Friday, October 28, 2011

The History of Halloween

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, even though trick-or-treating always struck me as an odd tradition given our nation's pervasive religiosity. How did it all come about, then?

A 3 minute history of Halloween from the National Geographic Channel  HERE does an excellent job, I think, of answering this question with both speed and depth.  While the holiday's origins date back over 3,000 years, the tradition of "trick or treating" apparently began with Irish immigrants to America during the Potato Famine, who brought with them a tradition of committing 'pranks' on Halloween night. By the time of the Great Depression, however, this 'harmless Irish tradition' had evolved into mean-spirited hooliganism and related extortion rackets.

This became such a widespread social problem in America that the tradition of having neighbors give candy to random children on Halloween for the asking was initiated in the mid-1930s to try to reform this growing public problem. And it worked.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tiny Chalupa Rage

Something magical frequently happens when the worlds of 'true crime' and 'fast food' collide.  According to THIS story, a Georgia man became enraged when he discovered that the 'XXL chalupas' he had just ordered at the Taco Bell drive thru did not have enough meat filling.  So he returned at 4 AM and firebombed the store with a molotov cocktail.

On a related note, THIS could be a headline from The Onion. "Arby's Opens To Mixed Reviews In Bellmore."

"The Princess Bride" Reunion Photo

I really liked the 1987 film The Princes Bride. Though like almost everyone else, I first discovered it long after its theatrical run. It's a much-beloved cult hit today, as evidenced by the fact that Entertainment Weekly has assembled a star-studded reunion photo HERE.  They also posted a 2 minute video clip HERE of interviews done during this photo shoot that actually provides an even better view of them all today.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

McRib: Still Want One?

You may have read that McDonald's will once again be temporarily reintroducing its McRib sandwich across the country.  The McRib has come and gone over the last 30 years, which always seemed unusual to me given the fact that a pillar of McDonald's success has always been its consistency.

What is the McRib, really?  And why does it come and go? This article on CNN answers these questions as follows:

What is it? "Restructured meat products are commonly manufactured by using lower-valued meat trimmings reduced in size by comminution (flaking, chunking, grinding, chopping or slicing). The comminuted meat mixture is mixed with salt and water to extract salt-soluble proteins. These extracted proteins are critical to produce a 'glue' which binds muscle pieces together. These muscle pieces may then be reformed to produce a 'meat log' of specific form or shape... 'That material,' as Mandigo calls it, is pork trimmings - but not from the rib. According to McDonald's Executive Chef Dan Coudreaut, it's primarily shoulder and loin meat, chopped and formed into a boneless patty in the shape of a four-ridged rib slab, and then quickly frozen until it meets its final fate on a restaurant grill. Then it's slathered in sauce, topped with pickles and raw onion and served in a long, soft white bun."

Why does it come and go, and why is it only available for short periods of time? "If you suddenly start to buy a large amount of that material," said Mandigo, "the price starts to rise."

Monday, October 24, 2011

Surprising First Ride Over Niagra Falls

Would you believe that the first person ever to go over Niagra Falls in a barrel was a 63-year old woman? Strange but true. Her name was Annie Edson Taylor and she went over Niagra Falls on this date in 1901.

She was a failed (and itinerant) dance and music instructor who in her later years conceived of the stunt as a way to make some money.  Her barrel ride was successful. (She was relatively unscathed.) But she never made much money out of it, apparently.  Unlike Evel Knievel's famously unsuccessful jump of the fountains at Caesar's Palace, there was no film footage memorializing her stunt.  And while she was able to earn some money afterward as a paid speaker, that apparently dried up pretty quickly.  And then her barrel was stolen and she had to spend most of her remaining money hiring private detectives to find it. She ultimately lived for another 20 years, and died at the age of 82.

You can see a couple of black and white photos of her (and her barrel) HERE. Looks-wise, she may have been Evel Knievel's exact opposite.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Big Payouts From Big Pharma

"A dozen pharmaceutical companies have given doctors and other healthcare providers more than $760 million over the past two years - and those companies' sales comprise 40 percent of the U.S. market... The payments, says Pro Publica, are for consulting, speaking, research and expenses on the part of the providers."

"With bucks that big flying around, is the quality of care offered by providers accepting them compromised? 'Money works,' Santa told Early Show co-anchor Russ Mitchell. 'Doctors are human. Doctors who take money from drug companies are more likely to give you an expensive drug or more likely to give you a drug you may not need."

You can read the entire story HERE on the CBS News website (and watch the video).

Why Baseball Managers Wear Uniforms Too

On the rare occasions (like during the World Series) when I watch baseball, I've frequently wondered why the middle-aged managers wear uniforms just like their players.  That sure doesn't happen in NFL football or in the NBA.  And it looks a little silly to me. Why is that done in Major League Baseball? 

THIS article on CNN this morning answers that question.  It's a tradition with long historical roots, apparently. "[I]n the earliest years of the game in the 19th century, 'The person who was called the manager of a team was the business manager -- he was the person who made sure that the receipts were paid and that the train schedules were met. He didn't make any decisions about what went on during a game. The person who did that was called the captain. He did what a manager does today, but he also played. So at first, the person we would today call a manager wore a uniform because he was a participant in the game.'"

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Cart Before The Airplane?

I was surprised to read this morning that the first recorded parachute jump took place on this date in 1797, more than a hundred years before the Wright Brothers' first flight in 1903.

If there were no airplanes in 1797, what drove Andre-Jacques Garnerin to invent the frameless parachute?

Hot air balloons.

Friday, October 21, 2011

News Media Promotes Fake Doomsday

I wrote here a couple of days ago about Harold Camping and his doomsday prophesies, the most recent suggesting that The Rapture would occur before October 21, 2011.

I asked who deserved more derision: the US media, or this 90 year-old man. If THIS article is correct, and Camping's congregation numbers no more than 25 people and his 'radio network' is composed of fewer than 60 radio stations nationwide, then the mainstream news media needs to look more introspectively.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

NBA Lockout Costing Taxpayers Millions, Too

The fact that the NBA has started cancelling games (due to ongoing negotiations between its players and owners) is apparently costing cities and taxpayers millions of dollars as well, according to THIS 3 minute segment from the CBS Evening News last night.

The root of the problem is the public financing of new arenas, and the revenue lost when NBA games are cancelled. Memphis, which apparently spent $200 million on a new arena for its NBA franchise, is considering a lawsuit against the NBA.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Last Name? Uh... Chalupa

After a long night out, a 30 year-old Florida man was arrested on suspicion of DUI, having passed out at the wheel of his truck (foot on the brake) in the drive-thru at a local Taco Bell. But what made this event national news of a sort, was that when police shook him awake and asked for his ID, he handed them a taco.

You can read more details HERE.

McDonald's TV Is Here, Like It Or Not

McDonald's is apparently launching a new TV channel that will be shown on an endless loop in its fast food restaurants. Large flat screen TVs will be mounted on the walls, with audio being piped through the ceiling.

According to the story in the Los Angeles Times HERE,  there's only going to be 8 minutes of advertising per hour. "This network is not intended to be all about McDonald's. It is all about the consumer," a spokesman asserted. Huh?  In what conceivable way?

"Each component will have several segments that include 'The McDonald's Achievers,' which will profile local high school and college athletes; 'Mighty Moms,' a focus on local moms juggling home life with careers in sports such as coaching or training; 'McDonald's Channel Music News' about musical acts, tours and new releases."

Over 70% of all fast food business is drive-thru, apparently.  And this seems to be an attempt to increase dine-in business.  But can anyone not employed by McDonald's really think this will be alluring, blaring down on customers' heads while they order and eat?  Can anyone, anywhere really want profiles of local teenagers  force fed to them at a McDonald's (in between McDonald's commercials)?

"Probably" The End Of The World

Remember back in May when 90-year old Harold Camping predicted that the world would end on May 21, 2011, causing some of his followers to donate their life savings to him, money he used to buy 2,000 billboards promoting the event?

Well, he's back.  After suffering national ridicule in May and a stroke in June, he's now predicting that the world will "probably" end on October 21st, in two days.  You really must have the courage of your convictions/numerology to go back to the well again on that so soon, just five months after such an infamous miscue.

I wonder how many followers he can possibly have left? And how much of this story is merely the news media amplifying the ramblings of a lone voice in the wind.

You can read more in The Washington Post HERE.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Courtney Love Today

Have you wondered what Courtney Love is up to these days?  You can read a fascinating, if lengthy, profile of her in the new issue of Vanity Fair HERE.  It begins, "Human train wreck or victimized genius? In the case of Courtney Love, the answer may be both, as the 47-year-old rock star wages an obsessive campaign to find out what happened to more than $250 million she says was stolen from the estate of Kurt Cobain, her late husband."

86% of American Workers Are Overweight

Over 85% of Americans with full-time jobs are significantly overweight and have health problems, according to THIS 30 second piece from the NBC Nightly News last night..

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Comic Book Novelties Revealed

What did you really get when you ordered those cheap novelties advertised in comic books back in the 1950s, 60s and 70s? (Think "X-Ray Specs" and the like.)  The authors of a new book on the subject have posted a 2 minute video on You Tube HERE that gives a fascinating look at many of them, juxtaposing the original ads. 

Mata Hari: "Artist" Not "Spy"?

Mata Hari was executed by a French firing squad on this date in 1917, having been convicted of spying for the Germans during WWI. Despite the fact that she's one of history's most famous spies, I found I actually knew relatively little about her beyond the famous name.

It turns out that 'Mata Hari' was an exotic stage name appropriate to her career as an "exotic dancer and courtesan" in pre-war Paris.  In reality she was a divorced Dutch woman named Margaretha Zella who was almost 30 years old before she gained fame as a Parisian exotic dancer in 1905 and was 40 at the time of her arrest in 1917. And as you can see in this 2 minute clip on You Tube HERE, like Cleopatra before her, she was no great beauty by modern standards either, despite her historical reputation.

She may not even have been a spy for Germany at all. As a famous 'courtesan' she may have been guilty of little more than sharing pillow talk with a variety of powerful men from multiple European capitals simultaneously. (Though invisible ink was found in her rooms.) "Prior to World War I, she was generally viewed as an artist and a free-spirited bohemian," states Wikipedia, "but as war approached, she began to be seen by some as a wanton and promiscuous woman, and perhaps a dangerous seductress."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stray Cat Led To Whitey Bulger's Arrest

How was 82-year old fugitive Boston mobster Whitey Bulger finally found in California after 16 years on the run? The Boston Globe has publicly revealed the story for the first time HERE.

It turns out that Bulger's long-time girlfriend, 60-year old Catherine Grieg, who was on the run with him, befriended a stray cat who lived outside their Santa Monica apartment building. As time went on, the two fugitives (living there as "the Gaskos") spent more-and-more time with the cat outside the apartment, because their rent-controlled building did not allow pets.  As a result, the couple, who otherwise kept to themselves, came to the attention of another resident, Anna Bjornsdottir, who happened to have been Miss Iceland in 1974. She thought the Gaskos were "nice" to spend so much time with the cat.  On a subsequent return visit to Iceland, she was watching CNN International and saw a story about the FBI's ongoing hunt for Whitey Bulger and his girlfriend, whom she immediately recognized as 'the Gaskos.'  And just like that, Bulger was arrested and Anna Bjornsdottir was $2.1 million richer.

All because a notoriously ruthless Irish mobster, suspected in at least 19 brutal murders, befriended a stray cat and then obeyed the apartment complex's rule about not having pets in the building.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Real Life Of A Real-Life Superhero

"Phoenix Jones, the moniker used by a man who dons a skintight black-and-gold rubber suit and mask, was arrested on four counts of assault after allegedly trying to break up a fight with pepper spray, the Seattle Police Department said... For about a year, the masked Jones has patrolled the streets of Seattle, often with a film crew in tow, looking for crime and generating international headlines."

"A chaotic scene unfolds on the 13-minute video after Jones runs toward a man and woman who appear to be fighting. The man walks away and the woman then tries to hit Jones with her purse but instead falls onto the street. "What is this, Halloween?" another woman calls out to rubber-suited Jones. Eventually Jones is seen spraying several of the individuals with what appears to be a can of pepper spray."

"After he was arrested Sunday and before he was released without bond, Tangen said, Jones was roughed up by two men in the cell he was being held in. The spokesman said Jones was wearing his costume but police had taken away his mask."

You can read the entire CNN story HERE (including a photo of him in his super hero costume).

Monday, October 10, 2011

Is Columbus Day A "Real" Holiday?

Today is Columbus Day, commemorating Columbus' arrival in 'The Americas' on October 12,1492.  The broad term 'The Americas' obscures the awkward fact that what Columbus really did was sail among several Caribbean Islands. On October 12th, he made landfall in The Bahamas, followed by Cuba on October 28th, and Haiti on December 5th, before returning to Europe in January 1493.

Though it's been celebrated in America since colonial times and even though it's been a federal holiday in the United States since 1937, it's one of those holidays that's observed widely differently across the country. In some places like New York City there are big parades.  In contrast, Hawaii, Alaska and South Dakota do not observe Columbus Day at all.  Many other states, including California and Texas, no longer treat it as a paid holiday for government workers, but still treat it as a 'day of recognition.' (A 'Day of Recognition' seems like the holiday equivalent of an 'unfunded mandate' to me.)

There are probably a number of reasons for this divergent treatment of Columbus Day.  But one factor that's been an issue for my entire life certainly is modern resistance to the colloquialism that "Columbus Discovered America" and an increasingly universal recognition of the catastrophic impact of the arrival of Europeans on the indigenous populations of Native Americans.

But there's apparently been organized resistance to the holiday dating back to the 19th Century, albeit for entirely different reasons.  Back then, Columbus' Italian heritage caused the holiday to be associated with Italian immigrants from Europe, by both its proponents and opponents.  As a result, Columbus Day was seen by some (especially Nativists opposed to further immigration) as a sinister effort to expand the influence of Catholicism in the United States.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

CIA Mission To Kill Bin Laden Revealed

On the CBS News last night, THIS 4 minute segment tells for the first time the fascinating story of a secret CIA mission to kill Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan just days after September 11, 2001.  The 10 man team was led by a then 59-year old CIA officer on his last mission, who is interviewed extensively in this story.  I  thought it was amazing to hear this unprepossessing, grandfatherly older man casually relate these instructions from his CIA boss. "I want you to cut bin Laden's head off and send it back to me on dry ice so I can show the President."

Friday, October 7, 2011

CNN On 'Free Internet Sperm Donor'

The headline on today, "Virgin Sperm Donor Sires 10 Kids" caught my eye, in a 'Man Bites Dog' sort of way.  So I clicked on it.  And it just got more and more amazing from there.

The 'story' was actually a 3 minute video clip (that you can watch HERE) which is summarized as follows, "Joy Behar talks with 36-year old Trent Arsenault, who runs a website where he donates his sperm for free." (My first thought upon reading that was, "oh, and does he have a 'Breast Inspector' card in his wallet, too?")

I started the clip and was amazed when it actually began with a heavy set young woman talking with Joy about her experience using one of these 'free sperm donor' services.  She and the donor (a stranger) met at, no joke, a Starbucks.  A so-called 'expert' then assures an incredulous Joy Behar that, in fact, Starbucks is a very common meeting place for this. (Thereby ensuring that I never use a Starbucks bathroom again.)

Then Trent Arsenault is interviewed via what appears to be Skype.  If I close my eyes and try to imagine what a 'free internet sperm donor' might look like, I develop two distinct mental images.  And  Trent fits one of them to a tee, right down to the greasy proto-beard.  He then reveals that local authorities have shut down his enterprise.  "They issued a 'cease manufacture' order," Trent says matter-of-factly, and with a straight face.

You cannot make this stuff up.

In Search Of... King Solomon's Mines

A couple of nights ago I watched an excellent documentary on PBS called "Quest For Solomon's Mines." You can watch the entire 1 hour episode on the official PBS website HERE.  The description of the program there reads in part, "Countless treasure-seekers have set off in search of King Solomon's mines... inspired by the Bible's account of splendid temples and palaces adorned in glittering gold and copper. Yet... many contend that they are no more real than King Arthur. In the summer of 2010, NOVA and National Geographic embarked on two cutting-edge field investigations that... expose important new clues buried in the pockmarked desert of Jordan, including ancient remnants of an industrial-scale copper mine."

As I was watching this documentary, I found myself vaguely recollecting an episode of the 1970's TV show In Search Of..., titled "King Solomon's Mines," that I'd seen as a kid. It first aired in November 1981, but you can watch it on You Tube HERE.  "The Phoenicians opened up to Solomon the trade routes of the world," Narrator Leonard Nimoy explains. "In return Solomon guaranteed them a regular supply of oil and wheat... The existence of Solomon's sea trade brought strength and wealth to his land. It also brought the most famous woman of the time to him. The Queen of Sheba came from southern Arabia, the wealthiest region in the Semitic world... Did Solomon ever have his own mines? Or did he simply trade with people who did?"

In contrast, this new PBS special never once mentions the Phoenicians or the Queen of Sheba, asserts that the prior belief about Solomon's wealth deriving from control of trade was wrong, and posits that the real source of his wealth was a vast copper mine and smelting plant recently found in what is today Jordan. (It also explains that the legend Solomon had 1,000 wives was also likely wrong, since the entire population of Jerusalem in his time was about 1,000 people.)

This PBS documentary also explains that the Bible never makes any mention of any gold mines owned by King Solomon.  Rather, the entire concept  apparently originated in a Victorian-era adventure story.  I suppose that's considerably more intriguing than 'King Solomon's Copper Smelter.'

2011 Nominees For "Worst Ad In America"

" today announced the nominees for its second annual Worst Ad in America Awards.  This year, more than 40 ads garnered nods including colorful odes to full diapers, as in Luvs' 'Poop! There it is' commercial... 'There are even a few repeat offenders like Progressive Insurance with their 'Flo the insurance adjuster' commercials and Dannon Activia with their Jamie Lee Curtis ads. Both were previous Worst Ad nominees."You can read more in The Sacramento Bee HERE.

You can also view the full list of nominees on HERE. (For "Most Grating Performance By A Human," I'd favor the State Farm 'Thanks For Buying Me A Falcon' guy. And under, "Group That Ought To Go Its Separate Ways," I'd vote for 'The Esurance Staff.')

Coming? 'Fat Tax' On Junk Food

Denmark just became the first nation to slap a special tax on saturated fats. Residents will pay (indirectly) the equivalent of 12 cents more for a bag of potato chips and 40 cents more for a hamburger.  You can read more about it in The Boston Globe HERE.

I suspect that the public policy goals and justifications behind this special 'fat tax' are very similar to the arguments in support of special taxes on cigarettes.

Having just watched the PBS documentary Prohibition, I am even more conscious of the perils of trying to legislate morality and lifestyle. But the obesity epidemic is having a dramatic effect on health care costs (and outcomes) in this country.  And the tax on cigarettes does seem to be reducing use.

The 10% obesity rate in Denmark is dwarfed by the rates here in the United States.  No US state has a rate less than 19%, and all but two states are over 20%.  Several exceed 30%.  Can we tax our way to physical fitness?  Should only the rich be allowed to smoke and eat Big Macs?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Mythical" Doritos Taco Now Real At Taco Bell

"Two great tastes that taste great together." That's the old Reese's Peanut Butter Cups slogan,  of course. But now comes another. Taco Bell is apparently test marketing taco shells made from Doritos in Fresno, California.

THIS article in the Los Angeles Times calls them "mythical" and explains that this ("dorm room-scented") combination apparently sprang from a grass roots campaign started on Facebook in 2009.  The article also embeds a 30 second TV commercial running only in that market. ("Fresno and Bakersfield, this is really happening.")

Monday, October 3, 2011

Lockerbie Bomber Goes To The Well Again

I laughed when I read THIS story about an exclusive interview given today to Reuters by Abdel Bassett al-Megrahi. He's the Libyan intelligence agent convicted in connection with the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 passengers. Megrahi was famously released from prison in Europe two years ago, allegedly on compassionate grounds because he had terminal cancer and likely had, "only weeks to live."

But for a man on his death bed, he looked pretty hale and hearty when he arrived back in Libya in 2009, a free man, greeted by Muammar Gadhaffi and his sons (see photo above). And of course, he's still alive two years later.  Predictably, since his unexpected release evidence has emerged that it may have been part of a surreptitious effort by the British government to curry favor with Gadhaffi, in order to gain access to Libyan oil.

Well, now that Gadhaffi has been deposed with NATO's help, Megrahi is once again appearing from his sick bed (there's a photo of him in this article), pleading his innocence of any crime ever, and declaring today, "I have only a few more days, weeks, or months."

Nobel Winner's Death Raises Issues

"One of the recipients of this year's Nobel Prize in medicine died just days before the winners were announced, after extending his own life using a kind of therapy he designed.  The news -- which the Nobel committee was unaware of when it announced the winners Monday -- presents a unique quandary for the prestigious organization. Nobel rules prohibit awarding a prize posthumously unless the winner dies after the award is announced."

In addition to the tragic facts themselves, I thought these three sentences, which began THIS article on today, were fascinating because the first sentence unintentionally raises one of those Rorschach-like questions of self-reflection (i.e. "Would you rather win the Nobel prize but die before the award, or not have your life's work recognized and live an extra three years?"); and the second two sentences detail how this has raised one of those bizarre legal issues which only come up when incredibly unlikely real-life events conflict with otherwise crystal clear law and practice.

The First Female US Senator & Racist

On this day in 1922, progressive reformer Rebecca Felton became the first female US Senator, when she was appointed by the Governor of Georgia to the position. I'd never heard of her, and was surprised by that.  So I looked into her a little further this morning and was glad I did.  There's always more to the story.

As it turns out, she served in the Senate for only 1 day. Especially since she was 87 years old at the time (in 1922!), it was a purely ceremonial appointment. That being said, she is still the only woman ever to have been a US Senator from Georgia. Felton was a prominent reformer in the Progressive Era, an advocate of women's suffrage, prison reform and modernizing eduction. But there was a dark side. She was, as Wikipedia put it bluntly, "a white supremacist...who spoke in favor of lynching." Some of her public statements on this topic quoted in that article are so offensive I wont copy them here.  But you can read them HERE, if you want more detail.

Why was an 87-year old woman appointed to the US Senate in 1922 (serving for only one day)?  Here's the explanation. "In 1922, Governor Thomas W. Hardwick was a candidate for the next general election to the Senate, when Senator Thomas E. Watson died prematurely. Seeking an appointee who would not be a competitor in the coming special election to fill the vacant seat, and a way to secure the vote of the new women voters alienated by his opposition to the 19th Amendment, Hardwick chose Felton to serve as Senator on October 3, 1922. Congress was not expected to reconvene until after the election, so the chances were slim that Felton would be formally sworn in as Senator."  But she was. And thus, history was made.

Walter Payton's Public Image

As I wrote here last Friday, a new biography of Walter Payton will be released tomorrow that has already created a lot of controversy because it contains previously unpublicized revelations about his excessive use of painkillers (and nitrous oxide), his long-time mistress, and that he was suicidal, among other things.  These details are particularly notable because of Payton's squeaky clean public image, which this new book apparently makes clear was of paramount importance to him. 

With that in mind, you can watch a TV commercial he made for KFC (playing football with a little boy) HERE. HERE is an ad for Wheaties (and another one for the same cereal HERE featuring his wife), and another one HERE for Kangaroos sneakers (again playing football with a little boy). There's also THIS one for a Toyota dealership.

World's Largest Nacho Platter Arms Race

A Massachusetts eatery called "Ninety Nine Restaurant" set the new Guinness World Record yesterday for the largest plate of nachos, by making one weighing 3,999 lbs.  You can read the details (like how many lbs. of cheese it had) HERE.

That's vaguely interesting. But what really intrigued me was the revelation that there is clearly an active, ongoing 'arms race' to create the world's largest nacho platter, just like the continued efforts over the years to build the newest 'world's tallest building.' 

The end of this news story states that the previous record, a 3,555 lb. nacho plate, was set "in April 2010 in Frisco, Texas."  It took a little searching online to find that this prior record had been set by the 'Aurora Youth Ministry' from the Northstar Church there, as you can read HERE. And that article notes the then-current world record had been set in May 2008 by a restaurant called "Bandito's Burrito Lounge" in Richmond, Virginia, when they crafted a 3,125 lb. plate of nachos. It states HERE that the record before that was 2,762 lbs. Lastly, I found THIS collection of photos from a Mexican restaurant in Australia called Nachos Mexican Cantina which  set the record back in June 2002 with a 2,774 lb. nacho platter. Perhaps mercifully, that's where the trail went cold.....

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Vienna Sausages And A Nice Chianti

Jared Loughner, the troubled 23-year old charged with shooting Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in January, passes his days in federal prison, "watching TV, looking at photos of his pets, and snacking on junk food," according to THIS article. The junk foods offered in the prison commissary are, "peanut butter cookies, rainbow sherbet, mac & cheese, jumbo pickles and Vienna sausages."

Putting to one side the semantic issue of whether 'jumbo pickles' are really a junk food, isn't it disturbing to imagine this bald headed, allegedly suicidal, heavily medicated guy sitting in his prison cell alone, endlessly flipping through a photo album of his pet turtles while snacking on a steady diet of jumbo pickles and Vienna sausages?

New ER Limit Opposed By Doctors

Starting tomorrow the State of Washington will begin limiting Medicaid patients to three non-emergency visits to the ER each year, as a way to cut $72 million in costs. This sounded sensible to me. After all, it is merely a limit on "non-emergency" visits to the "Emergency Room." (Three a year!) The new law includes a list of 700 non-emergency symptoms for which patients are directed to contact a regular doctor rather than go to an Emergency Room.

But according to THIS article by ABC News, the American College of Emergency Physicians (the "ACEP") is suing to over-turn the law. Their stated concern seems to be about the unreliability of self-diagnosis by patents trying to determine whether their symptoms truly constitute an 'emergency' or not. That actually seemed like a valid concern to me.  But then the article detailed specific examples, and there they lost me.  Predictably, the hypothetical about determining the severity of a burn used a child as an example, not an adult.  (Presumably, it would strain credulity for the ACEP to suggest that adults would be incapable of determining whether their own burns were Emergency Room worthy or not.)

And then came this kicker from their spokesman. "Sexually transmitted diseases are also included on the list of non-emergencies.'A lot of people don't want to go to their family doctor with these issues,' Anderson said."

Will we ever be able to get a handle on healthcare costs in this country if any reform that might make patients with STDs feel at all awkward or embarrassed is opposed in court by our physicians?

"North Dallas Forty" Author Has Died

"Former National Football League player Peter Gent, whose book about the seamier side of pro football was made into the movie, North Dallas Forty, has died in his native Michigan. He was 69."  You can read more at CBS News HERE.

I remember seeing the 1979 film adaptation (starring Nick Notle as the aging wide receiver relying on painkillers to stay competitive) on TV sometime in the early 1980s and being totally blown away as a kid by the revelation of the sordid side of the NFL.  In fact, when I first heard last Friday about the revelations concerning Walter Payton's dark side, particularly his reliance on painkillers, North Dallas Forty was the first thing that came to mind.

Being a fan of Monday Night Football even as a kid in the early 1980s, I was also amazed to learn that the aging 'Dandy' Don Meredith was allegedly the basis for the 'girl on each arm' quarterback in the film.

CIA Man In Parking Space Fight

Do you remember the furor back in January when a CIA contractor was arrested in Lahore, Pakistan after he shot and killed two Pakistani men he said were trying to rob him? The US government initially claimed he had diplomatic immunity, infuriating many Pakistanis. He was only released in March after the dead men's families agreed to accept $2.3 million in compensatory 'blood money' under Islamic law.

Well, that same CIA man, 37-year old Raymond Davis, was arrested yesterday south of Denver, Colorado and was charged with assault and disorderly conduct after getting into a fight with a 50 year-old man over a parking spot in front of an Einstein's Bagels.  You can read the CNN article HERE (which also has a photo of him).

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Lessons Taught At The Drive Thru

"Angered that his Taco Bell drive-thru order failed to include hot sauce, a Missouri man returned to the fast food restaurant and allegedly pulled a shotgun on an employee, who fled in fear from the takeout window."

You can read more (and see his mug shot) on The Smoking Gun HERE.  I can't help but wonder whether both the man wielding the shotgun (a convicted felon who was later arrested) and the forgetful Taco Bell employee may learn valuable lessons from this unfortunate incident.