Saturday, January 31, 2009

Zombies Invade Texas. Do You Have a Zombie Escape Plan?

Zombies are invading Austin, Texas, and not the cool musical kind that sang "She's Not There" in the 60s.

This past Thursday, January 29, as rush hour motorists made their way to work, the electronic roadside construction signs warned "Caution! Zombies Ahead!" and "Nazi Zombies! Run!!!" and urged people to "run for cold climates."

According to a story on KXAN News, Austin Public Works is up in arms (disembodied arms?) about this.

"Even though this may seem amusing to a lot of people, this is really serious, and it is a crime," said Austin Public Works spokesperson Sara Hartley. "And you can be indicted for it, and we want to make sure our traffic on the roadways stays safe."

Hartleys said this is a class C misdemeanor in Texas. She also said "and" a lot.

And while this incident was funny – although Hartley said it was dangerous, since these signs are for road safety – I think the local media was actually a little funnier than the incident itself.

WKMG 6's website had the headline "Texas Road Signs Warn Of Zombie Attack: Hackers Change Electronic Signs In Apparent Prank."

Apparent prank? Really, you think so? When the news uses words like "apparent," it means "it seems this way to us, but we're not going to commit completely, because we could be wrong."

Meanwhile, KXAN's site had – dear God, I hope it is – a joke call to action on their site:
Do you believe in zombies? Do you have a zombie escape plan? Let us know what you think about zombies by participating in our message board.

Some of the responses are hysterical. Those Texans are a funny bunch.

I spent nearly a year-and-a-half working for the State Department of Health in the Public Health Emergency and Preparedness Response. We were in charge of the public health response to any kind of bioterrorist attack including anthrax, pan flu, and even nuclear attack. Never in my time there did we discuss zombie attacks.

Of course, we don't have anything to worry about in Indiana, because zombies only attack warmer climates like Texas, and anywhere Michael Jackson is.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Odd February Holidays

Odd February Holidays

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2009

I was disappointed to learn that I had missed Men's History Month this January, also known as MANuary. I blame it on the fact that I thought I knew when it was, and I just didn't look at the calendar or ask for directions. So, to assuage my guilt, I'll cover some of the different holidays, celebrations, an
d observances for February.

To start, everyone knows about Black History Month, where we study and celebrate the accomplishments, lives, and history of African-Americans throughout U.S. history.

But did you also know it's National Get to Know an Independent Real Estate Broker Month? So call your local independent broker, and invite him or her to coffee. Once you hit March, it's up to you whether you hang out with them or not.

February is the month for love, because Valentine's Day is February 14th. So celebrate love during International Flirting Week (Feb. 9 - 15). But if you're shy, and don't want to seem too forward, Feb. 7 is Wave All Your Fingers At Your Neighbor's Day. Or you can free yourself from bad relationships during Dump Your Significant Jerk Week (Feb. 7 - 13).

This week comes right on the heels of New York Comic Con Week (Feb. 6 - 8), so all you comic fanboys may finally have a chance to meet some nice girl on the rebound, and help her celebrate National Mend a Broken Heart Month. (Of course, if you strike out yet again, you can always celebrate Solo Diners Eat Out Weekend, from Feb. 1 - 7.)

Who knows? You may even get lucky, so be sure to use protection, because it's also National Condom Month. (And if that doesn't help you celebrate International Boost Self-Esteem Month, then nothing will.)

Of course, nothing could be worse than having your new girlfriend tell you she just wants to be friends, although celebrating International Friendship Week (Feb. 17 - 23) will ease the pain. Just tell yourself it's not your fault. At least not if she dumped you on Blame Someone Else Day (Feb. 13). But if you're still upset over your lost love, observe Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk Day (Feb. 11).

February is also a month for irony, because not only is it Marijuana Awareness Month, it's also National Care About Your Indoor Air Month. Something tells me those two associations don't spend much time in the same room.

With Marijuana Awareness Month comes a month of munchies, so it's a good thing February is Bake for Family Fun Month and National Cherry Pie Month. It's also National Pancake Week (Feb. 22 - 28), with the crowning day, International Pancake Day, on Feb. 24. The 12th is
National Plum Pudding Day, National Gum Drop Day is the 15th, and Chocolate Mint Day is the 19th.

When you're done buying all your ingredients, be sure to return the shopping carts to the supermarket, because February is Return Shopping Carts to the Supermarket Month. Does this mean we're allowed to keep them the other 11 months of the year?

Be sure you brush your teeth though, because February is National Children's Dental Health Month and National Pet Dental Health Month (just don't let your pets eat chocolate mints). If you don't take care of your teeth, Feb. 9 is Toothache Day.

Make sure you eat plenty of veggies and get your exercise too, because February is American Heart Month, and Women's Heart Week is Feb. 1- 7.

It's also Worldwide Renaissance of the Heart Month, a celebration that urges us to think with both our heads and our hearts. There's even a website that urges us – both men and women – to celebrate high tea on the second Sunday of the month, and discuss our heart's desires with
each other. (Mine is more pancakes.)

It's National Senior Independence Month, which celebrates the independence of older Americans. And since women tend to outlive men, February is also Spunky Old Broads Month, so ladies, raise a toast to your health, and don't take crap from anyone.

By this time of year, we're all getting a little tired of winter, so help drive it away on Hoodie Hoo Day. On Feb. 20 at noon, we're supposed to go outside and scream "Hoodie Hoo," because it chases away the winter and welcomes the spring.

This month also celebrates one of my favorite sports, Curling is Cool Day. And since I seem to have become a favorite of some New Zealand curlers, I'll be thinking of you guys on Feb. 23.

Finally, if all this partying and celebrating wears you out, just take a nap. Anywhere you want. Because Feb. 28 is Sleep In Public Day.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Warning: This Box of Eggs May Contain Eggs

I understand the need for safety and warning labels, but one British firm has taken things a little too far, by telling shoppers their eggs contain, well, eggs.

The Happy Egg Company, part of the Noble Food Company, has put a warning label on the inside lid of their 6-pack egg cartons that says, "Allergy Advice: Contains egg."

Daily Mail on Sunday food writer Tom Parker-Bowles (son of Camilla Parker-Bowles) said "It does get to the point when warnings go too far. We don’t need to be told a peanut contains nuts or eggs contain egg. Perhaps as a nation we should stop being so overexcited about the bureaucracy of everything. The company probably feel they need to cover their backs to escape the wrath of health-and-safety rules."

Happy Egg originally blamed supermarkets' labeling rules for their warning, but later said they did it on their own, after the supermarkets said they only require producers to comply with already-existing laws.

Sounds like somebody's got a case of the lawyers.

A spokesperson for the Food Standards Agency said, "Allergen advice has to be stated, but it can be anywhere, including in the ingredients list and in the name of the product. As long as the box says “eggs” that is sufficient. Companies just need to use common sense with their labeling."

Or include a special warning on their company headquarters, "Warning: May Contain Lawyers."

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New I'm a PC/I'm a Mac ad

I love LOLCats and their sister site, ROFLRazzi, a celebrities picture captioning site. I did these Tuesday.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Place Names That Make Me Giggle

My very first humor column ever was a 1,200 word complaint about the fact that I lived on Birdie Court, and had to endure the derisive snorts of my Guy friends, who would ask if I lived near KittyCat Lane. (No, I lived on a golf course, so I lived near Putter Place, Dogleg Drive, and Eagle Court. Manly, rough-and-tough Eagle Court.)

But that's nothing compared to the poor folks who live in Intercourse, Pennsylvania, Big Bone Lick, Indiana, or Penistone, England (pronounced, pennis-tun. Or so they say.)

I have written about towns with funny names in the past, but a recent article in the New York Times showed me there are way more funny cities, towns, and streets than I had ever heard of.

A further Internet search also introduced me to great towns like Crapstone, England; Humptulips, Washington; Issue, Maryland; Bucksnort, Tennessee, and of course, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base; Big Bone Lick State Park (just outside Union, Kentucky); and Flush, Kansas.

Or my personal favorite, Hell, Michigan.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Swedish Man Tries to Make Up With Girlfriend, But She Stabs Him in the Back. No, Seriously.

A 47-year-old Swedish woman is in a Swedish jail after she stabbed her Swedish boyfriend in his back with a Swedish knife. He is in Sunderbyn Hospital – in Sweden – and is in stable condition.

(Swedish is one of those words that starts to look funny if you say it too many times.)

According to a story in The Local, Sweden's English language newspaper, the couple had planned a romantic dinner as a way to smooth over a rough patch in their relationship.

The man cooked dinner and gave her several presents to show his love for her.

"But she didn't like them and ripped them up with a scissors. She was also critical of the food, and when he stood up to throw the food away she approached him from behind and stabbed him in the back with a knife," said police spokesman Yngve Hansson.

(If they were in Switzerland, I could do a really good joke about this guy and Swiss cheese.)

Apparently there was alcohol involved – I know, I was just as surprised as you are! – which means police were not able to question her, as she was "heavily under the influence of alcohol" when she was arrested. She is currently being held on charges of aggravated assault.

Swedish aggravated assault.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

President Barack Obama 'Offensive.' Sam's Club Says So

So there he was, minding his own business, doing his job at a Jacksonville, Fla. Sam's Club, when Shane Rhiles was asked to take his shirt off.

Why? Because a customer found the shirt – with President Barack Obama's face on it – offensive.

A story on Jacksonville's Channel 4 says that Rhiles was told by a supervisor that a customer didn't like the shirt, so he needed to go home and change.

"I was like, 'Is it that serious?'" Rhies told Channel 4. "She was like, 'Yes, because we don't need any problems.' I was like, 'Well he's the 44th president of the United States of America."

Overuse of "like" notwithstanding, it's out of line when a customer can claim to be offended by a t-shirt of our president. Especially when the shirt doesn't say anything offensive, depict anything offensive, or have anything offensive on it at all.

"He's our president – the first black president. This is an accomplishment for many people, so I didn't want to take the shift off and I wasn't going to take the shirt off," said Rhiles.

So instead, submitting to Wal-Mart/Sam's Club fascism and oppression of his First Amendment rights (see Correction below), Rhiles bought another shirt (I hope he got the employee discount), and wore it over the anarchic, chaos-inducing Obama t-shirt. Then he looked up Sam's Club dress code.

As far as t-shirts go, "associates may wear solid color T-shirts and denim shirts with logos as long as they do not contain messages that are offensive, crude or otherwise inappropriate."

So, either some bigot or die-hard Republican was offended by the face of our new president? Did someone not like the shirt, because it reminded them that their guy didn't win?

Since when is wearing the face of our country's leader on your shirt offensive? Would Sam's Club have done the same thing if McCain had won, and someone wore his t-shirt? (Or, more likely, his Bermuda shorts pulled up to his armpits.) If they're worried about people being offended by things in their store, then why do they sell Ann Coulter's books?

People in this country have an overdeveloped sense of entitled outrage. They think that just because they feel annoyed, they have to make life as difficult as they can for other people. If you don't like something, you're entitled to your feelings and your opinion. But you don't have the right to inflict your narrow-mindedness on someone else, just because you don't like what they think.

"His face is not offensive to me. I don't know if they may have a problem with it, but I think if you have a problem with his face, you need to reevaluate yourself because he's our president," Rhiles said.

Correction: I've had several people point out, both on here and on Reddit, that this is not a First Amendment issue.

It really isn't, and I actually know that. The only way it would be a First Amendment violation is if Sam's Club was the government or received federal or state funding, (e.g. a public university). Since they're not and don't, they can tell Rhiles to wear whatever they want.

I promise I did know this, but I was caught up in the moment of finger pointing and soapbox standing to notice. So, my apologies to the people who caught the error and I promise not to do it again.

Also, the point that was more interesting to me was not that Sam's Club made Rhiles take off the shirt, but that a customer found it offensive and Sam's Club didn't take the stance that, like it or not, Obama is our president, and our employee hasn't done anything wrong by recognizing that fact.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Former French President Jacques Chirac Attacked by Angry, uh. . . Tiny Dog

Former French president Jacques Chirac reminded the world why everyone makes fun of French people when he was taken to the hospital after being attacked by his Maltese, a tiny white breed of dog that doesn't get bigger than 5 - 6 pounds. (That's a file photo of the victim and perp, not a post-attack photo.)

The Chirac family says the dog, Sumo, is clinically depressed, and is prone to "frenzied fits." The dog is being treated with anti-depressants.

Over the last several years, the dog has become increasingly violent, and belligerent. The dog has reportedly been seen in the company of Paris Hilton's dog at clubs, or spending time with its disreputable friends. According to reports, this latest attack was unprovoked.

In a story in the London Daily Mail, Mrs. Chirac said, "The dog went for him for no apparent reason. We were already aware the animal was unpredictable and is actually being treated with pills for depression."

"My husband was bitten quite badly, but he is certain to make a full recovery over the coming weeks."
Full recovery? You make it sound like he received dozens of stitches, had a limb reattached, and will be in physical therapy for months. It's a freakin' tiny dog. One of the tiniest, most yippiest dogs in the entire world.

I know this, because we have one.

Mrs. Chirac declined to say where Mr. President was bitten. Although these dogs are so small, they can barely get a finger in their mouth, so I'm not too worried about President Chirac's injury.

His masculinity, on the other hand, is up for international debate.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Indiana's Official State Beverage is. . . Water?

Indiana's Official State Beverage is. . . Water?
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2009

We made food history last week when Indiana declared the Wick's sugar cream as its very own State Pie. I celebrated the event by having my wife tell me I couldn't eat any because of my cholesterol.

I'm a huge fan of sugar cream pie, and beg my mother-in-law for one every Thanksgiving. She tries to get out of it, saying it's hard to do correctly, and she's awfully busy with the rest of the Thanksgiving preparations blah blah blah.

Occasionally we'll compromise, and she makes a pumpkin pie instead – a proper pumpkin pie, not the kinds made with cinnamon, nutmeg, and construction adhesive. But I'm in ecstasy whenever the pie is sugar cream.

Although a lot of the media laughed at our exciting news, we're not breaking new ground. Three other states already have a State Pie, Florida, Louisiana, and Vermont. Although Louisiana's is actually a State Meat Pie, not a dessert pie. This makes them the only state to have a State Meat Pie.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts refuses to commit to a State Pie by having an official State "Dessert" (Boston Cream Pie) instead. But I have to give them credit: they also have a State Cookie and State Donut. The country's only State Donut, in fact, and only one of three State Cookies (Pennsylvania and New Mexico are the other two). South Dakota has a State Dessert (Kuchen), as does Missouri. Sadly, the Show Me State chose the ice cream cone, but did not show us a flavor. Wusses.

Oklahoma has brought shame upon itself by not taking a stand on anything. They only recognize State Menu Items, like they're America's cafeteria. To be fair, Oklahoma did list the pecan pie, but still called it a State Menu Item, which immediately disqualifies it from all historical pie consideration. To make matters worse, the Okie state has also declared the watermelon their State Vegetable, even though it is most definitely a fruit.

North Carolina got a little too specific by picking a State Red Berry (the strawberry) and State Blue Berry (the, uh, blueberry). Washington picked a State Tuber (Russet potato), and Georgia has the only State Prepared Food (grits).

I was very excited when I learned Indiana has its own state beverage.

I was very disappointed when I learned it was water.

Water? Our state beverage is freakin' water?! That stuff that falls from the sky? The stuff you find lying around on the ground? I'm not a big water fan, but I do understand the life-giving qualities that water brings. It's just, well, boring.

Muncie Star-Press features writer John Carlson recently wrote an article decrying our state's choice of such a unremarkable drink.

Nebraska picked Kool-Aid as its State Beverage. Wisconsin's is milk, Maine's is Moxie, a local flavored soda. Even Rhode Island picked Clamato as theirs. (Okay, they didn't, but they should have. Theirs is coffee milk.)

But water?! It's so commonplace, so everyday. It's the white bread of beverages. No other state in the Union has picked water as their state beverage. Several have even chosen no beverage instead of water.

Carlson thinks beer should be our State Beverage. I'm like milk, although I could make a strong argument for beer. A strong, loud argument where I think I'm funnier than I really am, and ends with me sleeping on the State Bed, my couch.

I fully support Carlson and other Hoosier bloggers who want the pork tenderloin named our State Sandwich. I also support Carlson to have onion rings named the State Vegetable, although my wife says it should be corn, otherwise I'll have to eat Florida's State Vegetable, Lipitor. Soy beans, Indiana's other vegetable, should be the state's official Hoax On the Culinary World.

Carlson also wants the State Pickle to be fried dill slices. (State Pickle? I love this guy!)

But water? Seriously?

The cardinal is our State Bird (as it is for Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West-By-God Virginia). "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away" is the State Song, and the peony is our State Flower. We even have a State Stone (limestone) and State Tree (tulip).

Yes, water helps the peony and tulip tree grow. The Wabash River is made of – you guessed it – water. And water even figures into the carving and shaping of limestone.

That doesn't mean we have to claim it as our State Beverage though. Why can't we pick something else with more character that reflects our Hoosier values and desire to have our own identity?

I'd even settle for Clamato.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

7 Things About Me for Smaller Indiana

I've been memed! I've been on the Interweb for several years, and even had to learn what meme was a few months ago, and realized I had never been memed. But my friend Kristie Bradford of Kristie's Creations tagged me in the new Seven Things About Me that's making its way around the Smaller Indiana social network,

1. I was born in Missoula, Montana while my dad was in the Ph.D. Program at the University of Montana. We moved to Muncie when I was 2, and I've never been back. I don't even remember what the place looks like.

2. I played French Horn from the 5th grade through my senior year in high school. I played cello for two years, guitar for three, and violin for one week. I gave up the French Horn when I went to college. I usually don't miss it, until I hear Ravel's "Bolero."

3. I played King Herod in my church's Passion Play in Syracuse, IN just a few months after I got married. My wife and I were the stage managers. I didn't want to be in the play in the first place, and when I read the part the second night of rehearsals, I thought I was filling in for a missing actor. When I was done, the director said, "I think we found our Herod!" The 30 or more people in the cast all shouted their agreement. You just can't say no to a bunch of Nazarenes who have made up their mind about something.

4. I have written three stage plays, none of which have been produced, and eight radio plays, six of which have been. I have also written over 700 humor columns without missing a deadline.

5. I get misty-eyed whenever I hear "Silent Night" during Christmas. This does not affect me at any other time of the year.

6. I have an undergraduate degree in Philosophy from Ball State University. In other words, a B.S. in BS from BSU.

7. I am a grammar snob, and gnash my teeth when people say "less" instead of "fewer," or "you and I" when "you and me" is correct. I also have a desperate need to be liked, so I never say anything to people who use poor grammar.

Rules are below. Enjoy!

Now my turn to continue:

Share seven facts about yourself in the post.
Link to your original tagger(s) and list these rules in your post.
Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
Let them know they’ve been tagged.
Put the list on your blog, if you have one.

I'm tagging:

Toni Deckers
Rae Kridel
Kevin Hill
Bill Smith
Milo Curtis
Dave Ambrose
Lisa Ralph

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

AllVoices for Writers: All of the Work, None of the Pay

Several months ago, after seeing a Harlan Ellison rant on YouTube where he said he considered blowing up a movie studio that asked him to do a DVD interview for free, I've been a strident opponent against writers being asked to write for free.

And I felt my blood pressure rise a little bit when I saw an invitation on LinkedIn to join allvoices, the open source media site for new writers.

You don't need any special qualifications. They're looking for writers, any writer, who has "Good English." Here are the qualifications:
Qualifications: Good English. Bloggers, part- time writers, students, professionals, journalists. Anyone who has an interest in writing and would like to earn through writing is qualified to sign up.
In other words, if you talk with good English, you can journalist for this here news sight. 4-real? OMG!

Puh-leeze. As one commenter to the invitation said, "The fact that I can add and subtract by no means qualifies me to work as an Accountant, but it appears that you only need to be interested in writing, not actually be good at it."

Well, it's not all bad. Allvoices offers an "incentive" to its writers. Wowie-zowie, a really-and-for-true incentive? With, like, real money?
Incentive: offers a unique incentive program for every member who signs up. For more information log on to
I checked out the website, and found how you can earn "cash up to $10,000!"
How To Get Paid

When you reach the first milestone of 10K pageviews, please submit the following:

1. Completed and signed tax form (only required once). Fax to xxx or email to xxx.
2. Write your Allvoices username and email on the bottom of your tax form.
3. We pay via check only. Checks are processed every 2 weeks.
In other words, if I can construct a complete sentence using "good English," and I get 10,000 people to look at a particular page, I'll get paid by a check. They don't say how much the check is for, but I'll get "a check."

So how big is this check? One cent? 10 bucks? How about that mythical "up to $10,000?"

Why won't they say how much it is? Do they not know? Do they not want to say? Is there really any money?

To make matters even, well, funnier, the person who posted the "invitation" also works for PETA. I debated whether to send her a link to my last PETA column on them calling fish "sea kittens." (I didn't.)

There's a general rule of thumb when it comes to writing: people who want you to write for free will never be in a position to pay you. If you don't mind writing for free – and I do it for selected outlets – then by all means, write for allvoices

But if you'd rather keep your dignity and respectability, hold out for a real writing gig for real money. I hear pays their bloggers 5 bucks a post.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Man Dies While Court Tries To Collect Bill. That'll Show 'Em

From the Taking Your Job a Bit Too Far files:

An investigation has been launched into whether a British debt collector accidentally killed Andy Miller, 78, in trying to collect a £60 ($90) debt.

According to a story in the London Daily Mail, Miller had suffered a heart attack and stroke that put him in a coma, back in November. As a result, he was overdue in paying a speeding ticket – a ticket he had planned to contest.

But because he was incapacitated, he wasn't able to contest the ticket, let alone communicate with family members. So magistrates in Blackburn added £290 ($420) in fines, bringing the total to £350 ($507), and ordered a debt collector to go to Miller's home.

The debt collector, with all the subtlety and care of a rabid badger, forced Miller into his car, and drove him to an ATM. Miller's family warned the bailiff that their father's health was poor, but their protestations fell on deaf ears. Miller had a heart attack and died right there in front of the ATM.

If nothing else, this put the bailiff in the awkward position of not being able to collect the fine either, so I hope Miller got the last laugh. I wonder how he filled out that report.

"Dad was put under incredible duress," Mick Miller told the Daily Mail. "I know how nervous he had been and what a strain this would have been on him."

Justice Minister Jack Straw has ordered an investigation into the matter.

This is what happens when uncaring martinets – a person who values strict adherence to the rules over human decency and even ethics – are given positions power and no latitude or even allowance to show some humanity when it's truly needed.

Let's hope the British courts and justice system give the bailiff and his supervisors as much leniency as they deserve, rather than as much as they showed Miller. And let's hope that Miller's family receives a fair and just compensation for the bailiff's negligence and bullying.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Bonfire Canceled, Man Arrested for Burning Trees Anyway

Salem, Massachusetts holds an annual bonfire to dispose of leftover and used-up Christmas trees, but they canceled it because of the weather. Joseph Richard Ferrante Jr., of Ipswich, Mass. didn't like the news, so he set them on fire anyway.

He has been charged with willful and malicious destruction of property.

The event was originally going to be held last Thursday, but the Salem Fire Department had the city postpone it to the following day because of high winds. Ditto for the next day too.

Ellen Talkowsky, special projects manager for Salem, told the Salem Gazette the city wasn't going to reschedule, because the weather will only get worse, and the legal burning season is coming to an end. Instead, the Department of Public Services will chip the trees, and use them for city trails.

Ferrante was arrested by local police, after a woman saw him standing near the pile, and later identified him after the pile burned.

According to the police report, "she observed the same male party running from the trees with a canister in his hands and observed that the trees were now on fire. The man jumped into his van and sped off."

The police were called, and an officer showed up to speak with the woman.

Here's the best part from the Gazette's story:
When a police officer arrived to speak with the woman, he saw the pile of trees “fully engulfed” in flames, although the fire department’s quick response spared some of the trees.
Yes, you read that right: the fire department's quick response spared some of the trees that were originally going to be burned.

I haven't heard anything this crazy since I read Catch-22. This ranks right up there with "we had to destroy the village in order to save it" as one of the most asinine statements ever.

Look, I'm all for recycling and putting old Christmas trees to good use, but, heroes or not, I don't think the fire department needs to spend a lot of money putting out a fire of something that was going to be burned to begin with.

And the Salem courts don't need to waste court time or resources, especially when Massachusetts is $28 billion in the red, and the city is facing some massive budget cuts.

Yes, he maliciously and willfully destroyed property, but I think the Salem court system should have to show how much monetary damage was done, and then decide whether they should burn through city money to prosecute him for a few bucks worth of burned dead trees.

They also shouldn't charge Ferrante for the fire department's costs, since the smartest – and most cost effective – thing to do would have been to let the pile burn. They can eat that cost themselves. Then they can explain to the taxpayers of Salem why they added to the budget deficit by putting out a pile of trees that were originally going to be burned in the first place.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

It's Not a Rickroll, It's a BarackRoll

Aussie video nut Hugh Atkin has some mad editing skills and some time on his hands to have come up with this little gem. I only just found it, even though it's 5 months old.

This past Thanksgiving, I wrote about how the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Rickrolled the entire country by having Rick Astley pop out of one of the floats and sang "Never Gonna Give You Up."

According to Wikipedia, the Internet's infallible authority on everything, a Rickroll is a practical joke where a person finds a link to something interesting and cool, like the Laughing Stalk blog, but the link actually goes to a Rick Astley video, usually the Never Gonna Give You Up video.
There's another video on Hugh Atkin's YouTube site about John McCain's RNC speech being Barackrolled, but it's not true.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Playing For Change: Stand By Me. Coolest. Thing. Ever.

My good friend Norma sent me this YouTube video of Stand By Me as a New Year's wish, and I just got around to watching it 16 days later. This has got to be one of the coolest musical productions ever. It was part of the Playing For Change film, which was actually part of the Heartland Film Festival here in Indianapolis. I reviewed a few of those films, but unfortunately, didn't get a chance to see this one. Until now.

Once you realize what's happening and how they made it, it'll give you chills. Simply awesome.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

PETA Wants New Word for Fish, World Rolls Its Eyes

PETA Wants New Word for Fish, World Rolls Its Eyes

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2009

Would you eat a kitten?

If People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had their way you would. They've launched a campaign to show the world how stupid they can be—I mean, to rename fish as "sea kittens."

Those crazy kids over at PETA want to improve the fish's image, and get us to stop eating them.

"People don't seem to like fish," says the PETA website, which features cartoon fish with kitten faces and whiskers. "They're slithery and slimy, and they have eyes on either side of their pointy little heads."

Pointy heads? Slimy? Are they talking about fish or lawyers? Besides, people like fish just fine. The small ones make great pets, and the big ones taste great grilled with some lemon and butter.

What about cat lovers? They'll be upset to learn that their little furry bundles of joy are now being equated with something that's slithery, slimy, and eats worms If you think a deranged animal rights activist is something to worry about, wait until you get a pissed-off cat lover narrowing its eyes and arching its back. I'd sooner stand between a mother bear and her cub.

And of course, PETA makes no distinction between the fish we eat and the fish that eat us. Are we supposed to call sharks sea kittens? Is sea tigers more appropriate? And what about freshwater fish? "Sea" means saltwater, so this presents its problems.

"(W)hat all this really means is that fish need to fire their PR guy—stat," they continue, ignoring their sexism. "(W)e're going to start by retiring the old name for good. When your name can also be used as a verb that means driving a hook through your head, it's time for a serious image makeover."

It's obvious the PETA people have never fished, since fishing doesn't mean putting a hook through a fish's head. That's called "baiting the hook." Fishing is the act of getting a fish to bite a hook to get it driven through its lip.

"And who could possibly want to put a hook through a sea kitten?"

Me, because then I can catch bigger sea kittens and eat them.

What does this new term do to our language? Will we change commonly used words and phrases, just to suit their misguided efforts?

Are we now sea kittening for compliments? Is the card game now called Go Sea Kitten? Will people drink like a sea kitten? Will Fishkill, New York now be called Sea Kitten Kill instead? And are catfish going to be called "cat sea kittens?"

And what about high school mascots? Apparently they're not safe either.

According to the Missoulian (Montana) newspaper, PETA even went so far as to write a letter to Whitefish high school principal Kent Paulson (and what were these letter printed on? Harvested and pulped "forest kittens?!).

"Neurobiologists tell us that fish have complex nervous systems that comprehend and respond to pain," they said. "Fish communicate and develop relationships with one another, show affection by gently rubbing against other fish, and even grieve when their companions die.”

If that's the case, then shouldn't I also catch the grieving spouse to help put an end to its misery. It's the only thing decent thing to do.

PETA has also asked Spearfish High School in Spearfish, South Dakota to change their name to "Sea Kitten High School." And they want Palm Beach Atlantic University to change the mascot from the fearsome Sailfish to, you guessed it, more sea kittens.

They have even gone global with their lunacy. John Cobb, Opposition party fisheries spokesman, is very unimpressed with the group.

"It is hard to take an organisation which wants to change the name of fish seriously," Cobb told the Australia News website.

But it was Whitefish school superintendent Jerry House who gave the best response. He told the Missoulian he thinks all of Whitefish, Montana should try the new name, although he likes White Kitten better, since the town is so far from the ocean.

“White Kitten High School, the White Kitten City Council, the White Kitten Fire Department," House said. "It has a certain ring to it, don't you think?”

In White Kitten, House says, criminals would be "arrested by the White Kitten Police Department, and taken to the White Kitten Jail, where you'll be treated with soft, furry paws and a purr of compassion.”

He also believes the town of Spearfish is taking the letter seriously.

“Of course they are,” he said. “After all, who wants to be on the hook for being insensitive to kittens?”

I love this guy's sense of humor. It's a real kick in the pants.

Sure beats getting a hook to the head.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cut to the Front of the Line? That's a Jailing

I love my hometown of Muncie, Indiana. It's the home of Ball State University, Jim Davis and Garfield, Muncie Central High School (8 state basketball championships), and David Letterman.

It's also the home of Edward Pluhars, Senior and Junior. These two were arrested on January 11 for cutting in line at the northside Wal-Mart. In front of a police officer. And then fighting with him. And hitting him with their van.

According to a story in the Muncie Star-Press, MPD officer Chris Kirby was in line at the service desk when Pluhar the Younger cut in front of him. Kirby told Junior to wait his turn, to which Junior refused.

Pluhar the Senior then told Kirby to mind his own business, and asked him if he would like to step outside for a few words.

According to the Star-Press, who feels the need to protect our Victorian sensibilities, Pluhar said he would "kick Kirby's posterior." (Yes, they actually said "posterior.") Pluhar also suggested he might shoot Kirby.

So Kirby stated factually that he was a police officer, and called for backup.

The Pluhars then fled the scene, and Kirby followed them out to the parking lot. The elder Pluhar managed to clip Kirby in the leg with his van, and the younger Pluhar thought a lame cop would be easy pickings, so the two fought. That's when the backup showed up, and arrested the two without any more incident.

I love Muncie. I spent my formative years there, and know every inch of the place. And there are several reasons I left. One of them is because it contains people who are likely to get arrested for cutting in line at a Wal-Mart.

Of course, you find that everywhere, so it's not like I've actually escaped anything.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gary, Ind. Mayor Rudy Clay Buys a Hummer for the City, Despite $36 Million Deficit

From the Unclear on the Concept file:

Gary, Ind. Mayor Rudy Clay wanted to do his best to stimulate the American economy, so he used city funds to buy a car for the Mayor's office.

So he bought an H3 Hummer. For $30,000. While his city has a $36 million deficit.

To top it off, Mayor Clay asked for a cap on property taxes for his city, which means the city will get less money than they need.

But Mayor Clay is not completely stupid. He realized the mayor of a city should have a vehicle. And he told Indiana's Distressed Unit Appeals Board (DUAB) as much.

"What do you want me to do, walk around here?" he asked the board. "I've got to have a car."

But a 2009 Hummer H3? The gas mileage on these things is measured in furlongs and liters. How is that financially responsible?

ayor Clay did point out that he got a $5,000 discount on the car, or it would have cost a lot more. Well, $5,000 more. Hey, Mayor Clay, that's some mighty shrewd dealing. Instead of wasting $35,000 of the city's money, you only wasted $30,000.

To be fair, Mayor Clay is paying for his own gas.

And it could be worse. "We're saving taxpayers money by riding in a Hummer," he told the DUAB. "I could have bought a $50,000 Expedition."

No, you could have bought a $22,000 Taurus that gets 28 mpg.

I think instead Gary will end up with a new mayor. Then we can save the taxpayers all sorts of money.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tina Fey Tells Haters to "Suck It" During Golden Globes Acceptance Speech

Back when newspapers were still popular, important, and relevant, there was a saying, "Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel."

Although the power of the Internet has given the ink to the people, the adage is still true: "Never pick a fight with someone who can spank you on national television."

During Tina Fey's acceptance speech, she said, "You can find a loooot of people who don't like you (on the Internet). And I'd like to address some of them now."

She then proceeded to tell three of her detractors to "suck it." Too funny.

Tina Fey 1, Haters 0. Plus 5 bonus points for doing it on national television.

Of course, there's that old ink by the barrel thing again, and DianeFan, Cougar-Letter, and BabsonLaCrosse all had something to say about Tina's little shout out.

The three commenters – or possibly two, since another message board writer says DianeFan and Cougar-Letter are the same person – are frequent message board writers on The Envelope column, hosted at the LA Times.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

School Board Removes Popular Math Teacher, Students Remove School Board

Students at Tioga high school in Groveland, California were so angry when their favorite math teacher was fired, they organized a recall campaign against the entire school board.

The Big Oak Flat-Groveland school board thought they were acting properly when they ousted Ryan Dutton over allegations of plagiarism. Dutton, a former punter for the Amsterdam Admirals (NFL Europe), was accused of copying from another student at Cal State Fresno while he was working toward his teaching credentials. He was also removed from his position as Tioga's baseball coach.

Cal State Fresno said the allegations were unfounded, but the board refused to reinstate him, claiming they were acting on "private information." So the students staged a one-day protest that shut down the school, and then continued on with the entire recall.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, the Groveland community is just a bunch of cranks:

School board President Lillian Cravens said the campaign to oust the board is in keeping with the community's quarrelsome style. Notorious for political bickering and personal rivalries, the district has run through seven superintendents in the last eight years and 15 school board members in the last five.

"These people are always fighting up here," she said. "They are always threatening a recall. This time they just followed through."

The school board will meet this week so they can receive officially receive notice that the town does not like them, and will soon come after them with pitchforks and torches.

The board actually has the option of calling the election itself, which would cause the vote to be done by mail, although it will probably be held on May 5, thus allowing the board an opportunity to back down and reinstate Dutton.

My guess is they're going to pull a Rod Blagojevich and stay in office for as long as they can.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

California Tangerine Growers Threaten Legal Action, Restraining Order Against Bees

California's tangerine growers are all abuzz over nearby bees who are – gasp! – pollinating their tangerine trees! They're complaining that California beekeepers are allowing their bees to use their citrus groves to do their dirty nasty business.

According to a story in the Associated Press, the citrus growers are complaining that the bees are causing their seedless tangerines to develop seeds.
So the tangerine growers have stamped their little feet and are threatening legal action.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture is actually in the process of writing regulations to cover the issues, which is great, except bees can't read.

Apparently, these new regulations will require beekeepers to register with the local agricultural commissioners by March 1, so citrus growers can keep track of hives within two miles of their groves.

If they find bees too close to their property, they can ask the beekeepers to move although the bee boys are not required to do anything. Looks like the regulations don't have any real teeth to speak of (bet you thought I was going to say "sting").

According to the AP, Paramount Citrus has already sent threatening letters to beekeepers near their Kern County clementine groves, saying they will seek "compensation for any and all damages caused to its crops, as well as punitive damages" if any seeds develop.

"We've tried talking to the bees, showing them educational videos, even providing them with little bee-sized maps," said Elwin Hightower, a local beekeeper. "But I don't think they're paying any attention to us."

All any defense lawyer needs to do is ask Paramount Citrus to prove which bees came from which growers. Assuming none of the beekeepers have branded their bees, or equipped them with GPS (or would that be BPS?), Paramount won't have a wing to stand on.

Unfortunately, this situation will only get worse before it gets better. Citrus growers are promising legal actions if the bees don't buzz off, but I won't be surprised if they start spraying chemicals to kill the bees. And since the world's bee populations are already suffering, this is the last thing we need.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Who Says There Are No Gay Animals?

Who Says There Are No Gay Animals?

I originally wrote this as a guest blog post for the Bilerico Project, a national LGBT blog.

"There are no gay animals!" someone once said to me during an argument a few years ago. A lot of conservatives trot this one out, thinking this proves homosexuality is a choice, and not a genetic predisposition. My opponent threw this one onto the table, thinking this would end the argument completely.

"Au contraire," said the zoo in Harbin, China, brandishing contradictory evidence like Van Helsing waving a cross at Count Dracula. Then they put their hand in front of their face and shouted "Face! Boo-yah!"

I had offered up a similar response at the time, but my own lowly opinion does not soar to the lofty levels of credibility of a Chinese zoo. Plus I didn't do the "Face!" thing. I really need to work on my debate skills.

According to a December 15 story in the London Daily Telegraph, a pair of gay male penguins were expelled by other penguins from their colony after they repeatedly stole eggs from other couples. So zookeepers gave them a couple eggs to look after, following some protests from animal rights activists.

Turns out they're the best parents in the zoo.

But these aren't the only gay penguins in the world. In 2005, German zoo keepers flew a couple of Swedish female penguins/swimsuit models to try to turn the male penguins, but without success. A little fish, a little wine, some Tom Jones on the stereo. . . nothing, The male penguins were permitted to "remain gay," after protests by gay and lesbian advocates around the world, and the Germans said "Nein!" to Vorschlag Acht (Proposition Eight), thus allowing gay poultry to marry.

In 2004, a pair of male penguins in the Central Park Zoo, Roy and Silo, also entered a monogamous relationship with each other, after zoo keepers performed a DNA test on the pair and discovered they were both male. The fact that the pair had been trying to hatch a rock for several months was another clue. The two were given a fertilized egg, and raised a female penguin named Tango. The story resulted in the children book, Tango Has Two Penguins. No seriously, it was called And Tango Makes Three, and it caused some controversy of its own around the country, when parents asked several school libraries to ban it outright, or at least move it to another section of the library.

But Roy and Silo's happiness was short-lived, after Silo left Roy and took up with a female penguin in 2005, although they supposedly broke up a year later. The two share custody rights with Tango, who is - no kidding - in a same sex relationship with another female penguin. Roy and Silo still bump into each other at art galleries, although meetings are generally awkward and uncomfortable.

(Scientific American has an extensive article on bisexual animal species.)

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Boys Basketball Practice - A One-Sided Conversation

Boys Basketball Practice - A One-Sided Conversation
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2009

"Okay, boys. Put down the basketballs, I want you to do some warmups, and then you'll do some layup drills. First, let's do some jumping jacks."

"No, Evan, hands go up when your legs spread apart. Make an X, and then make an I."

"No, an X. No—like this. Do you know what an X looks like?"

"I know you're six. That's why I figured you knew what an X looked like. Reese, don't be the Hulk during jumping jacks."

"No, the Hulk does not smash jumping jacks."

"Okay, boys, run one lap around the gym. Ready, set, go."

"No, Jack, the other way. Go the other way. There you go. Travis, Jacob! Quit shoving each other. Reese, don't smash Travis and Jacob. The Hulk doesn't smash his teammates."

"Okay, bring it in. Come here, guys. Let's do some — guys, come here now, please!"

"Let's do some layup drills. I need two lines. Buddy, you shoot the ball, Jacob, you get the rebound and pass it to Reese. Ready, set—Kevin, quit dancing around. Okay, Buddy dribble the ball. No, dribble it. Okay, now shoot. Shoot—aww, good try."

"Jacob, get your hands out of your pocket. Get the rebound. Great, now pass it to — no, Jacob, don't shoot the ball. No, don't dribble—ooh, Buddy, you're not supposed to tackle Jacob."

"That's right, Evan, that's only for football."

"Jacob, pass the ball to Reese. Travis, pull your shorts up."

"Because you don't pull your shorts down at basketball practice."

"Because there are girls on the other side of the gym. Reese, don't smash the ball. The Hulk does not smash a basketball."

"Evan, don't start showing off for the girls."

"Because they're, uhh. . . sure, Jacob, they're icky."

"No, boys, your moms aren't icky. They're women."

"Your mom is a what, Kevin?"

"Kevin, don't say that. Do you even know what that means?"

"I don't care if your dad said it, that's not what you should call your mother."

"No, I didn't know your mom left your dad."

"No, I didn't know she was living with your dad's brother."

"It's still not appropriate."

"Just because."

"That's the best answer you're going to get."

"Buddy, stand up. You don't need to sit down."

"Because we've only been practicing for five minutes."

"Now we've only got a few more minutes before we're going to scrimmage another team, so let's concentrate."

"No, I don't think we're going to cream them."

"Because I've been watching you kids play."

"Huh? No, I didn't say anything."

"I need five of you. Two of you can sit out for a few minutes, and then we'll sub you in."

"Buddy, Evan, Reese, Jack, and Jacob, you're starting. Put on these jerseys."

"Let's go, Panthers. Play some defense."

"Reese, stop guarding Evan."

"Because he's on your team."

"Okay, Panthers, pass the—Reese, don't smash the other players. You're not the Hulk."

"Buddy, don't guard that guy. We're on offense."

"Time out! Do you guys remember what offense means?"

"No, it's not what happens when you want to get down from a fence. It's when we're trying to score a basket. Offense tries to score, defense tries to stop the other team from scoring."

"Yes, you can dribble."

"Or pass it."

"No, you can't kick it."

"That's right, Evan, that's soccer."

"Okay, let's go, Panthers. Get out there and do your best."

"Nice pass, Jacob. Okay, Jack, let's — no, no, the other way, Jack. Our basket is the other way."

"Good shot, Buddy! Great job!"

"Halftime. Good job you guys. Kevin and Travis, why don't you guys take a break. Who wants to sit out?"

"You can't all sit out."

"No, we're not losing."

"Because the score's only two-two. We're tied."

"Five minutes. We're just doing a short scrimmage."

"Okay, Evan and Reese, you guys sit out for a while. Kevin and Travis, you're in."

"Everyone get your hands in here. Give me a 'Go Panthers' on three."

"No, Jack, you shout Go Panthers when I say three."

"Not that three."

"Not yet."

"First, I have to count to three."

"Not yet!"

"One, two, three. Go Panthers."

"No, three comes after four."

"Forget it. Just go out there and play."

"What's that, Mrs. Johnson? Just five minutes."

"No, it only seems like two hours."

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

When is a School not a School? When it's in England

Richard Caborn, a British MP (Member of Parliament) is wondering why the shiny new £4.7 million ($6,825,294) primary school is no longer being called a "school." Instead, they're calling it a "place of learning."

"We decided from an early stage we didn't want to use the word 'school,'" headteacher Linda "Dream Catcher" Kindgon told the Sheffield Star. "This is Watercliffe Meadow, a place for learning. One reason was many of the parents of the children here had very negative connotations of school. Instead we want this to a be a place for family learning, where anyone can come.

Negative connotations of "school?" How can there be a negative connotations of "school?" If anything, there is now a new negative connotation of "head teacher." As in, "Head teacher Linda 'Moon Unit' Kingdon is a politcally correct airhead."

"We were able to start from scratch and create a new type of learning experience. There are no whistles or bells or locked doors. We wanted to de-institutionalise the place and bring the school closer to real life," Kingdon said.

Hear that, thieves and vanadals of Sheffield? Watercliffe Meadow doesn't have any locks on the doors.

Councillor Andrew Sangar, Sheffield City Council's Cabinet Member for Children's Services and Lifelong Learning, told the Star, "It's a school, we consider it a school and that's how we refer to it."

I suppose you could let Watercliffe call themselves a dream factory if it made them feel better. But if the funding is only supposed to go for schools, then there's nothing in the budget for Meadows, Places of Learning, or Dream Factories. Tell them that and they'll become a school again.

If people have a negative connotation of school, it's the fault of the teachers, especially politically correct head teachers. If you don't want people to have a negative feeling about school, fix the school. Calling it something else doesn't change the feelings people have about it.

Because no matter what we call head teacher Linda "Mystic Harmony" Kingdon, I still have "negative connotations" about her.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Fighting Fire with Panties

I don't like to find humor in another person's tragedy, unless that person was evil, despicable, or a politician. But when that person can find humor in his or her own tragedy, well, I have to laugh along with them.

On my friend Cindy Hartman's blog, she has a guest post from J. Sewell Perkins, who describes what it was like to fight a house fire all by herself. In her panties, garter belt, and stockings.

During her half-naked adventure, she attracted quite the crowd, and her description of it made me laugh. However, I created the unfortunate mental image of the real firefighters also dressed this way, which did not.

The best line for me came after the fire was out, and the insurance adjuster ("professional tightwad") was at her house.
The proverbial straw came for me when I walked into one of the back bedrooms and witnessed the epitome of pettiness. There was the adjuster sitting on the floor going through a box of tampons. “What the heck (I didn’t say heck) are you doing?” I asked in the kindest voice I could muster. His reply? “Not all of these are damaged. I’m just trying to decide which ones are still usable.” You do not want to know how I responded to that.
I've never liked insurance companies anyway, but the idea that a male insurance adjuster would root around a box of tampons for usable ones shows me that 1) he just doesn't get women, and 2) insurance companies are horribly cheap. The money they were paying for his time could have been better spent just buying the poor woman a new box of tampons.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Karl Lagerfeld Justifies Wearing Fur with Bush Foreign Policy

"We have to get them before they get us," said slightly insane German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, in defending the wearing of fur.

Okay, he didn't say exactly that, but Lagerfeld did say that it's okay to kill "those beasts who would kill us if they could."

Hmm, where have I heard this before. . .? Oh yeah, it's George W. Bush's preemption doctrine he used when he wanted to invade Iraq.

Funny, I've never thought of mink, fox, and ermine as crazed animal killers who hunt humans. Sure, there are stories of pigs and mink who end up killing the very activists who freed them, but that's no reason to eat bacon.

The fact that it's meaty and delicious is the reason to eat bacon.

But despite his love for dead animal skin, the Fur F├╝hrer doesn't like to eat meat.

"I can hardly eat meat because it has to look like something what it was not when it was alive," he said in an interview on the BBC's Radio 4.

Surprisingly, Lagerfeld's "looks like something it was not when it was alive" feelings on meat don't seem to translate to his use of size zero models for his fashion.

Lagerfeld pooh-poohed the idea of using skinny people by saying, "In France there are, I think, less than one per cent of people who are too skinny. There are nearly 30 per cent of young people who are too fat. So let's take care of the zillions of the too fat before we talk about the percentage that's left."

Given Lagerfeld's belief that there are zillions of people on the planet, I'll take his one percent of too skinny people with a grain of salt. And some bacon.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Al Franken Leading Minn. Senate Race, Norm Coleman May Go Back On His Word

Former funny man and apparent Democrat Senator-to-be Al Franken looks to be in the lead in Minnesota's Senate race. The Saturday Night Live alum currently leads the race by 225 votes, and the state's Canvassing Board only has to certify the results on Monday to make it official.

Not so fast, Al. It looks like Republican opponent Norm Coleman may file a lawsuit to challenge the election results. He also has a petition before the state Supreme Court to include 650 votes that were improperly rejected, but not sent to St. Paul for counting.

Hmm, Norm Coleman. . . Norm Coleman. . . that name sounds so familiar. How do I know that name?

Oh wait, I remember. That's the guy who, when he was leading the recount, said if the tables were turned, he would step aside, even if the margin were a slim one.

I said back in November that Coleman wouldn't step aside if he were in Franken's shoes, and it looks like he hasn't. If Norm truly wanted to be a man of his word, he would do what he said he would. But instead, he would rather be a politician. I can't blame him, because it's a sweet gig. But still, don't say you would do something if you're not actually prepared to do it.

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

IRS Demands Their Five Cents, Reluctant to Pay Four Cent Refund

Detroit attorney James Howarth is one of few Americans who is both in trouble with the IRS and is being rewarded by them.

Last November, he received a letter from the IRS demanding the money he owed them, a whopping five cents. They even threatened him with additional penalties and interest if he didn't pay.

He then received a second letter saying they owed him money instead: four cents.

However, Howarth has to request the refund since it's less than $1. And apparently they won't pay any penalties or interest. What's good for the goose is not good for the gander.

"When I owe them a nickel, I must pay them. It's not optional," Howarth told the Associated Press. "But when they owe me, I have to ask for it."

When contacted by the media, IRS spokesman Luis D. Garcia said the agency doesn't comment on individual accounts. He then asked the reporter for his name and social security number.

What's especially stupid about this case is:
  • The IRS spent $.42 to send a letter asking for $.05.
  • They paid someone at least $14 an hour to look at Howarth's account, write the letter, and stick it in the mail.
  • They then paid someone else $14 an hour to reexamine the account, write the new letter, and stick it in the mail.
  • Now they're going to pay another $14 an hour, plus check printing costs, to examine the new letter, process it, cut the check, stick it in the envelope, and mail it. For another $.42.
Even if they only take 15 minutes per step, they're still spending $11.32 to give a guy $.04.

And if I were James Howarth, I'd ask for it.
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Saturday, January 03, 2009

Edna Jester, Football-Stealing Senior, Filing Lawsuit

You may remember Edna Jester, the 89-year-old woman who was arrested for keeping the neighbor kid's football after it landed in her yard.

Now she's filing a lawsuit against the neighbors, Paul Tanis and family, for the "emotional distress" of all the balls, Frisbees, and various junk landing in her yard.

"It's a very silly suit," Kelly Tanis told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "We haven't really seen or heard from Edna since any of this happened. And now what we have heard comes from her lawyer."

The lawsuit says that Paul Tanis and his children regularly enter Jester's yard to retrieve all sorts of objects that are flung carelessly into her yard, onto her porch, and against her house.

Kelly Tanis says it's not true, and that her children's outdoor activity has been severely curtailed because of Jester's earlier football theft back in October. She also said the two parties have only had contact with each other twice – once when Paul offered to continue mowing Edna's lawn, and once when he accidentally heaved another ball into her yard (they left it, and it was gone the next morning).

Kelly can't quite believe that such a little problem has turned into such a huge problem. I can't quite believe that a lawyer was willing to file an emotional distress lawsuit for balls landing on someone's grass.

"In reality, we worry," Kelly Tanis said. "We can't afford a lawyer. We have five kids. And you never know how something like this might turn out."

I said back in October that Paul shouldn't offer to mow her lawn anymore, although he did out of the goodness of his heart, after watching her struggle with her own lawnmower. I just never thought it would descend into a civil lawsuit. The Tanis family is worried about the lawsuit, and what it could do to their family financially.

Fight fire with fire, I say. Counter-sue her for the emotional distress of her repeated theft, for forcing the Tanis children inside, and tack on the charges of replacing all the balls and toys she has kept.

Or you could just jump out and say boo every time she goes out to get the mail.

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Lake Superior State University's Banned Words for 2009

Lake Superior State University's Banned Words for 2009

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2009

It's that time of year again. Or at least it was.

At the first of each year, I write about Lake Superior State University's List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness. This year is their 34th, and my fifth.

Each year, LSSU comes up with a list of words they would like to see banned from our language forever, or at least for the year. And for whatever reason, "it's that time of year" got the axe. But I happen to like it, so I'll be a maverick and keep on using it.

Or I would be if they hadn't nixed "maverick" as well. Re-introduced to our common lexicography by Sarah Palin during the 2008 presidential campaign, and then beaten to death by Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live, the word was used so much that ". . . even the Maverick family, who descended from the rancher who inspired the term, says it's being mis-used," Scott Urbanowski of Kentwood, Michigan said on LSSU's site. Meanwhile, Matthew Mattila of Green Bay, Wisconsin recommended a five-year banishment so it won't be used in the 2012 elections.

So what do we call people who do things that are unconventional, out of the mainstream, and maybe just a little weird? Are they a Palin?

But Palin and her husband Todd, Alaska's First Dude, have been relegated back to Alaska, except we can't call him the First Dude.

"Skateboard English is not an appropriate way to refer to the spouse of a high-ranking public official," said Paul Ruschmann of Canton, Michigan. Maybe not, Paul, but it beats calling Bill Clinton the First Player.

While the environment was a big part of the presidential campaign, people are getting tired of some of the eco-terminology, especially "green." Even the variations of green, like "going green," "green building," and "greening" made people see red.

A lot of companies claim to be going green. From "greener" SUVs that get 20 miles per gallon instead of 16, to "green" computer servers that only uses 10 megawatts of power instead of 12, to "green" McMansions that are thousands of square feet in size and cause the neighborhood lights to flicker whenever they fire up the air conditioning.

You would think that someone like Tom Friedman, author of "Hot, Flat, and Crowded," a book on the perils of man-made global warming and owner of the now-famous 11,000 square foot mansion in Maryland, would want to offset his carbon footprint. But, alas, he can't, because "carbon footprint" and "carbon offsetting" have been chopped down as well. That, and his house is the size of five-and-a-half regular homes.

Regardless of LSSU's feelings toward environmental terms, you're probably on a desperate search to find a way to help the environment. Or you would have been, but "desperate search" has been told to get lost.

"Every time the news can't find something intelligent to report, they start on a 'desperate search' for someone, somewhere," said Rick Hyatt of Saratoga, Wyoming. Hey Rick, if it wasn't for desperate searches, Nancy Grace's "news" show would be canceled.

"Bailout" also got canceled. People are sick of the term, partly because they hear it all the time, and partly because it was only Ford, GMC, and Chrysler who benefited from it. (And Chrysler who managed to squander a lot of it, what with nearly $1 million in full-page newspaper ads thanking America for its "investment" in their company.)

"Don't we love how Capitol Hill will bailout Wall Street, but not Main Street?" asked Derrick Chamberlain, Midland, Michigan.

Apparently, you can't swing a dead cat on Main Street or Wall Street without finding some politician who uses the verbal parallel ad nauseam, which means you can't swing another dead cat without finding an LSSU Laker who banned Wall Street/Main Street too.

"I know that with the 'Wall Street' collapse, the comparison is convenient, but really, let's find another way to talk about everyman or the middle class, or even, heaven forbid, 'Joe the Plumber,'" said Stacey of Knoxville, Tennessee.

Astonishingly, Joe the Plumber did not make LSSU's list. I was personally tired of hearing that name day after day during the presidential campaign. Apparently so was Joe, because he went so far as to skip out on a campaign appearance with John McCain.

Did he even like McCain? Apparently not so much.

Surprise, surprise, LSSU doesn't like "not so much" so much either. It's used too much to be of much use, although I happen to like it. One contributor said it's a favorite of "snarky critics and bloggers."

Snarky? I'm not snarky.

I'm a maverick.

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

British P.E. Teacher Fired for Wearing Sneakers to Teach

From the Unclear On The Concept files:

Adrian Swain, an East London PE teacher was fired – the week before Christmas, no less – for wearing a tracksuit and sneakers to school, something he had done for the past 30 years. He was fired by the acting head teacher, Lorraine Page, who decided he was in violation of the school dress code.

According to an article in the London Daily Mail, the school's local education authority has supported the firing, because teachers "should not wear clothing children are not allowed to wear themselves." Never mind that a track suit and sneakers are generally accepted clothes for PE teachers, just like gym uniforms and sneakers are generally accepted clothes for PE students.

However, if the children aren't allowed to wear them, what are they wearing to PE class? School uniforms and black patent leather shoes? Sounds like an injury and lawsuit waiting to happen.

Of course, Swain may not be completely sacked. His fellow teachers at the comprehensive school, St. Paul's Way of Tower Hamlet, are threatening to strike if he is not reinstated.

The school dress code was imposed by Page, the acting head teacher (acting (adj.) Temporary, not permanent. Won't be around for long. Don't get too comfortable).

Apparently, Page has since left her post, just a couple short weeks after the whole brouhaha started. Guess they weren't kidding about that temporary thing.

All of which makes me wonder how seriously Page's Draconian rules should be taken. She created a rule as part of a job she won't keep, she fired a guy who has been teaching since Diff'rent Strokes first aired, and then she's gone less than two weeks of canning the guy. Makes you wonder if she was already on her way out, or if this little incident sped things up a bit.

But it ain't over yet. Professor Margaret Talbot, OBEthat's Order of the Freakin' British Empire – and CEO of England's Association for Physical Education has even weighed in, saying that Swain shouldn't have been given the boot.

"While teaching, PE teachers obviously need to wear appropriate dress. My personal view is that all teachers should be dressed in a professional manner to go to school. On the other hand I don't think it's a sackable offence," said Dame Talbot (that's what they call female members of the OBE – Dame, not Talbot).

Now, if you've got a member of the OBE saying the guy shouldn't be fired, you really need to reconsider before a bunch of royal Crusaders go medieval on you and storm your battlements. That, and a whole mob of pissed-off teachers who won't be teaching if Swain isn't reinstated.

Swain said he has a final appeal next semester. I predict he'll be back, smelly sneakers firmly adhered to both feet.

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