Wednesday, December 31, 2003

More Monochrome...

"Airplane Mode" on Elie's cell phone--the feature that disables all the functions of the phone while keeping the power on to drain batteries, for those who can't bear the thought of actually having to turn off their phones--still takes top honors as stupidest feature on an electronic device, but I have found a close second. Having worn out my old PDA, I recently purchased the new Palm Tungsten E. Among many other cool things, my new Palm allows me to pick from about 2 dozen color schemes for the screen. One of them is called "Nostalgia," and recreates fairly accurately the color (or lack thereof) scheme of my first PDA, the Palm Pilot. For those who have not yet joined the PDAed world, or who did not know the joy of the Palm Pilot, those screens had a background of dark army green with off-black LCD displays. There was a dial on the side to adjust the contrast. Why on earth someone would actually be nostalgic for that when they have a 320x320 transreflective full-color display, I will never know. Maybe some people out there buy the 65-inch high definition TV with picture-in-picture and pine the picture quality of a 3-inch portable black-and-white set.

Elie found it interesting that the monochrome color scheme is called "nostalgia," considering he bought our first Palm Pilots only about 5 years ago. Times, they are a-changin'.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Gack! M&Ms Go Monochrome!

Let me preface this by disclosing that I have not eaten an M&M in probably over a year now. That said, what was Mars, Inc. thinking? No more blue, red, green, brown, orange or yellow M&Ms for "the next few months." Did the junk food industry learn NOTHING from New Coke, the removal of tan M&Ms, or Crayola's new 64 colors? People do not react kindly to manufacturers screwing with products that have become American institutions.

Of course, there is an up side to this. We can now make M&M penguins.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Killer Pointsettia, Phase 3

Seems that the Killer Pointsettia does not need to be present to work its deadly magic; the image will suffice. I've been trying to set up a link to a photo of the actual Killer Pointsettia, but every time I try to save the page, I get that "website cannot be displayed" message.

And you may have noticed I didn't have anything to say yesterday, either.

Saturday, December 27, 2003


I just have nothing to say today. Check back tomorrow.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Winner of the "Well, Duh!" Medical Study Award...

Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have just published a study that found that--hold on to your shorts, everyone--"Women with a history of infertility who are involuntarily childless tend to exhibit more long-lasting symptoms of distress than other women, but only if they remain childless." (Article)

Yup. Someone got actual research money to tell us that women whose central life goal is to have a child feel better when they finally manage to conceive or adopt. In an obvious corollary, they found women who are childless because they have no desire to have children exhibit fewer signs of distress over their motherhood status than "involuntarily childless" women or mothers.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Someone Finally Did It...

Think you've seen every possible version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol? Think again and click here.

Thanks to ME for the link.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Blitzen Blitzes ABC Newswoman, or Reporter Gets Run Over By A Reindeer...

Grandma isn't the only one the reindeer have it out for this Christmas. A reindeer named Blitzen tackled an ABC reporter as she prepared for a live broadcast from Santa Claus House in North Pole, Alaska. Her camera crew got it on tape, but, so far, the video has not surfaced on Google.

Click here for the story, with photo. If anyone runs across the video clip online, drop me a note so I can link to it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Psst! Buddy! Want A Bootleg Flu Shot?...

It's come to this, has it? The FDA is looking into "unlicensed influenza vaccine" that is being sold by "unusual suppliers." You'd think it was heroin in some back alley or something.

Click here for the article.

Killer Pointsettia Update

The copier repair person was at the office yesterday to repair the work of the Killer Pointsettia; however, the copier seems to have more or less recovered on its own since I moved the Killer Pointsettia. We do need a new duplexing tray, but that is for a problem that predates our pointsettia issues.

The Killer Pointsettia is now sitting atop a block of wall-mounted mailboxes above the copier. Prevailing opinion is that there are three possibilities for the KP's next hit:
The mailboxes will fall off the wall onto the copier, taking out the mailboxes while finishing the aborted attempt on the copier's life
The fluorescent lights above KP will explode, possibly shorting out the entire building
Our entire climate control system will blow out, since there is an a/c vent next to the light

Updates as information becomes available.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Too Much Free Time...

That's the only explanation I can come up with for dressing a lobster in Barbie clothes, flinging her to the ocean and seeing how many times your fellow lobster fishermen haul her up and release her back.

Click here for the details.

The fact that she's been caught in traps at least 10 times supports my theory that we are eating only the stupidest crustaceans.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Just a Rhetorical Question...

Now that we're back at Threat Level Orange (which would make an excellent name for a rock band), does anyone out there think we'll ever see Level Green or Level Blue? I think they're just there for aesthetics.

Two Words I Did Not Expect to Read When I Woke Up...

Deer contraceptives?
Click here

Are You Ready For This?...

I'm not sure how long this photo will remain up, but it's worth a click while it's there.

Click here for a picture of a menorah, several rabbis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Attack of the Killer Pointsettia...

The annual office pointsettia has struck again. Every December, my office receives a potted pointsettia from one of the magazines in which we advertise. Last year, I stuck the plant on top of the corner filing cabinet, and the next morning, the ivy plant hanging above that cabinet was a pot of shrivelled up leaves and twigs. Not that the plant was exactly thriving before, but it was on the mend. I think I might have renewed its will to live if the killer pointsettia hadn't whacked it in the middle of the night.

This year, someone stuck the pointsettia on the Xerox machine. Now, the copier will not spit any copies out, preferring to accordion-fold them and hoard them just short of the document sorter.

Now, if I could only decide where the plant should go next year.

Happy Hanukkah...

The internet Hanukkah jokes state that one of the reasons Hanukkah is better than Christmas is "No barking dogs version of the dreidel song." However, I have to report that there is a Jingle Cats version of "Hava Nagila." Click here.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Bravo, Karl Rove and The Spin Doctors...

AP Headline: "Bush Visits Wounded Soldiers at Walter Reed"
Click here for article

Much better than the alternative possibility: "Bush Already at Walter Reed For MRI Thursday, Couldn't Make Time To Go Down The Hall to Visit Wounded Soldiers."

Only in the 2nd to last paragraph of the AP does the reporter get around to mentioning that Bush was at Walter Reed to get his own medical tests. It's not like he actually made a special trip to visit the wounded soldiers in a building he was not already in. But, hey, at least someone noticed he would be at the same hospital as wounded soldiers and managed something to avoid Headline #2.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

You Need Instructions?...

So, the other day, I opened a carton of sour cream and found out dairy products now come with instructions, starting with "Remove foil seal and discard." Well, dang! That's where I've gone wrong all these years! I've been scooping my sour cream through the foil seal!

Of course, these instructions are printed on the underside of the abovementioned foil seal, so Step 1 is pretty much moot by the time you read it.

Wacky Gift Idea...

Looking for that unique gift for the person who has everything? Unless they have a genuine Kangaroo Scrotum Coin Purse, they don't have everything.

Get one through this auction on eBay.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

New Rule...

No country whose leader has already decided upon a punishment for Saddam Hussein gets to be part of the trial.

This is not because I in any way like the man. I just don't think it will look very good if he now goes before an American court, an American-picked tribunal, or even and American-approved Iraqi court, since Bush has publicly declared he deserves the death penalty. You just can't create the illusion of a fair trial after a comment like that. Maybe there are reasons that Hussein does not deserve a fair trial, but everyone else in the world deserves for him to have one. We must keep on believing that he does not reflect human nature as a whole. We need to know that we can provide justice for everyone, even if the accused has denied that same justice to others. The immorality of the accused should not be an excuse for immorality of the rest of humanity.

For the record, I am of the opinion that if he is found guilty (an outcome which no one seems to doubt), a more fitting penalty might be to throw him in solitary confinement in Devil's Island or some equally remote and inhosiptable prison until he dies in obscurity 30 or 40 years down the road. If he is executed now, he goes out at the top of his game, like John Kennedy or Marilyn Monroe. Let his star fizzle until his death is nothing more than a blip on the obit page, and don't allow him to be a martyr for any cause.

Any yes, I know that by my own rules I have now disqulified myself from the jury.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Today's Amusing Observation...

As part of my Sunday night process of setting my TiVo recordings for the week, I go A-Z through all the documentaries (you can do that with a TiVo) and set to record any that look interesting. Owing to the fickle nature of alphabetical order, I came across these two listings, one immediately after the other:
Meet The Royals [a documentary series about the British Royal family]
Meet The Weasels [a documentary about weasels, wolverines, mink, and related vicious rodents]

A few weeks back "Who Killed Jesus" was listed immediately before "Who Killed Laci Peterson." Sometimes, the transpositions are just poignant.

Separate But Equal...

A judge in Iowa signed a divorce decree for two women who entered into a civil union in Vermont. Not that he meant to recognize a same-sex marriage; he just did not realize that both parties were female when he signed the decree. I can understand this sort of slip-up if one party was, say, "Chris" or "Pat" or "Francis," but the judge divorced a "Kimberly" and a "Jennifer"--not the most unisex names in the book. You'd think something would have jumped out at the judge if he actually read the divorce decree he was signing.

Many people still insist that the prospect of same-sex marriage will bring down the institution. I'm beginning to think part of the problem with marriage is that divorce is apparently so easy to come by that two people who were not actually married can get one.

The different-sex-marriage-only crowd claims that civil unions are "marriage in everything but name" as they provide all of the legal benefits of marriage. We tried this separate-but-equal thing before, and if I recall correctly, the Supreme Court did not take very kindly to it.

Anyone who believes that civil unions are really just marriages with a different name, and not a second-class legal arrangement, should ask themselves one question: if I had a choice between a civil union and a marriage, would it matter to me which one I had?

If civil unions and marriages are really the same thing, there should be no reason that someone would object if the person at the county courthouse flipped a coin and issued a marriage license if it came up heads and a civil union license if it came up tails (or vice-versa). If someone has reasons for personally wanting one over the other--meaning that there really is a difference, if only in perception--I really want to hear why they should be the one deciding who gets the more prestigious label to their legal arrangement.

Keiko, RIP

Not as important, in the wide scheme of things, as the previous news item, but Keiko the killer whale, star of Free Willy, died of pneumonia a couple days ago.

I got to see Keiko when he was staying at the Newport Aquarium. The phrase "A whale of a..." takes on an entirely new meaning after you see one swim past you, not 10 feet from your face.

Well, This Is Probably Good News...

Well, at least on the surface, the news would seem good. I'll reserve final judgement until the powers that be decide what to do about it and how the powers that were respond.
Click here.

By the way, if you are hearing this first from me, you need to get out more.

The Request Line is Open...

I've had a request for more humor. Ok, so it was more like "What happened to the funny stuff." I'll do what I can.

I'm No Economist, But...

Here's a headline that deserves some thought:
"Bush Plan to Halve Budget Deficit in Five Years."

Strictly speaking, the headline is true. By Bush's plan, in five years, the budget deficit would be half what it is now. This means that the budget deficit would be about where it was in 1992. Until last year, 1992 had the highest budget deficit. So, by halving the deficit, we get the third highest deficit in the last dozen years.

And how is this happening? "by pursuing very aggressively his pro-growth economic policies, and by leading the Congress toward overall policies of fiscal restraint" (quote from Joel Kaplan, deputy director of the White House budget office). He goes on to say that these pro-growth policies are to make all of the tax cuts permanent.

Meanwhile, the congress has to make the politically unpopular decisions about what programs to cut to fund these tax cuts.

It's a win-win situation for someone.

Saturday, December 13, 2003


Last year, people were freaked out about driving through Canada because of SARS. This year, the Centers for Disease Control are considering quarantine as a way to deal with SARS should it re-emerge next spring. Meanwhile, they are depending on pharmaceutical corporations, with two eyes on their bottom line, to protect the population against influenza.

Number of worldwide cases of SARS last year: 813
Number of confirmed cases of SARS in the US: 8
Number of SARS-related deaths in the US: 0
Number of people hospitalized with the flu last year in the US alone: 114,000
Number of flu-related deaths in the US last year: 36,000
(All numbers from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control)

44 times as many people died of the flu as even came down with SARS, and that's the disease we're worried about?

Do Not Adjust Your Monitor...

No, I'm not ignoring everyone today. It was just one of those busy days. I had to run across town twice because I accidentally submitted my final paper to the life insurance underwriters instead of my literature professor.

I'm going to take a day or so to wrap my head around the headline "Bush to Halve Deficit in Five Years" before I blog about it. It's a doozie.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

The Votes Are In...

Who Wants to Marry a Presidential Candidate is over. The winner is 34-year-old Gina Marie Santore, who flew from New Jersey to New Hampshire to have oatmeal with Dennis Kucinich, a vegan, at the Kansas City Steakhouse.

When asked whether there might be a second date, she said they'd have to consult the schedulers. No mention about whether they'd also consult her live-in boyfriend.

Click here for the article

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Coalition of the Undemocratic...

So the Pentagon has said that France, Russia, and Germany cannot bid on Iraq contracts, but they insist that is not meant to punish them.

Instead, they have trotted out their favorite phrase: national security. These rules are meant to encourage nations to join the coalition if they want the cash--"joining" in the sense of saying "sure we're with you."

Rumsfeld's spokesperson admits that joining the coalition will be politically risky for national leaders. Of course, taking political risks is only a problem if leaders need to worry about whether the people will reelect them. There is a certain category of world leader who need not bother with whether the people agree with their decisions. These contract rules seem like the best way to ally ourselves with dictators and discourage democracy among our coalition.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Obvious Question...

The Associated Press reports that the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston just mortgaged a cathedral and seminary.

Just what kind of credit rating does the Catholic church have?

What's Good For the Christmas Goose...

My advance apologies to anyone who still takes anything Jerry Falwell says seriously. Click here for his latest diatribe.

Apparently, Christmas is being adulterated. No, not by the spirit of blatant commercialism and materialistic greed. The problem is "the holidays." We've become too aware that there are people out there who do not celebrate Christmas, and even though it is nearly impossible to pick up a quart of milk any time between Thanksgiving week and New Year's without being subjected to Christmas carols, Christmas is not pervasive enough.

In particular, too many people recognize that Christmas does not have a monopoly on December holiday celebrations. Sure, it's the Microsoft of December holidays, but there are one or two others, and celebrating those is taking the thunder away from Christmas, leaving us with the nondenominational "holidays."

Funny thing about that, though. Taking the thunder away from the major celebration is exactly how Christmas ended up in December in the first place. People smarter than I seem to agree that Jesus' birth probably occurred in the springtime. However, back in the 4th century, when emperor Constantine was trying to convert his empire of Pagans into an empire of Christians, the big holiday most of the people celebrated was in midwinter, on or around the time of the winter solstice December 21 or 22. Depending on where you were, this celebration involved decorating with evergreens (particularly holly and mistletoe), hoofed animals pulling an elf who delivered presents, gift-giving, decorating with candles, cake with dried fruit, celebrating rebirth, and in at least one case a 12-day-long celebration of the birth of a king to a virgin. Any of this sounding familiar yet? Anyway, in an effort at empirewide unity, Constantine moved Christmas to December 25. Many components of the pagan celebrations were reassigned new meanings according to the Christmas story, and Christmas as we know it was born.

So Constantine, while not malicious, placed Christmas on December 25 because that was the time of year with the major celebration. However, Jerry Falwell seems to think that it's playing dirty pool when other groups try to emphasize existing celebrations that coincide with--and in some instances predate--Christmas.

Recommended Viewing

If you liked the song "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" and Mel Brooks movies, you just might like "The Hebrew Hammer," a new movie on Comedy Central--coming to a theater near you this Hanukkah. Or maybe you won't, if you think you might be offended by images like reindeer killing Santa, Tiny Tim turning evil, potty-mouth elves, or circumcision jokes. Also, the funny parts are less funny without a working understanding of Yiddish.

"The Hebrew Hammer" is the first movie that actually takes Kwanzaa seriously as a holiday, or at least as seriously as it takes anything.

What's New?

Really, what could be so new in Algebra that would require them to put out a new edition every year? I didn't think the rules had changed that much since algebra was invented in the third century. Also, if they do have to put out a new edition every year, what could possibly make it worth $107?

I'll report back on that last question when I get the book.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Dude Looks Like A Lady...

While I don't think ladies are extinct just yet, nor that females have a monopoly on polite behavior, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach does have a good point here. If women want to impose a rigorous set of etiquette on the men they live with, they lose the moral high ground when they flash their breasts for Spring Break videos.
Click here for the article.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

New Brief...

Getting the flu shot in October doesn't seem so silly now, does it?

This from the president who called a reporter a "major league a**hole.

And, by the way, the White house has been doing a whole lot of defending for a policy that isn't, and I quote, "f**ked up."

First Jayson Blair gets a book deal from plagiarism in the New York Times, then this guy? It just doesn't pay to be honest anymore.


Saturday, December 06, 2003

Commercial Break...

The Papa Murphey's in Toledo is now open, on Airport Highway just west of Reynolds. Try it; you'll never go back to pre-baked pizza again.

Now, not only do we have Starbucks, we also have the best pizza that you can't get with zucchini and gator.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Crass vs. Stupid

One must assume that the 425 people who attended Bush's fundraiser in Pittsburgh, PA--aka "Steel City"--were the 425 people in that city who have absolutely no connection with the steel industry. Otherwise, they must feel pretty stupid for ponying up $2,000 apiece to support the reelection campaign of the man who the very next day may have screwed their industry over.

Here's the rough timeline for those who have not followed the international steel tariff fiasco:
1. U.S. imposes tariffs on foreign steel to protect domestic steel industry.
2. The E.U. and W.T.O. find those tariffs to be illegal.
3. The E.U. and W.T.O., sensing the only way to get through to Bush, threaten retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products--almost exclusively products from states that Bush needs to win the 2004 election, and that is not a coincidence.
4. Bush attends a fundraiser in Pittsburgh that nets him at least $850,000 for his reelection campaign.
5. With the money from Steel City in his pocket, he announces that he will lift the tariffs protecting the U.S. steel industry.

It might seem that when the international community decides something you are doing is illegal, then your only real option is to stop doing it. In that sense, in my limited understanding of the nuances of international trade, Bush did the right thing by lifting the steel tariffs. However, waiting to do it until after the area that has the most to lose coughs up some cash for his reelection was crass. And coughing up the cash before Pennsylvanians had a clear answer on an important regional issue was just plain dumb.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

It's Official...

Starbucks is everywhere. They've announced plans for a store in West Virginia, previously the last of the 50 states to be Starbuck naked.

According to Lewis Black, the end of the universe is in Houston, where there is a Starbucks across the street from a Starbucks, which he depicts on the cover of his album "The End of the Universe." Click here to see it.

Don't get me wrong. I believe that the more Starbucks there are, the better. In fact, we just recently got our first in Toledo, and, goodness, was I happy.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Something to Think About...

We organize the alphabet from A to Z.

Why? Because millennia ago, the Phoenicians did. No one knows how they landed on that particular sequence, but it has stuck for millennia because no one decided to reorganize it into something logical when it was still feasible to do so, before dictionaries and the Alphabet Song and ten thousand ABC books.

How much more illogic will we be saddled with in the future because no one will think to instill logic before the chaos gets ingrained?

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Irony Attack...

Ohio, home of electronic voting machine manufacturer Diebold, will miss the deadline for implementing electronic voting machines in all its counties.

Click here for the AP article, which makes no mention of the fact that Diebold is headquartered in North Canton, Ohio.

On the upside, no matter how I'll be casting my vote, it feels nice to finally live in a state that is "in play" for a presidential election. This will be the first time the candidates have not taken my vote for granted.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Having It Both Ways...

Tom DeLay may have just taken leave of his senses completely. It was not crass enough that the GOP scheduled their convention in New York City to all but coincide with September 11. Now DeLay has put forth the idea of putting up GOP delegates on a cruise ship docked on the Hudson--apparently so the GOP can have the convention in NYC without actually having to stay there, thus allowing the GOP to have the worst of both worlds, taking the flak for the scheduling, while simultaneously being perceived as not wanting to really be in New York. I understand there is an implied agreement between political parties and the cities that host convention: something along the lines of "The city will absorb the cost (in extra policing, traffic, etc.) of having a political convention, but the Party will drop large wads of cash on hotel rooms, restaurants, entertainment, etc. and we'll call it even." However, by holing everyone up on a cruise ship, the profits on shipboard lodging, services, meals, and entertainment go to Norwegian Cruise Lines; the tips go to a "multinational" ship staff; and the conventioneers may be skirting some of the city taxes (how many is unclear) and may or may not be able to circumvent the city's smoking ban.

That is just the stupid part of the idea. The scary part is that DeLay--who also may have been behind that Texas Redistricting fiasco a while back--apparently has all other politicians so whipped that no one will tell him this is a bad idea and he should drop it. C'mon, guys, he is just one person, and he is House Majority Leader, not God. If everyone in the House got together to take him down a peg, the 434-1 advantage would surely be enough that he couldn't pull rank.

Who Wants To Marry A Presidential Candidate?...

The website has opened a contest to find a first lady for twice-divorced candidate Dennis Kucinich. So far, 80 women have applied, and Kucinich has agreed to a date with the winner of the online voting.

Click here for candidate photos and bios.
Click here to cast your vote.

Interestingly enough, no one is offering to set up Carol Moseley-Braun, the other currently-unmarried candidate in the field, and the one who has a much greater chance of needing a First Gentleman. Of course, she has not been flouting her candidacy as a way to meet dates the way Kucinich has. Come to think of it, this was an episode of News Radio.

By the way, we have had eight previous presidents spend all or part of their terms unmarried (three remarried in office). In the absence of a First Lady, the president names a female relative to act as White House Hostess, fulfilling the social duties of the First Lady. Five married presidents have also named White House Hostesses when their wives were too ill to attend to the social duties like hosting state dinners or welcoming official guests.

Most recently, Woodrow Wilson used a hostess for a brief period in 1914-15 between when his wife died and he remarried.

So even if the polls showed Kucinich had the slightest chance of actually becoming president, there is no need for this circus to get him hitched before Election Day.