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10 Jul 19:10

Industrial Venice: Euro Truck Simulator 2′s Public Beta Patch

by Alice O'Connor

Stanislav is very excited about this.

You adjust that seat.

I imagined Piazza San Marco and the Grand Canal when I heard Euro Truck Simulator 2 would add Venice in the next patch. Perhaps you’d drop film cannisters off at the Venice Film Festival, or communion wafers at St Mark’s Basilica. ETS 2 and I romanticise different things. Its Venice is a city built around docks and industrial estates. It’s a city for people to work in, not for tourists to visit. Roads, not canals. As someone not into Simulating, I’m charmed by this practical view.

If you’d like to drive past Venetian warehouses and breathe in Venetian fumes, you can have a peek as SCS Software have released an open beta build of patch 1.11.

… [visit site to read more]

10 Jul 15:19

brownie ice cream sandwiches

by deb

uh oh

brownie ice cream sandwiches

Within reason, I think if you’re craving something, you should go for it, although this theory is mostly born of my own poor logic. I’ve all too many times craved, say, a brownie but thought I shouldn’t eat a brownie and so instead snacked on (just for a completely random example) 12 almonds, 1 slice of cheese, half an apple, 1 banana and then, oops, a handful of chocolate chips, amounting roughly 3x the calories of a brownie, a brownie that I craved exactly as much as I did 500 calories ago. And so, when I really want a brownie, I make my favorite brownies and we each eat one and then I stash the rest in the freezer, so they are not out on the counter, calling to me that we haven’t been cut in a straight line and you should really even us out or we’re going to go bad soon and you don’t want us to go to waste or any of those things that brownies tell me when we’re alone together.

salt, chocolate, vanilla, eggs, butter, flour and sugar

[Hm, here I should probably interject some sort of "sure, okay, brownies talk to me but I'm not like crazy or anything; it's not weird. Brownies talk to everyone, right? Haha?" reassurance but I'm not going to. I'm going to make this as awkward as possible.]

melt the chocolate and butter

... Read the rest of brownie ice cream sandwiches on

© smitten kitchen 2006-2012. | permalink to brownie ice cream sandwiches | 166 comments to date | see more: Chocolate, Ice Cream/Sorbet, Photo, Summer

10 Jul 14:39

Homestar Runner was the greatest web cartoon ever, and it's back

by Todd VanDerWerff

I like the idea of more homestar being made, but I'm probably not going to watch them. I just feel better knowing that there's more.

As announced by co-writer Matt Chapman himself on The Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show podcast, popular character Homestar Runner and all his pals are returning to star in more internet video things, most likely starting in the fall. The last Homestar Runner update was on April Fool's Day of this year and turns out to have been a trial balloon by Chapman and his brother Mike (who created the characters with Craig Zobel). The success of the video, the first on the site since 2010, convinced the Brothers Chaps (as they call themselves in directing gigs) that there was still an audience for Homestar content. And, yes, the new stuff will probably include at least one new Strong Bad email.

To fans of the influential program (which should include all right-thinking individuals), this is a pretty big deal. But the crazy thing about it is that Homestar Runner first began to attract serious attention way back in 2001 and hit its peak between roughly 2003 and 2006. This means that a) it's one of the few web series that people can actually feel nostalgic for and b) many of the people who watched this program as high school or college students now might have children of their own.

Fortunately, the childlike whimsy of the program is perfect to share with kids. They just might have some questions, which we have enumerated below. Please pretend the subheads are being read to you by a small child, if you don't have one handy. (Though, actually, if you are going to explain Homestar Runner to a small child, maybe leave out the parts about "unrestrained id" and "surrealism." Your 4-year-old is unlikely to be familiar with these concepts, as you surely know.)

First, however, some techno music, courtesy of Strong Bad.

What is Homestar Runner?

It was a website that collected a series of weird internet cartoons, animated in Flash, in the days when pretty much nobody was doing online animation or video (much less finding success at it). The cartoons were short and silly, and they were terrific at generating memes before people used the word "meme" all of the time. Just mention the word "Trogdor" around anyone who had access to an internet connection in the mid-2000s to understand what we mean.

Also, specifically, Homestar Runner was the site's main character, a basically good-hearted doofus who wandered around a vaguely suburban neighborhood with his friends and enemies.

But I haven't seen Homestar Runner in the clips you've posted, not really

That's because Homestar's popularity was quickly outstripped by his ostensible antagonist, Strong Bad, a guy who wore boxing gloves and a Mexican wrestling mask. Viewers could email him, and he would sometimes respond, in pithy, hilarious fashion. It was a whole thing.

Strong Bad was the unrestrained id the internet had always needed but didn't know it required. What made him palatable was that he lived in a world where he couldn't really accomplish much of anything. He might have been a "bad guy," but he lived in the middle of nowhere, making it that much harder to be truly villainous. He was the very definition of raising heck. Also, he had two hilarious brothers, named Strong Mad and Strong Sad, the latter of whom may be the Brothers Chaps' most vital contribution to the culture at large.

And all of this was before YouTube?

Yeah, basically. You can find all of Homestar and Strong Bad's adventures on YouTube now, but when the shorts were truly lighting up the web and appearing in more traditional media sources like Entertainment Weekly, the Chapmans were limited by hosting Flash cartoons on their own website. That they accomplished so much without a readymade platform (to say nothing of the fact that social media basically didn't exist yet) was an early testament to the ability of the internet to create entertainment of its own.

So the series was important and influential?

You betcha. In fact, it was so influential in the world of web video that the only concern worth having about the return of Homestar is whether the brothers (who've mostly been working in children's television in the past few years) will be able to stand out amid the huge number of shows that they've influenced. In particular, the show's voice — best described as influenced by pop culture, but not beholden to it, while embracing weird and whimsical surrealism — pops up all over YouTube. And that's to say nothing of television itself, where so many kids' shows feel like slightly longer versions of Strong Bad emails.

But the Brothers Chaps are smart, innovative dudes. It would be dumb to bet against them.

What's the best Homestar cartoon?

Unquestionably the Strong Bad email "Crazy Cartoon," which is the series at its most inventive and most hilarious. There are so many great jokes packed into a video less than three minutes long.

Wait. "Eh, Steve." Is this why my name is Steve?

You're very observant, son, and thank you for remembering this article was supposedly meant to be a dialogue between parent and child, a gimmick we didn't really keep up, come to think of it.

Let's watch one more video.

09 Jul 14:50

Watch this woman imitate 17 different British accents flawlessly

by Brandon Ambrosino

You know how you have that one friend who does impressions?

"Tohp o' the mohnin' tewya," he says, his voice slightly higher and his mouth slightly rounder than usual. When you finally ask which person he's impersonating, he answers that he's being a British person.

Well, in spite of what your comedian friend seems to believe, to say nothing of countless amateur Shakespeare troupes, there isn't one particular British accent. (That's kind of like saying that there's just one way of sounding American.)

When most of us think about "the way Brits talk," we think about a British dialect that linguists call Received Pronunciation (RP) — also known as BBC English. But as comedian Siobhan Thompson shows in this amazing video, there are more than a few ways of sounding like a British person. In fact, Thompson has 17 of them.

09 Jul 14:12

This video shows what Africans think of westerners trying to ‘save’ them

by Zack Beauchamp

Normally, articles with videos about Africa lead in to how horrible life in the continent is (undifferentiated by country, let alone city or region) — and what Westerners can do to "fix" it. The video you're about to watch is the exact opposite of that. Instead of Westerners telling you how to fix Africa, Africans tell Westerners to stop trying to fix things.

Cassandra Herman, an independent documentarian, was bothered by the fact that Africans were so often portrayed as passive victims by the Western media. "In American media and pop culture," she writes, "Africans remain objects of our pity or moral outrage or fascination."

So she turned flipped the script, following several Africans attempting to express their concerns about Western depictions to American audiences. Here's what happened:

This is only a trailer for a broader film, titled Framed. Herman and her team have just made their Kickstarter goal for distributing the whole film; if you want to throw them a few more dollars to give it a wider audience, you can donate here.

08 Jul 12:36

Can't Stand Meetings? Try Taking Away The Chairs


admiral cain got it right

Those who stood at meetings said the felt their colleagues were more open to their ideas, less territorial, and overall, did better collaborative work, researchers found.

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07 Jul 17:56

The Supreme Court sided against birth control again, and Sotomayor is not happy about it

by Adrianna McIntyre

The Hobby Lobby decision wasn't the Supreme Court's last word on birth control.

Late Thursday, six justices signed onto an injunction that allows a Wheaton College, a religious university, more flexibility to not comply with Obamacare's contraceptive mandate. It led to a scathing dissent from the court's three female members.

"Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word," Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, in a dissent joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Elena Kagan. "Not today."

Sotomayor went on to argue that the injunction would risk stripping "hundreds of Wheaton's employees and students of their legal entitlement to contraceptive coverage."

The Wheaton College case centers on a Christian liberal arts college in Illinois. It is part of another wave of lawsuits against Obamacare's contraceptives mandate that the recent Hobby Lobby decision did not resolve.

These lawsuits challenge the flexibilities that the Obama administration has already offered religious non-profits, arguing that the existing accommodations don't do enough to protect religious liberty.

What is the Wheaton College case about?

Back in February 2012, some religiously-affiliated non-profits (particularly universities and hospitals) successfully pushed the Obama administration to offer an "accommodation" that would allow them to opt-out of the contraceptives mandate.

The idea behind the compromise: non-profits wouldn't pay for contraceptives themselves but instead have their health insurance plan foot the bill for birth control.

In order to apply for this compromise, non-profits are supposed to use a very specific form to certify their opposition to the providing their employees with contraception. The form, for the especially curious, is Employee Benefits Security Administration form 700 (EBSA 700).

After that form is filed, insurers are supposed to pay for the contraception themselves without passing the cost on to the religious organizations. Insurers recoup their losses through reduced fees paid to the government.

some organizations claim the form makes them complicit in the use of birth control, even though they're not paying for it.

Wheaton College, and dozens of other non-profits, object to having to file this form on grounds of religious freedom.

The organizations claim that the accommodation violates their religious beliefs, because submitting the EBSA 700 to insurers/third-party administrators (TPAs) makes them complicit in the use of the birth control, even though they're not paying for it. There are 51 active court cases challenging the accommodation on these grounds.

What did the Supreme Court decide about Wheaton College?

The Court issued an injunction, ruling that Wheaton College does not need to file the EBSA 700 against its objections while their court case is being resolved.

The injunction itself does not necessarily foreshadow that Wheaton College will be successful in their lawsuit; the six justices who signed on in favor are clear in their opinion that this is not a decision in favor of Wheaton's arguments.

But it does halt Wheaton College's obligation to submit the accommodation form until the courts resolve whether the accommodation does, in fact, infringe upon religious freedom. Similar injunctions have been granted to other religious nonprofits by lower courts.

The Supreme Court indicated that Wheaton's employees should still have access to contraceptives without co-pays in the interim. According to the opinion, Wheaton can submit a letter to the federal government documenting its objection to completing the EBSA 700, and the government can then coordinate with the institution's third-party administrator to assure coverage.

sotomayor is troubled by the authority the court used to justify the injunction.

Why was Sotomayor's dissent so scathing?

Justice Sotomayor raises at least four objections to the injunction in her dissent.

  1. Sotomayor contends that the Wheaton injunction contradicts the decision issued in the Hobby Lobby case. The opinions written by Justices Alito and Kennedy — who both ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby — used the existence of the accommodation to justify their conclusion. In her dissent, Sotomayor worries that this apparent flip-flop will undermine public confidence in the Supreme Court.

    There is disagreement about whether the Wheaton injunction actually counters the Hobby Lobby ruling. The Hobby Lobby decision notes that the present accommodation imposes less on religious organizations than the actual contraceptive mandate, but it's possible that the government could arrange something that imposes even less still.
  2. The dissent argues that the injunction unravels months the months of government work required to craft the accommodation through usual regulatory processes, which will generate unnecessary costs and layers of bureaucracy.

    The Supreme Court, Sotomayor writes, has "no reason to think that the administrative scheme [Wheaton] foists on the government today is workable or effective on a national scale."
  3. Sotomayor is troubled by the authority the Court used to justify the injunction. In her dissent, she writes that these types of injunctions are only appropriate when "it is aid of our jurisdiction and the legal rights at the issue are indisputably clear."

    Sotomayor argues that the Wheaton injunction easily fails both of those requirements. The case is being decided by the District Court, not the Supreme Court, so this is not "in aid of their jurisdiction." Furthermore, lower courts have come to different conclusions about the legality of the accommodation, so the legal rights in question cannot be called "indisputably clear."
  4. Last, Sotomayor also makes the case that this decision could be a risk for those who use Wheaton's health plan, as their insurer only has a legal obligation to provide contraception when they receive the particular form that the injunction allows them not to file.

Why didn't the Hobby Lobby decision settle this issue?

In Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court ruled that certain for-profit companies may refuse to cover forms of birth control that it finds morally objectionable.

That decision didn't have any immediate legal implications for nonprofits, who had the accommodation that the Obama administration offered in February 2012. The non-profits are challenging the accommodation itself as unworkable.

What problems could this introduce?

Here's the trouble with the recommendation in the injunction: the government may not have all of the information about the insurer or third-party administrator that it needs to coordinate birth control coverage.

This information may not be readily available without that form — and it's not clear whether the government could compel disclosure from the objecting organization.

the government may not have all the information it needs to coordinate birth control coverage.

This isn't a problem for Wheaton College itself, because the government can glean the necessary information from the lawsuit itself. Wheaton has already submitted a letter to the government certifying its objection. But if this new opt-out to the accommodation gets scaled up, it could create problems.

"Presumably once the government receives a certification from a nonprofit objecting to contraceptive coverage, it will need to contact the organization to ask who the organization uses for its insurer or TPA is, and then separately contact the insurer or TPA," writes Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University. "Whether the nonprofit is legally required to respond to the government inquiry is not clear."

And as long as the legal workability of the accommodation is uncertain, it's hard to see it as a firm solution for extending contraceptive coverage to employees at for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby; extending the accommodation could trigger more lawsuits, resulting in more injunctions.

Moreover, the accommodation was the result of months of cooperative governmental effort, a process that considered more public comments than any regulation on record.

What's next?

The Supreme Court's injunction is specific to the Wheaton case, which is currently pending appeal. However, the injunction does establish a precedent that lower courts may observe when other religious nonprofits lodge similar objections to the contraceptive mandate accommodation.

Wheaton College vs. Burwell is currently pending in front of a federal court of appeals. While the court cannot — and would not — presume to define the college's beliefs, it does have the authority to determine whether those beliefs are "substantially" burdened by the accommodation.

If Wheaton does win its case, the federal government may need to devise a new accommodation requiring less action from the religious organization, while accounting for the problems outlined above.

07 Jul 17:37

Star Wars seemed more like Alien in its initial trailer

by Todd VanDerWerff

that original trailer is weird

The first two teaser trailers for the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens have proved one thing conclusively: music matters when it comes to blockbusters.

In The Dissolve's excellent list of the top 50 blockbusters of all time, the film site's editorial director, Keith Phipps, in a longer blurb on Star Wars points out how so much of what made the film great stemmed from director George Lucas surrounding himself with excellent collaborators.

To bring the film to life, Lucas selected favorite elements from a lifetime of omnivorous reading and movie-watching-from Joseph Campbell to Akira Kurosawa to World War II dramas-then filtered those elements into a space opera that paid homage to the thrill-a-minute movie serials of the 1930s and '40s. Along the way, he chose brilliant collaborators like conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie, sound designer Ben Burtt, and composer John Williams, without whom Star Wars might have become a drastically different movie. (The Williams-free first trailer, for instance, suggests a far eerier experience.)

Phipps is dead-on about that first trailer. Watch above to see how strange the film seems without the famous blast of Williams's triumphant score.

Williams is one of only four or five musicians who could lay claim to being the greatest film composer of all time, and even if he doesn't come out on top in your own personal estimation, he's responsible for some of the most instantly iconic bits of film music ever. The theme from Jurassic Park. The flying theme from E.T. The theme from Superman. He's even responsible for the ominous theme from Jaws, which is now convenient shorthand for cinematic terror. How many other composers can create such a primal, gut-churning emotion with just two notes?

And without him, Star Wars seems more like Alien than it does the movie we know and love. It's weird and ominous and filled with strange creatures. The camera slowly zooms in on the title of the film. The soundscape is empty, haunted. And the announcer's tone suggests we're about to settle in for a very spooky tale of outer-space strangeness. It's not a very enticing pitch for one of the most successful films ever made.

It's interesting to contemplate Star Wars without Williams, because it reminds us of how all films are one bad choice away from being unwatchable. How many great movies would have been terrible with a different actor, or a different editor, or even a different hair and makeup team? And how many bad movies were just one dumb choice away from being masterpieces?

Ah, you've waited long enough after watching that trailer. Here's the fanfare you know and love.

04 Jul 12:27

Oklahoma's earthquake epidemic linked to fracking wastewater disposal

by Brad Plumer

this is some alpha centauri shit. Planet is gonna start sending mind worms.

Oklahoma has become the earthquake capital of the United States — with some 240 small earthquakes magnitude 3.0 or more already this year. That's about twice as many as California has gotten.

A new study links the earthquakes to the wastewater disposal wells

And in a new study in Science, researchers say they've pinpointed the culprit: the wastewater disposal wells used by the fracking industry.

Back in 2009, energy companies in Oklahoma started ramping up the use of fracking for oil and gas. The fracking process itself typically involvesinjecting water, chemicals, and sand underground at high pressure to crack open shale rock and unlock the oil and gas inside.

Fracking itself doesn't seem to be causing many earthquakes at all. However, after the well is fracked, all that wastewater needs to be pumped back out and disposed of somewhere. Since it's often laced with chemicals and difficult to treat, companies will often pump the wastewater back underground into separate disposal wells.

Wastewater injection comes with a catch, however: The process both pushes the crust in the region downward and increases pressure in cracks along the faults. That makes the faults more prone to slippages and earthquakes.

And as it happens, Oklahoma has seen a sharp rise in the number of earthquakes since 2009, far more than you'd expect from natural variation:


Earthquakes in Oklahoma between 1976-2014. Earthquakes are magnitude > 1 from the NEIC catalog. Keranen et al 2014

The latest Science study, led by Katie Keranen of Cornell, says this is no accident. By analyzing seismic data in Oklahoma along with the location of some 10,000 disposal wells along the state, the researchers concluded that there's a likely link between the two.

Just four wells were likely responsible for one-fifth of seismic activity

More specifically, the researchers concluded that 89 wells were likely responsible for most of the seismic activity. And just four wells located southeast of Oklahoma City were likely responsible for about one-fifth of seismic activity in the state between 2008 and 2013.

It's worth noting that so far these earthquakes have been too small to do serious damage or endanger lives. Still, they seem to have stirred up concern among some Oklahoma residents, and regulators are now considering whether additional rules may be necessary. This new research could help more accurately pinpoint the links here.

Previous studies on earthquakes and wastewater wells

The Science study is hardly the first to suggest a link between wastewater injection and earthquakes. Kansas, Texas, and Ohio are also all exploring possible connections. Over the past year, the US Geological Service had also suggested a link between wastewater wells and earthquakes.

Meanwhile, a separate study is currently ongoing in Colorado as to whether an injection well was causing seismic activity near Greeley. One June 25, state regulators ordered a halt to wastewater injection in the area after a 2.6 magnitude quake (which had followed a 3.4 magnitude quake in May).

04 Jul 12:21

Thailand's Toilet Signs Really Need to Pee

by Brian Ashcraft

Thailand's Toilet Signs Really Need to Pee

There are universal markers for the restrooms. There is also a universal sign for when you really, really need to take a leak. Sometimes, Thailand gets both in toilet signs.


03 Jul 19:32

Cocktail Challenge: Duck fat

by Julia Thiel
Challenged to create a cocktail with duck fat, Brian Bolles of Maude's Liquor Bar tries to overcome its "thick, heavy flavor." by Julia Thiel OO.ready(function() { window.player = OO.Player.create('ooyala-player','M4MWhnbjozu6VDxt3vR99HJ9KRRctVBr'); }); "It's delicious," Brian Bolles of Maude's Liquor Bar says of duck fat, the ingredient with which Aaron Dexter of the Owl challenged him to create a cocktail.…

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03 Jul 16:59

Neighborhood high schools again take hit in new CPS budget


vile awful people.

this is obvious, but the CPS is just another object lesson of the strategy of taking away a popular social service by slowly and surely bleeding it dry. Hard to toss out garbage fucking charters as an alternative when the schools are actually funded.

Schools with more than $1 million slashed from their budgets are overwhelmingly the city’s public neighborhood high schools.

Once seen as anchors in many communities, neighborhood high schools have seen enrollment decline dramatically in the past decade. The decline is a direct result of Chicago Public Schools opening more privately run charter high schools. Students now scatter to schools all over the city when they go to high school.

Enrollment declines in neighborhood high schools are driving huge budget cuts, because district officials switched the budgeting formula to rely more heavily on number of students attending. At some neighborhood high schools last year, the freshman class was so small, principals were barely able to hire enough teachers to cover core subject areas, much less offer any additional courses, like music or foreign language.

Last year CPS held those schools harmless when they enrolled fewer students than projected, but this year that practice ended.

Of the 26 schools seeing $1 million or more in cuts under the newly released CPS budget, 24 are high schools. Just two are elementary schools: De Diego and Disney Magnet. The Chicago Tribune reported yesterday that the principal and assistant principal of De Diego, which served as a receiving school for two schools that closed last year, were recently removed from their posts. It is unclear what is driving cuts at Disney Magnet;  at the same time the total budget decreased, the school gained three positions.

When looking at schools where 10 or more positions were cut, neighborhood high schools are again hardest hit. Of the 25 schools losing 10 staff or more, 19 are high schools. Oddly, one of those, Lindblom Math and Science Academy, is a selective enrollment high school that draws from across the city.

Six elementary schools -- Eberhart, Dodge, Lewis, Marquette, Cameron and Haley -- lost 10 or more positions. Three of those (Dodge, Lewis and Marquette) are run by the non-profit Academy of Urban School Leadership.

Although many schools suffered steep cuts, the overall  budget for next year rings up at $5.7 billion, which is up $500 million from last year. The increase comes even as CPS is projecting a loss of about 100 students.

CPS officials released the proposed budget on Wednesday, just a day from the start of a holiday weekend. Officials gave reporters just four minutes to look over a Power Point presentation before holding a conference call to take questions. The complete budget was not posted until 8 p.m.

It remains unclear when and where the district will hold public hearings on the proposed budget.

In the conference call, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said the overall increase is largely driven by ballooning pension payments to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund. The Fund’s director, Jay Rehak, told WBEZ earlier in the week that CPS recently made its first full payment since 2010. In previous years, CPS paid smaller installments because of a three-year pension holiday granted by the state of Illinois.

Despite having to pay more into the pension fund after years of not doing so, Byrd-Bennett touted the district’s ability to keep cuts away from classrooms this year.

Roughly $3.8 billion will go directly to schools, according to budget documents, an increase from last year’s total of about $3.6 billion. Schools will receive an additional $250 per student this year, but much of that only covers staff salary increases.

Charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run, will see an overall increase of $41 million, or about 10 percent. According to budget documents, the increase is not just from enrollment growth, but also an increase in the amount of money given to charters for every student they enroll.

A majority of the schools getting increases of $1 million or more are new and expanding charter schools, including six Noble Street high schools, two UNO schools, two Concept Schools, one LEARN school,  Catalyst-Maria, Chicago International Charter School-Quest Campus.

CPS Budget Chief Ginger Ostro said the district faced a more than $800 million deficit in this year’s budget. In order to close that deficit, officials are using an accounting trick that shifts when it counts the revenue coming in from property taxes.  

Sarah Wetmore, vice president and research director with the Civic Federation, called the proposal “not sustainable” and said CPS must work with state lawmakers in Springfield to get pension reform in order to fix the structural problems.

It is also now the fifth year that CPS has relied on a one-time windfall of cash to balance its budget.

Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her @WBEZeducation.

02 Jul 20:01

Shrinking Middle Class

by me2

Rahm 2015

The wealth gap in Chicago is widening faster than anywhere in the state or in the U.S. generally, with the top 5 percent taking home over 25% of income paid to Chicagoans.

02 Jul 16:54

Major teachers union backs Quinn over Rauner

by By Rick Pearson

this is not news.

The Illinois Education Association, one of the state’s two major teacher’s unions, voted today to endorse Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn for re-election over Republican challenger Bruce Rauner.

02 Jul 16:24

How Obama helped Hillary Clinton fend off Elizabeth Warren

by Ezra Klein


The New Republic's Noam Scheiber just published a fascinating article describing how Obama's Democratic Party is preparing to become Hillary Clinton's Democratic Party. In reporting the piece, Scheiber spoke to former staffers for both Obama and Clinton, but also to the grassroots supporters who powered Obama's rise, like his precinct captains in Iowa. The picture that emerged from Scheiber's reporting wasn't just a Democratic Party that was ready for Hillary, but one then had grown cynical under Obama — and thus would be less susceptible to a charismatic newcomer like Elizabeth Warren.

We spoke on Monday, and a lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Ezra Klein: The most fascinating argument of your piece, to me, was that the new, post-partisan approach to politics that Barack Obama sold in 2008 has been effectively discredited by Obama's presidency, and as such, Hillary Clinton's more old-school approach to getting things done in Washington has become more appealing to frustrated Democrats.

Noam Scheiber: It's strange. I would talk to people about the profile of the kind of candidate that excited them and often that would be an Elizabeth Warren style populist. They yearn for someone who wants to change the system. But then I would ask them who they actually support in 2016 and they all said Hillary Clinton.

They would say, ‘I love Elizabeth Warren but I don't think she can change Washington'

At first those things didn't seem to track. But when you pressed, they would say, ‘I love Elizabeth Warren but I don't think she can change Washington.' And when you pressed further it was about disappointment in President Obama. I talked to 10 Obama precinct captains from Iowa. Watching the system not change really made an impact on these people. I don't think they want to get burned again.

EK: It's interesting because you really could have imagined another reaction to Obama's presidency. One argument would be that he never really tried to change Washington; he named Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff and Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State and he focused on getting things like the stimulus and Obamacare through the political process as it exists now rather than trying to pass things like campaign-finance reform that might have changed that process. There could have been an argument here that Obama was right the first time, but he didn't follow-through.

NS: Back in 2008, Hillary Clinton made this kind of snide, but in retrospect apt, critique of Obama where she said that Obama thinks he'll get to Washington and the heavens will part and the Republicans will cooperate, but that just won't happen. So I asked some of these Obama supporters if she was right. And a lot of these people remembered those comments and being annoyed by them. But they all said she was actually a bit right. We were a bit naive then, they said. People used the word naive a lot in these conversations.

EK: Your piece is based on the idea that Hillary Clinton is this dominant frontrunner. But we saw that in 2006 and 2007, too, and it turned out that the dominance was mostly a function of the campaign not starting yet. So what makes you confident her shy-high poll numbers aren't bubble driven by her distance from politics and the fact that her challengers haven't gone through the stature-raising process of the campaign yet?

NS: In some ways the 2008 cycle was more the anomaly and now we're reverting to history. In 2008, there was a Republican in power in the White House and that meant that Republicans weren't as focused on the Clintons as these hated, conspiratorial figures. At the same time, Hillary had spent the last few years making nice with Republicans in the Senate. So structurally it wasn't really a moment when Republicans were going to come after her.

Democrats become more sympathetic to Clinton when they see her being unfairly attacked by Republicans

I think the perverse consequence of that was Democrats were less sympathetic to her. They become more sympathetic to her when they see her being unfairly attacked by Republicans. So what will happen as we go forward is Republicans will resume that posture. We'll have all these conspiratorial theories about her age and health and role in Benghazi and that will help her with Democrats.

EK: One of the odder parts of your piece, I thought, was the section where you imagined a Hillary Clinton presidency and asserted she would fill the Treasury Department with veterans of Wall Street. It raised, for me, one of the great unanswered questions lurking behind all discussion of Hillary right now: what has she learned since 2008? We know what she thought and who she trusted then, but we don't really know what she thinks now.

NS: I think we should expect Hillary will have learned a lot. She gets into the weeds on policy. She's a shrewd politician. But I would break it into two parts.

She definitely senses which way history is going, which way the party is going, and what good public policy is. And so I think she would be more populist on economic questions like expanding the social safety net and strengthening unions and bolstering workplace protections. I think she would be good on that stuff and she would intuit correctly there's a hunger for these things.

But I think that on the kind of one-percent questions — breaking up the megabanks, being tougher on financial crime, raising the capital gains tax, raising the tax on dividend income — I think she would get that the base of the party, and maybe the country, has moved on that. But I think there would be structural limitations to how far she could go, partly because of the sheer volume of money you have to raise to get elected president. But partly because of the residue of decades and decades of relationships in the financial sector. If you spend a lot of time with people you like and think are smart it's hard to believe their ideas are dumb.

EK: I think the Obama administration raises an interesting staffing challenge for Clinton. If she's president, she's going to want to show she's not just continuing the Obama administration. But the Obama administration leaned so heavily on Clinton administration staffers that the obvious hires for Clinton would just reconstitute Obama's White House.

NS: I think that's exactly right. Obama had no real attachment to most of these Clinton guys. But there are literally hundreds of jobs in the economic policymaking apparatus of a presidential administration. If you aren't drawing from people in past administrations pretty soon you run out of those people. So think of how hard it was for Obama to resist that gravitational pull and then look at Clinton who does have personal relationships with them. It strikes me as very unlikely that they won't end up in her administration.

02 Jul 16:07

The Original Mortal Kombat Cast, Still Kicking Ass Two Decades Later

by Mike Fahey

Look at all these friendly friends!

The Original Mortal Kombat Cast, Still Kicking Ass Two Decades Later

Last weekend at the Galloping Ghost Arcade in Brookfield, Illinois, ten of the actors rotoscoped for the first three Mortal Kombat games gathered to show fans they are far from finished. Looking good, aren't they?


02 Jul 15:53

Rauner used strategy now under IRS scrutiny to slash income taxes

by By Jeff Coen and Bob Secter, Tribune reporters
Returns show GOP hopeful used fee waivers — a strategy now under IRS scrutiny — to pay much less than top bracket's rate

IRS data show Bruce Rauner to be one of the 11,000 richest tax filers in the nation, but most of the millions he made in recent years was taxed at 15 percent — less than half the top federal rate for the wealthy, a review of tax documents released by the GOP governor hopeful shows.

02 Jul 14:18

It’s not just Hobby Lobby: the pro-life movement is winning

by Sarah Kliff


Monday's Hobby Lobby decision is part of a deeper trend: Even as Obamacare worked to expand access to contraceptive, decisions by both the courts and state governments have left American women with less access to reproductive healthcare than they did four years ago.

Since 2010, states have moved aggressively to restrict access to abortion and taken new steps to defund family planning programs. Advocates on both sides of the issue describe the wave of changes as unprecedented.

"Abortion access has changed dramatically," says Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute. "The debate at the federal level affected what happened at the state level, and accessing abortion is much more difficult in 2014 than it was in 2009."

'accessing abortion is much more difficult in 2014 than it was in 2009'

The Supreme Court fits into this pattern: it issued two decisions on reproductive health this term, both against laws meant to expand reproductive health access. Last week, the justices struck down a Massachusetts' law that created a mandatory 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics as an unconstitutional violation of free speech rights.

And on Tuesday, the Court decided that Hobby Lobby and other for-profit companies don't have to cover birth control in their insurance plans.

"We've seen the courts become more conservative," Nash says, "And the most obvious example is the Supreme Court. It's very different than it was 10 years ago, and much more hostile."

2010 was a turning point for reproductive care


Jewel Samad/AFP

Ever since Roe v. Wade found a legal right to abortion, the United States has had a strong pro-life movement that has pursued more stringent abortion regulations. In the 1980s and 1990s, states pioneered spousal notification laws and 24-hour waiting periods prior to abortions.

Two things happened in 2010 that made the United States a more hospitable environment for restrictions on reproductive health. First was the midterm elections, where a wave of Republican state legislators came into office. Prior to November 2010, Republicans controlled the legislature and governor's seat in nine states. After the election, Republicans had control of both the legislature and the governor's mansion in 21.

"We saw what the future was going to hold in the election rights of November 2010," says Donna Crane, policy director at NARAL Pro-Choice America. "Those election results told us women were going to be in for a rough time."

for pro-life activists, the fight over obamacare was "rocket fuel"

The mid-term elections happened six months after the Affordable Care Act catalyzed a national fight over abortion and whether it should be covered in health insurance plans. Pro-life groups were frustrated with the outcome: a compromise where insurance plans would cover abortion, but be barred from using any taxpayer dollars to pay for the procedures.

"The frustration level with all the back room dealing that lead to the Affordable Care Act's passage was high," says Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life. "There was a real sense of betrayal and a sense that the system was broken, so I think that was rocket fuel for us."

Pro-life groups knew there wasn't much of a path forward with the federal government; Obama has been a supporter of access to contraceptives and abortion. Instead, they took their case to the courts and the states.

"We weren't going to go on a kamikaze mission," Yoest says. "You know when you're not going to win on the federal level. State activity offers another avenue."

Dozens of abortion clinics have closed since 2010


States passed a record 205 abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013, more than the entire 30 years prior. The new laws have made it difficult for some clinics to operate: One survey, from pro-life group Operation Rescue, estimates that 87 separate locations ceased to perform surgical abortions in 2013.

In Texas, the number of abortion clinics has shrunk by half, from 40 to 20, since 2011. Arizona had 19 abortion providers in 2010; now it has seven. One clinic that shuttered posted a message on its website, directing clients go to the nearest abortion provider, in Houston, 100 miles away.

one shuttered clinic directed patients to the nearest abortion provider — 100 miles away

Many of those restrictions were squarely firing back at the Affordable Care Act. Twenty-five states, for example, now limit or ban abortion coverage in Obamacare's new insurance markets. None of those laws existed before health reform.

"State legislatures were becoming more conservative and momentum [towards restricting abortion] was building in any case," Nash says. "But certainly the health-reform debate pushed some states to adopt restrictions that they may not have otherwise adopted. Half the states have some sort of restriction on abortion coverage in insurance now."

twenty-five states restrict or ban insurance coverage of abortion

States have gravitated towards certain types of abortion restrictions, including those that more stringently regulate providers, often requiring them to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Pro-choice advocates see this as a backdoor way of driving clinics out of business if the local hospital refuses to provide the necessary admitting privilege.

Texas passed a law like this in 2013, and other states are weighing similar options.

"Over the last three years we've been involved in over 70 pieces of legislation that have come to passage," Yoest says. "It's really broad-based and, when you look at the clinic regulations and some other things, it doesn't all come back to the Affordable Care Act."

Contraceptives have faced new assaults


Philippe Huguen / AFP

2011 report from the Guttmacher Institute noticed a new trend in state-level legislation: states were specifically targeting birth control funding.

montana killed its family planning program in 2011

"For the first time in recent memory, state legislatures devoted significant attention to issues related to family planning this year," the report noted. "Five states moved to restrict funding to family planning providers, largely paralleling similar attempts made in Congress earlier in the year."

Women's health advocates describe the contraceptives landscape as mixed. Even with the Hobby Lobby decision, Obamacare will still expand no-cost birth control to millions of women with health insurance coverage.

"This was a hard-fought victory to get birth control coverage into the Affordable Care Act," Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards told reporters yesterday. "More than 30 million women already have access and that number will be upwards of 46 million. It's important to keep in perspective that women are already benefiting."

At the same time, states have gotten increasingly aggressive at cutting family planning funding. In 2011, New Hampshire cut its family planning budget by 57 percent and Texas reduced spending by two thirds. Montana killed funding for family planning altogether.

Access to contraceptives is definitely a mixed bag," Crane says. "On the one hand you have this fantastic nationwide policy that will hopefully provide a floor of coverage. On the other hand, there are cuts to programs across the country and the ACA doesn't cover everybody."

What the Hobby Lobby decision means for the future


Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images News

The reproductive health landscape is decidedly different than it was four years ago, before a wave of new restrictions. The Supreme Court decisions exacerbate a trend that has unfolded in states for four years now: greater restriction on abortion and contraceptive access.

Whether this trend continues is hard to know. States have not passed as much reproductive health legislation this year. The Supreme Court decision on contraceptives could catalyze a wave of state action on their own laws: 21 states currently mandate that insurers cover birth control.

"Some of those laws have refusal clauses that are very tailored and don't apply to for-profit firms," Nash says. "Hobby Lobby could spark some thoughts about revisiting those."

Pro-life groups plan to continue with their work, building on three years of success.

"We think [the Hobby Lobby decision] gives us a stronger legal foundation moving forward on defending conscience rights," AUL's Yoest says. "This year was an off year at the state level, but there's still a lot more room to go."

02 Jul 13:10

Does Rahm Emanuel have a challenger who can win?

by Mick Dumke

a remarkably unpopular vulnerable candidate scares everyone off with cash and washington ties. They need to crack now, because he's never going to be term limited out.

What Toni Preckwinkle, Karen Lewis, and Robert Fioretti need to do to defeat Rahm Emanuel in a mayoral election by Mick Dumke and Ben Joravsky If you were busy watching flops in the World Cup, or preparing your float for the Pride parade, you might have missed the unofficial start of the 2015 mayoral race last Thursday. That's when Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle had an exchange with reporters at the City Club in which she absolutely, positively refused to rule out running against Mayor Rahm Emanuel.…

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02 Jul 12:44

Blackberry Icebox Pie From 'Fruitful'

by Emma Kobolakis

This might be my July 4th party dessert.

Blackberry Icebox Pie From 'Fruitful' Icebox pie is one of those make-ahead treats that you can look forward to all day, knowing that a cold slice is waiting for you when you get home. Fruitful's icebox pie is a cloud of blackberry whipped cream set atop a condensed milk custard, all packaged in a graham cracker crust. The super-sweet custard is a pleasant surprise, hidden under purple clouds of berry cream, and the graham cracker crust adds a delightful toasty note. Get Recipe!
02 Jul 12:43

Chicago's Mexican ice cream shops offer cool innovative treats this summer


I need to have this.

While some Chicago foodies are still swooning over doughnuts, cronuts or wonuts, others have moved on to the sweet treat taking over Chicago’s Mexican ice cream shops.

It’s called the mangonada, and if you haven’t tried it yet, here’s what to expect: cool mango sorbet topped with fresh mango chunks and a sweet salty sauce called chamoy.

The dessert takes center stage at Chicago’s neverias, Mexican ice cream shops whose numbers have ballooned over the last two years. Eladio Montoya opened his first Los Mangos Neveria in 2012, but today he’s expanded to seven thriving stores in the Chicago area.  

“I guess it was something that wasn’t discovered before,” he says. “But now that we’ve discovered it’s a good business, everybody is trying to jump on it.”

Indeed, there are now more than 60 neverias operating in Chicago’s city limits and likely just as many more serving nearby suburbs like Aurora, Maywood, Berwyn and Cicero.

MAP: Where are Chicago's neverias?

Many used to operate as popsicle shops or paleterias. But in recent years they’ve expanded into full service snack shops serving sundaes, yogurt parfaits, fruit cups, corn in a cup, and smoothies. Then there are the Dorilocos, a family of snacks that some might recognize as the more colorful cousins of the walking taco. They start with a bag of chips that gets sliced down the side with scissors and then it's filled with cucumbers, pickled pig skin, crunchy peanuts, hot sauce and more.

“It’s a combination of both worlds,” said Rosario Pulido whose family owns a group of neverias called 100 Percent Michoacana. “Because we have our traditional pico de gallo but then we also love our potato chips like Doritos. So it’s just a combination of those two.”

While most neverias offer similar menus, each tries to distinguish itself with signature hybrid dishes. At Los Mangos in Little Village one of those treats is the Honey Bun sundae--yes a honey bun at the bottom of an ice cream sundae.

“That’s just something that we came up with,” Montoya said. “We pretty much do stuff that we like and we present it to the people and if they like it, we keep it. And I mean, who doesn’t like a honey bun?”

While many of the dishes reflect strong Mexican flavor profiles, Pulido notes that others, like the honey bun sundae “has been more Americanized, but you could say that we all love doughnuts and we all love ice cream, and so it’s a combination of both.”

Cynthia Alvarado works at Bombon Neveria in Riis Park where they serve a hybrid snack that starts with a choice of Doritos, Fritos, Churritos or Tostitos.

“They all come with the corn and then you pick the flavor of the sauce you put on it,” she says. “Either chile limon, habanero, chipotle or jalapeno. It’s like a mayo sauce.”

Amid all the corn chips and ice cream, Montoya also sells a lot of fresh fruit--including papaya, mango, watermelon and pineapple.

“That’s what keeps our business year-round,” he says, “because we sell fruit-year round and with everybody trying to be healthy, it’s really popular.”

Still, he admits it’s the ice creams that draw the most customers this time of year. Among his dozens of flavors, you’ll find pine nut, mango with chile, egg nog, tequila, cheese, cucumber, bubble gum, guava and more.

But Montoya says you need more than great ice cream to succeed in this business. You also need funky names like the vampire or vampiro featuring mango ice cream and a blood red sauce or the bionico a bionic blend of cream, fruit, nuts and raisins.

“You’ve gotta make up names that are catchy and leave people wondering and flying in their minds for a while,” he said. “So whenever they get hungry that’s what’s in their head and they think of us.”  

Some of those names at BomBon include the enchanted apple and their signature Trolley Bus or trolebuss which Alvarado describes as “Fritos with corn then nacho cheese, sour cream and hot sauce.”

Arcoiris in Avondale on Belmont Avenue used to be a paleteria before it expanded like so many others. Today one of its most popular items is the green smoothie full of parsley, cactus, green apple, spinach, cucumber and more.

The shops seem especially popular with families because, Montoya says, they offer something for everyone.  The teenagers might get the Dorilocos but “mom will get the fruit and then the kids and the dad and the grand parents will always get the ice cream.”

So what does he recommend for first timers?

“They’ve got to try the mangonada, the yogurt with fruit. It’s all natural fruit that we dice every morning,” he says. “And then they’ve got to try our paletas and ice cream.”

The honey bun sundae, you might want to leave for your second trip.



FOR FRUIT LOVERS: Get a coktel de fruta. A dish of freshly cut jicama, cucumber, papaya, pineapple, mango, pineapple or melon (depending on store) showered in lime juice, chile powder and salt. Tell the server which fruits and toppings you want.

FOR HEALTH NUTS: Many neverias serve green drinks of spinach, cucumber, parsley, cactus, green apple, yogurt, oats, honey, kiwi and more. Exact ingredients will vary but I love the green blend from Paleteria Arco Iris at 2950 W.  Belmont Ave.

FOR SPICY SNACK LOVERS: Get the Dori-, Taki- or Tostilocos and indicate which toppings you want. The pickled pig skin strips (cueritos) add a vinegary chew but they are not for everyone. The cabbage, cucumber and jicama make you feel almost virtuous while eating chips. The chicharron preparado is similar but uses fake pork rinds instead of chips.

FOR THE INDULGENT: Try one of the churro, doughnut or honey bun sundaes. Perk it up with innovative ice cream flavors like cheese, cucumber or gooseberry.

FOR TRADITIONALISTS: Get a strawberry popsicle (often studded with big chunks of strawberry) a scoop of ice cream, mangonada or fruit gazpacho if you don't mind salty cheese and chile in your orange juice.

FOR THE MEAL SEEKERS: Many neverias serve sandwiches called tortas along with fresh fruit drinks called raspas or raspados.

FOR ASBESTOS MOUTHS: Try a diablito (or little devil) which blends fruit, juice and LOTS of chile.

Map: Chicago's neverias

Update: Thanks to Summer Paleta Crawl for letting us know about a few places missing from the original map.

Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at @monicaeng or write to her at

01 Jul 19:14

Summer Blueberry Jam

by Jennifer Latham

alright, I'll give that one a shot.

Summer Blueberry Jam This delicious blueberry jam made from in-season summer blueberries, sugar, and lemon juice couldn't be more simple to make. The key is to select the best berries: Namely, a mixture that includes mostly just-ripe berries with a few under-ripe berries as well. Get Recipe!
01 Jul 14:22

Make Your Civ V Game A Little More Realistic

by Luke Plunkett

RED sounds neat, I'll have to give this a try...

Make Your Civ V Game A Little More Realistic

Because I enjoy hurting myself and all those around me, I've got back into Civilization V recently. This time around, though, without a new expansion to review, I figured I'd try out some mods to help make the game a little fresher.


30 Jun 15:39

Pork Meatball Vindaloo With Pearl Couscous

by Jennifer Olvera

ooh, gonna try this one.

Pork Meatball Vindaloo With Pearl Couscous This vindaloo is made with pork meatballs, an array of peppers, juicy tomatoes, and a finishing sprinkle of cilantro. Serve it with pearl couscous, which stands up nicely to the bold sauce. Get Recipe!
27 Jun 15:37

Toronto Mayor Blames Newspaper For Cocaine Video



The Toronto Star says its reporters have seen a video that purportedly shows Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine.

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15 May 22:00

Seth MacFarlane's 'Cosmos' with Neil deGrasse Tyson Coming to Fox in 2014

by Bradford Evans

Seth MacFarlane?

Well whatever.

Seth MacFarlane and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson's reboot of Carl Sagan's '80s documentary series Cosmos: A Personal Journey, is finally coming to your TV. The 13-part series, which is produced by MacFarlane and hosted by deGrasse Tyson, was originally announced in 2011 for a 2013 launch, but Fox announced this week that the show will finally make its premiere sometime in 2014. Hopefully, Neil deGrasse Tyson will be bringing his StarTalk co-host Eugene Mirman with him in some capacity.


See more posts by Bradford Evans


14 May 14:47

Gone Home: Ghost Edition – Deus Ex Dev’s The Novelist

by Nathan Grayson

Oooh oooh ooh! This looks intriguing.

This is just one mode of ghost-o-vision. Don't worry: ghosts aren't colorblind.

Do you have a radar? Does it frequently detect submarines, aircraft of questionable origin, and reruns of bad ’90s sitcoms? Well then, you’ve calibrated it horrendously and should bonk it with a wrench until it picks up exclusively on the only thing that matters: promising-looking videogames. Case in point: The Novelist, a crazy polter-and-geist adventure from Deus Ex: Invisible War, Thief: Deadly Shadows, and BioShock 2 vet Kent Hudson. The basic (and exceedingly interesting) premise reminds me a bit of Gone Home, except the family’s still around, and you don’t play as any of them. Instead, you’re a ghost just going about your typical haunterly business when a troubled novelist and his family show up on your doorstep. You, however, are more Casper than creepy Ring murder child, so it’s your job to observe behaviors, read thoughts, and pour over messages and belongings – all without revealing the fact that you’re, you know, a nightmarish specter from beyond the beyond. Using that knowledge, it’s up to you to manipulate this dysfunctional puzzle into whatever shape you see fit. Trailer after the break.


13 May 17:00

Emanuel To Seek Another Term As Mayor

by Chuck Sudo


Emanuel To Seek Another Term As Mayor Of course, Emanuel could change his mind in a heartbeat, but all the fundraising he’s currently undertaking is with a 2015 mayoral bid in mind. [ more › ]

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13 May 16:59

The Incredible Machine Rebuilt: Contraption Maker

by Craig Pearson

Jeff Tunnell was a great designer. I'm glad to see he's working on something.

Things will do things to other things.
Way way back in gaming’s past, I’m talking spring of ’93, there was a game released called The Incredible Machine. It was so long ago that it ran on DOS and it wasn’t in the RPS tag system. I just had to input it manually. TIM, as it’s jollily known, was a game about performing easy tasks in the most complicated fashion. A Rube Goldberg inspired game, where putting a ball in a box needed a confusing series of pulleys, and possibly a cat. There have a been a few sequels, but a new version hasn’t appeared on the PC since 2005. Despite waffling on about it, this post is not about The Incredible Machine. It is a Rube Goldberg paragraph, intended to lead you to information about a just announced spiritual successor, Contraption Maker.

13 May 12:40

Oh God.

by Luke Plunkett

Also neat!

Oh God. FreeCiv, the open source "tribute" to the classic strategy series, now runs on HTML5. Meaning it can run in browsers. And on your phone. Play here. Thanks PC Gamer.