Sunday, April 29, 2012

One of the Best Ballpark National Anthem Performances.

The Red Sox have been uneven this early season, though lately they've hit their stride, winning their sixth straight game with a win over the Chicago White Sox last night.

Whatever the fortunes of the Red Sox, a video taken at Fenway Park four years ago seems to have gotten renewed attention. It will warm your heart if you stay with it: It was National Disabilities Awareness Day and a young man with a disability sang the National Anthem.

He got nervous, but the day was saved. Watch it and smile:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

April 27 Always Kills My Garden

What is it about the days around April 27 each year? Each year, extreme weather on that date kills my garden. Seriously.

The spring of 2010 was very warm, like this one. Everything bloomed early. Rainfall was generous, but not excessive.  As the end of April approached, most of the leaves on trees were out, and the flowers were  blossoming beautifully. My lilacs in particular looked awesome.
Snow smushes one of my lilac bushes on April 27, 2010.

Then, on April 27-28, I got 16 inches of wet, heavy snow. It collected on the leaves, and broke a lot of trees, flattened the flowers and smushed my lilac bushes almost flat on the ground.  It was a mess.

Three days later, the temperature was back up to near 80 degrees, and I was outside picking up the mess in shorts, stepping around waning snowbanks as I hauled the broken branches away.

On the bright side, the lilacs recovered nicely and even most of the flowers rallied.

The next year, 2011, spring ran a little later. Things were pretty much on schedule. Around April 27 things were starting to green up, but it was awfully wet after a snowy winter and a rainy early spring.

Then, on the night of April 26-27, thunderstorms raked over my property repeatedly. Rain gushed down in torrents, hail like so many icy bullets piled up in the heavier storms. The brook by the house roared. Finally, a culvert upstream became overwhelmed, and a wall of water swept across my lawn and gardens.
Rocks and mud cover my lawn after a
flash flood on April 27, 2011.

Luckily a stone wall I built in front of the house for decoration acted as a seawall, diverting the water from the house. Only a little water got into the basement. But as the water receded, I saw that my lawn was covered with gravel, rocks, sticks and other debris. Part of my driveway was washed away. A small spruce tree was somewhere downstream, and I could see a some of my flower bulbs hung up in the weeds downstream. It was another big mess to clean up.

This year, spring was early again after a remarkable, record hot March and early April. Leaves were coming out, and my flowers bloomed happily. Even stuff that comes up out of the ground later, like hostas and astilbe, were happily growing.

Now, here on the weekend of,  yes, April 27, it's destruction again. We're getting a three-night, hard freeze, with temperatures well into the 20s. We've had one night of the cold already, and two nights to come. I see this morning that my lilacs are wilted and shriveling.

Elsewhere, I tried to protect many of my plants by covering them with layers of compacted leaves from the compost pile, and tarps, and whatever else I can find. It's a lot of work for something that might not work, since I had to haul the leaves everywhere, I have to repeatedly cover and uncover the plants over the weekend, then clean up the mess next week. That will undoubtedly include all those leaves blown across the entire yard in the dry cold.
My sad attempts to protect a Korean lilac and my
peonies from a killing freeze, April 27, 2012.

I know I'm whining, because all I'm dealing with here is inconvenience, not destruction. In 2010, that snowstorm brought down trees on cars and houses in St. Albans, causing a lot of damage. In 2011, that flood damaged dozens of Vermont homes. And the storm system that caused the flood was the same one that caused  the worst tornado outbreak in the nation's history, killing hundreds of people. And this year's freeze is destroying the livlihood of so many orchard and vineyard operators.

Still, extreme damaging weather is disheartening for even a little gardener like me. I'd like to go back to normal weather in the spring and summer, but it doesn't look like it's in the cards for any of us in coming years.

Friday, April 27, 2012

What Do You Grab From a Burning House?

You've heard the question before, as sort of a parlor game. Your house is on fire and you have to flee. What to you grab on the way out?
What one submitter to "The Burning House
would grab if her house was on fire.

Since everything is found on the Internet these days, somebody created a blog, called The Burning House, that asks just that: People submit a list of items they would grab from their blazing homes.

The blog is a fascinating time waster, a window into the psyche of all of us who would act rationally, irrationally, and very much like humans in an emergency.

For some reason, most of the submitters in The Burning House said they would take their MacBooks.  in (kind of like the one I'm typing away at now.   But of course my house isn't on fire, so we're good)

Most of the people included photographs of the items they would take. Of course, almost everybody would take important papers, wallets, old family photographs, that kind of important stuff.

But it's interesting to see what items are near and dear to some people. Simple items, that wouldn't mean anything to anybody, except to the people who posted in The Burning House. It's an interesting list: dark chocolate, a husband's toy dinosaur, "my favorite Heidi Klum t-shirt," a dollar, high heels, favorite perfume and chunky pearl earrings.

My list would be similar to the people who submitted to the blogs. I'd take my Macbook, my wallet, phone,  a photo of me and my sister Lynn when we were children and fat and had bad haircuts, the teddy bear I had since I was three, a favorite children's book of mine called "The Gift of Nothing," a Diet Coke.

So you tell me, what would you grab first if your house was on fire?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bad Analogies Delight

I stumbled on this list of bad analogies, from an old Washington Post article, just for chuckles and as a nice time waster. I especially like the one that references the Hefty Bag, just because I have a sick sense of humor:

  • He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.
    Joseph Romm, Washington
  • She caught your eye like one of those pointy hook latches that used to dangle from screen doors and would fly up whenever you banged the door open again.
    Rich Murphy, Fairfax Station
  • The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.
    Russell Beland, Springfield
  • McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty Bag filled with vegetable soup.
    Paul Sabourin, Silver Spring
  • From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and "Jeopardy" comes on at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30.
    Roy Ashley, Washington
  • Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze.
    Chuck Smith, Woodbridge
  • Her eyes were like two brown circles with big black dots in the center.
    Russell Beland, Springfield
  • Bob was as perplexed as a hacker who means to access\aaakk/ch@ung but gets T:\flw.quidaaakk/ch@ung by mistake
    Ken Krattenmaker, Landover Hills
  • Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
  • He was as tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree.
    Jack Bross, Chevy Chase
  • The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.
    Gary F. Hevel, Silver Spring
  • Her date was pleasant enough, but she knew that if her life was a movie this guy would be buried in the credits as something like "Second Tall Man."
    Russell Beland, Springfield
  • Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.
    Jennifer Hart, Arlington
  • The politician was gone but unnoticed, like the period after the Dr. on a Dr Pepper can.
    Wayne Goode, Madison, Ala.
  • They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth
    Paul Kocak, Syracuse, N.Y.
  • John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
    Russell Beland, Springfield
  • The thunder was ominous-sounding, much like the sound of a thin sheet of metal being shaken backstage during the storm scene in a play.
    Barbara Fetherolf, Alexandria
  • His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free
    Chuck Smith, Woodbridge
  • The red brick wall was the color of a brick-red Crayola crayon.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Obama Conspiracy Theories Get Hilarious

Did you know Barack Obama, during the 2008 primary, worried that Hillary Clinton learned he was really a Kenyan, unfit for president,  so he told Hillary that he would personally kill her daughter Chelsea unless she shut up about everything, got out of the way and let him win?
Unlike in a goofball conspiracy theory circulating,
this man did not plot to murder Chelsea Clinton.

OK, that's not the least bit true, but it's a real lunatic conspiracy theory circulating out there.

Every president, it seems, is subject to wild conspiracy theories from the fringes, and Barack Obama seems to get some of the looniest, most hilarious ones.

This theory seems to have originated, or at least propogated by a guy named Jerome Corsi at World Net Daily. 

There's lots of good, reliable conservative political Web sites out there. I would say WND is good for um, conservative comic relief rather than serious news. It does have a certain flair, with headlines like Phyllis Schaffley seeing scandals, scandals everywhere! EEEEEEEKKK!!!

And another columnist on the site is appalled that there's so much fraud out there that Mickey Mouse can get on the presidential ballot. Which would probably be a better thing than said columnist getting on the presidential ballot.

Our fearless "Obama wanted to  kill Chelsea" author, Jerome Corsi, has quite an oeuvre himself. The poor guy sees ugly plots all around him. It must be awful living in his world, where the usual bad things we always see are augmented by the even darker conspiracies only he and his fans see.

Corsi has said a terrorist group with ties to al Qaida and criminal gangs was supporting John McCain's 2008 bid for president, that oil companies and others are hiding the notion that oil is a limitless resource and is not a fossil fuel, and Martin Luther King was a shakedown artist.

I appreciate and admire people who think outside the box, have a different take on things, offer fresh ideas. So I suppose I should like Corsi and whoever came up with this Obama as Chelsea murderer idea.

But Mr. Corsi? Guess what? The world is not out to get you. Most people don't care what you think, as harsh as that sounds.  But you're articles are entertaining,  and we thank you very much for brightening our world that way.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chilly Vermont, But Spring Is Still Here

Today is not a great spring day, weatherwise, in Vermont. It's windy and chilly. The sun comes out every now and again, but the sun quickly disappears and is repeatedly replaced by cold, gusty showers. Some of the showers are laced with hail, and it's been snowing some in the mountains. A hard freeze is forecast for the end of the week

Still, the spring beauties are hanging in there, and below is a series of photos I took in recent days to prove the point. Maybe people shivering today will be warmed a bit by the photos.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Another Super Music Reality Show Star is Born

I'm a sucker for those moments on music reality shows when somebody makes a grand entrance and just blows us all away. The most famous example was Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent back in 2009. She was the dowdy, awkward woman who shocked everyone with her amazing voice.  As most people know, she's a big star now. (That famous first YouTube video now has 90 million hits!)
Rachael Leahcar, 17, wows 'em on Australia's Got Talent

Last year, we had Landau Eugene Murphy on "America's Got Talent" an underemployed, scruffy car wash worker who belted out Sinatra like, well, Sinatra.

And then we had Sung Bong Choi on "Korea's Got Talent," a teenager who has been homeless since he was a little boy, blowing away the audience

Today, hat tip to Cat Fraser via Facebook, I found one Rachael Leahcar, 17, who blew them away on Australia's version of "The Voice." That's the show where four singers who are the judges on the show sit with their backs to prospective singers, and then swing the chairs around to face the singers if they like them and want them on their teams.

Leahcar had to be led up onto the stage because she is blind. The judges, Delta Goodrem, Seal, Joel Madden and Keith Urban, seemed a bit impatient at that. Then Leahcar started singing Edith Piaff's "La Vie En Rose" The rest,  as they say, is history.

Watch the video below, which today has gone uber viral, 'natch:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Spring Interruptus: Snow on Vermont Flowers

Oh joy. I woke up to some unexpected snow here in St. Albans, Vermont this morning.

Slush on some of my flowers in St. Albans, Vt this morning.
Daffodils slumped under the weight of the slush. Some pots of peonies that my sister and brother in law gave me as a generous gift just yesterday so I could plant them today  are braving clumps of wet snow against the new spring shoots.

It happens, it seems, every time we have a very early spring, like this year.  Don't ask me how, but I remember that the springs of 1976, 1998, 2002 and 2010 started out hot and sunny and bloomed early, turned green prematurely, just like this one.

And in each case, it snowed and frosted and winterized after things bloomed. Often there was damage. In 2002, leaves on some of the trees died, and had to start over. There were ugly black-ish patches on the spring hillsides. In 2010, I got 16 inches of snow at the end of April, and the leafed out trees broke and buckled uner the weight.

Three days later, a Saturday, it was back up to 80 degrees, and I was picking up the mess near snowbanks, sweating in  just a pair of shorts, watching the sky as a thunderstorm approached. Then, a week later, I found myself mowing a lawn that was covered with half an inch of snow. Yeah, it was a bit odd watching chopped grass and slush gush from the side of the lawn mower.
My sister and brother in law gave me these peonies
to plant as a gift yesterday. This morning, they were
covered in snow. 

There wasn't enough snow in my yard this morning to damage any plants. But a windy nor'easter is due tonight, with heavy rain, and perhaps a bit of sleet. And they're predicted a hard, damaging freeze toward Friday or Saturday.  Maybe the lilacs won't bloom as a result, or the leaves on the trees will have to try again. We'll just have to wait and see.

Spring weather in Vermont has always been unpredictable. It's even worse lately. But in these topsy turvy springs, the plants either hang in there, or just cut their losses, die, and try again within a few weeks, somehow finding the energy to blossom twice in one year. Or they give up the ghost, only to greet the spring with blooming beauty the next year.

So at least the greenery out there is more resiliient than I am.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Facebook, Stupidity Makes Cops' Jobs Easy

One Michael Baker thought it would be fun to go to a police cruiser in his little town in Kentucky, siphon gas, or at least pretend to, while his friend took a picture of him doing so, and flipping the bird simultaneously.

A real photographic gem.

Such a photographic gem that he put it on Facebook for all the world to see. The world did see it, including the Jenkins, Kentucky Police Department, whose police cruiser was involved.

So it was pretty easy for the Jenkins Police Department to nab their man, our Michael Baker on misdemeanor charges, according to The Smoking Gun Web site.  

Everyone seems to agree Baker was pretty dumb. And they're right, seeing how easy he made it for the city of Jenkins' Finest to catch him.

Hmmm, Facebook as a law enforcement tool. Seems I've read of several criminals putting their exploits on Facebook, or witnesses take videos and put them on YouTube, so our police departments probably no longer have to go out and you know, chase suspects. They can kick back in their offices, or homes in their PJs and just surf Facebook and YouTube and Twitter and Pinterest all day. The crime rate will just keep sinking as a result.

I wonder if the police department where I live is hiring. Sitting at home all day snooping around Facebook and YouTube? How easy is that?

For his part, Baker's Facebook page is still up, but he's taken down the incriminating photograph. (It's in this blog post, though)

He seems a little shell shocked by his newfound celebrity. He is all over the news and the Internet, so he's now almost as famous as Lady Gaga or Justin Beiber. Just not nearly as rich, despite the fact he got his hands on a little expensive gasoline from the police cruiser.

I guess he's just a kid, 20 years old, who could use a little learning and life experience. And maybe he could take English as a second language class to improve his grammer. Notice the banner on his Facebook page reads "Hate me for who I am. Don't love me for who I ant."

Ant? He considers himself an ant? He ruins picnics? I'm confused. Then again, so is Baker. He does have plenty of defenders writing to his Facebook page, saying it's cool to mess with the police, or sympathizing that he just didn't think things through.

Baker wonders why everyone is making a fuss. He writes, "OMG, people. It was just a joke."

Maybe, but I hope your coal mining job pays enough to cover your attorney's fees. Or maybe you could sell the gas you might have stolen to pay the fines or whatever.

Still, I'm looking forward to more photographic wonders from people like Baker, so keep 'em coming folks.!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dick Clark Goes to the Great Spotlight Dance in the Sky

News that Dick Clark died today at the age of 82 brings me back to those Saturdays when I watched, with deep envy, the people dancing on the set of "American Bandstand."

Looking back, I have no idea why I was so envious, but consider the scenario. It was the 1970s. I  was sitting alone, again, in West Rutland, Vermont, in my usual  "husky boy" jeans and ill fitting  t-shirt, stained with Hershey's chocolate ice cream.

The dancers on "American Bandstand" were the cool kids in fashionable, dazzling L.A.  I was the dorky kid going nowhere in Vermont.  They were the stars. I never would be.

That's the strange thinking of a 14 year old kid. As much fun as I had with American Bandstand, I'm so glad I was never one of those cool kids on the show.  I look back on the clips now, and the kids weren't so cool. The clothes they wore maybe weren't the latest fashions. They were just what people wore back then. The kids couldn't even dance that well.  I was under selling myself.

Looking back,  I now realize it was more cool that I could walk out the back door, and lose myself hiking in the mountains in back of my house for the day. I didn't realize it at the time, but the fact that I could do that made me way cooler than the homogenous, bland Ken and Barbies dancing on American Bandstand.

I loved the music, though. I always loved pop music. Still do. I mean, check the clip below. "Don't Leave Me This Way," by Thelma Houston remains as delectable as Dick Clark said it was back in 1977 or whatever.  The clothes the dancers wore are so ugly. The kids weren't dancing well at all, like I thought they were when I first watched the show.  The clip is hilarious. Why isn't anyone really moving?!?

I'm almost 50 years old, and I can dance to any Lady Gaga song better than these American Bandstand kids could do to any of the best and wildest disco songs.

I used to get a kick out of the Spotlight Dance, where three couples on American Bandstand danced on three separate pedestals. They were the alpha kids, supposedly. The best dancers, the most popular, the best dressers. Now, they look and move no better than the two figurines atop a wedding cake during a minor earth tremor.

I don't mean to put down all those people who were on American Bandstand. They were all good. They had different lives than I did. I used to think that was to my disadvantage, they were better than I.  But no, they weren't better than me. Just different.

So anyway, Dick Clark, thank you for setting me off on this weird little journey of self discovery. I hope you're somewhere, introducing Abba or the Human League or Andy Gibb or Donna Summer,  to some of the best Spotlight Dancers in the universe.

Amazing Forklift Win, and Amazing Forklift Fail

If I ever need somebody to carefully pick up a bunch of heavy stuff with a forklift and set it down without damaging anything, I'll hire the guy in the video below. It's a fun time waster to watch. He picks up a small coin with a huge forklift and drops it into a soda bottle. Really. See for yourself!

Of course, I also have to include the opposite extreme: A guy who in grand comic fashion, fails at forklifting. I love train wrecks. I bet the title is right: The guy's last day at that warehouse.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Frozen Cows in HIgh Elevation Cabin: Dinner!

Here's a strange conundrum, at a place called (really!) Conundrum Hot Springs in Colorado.

It started when two Air Force Academy cadets snowshoed up to a cabin at an elevation of 11,200 feet one day in late March. The pair had planned to sleep in the cabin overnight.
Cows like these shouldn't cram themselves into
high elevation camps, just so you know

It didn't happen. That's because the cabin was stuffed with frozen cow carcasses, and the cows apparently really had some diarrhea before they died. Pretty gross.

According to Aspen Daily News reporter Carolyn Sackariason, the problem now is how to get rid of the frozen cows.

The National Forest Service says the cows have to go. They'll rot once the spring thaw really hits, and nobody wants them to contaminate the Conundrum Hot Springs. Because soaking in a contaminated Conundrum Hot Springs would really be a conundrum.

It's not a simple matter of just dragging the cows down the hill. It's an 8.5 mile trek. They're thinking of burning them, and the cabin, since the cabin was going to be torn down anyway. But there's a high risk of fire this spring in Colorado.

They might also just blow them up with explosives, but that fire danger is an issue again. And covering a high mountain top with itty bitty bits of dead cows and manure and cabin parts doesn't seem that appealing to me. But what do I know?

By the way, the cow got into the cabin because, the theory goes, they got caught in an early season cold snap and snowstorm, and sought shelter in the cabin. They jammed themselves in there, then couldnt get out, and died. They're still trying to track down the rancher who owns them.

Why not just carve 'em up for meat? They're still frozen, so it's all good right? Well maybe not, but who knows? I'm sure the quality wouldn't be as good as Omaha Steaks or something like that, but are there takers out there?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring Exuberance, Vermont Edition

I found three very different examples of spring exuberance lately as warm weather embraces Vermont.

First pic is a gaggle of happy looking daffodils in my St. Albans, Vermont yard.

Second picture shows Jackson, our happy little cocker spaniel, enjoys snacking on an ice cube on our sunny lawn.

The third is a truck whose owner obviously embraces the colors of spring and more.

So enjoy

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Spring Flowers are Back in Vermont

It's a nice warm weekend here in Vermont and things are greening up nicely. And still much earlier than normal, thanks to that record hot March.
Some daffodils enjoy some late afternoon April sun

With temperatures expected to soar into the 70s and 80s over the next couple of days, expect more blooming. Meanwhile, this post has a few pics of what's been in my St. Albans, Vermont garden over the past week.
Woodland flowers bloom in St. Albans
Sedum,  a gift last year from  my great friend Denis,
emerge from the ground in the warm April sun

A daffofil prepares  to bloom on a warm April day

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Worst Crime Spree Ever? 10 Felonies in 9 Hours

I really think a guy named William Todd needs a good lawyer.

Last week, Todd reported managed to commit ten felonies in nine hours around Nashville, Tennessee.  He was on a layover in Nashville on a Greyhound bus trip. He was apparently bored, so he started his little spree.
Ten felomies in nine hours: This guy is going to jail!

The crimes include breaking and entering, theft, arson and robbery.

And he was bizarre. Some details:

He started by breaking into a haunted house tourist attraction and stealing a taser, revolver and shotgun. He then set the business on fire.
Todd then robbed four people at gunpoint, making off with cash and credit cards.

Police say five minutes later Todd carjacked a cab, then used his newly acquired credit cards to buy food.
Todd then broke into a local lawyers office, ransacked the business then defecated on a desk, smearing feces on some of the framed law degrees.
He then impersonated a female housekeeper and knocked on several hotel room doors.

In one case, police said Todd stole $600 from a Canadian couple. 
Police say Todd then shaved his head before taking off in his stolen cab.
At 9am, police said Todd crashed the stolen cab into a parking garage.
Two hours later he hailed a new one and held the cab driver at knifepoint.

He also wasn't in a very noble spot when he was caught. They found him in a water cooling vat at Opryland. Todd didn't exactly go down swinging.

So, William, was it worth it? It must have been fun for that nine hours, but how many years are you going to be in prison. I'm told prosecutors are not amused.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Hail of a Stupid Kid

Today's installment of "He's Too Stupid To Be Alive" takes us to the lovely town of Woodward, Oklahoma.

They make their storms big in Oklahoma, and a video surfaced of the town being pelted by baseball sized hail earlier this week.

The remarkable thing about the video: The stupid kid walking nonchalantly down the street, as if it were a pleasant spring afternoon.

Baseball sized hail hitting a normal person wcould kill him or her. Three people were injured by hail in Woodward, including a 20 day year old infant hit in the face when a softball sized hailstone crashed through the car she was in. (The little girl had minor injuries, she'll be fine)

But these people were either accidentally caught in their cars by the storm or hit by flying glass inside buildings.

However, the guy in the video is just out for a stroll, since baseball sized hail is perfect weather for a leisurely jaunt outdoors. Adding to the joy, there were apparently a couple of tornadoes swirling near the town at the time the hail was falling.

This guy is so dense he seems to be unscathed. Even the deer in the video was panicking in the hail, but our guy kept trudging, unaware of the bombardment around him.

Watch for yourself and marvel:

An Urban Pileated Woodpecker Calls Burlington, Vt. Home

As I was walking through City Hall Park in downtown Burlington, Vermont yesterday, I approached a sugar maple that was past its better days. It was half dead, and I think the city is going to take it down.
This pileated woodpecker made
a nice hole in this tree in a downtown Burlington, Vt.

I passed under the tree and suddenly, wood chips rained down on me. I stopped, and heard a tap, tap, tap overhead. I looked up and saw the fellow pictured in this post: A pileated woodpecker.

They're usually in forests, pecking away at rotting trees, looking for their favorite foods, such as carpenter ants. I guess this guy found what he was looking for in a city park.

I think I was the only one who noticed him. Everybody else in the park was talking to each other, or on cell phones, or sitting on benches soaking in some sun. Nobody even seemed to notice as I grabbed my camera aimed up, and took a portrait of my new friend.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sad Hurricane Irene Debris Still Litters Vermont

Tuesday, I covered a Vermont governor's press conference for the Burlington Free Press on a showery day next to an area of scrubby sumac trees littered with dozens of tires, pieces of houses and scraps of rotting furniture.
Somehow, the glass on this door didn't break as Tropical
Storm Irene flooding swept this door away last August.

The Governor, Peter Shumlin was announcing a change this year to Vermont's annual rite of spring, Green-Up Day. Green-Up Day, established in 1970, hits the first Saturday in May each year. Thousands of volunteers go out and clean up road side litter that accumulated over the winter. It's really a nice event.

This year, Shumlin noted that while the debris from the devastating floods of Tropical Storm Irene have been removed from the streets of Vermont's scenic towns and villages, there's still a big mess hidden along the river banks and back behind the neighborhoods that were wrecked last August in what was easily Vermont's worst flood since 1927.

So, the governor said Green Up Day would last all spring, and be called Spring Clean Irene. We will still all go out the first Saturday in May to clean up the road sides, but volunteers will also fan out to help clean the debris marring the scenery, a legacy of last August's floods.

There's a nice Web site, Vermont Strong, which matches needs with volunteers and everybody is urged to go there and see what they can do to help.
This tire got hung up in trees during Vermont's Hurricane
Irene flooding last August.

It's all a great idea, and I hope there are a lot of volunteers. The press conference, even with a $25,000 donation from the guy who runs Subaru of New England, was sad, however.

Sad, because I wandered through the underbrush, photographing the pieces of people's lives that floated away in Tropical Storm Irene last August.  Much of the debris consisted of tires from a nearby washed out junkyard. But I'd find a television, childrens' toys, a Christmas decoration, a child's swing, an easy chair.

It was dark and drizzly as I took the photos, some of which you can see in this post, adding to the gloomy tableau. I just hoped that everyone affected by the flood is recovering as best they can.
A Christmas decoration swept away in Tropical Storm
Irene flooding in Vermont last August. 
An easy chair in the woods in Waterbury, Vermont, swept
there by Tropical Storm Irene flooding last August

A child's swing amid the Tropical Storm Irene flood
debris in Waterbury Vermont this week. 
A television amid the flood debris from last August's
Tropical Store Irene, photographed Tuesday in
Waterbury, Vermont

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

This New Car Buyer Was MAD!!!!!

Supposedly, the video in this post is from a car show room in Moscow, where a guy bought a car. It broke down a couple days later and the dealer wouldn't fix it under warranty.

This, of course, would get anybody mad. I'd be LIVID. But I would just go on Yelp or Angie's List or something and tell people not to go there. Maybe call the consumer protection office too, if I was ambitious.

But this guy took a different tack. Stay with the video because it keeps getting deliciously worse. Definitely turn down the volume, though, because whoever posted the video to YouTube decided it would be fun to blast AC/DCs "Highway to Hell" throughout. Enjoy! And I hope your car is working fine.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hating the Gay Unborn Child

"To my unborn child: If you are a fag, I will kill you."

Not exactly the words from Parent of the Year, is it? Somebody did say that though, or at least wrote it down. I'd better explain.

For awhile earlier this year, there was a popular Twitter meme, #ToMyUnbornChild.

Most of the comments were loving or hopeful or wise remarks from parents to their unborn children.

A few of the comments, though, were these terrible statements about disowning kids, or worse, if they turn out to be gay.

Pretty awful, if you watch the public service announcement Moore created:

Sweet, huh?  Other gems: "If you turn out gay, I will burn you alive." and "If you're gay, I'm puttin gyou down, no question about it."

Now you know why so many gay kids are homeless. Their parents kicked them out or threatened to, or tried to kill them.  Because they are so blinded by their ignorance that they can't even love, or even tolerate their own kids.

For proof of just how awful this is, just check out the Al Forney Center In New York, which takes in as many rejected, homeless gay kids as it can. 

These people don't deserve to be parents. I hope the gay kids that have been rejected by their parents recover and have superb lives, while their horrible parents lead a life of misery. We need karma here, folks.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Wild Vermont Sunset, Second Night in a Row

With the weather patterns stuck over New England, conditions around my house today were the same as yestersday.

So it was gray and overcast most of the day, with breaks in the clouds far off to the west. When the sun sank this evening, it was time for another spectacular sunset, as the strong rays lit up the underside of the clouds.

Yesterday was a red and orange evening. Today, purple and blue hues added themselves to the mix. Click on the photo in this image to get a better look at the view from St. Albans, Vermont this evening.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Weekend April Sunset in Vermont

This time of year in New England, chilly damp storms tend to stall out to our northeast, over the Canadian Maritimes.

These storms throw clouds westward into Vermont, erasing spring sunshine and replacing the skies witih a gray overcast. A damp, cold wind also rises. That's just what happened today.

Those westward moving clouds stopped advancing over New York State. So when the sun set, it found the breaks in the clouds over New York, and threw a lot of brilliant light into the gray overcast in Vermont, giving a splash of warm color on a chilly April evening.

This post has the photos to prove it.

Romney Creates Jobs: Etch-A-Sketch Soars, Humors Us

When a Mitt Romney aide made that crack about rejiggering the campaign after the primary like an Etch a Sketch, his opponents pounced, saying Romney will say anything to get elected.

I don't know if what was said was a problem for Romney or not, or it Romney's opponents will eventually benefit from it or not. (It seems the Etch a Sketch is largely forgotten, though)

Etch a Sketch, though, is a winner. The toy was largely forgotten, a lot like a the Romney aides' comments last month, but now everybody wants one. Sales have soared, at least for now. 

Ohio Art, the company that makes Etch a Sketch, has also come out with a fun ad campaign that reacts to the politics surrounding it.  A pic of the campaign are in this post. (Click on the image to make it bigger,   so you can see it better)

You've got to make hay while the sun shines, and while there might be clouds over the Romney campaign, that campaign surely made the sun shine for Etch a Sketch.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A New Low: Solar Powered Tanning Salons

Tip of the hat to James Ehlers in Vermont for pointing out this new low: Solar powered tanning beds.

No, it's not enough to sit out in the sun, turn brown, contract melanoma and die. You now pay someone to harnass the sun's power, light up the indoor tanning beds and get you cooking, according to Grist. 

The place is called Sunlounge, in Los Angeles, of course. You'd think it's warm enough in L.A. to just sit outside in the sun, if you so choose.

I don't know. I learned my lesson the hard way. I got too much sun for year, but not at tanning salons. I managed to contract melanoma myself three years ago,  but it was caught wicked early so I'm fine, thank goodness.

But it was still a pain to deal with.  And the surgery scar is not that pretty.

So my advice: Pale, white skin is now fashionable. If you're a real fashionista, try the pale look. Your dermatologist will thank you.

And if you really want to encourage solar power, put a panel up on your roof and make your hot water in the house nice and toasty with that.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Attention Drivers! Text Us To Find Out Why Texting is Bad!

Saw this picture of a sign randomly as I idly wandered on line, too bored to text anyone.

I don't know if it's a fake, a photoshop or reality. And if it's real, I don't know where it is.

But I wonder if some agency somewhere thought: "Boy, the best way to get people to stop texting while driving is to get them to send texts to us while they're driving!"

Now I'm too afraid to drive to work this morning. Someone will be texting and hit me, probably. But on the bright side, where I live in Vermont, there is a ban on billboards. So this sign is one potential hazard I needn't worry about.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Giant Food Line in Vermont? Great Depression or Burritos?

A huge line formed in downtown Burlington, Vermont today, full of starving people waiting for a free food handout.

Actually, most of them probably weren't starving. Or destitute.
A long line of people wait for free burritos
Wednesday in downtown Burlington, Vermont

Boloco, a burrito restaurant with stores in Boston, Hanover, N.H. and Burlington, was giving away free burritos to mark its 15th anniversary.

Boloco definitely makes tasty burritos, but would you wait in a line as long as that in the photo I took, just for a burrito? Personally, I begged off. As poor as I am, I'd rather not wait in line and instead pay for a burrito when Boloco isn't particularly busy.

There were similar scenes in Burlington yesterday, when Ben & Jerry's was giving away free ice cream cones.

I wonder: Has everyone internalized the lousy economy so deeply that they'd wait in line for hours for free food?  True, the restaurant was also soliciting donations for charity, so that might have motivated some people in line.

I'm sure most of the people in line today had time to kill because they didn't have to be at work around noontime, when the photo was taken. On the other hand, time is money. Had I waited in line for a free burrito, how much money could I have theoretically lost, by waiting in line instead of actually working?

Parents Ruin Everything, Including Easter

The latest salvo on some parents war on their childrens' happiness was the recent cancellation of an Easter egg hunt in Colorado

It seems some parents, wanting to give their children every advantage, of course, raided the field where the eggs were to retrieve them for their spawn, so that the kids could feel good about collecting the most eggs. Or something.

The article refers to "helicopter parents," the ones that hover and do everything for their kids, micromanage them, make all their decisions, I guess it's to insulate them from the normal bumps and bruises of life.

Each generation of parents makes some sort of trendy mistake. I guess helicopter parenting is this generation's burden.

I know I'm preaching where I have no qualifications. I'm not a dad myself. And I've always said I think child abuse is appalling, so therefore I'm not a parent.

But I have to wonder if there's so many kids whose parents did everything for them, intervened everywhere for them, how will they fend for themselves?  Some don't ever stop, as I hear stories of parents accompanying adult children to job interviews, college classes and the like. But that doesn't leave the kids looking so impressive, does it?

Plus, when these parents are gone and the adult fledglings are lost at sea for not being able to live on their own, will it be old, childless farts like me who have to step in to the parenting role at work, on the street, in my neighborhood?

What if these people end up so dependent, so incapable of making their own decisions because they never learned to, that we can't count on them for anything?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"Peak Chocolate," Could Mean Crisis For Me, Many Others

Many of you might have heard of the concept of "peak oil," in which demand for oil worldwide outstrips supplies and the ability to drill for enough. This, the theory goes, would lead to global chaos, war, death and other highly unpleasant stuff.

To make matters worse, I found another "peak" crisis to fear. Experts say we might be heading toward "peak chocolate," where we want more chocolate than can be produced, according to ABC News.
Possible shortages of this necessity raise fears
of global chaos.

More and more chocoholics are roaming this earth. Meanwhile, cocoa plants, which ultimately give us our chocolate, are finicky, so you can't just plant them anywhere and expect them to be happy, good producers.

So, it might be time for me to start panicking, since going without chocolate is like asking politicians to go without attack ads.

Do I create a bunker to store a cache of chocolate? How do I defend myself from maurading chocoholics coming after my stash? I can see how peak chocolate, like peak oil, can cause worldwide apocalyptic doom.

Let's hope our cocoa scientists can find our way out of this dreadful potential mess.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Scary! Semi, Tow Truck Go Over the Cliff; Drivers Live!

There's plenty of videos showing dramatic crashes on YouTube. This new one is among the most dramatic. A tow truck is trying to pull a semi on a snowy mountain road in northern Norway. Things don't go well.

Before you worry, you can see in the video that the tow truck driver junped out at the last minute. There was someone in the semi, but he lived with a couple of broken bones. Which is amazing, considering what happens. Watch for yourself. Hope it doesn't make you scared to drive in the snow!

Crazy Songs for a Crazy Guy

Should I, and everyone else around me, be worried because two of my all time favorite songs are called "Crazy"?

One "Crazy," is that classic by Patsy Cline. It's a heartache song, of course, but it's the perfect cry in your beer in a dive bar song. "I'm crazy for trying. I'm crazy for crying. And I'm crazy for loving you."

Watch the first crazy:

The second "Crazy" is by Gnarles Barkley from 2006. It's really a collaboration between Danger Mouse and Cee Lo Green.

The perfect thing about this song is its genre is confused, kind of like the mind of a crazy person. Is it pop? disco? soul?  The song has pleasing pop hooks and unsettling lyrics. I love the contradictions.

I also love this other contradiction: Cee-lo Green's singing voice sounds like a cynical version of Al Green. (Despite the same last name, they're not related.)

The lyrics suggest that we are all less sane than we'd like to believe. "Who do you, who do you, who do you think you are? Ha ha ha, bless your soul. Do you really think you're in control?

So, enjoy the second helping of today's dose of perfect craziness:

Crazy Songs for a Crazy Guy

Should I, and everyone else around me, be worried because two of my all time favorite songs are called "Crazy"?

One "Crazy," is that classic by Patsy Cline. It's a heartache song, of course, but it's the perfect cry in your beer in a dive bar song. "I'm crazy for trying. I'm crazy for crying. And I'm crazy for loving you."

Watch the first crazy:

The second "Crazy" is by Gnarles Barkley from 2006. It's really a collaboration between Danger Mouse and Cee Lo Green.

The perfect thing about this song is its genre is confused, kind of like the mind of a crazy person. Is it pop? disco? soul?  The song has pleasing pop hooks and unsettling lyrics. I love the contradictions.

I also love this other contradiction: Cee-lo Green's singing voice sounds like a cynical version of Al Green. (Despite the same last name, they're not related.)

The lyrics suggest that we are all less sane than we'd like to believe. "Who do you, who do you, who do you think you are? Ha ha ha, bless your soul. Do you really think you're in control?

So, enjoy the second helping of today's dose of perfect craziness: