This blog covers everything except sports and gardening, unless we find a really good link about using dead professional bowlers for mulch. The author is a StarTribune columnist, has been passing off fiction and hyperbole as insight since 1997, has run his own website since the Jurassic era of AOL, and was online when today’s college sophomores were a year away from being born. So get off his lawn.
All the fancy artisanal hand-crafted bourbon with the well-designed label and premium price points? Probably comes from the same spigot, says the Daily Beast. The article links to this page, which compiles all the brands and notes who really makes who. I had no idea Four Roses made Bulleit. Next we’ll learn that many beers are made by the same enormous distilleries. You can’t trust anything anymore!
SCIENCE! Another day, another skull - but this time it has a bonus feature. Ancient brains.
Archaeologists in Norway made an extremely rare discovery when they found an ancient skull believed to date back 8,000 years at a dig site in Stokke, southwest of Oslo. According to a news report in The Local, the skull was found to contain a grey, clay-like substance inside it, which is thought to be the preserved remains of the individual’s brain.
If analyses confirm this to be the case, it will constitute one of the oldest brains ever found. Being able to study a preserved brain enables scientists to piece together the individual’s last hours and may also reveal any diseases or pathological conditions such as tumours and haemorrhaging.
Scientists can piece together the brain-inhabitant’s last hours? No. I mean, it’s not as if they’re hooking it up to a Dreamscape recorder and downloading the memories. I don’t know what that means. So let’s go to the original story in the Local.
For the past two months archaeologists have been digging at the Stokke site, believed to be two separate Stone Age settlements.
The human skull containing brain matter is among many findings unearthed at the dig.
It is hoped the skull can tell something about how it was to be a Stone Age human in Norway. It is not yet known whether the skull belongs to an animal or a child.
I didn’t think many human skulls belonged to animals, but I’m not a paleontologist.
HMMM Questions that don’t seem as provocative as they might:
Related, inasmuch as it's a teaster on the internet:
TIOT That’s the Internet of Things, the nebulous and infantile name for the imminent future of interconnected machines. Some people think it’ll be overkill. Like this.
You wake up to a jazzy MIDI version of the “Happy Birthday” song. Your smart thermostat and smoke detector are singing in harmony because today is your day. Your fitness tracker is vibrating in an unfamiliar Morse Code. Searching the internet, you come across a question in the support forums about it, explaining it is the preprogrammed birthday greeting silent alarm that you can disable after pairing the device again and updating your settings. Your bathroom scale, toilet, and garage door also welcome you with birthday wishes. Open up the refrigerator to another friendly jingle. Tropicana, Fage, and Sabra Hummus all wish you happy birthday. Now there’s an incoming message. It is the “birthday selfie” it snapped when you reached for the orange juice
If you don’t think this is likely, check your email for all the letters you get and don’t want but haven’t bothered to unsubscribe from. I don't want to unsubscribe from my orange-juice camera.
TRAVEL TIPS From Michael Totten, freelance globe-trotter:
I was advised to check out Le Mat on the outskirts of the city. There you will find the Snake Village where you can pull up a bar stool and order some snake wine. The bartender will kill a cobra, pour its blood into rice wine, and drop the snake’s still-beating heart into the shot glass.
If you don’t want to drink blood, you can have it with bile instead.
I refused. Why make my stomach churn and possibly heave just so I can write about it? The description of the drink itself is enough. I went to Iraq seven times during the war, but drinking snake wine is over the line. I don’t care whether or not that makes sense.
Where he went, and what he saw, make for a fascinating read. Here you go.
Executive Producer Noah Hawley told a TV Critics' panel that season two will be set primarily in North Dakota in 1979 with a younger version of the Lou Solverson character (played by Keith Carradine in season one.) His daughter, Molly, who Allison Tolman portrayed, is just 4 years old.
In the first season, cop-turned-diner owner Lou Solverson (Keith Carradine) often mysteriously referred to a major incident that occurred back in Sioux Falls. At the time, he was 33-years-old and recently back from the Vietnam War.
Which saw the withdrawal of combat troops in 1973. Other than that, though, good news.
ANIMATION In which grown men complain about a movie about self-aware planes that can talk and have developed a complex industrial infrastructure despite the lack of opposable digits: Cartoon Brew on the recent “Planes” movie.
A prevailing argument seems to be the belief, if not the horrible certainty, that the existence of “Planes” is intended to spur the purchase of toys intended for small boys. Also, it was better in the old days of hand-drawn cartoons, when masterpieces appeared in the theater every two months. I remember growing up in those days. Animated movies were rare. Continents drew closer by inches between the releases.
DUH HuffPo on why Smart People don’t buy brand-name aspirin:
The researchers reached the conclusion that informed consumers are more likely to buy a generic product after analyzing Nielsen data from more than 77 million shopping trips by 124,114 households. They also conducted two surveys with more than 160,000 individuals.
That seems like a lot of research for people to do on their own.
There’s a difference when it comes to flavored stuff. Brand-name goods generally taste better. Store brands have a taste that seems to say “if you deserved something that didn’t taste like Mr. Creosote’s sweat, you’d be able to afford it.”
TECH Reviews for Amazon’s new Fire phone are coming in. The Verge is thorough, fair, and not impressed.
Firefly can recognize lots of things, but it’s incredibly, hilariously inconsistent. It figured out the type of Jelly Beans I was shopping for, but only offered them to me in massive bulk. It identified my Dove deodorant as the wrong scent; it turned green tea into citrus; it logged the wrong kind of Trident gum. It identified Michael Lewis’ The New New Thing by its large, title-driven cover, but couldn’t figure out the small type and barren green cover of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It couldn’t identify my keyboard or mouse or speakers or shoes, despite the fact that I bought them all on Amazon.
Do you want to stand in a store and take pictures of Jelly Beans to see if you can buy them cheaper on Amazon? Only if they get approval for same-hour drone delivery, and even then, why? There are Jelly Beans. Right there. In the store. For 24 cents more, granted, but you can eat them in the car, now. I love Amazon, but the idea of turning every retail establishment in town into a showroom for something you buy elsewhere is not the best idea I’ve heard in a long time.
AHOY The Costa Concordia is floating again. Remarkable. The Blue Peter flag has been hoisted, the article notes, as if you know what that means. Might be a good time to acquaint yourself with Nautical Flags.
VOTD Nice dog made nicer by editing and a soundtrack that drowns out the commands. Otherwise, totally legit:
Feeling good? Have a nice warm feeling in your heart? Let’s go to the comments:
Some days you read about the plague in China and think: can’t make it here fast enough.
My hunch is there's a sizable chunk of people who don't really grasp what plagiarism is or why it's wrong, and they kind of regard Twitter and social media as this giant free-for-all where everybody's just constantly taking and posting whatever they want from whoever they want. A perfect example of that might be this Business Insider piece about the infectious spread of the Oh Hi Becky tweet, which quotes the author of the infamous jape:
My hunch is there's a sizable chunk of people who don't really grasp what plagiarism is or why it's wrong, and they kind of regard Twitter and social media as this giant free-for-all where everybody's just constantly taking and posting whatever they want from whoever they want.
Oh - right, I stole that guy’s words and passed them off as my own. Well, no one really owns words, do they? Won’t the world be better off when we lose these antiquated notions of originality and just celebrate the fact that a thought or joke or sentence exists in the first place? SMH. Anyway, it’s a piece about how a tweet flowered and spread like kudzu, until the original author was accused of plagiarizing it. Warning: F-bomb, because of course you have to use the F-bomb these days. It’s only a matter of time before “Effbom” is in the top ten baby names.
Related: an English school sent parents a letter about how their kids are not mere results on a test score. Which came as a surprise to parents, I’m sure. What? My kid can draw and dance? I had no idea. The letter , got upworthied all over kingdom come because it warmed hearts, although not to the point where normal muscular activity ceases due to excessive temperatures. Buzzfeed notes:
The letter, addressed to the pupils themselves, was sent by Tomlinson and the head of year six, Amy Birkett. However, the letter is not original: Tomlinson said she found the words on a blog, and the letter (sent by a different school) was shared widely on Facebook in the US last year.
I googled the text to see where it showed up originally, and was treated to a cavalcade of British newspaper names. These are great.
Pontefract and Castleford Express
Hebden Bridge Times
Filey and Hunmanby Mercury
Malton and Pickering Mercury
Rye and Battle Observer
And that’s just a few. Makes you wonder what names the paper rejected before it settled on Buzzard.
APPS In case you’d forgotten what you were doing years ago, Daily Dot has this:
Six days a week, MorningPics sends a previous photo from an Instagram feed. On Sundays, subscribers receive the Sunday Edition, a round-up of photos posted to Instagram within the past week.
MorningPics’ subject line tells a subscriber how long ago a photo was taken and where, if a location was tagged. Mulligan describes reading the subject line as a mental guessing game to try and remember what happened however many days ago before opening the email. Once opened, a subscriber will see a photo they’ve posted, as well as the number of likes it got and any comments it received.
Apps like this remind you how it’s tough it would be to explain modern amusements to people in 1950. So, it’s like, every morning you get a letter -
“Every morning? The mail comes at noon. Is that close enough?”
Yes. Every morning you get a letter from the service, and -
“What’s the service?”
Well, it’s a . . . business, I suppose, that sends you a photo you took a few months or years ago.
“How do they have my pictures?”
They don’t. They take them from the other serv- the other business that does have your pictures.
“Why do they have my pictures?”
You gave them the pictures, so other people could see them.
“Why don’t they just come over and we’ll get out the slide projector and put up the screen?”
It’s a . . . different sort of sharing. Everyone who follows you can see the pictures.
“Do they follow me because I’m going to the place where the pictures are?”
No. The pictures just appear on your hand-held computer screen. Anyway, the service sends you one every day to remind you what you were doing a while ago.
Well, to remind you that . . . no, to reacquaint you with your past, and . . . you know, that’s a good question.
“You called it a business. How do they make money?”
Aaaaand that’s another good one.
No, it’s not a Polar Vortex. Discovery.com:
Typhoon Neoguri, which battered southern Japan with strong wind and rains last week, likely set off the wacky weather pattern that is interfering with the jet stream over the Midwest.
Wacky? What’s next, zany tornados? Madcap thunderstorms?
Strictly speaking, the cold front is not a polar vortex, according to experts. The impending cold front is called a "high meridional event," but there are some similarities.
"It's the same general circulation pattern, but the effects are extremely different," Bob Oravec, a senior forecaster at the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) Weather Prediction Center, told Live Science. "In the summer, if you go outside in 20 degrees (Fahrenheit) below normal weather, you won't really care, but in the winter, the effects were significantly different because it was already so cold.”
Ahem. We care. We really do. We just get a little summer. Seems cruel to add fall so early. Then again, well:
I was there yesterday. Deserted. For some peculiar reason people aren’t just stocking up on glue pens yet.
I know that glue pens will be on the list of supplies; they always are. Sent daughter to school last year with a package of three. At the end of the year they were unopened. I don’t know where they are now; I do know I will buy three more in a month or so. They will be Elmer brand, because I like Elmer the Borden Bull. In the old 1940s ads he’s a blustering, hectoring, ill-tempered, impulsive fellow, constantly sputtering dismay over his wife Elsie’s monomaniacal shilling for Borden products, but I think there was some underlying tension over her high public profile. Elmer worked in an office - we know this because he was frequently depicted leaving the house with a briefcase, and while it’s possible he wandered the streets, alarming people - a bull, standing erect, wearing a hat, walking around as if he had to get in early to work on the Johnson Contract would be unnerving - but perhaps he knew that Elsie brought in the cream, so to speak. I don’t know if she set him up in the glue business, or if he started it himself after the calves were out of the house and she divorced him.
PLEASE DON’T GO The most astonishing customer assistance call ever recorded for future generations to understand how you can combine cheerfulness, anonymity and Kafkaesque bureaucracy. It’s a Mobius strip. Embedding isn't working for some reason, so here it is. It's mortifying.
“Why do you want to do this?”
“Because that’s what we want to do.”
“That’s none of your business.”
“But why do you want to leave?”
After four minutes you suspect it’s a hoax, because the the caller is too calm, and the Comcast rep isn’t just indifference to the customer, he becomes the needy, whiny partner you can’t break up with easily, but must endure several conversations. NO ONE ELSE WILL LOVE YOU LIKE I DO!
The OP describes the backstory:
This recording picks up roughly 10 minutes into the call, whereby she and I have already played along and given a myriad of reasons and explanations as to why we are canceling (which is why I simply stopped answering the rep's repeated question -- it was clear the only sufficient answer was "Okay, please don't disconnect our service after all.”).
In the comments he is described as the Mother Theresa of Comcast Disconnect Requestors, and that’s about right.
Then again, the Awl has some sympathy for the fellow doing the begging.
. . . overnight my sympathies shifted: If you understand this call as a desperate interaction between two people, rather than a business transaction between a customer and a company, the pain is mutual. The customer service rep is trapped in an impossible position, in which any cancellation, even one he can't control, will reflect poorly on his performance. By the time news of this lost customer reaches his supervisor, it will be data—it will be the wrong data, and it will likely be factored into a score, or a record, that is either directly or indirectly tied to his compensation or continued employment. It's bad, very bad, for this rep to record a cancellation with no reason, or with a reason the script should theoretically be able to answer.
True. The guy could have made up a reason - say, “knobby-fleshed demons are streaming from my modem, praising Baal and making my Bibles burst into flames,” but he didn't have to, and if he wanted to go all Bartleby on the guy, that’s that.
Comcast seems to know this is a PR disaster: here’s their statement.
We are very embarrassed by the way our employee spoke with Mr. Block and are contacting him to personally apologize. The way in which our representative communicated with him is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives. We are investigating this situation and will take quick action. While the overwhelming majority of our employees work very hard to do the right thing every day, we are using this very unfortunate experience to reinforce how important it is to always treat our customers with the utmost respect.
Picture the service rep standing in the middle of the office as his commanding manager ripped off his service patches. Well, there’s nothing left for him but personal appearances in bars that have D-list media celebrities. Bad news; David Brent cancelled. We’ll have to go with the Comcast rep.
VotD Made in Minnesota: the great bands of the 80s revisited, with trips back to the old locales.
Should you give stores your zip code? Forbes article says NO NEVER and tells you why. Tl;dr: marketing. I always hate the zip-code question, but the phone number is worse. “It’s for your records in case you need to return something.” Sorry. I don’t get as many requests for email addresses any more, which is interesting. Younger demographics aren’t on email as much. Anyway, if you don’t care to read the article, check the comments; the first guy goes on a preening little exposition of his privacy-securing techniques, and within five comments someone else has found an aerial picture of his house.
Anyway. It's a good excuse for this:
He’s called Mr. Zip, but he’ll always be Manic Mailman to some of us.
UGH Rolf Harris is convicted of child sex abuse, and Anorak gives you 22 ways in which he Corrupted Your Childhood. A bit overstated, you think, unless you were one of the victims, but then:
So you can see their point. Our house had a 45 of “Tie Me Kangaroo Down,” as did 72% of American households. It was the flip-side I loved. “Big Black Ball.” I can still repeat every line. It was fun to sing along with. Not any more.
The artist is a stonemason and sculptor, which is a good job to have these days: there can’t be too many people who can carve classical details to replace something broken on an old building.
Related, from the same site: they’re called “Blurred Cityscapes,” but they look like paperback covers from the 60s. And I say that as a good thing.
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