Tuesday, March 27, 2018

James Corden Gives An Epic "Stormy" Forecast

On The Late, Late Show, James Corden recently gave a television weather forecast. At first glance, you'd think it belongs on my sister blog "Matt's Weather Rapport" but nope, this is strictly poltical humor.

We have "Stormy Daniels" of course, looming long the East Coast, combining with a lot of hot air from Washington, meaning the forecast can't be good at all. But it is really funny. We'll let Corden take it from here:

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Pennsylvania School Has Strange, Rocky Solution To School Shootings

A sample of the river rocks at a school district in Pennsylvania.
Students are expected to throw these rocks if a mass shooter
invades a school in the district. 
As you surely saw on the news, hundreds of thousands of people, a large proportion of them teenagers. demonstrated Saturday to push for gun restrictions they hope would stop or at least diminish all the mass shootings this country experiences.

However, as you also might have heard on the news, a Pennsylvania school district has already solved the problem. Or at least they think so. Color me and almost everybody else, um, skeptical.

The Blue Mountain School District in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania says river rocks will do the trick.

You know river rocks. Those are the stones you find in brooks and streams that have been worn down smooth by the water. That smoothness makes them easy to pick up, grasp and throw at somebody you don't like.

Including mass shooters, at least in the minds of the people in this school district.

I'm not sure how a few river rocks thrown at a maniac assailant armed with an AR-15 would end the rampage, but what do I know?

BuzzFeed News quoted District School Superintendent David Helsel this way:

"If an armed intruder attempts to gain entrance to any of our classrooms, they will face a classroom full of student armed with rocks. And they will be stoned."

OK, now I'm confused. Does he mean the armed intruder will be stoned, as in, having a bunch of rocks thrown at him like those barbaric executions back in the olden days?

Or does he mean the people throwing the rocks will be stoned, as in totally high on weed? If the students are high, I can't imagine their aim would be all that good.

Anyway, Helsel continues: "We have some people who have pretty good arms. They can chuck some rocks pretty fast."

I don't want to disparage the fine student athletes in the Schuylkill County Blue Mountain School District. I'm sure members of the district's baseball teams can throw a mean curve ball. I bet the baseball and softball teams there are second to none.

Still, despite the athletic prowess of these students, I'm not sure if the speed of their rock throws can outmatch the speed of bullets from an AR-15.

But again, what do I know?

To be fair, this school district has other mass shooting protocols, including lockdowns and lock-ins, where students and teachers lock classroom doors in the hopes an armed assailant can't get in.

Still, the armed maniac could still get it, and Helsel doesn't want the people in the classrooms to be sitting ducks, nosiree!

So, each classroom has a five-gallon bucket of river stones. Helsel figures there might be 25 students  and a teacher in any given classroom, so that's a lot of people throwing stones.

But what happens when the bucket is emptied out.? Assuming anybody has survived to this point. Helsel insists it's better than nothing. "Under the circumstances, it is a better response than passively crawling under a desk and allowing someone to break into a classroom."

However, like all shootings and attacks, is Helsel right? A person shooting wildly with an AR-15 or something might not notice a kid cowering in the dark under a desk, but he or she would surely notice a kid pegging rocks at him.

Personally, I'd rather a person with a semi-automatic firearm not notice me.

It appears that at least some parents in the Blue Mountain School District are as dubious about this river rock safety plan as I am.

Regan Cameron Hutchins tweeted: "Welcome to Schuylkill County, where the people are dumb but the rocks are plentiful......When (daughter) Riley told us about the rocks - we thought she was kidding because it sounded like a fucking joke, right?"

I'm with you Regan. I almost didn't write this post because for the longest time I thought this story was something dreamed up and written by the staff at The Onion.

Helsel complained to BuzzFeed that media outlets were reporting on the river rock plan and "taking it out of context to make it look silly."

Oh, no, Mr. Superintendent. It really IS silly.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Sounds Like This Marriage Was Destined To Be

Ms Xue sits in front of a large sculpture in Qingdao, China
in the year 2000. The man in the background
met Ms. Xue in their hometown of Chengdue,
China 11 years later and got married. Then he
found the photo taken over a decade before they
actually met. Destiny?
In Chengdue, China,  Mr. Ye and a Ms. Xue met and fall in love back in 2011. Then they got married and are so far living happily ever after. Very nice.

Recently, according to Petapixel, Mr. Ye was going through soe of Ms. Xue's old family photos, and came across an old photo of his future wife visting the city of Qingdao eleven years before the couple met.

However, Mr. Ye noticed something interesting in the background of the photo. Namely, himself.

"When I saw the photo, I was taken by surprise and I got goosebumps all over my body....that was my pose for taking photos."

In the photo, Mr. Ye came across, Ms. Xue is sitting on a small stool, dressed in white, with an immense red sculpture behind her. On the right hand edge of the frame, you see Mr Ye striking a sort of "Vogue" pose for a camera person that's outside the field of vision.

Mr. Ye explained that he almost always struck that distinctive pose when somebody was photographing him, so as soon as he saw the image, he knew he was looking at himself.

The odds that the two would be in the same photo are slim. The two are from Chengdu, with a population of about 14 million. Qingdao, where the two independently visited on the same day 11 years before their marriage, has about 9 million people. Chengdu and Qingdao are about 1,100 miles from each other.

Not surprisingly, the photo has gone viral in China, with many people there and everywhere else using the photo as evidence the pair was destined for each other, though neither of them spoke to each other during that visit 11 years before the couple actually met.

Monday, March 19, 2018

A Young Gardener Just Thrilled The Hell Out Of Me

Keynote speaker Ian McKenna wowed and
inspired us at the Gardener's Supply Company
annual meeting last month.
Last month, my employer, Gardener's Supply Company in Burlington, Vermont, held its annual meeting.

We're an employee-owned company. Everybody who works there, including me, has a stake in it. So the annual meeting is a great chance to look over our financials, see where we've been, learn where we're headed.  

Each annual meeting features a keynote speaker, almost always somebody from outside the company who gives us inspiration and information meant to propel us forward and keep doing what we're doing.  

This year's keynoter was, of all people, a 13-year-old kid named Ian McKenna from Austin, Texas. He was easily - by far- the best keynote speaker we've ever had at Gardener's Supply.

Some background: Gardener's Supply is big on giving back to the community. That's one of the reasons why I work there.

I know the following is a shameless plug, but bear with me. It's good. This year, we're promoting something called Garden To Give. We're inviting our customers - anyone from newbies to hard-core gardeners  -  to agree to give away some of their summer produce to food shelves and people who just need food. Many of us Gardener's Supply employees are taking the pledge, too.

So, back to our 13-year-old kid. His altruism started in 2012 when his younger sister, then in first grade, was in school talking about Christmas traditions around the world, but one girl in the class burst into tears.

The girl said, "Santa's never come to us, he hates us because we're poor."


When Ian heard that story, he and his family decided to show up on Christmas morning at the girl's house with a carload of toys and food.

That had such an effect that a few months later Ian found out a student at school only ate breakfast and lunch provided at school with no dinners because the family was too poor, he knew he had to act again.

So he started a garden at Oak Hill Elementary school, and that people who were hungry could come there and collect fresh produce. He also opened a garden at another school, and in the first year grew 750 pounds of vegetables.  The next year, it was over 1,000 pounds of food.

I'm as guilty as anyone in my garden. Sometimes I surprise myself with more produce than I can handle. I give some away, or live on a diet of, say, string beans for a week to get through the harvest. Or, sadly, some food gets thrown away.

I'm not sure I will grow a giving garden exactly like the one highlighted on the Gardener's Supply how-to website. (I'm not the biggest fan of kale)

But surely I can give something - produce, time, volunteer work, money.

If Ian can do that much good, maybe I could at least do a fraction of it. If Ian as a teenager pulled off this much good stuff, we can all do a little, right?

Here's a video from Laura, from her YouTube channel, Garden Answer, with more on Garden to Give:

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Predictably, Betsy DeVos Gets Raked Over The Coals, Hilariously, On SNL

Kate McKinnon as a ditzy Education Secretary Betsy
DeVos on Saturday Night Live 
Lots of people were talking about ditzy Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' awful interiew on 60 minutes last week.

Of course, "Saturday Night Live" had to jump into the fray. Kate McKinnon, who can be relied upon to parody anybody, took the role of a wide-eyed, confused DeVos during the SNL's "Weekend Update" segment.  

The only problem with the segment is that McKinnen's DeVos wasn't much dumber than the real one. But it's still totally worth the watch:

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Tragic Police Shooting Death Leads To Of All Things, Kids Able To Have Lunch

Philando Castile was shot and killed by a Minnesota
police office in 2016. Castile was school nutrition
supervisor. A fund in his name is now paying off
childrens' school lunch debt. 
A guy named Philando Castile worked in a school cafeteria as a school nutrition supervisor.  Sometimes, he'd dip into his own pockets to help kids who couldn't afford lunch.

Castile was killed by a police office during a 2016 traffic stop, which of course meant the world lost a generous, kind guy, the type of person we all need.

As is pretty much always the case when a police officer shoots a black person, the police officer was acquited of criminal charge. Which compounds the tragedy.

When a good person dies, people often try to turn the tragedy into something good. And Castile's death has led to exactly that.

According to CNN, a charity run in Castile's name has wiped out the lunch debt of every student in all 56 schools in the St. Paul Public Schools district in Minnesota.

"That means that no parent of the 37,000 kids who eat meals at school need worry about how to pay that overdue debt," according to a fundraising page for the charity Philando Feeds the Children.

I'm going to stop right here for a second and get on my soap box. I get it that school districts everywhere are strapped for cash and can't afford to pay for school lunches. Somebody has to pay for them.

However, I have an immense problem with all those schools who punish the kids because their parents either can't pay for the school meals or won't.

In many schools, when there's lunch debt, the kids involved often just get a lame, cold sandwich while their friends get full meals.

That's an insidious practice that's become known as "lunch shaming." It's terrible to deny a kid a decent lunch. It's also terrible to shame a kid by giving him or her something substandard in front of all their friends. I thought schools discouraged bullying. All this does is encourage it.

In St. Paul, Minnesota, the Philando Feeds The Children fund goes beyond rescuing kids from food bullying by the school district.

CNN says student parents or caregivers cannot submit paperwork to request free or reduced-price lunches (based on income and need) unless the kids' lunch debt is retired.

Which leads to a never-ending cycle. The kids' lunch fund keeps going deeper and deeper into debt, so it becomes more impossible for the kids' parents to pay off the debt. Some parents acrue as much as $1,000 in debt.

Which means the kids will never, ever get decent food.  They can't pay the debt, so they can't apply for free or reduced cost lunches. That's the way it works in today's America. If you're poor, you need to be punished. Whether or not it's your fault.

It looks like when he was alive, Castile understood this. So do the people donating to this cause. There's a lot of bad things in this world, but at least some good can come of it, at least sometimes.

As of about a week ago, the Philando fund stood at over $107,000, which really, really surpassed its goal of $5,000, CNN says.

"Philando is STILL reaching into his pocket, and helping a kid out," the charity wrote in a social media post recently.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Amazon Echo Is Laughing Creepily At Us

Is the random laughter coming from Amazon Echo's
Alexa a sign that she's turned evil and murderous?
I'm glad I read the NPR article I'm about to cite before Alexa, the voice on my and everybody else's  Amazon Echo could scare the daylights out of me.

Apparently, Alexa has been breaking out in creepy laughter for no apparent reason.

Here's how NPR describes the typical scenario, kind of like a teaser for a horror movie:

"Late at night, in the gathered shadows of your bedroom, you may have heard it. Or, perhaps you heard it over breakfast with your family in the kitchen, the sound rising unbidden from over your shoulder in a corner of the room you had thought - and now, desperately wish - to be empty. 

Laughter. Quick, inhuman laughter."

Normally, to get Alexa to talk and give you information, you have to say the name Alexa and ask your question. Example: "Alexa: How old is Alex Trebek?" (For the record, Alexa tells me Trebek is 77 years old.)

If you don't ask Alexa any questions, she's supposed to keep her mouth shut.

But she's into the laughter lately, freaking out lots of people.   Some people have said when they hear that Alexa laugh it is "time to move" and "the scariest shit I've ever heard."

You can rig up an Amazon Echo to turn your lights on and off. One person wrote on Reddit: "I was trying to turn off some lights and they kept turning back on. After the third request, Alexa stopped responding and instead did an evil laugh."

On Twitter, a guy named Gavin Hightower wrote: "Lying in bed about to fall asleep with Alexa on my Amazon Echo Dot lets out a very loud and creepy laugh....there's a good chance I get murdered tonight."

Amazon explains that sometimes the Amazon Echo mistakenly hears the command, "Alexa, laugh" and does.

I can't imagine a random bump in the night sounds like "Alexa, laugh" but what do I know?

Or are there creepy people wandering around outside and tellling Alexa to laugh from outside the house. Or have they broken in? Yikes!

Amazon said it's working on a fix in which the Echo won't respond to the command "Alexa, laugh." If you really want Alexa to laugh, you'll have to say, "Alexa, can you laugh?"

And in that case, Alexa will respond, "Sure, I can laugh," followed by laughter.

Still, I think this whole thing means we should be paging Steven King.  He's done horror books about inanimate objects before. Think "Christine."

Imagine the fun King could have with Alexa going murderous on people?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Brazen Thieves In Ireland Go Over Top To Loot Store

Remains of an Irish supermarket after looters stole an
excavator during a snowstorm, knocked the building
down and looted it. 
There was a big snowstorm in Ireland last week, and some thieves really got brazen during the event.

They stole an excavtator from a snow removal crew, demolished a supermarket, and then went into the wreckage to loot the merchandise.


Video of the event is at the bottom of this post.

According to The Guardian, eight men have been charged with theft, burglary and trespassing after going on the rampage amid Ireland's worst snowstorm in decades.

The theory these guys apparently had was emergency services were stretched thin because of the storm, so maybe they wouldn't notice the supermarket being torn down and looted.

The Guardian says this group also looted a second supermarket and vandalised and destroyed several cars. We're not sure why a snowstorm would inspire this, but whatever.

Here's the video:

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Show Doesn't Go On, At Least For This Actor

David Neese led Wisconsin Police on a chase
after telling them he couldn't be arrested right
away because he had to perform in the play
"Noises Off." That didn't go over well. 
The show must go on, they say in the theater world. But it didn't go on for a very dumb Wisconsin.

According to Fox 6 in Wisconsin, David Neese, 61, of Sheboygan, Wisconsin was in a production of "Noises Off" in the Calumet County Community Theater.

He was on his way last month to one of the performances recently when Sheboygan County Sheriff's Deputies pulled him over.

The deputy quickly realized Neese was wanted for theft and wanted to take him into custody. But Neese told the deputy he couldn't be arrested at that moment because, well, the show must go on.

I don't know if THE show went on, but A show went on. He said he had to perform in the play and will be arrested later. Neese took off in his car, chased by the deputy. Neese stopped, but then floored it again.

Which, of course led to a whole bunch more charges against Neese. And there's a viral and embarassing for Neese video of the police chase. The video is at the bottom of this post.

So, alas, Neese never did appear in that Sunday performance of "Noises Off."   Presumably, an understudy filled in.

A Calamut County Community Theater board member confirmed to Fox 6 that Neese never showed up for Sunday's performance, but didn't know why until the reporter told them.

"Noises Off," by the way, is a hilarious farce about the cast of a failing theatrical production who falls into chaos, infighting and all kinds of confusion.

It gets worse for Neese, so "Noises Off" has nothing on his life. Neese is, or at least was, a district sales manager for the local paper, The Sheboygan Press.

Neese has a bit of a checkered past, anyway. Sheboygan.com said he received probation in 2014 or pawning church hand bells, of all things,  worth $10,000. He told authories he sold the bells on EBay.

Hope he has remaining revenue from that sale to pay for his court costs.

Here's the stupid video of Neese and the chase: