Sunday, June 30, 2013

Woman Almost Became Felon For Buying Bottled Water

I'm all for cracking down on underage drinking but if this story is true, some alcohol enforcement agents in Virginia ought to get a hobby.

According to The Daily Progress in Charlottesville, Virginia, a student named Elizabeth Daly, 20, walked out of a store with two friends. Daly was carrying what looked like a 12-pack of beer. It was really a package of bottled water.
Yes, crack down on underage drinking. But
do you need a SWAT team to do it?  

Then Virgiina Alcoholic Beverage Control agents swooped in, one with a gun drawn and surrounded her car, according to The Daily Progress. They were in plain clothes, and Daly said she could identify the badges.

Daly panicked. "I  couldn't put my windows down unless I started the car, and when I started my car they began yelling to not move the car, not to start the car. They began trying to break the windows. My roommates and I were terrified," she was quoted as saying.

She was  thinking she was being attacked by thugs and tried to drive away. In that effort, she supposedly grazed a couple of the agents as she fled. Daly was also calling 911 at the time, and wanted to drive to a police station.  She stopped when she saw the flashing police lights on one of the agents' cars, and realized they were law enforcement.

The agents charged Daly with two counts of assaulting a police officer and attempting to elude. She faced up to five years in prison.

She spend the night and a good part of the next day in jail, but common sense eventually prevailed, according to the Charlottesville Newsplex.

The   local prosecutor dropped the charges, saying Daly's account of what happened was consistent with the facts.

According to the prosecutor:

"The male agent who approached that side of the vehicle could see that she was misperceiving the events in terms of who the agents were and their intentions. This agent could also see that the passenger was calling 911. Before the vehicle sped off, the agent saw the front passenger jump into the rear seat and yell toward the driver words to the effect of 'go, go, go, get out of here'"

The Alcohol Beverage Control Agency had a far different take on the events.

"The agents were acting upon reasonable suspicion and this whole unfortunate incident could have been avoided had the occupants complied with law enforcement requests. We take all citizen complaints seriously and the matter is currently under review by the ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement."

Yeah, and this whole unfortunate incident could have been avoided if the alcohol control agents weren't pretending they were an assault team capturing a mass murderer.

If they thought Daly was buying booze, why didn't they walk up to her as she left the store, check out what she was buying, and make sure it was really a 12 pack of water, not a 12 pack of Old Milwaukee Light.

The Alcohol Beverage Control agents must be bored and frustrated to turn into a SWAT team just to crack down on underage drinking. I could understand the guns drawn, the leaping up onto the car if they thought she just robbed the store, but GAWD!

Daly's defesne attorney, and an analyst of said this:

John Whitehead of of the Rutherford Institute is shocked and says it's unfortunately part of a trend he's seen in the past several years, according to the Charlotte Newsplex:

"I mean these weren't criminals with guns it was total over reaction," Whitehead said. "It's all part of the same kind of paradigm we're seeing. A very aggressive police investigating minor incidents and drawing their guns."

If Whitehead is right and more law enforcement is reaching for their guns, what is the reason? Is it just more dangerous for cops nowadays and they have to be hypervigilant? Or do they have better equipment and want an excuse to use it? Something else?

 I hope there is a good reason behind it. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Vermont's Weather Is Horrible, But The Clouds Are Interesting

It's been a terribly stormy week in Vermont. Amid high humidity, thunderstorms have erupted and rain has poured down  every day.
Dramatic thundestorm clouds up the
road from my St. Albans, Vermont home
this week.  

There's been flash floods, high water, lightning, wind, hail, and not much sun.  Summertime in Vermont!

This Friday morning, we're all grateful that it's only raining kind of hard. You take what you can get. They'd forecasted an epic flood for us today but we only got minor bits of high water.  So I suppose we're lucky.

They're telling us this wet weather will last several more days. Each day, somebody, some town in Vermont will get a flash flood from a heavy thunderstorm, we're told. We don't know where. It's the luck of the draw.

Houses on some unlucky street in Vermont will have water pouring into their basements, while their neighbors a couple miles away will be taking items off the clothesline because it is starting to sprinkle. Just random.

At least some of the clouds have been interesting. Monday night, a thunderstorm rapidly approached my house in St. Albans. Vermont. Judging from the clouds, it looked like my luck would run out. Would there be a tornado? Hurricane force winds? A flood?

Nah. Just some dramatic clouds, a few grumbles of thunder, a cooling breeze and a brief downpour. I got lucky again. And I got some good cloud photos, as you can see in the post.
Another view of dramatic storm clouds near
my St. Albans, Vt. home this week.

Also, here at the bottom of this blog post thingy, is a video I took of those clouds coming over my house Monday night. I was really glad I was able to watch them.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

DOMA Demise Is Personal For Me

Being married to an awesome guy, yesterday's Supreme Court decision striking down the so called Defense of Marriage Act made the day very sweet.

Our accountant is going to be pissed, though. Our tax situation might get a lot less complicated, which means less work for him, and maybe less income.
The great Edith Windsor, plaintiff in
the Supreme Court ruling that overturned DOMA. 

Well, there's winners and losers everywhere, aren't there?

Speaking of winners and losers, it's been fun watching the reaction to news of the court decision.

Tweets are always fun:

Two of my favorite: "Free gay wedding idea: Dress all the servers like Paula Deen." (look up the whole Paula Deen controversy if you need an explanation)

Justice Antonio Scalia, a big guy, really hated the majority opinion. Humorist Mo Rocca Tweeted that it is apparent Scalia wont' be going to Bear Week this year.

Like most major civil rights cases that end up at the Supreme Court, a plaintiff is taken from relatively obscurity to become the face of the cause. Think Rosa Parks, for instance.

In the DOMA case, it was the smart, brave, personable Edith Windsor who was the centerpiece.  As journalist Glenn Greenwald Tweeted: "Edith Windsor joins the pantheon of great Supreme Court litigants who secured the rights of everyone."

The more strident opponents of gay marriage were hysterically funny in my mind. Talk about over the top fears and statements. Here's some:

Bryan Fischer: The DOMA ruling has now made the normalization of polygamy, pedophilia, incest and bestiality inevitable. Matter of time.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: "Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation. The Supreme Court has dealt a profound injustice to the American people....

This one from something called Freedom Outpost is particularly unhinged: 

 "The America that our Founding Fathers fought and bled for is now gone my friends.  It is high time to do something about it.  When you get to Heaven and stand before Almighty God, and you are asked to account for all your deeds, or lack of them, and The Lord asks you, “why did you stand by and allow my children in the womb to be murdered in the most horrific ways, WHY did you allow perverts that I have deemed an abomination to over run the country I gave you, WHY did you sit in your home at your computer bellyaching about these things but did nothing…”, WHAT WILL YOU SAY?"

Um, I said "I do."

As I said on Facebook yesterday, I never thought I would feel MORE married to my husband than I already did, but the death of DOMA really did make me feel even more married.

It's hard to explain exactly what that means. Obviously, I've always felt my marriage is every bit as legitimate as it is for heterosexual couples. But with the court decision, I hold my head a little higher, and I'm prouder yet of my marriage. It might be my crowning achievement.

I buy the argument that marriage, overall, is good for society, at least if done right. I want my marriage to Jeff to be an example of how to do marriage right.

I sure have the incentive: How could I possibility treat Jeff in any way other than with love and respect?  He deserves the best.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Complaining About Water: Why We Must Be Vigilant About Those Being Vigilant About Terrorism

I'm not one of those wacko conspiracy enthusiasts, who think every move the government makes is specifically designed to take all our rights and all our guns away, put any dissenters in concentration camps or turn America into North Korea without the charm.

Still, there's been some things in the news lately that demonstrate why we need to pay attention to those who would misuse anti-terrorism laws and regulations.  Apparently, a few people are too tempted to mess around with those.
One Tennessee idiot says complaining about
the quality of a water supply is an act of terrorism

Here's one:

There's a federal law that in part says that anyone who poisons a public water supply, or even just says they did so, is committing a terrorist offense.

That's reasonable enough. You don't want everyone going into a panic because they think some yahoo put arsenic in the water supply or something.

But here's how such a law can be taken to an extreme in a terrible un-American way.

In Maury County, Tennessee, residents have been complaining about the water quality in the drinking supply. I don't know if they're right that there is a problem, but that's besides the point.

What happened at a meeting was creepy, uttered by creepy Tennessee Department of Conservation Deputy Director Sherwin Smith.

According to the Tennessean, via The Consumerist, Smith said the following:

"We take water quality very seriously. Very, very seriously......but you need to make sure that when you make water quality complains you have a basis, because federally, if there's no water quality issues, that can be considered under Homeland Security to be an act of terrorism."

So Smith says merely expressing an opinion about water quality, and expressing their concerns about it to a government officials, is an act of terrorism. So much for the First Amendment, guaranteeing free speech.

If the reporting on what Smith said is accurate, he is using a reasonable enough terrorism law to quash legitimate debate, and scare people into not petitioning or confronting the government. If he said this, Smith is un-American, un-patriotic, a moron, abusive and wrong, morally and legally.

The Tennessean said people at the meeting were at least as annoyed with Smith as I am:

"The comment shocked and outraged attendees, who saw it as an attempt to silence complains, said Brad Wright, organizer for SOCM in Middle Tennessee, (referring to a citizens' group worried about the water. )

"I think it's just to quash us complicating life for them," he said. 

Smith's bosses said they are looking into his comments, saying he later clarified his comments. Let's hope so.

There was a detail in an article by Marissa Taylor and Jonathan Landlay for McClatchy about how the Obama administration is really intent on squelching leaks, particularly from the Defense Department. 

In it, there's a reported detail of how people within the DOD should look for others among them that might be dissatisfied or prone to leaking information to the press or public that they don't want leaked.

Among the signs of a suspicious person is if they read or

Salon is a news commentary site that is often skeptical of the Powers That Be. The Onion is a humorous satire site that often skewers what the government is doing.

So, you're suspect depending on what you read?  You'd be driven out of the Defense Department if you read the wrong stuff? As the McClatchy article points out, this would tend to lead to the type of groupthink where people miss stuff. You do need a variety of thinkers.

The Tennessee water controvery and the weirdness at the defense department are probably odd aberations that we can all hope will be dealt with.

But this type of thinking, of ostracizing people for what they think, read, see and do, is something that we need to be hypervigilant about. Yes, investigate people thought to be involved in wrongdoing. But must we all conform to what some "expert" says makes us innocent?

The scary thing about this is, could someone extend this hypervigilance on what people read and do and say to the greater world?

What if corporations take the cue from the government and also start analyzing us on what we criticize, what we read, what we say to whom?

In many ways, corporations have more power than the government.   Could there be spying, legal or not, where companies will end up making (often false) conclusions about us, so we're not hired, not given loans, not allowed into places,  not allowed to buy certain things, all because we were laughing at some silly article in The Onion?

There's got to be a better way to control terrorism and crime than to make criminals of all of us who dare to criticize, or dare to read something that someone in power doesn't like.


Monday, June 24, 2013

More Flower Bounty From My Garden

The summer flower season continues along in my gardens in St. Albans, Vermont as these photos I took show:

Friday, June 21, 2013

Today's Darwin Nominee: Let's Run On Top Of A Hot Lava Flow!

There's a video going around of a guy near a volcano running up and on top of a steep, and very hot fresh lava flow. He somehow made it through unscathed.

The surprising thing is that while this was an incredibly dumb thing to do, it wasn't the dumbest possible. With a little bit of luck, you won't fall through and burn yourself to a crisp of you run along hot lava, like the guy in the video did, says Erik Klemetti at the Weird Science blog

Still, notes Klemetti, if there's a thin spot on the crust on top of the lava flow, in you go, burning your leg off, practically. And if you trip and fall and hand falls through into the lava, that's got to hurt.

Anyway, here's the video. Don't try this at home. Or anywhere near your favorite neighborhood volcano.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Employer Would Pay Workers Via Debit Card With Lots of Fees To Eat Up Workers' Earnings

A woman in Pennsylvania, Natalie Gunshannon, was just about to start working at a local McDonald's.  She was going to earn just $7.44 an hour, not much more than the $7.25 minimum wage in her area.

In other words, she'd need every penny she took home from her job.
No thanks, says a woman whose employer
wanted to pay her with a fee-laden debit card

Not so fast, said her employer. The boss said she'd only be paid via a Chase Bank debit card.  That maybe would be a good deal for Chase, and probably for the employer,  but not for Natalie, according to

There's tons of fees with that debit card. $1.50 for each ATM withdrawal. $5.00 for each over the counter cash withdrawal. It'll cost $1.00 for every balance inquiry, and 75 cents for every online bill payment. And if she lost the card or it got stolen, that would set Natalie back $15.00.

You can see why she objected. By the time she pays all the fees, there's nothing left for frivolous luxuries like food, rent and utilities.

She went to a lawyer, naturally, trying to get this state of affairs overturned.

I hope she's successful. I'd hate to see a trend take root in which we're paid through expensive debit cards that make us pay all these expensive fees just to access what is and should be our money.

I can see all kinds of problems for employees who get paid through debit cards. If the card isn't at the bank or credit union they normally do business with, they'd have to pay fees to transfer to their accounts, or move their banking business to an outfit they might not want to go to.

And you'd probably have to keep a minimum balance in the account through which the debit card is issued. That unnecessarily ties up money in a bank account that is not used. And you'd have to constantly monitor it so you don't pay huge overdrafts.

Of course, if an employee wants to be paid via a debit card and the employee offers it, why not? Some people are willing to pay a few fees for the convenience of holding a debit card. More power to them.

The trick here is to make the debit card an option, but NOT a requirement.

Let's stop nickel and diming low wage employees so the banks can make more money, OK?

I'm all for banks making money, as long as the money they take in is given to them voluntarily.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"Dumb" Miss Utah Is A Lot Smarter Than We Thought

Practically everybody and their brother, and their dog and cat, derided Miss Utah Marissa Powell after she really stumbled and bumbled and acted like a total moron when she was asked a question about equal pay for equal work for women during Sunday's Miss USA pageant.
Miss Utah, Marissa Powell
isn't nearly as dumb as many
of us first thought

The initial consensus was she was dumb as a brick, as she made a very untasty word salad out of what should have been a straightforward answer.

She became an instant viral sensation within hours of her disaster, and she'd go down in history as that dumb woman who couldn't think and chew gum at the same time.

Never mind that we couldn't really tell if she was stupid just from that one botched moment during the pageant.. Maybe she had a brain fart. Or she's just crummy at public speaking. Or she was thinking faster than she could speak, and the result was a train wreck of an answer.

Powell said afterward she was nervous, caught up in the moment and thus could not formulate a coherent answer to the question.

Well, who's laughing now?

I'd hire Powell as a PR consultant in a heartbeat, as over the past couple of days she's done a textbook performance of how to manage a public relations disaster.

She did the obvious, which many PR experts somehow don't understand is the best policy. Powell deployed what seems to be her substantial sense of humor, didn't blame anybody for the snafu, and politely answered any questions celebrity journalists tossed her way.

On the Today Show, host Matt Lauer gave Powell a chance for a do-over. Granted, Powell knew she'd be asked the question again and had plenty of time to find an articulate answer when Lauer asked about the idea that men still make more money than women.

Her answer to Lauer came off as perfectly reasonable, coherent and concise:

"This is not OK...It needs to ber equal pay for equal work It's hard enough already to earn a living, and it shouldn't be harder just because you're a woman."

The best thing Powell did to redeem herself was to appear on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show, where she sang her really, really bad answer to the tune of "My Country Tis of Thee"

Her body language during, and especially after the performance tells me Powell is just fine, and will continue to be fine. She's probably no rocket scientist, but she's sure as hell not dumb enough to be a menace to society.

Watch the YouTube video and see for yourself. And have a laugh along with Powell:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Congressman Says Abortions Should Be Banned Because Male Fetuses Masturbate

For years, there have been some compelling arguments on all sides of the nation's ongoing abortion debate, and some arguments that are, well, not so compelling.

Or at least compelling in an unusual way.

U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas has come up with the most novel argument against abortions after, say 15 weeks gestation. Some fetuses are already working off their sexual frustrations, and we shouldn't interrupt them, he essentially says.
Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas has some
novel ideas about the life of a fetus in the womb.  

"They stroke their face. If there is a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to believe they could feel pain?"

OK, I get part of his argument. He thinks fetuses feel sensations, and abortion is a painful way for a fetus to go, in his opinion. (Experts disagree on this)

But, um, fetuses masturbate? Where do they get the idea? While in the womb, do they overhear their parents watching porn videos?  What exactly is the fetus thinking about while "freeing willy"?  It's not as if they have a whole lot of sexual experience to remember to add to their enjoyment.

And if what Burgess said were true, it opens up a whole other set of problems.

First of all, has Burgess seen sonogram videos of fetuses beating off?  Viewing children in sexual situations is basically violating child pornography laws. So is our wanking fetus an example of  child porn? Should adults face criminal charges if they see such a thing willingly? After all, I think we can all agree aggressive enforcement of anti-child pornography laws is a very, very good idea.

Some religious conservatives really, really frown on masturbation. Sex, any sex, should only be for procreation, say a  few fundamentalists. So, is our wanking fetus violating moral dictates? If so, how shall we punish him?

In  any event, I doubt the debate about whether or how to regulate abortions will go on forever. But if we must continue discussing the issue, can we just be a little less ridiculous about it?

Monday, June 17, 2013

TSA Fashion Police: Please Dress Beautifully While We Molest You

News surfaced this week of a 15 year old girl who really, really displeased a TSA agent at a Los Angeles airport recently.

It shouldn't matter how she was dressed, but for the record, she had on  dark leggings, a tank top and an oversized checked shirt over the tank top. A pretty run of the mill outfit for a teenage girl.

The TSA agent barked that she should "cover herself" like the teen was some sort of slut or something. 

Plenty of other bloggers have already correctly weighed in on how this is an example of public shaming of a young woman for no good reason, that the TSA agent had no business commenting on what the girl or anybody else was wearing, and why does it matter what the girl was wearing anyway?
Is the TSA now demanding we be
fashionable if we dare set foot in
an airport terminal?

And why was the TSA agent saying such creepy things to the teen when clearly he had a problem and the girl didn't?

So I won 't re-answer those more serious questions. I'll leave that to people who are smarter than me.

My frivolous question is: The TSA are the fashion police, too?

You mean I have to be fashionable and oh-so-well put together when going through the airport.

This is a challenge, since the clothes I wear to the airport must be functional, so I can put shoes and belts on and off quickly, and so I don't strangle myself with constricting clothes as I try to squeeze myself into airplane seats that are too small for a toddler, much less a 200 pound, six foot tall guy.

What exactly is correct fashion, in the TSA's view of fashion police? Maybe we can get some TSA agents on Project Runway, to design the best clothes for dashing through an airport, and more importantly, clothes that are optimally pleasing to the TSA agents.

We wouldn't want to disappoint them and ruin their workday by wearing clothes that aren't the latest fashion, right?

Will Fashion Week in New York be given over to TSA agents? Anyone associated with airports and airlines probably like those teeny tiny skinny models anyway, since they're easier to frisk and fit better in those miniscule airplane seats that I've already referenced.

And will I have to go on a diet? Will the Fashion Police TSA demand we all look like those undernourished fashion models. Don't you have to ingest massive amounts of cocaine to get that skinny? And isn't cocaine frowned upon in airports? So how to I resolve this problem?

I hope the TSA agents all have adequate training, as their work load is increasing. After all, they have to make sure nobody brings a loaded gun, a bomb, or hair gel on a plane. Plus they have to make sure everyone is dressed perfectly.

I wonder what the federal  penalty is for dressing sloppily for that flight to Dubuque?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

How To Make Karma Smile On A Dunkin Donuts Clerk

Abid Adar, 18, was a hero of the Internet last week and it's easy to see why.

He was the victim of eight minutes of abuse by one Taylor Chapman, 27.  It all started when Chapman said that during a stop at the Dunkin Donuts the night before, they didn't give her a receipt.
This guy endured an
8 minute racist rant from
an idiot who thought it was
the end of the world
because Dunkin Donuts
didn't give her a receipt.

Apparently, if you don't get a receipt at Dunkin Donuts,  you get free food as compensation.

Well Chapman was outraged! She'll show Dunkin Donuts! So she lit into Adar with a racist, over the top screed about not getting her receipt, and recorded it on her smart phone, apparently thinking her insanity would galvanize the public against Dunkin Donuts' alleged failure to provide a receipt, and strike a blow for consumers' rights everywhere.

Or something like that.  At least a lot of people watched her video, even if everybody ended up hating her.

Chapman's screed lasted a good eight minutes, which probably felt like eight years to our buddy Abid

Through it all, we see Abid staying completely calm, apologizing for Dunkin Donuts supposedly outrageous behavior and telling Chapman politely that she can whatever she ordered the night before totally free of charge. And he kept smiling graciously.

You'd think the guy was Ghandi or something.

For those who can't take the entire eight minutes of Taylor's escapades, here's a helpful review of the top moments of her video, which gives you the gist of where she was coming from. (She seems to say Mars. I say Pluto)

Chapman became so vilified that she took down her Facebook post. Before signing off of the public pages of Facebook, Chapman had this parting shot:

"Fuck off losers. I was exposing racism and raising awarness. (sic)  And I know you were thinking exactly what I said. So fuck off weaklings."

Yeah, Abid and his coworkers were being racists because they were forced to listen to a racist screed. Makes perfect sense.  Me and everyone else were thinking what a moron you are, Taylor. Is that what you were thinking about yourself?

Meanwhile, Dunkin Donuts said it will help contribute to Adar's educational pursuits, because he acted so professionally in the face of Taylor's wrath.

 He wants to be a doctor, so he could use the cash. Medical school is expensive, and the eight bucks an hour he is earning at Dunkin Donuts probably won't entirely pay for his education.   A zillion people have commented to him and through social media about what a good guy he is. And he is a saint. I would have slugged Taylor.
This not very bright woman went off on
a huge rant at a Dunkin Donuts, making
her one of the world's most hated people. 

He wants to be a doctor He should probably become a psychiatrist. He could have a full time job just working on his tormentor Chapman's issues.

Meanwhile, for her efforts, Chapman got fired from a job at a marketing firm, which makes sense since marketing companies like to generate positive PR, not the kind of stuff she did at Dunkin Donuts.

For good measure, her former company posted a strange video to YouTube, with unflattering pictures of Chapman, recordings of people calling in to the company to demand she be fired, and a statement from I guess the head of the marketing firm saying, "Taylor Chapman, you are fired."

The marketing guy also says "Hell hath no fury like the Internet."

I'll say. The Internet is bursting at the seams with anger at Taylor and what is to say the least her idiocy.

All this is a great example of how public shaming has really taken off on the Internet. It seems to be how we communicate these days.  Taylor intended to publicly shame Dunkin Donuts and its employees, earning fame and fortune on line in the process, as others have done.

But she was playing with fire and her own stupidity. The tables were turned on Taylor and she's the target of public shaming.

Now, Taylor knows what it feels like to get an over the top onslaught from all us wonderful folks on the Internet. The question is: Is Taylor smart enough to learn her lesson?

At least Abid, the Dunkin Donuts employee who chose the best option by pretty much keeping his mouth shut, is winning. Seems like he could offer many of us a lesson in civility and how not to overshare.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Hero Dogs, Fun Dogs, Going To The Dogs

Jeff the Husband and Jackson the Cocker Spaniel were gone for a week on a business trip but got back home.

Here, I'll celebrate Jackson's return with a couple of dog stories.
O'Neil the hero guide dog in training

First, we'll get a news break: In California, a guide dog in training named O'Neil is being hailed as a hero because he alerted his trainers to an out of control car racing toward them in time for everyone to get out of the way.

The car was coming from behind them. O'Neil realized something was wrong before his trainers did, so he turned around and jerked on his leash.

That alerted the trainers, who ran around a corner in time for the car, which was racing down the sidewalk  to miss them.

The car was driven by a 93 year old woman who apparently didn't realize her foot was on the gas.

Watch the dramatic surveillance video, below:

Next we go to dogs who, while not necessarily being heroes, but they'll make us smile. It's just a clip to make your day. Dogs enjoying car trips with the usual head out the window, wind in their faces. Makes me want to join them. Watch:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Midwest Was Relaxing, Trip Back to Vermont Was Not

As readers of this blog know, I recently spent a little over a week in South Dakota. I got back home to Vermont last week,  no thanks to United Airlines.

It's amazing how one can unwind on a trip like I took, only to succumb to extreme tension again thanks to an errant air industry.
I got a good look at Sioux Falls,
South Dakota thanks to flight snafus a couple weeks back  

Here's my (joke) conspiracy theory: People often take planes to get to their vacation destinations.  They want to ease the tension in their lives.  And they do. But the airlines deliberately subject people to stress due to "malfunctioning" planes, "tired" crews, computer "glitches" and "weather" so that the people victimized by this will want to take another vacation.

Which means they will book even more airline tickets. That means more income for the airlines.

Jeff and me were due to fly out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota a couple Mondays ago.   But the flight was cancelled. Mechanical trouble, they said. That was annoying, but then who wants to board a malfunctioning plane?

I had to get back to work in Vermont, so this screwed things up. Tension rose. It was bolstered exponentially by the group of youths waiting ahead of us to rebook their flights. They  including some too-macho guys who thought they were cool because they appeared to be enrolling in the National Guard or something studly like that.

If any one of those guys said "No homo" one more time I was going to hit them, even if the nice TSA agents standing nearby would have probably decided I was a terrorist right then and there and sent me to Guantanamo.

Flights from Guantanamo are even less reliable than those from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Anyway, we got to the front of the line only to get a ticket agent in the midsts of a major nervous breakdown. I mean really, she was shaking and mumbling uncontrollably and gesturing at the people waiting in line as if it they were zombies there to feast on her.

Luckily, we were immediately directed to another ticket agent who was so calm and pleasant you'd think she was gazing at the the soft, beautiful puffy clouds we would have seen had our plane actually left Sioux Falls as scheduled.

She set us up on a flight the next day, with a cheery smile and an apology for the inconvenience. We thought we were set. We weren't. More on that in a minute.

With nothing else to do, we decided to see the sights and sounds of Sioux Falls. At least the city was relaxing enough to reduce my tension. The walkways along the Sioux River through downtown, and the river itself, were almost a carbon copy of the city of Winooski and its namesake river back home in Vermont. So I was back on familiar turf, sort of.

Then we found a bar called Monk's House of Ale Repute which had an enormous and very tasty selection of microbrews. A pretty funky, nice place. And the name kind of echoed Winooski, Vermont, which has a cool bar called the Monkey House.

I thought our trouble as passing. It almost seemed like being home.


The smiling ticket agent I referenced before had said we shouldn't worry, because the plane we would use was coming in that night and would be in town for our use the next day. That much was true, it turned out. The only problem was the crew that flew the plane was NOT in town.

When we learned this just before departing our hotel in an ominous, driving rain, I pretty much lost it.

This was not good, because one of the few conflicts Jeff and I have is how we handle crises. I'm verbal, he's the strong, silent type. He fumes silently. I erupt.

Which makes him fume more intensely in silence. And makes me erupt more. I was afraid Sioux Falls would witness the devastating effects of Mt. St. Helens. I, of course was the volcano.

We got our first hint at salvation when United handed us off to Delta Airlines. They said they could get us to Burlington, but it would involve brief visits to Minneapolis and LaGuardia in New York. Great. Two connections. Two opportunities to have flights screwed up even more.

Well, I said. We're due back in Yankton at Christmas. Maybe it will just be easier to rent an apartment in Sioux Falls until then.

We decided to give Delta a whirl. And lo and behold, we made it to Minneapolis on time. Then we landed at LaGuardia on time. Then we packed into a tiny commuter plane, sat on the LaGuardia tarmac for a disturbingly long time, but, miracle of miracles, eventually took off toward Vermont.

Soon, Lake Champlain came into view.  We were home.

An hour later, it was amazing how fast the tension wore off.

Jeff sat down and relaxed. Jackson and I wrestled in the tall grass of our lawn that desperately needed mowing.  All was well again.

I just won't even think about the upcoming adventures of flying back to Sioux Falls. In December. In the winter.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Employee Steals Getaway Car Belonging To Guys Robbing His Restaurant

Two idiots in Stockton, California decided to perform an armed robbery at a Burger King restaurant.

The plan would have worked perfectly, except a store employee stole the robbers' getaway car, according to CBS Sacramento.
These guys had their getaway car stolen by
an employee of the fast food joint they were trying to
rob, say police.  

Imagine the look on robbers' Gabriel Gonzalez and Jeremy Lovitt when they got their loot and found their car missing.

The employee didn't keep the getaway car. He just hid it behind a building down the street.

Well, they say you should never leave your keys in the car. The vehicle might get stolen. Even if the vehicle belongs to someone who steals things for a living.

I don't know if this is legal, but if had been the employee who stole the robbers' car, I would have had more fun with it. Maybe take it for a joy ride. Or find some creative ways to vandalize it. Maybe root around the Burger King dumpster, find a bunch of rotting hamburger and fill the car with it. Then nicely return the car to the robbers and apologize for "borrowing:" it.

I wonder if the police would have let the Burger King employee keep the robbers' car. After all, they presumably weren't going to use the car again, having been bundled off to jail

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I Demand Funnier And/Or Better Television Commercials! Here's Three Good Ones

Why can't television commercials be more entertaining?

As we all know, most are awful, boring and make us flee to the bathroom. If advertisers want our eyeballs, and our business, you've got to lure us in.  Humor works great.

Here's an ad from Conforma,  a French furniture company. It's short and to the point, and it has a great punch line.

I might have posted this next one before, but I can't resist. It's for Nolan's Cheese. The storyline, the editing, the lighting are all awesome in this ad, but what makes the advertisement perfect is the song choices they've made as the commercial proceeds.

The only thing I don't like is, it's a fake ad. There's no Nolan's Cheese. It's a guy named John Nolan who is just trying to show how impressive he is with animatronics and film. It's still worth another look, though.

The next ad his isn't funny, but it's an awesome one from Pfizer, the drug company. We see a teenage boy in this gloomily lit ad with an ominous soundtrack. He's out late at night. With a can of spray paint. He's surreptitiously spraying buildings in a bleak urban area. He comes back home to his apartment. Late.  His weary, burdened looking mother looks at her watch and scowls in what seems to be utter disapproval.

I also love how the actors in the commercial ratchet up the tension with quiet, subtle and telling facial expressions. Watch how the ad brilliantly unfolds.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Two Of The World's Worst Drivers

I've often said the world's worst drivers are (more or less) on roads here in Vermont, where I live.

But two videos, one from Russia, one from China, show that nobody anywhere seems capable of driving anymore.

Both videos demonstrate that once you make a mistake, continuing on probably compounds the error.

First, the bad Russian driver

Then we have a scooter driver who, after hitting a large object, goes for the void. I'm not sure which one is worse.  Supposedly he wasn't seriously hurt, but maybe it's time he takes public transportation to wherever he needs to go.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Aerial View of Storm That Caused Ugly, Deadly Tornado is Beautiful

Tom Magnuson, who works at the National Weather Service office in Pueblo, Colorado, said he took this photo from an airplane of the thunderstorms that would unleash the huge tornado in El Reno, Oklahoma last week.

Click on the image to make it bigger and easier to see the details.

He said the tornado was just getting ready to form, he thinks, when he took this picture. The tornado turned out to be one of the strongest on record, and also the widest on record, reaching 2.6 miles across at one point

The storm was of course incredibly violent, but from the air it looks peaceful.  At least at first glance.

Magnuson says the top of the anvil,  that big cloud that points to the right on the top of the thunderstorm,  is bumpy on top, because the updrafts were so extreme ---100 mph --- that it made the top of the storm look bubbly as the wind roared upward. Usually the tops of thunderstorms are pretty smooth.

And a close look at the clouds beneath that anvil silently testify to the roiling winds in the storm that would soon release the deadly tornado.

Still, from the air, with the soothing blue and white hues, and the soft features of the clouds, you'd think you're looking at somebody's dream. Instead, you're looking at Oklahoma's nightmare.

Friday, June 7, 2013

In Texas, Apparently You Can Legally Shoot People You Think Steal From You

Wow. Just Wow.

That seems to be the consensus all over the Internet, except among certain circles in Texas, apparently, over a jury verdict that acquited a guy named Ezekiel Gilbert of a murder charge.
A Texas jury said under the state's laws, it was OK
for this guy to shoot an escort because she
wouldn't have sex with him.  

Our buddy Ezzie found an escort on Craigslist --Oh Boy! -- who was available for the low, low price of $150.

With any bargain, you get what you pay for and Ezzie quickly learned that the $150 he paid the escort didn't include sex.

So Ezzie did what any red blooded American would do when they feel like they were cheated out of their hard earned cash.

Ezzie shot the escort, Lenora Ivy Frago, 23, in the neck, leaving her paralyzed. She died seven months later.

According to San Antonio Express News, Ezzie says he's really, really sorry, because he just meant to injure Lenora, not kill her. He is a law abiding man, he seems to say because his defense was that under Texas law, it is OK "to use deadly force to recover property during a nighttime theft."

I guess Ezzie was smart enough to hire the escort at night. If he wanted some afternoon delight, he might have run afoul of the law.

This verdict seems to make it open season on people who are perceived to be stealing stuff. At least after dark in Texas.

The prosecutors in the case said the law was intended for law abiding citizens, and it doesn't cover trying to make somebody do something illegal, like prostitution. The implication here is even prosecutors might think it's OK to shoot somebody for stealing something at night, even if it isn't worth much.

Follow this law, and this jury verdict to its logical conclusion, I guess it's OK to shoot someone in Texas after he steals a penny from your coat pocket, as long as the theft occured after the sun went down.

What about other forms of theft?  Can you shoot a banker if she altered your mortgage to make you pay a bit more?  Can you shoot members of a legislature if they raise taxes, and you don't think the tax increase is fair?

What if you think somebody stole from you, and you shoot him, but it turned out you just misplaced what you thought was stolen? Are you still OK legally?

For his part Ezzie had this to say, according to the San Antonio Express News

"I sincerely regret hte loss of life of Ms. Frago...... I've been in a mental prison the past four years of my life. I have nightmares. If I see guns on TV where people are getting killed, I change the channel."

Poor baby. Four years of Ezzie's life stolen because he "innocently" shot someone to death. Maybe he could shoot someone else to make himself feel better. It might even be legal in Texas

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Dumbest People Nominee: Trying To Pull Down Huge Tree With Old Buick

Behold the following video. It shows a bunch of morons trying to pull down a huge tree using a 1980s vintage Buick LeSabre.

Yup, that's right. We'll just attach a chain between the Buick's back bumper and this tall, mature tree and pull it down, no problem.  Watch the video to see the world's dumbest people in action. Then, as always, below the video on this page, I'll have a few questions and comments that this whole thing raises.

First of all, what if they actually succeeded at pulling down the tree? Wouldn't it have landed on the Buick? Wouldn't the guy inside get smushed? I smell a Darwin Award here.

Had the tree fallen, what did they propose to do with it then?  It would have fallen on the street or nearby houses. They don't have chainsaws, apparently. Were they just going to leave the tree there?

What about the moron inside the Buick. Doesn't it hurt to get tossed around like that? Then again, no brain no pain.

A nice touch in the video was the moment when the little boy on the bicycle started singing "It's raining car parts" to the tune of the song "It's Raining Men" by the Weathergirls.

You could sort of hear the guys trying to pull down the tree offer suggestions and barking orders as the repeated attempts fail. Great. dumb, probably drunk guys trying to figure this out. It's a wonder they've lived this long.

To be fair, the way the tree shakes, they might have only been trying to pull down a large branch from the tree, not the whole tree. This doesn't make them any less dumb.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

If Company Slogans Had To Be Honest.......

I found a great thread on Reddit that asked people to come up with the catch phrases for companies if they all had to be scrupulously honest.

There's a lot of them on the Reddit feed, so if you have time, go through it. A lot of them are pretty entertaining.

Here are some of my favorites:
Is this one of many companies that needs
a new sales logo

Carnival Cruise Lines: "Oh Come on. What are the chances something will happen this time."

Motel 6: We'll leave the light on for you because this is a dangerous neighborhood."

Facebook: We know more about you than you do.

Walmart: Home of 53 registers with only three open.

United Airlines: You wish you would have walked. (Editors note; I will have MUCH MORE on how this tagline is true in an upcoming post.)

Internet Explorer: Your Number One browser for downloading other browsers

Grey Goose Vodka: Tastes the same as Absolut but shows people how rich you are.

Whole Foods: You can't be liberal on cheap food.

Depends: When nature calls, take a message.

Monday, June 3, 2013

This Photo of Police Dog's Last Moments Will Touch Your Heart

The photo in this post touched my heart because it hit so close to home. But it's a beautiful picture.
The Plymouth, Mass. Police Department
pays its respects to Kaiser as he is led
into a building for his final journey.  

Kaiser the police dog served the fine citizenry of Plymouth, Mass. for two year before kidney disease took over.

Kaiser's illness became so bad that the department had to say goodbye and let him go.

As you can see, the men and women of the Plymouth, Mass. Police Department salute Kaiser as he is led into a building for his final journey.

The whole thing stabbed my heart (but in a beautiful way) because Jeff and me recently lost our beloved Bailey the Wonder Dog to kidney failure.

Just as touching as the picture was the statement Kaiser's handler, Plymouth Patrol Officer Jamie Lebretton released.

"Kaiser taught me more about myself and my profession than I could have ever taught him. I feel privileged to have had a front row seat to witness his bravery and heroic actions while serving the people of Plymouth and my brothers and sisters in blue. Although his career was short lived, he made a huge impact that will never be forgotten. Kaiser loved being a police dog and I will miss him dearly."

Given the respect the Plymouth Police Department showed Kaiser, I think the community is being very well served.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Thought This Would Happen: Tornado Chasers Run Over by Tornadoes

I heard some sad news today that three professional storm chasers were among the nine people killed by the tornadoes that swept through Oklahoma Friday.
A big Oklahoma tornado about to send a vehicle
containing a Weather Channel chase team flying  

Three other storm chase vehicles got caught in tornadoes, including one with the Weather Channel's Mike Bettes, who suffered relatively minor injuries.

I knew this would happen eventually. I think everyone who knows anything about storm chasing realized this would happen.

There's been an arms race of sorts, with people getting closer and closer to tornadoes,  or even inside them, taking more and more dramatic videos that the public eats up, thereby making plenty of money from their videos.

As a weather geek, I admit I'm one of those who loves those storm videos.  But the whole concept of storm chasing has gotten out of control in recent years. Dozens of chasers regularly converge on large tornadoes, causing traffic jams that would make it hard to escape if the tornado changed directions.

And tornado chasers have been getting involved with increasingly volatile weather situations. Friday's Oklahoma tornadoes were especially sudden and erratic, popping up abruptly and changing directions without rhyme or reason.

Interestingly and tragically, the chasers who died, Tim Samaras, 55, his son Paul Samaras, 24, and Carl Young, 45, were reportedly some of the more safe chasers, a trio who didn't take as many chances as others.

Details on what happened are sketchy. The tornadoes were acting so far out of the ordinary that they might have been caught off guard. Or, they had an escape route but the roads were so clogged with cars that they were trapped.
Cars tossed around in Friday's Oklahoma tornadoes.
Cars are the worst place to be in tornadoes.
Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman.  

Adding greatly to the traffic woes was some very bad advice some Oklahoma City media outlets gave to the public:  Try to outrun the tornado in your car.  That's the worst thing you could do, as vehicles are easily flung by tornadic winds, and cars stuck in traffic jams surely are not going to outrun a tornado.

Even a building with no basement, which is common in Oklahoma, are much safer than cars.

We were also subjected this week to the aforementioned Mike Bettes of the Weather Channel being tossed about by a tornado, a another storm chaser being smashed up by a farm disintegrating in a tornado and a local television station's storm chasers getting caught in 100 mph winds on the edge of another twister.

The YouTube video of the chasers getting hit by the farm debris had racked up 500,000 hits within two days of it being posted, which demonstrates the popularity of these dramatic videos.

There have been other close misses among storm chasers in recent days. One chase team got themselves caught inside a very strong Kansas tornado last week, but survived to give triumphant television interviews on the morning news and talk shows.

Television networks eat up these dramatic tornado videos, too. It's great for the ratings.

I don't know if this will change the risks tornado chasers take. It's big business, and money talks. You can take vacation trips in which the general public can chase tornadoes for a week.

I chase the admittedly much milder storms where I live in Vermont myself.  I don't think I take too many unnecessary risks. I won't drive over flooded roads. In the rare cases when we have potentially tornadic supercells, I try to avoid getting myself in the middle of these storms.

But, like so many others, I'm fascinated by big storms, both the garden variety ones in Vermont or the giant ones in Oklahoma.

We have to remember to be careful, but human nature makes it such that some of us will get too close. To our great peril.

Gorgeous Color Film of 1939 Manhattan Surfaces

A video appeared on YouTube about a week ago that shows a rare, gorgeous color view of Manhattan, taken in the summer of 1939.

According to the notes beneath the YouTube page the video is on, the film was done on 16 mm Kodachrome by Jean Vivier, a French tourist.

Maybe part of it is the score they've added to the film, but the images give such a romantic vision of New York.  It makes me wish I was there.

People sure dressed better in those days than they do now, don't they? I love the womens' hats in particular. And why can't we men find such gorgeous fedoras anymore?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Gorgeous Skies And Fun Quirks in Yankton, South Dakota

I'm continuing my tour of southern South Dakota with my hosts the Moderegers - my husband Jeff's side of the family.
The massive Gavin Point Dam on the Missouri River
near Yankton, S.D. with an even bigger sky above this week.  

My husband Jeff took me out here this week to visit the family, many of whom live in the pleasant southeastern South Dakota city of Yankton, in the Missouri River valley.

I continue to be fascinated by the big sky here. They say Montana is Big Sky country, but South Dakota has to be in the same league as Montana.

As proof, Jeff took me to the Gavin Point Dam, which is on the Missouri River near Yankton. And later,  Drew, the son of Jeff's cousin Shann, took us for a spin on his boat on Lewis and Clark Lake, which is behind the Gavin Point Dam.

The light was exquisite. On the boat ride, small showers and thunderstorms erupted in the distance, and a strong sun peeked in and out of the billowing white and black clouds. Orange sandstone cliffs ring the lake, adding to the color.

I could have stayed out there all night, though I'm sure Drew wouldn't have appreciated being out on that water as it got cold overnight.

I continue to find a number of quirks in the area that just adds to the fun.
A beautiful sky on Wednesday on Lewis and Clark Lake
behind the Gavins Point Dam on the Missouri River
near Yankton, South Dakota.  

At and near the Gavin Point Dam, I noticed a lot of people, mostly high school age boys, armed with bows and arrows.  Did we stumble upon a Boy Scout camp?

Nope. They shoot fish with arrows here. They even do it from overlooks near the dam. They shoot the fish, and a line attached to the bow and arrow allows the fishermen to haul the fish up the cliff into their hands.

The parks around the dam even have a number of helpful kiosks where people can clean and cook their fish.  

Everybody in Yankton goes to Charlie's Pizza, so we did too after we finished the boat ride.  It looks like it hasn't been redecorated since the 1950s or 60s, which makes it a cool place.

For some reason the sign out front has a badly rendered painting of the famous picture of Marilyn Monroe with an air vent lifting up her white dress.

In the Charlie's Pizza men's room, there are two photographs of Marilyn Monroe and a movie poster from the 1950s  camp classic "Attack Of The 50 Foot Tall Woman."

There is no explanation as to why that is.

Back at home in Vermont, almost all the flower gardens have mulch in the beds, surrounding the plants.

In South Dakota, nobody uses mulch. Instead, all the flower beds, and I mean virtually all of them, have smooth round river rocks, averaging about the size of hens eggs in the gardens. The rocks supposedly hold down the moisture and block weeds like mulch is intended to do.
A garden in back of the Modereger home in
Yankton,  South Dakota, after I planted a few
perennials. They use river rocks for mulch in South
Dakota, not mulch, like in New England.  

I planted a few perennials and annuals in the Moderegers' garden, just to feel useful. I wonder how the rocks will affect the plants. Will the rocks collect heat and cook the plants on hot, sunny days?

It seems to work for everybody, though, and peoples gardens look healthy enough.  And the soil beneath the rocks seemed rich and moist enough when I did some planting.

The rocks must be mostly a South Dakota aesthetic.  Out here, it's dry and windy and sunny, which evokes the bleached, vaguely barren look the rocks give. It works here. New England is damp, cool and woodsy, so mulch seems to fit the surroundings more.

We'll give it a go.

Two days from now, I'll head back to Vermont. I'll miss Yankton. Part of it is because I spent the week being a slug. I didn't do anything useful or productive and slept in mornings until what for me is the crack of noon. (I'd get up at around 7 or 8)  In Vermont, I usually get up at 4 a.m.

But a large part of why I will miss Yankton once I leave is it is so comfortable here. It's not a flashy place. Yankton is well kept, productive and energetic enough, but definitely not frenetic.  It doesn't  feel like everybody is in intense competition with each other in Yankton, like it does in the dreaded "Back East."

People work hard here, that's for sure. But they work hard because they want to feel good about themselves. They want to provide for others. They want to contribute. They want to make sure everything is in order and working.  But they're not trying to impress others as much as you sometimes see on the East Coast.

All this is a generalization, of course, based on my first impressions and clouded by my lack of expertise.

But first impressions matter, and I'm sure getting a good one in Yankton.