The Column

Friday, July 30, 2010

Fire season starts in southern California

The Southeast coast (including Charleston) has its hurricanes. The Midwest, tornadoes. The upper East Coast has New York City.

Every place has a specific disaster to call its own.

Southern California has its floods, earthquakes, landslides, Arnold Schwarzeneggar, and a porous border. And fires -- the season for them is starting. Growing up out there I monitored a few, and I know how to soak a wood-shake roof.

Hot dry Santa Ana winds, desert-like conditions, and dry brush give a fire all it needs.

This one pictured is out near Palmdale.


Inmate sues man he's convicted of burglarizing

What's wrong with this picture?

You robs the joint, you takes your chances. At least, that's how it used to go.

Or has our society become so bass-ackward in its thinking that the convicted burglar has now become The Victim?

Inmate sues man he's convicted of burglarizing
: "AP - A Florida inmate is suing the man he's convicted of burglarizing, claiming the man and two others roughed him up during a citizen's arrest."

If the judge rules in this burglar's favor, he deserves to have his 'nads whacked. That is, if he has them.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Police: Cheeseburger found in SC woman's gas tank

Man, I hate it when I misplace my lunch.

Police: Cheeseburger found in SC woman's gas tank - Yahoo! News

Data on millions of Facebook users available online

Talk about hanging your business out on the street:

BBC News - Details of 100m Facebook users collected and published

Here's an excerpt from the BBC story:

Personal details of 100m Facebook users have been collected and published on the net by a security consultant ... Ron Bowes used a piece of code to scan Facebook profiles, collecting data not hidden by the user's privacy settings ... the list, which has been shared as a downloadable file, contains the URL of every searchable Facebook user's profile, their name and unique ID ... Mr Bowes said he published the data to highlight privacy issues, but Facebook said it was already public information ... the file has spread rapidly across the net.

Seems you can go to one of those fire sharing sites (like Pirate Bay), grab the file, and see a whole bunch of people you know on it. Maybe including yourself.

Facebook says your info will not be shared if you "hide" it in the privacy settings. However, one criticism of FB (legion, for there are many) is that those privacy setting are not the default ones and it takes an advanced degree in engineering to figure out those settings.

And, in truth, so many Facebook users are not the most computer-savvy or security-conscious people in the world. In fact, Facebook is designed so the person can use it once he masters the art of finding the computer power switch.

Or something.

Once you get the idea of running a computer and going on line, the Internet can make a lot of jobs easier. And if you're a Big Brother government type, a stalker, or some other kind of creepazoid, Facebook may have made your job/hobby even easier.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mark your calendar: Asteroid strike on agenda in 2182

H'mmm ... from the look of things, what I write today will make absolutely no difference to anybody in about 172 years.

Good to know. I guess I can stir things up without worry. - Scientist Warns Massive Asteroid Could Hit Earth in 2182


Parts of Arizona's immigration law gutted; fight not over

This almost sounds like the perfect compromise because now, no one is pleased. For the record, though, Arizona's immigration law has been gutted.

The battle's not over; expect more talk about state's rights to come.

However, I am hearing reports that illegal aliens are leaving Arizona in droves. Holding sidewalk sales, lightening their loads for travel, the whole smash.

Where do you think they'll go?

There are 49 other states to pick, and it just might be yours ...

Judge Blocks Parts Of Arizona Immigration Law -


Student opposes homosexuality, is expelled, federal court upholds expulsion

Now ... if she was Muslim or Paiute or something like that, would the court have taken this stance?

Or would the judge have bent over backwards to keep her in school? - Court Upholds Expulsion of Counseling Student Who Opposes Homosexuality



Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Don't just do something, sit there: America's laziest states

(He's not sleeping; he's hard at work inspecting his eyelids. Photo by Getty Images.)

Call it laziness or just smelling the roses a little bit, but taking it easy is an art form in some areas. Here's an interesting study on the subject by Business Week:

America's Laziest States 2010: More Sitting, Less Doing - BusinessWeek

The 10 most sedentary states are:

1) Louisiana
2) Mississippi
3) Arkansas
4) North Carolina
5) Tennessee
6) Kentucky
7) West Virginia
8) South Carolina
9) Alabama
10) Delaware

Of those 10, eight are in the Solid South while border-state Kentucky counts as a ninth in some circles. But dipping into the next rank of 10 you find the Northeast fairly well represented, a few Midwestern states, and one -- Arizona -- west of the Rockies.

Surprisingly, New York ranked 11th. A surprise because you'd think of all those get-'er-done ADHD types in The City. I guess those slackers upstate pulled the rankings right down.

South Carolina, the place I call home, ranks #8, Here's what Business Week says:

South Carolinians watch more television than all other Americans, according to BLS data. A report by the South Carolina Health & Environmental Control Dept. shows about half of adults do not get the recommended amount of physical activity, only one-third have sidewalks in their neighborhood, and only 37.4 percent use walking trails, parks, playgrounds, and sports fields for physical activity.

We're not lazy. We just know how to relax.

According to the stats from various sources, folks in Mississippi sleep the most at 8 hours, 59 minutes per day. That state also has the highest obesity rate at 33.8 percent. South Carolinians watch the most TV at 3 hours, 7 minutes per day, while Louisianans do less actual work at 2 hours, 41 minutes per day.

This working-per-day is an interesting figure, and it comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's the average for everyone aged 15 and older, and doesn't really take unemployment rates into consideration. Still, that's a lot of screwing off. By contrast, South Carolinians work a relatively industrious (!) 3 hours, 26 minutes per day.

Strangely enough, age isn't as much a factor as you'd think. Maine, the state with the oldest residents (median age 41.5 years) placed 16th, while Florida (40.1 years) came in 16th.

I'm surprised California didn't make the list ... oh, they said "laziest," not "craziest."

Never mind.


Lightning strike gives woman a Blackberry brand

When you think about it, there's almost something poetic about the whole thing, unfortunate as it is:

Lightning bolts cause problems across area:
"Lightning bolts cause problems across areaHANAHAN -- A lightning blast seared through a television cable into a laptop computer and burned a woman in her bedroom Monday. The blast was so strong that it left on her ear an impression of the screen of a Blackberry device she was listening to."

I live about a mile from there, as the crow flies. That thunderstorm blew hot and heavy in my neighborhood, and it had me plenty worried. I left my computer running, but shut down my cable modem and disconnected it until the storm passed. It did give me an excuse to knock off from work for a little bit, anyway.

When I reconnected everything, I had no Internet signal for a couple of hours. Apparently a lightning strike blew something out. Withdrawal symptoms were minimal. But I'm fine now, and playing some catch-up.

Now, I don't know this lady who got, uhh, branded. But there are quite a few folks I know that are so married to their cell phones and crackberries, and are so rude about it that, if something like this happened to them I would have to laugh.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Survey: A majority of phone users have ditched the landline

Found this in Consumerist, and it gives an idea of how the times are a-changing. In an informal, admittedly nonscientific poll, more than half of respondents said they no longer have one of those home phones that comes with wires. Not even a cordless phone.

Cell phones have taken over.

Do You Still Use Your Land Line?

According to a recently released study, there are more than 5 billion cell phones in use around the world today, with 20% of those just coming into use in the last 18 months. More and more, people are either ditching their traditional land lines or relegating it to a secondary role, especially in large metropolitan areas.

A few months ago, when we polled readers on whether or not they still needed their physical White Pages phone book anymore, an overwhelming number of respondents voted 'no.'

So, in the interest of pseudo-science, we now want to know just how frequently you use your land line compared to your mobile -- or if you even have a land line at all anymore.

Take the survey: How Frequently Do You Use Your Land Line?

Over 5 billion mobile phone connections worldwide [BBC]

Of course, I had to take this survey, and as soon as I put my answer in I grabbed the results:

In all, 4,479 people voted in this poll.

- It's my main mode of telephonic communication -- 14 percent (643).

- As frequently as I use my cell phone -- 11 percent (499 votes).

- My cell is the main phone, but I use the land line on occasion -- 23 percent (1,010 votes).

- What's a land line? -- 52 percent (2,327 votes).

By the way, I am one of those who does not have a land line. Got rid of it seven or eight years ago, after realizing the only calls I got on it were telemarketers. My parents thought that was funny, and they thought it was even funnier that their attorney uses a cell phone for home and office use.

Landlines? We don't need no steenkin' landlines.

(By the way, I still keep a current phone directory in my office. Can't remember when I last used the white pages, though.)


Sending aggressive-sounding emails? There's a (Windows) app for that

OK, so you're sending snarky emails in the heat of the moment? Maybe you told off a co-worker or your boss in an interoffice communication? Or worse, had the mother of all rectal-cranial inversions and told your spouse where to get off in an email?

I ran into this in

ToneCheck Stops You from Sending Passive Aggressive (or Plain Aggressive) Emails

Here's an excerpt:

ToneCheck is an email plug-in that checks the content of your emails for tone and alerts you to language that may be misunderstood or interpreted as particularly negative ... let's face it: Sometimes you send an email that you fully intend to convey anger or annoyance. But text communication is rife with misunderstandings, and often an email with perfectly pleasant intentions can lead to a lot of upset coworkers. That's what ToneCheck aims to address.

I find this a little disturbing, actually. Let's get in the toboggan and ride the slippery slope for a minute: I can see versions of this that can plug into your word processor, and screen out any language that is not deemed politically correct. Under that scenario, I might be tripping that alarm an awful lot.

Right now, it's in beta and during this period it is free. So far, this works only with Windows systems running Outlook, though I understand other versions are in the pipeline.

I don't think I'll be beta-testing this one.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Birds force concert cancellation: Deja vu?

Wasn't this from an Alfred Hitchcock movie?

Or maybe Mel Brooks ...

Birds force Kings of Leon from St. Louis stage -

An excerpt, from CNN:

Pooping pigeons forced the Kings of Leon to abandon their St. Louis, Missouri, concert after just three songs Friday night, the rock band's management said Saturday ... an infestation of the birds in the rafters of the Verizon Amphitheatre bombarded the musicians as soon as they took the stage, according to Andy Mendelsohn of Vector Management ... "Jared (Followill) was hit several times during the first two songs," Mendelsohn said of the band's bassist. "On the third song, when he was hit in the cheek and some of it landed near his mouth, they couldn't deal any longer. It's not only disgusting -- it's a toxic health hazard. They really tried to hang in there."

Now brewing: Roadkill Beer


This came from the Mental Floss blog.


Now Brewing: Roadkill Beer: "

A brewery in Scotland has begun brewing what they claim is the world’s most potent beer. You’d think that would be enough of a marketing hook right there. But apparently not, because the most bizarre thing about The End of History beer is that it’s sold in bottles nestled inside the taxidermied bodies of dead animals. Yes, that’s correct ... this Telegraph article explains more, including the awful details of how the animals met their maker:

A taxidermist in Doncaster worked on the animals, which were not killed for bottling the new drink, with some having been killed on the roads.

Wow. As if dead rodent beer wasn’t unappetizing enough, now we get to picture roadkill rodent beer. After hearing that, I don’t think there is anything that could be said about this product that would make me want to buy it ...


Friday, July 23, 2010

Greene's Air Force records should carry no real surprises

H'mmm ... According to his service records:

" ... an overall inability to clearly express his thoughts and perform basic tasks ..."

Y'all probably noticed this first deficiency in his occasional interviews; I don't think I need to say more here. He demonstrates this every time he opens his mouth.

This is according to the Post & Courier:

Greene's Air Force records damaging + documents:

Requires Flash enabled device. For other devices, obtain the PDF version of the records here.

Surprise U.S. Senate nominee Alvin Greene frequently mentions his 13 years of military service, but records obtained Thursday by The Associated Press show the veteran who has called himself an 'American hero' was considered a lackluster service member at best.

The records, which document his superiors' decisions to pass over Greene for promotion, cite mistakes as severe as improperly uploading sensitive intelligence information to a military server, and as basic as an overall inability to clearly express his thoughts and perform basic tasks.

Greene, 32, won a surprise victory in the June 8 Democratic primary. Greene handily defeated Vic Rawl, a former lawmaker and judge who had been expected to easily win by the party establishment."

Gonna be a fun campaign, yes?


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Unnatural selection: Alcohol and trains don't mix

Folks, I can't make this stuff up.

This is from Summerville, a town just a few miles down the road from me.

Man dies after attempting to ‘slap the train’ outside bar: "A Summerville man celebrating his 23rd birthday died early this morning after he apparently tried to “slap the train” running past a local bar and was sucked into it."

Wis. candidate can't use controversial description on ballot

... and you thought South Carolina had strange politics:

Wis. candidate can't use controversial description

Ieshuh Griffin, an independent candidate for the Wisconsin state Assembly, holds up her nomination papers Wednesday, July 21, 2010, at the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., after an election oversight board said the Milwaukee woman can not describe herself on the ballot as 'NOT the 'whiteman's b----.''  State law allows independent candidates to have five words describing them placed after their name on the ballot. Griffin argued that the phrase was protected free speech but the state Government Accountability Board said that the statement was pejorative and not allowed. (AP Photo/Todd Richmond) EDS NOTE LANGUAGE WRITTEN ON BALLOT PAPERAP - A legislative candidate from Wisconsin can't use a profane, racially charged phrase to describe herself on the ballot, an election oversight board decided Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hubpages: Making your 'dumb' cell phone smarter

From Hubpages:

Why are you messing with that ridiculously expensive smart phone? You know, the one that came with that draconian contract you got suckered into?

(OK, this does sound like a sales pitch, but bear with me.)

This article outlines a bunch of uses for text messaging; things like controlling your email box and Google calendar, keeping up with your bank balances, and getting weather forecasts. All of this battle-tested. By me.

Anyway, check it out. Ya might learn something.


Greene's first speech shows slippery grasp of facts

South Carolina's action figure hero/Senatorial candidate Alvin Greene made his first speech over the weekend, on his home turf and in front of a relatively friendly crowd.

To his credit, he didn't screw the pooch in his not-quite-seven-minute speech to the NAACP in Manning, but let's just say he doesn't have a firm grasp of issues.


Greene's statements don't always match reality: Greene's statements don't always match reality
COLUMBIA -- In his first campaign speech over the weekend, U.S. Senate candidate Alvin Greene pledged to get South Carolina back to work and decried the state's bottom-of-the-barrel employment and public education rankings.

Let's just say he's fuzzy about a lot of things, OK? A lot of the stuff he's saying is so garbled that you can't even run it through the Bravo Sierra translator without it breaking.

A couple of samples:

GREENE: There are more people unemployed in South Carolina than ever before.

Wrong. Now it's at 11 percent, or 238,000 people. Which sucks, but it doesn't suck as bad as it did in January -- 273,000 unemployed, at 12 percent. The rates have steadily improved since then.

GREENE: South Carolina spends twice as much per inmate as it does per public school student.

Right idea, wrong figure. The state does spend more per inmate ($16,300) than per student ($11,372). That's not double. But then, Greene himself is a fine product of our South Carolina edjumication system, and has the degree (from the University of South Carolina) to prove it.

So where was he getting the data for his speech?

GREENE: "Research, multiple sources, everything, news. All of the above."

And this guy swears he is a serious candidate. He actually has the nomination from a major party.

But he didn't say anything about how a line of Alvin Greene action figures would benefit the state. And he didn't say anything about Denzel Washington portraying him in a movie. Not this time anyway.

I guess South Carolina is safe.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Hubpages: Six grocery items, 139 uses -- who'd guess?

As published in Hubpages -- check it out!


From room-to-rent ad: Guess who gets the benefits?

I ran across this ad in Craigslist today, and it gives me an idea of what this world is coming to:

Male Musician with 2 bedroom apartment looking for female musician roomate with benefits ... someone who is a light drinker and 420 friendly ... no hard drugs and I will be able to find out if you do use them ... your cost would be $500 per month which includes electric, water, sattlelite tv and internet ... I keep a clean apartment and you must do the same ... You MUST have verifiable employment ... I have young children that visit me ... you will have access to pa system and recording gear ...

I'm totally serious. This is a real ad. I edited it some to get rid of the obviously identifiable details -- partly because I know a lot of musicians in this neck of the woods, many of them know me, and I don't feel like getting death threats right now.

Meanwhile, let's take a look at the ad, running it through the bravo sierra translator:

Roommate with benefits: Guess.

420 friendly: Doesn't mind the occasional left-handed cigarette. Like, every half hour. This may be required for said benefits.

I will be able to find out if you use them: Creepazoid. Stalker in training. Next question?

$500 per month: Keeping in mind this is an apartment. Also known as being screwed twice.

Young children that visit me: Just what they need to see, Dad passing around a left-handed cigarette and collecting the aforementioned benefits. Horrendously maladjusted already, and they will likely grow up to be just like Dad. New roommate gets to babysit while Dad goes out and does what he does. During visits the young children will sleep in one of the two bedrooms, meaning the applicant gets to sleep ... guess again.

Access to a PA system and recording gear: You know this isn't free. See: Benefits.

If this cat actually gets takers, he will really be dipping in the shallow end of the gene pool.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Of newspapers, pop tarts and Lady Gaga

In case you're wondering whatever happened to the industry they call "journalism," here's a rather amusing (yet true) take by the Washington Post:

Gene Weingarten - Gene Weingarten column mentions Lady Gaga.

Here's an excerpt, and I totally relate to what Weingarten says:

Call me a grumpy old codger, but I liked the old way better. For one thing, I used to have at least a rudimentary idea of how a newspaper got produced: On deadline, drunks with cigars wrote stories that were edited by constipated but knowledgeable people, then printed on paper by enormous machines operated by people with stupid hats and dirty faces ... everything is different today, and it's much more confusing. For one thing, there are no real deadlines anymore, because stories are constantly being updated for the Web. All stories are due now, and most of the constipated people are gone, replaced by multiplatform idea triage specialists. In this hectic environment, mistakes are more likely to be made, meaning that a story might identify Uzbekistan as "a subspecies of goat."

Weingarten gets into the business of writing headlines, too. A headline used to be written for human eyes, and liberties were occasionally taken with humor and taste. Like when my old editor, the late great Verne Peyser referred to the McDonalds shooting in San Ysidro (the one where the guy went nuts and killed more than 20 people) as "McMassacre." Or when the Fontana Herald-News ran the story of Redd Foxx' death with the headline "Fred joins Elizabeth." Now, that's headline writing.

Not any more. Here's what Weingarten says:

... even the best headlines will be changed to something dull but utilitarian. That's because, on the Web, headlines aren't designed to catch readers' eyes. They are designed for "search engine optimization," meaning that readers who are looking for information about something will find the story, giving the newspaper a coveted "eyeball." Putting well-known names in headlines is considered shrewd, even if creativity suffers ...

Which explains the Lady Gaga headline in the WaPo story. Weingarten mentioned the name of the pop tart du jour only peripherally, and that's what became the headline. And myself, well, I'm gonna put her in my headline too, just to see what happens.

Anyway, the whole industry has changed. If I showed up in a newsroom today, I wouldn't recognize it. Or like it.

I reckon I can complain about it. Back around 1990 I thought it was a horrible travesty when the newspaper where I was working formed focus groups among the community to shape our editorial policy. Shoot, accountants and doctors don't do this to determine how they're going to do business, are they?

But now see what's become of the news trade:

Recently some newspaper out around Pasadena outsourced much of their editorial work to ... people in India. Folks who don't speak the language, but they sure make a lot less than even a poorly-paid journalist stateside.

And news outlets like USA Today, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and SF Gate farm some of their work out to a huge Web content company. I can't complain about that; I do a lot of work for that particular Web content company (under an assumed name), and they do have a lot of good writers in their stable. But the copy is competent but colorless, and designed more for search engines than real live human readers.

Oh, yes. Extra points for mentioning pop idols; it gets them on the search engines faster.


(Photo: What's she doing in my newspaper? Photo by Billie Joe's Entourage.)

In Hubpages: Writing like a tortured soul

According to a now-viral website, I write like ...

... David Foster Wallace (didn't he hang himself?)

... and sometimes like Dan Brown.

And Lady Gaga's songwriters resemble Shakespeare ... ?

I'm ticked. Seriously ticked. Read the details in Hubpages.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Up to your what in sharks?

I feel the need to extend the invitation to folks who "ain't from around here."

Come on down. Visit the beautiful South Carolina Lowcountry. Enjoy our weather. Swim in our ocean.

Oh, wait ...

Sharks swarming: "Sharks swarming
CHARLESTON - Don't look now, but they're out there. Sharks. A lot of them.

They're sneaking up behind shrimping nets in swarms, biting head-size holes in the nets to chomp away on the free lunch of shining, silvery crustaceans. Shrimpers up and down the coast are reporting a slew of them, particularly good-size blacktip sharks, which can grow to 6 feet long."

Story is from the Post and Courier.


Theft suspect arrested after running out of gas (AP)

Uhh, isn't this part of Larceny 101?

1) Make sure your getaway vehicle has enough gas to get you away.
2) Make sure you know where the keys are.
3) If you use a getaway driver, make sure he has a license ... and is sober.

Planning. Planning. Planning. Like any business endeavor.

This happened in Wenatchee, Washington, and the guy's from Tacoma. To his credit, he did manage to go 50 feet before his car crapped out.

Now let's see the story:

Theft suspect arrested after running out of gas
: "AP - Don't call him Lucky."

It's just not this guy's day.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Alvin Greene becomes fodder for Riverdogs promotion

U.S. Senate nominee Alvin Greene suggested raising money with an Alvin Greene action figure, and now it looks like he's gonna get it.

The Charleston Riverdogs, the local minor-league baseball team owned by Mike Veeck and Bill Murray, is making use of this. Greene will be immortalized in an action figure to be given away this weekend. Well, kinda sorta.

It turns out the action figure will be about something else, and his face will be available to put onto the toy. It seems that some weird artist wanted to create a male Statue of Liberty (don't even ask) statue to go up in Charleston Harbor, and that was laughed out of existence. However, the Riverdogs put together a mini "Mr. Liberty" statue as a ballpark promotion.

From what I get, you can then take your Mr. Liberty to an "economic stimulus" station set up in the stadium concourse, where they'll slap an Alvin Greene face on Mr. Liberty.

Greene, the unknown untested unvetted candidate who somehow got the Democratic nomination for Senate from South Carolina, blurted the action-figure idea out as one of his ideas to raise revenue:

"Little dolls. Me. Like maybe little action dolls. Me in an Army uniform, Air Force uniform and me in my suit."

And that was in one of his more lucid moments.

I love it.

Here's the story, from the Post and Courier:

Mr. Liberty, Alvin Greene, part of RiverDogs action figure promotion: "Mr. Liberty, Alvin Greene, part of RiverDogs action figure promotion
CHARLESTON - The RiverDogs are going green: Alvin Greene that is."

Gotta hand it to the Riverdogs management. They know how to promote. Or wouldn't you say that about any team that deliberately set a sports record for lowest attendance (zero, as part of Nobody Night where the team played the first five innings in a locked-down stadium). Some years ago they planned Vasectomy Night for Father's Day some years ago, and this was considered so over the top that the promotion was ... say it with me ... aborted.

And Greene? He says he doesn't mind the promotion. "As long as it looks good and is in good nature, I'm OK."

The Riverdogs are not done with Greene either. They're planning another promotion down the pike, "Greene Family Reunion" T-shirts similar to the one the candidate was wearing the day after his primary win.

For those who are in the area, the Mr. Lady Liberty/Alvin Greene giveaway is Saturday, July 17.


No 5-Second Rule in my kitchen

I saw this in The Consumerist, and it kind of rang a bell.

I'm a little funny about my food. While I'll eat just about anything, my food has to pass some strict decontamination tests. Hairs or unidentifiable black specks make it instantly inedible in my book, and I'm usually going to pitch it. I can't even be bothered with trying to pick the substance off; it's going out. I'd thoroughly inspect my food before eating it (as a kid I often heard Dad's "don't analyze it, eat it"), and I've considered washing the food like a raccoon or something.

Hey, you never know what those black specks are.

Fly ash from somewhere? Roach turds? Something ... ugh ... living?

I don't know, and I'm not about to give it the taste test.

But some of my friends adhere to the five-second rule. It's like catching food on the first bounce; allegedly it's still good to eat. They'll drop something, call out "five-second rule," and pick it up. This five-second rule is somewhat elastic, kind of like the "long count" in the Tunney-Dempsey fight back in 1927. Do you start the count immediately after impact, after the food finally stops moving, or after everyone else retreats into a neutral corner?

So I felt a little ... what, vindicated? ... when I read this article.

Do You Follow The 5-Second Rule?:

We've all dropped that freshly buttered piece of golden brown toast on the floor, yes? And many of us have contemplated whether or not to just pick it up and eat it. That's why there's the 5-Second Rule, the completely unscientific belief that food left on the floor for less than five seconds is sufficiently ick-free. But scientists at Clemson are trying to call BS on one of western society's core beliefs.

Says Paul Dawson, a food scientist at the food science and human nutrition department at Clemson University, where he and his team of students tested the Rule:

In the case of the five-second-rule we found that bacteria was transferred from tabletops and floors to the food within five seconds, that is the five second rule is not an accurate guide when it comes to eating food that has fallen on the floor.

But can science change your mind on this?

That's why we're conducting this incredibly unscientific poll:

Do You Follow the 5-Second Rule?online survey

Sadly, the 'five-second rule' is not really safe [Houston Chronicle]



Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Charleston County to privatize recycling

I really like this. An idea that is way overdue, and not done often enough.

The Post and Courier - Charleston County to farm out recycling - Charleston SC -

In private hands, Charleston County's recycling operation should make $1 million more each year than it does now, said County Council officials who voted Tuesday night to privatize the facility ... Council approved a contract with American Recycling of South Carolina to run the facility in Charleston, and in another waste-related vote agreed to sell the site of the former garbage incinerator in North Charleston to Shipyard Creek Associates for an as-yet undisclosed price ...

I'm not just thinking about the money angle here. See, when you take these government functions and have them done by the private sector, they generally will be a lot better run, more efficient, just better functions overall.

H'mmm ... maybe the federal government ought to consider privatizing the medical industry? Just asking.


Town wins spot in Money list

Say it ain't so!

Mt. Pleasant ... or as we call it out here, "Mt. Plastic." Shinola-head capital of Charleston County.

Town wins spot in Money list: "Town wins spot in Money listMoney magazine named Mount Pleasant one of the best small American cities to call home in its annual list."


I'm sorry. Much as I love the Lowcountry, I just can't get into Mt. Pleasant. It's not my kind of town.


White House: stimulus saved 3 million jobs

I wonder if he got his data from ... you know, the site that reported how well the stimulus worked in congressional districts that didn't exist?

Anyway, here's the story from Reuters:

White House says stimulus saved 3 million U.S. jobs
: "

President Barack Obama makes remarks on small business jobs initiatives in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington June 11, 2010. REUTERS/Jim YoungReuters - Hoping to lift sagging confidence in President Barack Obama's economic leadership, the White House will make the case on Wednesday that his policies are creating jobs and spurring private investment ...

* * *

Now, those of y'all living in South Carolina, now may be the time to look for a job. Businesses have been ordered to get rid of all illegal aliens on their payroll. But PrezBo can't claim credit for that one.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Getting interviewed by the Census Bureau

The Census Bureau is still at it, and I don't think they believed me the first time.

Got a visit from some guy wielding a clipboard a few minutes ago. He's with the Census Department's quality control division, doing a little spot-checking.

"I sent mine in," I reminded him. "The Bureau sent me two forms so I almost sent in two."

Turns out "something happened" to the form I sent in, he told me. Yeah, I know exactly what happened to it. I sent it in with just the information that was needed under the Constitution, i.e. address and number of people living in my place. The rest was left blank. Understand, the Census is a head count; nothing more.

As a result, I earned an interview with the Census folks. This guy is probably a little younger than me, black guy with splashes of gray in his dreadlocks. Nice enough, but a bit nervous.

He asked me my address. Is this the correct one? I said yes.

He asked my name. I gave it to him, and told him it was just hearsay.

He asked my age. With a totally straight face and no shame whatsoever, I said I was 29. When he started to write that in, I told him the truth -- 52.

"Male or female? ... well, obviously," he said as he wrote this down.

"Race?" he wanted to know.

Now, that's a sticking point with me. That is really no one's business. If you fill out a job application, they can't ask for your race. Even including a picture of yourself in your job resume is a no-no because of the race angle. And, whether anyone will admit it or not, race does determine how much government money goes where.

But considering the U.S. Census is an official government function and it's not smart to tweak the noses of the Feds, I gave him my answer.


Hopefully, this will end my involvement with Census 2010.


An Alvin Greene action figure?

It just gets stranger and stranger around here, folks. Deeper and deeper.

Alvin Greene isn't just a South Carolina joke, but a national one.

Hang that, he's gone worldwide.

He told The Guardian (out of London) that making action figures of himself might help South Carolina's economy. No kidding!

As the Guardian so glibly pointed out, if the idea actually worked, it still wouldn't help the American economy. But it might help China's.

Just read the story for yourself:

Alvin Greene wants a Toy Story | Richard Adams: "

Guardian interview with Senate candidate Alvin Greene reveals his economic policy: making Alvin Greene action dolls

My colleague Ed Pilkington makes the trip to South Carolina to interview the now famous Alvin Greene about his bizarre US Senate candidacy and Democratic primary election victory. Ed does unearth this gem from Greene's fertile brain:

It is clear, too, in the course of the two hours I spend with Greene that he has some pretty wacky ideas that, were he to win in November, would put him among the more unpredictable members of the Senate. At one point, he lurches off on his big idea for how to create jobs in South Carolina.

'Another thing we can do for jobs is make toys of me, especially for the holidays. Little dolls. Me. Like maybe little action dolls. Me in an army uniform, air force uniform, and me in my suit. They can make toys of me and my vehicle, especially for the holidays and Christmas for the kids. That's something that would create jobs. So you see I think out of the box like that. It's not something a typical person would bring up. That's something that could happen, that makes sense. It's not a joke.'

Except that those sorts of things – plastic childrens' toys – are all made in China these days.

The whole piece is worth reading, with a serious point, made when Ed gets a response from Greene's father:

And the suggestion that he is mentally ill? 'That's an insult!' The answer is barked out, with distinct anger. But it doesn't come from Alvin. It comes from James Sr, who is shuffling past in his slippers just as we reach this point.

I turn to him and ask why he thinks such insults, as he sees them, are being levelled at his son. 'Back in my day black people who registered to vote were turned away. They called the doctor and treated them as crazy.'

The net result of Greene's eyebrow-raising election, though, is to hand the Republicans a very easy win in South Carolina. Jim DeMint, the sitting senator, was always going to win but Greene's candidacy means DeMint's free to raise money for, and campaign in, more competitive races elsewhere – the South Carolina gubernatorial contest for starters, the Kentucky Senate race, the Florida Senate race... take your pick.

Uhh, does he have himself confused with the Governator of California, or what?

At least Arnold Schwarzennegger has this action-toy business figured out.

Greene, not so much. Not unless you figure out a way to market a completely misplaced, unqualified moonbat first.

Oh, I forgot, that's worked in a recent presidential election, too. 



Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Drugs do the darnedest things

I already knew I live in a strange neighborhood; I just didn't realize how strange.

I'm in my home office this afternoon when I hear noises outside the trailer. I didn't think much of it as long as nobody's trying to get in, so I continue work.

More noises. Louder. From my kitchen. So I go and check it out.

Since it's been so hot lately I've been keeping my kitchen window open above my sink. And someone's reaching through the window.

It's a young woman, and she's stoned out of her gourd. And she's washing the dishes in my sink, from outside.

It turned out she also watered my plants outside, neatened up my porch, things like that. I really don't think she meant anything wrong; it's just one of those who-knows-what, drug-induced things. 

No harm, no foul, but ... strange.

I confronted her, more questioning than angry. Must have scared her off; she tottered away. I probably should have waited until she finished the dishes. Good help is hard to find these days.


Monday, July 5, 2010

1995: Internet replace stores, books? You're kidding!

An Internet store? Never happen. (Image from

Here's a blast from the past:

Back in 1995, the Internet was the Big New Thing. Folks were getting used to the idea that you can go to any library anywhere, "talk" to anyone, and experience some of the world without ever leaving your seat.

But to Clifford Stoll, it was just a fad. He offered his views in Newsweek early that year, saying that while the Internet was pretty cool, it wouldn't really catch on or be truly useful.

Stoll said:

"Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? The truth in no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works."

Stoll wasn't a technophobe. He'd been involved in the online world from the jump. Helped track down some computer crackers who stole military secrets and sold them to the KGB. And he has a little online business going now.

But back then, he knew computers would not replace books or newspapers. He knew it. Check it out:

"How about electronic publishing? Try reading a book on disc. At best, it's an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can't tote that laptop to the beach. Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we'll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure."

He said ecommerce wouldn't work all that well because, well, there's little human contact involved. Same thing with the rest of the Internet -- takes away that eyeball-to-eyeball. It's that same dynamic that author John Naisbitt pointed out in the 1982 book Megatrends -- that push-pull between high-tech and high-touch. 

Less than two decades after Naisbitt's book, and about five years after Stoll's predictions, high tech won the war.

Still, take a look at Stoll's Newsweek article. While you're about it, read the comments. The whole thing is a hoot. 


Link: Clifford Stoll's Web site.

Sp@m: It's what's for dinner

Have you checked your inbox lately?

Yeah, I'm in another one of those moods.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Notes on the Fourth

Have a Happy and Safe Independence Day!

(And there's a reason for all these pyrotechnics)


(Photo by J. Stephen Conn over at Flickr)

40 years ago: Reflections on a no-hitter

I hate these reminders of how old I really am, especially when I'm still trying to convince myself I'm still 22.

But some random Internet surfing reminded me that July 3 was the 40th anniversary of the greatest baseball game I've ever seen, when Angels pitcher Clyde Wright threw a no-hitter at the Oakland A's.

I was 12 then, and I grew up in a family of incurable Angels fans. We went to a few games every year, and we were at Anaheim Stadium, third base side in the terrace level on that July evening. My family accounted for four of the 12,131 butts in the seats that night.

OK, as I get older my memory tends to fire more at random, but it seems we were at the ballpark a lot when historic things happened. My grandmother (who was even more incurable than the rest of us) took my brother and me to an afternoon doubleheader the previous year (again the Angels were playing the A's), and when the announcement came that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin safely landed on the Moon, play stopped on the field and we got all misty. But I digress.

The left-handed Wright came off a miserable 1969 (one win, eight losses. But he was pitching like a monster in 1970. Won 22 games that year; only Nolan Ryan was able to match him four years later. Made the All-Star team, during the time the American League was always getting slaughtered -- Wright was the losing pitcher in that midsummer game.

And that no-no. It was right around the sixth inning when I noticed those zeroes on the board. And of course, there's this old superstition that no one on the bench talks about a no-hitter when it's in progress. Out of respect, neither did we.

After his great season, Wright wasn't quite the same. It turned out he had some problems, something about a well-fought bottle. It was years later when I saw a film clip of him finishing his no-hitter, and it was used as a lead-in to a commercial for an alcohol-and-drug rehab hospital. But after his career in the bigs was over, he spent some time in Japan. From Baseball Reference:

In the sixth inning of a 1-1 game early in his first season in Japan, Wright was removed after the first two batters reached. Manager Shigeo Nagashima yanked Wright, who refused to give over the baseball, then charged off the mound and fired the ball into the dugout. After leaving the field, Wright tore off his uniform and threw it into the bathtub and kicked over a garbage can. Wright was nicknamed "Crazy Righto", a name that stuck throughout his time in Japan. Fans and sportswriters called for Wright's release but Nagashima stood by his pitcher ...

1970 was a strange year for no-hitters. Less than a month before Wright's, Dock Ellis of the Pittsburgh Pirates threw one at the San Diego Padres. His control was way off; he walked eight batters that day. He later said he was in mid-LSD trip during that game (which probably explains why his fastball had a tail).

Wright's boy, Jaret, was a pitching phenom for the Cleveland Indians in 1997, coming out of nowhere to win a bunch of games for them. He started Game 7 of the World Series that year, as a 21-year-old rookie. Arm trouble, though, curtailed his career.

The Angels' leadoff hitter in Clyde's no-hitter was Sandy Alomar, who himself had two sons in the bigs (Sandy Jr. and Roberto). The Angels had some real characters in the lineup that day: Alex Johnson, who had a good bat and serious issues. Jim Fregosi, who later managed the Angels. And noted prankster Jay Johnstone, the man our household referred to as "Ol' DM" for "dirty-mouth." Seems one of us noticed Johnstone had trouble getting through a sentence without uttering a profanity. Being earthy folks, we thought it was funny.

I might as well forget about claiming I had a deprived childhood. How many kids got to see a no-hitter?



The box score, from

What's Wright doing now?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R, RINO): 'I ain’t gay'

This has been the, uhh, scuttlebutt around here for at least a couple of years. But this little snippet about South Carolina's Graham comes from Outside The Beltway:

Lindsey Graham: I Ain’t Gay: "

Senator Lindsey Graham has long been rumored to be light in his tennis shoes.   But, in an interview with New York Times Magazine, he dismisses this rather humorously:

I know it’s really gonna upset a lot of gay men — I’m sure hundreds of ‘em are gonna be jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge — but I ain’t available. I ain’t gay. Sorry.

(via Taegan Goddard)

There are a lot of reasons why I'm not a big Lindsey Graham fan, and rumors of holecornery (y'all can figure that out for yourselves!) have little or nothing to do with it. But y'all have to admit he does have a way of making the standard denial.

Another Graham development, brought to my attention this morning by local columnist/blogger/radio personality Jack Hunter, aka The Southern Avenger: Anyone notice ol' Lindsey hasn't been hanging around John McCain lately? Shoot, the two were practically inseparable during the 2008 Presidential campaign. But now, Graham is likely thinking of his political future, and McCain isn't exactly cutting edge these days.