Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Have A Good War!

From Daily What, here's a picture purportedly from a child assigned to send a letter to soldiers in Afghanistan.

What exactly is a good war? You want to win a war, of course, and sometimes war is justified, but given all the death and destruction, a war victory isn't entirely good.

I suppose a good war for an individual soldier is one in which said soldier returns home intact and in good health.

Anyway, the kid's thought is good. He or she just wanted to wish the soldier well. I do too.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Putting the Dogs To Work

Our dog Jackson gives us a lot of joy, that's for sure. He's goofy and energetic and has a lot of love to offer.

But, selfish me, sometimes I want something more. Jackson goes through dog food as if he was trying to win the World Eating Championship, so that gets expensive. And he loves eating socks, too, especially when said socks have been worn and smell really ripe.  This means I'm always spending money on new socks.

So, why not put Jackson to work? Why can't he contribute to paying the phone bill, the heating bill, the mortgage?  Hey, we're always being told by certain polticians we don't deserve a free ride, so work, work work!
Jackson the landscaper, hauling away a stick from our
yard in St. Albans, Vermont. 

Our Jackson is pretty strong, and he has unlimited energy, so maybe he can run a branch office of my landscaping business. Lord knows he loves branches, the way he always carries them around. He can gnaw down brush homeowners don't want, then put them in a nice pile for disposal.

Jackson eats flowers in gardens, so maybe we can train him to eat weeds instead.

To impart a work ethic on Jackson,  I'll show him  the video that I found that shows a nice dog working as a receptionist in a veterinarian's office. It's true. He deals with receipts, and makes sure the clients leave with all the necessary paperwork that tracks the health of all those Fidos and Fluffys.

Watch our canine career gal working, below:

Fox News and Muppets Fight To The Death! For America!

Hoo boy, I'm not going to get in the middle of this one!

Still, it's probably the most important battle, and the most epic of our lifetimes. The fate of the universe rests on this. Or not.

On one side, it's Fox News, where business host Eric Bolling said the new-ish Muppet movie is an attack on capitalism, and it's trying to indoctrinate impressionable kids into some liberal pro-environment mess.
Miss Piggy at a news conference, battling Fox News

On the other side are Muppet movie stars Kermit the Frog, and especially Miss Piggy at a London news conference, trash talking Fox News.

Um, reporters breathlessly taking notes and recording every word of what puppets say? A well known news organization worried about puppets destroying the American Way of Life?

Whatever side you fall on in this epic debate, I think it's time we all take a deep breath.  In the meantime, watch the press conference video for yourself, because we report, you decide:

Sunday, January 29, 2012

"Cash Mob" Invades Ohio Hardware Store, Owner Thrilled.

Here in Vermont, there has been a debate for decades: Do we let the suburban big box retailers in, or do we keep them out to maintain those little stores in historic village centers in the state?

I doubt it will ever really be resolved. People do need access to inexpensive goods, hence the big boxes. But we also need the village centers and the businesses there, because that's our culture, our way of life, and not to mention a draw for the tourists with their fistfuls of money.

I won't try to resolve the debate here. Like I could! But here's a fun little thing that happened in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Residents launched a "cash mob" on a local hardware store there, according to Amy Sancetta of the Associated Press.
The scene of a recent "cash mob"

We all know about flash mobs, those groups of people who suddenly break out of a crowd without warning and start some sort of dance performance or something.

The Chagrin Falls cash mob was group, organized via social media, who invaded Chagrin Falls Hardware and spent cash. "Organized" is an iffy word here. People just put the word out on Facebook and Twitter, and the people showed up at the store in droves and spent cash.

The word "mob" here was entirely accurate, because the storm was absolutley jammed all day, according to published reports.

No word on how much money the store made, but I'm sure the owners appreciated the business.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Hate To Do the Laundry? Do This

Found this video on Buzzfeed. Maybe I'm just a weird, sick puppy, but I love the video. It shows what happens when you put random pieces of metal into your washing machine.

To me, it was funny watching the machine keep going, going and going as it falls to pieces.

How Words Have Power

Hat tip to Rick Wold on Facebook for alerting me to the viral video in this post that's actually been up for a year or so.

As the notes below the video say, it "illustrates the power of words to radically change your message and the your effect upon the world."

Yes, the video turns out to be an advertisement for a company that helps people and companies offer a better Web presense, but the short film is certainly poignant enough to watch.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Okla. Legislator Saves Us From Fetus Burgers

This has been all over the news, but I have to note here the story about Oklahoma State Senator Ralph Shortey, who has introduced a bill that would prohibit the sale or manufacture of food or products which contain aborted human fetuses. 

This is obviously a great idea, since who in the world would want that in their food? Of course, I doubt anything on the Safeway shelves has any pieces of aborted fetus, given the yuck factor and the really, really substantial ethical issues associated with it.
This man, Ralph Shortey, might save us from the
yuckiness of aborted fetuses in food.

Still, I guess you can't be too careful. Says Shortey: “There is a potential that there are companies that are using aborted human babies in their research and development of basically enhancing flavor for artificial flavors.”

Apparently, Shortey read something on the Internet, where this here blog thingamjig is, that some company called Senomyx is using aborted embryonic create isolated human taste receptors, whatever that sentence means.

And of course you have to believe everything that's on the Internet. If it's in words, it's true, right?.

Well, Shortey said he's done some digging on this, and he doesn't believe everything on the Internet, which is a relief.  He also says he doesn't mind the ridicule, because people who raise seemingly nonsensical issues are often proved right, and the laughing stops

No word from Senomyx on what's going on, at least there's nothing on their Web site, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says they're not aware of this.

I would certainly hope the FDA would be aware of this, if it is going on. 

I also hope our state legislators save us from other perils out there. And the way to do that is to pass laws, to make sure those wascally wabbits don't hurt us.

Here in Vermont, I'm going to lobby my local legislators to pass laws outlawing purple monkeys from walking along my street. I also want them to ban square hailstones in thunderstorms. And I think we need a law that would bar space aliens from abducting anyone with the letter Q in their name.

Because we have to protect ourselves from such things before they happen. 

"Old Lady" Steve Tyler Lost in Patriots' Stadium

Steve Tyler of the group Aerosmith sang (or shrieked, depending on your perspective) the National Anthem at last week's NFL playoffs between the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots at Foxborough, Mass.  (For those of you living in a cave, the Patriots won. Go Pats!)

Below is a photo of Tyler and Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady after the game. But read first how Boston.com captioned the photo for a good laugh:

"Tom Brady, (right) directs an elderly, homeless lady to an exit following the AFC Championship NFL Game against the Baltimore Ravens on Jan. 22, 2012 in Foxborough, Mass."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sun Rays Beautifully Break Clouds Over Lake

While on the Burlington Bike Path along the shores of Lake Champlain the other day, the sun broke through a few cracks in the dark overcast above me.

As usual, I had my camera with me and snapped away:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

49s Fumbler Death Threats, Cat Murder and Lack of Perspective

In the continuing annals of people in this country who have no sense of perspective at all, I give you two new exhibits.

First we go to San Francisco 49s wide receiver Kyle Williams, who, during the NFL playoffs over the weekend, made some mistakes and help cost his team a place in the Super Bowl.

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Kyle Williams shown here either
expressing his disappointment in his game performance, or
trying to drown out the yahoos who issued death threats againts him.
Williams feels bad, takes ownership of the mistakes, and I know he will keep plugging. That should be the end of the story. He's not exactly a mass murderer, right? Just a bloke who had an iffy day that had no bearing on the fate of the world.

Well, a lot of people would disagree. Williams has gotten a ton of death threats for his less than stellar performance on the field. People want his wife and kids killed for this too. Seriously. (That Williams does not have a wife and kids apparently is beside the point.)

Here's one typical example, cited by bleacherreport.com who found this charming message about Williams on Facebook from some yahoo identified as Cole Matthew Mitguard:

"Kyle Williams... you need to leave San Francisco forever, you should never be allowed to play in the NFL ever again... Your play and ypur post game comments should be enough to earn yourself a spot in 49ers history's... As the biggest POS to ever wear the red and gold. Lots of hope for next year, let's just hope that KW gets hit by a bus, eaten by a lion, or dies in some other terrible way so he can't ruin the 49ers season again... What a terrible piece of garbage you are KW, you ruined the game I have been waiting for over 10 years..

Really. So Cole, you've been waiting for the 49ers to win for a decade, you think Williams took it away from you and so he must die. Oh, you poor, poor victim.  Enduring your football team's loss has to be so much worse than minor inconveniences like terminal cancer, homelessness, rape, or all kinds of awful things decent people are forced to face.

Cole, I think you're being just a tiny bit melodramatic, no?

Williams is worse than a serial killer because he fumbled a football?f  I would love to confront the people who made the threats to find out what they were thinking. What other mistakes deserve the death penalty? Do I deserve to die because I wasn't paying attention this morning while walking along a sidewalk and almost bumped into someone?

Mitguard's Facebook post and the response it got is fascinating, as it presents a window onto the psyche of people who make these weird threats.  When confronted, they do back down, in kind of a sniveling way.   At first Cole says, petulantly, "Why is it that I should restrain myself from expressing myself."

Well, because you sound like a moron.

Mitguard goes on to concede that maybe, just maybe, the death threat was a little over the top. But he goes on and on about his anguish that Williams blew two plays. The horror! "Every 49ers fan is entitled to at least 24 hours of unmitigated rage," he writes.

True, sports fans are entitled to being annoyed by a losing team. And sure, if your friendly neighborhood NFL wide receiver does a crappy job, why not publicly complain and criticize? But unmitigated rage? So you're going to start a riot or something too? I guess that's whats behind those riots you get after a team loses a big game. Right, fine folks of Vancouver?

Further responding to being confronted, our buddy Cole writes this:

"Please do not try and take the moral high ground on someone in my position who is both drunk and frustrated at this evenings events. But at the same time, I find it infanelty (sic) more embarrasing that their (sic) are fans out there who don't put their beliefs out there."

Oh, OK. You're drunk and frustrated, so that gives you the right to offer threats, even if they're not serious. And you're saying that if your team disappoints you, you're supposed to go apeshit because a real person doesn't have a temper tantrum when the home team loses?

Like I said, disappointment and frustration among fans is perfectly fine when the team loses. But again I have to ask the question:  How is this melodrama a sign of being a real man, a real team player?

Toward the end, Cole's Facebook friends talk him down. He even finds it in his heart to see some  sunshine.   "Next year is going to be an awesome year to be a 49ers fan."

Atta boy, Cole!

I don't mean to pick exclusively on this one poor soul, but his Facebook post was so readily accessible that I couldn't resist analyzing it as a textbook example of being a little over the top.

It looks like Cole has calmed down, but what about the rest of those members of the wacko death threat brigade?  Maybe killing a whole town of people is OK, but screwing up a football game is grounds for swift capital punishment?

Somebody please explain this to me.

Next we go to Arkansas, where the campaign manager for a Congressional candidate came home and found somebody killed his cat and scrawled "liberal" on the cat's corpse.

Apparently, if you're a liberal, your cat needs to die.  Because it's the cat's fault your liberal. Or something.  And which animals should die if somebody is deemed too conservative?

Ken Aden, the Congressional candidate whose campaign manager had to deal with this, naturally condemned this and said he knows that his opponent, Steve Womack, and Womack's campaign, had absolutely nothing to do with the disgusting incident.

Womack for his part, said in no uncertain terms that the idea of brutalizing an animal to make a political statement is beyond any standard of decency.

So at least the political candidates are behaving like sane adults here.

But still, some loser is out there, thinking the logical thing to do with a political candidate you don't like is torture and kill his pets.

I guess in the name of being an "American" the torturer decided to instill fear in a legitimate political campaign. Being a terrorist is OK if it fits your own political views?

Oooh, I hope they catch more of the people who did this, and the people who made death threats against the football player, and make their names public. Not because I want any physical harm to come to them. But because they need to be publicly embarrassed all to hell.

But these miscreants are probably too stupid to learn anything from this.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Extreme Road Traffic: The Very Worst and Best

As a frequent road warrior, I'm always on the lookout for the worst and the best in driver and pedestrian behavior, as the way people drive on and use roads is a great window into the quirks of human behavior.

I found two videos today, illustrating how extreme things could get in two ways.

First we take you to lovely Chechnya, where road rage is, well, all the rage, in ways far worse than anything you've seen in the good old U.S. of A.  It's unclear from the video if this style of driving is the normal state of affairs over there, or if it's a group of people who just don't get along and take to the streets to express their disagreements. In any event, just a little tense over there in Chechnya:

For relief from our Chechnya experience, we now go to the Phillipines, where a very good traffic cop make sure cars and trucks flow nicely and people obey the rules. He seems to enjoy his job, and people really enjoy watching him work, judging from this video:

Midwinter Blahs Have Us Craving Green

It hasn't been a tough winter here at all in Vermont, but still, it's not my favorite season, and as always as we reach the season's midpoint, I'm craving green leaves.

I found myself over the weekend staring at the sun streaming through the windows of my St. Albans, Vermont house, lighting up the house plants.

I took some pictures, just so I can stare at them on the gloomy days of late January and February. As an added treat, at least I got a decent sunset sky toward the end of the day Sunday.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Gabrielle Giffords is the Definition of Graciousness.

I'm not going to name names, but watching the overheated political news these days makes me weep for the callousness, dishonesty, hypocrisy and general ickiness in much of today's political climate.

Today, I felt a bit weepy for another reason. Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Congresswoman who was severerly injured in a shooting spree about a year ago, announced she is resigning from Congress.
Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords
announced Sunday she is resigning.

She released a two minute video explaining her reasoning. Mostly, she wants to focus on continuing her amazing recovery from a bullet to the brain. Her video is one of the most gracious, honest, commonsensical and optimistic things I've ever seen a politician do.

I was definitely moved, to say the least.

No matter what your political stripes, you've got to wish her well. And I think she will continue to do great things.

Here's the video so you can see for yourself:

Arson, Tampons and Strange People

Yes, I know maybe I've been harping on the strange crimes a bit too much lately, but I couldn't resist this strange, convoluted tale out of Pennsylvania.

For some reason, according to police, a couple decided to destroy somebody's car in Metal Township, Pennsylvania.  Great name for a town, but that's beside the point.

It's unclear why, but I guess they were upset.  First they took the traditional route by bashing dents into the car's body and cracking and breaking windows. Standard issue vandalism
Patricia and Quentin Deshong, looking unhappy after
being busted for allegedly trying to torch a car
with flaming tampons.

But this pair was on a roll. They wanted to destroy this vehicle, after all. So, they did the obvious. They set some tampons on fire and tried to stuff the flaming material into the gas tank and the oil pan, according to The Smoking Gun.

The police report said the couple, Quentin and Patricia Deshong, was drunk, which explains a lot, but not everything. It also didn't help Patricia Deshong's case when she got to the police station, she said she was "going to f***ing kill" a Pennsylvania state trooper once she was sprung from the holding tank, court papers indicate.

Even the side issues with this case are still weird. The guy who drove the owner of the car, Falon Clark to the scene was drunk, police said, and was processed for DUI. As of the time the Smoking Gun article was written, Clark was still Facebook friends with Patricia Deshong, but Clark also did post a message that she was "lookin' for revenge," so I assume this story isn't over.

Lucky us.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Judge Judy Inspires Rage in at Least One Woman

Whatever you do, do NOT, repeat NOT watch "Judge Judy" with Janet Knowles, 62, of Jupiter, Florida.

Yeah, yeah, I know you probably don't know Janet, so you wouldn't watch TV with her. Or you're not a fan of "Judge Judy" or you have better things to do than fly down to Jupiter, Florida to watch bad TV.
Is Judge Judy angry because somebody got mad and
assaulted somone for watching her show? 

But I care.  So it's always best to warn people away from danger. Seems a 65 year old guy was sitting in his living room recently watching Judge Judy when Knowles had enough. I'm not quite sure what the good judge said, but Knowles got so angry that she took it out on the guy and smacked him with a hammer. 

As always in these breaking criminal cases, some details are lacking. What worries me is, will Judge Judy inspire other such attacks in the future?

Maybe the good judge is trying to stockpile cases for her show. She angers people, who commit assaults because of her, then they come before Judge Judy to sort it all out in her courtroom.

A ratings bonanza!

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Puppet's Court Delivers Television Corruption News

I bet you never dreamed you'd read this line in a news story about a federal racketeering trial: "A furry hand stuffs cash down the shirt of a puppet prostitute."

That's an Associated Press account of a Cleveland television station's novel way of covering the trial of Jimmy Dimora.

Television cameras are not allowed inside federal court trials. Typically, television stations rely on reading court transcripts, showing sketches, and offering video of defendents and their lawyers grimly marching in or out of the court building.
A squirrel puppet journalist reports on a federal racketeering
trial for WOIO Action News in Cleveland

But not WOIO 19 Action News, no sir. The television station has puppets acting out the often lurid court testimony.

Yes, puppets. They look more like Muppets, the kind you'd normally see on Sesame Street, or palling around with Kermit and Miss Piggy

But the dialogue isn't exactly as wholesome as Miss Piggie's romantic interest in Kermit, or the laboratory mishaps Beaker and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew find themselves causing.

No, we have puppet prostitutes, puppets spreading STDs, puppets laundering money, all acting out the court transcripts.

The television station stresses that it only airs "The Puppet's Court" at the end of the newscast, and uses the beginning of the news show to report the serious news coming out of the trial.

It's kind of fitting that the pupper reporter narrating the trial in "The Puppet's Court" is a squirrel, since it seems many people think this puppet idea is a bit squirrely to begin with.

Even WOIO staffers don't know what to make of the puppet news. "I'm horrified," one anchor said after Day 2 of The Puppet Court.

Who knows, maybe the idea will catch on, and the real Muppets will become the stars of the psychodramas that are local newscasts. The Muppets could be really useful here in Vermont newscasts.

Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem could maybe cover the Burlington, Vermont arts scene.  Some Muppet cows could do some farm coverage.  Kermit would be perfect reporting from the Vermont Statehouse.

I'm sure Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker could enliven some, um, explosive science coverage. Miss Piggy is perfect for gossip coverage, and maybe use her trademark karate chop to get the dirt on local celebrities.  The elderly curmudgeons in the balcony, Statler and Waldorf, could do movie reviews, though they'd probably hate every movie they see.

OK, maybe the idea needs work. But while we consider the possibility of All Puppets, All the Time on CNN (wouldn't you love to see a puppet version of Anderson Cooper?) let's watch a segment of WOIO's Puppet's Court:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

TV Snow Reporter Gets Immediate, Negative Viewer Reaction

Unlike here in Vermont, it's been snowing quiet a bit in Seattle lately.

They got more than six inches of snow this week, and since Seattle isn't used to such snowfalls, traffic came to a standstill.

With the lack of traffic in the snow, Seattle's hilly streets became impromptu sledding hills.

KING 5  television reporter Meg Coyle  felt compelled to point out the snow on the steep, hilly street was packing into ice, the hill was getting dangerous for sledders, there was a risk they could get hit by cars, yada yada yada. Maybe she was being a bit of a nanny.

Well, watch the news report for yourself and see what kind of reaction the reporter's lecturing got. Pretty funny:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ice, Ice Baby a Pain in the Keister

No, I'm not talking about that highly unfortunate Vanilla Ice hit from the 1980s.

I'm talking about the winter of 2012 in Vermont.
Pedestrians gingerly walk on an icy street
in Burlington, Vermont on Monday.

We here in the Green Mountain state have been beset by roller coaster weather involving freezing rain, followed by thaws, followed by subzero cold, with the cycle repeating itself over and over again.

The result is lots of ice underfoot. Which means lots of us end up slipping and falling like a dead tree toppling in a hurricane.

 I like to walk at a very brisk pace. Why wait forever to get where you're going when you can move right along? But with all this ice, we all have to walk gingerly with little baby steps or risk falling.

We've all been falling anyway. First thing this morning, our dog Jackson was dying to get outside to do his business. As soon as the door opened he ran, hit the ice, fell on his side and slid, spiralling down the driveway until he hit a snowbank that had frozen rock solid.

Maybe the dog pee that was twirling out during this accident melted some of the ice, so that's a good thing. The better news is Jackson is none the worse for wear.

Jeff made it out to his SUV just fine, despite the ice rink driveway. The problem came when he arrived at work. He fell on the ice, and he's got an unhappy gimp going now.

I've slipped twice today so far. A branch fell across the end of the driveway during a howling wind storm last night. I went to remove it, and started going now. Luckily, the tree from which the branch came from broke my fall.

Too bad the branch I picked up was too small to act as a walking stick, but no matter.

I got to the parking lot for work, stepped out of my truck and fell again on the ice. I was fine, although I now have a nice, fashionable, powderly white streak on my side from where I slid against the truck as I fell, taking a layer of road salt off it in the proceess.

The temperature has been falling all day, heading toward the minus numbers tonight. Salt isn't going to work. Maybe I should just hire Olympic skater Johnny Weir to teach me some triple axles or something, so that I can at least walk down my super slick driveway creatively.

As long as I don't have to dress like Johnny while I do this.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Creeping Out Charlie Brown

Found this oddity on YouTube but I love it. It's a little depressing actually, but still worth it.

Film editor Rob Yulfo assembled bits and pieces of Charlie Brown cartoon segments and set it to a version of Radiohead's brilliant song "Creep," as song by a somewhat mournful Vega Choir.

"Creep" is one of my favorite songs (OK, it's dark, sue me) And sometimes, I can relate to Charlie Brown. After watching the poor hapless Charlie Brown in this video, you want to just give him a great big hug.

Watch to the end, because it's definitely not hopeless. But the Choir's version of "Creep" has a bit of NSFW language, so don't play it too loud.

Yes, Traffic Jams Happen Out of Thin Air

If you're anything like me, you are sometimes exasperated on a highway when there's a big traffic jam for no apparent reason.

No accidents, no ice, no construction, just a bunch of cars backing up for miles.

Today, on BoingBoing, I saw a great explanation of these jams.  If somebody hits the brakes, the effect of that acts like a shock wave from an explosion through the cars behind, making everybody brake until the cars clump up.

So listen up: Don't hit the brakes for no friggin reason why you're out on the Interstate. You'll annoy TONS of people. Including me. And you really don't want to annoy me.

Below is a video that shows how it works: Pretty fascinating, especially if you're a geek

Monday, January 16, 2012

Frigid Morning Creates Steamy Lake Champlain

It was 11 below in Burlington, Vermont this morning. Up until now, it's generally been a warm winter, so the lake has little ice on it.

The relatively warm waters, with no ice covering it, clashed with the cold air to create cool steam clouds. The steam froze on shoreline trees, creating some pretty rime ice. I was out there, briefly, despite the cold, and got this brief, otherworldly sort of video of the lake on a cold Vermont morning.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Updates: Girl Taunted, Then Supported Ties; Golden Voice Thrives

A couple of updates to a couple of my blog posts over the past year:

 In November, 2010, I told you about an eight year girl in Michigan who was being taunted mercilessly both in person and on Facebook by neighbors Jennifer and Scott Petkov.
Kathleen Edward of Michigan died last week of Huntington's
disease. She'd been mercilessly taunted by a cyberbully,
an adult neighbor, but an outpouring of support helped the girl

The little girl was dying of Huntingtons disease, but the evil Petkovs thought it would be fun to torment her anyway. This included wishing the girl would die and driving a truck done up like a hearse to drive the point home.

Needless to say, the rest of the neighbors were majorly P.O'd at the toxic Petkovs, who apparently were mad that the girl's grandparents didn't invite their daughter to a party so started a hate campaign.

The little girl, Kathleen Edward, died last week of Huntington's, but not before an outpouring of support from people all over the place eased the poison from the pathetic Petkovs.

One toy store owner appealed for help, hoping to raise maybe $500 or so to give the kid a shopping spree last year. He ended up raising $17,000, which undoubtedly led to a pretty good and well deserved shopping spree.

The Petkovs are allegedly up to their old tricks again, posting kind of stealth Facebook notes like what a great block party there would be when Kathleen died. The Petkovs said they didn't post that. Must have been a hacker, they said. We'll see.   But more court trouble could be brewing for the Petkovs.

In happier news, the once homeless man with the golden voice is thriving. We told you in  ?? about Ted Williams, the guy with addictions and who was homeless panhandled by giving spiels using his perfect radio voice.
Once homeless and drug addled, "golden voice"
Ted Williams now reportedly doing quite well

He got a crush of a huge media response, and in January, 2011 I worried in the blog that I worried the stampede would overwhelm him and he'd sink back into addiction.

Williams sought treatment for his addiction, but he had a couple relapses early on. However, the great news is reports indicate he is now doing very well. He's got lots of jobs. (You might have heard his voice in a Kraft macaroni and cheese commercial),  several offers, and is living in a nice condo with his girlfriend and his sober living coach.  He's not into substance abuse anymore and says he's unbelievably happy.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Shot of Winter in an Otherwise Warm Vermont

I suppose it was inevitable that winter would hit Vermont at some point. It always does.

I have to admit I've a bit ambivalent about what has been a pretty warm, snowless winter. On one hand, it's nice to be able to go outside without first spending three hours putting layers and layers of clothes on to the point you look like the Michelin Man.
Friday afternoon's lovely weather in St. Albans, Vermont.

And it's nice to not feel your nose freeze, turn black and fall off after about five minutes outside.

On the other hand, my snowshoes continue to gather dust in the basement, and the thin snowcover doesn't exactly say, "New England."

This afternoon, a pretty impressive cold front finally blew through, creating the blowing snow and icy roads that are a centerpiece of Vermont's winter charm.

It's supposed to go down to 12 below tomorrow night. Really. It needn't get that cold. Like I can afford $27,349,345,890,897,123 per second to heat my house.

But, I choose to live in Vermont, so I can't whine too much. Spring will get here eventually, and at least this winter, we haven't frozen to death yet.

Below is a sample of my joyous commute home today.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Romney Finds Himself in a Dog Fight

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney really has a dog fight on his hands at the moment.

Seriously. A dog fight.

Here's the deal: There's been a story in political circles for a long time now about the Romney family taking a road trip vacation. The inside of the Romney family car was filed with, well, Romneys, plus all their luggage and gear. There was no room for the poor family dog, Seamus.

So they tied a crate to the roof of the car, and put Seamus in the crate and away they went. Apparently, the dog was afraid or generally unhappy up there, so he had a bit of a diarrhea attack, which oozed down the back window of the car.
Dogs Against Romney protest at a campaign event

Hardly the type of thing to put one in a vacation mood.

There's conflicting reports on whether the Romneys stopped and hosed down the car and Seamus, or just drove through a car wash to clean up. (The car wash story seems pretty unreliable to me.)

For the record, Seamus survived the trip in the crate to Canada just fine.  Romney said Seamus liked it up there and Seamus died later of natural causes at a ripe old age.

In any event, the Seamus in a crate story is becoming an issue for Romney, the current front runner in the field of Republican presidential candidates.

New York Times columnist Gail Collins has for years now brought up Seamus in the crate every time she mentions Romney. And I mean Every. Single. Time. It's her meme.

Now there's a blog, called, Dogs Against Romney, which is apparently dog lovers, writing in behest of dogs, saying that Romney is probably not a good fit to be president because, in their view, putting a dog on a crate on the roof of a speeding car is animal abuse.

Dogs Against Romney are even selling a t-shirt with a logo that reads: "Rubbing Mitt's Nose In It."

My dog Jackson, himself a declared presidential candidate, has also weighed in on the controversy. As Jackson's media handler, I'll quote him thus:    "Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr"

Let me add that Jackson's Grrrrrrrr was definitely not a happy one. I could tell, because when Romney appeared on the television news, Jackson tried to bite the TV screen. And let me tell you his teeth are pretty damn sharp.

Newt Gingrich, now Romney's arch-nemesis, has also picked up on the story, attacking Romney as not fit because of the Seamus issue. A Gingrich campaign ad out there quotes Romney committing all kinds of alleged sins (At least what Gingrich considers sins) and the Seamus episode is in there.

I don't know where this dog fight will lead, but it's a warning for any political candidate out there: Stupid, bad dog stories always have a way of coming back to bite you.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

People Who Do Things Much Better Than You

Today, we're going to watch videos to make us all feel worse. Most of them are from Buzzfeed, The Daily What and Reddit, and feature people who do what they do so skillfully, we are all worthless by comparison.

First, we'll watch a finger painter who really performs under deadline. And on a small canvas:

Next, we take Southwest Airlines flight 372, where the flight attendant gives his safety and flight announcements, but he sure isn't boring. Yes, the video has been kicking around out there for more than two years, but what the hell, it's stiil cool:

It looks like our Southwest flight ends up in China, where we take in a womens' volleyball match. See if you can bat the ball around like these two teams. Even the local television announcer sounds besides himself, though we can't tell for sure because he speaks Chinese:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Really Looking Forward to "Off Their Rockers" Insanity

I normally don't get too excited over the hype surrounding upcoming network television shows, but I am bouncing with excitement over "Betty White's Off Their Rockers"

The show, hosted by the superb Betty White, looks like it will be a slapstick stupid "reality" show featuring older people doing outrageous things to punk and terrify younger people.

Yes, I know it's a bit condescending to laugh as older people break stereotypes and blurt out blunt sexual innuendos, perform pratfalls worthy of Larry, Moe, and Curly and generally terrorize the younger folk.

And yes, this could be just a really stupid, boring bust, but I'm optimistic.

In the promotional material for the NBC show, it does tweak the coveted 18 to 49 year old age group that the television folks say are the only relevant people in the universe when it comes to TV viewers. This resonates with me because I, ahem, turn 50 later this year.

What I like about it, potentially, is the show might do just a little to make people realize that it's not gross or bad if older people have a little fun. Are you listening, juiced out 20-something frat boys in the gym who resent people like me, old enough to be their father, pushing the weights around too?

Sorry, there's lots  of "old people" out there now. Deal with it, or get out of our way. Especially get out of Betty White's way.

Anway, the tag line of the show is "The saying is 'respect your elders.' It doesn't say anything about respecting you back."

"Off Their Rockers is scheduled to debut next Monday, the 16th, after Betty White's 90th birthday special.

White, by the way, is playing down her birthday. She's been quoted as saying, "Everybody is celebrating it for me. Don't give me any credit. I didn't do anything. It just happened."

Here's a funny promotional video for the show:

Mischievous Books Have Overnight Dance Fun in Toronto

Just found a video that made my day. The people at Type Books in Toronto painstakingly did a stop action video of books dancing around and rearranging themselves overnight after the store closed for the night.

A still from the video "Joy of Books" from Type Books in Toronto
The video is designed to celebrate the joy of books, but frankly, it's a great advertisement for the book store. Anybody who is that whimsical must run a cool store. I almost want to call in sick tomorrow and drive all the way to Toronto just to shop at this place.

“This video is a tribute, a love letter to books as objects. The door closes, the book seller goes home for the day and the party begins. The books get up and dance, they peek around the corner to make sure no one is looking and they have a really good time. It’s magical, it’s whimsical,"  said store owner Joanne Saul in a CBC interview.

Watch this super worthwhile video below: Betcha a Webter's dictionary you'll smile despite yourself.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Video: Butterfly vs. Otters

Just wanted to post this video, since it's such a load of fun. Otters chase a butterfly. I think I've had days like these otters:

Madonna Is a Woman, Not a Test Mouse!

This woman is not a test mouse.
A hilarious interview, roughly a year old, is surfacing involving Madonna and a Hungarian newspaper.

The questions by the newspaper go like this:

"Are you a bold, hussy woman that feasts on men who are tops?" and "How many Hungarian men have you dated in bed?"

Examples of Madonna's answers include: "I am a woman, not a test mouse." and "Carlos is an everyday person who is in the orbit of a star who is being muscle trained by him, not a sex machine."

It turns out the interview was translated back and forth between English and Hungarian several times, so what was actually said was lost in the translations. At least I really, really hope so.

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish blog for alerting everyone to this. To hear a reading of the entire video, listen to the YouTube clip below, taken from the French and Saunders show on BBC2. No video to watch, except for a picture of the two hosts, but listen, you will laugh out loud, guaranteed. I wish all my interviews went like that.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Prez Candidate Vermin Supreme Hates Gingivitis, Loves Ponies

There's been a lot of commentary that many of our current crop of presidential candidates are um, wacky nutjobs.

As noted this week, Jackson, my cocker spaniel, tried to inject some sanity into the race by launching his presidential bid.

Then, we have another candidate, named Vermin Supreme, who recently appeared at a New Hampshire panel of lesser-known candidates, looking fetching in that big black rubber boot he was wearing on his head.

Vermin Supreme is running on a platform of a government crackdown on gingivitis and a pony for everyone in America. He would provide everyone in America with government issued toothpaste that is an "addictive yet harmless substance." He says he is a friendly fascist and we should let him run our lives because knows what's best for us.
Vermin Supreme campaigns, as seen in this photo by Lori Duff
of the Concord Monitor

Methinks Vermin here is really running on a platform of how goofy he thinks politics is, so he wants to one up the whole thing. I wonder if he receives lobbying money from the toothpaste industry and the American Quarter Pony Association.

Still, I wonder if he should just pull that big old rubber boot down over his face. You watch his video and judge for yourself:

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cool Photos: Movie Star Baby; N.Y. Life

My own photography mostly leans toward nature and weather shots, but I always love it when photographers find a really creative way to make their art.

One of my favorites is on a blog called "Arthur Recreates Scenes From Classic Movies." In it British mom, writer and photographer Emily Cleaver poses her young son to match iconic scenes from well known movies. Among them are "The Godfather," "Rambo" and "Twelve Angry Men"
Baby Arthur recreates a scene from "Alien."

Cleaver says her son loves hamming it up for the cameras. I think a movie star's big career has started.

Another artist, Katie O'Beirne has a really cool participatory art project going. She leaves disposable cameras at random places around New York, encourages people to take pictures, then returns to collect the used cameras, and develops the pictures. She has a lot of them on her Tumblr site, New York Shots. 

Hey there fellow shutterbugs: What creative ideas to YOU have that can turn into a really cool project.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Jackson the Dog Announces His Presidential Campaign

The following is a statement from Jackson Ebenezer Modereger-Sutkoski, the latest entry into the United States Presidential race.

Greetings: I am proud to announce by candidacy for President of the United States.

As a dog (almost full-blooded cocker spaniel!) who watched the Iowa caucuses this week, I was disappointed by the caliber of those seeking the highest office in the land. Really, my fellow presidential candidates should do less barking and more wagging.
Presidential Candidate Jackson Ebenezer Modereger-Sutkoski

Some may wonder how a nearly eight month old black cocker spaniel who lives in St. Albans, Vermont could be president. The truth of the matter is there's no better person to be the leader of this great nation, as long as you believe that dogs are people, too.

I would bring an optimistic, happy, WOOF! attitude to Washington, something sorely lacking in the political landscape today.

I'm running as an Independent, because believe me, nobody tells me what to do.

I'm not the type that goes negative. I will not accuse my opponents of being socialist, radical, intolerant, stupid, corrupt, un-American or a flip-flopper.

However, if you want to throw me an old pair of flip flops to chew on to keep me occupied, go right ahead.

I am inclusive. After all, I'm a furry black dog, as diverse as you can get. As long as you feed me, throw sticks, and let me outside to poop every now and then, I don't care if you're white, black, straight, gay, religious, atheist, or whatever.

If elected, I promise doggie treats and belly rubs for all Americans.

I have hired the two men who live with me, Jeff Modereger and Matt Sutkoski as my campaign co-chairmen.

Modereger, my main man, will serves as chief of staff.  Since he's the guy who so reliably gives me food, and most often takes me for car rides - one of my greatest joys- he will be the best person to guide my path to the White House.

One of my few shortcomings is I get sidetracked by the interesting scents I encounter. Modereger always snaps me back to reality by saying, "Jackson, want a cookie?" and I get back on track.

Sutkoski, with his background in journalism, will be my official spokesman and media handler. He will continue his existing role as provider of sticks for me to run around with in the yard and wrestling matches with me to blow off steam. He will also continue to give me occasional belly rubs. At least he'd better!

Speaking of belly rubs, I propose we dispense with further tedious debates. I don't understand a word of it anyway, blah, blah, blah, blah. They just make me want to chew on my favorite toy, which Modereger has named "John Behner" for some reason.

From now on, when the urge comes upon us to debate, we just give each other belly rubs.

I also propose we get rid of all PACS, you know, those Political Action Committees that raise funds from semi-secret sources. They're too dark and murky for me. So I say we replace PACS with Packs. By that I mean we gather in packs, like dogs, to explore the world with our hyper sensitive noses. Hell, we'd learn a lot more about how to run the country that way, rather than relying on cable TV blowhards and creepy lobbyists anyway.

I look forward to exploring this great country of ours during this campaign. May my fellow Americans avoid skunks, inattentive drivers on roads and porcupines. God bless!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Christmas Tree Dismantled, Holiday Over, Phew!

A 45-foot tall Christmas tree graced the Church Street Marketplace, in the central business and shopping district of Burlington, Vermont.
Crews split Burlington, Vermont's
Christmas tree in half as it's taken down

The city put the tree up with great care, carefully placing it just so, tethering it to surrounding buildings it wouldn't blow over, and decking it out with a zillion environmentally friendly LED lights.

The end of the season is less precise. A swarm of guys from Barretts Tree Service came in and blasted it to pieces with chain saws in short order.
Branches from Burlington, Vermont's Christmas tree
are unceremoniously stuffed into a wood chipper now that
the holiday is over. 

At least the tree will continue to be used well. The tree's trunk is going to a lumber yard, and it will be sawed into planks. Those planks will be used in a new Habitat for Humanity home, as reported in the Burlington Free Press. Gotta like that kind of recycling. And it's the kind of regifting any recipient would like.

George Michael Rails Against Christianist Death Wishing Morons

Normally, I don't applaud semi-drunken rants by celebrities, but I'll make an exception here for George Michael.

Michael nearly died in November during a nasty bout with pneumonia. He's doing much better now, thank you very much. So much better that he had a couple glasses of wine, and, something that's always dangerous, took to his Twitter account.  Lots of swear words in Michael's Twitter comments, folks.

It seems that when Michael was really sick and there was a lot of publicity about, an outfit called "Christians for a Moral America," decided to be immoral Americans by praying for Michael's death.

You see, Michael is gay, and so he deserved to die, in the so-called minds of this Christianist group.

Notice I'm calling them Christianists, not Christians. As George Michael himself points out in his messages, the huge, vast majority of Christians are nice, moral, normal people just trying to live a good life according to their religious beliefs. Which is as it should be.

But a subgroup of allegedly Christians are now widely called "Christianists" It appears (relatively) conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan coined, or at least popularized the term about nine years ago. He said back then:

"I have a new term for those on the fringes of the religious right who have used the Gospels to perpetuate their own aspirations for power, control and oppression: Christianists. They are as anathema to true Christians as the Islamists are to true Islam."[ 

Anyway, these Christianists, the Christians for a Moral America, said this while Michael was sick:    

"Apparently George Michael has AIDS. Figures since he's a homosexual and it goes with the territory. Another sodomite bites the dust?"

And this: "Pray for George Michael's demise. He has chosen a satanic lifestyle and must meet an appropriate end."

So you can see why George Michael was a bit annoyed.  For the record, Michael doesn't have AIDS, he said, but no matter.

I know Christians for a Moral America are just a pesky fringe group, But I'm fascinated by such train wrecks, because there seems to be so many of them. What leads these people and groups to bend the Bible into something hateful? 

Yeah, I respect the right of Christians to not really accept gay people even as I totally disagree with that position. Just as long as they don't intrude on the lives of people who disagree with them. 

But to call for the deaths of people they don't like is just as bad as any other fundamentalist extremism. True, Christians for a Moral America have not actually gone out and killed anyone. But it seems they are encouraging it.

Terrorism is terrorism. I don't care what religion you represent, if your hate means somebody dies, you don't deserve to be around. 

Our focus on Islamic extremists is a good idea. But we need to keep an eye out for all extremists. It's a small step from hoping for the death of somebody the Christianists don't like to actually going out and killing them. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Obama Is Hiding His Past Teleportation to Mars, Pair Says

It turns out Donald Trump was barking up the wrong tree when he accused President Obama of faking his birth certificate.

According to Wired, the real scandal was revealed by Andrew Basiago and William Stillings, who say they are ex-government agents who were once "chrononauts" and went with a 19-year old Obama on a secret CIA mission to Mars. 

Apparently, Obama was up there on Mars helping to squelch threats from extraterrestials and establishing territorial sovereignty on the red planet.
Did a youthful Barack Obama participate in a secret mission
to Mars to kill extraterrestials, like Marvin the Martian?

Of course, the U.S. government, those cloakers of government nefariousness, deny that Obama was anywhere near Mars, or had anything to do with Mars, other than watching Looney Tunes' "Marvin the Martian" as a kid.

I wish Obama would come clean on this. Is he promoting green technology as a ruse to establish new fuel sources for a Martian conquest? Did he kill Osama bin Laden because bin Laden knew too much about the secret government Mars takeover? Did Obama push through health care reform to take care of any astronauts that go to Mars.

I call on the field of Republican presidential candidates to expose this major potential scandal.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

This Guy's Fitness Will Make You Feel Awful About Yours

How's your New Year's resolutions going? Trying to get in shape? Here's a goal for you: Get as fit, and as dexterous as the guy in the video below. Yeah, it's a hopeless case, so you might as well give up, grab a bag of Doritoes, a six pack of Bud and watch this guy's derring-do:

Things That Amazingly Needed Explaining to Stupid People.

Reddit had an absolutely funny and depressing recent thread on the stupidest things people had to explain to someone else. 

There's some doozies in there. One of them include an employee at Michael's who had to deal with a woman who was upset there were not ten by eight picture frames. There were only eight by ten frames.

The sales clerks turned an eight by ten frame on its side, and the woman was happy.
Unfortunately, this statement is true too often.

I've had to deal with that kind of thing myself. Once, vacationing in South Carolina in July, a woman at a store remarked that I "must be happy to be out of all that cold and snow you've got up there." I could not convince her Vermont is not a snow covered arctic tundra in July.

Another South Carolinian asked me. "Where you from, boy?"
"Vermont," I replied.
Said he: "Vermont?! Ain't that part of Killington."
Not wanting to go there, I just said, "Um, yeah."

At work once, a woman called me upset that I wrote a news article about her son, who was charged with a crime and had been in court.
"Where did you get that information anyway," she asked me.
"It was in the affidavit," I said.
She replied: "Who's David?"

Another time I was accused by a reader of being racist because I reported that police said a car crash was caused by black ice. By using the term "black" to describe the ice, I was apparently disparaging African Americans. Oh.

Another one of my favorite items in the Reddit thread was in a school that was almost out of paper. One girl had the perfect solution: "Why don't we photocopy a blank piece of paper a bunch of times, and we'll have plenty of paper that way."

OK readers, what was the dumbest thing YOU'VE had to explain to anyone?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

To The Rescue, Through Eight Feet of Floodwater

Here in Vermont, 2011 was the wettest year on record. We endured spring flooding in April, record flooding along Lake Champlain in May, wicked flash flooding in central Vermont, also in May, and of course Tropical Storm Irene, whose flooding was Vermont's worst disaster since 1927.

The weather was pretty bad all over the world in 2011. The United States suffered through at least 12 disasters costing more than a $1 billion apiece.

The bad global weather continued to the end of the year. In Australia, Melbourne, technically had a white Christmas. That's hard to do, considering it's summer there, but one of the worst hailstorms battered the city on Christmas.

The storms unleashed tornadoes, wind and floods. Which leads us to this video. You're not supposed to drive into floodwaters. But Austrailian firefighters drove their truck into flood water eight feet deep.

According to the Melbourne Herald Sun, the firefighters didn't think the water was that deep, they decided to just keep going and hope for the best.  Officials said it was an error of judgement, but nobody got hurt, and no discipline is anticipated.

The video is unbelievable:

Red Solo Cup: A New Icon is Born

Not feeling that great this New Year's Day morning?

Could the blahs be the results of what you drank out of your red Solo cup last night?
Nothing says Booze Fest like red Solo cups, that staple of frat parties and blowouts for decades.

Red Solo cups are now a National icon, thanks to those countless parties, and now a hit song by Toby Keith.
The celebrated party staple
red Solo cup

Keith puts into words what every partier is thinking, even if said partier doesn't even realize he or she is thinking:

Red solo cup, you’re more than just plastic
You’re more than amazing, you’re more than fantastic
And believe me that I’m not the least bit sarcastic
When I look at you and say
Red solo cup, you’re not just a cup
(No! No! No! God, no!)
You’re my, you’re my friend." 
All this love for a beer cup. Hey, you gotta appreciate something.
And all this publicity doesn't hurt the Solo Company, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2011 just as Keith's song came out. 

Even National Public Radio gave notice to Red Solo cups last month, doing a full article on how the containers are now a staple of parties all over the place.

All for a red plastic cup that contains cheap beer and leads to hangovers.

But it's all worth it. Red Solo cups, or at least the stuff they contain, are the lubricants for our parties. So party on with your red Solo cup, and Happy New Year