Saturday, February 28, 2009

Florida Bait Shop Fined for Displaying US Constitution

When Herb Quintero, owner of the Complete Angler, painted a game fish on his store, Clearwater, Fla. officials fined him for violating a ban on businesses that display a depiction of the product it sells.

So when they ordered Quintero to paint over it, he covered it with a banner instead. A banner that had the text of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution on it.

Quintero is now facing a $500 a day fine instead, instead of the $700 total he was already facing because the last thing Clearwater sign code enforcement officials like is a smartass. (Benito Mussolini is smiling from his special place in Hell.)

Now the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the city of Clearwater in federal court for violating Quintero's First Amendment rights.

“Only in Florida could a business owner be targeted and fined for displaying artwork; and then in protest of the fine, display the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution—and then be ticketed for that,” Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, told the St. Petersburg Times.

City officials said they were only enforcing their strict -- some might say unreasonable. No? How about Draconian? Nazi? Fascist? -- rules and weren't concerned about the content of the sign.

What about ironic? Failing to grasp the message? Idiotic? Unconstitutional?

I know. "Soon to change."

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Deckers Family, Inc. 2009 Annual Report

Deckers Family, Inc. 2009 Annual Report

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2009

To: All members of Deckers Family, Inc.
From: President Daddy
RE: Yearly Evaluation Report

Dear Employees of DFI:

Based on a series of miscalculations, scheduling conflicts, and the fact that I can't think of another topic for this week's column, I am pleased to file my Yearly Evaluation Report for the Deckers Family, Inc.

My last report was in May 2008, which not only makes this the second year in a row for filing the report, but I'm even two months ahead of schedule. All things considered, this a dramatic improvement, and a prime indicator of the organization's perseverance and never-say-die attitude.

(Assistant Manager of Daughter Operations, please consult Appendix A for an extensive list of other "never-say" words and phrases.)

This year's report comes on the heels of yet another move for DFI corporate headquarters. After another round of downsizing our corporate tangible assets, including my special leather easy chair, we are now able to fit into a much smaller space. This has saved us both on overhead and storage costs. I am generally pleased with the overall appearance of our new headquarters, although a smaller space means it sometimes becomes easily cluttered. However, this has also made cleanup and maintenance much easier too.

Plus, I miss my chair.

Continuing on this train of thought, the offices of the junior staff continue to be a concern. Regular maintenance is almost nonexistent, and CEO Mommy and I have been forced to conduct weekly evaluations of your offices, and at times, been forced to assist you in cleanup and organization. Last year, I said I may move some of your belongings to the Automotive Storage Unit (ASU) if improvements were not made. As you have seen, that has become necessary, given our smaller footprint. And while the ASU may be full, let me assure you that President Daddy has an uncanny knack for finding space for extra boxes.

One of the features of our new headquarters is both a benefit and a drawback. Since we are renting space in a family headquarters complex, there is no need for Exterior Facilities Management. While this will be a benefit during the hot summer, this marks the first time in nearly 16 years that I have not been able to personally oversee DFI's maintenance. While I appreciate the break from the responsibilities, old habits die hard, and I may consider providing the occasional outsource EFM services to President-Emeritus Deckers to maintain my skill level.

(Special note to President-Emeritus Deckers: this statement does not constitute a forward-looking contractual obligation or a pro bono offer. I will expect the occasional business lunch as payment for the aforementioned services.)

It is CEO Mommy's and my fervent hope that a proposed final move of the family headquarters to a permanent location will not only afford us more space, but will allow me the opportunity to resume the Exterior Facilities Management operations by the fall. We will keep you posted on our progress in this area.

I am pleased to report that our Coordinator of Son Operations has completed his final training, and has been equipped with standard-issue "Big Boy Underpants." It is our hope that he will soon be able to fully manage his overnight responsibilities without direct supervision or intervention.

As I wrote in last year's report, we were saddened by the departure of our two Co-Chiefs of K9 Security Chief Hannah and Chief Macy. At that time, I was hesitant about a possible replacement, and expressed concern that most of your desired candidates did not have the requisite size to serve as Chief of Security.

While DFI often functions like a democracy, I would like to remind all of you that it is not, despite what CEO Mommy says. And so I have grave concerns when the junior staff seems to think that "Daddy's just being Daddy" about certain issues, and my wishes can be dismissed.

I'm speaking specifically about the hiring of Chief Sophie, the five pound maltese-poodle "dog." Personally, I wanted a new chief from the Beagle placement agency, but I was overruled.

As I predicted, Chief Sophie has a bad habit of "leaving evidence" on the kitchen floor, like her predecessors. While I understand that new recruits often have this difficulty, I have, on two separate occasions, stepped in a puddle of said evidence in my socks.

Overall, we have seen some major improvements here at DFI, and I have been very pleased with our company's performance. Please continue to put forth your best efforts, as I know you can, and I look forward to your continued cooperation in keeping Saturdays as the official sleep-in day for President Daddy.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Embarrassing Celebrity Ads in Other Countries

You gotta love the Internet. Without it, we wouldn't know about dancing babies, Christian Bale's a-hole rant on a movie set, or Nick Cage's weird Sankyo Pachinko commercial from Japan. just posted an article on 8 humiliating celebrity ads, including Sylvester Stallone selling ham and sausage, a 1980s John Travolta pumping iron for Tokyo Drink, and Paul Newman winking and pointing for Maxwell Blendy. My favorite is Brad Pitt, in a bad Italian accent, demanding people look at his ass in his Edwin jeans.

Many American celebs who won't do commercials in the U.S. because it cheapens their image will think nothing of accepting a few million bucks to embarrass themselves in a foreign country, because they thought no one would see it. But now, thanks to YouTube and an increasingly snarky U.S. population, these never-before-seen videos are now available for our pointing and laughing.

So check out the article and have a good laugh. It's oishi!

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Indianapolis Children Faces Peanut Allergy Peril (sort of)

Last week's column, British Supermarket Bans Girl's Balloons, was about Tesco supermarket, a store that won't allow balloons into their locations. This year, it was an excuse that a helium balloon could block a fire sprinkler. Back in 2007, they told a clown, Barney Baloney, that latex balloons could cause allergic reactions in some kids (assuming they rubbed themselves all over with said balloon for several hours).

The problem was Tesco just seemed to be making this up as they went along, rather than having some addle-minded corporate ass-covering definitive policies in place after the first time they ran into this.

This all reminded me of a sign I saw at one of my new favorite hamburger places. (I won't name them, because they make awesome hamburgers, and I'd hate for them to ban me.)

This restaurant offers free peanuts for people to eat while they wait for their burgers to cook, but they don't want people taking them out of the store. Why? The sign says they might come in contact with kids in the neighborhood who have a peanut allergy.

Yeah, right.

This store is in a commercial area, where the only way to get to it is by car. Even if there really were kids in the neighborhood who had a peanut allergy, unless they're all congregating around my car, there's no way they're going to get sick.

I can understand not wanting people to make off with 5 pounds of peanuts after they've finished eating. That's fair enough. But don't insult my intelligence by making some dumb excuse that kids who live a half-mile away are going to suffer raining fiery hell from a peanut in my car.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

School Gives Kid a Timeout, Parents Give School a Lawsuit

Child psychology experts tell parents not to spank their children, but to use timeouts instead.

Helicopter parents who over-pamper their children tell schools not to give their kids timeouts, or they'll sue them instead.

Parents of a Greenfield (Wisconsin) Middle School girl filed a legal claim against the school for $50,000 because they put their precious daughter in a timeout room. They say the timeout caused her to "hyperventilate and feel nauseous."

Because, as we all know, hyperventilation and feeling nauseated (not nauseous. Get with the program, Journal-Sentinel.") is worth 50 grand.

Since when is a stress-related stomachache the problem of the school? If the girl has stress-related issues with being disciplined for acting out, then the parents should look at 1) themselves and the environment they've created, and 2) that's it. The problem starts and ends at home.

The suit also says a teacher allowed students to "commit a battery" against the girl.

Without knowing what the particular battery is, I would hazard a guess that most teachers won't let students abuse another student. But given that the girl's parents think a stomachache and heavy breathing is worth $50,000, the battery is probably name calling or funny looks.

However, if it's anything worse than that, like bullying or hitting, then I'm with the parents on this one.

"I'm confident that the district has acted in an appropriate manner and will continue to do so," Conrad Farner, Greenfield schools superintendent, told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

The suit was filed by attorney William Rettko, who seems to be hoping for a settlement.

"The ball, frankly, is in the school district's court," he told the Journal-Sentinel.

If the district rejects the family's greedy scrabbling -- which I hope they do -- the family could file a full-fledged lawsuit.

I'd hate to see what happens if the family loses.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

The Thrill of Curling, The Agony of Obscurity

In honor of Curling Is Cool Day (see my recent column, Odd February Holidays), I'm reposting a column from 2006, when I wrote about curling as part of my coverage of that year's Winter Olympics, when I discovered curling for the very first time. The column netted me several readers in New Zealand who are nuts about the sport of curling.

Indianapolis also has its own curling club, the Circle City Curling Club.

The Thrill of Curling, The Agony of Obscurity

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2006

In the past few weeks, I made an astonishing personal discovery, one that I never thought would ever happen in a million years: I think curling is an exciting sport.

That's right, curling.

For those of you who missed the Winter Olympics, curling is that sport where they slide smooth round rocks down a rectangular ice court (called a "rink"). The sport is noted for the precision and skill at which it can make millions of Canadians scream in delirious ecstasy.

Each rock is aimed at a ring of circles (also called the "house"), similar to an archery target. As each player slides ("delivers") a stone, two other players sweep the ice with brooms in front of the moving ("running") stone to help it travel with more speed and momentum ("curl").

The object is to bump out as many of your opponent's rocks while leaving your own rocks in place. Whoever has the most rocks closest to the center of the house (called the "tee") at the end of a round (known as an "end") wins that number of points. The team with the most points at the end of ten "ends" is the winner ("winner, eh.")

My own fascination is, unfortunately, not something that I can talk about very easily. There's still a stigma in the United States that curling is not a sport, and is something to be scoffed ("laughed") at. Oh sure, there are fans ("weirdos") of curling in the US, but they all live within 10 miles of the US-Canadian border, which means they're often viewed with suspicion ("dirty Commies").

I was at a business function ("beer write-off") a few days ago where I was talking to another Guy about curling. We both agreed that it was a cool sport to watch, and was actually pretty exciting at times.

"Curling?" asked a woman ("non-Guy") standing nearby. "How is curling exciting?"

We stammered out an embarrassed explanation ("we watch it for the articles") that completely failed to explain the attraction of the sport. The fact that the US Men's Curling Team won a bronze medal in the Winter Olympics meant nothing to her. Even the news that team captain ("skip") Pete Fenson also owns a pizzeria ("my hero") also failed to impress her.

Then I stumbled on an explanation that seemed to satisfy her: "It's like chess on ice."

"Oh, chess! That makes sense then. I guess that is pretty cool," she said, as if chess is somehow more intense and exciting than people heaving 44 pound rocks down a slab of ice while sweeping madly in front of it. I could tell that she not only thought curling was still stupid, but that chess was actually more exciting.

"How many chess players own pizzerias?" I challenged her.

"Chess isn't even in the Olympics," said the other Guy, who was now my new best friend.

The woman admitted defeat ("gave up in exasperation") and quietly departed ("went to find people less weird").

The problem curling faces in the United States as that it's not as dramatic ("violent") as other sports and it doesn't lend itself to the same kind of human interest stories about overcoming adversity ("my broom broke").

Now don't get me wrong, I still love my football. I'll watch a bad football game ("Browns vs. Raiders") before I watch any other so-called sport ("golf"), no matter who's playing. However, I've found that even after the Olympics are over ("shut up, Scott Hamilton"), I still crave curling. I read about it, I visit curling websites, and I've even tried to find a curling club in Indiana (official motto: "If it ain't basketball, we don't play it."). But until I actually have a chance to experience curling, I'll have to content myself with the occasional curling tournament on ESPN 2 ("tennis reruns").

One of my dreams as a humor columnist is to start enjoying the same perks as Dave Barry ("boogers are funny"), who would write about certain people or activities, like opera, fighter planes, and synchronized broom drill teams. He would then be invited ("all expenses paid") to participate in that particular activity, so he could write about it some more ("sell out for cheap laughs").

My ultimate goal is that Pete Fenson will be so impressed by my new found interest ("obsession") with curling that he'll invite me up to Minnesota for a chance to watch him and his team practice for an upcoming tournament. Maybe he'll even let me slide a few rocks with them so I can see what it's like.

I like pepperoni, sausage, and extra cheese, Pete ("shameless pandering").

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Legal Loophole for Leased Cars and Red Light Cameras

As much as I hate and detest governmental and legal writing, there are times the specificity of the language is important.

Like in Cleveland, Ohio, where a court ruling about red-light and speed cameras could spell trouble for the city. There's a loophole in the code section big enough to drive a leased car through. At least that's what attorney Blake Dickson found out.

The code says that the "owner of the vehicle shall be eligible for the penalty." However, if you lease or rent a car, you're not the owner.

Cleveland attorney, Blake Dickson, whose law firm leases cars, appealed a ticket by the camera.

"I think the lessee of the vehicle is not liable under this Cleveland code section," Dickson told NewsNet5, Cleveland's ABC affiliate.

He appealed to Ohio district court and won because the code only targeted the owners of cars, not lessees or renters.

"Somebody made the argument until this is changed, every owner has an argument because it's an unequal situation because there's not equal protection under the law," Dickson said.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

HP Sauce: Weapon or Condiment?

British police officers were rushed to the hospital after coming in contact with something brown and with an "unusual smell."

London's Metropolitan Police said a couple of officers in Enfield, North London were investigating reports of a heinous smell coming through a car window. The officers who came into contact with the substance were taken to the hospital.

The sauce was later identified as HP Sauce, a British brown sauce similar to Heinz A-1 steak sauce, an American brown sauce that has had fewer police health scares.

I used to enjoy HP Sauce with my fish and chips when I worked at Fionn MacCool's, an Irish pub in Fishers, Indiana. It's not my favorite, but I learned to enjoy it.

A police spokesman told the BBC: "Officers who came into contact with the substance were taken to hospital as a precautionary measure."

They were released with a side of chips and pint of lager.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bad Manners in Public? That's a Clubbing

A lack of manners in one man, and a sarcastic attempt to teach them by another, led to a golf club attack on a 50-year-old Falmouth, Mass. man by an irate d-bag with anger issues.

According to the Cape Cod Times, Carlos Navarro was at a Hess gas station in Falmouth, when the victim held the door open for Navarro. When Navarro failed to say thank you, the other man sarcastically said "thank you." That's when Navarro decided to share his passion for golf with the man.

Navarro told the police he felt insulted, and the two began to argue. Police said Navarro "allegedly" retrieved a wooden golf club from his car, and whacked the 50-year-old man in the stomach and legs.

The unidentified man received only minor injuries, and Navarro was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and failing to yell "fore" before swinging. He is scheduled to appear in court on March 31.

I'll bet he learns his manners in prison.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

British Supermarket Bans Girl's Balloons

British Supermarket Bans Little Girl's Balloon

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2009

British supermarket chain, Tesco, is in the news for not allowing a helium balloon into their store. Again.

Alex Pearson, a nine-year-old girl, had been given a helium balloon while she was eating lunch at a local restaurant. She walked with her mother to the Tesco store afterward, enjoying her balloon, and looking forward to spending some of her own money there.

I remember when I was that age, spending my own money was a huge deal. It made me feel special, so I can imagine how she felt.

But little Alex – sweet, cute widdle Alex who onwy wanted to spend her vewwy own money to buy a nice pwesent – was told by a big, mean security guard that she wasn't allowed to bring her balloon into the store.

It's a health and safety risk, the security guard said.

"Health and safety risk" is a term British bureaucrats like to trot out when they can't think of a good explanation for their idiocy. It's like when American bureaucrats (and my fourth grade teacher) say "if we let you do it, then we have to let everyone else do it." It's a slogan for the drones who don't like to use the remaining 98 percent of their brain.

It's how the Tesco drones justify not letting balloons into the store, even though they sell bags of them.

Alex's mother, Marion, had tied the balloon to Alex's wrist to keep it secure. Not good enough, said the guard. It's "company policy."

"Some idiotic reason about security," said Marion.

Alex didn't understand why she couldn't bring her balloon. So Marion told the security guard to explain it to Alex.

"He couldn't even look her in the eye," she told the London Daily Mail. "I think he was too embarrassed."

Since Alex didn't want to let her balloon go, the Pearsons left. Marion has promised to never shop at Tesco again.

It turns out, balloons can be used as weapons and instruments of torture. They have been used to hold up stores and banks, kidnap entire families, and cause political unrest. Back in 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was killed by a helium balloon, which ultimately led to World War I.

No, seriously, it's because Tesco thinks they're a fire hazard.

A Tesco spokesman peeked out from behind the skirts of bureaucratic logic long enough to offer this poorly reasoned explanation.

"Unfortunately (balloons) were getting trapped on the ceiling and blocking the sprinkler system, and they are pretty difficult to retrieve," said the unnamed Bureaucratic Spokes Unit. "The managers decided to use their discretion. There is not a set policy on helium balloons at the store. It's just common sense really."

No, this is the exact opposite of common sense. It's 540 degrees from common sense – it's not just 180 degrees from it; this one is so far from common sense, it actually went around one-and-a-half times from it.

Common sense is understanding that restaurant helium balloons deflate by the next morning, and you can pick them up off the floor when the store opens. Common sense is understanding that if the water pressure from the sprinkler system is strong enough to put out a fire, it's strong enough to push a four gram balloon out of the way. Common sense is understanding that if a security guard can't explain a policy to a 9-year-old girl without feeling embarrassed, there's something wrong with the policy.

Of course, this isn't the first time Tesco has taken issue with helium balloons. Back in August 2007, I wrote about Barney Baloney, a children's clown whose five hour gig at a Tesco supermarket was ruined when they said he couldn't use balloons in his act. Back then, a Tesco Bureaucratic Spokes Unit said, "We have banned balloons because latex is used in the manufacture of them and this can trigger an allergic reaction in some children."

That's different than what the other Spokes Unit just said. A lot different.

Back in 2007, Tesco was worried about children having allergic reactions to latex, which is asinine, since anyone with an allergy would have to rub themselves with balloons for hours to get anything more than mild skin irritation. Now, Tesco is telling us they have a poorly-pressurized sprinkler system that can't push a balloon out of the way during a fire.

I suppose the bureaucrats are only doing their jobs, remaining ever-vigilant, knowing they are all that stand between its customers and horrible, fiery death.

Or a bunch of itchy kids. I can't be sure.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

New Legal Maneuver May Temporarily Stop Foreclosures

Kathy Lovelace of Zephyrillis, Florida was a few weeks away from losing her house to foreclosure, until she stopped the bank dead in their tracks.

She asked the bank to show her the original mortgage paperwork.

That did it. They stopped sending letters, stopped the procedure, stopped everything.

According to a story in the Associated Press, homeowners like Lovelace are throwing a wrench into the banks' plans to take their house by asking to see the original note they signed.

The banks created the mess by selling and reselling mortgages, which were bundled into securities, and sold again to investors. As a result, the original loan note was stored in some warehouse, has been lost, or was destroyed.

It's a legal maneuver that's driving the banks crazy.

"I'm going to hang on for dear life until they can prove to me it belongs to them," Lovelace told the AP. "I'll try everything I can because it's all I have left." Lovelace owns a $200,000 home near Tampa, Florida.

It basically involves getting a judge to make the banks produce the note. The banks have to delay the foreclosure until they can find it. This gives the homeowner some time to find a new option, or get the bank to renegotiate the mortgage.

Chris Hoyer is a Tampa lawyer whose Consumer Warning Network website has free court documents homeowners can use to file their request with the judge.

While the request is not always successful, those homeowners who manage to win it can stop the banks in their tracks for a while. Who knows what will happen if a bank is not able to produce the note at all though.

And since some banks have been more than a little eager to foreclose, and many refused to help homeowners a couple years ago when this first began emerging as a problem, I get a warm feeling of schadenfreude all over when I hear about banks being forced to play by the same rules they hid behind when they refused to renegotiate mortgages for thousand so homeowners.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lamb Head-Butted Golden Eagle

Apparently, some Scottish lambs can be quite aggressive, says the 10th-ever Outer Hebrides Bird Report.

In other news, there have been nine other Outer Hebrides Bird Reports.

One lamb was seen head-butting a golden eagle, Scotland's second largest bird of prey (the sea eagle is first), at Baile Ailean on the Western Isles of the Outer Hebrides.

A headbutt is also known as a Glasgow Kiss in Glaswegian slang. It's a common fighting method by many Scots men, although I would think you have to be pretty desperate, or crazy, to think your forehead would make a great weapon. However, I've been smashed in the face by my then-4-year-old, breaking my glasses, so I understand its effectiveness.

The 240-page report, funded by Scottish Natural Heritage, said defensive action is not uncommon. Older sheep, including pregnant females, will often headbutt enemies and predators; lambs and adult sheep will headbutt as part of their play, or to show dominance. They also drink lager and love the Bay City Rollers.

The Outer Hebrides Bird Report studies the types of birds, their movements, and behaviors throughout the year. Records are kept by ornithologists, birdwatchers, crofters (farmers), fishermen, and tourists.

In America, we call these people Star Trek fans.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Australian Ambulance Drivers May Learn Verbal Judo

This past Saturday (February 14), two Australian paramedics had to lock themselves in their ambulance, after being attacked by 40 punks with golf clubs and cricket bats.

The drivers escaped unhurt, but to avoid future incidents like this, the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) said they would arm their drivers and train them to defend themselves.

No, I'm just kidding. They're going to train them in the fine art of "verbal judo." Because everyone knows that the best way for two unarmed ambulance drivers to face down an angry mob of armed teenagers is with logic and linguistic cleverness.

QAS commissioner David Melville told Australia's "There's a number of options we're looking at with self-defence training, and an emphasis on de-escalation and communication skills rather than actual physical self-defence."

Melville said paramedics might benefit from the "verbal judo" techniques used by Australian cops.

Paramedics will be trained in techniques including processing feelings, emergency patient psychology, and "I know you are, but what am I?"

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Never Pick a Fight With Someone Who Has No Need for Ink

From the "You Know We Can Hear You, Right?" files:

There's an old newspaper adage that says "Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel."

In the 21st century, that has changed to "Never pick a fight with someone who has no need for ink." Or who'll get your outburst publicized on the Interweb.

The (Canadian) National Post Reporter David George-Cosh got into an F-word filled pissing match with marketing pro April Dunford. Actually, April stayed pretty calm and level-headed, so George-Cosh just ended up getting himself wet.

It started when George-Cosh (@SirDavid on Twitter) called April Dunford (@AprilDunford) for a comment on an article he was writing. But April didn't call back right away.

That's when it got all cussy.

sirdavid: @aprildunford what the fuck. I called you for comment two days ago. What did you expect when you called me back? Don’t post that shit online

sirdavid: @aprildunford furthermore, I called you several times in the afternoon. Don’t be condescending to me when I actually wanted to talk to you

sirdavid: @aprildunford how about you stop blasting personal conversations on twitter and call me back. what the hell is wrong with you.

aprildunford: @sirdavid All I did was return your call. I didn’t expect you to do anything. Wow. Like, seriously, calm down.

sirdavid: @aprildunford & then repost everything? & then hang up on me & don’t call back? I’ve recorded everything. U don’t look as nice as u put on

aprildunford: @sirdavid Dude - I never said who you were. Twitter meet David. David is having a bad day. David, meet Twitter.

sirdavid: @aprildunford hey april - fuck you. seriously. fuck you.

sirdavid: @aprildunford if u can’t handle any heat from what u post and immediate hang up, fuck u. u know my number. u call if you want to settle.

aprildunford: @sirdavid Re-read what you have just Twittered. Then re-read what I Twittered. Deep breaths David. Calm.

April, ever the classy woman, even commented on SirDavid's erudite, witty banter, over at Ian Capstick's Media Style blog. But still without stooping to George-Cosh's level.

Hey Ian,
I have to say that was one of the strangest things I have ever participated in, in my entire life.
I feel bad for David. I really didn’t mean my newspaper comment to be personal, rather a comment on the arrogance of old media vs. the less hierarchical new media.
He’s clearly under a lot of stress and the fact that he deleted the posts shortly after was enough of an apology for me.
We have all had bad days. It stinks when you happen to do it in public.

All I can say is April must be San Diego, because she's stayin' classy.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hey, That Guy We Robbed Stole Our Van!

Patrick Rosario threw a wrench into the plans of two burglars who were robbing his house.

He stole their van.

The two at-large burglars were upstairs in his Bellevue, Washington home while he was down in the basement. He sneaked out of his house, called 911, and then spotted a white van sitting in his driveway, engine running, keys in the ignition. He hopped in and drove it up a steep hill a few blocks away to a friend's house, then yelled "neener neener neener!." (Okay, he didn't do that last part.)

When the two guys got outside, and saw the van missing, they ran off. They left three flat-screen TVs, video game consoles, a laptop, a jewelry box, and a trail of urine leading toward the highway.

"I kept a pretty cool head," Rosario told the Seattle Times. "You never know how you're going to react until you're in that situation."

A passing driver told police he saw the thieves leave the house, and that "the males looked back... and appeared startled."

"I wish I could have seen the look on their faces," Rosario said.

I'd love to see the look on theirs when the police arrest them after tracing them through the van Rosario stole. And then the look on their faces when their new cellmate Big Earl makes them his prison bitches.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Two More Food Attacks in Florida

More food related attacks in the Sunshine State. On January 16, 2009, 19-year-old Zachary Moir from Deltona, Fla. hit his mom with a taco.

According to a story in the Orlando Sentinel, Zachary's mom, Dena, told police she had called her son "several times," before finally going to his room and unplugging his Xbox. He pushed her, called her names, and told her to get out of his room.

Dena said her old-enough-to-move-out son finally came down to eat, and that she pushed him aside, because she was cleaning the kitchen and he was in the way. So Zach, feeling the love, smacked her on the arm, called her a name, and threw his taco in her face.

Zachary is being held without bail, charged with domestic violence battery.

Normally, there is usually only one Florida food-related attack every few weeks, but as luck would have it, there was another one two days later, on January 18.

In St. Petersburg, Cassady Catolico was arrested for hitting Steven Bunaisky in the head with a bagel. She whacked Bunaisky at 2:18 a.m. while violating a temporary injuction he filed against her the previous week.

The St. Petersburg Times blog wasn't clear on any further details, other than to say Catolico was already on probation for a criminal mischief case in 2006.

No other state in the country has suffered the food attack epidemic that Florida has. There have been five attacks in the last four months, all within less than 200 miles of each other.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Getting Ready for Valentine's Date

Getting Ready for Valentine's Date

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2009

"Has anyone seen my socks?"

"No, Sweetie, not my gym socks. My green ones."

"Eww, put those down."

"Not on me!"

"Because they're stinky."

"They're gym socks. They're supposed to be stinky."

"Yeah, Mommy doesn't believe that either."

"Just put them down."

"Not on Mommy's pillow."

"Because she'd be mad."

"Think of it this way: How would you feel if your brother put his socks on your pillow?"

"Now imagine what you would do if you could punish him for it."

"That's better."

"No, you can't lock your brother in the closet."

"Because you can't punish him for anything."

"Not even if he took Bob the Donkey."

"Buddy, you can come out of there."

"She did not lock you in the closet."

"Because it's a sliding closet. You can't lock it."

"Buddy, have you seen my green socks?"

"Thank you. What were you doing with them?"

"You can't play elephant with my socks."

"Because I need them tonight. I'm trying to get dressed."

"I'm going out with Mommy."

"We're going to dinner."


"Because we need some time without—I mean, Grandma and Grandpa wanted to spend some time with you."

"Sure, you can watch TV with them."

"I don't know, do they like SpongeBob?"

"Wow, 'tolerate' is a pretty big word for you, Buddy. Where'd you hear it?"

"And Grandpa said that about SpongeBob?"

"That means he'll watch it with you then. Just don't tell him I said so."

"Because I don't know how much he can tolerate."

"Just look cute, and he'll let you watch it."

"Now, can you give me my socks please?"

"We're going to a restaurant."

"A nice restaurant."

"For Valentine's Day."

"That's not a family holiday."

"It's a mommy and daddy holiday."

"Because we don't get our own day to ourselves. Mommy and Daddy need a day just for them sometimes."

"Every day is kid's day."

"No, we won't bring you back a kid's meal."

"Because it's not that kind of restaurant."

"No, we're not going to McDonald's."

"Not Wendy's either."

"You've never heard of it."

"Because we've never taken you."

"Because we want to be allowed to go back."

"What? I was just teasing them."

"Oh, they know I'm kidding."

"Now cut that out! Put that lip away."

"Tell Mommy you knew I was kidding."

"Okay, we'll bring you a treat."

"No, I'm not going to tell you."

"Because it wouldn't be a surprise."

"What? We'll just bring them a small one."

"No, I'm not going to tell you either."

"Yes, I still want to go out."

"Kids, go clean your room. Mommy and I need to talk."

"Then clean it again."

"Well, I figured we'd get them a little treat from the store on the way back. Maybe some of those Necco candy hearts. Just a few -- hold on ."

"A-ha! I thought you were listening at the door."

"Sneaky children don't get treats."

"All right, all right, we'll get you some candy hearts. Now go do something useful."

"Then clean it again."

"Buddy, wait. I still need my socks."

"Please don't play elephant with my socks."

"Because elephants don't have green trunks. They have grey trunks. Do you know why they have grey trunks?"

"Because they don't have glove compartments."

"What? That was a funny joke."

"My dad."

"I was six at the time. I thought it was hysterical."

"Hey, I've got another one. What did the elephant say to his girlfriend?"

"Fine. Just let me get my socks on."

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

How the Rejected Became the Rejector: My Job Search Victory

In the past 18 or so years, I have sent out enough résumés to wipe out a small forest. I have received enough rejection letters to wallpaper a room, if I ever wanted to wallow in my own self-pity for extended periods.

Now, thanks to the Internet, I can send an electronic résumé, receive my automated rejection email 2 minutes later (that actually happened once, no kidding), and delete it, thus reducing my self-pity wallowing by a good 67%. This then saves me enough time to send out more résumés, which in turn allows me to wallow in more self-pity.

Still, I actually enjoyed receiving my latest job application email, because I actually got to do something I've never done before: come back with a witty response.

Thank you for submitting your information to xxxxxxx. We are dedicated to acquiring the best talent and certainly take each candidate seriously. We have reviewed your information and feel that you are not the right candidate for us at this time. Many times these issues are a manner of timing as well as talent.

I've had more rejections in my life than I care to remember, enough that my soul is calloused like the skin of a rhinoceros. (Warning: if you have a fragile ego, do NOT go into sales or become a published writer. Or look for a job. Or date. Or meet new people.)

So I was more than a little happy to write my response:

Thanks for your response. I actually now have a job as a blog manager and social media specialist for another company here in town. I appreciate your reviewing my application, and I guess things have worked out for the best for me. Good luck in your search as well.

(For the record, last week I was hired as a blog manager with Professional Blog Service. We create, maintain, and promote blogs for corporations. And we do it through. . . wait for it. . . social media!

So while I may not have had the qualifications the one employer wanted (I'm young and cheap), I had the ones PBS did (I'm good at what I do).


It's good to be recognized for the skills another company didn't. Maybe this is what Kurt Warner -- former grocery stocker and arena football player -- felt like after winning the NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP, after leading his St. Louis Rams to victory in Super Bowl XXXIV.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Maryland Comptroller Releases Video Spoof. Public Asks "We Have a Comptroller?"

The Maryland Comptroller's office released a video spoof, "Real Taxpayers of Genius," to get Maryland taxpayers to file their taxes online rather than via paper, which could save the state $1.60 per return.

While the video isn't as hysterically funny as the Bud Light "Real Men of Genius" commercials (which aren't hysterically funny either; they're more mildly amusing), I was pleased to see a state government agency 1) thinking outside their cubicles, 2) joining us in the 21st century by embracing Web 2.0 technology, 3) could find someone to sing. Sort of.

I used to work for a state government agency, and we weren't always so eager to embrace new technology. So I'm impressed that the Maryland Comptroller's office was more than willing to take adopt this technology and try something new.

We salute you, Mr. Found a Way to Circumvent the Martinets.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ho hum, Texas Hackers Hack Into Electronic Highway Sign. Again.

This is getting tedious. It was funny the first time, it was humorous the second time, but now the electronic highway sign hackers are just getting boring.

This past Friday, February 6, hackers changed a Lubbock, Texas sign to read "OMG The British R coming. They R watching you."

Not so funny. Maybe it's because Texas was already attacked by zombies and Indianapolis battled raptors last week.

In a statement to the press, Austin Bridge & Road, the sign's owner, says someone "with a questionable sense of humor" is responsible for the attack.

Questionable? You're just being polite. I would have used words like "unoriginal," "uninspired," "derivative," or "hackneyed."

What's next in your career of has-been humor? Maybe you could write more Monica Lewinsky-Bill Clinton jokes for Jay Leno? How about jokes about how George W. Bush is stupid? Ooh, I know, do something about "Germans love David Hasselhoff."

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Monday, February 09, 2009

134 Ice Fishermen Have to Be Rescued From Lake Erie

When I lived in Syracuse, Indiana, you couldn't drive past a lake, channel, or deep puddle in winter without seeing at least one insane person sitting on an upturned bucket, staring at a hole in the ice.

Ice fishing has always struck me as one of the craziest activities mankind could take part in. With the possible exception of ferret-legging (the Scottish "sport" of putting two pissed-off ferrets down your pants and seeing how long you can take it), no other sport seems to bring out the weirdos and committed (as in "he was committed to a mental institution for observation").

Indiana ice fishermen are a little weirder than most, because unlike Minnesota ice fishermen, they don't use shacks. At least not around Syracuse. Syracuse ice fishermen sit outside in upturned buckets, wearing two pairs of long underwear, pants, and the ice fiserhman's uniform, Carhartt coveralls.

I would drive past in my nice warm truck and shake my head at the loons sitting out on the ice, without a shack, tent, or even a lean-to to keep the wind from blowing on them. I was always convinced that we would have at least one fatality each winter (we never did) from someone falling through the ice. I did hear the occasional story of someone falling in a few feet from shore, climbing into his truck, going home to change, and coming back to find a new spot.

So I wasn't too surprised when I heard about 134 ice fishermen who needed to be rescued from their 12 kilometer (7.45 miles) wide ice floe as it drifted in Lake Erie Saturday evening. The fishermen were all rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard and private helicopters and boats about 1,000 yards from the Ohio shoreline.

"We get people out here who don't know how to read the ice," Ottawa County Sheriff Bob Bratton said to reporters. "What happened here today was just idiotic. I don't know how else to put it."

"We were in no danger," Norb Pilaczynski of Swanton, Ohio told the Candian Broadcasting Corporation. "We knew there was enough ice out there."

Try telling that to the guy who died. He fell in while he and others were trying to find a way back to shore. Several other men performed CPR, and the guy was airlifted to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The CBC said in its article, "No one appeared to be scared, and most chose to sit and wait for authorities while others went searching for an ice bridge."

I will bet 100 American dollars that the guys who were "sitting and waiting" were actually "fishing and waiting" to be rescued.

I love fishing, and try to do it a couple times a year. But fishing is a summer sport, where the only thing that floats are my bobber and the boat I'm sitting in. If it goes floating away, I've got a motor and oars to return to safety. Plus I'm not going to die of hypothermia if I accidentally fall in.

The worst thing that's ever happened to me when I've been fishing is stinking like cigar smoke and bait when we return. And I won't die from that, unless my wife finds out about the cigars.

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

British Education Minister Needs Spelling Help

British Schools Minister Jim Knight got himself into a little hot water this past week when his blog contained several egregious spelling errors that made international news.

Needless to say, the British press crucified Knight, figuring that as the Minister in charge of Schools, he ought to know better. The Sun even marked up the offending page from his blog, and then mocked up a photo of Knight wearing a dunce cap.

Still, he has faced his embarrassment rather well, and even addressed his errors in his blog.

"I update my own blog and facebook page," said Knight on his blog (forgetting to capitalize – sorry, capitalise, for our British friends – Facebook), "often from my phone when I am on the move. As a result, mistakes do occasionally creep in. In the future, I ‘must do better’ and always check my work."

Fair enough. He owned his mistakes in a public manner, and promised to do better. But a couple of his constituents couldn't let it go.

Phil Weedon Message left at 02:39 pm, Thu 5th Feb 2009
Dear Jim, I couldn't believe what I was reading. My 11 year old Grandson wouldn't submit such shoddy work, let alone put it up on a website. I can imagine you are suitably embarrassed, but it should never have happened in the first place. Being "on the move" is no excuse. Yours sincerely, Phil

sally cousens Message left at 01:53 pm, Sat 7th Feb 2009
Here here Phil - I wholeheartedly agree with your point about pride in submitting work for all to see. Perhaps you would like to see my comment posted yesterday on the December Jim Knight blog? Sally

Jim Knight Message left at 03:52 pm, Sat 7th Feb 2009
Sally, I hate to be a pedant but shouldn't that be spelt "hear hear"? ;) Jim

Oh snap! Not only does Sally fail to capitalize – sorry, capitalise – her own name, but she misspells "hear hear" when she's condemning a guy about his spelling errors.

Reminds me of the old saying: when you point a finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at you.

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Apple Introduces the New Mac Wheel Laptop

Apple started attracting a lot of attention a few weeks ago with the news of their new No-Keyboard laptop. According to the ONN (Onion News Network), the new keyboard uses the same click-wheel currently found on the iPod Classic.

Apple Introduces Revolutionary New Laptop With No Keyboard

Surprisingly, a lot of people in the blogosphere haven't realized The Onion is a news satire site that publishes fake news stories several times a day.

Including the No-Keyboard Laptop.

Not too surprisingly, the blogosphere is filled with people who have unfortunately missed the joke completely. (You can find some great comments here -- #4 is especially funny.)

While these Mac Wheel haters are griping that people are so stupid, they'll buy any shiny thing with a click wheel, it sounds like the real goobers are the ones who refuse to buy the product, because typing on a wheel is "stupid."

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Golfer Blinds Himself, Sues Golf Course

Golfer Blinds Himself, Sues Golf Course

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2009

If you run into a tree with your car, do you sue the tree's owner? No. If you cut yourself with your knife, do you sue the knife maker? No. So, if you hit yourself in the eye with your own golf ball and go blind in that eye, do you sue the golf course?

The correct answer is no. Everyone got that right, except for Paul Sanchez of Manchester, N.H., and his lawyer, Barry Scotch.

Sanchez, 67, was golfing with a few friends at the Candia Woods Golf Links in September 2006, when it happened. He hit the ball, it bounced off a yardage marker, and smacked him in the right eye.

Needless to say, his friends had their worst games ever. It was hit the ball, drag Sanchez, hit the ball, drag Sanchez. (No, seriously, he was taken to the hospital by an ambulance.)

Scotch told the Manchester Union Leader, "Before he could even – pardon the expression – blink, he was hit. It just ricocheted right back at him."

Sanchez's lawsuit blames Candia Woods for failing to warn him not to hit the yardage markers with his golf ball or he could be blinded. Not while he was in the pro shop, on the scorecard, or on any of the tee boxes.

Golf pro: Gentlemen, I'm required to warn you not to hit the yardage markers or else you could go blind.

Disappointed golfer: Can I just do it until I need glasses?*

Golf pro: I also need to warn you that water is wet, the sky is blue, and you shouldn't poke rattlesnakes with your putter.

Disappointed golfer: Man, this game isn't fun anymore!

Sanchez says the markers were too rigid to be safe for the course. He is is seeking unspecified damages

Translation: "I'm too embarrassed to tell anyone since this lawsuit is already stupid enough."

Rule #1 of stupid lawsuits: If you run into a tree with your car because the steering wheel fell off, don't sue the property owner, sue the car manufacturer. Rule #2: If you ran into the tree because you can't drive, don't sue the car manufacturer either.

Sanchez's wife, Mary Ellen, is also a plaintiff, claiming she suffered from emotional damage.

Translation: "My husband got hit in the eye. I was sad. I want money."

The suit also says the markers were improperly placed in the middle of the fairway. Down low to the ground, where good golfers don't usually hit the ball, would be my guess.

Will Sanchez also sue his friends for not warning him between each shot? Maybe one of them should have suggested, knowing he wasn't a good golfer, that they move the marker temporarily. What about his wife? Did she urge him to be careful before he left? And if she did, is he at fault for ignoring her?

The Union Leader says Sanchez was on the 11th hole, which was a 443-yard par-4 hole, and that the marker was 150 yards from the green. I don't know much about golf, but I do know that on a par-4 hole, you're supposed to be able to get in the hole on the fourth shot. Good golfers can make it in three.

Sanchez's own lawsuit says this was his third shot, which tells me he wasn't a good golfer. If he hit a marker 150 yards from the hole, and it was his third shot, then he was much farther than 150 yards from the green, AND far enough away to think he would clear the marker on his third shot. If he were a better golfer, he would have been a lot closer, and would have already cleared the marker.

"It's not a frivolous, run-it-up-the-flagpole-and-see-who-salutes kind of thing," Scotch told the Union Leader.

Translation: "This is a frivolous, run-it-up-the-flagpole-and-see-if-they'll-settle-out-of-court kind of thing."

Everything on a golf course can be a hazard. Trees, markers, underbrush, even other golfers. If you step out onto the links, you assume a certain level of risk. If you still play despite those risks, your injuries are your own fault. Sanchez knew the risks, knew there were obstacles on a golf course that a ball could ricochet off. He doesn't deserve anything, and his "emotionally damaged" wife deserves even less.

I hope the Candia Woods Golf Links are willing to fight this, and not let themselves get pushed around by a guy with dollar signs in his eyes. Well, his good eye, anyway.


* The original newspaper version of this column had the following joke. Obviously, I couldn't run the above joke in the newspaper without a bunch of angry editors storming my place with torches and pitchforks.

Golf pro: Gentlemen, I'm required to warn you not to hit the yardage markers or else you could go blind.

Disappointed golfer: Dangit, there goes my afternoon.

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Missouri Senator Wanted Death Penalty for Litterers

Missouri Senator Kevin Engler (R-Farmington) hates litter so much that he wanted to kill Missourians who did it. So on January 29, 2009, he sponsored a bill (SB 273) that would give litterers the death penalty.

"I think that if we kill just a couple of people we catch, the rest will catch on," he said in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

To really help his cause and win votes for his next election, he called people who litter "white trash" and "rednecks."

Later in the day, he said he was joking about the bill

“I’m doing this tongue in cheek, obviously,” he said. Engler then withdrew the bill, thus wasting valuable time the Missouri Senate could have devoted to actually doing something useful.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Thunder God Thor Stops Home Burglary in Edinburgh, Scotland

Torvald Alexander of Edinburgh, Scotland had just come home from a New Year's Eve fancy dress party (that's English for costume party), when he surprised a burglar in his apartment.

Alexander, who was dressed up as Marvel Comics hero Thor, charged at the intruder, red cape flying behind him. The burglar jumped out of a first-floor window and ran off.

Alexander told police, "As soon as he saw me, his eyes went wide with terror. He looked like he had had a few drinks and decided to do a late night break-in, but he hadn't counted on the God of Thunder living here."

Alexander remained true to his alter ego and leaped into action.

"We were both startled but then the instant reaction was that I ran at him and he just jumped straight out of the window," Alexander said. "I think I would be quite scared if someone looking almost like a gladiator ran at them."

Mixed pronouns notwithstanding, Alexander's actions stopped the thief from taking anything. In fact, he left his shoes and the small garden rake he had used to break in. Alexander said he thought the burglar had taken off his shoes to avoid making any noise.

I wonder whether Alexander took his costume a little too seriously. The Daily Mail said he was going to contact the police and give them the burglar's shoes to see if he can be traced.

In other words, he called the paper before he called the police.

"It will make him think again before breaking into other people's homes. Hopefully it's taught him a lesson," said the Thunder God.

Doubt it, but it's always nice to hope. In the meantime, nice job, Torvald, er, Thor

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Indianapolis Area Attacked by Raptors

First Austin, Texas was attacked by zombies, now Carmel, Indiana (a north Indianapolis suburb) was under attack by raptors.

According to an article on WRTV 6, Indy's ABC affilliate, "someone apparently" – apparently? No kidding! – "hacked into an electronic road sign" and changed the message to "Raptors Ahead Caution."

"It's kind of crazy. I'm totally confused," one motorist told WRTV, not recognizing a prankish attempt at humor. "I'm kind of expecting … dinosaurs to run down the road, or something."

The sign follows a couple of hacked signs in Austin warned of zombie attacks with "Caution! Zombies Ahead" and "Nazi Zombies! Run!!!"

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Hoosier Bride Attacked by Her Sister at Wedding

Quiz time:

You're purposely not invited to your sister's wedding reception. Do you:

a) Reexamine your relationship and try to make amends before the reception?
b) Stay at home, get drunk, and feel sorry for yourself?
c) Show up anyway, and pull out clumps of your sister's hair?

If you're Annmarie Bricker of Vaparaiso, Ind. you choose C.

The 23-year-old woman was arrested for battery, a misdemeanor, after she showed up at a reception for Lori Kappes and Nicholas Landry and attacked Kappes. The attack took place in Hebron, Indiana. Bricker allegedly pulled out clumps of her hair, hit her in the head, and wrestled her to the ground. Kappes did not need medical attention.

Bricker told police/her employer -- she was a Porter County 911 dispatcher, until she resigned -- that she only wanted to talk to her sister and parents about family parents.

Bricker said she never touched her sister, but five people said otherwise. She told police an "old lady had jumped on my back" and she was jumped by two other men.

Hair pulling and wrestling someone to the ground is a Class A misdemeanor in Indiana. Bricker faces a possible year in jail and $5,000 fine.

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Google Earth Leads Swiss Police to Marijuana Field

When Google Earth first came out, a friend told me how his son had discovered his wife had been cheating on him. The son searched for his house on Google Earth, and saw a truck in his driveway that belonged to his wife's ex-boyfriend. Needless to say, that ended the marriage.

Now Google Earth is helping Swiss police track down ne'er-do-wells. Even if it is by accident.

Dude, I can see your pot from here

This past Thursday, they discovered a marijuana plantation while using Google Earth. They spotted the two acre plantation inside a corn field while they were trying to find the address of two farmers they suspected were involved in a drug ring.

"It was an interesting chance discovery," Norbert Klossner, head of the Zurich police narcotics unit, told the Associated Press.

Police discovered the field last year, and it led to the arrest of 16 people and seizure of 1.2 US tons of marijuana as well as cash and valuables worth $780,000.

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