Showing posts from 2011

British Scholars Schooled on Handshakes

British Scholars Schooled on HandshakesIn the days of old, when knights were bold, and fist bumps weren't invented, they made their stands, and shook their hands, and battles were prevented.

That is, back in the Middle Ages, when two knights met and they weren't in the mood to do battle, each knight would extend an empty right hand — preferably their own — to show the other that they were unarmed and did not intend to start swinging a sword around.

The two men would then grip their empty hands, shake them a few times to hear their armor rattle, and that was that. They would then go about their day, sweating inside a form-fitting metal coffin, unable to go to the bathroom properly.

These days, a handshake is more generic greeting with fewer violent overtones. It conveys warmth and friendliness, and is one of those things we were all taught to do when we were very young.

There are even some basic rules about shaking hands: In a social setting, men should let the woman offer her hand…

Ghostly Mirrors and Juvenile Husbands

I am not what you would call a brave man. Oh sure, I would protect my family from home invaders, axe murderers, and Jehovah's Witnesses who knock on our door on Saturday mornings ("sorry, no, we're Zoroastrians").

But there are two things that if I am faced with, you will find me shrieking like a 6-year-old girl and racing off in the other direction: snakes and ghosts.

I had to face one of these terrors a couple weeks ago, when my wife and I had a chance to stay at the Story Inn in, well, Story, IN.

Story, Indiana is so small, it's more of an intersection than a town. It has a village green, and one restaurant inside the Inn. If you go to the restaurant, you have to park across town, 50 feet away. And there are anywhere from seven to 15 people who live in Story.

Plus, at least one ghost.

The Blue Lady has haunted the Story Inn for as long as anyone can remember. And for the most part, she confines her activities to only one room, appropriately named "The Blu…

Let's Whine Again, Like We Did Last Summer

Let's Whine Again, Like We Did Last SummerErik is out of the office this week, celebrating his anniversary. In light of the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, we are running this column from 2001.


Pity poor Chubby Checker, the creator of "The Twist." He's got his bloomers in a bunch, because he feels that he -- one of rock and roll's most important figures -- is also one of its most underappreciated.

In a full-page, two-color ad in Billboard Magazine, the music industry's weekly trade magazine, Checker likened himself to Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Walt Disney, claiming that before him, there was no rock-and-roll dance. As a result, Checker doesn't want the same treatment every other inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gets. He wants a statue of himself, in midtwist, alone in the courtyard.

"I want my flowers while I'm alive. I can't smell them when I'm dead," he said in his ad. &q…

Las Vegas Investigation Press Conference Transcript Regarding Death of Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

An Interview with Randy Bernard and Brian BarnhartIndianapolis Motor Speedway, Dec. 15, 2011

The following is a transcript of today's press conference at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway about the investigation of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway race and the death of Dan Wheldon. I received this from IndyCar as part of their media communications. I am reposting it here without comment.

AMY KONRATH: I'd like to introduce our speakers Randy Bernard, chief executive officer of INDYCAR, and Brian Barnhart, president of operations, INDYCAR. Randy, I'll turn things over to you to begin.

RANDY BERNARD: Thank you. Good morning. This morning we released the results of the Las Vegas investigation. It's only been two months since this tragic event, and it's been a very difficult month for everyone in the racing community, as Dan was loved by all.

INDYCAR has undertaken an investigation that includes the compiling of all data to bette…

School Principal Screwed By Zero Tolerance

School Principal Experiences Zero ToleranceAn elementary school principal got to experience Zero Tolerance first hand, and decided he didn't like it.

Jerry Bostic, was the principal of Brookside Elementary School in Gastonia, North Carolina, until this past Wednesday, when he was told he either had to quit or be fired for wrongly suspending a student.

He chose to retire.

Bostic was the victim of his own form of Zero Tolerance, after he suspended 9-year-old Emanyea Lockett for two days for calling a teacher "cute." Bostic said it was a form of sexual harassment, and suspended the youngster for making "inappropriate statements."

To be fair, the school said Emanyea said "fine" in a suggestive tone, and not "cute," but even so, this is still nothing more than an hyper-dramatic overreaction on their part. You typically don't see finger pointing hysterics like this except from a campaign manager in the final months of the presidential election, …

Corporations Are Sociopaths [INFOGRAPHIC]

Created by: Online MBA Programs

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Leonardo da Vinci's Diary

Leonardo da Vinci's DiaryI recently heard a story on National Public Radio about Leonardo da Vinci's "To Do" list, related by historian Toby Lester in his new book, "da Vinci's Ghost," and how the Renaissance Man used to organize his thoughts. Whenever something caught his eye, said Lester, da Vinci would scribble a few notes, or start sketching his ideas in his notebook.

That's because da Vinci believed it was useful to "constantly observe, note, and consider" the things he saw around him. And many of those notes and sketches resulted in his some of the most famous paintings, drawings, ideas, and inventions that we still know and use today.

I've done the same thing for years, although not with the same effect and accomplishment as the industrious Italian. Most of my long-lasting contributions are boob jokes, and not even very good ones at that.

But I also have one thing that Lester doesn't have. And that's an old copy of one of L…

Christians, Tip Your Waitstaff

Christians, Tip Your WaitstaffAnyone who has ever waited tables for a living, knows what it's like working for tips. A standard tip is 15% of the total bill, drinks included. That means if a bill is $75, you'll get about $11 for a tip. If you work four tables per hour on a busy weekend, you'll do okay. Not great, but okay.

But if you work at a place where a bill runs $30 for a table (or less), you'll make half as much. If you make $5 per table, you're going to have trouble making a decent living. You'll barely be making a living wage — about $500 per week, if you're consistent — which is fine if you're young and single and have three roommates, but it's an awful way to make a living if you're older or have a family.

So you can imagine one server's delight when he saw what he thought was a $10 bill sticking out from underneath a plate after he had finished serving a group of people. He was rather excited, because $10 is a decent tip.

You can als…

You Want Me to What Your WHAT?!

You Want Me to What Your WHAT?!Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting a column from 2003.

There's a great scene in "Monty Python's Life of Brian" where Stan (a man) announces to his fellow members of the People's Front of Judea that he wants to be a woman, ". . . because I want to have babies."

"But you can't have babies," declares Reg, the PFJ's leader.

"Don't you oppress me!" shouts Stan, who also wants to be called Loretta.

"I'm not oppressing you, Stan -- you haven't got a womb. Where's the fetus going to gestate? You going to keep it in a box?"

It's one of the funniest moments in the entire movie, and I laugh every time I think about it. Can you imagine a man who wants to be a woman just so he can have babies? Everyone knows that men don't have the plumbing to become pregnant, right?

Uhh, everyone DOES know that, right?

You'd think so, but apparently everyone DOESN'T …

Diary of a Straight Day (With Apologies to Domenick Scudera)

(This is in response to Domenick Scudera's brilliant "Diary of a Gay Day." This is in no way making fun of gay people, but rather, a satirical, eye-rolling look at how my lifestyle is positively viewed by heretofore mentioned politicians, marketers, and Hollywood types. I fully support Scudera's lifestyle, his 16 year relationship, and his right to one day marry his "gay, homosexual, male lover." I recommend you read Domenick's piece before you read this one.)

I live the straight lifestyle. The lifestyle that is held up by politicians, marketers, and Hollywood as the ideal lifestyle. For those who are unfamiliar with my lifestyle, this is a typical day:

6:00 am. I wake up, ready to start my day. I choose to be straight today, as I have chosen every day for the last 44 years. After all, why would I choose to subject myself to nasty jokes, mean-spirited putdowns, discrimination, and even beatings and murder, all for the sake of "love"?

6:30 am. I …

Karl the Curmudgeon Journals His Feelings

Karl the Curmudgeon Journals His Feelings"Kid, do you keep a journal?" asked Karl the Curmudgeon. We were sitting in István's Hungarian tavern, watching the Hungarian Cup finals, as Bajai had just tied Lombard Papa, 1-1.

No, not really, I said. Why do you ask?

"Oh, nothing really," he said. "I used to keep one a long time ago, and found that I was missing it. So I picked up a new notebook last month and started writing in it again."

What made you do that? You never struck me as the introspective type.

"Very funny. I just wanted to start keeping track of things I was doing and thinking," he said, draining the last of his beer. He waved down the bartender, Béla. "Two more Sopronis, kérek."

I drained the last of my beer as Béla set down two beers. So what do you write about? I asked.

"Well, yesterday I wrote about a meeting I had with a publisher. The day before that, I wrote about a woodworking project I was building. And a couple wee…

Twitter is Not Ruining Language, Schools Are

Twitter is Not Ruining Language, Schools AreBritish actor and secret linguist Ralph Fiennes made headlines a couple weeks ago when he said that Twitter is ruining the English language.

Speaking at the British Film Institute London Film Festival, Fiennes — who has appeared in such movies as "Clash of the Titans" (he played Hades) and "Harry Potter" (Voldemort) — is blaming the erosion of the language on "a world of truncated sentences, soundbites, and Twitter."

Yeah, right. As if. Whatever, dude.

According to an article in Forbes Magazine, Fiennes told the audience, "Our expressiveness and our ease with some words is being diluted so that the sentence with more than one clause is a problem for us, and the word of more than two syllables is a problem for us."

Ask Ernest Hemingway about writing with short words and short sentences. It worked for one of America's greatest writers; it can work for the rest of us.

But I take issue with Fiennes' ass…

The Hazards of Halloween

This is a humor column I wrote back in the late 1990s. In honor of the 2nd most commercial holiday of the year, I'm republishing it here.

As October draws to a close, there is an excitement in the air. The leaves are changing color, the days are getting shorter, and parents are racing around, helping their kids through another annual identity crisis. That can only mean one thing:

Halloween is coming!

Or, as Uncle Albert called it, Dress Up Like A Goofball And Go Begging For Candy Day.

For children, this is one of the most exciting holidays of the year. What other time can a kid boldly march up to someone's house and demand candy? Sure, they can do it the other 364 days of the year, but this is the only time the police won't be called.

But for parents, Halloween is one of the least enjoyable holidays. They're constantly bombarded by their children's demands about what they want to be for Halloween, and it's usually the latest, hippest, trendiest, and most expensive c…

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Campers

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be CampersI think I hate camping.

I say that after having spent one night — 16 hours — camping with my brother this past weekend. I haven't been camping in years, and have been wanting to go for some time, so we scheduled a night in the Moraine View State Park in Illinois.

We figured the fall would be the best time to go, because we would avoid the mosquitoes of summer and the rains of spring. Plus, snakes are out more in the spring and summer, and I hate snakes with a white-hot passion.

We arrived at the park at 4:30, two hours before sunset. I had my sleeping bag, a couple extra shirts and heavy socks. It had been in the 60s, so I figured I was overpacking, especially when Andrew showed up with a big giant backpack and an extra change of everything, plus thermal underwear.

"Oh crap, I forgot my sleeping pad," he said when we got to the campsite.

"Wuss," I thought. Who brings thermal underwear and a change of clothes, let…