Saturday, January 31, 2009

A happy gathering

This afternoon and evening was spent in the company of a merry band of rogues fellow bloggers. Over a dozen gathered chez Phlegm, with plenty of good food and equally good fellowship. Needless to say, one of the kitchen counters had to be cleared to accommodate a very large collection of handguns and knives for a 'show-and-tell'. Anyone selecting Phlegm's apartment as the target for a burglary attempt today would have had a very short time to realize how desperately mistaken his choice had been!

We had quite a well-traveled group. Lawdog arrived from the West, Ambulance Driver and myself from Louisiana, Old NFO from further South, Farmgirl from (much) further North and West, and numerous others from closer to Dallas. Tomorrow morning, those who can make the time will be heading for a local farm to go shooting.

I was pleasantly surprised to have an online meeting with Breda and her husband Mike during the get-together. One of our number got them on an Internet camera chat circuit, and carried his notebook computer from person to person, so that we could see and be introduced to them, and could see them ourselves on-screen. Breda's as lovely on the screen as she is through her writing, and I look forward to meeting her and Mike one day in the flesh.

JPG, Holly and I have just arrived home. It's off to bed now, and then the drive back to Louisiana for me tomorrow. If I have time in the morning, I'll put up a couple of blog posts to keep you amused until I'm back home and can resume normal service.


Pit crew FAIL!

I'm sure we've all seen video of motor-racing pit crews changing tires, refueling cars, and so on. Their speed and dexterity are sometimes pretty amazing, as in this clip of a training session.

Unfortunately, not all pit crews are so conscientious . . .


I've heard of 'filthy lucre', but this is ridiculous!

The expression 'filthy lucre' goes back to the sixteenth century - but it could seldom be used more appropriately than to describe the rewards currently being reaped by the Nagano prefecture in Japan.

Resource-poor Japan just discovered a new source of mineral wealth -- sewage.

A sewage treatment facility in central Japan has recorded a higher gold yield from sludge than can be found at some of the world's best mines. An official in Nagano prefecture, northwest of Tokyo, said the high percentage of gold found at the Suwa facility was probably due to the large number of precision equipment manufacturers in the vicinity that use the yellow metal. The facility recently recorded finding 1,890 grammes of gold per tonne of ash from incinerated sludge.

That is a far higher gold content than Japan's Hishikari Mine, one of the world's top gold mines, owned by Sumitomo Metal Mining Co Ltd, which contains 20-40 grammes of the precious metal per tonne of ore.

The prefecture is so far due to receive 5 million yen ($55,810) for the gold, minus expenses.

It expects to earn about 15 million yen for the fiscal year to the end of March from the gold it has retrieved from the ashes of incinerated sludge.

"How much we actually receive will depend on gold prices at the time," the official said.

Some gold industry officials expect prices this year to top the all-time high above $1,030 per ounce set in 2008, on buying by investors worried about the deepening economic downturn.

I wonder how many householders will set up their own effluent gold-panning operations after reading this report? Come to think of it, how about designing a septic tank that does it automatically?


Make-up martyrdom?

I'm concerned to read a report in the Daily Mail about the ingredients in many items of modern make-up, and the health risks they pose. Of course, since I don't use make-up, I'm not in danger from them: but I guess my sisters and lady friends are, so I thought it might be worthwhile to highlight the risk.

The British cosmetic, toiletry and perfumery industry is worth more than £6.5 billion a year.

Yet just this week, research was published showing that common chemicals used in toiletries may make women more likely to be infertile.

Indeed, inside all those gleaming bottles and tubes we take for granted lurks a cocktail of dangerous synthetic chemicals that research suggests may be responsible for everything from reproductive complications to allergies and cancer.

The author goes into detail about hair care products, bath additives, toothpaste, nail polish, talcum powder, deodorant, etc. She adds:


If you have sensitive skin, you may well choose products bearing these labels in the hope that your risk of experiencing any irritation will be reduced.

'Hypoallergenic' and 'dermatologist tested' are two frequently used terms - but, unfortunately, they may bear little or no relation to the product.

Any product may legally call itself hypoallergenic. In evidence submitted to the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology and published in its report on allergies in 2007, Professor David Gawkrodger, consultant dermatologist at the University of Sheffield, said: 'There is no regulation of the term "hypoallergenic".

I see a whole list of things which I know can cause allergy, so I am rather cynical about the label of "hypoallergenic".'

Again, 'dermatologist tested' can be a meaningless statement. It may simply be
the case that a small number of individuals claiming to have sensitive skin have been tested and demonstrated no reaction to the product.

'The testing may not be scientifically valid and there's no guarantee the product will not cause reactions in others.'

As the Select Committee report remarks: 'The allergenicity of a substance is dependent on an individual person's response and their tendency to develop allergies.'

In 2004, product testing and campaigning charity Which? wrote to ten leading British cosmetics companies asking them to explain the use of terms such as 'dermatologically tested' on their products.

Eight replied and explained that such claims referred to tests intended to provide reassurance to consumers about product safety. Though general information about the tests was provided, none gave specific details of trials conducted or test results.

Which? asked two expert dermatologists to examine the information provided to assess its validity, but because it was incomplete they were unable to do this comprehensively.


Make-up composed of inorganic pigments, such as mica, zinc oxide and iron oxide, is hugely popular, and is frequently being touted as a 'natural alternative' to conventional products.

But there is a lack of industry regulation on mineral make-up and the term 'natural' can be a bit of a misnomer, too, as the minerals have to go through stringent chemical and purification processes to be included in cosmetic products.

Other controversial issues surrounding mineral make-up are the use of ultra-fine particles in some brands, which are 'nano-sized' (once inside the body, there are concerns that nano particles seem to have unlimited access to all tissues and organs, including the brain, and may cause cell damage that we don't yet understand) .

Some mineral make-up brands may also use potentially toxic minerals such as talc, aluminium and bismuth oxychloride - a by-product of lead and ore refining that can cause skin irritation and scratch the surface of the skin.

Having said that, if you are determined to use mineral make-up - particularly the more ethical brands - you will be exposing yourself to far fewer synthetic chemicals on your face than if you use conventional make-up.

Food for thought! I'd be interested to hear from my lady readers (and male readers who happen to use any of this stuff, apart from the basics) about whether you've experienced any of the side-effects she lists. Please let us know in Comments.


What a great idea!

As a relationship counselor (among other things that a pastor - even a retired pastor - has to do), I've long been a very vocal critic of the 'dating game' (or the 'meat market', as some have called it). I regard much of the modern boy-meets-girl scene (or vice versa) as extremely unhealthy, not very moral (to put it mildly), and a recipe for exploitation.

That's why I'm delighted to read about Playdate.

Lynne Lucas is taking herself off the meat market. Monique Brown is sick of having to look cute all the time. And Scott Hayes is searching for his inner child.
Imari Havard, co-founder of PlayDate, dances with some participants on the dance floor.

It's Saturday night at PlayDate in Atlanta, Georgia, where 400 adults have gathered to play games, drink and socialize.

"It's not your usual bar scene where I look good, you look good, I'm scared to talk to you," Hayes says as he scans a giant Jenga tower for the right block to pull. "You'll talk to anyone when you're playing games, because you're trying to beat them."

Next to Hayes, Brown watches a rambunctious game of Pictionary while a twosome fights it out with Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots nearby. Across the room, Lucas joins her friends in a game of Trouble. And on the dance floor, Imari Havard is hula-hooping with some ladies.

Havard is the co-founder of Timeless Entertainment Concepts, host of PlayDate, with Ryan Hill and Ronald Gaither.

Timeless' mission is clear: provide a fun alternative to the typical nightlife scene for an entrance fee of just $10 per person. In other words, if you're looking for love in all the wrong places, try a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos.

. . .

"To be able to play games again and not be an adult for one night, it's kind of fun," [Alisha] says. "It's not the typical, uneasy having to go up to someone you don't know, because everyone has on these silly nametags, and [the games] are like an icebreaker."

Todd Jones agrees. A PlayDate veteran, Jones has been coming to the events since they started three years ago. He's even attended launches in other cities and says the atmosphere is the same everywhere.

"When you go to a club, people will stand around. They're very defensive," Jones says. "But here, you really have to intermingle."

Gesturing to the six women he's playing Uno with, Jones says he doesn't come to PlayDate looking to hook up. "I just come here really to have a good time. If something happens after that, then, fine."

Havard says that's the basis of his company, Timeless, which also offers Paint By Numbers and Call Me UP. Paint By Numbers lets people socialize while painting a 100-square-foot mural. Call Me UP is a new interactive take on a stand-up comedy club.

"You go to a nightclub, a lot of times, that scene is the same," Havard says. "It's too loud; it's too dark; it's too smoky. A lot of people have on their nightclub personas, so you don't get to know real people. What we've found with PlayDate is, it lets people let their guard down and be themselves. It's romantic, in a sense, because you begin to connect like you did when you were younger."

There's more at the link.

I find this very encouraging. I think one's far more likely to have fun, and meet someone compatible, in a relaxed, informal, relatively unstressed setting like this. Full marks to Messrs. Havard, Hill and Gaither for a great idea!


Friday, January 30, 2009

Made it to Dallas

Evening, all. I got into Dallas safe and sound this afternoon, and I'm staying with JPG and Holly and their three dogs (all of whom are trying to persuade me that they've had no attention from anybody at all since my last visit, and they're totally neglected, and they need all the love I can give them. They do a great job of acting!)

I'm very tired, and rather stiff (driving long distances with titanium straps holding your back together can do that). I'm going to soak myself in a nice hot bath, then catch up on some sleep. I'll try to post something more interesting tomorrow morning, before heading into Dallas with my hosts to meet up with a bunch more bloggers.


Oh, the snark!

The redoubtable and ever-brilliant Iowahawk has done it again. He takes the allegedly proverb-illustrating Kenyan statue President Obama keeps on his desk, and runs the metaphor ragged!

A few examples of his take on proverbial wisdom around the world:

"If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel together. If you want to travel in comfort, fake an ankle sprain and convince the other travelers to carry you."

"Do not curse the crow who has stolen your chili; tomorrow his rectum will curse the dawn."

"Do not waste your time talking to the yak. Because yakkity yak don't talk back."

"Working together, two men can do the work of three. The trick is convincing those two other suckers to work together."

"The power of the leader is like his loincloth: worn too tight it will ride up and chafe, worn too loose it will expose all his junk."

There's lots more at the link. Go read, and laugh!


A Congressman I could come to like!

I'm cackling at US Rep. John Carter's latest legislative proposal. He's taken to heart the politically-well-connected tax cheats (Rangel and Geithner, whom we mentioned just the other day) who've used their connections to escape the consequences of their crimes: and he's done something about it - something original.

All U.S. taxpayers would enjoy the same immunity from IRS penalties and interest as House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Obama Administration Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, if a bill introduced today [01-28-2009] by Congressman John Carter (R-TX) becomes law.

Carter, a former longtime Texas judge, today introduced the Rangel Rule Act of 2009, HR 735, which would prohibit the Internal Revenue Service from charging penalties and interest on back taxes against U.S. citizens. Under the proposed law, any taxpayer who wrote “Rangel Rule” on their return when paying back taxes would be immune from penalties and interest.

“We must show the American people that Congress is following the same law, and the same legal process as we expect them to follow,” says Carter. “That has not been done in the ongoing case against Chairman Rangel, nor in the instance of our new Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. If we don’t hold our highest elected officials to the same standards as regular working folks, we owe it to our constituents to change those standards so everyone is abiding by the same law. Americans believe in blind justice, which shows no favoritism to the wealthy or powerful.”

Carter also said the tax law change will provide good economic stimulus benefits, as it would free many taxpayers from massive debts to the IRS, restoring those funds to the free market to help create jobs.

Let's hear it for the Congressman! Regrettably, I don't think his bill has a chance of going anywhere in the Democrat-controlled Congress . . . but he's got the right idea. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and the law for the rich and powerful should be precisely the same for the poor and powerless.

Congressman Carter, if I'm ever resident in a district you represent (or want to represent), you've got my vote.


On the road - comments will be delayed

I'm heading for Dallas today (Friday) to join in a blogmeet at the lovely Phlegm's place. A bunch of us will be getting together tomorrow to sort out the problems of the world (as usual).

As a result, I won't be able to edit and moderate comments on the road. Please feel free to post your comments as usual, but they won't be displayed until I can get at a computer late tomorrow afternoon to approve them, and delete those from advertisers and idiots. (There's always a few.)


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Doofus Of The Day #156

A tip o' the hat to Larry S. of Virginia for e-mailing me about this story.

Now and again criminals do something particularly stupid - and, in this case, they brought a smile (and perhaps a belly-laugh or two) to an entire nation!

Two hardened suspects on New Zealand's North Island tried to make a break from a courthouse Wednesday, still tied together by handcuffs. But before they could run across the street in Hastings, they were hit by pepper-spray — and that’s where their bolt for freedom went horribly wrong.

Stumbling onwards, the hapless criminals appeared to forget they were tied together — and ran on either side of a streetlamp.

They slammed into each other, fell to the ground, and collapsed in a heap.

The first prisoner, Regan Reti, 20, had just been jailed for more than two years after being convicted of assault. The other inmate, Tiranara White, 21, was in custody for allegedly stealing a car and violating parole.

“They fell over and they were sprayed with pepper spray. But they got up and ran out of the court onto the street, across the road to a car park,” Senior Sergeant, Dave Greig, explained.

“That’s where they met the pole — it was all over, rover.”

Police said Reti, who pleaded guilty to the charge, had a month added to his prison term. White did not enter a plea, and will remain in police custody while a psychiatric evaluation is carried out.

Naturally, the pair won’t be allowed to forget Wednesday's ludicrous escape attempt — because, in a good old fashioned dose of New Zealand humor, the whole episode was released to the public after being caught on CCTV .

The country’s TV One News has already billed it as “one of the worst escape attempts ever seen."

And here, in all their grainy glory, are our two Doofi - caught in the act!


Fun with gardens

I do enjoy the British sense of the whimsical. An English householder has charmed her neighborhood by carving her hedge into the semblance of a whale.

The enormous sculpture, with its big smile and flicked-out tail, has proved a big hit in the seaside town of Whitstable, Kent.

Its creator, Nicki Leggatt, 59, a senior lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University, said she decided to transform the hedge outside her detached home when she first moved to the area.

She said: 'It was just a huge overgrown privet hedge when I first moved here in 2003.

'In my first year here, I cut it into a rough shape by hand and then I bought some electric trimmers and I've been cutting it ever since.'

The marine sculpture has attracted plenty of attention and has become a popular attraction for parents and children.

'Loads and loads of people have noticed it and bring their kids down to have a look at him which is just lovely,' she said.

'I normally cut it in the summer - I'm growing the end of the tail which is why it looks a bit messy at the moment.

'I feel like I have a duty to maintain it now.'

For Christmas this year, she put an oversized Father Christmas hat on his head for a bit of festive fun, but it was stolen - twice.

She found the hat in a nearby road after the first incident, but after replacing it, another thief made off with it.

'I don't really mind, it's quite funny in a way,' she said.

'But it is strange that some people feel a need to ruin things that are started for other people's enjoyment.'

Never mind the idiots, Ms. Leggatt - the rest of us enjoy it!


Of smells, scents and pongs

I've been amused by two separate reports today, both dealing with odoriferous matters of one sort or another.

The Daily Mail reports:

Little girls may be made of sugar, spice and all things nice - but their underarms smell of onions and grapefruit, scientists say.

Men, on the other hand, are more likely to whiff of pungent cheese after a hard day at work.

These are the conclusions from a bizarre study which investigated the distinctive armpit odours of men and women.

Scientists at Firmenich, a company in Geneva that researches flavours and smells for the food and perfume industry, took samples of armpit sweat from 24 men and 25 women after they had spent time in a sauna or 15 minutes on an exercise bike.

The volunteers were asked to wash before the experiment and avoid wearing any perfumes or deodorants that could confuse the results.

To their surprise, the team found strong differences between the sexes.

Christian Starkenmann, who led the study, said: 'Men smell of cheese, and women of grapefruit or onion.'

When the armpit samples were analysed, the team found that women's sweat contained relatively high amounts of an odourless sulphur-containing compound, New Scientist magazine reports today.

When this substance was mixed with bacteria usually found in people's armpits, it was transformed into a chemical called thiol - which was already well known to the scientists for its onion-like smell.

The more of the sulphur-compound they added, the stronger and more overpowering the smell became.

The men, on the other hand, had a different chemical mix in their sweat. The researchers found high levels of an odourless fatty acid which released a cheesy smell when it was exposed to enzymes produced by armpit bacteria.

Although men are traditionally supposed to smell worse then men, a team of independent testers recruited by the Geneva scientists described the smell from women's armpits as the more unpleasant.

Dr Starkenmann hopes to use the findings to develop deodorants aimed at particular sexes. The deodorants could either knock out the unique substances in sweat - or prevent bacteria converting them into smelly chemicals.

Hmm . . . in my many and varied contacts with the fairer sex, I can't say I've ever found even one of them to smell like either onions or grapefruit! As for me (or any other man) smelling like cheese, I'm not really in a position to say - after all, I'd hardly notice it myself, would I?

This offers an interesting marketing opportunity, of course. Imagine a cheese - perhaps a vintage Stilton, with port - advertising itself as "smelling like His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales"! For that matter, how about a perfume (Chanel No. 10, perhaps?) "with the scent of Angelina Jolie onions and Paris Hilton grapefruit"?

The second report is from Summerville, South Carolina.

On Wednesday, the Oakbrook Post Office was blocked off and evacuated by emergency crews after they received a call about a suspicious package.

The incident lasted about three hours.

The call came into the Old Fort Fire Department about 7:30 Wednesday morning from a postal employee. Officials say the package was wrapped in plastic and was giving off a bomb-smelling odor.

They immediately evacuated the post office and several surrounding businesses, but after a few hours of searching there was no bomb to be found.

"There was stink. It just stunk. At first you didn't realize it was a skunk until the guy said 'I'm expecting a skunk' and then you're like, 'That's what it was,'" said one firefighter. "That's exactly what it was."

Apparently the skunk was being delivered to a taxidermist who later told officials he has animals delivered to his home all the time.

Y'know, I've been around a few dead skunks - and, in a previous career, around more than a few bombs and high explosive thingumajigs. I've never, even once, correlated the scents of both! How the heck a Post Office employee could decide that a dead skunk smells like a bomb is utterly beyond me . . .

(For that matter, why anyone would send a dead skunk through the mail takes some imagining!)


Moving house - the hard way!

An historic house on Manitou Island in White Bear Lake, part of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area in Minnesota, has been saved from demolition by moving it to a new location.

Only problem was, the island was separated from the mainland by about a hundred yards of open water - so they had to wait for the lake to freeze.

According to a news report:

It had the makings of everything Minnesotan: A cruel wind chill well below zero, a North Country fashion show of gawking onlookers and a 60-ton house reeled like a fish across White Bear Lake on ice that was 2 feet thick.

"It will be a win-win for everybody if we make it to the other side," said Doug Kraemer, who bought the 1880s-era house and paid about $40,000 to move it Wednesday from the lake's Manitou Island to yonder shore about 100 yards away. He wasn't the only one crossing his fingers. Many of the onlookers expected to see a frigid splash of historic proportions.

After workers placed dollies with 64 tires under the gray wood-frame house, used as a gatekeeper's residence on the island, a huge tow truck eased forward, stretching a steel cable until it was taut. The ice ahead shimmered like a groomed hockey rink. The truck tugged, the house crept, and the move was on.

"How many times do you get to see a house on the ice?" marveled Monty Fagnan of Lino Lakes. Fagnan's buddy Randy Larson of White Bear Lake joked that it was the biggest ice house he ever saw. He and Fagnan fantasized about using it for fishing.

Kraemer and the mover, Terry Semple of Semple Building Movers of St. Paul, didn't take the weather for granted. Last weekend, they pumped water onto the ice to make it thicker. Kraemer calculated that the lake level was 2 feet below normal, and said tests showed that the ice sat on about a foot of water and muck. And Denice Semple, Terry's wife, said the company hired an engineer who advised how to distribute the weight enough to keep the house from crashing through.

Must have been quite a challenge! There's a very interesting video clip of the removal operation at the link - recommended viewing.

I'm pleased they saved the old house. One of the things I most dislike about America is the way old buildings are torn down without a care for their past, or the heritage they represent. This one wasn't anything special in the way that a European manor house might have been, but it's an important part of the history of a country that's not very old to begin with. Such things are worth preserving for future generations.


World's best airline complaint letter?

Some of you may be aware of the outstanding letter of complaint recently written to Richard Branson, head honcho of Virgin Atlantic Airlines. It's become something of a viral Internet phenomenon.

The full text may be found here. A few extracts:

Look at this Richard. Just look at it.

I imagine the same questions are racing through your brilliant mind as were racing through mine on that fateful day. What is this? Why have I been given it? What have I done to deserve this? And, which one is the starter, which one is the desert?

You don't get to a position like yours Richard with anything less than a generous sprinkling of observational power so I KNOW you will have spotted the tomato next to the two yellow shafts of sponge on the left. Yes, it's next to the sponge shaft without the green paste. That's got to be the clue hasn't it. No sane person would serve a desert with a tomato would they. Well answer me this Richard, what sort of animal would serve a desert with peas in:

I know it looks like a baaji but it's in custard Richard, custard. It must be the pudding. Well you'll be fascinated to hear that it wasn't custard. It was a sour gel with a clear oil on top. It's only redeeming feature was that it managed to be so alien to my palette that it took away the taste of the curry emanating from our miscellaneous central cuboid of beige matter. Perhaps the meal on the left might be the desert after all.

. . .

I needed a sugar hit. Luckily there was a small cookie provided. It had caught my eye earlier due to it's baffling presentation.

It appears to be in an evidence bag from the scene of a crime. A CRIME AGAINST BLOODY COOKING. Either that or some sort of back-street underground cookie, purchased off a gun-toting maniac high on his own supply of yeast. You certainly wouldn't want to be caught carrying one of these through customs.

Brilliant! Snarky, sarcastic, and telling.

There's a sequel. According to the Telegraph:

Oliver Beale, a high-flying advertising executive, has been revealed as the author of a complaint letter to Virgin Atlantic which has been hailed as the greatest of its kind.

The missive - in which Mr Beale described in detail his "culinary journey of hell" - has since become an internet sensation and has been emailed around the world.

Mr Beale works as an art director at award-winning advertising agency WCRS in London.

He refuted suggestions that the letter was an advertising stunt and said it was a genuine complaint at the state of his meal.

Sir Richard later telephoned him personally to apologise and invited him to select the food and wines for future Virgin flights.

Mr Beale said: "He was incredibly nice about the whole thing but I haven't received any compensation since talking to him."

Full marks to Mr. Branson for taking the letter seriously. It's gotten such wide exposure over the Internet that his response is likely to score major brownie points for Virgin Atlantic.

Why can't all corporate executives be that way?


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I just can't believe my eyes!!!

I'm almost speechless over the sheer crassness of this . . . this . . . oh, hell, I can't find the right word!

An alleged 'artist', Matthew J. Clark, put a statue of President Obama on the back of a donkey, and led it up to the State of Iowa Capitol Building. He's posted pictures of the event here and here, but I can't reproduce them, because he's copyrighted them and reserved all rights. Click the links to see them.

He describes the event as follows:

While onlookers waived [sic] palm branches, a motorcade consisting of 4 black SUVs, the sculpture affixed to a donkey, and secret service agents made the the mile long triumphal entry which ended at the steps of the State of Iowa Capitol building.

I hasten to add that none of the vehicles - or individuals - were official(s).

Mr. Clark describes the purpose of this 'exhibition' as follows:

The sculpture poses a question that relates to religious icons, social conventions, metaphysics, and the collective response of society in reaction to fearful and uncertain times. For me, it has much more to do with us members of the general public - as followers - than any leader granted power.


Personally, I think the sculpture poses a serious question as to the sanity of all involved in this stupidity! However, that probably labels me as a Philistine (in the artistic sense, at least) . . . If President Obama is to be given such Messianic treatment, where does that leave his predecessors? Would that make George W. Bush one of the prophets? (A minor one, naturally!)

Y'know, this wave of hysteria over President Obama is getting beyond a joke. Today it was reported that the History Company has produced a pocket-sized edition of his 'sayings'. Their Web site proclaims:

Printed in a size that easily fits into pocket or purse, this book is an anthology of quotations borrowed from Barack Obama's speeches and writings. POCKET OBAMA serves as a reminder of the amazing power of oratory and the remarkable ability of this man to move people with his words. His superb and captivating oratory style has earned comparisons to John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and this historic collection presents words that catapulted his remarkable rise to the American Presidency. It is an unofficial requirement for every citizen to own, to read, and to carry this book at all times.

I put that last sentence in italics to highlight it. Have you ever heard such sycophantic bulls**t in your life? And if it ever does become a requirement - official or otherwise - to carry such crap around with me, rest assured I'll be burning it in public! (Probably a photocopy, though - at $49.50 for 10 copies, the real thing is as unaffordable as it's ridiculous!)



Doofus Of The Day #154 and #155

Our two Doofi today both made similar mistakes.

Doofus #154 is from Jena, Louisiana.

Drug busts aren't always easy.

But a Jena woman made things simple for the LaSalle Parish Sheriff's Office when she tried to make a drug deal via text message, authorities reported.

The person on the other end of the phone was Sheriff Scott Franklin.

Tracie L. Ingram, 36, of Jena was arrested Monday and charged with criminal conspiracy to commit possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute and possession of drug paraphernalia, officials said.

In October, the Sheriff's Office added an additional cell phone line to its plan and got a new phone number, Franklin said, and that number -- authorities have since discovered -- used to belong to an area drug dealer.

The detective assigned to the new number, Kevin Salters, started receiving odd text messages right after getting the phone. The text messages appeared to be from someone trying to purchase drugs. At first, Salters thought the messages were from co-workers playing a joke on him.

But he soon realized the messages were legit and turned the phone over to Franklin.

Within hours of getting the phone, Franklin and his team had Ingram in custody after just a few messages between her and Franklin, authorities said.

The woman wanted to buy $500 in cocaine, and through texts a buy was set up, police said. The Sheriff's Office, with assistance from Louisiana State Police, had patrol cars hidden when Ingram pulled up to make the buy, officials said.

"I wish all of our arrests would fall into our laps like this one," Franklin joked. "They say that our business is one of the only ones you don't have to advertise for, it just comes to us. But in this case, well, that's stretching that concept a little far. It's never this easy."

When officers searched Ingram's vehicle, they found $500 in cash, baggies deputies suspect Ingram would have used to break up the cocaine into smaller packages to sell for profit and drug paraphernalia, authorities said.

"There was some hairy moments where I was trying to guess the lingo normally used by the dealer in the text, like what word they would use for the type of drugs or what they would say for the money," Franklin said. "One wrong word or spelling could have triggered her to have been spooked and ended it all."

Moral of the story: make sure your list of important cellphone numbers is kept up-to-date!

A tip o' the hat to my online buddy, the Mad Rocket Scientist, for e-mailing me the link to the story of Doofus #155, from Everett in Washington State.

A 24-year-old man was arrested Wednesday morning for allegedly attempting to sell Oxycodone and other drugs.

Sounds mundane, until you hear that he was caught trying to make the deal inside a men's room stall at the Everett Police Department.

Two plain clothes officers were in the bathroom when they heard a man answer his cell phone and attempt to make a deal for the drugs, said Sgt. Robert Goetz with Everett Police Department.

Goetz says the man appeared desperate to get rid of the drugs and made several other calls from inside the stalls as one of the officers listened in.

As the officer was telling his partner what he had heard, the man exited the stall and headed out of the bathroom. He noticed the officer, who was wearing a shoulder holster and gun, and asked if he worked for probation, Goetz said. Officers believe the man thought he was at the probation office.

When confronted by the officers, Goetz says the man admitted to trying to make the drug deals in the bathroom and handed over his stash of drugs to the officers.

The man was arrested and booked into the Snohomish County Jail for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

Moral of that story: first, make sure you know where you are (!); and second, don't carry drugs around with you to either the police station or the probation office!

Ah, Doofi . . . they make life so much more entertaining!


Forewarned of the frightfuls

Hat-tip to Julie for e-mailing me the link to this story.

I'm amused at the news of a public service Web site launched by entrepeneur Jordan Eisenberg.

ONE hundred thousand men sick of copping a monthly serve from cranky wives and girlfriends have signed up for an online reminder service that warns when pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) is about to hit., the brainchild of a 28-year-old bloke whose mates were too often in cycle-related strife, is designed for men who have a darling of a partner for three weeks of the month – and a demon for the rest.

The reminders include pithy messages of encouragement such as “She’s on yellow - tread carefully, fella” - as well as tips for how men can mitigate the damage.

It tells men never to ask if a woman has PMS, and if all else fails to buy flowers, deemed to be "kryptonite to PMS."

Championing itself on the catchcry, "saving relationships one month at a time," the website also features a "national alert level" indicator for the US, showing how many women have PMS each day as well as the "overall threat index" on a scale of 1-4.

CEO and founder Jordan Eisenberg developed after friends talked about the world-class diplomacy men needed to bring up the topic of PMS with their partners.

"It's hard for guys to know if they did something to piss off their lady and hard to remember when PMS is, and always awkward to confront and ask the question without coming off like a jerk,” he told

“One of the guys actually kept track in his daily planner, and from there we decided to automate this process and offer it to the masses."

He admits that while functionality is first and foremost, some women may find the idea of their cycles being "tracked" a tad offensive.

"Certainly some do," says Eisenberg, "but the majority do feel it is helpful, and the remainder at least get a kick and a laugh out of it.

“Those in relationships have been overwhelmingly supportive and many have actually signed themselves up to warn their boyfriends (or) husbands. If anything, we feel we can minimise unnecessary fights by allowing men to offer some slack."

PMSBuddy started nine months ago and is now tracking the menstrual cycles of more than 100,000 women worldwide, including 4000 in Australia and 1000 in New Zealand via the site and a Facebook application.

Users enter the date and length of a woman's last cycle. Women can sign up to send reminders to up to five men in their life.

Anything from one to five days notice can be specified, allowing for warnings of various degrees of danger in the form of yellow, green and red alerts.

Eisenberg has received hundreds of emails of praise from both men and women, he said.

And if the online forums are anything to go by, it has certainly stirred some controversy.

There's more at the link, including some feedback from women.

I must admit, I've never had a girlfriend whose monthly dreadfuls were so bad as to need this kind of service . . . but I know some friends who haven't been so fortunate. Also, my lady friends tell me that for some of them, the four-weekly frightfuls really are that bad, so a warning to those they love (at other times) might not be out of place!

I'll be interested to see how this develops.


A novel towing solution

I'm impressed by a new way to tow motor vehicles - and to get to them through heavy traffic, if necessary.

A Swedish company, Coming Through, has developed the Retriever, a towing apparatus that fits onto the back of a motorcycle. Folded up, it looks like a high seat-back for the rider, with some weird bits and pieces behind it:

When it arrives at the scene of an accident or an immobilized vehicle, the driver unfolds the towing apparatus from the back:

When the vehicle's been hitched up, the result looks like this:

The vehicles are apparently very popular in Japan, where they seem to be in widespread use. The forum SVRider has some pictures of them in action.

They're also available in the USA. Apparently several have already been sold, and the US distributors are expecting to expand their market share significantly.

I'd have thought that the enormous weight difference between a car and a motorcycle would make for towing problems, but apparently the trailer is designed to deal with this. Effectively, all the weight of the towed vehicle is taken by the wheels of the trailer, leaving the bike free to simply pull it ahead, not carry an additional load.

There's a video demonstrating its operation.

Looks impressive! Full marks for ingenuity to whoever thought this up.


Football, concussion and brain damage

Two articles in recent days have focused my attention on this subject. CNN reports:

Until recently, the best medical definition for concussion was a jarring blow to the head that temporarily stunned the senses, occasionally leading to unconsciousness. It has been considered an invisible injury, impossible to test -- no MRI, no CT scan can detect it.

But today, using tissue from retired NFL athletes culled posthumously, the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE), at the Boston University School of Medicine, is shedding light on what concussions look like in the brain. The findings are stunning. Far from innocuous, invisible injuries, concussions confer tremendous brain damage. That damage has a name: chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

On Tuesday afternoon, researchers at the CSTE released a study about the sixth documented case of CTE in former NFL player Tom McHale, who died in 2008 at the age of 45, and the youngest case to date, an 18-year-old multi-sport athlete who suffered multiple concussions.

While CTE in an ex-NFL player's brain may have been expected, the beginnings of brain damage in an 18-year-old brain was a "shocking" finding, according to Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Bedford, Massachusetts, and co-director of the CSTE.

"We think this is how chronic traumatic encephalopathy starts," said McKee. "This is speculation, but I think we can assume that this would have continued to expand."

CTE has thus far been found in the brains of six out of six former NFL players.

"What's been surprising is that it's so extensive," said McKee. "It's throughout the brain, not just on the superficial aspects of the brain, but it's deep inside."

CSTE studies reveal brown tangles flecked throughout the brain tissue of former NFL players who died young -- some as early as their 30s or 40s.

McKee, who also studies Alzheimer's disease, says the tangles closely resemble what might be found in the brain of an 80-year-old with dementia.

"I knew what traumatic brain disease looked like in the very end stages, in the most severe cases," said McKee. "To see the kind of changes we're seeing in 45-year-olds is basically unheard of."

The damage affects the parts of the brain that control emotion, rage, hypersexuality, even breathing, and recent studies find that CTE is a progressive disease that eventually kills brain cells.

. . .

So far, around 100 athletes have consented to have their brains studied after they die.

Ted Johnson was one of the first to sign up. He said he believes that concussions he suffered while playing football explain the anger, depression and throbbing headaches that occasionally still plague him.

Johnson said he played through concussions because he, like many other NFL athletes, did not understand the consequences. He has publicly criticized the NFL for not protecting players like him.

"They don't want you to know," said Johnson. "It's not like when you get into the NFL there's a handout that says 'These are the effects of multiple concussions so beware.' "
Health Library

In a statement, the NFL indicated that their staffs take a cautious, conservative approach to managing concussions.

While they support research into the impact of concussions, they maintain that, "Hundreds of thousands of people have played football and other sports without experiencing any problem of this type and there continues to be considerable debate within the medical community on the precise long-term effects of concussions and how they relate to other risk factors."

The NFL is planning its own independent medical study of retired NFL players on the long-term effects of concussion.

There are more details in the full article. Recommended reading - particularly if you have a son who's playing, or wants to play, football at school or college.

What am I bet that the NFL's study will downplay the risks, and emphasize the safety features built into the sport? There's far too much money riding on the game for the NFL to want to risk losing viewers and spectators by changing the rules to minimize the risk of injury. I don't think they'll do anything particularly constructive - their current response is a pretty good indication of this.

The second report is from the BBC.

People concussed in their youth show subtle signs of mental and physical problems even more than 30 years later, say Canadian researchers.

The study, published in the journal Brain, found athletes with a history of concussion had worse physical and mental test scores.

The researchers stressed these minor changes did not affect day-to-day life.

Experts said minor head injury recovery could be slow, but this was the first hint of a longer-lasting effect.

The small-scale study involved just 40 former athletes aged between 50 and 60, 19 of whom had a history of one or more concussions in their youth.

The researchers from Montreal University carried out a battery of tests, covering everything from short-term memory and the ability to follow simple verbal and written commands, to motor control.

The previously concussed volunteers had poorer performance in the memory tests, delayed responses to unpredictable events, and were unable to complete the hand control tests as quickly.

Dr Louis de Beaumont, who led the study, said: "This study shows that the effects of sports concussions in early adulthood persist beyond 30 years post-concussion, and that it can cause cognitive and motor function alterations as the athletes age.

"Athletes should be better informed about the cumulative and persistent effects of sports concussion on mental and physical processes so they know about the risk associated with returning to their sport."

The Canadian study would seem to corroborate the findings of the Boston University investigation.

I'm guessing the pressure to keep football as a high-stress contact sport will be very high - after all, with so much money involved, those getting rich from it won't want any changes that might affect that! Still, if I had a son, there's no way I'd allow him to play football in high school - not with this sort of evidence piling up.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Doofus Of The Day #153

A wannabe cross-species rapist in Russia got his come-uppance (or should that be put-downance?) in no uncertain terms recently. According to The Sun:

A FEISTY raccoon has bitten off a pervert’s penis as he was trying to rape the animal.

Alexander Kirilov, 44, was on a drunken weekend with pals when he leapt on the terrified – but toothy – fur ball.

“When I saw the raccoon I thought I’d have some fun,” he told stunned casualty surgeons in Moscow.

Now Russian plastic surgeons are trying to restore his mangled manhood.

“He’s been told they can get things working again but they can’t sew back on what the raccoon bit off," said a pal.

“That’s gone forever so there isn’t going to be much for them to work with."

Hmm . . . what part of GRRROOOWWWRRRR! didn't he understand?


Foreign exchange indeed!

It is to laugh . . .

A woman in Denmark played a high stakes game last week when she successfully convinced a bank to exchange bills worth two thousand "kronor" in Swedish Monopoly money for a quantity of real Danish money.

But the 61-year-old may be left needing a "get out of jail" card after a second attempt to exchange the toy cash backfired.

The fraud attempt began on Thursday, when the woman entered a branch of the Nordea bank in Svendborg and handed over two fake bills. When the teller failed to spot that the Swedish bills were far from authentic, the woman walked away from the counter with a cool 1,400 Danish kroner ($240), local newspaper Fyns Amts Avis reports.

Branch manager Ulrik Feveile Nielsen told the newspaper that an inexperienced staff member had been manning the cash desk at the time.

"As long as humans are involved, mistakes will happen," he said.

But rather than quitting while she was ahead, the woman had another roll of the dice and returned to the bank the following day with a further eight thousand "kronor" in Monopoly money.

This time staff were wise to her ways and immediately reported the matter to the police.

When placed under arrest, the woman claimed that a third party had forced her into the fraudulent exchange attempts.

I'm torn between amusement at her sheer cheek, and scorn that she'd be dumb enough to go back to the same bank to try her luck again!

Oh, well. At least the Swedes are having a good laugh over it!


Poetry saves toilet paper???

I'm bemused by a report from Japan.

Poetry in the loo can cut down on paper use too, says a Japanese group campaigning to save toilet paper as part of the country's battle against global warming.

Simply pasting a "toilet poem" at the eye level of a person seated in the cubicle can help cut toilet paper use by up to 20 per cent, a study by the research centre Japan Toilet Labo showed.

"That paper will meet you only for a moment," reads one poem. "Fold the paper over and over and over again," says another. Or just: "Love the toilet."

Now the group is looking to have its posters displayed in 1,000 public toilets.

"We asked ourselves what we could do for the environment in the toilet?" said Ryusuke Nagahara of the Japan Toilet Labo. "The answer is to save toilet paper and save water."

Toilet paper use in Japan has been increasing in recent years, according to an industry body, possibly because of a rise in the number of public toilets, where people tend to use more paper.

"It's because it's free," said an official at the Kikaisuki Washi Rengokai. "At home, people are more inclined to scrimp."

Of course, we Westerners are no strangers to poetry in toilets. Graffiti artists have seen to that for generations. One of my favorites was reported from an English university bathroom. Someone wrote on one of the walls:

One would think, to read all this wit
That Shakespeare himself came here to s**t!

Someone familiar with the Shakespeare controversy immediately added underneath:

My literary friend, you are mistaken:
This is the work of Francis Bacon.

Much chortling from the literati, no doubt.

My personal favorite was found in the bathroom of the Theological College at Edinburgh University, Scotland, home of the Presbyterian faith. Written below the light switch were the immortal words (borrowed and somewhat modified from Luke 2:32 in the King James Version of the Bible):

A light to lighten the Genitals.


When women are property, not human beings

I constantly struggle to explain to my lady friends in America that the freedom to be themselves, that they take for granted here, simply doesn't exist in many other parts of the world. They find it hard to believe me, even when I show them newspaper articles of forced marriages in the Islamic world, women being sold to prospective husbands for a 'bride price' in many tribal cultures in Africa, and - here in America as much as anywhere else - the horrible phenomenon of men murdering their wives and children rather than accept a divorce, on the grounds that 'if I can't have them, no-one else will'.

This same sickness is becoming more and more evident just South of our border. Reuters reports:

Teenage girls in northwest Mexico are dazzled by the glamorous "narco wives" who laze in beauty salons, draped in designer gear, getting Swarovski crystals glued onto their fingernails.

Each year, dozens compete in beauty pageants in the sun-baked hills of Sinaloa state where their legendary good looks draw wealthy drug traffickers who will sometimes pluck one out and spirit her off to a mountain hide-out.

Career prospects are few for Sinaloan girls, and landing a prominent drug trafficker means entering a world of untold riches -- luxury mansions, SUVs, endless spa sessions and a closet full of the priciest labels on the planet.

The dangers of getting sucked into the gangland world have jumped, however, as an army crackdown by President Felipe Calderon has sparked new turf wars and hitmen ignore old codes against slaying their enemies' wives, girlfriends or children.

In a sobering reminder of the risks they run, the reigning "Miss Sinaloa" beauty queen was arrested last month with her smuggler boyfriend in a truck full of guns and cash.

Days earlier, a top drug boss's former lover was found dead in a car trunk with "Z"s -- the mark of a rival gang's hit squad -- cut into her breasts, belly and buttocks.

. . .

... the raven-haired wife, Guadalupe, of Guzman's ally Hector "El Guero" Palma, was seduced away and decapitated in 1989 by a Venezuelan on the payroll of a rival drug faction.

Her killer also pushed her two children off a bridge to their death and sent Guadalupe's head back in a box to Culiacan, where a morbid portrait of the three now adorns their tomb.

"They are revenge killings. They settle scores. One way to hurt a rival is to kill the woman he loves most," said Ricardo Ravelo, a veteran drug reporter at Mexico's hard-hitting news magazine Proceso.

There's a lot more information in the full article, which I urge you to read.

I saw such attitudes many times while working as a chaplain in US prisons. The hard-line gang members treat their women as possessions, nothing more. If one of them lands up doing hard time, he'll 'hand over' his woman to another gang member - whether she likes it or not. If she tries to resist, she might - if she's very lucky - escape with a beating. More often she'll be scarred for life, perhaps even killed. I've known such women to be forced into prostitution to get money for their incarcerated boyfriends, be forced to traffic drugs (particularly bringing them to the prison, where they're worth a lot more than they are 'on the street', and where the women risk multi-year prison sentences themselves if they're caught), and so on.

Friends, for those of you with daughters who are still growing up, please don't keep them in ignorance of these realities. Many young American girls are naive to the point of insanity! They really think they can go anywhere, do anything, and no-one can or will stop them or hurt them. You might want to point out the example of Natalee Holloway . . . and she's not alone. Girls are killed like that each and every year in popular student holiday spots. It continues to happen, because the girls are never warned by their parents, and they never learn.

It's not a safe world for women. All the women's lib in the world hasn't changed that fact.

What brought this on, you ask? Just the daughter of a friend, who went to Mexico recently with a group of fellow students on a Christmas break . . . and came back raped, brutalized and scarred for life. I've had to try to talk her through the worst of it. She'll never be the same again.

Don't let it happen to your daughter.



From "God Bless America" to "God Help America!"

I'm forced to the conclusion that our legislators are either blind, or mad, or both. They seem intent on utterly destroying the foundations of the US economy.

I'm not targeting only the present Democratic administration and majorities in the House and Senate, either. Republicans have done no better when they've been in power. It seems to be a sickness in the Washington air - to gain power means to become corrupt, incompetent and cynically uncaring.

Consider these few examples (out of many I could cite):

  • The US Government dictated to financial institutions (in the 1990's) that they had to loan money to those not worthy of credit, or be punished by loss of access to markets and other penalties. Not surprisingly, the banks caved in to the pressure. Now that those chickens have come home to roost, the US Government wants to bail out those same banks with OUR money. Note: we didn't cause the problem, but we're sure as hell going to have to pay for it - or so say our politicians. Do they care what we think? Like hell they do.
  • In 'bailing out' the banks, the US government is offering support to those banks that can't keep afloat without it - in other words, those who made the worst business decisions. Those who made good business decisions, who don't need help, aren't getting any. That means that the poorly-managed banks are being subsidized by Uncle Sam at the expense of the well-managed banks. Is there any sense in that? Like hell there is.
  • The US Government supported the unions who feathered their nests, and those of their members, at the Big Three auto manufacturers, Chrysler, Ford and GM. The upshot is that those companies carry a multi-thousand-dollar overhead on every vehicle they sell, to pay for union and retirement benefits - something their competitors don't have to pay. Having been run to the edge of bankruptcy, the US Government has bailed them out to the tune of billions upon billions of dollars of OUR money - and is now talking about imposing new fuel economy and emissions requirements that will make the Big Three even less competitive. Insane? Deluded? You bet! - but that's our politicians. Will they listen to reason? Like hell they will.
  • The currently-proposed bailout package (the third) making its way through the halls of Congress and the Senate includes billions upon billions of dollars for projects that may prove ineffective and/or won't have any effect on the economy for some years to come. We need expenditure that will boost the economy in the short term - months if possible, one to two years at most. Instead, the politicians are talking about throwing money at their pet constituencies (including some highly corrupt and partisan organizations) that will benefit the politically connected, but do damn-all to help the rest of us. Other proposed expenditures will trickle down to the wider economy only over a five- to ten-year period - too late to do us any good in the current crisis. Do the politicians care? Like hell they do.
  • The current leadership of the House and Senate look set fair to undo many of the tax breaks brought in over the past decade, and are talking about increasing taxes in many areas. (Don't be fooled by their claims to be reducing taxes on the middle class. Instead, follow the numbers - which the mainstream media are conveniently not reporting. For every tax 'cut' or 'break' they talk about, they're adding dozens more taxes and charges and duties and levies on things that are less in the public eye. Net result - more and higher taxes.) As Winston Churchill famously said: "I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle." Do our politicians understand that? Like hell they do.
  • Speaking of taxes, we have a senior member of the House (Rangel) who's a tax cheat. We have a newly-appointed Secretary of the Treasury (Geithner) whose evasion of taxes came out during his confirmation process. We have another senior member of the House (Frank) who was instrumental in forcing banks to advance loans to non-credit-worthy customers - while engaged in a homosexual affair with one of the senior administrators of a State-guaranteed organization that would benefit from those loans. Conflict of interest? You can say that again! And don't blame only the Democrats - Republicans have Cunningham, Foley, Stevens, and a bunch of others of whom to be ashamed. Many - most? - of our politicians (of both major parties) are fundamentally dishonest and dishonorable, and they're surrounding themselves with appointees and lackeys of their own ilk. Can this possibly be good for our nation? Like hell it can.
  • Our legal system is mired in lawsuits, regulations, and restrictions that cripple the innovative, hobble the entrepeneur and reward the litigous. Vast numbers of lawsuits are settled before they ever come to trial, because it's cheaper for companies to do so than to pay legal costs, even if they're sure they'll win. Plaintiffs are encouraged by venal sharks lawyers to file such suits, in the virtual certainty that they'll get at least something for their trouble - whether or not they're entitled to it. Attempts to pass tort reform are stifled in Congress and the Senate, because the vast majority of our lawmakers are themselves lawyers, and won't go against their comrades in crime fellow lawyers. It's become so bad that if you legally shoot a scumbag wannabe rapist who breaks into your home to assault your wife or daughter, the odds are pretty good that the deceased scumbag's relatives will sue you for anything and everything they can get. They know your homeowner's insurance carries at least some liability protection, and they're banking on the fact that your insurer is likely to settle rather than fight the case in court. Result? Evil wins, you lose. Is this healthy for America? Like hell it is.
  • We're dealing with an illegal immigration crisis of epic proportions. For every one of the millions of Americans currently out of work, there are two to three illegal aliens in this country, taking jobs that would otherwise be available to our own citizens. And don't give me any crap about "Oh, they're only taking the jobs Americans won't do". In an economic downturn like this, when the priority is to keep one's family fed and clothed and off the street, I'm willing to bet most Americans with any spine would be willing to shovel manure if they had to, if that was the only way to provide for their loved ones. However, our politicians - seeing an influx of future voters who might be persuaded to vote for them - can't be bothered with that reality. Instead, they want amnesty, and 'immigration reform', and plan to open the floodgates to even more illegal immigration. Do they care that it's harming the country? Like hell they do.
  • The Social Security system, as well as programs like Medicare, are bankrupt by any logical accounting judgment. The income from Social Security taxes has been raided year after year by Congress to pay for other things, leaving the program with a drawerful of IOU's and no assets. It's highly likely that future generations - including my own - will get far less in the way of benefits than they were promised when they paid their taxes. Will this affect the politicians who shamelessly stole Social Security's assets? Like hell it will. They've passed their own retirement plan, vastly more generous than the rest of us can expect, and don't even contribute to Social Security. Go figure.
  • We're facing an implacable, determined, completely merciless enemy in militant Islam (note that I emphasize MILITANT Islam, not the broad mass of Muslims as a whole). These fanatics don't care how nice we try to be: they'll only be satisfied with the destruction of Western civilization. For our new President to give his first major foreign media interview to Al Jazeera TV, and make nice conciliatory sounds to the Muslim world, is something they regard (probably rightly) as a sign of weakness. We're at war, people, and it's not going to go away during our lifetimes - probably not during our childrens' lifetimes, either. That's the reality. Get used to it. But will you hear our present leaders acknowledge that fact? Like hell you will.

In 1957 a visionary woman by the name of Ayn Rand published a novel called 'Atlas Shrugged'. If you've never read it, you'd better get a copy, now, and do so. If you've already read it, get it out of your bookshelf and re-read it. It's almost uncanny how the State she portrays is coming into being, right before our eyes - and with the same catastrophic consequences she foresaw.

A review of 'Atlas Shrugged' in the New Yorker, soon after its publication, said that the novel's theme was unbelievable and pointless: “After all, to warn contemporary America against abandoning its factories, neglecting technological progress and abolishing the profit motive seems a little like admonishing water against running uphill.” Well, guess what? All the bailouts are doing is rewarding those who committed all those faults.

I don't endorse all elements of Rand's philosophy of life, but her prescience is frightening. Her 'fiction' appears to be turning into fact in many ways. If you're wise, you'll take that into account when you plan for your future, both short- and long-term.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Doofus Of The Day #152

Helpful advice for those wishing to dispose of garbage - don't dispose of your keys in the same dumpster!

A German man has just found this out the hard way.

A Mönchengladbach man was stuck with his feet in the air for hours after diving into a paper recycling container to retrieve his keys, police in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia reported on Monday.

“He got himself stuck upside down in the opening and suddenly couldn’t move back and forth,” a police spokesperson said.

An acquaintance of the man’s called the fire department when he saw the helpless 39-year-old’s feet poking out of the container on Sunday evening, police reported. Fire department workers used metal cutters to widen the container opening, which then caused the man to fall all the way inside.

Authorities were forced to cut a large hole in the container and build a makeshift lifting ramp to free the man about an hour later, police said.

“He had his keys again, but sustained a few cuts and bruises to get them,” the spokesperson said.

Must have been rather embarrassing for the poor guy. First, being located by his feet sticking out of the bin (hardly his most recognizable feature, I'd have thought!); then falling into it, rather than out, when the opening was widened; and finally having to sit amidst the garbage for an hour, while the 'authorities' cut a bigger hole to get him out again!

I wonder how long it'll take him to live that one down among his friends?

"Hey, here comes Recycle Man!"


A tasty record

I wish I'd been in Mexico City last weekend. A team of chefs and assistants managed to set a new world record for the biggest cheesecake ever made.

Chef Miguel Angel Quezada says 55 cooks spent 60 hours making the world's biggest cheesecake -- a 2-ton calorie bomb topped with strawberries.

The monster cake used nearly a ton of cream cheese, the same amount of yogurt, 772 pounds of pastry, 551 pounds of sugar and 331 pounds of butter.

More details at the link. There's already a video report on YouTube. Looks delicious!

Congratulations to all involved.


One lucky driver!

What's the old saying about God looking after fools and drunkards? I guess this driver must have fallen into one of those categories . . .

Some churches have bats in the belfry. This one has a car.

The Skoda saloon arrived at its unusual resting place after its speeding driver lost control, drove over the edge of a steep slope and flew for 100ft in the air before becoming embedded in the roof.

Fireman needed a special lift to reach the 23-year-old trapped 30ft above the ground late on Sunday night. After two hours trapped in the wreckage he was freed, badly hurt but expected to survive his injuries.

Next Sunday's service at the the Church of Our Lady in the East German village of Limbach-Oberfrohna might have to be cancelled while structural safety checks are carried out.

The minister, Johannes Schubert, said: 'I think it is a miracle that the young man is alive. The church we can repair; he would have been a different story if God had not been looking out for him.

'If we are allowed to hold a service on Sunday I think I shall make the theme of it "God moves in mysterious ways, his miracles to perform".'

More pictures at the link. I trust the driver will leave an offering at the church - monetary rather than automotive - once he's recovered!


Why does this never happen to me?

I'm infuriated to read of the good fortune of a group of roadside workers in Indiana. Why does this never happen to me?

There's been an amazing find by Indiana state workers in Hancock County.

Three workers cleaning up debris and old tires along Interstate 70 found over $100,000 in cash.

The money was packaged in a very large truck tire. Indiana State Police say the tire was packed the way drug money would be.

The money was found in a ditch just west of the Mount Comfort Road exit. Police say the workers should be commended for their honesty and professionalism.

I hope the workers get the money if no-one claims it: but I suspect the police will try to keep it on suspicion that it's drug money.

Now, if I'd found it . . . can you imagine the scale of the next blogger get-together? Complete with our very own private shooting-range for the day, and a by-invitation-only bloggers-and-friends evening at the best restaurant in town? Free air tickets provided for out-of-town bloggers, of course.


Ever heard of 'bandy'?

I hadn't either . . . until I learned that Sweden have just won the world championship in the sport.

Sweden claimed its ninth bandy world championship on Sunday, overpowering Russia 6-1 in a come from behind victory before more than 7,500 fans at the ABB arena in Västerås in central Sweden.

The victory was especially sweet for retiring Swedish coach Anders Jakobsson and 38-year-old veteran forward Marcus Bergwall.

For Jakobsson, who took over as the team’s coach in 2005 following Sweden’s last bandy world title, the 2009 championship broke a streak of frustrating second place finishes.

“It’s such a relief. For me, this is absolutely huge,” Jakobsson told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

“I wouldn’t have died even if we had lost again. We’ve been close several times, but maybe we needed this time to become good enough that we could defeat a Russian team which is so unbelievably good.”

Considered a niche winter sport in most parts of the world, bandy is popular in Scandinavia and many countries of the former Soviet Union.

The sport, sometimes referred to as “field hockey on ice”, is played on a sheet of ice roughly the size of a football pitch and features a small ball rather than a puck. Each team has eleven players on the ice at a time, include a goalkeeper, who is the only player allowed to intentionally touch the ball with his head, hands, or arms.

Players advance the ball by passing to one another or by dribbling the ball forward as they skate towards the opposing net, looking for an opportunity to score a goal by shooting the ball past the goalkeeper.

In last year’s bandy world championships, held in Moscow, the Russian team defeated Sweden 6-1 to claim its 14th title, continuing the country's long dominance of the sport, which has held a world championship tournament since 1957.

But this year, Sweden took advantage of the home ice advantage to turn the tables on the Russians.

More information at the link.

Intrigued, I looked for more information. Wikipedia has an extensive article on the sport, including these nuggets:

Games that are accepted as direct predecessors to bandy have been recorded in Russian monastery records dating back to the X-XI centuries. A game that could be recognized as essentially modern bandy was played in Russia by the early 1700s, although the rules used differed from those that were invented in England at a much later date. All the way through modern times, Russia has kept a top position in the Bandy area, being one of the founding nations of the International Federation, as well as the most successful team in the World Championships. Russians rightfully see themselves as the creators of the sport, which is reflected by the unofficial title for bandy, "Russian hockey," or "русский хоккей."

In the western world, Britain has played an important role in the development of bandy. A game similar to bandy was known in Wales as Bando. It was played throughout the country in varying forms and is still to be found in some areas. The earliest example of the Welsh language term bando occurs in a dictionary by John Walters published in 1770–94. It was particularly popular in the Cynffig-Margam district of the Vale of Glamorgan where wide stretches of sandy beaches afforded ample room for play. As a winter sport, British bandy originated in the Fens of East Anglia where large expanses of ice formed on flooded meadows or shallow washes in cold winters, and skating was a tradition. Members of the Bury Fen bandy club published rules of the game in 1882, and introduced it into other countries.

Bandy and hockey were used in parallel for the same sport, but today bandy is played on a frozen football pitch, and hockey on a smaller rink. Bandy/Hockey was divided by the North Americans in the 1800s by shrinking the pitch, goals and reducing the number of players.

Bandy in Sweden is famous for its "culture" - both playing bandy and being a spectator requires great fortitude and dedication. A "bandy briefcase" is the classic accessory for spectating - it is typically made of brown leather, well worn and contain a warm drink in a thermos and/or a flask of liquor.

Bandy is most often played at outdoor arenas during winter time, so the need for spectators to carry flask or thermoses of 'warming' liquid is a natural effect.

Interesting! I've seen ice hockey, but never bandy. I shall have to remedy that deficiency - preferably in company with friends equipped with the aforementioned brown leather bandy briefcases, complete with suitable contents!


Sunday, January 25, 2009

How do you turn a soldier into Chewbacca?

This video will show you. It's a demonstration of a Taser to what looks like a group of Latin American troops.


Doofus Of The Day #151

Today's Doofus award is a collective one, to the police precinct in Chicago that let this happen.

A 14-year-old aspiring police officer donned a uniform, walked into a Chicago police station and managed to get an assignment — patroling in a squad car for five hours before he was detected, police said Sunday.

The boy did not have a gun, never issued any tickets and didn't drive the squad car, Deputy Superintendent Daniel Dugan said.

Assistant Superintendent James Jackson said the ruse was discovered only after the boy's patrol with an actual officer ended Saturday. Officers noticed his uniform lacked a star that is part of the regulation uniform.

Police said they were investigating how the deception went undetected for so long in what they described as a serious security breach. Police said disciplinary steps are possible pending the outcome of the investigation.

Police didn't identify the boy because of his age. He has been charged as a juvenile with impersonating an officer.

Dugan said the boy looks older than 14 and was motivated by a desire to be an officer, not malice or "ill intent".

The boy once took part in a Chicago program for youth interested in policing, so he would have been familiar with some procedures, perhaps helping him blend in, police spokeswoman Monique Bond said.

Yes, this is funny, and full marks to the youngster for creativity . . . but what if he'd got into a shootout with a criminal? What if his partner had thought he could rely on him to back him up, only to find out - perhaps at the cost of his life or good health - that he was mistaken?

This should have been picked up before he ever got into a patrol car. Bad blunder, Chicago P.D.


This'll make you think!

The short video clip below raises all sorts of interesting questions.

Did you know:

  • There are more honors (high-IQ) children in India than the USA has children?
  • The top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004?
  • We are currently preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist, using technologies that haven't been invented, in order to solve problems we don't even know are problems yet?
  • One out of eight couples married in the USA last year met online?
  • In terms of its number of users, if Myspace were a country, it would be the 5th largest in the world (between Indonesia and Brazil)?
  • In 1984, there were 1,000 Internet devices; in 1992, there were 1,000,000; and in 2008, there were 1,000,000,000?
  • There are about 540,000 words in the English language - about five times as many as during Shakespeare's time?
  • It's estimated that a week's worth of the New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century?

The video will tell you more.

Makes you think, doesn't it?