Are Going to Tick Off Everyone | Mother Jones

If Obama Allows the NSA to Continue Hacking Internet Encryption…
Who gets mad? Tech geeks, Lavabit, Google engineers, and journalists

OK, maybe I do. As long as the NSA or anybody is believed capable of breaking internet encryption all the companies who sell “secure” services look pretty dumb. But do the assembled tech geeks and engineers really want to base their claim of privacy on the President, of all people, saying no fair peeking? Really? That’s the plan?

If the NSA is really hacking internet encryption that just means internet encryption is hackable (in other words, not so safe after all) and by the way, who knows who else is hacking it too? 

If internet encryption can be hacked somebody, somewhere, some time, NSA or not, will. 

A lot of tech geeks and internet engineers argue that hacking is a valuable activity because good “white hat” hackers (sometimes called researchers) reveal security weaknesses which can then be fixed. How does that not work here too?

Possibly we should just rename the National Security Agency the National Research Agency and call it a win.

In the end, not as big as you thought

Undernews: NPR calls budget "ennormous'

"While the government spends more money each year than any of its listeners will see in their lifetime, it spends less relative to the size of its economy than almost any other wealthy country."

The largest? Really? You're going with that?

Cheating Accusations Among Officers Overseeing Nuclear Arms - NYTimes.com

"Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, the Air Force chief of staff…characterized the Malmstrom case as the largest cheating episode he had come across among missile launch officers."


Prepare to be astounded

Noted: A Dead-Simple App for Jotting Things Down | Wired Design | Wired.com

"Sanchez, co-founder of Tack Mobile, a Denver-based interactive firm that specializes in mobile interaction development, wanted a simpler way to jot things down. Something like the sticky notes he kept on his desk."

Another notes app! Bet you didn’t see that coming. And also sticky! Well, like-sticky, to be precise. The joy.

Sticky notes (via an app cryptically named “Stickies”) have been standard-issue on Macs for as long as I can remember (which is pretty long, now), and every respectable OS comes with a basic text editor (anybody remember edlin?), and then of course there’s Evernote and, you know, that other note-taking app, and that one, and about 70 zillion more. But never mind.

We love to take notes! (OK, really we love to take notes for the first week and a half of classes, but not so much after that.)

Hey, I used to know a sergeant who did that

Exhausted Barclays Interns Napped on the Toilet | TIME.com

"Interns at Barclays PLC have taken their bathroom time as nap time, using the few minutes they have on the toilet to catch some Z’s…"

Me, I could sleep right through a training film without falling over, and just about all of us could sleep while marching.

Wait, didn't we retire this guy somewhere along the line?

Lieberman slams Obama on terrorism | TheHill

"Retired Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) was back on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to slam the Obama administration's response to terrorism."

Yes! We did! See where it says “retired”? So he ought to go sit around drinking coffee at McDonald’s with the rest of the geezers (where, believe me, he can say absolutely anything he wants without sounding out of place) and, otherwise, shut up.

Jazz club, New Orleans
iPhone photo art: Phil Compton

This one secret can save you a lifetime of plumbing bills

(I see headlines like this all over the internet. The people who write them seem to have a way to make people who read them send money. I haven’t figure that out yet, so you get this one absolutely free.)

If you have water that won’t drain out of your bathtub just pretend (I’m talking really, sincerely pretend) you’re trying to keep it in. Once it thinks you are trying to keep it in it will instantly drain out. The only time water will stay in your bathtub (or bucket, or boat, or anywhere) is if it thinks you are trying to get rid of it. If it thinks you are trying to get rid of it it will stay, more or less, forever.

Bonus: A watched pot will never boil.

Eschew obfuscation

Or not…

Administration Is Seen as Retreating on Environment in Talks on Pacific Trade - NYTimes.com

"‘While the chair sought to accommodate all the concerns and red lines that were identified by parties regarding the issues in the text, many of the red lines for some parties were in direct opposition to the red lines expressed by other parties.’"

2014 begins, as everybody knows (right?), the 100th anniversary of World War I

Now Online, Diaries of British Soldiers Detail Horrors of World War I - NYTimes.com

"There have also been a spate of books on the outbreak and causes of the war, followed by opinion pieces in the newspapers. The three most prominent books so far have been by Christopher Clark, ‘The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914,’ which was quoted at a summit meeting by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany; Margaret MacMillan, ‘The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914’; and Max Hastings, ‘Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War.’ But this is just an early skirmish: Publishers plan many more, including novels and the reissuing of classics like Barbara Tuchman’s ‘The Guns of August’ and Erich Maria Remarque’s ‘All Quiet on the Western Front.’"

(The British National Archives page is here.)


Wait, somebody is surprised by this?

Weed law not slowing Colo. college application rates

"At University of Colorado Boulder, the state's largest university, out-of-state applications for the fall have been rising 20 to 30% this year, says Kevin MacLennan, director of admissions."

Why not—it's a gloomy day anyway

Undernews: Nearly ten million more unemployed under Obama

"Economic Collapse Blog - That headline is not a misprint.  The number of working age Americans that do not have a job has increased by nearly 10 million since Barack Obama first entered the White House.  In January 2009, the number of 'officially unemployed' workers plus the number of Americans 'not in the labor force' was sitting at a grand total of 92.6 million.  Today, that number has risen to 102.2 million."

The snow plow drivers are again unemployed hereabouts; the big old polar vortex and the snow that traveled with it are merely memories and now it’s foggy, drippy, rainy, sloppy all over again. Here. A January thaw. It is soooo tempting to dream of Spring. And also so misguided. January—did we mention January?

When there are voice commands for everything…

Enblink dongle now lets you control your home appliances using voice commands

…we’ll all be afraid to speak. Right? NO! STRAIGHT AHEAD! STRAIGHT AHEAD!

On trends we missed but never missed

Goodbye Twitter fridges, hello 3D-printed food | The Verge

"CES has long been the best place in the world to find a bunch of insane and impractical home appliances. Last year saw the category reach its drunk-on-tech nadir, best exemplified by Samsung's incongruous efforts to push Evernote onto fridge doors…"

I suppose it's not really right to laugh at stuff like this, but still

Chinese firm to build replica of Titanic - Yahoo News

"Flamboyant Australian tycoon Clive Palmer previously unveiled a plan last year to build a sea-worthy replica of the Titanic which is scheduled to make its first Atlantic crossing in 2016.

Palmer's 'Titanic II' will feature modern modifications -- including many more lifeboats than the original…"


OK, complete this sentence:

Could a Mix of Sand and Pee Be a Super-Green Replacement for Concrete? | Wired Design | Wired.com

Now you can fix that pothole in front of your house by…

Better safe than wasted

No, People In Colorado Are Not Using Food Stamps To Buy Pot | ThinkProgress

"Days after Colorado began to allow recreational marijuana businesses to legally operate in the state, a group of state legislators filed a bill to ensure that no food stamps or public assistance funds are used at those shops. The bill comes after a county Republican party committee mistook a satirical news report for fact. "

The family business

Charles Cashes in On Kate's Popularity - The Daily Beast

"For Prince Charles's company has cashed in on the popularity of Kate Middleton and baby George by selling a range of baby goods including organic baby food and baby clothes which has increased a turnover in his company by almost £1m in the past year."

Sort of off the topic, but…

Twinned Cities Now Following Different Paths - NYTimes.com

…an interesting story about the Twin Ports, Duluth, MN, and Superior,WI, and the political divide between their respective states, in this morning’s Times.

(So now you’re wondering what the topic is, right?)

Pants keep falling down?

Supercar maker Bugatti reveals a trouser belt that costs £60,000 | Mail Online

"Owners of the belt will be able to boast that their accessory, as the Roland Iten website states, is 'micro-customisable to any size within a 22mm range' and can be adjusted 'to the exact waist measurement'."


Such models of good behavior those banks are

Banks Say No to Marijuana Money, Legal or Not - NYTimes.com:

“Banks, including state-chartered ones, are reluctant to provide traditional services to marijuana businesses. They fear that federal regulators and law enforcement authorities might punish them…"

Opposes sending troops but…

McCain: Send Petraeus back to Iraq

Or maybe he just forgot.

Somehow the thought of medically enhanced chocolate bars just doesn't turn me on

Nestlé Will Test Health Foods on Human Brain Cells | TIME.com:

"Nestlé competitors like the yogurt giant Danone have also been investing in nutrition or medically enhanced products…"

Take that, polar vortex

It rained all day yesterday (and there is nothing slicker than wet ice), but it stayed above freezing overnight and by now, mid-day Sunday, nearly all the ice is gone and sidewalks are drying out. Nearly all—but we’re looking at a pretty good week coming up, 30-40ish, so one storm down.

Hat guy in winter

Hat Guy

Also mittens, gloves…

Featuring the latest in work avoidance technology

Simpsons LEGO Is Here | TIME.com:

"The only other character featured except for the five family members is Ned Flanders, but the star of the set is the house itself. Divided into two floors, the easily recognizable Simpson dwelling can be opened up, dollhouse style, to reveal all of the children’s rooms, the garage and the (what else?) iconic TV-set."


We haven’t quite finished reading it yet but now is as good a time as any to add to our reading list the excellent The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets by Simon Singh, available from all the usual sources. If you’re into math at all (or the Simpsons, d’oh), it’s a book you’ll surely enjoy.

Kill a few minutes the easy way

QUIZ: Match the Political Scandal to the Apology | Mother Jones

If corporations are really people, can we lock this one up?

Frustration grows as shelves empty and businesses shut following W. Va. chemical spill | Fox News:

"State officials said Saturday they believe about 7,500 gallons leaked from a Freedom Industries plant in Charleston. Some of the chemical, a foaming agent used in coal processing, was contained before flowing into the Elk River; it's not clear exactly how much entered the water supply."

We are so, so unbearably sad

Price war in U.S. mobile market raises fear of profit hemorrhage | Reuters:

"While discounts are always welcomed by consumers, the intensifying competition is a new challenge to a U.S. industry long used to imposing its will on consumers, and analysts fear it could result in the loss of billions of dollars of revenue."

Also we’re kidding.