Halloween 2007

It is almost six and thanks to the powers that be it is still light out so I haven't had to hand out any candy yet. The kids are off to a nearby carnival where alongside of seven million other children they'll run wild. They'll be back in an hour or so and it'll be time for me to play dad and patrol the neighborhood as they go in search of treasure of the milk chocolate sort.

In the interim the Boss is playing on iTunes and I am here sharing a few thoughts with you. Been a little short of my blogging mojo as of late. That last sentence was backwards, awkwardly constructed. Awkward construction is fine if you are Jedi named Yoda, but I am not. About the only thing we share in common is a love for The Force, but I digress.

I have been mulling over what to say in this Halloween post. Played around with just providing links to some of my old posts. That last link ties into a bunch of themes that I think are important so I am going to cut and paste a little.

Right now the world is a scary place, not that it is not always scary but there are degrees of fear. At the moment it feels like we are in a particularly strange place with a more tenuous grip on things than normal. So here we go into cut and paste mode with two excerpts from a sermon Rabbi Ed Feinstein gave:
"I take my kids trick-or-treating on Halloween. The truth is that you don't find many rabbis out on Halloween. Many of my congregants are surprised, even upset, to find their rabbi and his kids in costume celebrating a holiday that has definite Christian and pagan origins. And my kids certainly don't need any more candy in their daily diet. But something remarkable happens on Halloween, something I want my kids to see: On Halloween, we open our homes to one another. On Halloween, we come out from behind solid-core doors and dead-bolts locks and electronic burglar alarms. The doorbell is met, not with a gruff "Whose there?" and a suspicious eye in the peep-hole, but with a smile and sweets. On Halloween, and only on Halloween, we pretend we are a neighborhood again...families from disparate background who share common civic values, making life together in a common space. If only once a year, I want my kids to see what it's like when fear subsides, and people trust one another enough to open their doors."
and
"The most destructive disease in America, wrote the New Republic magazine some years ago, is not AIDS, but "AFRAIDS" -- the pervasive fear of violence that steals away our freedom, our sense of community, our trust. What happens to a city when everyone is afraid of everyone else? What happens to us -- to our souls -- to our children, when fear of violence is constant and pervasive? Bombarded by a daily litany of baby-snatching, berserk gunmen, child molesters, drive-by shootings, school shootings, police shootings, what happens to us? what happens to our children?"
Every now and then it is good for the children to see a neighborhood where people open their doors with a smile and a warm greeting. I work hard to teach my children to be menschen, to be productive members of society. I strive to make sure that they stay safe, that they understand that not all people or good or nice.

It pains me to do that. I don't like placing fear in their hearts, but at the same time it would be irresponsible not to do so. They need to understand that there are some monsters in the world.

Earlier this week something frightened my daughter and she began to cry. I heard her older brother try to console her. For a moment I sat in the other room and listened to them talk. I was curious to see if they would work it out together. As I sat there I heard my son tell her not to worry because if necessary "abba would kill it." "It" turned out to be a shadow but my presence in the room and a quick hug was enough to calm my daughter.

It appears that for a little bit longer I still serve as the final word on monsters. But the thing that really made me happy was a conversation I had with my son the next day. After we finished working on his homework he told me that I shouldn't worry about his sister because if ever I am not there he will be. The smile on my face told him how pleased I was with him, even as I reminded him that I would always be there to help.

It is a white lie and when they get a bit older I'll have to come clean about it, but for now let them feel that sense of peace and security that dad is around to help. The day will come all too soon when they the world through different eyes.

For now I'll have to leave you with that. I hear footsteps approaching. Time to go feed some ghosts and goblins. Happy Halloween to all.

One More Reason Why The MSM Is Failing

I used to get irritated listening to the many critics of the MSM rail on about how bad it was. Mostly it was because I didn't buy into many of their complaints. Truth is I still don't. Call me a snob but I am unimpressed with the logic and critical reasoning that is displayed by many.

But I have noticed in recent times that I have become increasingly frustrated with the MSM. My blog friend The Misanthrope has rightly suggested that I express my concerns in a letter writing campaign. In some cases I have, but due to anonymity concerns I haven't made those letters public here.

Today I find myself shaking my head again at the fine MSM and their fawning coverage over one Andrew Meyer, the Taser boy. In a society that lives and breathes news about Lindsey Lohan, Paris Hilton and who Britney Spears is sleeping with it really should be surprising. Still, I find myself wondering why the Today show has provided him with his own bully pulpit.

He makes all sorts of statements and accusations about politics, politicians and his view of the world. I don't have a problem with that. I do the very same thing here. But what I want to know is what makes his POV so newsworthy, or at least deserving of so much time and space.

According to at least one recent study the media is failing to present balanced coverage of the presidential election. It has become clear to me that bloggers are going to be the people to fill in the gaps. We can find and provide information in a much timelier fashion than the MSM can.

This is not to say that the MSM doesn't have some very fine journalists among its ranks. There are many. But the blogosphere has made it much easier to point out the shortcomings and inadequacies. In short, the playing field is being leveled.

Hitler's Gas Problem

Drexel University's publication The Smart Set is running a story today that says that Hitler had a major problem with flatulence. It is too bad that this wasn't a terminal disease.

"Guests at the Berghof, Hitler’s private chalet in the Bavarian Alps, must have endured some unpleasant odors in the otherwise healthful mountain air.

It may sound like a Woody Allen scenario, but medical historians are unanimous that Adolf was the victim of uncontrollable flatulence. Spasmodic stomach cramps, constipation and diarrhea, possibly the result of nervous tension, had been Hitler’s curse since childhood and only grew more severe as he aged. As a stressed-out dictator, the agonizing digestive attacks would occur after most meals: Albert Speer recalled that the Führer, ashen-faced, would leap up from the dinner table and disappear to his room.

This was an embarrassing problem for a ruthless leader of the Third Reich. With uncharacteristic concern for his fellow human beings, Hitler had first tried to cure himself when he was a rising politician in 1929 by poring over medical manuals, coming to the conclusion that a largely veg diet would calm his turbulent digestion as well as make his farts less offensive to the nose. A rabid hypochondriac, he would also examine his own feces on a regular basis and administer himself camomile enemas. Hitler decided to swear off meat completely in 1931, when his niece (and presumed romantic interest) Geli Raubel committed suicide: When presented with a plate of breakfast ham the next morning, he pushed it away muttering, “It’s like eating a corpse.” From that squeamish moment on, great piles of vegetables, raw or pulped into a baby mulch, were Hitler’s daily staple. (All cooked foods, he decided, were carcinogenic). He showed a particular fondness, culinary historians assure us, for oatmeal with linseed oil, cauliflower, cottage cheese, boiled apples, artichoke hearts and asparagus tips in white sauce. Strangely, Hitler was unfazed by the fact that this high-fiber diet was having the opposite effect on his digestion than what he had intended: His private physician, Dr. Theo Morell, recorded in his diary that after Hitler downed a typical vegetable platter, “constipation and colossal flatulence occurred on a scale I have seldom encountered before.”

For the full story please click here.

Urban Legend Come to Life

Stories like this usually fall under the urban legend category. Anyway you slice it, necrophilia is disgusting but since Halloween is just around the corner I'll share this story with you.
TEANECK -- A part-time lab technician at Holy Name Hospital was caught having sex with the body of a 92-year-old woman in the hospital's morgue, authorities said Monday.

Authorities said Anthony Merino, 24, of West 185th Street in Manhattan was working a shift as a histology lab technician on Sunday morning when he asked a security guard for access to a refrigerated area adjacent to the morgue where human tissue samples are stored. The guard complied and then wandered away for several minutes, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said."When he came back, he observed Mr. Merino violating the deceased victim" on a gurney, Molinelli said. "He immediately notified Teaneck police."

Merino was arrested at the hospital later Sunday morning. He was charged with sexual penetration upon deceased human remains, a second-degree crime that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Recognizing Opportunity

My friend Robert Avrech wrote a scathing response to an opinion piece that Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky wrote for The Jewish Journal. It is called Kanefsky: Rabbi to Fatah and it is the inspiration if you will for this post.

I disagree with Kanefsky for a variety of reasons, but I don't want that to be the focus of this post. This ties in far better with a conversation that I have had with my son and business partners.

It is about recognizing opportunity. Each day we have the chance to do something with our lives. At just short of seven I try to make it an easy lesson. I talk about trying to take advantage of the chance to learn something in school. To quote him "He get's it."

As Robert points out pieces like Kanefsky are swallowed whole and regurgitated for propaganda purposes by terrorists. They see an opportunity to use Kanefsky's words against Israel. I too see an opportunity. In this case we can use Kanefsky's piece as a tool for education. We can and should take the time to deconstruct it and point out the flaws.

It is part of the beauty of blogging. In past years the general public's ability to try and push a message to the masses was quite limited. But those days are past. Now we can respond. Now we can use our blogs as a platform to present our message and to correct inaccuracies that are presented as fact.

It is just a matter of recognizing the opportunity.

J Geils- Centerfold

A trip down memory lane. Nah, nah, nah, nah...

Who You Gonna Call

Five Easy Ways To Improve Your Resume

CareerBuilder offers five ways to improve your resume. Items one and three are what strike me as being among the most obvious and most important.
1. Spell check... the old-fashioned way.

3. Simplify your language.
I can only speak for myself but I am consistently surprised to see terrible, egregious spelling mistakes on important documents. Screw up on a resume and kiss the opportunity goodbye.

Item number three is something that strikes me too. If you have a minimal command of the language you can make simple tasks appear to be very complex. That is fine if you are trying to fill a bluebook, but it is a hurdle for getting a job.

People don't want to waste time trying to figure out what you did. They are far too busy. You'll be more successful in your search if you make it easier to understand what your responsibilities and accomplishments are/were.

Dodgers May Sign Joe Torre

I have been hearing all sorts of rumors about this. I'd sure like to see it happen.
Joe Torre might not be out of work for very long.

The Los Angeles Dodgers want to buy out current manager Grady Little and hire Torre, the New York Post reported Monday.

Torre, who turned down a one-year, incentive-laden contract offer from the New York Yankees, is interested if the Dodgers job does open, the newspaper reported.
And if they wanted to sign A-Rod I wouldn't complain about that either.

If Your Clothes Could Speak

I enjoyed Shalom Auslander's piece in the New York Times magazine. There were a couple of sections that made me chuckle so I'll share them with you. BTW, it is worth reading the whole column.
"My feeling has always been that if you need your clothing to speak for you, it might be best for everyone if you said nothing at all. Unfortunately, you can’t tell a suit to shut the hell up, which is what I want to tell the suit I am wearing.

It’s not Tommy’s fault. Let’s not get angry with Tommy. If you’ve seen certain young men walking around of late looking as if they tried to launder their suits at home and accidentally left them in the dryer for a few cycles too many — cuffs ending midforearm, pants ending midshin — then the person you want to blame is named Thom Browne. Not only did he start this trend, but on his label he also puts a period at the end of his name, so that even if I hadn’t put the name Thom Browne. at the end of the previous sentence, I would have had to use a period because that is the way Thom Browne. likes it, with a period after Thom Browne. It seems fitting — a sentence-fragment name for a man with too-short pants.

Tommy throws a coat over my shoulders, a black three-quarter-length rabbinical-looking coat with a wide mink collar. I look in the mirror. I look like an Orthodox Hamburglar. I look as if I need a slap.
and
"Monkeys, it seems, have it easy. From what I can tell, you want respect in Monkeytown, you beat up some other males, impregnate a few women, climb a tree and waddle out to the end of a branch where everyone can gaze up with awe at your magnificent genitals. Humans, having only partially evolved, still communicate the same messages, but are forced to do so by employing the clumsy metaphor of fashion. Thus, yellow socks. And shrunken suits. And designers whose names carry periods at the end."

I Am Not Going Anywhere

You Know Who You Are and Why I am Saying This. MLBF

His Homework is My Homework

Ways back in the early days of my career I worked with a guy who used to bitch and moan to me about how much he hated his children's homework. Virtually every day he'd wail about how miserable it was to work all day and then to come home to helping his children with hours of homework.

I remember asking him why he was doing it when it was their homework. It seemed ridiculous to me that a parent would have to do something like that. Now of course I knew kids whose parents had done their homework for them. But that had been tied into a whole competitive thing in which they were determined to make sure that little Johnny won first place at the science fair.

During one particularly tedious bitch session I told my officemate that I was tired of listening to him kvetch and that if he taught his children to be responsible he might have some time to himself. As you can imagine in my early twenties I was a master of tact and diplomacy.

Surprisingly enough Curt laughed at my comment and said that one day I would learn for myself that "homework was punishment for parents as well as children." I can't say that I remember my exact response, but I am sure that it involved an eye roll, a head shake and some muttered comment.

Well years later I have come to learn that homework isn't just for children, parents get to do it too. I am not as cynical or worn down as Curt so I won't whine about it here. I am very involved with my children's education so helping with homework comes with the territory.

I understand Curt's lamentation far better than I did then. Right now I am involved in homework because my children's time management skills aren't good enough to get things done without help. Someone has to monitor them so that they get things done because without guidance homework would be relegated to the very last thing to be done prior to bedtime which would become a real nightmare.

But what Curt was really speaking about were these intricate projects that they kids get. They're surprisingly complex and that is where mom and dad really get involved because without help they wouldn't get done. So to paraphrase Pacino, "just when I thought I was done they sucked me back in again."

And now if you'll excuse me it is time to work on another science project.

Haveil havalim #138

It is up and ready for review.

How To Mend a Broken Heart

eHow offers instructions on how to heal a broken heart. Between you and me, some breaks can't be healed.

Don't Israelify Us

Ynet has a story that covers an important issue regarding Israeli Arabs.
Knesset Member Jamal Zahalka (Balad) took part in a protest conference against a government initiative to draft Arab youths for national service, and expressed his opposition to the idea on Saturday.

"Anyone who does national service will become a leper and Arab society will throw him up from its midst," the minister told Ynet.

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee of Israeli Arabs, one of the conference's organizers, is taking a more moderate stance, and says it is carrying out an unending argument with those who chose to volunteer, and has launched a campaign to minimize the number of volunteers.

During the last year, the number of Arab-Israeli volunteers for national service doubled from 280 to 560. "If we did not launch our campaign, we would be seeing a number several times higher, and maybe even thousands would choose to volunteer for national service," the Committee's CEO, Abd Anbatawi said.

This is a problem. Your country asks that you be a part of it. Your country tries to protect and serve you and asks that you give something back. You take from your country but choose not to give. It begs the question of whether you really wish to be a part of the country.

The Heart Wants What The Heart Wants

Someone once told me that the heart wants what the heart wants. I don’t know if that is a line from a book or a movie, it could be. Then again it might be one of those pithy statements that people come up with. I’d ask the person who told me but I can quite remember who said it. Hell, it might have even been
me.

The heart wants what the heart wants. You know what that means? It is a statement made by people who can’t explain why they are in love with person xyz. It is what you say when there is no logical explanation for your actions. It is a catchphrase, a tagline, a slogan and a motto.

The heart wants what the heart wants. It reminds me of Shakespeare, “Life is a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” Somewhere my high school English teacher Mrs. McDonnell is smiling. Little Jimmy actually remembered a line from Macbeth. See ma’am, I told you that I could hear just as well in sunglasses as without..

The heart wants what the heart wants. It is the kind of thing you hear people say when they are trying to explain why they are hung up on someone from their past. Or maybe it is what you say when you stop denying the love that is in front of you.

If love were rational, if it were based upon logic life would be easier. When I think about some of the things I have done because of love I want to scream. When I consider the self-inflicted misery I have endured I want to cry because it seems so very foolish. How could I waste so much energy on such a silly thing as a woman, a single woman. The world is filled with millions of women. It should be easy to replace her. It should be as simple as changing shoes, but it is not. It is not, it is not.

The heart wants what the heart wants. It does and mine has chosen someone that is far more special to me than all of the others. My lips remember hers. I can still feel her touch. The pillowcase has never been washed because I have this fantasy that I can still pull it close and smell her.

Sometimes I think that reincarnation must be real and that in a past life I must have stolen fire from the gods or committed some other heinous crime. Because there is no logical reason why I would be punished in this manner. I found the woman that completes me. I found the person that makes me whole and I let her go.

She would have stayed. She would have held my hand. She would have helped save my soul but I couldn't say the words. I couldn't make myself do it. Even though I knew it to be a simple thing. A brief plea for help and she wouldn't have left me. I wouldn't have been left to live in shadow and night. I could have been whole. Her love was enough to let me believe that I could have been something more.

But like I said, in that past life I did something. I earned the wrath of those who sit in judgment. Or maybe it is nothing like that. Maybe there is no reason why. Maybe this is all there is and happiness is based upon some sort of random something or other.

The heart wants what it wants and mine has betrayed me. In a different life it lay in a green garden beneath bright blue skies and now it is filled with weeds and fields of shattered stone and black night skies.

Once I might have hoped for salvation. Once I believed that I deserved better than this but now I understand that not to be so. Hades has issued his decree. I stand next to Sisyphus. Tantalus is my brother. Happiness is something that I can see but can't reach.

The heart wants what the heart wants.

(You can find more posts like this at TheJackB by searching for Fragments of Fiction)

Welcome To The Insomniac's Theater

"There is no pain, you are receding.
A distant ships smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I cant hear what youre sayin.
When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse,
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone.
I cannot put my finger on it now.
The child is grown, the dream is gone.
I have become comfortably numb."
Comfortably Numb- Pink Floyd

Hello and welcome to the Insomniac's Theater. As you can see it is a bit rundown, somewhat ramshackle joint. It is a place that is not all that dissimilar to a carnival fun house. As you walk through you know that the reality you are experiencing is a bit distorted. Something is a bit off.
It is not as pronounced as the fun house mirror. You know the one that I am talking about. That wavy one that makes your body look fat/tall/short whatever.

It is not all that dissimilar to being drunk. You know that you are not right. You know that you are not quite as sharp as you should be but at the same time the alcohol says you are. It is that little voice in your head that claims that the fifth of whiskey hasn't impaired your judgment. People should be pleased to speak with the new and improved you. It is version 2.0, enhanced and ready for action.

And then again that little voice whispers in your ear that maybe you really aren't all that smart. Insecurities that during daylight hours grow to monstrous proportions. So you face a decision. Do you face the beast on your own. Do you shine a light on the darker part of your soul and accept your own frailties or do you give in to the demon.

C'mon, it is just another beer. Hell, might as well make it two or three. If you are going to dance with the devil then you really ought to tell him to go fuck himself. What is the point of exercising poor judgment with a care for the future. Georgie used to tell me to "liver hard." Every time he said it he'd roar with laughter.

I can't say if I laughed or smiled. I was beyond caring. Life had no meaning to it, no purpose. I wouldn't say that I was living. I was alive, but I lived in the shadows. Black and white was all I could see and most of the time I didn't bother to see at all because when I tried to all I could find was more evidence of how badly I had screwed up.

I loved her madly. I wanted to marry her and somehow she had slipped through my grasp. My girl with the sweet lips was beyond my reach and the only person I could blame was me.

So I set about punishing myself. I felt like I was incapable of loving and unworthy of being loved. And now you know why sleep was no longer my friend.

( Notes: I am considering tying this into here.)

Perhaps You Can Help Me

I have a favor to ask of you. I am trying to get back into the swing of writing Fragments of Fiction. It would be most helpful if you could go read it here and then leave me a comment with your thoughts.

Let me know if you like it, hate it or anything between. I appreciate your help.

Vocabulary Time Part 5

It is vocabulary time again. Here is part one, part two, part three and part four.

mancinism

the condition of being left-handed

macroverbumsciolist

nonce word 1) a person who is ignorant of large words
2) a person who pretends to know a word, then secretly refers to a dictionary.

mastigophorer

obs. a fellow worthy to be whipped.

matutolypea

getting up on the wrong side of the bed.

Last 10 Songs On iTunes

Photographs & Memories
Jim Croce
Another One bites The Dust
Queen
Crossroads
Stevie Ray Vaughn
Magic Bus
The Who
Badlands
Bruce Springsteen
White Wedding
Billy Idol
Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting
Elton John
Comfortably Numb (Live)
Van Morrison with Roger Waters
Mordred's Lullaby
Heather Dale
I Like It, I Love It
Tim McGraw

The Old Man Of The Office

Last week The Shmata Queen and I had a conversation about some of the changes in our lives and how they seemed to sneak up on us. In particular it covered how we went from being the kids in the office to someplace in between that and the grizzled veteran.

Now you have to remember that the queen is much, much older than I am and as a result is a bit sensitive about her age. Being a smart fellow I was careful not to remind her that in a couple of years she'll be 50 because she has one hell of a right hook. One of these days I'll have to teach her not to drop her left because it leaves her wide open.

Anyway, the conversation was timely in that earlier this evening a good friend called and asked me when we got old. I laughed and told him that his punishment for working in television is to constantly be surrounded by utes.

But there is something to it, the conversation that is. I don't feel particularly old but in certain settings I have really begun to notice it. Two recent examples:

During a meeting with clients they ask how my flight was which leads into a whole conversation about business travel and 9/11. We share stories. I relate how the day felt so surreal to me. I watched the news, saw the towers fall and watched as my son played with his blocks, oblivious to the events around him.

One of the women in the meeting smiles and says that she was in high school and then the other says that she was a freshman in college. Suddenly I realize that I am more than a couple of years older than everyone in there. On the one hand it is not that big a deal, I can still relate to everyone in there. On the other hand none of them are married or parents so they can't quite relate as well to me.

In the end it didn't prevent us from coming to an agreement but it did make me think about how fast the years seem to be going by. There is so much to do and so little time to do it in.

Rebuked By RWAC

RWAC authors one of my favorite blogs. I find it to be well written and truly interesting. I appreciate his position and why he takes the stands that he does.

But sometimes I think that he and I are both grateful that we belong to different shuls. It is probably better that way. Anyhoo, this post caught my eye.

Profanity- The Children Learn New Words Part Deux

In part one of our two part series we learned that the eldest son of our favorite Shack Master had been paying far too much attention to the vocabulary lessons being given by the older brother of one of his friends.

I had a conversation with both John's older brother and his father regarding these lessons. Initially John's father didn't think this was a problem. Because I am a master of tact and diplomacy I told him that I would gladly use pictures of his wife to educate the children on what the expression meant.

Apparently this got his attention because he got all red in the face and then directed a few choice words at me. I in turn suggested that he engage in something that is anatomically impossible for everyone except the woman in this video. In fact I even offered to fix his body so that he could do this whenever he wanted to.

After a moment we got beyond the usual posturing we men do and we came to an agreement that it was better for first graders not to use this sort of language and that prevention of their learning it was wise.

That brings me to the point where I left off the last post, the question of how much information my son really needed. When we got home he asked me again to explain it to him. So I shrugged my shoulders and decided to improvise.

I asked him to break the sentence down with me. The first part was easy, it was when he got to "dick" that he looked perplexed. I took a deep breath and explained to him that there is a time and place for language and that what I was teaching him was not to be used carelessly.

"A dick is a penis," I said.

His eyes got wide for a moment. "I get it dad," he replied. "When you say "suck my dick" it means you want to pee in their mouth. That is kind of gross."

I kept a straight face and waited to see if he had any more questions or comments. For a brief moment I thought that the whole baby discussion was going to make another appearance but fate smiled upon me and he changed the topic to whether I liked Batman more than Superman.

For the moment Kryptonite and the Joker have replaced the evening vocabulary lesson, but something tells me that this topic is going to be revisited in the not so distant future.

California is Burning

Earlier today I stumbled onto a blog that gleefully announced that Hollywood is burning down. The vapid knucklehead must not read the news or have looked at a map because thus far Hollywood is far removed from the flames.

But for me the fires are never far from my mind. I have friends and family members whose homes are in danger. But even if I did it the smoke filled sky is a reminder that a relatively short distance away there are people losing everything.

Mother Nature has a way of humbling us, reminding us that we are not so big that we cannot be brought low.

My children and I have had more than one discussion about the fires. They are close enough that the schools are not allowing the children to play outdoors as the air quality is not good. Soccer practices were canceled too.

Outside of my home I can see a red glow. It is a reminder of my own experience. I was evacuated from a forest fire in 1985. Somewhere in the blog there is a post about it, but I don't feel like searching for it.

As I look through the rooms in my house I can see all sorts of family treasures. There are heirlooms that have been passed down and things that may one day become heirlooms. I look at the pictures of my children. I look at the pictures of family members that are gone. I look at pictures of my life and I wonder how painful it must be to lose it all.

There are things that you can replace. And certainly one should always be grateful for their health and safety, but then again there are those items that you can never get back.

My heart goes out to those people. My thanks to the brave fire fighters who fight to save lives and property not their own.

If ever there was a time I'd pray for rain or do a rain dance now would be the time.

California is burning.

Therapy For Ezzie

Folks in light of another tragic collapse of a team from the burning river we have taken up a collection to pay for therapy for Ezzie. If nothing else we need to get him interested in rooting for a team that might actually win a championship.

Maybe we need to send him off to The Holy Land on a Quest for Waffles. Then again our waffle master hasn't any interest in sports so he is unlikely to lend a sympathetic ear. Von Treppenwitz is also located in the holy land and is a rabid sports fan. However he is a fan of that other team so that probably wouldn't be a good match either.

So maybe we should just send him to see the rebbetzin and they can commiserate together.

This Time Last Week

I was being waited upon hand and foot by The Shmata Queen. She did a mighty fine job at the old fluff and fold and wasn't half bad with the old iron.

More proof that life improves when one flees the land of the burning river.

The Home Office

In my line of work I work out of more than one office. At times the nomadic nature of this sort of employment can be tiresome. There is something to be said for establishing one central base, but then again most of the time I enjoy the changes. It makes it easier to keep things fresh.

One of my offices is a home office. While it can be quite nice to go to work wearing a pair of shorts and a tank top it brings with it a unique set of challenges that I call "The children."

When the kids are in school it is normally pretty easy. I just bear down and do what I need to do. However on days when they are home it can be really tough. The house isn't big enough to carve out the space I really want. At this time it is just not possible to work in a separate wing with a closed door.

I have a short term solution that I want to implement. I need a wireless connection so that I can wander through the house as necessary. It won't fix everything, but it should give me enough space that I can work without constant interruption.

Housekeeping Notes

I haven't forgotten about answering comments or the second part of Why Do You Pray.

Profanity- The Children Learn New Words

My father says that no one could swear as well or as colorfully as my grandfather. Years in the carnival business, as a soldier and a streetwise kid in Chicago gave him quite the vocabulary. Mind you, I can’t remember hearing my grandfather swear in front of me until I was a teenager.
He had great command of the language and didn’t curse unless there was a purpose.

But when he did engage the more colorful side of his oratory skills it was fun to listen to. He could go on for a solid half hour and never repeat himself. This is one area that I can’t compete with him. I have my share of expressions that I use and I like to think that I use them well.

I’d like to say that my children have never heard me utter a foul word, but the rules of the blog forbid lying. So I will readily confess to upon occasion having exposed them to a few words that I’d rather they not use. Until recently I could count on three fingers the number of times they had used any sort of profanity.

Yesterday things changed. As I was getting onto the freeway I found myself stuck behind a driver who refused to drive faster than 30 MPH. She is an accident waiting to happen and it was only dumb luck that prevented us from being struck by other drivers on the fabulous 405.

Needless to say as we rode behind this woman not only did I apply my horn I used a number of different words such as %&$#^&%, $$^&$^%^&# and *%&#*# to express my displeasure.

Once we were safely ensconced in our lane I apologized to the children and explained that I had made a mistake in using those words. My son surprised me by agreeing with me.

“Dad, you did make a mistake. You should have said something else.”

“Oh?” “What do you think I should have said?”

And then from the seat behind my own I heard a soft voice say “you should have said suck my dick.”

After I picked my jaw up from the steering wheel I asked him to tell me where he had learned that particular expression.

“John’s older brother taught us.”

John is the 15 year-old older sibling of one of my son’s good friends. I may swear upon the odd occasion, but I have never used that expression in front of the children.

So I told my son that this wasn’t something that I wanted him to say and then I asked him if he understood what it meant. When he told me that he didn’t understand I breathed a sigh of relief and then pondered how to respond.

I didn’t really want to explain what it meant. He is still young enough that he doesn’t really need to know this, but at the same time I did say that he shouldn’t use words/expressions without knowing what it means.

I’ll have to share that part of the conversation with you all later.

The Princess Bride

In The Land Of The Burning River

There are only tears. Choke, choke, choke.

Japanese Crime Stopping Tools

This article in the NY Times caught my eye. Credit for the picture also goes to the Times.
TOKYO, Oct. 19 — On a narrow Tokyo street, near a beef bowl restaurant and a pachinko parlor, Aya Tsukioka demonstrated new clothing designs that she hopes will ease Japan’s growing fears of crime.

Deftly, Ms. Tsukioka, a 29-year-old experimental fashion designer, lifted a flap on her skirt to reveal a large sheet of cloth printed in bright red with a soft drink logo partly visible. By holding the sheet open and stepping to the side of the road, she showed how a woman walking alone could elude pursuers — by disguising herself as a vending machine.

The wearer hides behind the sheet, printed with an actual-size photo of a vending machine. Ms. Tsukioka’s clothing is still in development, but she already has several versions, including one that unfolds from a kimono and a deluxe model with four sides for more complete camouflaging.

These elaborate defenses are coming at a time when crime rates are actually declining in Japan. But the Japanese, sensitive to the slightest signs of social fraying, say they feel growing anxiety about safety, fanned by sensationalist news media. Instead of pepper spray, though, they are devising a variety of novel solutions, some high-tech, others quirky, but all reflecting a peculiarly Japanese sensibility.

Take the “manhole bag,” a purse that can hide valuables by unfolding to look like a sewer cover. Lay it on the street with your wallet inside, and unwitting thieves are supposed to walk right by. There is also a line of knife-proof high school uniforms made with the same material as Kevlar, and a book with tips on how to dress even the nerdiest children like “pseudohoodlums” to fend off schoolyard bullies.

There are pastel-colored cellphones for children that parents can track, and a chip for backpacks that signals when children enter and leave school.

The devices’ creators admit that some of their ideas may seem far-fetched, especially to crime-hardened Americans. And even some Japanese find some of them a tad naïve, possibly reflecting the nation’s relative lack of experience with actual street crime. Despite media attention on a few sensational cases, the rate of violent crime remains just one-seventh of America’s.

I see more than one problem with these hiding places. For example, the feet protruding from the bottom of the fake vending machine. The whole idea gives off a Scooby Doo or Three Stooges kind of feel to it.

Why Do You Pray

My best friend and I spend all sorts of time debating and discussing all sorts of stuff. The title of this post sort of sums it all up. We had been discussing whether I actually believe in the moshiach (messiah) and whether I daven (pray) for him to come.

I am a little short on time so I can't dig into this the way I want to, but I suppose that I can really sum up our conversation to be "Why do you pray?"

It deserves a real response. I'll try to come back and give it later.

(Feel free to share your own thoughts/comments.)

Old Post That Caught My Eye

I am working on a big project and decided to take a short break. So I took a moment to sift through the archives and stumbled onto some old posts that I decided to dust off and present again.

Blogging Can Help You Make/Lose Friends

Grandpa, Dad and I

Dreams Fulfilled and Unfulfilled

Comic Books Find Religion

Airlines Continue To Rob The Public

This morning I was more than a little disturbed to read the following headline in The Los Angeles Times:

Airlines squeeze fliers as profit soars

Having just returned from my most recent business trip in which I and several hundred others were stuffed inside a plane and asked to pay for stale food I was less than pleased to read the following:
The nation's airlines were late more often this summer, lost more baggage and bumped more passengers off flights than in any summer this decade. They also made more money.

Despite the worst summer ever for air travelers, major airlines posted huge profits as they packed more passengers into fewer and smaller planes.
We pay more and receive less. There is something wrong, very, very wrong with this picture.

If you Could Play One Instrument What Would It Be?

Ok folks, it is time for a new question. This is for musicians and non-musicians alike. Pretend you could take a pill that would make you an expert at playing a particular instrument.

What instrument would you pick and why?

(If you already play that instrument feel free to include that in your answer.)

An Easy Way To Help Others

I thought that this sounded kind of cool.
Through Kiva, anyone with $25 and an e-mail address can make a loan to a small entrepreneur in a developing country. Gabriela Villegas scrolled through the online profiles, searching for a photo and description that appealed to her.

She wasn't surfing for a date or networking for new friends. She was on the Kiva website, reading through stories of impoverished entrepreneurs in developing countries, trying to decide to which venture she would extend a $25 business loan.

"Twenty-five dollars -- that's probably how much I spend on just one meal," said Villegas, 25, of Manchester, Conn. "But with that same money, I was able to change someone's life."

Kiva, at www.kiva.org, is a nonprofit based in San Francisco. It has not yet celebrated its two-year anniversary but is already attracting international attention for its unique mission -- blending the principles of micro-financing with the power of online social networking to deliver business loans to the world's working poor.

Named after the Swahili word for "unity," Kiva is getting big-name nods from the likes of Oprah Winfrey and former President Clinton. And with more than $13 million lent to 1,800 ventures, it's being held as an example of a savvy brand of online activism.

"People are by nature generous and want to help others, but they want to do it in a way . . . where they can really see how they're making an impact on somebody's life," said Kiva spokeswoman Fiona Ramsey. "We all see [the philanthropic work that] Bill Gates and Oprah do, and we'd all love to do that ourselves. But few of us can afford to."

Enter Kiva, making a micro-lender of anyone with $25 and an e-mail address.

Here's how it works. The organization partners with 66 nonprofit micro-finance institutions that vet loan applicants in 38 countries. Once they get clearance, the borrowers post their pictures and needs on the Kiva website, where would-be lenders can pore through the 70-or-so listings posted at any given time -- a motor-taxi service in Asia, a goat farmer in Africa, a seamstress in Iraq. An average loan request is $650, and lenders can choose how much to fund.

As borrowers repay their loans, they send online progress reports so lenders can see how their money is working. Once the loan is repaid -- and most are, with a default rate of just 0.3% -- lenders can collect their money or lend it to another entrepreneur. Most lenders choose the latter, Ramsey said.
For the full story please click here.

The Back Door Was Wide Open

I must have fallen asleep on the couch. A cool breeze across my legs woke me up. I sat up and wandered towards the back of the house. A utility bathroom was my destination. It is part of a regular route and ritual. Each night I head there to plug my cell phone into the charger and take care of last minute business.

Tonight was no different than any other night. I trudged through the house using my own sense of Radar. Eyes half closed I navigated around furniture and toys. As I got closer to the bathroom I noticed it was progressively getting colder. The change was striking. Initially I thought that it was due to the change in my having just woken up and then I realized that I didn't just feel a breeze, I could hear it whistling through the house.

The back door was open.

The back door was open and I couldn't remember having gone through that door. The back door was open and not only couldn't I remember having used the door, I couldn't remember anyone having used it.

The back door was open. It was dark and my family lay asleep in the house unaware that our security was compromised. In a heartbeat I went from being a moment away from returning to slumber to being fully awake. I paused for a moment and held my position. In the dark I listened for sounds that didn't belong.

Soft and purposeful steps took me through the house to check on the children. I didn't really think that anyone had come inside. I didn't really think that the evil that lurks in the dark had penetrated the defenses and taken the opportunity to enter, but then again strange things happen.

The dark has been a source of discomfort for me since early childhood. At times the dark has terrified me. It comes from having a graphic imagination. As an exercise in control I have forced myself to walk through the woods without a flashlight just to prove that the hidden monsters I was sure lay out there really weren't.

Adrenaline pumping I patrolled the interior of the home and looked for someone or something that didn't belong. I didn't know how the door had ended up wide open but the fear of what could be turned into anger. If I found that thing, if in the dark of the house I stumbled upon it I was prepared to eat it alive. Inside my home I am the king of the jungle.

It is not cliche or bravado. It is a primal urge, nature driving me to protect my own.

A short time after the discovery of the open door I confirmed that there was nothing to be alarmed about but the uneasy feeling stayed with me. I am wide awake. Here I sit at the computer decompressing.

In the morning I'll be tired and walking around with a sheepish grin about the door. In the light of the day I am sure that I'll think I got uptight about nothing, but right now the dark whispers to me and I am not so sure.

Cruising At 34,000 Feet

One of my favorite parts of any trip is coming home to my own bed and my own stuff. Although truth to be told I have to say that the bed in my hotel room in Dallas was outstanding. I just might have to invest in the same sort of mattress they used at the fancy Redneck Cafe and Rodeo Hotelplex.

It was a quick trip. Flew out the other day and came back in this evening. I sat in the back of the plane and for the first time in quite a while I had the entire row to myself. Initially I had planned on watching Master & Commander but the noise of the engine made it impossible. Since I already had my laptop out I did a bit of liveblogging. However I thought that it was bad so I stopped partway through. But for the three people who say that you want to see everything I write here is an excerpt. Just remember, it is pretty bad.

It is a little past 4 P.M. P.S.T. For the past 90 minutes I have been stuffed inside a flying tin can. It is an S80 and I am seated two rows away from the bathrooms. Some people hate being close to the bathrooms. It is kind of noisy and there is a lot of foot traffic. With a funky digestive system I’d rather be close to the bathroom. You just never know when nature’s call is going to hit so I like to play it safe.

Here in the back of the plane I am surrounded by people. Years ago a mid-afternoon flight would have had at least three rows of empty seats. That almost never happens anymore. Now you’re lucky to find any empty seats. I suppose that today my luck is pretty good as I managed to secure a bulkhead seat. As things go here in coach it is not that bad. The seat next to me is empty and because it is a bulkhead row my knees aren’t knocking into the seatback in front of me.

A small dog is seated in the row behind me, or should I say in a carrying case directly beneath my seat. Every now and then I can hear a whimper or two. He is not too happy, but then again I am kind of irked too. Turbulence can do that to a guy. The plane is shaking and baking every which way. I keep having to retype the words. I am kind of surprised that I haven’t become motion sick. Although my bigger concern is trying to keep the laptop from flying off of my lap.

As you can probably guess the flight isn’t all that peaceful, but then again it was an experience just getting on board. I had a little situation at the rental car lot, but it wasn’t of my own doing.

That last bit about the rental car a story in itself. In the post 9-11 era you never know how long it is going to take to get through security so I always try to give myself some extra time. When I got to the rental car lot I pulled up and was pleasantly surprised when one of their field reps was able to check the car back in right there on the lot.

So I got out of the car and walked around to the trunk to get my bags. Just as I was about to open it another employee came up and asked me if I needed to be checked out. I said no and then watched as he locked the door and slammed it shut. Great job Kreskin, you just locked the keys in the car along with all of my stuff.

I then spent the next 25 minutes waiting for them to find a spare key so that they could open the car and I could retrieve my belongings. Suddenly the big window of time had shrunk. As I waited for the shuttle to take me to the terminal it grew even smaller and I began to get a bit concerned.

And then when I got to the security checkpoint and saw the line I became even more concerned. It was long and it wasn't moving that quickly. Gradually I approached the head of the line and it was my turn to play. Off came the shoes and belt. Then the laptop was taken from its home and placed in a tray. Shoes, wallet, keys, cell phone, money clip, GPS, iPod and credit cars followed the laptop bag into a tray.

On the other side of the metal detector I stuffed my feet back into my shoes and the rest of my belongings into my pockets and took off for the gate. Instead of being able to take a leisurely walk and enjoy a cup of coffee I was flying down the way, it was ten minute until boarding and I had a long way to go.

Finally I arrived at the gate only to find out that my flight had been delayed. It wasn't a long delay, 45 minutes, but it was enough that I didn't have to run. I probably should have gone and purchased something to eat because friendly airlines doesn't provide "free food" anymore.
Now you get the privilege of paying stadium prices for food and drink. $4 for a stale tuna sandwich is not my idea of gourmet cuisine. Certainly being strapped into a seat in which my knees rub the seat in front of me and my shoulders hang off of is not the definition of fine dining.

Anyway, I'll have to pick this up again at a later date. Fatigue has set in and I have some work to do. Night, y'all.

A Monkey With a Keyboard

Every now and then old Jack wades into the deeper waters of the blogosphere to debate topics of interest with other members of the blogosphere. Some of these conversations are exceptionally interesting and well worth my time and others....Well let's just say that some of the others are about as intellectually stimulating as debating a monkey with a keyboard.

Recently I have found myself in another one of these simian food fights. The monkey made some outlandish and ill advised remarks and I responded. Said monkey didn't like me throwing peanuts and begged for my bananas by trying to insult me. Now it is possible that I may have been less than endearing in my initial response to the monkey.

Then again maybe the monkey deserved to have his cage rattled. I don't take kindly to threats and that is what the monkey did. Bonzo decided that lashing out was the best response to this. If Bonzo was a toddler it would have been called a classic case of baby tantrum. But Bonzo is not, Bonzo is second rate hack who fancies himself a mighty intellectual.

Good old Bonzo warms the cockles of my heart, even if his ranting is based upon the twisted fantasies of his own mind.

Dear Psychotoddler

Dear Psychotoddler,

I read with great interest your post about why you haven't been blogging. It was kind of fun and it was easy to relate to. In fact at lunch today The Shmata Queen and I discussed how you tagged her and asked her to participate.

Apparently the dear girl is still how do they say, crazy busy. Add that to her general blogging malaise and I think that you might be waiting a long time for that post. On the other hand I did witness a pretty stiff chocolate addiction, so maybe you can bribe her.

P.S. There is nothing like listening to her drawl. "Did y'all see that Psychotoddler tagged me for a meme." It was quite an experience.

The World Championship Punkin Chunkin contest

I have always wanted to participate in such a fine sport as The World Championship Punkin Chunkin contest. It just sounds like fun.r

The World Championship Punkin Chunkin contest -- http://www.punkinchunkin.com/main.htm -- takes place November 2-4 in Bridgeville, Delaware, about 30 miles from Lewes and 90 miles from Washington. The event began in 1986 and bills itself as the oldest and largest competition of its type. Last year over 50,000 spectators turned out to watch 100 teams compete, organizers said.

Launching machines at the Delaware event will include air compressors, catapults, centrifugal machines that spin the pumpkins before hurling them, and trebuchets. (The trebuchet design dates to the Middle Ages, using a counterweight to power its missile.) There is also a "theatrical" category in which the rules state that "distance is not the goal; ability to ham it up is the goal."

"People start out thinking they have to see some idiot who's built a machine to throw a pumpkin a mile," said Frank Shade, president of the World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association. "Then, after spending a weekend grilling and cooking out with 70,000 of their newest best friends, they find out this is really a good time."

The contest's record for distance was set in 2003, when a pumpkin went 4,434 feet.

Ann Coulter's Most Recent Mumblings

I haven't written about her for a whole variety of reasons, not the least of which has been time. But I thought that I would point out a link that I think is worth a look. Bookworm has a post that caught my eye because it was sensible.

The grouchy old bear
pointed me to this article on WND. It contains all sorts of gems such as:
America is still quite friendly towards Jews, but the incessant attacks on Christianity by the likes of Deutsch, Forman and Abe Foxman have grown increasingly tiresome. Given this irritating behavior, and the historical fact that Jews have worn out their welcome in literally dozens of countries over the centuries, it is the height of foolishness for a small number of misguided individuals to demand that 80 percent of the American population remain silent about the tenets of its religious faith. Christians are dying for their faith in the Sudan, in North Korea, in China, Vietnam and Myanmar; they are not about to shut their mouths simply because a few Jews in the media disapprove of their beliefs.
and
Despite its flaws, America has been one of the best friends the Jews have ever had. It would not only be a tragedy, it would be a stupid and wasteful one if Americans were provoked into developing the instinctive anti-semitism that currently pervades Europe, the Middle East and so much of the rest of the world.
I do believe that we were just told to shut up and sit in the back of the bus, not to mention that the ignoramus repeats common antisemitic canards to try and make his point.

Well Voxy, Jews have been dying for our faith for quite a spell longer than you, but that is not the point. And frankly there is a disconnect between citing anti-Xtian issues in foreign countries in the context of this story. There is no correlation between the two. That is just a red herring.

Cutting to the chase, I don't really care all that much about Coulter's comments. I think that they were ignorant, unfounded and that they foster discord. She likes that kind of thing, so let her feel the results of her comments.

But the remarks you made were asinine and unreasonable. There is no war on Xtianity in the U.S. It may make you feel badly that people ask that the US Constitution be upheld. It may make you feel badly that some people prefer not to have religion stuffed in their face, but that is just too damned bad.

All My Bags Are Packed

I am not a big fan of the song Leaving on a Jet Plane. I suppose that at one time I was, but too many years of summer camp kind of killed it. I don't care if its John Denver or Peter Paul and Mary, I am sick of it.

But it makes an appropriate title for this post. In just a few short hours The Traveling Jack extravaganza will be ready for takeoff and hopefully in the air. Years ago I used to love to fly. It was a lot of fun and something that I very much enjoyed.

That is not the case anymore. As planes have grown more crowded and security measures become more stringent flying has become a task. In fact it is safe to say that on more than one occasion it has become unpleasant.

It is hard to be stuffed inside a tin can with 10,000 strangers. More often than not I fly coach. The problem is that the seats are too small for me. My shoulders hang off of the sides and when I sit straight up my knee brushes against the seat in front of me. If I can get an emergency exit or bulkhead seat I will, the extra room makes such a difference.

This is going to be a relatively short trip. I'll duck in and out of a couple cities long enough to have a meeting or two and a cup of coffee. In theory if I don't spend all day entertaining clients I'll log on and update this thing.

But in case I don't and you suffer from Shack withdrawal I encourage you to spend some time surfing through the archives or exploring the drop down menus on the right side of the page.

One more thing, I just printed out my boarding pass. How cool is that.

An Elephant Rampage

Elephants are one of my favorite animals, but I'd be more than a bit nervous if a 100 of them decided to hang out in my backyard. If you read the article you'll see a line that says that in one Indian state more than 600 people have been killed by wild elephants over the past 16 years.
GAUHATI, India (AP) -- About 100 wild elephants have converged on a river island in northeast India, demolishing homes, feasting on sugarcane and panicking residents, officials said Saturday.

Thousands of villagers were using firecrackers and bonfires to scare away the rampaging animals.

"Dozens of houses have been destroyed in the past three days by adult elephants entering human settlements to look for their wandering calves," said the local magistrate, L.S. Changsan.

Up to 50 families have moved to a local school being used as a refugee camp, Changsan said.

About 150,000 people live on the 338-square mile island of Majuli in the Brahmaputra River, nearly 220 miles east of Assam state's capital, Gauhati.

Officials say the elephants swam to the island from a nearby hill region, beginning their rampage nearly a week ago.

Ukulele Orchestra -The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

This was kind of fun.



You Don't Bring Me Flowers

Smells Like Teen Spirit

And two more Ennio Morricone links:

Ennio Morricone - The Good, the bad and the ugly (concert)


The Ecstasy of Gold (live in concert)


(Every time I hear this one I always imagine myself out on a dusty windswept plain. I am riding my horse, alone, because that is how I live, alone.)

And one more, Metallica's version of The Ectstasy of Gold.

What Does It Feel Like To Die

New Scientist has an article that explores what it feels like to die. They cover drowning, decapitation and more. Here are a couple of excerpts for your review:
Decapitation
Nearly instantaneous
Beheading, if somewhat gruesome, can be one of the quickest and least painful ways to die - so long as the executioner is skilled, his blade sharp, and the condemned sits still.
The height of decapitation technology is, of course, the guillotine. Officially adopted by the French government in 1792, it was seen as more humane than other methods of execution. When the guillotine was first used in public, onlookers were reportedly aghast at the speed of death.
Quick it may be, but consciousness is nevertheless believed to continue after the spinal chord is severed. A study in rats in 1991 found that it takes 2.7 seconds for the brain to consume the oxygen from the blood in the head; the equivalent figure for humans has been calculated at 7 seconds. Some macabre historical reports from post-revolutionary France cited movements of the eyes and mouth for 15 to 30 seconds after the blade struck, although these may have been post-mortem twitches and reflexes.
If you end up losing your head, but aren't lucky enough to fall under the guillotine, or even a very sharp, well-wielded blade, the time of conscious awareness of pain may be much longer. It took the axeman three attempts to sever the head of Mary Queen of Scots in 1587. He had to finish the job with a knife.
Decades earlier in 1541, Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury, was executed at the Tower of London. She was dragged to the block, but refused to lay her head down. The inexperienced axe man made a gash in her shoulder rather than her neck. According to some reports, she leapt from the block and was chased by the executioner, who struck 11 times before she died.
Hanging
Speed of death depends on the hangman's skill
Suicides and old-fashioned "short drop" executions cause death by strangulation; the rope puts pressure on the windpipe and the arteries to the brain. This can cause unconsciousness in 10 seconds, but it takes longer if the noose is incorrectly sited. Witnesses of public hangings often reported victims "dancing" in pain at the end of the rope, struggling violently as they asphyxiated. Death only ensues after many minutes, as shown by the numerous people being resuscitated after being cut down - even after 15 minutes.
When public executions were outlawed in Britain in 1868, hangmen looked for a less performance-oriented approach. They eventually adopted the "long-drop" method, using a lengthier rope so the victim reached a speed that broke their necks. It had to be tailored to the victim's weight, however, as too great a force could rip the head clean off, a professionally embarrassing outcome for the hangman.
Despite the public boasting of several prominent executioners in late 19th-century Britain, a 1992 analysis of the remains of 34 prisoners found that in only about half of cases was the cause of death wholly or partly due to spinal trauma. Just one-fifth showed the classic "hangman's fracture" between the second and third cervical vertebrae. The others died in part from asphyxiation.
Michael Spence, an anthropologist at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, has found similar results in US victims. He concluded, however, that even if asphyxiation played a role, the trauma of the drop would have rapidly rendered all of them unconscious. "What the hangmen were looking for was quick cessation of activity," he says. "And they knew enough about their craft to ensure that happened. The thing they feared most was decapitation."
Call me a chicken, but whenever that day comes I ask for quick and painless.

Mayor Toilet Wishes To Speak

The mayor is my kind of guy.

SIM Jae-Duck was born in a toilet and now he plans to live and die in one - a $US1.6 million ($1.8m) toilet-shaped house designed to promote his tireless campaign for cleaner loos worldwide.

Mr Sim will open what is billed as the world's one and only toilet house on November 11 to mark the launch of his World Toilet Association.

The 419 sq m concrete and glass structure is rising on the site of Mr Sim's former home in his native city of Suweon, 40km south of Seoul.

Before he moves in, anyone who is flush with funds can rent it for $US50,000 a day - with proceeds going to his campaign to provide poor countries with proper sanitary facilities.

Apart from two bedrooms, two guestrooms and other rooms, the two-storey house - of course - features three deluxe toilets.

Unlike the giant toilet in which they are located, they will not be see-through affairs.

"A showcase bathroom screened by a glass wall is located in its centre, while other toilets have elegant fittings or water conservation devices,'' Mr Sim said.

The showcase loo will feature a device producing a mist to make users feel secure. An electronic sensor will raise the lid automatically when people enter, and there will also be music for patrons.

The house, complete with a stream and small garden in front, is named Haewoojae, meaning "a place of sanctuary where one can solve one's worries''.

Click here for more.

My Drycleaner Sounds Like Cookie Monster

The dry cleaner I use has an employee who has a voice that sounds just like Cookie Monster. He is a very nice man and I like him very much. But sometimes it is hard to hear him speak and not burst into a chorus of 'C' Is For Cookie.

Criticize Your ISP & Lose Your Service

The LA Times has an interesting column called Free speech could lead to online disconnect. I grabbed a big chunk of it for your review as I think that it is important.

Essentially it says that AT&T and Verizon's DSL service contracts contain a clause that could impact your ability to criticize them.
"If you're displeased with the way a company treats you, you're free to air your feelings in public, right? Not necessarily if you receive high-speed Internet access from AT&T Inc. or Verizon Communications Inc.

Buried deep within both companies' voluminous service contracts is language that says your Net access can be terminated for any behavior that AT&T or Verizon believes might harm its "name or reputation," or even the reputation of its business partners.The language came to light the other day after AT&T sent notices to thousands of customers revising their service contracts as part of the company's merger last year with BellSouth.

It follows an incident last month in which Verizon Wireless blocked an abortion-rights group from sending text messages over the company's network, deeming the messages too controversial. The company subsequently backtracked from the decision.

Before that, AT&T was caught in August censoring political comments made by Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder during a concert webcast. The company later said it had made a mistake.

AT&T and Verizon say they've never enforced the can't-criticize-us contract terms, which have been in place for years.

But the provisions highlight yet again the danger to free expression when a relative handful of private companies serve as gatekeepers to information networks. Whether it's a rock star ranting against President Bush or a disgruntled customer griping about shoddy service, how free is free speech in the digital era?

"Not being able to speak your mind about something is contrary to public policy," said Frank Tuerkheimer, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin who focuses on Internet-related issues.

But it's apparently not illegal. The 1st Amendment, Tuerkheimer pointed out, doesn't apply to private entities.

You have to wade deep into AT&T's 14,000-word service contract to find the one-line disclaimer in which the company reserves the right to slam the door on any Internet customer who might bruise the company's feelings.

Along with specifying behavior that is "defamatory, fraudulent, obscene or deceptive," the contract says service may be suspended or terminated for any behavior that "tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T, Yahoo [AT&T's online partner] or their respective parents, affiliates and subsidiaries."

In Verizon's case, you have to make it all the way through the company's 10,000-word contract to an attached document laying out the "acceptable use policy."

This is where customers are informed that, among other things, they aren't allowed to post material online that's "obscene, indecent, pornographic, sadistic, cruel or racist in content, or of a sexually explicit or graphic nature; or which espouses, promotes or incites bigotry, hatred or racism."

It's also where the company says customers are similarly crossing the line if they "damage the name or reputation of Verizon, its parent, affiliates and subsidiaries, or any third parties."

Jon Davies, a Verizon spokesman, said the language was there "to stop people from setting up websites that look like Verizon's" or engaging in other ploys frequently used by scammers to con people into revealing personal info, including Social Security and credit card numbers."
The First amendment is frequently misunderstood by many who think that it covers all speech. As we have discussed here before that is not true. There are limits on your speech, you cannot yell fire in a theater, advocate the violent overthrow of the government etc.

As the law professor points out it also does not apply to private entities. However given what these particular entities do I wonder if this doesn't necessitate a change or amendment of the amendment.

The Wiggles Are Still Rocking

Remember last year we wrote about Jeff Wiggle's illness and a possible end to the band. For some parents the idea was a nightmare and for others it was a blessing.

Well as they say the show must go on apparently it has.
(CNN) -- Imagine the Beatles going on without Paul McCartney. Or *NSYNC without Justin Timberlake. Or Van Halen without David Lee Roth (or Sammy Hagar, or that other guy).Young fans of the children's rock group the Wiggles -- and more important, their parents -- faced a similar experience when singer Greg Page, the Yellow Wiggle in the brightly colored group, left last November for health reasons.

On Tuesday, the group released "Getting Strong" in the United States, its 28th DVD and the first without Page. They're also getting ready to set out on their third U.S. tour of the year.
For the full story please click here.

Mr. Really Really Bad Dancer


Here is a link to some more. Sorry to shill for Bud, but this cracks me up.

The Love We Make

"And in the end, the love we take will be equal to the love we make."

It is after midnight and my brain is not cooperating with me. The line above is from a Beatles song and at the moment I can quite put my finger on which one it is. It is frustrating to come so close yet not quite grab that brass ring.

Life has been far too busy. I don't like racing around constantly. I don't like feeling like I don't have time to catch my breath. I don't like the feeling of not quite accomplishing everything I want to do because of time constraints.

Blogging has been really slow. It feels strange to say that. Most of the time blogging is a priority. It is a place, a refuge, my fortress of solitude. It is not the only way I vent, but it is an important one and for a variety of reasons I just haven't done it. The strange thing is that I can't decide if I miss it. I think that is because I have been so focused on other things.

One of the many things that I love about my son is that he is a loyal friend. He has learned at an early age the value of being there to help his friends. I'll take some credit for it, but not all. It is in the genes. I can point to my parents and grandparents as being the people I learned from.

We all go through hard times. We all hit rough spots in which life is less than pleasurable. Sometimes it is hard to see the end of the tunnel. That is when friends are really important. They are the people that give you a hug when you need it or a swift kick in the ass. A good friend doesn't disappear on you when things get rough.

I have a few projects that I am currently working on. It is fair to say that I am a little nervous about them. I am superstitious enough that I won't do more than speak about them in general terms. My heart tells me that in the end everything is going to work out, but still those butterflies flit back and forth.

If you want the big reward you have to be willing to take the big risk. That has been a belief of mine for years, but I haven't always been good about acting upon it. Times like this I miss my grandfather, but then again we all have moments when we stand on our own, not because we don't have help but because of something deeper than that.

It is an issue of self-respect and of proving to yourself that you can go farther, that the only limits we face are those we place upon ourselves.

June, take my hand and walk with me.

Words On A Page

 Added a few words on a page, some well written, some less so but all with purpose in mind. Can't win the Pulitzer every time, for certa...