The Column

Friday, July 31, 2009

More politicians feel the love, or something

People are getting more ticked off these days, and they're acting out more in town hall meetings. It's times like this when it's good to see them showing vital signs, anyway.

... screaming constituents, protesters dragged out by the cops, congressmen fearful for their safety — welcome to the new town-hall-style meeting, the once-staid forum that is rapidly turning into a house of horrors for members of Congress ... on the eve of the August recess, members are reporting meetings that have gone terribly awry, marked by angry, sign-carrying mobs and disruptive behavior. In at least one case, a congressman has stopped holding town hall events because the situation has spiraled so far out of control ...

Video: Congressman Tim Bishop, accused as a rubber stamp for tax-and-spend types Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank, gets a cordial greeting from his loyal constituency. Or something.

Baseball fans gone wrong

This is an actual photo, by the Associated Press. Here, fans from the Waterloo region of Ontario cheer on the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Game just does things to a fella ...

Jumbo snakes multiply in Everglades

Reptile expert Joe Wasilewski holds a Burmese python he found in the Florida Everglades.

OK, the snaky frame of mind continues.

According to CNN, very large snakes are breeding like mad all over Florida, and it's tough keeping track of them.

Here's an excerpt:

Joe Wasilewski drives along a narrow stretch of road through Florida's Everglades. The sun is setting, night is coming on quickly, and Wasilewski is on the prowl for snakes -- and one snake in particular. "The next 10 miles seem to be the hot spot for Burmese pythons," he said ... Wasilewski is a state-sanctioned snake-hunter who regularly scours this area for the reptiles. The Everglades, known as the River of Grass, has the perfect space and climate for pythons to hide and breed. And breed they do: The largest clutches found in the Everglades have contained 83 eggs ...

Perhaps a little self-vindication here: I covered this issue a year ago. An excerpt:

The southeast coast is indigenous to a wide variety of snakes. Rattlers could be seen out here, as well as copperheads, water moccasins, and land developers ... however, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) predicts Burmese pythons may take up residence in the southeast -- in fact, the entire southern third of the country within the next hundred years, if there is indeed a warming trend as all evidence suggests. It's a comfort to know Burmese pythons are not poisonous snakes. A good thing; there are plenty of those kind around here. What's not so comforting is that pythons are just plain big. Big enough to hunt deer and alligator. Try 20 feet long and around 250 pounds. That's one big piece of reptile ...

Stay tuned. Not all snakes hang out in D.C.

(Photo from CNN)

Federal "Cash For Clunkers" program lasts ... four days. Now, THAT'S stimulus!
~ E

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Man charged for 2nd round of horse buggery

There's just nothing I can add here ... the Associated Press says it all.


A South Carolina man was charged with having sex with a horse after the animal's owner caught the act on videotape, then staked out the stable and caught him at shotgun point, authorities said Wednesday. ... but this wasn't the first time Rodell Vereen has been charged with buggery. He pleaded guilty last year to having sex with the same horse ...

And according to the horse's owner:

"Police kept telling me it couldn't be the same guy. I couldn't believe that there were two guys going around doing this to the same horse."

Some folks are just the living definition for "sick puppy."

You might not be as crazy as you think

What do you see in this ink blot?

It doesn't really matter, anyway.

Now, it seems the old Rorschach test, lampooned along with the rest of the psychiatric industry for decades, isn't all that reliable.

So suggests the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, as reported by Newsweek.


... psychologists Scott Lilienfeld, James Wood and Howard Garb—find the Rorschach wanting in two crucial ways .... first, the test lacks what testing experts call "scoring reliability." Scoring reliability means than you get the same results no matter who is scoring the test. Psychotherapists look at more than 100 different variables when scoring an answer: Did the patient focus on stray splotches rather than the main blot, or the white spaces instead of the ink? Did the patient interpret the color? That kind of thing. The PSPI review found that therapists disagree on fully half of these variables, making the scores unreliable for diagnosis ...

Which may or may not be good news for some ...

More snakebites reported in southwest

You may not ever be able to hear consistent reasons why (urban sprawl is one oft-cited culprit), but it seems there are more people getting bitten by snakes than in years past in Texas and California. At least, that's according to USA Today.

An excerpt:

The American Association of Poison Control Centers receives around 2,000 reports of snakebites each year. Bite reports increased 8% from 2006 to 2007, the most recent national data available, said executive director Jim Hirt. Cities in central Texas and southern California have seen an increase in snakebites in recent months ... Douglas Borys of the Central Texas Poison Center says in the month of June, reported cases in the region were up 35% from 2008. All of Texas saw a 6% increase. Hospitals in southern California have seen a surge in seriously ill snakebite patients this summer, says Sean Bush, an expert on snakebites at Loma Linda University Medical Center in southern California ...

But there's a clue, maybe? In another USA Today piece, the Oklahoma rattlesnake roundup is advertising fun for the whole family.

An excerpt:

Despite misgivings, Courtney Lewis, 17, says the three-day rattlesnake roundup, which ended Sunday, "really represents the tradition and pride" of this Oklahoma city of fewer than 3,000 people. Hunters from across the prairie flocked to the 44th annual Mangum Rattlesnake Derby to reel in Western diamondback rattlesnakes ...

As in, a brood of vipers?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Some excuses to 'lay out' just won't fly

We call it a whole bunch of things. Laying out. Blowing off work. Screwing off. Playing hooky. But, according to contributing writer Michelle Marinan, there are some good and not-so-good excuses for missing work.

I ran across this during a slow time at work, when I was caught up enough to open the ol' laptop. But it precipitated an interesting discussion among my coworkers. And most of these (with the p0ssible exception of the performance-based "I've earned it," which takes some real 'nads to pull off) have been battle-tested by at least some of the folks at work.

Anyway, enjoy this and maybe consider taking an unscheduled day off soon:


We've all been there. It's a beautiful day, and you can't bear the thought of going into work. So you call in with some excuse about feeling ill, but you know in your bones that your boss doesn't buy it.

The feeling ill excuse is a short-term solution that won't win you any fans at the office -- someone else will have to pick up the slack, or you'll miss deadlines. And it won't help your career any. Here are 10 excuses -- five smart and five not-so-smart -- to help you save face and your sanity.

Smart Excuses

  • I've Earned It: No one can argue with performance. Come in two or three hours early -- or stay late -- for a week or two. Then negotiate a day off in advance. "Really work when you're there, so you'll be able to feel good about taking time off," says Andrea Nierenberg, president of The Nierenberg Group, a management consulting and personal marketing practice.
  • I'm Playing Golf with a Client: For this one to work, you've got to have a job that requires you to meet and court current and prospective clients. Neil Simpkins, an account executive at Oxford Communications, has used this one successfully. One note of caution: Meet the client; don't just say you did.
  • I Have a Doctor's Appointment: This excuse will get you out of work for a half-day or so. Make the appointment first thing in the morning or late in the day, say around 3 p.m. You can leave the office by 2:30 p.m. and get home (hopefully) by 4 p.m. The shortened day will help you recharge, especially if you schedule it on a Friday afternoon.
  • I Have Cramps: Before you dismiss this one, think about it: Who can argue? "It's such an embarrassing topic that nobody will ever challenge it," says Jennifer Newman, vice president of Lippe Taylor Public Relations. She has used this excuse -- and had it used on her -- successfully. "It's one of those things that men honestly have no clue about, and women can sympathize with." One important point: Don't use this one if you're a man. It'll never work.
  • I'm Working from Home: This is an excellent way to give yourself a break if your company allows it. Although you'll need to do some work, you can generally get away with a shortened day. And you'll eliminate your commuting time.

Not-So-Smart Excuses

  • There's a Death in the Family: Don't ever use this excuse if it's not true. Your employer will lose all trust in you. "I had an employee whose mother died -- twice," says David Wear, a Virginia PR executive. "He also had the misfortune of losing all his grandparents -- 12 of them -- during a two-year period."
  • I'm Too Sleepy: When she was a manager at IBM, Marilynn Mobley heard it all. This one still makes her laugh: The employee apparently took Tylenol 3 with codeine instead of a vitamin, because the bottles looked alike.
  • I Can't Get My Car Out of the Garage: This is another one that Mobley didn't buy. An employee said that a power failure was preventing him from opening his power-operated garage door. "I reminded him that there's a pull chain on it for just such cases," she says.
  • I Can't Find My Polling Place: Mary Dale Walters, a communications specialist at CCH Inc., couldn't believe this one. A former employee needed an entire day to figure out where she had to go to vote in the 1996 presidential election.
  • I Have a Personal Emergency: This one is so vague that it rarely works. It could mean anything from fatigue to an appointment with your hairdresser, and your boss knows it.

Don't lie, no matter which excuse you use. "I'm not a believer in playing hooky, because it always comes back to you," Nierenberg says. "Don't lie to your boss, your supervisor or your clients. You're guaranteed they will be the ones you'll run into while you're walking down the street in your jeans."

At least someone's making money ...

There is one business that's booming in these slack economic times, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

An excerpt:

Mexican drug traffickers have expanded their marijuana-growing operations in California parks as state and local governments have tightened spending and slashed jobs and services. ... law enforcement officials say the traffickers, taking advantage of the fact that there are fewer sheriff's deputies and rangers monitoring parks, are cultivating more pot than ever before. This year's multibillion-dollar crop is on pace to be the largest in history, said state officials. "It's a huge problem," said Gordon Taylor, the assistant special agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration ...

Jazz composer/thinker Russell dies

Here's one for jazzman George Russell, who died Tuesday at 86. He wasn't one of the better-known performers, but his long shadow made works such as Miles Davis' "Kind Of Blue" and John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" possible.

An excerpt from the Boston Globe:

Considered one of the most creative innovators and profound thinkers in the history of jazz, Mr. Russell wrote ‘‘Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization’’ in 1953. The treatise, esoteric in title and ground-shifting in effect, eventually transformed the manner many jazz musicians approached their work ... before ‘‘Lydian,’’ jazz soloists worked primarily under a framework of progressive chords, weaving their improvisations around and through a repeated chordal theme. The effect could be constricting ...

Which means he was quite a thinker in the jazz scene.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Penn State is the #1 party school in the USA, according to the Princeton Review.
~ E

Protests, third-world style

Most countries are not like here, where you can at least vote, run for office, blog, or write a letter to the editor if the folks in government tick you off.

Here's what we in the trade call a "think piece," a Newsweek article on how they do it it places like Iran, Burma, Turkey, and places like that -- where governments try their level best to quash dissent. Actually, I find it more than a little inspiring.

An excerpt:

Following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's dubious reelection, Iran has seen the largest mass demonstrations since the 1979 revolution. Although demonstrators have fought off tear gas and batons on the streets, they're also responding with more innocuous weapons at home: toasters and blow dryers. On July 7, as Ahmadinejad gave his first televised speech after the election, defiant Iranians collectively plugged in their household appliances in an attempt to cause electrical blackouts and prevent the president's message from being heard inside people's homes ...

About those politicians ...

My brother sent this parable of public policy (nice use of alliteration). He's always been partial to stuff like this, even back in the kiddy days. And, this one does ring true. Enjoy.

One day a florist went to a barber for a haircut.

After the cut, he asked about his bill, and the barber replied, 'I cannot accept money from you , I'm doing community service this week.' The florist was pleased and left the shop.

When the barber went to open his shop the next morning, there was a 'thank you' card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.

Later, a cop comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replied, 'I cannot accept money from you , I'm doing community service this week.' The cop was happy and left the shop.

The next morning when the barber went to open up, there was a 'thank you card and a dozen donuts waiting for him at his door.

Then a Congressman came in for a haircut, and when he went to pay his bill, the barber again replied, 'I can not accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week.' The Congressman was very happy and left the shop.

The next morning, when the barber went to open up, there were a dozen Congressmen lined up waiting for a free haircut.

And that, my friends, illustrates the fundamental difference between the citizens of our country and the politicians who run it.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Plugged-in Chicago store robbery foiled

This doesn't exactly fit in the classic "stupid criminals" category, but let's say this robber seriously needs to be retrained. This story appeared on the CNN Web site.

An excerpt:

"Hearing his (robbery) threat broadcast throughout the store, the man fled."


Photo: Police say the suspect had a gun concealed in a folded newspaper. (Photo by the Chicago Police Department)

Does your local terrorist need subtitles?

Sometimes being a Taliban ain't easy, so they say ...

(Thanks, Butch, for sending this along!)

Friday, July 24, 2009

How many Twinkies will solve California's budget woes?

Here's an interesting piece in Time. Seems Democratic state assemblyman Tom Ammiano has introduced legislation that would let California regulate and tax the sale of marijuana. The state's proposed $50-per-oz. pot tax would bring in about $1.3 billion a year in additional revenue.

An excerpt: ... supporters of legalization may have been handed their most convincing factor yet: the bummer economy. Advocates say that if state or local governments could collect a tax on even a fraction of pot sales, it would help rescue cash-strapped communities. Not surprisingly, the idea is getting traction in California, home to the nation's largest supply of domestically grown marijuana (worth an estimated $14 billion a year) and biggest state budget deficit (more than $26 billion).

I don't care. Smoke as much of the stuff as you want, but it won't make the economic picture look any better.

(Photo by Mike Hutchings / Reuters)

Like the man said ...

Obviously posted in a deranged moment.

WSJ: Economy bottoming out?

That bump you felt?

Oh, that's the economy.

The drop wasn't that bad; it's just the landing that hurt.

An excerpt: How’s the economy, you ask? I have the proverbial good news and bad news, but in this case, they’re exactly the same: The U.S. economy appears to be hitting bottom ... right now, it looks like second-quarter GDP growth will come in only slightly negative, and third-quarter growth will finally turn positive. Compared to the catastrophic decline we recently experienced—with GDP dropping at roughly a 6% annual rate in the fourth quarter of last year and the first quarter of this year—that would be a gigantic improvement ... furthermore, there is a reasonable chance—not a certainty, mind you, but a reasonable chance—that the second half of 2009 will surprise us on the upside. (Can anyone remember what an upside surprise feels like?) Three-percent growth is eminently doable. Four percent is even possible. Surprised? How, with all our economic travails, could we possibly mount such a boom? The answer is that this seemingly high growth scenario isn’t a boom at all. Rather, it follows directly from the arithmetic of hitting bottom ...

Or something.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mossberg: Windows 7 looks good except ...

Y'all Windows junkies can't wait for Version 7? According to Walter Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal, Windows 7 beats the pants off Vista (which isn't difficult) and even seems a lot sturdier than XP. (It remains to be seen how it stands up against Windows 98SE, the American classic.

Mossberg says everything's copacetic about Windows 7 except ... except ... the upgrade process. Might be better to buy a whole new computer?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Facebook turns five; will the child live?

Facebook, weighing in with 250 million users, is now five years old. But with its popularity -- and a few advertising deals struck along the way -- it has yet to make a dime of profit.

OK. Real world time. Most new businesses are not going to show a lot of profit in the first five years anyway; in fact survival is the name of the game. At least that's the way it used to be. And while many of these business truths are skewed in the Internet age, speculations about Facebook's future are probably premature anyway.

Here's an excerpt:

... my generation had decided, almost for me, that Facebook was the only social network that mattered, so why bother with anything else? By now, that's a familiar logic, and it's part of the reason the site has grown so quickly this year, from 150 million users in January to 250 million last week. It's a number the site loves to tout with the following fact: were Facebook a country, it would now be the fourth most populous in the world ...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Broke? Try paying with shells or beans

So Wall Street is crumbling and folks are looking at alternative ways to exchange goods and services?

Barter's great. But there are limits.

Here's a piece in Newser, which goes to MentalFloss for a bit of analysis. Or something.

Broke? Try Paying Like Our Ancestors, With Shells, Beans - Business News Briefs | Newser

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Who do you trust?

Walter Cronkite's recent passing outlines how there's a trust void in our society. To address this interesting and vital question, the Washington Post has been asking newsmakers and others to nominate their own choices for most-trusted-in-America status.

Somme of these choices are pretty good, pretty shrewd. Others ... well ... some are scarier than others.

So who do you trust? Oprah? Barack Obama? Warren Buffett? The everyperson/blogger? Jon Stewart? Bill Moyers? Fareed Zakaria?

Feel like throwing up yet?

Backyard Burials Alive and Well

It's more than just saving money, according to the New York Times ... burials are taking on more of a DIY aspect.

An excerpt:

A growing number of families are deciding against funeral homes and cemeteries, the New York Times reports. Many have decided to care for their dead at home, which they say gives them more dignity—and saves money in the process ...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Recommended movie for those who read my Apollo 11 article: Space Cowboys. I'm told the over-the-hill gang takes over.
~ E

Saturday, July 18, 2009

40 years after landing, we need a spark

Photos: The Command Module on display. Neil Armstrong, taken minutes after he took his otherworldly walk. Buzz Aldrin working by the Lunar Module (Eagle). Liftoff. (Photos from Wikipedia)


I'm not all that big on anniversaries, especially when they remind me how old I am. OK, I'm in denial about a lot of things.

But it was 40 years ago this month when man left the Earth's friendly confines and set foot on another, unreachable hunk of real estate. Brought back rocks and soil samples and discovered that no, the cow did not jump over the Moon.

To me it's unreal that it's been 40 years. I could probably rattle off the blow-by-blow of what happened that day. If I think about it, I can still see the image of Neil Armstrong's left boot pressing down into the lunar surface for the first time. Most people can tell you exactly where they were when the World Trade Center was destroyed. Those who were alive can recall their lives when Kennedy was assassinated (I can), or when Pearl Harbor was attacked (I'm not that old).

Upstaging even the Angels

Although I'd been aware of some of the early two-man Gemini flights, I really started paying attention with the brand-spanking-new, three-man Apollo program. To be sure, I had an unusual view of the space program for a kid my age. At the time, my Dad worked as an engineer for North American Aviation (later known as Rockwell), one of the go-to suppliers for the space program.

I was 11 years old when I first saw the fuzzy black-and-white image of Neil Armstrong descending the ladder into history. In one bold stroke we fulfilled John F. Kennedy's challenge to put a man on the moon, and showed the Russkies what space flight was all about.

I was at a ballgame in Anaheim when the Eagle landed. This was during the first game of a doubleheader between my Angels and the Oakland A's (and Oakland started an unknown kid named Vida Blue for the first game). The landing was announced over the stadium PA system, people cheered, and my grandmother (who took my brother and me to the game), well, you can tell she was getting just a little misty. After that I was kind of hoping the doubleheader would be over quickly so we could highball back to Riverside, plunk down in front of the tube, and watch the astronauts. In my life then, that was one of the few things that could upstage the Angels.

Like everyone else, I watched the otherworldly pictures on TV. I listened to the communications between the moonwalkers and Collins, who piloted the mother ship alone in lunar orbit, and with Mission Control. I listened to President Richard Nixon cangratulate the astronauts in the mother of long-distance phone calls. And later, after the astronauts buttoned up the Lunar Module and got some rest, I stepped outside, contemplated the Moon hanging there in the sky, thinking that people were up there right now. Heady stuff.

For a youngster, I had an unusual perspective on what was happening in space. My Dad worked as an engineer for North American Rockwell, those folks that built several components (the command and service modules) of the spacecraft that would send these men to the Moon. Although Dad wasn't one to tell everything that happened in the office (and he couldn't, I found out later, because of security concerns), I knew I could get some technical aspects of the flight from the dinner table. Years later, when the Space Shuttle disintegrated during reentry, I picked his brain to find out what happened (the rigid heat tiles mounted on the flexible skin of the shuttle were the glitch in the system, he maintained).

Dad still has a medallion that was given to him at work. It contains some metal from the Apollo 11 spacecraft. "It's been on the Moon," he'd tell me. For years he kept it on a coffee table in the living room, signifying a high point for him.

Been there, done that

This was the pinnacle of NASA's efforts, and in effect the agency became a victim of its own success. We've sent other crews to the Moon, but with each one there was a bit more of a ho-hum, been-there-done-that aspect to it all. It really took a failure -- Apollo 13's aborted mission and high-wire space survival act -- that put the Moon back on the public's mind. The press paid little attention to that mission until an oxygen tank blew the side off the service module, leaving the ground crew scrambling for ways to bring the astronauts home alive. But even that mission was a stomping success, if for no other reason than to prove how vest-pocket solutions and duct tape can work in an emergency. Apollo 13 became the basis of a good book and an excellent movie, and to this day I have nothing but respect for those guys who ran things from the ground, in Mission Control.

(For the record, I continued to sit riveted to the television as each crew went to the Moon. The footage got immeasurably better, sharper, with each mission, and I really dug that little car the astronauts rode around in even if it wasn't particularly fast.)

After Apollo, the space program went into something of a standstill. There was Skylab, which I found interesting, and the Shuttle, which I didn't. Somehow spending 25 years messing around in low Earth orbit seemed pretty small potatoes after the Moon.

"Nobody ever told us we couldn't"

Even today, with the Space Shuttle (and proposed Orion project), there is not nearly the love affair we once had with space. The astronauts today -- well, if I think about it I can name maybe a couple of them.

Tom Jones, who flew on four Shuttle missions, advises Barack Obama in an open letter (recently published in Popular Mechanics) to retire the Shuttle as scheduled, push forward with Orion, and try to regenerate some excitement about space.

"Use your bully pulpit to explain why space exploration will continue to be an American trademark," Jones urges. "Tell the public that space is not just about science -- it's about exploring for resources and energy, creating new industries, and finding economic opportunity. You should drive home the message that investment in space technologty will keep our scientists keen and capable ... look our young people in the eye and tell them that we need explorers -- doers -- who are citizens of the most forward-looking nation on Earth."

On the surface, you'd think this would be the worst time to think about space given our wobbly economy. But that's not necessarily so. It's times like this when we need some brilliant minds running amok. Our space efforts gave birth to a whole raft of new technologies, from the simple (think Velcro) to the complex (like this computer I'm typing this blog on) to the downright fun (the Super Soaker, which revolutionized the water fight, was designed by NASA scientist Lonnie Johnson while he was working on something else). Rather than baffling us with BS, this is a real good time to dazzle us with brilliance.

Even if we put in the same level of effort and excitement into the space program that we did in the 1960s, it certainly won't be the same. I like how Sy Liebergot, who served as electrical, environmental and communications officer (EECOM) for one of the Mission Control teams for Apollo 11 put it recently in a retrospective piece in Popular Mechanics:

"We were young, and we were fearless and, after all, nobody had ever told us young engineers that we couldn't successfully land humans on another planet. So we did it."

When NASA started the Manned Space program (and the first astronauts were chosen 50 years ago), about the only thing anyone knew about our rockets was that they blew up a lot. Through the Apollo project the program itself consisted of swashbuckling test pilots and a bunch of hotshot engineers that had little choice but to make up their own rules as they went along. These guys made "thinking out of the box" a viable modus operandi, an art form long before anyone attached a catch phrase to it.

Although NASA was, as it is now, a govermnental agency, there was very little of the bureaucratic nonsense and turf protection that you saw creeping in later, during the days of the Shuttle. There wasn't room for it then.

Of course I'd read some of the great books of the period, Tom Wolfe's "The Right Stuff" and Chuck Yeager's autobiography. These books probably did more to capture the mindset of those involved in the space effort, and I highly recommend both.

(Footnote: Yeager never received consideration for astronaut status -- didn't meet the educational requirements -- and the idea of riding in something controlled from the ground didn't excite him that much. Hey, chimps were the first passengers in Project Mercury, and he famously said he didn't feel like sweeping up monkey crap before sitting in the cockpit. He did tell how Armstrong -- then with the old NACA X-15 program -- got their plane hung up in a dry lake bed while trying a touch-and-go maneuver against Yeager's advice. "We touched, but we sure as hell didn't go," Yeager wrote of the incident. "The wheels sank in the muck and we sat there, engines screaming, wide open, the airplane shaking like a moth stuck to fly paper." Chuck Yeager is one of my heroes.)

I'm only half joking when I suggest staffing a new Manned Space Program by calling the old gang out of retirement. OK, they'll be getting on in years, and many of the pioneers (I'm thinking of two of my favorite old-school astronauts Pete Conrad and Alan Shepard here) are no longer with us.

Dad's past 80 now, and he's enjoying his retirement so he's probably not interested in a comeback. Liebergot is probably taking it easy these days. Former Mission Control flight director Gene Kranz, who did more than anyone else to keep things together when Apollo 13 threatened to become a real aerial cluster, is likewise unavailable. Oh, well.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite, the "most trusted man in America," dies at age 92.
~ E

Thursday, July 16, 2009

American Medical Association (AMA) endorses Obamacare. Not a good sign ...
~ E

Etiquette in wired world is different

I found these new etiquette rules for the digital age to be real interesting -- and yes, being wired and connected every which way does make the new rules necessary. Like, do you leave your wireless Internet open? Is it OK to send text messages from the head? What to do when your cell phone service drops a call? Should you ignore your ex on Facebook?

To help out, Brad Pitt addresses issues ranging from inter-Rock Band dynamics to choosing a ringtone for Wired. Here's an example: Your World of Warcraft wife might actually be a guy. Pitt's solution: "If it's good, don't check under the hood."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

British media: LAPD treats Jacko death as homicide

Michael Jackson appears in London in this March 5, 2009, file photo. (AP Photo)


The investigation of Michael Jackson's death is sure bringing up a lot more questions than answers these days. The British press is having a field day with the whole thing.

It's a circus, I tell you.

Some excerpts:

Though it’s not yet official, the Los Angeles Police Department is treating Michael Jackson’s death as a homicide, law enforcement sources tell TMZ. The anesthetic Propofol looks to be the primary cause of death, and police are focusing on Dr. Conrad Murray as the person who likely administered the drug ...

and ...

The Jackson family confronted the singer about his prescription drug addiction, brother Tito tells the Mirror. “We went into one of his private rooms and had a discussion with him. Some of us were crying,” he says, but Michael denied using.

and ...

Michael had to lighten his skin because a disease, vitiligo, made it blotchy, Tito Jackson adds: “He had no choice in the matter, otherwise he would have looked like a spotted animal or a cow with spots all over him.”

Eventually we'll find our way past all the BS. Or not.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Understand Nevada lawmakers are considering a $5 tax on all prostitution transactions, legal & *illegal.* D'oh?
~ E

Justifying your tax dollars ...

Sign from the People's Republic of California. That's Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger standing in front of one of the signs.


They used to have signs up around some road projects, "Your tax dollars at work." And, after seeing one of those signs in my travels I always felt like I'd stepped in it. Or something.

Now, the bigger the snow job, the bigger the effort to BS the public. It's almost a requirement. This is from FrontPage Magazine:

An excerpt:

The Obama administration is so eager to make Americans believe its economic stimulus law is working, it is erecting signs proclaiming each new road repair or construction project is funded by the stimulus law. The Federal Highway Commission said in a sign-guidance statement: "President Obama made the commitment that all projects funded by the American Recovery and Investment Act (ARRA) will bear a recovery emblem to make it easier for Americans to see which projects are funded by the ARRA."

Sotomayor: Roe v. Wade is 'settled law'

SCOTUS nominee Sonia Sotomayor gives an idea of where she's coming from during her confirmation hearings.

From Newser:

Sotomayor: Roe v. Wade Is 'Settled Law' - Politics News Briefs | Newser

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Monday, July 13, 2009

At least she wasn't chewing gum, too ...

Texting is enough of a handful without trying to drive, walk, chew gum, pass gas ... Photo through Honda/Getty, New York Daily News.


Much as I hate the idea of laughing at other folks' misfortune, I'm having a terrible time trying not to laugh ... I'll be OK.

This is from the New York Daily News.

A Staten Island teen trying to text while walking fell into an open manhole - and city officials have launched an investigation ... Alexa Longueira, 15, was walking with a friend along Victory Blvd. on Wednesday when she suddenly dropped underground ...

It it the coffee, or the little man in my head?

Known in some circles as "mother's milk." Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

After reading this article from Scientific American, I don't know whether to give up the coffee or brew another pot ...

Here's an excerpt:

Have you ever heard a song when none was playing, clearly seen someone’s face when no one was there or felt the presence of a person, only to turn around to an empty room? If you’ve consumed a lot of caffeine—the equivalent to seven cups of coffee—you are three times more likely to hear voices than if you had kept your caffeine intake to less than a cup of coffee ...

(Caution: Annoying popups. Unless I was imagining them.)

Americans want health care benefits, but not the costs: No surprise in poll

Americans speak out in a poll on health care and costs. Either it's by USA TODAY/Gallup, or the University of DUH ...

An excerpt:

WASHINGTON — Most Americans want a big health care bill passed this year, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, but they are less enthusiastic about paying for it.

And while a majority of respondents say controlling costs should be the legislation's top goal, more than 9 in 10 oppose limits on getting whatever tests or treatments they and their doctor think are necessary ... the findings underscore the difficult path ahead for the White House and Congress as the health care debate enters crunch time.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Using high-tech clipboards, ballpoints

Psion Teklogix's 7530 is a Windows CE .NET-based handheld that combines an ultra-rugged flashlight terminal with the flexibility and large screen of a Windows CE PDA. This is a fairly large and heavy (over two pounds) handheld that's engineered for extreme ruggedness, according to the manufacturer. This particular model is no longer available, but I use it at work.


You've got to love this high tech stuff. For the most part, I sure do.

But this past week I've relearned some of the pitfalls that come with putting so much reliance on fancy toys.

I have one of those wonderful nonessential jobs that really should be civil service. I work at an intermodal (truck and railroad) yard, and my task is to keep track of all those trucks that come in. Or maybe it's shipping containers. One of 'em, anyway. It's equal parts security and inventory work, and whatever the job actually is, I do it well enough to fool the boss.

On the job, I keep track of all incoming and outgoing shipping containers, chassis, and truckers. We do this by computer, and my own unit is a Psion Teklogik handheld, model 7530. It's not a half bad rig, for one that's been discontinued for a few years. Runs on Windows CE, which was the OS of choice for the old Pocket PC. Connects with the main system via wireless. Bluetooth connection to the printer hanging from my belt. And it's built tough. According to the manufacturer's website, you can run this thing in the rain, drop it from six feet up, or work it in a freezer. I've dropped this a few times (whenever you do, always make it look like an accident) and run it in tropical storms and freezing weather. I've also thought of using this unit as a hammer, crowbar, or occasional argument-stopper -- all in the interest of beta testing, creating a better product. Of course.

The system is not that well maintained, and sometimes it's temperamental. Bogs down. Takes forever to print. Some of our units have issues with the display. The alphanumeric keyboard is not designed for a full-sized hand, and although I'm fairly quick on it (using the index and middle fingers on my left hand), it's really best if you're used to thumb typing -- which I'm not.

On Wednesday I came to work, clocked in, made coffee, and fired up my handheld. And it froze up. I tried a hard reset. I tried a different handheld. I tried dropping it again. I tried a different battery, then a different handheld. Forget it. All our mobile units were dead in the water. And already a few trucks were lined up, waiting for me to open the place.

Fortunately, we still have a box of the old two-part forms hanging around, leftovers from the days this work was done by hand. It took a few minutes to familiarize myself with the forms, and soon I was good to go. The three of us -- me, coworker Michelle, and supervisor Elaine -- worked out some of the bugs, smoothed out the operations, and pretty soon we were able to do as good a job on the old forms as we did on the handhelds. Michelle and I would fill out the forms and pitch them to Elaine, who typed them into her desktop. It went very well, with very few glitches. When the computer system was back up shortly after noon on Friday, we could not help but feel good about what we accomplished.

And now we know what to do next time the system goes down, which it will.

A revelation here: Although we were a bit slower with the forms (always an issue with many of our truckers who want everything yesterday), we were probably more accurate. But there's more.

The job became simpler.


As I explained this point with one of the truckers, the job suddenly had all the fat trimmed off of it. Rather than go through a bunch of keystrokes (it takes about 20 keystrokes to do the simplest task, to check in a trucker who is not pulling anything; just bobtailing), just dash it off on the form, get a signature, and give the driver a copy. And, writing the stuff down on the form, many drivers were impressed we actually knew their names; on the computer they're just a six-digit code.

Yeah, sometimes I bring a sardonic sense of humor to the job. "How you like our giant technological leap forward?" I asked some of the drivers. But I was only half kidding.

OK. I love technological toys. Got to have my computer, Internet, cell phone, mp3 player, and all the goodies. I know how to use them, and I also know how to get under the hood and tweak things for higher performance. Tech is convenient. Tech is fast.

What high tech does not do, though, is make your task any simpler. If you think it does, you're fooling yourself.

I keep my budget on a spreadsheet. It's pretty intuitive now, but it took hours of fine-tuning to get it the way I wanted it. Honestly, a ledger and plenty of black (and for me, red) ink is every bit as good. And if the computer geeks out? Forget it. You'll send for some guy who can barely speak English. But he'll baffle you with BS and charge you big bucks for the privilege.

While the Internet speeds up the research process, whatever time and effort you save will likely be swallowed up in plucking the pearls of usable information from the ordure. And I hope you wash your hands after that.

I can carry a whole bunch of music on my mp3 player. Convenient, but mp3's -- or even CDs-- don't have the sound quality of vinyl.

While computers were a factor, we really used a clipboard and slide rule to put man on the moon.

'Waterboarding' and 'staycation' make lexicon, 'prepone' postponed

It's an annual event. The latest Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary has 100 new words in it to reflect changes in society. You've probably heard some, and you might have even used one or two in a sentence.

Most of these words have been around a while, and nost of the concepts behind the words -- such as the stay-at-home vacation or false-faced friend -- are much older than that.

John Morse, president and publisher of the Springfield-based dictionary publisher, said many of this year's new words are tied to changes in technology, increasing environmental awareness and aging baby boomers' concerns about their health and have become part of the general lexicon. "These are not new words in the language, by any means," Morse said. "(But) when words like 'neuroprotective' and 'cardioprotective' show up in the Collegiate, it's because we've made the judgment that these are not just words used by specialists. ... These really are words now likely to show up in The New York Times, in The Wall Street Journal."

Here are some of my favorite (good and bad) new words in this year's edition:

Frenemy: Your classic enemy who acts like a friend. This is a concept that's older than Judas. OK, a lot of folks are like that, but it doesn't mean they deserve a special name.

Staycation: Saving money on vacation by just not going anywhere. Basically, laying out from work for a week, sitting on the front stoop in your underdrawers, and spending Sunday clearing the pizza boxes from your kitchen and all the dead soldiers from your lawn.

Waterboarding: Enhanced interrogation (or torture) technique that mimics drowning. Used to be known as "sticking one's face in the john and flushing it" in gangster movies.

Locavore: A person who eats only locally grown food. While I consider it a travesty to eat any seafood that does not come from Lowcountry waters, don't call me a locavore.

Shawarma: A sandwich especially of sliced lamb or chicken, vegetables, and often tahini wrapped in pita bread. Whatever it is, it sure isn't from around here. Pass.

Sock puppet: A false identity used for online fraud. Shari Lewis' Lambchop has grown up and become a downright malevolent presence on the Internet.

Flash mob: A group of people gathered through online social networking. Do they wear virtual raincoats?

Green-collar: Describes the growing environmental-protection industry.

Carbon footprint: It used to be what you'd leave after a day of working in the coal mine. Now, it's a source of Al Gore's income.

Cardioprotective: I figured this would happen. "Heart-healthy" just doesn't have the right ring to it.

Reggaeton: Music of Puerto Rican origin that combines rap and Caribbean rhythms. That's the definition, anyway. If there's a difference between reggaetron and "dancehall" reggae (Yellowman was one of the earlier performers of that genre), I've yet to hear it. Of course it's not like I investigated the matter -- much as I like reggae, rap does horrible things to me.

Here's a thought: Maybe I should come up with a word for rap-induced gag reflex and peddle it to Merriam-Webster.

Earmark: This one's been in fairly common use (particularly among journalists) for decades. What took the folks at Merriam-Webster so long? Here's a partial answer: According to Morse, some words spend some time in limbo while wordsmiths wait to see if they are just fads. So maybe "earmark" spent a long time on doube-secret probation.

Vlog: What I get if I stick a bunch of videos on this blog. I think I'll pass on that; not only do videos eat tons of your system resoures, words and the occasional still photo are fine for me. "Blog" is a dumb enough word and I refuse to call myself a blogger, but at least that's a word that rolls off the tongue. Vlog, forget it.

Naproxen: Another one that finally made it into the dictionary. I was prescribed naproxen for pain and inflammation after injuring my foot 15 years ago, and it didn't work then. I had to check the Merriam-Webster site to make sure "naproxen" didn't mean "placebo."

Researchers often keep track of words over many years. Here's one to watch: "prepone," commonly used in India among English-speaking Indians and refers to the act of arranging for an event to take place earlier than originally planned. Kind of the opposite of postpone. "Prepone didn't make it this time," Morse said. "But we know about it."

Which means they'll get "prepone" in the dictionary later. Or earlier.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Oscar Mayer dies at 95

This whistle helped put Oscar's name on the map. It's since been updated, but nothing's quite like the original. You've got to have your wiener whistles, not to mention wienermobiles. Photo from the web site.
More than simply a brand name or the punchline to a catchy ad jingle, Oscar G. Mayer, the former chairman of his family's eponymous meat products company has died. He passed away Monday at the age of 95 in a hospice facility in Fitchburg, Wis.

Who's got stimulus?

Ohio took back $115 million in stimulus money toward replacing Cleveland’s Innerbelt Bridge.Photo byTony Dejak/Associated Press

Already there's scuttlebutt there may be another stimulus plan in the offing, but you know how the government doesn't know how to quit spending other people's money.

Who's getting stimulus money these days? According to the New York Times, it sure isn't the big cities.

But then, everyone has to complain.

(Caution: Really annoying popups with this article.)

Google OS faces uphill battle

From The Workbench, Reloaded there's more on the so-called Google Chrome OS: Wired says the odds of it making much dent in Windows for a slice of the Netbook market are not real good:

The Wired article

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Google to unveil operating system

As reported in The Workbench, Reloaded:

I'll probably play with it at some point.

In fact, you know I will.

I understand this system is free, and I tend to be fearless when it comes to computers.

More than 25% of foreclosures are intentional, economists suggest

A sign of the times; this one from Littleton, Colo., near Denver. Photo by David Zalubowski / AP

The in-the-toilet economy and high foreclosure rates may be a bonanza for some -- like how do you get rid of a house you can't afford? This is from TIME:

Up to 26% of U.S. homeowners who stop paying their mortgage may be doing so intentionally, not because they can't make the payments but because they don't want to put money into a house that's worth less than what they owe. That finding, from a paper by economists at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and the European University Institute, raises some doubt about the approach the Obama Administration has taken toward stabilizing the housing market. The current approach focuses on whether or not homeowners can afford their monthly payments, and largely ignores the fact that some 20% of homeowners owe more than their house is worth — a situation known as negative equity, or being "underwater," which, according to the paper's findings, may itself trigger default ...

This ain't Disney World, local blogger says

Although it's real easy to dismiss articles or posts from folks who are not from around here and know exactly how to fix your town, this is one of the better ones I've read. It's actually quite clear-eyed.

But I'd still want to cue up the John Lennon music before reading the whole thing ...

... imagine a Charleston with bike lanes along some of the major arteries to make its citizens feel safer? What if certain areas of Downtown became pedestrian-only? What if local zoning ordinances were modified to encourage more of the corner Mom & Pop shops? What if pedicabs were given free reign to cart our citizens around rather than restricting them to a maximum of 15 out at a time? What if we had a light rail radiating in all directions and neighborhoods and towns were built around those stops (just like in New Jersey or Long Island). What if we had an actual water taxi service with accessible docks scattered all over our waterways? (like Vancouver, BC). What if we tried Rails to Trails like DC or Atlanta ...?

OK, she does raise points worth discussing.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Don't forget to wash your hands first

Is there a new demand for this old product? (Photo from

No comment necessary here -- this is all a little hard to imagine. I'm always interested in any thinking out of the box, especially if it helps to stretch our planet's resources, but I usually take a nice-work-if-you-can-get-it attitude about such things.

This article by Hank Green of is interesting, though it's a little technical. Some of the readers' comments are just too good.

Hydrogen seems like a logical choice for fuel - it's energy dense and emits only water upon combustion - but upon closer examination we see that it's extremely expensive to make from water, so all the hydrogen in production today is made from fossil fuels. But Gerardine Botte at Ohio University has figured out an easy and efficient way to break the bonds in urea to produce hydrogen. The process consumes roughly one quarter of the energy needed to electrolyze water. And, yes, the world has a fairly plentiful (and renewable) supply of urea. Maybe not enough to power all our cars, but it's a start.

Interested in knowing how this is done, and you don't mind more technical stuff? Then there's more:

Sanford's wrist slapped but he keeps his head

So Gov. Mark Sanford gets to stay in office, but it's not going to make much difference now. Nor will Sanford.

This is according to Newser:

South Carolina Republicans voted to censure Gov. Mark Sanford last night, but since they didn’t call for his head, he’s likely to keep it, Politico reports. They chided Sanford for failing to adhere to the “core principles and beliefs” of the party, but said that “barring further revelation” that scolding would be “the party’s last word on the matter.”

SC Republicans Vote to Slap Sanford's Wrist - Politics News Briefs | Newser

Posted using ShareThis

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Public service announcement: This is NOT a good night for "hey, y'all, watch this!"
~ E

About John Hancock and his buddies

Ever wonder about those guys who signed that inflammatory note to King George III back in 1776?
Here, from, are the profiles of the guys who basically created this great nation:

It's interesting reading.

They don't make 'em like they used to

Dick Cavett (from the New York Times)

While I'm in a (kaboom!) Independence Day state of mind, here are a few thought from Dick Cavett (who has to be about 900 years old now) on pyrotechnics. He misses the good stuff. This is from the New York Times blogs site:

Fireworks ! The word still raises the hair on my arms. (The lower arms, mainly.) Fireworks of all kinds were legal back then in Nebraska, and the opening of the first fireworks stand at the edge of town meant infinitely more to me than the first crocuses did to the flower-worshipper, the robin to the bird-lover . . . well, you get the point ... I didn’t like fireworks. I loved them. (Pyrotechnomania?) And I don’t mean the stuff that girls and sissies liked: fountains, sparklers, pinwheels and those infantile “snakes.” I mean the big stuff. The heavy ordnance. Cherry bombs, torpedoes, aerial bombs, two-, three- and even six-inchers (jumbo firecrackers). And, once, a 12-shot repeater aerial bomb.

Happy reading. Have a blast, along with a safe & sane Fourth!

Friday, July 3, 2009

The stimulus isn't so stimulating , plus a rogue's gallery of suspects

Construction workers on the site of an infrastructure project at the junction of Interstates 490 and 77 in Cleveland, Tuesday 30 June 2009. The project is being funded by government stimulus money as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
(Greg Ruffing/Redux for TIME)


OK. It appears the $787 billion stimulus package isn't as stimulating as originally hoped (and I pretty much called it).


Throwing money at a problem does not fix it.

Throwing money at a problem does not fix it.

Got it? Good.

Anyway, here's an article on life under the stimulus, from TIME:

When Congress passed the stimulus bill in February, it came as both good news and bad news to the Obama White House. The good: never before had an Administration had so much money to spend on voters in need — to rebuild public buildings, save jobs, weatherize homes and fund community health centers. The bad: rarely has the passage of a measure been accompanied by such skepticism about the government's ability to spend the money wisely or well. And ever since, public doubts about the stimulus have, if anything, deepened. The economy deteriorated faster than economists expected, with unemployment now predicted to exceed 10% next year, higher than the White House had projected in January ...

Meanwhile, if you're interested in placing blame for the financial mess we're in, here's a rogue's gallery of 25 likely suspects:

These governors may want to change jobs

Here's an interesting piece from POLITICO, outlining states where things are particularly ugly and the governor may want to consider chucking it all and herding sheep or something:

Forget about the quandary South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford faces as a result of his personal indiscretions ... steep budget shortfalls, rising unemployment rates and intraparty squabbles are currently making life extremely unpleasant for most of the nation’s governors, many of whom are experiencing precipitous declines in their approval ratings ... while it’s a rough time to be running a state, in some places the outlook is really bleak. Here’s POLITICO’s list of the worst places to be governor.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

More job losses. The nation's unemployment rate is now 9.5%. Are we in a depression yet?
~ E

The ants go marching, two by two

A queen and worker Argentine ant have many, many relatives (Photo from the BBC)


This is from the BBC; 'nuff said ... eeeeeek!

A single mega-colony of ants has colonised much of the world, scientists have discovered.

Argentine ants living in vast numbers across Europe, the US and Japan belong to the same inter-related colony, and will refuse to fight one another.

The colony may be the largest of its type ever known for any insect species, and could rival humans in the scale of its world domination.

What's more, people are unwittingly helping the mega-colony stick together...

Getting less bang for your buck

(Photo from Newsweek)

The economy is quenching fireworks shows around the country, Newsweek reports.

In Yonkers, N.Y., it was a tough decision: they could either blast some fireworks into the sky to celebrate American independence … or have some extra money (say, $100,000) to pay the police squad overtime. You can imagine what they chose. In Flint, Mich., the Fourth of July festivities were canceled, then saved by a sponsor, then stalled again when the town realized one week wasn't enough time to prepare.

From Arizona to Ohio, savvy bureaucrats have spent the last week trying to save their good ole fashioned fireworks displays. What if, like some folks in Connecticut, they charged each car $5? What if, like Houston, they scaled back the display to something more affordable? What if they begged and bartered with any sponsor or city agency that could swoop in to save the show? Hey, it worked in Tucson, Ariz., where the Pascua Yaqui Tribe donated $20,000 to subsidize the once-canceled show.

Meditations on the Fourth

Charles Mingus in a July 4 frame of mind - This is an album cover from from the Mingus Three (with Hampton Hawes and Dannie Richmond), and for some reason it always reminds me of the holiday. Great photo, and good listening, too. And it was recorded in America.


I always did love July 4. It's a lively holiday, one where you can pretty much set your own agenda. You don't need to buy a bunch of stuff for random people; there's no need to impress anybody. It's your holiday, your way.

But if you're a freedom-loving type like myself, there's even more to like about July 4. That's when you reflect some. Even if things start looking ugly in the USA and the nation's priorities seem bass-ackward, America is still the best place going. Even though our leaders are so busy apologizing about it (and trying to emulate nations in western Europe), we're still the world's only superpower.

The fact I'm able to write the above paragraph and disseminate it on the Internet is proof positive of this statement. Too many other nations and governments would take exception to my look, my opinions, my belief system -- and I'm not always smart enough to avoid trouble that way.

Living here in America is worth celebrating, and I'm gonna do it. Some samples of how it's done:

FIREWORKS: There are still a couple of fireworks manufacturing plants in Rialto, Calif, but the only pyrotechnics I've ever seen from there were purely accidental and involved several fire departments. Here's a rule of thumb: If it lights up and makes loud noises, it's probably from China.

HOT DOGS: Amarican-made, or -grown. I think. I'm not sure where these meat by-products, cattle lips, possum tails, or pork ears come from. You can call it a local prouct, but they're assembled in some plant somewhere by foreign (read: undocumented) labor. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

FLY THE FLAG: I forget where they came from. Sri Lanka? Malaysia? Bangladesh? I don't think there's a textile industry in the United States any more.

FOURTH OF JULY ATTIRE: I do have a T-shirt that sports the stern visage of a bald eagle over a field of red, white, and blue. As if there's any question, the logo reads "Proud To Be An American." It's made in ... Honduras.

THE OUTDOOR GRILL: Made with pride in China. Next question ...

BASEBALL: Good time to check out the Atlanta Braves, also known as America's Team. If you look real hard at the roster, you might find some guys who are from around here. A few, anyway. Catcher Bruce McCann, pitchers Tim Hudson and Blaine Boyer, and outfielder Jeff Franconeur hail from Georgia, while infielders Chipper Jones and Casey Kotchman are Florida natives. A number of foreign countries were represented on their 40-man spring training roster: Panama, Cuba, Mexico, Netherlands Antilles, Australia, Dominican Republic, England, Venezuela, and California.

Maybe GO FOR A DRIVE? Sure ... even if your car is made by one of the Once-Big Three, it's anyone's guesss where it was actually manufactured. Or assembled. Or where the parts came from. Same thing if it's a foreign brand. Toyotas were being assembled in Princeton, Indiana. Greer, South Carolina is home of BMW.

TAKING PICTURES OF THE WHOLE AFFAIR: If you're using a real camera (the kind that takes film), it's from Japan,unless you're rich and have a German-made Hasselblad. If you're taking your pictures with a digital camera, you're wasting my time by asking about that.

I will celebrate at least part of the Fourth on my front stoop with a Cuban cigar. What can be more American than that?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Worried about Swine Flu?

Check the mirror.
If you look like this in the morning ...

... call in sick!

[Special thanks to Elaine for for sending this deranged ... uhh ... whatever it is!]

Yes, but is it sex?

It's all a word game ...

President Bill Clinton said oral sex wasn't sex. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford says in his latest revelation that he "crossed lines" with women other than his wife and Argentine mistress, but "didn't cross the sex line." He wouldn't say what that meant.

If those distinctions have you confused, you aren't alone. Neither are Clinton and Sanford.

Americans just aren't explicit when they talk about having "had sex."

"Sex is a word and nobody is really in charge of that term," said Kinsey Institute scientist Erick Janssen. "In a way, our thinking of sex and definitions of sex is more complex than they were in the past."

It's getting harder to tell who's really dead

Britney Spears: Dead or alive? (Photo from CNN website)

Like Mark Twain once wrote, rumors of his demise were greatly exaggerated. But with the anything-goes, who-gives-a-rip "news" style on the Internet, it'll be even tougher filtering out the real news from the horse manure. From CNN ...

(CNN) -- After a string of real celebrity deaths last week, the Internet and online social networks killed a few more stars.

Pop star Britney Spears was among those falsely claimed to be dead recently.

Despite what you may have read, Jeff Goldblum, Natalie Portman, George Clooney, Britney Spears, Harrison Ford and Rick Astley are alive ... fake news of their deaths flew across the Internet -- particularly on online social networks like Twitter and Facebook -- after Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon were reported dead.

It's not 'Stand By Your Man'

Photo by The Washington Post

Can you imagine Hillary taking this stance with Bill Clinton in the White House? The Washington Post takes a look at the Jenny Sanford approach:

Finally, a new model for the wronged political spouse ... South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's let-it-all-hang-out news conference was a different approach, too. But a better one? Pick your poison: staged declaration of politically requisite contrition, or meandering mooning of a love-struck adolescent inhabiting the body of a supposedly grown-up politician. But Jenny Sanford presents a new and improved version of the betrayed political spouse -- neither enabler nor victim.