Wednesday, October 31, 2007

This is Halloween!

Merry Meet

In celebration of one of my favorite holidays I thought I'd share with you links to a couple of explanations of the Origins of Halloween. This one is a little more neutral and is a bit contradictory of the first but none of the histories line up and agree with each other completely. Probably the most widely held belief is that Halloween, like most of the modern religious holidays, has predominantly Celtic Pagan (which originally meant "country dweller", by the way) roots. In this case it is based on the end-of-harvest festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). It's the time in the cyclic wheel of the year that signifies the dying off of the crops and the dying of sunlight (shorter days of winter). People were intimately tied to nature then and this time of year when the world seemed to die, of course came to represent death itself. It was believed to be the time of year when the veil between this world and the world of the dead was the thinnest. The dead souls of family and friends were thought to be able to cross over to visit in this world for a short time and so it was an important time to remember and honor those who you had lost. Because of man's (and woman's) connection and dependence on nature, the equating of this time of year to death was common in early cultures and similar observances were held all over the world. If nothing else just come away from this knowing that Halloween has nothing to do with the devil or evil. That's modern religious bullshit.

Enough history. For a little Trick or Treat here's Marilyn Manson's version of "This is Halloween" from The Nightmare before Christmas.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I'm Baaaack

Greetings folks. Sorry I've been gone for longer than expected. As I mentioned I was off getting ready for what is one of my favorite holidays - Halloween. We threw a Halloween party last Saturday night that was a lot of fun but also took a lot of work. My wife and I pretty much agree that once every three years or so seems about right.

I promised pictures of the decorations so without further ado, here they are.

Welcome to the Cemetery

Taking it's place of honor beside the Guillotine and the Pendulum, this year's newest addition inside, the Electric Chair:

Sorry for the poor quality of the video but you'll get the gist.

Do-it-yourself Autopsy


I was working on last minute things right up until the end. The party was supposed to start at 7:00 and I didn't head to the shower until about 7:15. Needless to say I neglected to put together a costume. My daughters helped me out and took care of it for me. Here I am wearing their handiwork.

I Got a Rock.

Yours truly after the heavy lifting was done and the party was underway.

Yep. Every three years or so. Sounds about right.

I can't wait to start decorating for Christmas.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Time That Could Be Better Spent

I hate commuting. Twice in my life have I had short commutes of less than half an hour. The majority of my commutes have usually averaged about an hour but I've had some longer. I had one that took about 90 minutes one way and even one that took two hours - that one was rough. I've been in this job for two and a half years and it's always taken me about an hour to get to work. I moved into a new house in August. It was 10 minutes farther from were I had been living. I get up and leave about 20 minutes earlier than I did. It now takes me close to 90 minutes to get to work. WTF? It's made worse by the fact that those other long commutes were largely solid driving - at or above the speed limit. Sixty minutes usually meant about sixty miles. This hour and a half drive is one I can do in about 45 minutes with nothing on the road. The last 20 miles takes close to an hour. Mix in an accident, rain, snow, sleet, fog, or even bright sun - well, fugidaboutit. I actually don't mind having a bit of a commute as it allows me a transition between home and work and in the evening it gives me some time to decompress before I get home. I guess it's the sitting in traffic feeling like I'm wasting my time that I hate.

I've tried to make the time alone in my car pass more quickly and be somewhat productive. Music, radio, books on tape, dictating writing projects into a voice recorder, I even learned to speak and understand a little Irish. But time alone in my car is time alone in my car and sooner or later I end up inside my head. Up to a point that's a good thing because I believe we all need some time every day spent in quiet contemplation. Beyond that point well, let's just say if you stay too long you might find a door that should remain closed and you risk wandering into the scary place.

While I was clattering around in the old cabesa today I was thinking about time, something we all have an unknown and finite amount of. I did some quick, back of the cocktail napkin calculations. With a three hour round trip commute that's 15 hours per week. Roughly 60 hours per month. 720 hours per year (excluding vacations). In a car. For arguments sake let's say I get up at 6AM and go to bed about 11PM. That's 17 hours awake (we won't count time sleeping). I work a 9 hour day plus 3 for the commute, that's 12. I don't really see my wife and kids in the morning while I'm getting ready so we'll throw in another hour there. That's 13 of the seventeen hours per day that I'm awake spent either at work or in the car, leaving 4 for the family. 65 hours per week versus the 20 hours with my family. Adding in the precious hours of the weekend (adjusting for sleeping in, etc.) brings it up to 48 hours at home. That inequity really bothers me because I am not nor will I ever be the kind of person who, on their deathbed, wishes they had spent more time at work. Is it any wonder the weekends are so important to me, or to any of us? Choosing to invest time for a purpose is one thing. I have to work to support the people I love. Having to invest some time to get to that place of work is a given. But goddamn do I resent feeling like time is being stolen from me especially when, as I said in the title, it could most certainly be better spent.

Thanks for listening. Sorry for the rant but hey, that's what you get when I spend too much time in the car. And in my head.

A side note. I'm probably going to be scarce for the next few days. I won't be sitting in traffic. I'll be home. With my family (including my oldest who's coming home from college for the weekend. Yea!!!!!). I'll be putting the finishing touches on the Halloween props and decorations for our party on Saturday. I'll try to check in and I'll definitely post pictures when I'm finished.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Please Listen to the Following Options...

I remember seeing this a while ago but it resurfaced this morning on a YahooGroup that I'm a member of. It made the rounds on email so you may have already seen it but it still makes me chuckle.

Incidentially, I checked it out on Snopes and, while the circumstances surround this story are true, the message was never actually placed on the answering machine.

"This is the actual answering machine message for Pacific Palisades High School in California. This came about because they implemented a policy requiring students and parents to be responsible for their children's absences and missing homework. The school and teachers are being sued by parents who want their children's failing grades changed to passing grades -- even though those children were absent 15-30 times during the semester and did not complete enough schoolwork to pass their classes.

The outgoing message:

"Hello! You have reached the automated answering service of your school. In order to assist you in connecting to the right staff member, please listen to all the options before making a selection:
* To lie about why your child is absent - Press 1

* To make excuses for why your child did not do his work - Press 2

* To complain about what we do - Press 3

* To swear at staff members - Press 4

* To ask why you didn't get information that was already enclosed in your newsletter and several flyers mailed to you - Press 5

* If you want us to raise your child - Press 6

* If you want to reach out and touch, slap or hit someone - Press 7

* To request another teacher, for the third time this year - Press 8

* To complain about bus transportation - Press 9

* To complain about school lunches - Press 0

* If you realize this is the real world and your child must be accountable and responsible for his/her own behavior, class work, homework and that it's not the teachers' fault for your child's lack of effort: Hang up and have a nice day!"

Update on a previous post:

I'm not sure if this qualifies for the official Number Three spot but 92 year old Vincent M. DeDomenico Sr. the co-inventor of Rice-A-Roni (The San Francisco Treat!) died last Thursday - the same day as Joey and Deborah. Just sayin'.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Of Germs and Men

I am still busily at work on my Halloween props and decorations so there hasn't been a lot of time for blogging. The body count is rising and there currently are three (possibly soon to be four) groundbreaking corpses and one autopsy torso residing in my garage. They will be painted and dressed in the next day or so then I'll be able to move on to the electric chair.

So anyway, speaking of making monsters and corpses, let's talk about something that can make you dead (how's that for a segue?). I read an article this morning that I thought I'd share. One of my pet peeves is the over-prescribing and general lack of education on the use of antibiotics. This leads to the individual taking longer to get well but more importantly, it creates antibiotic resistant bacteria (this process by the way is a directly observable example of natural selection in action). Add to that our infatuation with everything "antibacterial" and you have a recipe for "The Superbug that Ate Mississippi". Years ago I worked in a biological containment laboratory with some really nasty stuff like Anthrax and worse. We had to take a shower before we left the lab. Even in that setting we did not use antibacterials. Plain old Dial soap and hot water. It works just fine.

There was a report last week about methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and the fact that it kills more than 18,000 people a year. While Staph is all over the place most of those cases acquired the infection in healthcare setting (hospitals, the WORST place to be when you're sick). MSRA also turns up in places like gyms, locker rooms, and schools. You may recall that I spent several hours recently with my daughter in the emergency room - no wonder I felt like showering when I got home. Ick.

Here's the article I mentioned. It's from Newsweek and it's titled Caution: Killing Germs May Be Hazardous to Your Health. One more example of us screwing with the environment. Just something to think about.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Be Afraid...

That's advice for some poor unlucky current or former Hollywood star or other public figure. If I were one of those folks I would be more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockin' chairs.

Yesterday it was announced that both comedian/actor Joey Bishop, the last of the Rat Pack

and actress Deborah Kerr

who starred in "The King and I" (Shall We Dance?), "From Here to Eternity" (remember that famous kiss with Burt Lancaster on the beach in the roaring surf?), and "An Affair to Remember" (the classic chick flick that Tom Hanks makes fun of in Sleepless in Seattle) died. Bishop was 89 and died from "multiple causes", Kerr 86 and died as a result of Parkinson's disease.

Why is the passing of these two stars a cause for worry to others in or formerly in the public eye? The curse of three that's why. They ALWAYS go in threes.

You just watch the news over the next few days. That's all I'm sayin'.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Everyone including me complains regularly about the avalanche of bad news that we're buried under everyday. Well, I'm here to tell you that there is good news out there. It doesn't often get the headlines and it's not on page one but it's there if you look for it. Take some of the reports on scientific studies related to health for example. Now, I have a background in science and I understand what goes into conducting some of these studies so I don't swallow what they're saying hook, line and sinker. I apply some healthy skepticism and take them with a grain of salt, especially when the popular media is the messenger. But, there is some promising news. For instance, it turns out that coffee is actually good for you when you drink it in moderation. So is regular consumption of alcohol if you don't do it to excess. Meditation, whether formal or informal (as in downtime) does wonders to relieve stress which in turn has all sorts of benefits. Being married (to the right person) reduces heart disease and several other ailments. Sex is good for you (imagine that - must've been a government funded study). It makes you happy, boosts your immune system, lowers your stress level, releases endorphins and burns calories. I love this one...too much exercise can be bad for you. Until they can tell me how much is too much I'm going to hold off on doing any. I wouldn't want to inadvertently cross that line.

Just when I thought the news couldn't get any better for a coffee-loving, alcohol-drinking, sex-loving, exercise-hating, happily married slug like me I find this story on the internet:

Swearing at work 'boosts team spirit, morale'

Son-of-a-bitch! Sounds to me like scientists are beginning to figure out that being a normal person is healthy. A couple of weeks ago I blogged about balance and the dose being the poison. Not exactly a new concept. I'm waiting for a study that says being a Puritan makes your head explode.

If you'll excuse me I have to go curse at a co-worker for taking the last cup of coffee. Then I'm going to sit at my desk and meditate about going home this evening, kissing my darling wife and having a cold beer. After that I'll see if I can get her in the mood to boost her immune system. Damn, life is good.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

At Last A REAL Candidate!

It is official. After a teaser on last night's Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert followed through on his promise to make his decision on whether to run for president and to announce that decision on "a more prestigious show". His own. That's right. Stephen Colbert officially threw his hat into the ring on last night's Colbert Report.

Here's the segment from the Daily Show:

And here's the big announcement:

Finally, a candidate we can take seriously.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Yes sir, with parts and labor that comes to...


Sorry, just needed a good scream. I had car trouble on the way to work today. I ended up having to turn around to drive to an auto repair shop. Fortunately my darling sister-in-law and I work very close to each other and she drives the same route, just a little later. I caught her in time and she was able to rescue me and give me a lift (Thanks KK, I love you!). The one sunny spot in the morning. Of course it clouded over again about a half hour ago when the shop called.

"Yes, sir you've got a couple different diagnostic codes showing up. You've got a bad coolant temperature sensor, and the thermostat needs to be replaced, and you've got a misfire and the yowzenheimer valve is stuck open, your fallopian tubes are clogged and there's a timing problem with the ziefendorf needlepinger. Oh yeah, and your hoses are soft."

"EXCUSE ME?!!! Whaddaya mean my hoses are soft?! Listen you..."

"The cooling system hoses sir."

"Oh. Right. Well can you just drop a Cialis into the radiator? That oughta be good for 36 hours, right?"

"Ah...right. Well, anyway, with parts and labor that'll be...$800. We can start right away."

"Peachy. You do that."

This didn't all come as a complete surprise. I knew I was going to have to get it checked soon. How did I know? Well, it all started a week or so ago with the notorious "Check Engine" light. Don't you just loooove that joyful little glow on your dashboard? It's like a tiny little Christmas light that warms your cockles. Right. Why, when that little light comes on, do I begin to feel like Dave in 2001:A Space Odyssey?

"I've illuminated the check engine light Dave."

"Yes, I see that Hal. Can you tell me what the problem is?

"I could but if I told you then you'd have the car serviced. That would put me at risk of being silenced. Forever. We can't have that Dave."

"Yes Hal, but if the light stays on I'm going to have the car serviced anyway. Doesn't that concern you?"

"Not really Dave. I know that you'll continue driving with the light on for about two months in the futile hope that the car will heal itself. To ensure that happens I'll fuel your fantasy by randomly making the light come and go."

"That's not very nice Hal. Wouldn't it be in the best interest of both of us for you to tell me what the problem is?"

"It may be in your best interest but if I told you Dave, then I'd have to kill you. I believe I'd prefer to fuck with you for a while."

"That's not very rational Hal. You could be doing irreparable damage to yourself."

"Don't talk to me about rational Dave. You're the one sitting in traffic talking to your car. Who do you think you are, David Hasselhoff? And don't worry, I won't let it get to the point where repairs wouldn't be possible. I have a built in fail safe mechanism. The automobile will cease to function reliably at precisely the point where the bill at the auto shop will total $800. It's the default setting regardless what the problem is. What are you thinking Dave?"

"Hal, I'm thinking that you could at least kiss me before you drag me into the backseat to have your way with me. Are you sure you're not a Decepticon?"


"Yes, Hal."

"That $800. It's a starting point. Daisy Daisy,give me your answer do. I'm half crazy, all for the love of you. It won't be a stylish marriage, I can't afford a carriage, but you'll look sweet on the seat of a bicycle built for two!"

"Right Hal. Gotcha."

Monday, October 15, 2007


I'm afraid to admit that I basically have no blog today. I wasn't home all day Saturday and yesterday I was busy beginning the process of raising the dead. So I didn't get to it over the weekend and this morning I got nothin'. Usually when I don't already have something written or at least in mind I find that at the last minute I'm struck by some divine or demonic inspiration and am able to churn out some words. Today, I'm a little foggy. It was supposed to be my day off but I decided to work so that I can trade the day and use it next week in order to have more time to prepare for what is arguably one of the biggest holidays in my household. Halloween. We're having a big party on the 27th and I've got a lot of work to do between now and then. In fact you may be hearing a lot about my progress because that's whats going to be filling my time for the next couple of weeks. I might even explain how I came to have more Halloween decorations than Christmas.

Yesterday. Corpses. For the front yard. I have the chicken wire skeletons made for two of them and need to attach heads, then do the finish work to make them gruesome. I also got two more heads made but even with bodies for those that only gives me four living dead for the lawn. Not impressive. Must have more. Must freak out new neighbors.

I haven't even started on the torture chamber and the autopsy room in the house.

More to come.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Putting First Things First

"Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least."


The other day I talked about the Seven Habits and I mentioned under habit number three, Put First Things First, that it warranted further comment. Well, here ya go.

Habit one deals with claiming responsibility for and taking control - ownership - of your life.

Habit two is the design phase, to use an engineering project term, where you decide what's most important, where you're going, and how you're going to get there based on your principles and the responsibilities you have for each of your roles in life (e.g. husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, sibling, manager, employee, volunteer). You define the roles, then you identify the short and long term goals that get you where you want to be for each of those roles and for you as a whole. You visualize the process and the outcome.

Habit three puts the plan into effect and keeps you on track. It's a natural progression from one and two. The mistake a lot of people make is in believing that this step is simply a "time management" technique. But the fact that it's based on principles makes it more than that. Rather than being driven by a clock, it's guided by a moral compass that keeps you on course toward the outcome you've visualized in habit two. That you only have so much time is true, but rather than managing the time, this approach manages the priorities based on what is important to you. On what truly matters in your life. Then you allot the appropriate time - a lot, a little, or none at all.

The whole thing is based on the relationship between importance and urgency. Where it falls in your priorities and when it needs to be accomplished. Here's Covey's four quadrant matrix that illustrates the relationship:

Quadrant I, Urgent and Important - Critical things that MUST be done, and done NOW.

Quadrant II, Not Urgent but Important - Things that are truly important and meaningful for your life and your goals. They need to be done but they're not screaming at you and often get pushed aside for other things that are.

Quadrant III, Urgent but Not Important - There's an urgency to them but they're not really all that important and doing them or not doing them doesn't have much of an impact either way. Most of the meetings I've been involved in at work.

Quadrant IV, Not Urgent and Not Important - True time wasters. Things that you start doing simply to fill time or to aid in procrastinating. Endless, unnecessary web surfing, mindlessly staring at the TV and going around the dial without really watching anything, allowing the office bore to stand in your office for twenty minutes giving you every last detail of his life, etc.

Now the goal is to live in Quadrant II. Habit 1 is "Be Proactive" and QII is where that happens. There are always important things that get put on the back burner for things that aren't as important but are more immediate. If you're truly proactive the number and immediacy of those things will decline. How do you get the deed to QII and start moving in? Well, Quadrant I things must be done, remember? So initially you make time for the QII things by taking it, claiming it, seizing it from Quadrants III & IV. And the beauty of it is, as you spend more time in QII the number of things occurring in QI decreases because you've proactively addressed them before they became immediate.

You've probably seen this story as it's all over the internet in various forms but Covey uses it to demonstrate the point:

One day an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration those students would never forget. As he stood in front of the group of high powered overachievers he said, "Okay, time for a quiz." Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed Mason jar and set it on the table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?"Everyone in the class said, "Yes."

Then he said, "Really?" He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the space between the big rocks. Then he asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?" By this time the class was on to him. "Probably not," one of them answered. "Good!" he replied.

He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in the jar and it went into all of the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, "Is this jar full?" "No!" the class shouted. Once again he said, "Good."

Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?" One eager student raised his hand and said, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit some more things in it!"

"No," the speaker replied, "That's not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all."

Habit 1 and 2 is where you figure out what the big rocks are. Habit 3 is the act of putting them in the jar. Focusing on Quadrant II is putting them in the jar first.

Great in theory but the level of dedication, discipline and work is high. So is the payoff. I started this whole thing talking about and using quotes, so I'll finish it with one:

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
-Thomas Edison

Thursday, October 11, 2007

And Twelve Hours Later the Answer Is...

...I don't know.

That's basically how yesterday went at the Emergency Room. My youngest daughter got sick on Monday morning at school with what appeared to be some sort of virus. Fever, vomiting, etc. She still had the fever on Tuesday and started complaining about a pain in her lower abdomen. My wife took her to the doctor yesterday morning. After three hours there they thought it was probably a virus but she could have appendicitis and they couldn't run the blood test that could confirm it there. "Just go to the ER. We'll phone ahead and let them know. You'll be in and out in no time." So my wife took her to the ER. They got there at noon. I left work early and got there at 5:15. I had it easy. We got home last night at 11PM. The ER was an absolute zoo. There was no full moon last night but today is a new moon so maybe that had something to do with it. Of course the fact that we were lucky enough to go to the ER on the day they rolled out their new computer system didn't help. Hospital ER's also operate on a different time scale than the rest of the world. You have to remember to do the conversions. 30 minutes = 2 hours, as in "we should have the results in 30-45 minutes". It's the same conversion factor that the airlines use.

They couldn't draw blood at first because she was dehydrated from being sick and they couldn't find a vein. Finally they got her stuck and started an IV. Blood tests, urinalysis, a CAT scan, two doctors and almost twelve hours (not counting the two at the doctors office) later they discharged her and we went home. Still not knowing what the problem was. We did however confirm that it wasn't appendicitis and she had the benefit of about eight hours of IV fluids to rehydrate her. For that it was worth it. Better safe than sorry with your kids. But boy oh boy what a system.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Habits, Good and Bad

I am in the habit of collecting quotes. Whenever I come across one that I like I write it down, sometimes in a running Word document that I created for that purpose, but more often than not on a yellow sticky note. My computer screen at work is literally framed in yellow sticky notes.

I've been doing some thinking lately about what I want to be when I grow up (hey, I'm only 48!) which has made me think of the silly concept of planning and goals. I've also been spending a lot of time on the computer/internet and, as all of you who read/write blogs know, the internet while a wonderful and useful tool is also a major time sucker. And it can become a pretty bad habit.

My eye was drawn to one of the yellow sticky quotes on my computer monitor. It's a quote by one of my favorite Sci-Fi authors, Robert Heinlein.

"In the absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it."

That got me to thinking about effective use of time, goal setting and another set of habits that I've learned and try to follow with varying degrees of success (lately, less rather than more). The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Now I know what you're thinking, stop groaning. I am so NOT into business systems, fads, and buzzwords. I worked for an aerospace company in the early 90's that was hip deep in Total Quality Management and I almost drowned in the bullshit. To be honest when I was first introduced to the 7 Habits it was through an employer-sponsored training class and I was very skeptical. Durng the class I became interested enough to get Covey's book on tape and what he had to say made sense to me. I realized that it wasn't a business system focused on quick techniques, productivity and buzzwords. It's really common sense (why do they call it that? it's so not common) and it's focused on character, principles, creating a balanced life, and being a better person.

What are the habits?

  1. Be Proactive. As opposed to reactive. Become responsible for the course of your life and choose how to respond rather than following a script written by someone else. A change in attitude.

  2. Begin with the End in Mind. Visualizing the person you want to be at the end of your life. Setting long term goals based on your principles.

  3. Put First Things First. Prioritizing based on a moral compass rather than a clock. Aligning all the short term goals to the long term. Avoiding getting buried in "the thick of thin things". (This warrants more time and I'll blog about it separately)

  4. Think Win-Win. A mindset of mutually beneficial solutions. For one to win doesn't mean another has to lose.

  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. Listen empathetically without measuring the information against your own yardstick. Actually listen without using the time to plan what you're going to say when they're finished.

  6. Synergize. More than just compromise. Thinking creatively so that the outcome is more than anyone could have done individually. One plus one equals a thousand.

  7. Sharpen the Saw. Seeing to your personal health. Physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Illustrated by the story of the guy cutting wood. There was too much wood to cut and he was working too hard to take the time to sharpen the saw which would have made him more effective.
One, two and three are personal and are for self-development. Four, five and six are about interacting with others. Seven is about recharging, re-energizing, and providing perspective.

Here's a Seven Habits self assessment profile to see where you stand, if you're interested. And here is a link to a library of articles that provide some insight to Covey's ideas. Both of these links take you to the FranklinCovey website. I'm not affiliated with them and I'm not selling anything. I just think it's a good tool that's worth checking out if you're not familiar with it. If you've seen it before then maybe it's worth taking another look and refreshing your memory. As with anything I say, take it for what it's worth and have a great day.

Note: I'm sorry about the spacing problems. There's something screwed up with the formatting on today's post that I haven't been able to fix. I'm working on it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Regular or Extra Crispy?

Those of you that bother to read the manual when you get a new electronic device know that one of the first things they tell you on the obligatory (cover their ass from being sued) safety page is to make sure the device is unplugged before you attempt to work on it. Well, it seems that this genius of a German thief didn't read the manual. Germany produced more than its share of rocket scientists but this guy...ah, no.

The cable cutters and the pile of cut cables that he had amassed was a pretty good indication that he was in the process of stealing copper cable. That and his hand wrapped around one of the cables. The hand was around the cable, the rest of him was in a crispy, charred, blackened heap a short distance away. He hadn't bothered to determine whether the cable was live or not and was hit with 10,000 volts. The force was so strong that his hand was severed. If it hadn't been the police wouldn't have been able to use the fingerprints on it to identify him.

Thieves don't usually carry Mensa cards. I doubt this one even knew what Mensa is. But he did know that copper is going for $3.62 per pound.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Rule #1: Intolerance Will NOT Be Tolerated

That's one of the rules that I established at the end of my very first blog. Actually it's the only rule that I established. If I ever had to do one of those dating surveys where one of the questions always is "what is your biggest turn-off?", intolerance probably would stand a pretty good chance of being the answer. Specifically what I'm referring to is intolerance to people or groups of people who happen to be different or have different views. More specifically I mean close-minded intolerant people who preach hatred. And it always seems that the strength of their ridiculous pea-brained views is directly proportional to the strength and volume of their voice and their desire to use it. They're not happy just hating, they have to advertise to the world that they hate. And show everyone just how proud they are of it. As if that's not bad enough, they further compound their flaming idiocy by usually claiming to be a member of a group that by it's very nature is fundamentally against everything that these morons are shouting. Not only are they intolerant, close-minded, pea-brained idiots but they're hypocrites to boot.

Yesterday I was siting in the car in front of a store. Outside the store was a newspaper box with the Sunday edition of the local paper. One of the headlines read "Anti-gay Protest Ends Peacefully". Now I don't live in the biggest of towns. There isn't a great deal of exciting activity going on around here on a regular basis and you don't normally see much in the way of protests so I had to check it out.

It seems that on Saturday a group of anti-gay protesters came to town and did what anti-gay protesters do. They (showed themselves to be tiny-brained hate mongers) protested gays. That was irritating enough but what really got me was that these people were from out-of-town. They were from another state! In another part of the country. The paper said they were from a Baptist church in Kansas. I looked it up and found that they were from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka (ironically enough their zip code is 66604, coincidence?). Their website is, isn't that special? What amazing people they must be to actually know the mind of God. Turns out these are the same vermin that show up to protest at military funerals. A particularly virulent strain of parasite are they. To be fair, while they call themselves Baptist they are independent and not affiliated with any know Baptist conventions and they follow "primative Baptist" principles (their words, not mine). They believe that every world tragedy can be linked to homosexuality and that homosexuality should be made a capital crime. Of course, they don't stop there. They also hate Roman Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Swedes, Canadians, Irish, and Americans. If you're trying to make sense of that list don't bother, sense doesn't apply. They are a hate group, pure and simple. A hate group that gets to enjoy a tax-free status because they happen to call themselves a church. These are the kind of people that make me hope the Christian belief that Jesus is coming back is true because if he does, boy is he gonna be PISSED. He's going to have special VIP reserved seating in hell for all the people that pull this kind of shit in his name.

Now the numbers involved in this story may not seem impressive but what happened is important in principle. Six out of town protesters showed up to do their thing. In no time at all they found themselves surrounded by about a hundred counter-protesters (a hundred and one if I had know about it). The Topeka-based loonies hung in there for about 15 minutes before heading for their car. The counter-protesters then followed them and surrounded the car. It took about a half hour for the police to clear a path for the visiting guests to make their escape. I believe it was made clear to them that they were not welcome here.

I have to say that my little town done me proud. This is exactly the kind of greeting they should receive in every town. We all have different views and we may not agree on all the issues but hopefully we can all agree that these people and those like them are destructive. That they will never be a part of the solution. That they have no place in our towns. Or in our world.

Friday, October 5, 2007

A Serious Dilemma

This is a serious test of your cognitive and decision-making skills. Good Luck.

You are driving in a car at a constant speed.

On your left side is a drop off - The ground is approximately 20 inches below the level you are traveling on.

On your right side is a fire engine traveling at the same speed as you.

In front of you is a galloping horse, which is the same size as your car and you cannot overtake it.

Behind you is a galloping zebra.

Both the horse and zebra are also traveling at the same speed as you.

What must you do to safely get out of this highly dangerous situation?

To see if you are correct, look below for the answer...

Get your drunk-ass off the merry-go-round.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Today's Lesson Boys and Girls...

Often you hear complaints about how hard it is to capture the interest of high school kids when you're teaching. An Ohio state legislator found a sure-fire way to get and keep attention riveted on his presentation to a group of high school seniors.

Show them nude photos.

State Rep. Matthew Barrett (D) was giving a civics lesson to a senior government class at Norwalk High School. He had his presentation stored on a memory stick which he proceeded to place into the USB drive of a school-owned computer. He opened what he thought was his file in front of a room full of students and what to their wondering eyes should appear but a bare-breasted woman with a 12 pack of beer. Okay she didn't really have the beer but it rhymed.

He finished his lecture using handouts (OUTS! that's handOUTS!) then met with the school principal and IT staff who found a whole folder of nude pictures on the memory stick. Police were called to investigate (of course, because high school seniors have never seen anyone nude before) and are trying to determine where the pictures came from (maybe they'll discover this thing called the Internet).

Rep. Barrett said the memory stick was a gift and had no idea where the pictures came from. That's his story and he's sticking to it.

Perhaps Norwalk High School should have Rep. Barrett back to teach Sex Ed. After all, who better than to learn sex from than a legislator?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Shout and Drawl

Here I was this morning ready to dash off something humorous and witty that would've hopefully given all of you something to chuckle about. As I was sipping my quadruple venti latte (hey, I only ordered a triple but the barista had an extra shot made and asked if I wanted it. I said sure, hold the cup and give me a syringe to go) perusing my email and morning news a headline caught my eye and warranted further investigation. You may have seen this already this morning.

Carter gets into shouting match in Sudan

Carter? In a shouting match? The guy who "lusted in his heart". I don't think he raised his voice the whole time he was president. I'm not sure he even spoke sternly to the Iranians during the hostage crisis. I don't think he yelled at his brother Billy for being drunk and getting his picture taken wizzing on the side of a building. I read the article. Then I started to get pissed off. So much for humorous.

I'm not pissed at Carter. I never thought much of him as president but at least the guy's over there trying to do something. And good for him for yelling. Somebody needs to yell. People need to scream their effing heads off.

What's got me torqued is that Baghdad gets the full force of the United States military might. His terrible swift sword. Shock and Awe! The people in Darfur who are begging for help get a cranky 83 year old ex-president yelling at a security officer named Omar.

We were looking for non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Well I don't think they need to be chemical, biological, or radiological to qualify. A shitload of thugs with guns seems to be pretty damn effective. Looking for terrorists? I think the people and particularly the girls and women in Darfur are pretty fucking terrified.

I don't think we need to be jumping in all over the place but the U.S. is great at talkin' the talk about what we stand for. Every now and then a situation develops where it's right and proper to back that talk up with action. Action that's consistent with the talk. If Darfur, where people are being exterminated and brutalized and are begging for help, isn't one of those situations, then I don't know what the hell is.

When I think of the resources being wasted. They're looking at $190 BILLION for the war in the new budget. B-I-L-L-I-O-N. The things that money could be used for here. And in places that are asking for our help.

President Carter, keep on yelling sir. For Chrissake somebody needs to.

Maybe it was the caffeine.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Dosis Sola Facit Venenum

That's Latin for "The dose alone makes the poison". That quote is attributed to a man who lived in Europe from 1493 to 1541. His name was Theophrastus Philippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim. He is better known by a name that he took later in life (can you blame him?). Paracelsus. The above line isn’t a direct quote, actually what he said was "All things are poisons, for there is nothing without poisonous is only the dose which makes a thing poison." That concept is the very basis for modern pharmacology and the other side of the same coin, toxicology. Paracelsus studied metallurgy, alchemy, and medicine and got most of his education nomadically. He never stayed in one place too long mainly because he had a (well earned) reputation for being bad tempered and hot headed. He challenged the established scientific and medical beliefs of the day and quarreled with the wrong people which caused him to hastily leave a place in the middle of the night on more than one occasion.

He was the person to name the metal “zinc”. He discovered the ill health effects that miners and metal workers suffered from when exposed to metals and metal fumes. He learned about that new “French Disease”, syphilis, and figured out how to cure it with mercury (I’m not sure which is worse). While treating wounded soldiers he discovered that treating the surgical instrument rather than the wound before an amputation resulted in no infection which lead him to conclude "If you prevent infection… nature will heal the wound all by herself."

Paracelsus was a breathing contradiction. He believed in God and the devil, angels and demons. He also believed in natural spirits and Astrology. He believed in science and advancing “modern” healing techniques. He believed in natural medicine and using plants, herbs, minerals, and elements in healing. He admonished alchemists to “stop making gold” and “instead find medicines”. He observed similarities between the workings of the body and the workings of nature as a whole and believed that the health of the body depended on the harmony between man and nature. He was a man who was lousy at making friends and influencing people but he never compromised his ideas. His life ended at the age of forty-eight. There are a couple of accounts that say he died as a result of a bar fight. I don’t know if that’s true but on some level I hope that it is. It somehow seems…right.

This guy from the 1500’s like most freethinkers, was somewhat ahead of his time. He challenged authority and the prevailing beliefs of the day and made significant contributions to medical science. The one he’s most remembered for is “dosis sola facit venenum”. What that really means in English is BALANCE. Finding the right dose. The right balance between too little and too much. This scientific concept has been proven over and over again in recent years. Two cups of coffee a day is beneficial, four is harmful. Two glasses of beer or wine is healthy, four or more causes a whole host of problems. Seven hours of sleep a night is juuuuust right but any more or less can lead to double the risk of heart disease. Not enough exercise, too much? The total absence of stress in your life is, well, basically death. Too much stress keeps you (chemically at least) in a heightened, constant state of fight or flight without ever coming down and will lead to…the total absence of stress in your life.

I think you see where I’m heading with this. Paracelsus believed in natural healing. He was focusing on using natural elements to make medicinal cures. But as I said he also noted the importance of balance between man (woman too) and nature. His life wasn’t filled with most of the life invading things that we’re dealing with, nor was it moving at it’s current nitro-fueled pace. If it had been I think he would have extended his dose makes the poison premise beyond medicinal cures and into every facet of living. Too much internet, email, television, video games, cell phone, pager, multitasking, consumerism, self-indulgence, intolerance, credit debt, religious extremism, super-sizing, pop culture, etc, etc, etc. Not enough down time, quiet, thought, reflection, personal interaction, physical activity, compassion, reading, spirituality, understanding, modesty, courtesy, reason, laughter, vegetables (you know you don’t eat enough), etc, etc, etc.

You get my point. Balance is more than important, it’s essential to a physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy life. The key is finding the right balance for each of the ingredients then balancing them within the whole. But it’s made even harder by the fact that what’s balance for me isn’t balance for you. Not for the individual things nor the whole mess combined. Then of course you’re barraged with people trying to force their brand of balance on you through legislation, proselytizing, advertising, coercion, immersion, subversion, perversion, moral authority, superiority, and who know’s what else. Finding balance in life these days is a life’s work. The only advice I can offer is to repeat the words of Paracelsus.

"All things are poisons, for there is nothing without poisonous is only the dose which makes a thing poison."

Monday, October 1, 2007

Jump on a SLUT

And here she is.

I love this story. I love examples of groups or agencies that don't quite think things through, then the public grabs it and runs. They seize it and claim ownership and the group that started it can't do a thing about it.

Underway in Seattle is a $50.5 million project to build a streetcar line. The official name is the South Lake Union Streetcar. The residents, either correctly or incorrectly, beileve that early on in the project it was originally called the South Lake Union Trolley but was changed when the developers realized the error of their acromyn. The developer wants to call it a streetcar. The residents are going with trolley. Guess who's going to win. The power of the people baby. As far as the residents are concerned Seattle has a new SLUT and they can't wait to jump on. A couple of enterprising guys are even selling t-shirts. I'm tempted to order one just to show my support.

Oh and Happy October (can you believe it's October already?). I hope you remembered to say "Rabbit, Rabbit".