Senin, 14 Juli 2008

Dog Poo - And You Thought You Had Problems

In Southern Germany in a town by the name of Bayreuth, the German police are in a quandary. The town's dog poo is under attack. Park officials are desperate to resolve what could become an international incident. Unknown person or persons have been sticking little US flags into piles of doggie poo for over a year now.

Surprisingly the dog poo brigade has managed to target between 2,000 to 3,000 abandoned piles of excrement in Bayreuth public parks. Quite who actually counted them all and provided these statistics is debatable but the source is rumoured as coming from the Parks Administrator - Josef Oettl. And you wondered what your parkie did each day?

What was thought to have started as a protest against the Iraqi war has continued through the US election campaign and is still a regular occurrence today. Have the German's not heard of poop a scoop? Surely all self respecting German citizens collect their doggie poo. Poop in the parks and pavements was surely just a British thing?

German police are now stepping up patrols in order to catch these offenders. However, the poo could hit the fan if they ever tried to bring them to court. It is unclear what they would actually charge them with as there is no law against using doggie poo in this way. In fact, you could fly any flag from any piece of turd you find lying around. It's not illegal but it cannot be a pleasant task.

Surely this wouldn't catch on over here in the UK - would it?

The Work-from-home Fashion Primer

Last week, I reported how writers, stay-at-home parents and online marketing geeks had chosen careers as hermits:

Thousands of work-from-home hermits responded, confessing that they were wearing their pajamas while reading my column. Fortunately very few sent me photos. Here are some of the questions they asked:

Q: Is it acceptable to wear pajamas at high noon if Nobody sees me, or am I committing a fashion faux-pas.

A: It is totally acceptable to wear pajamas at high noon. You can even wear them at low noon. In fact, you can wear them all day long. The only exception is in England you must not wear pajamas at tea time. Pajamas and tea don't mix. The combination can be lethal. (See the November 2002 report: "Spontaneous combustion among British work-at-home hermits.")

Q: How should I handle "casual Fridays" in my workplace?

A: I have replaced casual Fridays with "formal Thursdays". Every Thursday, I take my daughter to the play center, forcing me to shower, shave and don formal wear. Don't go overboard, though. My three-piece suit includes jeans, t-shirt and shoes.

Q: But what if I never go out?

A: Then stick to casual Fridays. Why not make Friday the day you wash your pajamas? All Nobody will see is the back of your chair, anyway.

Q: What if FedEx Guy comes to the door?

A: Tell FedEx Guy it's casual Friday, and ask him if he really wants to see how work-from-home hermits celebrate casual Fridays.

Q: If I work from home, do I still need a purse?

A: Of course. Without a purse, what would you carry to the bathroom? Make sure your purse matches your pajamas, though. You would not want Nobody to catch you with a poorly coordinated wardrobe. Personally, I don't have a purse, but that's just a guy thing.

Q: What about taking out the garbage?

A: When the odor starts to repel the postman, you might need to take out the garbage (just in case there is a rare check in the mail). Wear your pajamas to the curb, but I suggest replacing your slippers with shoes. Snowshoes are recommended in Edmonton...except in July and August. Don't walk to the curb if you live on a houseboat.

Q: I feel so alone. Is that normal?

A: Get over it. You are part of a glorious economic movement, where people around the world choose to reject antiquated social norms and barricade themselves in their homes to make $53,976 in the first week of their new businesses. How could you feel lonely with so much money?

Q: Wow. I made only $3 in my first week. I bet my husband $3 that I could stay in my home office for three straight days without coming out. I won the bet, but I was forced to shower.

A: That's not a question.

Q: OK, what if I make only $3 a week?

A: You might have to share your pajamas with Nobody...until you can afford a second pair.

Q: Is this really a growing trend?

A: Yes. The International Institute of Social Isolation reports that by 2055, 95% of people will be operating a home based business. The National Organization for Studying You (NOSY) reports that by 2055, 95% of people will be sharing their pajamas with Nobody...until they can afford a second pair.

Q: Wow. That's a lot of pajamas. What does this mean for the future.

A: It means the pajama industry will become a major economic force.

Q: Do you know any good pajama-based mutual funds I could invest in to take advantage of this trend?

A: No, but how rich can you get investing $3 a week, anyway?

That's it, everything you wanted to know about fashion etiquette for the work-from-home hermit. One more thing: if you provide feedback to this article on a casual Friday, please turn off your web cam.

By David Leonhardt

Laughing Toward Truth: Six Tips for Lighthearted Thinkers

Do you believe in the power of your convictions?

It's time to lighten up.

People love attaching themselves to ideas. We can get pretty feisty when one of our beloved beliefs is challenged. We're too busy defending to spend our time analyzing.

Truth has a tendency to get in the way of our beliefs. We like having our rules to live by, our reasons for feeling righteous, and our excuses for ending intellectual exploration. Just as we climb up a ladder, we like counting on certain rungs to hold steady. Thinking about cracks just makes us uneasy.

That approach works if your goal is to reach the top, but it doesn't allow for much examination or lateral growth. Plus, there's always the risk that you'll come crashing down.

Quick quiz: What fills you with more satisfaction--being right or discovering the truth? Of course, the best scenario is discovering that you knew the truth all along. Validation is a huge motivator. That's why we find it more exhilarating to win an argument than to learn more about the other side.

It's kind of like that whole "life is about the journey" concept. The thrill is in the seeking. We've forgotten that. It's as though we went on a treasure hunt, stumbled upon what we thought was the hidden booty, and now we've become complacent.

What if what you found wasn't the real treasure? What if the whole point was to keep looking?

Thinkers have been wrestling with the concept of truth for ages. Socrates was fond of saying that there are only two kinds of beings who do not need philosophy: the gods, who are already wise, and the fools, who think they are wise. We want to be in that large middle group of people who recognize their lack of wisdom and continue their quest for truth and knowledge.

It's helpful to be reminded that our role as humans isn't to figure things out--it's to KEEP ON figuring things out. Don't take my word for it. Here are some truisms about truth from some formidable thinkers.

#1 "The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible." Bertrand Russell, British mathematician

Can't think of any widely held absurd beliefs? You're not trying hard enough! Fashion, pop culture, politics, (gasp!) religion, and virtually every other arena of modern life is full of examples of ideas that have somehow taken hold but defy logic. Good Thinker rule number one is simply this: Never accept an idea just because everyone else does.

#2 "Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods." Albert Einstein, American physicist

Leave it to Albert to maintain that crucial sense of humor and humility. The more we know, the more we get a clue about how much we don't know. At least, that's the way it's supposed to work. You probably know people who haven't quite come around to that realization yet. Get there now. Accept it, celebrate it, and keep on thinking.

#3 "Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it." Andre Gide, French writer

Your best bet is to hang out with those who are happy to admit that they don't have all the answers. As friends, co-workers and party guests, they tend to be a lot more fun, anyway.

#4 "Chase after the truth like all hell and you'll free yourself, even though you never touch its coattails." Clarence Darrow, American attorney

Play the game and have some fun with it, even if you never score. Remember playing games with your friends way back when you were five? You didn't have a clear sense of the rules or even the point of the game, and neither did anyone else. It didn't matter. The reason you were playing was to simply enjoy the game, even if that meant making it up as you went along.

Approach truth-seeking like a five-year-old playing a new game. Don't get caught up in the regulations, and don't keep score. Who cares who's winning?

#5 "And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh." Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher

Nietzsche saluted the creative force that feeds us. Despite a life of ill health and misery, he recognized the value of joy in the seeking of truth. Most of us have it a whole lot easier than Nietzsche. We have no excuse for not laughing.

#6 "Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing the matter with this, except that it ain't so."Mark Twain, American writer

Truth doesn't rise to the surface. You've got to dig for it. Truth doesn't automatically rule; fallacies with excellent public relations campaigns tend to dominate in our culture.

Truth isn't easy, but it isn't supposed to be. If you want to dive into the human experience in all its glory, you're going to be wading through a lot of ideas masquerading as the truth.

Think for yourself, and have some fun with it. Look for truth in the unlikeliest places. Find the absurdity in every idea. The best philosophers have loads of laugh lines. Start creating yours. You'll become a better thinker, a happier truth-seeker, and a more excellent human.

By Maya Talisman Frost

Funny Things We Dream

I often wonder why I wake up so happy, ready to start the day. When I was younger I'd whack the alarm clock, for the fourth time, grumble out of bed and stomp around with a major sour puss. Now I'm up before the alarm clock most mornings, and I don't grumble, not as often as I used to anyway. I'm often anxious to see what the day will bring.

I think I've stumbled upon the reason for my early rise and my cheery outlook. My wife. Yes, she brightens up my days and has given me tremendous motivation, though she still sleeps later than I do, and she tends to grumble, though not too badly.

There's another reason, and this also involves my wife. I believe that laughter is the best medicine, and she makes me laugh. More so, I think a happy attitude is contagious, and the reason I wake up happy might be this: my wife laughs in her sleep.

I kid you not. She laughs out loud. So loud that I'm frequently awakened by her nocturnal guffaws. Sometimes it begins as a chuckle, but many times the laughter just erupts, like she just saw the funniest thing in the world. How can I help but be amused and feel happy myself when I'm treated to this many nights out of a week.

There's more... while still asleep, she tells me what she was laughing about. Here's are the most recent accounts...

One night she rolls over and begins her laughing. I wake up, and wait for her to settle down. Then I ask "What's so funny?"

I wasn't expecting a response, but to my surprise she answered me while still sound asleep. She said "Mrs. Juniper said the juniper wouldn't grow much taller than two feet, but she planted it and the damn thing took off, and it's still growing! Ha ha ha ha...." Then she began to snore again.

I shook my head, rolled over and settled in for the remainder of the night, knowing that we'd both get a kick out the story when I recalled it the following day. We did.

The most recent episode was even better, stranger. This time it seemed like I was already awake before she started laughing, maybe she had been chuckling first and that roused me. Either way, when she stopped her laughter I decided to see if she would talk again.

I asked "Okay, what's so funny this time?"

Her reply was classic. A truly original rambling by a sleeping brain. She said "Orville Redenbacher's plane wouldn't fly so they were trying to hang Orville Redenbacher's plane over the bed by a string. Ha ha ha ha...." Then she conked out.

Again I shook my head, rolled over and anticipated the break of day, when I would share the tale from her sleeping brain with her alert brain. I couldn't wait to see her reaction.

I ask you, being a natural marvel, capable of great intellect, doesn't the human brain have better things to think about? The mechanics of slumbering gray matter perplex me.

Why she laughs in her sleep I don't know, but I'm glad she does. I'm happily married, and I assure you, that will never change!

I'm looking forward to more of her one liners from la-la-land. Can there be more? I'll keep you posted. Heck, if I collect enough maybe I'll write a book!

That's all for now. From my funny little spot in the universe, I bid you well.

By Over and out.

The Spare Parts Gremlins

Don't you just love getting a little something extra? Sure you do. Everybody does. That's why Online marketers throw in 36 bonus ebooks with that little software item they are peddling.

But a little something extra is not always a good thing.

Flash back a few weeks. I was assembling a dresser for my daughter. One by one, I pulled the wood panels from the box. I pulled out a bag of bits and pieces, which was attached to another, which was attached to another, which was attached to another.

I held up the chain of bags to inspect. There were screws and bolts and dowels and nails and an assortment of metal and plastic bits for which no name exists.

I set about banging bits into boards, sliding bits into boards, screwing bits into boards, snapping bits into boards. By the time I reached step 439 of the instructions, I was finally ready to connect two panels (the bottom and one of the sides).

But wait. What's this semi-white plastic half-moon piece? And what about this black plastic tube no more than an inch long? Where do these mystery pieces go?

I reread the parts inventory - every chapter of it - in English, French and Spanish. I took a magnifying glass to every page of pictograms. But not a trace of either mystery piece. What should I do? I could not just throw them away. What if I discover next week that I really need them?

That's when I remembered the "Spare Parts Gremlins". These devious creatures gleefully toss spare parts in where they will most confuse us.

The Spare Parts Gremlins were there last Christmas when I was picking from a box of chocolates. I wondered what the big round one was? I looked at all the little drawings, but it just was not there.

I toyed with the idea of just tasting it. But what if it was coffee flavored? I don't like coffee. (Yes, I know. My mother dropped me on my head when I was young.) What if it was mint flavored? Sorry, but chocolate covered toothpaste just is not my thing. What if it was cheesecake flavored? Mmm. No, that would be just wishful thinking. "Ooh. I hate you Spare Parts Gremlins."

The Spare Parts Gremlins were there at the movie theatre. We were watching The Matrix Reloaded, a psychological action film, when all of a sudden a love-making scene popped out of nowhere. Neo and Trinity were expressing their friendship in a way that only a man and a woman can. The camera switched back and forth between the couple and a mass party of gyrating hips and earthy rhythmic music.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy gyrating hips as much as the next person, but the scene was out of context like a cowboy at a tea party in an English garden. The Spare Parts Gremlins strike again!

Gremlin One: Hey, I have a love-making scene here. It's sort of a primal Amazon thing. What should I do with it?

Gremlin Two: We have to find a totally unrelated film. What about The Matrix Reloaded?

Gremlin One: That's perfect!

You just never know what gremlin will show up. You have to be prepared. Take a deep breath. In. Out. In. Out. That's it. Stay calm. OK, continue with your life.

So here I stand with one dresser, two plastic parts that I don't dare throw away in case they actually are needed somewhere, and the fear that the Spare Parts Gremlins are lurking somewhere in my house, ready to force "a little something extra" on me again when I least suspect it.

By David Leonhardt

How I Spent my Summer Vacation

One of the best parts of a vacation is the positive outlook you derive from pleasant anticipation. Another benefit is the afterglow, allowing you to feel right with the world. A general guideline I have is to live in the present and not yearn too heavily for the past or future; but making brief exceptions for things like vacations can bring some of the benefits of the vacation itself to your daily life. Thinking briefly "Yeah that was great!" or "I am really going to enjoy this trip!" Can add to the lightness of your day, assuming you don't lean on that as a requirement for your happiness. Going around stressed out and telling yourself "I'll be happy in 6 weeks when I'm on a beach" really doesn't help you live lightly in the moment, and may even create pressure for performance on your vacation and disappointment afterward. Instead don't pack or return with emotional baggage; but view your vacations as an addition to the wonderful existence you are building. Here are some memories from my last trip.

I flew from Dayton to Baltimore with a newer airline. Nice all new jets. Their large overheads made it easy to stow my one big carryon I'm still mystified why it was so heavy. Probably my big socks... Reading Popular Science in-flight I re-visited my teenage fondness for that magazine. Oh how I now yearn for the garage of the future.

In Baltimore I rented a sharp new sedan with a Wall Street Journal on the dash. Nice touch guys but no more reading for me that day! I was on the beach at Ocean City by noon seeing the storks flop dive; watching the children advance toward the water and retreat shrieking with the waves.

I hadn't been to the beach for a couple years and I noticed one thing was different. Used to be when walking the waterline you would be careful to walk in front of a bent over little boy digging in the beach because odds were sand would be flying out backwards between his legs when you least expected it. Now everybody has their own shovel; and not the little plastic handled ones that come with your beach pail. we're talking wooden shafts and D grip handles. It's very important to dig a hole when you arrive at the beach.

One of the arcade places on the boardwalk at Rehoboth beach was called Funland. A sign said "There is no smoking in Funland". I kept imagining a parallel universe sign..."There is no fun in Smokingland"

The motel in Salisbury was an old 50's type place. It was actually its last week of operation. The owner was friendly, happy to be retiring, and shared a few stories now and then. Next year a shopping center will be there. The wide-open spaces and driveway lamps in front provided the type stage a mockingbird prefers. One seems to be following me. I would be checking the accuracy of his repeated calls every morning as I packed the car for my day trips.

Saturday I made a big rookie mistake. I had slapped on some sunscreen leaving the car and then wandered around in search of a decent cup of coffee. Looking at the menu board of basic Italian fare I asked the Russian girl behind the counter which item she thought had the best sounding name. I was delighted when she brightened up and without hesitation pronounced slowly and dramatically lengthening the oh sounds of "calzone pepperoni" A little thing like that can put a bounce in my step and make me feel pretty carefree, which is the whole point of the trip. So kicking off my shoes I headed down the beach thinking lunch at the Ocean Club a few miles away would be nice. Later I realized I hadn't put any sunscreen on my feet.

My feet were fried of course. Out in the sun for most the day, I may as well have put them in a microwave oven for 20 minutes. The slightest brush against them the next day brought searing pain. I picked up a big bottle of Aloe Vera gel and kept slopping it on. They were so swollen if I loosened the laces and left my shoes open they were still tight. Now here is the interesting part?and really let me assure you this didn't ruin a single day of my vacation?when I stood up there was this explosion of deep pain more severe than anything I've ever felt; The kind of thing that tells you to black out, fall to your knees, scream, panic, anything to make it stop. I'm thinking "I know if I sit back down it will feel better but this is the second day of my vacation and I am not going to sit in the motel all day!" Taking a step it felt better in the lifted foot. Putting weight back on it was like I'd just placed the foot under a wheel of a moving truck, so half buckling at the knees with each step I kept moving and the most incredible thing?all pain was gone after 3 or 4 steps! I guess the walking helped pump the blood back out of my already nearly exploding swollen feet.

My choice for the next few days was clear; Keep moving or stay off my feet. I kept moving, walking miles every day. If I stopped walking for even a second the pain bombs would detonate in my feet. So if I was standing in line for food or at a theme park I would appear to be really enjoying the music, bouncing around from foot to foot. At a urinal I probably looked like I really had to go, settling for the medium pain associated with shifting my weight from foot to foot standing there. The right foot was a little worse than the left and by the 3rd day I found I could stand for a half-minute on my left foot if I raised my right leg behind me. The highest absurdity occurred when I found myself balancing on my left foot right leg arched up behind me as I stood over the toilet. I imagined I must look like a clownish roman fountain. I was so focused on pushing the foot pain envelope it didn't occur to me till then I could sit down. What can I say? We guys are weird.

I took the Lewes / Cape May Ferry north and checked out Wildwood. There was a shooting range amongst the midway type games. The sign said "Wack the Iraq". Paint ball guns were fired on live targets wearing Saddam and Osama masks. I was so amazed at its existence I had to turn around and look again, stopping later to take a couple pictures. I'm in favor of the war on terror, but that blatant racist targeting was pretty surprising. Just a few steps down the boardwalk and the normalcy of hermit crabs and frozen custard would return. I was walking so much I didn't worry too much about diet. Ice cream, boardwalk fries, chocolate covered strawberries, and calzOHnee pepperOHnee.

I enjoyed the landscaping at Busch Gardens on a semi rainy day, cooled my jets at the water park of Kings Dominion, and walked around Virginia Beach one evening. The main street there is populated with paid entertainers and a few were pretty good. Still unable to stand still without the kind of pain that would send me to the pavement I circled around the area where a decent jazz trio was playing, enjoying all the sights and sounds.

The 4th of July I spent at Ocean City. "The Navy Cruisers" A group of Navy musicians was performing on the beach and they were sounding pretty good. I walked through the crowd and sat down in the sand right in front of the stage. The Navy concert band followed; real music by real musicians. Anthems can really get to me; make the tears well up. They did some "Guys and Dolls" stuff and "Grease"?but when the lady singer from the Cruisers came out and sang God Bless America it was awesome. Such a strong voice?a crowd behind me on their beach blankets at twilight waiting for the fireworks. A couple kids to my right were lying in their freshly dug holes facing the band in open-mouthed amazement. To my left a Coast guard boat was rocking in the waves just offshore, keeping the pleasure boats safe from the fireworks and protecting the thousands on the beach from who knows what. She hits the peak at the end of the song high and strong with this amazing orchestration being conducted behind her, shouts whistles and applause rising up at the songs apparent end and then the phrase is repeated singing higher clearer and stronger "God Bless America" with the band rising up to the new tonality with the full range of tingling bells, strings, cymbals crashing, all trumpeting, soaring and filling thousands of souls on that beach with the depth of sound. It was beautiful.

The fireworks paled in comparison. Walking away during the beginning I found myself enjoying the way the bombs echoed in a side street. Leaning against a signpost during the finale I still had a pretty good view. A homeless looking gentleman was sitting motionless on the ground nearby. Next to me a teenage boy relaxed on his bicycle. The fireworks finale was a satisfying 5 minutes of constant multiple explosions. After a few seconds of silence following the last barrage the homeless man looked up at me and the kid on the bike, laughing maniacally. The distant cheers rising from the beach mixed with the chorus of car alarms triggered by the bombs. Everyone loves a spectacle. I smiled and walked a couple miles back to my car enjoying such spectacles as the too drunk to walk man and the amazing lady who walked almost as fast as I did?I complimented on her on her speediness.

Now if I had oversold the vacation in my anticipation the sunburn might have made me miserable. And I'd still be whining instead of looking back with amusement. But I was able to roll with it and have one of my better vacations ever. Mainly it was sand sun and waves leaving me fully recharged. I don't have to do it again to be happy?but I probably will.

Psychiatric Psychiatrist - A Joke on Psychiatry

A few weeks ago I went to see a psychiatrist.

We talked about how I was feeling. I really wanted to hit him in the face when he asked that. I didn´t do that. I regret that now. No, I replied politely and asked him if he thought I came there because he is such a nice guy, and the chairs are really comfortable. He didn´t say anything to that. He just smiled and I smiled back.

I shouldn´t have done that

Then he asked me if I did any kind of drugs. I asked him if he had any, and if he thought it would help if I took some. He didn´t think that was funny. But I did. Then he asked me what I thought the problem was. I told him my problem was that people asked too many questions. Then he asked me why. I gave up on everything at that point. I told him that.

I shouldn´t have done that.

He told me I had a depression. That made me depressed. Then he told me to take some pills and fill out a form. That confirmed the reason I went there. Life sucks. Then I went home and felt ackward. I decided to call a friend. My friend picked the phone up. I told him that the psychiatrist had told me I was depressed.

I shouldn´t have done that.

My friend asked me alot of questions. I answered his questions. Then he went neurotic on me, and treated me like a disease which needed to be cured. Then I told him to go fuck himself. I never talked to that friend again. He told my other friends. They told their friends who told their .. Nobody wants to talk to me now. I told my psychiatrist that last week. He told me that my depression was getting worse. Then he gave me some stronger pills, and alot of new forms to fill out.

I shouldn´t have done that.

I took the pills and filled out the forms. Then my psychiatrist put me in this psychiatric ward i´m in today. The walls are white, and the straps are tight. I like it here. They say i´m going to be here for a long time. I don´t mind. The nurses have nice tits, and they don´t ask questions.

That´s what I did.