Oct 31, 2009

Trick or Treat

A chimpanzee goes through a Halloween-theme bag of treats at the San Francisco Zoo.

Halloween and 24 inches of snow is a scary combination

Nice sunglasses

Oct 30, 2009

Spread wealth on Halloween

(click on cartoon to enlarge)

This was a Gary Varvel “Caption This” contest winner. My caption choice was “I got a Nobel Peace Prize in my bag.”

Mr. Varvel is an editorial cartoonist for the Indianapolis Star.

Colorado schools: 3rd straight snow day

The massive storm that spread snow over Colorado for three days has finally moved out of the state.

Gusty winds are causing drifting snow in some areas on Friday.

Denver had 14 inches of snow but other areas of the metro area had much more as Highlands Ranch had an official 24.5 inches of snow.

Evergreen - in the foothills just west of Denver - had 40 inches of new snow.

Fort Collins had 18.5 inches and Greeley had 12 inches.


For fans of the 0-6 Tennessee Titans

World Domino Day

What is it about watching dominoes fall that is so hypnotic? One person said domino toppling is a cross between kinetic sculpture and pencil stacking.

The YouTube video here was taken at World Domino Day 2008

(click on picture to see video)

Permanent marker bandits nabbed in Iowa

Police said they had no trouble identifying two men accused of trying to break into a Carroll, Iowa apartment.

Their Magic Marker disguise turned out to be not very magic.

Matthew Allan McNelly, 23 and Joey Lee Miller, 20 were arrested after they tried to break into an apartment in Carroll.

No one said criminals had to be smart.


Report: clunkers cost taxpayers $24,000 per car

CNN Money reports that auto sales analysts at Edmunds.com say the pricey program resulted in relatively few additional car sales.

A total of 690,000 new vehicles were sold under the Cash for Clunkers program last summer, but only 125,000 of those were vehicles that would not have been sold anyway, according to an analysis released Wednesday by the automotive Web site Edmunds.com.

The Clunkers program gave car buyers rebates of up to $4,500 if they traded in less fuel-efficient vehicles for new vehicles that met certain fuel economy requirements. A total of $3 billion was allotted for those rebates.

The average rebate was $4,000. But the overwhelming majority of sales would have taken place anyway at some time in the last half of 2009, according to Edmunds.com.

That means the government ended up spending about $24,000 each for those 125,000 additional vehicle sales.

Further, the clunker program only helped those who could already afford a new car and destroyed untold thousands of perfectly serviceable used cars that could have been used by folks who couldn't afford new-car prices.

That amounts to destroyed wealth. Add the cost to taxpayers of $24,000 per car and the taxpayers are really getting robbed.


Oct 29, 2009

Colorado snow storm update

The storm has left almost 4 feet of snow in the foothills and close to two feet in the Denver metro area. The heaviest snow is now shifting to the eastern plains Thursday night.

A partial list of closed roads in Colorado:

I-70 Aurora CO to Kansas
I-76 Brighton CO to Nebraska
US 36 Byers CO to Kansas
US 34 Brush CO to Nebraska
Co 71 Ordway CO to Nebraska
I-25 is closed from Wellington to the Wyoming border.

Don’t make him stay out so long

They usually don’t get this way until December.

Wal-Mart is now selling caskets online

An Associated Press report says Wal-Mart is now selling caskets online:

The world's largest retailer wants to keep its customers even after they die.

Wal-Mart has started selling caskets on its website at prices that undercut many funeral homes, long the major seller of caskets.

The move follows a similar one by discount rival Costco, which also sells caskets on its site.

Prices range from $999 for models like "Dad Remembered" and "Mom Remembered" steel caskets to the mid-level $1,699 "Executive Privilege." All are less than $2,000, except for the Sienna Bronze Casket, which sells for $3,199.

The move gives more power to consumers and helps them avoid high mark-ups on caskets, which can often be several hundred percent, said R. Brian Burkhardt, a funeral director who blogs as "Your Funeral Guy."

Federal law requires funeral homes to accept third-party caskets.


How to open plastic clamshell packages

(click on picture to see video)

...thanks to Twila for the link

Colorado hammered by snowstorm

Christmas weather just in time for Halloween with 10 to 15 inches or more of snow along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains from south of Denver to the Wyoming state line.

They are measuring the snow by the feet in the mountains where it may stay on the ground all winter.

The Front Range temperature forecast for Saturday and Sunday is in the 50’s so the snow here will be gone in a few days.

Madoff losers divide $534 million; winners get nothing

An ABC News report says:

More than half of the customers of conman Bernie Madoff (pictured) have had their claims for restitution denied by the securities industry fund meant to insure them.

The Madoff ‘losers’ will get $534 Million but the ‘winners’ won’t get a dime.

The bankruptcy trustee, Irving Picard, said today that more customers made money than lost money in the decades long scam.

Records show that 2,568 customers took out more than they initially deposited and will receive no restitution.

Not only that, lawyers for the bankruptcy trustee plan to seek a return of the profits of those that received more than they initially invested.

Bankruptcy trustee, Irving Picard, did say, "We're not going to be suing people who have no money or might lose their homes."

Picard said only 2,335 of Madoff's customers had net losses. Of those, 1,368 have had their claims approved and the Securities Investor Protector Corporation fund has committed $534 million in payments for them.

The maximum amount the fund pays is $500,000 and, in effect, the fund will only be reimbursing Madoff's victims for about one of every eight dollars they lost, given total losses calculated by Picard at $21.26 billion.

More here.

The agony of defeat ...

(click on cartoon to enlarge)

Obama using his socialist mop

The illustration above, from sweasel.com, was undoubtedly prompted by the following ‘socialist mop’ phrase used by Mr. Obama (found at the link below):

When “I’m busy and (House Speaker) Nancy (Pelosi) busy with our mop cleaning up somebody else’s mess -- we don't want somebody sitting back saying, you're not holding the mop the right way,” Obama had said last week. “Why don't you grab a mop, why don't you help clean up... You're not mopping fast enough... That’s a socialist mop he told the crowd: Grab a mop -- let's get to work.”


Oct 28, 2009

Top Democrat donors get White House perks

Bill Clinton was the champion of exchanging nights in the Lincoln bedroom and other White House perks in exchange for donations -- until now.

After the White House enjoyed a quiet and respectable eight years, Barack Obama is bringing back the Clinton tradition with a vengance.

During his first nine months in office, President Obama has quietly rewarded scores of top Democratic donors with VIP access to the White House.

The commercialization of the White House is back stronger than ever.

High-dollar fundraisers have been promised access to senior White House officials in exchange for pledges to donate $30,400 personally or to bundle $300,000 in contributions ahead of the 2010 midterm elections, according to internal Democratic National Committee documents obtained by The Washington Times.

One top donor described in an interview with The Times being given a birthday visit to the Oval Office. Another was allowed use of a White House-complex bowling alley for his family.

Bundlers closest to the president were invited to watch a movie in the red-walled theater in the basement of the presidential mansion.

In an attempt to downplay the White House commercialization, deputy White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said, "Contributing does not guarantee a ticket to the White House, nor does it prohibit the contributor from visiting."

Bill Clinton aides made similar statements during the 1990’s.


To avoid health risk of using cell phone...

Pedal powered school bus in New Delhi

This unique tricycle school bus was found in New Delhi, India.

Rubik Cube Contest in Budapest, Hungary

A participant in the annual Rubik Cube Hungarian Open Championships attempts to solve a cube blindfolded in Budapest, Hungary.

Another contestant solves a Rubik Cube with his feet.

This won’t hurt a bit

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, left, reacts as he is examined by clinical nurse Liz Thebus, right, inside the 'Tutu Tester' mobile unit in Cape Town, South Africa.

The Tutu Tester, is a mobile unit that tests people for diabetes, obesity and HIV with results and counseling provided on site.

Lieberman Backs GOP Filibuster of Public Option

Senator Joe Lieberman (pictured) said he's worried a public option would be costly to taxpayers and drive up insurance premiums.

Lieberman is an independent who is among a group of about a dozen moderate senators whose support Reid will need as the critical Senate vote nears.

A report at the link below says:

Sen. Joe Lieberman says he will back a GOP filibuster of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s healthcare reform bill because of its inclusion of a “public option” -- a devastating blow to the Obama administration’s hopes of unified Democratic support for a healthcare bill with a government-run insurance program.

Lieberman opposes any healthcare bill that includes the public option.

This is no surprise because Lieberman is from Connecticut -- home to healthcare insurance companies. The public option would eventually be the death knell of the private healthcare industry.


Oct 27, 2009

Wayward pilots lose licenses

The Federal Aviation Administration has revoked the licenses of the two Northwest Airlines pilots who overshot a Minnesota airport by 150 miles during a 78-minute period of radio silence last week.

Capt. Timothy B. Cheney, 53, and First Officer Richard I. Cole, 54, were piloting Northwest Flight 188 from San Diego, California, to the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport Wednesday when air traffic controllers lost radio contact with the Airbus A320 over the Denver, Colorado, area.

Were the pilots distracted? Catching up on their sleep?

The cockpit voice recorder may not tell the tale.

Federal investigators struggled to determine what the crew of a Northwest Airlines jetliner were doing at 37,000 feet as they sped 150 miles past their Minneapolis destination and military jets scrambled to chase them. Unfortunately, the cockpit voice recorder may not tell the tale.

New recorders retain as much as two hours of cockpit conversation and other noise, but the older model aboard Northwest's Flight 188 includes just the last 30 minutes - only the very end of Wednesday night's flight after the pilots realized their error over Wisconsin and were heading back to Minneapolis.

Link here and here.

Rose Queen? Me? Really? Gulp!

Natalie Anne Innocenzi reacts to being chosen the 2010 Rose Queen by the Tournament of Roses Association in Pasadena, California.

Miss. Innocenzi is a 16-year-old student at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy in La CaƱada Flintridge, California.

AP photo


Rich leaving New York in record numbers

The Empire State is being drained of an invaluable resource -- people.

A new study shows that New Yorkers are fleeing the state and city in alarming numbers -- and costing a fortune in lost tax dollars.

More than 1.5 million state residents left for other parts of the United States from 2000 to 2008, according to the report from the Empire Center for New York State Policy. It was the biggest out-of-state migration in the country.

The vast majority of the migrants, 1.1 million, were former residents of New York City -- meaning one out of seven city taxpayers moved out.

Families fleeing New York are being replaced by lower-income newcomers, who consequently pay less in taxes.

The former New Yorkers earned about 13 percent more than those who moved into the state to replace them.

More of the story here.

Iceland says goodbye to McDonald’s restaurants

McDonald's will close its restaurants in Iceland this week after currency fluctuations threatened to make Icelandic Big Macs the world's most expensive at $6.36.

Norway and Switzerland currently have the world’s most expensive Big Macs, at $5.75.

Iceland has three McDonald's restaurants - all in the capital Reykjavik. They will close next weekend, as the franchise owner gives in to falling profits caused by the collapse in the Icelandic krona.

Iceland's economy collapsed last year as the global financial crisis gathered pace leaving Icelanders grappling with soaring prices and a national currency – the kronur – that dived 80 percent as the nation’s banks collapsed.

McDonald's imports the majority of its ingredients meaning the fast-food giant can no longer compete with domestic restaurants who use local produce.


Living high

A traditional Swedish cottage sits atop the 280 foot high Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.

Swedish artist Mikael Genberg designed the red cottage that stood on the top of the Globe last summer.

Driver stopped for 15 violations in 11 minutes

A report from Gossau, Switzerland says an Italian man took reckless driving to new heights in 11 frantic minutes of traffic violations.

They first spotted the 47-year-old driver as he raced his jeep past an unmarked police car at 100 mph in a rainstorm.

Driving dangerously close to other cars on the autobahn, he then allegedly ignored police attempts to pull him over — first with a stop sign, and then with flashing lights and sirens.

Police say the man drove through a construction zone at over 8o mph, nearly twice the speed limit, before being stopped.

They seized the man's driver's license, and a judge ordered him tested for medications and illegal drugs.

15 traffic violations in 11 minutes is ssurely some kind of record.


Oct 26, 2009

Wayward Northwest pilots say they were on laptops

Two Northwest pilots at the controls of Flight 188 that missed the Minneapolis airport last Wednesday said in interviews they were not fatigued and didn't fall asleep.

They told federal investigators they were looking at schedules on their laptop computers.

Were they grasping for an excuse? The use of laptop computers in the cockpit is prohibited.

The NTSB said the pilots told investigators the first officer was instructing the captain on monthly flight crew scheduling.

First it was arguing with themselves and members of the flight crew. Then it was using prohibited laptops. Will “the dog ate my homework” be next. Our favorite is: they were napping.


CNN is now in last place among Cable News networks

Just when we thought MSNBC was so bad none of the other Cable News Networks could be worse -- here comes CNN to claim the last place crown.

Was CNN’s fall to last place because of Anderson “cold oatmeal” Cooper (upper photo), Wolfgang “full of himself” Blitzer or was it the basic “all Obama, all the time” editorial philosophy?

Whatever the reason, CNN is in deep yogurt when the public would rather watch the ranting of MSNBC’s Katzenjammer Kids, Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann (lower photo).

It won’t be long before the only people watching CNN are those trapped in airport boarding areas or sitting in waiting rooms.

Link here and here.

DWI while driving motorized LaZBoy chair

Friends shouldn’t let friends drive drunk -- in a recliner.

A Minnesota man was driving a motorized La-Z-Boy lounge chair when he hit a parked vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.

It isn’t often you hear of a DWI while in a recliner.

Dennis LeRoy Anderson, 62, pleaded guilty in St. Louis County District Court to DWI in connection with the Aug. 31, 2008, incident in Proctor. There were no injuries.

According to the criminal complaint, Anderson drove his motorized chair into a vehicle parked near a Proctor bar.

Anderson told police he was traveling from the Keyboard Lounge after consuming approximately eight or nine beers. His blood-alcohol content was measured at 0.29 percent, more than three times the legal limit to drive.

Mr. Anderson said he was driving the chair fine until a woman jumped on it and knocked the chair off course.

The chair (shown above along with Mr. Anderson) was powered by a Briggs & Stratton engine from a lawnmower. It has headlights, a stereo, cup holders and other custom options, including different power levels.

A National Hot Rod Racing Association sticker is posted on the chair’s head rest.

The chair has a small steering wheel, about a third of the size of a golf cart’s, coming straight up from the middle of the La-Z-Boy.


A young Pakistani girl and her dog

A young girl looks out from a vehicle as she and her family wait for security clearance at a checkpoint on the outskirt of Bannu, a town on edge of the Pakistani tribal region of Waziristan.

Wrong man selected for panel vacancy

Democrats in Mobile County Alabama needed a member to serve on an interim party panel.

They nominated Reynolds Smith Jr. He was known to be a stalwart Democrat so how could they go wrong?

Only one problem. Mr. Smith died the previous November at age 83.

They received Smith's name from a 2006 list of candidates for the Mobile County committee and then used a voter list to verify him as an active voter.

Next time they’ll check the obituaries to avoid nominating a dead man.


Obama worst poll rating drop in 50 years

The decline in Barack Obama’s popularity since July has been the steepest of any president at the same stage of his first term for more than 50 years.

Gallup recorded an average daily approval rating of 53 per cent for Mr. Obama for the third quarter of the year, a sharp drop from the 62 per cent he recorded from April.

Obama entered the White House with a soaring 78 per cent approval rating.


Oct 25, 2009

Co-pilot of wayward plane speaks out

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board have interviewed the pilots of a Northwest Airlines flight that overshot the airport in Minneapolis, Minnesota, last week.

The NTSB also said that flight attendants might be interviewed on Monday, and that it would not release further information for now.

The cockpit of an Airbus 320 airliner is shown above.

"It was not a serious event, from a safety issue," pilot Richard Cole (pictured) said late Friday in front of his Salem, Ore., home. "I would tell you more, but I've already told you way too much."

First officer Richard Cole has said he and the captain were not sleeping or arguing in the cockpit, but hasn't explained their lapse in response and the detour.

"We were not asleep; we were not having an argument; we were not having a fight," Cole said.

More of the story here.

Fumbling Huskers refuse to win

8-0. No, that was not the final score. It was the turnover ratio in the Nebraska Iowa State football game Saturday.

The final score was 9-7 in favor of the Iowa State Cyclones.

The Huskers put the ball on the ground a total of seven times and recovered by Iowa State five times.

Nebraska also fumbled four times inside the five-yard line and lost them all.

The photo at right shows Husker head coach Bo Pelini reacting to one of the fumbles.

Nebraska finished the game with 362 yards of offense but just seven points on the scoreboard. Eight turnovers will do that.

3-D movies may come to home TV’s next year

A CNN article at the link below reports:

Three-dimensional images are expected jump out of movie theaters and into living rooms by next year.

Sony and Panasonic say they will release home 3-D television systems in 2010; Mitsubishi and JVC are reported to be working on similar products.

The report compares 3-D transition to the switch from black-and-white to color television and the shift from standard- to high-definition images.

ESPN is test-recording some sporting events in 3-D, using cameras with two sets of lenses, which would make football players appear to jump out of home television screens during live 3-D broadcasts.

And, although television makers haven't released specifics, the price of 3-D TV -- which requires a new television, broadcasting content and 3-D glasses -- is not expected to be substantially higher than some high-definition televisions on the market now.

We wonder if there will be a 3-D TV format war much like the recent Blue-Ray vs. HD DVD war or the 1980’s Beta Max vs. VHS war.

More of the 3-D television story here.

Obama hangover found in state and local elections

The LA Times reports that the Democratic Party is encountering 'Obama hangover' in state, local elections.

Obama is on the campaign trail on behalf of Democrats, but the electricity of 2008 is tough to recapture.

He is presiding over two wars, a sour economy and an epic fight to rework the nation's healthcare system.

Now tack on a trio of state and local political races. With an off-year election fast approaching, Obama is stepping up his commitment to Democratic candidates in hopes that an infusion of campaign charisma might pump up turnout.

What the party is finding, though, is that the electricity of 2008 is tough to recapture.

Some Democratic candidates running for local office around the country call the phenomenon the "Obama hangover." It is proving tougher to recruit volunteers and get people to vote.