BOOM!

Nora_Arnezeder_006
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Goddamn. Wikipedia sez:

Nora Arnezeder (born 8 May 1989) is a French actress and singer. Arnezeder was born in Paris, France. Her father, Wolfgang, is Austrian and Catholic, and her mother, Piera, is an Egyptian Jew. At the age of two, she left Paris with her parents for Aix-en-Provence. When she was fourteen, she moved to Bali for a year and, once back in Paris, studied dancing and singing.

Random Thoughts

Have you ever been at home, doing some task (like the dishes), with your headphones on, and you’re just groovin’ to the tunes and lost in the task at hand, so lost that when you open the door and see that it’s raining when it wasn’t before you’re like “HOLY SHIT! IT’S RAINING!!”, as if you’re the first person to ever see rain?

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As I get older, certain “rules” of social behavior get easier to understand, while others get harder. The “big rules”, like those against murder or adultery, get easier to accept and understand. But the finer points of social interaction seem to get more difficult for me to grasp.

I was at Walmart a couple of days ago, and as I stood in the checkout line I noticed that ChapStick has a new “Red Velvet Cupcake” flavor. “OMG!”, I thought to myself, “Lisa’s co-worker Kim loves anything red velvet! I should get her a tube!”

But then I thought “is that OK? Is that appropriate? Should I be buying another man’s wife ChapStick? Is that weird? What if some random dude bought Lisa ChapStick? How would I feel about that? But hell, man… you’re not ‘some random guy’! You know Kim. You went to her wedding! You’ve gone out bar hopping with her and her husband! It’s not like you have anything ‘going on’ with her… and it’s not like you’re buying her a dozen roses or some sex toy or something. But speaking of, why would I buy someone ChapStick? Maybe I should get her a couple quarts of oil and a belt sander while I’m here… ‘cos a tube of ChapStick is a pretty random thing, even if she loves red velvet. But then there was that time in Latin class… remember your professor? The sweet older Southern lady who kinda looked like Flannery O’Connor and lived in that HUGE house in Druid Hills and went to Agnes Scott back when that was something to be proud of? What was her name? Anyway, remember that one time when she had a horrible case of the sniffles, and during a break you went to that convenience store next to Walter’s – remember? It was called ‘Fast Lane’ and that older Indian guy worked there who tried to be really hip with the college kids with his ‘heeeeeyyy doooode, what’s a happenin’?’, and you were gonna write that pilot for a sitcom called Life in the Fast Lane… Anyway, the Latin professor, whose name you can’t remember but was realty sweet, had the sniffles and you went to Fast Lane and bought her a pack of tissues, and that wasn’t weird? Remember that?”

Aaaaaannnndddd this, folks, is why I couldn’t get in any of the “good” universities.

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Hey atheists: what if I told you your mockery of religion is as disrespectful as me calling your precious snowflake of a baby “ugly”, and your constant atheist proselytizing is not only “as annoying” as Jehovah’s Witnesses or Old School Baptists, it’s actually worse because you’re selling… nothing.

Imagine walking on to a car lot, and being approached by the typical Ingratiating, smarmy, sycophantic, sleazy, greasy car salesman. Now imagine, just as you start talking with the salesman, another salesman appears – just as Ingratiating, smarmy, sycophantic, sleazy, and greasy as the first guy – only this guy is calling you and your need for a car “stupid” and “ridiculous”, and he tries to get you to not buy a car. That’s not annoying at all, is it?

DOWNLOAD: Steelers 2013-14 Schedule for Outlook!

The NFL released the official 2013-14 schedule today, and what can I say… for the 10th (11th?) straight year, I’ve got your Pittsburgh Steelers schedule for Outlook ready to go!

I have made a few changes since last year’s schedule:

For one thing, I marked the end times of 13:00 games at 16:25 instead of 16:15, in keeping with the NFL’s new broadcasting policy.

I also no longer mark flex games in the schedule. I figure that if you’re excited enough about football to want to add games to your Outlook calendar, then you probably already know how flex scheduling works. If not, read this.

Lastly, while I still have four versions of the schedule – one CSV format with the Steelers schedule only; one CSV format with the Steelers schedule and the NFL playoffs, and ICS versions of both – I decided to put all files in the same zip package. So please be sure to choose wisely when it’s time to import the calendar. File names are as follows: steelers_2013.csv (or .ics) is the Steelers schedule only; steelers_nfl_2013.csv (or .ics) is the Steelers schedule and NFL playoffs.

The CSV version of the schedule is compatible with Microsoft Outlook 98 or later. It might also work with any calendar app that can import from CSV files; it has only been tested with Outlook 2010, however.

The iCal version of the schedule is for Google Calendar and iTunes\iPhone. It has not been tested at all. I used this handy online tool to convert the CSV to iCal format, so if there are any problems with the iCal version, please take it up with the webmaster there!

Either schedule contains all preseason and regular season Steelers games as well as the name of the network airing the game. All times are for the Eastern (USA) time zone. A reminder is also scheduled for 8:00PM the day before each game.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2013-2014 Schedule

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For complete instructions, click the “Continue Reading” link below!

Continue reading “DOWNLOAD: Steelers 2013-14 Schedule for Outlook!”

AMAZING LIVES: Timothy Dexter

“Selling coal to Newcastle” (or variations, like the alliterative “carrying coal to Newcastle” or the less popular “taking coal to Newcastle”) is a British idiom for a pointless or foolish action. The city of Newcastle upon Tyne was the home of Britain’s coal industry for at least 150 years, so taking coal there to sell would be silly. I’m not sure there’s an exact analogue for it in American English, but the old saying “he could sell ice to Eskimos” shows a similar ironic humor.

But there was once a man who did sell coal to Newcastle. And his name was Timothy Dexter.

Dexter was born in Malden, Massachusetts on January 22, 1748. His family would probably be considered poor by modern standards, but was a typical farming family of the day that didn’t have a lot of material wealth. Timothy therefore stopped attending school at age 8 and, barely literate, started working on the family farm. At 16 he was apprenticed to a leathermaker. At some point thereafter, he moved to Newburyport, Massachusetts to open his own leather business. The historical record is silent on whether Timothy’s business was a success, but somehow or the other was soon able to convince a rich widow named Elizabeth Frothingham to marry him.

Dexter was nothing if not ambitious, and frequently petitioned the Newburyport council for some sort of job that might improve his station. Remember, Dexter was barely literate: not only was his spelling awful (even by the loose standards of the time), his penmanship was said to be truly terrible. It’s likely that the Newburyport council only read the first or second petitions, then tossed all subsequent petitions into a pile. But they could only ignore him for so long: the pile of Dexter’s petitions eventually got so tall that the council, perhaps sarcastically, resurrected the ancient title of “Informer of Deer” – a job not filled since the early days of the Massachusetts Colony, when the line between eating and starving was so thin that it was considered a good idea to have a person whose full-time job was to go out and look for deer. So, Timothy Dexter: Informer of Deer.

Local “society” types in Newburyport took an instant dislike to him. I don’t know if this was strictly because of Dexter’s lower-class background, his lack of formal education, his “eccentric” personality or what. But many of Newburyport’s moneyed men purposely gave him bad business advice, in hopes of making him go broke. Unfortunately for them, Timothy Dexter seemed to have the world’s longest streak of good luck.

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Happy Birthday, Sarah!

I just wanted to wish HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of the grooviest chicks in music… Saint Etienne lead singer Sarah Cracknell, who turns 45 today! 🙂

Sarah Cracknell

Good News, Southerners!

For years, there’s been this notion that the South is home to the fattest people in the nation. Well, come to find out, people in the South aren’t necessarily fatter… they’re just more honest.

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) have been conducting a long-term study called “Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke”, or REGARDS for short. They’ve found that people in the South tend to have higher blood pressure, more cases of diabetes, and more strokes than other regions of the country. And, like most folks, they assumed that it’s because of higher obesity rates in the South.

However, when they started weighing people themselves, they found that the numbers didn’t add up. So they started weighing people in other parts of the country, and found that those numbers really didn’t add up.

Come to find out, most of the data used to determine obesity rates comes from the Centers for Disease Control’s “Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System” study. And that data comes from telephone interviews. And guess what? People tend to lie in telephone interviews. People in the South were simply more honest about their weight compared to people in other parts of the country.

According to the folks at UAB, who conducted their own obesity study which divided the country into the same nine regions the US Census Bureau uses, the most obese part of the country is the “West North Central” region (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and the Dakotas). The “East South Central” (Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky), which has always ranked first in the CDC studies, came in fifth in the UAB study.

No word on where the “South Atlantic” region (which includes the Carolinas, DC, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, and Virginia) is on UAB’s list.

In their investigation, UAB also found that women are much more likely to underreport their weight than men… but men are much more likely to overreport their height which, of course, makes their weight issues seem like less of a problem.

Read more here. Link to their study in the journal Obesity here.

London’s Lost Rivers

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, currently the commander of the International Space Station, has an awesome Twitter feed in which he frequently posts amazing pictures of Earth as seen from the ISS. For example, he recently posted this picture of nighttime London as a memorial to Margaret Thatcher’s passing:

London from ISS
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What’s striking about this picture is that you can clearly see the River Thames as it bisects London. What you can’t see in the picture, however, are the 21 other rivers in Greater London that flow into the Thames. And that’s because, in most cases, the rivers are now underground:

London's lost rivers
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Here’s a brief summary of just a few of London’s “lost rivers”:

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The largest, and perhaps most well-known, is the River Fleet. The river begins as two separate steams near Hampstead Heath, an ancient park which first entered the historical record in AD 986 when the gloriously (and accurately) named King Ethelred the Unready gave one of his servants land there. From Hampstead, the streams flow through Kentish Town to Camden Town, where they join. The river then flows underneath King’s Cross, which was previously known as Battle Bridge, because Roman historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus said the Romans fought legendary Iceni ruler Boudica at a bridge over the Fleet there. It then flows down Farringdon Road, and then Farringdon Street, before ending in the Thames underneath Blackfriars Bridge.

For centuries, the Fleet was a regular part of London life. It’s thought that the Romans built the world’s first tidal mill on the Fleet. The Anglo-Saxons, who called it fleot, meaning “tidal inlet”, dug several wells next to the river, from which Londoners got place names like Clerkenwell, Bagnigge Well and St. Bride’s Well. They also used the Fleet for shipping, and two short streets now named Newcastle Close and Old Seacoal Lane were originally wharves.

Sweepings from Butchers Stalls, Dung, Guts and Blood,
Drown’d Puppies, stinking Sprats, all drench’d in Mud,
Dead Cats and Turnip-Tops come tumbling down the Flood.

– Jonathan Swift, on what the Fleet looked like after a heavy rain

But by the 1200s, the river had become so polluted that the area became home to slums and prisons. Sir Christopher Wren advocated widening the river after the Great Fire of London (1666), but instead a man named Robert Hooke turned the river into a canal in the style of Venice in 1680. The upper part of Hooke’s canal was never popular, so in 1736 the area was covered up and a market built over it. The market survived until 1829, by which point it was so decrepit that it was knocked down and modern Farringdon Road was built in its stead. And the lower part of the river – already mostly covered by bridges and buildings – was built over in 1769 as part of the construction of Blackfriars Bridge.

To where Fleet-ditch with disemboguing streams
Rolls the large tribute of dead dogs to Thames
The king of dykes! than whom no sluice of mud
with deeper sable blots the silver flood

– Alexander Pope, 1728

The most famous part of the Fleet is probably the street named after it. For centuries, Fleet Street was home to most of London’s newspapers, and although most have since moved away, “Fleet Street” is still synonymous with the British media, in the same way that “Madison Avenue” in synonymous with American advertising.

The current Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, wants to uncover the Fleet as part of a “beautification plan” for the city, although the government agency tasked with the project is unsure it can be done.

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Some Goofs from “The Doorway”

Hi-ho Mad Men fans! What did you guys think of the season premiere? I liked it, although it was a bit rough around the edges (WTF, Betty?). Of course, most Mad Men premieres are a bit “slow”, so I’m kind of… not “shocked”, exactly… but sort of… “confused” by much of the negative press the premiere got. What do you think?

Some observations – mostly goofs – from last night’s premiere:

– Did anyone catch that Megan was wearing a backless dress at the luau (no bra), but was wearing a white bra later that same night in the hotel room?

– Those really tall hotels at the base of Diamond Head didn’t exist in the 1960s. Here’s a picture of what it looked like in 1967, and here’s a pic of what it looks like today. I guess it would have been too involved and\or expensive to remove the new hotels via CGI.

– Is it just me, or was the product placement even more blatant than usual? Ritz crackers? Smucker’s jelly? Talk about on the nose!

– Given the high profile of the Super Bowl, I’m surprised that they got so much wrong about it. First, some background: American football was created by universities. The first football game was played by Rutgers and Princeton on November 6, 1869. The sport rapidly spread to other universities, and it was the success of college football as a spectator sport that led to the creation of the American Professional Football Conference in 1920 (it renamed itself the “National Football League”, or NFL, in 1922). However, professional football would remain a distant second in popularity to college football until the late 1950s. Nationwide TV broadcasts allowed millions of Americans to see the games for the first time, and air travel made a geographically larger league possible. However, the NFL was reluctant to expand into “untested” cities. A man named Lamar Hunt (son of Texas oil tycoon HL Hunt – the inspiration for the “J,R. Ewing” character on Dallas – and younger brother of Nelson Bunker Hunt and William Herbert Hunt, who famously tried to corner the silver market in 1980) approached the NFL about creating a team in Dallas. The NFL turned him down, so Hunt, along with others who had been refused teams, created his own league, the American Football League (AFL). At first, the NFL dismissed the upstart league, but when the AFL quickly became popular with football fans, the two leagues went to war with each other. Both leagues expanded to new cities and fought with each other over players leaving college. It was soon obvious to everyone that the whole situation was counterproductive, and merger talks began between the two leagues. 1970 was the first year they played as a combined league, but before that the leagues agreed to play a game between the NFL and AFL champion at the end of the season. This was, of course, the Super Bowl. However, for the first two seasons it was known by its official name, the “AFL-NFL World Championship Game”. So I’m not so sure Peggy would be calling it the “Super Bowl”. The name “Super Bowl” existed, but wasn’t officially adopted until Super Bowl III. What’s more, the first few Super Bowls were not the huge “events” they are today. Super Bowl I didn’t even sell out: the stadium was only two-thirds full, perhaps because of the “high” ticket price of $12 ($81.40 in 2012 dollars, which is almost laughable given that face value of tickets for the most recent game, Super Bowl XLVII, was $850 to $1,250!). Super Bowl commercials really didn’t become a “big thing” until Apple’s famous 1984 ad from Super Bowl XVIII in 1983:

Before that, the only really notable Super Bowl commercials were from Master Lock (their iconic “lock getting shot with a rifle” ads debuted during Super Bowl VII):

Coca-Cola (the “Mean Joe” Greene commercial, aired during Super Bowl XIV in 1980, and considered by many the best Super Bowl ad ever):

And Xerox (their “monk” ads first aired in Super Bowl X in 1976):

So it’s also highly unlikely that Peggy would be stressing out over a “Super Bowl ad”, when such ads had not become a “thing” yet.

– While I’m on the subject of football, the “Cotton Bowl” was mentioned. This is a postseason college football game played in Dallas, Texas. College sports are somewhat confusing, especially to people outside the United States. The oldest “bowl” game is the Rose Bowl, which started in Pasadena, CA in 1901. At first the game was meant to feature the best team from the eastern US against the best team from the western US, and whoever won the game was considered national champion. The bowl game was incredibly popular, and other cities wanted to get in on the action. A few decades later you had the Cotton Bowl (1936, Dallas), the Orange Bowl (1934, Miami), and the Sugar Bowl (1934, New Orleans). Nowadays there are over 30 bowl games! And for the record, in the Cotton Bowl mentioned in Mad Men, Texas A&M beat #8 Alabama 20-16.

– As far as I know, there were no courts martial for war atrocities in Vietnam until well in to 1968.

– DEFCON (short for “defense readiness condition”) is an acronym used by the United States military to describe their overall alert level. The system was instituted in November of 1959, but I’m not sure how much the average public would have known about it in 1967 (especially since Peggy notes that the system “counts down” rather than up; i.e that DEFCON 5 is normal and DEFCON 1 is nuclear war).

– Lastly, the area around St. Mark’s Street was known as the “Lower East Side” until the 1980s, when “East Village” became the norm. There were people calling it East Village in 1967, but it was rare, and very unlikely that a 15 year-old girl from Rye would even know to call it that.

Quote of the Day

“When a man walks into a room, he brings his whole life with him. He has a million reasons for being anywhere. Just ask him. If you listen, he’ll tell you how he got there. How he forgot where he was going – then, he woke up. If you listen, he’ll tell you about the time he thought he was an angel and dreamt of being perfect. And then he’ll smile, with wisdom, content that he realized the world isn’t perfect. We’re flawed because we want so much more. We’re ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had.”

– Jon Hamm as Don Draper
Mad Men, “The Summer Man”

KITCHEN TIP: Shredding Chicken

I love me some chicken tacos, but I hate the chore of shredding chicken. I’ve long been a “two-forks” kind of guy, shredding chicken by hand like some kind of 13th century peasant. Shredding by hand not only takes forever, gripping the forks for so long hurts my hands, and the whole thing makes a big ol’ mess.

I read somewhere online that you could shred chicken with a mixer. “No way!”, I thought. But yes, it really does work!

shred-chicken_mixer

In a perfect world, you’d use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. We don’t have one of those, but we do have a hand mixer, which works almost as well. You just cook the chicken breasts until done, cut them into smaller chunks (I cut large breasts into three pieces), then toss them into a large bowl and hit them with the mixer. Start off at the slowest speed, gradually increasing speed as the chicken breaks down. In 2-3 minutes, you’ll have a bowl of perfectly shredded chicken with almost no effort!

There are a couple of things to keep in mind, though. One, hot (or warm) chicken shreds much better than cold chicken, so shred it just after cooking, even if you’re not planning on using it until later. Secondly, if you have the mixer set too fast, little chicken shreds will fly out of the bowl. Until you’re used to how much speed you need, you might want to keep a paper plate or towel handy to act as a “shield” whilst shredding.