Friday, April 18, 2008

'80s Flashback: Parachute pants

Friday is here again, so it's time for another '80s Flashback.

Before a word from our sponsor, here are the recent '80s Flashbacks:

'80s Flashback: Rambo cartoon
'80s Flashback: Psyche!
'80s Flashback: Jim and Tammy Faye
'80s Flashback: Avoid the noid
'80s Flashback: Mary Lou Retton
'80s Flashback: One night in Bangkok
'80s Flashback: Adams Atoms
'80s Flashback: Don't you forget about me

OK. This week's flashback is brought to you by Pyraminx, the puzzle that tried to cash in after the popularity of the Rubik's Cube. It was easier to solve, but I never took the time to solve it or the Rubik's Cube. I was busy wasting time on the Atari 2600 (gotta love the wood veneer!).

On to the flashback. This week we remember parachute pants, which were popular in the '80s (and in the '90s in rural parts of Minnesota where I visited.) Breakdancing helped parachute pants become popular.

I never owned a pair because I didn't feel brave or cool enough to wear the "hey, look at me" bright colors typical of the pants. But the bagginess of the pants would've been a plus because I was on the heavy side as a kid. (I had a lot of pants with labels that said "Husky.")

The parachute pants got baggier by the late '80s, leading to this:

Identical triplets, plus one

A mother in Maryland gave birth recently to a rare set of quadruplets. Three of the boys are identical, while the other is destined to feel a little different.

Actually, maybe he'll feel special because he's not one of the triplets. At least until his brothers gang up on him because he thinks he's more special.

See if you can tell which one isn't identical in the photo released by the family.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Potty training troubles

I just received an e-mail from my wife, and it appears that our 2-year-old son, Cooper, is not doing well in potty training. (I realize this is the second toilet-related post of the day, but it's just bad timing).

Here's the e-mail:

For the sake of my sanity and the safety of your child, we are not potty training for a month. I've put everything pertaining to potty training away. There will be no talk of potty training for a month. Hopefully in a month he will be ready to try again. I don't think he is ready and it is turning into a power struggle. So if he tells you how he pooped and peed in his underwear and then 30 minutes later peed while hiding in the shower curtain, just try to change the subject.

This comes a week after Cooper peed on his own during a potty-training day. Unfortunately, it was not in a potty. While my wife was busy for a moment with our infant son, our 5-year-old son, Ryan, gave her the report:

Cooper did not pee in the potty, Ryan said.

"It was on the Hungry Hungry Hippos game."

Beijing is the place to go

If you go to the Olympics in China this summer, don't worry when you need to go. Because Beijing is No. 1!

Beijing, with more than 5,000 public toilets built and renovated, has become the world's No. 1 metropolis with public toilets concerned, according to a municipal government official.

Yep, Beijing is loaded with toilets. So if that little guy in the logo above is running toward a toilet, he's shouldn't have to run far.

Also, Beijing is addressing etiquette:

The capital city, which will host the games, is planning its first "No Spitting Day" this year with the goal of eradicating a top etiquette no-no.

Glad to see China is taking a stand.

Link credit: joelavin.com.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A journalist's view on his last day of work

No, it's not me.

But I came across a column written by a journalist on his final day of work. It gives you an idea of what's on the mind of many journalists, who are often accused of being part of a huge media conspiracy.

Note to fellow journalists:

When is the next conspiracy meeting? Why has nobody invited me?

Anyway, you can find the column here.

As a humor columnist, here's an excerpt I thought was both very true and very funny:

To the surprise of some readers, one issue that’s not covered in the monthly media conspiracy newsletter is how to cram as much bad news as possible into each print edition. We don’t seek out bad news, but we do cover a lot of breaking news. Breaking news just happens to be almost exclusively bad simply because good news is seldom sudden. I’ve covered lots of late night crashes that resulted in fatalities, but I’ve covered very few that resulted in puppies.

Robots helping the elderly, or scaring them?

Japan is facing a shrinking population and a growing percentage of elderly in its country. That might mean there won't be enough people in the workforce.

But Japan has an idea:

Caregivers would save more than an hour a day if robots helped look after children, older people and did some housework. ... Robotic duties could include reading books out loud or helping bathe the elderly.

Wait. Robots helping the elderly?

I'm not sure how some people might feel about this. Remember the Saturday Night Live commercial parody that featured an insurance company offering Robot Attack Insurance?

If you don't, here's the commercial. It's a classic, especially because SNL pulled in distinguished actor Sam Waterston as "compensated endorser."

And of course the great warning at the end:

"People who deny the existence of robots may be robots themselves."

Over-the-top pregame ceremonies

I'm a sports writer, and I love sports, but one thing that really annoys me about sports is the ridiculously over-the-top pregame ceremony. So overdramatic.

Here's a fine example:

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Helmsley's toilet and the Twodaloo

A pair of 19-century French gilt commodes owned by Leona Helmsley sold for nearly half a million bucks at auction. Makes sense to get rid of those. I don't think Helmsley's dog Trouble, who was left $12 million when Helmsley died, was using the toilets.

Anyway, it's very pricey for a toilet. But that's not as strange as the TwoDaLoo toilet.

What is the TwoDaLoo? Well ..

The TwoDaLoo is billed as the world's first toilet two people can use ... at the exact same time. It brings couples closer together and conserves our water supply all with one flush. The TwoDaLoo features two side-by-side toilet seats with a modest privacy wall in between.

Gee, thank goodness for the modest privacy wall. Otherwise it might be awkward.

Of course, Saturday Night Live was way ahead of the curve on this with The Love Toilet.

Youthful Tendency Disorder

My 2-year-old and 5-year-old sons spend a lot of time doing unproductive things. A good example is when they sit on the couch, pretend it's a bus or an airplane, and then go on trips to exciting places like the amusement park, Chuck E. Cheese or Wal-Mart.

(Yes, Wal-Mart is very exciting to them. The people who work in the deli there give out cookies.)

Anyway, The Onion has a story about other kids doing the same things. The satire about "Youthful Tendency Disorder" is from a few years ago, but it's pretty funny:

Youthful Tendency Disorder (YTD), a poorly understood neurological condition that afflicts an estimated 20 million U.S. children, is characterized by a variety of senseless, unproductive physical and mental exercises, often lasting hours at a time. In the thrall of YTD, sufferers run, jump, climb, twirl, shout, dance, do cartwheels, and enter unreal, unexplainable states of "make-believe."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Humor Me video: Taxing times

If you're a member of the Internal Revenue Service, please do not watch this.

Unless, of course, it somehow gets me a bigger refund.

Humor Me: Taxing times for Americans

By MATT WIXON

The tax deadline is a day away, but if you haven’t started filling out your forms yet, don’t panic. Just remember this:

One of the Internal Revenue Service’s customer service standards is “simpler forms.”

That’s why this year’s instruction book for the 1040 form has been streamlined to several pages short of War and Peace. OK, slight exaggeration.

Still, the instruction book’s length makes it hard to find critical information such as “How do I claim my inner child as a dependent?” and “Can my daily commute to work be considered a moving expense?”

Sadly, those answers are not included. But here’s a piece of information that is in there:

“The parent of a child who is presumed by law enforcement authorities to have been kidnapped by someone who is not a family member may be able to use that child as a tax deduction.”

Now that's a sign that kidnapping is a serious problem in our country.

It’s also one reason why tax forms and instruction books are so convoluted and time-consuming. The tax laws need to apply to every situation, whether you’re the parent of a kidnapped child or an artist depicting the horrors of kidnapping through a Jell-O sculpture.

(Note: In that case, you can deduct the Jell-O as a business expense, as long as you don’t eat it. Cool Whip can also be deducted as an artistic accessory, but not as a non-dairy topping.)

Anyway, as the tax deadline approaches, remember not to stress out. You can even seek out comic relief by turning to the page in the 1040 instruction book that features the unintentionally funny “How do you make a gift to reduce debt held by the public?”

That’s right! Every one of us proud Americans can add a little “tip” to our tax burden to help the government pay down the federal deficit, which currently has more zeroes than an audition for American Idol. It’s a daunting figure, no doubt, but every little bit helps.

Consider this: if all the taxpayers in America would simply add a $10 gratuity to their tax forms — about the cost of going out for lunch — we could knock more than $1 billion off the federal debt. Pretty exciting, huh? Before you know it, that budget deficit would be history.

Well, actually it would take about 84,000 years. Maybe a few less if the government tightens the budget, maybe a few more if the government decides to award some more grants for Jell-O sculptors.

Either way, it’s a little disheartening. So maybe we should just keep the 10 bucks and get that value meal at lunch today. I think that’s what I’m going to do, and now that I’ve mentioned the words “synergy” and “value-added strategic plan,” I plan to write it off as a business expense.

Sure, I could be audited. But I would like to point out to IRS agents, who all look lovely and/or handsome today, that a bodybuilder once got a tax write-off for posing oil. In another strange deduction, the owner of a scrap yard was allowed to write off the cost of cat food to attract wild cats that would scare away snakes. An exotic dancer even got to reduce her tax liability by enlarging her tools of business.

As for me, I’m just asking that every lunch be considered a business expense. And that my male-pattern baldness be considered a capital loss. And that the value of my charitable donations, made up of the items that nobody would buy at our neighborhood garage sale, be estimated at $43,750.

That might be asking too much, but I’m hoping to get a refund big enough to put a swimming pool in the back yard. Then you can all come over to swim.

Just don’t ask to see my 17 children.

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