Friday, July 31, 2009

Karl the Curmudgeon Deals With His Grandson

Karl the Curmudgeon Deals With His Grandson

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2009

"Kid, I need your help," said the voice on the other end of the phone. It was Karl, my friend and part-time curmudgeon. "Come over to the house. I've got a problem."

Karl met me at the door and led me to the back porch where I saw a spotty-looking youth, dressed all in black, glaring out at the back fence, as if daring it to make a move.

"Kid, this is Kevin, my grandson. Kevin, this is the Kid."

Kevin looked at me suspiciously, as if I were about to harsh his happy, or whatever the young kids are calling disappointment these days.

What's the problem, Karl?

"Kevin is having some problems with his parents right now, so he left home in a show of defiance. I wanted to see if you could talk some sense into him. I figured since you're the same age as his dad, you might be able to offer an outsider's viewpoint."

So what's the matter? I said, sitting down in one of Karl's lawn chairs. Karl handed me a beer, and Kevin a Coke.

"My parents just don't understand me," said Kevin, plonking his Coke on the patio table. "They don't know how hard it is to be a teenager. They don't understand what my life is like, and they can't relate to me."

Give me an example, I said.

"Well, I was listening to some Blink-182 in my room, when my dad pounded on the door and told me to turn down that noise. Then he started to lecture me on how my music was crap, and that my bands are just talentless slugs compared to the music he listened to when he was a kid."

And how is that a problem? Every kid goes through that. Every parent goes through it too. Believe it or not, your parents went through the same problems with their choice of music and lifestyle.

"No way," said Kevin. "My parents grew up in the 70s and 80s, this is the, uh, zeros. It's way different!"

Kevin, I grew up in the 70s and 80s.

"Then you don't understand either!" Kevin almost shouted. "You didn't listen to the same music, wear the same clothes, or face the same problems."

Actually, I have to go with your father on the whole music thing.

"Figures," he muttered.

Do your bands have piercings?

"Absolutely," he said. "Pierced eyebrows, noses, lips, tongues."

And body art? Lots of tattoos, I suppose.

"Oh yeah, great tattoos."

Piercings done in a safe, sterile environment by a trained professional, and tattoos done with clean needles also by a trained professional?

"Yeah, so?" he said.

Junior, I said, tagging him with a new nickname, in the 70s and 80s, our bands didn't have sterile piercing salons or trained tattoo artists. The fans didn't go in for it either.

"See? I knew it!" he said. I shushed him and continued.

I was a KISS fan in 1978. Do you know who they are?

"The dad from Gene Simmons' 'Family Jewels,' right?"

Right, but before that, he was the blood-spitting, fire-breathing bassist for KISS. Does Blink-182 breathe fire or spit blood, Junior?

"Uh, no, I guess not."

Ever heard of the Sex Pistols? They're the godfathers of punk. And both the fans and the musicians didn't go in for your namby-pamby sterile piercing parlors. If a punk wanted a piercing, he shoved a safety pin through his cheek and fastened it at the corner of his mouth. Sid Vicious never went in for tattoos. Instead, he once carved "Gimme a fix" on his chest with a razor.

You think you're hard core just because your parents' music is 30 years old? Junior, you don't know what the meaning of hard core is. Hardcore is not gold-plated piercings and concerts with corporate sponsors. Hardcore is getting into fights with your audience and smashing up the offices of record labels that just signed you.

Kevin just stared at me, open-mouthed. I could tell this was quite a blow to the image he had of his parents.

"I, uh, I gotta call my folks," he said, walking into the house.

Karl clapped me on the shoulder. "See Kid, I knew you could do it. Not quite what I had envisioned, but the end justify the means."

No problem, Karl. Hey, what kind of music did his parents listen to.

"Oh, my son was quite the Pat Benatar fan when he was growing up. He was quite the little rocker. We had to pound on his bedroom door more than once."

Yeah, I can totally see that.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

British City Council Forces Swimmers to Swim Widths, Not Lengths

The Dagenham City Council is up to the same shenanigans that seem to plague most British city councils: they have banned swimmers at a council pool from swimming lengths.

Now they may only swim widths, in order to make it easier for lifeguards to keep an eye on them.

According to a story in the London Daily Mail, the Dagenham City Council believes that it's easier for lifeguards to watch over people swimming the width of the pool than it is to watch them swimming lengths. But the pool's regulars say it's just one more indication that Britain is caught up in the mad health and safety whirlpool.

"Health and safety" is the mating cry of the British bureaucrat, also known as bureaucraticus moronicus, which seems to have come up with this as an alternative to the "if we let you do it, then we have to let everyone else do it" excuse our teachers used when we were kids.

Dean Bradford, 33, has used the Dagenham pool since he was 13.

"A lot of elderly people swim lengths of the pool to maintain their stamina and health and young people swim lengths to become better swimmers," Bradford told the Daily Mail. "By banning lengths all these people are being marginalised and will have to go elsewhere."

And since the pool is running short on cash, that's the last thing they can afford.

An unnamed council spokesman told the Daily Mail,"This enables people who are less confident to swim lengths of the shallow end to help them get fit and also it makes it easier to see where people are swimming and what they are doing. It's about variety, giving a whole host of swimming options."

The spokesman did say that the policy only affected morning and lunchtime swimming sessions. However, if the feedback was not good, they would change things back to the way things were.

Given the royal bollocking the Dagenham city council has been getting in the British press, that should be any day now.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wayback Wednesday: You Think It's Funny, But It's Not

You Think It's Funny, But It's Not

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2003 (published week of December 5th, 2003)

On Wednesdays, rather than rehashing a news story, I reprint one of my old columns. I've got 15 years' worth of the damn things, so there's no point in letting them sit moldering in a box in my garage. At least not the good ones.

Ask any parent about the worst part of parenting, and they'll all tell you the same thing: "I hate it when my kids get sick." The cries of "I don't fe-e-e-e-e-l go-o-o-o-o-d!" are always met with a heavy sigh, closed eyes, and a brief, but fervent prayer for strength and patience. Mostly patience.

It's not that we're unsympathetic to our children's illness — any parent would willingly take the illness upon themselves to spare their child the agony of a head cold or stomach virus. It's just that when our kids are sick, they wear on our nerves.

They whine. They fuss. They won't sleep when you want them to. They think that watching TV will help them get better. They think playing will help them get better. They want to eat pizza after two straight days of vomiting. And they're filled-to-overflowing with snot.

I've been a father for over six years, and in that time, my wife has dealt with more colds, flus, and runny noses than she cares to remember. We've wiped noses, blown noses, and used that little snot vacuum — the plastic nozzle with a ball on the end that sucks the snot right out of your kid's head.

Forget all other the other things your kid spews out in a normal illness. It's the snot that creates the biggest headache for parents.

As everyone knows, a young child is normally filled with all sorts of runny, icky, sticky goo you'd care to name. And on a normal day, they expel enough of it to fill a small garbage can. Which also means it ends up on our shirts, pants, fingers, and shoes.

So when your child is sick, take the daily output of the average two-year-old, and double it — twice the snot, twice the tears, twice the "uh-oh-we-shouldn't-have-given-her-peanut-butter-and-bananas" vomit.

It's situations like this that separate the new parents from the seasoned pros. Anytime something comes out of their child, new parents scramble around so frantically, you'd think their little bundle of joy just belched fire. Veteran parents, on the other hand, just sit calmly with a look of resigned defeat and mumble, "Oh great, I got snot on my favorite shirt. Again."

When new parents get their child's snot on their hands, they'd gladly use a belt sander to wipe it off. When it happens to seasoned parents, they wait to wipe it on the other parent when they're not looking.

Of course, snot and mucus play a big part of any child's illness, and it's the reason for the heavy sighs when our kids don't fe-e-e-e-e-l go-o-o-o-o-d. That's because, with the exception of potty training, it's the big milestone that most parents pray for: blowing the child's nose for the very first time.

Oh sure, there are other, more momentous events like the first time your child crawled, walked, and went to the big boy potty. But nose blowing is a pretty important one, because it marks the first time the parents don't have to race for a Kleenex because of the huge stream of lava snot shooting out their nose, or grab the child's hand to keep him from smearing it on his cheek.

It's also the milestone that parents don't discuss. No one cares when a child learns to blow their nose. It doesn't get recorded in the baby book. There aren't any in-depth articles about it in parenting magazines. Parents don't call the grandparents and shout "Bobby just used the big boy hanky!"

Most kids don't learn to effectively blow their nose until they're about two-and-a-half. And even then, it's only a half-hearted blow that's about as effective as throwing a glass of water on a forest fire. It's not until a child hits three that they can trumpet with the adults and really clear out their sinuses.

That's the day parents pray for, so they can stop wiping noses, using the snot vacuum, or hearing that blasted snot whistle over and over and over until they just can't take it any more and they turn on the radio to some really obnoxious static just for some relief from THAT FREAKIN' WHISTLING!

But it's at that point, that wondrous magical day, when taking care of sick children finally gets easier. That's when you can plop your sick kid on the couch, turn on cartoons, and just hover nearby with an industrial-sized box of Kleenex.

Just hope they don't get diarrhea.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009 Plays Great Prank on CEO of Verizon to Show Security Flaws

Verizon Wireless wants you to think that your personal data is protected, that it's safe, and is not available for sale on a website. Things like your cell phone number, address, etc. are not for sale on the Internet, unless they are.

Which they totally are.

According to a great post on (which cited a Washington Post article), this is a problem with the cell phone carriers who not only have poor security measures, some of their employees may be selling your information.

So somebody at signed up for a "free cell phone records" to get the unlisted address for Ivan Seidenberg, CEO of Verizon. Then he plugged the address into his GPS, and drove out to Seidenberg's neighborhood just outside New York City.

"Ivan Seidenberg!" I shouted into the bullhorn, and it was just insanely loud. The sound echoed off the brick facade of Ivan's estate, splashing onto all the McMansions around him.

"I'm here on behalf of Verizon customers. PLEASE DO A BETTER JOB PROTECTING YOUR CUSTOMERS' CELL PHONE RECORDS!" I bellowed. "Everyone has the right to privacy, including you Ivan! When we don't have privacy, then freaks with bullhorns start showing up on our front lawn."

"Keep our phone numbers unlisted!" I shouted. "Keep our cell phone records private! Keep us safe in your loving arms, Ivan!"

"Stroke our hair!" I added.

"Can you hear me, Ivan? This is a serious issue!" I hollered.

"Can you hear me now?" I asked, a little louder.


Apparently nothing happened. Either Seidenberg didn't hear him, was hiding under the bed in the guest room, or just wasn't home. But the guys at did a cool thing to show that the cell phone companies aren't as good at keeping things private as they like to say they do. If they can find the unlisted phone number and address of the one guy whose information should be kept private, you can find anybody's.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

I'm Speaking at Blog Indiana 2009

I'll be speaking at the 2009 Blog Indiana conference in August.

I'll be speaking on "Three Effective Blogging Techniques" (although I may have 5. I live to give a little extra) and "Promoting Your Blog Through Social Media" on Thursday, You can find a schedule of speakers here.

Blog Indiana 2009 countdown!

You can buy tickets at the website. The full conference pass that covers all 4 days is your best value: $245.

Here’s the Press Release for Blog Indiana 2009 (that I swiped from Doug Karr's website)

Blog Indiana, founded last year by Noah Coffey and Shawn Plew, announced its second annual blogging and social media conference. The three-day event will be held August 13 through 15, 2009 from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm at the Informatics and Communications Technology Complex on the IUPUI Campus and will bring bloggers, marketers, and small business owners from across the state in an effort to promote education, innovation and collaboration. The conference is sponsored by the IU School of Informatics and Smaller Indiana.

“We want to help empower businesses and entreprenuers to take advantage of the latest in social media,” said Noah Coffey. “This conference will help do that by providing insights and best practices from local experts as well as help introduce novices to the whole concept.”

Blog Indiana 2009 is an all-day, three-day event for those seeking to capitalize on the financial benefits and brand exposure of blogging and social media. Topical sessions will be lead by successful social media experts such as Chris Brogan, Jason Falls, Chris Baggott, Brad Ward, Tom Britt, and many others.

Sessions will include discussions on hot trends such as Twitter, Facebook, and the social web. Other items such as blogging for beginners, using blogs & social media in your business, monetizing your blog, political blogging, and more advanced topics. Panel and group discussions will also be offered on Saturday.
Non-Profit Summit & Higher Education Summit

Due to popular request, this year will feature two 1-day summits with sessions geared specifically towards those in the non-profit and higher education worlds. The Higher Education summit will take place on Thursday, August 13th, 2009 and the Non-Profit Summit will take place on Friday, August 14th, 2009.

Ticket prices vary depending on which part of the conference you wish to attend. Early bird pricing ends the week of July 12th, 2009. Seating is limited. This conference is open to residents and businesses outside of Indiana. Tickets can be purchased online.

“In the past, most blogging and technology-related conferences have either been too expensive or too far out of state,” noted Shawn Plew. “Blog Indiana 2009 will bring a low-cost, high-value conference to Indiana.”

About Blog Indiana LLC

Noah Coffey is founder and president of Coffey Design. When not designing web sites, Coffey is blogging about it and the challenges of freelancing and being a first-time parent.

Shawn Plew is a web consultant for TGFI, Inc., based in Indianapolis. He blogs about his experiences as a first time father.

About IU School of Informatics

The Indiana University School of Informatics has set as its goal to be nationally recognized as the foremost in the country for excellence and leadership in Informatics programs, including undergraduate and graduate education, research, placement and outreach. These programs include opportunities for professionals trained in state-of-the-art information technology and science with an emphasis on creative human applications.

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British Schools Replace Regular Ties With Clip-Ons

After a few hundred years of making British school students wear ties as part of their school uniforms, many British schools are switching to clip-on ties over safety concerns that the little snowflakes might become injured.

According to an article on the BBC, students at the McCauley Catholic High School are being forced to switch because of fears they will be caught in equipment or catch fire during science class.

School administrators are also concerned they could be "worn in a scruffy style."

As a response, more than 400 people have joined a Facebook protest group to complain that they want to go back to the old ties.

Administrators need to stop and reconsider what they're asking. If millions of tie-wearing kids haven't choked themselves in the past couple hundred years, they're not going to start yet.

Put your energies into finding other safety issues to care about, like whether the precious snowflakes will stab themselves with the school-issued pencils and cafeteria forks.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Phone It In Sunday: "The Waldo Ultimatum" from

From those funny kids at I was in college when the "Where's Waldo?" phenomenon first hit. (Did you know it was called "Where's Wally?" when it was first published in England?)

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Did You Know It's Illegal to Play Catch in Clearwater, Florida?

Clearwater, Florida is giving the United Kingdom a run for its money in the "Biggest Nanny State Ever" competition. But one politician is trying to change all that. (If we were Fark, I'd give him a "Hero" tag.)

According to an article on WFTV's website, Clearwater City Councilman George Cretekos is trying to change the law that made it illegal to play catch on anything but a designated area.

Apparently, the Clearwater City Council managed to slip this little gem through without a lot of people noticing. (Or at least me; I've only been doing this blog on a daily basis since December 2008.)

Boneheaded officials who originally passed the law said the idea was to give police the authority to stop a game on a public beach or park if it were going to hurt someone. However, it meant "a 1-year-old playing catch is breaking the law."

As if. I have yet to meet a 1-year-old with the arm strength or accuracy to throw a ball back to me. Big bunch of wusses.

"I also feel like it's important for a child to be able to go out and toss a ball or throw a Frisbee without the fear of being cited for an ordinance violation," Cretekos told WFTV.

He is trying to limit the scope of the law to careless activities that can actually hurt someone.

Like a 2-year-old hurling a 90 mph fastball, I suppose.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

A Blogger's Response to Newspaper Columnist Stu Bykofsky

On July 23rd, Stu Bykofsky, daily columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, thought he was being funny when he wrote:
I DON'T have a blog. If I did blog, this is what it would be like. (To make it seem like a real blog, I'll include typos and factual errors.)
Haaa-ha, Stu. What a funny guy. You see, Stu thinks that since his words are printed on dead trees, they're somehow more important and credible.

Important and credible, like in August 2007, when he said we needed another 9/11 to bring the country back together. Yep, that's right. Mr. "I'm a real journalist" was advocating for the deaths of thousands more Americans so we could all have some national unity. That's real journalism right there.

His words are printed on dead trees, yet I found them online.

That's sort of like a blog, isn't it?

I guess if I wanted to give Stu "We need another 9/11" Bykofsky a snarky response, I'd say something clever and witty like:
I don't work for a newspaper. If I did work for a newspaper, this is what my day would be like: I would worry about the rapidly declining subscriptions, the ad revenues that have collapsed faster than John Goodman running wind sprints, and whether the next call from my editor is the one where I get laid off.
For those of you aren't familiar with Philadelphia media, the Daily News is the #2 paper in a two paper market, and is the red-headed stepchild of the town's real newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer.

That's because the Daily News' parent company declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this year, which meant the smaller, less popular paper was folded into the bigger, better newspaper.

Do you ever wonder if the Daily News feels like Jan Brady, to the Inquirer's Marcia? Prettier, more popular Marcia?

Inquirer, Inquirer, Inquirer!

But what do I know? I'm just a blogger. A securely employed blogger.

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Road Trip with the Family

Road Trip with the Family

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2009

"No, we're not there yet, Buddy."

"We still have 128 miles to go."

"Five minutes after the last time you asked me."

"But you just went when we stopped. We stopped, what, 30 minutes ago? You can't have to go again, can you?"

"What do you mean you didn't go then? Why didn't you go then?"

"I don't care if you didn't have to go. You need to go when we all stop, not when you have to."

"No, I'm not going to stop. You can just hold it for 30 more minutes."

"What? She's not going to wet her pants."

"Because she's eight. She's got better control than that."

"She didn't have that much to drink, did she?"

"I don't now, I thought you gave her a drink."

"Honey, did you drink any water before we left?"

"Good. Then we don't need to stop yet. Hold it for 30 more minutes."

"What do you mean? She'll be able to hold it. Honey, can you hold it?"

"All right, all right, I'll find a place. Look, there's a McDonald's up there. We can get lunch while we stop."

"No, we're not going to Burger King."

"No, we're not getting pizza."

"Because we had pizza last night."

"I know, I like pizza too, but Mommy doesn't like to eat pizza two days in a row."

"I'm not blaming you. You just don't like to eat anything two days in a row."

"Listen kids, we're going to be at Grandma's in a few hours. We don't need a huge lunch. Just a small sandwich. We'll eat in the car."

"I don't care, we're not getting Burger King."

"No, we're having pizza tonight for dinner."

"I told you that."

"No, I distinctly remember telling you two days ago that we were having pizza tonight at my mom's. That's why I couldn't understand why you wanted pizza last night for dinner."

"Well, of course I didn't say anything. I don't mind having pizza more than once."

"Yes, Buddy, we'll have pepperoni on it."

"Yes, Honey, we'll have sausage on it."

"No, Sweetie, we're not having pineapple on it."

"Because it's unnatural and weird."

"I didn't say she's unnatural and weird, I said that about pineapple. Sweetie, did you think I said you were unnatural and weird?"


"No, you're immature."

"Here we are. I want all of you kids to go to the bathroom. We need to be in and out in 10 minutes."

"I don't care if you don't have to go. We're not stopping again until we get to Grandma's. I'll get the food and we'll meet back in the car."

"We're not getting any apple pies."

"No shakes either. We're getting hamburgers, and that's it."

"Okay, and some fries. But that's it."

"Okay, and drinks too. But nothing more."

"Is everyone buckled? Did everyone go?"

"Great. Next stop Grandma's house."

"Now we're 123 miles away."

"It's been 20 minutes since you last asked me."

"Yes, Sweetie, I know we should have gotten a lot farther than five miles in 20 minutes, but we just took a little break because your sister had to use the bathroom."

"Hey, hey, stop it! Both of you knock it off. It's nobody's fault we had to stop, okay? Now just— stop sticking your tongues out!"

"All of you, knock it off. Just be quiet and eat your hamburgers."

"I swear, if I have to stop this car, there's going to be trouble."

"What? I absolutely would stop this car."

"Oh, ha ha. That's not true."

"There are plenty of things more important than our arrival time."

"No, I just want to get there sooner, so I don't have to listen to the ids-kay and their amn-day oise-nay."

"No, Sweetie, I didn't know you knew Pig Latin."

"No, you can't say that word. Not even in Pig Latin."

"Listen, we'll get there when we get there, so please stop asking. It doesn't go any faster if you ask over and over every two minutes."

"What? I'm not speeding, I'm just trying to get there sooner."

"Fine, I'll be careful. I just don't want to get there too late."

"Just because. Hey, there's another McDonald's a couple miles ahead."

"No, I didn't forget any of our lunch."

"No, we don't need anything else."

"Because I forgot to go to the bathroom."

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Denver Cop Pulls Gun on Area McDonald's When Food Takes Too Long

I'll admit, McDonald's is not always very speedy with their food. Sometimes you have to wait for a few minutes before your order is finally done.

Still, that's no reason to pull a gun on the people inside. Especially when you're a police officer

Denver police officer Derrick Curtis Saunders has been charged with "felony menacing" for pulling his gun at an Aurora, Colorado McDonald's while waiting for his food.

According to a story in the Denver Post, Saunders and another off-duty police officer were waiting at the drive-through window back in May, when Saunders got tired of waiting and thought that a show of force would somehow make the microwaves work faster.

Saunders has been charged with felony menacing and weapons charges, as well as prohibited use of a weapon, reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct and trying to order breakfast items after 11:00 am.

There is no truth to the rumor that Saunders was actually trying to apprehend Hamburglar.

Saunders needs to make sure he doesn't burn any bridges with McDonald's, since that may be his only career option left open to him when this is all over.

Do you have any jokes about this? was the first, but let's hear from you. Leave a joke in the comments section.

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My review of "I was Merely Acting/Dramatic Shorts" at the Indianapolis International Film Festival

I'm not much into dramatic movies. As a humor writer, I try to avoid things that are, well, dramatic. I like to say it's because dramatic movies and TV shows just suck the humor right out of me. But in truth it's because dramatic means "will make Erik tear up."

But still, I had decided to see the dramatic shorts at the Indianapolis International Film Festival on Tuesday. I figured they were short enough that we would be starting the next one before the first one really had a chance to grab ahold of me.

Here's a quick rundown of the five movies in the "I Was Merely Acting/Dramatic Shorts", including Free Lunch, The Collector, Borderless, The Chef's Letter, and Weathered.

Free Lunch

The story of a privileged young man who decides to shake off the fetters of wealth and privilege to open his own lunch truck in Los Angeles. Walter was one of those optimistic young liberals who thinks he's down with the people because he lives in a 2-room apartment and can speak a little street Spanish.

Frankly, I found Walter really annoying. The acting was good, the story was actually kind of funny. But Walter as a person bugged the shit out of me. He had that youthful world-changing optimism that you find in a lot of youth pastors meeting their first group of inner city kids. He bugged me because I was that way. I saw a lot of myself 20 years ago in Walter.

The bigger problem is that Walter didn't know when to quit. When things were going bad, he kept going. When things got worse, he kept going. When things hit rock bottom, you and I would have wondered how we're going to find our next thing. Walter just looked like this was one more minor setback, no worse or better than running out of ham for his favorite customer.

The Collector

I watched these movies with a couple of friends I bumped into at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and the consensus was The Collector was not our favorite. Most stories have a beginning, middle, and end; The Collector just had an end, with a bit of a middle in front of it. We weren't sure what happened at the end or what caused the end to come around. It threw all of us for a bit of a loop.

The story is about a boy who develops a love — an obsession, really — with collecting things. When he collects all of something, he finds something new. This behavior continues on until he's an old man, collecting memories along with items.

I love the sound effects in this movie. It's a weird thing to love, but the the solid clunking of the different collectibles was comforting and more vivid than even real life sounds.

If you're into imagery and metaphors and deep life lessons, then The Collector is right up your alley. If you're not, it will be a little tough to wrap your head around. See it more than once to get it to fit with your worldview.


I loved this movie. Elena Torres, a college student and illegal immigrant, and Jason Whitsell, a campus Republican, are the two characters in this great short about learning to trust and accepting help from new friends.

Elena washes dishes for 40 hours a week, sleeps in the library at night, and goes to campus events that provide food so she can eat; Jason is the son of a U.S. Congressman who's against illegal immigration. Elena has to learn that she either has to trust Jason or spend her days and nights alone.

The website, says this is a story about being who you are, even when you are afraid that who you are is not what other people would accept.

What was especially surprising was that this was done as a USC graduate thesis film. It was well-acted, well-shot, and in short a great movie. It was my second favorite of the whole series, and actually a tough call to make.

The Chef's Letter

Rob is a successful chef with a wife who loves him and a daughter who adores him. Everything is going great, but he falls in love with a male trainee, so he writes a letter on the trainee's last day, telling him how he feels.

I found myself pulling for the two characters who never made an appearance in the film, Rob's daughter and wife. I wanted Rob to follow his loyalty and family commitments, not follow his infatuation. I can imagine it was a hard decision for him, and I've known people who have faced this decision. Knowing Rob's dilemma made this a difficult film for me to "just watch." I became emotionally invested in the story, wondering and worrying about what would happen.


My favorite movie of the whole series. Weathered is a story about a woman, Weather, who lost her fiancée, Jules, in the 1990s, and has refused to move on in her grief and mourning. Her computer is a word processor, she uses an answering machine, and still listens to record albums.

As Jules' life came to an end, and all their friends faded out of their life, the doctors and nurses were the only human contact in Weather's life. So as a way to receive some human contact, Weather visits every kind of medical professional she can imagine, saving their little flyers, prescriptions, and sheets of paper they hand her.

It's only by accident that Weather's life gets shaken off center and we think she may finally move on a bit. Starring Nicole Parker of MadTV and Broadway's Wicked, and Tony Hale of Arrested Development, this film became my favorite of the entire slate.

I had a chance to meet Matt Barber, one of the writers who also played Jules, after the show, and talk to him for a little bit about script writing. Pretty cool, pretty cool.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

PETA Wants to Rename California Beach "Sea Kitten Beach"

Earlier this year, PETA wanted the entire world to stop calling fish "fish," and instead start calling them "sea kittens." After all, they reasoned, no one would eat a kitten.

Of course, the only ones who are actually doing this are PETA people, so I'm not too worried about our language changing any time soon.

But now they're trying to get the California State Parks system to change the name of Pescadero State Beach to Sea Kitten State Beach. They have offered to pay to keep the park open if California will change the name of the park. They sent a letter to State Parks director Ruth Coleman with their offer.

Pescadero is one of the 219 state parks that will be closed as a part of the Governornator's plan to overcome a $26.3 billion deficit.

The term "sea kitten" is an effort to evoke the same sympathy for fish that people feel for cats and dogs, according to PETA Manager of Campaigns Lindsay Rajt.

"Pescadero means 'the place to fish,' so we thought by renaming it 'Sea Kitten State Beach' we could make it the place for fish instead of fishing," Linday Rajt, PETA Manager of Campaigns, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

I have to wonder, are these serious discussions, or are the PETA executives sitting around a conference table like a bunch of comedy writers to see who can come up with the most outrageous campaign, laughing their asses off at the best ones.

"Ooh ooh, I know. Let's call fish 'sea kittens!'"

"Oh and then we'll see if we can get California to rename Pescadero State Beach 'Sea Kitten State Beach.'"

Then everyone roars with laughter.

If that's what they're doing, these guys are comedic geniuses. If they're not, then they're, well, just not right in the head.

Rajt told the Chronicle they're "optimistic" that the California State Parks director would accept their offer.

If PETA were serious about this, they should put their money where their mouth is and buy private land to turn into their own private park. Then they can call fish "sea kittens," trees "hugging targets," and bears "forest sharks" all they want.

Until then, stick to killing pets. You guys are pretty good at it already.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Haverford, PA Police Bust Up Illegal Lemonade Ring

Haverford, Pennsylvania police had quite a little PR flap going on a few weeks ago, after they broke up a supposedly-illegal door-to-door lemonade ring.

According to the story in the Philadelphia Inquirier (official motto: No, you're thinking of the Enquirer), seven little kids, including 5-year-old triplets, were selling lemonade on their quiet suburban street, but one of their neighbors felt it was his duty to report the children to the police.

So the officer — whose name was blacked out in the official police report obtained by the Inquirer — visited Dana Kleinschmidt, mother of four of the lawbreakers (including the triplets), and told her the kids were violating the law because they were selling food without a permit.

So Kleinschmidt told the kids they had to stop, but told the officer that she had never heard of that law.

Mostly because there wasn't one.

"We all sold lemonade when we were kids," John F. Viola, deputy chief of police, told the Inquirer. "We all went, like, who calls [police] on kids?"

William Nickerson does, apparently. He called to complain when the kids showed up at his house, because he thought the kids weren't being properly supervised.

So when the unnamed officer rolled up, gun drawn, town statutes a-blazing, it turns out the law he cited — vending without a permit — doesn't apply to anyone younger than 16.

Viola found out about the incident after reading Kleinschmidt's heart-wrenching post on And as news of the unnamed officer's misinterpretation of the law spread throughout the township, Viola asked Sargent Joe Hagan, a patrolman for that area, to meet with the family, which he did.

He explained to them all that they had done nothing wrong, and that they could sell all the lemonade they wanted. He said one of the triplets even hugged him.

Photo: Coach O.
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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Phone It In Sunday: Raisin Brahms video

I love the arts. I love teaching my kids about the arts. I love TV commercials where long-dead musical composers burst through the walls like the "Hey Kool-Aid!!" ads from when I was a kid.

The kids reaction — "JOHANNES BRAAAAAAHMS?!?!" — cracks me up.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cooking Spray Cannot Remove Goats From Trees. Who Knew?

Pop quiz: How do you get a goat out of an oak tree? You should:

1) Wave to it and when it waves back, it will fall out.
2) Tie a rope around its waist and pull.
3) Use cooking spray.

Actually, none of these will work. But according to a story in the Ventura County Star, Alysia Krafel of California tried the cooking spray trick when one of her goats, King George got stuck in it.

How the goat got stuck in a tree is an interesting story in itself. Apparently, Krafel has several oak trees in her yard, and goats love oak trees. And most of the leaves have been stripped of their leaves from about six feet on down. But that doesn't stop the goats.

King George, and several of Krafel's goats can reach the higher leaves when they stand on their back feet, which is what King George was probably doing. Krafel said she thinks George slipped, got twisted around, and got one of his hooves caught in a crevice between two branches.

Krafel had just returned from a vacation that night in Seattle, when she found her goat hanging from a tree. She doesn't know how long he was hanging there, but she said he was so tired, he wasn't even crying. She tried spraying cooking spray on the hoof to see if it would slip, but it didn't help at all.

A quick call to the sheriff's office and a construction manager, and they were able to cut the tree down and free King George. Afterward, Krafel said she will begin cutting away any spots on trees where the goats can get hung up. Lesson learned.

The reporter then asked her if King George had also learned his lesson.

"No," she told the Ventura County Star. "He's a goat."

Photo: Wouter de Koning
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Friday, July 17, 2009

Buying a German Blue Pen: Putting My High School German to Use

Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting a column from 2005.

I recently found myself in Germany on a business trip (Geschäftsreise), and was looking forward to using my German language skills I had learned in high school (Gymnasium). I was looking forward to immersing myself in a week-long cultural adventure.

The lessons learned during the first few weeks of class were still burned in my memory, and I was convinced that, despite their simplicity, the knowledge was still valuable. I mentally rehearsed the various statements so I would be ready to engage in the many conversations my teacher promised we would have if we ever went to Germany.

"Hello. My name is Erik." ("Guten Tag. Ich heisse Erik.")

"I would like some orange juice, please" ("Ich möchte Orangensaft, bitte.")

"My pen is blue." ("Meine Kugelschreiber ist blau.")

"I like your lederhosen." ("Mir gefällt Seine Lederhose.")

You can imagine my disappointment when I arrived and saw that not only was nobody wearing any lederhosen, but absolutely nobody introduced themselves or asked me about my pen (Kugelschreiber). It was for the best though, because I was not carrying a blue pen at all. I only had black one (schwarz).

This was a major problem (Problem). This was Germany, the land of blau Kugelschreibers and Orangensaft. What if somebody introduced themselves and asked about my pen? It would be a horrible social faux pas if I only had a black pen!

I needed to get to the shopping district (Einkaufenbezirk) by way of the train station (Bahnhof), so I hailed a taxi (Taxi). "Deliver me to the train station forthwith, my good man!" I commanded.

Not really. We never learned that in German class, so all I could mumble was a quiet "Bahnhof, bitte."

"No problem," he answered. I had been frustrated all this week because Germans would automatically speak to me in English, before I had said a word. I must have looked American. My Chicago Cubs baseball cap, Budweiser t-shirt, and "Hey, I'm an American!" sign probably didn't help.

I took the next train (Zug) to the shopping district and began to scout around for a pen store (Schreibwarengeschäft). After a stop in a bookstore (Buchhandlung), two coffee shops (Kaffeehaus), and the financial district for lunch (Mittagessen), I found my Shangri-La (Shangri-La): The Faber-Castell pen store!

As I walked into the store, I realized that this was a defining moment in my life. The sort of immersive experience my German teacher hoped for us, from the very first moment we learned about blue pens and orange juice. If this was to be a meaningful event, there was only thing I could do: I had to conduct the entire transaction in German.

"Haben Sie eine Kuli?" I asked the attendant, employing the short from of Kugelschreiber. My German was still a little rusty but passable, and I could understand someone as long as they spoke ver-r-r-y slowly.

Which this guy didn't.

He picked up two of the pens I had been looking at. "Blah blah blah ein blah zwei?" he asked.

Oh crap. This was going to be hard. Wait, he said something about one or two. I'll bet he wants to know how many pens I want.

"Zwei, bitte." Two, please.

"Blah blah blah grau blah silber?" He held up two different styles of caps, one grey and one silver. He was asking which cap color I wanted.

"Ja, beide. Einer ist für mich, und einer is für meine Frau." Yes, both. One is for me, and the other is for my wife. (She was getting the silber Kuli.)

"Blah blah blah schwarz blah blau?" This was it. My big moment. The pen store assistant (Schreibwarengeschäftassistent) was asking me if I wanted a black or blue pen. I pulled myself up to my full height, puffed out my chest, and proudly said, "Ich möchte einen blauen Kugelschreiber, bitte." I want a blue pen, please.

The man smiled knowingly – apparently he had met some of my classmates – and I paid for my purchase.

I had done it. It was my own personal pen victory (Sieg).

The purchase (Erwerb) of my new blau Kugelschreiber was going to be the key to unlocking many conversational doors. Just like my high school German textbook promised, I would meet dozens of new friends, sit in a local Kaffeehaus, discussing our pens, debating the merits of orange juice over apple juice (Apfelsaft).

It would be any high school German student's dream come true. That is, until one of my new friends (Freunde) would lean over and ask me "Was möchten Sie für Abendessen?" (What do you want for dinner?)

Uh-oh. (Oh-oh.)

(Note: Those are the actual pens, four years later. We still own and use them.)

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

51-Year-Old Elkhart, IN Man Found Nude in Cemetery

There are days I hear stories from my old hometown of Syracuse, Indiana, and nearby parts of the state, and think, "Hey, I used to live up there! I'm so proud."

And then there's today.

According to an Elkhart Truth story reprinted on WSBT22's website (official motto: "what do you mean, there are people outside South Bend?"), an unnamed 51-year-old man was spotted by an off-duty police officer walking nude around Elkhart's Rice Cemetery.

Elkhart Patrolman Daniel Milanese saw the naked guy during his run inside the cemetery this past Sunday, standing next to a pickup. That's when things got a little hairy. The guy got back into his truck and drove off, but Milanese got the man's license plate and tracked him down. He called the man and asked him to come in for an interview. But the man didn't get testes or annoyed; he cooperated fully with police.

The suspect told the police he had been golfing all day, so he was really sweaty, and his underwear was wet. So while he was at the cemetery visiting his in-laws — which apparently something people with sweaty underwear do — he stripped down to get a little more comfortable. While he was driving out of the cemetery, he spotted some flowers he wanted to get a closer look at, but he didn't have his glasses, so he got out of the truck and checked them out.

Guess the guy's nuts over flowers.

The guy was arrested for public nudity, and released with a $1,500 bond.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wayback Wednesday: But I NEED Five Hammers

As a way to bring my writing forward into the 21st century, and because I was too busy to find and research another post for today, I'm firing up the Way Back Machine, and pulling out a column from September 2003.

But I NEED Five Hammers

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2003

One of the great things about being a home owner is that there is always something that needs to be repaired or remodeled. And while most home owners will agree that I've probably been hit in the head with a hammer too many times, any tool-loving Guy knows exactly what I'm talking about.

The reason these projects are so wonderful is they usually require a new tool to finish them. And not just any tool. We want a heavy-duty, testosterone-laden tool that can also function as a military weapon when it's not being used for minor household repairs.

So smart Guys will only work on projects that require a new tool. But even smarter Guys will create projects that let them buy the special tool they've been drooling over for the past three weeks.

Unfortunately, this puts our wives in a bit of a quandary. They're 99 percent positive we could get by without a variable-speed plunge router, or a new 24-volt cordless circular saw. But they also know that if they ever want the front door to close properly, the faucet to quit leaking, or the stairs to stop collapsing, they may have to let us win once in a while.

Wife: Are you sure you need a 12" dual slide compound miter saw with laser cut guide?

Husband: Hey, do you want this portrait of your mother to hang straight or not?

Eight years ago, when we were finishing the second floor of my house with a gazillion sheets of drywall, I got a cordless drill for Christmas. When we were installing paneling in the basement, I bought an electric brad nailer. And they made all the difference in the world.

But more recently, I tried to convince my wife that I needed a random orbital sander to build a new table. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of actually finishing the table without it, so now I have to find another important project that calls for a sander.

Like stopping the toilet from running.

Of course, some tool nay-sayers — people who have a local handyman service on speed dial — claim that we'll never use half the tools we thought we needed. "When will you ever use that high-precision titanium wire stripper again?" they ask us. "And why on Earth do you need five hammers?"

Because we do. If you don't understand it, then don't question it.

Besides, each hammer has a useful, if not vital, role in construction. There's the 26-ounce framing hammer, the 20-ounce general purpose hammer, and the "other-26-ounce-framing-hammer-because-I-set-the-first-framing-hammer-out-of-reach" hammer. The other two are "hey-look-I-have-five-hammers" hammers. You can never have too many of those.

In many cultures, there are certain events in a boy's life that marks the time he becomes a man. In the United States, it's when he gets his first hammer. But, it's not until a man buys a second hammer that weighs nearly two pounds that he becomes a Guy. And once he begins that journey, there's no turning back. Tools will become the very lifeblood of his existence.

A well-prepared Guy will have every tool available -- plus the appropriate spares -- because we never know when we might need it. We buy spare drill bits, Phillips head driver bits, and circular saw blades. Our collection of extension cords could stretch from Chicago to Denver. If we could, we would even have spare garages because the first one is always getting loaded up with useless junk, like cars and Christmas decorations.

And even if the bits and blades get old and dull, we can't throw them away. They can always be sharpened again "someday." Besides, you never know when the other twelve saw blades will be destroyed by, say, a small meteor. So it's important to prepare for any emergency.

I realize the irony in all of this. We're the same Guys who couldn't organize our own lives enough to plan a date with the woman of our dreams. We couldn't commit to a relationship longer than the lifespan of a tsetse fly. But we buy tools and accessories to pass down to our grandchildren, even though our own children aren't out of diapers.

So, wives, please don't scoff at our need for tools, or our feeble attempts in convincing you that a pneumatic framing nailer is exactly what we need to tack down the spot in the linoleum that's curling up. Just pretend that we've actually convinced you occasionally.

Because the right tool would make sure the life-sized portrait of your mother didn't accidentally fall off the wall and into, say, the small gas-powered chipper-shredder we were forced to borrow from the neighbors.
Erik Deckers
(originally published week of September 26th, 2003)

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Philly Swim Club Invites Disinvited Kids Back Following International Outrage

The Valley Swim club — the "private, exclusive" swim club that turned away 65 inner-city day care children — is reaching out to the Creative Steps Day Care Center and inviting them back to use their facilities.

According to a story on, the "private, exclusive" Valley Club came to the decision during a "hastily called Sunday afternoon meeting." The club voted "overwhelmingly" to make the peace offering.

The club originally said they canceled the contract with the day care center, thus dashing the hopes of 65 children who just wanted to swim, because they couldn't handle all the extra kids, despite accepting their check for $1,950. And the checks of two other day care centers.

Needless to say, Creative Steps is a little leery about the invitation, since they maintain that some of the members of the "private, exclusive" club made racist comments to the black and Hispanic children.

"As long as we can work out safety issues, we'd like to have them back," Bernice Duesler, wife of club director John Duesler, told CNN.

Duesler told CNN the club had been subpoenaed by Pennsylvania's Human Rights Commission as part of a fact-finding investigation (translation: "we're climbing SOOOOO far up your backside"), so they were given legal advice to "try to get together with these camps."

Alethea Wright, Creative Steps' director, told CNN, "They should have done that before."

No, they should never have backed out in the first place. Now they're claiming they're "very diverse" with some sort of "but some of my best friends are black" apology? If you want to see if they're sincere, see if you get a warm and friendly or chilly reception.

"These children are scarred. How can I take those children back there?" said Wright.

Good question. Whether it was the club's official response, or they made up some crap about safety because their snooty members didn't want their precious snowflakes swimming with people who looked different, the damage was done.

Said snooty members of the "private, exclusive" club made some pretty horrible statements, asking why "black children were there" and worrying "they might steal from us."

While John Duesler has told several media outlets that he had underestimated the number of children (translation: "planning and forethought are not my strong suits"), Wright has called bullshit on the director of the "private, exclusive" club. CNN even cited some emails from the club saying they accepted a 10-to-1 ratio of children to adults, and was actually considering adding three lifeguards to assist with safety.

Now, having said all this and making fun of the Valley Club, I think Wright and Creative Steps need to take Valley Club up on their offer. Be the bigger person. Show the children that while there are still bigots and racist A-holes in the world, they can be better than them. Show that they don't need to run away whenever someone says something bad about them.

As the father of two black children, I have taught my children to be proud of who they are, and to not take crap from anyone. I have also had a few strong words with people who thought they could use certain other words around me. Racism is something I won't put up with, and I don't expect my kids to run from it as they grow up.

And better yet, Ms. Wright, use this as a learning opportunity. Not just for your kids, but for the people of the Valley Club. Show them they're wrong about their stereotypes and beliefs that the kids are going to cause trouble.

And Valley Club, take them up on that opportunity. Don't just let the kids swim on certain days. Go above and beyond that. Feed the kids lunch, let them come some extra days, do some extra things for them to show that you're truly sorry.

If you want to truly repair the situation and show your diversity, then put your money where your mouth is. Prove it. Don't just ask them back on the advice of your attorney and public relations adviser, try to truly make an effort to get to know someone outside your "private" walls.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

D.C. Police Chief Denounces iPhone Speed Trap App as "Cowardly"

Washington D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier thinks people who use the PhantomAlert iPhone app are cowards who are trying to circumvent the law.

According to a story in the Washington Examiner, several Washington area drivers are using PhantomAlert to find speed traps and speed cameras in the metro D.C. area, and slow down to an appropriate speed, or avoid the area entirely.

Chief Lanier told the Examiner, "I think that's the whole point of this program. It's designed to circumvent law enforcement — law enforcement that is designed specifically to save lives."

She called the iPhone app a "cowardly tactic," and promised D.C. drivers "people who overly rely on those and break the law anyway are going to get caught."

So, let me make sure I have this right:

  1. This is about driver safety, not generating revenue.

  2. People who are aware of speed traps will slow down to avoid them.

  3. Slowing down in your vehicle will save lives.

  4. But people who slow down to avoid speed traps are still cowards.

  5. And we're still expected to believe it's not about revenue.

Photo: William Hook
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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Phone It In Sunday: Who Reads British Newspapers, According to "Yes, Prime Minister"

Even if you're not familiar with the British newspapers, this is still a pretty funny clip. Still, it's helpful to know that The Sun is famous for its Page Three Girls — women who appear topless on the third page of the paper.

You can get a rundown on what the papers are from anglophile Jon Thomas, from Northwest Indiana and fellow blogger, in his Anglotopia blog, "Which British Paper Are You? A Guide to British Newspapers."

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Philly Swim Club Doesn't Want You to Think They're All Racists

The president of the Valley Club swim club doesn't want us to think they're all racists, even though the entire country now thinks so.

Earlier this week, 65 inner city kids from the Creative Steps summer day camp were disinvited from swimming at the Valley Club, despite paying $1,950 for the chance for the kids to swim there.

After the first visit, there were supposedly a lot of mothers who were shocked — SHOCKED! — that black kids would be allowed to swim with their precious little babies. One student even reported hearing a mother ask why there were so many black kids at the pool.

So, because of pressure from the members, the Valley Club refunded the day campers their $1,950.

Then things got all racisty.

Club president John Duesler issued a statement on Tuesday that said, "There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion. . . and the atmosphere of the club."

Not smart.

The next day, protesters marched in front of the club carrying signs that said "'Privately' excluding some stains everyone's complexion" and "Good enough for the White House, but not the swim club." There has even been a probe launched into racist allegations.

Club member Lori Slowinski told Philadelphia's NBC news station, "This has nothing to do with race. I paid my money for a private swim club…if they're gonna have it out to camps, then I want my money back."

("Private" being rich white people's code for "no poor and/or minorities allowed.")

In other words, it has nothing to do with race, it has everything to do with being forced to be around poor people.

On Friday, Duesler apologized profusely to the world, saying he used the wrong words to say why they weren't allowing inner city kids to swim in their pool.

"This is a terrible misinterpretation of what I stand for. This is just wrong," Duesler said in a United Press International story. "That was a terrible choice of words, I admit."

What Duesler said he meant to say was his site does not have enough lifeguards to safely watch over the 65 extra kids.

Muh-huh. So you're not a racist, you're just incompetent?

In other words, he meant to say that he overcommitted his pool, that he failed to plan properly, that he couldn't find any way to fix the problem without becoming a pariah, that he wasn't able to marshal his resources properly, and basically can't properly run a private swimming club for a bunch of snooty rich people without sticking his foot in his mouth.

Here's a quick lesson in PR 101. If you don't have enough lifeguards to watch over 65 extra kids, you say this:

"We don't have enough lifeguards to watch over 65 extra kids."

It doesn't help when the students said they overheard mothers complaining about black kids in "their" pool, or people who say it's not about race, just about being exclusive. (Which is usually rich white people's code for "race.")

But unfortunately, this may be too little, too late for the Valley Club. With discrimination probes, protests, a state complaint by the NAACP, and worldwide notoriety, you need to do something to clean up your image.

Ironically, they call it "whitewashing."

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Friday, July 10, 2009

My Brush With Wildlife

My Brush With Wildlife

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2009

When I first moved to Syracuse, Indiana 16 years ago, I wasn't quite prepared for the rural life of northern Indiana. I was a city boy. I grew up in the burgeoning metropolis of Muncie, Indiana, home of Ball Jars and Ball State University. I even lived on Ball Avenue, completing the Ball Family's trifecta.

I thought milk and eggs came from the grocery store, that only rednecks and moonshiners lived out in the country, and that there were still places outside of town that lacked indoor plumbing and electricity. The only time I ever visited the country was when we were driving to other cities.

Needless to say, I was out of my element when I first moved to north central Indiana, and started working as the marketing director for a company that sold poultry equipment around the world. For one thing, I quickly learned that eggs didn't just come from the grocery store.

In 2005, I worked about an hour away from home, and was driving back one summer evening when my cell phone rang. It was my wife.

"There's a bobcat in the front yard," she said. "I just pulled into the driveway with the kids, and there's a bobcat just sitting there."

I was excited. I mean, we lived out in rural Indiana, but I always figured we were close enough to town that most of the serious wildlife was further north and east of us.

"What does it look like?" I asked excitedly. I'd seen them in pictures, but never in real life. Especially in small town Indiana. This was really cool.

She paused for a minute. "Well, kind of big. It's kind of a white and black color."

"Huh. I didn't know they were that color." Maybe it was a special breed of bobcat.

"What color did you think they were?" asked my wife.

"I always thought they were grayish. Maybe white in the front, brown in the back."

"Nope, this one is mostly white."

"Wow, I wish I could see it," I said, smacking the steering wheel. I was still about 20 minutes from home. The thing was going to be gone by the time I got there.

My wife didn't say anything for a moment, studying the creature that was sitting in our front yard. It was probably staring at the strange creatures sitting in the car, wondering what was going to happen next. Then inspiration struck.

"Do you have the camera with you?" I asked.


"Shoot, I wish you did. I wanted you to take a picture of it."

"I suppose I could go get one." I always knew my wife loved me, but to put herself in danger just to get a picture for me was just too much. Besides, there was still a chance it would hang around until I got home.

"No, don't get out of the car!" I nearly shouted into the phone. "It might be too dangerous."


"It could attack you. I'd rather you just waited there until I got home. Or drive to your parents."

"Why do you think it would be dangerous?" she asked, and then thought for a minute. "Wait a minute, what do you think is out here?"

"It's a bobcat. A wild cat."

The howls of laughter made me realize we weren't talking about the same thing. At all. I thought about faking going through a tunnel and hanging up, then I remembered there were no tunnels around for a hundred miles.

"No, it's a Bobcat. A big giant piece of machinery that's here to dig up our front steps. It's got a hydraulic jackhammer on the front of it and a scoop shovel sitting next to it."

Then it hit me: in the efforts to get our house ready to sell, we had hired a contractor to tear up and replace our front steps, since they were falling apart. He had delivered a Bobcat — not a bobcat — that day so he would be ready to go the next morning.

I didn't say anything for several seconds out of embarrassment, and in the faint hope that my wife would forget we had been talking.

"Erik?" Dangit.


"You're such a city boy."

"I know."

Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors" has nothing on my wife and me. I'd like to say this was the only conversation of its kind that we've ever had, but anyone who knows me knows this isn't the case.

I can only wonder what the Bard could have done if he had power tools to write about. Throw in a wood chipper, and "Hamlet" would have been hysterical.

Photo: ucumari
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Thursday, July 09, 2009

British Shop Dummy Ordered Removed by City Council

Hamid Shahabi has been ordered to remove a mannequin dressed as a soldier from outside his window because it's supposedly giving local bank staff flashbacks of an armed robbery this past winter.

Shahabi, who owns an army surplus store in Bolton, said "Darren" has stood watch over the neighborhood for five years. He refuses to take the mannequin down, despite facing a fine.

According to the BBC, Shahabi says Darren attracts donations for a British charity, Help for Heroes. He named the mannequin Darren because it looks like a friend in the army — named Darren, one would suspect — so he dressed it in camouflage fatigues to commemorate troops in Afghanistan.

Lloyds bank was robbed in February of this year, although a spokeswoman for the bank refused to comment whether the mannequin was actually having any effect on the workers. However, a spokeswoman for the Bolton Council, who is apparently also a practicing psychologist, says this is causing all sorts of flashbacks for the workers who were in the bank when it was robbed five months ago.

However, the Bolton Council said that when a member visited Hamadi's shop, Darren was wearing dark clothing and a black balaclava.

Shahabi told the BBC, "The local kids love him, they often come round to play with him, we get a lot of passing trade from him too. He's a good-looking chap. I don't understand why anyone would be scared of him, but we have received a complaint from the local bank."

I think the Bolton Council went about this the wrong way. By ordering Shahabi to remove the mannequin, it's put him on the defensive. Because the bank didn't have the courtesy or intestinal fortitude to ask Shahabi directly, they've made themselves look like a bunch of whiners.

If I were Shahabi I wouldn't remove the mannequin under those circumstances either.

Which means, of course, someone is going to steal him.

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Controversial U of Colorado Professor Denied Job Reinstatement, Back Pay

Ward Churchill, the controversial University of Colorado professor, was denied the chance to get his job back by a judge, even though a jury said he had been improperly fired.

According to a story in the Denver Post, Churchill taught ethnic studies at U of Colorado - Boulder for years, but was fired after the University had "determined he had plagiarized and falsified scholarly work for years."

The firing came on the heels of an essay Churchill wrote, calling some of the victims of the September 11 attacks "little Eichmanns."

The University said they fired Churchill for academic misconduct, but he says he was fired for exercising his right to free speech.

"I regret that I have but one life to give for my career," said Churchill. "I have a dream that one day, little administrators and little professors will be able to join hands and walk together as colleagues."

(Okay, he didn't really say that.)

Churchill had won a jury trial, after a jury decided that he was fired in retaliation for his "little Eichmanns" essay. And he was handsomely rewarded for his efforts.

They gave him a buck.

So it was up to Denver District Judge Larry Naves to decide whether Churchill should get his old job back or get paid for the salary he had lost.

It took Judge Naves 42 pages to say "nuh-uh" on both counts. He also said that if Churchill were reinstated, it would show that the university tolerated moronic comparisons of terror victims to genocidal war criminal Nazis.

Only he called it "academic misconduct."

"The evidence was credible that professor Churchill will not only be the most visible member of the department of ethnic studies if reinstated, but that reinstatement will create the perception in the broader academic community that the department of ethnic studies tolerates research misconduct," Naves wrote in his decision.

Naves also did not order CU to pay for Churchill's lost salary, since Churchill has actually turned down several job offers, all while lecturing and speaking to supplement his income.

When reached for comment, Churchill made it sound like he wasn't going to give up that easily. "We shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

Actually no, that's not true. Churchill was unavailable for comment.

It seems like Mr. Can't Keep Away From Controversy can't think of anything clever to say when he gets a judicial smackdown. Don't look for this to be over anytime soon.

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Twitter Meme Proposal: #1ThingWednesday

In the spirit of #FollowFriday Twitter meme, I'm starting #1ThingWednesday.

The idea is that on Wednesday you propose One Thing — one thought, one song, one piece of art, one book, one article, one big idea — that moves you.

It could be a song you really like, an article that taught you something new or led to a new opportunity, a piece of art that you enjoy, or one of the videos from TED or the Smaller Indiana, Bigger Ideas conference.

Just say what it is, give a headline or explanation, and a URL to the One Thing, and share it with your followers.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Food Related Assault Epidemic Reaches Iowa, Man Attacks Girlfriend with Pizza

The food-related assault epidemic continues to grow. It started in Florida last year, with four sandwich-to-the-face attacks, three of them occurring within 15 miles of each other. Then it spread to Philadelphia and Illinois, with a meatball sub and McGriddle attack, respectively.

Now, a Des Moines, Iowa man was arrested on Sunday after smashing his girlfriend in the face with a slice of pizza.

According to the police report, Ron Reliford ". . . said he used some pizza to smash into her face." Poor editing notwithstanding, this is the first time pizza has been used in one of these documented attacks.

Police said Reliford had choked his girlfriend, Deneen Kilby, and hit her with the slice. He told police, "It only takes two minutes to choke a (expletive)." The Des Moines Register would not even give us a clue as to what the (expletive) was, but I'm guessing it was the B-word.

The Register said Reliford was charged with domestic assault causing injury.

Past food-related assault articles:

Food Related Assault Epidemic Reaches Philadelphia, Man Assaults Girlfriend With Meatball Sub
Food Related Assault Epidemic Reaches Illinois, Man Throws Defective McGriddle at McD's Employee
Two More Food Attacks in Florida
Third Sandwich Attack in Florida
Assault with a Burger, Food Related Assaults on the Rise

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Monday, July 06, 2009

Kid Rock Introduces New American Badass Beer. Gives Me a Chance to Say Badass in Headline

Kid Rock is bringing the level of beer discourse down more than a few notches with the introduction of his "American Badass Beer."

Kid Rock will introduce said Badass Beer, under the name the American Badass Beer Company, later this month. It will be uncapped at his concerts at Detroit's Comerica Park, July 17 - 18.

In an interview with the Detroit News, Kid Rock said, "People that like premium beers and Guinness is their of choice, they will not like this. I want this to be like the beer I drink. You grab it, you share it with your friends, it's refreshing, it's cold, it gives you a good buzz. Done."

Lovely. Of course, most people who drink premium beers and Guinness probably don't listen to Kid Rock either, so he can just suck it.

So what beer don't you grab, share, enjoy cold, or get a good buzz? If that's his criteria for what makes a good beer, might I also recommend Coors (Kid Rock's favorite), Pabst Blue Ribbon, Budweiser, and that nasty crap your neighbor made but you don't have the heart to tell him tastes like cat pee.

"Hey, it's cold, it's refresing, and. . . I love you guys!

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Indiana Fever - Atlanta Dream Live Blogging - 4th quarter

Quarter #4 starts out with Tenacious B tangling with Iziane Castro Marques from Brazil. Marques does a behind-the-back dribble and gives Tenacious a little schooling. B responds a couple minutes later by stealing the ball.

My 6-year-old son is cheering along with the crowd, "Wet's go Fevew! Wet's go Fevew!" A real awwww moment.

Man, it's a whole flock of boo birds as the ref blows another call against the Fever. Where's Gene Hackman when we need him?

Center Tammy Sutton-Brown is taking several for the team as she gets knocked on her butt twice — make that three times now — either shooting or going for the ball. She's tough. Any minute now, she's going to say, "Erika de Souza, dont make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

The Fever are turning it up and mounting a comeback, thanks in part to Sutton-Brown's iron backside.

This is turning into a real brawl. Tenacious B gets tripped, Jennifer Lacy trips over her sprawled body. Then Tamika Catchings goes toe to toe with Chamique Holdsclaw and Angel McCoughtry, coming up with the ball for a jump ball.

There's 4:30 to go, and the Fever have from being down by 2 to up by 5, 68 - 63.

The Dream are a tough squad. We lost to them — notice I said "we" there; I'm a big Fever fan now. Thanks, Julie! — during the first game of the season by 1 point in double overtime.

I think some of the fans here are also fans of the United States Auto Club (midget racing) league, because they keep screaming "U SAC" at the refs. Or something like that.

2:50 to go, 72 - 65, Fever.

You know what? This game is too damn exciting to keep writing. You're on your own until the final buzzer.

The game ended with a bunch of timeouts. It's times like this that you realize basketball can turn into a real chess match. Who do you foul, when do you foul them?

Final score: Fever 78, Dream 74. Excellent game, ladies. 8 consecutive wins, this puts them at 8 - 2 on top of the WomeNBA Eastern Confernce.

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Indiana Fever - Atlanta Dream Live Blogging - 3rd quarter

Blogger is giving me fits today. Not fun when I'm trying a new writing venture like this.

Atlanta's Michelle Snow and Erica DeSouza are tall for a human being, man or woman. They're both 6'5", which is not that uncommon, but still 3" taller than me. It's normally not a problem, but Michelle Snow is on the bench, and the Dream are all supporting their team by standing up in front of me. Hey, down in front!!

Now that DeSouza is on the bench with Coco Miller and Ivory Latta — 3:00 remaining — there's close to 20 feet of Dream standing in front of me whenever Atlanta's on their end of the court.

Julie Graue, VP of Business Development for the Fever, came down for a visit. We're talking about basketball ops, the team, and 4th of July fireworks.

I realized I haven't been watching as much while Ive been writing, so I'm spending more time paying attention to the game. I don't know how the sportswriters do it. Watch the game AND write about it?

You know, I think I may have passed Tammy Sutton-Brown in the downtown Marsh parking lot on Friday. Tammy, if you're reading this, I was the guy who passed you in the parking lot. You were on your cell phone, didn't make eye contact, and I don't think you even noticed me. You remember, right

Briann January sank a 3 pointer right at the buzzer, halfway between the halfway line and the 3 point line.

Score is Fever 58, Dream 59. There was a couple minutes where we weren't sure if the officials were going to score it.

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Indiana Fever - Atlanta Dream Live Blogging - 2nd quarter

A brief respite, a chance to watch two guys wearing crash helmets try to win a Bud Light gift package by spinning around with their heads on a bat, and then try to make a layup. Serves as sort of a morality lesson for the little kids. Drink too much Bud Light, and you'll need a crash helmet when you play basketball.

Fever having a slight problem trying to finish a drive. The Dream not having as much trouble. Sort of like the 1992 Colts vs. the 2007 Colts.

Tamecka Dixon sinks a 3 pointer and I see someone I saw at a game last year do her little tradition. Whenever a Fever player sinks a 3 pointer, the woman runs her seat at the bottom of section 15 up to the top rows, high-fives someone up there, runs to back to her seat, high-fives her seatmate, and sits down. When I saw her last year, I actually bumped into her at the end of the game and asked her why she did it.

"Several of us used to have season tickets together last year, and we would high five each other when they scored. Then they gave up their tickets and got new ones a year later, but they were up in the top row. So now, whenever they score a 3, I run up there for the high five."

As the Fever are trying to win 8 in a row today, she's been running quite a bit lately.

Tamecka Dixon must have liked the applause after her tré, because she it up with another 2. Haven't heard anything from her since though, but she's working hard.

Tenacious B is back in around the 4:00 mark, and gets to play with her old friend, Coco Miller.

One thing I noticed is that the Fever supply some uniform managers to the Dream. I'm not sure why, but if I had to guess, I think the WNBA is running on a slightly smaller budget than the MenBA who have personal gentlemen's gentlemen for each player and a veritable harem of trainers and equipment managers. But the Fever managers will distribute towels, fold warmup jackets for players who go in from the bench, and get Gatorade for the Dream players. And they do a good job, even if it's for the other team.

Tully Bevilaqua allegedly tripped a player, who took a headfirst dive that would make a World Cup soccer player proud.

The ref on our end of the court was making some. . . questionable calls. A lot of really pissed-off Fever Fans.

Half-time entertainment is the world's only one-armed juggler The guy is hurling balls about 12 feet in the air, but is very impressive. I can't juggle a fraction of what this guy can do, and I've got 2 arms.

Score at half-time: Fever 39, Dream 38.

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Indiana Fever - Atlanta Dream Live Blogging - 1st quarter

I'm sitting in Section 7, Row 4, Seat 3 at the Indiana Fever - Atlanta Dream game, thanks to my new BFF Julie Graue, VP of Business Development for the Fever. I brought my laptop along to see about doing some live blogging about the game. The last event I live blogged was the Indianapolis 500, and then, I was only writing about the crashes. And unless Marco Andretti drives Tammy Sutton-Brown into the wall, I'll just be writing about basketball.

1st quarter

The quarter gets off to a fast start for the Fever. They struggle at first, and the Dream got off to a more consistent start, scoring 3 baskets before the Fever realized the whistle had blown. But our women never say die, and they worked hard to bring it back to 14 - 10 before the first timeout at 4:50 remaining.

Tully "Tenacious B" Bevilaqua has an arch-nemesis at thisgame, in the form of 5'9" Coco Miller. She and Tenacious B are scrapping on the court, hard enough that with their energy, they're either best friends or hate each other. You don't see this much intensity in people who don't know each other. Because if they don't, they certainly know who the other person is.

After a few minutes, Tenacious B is pulled out, and Katie Douglas is given the unenviable task of chasing down Coco. Even though she's got 3 inches and *mumble mumble* pounds on Miller, she's got her hands full trying to keep up.

The Fever are struggling a little bit — Coco Miller just sat down with :37 to go in the quarter — and the Fever are running 20 - 18 as the quarter draws to a close. This one is going to be close.

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