Thursday, December 24, 2009

2010 Wish List





2010 is the most important year for the world since 2009. Below is a list of how I would like things to be in this very important year:



AIR TRAVEL

I'd like to see pilots required to sit in the same kind of seats as passengers. That way, we'd be assured that no pilot would ever fall asleep during the flight.


POLITICS

At least one Republican should vote for a bill sponsored by a Democrat, and at least one Democrat should vote for a bill sponsored by a Republican.

No politician should be allowed to say, "I'm shocked that this issue has become so politicized."

Once a month, the President should remind the American public how fighting in a particular country will make us safer. That way, nobody will turn to the person next to them every once in a while and ask, "I forgot. Why are we over there?"


FASHION


An ordinance should be passed demanding that shoes should feel the same when you get them home as they do in the store.


COMPUTERS


Computer manufacturers should make sure that computers work right when you get them out of the box and plug them in.

When computers don't work, they should respond when you yell at them.


CELL PHONES


When entering a restaurant, people should be required to check their cell phones at the door the way cowboys had to check their guns.


MOVIES


At least one movie should be made by each studio that doesn't involve time travel.

A law should be passed stating that if people behind you talk during a movie, they should be banished to the lobby and forced to sit one in front of the other as they continue their conversation.


CELEBRITY WATCHING


I wish that everybody would spend more time worrying about their own families than about those of actors, golfers, or former governors of Alaska.

I assume that next year there will be a mother who gives birth to nine babies. My wish is that this "nonomom" will get zero publicity.



MAGAZINES


Somebody should pass a law outlawing magazines that smell more like perfume than a perfume counter.


MEDICINE


I wish that medical experts would get together before issuing conflicting advice to the public.

If a doctor has a magazine in his waiting room that is more than six months old, you shouldn't have to pay for your visit.



ELECTRONICS

Every computer, cell phone, camera, audio device, etc. should come with a manual that you can actually hold in your hands.


TELEVISION


There should be a graphic superimposed over every news show saying, "News" so we can tell that it's supposed to be a news show.

No political commentator should be allowed to spend more time criticizing a commentator on a different network than on discussing the issues.

I hope a law is finally passed to outlaw the contestant interviews in the middle of "Jeopardy."


PUBLIC FACILITIES


I wish that restaurant bathrooms would stop having cutesy pictures on their doors to indicate which sex they're for. Let's get rid of the sometimes confusing drawings and just label them all "Men" or "Women."


ECONOMICS


Let's go for a whole year without "experts" pretending that anybody really knows why the stock market goes up or down.


SPORTS


Let's go for a whole year, okay, a whole week without a big-time athlete being arrested.

I'd like to see Brett Favre finally retire. No, maybe he shouldn't. Oh, okay. He should.



DOG BREEDING

To those clever men and women who have mixed and created breeds such as Labradoodles (a Lab and a poodle mix), Jugs (a Jack Russell and a Pug), Peke-A-Teses (a Maltese and a Pekingese), and others, please slow down. Give it some real thought before you go ahead with more creations. I mean, does anybody really want to see a Great Dane-ahuahua?


Have a good year.





Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wisconsin Has A Bug







We all know that states have "official" animals, birds, and flowers. Until I did a little research, I didn't know that there were also state insects, amphibians, and reptiles. For example, the state insect of New York is the ladybug, Missouri's reptile is the three toed box turtle, and the official amphibian of Washington is the Pacific chorus frog. However, recently Wisconsin has taken this naming of living things a step further. America's Dairyland, whose state dance is the polka, has been in the news lately because there is a bill before the state legislature to name a State Germ.


Representative Gary Hebl has introduced a bill that would make the bacterium that helps in the production of cheese the official State Microbe of Wisconsin. This supposed beloved microbe is as easy to say as it is for someone to say "she sells seashells" after downing a few six-packs of Wisconsin's state drink. The microbe is called the Lactococcus Lactis.


Hebl feels that his bill would pay homage to Wisconsin's cheese heritage while also promoting its image as an important location for biotechnology and microbiology research. Isn't it nice that instead of spending all of their time on a depressing subject like unemployment, some legislators want to brighten their constituents' day by debating what should be the state microbe?


Regina Whitemarsh, a microbiology student at the University of Wisconsin, is all for the measure. In fact, she said, "I think other states would try to think of other, cooler microbes to pick but I don't think they could find one, so they'd be jealous."


I had never thought about being jealous of another state because of its microbe. But now that Wisconsin's Whitemarsh has thrown down the gauntlet, she has my attention and she should have yours. She has scoffed at us and challenged the rest of the country to find "cooler microbes" for their states. Game on.


How hard can it be to come up with a "cooler microbe?" Microbes are the oldest form of life on Earth. There are billions of them -- just in and on our bodies. The three major types of microbes are bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. Let's throw out protozoa. It sounds too much like high school biology. Nobody wants to be the Protozoa State.


That leaves bacteria and viruses. Right off the bat, let's ask the big question: would any state want to declare itself the Swine Flu State or the Land of N1H1? Even if they mean that their state is so strong they aren't worried about taking on swine flu, I just don't see it appearing on any mugs or license plates.


I think going with something well known might be the way to shut down Wisconsin. If I were a governor, I'd quickly sign up for the Common Cold State. I know the cold is made up of many viruses, but who said we have to limit ourselves to one? Objectively speaking, doesn't California, the Common Cold State have a better ring to it than Wisconsin, the Lactococcus Lactis State?


Another way to go is with the microbe that keeps many kids out of school each year -- the Streptococcus. Strep throat is no joke. People have to take it seriously, so they'd have to take seriously the state that adopted the Streptococcus. In any case, it would be an interesting battle -- the one between the Lactococcus and the Streptococcus. In the spirit of fairness, may the best ococcus win.


Scientists believe there is a "good bacteria" that helps keep our breath smelling nice. Does good breath trump good cheese? Only time will tell if a state grabs the anti-bad breath bacteria for its very own.


We often hear that yogurt contains good bacteria that helps with digestion and other things. If there is to be a "Yogurt State," it will probably be a blue state politically. I'm afraid the conservative red states will feel that yogurt is "too French."


Like an infection in a science fiction movie, once this fight for the best microbe gets going, I don't know that anyone will be able to stop it. It's all pretty shocking. I never would have guessed that a nice, Midwestern state like Wisconsin would challenge the rest of the country to a new kind of germ warfare.





Thursday, December 10, 2009

Come On Down






There is already a lot of talk about the 2010 elections. Will the Democrats lose their majority? Will Republicans get more unified by then? Will there be a reappearance of the dreaded chad? With all this talk about Congressional elections, an important ballot measure is being lost in the fog of partisan politics. Next year, Denver voters will be asked to approve the establishment of an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission. No, this is not about members of Congress having affairs in space (although all bets are off if there are motels out there). This is about creating a mood in Denver that would welcome beings from outer space to the Mile High City.


The ballot measure, which got the required number of signatures, is the idea of Denver's Jeff Peckman who describes himself as "an entrepreneur." That's not the word that everyone is using to describe him. In his defense, his initiative doesn't claim that extraterrestrials definitely exist. He's just saying that if they do exist, we should be friendly to them.

At the same time that there is this "take an alien to lunch" attitude going on, space travel is becoming more and more of a reality. Richard Branson, the head of Virgin Everything, recently said that he'll have a spacecraft ready to start commercial flights in 2011 or 2012. There won't be an economy class on this craft. A ticket will cost $200,000 for a 2 1/2 hour flight about 60 miles above Earth.


I know what you're thinking: nobody's going to pay that kind of money. Think again. So far, about 300 people have put down $40 million in deposits to guarantee a seat on this spaceship.


"Space funerals" are also becoming more and more popular. One Houston company takes the ashes of hundreds of people at a time into space. If we really want a friendly relationship with extraterrestrials, I don't think dumping the ashes of dead people in their neighborhood is the best approach.


But I do think having a friendly, welcoming attitude towards beings from outer space is a nice idea if they ever visit us. In most science fiction movies, they're perceived as enemies rather than friends. They're often characterized as beings who are trying to take things that are important to us -- our water, our air, our minds. This is somewhat ironic, because people who are in favor of our traveling to other worlds often feel that it could be a great opportunity for us to find alternative fuels, bring back clean water, or dump our garbage. In other words, we would do to them the very things that the "evil aliens" in those movies do on earth. Maybe they're just trying to beat us to the punch.


Mr. Peckman believes those who live millions of miles away from us are very intelligent. This is also a common element of many science fiction stories and movies. I've often wondered, why are these beings generally thought of as so smart? Aren't they just as likely to be dumb? Maybe they'd land on earth and barely be able to speak. Maybe they'd decide to go for a drive in the middle of rush hour. Maybe they'd go to a high school reunion before going on a diet.


But smart or dumb, I agree with Peckman that we should plan on being good hosts. However, there is one group which is quite outspoken in their negative reaction to Peckman's initiative. This group that feels the proposal is unnecessary and rather silly is the Colorado state chapter of MUFON. On the off chance that you are unfamiliar with MUFON, it stands for the Mutual UFO Network. So, those who are serious about UFO's think this "be nice to extraterrestrials" idea is ridiculous. Maybe people who believe in werewolves laugh at those who believe in vampires.


There's probably another group that wouldn't be enthusiastic about the proposal. I don't think they'd be hospitable if aliens from another planet dropped in on us for a visit. I can just imagine their rhetoric: "I'm not against legal extraterrestrials, but those illegals have no place here. Those Martians who sneak into our atmosphere are taking jobs away from Americans."





Thursday, December 3, 2009

Toying WIth Us





'Tis the season to get stressed out shopping for toys and games, so I thought I'd help reduce some of that strain. Reading this should make your trips to the toy store shorter and your visits to the holiday medicine cabinet less frequent.

If toys were capable of having an ambition, they would all want to be inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame. But not every toy can get into the Hall which is located in Rochester, New York. If they didn't have stringent requirements, toys like chattering teeth and the Home Version of the Judge Judy Show would be in the hallowed Hall. In the 11 years that the Hall of Fame has been in existence, only 44 toys have made the cut. This year, the Big Wheel, the Gameboy, and -- hold on to your Silly Putty -- the wheel. That's right. Considered one of the first and greatest inventions, the wheel had been neglected until this year. Even though it certainly deserves recognition -- the stick and the ball were inducted earlier -- I doubt that many of you will be buying a wheel for your favorite tot.


Kids might love having a wheel just as toddlers love playing with the box that toys come in. However, advertising and peer pressure aren't going to allow those simple things to be popular gifts. Let's just say that I don't think Toys 'R Us is going to have a run on wheels this year. Below are some categories of toys that probably will be selling well. You decide if you think any of them will end up in the Toy Hall of Fame.



Games That You Really Don't Have To Buy Because When I Was A Kid You Could Have Them For Free

These include things like Battleship, Jotto, and Pictionary. I actually saw a Tic-Tac-Toe game selling for $19.95. I wonder how much they charge for a box of hide and seek.

Toys That Make Sure Kids Don't Play like We Used To

These toys contribute to the couch potato generation. There is a snowball launcher so children won't have to actually throw snowballs themselves. Also in this category are all kinds of video and computer games, and of course the extremely popular Wii. The Wii allows the entire family to pretend to play all kinds of games in their living room that they could be playing for real outside.

You've Got To Be Kidding Toys

Leading off this category is the Pump Action Marshmallow Blaster. This ridiculous waste of food and money is capable of shooting marshmallows a distance of 40 feet. Unfortunately, there is no literature with this toy that explains why anyone would want to shoot marshmallows a distance of 40 feet. A trivia game with one of the most unfortunate names is called, "Beat the Parents." I hope that none of the kids out there try to combine their "Beat the Parents" game with this year's toy Medieval Axe. And don't worry, toy stores will be selling everything that has to do with "New Moon," a charming story about vampires.

"Hot" Toys For 2009

When I say, "hot toy," I don't mean something like the classic Easy Bake Oven (a member of the Hall of Fame). A very popular toy this year is the Zhu Zhu pet hamster. Kids have always loved hamsters. Of course, since this is 2009, these cute little hamsters are battery operated. For a treat, do you feed them artificial bugs? According to those who claim to know, the Toy Of the Year may turn out to be various versions of Bakugan. In case you're like me and have been sleeping under a rock – hey, remember the Pet Rock? -- Bakugans are toy warriors that are tucked into spheres and then rolled out onto a game card. It might not sound like fun to you, but they just may make kids forget the remote controlled tarantula.

So, which toy or toys do you think will be in the Toy Hall of Fame someday? It's hard to predict. However, if I were in the in the toy business, I think I would be trying to patent and package a game called, "tag." And no, it's not in the Hall of Fame yet.



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