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Scottish Tartans Authority condemns wearing nothing under a kilt

Nae ornaments, Jock

The fashion of wearing nothing beneath a kilt has been condemned by the Scottish Tartans Authority, which has called the practice "childish and unhygienic," The Times of London reports. Brian Wilton, the director, said: "The idea that you are not a real Scot unless you are bare under your kilt should be thrown into the same wastepaper basket as the idea that you are not a real Scot unless you put salt on your porridge." Some kilt-wearers have rejected the advice, but Jamie McGrigor, a Scottish politician who campaigned for the introduction of a Scottish Tartan Register, said: "I have normally worn underwear with my kilt. In the West Highlands, midges can mount alarming and unexpected attacks on so-called true Scotsmen."

Merry Christmas to none?

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"The stars are aligning to ruin Christmas," The Daily Beast website reports. "Astrologers say that for the first time in years, the tumultuous astrological cycle known as Mercury Retrograde falls during the holidays, causing 'tears,' 'confusion' and 'throw-downs' during the busy shopping and travel season. … It starts with Black Friday and Saturday, which they say will be doomed by bad deals and under-stocked merchandise. And shoppers who wait until after Dec. 9 will get stuck with faulty products or presents that no one wanted in the first place. By mid-December, holiday travellers will be hit with bad weather, mechanical errors and, possibly, terrorist threats. Wars may break out, marriages will dissolve, people will lose their jobs. … But that's not even the worst of it. The darkest day comes on the winter solstice (Dec. 21), when a full moon eclipse will wreak its own special havoc."

If you believe that

"In a classic 1948 experiment by psychologist Bertram Forer, subjects completed a personality test and received a written assessment of their results," reports. "Forer asked them to rate the accuracy of their personal profiles; the result was very high ratings (an average 4.26 where five is 'very accurate'). However, each person received the exact same assessment that Forer took from a newspaper horoscope: 'You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage.' "

Unseasonal songs

Because holiday songs are being played so early these days, Alexandra Petri of The Washington Post has revamped a few titles:

- All I Want for Christmas Is You to Wait Three More Weeks Before Playing This Song

- 112 Days of Christmas

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- Have Yourself a Merry Little Random Day in November

- Late Fall Wonderland

- Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. You Know, Eventually

- Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow Before You Start Playing This!

Big watery eyes?

"An elephant calf runs through a sprinkler, trunk held high with excitement," says. "An orphan sea otter pup cries noisily until keepers join him in the pool for a swim. A tiny tiger cub sneaks up on its mother and pounces, only to be subjected to a thorough licking. Scientists believe humans are programmed to find big watery eyes, wobbly first steps and rambunctious play in baby animals cute because it reminds us of our own young."

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Touching, buying

"Signs encouraging customers to touch the merchandise are far less common in stores than signs imploring them not to," the Los Angeles Times reports. "But research shows that retailers may be missing a rather lucrative boat. 'There are three ways that touching an object can make you willing to pay more for it,' says Joann Peck, an associate professor of marketing at the Wisconsin School of Business in Madison who has conducted a number of studies analyzing the role of touch in shopping behaviours. One way - the most obvious - is by giving shoppers information they can't get otherwise, such as how much the object weighs, how soft or hard it is, how rough or smooth it feels. A second way is also quite intuitive. You may be willing to pay more for a cashmere sweater or a small, sleek smart phone just because you like how it feels. More surprisingly, Peck says, apart from any information or pleasure it gives you, simply touching an object can make you feel a certain sense of ownership. 'And you'll pay more for anything you feel like you own.' "

Party chatter, not

"Sex and death haven't really been taboo for decades - there are people who won't stop talking about either - but I've never been at a party or at drinks in a pub where salaries were openly compared," Oliver Burkeman writes for The Guardian.

Thought du jour

"I was asked in Japan recently not to predict the end of the world - they were nervous it might affect the stock market."

Stephen Hawking (1942-), theoretical physicist, in 1995

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