Saturday, September 30, 2006

Things I Learned This Week: 9/30/06

I have decided to begin a new gimmick, I mean feature (that’s just a joke, not an editorial statement) on Saturdays.

Because I just couldn’t get the creative alternator to turn over this morning and because I want to spare you from experiencing some of the things I endured this week, I am beginning a weekly column here called “Things I Learned This Week.” It’s educational, sometimes insightful and always pathetic. I hope after sharing these things that at least one of them will make your upcoming week much easier. So here is the inaugural “Things I Learned This Week” for the week of 9/24/06-9/30/06.

! I learned that if exposed to a cuss word, a 4 year old will inevitably repeat it, usually within 15 seconds. Fortunately when my youngest twin heard someone on the television say “I’ll kick your a--,” she asked me what “I’ll kick your rats” meant.

! I learned that when my head and neck doctor says to avoid stress and caffeine so it doesn’t aggravate my inner ear damage, he’s saying it for a specific medical reason. On a slightly related note, I learned it’s not such a good idea to try and go downstairs when experiencing severe vertigo

! I learned that when discussing my performance with my superiors at work, they don’t appreciate me holding my weekly report directly in front of my face while exclaiming “you can’t see much when all you look at are numbers!” I won’t do that again.

! I learned that even though the calendar says it’s Fall/Autumn/Whatever and they are selling Pumpkin Lattes down at Starbucks that it can still be 96 degrees outside.

! I learned that when I awake in the middle of the night to our cat puking or throwing up a hairball, I need to watch where I am walking the next morning.

! I learned that I need to hold my breath when emptying out old containers full of unrecognizable food from the back of the refrigerator.

And lastly…

! I learned that when I’m sitting there for my blood test and the needle goes in but no blood rushes into the test tube so they have to root around in my vein to find it, there is going to be significant bruising.

Friday, September 29, 2006

A New Face For Macho?

In the last week I have watched two of the 70’s and 80’s most macho men appear on TV. Kenny Rogers was on the Jeff Foxworthy show the other day and Burt Reynolds guest starred on My Name Is Earl last night. Though the voices sounded the same, the faces were decidedly different. What the heck happened? If there were ever two men who should have been comfortable with who they were and their image, it was Kenny Rogers and Burt Reynolds.

Burt was Gator, he dated Dinah Shore and he was Stroker Ace. OK, forget Stroker Ace, that wasn’t so cool. Seriously, he married Lonnie Anderson who in her day was about as attractive a woman as there was in Hollywood. Of course, she had just as much work done as he did. My guess is that they scheduled their appointments at the same time, which is too bad. Can celebrities no longer age gracefully? Burt was as cool as it gets in Smokey and the Bandit. He’s had so much work done since that he’s barely recognizable and his face looks off kilter. It almost looks as if it’s painful for him to smile, or blink or even breath. What would Jerry Reed and Fred the dog think? The whole facelift thing is a bad idea, 10-4? I have so much to say about people who are aging trying all types of surgery to look younger, but unfortunately, I’ve got a lot to say and a short time to get there.

Then there’s Kenny Rogers. I think it’s no gamble to say that he’s pulled his face too far also. He was a pretty cool looking guy in his time. The men wanted to be him and the ladies all thought he was singing Islands in the Stream just for them, not Dolly. Now granted, half the older men in this country look like him, so maybe he wanted to change it up a bit. I always thought imitation was the sincerest form of flattery. I read something a few months back that said Kenny was unhappy with the way his face work turned out. It’s a little too late for that now. He should’ve known when to hold them and known when to fold them. Oh well.

Are the celebrities that have tried to literally turn back the face of time happy with the way they look? Do they really think they look youthful? What do they see when they look in the mirror? Maybe doctors should have to sign the Anti-Hippocratic oath to state that there are times when they won’t help their patients.

What would Elvis have done if he were still alive (I mean if we can find out where he’s living)? Would Elvis have felt the pressure as he got older and subjected himself to multiple facelifts? As the men elected President of this country leave office to begin post Presidential life younger than their predecessors, will they grow old gracefully? In the end, I guess it’s not for anyone to say what someone else chooses to do to their face.

It’s too bad that such cool macho men felt they had to undergo surgery to look younger. I really don’t think the majority of their fans (like me) would have been bothered by watching them get wrinkles. Having only seen pictures of Smokey and the Gambler, I can’t imagine what they look like in person. I just hope it doesn’t scare small children.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mona Lisa Unveiled, In A Manner Of Speaking

To enhance your reading experience for this story, I would recommend playing Nat King Cole’s “Mona Lisa” in the background. Here’s why: newer 3D technology has revealed secrets behind Da Vinci’s famous Mona Lisa portrait. The biggest of them being the fact that it appears she was pregnant when she posed for the painting. By scanning the original painting with their newfangled equipment, scientists found a thin veil Ms. Lisa (if I can be permitted to say that) was wearing over her dress. The veil was what soon-to-be mommies wore during her times, also referred to as back in the day. It’s fascinating technology.

The one aspect of Mona Lisa that admirers of art have always wanted to know pertains to her smile. Is it actually a smile, a tiny grin or nothing at all? What could she be smiling about? Did she have a torrid affair with Da Vinci or knew a secret she could never tell? Was there someone else in the room trying to make her laugh by doing those funny Renaissance impersonations? Well now, for the first time, the secret behind the smile can be revealed. Mona’s slight grin was because she had gas. I guess deep down that’s what a lot of us always suspected.

The best part of all this 3D technology is that it can be applied to other pieces of famous and historic artwork to reveal more about them. This science will allow us to fully understand the techniques that make certain pieces of art so important and show us things that can’t be seen with the naked eye.

Art historians have already presented their wish list of pieces they want to learn more about. At the top of that list is the original “Dogs Playing Poker.” By scanning the painting, they hope to answer questions that have plagued us all since the painting was debuted in 1903. Among them are whether or not the dogs were really inhaling the cigar smoke, who had the best poker hand at the time of the portrait and whether or not the room they were playing in had wallpaper and if so, what was the print. Perhaps the most controversial discovery will be whether all of the dogs depicted were actually males.

The second painting that historians are salivating about is “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” which shows pop icons Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Elvis and Bogart in a corner diner. It has long been rumored that instead of a diner, the setting could actually be the first Starbucks and now we might be able to know for sure. By examining the detailed imaging from the 3D scans, they also hope to see visual references which might indicate the approximate year or even month the painting was made to determine how in the world the artists was able to get four of Hollywood’s brightest stars together while virtually no one else was around. Historians are also keen to find out why Elvis was moonlighting as a soda jerk.

Finally, historians want a closer examination of “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” painted in 1853. Since it was completed many years after the original crossing, historians want to find out who stood in for George Washington. If they can conclude that it actually was Washington, they want to see if he was wearing his wooden teeth. The interest is if the wooden teeth tend to splinter when the person wearing them shivers and if that can be detected by examining the painting as closely as possible.

As you can see, art history has entered a very exciting time. In the coming months and years, scientists and lovers of art hope to gain better understanding of the artwork they have admired for years and want to literally add new dimensions to these faded glories. Be sure that someone out there will pervert the technology and apply it to photography. Then we’ll know who was really on the grassy knoll and if we actually landed men on the moon. Maybe we should just leave all this stuff to the imagination. Dang science…

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

It’s Official, The Holidays Are Upon Us

I don’t want to worry you or cause concern, but in case you hadn’t noticed, the holidays are here. What holidays you ask? I mean the big triumvirate of Halloween, Turkey Day and Christmas. Autumn started Saturday so I knew things would be getting into gear soon.

My first little 16 ounces of a hint was while I was at the grocery store on Monday. Pumpkin Spice creamer sat there beaming among all the other “non-special” coffee creamers. It seems like holidays are being crammed (or in this case, creamed) down our throats earlier every year. I took it in stride however and bought three bottles of the stuff just to play along.

Then today, on a visit to a major shopping store that I will refer to only as “Target” to protect its identity, I stumbled across their holiday layout. It wasn’t like they had just devoted two aisles to Halloween and Christmas, they had huge signs made up and the entire back of the store was holiday ready with everything plugged in and blinking away. No wonder we have rolling blackouts. It’s the same thing every year: rows and rows of costumes, plastic and rubber light up pumpkins, very commercialized Christmas tree ornaments and all types of lit yard decor. Really folks, it’s not even October yet! How early do we truly need to see the latest version of ornaments, stockings and other trinkets based on timeless classics like Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, Scooby Doo, Sponge Bob and The Simpsons?

This ain’t your grandmother’s holiday anymore. If you don’t believe me, walk into a grocery store the week before Halloween and try to buy a carton of eggnog. You’ll actually be able to, but its shelf life won’t last until Christmas. Then you'll be forced to drink it in hiding to avoid being made fun of as the freak that drinks eggnog for Halloween.

I don’t know what things are like in your neck of the woods, but every open lot here in my fine city has been stocked with hay bales, fences and outdoor lighting. Come October 1, these lots will be transformed into glorious suburban pumpkin patches, complete with inflatable replicas of The Titanic and the space shuttle. Perhaps on Halloween night one of them will be judged the most sincere pumpkin patch and will earn a visit from the Great Pumpkin.

It’s too bad these holiday lots that sit empty most of the year don’t sell live or frozen turkeys. Most of the lots close down in November before opening back up a month later to sell Christmas trees (although they still have the inflatable Titanics for some odd reason). If they could sell turkeys for Thanksgiving, these lots could stay open for three straight months. I don’t know what type of permit you need to sell live turkeys in a fenced off public lot, but I’m sure obtaining one is a mere formality. They could sell frozen turkeys, but there’s no fun in that. It would be like walking into the most expensive seafood restaurant in town and all they have in the lobster tank out front are lobster tails instead of the whole lobster.

So, bowing to the pressures of retailers everywhere, I’d like to take today September 27th to wish you and yours a Happy Halloween, Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Wow, where has 2006 gone?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Is It Hot In Here Or Is It Just Me? Also Known As…How Hot Is It?

Yes it was hot this summer, again. It’s nothing new to many parts of the globe, but according to scientists in a story from, even the poles are feeling the heat. I’m not talking about the Polish citizenry, as I have no idea how they are personally feeling; I am referring to the North and South poles.

According to the story, as the air gets warmer and the ice at the poles melt, the white reflective snow is replaced by darker heat and light absorbing land. It’s a fascinating concept, unless you happen to live at either end of the globe. I guess ole Santa and his elves better invest in some cargo shorts because the earth’s warming is approaching its highest level in a million years.

Two areas of the United States have been singled out as contributing factors to the dangerous warming levels. For some unknown reason there exists extremely hot air pockets above both Hollywood in California and the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Each location represents an increase of .08 degrees to the earth’s overall temperature.

“I don’t know why so much hot air is confined over these relatively small geographic areas,” said one of the scientists. “There are entire continents that don’t contribute that much. It’s almost like people are spewing the hot air out of their mouths or something, but we’re really at a loss to explain it,” she added.

While the very real threat of global warming is a serious, if not scary reality, there are some entrepreneurial spirits that welcome the higher temperatures. Clothing manufactures are looking forward to higher short and skirt sales, which require less material to be purchased or manufactured, thus increasing profits. Jimmy Buffett and The Beach Boys are anticipating higher sales of older albums (excuse me, CDs) as many formerly “cold” parts of the world learn to adapt to and embrace higher temperatures and the island spirit.

Marlin Sketcher and Pete “Salty Dog” McMurtry of Barnacle Billy’s Deep Sea Cruisers in Helena, Montana are ecstatic about the rising water levels in oceans across the globe. They specialize in custom ocean fishing boats and fiberglass yachts. Their sales have been low since opening their business 25 years ago.

“Maybe it’s because we built a shipyard in a landlocked state. I guess that’s what happens when you celebrate winning the lottery by buying 15 rounds at the local bar,” said McMurtry. “This more water thing will really help us out in the long run. I just hope we’re still around when the oceans reach Montana.”

All hope about ending global warming is not gone yet, however. As with any great catastrophe, celebrities are stepping to the forefront to create awareness and lend their financial support to the global warming problem. A televised fundraising concert titled “Chill Baby: Time To Cool Down” will be aired (during TV Sweeps of course) on all major networks in November. On Thursday morning, Virgin founder and CEO Richard Branson pledged three billion dollars to fight the global warming problem. In a slightly unrelated story, Virgin Airlines announced late Thursday afternoon that it will be raising their ticket prices by $957.00 per ticket.

Monday, September 25, 2006

4-Legged Chicken Has Restaurants Seeing Double (Profits).

A 4-legged chicken was recently found pecking around with its 30,000 closest feathered friends at a farm in Pennsylvania. The legs appear to serve no purpose so the chicken just drags them around (no mean husband jokes about that please). The chicken is as healthy as the rest of the farm’s poultry and the farm’s owners say it’s the first 4-legged chicken they have seen.

The discovery could have major implications for the fast food industry. The cause of the deformity is not known, but scientists are being employed by several eateries specializing in chicken to find out.

The chicken restaurants have joined together to create and finance a research co-op called FOWL, Food Opportunities With Legs, to pay scientists to conduct a genetic study of the 4-legged chicken. FOWL hopes to get a leg up on the competition by breeding more of the multi-limbed birds. A small amount of DNA was taken from the unique fowl in an effort to replicate the gene that is responsible for the extra pair of legs.

“Can you imagine the profit we could make if every chicken bred for food purposes had an extra set of legs,” asked a member of the co-op. “We could increase the amount of drumsticks we could sell, which we all know is the part of the chicken everyone prefers to eat, and we would not have to raise more chicken to do it,” he added.

“I used to conduct research to find a cure for cancer. Now I’m figuring out how to create an army of freak chickens. Why God, why,” lamented one of FOWL’s scientists. “At least I can now buy that summer home in The Hampstons with what they’re paying me.”

FOWL officials say that the increase yield in of DPC (drumsticks per chicken) could double their profits if the research is successful and the scientists don’t lay an egg. Animal rights activists across the country are crying fowl (I mean foul, sorry) about creating chickens with extra legs. In response, the officials say it’s better they genetically alter chickens to have more legs, which are body parts they already naturally have, than create chickens that grow something called nuggets. They also argue that it’s not like they’re cloning sheep and that their scientists are merely “augmenting” the chicken, which is something human women have been doing to themselves for years.

If the gene responsible for the second set of legs can be found, the turkey industry may also follow suit so that the chicken restaurants are not the only ones gobbling up the extra profit that figures to be made.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Repost Sunday: What's All That White Dust On Your Bible?

I rerun some of my older posts on Sundays as a way to highlight stories that you may have missed. Just think of it as 'thought recycling' and a day off. This was originally posted August 10, 2006 and I can't think of a more appropriate Sunday entry than this.

I am certainly no theologian, but the following story has to be a textbook way to get excluded from heaven.

An Indiana woman was charged with smuggling coke (and I don’t mean the soft drink known worldwide as The Real Thing) to her husband in jail by hiding it in 2 bibles. The cocaine was hidden, obviously not very well, in the spines of the bibles. It is my assumption that correctional officers became suspicious as they repeatedly saw the inmate sniffing the Good Books.

“We thought nothing of it and that maybe he just liked the smell of old books the first time we observed our inmate sniffing his bibles,” said correctional officer Buford T. Justice. “About the 15th or 20th time, we thought there might be more to it,” he added.

“When we more closely examined the 2 good books, I thought it was kind of odd that it had Splenda all over it,” said officer Justice. “Fortunately our ole tick hound ‘Red’ caught the scent and helped us stop this awful and sacrilegious drug trafficking.”

The saddest part of the story is that the mother of three was sentenced to six months in jail for two charges of trafficking with an inmate. If only she had used just one bible. Her husband is serving a sentence for a misdemeanor so there’s probably a pretty good chance that she’ll end up serving longer than he will.

This type of attempted smuggling has correctional institutions across the country on heightened alert. It will no doubt have huge repercussions for regulating future inmate visitations. After all, imagine what size shiv could be hidden inside a copy of War and Peace.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

It’s The First Day Of Fall, So They Tell Me

Fall begins today according to the radio, the paper and even the calendar. I have chosen to believe them all despite the appearance of any physical evidence to support the claim. I don’t know what Fall (or Autumn, apparently they are synonymous) is like in your corner of the world, but here in Southern California it’s not much different than the middle of summer.

It’s still hot, it’s still smoggy, it’s still dark out past 7PM, trees are still green and my air conditioner hasn’t stopped running. I have always imagined that Fall is like the Charles Wysocki painting above. I’ve actually heard that in parts of country, the colors are similar. Apparently our local merchants have also chosen to believe that Fall is a reality. Autumn and Halloween decorations are in the stores and empty lots I’ve recently driven by have bales of hay stacked up indicating that they are preparing to sell pumpkins (which are no doubt imported from cooler climates).

As a lifelong Southern Californian I really miss getting to experience everything I have been told about Fall. The things I miss are hayrides, apple cider and of course the beautiful Fall foliage. I have decided to do something about it once and for all so that my children and my neighbors can experience the bliss of Autumn.

I have developed a product called InstaFall (which could also be the name for a highly alcoholic beverage). InstaFall is a modified spray paint can that releases alternating amounts of yellow, orange and brown paint. It was cheaper to just load the can with a yellow, orange and brown mix rather than have them alternate, but the product didn’t test well. The test group indicated that the mixed version should have been called InstaPuke, so I spent a little more money on the final product.

Through the magic of InstaFall’s never-to-be patented technology, anything you can aim at can become as beautiful as a Fall day in New England. The paint formula has been treated so the colors won’t run indoors or out and are guaranteed to last for at least 3 months. Trees, bushes, the front lawn, piles of raked leaves and even that old ’68 VW bug on the side of the house can be autumnized. Imagine the Fall beauty you can create.

So there you have it, a way to enjoy Fall throughout the United States and the world. It no longer has to be just a day on the calendar. Fall can now be a time to appreciate the beauty of the changing seasons for everyone. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to start work on InstaSnow and InstaWinter…

Friday, September 22, 2006

No Thanks Man, I’ll Just Wait My Turn In Line

Lines at amusement parks are certainly no fun. After all, who goes and pays upwards of $40 per person to spend the day in line for your favorite thrill ride? A few years back Disneyland installed the Fast Pass system where you could pick up a ticket that would allow you to come back at a certain time and go to the front of the ride queue. Well, according to the Associate Press, Six Flags Great America in Illinois is now offering visitors a way to move up in line. Their way is a heck of a lot cheaper than installing Fast Pass ticket spitting kiosks near its most popular rides.

The line-jumping program is in effect through October during Six Flags’ annual Fright Fest. The AP says that there is no limit on how many times park guests can move to the front of the line and the pass will be good for up to four people. Oh yeah, did I admit that you have to eat a 3-inch Madagascar Hissing Cockroach to receive the special line privilege? I didn’t, oh sorry. I hate when I overlook little details like that. I’ll recap: one person eats a cockroach and all four people in your party get to move to the front of the line, any time.

I wonder how many different bugs, slugs and other living things the Six Flags marketing staff considered before going with the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach? They probably didn’t consider snails since they are already a delicacy throughout the world. Bees and wasps sting and people are allergic to that, slugs bubble too easily when salt is applied and worms cost too much because fisherman who want to use them keep driving the prices up by purchasing them at bait shops rather than digging for them. Raw fish would just be considered sushi and there’s nothing daring about that, beetles fly too well and caterpillars are too juicy. Besides when it can be advertised that something is from Madagascar and hisses, it drives the exotic factor up so high that the marketing folks really have no other choice.

It’s really a spectacular deal. You don’t have to pay any more for this privilege and you don’t have to show up at your favorite ride at a specific time. Of course you have to sign a waiver that I imagine indemnifies Six Flags from being responsible for things like your stomach falling apart, horrible mental trauma from reliving what you ate, intestinal problems that could plague you for the rest of your life and I presume your death. But really, what’s the harm in losing any financial or medical assistance from Six Flags forever when they are allowing you to move to the front of any ride’s line that you wish? After all, no one forced you to eat the cockroach.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

This Space Debris Is Getting Out Of Hand!

I saw another news report about space debris and the space shuttle. Wasn’t it just last week that there was a report of bolts being lost in space? Are we just more sensitive to it now because we keep reading about it, or is the amount of it increasing so steadily that we can’t keep the stuff in check? It seems that the interstellar trash problem has really come to the forefront during the last two shuttle missions. That reminds me; I read yesterday that the infamous space spatula should reenter the earth’s atmosphere and burn up sometime next month. Why do I feel like Chicken Little all of a sudden?

At this rate, I could start a blog solely devoted to space garbage. I could call it Orbital Chaos or something like that. It’s not that I want to keep writing about space junk, but as a fake reporter, I feel it’s my fake responsibility to follow up on a continuing story I have already completely misreported.

The latest report is about the temporary concern over three new mysterious pieces of debris in orbit around the Atlantis. Is that how bad this has gotten? The debris is now described as mysterious, which means we don’t even know where it came from this time or what it is. After a thorough inspection, the shuttle was cleared for landing, which is a good thing because with its fleet of orbiters on the ground, NASA can now focus on figuring this littering problem out. My first high tech solution would be placing “Don’t Litter” bumper stickers inside the shuttle’s cargo bays.

The photo I posted above is of one of the newly found debris items. Officials are pretty sure it’s nothing more than a plastic bag. It looks more like the type of space creature that used to hold the Enterprise hostage until right after the last commercial break on Star Trek. They’re letting the shuttle come home, so I won’t worry anymore about it. Funny thing is though, when a plastic bag blows out of our garage or flys out of the trash can on garbage day and lands on the street, the neighbors get upset and someone picks it up. When it happens in space, apparently no one really cares.

Well, with the shuttle returning to earth today, I guess it’s time to stop worrying about space debris for a while. Mark your calendars however; the next shuttle mission is scheduled for launch on or around December 14. Maybe they can tuck away a few Christmas tree ornaments in the shuttle’s bay. Doesn’t the thought of orbital ornaments sound nice? You know they’re going to lose a few and for at least one day in December, I’ll be guaranteed something to write about! Thanks again, NASA.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Do My Eyes Look Like Marbles? The Continuing Adventures Of Binoculo.

What follows is not for the weak stomached or faint of heart. According to the AP, Claudio Paulo Pinto of Brazil has his eye on a world record. You’re asking what the big deal about that is, well I’ll tell you. He can pop his eyes out of their sockets .3 inches and is working on breaking the current record of .43 inches currently held by a woman right here in the United States (with all respect to Lee Greenwood, it’s another reason I’m proud to be an American). That’s popping them out far enough to make the eyes of Sesame Street characters like Elmo, Cookie Monster and Kermit look like mere goose bumps!

The AP says that this world record hopeful was recently laid off from his job working in a haunted house (there’s a shocking surprise). I can’t imagine how one goes about popping the eyes out of their sockets. I know it happens frequently to animated characters, but it’s news to me that real flesh and blood people can do it. Apparently, it’s called “globe luxation,” although that sounds to me like something more relaxing than a violent ocular protrusion (for lack of a better definition).

My mind boggles at how Mr. Pinto discovered he had this “gift.” Was he blowing his nose? Did he get hit in the back of the head and then his optical orbs popped out? During a dream, did a voice come to him telling him to try to pop his eyes out? Was it a dare? My guess is that someone said something that really, really surprised him and his body’s natural reaction to it was his eyes protruding out of their sockets.

I’ll admit that as I’m writing this I’m trying to bear down as hard as I can to get my eyes to pop out, but no dice. I guess having that special ability makes Mr. Pinto almost superhuman. He actually has a super power. He can zoom in on an object the way a digital camera’s lens can extend to zoom in on something. But what would be an appropriate name for a man with such powers? I’ve got it, Binoculo, the human pair of binoculars.

Binoculo roams high rises at night zooming in on darkened alleyways looking for the city’s evil doers in his never-ending attempt to prevent crime. When the city is in distress Binoculo looks towards the skies and sees a spotlight beckoning him to come to the rescue. Of course all Binoculo can do is see at longer distances, so he still has to call the police and by the time he calls them, reports the crime and the officers show up, the perpetrator has gotten away. Without Binoculo though, no one would know what the suspect looks like. What an asset Binoculo is.

Who would have thought that such a seemingly disgusting bodily action could be so positive? Although if he’s successful at setting the world record, won’t it ruin Binoculo’s secret identity? Something tells me it’ll be pretty easy to spot a guy who can pop his eyes out on command.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Evolution In Progress?

I’ve heard of the phrase “jump the shark” to describe when a TV show does something completely unbelievable to capture ratings and then the show’s creativity and popularity both decline. It was coined when Fonzie literally jumped a shark in an episode of “Happy Days” when ratings were slumping (ok, that’s enough Cliff Claven useless trivia for the day).

But now I’m reading about a walking shark? There is an AP story out about a new shark found in the waters near Indonesia that walks on its fins. I think the Walking Sharks was also the name of a popular street gang in the ‘50s, wasn’t it?

Maybe the scientists witnessed evolution in motion when they found this little guy. It has long been proposed that we evolved from the oceans and became land dwelling mammals. Of course I’m skipping several million years in one sentence, but you get the point. Perhaps the walking shark is just a few years from getting up out of the ocean, walking off the beach, putting on a 3-piece suit and becoming a high powered executive of a multimedia company. Or maybe he’ll become a professional pool player. You know, pool shark. Or for the classic Saturday Night Live fans out there, maybe he’ll just hang around on land, knock randomly on people’s apartment doors and become a land shark. Oh well, never mind. I’ll get back the point.

I think it’s interesting that this shark was only recently discovered since it obviously did not just show up in the ocean from thin air. Though it does beg the question about whether it’s a walking shark or a running shark. If the shark uses its fins to run, it could explain how it has eluded discovery for so long. I would imagine its chances of hiding increase exponentially by running than walking.

I think ocean creatures are amazing. I am a little disappointed in this newly discovered shark though. It seems like a pretty lazy species. It chooses to just walk around when it could be swimming, which has been proven to burn a lot more calories. Maybe the walking shark was the unfortunate conclusion of creation’s indecision.

“Let me see, I’ll make a snake, no a shark…it can walk, no swim…on land…no on sea. Oh, forget it!”

Whatever the reason behind its existence and evolution, we should welcome this newfound species to our humble little planet. One thing is for sure though, if I’m ever snorkeling off the coast of Indonesia, I’m going to be on my best behavior. The last thing I want to do is upset a shark that can walk right up the beach and come after me!

Author’s note: In hindsight, after rereading what I’ve just written, maybe this blog has finally “jumped the shark." I knew it would happen sooner or later.

By the way maties, today is Talk Like A Pirate Day.....arggggh. So hoist your colors you bloomin' cockroaches. Don't forget to show 'em your "larboard" side. So me hearties, use your best ole salty pirate phrases or you be walkin' the plank.

This should be a fun thing to do all day. I'll talk like a Pirate and see how long it takes for my coworkers, I mean swabbies, to get sick of me. Arggggghhhh, shiver me timbers, I'm already annoying myself!! Dead men tell no tales, especially when they talk like pirates all day. Ok, I promise I'm done...arghhh

Monday, September 18, 2006

Who The Heck Invented The Cubicle?

How many of you out there in Blogville work in a cubicle? I’m guessing a great many of you. How many of you work in a cubicle with no windows? Probably most of you since cubicles are very, very good at blocking natural light!

I work in a cubicle and it is the daily deep depression I experience from being enclosed on 3 ¾ sides that has driven me to write this. I would really like to meet the inventor of the cubicle as I have a few guesses about what he or she used to do prior to creating the portable walls that close us off from the world but actually provide no privacy. My first assumption is that the inventor was incarcerated or was very familiar with prison. Maybe that is why he or she assumed we could be comfortable at least 8 hours a day working in a grey or earth-toned square. The other guess is that they liked to play in cardboard boxes as a kid. It explains perfectly why they created an affordable box that we have to work in each day.

Now to some, like office management (who get real doors and windows) and Les Nessman from WKRP in Cincinnati (who taped off lines on the floor representing where his walls should be), cubicles are the office dividers of the gods. However, there are a lot more of us that see them as a form of solitary confinement. It’s weird though because while you can’t see anything when working in the cubicle (unless you’re unfortunate enough like me to only be able to see your co-worker sticking his car key in his ear or picking his nose when you look out of your only opening), but you sure can hear everything.

Nothing you say in your cubicle is secret. It can be heard by even the hardest of hearing. It’s almost like they goofed and installed sound projection equipment instead of sound dampening material when constructing the cubicles. If your co-workers realized all of the lies you have overheard them tell, you could probably get them to buy you a car. You know their medical history, their dating plans and the vacation they booked while on company time. Not to mention how they feel about you and the rest of their co-workers.

It’s not as amusing anymore, but I begin each day by reciting some of country crooner Faron Young’s classic “Hello Walls.” I have found that no matter what you do to enhance your workspace, it’s a futile effort. I have put up bamboo canes, flamingo party beads, a coffeehouse clock, my Charlie Brown figurine, loaded PEZ dispensers, family photos, a sorry little plant and even the office cubicle prerequisite, Far Side cartoons. Nothing has worked to change the mood. I then tried a lava lamp only to be told it was a fire hazard. Even the stock painting behind my desk is depressing. It might as well be a historical black and white photograph of casualties on a Civil War battlefield. Seriously, this cubicle thing is that depressing. My blog pal
Odat over at Odat’s Mumblings mentioned that there is a lamp that can simulate natural light, so maybe that will “brighten” things up a bit.

Supposedly it is a beautiful and sunny day outside. I’ll just take the radio DJ’s word for it. The only thing that one can look forward to in cubicle land is lunchtime. Not because it’s time to go eat though. Lunchtime is when you get to see the faces of everyone else you work with. More importantly, it’s also the time when you can derive great pleasure from seeing everyone’s reaction to stepping out into bright natural light. I think we should take deep inspiration from the East Germans and (to quote Ronald Regan) tear…down…these…walls!

Les Nessman would gladly take cubicle walls over his imaginary tape outlines representing where walls should be...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Repost Sunday: Crime Fighting Makes Me So Bloody Hungry!

I rerun some of my older posts on Sundays as a way to highlight stories that you may have missed. Just think of it as 'thought recycling' and a day off. This was originally posted August 1, 2006.

After my debacle ending the last paragraph of my post last night, I promised to never write about anything British again. Well that was until I came across another great story from our brethren across the Atlantic. I have nothing against Britain and this bit of news was too great to resist. Two Sussex Police officers were arrested because their fellow coppers believe they have been stealing from the police candy shop (or shoppe).

The candy store operates on an honor (or honour) basis as officers take candy and drinks and leave money in a tin to pay for it. After a noticeable amount of candy began missing from the shop (or shoppe), the officers were suspected. The arrests turned into a full-scale investigation. Other officers were also suspected and removed from duty during the big scandal (my interpretation only). Sussex Police have actually had to enlist replacements to cover for the depleted force.

It’s pretty sad that it had to come to this. I guess the equivalent in this country would be police officers knocking off doughnut shops. Sorry, had to do it. At least the British police force isn’t made up of hardened criminals. Money is left unattended in a jar in the police candy store and these guys actually go and steal the candy? Something tells me if that happened here in the good ole U S of A, the money would be what was missing.

Imagine how proud the newly deputized officers are when they tell their parents that they have joined the police force. Then imagine the shock of these new officers’ parents when they learn that their child became a Sussex Police officer due to a police force shortage brought on by an internal candy sting. Not drugs, not money, not prostitution, but candy.The candy part of it almost makes the whole thing seem cute and innocent doesn’t it? Almost like it was a celebrity caught shoplifting.

Also, 25 years ago today television as we knew it changed forever, kind of. MTV debuted on cable with their first music video "Video Killed the Radio Star." I don't think they've shown an actual music video since.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Mayflower Pilgrims, America Thanks You

On this day in 1620, the Pilgrims left England bound for America. The Pilgrims were persecuted in England for their religious beliefs and were allowed to come to America so that they could practice their religion without being made fun of. It’s a known fact that religious persecutors are not nice people and they are often compared to the neighborhood bully or domineering PTA mother.

In fact, there has long been a rumor that the Smithsonian Museum has physical proof of the persecution that the Mayflower Pilgrims suffered. The museum is said to have the nameplate that the persecutors nailed over the original one on the front of the boat the night before the Mayflower left England. It reads “HMS Ship Of Fools” and was removed by the Pilgrims when they discovered it the morning of their voyage. When the Mayflower set sail a few hours later, the religious bullies all lined up along the dock sarcastically waving goodbye and making fun of the pilgrims’ hats and shoes.

It’s no surprise that the Pilgrims would want to escape that type of treatment. After all, they were only trying to worship God they way they felt was appropriate. It’s also no surprise that the New World was selected as their destination. There was already a colony at Jamestown (where the Pilgrims were officially headed before being blown off course and ending up in New England) and it was known that America had ample rivers, plenty of space, very few fellow Englishmen to persecute them, a great selection of wildlife, plenty of trees for wood and a Starbucks on every corner.

When we attend the church of our choice here in America, we should think of the Pilgrims and everything they did to be able to attend a church of their own. We should also thank them every time we attend an all you can eat buffet, but I’ll write more about that during Thanksgiving. In the city I live there are about 5 churches all lined up on one single street. Every religion and culture you can think of is represented in those churches and they can all thank the Pilgrims, among a few others, for their right to assemble and worship there.

I know I was thanking the Pilgrims this morning. I was able to get all of my Saturday morning chores done by only visiting church row. I got breakfast at St. Anne’s bake sale, my truck washed at the Lutheran church and a lawnmower to replace my busted one at the Protestant Church. If we’re bored tonight, we’ll probably go play bingo at the non-denominational church across the street. Mr. and Mrs. Pilgrim, you certainly gave us a lot to be thankful for.

Friday, September 15, 2006

MP3 Players Tell No Tales

A realization hit me on my daily walk today as Kenny Rogers began on my MP3 player. It wasn’t that the gambler made me think, it was his song “Daytime Friends and Nighttime Lovers.” I love the song and was walking down the street getting my exercise and singing along. I normally don’t sing or mouth along to songs when I walk, but during this moment I was and became self-conscience as motorists sped by me grinning at the idiot singing that particular song while walking. Here I am trying to stay in shape and I’m singing “Daytime Friends and Nighttime Lovers.” Next came Kenny and Dolly singing “Islands in the Stream” and I’m still singing.

I started to think that as embarrassing as it was, I really had only myself to blame. It’s not like I bought an album for one good song that happened to have all those other songs on there or someone else placed them on my MP3 player as a joke. Nope, I downloaded them onto my player because I wanted to listen to them. As this stream of thought continued, I started thinking about the other songs and artists on my player: Roger Miller, The Carpenters, John Denver and countless others that many people have never heard of or pretend not to have heard of. Right then and there I realized that I never want anyone to end up with my MP3 player.

Geez, what if I keeled over while walking, had no ID on me and someone listened to my MP3 player to get a better idea of who I was? Do I really want my lasting impression to be the guy that died while listening to “Daytime Friends and Nighttime Lovers?” Do I want my MP3 player to still be playing “Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald,” or “Rainy Days And Mondays?’ Of course not!

I’m sure this is a pretty common phenomenon among the multitude of MP3 and Ipod users out there. Would many of them really want the musical skeletons in their closet exposed? Do they really want the world to know that they listen to Andy Gibb singing “I Just Want To Be Your Everything,” or Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock?” If discovered, it could completely shatter their reputation.

“Hey Phil, they’re goes our new co-worker Katie. Rumor has it she has The Bee Gees and Helen Reddy on her Ipod!”

“Oh, I know Susie. I heard Johnny up in accounting heard her singing along to “Alone Again Naturally,” during her walking break today.”

“Oh, I would be soooo embarrassed if I were her. Can you just imagine?”

Here’s the problem though, do you play what you want to or what others would expect you to listen to? I don’t know about you, but I will choose what I want to listen to every time. I love music and if I like it it’s good enough for me. There is no reason for anyone to be ashamed of their musical tastes. But let me say this, you can be darn sure the only way you’ll get my MP3 player from me if the Captain and Tennille are downloaded on it is by prying it out of my cold, dead hand! For me and my MP3 player full of non-hip tunes, love will truly keep us together.

(Editor’s note: the songs mentioned in this blog are done so for storytelling purposes only, they have no factual basis in my listening life, no really)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The “Natural” Way To Stop Police Chases

When I wrote last week about using goats as speed deterrents, I completely overlooked using animals to end police chases. The ideas are so closely related that I guess it was bound to happen at some point. In Oregon earlier this week, it did. A female driver was trying to evade police when her car hit a deer in the middle of the road, thus ending the police chase. It is not known at this time if headlights were a factor.

Apparently, law enforcement officials in the great state of Oregon were inspired by the use of goats in Canada to deter speeders. Goats were too hard to round up in any considerable amount, but since deer was plentiful, they were enlisted. Because deer are “wild” animals, Oregon saves a lot of money since they do not have to put down deposits to farmers for the use of the farmers’ goats. This was the first attempt at using operation Bambi Block and officials are touting it as a great success.

“We don’t have a lot of police chases here in Oregon like all those crazies do down in California,” said an Oregon official. “It’s a good thing too, because although we have a lot of deer here, it’s not like we get to reuse them after they’ve been deployed to stop a police pursuit,” he added.

With goats being enlisted in Canada and California and deer getting the call in Oregon, I wonder what animal will be recruited next. Bison or buffalo would do the trick in Montana and coyotes could be used in Arizona. Bears would certainly deter motorists in the northwest, as would Moose in the northeast. They could use crocodiles in Florida. I would say Manatees, but they are busy stopping boats in Florida’s waters (which is very sad and before anyone posts nasty comments, I do not condone injuring Manatees, deer, goats or any other animal, except maybe gophers but unfortunately they aren’t big enough to stop a car).

I guess in the end, the recruitment of deer to stop police evaders is the perfect form of poetic justice. After all, it was man who left Bambi an orphan and it was man who kept burning Bambi’s forest. Now deer everywhere get to exact their revenge. Oh wait, you mean Bambi wasn’t real? It sure seemed real when I was a kid. Well then, never mind.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

NASA Threatened With Fines For Continual Space Littering

You may recall that back in July astronauts aboard the space shuttle lost a spatula during a spacewalk. The continued abuse of our orbit has continued with the latest shuttle mission. Yesterday and again today, astronauts from the Atlantis lost bolts while working on additions to the international space station. I guess it wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t using the military issue type of bolts that cost $17,000 a piece.

A new space debris watchdog group was formed after the spatula incident, now referred to as spat-gate, to police the careless disregard of our planet’s orbit. CCOP (Concerned Citizens for Orbital Protection) is lobbying anyone who will listen for the implementation of a fine and penalty system for any space program that loses or releases debris into our orbit. I bet CCOP is really mad now that we’ve added 2 bolts to their tracking list!

According to CCOP, the debris can range from tools and space garbage to satellites that are no longer operational. The amount of each fine will be determined in accordance with the size of the debris. It is CCOP’s hope that funds generated from orbital debris fines can be used to develop an orbital refuse collection and treatment facility that will be part of the International Space Station.

“Yeah, it’s a pretty stupid idea,” said one member of Congress who asked to be anonymous. “What’ll these guys think of next, protesting our congressional pay raises? I’d like to put them into orbit!”

Quick rudimentary math shows that we would have to dispose of several tons of space debris a day to come up with enough money to fund the research, construction, launch and installation of a space refuse plant. While driving into work this morning, I thought of a more fun way to learn about and deal with space debris. Just as we have adopt-a-highway, we can begin to adopt space debris. Elementary schools all over the world can sign up to “adopt” and track a “junk buddy.” While tracking their “junk buddy,” children can learn about how things orbit the earth and just how much damage the smallest amount of space trash can do when flying through space at several hundred miles an hour. Actually, young children would probably enjoy seeing violent space debris collisions, and so would I.

Personally, I would love to be able to track my very own piece of space debris. Maybe I’ll even name it. Maybe I’ll track two pieces and call them Andy and Barney. Imagine how much fun it will be as my space debris races other people’s “junk buddies.” We can wage bets to see whose debris is fastest. If we’re really lucky, over time all the debris will collide with each other and there will be an ultimate space debris champ, kind of like that robot fighting but with more serious consequences. Hopefully the astronauts will find a way to “lose” a toilet or two next time they endeavor a space walk. I could definitely adopt two inter-galactic orbital toilets. That would be pretty cool…

I posted this before, but here's an interesting photo I found representing all of the known and tracked space debris (of course we now need to add 2 new items):

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Biggest BBQ That Never Was

I saw a news story that contained the words “world record” and “BBQ” and had to read about it. They tried and they tried and they grilled and they stoked, but the country of Namibia failed in making the record book for the biggest BBQ ever. At least 44,007 Namibians crowded into a local sports stadium to feast on a 5-mile long sausage (I can just imagine the comments that’ll be posted after that statement) to break the world record of 44,159 people that attended a BBQ in Australia. I thought that was a lot of people until I was at Red Lobster the other night for the All You Can Eat Shrimp Fest (and they wonder why America has an obesity problem, but alas, that’s a “tail” for another day).

The organizers of the event had to stop counting for safety reasons when they were only 152 people short of breaking the record. The crowd was being counted as it left the stadium and as the amount of people pushing toward the gates increased, the organizers feared a stampede and halted the count and their chance at the world record. It’s very noble that they would put the safety of their citizens first. Although I hate to admit it, I’m not so sure I would have been able to issue the orders that would ensure I was kept out of any world record pertaining to BBQ. Come to think of it, most hard-core BBQ pit masters would probably say the same thing. If it happened in America, I can envision what those last few moments would be like now (insert Brady Bunch like dream sequence special effects here).

“Come on, come on, keep it going, we’re just a few folks short. I don’t care about the fences or what the fire marshal has to say, Midnight Smokers BBQ is gonna be in the Guinness Book of World Records…uh-oh, I gotta go!!”

Perhaps as equally as important as the moral dilemma of risking life and limb for BBQ immortality is the fact that another country thought of this attempt, technically 2 if you count the current world record holder Australia. I absolutely cannot believe that the record was not attempted in the States, especially in Texas or the Carolinas (although I suppose it could have been since I’m far too lazy to actually check, but for the sake of this “story,” we’ll assume it hasn’t).

As a true Barbequer and smoker (meats, not cigarettes), I’m a little embarrassed someone thought of all of this before we did. Granted if either of those fine BBQ regions had attempted it, it would not have been a lame ole sausage that was used. It would have been beef (cue Sam Elliot with his “It’s what’s for dinner” orchestral background) or pork (cue the “Other white meat” ads). I’m not sure a continuous 5-mile long chunk of either meat exists, but then did we really think the 5-mile long sausage was natural (again, here come the comments). If there was a true 5-mile long mass of meat out there, it’s definitely going to have some (as in 3-4 miles) of by-product in it.

Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise that the good folks down in Namibia have a conscience and that it stopped them from being able to break the record. Now we carnivorous Americans can use the harrowingly close call as a wake up and get out there and set the world record. It’ll be easy; we can grill up plenty of meat and just grab all of the people waiting in line for Endless Pasta Bowls down at The Olive Garden.

Monday, September 11, 2006

In Remembrance…

I hope you don’t mind, but this post will be a little different today. I’ll get back to my regular dose of nothing worthwhile tomorrow.

At the very end of July 2001, my wife and I flew up to New Hampshire and then to Maine for a family reunion. We had a long wait on the tarmac at the airport in Newark and realized that we might get to fly past New York. In anticipation, we got out our digital camera (you remember the old ones that cost $500 for a 1 megapixel unit).

As we took off in the little puddle jumper that would take us up the coast, we got an aerial tour of New York City. Although we certainly weren’t expecting it, we got to see many of the landmarks the city is famous for. We were treated to views of the Statue of Liberty, Central Park and even Yankee Stadium. But as we would come to realize just 2 short months later, our real highlight was getting to pass the World Trade Center and its 2 magnificent towers. The picture to the left was taken simply and casually as a tourist would take a picture of something they recognize. It has now become as cherished as any photo from that entire wonderful trip.

I post it in remembrance of this day 5 years ago when this country was forever changed. As we reflect on the events of that day, please keep the families, friends and coworkers of everyone touched and affected by September 11th, as well as this country of ours, in your prayers.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Repost Sunday: The Not So Wicked Witch Of The South

I rerun some of my older posts on Sundays as a way to highlight stories that you may have missed. Just think of it as 'thought recycling' and a day off. This was originally posted July 13, 2006.

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?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Cell Phone Or Hell Phone?

A survey of Verizon cell phone users showed that folks in Miami and Los Angeles use their cell phones more than anyone else in this country, according to Reuters. Detroit was the furthest eastern U.S. city on the list, ranking third. The story said that Miami cell users have an average of 298 calls a month compared to the 260 by Los Angelinos.

That is a lot of phone calls. I have to use my cell phone for work and I don’t come anywhere near making or receiving that many. I don’t know what your views of cell phones are, (I think there’s only 2: evil necessity or hand held technological fruit of the gods) but I hate mine. There are even days when I have left my phone at home or in my truck so I could say I “forgot” it just to get away from it for a while. I suppose if I ever get stranded in quicksand and a pack of emaciated wolves are heading my way, then I might change my view, but that would be the only way I would.

The cell phone has become as much of a necessity in our lives as any of the technological inventions of the past 100 years. It still cracks me up when I hear a cell phone ring and everyone looks to see if it’s theirs. I have even seen people pick up their phone almost as if they were trying to get it to ring or couldn’t understand why it didn’t ring when whomever they are with gets a call. It’s pretty sad, actually.

When cell phones started gaining popularity, who would ever have thought that there would be such a huge market for ring tones? I’ll admit that I have the theme song from “The Dukes of Hazzard” as mine because it is one of my favorite songs. The only problem now is that I hate the song because I hear it every time my phone rings and I detest when it rings. I can’t begin to tell you how many different ring tones I hear throughout the course of a day. There are even ring tones now that sound like old fashioned ringing telephones.

While on the topic of cell phone usage, the notion of cell phone etiquette comes to mind. What concerns me the most is how quick folks are to grab their phone the second it rings. This is regardless of where they are or who they are with. Is there a universal etiquette for using cell phones? If not, I think someone should determine and state when it is and is not proper to use a cell phone. Maybe Dear Abby has a cell phone and someone could call her and ask. I’d do it, but I don’t like having conversations on cell phones.

Many times I have been with close friends or co-workers talking, having lunch or enjoying a long drive to or from a meeting when their phone rings and they immediately answer it, in the middle of our conversation. Of course there are some instances where that is fine but it is an odd feeling to be sitting alone in a car with someone in the middle of a discussion when they answer their phone and you have to sit there in silence until they are finished. It may just be me, but it certainly gives the impression that whoever is on the phone is more important and I might as well not even be there. The same thing applies when a group of folks are together and someone takes a cell phone call and doesn’t excuse themselves from the group. Everyone then has to talk over the person or wait until they are off the phone. We have all experienced being next to someone in a public place that has forgotten that anyone is around them while they were using their phone. Awkward, isn’t it? Do we really want to know how their cousin’s polyp is doing or care how they feel about their weird sexually overactive roommate? I sure don’t!

The cell phone is an invention that has no doubt saved lives, given us our only form of communication during crisis and a way to get a hold of someone at any time. However, that same accessibility has also created the necessity for responsibility in using it. Maybe it is time that we decide when and where it is socially acceptable to use a cell phone. Once that has been decided it needs to be publicized and posted in public places everywhere. I have a lot more to say about this issue but my cell phone is ringing and I need to go throw it out back so the dog can use it as a chew toy.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Set Your Reactions To Stun, Star Trek Turns 40!

40 years ago tonight, NBC aired the first episode of what would become a cultural phenomenon and highly successful franchise. Star Trek hit the air on September 8, 1966. I have referred to Star Trek numerous times during my relatively short stay in blog land but in honor of this momentous day, it’s time to pull out all the stops.

I just finished watching “The Trouble With Tribbles” on TV Land and after not having watched an episode of the original series in several years, I was surprised at how vivid and bright all of the colors were. Watching as an adult, I was also caught off guard as to how campy everything about it was. Don’t get me wrong though, I’ve always been a fan and am (almost) not embarrassed to admit that I donned pointy ears back in the 7th grade and dressed as Mr. Spock for Halloween. The answer to your question is no, I did not have a date for that night’s junior high Halloween dance, but that’s not the point!

I have a lot of random thoughts about the show I want to share with you. The biggest one is that for such a logical and by the book guy, how cool was Mr. Spock. You know you’re watching a hip alien when he has a Beatle haircut. And how about those Klingons? Watching them made me realize how different creatures can evolve at such varied paces. In the 1960s episodes they were in, Klingons look pretty human, maybe a little beatnik, but definitely human. Fast forward just a few short years and they have evolved into menacing figures with foreheads that are eerily similar to an aerial view of California’s San Andres fault. Perhaps a better comparison for their heads would be what my puckered and stitched open-heart surgery scar looked like the day following surgery (although that might be better explained in a different posting; I told you this would be pretty random).

Watching Star Trek in syndication as a youngster ruined my understanding of space. I was almost in my teens by the time I came to accept that stars in space were not held in place by cosmic fishing line. I am proud to say that I was informed enough to know that the show was called “Star Trek,” not “Star Track” as so many people called it. Sadly, I would correct them. In hindsight, when it came to alienating my friends (so to speak), that was not such a logical thing to do.

The ideas, philosophy and technology on the show are still influencing us today. Did you know that television’s first interracial kiss was between Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura? When NASA asked the public to name the first Space Shuttle, the unanimous choice was The Enterprise. The cell phone was obviously derived from the original communicator. We should thank Start Trek creator Gene Roddenberry every time we place a call from the middle of nowhere or ask the person on the other line, “Can you hear me know?” That phrase has become the new Millennium’s version of “beam me up.” The new cell phone wireless head-set blue-tooth ear clip on things (that as you can tell from my description I obviously know nothing about) sure remind me of the ear piece Uhura used to hail Star Fleet. Don’t you agree?

From everything I have read and seen, the original episodes are about to be exposed to yet another generation. TV Land is going to start airing the show nightly beginning in November and I read on that high-definition versions of the original series with updated special effects (maybe they’re using George Lucas) will start in syndication around the country next week. I saw a promo tonight and I think they might have updated more than just the special effects. I could have sworn I heard Dr. McCoy tell Captain Kirk, “Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor, not a blogger!”

Thursday, September 07, 2006

California Has High Hopes For New Speeding Deterrent

The news of a speeding citation recently issued in Canada has California Transportation officials moving quickly to implement a new speeding deterrent for the Golden State’s highways and byways. The citation was issued to a Swiss man who was going about 100 mph in Ontario. According to Reuters, when the man was pulled over he told the officer that he was going fast because he knew he didn’t have to worry about hitting a goat. Apparently, goats are a concern on Swiss roads, or the man has severe issues in the noggin and shouldn’t be driving in the first place.

Whatever the driver's reason, it didn’t take long for Caltrans officials in California to recognize the advantage of having packs of goats (assuming that’s what they are called) roaming our roads. A plan is being put in motion to round up goats from every farm and pasture that can be found. Local goat herders will be paid a deposit by Caltrans, which they will get back upon returning the goats safely to their owners. Caltrans will not get their money back for “goat bumps” (goats injured or killed by speeding motorists). The “goat bumps” will be sold at a reduced priced to local roadside BBQ joints.

“Over the last several years, we haven’t experienced the success we anticipated with speed reducing projects like speed bumps, rumble strips, cameras and radar,” said a Caltrans official. “Goats are relatively inexpensive, plentiful and can be moved easily depending upon speed reduction needs, he added.

Within the next few months goats will be strategically placed on local roads where there are known to be speeding problems. Once the goats have been successful in reducing speeds in the initial areas of focus, they will be re-deployed to the next group of locations where Caltrans is concerned about reducing speed. The goats will be relieved of duty for time off at regular weekly intervals. During the time off, the goats will be allowed to graze in local fields. It is hoped that operation “Grazin’ In The Grass Is A Gas, Baby Can You Feel It” will not only keep the goats relaxed and refreshed but will help maintain the landscaping of nearby roadside grasses and vegetation.

Caltrans is very excited about their new approach to speed reduction. “If having to dodge goats in the middle of the road doesn’t stop someone from speeding, then totaling your car into a live goat will surely make you think twice next time you want to put the pedal to the metal,” a Caltrans official said.

I guess in the final analysis, dotting our roads with wild goats will help keep motorists from sewing their wild oats.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Is All News Newsworthy?

As some of the regular readers of this blog may have noticed, I read a lot of news. Well at least it’s news in someone’s view, although I’m not always sure it should be. Just a quick perusal of some lead news stories around the Wondernet yesterday really left me shaking my head.

The first story that stuck out was about Katie Couric. It seems as a nation we quickly got over her
photo editing scandal and moved on to her reporting the news becoming the news. Apparently, there wasn’t any significant news event yesterday. The fact that Katie was CBS’ new anchor appeared to be far more important than anything she had to say. Don’t get me wrong, she is easier on the eye than Dan Rather or Bob Schaefer. However, should her new job really be a news story? If she decides to run a cooking segment or concert series during her major network primetime newscast, that might be newsworthy.

The other big headline I noticed concerned the first public picture of Tom Cruise’s new baby, Slushie, Slurpy, Surreal or whatever she is named. I love children as much as anyone, but how much importance should be placed on the fact that her first picture has been released to the media. That should be a news item buried in the back page somewhere, if anywhere. No offense to the Cruises, but if their baby’s picture is gracing the cover of a magazine, then we’ll be sure to see it in the checkout line at our corner Piggly Wiggly (which by the way celebrates its 90th birthday today…now that’s newsworthy). We don’t need the news media to tell us that the picture will be on a magazine. I may be a cynic, but I just don’t think that’s real news. Where have all the real newsmen (and women) gone? I’m speaking of true reporting pioneers like Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, and WKRP’s Les Nessman (former winner of the Buckeye News Hawk Award).

I will however tell you what in my humble opinion should be reported on. It’s a news story that has the potential to affect the health of dozens of people and it appeared in the Washington Post in a real print newspaper, so we know it’s true and important. Unfortunately, despite its implications, the story won’t be given as much attention as the stories about Couric and Suri (sounds like a law firm, doesn’t it?).

It’s about the fact that fish (namely bass) in the Potomac River are having some hormone problems. Male fish that are developing eggs have been caught over the last few years. While I’m sure the female bass population is saying it’s about time, it should be reason for alarm. I know that fish are built much differently than we are genetically speaking, but what if this starts to wreak havoc with humans in the area. In the next few years, as male fishermen begin showing signs of having high female hormones, we won’t be as prepared as we could’ve been because as a nation we were more interested in much less newsy things.

Although if the same male fishermen start developing fish eggs in their bellies, you can bet that will get news attention. I guess the moral of this story is that if you want to get real news out to the people, you need to associate it with either something freaky or celebrity related. The beauty of a story about Tom Cruise is that you get both in the same package. And that is the news for today, September 6, 2006…goodnight and may the good news be yours.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

That’s One Small Step For Man, One Giant Leap For Skee-Ball

The European Space Agency (ESA) crashed its first lunar satellite into the surface of the moon over the weekend. Believe it or not, they are happy about that and consider it a success. The satellite was launched from Europe in 2003 and its collision with the moon was the plan all along.

According to Reuters, the object of the mission was to test a new form of ion propulsion. Telescopes on earth were focused on the satellite as it neared its impact site and the crash was photographed. The satellite was photographing the surface of the moon prior to its impact. Just a few thousand feet above the moon’s surface, a course correction had to be made to avoid hitting the rim of a large crater.

“We were really lucky we were able to avoid that crater,” said an ecstatic member of the team. “Some of us had like $150 on hitting the spot we did. That crater would have cost me a ton of money,” he added.

The real mission objective however was part of a cosmic competition between the ESA, the Russian space program, and NASA. However, unlike normal space competitions, a lucrative contract will not be awarded to the winning agency. The winner will receive intergalactic bragging rights and that’s all.

What is the competition you ask? It’s called Lunar Skee-Ball and its creation can be traced back to the early days of instant messaging. It seems that teams of scientists from all three space agencies started bragging about how they could hit a target on the moon late one night. After enough “your mamas” and “our satellite launching is more precise than yours,” the competition was elevated to a primary space objective. Each agency added cameras and a whole bevy of scientific equipment that probably doesn’t work and got funding for their “programs.”

In the late 90s, the moon was divided into sections and assigned point values. Over the next 15 years or so, each competing space program will launch satellites aimed at the point values on the moon. Each competitor is allowed three attempts to collide a satellite into the point zones. At the end of the 15 years, the agency with the most points wins the competition and its scientists will be considered the coolest around.

So there you have it. The ESA leads Lunar Skee-Ball 1-0. Up next is Russia and rumor has it they are going to risk everything and go for the biggest point value. The U.S. will follow that and then round two will begin. ESPN2 is slated to broadcast the third and final round. Officials have said that if this competition is successful “scientifically” more countries will be invited to participate. It is their hope that it will garner enough attention to make it as popular as the World Cup and pave the way for better funding of future space programs. Something tells me that folks will be curling on Mars before that happens.

***I wanted to mention that I recently upgraded to Blogger Beta, so if you cannot post a comment, please forgive me. Also there are some blogs I read that I cannot make comments on right now because I upgraded, but I am still visiting them daily. I'm sorry about that too...In general, I guess I'm just sorry, not lame, but sorry...

Monday, September 04, 2006

Happy Labor Day And Good Bye Summer

Wow, it seems like just yesterday (well, it was Friday actually) that I was lamenting the start of the Labor Day Weekend, which signifies the end of summer. Now the holiday weekend is almost over and there are just a few un-official hours left in summer 2006. Tomorrow kids will go back to school and all of us adults will go back to work as if nothing happened.

It’s now time to put away the Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffett. Time to stow away that old hammock, provided you had the time to get it out at all this year and you should probably go ahead and deflate the alligator raft in the pool. We can however look forward to cooler weather (in some parts of the country), the leaves changing color, the sun setting sooner, the start of a new TV season and the coming of the stretch run for both baseball and NASCAR.

Believe it or not, I have already seen both pumpkin and pecan pie in the store. The next thing you know, Target will be getting rid of their back-to-school items and replacing them with Halloween decor and costumes. I'm sure Starbucks will be featuring their Pumpkin Latte soon. Yep, summer 2006 ain't long for the world my friends.

To celebrate summer’s end, I was planning on grilling up some steak and corn tonight but it’s at least 106 degrees out and I’m afraid the copious amounts of sweat pouring off my head might extinguish the hot coals. I don’t think we had a Labor Day parade in town today, which is a good thing because no one likes getting stuck in hot asphalt. All in all my household allowed summer to pass pretty quietly this year, with the exception of our air conditioning unit which has been the only thing running non-stop all weekend. Getting that bill should a lot of fun and a great way to start the fall season.

So I hope you had a wonderful Labor Day weekend and a nice summer. I hope you got to do everything you planned and travel to wherever you wanted. We’ll all wake up tomorrow and just like that summer will be over. Don’t worry though; Memorial Day will be here before you know it.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Repost Sunday: To Boldly Go Where No Remains Have Gone Before

I rerun some of my older posts on Sundays as a way to highlight stories that you may have missed. Just think of it as 'thought recycling' and a day off. This was originally posted July 25, 2006.

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.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Don’t You Wish We Could All Try The Katie Couric Diet?

Want to lose about 20 pounds? Just contact CBS’ photo department and they’ll take care of it. That’s what they did for Katie Couric. A picture in a CBS magazine promoting her move to CBS news was altered to make her appear thinner.

The photo has been a surprise to almost everyone involved. The President of CBS News was surprised, as was Couric, although she’s handling it perfectly. When told about her photo’s alteration she responded, “I liked the first picture better because there’s more of me to love.” What a great disarming response. In one sentence, she tells us that she’s ok with the way she is. After that, it’s not even news anymore. If she were upset by it then there’d be a story.

All of this got me thinking about how we can engage in a little revisionist history. As you know, we have an obesity problem in this country. Thanks to digital photo manipulation, we can ensure that historians remember Americans differently, or remember less of us, if you get my point.

The first area to concentrate on is our political leaders. We can easily airbrush about 40 pounds off President Clinton and Senator Ted Kennedy. We can make Governor Schwarzenegger still appear muscular and Terminator-like. The same can be applied to any television personality. After all, if the television adds 10 pounds, let’s remove it. We can virtually eliminate the double chin from our historical photographic records. The same goes for the beer gut. The possibilities are endless. Heck, if George Lucas can make a young Yoda do flips and wield a light saber, we can skinny up our citizens.

Imagine sending out your Christmas card photo this year with every member of your family looking fit and trim. Of course, with a little knowledge of Photoshop, you can take it a step further and make it look like Fred Willard, Phyllis Diller, Adam West as Batman, Barry Williams or any other A-list celebrity attended your family function. You can even make it look like you went sport fishing with President Bush (or both of them) off the coast of Maine. Didn’t get to take that trip to Hawaii this year? That’s ok; you can make it look like you did and that you lost 35 pounds while you were there.

If we take advantage of this photo-cheating thing correctly, we can appear to future generations as a society of blemish free, fit and well-traveled people, despite our Big Mac a day habit. The only problem will be when those future generations actually get to meet us. Yes my friends, a picture truly is worth a thousand words, even if they are all lies.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Don’t Look Now But Labor Day Is Upon Us

The traditional last weekend of summer is here. It seems funny since it feels like I just took the Memorial Day steaks off the grill. Did we even celebrate the 4th of July? It all went so fast I can’t remember. 90 days of summer fun has floated away like the mist of the spray from the suntan lotion that doesn’t work and that I only got to use 3 times anyway. It’s the weekend where I feel I should cram in all those summer activities I didn’t get to do before now.

I won’t worry too much about the pressure of making up for lost time this weekend. Here in So Cal the summer weather extends to almost Halloween, so I’ve still got some time left. This year my summer “yet-to-do” list is extensive. I haven’t had lobster yet, only went swimming once, never flew a kite, didn’t plant anything new and the closest I got to the beach was Sea World, just to name a few. I did get to work an awful lot though. But that is nothing to rejoice about, is it?

Soon the leaves will begin to change colors marking the beautiful start to Fall. Although where I live the leaves are there one day and dead on the ground the next. There is no colorful transition period that people celebrate and travel hundreds of miles just to see. If they haven’t started already, kids will be back in school in a few days. Before we know it, stores will be displaying their Halloween merchandise and then by mid-October there will already be Christmas stuff on the shelves and egg-nogg in the grocery store’s dairy section. You had better not blink or the year will be over before you’ve had a chance to prepare for it!

If you can, try to stop, sit down, grab a cold drink and relax this weekend. Most of us get an extra day to say goodbye to summer, which is always a special treat. There will be backyard barbeques, parades and those last weekend getaways. For us Southern Californians who care, it’s NASCAR race weekend. I’ll be celebrating my last weekend of summer squished together with 100,000 other folks in 100+ degree weather watching what my friend Matt calls “The Roundy-Round.” When I stop to think about, I’ll need that extra day on Monday just to get my ears to stop ringing!

So enjoy whatever you have planned for this Labor Day Weekend. By this time next week, you’ll feel the urge to rake leaves, pick apples or attend a harvest festival somewhere. Good-bye summer, we hardly knew ye.