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Showing posts from April, 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&qu…

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 a…

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&qu…

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 to…

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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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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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. …

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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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 smil…

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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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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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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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 …

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 '…

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…

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…

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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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,'…

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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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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The Problem With British Job Titles

The Problem With British Job TitlesErik 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…

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 di…

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 …

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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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 ca…

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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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!&qu…

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 co…

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 d…