Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Year End Lists Flood In, Sometimes Bizarrely

Now that 2011 is drawing to a close, all kinds of year end best of, worst of, weirdest of lists have come fast and furiously.

Just for chuckles, I've been going through some of them, and there are some bizarre tidbits mixed in. We humans, especially in American, are a strange bunch of birds.
To the operator of one Tumblr blog
there's nothing more fascinating
than spilled Cheetos.

One of my favorite year end list was the 90 best Tumblr blogs of 2011, at least according to Buzzfeed.  I don't know if all of them are the best, but, let's just say some people have too much time on their hands.
One of them, Lonely Cheetos, is just pictures of random Cheetos, usually crumbled, dropped on the ground.

Because there's nothing more fascinating in the world than Cheetos crumbs littering the sidewalk and floor.

Another of the Tumblr sites is Onion-Like Headlines in Real Life, which looks like a collection of strange headlines from the satirical site The Onion, but are real news stories. Samples include a Captain Obvious headline: "Some Childrens Cereal Packed With Sugar, Study Finds," or just head-scratching: "Man, High on Bath Salts, Arrested in Bra, Panties, Accused of Stabbing Goat."

I'm not sure why any guy would want to kill a goat while wearing a bra and panties, but then again, I've led a sheltered life. And for the record, I don't even own a bra and panties, so I guess that prevents me from going out and killing a goat.

Buzzfeed recently had its list of the year's favorite headlines, including this alarming one: "Zombie Caterpillars Rain Death from Treetops." Luckily, it's not as bad as you'd think. You can stand under trees and survive, it turns out. It's just that gypsy moth caterpillars got a fungus, died, and fell onto other caterpillars below, spreading the disease and killing them, too. Oh.

Another list tells us the most visited articles on news web sites.  Picking through that one, I see that CNN and MSNBC had their busiest days with the Japan earthquake and tsunami in March, which makes perfect sense. But then FOX New's most viewed online article was something about Kim Kardashian having a tangle with Australian immigration authorities or some damn thing.
Apparently, to many Fox News viewers, Kim Kardashian
was the most important thing to happen in 2011



You'd think if Kardashian's tangle was one of the biggest events of the year, I'd have heard of it, but this is the first time I've become aware of it. I guess I really don't know what's important in the world. Which is a shame. Because everybody else knows that anybody named Kardashian is more important that the Arab Spring, the faltering economy, the bad reality show that is the Republican primary, unprecedented disasters, Occupy Wall Street and Lindsay Lohan.

Crime is always in the news every year, and 2011 was no exception. The best crime roundup, found on Buzzfeed, is the Top 45 Best Mugshots of 2011. My favorites are probably a fat, sweaty Batman, arrested in Michigan and a driving while intoxicated suspect with "Got Beer" tattooed in giant letters across his forehead.

Motorists Beware: Heavy Foam Warning

We had freezing rain here in Vermont last night, just a little. Enough to ice up the roads and force us to hack our way into our cars this morning.

It's just one of those things you put up with in the winter. No biggie.

At least we didn't have to deal with the road situation in Cleveleys, on the British coast near Blackpool this week. What was apparently decaying algae formed a foam that was driven inland from the sea by a severe wind storm.

So, motorists there had to drive through this:

Friday, December 30, 2011

Korean Talent Contestants ANGRY At Awesome Singer

I post these videos from time to time of talent shows in various places in the world where somebody is impressive.

Here's another one with a slight twist. It's a Korean talent show in which a young contestant does a superb, expert job singing Adele's hit, "Rolling in the Deep"

The judges in the American Idol-type show are clearly impressed. But the fun moments in the video are the glimpses of the other contestants standing on stage, who are obviously Not Happy At All they are being overshadowed by the confident young singer. Fun to watch:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

She Should Have Said "No"

The time around Christmas and New Year's is the most popular time of year for marriage minded people to pop the question.

In Burlington, Vermont, one guy got way too into the swing of things. He's in jail, and presumably his betrothed is rethinking things.

According to police, and the Burlington Free Press,  Ryan Jarvis, 25, grabbed a $3,200 ring from a Zales jewelry store in Burlington mall. It was a nice 14 caret specimen, so he has nice taste. He ran out without paying for it. Guess he wanted to impress his girl.

Said girl was indeed impressed. Having no idea the thing was stolen she said Yes!, and was so happy she posted to Facebook a picture of the nice ring.

The gal's friends saw the posting and got suspicious, since the ring looked just like the one that was pictured on news reports. They pointed police to the Facebook post, who found the would be fiancee.  It also didn't help Jarvis supposedly browsed in the jewelry store for an hour before the theft, affording surveillance cameras and employees to get a good look at him.

At last check, Jarvis was arrested, but has been released on conditions. One of them is that he stay away from the mall where he allegedly stole the ring.  

According to the report in the Burlington Free Press, Jarvis told police he knew what he did was, quote, stupid. Well, yeah. Nothing like a stolen engagement ring to put the damper on a lover affair.

I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when the woman learned the ring was stolen. I bet things didn't go over very well. After all, you can steal your lover's heart any time, but stealing an engagement ring probably makes love grow cold pretty quickly.

Especially if he's sentence to ten years in jail. He could face up to that amount of time in jail, which would be longer than many marriages.

Lawnmowers, Crocodiles, Weddings and Tornadoes

We devote this post to unplanned moments on routine days.

First, we go to Austrailia, where mowing the lawn got more challenging. I feel for this guy. When I mow lawns for myself or customers, I always seem vexed by balky lawnmowers, rocks and sticks in the way, errant snakes or frogs getting caught in the blades, or unpleasant weather, like snow or 100 degree heat, which can make lawnmowing a challenge.

But I experienced nothing like this guy. His lawnmower encountered a hungry critter. Watch:


Next we go to a wedding. Very nice. Beautiful blushing bride, handsome groom, nice authoritative preacher.

Then the moment comes: The preacher says "If anyone opposes this wedding, speak now or forever hold your peace."

Then the tornado warning siren goes off. Somebody objects, apparently. No word yet if the marriage is surviving. Watch and laugh:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pathetic Walmart Closing Time Argument

Here's a video in which absolutely nobody redeems themselves.

It's Christmas Eve at some Walmart somewhere. It's 7:40 p.m. in the evening. The store closes at 8 p.m. But the manager doesn't let anybody in at that point because it's closing soon.

As you see, the manager is rude, and caught people by surprise by not letting them in before the posted closing time. The would-be customers are rude and stupid. Who waits until a little before 8 p.m. Christmas Eve before shopping? And one customer makes a totally racist crack about Mexican workers.

Everybody here is just awful. Glad I wasn't invited to any of their houses for the holidays.

Watch the sad episode and be thankful that your Christmas Eve was surely more festive than this tragic scene. Yuck!

Photo: Vermont Winter Sunset Breaks Through Clouds

As a budding weather/landscape/nature photographer, winter isn't my favorite season. The clouds are usually not that interesting. Not like summer, anyway, with the big billows and puffballs and towering thunderstorms that you see so much of

Winter usually brings a dull overcast, a lack of color and not many interesting shapes.

But you get lucky sometimes too. Like yesterday, when a setting sun broke through some of the clouds, illuminating bits and pieces of Vermont mountains while adjacent hills continued to linger under dark clouds.

So I ended up with the pretty nice image you see in this post, which shows Mount Mansfield, peeking out from the clouds, as seen from Fairfax, Vermont.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Tragedy: Santa Failed to Deliver iPhones For Many

While perusing Daily What today, I saw a link to someone who compiled a whole bunch of Twitter messages from people from all over who are Not At All Happy with their Christmas loot. And that's an understatement.

It appears legions of people were fully expecting an iPhone or Macbook Pro for Christmas and didn't get either. Which, judging by the tone of the tweets was a greater tragedy than that horrible East African drought that's killing thousands of people.
Not everyone got an iPhone for Christmas
and that is apparently causing a major crisis.



Sample tweets: "No iPhone. I hate my dad." and "I'm probably one of the only ones who didn't get an iPhone or a Macbook Pro for Christmas."  Check out this link for more samples. 

For the record, I did not receive an iPhone or Macbook for Christmas either, so I'm one of the "only ones" who didn't get one.  My family, as always, was extremely generous with Christmas gifts to me, so I feel very happy. But I guess that happy attitude is un-American.

Apparently, I'm supposed to be livid that I didn't get an iPhone, so I'm clearly out of the loop. And I was assuming that if I want an iPhone, I'd buy my own damn iPhone. That attitude, I'm learning, is clearly a no-no, too. I'm supposed to be demanding tons of loot from people who can't afford it and have already busted their bank accounts giving me really nice stuff.

Come to think of it, I'm a really horrible person for two reasons. 1. I'm supposed to be mad I didn't get an iPhone and I'm not angry.  2. I did not buy one single person an iPhone. So I let down everybody, if I'm to believe the tone of the tweets.

Of course, there's something like 6 billion people in the world, so how would Apple churn out 6 million iPhones in the Christmas season? Yeah, Apple sells a lot of gadgets but even they have limits.

Sigh. All this is just another reason why I'm glad Christmas is over.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Vermont Holiday Scenic

I shot the two photos in Whiting, Vermont, late afternoon, Christmas Eve as I drove down from St. Albans to West Rutland to visit family.
Farms and mountains near Whiting, Vermont, 12/24/11



A nice, peaceful Vermont tableau
Village of Whiting, Vermont, 12/24/11

Saturday, December 24, 2011

My Annual Darlene Love Christmas Tradition

Every year on this blog, I offer this Christmas tradition: Darlene Love singing "Christmas, Baby Please Come Home."

She performs this song on the last episode of "Late Show With David Letterman" before Christmas.
Darlene Love

I hate most Christmas songs. They're sticky sweet and so sentimental and gooey the feel like a massive and fatal molassas spill.

This song is different because it has a bit of emotional complexity, which is always welcome this time of year. There's some heartache, but listening to the song just feels emotionally uplifting.

But hell, Darlene Love could sing the text of an instruction book for a failing nuclear power plant and it would still feel damn terrific. She's that good.

She performed in Burlington, Vermont a couple weeks ago. I wanted to go to the show, but I had no money for tickets and I was sick with salmonella poisoning from eating bad hamburger  Maybe it's traditional to eat bad meat at Chrismastime? In any event I quickly recovered. But the night she was in town, I wasn't exactly in a Christmas with Darlene Love mood.

But now I am fully recovered. I hope she comes back to town. Meanwhile, enjoy the incredible Darlene Love, and please have an absolutely awesome Christmas:

The Christmas Spirit: Let's Fight Over Shoes!

Well, it was inevitable this dreary Christmas shopping season would end the way it began. As you saw on the news, there were fights and riots in malls all over the country because people wanted -- get ready, this is important-- A new line of Air Jordan shoes!

It was the perfect bookend to the beginning of the shopping season, Black Friday, when people scuffled, fought, pepper sprayed and battled for the cheapest, er, I mean most thoughtful (ugh) Christmas gift.
People scuffle for Air Jordans on Dec. 23 in this image
by Todd Sumlin in the Charlotte Observer

The shoe battles yesterday had a sort of entrepreneurial bent. Since the company that makes them made sure to keep a small supply of them -- all the better to create a frenzy and boost sales, eventually -- people put the shoes on line and asked ridiculous prices for the footwear. And no doubt people will pay up, whatever price is necessary.

Because it isn't Christmas without a new pair of Air Jordans.  And doesn't the Bible say that we're supposed to get in fistfights in shopping malls to honor the birth of Jesus? Oh wait, Nike's ad campaign said that, not the Bible. My bad.

I'm pretty secular, both in a religious and commercial sense,  so maybe that's why I'm not caught up in any of the Christmas inanity, insanity, whatever you want to call it.

I don't mean to be a killjoy. There's lots to like about Christmas. There are plenty of random acts of kindness going on out there, too, like those people raiding KMart stores to pay off people's layaway accounts, so I do have a bit of the warm and fuzzies going on.

But here I sit early Christmas Eve morning, getting things ready for the big day. Monday is Boxing Day, which is my favorite holiday. It's a favorite because it means Christmas is over.

Friday, December 23, 2011

No Computer, No Router, AND An Illegal Downloader?

If this story is to be believed, a retired German woman who has no computer, no router, no e-mail address is still a horrible person who illegally downloads stuff from the Internet., according to the Web site TorrentFreak.

A German court ordered the woman to pay damages to a movie company that says she downloaded movies, thereby cheating the company. Never mind that it was most likely impossible for her to do that.

But if the movie company says she did it, and needs to make money off the deal, then the judge apparently thought that was good enough for him. The court, according to the article on TorrentFreak didn't entertain the notion that maybe the movie company made a mistake in targeting the woman, and somebody else that had nothing to do with her might have done the download. If the illegal download actually happened.

TorrentFreak intimated that some companies target people like the German woman without due process because their conducting pay or else schemes to add extra revenue.

That's quite a business model, if indeed this is going on. I know this happened in Germany, but this seems like just the thing that would catch on in the Good Old U.S. of A. "Hey we decided you illegally downloaded a movie even though you live in a cave and never heard of a computer or the Internet, so you owe us $12,000. Pay up now, or we'll come after you."

Yes, I know people illegally download all kinds of stuff from the Internet, and that costs artists, businesses and individuals money. So yeah, prosecute illegal downloads. But maybe there ought to be just a teensy, eensy bit of due process to go after the real wrongdoers, and leave the innocent bystanders alone.

Is that too much to ask? Probably.

Christmas in Vermont Feels Like Santa Barbara

Burlington, in normally frigid northwestern Vermont, December 22, 2011, the winter solstice. It should be dark and snow covered and icy cold.

Instead, a dandelion blooms under some warm sunshine.  Yes, it's been super warm here. This sure isn't my father's Vermont.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

New NHL Star, Age 59, Wows 'Em in Massena, New York

Congratulations to Brenda Hewitt, 59, who, recently, in Massena, New York, showed National Hockey League players how it's done.

Frenchie's Ford up there in Massena, the frozen tip of northern New York, had a little contest. Drive a hockey puck into a tiny little hole in front of the goal in a hockey rink and you win a brand spanking new 2012 Ford F-150.

You had to do it from the far blue line on the hockey rink. Correct me if I'm wrong, dear hockey fans, but I think that's 94 feet away from the goal. I bet the good folks at Frenchie's thought they were keeping their truck

Hewitt hobbled uncertainly onto the ice, squared herself off, and did her magic. Watch the video to see it happen:  No word yet on whether the Montreal Canadiens or Boston Bruins are picking Hewitt up.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Beautiful Christmas Drizzle?

Yes, even a cold nasty drizzle, rather than the traditional snow can make for pretty Christmas pictures.

Monday night, the drizzle spattered on my windows, and against a lit Christmas wreath positioned there. The lights from the wreath scattered across the water droplets, resulting in this sort of pixilated image I shot last night at my St. Albans, Vermont house.

Full disclosure: I also used this photo in my Weather Rapport blog at the Burlington Free Press. 

World's Worst Person Nominee Assaults Homeless Guy in N.J.

Meet Taylor Giresi, 20, of 15th Avenue, Belmar, New Jersey, my latest nominee for the Worst Person in the World.

Giresi and an equally horrible 17 year old companion decided it would be fun to go out into the woods and beat up, taunt and torture a homeless man. He finished the assault by sarcastically wishing the guy a Merry Christmas as the beaten man, David Ivins, 51,  howled, bleeding and terrified, for help.

Giresi and his scummy buddy videoed their experience and put it on YouTube because in Giresi's twisted mind, great fun was had by all.

Here's a news clip showing parts of the video so you can see what I mean. Warning: It's a very disturbing video, so be prepared.




As an aside, and I guess luckily for the homeless guy, Giresi is whoppingly stupid in addition to being a scumbag. The video on YouTube made it exceedingly easy for police to find him and arrest him. At last check Giresi is being held in jail, lacking $135,000 bail.

I suppose he's lucky to be in jail. The media has his address. And it's widely reported. Although it would be extremely bad form to hurt Giresi, because that would just sink things to his under-a-rock level, he probably does deserves some taunts and insults and general public condemnation. Just keep it legal and ethical, folks.

By the way, Giresi's Facebook page, which you can't get to anymore, lists his occupation as a "male model" Yeah, he's gorgeous all right.
This loser, Tayler Giresi, beat up
a homeless guy because he thought it
was fun, New Jersey police said.

I'm oddly curious about train wrecks like Giresi. Judging from what he's done, the world isn't exactly a better place because of his existence. But what led him to the kind of mentality he has? In the video, he appears to be having the time of his life. Like a kid at Disneyland. Is it to compensate for a bad life? I have no sympathy for him, but what made Giresi's mind as dark and empty as deep space beyond the galaxies?

I hear a lot about bored suburban kids happily seeking out homeless people to assault and torment. And crow about it. What psychology do they have to make them believe this is fun?  What exactly IS the fun of this, in their twisted minds?

There appears to be a market for videos of these beatings too, according to the New Jersey Star Ledger.  The Star Ledger editorial raises an interesting  point: Making child porn is illegal, and so is viewing it. Should viewing these beating videos be made illegal too?

Truth be told, people like Giresi scare me, as much as I want to make his life miserable. And maybe deep down that's what he wants. To scare people. That makes him feel powerful. What scares me is, will he continue his savagery? Is he a serial killer in the making?

In reality, Giresi is in many ways weak. Dumb, mean people tend to be. Weakening him further was the strong local reaction to the senseless victimization of Ivins.

People in and around the town where this happened are completely revulsed. So they reached out to the homeless guy, got him some housing, money, medical care, help, according to the Asbury Park Press. Which is exactly the opposite of what Giresi seemed to want.  And that weakens Giresi all the more.

Reality is messy, so I'm sure it won't necessarily work out this way, but wouldn't a nice dose of karma be nice right about now? Ivins gets the help he needs. If he is addicted to alcohol, maybe he can be weaned off it? Maybe he can get some more friends, a warm, dry place to live permanently, maybe a job?

As for Giresi, may he have a lonely, sad, penniless, pathetic life. Of course, it seems he's there already.

Hey Giresi: On the off- chance you're reading this: Merry Fxxxing Christmas, scumbag.

.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Congress Pursues Grand Economic Stimulus

Going unreported in the news today is Congress's very big economic stimulus package that's unfolding now.

I bet you weren't aware of that. After all, today's news is on how the House blocked the Senate's bill that would have extended payroll tax cuts for million of American workers, and unemployment benefits might be cut off too.
U.S. Congress: Awful or brilliant?


Critics point out that such actions will not stimulate the economy because with less money in people's pockets, there will be less spending, and thus less economic activity.

But what looks to some like Congressional inaction could actually be a major stimulus effort. Think about it. All those millions of people who watch the news are learning they will pay more in payroll taxes, and that it looks like members of Congress aren't playing well with each other.

Many of these people will then throw object at their televisions in anger, breaking both the TVs and possibly the stuff thrown at the TVs.

That, in turn means that these people will go out and buy new televisions. And new stuff to throw at new televisions. This means consumer spending will go up, stimulatiing the economy. Isn't this a great stimulus plan?

Someone also pointed out to me that these anger-inducing news articles on television will drive people to drink and smoke more. There are pretty stiff consumption taxes on booze and smokes. The tax revenue collected from a boost in alcohol and tobacco sales will go into government coffers.

If this keeps up, these new tax revenues should erase the nation's deficit in, oh, about an hour.

I read a poll that said America's approval rating of Congress is 11 percent.  I think the only things Americans hate more than Congress are freezing drizzle, dog poop stuck to your shoes, and Jersey Shore's Snooki.

But let's change our attitude. As it turns out, as I explained above, Congress is brilliant! So go out and hug your Senator or Congressperson today.

Gross or Great? "Waterman" Has Talent, I Think

In my never ending search for unique and odd  talent and news, I take you to the set of "Germany's Got Talent," that franchise of shows that has shows I think from every place you can imagine. Including Pluto.

This is from last year, but it's just going viral. "Waterman" entertains a crowd, and the judges with his, unusual use of his thirst for bottled water.

I'm not sure if this will turn your stomach or make you squeal with delight. For me, it was a little of  both.
Watch:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Vermont Searching For White Christmas

Usually, Vermont is synonymous with white Christmases.

This year is touch and go in Vermont in that regard, as there's only the thinnest layer of snow on the ground in some areas, and none at all in others. Plus, it's supposed to rain Wednesday.


Forecasters are holding out a slim possibility of a Christmas Eve snowfall. We'll have to wait and see how that turns out.

Yesterday, we had an inch of snow on the  ground in northern Vermont, left over from Saturday snow showers. Plus the trees were frosted over from the first truly chilly morning of the winter.

So briefly, as the photos in this post that I took near Enosburg, Vermont show,  it started to look a lot like Christmas.

North Korean Kim Jong Il Stops Looking At Things

As you've heard on the news, North Korean "dear leader" as they say, Kim Jung Il has died.

Yes, I know I'm supposed to be serious, because the death raises all kinds of geopolitical uncertainty. And you're not supposed to mock the dead, although I do have trouble respecting anyone who was so lousy to his people, what with all that crappy poverty and oppression North Koreans were subjected to under his horrible rule.
Just-deceased horrible North Korean dictator Kim Jung Il looks at
some soda bottles. Seems he was always just
looking at things


Still, Kim Jung Il was probably most famous, other than his dictatorship, for looking at things. It seems that's all he did. There's a whole Tumblr site, "Kim Jung Il Looking At Things" that has a zillion pictures of him doing just that.

No wonder North Korea is in such bad shape. Yes, his policies were oppressive and horrible. But he also wasted all his time looking at things.  Recent posts on "Kim Jung Il Looking at Things" has him looking at a sweater, a leaflet, a persimmon tree, a computer room, rice, a soft drink, a statuette and some paper.

Apparently, he even died looking at things. According to the uber flowery wording of the official North Korean news agency, the dictator died Saturday of a heart ailment under the "great mental and physical strain" of "high intensity field inspection."

In other words, Kim Jung Il was doing what he loved when he died: Just looking at things.

Apparently,  Kim Jung Il's young son is going to take over in North Korea. Nobody expects things to improve in that sad country, but really. I hope the son doesn't take after his father. There really isn't anything interesting to look at.

BREATHLESS UPDATE: Never fear, now that we know that Kim Jung Ils son, King Jong Un is taking over North Korea, there's a brand new Tumblr site, King Jung Un Looking at Things.

Thanks goodness for continuity.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Vermont Dog and Fresh Snow

Jackson the cocker spaniel didn't let the coldest day so far this winter in St. Albans, Vermont and almost two inches of new, powdery snow get in the way of a good time.


Of course, 20 degrees isn't bad for December, and a nice black bushy fur coat doesn't hurt. Even if a lot of the snow ends up sticking to it,

See the pics I snapped to see how Jackson loves the outdoors.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mexican Radio: Blast From The Past

Most radio stations play the same three songs over and over again, so I'm delighted when one breaks the rules and plays something that I haven't heard in a great while.

I know, I know, in this day in age, I can seek out these songs on line or anywhere else digitally.
The '80s band Wall of Voodoo

Problem is, you don't realize you've forgotten the joy of some forgotten, bizarre song until somebody plays it for you.

The other day, cruising the highway between Swanton and St. Albans, Vermont, the radio station crackled with this 1980s gem, "Mexican Radio" by Wall of Voodoo. Just a happily bizarre little song. As you see in the video it's done by a band whose lead singer is a twitchy guy who looks like he's really about to lose it.

That lead singer, Stan Ridgway, is still around and continues to have a successful career.

Anyway, here's the fun, insane video. A 1983 blast from the past. (You might have to endure an ad first)


Good Christmas News From the K-Mart Layaway Department

In a sign that at least some people get the idea behind Christmas,  anonymous donors are going to Kmart stores in many sections of the country and paying off customers' layaway accounts.

Associated Press reporter Margery Beck writes that most of the donors are figuring out which layaway accounts have childrens' clothing and toys, indicating they are trying to help cash-strapped families.

Beck's article quoted Dona Bremser, an Omaha, Neb. nurse who said a Kmart employee called her to say somebody paid the $70 balance on the $200 in gifts she had in layaway for her four-year old son.

"I was speechless. It made me believe in Christmas again," Bremser said.

Kmart officials said the store didn't instigate these donations, but they sure aren't complaining about it.

That this is mostly happening at Kmart stores might be because the retail giant has had a layaway program for many years, so a lot of people know it exists. Walmart has reported a few similar donations at a few of its layaway counters.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Google's Annual 2011 Video Review

For the past couple of years at least, Google has put out a video based on many of their most searched items of 2011. They're well done and compelling. Here's the 2011 version. Stuff I remember, stuff I forgot about, but lots of brief, fascinating images:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dog Antics Improve a Sick Day

One of the few advantages to being stuck at home, sick (stomach flu, yeah!) is I can waste time searching this here Internet thingy to find goofball stuff to laugh at and share.

Here's one of today's finds. I guess I was attracted to it because I've really become a dog person.

It shows what is probably a slow day. A guy and his dog groove to the beat.

Watch and enjoy:

New Stupid Crime Fail: Mom's Really Not Dead.

In my never-ending quest to document really, really bad criminals I've got a couple more.

You decide whether I'm trying to make you feel better by highlighting people much less smart than you, or I'm training criminals on what not to do.

We're all familiar with the old college standby, getting out of an exam because a relative died.
Well, one guy tried to get out of work by saying his mother died. And the method he used was so much work, it probably would have been easier for him just to show up at his damn job.
Oops. Son lied. Pat Bennett is alive and well

To get bereavement leave from his workplace, he submitted his mother's obituary to a local paper. Problem was, dear old mom wasn't dead at all. 

The paper fell for the obit, but then relatives, and then mom herself came forward to say reports of her death were highly exaggerated.

So our "bereaved" son, Scott Bennett, 45, probably will get time off from his job.  Permanently. He's also charged with disorderly conduct. So I guess in a sense he now really is bereaved. No job, court dates, etc. Depressing, no?

Did he honestly think that nobody would find out his mom was still alive?  I mean, she probably spent time visiting friends, going shopping, maybe working. I'm guessing here, but dead people probably tend not to do such things.

Maybe he just should have told his boss his nonexistent dog ate his homework.

Monday, December 12, 2011

My "Car Talk" Debut

Yep, that was me this weekend, Matt from St. Albans, Vermont on Car Talk, with my own strange vehicle question.

The call was actually recorded in the summer, when I contacted Car Talk on a whim with an ignition key problem.
Tom and Ray Magliozzi, also known as Click and Clack on
"Car Talk" helped me with my ignition key problem
on their show this past weekend

Seems when I drive down a rough road, the key sometimes falls out of the ignition and onto the floor and I'm going along.  The truck just keeps on, well, truckin.'

My question was, Can I ignore the problem?

Yes, said Click and Clack the ever-ebullent hosts of Car Talk. Unless I have rust holes on the floor of the truck, in which case the issue could become particularly problematic, as you can well imagine.

And I took their advice. As Click and Clack pointed out, the ignition key problem is a particular boon on cold mornings when the windshield is all frosted over.

I can start the truck, pull the key out of the ignition without taking it off the key ring,  and go back into the house. That way, when I leave, I can lock the house door without removing anything from the key ring.

By the way, Car Talk is a bit less spontaneous than you'd think. Click and Clack, whose real names are Tom and Ray Magliozzi, don't know in advance who's calling or what their car problem is, so the actual interaction between caller and the pair are spontaneous and fresh.

But to get on the show, you email them with your car problem. If the producers think your problem might be interesting, they call you back and ask for more details. If they still think you or  your problem, or both is interesting, they set up a time when they call you.

Car Talk calls, and you're told to hold, because Click and Clack will come on the line and say, "Hello, you are on Car Talk."

Then  you're off.

So if you have  a weird car problem, give them a shot. It's fun. But remember, a key that falls out of the ignition while the vehicle is in motion has already been taken. Sorry.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Annual Burn Pile

Every year about this time, I complete my annual ritual of being an arsonist.

No, don't worry, I committed no crimes. I just set fire to the pile of wood and brush that accumulates every year at my St. Albans, Vermont home.  I even got a burn permit for it.
Our dog Jackson keeps a watchful eye
on my annual brush pile burn yesterday.

Actually, there was LOTS of brush to burn this year. I was on a branch clearing frenzy all year, plus we had some storms. I actually had three piles.

I had to drag the material from two of the piles over to the one I set aflame. The job turned out to be a wonderful full body workout.  I would have stacked everyting in one pile, but that one have created such a big conflagration the whole town would have burned down.

I'm blessed with great weather every year, it seems, when I schedule the burn. This year was typical. There was a bit of snow on the ground, which discouraged embers from setting a forest fire in the back of the house. And the breeze was strong enough to fan the flames through the burn pile but not enough to choke the whole neighborhood in smoke.

And as you see in the picture, I had Jackson the dog out there to keep a watchful eye on things, lend moral support, provide comic relief and move sticks though not necessarily to the burn pile, he just like playing around with them.

I'm sure the sticks Jackson left scattered about will feed next year's bonfire.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Christmas Crazies Are Back

There's something about the holiday season that brings out the strangeness and the stupidity in some people.

For me that's part of the joys of the holiday. I sit back, entertained, watching people lose it in December.
Does Christmas drive people crazy, or does
it just attract the crazies?

Some fun examples:

WSVN, a television station in Miami/Fort Lauderdale, reports that two women stole some Christmas decorations from a Sweetwater, Fla. lawn and put the stuff on their own lawn, less than a block away.

I guess I can understand the logic. It's such a pain fighting the traffic, the crowds, the high prices to get the stuff to decorate your property for Christmas.

Maybe the two women figured it would be less stressful to grab the stuff from the neighbor. Besides, who could resist the decorations they stole. Especially the hugging penguins and the Mickey Mouse on a horse.

What the women didn't plan on is that the decorations' owner, actually gets out of her house and has been known to walk or drive at least a half a block. So it was inevitable she'd find her stuff and call the cops. The fact the theft was caught on a home security camera surely didn't make the police investigation any tougher.

On the opposite spectrum of these thefts, we have a guy who got into the Christmas spirit and tried to be helpful. In a story dating back to early November, WHIO-TV said a man broke into an Vandolia, Ohio home lit a candle, turned on the television and put up the family's Christmas decorations.

Well, how generous. Or not. The guy was apparently on drugs, according to the police, so his behavior was just erratic. But how could they tell it was the drugs? Isn't everyone's behavior erratic around Christmas?

In the "Isn't He Thoughtful" department, one Bob McCulley of the Pittsburgh area recently sent some nice holiday cards recently to about 400 of his friends and acquaintences. That's an especially impressive feat, since McCully, died at the age of 88 in August, according to the Pitsburgh Tribune-Review.

"Please don't call," McCulley's cards politely request. "I recently moved to a quiet neighborhood."

Apparently, an associate of McCulley helped with the cards this year because McCulley was, um, predisposed.

So happy holidays everyone! Including you, Mr. McCulley.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Is That a Squirrel in Your Pant Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

Big hat tip to my boss at the Burlington Free Press who last week took note of this Oregon, um tragedy.

Seems somebody did a poor job of animal control.
A menace to pant legs everywhere

According to the Salem, Oregon Statesman Journal, a local man learned that gunfire isn't always the best way to deal with the dilemna of having a squirrel run up your pant leg.

No, I have no idea why the squirrel ran up the guy's pant leg,

To give the guy some credit, I realize that a squirrel in your pant leg is not a common problem, and there's not many how-to advice books on ways to deal with the situation. Still, the man's response will not him any pest control industry awards.

He apparently thought the best way to rid himself of the squirrel menace was to shoot it with a .22 rifle. The good news is the squirrel survived to torment another Oregon resident another day. The bad news is the man shot himself in the foot, so he required hospital treatrment.

Now that we know squirrels up the pant leg are a serious threat, we need to think about ways to combat the problem in ways that leave the squirrel victims more or less intact. Maybe if the pepper spray cop from UC Davis loses his job, we can hire him to pepper spray squirrels.

Best Card Trick Ever!

Yeah, yeah, it's an old schtick. Pick a card, any card. Card tricks are just something your old boring uncle does, right?

This video offers a twist on the old card trick. Hat tip to Denis up in Jay, Vermont for alerting me to this.

Watch the video, wait for it, wait for it......

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Melting My Christmas Bah-Humbug

Everybody who knows me realizes I'm not a big fan of Christmas. As I've said before, Christmas is a great idea that was ruined by commerce, along with enough sticky-sweet schmaltz to induce a diabetic coma.

Don't worry, I won't be negative this entire post, but I get the bad out of the way before we get to the good. Think of it as surviving until Boxing Day. (December 26. Praise God!)
Members of the British Royal Navy ham it up
for Christmas aboard the HMS Ocean



Consumer Reports recently released a survey describing the top 11 annoyances people said they have with the holiday. 

Among them are crowds, bad holiday music, Christmas shopping and being forced to be nice. I'm usually nice, but why do I have to be in a certain mood because somebody says so?  Especially when it's some obnoxious person in a holiday advertisement telling me I have to be happy to buy their worthless, overpriced product with money I don't have and if I don't buy said product with a smile on my face I'm a worse person than most serial killers out there.

And you wonder why I say "Bah-humbug."

The only one of the eleven in the Consumer Reports list  I don't experience is "disappointment with gifts." That's only because if somebody was nice enough to try to get me something, at least there were thinking of me. Who cares if the gift was iffy?

 In any event, it's nice to see sometimes that some people out there in Christmasland get it.  A few people are appropriately kind and goofy and fun and giving during the holiday season. Here are at least two examples.

There's a guy in Reading, Pennsylvania, who wishes to remain anonymous, who goes out into the streets of the town and passes out $100 bills to people who look like they could use  the help, according to The Reading Eagle, the local newspaper.

The guy is copying from another philanthropist who does similar stuff out in Kansas City, but this kind of copying is just the ticket.

Here's a vid out of Reading that explains it all. Very nice to watch:



Next, for the more fun, goofy aspect of the season we go to members of the British Royal Navy aboard the HMS Ocean. They've been away from home for 217 days and are getting a little punchy. The good news is their due home this Friday. The better news is while out there, they lip-dubbed soliders, in hilarious fashion, Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You."

Turns out it's Mariah Carey approved. Said she in a Tweet after she saw it: "This is the best thing I've ever seen, you guys just made my day! Happy, Happy Christmas xoxo to the troops"

I have to agree with Mariah that this did put me back in the Christmas spirit. As in being happy because I am, not  because I've been ordered to. It will give you some cheer, too. Watch:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Muppets are Communists! Stop Them!

Thank goodness for the ever-vigilant Fox News for alerting us to the latest menance. Turns out the Muppets are anti-corporate communists who are out to destroy America and our way of life.

Fox uncovered the evidence in the latest Muppet movie, called, predictably enough, The Muppets. In the film the villian is named Tex Richman, who wants to buy and tear down The Muppet Theatre and drill for oil on that spot.

By painting the oil guy as a villian, the makers of the movie, as well as Hollywood in general, are indoctrinating our kids to hate corporations and the oil industry, so says Dan Gainor of the Media Research Center, who appeared recently on Fox's "Follow the Money" program to make his comments.

Say Gainor:

"It's amazing how far the left will go just to manipulate your kids, to convince them, give the anti-corporate message,"

He added:

"They've been doing it for decades. Hollywood, the left, the media, they hate the oil industry... They hate corporate America. And so you'll see all these movies attacking it."

Well, how un-American! How dare the Muppets do anything but portray the oil industry in a positive light! As Gainor points out, we need the oil industry to help fuel ambulances, keep hospitals heated and lit and all kinds of good stuff. I guess we need more movies about ambulances with full gas tanks and hospitals that are comfortably warm and well lit.

Frankly, I've always suspected those dastardly Muppets, despite their sunny, humorous exterior. I can find the dark side of all the characters, now that I think of it.

Kermit the Frog is the obvious one. He sings about how it isn't easy being green, an obvious appeal from radical environmentalists to let them rid the world of pavement and buildings.

At first glance, Miss Piggy seems glamorous enough, for a pig anyway, but certainly she's like those protestors who dress up in gowns and tuxes to mock the very rich.

Rowlf the dog reminds me of Ed Asner, who is well known for his liberal, decidedly left of center views.

Fozzie Bear is always saying "Wocka! Wocka! Wocka!" which is clearly coded instructions to those insurgent Occupy Wall Street protestors.

And ever notice how awry Dr. Bunson Honeydew's experiments go awry, to the repeated detriment of the hapless Beaker? Obviously, he represents an attack on chemical corporations' business. And notice how Dr. Bunson Honeydew has no eyes. That's a leftist accusation that the chemical industry turns a blind eye to the health and safety of the public.

OK, maybe Gainor is being a bit melodramatic. After all, so many story lines in movies involve underdogs who defeat the powerful. It's a standard American meme. Aspirational Americans want to get ahead through grit, honesty and smarts, and they relate to the underdogs.

And corporations, whether good or evil, tend to be powerful. Since movies like the Muppets need a powerful villian, a fictional corporation is a good stand in.  Surely Gainor doesn't think that a fictional oil baron in a kid's comedy movie is anticorporate, communist propoganda.

Oh wait, he does.   We're all entitled to our opinions, I guess.

And, um, Mr. Gainor, The Muppet movie was presented to us by Disney. Isn't Disney a big corporation that the communist Muppets are supposed to hate?

In any event, appropos of nothing, the Muppet movie kerfuffle has me taking a trip down memory lane. My past is goofy, and a Muppet related memory is a classic example.

When my sister Lynn and I were really little, we were enamored by this little Muppet ditty, which to this day I still find catchy:






I would do the mahna, mahnz part, and Lynn was "Doo, doo, doo doo." When I'd get carried away on the Mahna, mahnas, as the character in the video does, she'd cuff me in the head, I'd calm down, and quietly, say, "mahna, mahna," she would happily offer a "doo doo doo doo,"  and the whole process would start over. Ah, we were such well adjusted kids!

I hope it doesn't mean we were budding communists.

Monday, December 5, 2011

One Tough Vermont Flower

Granted, it's not been the harshest late fall/early winter around St. Albans, in northern Vermont, but I'm certainly impressed with the flower that's pictured.
This flower at my house in northwestern Vermont
continues to hang in there as of Dec. 4, despite
early winter weather. 

As of today, December 5, it's endured temperatures that dropped into the upper teens, soil frozen rock solid, thawed, and refrozen, several inches of crushing, slushy snow, strong winds and next to no sun. The flower is in a pot that was part of a beautiful arrangement this summer and early autumn on my deck.

I took the pot off the deck a couple weeks ago, put it near the back door, ready to remove the dead plants and take inside, and I forgot about it. Stoically, our flower kept blooming. And no, it's not freeze-dried like that. It's actually still alive.

I might leave it outside to see how much harsh weather it can survive. But who thought something so delicate looking could be so tough?  Hope I have the strength to match a little flower.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pepper Spray the Hot Christmas Item

This year the hot, really, really hot Christmas season must-have is pepper spray.

It's everywhere. My eyes are watering as I type this. Between the Occupy protest movement pepper spray attacks by police, the woman in the Walmart pepper spraying fellow shoppers to get her hands on a sale item XBox, this is the Christmas of Pepper Spray.

And, like any successful marketing campaigns, pepper spray now has a host of associated heroes, memes and sub-products. You can finish your entire Christmas list with the stuff, or at least get those pesky relatives and friends out of your hair.
Little Cindy Lou Who, who is no more than two, gets
a holiday greeting from the evil Pepper Spray cop

Lt. John Pike, the cop at UC Davis that made himself famous by striking a casual pose and heavily pepper spraying peaceful demonstrators, is sort of the Ken doll to Pepper Spray Barbie.

As Salon so poetic notes, if you want to vanquish the enemy, render him absurd.  Pike has become such a hit, an Internet meme, that there's a Tumblr site devoted to pictures of Pike spraying iconic images. Action Figure John Pike!  The real John Pike must be so proud.

The Tumblr site had Pike inside iconic artwork and photographs, spraying everything from the Mona Lisa, to the Beatles, to Snoopy to Beyonce in the "Single Ladies" video.

My favorite, because I'm such a meanie, is Pike in a scene from Dr. Suess's "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," spraying the hell out of Little Cindy Lou Who, who's only two.

On Amazon, wags found thge page for Defense Technology 56895 MK-9 Strean 1.3% Red Band/1.3 %Blue Band Pepper Spray and had a hilarious field day with product reviews. Go to that Web page, it's a great, fun time waster reading the 340 or so mostly mocking product reviews from both satisfied and dissatisfied customers.

Here's an example:
                           With a simple, nonchalant spraying action, you can be sure to cause great distress among unruly protesters, ensuring that their freedoms of speech, assembly, and protest are eliminated in favor of screaming in agony and writhing on the ground. ...Remember, this product does entail some risk of blowback, however. Careless use could lead to international notoriety, universal condemnation, lawsuits, loss of your job, and becoming an internet meme


And another:






Whenever I need to breezily inflict discipline on unruly citizens, I know I can trust Defense Technology 56895 MK-9 Stream, 1.3% Red Band/1.3% Blue Band Pepper Spray to get the job done!  ...When I feel threatened by students, no matter how unarmed, peaceful and seated they may be, I know that Defense Technology 56895 MK-9 Stream, 1.3% Red Band/1.3% Blue Band Pepper Spray has got my back as I casually spray away at point blank range. It really is the Cadillac of citizen repression technology. Buy a whole case!








Of course, this pepper spray can come in handy just terrifically if you're out shopping, as one California bargain hunter knows. The woman who pepper sprayed fellow shoppers at a Walmart on Black Friday is now another iconic figure in American history.

I just worry this pepper spray woman has started an arms race. Next year, will someone deploy an Uzi to mow down crowds to get his hands on the latest flat screen TV?  So he can watch himself on the news being sentenced to life in sentence without parole, I guess.

Hey, shopping is a contact sport, nowadays, apparently.

I think the pepper spraying Xbox shopper from Walmart should marry the pepper spraying cop. Then they can have kids and start a race of pepper spray resistant kids.

That would be a great comfort to Santa.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Was Outing Teacher's Gay Porno Background Ethical?

The Fox 25 reporter in Boston probably knew the subject of his story an English teacher who has made porn movies, would become the center of a nasty fire storm when his report aired.

That much is true. But now the reporter is becoming a bigger target of community wrath for airing his report.
In this image from Fox 25 Boston, reporter Mike Beaudet, right
confronts teacher Kevin Hogan about his past.


WXFT Fox 25 reporter Mike Beaudet confronted, on air, the Boston area English teacher about his, um, colorful and strenuous moonlighting gig. The English teacher has been in a couple gay porn movies, under the extremely unfortunate name Hytch Cawke.

The porn movies were done before he was hired at the school. So it's not as if he has to leave classes early to appear in his role in "Hytch does Hingham,"or some damn thing.

The English teacher, whose real name is Kevin Hogan, certainly got some criticism with Beaudet's expose.  But a funny thing happened on the way to the public lynching of Hogan. The community has largely turned its wrath onto Beaudet.

Aggressive investigative reporting is fine, the local community seems to be saying,  but if, and only if, the reporting uncovers wrongdoing, and does the public good. Comments on Fox 25's Web site are almost fully critical of Beaudet.

Many people are saying this was just a witch hunt/ambush against Hogan for no good reason. And that might reflect, at least in this case, a more sophisticated view of journalistic priorities and ethics among the public than that held by some news assignment editors.

As a journalist, I feel the tingle and thrill of finding out some juicy story about someone or something, and I'm sure the folks at Fox 25 felt the same way. The instinct is to pursue the damn thing.

But you've got to take a step back and say: "How will this help people understand things, serve a useful watchdog role and make things better?

Yes, that's doughy eyed self righteousness and idealism on my part, but there you go.

There's no question that if the teacher had somehow involved the students in his porn job, or had any other sexual or other improper contact with them, then the reporter should have gone after this guy, big time.

Hogan's supporters, and there are lots of them, are wondering why Beaudet did a report that will ruin Hogan's career. Few people are  seeing how this makes kids safer, or the school better and improve the community.

Beaudet counters, accurately, that teachers' licenses in Masschusetts require that educators be in good moral standing. But people both know pornography when they see it and morality when they see it. It's all in the eyes of the beholder.

And if Hogan was in porn films, that's still legal. There's no law against being in such films, as long as everybody involved were consenting adults. Even if the films were lousy. I wouldn't know. I have not seen "Cawkes'" films, "Fetish World" and "Just Gone Gay 8" They frankly don't sound very good.

Hogan's students don't seem to give a damn whether he was in gay porn or not. They want a good teacher, and say that Hogan is good.

The kids in Hogan's school are particularly unimpressed with Beaudet. One students Tweeted. "My English teacher is a gay porn star, #nbd." The hashtag stands for "No Big Deal."  A Facebook page has appeared demanding that Hogan keep his job and Beaudet lose his.  As of mid afternoon Thursday, the Facebook page had 1,450 "likes"

 The larger issue here is, in the hyperconnected world of Google, Facebook and Twitter, this story is much, much bigger than it merits. Which is the case with most things these days. Especially when an initial story causes a huge outcry, like this one.

 We were once, as children, threatened with having our misdeeds put on our Permanent Record if we didn't straighten out.

Now, misdeeds are put on our Permanent Record of Google no matter how quickly we correct our actions or minor the infraction.  And we have this Google Scarlet Letter even if we didn't do anything wrong, which many people say is the case involving Hogan.

Does Hogan deserve punishment? And if so, should that punishment take the form of permanent Internet infamy?  To the extent that an apparently talented teacher should never get another job in education?

His supporters don't think so, and are using social media to punish Beaudet the reporter.  Maybe Beaudet's report was not exactly newsworthy. Which also puts Beaudet's action on the Google Permanent Record. Maybe his reporting did more harm than good, or no good at all.   Given that, what does Beaudet deserve?

And what about the rest of us? Yes, most of us have not acted in bad gay porn movies. At least I hope not. (For the record, I haven't. Couldn't come up with a good stage name, I guess)

But we've all done stupid things. Everything we do now is writ large on the Internet.   Since there are no innocents in the world, will our world collapse under the weight of a far too big and heavy Permanet Record?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Smoking Gun Building Is No Misfire

I don't know where this building is, but I'd love to know who painted it. I wounder what business is in there. A gun shop, I presume. Or maybe it's the headquarters for the public records Web site The Smoking Gun. 

Anyway, it's cool.

Chutzpah King: Kidnapper Sues Victims for Breach of Contract

A  man convicted of kidnapping and other crimes has filed a lawsuit against his victims.

Putting new meaning into the word chutzpah, the kidnapper, Jesse Dimmick is suing Jared and Lindsay Rowley for breach of contract.

Police said Dimmick held the Rowleys in their Kansas home against their will. He'd been fleeing a murder charge, wrecked his car on the Rowley's front lawn, then went inside their house and held them at knifepoint, according to authorities.
Jesse Dimmick is suing a couple he kidnapped for
not helping him elude police.

The Rowleys seemed to have hatched a ploy to get out of their predicament. They told Dimmick, falsely, it turned out, they would hide Dimmick from the cops, and Dimmick would pay them.

But those dastardely Rowleys didn't keep their promise. They sat down with Dimmick, played the movie "Patch Adams" until Dimmick got bored to tears and fell asleep. The couple fled while Dimmick snoozed.

I haven't seen "Patch Adams" but it must be slow if it puts an agitated home invader to sleep. But then again, you can't knock the Rowleys for trying to be good hosts and make Dimmick relax.

Dimmick, though, is unimpressed. Says he in his lawsuit:

"I, the defendant, asked the Rowleys to hide me because I feared for my life. I offered the Rowleys an unspecified amount of money which they agreed upon, therefore forging a legally binding oral contract."

Police ended up raiding the house, and Dimmick was shot in the back in the process. He says his medical bills are $160,000, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal, all because the evil Rowleys wouldn't help him hide from the cops.

Now Dimmick is asserting his rights! How dare the Rowleys lie to him! They promised him they'd help him get away from the cops.  He wants $235,000 for this terrible injustice, according to the Capital-Journal.

This all could be retailiation. The Rowleys had already sued Dimmick for $75,000, citing the emotional distress of Dimmick's attack, the Capital-Journal reported.

If you're wondering what kind of lawyer would take on the case for Dimmick, there's no lawyer. He's representing himself.  Well, he's showing the self sufficiency that made this country great, isn't he?

The problem for Dimmick is, it appears the Rowleys have a pretty strong defense. The legal reasoning of their lawyer seem pretty reasonable, to be honest:
1. Nothing's in writing. So how is Dimmick going to prove there was a contract?
2. Nobody agreed on a price. So if nobody made an agreement on specifics, how is there a contract?
3. Had the Rowleys agreed to a deal with Dimmick, they would have consented to doing something illegal. A contract to do something against the law voids the contract.
4. Even if the Rowleys agreed to a deal with Dimmick they did so under duress, voiding the contract.

Dimmick, that old optimist that he is, nevertheless is continuing with his lawsuit. The Rowleys' lawyer filed a motion to dismiss on November 4, so we'll see where that goes.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Monthly Fail Report: November

Many months, I treat you to the latest compilation of filmed dumb mistakes for the past month. Here, I present you with one of many videos showing November's mishaps.
A typical scene in a Fail compilation video. Bicyclist
and skateboarders are particularly clumsy

The purpose of this, of course, is if you're having a moment when you're feeling pretty stupid, you can watch the video and feel better about yourself, at least by comparison.

I've noticed most of these fail compilations, including this one, have a disproportionate number of bicycle and skateboard mishaps. I'd like a study on why this is so

Are bicycle and skateboard tricksters more likely to be stupid? Or just more likely to be filmed? Or do other people who do dumb things manage to avoid being the target of a video, while bicycle and skateboard people embrace the glory of having their failings out there for the world to see? And just who pays their medical bills.

While you're pondering all those questions, go ahead and watch the eight minutes of stupidity on this month's video:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dancing Queen of the Treadmill

I love the woman in this viral video. In an effort to heal an injured knee and be creative, the woman featured in the video below has found a way to make a supremely tedious treadmill workout fun.

I hate treadmills. The scenery doesn't change and time seems to stand still. I'd rather run outside. But I might want to learn Nicole Harris' moves. The video continues to spread like wildfire. Nicole told El Paso, Texas television station KDBC that she's gotten interest from such shows as Inside Edition and Ellen Degeneres.

Maybe it's time Harris markets an exercise video. Hell, it would be a lot better than most of what's out there.

Watch and see for yourself:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dogs Top Notch at Running Free, Greeting Friends

It's been four months since Jackson the cocker spaniel moved into our St. Albans, Vermont house, and of course now I'm the worlds most hopeless dog lover. Always liked 'em, but now I'm obnoxious about it.
Jeff bought me this "Woof" sticker to match the one on
his Jeep, confirming us as dedicated dog lovers.

I'm given to heart-tugging stories about dogs, and every once in awhile, I post my favorites.

Jackson is happiest when he can run full tilt around the yard, chasing frisbees, sticks, bugs and assorted real  and imagined playmates. Almost all dogs are like that.

So now that a video about beagles rescued from a research lab has gone viral, I paid attention. The video shows the beagles, who have never been in the sun or walked or run around on grass, react as their cages are opened for the first time.

These beagles have since been adopted into good homes.

In the video, the beagles are awfully tentative at first, but they soon figure out playing on grassy lawns is The Way It Ought To Be.


One of my favorite moments with Jackson is his greetings. Whether I've been gone three days or 30 seconds his greeting when he sees me is always the same. His tail wags so wildly that his little butt swings back and forth like that of a runway fashion model on wayyyyyy to much speed.

He is bursting so desperately to greet me that you a high pitched whine, and then, the embrace. He jumps up to lick my face, then runs circles around me, stopping every second or so for another jump and kiss. These reunions are exhausting, let me tell you. But they're worth it.

It's just the way dogs are, but Jackson's greeting does feel like I'm being treated like a returning war hero, when in fact I'm just returning from the store with a gallon of milk.

If Jackson gets this excited to see me, imagine the excitement of dogs whose human companions come home from a military overseas deployment.  These really are war heroes returning home. To get an idea of that, check out this video VERY sweet:

A Spin on Leaf Blowers and Chairs?

Here's a useless invention that will have you spinning in your seat. Really, really spinning in your seat.

These guys rigged a leaf blower to an office chair, which sets off, well, a disaster. But at least it's a funny disaster.

People with time on their hands come up with the darndest things, don't they?

Just passing this along in case you're trying to find Christmas gifts for people you hate.

Watch and laugh:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sad Thanksgiving Vermont Fire

On Thanksgiving Day, there was unfortunately a bad fire here in St. Albans, Vermont. A four unit apartment building went up in flames.

There's no right day of the year for that to happen, but Thanksgiving seemed particularly cruel. The thankful part is all six people in the building got out uninjured and there were no serious injuries among the throngs of firefighters who came from as far away as Quebec to put out the blaze.

I was there, and you can see in the pictures and the video how nasty this fire really was.

Thaw Creates Little Vermont Snow Creature

We had a little over four inches of snow here in St. Albans, Vermont the day before Thanksgiving, but warm weather quickly returned and the snow quickly melted.

A remaining pile of snow thawed weirdly on my front deck, creating the little snow creature that you see pictured in this post. A little snow dog, maybe? Maybe a space alien snow creature? You decide.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black Friday Was True to Form. Sigh.

As I whined about yesterday, Black Friday turned out just as I expected. We had shootings, fights, pepper spraying and general bad behavior in the big stores as people stormed the malls, decked each other instead of the halls all to wrestled for the ten cheap big screen TV's that thousands of people wanted.

The money quote came from a North Carolina shopper: "The difference this year is instead of a nice sweater, you need a bullet proof vest and goggles."

Some psychologists frown big time on these Black Friday door buster sales. They know the big store owners know that if they create huge crowds and strange hours, cut prices to below cost on some items and only put a handful in stock, it will turn the crowd into a frenzy.

And frenzied people are obviously not rational. So they'll go into overdrive and buy and buy and buy even though they don't want and can't afford what they're buying.

So what if a few people get hurt in the process? That's business.

One of the best looks at this insanity/inanity is a video of a crowd surging into an Urban Outfitters on Black Friday. The person filming the scene is heard to say: "That's the dumbest thing I've ever seen."

Right on, bro:

Friday, November 25, 2011

Waitstaff Has Had ENOUGH!

Judging by this picture, the wait person at this restaurant just about had it. I wonder what the customer did?



Readers, you can submit your guesses in the comments section.

Black Friday Desperation and Panic Ruins Christmas

Today, Black Friday, the start of that horrible season of desperation and panic, goes into high gear.     Yep, Christmas shopping insanity, or inanity is here.

Actually, it started on Thanksgiving now that many retailers keep pushing their "Black Friday" sales back further and further on the calendar.
A typical Black Friday mob scene

We're not even allowed to enjoy our turkey and cranberries anymore. We have to SHOP! Or ELSE! And dammit, we're not going to let you wait until 2 a.m. Friday to fight the crowds in a cold, windy mall parking lot. No, you now have to shop on Thanksgiving. They'll keep moving it backward through the calendar, I'm sure.

At this rate, Black Friday will fall on the Fourth of July within a few years.

I am continually amazed by how what should be a nice, mellow, friendly and pleasant holiday can be utterly ruined by those twin, oh-so-unbecoming emotions of desperation and panic.

And really, that's what this is driven by. Major retailers have to show their stockholders that they're making money hand over fist so they try, try, try so hard to sell stuff. Their advertisements beg, beg, beg us to shop. And to shop at strange hours of the morning, or on Thanksgiving night. Please, please, please, they say, on TV, on the radio, in print, on the Web, incessantly, constantly, relentlessly. Buy! buy! buy!

You don't need it, you can't afford it, but buy. buy, buy!

If you don't respond to these ads, the retailers and advertisters whimper, your Christmas will be ruined. No, my Christmas will be just fine. It's the store's Christmas that suffers. Not to be harsh, but not my problem.

Ugh.

I doubt you'd escape it even if you moved to Pluto for the next month or so.

Yes, I know retailers want to make money and I'm not rejecting capitalism here. But desperation is not pretty, is it?

That desperation includes many shoppers, and the shoppers' desperation is also completely unattractive. Actually, gross is the word.
This unhinged Target pitchwoman captures the
unfortunate spirit of the holiday shopping season


Yesterday's New York Times had a front page picture of people camped out Wednesday in tents in front of a Texas Best Buy, waiting for Black Friday and it's $200 televisions to begin. The tents looked like some perversion of Occupy Wall Street. Bet these shoppers won't get pepper sprayed or tear gassed, no sir!  Not if their helping the corporate bottom line.

There's even been a report that three families camped out at a Florida Best Buy starting nine days before Black Friday to get their cheap plasma TV.  Don't they have anything better to do?  And if they spent those nine days working, assuming jobs were available, they would have made far more money than they're saving by being at Best Buy early. And isn't camping out in a bleak mall parking lot really, really boring?  I'd rather go without the TV.

At least there seems to be a growing sense that this is all so stupid. Many Americans have had it up to HERE with pre-dawn riots at the front doors of big box stores. Do people really need to get trampled to death for a cheap flat screen TV?

In yesterday's NYT, Cornell economics professor Robert H. Frank points out the insanity of these Black Friday sales. He notes stores try to open earlier than other retailers to capture more sales and more profits.

"But when all outlets open earlier, no one benefits. Few people actually want to shop in the wee hours, and the purchases that do occur are presumably offset, dollar for dollar, by reduced sales during normal business hours," Frank logically points out.
My sister Lynn gave me this beautiful wreath she
hand crafted, proving you don't have to get up at midnight
on Black Friday to give great gifts.
The wreath hangs wonderfully on my front door.

I bet his logic will go unheeded by the retail world.

Frank, inspired by Herman Cain's 999 plan, has what he calls a 666 plan to stop this insanity. It's simple. Impose a six percent sales tax over and above all existing sales taxes for goods sold between 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving and 6 a.m. on Black Friday.

Maybe it would discourage Black Friday stupidity. Probably not.

Even if Frank's improbable scenario happens, you can bet the stores will just open Thanksgiving morning and close at 6 p.m, briefly, to avoid the sales tax.

At least a few other people recognize this problem. The New York Times reported earlier this month that even some die hard Black Friday shoppers object to the Thanksgiving shopping. Ya think?

Even some retailers, while insisting on opening on Thanksgiving or a bit after midnight this morning, are acknowledging the unhinged quality of people who feel a need to shop early. Target's holiday ad campaign features a manic woman played by comedian Maria Bamford who trains herself to exhaustion and stays up for days making cakes in the shape of a Target store so she can be in prime shape to bargain hunt early and often.

Unfortunately, I fear there are really people like her out there. She's not coming to my holiday party, let me tell you.

Look, I don't mean to be a Grinch. If you like to Christmas shop, even in near-violent crowds, knock yourself out. And I like to find things that my loved ones would like as a holiday gift, so it's not like I don't want to be generous.

I'm also lucky enough to have sane, thoughtful loved ones who don't kill themselves on Black Friday to get me the latest gadget. Usually, anyway. Already, my talented sister Lynn has given me a beautiful wreath she hand crafted. The wreath makes my front door look absolutely perfect and festive.   

My holiday plea: Can't we all -- retailers, advertisers and consumers -- shut up, calm down, take a deep breath and enjoy Christmas for what it was meant to be? Sure, give people gifts because you care about them. That's part of the holiday. I know this plea will fall on deaf ears, but please, enough with the desperation and panic. Over a flat screen TV? 

I'd rather be desperate and panicky about something else. Maybe the fact I can't fit into my Carhartts after the Thanksgiving feast?