Thursday, April 30, 2009

British Junior MP Blames Swine Flu on Susan Boyle

I have an idea for a future story arc for The Office, which just recently tied up their "Michael Scott Paper Company" storyline.

Next season, Michael Scott should be hired as a consultant to the British Parliament, where he finds a kindred spirit in junior Labour MP (Member of Parliament) Sion Simon.

That's because, according to a story in the London Daily Mail, Simon has gotten himself in more than a little hot water over a stupid joke he made on Twitter.

Simon (@sionsimon), who's an MP for Birmingham Erdington wrote:
"I'm not saying Susan Boyle caused swine flu. I'm just saying that nobody had swine flu, she sang on TV, people got swine flu."

Big mistake. Right now, the whole world loves Susan Boyle, the British woman who surprised the crap out of the world with an amazing performance on Britain's Got Talent.

The Daily Mail said Tories (Conservatives) were "horrified" by the insensitive remarks. (But then, Tories will be "horrified" by any gaffe the Labour (Liberals) make, and vice versa. Just like Republicans and Democrats bickering here in the U.S., the fake hysterics and faux shock factor of politicians seems to rise with the popularity of the issue the other side just gaffed.)

Not to be outdone, Simon's fellow Labour MPs were "aghast."

"It's infantile, isn't it?" said one unidentified MP. "Hasn't he got enough to do?"

But this isn't the only time Simon got himself into hot water over his wacky hijinks. In 2006, Simon, who was educated at Oxford (official motto: Not smart. Even for you.), created a video in which he pretended to be David Cameron, leader of the Tory Party, offering people one of his children and a chance to sleep with his wife.

And then posted it on YouTube (official motto: Dude, seriously, that's not cool).

Simon has since apologized on Twitter for his offensive comments about the angel-voiced Susan Boyle. Of course he did it on Twitter, which as everyone knows, is a great place to offer sincere, heart-felt apologies.

Because nothing drips with sincerity and heartfelt regret like a 138-character message that only reaches 395 people.




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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Portsmouth, NH Uses "Freak Out Factor" to Legislate Small Businesses

The Portsmouth, New Hampshire City Council thinks their citizens are a bunch of idiots.

They're worried about what effect a seated mannequin outside a local shop at an area mall can have on the citizens. So they're only allowing her to place it for three months, rather than the one year she asked for.

The Portsmouth Sea Coast newspaper covered the city council's debate on the topic.

"Have we allowed a chair with a mannequin on city property before?" said Councilor Eric Spear. "Because it kind of freaks me out actually."

Councilor Esther Kennedy was similarly squeamish, "I kind of agree with Councilor Spear. It kind of freaks me out, too."

I'm sorry, the freakout factor is never a good strategy for making public policy that affects a person's business and livelihood. I'm freaked out by snakes, but I've never proposed a piece of legislation that banned them from my city.

City Manager John Bohenko was more concerned for the thousands and thousands absolutely no people who are deathly afraid of mannequins.

"If it appears to be a problem with people, who have a phobia or something, we can probably ask her not to put it out there," said Bohenko.

I guess the more important question for John Bohenko is: what are people with a mannequin phobia doing at a mall in the first place? The place is filled with mannequins. If they're afraid of a mannequin outside, they're going to crap their pants when they step inside.

But Assistant Mayor Jack Blalock, who also owns a downtown business, was the voice of reason and, well, sanity.

"It's a matter of what you like or don't like," said Blalock. "I see this like outside art and a clever way to advertise a business."

Echt told the Seacoast that she has not received any complaints or people collapsing in heaps outside her store since she put the mannequin outside.

"Normally, no one can see the store, and this gets attention," Echt said. "But it's OK. I don't mind."

(You can read a hysterical response from one of the Seacoast's columnists, Lily Robertson, here.)


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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tacky Social Networking Options Available for Recently Deceased

Now that I have finally heard it all, I can die peacefully in my sleep.

And if I did, there's no reason I have to stop doing social networking (like Twitter, Facebook, or blogging). Because some enterprising weirdos entrepreneurs have made it possible for friends and family to reach me online.

According to a story in the Maryland Daily Record, there are a number of new companies that are offering things like virtual cemeteries. There are others that offer email alerts from funeral homes that will remind my surviving relatives of the anniversary of my death.

(Problem #1 - I would hope my death would be memorable enough that my family would not need a reminder. Problem #2 - Every computer-based calendar can repeat dates like birthdays or death days – for free – with a simple mouse-click. Problem #3 - If my family ever wastes money on this, I'm haunting the bejeezus out of them.)

There are even companies like You'veBeenLeftBehind.com (official motto: "Neener neener neener") that will email your left-behind relatives who are in danger of being left behind even farther when the Rapture takes you away. Their website says:
We have set up a system to send documents by the email, to the addresses you provide, 6 days after the "Rapture" of the Church. This occurs when 3 of our 5 team members scattered around the U.S fail to log in over a 3 day period. Another 3 days are given to fail safe any false triggering of the system.

This strikes me as a rather amateurish venture. Real computer programmers would have already coded in a The Rapture Has Occurred button into the user interface, which would eliminate the need for the fail safe. Besides, something tells me that when the Rapture does occur, checking email is going to be the last thing on everyone's minds.

"Hmm, I wonder if my deceased relative is trying to email me from beyond the grave. Hey, where'd everybody go?"

"People have a desire to perpetuate not only for themselves, but for their loved ones, the story of their lives, and technology has all these new great ways of doing that," John McQueen, owner of the Anderson McQueen funeral home, told the Daily Record.

EternalSpace.com is an online memory-gathering site for grieving family and friends, with a number of different online scenic locations for your final stop on this mortal coil, including a Zen garden, view of a lake, a tropical valley, a forest in autumn, or a cabin in the winter woods.

As an added bonus, EternalSpace.com says their "100% advertising free." That's comforting, since I don't know that I would want my virtual tombstone to blast "Five. Five dollar. Five dollar foot lo-o-o-o-ngs!" every time anyone visited me online.

Visitors can leave behind virtual flowers, virtual religious symbols, virtual gifts, and virtual tchotchkes, like golf clubs, a football helmet, or horse saddle that virtually everyone already leaves behind at real cemeteries, but without all the hassle of dressing up and actually visiting the deceased loved one.

Because nothing says a deep unabiding love for family like a recurring $14.95 per month charge on your credit card.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

British Bureaucrats to Chop Down 180 Year Old Trees to Stop Muggings

UPDATE: Reader Matthew pointed out that the trees mentioned below are actually called "New Zealand cabbage palm trees" and that Torquay is a town in England, NOT New Zealand. My apologies to all. How embarrassing.


Pop quiz.

You're worried about muggers in your resort town. Should you:
a) Ask for a bigger police presence.
b) Install high powered lights in dark areas.
c) Cut down all the palm trees because muggers could hide behind them.

If you're a bureaucrat living in town of Torquay, England you probably picked C. Because, well, you're a bureaucrat, and your professional life seems to be based on picking the most senseless decision you could possibly make.

According to a story in the London Daily Mail, the New Zealand cabbage palm trees have stood since the 1820s. But they decided to cut them down, because teenagers have been hanging out there, and because they could – COULD – conceal muggers.

Torquay town councillor Robert Excell was shocked by what had happened. He told the Daily Mail, “I understood they were going to thin them and improve views across the harbour. I didn’t expect this carnage – it was a bit of a shock. There should be consultation with residents and traders on replacements.”

Two years ago, the Torquay Council got into some hot water for knocking over some other trees, because they were a safety risk. They were worried the sharp leaves could injure pedestrians.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Phone It In Sunday: Mana Mana

I drive my 6-year-old son crazy with "Mana Mana." It usually starts when someone says "banana nut," and ends with him hollering at me to please stop it! when I start singing "Put on your pants" and "Clean up your room" to the music.



Ordering banana nut muffins at a coffee shop will often result in a couple rounds of Mana Mana with the people standing nearby.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

CCRT Properties Tries to Get 2 Months Rent from Murdered Man

Colin Byars' apartment manager is demanding rent for March and April, and saying Byars didn't give 30 days notice that he would be leaving.

Not an unreasonable request, except the guy was murdered in February.

"How is he supposed to send a 30 days notice when he didn't even know he was going to get killed?" Danielle Eckert, Byars' mother, told WTMJ AM NewsRadio.

CCRT Properties of Milwaukee, Wisc. sent a letter to Byars' estate and his roommate Robert Macedo demanding the back rent, plus an additional $660 for early termination of the lease. They've even told Danielle they've contacted their corporate attorney.

Oh, if I could only be the judge in this case. The joys of deciding whether to fine CCRT Properties infinity billion dollars, or send them a lifetime of hard labor.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Uncommon Sense Financial Advice

Uncommon Sense Financial Advice


Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2009

Erik is feeling under the weather this week, so we are reprinting a column from 2003.

Springtime brings new dreams for me: I want to be a millionaire. I realize it's largely unachievable, but I feel better if I fail at something other than the "eat right, exercise more" resolution everyone else blows.

However, I may finally have a fast path to reaching my goal. I learned an amazing financial secret from a motivational speaker this past fall. I won't name any names, but let's just say this person is the president, owner, and founder of Peter Lowe Seminars.

This person, who I'll call "Pete" to protect his identity, shared an incredible secret to becoming a millionaire. And he spent half of his hour-long presentation telling us about it:

Take one US dollar and -- are you ready for this? -- DOUBLE IT 20 TIMES!

This wasn't just an interesting bit of trivia he mentioned once. It something he repeated over and over the entire 30 minutes, and he spent it covering the different ways he could say, "take a dollar and double it, not 10 times, not 15 times, but 20 times, and you'll have a million dollars."

Actually, you'll have $1,048,576, but I won't split hairs.

Maybe the real money is in motivational speaking: take a painfully obvious piece of information, tell a stadium full of people, and charge them $50 each to hear it.

Motivational speaker: You should buy stocks at a low price and sell them at a high price!

Gullible audience: Oooooooh!

"Pete" didn't actually tell us how to do it, or he would have charged us more. He just reminded us over and over that if we doubled a dollar 20 times, we would have a million dollars.

But don't think "Pete" spent all his time explaining this amazing process. He also cautioned us about the dangerous pitfalls along the "doubling your money" path.

(Did I mention that if you double a dollar 20 times, you'll have a million dollars?)

"Don't just double your dollar 10 times -- reaching $1,024 -- and blow it on a refrigerator," he warned us. "Then you'll have to start all over. Just double it 10 more times, and you'll have your million dollars."

Wow, thanks "Pete." You've somehow managed to stretch a simple idea into a 30 minute lecture. What's next, "Beating a dead horse: What to do when your arms get tired?"

Since "Pete" didn't actually tell us how to double our money 20 times, I've devised another method to become wealthy: I'm going to become a TV financial advisor. After all, financial advisors on TV seem to have all the answers. They must be fabulously wealthy, and only do their job because otherwise they would get bored with living in the same mansions and driving the same luxury automobiles day after day.

My goal is to have people pay me to give them money-saving advice, such as "stop giving money to people who tell you stuff you can find in personal finance books."

Unfortunately, I know absolutely nothing about this field. But that doesn't seem to stop a lot of people, including one TV preacher who says that if you send him money, God will make you successful in your personal finances (step one: "stop wasting money on TV preachers").

So what does it take to become a TV financial advisor? You have to know all the Wall Street tricks like buying stocks and bonds, insider trading, defrauding investors, and embezzlement. And then you give painfully obvious advice to your audience.

Caller: I'm having problems controlling my credit card debt. I've tried using different cards, applying for new cards, and even swiping the cards with my other hand. What should I do?

Financial advisor: Stop buying things with your credit cards. But first, buy my book, "1,001 Ways to Stop Buying Things With Your Credit Cards." It's only $49.95.

But this seems too hard. Maybe I can improve "Pete's" doubling trick instead.

Take one US dollar and TRIPLE it just 13 times. Then you'll have $1.5 million. Forget all this "doubling" business. That's for the timid and weak. The real go-getters triple their money. But don't stop there. If you triple that dollar just 19 times, you'll actually have $1 BILLION! You'd have to double a dollar 30 times to hit that.

Instead of charging you $50 for this bit of information, like most motivational speakers, I'm only charging $10. Now if I can just find 100,000 people to fall for this, I'll have my first million.


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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fun with Bar Graphs



Just a little something I made over at GraphJam.com, which is part of the LOLCats family.



Check out the link and give it a vote. Thanks.

And 5 cool points to you if you can name the four movies/TV shows cited (the first one is just a common expression).

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Woman Complains About Neighbor's Naked Garden Gnomes

As a father, I want to protect my kids from certain things: drugs, violence, sex, even nudity in movies.

I'm not that concerned about naked garden gnomes. Other people, at least in England, seem to think about nothing but naked garden gnomes.

British grandmother Sandra Smith has been ordered by the Bromsgrove District Council (West Midlands) to cover up her naked garden gnomes after they received complaints that they were "upsetting local children."

Smith has had the gnomes – a male and female – in her front yard (they call it a "garden" in England) for 15 years, but it's only recently that an easily-offended neighbor has gotten her flannel panties in a bunch over the gnomes' nakedness.

Smith has been ordered to put clothes on the gnomes, so she draped t-shirts on the concrete ornaments.

"I've got grandchildren and they all love the gnomes," Smith told the (London) Daily Telegraph. "They're proper cheeky chappies with their little smiley faces looking up at you."


The whining neighbor confirmed to the Daily Telegraph that she was the stick-in-the-mud. However, as is true of most cowards, she didn't want to be named.

"I don't think they should be in a garden with my young kids running around nearby," the neighborhood morality monitor told the Telegraph. "They are childish and I think it pathetic that they are in a front garden in full view of everyone."

The gnomes were there before your kids, lady. Besides, if you can't control where your kids run around (i.e. "don't go in front of Mrs. Smith's house"), then having them see naked pieces of concrete should probably be the least of your worries.


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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Virginia Department of Transportation Unclear on Road Safety


The Virginia Department of Transportation's heart is in the right place: they want to slow down drivers on Virginia roads. But their methods are a little unorthodox.

And crash-inducing.

As part of their safety campaign, VDOT is painting zig-zag center lines on Belmont Ridge Road in Loudon County, said a story on WTOP.com.

"It is a low cost strategy to get motorists to slow down as they approach the bike trail and pedestrian path," Mike Salmon, a VDOT spokesman told WTOP. "While at first motorists may be a little disoriented, the main point is to get them to pay attention and slow down through that area."

The other thing that will get them to slow down? Driving over bikes and pedestrians as they try to follow the lines on the road.


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Monday, April 20, 2009

Los Angeles Audi and BMW Dealers Marketing Feud

Found this on Flickr.

There is an ongoing advertising feud between an Audi dealer and a BMW dealer in Los Angeles.

The Audi dealer fires the first shot with a sign that says, "Your move, BMW."

Of course, I'm curious about the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf shop at the bottom of the frame.

The BMW dealer responds with the mother of all smackdowns, "Checkmate."



If you're Audi, this is the only way to respond:





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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Phone It In Sunday: Twitter Whore, Part 2

A follow up to Phone It In Sunday: Twitter Whore from two weeks ago (given that it was Easter last week, I didn't feel like honoring the day Jesus rose from the dead with, well, this).



After watching both episodes of Twitter Whore, I have one major question:

Is that Lisa_Nova's real voice? (You'll find out in a couple weeks.)

Also, did Robert Scoble start following her after her shout—— uhh, squeak-out?

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

British Police Arrest Neighbor Over Ceramic Pig

Earlier this month, Robin Demczak of Witney, England was forcibly dragged from his bed and held in jail for more than 7 hours on suspicion of being a terrorist and plotting to overthrow the British monarchy.

Just kidding. It was because his police officer neighbor didn't like an ornamental stone pig in his garden (British for "back yard"), because it hurted his feewings.

Demczak has had a running feud with his neighbor, Police Constable John Ablett. Ablett said the little stone pig and a sign that said "no pigs" was a form of harassment, so he called his fellow officers in, and they arrested Demczak.

Demczak was finally released the next morning without having any charges filed, because he said the pig had been in his garden for eight years, while the eagle-eyed police officer had only lived there for four.

“I’ve got other stone ornaments of other animals, foxes, birds, things like that. Not just the pig," Demczak told the Witney Gazette.


So why does a retired window farmer have a stone pig and a "no pigs" sign in his back yard?

Turns out the guy is also a former pig farmer. He used to have a piggery in his back yard, and the little building – Damczek calls it a sty – still lives in his back yard.

The "no pigs" sign is something he painted right after the last pig died. Sort of a symbol of his former hobby.

But Ablett, who Damczek is feuding with over a path that splits their yards, got his panties in a bunch over the 12-inch pig Damczek has had for more years than Ablett has lived there.

So, Damczek has been ordered to get rid of the ornamental pig, and to stop calling the building a sty.

There was no word whether Damczek could call Ablett what he really thinks of him.


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Friday, April 17, 2009

The Problem With Apostrophes

The Problems with Apostrophes
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2009

"Hey, Kid, you fancy yourself a grammarian, don't you?" asked Karl, my friend and literary curmudgeon.

Depends on who's asking, I said. And why.

"I mean, you keep up with developments in the language and writing and everything," said Karl. "You listen to those language podcasts and read blogs and articles about writing, right?"

Oh sure, just a few.

"Then what do you know about this new development with apostrophe-S"

What new development? You mean it's dating Paris Hilton kind of development, or it was just indicted on racketeering charges development?

Karl plonked his beer on the bar, then smacked down a sheaf of papers. We were at de Smedt's Belgian bar, watching the Belgian Rugby finals on satellite TV. Antwerp RC was being pummeled by the Brussels Barbarians.

"Lately I've been seeing more people using an apostrophe-S after words that end with 'S,' and I was wondering what you thought about it" said Karl with a sinister grin.

I stared at the paper for a minute. So? I said

"So?! I figured you'd be apoplectic over this," Karl looked a little disappointed. "Aren't you the one who's always telling me not to put an S on possessive words that already end in S?"

Always telling you? No, I'm not always telling you. I don't think I've ever mentioned it. Now, I'm always telling you to bring your wallet to our little outings. I'm always telling you to quit sticking me with the bar tab. I'm always telling you not to send text messages while you're driving. But I have never told you a thing about apostrophes.

Karl absent-mindedly patted his pockets for the wallet I knew wasn't there. "So what do you think about it?"

I think it's wrong, I said. You shouldn't put an apostrophe-S at the end of words that end with S.

But this article says you can. Like "James's ball" or "the Cincinnati Reds's catcher" or "Jesus's and Moses's robes."

Actually this says you wouldn't put an apostrophe-S at the end of Jesus' or Moses'?

Karl grabbed the papers from my hand. "That's dumb. What makes them so special?"

I stared blankly at Karl for a second. "Oh, yeah," he said. "Then why is everyone changing the rules all of a sudden? Seems like you grammarians are losing your grip on the language."

What do you mean, 'you grammarians?' We don't control the language. There's no language institute that dictates what our standard language usage should be.

"But we put an apostrophe-S at the end of all the other words. Why can't we use it on words that end with an S?" Karl said, plonking his beer on the bar again for emphasis.

You mean besides 'it looks stupid?'

"Stupid? That's pretty condescending, don't you think? Language is a living entity that changes with usage and as our society evolves."

I started getting a little annoyed. I plonked my own beer on the bar, sloshing some over the side. This kind of debate usually gets me a little steamed.

Maybe so, I nearly shouted, but language is a precious thing and is something that needs to be cared for. I don't want the English language to be ruined by people who learned to type on a cell phone, or think numbers are appropriate substitutes for entire words!

"See? You grammarians and your language rants. It's so cute when you stamp your little feet and wave your arms in the air."

Shut up. I did not wave or stamp.

"Then what are you getting so steamed up about?"

I don't know. I just get frustrated when people who don't care anything for the written word ruin it for everyone because they're so lazy. I mean, I've been seeing it more and more, but that doesn't make it right. Why does a bunch of people using language incorrectly mean we have to change what's accepted?

Karl started laughing. "Kid, I've been a writer for a lot of years, and never seen anyone get so upset about an apostrophe."

Stick around. Wait until you see me find one of those stupid printed signs with errant apostrophes or misspelled words.

"Have you ever corrected any of those signs?"

Yeah, I've been known to correct a few grammar mistakes on public signs, I said.

"Yep, that sounds like something you'd do," Karl said.

Oh, and you haven't?

Karl looked thoughtfully into his beer for a minute. "Let's just say I've had to say to someone, 'oh yeah? Well, I'm the LANGUAGE police,' and leave it at that."


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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Government Worker Wants Pay for Lost Lunch Hour During Massacre Lockdown

The Broome County, New York government wants you to know that not everyone who works there is an insensitive lout who cares more about a little money than the needless deaths of his fellow human beings.

On April 3, a gunman murdered 13 people at the American Civic Association before taking the coward's way out and killing himself. During that time, the Department of Social Services (DSS) locked down the building after the shooting until they received the all-clear from the police.

Now, James Kauchis, an accounting clerk with the Broome County DSS, is very upset because he was confined to the DSS building during his lunch hour.

He wants to be paid for that hour he was in the building, so he made a formal complaint last week to the Broome Personnel Department.

Kauchis told the Binghamton Press that he did make the complaint, but refused to say anything else.

"That's a matter between me, the administration and the union," Kauchis he told the paper.

According to the Binghamton Press, Broome County Executive Barbara J. Fiala is disappointed and embarrassed that someone would make a complaint like this

"A lot of people lost a lot more that day than just one hour," Fiala said. She also said she would fight a formal grievance, if it's filed.

Michael Klein, director of Broome County's personnel department, did not think too highly of Kauchis' attitude and actions. "This is the kind of thing that makes government workers look bad," he said.

Klein said that no other government employee in all of Broome County has complained.

"Ninety-nine point nine percent of county employees stepped up to the plate," said Klein.

I checked Binghamton Press' review of government employee salaries. Kauchis makes $30,512.90. Assuming he works 40 hours per week for 52 weeks, he makes $14.67 per hour.

So let's review the situation:

  • 14 people died in a bloody massacre just across the streeet.

  • City, county, and state police risked their lives to prevent further deaths.

  • They made people stay inside for one hour of their lives they might normally be able to leave the building.

  • That hour of James Kauchis life is worth $14.67.

  • Kauchis seems to think he is entitled to that $14.67, despite what it represents.

  • Does this mean that Kauchis thinks 14 people are worth less than $14.67? Does this mean that in Kauchis' eyes, each life was worth $1.047?


  • I would hope that no, he doesn't think this. I would hope that Kauchis is suitably embarrassed by all the attention his formal complaint is receiving, and that he withdraws it, and apologizes to the families of those people who were killed, the people who were affected by the tragedy, and to those officers who risked their lives in responding to the situation.

    If he doesn't, and continues to grub for his blood money, I think Barbara Fiela should write Kauchis a check for $14.67 – written in red ink, of course – and personally hand it to him.

    Along with his termination letter.

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    Wednesday, April 15, 2009

    PETA Wants OBAMA to Ban Torture of Animals, But Still Kills Pets

    After Barack Obama issued an executive order banning torture, PETA whined that the president didn't do enough, and wrote a letter asking him to ban certain training exercises that involved animals.

    In one of their blogs complaining about how animals are treated, PETA said "thousands of live animals are shot, stabbed, dismembered, burned, and poisoned every year in Department of Defense (DoD) training exercises designed to train medics and infantry in how to treat various human battlefield injuries."

    I think Obama needs to pay attention to PETA. Because if anyone knows about needlessly killing animals, it's PETA.

    That's because, PETA kills animals by the thousands.

    Let me say it again: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals kills pets by the thousands. According to the website PetaKillsAnimals.com, since 1998, PETA has killed over 21,000 animals.

    That works out to five animals PETA killed every day. They also contracted with a Virginia Beach company to cremate the kittens and puppies they killed.

    In fact, last year PETA took in 2,216 animals, adopted out 7, and didn't get to kill transferred 34 other animals. In other words, they saved 1.85% of the animals they took in. The remaining 98.15% of animals were ones they poisoned (you know, like they were complaining about to President Obama).

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    Tuesday, April 14, 2009

    Brown University Wants to Cancel Columbus Day, Doesn't Want to Give Up 3 Day Weekend

    Spoiled brats Students at Brown University don't want to celebrate Columbus Day because of its violent history. However, they still want the long weekend that Columbus Day originally gave them.

    The faculty voted this past Tuesday that they only wanted to be "secret best friends" with their values. In other words, they didn't want to embrace Columbus Day's history, but they wanted to continue to get the long weekend that Columbus Day originally brought them.

    Way to stand up for your values, Brown University.

    If you truly believed in dissociating yourself from the Columbus Day history, you'd give up that long weekend, because of what the day represented, and how it was earned. Your long weekend was created on the blood and torture of indigienous people in Hispaniola. Put your money where your mouth is, and give up that extra day.

    If you don't, we'll all know how much you really stand for your values.


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    Monday, April 13, 2009

    Brisbane, Australia Police Can't Tell Difference Between Wheel Lock, Real Gun

    Chad Hastings of Brisbane, Australia is demanding an apology from Brisbane police after he was pulled over and handcuffed because they thought he had a gun in his car.

    Turns out the gun was a steering wheel lock.

    According to a story in the Brisbane Courier-Mail, Hastings was pulled over while he was on his way to work early Thursday morning. He was breath-tested, and his car was searched. He was then ordered to get out of the car, and one of the officers wanted to know why there was a gun in his car.

    Hastings said he didn't know anything about a gun or how it would have gotten in there. He was then handcuffed and told he was under arrest. The officer then called for backup.

    Two senior officers arrived, and explained to the moron other officer that it was not a weapon, but a friggin' security device. They also removed Hasting's handcuffs.

    Hastings told the Courier-Mail: "As the officer walked away he said 'get a new steering wheel lock, it looks like a bloody gun,'" he said. "He told me 'any other cop would have had you at gunpoint.'"

    That's true. Had it been this cop, it probably would have been his flashlight.

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    Sunday, April 12, 2009

    Phone it In Easter: Super Chicken cartoon & Eddie Izzard

    It's a special Phone It In Sunday this week. On Easter, we're celebrating Phone It In Easter with an old Super Chicken cartoon, mostly because everything else I could find was wildly inappropriate or completely stupid.




    But for those of you who are of other religions, or are agnostic/atheist, nothing says Happy Easter more than an atheistic cross-dressing British comedian.





    Happy Easter.



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    Saturday, April 11, 2009

    Dead Mayor Gets Re-Elected. Again

    Most politicians go through bouts of depression and self-doubt after they lose an election. Is something wrong with me? Why don't people like me? What did I do that made more than half the people vote against me?

    So you have to wonder what's going through the mind of Winfield Alderman Bernie Panther. He lost to Mayor Harry Stonebraker, a candidate who won his fourth election by a 90% landslide.

    FROM THE GRA-A-A-A-AVE!!!

    Stonebraker died of a heart attack on March 11, the day after Winfield could remove his name from the ballot. Larry Cudney, Winfield's president of the Board of Aldermen is serving as the interim mayor until the board decides to let him serve or nominate someone else to run until April 2010 to serve for the final year of the term.

    Now, not only do zombies walk among us, they're running our small Midwestern towns.


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    Friday, April 10, 2009

    The Problem With British Job Titles

    The Problem With British Job Titles

    Erik Deckers
    Laughing Stalk syndicate
    Copyright 2009

    "Look, if the British want us Americans to stop making fun of them, they have to quit doing this stuff," said Karl, my drinking buddy and literary curmudgeon.

    What stuff, I said.

    Karl plonked his beer on the bar, followed by a copy of Wednesday's London Daily Express. We were sitting at MacTaggart's Scottish Pub, watching the International Ferret-Legging Championships on satellite TV.

    "This stuff," he said, jabbing a gnarled finger at an article.

    Victoria Beckham's Slinky New Dress Excites Hubby David?

    "No, Kid," he said with disgust and embarrassment. "This one."

    Hasn't the Mortar Logistics Engineer Laid That Path Yet? What does that mean?

    "That's what I said," he said. "There's a British company that researched all these job titles in England to see what kind of lofty new titles they were giving to the boring and low-paying jobs."

    So? I said.

    "They're trying to make a person's job seem more interesting and important than they really are."

    You mean they're career consultants?

    "Kid, sometimes for such a smart young man, you can be a real dolt at times."

    Bartender, another McEwans for my new best friend, I called. (Karl calls me Kid because I'm 20 years younger than him. Plus I was beaming at the "smart" thing.)

    "Thanks, Kid. No, what they're doing is finding the low-paying grunt jobs and giving them all these fancy-schmancy titles because they're in the grips of political correctness. They don't want people to realize how dreary and dull the jobs really are, so they make up these titles to improve self-esteem."

    That sounds pretty cynical, Karl, even for you. What kinds of jobs?

    He picked up the paper and studied it. "Here's one. They're calling a paper boy a Media Distribution Officer. I know, I know, there are paper girls and even paper adults now, so we should just call them paper deliverers, but that's where I draw the line."

    He took a healthy swig from his beer, and looked ready for another. Too many more compliments from him, and I was going to go broke.

    "Here's another. They're calling a gas station attendant a Petroleum Transfer Engineer. Now, what does that say to the guy who's job it is to make sure the fuel flows from the oil tanker into the refinery. Or the guy who makes sure the oil flows through the pipeline. Or even flows from the refinery to the fuel delivery truck. The guy that pumps your gas at the local Gulp-N-Go is a pump jockey, not an engineer."

    I took the paper from him. What is an Education Centre Nourishment Consultant? I asked.

    "That's a lunch lady."

    You mean a cafeteria worker?

    "Yeah, yeah, lunch lady, cafeteria worker. Who cares?"

    The lunch man.

    "Fair enough. But what about this? Concrete workers are Mortar Logistics Engineers? Ooh ooh, or how about this: a window cleaner is a Transparency Enhancement Facilitator."

    Eww. That's just pushing the envelope of good taste.

    "Tell me about it. I hate to break it to those newly-minted Mortar Logistics Engineers, but an engineer is someone who went to a really smart school, took really smart classes, and gets paid a lot of money to build really smart, safe things." Karl took another swig of beer.

    Yeah, but. . .

    "It comes down to this, Kid. Employers who think sticking the word 'engineer'" – he made air quotes – "at the end of some important sounding title doesn't make it more important or less sucky." Karl took a deep breath. I knew he was getting ready to roll.

    "I mean, just because I sit in my garage doesn't mean I'm a car. And calling a gas jockey a 'petroleum transfer engineer' doesn't make him one. 'Engineer' needs to be reserved for people who are what psychologists call 'wicked smart,' and have taken mathematics classes that would make the Beautiful Mind guy cry like a little girl."

    But what's wrong with making a job sound more appealing to its potential candidates? They may be having problems with the image of the job, and so they want to get better workers in the position.

    Karl plonked his beer again. "I can think of better way to make them more appealing: pay them more!"

    A few more beers, and we'll have you solving all of the world's problems in no time, I said.

    "Darn right, Kid. You know what they call a guy like me?"

    Bovine Waste Artisan?

    Karl thought about that for a second. "Shut up, Kid."


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    Thursday, April 09, 2009

    British Vets Learn How to Play Bongos for $736,000

    British government officials are getting into some hot water for sending bovine veterinarians to seminars where they learned to play the bongos.

    That's normally not a big deal, except it cost the British taxpayers £500,000 ($736,000).

    A bigger deal is the fact that British cattle and dairy farmers are looking at a increasing bovine tuberculosis rates and the slaughter of countless cows to prevent a possible bovine TB epidemic, but the vets are out banging drums.

    The seminars, called "away days," were organized by the Animal Health Agency, and were supposed to teach 1,700 vets and animal health experts important things like how to fight bovine TB and bluetongue.

    According to the London Daily Star, the AHA said the vets participated in "exercises which aimed to bring home the importance of effective working in an interesting, involving and fun way.

    The attendees then talked about what they had learned "that would be applicable in responding to an outbreak of animal disease."

    Lesson #1: how to stretch the skin of a now-dead cow across a hollow log to make music.

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    Wednesday, April 08, 2009

    Plastic Flower Pot Too Dangerous for British Garbagemen

    The Colchester, Essex council has determined that plastic flower pots are too dangerous for their garbagemen ("binmen") to pick up.

    Diana Angel told the London Daily Telegraph that she had left two half-empty garbage sacks outside her house, and that the garbagemen had ripped them open and left them, classing the trash as "unsuitable."

    Angel, who is in her late 60s and has had three hip replacements, called the Essex council to complain, and was told that she would have to take the items to a dump herself, or pay £30 for the garbagemen to actually do their job.

    "It was a plastic plant pot and a short-handled dustpan and brush which had broken, it was about two and half foot tall, I don't see how it could be classed as dangerous," Angel told the Telegraph.

    "They sent me a letter saying they do not accept garden waste - but it was just a plant pot with a weed attached to it. I thought as long as it fitted in a black bag that was OK.

    The Telegraph spoke to "Tim Young, the councillor responsible for waste," (I'm sure they meant garbage, not government waste. That's something the entire council pitches in on.) said the trash collectors are encouraged to rip open bags and leave things they don't want to pick up.

    Actually he said they're "encouraged to check bags where items were sticking out, to reduce the risk of health and safety hazards and to increase recycling rates."

    Ah, "health and safety." The mating call of the British bureaucrat.

    There's a reason Britain is becoming known as the Nanny State. They make up some nonsensical rule designed to inconvenience the lives of its citizens, and then hide behind "health and safety." While America is the land of the lawsuit, I think the British are starting to beat us for sheer stupidity of its government officials.

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    Tuesday, April 07, 2009

    Doral, Florida Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez Doesn't Want You to See These Videos

    Doral, Florida mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez doesn't want you to see the unflattering YouTube videos of him being a total jerk to other people in Doral.

    For example, he doesn't want you to see this one where he insults Chief of Police Ricky Gomez by calling a big mouth and making sarcastic comments about his "infinite wisdom."



    He also doesn't want you to see the movie, "Mayor of Doral Loses Control," where Crazy-Mayor Bermudez pounds his gavel, jabs his finger at Vice Mayor Peter Cabrera, and tells him, "This is not your meeting. You're not the mayor." So don't watch this one either.



    According to a story in the Miami Herald, Bermudez said the videos were "sleazy politics" and says they were taken out of context.

    Videos like this one.



    "The voters of Doral understand my character, my integrity and the person who I am," Bermudez said.

    Now the rest of the world understands his character, integrity, and the person who he is.

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    Monday, April 06, 2009

    British Firefighters Told Ladders Are Too Dangerous

    From the "Unclear on the Concept" files:

    British firefighters – men and women who climb 300 foot (30 stories) ladders have been told they can no longer climb stepladders to test smoke alarms, because they're "too dangerous.

    According to a story in the London Daily Mail, the firefighters have been told by Britsh bureaucrats that they need to use a telescoping pole when checking smoke alarms.

    The rule was introduced by the Bedfordshire and Luton Fire and Rescue Service, which gave out the telescoping poles, with blatant disregard to the potential for eye injury when firefighters start whipping these things around, playing Three Musketeers.

    This shouldn't be too surprising to the men and women of the BLFRS. Two years ago, the same brigade was stopped from removing festival banners strung across a road, because their bosses were worried they might fall off the ladders.

    One firefighter told the Daily Mail: "Now they have ordered us not to use stepladders at all in case we fall off and hurt ourselves. I've been up a 300ft ladder with my hosepipe in my hand just feet away from roaring flames. I didn't fall off my ladder then so I am not likely to suddenly develop vertigo up a little stepladder."

    This is not the first time British bureaucrats have endangered the health and safety of British citizens, by limiting the speed at which firefighters can work.



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    Sunday, April 05, 2009

    Phone It In Sunday: Twitter Whore

    I've been on Twitter for the last 8 months, and have been bomarded by spammers, SAHMers, and lots and lots of social media "experts."

    I've never met a Twitter Whore though. I don't think I'd want to.



    Next week, Twitter Whore, Part 2.



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    Saturday, April 04, 2009

    Food Related Assault Epidemic Reaches Philadelphia, Man Assaults Girlfriend With Meatball Sub

    Boy, they sure do take their meatball subs seriously in Philadelphia. So much so, that men have been known to assault their fiancées over a poorly made sandwich.

    According to a story in the Philadelphia Daily News, Lyndel Toppin attacked his fiancée, who police did not name, because he didn't like the way she made his sandwich.

    Specifically, he didn't like how the cheese was placed.

    Toppin "became enraged due to the victim not placing cheese on his hoagie roll correctly," said the arrest report.

    The woman said Toppin grabbed a knife and slashed her finger, which caused a deep cut. She needed 23 stitches.

    Toppin also bit the woman's wrist and would not let go.

    Toppin has been charged with aggravated and simple assault, reckless endangerment, possessing an instrument of crime and harassment.

    He is so not going to like prison food.

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    Friday, April 03, 2009

    Houston Teachers Suffer Zero Tolerance

    Houston Teachers Suffer Zero Tolerance


    Erik Deckers
    Laughing Stalk syndicate
    Copyright 2009

    I've long complained that zero tolerance policies turn school administrators into bureaucratic automatons who lack any common sense or compassion for rule breakers. From a first grade boy who was suspended for having a weapon – a knife he got from the school cafeteria – to girls who had anti-PMS medication, administrators' blind adherence to zero tolerance has put stains on the permanent records of otherwise-good kids who have never been a minute's trouble.

    And we all know how long those permanent records follow us around. According to my elementary school principal, this was something that was going to be shackled to my ankle for my entire adult life.

    But now teachers for the Houston Independent School District (HISD) are shocked – SHOCKED! – to find these zero tolerance rules apply to them as well.

    "Hey, these aren't just ruining students' lives. They could ruin ours too!" they all realized with a giant forehead slap. Especially the teachers who earlier spoke glowingly of what is officially known as Chapter 37 around the Houston area.

    According to the Lone Star Times website, a few years ago Gayle Fallon of the Houston Federation of Teachers said the zero tolerance policy "makes our lives livable in an urban school district. We have great fear the Legislature will try and weaken Chapter 37, and that would be a shame because not only would you see an increase in campus crime… or acts of violence, you will see teachers leave (their jobs)."

    Now Gayle is changing her tune, and recommending the district use more than a little discretion, because a couple of her members have been busted for the lack of common sense that brings Zero Tolerance stories in to the spotlight.

    Like LeDarien Strauss, a special education teacher. According to the Houston Chronicle, Strauss was busted because he had prescription drugs in his car. His deceased dad's prescription drugs. In his deceased dad's car, because his own was being repaired.

    So now Strauss has an attorney, James Fallon, Gayle's son. (You remember, the woman who said Chapter 37 made teachers' lives livable? The one who said weakening it would lead to more school crime? Guess Chapter 37 isn't the great panacea she once thought it was.)

    Fallon the Younger told the Chronicle that Strauss is "the sweetest, kindest guy you'd ever meet. He's not popping pills and then going to work."

    But Norm Uhl, a spokesman for the Houston Independent School District, told the Chronicle they're treating their employees as they would their students: like criminal thugs whose lives they can ruin with their innocent-until-proven-yeah-whatever viewpoint. Which means they're arresting teachers for having drugs of any sort at school, and then leaving it up to prosecutors to file charges.

    “We do have discretion to accept charges or not accept charges, but as officers of the court, it’s our duty to see that justice is done,” said Donna Hawkins, a spokesperson for the Harris County D.A.'s office told the Chronicle. “We don’t discriminate based on whether somebody is a teacher or not.”

    "We'll blindly screw up anyone's life without a second thought," she added.

    Okay, she didn't really say that. She said that if a person can show proof of a valid prescription, then they shouldn't be in trouble with the law. The HISD just cackled evilly and rubbed their hands together with sinister glee.

    Hawkins gave an example of an HISD food service worker who had drug charges against him dismissed after he was able to produce a prescription. Of course, I'm sure they didn't reimburse him for any lost wages, legal costs, or apologize for the embarrassment of being arrested as a dopehead and having his reputation sullied. Hopefully his employer was a little more forthcoming.

    Doubt it.

    Last December, the Houston police department took drug-sniffing dogs to every school parking lot to search for drugs.

    One of the victims of the sweep is Melinda Herrick, a 59-year-old art teacher who had two Xanax in her car. Now the former Teacher of the Year is suspended and has been charged with having drugs in a drug-free zone.

    Thankfully, her attorney expects the grand jury to drop the case, but she's still facing stiff legal costs. So much so that the Parent-Teacher Organization is having a fundraiser to cover her expenses. And her situation isn't unique. Other teachers have been caught up in this web of zero common sense.

    Not surprisingly, Fallon and other attorneys worry their clients could lose their jobs and teaching licenses even if they're not convicted. Because zero tolerance means zero compassion too.

    That innocent-until-proven-yeah-whatever joke isn't so funny now, huh?


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    Thursday, April 02, 2009

    Canadian Jogger, Police Can't Tell Difference Between Real Coyotes and Cardboard

    I worry about the safety of Canadian citizens. It seems you can't jog in some Canadian towns without being attacked by cardboard coyotes.

    Last summer, the city of Sarnia, Ontario (across the border from Port Huron, Mich.) put up two cardboard cutouts of a coyote as a way to scare off Canada geese in a park.

    They were gone a few weeks later.

    "We just figured vandals took them," Tery McCallum, director of community services told The (Kitchener) Record this week. "You can't put up any really fancy signs in the park because they usually disappear." (Or are attacked by much larger packing material animals.)

    But it wasn't vandals. Turns out it was their brothers and sisters in bureaucracy, the Sarnia Police Department.

    Apparently, a jogger was running through the park one morning, and was startled by the cutouts. So she ran to a nearby construction site, failing to notice the two-dimensional coyotes had not followed. She told one of the construction workers the coyote had "barked" at her.

    (Is she sure it wasn't one of the construction workers whistling at her?)

    According to the story in The Record, the worker called the police, who arrived on the scene and surrounded the coyote, resulting in a three hour standoff.

    Not really. They realized the coyotes were made of cardboard, and not knowing they had been installed as scarecrows (or is that scaregeese?), read the coyotes their rights and took them off to a cardboard zoo.

    Police are now undergoing extensive training to deal with Sarnia's newest threat, polystyrene bears.

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    Wednesday, April 01, 2009

    How to Keep Your Baby Warm and Humiliated

    When I was a baby, I was just sort of carted around, passed off from adult to adult, like a cardboard box that pooped.

    When we had kids, we took a cue from our parents, and carefully held our children, but didn't get too creepy or weird with any equipment we used.

    Not so the makers of Peekaru.

    For the family who isn't ridiculous already. The helicopter parents who haven't stopped at the Breastfeeding Simulator for Men (I wish to God that wasn't real), you can now stick your kid inside a Snuggie for babies.

    You put on this big pouch, and stick your baby's face through it, like he's Kuato, that creepy symbiote from Total Recall. (I wish this one was an April Fool's joke, but it isn't.)

    My wife says it looks like a talking belly button.

    Even if we had infants, I'd use what hundreds and thousands of generations of parents used before this baby dork-cessory: wrap the kid in a friggin' blanket, and save yourself the embarrassment and your kid thousands of dollars in counseling.

    And if you're a man, and your wife asks you to wear one of these things, for God's sake, refuse as a service to men everywhere. Grow a new pair, since you already gave yours to your wife.

    I think you left them in the Daddy-Breastfeeding sling.

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