Thursday, May 31, 2012

Another Month of Fails

As I do at the end of almost every month, I'll pass along a compilation video of some epic fails of the previous month. In May, as is often the case, most of the failures involved poor decisions regarding bikes, motorcycles, skateboards, concrete and water.

The purpose of the video is to make you feel better. After all, I bet you didn't make mistakes as painful or stupid as the people in the video. See? I bet you feel better already.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Vermont is Tornado Alley?

Yesterday, here in Vermont, we had all kinds of tornado watches and warnings, as if this were Kansas or some damn place.

Auntie Em! Auntie Em!
A tree fell on this guy's house during a
severe thunderstorm in Milton, Vt.
Tuesday. One branch got stuck on the
home's nice turret

So far, there have been no confirmed reports of Vermont tornadoes, but there was plenty of hail, wind damage, flash floods, fires caused by lightning and other mayhem, as I reported today in the Burlington Free Press.

Yes, I know stormy weather is a pain in the ass for a lot of people, but as regular readers know, I do love big storms. I got to chase a few of them yesterday.

I missed out on a Midwest-style supercell thunderstorm that went across the northern part of the state. The storm started hinting that it wanted to drop a tornado when it was a couple miles north of my St. Albans, Vermont house. It kept wanting to drop a twister as it traveled 50 miles toward the northeastern part of the state, but it didn't quite produce a tornado. Just as well.

I did get to enjoy a severe thunderstorm in the town of Milton, Vermont, as the two videos below show.

In the first one, I love the dude that comes in at around 2:18 nonchalantly walking in the swirling gusts and drowing lane. The second video is especially amateurish as you get a lovely view of my truck dashboard as I moved out of a driveway into a parking lot to allow other motorists to get off the road.

They wanted out because they couldn't see where they were driving in the torrent. Can't blame 'em


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Blow Against Anti-Gay Bullying

From Buzzfeed, this note. It supposedly appeared on a school bulletin board, but it can't be confirmed, since they didn't even mention which school.

Still, if it's legit, it's an advance:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Bartender To Sober Up Any Drunk

Thank goodness for the worldwide franchise of "... Got Talent." Britain's Got Talent. Korea's Got Talent. America's Got Talent.  Hell, there's probably Neptune's Got Talent"

The reason I'm so happy about all this is the shows from all over give us an endless supply of videos of amazing performers  doing stuff most of us have never dreamed of.  A couple weeks ago I showed you the winner of Britain's Got Talent, a woman and her amazingly talented dog named Pudsey

Today, we go to Ukraine's Got Talent. And they really do, I've highlighted Ukraine's Got Talented performers before. Like sand artist Kseniya Simonova, with her incredibly moving sand art act. Worth watching again, by the way, by clicking on this sentence. 

We have a bartender, who to Western English speakers has the unfortunate name Alexander Shitfanov. But you really want this guy to be your bartender. You might never get your drink, but you won't care. Watch and be amazed:

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Anderson Cooper Interviews All the Weirdos

CNN's Anderson Cooper seems to be on a roll this week, having a tiff with what the Guinesss Book of World Records says is the person with the most plastic surgeries under her belt. And, he interviewed one of the most clueless and nastiest people I've ever seen at a bigoted church in South Carolina. That interview is unintentionally hilarious.

That's one of the joys of journalism, take it from me. You do get to meet the most, um, interesting people. Actually, some are fascinating. But as Cooper saw this week, some are dreadful. He even called the plastic surgery woman "dreadful." To her face. Her plastic, robotic, stiff, artificial face.

The woman, Sarah Burge, is known as the Human Barbie. Since we're talking about looks, here, frankly the plastic Barbie doll, you know, Ken's beau, is prettier.

Anyway,  Cooper's not given to histrionics, but he did seem offended when Human Barbie said she was encouraging her young daughters to go down the path toward Perfection in Plastic Surgery and also thought pole dancing would be a pleasant career for the young 'un.

Cooper later said it was his mistake for inviting Human Barbie on the show. I'll say.

Anyway, watch the clip. He proves you can be devastating by not raising your voice. Love it:

Haven't you always wanted to tell a dreadful person to their face that they are dreadful?

You've got to love Cooper. His style is to keep asking basic, logical questions of people who have no concept of logic. Or thought. Or introspection.  There's no better example than his little interview with a member of that church in South Carolina that I wrote about the other day. You know, where the "pastor" thought it's a nifty idea to put all gay people in concentration camps until they die away.

Watch the woman get totally flummuxed by Cooper's simple questions.

To get your laugh of the day, watch it unti the very end. Cooper, ever the gentleman, thanks the woman for discussing a difficult topic. (Yeah, right!) Her response is precious, and laugh out loud funny, but the whole thing is cringe-worthy hysterical, as she's so out of her league, and frankly, not very bright:

Luckily, in my work as a Vermont journalist, I almost never encounter dreadful people like Cooper did this week. But his work does offer an instructive lesson on how to  handle the World's Dreadful Community.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Danger Dogs: Corgi Blows Up Kitchen

Most of us can rely on our dogs to attack the things that are threatening us. Or at least the things the pups think are threatening us. And so what if there's collateral damage. Trust me, there's always collateral damage.

The other night, a big ugly June bug got into the house. It was Jackson the cocker spaniel to the rescue! After a late night round of thumping growling, upended knick knacks, near disasters with lamps and what had to be the world's most durable window screen that didn't tear,  the June bug was dead.

Jackson saved us!

This wasn't nearly as harrowing as a corgi's battle with kitchen cleaning supplies, news of which turned up on this Internet thingy in the past few days.

This became public when someone started a Web series on dogs that have a preoccupation with attacking strange things. The debut video certainly landed with a bang, thanks to the corgi.

As you can see in the video, below, Yogi the corgi goes after the cleaning products as soon as his human companion opens the cupboard doors under the sink.

The corgi went to work, you betcha, tearing into stuff and finally biting down hard on a big can of black spray paint. Said paint ended up all over the kitchen, the human, the corgi.

While the nice young lady took the corgi into the bathroom to remove the paint, the spilled cleaning chemicals reacted with each other and the stove pilot light. Watch in the video the beautiful flashy boom of the stuff exploding. Thrill to the sound of the smoke alarm going off.

Luckily the fire was put out without too much damage to the apartment, or the humans who live there. Yogi the corgi was cleaned up and seems none the worse for wear.

You can watch a follow up video here of the chagrined owner and the news that everything is recovering. Phew!

My Jackson so far hasn't taken a hankering to cleaning supplies and spray paint, but just to be on the safe side, I'll keep him away from this stuff. Maybe I'll just feed Jackson June bugs

Wild Photo Ad SO Worth Watching

Getty Images has released an amazing advertisement touting their stockpile of 38 million photographic images.

Even if you don't need any of Getty Images stock photos, videos, music and other services, it is wayy worth watching the ad. According to the Copyranter section of Buzzfeed, copywriter Sophie Schoenburg and art director Marcus Kotlhar spent six months cobbling together 873 images to form a perfectly seamless story of life from love to bingo.

Each photographic image flashes by at the rate of 15 images per second.

Good gawd, I would NEVER have the patience to do that. Some people are focused, I guess.

 Thank goodness for that, because the advertisement is a pure joy to watch, so do so:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Inviting a Tornado to a Wedding

As many of you know, I'm getting married in August, and we're in the thick of planning it.

The ceremony scheme is pretty much worked out, and it's going to be beautiful.

But it won't involve a tornado, unfortunately.

I say that because a video popped up of a recent Kansas outdoor wedding, at which a tornado crashed the party. No worries, it didn't actually go through the ceremony itself,  so everybody's fine.

Here's the vid, then read, if you dare, more verbiage below:

Isn't great how nonchalant everyone is? Yeah, there's a tornado, so what? They react to the storm the same way the rest of us would react to a few, tiny puffy clouds on a spring day. s

I love the commentary toward the end of the video:  "It's an honest to goodness Kansas wedding," a woman is heard saying.

She sure is right on that point.

A question for wedding experts: If a tornado appears at your wedding, is that a good omen or a bad sign?

I'm a huge weather geek, and a key person in my wedding party is also a hardcore weather geek, so the tornado would have been a nice touch at the nuptials.

But my intended, Jeff, does not want a tornado at the wedding. And I see his point. He is a set designer after all, and he knows how to make things look just right. So I trust his judgement that a tornado just won't work.

Our wedding is going to be indoors, in an historic theater building, so we'd hate to see that get damaged.

And we're wearing white, so we don't want windblown debris marring our clothes. There's candles involved, and we don't want those to blow out, either.

Also, it would probably be rude to have people who we invited, after taking the trouble of doing their hair and wearing some nice outfits, have to deal with a tornado.  People will want to eat during the reception, and there's no sense of having guest hunt and peck for hor d oeurvres that were scattered to the wind.

The bottom line: No tornado at the wedding. I'm not disappointed.  I get Jeff as a lifelong prize, so a tornado is hardly anything that matters. Besides, Jeff, especially when he's on a roll, is a human tornado.

That's all I'll ever need.

"Pastor" in N.C.: Put Gays in Concentration Camps

Our nominee for the worst recent Sunday sermon goes to Pastor Charles Worley of Maiden, S.C., who took the pulpit earlier this month with the following helpful suggestion:

Just pen up all the gays in the country within electrified fences and they will all eventually die and we won't have to deal with them any more.

Watch Worley's spectacular video, and notice how few people are in this "church." I wonder why?

I always love it when people make big boneheaded splashes like Worley. He's so smug in his ignorance. He's got all the answers. He's so right. At least in his mind.

This will play out in the way it always does when dumb people make a public splash. He's now increasingly getting a firestorm of attention, derisive, mocking, insulting, relentless. Just as he deserves.

Of course his supporters will help him, reassure him that he's saving the country. That he's Right.

It won't be enough. Worley has a rough ride ahead of him as his stupid video goes viral. He may be self righteous, but he sure is dumb. And lots of people will pile on. As it should be, as long as nobody gets physically hurt.

Hey, when you're mean and dumb, you eventually get blowback. It's called karma. Which is probably against your narrow religion, too, isn't it Pastor Worley?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Charlotte, Vt. Writer Wows 'em at NPR

Big congratulations go out to one Carrie MacKillop of Charlotte, here in Vermont, for winning an NPR contest called Three Minute Fiction.

Carrie MacKillop. Photo by King Milne
for NPR
Contestants wrote a short story, that if read aloud would last no more than three minutes. The story had to start with the sentence: "She closed the book, placed it on a table, and finally decided to walk through the door."
Novelist Luis Albert Urrea picked MacKillop's story from about 6,000 entries. (He didn't read them all. Staffers went through them, and forwarded the best ones to him.)

Urrea said of MacKillop's story: "Sometimes you read a piece of literature that you realize you will never forget."

Before we go on, read MacKillop's story on this link. It's so well worth it, but be warned, it packs an emotional whallop:

As you might have read, just now, the story concerns a five year old, terminally ill boy. He'll never experience life's journey: School, college, career, marriage.

So his mother walks him through the life he'll never have, the one she'll never see. In the story, his mother describes the son's wedding, on a very rainy day during the wettest spring ever.

What's brilliant about MacKillop's story, at least in my view, is the layers she packs into her simple, straightforward prose. In other words, she performs miracles with no bells and whistles.

The rain in the wedding could be the tears she'll shed. The rain in the story telegraphs how the mother knows she will have to make adjustments to go on living after her son dies. The son worries about the rain as he's being told the story. Is that a worry about what he'll miss?

You can't read the story without wanting to cry. I about lost it when the the boy interrupts his mother as she's describing the wedding to remark about his bride.: '"She's awesome, isn't she," he said gleefully. "I'm really lucky, aren't I, mom,?"' MacKillop writes.

Again, those layers. He's lucky to be able to imagine his wedding. Lucky to have a mother like his. Lucky to be able to imagine a life, even if he can't live it. Ironic in that he's so unlucky.

We're all lucky to have writers like MacKillop. As Urrea says, keep writing, Carrie!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

New Trends in Makeup Styles!

I'm no expert, but I will offer you two examples of how not to do your makeup this morning as you head out to your weekend parties.

Just in case you need the helpful hint.

All from the Poorly Dressed site (which is a hilarious time waster) Pics are not for the faint-hearted.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Reporter Fires At Coach in Print, Gets Fired

Like every single other journalist on the planet, I get frustrated by people, who, for whatever reason, don't give information I ask for.

I'm not talking about politicians who won't described their involvement in the latest scandal du jour. Of course they're not going to tell you anything.

I'm talking about people who won't give out the most benign, positive information, like who won the Community Service Award, or how the school valedictorian got accepted into Harvard. They're just so afraid, or so lazy, or so passive aggressive, they can't bring themselves to do their job.

Which is why I have a little sympathy for a reporter at the Rayne Independent in Louisiana, who got frustrated by a coach who didn't offer data on a local stellar high school softball pitcher.

But still, us journalists have to be professional (don't laugh!) so it's probably a good idea to vent in private, and not for the world to see.

However, as you can see in the photo, which came from JimRomenesko,com, our star reporter from Louisiana got it into print. He says he was just venting, meant to erase it before it was printed, and forgot.

Which is why we never, ever put jokes into stories we're working on. Disaster always seems to ensue when that happens.

Romenesko says the reporter, Kade Seibold, was fired, but is asking for his job back. Romensko also correctly says that maybe a copy editor or somebody at the paper should have caught this before it went to press.

Says the Rayne Independent's General Manager, according to Romenesko:

"He just tacked it on to the end of the story and meant to change it after getting the stats. He forgot about it and turned in the story.”
The general manager says two other Independent staffers looked at the “10 or 12 inch story” before it went to press, but didn’t notice the “bullshit and laziness” line.
“One said, ‘I’m not really interested in sports and didn’t read the whole thing.” 

Isn't reading the whole story, no matter how uninteresting, the copy editor's JOB?

Um, sounds like the copy editor also had a case of "bullshit and laziness."

Friday, May 18, 2012

Elm Tree's Friend Dies Two Years After Elm's Death.

In some ways, I can relate to Frank Knight.

Knight, of Yarmouth, Maine, died last week at the age of 103.

The reason I like Knight, and mourn his death, is that one of Knight's biggest accomplishments was taking care of a 217-year old elm tree that Knight had named "Herbie"

The late Frank Knight and his friend Herbie the elm
in the background

Knight worked for decades as this special tree's advocate, spending 50 years or so trying to  stave off the effects of Dutch elm disease,which killed most of the graceful old elm trees in the United States over the past several decades, according to the Portland, Maine Press Herald.
Herbie finally succumbed to the disease a couple years ago.

Knight said at the time he accepted Herbie's fate.

''Nothing lasts forever," Knight said. "We had a great, beautiful relationship, and I thank God every night for it."

One nice touch is Knight was buried in a casket made of wood from Herbie the elm.

That he was such a fan of this particular tree means he's a man after my own heart. Scattered across Vermont are trees I always mentally salute when I see them.

This started when I was a kid. We had an enormous sugar maple on our Vermont property. The tallest, biggest NBA player could never get his arms around the tree to hug it. About five feet of the ground the trunk split into five branches. Each branch was the size of a fully grown maple, so this giant was really five trees in one.

My dad built a tree house up there in the maple, where I would hide from any worries I had. Something about that dense canopy of dark green maple leaves that hid me, comforted me, somehow told me everything would be all right. Silly, I know, but that's the way it worked in my head. But there is something about summer foliage, that green, that soothes the brain.

We also had a swing attached to a large branch on the tree. In the autumn my sister Lynn and I would build an enormous pile of fallen leaves. We'd get the swing going as high as possible, then let go and plunge into the big leaf pile. This could go on all day.

The power company eventually came and sawed down this gigantic maple. Something about worries that a branch could fall across nearby power lines. I've never forgiven the power company for that.

I get the point about the power lines. I'm not exactly in favor of elderly people freezing to death in the dark during a winter storm. But the maple had been there so long. I'm guessing maybe 200 years. It was there first. It wasn't a person, but didn't it demand respect? Could there have been some alternative to cutting it down?

Probably, but I guess trees are never worth spending a little extra money on, no matter how grand. The economy trumps nature, sometimes too often.

But the memory of that maple is why I salute Frank Knight and his elm friend Herbie. And it's why I salute those standout trees scattered across Vermont. The beautiful elm along Route 105 in Sheldon. That incredibly immense white poplar along Falls Road in Shelburne.  There's an old sugar maple on a front lawn in Brandon, Vermont that's perfectly proportioned. And who could resist the ancient sugar maples guarding the graceful old farm houses turned bed and breakfasts near Wallingford, Vermont?

Do you have a favorite tree? Or a great memory of one? Do share.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Beautiful, Dramatic Storm Clouds in Vermont

We had our first round of rambunctious thunderstorms of the season in Vermont yesterday. Lots of severe weather alerts, dark clouds, lightning, hail, you name it.

Luckily, the storms didn't turn out to be strong enough to cause a huge amount of damage, but they did provide for some great clouds.

You can see them in the photos in this post. The first one appears to show a dark, dangerous funnel cloud ready to hit the ground and wreck a town, but it was just a scud cloud ahead of the storm.

The second shows a variety of colors, hues, textures and shapes. The blue color in the upper center of the photo hinted at approaching hail, and I wasn't disappointed. It hailed hard where I was in Hinesburg, Vermont. Though there was a lot of hail, it was only pea sized, so it didn't really wreck things.

The third photo shows a new billowing thunderstorm building to the west as the first thunderstorm of the day was just beginning to depart to the east. That billowing cloud turned into the storm that created the hail I talked about in Hinesburg.

The fourth photo shows a view of New York's Adirondacks from South Burlington, Vermont, as the mountains sat under volatile clouds, between two thunderstorms.

As you can see, I can never get sick of the rich variety of clouds and conditions in thunderstorms. Yes, I'm such a weather geek.  So what? I'm already ready for the next round of thunderstorms, whenever they'll hit.

Scroll down to the bottom for a video I took of the storm in progress. Not one of those Tornado Chaser videos, exactly, but it's still a vicarious moment if you like thunderstorms. The hail really gets going a little less than a minute into it.

Donna Summer Opens Disco in Heaven

As rude and incorrect as this sounds, I think the Great Beyond is sexier and more fun now (and our own world is less sexy and fun now) with the passing of Donna Summer.

She died today of lung cancer, according to TMZ.

I was in high school during the peak of Summer's popularity in the disco era. I lived in a backwater little town in Vermont. Summers was making Studio 54 and the New York disco scene sizzle like never before. The contrast could not have been more acute.

So to me, Summers was exotic. She was the siren singer of what seemed to me like unattainable, dangerous eroticism.

It wasn't really popular back in mid to late 1970s rural Vermont to admit you liked the kind of disco Donna dished out, but she was one of my guilty pleasures back then.

True, I couldn't express that publicly. Even now, I'd be locked up and put away if I strolled down the street sounding like a scary Donna Summer porn soundtrack: "UHHHHH!! Love to Love You Baybee!!!! OOOOOOHHH! Love to Love you Baby!!!!! "

But you have to admit Summer's "Love to Love You Baby" was hot in a low brow porn kind of way. Guilty pleasure indeed.

Summer seemed fascinated by the seamy, steamy sexy side of life. She was the voice for our horny sexual id, one that we would never dare say out loud. Not to this day, even now that we're older, and more, ahem, experienced:  "Lookin' for some hot stuff baby this evening. I need some hot stuff baby tonight."
Or, maybe a few of us might have secretly moaned along to "I Feel Love"::  "Oooooh, it's so good it's so good, it's so good it's soooooo good!"

Later in life, Summers became a born again Christian, and she toned down the sexuality. She continued to record big hits. But the dangerousness of her '70s heydey is long gone.

It's just as well. Remembering those sexy Summer hits always makes me laugh, but it was also a relief to learn, as I matured out of high school, that life was far more than a desire for quick, cheap sex. Instead, you find real love, commitment, respect, glorious shared experiences, a shared life with the one you really love. Happiness. The way my life is going right now, thank gawd.

I don't mean to sound like a lecturing prude. There's nothing wrong with sex and sensuality. It's all good. But it's only good if it's mixed with the real complexities of life.

I think Donna Summer showed us that path from adolescent horniness,  as she and her songs, progressed from hedonistic Studio 54 coke-spoon sex in the 1970s to her later songs portraying slices of life, real emotion, and a lot less unattainable and ultimately unwanted cheap sensuality.

I felt left out of the party while listening to Donna Summers' partying hotness when I was a rural Vermont teenager in the 1970s.

Little did I know the soooo much better party started as I matured into middle age. And I was invited to that one.   Even as I still love to love my partner, and soon-to-be husband, baby.

And RIP, Donna Summer.

(For old time sakes with Donna, listen, if you dare, to "Love to Love You Baby," below. It'll make you smile. )

Perpetual Energy Producer Discovered.

We all know that if you drop a piece of buttered toast, the butter side always lands down, on the floor.

We also all know that if a cat falls from any height, it will land on its feet.

So what happens if you attach a piece of buttered toast, butter side up, on a cat's back, then drop the cat?  I'm surprised nobody has thought of this before, but the ad agency Ogilvy & Mathers Brasil has.  They created a memorable ad on this concept for the energy drink Flying Horse.

It's like nuclear fission! Except safer. Well, maybe not safer for the cat, but you get the idea. It's time for me to buy bread, butter, a decent toaster and a cat. I'll make millions in the alternative energy industry!

Enjoy this hilarious commercial:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Janitor Smartest Guy at Columbia U?

Congratulations go out to one Gac Filipaj on his graduation this past weekend.

Gac Filipaj celebrates his graduation from Columbia
University. Photo by Mariela Lombard for the N.Y. Daily News.
Yeah, you probably never heard of Filpaj, but he's worth an introduction. The immigrant from the former Yugoslavia is a custodian at Columbia University. The university offers free classes to most of its employees, so Filipaj went for it.

He'd take classes in his off hours, study overnight, then spend the day cleaning up the mess younger students made on campus while Filipaj was hitting the books.

It took him 12 years, and countless all nighters studying and working, but he was determined. And he did it, which is quite a lesson for all of us who say the task at hand, whatever it might be, is too hard.
Filipaj graduated with honors, winning a bachelor's degree in classics. He says' he'll next pursue a Master's or maybe a Ph.D in Roman or Greek classics.

After the graduation ceremony, Filpaj went back to work, cleaning up parts of the campus, yet again.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Social Media Brightens Man's Final Weeks

In this age of cyber bullying and general on line nastiness, it's always gratifying to see social media come through for a guy who needs a break.
Scott Widak reads some of the mail he received,
prompted by a Reddit post by his nephew
Photo is from Mashable.  

This recently happened to Scott Widak, 47, with a big assist from his nephew Sean O'Connor.

Widak has Downs Syndrome, and is also dying of liver failure. O'Connor knew his uncle loves receiving mail, and wanted to cheer his uncle up. So he went on Reddit, posted his uncle's address and invited people to send Widak mail.

And send they did. Widak got tons of letters, packages and other offerings of good cheer via snail mail.

Reddit, understandably concerned about having personal information like mailing addresses posted online for the world to see, took down O'Connor's post after it had been up just four hours. But that was long enough for word to get out. Widak is still getting stuff by the bucketload.

"The mail that’s arrived has all been extremely positive and thoughtful,” says O’Connor, in a Mashable story on the mailing campaign.. “My family and I are amazed at how so many strangers could come together for a random act of kindness

O'Connor had mentiioned on Reddit that Widak likes Johnny Cash, so a lot of items had things related to the late country legend.

Sony Music Entertainment got wind of the campaign, and sent Widak 15 CDs and DVDs, mostly related to Johnny Cash.

All this confirms my beliefs in today's technology. Like any tool, it can be a force of evil, or in this case and many others, a force of good.

May the force of good be with you.

Pudsey the Dog WINS Britain's Got Talent!

I have to say Jackson, the cocker spaniel who lives with me and Jeff, is quite a smart dog. A little headstrong yes, but you have to expect that from a youngster like Jackson.
Pudsey performs winningly with human
companion Ashleigh on "Britain's Got Talent."

He's learning tricks, too, but I don't think Jackson will ever be in the top echelon of Dogs Who Perform Amazing Feats.

That's OK, Jackson's a sweetheart, and a keeper, and that's good enough for us.

Still, maybe we should sit Jackson down in front of the TV and show him recent clips of Britain's Got Talent. A dog named Pudsey, and his human companion Ashleigh, wowed 'em with a few performances, especially one I feature here. The pair dance, jump, flip and perform to the "Mission Impossible" theme.

The dog's damn good!

That performance put them over the top. Pudsey and Ashleigh Butler, 17, got the majority of the public's vote and won this season's Britain's Got Talent finale on Saturday.

And I absolutely LOVE the dog's name. Pudsey. Perfect!

Even curmudgeon Simon Cowell smiled at this. He called it one of his favorite acts ever. You will, too. Watch:


Monday, May 14, 2012

Your Final Amusement Park Ride?

I don't do well on amusement park rides. I'm afraid my stomach is just a bit too sensitive to that. Usually. But not always. Which makes me want to try the ride featured in the video, below. I think I actually want one of these built in my backyard. I can charge admission, and pay off the mortgage.

I also don't know whether this ride is safe. As one commenter on the YouTube video says, these things are assembled and disassembled in some cases by a hung over guy being paid $8 an hour, who spends most of his time smoking and ogling teenage girls.

But never mind. If I do install this ride in my yard, you can come over and try it. And I'll make sure I'll get a competent person to run the damn thing: Watch and get a vicarious thrill:

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Season's Last Daffodils

I was smart to plant a variety of daffodils in a variety of locations. Some are early, some are late, so I have an extended daffodil season in my garden.

The last daffodils of the season are still blooming in my St. Albans, Vermont garden about a month after the first ones appeared this spring.

I photographed a few of the daffodils drinking in the May sunshine the other day. I'm just adding to my flower phhoto collection. The collection is getting big, and that's fine by me.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Disturbing Debt Collectors

The old saw goes that you can't get blood from a stone.

Yet, unscrupulous debt collectors seem to be trying to do that more than ever, reality be damned. You have to wonder how the worst of them can sleep at night.

The problem is getting more outrageous, if you believe several media reports. Some debt collectors hang out in hospitals, lurking in emergency rooms to grab people there for, well, emergencies, and demand payment for past hospital visits.
In the hospital: Pay now, sucker.  

Or they call up debtors and and threaten bodily harm it they don't pay, dammit. or in at least one case, threaten to dig up a woman's deceased daughter from the grave.

Before we go on, of course I realize that people should pay their debts to the best of their ability. And I'm pretty sure most debt collectors follow the letter of the law, and are often frustrated by people trying to avoid their obligations.

However, sometimes people simply can't pay their bills. The money just isn't there. But that's not going to stop some gung-ho debt collectors from trying to grab money from them anyway. Hey, we're a country of strivers, achievers, and we can get the impossible done, right?

And apparently, some debt collectors believe that nothing is more important than collecting some bucks from these almost penniless people, even if it means they live in fear, or don't go to see doctors when their sick and just die. Or maybe mentally torturing people is an effective way to get them to pay up, at least in the minds of some of these sickos.

In a New York Times article last month, one debt collector told a woman who could not pay for her daughter's funeral expenses that maybe they'd dig up the daughter and hang her body from a tree by the woman's house.

Another debt collector called a woman whose two sons died within a week of each other and hadn't paid the funeral expenses. They asked her how she'd feel if they dug the sons up and left them at her doorstep.

Charming, no?

It gets worse. The Minnesota Attorney General, among others, have said some debt collectors and "consultants" have gone to patients in emergency rooms and elsewhere in hospitals, demanding payments for past debts, or for bills the patients hadn't received yet.

And, um, said patients had arrived at the hospital because they were sick and in no condition to deal with bill collections.  But we can't let that stop us, can we?

According to a report by Maura Lerner in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the worst offender was an outfit called Accretive Health, who either lurked in hospitals or enlisted hospital staff to try and collect the cash.

The Minnesota A.G., Lori Swanson said the hospital dunning "practically amounted to a threat to withhold medical treatment."

According to the account in the Star Tribune:

If a patient balked at making a payment, hospital employees were given scripts by Accretive to wear down their resistance: "We really DO need to collect your co-pay/co-insurance/deductible today." The implication, Swanson argued, is that patient care would suffer if they didn't pay up.

Some patients might have fled the hospital rather than deal with the bill collectors:

In several cases, patients walked out of the hospital without being registered, Swanson reported. At least one large employer threatened to leave the Fairview system if it kept demanding credit card payments before treatment.

That's one way to hold down health care costs. Just make people too afraid to go to the hospital, where they might have to face bill collectors. They can stay home and die, thereby sparing us the cost of treating poor people, right?

The hospital chain, Fairviewwhich hired Accretive later admitted the company made mistakes that infuriated patients and hospital employees. Fairview withdrew its links with Accretive, according ot the Star Tribune.

Accretive defends its actions. In a statement, the company said "We are proud of what we do.. Patients appreciate the education, expertise and compassion that we provide."

Oh. Well, I suppose they do have expertise in trying to get money from people.

Look, I don't have the answers on how to equitably pay for health care. The country's been debating that for decades with no clear answers. The debate will surely go on for a long time.

But really, lurking in hospitals demanding money from sick patients?  Tormenting mothers who've lost their kids? There's really got to be a better way, no?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Jugglling Tables With Their Feet in the '60s

Buzzfeed is one of the hot Web sites lately, just because it's a sort of like a hoarder's paradise of weirdness, news, cynicism, goofiness, funny moments and outrages with no rhyme or reason connecting them.

One example is the video that appeared there this week: The Baranton Sisters juggling tables with their feet on the Ed Sullivan show on Feb. 2, 1969. Very random, yes. But fun to watch:

A Special Message From Teachers

Jimmy Kimmel last night noted National Teachers Day was this week.

He was kind enough to provide us with this blunt little message from your little darlings' teachers.

I'm sure some people will be horrified, but I bet others will be nodding their heads in agreeement through the laughter. Watch:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mouse is Smarter Than You

You might have heard of the show "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader," but are you also smarter and more agile than a mouse?

Maybe not, if you watch the video in this post. Yes, the video is maybe four years old, but I just discovered it, sue me.

The agile mice have their own Facebook page, with several other videos featured. I guess some of the mice can even play basketball. Cool!

Attach a Train Horn to Your Bicycle!

You're riding your bike down the street or bike path, and your little, ring, ring, bell just doesn't cut through the fog of cell phone chatterers, clueless strollers, oblivious motorists and the just plain rude

Well, there's a solution for you now.  Found on Wired via BoingBoing, we've found  the Hornster! The bike has an attached horn, and a scuba tank filled with compressed air on the bike. When you need people to get out of the way, just blast the horn! It's no different and no quieter than a train horn. Really!

It blasts away at 178 decibels. Hearing loss starts at 140 decibels.  I said decibels. No, DECIBELS!!!  Get your hearing checked for crissake!

The whole shebang sells for the low, low price of $8,000.

Watch the video for proof, then try it! Buy it! Operators are standing by!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Best, Funniest, Strangest Dubstep

YouTube is now stuffed with great, good and bad dubstep dance performers, some of whom can really move their bodies in seemingly impossible ways. 

Some of them are too cool for us. They just give that menacing glare, and turn their dancing into a cliche.

However, I found on Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish blog, a perfect dubstep video of two brothers, Johnnathan and Joshua Gerard. The pair   show a sense of humor, and a willingness to be a little strange and weird.  That's what makes the video, below, so fun to watch. Enjoy!

Another Reason to Like Vermont's Billboard Ban

Billboards are outlawed along Vermont's highways. The ban's been in effect for decades, and is designed to allow visitors to see the natural landscape.

Another reason why the billboard ban works is because of the situation with the two ill-placed billboards shown in the photo in this post. The billboards, featured on Buzzfeed last month, were reported to be in Plattsburgh, N.Y., across the "pond" from Vermont.

Click on the pick to embiggen it, so you can see it clearly.

Monday, May 7, 2012

More Vermont Spring Flowers

Flowers continue to cycle through the gardens around my house, as spring progresses nicely.  I've found myself in the yard with my camera almost every day for the past month, checking out and documenting it all.

Most of my daffodils have gone by, but some clumps in colder, shadier areas continue to thrive, as you can see in one of the photos in this post.

My sister Lynn gave me some peonies, divided from some plants that were first established by my grandmother decades ago. So it's nice to have tradition in the garden now. I transplanted them over a week ago. They took to their new surroundings nicely, and the new leaves played off the setting sun in the gardens yesterday.

Ahhh, spring.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Never Walk Again? Inspirational Guy Proves 'em Wrong.

I'm a sucker for those stories of people who overcome adversity and triumph spectacularly. Not in the sense of conquering the world or achieving some top athletic endeavor.  The stories I like are little ones, like the one which went viral today.

Arthur, a Gulf War veteran, completely screwed up his back and knees jumping out of planes in combat. He gained a lot of weight, and lost a lot of hope. Doctors 15 years ago told him he'd never walk unassisted again.

He wanted to try Yoga, thinking that would help a little, at least. Everyone rejected him because he was physically so unstable. But one Yoga instructor decided to give it a shot.

Between the expertise and Arthur's newfound, unwavering determination, his life changed, big time.  These kinds of stories I imagine help people like you and me. If Arthur can do what he did, then we can easily get through something as trivial as a lousy Friday at work, or an impossibly busy weekend, and be happy about it.

So watch the video and get cracking on your own project. You'll succeed. I just know it:

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Climate Change Fight has Gone Cah-RAZEE!!!

It seems every major debate in the world today succumbs to the crazies. So it is with global climate change.

As you might have seen all over the news and blogosphere , a climate change denying think tank, the Heartland Institute, has put out an inspired ad campaign that basically says that anyone who believes that climate change exists is the equivalent to the world's worst mass murderers and terrorists.
The short-lived Heartland Institute ad

You see, people like Ted Kaczzynski who was  the "Unibomber" and Osama bi Laden  believed in global warming. Hitler was a vegetarian, and so are many people who worry about climate change. So therefore, people who think climate change is a threat are really, really, really bad people, according to the Heartland Institute.

According to the Institute: The people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society. This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren't scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.

Which means that 95 percent of climate scientists are apparently murderers, tyrants and madmen.

If you use the Heartland Institute's logic, if you have one thing in common with the world's most horrible people, then you are the same as those horrible people. So, presumably, Stalin and most members of the Heartland Institute agree the sun rises in the east.

So, since we're in agreement with Stalin that the sun rises in the east, I'm a mass murderer, and so are the members of the Heartland Institute.

Of course, if that were true, that would solve the problem of global warming. We'd all kill each other, the world would have no people, and global warming would no longer be a worry.

People who believe that most of the world is fairly rational think the Heartland Institute overreached.  The Guardian, which first reported this story, called this "quite possibly one of the most ill-judged poster campaigns in the history of ill-judged poster campaigns."

 The ad was short lived. The Heartland Institute took it down later on Friday, less than twelve hours after they appeared. Officials with the institute said it was just an experiment. Heartland President Joseph Bast said:

“We know that our billboard angered and disappointed many of Heartland’s friends and supporters, but we hope they understand what we were trying to do with this experiment. We do not apologize for running the ad, and we will continue to experiment with ways to communicate the 'realist' message on the climate."

 Oh, I can't WAIT for Heartland's next "experiment."

Meanwhile, S. Matthew Liao, a professor of philosophy and bioethics has his own ideas on how to combat global warming.

Make people smaller. Smaller people consume fewer resources, and would have a lighter impact on the planet, and reduce the climate change.

This was all in an article in The Atlantic in March, where Liao discussed his big but small ideas.

"And so size reduction could be one way to reduce a person's ecological footprint. For instance if you reduce the average U.S. height by just 15cm, you could reduce body mass by 21% for men and 25% for women, with a corresponding reduction in metabolic rates by some 15% to 18%, because less tissue means lower energy and nutrient needs."

He says that his ideas could actually be liberating, not more restrictive.

For instance, he says it makes sense to have smaller families, to reduce impacts that would worsen climate change. One idea is to force parents to limit themselves to two children. But under his scheme, perhaps you could give these parents a choice: Produce two mormal sixe children or three mini-mes, as it were:

"There was a group of doctors in Britain who recently advocated a two-child maximum. But at the end of the day those are crude prescriptions---what we really care about is some kind of fixed allocation of greenhouse gas emissions per family. If that's the case, given certain fixed allocations of greenhouse gas emissions, human engineering could give families the choice between two medium sized children, or three small sized children. From our perspective that would be more liberty enhancing than a policy that says "you can only have one or two children." 

 I don't know how well this will fly. Are you going to make people create smaller children by force of law, or is it voluntary?  Will there be unintended consequences to all these small people?  And how small do we make them? Just short enough to be lousy basketball players, or tiny, like my 35-pound cocker spaniel? Will there be size police arresting people who are too big, or parents of children who are too big?  Will we all be required to gather around and sing the Elton John song "Tiny Dancer?"

So, given the Heartland Institute's bad ad, and the tiny person idea, I think we all need to keep thinking to figure out what to do with global climate change.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Breaking News of the Day.

Oh. So homicide victims tend to be shy?

Push Button for Drama

What would you do if you were walking down the street, minding your own business, and encounted a big red button on a table, with a sign that says "Push Button for Drama?"

A few people in a Belgian town were in this situation. They pushed it, and of course hilarity ensued.

The button and the accompanying video was just a publicity stunt for a new television network in Europe, but it's still fun enough to warrant a show.  I'm not sure which is more fun: The ridiculousness of the situation unfolding in the square or the nonplussed reaction from the button pushers and bystanders.

Gve it a watch and you be the judge:

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Another Month of Fails

Several producers put out YouTube videos each month highlighting the fails from the previous month. As per my tradition most months, I grab one of them and present them to you.

It's always fun to see how many ways people find to be stupid. It's almost as if people sit around and think about ways they can hurt themselves that have never been done before. At least by themselves.

I bet health insurers really hate, hate these people and especially these videos, because they surely give people ideas.

Meanwhile, enjoy this month's installment, below. The video offers proof that nobody how stupid you might have been in the past month, plenty of people were even more stupid. Time to inflate your sense of self worth:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Enjoy Grandmas Enjoying Kardashian Sex Tape

Oh, my dirty little mind! A seriously off color video is going viral and I have to share it with you.

Some of you particularly rude people out there might have seen a sex tape involving Kim Kardashian that came out, so to speak, in 2007.

Well, now there's another video of three ladies of a certain age who found the infamous Kardashian video. And we get to watch them watch it! Don't worry, you don't get a view of Kardashian and her um, stud.

You'll see it, but my favorite comments from the ladies in the video are: "Oh my God! look at it!
And "The end is purple!" and finally, "What's taking him so long? He's so young!"

However, the video of the grannies is seriously off color, as I said, and there's some naughty language involved. So this is NSFW and not for the kiddies. Be forwarned, but watch and laugh. I really want to invite these ladies who lunch to my place for lunch. I bet we'd have a grand time.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gravy Wrestler, Monkey Wrench, Sex and Injuries

Today's nominee for the strangest, and most overly detailed newspaper headline of the week comes from the Daily Mail of London: "Gravy Wrestling Model Suffers Horrific Facial Injuries After Being Hit With Monkey Wrench When She Interrupts a Friend Having Sex."
 Gravy wrestler Elisa Sampson, right,
victorious in happier times.

The accompanying article doesn't add too much to the headline, other than the fact there appeared to be drinking involved.   NOOO!!

There is never an explanation as to why the monkey wrench was so handy. I've never heard of a monkey wrench enhancing sexual experiences before, if that's what was going on. Then again, I've led a pretty sheltered life.

The wrestler in question, Elisa Sampson, had walked in on who, until that point was her best friend, screwing around with a guy, the wrestler was annoyed and things devolved from there. Sampson's friend ended up bashing her in the face with the wrench.

Apparently, the gravy wrestling is an annual event that raises money for charity. Apparently, the gravy wrestling is not a full time gig. She's also a Web designer. She has also largely recovered from her injuries, according to other published reports. So that's good news.

That's the problem with this kind of story. They never give enough detail. To me, there is no such thing as TMI. Well, almost no such thing as TMI.

I do think it's time that sex education classes include lessons on avoiding monkey wrenches during intercourse. We all appreciate safe sex.

Mystery: Why They Sunbathe in Roads in Pa.

It's been all over the news: Two 13 year old girls were run over by a car while they sunbathed on a rural road in Beaver County, Pa. over the weekend.

Now, I of course hope the girls make a quick and full recovery, but the deep mystery in this case is: Why were they sunbathing on the road?

None of the news reports explain why they weren't on a beach, a lawn, a deck, by a pool, anything but a road, even if the road had very little traffic.

To me, that's the most important question in this story, once it was established that the girls will recover and the guy who hit them didn't do it intentionally and wasn't drunk.

There's a lot of stories on line about this incident, but nothing on why the girls were there. Readers, have you heard anything?

Meanwhile, if you want to sunbathe, which isn't a good idea in the first place given the risk of skin cancer, please try to avoid doing so on roads. Or the railroad tracks. Or an airport runway. Just to be safe.