Sunday, March 31, 2013

Two Young Girls Try Singing Adele Song; Succeed Wildly

There is a phenomenon called the Public School 22 Chorus out of New York, consisting of fifth graders who, in the ultimate understatement, can sing so well they totally knock your socks off.

Of course, any graduate worth his or her salt continue on with their talents. Two girls, Kiarah and Denise, who graduated from the chorus in the past year or two, gave Adele's hit "Set Fire To The Rain" a try.

They did so in an acoustically miserable stairwell for the video you are about to see. Despite that, they do about as well as Adele, in my opinion, and Adele is probably the best voice in pop music today.

Since I like to showcase talent, especially since it's coming from youngsters, here's Denise and Kiarah, for your enjoyment.

Would You Buy Cheese Along the New Jersey Turnpike?

There's been a fair amount of media attention in the past week about the guy who allegedly stole 21 tons of Muenster cheese from Wisconsin and tried to sell it at a rest stop along the New Jersey Turnpike.
Veniamin Balika, 34, is accused of trying to fence
21 tons of stolen cheese along the
New Jersey Turnpike.

Yeah, he's in trouble, and New Jersey police have impounded the remaining cheese, but a question remains: How much of the stolen cheese is left? Or more crucially, how many people were stupid enough to buy the cheese?

Most people would think that a guy selling cheese at a rest stop is a bit sketchy, and perhaps the food shouldn't be trusted.

Everybody loves a bargain and I'm sure the accused, Veniamin Balika, 34, was offerintg the cheese at a nice discount. But still.

Even if you knew the cheese was not dangerous, wouldn't the fact that it's being sold at a rest area raise a couple red flags? Most people don't go to rest areas to shop. If I must stop at one, I make sure I do my business, as it were, as quickly as possible, then get out of Dodge.

Apparently, New Jersey health officials will inspect the cheese. If it passes muenster, er, muster, a charity might receive the windfall. Which is fine, because at least someone will have checked the cheese to make sure it won't kill you.

There is hope for the cheese. reports the cheese was found in a refrigerated truck at the rest stop, so at least it wasn't left to rot in the spring sunshine.

Hmm. Now I could go for some cheese. There is one rest area on the highway near my home, but, call me crazy.  I think I just might go to a reputable food market instead.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Dispute Over Cat In Library Shows There's Always Much More Under the Surface.

The Swansea, Mass. public library has a resident cat.

A guy named Patrick Higgins of Swansea, Mass. isn't allergic to cats and doesn't go to the town's public library.
Turns out Penny, the library cat
in Swansea, Mass., was just a
pawn in a long running local dispute

So no problem, right?  Well, yes.  Despite Higgins' lack of association with the library, he filed a complaint under the Americans With Disabilities Act to have Penny, the library cat removed.  He said people might be allergic to cats and not able to use the library.

But as you might imagine, there was an uproar against Higgins, who now might be the most disliked person in Swansea.  The Fall River (Mass.) Herald News editorialized against Higgins, saying in part:

"But Patrick, if you intended to hit a nerve, you've done so. Perhaps you can take some satisfaction from simply raising the issue. Maybe you could play nice and consider negotiating reasonably with the town.

Think about it. Penny's 14 years old. How much longer do you think she has left? Do you really want to uproot her at this stage in her life? Really? If you feel strongly about it, perhaps you could strike a compromise with the town that once Penny passes, it will be the end of Swansea's library cats. For now, though, leave it be, Patrick. Leave the kitty be."

On Friday, Higgins relented, basically taking the newspaper's suggestion and asking that the library post notices saying the cat is present and not get a cat after Penny goes. The library trustees will discuss this soon, local media say.  

After all this, it turns out the ADA might not require the removal of the cat anyway. ABC said Dana Iverson, speaking for the U.S. Justice Department, which handles ADA cases, said in most cases, only reasonable accommodations are needed if someone complains, such as warning signs or keeping the cat in certain rooms.

As usual in these cases, it appears the whole kerfuffle wasn't really about the cat. According to various articles in the Press Herald, Higgins is a thorn in the side to Swansea. He was on the town recreation commission, and people wanted him off, so during a town meeting in November, voters axed the panel.

He sued Swansea in December. Turns out Swansea was to hold its Town Meeting on Oct 29, but that's the day Hurricane Sandy hit. The meeting was postponed, and Higgins says there should have been a quorum of 75 people there to cancel it. (But then, there was that storm...)

And it turns out Higgins allegedly violated conditions of release and was jailed for a bit last fall in Pennsylvania, according to the Press Herald.   The paper reported his original conviction was for working full time at a fast food restaurant while collecting unemployment benefits.

That didn't endear Higgins to Swansea residents, apparently.

All this just goes to show this truism:  When there's a dispute over one simple issue, there's usually quite a huge back story to it.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Worst Kids Of The Week: 13-Year Olds Try to Poison Teacher

News is spreading out of Newport News, Va. of two creepy 13 year old kids who tried to poison their teacher by putting hand sanitizer into her tea. Needless to say, the pair are in big, big trouble.

The teacher, Jane Miller, .didn't notice the taste of the hand sanitizer in the tea, but she did get sick. "My stomach would bother me.... I ws running a low grade temperature. I was just exhausted by the time I got home, Miller, 66, told ABC News.

This teacher was allegedly poisoned by two
13 year olds who put hand sanitizer in her tea
Miller's been treated by a doctor and she is or soon will be fine, according to ABC.

She didn't know why she'd get ill at work until another student caught the other 13 year olds putting the hand sanitizer in the tea and clued the school resource officer and others in.

So, kudos to the kid who didn't keep his or her mouth shut when the fellow students were poisoning the teacher's tea.

The kids were in a math review class Miller taught. They clearly don't like math. Frankly, I hate math, too, but why punish the math teachers? It's not like they invented math and are using it to torture innocent kids.

The 13 year olds have not been publicly named, but do face felony charges that could land them in jail for five years.

Maybe if they go to jail they can practice math so much that they'll learn to like it.  Like adding how many more months they'll have to linger in jail or juvenile detention hall.

"Fire Me" Twitter Site Finds People Who Want to Lose Their Jobs

Here's a handy dandy, or at least vaguely entertaining site to waste time on. A Twitter feed called Fire Me is up, which searches and displays Tweets from people who talk about how much they hate their jobs, hate the boss, want to kill the boss.

A screen grab from "Fire Me"
In other words, these Tweeters are daring someone to fire them.

Since everything you post online is fair game to employers (it is public, you know) no wonder the unemployment rate is so high.

There are an amazing number of people who post, with their names, how much they detest their jobs, their co-workers, their bosses, the companies they work for.

There's going to be a lot of people looking for jobs soon because of this site. Let's hope they find something they like more than their current employment. They probably also need to hope potential new bosses don't stumble upon the Fire Me site

Be forwarned, there are a a LOT of Tweets on Fire Me with foul language.

Fire Me is divided into four sections: "Haters" which has people saying they hate their jobs; "Horrible Bosses," which gathers all the Tweets from people who say their bosses are jerks; "Sexual Intercourse" which consists of Tweets from people who use the F bomb to describe their job or their bosses, and "Potential Killers" which is all the Tweets from people who say they intend to murder their bosses and/or coworkers.

There's even a useful tab on which you can check yourself, to see if you Tweeted anything that can get you fired. (

I think the Fire Me site's days are numbered, however. A number of Tweets that popped up on Fire Me from late yesterday on warn others  that Fire Me exists, and their bosses are probably reading all these negative Tweets.

Perhaps it would be a good time to work for a resume writing service. A lot of people will be looking for jobs, and demand will be high.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

DOMA Supreme Court Plaintiff Is Inspiring

In big huge Supreme Court cases, people who are hoping for some sort of landmark decision try to get a very sympathetic, smart and approachable plaintiff to be the Everyperson face behind the issue. Think Rosa Parks and civil rights.

Edith Windsor address the press and supporters on
the day of the big U.S. Supreme Court case on the
constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.  
That was true yesterday, as the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on whether the Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional.

The plaintiff in this case is Edith Windsor, 83, whose wife Thea Spyer died in 2009. Windsor had to pay $363,000 more in estate taxes than she would have had she been married to a guy.

Buzzfeed  had a very nice, quick photo essay on Windsor's back story, and Spyer, who was the love of her life,  That is centerpiece of what is at issue before the Court.

The couple were together for 42 years. Shortly before Spyer's death, the pair finally got the chance to marry.

Here's the text of what Windsor had to say to the press, public and supporters on the steps on the Supreme Court as her big case, United States vs. Windsor, had its day in court::

"Somebody wrote me a large speech which I'm not going to make but there are a couple of things I wanted to say. I wanted to tell you what marriage meant to me.

"When my beautiful sparkling Thea died four years ago I was overcome with grief. Within a month I was hospitalized with a heart attack, and that's kind of common, it's usually looked at as broken heart syndrome.

"In the midst of my grief I realized that the federal government was treating us as strangers and it meant paying a humongous estate tax. And it meant selling a lot of stuff to do it and it wasn't easy, I live on a fixed income and it wasn't easy.

"Many people ask me why get married. I was 77, Thea was 75, and maybe we were older than that at that point, but the fact is that everybody treated it as different. It turns out marriage is different.

"I've asked a number of long-range couples, gay couples who they've got married, I've asked them: 'Was it different the next morning and the answer is always: 'Yes'.' It's a huge difference.

"When our marriage appeared in the New York Times we heard from literally hundreds of people, all congratulating us and sending love because we were married. It's a magic word. For anybody who doesn't understand why we want it, and why we need it, it is magic.

"We did win in the lower courts. Today is like a spectacular event for me, a lifetime kind of event and I know that the spirit of my late spouse Thea Spyer is right here watching and listening and would be very proud and happy of what we've come to."

The most poignant part of the Buzzfeed profile of Windsor is the part where we find out out she has a life size photo of Spyer in her house. Windsor leans up against the photo and the two women  "talk" about what's going with their court case.

I know from experience what Windsor was talking about in her statement yesterday. I got same sex married in August. On one hand, everything stayed the same. Jeff and I kept living in the same house, kept to our same routines, kept loving each other.

But the fact that we were now married was a Big Deal. You wouldn't think a word would change a relationship, or at least my view of the one I'm in.

However, being married makes me feel special, and also gives me a sense of responsibility. It somehow makes our relationship that much more important. It shows the world that Jeff, and our union, is the most important thing in my life now.

And that every marriage, at least every successful one, is a precious pairing that has to be cherished. The glow of our happy marriage can only make the world just a bit better of a place for everyone. That's what I like to think anyway.

So yes, I agree with Edith Windsor. When I woke up the next day after Jeff and I got married, the world was completely different. My world, at least, had become a much more glorious place. Everyone should be so lucky.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ann Frank Continues To Give, So Does Her Tree

Ann Frank left us her famous diary, which,  if you want to boil it down to its essence, is really an instructional booklet on how to love each other and why any kind of hate is bad.

Her diary made many references to a chestnut tree growing outside of the place in Amsterdam where she was hiding from the Nazis. It was pretty much her only connection to nature.
The remains of the chestnut tree from Ann Frank's diary
after it toppled in a 2010 storm. 
Here's an excerpt from Frank's diary, as written on Feb. 23, 1944, regarding the tree:

"Nearly every morning I go to the attic to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs....From my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at tgeh seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind."

The tree toppled during a storm in 2010, the victim of old age.

But just as reading Frank's diary remains helpful to humans to this day, that chestnut tree will also continue to give.

According to Huffington Post and other news sources, when the tree toppled, experts grabbed seeds from the tree so that new chestnut trees could grow in places that promote peace and human rights. 

Saplings from those seeds have started to grow, and 11 of those saplings will be planted at spots in the United States that celebrate justice and human dignity.

One of the saplings will go to the Childrens Museum of Indianopolis, which gets one because personnel and children there took care of the saplings since 2009 during a required U.S. Department of Agriculture quarantine of the trees.

Another will be planted this fall at Central High School in Little Rock, scene of a landmark desegregation moment in 1957.

Among the other places to get the saplings, according to the Ann Frank Center, US., are the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, the White House, Liberty Park (site of the World Trade Center attack in New York), Boston Common, schools in New York and California, and Holocaust centers in Washington, Idaho and Michigan.

It's nice to see the tree's legacy give comfort to people now and in the future, just as Frank keeps providing us knowledge and compassion to this day.

Groundhog Is Innocent: Death Warrant Dropped After Evidence Phil Was Just The Fall Guy

Last week we reported in this blog that the Ohio attorney general wanted the death penalty against Punxsatawny Phil, the Pennsylvania groundhog that predicted an early spring.
Death warrant dropped for this guy  

It turns out the prosecutor had the wrong guy. He admits it and has dropped the charges. The Groundhog is safe to forecast the weather on another day.

Phil's handler, Bill Deeley, said that the groundhog had actually accurately predicted six more weeks of winter, but Deeley misinterpreted Phil's language on the matter and thus Deeley delivered the wrong message.

So Phil did not mislead and defraud us into thinking an early spring was at hand. The Ohio prosecutor is also not going after Deeley, because he made an innocent mistake and did not intend to deceive the public.

I also think part of the reason people are no longer calling for Phil's head is because the weather has improved somewhat in the Northeast. It's not exactly warm and sunny, but the snow has largely stopped, which makes people a bit less frustrated and a bit more helpful. Cooler heads are prevailing, even if those heads are still wearing hats because it isn't that warm out yet.

Of course, Phil might ask this question, too: Why are you relying on a rodent to forecast the weather?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Not Buying At The Store Or Blowing Off Dinner Reservation? You're Screwed.

Two items from Consumerist over the past day or two seem to indicate some retailers and business owners are beginning to up the ante when dealing with what they regard as rude customers.

They're hitting them where it hurts, at least a little.

In one case, a retailer is charging $5 a head for "showrooming," a word for going to a store just to look at merchandise, then finding it somewhere else for a lower price.
Will more stores charge admission fees if you
just go in, look at a product, then try to find it
cheaper online?  
The store's showrooming policy means anybody coming in pays the fee, but if they buy something there, they get their $5 back.

I can understand the frustration of store owners who have to constantly deal with people coming in just to look, then spending the money elsewhere when they can find the same thing for a lower price online or maybe at Walmart.

The retail business is brutal. Store owners can help themselves through exemplary customer service and niche marketing, but that only goes so far.

But it seems like this whole thing about stopping showroomers can backfire. Consumerist quotes Matt Brownell of Daily Finance, who said:

" ....the most misguided strategy we’ve seen for dealing with showrooming… The goal of any retailer should be to impress customers with competitive pricing and great customer service — not treat their customers with suspicion and hostility from the moment they walk in the door.”

It definitely would put a bad taste in my mouth if I was charged admission to go into a store. And like most people, I might wander into a store not knowing whether I will buy anything there. An admission fee would certainly be off-putting.

I might be shopping for say, a shirt, but maybe it turns out they don't happen to have a shirt in the style I like, or don't have my size in stock. Yeah, I can order it, but what if I want a shirt now? I'd certainly resent paying the $5 fee if I left the store empty handed only because I didn't like what they had.

That would drive me to online shopping in no time, flat.

In the other Consumerist piece, a restaurant owner is publicly shaming people on Twitter who blow off their dinner reservations.

It's definitely rude to make a restaurant reservation and then blow it off. The eatery left the table open for you, and it stayed open, which meant other diners couldn't eat there and the restaurant lost money.

Most people blow off reservations for stupid reasons. They didn't feel like eating there after all. They made reservations at four restaurants, then decided at the last minute which to pick.

But what if somebody is publicly shamed via Twitter for blowing off the reservation, and not calling to inform the restaurant ahead of time, for perfectly legitimate reason. He keeled over from a heart attack. His wife got run over by a bus I mean, who knows?

And those public shames give the restaurant a whiff of negativity, not something that makes people want to eat there.

So, rudeness can go two ways. Us customers could give local retailers a break, buy local and spend the few extra pennies in your community that you would have spent on Amazon.

If it becomes apparent you can't go to the restaurant as planned, call them as soon as possible to cancel so they can fill the table with some other diners.

And retailers and restaurant owners: I know we customers can be frustrating, but try not to take it out on everybody.

Pure Joy: A Green Summer Field, A Little Girl, 14 German Shepherds

I just HAD to post this video because of the pure, simple joy involved. (Found it today on Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish)

A still from the most joyous and pure
video I've seen in ages
It shows a green field in the middle of summer, somewhere in Norway. A gleeful little girl, age 5, dressed pretty in pink is cavorting in the field, shreiking delightedly as 14 German shepherds join in the fun.

What makes this video perfect is it contains only that one emotion: Joy. The kid is totally un-selfconscious. She's living in the moment. So are the German shepherds. And the living for all of them is perfect.

We should all be so lucky as to be that little girl. Or those dogs. But at least we get a taste of it. It's an instructional video on how to live.

So thank you, little girl and German shepherds for the lesson. I'll watch this repeatedly, thanks. Especially when I need an emotional upper and some perspective. I hope you will watch,  too.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Goblinproofing Chicken Coops and Other Awesome Books

It's an exciting time of year, when finalists for the Diagram Prize for the year's oddest named books is out.

Last year, my favorite was called "Cooking With Poo." and it will be almost impossible to top that.

My favorite this year is "Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop" by Reginald Bakerly, which sounds totally handy in this day of DIY backyard farming. So many people I know nowadays keep chickens in their back yards for fresh eggs. I'd hate to have the chickens spooked, by ghosts, or worse, the eggs we eat become tainted by the Otherworld.
Required reading for anyone with chickens

The Amazon description of the book is priceless:

"In this charming guide, "fairy hunter" Reginald Bakeley offers practical instructions to clear your home and garden of these unsettling inhabitants, and banish them from your chicken coop and kitchen cupboard forever!
In Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop readers will discover:

  • Why a bustle in one's hedgerow may be cause for alarm
  • Why a garden fumigator may come in handy on evenings at the pub
  • Why a toy merchant, a butcher, and a Freemason are among your best allies in the fight against the fey (sic)
Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop is the only complete manual on how to identify, track, defend, and destroy those bothersome brownies, goblins, dwarves, scheming flower-fairies, and other nasty members of the fairy realm."

Um, wasn't a bustle in a hedgerow part of a Led Zeppelin song lyric? Will a bustle in a hedgerow make our backyard chickens start singing "Stairway to Heaven?" I hope not.

In any event, "Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop  would make a fantastic sequel to some movie like "The Exorcist," though. Girl has fresh eggs from the backyard coop for breakfast. Eggs are haunted, so evil spirit invades eggs that girl ate. Horror ensues!

I'm writing the screenplay now. I feel an Oscar in my future, thanks to "Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop."

There are other very worthwhile titles in this year's list of Diagram Prize finalists. One is called "How to Sharpen Pencils" by David Rees, which sounds like a worthwhile guide for completing the ever important task of sharpening a pencil.

The most crucial guide
for pencil pushers

The book's subtitle is certainly a handful: "A Practical Guide and Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening for Writers, Artists, Contractors, Flange Turners, Anglesmiths and Civil Servants."

Who knew you needed a whole book to learn how to sharpen a pencil correctly? God, life is so complicated!

I'm sure Rees' tongue is firmly in cheek, and the Amazon description of the book is fun:

Rees, previously known as creator of the brash, deadpan, clip-art comic strip, Get Your War On, has set out to do what few of his predecessors in the pencil-sharpening game have, laying forth not just a detailed practical manual of all of the major sharpening techniques and devices but also a thoughtful discourse on the creative, performative, psychological, and even occult aspects of the sharpener’s art. 

Bowing to popular usage, he includes a section on the proper use of electric sharpeners (it involves a mallet) and a trenchant (if profane) discourse on mechanical pencils. Although this reviewer was brought up a little short by the omission of chapters on sharpening in the dark or at higher altitudes, it must nevertheless be acknowledged that this is without doubt the most thorough single-volume work on the sharpening of North American No. 2 pencils currently in existence. 

One is tempted to call it a must-read for anyone who has ever used a pencil. Then one comes to one’s senses and recommends it, rather, to those who possess a home workbench, a dry wit, and/or a healthy appreciation of the absurd. --David Wright 

Next on the list is "How Tea Cosies Changed the World," by Laoni Prior.

I'm fascinated by this book because I'd love to know how a device for keeping tea warm altered the path of world history, as the title implies. Was a tea cosy so effective in some past diplomatic negotiation that it made everyone feel good and avert a huge war?

Will tea cosies alter the future of the world, too? We'll have to buy the book to find out.

However the book appears more about making tea cosies, not their history, judging from the Amazon profile.

Maybe tea cups changed the world more, who knows?

Scary Hackers Get Scarier: SWATing Explained

Boy, people who maliciously get into computer systems, hack, whatever, are getting more and more viscious.

The latest new term to turn up in this weird underworld is SWATing, and that recently happened to a computer security journalist named Brian Krebs. 
Will these guys bust down your door, after being
pranked by jerks?
 That means you hack into his account, or get word to the FBI that the person you're targeting is illegally obtaining social security numbers and credit reports. Then the SWAT team arrives for raid to seize the target's computers, etc.

It's dangerous, of course. The authorities come with guns drawn, and if there's any misunderstanding between the person targeted for arrest and the SWAT team, things could get deadly fast.

In Krebs' case, the SWAT team arrived, he was cuffed, but fully cooperated, let the agents inside and explained. Plus, Krebs said he warned the FBI and other authorities beforehand that he was a target of these types of things. One of the agents in the raid remembered this report and realized Krebs was on the up and up.

Krebs said he'd been targeted in denial of service attacks on his web sites, and this SWATing thing, because he's been reporting on creepy web sites, mostly in Russia, that steal Social Security nunbers and credit reports, the very things the false tip to the FBI accused Krebs of doing.

There is a trend of much less sophisticated SWATing attacks in the country than what Krebs experienced. According to Dispatch magazine on line, a publication for 911 responders, people use computer technology to call 911 in distant cities to report things like a home invasion in progress.

Many of these SWATing incidents target unsuspecting homeowners who don't know the person who launched the dangerous prank. All of a sudden a SWAT team bursts in. Again, somebody is definitely going to get killed in one of these pranks.

Many times, this is caught in time, and there's no big SWAT response from police. Every once in awhile, some unsuspecting person ends up as the target of a major raid by gun wielding cops.

Not good.

As Dispatch magazine notes, it's really hard to catch the false calls as they happen:

".....There are investigative methods for identifying the origin of VoIP calls afterwards, although it takes a considerable amount of expertise, time and multi-agency assistance to accomplish. In fact, this seems to be the biggest hurdle in the investigation of these incidents--the anonymity of the caller, a lack of law enforcement contacts at VoIP providers, no phone numbers or e-mail addresses to report such incidents, and lack of resources within VoIP provider companies for investigating these incidents. The U.S. Attorney in the Texas prosecution praised the 40 agencies which cooperated to arrest their suspects--not an unusual number of agencies in these types of incidents."

Still, Dispatch notes there have been numerous arrests for these types of prank calls, like this guy. 

Many of the people initiating these false SWAT responses think they're being funny, it turns out. Wait until somebody gets killed. If that happens, can authorities bring murder charges against the "merry pranksters?"

Let's hope so.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fun With Fire, Explosions, Guns, Electricity, Water and Motorcycles!

Without further comment, I give you people you do much more poorly at weekend fun than you do.

Don't try this at home, and don't even try to feel their pain. Just enjoy the awfulness of these primo fails

Abandoned Buildings? Put On A (Sometimes) Smiling Face

I found a page of photos of abandoned buildings and other structures spiffed up by people who painted faces on them. They're really awesome.

The artists used windows, ledges, doorways and other features to help frame the basis of the faces, then went to town.

If a neighborhood must have abandoned buildings, it's nice to know sometimes, someone comes along and spiffs things up a bit.

The work on the buildings is by Russian artist Nikita Nomerz.  His stuff is so worth checking out.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Incredibly Stupid Milk Gallon Smashing Fad Gets Highly Welcome Crackdown From Cops

All kinds of weird fads get going on line these days. Everybody was doing Gangnam Style last year, until everybody threw up from being so sick of it. Other people were planking, laying stiff as a board on all kinds of objects and settings.

Nothing really wrong with all that. Doesn't hurt anybody.  Those fads almost never causes much in the way of damage or waste. Knock yourself out if you want to do it.

The gallon smashing kids morons at
work in their stupid video
But a fad that started this year was both incredibly stupid, incredibly wasteful and made a mess to boot. It just proves humans' huge capacity to outdo each other with moronic behavior.

In late February, two brothers and a cousin named Omar, Zayd and Faysal Khatib uploaded to YouTube what they thought was a hilarious video of them going into supermarkets and smashing gallons of milk and other beverages onto the floor, according to Gawker.

They'd pretend to trip and fall, smashing the jugs on the floor and sometimes other customers.  OK, these kids are definitely not slapstick comic geniuses. Do us a favor pals, and stay out of comedy. And video. You have no future there.

As these things sometimes do, the Khatibs' video went viral and unfortunately spawned lots of immitators. A fad was born.

Got Milk? Probably not. Some stupid kids probably smashed the jugs all over the supermarket floor before you could buy any.

The Khatibs, who call themselves "three cheeky kids with a camcorder," pulled the video off of YouTube not long after it appeared and sort of apologized, but not really.

According to Washington City Paper:

".....the three pranksters were asked whether they felt bad about flopping all over local grocery stores. 'We kind of do now,' said Omar. 'But I mean, it was just an innocent prank.'

Yeah, an innocent prank, of course. But kids, I mean morons,somebody had to pay for all that spilled milk. I'm sure that was a pleasant experience, seeing how it was splashed all over EVERYTHING.  And somebody had to be paid by somebody to clean their mess up. The Kathibs surely didn't clean up, self entitled jerks that they are.

Are you making money off your YouTube channel, stupid Khatib brothers and cousin?  Then maybe some of that money should have gone to the poor guy or gal that had to pick up after you

Well, now Fairfax County, Virginia prosecutors are bringing seven misdemeanor charges of destruction of property and disorderly conduct. 

And copycats in other states are getting charges brought against them, too.

By the way, the three have a YouTube channel with lots of other pranks they've done that were not nearly as destructive as the milk thing.  I made the HUGE mistake of checking out a couple of their videos. Those few minutes watching are a few minutes of my life wasted that I'll never get back.

Don't let this happen to you!

In a way, it's too bad these kids are in legal trouble. They'll have to pay lawyers fees and maybe some fines. That money would certainly be better spend on learning to shoot videos, and learning to get a sense of humor. And learning to just shut up and leave the rest of the world alone already.

Catching Up With Another Backlog of Weird Crimes

A bloggers pursuit of weird crime news is never done. People have incredible creativity when it comes to finding ways to commit unique crimes.
Well, he found one way to highlight a
school computer security concern  
First we go to Florida State University in Panama City, where a student found a way to redirect everybody who used the wifi to a porn site that you don't want to  to if you'd like to avoid a GIF of two guys really, really graphically getting it on. 

Apparently, according to police Benjamin Blouin, 26, did the weird hack because he wanted to demonstrate the lack of security in the university's WiFi system. He decided to do so in a graphic way because he'd long been trying to convince the university of the security lapse in less graphic ways.

Blouin's move worked, anyway. The university announced it would upgrades its WiFi security.

Of course, he now faces a felony charge and has been suspended from school, but I guess there's  price for everything.

Next we go to Oklahoma, for a story you might want to skip if you're a bit squeamish. Or don't like extreme weirdness.  But it is fascinating in its own, sick way.

It turns out a woman named Christie Dawn Harris found a unique way of packing heat. Police said they found her with a .22 calber gun hidden up her, um, lady parts.
She found a new way to be
a pistol packin' gal
Not to mention a bunch of meth up her butt.

Well, I guess she's creative at carrying stuff. And some people say that attractive women are "packing heat" so our Christie puts new meaning into that phrase.

But, as insulting as this sounds, I don't find Christie particularly physically attractive, at least judging from her mug shot. Sorry.

I'm glad she didn't decide to meet up with any sexual partners during this escapade. Could've been explosive

Friday, March 22, 2013

Personality Test For Convenience Store Job Stinks and Is Bizarre

I was fascinated, in a horrified way, of a story in Gawker of the hoops people have to go through to get a job at a convenience store chain called Twice Daily. 

First of all, these aren't cushy, complicated jobs that could endanger a whole city if done incorrectly So why the extensive on line psychological examination?

The psychological exam involves statements and you have to say whether you agree or disagree with them. They're yes or no questions.  But when I checked the statements out, all my answers were "It depends."

Getting a job at this convenience store chain involves
surviving a too-complicated psychological test.
They all seem like trick questions. I guess I'll never get a job at Twice Daily. Oh well.

Let's unpack some of these psychological test questions, shall we?  If Gawker can put snarky comments next to the questions, I can go overboard doing the same.

"Too much planning on the job can get in the way of enjoying things."  What do you mean by "enjoying things?" You spend all your day planning so you don't get your work done so you have to work when you're supposed to be off for the day? I guess that would get in the way of enjoying things.

"I have never told a lie on purpose at work."  How else do you tell a lie, other than on purpose? If you say something that's not true, but you believe it to be true, you're not lying. Just wrong. And maybe stupid.

And isn't it OK to lie at work sometimes?  What if, for some odd reason, a woman came into the store and asked "Does this dress make me look fat?"  If it does make her look fat, are you supposed to say "Yeah, you look like a fricken' whale." I'd just say she looks fine. Would telling our insecure, sonewhat overweight woman she looks fine get me in trouble or fired if  I worked at Twice Daily?

"Trying new things at work is more important that following the rules." If trying a new thing means smashing all the beer bottles on the floor because you've never done it before, then yeah, it would be better to follow the rules instead. But if some guy comes in and drops from a heart attack, and you try to give him CPR even though you've never done it before, I think that's better than standing at the cash register like a dope, just following the rules.

"On the job, I am not a very creative person."  Well, shouldn't you be sometimes? And not creative at other times, depending upon the situation?  If somebody comes in to a Twice Daily and asks for help creating the ingredients for a dinner party just from the beer, potato chips, crackers and Diet Mountain Dew on sale there, and you come up with an ingenious plan worthy of a five star restaurant, then maybe creativity is a good thing.

But if you make up numbers when adding up the day's receipts, creativity pocketing some extra money, maybe creativity isn't such a good idea.

"Trusting others on the job can be dangerous."  If a masked man with a gun comes in and offers to staff the cash register while you go on break, maybe trusting isn't the best plan.   But refusing to stock the cans of Hormel Chili on the shelves because you don't trust the chili to stay in the cans, and you don't trust the manager because she might make you restock again is just plain weird.

"Variety is the spice of life."  Of course it is. There's a variety of junk food for sale at Twice Daily, no?

"I always complete a job, no matter what else is happening around me."  Yeah, I know the gas tanks just exploded outside, the roof is collapsing, the place is on fire, the nuclear plant next door just sprung a leak and I'm in the cross hairs of the most violent shootout since the Wild West, but I have to finish counting the change in the register before I leave. Rules are rules.

"Most modern art is not really art." Huh? So a miminum wage convenience store employee is supposed to have the expertise of an art critic on the MOMA beat?  Since when are convenience stores art galleries? How does an appreciation, or lack thereof, of art make a person better at making a Slurpee. Is a Slurpee modern art?

"I never run out of energy." Are you supposed to tell Twice Daily HR that you never run out of energy so you get the job? Then what happens if they schedule you to work 1,000 consecutive hours, and you do get tired by hour 900. Do you then get fired?

The bottom line is, the questions are too ambiguous, too hard for me.  Maybe I should feel bad that the questions Twice Daily asks are so complicated I don't even qualify for a job at a convenience store.

Or maybe I should thank my lucky stars I don't have a job in which a shrink had to psychoanalyze me before I set foot in the building.

Ignorant Punxsatawny Phil Who Predictiing Spring Under Indictment

Continuing on with my riff from earlier today about frustrations with the lack of spring weather, an Ohio prosecutor has indicted Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog on a felony charge of misrepresenting the spring forecast, according to the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang. 

Butler County, Ohio Prosecutor Michael Gmoser is seeking the death penalty against the errant rodent.

According to Gmoser's indictment:

Punxsutawney Phil, in happier times before the
indictment and possible capitol punishment. 
"On or about February 2, 2013, at Gobbler's Knob, Punxsutawney Phil did purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the people to believe that Spring would come early. Contrary to the Groundhog day report, a snowstorm and record low temperatures have been and are predicted to continue in the near future, which constitutes the offense of MISREPRESENTATION OF EARLY SPRING, an Unclassified Felony, and against the peace and dignity of the State of Ohio."

I do seem some potential pitfalls to this indictment. Is there any specific statute that calls for a death penalty for a faulty prediction?  Punxsutanwney Phil made his prediction in Pennsylvania and is presumably still there.  Can Ohio extradict him to their state? And would Pennsylvania authorities cooperate in that endeavor?

And what about other states affected by the cold weather? Ohio is nippy, but they haven't gotten the worst of it. It was 10 below in Grand Forks, North Dakota this morning. Shouldn't North Dakota have a crack at Phil? Minnesota? Maybe Arkansas. I wasn't that cold down there, but it snowed yesterday. It doesn't usually snow in Arkansas this time of year.

Who's going to be Punxsutawney Phil's defense lawyer?  Are we going to end up with a O.J. Simpson-style show trial?

"If the shadow Phil saw or didn't see fits, you must acquit!"

What about the appeals process?  Even if Punxsutawny Phil is convicted, someone is sure to appeal the sentence. These appeals will go on at least through the summer, when presumably the snow will have melted and it will actually be warm for a change. Will the fervor for Phil's head wane by then?

If Punsxutawny Phil is put to death for his misdeeds, will any groundhog want to take his place? After all, as it turns out, missing a spring forecast can be deadly.

Spring is Apparently Canceled

Here in Vermont, and in much of the rest of the country, spring appears to have been canceled.

They're blaming an errant jet stream. High pressure is over the Arctic, and it's forcing the cold air that's normally up there down on us. And much of the rest of the United States. And much of Europe.

Heavy snow falls in Burlington, Vt. on the day before spring.
This state of affairs seems to want to last indefinitely, so the old adage in Vermont that we have 11 months of winter and one month of not so good sledding is going to have to go. It appears the snow sledding will be just fine year round, at this rate.

The winter weather in spring is extremely frustrating for people like me, who really need and want to get out there and get the landscaping going for spring. Not with all this snow.  And the weather pattern makes things especially torturous. It's like they're playing with my head up there, hoping I break.

Snow clings to a tree during a snowstorm in
Burlington, Vt. this week.

Here's what I mean. The sun tries to break through the clouds during the day, and a little snow melts. That gives one a little hope.

Maybe the snow will eventually go away.  But come dark, it snows again, and what little snow
melted is replaced.

The process goes on day after day. A little melting during the day, replacement snow at night, on and on it goes and the white, bleak landscaping doesn't change as "spring" ostensibly rolls on.

With false beliefs in weather gods or whatever leaving me frustrated, I turn to science. Maybe the long range forecasts offer a glimmer of hope.

And they do. Every day that I check, the forecasts indicate a warming trend about 10 days out.
Kids trudge up a sledding hill during a snow squall in
Underhill, Vt. on the first day of spring this week.

But I check those long range forecasts every day, and each day, the forecasts postpone the expected warming by a day or so. In other words, it ain't going to happen.
A snowy view of Lake Champlain and the snowy Adirondacks
in the background this week.  

I'm still taking winter photographs, of course, to add to my collection. Or at least try to. You can see some not yet edited samples in this post.

But for once, I would like to shoot something green. Something warm. With all the cold air pulled south, I should moe to Greenland. It's unseasonably warm up there, I'm told.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

KABOOYOW! Woman Offers Best Description of Huge Hailstorm to TV Reporter

Hailstorms this week caused millions of dollars in damage this week from Texas to Georgia.

That's neither funny nor terrific, of course. Nobody wants to see their property wrecked in a storm.

What is funny and terrific is the interview a woman named Michelle Clark granted to Houston television station KPRC about the hail.

She's perfect. She's the best television news interview subject at least since Kai, the free spirit who earlier this year colorfully and brilliantly described how he aborted a violent assault.

Clark, the hailstone lady, even invents a new word. "Kabooyow!" which refers to loud gunshot-like noises.

I think Michelle Clark could have a superb future as a television meteorologist. I think she should grab her resume, take the next flight to the Weather Channel headquarters in Atlanta and apply for a job. I'd watch her religiously every time I wanted an update on the weather forecast.

She'd give Jim Cantore a run for his money, for sure.

Here's the video from television station KPRC:

Obituaries Are Best When They Have a Sense of Humor

Condolences go out to the family of Harry Stamps, if Mississppi, who died earlier this month at the age of 80.

I don't know who wrote his obituary, but whoever did knows that a sense of humor, done right, is often appropriate, even in death notices. 

The late, great Harry Stamps.  
Just check out the excerpts, below, that reflect on the life and times of Harry Stamps, who, frankly, I wish I knew. He sounds like a great man, a great character.

The obit gives us some choice glimpses into his life.  Apparently, Stamps was something of a foodie, judging from this information:

"He had a life-long love affair with deviled eggs, Lane cakes, boiled peanuts, Vienna sausages on saltines, his homemade canned fig preserves, pork chops, turnip greens and buttermilk served in martini glasses garnished with cornbread."

He was also something of a fashion plate. Or at least his own version of a fashion plate:

"Harry took fashion cues from no one. His signature every day look was all his: a plain pocketed T-shirt designed by the fashion house Fruit of the Loom, his black label elastic waist shorts worn above the navel and sold exclusively at the Sam's on Highway 49, and a pair of old school Wallabees (who can even remember where he got those?) that were always paired with a grass stained MSU baseball cap."

Stamps detested  daylight saving time, and his daughter, Amanda Lewis, quoted in the Huffington Post in other news outlets, had this to say:

"He particularly hated Daylight Saving Time, which he referred to as The Devil's is not lost on his family that he died the very day that he would have had to spring his clock forward."   

I hate to call an obituary refreshing, but this one is. It gives a good, honest look at Mr. Stamp's life. And people mourning a death need a bit of comic relief, and it's provided here.

I know people usually use a string of platitudes when describing a person in an obituary. I have no problem with that. People are trying to be respectful and polite. But does everyone who dies of cancer fight a "courageous battle" with the disease?

Does everyone who dies "surrounded by their family" and "go on to meet the Lord" when they pass away?

Again, nothing wrong with saying that, but I hope people take more liberties with language if they choose to assemble my obit when I go. (And I hope that will be a long, long time from now)

Every once in awhile, these cool obits do crop up. Here's another one, for Albert "Lovie" Montanaro Jr. which appeared in the Plattsburgh, N.Y. Press Republican in 2011.

Before he passed, and he had a lot of the same thoughts on obits that I do, and wrote his own sign off. For example, he wrote:

"The part of obituaries that I always found rather tedious is those endless lists of what somebody has decided what the deceased had achieved during his/her lifetime (thereby earning an obituary longer than a list of baseball's box scores)."

I especially love this generous sentiment Montanaro left behind in his obituary.

"In spite of what many of you believed, I'm not so foolish as to think my life made a huge difference in this world. I do, however, know how hard I worked to  make the few "differences" I helped to make. I leave this world truly satisfied and pray the Lord, in His mercy is satisfied with at least MOST of my life."

If only we could all one day look back on our lives and be able to say that.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

When Two Lives Combine Into One: My Happy But Tricky Story..

My husband Jeff and I had a fight about money the other night.

It wasn't even a fight, really, at least not a conventional one. We do things differently than most couples. The issue wasn't the type of money problem most couples face. Some spouses say the other spends too much money on frills. Others complain the other doesn't keep track of finances adequately.

The issue between Jeff and me was not like that at all.
A still from the play "4,000 Miles" at the
Vermont Stage Company in Burlington, Vt.
From my perspective,  he was nicely staying within our household budget, but spending too large a share of the money he earned on keeping me happy and comfortable, and not enough on himself .

I was frustrated because I didn't feel like I was contributing as much of my income on keeping up the household as I should, I needed to cut back on unnecessary frills for myself, and contribute more to our mutual well being.

He met me that evening at Leunig's a fairly upscale restaurant in Burlington, Vt. before we went to see the play "4000 Miles," a production in which he designed the set.

Jeff's a well-regarded, busy theater set designer, and that was one of his jobs. Of course, he'd seen it upteenth times during rehearsal, but he wanted me to see it, and I also really wanted to go.

After dinner and a drink, we went to the play. It was set in an elderly woman's New York apartment. On the set, bookshelves and tables were cluttered with books, photographs and knick knacks.

The play, presented by the Vermont Stage Company was very well done and well worth seeing, but this is not the place for a review. But I was struck by a running theme running through the dialogue. It showed how   we negotiate life with family and those closest to us with a complicated stew of emotions. Love and devotion, mostly, but also uncomfortable moments, misunderstandings, gaps in good communication, and little shards of frustration.

On the set Jeff designed, he'd used some of the stuff he had accumulated over the years, items that came to grace our shelves and rooms when he moved in with me three years ago. He'd also grabbed some of the stuff I had accumulated over the years. (We have a long standing agreement that pretty much anything in the house is fair game for any of his theater set designs.)

Jeff also used family photographs from his side of the family, and my side of the family on the "4,000 Miles" set.

As I watched the play and noted where our stuff was on the stage set, I found myself marveling about how his life and my life became our life. I know that's not remarkable in the grand scheme of things. Zillions of people get married every year and establish happy, combined households.

I'm devoted to Jeff and he to me, that's plain.  But even with that devotion, it takes time to fully understand the implications of a life that was his and was mine, and is now ours.

That situation was   the basis of our money "fight."  Like every couple, we will spend the rest of our lives exploring and losing ourselves in our combined life.

There will be bumps along the way, and I hope Jeff remains patient with me. I'll probably never learn to negotiate our combined life perfectly, but I'll keep trying and loving the effort. Now that we've been together for nearly four years and married for seven months, I can't imagine living life any other way than I do now.
How lucky can a man get?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I Hope The Jerk Who Rear Ended My Truck Yesterday Has a Sore Neck

So yesterday, I'd just gotten out of work and was heading home at around 3:30 p.m. in my trusty Toyota Tacoma. Up ahead of me on Burlington, Vermont's Pearl Street, the traffic light turned red.

A line of cars ahead of me started to slow down. The woman driving the car in front of me started to slow down. I started to slow down. The young guy in back of me, "Mark" did not slow down. At all. Well, he did hit the brakes at the last second, but POW!

A partial view of my only somewhat damaged rear bumper
on my truck. The guy that hit me had it much worse. 
Crash, he goes into my rear bumper. My neck snaps back, my truck leaps forward and smashes into the back of the car in front of me.

It looked bad. The car in front of me had its back end pushed in. The car driven by Mark was totally crumpled in front, steam rising from the leaking radiator. I despaired at the damage to both the front and back end of my truck. I don't need this.

The three of us got out of our cars simultaneous. "Oh my God, are you alright, the woman ahead of me, Laura, said.

"Yes, how about you,?" I asked, alarm in my voice.  She said she was fine.

I turned to Mark behind me, spread my arms as if to say "What the fuck?" but said, "Are you OK?" He mumbled something that sounded like a yes. That was the last sound I heard uttered from him for the rest of the incident.

Considering that my vehicle had been hit twice, basically, while the others had hit once, I was lucky. My back bumper is smushed in a little. The crack in my windshield is suddenly worse. There's a bit of give to my front grill. But the truck is in remarkably good shape.

While I'm not really enjoying this whole situation, the only thing that I'm really feeling negative toward is Mark.

I get it. He wasn't paying attention and should have. But we all make mistakes. This one ended in a three vehicle crash. Bummer. I'd have forgiven him had he at least mumbled an "Are you OK," or even a vague, "I'm sorry."

Instead, he stood around sulking the entire time, as if Laura and me had the gall to be on the road and in the way when Almighty Mark wanted to get home and We Were In the Way!!!

Poor frickin' baby. What were you doing Mark? Texting your girlfriend? Downloading music from your favorite new band? Or just trying to get where you were going at all costs? And why were you going so fast on such a congested city street?

I'll never know the answers to those questions, of course. But it doesn't matter.

At least I got the chance to call 911 and speak in police scanner parlance: "Hello, I'd like to report a three car MVA, no injuries but fluid leaking," I informed the dispatcher.

A pleasant and patient Burlington Police officer showed up. While he did paperwork, Laura and I commisserated on the situation, happy that nobody had gotten hurt, and this would resolve itself.

Mark apparently works for a local ferry service on the lake. I hope he doesn't drive the ferries. (The ferry service does seem to be run quite professionally and safely, so I doubt Mark is the Captain of any of their boats)

Some of Mark's coworkers arrived. He must have called them, asking for a ride home. His was the only vehicle that had to be towed from the scene. Karma, I guess.

My neck is vaguely sore today, but that's it. I'm feeling so ornery toward Mark that I really hope his neck is more sore than mine.

And yes, I know, in the grand scheme of things, this really isn't a big deal. Vehicles can be fixed. Nobody's hurt, really, and life goes on.

So, Mark. I'm busy. So maybe you should be the one contacting my insurance company and making all the arrangements. Or maybe you could just take a refresher course on how to drive.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Weather Changing Every Minute in Vermont, as usual.

The two photographs in this post were taken in downtown Burlington, Vermont Sunday morning, just 10 minutes apart. The first one shows a fairly heavy snow falling, and in the second, the sky is totally, completely clear.

Just another day in a Vermont winter/early spring.

The contrasts between years are extreme and bizarre, too. On this week last year, we had an incredible, unprecedented early heat wave, in which temperatures soared into the 70s and 80s for a full week, shattering records highs  by as many as 20 degrees.

This year, it was below zero in many Vermont communities this morning, and a large snowstorm is expected tomorrow. No early spring this year.

I guess you just have to like the variety. You can't do anything else. Last year I fretted about everything in the garden blooming too soon, only to get nailed by frost later. This year, I'm despairing at ever seeing green in my garden.  There's no happy medium.

So you roll with punches. Last year, I scrambled to find my summer clothes while it was still winter. This year, I haven't given shorts and t-shirts a second thought.

Maybe I should just stop listening to weather forecasts and let every day be a surprise. Even with the forecasts in hand, it seems like every day is a surprise anyway.

Better Late Than Never With Irish Muppets

Since it's March 18, the day after St. Patrick's Day, I'm a day late and a dollar short with this post, but I can't resist putting it up anyway.

That's especially true because I need an upper after arriving at work this morning. Work is fine, but the entrance to our building was not. It's near some bars, and the neighborhood was the worst for wear this morning.

The front entrance to our building was littered with a near empty green jello shot container, a few cigarette butts and two frozen spatters of barf. Not the way to begin the work week.

So, we go to the Muppets for some St. Patrick's Day balm. Here, to delight the world, is perhaps the most appropriate creatures to torture the song "Danny Boy:" The Swedish Chef, Animal and Beaker. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

More 80s Video Fun: Cyndi Lauper, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

As I inexplicably continue my series on 1980s music videos as art, I'll give you one that is for a change highly recognizable: Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."

(Previous 80s music video highlights are HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE

Almost everybody has seen  Lauper's "Girls Just Want To Have Fun"  video.  I consider this one art because it has a great social commentary undercurrent beneath all the slapstick, campy colorful comedy that makes the video such a joy.

The cover of Cyndi Lauper's "She's So Unusual" album,
from which we get "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."  
The music video to me marks a turning point in the feminist movement, one in which an ill informed stereotype of equality seeking women started to die.

I'm going to stop right here and note I'm now stepping on treacherous ground.  I'm a middle aged guy, hardly qualified to discuss the finer points of feminism. So if say anything particularly boneheaded, go ahead and set me straight.

That caricature of feminism I referenced above was the notion that activists were angry, humorless women who hated men.

And here comes our simultaneously smart and daffy Lauper, in a delightfully chaotic, colorful party video that explains what women really want. Fun, yes, but fun in this song also means being full players in life, not just some subordinate sidekick of men.  She sings:

"Some boys take a beautiful girl
And I hide her away from the rest of the world.
I want to be the one to walk in the sun.
Girls just wanna have fun."

Early in the song, Lauper makes clear that women are not hating on men, not trying to push them aside. In the video she does good humored battle with her father, played by huge wrestler Captain Lou Albano. She subdues him physically and with lyrics, such as this:

"Oh daddy hear you know you're still number one
But girls, they want to have fun."

The song and the video are anything but preachy, the music is bouncy and ecstatic and catchy as hell. The video is full of movement and color-- a celebration.

Lauper also took back the word "Girl," which had become something of a way not to take women seriously to a term that women owned.

Many, many women over the decades have worked incredibly hard to get their gender into full equality, and the work isn't done.  Lauper certainly can't take all the credit with her song and music video.
The crowd parties down in Lauper's "Girls Just
Wanna Have Fun" music video.  

But my perspective is, the notion that feminists are man-hating shrews largely evaporated aroudn the time "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun"  came out, notwithstanding the lingering "feminazi" nonsense from Rush Limbaugh and his ilk.

(As an aside, one young woman recently mentioned the term "feminazi" to me and asked how a desire for gender equality is just like invading Poland)

In any event, "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" has been among my favorite songs and videos since it came out in 1983. So what if it's, well, girly. Everyone can join the party.

Which is Lauper's point.

As the video for "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" nears its conclusion, Lauper and her posse of fun loving girls parades through the streets. Other people, including quite a few men, join the joyous party which ends up at Lauper's house.

These men realize the world's a much better place if us guys have fun with the girls, rather than trying to tamp down their right to have that fun.

St. Patrick's Day Chaos Rules (Thank Gawd!!)

I'm in downtown Burlington at the moment, the usual quiet of dawn on a Sunday morning.

It will turn raucous fast, as it is St. Patrick's Day. The tavern doors have already swung open, and they will be crowded soon.

This truck will almost surely be part of
Burlington, Vt's St. Patricks Day festivities today
Burlington is looking forward to what is maybe the most unique St. Patrick's Day parade. There's a local concrete company here called. S.D. Ireland. They have quite a few of those cement mixers. They'res are white, painted with green shamrocks.

A convey of S.D. Ireland cement mixers, their horns honking away, will make their way through this city's streets this afternoon. I can't wait for the noise.

I might be working in stereotypes here when I present the following video, showing the Dropkick Murphys performing, on St. Patrick's Day, a ditty called "Kiss Me, I'm Shitfaced" with the help of several dozen, mostly shitfaced female audience members.

Again, maybe I'm pandering to the popular bias of what St. Patrick's Day is. But one of my most precious friends, Ellen, happily gives the Dropkick Murphys the Ellen Seal of Approval, so it has to be good.

So here's that video. Enjoy, me lads! And hat tip to Gary Rith for alerting me to this video, via Facebook.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Wedding Gets Off To A Screaming Good Start

OK, I admit it, I love the juvenile, slapstick humor on the show "America's Funniest Home Videos"

It's been on the air for years, and features video clips of various mishaps, injuries, accidents, dumb mistakes and quirks in human behavior.

The show doesn't take much thought, the humor is not sophisticated, but I watch the show loyally.

One clip from that show has been making the rounds pretty extensively this week. It shows the beginning of a very nice wedding, when the flower girls come in to start the festivities.

The first flower girl adds some, um, emotion to the proceedings.  The kids that follow the initial flower girl are pretty cute, too.

I got a good laugh out of it.  Watch:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Even Ship Captains Sometimes Can't Drive Worth a Whit

In the video, below, I don't know how they did it, but you'll see two big ships collide in a big expanse of water.

One couldn't get out of the way of the other, in all that space? Apparently not.

According to notes with the YouTube video, this happened in the Straight of Singapore a couple weeks back. The Singapore Coast Guard had to go out and rescue the people on the smaller ship as it started to sink.

I guess the area around Singapore is dangerous. There were reports of another ship collision there this week that killed one person.

Here's the vid of what is to me the improbable collision a couple weeks back:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

These Scammers of the Elderly Deserve An Especially Harsh Place in Hell

Scams targeting the elderly have always been a scourge and it will never go away.

Usually, the victims are pressured into buying something they neither want nor need.

According to Consumerist, one outfit is even worse: They bill elderly targets for something they never ordered, with or without pressure, and use hardball, scary tactics to collect the money the victims don't owe.

The FTC says it's on the case against what it
says is among the worst of scammers targeting the elderly. 
The Federal Trade Commission is going after the (alleged!) crooks at the company called Instant Response Systems.

According to the New York Times, the company called tens of thousands of elderly targets, including many who were on the federal Do Not Call list, which bars unsolicited telemarketing calls.

When victims try to dispute the charges, or cancel checks or put a stop on credit card payments, the company just tried to scare them into paying. The bills were often $1,000 or more.

One woman got this letter from Instant Response Systems:

"You gave us your banking information by telephone and authorized us to use it to collect your promised payment. However, when we submitted the payment to your bank, it "bounced'...
You have embarrassed us and damage our reputation. We had to pay bank fees, in addition to accounting, manpower, and other costs. We will NOT absorb these cost or pass them on to our paying subscribers
We suggest that you consult an attorney and ask about the criminal and civil consequences of bouncing checks."

So far, I haven't seen any responses to the allegations from Instant Response Systems.  But if what the Federal Trade Commission says is true, the people who run this "company" deserve a special place in hell.

Let's scam money away from elderly people on limited, fixed incomes and then terrorize them if they don't pay us. Most people would not sleep at night if they did something like this, but I guess the world is also full of psychpaths.

Let's hope for once, so called white colllar crime leads to long jail terms if people with Instant Response Systems are indeed guilty of these misdeeds.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Seal Pups Vs. Wind Surf Board Makes Us Winners

Perhaps you've seen this video, but it's another one of those animal clips that make you smile, and make you want to watch again and again.

Someone along Puget Sound in Washington State set up a GoPro camera on an old windsurf board at the edge of the water.

Harbor seal pups kept trying to get on it to bask and rest. But it had rained, and the board was slippery. So it was a lot of work to get up there on that board.

It almost seemed like the seals positioned themselves to get the best, most fun angles for the camera. I also love the music the videographer chose for the seal pup adventure.

Bet you can't help but smile at this. We're dying of cuteness:

World's Worst Song and Music Video From Czech Republic Delightfully Awful

The nomination for the latest, worst music video and song comes from the Czech Republic. Somebody named Nicky sings something called "Rich Boy."

I use the term "sing" loosely, as the blonde young woman who um, performs the song sounds like an asthmatic woodchuck.

The incredible Nicky performing "Rich Boy" in this still
from her video. 
I think the tune, which I found highlighted this morning on Buzzfeed,  sells her attributes to some mythical rich boy she wants to hook up with. The lyrics stunningly entice said rich boy. Some choice examples:

"I'm cute and clever
For now and forever.
I have big tits
And I like politics.


"I'm not a bitch
I want to be rich.
I will not work
I will not eat pork"


"Here is my phone

Either she's got it wrong, or Gawd they have complicated phone numbers in the Czech Republic. In any event, according to Digital Spy, the number she gives is not her real number, as she says she is not stupid.

The video had gotten more than 750,000 hits as of March 13, so it's turning into a phenomenon. Some say it's just a parody, others say it's the real deal. I don't know. You decide.

You don't get the full force of this incredible music video unless you watch it. It's right here, brace yourself for a real experience.


We Hate Sex Offenders, But Trying to Make Them Disappear Off the Face Of The Earth Without Killing Them Doesn't Work

Count me among those who hate, hate, sex offenders. Seems like an obvious opinion that most people hold.

Anyone who victimized others like that deserves punishment, and our disgust, as I again act like Captain Obvious here.

Is making sex offenders homeless making us more safe or less safe?  
Once they've served their prison time, sex offenders have to live somewhere.

True, we don't want them living near us, especially if said people were child molesters and we have kids. But the fact remains you can't cross your arms and blink like I Dream of Jeannie and make them go POOF! off the face of the earth.

Many communities are trying anyway. Many states have laws preventing sex offenders from living X number of feet from schools or playgrounds or parks.

According to the New York Times, some towns are getting sex offenders out of towns by building little parks on small lots, so that any offender living within that X number of feet of the new park has to move. 

OK, they move. But if everybody makes them move away, where do they go? Many become homeless, because there are simply no buildings where they can legally live. All the buildings are too close to schools, parks and such.

Yes, there are lasting consequences for people who commit such horrible offenses as sex crimes. But the question the New York Times article raises, is, does moving sex offenders away from all neighborhoods everywhere make us safer?

The answer, according to the Times is least, is probably not. Homeless people are more likely than people who have places to live to feel like they have nothing to lose, so they're more likely to re-offend.

It seems the people who push the opening of these little parks say that the offenders need somewhere to live. They just don't offer any suggestions on exactly where that is, or how it will happen.

I don't either. I wouldn't want a sex offender living near me, and I'm a fairly burly guy and so is my husband, so we'd be more likely to be able to defend ourselves, and less likely to be the target of such a crime. But I wouldn't want a homeless sex offender wandering around either.

So what's the solution? It seems like there are no good answers.