Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Incredibly, Helen Mirren Is Even Better With Helium

The always well put together Helen Mirren
on a New York City subway this past winter.  
Helen Mirren is easily one of my favorite celebrities.

What's not to like? She's elegant, an amazing actor, fun, smart, an absolutely joy from what I can see.

Of course, she's quite dignified and proper, but judging from her recent appearance on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, she's not afraid to poke fun at this dignity.

Fallon thought it would be a swell idea to conduct part of their interview while both he and Mirren were inhaling helium.

Mirren, in that helium voice, re-enacted her 2006 Oscars acceptance speech, and mentioned such classic British dishes as turd in the hole and spotted dick. (There's really such dishes, apparently.  Suddenly, I'm not hungry.

Anyway, this clip from The Tonight Show will make your day:

Woman Fired From Crappy Low Paying Job By Crappy Boss For Saying The Pay Was Low

A minimum wage employee at this Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Days Inn says she was fired after telling a reporter
her minimum wage salary doesn't cover her expenses.  
My latest nominee for the worst boss in America is Herry Patel, who manages a Days Inn in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

This all started when Washington Post reporter Chico Harlan stopped at the Days Inn to talk to people about an upcoming 25 cent increase in the Arkansas minimum wage.  He was working on an article about the subject. 

Harlan interviewed Patel, who then suggested the reporter speak with Shanna Tippen, a minimum wage employee, about the paltry pay increase coming her way.

Tippen told Harlan that the increase would help a bit, but wouldn't lift her above the poverty line. Harlan dutifully reported all these facts.

In a column in Monday's Washington Post, Harlan reports he's learned that Patel fired Tippen for talking to him. Remember, Patel was the one who suggested Harlan and Tippen have a conversation.

From Harlan's column Monday:

"'He said I was stupid and dumb for talking to (the Post),' Tippen said. 'He cussed me and asked me why you wrote the article. I said, 'Because he's a reporter; that's what he does.' He said it was wrong for me to talk to you."

At that point, she was summarily fired.

There might be more to the story, of course. Maybe Tippen wasn't totally innocent, but this whole thing looks bad.

On the day in which Harlan talked to Tippen about being fired, Patel called the Post because he objected to having been (accurately) quoted that he objected to that 25 cent minimum wage hike.

To be specific, Patel said the tiny 25 cent minimum wage increase was "bad for Arkansas. Everybody wants free money in Pine Bluff."

Yeah, there's nothing worse than somebody who works 40 hours a week and actually expects to make enough money during those 40 hours to put food on the table and pay the rent. How selfish!

Harlan said he tried calling Patel for comment about his firing Tippen, but Patel sounds like a belligerent scardy cat.

Writes Harlan:

"A man who sounded like Patel, reached recently at the Days Inn, declined to comment in several separate phone calls. On one call, the man said he'd never met Herry Patel and did not know who he was. On another call, he threatened to call the police if 'you keep bothering us.'"

Hours after Harlan's story on Tippen's firing was published, there must have been blowback down in Pine Bluff because Patel called Harlan back, finally.

In an update to his Monday Washington Post piece, Harlan wrote that Patel disputed Tippen's version of events. He said she walked out on the job after a disagreement. Patel said he'd approached Tippen to ask about her past criminal record, which was outlined in the previous Washington Post story.

Tippen stood by her story, and said Patel didn't bring up her criminal history during the hiring, and only spoke heatedly to him after she'd been fired.

The parent company of the Days Inn in Pine Bluff, Wyndham Worldwide, seemed to wash its hands of the situation.

The company said in a statement, "While we do not control or oversee staffing decisions at our franchised locations, we do require that each independently owned and operated hotel comply with all local, state and federal laws, especially as it relates to employment practices."

Way to sidestep things, Wyndham. Labor laws are weak in Arkansas, so Patel probably was complying with Arkansas law. Federal law is pretty hands off in this area, too.

Ever think to look into whether or not this firing was ethically OK, even if it was legal?  

Look, I get it. Raising the minimum wage probably affects prices for all of us. But NOT raising the minimum wage does, too.

I'm not happy with the idea of paying taxes for government assistance so that people who are working 40 or more hours a week can survive.

I'd much rather pay an extra nickel or whatever for a Big Mac or a cheap toy at Walmart so that people can make a livable wage.

I also get it that the CEOs of these big corporations ought to be making much more money than the chambermaids, the hamburger flippers and the gal behind the register at the mini-mart.

Still, I don't think making it a little easier for people to make ends meet without government assistance will ruin the frickin' economy.

With the income gap in this nation putting us into another 1890s Guilded Age, maybe it's time to put a little dignity back into working for a living. That means paying people fairly when they do work, and not kicking them aside if they object to NOT being paid fairly.

I know my little screed here won't make any difference on this topic. But the more we all say it, and the more often, the better off everybody will be.

Including the ultra-rich CEOs. After all, employees who are treated fairly tend to do a better job. And maybe make more money their employer, too. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Let's Take Happy Selfies At The Site Of A Tragedy, Say Idiots

Awful people having fun with a selfie stick
at the site of the East Village blast and fire
in New York City.   
There they were, seven beaming women crowded together in the middle of  New York Street, sparkling smiles aimed at a camera on a "selfie stick."

You can see they're having a grand old time. Girls night out! What fun!

Behind them, you see lots of emergency vehicle, and a little more in the background, bright lights aimed at smoking rubble as firefighters search for bodies.

Oh, that's grim. Must be make believe, a movie set, right? Why else would these women be smiling?

It turns out, I guess it's fun to have a joyous time at the site of a tragedy.

The seven-women selfie was taken right near the site of that huge explosion and fire in New York City's East Village. You saw it on the news. The one that caused a spectacular fire. The one that leveled three buildings, killed at least two people and injured many more. The one that left dozens of people without a home and/or without a job.

Neighbors who live in the disaster zone say they don't like all the gawkers checking the scene out. I get that, but I also get how people want to see for themselves what happened. But how is this fun?

The selfie popped up the Twitter feed for EventPhotosNYC Friday evening.  I guess EventPhotosNYC on Twitter is meant to capture all the fun and frolic the Big Apple has to offer.

Obviously there was an immediate backlash on EventPhotosNYC to the seven women tragedy/happy selfie, and that spread super fast afterward through New York and beyond.

On the Twitter feed we had reactions like "Everything wrong in NYC summed up in one photo." and "Disaster porn selfies: The new hobby of the soulless."

The New York-focused news and entertainment website Gothamist got ahold of it, and rightly talked about how awful these people are.

Then these seven stupid women hit the big time. The front page of the tabloid New York Post.  The headline: "Village Idiots."

I'll say.

The seven women weren't the only ones taking happy selfies at the disaster site. Apparently a number of people have done it. I have no idea what they're thinking. Or not thinking.

As Gothamist notedthe behavior of these women, and the other people who took happy selfies at the explosion/fire site,  has to be pretty bad if none other than the New York Post is calling the selfies at the blast site "tasteless" and "heartless."

It shouldn't be spelled out like this, but there are apparently an incredible number of stupid people out there. But here goes:

Don't have fun and frolic at a disaster site. If you must go, try to help. And be respectful.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Don't Order Through Amazon Because Owners Think Their Employees Are Indentured Servants

Amazon just dropped an odious noncompete
rule on its workers after The Verge exposed
the clause, which technically would
prevent former Amazon employees from
working anywhere else for 18 months after leaving.  
Here's another reason to hate Amazon.

The giant online retailer had a horrible non-compete clause for warehouse workers that, if strictly enforced, would prevent them from working pretty much anywhere else for 18 months after leaving Amazon.

The Verge exposed this horrible work rule last week.

Amazon announced a day after The Verge article  appeared that it would get rid of the non compete clause.

I'm sure that's only because of the bad publicity. They probably would have had that clause forever.

When the publicity dies down they'll probably either reinstate the policy or come up with something more odious.

Here's how the clause worked, according to The Verge. 

Seasonal employees at Amazon warehouses had to promise not to work at any company where they "directly or indirectly" support any good or serve that competes with those they helped support at Amazon, for 18 months after their brief stints at Amazon ended.

Since Amazon sells basically anything, it almost seems like workers after leaving Amazon couldn't work at anyplace that sells anything.

That would be really tough to do, wouldn't it? Given that most businesses exist to sell something.

"It is quite broad in its scope," says Orly Lobel, a professor of labor and employment law at the University of San Diego, who has studied noncompetes extensively and reviewed the Amazon agreement.

Non-compete clauses can be great and totally legit, if focused properly.  If somebody learns specialized insider information at Company A, that corporation doesn't want the employee to quit and immediately go to a competitor and spill all those secret trade beans.

Usually, people who are under such non-compete clauses can go to work right away for another company, as long as they're not a direct competitor in that specialized field.

Amazon, however, takes things much farther than that, and targets a huge class of workers not normally subject to non-compete requirements.

The Verge article, quoting Lobel, said there could well have been more at work with this non-compete language than just trying to protect closely held company data:

"Although companies may push noncompetes on low wage workers to keep trade secrets from leaking, there's also a more cynical explanation: to simply deprive competitors of employees to hire,  according to Lobel.

Noncompetes can also depress workers' wages. Traditionally, a key strategy to keep employees from defecting to a competitor has been simply to offer competitive wages, but a company that uses non-compete agreements can feel less pressure to pay well."

Well, you gotta hand it to Amazon, then. They found a creative way to screw the little guy, again.

Of course, the workers involved in the Amazon non-competes could have declined to take the job in the first place.

But most low income people, desperate for jobs and money, don't read dense legalese they sign. Or they figure they have no other options, or that these noncompete agreements are just the way things are.

Once hired, the workers feel stuck.

Says Lobel in The Verge article:

"People very well might decide that, despite their unhappiness with their job, despite the fact that they think they can do better with another employer, they might decide that it's just not worht the risk and that they should just lay low."

Yep, that's a mild form of indentured servitude in my book.

As I noted near the top of this post, The Guardian newspaper reported that Amazon said it was ditching the non-compete agreement shortly after The Verge publicized it.  Amazon said they didn't apply it to hourly workers, such as those that work in warehouses anyway.

Then why did Amazon make them sign the stupid thing? (See above.)

Of course, I'm suspicious. That Amazon folded on this so quickly suggests to me they have another sneaky way to screw low wage employees up their sleeve.

Besides, this type of non-compete was probably unenforceable anyway. Plus, it's not known to have been actually enforced on Amazon low wage workers

But the warehouse workers didn't know that. They also figured they'd have to hire lawyers to fight it, and who on a near minimum wage job can afford a lawyer?

Besides, courts have sided with Amazon in the past when it comes to screwing over or not screwing over workers.

In warehouses, workers had to go through a security screening before they left their shift for the day to make sure they weren't stealing stuff. That part is fair enough.

But this would often take a half hour or more of waiting in line and such for each worker, and they weren't paid for it.

Last December, the U.S. Supreme Court said this was OK, because the time waiting to be screened wasn't an "integral and indispensable" part of their job.

True, but it should have been free time. Unless Amazon warehouse workers all thought they would like nothing better to do on their time off from work than hanging around warehouses waiting to be checked to see if they were thieves.

I know other major companies don't treat their employees well. (Hello, Walmart!)

But Amazon seems to just have disdain for its rank and file workers.

I don't call for boycotts. Do what you want.

But for me, I will NEVER order anything through Amazon. Unless they start treating their employees with maybe just a little respect.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Leaving Facebook As If Leaving A Party

Watch this guy demonstrate how to melodramatically
leave Facebook. Roll your eyes and laugh.  
Let's face it. Facebook can be frustrating, with its damn algorithms that has the people that run the social media site thinking they know better what you want than you do.  

And there are the trolls, the advertisements, the pointless conversations.

Hey, everything has its drawbacks, right?

Some people get frustrated enough that they leave Facebook, never to post again. That's fine. Take it or leave it. Facebook is fine for some people, and not for others.

Every once in a while, though, somebody leaves Facebook (or worse, leave, come back, leave, come back, etc.) and make a dramatic announcement as to why they're leaving.

Sometimes its for good reason, sometime it's just pretention.

Here's how the worst Facebook departures might look as if it were really somebody leaving a party. Kinda funny, in a cringy way:

Friday, March 27, 2015

Gun Extremists Hurting Second Amendment Cause

One perspective on the often shrill
arguing over gun control laws.  
People outside of liberal Vermont, where I live, don't understand we've got quite a gun culture over here.

Lots of Vermonters hunt, and a fair number of people from around here like to go to gun ranges, target practice and have a grand old time.

Like most gun owners nationwide, gun enthusiasts in Vermont tend to be nice, normal sane people. Which of course is a good thing when you're talking about firearms.

And good for the state, seeing how hunting brings visitors and revenue to Vermont.

These gun owners naturally want to maintain and preserve the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

It's too bad the radical fringe of gun rights activism is screwing that up. The most ardent gun control advocate couldn't do a more effective job of encouraging gun control laws than the idiots on the extreme end of the pro-gun movement who think the mildest restrictions on gun use in sales is tantamount to treason.

Or something like that.

Case in point is this yahoo from Michigan who decided to exercise his right to openly carry a gun by walking around outside a high school with a long gun and holstered pistol, says the Detroit News. 

OK, technically this guy indeed had the right to carry his guns, and when police investigated, they didn't arrest, cite or warn him, because he committed no crime.

But is scaring the bejeesus out of a high school full of teachers and students and forcing a lockdown really the right way to promote the Second Amendment?

People are understandably nervous about school shootings, after all. No offense, but sometimes it's hard to distinguish between a nut who really, really likes the Second Amendment and a nut who wants to shoot up a school.

The Detroit News quoted Officer Carey Spangler saying police got "about a million 911 calls" about this guy.

Yeah, no kidding.

Even the pro-gun, pro-open carry web site bearingarms.com is fed up with the gun idiot at the school.

"Law enforcement officers were diverted, and school was disrupted, because this 'gentleman' insisted on open carrying past a high school, seemingly with the express intent of getting a rise out of authorities and making a public spectacle out of himself.

Most gun owners support the theory of open carry, and most have the basic sense to understand that it should not be used in such a manner that it can be taken as a threat against the public, or against private individuals.

Unfortunately, individuals have abused open carry in various states to the point that restrictions have been placed upon open carry. Sometimes, this sort of trolling has led to open carry being outlawed entirely, with California being the prime example."

That's just it. The seriously overcompensating yahoos out there who get belligerent with their open carry showboating are probably more responsible for gun control laws than any outfit like States United to Prevent Gun Violence. 

The wackos like the guy in Michigan feel powerless because they are. They have nothing going for them.

So, parading around a school with a gun gives them the illusion of power. "See, I can shut down a school and the cops can't arrest me. Aren't I a big man?"

Um, no.

Like it or not, you've got to both employ good PR, and demonstrate at least a little common sense to persuade people to agree with your cause.

I have to say gun control activists are pretty good at this.

To wit:  That group I mentioned,  States United to Prevent Gun Violence, might be outgunned, to use the pun, by the Second Amendment wackos. But States United really know how to make their case Unlike the NRA whose leadership can get pretty extremist, States United is good at getting their message across

Like this PSA,  in which they opened a gun store in New York City.  The guy behind the counter then explains the sordid history behind the type of gun he's showing the would-be buyers.

The National Rifle Association responded, not by countering with information that it wants to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, or the dangerously mentally ill, went off on what a fraud the store was, how it probably violated the law (it didn't) and how the anti-gun New York City and State government probably had a hand in creating the PSA.

 Of course, the Second Amendment and guns has become one of those political dog whistles that make it impossible to have a sane conversation about the subject.

The general public would welcome such a conversation on the right way to manage gun violence without gutting the Second Amendment.

There are certain restrictions on First Amendment rights to free speech, such as the proverbial not yelling fire in a crowded theater or threatening to kill public officials.

So, there are probably ways to tamp down gun violence without interfering with all those law abiding hunters and shooting range enthusiasts in Vermont and everywhere else in the nation.

Here in Vermont, it looks like the legislature is headed toward passage of a law that would prohibit people convicted of some violent crimes from possessing a gun.

There's already a federal law to that effect, but the feds don't have the resources to fully enforce it so the logic is let the state help.

Seems reasonable to me, but gun rights advocates were apopletic at this idea. Especially since it also tighten restrictions on gun possession by people who are deemed "in need of treatment," code for dangerously mentally ill.

Gun Owners of Vermont, of course, are among those vehemently opposed to the proposal.

But their organization's motto is telling: "Dedicated to a no-compromise position against gun control."

However, there are compromises in everything out there. If you don't give just a little tiny bit, chances are you won't get anything you want.

You'll end up getting as much respect as that yahoo with the gun outside the Detroit school. People just roll their eyes and move on.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Judge Tells Prosecutor That Writing Rap Lyrics About Gangs Is Not A Crime, Duh!

San Diego rapper Tiny Doo faced up to life in prison
because prosecutors said he profited from gang
activity by writing lyrics about gangs.
A California court tossed the charges recently.  
Last November, I told you about the rapper named Tiny Doo, who was jailed and charged with, as prosecutors put it, fitting the legal definition of a gang member who 'willfully promotes, furthers, assists in any felonious criminal conduct by members of that gang.'

Prosecutors were applying a law that says if somebody personally profits from gang activity they can be charged with a felony.

So yeah, if Tiny Doo was gunrunning to make a profit and supply the gangs, that would be a problem. It would also be a problem if the gangs paid him to tell them the location of somebody they wanted to kill.

As I noted a few months ago, Tiny Doo did none of these things.

He released a rap album called "No Safety" which had cover art showing a gun and bullets. Plus some of the lyrics dealt with the things gang members do.

Because he made money rapping about the things gangs do, he profited from gang activity, said prosecutors.

Thankfully, a judge just said, Uh, No. The First Amendment wins after all. Just because gang members like your music, doesn't mean you should be charged with the crime of profiting from gangs.

Says 7NBC in San Diego:

"(Prosecutors) claimed his homegrown music helped inspire the violence, even though there is no evidence connecting him to the actual shootings."

The prosecutors' logic, it seems, is akin to somebody listening to the old song "I Don't Like Mondays," which is about a school shooting, and then claiming a real school shooting arose because the assailant happened to hear that song.

Or as Tiny Doo's defense attorney, Brian Watkins said, "I think the whole world was watching because when they put our First Amendment here in America on trial, to say that Brandon Duncan's rap music encouraged these shootings."

That's why I'm making such a big deal out of this one case. Slippery slopes don't always happen, of course, but what's to stop some prosecutor from making a crime out of producing any kind of art the prosecutor thinks is distasteful.

I happen to like the song, "I Don't Like Mondays" so should I be arrested as a potential school shooter even though the last thing I ever want to do is bring a gun near a school. (I don't even have a gun, for crissakes. )  

 7NBC in San Diego says San Diego County District Attorney spokeswoman Tanya Sierra released a statement saying the office would respect the court's decision but added this:

"While a debate over the law can be constructive and educational, combatting the scourge of deadly gang violence remains our focus. Instead of waiting for ore shootings and murders to victimize the community we used this law to cripple the organization."

I'm all for stopping violence and putting gangs out of business, but maybe prosecutors should have went after gangs without getting creative with the First Amendment. I'm sure they can pin a lot of evidence on gang members who shot or threatened people.

The District Attorney's office said all the people they charged in connection with the Tiny Doo case are gang members. So, prove it. Is Tiny Doo a gang member or not?  If he is, you'd think there'd be evidence beyond the fact he made rap music.

The statement from Sierra's office said court records show that everybody's a gang member in this case and the media is being manipulated.

I would think that somebody in the media would find the supposed evidence that Tiny is a gang member and report it.

If so, charge him. With real evidence. Until then, I'm totally writing this off as prosecutorial overreach. And I'm offended the prosecutor has such little regard for the First Amendment.

DIY Pro Tip: Don't Be Darwin Award Contender When Demolishing Wall

Man demonstrates wrong way to
do a DIY demolition project.  
A viral video is circulating this week, which you will see at the bottom of this post, of a guy demolishing a cinder block wall.

I know that sounds incredibly pedestrian and boring, but watch the video.

As Digg notes, it's the same kind of approach as those people who sit on the tree branch that they are cutting off a tree.

When you watch the video, you know the instant it starts what's going to happen. Still, the suspense oddly builds as you watch and wait for the big moment.

I tell ya, people are just so creative in ways to be stupid.  They people in the video are speaking a foreign language, but I'm sure the guy wrecking the wall told his friends, "Hold my beer. Watch this."

There's no word on the wall demolish guy's fate, but (spoiler alert!) judging from the video, it seems he survived to give us another eye rolling video in the future.

You can use this video as an instructional film on how not to create an open concept in your home interior design.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Duck Dynasty's Phil "Rape Fantasy" Robertson Now Officially Creepiest Person Alive

Phil Robertson, of Duck Dynasty fame, has some
unusual thoughts on atheists and what they deserve. 
Phil Robertson, the bearded patriarch of the Duck Dynasty clan, has always been known to say weird things in his ultra conservative, fundamentalist Christian way.

But what he had to say this week is beyond creepy.

While speaking at the Vero Beach (Florida, of course) Prayer Breakfast, Robertson was trying to make the point, I think, that he thinks atheists don't believe in right or wrong and that alleged mindset will come back to bite them.

To illustrate this, he gave a detailed fantasy of his in which two men break into an atheist's home, rape his two young daughters then kill them. Then he rapes the atheist's wife and then beheads her in front of him.

Then the intruders say "Isn't it great that I don't have to be judged. Isn't it great that there's nothing worng with this. There's no right or wrong now, is there dude?"

Then the intruders cut off the atheist's private parts and Robertson narrarates:

 "(They) take his manhood and hold it in front of hm and say, Wouldn't it be something if (there) was something wrong with this.... "You're the one who says there is no God, there's no right, there's no wrong, so we're just having fun. We're sick in the head have a nice day.

If it happened to them, they probably would say, 'Something about this just ain't right.'"

Something about this is INDEED not right and that is Robertson. `

Look, I'm totally OK with people having dark fantasies. That's where some of the best horror movies and books come from. That's where some of the most interesting music originates.

But I'm sorry, this is just too weird.  What gets me is the details Robertson intertwined in his little story. (I left some of it out.) He spent a lot of time thinking about this, coming up with this story.

I wonder if he's so angry with atheists and people who don't go along with his brand of so-called Christianity that he wants to kill them.

As the Washington Post notes, Robertson really has a history of offering up some pretty dark imagery. I wonder where that darkness comes from.

At that Vero Beach Prayer Breakfast, he also reportedly said that American liberals follow Satan and are worse than Stalin or the Nazis.

Yeah, like Nancy Pelosi goes around murdering thousands of people just because.

Geez, if I was at that Vero Beach Prayer Breakfast, I would have been praying alright. Praying that Robertson Would. Just. Go. Away.

Getting back to Robertson's atheist family rape fantasy, I suppose we could distract ourselves and sidestep his grossness by looking at Robertson's "logic."

Robertson seems to think that only Christian, and his brand of Christianity has a sense of right or wrong. If that's true, why is he fantasizing about creeps raping families?

I can't imagine anyone, atheist or not, who doesn't have some sense of right or wrong.

Contrary to Robertson's assertion, if you rounded up all the atheists in the world and asked them if whether they thought rape, torture and murder were right or wrong, 99.99999999 percent of them would say "wrong."

I know I'm being Captain Obvious by saying that, but people like Robertson are impervious to Captain Obvious, so what are you gonna do?

Phil Robertson's opinions aren't important, I know. But still, one of the few things I can think of that are scarier than Robertson's rape fantasies are that some people totally agree with his weird screeds.

House For Sale: Explosive Features Included (Scary!)

Somebody rigged this house to explode
when a light switch was flipped, police said.
Luckily, an electrician found the problem
before the switch was flipped.  
Some tenants moved out of a house last Sunday in the Boston suburb of Milton.

The owner of the place wanted to sell the building and hired an electrician to see whether everything was up to snuff before putting the place on the market.  

It was not up to snuff.

It turns out somebody rigged the house so that, if somebody flipped a certain light switch, the house would explode.

The Boston Globe picks up the story:

"When officers arrived, an electrician and the homeowner's attorney were at the house, said Milton Police Chief Richard Wells. 

The electrician was there, following a failed home inspection the week before, when he discovered what he told the police was 'an IED' - an improvised explosive device - i the form of a plastic jug full of accelerant and wired to explode when a light switch was flipped, Wells said."

Boy, I bet that electrician was glad he didn't flip that light switch when he was poking around, looking for wiring issues.

Especially since the explosive stuff was well hidden. It was behind a recently replastered wall inside a closet.

Lindel Williams, who owns the property said the most recent tenants, a husband, wife and daughter moved out last weekend after living there since June.

Police are now looking for that family, as they are the proverbial persons of interest.  Neighbors basically said the people who lived there were quiet and kept to themselves. (All the potentially scary people in the world are quiet and keep to themselves, aren't they?)

Also, before this, somebody clogged all the house's drains with cement.

Of course, we don't yet know if the former tenants were behind all this handiwork.

But if the tenants were behind this, I hope they make their names public. I wouldn't want to so much as rent a video to these clowns, much less a house.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Alleged Weirdo Has Bizarre, Illegal Way Of Cheering Himself Up At Work

EVERYBODY wishes this guy had found
another way to have fun at work. Now he probably
does, too, now that he's been arrested.  
We all have those moments. The day at work seems to drag, the task you're assigned to do is kind of boring and blah, and you really need a pick-me-up.

Even somebody making a funny wisecrack would do.

Of course, there are lines you shouldn't cross when you're trying to have a little fun at work.

One guy named David Keith Slovinski in Michigan crossed that line, ran it over, and kept going and going and going.  Everybody really wishes he'd stopped, says the MLive media group web site. 

His idea of an at-work boost was to take photos of his junk, then show them to his co-workers at a Meijor grocery store in Michigan, according to police, as reported in MLive.

"Yeah, it cheers me up when I'm feeling down," Slovinski is quoted as saying in an affidavit in Granville District Court in Michigan.

Of course, Slovinski might have been cheered up, but for fellow employees, Slovinski's actions pretty much took the fun out of the day at work.

Actually, the cheeriness quotient has since got up for Slovinski's co-workers and down for Slovinski himself.

That's because he's been arrested, and of course that means the co-workers are free to use their break times to, I don't know, look at cat videos on line rather than see pics of Slovinski's junk.

MLive say Slovinski has gotten himself in trouble lots of times before for this sort of thing, so it's way past time for find another way to make himself happy at work.

And I don't mean that, either!

What's wrong with doing what people do on their breaks where I work, and what I imagine happens where you work.  They eat snacks, read the paper, catch up on email, chat with each other.

Shouldn't be that hard, er, difficult.

Some Idiot In California Wants Ballot Measure To Execute All Gay People

California Attorney General Kamala Harris
totally doesn't want a petition for a terrible
anti-gay ballot intiative but it looks
like she will be compelled by existing
laws to do just that.  
UPDATE: As of Wednesday, a day after I wrote this, it turns out California Attorney General Kamala Harris IS going to try preventing this idiotic "kill the gays" proposal  from going forward.

The Guardian newspaper reports late this afternoon that she is going to ask a judge to step in and prevent the petitions for this weird, odious proposal from being circulated.

Said Harris:

"It is my sworn duty to uphold the California and United States constitutions and to protect the rights of all Californians. 

This proposal not only threatens public safety, it is patently unconstitutional, utterly reprehensible, and has no place in civil society."


Demonstrating yet again how just one idiot can provoke incredible embarassment, not to mention expense, a doofus in California wants the state residents to pass a law imposing the death penalty on all gay people living in the state.

Quote, unquote "Christian" activist Matt McLaughlin is behind this harebrained scheme.

This moron's proposed legislation demands "any person who touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head or any other convenient measure."

Well, this guy's touched all right.

McLaughlin has done the easy part in getting this proposal on the ballot. McLaughlin has paid his $200 filing fee.

That means California Attorney General Kamala Harris must put the "Sodomite Suppression Act" proposal on the state's web site, and allow petitions to circulate.

The petitions are the hard part for McLaughlin. He needs at least 365,000 Californians to sign a petition that would force state election officials to put the question to all of the state's voters.

If he finds 365,000 legitimate voters to sign his petition, we're all in trouble.

Of course, Harris isn't exactly happy about putting this out for petition.  But her hands might be tied on this one. According to SF Gate:

"Does she have the power to refuese if the measure is patently unconstitutional? Harris isn't saying; her office did not return repeated phone calls. But some veteran practitioners of election law said they don't think so.

'The statute is clear: That the office has to prepare a summary provided the proponents have paid $200 and followed the right procedures,' said attorney Robert Stern, author of the state's 1974 Political Reform Act. He said he's never heard of a case in which the attorney general refused to issue a tital and summary."

Which of course leaves us with McLaughlin, who's proposed law declares it is "better that offenders should die rathern all of us should be killed by God's just wrath."

I suppose somebody is going to feel God's just wrath. If I were McLaughlin, I'd hide deep in the basement when there's lightning, just in case.

McLaughlin is sure as hell hiding from the public's wrath. He's pretty shadowy, no media has been able to contact him for comment, and he's tough to track down.

Of course, hiding like this will make it hard for McLaughlin and any of his minions to get the 365,000 signatures he needs for the ballot item. After all, you have to go out and public and get people to sign the stupid thing.

I'm guessing, just guessing, that a lot of people would be offended if asked to sign the petition, and that could lead to difficulties as well.

McLaughlin's um, proposal has begotten some other farcical ballot ideas going, at least from one activist.

Late last week, the publication Slate reported this tidbit:

"Frustrated by the attorney general's inability to combat McLaughlin's proposal, Charlotte Laws has decided to fight back with some free speech of her own. On Monday morning, Lewis plans to file the Intolerant Jackass Act, accompanied by the requisite $200, with the California attorney general.

Laws' proposal cleverly mirrors and skewers the Sodomite Suppression Act, explaining that the 'abominable crime known as prejudice against sexual orientation' is 'a destructive view that society commands to suppress.'

Laws' um, law, would force anyone bringing forth a ballot measure suggesting that gay people be killed be forced to attend sensitivity traning for at least three hours per month for 12 consecutive months, and the offender or "Intolerant Jackass" must donate $5,000 to a pro-gay or pro-lesbian organization."

OK, Laws' idea is probably unconstitutional, too, but as you can tell, she's just trolling McLaughlin.

Now if we can only pass a law to make McLaughlin just shut up already and stop wasting everybody's time, and taxpayers' money.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Revolutionary Cows And VERY Different Love Songs For Your Monday

A strange musical journey brought me to
"Cows With Guns"  
I had the pleasure of visiting my sister Lynn and brother in law David yesterday.

When you go to their house, you never know what kind of music will be playing, and I was certainly not disappointed in that regard.

So un-disappointed that I MUST share a few of the tunes with you.

We'll get to the lovey dovey stuff in a minute, which is certainly something you can't miss, but we need to first deal with a bovine revolution.

I might have posted this one a few years ago, I don't know. (I couldn't find it in the archives) But even if it's a repeat, it's worth it.

I present you the Dana Lyons classic, "Cows With Guns." Musically, and lyrically, the thing is brilliant. So is the animation in this video by Bjorn-Mange Stuestol:

Next, I present you with, seriously, two of the best singer songwriters out there. And they both have great senses of humor in their songwriting.

One is the droll, clever John Prine, who has a long history of crafting ingenious songs for himself, and for performances by the likes of Bonnie Raiit, John Haiit and others.

The other is Iris DeMent, a super-gifted songwriter with a beautiful and unique voice.

They did some duets, and these two offbest love songs are at once mushy and laugh out loud funny. In a way, the songs remind me of my own marriage, which is a very good thing.

Pay close attention to the lyrics in both. The first, "We're Not The Jet Set" starts out over the top sweet and sticky, but that's part of the joke. It's awesome:

The next one, "In Spite Of Ourselves," is a couples' ode to one another, despite the imperfections of both parties.

You get lyrics like "He drinks his beer like it's oxygen," and "She swears like a sailor when she shaves her legs."

Ah, bliss: This is awesome too:

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Jerk Of The Week Slams 4th Graders' Bird Legislation Because Abortion

Fourth graders in New Hampshire wanted to
make the red tailed hawk the state raptor....
As part of a civics lesson, a group of fourth graders in New Hampshire asked the state's legislature to make the red-tailed hawk the state raptor.

Lawmakers shot down the idea, and complained that the legislation was a waste of time when they had more pressing matters with which to contend.

You can debate whether the lawmakers were right in saying the fourth graders were wasting their time, or whether they were shutting down a civics lesson, and turning the kids off from democracy

But, then, enter Republican Warren Groen who just had to make things worse by somehow tying the hawk to abortion:

"The (red-tailed hawk) mostly likes field mice and small rodents. It grasps them with its talons and then uses its razor sharp beak to rip its victims to shreds and then basically tear it apart, limb from limb. And I guess the shame about making this the state bird is it would make a much better mascot for Planned Parenthood."

Way go go Warren! Tying everything to abortion. You must be a real hit at cocktail parties.

Not surprisingly, parents whose kids were in the New Hampshire Statehouse listening to this jerk were not pleased.

According to the Huffington Post, Jodi Linnehan Kriner, the mother of one of the students, wrote a letter to lawmakers saying she was ashamed they are state representatives.

"If any rep can tell me how I should answer a question that was asked to me last nigth by my 10 year old son, Andrew, please let me know. He asked, 'Mom, what does Planned Parenthood have to do with red-tailed hawk tearing apart is prey, and why should it be the mascot,' she wrote.
Instead, the fourth grades got this
moron prattling on about abortion instead.  

Well, Andrew, good question! One I surely don't have an answer to. Neither does Groen, apparently, but he did double down on his comment in a phone interview with the Huffington Post. 

"The selective outrage about this I find quite curious....Every week in Manchester, the fourth grade class from 2025 is killed out.  Babies that would be 10 years old and in fourth grade 10 years from now are aborted in Manchester, and there's no outrage."

Even fellow Republicans are pretty fed up with Groen and his abortion stuff. He's kind of like a weird, sick version of Jan on the Brady Bunch always complaining about Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.   

Lawmakers say they are going to ask Groen during the next legislative session this week to apologize. He probably won't, because maybe he thinks anyone who believes he was out of line is an abortionist?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Gardeners Lose It, (Hilariously!) And Shake Off A Reluctant Spring

Gardener's Supply employees try
desperately to shake off winter.
Astronomical spring arrives here in Vermont today, but you'd never know it.

There's still snow on the ground. After a wintry start this morning with temperatures in the single digits, readings are forecast to barely make it above freezing this afternoon.

It's supposed to snow tomorrow, the first full day of spring.
Many of us are not happy about this. Especially gardeners. This is a post about how the lack of spring can drive people a bit batty, but in a really hilarious fashion.

And I do mean fashion. Unique fashion.

I work at a company called Gardener's Supply, a Burlington based, employee-owned company, which, as the name implies, sells all the stuff you need to get your garden going and thriving.

The job is a great gig, especially for a guy like me, who likes to dig around in garden dirt and see what he can come up with.

Pretty much everyone else who works at Gardener's Supply is a gardener too, so there's a very palpable level of frustration at the office and the retail stores about how this spring just isn't doing it so far.

Yeah, we're going a little crazy.

Which might explain the video you'll definitely want to watch at the bottom of this post. It's a reworked version of Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" that Taylor surely never thought she'd see.

But, gardeners can be inventive, so there you go.

The colorful tutu like things everybody in the video is wearing over their white long johns are called  Tub Trugs. Most people use them as handy, durable buckets for hauling veggies in from the garden, a place to put weeds as your pulling them, or for storing just about anything.

I have a few Tub Trugs. A couple are for the garden.  I use one of them as a laundry basket.  A customer I talked with ordered six Tub Trugs from me, because she said her goats like to play with them. So yeah, at the risk of sounding like I'm from the Shameless Commerce Division, you can use Tub Trugs for anything.

However, I was never imaginative enough to envision cutting out the bottoms of tub trugs and using them as mini skirts of sorts for a music video.  Gotta hand it to the creative department at Gardener's Supply, I tell ya.

The fashion world is fickle, though, so I don't know if we'll see on Project Runway the white long underwear, the Tub Trug tutus and the colorful gardener wellie boots the people in the video are wearing.

But you never know.

The Tub Trug tutus are fun, but I admit I'm relieved to learn that they won't become part of the Gardener's Supply Official Employee Dress Code.

The video is something else, but it is a good way to shake off the nervous energy of waiting, and waiting and WAITING for spring.

Eventually, spring will arrive, and we'll all get a bit less crazy. We'll go back to using Tub Trugs for hauling all of our planting tools out to the garden, instead of wearing them as strange fashion statements.

The video seems to have struck a chord among the legions of winter weary, based on the long list of positive comments on Facebook and the general reaction to this.

The video is a nice goofy break from the winter cold, and maybe it's some sort of dance to the weather gods or something that would beseech them to bring on spring.  And quickly.

You be the judge. Here's the video:

Why Trees Aren't Always So Huggable

In the Darwin war between trees and humans,
the trees appear to be winning.  
I have to clear a few more dead and dying trees from my property.

Judging by the compilation video below, I ought to be careful. Trees, it seems, are out to get us.

Also judging from the video, it's amazing how many people think a very dead, skinny branch will hold them up.

People should also remember they are not Tarzan.

After watching the video, I also now wonder if trees are smarter than people.

You be the judge:

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Cookie Monster Tries To Break The Internet

The Cookie Monster tries to break the Internet  
The latest obnoxious meme is the phrase "breaking the Internet."

This dumb phrase gained currency when Kim Kardashian displayed her butt online, and supposedly so many people wanted to see it that it would "break the Internet."

Time magazine defines breaking the Internet to mean "engineering one story to dominate Facebook and Twitter at the expense of more newsworthy things... So perhaps a more accurate term would be 'hijacking the Internet,' since really these stories seem to be manipulating online fervor rather than shutting the whole thing down."

Now, it seems, when some marketer wants to entice a gullible public to open a link, they tease that it would "break the Internet." You're supposed to be so excited about the idea of breaking the Internet that you succumb to the click bait.

Finally, then we come to this: A video of the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street trying to break the Internet.

His way of doing it is much better than everybody else's. Certainly much better than anything Kim Kardashian can do.

Here's the video:

"Uptown Funk" Makes Treadmill Workout Not Boring

Carson Dean dances to "Uptown Funk"
 on a treadmill. He's awesome, but don't try
this at the gym. You'll be embarrassed.  
I know, I know, "Uptown Funk," while a great pop song, is definitely overplayed these days and we should give it a rest.

I also know that a workout on a treadmill, or as I sometimes call it, a dreadmill, can be very, very boring,

But a California choreographer named Carson Dean has breathed new life into "Uptown Funk" and especially a treadmill.

He's got a video that's going viral of him dancing to that tune on a treadmill. And it's totally a lot of fun to watch.

According to the Huffington Post, Dean uploaded the video Saturday. As of Wednesday afternoon, the video had racked up more than 2.6 million views as of early Thursday morning.

And why not? It's a lot of fun to watch. But I wouldn't try this at the gym today. There are already too many treadmill fail videos out there and you wouldn't want to star in one.

So here's Carson Dean's treadmill dance:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

You Probably Didn't Overdo It On St. Patrick's Day Like These People Did

We hope this wasn't you celebrating
 St. Patrick's Day yesterday.  
Some of you might be hung over or bleary eyed today if you went out and celebrated St. Patrick's Day a bit too much yesterday.

Yes, a few of you out there probably associate the day with a bit of binge drinking.

After all, the bars opened at the crack of dawn, and some of you were there for the grand opening to spend the day drinking green beer.

Maybe a couple of you later barfed out green gunk. I know, I know, I'm getting gross.

However, if you think you made a fool of yourself on St. Patrick's Day when you had a little too much, don't worry. You probably weren't as bad as the compilation video you see below.

As usual, the best moments are when animals get involved. Like at about 2:50 into it when a drunk guy falls out of his chair, and one of the dogs goes inside to retrieve a boot. As if that's going to help.

In another clip, at around 4:30, a dog refuses to surrender a case of Bud Light to his human friends.

Seriously, Fido. Bud Light?

Another lesson from this video is, if you're drunk, don't play with fire, and forgo athletics.

Here's the video that will make you either feel better or worse about imbibing:

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Let's Ruin A Kid's Life And Psyche Over A Fake, Malicious Marijuana Charge!

The kid didn't have pot, but
he was severely punished
anyway but dumb school.  
I've written about abusive so-called zero tolerance school punishments in the past, because I find them so fascinating in an awful way, like a tragic train wreck.

But the latest one takes the cake.

Some school administrators in Virginia suspended an 11-year-old kid from a school for gifted and talented students for a whole year.

Plus, they had criminal charges filed against him and sent him downward into a spiral of depression and anxiety which will take years of treatment.

Why? Because the kid had a lighter and a leaf in his backpack. The school said it was marijuana. Three separate field tests showed that the leaf was not marijuana. The school system basically tried to cover this fact up.

They also figured since the kids might or might not have told his friends the leaf was pot, that was also enough to justify punishing the boy as if he were a drug dealing street thug.

And with the truth out, school administrators still believe they did the right thing.

Here I was naive enough to think schools existed to educate children, but I guess they're there to ruin kids lives instead. At least at Bedford Middle School in Virginia.

The article about this idiocy, reported and written by Dan Casey in the Roanoke Times, is infuriating beyond belief.

It's murky as to whether the kid was pretend bragging that the leaf in his knapsake was marijuana, or whether it was planted there by bullies, or there was some other explanation.

However, even if this was marijuana, which it was not, the punishment meted out to this kid, and the obsfucation by school leaders and police, was itself bullying against the 11 year old. And like I said, these ostensible adults consider themselves fully justified about this.


My guess is the kid probably did joke that the leaf was pot. If that's the case, the school would have been justified in giving the boy a good talking to. That drugs aren't to be taken lightly. Or at all, actually.

It could have been one of those zillions of teachable moments kids have. But nope. It's more fun to ruin a kid's life right?

The kid's parents, Bruce and Linda Bays, have understandably filed a lawsuit.

Casey's Roanoke Times article elaborates:

"It alleges Bedford Middle School Assistant Principal Brian Wilson and school operations chief Frederick 'Mac' Duis violated his due process rights under the U.S. Constitution.

It also accuses the Bedford County Sheriff's Office of malicious prosecution, because Deputy M.M. Calohan, a school resource officer, filed marijuana possession charges against the boy despite field tests that indicated otherwise.

'Essentially, they kicked him out of school for something they couldn't prove he did,' said Roanoke attorney Melvin Williams the Bays' lawyer.

'The field test came back not inconclusive, but negative,' Williams said. 'Yet she went to a magistrate and swore he possessed marijuana at school.'"

During a school hearing early on in this drama, the Bays asked to see the leaf, but the school wouldn't let them, saing it was evidence.

Again, from the Roanoke Times:

"Bruce Bays said, 'During the hearing, I asked Wilson, What about the field test on the marijuana leaf?'

The assistant principal hemmed and hawed and finally he got around to it and said 'I'm not qualified to interpret the results of the field test,' Bruce Bays said."

During a court hearing on the criminal charge, the sheriff's office asked for a continuance, claiming the leaf hadn't been to the state lab.

The Bays refused. Seeing a lame case, the judge dismissed the charges.

With the criminal charges gone, the Bays said they wanted another hearing at the school to clear their sons name and get him back into classes.

The school officials and the sheriff's office have dug in their heels.

The sheriff's attorney, Jim Guynn said they didn't pursue a malicious prosecution against the kid like his parents allege because the sheriff's deputy identified the leaf found in the boy's backpack as marijuana.

I guess to them it doesn't matter that the leaf wasn't marijuana. If the sheriff deputy decides it is, well, science and facts have nothing to do with anything.

The sheriff's office is also trying to claim the suit is filed in the wrong court, as if that would make it go away.

And under the school's silly zero tolerance policy, it doesn't matter if the leaf was marijuana or from some other plant, like a Japanese maple. If someone pretends it's pot, then it's pot, facts be damned.

I'm not sure why the lighter was in the backpack. Maybe the kid was pretending he had marijuana. Maybe he liked to play with fire like a lot of 11 year old kids do. Maybe some other student planted it there. But it seems the school isn't interested in getting to the bottom of that.

Because, DRUGS! DRUGS! DRUGS!  A Japanese maple leaf that looks vaguely like pot is DANGEROUS!!!!!!!!!!!

Under the school system's rules, the boy's parents were ordered to take the kid to a pediatric psychiatrist to be evaluated for substance abuse problems.

The psychiatrist found no such issues, but did find a lot of damage to the boy's mental health, and the school, and the sheriff's department are clearly to blame.

Writes Casey in the Roanoke Times:

"After the disciplinary hearing, 'he just broke down and said his life was over. He would never be able to get into college; he would never be able to get a job,' Linda Bays said. 

.....the events of the past six months have wreaked havoc on the formerly happy-go-lucky boy's psyche. His parents say he's withdrawn socially, and is now under the care for a pediatric psychiatrist for panic attacks and depression. "

Nice going, sheriff's department and Bedford Middle School administrators! You took what seemed to be a rather well adjusted kid and turned him into a wreck. You must be so proud!

You know what? There probably should have been a vigorous prosecution in this case. But not against the kid with the marijuana leaf that wasn't.

How about charging administrators at Bedford Middle School with child abuse and cruelty to a child?

Judging from the Roanoke Times article, if I was on a jury in such a case, I'd quickly vote to convict.

Baby Finds Humor In Potato Chip Munching

Now, a moment with a baby who thinks the fact that her mom is eating potato chips is EXTREMELY funny:

Monday, March 16, 2015

More News Bloopers, Because We Can't Get Enough Of Them

A television reporter in Dallas finds himself
interviewing an interesting eyewitness
during a recent live report.  
Television news often involves live shots, and those can often go so wrong.

Which is why we bring you, from time to time, the latest batch of news bloopers from around the world.

As usual in this genre, weather reports are the most ripe for failures.

I love the Canadian blizzard coverage that begins around 3:22 into the video.

The dog that would rather play than listen to yet another weather forecast a bit later into the video is awesome, too.

See for yourself which ones you like the best:

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Gong Show's Gene, Gene The Dancing Machine Dies; Mourning The Loss Of A Bit Of Tackiness

Gene, Gene The Dancing Machine, left, always
sent Gong Show host Chuck Barris (right) into
spasms of uncontrollable joy.  
Word spread over the weekend that Gene, Gene, The Dancing Machine has died, says the Hollywood Reporter. 

Gene, Gene The Dancing Machine was a fixture on that 1970s bit of televised drug-induced weirdness know as the "Gong Show."

I am maybe the world's biggest fan of tastelessness, crassness and kitsch, so the Gong Show was heaven to me.

Upsettingly, the loss of Gene, Gene the Dancing Machine, whose real name was Gene Patton, means the world is a slightly less goofy place, and that's sad.

Actually, Gene, Gene The Dancing Machine was the most normal person on the Gong Show, but that's not saying much.

For the uninitiated and the too-young-to-remember, The Gong Show was an early version of the current rash of talent shows.

It was sort of an Alice in Wonderland version of "America's Got Talent."

The Gong Show host, Chuck Barris, was clearly on some major pharmaceuticals. I'm guessing cocaine and a whole bunch of other stuff.

The three-member panel of judges, usually B-list celebrities, rated the contestants, many of whom were awful. The celebrity judges, always with Jaye P. Morgan at the helm, would bang a large gong when an act was particularly heinous. Hence the "Gong Show" name of the program.

Here's how the Hollywood Reporter describes the Gene, Gene sections of the show:

"At a random moment during the game show, Barris would introduce Patton, and the curtain would part, bringing the shuffling stagehand with the painter's cap onstage to the sounds of 'Jumpin at the Woodside,' a jazz tune made popular by Count Basie. His dance sent everyone on the set -- Barris, the judges, the cameramen, rthe audience -- into an uncontrollable boogie."

 Gene wasn't a particulary good dancer, but the extreme spasms of joy it brought to the drug-addled Chuck Barris was worth the performance.

The Gong Show was only on the air for two or three years in the late 1970s, but of course lived on for decades in syndication and on YouTube.

Everything about the show set new lows in tastelessness, which to me of course means it was the pinnacle of television genius.

Here's a mashup of Gene, Gene The Dancing Machine on the Gong Show:

Measles Bet: Never Gamble Lots Of Money On Silly Anti-Science Argument

This guy, Stefan Lanka, bet 100,000 Euros that
the measles virus doesn't exist. It does,
say almost all scientists, and a German
court ordered him to pay up.  
A guy in Germany learned that if you're going to place a major public monetary bet on some loony theory, you'd best be expected to pay up.

Stefan Lanka, who claims to be a biologist, and probably is, has a silly notion that measles is not caused by a virus, but is a psychosomatic condition brought on by "traumatic separations."

Yeah. I guess if you miss somebody and are upset you'll come down with the measles.

On a personal note, my husband is working out of town, and I miss him, but my skin remains unblemished and I don't feel sick. Go figure.

Measles, as you probably know, has been in the news a lot lately because some parents don't vaccinate their kids because they believe the vaccine causes autism.

A whole bunch of scientists and health experts looked into that autism claim and found the vaccine doesn't cause the disorder. Something else does, though admittedly nobody is sure what.

But a number of people still cling to the theory that the vaccines are bad.

Even most people opposed to measles vaccines concede measles is caused by a virus, but Lanka takes the anti-vax activism one stop further and says a virus has nothing to do with measles.

He's so confident of his theory that he offered to pay 100,000 Euros (a little over $95,000) to anyone who could prove measles is caused by a virus, says the gambling news site CalvinAyre.com

Lanka said his intent was "to get people to enlighten themselves."

Well, somebody was enlightened. Lanka for one.

CalvinAyre.com takes up the story:

"Enter German doctor David Barden, who saw not only the lunacy but also profit in Lanka's challenge. Barden gathered a suitably weighty collection of scientific evidence of measles' viral origin and presented them to Lanka with a request for the (100,000 euros). Lanka rejected Barden's evidence so the undeterred Barden took Lanka to court."

A panel of judges reviewed Barden's documentation and concluded there was "no doubt about the existence of the measles virus," says the CalvinAyre article.

The judges ordered Lanka to pay up.

Lanka said he would appeal the ruling against him.

If he loses the appeal, I worry he'll come down with the measles. Traumatic separation from his money, you understand.

Downs Syndrome Cheerleader Vs. Bullies: Basketball Team's Got Her Back

Desiree Andrews walks down a hallway at Lincoln
Middle  School in Kenosha, Wisconsin with
three basketball players who defended her
from bullies during a game at the school.  
Maybe I'm being Pollyannish, but it seems this has been a bad week or two for bullies.

What with Curt Schilling's outing the Twitter bullies tormenting his daughter, and the dance party response to the heavyset guy who was fat shamed online, and now a new case, things are pretty good.

You take what you can get.

The latest bit of good news came from a middle school basketball court in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Desiree Andrews, 14, is enjoying some positive viral Internet fame, and so is the Lincoln Middle School basketball team after what started as another ugly case of bullying turned into a demonstration on how to do the right thing.

I think the whole incident went viral because people are clammoring for news of people acting with a bit of dignity.

As the Kenosha News reported, Desiree,has Down syndrome and is a Lincoln Middle School cheerleader. She was bullied by some jerks in the home bleachers as she cheered on the school's basketball team recently.

During a time out, three members of the school's basketball team, Miles Rodriquez, Scooter Terrien and Chase Vasquez, stormed off the court and told the bullies to knock it off

Desiree's father, Cliff Andrews, said the basketball players intervened in nick of time.

'She saw that I was upset,' Andrews said. 'She threw her hands around me and made me look at her face and said, 'Papa it's OK. I still love them even if they don't like me.'"

It turns out, unsurprisingly, that lots of people in Kenosha and Lincoln Middle School like Desiree.

The school and its students now refer to the gymnaisum where the incident took place as "D's House," named for Desiree. 

Students and people throughout town also bought and wear lots of t-shirts with a "D's House" logo on them.

Still the Andrews family isn't letting this attention go to their heads.

In the Kenosha News article, Desiree's father said:

"'My concern is putting Desiree out there and people thinking we're doing it just so she can get all this attention,' Andrews said. 'It didn't start out that way. It started out when some fine young men stood u for her in a bullying situation. I didn't want to lose track of that. I don't want to take away rom what those boys did."

People with Down syndrome seem to be increasingly getting the positive attention they deserve. Actress Jamie Brewer, who has Down syndrome, recently modeled an original design by Carrie Hammer on the runway at New York Fashion Week to high praise.

I'm not quite sure why the scummier people among us bully people with Down syndrome anyway. Everyone I've ever met with Down syndrome have been nice, engaging people who you want to be friends with.

Or as Scooter Terrien, one of the basketball players said, 'It's not fair when other people get treated wrong because we're all the same."

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Daughter Self-Concious Of Birthmarks, So Parents Get Matching Tattoos

Little Honey-Rae in the middle posing with
her parents' new leg tattoos that match
the little girl's birthmarks.  
Parents of a little girl in Britain worried the kid would feel "different" because of the large red birth marks on much of the right side of her body.

The parents came up with an ingenious plan to ease the kid's worries. Both parents got tattoos that match the color and shapes of the kid's birthmarks, says The Mirror Online in Britain.

The little girl, named Honey-Rae ,didn't deserve to be singled out and picked on for her birthmarks, so parents Adam and Tanya Phillips got the tattoos to match their daughter.

Tanya Phillips said her fears were confirmed when mother and daughter were in a store and saw an older couple staring at Honey-Rae and whispering. If adults could be that mean, even unintentionally, kids at school could, too.

That tattoos would be a statement.

According to The Mirror, Tanya Phillips said this:

"Like any mum, I didn't want her to be different. I wanted her to be exactly the same as every other healthy child. And as much as the birthmark isn't dangerous, I knew it could have a huge impact on the rest of her life.

'Although in our eyes she was perfect, I knew other people would cruelly point and stare at her.'

'Adam and I decided straight away that we wanted Honey-Rae to feel special, that her birthmark was something to be proud of and not embarrassed by.'"

So, Adam and Tanya went to to the tattoo parlor.

"Most people might think it's extreme but to us it was the natural thing to do to ensure our daughter never felt different or alone in the world," Tanya Phillips said.

After the tattoo swelling went down on her leg and the pattern became clear, Tanya Philips said she showed Honey-Rae. 'She gently touched it and smiled as she said 'Match' point to her own leg.'

'If I'd have needed an reassurance that I'd made the right decision that was it.

She now constantly touches mine and Adam's tattoos then her own birthmark and giggles - I couldn't be happier.'"

Parents getting tattoos inspired by their kids seems to be a bit of a thing now.   As I noted a couple months back, a man in Ontario has his young son draw doodles and pictures, then he goes to the tattoo parlor and has those kid drawings tattooed onto his body.

I guess if you needed any further confirmation that tattoos have gone mainstream, child-inspired ink is it.

I surely can't complain. A parent's love comes in many different styles, all of them awesome.

Including tattoos.