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June 24, 2008

On the death of the semicolon

Has modern life killed the semicolon? - By Paul Collins - Slate Magazine

The semicolon has spent the last century as a fussbudget mark. Somerset Maugham and George Orwell disdained it; Kurt Vonnegut once informed a Tufts University crowd that "All [semicolons] do is show that you've been to college." New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia's favorite put-down for egghead bureaucrats who got in his way was "semicolon boy." And though semicolons have occasionally made news—tariff bills have imploded over their misplacement, and a 1927 execution hinged on the interpretation of a semicolon—the last writers to receive much notice for semicolon use have been a New York City Transit employee and the Son of Sam. In 1977 the NYPD speculated that "the killer could be a freelance journalist" because of his "use of a semicolon" in his taunting letters. (Decades later, columnist Jimmy Breslin still marveled that "Berkowitz is the only murderer I ever heard of who knew how to use a semicolon.")

Semicolons do have some genuine shortcomings; Slate's founding editor, Michael Kinsley, once noted to the Financial Times that "[t]he most common abuse of the semicolon, at least in journalism, is to imply a relationship between two statements without having to make clear what that relationship is." All journalists can cop to this: The semicolon allows woozy clauses to lean on each other like drunks for support.

Defense lawyer using Google data to prove a community likes porn

What’s Obscene? Google Could Have an Answer - NYTimes.com

The Internet may be changing that. In a novel approach, the defense in an obscenity trial in Florida plans to use publicly accessible Google search data to try to persuade jurors that their neighbors have broader interests than they might have thought.

In the trial of a pornographic Web site operator, the defense plans to show that residents of Pensacola are more likely to use Google to search for terms like “orgy” than for “apple pie” or “watermelon.” The publicly accessible data is vague in that it does not specify how many people are searching for the terms, just their relative popularity over time. But the defense lawyer, Lawrence Walters, is arguing that the evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that interest in the sexual subjects exceeds that of more mainstream topics — and that by extension, the sexual material distributed by his client is not outside the norm.

It is not clear that the approach will succeed. The Florida state prosecutor in the case, which is scheduled for trial July 1, said the search data may not be relevant because the volume of Internet searches is not necessarily an indication of, or proxy for, a community’s values.

June 23, 2008

Cook faces jail time for putting pubes in steak

Ex-cook faces jail after putting hair in steak - Criminal weirdness- msnbc.com

The criminal complaint said that when a manager asked a customer how his steak was, the customer said it was somewhat overdone, although he had almost finished eating it and refused an offer of a new steak.

But the manager insisted on having Kropp prepare a new steak the way the customer wanted it, medium rare, so that he could take it home.

. . .

According to the complaint, a second kitchen worker told police Kropp had put a slit in the cooked steak and pushed something inside, then stated, "These are my pubes," referring to pubic hair.

Kropp told police he put a few of his facial hairs on the steak, saying he was angry the customer sent the other steak back and thought he was "just trying to get free stuff," the complaint said.

Woman comes home to find psycho hiding inside her couch

Woman finds man hiding in space he cut in her couch - RecordOnline.com - The Times Herald Record

CITY OF NEWBURGH — If you hear a scuffle, call the police, the woman told her friend on the phone. The friend did exactly that minutes later.

This was shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday, and the woman had just unlocked her apartment door. The lights were on. The door to the balcony was chained. It seemed weird.
. . .
Finding nothing, the woman sat on her couch. She felt a bump in the cushions and then she felt the bump move.
. . .
According to the police report, Limones used a box cutter to carve a space for himself in the couch, then climbed inside to wait. When the woman jumped up and ran, he flipped over the couch and came after her.