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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The real "Rain Man" dies...

... and he was incredible!

Remember the movie "Rain Man" with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise? It was based on an autistic savant who couldn't deal with the demands of daily living but was gifted with the extraordinary powers of memory that a small number of otherwise mentally disabled people possess, perhaps as a side effect of their disability. It won four Oscars (Best Picture, Best Actor--Dustin Hoffman, Best Original Screenplay for its two authors) and wowed audiences who typically asked, "Is that for real?"

Well, it was.

Kim Peek died last week at age 58. According to the New York Times, "Peek was not autistic -- not all savants are autistic and not all autistics are savants -- but he was born with severe brain abnormalities. He could not dress himself or brush his teeth without help. He found metaphoric language incomprehensible and conceptualization baffling."

Yet, Peek not only taught himself to read but could, with astonishing speed, read facing pages of a book at once -- one with each eye -- and remember everything he read... in all of the 12,000 books he did read! He possessed a wide range of interests and expertise in math, chess, art and music. He could answer diverse questions on history, sports, geography and movies. He knew every calendar date specifically and all the ZIP codes in the U.S. as well as the TV stations serving those ZIPs.

He was better than Mapquest as he knew all the roads and mileages. If you asked him how to get from Toledo to Tupelo, he could not only give you the route but tell you all the things you would see on your way.

He knew classical music... every detail of every composition... and in mid life, taught himself to play it. He knew it so well that his father had to stop taking him to performances... as a stickler for accuracy, he would correct the actors or the musicians. "He'd stand and say" 'Wait a minute! The trombone is two notes off,'" his father recalled.


He knew Shakespeare... oh, yeah.  "He was the Mount Everest of memory," said an expert on savants who knew Peek for 20-years. And he never used computers.

When he was nine-months-old, a doctor judged him so severely retarded, he recommended the boy be institutionalized since he would never walk or talk. At age six, another recommended a lobotomy. By that time, however, he had read and memorized the first eight volumes of the family's encyclopedias. So much for the lobotomy.

Dustin Hoffman (who spent time with Peek to learn his characteristics, movements and utterances before the filming), accepting his Oscar for the portrayal of Raymond Babbitt (the name used in the movie), thanked, then gave it to Peek. Peek carried it with him to public appearances for the next 21 years. His father estimated that some 400,000 people have hugged that Statuette. "We called it the world's best-loved Oscar."

Kim Peek... hmmm. That name rings a bell.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What if the Hokey Pokey is what it's all about? *

*The most profound thoughts are often seen on tee-shirts... or not.

Sometimes you have to look deeper... like now. Christmas is what it's all about for most of us... especially Andy Melkshan of England. He celebrates Christmas every day of the year... as he has for the last eight years. He even sends himself Christmas cards. He usually starts his daily celebration opening presents he has bought himself, delighting in each and every surprise. ("OOOH... just what I always wanted... my size and color too. How did I know?") Then he has his Christmas meal of Turkey and mince pie and watches the Queen's Christmas speech on video... every single day. And if Santa doesn't bring him what he wants... well, there's always tomorrow. The credit crunch has gotten to him though, as it has a lot of us. He had to cut down on the gifts this year, hoping he wouldn't notice.

By his own admission, "people do think I'm nuts." .... and thus qualified for this blog, especially at this time of the year.

While we typically celebrate Christmas just one day of the year... the spirit of the season often has a longer life. I propose a contest. Let's see who can keep the spirit going the longest. What can it hurt?

Merry Christmas all... and to those who don't look at Christmas like me, good tidings to you too.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ted Williams' head... and other stuff


In reviewing all the happenings in sports over the past decade, perhaps the strangest is the 2002 headline: Ted Williams Dies. Head Frozen. What an ignoble end for perhaps baseball's all-time greatest hitter who, twice in his career, took time off and, as a Marine pilot, become a World War II hero. The Splendid Splinter, or Ted, as I like to call him, was the last man to bat .400 in 1941. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but Ted died in 2002 at age 83.

Now here's where the weird part comes in. Ted wanted his body frozen so that many years down the line, when science comes up with a way to cure "old age," Ted could be brought back from his state of er, brittleness, and live again... perhaps even bat .400 once more. Let me tell you right now... ain't gonna happen.

You see, even when technology allows (wink, wink,) word has it that someone at the cryogenic plant bashed (perhaps accidentally--benefit of the doubt) a wrench into his frozen head, which had been perhaps accidentally separated from his body. Poor Ted. Post death, he could see the stitches on a baseball pitched to him at 100-mph. Now, he didn't even see this coming.

Among other bizarre sports happenings, the U.S. mens basketball team finished SIXTH in the '02 world championships on its home court in Indianapolis! So much for world dominance there.

Fan turned villain, Steve Bartman reached for an almost-in-play foul ball at one of the rare Cub post-season games and probably cost those lovable losers their first-- and perhaps only-- shot at the World Series in my lifetime. And to rub it in even more, Boston won.

Pro quarterback Michael Vick killed dogs. NBA referee Tim Donaghy bet on games he officiated. And  hundreds of major league baseball players were caught, or thought to use performance enhancing illegal steroids, setting records that some believed were unbreakable  (except for Cub favorite Sammy Sosa, who spoke poor English and no doubt, didn't understand the situation). Yes, it was the birth of the footnote in the record books: "Asterisk denotes records broken by cheaters."

Oh yeah, The Detroit Lions had their first perfect season, 0-16, about the same time all the auto plants in the neighborhood bet their shirts on a Super Bowl... and lost, big time. And a Dallas high school girls basketball team won a game 100 to nothing, once again proving a good defense is hard to beat.

Thank God we still have that bastion of honor sports, golf. Whoops. Scratch that.

Friday, December 18, 2009

His death leaves big shoes to fill... and other '09 departures you may have missed.

Coco the clown, a circus favorite and the man who helped create Ronald McDonald (and played Ronald in the early commercials for the fast-food giant), died at age 86. "He was very serious about being funny," said the president of the International Clown Hall of Fame. Coco made folks laugh for more than 80 years. He could handle 16-foot stilts and take a pie in the face as well as anyone... except maybe Soupy Sales, who also died this year. Makes you wonder... what in the heck are we going to do with all those custard pies now? His death leaves big shoes to fill... size 39-EEEEEE actually.

Bill Lister, the man billed as "Radio's Tallest Singing Cowboy," also died at age 86.  He will long be remembered for that old favorite, "There's a Tear in My Beer," or not. He was 11 feet, 9 inches tall... (or 6 feet, 7 inches without his gun).

We also lost Benson, the world's biggest carp. He died at 87 pounds.

His Highness, Giorgio Carbone died at age 73. In 1963, he proclaimed himself the Prince of Seborga,  the only leader the 320 people in that 'mini-state' have ever known. Claimed by Italy, Seborga sits at its nearest point to Nice. It has been recognized by the Vatican as an independent state which has never formally been made part of any country. The Seborgan army consists of a single individual, in a ceremonial uniform (with epaulettes no less!), who served as His Highness's personal 'gofer' and bodyguard. Since Seborga pays taxes to Italy, the Italians don't really care what Seborga calls itself. His Serene Highness Giorgio I (his self-named official title) was beloved by his people.

Waldo Hunt, the man who invented the pop-up book, died at age 89. True to his creation 'til the end, Hunt kept "popping up" every time they tried to place him in his casket, causing great consternation among the 'neatnik' morticians.

The smile died in Arkansas, Indiana, Nevada and Virginia this past year as those states forbade drivers to smile for their license photos. Smirks, however, might be 'snuck in' when no one is looking.

Actress Jennifer Jones who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Bernadette in the 1943 movie, The Song of Bernadette, died at age 90. The real Bernadette, a French peasant girl who saw the Virgin Mary at Lourdes, was cannonized a saint by the Catholic Church in 1933. It was reported that Jones, playing Bernadette, actually had a personal revelation on the set of that movie... She felt a spirit telling her, "You are going to die." Then, just last week, the spirit came again to her and said, "See. I told you so." (Please tell me God has a sense of humor.)

Harold Bell, the marketing agent for the "Lassie" show, died at age 90. He is better remembered as the man who created the character Woodsy Owl, the plump bird in a red-feathered hat who told children to "Give a hoot, don't pollute."

Frank Coghlan Jr. died at 93. Who? The kid who played Captain Marvel's alter-ego, Billy Batson, of course. It is Billy Batson who meets a shaman in Siam who teaches him to transform himself into our superhero, Captain Marvel. Coghlan was the  perfect example of a homeless waif, said Cecil B. DeMille who directed the Captain Marvel serials in 1925. And when Billy Batson saw injustice, he said the magic word which transformed him, through a bolt of lightning, into CAPTAIN MARVEL! The magic word was S-H-A-Z-A-M which stood for - the wisdom of Soloman - the strength of Hercules - the stamina of Atlas - the power of Zeus - the courage of Achilles - the speed of Mercury. His powers included super strength, of course, speed, stamina, physical and magical invulnerability, courage and wisdom... the usual stuff. While Billy Batson was a young, crippled newspaper boy with a crutch, Captain Marvel became this Arnold Schwarzenegger-like Adonis in a red, tightly-fitted outfit with a big yellow M on his chest, a flowing red cape with yellow piping and knee length yellow boots. What a guy? My favorite power... lightning. He could control lightning. You shoulda seen him smite those bad guys. Good night Captain Marvel, or as they say in comic land, M-A-Z-A-H-S (Shazam backwards, of course.)

And finally, Claude Levi-Strauss died shortly before his 101st birthday. Known by many as the man who shaped Modern Anthropology and revered by all, he often lamented the disappearance of a simpler time. " We live in a world where I feel out of place. The one that I knew, that I loved, had 1.5 billion inhabitants. The world today is made up of six billion humans.  It is no longer mine."

I can relate to that.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Does the name Titiya Plucksataporn ring a bell?

I really didn't make it up... and I'm pretty sure I spelled it right. She is a professional woman golfer from Thailand. Actually, different cultures, different sounds. We do, however, all share Uranus, or, as they say in France, something else.

All this to lead into the latest from baby-naming experts Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz and their list of the top baby names for 2019... as if we can hardly wait.

By the way, what constitutes a baby naming expert?  I know:

Linda has a Ph.D from Harvard in Baby Namology and drinks tea with her little finger extended. Pamela, on the other hand, has 29 children.


Anyhow, in less than 10 years, these two say we will all be naming our newborn girls Ava, Amelia, Ella, Violet, Lila, Grace, Ruby, Matilda, Harper and Evelyn. 

The boys will be Ethan, Aiden, Milo, Charlie, Oscar, Ryder, Cash, River, Kai and Maximus.

Apparently Joacamo, Drucilla and Bruce have fallen out of favor.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sorry to keep bugging you...




















... but God, isn't this incredible?

I guess I'm somewhat impressionable when it comes to the enormity of space. We (me and the rest of all the people on earth) have just discovered an infant solar system in the Orion Nebula. It is relatively close to us, a mere 1,200 light-years to the north. (That is, 5.9 trillion miles x 1,200-- why that's even more, if it were dollars, than our national budget!) This cloud of newly discovered hydrogen gas shows the birth of 42 new stars.

And no, I don't have a clue as to what all these terms mean. I just know that there are a lot of stars and a lot of space. In fact, if our earth were to be represented by a tiny grain of sand, there would not be enough room to produce a scale model of our solar system on the face of this very small, eensy-weensy planet! Whew.  (PS: the photo came from NASA.. it would have been less blurry but somebody moved.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's a miracle! ... and other curious stuff


God works in strange ways, it is often said. It could be as simple as his image on a piece of toast... or a  leaf of lettuce (or potato) shaped like the head of The Blessed Virgin, Mary... or, perhaps curing the crippled. Such is the divine incident in Texas recently.

Texas guards were transporting a wheelchair-bound prisoner serving a life sentence for two stabbings and an aggravated assault. Just to be sure, the poor invalid was also shackled to his chair. Then, miracle of miracles, the man pulled a gun from out from nowhere! He ordered the guards to stop the van and unshackle him. After cuffing  the guards together-- miracle number two-- he rose from the wheelchair and WALKED... er, ran away. Said a police spokesperson, "Supposedly, he was paralyzed on his left-hand side. He had been in a wheelchair for something better than a decade. Certainly, that's something we're gonna look at."

Speaking of miracles, SNL's Vatican spokesperson of times past, Father Guido Sarducci, was somewhat disgruntled at the ease of Italians to be elevated to sainthood while America has so few saints. To be considered, he said, a saint must have solid evidence of at least three miracles... and the Italians, he groused, get to count card tricks.

Lacking a miracle, a visually impaired man has sued Sony for not making its video games accessible to the blind. Bummer. (By the way, why DO they have braille instructions on every ATM?)

But then again, to end this post on a miraculous upnote: the BALL has finally been inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame, at long last. The ball joins the jump-rope and stick (true story) as legends of their time.

Now, if you truly believe, pray for a Pete Rose Hall of Fame miracle. "Pete, see the ball... be the ball."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

How much is that in real money?

I remember spending all day one summer Saturday when I was about eight or nine-years-old, collecting, with the help of my best friend, paper, scrap metal, bottles, etc., and taking it all, in my red Radio Flyer wagon, to the scrap iron junkyard, across the tracks, about a mile from my childhood stomping grounds.

We worked from hot morning through hotter afternoon gathering wagon-loads of stuff to sell at the junkyard. You see, it was my mom's birthday and I wanted to buy her a birthday card. (I know... "aaauw, isn't that just adorable?")

We watched, sweaty and disgustingly dirty, as our "golden cargo" was weighed. "OK boys," the junkman said. "That comes to 24 cents."  I couldn't believe it. All of our hard work had earned the enormous total of 12 cents each! (OK, so 24 cents in 'the olden days' would have been more in today's cents, but even then, it wasn't much.)

The card I coveted... the one with 'just the right message,' cost 15 cents. I can still remember, it had a rose on the front and some kind of mushy message inside. So here I am, a mess and still 3 cents short. But my buddy came through and made up the difference.

Bought the card, signed my name and proudly took it home to mom, who was napping on the bed at the time. I flopped beside her, proud and beaming. But before I could open my mouth, she flew off the bed and hollered, "JERRY! GET OFF... RIGHT NOW! YOU ARE JUST FILFTHY."

Fighting tears, I meekly pushed the card into her hands and said "Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you." Then I cried.

Well, I have to tell you, that 15 cent card was probably the most valuable 'real money' I ever had. It brought me a big tearful hug from mom, my favorite fried chicken dinner and special status for the next few days... until I did something kid-like and life went on.

I know that the less you have, the more it means. That's kind of what triggered this thought as I read today that Bank Of America is set to repay its $18.4 BILLION taxpayer subsidy. Now here's what I don't get... just a short time ago, BofA would have gone out of business if they didn't get the loan. Then, within months, they made it back and repaid. Well, good for them and us. But hey, how much is $18.4 billion in real money? Seems like it should take a longer time to generate that kind of cash and regain solvency than mere months. And where's the sweat? It's a non-attainable goal for almost all of us. One just doesn't live that long. I suppose it is the volatility of today's world, and it scares me.

I just know that my 12 cents earned probably meant more to me then than this $18.4 billion does to BofA today. And to us taxpayers who footed the loan, it's real money out of our pockets. What this really means, according to the Wall Street Journal and other experts in these kinds of matters, is that BofA can now, without government interference, again pay millionaires big, BIG bonuses and go back to life as usual.

Somehow along the line, I lost the concept of 'real money."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Be a sport!

In the premier event in the world's most popular sport, the French team qualified for the World Cup finals. (Yes, the sport is something the rest of the world calls football but we in the USA call it soccer.) How did the French beat the Irish for this most coveted berth in the World Cup finals? They cheated, that's how. The captain of the French team purposely and admittedly used his hand to deflect the ball which lead to a deciding score.

Everyone but the referee saw the infraction. It was  played and replayed in the world's media... especially in Ireland, the victim country. Everyone agrees (including the Federation Internationale de Football Association or, FIFA) that it was not fair, not legal and not right. The French are embarrassed and, from what I read, almost ashamed... "Qualifying for the finals through a foul, violating the spirit of the sport--it almost makes us lower our heads in shame."  The key word here is "almost." They are not ashamed, but almost ashamed.

The official ruling: Nada. Nothing. Or nil, as they say in soccer...er football. The worst of the outcome though might be what the French team captain and cheater, Thierry Henry said: "I will be honest, it was a handball. But I'm not the referee. I played it, the referee allowed it. That's a question you should ask him." In other words, it wasn't my fault. If the referee didn't see it and call it, then it didn't happen, right?

Oh, soccer isn't alone in the world of cheating. This is just the latest good example of a bad example.

It has long been admired by fans as a "good play" if an athlete can fool the referee, or umpire. In baseball and football, a player who 'traps' a ball that has bounced on the turf tries to make it look like a great catch. How about the cagey pitchers who throw a 'spitter' or 'rough up the ball with a hidden emery board or piece of sandpaper. (Some of these guys are in the Hall of Fame.) Do hitters cork bats or is Sammy Sousa just darned good? A basketball player that 'flops' to dupe the ref into a call is cheered by the fans if it works. This is especially true in the NBA which is why some of those games start to resemble pro wrestling.  

Don't even get me started on steroids or other performance enhancing drugs. I guess the best way we neatly handle it is to put an asterisk beside the records those guys have broken.

Next thing you know, they will be trying to tie a tin can around Tiger Woods' tail when all the poor guy ever did was make a diaper run at 2:45 am and accidentally brush a fire hydrant and tree. What will they dream of next?

OK, so that's a little sarcastic. But don't we deserve some honor in our sports... and in our world? I'm more than a little tired of reading every day about people in sports who cheat, lie, justify bizarre actions and want to be called role models... and that goes double for politicians and hungry millionaires too. Aren't you?

Say it ain't so, guys. Or since you can't do that, why do we continue to be the saps who pay to see them play or re-elect them. Maybe we are the problem.

Monday, November 30, 2009

End of the world?

It is in 2012, if the film of the same name is right. But then, when has Hollywood ever gotten anything right... except Princess Bride, of course. However, that is today's buzz... just as it was in 1998 with the movie Armageddon and from the book Death From the Skies... and don't forget Nostradamus and Y2K, etc.  Lots of this stuff.

Sooner or later, maybe somebody will get lucky... but then there won't be anyone around to gloat about it. What fun is that?

The odds are with us though, in an astronomical sense. Do you know that 20-40 tons of meteoric rock hit the earth every day? It is estimated (by Las Vegas?) that there is a 1 in 700,000 chance that one may eventually be big enough to kill everyone in a large city on a direct hit... and even more if the 350-yard-wide asteroid, Apophis, touches down in 2029. Other mortal dangers include a supernova explosion closer than 25 light-years to us (One light-year is 5.8 trillion miles, in case you are checking it out on Mapquest), or a gamma-ray bust by some distant collapsing solar system.

If I were a betting man however, I'd go for our own self-destruction in some crazy way... like if everyone in China jumps up and lands at the same millisecond, earth could be thrown out of orbit and there you have it.

In any case, I really do have other, more pressing concerns in my life... like what time is dinner and to remember not to jump up if I see someone else doing it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Like word puzzles?

Neither do I... but this one is simple and it makes a point:

What English language word starts out masculine, then when you add a letter, it is feminine, then when you add another letter, it is masculine again, then when you add three more, it ends up feminine?

Good one, huh?

Well, the word is HE (masculine) R (feminine) O (masculine) INE (feminine)... HEROINE, get it?

CNN just revealed its Heros for 2009 (here).... 10 individuals nominated and voted on by viewers over the course of the year. It featured these top vote-getters in a recent television special. Watching was a richly rewarding experience... something that can't readily be said for many TV shows.

What set this show apart, however, is that these were people we could relate to... not movie stars or philanthropists, but people who have embraced a need or cause from a humanitarian perspective and did something about it. People like us... except they set themselves apart by their unselfish drive to help when and where help was needed. Here are CNN's top ten this year:

There was 20-year-old Jordan Thomas who lost both of his legs in a boating accident four years ago. When he observed many young people didn't have the help or means that he had, he clearly saw his cause. He created the Jordan Thomas Foundation which has raised more than $400,000 to date to provide prosthetics for children in need.This is now his life's mission.

Andrea Ivory, a breast cancer survivor, saw her passion in bringing early detection to the doorsteps of uninsured women. With mobile mammography vans, her group has provided more than 500 free screenings in Miami, Florida.

Doc Hendley was a bartender who discovered one day that there are billions of people of the world without access to clean water. Stunned by that revelation and through creative fundraising, his nonprofit Wine to Water has brought sustainable water systems to 25,000 people in five countries and says his work is just beginning.

Army veteran Roy Foster started Stand Down House to help veterans struggling with addiction and homelessness in Florida. Since 2000, his program has provided life-changing services to nearly 900 veterans.

Jorge Munoz is a school bus driver in Queens who couldn't help but notice the many in need on his route. He is helping hungry New Yorkers make it through tough times. Since 2004, he has handed out more than 70,000 meals...with dedicated help from family and friends and donations from wherever he can find them... from his mobile soup kitchen in Queens, seven nights a week, 365 days a year-- for free.

Efren PeƱaflorida gives Filipino youth an alternative to gang membership through education. His Dynamic Teen Company's 10,000 members have taught basic reading and writing to 1,500 kids living in the slums.

Brad Blauser is providing hope and mobility to disabled children and their families in Iraq. Since 2005, his Wheelchairs for Iraqi Kids program has distributed nearly 650 free pediatric wheelchairs to children in need.

Derrick Tabb started The Roots of Music to give young people an alternative to New Orleans' streets. His music education program provides free tutoring, instruments and music instruction to more than 100 students.

Budi Soehardi founded a children's home in one of the poorest areas of Indonesia. Today, Roslin Orphanage in West Timor provides food, shelter and education to more than 45 children. 

Zimbabwe native Betty Makoni founded the Girl Child Network to provide a haven for young victims of sexual abuse. The organization has rescued more than 35,000 girls since 2001.

The CNN program showed video of the heros in action and defined their cause and path. It was remarkable to observe how many lives these people have touched and how their passion pushed them forward. And these 10 were only the best representation of the thousands of hero nominees CNN received.

The thing that struck me most though, was the acceptance speech of each of these 10 as they stepped up to receive their award and a $25,000 prize given by CNN. To an individual, they were modest, humble... and even shy. They were selfless and sharing, sincere in the needs of those helped, and incredibly heroic in ways we would all like to see ourselves. They didn't seek this attention nor did they relish in the spotlight of personal glory... that's not what it was about to them. 

They are, in the truest sense, heros... and perhaps our finest contemporary example of the golden rule. It is at times like this that man's humanity is felt at the highest level. They make us proud because they represent something special in us all.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hey, Mr. Big Shot...

I know, I know. The world just seems to revolve around us. Well, what's so special about that? Check out my blog post just below this one... If the World was a village of 100 people... and see how important you seem in the scheme of things on earth.

Then, check this out:



  

 

 
 
  
Antares is the 15th brightest star in our sky. It is more than 1000 light years away.                                  

 
This is a view of deep space... of countless entire galaxies billions of light years away.




















This is a close-up of the darkest regions of the photo above, revealing more galaxys.

So, how big are you now, Mr. Big Shot? Perspective often serves a humbling purpose.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

If the world was a village of 100 people...

(Ed. Note: This has been around... but it deserves to be re-read)

If the world was a village of 100 people, then, maintaining the proportions of a the 6.8 billion people currently living on Earth, that village would consist of:

57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 Americans (North, Central and South)
8 Africans

There would be:

52 Women and 48 men
30 caucasians and 70 non-caucasians
30 Christians and 70 non-Christians
89 heterosexuals and 11 homosexuals

Six people would possess 59% of the wealth... and they would all come from the United States, a country with less than 4% of the total population:

80 would live in poverty
70 would be illiterate
50 would suffer from hunger and malnutrition
1 would own a computer
1 (only one) would have a university degree

Kinda puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What's in a name?

I was in a traffic line recently and notice the two cars in front of me... a Yapta and a Passat. Not being a car buff, I didn't realize that one was a Toyota and the other, a VW. Where do they get these names? Remember years ago, Chevy tried to market its Nova in South America and it did terrible? Then, someone let them in on a little secret. In Spanish, Nova means No-Go. In other countries, Mazda makes the Bongo, Toyota has a Deliboy and a Toyopet. Mitsubishi markets its Delica Space Gear, Daihatsu has the Naked and Volugrafo (Italian, of course) sells the dickins out of the Bimbo.

Sports nicknames can be fun... especially fantasy sports teams: Sons of Pitches, The Beer View Mirrors, Victorious Secret, French Toast Mafia and The Razzle Dazzlers of Fantazzmagazzles, to name a few.

High School team nicknames, designed to drive the opponents crazy with fear, include the Sidney Lanier Poets, the Conway Wampus Cats, the Dunn Earwigs, the Key West Conches, IVC's Grey Ghosts (ok, I've got to hand it to the Grey Ghosts. I'm scared already), The New Berlin Pretzels, the Hoopston Corn Jerkers (get your mind out of the gutter), the Cobden Apple Knockers and the Fisher Bunnies. (Note: If you are familiar with Monty Python and the Holy Grail... and who isn't, I'm sure you know what bunnies can do. Be very afraid.)

In the first year of the Peoria, Illinois pro hockey team, fans suggested the most fiersome nickname imaginable... the Peoria Prancers. Other teams drooled at the thought of that match-up. (ed. note: Nickname lasted one year.)

If you are cool, friends will call you The Brain, or Awsome McAwesome, Spanky, Pork Chop, Jelly Bean or Minty Cow Girl (not cool, however, if you are a guy). A high school friend once tagged me with Sparkle. I'm sure it was meant as a compliment, though.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

World Record and other stuff

World Record: Matthew Mitnitsky has done it! He vowed "to bring the meatball back to the East Coast," and he did! Now, when you walk into Nonni's Italian Eatery in Concord, NH and order spaghetti with meat ball, you'd better be specific. Which meat ball?

Mitnitsky's giant meatball weighed in at 222.5 lbs, blasting the old record of 202 lbs to pasta-fasulli heaven. I guess the logical question would be, "Do I get bread sticks with that?"

Nice going Matthew! I guess we showed those Mexicans (who held the world record just five months ago) and Jimmy Kimmel (who beat the Mexicans last month) a thing or two. One of these days, maybe we will have AN ITALIAN breaking the meatball record, as it should be. You don't see an O'Leary holding the record for world's biggest taco, do you... or Mama Mia holding the sauerkraut title?

Other Stuff: If you are not familiar with the Bulwer-Lytton contest (run by the English Dept. of San Jose State University), you should be ashamed of yourself. Annually, the contest seeks to find the worst opening line of a novel, were one to be written with this line. Among the recent submissions:

  • "As a scientist, Throckmorton knew that if he were ever to break wind in the echo chamber, he would never hear the end of it."
  • "Andre, a simple peasant, had only one thing on his mind as he crept along the East wall: 'Andre creep... Andre creep... Andre creep.' "
  • "The sun oozed over the horizon, shoved aside darkness, crept along the greensward, and, with sickly fingers, pushed through the castle window, revealing the pillaged princess, hand at throat, crown asunder, gasping in frenzied horror at the sated, sodden amphibian lying beside her, disbelieving the magnitude of the frog's deception, screaming madly, 'You lied!' "
And finally: How many science fiction writers does it take to change a light bulb? Two, but it's actually the same person doing it. He went back in time and met himself in the doorway and then the first one sat on the other one's shoulders so that they were able to reach it. Then a major time paradox occurred and the entire room, light bulb, changer and all, was blown out of existence. They co-existed in a parallel universe, though.

How many mystery writers does it take to screw in a light bulb? Two. One to screw it almost all the way in, and the other to give it a surprising twist at the end.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Recognize what they are talking about?

"I got a simple rule about everybody. If you don't treat me right, shame on you!" Louis Armstrong said that in the 1970s.

How about this one? "The question was once put to him, how we ought to behave to our friends, and the answer he gave was, 'As we wish our friends to behave to us.'" That was Aristotle, sometime around 325 B.C.

My friend, Ed, loaned me his book, The Words We Live By: The creeds, mottoes and pledges that have shaped America, by Brian Burwell. I found it so fascinating that I blogged about it here before. Just recently, I saw two guys so angry at one another over something very petty that they almost got into a fist fight. Then I saw another sickening magazine cover blurb about Jon and Kate, etc., etc. Hmm! I thought maybe we all need a reminder.

The quotes above are expressions of "The Golden Rule," more familiarly stated as "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

The Golden Rule, in one form or another, is found in scriptural writings in Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism, Jainism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism. It is moral acknowledgement of how to lead a good life.

Socrates, Aristotle, Samuel Clarke, John Wise, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Paine, Henry David Thoreau, Henry Sidgwick, Petr Alekseevich Kropotkin, Malcom X, Alan Gewirth and Louis Armstrong, to name just a few, have stated in writings and speeches... in many, many languages... in many different words... from so many ages... their expression of The Golden Rule.

It is prevalently acknowledged throughout all history as the way to live among one another.

It is not to be misconstrued as "He who has the gold, rules," or, "I don't get mad, I get even." These are usually followed by a hollow laugh, as if to say, "Not really."

But, really!

We sometimes seem to live more by those 'anti-golden rules' than the real thing. We have had wars forever, you know. I guess I'm feeling especially moralistic today. As a society of humans, wouldn't you think we can be better than we are?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sometimes, it's hard to believe what you read...

One of my favorite magazines, The Week, is published 50 times a year. It was originally founded in the U.K which may explain a really interesting coverage of a broad range of our weekly happenings... often including odd and... er, 'different' tidbits. For example:

"A Florida man has failed to win compensation for a 'defective' pair of underwear. Albert Freed, 62, claims that over a two-week vacation in Hawaii, the fly flap of his briefs rubbed his genitals like 'sandpaper belts.' Asked by a judge why he didn't notice sooner, the 285-pound Freed said he cannot see his own genitals, and he didn't ask his wife to look because it might 'ruin her vacation.'

See what I mean?

That same issue also noted a pretty difficult golf course in Australia. The PGA holds most of its tournaments on courses that measure over 7,000 yards long. This course, a par 71, plays 850 miles long (yep!). And as you may have guessed, it is not designed for walking. Some holes are 50 miles apart as the course broadly navigates the desolate Australian Outback. It usually takes three to four days to complete a round. And, I might guess, the 19th hole would add another 50-60 miles.

"Honey, I'm going golfing with the guys. Be back about Thursday."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Anniversary to me

Today, Oct. 30th, marks the one-year anniversary of this blog. I was looking back at my 124 posts and found some really good reading... at least, from one perspective. Lots of dumb crooks, stupid news, interesting tidbits, pithy insights, personal comments and mind-blowing space and universe stuff. It really is nuts out there.

Blogging is rich for the soul... I owe me a drink.

James Naismith is a lot more than basketball...


... quite a bit more, it turns out. He has always been acknowledged as the creator of the game of basketball... on his boss's instruction to invent a game that keep rowdy students busy during the 1891 winter... but was surprised his game endured.

Later, as a medical doctor, he theorized that "the body is more or less elastic' and 'by stretching the body 30 minutes a day for six months, it will lengthen two inches." So he invented a machine to stretch babies, because the best stretching age, he thought, is from birth to 5 months. Hmm.. even then, he knew the role a big man could play in his new game. Did it work? Well, look at Yao Ming at 7' 6" and draw your own conclusions.

He also invented a breathalyzer device to measure the effects that drinking had on the human body. Used college students as test subjects. Now that's not hard to imagine.

Naismith served in World War I as a chaplain and was on the front lines in France counseling young soldiers. Because of this experience, he was one of the first promoting the idea to reward men who had risked their lives for their country... a concept that later became the G.I. Bill for veterans.

He wasn't done with basketball yet. He conceptualized the 3-point shot in 1932, but it was rejected. The shot clock was one of his ideas too... another case of seeing his game evolve. He was a visionary.

Oh, he didn't get everything right. He could never understand why the automobile didn't stop when he yelled "Whoa!"

So 'nice going' James. You are more than basketball.

(If you are interested further, a new book, James Naismith: The Man Who Invented Basketball, by Rob Rains and Hellen Carpenter is just out.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The glamor is gone...

Detroit... Motor City, is fading fast. Once it was the nation's fourth largest city with nearly 2 million people, today less than half that number... just 770,000, remain. Makes you wonder who is going to build all those cars? What cars?

The Week magazine notes one-third of Detroit--and nearly half its children--lives in poverty, and one-quarter of the adult population didn't graduate from high school. Unemployment just hit 29 percent and in July, the median home price was $7,100 (not a typo).

The good news though is that the murder rate in one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. has dropped 14 percent. The bad news, as summed up by mayoral candidate Stanley Christmas... "I don't mean to be sarcastic, but there just isn't anyone left to kill."

Sad.

I've got more good news and bad news...

First, the good news: More than half of the children born in the year 2000 (in the industrialized countries) will live to age 100. Born today in the United States, that baby could live to 104, according to a new Danish study of 30 countries... and the increase in life expectancy is still rising. We are all living longer with fewer disabilities and better health care.

Now, the bad news: Where the hell are we going to get all the money to support us old and older people? And don't even think about mentioning the movie, Logan's Run.

Milton Supman dies!


Actually, you DO know him. He changed his name to Soupy Sales. He was 83.

Who didn't like Soupy and his dogs, White Fang (the meanest dog in the world--so big and mean that he buried the neighbor's Volkswagan) and Black Tooth (the sweetest dog in the world)? The dogs were always represented by huge felt paws and characteristic barks and growl that almost sounded like talking.

Soupy gained popularity with kids and adults in the early 50's until Metromedia, which produced his show, failed to renew his contract in 1966. Gosh, was it that long ago?

He told jokes (Show me a giant rooster chasing a member of Parliament and I'll show you a chicken catch a Tory.) and was hit in the face with a pie... more than 20,000 times! (That's not my estimate.) In fact, the old pie-in-the-face bit was so popular that movie stars and other notables wanted in on the action. In one show, Frank Sinatra had just finished singing "A foggy Day in London Town..." when he got his.

Soupy was hit by so many pies that he was once called as an expert witness in the trial of a Navy sailor who threw a chocolate cream pie at his commanding officer.

One running gag had Soupy answering the door to the knock of an unseen visitor. He never knew who would be behind the door, but among the notables were Burt Lancaster, Fess Parker, Alice Cooper and, at least once, a topless dancer. It was his impromptu response that got the laughs. The show's formula was slapstick, lots of slapstick and more slapstick... and we loved it.

When FCC chairman Newton Minow, labeled TV as a "vast wasteland," Soupy told his audience to "Try me and see the best waste in town!"

Now he is off to lemon meringue heaven. Good-by Soupy.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Spontaneous combustion and other weird stuff

Spontaneous combustion, parts 1 and 2:

1) In Jordan "a flock of sheep burst into flames and virtually disappeared in front of their startled shepherd," reports The Week magazine. Geologists explained that the sheep were apparently saturated with methane from a nearby sewage plant and were ignited by a spark. Oh, that explains everything.

"There is no need to panic," the frightened Jordanians were told. .. unless, of course, you are a sheep.

2) 'Entertainer' Amy Winehouse checked herself into a London clinic because she feared her new, $50,000 breasts might explode. "I need to see someone. My boobs are f---ing killing me."

Other weird stuff, 3 thru 6:

3) Ozzie Osborn just passed his driving test... after 18 prior failures.

4) In Gaza, the owner of a petting zoo painted stripes on his donkeys and told delighted children they were zebras.

5) Most popular Halloween costume this year? The Bernie Madoff mask . Wear it and toss hundreds of fake dollar bills all over the place. What ever happened to Snow White and Batman?

6) Finally, The Week magazine posted this contest to its readers: With some environmentalists campaigning against super-soft toilet paper because its extra-cushy fibers come from old-growth trees, we asked you to predict the name of the most environmentally friendly TP possible.

The winning name: I Can't Believe It's Not Sandpaper!

The face of fashion

Paging through the Sept/09 issue of Interview magazine, something struck me as odd. No, not the clothes or the stories, though they were... but the expressions of the wearers... the models in the many pages of ads and the people featured in the photos throughout the magazine.

I counted them... the 'beautiful people' wearing everything from one-of-a-kind fashions to nothing at all... and I surmised that being in vogue means not smiling. In fact, not smiling, big time.

Of the 152 faces and poses, only 10 were smiles... and two of those were 'excuse me' feeble. All the rest were pouts, sulks or petulant peers. Check it out... especially the ads in any of the current high-fashion mags. But whatever you do, don't smile, or you won't be in the club.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bigger than a breadbox...

Who would'a believed that, with more than 100 billion billion (yep, that's right) stars in our known universe, we needed more? Well, we found 'em anyway.

Using a new technique that measures gravitational pull on known stars, scientists have uncovered about 400 new stars... so far. More discoveries are anticipated. Latest find are 32 planets, all more dense than any in our solar system. The largest is 7.1 times more dense than Jupiter... our largest. None are thought able to sustain any life as we know it.

Seven times more dense than earth? That means, hypothetically, Miss America would weigh about 750-800 pounds on Gliese 667 C. (Catchy name for a new planet, right?) What a babe!

More amazing... all of these new planets are REALLY CLOSE to Earth... about 30 to 150 light years away. With our universe estimated to be 5 to 6 billion light years across, these are right on our doorstep.

The enormity of our universe just blows my mind.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Water, water, everywhere... but not a drop to drink


Who said Jules Verne wasn't a visionary?

In 1903, he wrote From Earth to the Moon... and it was made into an early silent movie with one scene showing the man in the moon's reaction to the rocket landing. Well, a mere 66 years later, we put a man (actually three) on the moon's surface. (Did you know that one young girl, who actually witnessed the Wright brothers' historic first flight, also saw the launch of Apollo 11, which took us there?)

This happened in less than one lifetime!

We long-ago proved we could do it any darned time we wanted to. Why just last week, we purposely crashed two rockets into the moon in our attempt to prove lunar water exists. I guess, if marketing holds true to its course, we will soon be bottling Aqua Luna for sale by the case.

As amazing as that is, it creates a real paradox of human resolve. How can man's accomplishments, which represent the glory and wonder of our intellect on one hand, also represent human folly on the other?

Having the technology, ability and means to find water on the moon is quite an achievement. Meanwhile, back on earth, every 15 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease due to lack of clean water and sanitation. One billion people on our planet will never have a drink of clean water... 2.5 billion people lack access to safe water. That is 2.5 billion of our 7 billion population-- about one out of every three of us. The implications are incredible. Really! Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

We can go to the moon, split the atom, divide one second into 60 million parts, define space to contain billions of stars and be at least six million light years wide, create a memory chip the size of a blood cell (1/2000 of an inch) that will hold more data that ever thought possible, transplant a human heart and double life expectancy for those born in the right country.

On the other, we have never learned how to feed or provide water for all the needy people of the world but have learned how to develop sophisticated methods to kill them. We can create the greatest plague mankind has ever seen, make a bomb so small that it can easily be concealed yet powerful enough to ravage a city, and take everlasting wars to the nth power in our quest to solve a problem. Humankind has an ego-based righteousness mixed with a lack of humility. We have determined man's greater good can only be found from one perspective... ours (no matter who 'ours' represents).

Are we great or what?

The three musketeers had it right: "One for all and all for one." To think that if we are on the lucky side, that's all that matters. Not a chance.

PS: The water facts came from Water.org, a non-profit organization founded by actor Matt Damon and Gary White. Go to that website. It will blow your mind.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

We're Saved! America is going by rail

Just went to K.C. Ball's entertaining blog, NowPlayingInSeattle.blogspot.com and read of her lastest airplane horror story. Well, rest easy America, you now have an option. AMTRAK! Sure, go by rail. It can be easy, cheap, on time, safe and relaxing. (OK, pick one.)

My Las Vegas best friend, Seigfried... or is it Roy... (I get those two so mixed up) told me of his brother's trek from Ft. Madison, Iowa to San Antonio, Texas... by rail. Piece of cake, right?

He left Ft. Madison by bus to catch his closest Amtrak zephyr in Galesburg, Illinois. From there, he rode in comfort and style to Springfield, Illinois... distance of about 60 miles... before the train broke down.

So the railroad gods put him and three others in a taxi to St. Lous (about 120 miles) to get the Texas-bound train. (His cab partners were a guy with influenza who sneezed ever 20 seconds, a Walmart greeter ("Hi. Howya doin' ") who never stopped smiling or talking, and a normal looking person who's last bath was two weeks ago.) Taxi then dropped them off at the wrong train station, missing the mark by about a mile. So he grabbed his two bags and hoofed it.

His train to San Antonio just barely made it into Texas when it slowed to a crawl. Conductor said they had some problem in forward gear. The train, however, proved it could go 90 mph backward, which did cause some passenger discomfort. It was all a moot point though since he also learned the tracks between here and there were under water because of the heavy rainfall.

So the last leg, which was 7 hours long... but it seemed like 2 days in human time, was, again, on a bus.

The magic of trains, you ask. Well, the final bus to San Antonio got to the station 11 minutes ahead of the hypothetical arrival time for the train. Take that, airline industry.

He did, however, meet a kindly old lady who was completing her voyage on a special Amtrak ticket... $500 for 30 days unlimited Amtrak travel. Seems that in 30 days, she almost made it out of the state. (Kidding. She made it to Oklahoma, where the wind comes whistling off the plain... nevermind.)

Rail travel, however, isn't the safe option to flying that people think it is. Did you hear about the horrible rail accident that left 200 passengers dead? Plane crashed into it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

We're all going to the dogs

We're all going to the dogs...at least, the old dogs. When I wrote about Max, the oldest dog in the world at 26, I heard from Eric Shackle in Sydney. (FYI: Eric is copy editor of Seattle-based A Word A Day -- wordsmith.org -- a free newsletter for 'wordies.' He blogs at lifebeginsat80.blogspot.com Eric likes the old stuff and recently did a run-down of old dog age claims. One was reported to be 141 years-old... actually a mere 20 in dog years.)

Anyhow, reading his blog, I found out that someone thinks Scoobie Doo, who turns 40 this year, is the oldest 'non-real' dog. Sorry, not even close. He is, however, the best at discovering ghosts, and to this day, remains scared-to-death of 'em. I could swear it almost sounds like Scoobie is 'talking' when he whines.

So who are some of the other old dogs still around today?

Snoopy
is 69... today, in fact. He first appeared on Oct. 4th, 1950. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SNOOPY! Give us one of those happy, levitating moves... you know, the one where your eyes squint and your ears wiggle.

Lassie, the world's most famous dog (so says her website) first appeared in the 1957 movie, The Wayfarers. Being a real dog, she would be pretty old... except Lassie was played, over time, by 10 different dogs... all males. (Is there a dog glass ceiling too?) My favorite Lassie movie line: "What is it Lassie? Timmy's in the well?" If it wasn't for Lassie, Timmy wouldn't be here today.

We can't forget Marmaduke. This loveable great dane was first seen in the spring of 1954, so he is 53... still pretty old for a dog... especially an overgrown lap dog.

Hagar the Horrible's dog, Snert, is just a kid in cartoon dog years at 46. He is supposed to be a hunting dog but never pays any attention to Hagar. Snert occupies a special place in my heart because one of my favorite, early dogs was a poodle-mix character of characters that I named Snert. He loved me more than any other person, place or thing ever could. That's what dogs do. Snert did have a companion dog, Hagar.

Can't forget Disney's Pluto. His first movie was The Chain Gang in 1930. So Pluto started collecting Social Security 14 years ago. Only one Disney character was more 'goofy' than Pluto.

However, the crown goes to Chic Young's Daisy, who beat out Pluto by a few months. Daisy, of course, was Blondie and Dagwood's dog... the one who helped raise Cookie and Alexander. I'd say she did a fine job of it except that those kids are still... kids. I wish I aged like comic strip characters.

Since Daisy (I wrongly thought) wins the oldest dog title, real or imagined, I looked her up on Blondie.com . Interesting website filled with fun facts (if comics are facts). The Blondie strip (and it is called Blondie) originally began with Dagwood as her beau.

Blondie Boopadoop was a looker who every 1930s zoot-suited guy dreamed of, even though she came from the wrong side of the tracks. But it was Dagwood, with all his clumsiness, that caught her eye. Now Dagwood had credentials. He was the bumbling son of J. Bolling Bumpstead, the fabulously wealthy railroad man who not only owned all the property on this side of the track, he owned all the property on the other side too... and the 3,000 miles of track that separated them.

The 'strip' changed abruptly when the depression hit America and millionaires went out of vogue. So Dagwood was disinherited when he married Blondie, his true love, forsaking all the money. A 'true' fake love story.

Whoops! The Queen is dead. Long live the King. Just recalled Buster Brown's dog TIGE, who first appeared in a comic on May 4, 1902. So Tige, an American pit bull terrier, is 107 years-old and still appears regularly in the inside sole of every pair of Buster Brown children's shoes. Buster's side-kick is Mary Jane, another shoe type. (Hmm. Coincidence?) The Buster (named after Buster Keaton) Brown association with the shoe company happened early in Tige's 'life,' at the 1904 World Fair in St. Louis where a shoe company purchased the rights to the name and it's characters.

I do remember an early kid's radio show, Let's Pretend, sponsored by Buster Brown Shoes. My favorite show character was 'Froggie, the Gremlin,' who was invisible to do his pranks until he "plunked his magic twanger. BOINGGGG!" The Buster Brown commercial lead off with a barking dog, Tige. Buster would say, "That's my dog, Tige. He lives in a shoe. I'm Buster Brown. Look for me in there too."

OK. That's enough old dogs for now. You can't teach em new tricks anyway.

Did you hear Michael Jackson died? DON'T BE TOO SURE!

I was pretty certain The King of Pop did die... until I read the recent headlines of an article in a big city newspaper:

"Autopsy shows Jackson scarred but still healthy."

Wow! Still healthy after all these months, after an autopsy, no less. They must have given him a local anesthetic. That guy is amazing!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Are you a Dvork or a Qwerty?

If you recognize Dvork or Qwerty, then you know those names refer to the keypad designs on any computer keyboard. I was going to add typewriter too, but some will ask, what's a typewriter? Typewriters were actually developed in the 1860s and have virtually disappeared with the growth of word processors.

Almost all keypads today are Qwerty (referring to the first six letters of the keyboard reading left to right). The Dvork keyboard is named after it's designer.

Originally, the first keyboards were arranged using the letters of the alphabet in correct order, but that soon proved to be unefficient. Keys jammed when struck in rapid succession.

The Qwerty keyboard was designed by placing the most commonly used letters apart from one-another. That's the way all of us learned, so today that seems most correct and easy.

Along came August Dvork, a professor of education at the University of Washington. He designed his layout in the 1930s, placing the most commonly used letters, like vowels, on the home row. The lesser used, like J, K and Q, were moved to less busy positions. He found that if a person typed 40 words-per-minute on a Qwerty keyboard, that same individual could commonly type at twice or greater speed with his system.

Then, he campaigned diligently to get his more efficient system to be the standard. And he did gain followers who swear by his system for valid reasons. There are a great many Dvork aficionado's who champion that cause and naturally, use Dvork keyboards. And so can you.

All of today's popular computers have a "Dvork" setting that will transform the Qwerty keyboard to Dvork with a change in the computer's preference settings. The letters on the keys will not change, of course, but the Dvork keystrokes will be the results of the key strikes. And, if you know how to 'type,' seeing the letters on the keys is not an issue. The rub is, you have to learn the system... no cheating by peeking at the letters printed on the keys, or get a bonafide Dvork keyboard. There are even apps that work on unbound iphones if that is your thing.

Is it a big deal? Some think so. Others, per the Wall Street Journal, aren't sympathetic. One wrote: "How's that Beta max tape player working for you?"

Which brings to mind the question: How did the order of letters of the alphabet become as we know them? Comedian Steven Wright theorizes, "Do you think it is because of that song?"

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I'm still on that 'old' kick.

I recently wrote about the death of the world's oldest person. She was 115. Then I told you about the 107-year-old who had been married 22 times and is working on her 23rd. Well, you are in for another treat.

Max, the oldest dog in the world, just celebrated his 26th birthday. That, my friends, is 182 in dog years. "We don't spoil Max," says his owner. "We don't give him food from our table and he doesn't have any fancy toys, just a bit of rope."

Lots of stuff out there...

... which only proves my blog has it right... it IS nuts out there. The Week magazine usually has some fine examples:

  • A Florida bank wouldn't cash a check drawn on his wife's accout for a man who had two photo IDs. Bank demands a thumbprint for identification. HELLO! The man has no arms. He wears prosthetics. Oh well. Rules is rules.
  • Bob Dylan is working on a Christmas album. Songs included are "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and "Here Comes Santa Claus." There goes the image.
  • Cuba will run out of toilet paper before year-end. (True.) Emergency exports are a distinct possibility. That and tree leaves, I guess.
  • A Florida city employee was threatened with job suspension or firing because she failed to say "Hello" to the mayor as the two passed in the hallway.
  • A high school football coach used a school bus after practice to take nine of his team to his Baptist church where they were baptised without the parents permission.
  • A comedian is being sued by her mother-in-law for telling mother-in-law jokes.
  • Brad Pitt just built a gerbil home for his children's pets. It features tunnels, bridges and seesaws as you may expect. It only cost him $82,000. Report says his children were delighted... to say nothing of the gerbils. I wonder if Angela knows this? Meanwhile, I'll bet those homeless living under bridge overpasses are wondering why gerbils live better than they do. (If it is of any consolation, homeless folks, at least you don't run the risk of another gerbil biting off your head.)
  • After a dinner-date, a Michigan man, upon receipt of the check, needed to borrow his girl friend's car keys. Seems he left his wallet on her car seat. Not only did he leave her stuck with the bill, he stole her car. So much for going too far on the first date.
  • A Missouri high school marching band had to change their matching T-shirts. The shirts depicted brass instruments evolving into one another over the slogan, 'Brass Evolutions.' The shirts drew complaints from religious conservative parents. "If the shirts had said "Brass Resurrections" and had a picture of Jesus on the cross we would have done the same thing," said a spokesperson. Hmm, somehow, I can't picture that "Brass Resurrections' T-shirt being something a marching band would do.

See. I told you It's Nuts out There.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

22 and counting...

Two posts ago (scroll down), I mentioned the death of the world's oldest person. She was 115. Well, I thought that would be hard to top. WRONG!

Wok Kundor (I'm guessing she is not Irish) is a 107-year-old Malaysian woman (See, I told you she wasn't Irish) who is concerned her husband, a kid of 37, may be seeing other women. And Wok has the experience to know. This current four-year marriage is her 22nd! Makes Tommy Manville, who was married a mere 13 times, look like a piker.

Not one to let grass grow under her feet, Wok may divorce her current O.A.O. (one and only) and move on. She has a sprightly 50-year-old in mind. "My intention to remarry is to fill my forlornness," she said. "I realize that I am an aged woman. I don't have the body nor am I a young woman who can attract anyone," she acknowledged. (I saw her picture. I concur!) But, according to 22 husbands to date, she has a wonderful personality.

Wok won't discuss past relationships or children. Maybe at 107, she can't remember them.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

How fast is fast?

It depends, I guess.

Usain Bolt, Jamaican running sensation, just hit his stride at 23 mph... and earned the title fastest human being. No has ever run faster. His 100 meter record time is 9.56 seconds... unless he has broken his own record, again, by the time you read this.

Well, Bolt IS fast... but if a cheetah was chasing him at 70 mph, he's a dead man. And if a peregrine falcon was diving on the cheetah at 200 mph, no way the cheetah is going to avoid an attack.

On the other hand, if a sloth was running from a sand dollar, the sloth would leave the sand dollar in the dust, so to speak, at 6 inches a minute. But a slow turtle could easily run down a sloth.

See what I mean?

How high is high? The world high jump record is a half inch above 8 feet... like leaping over a door frame with a running start. The pole vault record, using a standard 16 foot pole, is over 20 feet. Wow!

But a lowly flea can jump 100 times it's body height. For a 6 foot man, that would be a leap, from a standing position, of 600 feet... up to the 7th floor of most buildings.

Still, that is nothing for Superman who is able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

So it's all relative. Unless you consider the speed of light. At 186,000 miles per second. That is absolute!

Impressive.

Movin' up the ladder

Gertrude Baines died a few days ago. Big deal? Was for her... and me. She was the oldest living person at 115. Know what that means? I moved up a notch. Hmm. Someday maybe. Don't really know if that is good or bad.

Gertrude attributed her longevity "to the Lord, that I never did drink, never did smoke, and never did fool around."

Maybe she wasn't really 115... maybe, not doing all those things, it just seemed that long to her.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

World records are made to be broken

There seems to be a mania for world records. In today's world, a world record, which used to be as elite as first person to climb Mt. Everest or most points scored in a basketball game, has become more... er, trivialized. There seems to be a world record for anything and everything. And if there isn't one that has yet been thought of, then make one up and do it. Who needs the Guiness book to authenticate when we have Youtube. For example:
  • The world record for most T-shirts worn by one person at the same time is 155. (See this on Youtube... along with millions more.)
  • The world record for the longest human-mattress domino chain is 41, set by employees on mattresses at Bensons for Beds in the UK. (On Youtube, of course.)
  • Joey Chestnut holds the world hot dog eating record... 59.5 in 12 minutes.
  • At the Swimming World Championships a few weeks ago, there were 43 world records set... in only 40 events! (That damn new streamlined swimsuit. What's wrong with shaving all the hair on your body?) Not only that but the meet itself set a world record for the most world records in one event.
  • Ashrita Furman holds the world record for holding the most world records... 100, including fastest mile walked while balancing a pool cue on your finger, slicing 26 apples in one minute with a Samari sword, walking 80 miles with a bottle of milk on your head, pushing a car 17.06 miles in 24 hours and many more equally as imaginative.
  • But my favorite was set by Timo Kaukonen who became the world sauna champion by staying in a 230-degree sauna for a world record time of 226 seconds... almost 4 minutes! All I can say is, nice tan, Timo.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Who said "You have to be smarter than the aaaverage bear." ?

No, that’s not a typo… that’s an inflection. It’s the way Yogi Bear would have said it to BooBoo Bear after outwitting the forest ranger to steal yet another picnic basket in the old Hanna-Barbara Saturday morning cartoon. If you can hear him say it in your mind the way he said it then, you are probably 40-ish plus… and good for you.

 Well anyhow, Yogi lives! No, not the cartoon bear, but Yellow-Yellow, the 125 lb black bear in the Adirondacks. This bear, so named because of its two yellow identifier tags in one ear, has figured out how to crack the latest, updated, unopenable bear safe that campers, hikers, etc. use in ursine areas to keep food safe from foraging bears.

 In field tests, the bear safe has survived rigorous zoo testing and 1,000 lb grizzly attacks in Yellowstone and was certified impenetrable.

Enter little Yellow-Yellow.

 The safe is designed so well that it takes two separate simultaneous push-clicks and twists to open… something even some humans had trouble mastering. But when Yellow-Yellow smelled the food, she figured it out. Holding the ‘safe’ between her legs, she used both paws to ‘push-click’… twice, while twisting the lid with her mouth. Bingo!

 And if you think that isn’t something, then this will blow your mind: she taught other bears to do it too.

 What do you think of that, BooBoo?

There are 5,200 medical journals published in the U.S. Today!

They range from “Applied Immunohistochemistry & Molecular Morphogrphy (really) to Gut,” says Melinda Beck, Wall Street Journal’s health reporter, as she muses about their research findings.

 And the reason this is interesting? Because Ms Beck suggests 5,200 is not enough. “I think there should be two more…Duh! for findings that never seemed to be in doubt in the first place, and  Huh? for those whose usefulness remains obscure, at least to lay readers.

 “Duh!’s first issue could include findings such as these:

  •  Toddlers become irritable when prevented from taking naps.
  • Cats make humans do what they want by purring.
  • TV crime dramas inaccurately portray violent crime in America
  • People with high IQs make wise economic decisions.

 Huh?’s first issue could contain these-head scratchers:

  • Men are better than women at hammering in the dark.
  • Young orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos laugh when tickled.
  • Neither alcohol (in him) nor makeup (in her) affect a man’s ability to guess a woman’s age.
  • The more abundant the hair, the greater the tendency to collect belly-button lint.”

 Really, it’s an interesting article in which these studies are held as important… which may or may not be the case. I always thought the greatest mystic doctors hold is that… “We know stuff you don’t.” So how is one going to retain that aura if there aren’t thousands of findings to read about and interesting tidbits to drop in a timely manner?

 “Actually, Mr. Jones, your enormous quantity of belly-button lint is because you are so, er, manly hirsute… be proud, not worried. And by the way, Jones, don’t tickle your orangutan or he may pop you one. And don’t believe everything you see on TV. Now, go home and hammer in the dark, then take two aspirins and call me in the morning. That will be $79 dollars.”

 “Thank you, Doctor... you are so knowing. Just send the bill to my insurance company.”

Monday, July 20, 2009

We shouldn't give credit cards to young people...

...they are so irresponsible. Take 22-year-old Josh Muszynski of Vermont, for example... Visa slapped him a $15 overdraft fee because he overspent his credit limit when he charged $23 quadrillion ($23,148,855.308,184,500 to be exact) at a Mobil gas station in his neighborhood. That Josh... he is such a loose spender.

Think as he might, Josh couldn't recall what he bought for that price, which is 2,007 times the size of our national debt. Maybe Europe, on pump 4, he mused.

When he, in a panic, called Visa, he was told that if he paid his balance in 15 days, Visa would drop the overdraft charge. Kidding. What Visa did say is, "Whoopee! We made our budget this month." Kidding again. What Visa really said is "Huh?" It hadn't notice the slight error.

In a statement, Visa explained that the glitch affected "fewer that 13,000 prepaid transactions" as the result of a "temporary programming error... which caused some transactions to be inaccurately posted to a small number of Visa prepaid accounts."

Oh. That explains everything.

I'll see you in court

Way back when most of the people on this earth weren't born yet... like 60 years ago, a guy sued the manufacturer of his lawn mower because he fell while holding the damn thing above his head while trying to trim his hedges with it. His stupid effort cost him a leg. He contended it wasn't his fault... the mower maker was at fault because the operating instructions didn't say he couldn't.

We all laughed, but he got the final laugh when a jury of his peers (i.e. people just like him) upheld his claim and he was awarded lots and lots of money. This was the start of the era of the lawsuits that say, 'you may be stupid but we've got you covered.'

That is why the lady who burned herself with McDonald's hot coffee that sloshed from the cup held between her legs while driving in shorts, is a millionaire. And that is why there are almost no diving boards or skating rinks in America today... lawsuits that reward the stupid.

In New York, a teen, paying no attention while walking, fell into an open manhole as she was texting a friend on her cell phone. It was a five-foot fall and she did come away with a few scrapes and bruises. But, says her mother, the city must compensate her for the trauma of landing in a sewer. "Oh my God, it was putrid," said mom. "One of her sneakers is still down there."

And, going global, a Polish woman vacationing with her family, is suing an Egyptian hotel because, she says, her 13-year-old daughter got pregnant from what must have been a stray sperm in the pool. The mother is adamant that her daughter didn't meet any boys on the vacation so it had to be the pool... or, mom, the toilet seat.

Where is the logic that says we have to insure the stupid for their own stupid actions? Doesn't anyone take responsibility for what they do anymore?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

If an atheist-dyslexic believes there is no Dog...

... what does an agnostic-dyslexic believe? Actually, he/she believes it's an open question... there may or may not be a Dog, but faith is another matter.

This question came up at The Coffee Scene after I read USAToday's story about Camp Quest, a summer camp for children of atheists and other non-believers. At Camp Quest, saying grace before meals is strictly optional. (Well duh!)

The camp "encourages critical thinking, such as (a game) called Evolution and learning about 'freethinking heroes' such as Isaac Asimov." One of the songs (really) sung around the campfire sounds familiar... but I can't quite place it:

Twinkle, twinkle little star;
You're a ball of gas that's very far;
32 light years in the sky;
10 parsecs, which is really high.

Maybe if you hummed a few bars...


Everyone should know how to complete a sentence, right?



Well, you'd think so, anyhow... especially if you are well educated.

How come then that Keith Pound, a New York businessman convicted of bilking an insurance company for $450 million, can't? He was sentenced to 740 years in prison and died before he could finish his sentence. (It makes Bernie Madoff's 150-year sentence seem like a walk in the park.)

Another swindler, Norman Schmidt, is serving 330 years.

But the king of the run-on sentences is Pound's partner in crime, Shalam Weiss. He is serving 845 years. Hmm... with good behavior, he should be out before June, 2909. That would make him older that Mathusela if he can finish his sentence.

So why do judges mete out such long sentences in the first place? Maybe for impact which is a big morale booster for the bilked, or to put the parole option out far enough that it won't make a difference. All I know is that the older one gets, the faster time seems to fly. Why, 845 years to Weiss might just seem like a hundred or so. I guess they call that a 'win-win' situation.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Well, I guess I blew that one

Where was I when a '0ne-in-a-hundred-year' opportunity came knocking? Asleep at the switch, that's where... or just plain asleep. How about you? Wild parties in celebration? Drunken 'end of the world' stupors? Giddiness, tears of joy?

You see, yesterday, July 8th, at 34.56 seconds after midnight, it was precisely 12:34.56 7/8/9 and it just blew right by me.

Oh, never mind. Someone just told me that it happened just after noon as well.

Department of Duh

Who among us can say that America's Funniest Videos isn't a good window to our incredible stupidness? But then again, who can say that a good blow to the crotch, sliding into a tree, jumping off a house or having the cutest pet in the whole world isn't worth our 15 minutes?

Well, here's an inside tip on how to get into the fame fastlane... hint: think trampoline. In 2008, there were 104,752 trampoline-related injuries... more that in volleyball, wrestling and diving combined.... more than Peoria, Illinois! How's that for fun? And me... I've been wasting my time riding skateboards and roller-blading. Will I never learn?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

An ugly rumor...

I heard an ugly rumor today, July 7th. Somebody told me that Michael Jackson died. In fact, the dirty liar said with a straight face, he died June 25th... almost two weeks ago. If that is true, wouldn't we have heard about it by now? You would think the media might make small mention of it.

OK... so I did know. Is there anyone on this planet who didn't? Today I heard an NBC announcer say this was probably the biggest death ever in terms of people watching and caring... more than one billion will be watching this funeral... almost 20 percent of the world population.

Now Michael (as I affectionately call him) is a world figure... and arguably one of its most talented and charismatic when performing. He is a cult figure perhaps deserving of that ranking... talented, troubled, eccentric, weird, etc. But is he worth 80-percent of the news for weeks/months after his death? The media says yes. The public says yes. So who am I to argue.

In fact, a Toronto Argonaut player of the Canadian Football League was penalized 30-yards, an almost unheard of penalty, for pretending to lie in a casket after a touchdown, as a '"tribute to Michael Jackson." Whoa Nellie!

What I do cry for, however, is perspective. MJ (no, not the baskeball player) is huge... but I don't want him greater that the soldier who gives his life for me, the parent who sacrifices everything for a child, the stranger who donates a kidney for a person in need... you get the idea. The 'lesser heros' are really pretty special and their loss mostly unsung (literally and figuratively). Almost all of those 'lesser heros' had it harder than the talented and rich MJ... And they paid a price that is no less than, a sadness no less sad than, a loss no less profound than the King of Pop. And they are all desperately missed by those who know and love them, and appreciated by all.

Everyone has a place in this world... but some seem to have a higher place than others just because of fame. Remember... it only seems that way. It wasn't my rule that each of us has only one death... but none of these deaths is more special from any other... one is one. Amen.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The day I fixed something

We all remember where we were when we heard first reports on 9/11. We remember our first kiss, the moment we proposed to our spouse, the birth of our children, everything special to us... we remember. Well, chalk up another for me.

I will always remember today... the day I fixed something. No, I really did. Honest.

I've been known to be... er, a little unmechanical. I know there is something under that hood in front of the car but I'll be darned if I know what it is. I think it is a big on/off switch that makes the car go, or something like that. I have the perfect tool when an appliance breaks. It is called a telephone.

Sure, I'm handy with my more conventional tools. I do own two of them... a screwdriver that has a reversible tip so I have can do two kinds of screws, a straight one and one that looks like an asterisk... and a squeezer-thing that also serves as my nail pounder. I have a friend who has over 1,000 tools. Are there really 1,000 things to do with them?

But today... ah, today, I am a fixer person. When I checked out our small RV for an upcoming trip, I noted that the outlets did not work... or at least, when I plugged something in, it did not go. So I called the RV factory and reported this. The guy there, thinking I was someone of fixer talent, told me to check the circuit breaker. "The WHAT?" He directed me to a picture in our manual. See? That's what it looked like. I didn't know what it did... however, that didn't matter.

The problem was, he told me after having me perform a few tests (is standing on one's head with a finger in one's ear a regular circuit breaker test or not?), the circuit breaker was broken... it didn't break circuits. I guess it is not broken if it breaks other things. (I'm thinking, who's kidding who?) So he told me how to take it out and where to go buy a new one for only $38 dollars. Now I know it's a joke... but I did it anyhow.

Then, AFTER TURNING OFF THE POWER, he warned me... guess he didn't want an electrocution on his conscience... pull the old one out and put the new one in... being extra cautious to connect all the wires on the new one just like they were on the old one, even though sorting out a plate of spaghetti would have been easier.

Skeptically, I did this, thinking they are all having a good laugh at the RV factory. It took only seven hours... then I turned the power on again and plugged the toaster in. IT WORKED! I DID IT! I FIXED IT ALL BY MYSELF... with his insignificant help, of course.

When I ran home to tell my wife, she was justifiably proud of me... but said she really didn't want all that toast.

My fixer confidence is at an all-time high. So for my birthday, I want 998 more tools and a tool belt to hold them all, just in case I need to have them with me. I want safety goggles and steel toed shoes. I want a real worker-man's hard hat and a plaid shirt and jeans that show the crack of my butt when I bend over. I guess you could say I am hooked now that I know how easy this stuff is.

Note to other fixer-guys... your secret is out. What you do is nothing, do you hear...NOTHING. Next time something breaks, give me a call... I will be driving the truck that says on its side, Jerry, The Home Repair Guy... no job too big or small. And when I bend over, watch out... I'm smokin'.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Number one and number two (Means what you think.)

Re: number one: Ryanair, a European budget airline, in an effort to boost revenue in a way no one would notice, will be charging passengers $1.60 each time they use the plane's bathroom... (for number one and/or number two, I presume). And to create buyers' demand, it will only have one bathroom on each plane. The other two have been converted into extra seating. (Hmmm. I wonder if they were reconfigured or did they just screw down the lid and attach a seat belt?) Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary, noting average flight time is only about an hour, says "What the hell do we need three toilets for?"

Re: number two: A Texas man called the police on his neighbor because, he told officers, the neighbor used the S-word for excrement in front of his innnocent (italics mine) 13-year-old daughter. The neighbor has been complaining regularly about the caller's cat which leaves feces all over his yard and the caller refuses to do anything about it. The neighbor admitted he used the S-word for cat excrement out of frustration. He was cited for disorderly conduct but, in a jury trial no less, was acquitted.

Said the cat-owning complaitant, "A little piece of America died today. It's a sad day for morality." (This man must be a saint... with a holy cat that calls the neighbor's yard a litter church.)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"Werewolf!" "There wolf."


Remember the Gene Wilder/ Marty Feldman exchange from that great Mel Brooks classic, Young Frankenstein? There was a time in folklore that werewolves were feared hiding behind every tree. No more.

A theory by a member of the British Society for the History of Science proposes that the reason werewolves have, for the most part, died out in folklore is because of Charles Darwin. Following his publication of his Origin of Species in 1859, Brian Regal says "the spread of the idea of evolution helped kill off the werewolf because a canid-human hybrid makes no sense from an evolutionary point of view."

Then how in the hell do you explain these two puncture marks on my neck?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Rules is rules

Every wonder why we have so many rules telling us to do this, do that, don't spit, touch here, stand erect, etc? It's the damn minority, folks. (No, I'm not talking race, I'm talking numbers.) It's because of the few who do something wrong or thoughtless that there has to be a rule or law to say, don't do that, even though most of us don't.... and wouldn't even think of doing it.

Went to my health club the other morning. Saw a new sign on the desk. "Absolutely no admittance without your club membership card." It used to be that if you forgot your card, you could give them your membership number and they would let you in. Now, 'no ticket, no laundry,' pal. A few abuse the privilege so we make a new rule and everyone pays the price. And some of those rules are downright silly.

It's no big thing, really. But it got me to thinking... how many rules must we have now? Literally billions, no doubt, both great and small. Have any ever been rescinded after they have served their purpose or gone out of style? A few, maybe, but not many.

Rules are like drops of water... one drop by one drop and before you know it, we have an ocean. Drip, drip, drip.

Some examples of silly: A circus clown in England was ordered not to wear his big, size 23 clown shoes because he could trip and injure someone. Think of how 'Shaq' must feel since he is a 23-natural. Elsewhere, while making a documentary, the first person to sail solo around the world non-stop and face death every day was ordered not to light a portable stove unless a 'safety advisor' was on the set to watch over things.

Drip, drip, drip.

In Alabama it is illegal for a driver to be blindfolded while driving. In California, animals are banned from mating publicly within 1,500 feet of a tavern, school or place of worship. In Florida, if an elephant is left tied to a parking meter, the parking fee has to be paid just as it would for a vehicle. And it is illegal there to have sexual relations with a porcupine. Hmmm. I wonder if that applies to other porcupines too? Louisiana says it is illegal to rob a bank and then shoot at the bank teller with a water pistol. What fun is that?

Drip, drip, drip.

We started with no rules at all... or rather just one... "Don't eat the apple."

Drip, drip, drip.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

That Iowa...it has everything

"It looked like Armageddon," said the paralegal who snapped this bizarre cloud photo in Cedar Rapids, IA. What was it really? "Don't know," said weather authorities... it is a newly discovered cloud formation yet unnamed.

Now you know cumulus and nimbus and and cirrus and stratocumulus,
And cirrostratus and cumolo-nimbus and fractostratus and nimbostratus,
But do you know, the most famous cloud formation of all...
It's Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer...

er, excuse me... it's really the one pictured above... which we haven't yet named. I do think Rudolph would be a great name though because it fits the rhythm of the clouds... and it just might make a new hit Christmas song. Heck, we already have the melody. (That groan you hear is Gene Autry, moaning in his grave.)

Elsewhere in the state that has it all... the umpire working a high school baseball game in West Burlington, IA got so agitated at the unruly, yelling, arguing crowd that he threw all of them out of the game. Really. He had the police evacuate the stands for (figuratively) kicking dirt on the ump's shoes. Now that's calling 'em as he sees 'em.

Must have been a slow news day.