Tuesday, May 30, 2006

My Memorial Day Sunburn Was Well Worth It

I don't normally attend any Memorial Day commemorations. But this year, 2 of my sons were participating, and I attended the day's Memorial Day service at Richand Township service, where my oldest son sang with the A Cappella Fella'ship. They did the national anthem, and also sang while refreshments were provided after the service. My second son served at the Hampton Township service with Boy Scout Troop 17.

I was very impressed by all of the presentations, whether by the young or the old, and whether by the powerful (U.S. Representative Melissa Hart) or by a middle school student reading a poem.

Here are a few photos from the Richland Township commemoration. You can view the rest here.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Western Medicine Does Not Have All The Answers

Nevertheless, when the healing practitioner is an Impressed Tortoise (Manouria impressa) I'm afraid I must draw the line.

Bird Flu Is For Real!

I have to confess - I thought that all that Bird Flu stuff was an overblown scare. But now I'm convinced. This photo, from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, One of America's Great Newspapers, provides an intimate view of how the virus is transmitted from bird to human...

The Latest Fashion Fad Goes South

The publicity department at Scott's Spot was surprised when Neal, who’s currently “overnighting” as a research assistant at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole station, mentioned my blog in one of his blog posts. Neal is an interesting person and a good writer and I really like reading his blog. In one of my future posts I’ll write about why I’m interested in Antarctica. But today I have something more important to write about, and it affects Neal as well.

From Neal’s blog I have learned that people don’t just hang around shivering at the South Pole. There are plenty of good eats, and even better drinks. And while they may be limited in their supply of fresh greens, they are amply supplied with most other essential items, like party supplies. There are a number of parties at the South Pole, including costume parties. And that's where I can help. I have discovered the perfect costume for Neal to wear at the next party, whenever that might be.

In case you haven’t guessed by now, my costume is a loincloth. I’m sorry to admit it but the Scott’s Spot Clothing R&D Department was scooped by the Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo's Ginza district. I know that Neal will not be able to take delivery of a Japanese commercial loincloth before October 21, but I’m thinking that he could make a custom loincloth during those few spare moments that he’s not servicing research instruments or watching the aurora. Or, perhaps, in the unlikely event that he doesn’t fancy himself the loincloth type, maybe he can make one (hopefully at a profit) for the Blur.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Important New Miracle Food - Your Test Scores Will Skyrocket!

At Scott's Spot we're often asked to review groundbreaking research proposals. Many of them have unrealistic expectations, inadequate funding, and infighting among the project staff. However, some projects are destined to lead to revolutionary results and automatically get our nod and wink of approval.

One such project has determined that eating milk chocolate may boost brain function.
"Chocolate contains many substances that act as stimulants, such as theobromine, phenethylamine, and caffeine," notes Dr. Bryan Raudenbush from Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia. "These substances by themselves have previously been found to increase alertness and attention and what we have found is that by consuming chocolate you can get the stimulating effects, which then lead to increased mental performance."

The actual paper is very long and contains a number of obscure technical terms, so our graphics department has designed the Reader's Digest Condensed Books version of this paper. Voila!

Piranhas and the Atkins Diet

OK, you can admit it. You never managed to take off those 10 pounds you put on over the Christmas last year. Neither did we, so we're very supportive at Scott's Spot. In order to help us achieve our common weight loss goals, we put our weight management department on the case, and they've discovered a solution at Amazon.river.

If you're thinking, "What does the Amazon.river have besides piranhas?" then you're asking the right question. You see, the piranha in the wild basically eats every creature in its domain, and that means protein. You haven't seen any fat piranhas because there aren't any. Their diet of pure protein turns them into lean ferocious killing machines capable of stripping a whole dead pig to the bone within minutes. They just eat and eat until they're caught, varnished, and sold as souvenirs.

Contrast this diet with that of the piranhas at the Birmingham Sea Life Centre in England. There, all food is soaked in vitamins to make sure that the red-bellied savages are getting the nutrients they need. However, there is trouble in paradise - the piranhas have had to be put on a diet after piling on the pounds in captivity,
according to the Centre's Lynsey Thompson.

Fellow dieters, our path forward is clear. Protein. Pure Protein. Nothing but the Protein. That's what will give us the killer bodies we're hungry for.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Want a Healthy Diet? Then Avoid Health Foods!

I've always been suspicious of health foods. Oh sure, I like healthy foods, such as apples, oranges, asparagus, London Broil, A-1 sauce, and cheesecake. I think I've got all the food groups covered there, especially if the cheesecake has a graham cracker crust.

Here's my take on some popular health foods:
  • I like yogurt, but not fat-free yogurt.
  • I like my coffee with half-and-half. THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS FAT-FREE HALF-AND-HALF!
  • Butter comes from a cow. It should be spread, never sprayed.
  • No-alcohol beer is like protein-free meat.
  • Milk never comes from soybeans.
  • Herbal tea bags contain flavored dried bad-tasting weeds.
  • And change the name back to "Sugar Frosted Flakes." You're not fooling us.
Now, thanks to the painstaking investigative reporting of the Associated Press, we find out that all those fruits and nuts are, well, for fruits and nuts! Many brands of granola, for example, can be packed with up to 600 calories per cup and are loaded with more sugar than a cup of Cap'n Crunch. Frito Lay's Tostitos Natural Blue Corn Tortilla Chips and the brand's Restaurant Style Tortilla Chips each have 160 calories per serving. Yet people seem to binge on "natural" snacks free of guilt, even though there is virtually no calorie difference in many instances.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm ready for a second bowl of Cap'n Crunch.

Monday, May 22, 2006

I Will Be Smothered Under A Rug

What horrible Edward Gorey Death will you die?

You will be smothered under a rug. You're a little anti-social, and may want to start gaining new social skills by making prank phone calls.

What horrible Edward Gorey Death will you die?

The Southern Illinois Hills Are Alive...

From Carbondale, Illinois, comes a strange but true story, destined to change your opinion about the whitetail deer. There, 31-year-old secretary Tammy Emery, who I'll call "Tammy Rae," was among at least seven people threatened or injured by female deer last year on Southern Illinois University's campus - attacks that have prompted the school to wage a safety campaign during this spring's fawning season.

Tammy Rae,
taking a shortcut through the
woods, was attacked by a doe, possibly trying to protect its fawn. In an instant, the deer knocked her to the ground and delivered a flurry of kicks. Emery, screaming, curled defensively into a ball as the snorting animal rained blows on her, slicing open one of her ears and leaving her with huge bruises and a hoofprint on her hand.

Very distant relatives of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein are on retainer at Scott's Spot, so with slight apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein, we offer the following sound of music:

Doe, a deer, a female deer
Rae, the secretary said
Me, it charged, it made me run
Far, from where it kicked my head
So, we must quickly enact
Laws across our campus fair
Tea, I drink now but with pain
That was caused by one mad Doe!

Hartwood Acres Barn Photo and Haiku

The barn at Hartwood
by the horses' meadow on
a warm day in Spring

Sunday, May 21, 2006

This Article on Internet Addiction is NOT TRUE!

According to this article:
  • Internet addiction expert Dr. Diane M. Wieland thinks that 5 percent to 10 percent of Internet users will most likely experience addiction.
  • Signs and symptoms of Internet addiction include a general disregard for health and appearance; sleep deprivation due to spending so much time online; and decreased physical activity and social interaction with others. Dry eyes, carpal tunnel syndrome, and repetitive motion injuries of the hands and fingers are common.
  • Internet addicts may also get the "cyber shakes" when off line, exhibiting agitation and typing motions of the fingers when not at the computer.
  • Many Internet addicts have a history of depression, alcohol or drug abuse, and anxiety disorder, according to Wieland, who is an associate professor at the La Salle University School of Nursing.
  • "Denial is strong in Internet addicts who claim they cannot be addicted to a machine," Wieland notes. The "one more minute" response to being asked to go offline is common and is similar to an alcoholic who says they will quit drinking after "one more drink."
People who suspect they or a loved one might be an Internet addict, Wieland says, can find out by taking a screening test outlined in the book "Caught in the Net - How to Recognize the Signs of Internet Addiction and a Winning Strategy for Recovery," authored by Kimberly S. Young.


Cool! I Am A Fender Stratocaster!

Fender Strat
You are a Fender Stratocaster. You are the original rock and roll guitar.

Take the quiz:
Which guitar are you

Bungling Britney's Baby Bobble

I've never wanted to be famous. And, judging by the hit count on this blog, there's little danger of that happening anytime soon. The worst thing would be to be famous and have a kid, like Britney Spears. Poor Britney can't change Sean Preston's diaper without the paparazzi zooming in to see what brand of baby wipes she's using. (The Scott's Spot Celebrity Surveillance Department reports with 98% certainty that Spears does NOT use Sam's Choice Baby Wipes.)

Spears has done some stupid things as a parent, as do all new parents. In the latest incident, known as the "baby bobble," she's leaving the Manhattan Ritz-Carlton hotel with Sean Preston in one arm and a drink in the other. She then stumbles and struggles to keep from dropping Sean Preston. Fortunately, her bodyguard comes to the rescue and Sean Preston is saved, as is her drink. Poor Sean Preston's orange hat gets knocked off, though.

I do feel sorry for Britney in this instance. When my oldest son was a baby, I was carrying him down the stairs and lost my footing. My bodyguard was nowhere to be seen. It was all I could do to keep my son from being thrown against the wall, and the net result was that I went down hard on my tailbone, which hurt for weeks. It was an accident, and one that could have severely hurt my son if it had gone badly. Fortunately, that didn't happen. Also, fortunately, the paparazzi weren't there to document this and any other near-misses.

Be sure to watch eBay for that orange hat. It's sure to become a collector's item.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

William Hung, the New Marilyn Monroe

I don't like artichokes. Although I will admit that there is at least one artichoke dip that I really like. So artichokes are kind of like eggplants in that the only thing I like eggplant in is the heavenly dip, Baba Ghanoush, which has about 3 dozen spellings in English, the official language of George W. Bush and the Minuteman Party.

I also don't like American Idol. Which brings us to the subject of this post, American Idol washout William Hung. It appears that Mr. Hung, the spirited performer who sang with passion on American Idol, has been given an honor to which even I cannot aspire. He has been named the Artichoke King at the 47th Artichoke Festival in the Artichoke Capital of the World, Castroville, California. He follows in the tradition of Marilyn Monroe, who was selected as the first Artichoke Queen in 1947.

The festival features an artichoke eating contest, music and plenty of artichokes for sale. I'm not entering the contest.

Friday, May 19, 2006

A Bad End...To A Bad End

They Sydney Morning Herald reports on a Kiwi's bad end that he was trying to bring to an end, but that ended up rather badly.

OK, OK, let me translate. It appears that a patient at Southern Cross Hospital in Invercargill, New Zealand was having an operation to have hemorrhoids removed, when what should happen but an emission of flatulence. The resulting flash fire resulted in the man's suffering minor burns, while bringing the operation down in flames.

Hospital officials vowed to quickly get to the bottom of things and to fire those responsible.

Scott's Spot readers are reminded to always know where the nearest fire extinguisher is located, no matter how indisposed you may be.

Florida Teacher's In-School Dollar Store

You know, sometimes they should just let people be creative. Here's an example: Terence Braxton, 28, a gym teacher at Ernest Ward Middle School in Walnut Hill, Florida, had created the perfect win-win situation. The kids paid him a dollar a day in return for not having to change their clothes for gym class. As a result, he was sentenced to 3 years probation for felony bribery, ordered to pay back the students, and ordered to perform 300 hours of community service.

Felony bribery?! In my school he would have been declared a saint! I don't know what those kids have to wear for gym class, but can assure you it's nothing like what we had to wear in the '70s. The uniforms the girls had to wear were just abominable. They were 1-piece polyester jobs that could make anyone look ugly. I had gym class at the same time as my girlfriend, and every so often we'd open to door to, well, check out the gym suits. YIKES! Luckily we couldn't do that very often. The Athletics Department at Scott's Spot worked very hard to find a picture, but couldn't find anything that looked like them. I think everybody wants to forget about that era of gym suits. This is the closest thing they could find:

Perhaps Mr. Braxton should become a Junior Achievement advisor.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Pittsburgh - Where Nouns Turn Into Verbs

I don't drive to downtown Pittsburgh that often. And I apparently don't pay much attention to the signs. But I'm going to change that - today I discovered this "Don't Gridlock Please" sign at the corner of 4th and Grant. It makes me want to turn other nouns into verbs. I'm thinking that "Don't Fender Bender" and "Do Courtesy" would be good candidates. But don't put up too many of them. It'll be too much trouble when they need worshed.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

New Allegheny County Voting Machines Are Buggy

Or is that buggey...

Sunday Paper Musings

It's Monday night. The perfect time to start reading the Sunday paper. That's the thing about the Sunday paper - they assemble most of it in advance anyway, so there's no fresh news and no need for any of it to be read on Sunday.

Reading the Sunday paper usually goes like this:
  1. Dilbert.
  2. Employment Classified.
  3. Rest of the comics - but only if I can find my magnifying glass. A leading proponent of comics nanotechnology, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, One of America's Great Newspapers, is out to make Pittsburgh the "Eyestrain Capital of the World." It's bad enough that I need bifocals, but now I need a fresnel lens to see the funnies.
  4. Rest of the paper when I get to it.
But I digress. It's Monday night, which is actually early for me to be reading most of the Sunday paper. This week I haven't even read Dilbert yet. Last week being particularly abominable, I went straight to the Employment Classified section. I don't know why I even waste my time. Then, I got inspired to look at the Business section. There’s some piece about office gossip. I know a little bit about that! But then the article talked about engineering gossip to boost productivity. Sorry, that article was written for someone else!

Next, still wallowing in the Business section, I happened upon an article by Len Boselovic called "Hedge funds have come a long way." Now there's a title no red-blooded American male can resist! I begin reading. Blah...blah...blah... "Because of their performance, hedge funds have replaced tech stocks as cocktail party chatter." At this point my brain issues a red alert - the author has written this article for someone else! I look to see who wrote the article. Len Boselovic. I wonder how you say that last name. Boh-sell'-oh-vitch? Boh-sell'-oh-vick? Boss'-uh-la-vitch? Boss'-uh-la-vick? Who can tell? And, what's worse, I get to thinking. Have I met this guy at a recent cocktail party, and just forgotten how to pronounce his name? No, not a chance. Was I perhaps at another cocktail party that Len forgot to come to, where I was discussing hedge funds? Again, no way. In fact, I have been to no cocktail parties where people discussed hedge funds. Not only that, I have been to no cocktail parties where those passé tech stocks were discussed! Filled with self-doubt, I start to wonder - am I really that out of touch with reality? AHA – NO! The realization strikes me - It's Lenbo who's out of touch! He probably went to one stinkin' cocktail party where he overheard someone talking about doing some hedge trimming, and this led to the article I'm reading.

Fortunately, I'm only 4 paragraphs into it. Not hooked yet. Having nothing else to do, and still mildly curious about Len's cocktail parties, I read on to paragraph 5. "A large part of the hedge fund [boom] is based on snob appeal" is the opening statement of that paragraph. There's the issue! Len's worried about snob appeal! This means he has nothing in common with the investment department at Scott's Spot, which hasn't the slightest interest in anything smacking of snobbery.

Hey, if you end up at a cocktail party where they're discussing hedge funds, and you see Len there, would you please get me the pronunciation of his last name?

Monday, May 15, 2006

A Kinder, Gentler Nation

In his acceptance speech for the 1988 Republican Nomination for President, George Bush said that he wanted "a kinder, gentler nation." A very nice sentiment. He didn't achieve it, although few doubted that he really wanted it.

And the legacy of his son is much worse. We do not have a kinder, gentler nation. In fact, we won't be gentle with you at all if your telephone records show you've been talking with the wrong kind of people. Oh, never mind, I'll discuss th
e 4th Amendment and other apparently outdated concepts in another post...

This story of a kinder, gentler nation comes from Tokyo, where it appears that
a burglar gave a 35-year-old woman a shoulder massage for several hours after breaking into her apartment in central Tokyo and tying her up. He stole 210,000 yen ($1,900) in cash and her bank cash card, though he later mailed the card to her as she requested after withdrawing 980,000 yen from her account, Kyodo news agency said.

It said Lee Jin-se, 29, a South Korean, admitted the burglary and told police he lingered in the woman's apartment and gave her the massage "to relax her."

George W. Bush the younger will be giving a speech tomorrow night on what we can do to keep that kinder, gentler element out of our fair land. Here's the only kind of shoulder massage we want here in the U.S. of A:

Yikes - What An Illogical Family!

After seeing my result (I was Spock) on the Fantasy/SciFi Character Quiz, the rest of my family took the test. Here are the results:

Wife: Gandalf:

A wandering spirit caring for a multitude of just concerns, you are an instrumental power in many of the causes around you.

And so am I, very dangerous: more dangerous than anything you will ever meet, unless you are brought alive before the seat of the Dark Lord.

Gandalf is a character from the Middle-Earth universe. TheOneRing.net has a description of him.

Oldest Son: James T. Kirk:

An impassioned commander with more respect for individuals than for authority, you have a no-holds-barred approach to life and its obstacles.

I don't believe in the no-win scenario.

James is a character in the Star Trek universe. STARTREK.COM has his Starfleet record.

I informed him that this fit him perfectly, expecially as the "T" stands for "Tiberius." Perhaps he'll change his Latin name to Tiberius next year.

Second Son: Raistlin Majere:

An intensely private individual that chooses actions with care, you strive to further your own skills and powers.

This happens because I choose it to happen!

Raistlin is a character in the Dragonlance universe. He has a short biography at Wikipedia.

I don't know anything about this character. But after reading the Wikipedia entry, I now understand why he didn't want us to see how he was answering the questions.

Third Son: Boromir:

With good intentions but misunderstood motives, you are a hardy, if somewhat unreliable, companion.

I ask only for the strength to defend my people!

Boromir is a character in the Middle-Earth universe. TheOneRing.net has his character profile.

Daughter: Galadriel:

Possessing a rare combination of wisdom and humility, while serenely dominating your environment you selflessly use your powers to care for others.

Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.

Galadriel is a character in the Middle-Earth universe. You can read more about her at the Galadriel Worshippers Army.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

A Low Cost Pet That Doubles as a Fashion Accessory

Are you tired of that poodle? Perhaps you're allergic to your cat. Well, if you're looking for a pet that will make you the talk of the next social gathering, and one that is easy to keep, cheap to feed, and, when the time comes, a cinch to put under, I've found your companionship.

Introducing the
Giant Madagascar Hissing Cockroach Brooch, from the Black Chandelier website. At first glance, it might appear to be a tastefully decorated replica. But no! It's an actual Giant Madagascar Hissing Coachroach! At only $80 + $9.95 shipping, you're going to want to order yours today.

The pictures pretty much tell the story, but if you want further details, the Black Chandelier website notes that "These insects come in varied patterns and are decorated with the finest Austrian Swarovski crystal. Each roach takes about an hour of painstaking work to achieve his final magical glory. All roaches are male to ensure sterility, and come complete with a leash set. This consists of a gorgeous pin you attach to your clothing with a chain that clasps to the cockroach's carapace to keep him from running amok. The lifespan of these animals is approximately one year if housed and fed properly. This is not a guarantee, it is an estimate. Roaches love fresh bananas and must have access to fresh water at all times, a very damp paper towel or cotton ball will do the trick. Dehydration is the main cause of death. Keep him in a little terrarium in the dark and he will love you and be very responsive to your touch. Roaches are shipped overnight in a box and can be kept in this box for up to 4 days without food or water while you secure him more hospitable accommodations."

Plus, as noted above, there's no need to go to the vet when your pet comes to the end of his days. All that's necessary to send him to the great roach motel in the sky is a quick tramp from the Nikes. You could also opt for the Raid or Black Flag route. It all depends on how humane you're feeling.

It's Logical - I am Spock


A focused advisor whose actions are dictated by almost pure logic, you believe in exploring the fascinating possibilities around you.

Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

Emily Post Meets Oscar Mayer

I don't know how I missed it, but the April 30 edition, of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, one of America's Great Newspapers (hey, they printed it, so it must be true) devoted nearly an entire page to the hot dog, one of America's great foods. Included the following list of hot dog dos and don'ts, courtesy of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council's Hot Dog Etiquette Guide.
  • DO "dress the dog," not the bun.
  • DO serve sesame seed, poppy seed and plain buns with hot dogs.
  • DO eat hot dogs on buns with your hands. Utensils should not touch hot dogs on buns.
  • DO use paper plates to serve hot dogs. Everyday dishes are acceptable; china is a no-no.
  • DO serve mustard, relish, onions, cheese and chili as topping options.
  • DO lick off -- not wash off -- any condiments remaining on the fingers after eating a hot dog.
  • DO use multicolored toothpicks to serve cocktail wieners. Cocktail forks are in poor taste.
  • DO put down your hot dog while singing the national anthem.

  • DON'T put hot dog toppings between the hot dog and the bun. (Condiments should be applied in the following order: wet condiments such as mustard and chili are applied first onto the dog, not the bun, followed by chunky condiments such as relish, onions and sauerkraut, followed by shredded cheese, followed by spices such as celery salt or pepper.)
  • DON'T serve sun-dried tomato buns or basil buns, which are considered gauche with franks.
  • DON'T serve fresh herbs on the same plate with hot dogs.
  • DON'T use a cloth napkin to wipe your mouth when eating a hot dog. Paper is always preferable.
  • DON'T take more than five bites to finish a hot dog. For a foot-long wiener, seven bites are acceptable.
  • DON'T leave bits of bun on your plate. Eat it all.
  • DON'T use ketchup on your hot dog after the age of 18.
  • DON'T send a thank you note after a hot dog barbecue. It would not be in keeping with the unpretentious nature of hot dogs.
  • DON'T take wine to a hot dog barbecue. Beer, soda, lemonade and iced tea are preferable.
  • DON'T ever think there is a wrong time to serve hot dogs.
Now I don't know about you, but it seems to me that this is a lot to keep in mind. Especially if the hot dogs are served with beer, as is proper. Scott's Spot has developed the following visual aids to help you in such situations:



Book Review - To Kill a Mockingbird

Title: To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Length: 323 pages

You’ve probably already read To Kill a Mockingbird. Or perhaps you’ve seen the movie, with its Oscar winning performance by Gregory Peck. I had done neither. My 10th grader read the book in school and said it was boring. My wife read it – she reads many of the books that the kids do. So I decided it was time for me to read it.

The story is told from the point of view of Jean Louise Finch, known as “Scout.” Her companions are her brother Jem and friend “Dill.” Scout, Jem, and Dill are determined to catch a glimpse of Arthur “Boo” Radley, their reclusive next door neighbor. Atticus Finch, Scout and Jem’s father, is a lawyer who has been given the assignment to defend Tom Robinson, a black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman. Atticus doesn’t just go through the motions of defending the case - he is convinced of Tom’s innocence and is determined to provide the best defense possible.

Scout has a childlike innocence and looks for the best in people, for the most part. Jem, approaching his teen years, struggles with depression when the events surrounding the trial show him that justice doesn’t always prevail. Atticus is a widower who understands life’s realities but hasn’t abandoned the ideals of youth. The kids struggle when their father is ridiculed because of his determination to defend Tom Robinson’s innocence. At one point Scout asks about what being a nigger-lover is. After Atticus explains, she asks “You aren’t really a nigger-lover, then, are you?” Atticus replies “I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody.” Through his actions and words Atticus portrays not only the kind of person who he himself is, but also the kinds of ideals he’d like his kids to embrace.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a gripping story – definitely not boring. The book becomes increasingly hard to put down as it moves toward its conclusion. It is as important in 2006 as it was when it was published in 1960. Racial tensions still exist in this country, and not just between blacks and whites. In this day and age we have racial profiling by police, mistrust of anyone of Arab descent, and civilian militias calling themselves “Minutemen” patrolling our border with Mexico. We are still far from the ideal articulated by Atticus Finch on the last page of the book: “Most people are [nice], Scout, when you finally see them.”

Friday, May 12, 2006

North Korean E-Library - It Gets More Comments Than My Blog

According to the North Korean Central News Agency's May 11 edition, we find that the E-Library of Kim Chaek University of Technology was visted by Foreign Diplomats. We don't know who these diplomats were, nor which country they hailed from, but they were no doubt impressed.

"They went round with keen interest book lending and reading rooms of the IT based E-Library."

I guess I don't know North Korean standards but I guess I was thinking that an E-Library might have some computers and maybe little to no books. In fact, I was thinking that it might not have a physical existence at all, but might exist only on some server somewhere in Pyongyang. But it seems that they have regular books. And a gymnasium. Go here to read about it.

"At the end of the visit, they made entries in the visitor's book."

That's better than what most people do with my blog. Nobody but Neal, for the most part, leaves any comments.

I would certainly like it if you posted comments, good or bad, about my blog. Don't worry, I have neither a nuclear nor or a nucular agenda.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Pennsylvania, The Grumpy State

In Pennsylvania, we have Philadelphia, City of Brotherly Love and potential 2016 Olympic host. We have the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. We have Kennywood Park. But we're still grumpy, according to a new IssuesPA/Pew poll. How could this be?
  • We have high gas prices, which would make anybody grumpy, but so does everyone else.
  • We have Governor Ed Rendell, whose entire agenda for the state involves our gambling away our hard-earned rust belt wages.
  • We have Gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann, who is going deep for a pass to Harrisburg, but can't be bothered to run downfield to the polls to vote.
  • And we have a state legislature which approved a pay raise, only to rescind it after the predictable voter outrage. When the poll asked people for a one-word description describing the legislature, the top-ranking word was "greedy." They'd probably prefer that the representatives and senators hitchhike back and forth between their districts and Harrisburg.
This level of grumpiness requires strong medicine. I'm thinking that chocolate is involved at some point. Or beer.

There, now isn't that better?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Hey, I'm Only 50% Weird!

I'm not sure I'm normal enough to decide if this is a good thing or not...

You Are 50% Weird

Normal enough to know that you're weird...
But too damn weird to do anything about it!

Linguistic Profile of a Yinzer

I suppose I could be nebby and try to figure out how these results square with my qualifying as a Yinzer by scoring 100% on the Pittsburghese Test. But that path would be fulla jaggers an'at. Maybe I'll have a pop or an Arn and take the test again.

Your Linguistic Profile:

55% General American English

20% Yankee

15% Dixie

5% Midwestern

5% Upper Midwestern

Denim Envy

OK, I'll admit it. In addition to being a curmudgeon, I'm also cheap. When someone asks me what I look for in a pair of jeans, I say "They fit. They're cheap." I like the cheapest jeans that fit. But sometimes, I have a soft moment. I think, "Maybe I'm afraid of really living. Maybe I should give up give up high speed internet access and forego a house payment for a month to get a pair of jeans that help me more adequately express my curmudgeonliness."

It's times like that when I'm tempted to go to 5416 Walnut Street in Pittsburgh's Shadyside section. There, I can get a pair of Dolce & Gabbana jeans, in a destroyed straight-leg silhouette styling. They're medium blue with colorful hand-embroidered butterflies at the waist and down the legs and, on a rear pocket, a large metal DG placard with a pink leathery backing. There are only 8 pairs in the region, and there's a worldwide waiting list. And they're only $1150. But then reality sets in. I'd have to spring for the sex change operation first, since they're in a ladies' size 10.

I guess I'll have to pass this time. I wonder if anyone in Darfur can make use of them.

Hurry! Buy Water and Toilet Paper!

That's right! It's time to panic! Pennsylvania has established a "PA Pandemic Preparedness" website. ABC is airing a movie called "Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America." No doubt about it, the sky is about to fall, and we need to change our lives to deal with it.

Scott's Spot is taking this threat seriously, so much so that we've cancelled our normal Tuesday "Buffalo Wings Night" to brainstorm some new BUTT (Birdflu Utilities, Tools and Techniques.) Our favorite brainstorming technique is called "spin the bottle," where we all sit in a circle, spin an empty bottle of (in this case) Grey Goose vodka, and the person at whom the bottle points has to come up with a solution that will help us deal with bird flu. However, solutions for curing cancer or fostering world peace are acceptable as well. Here's what we came up with tonight:

  1. Go to Sam's Club and buy a Suburban load of toilet paper.
  2. Stock your pantry with Sam's Choice water.
  3. Fight bird with bird - buy all the Grey Goose you can get your hands on.
  4. Have Homeland Security issue every citizen a can of Black Flag Bird Death.
  5. Convince the local Audubon Society to have a Memorial Day robin's nest count and destroy.
  6. Write bird flu awareness questions for "No Child Left Behind" testing.
  7. Aw, come on, guys, Bob's Pizza and Wings has free delivery.
  8. Have an elementary school bird flu awareness poster contest. Oops, we have a winner:

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Pennsylvania Infrastructure Report Shows Grade Inflation

It's not just our public schools. There's grade inflation everywhere. Just look at this article - Pennsylvania's roads and bridges get a grade of D - a passing grade. Have you been on Pennsylvania's roads and bridges? No passing grades here. There are bridges in Pennsylvania that look like this:

And as for the ones made of cement, many of them are in various terminal stages of crumble.

And Pennsylvania's navigable waterways waterways are even worse, meriting a D- grade. But still passing. I suppose they only way they'd fail them is if the rivers completely dried up.

The railways got a B. But that's only because Sir Topham Hat threatened to kidnap this little girl and take his railway to Kansas City if he doesn't get gambling revenues to build a new state of the art roundhouse.

Transportation Secretary Allen D. Biehler criticized the grades, saying that they should be inflated further. "We've been trying really hard lately, and I was sure we were going to get extra credit this time," he said.

Look, I just found your extra credit report, Mr. Secretary!

Future Lifetime Member of AAA, Like Her Mother

Hot off the press, from today's Oil City Derrick...

First Birthday - Amelia Amaro Allio

Celebrating her first birthday today is Amelia Mae Amaro Allio,
daughter of Alayna Amaro Allio of Oil City.

Mother's Day Blue Light Special on Cosmetic Surgery

Attention K-Mart Shoppers, er, Mother's Day Shoppers! Word has reached Scott's Spot that the latest trend in gift giving for parents is in the, um, cosmetic surgery department. That's right, it seems that it's now OK to walk up to Mom and say, "You know, those crow's feet make you look, like, fifty or so, and I'm so embarrassed and stuff. How about a Botox treatment, on me, to bring you back to life?"

I suppose that's OK in South Korea, where cosmetic surgery clinics in Seoul said they have been booked solid for weeks with appointments made by children for their parents. Many parents pay for cosmetic surgery for their children as a graduation gift and it has become more common in recent years for children to return the favor. A textbook case of the returned favor. Or, sometimes, tit for tat.

However, I can guarantee that if I made such a suggestion for my mother, I'd be out of the will. And, if I suggested such a thing to my wife, I'd be out of the, well, let's just say I'm not suggesting it!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Cello Recital Photo and Haiku

Andrew playing a
most difficult piece at his
cello recital

Sunset Photo and Haiku

The sun sets over
the house of my neighbor who
passed away Friday

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Potent Potables From the Sea

Enophiles worldwide have been buoyed by news from Germany that wine can be made from seaweed. Not only is this wine potent, at 16% alchohol, but it's also tasty and good for you!

Dr. Inez Linke, a marine biologist and nauticavinter extrordinaire, says that the wine, made from the brown laminaria saccharina seaweed, tastes like a fine sherry and is extremely healthy. "Marine algae contains many minerals, salts, vitamins and proteins that makes this particular wine extremely healthy and boosts the immune system," said Dr Linke.

I'm all for that, but Dr. Linke isn't going to sell much of the stuff without a significant marketing effort. And that's where Scott's Spot enters the picture. I submitted this to our marketing department, and they've come up with the following:

  1. Some portion of the wine should be distilled into a drink that we're going to call Te-sea-la.
  2. Offer a vacation experience for home winemakers. Imagine it - you're on a boat, scuba diving for the seaweed you're going to use to make your own wine.
  3. Establish seaweed beds in offshore wind farms. This will make the wind farms more acceptable to local residents, who will see an economic benefit from the wineries.
  4. Develop a slogan that will appeal to the target demographic group. We plugged "Seaweed Wine" into the Sloganizer, and got "Be young, have fun, taste Seaweed Wine."
To your health! Santé! Prosit!

Friday, May 05, 2006

No Pants Day - It's Not Too Late!

Today is No Pants Day, a day where everyone, be they students, respectable businessmen, or cherished community leaders, leave their pants behind. Liberate your legs!

PennDOT and Pennsylvania DEP's Duh of the Day

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have, through painstaking investigation, determined the cause of the blast that caused the landslide that covered Route 65 and that closed it to traffic for 2 days in April. The blasting was being done at the site of the new River Pointe Plaza, a 207-acre development to be anchored by a Wal-Mart on the site of the former Dixmont State Hospital.

The It appears that too many explosives were used, according to DEP spokeswoman Helen Humphreys, who added, "This should not have occurred."

Humphreys expressed confidence in DEP's investigative prowess, noting "We're thinking of branching out into flooding. The next time the cricks rise, we're gonna be right on the case, reviewing the meterological records. We'll be shooting for a two week turnaround time. If it was rains that caused the floods, we need to know."

Better Living Through Chemistry

Chemical and Engineering News reports in the May 1 issue about a new palmtop device for chemists. The device, called a Labacus, is described as a personal laboratory informatics device for chemists that fits in a pocket but includes all the computational capabilities needed for everyday lab tasks. It has been nearly 16 years since I worked in the lab, but that sounds pretty cool. The device has a database of frequently used chemicals, and so the device could convert my nearly unrecognizable writing and drawings into beautiful chemical reactions, and then synchronize with common desktop tools like Excel or Chem-Draw.

All of this is very nice. But it does put the Labacus into the category of an extravagant oddity, something that might find its way into a couple of well-funded labs, but not something screaming to break into the mainstream. In short, the Labacus has no buzz. Well, that's all about to change. The lab rats here at Scott's Spot have discovered some hidden features in the Labacus that are guaranteed to turn it into the must-have lab device of 2006.

You see, laboratory chemists are already adept at drawing chemical reactions and figuring out how much of each chemical you need to make the product. That's what they do best. But what they don't do well is based on what they are - task oriented introverts who find it hard to deal with people, even other chemists, in a social setting. Which brings us back to the Labacus.

Thinking all the way back to 2005, you'll recall the controversy surrounding the video game "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas." That's the game that had graphic sex scenes that could only be unlocked with software that was made available on the internet. The Labacus has nothing like that, but, when a secret code is entered, the Labacus transforms itself from a lab calculator into a powerful personal relationship coach for the socially challenged male chemist.

Let's see how it works: Suppose the chemist wants to go out with Alexa in the next lab. He gets out his trusty Labacus, enters the password, and gets several strategies to pick from, complete with scripts. Additionally, each strategy comes with built in videos showing how the interactions should go. Here are a few examples of how the Labacus can help:

Before Labacus: Hey, Alexa, the burgers at Sid's are lousy, but I'm going there anyway. Wanna come along?
After Labacus: Hi, Alexa! Let me help you finish cleaning those round bottom flasks, then we can go get a burger at Sid's. They're really great!

Before Labacus: Oooh! What did you do that get that stain on your lab coat? Hey, want to go to a movie tonight?
After Labacus: Hi, Alexa! That's a cool color on your lab coat. Is it from that new reaction you've been working on? Neat! Hey, after you're finished let's go see "The Sentinel." It got some great reviews!

Before Labacus: You want me to go to the concert with you? Man, that's too bad, i just started this reaction so I'm stuck here till midnight. Maybe next time.
After Labacus: I'd love to go to the concert with you. Let me see if I can get Bob to watch the reaction I just started. And if he's not available, screw the reaction, I can always run it tomorrow!

Get the picture? The Labacus is something you need in your lab coat pocket. Put in a purchase order for one today.

Oops, I almost forgot! The secret code is 17b-hydroxy-4-androsten-3-one, which is
the chemical name for testosterone.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

I Do! I Do! I Do! (Repeat 5x)

Just yesterday I wrote about Wook Kundor, age 104, and her 21st husband, Muhamad Noor Che Musa, age 33. Everything I read about this marriage indicated that love, not money, was what brought them together. It's just a bit unusual because of the age difference and the fact that Wook had 20 previous husbands.

But that's yesterday's news. Today, we learn that Kyle McConnell of suburban Detroit, Michigan, has been married as many as 15 times and is currently married to 3 husbands. McConnell apparently has a talent for finding lonely men, marrying them, and stealing their money.

It used to be that people recommended a minimum engagement time, something like 6 months. This enables you to evaluate your potential mate through both good and bad times. I'm OK, with that. But if you suspect that your affianced is a potential polygamist, I'm recommending a minimum number of spouses. I'm thinking 4 is a good number. That way you can be sure that the person is conscientious in properly ending all previous marriages.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Deep Seated Hatred of Wal-Mart

That has to be the sentiment of a 20-year-old Salisbury, MD man, who was found by a Wal-Mart employee in the bathroom Sunday night after he sat down and was glued to the toilet seat.

According to Lt. Cheryl Rantz of the Salisbury Police Department, the man, whose name was not released, was banging on the wall when an employee came in. The man was taken to the hospital late Sunday night, where he was treated and released. "We're awaiting chemical analysis results," said Rantz. "But we're fairly certain that the perpetrator used Sam's Choice Crazy Glue. With Walmart's Always Low PricesTM for that stuff, it's kind of hard not to put it on toilet seats."

The Wal-Mart employee who found the unfortunate man was suspended following rumors that he had neglected to wash his hands following his visit to the bathroom. A company spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said "Good Samaritan or not, our policy is for employees to wash hands before their return to work. It's the Wal-Mart way."

Road Trip To Ocean City, NJ

Don't like Punxsutawney Phil's Groundhog Day prognostications? Well, fair weather fans, take courage, for tomorrow we turn to Martin Z. Mollusk for our next forecast event…

May 4 is Martin Z. Mollusk Day in Ocean City, New Jersey. Martin is a hermit crab, and if he sees his shadow, summer will be a week early. May 4 is also National Homebrew Day, which will prevent the revelers from discovering that hermit crabs are not, in fact, mollusks.

From the Press of Atlantic City website...

Will the mollusk see his shadow?

Martin Z. Mollusk Day is set for 11 a.m. Thursday at the Moorlyn Terrace Beach. The Ocean City High School Band will play Pomp and Circumstance" as Martin is carried to the beach by Elvis performer Ted Prior. The group will include Suzanne Muldowney as Shelly, the Mermaid; Trash Buster, The Canned Crusader, the City's environmental symbol; Cool Joe Canine, the City's Ambassador of Woof Woof and other assorted characters.

For 31 years Martin has crept out onto the Moorlyn Terrace sands and attempted to see his shadow. If he does, summer comes one week early to Ocean City much to the delight of the business community, town folk and visitors. If he doesn't see his shadow, no big deal, it comes on time.

The crab will be met on the sands by Big Mama Llama of Bready Farms in Tuckahoe, the animal that authenticates Martin's creep. If Big Mama Llama shakes her head, it means that Martin has seen his shadow. This year's event will be dedicated to Mayor Bud Knight, who is retiring after many years. Knight will receive the first annual Martin Z. Mollusk Humanitarian Award for putting up with the event. Call 525-9300.

UPDATE: Martin Z. Mollusk did indeed see his shadow May 4. Read all about it here.

John Daly - The Odds Aren't in His Favor

Golfer John Daly has a problem. He says that he has lost between $50 million and $60 million over the last 12 years. He says that this gambling problem could “flat-out ruin me” if he doesn’t bring it under control.

Daly’s gambling problems are noted, according to a Sports Illustrated article, in the final chapter of his upcoming autobiography, John Daly: My Life In and Out of the Rough. In one of his gambling episodes, Daly writes how he lost in a playoff to Tiger Woods last fall, but still earned $750,000. He then headed to Las Vegas and lost $600,000 within 30 minutes. He then took out another $600,000 line of credit and lost that in two hours.

I’m glad for John Daly that he says he has a problem. Really I am, despite the fact that I have trouble generating sympathy for someone who is apparently able to support a gambling habit that has resulted in his losing, over a 12 year period, an amount exceeding 20 times what I expect to earn in my entire life.

I’m less optimistic that he really believes it, though. Evidence: His plan for treating his addiction: He plans to start at the $25 slots in the casinos and set a “walkout loss number.” “If I make a little bit, then maybe I move up to the $100 slots or the $500 slots, or maybe I take it to the blackjack table. It’s their money. Why not give it a shot, try to double it? And if I make a lot, I can…Well, that’s my plan”

It’s like an alcoholic getting his problem under control by cutting back to one six-pack a day, and if he didn’t have any problem with that, moving up to a fifth of tequila. And if he can handle that, upping it to two fifths sounds great!

I polled the staff at Scott’s Spot on the chances for the success of Daly’s gambling management plan. The average of all responses is represented on the gauge at the right.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Something Old, Something New, If This One Fails, She'll Try Number 22

OK, here goes. The something old is really someone old. That would be Wook Kundor, age 104. She's a cradle robber and the new wife of Muhamad Noor Che Musa, who, at age 33, is a comparative something new.

According to an Associated Press article, this is Muhamad's first marriage. As for Wook, well, this is husband #21. That's right - it appears that Muhamad has landed the most maritally experienced woman in all of Malaysia, if not the world! Although Malaysian Muslim men are permitted to take up to four wives at a time, reports of women who marry more than once are rare, and Muslim women do not practice polygamy. Thus, Wook has been divorced or predeceased by 20 previous husbands.

As for what they plan to do with their time, Muhamad said he hoped to help his new bride master Roman script while she taught him Islamic religious knowledge.

OK, I'm all for Platonic love, but I'm thinking that one of these two stricken lovebirds should know better. I just don't know which one.