Joe Bob Briggs: The Dusky Gopher Frog and Me (Taki's Magazine)
Ever since his setback before the Supreme Court, I've been walking around New York City looking for inviting mud puddles where the Dusky Gopher Frog might be temporarily relocated for some wild dusky gopher sex. Sex tourism is not what it used to be-Plato's Retreat and other famous New York dens of iniquity are today little more than historical footnotes-but surely we could bring some frog couples up here for a few weekend orgies.
Alexandra Petri: How to eat food and remain electable (Washington Post)
OH, NO! YOU ARE RUNNING FOR ELECTED OFFICE AND YOU HAVE DECIDED TO EAT FOOD! THIS IS A TERRIBLE MISTAKE! There are PEAS before you, but you want PRESIDENT. Well, kiss that dream goodbye! If you don't want to be criticized for eating food in a weird way, there is a simple solution: …
Paul Waldman: Trump's reelection campaign just got a lot tougher (Washington Post)
After an utterly pointless government shutdown that lasted more than a month, President Trump has finally relented and will sign the budget agreement reached by Democrats and Republicans. As this controversy has worn on, it has been truly bizarre to watch him tie himself in knots over how to talk about his border wall: It's a wall, it's a fence, it's steel slats, it has to be built, it's already being built, it's almost finished, it's fantastic, we're all gonna die.
Jonathan Chait: Trump Has Lost His War on the War on Coal (NY Mag)
Trump's idea was that, by allowing coal companies to emit more pollutants into the atmosphere, he would lower their operating costs enough that they could stay in business or, ideally, expand their market share. It simply hasn't worked. The cost of wind and solar energy is dropping so fast that even dirtier coal plants can't compete on a cost basis. It's actually less expensive to build a new wind or solar plant than to keep running an existing coal plant.
Matthew Yglesias: Why millions of people are getting hit with a surprise tax bill this year (Vox)
An effort to make the tax bill look better ended up making it look worse.
Roy M. Wallack: How I got my 89-year-old dad to crush it in the gym (LA Times)
"Exercise? I get plenty going to Costco for free samples." For decades, my dad got a laugh with that line. But last year, as I watched him shuffle along with halting, rickety steps that barely cleared the ground, it wasn't funny anymore.
Patt Morrison: Barbara Ehrenreich on the absurd contradictions of trying to age 'successfully' (LA Times)
… aging does involve damage to the body. No way around that. Aging is a process - I hate to say it, but as I've experienced it's certainly true - it's a process of increasing disability. Things get harder. Things go wrong. They don't get better again, as they might have done in your 30s or 40s. And there's nothing to do except try to adapt to each new disability that comes along as best you can.
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Anecdotes - Friends
• Kamala Masters, who teaches Buddhist meditation, once sailed with some friends in Hawaii. She felt seasick on the boat, so her friends urged her to get into the water. Because she didn't have a life vest, she didn't want to, but her friends persuaded her. Once she and some of her friends were in the water, a squall started blowing, and it blew the boat away from her. She started to panic, so her friends asked her to remember her Buddhist teachings, saying, "Kamala, what if these are your last moments? What do you want right now? Don't you want more love in your heart? Don't you want more compassion? What do you really want?" Kamala was very honest, and she admitted, "What I want right now is the boat!"
• The great black dancer Bill Robinson, aka Mr. Bojangles, once was in an all-night diner at 4 a.m. He ordered a meal, but the server told him, "We don't serve your kind." Mr. Bojangles took out his gun, laid it on the table, and then gave his order again. This time he was served, but after eating he was arrested by a rookie deputy. However, he was immediately released because he was a friend of the sheriff. Mr. Bojangles always took steps to become friendly with police officers in every town he played. His wife was also very good at public relations, writing the chief of police in each town her husband played to give warm wishes to the chief's wife and to give free tickets to the show.
• John Barrymore and Greta Garbo appeared together in the movie Grand Hotel, and they got along very well together. Ms. Garbo nursed him through hangovers and even rearranged a couch during a lunch break so that Mr. Barrymore's famed left profile would face the camera in the next scene. And whenever Mr. Barrymore thought that Ms. Garbo was feeling insecure, he would tell her, "You are the most entrancing woman in the world." Much later, Mr. Barrymore was asked about their relationship together. He replied, "She is a fine lady and a great actress - and the rest is silence."
• Representative Bella Abzug, a Democrat from New York, was sometimes the victim of inaccurate reporting in the media. Once, a story appeared that she had tried to wear a hat on the floor of the House of Representatives, but that the official doorkeeper, a man named Fishbait Miller, had told her she couldn't - and she had told him what he could do. Shortly after this inaccurate story appeared on a wire service, a very short man came over to Representative Abzug, stood on the tips of his toes, and kissed her. She responded, "Whoever you are, I think this is an over-response." The man replied, "I'm Fishbait Miller, and I just wanted to meet you." The two became friends.
• Reginald Bosanquet, a British television newsreader and writer, was dining in an Italian restaurant when someone walked in whose face he knew but whose name he had forgotten, so he sent a waiter over to inquire - discreetly - who the man was. A few minutes later, he received a note from the man: "Dear Reggie, I always remember your name. - David Twigg." Mr. Bosanquet, of course, went over to Mr. Twigg's table, apologized for forgetting his name, then asked what the waiter had said to him. Mr. Twigg replied, "He said, 'Mr. Bosanquet say you his besta friend but he forgetta your name.'"
• Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee starred together for two years in The Avengers, but only Mr. Macnee went on to star in The New Avengers a few years later. An American friend of Ms. Rigg's asked what he was doing professionally, and Mr. Macnee explained that he would soon be starring in The New Avengers. The American friend asked, "With Diana, of course?" Mr. Macnee was forced to answer, No. The American friend, who was not known for her tact, said, "Then it's not worth doing, is it?" This made Ms. Rigg smile.
• After Shannon Miller won five medals as an Olympic gymnast in Barcelona, Spain, she flew on to Washington, D.C., to meet several political VIPs. However, several people greeted her parents at the Oklahoma City airport when they arrived back in their home state. Among them were some people who worked with Claudia Miller, Shannon's mother. They wore pajamas and bedroom slippers - because, they claimed, they wanted her to recognize the sacrifice they had made to come to the airport so late.
• One of Dini von Mueffling's best friends was Alison Gertz, who had contracted HIV, which developed into AIDS. Dini met a man, they fell in love, he asked her to marry him, and she accepted. However, Dini was worried about what Alison would say when she told her. After all, Alison was dying of AIDS. She needn't have worried. After learning that the man, Richard, had asked Dini to marry him after knowing her for only three months, Alison asked, "What took him so long?"
• The finals in the broad jump at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin featured a fierce competition between the American Jesse Owens and the German Luz Long. During the finals, they tied the Olympic record once and beat the record five times, but when the contest was over, Mr. Owens held both the new Olympic record and a gold medal. In defeat, Mr. Long was a good sportsman. He congratulated Mr. Owens, and the two athletes became friends.
• During the filming of Gilligan's Island, Jim Backus and Alan Hale, who played Thurston Howell III and the Skipper, told lots of jokes. Because they knew so many jokes, it took them a long time to run out. When Mr. Backus finally ran out of jokes, he used to have his friends in New York call him very early in the morning in LA with a new joke so that he could tell the joke before Mr. Hale heard it.
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Happy combined Presidents observation
We are all only temporarily able bodied.
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In The Chaos Household
Sunny, but on the brisk (for here) side.
Performing at Oscars
Queen will perform at the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, the Motion Picture Academy announced on social media today. The move, which is not completely a surprise, comes in the wake of the blockbuster success of "Bohemian Rhapsody," the biopic about the band and its late singer, Freddie Mercury.
The band now performs under the name Queen + Adam Lambert, with two of the four original members, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, fronted by former "American Idol" star Adam Lambert, who has won critical applause in his role as the group's frontman over the past few years. Bassist John Deacon has not performed with Queen for many years.
As previously reported by Variety, the telecast's producers were known to have reached out to reps for the film and the band early in the planning process to try to procure Queen for the opening slot of the show. Several weeks ago, sources close to the situation indicated it wasn't going to happen, but clearly things have turned around in the interim.
This marks a rare instance where a music performance on the Oscars might be considered one of the show's biggest ratings-baiting "gets," between the movie's blockbuster success ($212 million in the U.S. to date, and a worldwide cume of $854 million) and the fact that Queen itself is undyingly popular (the song that gave "Bohemian Rhapsody" its title was named in December as the most streamed song ever that originated in the 20th century).
The addition of Queen + Lambert does have the effect of loading more music into a show that had been trying to rid itself of too much of it. The Academy recently relented and acceded to a popular outcry in allowing performances of all five best original song nominees on the telecast, after word slipped out that they'd planned to only include Lady Gaga's and Kendrick Lamar's numbers. It's said that some of the lesser known nominated songs will be abridged to the 90-second range - a fate that surely will not befall Gaga, Lamar or, obviously, in their featured spot, Queen.
Steven Spielberg's crusade against streaming services continues.
Accepting the Filmmaker Award at the Cinema Audio Society (CAS) awards in Los Angeles, California, the influential director praised the theatrical experience, saying "there's nothing going to a big dark" cinema.
"I hope all of us really continue to believe that the greatest contributions we can make as filmmakers is to give audiences the motion picture theatrical experience," he said, according to Variety. "I'm a firm believer that theatres need to be around forever."
Spielberg - who has directed box-office blockbusters of Indiana Jones, ET, Jurassic Park and Jaws - did not name any singular streaming service, but did praise the quality of writing on television.
"I love television," he continued. "I love the opportunity. Some of the greatest writing being done today is for television, some of the best directing for television, some of the best performances [are] on television today. The sound is better in homes more than it ever has been in history but there's nothing like going to a big dark theatre with people you've never met before and having the experience wash over you. That's something we all truly believe in."
It's now easier than ever in France to act out ''Star Wars'' fantasies, because its fencing federation has borrowed from a galaxy far, far away and officially recognized lightsaber dueling as a competitive sport, granting the iconic weapon from George Lucas' saga the same status as the foil, epee and sabre, the traditional blades used at the Olympics.
Of course, the LED-lit, rigid polycarbonate lightsaber replicas can't slice a Sith lord in half. But they look and, with the more expensive sabers equipped with a chip in their hilt that emits a throaty electric rumble, even sound remarkably like the silver screen blades that Yoda and other characters wield in the blockbuster movies .
Plenty realistic, at least, for duelists to work up an impressive sweat slashing, feinting and stabbing in organized, 3-minute bouts. The physicality of lightsaber combat is part of why the French Fencing Federation threw its support behind the sport and is now equipping fencing clubs with lightsabers and training would-be lightsaber instructors. Like virtuous Jedi knights, the French federation sees itself as combatting a Dark Side: The sedentary habits of 21st-century life that are sickening ever-growing numbers of adults and kids .
In the past, the likes of Zorro, Robin Hood and The Three Musketeers helped lure new practitioners to fencing. Now, joining and even supplanting them are Luke Skywalker , Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader.
''Cape and sword movies have always had a big impact on our federation and its growth,'' Aubailly says. ''Lightsaber films have the same impact. Young people want to give it a try.''
A Golden Girls cruise is set to set sail next year, taking fans on a five-night journey around Florida and the Caribbean Sea.
The cruise was announced on Monday by Flip Phone Events, which organises various events including parties and drag brunches.
The cruise will depart from Miami on 24 February, 2020.
It will keep going for five nights, visiting Key West and the Mexican island of Cozumel.
Activities include a caftan sail-away party with cheesecake (an iconic Golden Girls snack), Golden Girls trivia, a costume contest, and "Dorothy's bingo" - an homage, of course, to the character played by Beatrice Arthur, Dorothy Zbornak.
A tax accountant who denied a same-sex married couple service is grumbling that her business is being destroyed by a smear campaign.
Bailey Brezzel has been utilizing Carter's Tax Service in Russiaville, Indiana, for the past five years, however, on Tuesday, when she and her new wife Samantha went to file their 2018 taxes with owner Nancy Fivecoate, they were allegedly turned away, according to the Indy Star.
Bailey says that Fivecoate filed her taxes during a 2018 appointment at which she introduced Samantha as her then-girlfriend. "I don't understand it," she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. "Nancy said she files tax returns for gay clients but only if they're not married."
Fivecoate did not reply to Yahoo Lifestyle's interview request. She told the Indy Star that she has been victimized by the couple. "I've never repeated her name to anyone … I haven't answered social media. I've done absolutely nothing except (follow) my religious beliefs. I cannot put my name on that return."
"I am a Christian and I believe marriage is between one man and one woman," Fivecoate said. "The LGBT want respect for their beliefs, which I give them. I did not say anything about their lifestyle. That is their choice. It is not my choice. Where is their respect for my beliefs?"
In Serious Danger?
The Norwegian Island of Spitsbergen, part of the Arctic Svalbard archipelago, is home to the Global Seed Vault where duplicate samples and spare copies of important seeds are stored. The vault, also called the Doomsday Vault, is an attempt to guarantee the seeds are safe even after large-scale or even global catastrophes.
The seeds are kept at -18°C (-0.4°F) with minimum access to oxygen in order to delay aging as much as possible. One of the failsafes in the event electricity were to cease is the surrounding permafrost, the frozen soil common in such northern territories. However, a new report by the Norwegian Government shows that the Svalbard Islands are facing significant changes due to global warming.
By the last quarter of the century, the report expects air temperatures on the islands to increase by about 10°C (18°F ) if there's only a minimum curbing of gas emissions and by about 7°C (13°F ) if there is a more significant cut of greenhouse gases. The increase in heat will lead to a thawing of the permafrost, which will turn the solid ground around the facility into mush, likely liberating more methane and carbon dioxide currently frozen in the soil. A few years ago, the thawing permafrost put the vault in jeopardy by flooding it.
But it's not just temperature changes: rain will become more common and be more intense, the snow season will become shorter, and avalanches and landslides will become more common. While this is all looking at the future post-2071, a look at just the past 50 years reveals dramatic changes already.
The estimates for future changes in the archipelago are based on the global climate model unveiled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2013. The high-emissions scenario looks at what will happen if there are no changes to our behavior. The medium scenario is for drastic reductions after 2040. The low-emissions scenario of drastic cuts after 2020 is at this point highly unlikely.
Why Sparks Fly
YouTubers have gone grape crazy. In a plethora of internet videos, kitchen scientists have cut a grape almost in half-leaving just a strip of skin connecting the two sides--and stuck it in the microwave. In seconds, sparks erupt. Now, physicists think they know why this happens.
Here's the common explanation: water-heavy grapes trap the wavelengths of energy microwave ovens emit because the waves are roughly the same size as the diameter of grapes. That energy starts charging up electrolytes inside the fruit, which then flow from one half of the grape to the other-using the strip of skin like an electrical wire and gaining energy as they go. The current quickly burns through the skin, causing the charged electrolytes to try to jump from one half of the grape to the other, supercharging the surrounding air into a bright flare of plasma-the same light-emitting state of matter responsible for the sun's rays and fluorescent lighting.
To test this hypothesis, the researchers put grapes into microwaves and watched what unfolded with thermal cameras. Early on, the scientists found that a pair of grapes could also produce plasma, as long as they were kept within 3 millimeters of each other. If grapes can produce plasma without the skin strip, the researchers say, then the energy that produces the plasma must build up another way.
The thermal cameras revealed a hotspot between the grapes from a buildup of electromagnetic energy-not inside the grapes where the internet's explanation would predict. This led the physicists to a new explanation: When two grapes are close to each other in a microwave, the waves they absorb bounce back and forth in the tiny space between them, creating an increasingly powerful electromagnetic field. This continues until the electromagnetic field becomes so powerful that it supercharges nearby electrolytes that then shoot out in a brief explosion of fiery plasma, the researchers report today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Aside from damaging microwave ovens, the authors say their findings could, with the right materials, one day be extended to trap and concentrate visible wavelengths of light for use in nano-scale microscopy.