September 30, 2006

Giada De La La

I am very proud of my latest eBay acquisition: a hand signed copy of Giada's Family Dinners by The Food Network's Giada DeLaurentiis. A signed copy of this book typically sells for $80 on eBay, but I was able to get my copy for $28 and some change. I have verification that the signature is authentic, and I could easily triple my money by reselling the book on eBay, but I'm keeping it for myself.

I didn't buy the book to try out Giada's recipes; although, her food always looks amazingly appetizing on her Food Network show, Every Day Italian. I have a small collection of celebrity autographs, and I consider Giada to be a celebrity of sorts. She is a very attractive, lively, little Italian woman that knows how to cook. She also hosts a Food Network program, Behind the Bash, in which she goes behind the scenes of the food preparation for events such as the Oscars, the Grammys, and similar events. She can be seen wearing formal gowns in some of those shows, and she looks amazing.

Two of the pictures in Giada's Family Dinners shows her grating chocolate with a kitchen tool that the company I work for manufactures. I didn't design this particular grater, but I helped with the manufacturing process that turned the design into reality.

After thumbing through the book, I will probably attempt some of the recipes. Most of them look fairly simple, and you can't go wrong with Italian food as far as I'm concerned. The recipes also typically use basic ingredients that you can find in any grocery store. If you like more "upscale" recipes, she has some of those as well.

If you'd like to see Giada on The Food Network, check out their website at :
The Food Network

The Busiest Beaver

As I get older, I tend to watch less television, and the things I do watch on TV are considerably different from the shows I watched even a few years ago for the most part. Reality TV has become the new thing with shows like Big Brother, The Apprentice, Survivor, My Fair Brady, Hogan Knows Best, America's Top Model, and so on and so on. I'm just not into those types of programs.

Currently my favorite shows are Cold Case Files, Forensic Files, City Confidential, and all of the other true crime drama shows that can be found on cable networks. I figure knowing how to properly dispose of a dead body might come in handy some day. I quit watching network TV when Seinfeld and Friends ended, and I didn't really watch Friends during its final couple of seasons until the very end, because I wanted to see how it finished up.

However, NBC has once again brought two new shows to the table that I am really enjoying for the moment. My Name is Earl and The Office. I've only seen a few episodes of either show, but I am thoroughly amused every time I have the opportunity to catch one of them. The Office impressed me so much that I bought the season one and season two DVD sets -- the first DVD sets I have ever bought for a TV show other than the original Ultraman bootlegs I picked up from eBay.

The Office is a take off of a British TV series with the same name, but I've never seen the original. Stever Carell, famous for being The 40 Year Old Virgin, plays the office manager that most anyone would love to have as a boss. He heads a branch of a company named Dunder Mifflin located in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

I have attached a clip from one of my favorite episodes from the first episode of the second season. In this clip, the office manager is handing out the annual "Dundies. " The Dundies are an award ceremony that Steve Carell's character has conjured up, and a ceremony is held annually at the local Chili's. Each member of the office gets an award for things like "Tight Ass" for not only having a tense personality, but also having nice buns. Another person got the "Don't Follow Him into the Bathroom" Dundie Award. This particular clip is when an employee named Phyllis receives the "Busiest Beaver" award.

September 27, 2006

Ivory-Billed Bull $#!%

Back in April of 2004, a group of scientists from Cornell University claimed to find the an ivory-billed woodpecker, which was thought to be extinct for sixty years, living in the swamp lands of Southern Arkansas. The story was broadcast on the national news, cable networks, and made the front page of most major newspapers. Scientists around the world were in an uproar. The Holy Grail of the Audubon world (or The Jesus Bird, as I have unofficially named it for this post) had been found. Or had it been?

Among the swirling reports and the celebration of the The Jesus Bird's resurrection, none of the media actually stopped to thoroughly check what evidence the good people of Cornell University had to prove the bird was still in existence. Well, the evidence happened to be a few seconds of poor quality audio of a doube-knocking sound, a sound that only the The Jesus Bird makes, and a few seconds of poor quality video of a large bird flying through trees in a swamp. That was it.

As time has passed, skepticism about the existence of The Jesus Bird started to arise. There were approximately forty-one professors and scientists that claimed to have heard the double-knocking noise, yet no definitive audio existed. Also, failure by the professors to produce photographic evidence that The Jesus Bird was flying around Southern Arkansas put doubt into the minds of many of the same people that were so excited eighteen months earlier. The skeptics pointed out that The Jesus Bird and it's still thriving cousin, the pileated woodpecker, bare a striking resemblence to each other. Many false Jesus sighting have been reported over the years by people that were actually seeing the pileated woodpecker. The last confirmed Jesus sighting was in 1944.

Why doesn't more evidence exist? Is it that the universities that spend the thousands upon thousands of dollars for professors to float through Southern Arkansas swamps can't afford high-tech audio equipment to capture the double-knocking sound that so many have claimed to have heard? Are their budgets so constrained that they are unable to use a camera with higher resolution than a $30 webcam? No, money is not the issue. The reason there are no pictures or clear audio evidence that The Jesus Bird is flying around Southern Arkansas is because it isn't. The bird is extinct and has been for sixty plus years.

Other than the war in Iraq, the discovery of The Jesus Bird was the biggest story in the country on April 29, 2004. Why? Was it just because a few jokers with Ph.D.'s that were being paid to hunt for an extinct species said that they found it? Shouldn't there have been more facts put on the table before this story made national headlines? Sure, it was a great article for Audubon Magazine as a speculative piece, but did the story really need to be covered by the NY Times, CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, MSNBC, and so on? It doesn't matter. Those media outlets broadcast the story, because it was exciting. No facts required.

I suppose one reason the story took off without any evidence is because of the discovery of the Coelecanth back in 1997. The Coelecanth was a fish believed to have been extinct for 70 million years. A couple that was honeymooning in Indonesia saw the fish near the beach and posted pictures of it on the internet without knowing it was supposedly extinct. An expert saw the photos and later DNA tests confirmed that the Coelecanth was alive. Unlike The Jesus Bird, not only does photographic evidence exist of the Coelecanth, but several specimens have been retrieved from the ocean since the discovery.

Humans don't typically hang out 3-4 miles below the ocean's surface, so it is understandable that the fish could survive for so long without being spotted. Arkansas has world class duck hunting, and thousands of hunters swarm to Southern Arkansas every year from around the country. It's hard to believe that The Jesus Bird was flying around out there all of this time without one of the Elmer Fudds spotting it. Of course, the reason the bird is extinct is because of Elmer Fudds, so maybe they did see a couple.

There are still believers holding onto hope that The Jesus Bird is out there, but with the growing skepticism, professors are using a new tactic to retain their grant money. Since zero plausible evidence has come out of the expeditions in Arkansas, it was announced recently that The Jesus Bird is also living in Florida swamps. No new evidence has been produced, but many researchers will be heading to the Sunshine State to spend the upcoming winter months. Winters in Arkansas aren't horrible, but even dealing with a category 5 hurricane in Florida is better than the best day Southern Arkansas has to offer.

I did personally see an ivory-billed woodpecker about six months ago, but it was nowhere near Arkansas or Florida. I also got clear photo that nobody could refute was a picture of an ivory-billed woodpecker. However, I didn't make too much of a fuss over it, because the bird was full of cotton and sitting behind a glass at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsyvania. It was perched on a fake branch next to it's cotton-filled pileated cousin. The taxidermist had done such a great job that I could almost hear the double-knocking sound as I looked at the exhibit. Quite moving.

If you'd like to see actual footage of the ivory-billed woodpecker from 1935 (which is actually pretty interesting) or the footage from 2004 of a pileated woodpecker that Cornell claims to be Jesus, just visit this website: Cornell Lab of Orinthology

September 24, 2006

Phil Hartman

Phil Hartman of SNL fame would have been 58 today. Happy Birthday Phil, you were the greatest Ronald Reagan that ever lived, besides the real one of course.

September 23, 2006

God Bless Motley Crue

Even though Tommy Lee is spinning his wheels putting together his joke of a band, Super Nova, the Crue is currently on tour with Aerosmith. A fellow KISS fan took this shot in Charlotte on Friday night. Looks like it was a good show. You can see the rest of the pics here: if looking at Mick Mars or Steven Tyler is your thing. His photo albums also contain some pics from 2003 of the best KISS tribute band ever featuring Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer, and Eric Singer.

Joke Beer Celebrates a Decade in Business

- A company that started out as a joke celebrates ten years in business. Founder Jeremy Cowan says that starting out, he and his friends just thought it would be fun for Jews to have their own beer and brewed up something called "He'Brew." Ten years later, with 2 million bottles sold, it's not a joke anymore.

Cowan says he likes the beer, but wouldn't want to abandon the inside joke that started it all, the punch line being "don't pass out, pass over."

The tiny San Francisco-based brew, which depends almost as much on schtick as it does on brewing expertise, is celebrating its anniversary with several new beers. They include a rye-flavored tribute to the late comedian and free-speech icon, Lenny Bruce.

September 21, 2006

Man's lost gnome attends Steelers game

I actually heard about a story similar to this about ten years ago, but instead of a gnome it was the smallest of a set of plastic ducks a woman had displayed in her yard. The duck was returned a year later with a stack of photos of the duck at the Statue of Liberty, The Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower, and several other world landmarks. Can't people be original anymore?

September 21, 2006 (MORGANTOWN, W.Va.) - Allen Snyder's garden gnome is apparently out of jail and now traveling the country. The 14-inch tall red-and-white statue disappeared from Snyder's Morgantown yard in the spring, and Snyder has since received three letters claiming to have been written by "Gnomey."

The latest letter, which Snyder received this week, included photos of the gnome in the company of Steelers fans attending Pittsburgh's football home opener. "You never took me to any games," the note said. The letter ended: "Have to go now. Boarding a plane. Now, finally, broadening my travels."

An earlier letter included a request for bail money and included what appeared to be booking photos of Gnomey and another of the gnome in the back seat of a police car.
Snyder has no idea who's pulling this prank but said his short list of suspects includes several gag-loving friends.

The plight of his gnome has gotten a lot of attention. Snyder says people are always asking if he's heard from Gnomey.

"I never thought it would go this far," he said.

The story has even caught the attention of officials at Travelocity, which uses a roaming gnome in the online travel agency's advertising.

"While we know that your dear friend, Gnomey, can never be replaced, we're sending the enclosed Roaming Gnome to keep you company in his absence," wrote Michelle Peluso, president and chief executive officer of Travelocity, based in Southlake, Texas. "Hopefully your friend will find his way out of trouble and back to your front yard soon, although we can't help but admire his sense of adventure and love of travel."

September 18, 2006

Christmas Ain't What it Used to Be

This is just wrong on so many levels. The heavy metal rock band, Twisted Sister, is releasing a Christmas album on October 17th titled A Twisted Christmas. When I first ran across this, I thought it was a joke, but the information is all on Twisted Sister's own official website. This is as "twisted" as Ron Jeremy starring in a children's film. It doesn't make sense.

The CD has ten traditional Christmas songs recorded with heavy metal guitars and a head-banging beat. The fourth track, I'll be Home for Christmas, features guest singer Lita Ford. Lita was one of the few female heavy metal musicians back in the 80's.

If you click the picture below, you can listen to I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. The opening riff is somewhat reminiscent of Judas Priest's You've Got Another Thing Coming, but it goes downhill immediately once frontman Dee Snyder starts singing. Dee has a voice that is suited for belting out loud rock songs, but he falls short trying to hold a tune while singing Christmas melodies.

September 16, 2006

Let Me See that Thong

NASHVILLE (Reuters) - When moviemakers told Gallatin, Tennessee, Mayor Don Wright they wanted to use his office to film a scene with a superheroine, he kindly obliged.

But Wright was startled when the movie's title, "Thong Girl 3", and his role in its making was splashed across the front page of Friday's editions of the Nashville Tennessean newspaper.

"I had no idea what the movie was about," Wright said on Friday. "They told me it was about a superhero woman and there was no nudity or offensive stuff in it. Other than that, I really didn't have a clue."

According to the Thong Girl Web site, heroine Lana Layonme wears a red thong under a cape as she flies over Nashville repelling a villain who is trying to turn country music performers into rappers. The movie is the third in a series released only on DVD.

"They said it was family friendly," said Wright who let the locally-based crew use his office for two hours. "We've had a lot of movies filmed in this area during the past few years. In fact, I think Sally Field was in one of them. Anyhow, I thought it was good for business."

Residents have not been unkind, Wright said.

"Well, it's sure true that no good deed goes unpunished but most of my e-mails about this haven't been bad."

I don't see any harm done, and I honestly believe the mayor had no idea what the film was about. I saw a clip of him on a cable news channel, and he looked liked and older, trusting person. He was pretty embarrassed. Nobody will probably ever see this movie anyway. Thong Girl ain't no Wonder Woman. Where is Lynda Carter when you need her?

September 14, 2006

Virginia Man Jailed for Mouse in Soup Scam

What is it with people trying to pull scams? Sure, they are out for a quick buck, but don't they realize that when a person tries to sue a company for hundreds of thousands of dollars that the company being sued is going to leave no stone unturned investigating the matter? Ever since some stupid chick spilled hot coffee on herself from a McDonald's drive-thru, people have been coming up with more and more clever ways to try and extort large companies and restaurants. Recently there was a woman that tried to sue Wendy's for finding a piece of human finger in her chili. It turned out that she planted the piece of human finger, which happened to be from one of her husband's buddies, after the three of them hatched a plan.

The latest attempt is a guy and his mother decided they were clever enough to pull such a scam. At least they tried to pull it on one of my least favorite restaurants: The Cracker Barrel.


NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- A man who tried to extort $500,000 from a Cracker Barrel restaurant by claiming he found a mouse in a bowl of soup was sentenced Thursday to a year in jail.

Ricky Lee Patterson, 23, was also fined $2,500.

A jury in April convicted Patterson of conspiracy to commit extortion. His mother, Carla Patterson, was found guilty as well and received the same sentence in July.

The Pattersons claimed they found the rodent in soup that Carla Patterson ordered at a Newport News restaurant in 2004 during a Mother's Day meal.

Prosecutors brought charges after an examination of the mouse found that it died of a fractured skull, had no soup in its lungs and had not been cooked - all of which suggested the rodent was dropped into the customer's soup after it had died.

September 12, 2006

Rock Star: Supernova

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I hate to admit it, but when Rock Star: INXS hit the airwaves last summer, I watched the show on a regular basis. Rock Star is like a rock 'n' roll version of American Idol except the contestants are competing to be the lead singer of an existing band. I was never a huge fan of INXS, but I thought it was an interesting concept, and I was interested to see what type of person could possibly step into the shoes of the deceased Michael Hutchence, the original INXS frontman. The competition was won by a guy calling himself J.D. Fortune. He was the cockiest jackass on the show, and I initially expected him to get booted, but it made more sense to me after thinking about the type of people that comprise rock bands.

I thought Rock Star: INXS would be a one season series, but rumors started to fly that other bands were considering using the show to restart their careers. At one point, Van Halen was said to be slotted for the second season, but that eventually fell through or wasn't true in the first place. As time passed, the rumors seemed to fade, and there didn't seem to be any other used, washed up rock bands that could generate enough interest to film another season.

Someone at CBS obviously wanted to keep the show alive, so a new idea was born. Instead of using a has-been rock band, they decided to create a new band from has-been rock musicians. Enter Jason Newsted from Metallica, Gilby Clarke from Guns 'N' Roses, and the infamous Tommy Lee from Motley Crue in their new band, Supernova. Gee, how could this miss?

Jason Newsted played bass for the mega group, Metallica, for ten or twelve years. He replaced the original bassist, Cliff Burton, who died in a tragic bus accident while the band was touring. In the late 90's, Newsted decided to leave Metallica, because he claimed he didn't have the freedom to do side projects. Once a few side projects were complete and abysmal failures, Newsted wanted back in Metallica. Metallica was still looking for a new bass player at the time, but wanted to move on and told Newsted to beat it.

Gilby Clarke, like Newsted, was a replacement musician when he joined Guns 'N' Roses. Until that time, he was pretty much an unknown guitar player. Guns disbanded not long after Gilby joined, and he went back into obscurity.

Tommy Lee is probably the only true "star" in Supernova, and he is undoubtedly the best musician of the three. Unfortunately, he is probably most famous for being Mr. Pamela Anderson two or three times, getting arrested for various reasons, and the infamous honeymoon video that he and Pam shot back in the mid '90s. Tommy has done a few of his own side projects outside of Motley Crue, but none were ever really successful.

Well, I think I watched one show of Rock Star: Super Nova, then I realized that I didn't have the desire to listen to bizarre people singing bad renditions of The Doors and Alanis Morissette in an attempt to impress Tommy, Gilby, and Jason. However, I did see that a winner was announced recently, so I'm sure people are going to be lining up at state fairs across the country for tickets.

Although I didn't watch Rock Star this season, I began to wonder what other groups might benefit from the show. Here's a short list that I came up with.

Rock Star: The Righteous Brothers
Rock Star: The Power Station
Rock Star: Sonny and Cher
Rock Star: Sublime
Rock Star: The Greatful Dead
Rock Star: Nirvana
Rock Star: Alice in Chains

I suppose I could go on, but I won't.

September 11, 2006

Remembering September 11, 2001

I was unemployed during September 11, 2001 and got out of bed around 10 AM that morning. I went downstairs to find my wife sitting on the couch with our newborn daughter. She informed me that two planes had hit the World Trade Center. I felt sad as I watched fire pouring from the towers and then sat in shock when the first tower crumbled to the ground. After that, I knew the second would collapse also.

Another flight had crashed into the Pentagon and then there were reports of a missing fourth plane. That plane was Flight 93 which crashed about twenty miles from our home in SW Pennsylvania.

Sometime during the day, my sadness turned into anger. I knew the country would be engaging in war soon, and I was a little scared like everyone else. Then, I remembered these words from Ronald Reagan:

"We will not tolerate these attacks by outlaw states. We will not cave in."

"Today, we have done what we had to do. They counted on America to be passive. They counted wrong. "

"You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done."

Those words were spoken years before the 9/11 attacks, but they were more relevant that anything anybody else could have said on that day.

September 10, 2006

Too Little, Too Late for the Cowboys

The Cowboys faced the Jaguars in Jacksonville this afternoon and just couldn't get the job done. Dallas started out with a bang, taking a 10-0 lead after the first quarter. Then the wheels fell off. Jacksonville went on to score 24 unanswered points. The Cowboys scored a late touchdown on a 21-yard pass to Terrell Owens with 1:54 left on the clock to bring the score to 17-24, but it was too little too late. Dallas failed to recover the ball on the ensuing onside kick attempt, but they managed to keep Jacksonville from getting a first down and regained possession with less than a minute on the clock. The game ended when Drew Bledsoe threw an errant pass to the middle of the field for his third interception of the game.

  • The Cowboys looked like a solid team at the beginning of the game, but the offensive line started to break down, and Bledsoe's stats went south quickly thereafter. The score could have easily started 17-0 or 24-0 in favor of Dallas if Bledsoe had not overthrown a wide open TO and underthrown a wide open Julius Jones. One more game like today, and Bledsoe may lose his starting job to Tony Romo.
  • Too many penalties. 9 for 90 yards.
  • Terrell Owens had a solid game with 6 catches for 80 yards and a TD. He didn't pull any stupid antics, and there was no celebration after his first TD as a Cowboy.
  • Mike Vanderjagt didn't even make the trip to Jacksonville because of a nagging groin injury, but Shaun Suisham managed to miss a 36 yard FG in Vandy's absence. At least Suisham managed to dink the ball off of the right upright and not float it 10 feet wide like Vandy has been doing lately.
  • Parcell's insistence on running up the middle on every first and second down is baffling. Why does he continue with the "Run and Punt" offense when Owens, Glenn, and Witten are all Pro Bowl caliber receivers.
  • Jaguars reciever and former University of Arkansas QB, Matt Jones, is simply so big and fast that every team is going to have problems with him. The guy is 6'-6" and runs a 4.3 second 40 yard dash.
  • Despite the Cowboys' poor performance, one Dallas player had a spectacular game. Matt McBriar had five punts with an average of 53.2 yards per kick. That's probably good enough to lead the league. Congratulations Matt.

September 08, 2006

KISSOLOGY - The Ultimate KISS Collection Vol. 1

KISS is releasing a DVD box set at the end of next month titled KISSOLOGY. KISS has released several DVD's during the past decade, but most of them contained material that had been rehashed and remixed a thousand times. KISSOLOGY will be the first DVD collection from the band that includes unreleased material from the classic live shows that made the band famous in the early 70's. I've seen some of the stuff on bootlegs that have been leaked on the internet, but the DVD's will be fully digitally remastered for optimum quality.

The two disc set will include nearly six hours of footage with rare interviews, TV appearances, and live concert footage from 1974-1977. Gene claims that every KISS show has been filmed, and the fans have waited years for this footage to be released. The scheduled release date is on Halloween, October 31, 2006.

The reported tracks will be:

Disc 1
  1. The Coventry “Deuce” 1973 (DVD Easter Egg)
  2. Long Beach, CA “Acrobat” 1974
  3. ABC “In Concert” 1974
  4. The Mike Douglas Show 1974
  5. NBC “Midnight Special” 1975
  6. Music Videos Come On And Love Me & Rock And Roll All Night 1975
  7. Cadillac, Michigan vignette 1975
  8. Winterland San Francisco, CA 1/31/75
  9. Cobo Hall Detroit, MI 1/26/76
Disc 2
  1. Ace Frehley’s Wedding Performance New York, NY 1976 (DVD Easter Egg)
  2. “So It Goes”(British TV Show) 5/13/76
  3. The Paul Lynde Halloween Special 1976
  4. Tokyo, Japan Budokan Hall 4/2/77
  5. Don Kirshner’s “Rock Concert” “Hard Luck Woman” “Love Em & Leave Em” “I Want You”
  6. Houston, TX The Summit 9/2/77
Since the set is titled "Volume 1," I am assuming that there will be a "Volume 2" that includes similar material from '78-'80 up until the original members broke up for the first time. Knowing Gene and his love of money, there will probably also be Volumes 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. I probably won't buy Volume 8, because I suspect it will be another release of KISS (sans Ace and Peter) in "Rock the Nation Live" DVD set from 2004 with added footage of special, never released, behind-the-scenes footage of Rock School and Family Jewels, Gene's two reality programs from A&E.

If you'd like to know more, click the pic above to see the press release and a video trailer.

Austrian Who Held Girl Captive is Buried

This is a pretty interesting story that I ran across. It's about some dude in Austria that kidnapped a girl 8 1/2 years and held her captive until she recently escaped. The jackass did the right thing and jumped in front of a train a couple of hours after she escaped.


Kidnap victim Natascha Kampusch has said all she could think of during her eight-year ordeal was how to escape and despaired when she learned that people believed she was dead.

Natascha Kampusch was abducted on her way to school
For the first time since she escaped her captor two weeks ago, Natascha, now 18, talked about the years she spent in a cell beneath the garage of Wolfgang Priklopil's house in a commuter town outside Vienna.

"I asked myself again and again 'why among all the million people did this happen to me?'," Natascha told News magazine.

Priklopil had locked Natascha in the windowless cell in his house in Strasshoff, some 15 miles outside the capital, after abducting her on her way to school in 1998.

"I felt like a chicken in a hen battery," she said.

"I promised myself that I would never lose the thought of escape."

"I always thought that I wasn't born to be locked up and to have my life ruined completely," she said. "I despaired about this injustice."

The details of one of Austria's most notorious crimes have kept the nation spellbound since Natascha escaped from her abductor while he took a phone call outside his house.
Priklopil, 44, killed himself within hours of her escape by jumping in front of a commuter train.

Only two mourners, including his mother, attended the burial of Wolfgang Priklopil.

Johnny Myers Sings Karaoke

My old buddy and fellow KISS fan, Johnny, has found a new talent in life. He has taken up singing karaoke. For a rip-roaring good time, click the links below to hear Johnny belting out his renditions of "Beer in this Town" and "Mr. Bong." Good stuff, Maynard.

Mr. Bong

More Cowbell

I'm sure this is blogged half a billion places, but it is funny every time I see it. "I gotta fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell!" Christopher Walken is classic, but Will Ferrell is funny for the only time in his life during this skit. The sound gets off track a little bit about half way through, but it's still great stuff.

September 07, 2006

NFL Week 1 Predictions

The official kickoff of the 2006 NFL season happens tonight in Pittsburgh. The 2005 World Champions are hosting the Miami Dolphins who barely missed the playoffs last season despite finishing with six consecutive victories. It should be an exciting game.

Here are my predictions for Week 1. The team in BOLD font is the predicted winner.

Please keep in mind that I am a Dallas Cowboy fan and not a professional bookie. Please don't bet on any games based on my predictions, because I am just doing this for fun. I usually get better at picking games after Week 4. By then, I usually get a feel for each team. My picks now are strictly based on what I know about each team from last year. I will try to be objective, but there is no rule that I have to be, right?

Houston over Philthy is my upset pick of the week. Maybe wishful thinking, but a guy can hope can't he?

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September 06, 2006

Email Misunderstandings

I was doing some research and found an article titled "It's all about me: Why emails are so easily understood" on The Christian Science Monitor website. I was looking for such and article, because I had just written and email that upset the recipient -- which was not my intention. It seems like at least two or three times every year I write and email or post a comment in a usenet group that comes across the wrong way and makes the other person mad or hurts their feelings. Every time this happens, I start wondering if I am just horrible at communicating in writing. As it turns out, I am not the only person with this problem. It happens to the most literate and educated people on the internet, and this article helps explain why.

It's All About Me: Why Emails are Misunderstood
By Daniel Enemark Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor
May 15, 2006

Michael Morris and Jeff Lowenstein wouldn't have recognized each other if they'd met on the street, but that didn't stop them from getting into a shouting match. The professors had been working together on a research study when a technical glitch inconvenienced Mr. Lowenstein. He complained in an e-mail, raising Mr. Morris's ire. Tempers flared.
"It became very embarrassing later," says Morris, when it turned out there had been a miscommunication, "but we realized that we couldn't blame each other for yelling about it because that's what we were studying."

Morris and Lowenstein are among the scholars studying the benefits and dangers of e-mail and other computer-based interactions. In a world where businesses and friends often depend upon e-mail to communicate, scholars want to know if electronic communications convey ideas clearly.
The answer, the professors conclude, is sometimes "no." Though e-mail is a powerful and convenient medium, researchers have identified three major problems. First and foremost, e-mail lacks cues like facial expression and tone of voice. That makes it difficult for recipients to decode meaning well. Second, the prospect of instantaneous communication creates an urgency that pressures e-mailers to think and write quickly, which can lead to carelessness. Finally, the inability to develop personal rapport over e-mail makes relationships fragile in the face of conflict.

In effect, e-mail cannot adequately convey emotion. A recent study by Profs. Justin Kruger of New York University and Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago focused on how well sarcasm is detected in electronic messages. Their conclusion: Not only do e-mail senders overestimate their ability to communicate feelings, but e-mail recipients also overestimate their ability to correctly decode those feelings.

One reason for this, the business-school professors say, is that people are egocentric. They assume others experience stimuli the same way they do. Also, e-mail lacks body language, tone of voice, and other cues - making it difficult to interpret emotion.

"A typical e-mail has this feature of seeming like face-to-face communication," Professor Epley says. "It's informal and it's rapid, so you assume you're getting the same paralinguistic cues you get from spoken communication."

To avoid miscommunication, e-mailers need to look at what they write from the recipient's perspective, Epley says. One strategy: Read it aloud in the opposite way you intend, whether serious or sarcastic. If it makes sense either way, revise. Or, don't rely so heavily on e-mail. Because e-mails can be ambiguous, "criticism, subtle intentions, emotions are better carried over the phone," he says.

E-mail's ambiguity has special implications for minorities and women, because it tends to feed the preconceptions of a recipient. "You sign your e-mail with a name that people can use to make inferences about your ethnicity," says Epley. A misspelling in a black colleague's e-mail may be seen as ignorance, whereas a similar error by a white colleague might be excused as a typo.

If you're vulnerable to this kind of unintentional prejudice, pick up the phone: People are much less likely to prejudge after communicating by phone than they are after receiving an e-mail. Kruger and Epley demonstrated this when they asked 40 women at Cornell to administer a brief interview, 20 by phone and 20 by e-mail. They then asked a third group of 20, the "targets," to answer the phone interviewers' questions. They sent a transcription of the targets' answers to the e-mail interviewers.

The professors then handed each interviewer what they said was a photo of her subject. In reality, each got a picture of either an Asian or an African-American woman (in reality, all were white).

E-mail interviewers who thought the sender was Asian considered her social skills to be poor, while those who believed the sender was black considered her social skills to be excellent. In stark contrast, the difference in perceived sociability almost completely disappeared when interviewer and target had talked on the phone.

E-mail tends to be short and to the point. This may arise from the time pressures we feel when writing them: We know e-mail arrives as soon as we send it, so we feel we should write it quickly, too. On the other hand, letters depend on postal timetables. A letter writer feels he has a bigger window of time to think and write.

Psychologists Massimo Bertacco and Antonella Deponte call this characteristic "speed facilitation," and they believe it influences our episodic memory - our ability to recall events. They found that e-mailers wrote shorter messages and were less likely to "ground their communications" in memories of shared experience than letters writers were.
The brevity of e-mail and the absence of audiovisual cues can endanger business and personal relationships unless e-mail is supplemented with the rapport that comes from more personal communication.

"Rapport creates a buffer of positive regard," says Professor Morris, "and when it's not there negotiation becomes brittle, vulnerable to falling apart."

Morris, who studies negotiation at Columbia, led a study that found that negotiators exchange more than three times the information in face-to-face interactions as they do via e-mail. Though Morris and his colleagues concluded that e-mail lets negotiators make "more complex, multiple-issue offers," they ultimately built less rapport, thereby increasing tensions and lowering the average economic value of the agreements.

Rapport "is an interpersonal resonance of emotional expression," Morris says, "involving synchronous gesture, laughing, and smiling together. Once this rapport exists, it's a buffer against a moment in the negotiation when there's some friction." This buffer is hard to develop without speaking over the phone or in person. Those who negotiated by e-mail in Morris's study trusted each other less and weren't as interested in working together again.

But the pitfalls of e-mail interaction were easily overcome by a single phone call. Morris ran a second round of negotiations, all conducted via e-mail, but made half of the corresponding pairs chat on the phone before negotiating - "just for five or 10 minutes," Morris explains, "and the key thing is we told them, 'Don't get into the issues. It's just an icebreaker.' " The result was dramatically improved agreements.

So if you want to buy something on Craig's List, Morris says, "make a brief phone call, even if it's not practical to do the whole negotiation by phone. You can establish a favorable bias with someone and then proceed in a less rich medium, but it's very hard to just get right into the negotiation on a medium that isn't rich." Copyright © 2006 The Christian Science Monitor.

September 05, 2006

Iron Chef America

I've always had an interest in cooking and watched various cooking shows from time to time. I used to watch Great Chefs or America's Test Kitchen on PBS when the weather was bad on Saturday, but I never made a special effort see either show. After I started working for a company that manufactures kitchen tools, I found myself watching the Food Network on a daily basis. Initially I watched because I got an ego boost from seeing gadgets I helped design on TV, but the excitement of that wore off quickly, but I continued watching many of the Food Network shows, because I found them entertaining.

My favorite show on the FN, Iron Chef America, features a guy named Alton Brown. Alton is a comical character whose looks match his personality. He has thinning blonde hair that stands straight up, and he wears a streamlined version of Buddy Holly's horn rimmed glasses. He has a very in depth knowledge of cooking chemistry and is sort of like The Science Guy of the cooking world. His amusing antics and food expertise are part of what makes Iron Chef America such a fun program to watch.

Iron Chef America is a takeoff of a Japanese show called, you guessed it, Iron Chef. Each episode is a cooking competition with elements of Let's Make a Deal, WWF Smackdown , and old Kung-Fu movie, and American Idol all wrapped into a tortilla shell. The show's opening sequence tells the story of The Chairman and Kitchen Stadium. In the original Iron Chef, the story goes that Chairman Kaga built Kitchen Stadium in order to experience new cuisines. He hired the best chefs of various cooking styles and named them the Iron Chefs. The Iron Chefs accepted challenges of master chefs from around the world and competed in Kitchen Stadium, making dishes from a secret ingredient. The chefs' dishes were scored by a panel of three judges comprised of either food experts or pop culture celebrities.

In Iron Chef America, the nephew of Chairman Kaga, simply called the Chairman, has created a Kitchen Stadium in America to carry on the tradition of his uncle. The premise of the rest of the show is the same as the original. Unbeknownst to many people, both the Iron Chef America Chairman and his uncle are fictional characters created to add elements of legend and stature to the show. The two men are actually actors and not even related. Kitchen Stadium is also nothing more than two large restaurant sized kitchens assembled side-by-side in a television studio.

The fictional character of the chairman functions much like Vince McMahon, the owner of World Wrestling Entertainment. The Chairman announces the challenger who then appears after walking through a corridor and enters Kitchen Stadium through a set of curtains. Unfortunately, the challenging chef never has his own theme song like the Junkyard Dog's "Another One Bites the Dust" or "Eye of the Tiger" from Rocky III. I think they should. The challenging chef is then given the opportunity to pick who he/she wants to compete against from the four Iron Chefs: Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, Masaharu Morimoto (an original Iron Chef), and Cat Cora. Once the challenge is announced, the two battling chefs meet in the front of Kitchen Stadium with the Chairman, who at that point has taken on the job of a ring announcer. The Chaiman says, "So America, with an open heart and an empty stomach, I say unto you in the words of my uncle: Allez Cuisine!" As he yells the words "Allez Cuisine," the Chairman makes the motion of a pronounced karate chop through the air, and the lid of a large vat is lifted to reveal the evening's secret ingredient.

In the original Iron Chef, the secret ingredient ranged from foods such as seaweed, eel, squid, and puffer fish. Fortunately, the secret ingredients on Iron Chef America are foods that most of us have at least tried at one time or another. The clock starts ticking immediately after the secret ingredient is announced, and the two chefs scramble to gather as much of the ingredient as they believe they will need for the competition. The following hour is a frenzy of peeling, chopping, frying, boiling, grilling, and whatever other cooking technique is necessary to produce five dishes per chef.

Alton Brown does play-by-play commentary much like Pat Summeral covering an NFL game. Alton explains the foods and cooking techniques being used by each chef to create their dishes, and often explains odd facts like why purple asparagus is purple. Sometimes Alton is stumped and has to ask the chef what particular spices or garnishes he is using for a dish, but that doesn't happen very often. Once the hour is completed, the dishes are presented to the Chairman and the judging panel. The Chairman samples all of the dishes but doesn't actually participate in the judging.

The celebrity judge is usually someone like Mo Rocca, Jewel, or William Shatner; people that have no business judging a food competition. Incidentally, William Shatner was almost hired as the host of Iron Chef America. The judges critique each dish and assign point values based on originality, flavor, and presentation. At the end, the scores are tallied and a winner is announced by the Chairman.

All of the Iron Chefs have winning records on the show, but sometimes the challenger emerges victorious. According to the opening of Iron Chef, "
If ever a challenger wins over the iron chef, he or she will gain the people's ovation and fame forever."

My two favorite episodes were "Battle Frozen Peas" and "Batali vs. Trevino." The only reason the battle frozen peas episode is a favorite is because celebrity judge, Julie Powell, mentioned that "there's much peaness going on here, which is nice." (Watch here.) I don't know if she realized what she said, but it was classic. She also seemed to really enjoy the pea popsicle. In the "Batali vs. Trevino" episode, Chef Trevino was mixing a sauce made from honey and miso, a fermented bean paste. Alton Brown asked the chef, "Is that a honey, miso sauce?" Chef Trevino replied with a smirk, "No, it's miso honey sauce," to which Alton replied, "Oh, miso honey! Oh, miso honey! Chef love you long time."

Iron Chef America and the original Iron Chef air frequently, and you can check out the times on The Food Network

September 04, 2006

Crocodile Hunter Dies

I always thought this guy was crazy, but that is what made people like him I suppose. I wasn't his biggest fan, but this is sad. The guy had two kids that are pretty young.

Article from: The Age

Jason Staines
September 4, 2006 - 5:10PM

One of Steve Irwin's close friends and business partners today described the Crocodile Hunter as a wildlife icon who died doing what he loved best.

Mr Irwin, 44, died today after he was fatally wounded by a stingray barb to his heart while filming a sequence on Batt Reef off Port Douglas for his daughter's new TV series.

Mr Irwin's producer and closest friend, John Stainton, said emergency services were called from Cairns Rescue Base and met Croc One - Mr Irwin's rescue vessel - at Low Isle on the Great Barrier Reef.

He said the boat's crew performed CPR on Mr Irwin during the 30-minute run to Low Isle, but medics pronounced him dead about noon.

"The world has lost a great wildlife icon, a passionate conservationist and one of the proudest dads on the planet. He died doing what he loves best and left this world in a happy and peaceful state of mind," said Mr Stainton in a statement.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Mr Irwin's Australia Zoo said it was probably the worst day any of the staff had experienced.

Describing the zoo as "one huge family", he said more than 500 people a day thanked Mr Irwin for his friendship.

"His wife has lost a husband and he's got two kids. And at the end, that's the all of it," he said.

Tasmania Police this afternoon confirmed Mr Irwin's American-born wife Terri was travelling in Tasmania, where she is reported to be trekking on Cradle Mountain.

A spokeswoman said police had made contact with Mrs Irwin and "passed on a message relating to the death of her husband".

'A bloody good bloke'

Tourists joined locals to pay tribute by leaving bouquets of flowers at the front entrance of the zoo at Beerwah made famous by the naturalist and media personality.

Rod Cameron of Brisbane said he rushed to the zoo as soon as he heard the tragic news.

"We heard the news ... it's very sad and we are very upset. Australia just lost a bloody good bloke," he said.

"We grew up in Brisbane, followed his career. We just thought he was a good guy for what he did for Australia.

"He put us on the map, I reckon."

Mr Irwin was famous for his enthusiasm for wildlife and his catchcry "Crikey!"

The Crocodile Hunter was first broadcast in 1992 and has been shown around the world on cable network Discovery.

September 02, 2006

Ultraman Brothers - The Musical

That's right boys and girls. In addition to kicking some serious monster ass, the Ultraman Bros. were pretty nifty on the dance floor. Here they are getting their groove on to some 70's disco. The video quality isn't great, but this is so awesome that I have to post it. Enjoy.

September 01, 2006

Pink Taco Stadium?

Pink Taco Restaurant has officially approached the Arizona Cardinals about naming rights for the team's new stadium. The Morton's, the family behind the Pink Taco, put in a starting offer of $3 million per year. The Morton's are friends with former USC great and 2006 first round draft pick of the Cardinals, Matt Leinart, whom obviously knows a thing or two about Pink Taco. Leinart, the future franchise quarterback for Arizona, once dated Paris Hilton. He will also become the Baby Daddy of ex-girlfriend and USC basketball player, Brynn Cameron, sometime in November (I guess the former Trojan didn't use a Trojan).

The $3 million per year would be one of the biggest stadium naming rights contracts ever, but the Cardinals want no part of the name. I think the Cardinals should grow a pair and sign the deal. There is only one other NFL team more suited to play in Pink Taco Stadium than the Arizona Cardinals, and that would be the Indianapolis Colts. Unfortunately, the Colts already have a stadium sponsor, so the Cardinals should snatch this deal while it's still wide open for negotiation.

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