Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sea otters holding hands to keep from drifting apart while sleeping

(via Wikipedia, Reddit)

Alice in Medicareland: One Voucher Makes You Larger

Guest Opinion

By Richard (RJ) Eskow

"If I had a world of my own," said Alice, "everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn't."

The rabbit hole's got nothing on this place."Let's save Social Security from a 25% cut in 27 years," they told Alice, "by cutting more than that, starting now." Paul Ryan's GOP plan doesn't "end Medicare," they explained. It just, well, ends it. And vouchers aren't really vouchers. Even "fact-checking" site Politifact joined in, chastising Democrats for saying Ryan's proposal would "change the essential nature of Medicare." That was right before they noted that it would "end the aspect of Medicare that directly covers specific services, such as hospital coverage." Read the rest here.

photo source

Saturday Morning Thoughts: melon-sized hail and other stuff

Melon-sized hail that fell during a severe thunderstorm ...

Good Morning Humboldt County!

Got my coffee and I’m ready to go. Take a load off and join me. The national weather continues to be the top story in the news: 

Violent weather swept across the Eastern seaboard, dropping heavy rains that flooded towns from New England to Georgia, knocking out power and killing at least three people in the Atlanta area.

Caroline Floyd, lead meteorologist at The Weather Channel, wrote on its website that Saturday would be "another day of thunderstorms in the Northeast."

Melon-sized hail that fell during a severe thunderstorm in Norman, OK. … Read more »



Palin not invited to this rally by current organizers, but she still plans on attending.

Rolling Thunder: Sarah Palin not invited

One day after Sarah Palin announced her bus tour, a group sponsoring a Memorial Day weekend event she plans to attend said they never invited her.

"She wasn't invited. We heard yesterday she came out with a press release she was coming to Rolling Thunder," Ted Shpak, national legislative director of Rolling Thunder, told "Andrea Mitchell Reports." Shpak is one of three members of Rolling Thunder's current leadership who says he had no idea Palin was coming until it was posted on her website.


Image: Security camera photo of "Grandma Bandit"

Cops: Slain 'Grandma Bandit' was a man


The elderly-looking gun-toting robber nicknamed “Grandma Bandit,” blamed for a string of heists of several Atlanta-area drugstores, was actually a man, police say.

The revelation was made by police Friday evening, hours after the suspect was fatally shot after a police chase, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported.


Time for me to head on down the road…

Friday, May 27, 2011

After 92 years, millionaire miser’s heirs finally split $100M

In bizarre bequest, it was locked away until 21 years after the last grandchild died

In 1919, he was a greedy multimillionaire who didn’t want to see his family get its hands on the vast fortune he’d amassed as a lumber baron.

 Story Here

Finally Friday: brace yourself for a summer of sluts and other stuff

Image: Photo illustration

Good Morning Humboldt!

Got my coffee and my muse. Pull up a chair, take a load off, and join me this morning.

There’s something fishy going on in our food supply:

When you order fish, or buy it at at a supermarket, there’s better than a 20 percent chance you’re not getting what you think you are.

Scientists are discovering rampant fish labeling fraud in supermarket coolers and restaurant tables: cheap fish is often substituted for expensive fillets, and overfished species are passed off as fish whose numbers are plentiful.

On Wednesday, Oceana released a new report titled “Bait and Switch: How Seafood Fraud Hurts Our Oceans, Our Wallets and Our Health.” With rates of fraud in some species found to run as high as 70 percent, the report concluded, the United States needs to “increase the frequency and scope” of its inspections.

In da (smelly) club? Testing scents in smoke-free nightspots

Smoking bans are increasingly found in bars and nightclubs around the world. But as the smell of cigarette smoke slowly fades from your favorite hotspot, new, not-always-pleasing odors rear their stinky head. Body odor, cologne that should have been left in the 80s, stale beer -- what’s a barfly or club kid to do? Researchers in the Netherlands decided the questions needed a scientific answer.The findings were published online this month in the journal Chemosensory Perception.

Image: Women march through downtown Boston during the "SlutWalk" in Boston, Mass

Brace yourself for the summer of 'sluts'

The summer of sluts was kicked off this week when msnbc cable host Ed Schultz, perhaps channeling Dan Aykroyd in his old "Saturday Night Live" debates with Jane Curtin (“Jane, you ignorant slut!”) called conservative radio personality Laura Ingraham  a "right-wing slut" on his syndicated radio program . Schultz apologized, but was suspended from his cable show for a week.

The incident provided an unexpected publicity boost to “Slut Walk” protests planned for cities all over North America. Chicago and Los Angeles will see parades of of self-proclaimed "sluts" June 4, followed by San Diego on June 11, with 70 or so walks in Seattle, Portland, New York and other cities through the summer.

The walks, which began in April after a Toronto police officer advised women in a York University audience not to dress like a “slut” to avoid sexual assault, are not only attempting to raise awareness about sexual violence, but to redefine the meaning of “slut.”

The end is nigh! Internet meme spotted in real world

While idly browsing the Web diligently scouring the Internet for important news this morning, I made the mistake of clicking a link which would make me quiver with dread. What could possibly be so frightening? Photo proof that Internet memes are taking over the real world.

The photo in question was uploaded to Imgur — the photo-hosting service of choice for Reddit users — and pointed out by a commenter on the popular link-sharing site.

In the image, we see a bored-looking bespectacled redhead who is holding up a sign proclaiming "I left the ocean. It's too current." Yes, that's right — it's a real-life version of "Hipster Ariel."

The "Hipster Ariel" meme has been making its way around the Internet since about the beginning of 2011, according to trend-tracking site KnowYourMeme. The basic idea is to poke fun of the contemporary hipster subculture by using macro images — photos with superimposed captions — of an altered version of Disney's Ariel.

That’s all for now. Time for me to head on down the road…

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The border between heaven and earth is in Bolivia


Travel Tip: Alligator encounter season in full swing in Florida

Image: Gator bites sheriff's car bumper

Where NOT to go this Memorial Day weekend. Here’s why:

It's moving and mating season for Florida's estimated 1.3 million alligators, and experts are warning locals as well as tourists to stay out of the way.

Story Here

Thursday morning chat: cell phone apps could get you arrested and other stuff

Good morning Humboldt County!

I’ve been enjoying my coffee this morning, and reading news and sports stories for the last couple of hours. Time to share a few with you:

Did you know if you're one of the millions of smartphone users who've downloaded scanner apps with names like iScanner, PoliceStream and 5-0 Radio Police Scanner, you could totally get arrested?

Also in cellphone crime news: Forgetfulness, tracking software and a case of mistaken cellphone identity led a kids' baseball umpire to hunt down and punch a man he mistook to be an iPhone thief.

Oh! And a South Florida man was so upset over a Facebook account, he attacked his 86-year-old grandmother!


Looks like a judge voided the Wisconsin collective bargaining law 

Wisconsin's law taking away nearly all collective bargaining rights from most public workers was struck down Thursday by a circuit court judge but the ruling will not be the final say in the union fight that brought tens of thousands of protesters to the Capitol earlier this year.


Close to 20% of young adults have high blood pressure, a new government-funded study reports

For the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, dubbed Add Health, funded by the National Institutes of Health, researchers from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill asked 14,000 men and women between the ages of 24 and 32 about their high blood pressure history and then took blood pressure readings of participants.

High blood pressure (hypertension) was defined as 140/90 millimeters of mercury or higher. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a normal blood pressure is 120/80 or less.The researchers found that 19% of participants had high blood pressure.


Are brooding men and smiling women seen as sexy?

Guys, want to look sexy and get the girl? Don't smile too much!

"Men who smile were considered fairly unattractive by women," said Jessica Tracy, a University of British Columbia psychology professor who directed the study.

"So to the extent that men think that smiling is a good thing to do if they want to be found sexually attractive our findings suggest that's not the case," Tracy said.

The men's reaction was just the opposite.

"Women who smile are absolutely very attractive. That was by far the most attractive expression women showed," Tracy said in an interview.


Warning to pedestrians -- Walking down the street in Florida could be hazardous to your health.

Several major cities in the state -- Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, Miami-Fort Lauderdale -- took the top spots on a list of the most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians published by a U.S. transportation reform group on Tuesday.

The "Dangerous by Design" report, produced by Transportation for America, ranked cities with populations over a million people in terms of the danger to pedestrians relative to the amount of walking in a given area.

Riverside, California, Las Vegas, Memphis, Phoenix, Houston, and Dallas filled out the top ten in that order.

Thanks for stopping by today. Time for me to head on down the road…

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

‘Parents Hiding the Gender of Their Child: Good Luck With That’

A well-meaning effort to separate a child from gender identity will backfire according to today’s guest columnist Jeremy Greenberg

“A couple in Toronto have decided to take a novel approach to tweaking their newborn child: They’ve decided to keep the child’s gender a secret. They named him/her/it Storm--because nothing connotes androgyny like being named after an American Gladiator

I applaud this unique approach to screwing up a child. While most parents might drink, or neglect the kid, these forward thinking parents have decided to treat their living flesh as though he/she is their sociology final at Wellesley. There are six billion people in the world, surely one can be treated like a guinea pig, right? Who wants to have a boy or girl when you can give birth to a symbol?

I’m a very competitive parent. So if I have any more kids, not only am I not going to tell people the child’s gender, I’m also going to refrain from mentioning the newborn’s species. I don’t want my child trapped in society’s expectations for how certain species should behave. If my child wants to defecate in the yard like a dog, or sleep in a tree, he/she should have that right. And I’m certainly not going to teach my kids a language. Grammar is mind control. If my child wants to just grunt, or bark out a series of random words, that’s his/her prerogative. And I certainly wouldn’t potty train my child. Peeing in a toilet is the ultimate act of conformity. I don’t want my kids oppressed by the system, even if it’s a plumbing system.

On a less sarcastic note, I do feel like these parents' hearts are in the right place. Although I ridicule their desire to hide their child’s identity (who totally looks like a boy, by the way, judging by this picture), these parents are actually being bold. In theory, they are right. You don’t want a boy who has a feminine side to feel like he can’t wear a dress, have dolls, and eventually ovulate. Nor do you want a girl who has a masculine side to feel denied her opportunity to break stuff, play with guns, and pee her name in the snow (though she’ll admittedly need some serious hula-hoop skills).  But it’s just too weird to burden a child with being the vanguard of societal evolution.

Sadly, this experiment in gender neutrality will end up having the reverse effect on the child. Because Storm is being denied his/her natural opportunity to develop a gender identity, he/she’ll grow up to either be the manliest man, or the girliest girl. This well-meaning effort to tear down gender walls is just going to build them higher. But I will say that the parents were appropriate in naming the child Storm—because there’s no way this can’t be a disaster.”


Welcome Wednesday: oil traders in hot water and other stuff


Good Morning Humboldt County!

I’ve got my cup of joe and am ready to go. How about you? Got a hot drink and a place to sit? Here we go:

Every now and then justice happens (usually randomly) and the bastards that send our oil prices sky high by illegal speculating get in trouble. I was happy to see two of the creeps got caught and sued for their 2008 manipulation of the market. Does this mean they’ll do jail time? I doubt it. With their money they’ll be able to manipulate our justice system (a little money will do you) and get the best lawyers money can buy.

Photo: A beagle drinks water from a puddle.

A study was recently devoted to the burning question; do dogs and cats drink differently? The results suggest that dogs do drink just like cats do ... but sloppier. Who knew? Who cared? And who paid these guys to do this study?

"We were able to show once the liquid got into the mouth, how it was transported through the mouth to be swallowed," study researcher Alfred Crompton, of Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology, told LiveScience. [Read: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Dogs]

The evangelical Christian broadcaster whose much-ballyhooed Judgment Day prophecy went conspicuously unfulfilled on Saturday has a simple explanation for what went wrong -- he miscalculated.

Instead of the world physically coming to an end on May 21 with a great, cataclysmic earthquake, as he had predicted, Harold Camping, 89, said he now believes his forecast is playing out "spiritually," with the actual apocalypse set to occur five months later, on October 21. That ought to give everyone more time to get raptured I suppose.

It really cracks me up how these doomsday prophets recover so quickly when they’re predictions go south. No apparent embarrassment. No admitting that no man knows the date of the earth’s doom. Guys like Camping are so twisted that they just keep setting the doomsday date back. 

Sales staff snorted salt not drugs? Munich Re unit Ergo said on Tuesday sales agents photographed snorting white powder at a company-sponsored party were inhaling salt rather than drugs, just as the insurer struggles to shake a tarnished image.

The unit was responding to a report in German tabloid Bild, that published photographs showing sales agents snorting white powder from a table-top at an employee motivation party held in the holiday resort of Mallorca last September.

"The pictures published in Bild show a drinking game (Tequila Suicide) with salt, Tequila and lemon juice," the company said in a statement.The snorting of salt up the nose was part of the game.

Princess's "toilet seat" hat sells for $131,000

The much-mocked hat worn by Princess Beatrice to Britain's royal wedding last month -- widely described as looking like a toilet seat -- sold for 81,100 pounds ($131,000) on eBay, charities which will benefit from the sale said.


The only major Jane Austen manuscript still in private hands comes up for auction on July 14th, auction house Sotheby's said on Monday.

"The Watsons" by the prolific author of "Sense and Sensibility" is estimated by Sotheby's at 200,000-300,000 pounds ($323,800-$485,700).

"Probably written in 1804, this heavily corrected draft represents the earliest surviving manuscript for a novel by Jane Austen," Sotheby's said in a statement.

"The work, which was not published during her lifetime and remains incomplete, provides a fascinating insight into both her writing practices and her development into one of Britain's greatest authors."

Time for me to head on down the road…

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday Talk: cup of joe goes up, tattoo artist tries to stop film release, mysterious copper heiress dies, and tourism future for bin Laden’s compound considered!

Good morning Humboldt County!

Pull up a chair, or a beanbag, and have a cup of tea or coffee with me. I got a late start this morning so I had to pour my first cup over my head! While slurping on my second cup, I read that coffee drinkers will soon be getting another jolt at the supermarket as the Price for a cup of joe is going up ... again.

Image: Huguette Clark

Huguette M. Clark, the mysterious copper heiress who became the subject of public fascination and police investigation after a century of life as a recluse, died Tuesday morning at age 104, registered under a fake name at a hospital in New York City. Her empty mansions, and a criminal investigation into the handling of her fortune, were the subject of a series of reports last year on

I blogged about her last year. The criminal investigation continues into the handling of her money by her attorney and accountant, with detectives and a forensic accountant poring over the many years of Clark's financial records.

Her wealth was managed by her scoundrel attorney, Wally Bock, 79, of Queens, N.Y., and her certified public accountant, a felon named Irving H. Kamsler, 64, of the Bronx, N.Y. I hope these two get the justice they so richly deserve for stealing from Huguette all these years!

Image: Ed Helms in "The Hangover Part II"A tattoo artist almost stopped the release of the movie “Hangover II” this weekend

S. Victor Whitmill, the tattoo artist who created the original mark for boxer Mike Tyson (shown here on actor), who appears in both Hangover films, sued April 28 seeking an injunction and damages for copyright infringement.

Story: Can 'Hangover 2' serve up another round of success?

My wife and I went to Chico this past weekend and it was hot. Sun burn hot. Living on the coast has spoiled me, and I’m only comfortable with moderate temperatures these days.

We once lived in the desert, Twentynine Palms. Never again!

Extreme heat and sun calls for protection. Do you know what the top sunscreen is? According to this report, the cheapest is the best! 

That ought to be good news for everyone heading into warmer climates this upcoming Memorial Day Weekend.

I thought I saw the most absurd thing in the world a while back when I watched a documentary on Chernobyl, and how it’s become a tourist attraction today – despite still  being highly radioactive! But no! Now some people are looking into making Osama bin Laden's compound a tourist attraction! No shit!

Image: A Pakistani youngsterThe official tourist map for Abbottabad urges visitors to discover its "hidden" treasures.

"It was a very important event, and I believe people from around the world would be very interested to visit it," said tourism official Yar Mohammed.

PHOTO - A Pakistani youngster collects metal pieces from a wheat field outside the house where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden lived in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Time for me to head on down the road…

Monday, May 23, 2011

As It Stands: Have you already read this crazy column?

By Dave Stancliff/For the Times-Standard

Posted: 05/22/2011 07:25:12 AM PDT

Déjà vu to you, and does this column look familiar? I hope not. I'll explain why later, but right now let's cut to the chase. Have you ever had the feeling you had experienced something in the past when the experience was actually a new one?

Kinda creepy, huh? It has been for me, numerous times. As far as I've been able to determine, there are two schools of thought on that sense of déjà vu. You have the scientific viewpoint, and you have the folks who believe those feelings of déjà vu come from psychic abilities possessed by some people.

So what is it? Disorders in the brain or memories of a past life? What is déjà vu? Let's start with those researchers who spend their lives trying to find the answer. The feeling has been attributed to schizophrenia, anxiety and a malfunction of the electrical system in the brain.

Certain medicines are believed to be factors responsible for déjà vu. Medicinal drugs such as amantadine and phenylpropanolamine have been observed to cause it.

A popular theory says our brains tend to associate different situations. Even more interesting, the brain often tries to experimentally reproduce a situation it has never faced. The result? Your anticipation of a certain event might make you think you've encountered a similar experience before.

In my reading on the subject, I found there are several types of déjà vu. Fair warning; this gets a little tricky. Basically, you have deja senti, deja vecu, and deja visite.

With deja senti, the feeling you have refers to something “already felt.” According to researchers, something felt in the past was very similar to that felt in the present. The similarity in the two experiences can make a person feel they've done it in the past.

When you visited a completely new place, have you had the funny idea you knew what was going to happen next? That's called deja vecu, and those who experience it feel they have a portal to the future.

There's a fine line between deju vecu and the last form of deju vu called deja visite. As the name implies, deja visite is all about going to a place for the first time and claiming to know it despite never having been there in reality.

It's funny, but most of my deju vu experiences were like “Oh, no! Caught again!” I knew a guy in the Army who always claimed to experience déjà vu, and after a while, I wondered if he was a psychic or a wacko. Luckily, we were stationed together for only a few months, and I never had to find out.

While trying to understand this mysterious déjà vu stuff, I came across one explanation that was an eye opener. Scientists say one of the human eyes perceives a certain thing before the other. One eye actually records the incident earlier, they claim.

Meanwhile, the other eye, which records the same incident milliseconds later, gives the brain a feeling of recollection. Researchers suggest that one eye perceives something and the brain interprets it. The other eye lags in time by a few milliseconds, perceives the same thing and sends the image to the brain.

So what happens? The brain perceives the image milliseconds later and thinks you've seen it before. Sound good? Well ... maybe not. People with only one eye experience deju vu, too, a fact that has left those researchers scratching their heads and bumping into walls. I'm sure this will only be a temporary setback, and they'll have another explanation for deju vu one of these days.

I'll try to stay tuned to any further theories about this fascinating subject that may be worth updating in a future column. I'll just have to be careful to remember that I've already written about the subject so I don't have a case of deju vu when I do!

As It Stands, if you think I wrote this column before, please squint one eye and blink the other a couple of times until the feeling goes away!

Websites carrying this column: 


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Blog Break Until Presidential Election is Over

I finally hit the wall today. I can't think of what to say about all of the madness going on in this country right now. I'm a writer...