Big Brother.

So I had a follow-up visit to my ophthalmologist today, just to see if the eye was healing the way it should. (It is.) Scanning the thousand-year-old periodicals in the waiting room, I opted to check email instead, via my phone. The first ad Facebook served me was for Starling Eyewear, makers of funky reading and sunglasses.

This could have been a coincidence, but I don’t think so. Because I was thinking about glasses and hey, look! An ad for glasses.

This happens often. A friend of mine stopped in a store on the way home from lunch, and when he returned to his desk, why look, here’s an ad for the store on his social media page.

Another was in Ann Arbor, and thought hey, maybe we should see a movie. Punched “American Hustle” into his phone and was told, It’s playing right down the street, and the show starts in 20 minutes. Want to buy tickets?

This is what I’ve come to call the Benevolent Internet, referenced yesterday in connection with the sale of the Nest thermostat company to Google for more than $3 billion. Do you want a helpful machine in your pocket to read your mind and tell you those pants you were admiring are on sale? Or, looked at from another angle, would you like to tell Google how warm you keep your house, even when you’re not in it?

You might think that’s none of Google’s business, but they just spent $3 billion to make it their business.

When I was looking at the very first Macintosh computer in the mid-’80s, my mother wondered what I might use it for. I told her there’s a program that, once you input all the contents of your cabinets and refrigerator, suggests things you might make for dinner based on what you have on hand. She said, “That’s what I do every day of my life, only I do it in my head.”

I use the internet for work, which means I go to a lot of pages I’m not particularly interested in, but need information from. My Amazon “recommended for you” page is a mess, because I look up books I wouldn’t take free of charge if they were offered as fireplace kindling. I sometimes browse $4,000 dresses on Nordstrom’s site, just to see what a $4,000 dress looks like. I root around Tumblr because teenage girls are fond of it, and I know a few of them. I think it’s my responsibility to know what pro-ana and fitspiration is. I shudder to think what the cloud of my surfing would look like, and who might be interested in it.

Not long after I took my job in Fort Wayne, they instituted a drug-testing program for new hires. The editor proclaimed he wasn’t in favor of this, that it was imposed from above, and it wouldn’t necessarily be a deal breaker for the right candidate. “What you do on your own time is your own business,” he said. What a concept.

Now, what you do on your own time is the wealth creator for all those Silicon Valley fortunes.

I don’t want to sound paranoid, but this is making me edge in that direction. And I’m a person who lives pretty out loud already.

I think I’ll compromise by putting a sticker on my webcam. I never use it anyway.

OK, some bloggage:

I am absolutely no fan of Chris Christie, but enough with the fat-shaming, OK? On the other hand, maybe the problem is just that he lacks confidence. (Link fixed.)

Conan O’Brien, joker.

And me, I’m outta here.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events |

53 responses to “Big Brother.”

  1. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 15, 2014 at 12:51 am


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  2. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 15, 2014 at 12:52 am

    OTOH, I bought my wife something for Christmas. She’s enjoyed it for weeks, and I’m waiting for the net to stop nudging me to buy it.

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  3. Sherri said on January 15, 2014 at 1:36 am

    I use Ghostery for my computer web browsers. I turn off location tracking on my phone for most apps (just maps and weather, mostly.) I’m not opposed to advertising, but I’m tired of it.

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  4. Jolene said on January 15, 2014 at 5:21 am

    I was looking at jackets online the other day and left the site without buying anything. A day or so later, I got an email displaying the web page I’d been looking at and inviting me to continue my shopping. Pretty close surveillance, I’d say.

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  5. Jolene said on January 15, 2014 at 5:22 am

    Nancy, the two links in your graph re Chris Christie go to the same place.

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  6. Dexter said on January 15, 2014 at 5:25 am

    I am happy for you as your eye is healing well.

    “… I look up books I wouldn’t take free of charge if they were offered as fireplace kindling.” This illustration reminded me of an incident from around 1960. My grandfather, the same one who was the Chief Mail Clerk on the NYCentral Line, was very intelligent; he had taught school back when all one had to do was take a test to obtain a teaching certificate, and he was a reader . He bought hard cover copies of what I will lump into a category , “the classics”. His house had a huge room which was filled with long-shelved bookcases brimming with these books. We were, strangely it seems now, never allowed into this room which was locked at all times. I knew the books were “classics” because Mom told me so. When Grandpa passed in 1959, my step-grandma Ida must have tired of the books, the thousands of them that were collected over the decades, and she began burning them to supplement the coal she burned in the heat-stove in the living room. She burned them all! She then broke up the bookcases and burned them as well. Nice and clean, all gone up in smoke. Grandpa always spent money on the highest quality things…I sometimes wondered how many first edition masterpieces were consumed by fire.

    Here’s another example of Big Brother, 2014. I never had to lie about having a high school diploma on a job application because I have one. However, I knew more than a few people who had dropped out and lied and said they had graduated, and never were checked. I worked for years with a man who “lied his age” and began working in the factory at age 16 and stayed 49 years and never faced a repercussion.
    Now the story of Matt and Shelby. These young men both gave misleading information on intern applications for XM radio slots in New York. Matt indicated he had completed course work and had obtained a degree, a slight , well…lie. He is now banned for life; he can no longer enter the McGraw-Hill Building where the station is, he is done with radio.
    Shelby was a good, popular intern and the radio hosts wanted him hired, paid, full time job. He too had fudged a little on his intern application, however. He had misrepresented some answers, but not outright lied. It took two months of meetings before he was finally hired at this entry level job. Ah, ya can’t get away with anything anymore.

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  7. Basset said on January 15, 2014 at 6:54 am

    Had never heard of either of those and of course had to Google (gotta change that) them… some people actually think anorexia is a “lifestyle choice”?

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  8. nancy said on January 15, 2014 at 7:28 am

    Link fixed, Jolene. Thanks for the back-read.

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  9. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 15, 2014 at 7:34 am

    As a member of my denomination’s regional (think diocesan) Commission on MInistry, I notice that younger candidates for ordination or even early middle aged folk who are applying for standing having been ordained in another tradition “get” that you can’t hide or misstate anything, while those 40 and up often are dumbstruck by our simplest review of their vita or app. This ain’t so, and that’s not really true, and you didn’t mention this and this . . . and they look at me like “how did you get access to all that” with literally nothing to say in response unless it’s anger that we even bring it up. When I explain this wasn’t the result of the criminal background check (that’s costing us over $400 per person right now for the full national scan), but stuff a guy in his bathrobe on his sofa with a working internet connection can find, they really can’t believe it.

    Younger candidates believe it, expect it, and are helpfully forthcoming . . . the problem is when the system is using a “zero-tolerance/no-exceptions” approach on minor mistakes and ancient errors, and doesn’t give you latitude to work with people when they’re honest with you.

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  10. Jolene said on January 15, 2014 at 7:56 am

    What, exactly, does one find out in a criminal background check? Is it just a record of contacts with the criminal justice system, i.e., arrests, convictions, sentences or other dispositions?

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  11. Mindy said on January 15, 2014 at 8:36 am

    A few years ago I watched Bullitt with Steve McQueen. Enjoyed the famous car chase scene and the Mustang he drove in that movie. So I had a car crush on it for a few days. I Googled it and the new Mustang offered in the same color and briefly fantasized about having one for driving to LA on Route 66 – stop for the famous fried chicken at this diner and the renown apple pie at that one, and so on, all the way there. The daydream ended but the Google ads for Mustangs followed me for months. Just when I thought they were over, they weren’t. Made me sorry I did that and that I ever had a car crush on a Mustang. Now I think of Google whenever I seen an old one.

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  12. beb said on January 15, 2014 at 8:55 am

    So the 71 year-old ex-cop who shot a man in a movie theater had another run in with people texting. Also he wants to plead “stand your ground.” Over a bag of popcorn? How Zimmerman of him.

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  13. Jolene said on January 15, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Just saw on Morning Joe that there’ll be a documentary re the Kerrigan/Harding incident and its sequelae shown as part of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series tomorrow evening. 9 PM EST.

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  14. Charlotte said on January 15, 2014 at 10:03 am

    I added every Do Not Track and ad blocking extension I could find to my Chrome browser, so I don’t get pestered too much by ads, but it does mean I’m always having to re-enter my credentials on sites like this one, and having to log in again. It’s one of those things I check in with Lifehacker about periodically …

    Here’s a story that made me think of Jeff — don’t know if any of you read Sharon Astyk, she’s written a lot about peak oil and sustainability — has a blog on the Nat Geo site and also does a lot of fostering. This post has stuck with me for days — she’s adopting one of her foster kids, which is good, but also heartbreaking:

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  15. Danny said on January 15, 2014 at 10:14 am

    beb, this talk of guns reminded me of something I have been wanting to ask you, but keep forgetting. I’ve been thinking about you because I believe it has been about a year since you were held up at gunpoint and I know it was a scary situation and something any of us would be hard pressed to process in short order. So I was wondering that with some time having passed, do you have any additional thoughts or insights you might be willing to share with us? Has that event affected the way you go about day-to-day activities? etc.

    I am just wondering on a personal level and this has no connection to any 2nd-Ammendment conversation.*

    *As I’ve said before, I am not a “gun” guy in the least and I don’t anticipate ever owning one unless something happens like one of my uncles leaving me a family heirloom in his will.

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  16. Dave said on January 15, 2014 at 10:19 am

    Dexter, you’ve made me think of the older men I knew who lied about their age to get a job and, for years, it was not an issue, until they reached retirement age. Then, they had to produce documentation to prove they were really old enough to retire. There were a couple of fellows who’d lied and started at 16.

    Also, you’ve made me think of Pros, who told us that he had to quit buying books because he had run out of places to put them and was concerned about the weight. Eventually, I hope someone from his family comes along and tells us more about him.

    Bullitt, the car chase, coolest car chase ever. Saw it the first time at Cinema East, a then-new theater on East Broad Street in Whitehall, a eastside Columbus suburb, on a big screen. You could feel every jump, or so my 18 year old self thought.

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  17. Danny said on January 15, 2014 at 10:22 am

    In the vein of internet privacy, Holy Shit-a-Moly!!

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  18. Connie said on January 15, 2014 at 10:25 am

    My husband did in home care for awhile and was left one of those guns by one of his patients, a gorgeous replica of a circa 1850 54 caliber rifle.

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  19. Sue said on January 15, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Kind of surprised we’ve been having this internet privacy discussion for two days and no one’s brought up yesterday’s lovely net neutrality decision. Seems like it’s going to be a big part of the larger issue.

    ‘”AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast will be able to deliver some sites and services more quickly and reliably than others for any reason,” telecommunications lawyer Marvin Ammori (he’s the man quoted above) observed even before the ruling came down. “Whim. Envy. Ignorance. Competition. Vengeance. Whatever. Or, no reason at all.”‘,0,522106.story#axzz2qTyrrMrP

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  20. Bitter Scribe said on January 15, 2014 at 10:53 am

    The thing I’m worried about on the Internet is that federal court ruling wiping out Net neutrality. Am I going to have to pay extra for YouTube videos now? I hope Google uses its billions to buy enough congressmen to stop this.

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  21. Bitter Scribe said on January 15, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Sue @#19: I posted before I saw your comment.

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  22. Julie Robinson said on January 15, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Like Charlotte, I use adblock extensions on chrome so rarely see an ad, but I’m under no assumptions that I’m not being tracked. The benevolent side is that when I bought a Chromebook and signed in to google, my entire web browser appeared, with all my favorite bookmarks, just like my other computer. That saved me build time and I thought it pretty nifty.

    Now, speaking of books/fireplace kindling, I’m curious if anyone else has read John Grisham’s highly touted new book, Sycamore Row. His best in years! according to the reviews. I hadn’t read any of his in years, because they were all the same book, right? After slogging away for weeks I gave up and skipped to the end, just so I could delete the darn thing. I’m just glad I borrowed it from the library instead of wasting my money.

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  23. Scout said on January 15, 2014 at 11:35 am

    As many of you who have been here a long time know, my real name isn’t Scout. It’s Jeanne Smith. Scout is my internet (or actually just nn.c; I don’t particpate anywhere else) nom de comments that I borrowed from my little black fluffy feline sidekick. Long after I felt safe enough to use my real name I decided Scout was fine and I let it stick.

    Yesterday my dear little friend of almost 19 years left me; it was at home, with the help of our vet and surrounded by his loved ones. I am alternating between grief at my loss and gratitude for his long happy life. You can’t do much better than to be a cat in our house where they are revered and spoiled and loved so much.

    In case anyone is interested, here is a true story I wrote about him many years ago. It includes a picture if you want to see my small dark and handsome little guy, Scout.

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  24. mark said on January 15, 2014 at 11:51 am


    I’m very sorry about your loss and I truly enjoyed your story about your cat and the five miracles.

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  25. Sherri said on January 15, 2014 at 11:57 am

    The other thing I do to manage the advertising deluge is that I use one email account for general correspondence, another email account for e-commerce, and a third email account for posting to sites like these. That keeps my main email account, the one for correspondence, generally cleaner; though nothing is immune from spam, the spam to that account is usually easily caught by spam filters.

    Of course, there’s nothing you can do about your friend who joins Facebook or Twitter and dumps their address book into the site, causing you to get oh so friendly invites for months.

    Even with thing like Ghostery, I know there is still tracking going on, though. I have a Twitter account that I never log into, yet Twitter sends me an email suggesting people I might like to follow that is suspiciously related to my web browsing.

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  26. Hattie said on January 15, 2014 at 11:58 am

    They are so dumb. They put up ads on Facebook for things I have already bought!

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  27. Deborah said on January 15, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    Scout, so sorry, Scout the cat sounds like he was a fine companion. 19 is a good long life especially for a cat that has spent a lot of time outdoors. You must be a great kitty provider to have him that long. Liked your story too.

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  28. LAMary said on January 15, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    I will let my three feline companions know about your loss and as in the past they’ll sit kitty shiva for Scout.

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  29. brian stouder said on January 15, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Jeanne/Scout – that was a great story.

    Thanks for sharing it

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  30. Basset said on January 15, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Scout –

    A beautiful story and well told. Wondering if I have a Glenn somewhere who just hasn’t made himself apparent yet.

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  31. Maggie Jochild said on January 15, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Scout, I am pulsating with empathy for you now. My beloved cat-of-cats is a ginger and white marvel also named Scout. I cannot bear to consider life without her. I’m glad for the 19 grand years you gave your darling.

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  32. Julie Robinson said on January 15, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Jeanne, I’m so sorry about your Scout. It seems to me he had many, many miracles, the first being finding his way to your household. You gave him a good life and a good death, and may you find solace in that. We had several black cats and I’ve always found them the most beautiful of all.

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  33. Deborah said on January 15, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    My cat is all black too, shiny short hair, the breed is called Bombay, they’re bred to be all black and look like miniature panthers. Very muscular, smallish cats (8-10lbs max) with bronze colored eyes. My 16 yr old weighs about 6 lbs now.

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  34. Scout said on January 15, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    Thank you all for the kind words. That he is gone still feels unreal to me. It is comforting to be among friends who get it. Thank you again.

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  35. Minnie said on January 15, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Scout/Jeanne, I’m sorry about your Scout. You must be experiencing a big hole in your existence right now. After reading your five miracles story, though, I do suspect that he still is and always be in your universe. May your friends surround you with love and solace.

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  36. Judybusy said on January 15, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    Scout, after a buys morning, I finally had time to check in. I really can imagine your loss of your dear Scout. What a handsome kitty! I really enjoyed your story, too, and glad he found his way home again. I also want to acknowledge that his leaving is coming at particularly rough time, with your difficulties in your relationship. May Scout guide you both with love and pure intention.

    Last night, I got to dream of my kitty Rachel who died in November, 2012. It’s always such a treat to “hold” her again.

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  37. Heather said on January 15, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    Scout, my thoughts are with you. Sounds like li’l Scout had a wonderful life with you. Having lost a dear cat some years ago, the fact that I gave her a lot of love and a comfortable existence still gives me comfort. I hope you can find the same comfort.

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  38. LAMary said on January 15, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    I just read the Chris Christie fat shaming article and I think that writer did a great job. My weight has been a battle my whole life and I’ve been up and down so many times I can remember. This is hardly a rare scenario. My ex was a total asshole about weight. He actually said once that he could not take someone seriously if they were overweight and that he assumed overweight people were stupid. No matter how talented or brilliant someone was all he saw was weight. My son bought an Adele CD for my ex’s girlfriend for Christmas, and my ex actually told him that Adele is only popular with the plus size ladies. What a maroon.

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  39. Dorothy said on January 15, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    Jeanne you have my sympathy on the loss of your sweet Scout! I’ve been a cat owner for only 4 years but I sure understand how you felt about him.

    A former co-worker of mine had a tiny kitten walk up to her on the street last July, around the same time I had my knee replacement, and drop to it’s side. Meg took in the kitten, whose eyes were badly infected. She posted pictures of the kitty, and asked friends to suggest names. Scout is the one she liked the best. Little Scout ended up having to have her eyes removed. She is a growing and glorious cat now, and I got to meet her in person one day in August when Meg actually had an open house for all of Scout’s local fans! She started a Facebook page for her, and if you are so inclined, you can see some pictures and videos of this sweetheart here:

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  40. Scout said on January 15, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Dorothy, I have officially become one of Little Scout’s fan club. Thank you. Oh so sweet.

    My partner was fully engaged this week to help deal with the vet calls, cremation set up, taking off work to be with us. etc. She and I have already started counseling and things are on the mend. 2014 sure has had a rough start, but I am hoping that these are good learning/growing experiences.

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  41. BigHank53 said on January 15, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    Scout, sorry to hear about your cat. We lost two of our elderly cats in the past year. It’s rough.

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  42. beb said on January 15, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    My sympathies to Scout. We have a lot of cats in our house (probably too many) and have feed numerous outdoor cats. We’ve had to have a couple of our cats put down – age, incontinence or something. It’s really hard to watch our pet – our friend, really – die. Really, really rough.

    To answer Danny’s question: I have never returned to that Burger King, even thought I like BK sandwiches over McDonald by a mile. I find that I am always uncomfortable in the drive-through lane no matter where the restaurant it, no matter how safe the neighbor is, no matter the hour of the day. Since I’ve always hated guns I can’t say that I hate guns more now than I did then. I don’t feel as safe as I used to but mostly I’ve put it past me.

    When I read of some man who shot himself in the leg taking off his pants, or carries a gun into an airport because they “forgot” they were carrying. Or of the Congressional Representative who’s gun went off while cleaning it. Or the guy who wanted to “honor” the 26 killed by guns at the Newtown school by handing out cartridges. Or of guys causing a panic in some town by “exercising their right to openly carry guns” I want them all to lose their right to act like idiots and have their guns confiscated. I’m not saying all guns should be taken away but when you use a gun stupidly, you shouldn’t be allowed a second chance.

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  43. Deborah said on January 15, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    There was another school shooting in Roswell, NM (you know where the space aliens are). We had a neighbor in Abiquiu who moved with her son to Roswell because she thought the Abiquiu school was too rough. I hope the kid wasn’t involved or had to witness anything, if he attended the same school.

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  44. Bob (not Greene) said on January 15, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    Looks like AOL has officially cut the cord on Patch,0,2816876.story

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  45. alex said on January 15, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    Scout, so sorry for your loss. Your story reminded me of the same sinking feeling that has overtaken me countless times when our kitty has disappeared. She has never gone missing more than a few days, but it sure was scary this last time. She disappeared the day before the winter storms began. Fourteen inches of snow fell on that Sunday and there was still no sign of her. I thought for sure she wouldn’t find her way home in that stuff, and I was particularly concerned as the temperatures were forecast to drop rapidly from the twenties to below zero.

    Much to my relief, as night fell, she came bounding up the drive by making a series of small leaps in the snow. I grabbed her up and brought her inside, even though she’s an outdoor cat who had never been coaxed indoors before. She didn’t resist this time.

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  46. Sherri said on January 15, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Sorry about your loss, Scout.

    I think it’s lazy to make fun of Christie because of his weight. It’s not like he doesn’t provide any other fodder, either, you just have to think a bit harder rather than recycling stale jokes.

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  47. LAMary said on January 15, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    I don’t feel sorry for Chris Christie but it’s not his weight that makes me dislike him.

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  48. ROGirl said on January 15, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    Sorry about your kitty, Scout.

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  49. Dexter said on January 15, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    Well, tomorrow I’ll go to Defiance and try to trade in my standard digital cable box for a hi-def box so I can get that hi-def TV installed in the bedroom, then research the Google Chromecast device that we got for a gift. I see that many of you have them and nance just bought one. I have no idea right now how it even works.

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  50. Danny said on January 16, 2014 at 12:05 am

    Scout/Jeanne, I saw this today and thought about you, but could not post until now because I was swamped in meetings all day. Apparently recent research indicates that cats think their owners are just another (big!) cat. This probably comes as no surprise to most of us.

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  51. Danny said on January 16, 2014 at 12:10 am

    I was also thinking that I would love to get paid to do that kind of research…

    And Nancy, that run on “French toast supplies” comment yesterday was brilliant.

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  52. Danny said on January 16, 2014 at 12:15 am

    beb, thanks for sharing that with us. I don’t know why, but it has been on my mind for a few months to ask you. Thankfully, I’ve never had to deal with violent crime personally or even in my extended family, but I know a few folks who have and I can only imagine that it would make me feel pissed off and impotent. Sounds to me like you are coping better than I would.

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  53. DellaDash said on January 16, 2014 at 2:00 am

    So sorry about Scout, Scout.

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