Monday, July 31, 2006

Pennsylvania School Districts and Municipalities Give the Bird to Avian Flu Preparations

As Scott's Spot has reported on 4 separate occasions (1, 2, 3, 4), Bird Flu, or, as we more commonly know it, Deadly Bird Flu, is something about which we should panic, buy toilet paper and water, panic again, and then possibly consider moving to Antarctica about.

But apparently not everyone is sufficiently concerned. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (not One of America's Great Newspapers) recently surveyed municipalities and school districts in Western Pennsylvania and found that only one school district (Belle Vernon) and one municipality (Springdale Borough) have pandemic flu response plans.

All of which is surprising, since Pennsylvania used the proceeds from liquidating its strategic toilet tissue reserve to fund its Pandemic Preparedness website. Harrisburg's experts estimate that a pandemic would sicken at least 1.6 million Pennsylvanians and kill 9,100 in three to four months. If you go to the website, which is almost as popular as among paranoid Pennsylvanians, you can read about how you ought to be preparing to panic. You can also learn if your pets are safe. And you can learn about how Secretary of Banking Bill Schenck, one of the overpaid and apparently underutilized political appointees of our illustrious Governor Ed "Slots" Rendell, encouraged Pennsylvania’s financial institutions to prepare for a possible flu pandemic to ensure that consumers will have access to financial services if an influenza outbreak happens. You'll be needing those financial services to bankroll your purchases of toilet tissue on the black market.

But, despite all this planning, our municipalities have been left behind.

And so have our school districts.

I don't live in Springdale, and my kids don't to to Belle Vernon. So I'm scared, deadly scared, to think about what might happen if deadly bird flu should strike while my children are in school. Should they eat the chicken nuggets that day? And suppose there's an evacuation. I'll be at work. Maybe my wife will be working as well. Should I drop the extremely important project that I'm working on to go gather my brood? If I can't make it, to whom should I entrust my children in case of a sudden outbreak of pandemia? Should I trust the school district, which will want to make sure that appropriate after-school activity fees are collected? How about my municipality? Will they turn my kids away, since we haven't ponied up the annual fees for their Community Center boondoggle? How much will this all cost me? Will I have to keep my children at home until I can produce a Frank Perdue Clean Bill of Health Certificate?

I need answers. And I need them now. Before the pandemic strikes.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Blow Up Dolls - Not Just For Men Anymore

I guess I'm getting old. When I think about blow up dolls, I think about something that a man might have. But I guess I have to move on to the 21st century. Because now we have Sheilas' Wheels, a UK based insurer dedicated to providing women with competitive insurance rates.

And now, Sheilas' Wheels offers Buddy On Demand, a a b
low-up man with the aim of making solo female motorists feel less nervous about driving at night. The company's painstaking research shows 82 per cent of women feel safer with someone sitting in the car beside them and nearly a half do not like driving alone in the dark.

Buddy on Demand fits in a car's glove box, appears at a flick of a switch and when a woman has finished using him, she can just pull the plug and he deflates.

Nothing new about that...

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Katzen Über Alles!

Here's a great website consisting entirely of cats that look like Hitler.

Vote for your favorite! Or enter a photo of your favorite kitler!

Thanks to the
Unconscionable Objector for pointing it out.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Dangerous Illegal Immigrants in Pennsylvania

Congresswoman Melissa Hart speculates that there are 100,000-200,000 illegal aliens in Pennsylvania. Which is a big problem, since few of them would likely vote Republican if they were offered amnesty and eventually became naturalized citizens.

Despite this threat to the balance of political power in Pennsylvania, Hart has not yet been able to secure funding for the "Great Wall of Pennsylvania" along the Mason-Dixon Line.

That's too bad, because the wall could have prevented the migration of a real menace into the state. Namely, the southern devil scorpion. This creature, with its menacing pinchers, eight legs, fang-like appendages, and a venomous stinger, has been found in Washington County, less than a half-mile from The Meadows harness-racing track.

If you turn over a few rocks and see some of these things, there may not actually be 100,000-200,000 of them. But it'll sure seem like it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

On Screen, Mr. Sulu! Maximum Magnification!

If Mr. Spock can travel back in time to 2006, he might see himself out standing in a field. Of maize, that is. This picture is the York Maize Maze 2006. Created by farmer Tom Pearcy, it celebrates the 40th anniversary of Star Trek and depicts Spock, Jean-Luc Picard, and the USS Enterprise. The maze will be open to the public until September, after which Mr. Chekov will be hitting it with a full spread of photon torpedoes.

US Airways to Sell Advertising on Barf Bags

US Airways has certainly had its ups and downs over the last few years. First, a period of expansion in the 1980s after changing its name from Allegheny Airlines to USAir in 1979. Then, it expanded internationally through an investment by British Airways. After the British Airways relationship, USAir became US Airways and the planes got a fresh paint job. Then, following financial troubles, the airline agreed to be bought by United Airlines, but antitrust concerns and financial difficulties by both partners led United to withdraw its offer.

US Airways, the largest carrier at Washington's Reagan National Airport, suffered severely following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2002. After an early emergence from bankruptcy, the airline, beset by high fuel costs, was unable to obtain wage concessions by its unions and was forced into another round of bankruptcy in 2004. And then along came America West, which merged with US Airways in 2005.

With all these ups and downs, you would think that US Airways provides a bumpy ride for its passengers. And you'd be right about that. In fact, this fact was confirmed with the announcement that US Airways will be the first airline to include advertisements on its air sickness bags.

We conducted a confidential poll of the Scott's Spot Frequent Travelers club, and received the following comments and questions:

  1. These bags are the perfect final destination for those wretched boxed meals sold on cramped long distance US Airways flights.
  2. More passengers would be touched by this advertising if it were put on US Airways lavatory toilet tissue.
  3. USAirways barf bags will become collectors item, and the airline's cost of replacing them will drive them into a 3rd round of bankruptcy.
The Scott's Spot Advertising Department has come up with the following ideas. US Airways is free to use them. But you can bet they'll be too cheap to attribute them to us:
  1. Try the barf bags Mikey Likes
  2. Barfvergnügen
  3. You should've had a Maalox Moment
  4. Ziploc - Now More Than Ever

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Idaho - Now Famous For More Than Potatoes

I'd really like to visit Idaho. I understand that parts of the state are very scenic. But the state is mostly known for its potatoes. Look at the license plates - "Famous Potatoes" has been the slogan on Idaho license plates since 1957!

But Idaho may soon have to update its license plates to read "Famous Burmese Pythons." First, we had the case of Bessie, the 8-foot Burmese Python who became famous spending 2 weeks eluding capture a 57,000-square-foot apartment complex in Rexburg, Idaho. And now, we have Houdini, the 12-foot 60-pound Burmese Python from Ketchum, Idaho, who swallowed an entire queen-size electric blanket -- with the electrical cord and control box.

Veterinarian Karsten Fostvedt conducted a two-hour operation on the python Tuesday, and said afterward, "The prognosis is great."

Personally, the culinary department at Scott's Spot would have plugged in the cord and waited until Houdini's internal temperature rose to 180 degrees. That way, you can be sure that it would taste just like chicken, and then it would do a
real disappearing act.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Forget About The Middle East - We've Got Hot Sauce Wars in Our Own Backyard

TABASCO, Mexico (SSP) -- Hundreds of soldiers patrolled three cities in the Gulf Coast state of Tabasco in Mexico on Monday to restore security.

The soldiers also looked for presumed hot pepper sauce traffickers who engaged in a shootout with police that left two officers dead and seven people injured.

The Army was keeping watch in Cardenas, Cunduacan and part of Villahermosa, the capital, about 400 miles southeast of Mexico City, said Tabasco Gov. Manuel Andrade, who did not reveal the number of troops.

The shootout took place before dawn on Sunday when a group of armed men believed to belong to the Franciscos, a group led by ex-military men working for the Frank's Red Hot pepper sauce cartel, killed a police commander and opened fire on others in an attempt to rescue two colleagues who had been detained, police said.

After failing in their first attempt, at least 20 men returned with hot dog launchers, flaming charcoal briquettes, and tongs, which they used to destroy five state police cars and the door of the local jail. One police officer was struck with a relish bottle and killed in the attack. The men were unsuccessful in rescuing their companions, however.

Five state police officers and two civilian women were injured during the confrontations. Hours later, police found the bodies of two other men who had been abducted two weeks earlier by the same armed group, authorities said.

In the past month, eight civilians and two state police officers have been slain in related violence.

During the past year, the Mexican government has sent the Army to several states to combat violence linked to turf fights between rival hot pepper sauce companies. The operations have done little to reduce the violence.

"The Army will be present ... with the necessary personnel for as long as it takes to look for this armed group," said Gen. Osvaldo Canto Fernandez.

An anonymous spokesman from the Cholula hot pepper sauce gang told a Scott's Spot Press reporter "We will capture all army troops and those Tabasco gang dogs and show them who has the hottest sauce."

Finally, A Good Use For Barry Manilow

With "hits" like Mandy, Copacabana, and I Write The Songs, I've always asked the question "What is Barry Manilow's music good for?" (Actually, I didn't always ask the question. I asked the question 30 years ago and then moved on to other, more important questions.)

But now I've learned that this music has been put to good use. The council in Rockdale, a southern suburb of Sydney, Australia, started a six-month trial of high-volume hits by Manilow and Doris Day to chase away car enthusiasts (street racers known locally as hoons) who were gathering on weekend nights at Cook Park Reserve. The music of Barry Manilow and Doris Day is broadcast from 9 p.m. to midnight every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

"Barry's our secret weapon," Rockdale Deputy Mayor Bill Saravinovski told The Daily Telegraph newspaper, four weeks after the start of the effort. "It seems to be working."

Barry not only works on the hoons, it also drives the local residents crazy. "I don't know how I will cope," said Moya Dunn, describing how the songs have invaded her house. "I just can't sleep when it's on, and to think there's going to be another six months of this."

To Moya and her neighbors, Scott's Spot can offer only one consolation. At least they're not blaring an even worse musical travesty, and an Australian one at that -
Air Supply.

Monday, July 17, 2006

It Wasn't a Coors He Was Drinking

As we at Scott's Spot reported earlier, Coors "Beer" executive Peter Coors has been cited for driving under the influence of alcohol. We can now update this story by reporting that Coors has had his driver's license revoked. Coors, 59, said he had consumed a beer about 30 minutes before leaving a wedding, the Rocky Mountain News reported.

In one breath test, Coors registered a blood alcohol level of 0.073 percent. In a second, 20 minutes later, he registered 0.088. We turned this information to the research department at Scott's Spot, which produced the following chart:

We don't know how much Mr. Coors weighs, but putting him at 200 pounds, we have him as having consumed 4-5 drinks per hour. If he just had that one beer about 30 minutes before leaving, then it was definitely a real beer and not a Coors.

Scott's Spot recommends that Mr. Coors spring for a portable breathalyzer. They start at about $10. I'm sure that he could even afford
this top of the line model.

Bottoms Up! And get yourself a dresignated diver ifyer gonna be dreenkin.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

We Can Rebuild Him - After We Get FDA Approval

In a recent
posting I discussed how I had found the Bionic Ear Institute while traveling in Melbourne, Australia. I hadn't thought much about bionics since the days of Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man.

But apparently Australia will remain the place to be for bionic implants. That's because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's ophthalmic devices panel recommended against approving a tiny pea-sized bionic telescope for implantation into the eyes of some elderly patients. The device,
called the Implantable Miniature Telescope, has a telephoto lens that can enable some patients to do away with the special glasses and handheld telescopes they now use to compensate for the loss in central vision caused by age-related macular degeneration, according to VisionCare Ophthalmic Technologies Inc., its manufacturer.

The recommendation against approval came despite clinical trials
in which 141 of 193 patients implanted with the device showed both improved distance and near visual acuity after one year. Only ten patients reported a loss in acuity in either distance or near vision. Doctors removed eight of the devices, four of them from patients dissatisfied with how they worked, FDA documents show.

If you have macular degeneration, you're going to have to look to Australia for some relief. I highly recommend going there even if you can't get Rudy Wells to give you a bionic eye.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

It's hard to meet potential dates these days. At least that's what I'm told - I've been out of that market for over 23 years. Anyhow, you've got to feel for poor Lorna Jeanne Dudash. She's the woman from Aloha, Oregon, who called 911 requesting the name of the "cutie pie" deputy who had just been at her door checking on a noise complaint from one of her neighbors.

"He's the cutest cop I've seen in a long time. I just want to know his name," Dudash told the dispatcher. "Heck, it doesn't come very often a good man comes to your doorstep." "Honey, I'm just going to be honest with you, OK? I just thought he was cute. I'm 45 years old and I'd just like to meet him again, but I don't know how to go about doing that without calling 911," she said. "I know this is absolutely not in any way, shape or form an emergency, but if you would give the officer my phone number and ask him to come back, would you mind?"

The deputy returned, verified that there was no emergency and arrested her for misusing the 911 system, an offense punishable by a fine of up to several thousand dollars and a year in jail.

Now sure, the deputy might not have been interested, but with a little business training the Washington County 911 coordinator could have identified this as an opportunity to bring some additional revenue into the department. I'm talking about a 911 Profit Center. Think about it - how do we support 911? Through taxes. Through telephone surcharges. And they're always going up. But the Republicans are in charge now, about User Fees? Just call 911. If it's an emergency, no problem. If it's not an emergency, Ka-Ching!

Situation: Lorna Dudash wants a date with a cutie pie deputy. Whether she gets the date or not, there's a charge for the call. Even if it's just $10 a pop, the call center could rake in the cash. And you could let market forces prevail - if they started getting so many calls that emergencies couldn't be responded to, the call center could make a business decision to either hire additional staff for busy call periods, or simply up their charges.

So, when you call 911, you could hear - "Is this an emergency not? No? Then will you be paying by Visa, Mastercard, or will you be adding this to your phone bill?"

I'm hoping that this catches on in Oregon, because they'll never go for it here in Pennsylvania, where change happens every hundred years or so. And we had one recently - selected liquor stores are now allowed to open on Sundays.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Ben Roethlisberger Should Reconsider Decision to Not Become Motorcycle Helmet Advocate

According to an Associated Press article in Sports Illustrated online, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said he doesn't plan on doing public safety announcements for motorcycle or helmet safety following his motorcycle accident last month.

That's too bad. Big Ben was fortunate indeed to survive his accident and could really make a difference by being a visible face for motorcycle safety and taking a visible public role advocating helmet use. Think of the impact he could make by visiting high schools or motorcycle safety courses.

The Scott's Spot Safety Department is unanimous in calling on Roethlisberger to reconsider his decision.

Peter Coors Has "One For The Guardrail"

Word has reached the Rathskeller at Scott's Spot that Coors "Beer" executive Peter Coors has been cited for driving under the influence of alcohol. I think that's when they had the taxi strike in Golden, Colorado.

Coors, 59, faces a July 20 arraignment. He's hoping to avoid a trial, as Scott's Spot has learned that the prosecution will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Coors was drinking Budweiser at the party.

Allah Egg - The Next Big eBay Novelty?

Remember the grilled cheese sandwich with the image of the Virgin Mary? It sold for $28,000 on eBay in 2004. And of course, there are a lot of other Virgin Mary items that have sent believers and collectors into a frenzy over the years.

This phenomenon has a name - Religious pareidolia, which is is pareidolia (the perception of a pattern where none is intended) involving religious themes, especially the faces of religious figures.

But what about other religions? Don't they have grilled cheese sandwiches with images on them that you can see if you squint just the right way? I don't know if they do or not, but it appears that Islam now has it own oddity. Scott's Spot has uncovered a report from the village of Stepnoi in eastern Kazakhstan that a chicken has laid an egg with the word "Allah" inscribed on its shell, Kazakh state media
reported Thursday.
The egg was laid just after a powerful hail storm hit the village.

"Our mosque confirmed that it says 'Allah' in Arabic," Bites Amantayeva, a farmer from the village of Stepnoi in eastern Kazakhstan, told state news agency Kazinform.

Next time we have a thunderstorm I'm taking a walk in the woods. I'm thinking the lightning's gonna split a big oak tree and burn a Star of David into one of the pieces. If you can't see it, just squint a little more. Then bid on my auction.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

New Japanese Odor Eaters

Well, not exactly. But it's a first step. A new device, developed by a team of scientists led by Takamichi Nakamoto at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, analyzes smells through 15 sensors, records the odor's recipe in digital format and then reproduces the scent by mixing 96 chemicals and vaporizing the result.

Nakamoto's smell recorder has successfully recreated a range of fruit smells, including oranges, apples, bananas and lemons, but can be reprogrammed to produce almost any odor - from old fish to gasoline, he said.

The device
could aid online shoppers by letting people check out perfumes or flowers before they buy. On the other hand, the thing is a bulky 3 feet by 3 feet by 2 feet. So you might not be able to use it while sitting at Panera using your notebook PC to shop at

While excited by this advance, what the olfactory research department at Scott's Spot really has a nose for is the next step in this technology, namely odor neutralization. I'm thinking that there are plenty of opportunities for odor control for restrooms, kitchens, pet litterboxes, and exercise areas.

Or, closer to home, consider my second son's feet and shoes. You don't want to be near them, "near" being defined as being in the same county. The acquisition of the Otomakan
Odor Eater could be a real boon for family togetherness.

I'm predicting that this technology is going to have some entrepreneur smelling the sweet smell of success before too long.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Pennsylvania Problem Piercings Probed

It's a great time to be on the Clarion-Limestone School Board in Clarion County, Pennsylvania. Especially if you like controversy. Come this fall, Sarah Hileman, who will be a senior, says she plans to pursue changing what she and other students perceive as an outdated policy concerning body piercings. Last year, at least seven students were suspended because they wore facial piercings other than earrings and refused to remove them, she said.

The C-L policy also bans spiked jewelry of any kind. It's based on the No Child Left Behind Except the Inappropriately Jeweled Act.

Just look at the piercing at the left. It's guaranteed to bring down the student's (and the school's) PSSA (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment) testing scores.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Which Cute Animal Am I - A Pony??

Yikes! I like a few cute animals, but hardly consider myself one. And certainly not a pony! I could relate to a groundhog and have been called a squirrel, but those are the cute animals that I'm least like. Perhaps it's time to see a shrink...

You Are A: Pony!

ponyWho doesn't love a pony? You are one of these miniature horses, renown for your beauty and desired by many. Full of grace, you are a beautiful and very special animal, full of strength and majesty.

You were almost a:
Frog or a Kitten
You are least like a: Groundhog or a SquirrelThe Cute Animals Quiz

Update: When I informed my wife that I had taken this quiz, she was in disbelief that I could be classified as any sort of cute animal whatsoever. When I told her that I was a pony, she said that the only pony-like animal matching my personality was the mule.

McConnells Mill - Safe for Now

One of my favorite places has been saved from being spoiled. For 3 years, Sechan Limestone Industries has tried to locate a landfill just 300 yards from McConnells Mill State Park. Located in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, the park encompasses 2,546 acres of the spectacular Slippery Rock Creek Gorge. At the bottom of the gorge there is a restored mill and covered bridge, accessible by a roadway that winds between large, room-sized boulders on the hillside.

McConnells Mill is a haven of peace and serenity that deserves to be protected! Thankfully, the company has ended the process of trying to appeal the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's denial of a permit to locate the landfill on this site.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Plug for FreeUndelete Software

I crashed my work computer earlier this evening. I may yet be able to recover the hard drive, but I was worried about losing some of my photos that I have only on that drive. I'm actually worried about a lot of photos that I have only on that drive.

My most recent photos were from my vacation last week. I had loaded most of my photos onto the hard drive and hoped to recover them from my memory card. I tried Norton Unerase Wizard - useless! I Googled unerase utilities, but most of them required you to pay before you could recover even a single file. Finally, I discovered a free program called FreeUndelete. It is published by a company called OfficeRecovery, and I highly recommend this software. It is truly free and recovered all of the files off of my one memory card. I will try it on my others as well.

I do hope I can get the files recovered from that hard drive, though...

UPDATE 7/10/2006: My hard drive was restored to life with no loss of photos! But go get that FreeUndelete software anyway!

Great Allegheny Passage and Big Savage Tunnel

On our vacation last week we did a day trip to ride part of the Great Allegheny Passage Rails-to-Trails trail. We started from Frostburg, MD, and rode to the north and west toward Meyersdale, PA. The main objective of the ride was to go through the newly refurbished Big Savage Tunnel, at the Eastern Continental Divide. We also went through the Borden Tunnel.

You can see some additional photos from our excursion here.