Saturday, May 31, 2008

My Favorite Martian Film Festival

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Friday, May 30, 2008

Drought Could Force Nuke-Plant Shutdowns

Nuclear reactors across the Southeast could be forced to throttle back or temporarily shut down later this year because drought is drying up the rivers and lakes that supply power plants with the awesome amounts of cooling water they need to operate.

Utility officials say such shutdowns probably wouldn't result in blackouts. But they could lead to shockingly higher electric bills for millions of Southerners, because the region's utilities may be forced to buy expensive replacement power from other energy companies.

Already, there has been one brief, drought-related shutdown, at a reactor in Alabama.

"Water is the nuclear industry's Achilles' heel," said Jim Warren, executive director of GA Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, an environmental group critical of nuclear power. "You need a lot of water to operate nuclear plants." He added: "This is becoming a crisis."

An NRC analysis of the nation's 104 nuclear reactors found that 24 are in areas experiencing the most severe levels of drought. All but two are built on the shores of lakes and rivers and rely on submerged intake pipes to draw billions of gallons of water for use in cooling and condensing steam after it has turned the plants' turbines.

Because of the dry spell gripping the region for the last several years, the water levels on those lakes and rivers are getting close to the minimums set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Over the next several months, the water could drop below the intake pipes altogether. Or the shallow water could become too hot under the sun to use as coolant.

"If water levels get to a certain point, we'll have to power it down or go off line," said Robert Yanity, a spokesman for South Carolina Electric & Gas Co., which operates the V. C Summer nuclear plant outside Columbia, S.C.

Extending or lowering the intake pipes is not as simple at it sounds and wouldn't necessarily solve the problem. The pipes are usually made of concrete, can be up to 18 feet in diameter and can extend up to a mile. Modifications to the pipes and pump systems, and their required backups, can cost millions and take several months. If the changes are extensive, they require an NRC review that itself can take months or longer.

Even if a quick extension were possible, the pipes can only go so low. It they are put too close to the bottom of a drought-shrunken lake or river, they can suck up sediment, fish and other debris that could clog the system.

An estimated 3 million customers of the four commercial utilities with reactors in the drought zone get their power from nuclear energy. Also, the quasi-governmental Tennessee Valley Authority, which sells electricity to 8.7 million people in seven states through a network of distributors, generates 30 percent of its power at nuclear plants.

While rain and some snow fell recently, water levels across the region are still well below normal. Most of the severely affected area would need more than a foot of rain in the next three months — an unusually large amount — to ease the drought and relieve pressure on the nuclear plants. And the long-term forecast calls for more dry weather.

At Progress Energy Inc., which operates four reactors in the drought zone, officials warned in November that the drought could force it to shut down its Harris reactor near Raleigh, according to documents obtained by the AP. The water in Harris Lake stands at 218.5 feet — just 3 1/2 feet above the limit set in the plant's license.

Lake Norman near Charlotte is down to 93.7 feet — less than a foot above the minimum set in the license for Duke Energy Corp.'s McGuire nuclear plant. The lake was at 98.2 feet just a year ago.

"We don't know what's going to happen in the future. We know we haven't gotten enough rain, so we can't rule anything out," said Duke spokeswoman Rita Sipe. "But based on what we know now, we don't believe we'll have to shut down the plants."

During Europe's brutal 2006 heat wave, French, Spanish and German utilities were forced to shut down some of their nuclear plants and reduce power at others because of low water levels — some for as much as a week.

If a prolonged shutdown like that were to happen in the Southeast, utilities in the region might have to buy electricity on the wholesale market, and the high costs could be passed on to customers.

Currently, nuclear power costs between $5 to $7 to produce a megawatt hour, and it would cost 10 times that amount that if you had to buy replacement power — especially during the summer. At a nuclear plant, water is also used to cool the reactor core and to create the steam that drives the electricity-generating turbines. But those are comparatively small amounts of water, circulating in what are known as closed systems — that is, the water is constantly reused. Water for those two purposes is not threatened by the drought.

Instead, the drought could choke off the billions of gallons of water that pass through the region's reactors every day to cool used steam. Water sucked from lakes and rivers passes through pipes, which act as a condenser, turning the steam back into water. The outside water never comes into direct contact with the steam or any nuclear material.

At some plants — those with tall, Three Mile Island-style cooling towers — a lot of the water travels up the tower and is lost to evaporation. At other plants, almost all of the water is returned to the lake or river, though significantly hotter because of the heat absorbed from the steam.

Progress spokeswoman Julie Hahn said the Harris reactor, for example, sucks up 33 million gallons a day, with 17 million gallons lost to evaporation via its big cooling towers. Duke's McGuire plant draws in more than 2 billion gallons a day, but most of it is pumped back to its source.

Nuclear plants are subject to restrictions on the temperature of the discharged coolant, because hot water can kill fish or plants or otherwise disrupt the environment. Those restrictions, coupled with the drought, led to the one-day shutdown of a TVA reactor at Browns Ferry in Alabama.

The water was low on the Tennessee River and had become warmer than usual under the hot sun. By the time it had been pumped through the Browns Ferry plant, it had become hotter still — too hot to release back into the river, according to the TVA. So the utility shut down a reactor.

David Lochbaum, nuclear project safety director for the Union of Concerned Scientists, warned that nuclear plants are not designed to take the wear and tear of repeatedly stopping and restarting.

"Nuclear plants are best when they flatline — when they stay up and running or shut down for long periods to refuel," Lochbaum said. "It wears out piping, valves, motors." Nuclear plants can shut down and restart without problems.


My Favorite Martian Film Festival...

My Favorite Martian is an American television sitcom that aired on CBS from September 29, 1963 to September 4, 1966 for 107 episodes (75 in black and white 1963-1965, 32 color 1965-1966). The film festival, to be post by Saturday, May 31st, is a five part series of the pilot episode originally aired September 29, 1963, starring Bill Bixby (Tim O'Hara), Pamela Britton (Lorelei Brown), Ray Walston (Uncle Martin O'Hara). In the pilot episode, Martin's spacecraft crash lands on earth. He meets and moves in with Tim O'Hara.


A human-looking extraterrestrial in a one-man spaceship crash-lands near Los Angeles. The ship's pilot is, in fact, from Mars and is now stranded on Earth. Tim O'Hara, a young newspaper reporter for The Los Angeles Sun, is on his way home from Edwards Air Force Base (where he had gone to report on the flight of the X-15) back to Los Angeles when he spots the spaceship coming down.

Tim takes the Martian in as his roommate and passes him off as his Uncle Martin. Uncle Martin refuses to reveal any of his Martian traits to people other than Tim, to avoid publicity (or panic), and Tim agrees to keep Martin's identity a secret while the Martian attempts to repair his ship. Uncle Martin has various unusual powers: he can raise two retractable antennae and become invisible; he is telepathic and can read minds; he can levitate objects with the motion of his finger; and he can communicate with animals.

Martin also builds several advanced devices, such as a time machine which transports Tim and the Martian back to Medieval England and other times and places, such as St. Louis in 1849, the early days of Hollywood, or bring Leonardo da Vinci and Jesse James into the present. Another device he builds is a "molecular separator" which can take apart the molecules of a physical object, or rearrange them (a squirrel was made into a human). Another device can take memories and store them in pill form to "relearn" them later. Another device can create temporary duplicates.

Tim and Uncle Martin live in an apartment house run by a congenial but scatterbrained landlady, Mrs. Lorelei Brown, who often shows up when not wanted. She later dates a vain, cold-hearted, plain-clothes police officer, Detective Bill Brennan, who dislikes Uncle Martin and is highly suspicious of him.

The first two seasons were filmed in black-and-white (at Desilu), but the final season was shot in color (at MGM), resulting in minor changes in the set and the format of the show. In addition to the extraterrestrial powers indicated in the first two seasons, Martin seemed to be able to do much more in the final season, such as stimulating facial hair to provide him and Tim with a quick disguise, and levitating with his nose. Brennan's boss, the police chief, was involved in many episodes in the third season, generally as a device to humiliate the overzealous detective.

Martin's real name, Exigius 12 1/2 (revealed in "We Love You, Mrs. Pringle") was heard again when his real nephew, Andromeda, crash-landed on Earth in the show's third season. Andromeda, originally devised to bring younger viewers to the aging show, disappeared without explanation after a single episode and was never referred to again in the two episodes filmed after it, or six episodes already filmed, but aired afterward (Andromeda was, however, a regular on the later animated series My Favorite Martians). He had a single antenna, which Martin explains was because his baby antennae had fallen out and only one adult antenna had come in, so far.

In Popular Culture

  • Ray Walston appeared in a television commercial for AT&T in 2000. The conversation makes it evident to those who remember the TV series that he is playing the role of Uncle Martin, still on Earth. He asks if the rates AT&T offers also apply for phoning fellow Martians living in the United States.
  • In an episode of the TV series Picket Fences, Walston's character, Judge Henry Bone, attends a Halloween party wearing antennae like those he wore on Martian.
  • In the end title theme music for the film Spaced Invaders, a Halloween comedy involving incompetent invaders from Mars, one of the Martians hums the first bars of the theme from My Favorite Martian.
  • Gold Key Comics published a My Favorite Martian comic for nine issues, Oct 1963 - July 1966.


No Longer in the Weird News Category

The following kinds of stories were formerly weird, but they now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation:

1. an old, widely-advertised phone-sex number is reassigned to a
2. suspicious package thought to be a bomb, turns out to be something stupid
3. robber leaves his ID [wallet or appointment card for officer or etc.] at the scene
4. peace/brotherhood conference erupts into violence
5. robber on getaway accidentally hails unmarked police car
6. political candidate dies but still wins the election
7. family thinks he's dead, but he's not and attends his own funeral
8. hunters shoot each other
9. funeral home owner neglects/mixes up bodies
10. "victimized" drug buyer complains to police that someone sold him weak or bogus drugs
11. some countries prohibit giving children certain names
12. in middle of an obvious drug raid, customer wanders up and asks cop if he can buy some drugs
13. shoots himself while supposedly demonstrating gun safety
14. global warming caused by animal methane
15. burglar gets stuck in vent or chimney
16. courthouse visitor/defendant inadvertently places contraband on the
x-ray tables at entrance
17. burglar falls asleep during job.
18. family accidentally leaves behind a kid at a highway rest stop
19. driver's license applicant crashes into examiner station before or during test
20. elected official high on the cheese scale gets caught with call girl
21. overdue-library-book scofflaws actually go to jail
22. DUI tickets for "driving" a bicycle [or horse or riding lawn mower or etc.]
23. starts fire because can't stop smoking even though hooked up to oxygen machine
24. gasoline thieves check quantity in tank by using a match or lighter to peer inside
25. older teacher/younger boy relationship
26. firefighter with an arson habit [to keep in practice or to feel wanted or etc.]
27. local election ends in tie, settled (by law) by coin flip or draw of cards
28. Japanese men committing suicide because of overwork
29. angry customer drives car right through store's front door
30. heating-oil delivery to wrong house, resulting in flooded basement
31. postal worker hoards mail because he's behind in delivering it
32. bank robber hails taxi or municipal bus for getaway
33. the annual student cheating riots in Bangladesh
34. criminal on the lam goes on national tv talk show and mentions that he's wanted
35. dog steps on gun, shooting the master
36. pack of animals breaks into liquor cabinet or fermenting vat, get drunk
37. a loved one died at home, but the relative never gets around to burying him or her
38. school zero-tolerance policies for "weapons" that are purely, obviously ornamental
39. amateur videographers set up miniature cameras in restrooms
40. animal-hoarding (mostly of cats) women
41. carjackers who never learned to drive stick shift and must abandon the car
42. criminal suspect evading police, jumps in river to escape, and drowns
43. young-looking adults impersonate teenagers and return to high school
44. African nation's rumors of people with power to make penises disappear
45. humongous abdominal cysts removed in surgery
46. unlabeled urn with loved one's ashes mistakenly stolen or sold at yard sale
47. husband takes his wife back even though she just tried to kill him
48. judges punish young people by forcing them to listen to [classical or polka or etc.] music
49. hit-and-run driver drives on and on with body or bicycle in grille or windshield
50. criminal, cornered by police dog, bites the dog
51. burglars leave footprints in snow, directly to their homes
52. long lost daughter separated from father because of divorce, finds father and shacks up
53. video shoe-cams or smoke-detector-cams to spy on women
54. Japanese making many silent hang-up telephone calls against former lover or business partner
55. robber smashes store's surveillance "camera," but it's only the lens, and it captured his face
56. inadvertently tries to cash a stolen personal check at the store [bank] where his victim works
57. accidental bombing of house by airliner's "blue ice"
58. elderly citizen trying to convince bureaucrat that, contrary to records, he's not really dead
59. elderly motorist makes wrong turn, gets lost for days
60. bands of criminals videotape their entire crime sprees for kicks, but makes it easy for cops
61. parents frolic while their small kids are left home alone
62. people trying to outrun police while driving slow-moving vehicles
63. combining jellyfish gene to produce another plant or animal that glows
64. imposter cop has car with flashing light, stopping motorists, accidentally stops real cop
65. parents who leave their small kids locked in hot cars while they frolic
66. inmates who advertise innocently for penpals on lonely-hearts pages on
the Internet.

Friday Follies - Weird News

I hope everyone has a great weekend - it unofficially summer (the first day in the U.S. is June 20, the 21st in Europe), so I hope you are able to get out and enjoy great weather. With the warmer weather come the weirdos and freaks, so be advised...

Dignity is an Acquired Taste
A provision in Switzerland's constitution recognizes the "dignity" of "animals, plants and other organisms," and a federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Gene Technology declared in an April report that vegetation has "inherent worth" and that humans cannot exercise "absolute ownership" over it but must treat it morally, measured case-by-case. For example, the committee said a farmer's mowing his field is acceptable, but not the arbitrary severing of a wildflower's bloom. The committee would permit genetic engineering of flora, since plants would still retain the "autonomy" to reproduce on their own. [Agence France-Presse, 4-14-08, Nature 4-23-08]

Can't Possibly Be True

After officials in Batu, a tourist town in East Java in Indonesia, asked its massage parlors to make clear to customers that they are not houses of prostitution, one parlor owner created uniform pants for his women with a padlockable zipper, and "locks in" each masseuse in front of the client at the beginning of a session. Other parlor owners have followed along. A local women's group representative complained that it is the customers, not the women, who need restraining. [Los Angeles Times, 4-26-08]

In April the Swiss watchmaker Romain Jerome (which last year created a watch made from remnants of the Titanic) introduced the "Day&Night" watch, which unfortunately does not provide a reading of the hour or the minute. Though it retails for about $300,000, it tells only whether it is "day" or "night" (using a complex measurement of the Earth's gravity). CEO Yvan Arpa said studies show that two-thirds of rich people "don't (use) their watch to tell what time it is" anyway. Anyone can buy a watch that tells time, he told a Reuters reporter, but only a "truly discerning customer" can buy one that doesn't. [Wall Street Journal, 4-25-08]

Progressive Mullahs: The Iranian government, treating addicts as people who need help rather than as criminals, agreed in April to install vending machines offering inexpensive syringes (at about 5 cents each) in five city welfare shelters in order to keep addicts from sharing needles and spreading AIDS and hepatitis. Iran blames its festering drug problem on its common border with opium-producing Afghanistan. [Agence France-Presse, 4-16-08]

Women Certainly Are Different From Men: Sara Tucholsky, all 5-foot-2 of her, marshaled her strength for her first-ever fence-clearing home run in April, which would have given her Western Oregon University softball team the lead against favored Central Washington, except that she tore a ligament rounding first base. Since she was unable to move, by rule she (actually, a pinch-runner) would have had to remain at first base instead of circling the bases, but two Central Washington players picked Tucholsky up and carried her around the bases to allow her to get credit for the home run. "You deserve it," one opponent said. "You hit it over the fence." Kindness hurt; Central Washington lost, 4-2, and was eliminated from the playoffs. [Star Tribune (Minneapolis)-AP, 5-1-08]


In April, according to police in Fort Pierce, Fla., Amity Joy Doss, 24, grabbed a young McDonald's employee by her shirt to emphasize her dissatisfaction with service and demanded to the manager that she be fired. A call was made to police, and Doss wandered outside, climbed a tree, hung upside down by bended knee for a while, then descended and lay down on the hood of her car before re-entering the restaurant and asking if the girl had been fired yet. She was arrested on several charges. [Fort Pierce Tribune, 4-8-08]

A 2007 decision of New York City's Civil Service Commission reinstated a police officer even though NYPD has ruled him unfit for duty, in large part because he admitted to a "fear of dead people," which the department had thought would make his job difficult. (However, in March 2008, a New York City judge overturned the commission ruling.) [New York Post, 3-28-08]

Angelique Vandeberg, 28, was arrested in May in Sheboygan, Wis., and charged with felony child abuse after her 8-year-old daughter reported that Vandeberg had intentionally shot her in the leg with a BB gun, leaving her unable to walk without difficulty, in order to win a $1 bet with her boyfriend. (Police said alcohol was involved.) [Sheboygan Press, 5-3-08]

It's Good to Be a British Prisoner (continued)

A high-ranking official in Britain's prison guards union said in a radio interview in April that the jails are so understaffed and poorly managed that in one (Everthorpe Prison, East Yorkshire), drug dealers actually put up ladders at night and come over the walls in order to sell drugs, and inmates routinely comment that drugs are easier to get inside than on the street. [Daily Mail (London), 4-24-08]

The British government in January acknowledged that inmates in 2007 had been awarded the equivalent of over $250,000 in education "maintenance" grants, intended to provide such expenses as room and board for recipients of education loans. (The ministers said they would soon close that loophole.) [BBC News, 2-7-08]

Fetishes on Parade

CNN TV personality Richard Quest was arrested in New York City's Central Park after curfew in April, with drugs in his pocket and a rope around his neck tied to his genitals, according to a New York Post report (which had no explanation of the purpose of the rope). [New York Post, 4-19-08]

Firefighters responding to a burning house in Crystal Lake, Ill., in April were told by three people fleeing that another man was in the basement, chained by the neck to a post. When rescued, the man denied that anything was wrong. Said the deputy police chief, "We're not really sure what everyone's relationship in this is," and consequently no one was charged. [Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake), 4-9-08]

Least Competent Criminals

Poor Ride-Management Plans: Two teenagers were arrested in March and charged with highway shooting sprees near Waynesboro and Charlottesville, Va., that shut down Interstate 64 for six hours. Surveillance video suggested the perps got away in a 1974 AMC Gremlin, and the only one in the area belongs to the 19-year-old. [Washington Post, 3-29-08]

Three men were arrested in New Orleans in February and charged with possession of almost two pounds of marijuana after police were called to a car on fire, which they said started when the men stashed their dope under the hood, and it overheated. [Times-Picayune, 2-25-08]

Recurring Themes: Mr. Cash Burch, 24, was arrested in Waterloo, Iowa, in April after he broke into a truck and tried to start it but apparently ran down the battery doing so, which triggered a theft-prevention device that locked the doors, trapping him inside, where he was waiting when police arrived. [WCCO-TV (Minneapolis)-AP, 4-2-08]

Justin MacGilfrey, 19, was arrested in February for the attempted robbery of a Circle K convenience store in Daytona Beach, Fla. The clerk had chased him from the store when he realized that MacGilfrey's only "weapon" was a pretend gun he made using his finger and thumb. [WKMG-TV (Orlando), 2-25-08]

The Aristocrats!

San Diego City Council candidate John Hartley said he would stay in the race despite his March arrest and no-contest plea, which came after two women said they saw him, parked in front of their house one evening, masturbating into a cup. (He said it had been a long day of campaigning and that, as he later wrote in a mailing, he "had to take a leak.") [San Diego Union-Tribune, 4-16-08]

Officials at Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City, Philippines, apologized in April on behalf of at least six doctors and other personnel for laughing raucously during surgery and making a party video (that was later uploaded to YouTube) of the operating-room removal of a perfume canister from the anus of a male patient. [Sun Star (Cebu City), 4-16-08]


Deaths in May

I usually don't point out deaths and post them - I've certainly had enough death in my life to deal with in my meager 45 years - but I thought these two deaths were notable.

Comic actor Harvey Korman died yesterday at 81, according to the UCLA Medical Center. Harvey Korman's death comes after complications from the rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Korman died at the center four months after suffering complications from the rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

"It was a miracle in itself that he survived the incident at all. Everyone in the hospital referred to him as 'miracle man' because of his strong will and ability to bounce right back after several major operations," said Korman's daughter, Kate Korman. "Tragically, after such a hard-fought battle, he passed away."

Korman was a regular on "The Carol Burnett Show" from 1967 through 1978, for which he won Emmy awards in 1969, 1971, 1972 and 1974. He also won a Golden Globe for his work on the series. The lanky Korman also appeared in Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles" (as the sneering Hedley Lamarr), "High Anxiety" and "History of the World, Part 1." He starred in his own short-lived situation comedy, "The Harvey Korman Show," in 1978, in which he portrayed Harvey Kavanaugh opposite Christine Lahti, who played his wife, Maggie.

He made dozens of appearances in other television shows and movies during his lengthy show-business career, including providing voices for several animated productions. Among those was The Great Gazoo, a helmeted space man who appeared in some episodes of "The Flintstones."

Angie Horejsi, an assistant to Burnett, told The Associated Press that Burnett was devastated by Korman's death: "She loved Harvey very much," Horejsi said. The AP also reported that Brooks described Korman as a "dazzling" comic talent.

"You could get rock-solid comedy out of him. He could lift the material. He always made it real, always made it work, always believed in characters he was doing," he said, according to AP.

Korman was born in Chicago, Illinois. His first marriage, to Donna Ehlert in 1960, ended in divorce in 1974. He married Deborah Fritze in 1982. Both marriages produced two children.

Korman landed some sketch work on "The Red Skelton Show" in 1961, followed by a four-year stint on "The Danny Kaye Show," which led to his joining Carol Burnett in 1967.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Korman is survived by three other adult children -- Laura, Maria and Chris -- and three grandchildren.

Paul Cole, the man pictured looking disapprovingly at the Beatles on the cover of their "Abbey Road" album, also passed:

"Cole, a longtime Barefoot Bay resident, died Wednesday in Pensacola at age 96. He is clearly seen in the famous shot of the Beatles walking across London's Abbey Road, used as the front cover of the group's classic 1969 album, "Abbey Road." Over the years, the picture has been reproduced in books, on posters, coffee mugs, T-shirts and hundreds of other places.

The retired salesman is standing on the sidewalk, just behind the Beatles. Gawking at them...

It was 10 a.m., Aug. 8, 1969. Photographer Iain McMillan was on a stepladder in the middle of the street, photographing the four Beatles as they walked, single-file, across Abbey Road, John Lennon in his famous white suit, Paul McCartney without shoes. The entire shoot lasted 10 minutes.

"I just happened to look up, and I saw those guys walking across the street like a line of ducks," Cole remembered. "A bunch of kooks, I called them, because they were rather radical-looking at that time. You didn't walk around in London barefoot."

About a year later, Cole first noticed the "Abbey Road" album on top of the family record player (his wife was learning to play George Harrison's love song "Something" on the organ). He did a double-take when he eyeballed McMillan's photo."

Cole's views on the Fab Four were similar to those of the recently-departed William F. Buckley, who characteristically, was a bit more eloquent:

"The Beatles are not merely awful…. They are so unbelievably horrible, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art, that they qualify as crowned heads of antimusic."

In contrast to Cole, Buckley seems to keep Art and politics separate in his criticism. This dissociation is essential nowadays if one is to enjoy any music or film. I disagree with him, but in matters of taste, there is no dispute.

Golden, eternal slumbers, Mr. Cole.


....Or Get Off The Pot

We've all probably had this happen when a spouse has been in the bathroom a little too long:

Knock Knock
"Are You OK, honey?"

Now picture this:

Knock Knock
"Happy New Year, dear."

WICHITA, Kan. — Deputies say a woman in western Kansas became stuck on her boyfriend's toilet after sitting on it for two years.

Ness County Sheriff Bryan Whipple said it appeared the 35-year-old Ness City woman's skin had grown around the seat. She initially refused emergency medical services but was finally convinced by responders and her boyfriend that she needed to be checked out at a hospital.

"We pried the toilet seat off with a pry bar and the seat went with her to the hospital," Whipple said. "The hospital removed it."...

She was not glued. She was not tied. She was just physically stuck by her body," Whipple said. "It is hard to imagine. ... I still have a hard time imagining it myself."

He told investigators he brought his girlfriend food and water, and asked her every day to come out of the bathroom.

"And her reply would be, `Maybe tomorrow,"' Whipple said. "According to him, she did not want to leave the bathroom."

Talk about enabling behavior by the boyfriend! "And this is my girlfriend, Cherie. She's a human composter". When you think about it, if she never got off the throne, then she never washed her hands. Disgusting.

By the way, is Sheriff Whipple any relation to Mr. Whipple from the old Charmin bathroom tissue commercials?


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Conquering Mt. Everest: 50 Years Later

50 years ago today, May 29 1953, the top of Mount Everest was reached for the first time by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Since then 1.200-1.500 has climbed the top. Nobody knows the exact number. More than 140 climbers died on the way.

On May 24, 1989 the Australian photographer and mountaineer Roderick Mackenzie reached the summit. He was no 271 since 1953 He made which as far as I know is the only 360 degree panorama From the top. You can experience this by clicking here.


Plastic Duckies and the Big & Tall Department

Plastic duck armada is heading for Britain after 15-year global voyage

Here's a feel-good story about an armada of 'rubber' duckies that has been trekking the Atlantic Ocean for the last 15 years:

"A flotilla of plastic ducks is heading for Britain’s beaches, according to an American oceanographer.

For the past 15 years Curtis Ebbesmeyer has been tracking nearly 30,000 plastic bath toys that were released into the Pacific Ocean when a container was washed off a cargo ship.

Some of the ducks, known as Friendly Floatees, are expected to reach Britain after a journey of nearly 17,000 miles, having crossed the Arctic Ocean frozen into pack ice, bobbed the length of Greenland and been carried down the eastern seaboard of the United States."

Of course then the reporter has to ruin a perfectly pleasant article with fictional references to global warming...

"Simon Boxall, of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, said that the ducks offered a great opportunity for climate change research. “They are a nice tracer for what the currents are doing as they travel around the world, and currents are what determines our climate, and cycles of carbon."

As well as to human pollution:

"'I would ask holidaymakers to keep an eye out, as they might be very few and far between by now. It’s a real adventure story and the plastic should last 100 years'..."

I'm surprised he didn't bring up the possibility of choking dolphins; a condition we all know can only be fixed by the World's Tallest Man.........

No One Ever Talks about the Real Heroes


Maybe you heard about this bizarre story: two dolphins at a theme park in China were choking on some plastic, and vets at the aquarium did not have a way of reaching far enough into their gullets to get the plastic out. So, they called the world's tallest man, because his arms were long enough to reach inside the dolphins and pull the plastic out.


A Sailor's Kiss at Time Square

Kissing Sailor - Found at Last

Glenn Edward McDuffie knows why the sailor kissing a white-clad nurse in that famous photo has his wrist bent back in an awkward position. Taken August 14, 1945 in New York City's Times Square moments after the crowd there heard World War II had ended, that photo has epitomized the jubilant mood of a nation who had won our hard fought victory. Glenn knows why that sailor has his wrist twisted because he is that sailor. Glenn had come to New York after coming off the SS Alexander Lillinton with Jack Holmes (from Pittsburg), the sailor in the dark uniform seen laughing in that same photo. Glenn also knows the sailor in the white uniform's name is Bob Little from Buffalo, New York since he also served on the same ship.

Now ready to turn 80 this August 3rd, Glenn wants to celebrate the 62nd anniversary of his kiss of an overjoyed nurse by setting the record straight. Though numerous would-be kissing sailors have tried to lay claim to being the man in the photo, none know what Glenn McDuffie knows because they are not the man in the photo. Glenn not only knows the names and home towns of the only other sailors seen in the photo. He knows why the sailor smooching the nurse has his hand in such an unnatural position. Glenn tells it like this,

"I rode the subway into Times Square, got off, and when I walked up the stairs, a woman at the top said she was so happy for me. I ask hey 'Why?' and she said 'the war is over, you can go home now!' I was so excited I started jumping up and down and hollering because my oldest brother was a Japanese prisoner of war. He was there when the Philippines fell. Then this nurse held out her arms and I just looked up because I thought we were going to get run over. When I saw it was a photographer, I bent my hand back so you could see the lady's face..."

Glenn McDuffie's chivalrous act is the only explanation that makes sense when one views the photo. Not only does Glenn know why the strange hand position and the names of every sailor in the photo, he is the only man claiming to be the "kissing sailor" who has taken and passed a lie detector test on that subject. In fact, Glenn has passed 10 polygraph examinations proving his claims of being the man in the photo are truthful. In September 1980, he took two polygraph examinations administered by Smiths Security Agency for ABC Channel 13 (Houston, TX) at the behest of reporters John Davenport and Marvin Zindler. On February 14, 1981, the took a series of five tests, all by different operators, for F. Lee Baily's syndicated Lie Detector show. Finally, on August 13, 2005, David Raney, Houston's premier polygraph expert tested Glenn, and he passed with flying colors. Raney has a large poster of the famous photo in this lobby, signed by the man he is certain is in the photo: Glenn McDuffie.

Glenn was shipboard in the middle of the Atlantic on August 27, 1945, when the photo of him and the nurse in a jubilant embrace came out in print for the elated American public. Glenn never saw it till years later. During the summer of 1945 he was more worried about whether his brother, Willie Durant McDuffie, would be liberated from the Japanese. Over the years, McDuffie has tolerated men who did not know the names of the other sailors in the photo and who did not pass, or even agree to offers, of lie detector tests, making frivolous claims they were the man in the photo. None of these men even mention the chivalrous bended hand to show the nurse's face. This plausible reason for the pose proves his first hand experience that day.

Glenn will turn 80 this August 3, 2007. He thinks it is only fitting to set the record straight, once and for all.

As a final proof, biometrics expert, Lois Gibson, has made several comparisons of McDuffie now with his photo in New York's Times Square August 1945. Although it is impossible to compare exact poses, even if the photos are taken days apart, Gibson shows that all the features are consistent. She points out that all individuals' noses grow during their entire life since the nose endings consist of cartilage. As shown in the photos of other war vets, the nose will grow about 18% larger and longer from age 20 to age 70. Consistent with this growth, the only difference between Glenn today and at age 80 and Glenn in the 1945 photo is a longer, larger nose.

A video of McDuffie who lives in Houston was taken by Gibson. This video was edited for brevity to three minutes and shown to several detectives at the Houston Police department. These detectives had seen videos and interviewed suspects for decades in an effort to discover if they were lying or telling the truth. All detectives were positive Glenn McDuffie's claims are true. Sergeant D. Silva who has interviewed suspects for 29 years said "... he is absolutely telling the truth" when he viewed Glenn McDuffie's 3 minute video.

Glenn has married, had children, and engaged in several businesses in his long life. He has let others claim they "think" they must be the sailor that day because they were somewhere among the hundreds of thousands of people in New York that day. The only man who knows everything about the photo is a hero who fought for our country and deserves his due. The young nurse held out her arms right after hearing the war was won and Glenn McDuffie delivered a passionate kiss, chivalrously twisting his hand to show a photographer her face. McDuffies are like that. This country owes Glenn some chivalry now.


A story so heartwarming, it's unreal

Among the more endearing frauds floating around out there is the story of little Teddy Stallard. If you listen to Paul Harvey, attend the occasional prayer breakfast or watch inspirational television mountebanks, you've likely heard about Teddy.

The story, in a nutshell: Mrs. Thompson, an elementary school teacher, dislikes a grubby, ill-kempt little underachiever in her class who, one Christmas, presents her with a broken rhinestone bracelet and a bottle of cheap perfume. She checks his record, finds that his mother has died and, after a weepy hour of self-reproach, takes him under her wing, where he blossoms. There follow three letters after his family moves out of town.

He graduates high school with honors.

He graduates college with honors.

He is now Dr. Theodore Stallard, M.D. -- "How about that!" -- and wants her to attend his wedding and sit where his late mother would have sat. She, of course, wears the broken rhinestone bracelet.

Across America, Teddy's story has pulled heartstrings straight out of their sockets. In Colorado three years ago, copies were sent to every teacher. On radio three years ago, Paul Harvey read it as a piece of news. Marian Wright Edelman of the Children's Defense Fund includes it in speeches.

Newspaper columnists have spent the last 10 years stealing it from one another.

The problem is that Teddy Stallard never lived.

He was created 25 years ago in the mind of a writer named Elizabeth Silance Ballard, now Elizabeth S. Ungar, of Virginia Beach, Va. Ungar, a 58-year-old grandmother still writing, is still amazed that a story she wrote and published under the label Fiction in a 1976 issue of Home Life magazine has devolved into an urban legend.

"I've had people use it in their books, except they made it as if it happened to them," Ungar told me when I tracked her down. "In the '80s I heard Robert Schuller tell this story on one of his broadcasts. He told it as if it was someone he knew."

Schuller's not alone. A parent in California, chastising local teachers for their reaction to special education students, wrote to the local paper and, before lapsing into the Teddy story, explained, "I know a teacher named Miss Thompson ... "

The story turned up, attributed to Elizabeth Silance Baynard, in Steven Vannoy's 1994 book "The Ten Greatest Gifts I Give My Children." Vannoy, who doesn't say the story is either true or fiction, tells readers, "I wish I knew the source of the piece so I could thank the author."

Ungar has seen Teddy -- and her copyright -- hijacked so often there ought to be a fourth letter from Teddy, laying out the ransom demands.

The real story is this: Decades ago, a friend of Ungar's was filling in as a Sunday school teacher. The kids were presenting Christmas gifts. A grubby little boy handed her a broken rhinestone bracelet and bottle of cheap perfume.

"She had gotten this gift from a child and it was so touching. She didn't know what to do," Ungar said. The teacher also didn't know anything about the child.

It set Ungar to thinking about her own youth, when the family didn't have enough money for little Elizabeth to give her teacher a Christmas gift back at Thompson Elementary in Jacksonville, N.C. At her grandmother's suggestion, she picked a boxful of pecans from a tree in her yard and presented it.

"Everybody started laughing," she said. The teacher saved the moment by declaring that she was making fruitcakes and Elizabeth's gift was just the thing she'd wanted.

From these two stories, the author combined her grandmother's last name, Stanley, and her own name at the time, Ballard, and invented Teddy Stallard, who was, in short order, kidnapped and carried off to any banquet in need of a heartwarming anecdote.

"The only thing I can think is that they're touched by it and it seems real to them," Ungar said.

What is real, of course, is that every person has the capacity to amount to something. Another truth is that Elizabeth Silance Ballard wrote a good story in 1976 -- good enough to warrant republication in her latest book, "Three Letters from Teddy and Other Stories."

And if somebody wants to tell Teddy's story, they ought to ask his mom who, as it turns out, is still alive, living in Virginia Beach, and would like the world to notice that even in the larger truths, Teddy Stallards can speak to us all. Fiction is, after all, still fiction.


Physics of a Sneeze

Ahhh Chooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!

I wonder how fast mucous is flying through the air?

Why should I care?

How would I measure its speed?

Why do I sneeze?





Dear Walter:

I'm sorry I can't answer your question but I can give you some information about the speed of a cough in the major airways of the lungs. I think a cough is more important than a sneeze. In either case, I think the air that leaves the mouth has a large speed. I have read that in the major airways, the speed of the air during a cough is about mach 1, i.e., about the speed of sound. I assume they measured the speed using a Doppler or "radar" technique. A sneeze seems to be aimed at clearing out a "tickle" in the upper airways, while a cough tries to clear out a partial blockage of a major airway in the chest. Since the air is moving rapidly, you get a Bernoulli effect with significantly reduced pressure in the airways, causing them to collapse. Thus if you have something blocking an airway, the collapsing of the airway increases the chances of blockage will be dislodged and coughed out.........There is a lot of physics involved in the body. If you can find a copy of the book "Physics of the Body" by Cameron, Skofronick and Grant, you might find other interesting facts about physics in physiology.

Good Luck & Best Wishes,


Sources and links:

Useless Information That You'll Never NEED To Know But Will Make You Sound Cool

Thomas Edison came up with the idea for a movie that watched people sneezing.

Sneezes create G-forces of 3.0 for a tenth of a second, that is comparable to the g-forces of riding a roller coaster.

That concludes our useless information.

How this project relates to our focused program of study...

(Arts and Communication)

Being such a broad area of study there are many relations between doing this project and arts and communication. First is working in groups, learning how to divide work, compromise, and execute. Secondly the presentation and the web site are communication in themselves, learning how to convey important information such as this is vital to careers in communication, or any career in general. Thirdly the "art" of creating a website, being creative within the confines of a project is also a relation to Arts and Comm.

(Health Services)

A sneeze, being such a physiological health-related topic, was easy to incorporate into this area of study. To find interview sources, for example, it was necessary to talk to different specialists in the medical profession: ENT's (ear, nose, throat), allergists, pathologists, medical physicists, etc. Through this process, we were able to get a direct glimpse into what "health services" is-- helping people become aware of possible illnesses, treating them, etc. In the creation of this website, we imparted information on a very common health issue (sternutation) and its possible effects (strong force can cause aneurysms, strokes, etc.)


Diet Coke & Mentos

This is another in a continuing series of physics/chemistry experiments you can try at home with little or no risk to yourself, your home or neighbors.

Just about everybody has heard of it. There are videos of the experiment all over the internet. The topic has even been discussed on the popular TV show Myth Busters. Diet Coke and Mentos. Two popular American products, both fairly tasty. But, when mixed together create a violent reaction of epic proportions. A soda geyser!

The Experiment:

Our team, has decided to find to optimal amount of Mentos to displace the most Diet coke. We are going to record the amount of diet coke displaced from their respective bottles using varying amounts of Mentos.

Background Info:

This Experiment is relevant to everyday life in the sense that the "Diet Coke and Mentos" videos posted all over the Internet have become incredibly popular. The people at are the ones behind the craze, posting the video that started it all.


What number of Mentos need to be dropped into a bottle of Diet Coke in order to get the maximum amount of soda displaced?


We believed that because of the relatively small size of the bottle, the greatest amount of soda displaced would be achieved when 5-6 Mentos were dropped into it. We chose this amount because after watching numerous videos, this looked to be the most popular amount.


To figure out why the two products reacted in a geyser-like way, we researched (both by text and online), and found good explanations from The Encyclopedia of Earth and Physical Science, The McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, and Science and Technology Illustrated. We related these explanations to our experiment, figuring that if you use too few mentos, there would only be a minimal amount of "fizzing," displacing a small amount of soda. But if you added too many Mentos, the surface area for the bubbles to form on would be very large, and the carbon dioxide in the bottle would be used at a rapid rate, leaving little time for pressure to build in the bottle and displace soda.


Independent Variable: # of Mentos

Dependent Variable: Diet Coke displaced (mL)

NOTE: To ensure accurate data, we made sure that all the bottles of soda were opened just before being tested, and we ensured that weather was not a factor in the experiment whatsoever.

The Materials:

12 bottles of Diet Coke (591ml each)

4 Packages of Mint Mentos

1 Graduated Cylinder (ml)

**Paper and tape

The Procedure:

1. Open up one bottle of your diet coke and place on a flat surface.

2. Open your box of mentos and take out two mints.

3. Drop the mints into the Diet Coke and stand back.**

4. Wait for the Coke to calm down.

5. Pour the remaining Diet Coke into a graduated cylinder.

6. Record

7. Repeat steps 1-6 two more times for a total of three trials.

8. Repeat steps 1-7 using different amounts of Mentos (4,6,8)

image 1

**When pouring 6-8 mentos into a diet coke at once, we found it helpful to construct a mentos dropping device by rolling a piece of paper into a tube. Just big enough to fit mentos through. This will make it a lot easier to drop all the Mentos in at once. If dropped one at a time, the reaction would not reach its peak performance.


Coke And Mentos
Amount Of Coke Displaced (ml)
# of Mentos
Trial 1
Trial 2
Trial 3


Conclusions and Generalizations

When using more than four Mentos the amount of coke displaced decreased. This shows that four Mentos is the optimum amount to displace the most diet coke in a 591ml bottle. Four Mentos displaced an average of 386mL of Diet Coke while six and eight Mentos displaced 374mL and 366mL respectively.

If other teams were to approach the same experiment, they would more than likely achieve the same overall trend, and their results wouldn't be to far from ours. We believe this because we know that every Diet Coke bottle is made almost identical in the factory. We believe this to be the same with Mentos.

Another experiment that could be attempted regarding Diet Coke and Mentos is how much does the volume of coke affect the amount of coke displaced? This could be done by using a certain amount of Mentos per cubic ml.



The Encyclopedia of Earth and Physical Science

The McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology

Science and Technology Illustrated

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

You Might Be A Scientist....

If the only jokes you receive are through e-mail.

If your wrist watch has more computing power than a 486DX-50.

If your idea of good interpersonal communication means getting the decimal point in the right place.

If you have used coat hangers and duct tape for something other than hanging coats and taping ducts.

If your ideal evening consists of fast-forwarding through the latest sci-fi movie looking for technical inaccuracies.

If you have "Dilbert" comics displayed anywhere in your work area.

If you carry on a one-hour debate over the expected results of a test that actually takes five minutes to run.

If a team of you and your co-workers have set out to modify the antenna on the radio in your work area for better reception.

If you ever burned down the gymnasium with your Science Fair project.

If you have never backed-up your hard drive.

If the salespeople at Circuit City can't answer any of your questions.

If you still own a slide rule and you know how to work it.

If you rotate your screen savers more frequently than your automobile tires.

If your I.Q. number is bigger than your weight.

If the microphone or visual aids at a meeting don't work and you rush up to the front to fix it.

If you can remember 7 computer passwords but not your anniversary.

If you have ever owned a calculator with no equal key and know what RPN stands for.

If you can type 70 words a minute but can't read your own handwriting.

If you have more friends on the Internet than in real life.

If you think that when people around you yawn, it's because they didn't get enough sleep.

If your three year old son asks why the sky is blue and you try to explain atmospheric absorption theory.

If your wife asks you a simple question about light bulbs and you explain the nature of photons.


Vinegar and Baking Soda Lab

Every now and then, I've been known to pass along some pretty interesting physics and chemistry experiments you can try at home - mostly to keep kids busy over the summer. Here is the first of many experiments to begin the series for this year. Good luck!

Background Research

This experiment will be about displacement reactions. They are useful in many fields because when you put chemicals together, they yield something new. For example, this can be of use to the pharmaceutical industry because they can turn useless or harmful chemicals.

The Six Types of Chemical Reaction

All chemical reactions can be placed into one of six categories. Here they are, in no particular order:

1) Combustion: A combustion reaction is when oxygen combines with another compound to form water and carbon dioxide. These reactions are exothermic, meaning they produce heat. An example of this kind of reaction is the burning of napthalene:

C10H8 + 12 O2 ---> 10 CO2 + 4 H2O

2) Synthesis: A synthesis reaction is when two or more simple compounds combine to form a more complicated one. These reactions come in the general form of:

A + B ---> AB
One example of a synthesis reaction is the combination of iron and sulfur to form iron (II) sulfide:
8 Fe + S8 ---> 8 FeS

3) Decomposition: A decomposition reaction is the opposite of a synthesis reaction - a complex molecule breaks down to make simpler ones. These reactions come in the general form:

AB ---> A + B
One example of a decomposition reaction is the electrolysis of water to make oxygen and hydrogen gas:
2 H2O ---> 2 H2 + O2

4) Single displacement: This is when one element trades places with another element in a compound. These reactions come in the general form of:

A + BC ---> AC + B
One example of a single displacement reaction is when magnesium replaces hydrogen in water to make magnesium hydroxide and hydrogen gas:
Mg + 2 H2O ---> Mg(OH)2 + H2

5) Double displacement: This is when the anions and cations of two different molecules switch places, forming two entirely different compounds. These reactions are in the general form:

AB + CD ---> AD + CB
One example of a double displacement reaction is the reaction of lead (II) nitrate with potassium iodide to form lead (II) iodide and potassium nitrate:
Pb(NO3)2 + 2 KI ---> PbI2 + 2 KNO3

6) Acid-base: This is a special kind of double displacement reaction that takes place when an acid and base react with each other. The H+ ion in the acid reacts with the OH- ion in the base, causing the formation of water. Generally, the product of this reaction is some ionic salt and water:

HA + BOH ---> H2O + BA
One example of an acid-base reaction is the reaction of hydrobromic acid (HBr) with sodium hydroxide:
HBr + NaOH ---> NaBr + H2O

Walter's Handy Checklist for figuring out what type of reaction is taking place:

Follow this series of questions. When you can answer "yes" to a question, then stop!

1) Does your reaction have oxygen as one of it's reactants and carbon dioxide and water as products? If yes, then it's a combustion reaction

2) Does your reaction have two (or more) chemicals combining to form one chemical? If yes, then it's a synthesis reaction

3) Does your reaction have one large molecule falling apart to make several small ones? If yes, then it's a decomposition reaction

4) Does your reaction have any molecules that contain only one element? If yes, then it's a single displacement reaction

5) Does your reaction have water as one of the products? If yes, then it's an acid-base reaction

6) If you haven't answered "yes" to any of the questions above, then you've got a double displacement reaction

Sample Problems (the solutions are in the next section)

List what type the following reactions are:

1) NaOH + KNO3 --> NaNO3 + KOH

2) CH4 + 2 O2 --> CO2 + 2 H2O

3) 2 Fe + 6 NaBr --> 2 FeBr3 + 6 Na

4) CaSO4 + Mg(OH)2 --> Ca(OH)2 + MgSO4

5) NH4OH + HBr --> H2O + NH4Br

6) Pb + O2 --> PbO2

7) Na2CO3 --> Na2O + CO2

Solutions to the Sample Problems
1) double displacement
2) combustion
3) single displacement
4) double displacement
5) acid-base
6) synthesis
7) decomposition