Friday, February 23, 2007

Revenge of the giant sinkhole

A giant sinkhole in Guatemala has swallowedseveral houses and a truck since yesterday. Three people are missing, presumed to be among the things swallowed when the houses and truck went under. The sinkhole is 330 feet deep and so I assume that the odds of surviving such a fall, even in a tough pickup are miniscule.

This is one of those dangeers that you don't give a lot of thought to. I have never gone to bed fearing that overnight my house would fall 330 feet into a sinkhole which was not there yesterday. Of course , I don't live in Guatemala. For all I know, giant sinkholes are a constant danger down there. Roaming the country and snatching cars and houses on a regular basis. As always, the governmental department that is responsible for the sinkhole prevention and rescue did not inspire much confidence. Eddie Sanchez , the director of Guatemala's Institute of Seismology,Vulcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology has been closely questioned. That department sounds like it may be spread a little thin. That's a lot of area to cover. It would be four seperate departments in the United States. As we know, it would be five in Canada because they also have a seperate "Ice" department up there.

The sinkhole is a movie of the week in the making. Maria Rivas said she was in her house and she heard booming and felt the earth shaking. Then she saw homes collapse. Quick as a bunny Guatemalan police were on the scene with megaphones urging people to stay in their homes. Sounds to me like at least three heeded those warnings and are probably 330 feet under right now because of them.

1,000 homes were later evacuated and the people taken to shelters and police stations. Sewage smells are coming from the sinkhole, leading people to suspect that the culprit was a leaky sewer pipe.I don't know if sinkholes work like earthquakes are not. I don't know if there is damger of an "afterhole"that would work like an after shock.But if I was a Guatemalan I would not take any chances. Deaths come and go, but it is a bad death that is caused by being swallowed by a 330 foot hole and thrown down to the bottom to land on raw sewage.And because of the inherent instability (and probably the smell) of sink holes, there have been no rescue attempts for those who were swallowed.

How big and deep the sink hole will get is anyone's guess.I don'y know how you fix a sinkhole that big. I see small ones in the street sometimes that get asphalted over, but this one would take a lot of asphalt. I suppose that the thing could grow for months and eventually swallow all of Guatemala, and ultimately, all of Central America.Leaving only a giant hole with the smell of sewage wafting in the sea breezes, growing deeper and deeper and deeper.Ah well, no underground sewage lines around your house I'm sure. Sleep well tonight.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Dreams and Schemes and Circus Clowns

One of the best lawyers in Texas, John O'Quinn is somehow representing Anna Nicole Smith's mother in the body possessioncase down in Florida. His giddiness in doing so, and to getting to talk with the flaky reporters following the trial, seemed to get the best of him last night in an interview. He said that he believed that Anna's mother is right about Howard Stern (why wouldn't he change his name?) and even went so far as to use the term "murder". Even the idiot reporter (who never tires of reminding us she is a lawyer, no Gretta, I'm a lawyer, you are a rich former lawyer who demeans the legal profession by chasing after stories about inconsequential media whores) was taken aback by the boldness of John O'Quinn's statement.

As of yesterday, participants in the hearing were declaring the hearing a circus (any hearing with 19 lawyers is at least a carnival) and this was upsetting the Ring Master himself, the honorable Seidlien. This former New York cabbie has managed to drag down the dignity of even the Florida Judicial system. One would have thought that that was impossible after their handling of the 2000 election case.Seidlien did not like the c word, no Judge would. He must have liked it even less when reporters who ought to be out covering rehab centers, and not courtrooms were openly calling him incompetent. His best action of the day was putting on a phone call from some guy over in the morgue who said that he could not vouch for the beauty of the deceased in any viewing if the case did not quickly get decided. Gee, she's going open casket ?

Meanwhile, in a real circus in Columbia yesterday, two men walked out of the audience and gunned down two performing clowns. Circa del Soleil de Cali, which the news says attracts very poor customers, and damn few of those, has finally provided an answer to all of those guys who have always uttered "somebody ought to shoot that clown". The circus and the police were quick to note that the double murder had nothing to do with the clowns' performance. Would not want to hurt tomorrow's gate. Let's see, two disguised guys who travel around rural Columbia and Venezuela with a bunch of circus vagrants are gunned down while performing. Hmmm, you think the motive had anything to do with DRUGS ?

So the question of where the bigger circus and the funnier clowns are is easy to answer. Florida courtrooms are a lot funnier. maybe because the famous Ringling Brothers Clown College is in Sarasota, we have some Judges and lawyers down there who have picked up a few tricks. Plus, for all I know, the Columbian circus is fresh out of clowns. Don't know how many they had to begin with. Doubt seriously that any other clowns they had would hang around. Quite a dangerous job. Ever bit as dangerous as hanging out with Howard Stern, he's got two bodies on his watch too, Anna and her boy. No shooting was involved, but our deceased are just as dead as the Columbian clowns. Reminds me of the old Sondheim song

"Isn't it rich ?
Are we a pair ?
You at last on the ground
and me in the air
where are the clowns ?
Send in the clowns.

Don't you love farce,
My fault I fear
I thought that you'd want what I want
sorry my dear
where are the clowns ?
send in the clowns.
Don't bother they're here !

Boy, are they ever.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The bald and the dead

I was late getting back to the office from a deposition and there was no one to eat with. I walked across the street to eat a sandwich at a bar and got to watch almost half of hour of a Florida Court proceeding about Anna Nicole Smith. I thought maybe it was a custody hearing, maybe the dna was back, but no, it was a fight over who gets the body to bury her. I can't figure any of this out. I have never understood burial, much less a fight over the rights to bury someone. I really don't think Anna will care if she ends up in Texas or California or the Bahammas. The view is the same from inside of the box no matter where you are buried. I am going the cremation route, ashes scattered, blowing in the wind for all eternity as my father in law once said. There will be no fight over my body. at least not a fight to get the body. Maybe a fight to get out of having to deal with the body. I can see my wife and daughter urging a hands off approach. Once I'm carted off it will be "out of sight, out of mind". Just stick him in an incinerator for us and wait for the next brisk north wind. No muss, no fuss. And I don't blame them at all. I don't think that they ought to have to deal with the corpse. I'm not that much fun when I'm alive. I imagine that the big sleep will make me less attractive in most respects.

Then the other TV set in the bar reported that Brittney Spears, last seen yesterday checking into a rehab center had just checked out of a rehab center. This is twice that she has gone in for overnight stays. Maybe she is getting shock therapy. I think you can do that in a day. But if you were going to check in, why do it on fat Tuesday ? That's a good day to drink. Today is ash Wednesday, the perfect day to check in. When was the last time you saw a bar run a two for one ash Wednesday special ? No one is partying today. I bet even that Hilton girl is going to stay home and make more sex tapes instead of making the rounds tonight. How quickly times change. If six weeks ago some fan magazine had told you that by February Anna Nicole would be dead and Brittney would be bald, you'd have canceled your subscription.

BY the way, in just six weeks Jennifer Aniston will be pregnant with triplets and sporting a goatee. Count on it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The high cost of living

Five people and a dog were rescued from Mt Hood in Oregon after trying to climb Oregon's highest mountain in the dead of winter. It serves as a reminder that there are so many small things that we could do to cut down the mortality rate. As a nation, we tend to get excited over dramatic mountain rescues. Well the easiest way (and the cheapest way) to save five people and their dog from freezing on a mountain is to tell them not to climb it, at least this time of year.

It is the same with disease. We spend millions trrying to fight aids and cancer, when many more people die of matters caused by or contributed to by obesity. Obesity is tough to fight, but it's easier to beat than cancer. No chemotherapy or radiation. You just exercise more and eat less.

The war has cost the United States over 3,000 lives. Each a tragedy and each, in this case, preventable. But where are we on the 50,000 traffic accidents every year ? 17 times the amount of Americans who have died in the entire Iraq war. This misplacement of priorities hit me once when I was defending some manufacturing concern who put some additive in some solution that somehow got into the air. It was a bad thing. A really bad thing. As I recall, from a medical standpoint, it added almost a full death per million to the morbity rolls (if you believe the actuarials). That's bad. But you know what ? We lose more people a year to peanut butter than that every year.. As I recall, water also caused greater morbitity. That's drinking it, not drowning in it (drowning is about 11 per million in this country which is an epidemic compared to some of the poisons in the atmosphere). More people die of heat related incidents, i.e., no air conditioning, each year than died in Hurricane Katrina. That strikes me as something that we can do something about. The fact of the matter is that all lives are priceless. The old woman who dies of a heat related illness has a life every bit as valuable as the young man who dies of aids. Yet the government may be contributing thousands of dollars toward his drugs each year. They could have saved the old lady for under $300, with a window unit.

I am not advocating that we stop research on cancer or other diseases (in fact we should increase funding for those age 54 and over) nor do I think that we should stop rescuing people and their dogs off of mountains. No matter how stupid they were to climb it. I just think that we need to wake up to things we can do almost immediatly, to save human lives, and focus our funding on where we can save the most. I'd start with cars. Anyone every designed a rubber car that would bounce and not crash in a collision ? Well, why the hell not ?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Where's the Damn Remote ?

Sometimes there are stories with just too many metaphors to choose from. Such is the case of the late Mr Vincenzo Ricardo of Hampton Bay, Long Island who was found fead this weekend, after over a year of sitting in front of his blaring television set. Ricardo had not been seen by his neighbors since 2005, so no one is quite sure how long he sat in front of the set. Not reported by the Daily News, Newsday or the Associated Press is exactly which channel Ricardo was tuned into when he ceased broadcasting himself, some time ago.

The bod was reported as mumified from the dry air in the house. The Long Island Power Authority apparently was keeping the old A.C. humming for all of this time. There is some speculation that he paid his bill by automatic withdrawal. The morgue assistant handling the job reported the body fairly well intact. You could still see his face and hair reported Jeff Bachus.Indeed, Mr Ricardo (no relation to the Ricky and Lucy) would be watching "Live with Regis and Kelly" this very minute if some neighborhood pipes had not burst, forcing an investigation. Apparently the mail had not piled up.

Next door neighbor Tony DaSilva was incensed. "Where's his family ? " DaSilva demanded ? Well, his wife was dead, we know that. "I can't believe that no one was around for him" DaSilva added.
This is what they refer to in creative writing classes as irony. Here is the God Damned next door neighbor who has not seen an old man (who also was blind) since 2005 and he is upset that "no one was around" ? Define "around". Surely "around" includes "next door". If I was Tony DaSilva I would not be popping off to the press. I would be doing my best mummy immitation in front of my TV set, in hopes that some reporter did not ask me why I had not checked on my old blind next door neighbor since 2005."It's a sad way to go, to be alone." neighbor of the year DaSilva also said. Well Tony, it's a sad way to live. maybe you'll check on your next neighbor every year or so.

Now that the sanctimonious part of my essay is out of the way, we can concentrate on the television issue itself. Can you imagine any man having to sit in front of a T.V. set for over a year and being unable to switch channels? It would be my luck that the power off button would be hit for me at the same time I was surfing past one of those damn Community Access Channels. Think about that. It also strikes me that no one could ever buy a house where someone had died in this manner. The Poltergeist would be flitting around for all eternity, constantly changing your channels. You'd never get any sleep. You'd never get to watch what you wanted to watch. Just imagine if the poltergeist was a fan of VH-1 and you had to watch that rap guy with the giant clocks hanging around his neck. There's a guy that needs to be mummified. As soon as possible.

I think that finally, we do have to consider the possibility that television itself killed Mr Ricardo. I can't even type that name without saying to myself, " Honey, I'm going down to the club". See what I mean? Does a day ever go by where you don't say, "this is just like that Seinfeld where...."?
Even though Ricardo sat in front of his TV for over a year, he did not see all that much more television than the regular family. I bet that in many home the TV is on, in one room or another, 16 or 18 hours a day. I imagine that death in front of a TV set is a fairly normal way to go in this country. Most people don't have Ricardo's problem because someone else at the house will eventually want to change the channel and notice that it is hard to pry the remote away.

I guess there is no hard evidence that television kills. Life expectancy post television is much higher than pre television. It grows more painful to watch every year, but mortality rates have not gone up because of the extra pain. In fact, the worse it gets, the more we seem to watch. All of us out there, from 7:00 p.m. until at least after Letterman reads the top ten list. Mummified ourselves, except for our right hands which point and click, point and click, poin t click......point and......

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Shaving my head

Pop Star turned psychotic Britney Spears is reported to have flown from Florida to California to have her head shaved by a Tarzana hair stylist. CNN television reported this as a "cry for help" from the former Mouseketeer, who has recently stopped hanging out with Paris Hilton and taken up wearing underwear again. Following the hair shaving incident, Spears is reported to have been tatooed.The most intriguing part of the story is that just prior to this dramatic flight (in which she flew coach) Spears is reported to have checked in and then checked out of a rehabilitation center. Sounds like her initial thought was probably the best one. Rehab Centers are not that great, but most of them let you keep your hair.

Spears career has been sliding for awhile. She married some alleged rap guy that I never heard of and then got in trouble for driving a car around with one of her kids in her lap.
When it looked like people were going to stop paying attention to her, she started drinking with Paris Hilton so she could be assured of getting her picture taken. When even the bottomless posing she was doing for photographers was not helping her career, she hit on this self mutilation idea. Ironically, the guy she was married to has made a lot of money recently by cashing in on the fact that he got dumped. His career appears to be on the upswing and he is probably getting all kinds of congratulatory calls from people who realize that he got out while the getting was good. That is before Britney started auditioning for a revival of "The King & I".

It is a terrible thing to say, but does anyone not believe that this will have a bad ending ? I mean it has got Anna Nicloe written all over it. Shaving your head is just about the last thing you can do after divorce, rehab and pantylessness. Someone needs to grab those kids and get them to someone more stable, like her ex. God, he is married to the only woman in the United States that he could beat in a custody battle. At his point, you'd set those kids up at Neverland Ranch before you turned them back to Lex Luther. At least the'd get some decent care from that Chimp who lives with the Moonwalking Pedophile.

On a personal note, I was sorry to see that shaved heads are now being used as manifestations of mental instability. If mine flairs up, I dread shaving my head. My head seems to come to a point in the middle of the cranium. This made it difficult for me to compete in eraser tag while in school. I don't want to look any stranger than I already do. I think I am just going to go straight to the tatoo.

Friday, February 16, 2007

New Dollar Coin a Clinker

America's paper of record, the New York Daily News, tried out the new dollar coins yeterday in the city. They met with almost universal condemnation, at least from men.Why the Daily News chose to weight their survey towards men is unknown. Women spend money too, and in my experience,spend a lot more change than men. That's because men don't carry purses, and within the purses, coin purses.John Connors of New York, occupation unknown, put it best for the male sex. "These things are too heavy. I don't want to have big baggy pants, looking like sacks." He's right about that. There was a time when men carried a lot of things in their pockets. Watches, knives, coins, and even bills. Now days no one wants anything in their pockets. Least of all coins. The odds of men going back to wearing big old pants like Fred Mertz did in " I Love Lucy" are very slim.I remember the feeling of trying to run somewhere with coins banging into my thighs.I can't imagine having four or five of these things sloshing around down there.

Glen Johnson (admitedly from the Bronx) said that the size of the new dollar is too near that of a quarter and would be conusing. He also felt that the coins would wear holes in your pocket.Connors had worried about the quarter/dollar issue too. However, his big concern was that after he had been drinking for awhile, he'd start really confusing the two coins. I don't see that that is such a big deal. The bar tender will be able to tell the difference when he takes payment.

Some of these men are like me. They get rid of all their change at the end of the day.This leads to an imnportant question. What the hell is happening to all of that change ? I bet that millions of men in America discard hundreds of dollars in change on their dresser or in a jar or bottle each year. Then they never see it again. The only place it can be going is into women's coin purses. Thus, there is a secret, underground economy worth (and I am being very conservative here) half a billion to a billion dollars controled by these women. What will happen with the dollar coin. will men discard this change also, meaning that the underground economy will grow and grow ? Or, will more dollar coins cause men to change their habits, buy those big old pants with floppy pockets, and put an end to this invisible economy which has been perpetuated by the wives and daughters of the men in this county who prefer slimmer pockets to money ? Only time will tell.But I found it very odd that no women were quoted in the Daily News story. Are they laying low on this issue to try to figure out how it will efffect their secret income sources ? You know what, America has tried the dollar coin twice and it has failed twice. Hmmmm, what does that tell you ?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A diller a dollar

In two unrelated items today, the dollar bill (and all the other denominations) are about to get a makeover. The Treasury Department announced that we will all be soon getting dollar coins in our change. This, despite the fact that the country has tried on at least two occasions to introduce dollar coins, only to have them end up in mint storage somewhere gathering dust. Dollar coins are popular in other countries, probably because when they were issued the governments of those countries withdrew their paper dollars from circulation.

This time it will work though, the Mint has decided to honor each dead President with his own dollar. They are doing this,of course, in hopes of people collecting the dollars between now and 2016, like we have the quarters (I still don't have South Dakota). Unlike a quarter, you can still buy some things with a dollar, if you have a few pennies for tax. I forsee children all over the country pilfering James Monroes and Grover Clevelands from the parent's collection whenever the money is needed. After a couple of years, the temptation will become too much to stand, as the dollars accumulate.And the dollars won't be so easy for the kid to sneak back in to replace.I can hear the parents now. "Hey, why are there three John Quincy Adams dollars here, what happened to Harrison & Tyler ?"

The main reason that dollar coins are no good is that they set off metal detectors in airports and jingle around in your pocket. All these new dollar coins will do is cause every damn vending machine in the country to switch to dollar minimum purchases. The same is true for the parking meters. No more ten cents for six minutes. It's a dollar for and hour or nothing, and no change pal. This is the same thing that has happened to popcorn and hamburgers over the last thirty years. You buy this monster burger or this giant tub of popcorn for five dollars or you get nothing. There is no such thing as a small.You may not eat it (and if you do you will get fat) but that's the only way sell things.

The unrelated item is a ruling by a Federal District Court that paper money is unfair to the blind. Jeez, how long did it take for us to figure that out ? So finally, a court has ordered that the Treasury Department make bills in such a way as to allow the blind to differntiate between denominations. They have thirty days to begin working on a plan (or appeal, but no President is going to lose every blind vote in the country by appealing). The Judge left the field wide open as to how to differentiate. I suppose that it can be different sizes (like coins) or raised printing of some kind on the bill. They could give each bill its own fragrance, I think that would be cool, or have the bills tell you their denomination, using the same technology as the talking urinal cakes that I wrote about last weekend."Hi, I'm Abe Lincoln and I'm a five dollar bill."What will probably happen is that the government will sell "branding rights" to each denomination. Can you imagine ? For a billion dollars, Exxon gets to put a tiny raised tiger on a ten dollar bill for a year. It may not seem like much, but these bills stay in circulation for a long time. And they will know that everyone who sees the ad is a consumer. Hell, that's why they have got the bill in the first place, to consume.

I see nothjing but good times ahead for the Treasury Department, and for all citizens. I am already looking for a new big mat with dollar holes in it so that I can start collecting my Presidents.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Chimp and the hammer

A controversial study out of Calgary has found that chimps may have used rocks the size of cantaloupes to crack nuts over 4,300 years ago. Now I'm not going to say that Canadians need to find better things to do, but as far as controversy is concerned, I'm somewhat surprised that this one makes for much of a debate.

I don't know just how smart humans were 4,000 years ago, but I do know that they could crack nuts with a rock. I see no reason why chimps would not be able to do the same thing. The study says that the first recorded used of chimps using rocks to open nuts was made in the 1600s by the Portugese. That proves nothing except that no Europeans were spending time around chimps until the 17th century. And if we are relying on the Portuguese to make this kind of finding, we are lucky we found out about it that soon. While Portugal is a fine country (in other words, no Denmark) they don't exactly come to mind when we are talking about the first class anthropologists of Europe. I read an article last week that said that two new Indian tribes were just discovered in Brazil this year.The Portugese (and their descedents) have been in Brazil since the 1500s. It took them 500 years to discover these Indians ? They were not looking too damn hard.And these Indians were right out in the open. Not up in trees banging rocks on nuts.

But the interesting thing will to see what other new Chimp findings will come out of this area of Africa. Will we find that there is evidence that chimps wore tuxedos and smoked cigars (like they do in America) 4,000 years ago ? That would be a real find !Did the chimps take the nuts they cracked and prepare them in an interesting way ? Perhaps as a salad ? Did they invent other nut cracking methods ? My mother always broke pecan shells by cracking two pecans together in her hand. Did the chimps know about that methid ? Did they invent a rudimentary metal nut cracker ? Or maybe one of those big German soldier nutcrackers that you see out every Christmas ?Did they use their teeth ? Did they copy the Portugese method of nut cracking, as used in both Africa and the new world. That is, kidnap tribesman, chain them up in a ship, and enslave them on a rubber planatation and make them do the nut cracking for you ? Or perhaps use the American method. By the damn things pre shelled.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Build a better urinal cake

I was happy to see that urinal Cakes out west are now being made to talk. It gets awfully lonely at a urinal some times and would be a pleasure to talk to anyone, even a urinal cake. These particular urinal cakes mostly ask you how much you have been drinking and if you are any condition to drive. So the urinal cake does not so much converse with you, as scold you. Like you have not gotten enough of that from your wife already. That is probably why you came into the bathroom in the first place. And here is a urinal cake, starting it up all over again.

But the fact that the talking urinal cakes are being misused does not mean that this is not an exciting new invention. Urianl cakes could be made to give you the news, perhaps your horoscope, even administer trivia quizes. I was informed by a Wikipedia Article I just read on Urinal Cakes (proving once and for all that ANYTHING you need to know about is on Wikipedia)that they only last about 45 days. My guess is that their staying power is inversely proportionate to urinal use. Thus certain urinal cakes in any given set of four urinals will last longer than others. Males will know what I mean. Any man approaching a set of four urinals, assuming that no one else is using one, will use the third urinal from the left. Every time.

The fact of the matter is though that you don't see as many urinal cakes as you used to. They were on the way out, at least until this invention of "talkies". Now they will be everywhere again, sanitizing and deoderizing like there is no tomorrow, and chatting us up while they do it !

There is of course, one problem. I don't know about all men, but as for me, and most men that I know, urinating on a talking object seems beyond the pale. I mean really.You are trying to have a nice conversation with the cake, and you start feeling guilty. This, of course will be harmful to the urinary function in and of itself. The talking urinal cake will be working against its very reason for existence, to make urination a more pleasant experience. For this reason, I predict failure for the talking urinal cakes. What we need to do is to teach those automatic hand dryers how to talk.Now that is something with a pesonality !

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A long time between drinks

Records here show that I have not published anything since the end of January. I have had plenty to say, and hoped to write many amusing columns over the last three weeks. As usual though, my ignorance of technology and stubborness in bending to the rules has left me out in the cold.

Sometime the last week in January I had my computer "cleaned" witrh some kind of program that apparently wipes out all the bad stuff on your computer which glums onto your hard drive while you are reviewing pornography or other evil sites. The program worked well, and it mader my computer perform much more quickly. But like all beneficial drugs, it had a side effect. I always punch the little thing on any web site which allows the site to let me in without using my password. I hate passwords. Either the one I want is taken or there is some odd combination of numbers and letters I have to use, or something that makes it impossible to recall a password. Some of my friends have a book of passwords. Do you see the irony here ? You have to have a written notebook in order to use your computer. So I just don't try to recall any passwords. And when the cleaning program wiped out whichever "cookie" it is that allowed me to get onto a site without my password, well then, I am just "shit out of luck" as we used to say back in college.

I have been trying for three weeks to get on my blog, but there is some replacement blog for my old blog that required an update. That update required that I know my user name and password.I knew neither. There was a deal that said if I had forgotten either they would send it to me. They did not.I tried to reenter the blogosphere on half a dozen occasions, only to be rebuffed in my efforts. Finally today, I did something different (I guess) and I finally was sent my old user name (which turned out to be my name without a space between the first and second names). That allowed me to have a new password ,which means that I will be able to blog on this site until I clean my hard drive again.

So I am back in the Blogger busines for awhile. I'm sorry that I missed the crazy woman astronaut and the death of Anna Nicole, two stories that rival any International incidents which have taken place since the last World War. But this is America. As we used to say in college, "more crazy shit is just around the corner".