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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

At Easter, a time for hope... and I was touched by this

It is an original poem published in a local newspaper:

sometimes i can't hold back
this feeling
i wish it would go away
and never meet the light
of day
why can't i keep away
from my selfish ways
to not look back
but could i ask
is it possible
to move forward
and never look back
as i move toward the light to find
a way out of my mind
how can i
when i'm blind
and can't see the world
or whre to turn
why can't i look away
and forget everything

The author, whose name I won't use, is in 7th grade.

On the 2,000th (+/-) anniversary of The Last Supper

             ...did you ever wonder what they ate?

While the three gospels that write about it mention only bread and wine, and author Dan Brown mentions women (Mary Magdeline), no one talks about song (Gregorian chants, Lord). Back to the food... Over the years, 52 of the most famous depictions (including Leonardo daVinci's) show the size of the meal increasing, and no, it is not a loaves and fishes miracle thing.

The plates are bigger. The main course portions (depicted variously as fish, lamp, pork and eel) grew larger in paintings over time. Today, they are shown super-sized (wonder where that come from), a whopping 69% larger. These are the findings as reported in the International Journal of Obesity, of all places.

It is speculated that the depiction of food just grew larger with the more plentiful times, reflecting how much we ate. So perhaps that is why so many of us in first world countries are obese. Super-size it and they will come.

Oh... lest I forget, thank you God! I am truly grateful.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Got time for a little bit of this and a little bit of that?

First it was ESPN, then it was ESPN2, and now the NFL has its channel as does NASCAR. So what's next? How about the Professional Alligator Wrestling Channel... All alligator wrestlin' all the time. I think they are on to something here.

Actually, the pro alligator wrestlers have taken the first step by forming the Free-style Alligator Wrestling Competitions (FAWC for all you acronymites out there) which will hold annual meets and promote the activity as a legitimate sport. This is for real.

Alligator wrestling is a lot harder than it looks, say the pros.  (Actually, it looks pretty hard to me already.) James Holt is 6' 1' and weighs in at 350 lbs but says size does not give him an advantage. Mental acuteness does. "The hardest part is making sure you're in the right frame of mind. You gotta be in the moment... that alligator is a lot stronger than I am."

Pro Jimmy Riffle offers this tip: "Number one rule... you cannot be afraid to get bit." (That kinda leaves me out.)

Austin Billie learned how to wrestle alligators two years ago and says the most important lesson is "know your limits. Wrestlers are trained to be vigilant of the gator's 'areas of danger,' which is (sic) pretty much anywhere near its mouth." Actually, that would be my guess too.

So now that you are all rev'd up, go to Google and find the alligator wrestling school nearest you. Get in on the ground floor and you could be a household name in no time at all.

"All I know is that Fred Barnstable is a household name around here," says Al Alligator. "He was just delicious. The missus and I talk about him all the time." See what I mean? I just hope it's not fake like 'you-know-what.'

                                                         ***

Since alligator wrestling really doesn't pay all that much according to the pros, there are a few other options as we examine some of the worst jobs in science as identified by Popular Science Magazine.

Armpit detective: Researchers actually study armpits to try to "isolate the compounds that give us our unique aroma." And yes, someone has to smell... in the name of science, of course.

Feces piper: This facilitator is absolutely vital in a "fecal transplant" (for real!) which involves feeding healthy feces into someone infected with the C. difficile bacteria. This somewhat controversial procedure is done in a few hospitals. And it also sounds like a disease that Doctors Larry, Curly and Moe used to treat all the time.


Sneeze modeler: When a sneeze or spittle from a cough lands on the face of 'the modeler,' it is studied in hopes of finding the areas of the body most susceptible to the flu virus. And a big "AHH-CHOO!" to you too.

Bad-dance observer, dung curator, oceanic-snot diver, doomsday fact-checker, bean counter (not the CPA kind), tissue-reaper and multispecies baby tickler round out the top 10. These are real occupations, folks. A healthy imagination might give you a hint as to the job specs. So polish those resumes and you could be in line for a Nobel Prize if all goes well.  

Oh, as an afterthought, before you laugh these off, you may want to consider that this research was probably funded by a government grant... and you paid for it!

                                                              ***


Happy story with a winner: Jessica Silverman was walking past the Hilton New York Hotel in Manhattan recently when a person in the booth promoting an insurance company asked her to guess how many jellybeans were in their jar. Without breaking step lest she set herself up for a sales pitch, she said 7,954... and guess what? She was exactly correct and took home  $25,000. I love stories like that.

                                                              ***

Sad story with a looser: In Baltimore, a cult leader and two 'assistant cult leaders' were convicted of second-degree murder for starving a 1-year-old boy because he did not say "Amen" during a prayer. I hate stories like that.

                                                             *** 


Story that is just plain stupid: Another New York woman and her husband have filed separate lawsuits against a Manhattan wig store. The woman claims a mannequin head fell on her foot inflicting permanent nerve damage. The husband claims that injury has ruined their sex life because his wife can no longer curl her toes. Sounds a little kinky to me.

Is it Nuts Out There or is it just me?

Two leprechauns walk into a bank...

... and say in an adorable thick Irish brogue, "Well sure and by golly, this is a hold up." And police shot them dead. Now if that doesn't put a damper on the wearin' o' the green, I don't know what will.

Actually, that's a true story... but one thing I don't understand... wasn't the pot of gold they put at the end of every rainbow enough?

Just saw the second largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the United States. First, of course, is New York. But Savannah, Georgia the second? Really. Savannah only has a population of 200,000 but there were an estimated 400,000 watching. Actually, 400,002 counting my wife and I.

The parade featured 330 units from all over the country and lasted three-plus hours. It had Irish marchers, Irish dancers and Irish kissers, which is a big custom in this parade. Girls line the route and lay on the lipstick, then when some particularly handsome, or fun looking marchers come by, they rush out and plant a big, indelible kiss on the cheek. As for the marchers, some smile, some, like the Marine Corps units, don't even break step, but all march on as marked men. Fun time, even if the weather didn't exactly smile. My take on all of that... there are sure a lot more Irish in Savannah than I would have guessed.... And really, do the men wear anything under those kilts? It was cold and drafty and all I could think about was 'shrinkage."

So that explains why no post in a week. Ok... I'm ready again.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Pike's Pique

Oh, I know... a very clever title. Actually, it is right on. 







In Switzerland, the official animal lawyer of Zurich, a public defender for animals, took the fisherman who landed a 22-pound pike to court. Representing the pike, the attorney argued that the 10-minute fight to land the 4-foot fish caused it cruel and unusual punishment. Seriously, the Swiss take animal rights very seriously. Obviously!

In the world's most neutral country, if you want to own a dog, you must take a four-hour course on the care and fair treatment of dogs and other animals before you can buy the pet. According to the law, social species like birds, fish and yaks (I once knew a guy who went yak back riding) must have companionship. Bird cages and aquariums must have at least one opaque side to make the occupants feel safe. If you must put a sick fish to rest, you can't just flush it down the toilet. You must mercifully give it a sharp blow to the head or immerse it in a water-clove oil-alcohol mix.

Now mind you, the Swiss are known for their kindness to animals... and their right-to-die laws. Each year, hundreds of humans come to Switzerland to kill themselves... presumably with a sharp, self-inflicted blow to the head or by submerging themselves in a vat of water-clove oil-alcohol.

Back to the pike... regrettably, it lost the case... but its attorney has filed an appeal. Any subsequent victory might be met with a high five fin-to-hand slap and a celebratory, majestic leap out of water... except for the sad fact that the pike had already been eaten... and it was delicious!

In a recent national election, Swiss voters rejected a referendum that would have mandated all 26 cantons to hire animal defense attorneys... guess they figured one for all of Switzerland was just right... either that or they feared that with 26 lawyers, animals could get the upper hand... er paw, fin, whatever.

Now I understand why sharks don't eat lawyers... professional courtesy.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Thisa and thata about data

Isn't it about time I blamed something on Charles Darwin? Every one else seems to be. His darn theory of evolution... it's all his fault. Actually, if the world was the NCAA title basketball game, Team Evolution would be winning 85-29 with two minutes left, so it's really not that bad.

On the plus side, evolving helped us survive... that's big. But, it also was the cause of a lot of today's maladies. Like if we didn't use our spine to walk upright instead of on all fours, we wouldn't have chronic back problems... and we'd probably still have a cute little tail (like a bunny, I hope, not a beaver or kangaroo or monkey). And our Appendixes would do more than just go bad and kill us. We would all have dark eyes and coarse hair and our brains would not have shrunk 10 %. Now there's a real problem. (As an aside, a number of the NFL football players are donating their brains to science when they die. Today, it will take 10 % more players to equal the Neanderthal Bears of the old PFL--Prehistoric Football League.)

And here's a big one... today's average foot has grown four shoe sizes larger for both men and women since 1900. I just had a rare chance to look at the 2099 Buster Brown shoe catalog-- those companies have to work quite a bit in advance, you know-- and this is a nice pair your children will be wearing.

Evolution is good because if you are a guy, sperm develops better at lower than body temperatures... however, the testicles are now at a greater risk of injury. Thanks a lot, Darwin.

Evolution is good because if you are a gal, your pelvis is narrower, butt not so big, for walking. However, it makes a tighter squeeze when giving birth. Says my daughter, *&%# you, Darwin!

One last quiz item of interest that Darwin seems to have nothing to do with: Can you name the one part of the body, then and today, that is the same size at birth as it is at death? Everything else grows but this one thing. Got it? The eyeball.  Enough Darwin-bashing. On to something else.

                                                                        ***

What do the numbers 39-18-33 mean to you? How about a svelte woman's measurements? (Didn't think of that, did you?) And that woman is 50 years old! I'm talking about Barbie here... and my, doesn't she still look so good? The measurements, of course, are her proportions as if she is a real person, not counting childish fantasies. It is no wonder that Ken chased her for so many years. Oh, I know... it was only for her personality.

Well, Barbie just had a very good year... for her Godfather Mattel, that is. In 2009, Barbie sales jumped 12% in a down toy market. However, Barbie is starting 2010 out on a different note, if this news is any indicator.

Walmart has been accused of 'Barbie racism' by 'activists.' (Story didn't specify if it meant Barbie activists or race activists... just activists.) Seems one store had dark-skinned Barbies and light-skinned Barbies displayed side-by-side, and the price tag on the dark-skinned Barbies read $3 while one shelf to the left, the light-skinned Barbies were going for $5.93.

That "devalued the black doll," said the activists.  It was nothing more than inventory management, said Walmart.

All I know is that G.I. Joe never had these problems. If he did, he would have come out firing.

HOT NEWS: Mattel has just announced that it will be marketing a new version of Barbie and Ken styled after the characters in the "Mad Men" TV series... which will be quite a change for Barbie... a steno pool worker and Ken, an account executive who chain smokes. 

                                                                         ***


Oh, if you look down two posts (to March 9th), you will see I talked about the major earthquake in Chile. Well, I have just a little bit more. the 8.8 quake on the Richter Scale was so significant that it not only moved cities a few inches, it actually shortened earth's day. Really! NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab geophysicists have calculated it shifted the axis of Earth's mass by 3 inches from where it was. That has the same effect, says one geologist, "as an ice skater going around in a circle... when she pulls her arms in, she goes faster." Well we are.

Thanks to Chile, our Earth day is now 1.26 millionths of a second shorter than it used to be. So if you haven't already reset your clocks to daylight savings time, remember to stop 1.26 millionths of a second short of an hour and you won't even notice the difference. For those of you who have already adjusted your clocks, hold on tight.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Another damn post on happiness

Geeze... get off my back already. I'm happy, ok? Can't you tell? So shut up!

Alright. Here's what this is all about. A few recent studies have shown that, on the happiness scale, about 64% of us say we are very happy... like an 8 out of 10 in happiness. That paints a pretty happy American picture... perhaps skewed somewhat because happiness really is hard to measure. I knew a guy who laughed once (at his own stupid joke)... just once in all the years I knew him. He said, with a gruff frown, "I'm happy, damnit!"

Now I'm more willing to go along with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's study. It tried to quantify how happiness might be measured. Married people, for example, and wealthy people tend to appear happier than poor alone sorts. Well duh!

Those who had access to clean water, medicine and other life essentials are happier than those who are hopelessly sick and drink fetid water. Hmmm. So far, I get it.

Anyhow, that study of a large sample, 350,000 people, showed which states are the happiest. If you are really slap-happy (you laugh inanely for no apparent reason), then you would live in Louisiana, Hawaii, Florida, Tennessee and Arizona... the top five.

New York, not surprising to me, is dead last, just ahead of Connecticut, Michigan, Indiana and New Jersey... the bottom five. I live in number 13, so ha ha ha.

Does it seem coincidentally strange that the top five are all 'no winter' states... relatively speaking, and people who live in the bottom five say things like, "I really love the snow, don't you," or "Nothing makes you feel so alive as a brisk 20 degrees below zero, wind-in-your-face day."

Now here's another measurement to worry about. Bored people are two-and-a-half times more likely to die of heart problems, says a British study. Boredom may be a sign of depression or associated with an unhealthy lifestyle... smoking, drug use, lack of exercise.

So here's the bottom line. If you live in New York and are bored, WATCH OUT! On the other hand, if you live in Louisiana, you could die giddily happy in a hurricane.

Take this happiness test... If you find any of these funny, you may be ok. If you don't, then maybe you deserve what you get:

Doctor, you've got to help me; I can't stop thinking I'm a goat.
I see. And how long have you had this problem?
Ever since I was a kid.

A woman goes into a dentist's office and says, "I think I'd just as soon have a baby as get a tooth pulled."
The dentist says, "Make up your mind. I have to adjust the chair."

"I'm sorry to tell you," the doctor says, "but you only have about five minutes to live."
"Oh, my God, Doctor, isn't there anything you can do for me?"
"Well, would you like me to boil you and egg?"

Ta-dah!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ever wonder what the hell to blog about?

Nothing seems to fit together... you have this and that, but no theme... and having just cleaned up after your dog, your senses are numbed.  So, getting desperate, you say, "OK. I'm going to write about everything all at once." Satisfied with that stroke of genius, you begin:

If this doesn't have you shaking your head, then you are not a bobble-head doll... or too dense to get the irony. In South Carolina, two black high-schoolers were awarded a $150,000  settlement against their school because other black students mocked them for "acting white."  Their lawyer said the school had an obligation to protect them from racial harassment and "to do well in school is considered acting white... that is part of why we're saying that it was racial." Wait... huh? Sad, actually.

The 8.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Chile was about 100 times more powerful than the one in Haiti. (It's a Richter Scale thing.) Want to know how powerful that is? Well, it MOVED the capital city, Santiago, about 11 inches to the west/southwest... the Chilean city of Concepcion is actually 11 feet further west! And no, I don't know how they measured it... don't ask stupid questions. That's my job.

Think that's a big deal? The six- mile wide meteor that hit Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula a mere 65 million years ago-- the one that scientists believe wiped out the dinosaurs-- altered earth's orbit by 3 1/2 inches! Now I know... for that, they borrowed God's GREAT BIG TAPE MEASURE.

All this does is confirm my theory. If China, with it's 1.3 billion people, really wanted to threaten the rest of the world, all it would have to do is tell all of its people to stand perfectly still until an agreed-upon split second, then jump up and down at the exact same time. Whammo! end of earth... either that or it will bring the dinosaurs back and prove once and for all that Godzilla was real. (He certainly looked real in the movie.)

Usain Bolt, the world-record holder of the 100-meter dash and acknowledged "fastest man on earth, hits the tape at about 28 miles per hour in just 9.69 seconds. How impressive is that? Compared to a cheetah, not much, but if you consider, from the starter's gun to the breaking of the tape, 42 babies were born in the world... more if one of the mothers was Octomom. Now I am impressed.

A Wyoming University study determined the real limitation on running speed is the rate at which muscles in the body can contract and propel the limbs forward. By analyzing muscle fibers and running lots of tests, it was theorized that a human, running a perfect race, could hit 40 mph! That would give him a 6.67 second, 28 baby, 100-meter dash... and leave Bolt some 40 yards behind.

World record for driving a truck the most miles with cardboard completely covering the front windshield has to go to the Chinese guy who didn't have time to fix the cab's shattered glass. So he punched a few eye holes in the makeshift cardboard 'windshield' and alternated seeing by using the holes to see and sticking his head out the driver's side window. How far did he drive in the bitter cold? Would you believe 400 miles? When he was finally pulled over by observant police, his face was a windblown bright, Barney-like purple.

A joke... always end a lame post with a joke:

Patient: Nurse, I keep seeing spots in front of my eyes.
Nurse: Have you ever seen a doctor?
Patient: No, just spots.

Friday, March 5, 2010

And they call the wind Maria... I don't think so!

Away out here they got a name
For rain and wind and fire
The rain is Tess, the fire Joe,
And they call the wind Maria*


... and don't tell me you weren't singing the tune as you read the verse. Well, that's a fun wind... like, "ha ha, look at my cow, blowing away with milk coming out her nose" fun. We make up romantic songs to those winds.

I tell you friend, that is such a sissy wind compared to some. Ever been to the top of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire? It stands just 6,300 feet above sea level (Mt. Everest is at 29,000 feet), but because it sits in the path of three major storm tracks and has a few other geological factors thrown in, Mt. Washington has some of the hardest-blowing winds ever recorded, often exceeding 100 mph! As a fact, a big wind almost blew my step-daughter off the mountain (seriously) when she was visiting there as a little girl.

A category 5 hurricane-- the kind that destroyed New Orleans-- exceeds 155 mph and you know what that can do. Now let's push the envelope... winds over 200 mph. Actually, for Mt. Washington, that is not even rare. It once held the measured wind speed record of 231 mph. 

How strong is a 200 mph wind? If you were lining up against 6' 4", 260-pound Brian Urlacher of the Chicago Bears, it would be like hitting cotton candy compared to "the big wind." Nobody goes out in the big wind.

Tropical Cyclone Olivia, which tore across the Indian Ocean in 1995, had winds measuring 253 mph... the highest ever recorded on earth! 

If the rain is Tess, the fire Joe,
We'll call this wind @#%&*!!ier (has to rhyme with Fire, sort-of).

*Soundtrack and Lyrics from Paint Your Wagon"

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ever have that 'falling' dream?

Hmm... neither have I. But if I did, I'd be ready because I just read an item from a Popular Mechanics guy--could'a guessed that... those people think of everything weird--  'How to Survive a Very Long Fall.'

First thing he says..."if you're going to fall 35,000 feet from a plane without a parachute and live, it's probably best to ride a piece of debris on the way down." See, I KNEW there was a catch to it. With my luck, the debris I grab will the the in-flight magazine. "Granted," he says, "the odds of surviving a six-mile plummet are extraordinarily slim, but at this point you've got nothing to loose by understanding your situation."

Believe it or not, there are at least 31 confirmed survival stories. Alan Magee was blasted from his B-17 on a 1943 mission over France and lived. He 'free-fell' 20,000 feet and crashed into a train station. He was then taken as a prisoner-of-war by German troops who probably said, "Ach du lieber" (I have no idea what that means) because they couldn't believe he was still alive.

A skydiving "Brit" fell 10,000 feet after his parachute failed to open. He landed on the roof of an aircraft hangar which 'flexed' to break his fall.

 Don't think I haven't thought about it though. If it were me, I'd keep my legs loose so I could flex just as I hit the ground, then pop-up, spread my arms high and yell "Ta-dah" to the amazement of all those watching. I've got a back-up plan for plunging elevators too.

Actually, it isn't the height that kills you, people who read Popular Mechanics say... it's the sudden stop.