Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Fido Does Understand What We Say, Duh!

Confirming what we already know, research indicates dogs like my
Jackson and Tonks know what we mean
by what words we use and how we say those words.  
Anyone who has a dog for a companion alreaady knew this, but dogs understand what we mean when we say certain words, and understand what we mean when we saw those words in a certain way.

You know how a dog reacts when you enthusiastically say "Good Boy!" The go all lovey-dovey on you when you do that, and they're very happy.

Still, for what it's worth, researchers in Hungary did some tests and figured out that dogs process words and the way they're said much like humans do.

They were able to train dogs to sit still while they did MRI's on them.

Both sides of their brains lit up, depending on what was said and how it was said.

According to the Associated Press:

"'Dog brains care about both what we say and how we say it,' said lead researcher Attila Andics, a neuroscientist at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest said in an email. 'Praise can work as a reward onlh if both word meaning and intonation match.'"

In other words, if you just say "Good Boy," like you're reading a boring text, the dog won't really register it. And if you enthusiastically say some random word like "Interstate," that won't do much for the dog, either.

However, if you say "Good Boy!" like you're excited and happy with Fido, both the left and right side of the dog's brain will light up in the MRI. That means they're understanding what the word means, and also figuring out the implications of what ou say by how you're saying it.

This is just one study on a limited number of dogs, so results may vary.

But it's fun to get some possible proof of what we already know. And what my dogs Tonks and Jackson already know.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Rejected Donald Trump Campaign Slogans

A top trending hashtag on Twitter this morning is #RejectedTrumpCampaignSlogans.

I've collected a few of my favorites so you don't have to comb through an entire Twitter feed looking for them. You're welcome.

By the way, in the comments section, suggest your own rejected Trump slogans. For that matter, for bipartisan's sake, suggest some Hillary Clinton rejected campaign slogans, too!

Anyway, here are some of the Trump bad slogans:

"We Shall Overcomb."

"Are you smarter than a 5th grader? If so, I'm not your candidate. "

"We need a hot first lady."

"Women are 'fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals' But 'believe me,' they're voting for me."

"Women and minorities should be flattered I'm even talking to them."

"Another prick with a wall."

"Enough about me. Let's talk about me."

"We klan do it!"

"You've tried a black president. Now try an orange one."

"Orange is the new whack."

"Everything is going to be alt-right."

"I can see Russia from my tax returns."

"You can't spell Trump without Rump."

Saturday, August 27, 2016

He Should Have Just Let The Sap Drip On His Tree

Raymond Mazzarella and the tree
he cut down, causing so much trouble. 
Raymond Mazzarella of Pittston Township, Pennsylvania hated the pine tree next door to the apartment building he lived in.

The tree's branches hung over his parking spot, and always seemed to drip sap onto his car. Really annoying.

Some people would have gone next door and complained about the tree, hoping something could get done.

Others might have asked the landlord to help in that effort. Or ask the landlord to trim the branches that were hanging over the apartment building property. Or Mazzarella could have parked his car away from the tree.

But those ideas make sense! We can't have that!

So, according to television station WNEP in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Mazzarella took matters into his own hands.

He went next door with a chainsaw and cut down the offending pine tree.

As is often the case with ideas like this, things went a bit awry. The pine fell onto the apartment house Mazzarella and five other people lived in, and pretty much destroyed it.

The city condemned the apartment house because it's damaged so badly. (Even its foundation shifted)

Mozzarella, as you can imagine, is not taking thiswell. Actually, he's taking it out on other people.

WNEP says Mozzarella came back to the apartment building later, where he encountered another resident, Tony Latwiss, moving his belongings out of the wrecked apartment building.

Mozzarella inexplicably attacked Latwiss with a baseball bat, leaving him bruised and sore.

Police are not amused, as you might imagine. At last check, Mazzarella was in jail, charged with simple assault, reckless endangerment and harassment.

By the way, it seems Mazzarella has a bit of a temper to begin with. In 2011, he was arrested for making threats against a local police chief.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Happy Anniversary, Chief: Why I Have A Perfect Husband

Chief: My husband Jeff and I are celebrating our
fourth wedding anniversary today.  
Today is my fourth wedding anniversary. Time flies.

I thought I'd use the occasion to write an open letter to my husband Jeff, who I call Chief. Here goes:

Dear Chief,   

Hard to believe we've been married four years already.  Time flies when I'm happy, I guess.

If I had to list all the reasons why I love you'd we'd be here all week. So I'm going to dispense with the list. You know I love you for a gazillion reasons, and we'll leave it at that.

In these past four years, we've settled into being a couple old married farts, but I'm sure you'd beg to differ with that description.

Actually, I pretty much do, too, since it certainly does nothing to capture the essense of our marriage.

The old fart remark is a reference to being comfortable. Happy in our routines. 

It's just that I'm so comfortable with you around. Even when neither of us is doing anything in particular. Just vegging in front of the TV. Having another dinner. Or when you're downstairs at your drafting table and I'm playing around on my laptop in my office.

All "boring" routine things that old farts do.

I feel safe. At home. In every sense of the word, whatever we're doing, whenever we're doing it.
Jeff ripping apart part of our deck this summer to retrieve the
wedding ring I dropped between the boards
Repairs were quick, by the way. 

Home is a refuge. And I don't mean just a house. 

Our home is a place where I still get a spasm of delight when I pull into the driveway and your Jeep is there. That means you're home. And I'm happy.

I even get a little pang of disappointment when I arrive home from work and I see you're not there. 

You're still at work, or grocery shopping, and you'll be home soon. But I still miss you and feel a little bit too alone when you're doing something routine like that.  

Oh, I can handle myself just fine when you're not home.  But I feel my heart lift when you're around. The other night I called it "the vapors" You just make my heart race with joy, is all.   

Another thing that makes me feel secure -  at home and comfortable -  is you have faith in me even when I don't have faith in myself.

I'm impatient.  I have ambitious plans for the gardens around our house and the plans are moving too slowly. Meanwhile, you create an enormous, beautiful outdoor deck so we can enjoy our home even more. You created it seemingly in an instant, while I plod along.

You constantly remind me my projects are a process, that you delight in seeing the slowly expanding flower beds, the incremental transformations in our yard. 

Jeff and his mom. He's as good a son as he is a husband! 
You always come to my rescue. Even little instances. 

Like when I dropped my wedding ring between the boards of the deck, and you ripped up some of the boards to retrieve it. My hero! And I'm not being facetious. You ARE my hero. 

I might not show it through my frustrations  but again and always, your words and support and love make me feel safe in my own chaotic head.

I keep bringing up the word "safe."  Love, when done right, is a safe place. It's a shield against all the hate and turbulence and weirdness of the world.  I think - I hope - we're doing love right. 

In the evening, when we're watching TV, you sit in your big armchair, and I'm usually on the couch with our crazy dogs Jackson and Tonks.

I don't think you notice that sometimes I go quiet and stare at you instead of the TV screen. Yeah, the antics on "America's Got Talent" are fun enough, but the real entertainment for me is you.

Not the fact that you're sitting there watching TV. No, the entertainment is the fact that you're there. Home, with me.  

So I watch you as you giggle at "The Big Bang Theory" or roll your eyes at the politicians Rachel Maddow is picking on.

And I feel so lucky, so over the moon in love with the guy in the armchair watching TV.

Because the guy in the armchair is the one who never makes me feel lonely, who always makes me feel safe, who has made me so happy to be alive.  The one I want to be with forever and ever. I don't want this to ever end.

Thanks, Chief, for always being there.

And Chief: Happy anniversary. We're celebrating our fourth. Let's go for 40!

Love, Matt

Of course I dedicate this song to Chief, too:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Miranda Lambert Stops Concert For An Awesome, Moving Moment

Miranda Lambert displays a beautiful sign a
fan was holding that moved her to tears at a
recent concert 
I'm a big fan of Miranda Lambert.

Her songwriting is amazing, and so is her wonderful country music voice.

Some people are even bigger fans of Lambert. Like the person who held up a sign at a recent Miranda Lambert concert in Hartford Connecticut.

The sign read, "3 combat tours - your voice was the last thing I heard every night. Thank you."

When Lambert spotted the sign, she had just launched into her classic song "The House That Built Me."

She couldn't finish the song. She was understandably moved to tears.. I think this is why performers like Lambert do their job; many of them want their music to help and comfort people, to help understand life, and get them through their days

So a big thanks to Lambert, and an even bigger thanks to the soldier who held up the sign.

Here's a viral video from that concert moment:

Bad Day On The Ship: Watch This Russian Cargo Go Overboard

Sometimes getting goods across the ocean is tough.

Storms arise, seas get rough, things go wrong.

For instance, watch what happens when the straps holding some giant pipes on a Russian ship snap in a storm. Explain this to your boss when you get to your destination! 

At least they're not in as big a mess as Anthony Weiner seems to be.

Here's the vid

Massachusetts Neighborhood Combats Anti-Gay Bigotry In Best Possible Way

Some anti-gay bigot vandalized Cari and Laura Ryding's
house in Natick Massachusetts. But what the neighbors
did about it was perfect. A 
My new favorite town is Natick, Massachusetts.

A married same-sex couple, Cari and Laura Ryding of Natick, recently came home from vacation to find their rainbow gay pride flag stolen and the front of their house egged.

Somebody doesn't like gay people, apparently.

The Rydings were understandably nervous that something like this would happen again, and they filed a police report, just to have a record of what happened in case something else came up.

What happened next, though, restored the Rydings' faith in humanity and especially their neighborhood, where they've lived for several years.

One by one, neighbors put up gay pride rainbow flags on their houses and properties. As of last report, at least two thirds of the homes in the Rydings' neighborhood have gay pride flags flying.

"The first thing when I heard about it, Alright, I'm going to put up a flag. We should all put up flags," neighbor Maura Gaughan told television station WCVB.

Kids in the neighborhood rode around on bikes, delivering flags to homes.

The Rydings are grateful, to say the least.

"It's wild. Just fill up with tears driving down the street," Cari Ryding said.

Here's the full report from television station WCVB:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Couple Upset Restaurant Posted "No Tip To Non-Citizens" Note They Left On Receipt

The nasty note left on a restaurant receipt. Add caption
Nasty notes written by customers on restaurant receipts is a reliable source of outrage, and we have another.

According to the Washington Post, Sadie Karima Elledge was working in her grandfather's Harrisonburg, Virginia restaurant last Monday. A couple Sadie served did not leave a tip when they ate there, and instead wrote a note on the receipt that read, "We only tip citizens." 

Yeah, real nice. Just that stupid hostility to anybody who is non-white because 'Merica is for Whites Only! Or something like that. 

By the way, Sadie was born in the United States and is of Honduran and Mexican descent.

Sadie's grandfather, John Elledge, who is white, posted a photo of the couple's nasty note on Facebook and captioned it "You are a complete and total piece of dung."

A little too polite in my opinion, but what the heck.

Then again, Mr. Elledge also had this to say on Facebook, according to the Washington Post:

"I'd happily do the jail time if I could get just one solid punch in to the face of the son of a bitch who paid for his meal at the luncheonette where my granddaughter works and left the receipt for her with a note saying 'Sorry, we only tip citizens."

Sadie is universally known in town as a fine young woman. She recently graduated from a local high school and is set to start classes at a community college soon.

Sadie Karima Elledge got a nasty note
from a customer due to her heritage. A
As is often the case with these rude receipts, which I've written about before, this one caught fire on social media.  

The people that left the nasty "citizen" note also saw it on social media and --- poor babies --- they are mad, MAD I tell ya!  

The couple returned to the restaurant and complained four digits of their credit card were on the Facebook post (turned out it wasn't their card).

But they were equally mad about having their note out there for all the world to see. You can see the signature Ada M. Doriot on the receipt.

The guy yelled at Mr. Elledge, but otherwise didn't get much resolved. "The guy, he was being really belligerent," Elledge told the Washington Post.

The woman half of the couple asked why he posted it, as if it wasn't obvious.

By the way, the couple is not invited back to the restaurant.

Maybe this couple wants to go back to the days of the whites only lunch counters?

I think maybe they should eat out less often and just stay home in front of the TV. Maybe while watching white supremecists videos.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Listen To These Horrible Pro-Trump Racists On CB Radios And Be Totally Terrified.

There were also plenty of Confederate flags at
a Massachusetts rally where extremely racist CB
radio chatter was captured.  
Yep, some Donald Trump supporters are racist, that's for sure.

Not all of them. Definitely not. But Raw Story  via Winning Democrats, has an interesting take from a rally in Massachusetts in late July in which their chatter was caught on CB radio.

It's definitely chilling and scary. And this is coming from a white guy. Imagine if an African American were nearby and heard what you'll read about.

From Raw Story:

"A Massachusetts convoy of Trump supporters drove from Wrentham to Foxboro in their trucks, RVs and SUVs on July 31 and were caught on tape spewing racist epithets and calls for anti-black violence.

'Lynch the ni**ers by their dicks,!' said one driver, according to Winning Democrats, which highlighted a YouTube video of what the 'Make America Great Again' convoy talked about on its CB channel when they thought no one was listening."

'Burn every single ni**ger!' says another driver.

'All I know is we got plenty of trees to hang ni**gers from,' says another.

 Yeah, real sweethearts in this group of idiots.

The YouTube video is at the bottom of this post. It's very disturbing. First of all, the group in the trucks and at the rally were pretty scary looking, judging from the video.

I'm sure the YouTube video only selected the most abhorrent words. And I suppose we could question the veracity o the video, but from what I can tell it seems legit.

It came from Winning Democrats, as I noted, and they are obviously an advocacy group against Trump, but all evidence supports the idea the CB traffic is real.

The video proves the point I've made quite often lately: Donald Trump isn't really the scary one. It's some of his supporters:

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Deez Nuts Learns Federal Election Commission Is Not Amused With Him

"Deez Nuts" got 9 percent of the North Carolina
electorate on his side at one point last year.
Some might say Donald Trump is a joke. Others might same the same of Hillary Clinton.

But at least they're actual candidates for President. This election cycle has brought us a horde of fake candidates like Deez Nuts, Left Shark and Toy Testicles.

The Federal Election Commission is sick of it, and they have a point, this is starting to get obnoxious.'

According to USA Today, the FEC is now cracking down on the merry and not-so-merry pranksters with their fake presidential runs.

An FEC news release says:

"The Commission has authorized staff to send verification letters to filers listing fictional characters, obscene language, sexual references, celebrities (where there is no indication tht the named celebrity submitted the filing), animals or similarly implausable entries as the name or contact information of the candidate or committee."

The letters will inform the pranksters that there are potential penalties for making false filing with the federal agency, and if the jokesters don't respond to the FEC letter within 30 days, they will be taken off the FEC's website.

USA Today says there are 1,850 filers or president on the FEC data base, including Bippy the Clown and Sir Cookie Zealot.

There were only 419 filers in the 2012 election. The jump this year is probably because the FEC put up a new form so that people could easily post a "statement of candidacy" online.

This statement isn't the same as running for president, as you have to be a real person and qualify for the ballot, and  candidates have to qualify for the ballot in each of the 50 states.

Still, fake candidates are making waves at times. In a North Carolina poll last year, Clinton and Trump were nearly tied with about 40 percent of the electorate each, but Deez Nuts threw off the poll by getting 9 percent of the potential vote.

I suppose you could still vote for Deez Nuts in the presidential election, but it's probably a wasted vote.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Wacko Who Said Floods Are God's Punishment For Gays Is Flooded Out Of His House. TG

Tony Perkins took this photo of his badly flooded
Louisiana home as he and his family escaped.
In the past, Perkins has agreed with those who said big
floods were God's wrath because gay people exist. 
I found it odd that, unlike in every previous horrible weather disaster, I didn't hear from the extreme religious wackos that the huge Louisiana flood happened because God is annoyed gay people exist.

One possible explanation for the lack of damnation talk with the flood is that one of many people whose houses was trashed by the Louisiana flood is a guy named Tony Perkins,

Perkins is President of the Family Research Council, a notoriously anti-gay conservative activist group.

While Perkins has never been the leading voice of the "God created this disaster because he hates gays" he at least agrees with the sentiment. According to Snopes, he was interviewing Paster Jonathan Cahn last October after a storm caused terrible flooding in South Carolina.

Cahn said the flood was God's anger that the United States legalized gay marriage, and Perkins agreed that God was trying to send a message.

(What was left unexplained that if God hated gay marriage so much, why did He unleash the flood on South Carolina, one of the most conservative places in the nation.)

I confess I'm a bit guilty of schadenfreude, though I really am not that pleased that Perkins' house was wrecked. Like all flood victims in Louisiana, he needs our support.

Still, I find it interesting that Perkins didn't say anything about God's anger. He called the disaster a flood of near biblical proportions, which is true, and said this was an opportunity for Christians to help others in need, which of course is a refreshingly good thing for Perkins to say.

I also noticed the home page of the Family Research Council web site has a large block asking people to donate toward Louisiana flood relief.

Perkins, his wife and five children escaped from their flooded house via a large canoe. An RV on their property was undamaged, so they will stay in that until their home is repaired.

And no, I definitely don't think God is punishming Perkins for being so virulently homophobic.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Heroic Rescue Of Baby From Hot Car, But......

"Ainsley" an incredibly lifelike
doll. A police officer broke a
car window to rescue an infant from
a hot car only to discover it was Ainsley the doll. 
Everybody did the right thing.

A woman in a Walmart parking lot in Keene, New Hampshire recently saw what looked like a baby locked inside a hot car on a scorching summer day.

Keene police arrived on the scene, and Lt. Jason Short saw the kid in a child car seat, says television station WMUR. 

"It was draped with a light blanket, and I could see little feet with the no-sole shoes and a bottle of milk," Short sakd.

So Short broke out a car window to rescue the baby. The kid appeared to be lifeless, so the officer tried to revive the kid. He began CPR.

That's when he realized what was going on. It was a doll. An incredibly life-like doll.

Says WMUR:

"The doll was a 'reborn doll,' manufacture to look exactly like a baby. Most reborn dolls cost a few hundred dollars, but this doll was valued at over $2,000."

The back story is almost as sad as a baby being left in a hot car to die.

The doll belongs to a Brattleboro, Vermont woman who collects these life-like dolls to cope with the death o her son years ago.

In a statement to the TV station, the woman said, "I've been laughed at and embarrassed by all the fuss. You can't know bow people choose to deal with their losses in life."

Very true. This was one of those cases where everybody did the right thing, but it still turned out weird.

The woman who called the cops, the cop who broke the window, and the woman trying to cope with her grief all did what we would expect and want people to do.

Still, it's an odd and sad story.

For the record, Keene Police said they would pay to repair the woman's car window.

If you do see a baby in a hot car, even if you don't know whether it's fake, call the cops anyway. Better safe than sorry.

Great Idea: High School Runners Team Up To Give Shelter Dogs Exercise

A California high school cross country team holds a practice
run with dogs from a local animal shelter.  
The high school cross country running team at St. Joseph High School in California came up with a great idea to help shelter dogs.

It's one of those brilliant flashes that you hope is copied all over the place.

Dogs need exercise. The pups awaiting adoption at shelters don't always have the opportunity to get as much exercise as they need.

So the cross country team took the dogs, put 'em on leashes and had them join their workout.

This all started when Stacy Silva of Santa Barbara County Animal Services noticed a Facebook post from St. Joseph High School Cross Country Team coach Luis Escobar that practices were starting.

Silva knew Escobar is a dog lover, and broached the idea of a team run with the dogs. The teens got a bit of training to know how to handle the dogs and off they went.

The kids were kind enough to notice if any of the dogs needed a break, so they weren't forced to run more than they could. (One runner ended up carrying Fred, who clearly didn't want to run the full distance.)

So: All you fit cross cross country runners out there: How about it: Does your local animal shelter think this is a good idea?

Check out the video:

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

DEA, Like Other Law Enforcement Shakes Down Airline, Train Passengers

Is the DEA enforcing drug laws, or or
they just shaking down people for cash. USAToday
raised the question.  
Asset forfeiture, the habit of law enforcement of taking money from people they "suspect" of a crime, whether these people actually committed a crime or not, keeps getting more widespread, we find out.

It's basically larceny by law enforcement, but shhhh! We're suppose to call it, "Cracking down on the drug trade."

Or whatever.

According to a USA Today report last week, federal DEA agents routinely mine data on airline and Amtrak passengers to find supposedly suspicious activity, then seize large quantities of money from some of these passengers, then often let them go.

The point of this, says the DEA, is to stop the flow of cash in the drug trade. And I'm sure some or even many of the cash seizures involve drug curriers or other people involved in the illicit drug industry.

But as I've complained about regarding other police agencies, is it really OK for law enforcement to just grab money for fun and profit without due process?

Technically, it's legal in a lot of places, but doesn't seem to follow the spirit of the Constitution for me. But hey! If we can just steal money from stupid schlubs who get in our way, we don't have to go through the pain in the neck process of bothering law-abiding taxpayers.

And you keep those anti-tax and spend politicians happy.

Never mind that some of the people law enforcement steals money from are also law abiding. It's just easier this way, apparently.

Based on the USA Today report, you probably shouldn't travel one-way, pay for your ticket with cash, have checked baggage or give the ticket agent a phone number for you that's not working.

The DEA could well mine that data on you, then take your money at your next stop.

The danger of this pervasive practice, which so far nobody has really put a stop to, is that we lose more and more confidence in law enforcement. They're written off as just another part of the corrupt system.

If people come to that conclusion, what's to stop them from really breaking the law. Hey, the cops do it, why shouldn't I,? goes the logic.

But, people running these law enforcement shakedowns don't think in those terms. They just want to rake in the cash.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Texas Wants To Execute A Guy Who Didn't Kill Anybody

Texas wants to execute this guy, even though
everyone agrees he never murdered anyone.  

A Texas appeals court has halted the execution of Lee Wood.

According to Reuters:

"It its decision, the appeals court asked a lower court to review his sentence and claims from Wood's lawyer that it was obtained in violation of due process because it was based on false testimony and false scientifice evidence."

That's a reference to the psychiatrist I reference in the previous discussion, below.

The psych doc never directly examined Wood, and had a reputation as "Dr Death" for always seeming to argue for the death penalty when called by prosecutors to testify.

The doc was kicked out of the American Psychiatric Association for the ethical violation of making diagnoses of capital murder defendents without examining them first, says Reuters.  

I'm sure some people in Texas are mad because they can't just kill anyone they want because they liked false testimony, but kudos to the appeals court for this moment of sanity.


I guess there's still a tough on crime crowd out there, judging from the way Texas is handling things these days.

They're about to execute a guy. They do that all the time in Texas. Normally, you have to commit murder to enjoy the death accommodations of the Lone Star State.

Now, though, they're offing a guy who didn't kill anyone. He was just near another guy who did.

According to the Washington Post, Jeffrey Lee Wood is to be executed on August 24 because he was sitting in a pickup truck back in 1996 while his buddy, Daniel Reneau went inside a Texaco convenience store and shot a 22 year old clerk to death.

Wood was the getaway driver, but it's unclear if he even knew Reneau had a gun with him, much less whether he was going to kill somebody.

Yeah, Wood was culpable. He was in on the idea to rob the store. So he definitely deserved to get locked up. But doesn't the death penalty seem a teensy bit harsh here, given the fact he wasn't the triggerman.

And given the fact that Wood has a low IQ,  And given the fact a psychiatrist hired by the prosecution said he would be violent again -- but it turned out the psych doc didn't examine Wood, and was always hired by prosecutors to say how awful defendents were, and the American Psychiatric Association kicked the doc out a couple years later for professional incompetence, says the Washington Post. 

Naturally, Texas prosecutors aren't saying anything, citing pending litigation in the case. That's always the excuse when some officials doesn't want to answer for something scummy they did because that would just add unwanted publicity to the case.

Some Texas lawmakers have tried to change the law that allows for accomplices who don't actually do the murdering to get executed anyway. But you know those law and order types.

Makes me afraid to go to Texas. They take guilt by association seriously down there, don't they? If I just look the other way when a jaywalker does his deed, to I get locked up for not reporting it?

I exaggerate. But when they say don't mess with Texas, they mean it in weird, immoral ways sometimes.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Watch These Trump Supporter Get Hilariously Trolled With Fake Ads

This group of Trump supporters fell for incredibly
ridiculous fake Trump campaign ads  
A Triumph The Insult Comic Dog video circulating now is both hilarious and wincing.

A group of Trump supporters were brought in as a focus group to review potential Donald Trump campaign ads.

But it was a set up. The ads were fake and intentionally way, way over the top.

The video is an amazing window on  how people are so easily led to suspend disbelief and actually attach themselves to something ludicrous.

It's both funny and scary.

I know the intention of this video is to pick on Trump supporters who will stand by him no matter what.

But to be fair, I'm sure people of all political stripes would fall for this too.

It's a 15-minute video, but still worth the time and the repeated jaw drops you will experience.


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Worst Texting Driver Ever In Pennsylvania

Hard to see in this still from the video. but a woman
steers through traffic near Philadelphia with her
feet while constantly texting. 
A couple driving along the highways and streets around Philadelphia spotted a woman texting with both hands and driving with her feet on the steering wheel.

I guess the texting enthusiasts' war on the rest of us is escalating. I swear they want to kill us by being as ridiculous as possible on the highways.

According to ABC 6 Action News in Philadelphia, the couple spotted the women on the busy Schuylkill Expressway and in thick urban traffic in Center City.

They followed the woman for about 20 minutes as she steered through traffic with her feet, her fingers skittering across the phone screen and eyes on the phone instead of traffic, swerving all the way.

While Shawn Delong drove and kept his eyes on the road, Sarah filmed the terrible texting woman.

"Someone is going to get killed, that's why I was so mad. You see people on their phones all the time, but that took the cake," Sarah Delong told Action News.

The Delongs tried beeping at Horrible Texting Woman and signaling her to get off the phone, but Horrible Texting Woman just took her eyes off the phone very briefly, smirked at the Delongs, then went back to texting.

Amazingly, Horrible Texting Woman did not hurt anyone, that we know of.

The cops apparently can't do anything about this situation, because they have to catch Horrible Texting Woman in the act.

Now that the video of Horrible Texting Woman has gone viral, maybe somebody can identify her and publicly shame her into never driving with her phone again.

A guy can dream, right?

Here's news video about Horrible Texting Woman


Friday, August 12, 2016

Lot Of Work To Steal This Bicycle

Timber! Surveillance video captures guy stealing bike
by cutting down tree.  
Some idiot in China decided to steal a bike.

I know, I know, that happens a lot. People steal bicycles all the time.  

But as you see in the surveillance video below, this guy really, really wanted this bike.

The bicycle in question was tied to a tree, a pretty good sized one. So our thief took out a hand saw, and spent lots of time cutting down the tree to steal the bicycle.

It's amazing no bystanders caught the guy, but he got away with it. The tree fell, he grabbed the bike, put it on the back of his motorbike and took off.

Here's the weird, amazing viral video:

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Update: Nation's Oldest Familhy Run Newspaper No Longer Owned By A Family

Amid a month of strife, the Rutland Herald in Vermont
has been sold to a Maine media company.
Last week I talked about the apparent financial crisis at the Rutland Herald in Vermont, which is, or was, the oldest family owned newspaper in Vermont.

Late last night, we learned what was really going on amid the bounced paychecks and other signs of monetary strife.

The owners of the newspaper, and its sister publication, the Barre-Montpelier TImes Argus, sold it it to a Maine media company.

I don't know if this is good or bad, but at least the Herald survives for now, apparently.

The whole episode once again illustrates how newspapers are struggling. Sure, there are a lot of on line media outlets and local newspapers are usually a part of that.

But as noted earlier, newspapers have not figured out how to be profitable online, even as print versions go by the wayside.

On Vermont Public Radio's Vermont Edition news and talk show today, David Mindich, a journalism professor at St. Michael's College in Colchester, Vermont said local newspapers like the Rutland Herald are a critical way to shine a needed light on local government and root out corruption.

These days, media profitability depends upon reader clicks, the number of times people cruising the Internet stop at a particular story.

More often than not, it's fluff, and not the important stuff that goes on. Mindich told Vermont Public Radio that editors need to be sure they're pushing important stories not just the "cat riding around on the Roomba story."

Even if everybody is paying attention to the cat on the Roomba and not the city councilor on the take.

Here's why:

It's true more people will read the cat on the Roomba story over the city councilor taking bribes from the construction contractor.

But a few people will read about the city councilor, which is fodder for the prosecutors, the political opponents and activists who would keep that city councilor in check.

If we lose the local papers to the clickbait fluff, the crooked city councilor will get away with (maybe literally) murder.

Is that the world in which we want to live?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Mocking Trump Might Be Only Way To Stop This Dangerous Jerk

Imagining Donald Trump if he was an Olympic swimmer. 
The news over the past 24 hours has been all about Donald Trump's latest outrage. (There's one every day.)

Of course, the latest outrage you've heard about is The Donald saying "Second Amendment People" have, um, options, if Hillary Clinton is elected and she starts appointing Supreme Court justices that are hostile to the Second Amendment.

But it was a joke! he says. Ha ha! What he really meant was people who love the Second Amendment can band together to work for Trump's election and Clinton's defeat.


As any bonehead knows, if Trump really just wanted to say Clinton is bad for the Second Amendment, all he had to do is say, "Hillary is hostile to gun rights! Vote for me to preserve the Second Amendment and gun laws!"

Boom, that's it.

However, as many commentators pointed out, he does this all the time. He says really bad things but says them in ambiguous ways that he can backtrack and say, "It was only a joke."

Most of the world takes these as jokes, because Trump is a joke.

But Trump also knows there's a certain segment of the population that won't get the nuance, and take his words as marching orders. That's the dangerous part.

Thomas Friedman wrote about that today in a New York Times column, the first sentence of which was:

"And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin got assassinated.

Friedman went on to explain that extremist rabbis and militant settlers branded Rabin a traitor, and then candidate Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a "feverish right-wing rally from a balcony in Jerusalem's Zion Square, as protestors below shouted for the death of Rabin"

Sounds like a Trump rally to me. Which illustrates the danger and how Trump is playing with fire for his own personal gain. Who cares if somebody dies, as long as he wins, right?

Nobody is ever going to rein Trump in, to make his discourse semi-civil.

It seems one way to tear Trump down is to mock him. He's so fragile it seems to send him off the deep end. Plus, his rabid supporters won't listen to facts, but maybe they will if the rest of us somehow make Trump seem "uncool."

It's a long shot, but it eventually worked for cigarettes.

 The ever-reliable Elizabeth Warren hit the nail on the head again when she Tweeted this: "@realDonaldTrump makes death threats because he's a pathetic coward who can’t handle the fact that he’s losing to a girl."

He is especially bad at taking criticism from women, and regularly becomes unhinged when people like Warren launch tweet storms against Trump. She, too, understands mockery is the way to defeat Trump.

I get it that mocking people is a form of bullying. But it can be appropriate when used on a bully like Trump who won't back down.

The following letter recently appeared in the Tampa Bay Tribune.  It's also a perfect sendup.

It might be the best trolling of Donald Trump ever:

Here's the text:

"My Letters Are So Great!"

"I write fabulous letters. If you read all the letters I have written, you would agree. You would love them. Other letter writers are weak, soft and out of touch. I'm not like that, and I'm sure if you are reading this you aren't either.

This paper really needs great letters, and I am awesome at letter writing.

Other letter writers might attack me, but then they go away. They don't have what it takes to keep writing letters. I have what it takes to write the best letters. Letter writers who disagree need to be punched in the face and run out of town.

I guarantee this letter will be picked as letter of the month. If it isn't picked, it will prove that this letter writing contest is rigged."

----Terry Vaught, Dover

Actually, Vaught later said the letter was a little longer but the paper apparently edited it down some.

The omitted sentence. "My letters are so great I'm going to build a wall and putting my letters on them. Then I'll get the other letter writers to pay for building the wall."

In my opinion, the letter should have also said that anyone who disagrees that the letter is great is mentally unstable.

If you have any great ideas on how to mock Trump, tell me in the comments section, or on Facebook or  Twitter. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

People Focused On Pokemon Go Find Novel Ways To Get Hurt

This is a set up photo by a comedian and YouTube
star, but it illustrates what happens when
people get just a little too wrapped up in Pokemon Go.  
As most of us know, the required summer activity this year is playing Pokemon Go.

For the uninitiated, Pokemon Go is a game played on mobile phones in which people must capture digital Pokemon characters, which appear to pop up in the player's real world surroundings.

Pretty cool!

But pretty dangerous if you're focused exclusively on the Pokemon characters and not, you know, the real world.

I have not indulged myself in the game, which I guess makes me something of a loser. 

But an uninjured one! A lot of Pokemon Go people tend to get hurt because they're so focused on the game they don't see the danger around them.

Jimmy Kimmel, in the video at the bottom of this clip, compiled some of the stupid stuff people have gotten into while playing. People walked off cliffs, into traffic or smashed their vehicles into police cars while playing Pokemon Go.

The guy who hit the cop car, all captured on a police officer's body cam, can be heard saying after te crash. "That's what I get for playing this dumb-ass game." (That video is at the bottom of this post, too.)

One clip showed a guy in Bosnia, happily wandering around a minefield all in the pursuit of Pokemon Go.

In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, pesticide control people can't spray for mosquitoes to prevent West Nile disease because of Pokemon Go. They have to spray late at night, when people aren't outside, but lately hordes of Pokemon Go enthusiasts are out in parks playing as late as 4 a.m.

All these people means no spraying. So does Pokemon Go cause West Nile disease?

Some Pokemon Go crazies seem to want to play in areas that would cause the most offense.

The people who run Auschwitz and tbe Holocaust Memorial Museum have actually had to tell people not to play Pokemon Go there. Yes, a number of people actually thought it was OK to play the game in these places.

The Boston Globe reports that another Pokemon Go stop is the site of a deadly nightclub fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island that killed 100 people and injured 200 more in 2003.

Here in Vermont, where I live, we're not safe from the dangers posed by people who are just a little too into the game.

In July a person playing Pokemon Go, while drunk and while driving, crashed his car near Rutland, Vermont. Luckily,  nobody was hurt.

Pokemon Go is surely a fun game, and most people who are into it are pretty normal and safe. But there's a few in every crowd, as we well know.

And as we can see in Jimmy Kimmel's video:

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Will Historic Vermont Newspaper Bite The Dust?

The Rutland Herald in better days, winning
the Pulitze Prize for editorials in 2001. 

The situation still is mirky at the Rutland Herald, with management still not really explaining what's going on.

As you saw before this update, pay checks for reporters and staff bounced, and there are other signs of a sinking financial ship at the nation's oldest family owned newspaper.

A newspaper that stresses transparancy sure isn't demonstrating it.

Management finally did have a meeting with staff Monday. Such a meeting had been previously delayed

Editor in chief Rob Mitchell would only release a statement to the media, and not take further questions.

Mitchell said the financial picture "looks worse from the outside than it is," and "At this point, there are still things we can't talk about, for a variety of reasons."

Mitchell said the Rutland Herald has a future.

Let's hope so.

Meanwhile, Alan Keays, the editor who was fired for wanting to pursue the story of what's going on with the Herald's finances over the objection of management, spoke out to Vermont Public Radio.

Keays said:

"This is actually the first day since I left college that I haven't had a job in journalism. I had to do the story, I just wish there was a way that the management would have trusted us to do it in a fair way and in a credible way.  I wish they would have trusted me and the staff to do that."


There's a soon-to-be not so daily, once venerable newspaper in Vermont called the Rutland Herald that might be tottering on the edge of its existence.

If it is about to close, it'll be one of the nation's oldest newspapers to fold.

It started in 1794 and has been a fixture in central Vermont ever since. It even won a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for its editorials on civil unions, which was a precursor to gay marriage.

It's plain, though, that the iconic Rutland Herald is in trouble. Like many newspapers nationwide, the Herald has been suffering for years.  
The Rutland Herald recently announced it was only going to be published  four days a week, instead of every day.

Even worse and more ominously, staff payroll and expense checks bounced, and the management of the family-owned newspaper has not yet explained why, says a front page article in the Rutland Herald this week.

Worse, according to the Burlington weekly paper Seven Days, the Rutland Herald's editor in chief, Alan Keays, was fired Friday afternoon, either for approving running the story, or for OK'ing another follow up story he'd planned for today's paper.

The people doing the firing were Rutland Herald owner R. John Mitchell and publisher Catherine Nelson.

Seven Day says so far, Mitchell and Nelson are not returning their phone calls and emails.

That Keays  might have been fired for OK'ing reporting on something that was definitely of interest to readers of the Rutland Herald is a no-no.

True, no business likes their dirty laundry aired to the public, but newspapers are a special case. Journalism is supposed to be all about transparency. When the owner of a newspaper interfered with editorial decisions like this, it's not good. 

Keay's dismissal prompted a walkout by much of the rest of Rutland Herald's staff, says Seven Days, but I think enough people returned to put out a paper. Seven Days, at last check was calling it a "fluid situation" at the Herald. said staffers were convinced to come back after Mitchell said he might un-fire Keays. But it was unclear as of this writing if that actually happened.

Morale must be SO wonderful at the Rutland Herald. A popular editor is canned, the staff wants to revolt, and they are not getting paychecks, at least not in a timely manner.

The payroll problems that started in July seem to be ongoing, too. VTDigger,org says no direct deposit payroll checks were available Friday, but the Herald issued checks without full payroll deduction information.

Some employees cashed their checks at the company bank because they worried about getting bounce fees if they tried it at their own banks, says


By the way, the Rutland Herald might get in trouble with the Vermont Department of Labor because of this payroll mess if it keeps going on, says VTDigger.

As was the case with Seven Days reporter, the publisher and owner of the Rutland Herald did not return numerous calls from VTDigger.

Reporters and other staffers at the Herald also said they have been kept in the dark about the financial crisis, too.

There's journalistic transparency for ya!

In general, newspapers have not figured out how to stay profitable when everything is available at the click of a mouse.

Like it or not, it gets more and more apparent every year that newspapers are passe.  At least in traditional forms, like, you know, actual newspapers.

The newspapers are on line, too, but being online apparently isn't profitable for the papers.

In 2013, I was booted from my position as a reporter for the Burlington (Vermont) Free Press as part of cost cutting moves by Gannett, the Free Press parent company.

You don't realize when you're in it how bad things get amid repeated cost cutting until the issue is forced, like in my case when I was finally laid off. I actually felt better after being let go.

I still miss the daily rush of trying to meet deadlines, explaining in written words the issues of the day in a way that was compelling and interesting to people, directly questioning and holding accountable state and even national leaders, and being among the most informed people I know.

The reason I still write blog posts like this one is I like to have that writing outlet still in play

I also know toward the end of my reporting days that  I was glorifying things.

I noticed the difference right away after I left the Free Press and still do. I've changed careers and now work at Gardener's Supply and also do independent work as a gardener.

No offense to the people at the Burlington Free Press, (though some offense intended at the parent company Gannett) I frankly have to say that since I left the Freeps three years ago, I now sometimes come home from work tired, but I never come home from work angry.

Still, I feel pangs of sadness when I see the Burlington Free Press as a shadow of its former self. Even worse watching the Rutland Herald implode.

I grew up around Rutland, Vermont, so that paper was a daily part of my existence for decades.

The world changes, industry changes, some things fall by the wayside. But I'm already think I should start mourning a Vermont institution that's been around for something like 220 years.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Chutzpah: Old Woman Alters Artwork, Now Wants Copywright On It For "Improvments"

An elderly woman "improve" a piece of artwork'
depicting a crossword puzzle and now shes'
claiming copywright control over it.  
The Nuremberg, Germany Neuse Museum recently had on loan a piece of artwork by 20th century artist Arthur Kopcke that depicts a crossword puzzle.

A 90-year old woman, identified only as Hannelore K. visited the gallery and started filling in the crossword puzzle on the artpiece becuase it bore the phrases "insert words" and "so it suits."

OK, I get it that a 90 year old woman might get confused a bit and not realize she's not supposed to touch the artwork in a museum.

So far, she hasn't gotten in trouble, though police are investigating her. The museum went to work restoring the artwork to its original condition. The piece had an estimated value of $90,000

However, according to Ars Technica, Hannelore lawyered up and, in a demonstration of pretty huge chutzpah, is now claiming copywright control over Kopcke's piece.

Hannelore's lawyer said she increased the value of the work by bringing the relatively unknown Kopcke to the attention of the public. And her "invigorating re-working," as the lawyer put it, of the exhibit increased its worth.

With that, the lawyer summed up, Hannelore now owns the copywright to the work, since she "improved" it.

Hannelor could technically, in theory,  have the backing, sort of, of the original artist. Ars Technica says that Kopcke was part of an art movement called Fluxus, which stated that museums really didn't have the authority to determine the value of art, and Fluxus art involved the viewer.

Hannelor certainly involved herself in the artwork.

Should I start going to musuems and "improving" artwork? Put a mustache on Mona Lisa? Make the subject of "The Scream" seem happier?

I could make a lot of money doing this, huh?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Ugh. Hallloween In July As Stores Keeping Pushing Seasons Earlier And Earlier

Just some of the extensive selection of Halloween
candy at a Shaw's Supermarket in Colchester,
Vermont on July 31. Couldn't find stuff
I needed for summer, though.  
Every holiday is getting earlier and earlier, at least in the eyes of retailers.

Sunday, July 31, I stopped into a Shaw's supermarket in Colchester, Vermont to buy, among other things, some sun screen. Because I work outdoors frequently and need the protection.

I finally found some buried on a back shelf somewhere, but it was hard. Why? Because there was aisle after aisle of Halloween candy, but nothing you would need for summer.

I'm not finding much good information on line as to why stores put out seasonal goods so early. I'm sure it's a way for them to make more money.

It's infuriating, though. I buy things when I need them. I think most people do. Around August 1, I'm apt to buy sun screen, bug spray, a new pair of shorts to replace the ones I ripped rolling around in the grass with the dogs. Things like that.

But most retailers have decided I can't buy this stuff I need. I'm expected to plan ahead, and know precisely how much bug spray and sun screen I'll need for the summer way back in March. I'm supposed to be psychic. Because we're required, say the Retail Gods, to buy things six months before we actually need them. 

The summer stuff is not on store shelves now, when I want and need it.

Merchants claim it's out fault, that consumers demand that they stock items ever earlier every year.

I don't think that's true, though. Oh sure, there's a few weirdos who like to shop for back to school items a month before school lets out in May. A few other weenies think it's all Christmas all the time and shop for the holiday year round.

What's really going on is they stock things way, way earlier, training us to buy way, way early. But then we misplace the summer stuff we had to buy in February, or the kids get into the Halloween candy in August, a month after we were forced to purchase it, so we have to buy more

That way, the stores make more money.

The early season stuff is also stores wanting to get our attention first.

"The marketplace is so competitive that they can't take a chance that people are going to spend their $50 somewhere else," Purdue University retail management pofessor Richard Feinberg told NPR in 2011. 

Let's face it. Retailers hate us, and just want our money. They don't want us to buy things during the season when we need it, because that's not much of a money maker.

Retailers and their season creep sucks.

Monday, August 1, 2016

An Open Letter To The American Patriot Khizr Khan

Khizr Kahn offers Donald Trump a copy of the
Constitutiion while his wife looks on
at the Democratic National Convention.  
Like a huge number of Americans, I was awed by the address given Thursday at the Democratic National Convention by Khizr Khan, the father of the deceased American soldier who took Donald Trump to task in the best way possible.

Khan does not know me, I don't know him. I'm sure he'll never see what follows, but I want to write this open letter to him anyway.

Dear Mr. Khan:

Like millions of Americans, I watched your address to the Democratic National Convention in which you invoked patriotism, duty and sacrifice as you, in the most dignified way possible, helped us understand the dangers of Donald Trump.

We all know you and your family already sacrificed way too much, losing a son as he heroically saved the lives of other soldiers and civilians.

Yet, you walked out onto a stage and gave even more, in the name of duty and patriotism.

I don't think you fully realize what a great service you did. It seems I never hear anymore about how we should serve our country. It seems all I hear from people is, "these are my rights," without adding that with those rights come responsibility.

This nation needed so desperately to be reminded of this. Thank you for doing just that.

And it stuck. Days later, everybody is still talking about what you said and did. It's cleansing America's soul, at least a little bit

You rightly suggest that people in our political system must serve to advance our nation, not just themselves. To me it's shocking that we had to be reminded of this, but I'm grateful you did.

On Friday, during an appearance on MSNBC, you appealed to Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan's patriotism in asking them to take a moral stand by telling Trump, "enough."

You said:

"There is so much at stake, and I appeal to both of these leaders, this is the time. There comes a time in the history of a nation where an ethical, moral stand has to be taken regardless of the political costs.....The only reason they're not repudiating his behavior, his threat to our democracy, our decency, our foundations, is just because of the political consequences."

Let's hope these leaders' sense of patriotism outweighs their fears of political consequences.

I'm sure you're not surprised Trump didn't take your message to heart. He said your wife didn't speak at the convention because you didn't allow him to, that his sacrifice in "creating jobs" is somehow on par with yours, and that the Clinton campaign orchestrated everything you said.

Of course, you didn't read from a paper or a teleprompter, politely declined to use the services of a Clinton campaign speechwriter, and spoke from the heart.  Your wife was too overcome by emotion to speak, which everybody except Trump apparently understands.

Ultimately, what the rest of the nation thinks about your convention speech matters much more than how Trump takes it.

In a world of packaged soundbites, your very human and humane address made your message resonate even more. Which is incredibly important, given our noisy politics and news cycles and all that clutter.

The world can often seem hateful, violent and cold-hearted. Some people, like Trump, embrace that darkness.

You chose not to, though given the fact you lost your wonderful and brave son to war could have easily led you in that direction.

Instead, you found light in work, kindness, compassion and strength. That we saw these characters on full display as you gave your address Thursday will inspire me and countless others.  Maybe many of us will become better people because of what you did.

At least I hope so.

Mr. Kahn, your son was a hero..So are you.

Sincerely, Matt