Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cheap Pastor, Fired Waitress, Social Media and A Sense of Proportion

As always  in those cases where something stupid becomes a talker on line, we have more details on the case of the pastor who stiffed the waitstaff over an 18 percent gratuity.

You might recall that the pastor wrote on a restaurant bill, "I give God 10 percent, why do you get 18 percent?"
The receipt that set off the firestorm

First of all, my sexism was on display for the world to see when I first wrote about this. I kept referring to the unnamed pastor as "he" because I had no idea who it was. I just assumed it was a he, forgetting that obviously, a pastor can be she.  And it was she in this case, apparently,

Anyway, the waitresss that snapped a photo of the receipt and put it on Reddit got fired from her job, according to Consumerist.

She admits she made the initial mistake of showing the photo with the pastor's signature on it. Even though the signature was pretty much illegible, people figured out who it was. The waitress subsequently posted a new version of the pic on Reddit, minus the idea, and she pleaded with people not to identify the customer, but it was all for naught.

Here's what the waitress, Chelsea has to say, according to The Consumerist:

"Some time on Wednesday, Chelsea says the customer who had left the receipt contacted her Applebee's location, demanding that everyone be fired, from the servers involved to the managers
According to Chelsea, until the receipt story got out there, her time at Applebee's had been without incident.
"I had been well liked and respected," she explains. "My sales were high, my managers had no problems with me, and I was even hoping to move up to management sometimes this year."

The Smoking Gun has more details on the pastor's apology. 

Said the pastor, Alois Bell, according to The Smoking Gun:

"My heart is really broken," said the 37 year old Bell. "I've brought embarrassment to my church and ministry."

The Smoking Gun quoted Bell as saying the incident was a lapse in judgment that has been blown out of proportion."

I don't know if Chelsea's charge that Bell wanted everyone fired is true, but if it is, there's another example of blowing things out of proportion for ya.

Speaking of blown out of proportion, it seems like this whole thing is, and maybe I'm contributing a bit. What started out as a small local incident of rudeness became magnified a million times over via social media, and now it's a big nationwide scandal and everybody is chiming in.

This happens a lot nowadays.  Seems like everybody involved made some fairly minor mistakes, but the mix of  a cheapskate, relgion, money, social media and a general sense of unfairness was the alchemy that blew this into a Big Deal.

So we have a waitress that's been fired over a impulsive decision to post something on line, which seems out of proportion. The pastor is supposedly getting death threats, and that's really out of proportion. People really have GOT to learn to calm down.

I don't know about you, but since this type of thing happens so much, I worry every time I have the slightest lapse of judgment, like everybody does, it will turn into a national bruhaha that turns my life upside down.

I can see ruining somebody's life over a major crime, like murder.  But none of us should have to live in fear of having our lives ruined over minor sins.  Let's get real.

Florida DMV Thinks Man is a Creepy Criminal For Taking Wife's Name in Marriage

Congratulations to the former Lazaro Sopena and his new bride, Hanh Dinh of Florida on their recent marriage!

Too bad the Florida DMV doesn't think along the same lines.
Hanh and Lazaro Dinh on their wedding day.
Florida DMV says Lazaro is a scumbag for
taking his wife's last name in the marriage

When he got married our buddy Lazaro agreed to take his wife's last name, Dinh, as his married name so as to help perpetuate his wife's surname. He said he did it out of love.

Smooth move, Lazaro, you romantic guy, you. That was a brilliant way to start off your marriage.

Yes, when people get married and one part of the couple changes their name, it's more often than not the woman who does it. But what harm is there in the groom now calling himself Lazaro Dinh? I mean, who cares what his name is, right?

Well, Florida DMV cares deeply. Very deeply. To them,  Lazaro is a total fraud because he took his wife's name in marriage. He's  accused of fraud and his driver's license has been taken away. 

According to Lazaro Dinh, the DMV people told him the marriage name change "only works for women."

Really? Only women? Why?

"Apparently, the state of Florida clings to the out-dated notion that treats women as an extension of a man, said Lazaro's lawyer, Spencer Kuvin, as quoted by Reuters.

As an aside, why is it that every time there's weird news, it comes out of Florida?

Anyway, attorney Kuvin also raises the question of what happens in a gay marriage if one side of the couple takes the other guy's surname. Gay marriage is not legal in Florida. However, a man taking a wife's last name is legal in only nine states. And some of the states where the man can't take the wife's name have legalized gay marriage.

Where I live here in Vermont, gay marriage is legal but taking a spouse's name in a gay marriage is not. However, I haven't heard of any trouble with this here in Vermont. (I got married to Jeff in August in a gay marriage in Vermont, but we decided to keep our names as is, so this is not an issue for us.)

As for Lazaro, he can go to probate court to legally change his name and pay $400 or more in court fees, but he said he's not a super rich man, and why should he be discriminated against like that?

I'm sure there will be some court battles over this.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cheap "Pastor" Stiffs Waitstaff, Gets Virallly Infamous

Somebody posted a photo of a restaurant check on Reddit, with a note from a very cheap person on it, and now it's virally spread all over the Internet.

It seems the guy who received the check, who says he is a church pastor, was miffed the restaurant added an 18 gratuity to the $34.93 bill. He was part of a large party with separate checks, and eateries very often add an automatic gratuity in such situations.

The "pastor" crossed out the 18 percent gratuity and left a tip of exactly $0.00. He did write a helpful note that read: "I give God 10 percent. Why do you get 18 percent?"

So our pastor is so holier than thou and gives his money "to God,:" so he doesn't extend basic courtesy to others?

Go through and read the comments on the Reddit link above. Some of them are priceless. Some quote the Bible: Says one person: "Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me."

Another person quoted Proverbs 14:31: "He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God."

It hasn't been determined exactly who this "pastor" is, but I bet a lot of people are looking for whoever it is. I don't know if they will be successful, but if the identity is found, boy is he in for Hell on Earth.  Unless of course this whole bruhaha is some sort of hoax. You never know on the Internet

He'll really want to meet his maker at that point.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Swallowed by the Earth in China

Here's some dramatic footage that's been making the rounds today. It's enough to make you question the ground you walk on.

A sinkhole opened up beneath some buildings in a Chinese city. This is how it went down, literally:

I'd Go To This Church

I love the message on this church sign that has been rattling around the Internet lately. Everybody hates and mocks the Westboro Baptist Church, the small band of idiots who hold highly offensive bigoted signs at funerals of soldiers and other very worthy people.

As you can see, the church sign basically says a protest by Westboro can be a badge of honor if they are targeting you.

Add that to my kick the bucket list, then. When I die, I hope Westboro pickets my funeral. (Which I hope doesn't happen for a long, long time.)

Feel free to have fun mocking them. You'd make my afterlife all the more pleasurable.

Bad Book Covers and the Streisand Effect

The old saw is you can't judge a book by the cover, but you can sure judge the poor taste of people who design book covers.

Which leads me to the latest fun time-waster I found on the Web. It's a Tumblr site called Lousy Book Covers is a fun way to spend the hours if you don't feel like reading a book, but would rather just mock how bad the cover art is.

The people behind Lousy Book Covers acknowledge they would have toiled away on the site in obscurity had it not been for a shout out from Andrew Sullivan and a stink from a thin-skinned book author.

Apparently, the stink the thin skinned author pulled is example of  something called the Streisand Effect. It's when somebody is embarrassed or offended by something they see about themselves on line or in the media.

They raise holy hell about it, that attracts a ton of attention and suddenly something that would have died a quiet death explodes into the national conscience, futher embarrasing and infuriating the person who complained to begin with.

In the case of Lousy Book Covers, authors and others who don't like having the bad art show are claiming copyright infractions. Though really, it's fair use.

Either the authors don't understand copyright law or they're just harassing the operator of Lousy Book Covers

But no matter, Lousy Book Covers is nice and instructive in how not to design your next big best seller. Hint: Don't hire a cheap artist who flunked Basics of Art 101.  Using dozens of fonts at the same time is a bad idea. A design confusing and weird enough to induce a headache is not going to encourage readership.

If you violate these rules, you will get mocked.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Weird Sea Foam Attack in Australia

There was a terrible storm during the past few days in Australia, in a summer down there that has brought weather from hell.

First they had the worst heat wave anybody can remember, which set off some epic bush fires that caused a huge amount of damage.

Now, on the country's north east coast, away from where the worst of the heat was, they've had some terrible flooding, wind, tornados, and a coastal storm surge.

That surge brought in an insane amount of sea foam, which resulted in some pretty wild photos and video.

Watch what happens here as people are looking at all the foam. Where did that come from?

Norway Cheese Fire

Who knew cheese was so dangerous?

I say that because a tractor trailer load full of cheese caught fire inside a highway tunnel in northern Norway. The 27 tons of cheese burned for five days, and badly damaged and closed the tunnel.
The great Norwegian tunnel cheese fire of '13

It makes me wonder if all cheese is dangerous. Will the Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar in my refrigerator explode? Will the next batch of macaroni and cheese I make engulf my kitchen in a firestorm?  Jalapeno cheese makes my mouth feel like it's on fire, but if I breathe on somebody after eating it, will they get third degree burns?

Apparently, the type of cheese that caused the Norway inferno is something called Brunost, which has high concentrations of fat and sugar, making it particularly flammable.

Media quoted Norwegian police officer Viggo Berg, who said this type of cheese burns "almost like petrol if it gets hot enough."

Which gives us all an idea: Why not use cheese, rather than fossil fuel, to power are cars and cities and electricity?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Every Celebrity Dies in a Swiss Skiing Accident

Celebrities don't fade away, they just die in Swiss snowboarding accidents.

At least that's what some enthusiasts of the Web site would have you believe.

 You go into the site, type in the name of the celebrity you "want to kill" and Voila! A news story about your celebrity having a bad end to their wonderful Swiss winter vacation.  The news article appears to come from something called "Global Associated News," which to the untrained ear sounds legit, like the Associated Press or something.

As you can see if you clicked the link to mediafetcher, you would have seen that Denzel Washington met his end snowboarding, but in reality, he's alive and well, and extremely likely is not  snowboarding or in Switzerland as we speak.
Tony Danza has been reported to have died in "news" stories
several times, but at last check he was alive and well.

You can also kill off celebrities by other means, such as having them fall off a cliff, as Jeff Goldblum supposedly did a few years back. (He's alive and well, too, and reportedly is not hanging out near cliffs at the moment.)

Lots of celebrities are dying. Tony Danza, for some reason, "dies" all the time, but of course he's alive and well. Justin Beiber is another expert in death, apparently.

The idea for many of these death "news" stories came from somebody named Rich Hoover, who thought it would be a hoot to create these fake stories, according to E!online.

Says E!online, quoting Hoover:  

"It started off as a practical joke machine seven years ago," says Hoover. "People can just plug in anybody's name so then they'll prank their friends. But people don't read the fine print, and sure enough, it spreads like mad."

Hoover said most celebrities don't complain, theorizing that any publicity is good publicity. It gets their name out there, he reasons.

Of course,  all these fake obits are view generators for Hoover's site, which in turn generates him money.

So why do people invent fake celebrity deaths. Basically it's a cheap thrill, according to a New York Times article on the subject.

“People like to lie,”said Mark Bell, an adjunct professor at Indiana University-Purdue University, as quoted in the Times article.  “They get a thrill from it. There is a little hit of dopamine when you lie, especially a lie that is believed by somebody else.”

“There’s not a lot of cost, either financially, morally, legally or criminally in doing this,” Mr. Bell said in the Times article.

But maybe there is another cost.  To somebody. Maybe us, in a way. 

Writing for Forbes last September, Dave Thieir  says that beyond the suspect page views, the whole thing can be in bad taste, plus understandably sows distrust among the public of anything they read.

Says Thier:

"While it seems funny for a moment, it is really a symptom of a dangerous world of new media. Truth and fiction can be equally valuable for a few hours. On a day when a real, wonderful actor actually passed away, it's hard not to see these sorts of stories as poor taste. But it is, of course, the Internet."

How To Brighten An Unemployment Office

So far in my life, I've been blessed by having not been forced very much to spend time in unemployment offices.

But I know they're depressing, anxious places. People are out of work, there's too much competition for too few jobs, people are frustrated by paperwork and anxious about the future.

In Spain, unemployment has gotten ridiculously high with the economic crisis in the Euro zone. Unemployment offices are crowded. And sad.

So, a flash mob decided to try and cheer people up.  I hope it did. Watch the video and see for yourself:

People To Be Totally Impressed With, But Don't Try This At Home

I absolutely love the "People are Awesome" series that's been rattling around YouTube for the past few years. Just search that term to see what I mean.

The video from that series in this post has been up for a bit and shared by quite a few people on blogs and other media, but I have to put it here, too.

The obvious appeal is watching people do stuff that we are completely incapable of doing and would never dare try.

But the cinematography, photography and music combine to make the whole thing a visual poem honoring the possibilities us humans are capable of.  Here it is, and there's another impressive video below this one:


Our second video has more of a winter theme, in keeping with the season. A few of the stunts are more fails than anything else, but most are almost as impressive as those in the first "People Are Awesome" video.  Time to start adding some of these to your bucket list:

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Lion Vs. Toy Car and Camera

Hat tip to for this one:

Really cool video of what happens when you attach a GoPro camera to a little toy car, and send the toy car off for an encounter with a lion.  I'd hate to have been the camera!

Veet Hair Removal Cream Prompts Hilarious Painful Product Reviews

Apparently, a number of men these days like to stay hairless in their undercarriage area, if you know what I mean.

I'm only mentioning this because there are some hilarious product reviews on for something called Veet, a men's hair removal product.

Apparently, there are side effects for many men who use Veet. Below are some of the customer reviews. The customers are British, and they certainly have a way with words.  Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish blog for noting these.

Here are some of the reviews;

"Being a loose cannon who does not play by the rules the first thing I did was ignore the warning and smear this all over my knob and bollocks. The bollocks I knew and loved are gone now. In their place is a maroon coloured bag of agony which sends stabs of pain up my body every time it grazes against my thigh or an article of clothing. I am suffering so that you don't have to. Heed my lesson. DO NOT PUT ON KNOB AND BOLLOCKS.

(I am giving this product a 5 because despite the fact that I think my bollocks might fall off, they are now completely hairless.)"

Here's a more detailed review, a very lengthy one, but worth every word:

After having been told my danglies looked like an elderly rastafarian I decided to take the plunge and buy some of this as previous shaving attempts had only been mildly succesful and I nearly put my back out trying to reach the more difficult bits. Being a bit of a romantic I thought I would do the deed on the missus's birthday as a bit of a treat.
I ordered it well in advance and working in the North sea I considered myself a bit above some of the characters writing the previous reviews and wrote them off as soft office types...oh my fellow sufferers how wrong I was. I waited until the other half was tucked up in bed and after giving some vague hints about a special surprise I went down to the bathroom. Initially all went well and I applied the gel and stood waiting for something to happen. I didn't have long to wait.
At first there was a gentle warmth which in a matter of seconds was replaced by an intense burning and a feeling I can only describe as like being given a barbed wire wedgie by two people intent on hitting the ceiling with my head. Religion hadn't featured much in my life until that night but I suddenly became willing to convert to any religion to stop the violent burning around the turd tunnel and what seemed like the destruction of the meat and two veg. Struggling to not bite through my bottom lip I tried to wash the gel of in the sink and only succeeded in blocking the plughole with a mat of hair. Through the haze of tears I struggled out of the bathroom across the hall into the kitchen by this time walking was not really possible and I crawled the final yard to the fridge in the hope of some form of cold relief. I yanked the freezer drawer out and found a tub of ice cream, tore the lid of and positioned it under me. The relief was fantastic but only temporary as it melted fairly quickly and the fiery stabbing soon returned .
Due to the shape of the ice cream tub I hadn't managed to give the starfish any treatment and I groped around in the drawer for something else as I was sure my vision was going to fail fairly soon.I grabbed a bag of what I later found out was frozen sprouts and tore it open trying to be quiet as I did so.I took a handful of them and tried in vain to clench some between the cheeks of my arse. This was not doing the trick as some of the gel had found it's way up the chutney channel and it felt like the space shuttle was running it's engines behind me.
This was probably and hopefully the only time in my life I was going to wish there was a gay snowman in the kitchen which should give you some idea of the depths I was willing to sink to in order to ease the pain. The only solution my pain crazed mind could come up with was to gently ease one of the sprouts where no veg had gone before.
Unfortunately, alerted by the strange grunts coming from the kitchen the other half chose that moment to come and investigate and was greeted by the sight of me, arse in the air, strawberry ice cream dripping from my bell end pushing a sprout up my arse while muttering..." Ooooh that feels good ". Understandably this was a shock to her and she let out a scream and as I hadn't heard her come in it caused an involutary spasm of shock in myself which resulted in the sprout being ejected at quite some speed in her direction. I can understand that having a sprout farted against your leg at 11 at night in the kitchen probably wasn't the special surprise she was expecting and having to explain to the kids the next day what the strange hollow in the ice cream was didn't improve my status...So to sum it up Veet removes hair, dignity and self respect...:)

One more, if you can stand it:

I like the clean shaven look down in my gentleman's log cabin, so for the past few years I've used a shaver. However the hair keeps growing back which means every 6 months I have to spend 20 minutes trimming again. As I'm sure you've realise this is valuable time I cannot waste. So I decided to get to the root of the problem and purchased this product.

Probably the first thing you will notice after using this product is the pain. Although as a man I lack the required experience, I'm going to estimate that using this product is at least eleven times more painful than childbirth.
Imagine sticking a rusty razor blade into your favourite eye, before tying your hands behind your back. Then imagine that you use the entrenched razor blade to slice open a raw onion. All the while being butt naked. This product is slightly more painful than that.

However if we ignore the blinding, crippling and debilitating pain I should point out that this product is remarkably effective. Before, all manner of organisms great and small lived down there, now nothing can grow; not even on a cellular level. Sadly this includes my genitalia; I've spent the last four hours staring fixedly at Carol Vorderman's arse, all to no avail. My tinkywinkleton hasn't even so much as perked up, so if my review seems a bit harsh, it's only because I wanted children.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Cutest New Phenomenon: A Scottie Pinwheel

Scientists (OK  a dog owner) have discovered a new process in the world of physics.

Feed some Scottie puppies some tasty goats milk, and you get a phenomenon known as the "Scottie Pinwheel."

Too awesome for words. Watch:

Great New Twist on Homecoming Queens, Kings

In this age of bullying and school violence, it's totally awesome to see a trend coming out of schools that make you really think the kids are alright.

A recent example of this comes from Unionville Community School in Tennessee. Recently, the school  had its annual crowning of the Homecoming King. There were three finalists, all of them popular, handsome, big with the girls. Typical homecoming king material.

When it came time to crown the king, the leading vote getter, Jesse Cooper and the two other finalists had other ideas.  They asked that the another classmate, Scotty Maloney get the honor instead, according to television station WKRN in Nashville.
Unionville Community School Homecoming King
Scotty Maloney with the Homecoming Queen recently

Maloney has Williams Syndrome, which interferes with his ability to speak and learn. But everybody at the school really likes him, so why not honor him, goes the perfect, wonderful logic

"I've been blessed with so many things," Cooper said. "I just wanted Scotty to experience something great in his high school days."

The boys that had been nominated for homecoming king said they were honored to be nominated, but something being named homecoming king isn't something you think about all the time for the rest of your life. But crowning Maloney King will be talked about forever.

These young guys have a great perspective. Another reason why I say the kids are alright.

The title of homecoming queen or king usually goes to the stereotypical popular Alpha student. But I have noticed a trend in which quite a few schools seem to be steering the honor to really, really nice kids, but ones that traditionally get cast aside.

It is so nice to see this new breed of homecoming queen and king get their day in the sun. Watch another great example in the video, below:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

If Winter Makes You Feel Bad, Watch This

I'm a little bummed by the weather here in Vermont. It's been way below zero, windy and frigid.

Winter is so much work. It takes forever to get dressed in all those layers just to go outside, and even then it's uncomfortably cold. Being so bundled up feels so constricted, like I'm serving some sort of like a prison sentence. I want a jail break. Preferably to Belize or something.

But, when I start giving myself a pity party about hating winter, I watch videos like the one below, and I feet better. Because they are doing worse with winter than I am.

Louisiana Lawmaker Asks: E-Coli Evolves Into Humans

Louisiana has been under fire lately because some schools are pretty adamant about teaching evolution didn't happen.

This leads to some pretty funny moments, when a few people who should know better are willfully ignorant.
Louisiana State Sen. Mike Walsworth
has some interesting questions about

The state's lawmakers were discussing legislation that would allow the teaching of creationism in public schools.

A video taken in April that is just now going viral shows just how scary lawmakers can be. People this dumb are making laws?

In the clip, Louisiana State Senator Mike Walsworth  definitely a creationist, asking questions of Darlene Reaves, a fourth grade teacher who was discussing the teaching of evolution in the classroom..

Walsworth asked if there were any scientific experiements that demonstrate the process of evolution.

So far, so good. Reaves said yes. Scientists have taken samples of E.coli, let them reproduce over and over again. The scientists took samples of the E.coli  bacteria occasionally during the process and froze them.

After some years, the scientists compared samples of E.coli from the beginning of the experiment with those toward the end and determined they had changed over the generations. In other words, they evolved.

With that explanation in hand, our Senator Waldsworth asks. "They evolved into a person?"

No, Sen. Waldsworth, the evolved into scary dinosaurs that are going to eat you!!! What do you think?!?!?!?

The look on Reaves' face after Waldsworth's question is priceless.

Check it out for yourself:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

In A Spirit of Compromise, Starbucks Robber Takes Free Coffee Instead

A guy in Alabama tried to rob a Starbucks. The clerk there said he couldn't open the cash register and offered the robber a free coffee instead.

The robber accepted the deal.

The whole incident is a great parable for Congress, if you think about it. Instead of digging in their heels, the clerk and robber came to an agreement. The robber wanted a bunch of money, the clerk wouldn't part with it. But instead of a standoff, the clerk offered an olive branch: The free coffee.

We can argue whether it was a fair trade, but at least something got done. The robber and the clerk are not still standing there, saying "My way or the highway."  The problem has been solved.

Congress and the president and everyone else in Washington could learn from this example. Of course, the robber in Alabama was still arrested, but at least this whole thing was a start.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Little Terrorist in Pennsylvania Threatens Classmate with Bubbles

A terrible terrorist threat was exposed in Pennsylvania recently.

According to a report from ABC News, a girl threatened to shoot her friend. With a Hello Kitty bubble blower. The terrorist is a five year old kindergartener

Is this a dangerous, deadly weapon?
Because the girl and her friend discussed pointing the pink, somewhat gun shaped bubble blowers at each other after school, the the Mount Carmel Area Elementary School  declared the girl was a terrorist threat, suspended her and ordered her into counseling.

The Hello Kitty "weapon" wasn't even on school grounds at the time of the scary incident, according to the ABC report.

The Mount Carmel Area School District told ABC News, “We are confident that much of the information supplied to the media may not be consistent with the facts… The Mount Carmel Area School District takes the well-being and safety of students and staff very seriously.”

In my view, it would have helped the school's credibility if they gave us some hint as to how the information supplied to the media was wrong. Geez, they could have done it without disclosing the name of the kid, if they're worried about student privacy.

If more facts come out, I'll be happy to set the record straight.

But if girl's family's account is true, the school might have  made the girl hate school, distrust adults, confuse her and possibly damage future educational prospects.

I guess it would have been too much work to turn the Great Hello Kitty Bubble Blower Crisis of 2013 into a teachable moment. Something like this, maybe: "You know, toys are fun, bubbles are fun, but just so you know, guns are bad if you don't know how to use them, or use them in a mean way."

Imagine that scenario. A school actually teaching a kid something!

I've railed recently how a few schools let their zero tolerance policy get out of control.

Don't get me wrong: I recognize that most school administrators are pretty sane, level headed and want to educate kids, not be boneheaded scaremongers. And I understand the basic concept of zero tolerance policies often make complete sense.

Zero tolerance, done right, can make schools safer. And my guess is safe schools make a better learning environment. So my wrath is directed only at people who take what is often a good idea - zero tolerance - and act upon it without thinking, without a sense of proportion.  .

Because given the public discourse we witness day in and day out, a little thinking and a sense of proportion would go a long, long way toward making things better.

The World's Scariest Bakery Forced to Close

This was probably the easiest decision any heatlh office could make.

In Britain, the health office has closed a Meads Bakery Ltd.  for picky little details, like dead mice on the floor, lots of fruit flies, thick spider webs, paint chipping off walls and ceilings onto prep areas, and, of course, black mold that covered all the walls.
The lovely scene inside the now closed bakery
in Britain

At least the bakery was able to save money on interior signs. Rather than buy a sign saying "Office" for the office door, somebody just scratched that word into the black mold covering the door. Problem solved!

And they were into recycling. They kept "mopping:" the floor, according to authorities, with the same dirty water. They were saving on water and detergent. How environmentally friendly!

You wonder how they got away with being such a mess for so long. But I suppose excuses and little lies got them through

Why are the sesame seeds on my muffins moving?
It's a new treat. They're Mexican jumping sesame seeds.

Why are the walls in this bakery black and fuzzy?
Sound proofing. The neighbors were annoyed by the noise from the bakery equipment and so we installed the sound proofing.

Why is there a dead rat on the floor?
That's a new breed of cat. He's just sleeping.

Then why are there flies all over "the cat?"
The cat attracts them for us, and swats them dead. Keeps things clean.

Why all the paint chips on everything.
Don't worry. It's decorative.

I'm OK with the itsy bitsy spider thing going on, but isn't 9,482,345,190 spider webs hanging from the ceiling too much?
Naw. It's shoplifting prevention. If somebody tries to hurry out with stolen goods, they get tangled up in the webs.

In any event, if you're planning a trip to Britain, stay away from Meads Bakery. Even if it is closed.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Beyonce: At Inauguration, Best "Star Spangled Banner" Since Whitney? Or Lip-Synced?

UPDATE: Reports are coming out now that Beyonce actually lip synced the whole thing. I feel bamboozled.

(Previous post follows)

Yes, I know this is not exactly the most important thing to come out of today's inauguration of President Obama, but: How about Beyonce!?!?!?

There are a handful of memorable performances of "The Star Spangled Banner," There are a few incredibly bad ones. Remember Rosanne Barr?

But people, myself included, prefer to remember the best ones. The benchmark seems to be Whitney Houston's famous performance at 1991 Super Bowl.

Now, Beyonce gives Houston a run for her money with what I thought was a huge, beautiful rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner." I think people will be talking about this for years, just like Whitney's performance still comes up from time to time.

I'm normally really cynical, and this is going to sound terribly hokey, but honestly, my heart flutters a bit and I can feel the emotions rising when somebody does an incredible job with the national anthem. Like Beyonce did today.

See and hear for yourself: Here's a video of Beyonce singing the national anthem at the inauguration today:

The Crime Beat Gets Weird Again

It seems weird crime stories come in waves, and we have a good tsunami of weird crimes in the past week.

Let's start with South Africa, where a motorist is credited with stopping a drunk driver, who turned out to be a cop erratically driving the local paddywagon. The motorists managed to grab the keys away from the drunk cop, then shove him into the back of the police van, lock him in there until other, far more sober police arrived to make the arrest.

Apparently, it was the drunk cop's birthday, and he celebrated too much. Not a good start to the next year of the man's life, is it?

Speaking of citizens taking the law into their own hands, a woman got her vehicle back after a carjacking in Cairo, Egypt. It was one of the few times horrible traffic jams made someone happy.

The woman said she saw the guy who stole her car stuck in traffic. She ran to the car, and demanded it back, scolded him, berated him. Luckily for everyone, the teenager who took the car sheepishly gave it back, instead of opening fire or something.

Next, we go to Cleveland, where the local news crew was trawling for news. Ah, but wait! It's not a real news crew. It's a couple idiots who think pretending to be a news crew, then tasing their on the street interview subjects would be a blast of fun, according to the honest to god real news team at television station WKYC.  "The station that does not tase its interview subjects!"

I'm guessing the suspects, Solomon Herbert and Derek Rowell, 25, thought they could get fame and fortune uploading their exploits to YouTube. Instead, they might face jail time.

Finally, we go to the Big Apple, New York City, where a couple has been exonerated and got a settlement from the city, even though police still insist they committed a terrible crime. Their dastardly deed: They danced the Charleston on a subway platform.

Caroline Stern and George Hess had just left a jazz event in 2011 and were still caught up in the dancing. So they did so on the subway platform on the way home. This did not make NYC cops happy. They said the couple was blocking the platform and that was illegal. They were held for 23 hours before charges were dropped.

Seems kind of harsh. It's kind of fun to watch people dancing in unlikely places. And did anyone try asking them to move if they were that much in the way? In the end, the city is $75,000 poorer and the couple is $75,000 richer after a legal settlement in which the cops did not admit wrongdoing.

But next time I'm in New York, I might go the Footloose route and dance on subway platforms, but I'll be careful to stay out of everybody's way.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Real Fat Percussion Tour de Force!

Proving once again you can find anything, and I mean anything on the Internet, I present you the following:

We have a bored looking fat, shirtless man, and three well dressed other men who find a unique way to give us what turns out to be a pretty good, if extremely bizarre percussion performance. Here ya go!

Boring Speech, Then Scary Assassination Attempt

I don't know if you've seen this one on the news yet, but this post contains some scary video of an assassination attempt on a politician in Bulgaria.

To set it up: In the video, a man in a suit is droning on at a podium at some conference or political meeting when a large man runs onto the stage and points a gun at point blank range at the politician's head.

Through some miracle, the gun briefly jams, allowing the politician to swat the gun away. Then a whole bunch of people run onto the stage, tackle the would-be assailant and start beating the crap out of him.

News reports indicate the assailant was Okta Enimehmedov, 25, a guy with a criminal record that includes assault and robbery. His condition after the beating he (deservedly) took was not immediately available. The reports said he was using a gas pistol, which is normally a nonlethal weapon used for self defense, but it can cause life threatening injuries if used at point blank range.

The description of the incident sounds scary enough , but my words are boring compared to this video (You might have to click on it to say you are over 18)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll and Priests and..

You know you're in big, big trouble when you are the subject of a headline like the following:

"Cross Dressing Show Tunes Loving Priest Busted For Selling Meth and Laundering Money Through His Sex Shop."

Leave it to Gawker to spell it out nicely in one headline.
This former priest became quite an entrepreneur
before being stopped by police

Anyway, you really have to hand it to the priest in question, Kevin Wallin. He kept himself very, very busy.

Who knew the life of a priest could be so complicated, so exciting, so scary, so pathetic?

The Web site gets into many more details that Gawker, and helpfully provides the 41 page police affidavit that details all the gory details of Wallin's sins. And they are gory.

Even before the meth bust, and while Wallin was still officially a priest, people were noticing some odd stuff: Says CTPost:

"While pastor at St. Augustine's, sources said he often disappeared for days at a time; and rectory personnel became concerned and notified diocese officials when Wallin, sometimes dressed as a woman, would entertain odd-looking men, some who were also dressed in women's clothing and engaging in sex acts. In addition, diocese officials found bizarre sex toys in Wallin's residence, the sources said."

Well, there could have been a good explanation for this, right? Priests kind of wear dresses. And maybe he was ministering to these "odd-looking men" trying to get them to give up their wicked ways. Wallin probably also confiscated the sex toys.

Uh, no? Don't buy it? Yeah.

Wallin left the diocese in 2011 for "health reasons"  Kind of like people who resign positions to "spend more time with my family."  Both are obvious euphemisms for "I mucked up and got canned"

In any event, the cops were on to him, too. According to CTPost:

"Beginning in late September, 2012, an undercover officer with the Statewide Narcotics Task Force began buying meth from Wallin. During one of their meetings in Wallin's Waterbury apartment - where he was later arrested -- the affidavit states the undercover officer saw a gallon-size plastic bag filled with crystal meth."

Oh, so Wallin was the Costco of meth dealers. Buy in bulk! Save money!!

Hey, the business model seemed to work. Authorities say Wallin managed to move $9,000 worth of meth a week. That's brisk business! Bet it pays more than being a priest!

Wallin had plenty of time for other fun, apparently. Before he left the priesthood, he'd head off to New York to see Broadway shows in New York with N.Y. Cardinal Edward Egan.

After he left the priesthood, he opened up an adult book store where he sold XXX DVDs and sex toys, and laundered money from the sex business, police said.

Wow, you have to admire this American entrepreneur!  From his modest beginnings as a pirest, he became a Connecticut business tycoon. The American dream realized! It's so inspiring!

Still, it's quite a career change for a guy who at least supposedly spent his life being celebate, celebrating God and tending to the poor and the spiritually needed.

I guess there's no profit in that.

Wallin's evolution was a bit much for parishoners. The CTpost quoted one parishoner this way:

"I can't fathom it," said 77 year old Therese Ruppert, a parishioner at the Church of St. Peter in Danbury, whre Wallin was pastor from 1996 to 2002. "He was so spirtual. His sermons were wonderful. He had such knowledge of theology."

I guess he learned a new theology in later years.

I'm goofing on this guy, of course, which is mean, especially since there seemed to be a terrible meth addiction involved.

So I hope a new chapter opens up in Wallin's life. One that isn't so... complicated.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Some Dear Abby Letters As We Mark Her Passing

As you surely heard on the news, Pauline Phillips, better known as the original Dear Abby, died Wednesday at the age of 94. Through the magic of making stuff up, we found some letters she answered that we run here to celebrate her life:

Dear Abby:
I always look around for the best advice available whenever I have a problem. But my go-to gal for the best advice, I'll call her "Abby" passed away Wednesday.  There are so many advice columnists everywhere these days, and they offer conflicting advice.  Where do I turn to to guide my life?
--Bereft in Burlington.
Dear Bereft:
You are not the center of the universe. I knew your Abby. If you boiled down her advice it was all about using looking at the good examples around you and using common sense.

Dear Abby:
Things are so confusing nowadays. It seems like there are so many sharp opinions and anger. Everybody is always yelling at each other and being nasty   When I was a kid, it seemed like things were calmer and it was easier to figure out what was really going on.   Where do I go now?
--Confused in Colchester.
Dear Confused: Wake up and smell the coffee. I've always said to treat others with respect. In one column I wrote "The best index to a person's character is how he treats people who can't do him any good." Remember that. 

Dear Abby:
Voices are so loud around me. On the TV, on the Internet, on the radio, everybody is always saying they are right, and talk, talk, talk as if that will make everybody agree with their point of view. It's boring and obnoxious, and it's getting worse.   None of these people make any sense, and I can't understand what they're trying to say because they're foaming at the mouth so much. How do I sort all this out, and how can I make my voice rise above the din?
--Deaf in Duxbury.
Dear Deaf: Again, I have to go back to one of my past columns in which I said, "The less you talk, the more you're listened to."

Dear Abby:
Everybody wants to be famous. More and more, people are doing all kinds of dumb things so they can get Web hits and attention in the blogosphere. I guess everybody is supposed to be famous. But what if I never attain fame? Does that make me a bad person with a bad life?
--Unknown in Underhill.
Dear Unknown: I'll repeat something else I said in a past column: "If you want a place in the sun, you've got to put up with a few blisters."

Dear Abby:
My neighbors' children are lazy.  They're teenagers, and it looks like they've never worked a day in their lives. I see their parents struggling to shovel snow, and they have health problems. The kids just hang out and snicker, and their parents don't ask them to help. So the kids do nothing. I worry they'll just drift through life. What's going on, and how can the parents give their kids a little ambition?
---Working in Worcester.
Dear Working: I've always said, "If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders."

Mostly it was to the point: Look kid,wake up and smell the coffee. You are not the center of the universe,no matter what your parents say.  You better suck it up and just keep on keeping on.

No Death Star Proposal From White House This Year

Lost in all the news in the last week or two about gun control legislation, debt ceiling debates and budget hassles was one development at the White House that is sure to depress or anger some Americans:
To the disappointment of at least 34,000 people
the U.S. government will not build a death star like this one.

The Obama administration has turned down a petition to create a Death Star.

More than 34,400 people signed the petition for the death star, exceeding the threshhold of 25,000 signatures needed to force a response from the White House.  It's part of the administration's "We the People" program, where people can sign petitions on any issue they wish, and if a certain amount of people sign, the White House has to respond.

As you'd imagine, you do get some weird ones. Like when Hostess, the maker of Twinkies went bankrupt, a petition demanded the Obama administration nationalize Twinkies, to keep the supply going.

That effort failed.

But another petition met with success. The White House was persuaded to release the recipe for its homemade Honey Brown Ale.

In regards to the Death Star petition, Paul Shawcross, the Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget, gave an emphatic no.  

He noted construction of the device would cost a cool $850,000,000,000,000,000. "We're working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it," Shawcross wrote.

Actually, we could reduce the budget deficit if we shortened Shawcross's job title.

The Obama administration apparently opposed Death Stars from a policy prospective, too. "The Administration does not support blowing up planets," Shawcross wrote.

In my view, it should depends on which planet. The ones in our solar system are good enough, but what if we find a particularly nasty one somewhere else. Why would we want a grim, ugly planet messing up our beautiful galaxy?  I think the door should be left open to destroy planets, but that's just me.

Additionally, Shawcross questioned if a Death Star would be effective. "Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that cae be exploited by a one-man starship," he wrote, reflecting his knowledge of the Star Wars series.

So the chances of us getting a Death Star to rule the universe look slim. On the bright side, Congress keeps ordering equipment for the Defense Department that it doesn't want, so I suppose there's a glimmer of hope here.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ten Story Refrigerator Defrosted, But Awesome Pics

It's a pain to defrost a freezer. Especially those older ones where so much ice builds up there's no room to  stuff your Tater Tots and Eggo waffles into the freezer.

And when you defrost, water gets all over everything.
Inside the ten story ice building in Chicago, before it was
defrosted. Image from GaryRobert Photography

So imagine defrosting a ten story refrigerator that pretty much hasn't been defrosted since the 1920s.

That's what some people in Chicago's meatpacking district contended with at the Fulton Market Cold Storage Co.

The cold storage company decided to move operations to a modern refrigerator building, and developer Sterling Bay came in to totally redo the refrigerator building into modern offices for potential client SRAM, a bike component manufacturer.

Before they could begin work, the place had to be defrosted.

Luckily, GaryRobert Photography  was invited in to take pictures before the big thaw in the building began. He took some amazing shots of the icicles, many upside down, and really cool ice formations that took shape in the building over the decades.

Then somebody did a time lapse video of the defrost process, which is fun to watch.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Amazing Snowshoe Artist

It's snowing a little here in Vermont today, raising hopes that some of the powder lost ot the recently ended January thaw will come back, and maybe I can go snowshoeing.
An example of Simon Beck's handiwork

If snowshoeing becomes possible again, I won't be as into it as a guy named Simon Beck, who goes out for ten hours at a time and creates huge, geometric artwork while carefully walking around on his snowshoes.

Of course Beck's  art doesn't live long, except in photographs, because of blowing snow, melting and fresh accumulations. I wonder if the brevity of his art frustrates him.

In any event, it's amazing how precise Beck is as he creates his wonderful geometric patterns.

I guess it's another reason to like winter.

Angry Indiana HOA Head is Hilarious

Maybe I'm mean, but sometimes people who are so angry they are foaming at the mouth are pathetically funny.

The Stonecreek neighborhood in Indiana. Photo by
Molly Bartels, Evansvill Currier & Press
I thought of this when I came across a perfectly reasonable and well written article in the Evansville (Indiana) Currier & Press about how some homeowners' association leaders can turn autocratic and petty.

The article, written by reporter Thomas Langhorne, partly focused on a guy named Stephen Hess, president of the Stonecreek Arbors Subdivision Homeowners' Association, a housing development in Indiana.

Hess filed a bunch of liens on homeowners he said did not pay their association dues, Langhorne reports. Some people in the neighborhood were quoted in the Currier & Press article as saying Hess is a bit too authoritarian and mean.

Hess did not help his case in his dealings with the newspaper.  He sent the Currier & Press a stern message saying he would sue the reporter and the paper if they so much as mentioned Hess's name or the name of the subdivision.

Um, right.  I can't speak for the Currier & Press, but a person demanding his name not be mentioned at all in an article is just begging the reporter to say the name over and over again.  For the record, anybody can sue, but litigation like this would be laughed out of court in an instant.

Hess also followed up with a lengthy, very ranty phone call that the newspaper gleefully posted on its web site.

The recording is a work of art as a voice that purported belongs to Hess yells about his lawsuit and demands to speak to the reporter's boss. Each time the reporter starts to politely offer to transfer the call to his editor, the angry man blasts off again on his rant, preventing said phone transfer. It really is hilarious.

Open this link, scroll  to the bottom and listen to the very funny "conversation." And you thought YOU had a bad day!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Outrage: Newton Hero Getting Harassed, But Grace and Kindness Emerge, Too.

Some bad outsiders are invading the grace and strength of Newtown, Connecticut a month after a gunman killed 27 people there, including 20 sweet first graders. 

The outrageously bad here is  made worse because it's happening to a very good man. 
Newtown, Ct. hero Gene Rosen

In the news reports right after the Newtown shooting, you might have seen a kindly man named Gene Rosen in interviews. He lives very near the school. Six kids and a bus driver fled the shooting and wound up on his lawn. Rosen hustled the kids inside his house, and kept them safe, comforted them, gave them juice and toys and called their parents so they could come get them.  

The interviews showed him to be a generous, good man, the kind of guy that any community would be proud to have in their town.

So what does Rosen get for his grace and warmth? Lots of harassment from conspiracy theorists, according to Salon.  

These conspiracy theorists insist the Newtown massacre was a hoax, a way to take away our guns, establish a dictatorship or something. Who knows? 

From  the Salon article:

“I don’t know what to do,” sighed Gene Rosen. “I’m getting hang-up calls, I’m getting some calls, I’m getting emails with, not direct threats, but accusations that I’m lying, that I’m a crisis actor, ‘how much am I being paid?’” Someone posted a photo of his house online. There have been phony Google+ and YouTube accounts created in his name, messages on white supremacist message boards ridiculing the “emotional Jewish guy,” and dozens of blog posts and videos “exposing” him as a fraud. 

Salon writer Alex Seitz-Wald went on to quote Rosen:

"Here’s my fear: If I start talking like this, will one of these truthers read this and will it embolden them? Will they say, screw that guy, how dare he impugn our credibility or question our intellect, I’m going to go one step farther? Am I being stupid?” he asked.

After thinking about it, Rosen decided that he had to speak out: “I talk to you about this because I feel that there has to be some moral push-back on this.” Rosen said he’s a staunch believer in free speech, and realizes there is little legal recourse possible unless he gets direct threats, so he had a different idea.

“There must be some way to morally shame these people, because there were 20 dead children lying an eighth of a mile from my window all night long,” he said, choking back tears. “And I sat there with my wife, because they couldn’t take the bodies out that night so the medical examiner could come. And I thought of an expression, that this ‘adds insult to injury,’ but that’s a stupid expression, because this is not an injury, this is an abomination.”

Rosen has the right idea, but good luck shaming the conspiracy theorists harassing him. Many of them have no shame.

On the bright side, Rosen said he's also gotten a large number of messages and emails praising him for his actions. I don't know his email address, but if he were to read this, I totally agree with those positive messages.

Hang in there Mr. Rosen!

Now on to some undeniably heartwarming news our of Newtown:

In an incredibly nice gesture, Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, known more widely as members of the Talking Heads and the Tom Tom Club, invited a group of child singers from Newtown, Conn. to their home studio to record a version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

Proceeds from the recording, which went on sale Tuesday, will go to the Newtown Youth Academy and United Way of Western Connecticut, which are helping Newtown recover from that tragic December massacre. 

The singers also got help from Sabrina Post, a Newtown-based vocal coach and Tim Hayes of the famed New York nighclub CBGB.

The video of the group recording the song, below, really tugs at your heart. Bring the tissue. 

I Want to Drive On Really Cool Glow in The Dark Pavement

Leave it to people in the Netherlands to come up with a really cool way to improve traffic safety.

They've taken to painting lines on dark roads with a photo luminescent powder, which makes lanes glow brightly in the dark.

This is a godsend to people like me, who have trouble seeing on particularly dark,  rainy nights while driving on unfamiliar roads. Apparently other people are worse at this than I am, judging from the alarming traffic patterns I sometimes see at night.
Photo luminescent paint on a road
in the Netherlands alerts motorists when
the road might have ice

Sunshine that  the paint absorbs during the day allows the material to glow for up to 10 hours at a time at night. That's true even in the weak winter northern hemispheric sun.

In some areas, they've used the paint to draw huge snowflake patterns on the pavement. You don't see the glowing snowflakes on the road until the temperature drops to 33 degrees or lower, because of the technology that went into the roadway.

When you see the giant snowflakes, that means the road is freezing or close to it, so it alerts motorists to slow down because there might be black ice.

The article says a design and technology company called Studio Roosegaate is behind these innovations. The pavement and pain in the Netherlands is a pilot project. If it works, it could spread throughout Europe.

If it works, I'd also like it to spread to the United States.

As an aside, I've been the beneficiary of some great ideas from great friends on what to post in this blog. The Netherlands highway paint idea came from Vermont's Denis Desjarlais, who has a habit of finding very cool articles. Thanks, Denis!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Police Chase With An Interesting Twist

Stay with the video in this post, even though it starts with the standard issue video of somebody's television screen showing a standard issue police chase on standard issue California boulevards.

Things take a unique turn as you watch.  So, watch!


Tide Detergent as Drug Community Currency?

While at work this afternoon, I thought I heard on the police scanner a report of a large amount of laundry detergent stolen from a South Burlington, Vermont Price Chopper supermarket.

If that report is true, Vermont has finally joined one of the latest trends in American commerce: An underground Tide Detergent market.

My brother-in-law David Jenne alerted me to a bizarre New York magazine article about huge thefts of Tide detergent .

As I began reading the article, excellently written by Ben Paynter, I assumed there was something specifically in Tide detergent that could make meth or some other unhappy addictive drug.

It turns out Tide is great for cleaning clothes but as far as we know, it's worthless for making illegal drugs. But Tide is not worthless to people in the drug trade, oh not at all!

It turns out Tide has strong brand loyalty among many Americans and it has a cache in some circles as being the Alpha detergent, the one the cool people use.

So, people steal big piles of Tide in supermarkets, then drug addicts or distributers sell it to crooked bodegas or even chain stores, according to the New York magazine article. They use the proceeds from the Tide sales to buy their drugs, or whatever they want to spend their money on.

Tide is an easy product to steal, compared to other items. There's no theft detection equipment attached to it, like there might be on expensive items like watches or smart phones or other gadgets. You can't easily track a bottle of Tide once it's stolen, as Paynter notes in his article.

And if a menacing looking couple of guys blast through the supermarket checkout with shopping carts full of Tide and don't pay for it, a skinny little high school kid staffing the checkout isn't going to stop them.

Once again, I feel left out of a raging national trend. I have nothing against Tide, but that's not my laundry detergent of choice. So I use uncool detergent to clean my uncool clothes.

And  I live in an uncool place, apparently. If that South Burlington, Vermont theft report turns out to be true, and involves Tide, it's the first time I've heard about it happening in Vermont. The tide of Tide thefts began in earnest two years ago, apparently. So Vermont is way behind the times.

I know how this will play out. There will be songs glorifying Tide thefts. Maybe a few of the more rogue celebrities will sport jewelry and clothes that resemble the logo on Tide bottles. Then the trend will spread to hipsters. There will be a zillion Tide memes on Twitter and on Facebook.

Finally, everyone will be exhausted by Tide and it will go out of fashion and go back to being the old reliable laundry detergent typically bought by those choosy mothers who also choose Jif.

Snow Eater Thaw Does It's Job in Vermont

This morning, when I got up, it was 47 degrees at my house in St. Albans, Vermont as we are on the tail end of a January thaw.  At the same exact time, it was 37 degrees in Los Angeles, 31 in Phoenix and 25 in Las Vegas.
My yard in St. Albans, V ermont at 8 a.m. Saturday
morning at the thaw really got going.

The weather is topsy turvy for sure.

The weather was great here in Vermont for unexpectedly getting things done outdoors

 I worked outside for hours both days, clearing brush, chain sawing unwanted trees, doing general cleanup. That included collecting and disposing of a five gallon bucket full of dog poop left by the Boys, Jackson and Bailey.

I was even able to dig holes in unfrozen ground, in preparation for transplanting some trees this spring.

No good weather goes unpunished. Los Angeles and Phoenix will warm up, and we're told over the next two weeks, three Arctic outbreaks, each with temperatures way, way below zero, are targeting Vermont.

Back to the reality of winter in Vermont.
The same scene in my yard, 4 p.m. Sunday
after the thaw had done its work

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Dreadlocks as a Lethal Weapon?

Domestic abuse isn't funny. I'm not laughing.

But I still have to stop in awe of one case in Portland, Oregon. The alleged assailant, Caleb Grotberg, 32, used his dreadlocks to try and choke his (now probably former) girlfriend, according to television station KOIN.
This guy is accused of using his dreadlocks
to atempt to choke his girlfriend

That's a novel use of a hairstyle: A weapon.  Will this start a trend of people growing dreadlocks so they can commit crimes? Probably not.

But if past news events are any indication, people can get incredibly creative in coming up with weapons to do their brand of wrongdoing

Here's some examples:

In July, a man robbed a jewelry store in Abu Dhabi by throwing chili powder in the faces of staff, reported.

In 2008, a Florida man tried to hold up a store while brandishing  palm fronds and flip flops.

A pizza delivery person was robbed, and to disable the pizza person, the assailant sprayed her with wasp insecticide.

Back in May, a man unsuccessfully tried to rob a Utica, N.Y. bank by brandishing a toilet plunger. 

I'm sure there are a zillion other examples of bizarre criminal tools.  What odd thing would you use as a weapon, just to be different,  if you adopted a life of crime.

People who Think Reporters Are Part of Grand Conspiracies Really Miss The Mark

I was reading a Gawker article on yet another grand conspiracy theory floating around out there. (The Sandy Hook massacre was one big fake plot, with actors playing the victims, aided and abetted by the media to help Obama take away all of our guns, supposedly)

In the comments section below the article, somebody calling themselves "Seanibus" had the best explanation EVER of why the media, and journalists, can't possibly be complicit in all these conspiracies. Wrote Seanibus:

"Christ, a "Media Conspiracy"? I've been a reporter for 23 years and I have never seen the faintest evidence that we can conspire long enough to decide whether to use the "serial comma" or where to go for a beer afterward, let alone maintain a solid wall of silence in pursuit of some grand policy objective. I guess it's flattering that outsiders think we have such discipline and drive, but really we're just a bunch of misfits, weirdos, and loners who like to write and have no idea how to make more money than we do."  

As a journalist myself,  I can attest that Seanibus is totally accurate. Plus, reporters are hopeless at keeping secrets. Our job is to tell you what happened. It becomes hardwired in us. So we all overshare.

And we're competitive. We journalists have the same amount of hubris as everybody else. We want to be first with the news, drop the bombshell, win the Pulitzer. So if just about every journalist, whether they lean left, right or try to stay even, got wind of some big plot to fake a crisis to take everybody's guns away and establish a dictatorship, most of them would spill the beans.

Yes, in countries with poor human rights, the press is quiescent. I'm sure there are journalists here in the Good Old US of A who don't want to rock the boat, don't want to get in trouble for blowing the "conspiracy" and would look the other way.

But expecting everyone in the media hordes to cooperate with some goofy conspiracy?

That's like expecting all the cats at the Humane Society to get in a nice even line and not move until told. Good luck with that!

There's plenty of room for debate on what to do, if anything, about guns,  and violence and the Second Amendment, and mental health and all those issues swirling around out there.  There are a lot of good ideas on all sides of the discussion.  But there are a few far fetched notions floating around,  too.

So, the next time you hear the latest conspiracy theory, don't buy the line about the media being full participants. We're just too chaotic for that.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Bit Early For a Vermont Sign of Spring

We're having a January thaw here in Vermont, a temporary break from the deep winter chill.

We had a pretty substantial snow cover a few days ago here in St. Albans, but most of it is gone now.
January in Vermont? A daffodil pops up in St. Albans
during a January thaw

The rapidly melting snow, coupled with the comfortable temperatures, had the added benefit of hitting on a weekend,. This gave me an unexpected chance to get things accomplished outdoors. It mostly involved clearing brush and chainsawing a few scrubby, unwanted trees.

The heavy snow earlier this winter came before the ground really froze, and the snowcover acted as a blanket to keep the ground relatively warm.

That meant a few hardy plants were able to respond to the midwinter warmth when the snow disappeared today. That's why you see the daffodil sprout in this post. I spotted the green shoots this afternoon as I was hauling dead branches to the burn pile.

The daffodil plants won't die when the cold inevitably returns. (It's supposed to be below zero in a few days) But the ends of this plant will turn brown, and not look great when it first comes up in April. I'll probably cover it with a thick layer of mulch, just to give it an assist to ride out the deepest cold of the winter, which will surely hit soon.

"Sign Spinners" Prove There's a Vocation For Everyone

While looking at Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish blog last night, I noticed he featured the video, at the bottom of this post, of someone called a sign spinner.

I did a little digging out of idle curiosity and discovered sign spinning is a Big Thing. I had no idea.
A sign spinner in Times Square

Apparently, there's a huge industry that has people learn how to do all kinds of acrobating tricks while holding a sign. They're hired by businesses who want to attract the attention of passing motorists.

You can even go on line to something called to either hire a spinner or get a job as one.

There are so many industries in this world I had no idea existed, I tell ya.

They're cool to watch, but I wonder how much local zoning boards appreciate sign spinners. They're certainly a distraction to drivers. I wonder if they cause crashes? And if so, who gets sued? The inattentive driver or the sign spinner who made him so? Or the business that hired the spinner? All of the above?

As is always the case with every phenomenon or hobby or occupation,  there is even a big competition for sign spinners.   It's the Aarrow World Sign Spinning Championship, coming up soon!  Feb. 10-12 in Las Vegas, in case you're interested in going or competing. Yes, they spell "arrow" with two A's.

So anyway, the cool sign spinner video is below. Turn down the volume, the music may not be to your liking. And be patient. The first few seconds are kinda slow. And ignore the random dancer that invades. This is still huge fun: