Friday, August 31, 2012

"Once in a Blue Moon" Comes Tonight

I hope you get a chance to see the Blue Moon tonight. A blue moon is defined as a full moon that appears for the second time within the same month. It doesn't happen often, which is I guess an origin of the phrase "once in a blue moon."

I don't think it will actually look blue. It's not made of blue cheese, after all. Actually, the moon often looks blue, especially on frigid winter nights when it glows a bitter cold blue light.

The next blue moon is scheduled for July 31, 2015, so it will be awhile before we see it again.

Speaking of the moon, apropos of nothing, why is there the following glitch in the English language? Why can we have sunny days, but never moony nights? Why must evenings be so formal, as in moonlit. If it's clear tonight, it will be moony in my book. Deal with it.

Seems that all my associations with the term "blue moon" no matter how tangential, are positive, so I'm looking forward to tonight's blue moon. Maybe I'll buy some Blue Moon beer, which I like, to accompany my lunar musings. 

The blue moon gives me an excuse to dredge up The Gong Show, of all things. Unrelated to a blue moon you say?

But of course it is!! There was a 1979 episode of The Gong Show featuring contestants called "Daddy-O" singing "Blue Moon." Bonus: It's a song I really like. The band is actually quite good, even if the show was the drug fueled, hazy mess we all know and love.

I wonder what pharmeceuticals host Chuck Barris was on. It really looked like the drugs knocked him for a loop most nights. And what did J.P. Morgan ever do besides judge on the Gong Show?

 The Gong Show was ahead of its time, let me tell you. After all, it's basically the same format as "America's Got Talent." Though it seems AGT's host, Nick Cannon, does not appear to abuse drugs, like Barris might have. 
 See what the blue moon is doing to me? It's making me loony. So I'll stop now, and let you watch that brief, wonderful episode of the Gong Show, just for old time's sake. :

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Stupid Hurricane Follies

Another hurricane has hit, Isaac this time, and we've endured the usual hurricane tradition: Reporters standing out in the worst of the storm, struggling to stay on their feet amid the wind and rain.
NBC's Al Roker and the Weather Channel's Jim Cantore
struggle with Hurricane Isaac in New Orleans. Live!
On the Air!!!

Why, oh why do they do that?   Yes, we know it's windy. It's a hurricane, for crissakes! Your cameras are showing us the swaying trees, the damaged buildings, the flooded streets.  Struggling to keep your nifty Eyewitness News rain slickers on as you yell unintelligbly into a rainsoaked, shorted out mike doesn't add anything to the report.

Except, that is,  for the comic relief when a reporter is tossed by the wind down the street like a discarded, crumbled up piece of paper or your $1 milllion TV news truck gets pushed by the flood into the refreshing waters of Lake Pontchartrain

We can't hear what you're saying. The wind is drowning out the sound, and your struggle to stand up in the gale isn't conducive to sharing information. What we hear is "Wind gurgle gurgle picked up, grumble gurlg oomph, ugh, warned to evacua...., oooh, ugh, huh, damage to gurgle ah! ungh tropical oooohhh."

Not exactly enlightening, is it?

Reporters struggling out in the wind during a hurricane have become a cliche. Can't you think of anything more creative to do when covering the storm?  I didn't go swimming in the raging Mad River in Vermont while reporting on Hurricane Irene last August. I just talked to victims to get their story. And nobody complained that I didn't float through somebody's ruined house to report the news.

Remember, it's not about the reporter. It's about the real people affected by storm. Do your job and stop showboating in the gale.

Look, I love weather porn as much as the next guy. Hell, I film it when I get a chance, from the dry confines of my truck or a building, thanks.  Us TV viewers expect and want to watch the sad videos of houses ripping apart in the wind, floodwaters washing through city streets and century old trees toppled into useless heaps.

But while you're showing us the destruction, calmly, out of the wind, please, tell us if anybody has been hurt, how bad the damage is, where the hurricane is going, how storm victims are getting aid, and how we can help.

While we're all enjoying the storm on TV,  why not commit some real journalism for a change?
Here's a video to prove my point:

Flower Season Fades Fast

It's cool this morning here in St. Albans, Vermont, cooler than it's been since early June. Fall is coming. The lawn is littered with a few colored leaves, the first scouts of an army of foliage that will drop onto the yard in the coming weeks.

Flower season is waning fast, too. Zinnias are still colorful at the edge of the vegetable garden. Sedum is turning pink. There's black eyed susans blooming, too. But the flowering season in the yard has largely passed.

It's time to start planning next spring and summer.  I'll figure out how to add more color to the gardens so that in subsequent warm seasons, I can enjoy something that isn't just bland lawn.

I've been carving out perennial beds for three years now. Every summer, there's a bit less lawn, a bit more flowers. This fall, I'll probably make the yard look even more like a construction site, as I remove sod, prepare dirt, and wait until spring when I can happily plant as many more perennials as I can.  

Yup, I'm always looking forward to more gardening. Even if it means waiting through the upcoming long months of Vermont cold and snow to get there.

Meanwhile, I'll enjoy whatever flowers last into the fall. And dream of next spring.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Vermont Sadness A Year After Irene

It's been a year since Hurricane Irene trashed Vermont. In just a day, hundreds of homes drowned in floods that came on so suddenly that some people didn't have time to flee. Businesses drowned, or simply washed away that Sunday.
This mobile home near Saxtons River, Vt.
lies in ruins in August, 2012, a year after Irene.

Big chunks of Vermont's road network fragmented into short stretches of pavement interspersed with yawning canyons where culverts and bridges had been the day before.

At least five Vermonters died in Irene's onslaught on August 28, 2011. Perhaps only the Great Flood of 1927 was a worse disaster for the Green Mountain State.

The post-Irene cleanup went fast. Armies of volunteers swarmed swamped neighborhoods, doing their best to put the pieces back together. The state's road crews fixed the roads in a flash. Most were paved and smooth by the fall foliage tourism season, which came only a little over a month after Irene.

Now, if you drive through the towns hit hardest by Irene, you could almost believe the disaster never happened.
A sad sign on a flood damaged house near Plymouth, Vermont
in a photo taken about a year after Hurricane Irene
wrecked the home.

What were mud caked streets last August are tidy lanes, with perfect flowers in perfect planters on perfect sidewalks in front of perfect gift shops which greet, well, imperfect but still very welcomed tourists.

Restaurants are open and look like they're thriving. Houses have been repaired. Fresh white paint gleams on clapboards. Homeowners have long since finished cleaning muck from the basement and gutting soggy rooms. They are now busy tending neatly trimmed lawns and foisting bumper crops of zucchini from their gardens onto their neighbors.

This sign was still up at a wrecked farmstand
near Plymouth, Vermont in August, 2012, nearly
a year after Irene.

It's jarring when you turn a corner and see it. The wreckage of the epic flood. It's still there in spots.  A sagging tilted houses amid a sea of gravel, left just as they were the minute the water receded after the rains of August 28, 2011 ended. Twisted metal knotted around dead trees, representing what was once somebody's mobile home. A shed deposited upside down in the middle of a field.

These scenes are even more jarring than they were right after the storm because they seem so out of place amid the newly repaired villages and streets.

You wonder why the wreckage is still there.

And you know, as anyone opening the pages of Vermont's Burlington Free Press this morning can attest, the disaster continues. 

In Stockbridge, an old farmhouse still lies tilted and warped in a ditch where the rushing waters of Irene deposited it. The house became a widely photographed iconic image of Vermont's Irene disaster. The roofline of the house remains perfectly even. The shades in the unbroken second floor windows are closed, as if the occupant in the house has decided to take an afternoon nap. But the bottom of the house is bowed out,, and the whole structure tilts precariously, as if trying to outdo the Tower of Pisa.
This house in Stockbridge, Vermont, became an
iconic image after the Hurricane Irene disaster
last year. This photo was taken two weeks ago, nearly
a year after Irene.

Poignant signs are still attached to some wrecked properties. "Please keep out. Irene already robbed us" is spray painted on a boarded up house window near Plymouth, Vermont. The scrawl hints at creepy opportunists who used a person's tragedy to steal from them and just make things worse.

Another sign invited people to take pictures of the wreckage. Maybe that would help them gain attention, and maybe help the rebuild. A year after the storm, they so far haven't rebuilt.

Another hurricane is bearing down on the United States as I write this. New Orleans, again. It's seven years since Katrina wrecked New Orleans and they still haven't fully recovered.

Nobody deserves a disaster, to lose their homes, their livlihood, their sense of place. Let's hope that if it happens, nobody stays in limbo for a long time afterwards, like victims of Katrina, or a few unlucky people in Vermont who were blindsided by an ugly rainstorm named Irene.

The Best Wedding Ever

I know, I know,  I've been writing so much, maybe too much about my wedding, which happened Sunday.  Lots of people get married. Get over it, Matt.

I'll stop soon and get back to the usual goofiness in this here blog thingy. But I'm still basking in the afterglow, so bear with me.
Jeff and I exchange vows Sunday. Photo by Jody Remsing,
Jeff's and now also my niece.

The parties and celebrations are over. I haven't been hugged so much by so many people in my life!

Jeff and I are starting to settle back into our routines. I love the heavy feel of the thick tungsten wedding band on my ring finger. I love the ability to say "my husband" when making a reference to Jeff. Other than that, I don't feel much different than I did before the wedding.  Of course,  my sense of extreme luck that I have such wonderful family and friends has grown even bigger. And, my love for Jeff will keep getting bigger and bigger, too. 

Jeff's family departed for their homes in places like South Dakota, Missouri and Kansas yesterday morning. I had a chance to have one last breakfast with them before they left, so that was awesome. I can't wait to see them again during the holidays. 

As always, I managed to make some goofups during the ceremony itself. I was crying at one point, and Staci, now my niece, was the officiant at the wedding. She discreetly handed me a tissue. I blew my nose a little. Instead of stuffing the tissue in my pocket, I handed it back to her. I"m sure Staci appreciated it.

When the big moment came to put the ring on Jeff's finger, I tried to put it on his middle, not ring finger for some reason. "Wrong finger," Jeff hissed as I started to do that, then made a comical face to the family and friends in the theatre. Leave it to Jeff to add humor to a good moment.

I managed to get the finger on the proper finger and things went on.

Jeff designed and scripted the whole wedding, as I said.  We were all dressed in white. Everybody. Including the guests. Awesome singers sang romantic tunes. My sister Lynn, surprised me during the "let's toast the couple" section of the ceremony by indiscreetly mentioning that my 50th birthday is coming up and let's celebrate with a cake right now. So we did. 

Payback is a bitch, Lynn.   (I'd considered marrying Jeff as my birthday present) The chocolate cake was delicious though. 

The ceremony was touching, emotional, funny, compassionate, soaring, warm and loving. Just like Jeff.

We ended the ceremony on a high note by playing Lady Gaga's "Born This Way." I can't dance in a dignified way, but who cares?  I whooped it up like everyone else in the theatre. Everything was perfect.

Several people said it was the best wedding they'd ever attended. All I know is it was the best wedding I've ever been to. But you knew that. 

Luckily, family and friends  who read my post I wrote hours before the ceremony on why I married Jeff thought my reasoning was good.  I had to laugh and appreciate it when Jeff said during his vows, that he'd read the post and his thoughts were "ditto."

Our wedding photographer, the awesome Andy Duback, took this great time lapse video of the entire ceremony:  Have a peek. Again, thanks so much everyone!!!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I'm Getting Married Today

Today, I will marry the love of my life, Jeff Modereger.

I've been with him for three years, He's lived with me in St. Albans for two years. We have two dogs, a house, a yard. We're already a married couple in just about every respect.

So why bother today tying the knot, officially, complete with a marriage license and a beautiful ceremony that Jeff designed?
Me and Jeff clowning around in a blueberry patch

Because any time a couple is as commited, and as in love as we are, any time a couple knows their relationship is forever and is a million times stronger than the tungsten wedding rings we'll wear, you have to make a public statement. It's that important.  It's a touchstone for people.  Times are bad, bad things happen around the world every day, every minute it seems.

What we're telling people is love conquers all.  Our marriage is a shield against all that bad that can happen. Our marriage is our strength, and that strength spreads over into the family and friends that are so important to us, and who are of course in town for today's wedding.

I met Jeff three years ago. Our first face to face meeting was at a TGI Fridays. OK, it wasn't a romantic evening at the Eiffel Tower or something, but it was a start.

The first couple of minutes were awkward, but then we were laughing, relaxing, fitting well together, connecting. I'd been lonely. This felt good.

Jeff jumped right into the relationship. I was much slower. At first I resisted the pull of a deep connection. I was too proud of my independence, I told myself. Too unready for complications. Deep down, what was really going on is I was too afraid this would work out.

You see, I've always lived by the adage that if it's too good to be true, it probably is. And I found that being with Jeff did seem too good to be true.  Still does. We laugh all the time. We cried together when his beloved dog Rocky died. We support each other.  When one of us has a bad day, we make each other feel better.  It just feels so right.

But there was that "too good to be true" cliche nagging at me as the relationship between Jeff and me grew.  The other shoe would drop, the red flags would appear. The happiness I was finding would be a mirage and I would get hurt. Again.

No shoes fell. No red flags appeared. Jeff was, is, a glowing exception to the "too good to be true" rule.

Because he is true. Genuine. Honest. You can trust him. With your life. That's what I find most important, most endearing about Jeff.

He is my life now. The trust I have in him is what makes me know I'll be OK whatever happens. I hope he feels the same toward me.

Over the Christmas holidays last December, Jeff went to South Dakota to see his family. I stayed here in Vermont and visited my family. He came back right around New Year's Day. My proposal was simple. On the evening of January 2, he was in his easy chair, watching TV. I interrupted him. I got down on one knee, pulled out a ring and said, "Would you marry me?"

We both cried. And laughed a lot. Again.

I knew he would say yes. Jeff was certainly hinting enough he was ready for marriage. But nonetheless, a huge wave of relief washed over me when he said "Yes."  We were officially a team. It's funny how two people so connecting like we are have the emotional, moral, loving strength of 200 people, not two.

Jeff is nationally known in the theatre world as a highly respected scenic designer. He had ideas for the ceremony in his head for a long time, you could tell. I won't yet give away how the marriage ceremony will work. It's very theatrical, of course. It will take place in the beautiful Royall Tyler Theatre at the University of Vermont this afternoon.

Jeff built the set, the script, pretty much all aspects of the ceremony himself. He's paid attention to so much detail for this. It really symbolizes how much he pays attention to me and our love.  It makes me feel so safe. A good feeling to have, let me tell ya.  And in return, I will live each second of the rest of my life stoking, nuturing, growing my love for Jeff. I don't need an official wedding vow to say that.

Jeff's very extended family is in town for the wedding. They're mostly from the Midwest. It's overwhelming trying to keep all the names straight. I've been meeting most of them for the first time these past few days. I can certainly see where Jeff gets his honesty, his sky-high character, his compassion, his groundedness. And the family is damn fun. They laugh a lot, too. Just llike me. So I think this is a good fit.

Marrying into this family is another  stroke of awesome luck for me, if I haven't had enough already. I'm honored to be marrying into this family, that is for sure. I'm making a commitment to Jeff today, of course. But I'm also making a commitment to his family. It's my duty and deep pleasure to honor, love and respect them too. And I'm looking forward to it. Even if I'm not quite used to be called "Uncle Matt " yet. I'll get there.

This is a same sex marriage, obviously. It's legal in Vermont, but not yet in most states, but I think that will change. I get it that some people's religious beliefs don't condone this. But the God I believe in doesn't make mistakes.

He didn't make a mistake making me and Jeff gay. And neither of us chose to be gay, notwithstanding what some social conservatives might tell you.  It's part of who we are. It doesn't make us better or worse than we otherwise would be.  Being gay just happens. But being good people is a choice.  Honoring, respecting and loving each other and those around us is a choice. A damn good choice. Joining in a marriage is a choice. It's exactly the right choice. For us. And I think for everyone around us.

If there is a good, righteous God, He did not make a mistake bringing Jeff and me together for this marriage. Marriage is a right  and a responsibility. Jeff and I have the responsibility to keep our love growing, to make our trust grow and spread, to show the world that love indeed conquers all.

Jeff and me are up to the challenge, and we can't wait to start.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Texas Judge Really Needs to Take a Deep Breath

I'm here in the Let's Not Overreact department here at the Matt of All Trades blog,  counseling a Texas judge who says that if President Obama is re-elected he's afraid there's going to be a civil war.
A worried looking Tom Head  contemplates Obama's
possible re-election. 

Apparently, according to Lubbuck, Texas County Judge Tom Head, Obama, if elected, will let the United Nations, and some sort of army it has, take over the United States. Naturally, the fine citizens of the United States would object to that (I sure would!) and launch an armed rebellion agains the United Nations force.

Could be messy.

Head, who also runs emergency management around Lubbuck, admits the possibility of this all happening might be kind of low, but he sees it as a real possibility.

I suppose anything could happen. I mean, for all I know, in five minutes, a fleet of pink elephants from Pluto could descend on my house and eat Jeff and I for breakfast. That would sure kill our weekend wedding plans, wouldn't it?

But somehow I doubt I should spend too much time worrying about pink elephants from Pluto. Just as Head should probably stop worrying about Obama and his United Nations army.

Aren't there more immediate emergencies in Texas anyway? A drought, perhaps?

Sure, there will be a lot of people who will be disappointed if Obama wins, just as there will be a lot of people disappointed if Mitt Romney wins.

But Judge Head,  take a deep breath. I'm sure Obama won't launch an army against his own citizens. And I'm sure Romney won't do anything equally stupid and far fetched.

We'll have an election in November, somebody will win, and life will go on. Trust me on this.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Laughing at Temper Tantrums

A useful viral video is going around: A supercut of film scenes showing people having temper tantrums.

Next time you get furiously angry, watch the video so you'll see how silly you look when you start throwing things around.

In the video, I especially like the old movie with the angry bald guy they keep flashing back to.  If nothing else, the guy is persistent. Anyone know which movie that's from?

Anyway, here's the fun clip:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Throw That Mobile Phone! Future Olympic Event?

There's a sporting competition for everyone and everything, it appears.

In Finland, they recently held the World Mobile Phone Throwing Championship, appealing to anyone who has ever had trouble connecting on their cell phone.

This ought to be an Olympic sport, let me tell you. I'm sure. I wonder if people throw the phones further if they've been frustrated by spotty service?

I wonder if there's a technique, a style of training that makes you throw phones the greatest distance. Is there a regulation mobile phone to throw, or will any one do? So many questions

If you want to participate in a mobile phone throwing contest, you can watch the following video for tips and pointers:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How Phyllis Diller and Scott McKenzie Saved My Childhood

I don't mean to diss my mother, but when I was little, in her worst moments she could be grim, tense and angry.

That's true of most of us, of course, but I never had the constitutional fortitude to handle grim, tense and angry.

Which is why I'm so grateful to Phyllis Diller and Scott McKenzie.

Diller, the comedian, and McKenzie, famous for that '60s hippy song "If You're Going to San Francisco" were unwitting counterweights that got me through bad days when I was little.

Diller, who died this week at age 95,  was the wild, wacky mother that would replace mine when my own ma would get into a bad mood. Diller was unpredictable, had that cackle and look on her face that told you she was up to something.

A 1961 Time magazine review of Diller best captured why I found her so appealing:

"Onstage comes something that, by its own description, looks like a sack of doorknobs. With hair dyed by Alcoa, pipe-cleaner limbs and kneeds just missing one another when the feet are wide apart, this is not Princess Volupine. It is Phyllis Diller, the poor man's Auntie of the few women funny and tough enough to belt out a 'standup' act of one-line gags."

I was intrigued as a five year old by Diller's fictional husband Fang, who was so bad, so out of control, so low life that we would have gotten along famously.

The obits all note that Diller was also a wonderful, warm lady, a great cook, great pianist and all around great person, who treated everyone well. The zany stand up comedian was just one of her roles, but it was the one that helped me the most.

Here's a clip of Diller's fantasticness (and yes I know that's not a real word)

Scott McKenzie, who died at 73, this week, is famous for that one San Francisco song. Yes, it was about the Summer of Love and all that jazz back then. But as a five year old, the song sounded like a soothing lullaby.

McKenzie sang softly that if I went to San Francisco, "you're gonna meet some gentle people there."

I had no idea where or what San Francisco was, but when my mother was on the warpath, I wanted to get to San Francisco, fast.
Here's the song, as a reminder of how it goes:
When I listen to the song as an adult, my cynical side calls the tune a bit sanctimonious, a little too reverant of the era it embraces. But the other side of me hears the lullaby that I understood the song to be when I hadn't even made it to kindergarten yet.

So, Phyllis, with your life of the party sensibility and Scott, with your gentleness, thank you for making things a bit better for me as a toddler, and RIP.

Monday, August 20, 2012

"Expendables 2" is So Bad It's Brilliant

As a connoisseur of the tacky and the campy, I went to see the "Expendables 2" with Jeff this weekend.

It was so worth it.

A classic bad movie, The Expendables stars a whole bunch of washed up, has- been action movie heroes shooting their way through scenic Nepal and Albania.

Don't ask.

Of course, the movie ended up as the winner at the box office this weekend, which either means that American movie audiences have no taste, or everyone loves groaningly bad movies, like me.

For the actors, the movie was meant as a self-mocking send up.  And it was proof that aging movie stars don't, well, age well.

The star, and the leader of the band of heroes in the movie, Sylvester Stallone, wore a weird little black mustache in which had a sort of Snidely Whiplash effect, which was odd, since he was supposed to be the good guy. Isn't Stallone also a little old to have no gray hair? None?

Dolph Lundgren spent the movie trying to channel Gary Busey except in a more insane, menacing way. Dolph did manage a few words and quite a few grunts, so that's an accomplishment for him.

Steven Seagal was the bad guy, and spent most of the movie wearing these sunglasses that I always saw on Liz Taylor in paparazzi shots from the 1970s.

The film started with the usual action movie high body count, this time in Nepal, where the Expendables rescued Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is being held hostage by an evil Chinese billionaire and his band of thugs who had made poor Arnold wear a hood that resembled a badly soiled KKK hat.

Or maybe it was a dunce cap, as that would have been more fitting.

The Expendables quickly dispatched the ugly thugs in Nepal, spilling enough fake red blood to fill Lake Superior. Then they flew off in their decrepit plane, bringing along our Chinese billlionaire. They put a parachute on him, and dropped him safely onto a rural Chinese landscape, thereby keeping the evil billionaire alive for use in a sequel.

For unknown reasons, Bruce Willis then made the troupe head on off to Albania, where they were supposed to retrieve a computer code from a crashed airplane, with the help of a lovely Chinese heroine, made pretty and pouty by half the world's supply of collagen injected into her lower lip.

Of course, complications ensued with the evil Steven Seagal in his sunglasses, which offered the excuse for lots more explosions and bullets and gunfire and blood and general messiness. The Expendables were made even more mad at Seagal because he killed the youngest, most sensitive member of the group, and the only one who could marginally act.

Schwarzenegger kept popping up, announcing his presence with his trademark, "I'm back!" Finally, Willis, who had eventually joined the noisy festivities in Albania, said "You've been back too many times already."

Which prompted the funniest line of the movie, which came from Jeff, not the movie. Jeff leaned over and whispered to me, "You've got that right."

It seems if this was a real military unit, they'd be written up for wastefulness. I mean, why shoot a guy in the chest with 100 rounds from a machine gun when one or two bullets would do? The answer is, it affords an opportunity for one of the characters to tell our victim. "Rest in pieces."

Alrighty, then.

Schwarzengger appears again. (I'm back!) just in time to rescue the Expendables and a couple hundred villagers from a mine that Seagal had blown up, just for fun. (Seagal and his goons had already retrieved most of the world's supply of plutonium cannisters from the mine, so they can threaten the world. Again, just for fun.)

It was lucky that Arnold had one of those giant rock cutting machines to cut into the mine and rescue everyone. . Everyone should have a tractor-trailer sized mine boring machine in their garage like Arnold apparently does, just in case.

We are coming to the end of the movie now, (spoiler alert!) with a climatic shoot up scene which appears to take place in the Tirana, Albania main airport terminal.  It does seem nice enough that, although the fighting got off to a quick start, it appears they allowed people in the terminal to flee. With their luggage, since I didn't see Samsonite in the subsequent action sequence.

And that's a good thing. Who wants to go to Tirana, Albania, only to have their luggage shot full of holes by a grim Sylvester Stallone, firing away like he does through most of the movie?

It was also very nice of our merry band to not break any of the liquor bottles at the airport bar, even though the entire rest of the terminal was torn to pieces with their machine guns.

Seagal did make a mess with the plutonium, spilling cannisters of the stuff all over the airport, for tourists to take home later as souveniers. "Look ma! I brought you some plutonium back from Albania! It glows!"

You can probably already predict the ending. (Seagal might not be in the sequel, but you never know) However, with so much trouble in the world, and with "Expendables 2's" success at the box office, you can expect more explosive episodes of this movie.

Coming to a theater near you! Expendables 3! Renamed the Expandables, given their middle aged pot bellies by the time the next version comes out.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Man Puts Gas in Garbage Bags To Save Money

Dumb person, and potential Darwin Award nominee of the year goes to a man at a filling station in Bellingham, Washington who used plastic garbage bags as containers for the gasoline he was buying.

Yes, you read that right.  Seattle television station KOMO had a report on photos taken of the guy using the garbage bags for the gas.  No word on any explosions yet.
Man fills trash bags with gasoline in Bellingham,
Washington. Photo from KOMO.

Bellingham is near the Canadian border, and gas is much cheaper in Bellingham than in Canada. So Canadians living near the border go to Belllingham, fill up their tanks, and bring lots of extra containers to fill up on gasoline. Reasonable enough, if you use a regulation gas can, which almost everybody does.

As a cop says, channeling Captain Obvious in the KOMO report, carrying gasoline in plastic garbage bags is a bad idea. Imagine the bags springing  leaks, with gasoline filling up the trunk, vapors filling the car and then some of the spilled gas dripping onto a hot exhaust pipe or something.


Besides, breathing gas fumes is dangerous. It can cause brain damage for one thing, which might explain why the guy was filling garbage bags with gasoline. I'd also hate to be caught in a traffic jam just behind the moron with the plastic bags full of gas.

This isn't the first recent incident in Bellingham, Washington with people having trouble with Canadian shoppers. Residents of the fine city say their local Costco is so packed with Canadian shoppers they can't even get into the place.

Some Bellingham residents want Costco to have hours where only Americans can shop.   What's Costco supposed to do? Put up their own border patrol checkpoint and turn those invading Canadians away? Wouldn't that cost so much money that Costco would have to raise their prices, thereby making it not worth it for the Canadians to come anyway?

That would get rid of the Canadian shoppers, but do the Americans really want to pay extra for their Costco loot?

For the record, Costco said it would continue its levelheaded policy of letting anyone with a Costco membership shop at any of their stores whenever they are open for business.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Disturbing Man Wants to Rape Protestor

A disturbing video surfaced last week of a demonstration in support of the LGBT community in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

A counter protester, from what to me is a weird group called Black Hebrew Israelites, threatened to rape a woman who was among the LGBT supporters.

 The guy wanted to teach the woman a lesson, to make her learn the proper role, the proper place for women, at least in his mind.

I'm all for free speech, but the threat seemed real.  If we're going to talk about the proper place for people, a good place for this scary guy is in jail.

Grand Rapids Police said they didn't make an arrest because there was no specific complaint against the guy or guys threatening to rape. And they had the right to protest against the LGBT demonstrators.

And that's true, people have the right to say just about anything out on the street that they want to. But I wonder if that extends to making threats. I do hope the Grand Rapids police still have an active investigation on this.

Watch the video for yourself, but be warned, it's NSFW due to bad language, and it is rather disturbing:

There seems to be a lot of this women bashing going on by the fundementalists wackos. A guy named the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson in a  lengthy diatribe of how women should never have gotten the right to vote.

Said he:  "The one thing I know for sure without a doubt (is that) women cannot handle power...It's not real power anyway. Power that the world give you is not power. It's all ego-building"

Then there's the video from this guy, below, who says essentially that maybe good Christian woman shouldn't go to college but should make babies instead. You know to increase the population Evangelicals.

Just seems odd, that it seems more and more people want women to go back to the dark ages or something. What's the problem, afraid that women are running things better than you are, bud>

Friday, August 17, 2012

I Love The Bulwer-Lytton Bad Writing Contest

Every year about this time, I look forward to the results of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

I know, it sounds stuffy and boring, but it might be the only writing contest out there that's a hoot.
Edmond George Bulwer-Lytton, for
whom the bad writing contest
is named

Sponsored by San Jose State University, the contestants vie to write the worst first sentence of a novel they can think of.   The awards are given to writers in several genres, including romance novels, westerns, you name it.

According to contest organizers, the award is named after Edmond George Bulwer-Lytton, who had that famous opening line of a novel: "It was a dark and stormy night."

You probably recognize that line as the work of the Peanuts character Snoopy, when the dog goes into novelist mode.

The 2012 awards just came out, and here are some of the best examples.

"As he told her that he loved her, she gazed into his eyes, wondering, as she noted the infestation of eyelash mites, the tiny dead deodicide burrowiing into his follicles to eat the greasy sebum therein, each female laying up to 25 eggs in a single follicle, causing inflammation, whether the eyes are the  windows of the soul and if so, his soul needs regrouting,"... overall winner Cathy Bryant of Manchester, England.

"She slinked through the door wearing a dress that looked like it had been painted on. Not with good paint, like Behr or Sherwin-Williams, but with that watered down stuff that bubbles up right away if you don't prime the surface before you slap it on and - just like the cheap paint -the dress needed two more coats to cover her." --Sue Fondrie, Appleton, Wisconsin, winner of the crime catagory.

"Corinne considered the colors (palest green, gray and lavender) and texture (downy as the finest velvet), and wondered, "How long have these cold cuts been in the refrigerator,"  Linda Boatright, Omaha, Nebraska, runner up in the purple prose catagory.

"He got down from his horse, which seemed strange to him as he had always believed that you got down from a duck or a goose," Terry L. Johnson, Tularusa, New Mexico, runner up in the bad pun category.

"Ronald left the world as he entered it: On a frigid winter night, amid frantic screams and blood soaked linens, while relatives stood nearby and muttered furious promises to find and punish the man responsible," Rebecca Oas, Atlanta, Georgia.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Was United Airline's Misplaced Kid a Sign of Bad Corporate Culture?

Every business that has ever existed has made mistakes. Because they're run by people. And every person who has ever existed has made mistakes.

So when a company screws up, you want to give them the benefit of the doubt, at least until you see whether they try to make things right.

According to a blog post that has hit the national news in the past couple of days,   United Airlines did not get it right. Spectacularly so..

According to the Bob Sutton Work Matters blog, nobody from United would deal with an unaccompanied 10 year old girl on a flight to Chicago, who was to make a connecting flight to Michigan. The girl was AWOL, then found in a terminal. Nobody would help the girl, even as she pleaded for help from somebody, anybody, according to Sutton and the girl's parents.

Everybody at United seemed to believe the girl was not their problem, even as the kid's frantic parents tried to get somebody, anybody to help the girl get to her destination.

United employees were completely unresponsive, according to the girl's parents. They were on hold for hours on end with United, to no avail. Only when they appealed to female United employees' maternal feelings for their own children did anybody help at all.

The girl eventually got to her destination, minus her luggage, no thanks to United. And the parents reported that when they filed a formal complaint to United, they were not allowed to write it themselves. They had to dictate it to a United employee, who wouldn't let the couple review the complaint for accuracy.

Only when the negative publicity crap hit the fan for United did they begin to respond, apologizing to the family.

Sutton wonders, as do I, why some big companies believe they should avoid providing customer service to people who pay for those services. The short answer, of course, is because they can. They figure people don't have good alternatives to what they're offering, so they can abuse their customers.

Yes, it costs money to pay employees to help customers sort out misunderstandings and mistakes. And Lord, yes, some customers are just self centered, whining, cheap complainers who try to get anything they can from whoever they can.

But, it would be nice to build good will through customer service would it not? Wouldn't it pay dividends in repeat customers who spend lots and lots of additional cash on these businesses?

Sutton blames a pervasive corporate culture at United for the lack of customer service, He contrasts it with JetBlue, which has made its share of boneheaded, very public mistakes. But Sutton said JetBlue at least tried to make things right with affected people.

It seems like there are two corporate cultures in America. One, which seems to be the case at United, is all about making profit and nothing else. Of course, a business is there to make a profit. That's their function. But in this culture, customers are an impediment to profit, because they want things that cost the company money, thereby taking the cash away from CEO's and shareholders.

In this corporate world, the logical conclusion to their philosophy is people should give them money for no discernable goods or services, and be grateful for doing so, because the companies deserve it for no reason, I guess.

This philosphy sometimes works, unfortunately, in a world where entities merge until they have a monopoly. So if you're not satisfied with Company A, you can't go to Company B because there is none, it's been gobbled up by Company A. So you're stuck with Company A's awfulness.

The other, better American corporate culture is to make a profit through selling goods and services good enough to make people want them,  and to make sure the purchase makes these customers feel good, that they've had a good experience. That way, the customers might come back for more, tell their friends how great the company is, and the company will reap more profits.

And boy, does it feel good when a company is super responsive. For instance, in the past couple years, I've had snafus involving orders from LL Bean   and Johnny's Selected Seeds.

In each case, their employees or their computer systems made minor, honest mistakes, which I contributed to by not being clear with what I wanted when doing business with them.

But in each case, when I called the companies to straighten things out, I was immediately connected to customer service representatives. I was not placed on hold, the people I talked to were pleasant, they straighted out the problem very quickly, apologized for any inconvenience, and even made up for things by offering a coupon.

You can bet I've since been back to the three firms to order or buy more stuff. And as you can see by what I just wrote, I'm not shy about telling people when I'm happy with a company that does a good job.

Too bad other companies can't take that lead.

Update: Fiery Cheerios Protestor Dies

Earlier this month, I made fun of Michael Leisner, who accidentally set a lawn fire at the Minnesota General Mills headquarters because he didn't like the company's pro same sex marriage stance.
Michael Leisner, recently made famous in his
fiery Cheerios protest, has died.

General Mills makes Cheerios, and he tried to torch a box of the cereal to express his dissatisfaction, but the fire got a bit out of control and he fled. No real damage occurred, but the embarrassing YouTube video of the incident sure was a hit.

Boy, do I feel bad about making fun of Leisner now. Word now comes that Leisner has died of an apparent heart attack. He was waiting in his car for his two sons to finish playing tennis when he passed away, according to The Smoking Gun.

He's been described as a nice guy, though his virulently anti-gay stance understandably put me off. My condolences to his family, though.

Even in death, things got screwed up for Leisner in an unfortunately comic way. According to the Smoking Gun report, a nephew wrote, in Spanish, a loving tribute to Leisner.  Bing translated it from Spanish to English, and they garbled it. The translation read: "Please pray for the family of Mike to feel the spirit of God as dildo in this time of loss."

Sigh. I really hope the afterlife goes better for Leisner.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Guilty for Leaving the Dog at the Kennel?

The video is this post is for confirmed dog lovers, I know it, but indulge me. What goes on in the film is interesting to contemplate. And now, having watched it, I feel guilty.

A woman who works in a dog kennel filmed the guests there as they waited for their families to return. You can never be sure what goes on in a dog's head, of course. But the filmmaker's schtick, and one that seems reasonable if you watch and a dog lives with you, is they miss their companions and can't wait until they return.

As I said, the video makes me feel guilty for leaving our Jackson and Bailey at the kennel while we work, even though I know I shouldn't feel that way. I know the two boys have fun playing there, and Barb at Deja Vu Kennel in Milton, Vermont takes excellent care of them.

When either Jeff or I pick up Jackson and Bailey from the kennel, there's such an explosion of joy from the two boys, as we call them.  I might tell they could have starred in the video, which you can watc h:

Classy Wedding? You Can Get Married at a Denny's!

As readers of this blog might know, I'm getting married very soon (Twelve days to go!)

Of course, the wedding plans are set. The venue is ready, so is the caterer, the photographer and everything else that goes with some fine nuptials. It will be a glorious day.
This Las Vegas Denny's will have a wedding chapel

However, when Jeff and I were planning our wedding, we were unaware of the following option: We could have gotten married at a Denny's in Las Vegas!

Yep, a new Denny's diner about to open in Vegas has a wedding chapel as a centerpiece.

Just think. Instead of getting married in a venerable old theater on a lovely Vermont college campus, we could have said our "I do's" amid some drunken partiers who have late night munchies.

Instead of hirinig a caterer who will offer some tasty hors d' voeuvres,  we could have had some runny eggs and rubbery pancakes to celebrate the beginning or our new life together.

Jeff and I hired a photographer named Andy Duback, a talented professional who has done superb work at countless weddings, and in lots of other settings. Plus is pretty much the staff photographer for the theatrical productions that are regular features in the theater where we will wed.

Geez, maybe we could have just had the staggering masses in the Denny's shoot lopsided, blurred images of us with their barely functioning iPhones.

But no, we'll skip the Denny's wedding. I think fast food leads to fast marriages. You know, the ones that are over in a flash. Jeff and I plan to stay married for a long, long time. As in forever.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Plane Loops and Swirls Over Vermont

I caught this biplane doing loops and circles and smoke trails in the skies over Burlington, Vermont Sunday. Wish I was up there.

It was all part of the Lake Champlain Maritime Festival 

Too bad boats can't do what the plane did. That would really be something.

I also wonder if I was on that plane, would I have had fun, or would I have gotten sick? Or both?

I kind of like the dramatic clouds behind the plane. It looks like he's battling a nasty storm, but really, not much more than a sprinkle was coming out of them.

As always with the photos in this blog, click on the photos to make them bigger and get a better view.

Steal My Money, Here's My Account Number

I admit I'm not the best about protecting my account information, passwords, secret codes, etc. I imagine I'll get hacked eventually.

But one thing I've never done is taken nice, crystal clear  pictures of my debit and credit cards and post them on line so everybody can read my account numbers and go on a nice shopping spree on my behalf.
This is a fake credit card, obviously,
but many people put pics of real
credit cards on line

I'm not crowing about how smart I am. You'd think everybody would know not to do that. But, not everybody knows, as it turns out.

There's a whole site consisting of a collection of Twitter feeds in which people, psyched about their new debit cards or trying to highlight a snafu, post pictures of their debit and credit cards to Twitter.

Because nobody ever read anything on, or has even heard of Twitter, right?

Who knows, there may be sites out there on the Internet that tell burglars how to find the valuables in your house. And tell you where the secret key is to get into the house. Maybe people post their entire identtities on line, right down to their Social Security numbers, just for the joy of being ripped off and/or having their identities stolen.

Maybe these people are natural pessimists. "I'm going to get ripped off anyway, so I might as well make it easy for everybody and just get it over with.

What happens if people make it easy for crooks and the crooks get arrested anyway? I can just hear the victims who let the world know how to steal from them:   "Oh, let the poor guy go, he just took all my money, ruined my credit and my entire life, assaulted me and tried to kill me. It's really no big deal. I'm sure he didn't do it on purpose."

They say criminals are stupid. So, apparently, are some victims.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Kid Dances Incredibly, Meditates on Bullying, While Another Kid Just Suffers.

Every once in awhile, I'll share in this blog a video of a really cool, talented dancer doing his or her stuff.  I'm kinda fascinated with great dancers. I guess it's to make up for my dancing abilties, which would remind one of a rat with epilepsy.

This video one is different.

Yes, the kid's dancing is incredible. Supposedly he's 12, but the control he has over his body is just amazing, like he's been practicing for 30 years.
But the video tells a story of bullying, of suffering, of people around kids who don't have their best interests at heart. You want to believe the story line, that the kid perseveres through the awfulness, and finds his mojo in dance. So much so that other people come around to him.

Happily ever after.

The video is really a work of art, not just because of the dancing.

Now for a reality check. The video above is a fictional storyline. Inspiring, beautiful, artful, yes. And the dancing is certainly real. But real life, unfortunately, doesn't always end well. I hate to be so depressing, but there you go.

The reason I'm being Debbie Downer is the video below. Because as far as I can tell it's real life. And it's far from pretty or inspiring or hopeful.

Apparently, some shoppers in a Vineland, N.J. Walmart heard an awful mother yelling at her daughter. Supposedly, you could hear it all over the store, and it lasted a long time.

As everybody seems to do nowadays, somebody whipped out a video recorder, and caught the mother in what looks like a deliberate attempt to make the young girl take a nasty fall from a shopping cart.

It's painful to watch, but do it anyway. It's a sad commentary on what looks to be a little girl's lousy childhood:

As people confront the woman, she says "I didn't mean to do that one."

That one, lady? Does that mean you regularly pull mean, injury causing abuse on your young daughter? Is it a coincidence there's a pink cast on the girl's arm? Or did you cause it?

In the video, you see people who saw the incident confront the wicked mother. Those confrontations are well meaning of course. What are you supposed to do when you see something like that?

But it escalates, and the mother who pulled the cart out from under her daughter makes excuses, and resorts to yelling, out of control. That's what bullies do to discourage people who confront them.

While this is going on, look at the daughter. The mother makes gestures to comfort her, but it looks fake, and the girl knows it.  All the yelling from everybody makes her an embarrassing center of attention, and she just wants to fade away.  If anybody in the world needed a hug, a safe place, the girl is the one.

She knows that, probably, she's not going to be rescued. And since everybody made a big deal out of the abuse, she knows she will get more of it at home. It will be her fault, of course, at least in her mother's twisted view.

I haven't been able to find out what happened to the girl and her mother.

Maybe I'm assuming everything incorrectly, but to me, that's how things usually work out, unfortunately.

What will happen to that girl?  Somehow, I doubt it will be a Hollywood ending, like the kid in the dance video who finds joy in his talent. No matter  how smart or talented the real little girl is in that sad video from Vineland, New Jersey, there's no escape, or so it seems.

Will she have the strength to make it to adulthood? Will she be a damaged adult, one who either shrinks from the world or becomes an abuser herself, because that's the only thing she knows?  Or was this just a rare, bad moment,?

And will she find the strength to soar, like the kid in the dance video? I sure hope so.

Oppressed White Guys?

Hat tip to partner Jeff for alerting me to this video. Interesting take on whether white guys are oppressed these days by increased divesity, equality, societal changes:

I'm probably stepping into a minefield by posting this video, judging from all the comments on the YouTube page from where this video came.

So, discuss away! All (nonprofane and polite) comments welcome

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fire Alarm Forever: Why Burnt Popcorn Ruined Weekend For Many

Fire alarms are designed to be annoying. You want to leave any building where they're going off. That's why they're effective. If the building is on fire, you want people to leave.

Of course, if it turns out to be a false report of a fire, you just shut down the alarm and all is well.
What would you do if an alarm went off
in your building for 15 straight hours?

Except, apparently, in a Pennsylvania apartment building. Somebody burned popcorn around 6:30 p.m. last Sunday. No big deal. These things happen. But nobody shut off the alarm for more than 15 hours.

Gawd, you'd think it wouldn't be difficult. The fire department said it couldn't shut if off, for liability reasons. Whatever that means.

The maintenance guy had a key to shut off the alarm, but not to the locked door that leads to the alarm. Residents called the company that owns the apartment building, but nobody could shut it off until the next morning.

The alarm was in a section of the building where there is an ATM. Building managers said the bank never gave them a key to the room.  The bank now says there was a breakdown in communication and they'd fix it.

Let's hope there's not such a comedy of errors if something else goes wrong in the building. Imagine if the sprinkler system started spraying water and nobody shut that off for 15 hours. Or even a faucet in a sink left running 15 hours with a clogged drain could create a few difficulties.

Or what if there was a real fire in the apartment building. Imagine the anger if the fire department couldn't get its act together for 15 hours to come over and put the blaze out. The whole city would have burned.

I'll use this occasion to check my own smoke alarms. But I can guarantee if it goes off and it's a false alarm, the noise won't last long

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Best, "Man's Best Friend" Pic Ever?

I swear, half the planet has seen and fallen in love with the photo in this post, which has gone viral, as cool things do nowadays.  .

It shows a guy named John Unger cradling his dog Schoep, who is 19, in the cool waters of Lake Superior.

Schoep is floating in the water sleeping with a look of complete contentment on his face. Unger looks like he's in heaven, too.

The reason the photo is so appealing to so many people is obvious: Most of us understand a relationship with a dog is almost always all happiness. OK, a dog will misbehave, or more accurately, behave like a dog when we want Fido to behave like a human.

But ultimately, a dog will always put us in a good mood.

From what I understand, Unger and Schoep truly are besties. Schoep, being an old dog, has arthritis, and Unger discovered that Shoep feels a lot better if he  floats in the lake and naps. Shoep knows that Unger is there to keep him safe. You can see that confidence in the dog's face.

And look at Unger. Have you even seen a more peaceful, loving expression on a man's face?

The photographer, Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, says none of the photos were posed. She said she hates posed shots when she's got her camera. (For the record, I totally agree with her.) So she just let Unger and Schoep do what they normally do, and whatever shots she got, she got.

Said Stonehouse Hudson on her Facebook page: "I want people to identify with this photo, and remember a time when they felt safe, loved, and cared for.... Then I want them to channel those feelings and pay it forward! There is way too much negativity in this world - maybe with this one photo we can start to change things just a tiny bit."

Unger says he's eternally grateful to Schoep. A lot of people with dogs feel that way. I do.

In Unger's case, he said he was once suicidal after a horrible romantic breakup, according to an interview in the Duluth News Tribune.   He said Schoep snapped him out of it. He doesn't know how, but Schoep did it.

Dogs are mysterious creatures that way. They shift our emotions so dramatically, so suddenly.

This week, a colleague at work had to put his dog to sleep. His wonderful dog was terminally ill, and falling into increasing pain. There was no sense of making the poor dog suffer.

So, my colleague Adam and his wife, gave their dog a loving sendoff, giving the dog the junk food that he craved but was never allowed to have, giving the dog a long, last look at Lake Champlain, something the dog loved to do. They gave the dog a ride in the car, and just spent the evening hugging him.

I had never met the dog, but I was getting all weepy just reading Adam's Facebook updates on the situation.

The situation with Schoep and Unger is bittersweet, too. Unger told the Duluth News Tribune that if Schoep's pain worsens too much, he'll have to put him to sleep. Unger cried when he said that. Unsurprisingly.

I've discovered dogs don't just cheer you up when you're down. They alter your mood even when things are going well.

I'm getting married in a couple weeks, so things are both happy and harried in our household at the moment. 

Jackson, the young and hyper cocker spaniel, makes it a point to block my path when I'm running around, getting ready for work, figuring out the wedding, whatever. I think he's telling me to take a deep breath. And Jackson won't let me continue until I get down on the floor, give him a quick wrestle, a belly rub, and a good scratching around his neck.

It's therapy for both Jackson and me, and allows us to continue on, refreshed. And with Jackson putting me in a better mood, that will make me that much nicer to Jeff.

Then our other dog, the older and wiser Bailey comes up to me. Bailey is the calming influence. He'll stand there, almost meekly, and ask for a back rub. Then he'll give me a gentle kiss, and we both go back to what we're doing.

Their job of making Jeff and me calm and happy done, Jackson and Bailey then curl up on the cool floor and fall asleep, looking satisfied.

Four Day X Box Marathon, Really?

News broke Wednesday that some teenager from Ohio collapsed after pretty much continually playing with an Xbox for four days.

Really? He had nothing better to do for four whole days? Including sleep, eat and just live?  He didn't notice he was fading fast?

Is Xbox really that interesting?
This kid nearly killed himself playing Xbox for
four straight days. 

I know. If you're really into some sort of pasttime that you enjoy, time can get away from you. It happens to all of us. We stay up too late reading, playing, doing something and we're tired the next day. No biggie.

But is this kid a little......obsessive? Maybe needs counseling?

Didn't anyone notice this kid was doing this? His mother finally saw him keel over four days into the marathon. She took the Xbox away, which I guess is a start.

If this kid has to write a "what I did on my summer vacation" essay when he gets back to school. It will be pretty boring. And short. I'll write his essay in his entirety right now, since the kid is so busy with his gadget. Here goes; "I played with my Xbox all summer. The end."

Of course, maybe the kid won't go to school this fall. He'll be too busy playing with his Xbox.

I wonder what would happen to the kid if we forced him to play outside. He probably wouldn't know what to do. Imagine the conversation:

"Ew, what's that green stuff I have to walk on?"
"That's grass."
"And that annoying bright light overhead. Gawd, I can't see the screen on my game console."
"That bright light would be the sun."
"Turn it off!"
"It doesn't turn off."
"There's no 'force quit' for that light? There's got to be!"
"Sorry, no force quit. No ctrl, alt, delete either."
"Ugh. That rustling sound, too. It's distracting."
"That would be wind blowing through the trees."
"What's are trees?"

And on and on it would go.

I don't know if this incident is good PR for the makers of Xbox, but what the hell. Maybe they can star this kid in a commercial. And give him a new Xbox for his troubles. Yikes!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

First Amendment Follies Flummux Fiery Fanatic

One of the joys of living in this country is the First Amendment.

Really. The amendment pretty much gives the right to say what we want, when we want, how we want.

That doesn't necessarily mean having our say turns out well.

Ask Michael Leisner. He was not happy with General Mills, makers of cereals like Cheerios. The conglomerate's PR people have said the company opposes an upcoming Minnesota initiative that would ban gay marriage.

Leisner wants gay marriage banned, and he's unhappy with General Mills for disagreeing with him. So he showed up at General Mills headquarters to express his displeasure. It had to be dramatic, to get people's attention. And dramatic it was.

In protest he decided to burn a box of Honey Nut Cheerios. As you can see in the video below, things didn't go so well for poor Leisner. It was the start of a very bad week for him.

The video pretty much has the nation laughing at poor Leisner. The video, shot by his friends, went up on YouTube. He soon arranged it so you couldn't copy it into another Web page, like I did here, but it was too late. The version I have posted is somebody's copy, that does let me show the world the guy's clumsiness with fire.

Apparently, some of the people at an outfit called Greater Midwest Properties saw the video, too. Leisner was a real estate agent for them, but apparently he's been fired. Greater Midwest Properties says it doesn't condone the destruction of property. Even if the destruction isn't that bad.

This proves the perils of exercising your First Amendment rights. Exercising those rights means the government can't punish you for criticizing its leaders or its policies. However, there still can be consequences from other sources.

As Leisner learned, your employer has free speech rights, too. If it disagrees with your free speech, or the way you express them, you can become unemployed. That's been in the news a lot lately.

A guy in Tuscson, Adam Smith, decided recently to mercilessly berate the person at a Chick Fil A drive through window because he was mad at the chicken chain because its owner gives lots of cash to anti-gay organizations.

Smith seems to have picked on the person at the drive through because the person at a drive through window at a large fast food restaurant chain can change the mind of the head of the company, apparently. Ooookay.....

Smith was the CFO of Vante Inc. but his bosses saw the video and canned him. Smith posted a another video on YouTube apologizing but it was wayyyy to late for that.

All this is a lesson: Say what you want, but do it politely, please, without drama. Doing so could keep the unemployment rate down. Especially yours.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Big Trees, Harmony and No Worries in Vermont

While on a work assignment in southern Vermont, I stopped for a sandwich at the Harmonyville Store, in a section of  Townshend called Harmonyville.
Vermont's largest sycamore looms
over the Harmonyville Store

I have to say it was with great trepidation that I was in Harmonyville. I had this irrational thought that anybody who steps foot in this village with the melodious title would have to prove they could sing, and sing damn well.

And if the singing voice is sub-par, the village elders would stand me up in the Harmonyville Store parking lot and give me a 21-gun salute, so to speak. My funeral services would be held at a later date.

When I sing, I sound like a horny walrus with a wicked case of strep throat.   Any day now,  a military Special Ops unit will call me, whisk me away to Syria, and make me sing Lady Gaga's song "Bad Romance" outside the palace of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, as a way to finally rid that country of its embattled dictator.

Anyway, there were no embattled dictators in Harmonyville, Vermont, at least as far as I could tell. And (YAY!!) nobody asked me to sing.

Which left me time to see one of Vermont's most wonderful attractions looming over the Harmonyville Store. It's the state's biggest sycamore tree.

You'd think that's not a big deal, because I swear Vermont has, like 12 sycamore trees, total. It's practically all sugar maples, here, folks.

But this sycamore is truly amazing.  The fact that I'm telling you its 175 years old and 115 feet tall with a 63 inch diameter just doesn't do it justice. The trunk is so huge, if four NBA players suddenly decided to hug the sycamore in unison, their fingers would not meet each other.
The sign proves that the big tree
in the background is damn big

(By the way, if you ever see four NBA players hugging the Harmonyville sycamore, call me, STAT! I want a picture of that.)

The sycamore has at least seven main branches, each the size of a 150 year old maple. Even the sycamore's leaves live large. Some were almost twice as big as either of my hands.

One of those enormous branches looms directly over the roof of the Harmonyville Store.  If it ever fell, it would smush the poor little Harmonyville Store just as much as the ant I killed in my kitchen yesterday when I stomped on it with my work boots. I'm still trying to scrub the ant remains from the floor.

I asked the nice young man at the cash register about that sycamore threat. He said he doesn't give it a second thought. "I'm not the type to worry," he said with some understatement.  "Besides, the tree is leaning the other way."
I let it go at that and didn't ask the store clerk to sing, just to check. I didn't want to cause trouble.

So I went outside and ate my sandwich under that beautiful sycamore tree.  If only it could talk.........
A view looking up the trunk of Vermont's
largest sycamore tree.

Clumsy As Me: People Walking Into Things

This video I found could have starred just me: I'm famous for not paying attention to where I'm going, and clonking myself by walking to any variety of objects. It's as if I'm magnetically attracted to them.

If you're like me, you will like this video. Because these people walk into things more spectacularly than either you or me.

There's so many videos like this out there. It's as widespread as the proverbial cat videos on YouTube. Something about us humans who love to watch other people's stupid mishaps. Maybe it's cheap therapy. We feel better about ourselves when we catch others in dumb moments.

"At least we're not as bad as that," we say as we chuckle at yet another clueless dude walking into a telephone pole.

It's shadenfreude, yes, but what the hell.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Home Depot Sold Us Plants That Will Automatically Die.

The ever observant and kind Jeff caught it when  I muttered in my St. Albans, Vermont garden a few weeks ago.

I said some splashes of blue would be nice in the section of perennial flowers I was trying to whip into shape.
This flower grows in my St. Albans, Vt.
garden recently. It's a perennial, but
unfortunately won't be back this
year because a national chain
store sold this in Vermont, though it
 can't overwinter here.

Next day, he happened to be in Home Depot picking up some construction material  and drifted by the garden section. He remembered my comment. And there was a clearance sale!  Low, low prices! He spied some perennials with pretty columns of blue flowers. He purchased them and brought them home.

I was of course thrilled with this latest act of kindness and enthusiastically and got to work planting the blue flowers.

It was only when I was done I spotted the problem. If perennials are sold in Vermont, you don't stop to think whether they can actually grow here if you're presented with them as a gift. Of course they can grow here. They were bought at a store located in Vermont.

I looked at the information. My heart sank. The flowers, something callled Blue Fortune, Anise Hyssop,  were hardy to Zone 6. Vermont is solidly in Zone 4. The perennial Jeff gave me would survive only to temperatures to 10 below. It regularly gets colder than that here in the winter.

Now my sense of outrage grew. To me, Home Depot took advantage of Jeff's kindness and generosity. Why were they selling perennials that can't make it in Vermont?

Let's face it, most people who buy flowers for their yards aren't super experienced gardeners. They don't know the particulars, they reasonably just want to make their property look nice.

Garden zones mean nothing to a lot of people. And it's true the perennials I got spelled out that they were hardy to 10 below. But people don't read the fine print.   Like Jeff, people assume if it's sold in Vermont, it can grow in Vermont.

This fall, I'll mulch the hell of the perennials Jeff got me at Home Depot, but I'm not optimistic at all.

Since most casual gardeners are inexperienced, they won't know why these Zone 6 plants don't come back next spring. They'll assume they did something wrong. So they'll go back to Home Depot and buy  more plants that aren't good for Vermont. Home Depot makes more money and yards remain unadorned by flowers.

I'm sure this all has to do with Home Depot's distribution system that doesn't make distinctions between zones. Still, to me this is a scam.

My advice, and my lesson learned by not reading the fine print: Buy your plants from local growers.  They're  more likely to winter over the perennials they sell, so you know they will grow here. And small, local businesses don't want to screw over their customers. They want you to be happy, so you'll come back for more.

Also, large national chains import plants from growers elsewhere in the nation. That could import diseases to Vermont. A couple years ago, we had a terrible outbreak of late blight in tomato plants across the state.

The late blight got an early, strong start because of tomato plants brought in from warmer, southern climates, to be sold at large national chain outlets. This allowed the late blight to become established early and firmly in Vermont, resulting in a lot of lost crops.

So, learn my lesson. Buy your garden plants locally, wherever you are. And make sure they're selling you plants that can actually grow where you live.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Olympic Parents Strike Gold, Too

Part of the fun of watching the Olympics is the reactions of parents and other relatives in the stands.
Debbie Phelps, mom of swimmer Michael
Phelps watches her kid win again. 

Thankfully, there is now a Tumblr site, Parents of Olympians, where you can check out how mom and dad react to their kiddies as they seek the gold.

It almost looks like the parents are more emotionally invested in the competition than the actual competitors.

That makes sense, since a lot of these parents spent their time ferrying kids to and from gyms, pools and whatnot from Day 1.

Still, judging by the reactions, I think some of these parents get as big a workout cheering their kids and the Olympians do in competition.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Romney Pic and More Proof Men Who Abuse Spouces Often Stupid

In a sad case out of Tennesee, a local man was charged with domestic abuse because he hit his live-in girlfriend because he was suspicious she was planning an affair.

That's not funny, of course. But if the police reports are right, this guy is also dumb, dumb, dumb, in addition to being more than a jerk.
Lowell Turpin, accused of domestic violence and
being ignorant.

What set him off was a photo of a rather good looking guy on the woman's Facebook page. Aha! Proof that she was getting some action on the side.

The picture was of Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney.  Apparently, the woman was interested in politics. Good enough.

But not good enough for "boyfriend" Lowell Turpin, no sir, according to police. Turpin thought Romney was the guy his gal was having the affair. He'd never heard of Mitt Romney? Knew what he looked like?

Um,  I think Romney has been in the news at least a couple times  this year. Even if you don't pay attention, you'd think Romney would have popped up somewhere in your mind as not necessarily a random guy seeking an affair with a woman in Tennesseee.

So let's hope the woman in question gets away from Turpin forever, and hope the Turpin is punished. And though I normally wish that as many people vote as possible, I really hope Turpin doesn't.

He's really not what I'd consider an informed voter, wouldn't you agree?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Gorillas Outsmart the Evil Man

I love it when an underdog sticks it to the man. Especially when the man is evil.

In this case, we're not talking about underdogs, though. Call them undergorillas. According to ABC News,  researchers in Rwanda saw young gorillas carefully and very effectively dismantling traps set by poachers to capture gorillas.

(Hat tip to Jim Ehlers via Facebook for the alert on this)
From ABC News: A gorilla is shown dismantling
a snare meant to kill them or other animals.

"How they did it demonstrated an impressive cognitive skill," said gorilla program coordinator Veronica Vecellio, according to ABC.

Researchers had previously seen a few adults dismantle the traps, but never gorillas so young. So the adults are teaching their children well.

By the way, researchers probably wanted to teach the gorillas to wreck the traps, but were bound by scientific ethics not to. They were not to interfere or change gorillas' natural behavior, we're told.

Gorillas are occasionally poached for food, but also fall victims to the snares for other reasons, according to the International Gorilla Conservation Programme.

Instead, traps intended to poach antelope for food sometimes snare Gorillas. Worse, sometimes gorillas are poached because some idiot wants to sell an infant gorilla as a pet and status symbol.

And, apparently some gorillas are killed for meat, because it is apparently some sort of status symbol among a few humans to eat that.  Most is eaten locally, but some finds its way to other cities for consumption, like London. Ugh.

Apparently, in some cases, human ambition, or more accurately greed, makes people dumb. So, it's nice to see a smart gorilla thwart a dumb human.

This isn't to say the gorillas who are dismantling the snares are saving their population. More and more gorillas are being killed by poachers, according to the experts, and that is the biggest threat to their overall survival.

Enforcement against poaching is lax across much of their African habitat, according to gorilla researchers.

So let's hope more gorillas learn to outsmart us sometimes stupid humans.