Wednesday, August 31, 2011

View from the top

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

First date

[Thanks to Jack for sending this along.]

Jay Leno went into the audience to find the most embarrassing first date
 ever. This was the winner.
It was midwinter, snowing and quite cold. The guy had taken
 her skiing in the mountains outside Salt Lake City , Utah.
 It was a day trip (no overnight). They were strangers, and had
 never met before.

The outing was fun but relatively uneventful
 until they were headed home late that afternoon.
As they were driving back down the mountain, she gradually began to
 realize that she should not have had that extra latte. They were
 about an hour away from anywhere with a rest room, and in the middle of

Her companion suggested she try to hold it, which she did for
 a while. Unfortunately, because of the heavy snow and slow going, there came
 a point here she told him that he had better stop to let her go
 beside the road, or it would be the front seat of his car.

They stopped and she quickly crawled out beside the car, yanked her pants
 down and started. In the deep snow she didn't have good footing,
 so she let her butt rest against the rear fender to steady herself. Her
 companion stood on the side of the car watching for traffic and indeed
 was a real gentleman and refrained from peeking.

All she could think about
 was the relief she felt despite the rather embarrassing nature of
 the situation.
 Upon finishing however, she soon became aware of another sensation. As she
 bent to pull up her pants, the young lady discovered her buttocks
 were firmly stuck to the car's fender. Thoughts of tongues frozen to
 poles immediately came to mind as she attempted to disengage her
 flesh from the icy metal.

It was quickly apparent that she had a brand new
 problem, due to the extreme cold. Horrified by her plight, but
 aware of the humor of the moment, when her date asked, "What is taking so long?" she replied that she was
 "Freezing her butt off," and in need of some assistance.

He came around the
 car as she tried to cover herself with her sweater and then, as she
 looked imploringly into his eyes, he burst out laughing. She too, got the
 giggles and when they finally managed to compose themselves, they
 assessed her dilemma. Obviously, as hysterical as the situation was, they
 also were faced with a real problem.

Both agreed it would take something hot to free her chilly cheeks from the
 grip of the icy metal! Thinking about what had gotten her into the
 predicament in the first place, both quickly realized that there was only
 one way to get her free. So, as she looked the other way, her
 first time date proceeded to unzip his pants and pee her butt off the

As the audience screamed in laughter, she took the Tonight
 Show prize hands down. Or perhaps that should be 'pants down'. And you
 thought your first date was embarrassing. Jay Leno's comment: "This
 gives a whole new meaning to being pissed off." 

How did the first date turn out? He became her husband, and was
 sitting next to her on the Leno show.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

Things I learned this week

I learned that:
• Waitresses who stand closer to the customer get bigger tips. Smiling, touching and squatting also work, say French researchers.

• Canadians no longer see the environment as one of their top five issues. It now ranks behind the price of gas, adequate pensions, the state of the economy, and ethics in politics.

• A $1 increase in gasoline prices over a 7-year period would reduce obesity in the U.S. by 10%, according to a study at the University of North Carolina. Higher pump prices mean more walking and less dining out.

• Major cities have significant quantities of fecal bacteria in the atmosphere, and the source is dog poop.

• U.S. president Obama is a night owl, whereas his predecessor was early to bed.

• 90% of American adults say most of their fellow Americans are overweight, but only 39% say they themselves are overweight.
How about that?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Anger management

[Thanks to Ingrid for sending this along.]

Sometimes, when you are angry with someone, it helps to sit down, take a moment to cool off, and think about the problem.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Too much commitment

While ladies are often heard complaining about their partners' unwillingness to commit, the problem in non-domestic matters is often just the opposite, according to a Stanford University study.

For example, once an analyst has given a stock a particularly optimistic or pessimistic rating, they will stick to their guns even when events prove them wrong.

As a sometime buyer of stocks, I think most investors are also guilty of hanging on to their dogs, hoping they will magically turn around and make them look like market wizards.

Same goes for hiring. Too often, I have procrastinated in dealing with someone who was clearly a bad fit for a position, refusing to acknowledge that the many fine qualities I had perceived in the screening interview were not in evidence on the job.

It seems to me that we're like that in many areas of life, remaining loyal to products and stores that no longer deserve our patronage, going back to hotels or restaurants we had recommended to others, even though the quality has now deteriorated.

The climate change deniers cling to their unsupported beliefs, even as there is evidence to the contrary all around, and on election day we're likely to vote for the same old party even though it has morphed into something quite different.

It's not just optimism, according to the study's authors, who say it has to do with our need to justify the time, effort or money we've committed to a previous course of action. We need to vindicate ourselves, so we stick to our position and hope we get lucky.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rocky situation turns out well

[Thanks to Anita and Wayne for sending this along]

This video comes from Brush Prairie WA. Earlier this year, a deer was spotted searching frantically in a rock wall. The homeowners took a look, and could hear a baby fawn crying in the rocks. He had apparently fallen in, or crawled in, through one of the gaps and had been trapped overnight.

The Clark County Fire District 3 team were called out, and the video tells the rest of the story.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A community service

Friday, August 19, 2011

Things I learned this week

I learned that:
• Watching TV for six hours a day could shorten your life expectancy by almost five years, according to Australian researchers.

• The future of air power will likely be unmanned, cheap, simple to use, pilotless drones that are small enough to fit in a soldier's backpack and are controllable using a tablet computer.

Seasteading Institute is looking to establish sovereign nations on movable platforms in international waters. Diesel-powered. Donate today!

• It's dangerous to tweet where you eat. A diner at a Houston restaurant was given the boot after she complained about the staff on Twitter while she was still at the eatery.

• Your childhood is written in your face. More symmetrical faces indicate a more privileged and easier upbringing, say scientists at the University of Edinburgh.

• About 25% of innocent people wrongly convicted of crimes confessed or pleaded guilty to the offences of which they were accused.
How about that?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Poetry in motion

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Is the party over?

In this space over the past few weeks, I've examined several interconnected trends that, in combination, will dramatically change our lives, and those of future generations.

Each one of these represents a huge challenge for mankind. Taken together, they may portend a new dark age as the social progress of the past century stalls, or goes into reverse.

My five wake-up calls are:
The End of the Oil Age

The Shortage of Fresh Water

The Growing Wealth Gap

The Huge Debts owed by Nations, Provinces/States, and Cities

The Inevitability of Climate Change
Of course, no one knows how all this will play out. Within a few days of my last post in the series, U.S. debt was downgraded and markets went into a tailspin, while rioting, looting and arson broke out in several English cities.

Meanwhile, some inventors announced a new kind of highway, made from garbage, with embedded solar panels that can power towns and cities.

Crazy, eh?

Human beings are resourceful and creative, not passive players in the drama. We will adapt, whining and complaining all the while, as change unfolds. We will innovate, invent, and discover solutions for problems.

But, inevitably, many things we have come to see as entitlements and normal behaviour are going to be much diminished, more expensive, or gone.

It will happen incrementally, changing our lifestyles a bit at a time, moderated by new concepts and technologies that spring from fertile minds.

In fact it is already happening.

Municipal governments are scrambling to reduce services ranging from public libraries to snow clearing and garbage pick-up.

The defined benefit pension, a standard employee benefit that ensured predictable retirement income for workers in the second half of the 20th century, is a relic of the past.

So-called social enterprises (for-profit businesses operated by charities) are emerging as the hot new thing as government support of charitable organizations wanes.

Wages have stagnated for 30 years, when adjusted for inflation.

Many retirees are experiencing financial pressure, and are working past 65 to supplement pension income.

New multi-lane highways are more likely to be toll roads than freeways.

Air travellers now pay for headsets, blankets, and food, all previously free.

Every automobile manufacturer is now focused on smaller, more efficient engines, electric or hybrid propulsion, or alternative energy systems (e.g. hydrogen), as well as light weight materials.

We are avoiding the sun, slathering on the sunscreen, and wearing broad-brimmed hats.

Extended watering restrictions are a regular summer feature.

Free parking has disappeared, even at hospitals.

These are just some minor adjustments compared to what's coming.

So, how must each of us change, personally, to blunt the edge of this new age?
• Become a more involved citizen. Take care of things ourselves. Before the coming of the nanny state, this is what people did. If something needed to be built or fixed in their community, they came together and did it. After they had done it, they would all sit down to a grand meal, and catch up on the latest gossip.

[Note: I found it interesting that, in the recent London riots that outstripped the abilities of the police, citizens in some neighbourhoods banded together to run off the thugs, and then turned out with brooms and pails to clean up the debris.]

We need to get back to that. If your local park is overgrown, get your neighbours together and spend a Saturday now and then getting it back in shape. Same thing for creating a skating rink, and keeping it cleared of snow. Send your teenagers out to shovel snow from the sidewalks, as well as the driveways and walks of elderly neighbours.

If there are shut-ins nearby, get a few neighbours together to share drives to the grocery store and the doctor's office.

Donate money and/or time to the causes you think are worthwhile, that you don't want to see disappear as government funding dries up. You'll receive a good return on that investment in your community, as it continues to be a good place to live.

• Become a smarter consumer. Avoid debt unless absolutely necessary, and never borrow to buy something that will likely lose value. Buy with long term value in mind, ignoring fads and resisting the desire for instant gratification. Well-made, classic, designs never go out of style, and give pleasure every time you use them.

• Become more self-sufficient. A vegetable garden and a few chickens will produce tastier meals at much lower cost than mass-produced, packaged supermarket food.

• Become kinder to the earth. Reuse and recycle. Select products that have minimal or recyclable packaging. When you have a choice, pick the one that wastes less water, generates fewer greenhouse gases, consumes less energy.
We'll all come up with plenty more ideas, and even though a new way of living may be forced upon us, it just might turn out to have some unexpected rewards.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Father knows best

In the cellphone age, we are privy to information we'd rather not hear.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The show

Friday, August 12, 2011

Things I learned this week

I learned that:
• Highways made from garbage, and that incorporate solar panels, are being developed. They have the potential to power the entire world, say the inventors.

• There are more members of U.S. military marching bands than there are members of the State Department's Foreign Service, according to former defence secretary Robert Gates. The Marine Corps alone spends $50 million on its 13 bands. Based on this, total Defense Department spending on bands could be $500 million or more annually.

• Tenants in a Chinese apartment building awoke to find their bedrooms full of scorpions, allegedly released by their landlord who wants them out to make way for a construction project.

• People who live to 95 or older are no more virtuous than the rest of us in terms of their diet, exercise routine or smoking and drinking habits, according to researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

New research finds that after seven weeks into a pregnancy, tests that analyze the mother's blood for fetal DNA can correctly identify a male fetus 95.4 percent of the time and a female fetus 98.6 percent of the time.

• A whale's penis is called a dork.
How about that?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What is that?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The 545

Charley Reese retired from the Orlando Sentinel ten years ago, after 49 years in journalism. Twenty-seven years ago, in 1984, the paper published this column, which reads as though it was written yesterday.

While Charley was writing about America, his words ring true for Canada, too.
545 vs. 300,000,000 People

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

Have you ever wondered, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, WHY do we have deficits?

Have you ever wondered, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, WHY do we have inflation and high taxes?

You and I don't propose a federal budget. The President does.

You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does.

You and I don't write the tax code, Congress does.

You and I don't set fiscal policy, Congress does.

You and I don't control monetary policy, the Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one President, and nine Supreme Court justices equates to 545 human beings out of the 300 million are directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered, but private, central bank.

I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman, or a President to do one cotton-picking thing. I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator's responsibility to determine how he votes.

Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of a Speaker, who stood up and criticized the President for creating deficits.. The President can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept it.

The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and approving appropriations and taxes. Who is the speaker of the House now? He is the leader of the majority party.. He and fellow House members, not the President, can approve any budget they want. If the President vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree to.

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted -- by present facts -- of incompetence and irresponsibility. I can't think of a single domestic problem that is not traceable directly to those 545 people. When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is unfair, it's because they want it unfair.

If the budget is in the red, it's because they want it in the red.

If the Army & Marines are in Iraq and Afghanistan it's because they want them in Iraq and Afghanistan ...

If they do not receive social security but are on an elite retirement plan not available to the people, it's because they want it that way.

There are no insoluble government problems.

Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take this power. Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like "the economy," "inflation," or "politics" that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people, and they alone, are responsible.

They, and they alone, have the power.

They, and they alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses.

Provided the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees...

We should vote all of them out of office and clean up their mess!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Flemish stunt team

This is how they roll.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Things I learned this week

I learned that:
• Orange juice Is artificially flavoured to taste like oranges.

• DNA analysis has shown that a 38-acre, 100-ton, fungus in Michigan is a single organism. It may have been growing since the end of the last Ice Age.

• Those magic mushrooms from the sixties are back, and this time around Johns Hopkins researchers are using them to induce "long-lasting psychological growth" with no bad trips. Mellow.

• The hottest pepper in the world is the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T, rated at 1, 463,000 Scoville units. By comparison, a jalapeno gets 2500-5000 Scoville units.

• The queen bee makes only one flight in her entire life, but she makes the most of it. When she’s a few days old, she goes out and messes around with as many male drones as she can before returning to her colony carrying all the sperm she’ll ever need over the course of a reproductive lifetime in which she’ll lay hundreds of thousands of eggs.

• Female drivers are far more likely to run into a car driven by another woman than a man, according to a University of Michigan study.
How about that?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Top of her game

A truly amazing feat of rock climbing by Catherine Destivelle. Thanks to Jack for sending this along.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Upstream swimming

"It takes courage to grow up
and turn out to be who you really are."
-- e.e. cummings

This Cummings quote is a good example of the poet's art --- capturing the essence of a thing in a few words. Prose writers usually go the other way, taking a small idea and wasting a lot of words on it. I'm a prose writer.

The quote got me thinking again about authenticity, and the way things work against our achieving it.

It does take courage "to be who you really are," to breach the rules, go your own way.

In the 1950s, and even in the 1960s, a married couple who consciously decided to have no children were urged to reconsider by family and friends. In that era, it was seen as odd, even a bit selfish. Sixty years later, we have a wide range of domestic arrangements, and the pressure to procreate is much reduced.

In the peace and love period of 1965-1975, there was much talk about "doing your own thing," but that usually looked a lot like everyone else's thing. The norms had shifted, but they were norms nonetheless, and most young people conformed. A decade earlier, love beads, flowers in your hair, sandals, and bell bottoms would have marked you as a rebel. By, 1969, you were a follower.

Teenagers are most susceptible to the pressures to conform. In our uncertain, formative years, we want to fit in, be part of the gang. In my day, that meant blue jeans and a duck-tail haircut. Today, a stud in the lip and a tattoo say you're cool. Strangely, the word "cool" is still cool after 60 years.

But social norms and protocols regulate adult behaviour, too, even for those who have reached high levels of status and achievement. Observe, if you will, the universal acceptance of the tuxedo and its accoutrements as appropriate attire for galas and other "society" events.

In fact, it seems to me that the upper crust is guided by lifestyle rules to an even greater extent than the rest of us --- the right careers, neighbourhoods, clubs, resorts, social events, and vacation destinations are expected if raised eyebrows are to be avoided.

The same applies in the world of work. One is expected to observe unspoken rules of behaviour that mostly discourage independent, creative approaches and reward conformity. Showing up on time is highly prized. Crazy ideas, not so much.

Artists, entrepreneurs, inventors, and other creative types seem to be the exceptions, but I suspect there are rules that govern their worlds, too.

Are all these rules, protocols, and expectations necessary for the smooth functioning of society. What would it be like if everyone just behaved as they "really are?"


Wouldn't it be fun?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Workin' on the railroad

Thanks to Anita and Wayne for sending along this amazing video.

Monday, August 1, 2011

And a side order of hay, please