Monthly Archives: November 2008

And you thought people from Jersey sucked

Father Scott

Black Friday becomes unfortunately ironic when some dicks in LonGisland trampled and killed a 34-year old man at a Wal-Mart on their way to pick up the latest Guitar Hero, or a 12-dollar stereo or something (protective headgear tip: Deadspin).

“He was bum-rushed by 200 people,” co-worker Jimmy Overby, 43, told the Daily News. “They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me. They took me down too. … I literally had to fight people off my back.”

Unfortunately, rather than pondering what this means about our country, as soon as I read this dude’s quote and saw the word “bum-rush”, I just wanted to watch this video:

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My friends do cool things

Father Scott

One of the nice things about being the age I am in 2008 is the way I can follow what my friends are up to without having to actually, you know, talk to them. (A close second: not receiving copious AARP mailings like Pax.)

The whole social networking thing is obvious, but one thing that has pleasantly surprised me is people documenting special experiences via blogs.

My friend Alli is describing her experience on a Fulbright scholarship in Peru. Her blogging has dropped off recently (for which she apologizes in every post), but she has some interesting observations. In her most recent post she covered a few weeks’ worth of activity. Included in this was celebrating Halloween in Peru, and watching the US election of Barack Obama unfold:

We also celebrated the wonderful victory of Barack Obama and the democrats in general this past Nov. 4th. we had a party at Jan-Jacques house in san blas, and he cooked Indonesian Gadou-gadou, apple pie, and pizzas for the occasion. i brought two cakes that were supposed to say “Obama” on them… but due to a slight misunderstanding regarding the similar pronunciation of the English B and the Spanish V, I brought my two “Ovama” cakes to the party. hilarious, and delicious.

My friend and former editor Niraj has recently traveled to India with his family, after finishing up work in San Francisco. Now, I know what you’re thinking: ‘Didn’t they have some sort of terrorist thing in India recently? Gee, I hope that kid wasn’t affected.’ That’s very sweet of you to care, actually. Oh, and he’s fine, though he was close:

My parents and I left the Mumbai train station the day before yesterday, about eight hours before the shooting there began. We’re all fine, just sad and disappointed. […] I landed in Mumbai on Tuesday The flight was broken into two approximately nine-hour legs (San Francisco to London and London to Mumbai) with a seven-hour wait in London. It sucked, of course, but I did meet a cool Portuguese couple who spent four months in Mumbai in 2006 and were on their way back. In the interim two years they rented out two houses, one of which they built. (Random aside: the guys who run the Internet cafe where I’m writing this are blasting “Lean Back.”)

I’m excited to follow each of their journeys and Niraj in particular is a great writer (Alli probably is too, having hailed from the finest institution in the land).

But, hey, I’m doing cool stuff too. Like yesterday, I owned my brother, who’s five years younger, in basketball. We played on 8 ft. hoops. And we were both winded with the score at 4-2. And then I celebrated doing the “Lean Back”.

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And Happy Thanksgiving from Greg Oden

Father Scott

From the big man’s blog on Yardbarker:

Today i will get some good food grub out at like 3 peoples houses and chill. Im glad my brother got to come to Portland and visit me for this whole week so i do have family with me. To everyone whos reading have a Happy Thanksgiving and know that today is about giving thanks, not turkey, but i will eat a full turkey myself.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some shitty football games to watch.

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Happy Thanksgiving from Pax Arcana!


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Time to ruin your Thanksgiving

Pax Arcana

This is all you’ll get from me today, as the succulent and evenly-browned Mrs. Pax Arcana and I make our way to the fertile loam of the Garden State. I sent my Hungarian manservant ahead to forage for cranberries and wild stuffing.

turkeyThanksgiving is my favorite holiday. For one thing, it’s not specific to any religion, which means I don’t have to explain my Pastafarianism to anyone. For another thing, there’s no presents — which means I don’t spend the entire day in a button-down shirt with the cuffs barely past my elbows.

And then there’s the food. If you don’t like a feast of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, vegetable casseroles, cranberry sauce, and a panoply of dessert pies, then I say you are a fucking traitor to humankind who should be pulled apart by dogs.

Anyway, the greatest thing about the Thanksgiving meal is its purity of heritage. While the original Thanksgiving celebration featured more venison and fish than turkey and potatoes, the standard American Thanksgiving meal has remained consistent for generations. We eat the same turkeys, potatoes, and corn as our ancestors did from time immemorial.

Except not really.

Leave it to Wired to blow a gaping hole in that bit of self-mythology:

The traditional Thanksgiving dinner reflects the enormous amount of change that foods and the food systems that produce them have undergone, particularly over the last 50 years. Nearly all varieties of crops have experienced large genetic changes as big agriculture companies hacked their DNA to provide greater hardiness and greater yields. The average pig, turkey, cow and chicken have gotten larger at an astounding rate, and they grow with unprecedented speed. A modern turkey can mature to a given weight at twice the pace of its predecessors. In comparison with old-school agriculture or single-gene genetic modification, these changes border on breathtaking. Imagine your children reaching maturity at 10 years old.

We’re going to need a bigger children’s table.

Turkeys more than doubled in size in that time from an average of 13 pounds to an average of 29 pounds, and as seen in the chart above, show no signs of stopping. If the trend continues, we could see an average turkey size of 40 pounds by 2020. According to the National Wildlife Turkey Federation, the largest wild turkey on record is 38 pounds.

Which leads us to a deep philosophical question: Can God make a turkey so big even He can’t brine it?


But all that bulk comes with consequences. Commercial turkeys can’t fly and researchers have even invented a way of quantifying how impaired the birds’ walking has become. The one-to-five scale ranges from “birds whose legs did not have any defect” to bowlegged birds who have “great difficulty walking.” After 30 years of breeding, Ohio State’s big birds average a three.

Here’s to swimmin’ with bowlegged poultry. Also, if turkeys were meant to be something other than dinner, I suspect natural selection would have made them

1) less delicious


2) able to fly

But that’s not all.

Turkey isn’t the only element of the iconic Thanksgiving dinner that science has given an overhaul. Corn breeding has made corn six times sweeter than the variations that the Pilgrims probably encountered back in 1620.

Pilgrims caught eating sweet corn were sentenced to 12 days in the stock and made to wear a scarlet C.

Retailer and food processor demands, rather than your fresh vegetable interests, play a major role in the evolutionary history of potatoes as well. Though they were not present at that original feast, they have been a major part of the holiday since Lincoln created it in the 1863.

Potatoes are now driven by a decidedly nonfestive activity: the making of French fries and potato chips. Almost a mirror of corn genetics, agronomists have ratcheted up the starch in potatoes and turned down the sugar, said Gregory Porter, a potato specialist at the University of Maine.

The potatoes at the original Thanksgiving would have been small and round and waxy. They also would have been used as false teeth, musical instruments, and cell phones. Don’t laugh, I’m serious. Have you ever tried to update your Facebook status from a potato? It’s almost impossible!

Give Thanks? Science Supersized Your Turkey Dinner [Wired]


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My army of sexy snipers has been discovered!


Pax Arcana

A whip-smart young reporter for Wired recently found something interesting in a Reuters report of Russian accounts of the recent border skirmish between that nation (full disclosure: a client of mine) and the nation of Georgia (also a client).

In the original report, a Russian general complains that the Georgians had used, in part, foreign fighters to provoke a military conflict.  “There were also two snipers … one from Ukraine and I believe a Latvian woman,” according to the general.

This statement made the Wired reporter suspicious:

That sounds an awful lot like the mythical “white tights” — the exotic female snipers of Chechen war lore who were said to pick off hapless Russian conscripts. As the story had it, these stone-cold, blue eyed killers were said to be from the Baltics — or Ukraine. They were sometimes described as Olympic biathletes recruited as mercenary sharpshooters by Chechen commanders.

Typical liberal media incompetence.

For one thing, they are Scandinavian — not Ukrainian or Baltic. For another thing, The Army of Pax Arcana Sexy Snipers (TAPASS) wears whatever clothing best suits the mission at hand — whether that means white tights, black tights or bikinis.

And finally, the only thing the TAPASS hunts — whether here or abroad — is the army of soulless brain-craving undead that haunt the countryside. So I would appreciate it if you left them to their task.

The Return of ‘White Tights’: Mythical Female Snipers Stalk Russians [Wired]

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This injustice shall not be tolerated!

Pax Arcana

millionaireLike the great heroes of my ancestry who forded across the Atlantic on the strength of sheer determination and perseverence — and who established this family as one of America’s elite in the smoke-filled rooms of the stock exchange and the import/export chancellory — I find myself quite put-upon by my social inferiors and their representatives in the so-called government.

First my effort to supply both major political parties with a viable and wealth-friendly candidate was rebuffed (my son, Thatcher, is adequately suited to manage a hedge fund but not steer the ship of state? Rebuke!). Now, a group of vexatious do-gooders in the federal government have the temerity to question the validity of my farm subsidies!!

The nerve of these people!

An individual or farm entity was ineligible if average adjusted gross income exceeded $2.5 million over three years — unless 75 percent or more of that income came from farming, ranching and forestry.

According to the report, the 2,702 recipients exceeded the $2.5 million and got less than 75 percent of their income from these activities. The payments to them totaled more than $49 million.

“USDA has relied principally on individuals’ one-time self-certifications that they do not exceed income eligibility caps, and their commitment that they will notify USDA of any changes that cause them to exceed these caps,” the GAO said.

And I am not the only one suffering from such degradatious scrutiny. Many of my golfing partners, and half my wife’s charity board of directors, are suffering similar insults!

To wit:

— A founder and former executive of an insurance company received more than $300,000 in farm program payments in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 that should have been subject to the income limits.

— An individual with ownership interest in a professional sports franchise received more than $200,000 for those same years that should have been barred by the income limits.

— A person residing in a country outside of the United States received more than $80,000 for 2003, 2005, and 2006 on the basis of the individual’s ownership interest in two farming entities.

— A top executive of a major financial services firm received more than $60,000 in farm program payments in 2003.

— A former executive of a technology company received about $20,000 in years 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 that were covered by the income limits. This individual also received more than $900,000 in farm program payments that were not subject to those limitations.

This outrage cannot stand. I assure you that the nosy pecksniffs who concocted this slanderous investigation will get what is coming to them, post-haste. My team of lawyers has been informed of my desire to seek a swift retribution, and I shall presently be filing all the necessary paperwork to ensure that happens.

Just as soon as I am finished tilling these fields and plowing the chicken coops, naturally.

Millionaires get farm payments; nobody checking []


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Holy crap, Jay Bennett did something good

Father Scott

It’s been a rough, say, six years for Jay Bennett. After being kicked out of Wilco because a circle can only have one center (and because he’s a micromanaging pain in the ass), Bennett released a good album called The Palace at 4 a.m., Part 1, with fellow Chicago musician Edward Burch in 2002. Since then, it’s been a whole lot of garbage.

But because he’s a big part of the greatest record of all-time, every time I see his name I’m tempted to see what he’s up to, and I think his new album Whatever Happened I Apologize might actually be good. Paste tipped us to it being available for free download on Rock Proper, a site that posts legally free music. My computer is running at prehistoric speeds today (our work last purchased computers after a big selloff when Henry VIII was financing his sixth wedding), so I haven’t downloaded the whole thing, but the song “The Engine is Idle”, which streams there, is better than anything he’s done since Palace.

Via Paste, here’s what Jay has to say about making this record:

All of the vocals are done live to my own acoustic guitar accompaniment, so it has some ‘warts,’ but, in my effort to not forsake integrity for technical perfection, the album ended up feeling more honest, immediate, naked, and cohesive to me,” he said in a statement. “I am very proud of presenting myself without my typical voluminous bells and whistles. I am left wondering why I haven’t done this more often in the past.

I see this as a weird statement — both The Beloved Enemy and Bigger Than Blue contain a fair amount of stripped-down material, and both suck equally.

Anyway, check out the new one, or at least stream “The Engine is Idle.” At the very least, you’ll enjoy some tasteful Hammond B-3 in the middle. And remember that after this one, he’s got another solo venture headed your way soon.

UPDATE: My glorified abacus of a computer just finished downloading the other streaming track, “Hank”, and it’s pretty good too.

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Modern medicine will cure your grandfather of everything

Pax Arcana

doctor_manGreat news from the medical front today, as the FDA has recommended a new treatment for a disease that affects 5 out of 9 older sitcom characters and everyone named “Pappy.”

About 5 million people in the U.S. suffer from gout, a form of arthritis caused by a build-up of uric acid in the blood. Uloric, as the new drug is called, works by reducing levels of uric acid.

In healthy people, uric acid is dissolved in the blood and excreted from the body in urine. But high levels lead to the formation of needle-like crystals that become deposited in the joints, causing intense pain and swelling. Many patients experience their first attack of gout in the big toe. The disease can progress, causing deformities.

The new drug has shown some promise in clinical trials, and without the risk of heart side effects that doctors had feared. If the new drug performs as hoped in the open market, researchers hope to tackle other pressing diseases like consumption, the barmaid’s itch, milk leg, dropsy, scrumpox, horrors, mortification and the vapors.

FDA advisers recommend approval of new gout drug []

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We are all equally as likely to die


Pax Arcana

This may be nitpicking, but is anyone else bothered by the grammatical construction contained in the following sentence?

A new study, which followed the health of more than 90,000 women over an average of more than seven years each, found that those who attended services were one-fifth less likely to die than those who did not.

I was under the impression that all of us — with the possible exceptions of Larry King and Joe Paterno — were equally as likely to die. That is to say we are all going to, at some point, expire. And become zombies.

Patterns: Better Health for Religiously Observant [NYT]

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