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Friday, January 30, 2009

More laughs with dumb crooks

According to an article, 'How not to rob a bank,' that appeared in a 1987 edition of The Old Farmers' Almanac, dumb crooks are apparently born, not made. For example:

At that time, 76 percent of bank robbers used no disguise, 86 percent never 'case' the bank they rob and 95 percent make no long-range plans for concealing the loot. Now these numbers may be different today but the trend, no doubt, persists. Helpful 'suggestions' to would-be robbers:

Pick the right bank-- one robber tried to 'hit' a bank that was out of business and had no money. Another went to the bank his family used and ran into his mother.

Approach the right teller-- when given a hold-up-note, this teller leaped over the counter, wrestled the would-be robber to the ground and sat on him til police arrived.

Don't sign your hold-up note-- or write it on the back of your check or any envelope that has your name on it, for that matter.

Don't use vegetables-- a New York man tried to hold-up a bank with a zucchini, when perhaps a banana could have worked just as well.

Don't be too specific-- example: "I have a gun. Give me all your twenties." The teller said she had only two twenties, so the robber took them and he left.

Provide your own transportation-- don't count on a taxi, a bus or the car you took from the teller for your get-a-way. All have been tried and they didn't work.

Watch the exploding red dye packets-- and, for God's sake, if you insist on taking a wad of booby-trapped bills, don't stuff them down your crotch.

To all would-be bank robbers... avoid all of these 'no-nos' and don't let anyone tell you that you aren't smart enough to make up your own mistakes. You definitely are.

OUTRAGE! Same old, same old

OUTRAGE #1: Merrill Lynch lost $15.3 billion in the 4th quarter of last year. Bank of America lost $1.79 billion in the 4th quarter. They loose so much in 2008 that they get a gold star for helping take our economy down. They merge and get a combined total of $1 bazillion billion (rough estimate) taxpayer provided bail-out money.

So it just stands to reason that their bonus pool for last year is capped at only $6 billion. Why? Because, says the former CEO, if you don't pay bonuses, you risk loosing all the great talent that produced the spectacular 2008 multi-billion dollar loss.

Gee. I guess I'm grateful that jobless America has the privilege of helping these poor employees hold on to what meager existence they may have.

OUTRAGE #2: Illinois ex-governor, Rod Bagojevich... 'nuff said.

OUTRAGE#3: Even in an $800 billion-plus bail-out bill, we have pork. Crap. I'm not saying some of the need might be justified... I won't go there. I naively thought this bail-out was to keep some industries and 'engines of the economy' afloat, and produce more jobs and opportunities for the near future. I don't want politics to be "slipping something in when no one is looking... especially now. When I buy something, I want to know what I am buying. And I am buying all the government spends. This bill, more than all others, should have been free of pork.

OUTRAGE#4: There are too many more outrages and I'm tired of being outraged for the moment!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sportsmanship...you either have it or you don't

You have probably heard about the Covenant-Dallas Academy girls' high school basketball game in Texas last week. Covenant just barely eked out a win. Final score: 100-0. Yep! Covenant was ahead 59-0 at the half and managed to 'hold-on' for the win.

One spectator who attended the game said Covenant continued to make 3-pointers even in the fourth quarter and that the Covenant spectators and an assistant coach cheered wildly as their team closed in on 100. One of the Dallas Academy school parents said "I think the bad judgment was in the full-court press and the 3-point shots. At some point, they should have backed off." Another said some parts of the game looked like a Covenant lay-up drill.

Perhaps the Covenant coach felt 'humanitarian' and his team did not score after it reached 100 with four minutes to go in the game. Either that or Dallas Academy defense stepped it up a notch.

The flagrant violation of 'sportsmanship rules' created a media sensation and the next day, red-faced Covenant officials apologized and offered to forfeit the game to Dallas Academy. Imagine that... scoring zero points and winning. I can picture the ESPN post game interview with a Dallas Academy player... "It was a real team effort out there tonight."

Well, that, apparently didn't come to pass at last report. What did happen, however, is even more interesting. The Covenant coach sent an e-mail to USA Today and other news media outlets saying he would not apologize "for a wide-margin victory when my girls played with honor and integrity. I do not agree with the apology or the notion that The Covenant School girls basketball team should feel embarrassed or ashamed. We played the game as it was meant to be played." I wouldn't be surprised that, at the buzzer, the fans and team did hold up those big "We're Number 1" foam fingers as they flooded the court. Actually, I'm embarrassed for the Covenant girls, especially if they took the victory seriously.

Delightfully, the coach was fired.

Reminds me of the time I beat my son, age 6, in a basketball game of H-O-R-S-E, 5-zip. He just couldn't match my five dunks... and we played fair and square. I felt pretty good after that one.

Hey... It's nuts out there.

Friday, January 23, 2009

More on the children's name front

In my January 10th post on baby names (see below), I dealt with the weird names famous couples sometimes give their children. I did leave out a few.

New Jersey recently took temporary custody of little Adolph Hitler (age 3) and his sisters, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation (not yet 2) and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie (9 months) after a public controversy arose when a bakery refused to inscribe little Adolph's name on a birthday cake. NJ was suspicious of child abuse or neglect, presumably because of the names.

The parents, much maligned by the public, said, "A name's a name. The kid isn't going to grow up and do what Hitler did." Hmm. Probably not.

Playmates Mussolini Jones and Hirohito Smith said they miss their little friends. (Seriously, I made that last sentence up.)

Guess what?

It snowed here last week. In fact, we got six-inches of really nice, snowman-making snow. (That, however, is a real, honest-to-goodness, carved bear--something one of us couldn't live without.) This was the first measurable snow we got in our eight years we have been in the non-mountains of NC.

This was the dogs' first snow and they didn't quite know what to make of it... very cautious and curious... but they soon adapted with glee. We did too.

This was also the first day of our NC tenure that the temperature didn't get above freezing. Snow lasted two full days... just about enough for some Illinois winter transplants.  There were stern driving warnings all over TV. Schools, church services and events were cancelled for three days...  just to be on the safe side. Milk 'flew' off grocers' shelves. But we did enjoy ourselves. Rule of thumb re: driving... if you are from the north, you know how to handle the stuff. BUT, that guy in the other car... watch out... and you don't get help from turn signals. They don't use them here. Otherwise, NC is a fine place to be.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Gotta hand it to the lefties...

Today is Obama day... that is President Barack Obama to you and me. If there is one thing this magnificent event stands for, it is HOPE... hope that tomorrow is better than today. We could be living in a lot of places in the world where hope is an emotion few can strongly feel. While hope is not exclusively American, it certainly is inclusive of America... and to every American.

And if, like me, you watched today's innaugration ceremony through the end, you saw President Obama signing a document as his first official act as president. If you paid attention, you saw him sign it with that crooked, smudge-your-own-writing style... that is, left-handed.

Five of our last seven presidents, numbers 38 thru 44, have been left-handed... Ford, Reagan, GHW Bush, Clinton and now, Obama. Of all of the 37 presidents before Ford, only three have been left-handed... Garfield, no. 20, Hoover, No. 31 and Truman, no. 33.

To say it another way, of our last 14 presidents, half have been left-handed. Only one of our first 30 was so oriented.

In the Presidential race of 1992, there were three candidates: GHW Bush, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot... all left-handed... and Clinton's V.P. was Al Gore, also you-know-what. In the race of 2008, Both McCain and Obama were left-handed.

So, with anywhere between 10 and 15 percent of our total population being left-handed, what's going on? Could it be that left-handers are right-brainers... which is generally associated with creative thinking? Maybe it is a lately recurring feeling that in this ever more complex world we live in, we tend to value the need for creativity more than analytical thinking in dealing with all a President has to handle today. That 'kind-of' makes sense.

Oh, don't forget: Left-Handers Day is Aug. 13. Mark your calendar.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The 2008 Darwin Awards are out...

... honoring the least evolved among us. This year's winner:

When his 38-caliber revolver failed to fire at his intended victim during a hold-up, our would-be robber did something that can only inspire wonder. He peered down the barrel and tried the trigger again. It worked.

A few runners-up:

A teenager, in the hospital recovering from serious head wounds received from an oncoming train, was asked how he got the injuries. He said he was simply trying to see how close he could get his head to a moving train. Now that's close!

A purse snatcher grabbed the handbag of a lady as she left a convenience store. Given a detailed description of the theif, the police quickly apprehended him. Then they took him back to the store and asked him to face his victim for a positive ID... to which he replied "Yes, officer. That's her. That's the lady I stole the purse from." It doesn't get more positive than that.

Now if these incidences don't help prove the study in the post just below, then I miss my guess.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Now I get it...

I have long wondered how it is that we, as a nation, are where we are right now in terms of frustration of the seemingly obvious. I think it just became clearer to me. By way of an explaination, these stories:

In a recent court case, a man accused of robbery chose to act as his own attorney. He listened as the prosecutor asked a his partner, who had already confessed to her role in the same robbery, what her share of the loot was. She said $400. In cross examination, our legal eagle defendant told the court, "She ended up with more than I got. I only got $100. Verdict: Guilty!

Elsewhere, an armed assailant stopped his victim's car in the middle of a highway intersection and robbed him. Then, needing to get home, he asked his victim for a ride. The victim obliged... then told police where the assailant lived.

In Pittsburg, a man, with no visible attempt to disguise himself, robbed two banks in broad daylight. He was arrested within an hour after videotapes from the banks' cameras were shown on the evening news and he was recognized. When he was arrested and shown the tapes, he was astounded. "But I wore the juice," he mumbled. He was under the impression that rubbing one's face with lemon juice rendered it invisible to videotape cameras.

All of these stories are true. That last incident was taken from the lead paragraph of a study by Justin Kruger and David Dunning of Cornell University as reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The study is titled, "Unskilled and Unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one's own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments."

The synopsis of the study reads: "People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of metacognitive ability to realize it. Across four studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd. Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy from error. Paradoxically, improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their ablitites. "

Wow! Dumb and don't know it.

Now, let me take you to a paragraph in Peggy Noonan's (see post below) latest book, Patriotic Grace:

"I spoke about two years ago with a (television) network producer, an old warhorse who was trying to explain his frustration at the current ratings race. He wrestled around the subject, and I leaned in with blunt words.

" 'You meant it's gone from the dictatorship of a liberal elite to the dictatorship of the retarded,' I said.

" 'Yes,' he said."

So that's it. That's why we now have so much of our active world formed and dictated by the lowest common denominator. As 'we are all equal and entitled,' that's why the minority too often sets the rules and standards for the majority. That's why common sense often isn't universally accepted logic but an aggregate standard weighted to those who have less of it. (Do I hear 'No Child Left Behind?)

Well that sucks!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Today's reading tip

Most of us have favorite authors... those we usually link to books... and I've got mine. But I have always been a sucker for favorite writers... those I can read more often than their latest best seller. I come from a publication background so I read lots of magazines, newspapers, commentary, humor, satire, opinion, knowledge--every day prose, on-line or the old fashion way. It is often more 'bite-size' and ready for instant gratification. Think Peggy Noonan, Rick Reilly, David Sedaris for style, poignancy and humor.

Today, I'd like to point you to Peggy Noonan. She was a former speech writer for Ronald Reagan and worked with George Bush before his first term. Don't let the republican credentials fool you... she writes without bias in a way I wish lawmakers and politicians would act. She writes a weekly opinion column in the Wall Street Journal (which you can read on-line at wsj.com or on her website, peggynoonan.com) and she gets it right so often... and always in a well-written way.

In her latest column titled "Mere Presidents," she says "American leaders are mortal, not magical." Referring to the human in all of us, she reflected upon the latest meeting of our four living presidents and past presidents and President-Elect Barak Obama and their mere mortal traits. My favorite paragraph in that piece:

"Did you notice how they all leaned away from Jimmy Carter (referring to the photo), the official Cootieman of former presidents? It was like high-school students to the new girl: 'You can't sit here, we're the Most Popular Table.' "

I just read her latest book, Patriotic Grace: What It Is and Why We Need It Now. It's an easy and incredibly insightful book that I highly recommend. If you aren't hooked by the prologue, 'The view from gate 14', then don't buy it. But if you are and you like common sense opinionating, you won't be disappointed .

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sure, pants can be expensive...but $54 million?

In the news, an appeals court rejected a request for a new trial from a former DC judge against his dry cleaners after an earlier court decision ruled against him. Former judge Roy Pearson says Custom Cleaners did not live up to its motto: "Satisfaction Guaranteed," when the cleaner lost his pants. So, as is an American rite and custom, he sued them... for $54 million. Court said Pearson failed to prove advertising fraud in the loss of his now, very expensive pants, no doubt made out of real gold lame'. Hey, don't laugh. Maybe they were his favorites.

That should be funny but it isn't. The owner of Custom Cleaners sold his shop, claiming loss of revenue and emotional strain.

Didn't I tell you... It's nuts out there.

New age baby names

The top 10 strangest baby names of the year, according to Time Magazine, are:

Bronx Mowgli (son (?) of Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz)
Zuma Nesta Rock (daughter (?) of Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale)
Trig Paxson Van (son of Sarah and Todd Palin)
Harlow Winter Kate (daughter of Nicole Richie and Joel Madden)
Nahla Ariela (daughter of Halle Berry and Gabriella Aubry)
Sunday Rose (daughter of Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban)
Hania Riley (daughter of Vin Diesel and Paloma Jimnez)
Avis Ann (daughter of Daniel Baldwin and Joanne Smith-Baldwin)
Jagger Joseph Blue (son of Soleil Moon Frye and Jason Goldberg)
Egypt (daughter (?) of Paris Bennett)

Hmmm... some of the names, not too bad. Paris has Egypt and two named for Disney characters (Mowgli and Nahla), one for a day of the week and a flower, one for a NYC borough, one after an old time movie glamour-girl (Jean Harlow), one after a rock star, and one for a rental car company. Soleil Moon Frye has Jagger Joseph Blue... so who wins that one?

You know... my dad's name was Clyde. Now I still think Clyde is a funny name, but when it refers to my dad, it's him. So who am I to talk. I'm outta here...Zuma, zuma, zoom!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Fair Play is the name of a town in South Carolina...

... and it isn't very spectacular from I-85, just across the boarder from Georgia... lots of closed gas stations, restaurants and video game places... so I wasn't impressed.

BUT... fair play, when it involves personal character and ethics, is quite another matter.

In a Sports Illustrated year-end issue, a most outstanding story. I repeat it here because if you don't know about it, you should: At the Washington State 4A Track and Field championships in May, Nicole Cochran, a senior in Tacoma, won the 3,200-meter title by 3.05 seconds... or so she thought. A judge, however, ruled that she had stepped outside her lane and disqualified her.

Almost everyone, including her competitors, knew the judge was wrong. This was later verified by watching a replay of the race. The judge had erred... it was not Nicole but a team mate who stepped outside her lane.

But before that, the awards ceremony was held and the second-place runner, Andrea Nelson, a Spokane high school sophomore, was awarded the championship medal.

Then, a wonderful thing happened. Nelson took the championship medal, stepped off the awards platform, walked over to Cochran with the medal.

"It wasn't fair," said Nelson. "She deserved it. She totally crushed everybody." As she placed her medal around Cochran's neck, she told her, "It's your medal."

It didn't stop there. The number 3 finisher took off her medal and awarded it to Nelson. The number 4 gave hers to the number 3 finisher... and so down the line... every other of the eight medal winners in the event did the same... awarding her medal to the girl who finished ahead of her. Medal winner number 8 followed suit even though there was no one to give her a medal.

Cochran competed in two other events, and in the 800 where she finished 8th, she gave her medal to the 8th place runner who had relinquished hers in the 3200. "I didn't want her to go home from the meet her senior year without a medal," she said.

It took ten days after the event for the officials to correct themselves and name Cochran as winner of the 3200... something her competitors knew and did in an instant. I suppose it would have been embarrassing not to, under the circumstances. Sports gods, learn a lesson!

What class all of these women showed... and what an example to the spirit of fair play that the world should embrace much more often.