Chargers shock Ravens with last-minute touchdown

(Reuters) – The San Diego Chargers stunned the Baltimore Ravens 34-33 with a fourth-quarter comeback, scoring the game-winner with seconds to play, on a Sunday when Cincinnati was the only AFC North team to win.



Patrick Schwarzenegger and Miley Cyrus Pass on Football Game, Choose PDA-Filled Dinner Date Instead

Miley Cyrus, Patrick SchwarzeneggerIt may be Thanksgiving break for many college students.

But when it comes to Patrick Schwarzenegger and Miley Cyrus’ relationship, let’s just say the lovefest is…

Critic’s Notebook: Bing Crosby Among Singers Celebrated by PBS

PBS does music, with specials highlighting Bing Crosby, Bruce Springsteen and Peter, Paul & Mary.



Christmas Nazis and Thanksgiving Purists

It’s that time of year when the Christmas Nazis and the Thanksgiving Purists have a pissing contest with the rest of the world. Don’t pretend you don’t know them. They’re not opposing gangs in a Kirk Cameron film about how the liberal media grinds up Christmas trees to make Satanic Bibles. No, they are far more irritating than Kirk. You probably know a few Christmas Nazis or Thanksgiving Purists. They may be your friends or family. You might even be such a person. Hell, you could even fit into both groups.

Despite these scary folks, and the fact that I need to bundle up in 19 layers of wool just to get the mail (and that’s just email), I still love this time of year. I hate the weather. As a native Floridian who is trapped in the Midwest, I shiver from October through May. Still, even with the ice, snow, and endless clouds, I still love the holidays.

The fact that I refer to them as “the holidays” might irritate some people, and those people are Christmas Nazis. They believe that current liberal politics and evil atheists are responsible for “Happy Holidays.” Really, Bing Crosby is more responsible for this all inclusive greeting than President Obama. Christmas Nazis say things like, “This is MURICA! We can’t say Happy Holidays because we are a Christian country!” They think they are defending Christmas, or keeping it pure, or some other such bullshit. In reality, they are simply showing that they don’t know how to read a calendar.

Most of us understand that Christmas is not the only holiday within the four-week period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. There’s also Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Saturnalia. Those are just the holidays that are typically celebrated in the U.S. So, saying, “Happy Holidays” is not about excluding Christians, it’s about including everyone. Also, for me, it’s about talking less. As a work from home introvert, I’d rather just cover everything with two words than list all of the holidays with their appropriate “happy” or “merry.” I’m pretty sure Santa, Jesus, and Saturn would approve of simply being nice to everyone.

Some Christmas Nazis are also Thanksgiving Purists. You know, the people who get their panties in a bunch when Christmas items are displayed before the appropriate day. They might as well say, “Thou mustn’t put up thine Christmas tree before Thanksgiving.” Some Thanksgiving Purists get quite enraged about seeing Christmas decorations before turkey day. They post about this major crime on social media sites, some people blog about it, and others talk about it on TV. Some of them actually tell others when they are allowed to put up Christmas trees, lights, and other holiday decorations. It’s like they have some sort of “Asshole’s Guide to the Holidays” book, along with a color-coded calendar that they refer to. I would like to send people who are upset by seeing Christmas decorations in November on an all expense paid trip to a cave in the Middle East. This way they can get away from the offensive early Christmas decorations and learn about real problems.

Let me hear from you in the comment section. Are you a Christmas Nazi or a Thanksgiving Purist, or are you just someone who enjoys pretty lights and a decorated indoor tree when it’s cold and gray outside?

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Happy Holidays!

This post originally appeared on Petty Thoughts.

Music Review: Slayer, With New Players, at Wellmont Theater

Slayer, a landmark band of West Coast thrash metal, plays a set with its new members at the Wellmont Theater.



Do You Dabble in Scrabble?

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Everybody plays Scrabble at least once in their life, right? Form a seven letter word, score 50 pts, use your Q without a U, challenge your opponents version of “EUOUAE” (a consonant-less word that’s legal? Yep!) then clink hot cocoa mugs together and call it a fun night, right?

That’s all well and good when it’s a friendly game around your dining room table with family. But playing with a competitive stranger online from God know’s where, who also cheats? Well that’s quite another story!

It all started when my children coaxed me to download the App, “Words With Friends” on my cellphone. What a neighborly sounding game it was! A few clicks and voilà! (I like to work “voilà” into a story so I can practice finding the tilde punctuation mark on the keyboard ) suddenly it was just as I remembered from my own childhood — except you could take all day long to formulate one word and nobody minded.

That was rather nice — mulling over the cyber tiles you were dealt, whilst mopping the kitchen floor or leisurely contemplating an adjective as you auto-shuffled the letters in the word, “nipples” around, searching for something less embarrassing during a gynecologist appointment.

You could even send gracious messages back-and-forth like “awesome word!” or “you got me there!” No rush, no muss, just clean, polite, old-fashioned fun.

Until none of my children would play with me anymore. Or my ex-husband, my cousins, my neighbor, my babysitter, my accountant, my Rabbi, my boyfriend, and not even my Tupperware Lady. Right! Like she was just soooooo busy — when’s the last time you were invited to a party that featured burping plastic containers?

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Poor sports and sour grapes, every last one of them, just because I clobbered them all! One by one, I went through my Facebook victims, err contacts, systematically challenging familiar names to a friendly game until they all dropped off in defeat.

Then it happened. The invitation from “1OldTortoise” appeared and I took one look at his innocuous name and cockily clicked “Accept.” Easy pray.

But who was he?

His first word utilized all his letters — “ratines.” A noun meaning “heavy, loosely woven fabric,” my eye! In hindsight, “RATines” should’ve been my signal to smell a rat, not a reptile.

But I gave him the benefit of the doubt and made a few of my own 7-letter words. First “coupons” followed by “toenails” playing off his ‘S.’ Ha! Let him dispute that “toenails” wasn’t all one word. Then a communication slyly came across in that cute little message bubble in the upper right hand corner — “I was just clipping mine.”

Okay, ewww! And seriously? I needed to know an Aging Reptile’s feet grooming habits? I don’t think so. Not to mention I was immediately reminded of that classic Aesop’s fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare” because the sudden alacrity in which he fired his round of words was astonishing. He beat me eight times in a row just that one morning.

Gone were the relaxing days allowing me to pause and brainstorm for an hour. If I hesitated to respond in twenty minutes, a message would appear with an impatient ding, prompting, “1OldTortoise is waiting. Make your move!”

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Really? Well he can just pull his wrinkly head back inside that cracked shell of his and sit tight. What business did he have rushing me like that? It’s just a form of recreation, after all. Besides it’s humiliating getting beaten in a game of wits and skill by someone like this. He was quickly turning “Words With Friends” into “Language With Enemies!”

And worse yet, I had the distinct impression that he was using a dictionary. His words were just too obscure. Nobody has a vocabulary like that. And once I lost by 200 points because my 8-year old “borrowed” my cell phone for twenty minutes. Still, it was infuriating.

And if he wasn’t using a dictionary, then he had some other devious way of drawing all the best letters for his own rack while leaving me with nothing but “ffhzxns.” Whatever that was, I so yearned to pluralize it!

Then one day it happened. I actually beat him! But as I rejoiced, a message bubble popped up all aglow. “Congratulations,” it proclaimed. “You managed to beat my young grandson who happened to be playing with my phone!”

Oh that was rich, really rich. What was this?? He was trying to diminish my joy. Make me feel foolish because I celebrated out-spelling a small child. One who probably called himself, “1Tinyturtle.”

The guy was so slippery, he may as well have been a snake. And persistent as all hell. Hell in a tortoise shell! The moment he won, like lightning, another invitation flashed across the screen-“Accept a new game with 1OldTortoise?” I had no choice. If I clicked “decline,” I knew on his end it looked as if I resigned. I wouldn’t give him that satisfaction. I played with a 102 degree fever, in the middle of movies, while studying for an exam, and even as I wept because our cockatiel died.

Finally I developed that “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” attitude. I downloaded another app called scrabblecheat.com. I am not proud of this behavior. But the tortoise was going down… I was determined.

Now I couldn’t sleep because of my obsession with winning. When I did manage to grab a little shut eye, I dreamt of glass enclosures at the zoo, housing 200-year-old (did they live that long?) terrapins. (Small edible turtles!) Or I would awaken shouting out, “QWERTY!”

The whole situation became truly absurd — he was cheating, I was cheating-it was as if there were two computers playing against each other. A tech war.

One night my mother came over for dinner and as we prepared the brisket and mashed potatoes together, I showed her my cellphone with the current “Words With Friends” game board in-progress on my cellphone.

“Ma,” I implored. “You were a high school English teacher. What intelligent word can you make with these letters?” She fished out her reading glasses and furrowed her brows. “Oh you’ve got a wise and worthy opponent here,” she said. “But use your Y and make “gravy.”

Bingo! With her help, I felt confident I would finally make turtle wax outa him. And that’s when I heard it. The familiar ding, and then the message bubble with a few sentences inside.

“Gravy! Clever word you made. Now make some for your brisket. It’s always dry.”

As I peeked into the living room, I saw my mom furtively typing into her own cellular device, beaming while nudging her glasses back up on her nose… Her Old Tortoise shell glasses.

“1TinyTurtle” was probably my own 8-year-old little boy that she occasionally had for sleepovers. And it’s good to know that my mother actually clips coupons (and not her toenails!) while playing me in “Word With Friends!”

Originally posted on Author’s Humor Blog

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Evidence Photos Prove Michael Brown Hit Darren Wilson So Hard, He Almost Left A Mark

Photos released by the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office of Officer Darren Wilson, taken shortly after his altercation with 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9, 2014, appear to prove that Brown hit Officer Wilson so hard in the face that a mark was almost left on Wilson’s skin. In one of the photos, the skin above Wilson’s right jawbone is possibly reddened slightly.

“What these photos show, I think, is that Mr. Brown hit Officer Wilson in the face with such force that a little red mark was left there,” said St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch. “That kind of inflammation of the skin is something that is not to be tolerated, with regard to the faces of law enforcement officers.”

In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, and also in his grand jury testimony, Wilson described the punches Brown hit him with as so powerful that he might not survive even one more of them.

“The next thing was, how do I survive?” Wilson said in the ABC interview, referring to the moment following the first series of punches. “I didn’t know if I’d be able to withstand another hit like that.”

Wilson’s grand jury testimony contains a very similar passage, where Wilson says, “I felt that another of those punches in my face could knock me out or worse. I mean it was he’s obviously bigger than I was and stronger…. I’ve already taken two to the face, and I didn’t think I would, the third one could be fatal if he hit me right.”

According to Josh Lovett of UCLA Medical Center, Wilson had reason to fear for his life.

“I mean, look at the results of the other punches that landed,” Lovett said. “They resulted in a mark that may in fact be reddening of the skin, and maybe even some puffiness. That’s scary stuff, especially for a law enforcement officer. Very scary.”

In his press conference following the announcement that there would be no inictment of Officer Wilson, McCulloch, the prosecuting attorney, sought to point out the fact that Wilson’s skin is especially sensitive.

“I would say it’s obviously above average in terms of its sensitivity,” McCulloch said. “You can see it in the photos. Now, I’m not saying the irritation Officer Wilson’s skin suffered at the hands of Michael Brown justifies the shooting, but I do think people need to take extra care when getting into altercations with law enforcement officers who may have skin sensitivity issues, like Officer Wilson clearly has. Any contact could cause more inflammation, more swelling than it would on someone who doesn’t have the same sensitivity issue. And I think that needs to be taken into account.”

McCulloch had previously taken the unusual step of releasing all of the evidence seen by the grand jury, because, he says, he wanted the public to have all the facts. He says part of the reason he took that step was precisely because of issues like Officer Wilson’s sensitive skin.

“I want them to see the whole picture, not just selected snippets that they’ve gotten from social media and elsewhere,” McCulloch said. “Things aren’t always cut and dried and simple. This may appear to many to be a case of a police officer overstepping his authority, because he shot an unarmed teenager. But then you look at these photos, and you say, ‘Whoa, wait a minute. This officer has a skin sensitivity issue. I didn’t know that before.’ And that may affect how you see the situation from then on, because now you have all the facts.”

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Critic’s Notebook: Brooklyn Rider Joins String Quartets Exploring the Nonclassical

On Monday, the string quartet Brooklyn Rider is performing selections from its new album, “Almanac,” featuring pieces commissioned from the worlds of folk, indie rock and jazz.