Thursday, January 31, 2008

Shootings in the schools

Today's title may draw some concern from people reading us around the globe, and it's easy to see why. After all, especially in the last few years, the mere thought of guns in schools has brought a chill to the spines of many people. Of course, for many, the thought of guns out of schools can elicit the same shudder, but there are definitely situations where firearms are acceptable.

One of those situations is, of course, hunting and hunter saftey training. After all, while there are still those who will hunt with a bow, it's much more common to hear of hunters with rifles. Given that tendency, it also makes perfect sense that most hunter safety courses focus on the proper usage of firearms.

But why are we mentioning these two seemingly disparate topics in the same post, a mere paragraph apart from each other? For that answer, we look to West Virginia, where they are thinking of a new way to combat shrinking numbers for hunters. Fewer hunters leads to less money in government coffers, and West Virginia is toying with the idea of teaching hunter safety to school children, in an attempt to spur the numbers upwards.

But for all of you worried about guns in schools, don't panic yet. After all, the guns that the kids would use would either have "dummy ammunition" or be disabled to prevent them from firing. And, with proper training, we can at least rest assured that any future school shootings, should they stem from West Virginia, will be coming from people trained in how to be safe about it.

Here's the thing. We understand that hunting is important. It's been long part of mankind's survival, and it's a way to help curtail animal populations that have lost other natural predators. In fact, for some animals, the hunting season actually helps spur their population on to better health. And, well, hunters are getting older as a group. This actually keeps them in line with many other physical activities, including professional sports. Don't believe us? Look at someone like Brett Favre and try to tell us that the population isn't staying active later in life, due to a number of different circumstances. And, equally true, younger generations aren't flocking to hunting as readily as their ancestors, but that doesn't necessarily make it a good idea to introduce hunter safety in schools.

Of course, this could also be an opportunity. The hunter safety courses could be paired up with biology, giving the dissections more of a real-world impact. And, for students a little squeamish, they can always resort to video game versions of the hunt.

Just so long as there isn't a laughing dog to mock the students with poor aim.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Equal opportunity

Ah, the dating world. It's a world full of ups and downs. In many ways, it resembles an amusement park, and it's definitely not shy on nausea-inducing events. Of course, with a rapidly changing world, dating has been forced to keep up. Online dating, speed-dating, and group dating have all grown in popularity over the years as people have less and less time to devote to romantic endeavors.

Generally, within the world of dating, there's been a bit of a disparity. Women have generally been encouraged to seek financial security, irregardless of the looks of the men, while plenty of men have stepped into the dating pool long enough to find the youngest, most attractive fish out there that they can play provider for. For years, these pairings of older, richer men with younger, more attractive women have been something of a standard, at least outside of the couples in the same relative age, looks, and finances columns. But a new speed-dating event being organized in New York City is looking to change some of that, or at least present equal footing. They don't want young women to be looked at as arm candy anymore.

Well, okay, so they still want that. But they want "boy toys" to be added to the mix.

The website promoting the event carries the words, "Symbiosis has allowed ugly rich men to attract young, gorgeous, money-hungry women for centuries; it's now the women's turn", and that concept alone is causing some men looking for a "sugar mama" to the February 7 event. The women are being asked to be over the age of 35, and to make a cool half-million dollars per year, all to further entice young men to their table.

But before people start jumping the gun to claim that this is just another way to objectify women, it should be noted that the women actually tend to prefer younger men, because they tend to pay more attention. One woman says, "I find younger guys will usually be totally into you while older guys will be looking over your shoulder at a younger woman". For years, the saying has been, "What's good for the goose is good for the gander". Well, maybe it's time for these geese to take a taste of what the ganders have been toying with for years.

Besides, most of the men who would attend the event aren't there to objectify the older woman. While there may be a physical component to it, these men are looking to her intelligence, her experience, and to her accomplishments. Oh yeah. And her pocketbook.

Ah, money. The great equalizer.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Not yet dead

We've seen a few stories recently surrounding British citizens who were believed to have been dead for years. Of course, odds are that, if you've been "dead" for years and you reappear, there's a chance that you faked the entire thing in the first place. That's why it's so refreshing to see a story out of Poland, talking about, um, a man who was believed to be dead.

But wait, there's a difference. In the Polish story, a drowning victim was wrongly identified, and when the man showed up a couple of days after his own funeral to prove his continued life, the authorities jumped right up to help him and correct the mistake.

Wait, no, they actually have spent the time since August insisting that the man is deceased. This, of course, is frustrating to anyone who needs to prove that they are alive in order to work and have insurance. On the plus side, he hasn't had to pay any taxes, but, after a few months, we're willing to bet that money's getting a little tight.

It seems odd to us that, if a person shows up with proper identification to prove that they are, in fact, alive and well, that any government agency would continue to insist that they actually buried the correct person with the correct name. For any government worker to insist that, "This citizen does not exist" really makes us wonder how such a citizen could give a report to a newspaper.

Sure, it's possible that the person in question is really just a high-functioning zombie, but that would pretty much keep him from referring to the situation as "a joke". After all, everyone knows that zombies don't really have much of a sense of humor.

For proof, just look at Carrot Top and Dane Cook.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Must be this tall

We're all used to seeing things saying that you have to be above a certain height to participate, and others saying that you need to be shorter to do something. Even restaurants have used such a scale when it comes to determining pricing for children's meals. While not every eatery will rely on such devices, those that do make it fairly obvious about their policies. There may be some flexibility in the pricing, but usually if a policy is posted, it is followed.

So, naturally, when a parent finds out that their child is too tall to get the discount, it's time to complain loudly.

That's exactly what happened to a sushi restaurant in New York state. The restaurant had previously had a policy giving discounted meals to children between ages 3 and 10, and they shifted their policy recently to a height scale. After all, by placing a ruler on the wall, it takes a lot of the guess work out of the situation. So when an 11-year-old girl was charged full price because she was a couple of inches too tall, her mother became irate.

Now, we just want to point out again that the previous policy had been only for children between 3 and 10, so, even under the old system, the daughter would not have gotten the discount.

The mother complained, and she felt slighted. She even asked the manager, "Do you really feel that if my daughter is tall that she's going to eat more?" In many cases, a manager would probably say, "Yes", or at least indicate that there was a chance. After all, it has been fairly comprehensively proven that greater height is a combination of good genetics and better nutrition. While better nutrition doesn't always equate to a bigger appetite, it could at least be an indication. After all, it is relatively hard to believe that a 3-foot tall person will eat more than a 6-foot tall person. While it could happen, it's fairly rare.

Here's the bigger problem. The restaurant has a policy, and one that isn't veiled in secrecy. It's out in the open for everyone to see. So her little girl didn't meet the height qualifications. By the mother's own admission, her daughter isn't a fan of sushi, so that would cut the tab right there. And, again, we remember the old policy.

Maybe people are overly sensitive to anything involving their children, or maybe we're just too cynical when it comes to looking at the world, but it seems to us that, if the policy is in place, and you don't fit, you should either accept it or move on (as this family eventually did).

All things considered, this could have been much worse. After all, the family could have decided to sue the restaurant. In light of that, complaining to the manager and leaving isn't such a bad idea.

But hey, at least someone is thinking of the little people.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Coffee-Soaked Awards - Week of January 21, 2008

Friday has arrived, and, at least in our part of the country, it's bringing a bit of warmth along with it. This week has featured sub-zero temperatures, hockey losing its shining star to injury, and the departures of both Fred Thompson and Dennis Kucinich from the overcrowded Presidential fields. There's something else that happened, too, but we figure it probably got enough coverage by now. So let's roll along, shall we?

Tearing Down the House Award
Imagine yourself on a beautiful vacation. Now imagine that vacation coming to an end, and you are returning home, aware that there might be a burst pipe or a puddle from a pet. Got that firmly in your mind? Now picture what a Russian woman went through, when she returned from vacation to find that her house had been demolished. The woman was doubly upset to find that Ty Pennington wasn't there with a crew of capable Russian carpenters.

Adding Insult to Injury Award
Okay, so technically the incident in question didn't involve injury, as a driver and a cyclist were involved in an accident in Spain, leaving the cyclist dead. The insult comes from the notion that the driver is suing the dead cyclist's family for the damage done to his vehicle. The driver refers to himself as also being a victim, citing, "you can't fix the lad's problems, but you can fix mine". OJ Simpson has volunteered to find the real driver.

Like Looking for a Castle in a Haystack Award
A man in England decided to take a novel approach to avoid planning regulators. He built a mock castle, and then hid it behind hay bales, all while living inside of his creation. The farmer was attempting to skirt around a regulation that prohibited new building, using a law that allows buildings without planning permission to exist if they receive no objections in four years. Officers in Surrey disagree, saying that the haystack hid the castle well enough that they never knew the castle was there. Others say that they simply don't want to visit the castle, saying that it's a "silly place".

Slow News Day Personified Award
You know that the news is slow when a Wisconsin radio station mentions how cold it is, and that people are travelling south for warmth. Other news that they're looking into include an expose into the fact that night is darker than day, and a story about how zombies have not yet risen to overtake the land.

Wee Willy Winky Award
A serial sex offender decided to try a novel approach to proving his innocence recently in court. While claiming that he was too embarrassed about the size of his manhood to expose himself to women, he proceeded to flash the jury. He was convicted, but, on the up side, is a little prouder of the inches he's packing.

OldSpace Award
High-schoolers are slowly coming to terms with a new concept. That concept? Older generations (specifically their parents) are using MySpace and other social networking sites to know what's going on with their children. The biggest complaint from children seems to be that "friending" their parents leads to showing parts of themselves they may want to keep hidden. Meanwhile, a big complaint from parents is that their teens never bother to clean their cyber rooms.

For Fun It's a Wonderful Toy Award
The worst possible time to slip and fall down the stairs? Quite possibly when you're wearing high explosives, as an Afghani recently learned. We note that the article refers to him as a "would-be suicide bomber". Even though he didn't get to his intended destination, didn't he still kill himself with a bomb? Mission technically accomplished, people.

I Need This Lamp, and This Paddle-Ball Game Award
A man in Painesville, OH was sentenced to an interesting 24-hour sentence after being convicted of stealing from a Salvation Army kettle over the holiday season. He was sentenced to a day of being homeless. Ironically, if the man would be forced to survive another couple of days as a homeless individual, he would become eligible to receive assistance from the Salvation Army.

And that wraps up our posting for this week, everyone. This past week has been something of a blur, and, we're fairly certain that a certain ex-President isn't the only one who slept through part of it. We'll catch you all next week with more stories and more flavor. Stay safe out there.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Applied math

We all know that there's a strong stereotype regarding the mail service. No, not that it is work that will slowly drive the people doing it beyond the brink of insanity. And no, we're not even thinking about that old motto about inclement weather being nothing to them (but don't mention a federal holiday in their presence, or you'll see them disappear faster than the Edsel).

Nope, the stereotype that we're looking at is the overall speed of the postal service. After all, even before the advent of email and text messaging, people complained about how slow postal mail was.

Well, leave it to a Polish IT worker to take the time to prove that even snails can travel faster. In an experiment, he calculated the average speed per hour of the letter, and then did the same for a typical garden snail. After all the math was done, he was left with the sad conclusion that the snail outpaced the letter, clocking in at .048 km/hr, compared to the letter's speed of .03775 km/hr.

That's right, folks. Scientific (okay, mathematical) proof that snails are faster than letters, by over a centimeter per hour. That certainly explains why the last time we saw a snail riding on an envelope, it bore a slight, "Are we there yet?" expression.

Snail mail, indeed.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

How do you sign up?

Today presented us with some tough choices, and we had to weigh our decision carefully. Would we talk about the recently departed? Perhaps make some slams on a presidential candidate? Pick Fred Thompson as our subject, and kill two birds with one stone? Or would we just find another way to skewer science?

And then we were faced with choosing between a mug and a girl on a leash.

On one hand, you've got a "World's Greatest Dad" mug being presented in court as evidence that the suspect couldn't possibly have murdered his step-daughter. On the other hand, you've got a woman who refers to herself as a "pet" being upset that she was treated like an animal when she tried to board a bus. Both stories just seemed to beg for us to look a little deeper.

And then China came along and put its large Communist foot down. If it hadn't been for China deciding to ban unapproved reincarnation, we'd still be debating between the coffee mug or the girl who's soul is as black as French Roast.

Thank you, China. We understand that there are a few too many "living Buddhas" running around out there, and, well, we're fairly certain that by putting a stop to these unapproved reincarnations, you'll be able to cut their numbers down. Not only that, but you're practically assured of being able to direct the course of religion for a large number of people, given the large belief that many Buddhists have in the ability to reincarnate.

Of course, these permits also work additional wonders, as someone who proceeds to apply for the permission to return in a new life not only needs to be sure that they actually get to do so, but that they will come back as a socially beneficial being. With the advent of the permits, we may see fewer gnats and other pests around the globe. After all, if you have to get permission to reincarnate, are you going to want to run the risk that you might be something less than a benevolent mammal? Heck, you're probably going to make every effort to ensure that you return as a human.

So good for you, China. We're really proud of you taking this stand. And we're positive that you'll use your new responsibilities properly, and not just for your own personal gain. We'd really hate to think that this is all yet another move to spite the Dalai Lama.

We just hate to think of him frowning.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Depends on your definition of "safe"

Scotland is working to overturn a ban that the United States has been holding onto for a while. No, we're not talking about the ban on bagpipe music (that would just be a good idea). The Scots, looking ahead to this upcoming Friday and international celebrations of Robert Burns, are hoping to overturn the United States ban on something they themselves hold dear.

They want to give us their haggis.

Haggis was banned in the US following the Mad Cow Disease outbreak in the United Kingdom, and America has been steadfast in keeping the delicacy from our shores. True, people can always make their own, but there's just an extra something special about true Scottish haggis, at least, that's what the Scots are claiming. They also claim that, "It is safe or we wouldn't eat it here", but that argument carries little weight coming from a part of the world not really known for its gourmet foods.

True, haggis is a bit of a change from many of the other meals that people globally find themselves eating, but there are many times where a change isn't really for the better. Besides, if haggis starts getting imported, what can we look for next? Lutefisk?

We have to draw the line somewhere, and we feel like drawing the line at sheep innards.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The opposite of the intended

Police are supposed to uphold the law. Their chosen profession also means that they are working to keep others from violating those same laws. A couple of police officers near Berlin accidentally ended up helping thieves get away with a larger score.

The thieves stole an unmarked squad car. Because the cops had left it running with the keys in the ignition.

This whole thing happened after a high-speed chase, and, when the criminals crashed their car and started running, the police decided to follow suit. Unfortunately, in a move that can only be described as "Oops", the officers left their car running, and quickly found themselves the victims of grand theft auto.

Of course, if only there had been some sort of remote start or keyless entry system, this whole thing might have been avoided. Heck, if either of the cops had thought to turn the car off and grab the keys, this would have been avoided. But it's not like crooks win every time.

Sometimes the money they grab turns out to be bread rolls, instead of bank rolls. But think of how many sandwiches they can make.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Coffee-Soaked Awards - Week of January 14, 2008

Welcome back, everybody. This week has featured a wealth of different stories, and today will be no different. This week has also featured a dramatic drop in the mercury. Thankfully, we learned last week that mercury doesn't make a good toy, so we can rest easy with the knowledge that it will climb again. We've also seen hints towards economic stimulus coming from GDub, perfectly timed for when the stock market is seeing its lowest points in years. So let's get underway, shall we?

Let the Punishment Fit Award
News reaches us this week that, as part of her plea bargain, Lindsey Lohan will be forced to work in a morgue. The goal of the work is for her to connect her DUI with possible outcomes. It's actually quite appropriate for her, as she'll be able to visit her career at the same time.

Funny Guy Award
Barack Obama is trying a new tactic, with the approaching Nevada caucuses. After having played if fairly nice in Iowa and New Hampshire, he's attacking some of the statements in his opponents, and doing it in a stand-up format. Of course, he's already proven himself to be funnier than Larry the Cable Guy, Dane Cook, and FOXNews combined.

Loosely Tied Award
In the interests of equal time, we're also going to mention a GOP candidate who's been creating some headlines over the past week. Mike Huckabee drew some attention when he connected homosexuality to bestiality. He also drew a link between abortion and slavery. For his next trick, we expect to see him draw a direct connection between poverty and a love of rap music, or between having teeth and really really like to dance.

Worst Eye Exam Ever Award
A woman recently sued her eye doctor and his assistant, alleging that her toes had been sucked by the assistant during an exam. The toe sucking happened during a "strip exam", and the woman had kept her eyes closed until she felt something touching her feet. Apparently the concept of having her legs elevated for an eye exam didn't raise any warning bells. Of course, we always thought that a "strip exam" had more to do with working a pole than getting new glasses. The things you can learn...

I'd Prefer a Land Shark Award
For many people, the door-to-door salesman is something to be looked at skeptically. Whether the sale is vacuums, wreathes, or cookies, people are a little hesitant. Except, apparently, in Springfield, MO, where people were willing to purchase tattoos from a door-to-door salesman. Apparently the tattoo gun made with fishing line, tape, and a standard pin didn't raise any alarm bells, either. Meanwhile, those who received the tattoos are now searching for whether or not "gullible" was truly removed from the dictionary.

Biggest Sale Ever Award
A creationist museum, in an attempt to get enough funds to stay open, is looking to sell the skull of a mastodon, estimated to be around 40,000 years old. The age of the skull alone points to it as being a creationist fraud, as the planet isn't even that old yet.

Planes... In... Space Award
What would be one of the weirdest things to launch from the International Space Station? If you said Japanese paper airplane, you're absolutely correct! Once the experiment actually commences, expect to see new "Super Happy Funtime Space Fun Airplane Paper" at your local toy store.

The Monkey Rests, Your Honor Award
A Texas appeals court has recently upheld a decision stating that chimpanzees and monkeys are not able to file lawsuits. This ruling should drastically reduce the number of lawsuits in Texas.

Cut and Paste Award
According to teachers in the UK, web plagiarism has become a severe problem. It's gotten so bad that some students actually leave weblinks in the text of their papers. This also explains why so many papers can be found with comments like, "Lincoln totally fr33d teh slaves!!!!!!11!1!!!OMGZ!!!!".

And that wraps up our awards for this week. We'll be back next week, provided that we can keep ourselves relatively thawed out over the upcoming cold snap. Stay safe out there.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Not quite according to plan

Sometimes, the best laid plans can go completely awry. For example, look no further than the plans of the Dallas Cowboys going into last weekend, and look at the end result. Of course, there are other examples, on a less grand scale, ranging from trying to make the perfect dinner to simply deciding when you're going to go to bed, only to have something foil your best efforts. A burglar in Berlin recently had his own plans stopped.

The burglar broke into an apartment and was surprised to find the owner home. He was even more surprised to find the owner dead. According to media reports, the burglar called the police to report the discovery of the corpse, and then left the area without taking any items. The burglar is not suspected of any sort of foul play, as the owner of the flat had apparently been dead for a couple weeks.

Naturally, given that it's winter in the northern hemisphere, it's likely that closed windows (and possible low heat) helped slow the decomposition process, but we're still fairly certain that the burglar may have noticed a little olfactory something upon entering the flat. And while they always say that dead men tell no tales, at least this time we can be proud to believe that some dead men get to keep their stuff.

Although we're also willing to bet that the burglar had a bit of an internal struggle before calling the police. After all, he'd been in the middle of an illegal act, but not informing them about the body would definitely fall into the category of "wrong things to do". Probably explains why he fled the scene after making the phone call.

This is exactly why the Hamburglar stopped being such a presence. Just one too many corpses ahead of him in his path.

Grimace just really hated those Fry Guys.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Very funny, guys

The University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom has recently done a study to confirm something that we were already willing to believe. No, not that reports about Columbus and syphilis. No, not the resurgence of the plague.

The report confirms that children tend to be afraid of clowns.

In fact, the researchers found that "clowns are universally disliked by children". Of course, plenty of parents were already well aware of the extreme dislike children had for clowns based off of how their own precious darlings react to seeing one, but that hasn't stopped generations of parents from inflicting clowns upon the youngest members of our society.

The concept of frightening clowns seems to be something of a pie in the face to all those who firmly believe that clowns are there to bring joy and laughter to all, and especially to children. And yet, while kids can spend hours upon hours every day watching cartoon characters running around on television, the last thing that many of them want to see is a facsimile of a cartoon tripping over giant shoes or spraying seltzer water.

Of course, even with research like this, parents will continue to subject children to clowns. Part of the thinking may be to pass along the torment that they once received. Part of it may be a belief that clowns will truly help brighten the day of the children. And part of it may stem from a desire to view the antics of the clowns themselves, under the guise of hiring them to entertain the children.

All we know is that we're a lot more comfortable around a Kennedy than we are around a clown. Sure, the noses may be as large and red on both groups, but at least the Kennedy won't drop a whoopee cushion on our chairs.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Just a little get-away

It's common knowledge that, if you're going to rob some place, you're probably not going to want to lurk around the area for too long. Unless, of course, you know that you've got a large window of time, and there's plenty more stuff that you'd like to acquire. Then, of course, there's the old adage about how you don't crap where you sleep.

However, not everyone follows those pieces of advice, as is evidenced by the tale of a couple of robbers who decided that they needed a TV. So they stole it from a hotel storage room and took it with them. All the way to their hotel room, in the same facility.

So let's just do a quick recap, to make sure that we're completely on the same page. Thieves check into hotel. They steal TV from hotel storage and get caught on video. They return to their rooms. Sure, on some levels, it may seem logical. After all, why wouldn't they want to watch the TV within their room? They may have checked into one of the newfangled hotels where TVs are only kept in storage, as opposed to one where they are placed in every room with a glut of pay-per-view channels. Or they may have been really tired from hauling the set, and decided to get some shut-eye before they continued on their voyage.

Still, it probably would have been a good idea for them to, instead of looting the hotel they had checked into, maybe going to a different location. It's not like there aren't a wealth of hotels in most cities, and a fair number of them probably have some sort of storage.

Although, we're also wondering if the arresting officers had goatees. The world may never know.

Monday, January 14, 2008

No regifting

First off, before we step into today's news story, it turns out that one of the stories we covered last week was a hoax. We'd feel bad about having touched on it, but, well, it's not like we've got a large staff that can double check things. So for those of you who were concerned about the poor unemployed non-smoking Germans, rest easy.

On to today's story, as we look towards California and a situation where, regretfully a child started experiencing mercury poisoning from their newest gift. And just what was this wonderful gift, that lead to the mercury poisoning?

Why, it's shiny, and came in a jar. It's the newest gift craze for children. It shares a name with a planet. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, step right up and buy new mercury for the little ones in your life!

Yes, you read that correctly. The boyfriend of the children's mother decided that the kids could use some mercury, and got them a jar of it. Sure, quicksilver may seem fun, but the brain damage that it can cause is bound to lower the enjoyment of the gift (well, unless you're the one with the brain damage). And it's not like children need to go around refilling thermometers or starting their own hat shops.

Of course, it all could have been worse. The kids could have been given a new "Tickle Me Britney". That would be guaranteed to cause brain damage.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Coffee-Soaked Awards - Week of January 7, 2008

Hello again, one and all. This past week started out front-loaded with the New Hampshire primary, and has been going strong since. Of course, the big story from the week wasn't the shocking fallibility of polls, or even the fact that John McCain surged more impressively than the US military. No, the big story was tears. The tears of a candidate. Tears that, according to many, led to a surprising victory. When clowns cry, there's no one around. When politicians do it, they make sure that there are cameras. And now, let's get rolling with this week's awards.

A Bit of a Struggle Award
One of the surest signs that a political campaign is in trouble raised its ugly head this week. No, we're not talking about receiving endorsements from previous also-rans... we're talking about staffers forgoing their paychecks. Of course, if the Giuliani camp spins it properly, they might be able to claim Rudy as the candidate not only of 9/11, but also of the WGA.

Father of the Week Award
Alright, people. How many times do we have to say this. Stop leaving your kids in the car while you're doing something related to the strip club industry.

We Can't Hear You Award
The FBI, thanks to a measure in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, has been wiretapping phones for a while now, ostensibly to help eliminate terrorism. They may want to eliminate phone bills, as an unpaid bill landed them with a disconnected tap. Hey, if we can't trust the government to be able to handle money properly...

But Monkeys Do It Award
Sometimes saying "I'm sorry" just isn't enough. One of those times is when in court, after having thrown feces at the judge during a previous trial. Needless to say, the courtroom janitor was less than thrilled over that day's crappy assignment.

Faith and Blargh Award
Ireland seems to believe that it is developing a bit of a drinking problem. To counteract this, they are launching a probe to discover exactly why binge drinking has seem such a dramatic uprise. The commission will be looking into things like the number of licenses granted to stores, and the increase in special exemptions allowing for longer hours. Another possible culprit that may be getting missed by the commission? These people live in Ireland, and, darnit, some of them value tradition.

Hey Baby, How's About Some Boone's Farm? Award
Speaking of alcohol, a man in Washington state recently learned that, if a woman offers you sex in exchange for wine, maybe you should splurge a little and get something a little pricey. In related news, a woman in Washington learned that, if you offer someone sex for a little booze, they'll probably just be a cheap bastard. There's just no way that this outcome could have been foreseen...

Saying Hello Award
NASA is getting close to celebrating, as a probe launched in 2004 is about to pass close to Mercury. The hope is that the probe, named Messenger, will be able to orbit the planet by 2011. For its part, Mercury is already practicing a menacing stare, and telling Messenger to get off of its lawn.

The Lord is Risen Award
A new sculpture, featuring a visibly aroused Jesus, is drawing outrage around Gateshead, UK. Opponents of the sculpture are claiming that it vilifies Jesus, and have called for its destruction. Meanwhile, supporters may find themselves championing the statue, as a clear sign of a Second Coming.

And, on that note, we're wrapping up our awards for this week. We'll see you next week, as we eclipse the mid-point of January, and as we look towards warmer weather. Stay safe out there.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Thank you for smoking

The anti-smoking movement has been around for a number of years, and, recently, it has been gaining a lot of momentum and support. From new treatments to help wean people off of cigarettes to public locations such as restaurants and bars going smoke-free, the number of places where people might run into second-hand smoke is dropping steadily.

At least, it is in America. In Germany, which still allows smoking in the offices of small companies, there's no such luck. Three German workers learned that the hard way when they tried to get their office of ten people to go smoke-free.

The three workers were fired, because the manager didn't want to "be bothered with trouble-makers". He also said that it was taking a measure of revenge against all of the people who have been anti-smoking as of late, and swore to only hire smokers from now on.

Well, it's just that kind of antiquated thinking that we can use in today's world. With everyone looking ahead to things like their own personal future and the preservation of the planet, it's comforting to know that there is an employer out there bringing bold and fresh views from the 1950s to our workplaces. That exact lack of innovation could one day be a strong leader in the world of not being willing to accept that time has moved forward.

What's next? Mandatory bell bottoms? People being encouraged to have a cocktail or two during the lunch hour to help calm them down? A reunion of the surviving Bee Gees, with Ricky Martin singing in place of Maurice? Oh, if only we had some way of looking at the past and learning from things that happened then, possibly leading to innovation and a dedication to the future.

What a wonderful dream that would be.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Not quite "The Gift of the Magi"

A story that has been retold numerous times is the one from O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi". We'll even go out on a limb and guess that O. Henry may have heard a similar story earlier in his life, and authored his version long after other retellings had fallen by the wayside. After all, the story of two people, each sacrificing something of their own in order to bestow a gift upon the other, only to learn that the other had sacrificed exactly what was best suited for the gift themselves, is a tale that surely has its roots long long ago. Every retelling puts a slightly new spin on the story, changing the stakes, but still, at heart, it's a story about the power of giving without question.

Naturally, there have been attempts to bring the story into the day-to-day life, and some people have gotten closer than others. Unfortunately, the subjects of our news story today missed the mark, by a fairly wide margin. Of course, when you unexpectedly find your spouse at a brothel, it's going to be a little hard to think about self-sacrifice. Sure, she was giving something up, but he wasn't really looking to her interests much.

At least, that was the case for a Polish man who decided that he was going to sample the services of a brothel. After entering, the man discovered that his wife was one of those gainfully employed within, instead of down at the store that he'd been told. Of course, the husband believes that he was the one wronged in this whole situation, even though he apparently never thought to question how she could achieve the wages that she was pulling in working at a store.

We can imagine the shock on the face of both individuals when they recognized their spouse inside the brothel. For the wife, it would have been the realization that her husband was using brothels as an outlet for things that he wasn't doing with her, coupled with the shame of having felt the need to cover her actual side occupation. For the husband, it should have been the embarrassment of paying for sex, in addition to the realization that he (and, presumably, many others) was almost paying his wife directly.

It's almost a shame that this story is, at least according to the Polish tabloids, completely true, and that the long-time couple is now seeking divorce. We could almost see a television crew popping out to scream, "Smile! You're on Candid Camera!"

And, of course, there's the open-ended question. Does the sex trade have a "Take Your Daughter to Work Day"? And is that in bad taste?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Making sushi with junior

The Japanese have some very bizarre traditions. At least, they seem bizarre to anyone from a Western mindset. From ritualistic suicide to strange game shows involving firecrackers, the little island that could seems to keep turning out things that just confound the Western world. Not that we have a lot of room to talk (*cough cough* American Gladiators *cough*), but, well, we just don't get it.

Included in that sense of the bizarre is new way they have to commemorate the birth of a child. It's a tradition in Japan to bestow gifts upon the families to help celebrate the new child. We like that tradition, and we definitely see parallels with baby showers in our own country. It's also something of a tradition for the new, slightly larger family to send something to those who thought of them in the first place. Here in America, we often trade around pictures of the newborn, shipping images of our precious bundles of joy to whoever we think might want to see.

In Japan, they plaster the child's face onto a bag of rice.

But a new thought has reached their shores, and no longer will just a shapeless bag of rice, the kind you might find in a grocery store, suffice. No, now a company is producing "cuddly" rice bags, tailored to the weight of the newborn, and made so that the rice fills the bag completely. An obvious complaint about using standard rice bags for such an endeavor was that the rice would settle, especially for smaller babies, leaving the photo on the bag distorted at the top of the sack. By creating a better bag, the surrogate child should maintain its shape long after the child has grown out of its first booties. The biggest issue? People seem to be becoming attached to the bags of rice, and are becoming unwilling to use the insides once their finished cuddling with it.

Honestly, we can see that idea really taking off, but there is always going to be a danger. We know how plenty of people in this country will substitute pets and/or dolls in place of the children that they can't have, displaying them proudly for all to see. Now imagine someone doing that with bags of rice, keeping their friends and families children frozen in an uncooked state (and in bag form, no less) for years or more. It could theoretically lead to a rice shortage, if enough people start hoarding their whole-grain children.

Of course, we also think it would be fairly disturbing to mix up some fried rice, knowing that you had to cut little Hiro to get the ingredients out.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The business of business

Two different news stories really jumped out at us today, and both involve a company that people seem to love kicking when it's down. Of course, when things are up, people don't tend to give them a nod of approval, but that's just how it seems to go in the business world. And no, we're not talking about Disney... we're focused on a different "Evil Empire". Today, we turn our attention squarely to Microsoft.

The first article that we saw actually pertains to the ongoing WGA strike. As many of you are aware, one of the main points of contention between the writers and the studios is the concept of funds from "New Media", which is a fancy way of saying DVD sales and Internet downloads. Well, in an attempt to bolster the XBox Live selection, outgoing Microsoft front-man Bill Gates announced a slew of deals with the studios to repackage their films and television programs for the XBox audience. Of course, since there's no money in New Media (a point made by the studios), obviously this agreement was a simple handshake deal, and no money will ever change hands. Right, and we don't know anyone who's paid the 99 cents to download a song (and don't even try to pretend that the money goes all to administrative fees).

And then, we were met with the second article. An article that points out a problem suffered by XBox Live users over the holiday season. A two-week server overload leading to outages that could cost Microsoft $5M, if some irate gamers have their way. Five million dollars? For not being able to get online and play a couple of games for a couple of weeks over the holidays? For being forced to actually interact with visiting family? For possibly being asked to take some time in December to reacquaint yourself with the giant blue box called "outside"? Seems a little ridiculous to us.

Of course, leave it to us to find a deeper connection, one aside from the mere mention of Microsoft in both articles. As far as we can tell, the reason that there is no money to be made through the Internet is because those who are the target audience (namely, people who spend too much time on the Internet) are also those who are going to try to find ways to get their money back when they've suffered a minor inconvenience.

After all, it really is cruel to ask some of those people to step outside. Most of them are more familiar with three multi-hued suns than the one we get.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Coffee-Soaked Awards - Week of December 31, 2007

The week began in 2007, but it ends in 2008. That makes this the first awards of the new calendar year! Not that those of you playing at home didn't already have that bit figured out, but sometimes we're a little slow on the draw. Which is why we aren't going to delay any longer. Instead, let's jump right in to this week's awards.

Mmm.... Burning Award
While people are always looking for new flavor experiences (anybody remember Pepsi Blue?), we just can't imagine there being a need to eat something that you have to sign a waiver for first (although that would have been helpful in the case of Pepsi Blue). But a waiver must be signed before you take your first bite of a new chicken wing in Chicago. The inclusion of an alarm to summon waiters is a good idea. We expect to see an ad campaign with the slogan, "One bite will leave you crying for Mama".

Oh, Lighten Up Award
The mayor of Oklahoma City has issued a challenge to his citizens. That challenge? To lose one million pounds by the end of 2008. This could be an interesting challenge in an area where the official state meal is loaded with grease and carbohydrates. Meanwhile, the UK is laughing at the thought of losing a mere one million pounds, claiming that they can do that much and more in a single month in Iraq.

Didn't See That Coming Award
The James Randi Educational Foundation issued a challenge of their own years ago, contending that anyone who could come forward with scientifically provable paranormal powers would be given $1M. There haven't been any "winners" as of yet, and, in two years, the opportunity will go away, as the foundation looks to new projects. Meanwhile, we predict that Sylvia Browne will once again appear on Montel Williams, and derive information that could only elude the likes of Miss Cleo.

Where Are My Pants? Award
Have you ever felt the desire to wander around your home naked? Well, if you live in or near Longridge, you might want to get good curtains first, after a man there was fined for being naked inside his house and exposing his own "longridge" to the neighbors. Brings new meaning to the term "blinds". Meanwhile, tabloids continue making big money off of celebrities doing the same thing.

One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Resignation Award
A foreign minister from Honduras recently learned a valuable lesson. If you go out drinking, decide to get into an altercation with the police, and find yourself videotaped, it might be a good idea to step down. Suddenly, getting a blow job in office doesn't seem so bad, does it?

Santa Who? Award
The Christmas season is over, but we're still finding stories about craziness tied into the "most wonderful time of the year". When a man in Maine was asked to dress as Santa, he refused, saying that he was an atheist and didn't believe in Christmas. He was subsequently fired, and has now filed a discrimination suit against Wal-Mart for terminating his employment. And here we thought that Wal-Mart was an open, caring place to work. Still, it's not like he punched a cop or anything.

She's a Maniac Award
Oh, the troubled Spears family. We really only make mention of this to suggest that she cover Quiet Riot's "Mental Health" before it really is too late. After all, sing what you know.

Huckabama Award
Well, we're finally one contest closer to the actual election, with the Iowa caucuses happening yesterday. Now, as the candidates move towards New Hampshire, we can rest assured that there are new front-runners, based of one state's results. Meanwhile, we're torn here. We're fairly certain that Huckabee is insane, but we're just not sure how much material Obama might give us. And, after the past sixteen years, we've learned that good comedy is sometimes more important than good politics.

And that wraps up our awards for this week. We see a bit of a warming trend on the horizon, at least where we are, so we may even step away from our computer monitor glow and get some real sunlight. Either way, we'll be back on Monday. Stay safe out there!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Yay 4 science!

Today, the political machine is really getting itself going, as many people around the country are finding themselves fixated on Iowa and the early results. Of course, we're not any closer to actually deciding a president, we're just inching towards removing some of the options, but hey, any day that Iowa gets to take center stage is pretty huge for them. Thankfully, no matter how ridiculous we may find today's voting (with the actual election almost a full year away), we can take comfort from knowing that our old friend science has stepped up with someone even more insane.

Wait, let's correct that. The results of the study weren't insane. In fact, anyone with a bit of common sense could have figured out what they would be. The fact that the study was done period is what ranks as insane. And what on earth could science, through research done at Clemson University, possibly do that would make less sense than the current mid-point in the presidential campaign?

How about a study as to whether or next text messaging while driving could potentially cause accidents? That's right. Apparently thanks to researchers at Clemson, now there's hard evidence to back up what everyone knew; inputting words into a phone using your thumbs while driving causes you to split your attention, and could lead to accidents. Wow, we never would have guessed that one.

Well, now that Clemson has that out of the way, maybe they can take some time to determine what else could lead to driver errors. We're guessing weather conditions, other drivers, vehicles, and the simple act of driving itself. Heck, breathing could cause driver error, provided it happens behind the wheel of a car.

It almost makes us wish we were in Iowa.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Hope you enjoyed your stay

When compiling a list of some of the worst things that a person might have to go through, surely sitting in prison for a crime you didn't commit has to rank pretty highly. Of course, given the world that we all live in, and the blog that you're currently reading, you just know that there has to be something that would make it worse.

How about getting charged room and board for your time behind bars? That's what happened to a man falsely accused of rape, who ended up spending three years in prison before his innocence was proven.

Admittedly, the man isn't actually paying the cost. He was awarded a settlement in the case to make-up for the time he lost while in prison, and the fees for food and lodging were simply removed before the final total was handed over. The man's lawyer admitted that the concept of having to pay for his stay in prison is a strange one, but was quick to point out that there's very little that can be done to change the laws at this point. The practice has been challenged in the past, but has been upheld.

We almost expect that anyone wrongfully imprisoned in the UK to also find that the cost of their water and prison dry-cleaning will be charged to them. Meanwhile, the properly imprisoned continue to get live inside the jail without paying one thin cent. Of course, they don't get large sums of money upon leaving prison, either (at least, usually not without doing something that might get them back behind bars).

Oh well. In the UK, they get to charge you for the wonderful accommodations of their 4-star prison system. In Portugal, they just forget the laws that they helped write.