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Science Finds the Best Way to Dump Someone

One of my family's favorite jokes goes like this:

A man calls his brother for their weekly phone chat, and asks about the family cat: "How's Hector?"

"Hector died," says the brother.

"Holy jeez!" shouts the man. "You don't just blurt that out. You have to ease into it. Like, you should have said, 'Hector's on the roof.' Then, the next time I call, say 'Hector fell off the roof and isn't doing well.' And the third time, say 'Hector didn't make it.'"

The brother agrees this could have been handled better and apologizes. After the guy calms down, he asks, "How's Mom?"

The brother thinks a moment and says, "Mom's on the roof."

I was reminded of the joke last week when I read that researchers at Brigham Young University have determined the best way to break up with someone, according to science: despite what our guy from the joke wanted, most people prefer to receive bad news…

Don't Worry, Oklahoma, Everyone Hates Veggie Burgers

Hater is back in the news again, this time with a state-by-state rundown of the food America loves to hate.

You may remember Hater is the dating app that helps you find that special someone based on how you love, like, dislike, or hate specific topics. And unlike those "unicorns fart rainbows" optimists at eHarmony, Hater matches people specifically on the things they despise. Because nothing connects you to your lifelong soulmate like a mutual hatred of Vladimir Putin.

You can rate things like zombie movies (hate 'em), staying up late (love it), headaches (who doesn't hate these?), and sleeping with a lot of pillows (hate it).

I would like to see them include my own pet peeves: people who pronounce jalapeño "hal-a-peen-o" (hate it), children misbehaving in restaurants (OH MY GOD!), and people who try to tell me how hot dogs are made so I won't eat them (I will fight you).

A couple months ago, I wrote about Hater's findings about the things each sta…

Who Was Your Childhood Nemesis?

Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting a column from 2004, just in case anyone actually reads this stuff.

Everyone had a nemesis growing up. Someone who was there to bother, harass, and torment them. Abel had Caine, Julius Caesar had Brutus, and everyone who likes music has Taylor Swift.

My nemesis was Darryl F. (not his real name), a rotten punk at my school who made it his life's mission to bug me and cause trouble at every turn. He was a little menace who used to shove old ladies and paint graffiti on churches. And he burned the American flag on several occasions.

Okay, none of that's true. And I know I should let bygones be bygones, because I'm a mature adult who has moved on with his life, but I can't. It's often said that tragedy plus time equals comedy, but in my case, the comedy will always be about the little turds who made my life hell.

Besides, he probably lives in a cave and only communicates with points and grunts, so it's not li…

Can a Floating Island of Trash Become a Country?

There is a floating island of trash in the North Pacific as large as the country of France.

I'd say "let that sink in," but it floats. It's a floating island of plastic debris — bottles, trash bags, six-pack rings, food packaging, laundry baskets, children's toys — that have just sort of amassed together as the world's plastic garbage has floated out to sea and gotten caught up in the ocean's currents, called gyres.

Think of it: a floating island of trash as big as the largest country in Western Europe. France is 551,695 square kilometers (213,010 square miles), and there is now a plastic land mass that big floating in the northern Pacific Ocean.

It has also surrendered to China.

This was too much for a few environmental activists, so they banded together and petitioned the United Nations to recognize the island as an actual country. They're calling it The Trash Isles, which wouldn't have been my first choice.

I might have gone with Trashistan. Or…

Hurricane Coverage in the Modern Age

Local ABC: We're providing round-the-clock hurricane coverage.

Local NBC: Three days before Irma makes landfall until she finally hits Georgia.

L-ABC: 24 hours a day.

L-NBC: Without commercial interruption.

The Weather Channel: Residents of southern Florida are being told by the Governor to evacuate.

L-ABC: Southern Florida is being ordered to evacuate. In the next hour, we'll tell you whether Central Floridians should stay put.

L-NBC: Are Central Floridians evacuating? We'll have the answers sometime in the next four hours.

L-ABC: Stay tuned for our interview with Central Floridians who are fleeing for their lives! But first, our 3-color radar map.

Text from my dad: Are you evacuating?

Fox News: Liberal Hurricane Irma threatens to strike the South White House, Mar-A-Lago.

Rush Limbaugh: The liberal media is overinflating Hurricane Irma to sell ads! They just want to scare you.

TWC: I'm standing outside in my loudest rain slicker so you can hear how whippy the wind is.

Rush: Cli…

Hunker Down and Batten the Hatches, a Hurricane is Coming

Living in Florida is a whole lot different from living in Indiana. For one thing, I miss the four seasons. I miss being cold four months of the year. I miss putting on sweaters, and wearing a fleece everywhere I go. I miss the coziness of crawling under a blanket to watch football. I miss telling my kids, "You call this a snowstorm? Why, in the blizzard of '78, the snow was piled so high, it was like driving down a hallway!"

I miss the way Hoosiers freak out over every impending snowstorm and pick a grocery store clean three days before it hits, like ants at a picnic. They think they're living in a Laura Ingalls Wilder book and won't see food again until the Spring thaw.

Of course, the stores were always restocked 24 hours after the snow fell and everyone said, "Oh, that wasn't so bad. I knew it wasn't going to be so bad."

In Florida, we have two seasons, hot and hotter. When we do get our three days of winter, and the temperature hits 36 degre…

Cigarettes and Peanuts: A Deadly Duo

Some people in the UK are pushing for a ban on nuts in public, which will no doubt prompt half of you to leave "guess you won't be allowed outside!" messages on my Facebook page.

A recent BBC article said that some people are pushing for the ban in public areas, like at work, on airplanes, and in some restaurants. The concern is that because some people have allergies to nuts, especially peanuts, they might have a reaction to contaminants in the air or in their food.

For example, many airline flights no longer serve peanuts because the peanut dust might get in the air, which is recirculated, but apparently not filtered. In restaurants, some people have to alert the servers to their nut allergy so the kitchen staff won't prepare their food on a surface that previously came into contact with peanuts.

Others wonder whether this isn't just some overreaction by the peanut protestors, or could become one more example of Britain's nanny state banning any activity be…

What Are They Thinking? The Beloit College Mindset List

Every year at this time, the staff at Beloit College send out their new student Mindset List as a way to make everyone clutch their chest and feel the cold hand of death.

This list was originally created and shared with their faculty each year, so the faculty would understand what some of their own cultural touchstones might mean, or not mean, to the incoming freshmen. They also wanted the freshmen to know it was not cool to refer to '80s music as "Oldies."

This year's incoming Beloit freshmen are typically 18 years old, born in 1999. John F. Kennedy Jr. died that year, as did Stanley Kubrick and Gene Siskel. And so did my hope for a society that sought artistic and intellectual pursuits for the betterment of all humanity. Although it may have actually died when I heard about this year's Emoji Movie.

Before I throw my hands up in despair, here are a few items from the Mindset list for the class of 2021.

They're the last class to be born in the 1900s, and are t…

What Does Your State Hate?

I'm a little offended, Indiana. Apparently, you hate bloggers.

I'm a blogger!

I lived in Indiana for 45 years, made my career out of blogging, and yet my home state hates bloggers? I even blogged for the state of Indiana, for crying out loud!

I guess I can't take it too personally. Massachusetts hates Eli Manning as an individual. There are 6.8 million people in Massachusetts and apparently they all hate Eli Manning. My state just hates people who do my job.

But Eli isn't the only one who has a whole state hate him. South Carolina hates Edward Snowden, Delaware hates Casey Affleck, and the entire state of Florida hates workout couples.

I can get behind that last one. People need privacy when they're sweating, grunting, and accidentally farting.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania hates people who use money clips, and Kentucky hates people who ask you to help them move. Both are odd things to hate, but not as weird as Missouri's hatred of people who believe in aliens.

Peopl…