Monday, July 31, 2006

Who Needs Cricket, We've Got Giant Dead Eels!

Well I’ve never been to England (but I kind of like the Beatles). So I’d better be careful when I begin to criticize or even mock some of their traditions and institutions. The institution of which I speak is Conger Cuddling. It sounds cute, but my friend it ain’t. Unless you fancy fish market work.

Conger Cuddling is the art (for lack of a better description) of tossing giant dead eels, which makes me want to toss my cookies. It has been a tradition in the town of Lyme Regis for 30 years. Because I know you’re dying to find out, here’s how the contest works. Teams of several people stand on a platform and swing the giant dead eel (suspended over the water) towards the other platform trying to knock their rival team down. The event is a fundraiser for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

This year the tournament had to be changed and a buoy was used instead. Animal rights activists threatened to create negative press about the event. I suppose all they would have had to do is just mention that the competition exists in order to bring negative attention to it. What the activists may be missing however is that the eels are already dead. One would think that not using them in the contest would be a waste of their death, which is really what the activists should be upset about. Swing a live eel, and they might have a case. A fake eel may be used next year.

I can’t find how the event actually started. A lot of things are started by accident. However what I'm at a loss to figure out is how someone could have been accidentally knocked off a platform by a swinging giant dead eel. It sounds like a college drinking prank gone wrong or a bad attempt at staging a hilarious scene for America’s Funniest Home Videos.

It’s a shame that after 30 years such a (relatively) popular fund raising event has to be so dramatically altered. “Oh never mind going to the conger cuddling this year Winifred, they're not actually using real eels.” What did they expect, the Spanish Inquisition? No one expects the…I promise I won’t try and write anything British ever again.

Help Wanted

This won't be my normal post for today, I'll try and write something a little later. In the mean time, I'm looking for help. If you happen to read or hear about an odd news story or event, feel free to drop me a line and let me know. Since lots of unusual things happen all around the country, I may miss something that would be perfect to write about.

Did the cat next door cause a 10 car pile up? Is that little waffle house on main street actually serving up more than waffles (to only men clientele)? Is it that time of year for the strangest contest ever held? I want to make this interactive and I want to know about these great goings-on.

You can email me the link, write and tell me about what you read or even what you heard. Heck, it doesn't even have to be accuate. I'll fill in the blanks!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Thanks For Buying Our Gas, Suckers!!

I was going to see if I could make it through an entire weekend without blogging. I had almost made it until I saw a news story I could not resist. No, I am not talking about Pam Anderson marrying Kid Rock or that fact that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s new kid is going to be done by the wax museum. While those stories certainly meet my criteria for a post, the story I found is a little heavier.

One of the nation’s largest gasoline retailers released their second quarter financial figures a few days ago. It was the largest quarter they have experienced in almost 130 years of existence. Embarrassingly, investors and Wall Street were disappointed in the earnings as they actually expected them to be HIGHER.

It was my understanding that the increase in gas prices was due to supply issues, production issues, etc. Now I only took one economics course in college, (and it ended up costing me money) but it would lead me to believe that the steep increase in fuel is to offset the new financial demands for oil manufacturers. How is it then that oil companies are experiencing their biggest profits ever when we are paying for their increase in costs? Something doesn’t add up and I’m not that smart.

The whole thing is almost unbelievable. Having a background in PR, I know you have to update your investors as well as your board, but has anyone in the gas industry ever heard of humility? If I owned a company and experienced an 18% increase in profits after committing highway robbery, I would probably be a little more low key about my successes. When the world hates you do you really want to stand on the tallest building and shout about how well you are doing?

It’s as bad as taking candy from a baby…then writing the baby’s parents about how great the candy tasted.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Is My Watermelon Supposed To Be Brown?

The United States Department of Agriculture is at it again. The have announced that watermelon is less nutritious when cold. It’s due to some scientific changing process type transformation thing that I’m too lazy to research or type out. Apparently a room temperature watermelon is a more nutritious watermelon. The best part of this groundbreaking discovery is how much room will be freed up in the fridge now that we can all remove the watermelon and place it on the counter. Of course now counter space will become a premium across the U.S.

Things must be pretty slow this time of year at the USDA when you see reports like this. Were two scientists sitting around bored when one bet the other that a cold watermelon is actually worse than a lukewarm room temperature one? Did everyone in the lab get excited and place bets as if it were the Super Bowl office pool? I’d always thought that a rotten watermelon would be pretty devoid of anything nutritious, but I guess I would have lost big if I’d been betting. Shouldn’t the USDA people be figuring out how to keep packaged meat red longer or how to remove the chicken bone from a drumstick?

As if the idea of warm watermelon wasn’t well, juicy enough check this out. Parts of Switzerland have been experiencing the same type of intense heat and high temperatures we have. The Zurich Zoo has decided to do something about it for their animals. Apparently they maintain better zoos than we do because U.S. zoos have been eerily quiet about what they’ve been doing for their animals in this hot weather. Folks at the Zurich Zoo are feeding their larger animals ice cream. This ain’t your grandma’s homemade self-churned vanilla though. It’s a delicious mixture of frozen berries, meat and bones (maybe it was made using the animals that expired in American zoos). If it works and the animals like it, maybe Ben and Jerry’s will introduce it here stateside. They could call it Cherry Chunky Carcass.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Help, I'm Stuck In The MRI Machine

There is a new report out I saw courtesy of Reuters that says an increasing percentage of Americans do not X-Ray well. I suppose this is similar to not photographing well? It is documented that we Americans are getting fatter. This trend has caught up with the medical imaging community. What I’m beating around the bush about is that Americans are becoming too fat to X-Ray.

Yep, not only has America gained weight to the point that we need extra medical attention every year, we can now no longer get the valuable imaging we need to identify if we have the problems brought on by the obesity in the first place! As we become thicker, it gets to penetrate our bodies for an image. Some folks also no longer fit into the CT or MRI tubes. The X-Ray crisis (my label only, it’s not official) includes traditional X-Rays, CT Scans, MRIs and even ultrasounds.

I bet this puts doctors and medical imagers in a pretty awkward position. Can you imagine having to tell a sick patient during an ultrasound that all you see is comparable to not getting reception on a television? How about having to call for backup when a patient becomes lodged in the CT tube? I can hear it now: “If I could just budge it another inch, we’d be able to see the spleen!”

Of course this is America and we are a capitalistic society. Companies are already beginning to manufacture and market larger imaging systems, which is quite a relief. As I get older and my metabolism slows way down, I know I can have my medical imaging done courtesy of the current best selling system, The Ultra Ultrasound 5.0.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

To Boldly Go Where No Remains Have Gone Before

What an appropriate end for the remains of James Doohan. He’s better known as Scotty from Star Trek and passed away last year. In October, he’ll make his final trip. It’s safe to say that there will be no graveside service; he’s going up…to space. His family has contracted with a company called Space Services to be blasted (not beamed) into space. He won’t be alone as there will be about 100 fellow passengers on his final flight. Among the passengers will be former astronaut Gordon Cooper.

Now what legally constitutes ‘remains’ remains a mystery to me. I’d prefer to not even guess. Maybe a pathologist or crime scene investigator could tell us. The remains of Scotty and his co-pilots will orbit the earth until the container, or technically satellite if it's in orbit, falls back to earth and burns up on re-entry many moons from now. I guess the advantage of having Scotty on board is that he’ll be “givin’ ya all she’s got” which must be good for a few extra years of orbits out of the container. A measly regular capsule without Scotty would surely fall prey to earth’s orbit much quicker than Scotty’s!

My biggest concern about all of this is whether or not it’s something James Doohan really wanted to have done after he passed away. For the sake of this article, we’ll just pretend he did. I probably can’t say the same thing for Ted Williams. Blasting deceased folks’ remains into space opens up a whole new era of burial options and memorial services. It’d pretty cool to have a major rocket launched in the middle of your funeral, I’d imagine. Although I doubt the mortuary folks are quaking in their boots yet.

If this pattern of non-traditional burials continues, I might have to change my final will and jump on the bandwagon. I mean who wants to be buried six feet under with a view of the San Bernardino Mountains? Well ok, I did. Perhaps my ‘remains’ (with the exception of my cleft chin) can be put in a container and into a NASCAR stock car during the Daytona 500. I just hope whoever’s car I end up in doesn’t crash. That might not be so pretty…or sanitary. At least my ashes could be used as speedy-dry.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Blogging Has Already Consumed My Life

Until I began doing it myself, I didn’t realize how popular blogging has become. I also didn’t realize how much time it can take up, which is why this little ditty is about how blogging has consumed my life. I haven’t even been doing this a month yet and most of my waking and non-waking hours (I guess that would be all of them) are spent on some aspect of my blog. If I was a famous novelist it might be ok, but I write 4 paragraphs essentially about nothing on a daily basis and fret over it 24/7.

At least I’m not alone. I read that the Surgeon General has lobbied Congress to declare the act of blogging to be potentially habit forming. The Surgeon General’s office estimates that every minute of every day one-third of our population is engaged in composing or reading a blog. The number of people thinking about a blog in the same time span is assumed to be equal to the populations of China and Needles, California combined.

My blog threatens to change the basic framework of my entire life. My workday is spent discussing either my previous post or potential new ideas with fellow co-workers. What makes that so pitiful is the fact that my workers don’t care about the blog’s content and 9 out of 7 co-workers polled didn’t even know I had a blog. Even more disturbing is the fact that the majority of those respondents have no idea who I am and aren’t sure why I keep showing up everyday.

At home, my 3-year old twins have stopped saying “hi Daddy” when they see me and now ask “watcha gonna blog ‘bout tonight Dad?” When my neighbor’s cat was accidentally run over last week, I got in trouble for taking pictures and pushing people out of the way while yelling “I can’t believe this happened tonight, I had nothing to blog about…until now, baby!”

If you are kind enough to still be reading this blog and contemplating beginning one of your own, take heed. I can no longer just enjoy or be affected by life, I have to approach it thinking about how it will fit into written form and whether or not I can find a cool little graphic to accompany it. Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Michael and I’m a Blogaholic.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Who Turned The Heater On?

What a rough weekend to be a southern Californian. Sure we have a lot of nice days and beautiful weather virtually year round. Sure we can wear shorts and tank tops (at least the men can) to Christmas dinner when the rest of the country is wearing jackets, scarves and mittens, but the last two days we’ve paid the price for it.

By paying the price I mean the $500 extra our electricity bills will be this month because it’s been so hot. You might think that 93 degrees isn’t too bad, but that was at 10:30 last night!! It was at least 112 degrees at one point yesterday. While I was outside during the afternoon I could have sworn I heard my air conditioner whisper “save me.” It got so hot that state officials actually asked people to stop thinking at one point because of the energy it produces. Seriously, to emphasize that point, I noticed while driving on 3 of our freeways today that the big message boards were displaying reminders to conserve energy. With the power I imagine it takes to run those things, it was probably a pretty costly reminder, if not a little hypocritical.

While mowing the lawns yesterday I was sweating so much that I felt like Karen and Frosty
after Professor Hinkle locked them in the greenhouse (only Santa wasn’t going to save me). Then to make matters worse last night the sky grew darker, the thunder started, the wind began howling and it poured rain! Just when you thought the day could not have been more miserable, hot and sticky, the angels started sweating. It was a little rain at first but then the skies opened. The wind was blowing so hard that the rain was practically falling at 180-degree angles. I had to turn my head sideways just to watch it come down. It never rains in California my butt!

Of course weekends like this are very draining on our electricity providers. I figured I would do my part and stay home out of the heat in my air-conditioned house watching TV with all of the ceiling fans on brewing iced tea and cooking things in my microwave oven. Oops, gotta go, I just blew another fuse…

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Missiles Away!!

This story serves as a reminder of just how safe we all are. A Tomahawk cruise missile fell off the truck carrying it and onto a New York freeway in the Bronx Friday. The missile toting truck ran into another vehicle, which caused the missile (and I can’t stress that word enough in this story) to pop out of the truck. There were no injuries.

Ok, again, a missile fell out of a truck onto a busy roadway. Does that strike anyone else as odd? Does this happen often? Is it something we’re used to? I would think whoever was driving would tie the thing down. Do missile-transporting companies buy insurance for this type of thing? Imagine how your insurance agent would react if you accidentally drove into the missile in the middle of the road and had to report it. Who would they judge to be at fault? Of course your agent will believe that you collided with a US military cruise missile while driving down the road. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why it’s called a cruise missile after all. Why just last week your insurance company handled a similar claim when a smart bomb fell out of it’s bomber and onto their insured’s house.

Perhaps it’s just an isolated incident, one weird, scary, freaky isolated incident. No matter the frequency with which this occurs, at least it gave me something to write about today. The pickings were pretty slim.

I should now let you know that the missile had no warhead and was obviously not armed. However, that would not have made the story half as interesting and the insurance stuff would be even more irrelevant than it already is. Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 21, 2006

So You Want To Go To Space?

It sounds cliché and a little cheesy, but for a few hard earned dollars, you can go where no man (make that civilian-person to be PC) has gone before. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic commercial spaceline is now selling tickets for sub-orbital flights beginning in 2008. To answer your first question, yes there are takers. In fact well over 100 tickets have already been sold. To answer your second question, the tickets are a mere $200,000, which isn’t that bad a deal if regular airline flight prices keep rising! The spacecraft that will make all of this possible should be completed next year.

The 15 minute flight will offer passengers 5 minutes of 0 gravity. That’s just about enough time to feel the urge to grab for a barf bag and then realize you no longer need it. Unfortunately the flight probably won’t be long enough for stewards (if there will be any) to traverse up and down the aisle dispensing Tang and salted peanuts. Although if they did, think of the mess it would make at the end of the 0 gravity period. Heck, the falling nuts alone would be potential bullets.

As if that experience isn’t excitement enough, check out this space travel alternative. It’s only $35 million. Travelers have had the option to travel in a Russian rocket to the International Space Station for a while now and at least 3 (that I’m aware of) have already made the trip. Remember pop sensation Justin Timberlake expressing interest in going? The little trek to the space station, if you’ll pardon the expression, costs $20 million. Once you get up there, you can now tack on a space walk for an extra $15 million. Talk about up selling! Of course there will be extra training involved, but if you can afford it, what a great way to spend an evening.

The paying space walkers will be attached to the International Space Station during the entire space walk by a tether. The walk will last 90 minutes during which time Earth’s sunrise and sunset can be viewed. I wonder if you have to pay a penalty if you drop a spatula while you’re up there? Regardless, it would provide a great photo op and a big “I’m better than you are” for next year’s Christmas card!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I Beg Your Pardon, Again

Well I just might make Thursdays "Pardon Day" for this blog. Last Thursday I blogged about a witch that was pardoned in Virginia last week, 300 years after being found guilty. Today, I came across another story about a pardon that was again granted in the South.

This time it was legendary Rolling Stones guitarist and soon to be movie pirate, Keith Richards. He was charged for reckless driving in Arkansas in 1975. When the officer that stopped Richards and his travel companions on that day smelled marijuana, they were all jailed but later released.

It seems a few months back Arkansas Governor Huckabee, a musician in his own right, got to meet the Stones backstage. While talking with Keith Richards, he found out about the reckless driving. It was the Governor himself that gave Richards the idea to seek the pardon so that Keith would have a better impression of Arkansas.

The question is, how do you get everyone else’s impression of Arkansas to improve? Remember the Clintons? Ok, I apologize, that last comment was just an inside joke for a few of this blog’s faithful readers. Disclaimer: I have no problem with the state of Arkansas; just don’t ask me to comment about Mr. and Mrs. Clinton.

Now back to Mr. Richards. It’s been quite a lucky year for him. First he falls out of a tree collecting coconuts (or something like that), gets to play Jack Sparrow’s dad in the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie and then receives a pardon for a 31-year-old misdemeanor. When he is officially pardoned, I wonder if Keith will get the $162 fine back? Just think what the interest would be!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Sorry, I Just Vomited On Your Advertisement

This one comes from the ‘Just Plain (or should I say Plane) Weird File.’ US Airways has announced it will begin selling advertising space on its barf bags (or in flight nausea collectors, to be politically correct) in a few months. I could see this happening in those great Airplane movies as a gag, but in real life?

My first question is how much will an ad cost that will most likely be seen in the last few fleeting moments before an airline passenger hurls? How many people do you know that board a plane, get their pillow, adjust their seat, fold their tables to an upright position and then search for the barf bag in case they get sick?

The other question that comes to mind is what type of advertising is appropriate for a bag that is only used when someone needs to empty the contents of their last meal? I guess you could sell ad space for Dramamine, Pepto or Tums.

Of course there is a whole range of advertising you could use to induce someone into getting sick. On second thought, I’ll skip listing any of them as I just finished dinner. But feel free to send me any you can think of!

I know the profit margin for most major airlines is getting tight, but I sure didn’t see this coming as a form of revenue. What’s next, the person in the seat next to you pulls down the window shade and there’s an ad for Windex or Pella windows? Oh, the possibilities…Just wait until the in-flight announcements and safety speech are preceded by paid advertisements!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

How Much Is That Lobster In The Window?

I LOVE lobster and couldn’t resist this story. A Maine lobsterman (are lobstermen really from anyplace else, like Kansas) caught the coolest looking lobster last week. As you can see it’s the typical uncooked greenish color on one side and the typical (if you're getting ready to eat it) cooked/steamed reddish color on the other side. When he found it, he thought he was the victim of a joke.

Apparently the chances of finding a dual color lobster are about 1 in 100 million, so this crustacean is pretty special. He won’t be served up at Red Lobster any time soon though. He was donated to a Maine oceanarium. Can you imagine how much money it would fetch? If we here in California pay anywhere from $1.99 to about $3.99 a pound for a normal looking fresh (relatively speaking) Maine lobster, a two colored version would be considered a delicacy and fetch who knows what at our priciest restaurants! Though it would seem like such a shame to waste a cool natural phenomenon on a lobster roll, wouldn’t it?

Maybe the best thing to do is follow in Homer Simpson’s footsteps. Anyone remember the episode where he couldn’t cook the lobster he bought and kept it as a pet? MMMMMMMMMM, lobster…

I had to post these pics of other famous two-toned folks. It just seemed appropriate for the situation. Man, look at the similarities!

Remind me to blog someday about how campy the original Star Trek seems now that I'm older!

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Magic Kingdom Turns 51

51 years ago today, July 17th 1955, Disneyland opened to the world. It was inspired while Walt Disney was at a small amusement park with his children. He wanted to build a place where the entire family could visit together. The price tag was a mere $17 million to transform 150+ acres of Anaheim orange groves into an international destination. I don’t think you could build a new ride at Disneyland today for that much money! That amount didn’t even buy Pixar, which sold for $7.4 BILLION earlier this year.

Over 14 million visitors from all over the world visit Disneyland each year. Park goers have come to expect wonderful family entertainment and pristine attractions. However, it wasn’t quite that way on opening day. Some of the paint had recently been applied and the plumbing failed. While the folks at Disneyland now know pretty well how many visitors to expect daily, it was a little different the first time those turnstiles opened. Admission tickets were counterfeited (oh, if it were only that easy today) which allowed many more people than anticipated to spend opening day at Disneyland. The Magic Kingdom soon overcame its growing pains, added more attractions and blossomed into what we are used to today.

As a native Californian, I can recall many memorable moments at Disneyland. My memory gets stirred and my eyes become misty thinking about The Electrical Light Parade, Autopia, my first time on Pirates, the first time I heard “Remain seated please. Permanecer sentados por favor” and the first time I spent about $15 for a frozen banana or tried to say excuse me to get by someone who spoke no English.

So go ahead and celebrate Disneyland’s 51st birthday in style. Spend a day at the Magic Kingdom. I think it’ll only set you back a little more than you make in a week…and that’s without the kids!!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

That's A Lot Of Diapers!

By now you’ve heard about this. But in case you haven’t, this blog’s for you. A woman gave birth to quadruplets last week. Now having 2 girls and 2 boys at the same time is newsworthy on its own. The fact that no fertility drugs were used is even more amazing. But what truly stands out about this story is the fact that the same woman had triplets 3 years ago. Add to that her previous 2 children and you can almost smell the need for diaper changes! For those of you not keeping score at home, that’s a grand total of 9 children.

To say that the new parents are lucky depends on who you are, whether or not you are vindictive by nature, as well as your cultural and religious views. The family currently lives in a one-bedroom apartment. As a parent of 3-year-old twins, I cannot imagine what lies ahead for them. While it has gotten a little easier for us as they’ve gotten older, that first year was a real doozy. 9 kids under one roof (with 7 of them under 3), yikes! That makes Mike and Carol Brady look celibate by comparison.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

My Continuing Education At Kids B-Day Parties

This will be a short post tonight. Last week at a birthday party for our friend's 2-year olds, I learned about Diet Coke and Mentos.

Tonight at a birthday get together for a friend's 3-year old, I got an education about how to gesticulate your displeasure for another individual in at least 4 different societies. I was shown the British Way, French Way, Italian Way (I think) and of course the crazy upset American driver way.

I'm not sure if I will ever use any of these, but it's pretty neat what I have learned the last two weeks at such an unexpected place. I had always envisioned children's birthday parties being a lot of cake, presents, clowns and bounce houses. What I found instead is that they are a hotbed of discussion about topics not typically found at the office watercooler.

So the next time you want to amaze your friends in a Cliff Claven sort of way, wrap a present and follow the shrieking sounds of excitement to the nearest children's birthday party. Your friends and colleagues will thank you for it, or talk about you behind your back...

Friday, July 14, 2006

Flip Those Intergalactic Pancakes, Man.

As many of you know, we currently have astronauts aboard the space shuttle orbiting overhead. The mission launched most appropriately on July 4th. The crew is set to return to earth on Monday, but will be leaving a little memento of their mission to fly around our planet for the rest of time.

While testing new methods of applying a heat shield repair substance the other day, one of the astronauts lost one of his tools. No matter what scientific name you wish to use, the space walker essentially lost a spatula designed to apply the new substance. The spatula will presumably now orbit the earth for a very, very long time until it falls to earth, hopefully in a harmless manner. In fact NASA notified personnel responsible for tracking almost 9,000 man-made objects in space of the new earth ‘satellite.’

Some of the objects that the spatula is joining can travel as fast as 17,500 mph. The list of debris in orbit includes a glove, a camera, booster rockets, non-working satellites, paint chips, the remains of Alderan (that’s for you Star Wars fans), half the movie sets for Moonraker (ok, made that one up, too) and even trash bags from the Soviet Mir space station(Hefty or Glad, I wonder). We can only hope that the next manned space mission loses a set of kitchen tongs to keep the spatula happy and provide a nice little gift set for whoever finds them.

By the way, here's an interesting photo I found representing all of the tracked space debris:

Is it just me or does it look like a flying saucer??

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Not So Wicked Witch Of The South

This is a very bad coincidence, but I’m going ahead with it anyway. My friend from work sent me an email joke about how to deal with aging wives and suggested I blog about it. Unfortunately, I was already going to write about a witch that was recently pardoned. Disclaimer: In no way am I suggesting a link between or the similarities of aging wives and witches. It’s just bad timing, but I’ve got nothing else to write about tonight!

So here goes. I read an interesting story not too long ago about a woman named Grace Sherwood. She was convicted of being a witch in Virginia in 1706. That’s right, 300 years ago and I’m reading and writing about it now. Forgive me, things take a little while as I have dial-up. But seriously, her fellow townsfolk accused her of many things so she was tried for being a witch.

The catch is how she was tried - by water. If her body floated, she was judged a witch and sentenced to prison and most certainly a life of loneliness as an outcast witch. However, to be considered innocent (which you would imagine she would want), Sherwood had to sink and of course drown. Which is completely useless because she would be dead. So in the early 1700s, the choices were: survive and have a horrible life or be innocent to the world and dead.

Fortunately for her, a nice woman named Belinda Nash who was familiar with Sherwood’s story pursued the case. She was able to get a pardon granted to Sherwood by Virginia’s Governor 300 years to the day of the original trial. Now I have heard tales about the wheels of justice moving slowly, but this takes the cake. Imagine if her trial had happened in present day. Where in the world would we get 12 impartial witches to serve as a jury of Sherwood’s peers?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Medical Journal Finds Barbequing Therapeutic

A big, fancy named medical journal recently announced the findings a 7-month study. The study was aimed at determining any medical link between stress and BBQ cooking. During the study, one individual was asked to grill food at least 5 times a week using a charcoal grill while a second patient grilled the same number of meals using a gas grill. Both patients’ stress and life enjoyment levels were monitored from the time charcoal preparation began through the plating of the cooked meat.

Researchers were able to determine that from the moment the charcoal lighting began, stress levels dropped 72.3% and the LEF (Life Enjoyment Factor) increased 97.8%. The only negative impact on the LEF was observed when there were fire maintenance issues before and during cooking. Remarkably, the patient’s stress levels sky rocketed during final grill brushing at the post-BBQ stage. Similarly, the gas griller experienced roughly the same pattern of performance. However the gas-using patient was only able to reduce stress levels by 64.2% and showed an 83.4% LEF increase.

The results clearly show that BBQ use is a strong contributor to life longevity. The highly controlled and scientifically monitored study proved once and for all the superiority of charcoal grilling. One could almost assert that charcoal briquettes are as essential for a healthy body as Vitamin C and rest. The same fancy medical journal hopes to conduct a similar experiment with key lime pie and coconut cream pie for tonight’s dessert.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Mid-Summer Classic

I was getting ready to write a blog about how boring most sports’ all-star games are. I was going to tell you that each sport’s supporting all-star weekend activities like the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest and Baseball’s Home Run Derby are far more exciting than the actual games they are meant to supplement.

That was until the top of the ninth inning when the American League came back from a 2-1 deficit to take a 3-2 lead with 2 outs and 2 strikes on the Texas Rangers’ Michael Young. It disproves my theory about all-star games being sleepers and supports a long held belief I’ve always had about why baseball is such an exciting sport and deserving of being America’s National Pastime. Having tried to watch some soccer over the last few weeks of the World Cup, my appreciation of baseball has grown. With one swing of the bat, the entire game changed. The victory gives the American League 10 straight wins over the National League. The Nationals last won in 1996. That is so long ago that Clinton was still running the country. No, I mean Hillary.

Though tonight’s game had late inning excitement, I don’t know if it will truly go down as a Mid-Summer Classic. But then a true Mid-Summer Classic to me would involve a charcoal BBQ, grilled steak, lemonade, hammock, plaid shorts and no work!

By the way, if you’ve got any topics you feel should be blogged about, feel free to let me know. Sadly, it’s getting tough thinking of something new to write everyday. It’s probably I good thing I don’t get paid to write anymore. The again, maybe that’s why I don’t get paid to write anymore!!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Christmas in July? You bet!!

Normally you associate Branson, Missouri with celebrities like Yakov Smirnov. Country legends like Glen Campbell, Barbara Mandrel and The Oak Ridge Boys have played many a show in the popular tourist destination. Last week however, Branson was the rendezvous site for a very different class of celebrity.

Branson welcomed the first National Convention of AORBS, the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas. That’s right, a few hundred professional real-bearded Santas and (not bearded) Mrs. Clauses held a 4-day get together featuring seminars, workshops and a trade show. Some of the topics held were “How To Handle Difficult Questions From Children,” “The Art Of Story Telling,” “Working With Special Needs Children,” “Getting A Complete Background Check” and a forum called “The Professional Mall Santa.”

Now a lot of times I would just end my daily post with a joke about whatever topic I’ve ruminated about, but I just can’t this time. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Christmas, which is why I think this story is so cool. My closest friends have spent many a 4th of July listening to me say, “You know, Christmas will be here before you know it.”

So hat’s off to the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas. I appreciate what you all do and the joy you bring to children everywhere. We’ll see you in a few months on 34th Street and at our local mall!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A Cheaper Firework??

I recently heard about this and just read a story about it on the Internet, so it must be true. 2 men in Maine have created a new version of the bottle rocket, I guess one could say. Apparently what they do is take Mentos and drop them into 2-liter bottles of Diet Coke. When they do, the Mentos shoot several feet into the air. You’ve got to admit; it is cheaper than paying to see a fireworks show or buying a backyard fireworks package.

Speaking of paying to see fireworks, I read a sad story about a little town called Old Fort, North Carolina. It seems they were the victims of a fireworks thief. Someone came in and literally stole the town’s firework’s show. The thief took everything but the grand finale. Man, it’ll be easy to catch that guy when he decides to play with his new loot. Imagine how much fun the police officers that find the fireworks criminal will have when they have to ask, “Is that a rocket in your pocket?”

On that note, have a great Monday. I know for most of us it’s impossible, but try to do so anyway. Thanks also for the flood of comments (that’s if you consider 5 as of this writing to be a flood) after my new post. I appreciate it and keep ‘em coming.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

To Comment Or Not To Comment

I just spent the evening with the majority of the people who actually admit to reading this blog. It wasn't very many. After speaking with them (or her to be truthful) I was inspired to now allow visitors, readers or whatever they are called to post comments on the blog.

Actually, I was flat out asked why no one could post comments. I really had no good answer, so I figured out how to allow comments and turned that feature on. I was also asked why this blog wasn't more personal. Again, I had no answer. To address that issue, I will begin commenting on the events of my life from time to time. For instance, tonight I had a slice of pizza for dinner. It was pineapple and pepperoni. See how boring that is? I think it's much more interesting reading and writing about overpriced currency and the Japanese Prime Minister's love of Elvis. Don't you think so?

So go ahead and comment away. That's why I'm asking questions now, so you will post comments. As long as they don't deal with politics, religion or former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Or celery, bad drivers, poor cellphone habits, the popularity of Starbucks, the Dixie get the idea.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

What A Day In History...

I cannot believe all of the things (including birthdays) that happened on this day in history. Where to begin? On this day in 1942, Anne Frank and her family began hiding from the Nazis. July 6 was the first time an Elvis Presley record was ever played on radio and it is the day in 1957 where Paul McCartney was introduced to John Lennon after John’s band played a church festival in Liverpool, England. On July 6, 1971 Louis Armstrong passed away as well. July 6, 1976 was the day that women were first inducted into the U.S. Naval Academy. The first ever Major League Baseball All-Star game was played on this day in 1933.

As if any of those events were not notable enough, check out the list of birthdays for July 6. Our President George W. Bush turns 60. Janet Leigh, Sylvester Stallone and former First Lady Nancy Reagan were born on this day. Also celebrating birthdays today are: Ned Beatty, Dalai Lama, Burt Ward (TV’s Robin), Della Reese and Merv Griffin.

However, by far, the most notable birthday on July 6 is that of my beautiful wife!! With so many famous birthdays on this date, the next question is what was so special about October 6th, assuming I did my math right.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I'll Have (53) Hot Dogs And A Coke, Please.

Boy the spy business must be getting slow. I just read that 3 people were caught stealing Coke formulas and a new Coke product. One of the people was actually a Coca-Cola employee. Apparently they wanted to sell the secrets to Pepsi. Don’t worry about the great cola war flaring up again; Pepsi helped Coke with the investigation. Now we are just left to ponder what the secrets were. Maybe New Coke will make a comeback. Does anyone even remember what it tasted like? I sure can’t. Speaking of New Coke, here’s a list of foods it might be neat to make ‘new’ again:

New Spam
New Kraft Macaroni and Cheese
New 13 KFC herbs and spices
New Big Mac
New Chalupa
New 31 flavors…or would that be 62?
New Awesome Blossom

Ok, I'm done. If you've got any you want to add, just email me and I'll try and post them!

Now for the hot dog portion of the blog. Yesterday, one of July 4th’s most enduring traditions was held for the 90th time. It was the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest. As hard as it was to stomach, I watched the entire hour-long coverage of the 12-minute event. It aired on one of the ESPN networks, so you know it’s a legit competition. In 12 minutes, Takeru Kobayashi of Japan ate 53 ¾ hot dogs, besting his previous record of 53 ½. This was the 6th straight win and ‘mustard belt’ for Kobayashi. It was a close competition this year as American Joey Chestnut, who led for a few of the 12 minutes, gulped, chugged and gagged his way to 52 frankfurters.

If you’ve been thinking about dieting or worried about eating too much next July 4th, just watch the contest before your meal. You won’t have to worry about having an appetite. Now if you’ll excuse me, the smoke of my BBQ means my first 12 pack of all beef hot dogs are just about ready!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Birthday America!!!!

Today we celebrate the birth of our great nation, the success of a noble experiment. This is a commemoration of our declaration and desire to become independent of Britain. Every signer of the declaration risked being guilty of treason and possible death but willingly signed their names in support of forming a new nation.

Over the years the Fourth of July has meant many things to many people. Possibly the most interesting Independence Day was the 50th birthday of our country in 1826. Within the span of a few hours two of the more influential founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson followed by John Adams, both passed away.

When an American is asked about the 4th of July, there is no doubt that parades, barbeques and fireworks will come to mind. It is a gathering of fellow patriots to commemorate how and why we became a nation. Hot dogs, hamburgers and ice cream are all common fare for the celebration. Although the science and practice of pyrotechnics are centuries old, modern fireworks may be associated with the 4th of July more than any other image.

Perhaps the importance of the day can be illustrated by the fact that in the first few years of our country’s existence, Americans took to the streets to joyously celebrate America’s birthday on their own and without prompting as there was no official holiday to do so until much later.

As we celebrate with friends, neighbors and family today, it is important to remember those who declared and fought for our freedom as a nation. It’s equally important to be mindful of the liberties we enjoy as being citizens of the most successful democracy and greatest country in the world. Happy Independence Day and God Bless America!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Penny Wise and Production Foolish?

I just read an article that states that the cost of producing the U.S. penny is increasing due to rising metal costs. It now costs the United States 1.2 cents to produce the 1-cent penny. If the rise continues, the penny could face a time when it is no longer produced. In addition to that, the US mint has also said that the nickel’s cost of production has passed 5 cents.

If that continues, could the dime ever become our lowest denomination of coinage? I sure hope not, 10 cents is a lot to be throwing away into fountains and any other public place that holds water!!