Saturday, June 8, 2013

As It Stands blog: Saturday stuff ranging from shootings to sharks

          Good Day World!

Welcome to my neighborhood this Saturday. I have a couple of stories of interest for you, and a few remarks and notations regarding this past week.

The veil of transparency has bent torn, and the Obama administration has got a lot of fast talking to do after revelations of spying on millions of Americans were exposed by a British newspaper - The Guardian.

At least six people, including a gunman, were killed and two to three others injured Friday in a series of shootings near a community college in Santa Monica, Calif., west of Los Angeles, authorities said. The suspected shooter was shot and killed by officers at the scene and authorities have another suspect in custody, they said.

Nude travelers have been gearing up for “Nakations” where they can do everything in the buff in choice locations around the globe.

The East Coast is bracing for flash floods, and twisters as Andrea heads north.

Mars, Nestle, Hershey accused of chocolate price-fixing conspiracy in Canada

Nestle, Mars and Hershey companies in Canada have been charged with conspiring with others to fix the price of chocolate, authorities said.

Nestle Canada and Mars Canada both said they would “vigorously defend” themselves against the claims.

Canada’s Competition Bureau said in a statement that Hershey Canada was expected to plead guilty later this month “for its role in the conspiracy to fix the price of chocolate confectionery products in Canada.”

ITWAL Ltd., a national network of independent wholesale distributors, has also been charged along with Robert Leonidas, former president of Nestlé Canada; Sandra Martinez, former president of confectionery for Nestlé Canada; and David Glenn Stevens, president and chief executive of ITWAL.(Full story here)

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This may have been a hoax, but people should know there are sharks out there. Comes with the territory.

Great White Hoax: Fake shark warnings stir panic

Someone thought it would be fun to put up signs warning people not to go the beach in Santa Cruz.

I suspect it was locals staking out their turf and trying to keep other surfers and swimmers from crowding their space!

Authorities haven’t figured out if posting the signs was a crime or not. Stay tuned.


Time for me to walk on down the road…

Friday, June 7, 2013

As It Stands blog: solving the mystery of the missing bird penises!

Good Day World!

 It was a mystery Sherlock Homes would have refused to take on with his Victorian principals, but modern scientific sleuths had no bones about solving the mystery of the missing bird penises!

Before I turn you loose on the following article, which by the way will probably weird you out, I think it’s safe to say most people will be surprised at how well endowed some birds are. Like ducks! Wow! Who would have guessed? I have a whole new respect for Donald Duck and Daffy Duck now!

On to the story:

“In the animal kingdom, ducks and geese are famous for their extra-long penises. In fact, when extended, the usually coiled penis of the Argentine lake duck is longer than the bird itself.

(Photo: by A.M. Herrera and M.J. Cohn / University of Florida. A scanning microscope image of the chick penis, colored red, before it shrinks.)

Most birds don't have such bragging rights, however: Males in 97 percent of bird species have tiny penises or lack them entirely. Instead, they shoot sperm into a female bird's body through an exit called a cloaca.

The absent bird penis is a head-scratcher for scientists who study animal reproduction. For animals in which eggs are fertilized inside the female body, sperm have a better chance of getting through if they're pipe-delivered within easy reach.

"Why lose an organ that seems so important to achieve this task?" Patricia Brennan, a researcher at the University of Maryland who studies the coiled duck penis, wrote to NBC News in an email.” (Full story here)

More on bizarre animal sex:

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Thursday, June 6, 2013

As It Stands blog: Oldest primate skeleton yet tells new tale of our origins

Good Day World!

I still grapple with the claim that humans and monkeys are direct relatives, but am willing to secede to the knowledge of scientists…up to a point.

When they start linking us to bug-eyed little mouse creatures who ate insects 55 million years ago I call that a stretch. A big stretch. Even the Chinese, who found the mouse-sized creature, aren’t claiming it’s the missing link. That’s a relief.

They still put it on the same tree, but another branch at least! Not a bad move. But the moment I finally accept there may be a connection between this ancient mouse and humans someone else is going to discover the real missing link…you know what it is don’t you?

That’s right…an alien race who guided, and mated with, our ancestors! Meanwhile, here’s a news article talking about this latest discovery:

Researchers generally don't care for the term "missing link," but in the case of the oldest articulated primate skeleton ever discovered, paleontologist Christopher Beard says the missing-link label might almost be merited.

"It certainly in some ways could qualify for that term, in the sense that it's a hybrid, or a mosaic," he told NBC News. "It shows a combination of features that we've never seen before in any living or fossil primate. ... But I still would caution against it, because it's a loaded term."

More importantly, the mortal remains of a mouse-sized creature that lived 55 million years ago in China could provide new insights into our evolutionary roots — such as the incredibly small size and frenetic eating habits of our ancient forebears.

"This skeleton will tell us a lot of stories about the origin of primates, and about our remote ancestors," said Xijun Ni of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology. Ni heads the international team of scientists who reported their findings in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

The fossil creature has been dubbed Archicebus achilles.

Ni and his colleagues don't claim that the species is directly linked to monkeys, apes and humans, on a branch of the family tree known as anthropoids.

Instead, they put it on the next branch over, which gave rise to a different group of modern-day primates called tarsiers. Despite that placement, Archicebus' skeleton shows some anthropoid characteristics — for example, a foot that's proportioned more like a monkey's foot than a tarsier's. (Full story here)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

As It Stands blog: It’s a weird world where dogs date online

          By Dave Stancliff
The world gets weirder every day.

Have you noticed? With the help of the world wide web weirdness gets a boost like never before in history. More weird people get their 15 minutes of fame, thanks to the internet.
Extreme” is a key word that will take you down countless paths in cyberspace. Everything is extreme now, or it isn’t worth bothering with. There’s extreme snorkeling, sky diving, bowling, beauty contests, game shows, hamburgers, mixed drinks, t-shirts, bathing suits, hair styles, vacations, and so on.
There’s so much extreme weirdness going on that I have to narrow it down to one category due to space constraints.  It has to do with animals. And the people who love them. And the things pet owners do that make you doubt their sanity.

What we have is a tale (pun intended) of two coasts with pet owners who think providing weird services for their pets is perfectly sane. Both New York City and San Francisco have online startups that seek to fill the needs of  beloved and pampered pets.
I wouldn’t kid you about this. There's Matchpuppy (, “for east coast pet owners that offers a brand new way for owner and dogs to meet new friends in the neighborhood," according to the site's homepage.
Swinging back to the West Coast, we find Spotwag (, "your alternative to a kennel or pet hotel," the homepage reads. "We transform your social network into a support network." Don’t have a pet? No problem. They’ll rent one to you.
Like Dogster, and others before them, both Matchpuppy and Spotwag capitalize on the fact that American pet owners will spend as much on their pets as on their children. In some cases even more.

The website that strikes my funny bone most is Matchpuppy, where the dogs get paired off according to size, age and energy level. The chance for some humor barks at me with this wonderful opportunity.
First off, speaking for my single female pugs Millie and Molly, they’d never subject themselves to a meat market like common mongrels, to get a date. No way. Millie and Molly do have their standards. I suspect there are many others like them. Meeting nose to nose is fine, but the cautious canine shouldn’t trust a stranger online.
There are always those “bad dogs” who like to have a good time rubbing up against legs, tables, and anything that doesn’t move away from their arduous attempts at satisfaction. They’d like some action.
One more thing, what about the owners? What are they supposed to do if their dogs hit it off instantly (as they often do) and the owners don’t?

Will the owners have a little waiting room with a TV if conversation gets too awkward? What kind of magazines would we find there? Doggie porn directories for owners? Nothing is too good for Fido nowadays. Or too weird. 
Yes, I’m a pet owner, and I love my pugs, but even I have limits, or shall we say, moments of clarity when I realize enough is enough. I don’t have any problem with pet owners who dress their dogs up in ridiculous outfits, but my pugs would leave home if I tried to dress them in tutus!
How weird. Online matchmaking for dogs. I haven’t seen one for cats yet, or for giant Anacondas either, for that matter. It doesn’t mean there won’t be some down the line. I suspect it’s just a matter of time. I see all kinds of possibilities for extreme spin offs. Dogs dating online will open up the floodgates for the rest of the world’s species. At this point I’ll let you use your imagination. I wouldn’t want to narrow down the possibilities.

You know what’ll happen if these new doggie dating websites really become popular? Reality TV. Can’t you see it? One show could be like the old “Dating Game,” where three eligible bachelor pooches wait behind a screen, and answer questions by the single female (not B***H because it has to be politically correct). Even weirdness has its limits.
Or, setting romance aside, we could see a take-off from the Survivor series where a half dozen dogs are put on an island without their owners to take care of their every whim. Food and drink would be available, but they’d have to do stuff for it, like rollover or fetch something.
As It Stands, the latest trend for fashionable canines is tattoos, and I’m not going there!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

As It Stands blog:Dognition: get a profile of your dog’s mental habits

             By Dave Stancliff
 I’m pretty sure my two pugs are socialites, but the only way to know for sure is to visit, a website that helps people find the genius in their dogs. is a business venture and research project with the stated mission of helping people determine the cognitive traits of their canines. They claim to sort out the cognitive traits - hold on to that thought for a second - of any dog. This knowledge of Fido’s brain is supposed to help pet owners cater to their needs.
  As we all know, pet owners will do anything - absolutely anything - to make their pets happy. And if it means thinking outside the box, no problem.
The folks at explain they aren’t testing to see how smart your Boston Terrier or German Sheppard is. Duke Neuroscientist Brian Hare, one of the new venture’s founders, told NBC news recently, “ is ultimately about people finding out about their dog’s minds.”

I’m pretty sure of what’s on both of my pugs minds most of time, but I’m still sharing this information in case you might have a disconnect with your dog and want to correct it.
For example, my youngest pug, Molly - nine-months old - is a mindless little reactionary racked with jealousy (she has to live with another dog) and separation anxiety every time I leave the house. I still love her.
Molly tolerates our other pug, Millie - 9 years-old - only because my wife and I have made it clear Millie comes with her new home. Molly’s ability to get between Millie and me is nothing short of diabolic at times! And very obvious.
I agree with the folks at who claim dogs are geniuses when it comes to figuring out what humans try to tell them.

 Researchers have long said that dogs and humans are locked in a co-evolutionary embrace that began thousands of years ago. Last month a research team announced that canine digestive systems have adapted to the relatively starchy diet served up by humans. If that isn’t proof of our close relationship with canines I don’t know what is.
Back to the research project: the concept of dognition dates back to 1995. It’s not just the fad of the day for pet owners. Having said that, I’m in no way endorsing the business of getting a profile of your dog’s mental habits.
In the overall scheme of things, I’d rather spend the $60 the website charges for that detailed profile of your dog on food and medicine. Still, it’s interesting how much time and research these folks have put into what goes through a pooch’s skull.
Their stated intent is they want people to know that no matter how ugly a dog is, it can be an amazing pet and friend. Well, okay. Again, no news to me. I agree some dogs are more pleasing to the eye than others, but inside they’re all beautiful.
 I have to admit I’m curious about which of the eight different canine archetypes - according to Dognition research - my pugs fit into. Here are the possibilities: Ace, Stargazer, Maverick, Socialite, Protodog, Einstein, Expert or Renaissance Dog.

Millie may be a Stargazer, but I’m pretty sure both of my pugs are Socialites. You should see them at their groomers! They love visiting other dogs, regardless of breed. I just wish more people were like that!
I’m not going to get into which animal is smarter - a dog or a cat, in this column. Pet owners are polarized on the subject, much like the Democrats and Republicans in Congress.
  No. Instead I’ll take the high road and keep making mental notes about what my pugs like or don’t like. I won’t subject them to an assessment test where someone pigeonholes them into a category. I don’t see any social problems with my plucky pugs. I also suspect most pet owners have already figured out what makes their dogs happy without paying someone to analyze them.
  Still, if you’re interested in Dognition don’t let me discourage you. I understand that owners who’ve had their dogs tested and categorized with the Canine Assessment Tests offered by the website have a Facebook Page where they can brag about their Renaissance Dogs!
Yes, it’s a strange world and pet owners tend to be a little warped when it comes to pleasing their four-legged friends. But who cares? The joy pets provide easily offsets any bad habits.
As It Stands, Fact for the day - The American Pet Products Association estimates Americans will spend $52.87 billion this year on their pets.

Monday, June 3, 2013

As It Stands blog: Thoughts on ‘After Earth’ - tourism & preceptions

    Good Day World!

Locals were simply giddy about seeing the premier of “After Earth” at the Broadway Cinema in Eureka last Friday.

The idea of having a major motion picture filmed in our backyard goes beyond pride however…it means money pumped into our anemic economy. That’s the kind of thing that really gets our attention up here among the Redwood trees. Most residents have to settle for minimum wage or just above in this county. No surprise. We have very little manufacturing for unskilled laborers.

The lumber industry has fallen on hard times and the fishing industry is hanging on by a fishhook! So when there’s another way to make money a lot of people get excited. Sometimes the motion pictures filmed up here allow for extras. When that happens locals swarm by the dozens to offer their services.

Not all of the movies filmed up here have done that well. Star Wars was the big exception. Others have gone on to mediocrity. The Jim Carrey movie, “The Majestic” filmed in Victorian Ferndale, is a good example. Who remembers that story?

I, for one, am not bummed out that this latest attempt at film making didn’t become a smash box office hit. The producers should at least break even with overseas sales. And films will continue to be filmed up here because we live in a very unique and beautiful area!

In the Times-Standard:

'After Earth' showcases Humboldt's beauty

“M. Night Shyamalan's latest film, “After Earth,” premiered in Humboldt County on Thursday night at a sold-out sneak peek event held at Broadway Cinema in Eureka. It opened in theaters on Friday.

While the film has received mixed reviews in the press, Humboldt County Film Commissioner Cassandra Hesseltine said that may just be a product of viewers' expectations.

”My impression of the film was very positive,” Hesseltine said. “I think some people were going in with high expectations thinking they were going to see a big blockbuster movie specifically targeted toward adults. But I felt it was targeted more toward families and young adults.”

NBC NEWS Entertainment Section:

“Will Smith's 'After Earth' suffers surprising defeat at box office

Marking a sizeable blow for one of the world's top stars, Will Smith's sci-fi adventure "After Earth" narrowly lost to magician heist pic "Now You See Me" in one of the most surprising box office upsets in recent memory.

Hindered by dismal reviews and a B CinemaScore, "After Earth" vastly underperformed. The pic will now need to make a strong showing overseas if it has any chance of making up its $130 million budget, plus a major marketing spend.”

(Story and video here)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Sunday, June 2, 2013

As It Stands blog: RIP - Actress Jean Stapleton dead at 90

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I always loved watching Jean’s work. She was a great lady.

All in the Family star Jean  Stapleton joined other great actresses and actors in Hollywood heaven on June 1st.

As originally envisioned by All in the Family creator Norman Lear, Edith Bunker was a tart voice of truth meant to put her bigoted husband Archie in his place.

Even in the January 1971 pilot episode of the immediately controversial series, Edith gives it right back to her husband, like every sitcom wife from Alice Kramden in the past to Peg Bundy in the future.

You’re going to be missed Jean!

As It Stands: Which War? The one at home, or abroad?

 By Dave Stancliff/For The Times_Standard
 It can get confusing.
We’re fighting a declared war in Afghanistan and an undeclared war at home. I’m not talking about the so-called war on marijuana.
I figure one of the best ways to calculate which war we should concentrate on is to consider the annual body count. Seems like a common sense approach.

When I was in Vietnam the government had a bad habit of running ridiculous body count figures on the 6:00 o’clock news.

I can still hear the broadcasts; “In the latest battle reports 489 North Vietnamese were killed while Americans only suffered 2 losses.” It was easy back then to fudge figures. There were no internet or social media resources like we have now.

With data gleaned from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website I put together some statistics regarding homicides in the U.S. for 2013: Total number of deaths thus far; 16,259. That’s a rate of 5.3 per 100,00 population.

   All homicides with firearms thus far; 11,078. That’s a rate of 3.6 deaths per 100,000 population.
  To break it down even further:
* If it was a country, New Orleans (with a rate 62.1 gun murders per 100,000 people) would rank second in the world.

* Detroit’s gun-homicide rate (35.9) is just a bit less than El Salvador (39.9).
*Baltimore’s rate (29.7) is not too far off that of Guatemala (34.8).
*Gun murders in Newark (25.4) and Miami (23.7) are comparable to Colombia (27.1).
*Washington D.C. (19) has a higher rate of gun homicide than Brazil (18.1).
*Atlanta’s rate (17.2) is about the same as South Africa (17).

*Cleveland (17.4) has a higher rate than the Dominican Republic (16.3).
*Gun murder in Buffalo (16.5) is similar to Panama (16.2).
*Houston’s rate (12.9) is slightly higher than Ecuador’s (12.7).
*Gun homicide in Chicago (11.6) is similar to Guyana (11.5).
*Phoenix’s rate (10.6) is slightly higher than Mexico (10).

*Los Angeles (9.2) is comparable to the Philippines (8.9).
*Boston (6.2) is higher than Nicaragua (5.9).
*New York, where gun murders have declined to just four per 100,000, is still higher than Argentina (3).
  Now let’s take a look at deaths in Afghanistan using The Operation Enduring Freedom website:
  Thus far, 51 Americans have died in 2013, from Feb.11 to May16. That’s right, 51 Americans were killed overseas and 11,078 Americans were killed with firearms at home thus far this year.

 You tell me, which war is worse? Where do we suffer the most casualties? When I hear gun advocates like the NRA absolutely refuse to allow any form of gun reform in America, I have to wonder who is the real enemy.
As of May 21, 2013, at least 2091 members of the U.S. military have died as a result of the U.S. - led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001. According to the Associated Press, 1,732 of those service members died as a result of hostile action. No deaths are acceptable of course, and I certainly don’t want to demean the sacrifices of my brothers in arms overseas. I’m simply comparing our two wars and wondering why we have to wage both of them?
It seems this country is slow to learn lessons, especially when it comes to getting involved in wars overseas. The same has been true domestically as we continue to suffer terrible firearm casualties inflicted upon children and adults.
That’s the way of war. The innocents suffer the most. I saw that first-hand in Vietnam. I’m seeing it everywhere I look today, in my rural community and across the nation. When I watch the news now, I know the statistics from overseas and here at home are all too real.
No six-o’clock follies this time. Street gangs and criminals of every sort are all too real. Easy access to guns is too real. We are caught in a loop of violence we can’t seem to break. Helpless in the face of a gun culture that grows more extreme every year.
When I read about people saying things are getting better (read NRA) and there’s less gun violence today compared to some other time in our past, I’m not comforted. I don’t see how anyone could be.
  As it Stands, the sooner we’re out of Afghanistan the better, but we still have to face the war in our own backyard.

GOP Governors Unite in Fight to Stop Unions in their States

Six Republican Governors have gathered to warn their residents against the evils of unionization which they claim would threaten their jobs...