Saturday, May 29, 2004

Best of Royko

Review of For The Love of Mike: More of the Best of Mike Royko.

I searched through my Royko books a while back and finally got around to ordering one of his books from the library. Royko was unpredictable compared to most columnists. He could go from left to right without warning but was more entertaining than anybody around today. One of the funniest columns is about a young punk he worked with by the name of Roger Ebert. Ebert apparently didn't take it personally—he wrote the foreword to the collection.

Some other columns that stuck with me:

Vegas in Akron: A column from March 13, 1980 hit George H.W. Bush's failed campaign slogan "We can turn this country around." (Obviously he couldn't use it again in 1988 without hinting that Reagan was anything but perfect.) Royko took this literally and turned the country so that Minnesota bordered with Mexico, California was on the Atlantic, and San Franscisco was where Washington D.C. Royko hated Bush with a passion bordering on insanity and wrote about him for decades...then voted for him in 1992 because he hated Clinton even more.

A Devilish Night for Oral Roberts.
Just before the last cicada invasion, Oral Roberts lost what was left of his mind. After he met the 900-foot Jesus in the desert, during the period that God told him if he didn't raise $8,000,000, He'd call him home, the devil attacked poor Oral in his bedroom. Fortunately Mrs. Roberts chased Satan away. Readers responded to Royko's snide remarks about the good reverend with indignity. One asked him "If you were at the gates of Heaven and were asked why you should be allowed in, what would you say?" Royko responded with "Do you think if I said ‘Candy-gram,' they might fall for it?"

Fascism Isn't Accidental. A column about how students at Lane Tech High School attacked a long-haired college professor from Northwestern because he sat on a park bench near their school. "If and when it disappears, it won't be stolen by big government, the tax collector, or the Supreme Court. Fascism will be the people's choice. It usually is. We've managed to avoid it so far only because nobody nutty enough to give the people what they want has come along. Yet."

A Law City Should Keep. In 1973, the Chicago City Council acted to repeal the municipal ordinance that said, "No person who is diseased, maimed, mutiliated, or in any way deformed so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object or an improper person [is] to be allowed in or on the public ways or other public places, [or] shall therein or thereon expose himself to public view, under penalty of not less than one dollar nor more than fifty dollars for each offense." The ordinance was passed in 1939 but with no clear indication for its cause.
Royko didn't mention it in his column but it's probably related to the Urbana Monster Ordinance (sorry, dead link--there's a pseudo-urban legend that says that Urbana, Illinois has a law banning monsters from its city limits. Actually, it's about freak shows. Carnivals used to display people with tumors, disfiguring injuries, and even those in iron lungs for rubes to gawk at. The Urbana, Chicago, and several other municipalities that banned monsters and ugly people were probably referring to side-shows. The Straight Dope ran a column on it once but it's not on the web yet.)

Friday, May 28, 2004

It's Official: Hunting for Bambi Was Fake

Snopes and other sources declared it a fraud months ago but the lame-brain behind the "shoot-nekkid-girls" scheme came clean.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Slicing Up Meat

I applied for a few thousands of summer jobs to make up for the NKU paycheck. I got a call from Krogers about working in the deli. Yeah, that's why I went to graduate school.

Having just started, it's busy work but in many ways less stressful than teaching. Of course, it pays better but collecting cans for the recycle center would come close to adjunct wages.

I am learning about meats and cheeses. Somehow that might improve my life.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Job Switch

I've had some fantastic students over the years. I've had students that made me look at literature and writing in completely new light.

Then there are the bunch that think they deserve an A because they paid their tuition. Many of them don't buy the book and those that do, don't read the assignments. Last semester I had only two students show up for a class but the ones that skipped didn't think it should have been held against them.

I could understand if I was a tough grader but I'm notoriously easy. If I made a full-time paycheck maybe I wouldn't mind but it's really not worth it.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Beg for It

No matter how you feel about Bush and the Pope, this might be a move for the better.
Hope for Nessie

The guys looking for Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster might seem nuts but occasionally this happens. You never hear about them discovering a new species of alien or psychic.
No Gas on May 19

If you're one of the million people who sent me this e-mail, please read Snopes. Your heart is in the right place but this isn't going to work. Drive less, walk more, and don't buy an SUV.

My wife had a flight to Chicago at 5:50 and forgot about the new guidelines about getting there two hours in advance. It turned out it didn't matter--her flight was delayed until 9:30. No real point. I just got a gazillion cell phone messages about it.
Book of Y

Finally culled my notes from Steve Jones's Y: The Descent of Men. Accessible and often funny, it's loaded with strange factoids about sexuality. Here are a fraction:

After the 100-year war, German states legalized polygamy due to the shortage of men. Within a generation, the male/female ratio was back up and monogamy restored. Contrary to the claims of the people who want to ban gay marriage, it's not acceptance of same-sex couples that leads to polygamy—it's war.

Stanislawa Walasiewics, winner of gold and silver medals in 100 meter dash in the 1932 and 1936 Olympics, was shot to death in Cleveland during a robbery in the 1980s. The medical examiner discovered that she had internal testicles which almost certainly helped her strength training. Walasiewics was not the only athlete in the women's games with XY chromosomes. Hermann Ratjen, of the Nazi Youth Groups, placed fourth during the games, competing as "Dora."

In Victorian England a woman with XY chromosomes and slowly changing male, was locking up in an insane asylum. Doctors blamed her growing penis on "delusions," insisting it would go away if she would only think proper thoughts.

Why you should never kick an elephant between the legs. It's futile—their testicles never descend from the body like humans and dogs. In other animals like mice, they can go in or out depending on temperature and other conditions. Despite what Ian Fleming said in You Only Die Twice, humans can't do this.

Michelangelo's David has an uncircumcised penis about the size of his thumb. The replica in Caesars Palace has been upgraded.

An old Jewish belief states that Abraham does not allow circumcised Jews into hell. However, to thwart the sinners, he takes the foreskins from children who die young, puts them on the sinners, and sends them down.

On the other hand, in ancient Rome, a mother who had her son circumcised was garrotted and hung from a cross with her dead baby tied around their neck.

All mammals (at least male mammals) have a type of foreskin.

A man who was circumcised as an adult claimed that it made sex seem like a movie going from color to black and white. You'll never think about the end of The Wizard of Oz the same way.

Globally about 700,000 men are circumcised. It was unheard of in Korea until the arrival of Americans in the Korean Conflict. Now 90% of Korean boys are circumcised, many as teens.

In U.S. circumcision rates are down from 90% in 60s to about 50% today (less in blacks and lower class). Only about 20% of British are cut but they included the royalty until Princess Di refused to have it done to her boys.

Some claim that circumcision reduce the risk of penile cancer (and medical evidence suggests that this might be so) but for every death due to penile cancer, there are 250 to breast and ovarian cancer. No one suggests ritualistic mastectomies or hysterectomies for girls or even for adult women past child-bearing age. Sweden restricts circumcision on grounds that it does not maintain informed consent.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Perfect Wardrobe

According to the Museum of Hoaxes, this is fake. Still pretty funny.
Satire or Insanity?

You be the judge. Are these guys for real?

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Life Imitates the Simpsons

Remember when Homer went into the grease recovery business?
Hysteria in the Streets!

Cicadas will force you to stab and hit by-standers with baseball bats!
The Slippery Slope

I finished a couple books about mutants and genetics but I need to thin my notes on them before posting. To keep my sanity, I just read Lemony Snicket's The Slippery Slope.

For those of you without children, this is book ten in A Series of Unfortunate Events, the saga of three orphans on the run from a homicidal pyromaniac. The tone is incredibly dark yet funny (if you've read Roald Dahl's The Twits, you'll know what I mean). The villainous Count Olaf actually kills dozens of people without repercussion--just what children need to get them ready for the real world.

The writing is thicker but I think even more rich than Dahl's. "Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant, filled with odd waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don't always like."

After reading about the root genetic causes of various birth defects, that was just what I needed.
Creative Writing

Snopes has a few answers to questions on college chemistry exams. I wish I saved all my poetry tests.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

It's Over

Here's some words of wisdom from Paul Ritter of Anderson Township via the Enquirer:

Show me one picture of military abuse in Abu Ghraib prison that comes within a hair of the abhorrent brutality of Nick Berg's beheading by al-Qaida operatives in Iraq. If his murder doesn't justify the war on terrorism and President Bush's determination to win it, I don't know what does. It's time for all Americans, especially those in Congress and the liberal media, to quit condemning our own military and undermining the efforts of our troops in Iraq.

Rather than fight it, I think I'm going to incorporate this logic into my own life:

"Sir, you were speeding. I'm going to have to give you a ticket."

"But there was a bloody murder last week that was much, much worse than anything I'm accused of. Sure, the liberal media might say that it was committed by someone entirely unrelated to me but shouldn't we all work together to win President Bush's War on Terror?

"You're entirely right. On your way."

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Nader's on the Ballot in Florida--Four More Years

Did you read the part where the Naderite claims that he'll get conservative votes? So funny I could cry.
Make Your Life Easy By Not Thinking

The following comes from today's Enquirer:

Some folks think the treatment of jailed terrorists should come under the rules of the Geneva Convention or U.S. law. Last time I checked, Geneva Convention rules only apply to prisoners wearing a uniform of a country at war. People who mistreated terrorist prisoners will be dealt with and punished. Pictures I will remember are those showing Americans jumping from the burning twin towers, coupled with the brave firefighters and police going into those towers.

Edward Lameier, Cheviot

In a sense he's right in that the First and Second Geneva Conventions (plural, Mr. Lameier) deal with soldiers and sailors. However the Fourth Convention, which Lameier apparently did not check, concerns civilians.

It doesn't surprise me that Lameier would write a letter without knowing the slightest thing about his subject. It doesn't surprise me that he tries to change the subject to September 11th despite the fact that Iraq was in no way involved.

It does surprise me that the Enquirer would print this letter without mentioning that it's wrong. Before the day is over, thousands of readers will parrot this "fact" in their defense of the abuse. After Pete Bronson's "Beagle in the Blender" argument against evolution, I guess I shouldn't expect much from them.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004


After my failure to get the kids interested in Wolves in the Walls, I tried with Coraline. I pretty much knew that it was too old for them but I wanted an excuse to read it. Some day they'll appreciate the finer things.
More Books

Yeah, it's been out forever but I finally found a copy of Bill Maher's When You Ride Alone You Ride with bin Laden.

Undoubtedly you've heard enough about it already but here's a few of Maher's points:

"We don't deserve to laugh [at Reefer Madness], because nothing has changed."

"I could never be a politician for many reasons; one of them is, I like to change my mind." Personally, I hate to change my mind but I wind up doing it every three seconds or so. One of these years I'm going to finish a 75 page post on the death penalty, featuring my repeated flip-flopping.

"Bill Clinton may have been an evil man who likes the ladies, but he sure got it that ignorant disengagement [over terrorism] was not an option in the 21st century." If there's a hell, Clinton's heading for it. To his credit, he killed thousands of Arabs who had nothing to do with the terrorist bombing they were blamed for without shredding the constitution.

I was surprised to see that Ann Coulter has a blurb on the back cover: "Bill Maher loves America, hates conventional thinking, and, despite his curmudgeonly image, has a heart of gold." I have to wonder what kind of pictures he has on her.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Wedding Dress Guy

You've probably seen this guy's ad on E-bay. Snopes has an update.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Native Terrorists

War on Domestic Terror. Don't hear so much of this.

I'm slogging through a book about genetic mutations as I finish up grading (I write this with two students still taking the Lit exam). Soon I'll have a big post about real, non-X-Man mutants but I read something so odd that I'll post a preview.

In Salinas, a small village in the Dominican Republic, the people coined a new word, "Guevedoche." Translated to English, this means "Penis at Twelve." This doesn't mean a nooner or a perversion. It's just that approximately one out of every 90 births (in a total population of 4,300 people) appear initially to be female but during puberty, transform to male.

If a developing XY fetus lacks an enzyme known as 5-alpha-reductase, it will not develop male organs despite having male DNA. However, in puberty as production of sex hormones increase, the higher amounts of testosterone (which both male and females make) causes the body to start following the XY outline.

Villagers trace the mutation to a single individual, one Altagracia Carrasco. It's unclear of the long-term psychological effects of going from girls to men but it would be quite the conversation starter.

A similar situation is found in the Sambia tribe in New Guinea. They have a word "kwolu-aatmwol" (changing to male thing).

The mutation could occur anywhere but those are the only two places where it has become so common.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

End of Friends

Am I the only one not going to watch television tonight?
Against the World

Somewhat disturbing e-mail chain letter. Even scarier, Snopes says that it's true.

New and improved with right link!
Mills--the Forgotten U.S. Coin

Nobody believes me when I tell them about the mill. "Why would they have a coin worth a tenth of a penny?" Maybe it's because I insist they were named after me.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004


If you're going to murder your wife, maybe bubble baths aren't the answer.

OJ, free. This guy, jailed. This message brought to you by your local knife manufacturer.
Scooby or Leo

For our neighbors to the north, I hope this turns out to be another Great Dane. On the other hand, too many idiots buy exotic pets and let them loose when they get too much of a handful.
Rush Agrees: POW Torture Just Like Frat Pledging

Thanks to Pharyngula for Rush's take:

"This is no different than what happens at the skull and bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You heard of need to blow some steam off?"

Okay, granted I never saw the Skull and Bones ceremony but I witnessed a number of fraternity initiations. What I saw was a bunch of guys trying to read booklets in the dark in front of some other guys holding candles, then everybody going out to bars. And even if you hold onto the frat comparison, pledges aren't forced to be there (the battered-wife syndrome defense seems laughable when applied to frat houses).

My dad was an MP in 1965 and, while worse things happened in Vietnam, it was his duty to arrest soldiers doing anything like this. Yes, our troops are under horrible strain that I can't begin to imagine but even if stripping POWs naked isn't a big deal to you, there's still "disgrace to the uniform" and "conducting unbecoming." No one with any degree of respect to the military should condone this at all.

More Bad Food for Dogs

As a puppy, my dog ate a seven-pound bag of bird seed. The next day, it was like a nature documentary about fish spraying out their eggs. I have to wonder if some dogs are more susceptible to poison than others. Before I got him, my dog ate mainly out of garbage cans (in Clifton!). Maybe that toughened him up. It seemed to have killed a lot of his brain cells.

Anyway, Snopes has a warning about grapes and raisins.
Just in Time for Mothers' Day

"Okay, it isn't much but at least I didn't put you on an ice flow."
TV Prime Time

I would never have given this any thought but my sister used to live in Tennessee which is split in two time zones. Whenever I'd visit, I'd think, "Hey, this isn't an 8 o'clock show!"

If you ever listen to old radio serials, you'll notice that the actors gave one performance for the east coast and one for the west (the Blue and Red networks). The actors in a lot of programs, especially Fibber McGee and Molly, downed a couple of cold ones between show times. The later shows are almost always funnier with drunken ad-libs and blown lines. With the FCC's mandated delays, we won't hear anything like that anymore.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

The Wolves in the Walls

I picked up a copy of Neil Gaiman's children's book, The Wolves in the Walls, even though I didn't think my daughter would like it. Personally I was impressed by the artwork (a blending of line drawings, painting, photos, and computer graphics) and the quirky story. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to keep my four-year old's attention.

Well, it's better to try and fail than just turn on the television.
The Last Natural Philosopher

Degrees Kelvin: A Tail of Genius, Invention, and Tragedy by David Lindley, author of The End of Physics.

The book begins with the 77-year Kelvin given a heroic welcome for his appearance at the University of Rochester. His colleagues and popular opinion had it that his name would survive forever with Newton's. Other than the temperature measurement system starting with absolute zero, I knew nothing about him. Years ago, I'd read James Blaylock's Lord Kelvin's Machine which depicted him as an off-stage genius but I couldn't have told you what he'd invented or discovered.

Kelvin (real name "William Thomson") published his first professional paper on mathematics at 16 and became the cornerstone of "Classical Physics" (heat, light, magnetism, and electricity) before he was 30. His work made the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable possible and created a compass that would work in iron ships (a problem I'd never even thought of). He discovered that heat travels through space like heat through matter which might not have the flair of "E=Mc2" but it was a landmark achievement.

Kelvin did not like the term "scientist," preferring the older term "natural philosopher." This leads into the second-most important aspect of his life.

He didn't accept Maxwell's Theory of Electro-Magnetism; in 1902, he spoke out that air ships would never have practical applications (in a sense he was right; they were replaced by air planes but that's not at all what he meant). He refused to believe in new-fangled notions of atoms and radioactivity.

Of course, he disputed evolution, but more out of legitimate scientific reasons (of the time) instead of religious dogma. He thought the sun could be no more than 100 million years old ("20 million is more realistic").

He agreed with his friend Feeming Jenkin's argument that evolution was impossible, partially for the following racist argument. "If a white man were washed ashore on an isle of savages, his superior traits would swiftly put him in position of king and he would produce more descendants than his peers but his superiority would be diluted over time by breeding with his inferiors." Racist but a real scientific position of the era. Mendel had the answer but, without knowledge of DNA and genetics, no one (not even Darwin) could refute it.

Many people came to view Kelvin as a cranky old coot who didn't believe in anything discovered after he turned 35. Were he alive today, he'd be on the radio ridiculing the idea of global warming, the hole in the ozone layer, or the importance of biodiversity.
More Book Reviews

Yes, more proof of my depressingly pathetic life:

The Explainer, edited by Bryan Curtis of Slate Magazine.

If you're into Q&A books like The Straight Dope, this isn't a bad read. Nowhere near as smart-alecky as Cecil Adams or Joel Achenbach but providing the answers for a number of pressing questions such as "Why does Bush say 'New-cue-lar?'"

Apparently it's due to a process called metathesis which shifts sounds from adjacent syllables. ("Nu-clee-ar" becomes "nu-cu-lar" as "eye-ron" became "eye-yern"). The book doesn't mention it but back in Chaucer's era, English went through what is called the "Great Vowel Movement" (not to be mistaken for the "Great Bowel--okay, I'll stop). Basic vowel sounds shifted from corresponding to Spanish and other language vowel sounds ("i" sounding like "ee" as in "Si" to "i" sounding like "eye" in "like.")

Yes, I know that no one else on the entire web is vaguely interested in this.

A question that somebody might conceivably care about is "did Eric Rudolph, the American right-wing terrorist, really live off lizards like he said he did?"

Answer: Lizard meat has 50 calories per ounce (like chicken), meaning that even if he stuck to a starvation diet of 1,500 calories/day all winter, he would have needed 100-300 lizards a day. Lizards are not plentiful in the Western Carolina mountains where he claimed to have hid out.

Does this mean Rudolph is a lying sack of shit? You can probably answer that yourself.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?

I was scanning through the radio when I heard the author of the Sorority book that I mentioned a few weeks back. She was on WLW (and yes it made me feel unclean) but I listened anyway. I was just putting the car in park when I heard the reason that anti-racist and -elitist remarks appeared on Clear Channel's flag ship station.

The host brought up the pictures of the Iraqi POWs and mentioned that it was more or less just like fraternity (and maybe sorority) hazing. In fairness he did admit to a few differences but essentially he thought it was all the same thing.

Okay, even if a fraternity would do something like that (and I'm not putting it beyond Texas chapters), it would seem the voluntary nature of pledges putting themselves such a position might be significant (and I'm not condoning hazing but I rather be hazed at a frat house than tortured in a POW camp).

Plus, pledges know when pledging is over, nobody is threatening them with guns (okay, again maybe not in Texas), and enough other reasons that Blogger would crash. I can't believe I need to argue the point. I shouldn't be surprised that someone brought up the argument in the first place but I certainly was.

Sunday, May 02, 2004


Thanks to the kids, I haven't been to anything more thought provoking than the water and woods exhibits at the Children's Museum but my wife needed to see something for her Theater Appreciation class so we got to see Equus last night. I'd never seen it on stage and was very impressed. It's still going on for two weeks by the Falcon Theatre (but in the Monmouth Theatre).

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Koala Shoot

You know somebody is going to video this and put it on the web. Look for spam "Great Koala Kill" soon.
Chocolate for Dogs

Covington brought up a good question about feeding chocolate to dogs. It's definitely not good for them but it's not healthy for humans either. (Falling back to Cecil Adams).

I'm a little skeptical about this. My grandma's poodle ate at least a pound of chocolate one Christmas and still maintained "firm and solid stool." I wouldn't advise intentionally feeding Snicker bars to your schnauzer but I don't stop my dog from cleaning up the stuff the kids drop. Adams didn't factor that most cheap candy has more filler than Hamburger Helper--rice, peanuts, caramel, etc. I'm sure all of these things are bad for canine health but they must dilute the harmful chemical. If some idiot feeds his dog pure Belgium chocolate, he deserves to bury it.