Popping out.

People tell me I should get Netflix. They’re always Netflixing some cool movie I can’t find at Blockbuster or on my eight million cable channels. It’s so easy, they say. I was a charter member and wouldn’t go back for anything.

What about the pop-under problem? I ask. They stare blankly.

I can’t support a company that is trying to kill me with stealth advertising, I say. Several times a night when I’m working, my laptop fan shrieks with fury: Too much Flash! My processors can’t take this! I hit F9, which instantly tiles all open windows, and find six Netflix ads, which I then have to close down one by one. Click, click, click, I, hate, Netflix.

There has to be a better way to do internet advertising. Disposing of the slicks that come with the Sunday paper is a pain, but it doesn’t feel like an encroachment. Also, it doesn’t feel stupid. Part of what I suspect investors in internet companies like about the whole business model is how hands-free it is. Set up a blog entirely without human help. Set up your blog to do your blogging for you, even. With the right scripting you can buy a book, participate in an auction, do all sorts of things without any unnecessary face-to-face, or even voice-to-voice contact. In the business world, this is known as efficiency, cutting those imperfect human beings out of the production process. What good are they? Computers don’t ask for health insurance.

And so it was that I was checking the forecast the other day, and noticed this:


Note the line under the green bar: Stay warm on the links. Weather.com is a virtual cavalcade of linky goodness, its main page clickable nine ways from Sunday, but that one took me aback. For one thing, 22 degrees hardly qualifies as golf weather. For another, every golf course within 100 miles is covered with several inches of snow. For yet another, even the ones that aren’t covered with snow generally aren’t open in the winter. Turf can’t repair itself when it’s dormant, and it doesn’t pay to staff the pro shop for a handful of lunatics who want to play golf in extreme conditions. Dude, unless you have tickets to Florida, the season is over.

But I couldn’t resist. I clicked:


I was taken to a page of “content” so thin as to make a standard Gannett tip box look like a PhD curriculum. How to stay warm on the links? Dress in layers. Make sure you spend extra time warming up before you swing. And what tips page could be complete without this line: And since body heat escapes through your head—Grandma was right about that—wear a wool hat. It’ll help keep your whole body warm. Wow, thanks.

There has to be a better way to do commercial material on the web. There better be. This is worse than junk mail.


Sadly, No tracks the perambulations of the Mission Accomplished lie, but I’m more interested in the language issues. “We were trying to say something differently,” the president said. Did he mean “different,” and added the extra syllable to sound extra-smart? Or does he understand that “differently” is an adverb that modifies “to say”? Your call. And note his lackey’s usage: ““[That’s] why he endears so much loyalty from people like myself and others who had worked for him.” You don’t endear loyalty, do you? He meant “engender,” right?

Steve Jobs does not have a “hormone imbalance,” he has something “more complex,” requiring a five-month medical leave. Apple stock doesn’t fare well and I don’t blame the market, for once. Surely Apple is more than Jobs, but how’d you like to hold stock in Martha Stewart’s corporate entity and discover Martha’s not feeling so well? There’s a fine line, in the business world, between a strong public face and a cult of personality. The solution: Replace Jobs with “Steve Jobs,” a virtual figure created by Pixar. Orville Redenbacher and Colonel Sanders have already paved the way.

Another charming essay by Roger Ebert, this one on goodness on screen.

Minus-one at the moment. Kill me now.

Posted at 10:50 am in Current events, Popculch |

48 responses to “Popping out.”

  1. brian stouder said on January 15, 2009 at 11:38 am

    That WAS a very good Ebert essay; everyone must read it!

    First time I ever heard of the vagus nerve was 21 years ago – it was the day GHWB named Dan Quayle as his running-mate. That very morning, I had a doctor’s appointment to have an ingrown toenail fixed. As soon as the doctor went to work on it, I felt very ill, and nearly passed out (despite that I couldn’t feel anything)

    I asked him what caused that, and voila – I learned about the vagus nerve

    (later, when I got home and the painkillers wore off – introducing me to a hot pain from my toe – I thought I was delusional when I saw the pictures of Dan Quayle in shirt sleeves in New Orleans[?] – as the running mate for Bush! Surely Bush knew that Jack Kemp was the man, yes??!! but we digress)

    But indeed, Ebert says much, and says it well

    (big vagus nerve movies for me include [in no particular order] Walk the Line, Wizard of Oz, Saving Private Ryan, Bend it like Beckham, Mamma Mia, and many many others!)

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  2. Rana said on January 15, 2009 at 11:43 am

    The things that annoy me particularly about pop-unders are that pop-UP blockers somehow seem unable to catch them, and the way that they can silently and invisibly accumulate in the way that you describe. I tend to leave the computer and primary programs up and running for days on end, hiding or sleeping them instead of closing and shutting them down, so it can be a while before I catch the lurkers.

    On weather.com – it seems that the majority of the weather sites are link/ad happy (Weather Bug especially so). May I recommend weather.gov instead?

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  3. Mindy said on January 15, 2009 at 11:47 am

    That link for Stay Warm on the Links has been there since summer ended. Every morning since Thanksgiving I’ve enjoyed the mental picture of golfers cheerfully teeing up in the midst of wind, ice and snow because weather.com has provided such excellent advice. I’m hoping the link stays until July so it can look equally stupid then.

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  4. alex said on January 15, 2009 at 11:53 am

    I still think the memoirs of Levi Coffin are my favorite vagus nerve book and will someday make a great vagus nerve movie.

    And, yes, I hate Netflix pop-ups too, but not as much as those annoying ads that hover around over the content I’m trying to read.

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  5. Jenflex said on January 15, 2009 at 11:56 am

    The idea of “gut feelings” is powerful…and I hadn’t thought about the vagus nerve connection. The Oprah anecdote certainly speaks to the literal truth of the idea of the “milk of human kindness,” though.

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  6. brian stouder said on January 15, 2009 at 11:57 am

    those annoying ads that hover around over the content I’m trying to read.

    Talk about your visceral reactions; I HATE THOSE!! (another metric that should be analyzed by the Mad-ad-persons is – how many people will never, ever, ever buy your damned product or service – specifically because of your annoying barnacle ads?)

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  7. Rana said on January 15, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Mindy – did you know that they sell pink golf balls for playing in the snow?

    Also – on the subject of micro-content, golf balls, and weather, I bring you Golf Digest on “how weather affects golf balls.”

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  8. Jen said on January 15, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    I have been torn between amusement and annoyance at the “Stay warm on the links” on weather.com. On one hand, I agree with Mindy that the visual image of golfers teeing up in freezing cold winter weather is hilarious. On the other hand, it’s gotten pretty old.

    I agree with the pop-under ads, but I just can’t hold it against Netflix. It’s such a cheap, wonderful way to get to watch a variety of movies that will never make it to the Podunk, Indiana, video store. It’s also a great way to watch TV series.

    Everyone think of my dad, Pilot Joe, today – he’s flying back from Florida and will certainly enjoy the 60 degree temperature drop and the low of -9 degrees tonight, with windchills predicted to drop to -30 degrees.

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  9. Julie Robinson said on January 15, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    I always want to yell at the computer “we already have Netflix you idiot!”. At $18/month it’s a great alternative to cable. Or movies at the theater; even the dollar theater is now $3.

    Speaking of idiots, did anyone else catch Bush at his farewell press conference? He claimed the press “misunderestimated” him. No, I think he lived up very well to everyone’s underestimations.

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  10. caliban said on January 15, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Nancy, golf courses covered in snow are why God made fluorescent orange Titleists. Winter rules, liberally interpreted, shave strokes.

    AMC does everyone a service and presents all 17 episodes of The Prisoner for free.

    We got a Netflix subscription for Christmas and are planning to watch the brilliant screen debut of Malcolm McDowell in If…, while the incurious jackass is smirking his lame last-act ass off the world stage tonight. (Great movie by Lindsay Anderson that forms a trilogy with O Lucky Man and Clockwork Orange. I’ll bet Blockbuster doesn’t have the first two, and you sure as the devil won’t ever see any of them on television.)

    Pop-under? What’s that? With Firefox browser and the AdBlock Plus add-on, I’m only occasionally and vaguely aware those things even exist, when a ghostly little (block) indicator appears on the monitor.

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  11. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 15, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    And how can we talk about the vagus nerve without referencing — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_W._Bush_pretzel_incident

    I hope to make it hope to read the liveblogging of tonight at 8 pm . . . with pretzels!

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  12. John said on January 15, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Third film of Anderson’s trilogy is Britannia Hospital with a post Star Wars Mark Hamill in a minor role. I saw all three from NetFlix over a year ago. One the many reasons why I endure the pop-unders and thank NetFlix every week for the service they provide cheaply!

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  13. Gasman said on January 15, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    I was amused to see that Bush finally ‘fessed up to the “Mission Accomplished” banner B.S. At the time, the White House assiduously tried to shift the responsibility for that act to the sailors on board the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. They parsed their words very carefully, but the intent was clearly to evade responsibility for the act altogether. Their pathetic attempt to stage a bit of high testosterone theater backfired and they were embarrassed. Their response? Same as it was when the Abu Ghraib scadal broke: blame the troops.

    Aside from being liars, arrogant bastards, and moronic incompetents, this administration is heavily laden with sniveling, cowardly little shits that refuse to take responsibility for any of their actions. These cocks will take credit for the sunrise, but they deny all responsibility for the eight year pile of chicken shit sitting beneath them.

    The sooner the trials begin for these rat-bastards, the better. Let’s start with the rat-bastard from Texas.

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  14. Catherine said on January 15, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    When I checked weather.com, in the place where your golf “content” link was, I found “Is Your Air Clean?” I clicked through… yup, air quality moderate, some fine particulates. Newflash: You live in the LA basin. Try not to breathe.

    The good news was that in the left-hand google-sponsored listing was an ad for my local city council race. Maybe we are slowly getting somewhere with the web ads.

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  15. brian stouder said on January 15, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Let us pause for a moment.





    The USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) was returning to home port, and her mission was accomplished. In a war, there are any number of missions, and some number of them will be successful; indeed, ESPECIALLY in a futile and protracted war, an infinite number of ‘successful missions’ can be executed, even despite that the war continues (even continues toward an eventual defeat)

    The lazy criticism is (ironically) cut from the same cloth as President Bush’s genuine error – that is, the (purposeful, on his part) conflation of a successful mission with a celebration of a victorious war effort.

    Just sayin’…

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  16. nancy said on January 15, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    That explanation only works if you buy the first lie, i.e., that Bush had nothing to do with the banner, that it was entirely a product of the crew. Now he admits it wasn’t. Second, remember that when staging a presidential appearance, NOTHING IN THE FRAME IS LEFT TO CHANCE. That’s why certain ethnic mixes are hand-picked to sit in camera range, etc. The Rovians put Bush there, with the banner behind his head, to send the message that hey, we won! Oops.

    I remember Alan’s report of sitting in a staff meeting at the N-S, planning our “end of the war” package. He said, “Are you kidding? We’re going to be there for years!” He was scowled at, criticized and otherwise shut down. You want to know who Bush’s enablers were? There were versions of that meeting all over the country around that time. At least my husband wasn’t stupid enough to fall for it.

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  17. Gasman said on January 15, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Two words: bull + shit.

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  18. Bill White said on January 15, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    brian stouder wrote: “Surely Bush knew that Jack Kemp was the man, yes??!! but we digress)”

    Ha! I was rooting for Jack Kemp, too – even put one of his campaign stickers on my guitar. After that my band’s singer sometimes introduced my solos with “Here’s a guitar solo from a Republican!” Back then that brought Lee Atwater to mind.

    Cripes I’m a geezer.

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  19. Julie Robinson said on January 15, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    Even IF anyone really thought that the mission was accomplished the speech should have been given from the oval office. How many years of my income tax will go towards paying for that trip?

    I’ve always thought Bush believed that his little military invasion was going to play along the script of Gulf War I, in and out in just a few short days. Like his entire presidency, that was wrong, wrong, wrong.

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  20. jcburns said on January 15, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Brian…Rove and company choreographed that down to specifying the camera-friendly arrangement of rows of sailors and airmen in colorful jumpsuits (not their usual gear in some cases). Lest we forget.

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  21. Gasman said on January 15, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    You might want to reconsider your rather conciliatory assessment of Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” stunt. The following is excerpted from Bush’s speech aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln May 1, 2003:


    “Admiral Kelly, Captain Card, officers and sailors of the USS Abraham Lincoln, my fellow Americans: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.”

    It’s quite clear from Bush’s remarks that he was speaking not of any “mission” specific to the men and women aboard the Lincoln. He was indicating some sense of finality to the bloodshed of American soldiers in Iraq. Boy, was he omniscient or what?

    It was a ham-fisted, staged fiasco. Like everything else this screwup touched, it was a huge fuster-cluck.

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  22. LA Mary said on January 15, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    “Minus-one at the moment. Kill me now.”

    You can come sleep on my couch. It’s nearly 80 here. Unseasonably warm. Even if this heat wave ends, it will be in the sixties. There are trees with flowers on them. You can sit outside and sip iced tea.

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  23. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 15, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Just got home, trying to wrap my head around the jet landing safely in the Hudson River — JoeK and a few other geeks will appreciate this link when you look at the pilot’s airspeed . . . that was sweet, sweet flying of a dead, dead aircraft:


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  24. Deborah said on January 15, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    -10 here in Chicago right now. That’s the temp not the wind chill. The wind chill is -24. I walked home from the Redline stop 4 blocks from where I live. I thought my face was going to crack. Went to a friend’s funeral this morning and skipped the cemetery visit part. Just couldn’t face standing in the wind. I think my friend would understand.

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  25. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 15, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    My eyes, my eyes — they burrrrrrrnnnnnn: http://www.tnr.com/environmentenergy/gallery/popup.html?topic=more+obama+kitsch

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  26. brian stouder said on January 15, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    -12 here; that’s ‘minus twelve’ – not a wind chill factor, but the air temp….

    time to go to bed and curl up!

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  27. nancy said on January 15, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    Wow. Five above here in Michigan’s banana belt. That’s a pretty big discrepancy. Never underestimate the power of accumulated industrial toxins, still glowin’ after all these years.

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  28. brian stouder said on January 15, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    Hah! The ‘upside’ of Global Warming!

    ‘Night all

    edit: now -13!

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  29. Bill said on January 15, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    Me, too, Brian. My outdoor thermometer reads minus 14.0! We go to Florida in 4 weeks.

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  30. MarkH said on January 15, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    Strictly off-topic, but get this:

    We just experienced a significant earthquake here in Jackson Hole. I’m sitting here working late in our pretty stout two-story bank office building and at 9:23PM MST, I mean the thing felt like it was going back and forth on its foundation for a good 7-8 seconds. Rattled windows, shook everything on my desk. We get minor ones in the 3+/- range now and then, but this one felt like a 4-5, at least. The recent swarms up in Yellowstone have been a little worriesome, but are not related to the big one we’ve been warned about here, the Teton fault/uplift, which is about 100 years overdue for major event. No aftershocks…yet.

    And I was just sitting here thinking of you all in that cold, while here, after our sub-zero cold and storms over Christmas and New Year’s, it’s been rather balmy: 10-15 at night and 35-40 today with sunshine. That weathermap profile over you guys looks brutal.

    EDIT — OK, I was close, but way off on the time. Shows hit messes with your head in an event like that: 3.8 @ 9:15PM:


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  31. Joe Kobiela said on January 15, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    The pilot of the U.S. Air flight, Chelsy Sullenburger, is my new hero. Just amazing. That was pure skill. The crew had one chance and did everything right.
    Yesterday I was sunning by the pool at 3:00pm, tonight it is showing -13, only a 81 degree swing.
    Pilot Joe

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  32. MarkH said on January 15, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    Indeed, that whole story is truly amazing, Joe.

    Say, I got Flight Simulator X for Christmas. With all the detail from throughout the world they show in that setup, it woud be interesting to load up an A320, take off from LaGuardia and try to duplicate the event. Joe, don’t the airlines do this in their flight simulators, load in all the data from an event like that and challenge pilots to save the day?

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  33. Joe Kobiela said on January 16, 2009 at 12:10 am

    They mostly set up the sims to do engine out procedures and different system failure’s, I would think during your career you might have a complete power failure once or twice in a simulator, and maby one time you would practice a ditching, but I think a double engine failure with a ditching would be rare. Although now I bet they will practice it everytime.
    Pilot Joe

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  34. joodyb said on January 16, 2009 at 12:29 am

    logging -18.9F at MSP right now. no wind.

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  35. MarkH said on January 16, 2009 at 12:33 am

    Joe, do remember the awful Delta DC-10 crash at DFW in 1982? It was attempting a landing in a really bad storm, went through a microbust over a highway on final, and slammed to the ground. I saw a documentary on how they took the data recorder from that plane, programmed the whole incident, weather and all into a simulator and challenged captains to handle it. They all failed, as I recall, but it was fascinating.

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  36. Dexter said on January 16, 2009 at 1:57 am

    wow! (from The Weather Channel, right now)
    Bryan, OH
    Feels Like

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  37. moe99 said on January 16, 2009 at 2:08 am

    Joe–where do you live?

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  38. Dexter said on January 16, 2009 at 2:49 am

    Pilot Joe: Al Haynes is my hero…it’s been twenty years since he landed that aircraft and saved all those lives, flying an airplane with compromised hyraulics.

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  39. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 16, 2009 at 7:29 am

    All America wants to buy Capt. Sullenberger a beer – i hope he’s thirsty!

    (Obligatory observation – he’s a Purdue grad.)

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  40. basset said on January 16, 2009 at 8:04 am

    One below in Nashville this morning, and schools are closed.

    Another awesome piece of flying:

    (big airliner in Canada, fuel load miscalculated, ran out in midair, glided down onto an abandoned airport that was being used as a race track)

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  41. basset said on January 16, 2009 at 8:13 am

    Capt. Sullenberger’s resume is on Smoking Gun:


    nineteen thousand flight hours and two master’s degrees…

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  42. Connie said on January 16, 2009 at 8:55 am

    21 below right here right now. Have closed, my maintenance crew has been unable to get out to shovel sidewalks, due to the cold, antique boilers in the downtown building are churning and not keeping up. Just stay home.

    Woke up to find my house at 62, expecting service call yet this a.m. Brrr.

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  43. Joe Kobiela said on January 16, 2009 at 8:59 am

    I live in in Auburn In.
    Pilot Joe

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  44. MichaelG said on January 16, 2009 at 9:28 am

    What’s so great is the series of good decisions Capt. Sullenberger made. Long Island Sound or the River? The river. Just where the water is calm and relatively sheltered and there’s a large concentration of ferries, tour boats and what not to pick up survivors. Some really smart thinking on top of some really great flying. Also he was the last person off the airplane. Sullenberger isn’t qualified to be a NY senator. He’s a resident of Danville, CA.

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  45. brian stouder said on January 16, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Since we don’t knight people here, he’s certainly a person who should (at least) get a Presidential Medal of Freedom (or whatever they call it)

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  46. jcburns said on January 16, 2009 at 11:40 am

    I agree that the pilot did a great job and saved lives….I’m almost hesitating to lay the “hero” tag on him because it’s become so devalued, what with people who merely managed to get through tough spots being labeled ‘hero’.

    This guy was smart, calm under pressure, remembered his training, had good luck, and executed a plan right the first time. I celebrate and applaud him, but I’m searching for an even better word. Either that, or we’ve got to stop calling non-heroes heroes.

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  47. Dexter said on January 16, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Did you see the animation of the aborted flight pattern? It was amazing…the aircraft had to do a complete 180 turn to make it to the Hudson…and he set the aircraft smack-dab in the middle of the river….

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  48. Ricardo said on January 17, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    Sometimes the Santa Ana winds in the LA area are not so bad. They came up a week ago and brought in temps in the high 70s and 80s all week long. I had to actually open the bedroom window for a couple of nights this week to be able to sleep under the blanket. Now, I’m going outside to give the dog a bath.

    This weather usually happens once every January, then it goes back to normal temperatures.

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