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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Exactly 

After seeing this video, the Clarion Content is asking ourselves why we had not heard of Amy Steinberg before, no matter, we are only grateful to have heard of her now. Thanks to one of our local Chapel Hill readers for forwarding this our way.

Enjoy.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Another Reality Genius 



Alicia Guastaferro (pictured above) another reality TV rocket scientist is suing ABC after being featured on the network's 'Wife Swap' two years ago. Now to be fair, the show was truly focused on her mother, the wife swapped. However, Alicia blames the show for a variety of problems in her life. One: she has supposedly gone from the honor roll, to being a special education student. Now besides ABC, another factor might be that her mother freely admitted on the program and subsequently demonstrated that she does her daughter's homework. Mrs. Guastaferro said, "She doesn't have time! I feel the way to Alicia's happiness is, give her everything she wants. Don't give her any rules. Why upset her?"

The episode of Wife Swap showed the Guastaferro's home life to be rather different. Alicia is described as the "princess of pageantry" and is given gifts every single day by her parents, who kept a Christmas tree up all year in the house. But it's ABC's fault?

The entertainment blog the Pop Eater reports, "[Her parents] Ralph and Karen Guastaferro plead guilty to felony money laundering charges stemming from a Canadian telemarketing scheme. Karen is also in hot water for not declaring wages at the family's glass-tinting business...she faces up to 16 months in jail, while he could spend up to 57 months behind bars."

So we'd guess that blaming someone else is about the only logical response left open to them.

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Final obstacles 



Although they held a groundbreaking ceremony last month an obstacle or two still remains between the Nets and their long discussed Brooklyn arena. Nets President Rod Thorn admits that there are still tenants on the land included in the project's footprint. The state of New York will likely unconstitutionally kick those folks out of their homes via eminent domain. (The law of the land now allows the wealthy and powerful to remove the less fortunate, forcibly if necessary, from their homes when convenient and/or fiscally beneficial.)

Also, the NBA Board of Governors, which rapidly approved the sale of the Charlotte Bobcats to a group led by Michael Jordan, despite his reputed gambling issues, is still investigating the Russian oligarch, billionaire nickel baron Mikhail Prokhorov, who intends to buy the Nets and finance the move to Brooklyn.

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Still pro-torture 


Senator Kit Bond

Unfortunately, despite the brave stance taken by Senator John McCain, himself a victim of torture, many top Republicans are still in favor of torturing suspected (and/or potential) terrorists. The Wall Street Journal reported in its March 20-21 issue that Senator Kit Bond, the leading Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee is regularly complaining that the CIA won't be able to get the information in needs from suspects with only the nineteen acceptable military intelligence interrogation techniques.

Obviously, Senator Bond has never been tortured. Anyone who has experienced extensive sleep deprivation especially accompanied by loud music or other piercing noises knows that it can be extremely physically painful and produce near insanity like effects. Just the fact that piercing is an acceptable synonym for loud in this context speaks volumes about the pain inflicted. Torture with the repeated application of icy cold water (even if it is not used to simulate drowning) can be just as bad.

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Going to the playoffs, get a Tar Heel! 

The NBA contenders and playoff bound teams have been stockpiling University of North Carolina Tar Heels.


Among the fistful of Tar Heels acquired by playoff contenders, Antawn Jamison stands tall.

It started with the Boston Celtics off-season signing of Rasheed Wallace and the Orlando Magic's marquee addition of Vince Carter. It peaked with the deadline deal made by the Eastern Conference leading Cleveland Cavaliers for Antawn Jamison. In between, Jerry Stackhouse joined the Milwaukee Bucks, who are surging through the East, 15 and 2 in their last seventeen. Late blooming center Brendan Haywood was traded the Dallas Mavericks, who have climbed the Western Conference standings from middle of the pack, to neck and neck with the Denver Nuggets for the two seed. One other Tarheel who was not moved this year, but figures to make a big impact for a contender, is Atlanta's Marvin Williams. Williams has been steadily filling out physically and rounding out his game. The Hawks mix of veterans and youth make them a dangerous match-up for anybody.

But which Tarheel does the Clarion Content expect to have the biggest impact came playoff time? Can we count Vince Carter's impending mega-flop? No? Guess we will go with Antwan Jamison then, who appears to fit nicely along side LeBron in Cleveland.

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A Calipari special 



If what you see is what you get, it is no surprise then that the uber-talented Kentucky Wildcats ended their NCAA tournament run short of title last night in Syracuse, NY. They played the role of John Calipari coached team to perfection. The only difference between this Wildcat squad and Calipari's most talented teams of the past is that five or six years from now instead of vacating a Final Four, ala U. Mass and Memphis, Kentucky basketball will only be vacating an Elite Eight season.

Kentucky folded just the way Coach Cal's cream of the crop teams always have. This is what happens when your starting five couldn't break 40 on the Wonderlic Test if you added all of their scores together. Coach Cal, you reap what you sow. Just like Memphis and U Mass, on the biggest of stages they couldn't hit their free throws. Just like other Calipari coached (we use the term loosely) teams, when faced with a creative defensive scheme they had no plan and no clue. West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins, no saint himself, leader of more than one 0.00 GPA team, had his players in a 1-3-1 zone after every made basket. Kentucky's guards frustrated by their inability to penetrate, unable to run an offense, just kept jacking up threes. No matter that they weren't going in, Coach Cal had no other plan, so fire away. 0 for your first 20 threes, keep shooting...

On the flip side, on their defensive end, a lack of fundamentals and brains finished the Wildcats. "What's that, the other team is running an offense? With cuts? And screens? Unfair! How we supposed to stop that?" And they couldn't. West Virginia reserve Joe Mazzulla scored 17 points and his team finished off Kentucky in the second half getting numerous easy lay-ups off of curls and backdoor cuts.

And so West Virginia returns to the Final Four for the first time since the logo, Jerry West, led them there, and Kentucky with their highly paid cast of stop-bys, better known as one and dones, starts over. Who knows if Wall, Cousins, et. al. attend another class before heading to the NBA. The boosters will have to breakout the ATM cards to recruit a new set of one and dones for old Coach Calipari.

Hey Kentucky, "Good night, now!!!"

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Stepping away from infamy 

The New Jersey Nets took one giant step away from infamy when they won their ninth game of the season last night. Now they can do no worse than tie the 1972-3 Philadelphia 76ers for the worst mark in NBA history. The Detroit Pistons, who have been coming apart at the seams since assistant G.M. John Hammond took off to the Milwaukee Bucks, were the victims.

For perspective, while 9 and 73 might be a historically bad season, at least the Nets will have some company. Had they gone 8 and 74, they would have been all alone at the bottom of the bottom. If they can some how sneak to 10 and 72, nobody but their own die-hard fans will remember just how awful and ugly they were. For the record they lost their first 18 games and hit the midway point of the season 3 up and 40 down.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

How's your bracket? 



If your bracket looks like that of the Clarion Content's sports editor than you are probably already finished in your office pool. Well, a local Durham reader and Duke fan alerted us to a story about a boy who is doing just the opposite. A seventeen year-old student at Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, Illinois hit both of the first two rounds of his NCAA Tournament bracket 100% correct. His name is Alex Herrmann. Young Mr. Herrmann is autistic. His bracket is on CBS Sportsline. Experts estimate the odds of picking the first two rounds of the NCAA bracket perfectly at over 13 million to one. ESPN's website is currently hosting 4.78 million 2010 NCAA tournament bracket entries none of which got 100% correct.

Nice work, kid.

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How is it going in Afghanistan? 



Loyal readers know the Clarion Content has long doubted that there is a cohesive center that can be held together in Afghanistan. We recently read long time American power advocate Robert Kaplan in the Atlantic arguing the opposite case. He is all for lots of troops for the occupation of Afghanistan and America hanging in for the long haul.

Not everyone has Kaplan's perspective. Although the source is undoubtedly biased, as all sources are, one has to wonder how well things are going with the latest United States led actions in Afghanistan. The Israeli based Debka file, who some see as ostensibly aligned with Kaplan, both have been labeled neo-cons, reports, "The United States-British-Afghan force out to capture the Helmand provincial town of Marjah is still wide of the mark. Its control does not extend much beyond the municipal center and main police stations even though the Taliban has not gone all out to resist the allied advance, saving its strength...Among the surprises the allied force encountered were unarmed Taliban fighters queuing up with Afghan civilians to collect US hand-outs for damage, and Afghan soldiers fighting well in a scrap but relapsing into looting and dope in between battles."

The Clarion Content doubts that there is a clear enemy to defeat. The enemies of the United States way of thought extend throughout the population of Afghanistan, this is not a culture with a tradition of democracy or feminism to use but two examples. The enemies of the United States military include many who have no ideology other than they lost their loved ones to the oh so callously labeled collateral damage. What would be considering winning? The Clarion Content does not see that America somehow won in Iraq, leveling the country at a cost of trillions to its own and the world economy, while participating in the killing of upwards of 100,000 Iraqi citizen, losing the lives of 4,000 of America's own military personnel, only to install a different government that has not shown it can keep the peace without becoming autocratic. What win? Is this the scenario Kaplan and General McChrystal hope the United States can replicate in Afghanistan?

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Yahoo Search 



Have you heard the new radio ads for Yahoo search. This is their big plan to save the company? Who are they kidding?

Dear readers, you would not believe what they think the public can't find on line!?! One ad describes a Mom trying to find movie times on-line. Another ridiculously lowbrow ad has a middle aged man searching for directions to deliver weasels, still a third is looking for sports statistics. These basic things people can't find? Really? Are these ads for grandparents using the internet? Brand new immigrants from small rural villages? Seriously, Yahoo, who is it that you think is struggling to find driving directions? And movie times?!?

This is a company that is fading away. The Yahoo brass unwisely refused a $45 billion takeover offer from Microsoft two years ago. Today the company is worth less than half of that amount. Other than email, what is it that Yahoo is recognized for doing? Why would one go to Yahoo? The Sunnyvale, CA company has gone through three CEOs in three years.

Full disclosure some members of the Clarion Content play in a Yahoo managed Fantasy Baseball league.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Milgram revisited 



State-owned, France 2 channel broadcast a documentary last Wednesday night. This documentary attempted to imitate the famous experiments of Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram. Milgram's experiment, in his view, was a test of the collective culpability, the obedience component of the Shoah, the Holocaust.

The test involved one subject, one examiner and one accomplice. The accomplice played a test subject as well. The actual subject was induced to believe that both they and the accomplice were test subjects. The basic game is that the subject, called "teacher," examines the accomplice called "learner," on word memorization. After wrong answers the subject/teacher was supposed to shock the accomplice/learner, played by a trained actor. No actual shocks were administered, but subject/teachers were convinced that they were doling out actual electric shocks gradually increasing in voltage for 15 volts to 450 volts, by the end of the "game," literally convulsing the accomplice/learner. Crucially the subject/teacher was given a 15 volt real demonstration shock just before the start of the "game," so as to understand how it would ostensibly work for the subject/learner. (Wiki does a surprisingly good recap here.)

The French documentary attempted to recreate the scenario. In a non scientific sampling, 82% of participants, in the ludicrously named, fake TV show "The Game of Death" agreed to pull the lever to inflict electric shocks, gradually increasing in voltage, on their "opponents." Again instead of real subjects, they were but actor/opponents/accomplishes, not really being shocked. Interestingly the BBC reports that, "'The Game of Death' has all the trappings of a traditional TV quiz show, with a roaring crowd chanting "punishment" and a glamorous hostess urging the players on." A horrifying, self-fulfillingly, megalomaniacal set-up.

Ultimately, the Clarion Content, having read Eric Hoffer's True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, fears for our collective humanity. Careful with your demagogues, because who knows what we are capable of, six species epochs have gone before us.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Milgram revisted 



State-owned, France 2 channel broadcast a documentary last Wednesday night. This documentary attempted to imitate the famous experiments of Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram. Milgram's experiment, in his view, was a test of the collective culpability, the obedience component of the Shoah, the Holocaust.

The test involved one subject, one examiner and one accomplice. The accomplice played a test subject as well. The actual subject was induced to believe that both they and the accomplice were test subjects. The basic game is that the subject, called "teacher," examines the accomplice called "leaner," on word memorization. After wrong answers the subject/teacher was supposed to shock the accomplice/learner, played by a trained actor. No actual shocks were administered, but subject/teachers were convinced that they were doling out actual electric shocks gradually increasing in voltage for 15 volts to 450 volts, by the end of the "game." Literally convulsing the accomplice/learner. Crucially the subject/teacher was given a 15 volt real demonstration shock just before the start of the "game," so as to understand how it would ostensibly work for the subject/learner. (Wiki does a surprisingly good recap here.)

The French documentary attempted to recreate the scenario. In a non scientific sampling, 82% of participants, in the ludicrously named, fake TV show "The Game of Death" agreed to pull the lever to inflict electric shocks, gradually increasing in voltage, on their "opponents." Again instead of real subjects, they were but actor/opponents/accomplishes, not really being shocked. Interestingly the BBC reports that, "'The Game of Death' has all the trappings of a traditional TV quiz show, with a roaring crowd chanting "punishment" and a glamorous hostess urging the players on." A horrifying self-fulfillingly megalomaniacal set-up.

Ultimately, the Clarion Content, having read Eric Hoffer's True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, fears for our collective humanity. Careful with your demagogues, because who knows what we are capable of, six species epochs have gone before us.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

This is how we do it 



An example to children and athletes everywhere, New England Patriots defensive end Ty Warren is turning down his $250,000 off-season workout bonus and returning to college instead. Warren is attending classes at Texas A&M. He says that he has his eye on the potential 2011 NFL lockout. He doesn't want his kids to look at him as a man without a degree, unable to earn a living without football.

Warren says he plans to take five classes this off-season. He has said he is working out every morning, dropping his kids off at school and then heading to school himself. This is the first time in Warren's eight NFL seasons with New England that he will not attend their off-season workout program. Warren is on pace to graduate next Spring.

Read the whole story here at espn.com.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wow 

The story here? The imagination runs amok.

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NCSSM Food Drive 



Dateline Durham: The North Carolina School of Science and Math is trying to break the Guinness Book of World Record's mark for the largest 24-hour food drive at a single location. The food drive is this Saturday, March 20th. The school is located at 1219 Broad Street, it runs along Club Boulevard, at the northern end of 9th Street. For those of you who have never been north of the Magnolia Grill, this is your opportunity.

Come on, Durhamanians, we can do it! Fight hunger!

Support a local institution, Science and Math is a one of the most highly regarded high schools in the state of North Carolina. If these kids are willing to do the work of collecting, organizing and subsequently delivering the food to those in need, the least we can do is get off of our duffs and provide it.

Questions? Email them at: NCSSMFoodDrive@gmail.com

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Wealth Concentration 



One reads all the time that the rich are getting richer, that the gap between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have nots, is widening. Few things bring this disturbing trend home like the Forbes annual survey of the richest people in the world.

One of the nuggets gleaned from Forbes self-congratulatory report on the world's richest people is that the last year has seen billionaires total wealth skyrocket. The combined wealth of today’s 1,011 global billionaires is estimated by Forbes at $3.6 trillion, a 50% increase over the $2.4 trillion in billionaire wealth calculated last year. Our Future.org quotes Forbes glowing assessment of this situation, "Last year's wealth wasteland has become a billionaire bonanza. Most of the richest people on the planet have seen their fortunes soar in the past year." As Out Future.org notes, based on the latest available United Nations data (2000) the world's billionaires, some 1,000 people have more money than the collective wealth of the world’s poorest 1.5 billion adults. America leads the way with 403 billionaires. The U.S. commands 38% of the collective $3.6 trillion net worth of the world's richest people.

Obscene!

And frankly unsustainable. There is no long term way that such a situation holds, the salient question is going to be will the transition be smooth or revolutionary.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Duke worries 


The redoubtable Jon Scheyer

The Clarion Content is an unabashed supporter of Duke basketball and Coach Mike Krzyzewski. We root for Duke. At the beginning of the season the Clarion Content thought, like many other Duke supporters and members of the sports media, that Duke was a good team, but by no means one of the very best Duke teams in Coach K's illustrious history.

The Blue Devils proceeded to have a remarkable season, going 28-5 and sharing the ACC regular season title. The Blue Devils look like a lock for at least a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament, and possibly even a #1 if they can win the ACC tournament final today. Does this mean that they are better than we and the so-called experts thought at the beginning of the season?

For the Clarion Content, the answer is no. This has been one of Coach K's very best coaching jobs. He has gotten the maximum out of this squad. Nolan Smith has developed wonderfully. Kyle Singler has adjusted to his new role. Brian Zoubek has grown by leaps and bounds. But in our view, the heart and soul of the team has been guard Jon Scheyer. Scheyer has been a stalwart all season, he carried the team through the early stretches of the schedule while Singler was adapting to his new position. Scheyer leads the Duke team in both minutes and scoring.

We wonder, however, as the NCAA tournament is about to begin, is Jon Scheyer wearing down? Our answer is an unqualified yes, and that response is at the core of our thinking that says this team is what we thought it was. We would be very surprised to see Duke get past the Elite 8. We would not be shocked by a loss in the Sweet Sixteen.

Scheyer, who has been playing 36 minutes plus per game since the beginning of the season, has continued to get those minutes and more over the final ten games of the year. Unfortunately, his scoring has dropped a bit, and worse his shooting percentage has fallen dramatically. This is frequently a sign of fatigue, wear and tear, tired legs, especially in a terrific, high percentage shooter like Scheyer.

Going into today's ACC final against Georgia Tech, Scheyer had averaged about a point per game below his season average over the last ten. But that was misleadingly augmented by an outstanding performance in the first UNC game. Scheyer has actually failed to reach his season average of points per game in five out of the last eight contests. Worse, only twice in the last ten games has Scheyer matched his season long average for field goal percentage. Scheyer's field goal percentage over the last ten games is a troubling 34.6%. In four of his last eight games, Scheyer hasn't hit even 30% of his field goals.

It is an ominous sign for Duke that their best player, their glue guy, is worn out. It is one of the main reasons why the Clarion Content thinks Duke will be long by the time they are playing the Final Four.

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NCAA Tournament expanison 

Although the Clarion Content is tepidly in favor of expanding the NCAA basketball tournament, the best quote we have heard about whether or not to expand was actually from a voice opposed to expansion.

"Isn't this whole thing a window into society? We've diminished so many other things. We've diminished test scores. We've diminished admission policies. We diminish so much for reasons that are not accentuating excellence and performance."---Davidson Head Coach, Bob McKillop

Wonderful insight, coach. Yes, this thing is a window into society. It is another reason the Clarion Content has been toying with a theory we like to call, "Is America the new Soviets?" An equally fascinating trend, that is occurring at the same time as the one Coach McKillop pointed out, this faux-inflation that is really devaluing, is the belittling of second place: win or be considered a failure. Neither of these trends is healthy for American society. Sports is but the place where they are most evident. It is symbolic of a cultural erosion that is weakening American society.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spanish Conjugation 

How about this as a way to study Spanish verb conjugation...



Bet he got an "A."

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Waive goodbye to the Spurs 



Through the years the Clarion Content has never been one to give up early on the San Antonio Spurs. They have long loved to meander through the first half of the season, resting the stars and building up for the playoff push. When the year started, we thought we were in for more of the same. Sure Tim Duncan has aged, but there are nights when he turns it on and is as dominant as any big man in the game. We loved the acquisition of Richard Jefferson, a slashing wing player who can also hit the three. Jefferson had been to the NBA Finals twice before and we thought he would find a role. We believed the Spurs and Duncan might have one more title push in them.

Now three quarters of the way through the NBA season, it appears the answer is clearly, "Nope. Not happening." It now looks like Duncan, one of the great players of this or any era is going to finish his career with the four titles he already has.

The Spurs were already stumbling and Jefferson was struggling to find a role when the news came that Tony Parker was lost for the season with a broken hand. Even if Parker somehow returns for the postseason, any hope of finding a collective chemistry is lost. As if to underscore the point, the first game after the news broke that Parker was gone for the year, the Spurs lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Losing to the Cavs wouldn't sound so bad, except that they were without the services of King James, not mention Shaq. Previously in games without LeBron the Cavaliers were 0 wins and 9 losses all-time.

Uh-oh, San Antonio.

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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Not keeping it 



The UK's Telegraph reports Austrian millionaire Karl Rabeder is giving away his $4.5 million (estimated) fortune. He is selling all of his possessions and the business that made him his money. His company made interior furnishings and accessories, from vases to artificial flowers. It does not sound like much.

However, Mr. Rabeder has a beautiful old stone farmhouse in Provence with 17 hectares. On sale for the bargain price of 613,000 Euros. He already sold his collection of six gliders valued at 350,000 Euros. He raffled off his Alpine home, a 3,455 sq. ft. villa with lake, sauna and spectacular mountain views over the Alps, by selling 21,999 lottery tickets priced at 87 Euros a piece.

All the money he raises will go into his microfinance charity vehicle, which offers microcredit, very small loans to self-employed people and small, family businesses in El Salvador, Honduras, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Chile.

Rabeder is only forty-seven and according the Telegraph's story he intends to move into a small wooden hut in the mountains or a simple bedsit (a rental consisting of a single room and shared bathroom) in Innsbruck. It is a curious counterculture tale, here is hoping he does not go Ted Kaczynski.

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Pithy F*rging Sayings (15th edit.) 



Welcome to our 15th edition of Pithy F*rging Sayings gathered from the singularity.

As always the citation of these sayings does not necessarily imply endorsement, the goal is to provoke thought.

"Even good things can be messed up by bad timing."---staff

"I wonder what it feels like to have no desires left because you have satisfied them all, smothered them with money even before they are born. Is an existence without desire very desirable? And is the poverty of desire better than rank poverty itself?"---Vikas Swarup

"Land grows everything that the man knows."---LiLa

Follow this link to old P.F. Sayings posts. You will see this one again first. Scroll down for older ones.

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A Bad Surprise 



The Clarion Content has always wondered how much of the Darwin Awards are made up. Are they apocryphal? Urban legend? Loyal readers know that we recognize that the realm of truth has as much breadth as the tales of fiction. Yet we always struggle with credulity when reading the Darwin Awards. Yesterday, however, we ran across an item in the Detroit Free Press that is probably an early candidate for the 2010 winners.

Here is the story. A 50 year-old Washington state man was apparently not very seriously hurt after his car collided with a power pole Friday. He called a relative to help pull his vehicle from a ditch. As it turned out, unfortunately, while he was waiting he had to pee. When family members arrived they found him dead, electrocuted. He apparently urinated into the roadside ditch, but did not see the live wire from the downed pole. The urine stream probably served as the conductor that allowed the electricity to reach his body. Zap.

Ouch! To say, what a way to go, hardly seems sufficient!

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Mets omen 


Left-handed Braves prospect Jason Heyward is getting rave reviews...

We are going to say no, no this was not a Mets omen, but it is hardly unfair to have the worrisome nagging thought. The Mets played Game One of spring training today, coming off an extraordinarily injury filled year. Pitcher Elmer Dessens took a ball off his right knee and had to leave the game.

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