Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Vine Time Waster For Your New Year's Eve

Many of you out there are anticipating going out for your being New Year's Eve party.

As I write this, it's only 12:30 p.m., nearly 12 hours to go before the big hour when we welcome 2014.

Holidays are great time wasters. In that spirit, I give you 20 minutes of the best Vine videos of 2013. You know Vine, those six-second videos that are almost always boring and completely out of context, but are sometimes brilliant.

Most of these are pretty fun. Enjoy!

Four Hilarious, Pathetic Cases In Which The Holidays Proved Too Stressful

It's New Year's Eve, which means the holiday season is almost over.
A ceramic squirrel died in this woman's hands.  

For those who don't like stress, thatnk gawd for that.  Sometimes, the holidays really send people over the edge. If you thought you had tense moments over the Christmas holiday, I have four incidents that make your holiday feel like bliss.

(Thanks to the blog "Nothing To Do With Arbroath" for documenting all this Christmas mayhem)

Booze flows freely during holiday celebrations, and if the liquor spigot stops, there's often trouble. Like in South Carolina, where a man sent out to find some beer found the stores all closed late on Christmas Eve.

The man's common law wife, Helen Williams, 44, was none too pleased with this development. So she stabbed him with a ceramic squirrel, according to police in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Luckily, our victim is going to recover, but Williams is in a heap of trouble, charged with "crimial domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature," as police put it.

I''d also charge her with a home design crime for having ceramic squirrels in the first place, but that's just me.

There was something about South Carolina and the holidays that didn't seem to work well this year, anyway.  Another couple got into a Christmas time argument over the upcoming wedding. (Judging from what you'll read next, don't expect an invitation to arrive in your mailbox. I think the wedding is off.)

In Richland County, South Carolina, police said Krysta James, 34, stabbed her fiance during an argument over the planned color scheme of their wedding. 

Details on what was right or wrong with the color scheme were not available, but Krysta was jailed, leaving her time to contemplate what colors she'd like at her dream wedding. A dream wedding, because that's all she'll probably get. A wedding in her imagination.
Don't mess with this woman when it comes
to wedding planning.  

After all, who the hell would want to marry her in reality after this incident? Imagine how violent she'd get if she hated the bridesmaid dresses.

Now it's time to leave South Carolina and head to the lovely town of Jamestown, in western New York, where a woman had Christmas fixings simmering away in a crock pot.

That is, until a man in the house, maybe worried about all that expensive electricity usage, unplugged the crockpot.

The woman, Bridget Putnam, 21, responded like any reasonable cook would. She choked and stabbed the guy who shut off her crock pot, according to Jamestown Police. 

Don't mess with the Christmas cook!

Food was the center of another food fight in neighboring Ohio Christmas night. Apparently, two sisters had a dispute over some apple fritters. The fight ended with one sister stabbing the other. 

Judging from these incidents, the old Christmas trope of peace and goodwill toward man (and women!) during the holiday is SO passe.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

I Have No Sympathy To World's Worst Arsonist

Somebody burned down the Supps R Us convenience store in Melbourne, Australia on Boxing Day.
Watch what happens to this guy when he tries
to burn down the store  

This wouldn't normally be news of interest for people here in the United States, since nobody got hurt.

Correction: Somebody got hurt: The arsonist. Police are currently looking for a badly burned arsonist. Somehow, I can't bring myself to be particularly sympathetic to the moron.

Watch and see if you agree:

Saturday, December 28, 2013

"Chick Lit" Hits A New Low And Ends Up In The Hen House

I've never been a fan if "chick lit" or even the termonology "chick lit" a reference to light novels that are supposed to appeal to women.
A British egg producer claims that if hens listen
to somebody read bad novels, they'll produce more.  

It implies women only want a second tier of books, not as good as the Serious Literature only men can handle. At least that's the impression I get.

According to CBS News, Chick Lit has hit a new low since it is now read to the chickens at a hen house in England.

That's right. Real live chickens listen to chick lit as they lay their eggs. It's all supposed to make the chickens happier and lay bigger, tastier eggs.

There's no proof any of this works, of course. But they sell it as such, so they can sell the egg from hens that listen to Chick Lit at higher prices.

"There's research based around that which says that birds which interacts with humans, the sound of the human voice, actually are much calmer and because of that produce much better," said Paul McClusky of Happy Egg Company.

Judging by the confusing grammar McClusky uses, it seems Chick Lit also makes people less proficient at the English language, but what do I know?

I don't  know. The whole story sounds like so much chicken feed to me.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Video! A Modereger Family Christmas In South Dakota

I've had a great week in South Dakota, hanging out with relatives to enjoy the Christmas holiday.

The video in this post is one I put together to show glimpses of the sights and sounds of a wonderful holiday in Yankton, South Dakota. Hope your Christmas was as good as this:

Best News Bloopers Of 2013 Worth The 15 Minutes Of Chuckles

I was in the news business for a long time, but never had an urge to do television news.
This television reporter is trying to draw a road map for viewers
during a live broadcast, but...... 

Why? Because I always open mouth and insert foot. With print journalism, I could always edit out my bloopers before they saw the light of day.

You know, bloopers like the accident victim was taken away by the "Essex Rescue Squid." Or that we just got a statement from "U.S. Sen. Patrick Lengthy."

Or the time I tried to write that a Shih Tzu dog was rescued from a house fire, but I almost wrote "shiatsu" which would be the first time a massage was rescued from a blaze.

So enjoy these clips of news bloopers and be thankful you didn't make them.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas 2013's Worst Grinch; And An Anti-Grinch Can't Catch A Break

Congratulations go out to Janice Tully, 49, of Hyannis, Mass. who gets this year's award for worst Christmas Grinch.
Janice Tully, this year's Grinch Of The Year
Award nominee.  

According to WBZ-TV in Boston, Tully volunteered to take two families with five children in total to a Toys For Tots event in which the families, which couldn't afford all the Christmas trappings.

The families would collect the toys, get driven back home by Tully and have a wonderful Christmas.

So far so good.

But them, once all the toys were packed in Tully's car, she zoomed off, stealing all the toys and left the families stranded, according to WBZ.  The families had to take a taxi home, without the toys, of course.

According to WBZ

"When Tully returned home, she told her neighbors the toys were gone.

Candida Pina was one of the victims. 'I said, 'why are you doing this to my children, not to me, why are you doing this to children at Christmastime,?'"

If Tully had an an answer, it wasn't forthcoming. course.

Police said they found some of the stolen toys in the trunk of Tully's car. Police said Tully wouldn't tell them what she did with the rest of the toys.

She's charged with felony larceny of property.

Of course the police are the least of Tully's problems. Boy, is the Internet and the world going to hate on her!!   Oh well, she should have thought of this before.

Luckily, Toys for Tots came through and replaced the toys Tully allegedly stole, and, as one of the kids involved said, Santa came after all. Phew!

Again nice gesture. It gave the homeless some needed food, gave them an great experience to remember and showed them some respect.

Not if you read the troll comments at the bottom of various articles about this I read on line. Few people congratulated him. 

The criticism ran this way: Some of the money to pay for this was donated by friends, plus it was his restaurant, so he didn't pay much.

I say, so? At least he contributed something.

Other critics said it only benefitted a few people. Why didn't he just do some simple foods, or MRE's and distribute them to more people who were needy? 

Yeah, that's really respecting the homeless. Donate something that's barely edible.

Look, no act of charity is perfect. It doesn't reach all of the intended people, it isn't always distributed perfectly, people could have dug deeper into their pockets, etc.

But you have to start somewhere. 

I have to ask, how many of the trolls who were bitching about this guy donated something themselves?

Probably nothing. They were too busy trolling on Christmas Day. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My Yearly Christmas Tradition: Darlene Love Sings The Holiday (This Time From Yankton, S.D.!)

Here's my annual tradition that I've presented in this blog for each of the past four years or so now: Darlene Love's annual performance of "Christmas Baby (Please Come Home)" on David Letterman.
Husband Jeff Modereger gets his ducks in a
row as he decorates the family home
 for Christmas

The Darlene Love performance is at the bottom of this post. Scroll down later to see and hear the  mix of emotions, but mostly joy, her performance brings.

I'm 51 years old and this will be the first Christmas I've ever spent outside Vermont.

Yep, I'm reporting live from Yankton, South Dakota. I'm with the in-laws, as my husband Jeff and I drove cross country from Vermont to the Great (cold) Plains to be with family.

This is awesome. The Moderegers are definitely into Christmas. My mood is like the closing scene of the Grinch, when my bah-humbug heart grows three sizes bigger, breaking the frame of the picture of my holiday intoxicated heart.

Sure, I miss Christmas with my relatives in Vermont, but we'll have a nice celebration with them when we get back to the Green Mountain State. So it's all good.

The Moderegers of Yankton love Christmas traditions, and now I'm into it, too. When he arrives a couple days before Christmas, Jeff always decorates the house perfectly with his professional, caring set designer eye.

Jeff manages to turn a pleasant sun room at the Modereger house into a holiday wonderland within an hour. It's like he waves some sort of magic wand or something.

The Modereger men all wear red sweater vests on the holiday, so I have mine on.  (The official family Christmas portrait with the red vests happened this afternoon. ) The family Christmas tree is loaded with decorations and mementos that date back through decades of Modereger family history and lore.

The family all gathers at the home of patriarch and matriarch Don and Lois Modereger, and it's a scene of happy chaos. Booze is stored in the chilly garage, at the ready for the daily parties.  We gather at tables and on hastily arranged chairs, and talk into the night.  The Moderegers tend to be smart and funny, which always makes for a good time.
Jeff has his first face to face meeting with
Poppy, our grand niece, at this week's
Modereger family Christmas gathering.  

It's mostly stories of Modereger family history, the clan's happy moments, it's revered dearly departed grandparents and uncles, the past teenage escapades,  the quirks and talents that make the family so cool.

I love listening to these stories. Some are ones I've heard before, and I never get sick of hearing them. Other stories are fresh news to me. With each story, I feel closer to the family.

Jeff and I are starting to add our own stories to the mix, to be woven into the fabric of Modereger family history.  We hope our stories are as interesting and fun as the rest of the family's.

At night, exhausted from the festivities, we slump in spare beds, in easy chairs, on couches to rest, and then do it all again the next day.

We've come to this South Dakota house, from Minnesota, from Kansas, from Vermont to celebrate what we've got. We've heeded Darlene Love's call, and baby, we've come home for Christmas.

And I couldn't be in a better place right now.  I wish all of you the best of Christmas. Especially the Moderegers in South Dakota and the Sutkoskis in Vermont. You're all awesome.

Take it away, Darlene!!

Video Proves 2013 Country Music Was Mostly Just Cliches

Believe me, there is such a thing as an incredibly well crafted, well written, catchy, wonderful country song.

Unfortunately, like a lot of genres that are pretty mass market, most country music recently has consisted of tired old cliches. Which is why I generally don't listen to Top 40 country radio stations.

Want the proof? Watch this video that shows that in 2013, country music was only about trucks, dirt roads, riverbanks and hot girls in tight jeans.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Another Christmas Flash Mob: A Cliche, But This One Is Lovely

It seems holiday musical flash mobs are all the rage this Christmas season.
A still from the lovely flash mob video of Berklee College
of Music students in Boston.  

So much so that they're fast becoming a cliche.

Nevertheless, this one moved me.

Students from the Berklee College of Music recently showed up at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts for the performance you see in the video below.

Hat tip to Candace Page who tipped us off, via Facebook.

I know you'll enjoy it:

Notes On A Cross Country Journey

Jeff and I, and are loyal cocker spaniel Jackson are in the midsts of driving from Vermont to South Dakota to visit relatives for the holiday.
Rain and fog accompanied us through the entire first
half of our journey Saturday from Vermont to South
Dakota. This photo was taken somewhere
near Erie, Pa. We didn't see anything different
anywhere else.  

We're driving because it appears certain airlines kill dogs when you try to bring them with you on trips.

Some notes on sitting in a vehicle for long periods of time:


It seems we always schedule trips when an epic storm arrives. We escaped a huge ice storm in Vermont, but it poured all the way through New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, where we stopped for the night.

I don't suggest eight hours of the hypnotizing effect of windshield wipers flapping back and forth as a path to mental health.


We came prepared for a long trip with satellite radio and smart phones and all that jazz. Of course I forgot to bring a car charger for the phone, so that didn't last long.

Forget regular radio stations. How many times can you listen to "Jingle Bell Rock" without throwing up? Satellite radio had talk shows, Broadway songs I've heard a million times and, on "Outlaw Country," a low point: A song called "Tomale Christmas in Texas." Really.


We want to move fast, so we just hop out of the car and grab whatever we can when we're hungry. I've lived on a diet of power bars, potato chips, Tic Tacs and Diet Coke so far. (though we ate better at the hotel last night) Traveling is not the time to go Five Stars. We deal with it.

The Dog:

Poor Jackson the Cocker Spaniel is bored. He's cooped up all day in his doggie bed in the back seat. Mostly he slept, and sometimes he halfheartedly batted his toy, named John Boehner, to pass the time. He was so excited to get out of the Jeep after a long day of traveling that he ran in circles in the hotel room for an hour. Can't blame him. I felt like running in circles, too.

The Goal:

By tonight, we will hopefull by in Yankton, South Dakota, where I can immerse myself in a holiday visit with Jeff's side of the family. That's what keeps me going on this trip. A week with an awesome bunch of people. It makes the whole drive more than worth it.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Some Of The Better Christmas Gifts Out There

Most people know I'm pretty much a bah-humbug kind of guy during the Christmas season, especially over the past week, which is crunch time for getting your act together for the holiday.
I feel the same as Charlie Brown: If it ain't perfect,
it's bad, say the Christmas Nazis. I disagree.  

By Monday and Christmas Eve, it's basically too late to do anything about it.  What's done is done, and where I fell short for Christmas is where it's going to be. I can't change it.

I swear the Christmas season is expressly designed to torture people with ADHD. Not the holiday itself, mind you,  but the way the retailers, the marketers, the people trying to sell you stuff expect things to be so they can be happy and rich.

Because it's our duty to make the retailers and such people happy and rich for Christmas, after all. That's the spirit of the holiday.

But we've been conditioned by the advertisers and media to believe that everything has to be perfect, that we have to get the perfect gifts, bake the perfect cookies, have the perfect Christmas decorations arranged perfectly, and we have to behave perfectly.

And we have to be happy, happy HAPPY!!!! If not, you're a scumbag.

Then you have people like me. The ADHD crowd. Or even people who don't have it, but are just not into these demand for perfection.

My Christmas gifts fall short. My decorations are sloppy or nonexistent. I didn't even bake any cookies, so I must be a really terrible person.

I do like it when something happens in the real spirit of the holiday, if you allow me to use that cliche. I like to highlight these things, even when they don't expressly relate to the holiday. So I search for people giving the perfect gifts.

No, not the perfect gifts the mall wants you to buy, or Martha Stewart wants you to make by hand.  I'm talking about gifts that are important, that mean something. Most of the kinds of gifts I'm talking about don't cost any money. But they are the most precious you can give.

So here's some that have been in the news lately. Most of the ones listed below, in a series of videos and links,  appeared in the Huffington Post recently.

Reading about them makes me feel better about the holiday, and I hope they do the same for you.

Happiness and Acceptance:

Rion Holcombe, who has Down's Syndrome, was anxiously awaiting news of whether he'd get into Clemson University. Clemson has a special program for people with disabilities who want a post-secondary college experience.

Finally, Holcombe received a letter from Clemson.  Here's his excellent reaction to the news contained in the letter:

An Xbox and an Arm:
Christopher Kiezek, 6, of Long Island, New York, asked Santa for an Xbox, which isn't such an unusual think. He also asked for a left arm so he could play with the damn thing.

He was born without a left arm, and needs a prosthetic one. He outgrew an old one.

His parents' insurance company won't pay for one because it's not necessary for him to survive, according to the cold calculations of the insurer. (Gotta keep the profits strong and the stockholders happy!!)

A family friend overheard Christopher ask Santa for the fingers to play with the Xbox.  He started a fundraising effort on line, and enough money has been raised so that he'll get one soon.

Hearing the Music:

A dad had been deaf most of his life, but new technology allowed doctors to implant some special hearing aids so that he could hear. The biggest gift: Hearing his daughter do a solo for the first time at a Christmas chorale. The technology required the daughter to wear a special microphone so that her dad could hear. The moment is priceless:

Dog and Man's Friendship Survives Bad Moment:

This one isn't technically good news, but I love the loyalty.  A little before Christmas, John Miles was walking his dog Lucy in Boston's Dorchester area when some moron ran the two of them over and kept on going (The jerk hasn't been caught yet)

Miles was unconscious on the street, in a spot where few people would see him. Lucy, herself injured, searched for help until she saw people in a nearby dentist's office. She barked and barked until she got the people's attention, led them to Miles, where they called for help and rescued him.

Miles is recovering and so is Lucy. She has a torn ACL and the surgery to fix it will be expensive. However, Bostonians and others who heard about the situation have been donating cash to pay for the surgery.

Teacher Receives the Perfect Christmas Gift

Texas math teacher Jennifer Davis got the letter pictured below and she says it's the perfect gift. (click on the image to make it bigger and easier to read.)

We agree: Awesome gift. And I have a feeling the kid who wrote it is going to turn out just fine, even if math isn't that much fun:

Friday, December 20, 2013

Job Hunting Tip: Don't Wave Gun At Hiring Manager

You have to admit, Tevin Monroe, 31, at least has some ambition.
Tevin Monroe did not end up getting
the job at McDonald's.  

He was searching for a job and walked into a Norfolk, Virginia McDonald's and asked for a job application.

The manager there said, nope, you have to apply on line for a job at McDonald's (Most jobs are like that nowadays)

Monroe didn't like the manager's answer. He wanted to fill out an application NOW. To emphasize his point, he lifted up his shirt and showed the manager a gun, according to TV station WAVY. 

Well, if you put it that way, the manager decided, she'd get a paper application, she told Tevin. Would he mind sitting down for a moment while she got it?  He was fine with that.

Since there were no paper job applications in the building, the manager called the police. Tevin was still waiting for the application when the cops arrived and arrested him.

Apparently, he didn't get the job. So if you want a job at McDonald's, go on line and apply for the opening in Norfolk. Gun toters need not apply.

Charlie Brown's Christmas Comes To Life!

Here's a fun little seasonal video: Almost everybody knows that dance scene in the Charlie Brown Christmas special.  (For some reason I especially like the way the twins dance)

A flash mob recently brought the Charlie Brown dance scene to life in New York City.

Smiles ensue:

Thursday, December 19, 2013

It's December 19 Already! Why Aren't You Stocking Up For Easter Yet?!

It's six days before Christmas.
Time to stock up on Easter
goods NOW!!  

Most sane people are still probably finishing up their Christmas shopping, but according to America's marketing and retail geniuses, you're, way, way, WAY behind schedule.

You should be stocking up for Easter, pronto!

My gawd! Easter falls on April 20 in 2014. Time is running short!

You're late, late LATE in getting all your Easter treats. Get your Easter bunnies, Easter chocolates, Easter EVERYTHING before they run out.

Do it NOW!!!

Granted, the Consumerist post I link to showing Easter goods at a Krogers in December is from 2011, but somewhere, some evil retail chief is stocking shelves with Easter goods now.

Because if you don't buy all your Easter stuff before Christmas arrives, you're really, really worthless.

Yeah, I Waste Time On Compilation Videos, Too

It's true. Many of us aimlessly scroll through YouTube looking at compilation videos of various fun or stupid things.

At the end of the year, we get compilations of the compilations. And I bite. Today, we offer the best "wins," supposedly of 2013. These are people who do things more daringly than you or I.

Enjoy and be jealous:

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Insurance Group Claims Vermont Has Nation's Safest Drivers. Boy Are They Wrong!

I choked on my Diet Coke and almost went off the road while driving and was tempted to grab my iPhone to send a text when I heard this news bulletin come over the radio: Vermont supposedly has the nation's safest drivers, according to carinsurancecomparison.com 
A bad car crash in Quechee, Vermont last summer
From the Valley News of White River Jct, Vt.  

The insurance group based its ranking on such things as traffic fatality rates, incidence of drunken driving, seat belt use, and the relative amount of tickets issued for violations like running stop signs.

Supposedly, when carinsurancecomparison.com crunched the numbers, Louisiana turned out to have the least safe drivers, and Vermont the safest.

As a lifelong Vermonter who drives a great deal, I have to tell you the ranking is BOGUS. Vermont might have the nation's most creative drivers, the most free spirited drivers, and certainly not the fastest drivers. But safest? HA!

Vermont is the state where a mentally ill man took a tractor and drove over and destroyed a bunch of sheriff department cruisers.

I live in a Vermont town in which, two years ago, a manure truck with failed brakes roared down the hill past my house, through a series of traffic lights while miraculously not hitting anyone and then smashing through a building in downtown St. Albans.

Just yesterday, news broke of a drunken moron doing "doughnuts" in a snowy parking lot--while a Vermont State Police trooper watched. The trooper arrested said drunken moron.

Vermont is a state where people halt at stop signs and wait for them to turn green. When a traffic light turns green, they sit and wait, hoping for a prettier shade of green.

Here, Vermonters cruise along in the passing lane well below the speed limit, backing up traffic and apparently hoping police officers hand out lollipops to the drivers for going so slowly.
A 2011 crash on Interstate 89 near Richmond, Vermont
in 2011. You'd think we could drive in the snow.
From the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press.  

Vermont is the land of Subarus. Really, really, really slow Subarus. For some reason, just about everyone who drives a Subaru goes way below the speed limit, but also drifts in and out of their lane while they gawk at the scenery.

Or you see the Subaru drivers hunched forward, holding on to the steering wheel with knuckles snow white, panicking at the fear of a crash because it is starting to sprinkle and the road might freeze. (Never mind that the temperature is 70 degrees at the time.)

These slow drivers are especially dangerous because young men in big pickup trucks or roaring motorcycles are simultaneously trying to go really, really, really fast. They pass the slowpokes on blind curves, in busy downtowns during what passes in Vermont for rush hour.

The hot rod young men, can of Budweiser ready in the drink holder, especially like to drive super fast during very bad ice storms.

Let me tell you, when I get into the mix of the slugging people in thier crawling Subarus and the tipsy Mario Andrettis driving in their loud pickup trucks, my own knuckles get really white on the steering wheel.

Don't even talk to me about Vermont motorists' ability to drive during snowstorms. You'd think people would be used to driving in snow by now, since the state annually has 11 months of winter and one month of poor sledding.

Actually, it seems that 90 percent of Vermont drivers do fine in the snow. It's the other 10 percent that screw things up for everybody else. Again, it's that ugly mix of speed demons and panic people.

The fast ones don't understand the concept that ice is slippery. They also don't understand that when you hit the brakes hard on ice, it almost always ends badly.

I know this is basic physics, but physics isn't really Vermonters' strong suit.

So, when the inevitable skid happens when people slam on the brakes of their high and tippy SUVs, they roll over and hit the people driving 5 mph because that's as fast as they want to go.

Vermont is pretty rural, and there are only so many roads and so many detours. When someone causes a crash on the road during a snowstorm and blocks it, you can count on sitting in your car for three hours waiting behind the wreck instead of getting to work on time for a change.

The bottom line: I can't speak for the skill, or lack thereof, of drivers in Lousiana. But if you want to come to Vermont to feel safe on the roads, don't bother.

It's scary out there on Vermont's highways.

Proof That All Local TV Is The Same

Anybody who has spent evenings in hotel rooms as they flit from one American city to the other on business knows that all local television news broadcasts seem the same.
Invasion of the body snatchers? All these news anchors
say the exact same thing.  

Conan O'Brien recently proved that. He offered a montage of clips from local newscasts, all reporting on Christmas season buying patterns.

Looks like they're all just reading handouts, rather than investing in finding out what the real local stories are. I guess if most stations are owned by just a few media conglomerates, this is what you get.

Watching the clip, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. You won't either. Here it is:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Wild Rescue, Fire In Normally Sedate Ontario

One of the most exciting places to be in North America Tuesday was in the city of Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
A most exciting day Tuesday in Kingston, Ontario.
As you can see, it was the scene of a huge fire. You can barely
see the man trapped at the end of a crane to the left of the flames
He was later rescued.  

Normally, Kingston is a nice enough place, but it's not like the city is a hot bed of total wildness.

But on Tuesday, a wood frame condo under construction in Kingston caught fire and developed into a huge, HUGE blaze. A poor crane operator had to scramble to the very end of the crane's boom to escape the smoke and flames.

Of course, there was no guarantee the fire wouldn't make the crane just collapse, sending the worker to his death on the street far below.

Luckily, a Canadian military helicopter was dispatched to snowy Kingston, and the crane operator was plucked from the crane. News reports say he suffered just minor injuries.

So far, there have been no reports of deaths from the huge fire, which late Tuesday evening was reported to be under control


Watch the dramatic video below:

Yes, It's Commercialism, But I Do Like Apple's New Holiday Ad

The thing I hate about Christmas the most is the incessant begging to buy, buy, buy, buy BUY!
A seemingly self absorbed teen seems to ignore the
family in this Apple television ad, and then...... 

I know this makes me a hypocrite, because one of my jobs outside this blog is to, um, encourage people to buy stuff as gifts for Christmas.

But still, most of the Christmas ads you see on TV are too shrill, too cliched, too mawkish and too stupid for my tastes.

I have to admit it, though, I did like the new Apple commercial I first saw on TV last night.

In the ad, called "Misunderstood", an extended family goes off to the grandparents house in a winter wonderland to celebrate the holiday.

While most of the family seems to be having a ball, a morose looking teenager constantly has his nose in an iPhone, continually pecking away at the device's tiny keyboard. This, despite the family's efforts to engage the kid.

Christmas morning comes, and the teen is still pecking away at his phone. While the family opens the gifts, the teen finally stops playing with the iPhone, stops everybody at mid-gift opening,  points his iPhone at the big screen TV and turns it on

He wants to show the family something. Apple then manages to prompt a Kleenex alert with the ad.

Like I said, I actually think the ad is very well done:

Family Christmas Video Overshares, But Lots Of Fun Anyway

I take the miminalist approach to Christmas greetings.  If I send out cards,  I just limit it to a quick greeting, acknowledging that I'm thinking about the recipient and moving on.

Some people take Christmas greetings to a whole new level. Case in point is the Holderness family, who offers the world the holiday video card that you see below.

Oversharing? Hilarious A bit much? Just right? You decide

Monday, December 16, 2013

These Santas Are On The Real Santa's Naughty List

First of all, let's make it clear that none of the Santas in the video within this post are the nice one that will come down chimneys to make kids' hearts aflutter with gifts.
Drunken Santas fight in New York.
Merry Christmas!  

So if there are any little kids looking at this, be assured Santa wasn't drunk and involved in a street brawl.

But there's an event in New York City called SantaCon, which is basically a bar crawl for people who like to get dressed up as Santa this time of year.

It often ends badly, as the video, below, shows.

If only these bros, these macho guys, knew how utterly ridiculous they looked.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Florida Man Is Not Employee Of The Month

Gawd, I love Florida
Not sure if Willie Mitchell looks angry
in this mug shot because he was arrested or
because he didn't win the employee
of the month award at a Florida Walmart.  

Every day, the Sunshine State yields a bright boatload of strange people, strange crimes, just general strangeness.

There's a whole damn Twitter feed called Florida Man which dedicates itself to monitoring all the weirdness that is Florida. It's a busy Twitter feed, let me tell you.

This one story actually didn't come from Twitter's FloridaMan, but I'm sure it will get there soon.

It turns out the Deerfield Beach, Florida Walmart awarded its employee of the month award to a woman who worked there, and not fellow employee Willie Mitchell.

Mitchell was PISSED that he didn't win the award, according to CBS4 in Miami. (Note, if you click on the link, a Toyota video ad will start playing, so lower the sound all the way down)

He vowed to show that winning employee, you betcha! So he didn't what any Florida man would do, apparently, and shot out the window of the winner's car.

"Perhaps (Mitchell) wanted to be employee of the month but clearly these actions that we saw in response to this, I think we see why he wasn't chosen as employee of the month," said Broward County Sheriff's spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright, who was also clearly demonstrating her superb understatement skills.

Of course, now, not only is Mitchell out of the running for next month's employee of the year at Walmart, it turns out,  Surprise! he no longer works for the retail giant, according to Walmart.

Ya think?

So, next time you want to impress the boss at work, learn from Mitchell. Don't shoot out your successful co-worker's car window. Bosses, not to mention police, kind of notice these sorts of things.  

Sunday Morning Cuteness: Puppy Hates Crying

They always say dogs always want us to feel good.  Here's the proof.

Watch what this puppy does when he sees the woman crying (Don't worry, woman is only pretending to cry to show what the dog does)

Anyway. This is Sunday's moment of cuteness:

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Strange Art: Fire Ants and Molten Aluminum?

Admit it: Some of you, when you were little, mean as it was, used to focus the sun through a magnifying glass to fry ants skittering along the sidewalk.
This work of art, which kind of looks like
a silver Christmas tree, was created by
pouring molten aluminum into
a fire ant colony.   

Some people in Louisiana took this to a bizarre, huge new level that somehow resulted in a thing of odd beauty: They poured molten aluminum into a fire ant nest, dug up the results and had art.

I don't know where they came up with this idea. And pouring molten aluminium into the ant nest seems cruel, though admittably, fire ants are a terrible, painful pest and the world wouldn't suffer too much if we got rid of a lot of them.

Apparently, the people behind the video, below, have a little business called Anthillart.com and do this molten aluminum vs. ants thing fairly often.

Again, I have no idea how they came up with the idea to do this, but the sculptures that result look shiny, intricate, delicate, beautiful. Not the kind of ideas that come to mind when you think of fire or carpenter ants.

Here's how they do it. Watch the video to the end. You'll be surprised at how good the resulting work is.

Rich, But Not Classy

Three people in the news this week proved there is sometimes an enormous difference between being rich and being classy.
The theory is Ethan Crouch shouldn't go
to jail for killing four people in a
drunk driving crash because he's rich.

First we go to Texas where Ethan Crouch, 16, was found guilty of a drunken driving crash that killed four people and injured nine others.

Usually, when there is an immense tragedy like this and people die becuase of the drunk driver, said drunk driver goes to jail for a long time.  As well they should.

But Crouch just got probation, not the 20 years in the slammer prosecutors wanted. See, we should feel sorry for the not-monetarily poor Crouch.

His family is rich, says television station WFAA in Dallas, and his parents never punished him for any misbehavior, thinking that wealth brought privilege and you should do anything you want.

In short, we should feel sorry for Crouch because he suffers from "affluenza"

Yeah, and I guess we shouldn't feel sorry for his victims, who apparently were too stupid to get rich and possibly somehow avoid the carnage Crouch caused.

So, Crouch will spend a couple years at most in a cushy facility where he will probably continue to be taught that since his family has money, he can literally get away with murder.

Next we move onto a guy named Greg Gopman, one of those Silicon Valley millionaires who get rich creating these weird apps or companies that are supposedly the Next Big Thing but are really worthless.

He's made something called AngelHack, which doesn't sound like anything worth spending time on.

However, Gopman has some interesting theories on the proper place of the homeless, mentally ill and poor people, according to Valleywag. 
Rich guy Greg Gopman said poor people
sould have the common courtesy of
not showing their faces in public. 

Basically, Gopman is offended when he walks through cities like San Franciso and sees people begging or sleeping on the streets. Don't they know their proper place? Shouldn't they hide away in back alleys and ghettos so we don't have to experience the aesthetic pain of seeing such unfashionable people?

They don't add value anyway, goes Gopman's thinking.

I'll bite. Just for laughs and giggles, let's indulge Gopman and evaluate people just on the basis of the "value" they bring for the rest of us.  Sure, some of the people Gopman sees are not "valuable" in that a few might be petty criminals, or just unpleasant people.

But are all of them? Aren't some of the people Gopman doesn't like interesting, have potential, are actually contributing somehow? How does Gopman know they're not.

And is Gopman valuable?  He invents these sort of time wasting apps that don't really contribute much of anything to society. And is anybody who looks down on human beings so much truly valuable? I don't think so.

So Gopman, in my view, is less valuable than most of the people he disparages. Gopman should just hide in back alleys and ghettos and give us the courtesy of not hearing from him or seeing him.

Gopman later deleted his Facebook post and apologized for his remarks, at least somewhat. But some of his buddies were offended that he took down the offensive post. Someone named Alice Zhang wrote this on his Facebook page:

"Don't apologize to those bleeding heart liberals out there. They are part of the problem because they condon parasitic behavior. I've traveled all over the world (including third world countries) and San Francisco is the only place where I've seen people (the homeless) taking a (censored) on the street. If it were up to me I'd put them all in labor camps."

Well! Congratulations Alice! You're even more worthless than Gopman. Quite an achievement!

Next, we  have Philadelphia blogger Sarah Lockard. I don't know how rich she is, but she sure is trying in the most tacky ways possible.
Sarah Lockard says she's valuable. So if you send
her an email or post on her Facebook page,
you'd better pay her $75 each time you do it.  

She's trying to sell a restaurant a favorable review, or at least some nice mentions in her blog by her if they feed her family at Christmas for free.

Worse, and I doubt anybody will ever actually pay her, but Lockard is demanding $75 for any contact to her through her blog, according to Jim Romenesko. 

"Every text, email and biz correspondence with AroundMainLine.com is billable," is her quote.

Yeah, I suppose time is money, but really. I do some freelance writing. An editor emailed me asking me to do an (easy, local) story. So should I bill her $75 just for offering me work?

Um, no. She can just pay me for doing the actual article, thanks.

I like to think that Lockard was just kidding about the $75. She deleted the post demanding the money from people who correspond with her for any reason.

However, money is tight. I certainly won't ask anyone reading this post for any money. I don't need it. But I'm afraid my budget is too small to support Sarah Lockard of Philadelphia. You'll just have to get on without me.

And maybe do us all a favor and just shut up already.

Lockard has no reason to worry I'll contact her. I wouldn't even if she paid me $75. She sounds like too much to me.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013

11-Year Old Dog Rescuer Shows WAY More Class Than Hit And Run Driver

A motorist on a busy road in Brazil hit a dog and kept right on going, the kind of infuriating local story that is all too common.
Boy, 11, braves heavy traffic to rescue
dog that had been hit by a car in Brazil.  

Geez, you can't stop for two seconds to seek help for the poor thing?

But the next thing that happened here leads me to Jean Fernandes, 11,  my best person candidate of the week.

According to the Huffington Post and various Brazilian news agencies. Fernandes dashed out into the heavy traffic, stopped cars and carried the injured dog to safety at the side of the road.

A news photographer happened to capture the incident as it unfolded.  The image, and the other images in the link are absolutely heartwarming. 

Latest reports are the dog is under a vet's care, improving nicely and should have a full recovery. Thanks to Fernandes and the compassion he showed.

Nice job Jean! Please continue to be who you are and don't grow up to be like that hit and run driver.

Sign Language Fiasco, Sign Language Triumph

The guy who was doing the sign language bit at the Nelson Mandela memorial service sure has gotten a lot of attention.
This guy doing sign language
at the Nelson Mandela memorial
really botched it. He blames

People watching said he had no idea what he was doing, that what he was signing was gibberish and the whole thing has turned into an embarrassment in an otherwise rousing, moving tribute to Mandela.

The story got more bizarre this morning when it came out the Mandela sign language guy said he was in the middle of a schizophrenic episode when he was trying to do the signing at the event, which was televised world wide.

According to the Associated Press: "Thomsanqua Jantijie...said he first noticed something was wrong when he saw angels streaking into Johannesburg's FNB stadium. 'What happened that day, I see angels come to the stadium'"

Jantijie said similar episodes have triggered "a lot" of violent reactions from him in the past, a prospect that--considering the number of security guards nearby--made him nervous."

The company that hired Jantijile and the people behind it, appear to be in hiding.

Meanwhile, we have a much more successful sign language event.  A kindergarten kid in Florida was among many performing in a Christmas show for their parent.

One youngster was the child of deaf parents, and didn't want her mom and dad to miss out on the show. So she signed her way through the song, much to the delight of everyone. And of course, she did everything right.

She probably should have signed for the Mandela event.

Watch the adorable video with the little blonde girl doing the sign language and see for yourself:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Two Guys Have Teeter Totter Fun, Not Like Normal

When you were a kid, you probably loved to play on the teeter totter. I know I did.
A new twist with the old teeter totter. 

Some people never grow out of that kind of fun. More power to 'em!

We now have a vide of two adult guys who are among those who still love those teeter totters. But they've just changed the rules of the game a bit.

It looks like more fun than the playground time I had as a kindergartener. But then again, most of us don't have the athletic prowess of the guys in the video.

So, let's just have fun live vicariously through the video, below:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Very Furry Shoplifter Is Nabbed In South Carolina

A shoplifter at a Dollar General store in Clinton, South Carolina recently made off with a whole bunch of doggie treats and related items.
The police report involving the arrest of Cato
the shoplifting dog  

The store's owner, working with police, went to the store's security cameras to see if they could come up with any clues.

As is often the case in these situations, the video broke the case and and an arrest was made.

Clinton, South Carolina is safe again!!

It turns out the shoplifter was Cato, a husky dog. The clever thief broke away from his leash, and hun out by the door of the Dollar General store. If someone was slow enough opening the door to get inside, Cato would sneak through, grab his stash, and run out.

He even had a hiding place, burying his loot near the store for later use.

So far, no charges have been filed, but police filled out a report, just for fun.  The dog's owner reimbursed the store and promised to keep Cato on a tighter leash.

But you never know with these criminals. They can be so wily.

We can always hope, though, that Cato has seen the light, and will become a reformed criminal, and go on to lead a productive, honest life.

Heroic TSA Agent Saves World From Diabolical Rooster Monkburn, The Sock Monkey

A diligent. heroic TSA agemt in St. Louis possibly saved the world in the past week.
Rooster Monkburn, the diabolical terrorist
sock monkey named in St. Louis. 

Phyllis May of Redmond, Washington was trying to board a plane when the TSA agent uncovered the evil plot in which May had a role.

It turns out May had a little sock monkey named Rooster Monkburn in her baggage. And Rooster Monkburn had a gun!

It was a little toy gun, two inches long in his little holster. Imagine the carnage had Rooster Monkburn gotten on that plane with that gun! Oh, the humanity!!

Or, as the TSA reportedly said to May once she discovered Monkburn and his gun. "If I held it up to your neck you wouldn't know if it was real or not."

Well, that TSA agent certainly showed her analytical skills. Personally, I would probably know the difference between having a tiny two-inch toy gun held against my temple, compared to a Glock 9 mm, but what do I know?

That's why we have those wicked smart and on top of it TSA agents protecting us.

Those TSA agents are also so, so compassionate, too! The agent said she should have called the cops, but she didn't, perhaps judging that May was just an unwitting stooge in Rooster Monkburn's dangerous plot.
The holster and gun confiscated from Rooster
Monkburn, next to three quarters, for
comparions' sake. 

As is always the case, it seems, the TSA sidestepped comment on this incident just issuing their usual bland statement. You know, to keep those terribly terrorists among us off balance.

Said the TSA statement: "TSA officers are dedicated to keeping the nation's transportation security systems safe and secure for the traveling public. Under longstanding aircraft security policy, and out of an abundance of caution, realistic replicas of firearms are prohibited in carry on bags."

Especially when sock monkeys are involved. They're particularly dangerous.

On the bright side, everyone, espcially all of us naive Americans who don't understand terrorism like the TSA does, will probably want a Rooster Monkburn sock monkey for Christmas.

May is going to have her hands full in that terrorist hotbed of Redmond, Washington, making more Rooster Monkburn sock monkeys with their teeny, tiny, fake guns.

Which means the TSA is really going to have its hands full during the holiday travel system.

Monday, December 9, 2013

U.S. Air Force Band Provides A Reason To Like Christmas

It takes quite a bit to get me into the Christmas spirit, but this video of the U.S. Air Force Band helped.

They recently flash mobbed the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC with an impromptu holiday performance.

The video shows the charming results. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

New Reasons To Dislike Winter Ice

They tell us we might get some sleet and freezing rain mixed with the snow in Vermont tomorrow.
Ice storm damage in Hugo, Oklahoma, via
@OKD2Houchen on Twitter.  

That's part of a bad weather pattern that has spread frigid temperatures, snow and lots of ice across the country.

Apparently, it's bad in Russia, too. Watch what happens when workers try to remove huge icicles from a Russian building that were hanging like daggers over the pedestrians below.

Nobody gets hurt, but it doesn't end well.

Almost 50 Below And Canadian Couple Spend Pleasant Morning Outdoors

If you've watched the news the past couple of days, you know much of the country is having quite a little cold snap at the moment.
Enjoying a pleasant, 49 degrees below zero
morning in Manitoba, Canada.  

It's worse in Canada, of course. It's always worse in Canada, given that's the country that exports all those nasty cold fronts to the United States.

Up in Manitoba, it was 45 below Celcius (49 below for us Fahrenheit fans. Since I get whiny when it gets to zero, I can't relate to that.

But, as Canadians do, the couple in the video below embrace the bitter cold. They go out, blow soap bubbles to see what happens, throw hot water in the air to make a steam display and have a grand old time.

Notice how they're dressed, or not dressed. The woman has no hat on. The man has no overcoat. Their glasses aren't even fogging up, for Chrissakes. And they seem like they are in no hurry to get back inside.

If I lived in their town, I would hibernate until May.

It must be their wonderful Canadian accents that keep them warm

So watch this delightful video that shows the coldest way to warm your heart.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Ohio Man Learns You Can't Just Walk Into An Empty House And Call It Yours

This year's Chutzpah Award goes to a guy named Robert Carr in Ohio, who has decided that if nobody has been in a particular house for awhile, he can walk in, change the locks and claim it's his.
Robert Carr, who think he can just take houses for free.
Police have other opinions. Add caption

Apparently, he's been trying to do this for awhile, but the antics finally blew up in his face in the past couple of weeks.

A family in Springdale, Ohio, left town for a number of days to visit a dying relative, according to television station WLWT in Cincinnati.

When they came back, they discovered Carr had emptied their possessions from the house and changed the locks, according to WLWT. 

Carr seems to think that since the family hadn't been there in several days (or maybe even a few weeks) they "abandoned" the house and he could take ownership of it through a process called "quiet title"

"When you abandon a property, bam, walk away from it, 'I ain't never coming back. I don't want nothing to do with it,' right? Somebody can come in, 'Oh mine,' Carr told WLWT reporter Karin Johnson.

He says he can have the house for free.

WLWT said Carr has done this same tactic with at least 11 other properties. Carr says he's got a team helping him with this enterprise.

Well, it's not working out so well for Carr and his alleged team. After WLWT's story came out, Carr was charged with three counts of breaking and entering and three counts of theft. More charges could be pending.

You have to admire Carr's persistence, though. According to The Raw Story, Carr has responded to the charges by saying he "rejected" them and the "offer is not accepted."

Since when are criminal charges an offer? Police charge you with a crime and you say "No, thank you and the police go away? I don't think that's how it works.

According to Raw Story: "He also charged Forest Park, Ohio police with a lengthy, handwritten list of civil rights violations against him, including kidnapping "upon the inheritance of (his) free will as a man identified as a U.S. citizen."

Carr apparently belongs to a movement called sovereign citizen, in which they believe they decide what  laws to obey based on their interpretation of the Constitution.

Um, Mr. Carr? It doesn't work that way, either.  What if someone decided to commit a crime against you, say, robbery, and said I don't have to obey anti-robbery laws. What would you say to that?

Again, you have to admire Carr's chutzpah, but still.

Back to his house seizures:

There is actually a legal document called a quiet title, but it's not at all the way Carr envisions it. According to the Free Legal Dictionary, people can use a quiet title proceeding to remove a "cloud" from a potential property transaction.

A quiet title is basically a device to make it clear who owns the property and who the property is being transferred to.

The plaintiff has to prove he has a legal case to obtain the property, and it's up to the plaintiff to prove it.  So no, Mr. Carr, you can't just go into a house and say it's yours unless there's a compelling legal case that you are entitled to it.

So, just to review: If your next door neighbor goes away on vacation for a few weeks and nobody's in their house during that time, you can't just take the neighbor's house.

You have to find something else for a Christmas gift to yourself.

Friday, December 6, 2013

McDonald's To Low Wage Employees: Don't Forget To Give Your Au Pair and Nanny A Christmas Bonus!

Sometimes, the best thing to keep in mind is if you want to help, don't.
McDonalds (sort of) suggests she just send
back the Christmas gifts she gets so she can
pay her imaginary au pair.  

McDonald's needs that advice.

It seems like every other day, some news trickles out on how they are giving their low wage employees financial advice. (My advice is, hard as it is to do, all you McDonald's employees out there, keep trying to find a job with higher wages)

Anyway, much of the source of McDonald's advice comes from the McSource line, which is McDonald's way of offering helpful lifehacking hints to their employees.

The latest installment gives their often minimum wage employees advice on how much to tip their au pairs, housekeepers, pool cleaners, massage therapists, garage attendants and personal fitness trainers for the holidays.

Because it's no problem affording all those people, and the holiday bonuses on a $7.50 hourly wage with a limit of 30 hours a week, right?

McDonald's tells CNBC that the advice comes from the etiquette experts at the Emily Post Institute in Vermont. They ought to know what's the proper way to acknowledge employees at the holidays, right?

Well, we can't find anything wrong with Emily Post's advice, either. But I wonder if Post would consider it rude to mock low wage employees, however unintentionally, with this advice for people who have money, in other words, people who aren't McDonald's employees.

And I have to note it wasn't Post's idea to give this advice to McDonald's employee. It seems some contractor working for McDonald's lifted the Emily Post etiquette advice from some other side. After CNBC's embarrassing little questions about this matter, the "holiday gift to your au pair" advice has apparently disappeared.

This little crisis I guess is an improvement to previous advice the low wage McDonald's workers got. That was to return the unopened Christmas gifts they got and cash them in, to supplement their poverty level pay.

 Just a little Scrooge-like, no?

Before that, McDonald's helpfully provided sample budgets for its workers so they can figure out how to stretch their measly dollars.  The budgets included no money for heat (take THAT, Minnesota McDonald's workers) and only $20 a month for health care.

No wonder so many fast food workers have been going on strikes this week, despite the fact there's no real organized union backing them.

I remember back in the 1980s or 1990s, when politicians railed against "welfare queens" who got government benefits they didn't  qualify for or deserve.

I totally agree that only people truly in need should get a helping hand from the government.  So why are the corporate CEOs and such getting rich in part by paying their employees so little that they can get food stamps?

My tax dollars, then, are going to enrich the already rich because they're benefitting from food stamps by not paying their employees enough. What, some millionaire or billionaire needs my help to give the annual Christmas bonus to their pool boy at his mansion in Barbados?

Here's my Christmas gift to myself: No eating at McDonald's for me. It'll be a healthy choice anyway.

Wildest, Dumbest Drunk Driver Blasts Music, Leans On Horn, Rams Police Cruiser.

It's always dumb to drive drunk, of course. Even dumber to try to get away from the cop who is trying to catch you for drunk driving.
Accused drunk driver Sally Kurgis apparently
loves car horns, loud music, demolition derby.  

Police say a woman named Sally Kurgis took this stupidity to a sky high level early Thanksgiving morning, when police in Bexley, Ohio, tried to stop her for drunk driving.

As you can see in the video from Jalopnik, she would have none of it.

 Love how she's simultaneously blasting the music, leaning on her car horn and ramming the police cruiser. I'm sure the people living in the residential neighborhood where this took place absolutely loved the commotion.

Luckily, nobody got hurt, and Kurgis, facing a variety of charges that could land her in jail for quite awhile, can now bask in the glory of this year's top nominee of dumbest drunk driver of 2013.

Watch the video and judge for yourself:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Great Song, Great Video About The Importance of Photos In Our Lives

Over at the other blog I operate, Matt's Weather Rapport, which caters to anyone interested in the weather, I touched on efforts to return photographs to their owners after the momentos were scattered far and wide by tornadoes that struck the Midwest last month.
This man saved a wedding photo from the wreckage
after a tornado hit Washington, Ill. last month.
Other people lost important photos in the storm.  

All the more reason to store our photos in "the cloud" so if our houses burn down or get blown or washed away in a disaster, we don't lose these important documents and touchstones.

In my Weather Rapport post, I included a wonderful music video by Laura Marier for her song "Running For Photographs" which is a great song and great video in its own right, whether or not you're interested in the weather.

So I decided to included it here, too, because the song is definitely worth listening to and the video is totally worth watching.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Rare Treat: A Christmas Song Done Well, And With Innovation. Must See!

As part of my bah-humbug attitude toward Christmas, I must say I hate most Christmas carols and songs.
The Piano Guys performing "Angels We
Have Heard On High"  

They tend to be horribly sappy, way too sentimental, and/or just extremely, annoyingly stupid. "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer," anyone?

There's a few good ones, of course. Darlene Love's "Christmas Baby (Please Come Home)" comes to mind, for instance.

I wonder if I can consider Elton John's wonderful but dark song "Levon,"  which is one of his best, a holiday song because it includes the lyrics "He was born on a Christmas day/When the New York Times said God is dead/And the war's begun."

Probably doesn't qualify as a cheerful Christmas tune, huh? But I'll enjoy it anyway.

I did find another Christmas song and video that is definitely worth enjoying. These four men called "The Piano Guys" perform "Angels We Have Heard On High" using just one piano in often totally interesting, cool ways. And the music they produce sounds wonderful.

It looks like they do other songs, too, like that music from the Charlie Brown Christmas show

But you really gotta see the video for the Piano Guys "Angels We Have Heard On High."

 Here it is:

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

After Weird Alabama Murder, We Need Good Sportsmanship Antidote

The most depressing sports-related news I've come across lately concerns a murder in Alabama.
This woman is charged with murder after
allegedly killing a woman she thought was
insufficiently upset at Alabama's football  loss Saturday.  

For those of you who missed it Auburn beat its archriva Alabama  Saturday in one of the most dramatic endings to a college football game anyone has seen.

At a party after the game, police said, Alabama fan Adrian Laroze Briskey, 28, murdered Michelle Shepard, another Alabama fan,  because the victim seemed insufficiently upset that Alabama had lost. 

That, of course, is the ultimate in bad sportsmanship, something we have long seen too much of on and off the field.

So I was pleased when I found a compilation video on YouTube containing great examples of good sportsmanship.

In the video, I especially like the ultimate fighters, who participate in the most brutal and violent of sports. In these cases when one fighter accidentally injures another, or defeats his opponent badly, the victors react tenderly and kindly toward the people they defeated or hurt.

I also like the clips of people going out of their way to let people who can't normally participate in sports because of disabilities have their moment in the sun.

After watching the video, I now feel better about sports again. You will too:

Monday, December 2, 2013

Feel Good Or Feel Bad: People Who Do Things Much Better Than You

Tell me: Are you willing to try anything the people in this video are doing?

You're braver than me if you do want to try anything in the video.  I got dizzy just watching some of the people in there. But it is awesome to watch, because as the video is called, people are awesome.

Watch and enjoy:

Outrage: United Airlines Almost Kills Dog, And Won't Pay Vet Bill Because Owner Won't Shut Up About It

The public relations people at United Airlines must be the stupidest people on earth.
Sedona, almost killed by United Airlines, has
thankfully recovered.  

It's not because their employees almost killed somebody's dog by leaving the poor thing on a hot tarmac in the middle of summer with no water, though that was pretty stupid.

The public relations stupidity came when the dog's owner justifiably complained that United basically tortured her greyhound.

In July, a woman named Janet Sinclair and her greyhound, Sedona, were moving from San Diego to Boston.

The airline's policy was to make sure the dog wasn't exposed to a temperature of 85 degrees for more than 45 minutes, according to Consumerist.

Instead, United workers left the dog out in 91 degree or more  heat for a long time in the sun, in a crate, at a Houston airport during a changeover.

By the time the greyhound got to Boston, Sedona was in full heat stroke, bleeding and near death.

Somehow, a veterinarian managed to save the dog's live, but the bill for the medical treatment came to $2,700 or so.

So far, you can't entirely blame all of United Airlines for almost killing the dog. It's certainly not United's policy to torture defenseless animals. This had to be the work of some clueless employees. It would have been nice, though, to train employees the basics of animal care.

The real travesty was the utterly weasily way United try to get out of paying, and then trying to hush up the whole thing.

First, United tried to claim Sedona had a pre-existing condition, but the dog's vet said no, the problem was caused entirely by United.

So United agreed to pay the $2,700 vet bill. But there was a catch. They would only pay if Sinclair  agreed to a non-disclosure agreement to not tell anybody what happened. Or as United sleazily put it, the dog's owner "declined to accept the terms of the agreement."

There are SO many problems with this. First of all, who is United to dictate the terms of any so called agreement?  It was United that fucked up. If anyone should dictate terms of any agreement, it should be the dog's owner.

Secondly, when someone makes a mistake, a public apology is in order. It's just much more honorable to admit an error, and promise to make sure it doesn't happen again. In United's case people, including the dog's owner, probably would have accepted this, and we would have never heard about this case.

That would have solved United's problem with being embarrassed about the situation.  The public relations people could have done the right thing, and that would have accomplished what they wanted, which is to not let this blow up into a PR nightmare, with no extra work on their part.

Did United actually think they could strong arm Sinclair into shutting her mouth?  Has the United Airlines public relations department never heard of social media?  It's been around for quite awhile now, you know.

Of course, Sinclair has  heard of social media and have created a Facebook page called "United Airlines Almost Killed My Greyhound"

"I still want to be reimbursed," the dog's owner told NBC Bay Area "But I'm not going to be quiet"

So, she's using the Facebook page to great effect in alerting the media. It's getting the attention of tiny little blogs and news outlets like this one, and much bigger television stations and media in other cities. Reuters, the news wire service did a story.  So did the Huffington Post.

The "United Airlines Almost Killed My Greyhound" Facebook page is still very active, at last check.

It's a drip, drip, drip of embarassment for United. But they seem to be still trying to cover things up.

Back around Halloween, somebody tried to block the Facebook page, likely through Facebook's report abuse or spam feature. It's unclear if it was United, some loyal employee of the company or some troll, but it was suspicious.

Plus, since people are paying attention to Sinclair's activism and Sedona's near death, the media are showing this wasn't an isolated incident. WTOP-TV in Washington DC said United killed a dog named Bam Bam by leaving the dog in a crate out on the tarmac.

And other stories have been trickling out.  And probably will continue to trickle out. United might hope this is going to go away, but based on how other outrageous stories have played out, it won't. Social media has become too strong for that.

United has a lot of work to do. Stop killing pets, for one. And maybe, if they're not willing to do the  honorable thing, at least do the public relations competently.

I'll try to reach out to the United Airlines PR department to ask why signing the nondisclosure agreement was so important and why they think they have the right to do that, but I'm not optimistic.

They've just been releasing that bland statement to the media about wanting to care properly for passengers and they offered to reimburse but that stubborn Sinclair wouldn't sign the nondisclosure agreement.

As if the nondisclosure agreement was far more important than Sedona's life, or any other dog or cat's life.