July 2010 - Posts

A British 19-year-old has officially changed his name to "Captain Fantastic Faster than Superman Spiderman Batman Wolverine Hulk And The Flash Combined." The Glastonbury, England teen, whose original name was George Garratt, said his new name made his grandmother so mad, she isn't speaking to him. His new name is thought to be the world's longest.

Captain Fantastic said he used an online service to officially change his name for a $20 fee. He did it, he said, to be unique.

This kid's not exactly unique. Of course, his name selection and the length make it extraordinary, but he's not the only person on the planet with an unusual moniker. Parents all over the country are giving their kids all sorts of wacky names. Some of the most popular are listed here.

• Animals/Nature: Colt, Coral, Fox, Koi, Lark, Ram, Raven, Ray, Sparrow, Starling, Lion, Fawn, Swan, Tiger, Wolf, Wren
• Cars: Aspen, Aurora, Avalon, Camry, Caprice, Catera, Cayman, Cherokee, Ciera, Dakota, Diamante, Dynasty, Elantra, Ford, Mercury, Nova, Taurus
• Colors: Amber, Amethyst, Brandy, Carmine, Coral, Emerald, Gray, Indigo, Ivory, Jade, Lavender, Mahogany, Rose, Violet
• Days, Months, Seasons: April, August, Autumn, December, January, July, June, May, November, September, Summer, Sunday, Wednesday, Tuesday, Winter
• Food and Drink: Alfredo, Ambrosia, Angus, Anise, Basil, Berry, Brandy, Brie, Caesar, Candy, Chai, Champagne, Chardonnay, Cherry, Chianti, Cinnamon, Colby, Curry, Dulce, Honey, Jasmine, Kale, Kobe, Margarita, Olive, Rosemary, Sage, Tea, Tequila, Vidalia
• Occupations: Aide, Baker, Bishop, Chancellor, Deacon, General, Judge, Sailor, Shepherd, Sheriff
• Trademarks: Ace, Alberto, Allegra, Arizona, Avia, Avis, Barbie, Bentley, Brooks, Capri, Chanel, Chiquita, Lexus, Mary Jane, Monet, Prada, Remington, Reynolds

Hollywood parents are some of the most notorious when it comes to passing down unusual handles. In recent years, celebrities have named their children Apple, Bronx Mowgli, Tu Morrow, Moxie Crimefighter, Tabooger, I.P. Freely, Bow Ty, Sparrow, Moses, Pilot Inspektor, Jermajesty, Blanket, Kyd, Audio Science, Diezel, Denim, Fuchsia, Ocean, Rocket, Pirate, Puma, Reign Beau, Rumer, Whizdom, Banjo, Dweezil, Moon Unit and Diva Muffin.

Whatever happened to just simply calling a child Susie or John? Guess it's just not cool...and normal is, well, relative.

Posted by bulldog | with no comments
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Talk about your comebacks.

Our favorite Golden Girl, Betty White, has found new popularity these days and, at 88 years young, the actress, comedian and former game show hostess is hotter than ever.

She starred in a Super Bowl commercial for Snickers, then became the oldest person to host "Saturday Night Live." The hosting gig was the result of a Facebook campaign, which challenged SNL to ask White to be on the show. She was a riotous success and brought the house down.

She's also landed a starring role in the new show, "Hot in Cleveland," which showcases both her acting chops and her comedic timing.

But her latest venture is new territory. White's face will be featured on an officially licensed line of men's and women's T-shirts and hoodies, set to debut in August. Van Nuys, Calif.-based Jerry Lee Apparel has the exclusive license for the use of White's likeness, and portion of the proceeds will benefit the Denver, Colo.-based Morris Animal Foundation, an animal health and welfare organization. White serves as a trustee for the organization.

White's career has spanned over 70 years. She was best known for her roles as Sue Ann Nivens on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Rose Nylund on "The Golden Girls." She has won six Emmy awards, and has received 20 Emmy nominations. She was the first woman to be nominated for game show hosting for her stint on the short-lived show, "Just Men!"

White is a native of Oak Park, Ill., and she's worked as a model, as well as in radio, television and film. She is an advocate for animals and works with a number of animal organizations. She is the recipient of numerous awards for her philanthropic work with animals.

White's collection includes "hoodie buddies," which are a brand of hooded sweatshirts that feature washable earbuds and a jack to connect with iPods and other MP3 players.

The T-shirts will retail at $28, while the hoodies will sell for $48.
Posted by bulldog | with no comments
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The other day we read about a crazy new food item that's touted by some to be the next big thing: the Candwich. It's a peanut butter and jelly or barbecue chicken sandwich...in a can. Like. A. Soda. Seriously.

We thought even the military had done away with nasty food in a can...

This stuff is going to be targeted at the elementary school, camping and construction worker demographic, but it seems more like a novelty of a military ration than something anyone would want to eat on a regular basis. The can says there's a "candy surprise" inside. Maybe that will help you get past the fact that you're eating a sandwich...from a CAN.

As we read the article about this gastronomic disaster, we saw a link to another one and we, of course, had to read it. Clicking led us to the LAS-andwich, a creation from British grocery store chain Tesco. For about $3.80, you can acquire your very own personal-size lasagna that is also a sandwich.

Inspired by leftover lasagna, the LAS-andwich consists of beef in a tomato herb sauce, cooked sheets of pasta and a creamy cheddar, ricotta and mayonnaise dressing.

It's bread and pasta. That's it. Not since Domino's Bread Bowls with pasta have consumers seen so many carbs in one snack.


That started us thinking...what other kind of foods are out there that are, well, gross? We found more than a few. Here's a sampling of the vomit-inducing, palate-recoiling wonders...

• Hakarl: This is fermented shark, eaten in Iceland. It's created by catching sharks and essentially letting them rot for four or five months. Even some Icelanders hate it.
• Tiger Penis Soup: It originates in Asia, mainly China. This soup is thought to bestow sexual prowess, and was a major factor in the endangerment of tigers. Tigers are hard to get so most of the time, ox penis is used in this pricey soup.
• Haggis: This dish originates in Scotland and is their national dish. It was invented because it was necessary to use all the edible parts of a sheep. To prepare, cooks take the innards of a sheep and boil them inside part of the intestine or stomach.
• Balut: In the Phillipines and Vietnam, this is considered a delicacy. It's a boiled duck egg that's been fertilized, so it contains a duck fetus. It's crunchy, soupy and has feathers. Sounds yummy.
• Canard a la rouennaise: In France, this dish is roasted duck, stuck into a press and squeezed until a rich juice of meat, blood and bone comes out.
• Cazu Marzu: This specialty in the Sardinia region of Italy is also called maggot cheese because it has live maggots living in it. It's illegal. As it should be.
• Dinuguan: This is a dish popular in the Philippines, which is basically a pork blood stew, made of stomach, intestines, ears, heart and snout, simmered in gravy made of pig blood, garlic, chili and vinegar.
• Mongolian boodog: What do you get when you take a whole goat, with hair, cram hot stones into every cavity and blowtorch it until it's done? Boodog.
• Raw octopus: In Korea, they cut up bite size pieces, suction cups and all, and eat it. Apparently it's enjoyable when the suction cups stick on the way down.
• Stink heads: Alaska Natives favor this dish made of fermented salmon heads. The heads are buried in the ground in fermentation pits, put into plastic or wooden barrels or even food storage bags, and left to rot. They're then served as sort of a putty-ish mash. Stink head paste on toast. Now, that's a snack.
• Bat paste: In Thailand, China and Guam, they take fruit or fox bats, drop them into a pot of boiling water or milk, then chop them and make a paste with Thai herbs and spices.
• Durian: This large fruit, found in many Southeast Asian countries, has thick sharp spikes and is about the size of a rugby ball. It oozes jelly and has the smell of raw sewage. It's our new favorite fruit.
• Lutefisk: In Norway, they take dried, salted cod and soak it for six days in water. Then they soak it in a lye solution for two days until the pH value of the fish is about 12. It has to be soaked another six days because you can't eat it after the lye soak. Or you'll die. They steam what's left and "enjoy" it.
• Escamoles: These are found in Mexico, have the consistency of cottage cheese, and taste buttery and slightly nutty. And oh yeah, it's the larvae of large black ants who live in the roots of the agave and maguey plants.
• Ambuyat: A staple in Brunei. Natives take the trunk of a sago palm tree and grind it into sawdust. The powder is then boiled for a few hours until it is the consistency of glue. It's nearly tasteless. But then, so is glue.

Well, you know what they say...one man's bat paste is another man's Ambuyat.
Posted by bulldog | with no comments
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A group of soldiers in Afghanistan spent their downtime doing what a lot of American young people do – they created their own version of a music video to a popular song. In this case, the soldiers created a video to Lady Gaga's song, "Telephone," which they posted to YouTube. The video quickly went viral.

The video has been viewed more than 5.4 million times, and has spawned copycats created by troops in other countries. An Israeli group of soldiers danced to Ke$ha's song, "Tik Tok" (nearly 1.2 million views),  and a group of Palestinian soldiers hammed it up to Lady Gaga (28,079 views). But this musical way of spending time has caused debate in military circles.

Back in the day, soldiers spent their down time playing cards or board games, or writing letters to family and friends back home. These days, military personnel require entertainment a bit more advanced in order to kill time and blow off steam. There is a lot of down time between actual fights. Add some fatigue to this mixture of boredom and stress, and you've got a volatile situation. Morale has also taken a hit, as soldiers have been told to hold their fire to protect civilians.

Making and posting videos isn't exactly encouraged by the Pentagon, but we can't see the harm. Soldiers need to creatively fill their down time, and this is a harmless way to do it. Stress relievers are critical to keeping morale up and casualties down.

Besides, what would we rather see in the headlines? Tightly-wound soldiers endangering citizens? We think not.

We'll take Lady Gaga any day.
Posted by bulldog | with no comments
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That's a heckuva status update, Facebook.

The social networking giant announced today that it now has 500 million members. Just under two years ago, the site had 100 million users. Now it has at least that amount of friendships confirmed every day.

Here are the stats on those socializing folks:

• Fifty percent of the active users log on any given day.
• The average user has 130 friends.
• People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on FB.
• There are over 900 million objects that people interact with, such as pages, groups, events and communities.
• The average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events.
• The average user creates 90 pieces of content each month.
• More than 30 billion pieces of content are shared each month.
• There are more than 70 translations of FB available on the site.
• About 70 percent of FB users are outside of the U.S.
• There are more than 150 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices.
• People that use FB on the mobile devices are twice as active on Facebook than non-mobile users.
• Every month, more than 70 percent of FB users engage with platform applications.
• Nearly 20 percent of FB users are llsted as single, and about 16 percent are married.

Facebook began as a site for a few universities in 2004, and is the brainchild of Mark Zuckerberg. The site blew past MySpace in April 2008 in terms of monthly worldwide visitors, and remains the largest social networking site. The other most popular sites are Twitter and LinkedIn.

Zuckerberg says that no matter how big the site gets, it will remain committed to enabling sharing. He has launched a new site, stories.facebook.com, that allows users to submit stories about their experiences with the site. But the stories have to be no greater than the length of a status update – no greater than 420 characters.

Some of the stories are, well, downright silly and sappy. But there are some that are inspiring, and don't sound like just a commercial for Facebook, and go beyond the stories of reconnecting with long-lost friends and family members. There's the story of a Pennsylvania woman who needed a kidney transplant and found a donor by posting her need as a status update. She got hundreds of responses after her post. Denmark's prime minister has used FB to meet and jog with Danes he met through the site, giving him a way to connect with the everyday Joe in his country. A Nepali teen was found in Paris after a campaign was started on Facebook to find the missing teen.

Users can enter their own stories as well as read accounts from others. There will, no doubt, be millions of stories on this site as well.

It seems to be, after all, the Facebook way.

Posted by bulldog | with no comments
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Lindsay Lohan began her 90-day jail sentence today. She surrendered without a lot of pomp and circumstance, but there was a contingent of media gathered, hoping to get the "money shot" of the embattled actress.

In offices all over the country, bets are being taken as to how long Lindsay will actually serve. It's likely that her 90-day sentence will be reduced to weeks. She'll be let go, and jail overcrowding will be blamed for the shortened sentence.

In a world where there's war, famine, economic depression, homelessness and grief, should so much attention be given to the Lindsay story? Blame yourself.

We follow her on Twitter. We tune in to the news reports of her antics on television. We buy the tabloid magazines that recount her every move. We've become the beast, and the beast must be fed. But should she be made an example?

Those who believe she should be held accountable hold on to the adage, "You reap what you sow." Lindsay has dodged the law numerous times before, manipulating the legal system, and making a mockery of both the judge's leniency and court instructions. People in this camp tend to believe that Lindsay used the media attention to boost her career and her ego.

Those who think jail isn't the answer believe that jail shouldn't be used as a social corrector. They believe Lindsay, and others like her, need counseling and psychological help, not incarceration.

We blame her entourage.

Lindsay has, like many young Hollywood starlets, surrounded herself with people who tell her what she wants to hear, rather than what's best or right. This replaces the traditional family for many of them, and parents and other trusted adults have less and less influence.

In Lindsay's case, her entourage is spearheaded by a mother who supports her every move and clearly wants to be her friend, rather than her parent. It appears to us that if Dina Lohan and had spent more time being a mom and not Lindsay's buddy, this whole fiasco would have been avoided.

Pamela Garber, a New York therapist, said it best: “Law enforcement is the last line standing. In some cases, it absorbs the roles of parent, teacher, guardian and therapist, to then be heeded, acknowledged, ignored or challenged … all to the backdrop of lighting, camera crews and all the rest.”

The sad part is that there is apparently a Lindsay 2.0 being developed. Lindsay's younger sister, Ali, is being primed to follow in her sister's stiletto-clad footsteps. The teenager, who has  been living with Lindsay, reportedly accompanied their mother to a nightclub earlier this year, and when the bouncer wouldn't let them in, Dina's response was, "Do you know who I am?" The egotistical mom was more concerned about her own good time than the fact that her underage daughter was about to enter a nightclub.

Dina, we implore you: forget about restocking the family coffers and pay attention to what's really going on with your daughters. Both girls may still have a shot at redemption. Fame has a price...and this time it's just too high.

Posted by bulldog | with no comments
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Engineers are saying the cap over the rogue well in the Gulf is functioning properly and is strong enough that they may be able to pump mud inside, bringing the whole oil spill nightmare to a close.

The final solution, drilling down to the base of the leak and plugging it with cement, is also close to completion.

The leak has poured at least 90 million gallons of oil into the Gulf since it blew up April 20. It has been dubbed the worst oil leak in U.S. history.

But the experts are saying there is no guarantee this is it – the well could explode again. If it doesn't work, BP officials plan to collect as much as 80,000 barrels of oil a day on the surface, causing even more pollution for the Gulf.

Since the spill began, concern for those most affected by the catastrophe has grown. Fishermen, oystermen and shrimpers who make their living off the water will be aided by the $20 billion pledged by BP. Those funds will also be used to clean the Gulf and restore habitats. But it's not enough. And people all over the country want to help.

The Gulf Relief Foundation was one of the first to spring to action. Based in New Orleans, the organization quickly organized a benefit concert, which raised $300,088.65. The foundation's Web site, www.gulfaid.org, offers opportunity for private individuals, as well as large corporations, to donate. You can text "gulf aid" to 27138 to donate $10, or you can log on to the Web site and donate. There are T-shirts and hats available for sale on the site, bearing the organization's moniker.

The site also features a break-down of its financial information, lists donors and sponsors for the concert event and provides contact information. The organization is a 501 C3 nonprofit corporation.

Environment America is another nonprofit that was an early responder. When the spill first began, the organization received hundreds of calls from concerned people, asking what they could do. The organization responded by devising "Gumbo for the Gulf," which allows supporters to hold gumbo parties to raise money for oil spill victims. EA's Web site, www.enviornmentamerica.org/gumbo-gulf, offers an online guide for volunteers to follow. So far, 150 parties have been held. The site also provides gumbo recipes by New Orleans chefs.

Lemons to Aid started out as the brain child of a Dallas, Texas mom who wanted her kids to learn about helping others. Melissa Plaskoff founded the nonprofit, and asked kids all over America to donate summer lemonade stand profits to help the victims of Haiti's earthquake. More than $20,000 was raised.

But when oil began to gush into the Gulf, the organization switched gears and aimed its efforts at the crisis in the Gulf. You can find them online at www.lemonstoaid.org.

Louisiana's Abita Brewing Co. also wanted to do something to aid both the rehabilitation of the Gulf Shore and help out of work oystermen. So the company developed a beer called "SOS" (Save Our Shore). The company will donate 75 cents per bottle, or $9 per case. The Web site, www.sos.abita.com, also sells SOS merchandise, including hats, T-shirts, lapel pins, decals and car magnets.

The Colbert Nation Gulf of America Fund, created by satirist Stephen Colbert and Comedy Central, is also collecting and administering funds to aid the Gulf. Colbert and his fans, along with Bing.com, donated $100,000. The fund is managed by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, which is among the largest of 700 community foundations in the country. From the fund, grants will be made to nonprofits that work directly to help the people and wildlife affected by the spill.

You can find them online at www.braf.org.

There are lots of organizations who claim to be charitable toward the plight of people and wildlife in the Gulf. But don't be fooled. Before you give, check them out thoroughly. Charities must be registered with the Secretary of State, so check with yours before you write that check. Ask questions, and find out the name, address and telephone number of the organization. Ask how the donation will be used, as well as what percentage of the contribution will be spent on the charitable purpose. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau in your area.

If you can help others, it's great to do so. But know who and what you're giving to – or no one benefits.

Posted by bulldog | with no comments
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When you think of the word "bully," you probably get images of a bulky kid on the playground, extorting money from 7-year-olds. But today's bully comes in many shapes and sizes, and has a multitude of methods. And bullying doesn't just happen among elementary school kids. Teens are bullied, too – and often with deadly results.

Earlier this year, South Haley, Mass. student Phoebe Prince killed herself after months of being tormented by kids at her school. A teen named Alexis Pilkington killed herself in West Islip, N.Y. because she was bullied, and the bullying continued even after her death as nasty comments about the teen were posted online.

In a study of 2,342 high school students published in 2007 by the Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, it was found that there is a clear association between bullying, depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. Among the students in the poll who said they were frequently bullied at school, nearly 30 percent reported depression and 11 percent reported serious thoughts of suicide and/or suicide attempts. Among those who bullied others, almost 19 percent reporting experiencing depression and about 8 percent reported suicidal thoughts or attempts.

By contrast, kids who said they were never bullied reported only a 7 percent rate of depression and 3 percent rate of suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts.

The types of bullying vary among teens. Physical bullying is most prevalent among boys, and relational bullying – teasing, verbal harassment and social manipulation – is more common among girls. Bullying can be physical, verbal or emotional, and include name calling, shunning and gossiping. It is deliberate and hurtful behavior, and is usually repeated over a period of time. Bullying is also becoming more commonplace online on social network sites and via texting.

But there is hope. Students can learn how to change and can, according to some, be the change.

MTV is airing a series beginning tonight called, "If You Really Knew Me," which focuses on this problem. One hundred teens at Freedom High School in Oakley, Calif. participated in the program in the pilot show, led by Challenge Day, a nonprofit organization which leads students in a powerful six-and-a-half hour program during a school day. The program pushes students past their comfort zones through music and games, and moves them toward delving into their deepest thoughts and feelings, and the realization that they are not alone in those. Students are taught how to move past their own hang-ups toward celebrating diversity, truth and full expression.
Other schools throughout the country will participate in the challenge as well.

With school about to begin in just a matter of weeks, parents need to remember that the fear of bullying can get in the way of learning, and can make going to school a miserable experience. Children who are bullied can feel lonely, unhappy and unsafe, and may develop stomach aches, nightmares, nervousness and anxiety.

If your child complains about being bullied, or you suspect it is happening, make it clear that you take it seriously. Reassure him that the situation can be resolved, and empower your child to solve the problem himself, teaching him to respond to a bully in a bold, assertive way. Make sure your child knows it is okay to ask for help from a teacher or other trusted adult.

Above all, make sure your child knows it's not his fault, and there are positive ways to deal with being bullied – harming himself or others won't solve anything.

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The premise of ABC's hit show, "Wife Swap," is that two women swap lives with each other for two weeks. The first week, the new "wife" must follow the rules of her host family, filling in to do whatever tasks the wife normally does in that particular setting. The second week, after observing the host family, the new wife can change things up by changing the rules for the host family.

It's a rather tense situation at times, because the wives each go into their host homes thinking their own way of living is best. Each and every time, the wives, as well as their families, learn something about themselves and the lives of their families.

In a recent episode, a mom from a family who focuses all of its energy on the eldest daughter, who is a golf prodigy, swapped places with the mom from a family who believes the end of the world with take place Dec. 21, 2012. The end-of-the-world mom was adamant about her beliefs, and spent much of her visit with her host family trying to convince them she is right.

But is she right? Is there any truth to her belief? Why do so many people believe this date marks the end of life as we know it?

Believers point to the ancient Maya cyclical calendars, the longest of which renewed itself approximately 5,125 years ago and is set to end again, supposedly with catastrophic consequences, in 2012. They point to the ancient Egyptians, who saw 2012 as a year of great change as well. Believers also say science proves the theory – case in point, the sharp increase in the number of sunspots and sun flares for 2012, sure to cause electrical failures and satellite disruptions.

Proponents say 2012 will bring unprecedented catastrophe. There will be, they say, a polar reversal, whereby the north will become south, and the sun will rise in the west. There will be shattering earthquakes, massive tidal waves and simultaneous volcanic eruptions. Nuclear reactors will melt, buildings will crumble and a cloud of volcanic dust will block out the sun for 40 years. Predictions also say the sun will come in a perfect line with the black hole that is situated in the center of the Milky Way on Dec. 12, 2012, the date of the winter solstice.

Believers are more adamant about one point than the fact that the events will occur: only the prepared will survive.

This may all sound crazy, but there are thousands of people all over the world who are preparing for the end. Survival groups exist in Europe, Canada and the United States. A single search for "2012" and "the end of the world" brings up more than 300,000 hits.  There are countless Web sites dedicated to counting down the days and helping followers get prepared.

But is this thing real?

First of all, a polar shift couldn't possibly happen on that date, since a shift of that magnitude takes roughly 5,000 years to complete and doesn't start on a specific date and time.

Second, the Mayan calendar wasn't designed to calculate dates beyond 2012. Modern calendars simply roll over when they reach the end of a cycle. Just because the Mayan calendar ended in 2012, it doesn't mean the world will end. It just means they didn't calculate any higher.

According to NASA, there is no real basis for this belief. NASA's scientists say, "For any claims of disaster or dramatic changes in 2012, where is the science? Where is the evidence? There is none, and for all the fictional assertions, whether they are made in books, movies, documentaries or over the Internet, we cannot change that simple fact. There is no credible evidence for any of the assertions made in support of unusual events taking place in December 2012."
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Remember that crazy movie starring Ben Stiller where everything at the museum came to life at night? There was actually a sequel, but the premise was the same. With a little help from a magical, golden Egyptian tablet, all the characters and animals came to life, and comedic hijinks ensued. The guard, played by Stiller, had to wrangle all the crazy characters each night and make sure none of them left the museum.

Now you can do the same – minus the whole everything-coming-to-life thing. Cue the Indiana Jones-like adventure music.

The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is sponsoring a contest where the winner gets to stay at the museum for a month, night and day, and walk away with $10,000.

The museum has launched a nationwide search and is looking for someone who is "curious, adventurous" and "outgoing." The winner will live at the museum 24/7 from Oct. 20 to Nov. 18. The best part...? You get to stay there on Halloween.

If you can last the entire month, you get $10,000, the equipment you used to help record the experience, plus an honorary lifetime membership to the museum.

The winner will have access to everything at the museum, and will get living quarters and an office, and mingle with museum folks every day. He or she will not be allowed to leave, except for museum-sponsored trips, and must blog about the experience and chat about it on Facebook and Twitter.

To enter, submit an application, along with a 60-second video, 5X7 photo and a 500-word essay. You must be at least 18 years old to enter. Everything must be submitted by Aug. 11. Applications are available online at www.monthatthemuseum.org.

And if you win, don't forget the dino treats.

Posted by bulldog | with no comments
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Heading to the beach this summer? Along with your sunscreen, flip flops, sunglasses and towel, you might want to pack a good book. But which book? Here are some of the top reads this summer.

1. "The Passage" by Justin Cronin
You don't have to be a vampire fan to like this one. This epic is about a virus that nearly destroys the world, and a 6-year-old girl who holds the key to bring it back. It begins in the early days of the virus where the infected scour cities looking for food, and survivors live in fear. These infected are identified as vampires, but Edward Cullen they're not.

2. "The Irresistible Henry House" by Lisa Grunwald
Henry arrives as a "practice baby" at Practice House at Wilton College's home economics program, and inspires in women the desire for exclusive attention. The program director is unable to let him go, and takes him to raise as her own. Henry withdraws into himself and becomes mute, and his struggle to define the desires of his heart propels the story.

3. "Country Driving" by Peter Hessler
Hessler takes to the roads in China, driving on everything from dirt tracks to brand new highways to show the reader a country that is on the move while no one is sure of the rules.

4. "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" by Stieg Larsson
Lisbeth Salander must do more than confront the miscreants of her past; she must destroy them. But surviving this means she'll have to place her trust in someone else, even when the stakes are incredibly high.

5. "The Big Short" by Michael Lewis
Lewis takes a look at Wall Street outsiders who bet against the grain to shed light on yet another tale of greed and fear.

6. "Matterhorn" by Karl Marlantes
The book tells the tale of Bravo Company from inside the jungle. It's about the development of the company's leader, Lt. Waino Mellas, from boy to man.

7. "The Imperfectionists" by Tom Rachman
Set against the backdrop of a fictional English-language newspaper based in Rome, it explodes with the beloved and endangered role of the original 24/7 news cycle. The chaos of the newsroom becomes the setting for the characters held together by circumstance that becomes more about the disillusion of life than the dissolution of an industry.

8. "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot
This is the fascinating and moving story of a woman who died from an aggressive cancer at the age of 30 in 1951. A sample of her cancerous tissue, taken without permission or her knowledge, provided the proof that human cells can survive in the laboratory. Known as HeLa cells, they gave scientists a building block for countless breakthroughs, including the cure for polio. Meanwhile, her family continued to live in poverty and ignorance of their matriarch's contribution.

9. "Just Kids" by Patti Smith
Smith describes meeting Robert Mapplethorpe, and tells the story of their romance and lifelong friendship.

10. "The Lonely Polygamist" by Brady Udall
When times get tough for Golden Richards, he chants the names, in order, of his 28 children. Golden is hapless, distracted and deceitful, but he is large-hearted, and so is his story.

Some of the best books for kids and teens include:

1. "The Necromancer: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel" by Michael Scott
Book 4 in Scott's series, which brings Flamel and teenagers Sophie and Josh back home to San Francisco, where they meet up with sorceress Perenelle, Flamel's wife, who just escaped from Alcatraz.

2. "Incarceron" by Catherine Fisher
Shifting landscapes, unexpected plot punches and bold, brave characters fill this twisty fantasy.

3. "The Night Fairy" by Laura Amy Schlitz
Flory is a night fairy who is dropped by a bat into a strange garden, unable to fly. She is forced to learn to survive in daylight.

4. "Cosmic" by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Liam is a big lad. So big that strangers mistake the 12-year-old for an adult. And heaven forbid he should ever make a mistake.

5. "The Dreamer" by Pam Munoz Ryan
Enter the mind of Pablo Neruda, Nobel Prize-winning poet, in this fictional biography.

6. "The Boneshaker" by Kate Milford
Natalie Minks is 13 and she likes machines. She likes the way the pieces work together. But when Dr. Jake Limberleg's medicine show stops at her father's bike repair shop, she knows he is not meant to fit into her life.

7. "The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin" by Josh Berk
Will Halpin has ditched his former deaf school and is now trying to go mainstream.

8. "Will Grayson, Will Grayson" by John Green
The book is about a couple of kids figuring out who they are. And they happen to have the same name.
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With about 200 million people using and connecting through Facebook, it was just kismet that there would be some weird groups using the site. Weirdos need a place to congregate online, too, don't they?

Although we can't possibly list all of the profiles here that are just, well out there, we've found some of the most intriguing. Enjoy.

• Kids Who Hid in Department Store Clothing Racks While Their Mom Was Shopping: With 157,114 members, this is one of the most popular groups on Facebook. Hiding in racks as a kid was fun. Hiding in your room and posting to groups such as this one is just, well, sad.
• I Yell At Inanimate Objects: This group has 12,274 members, and features discussions centering around such hot topics as the most satisfying noise to make when yelling, and the strangest object members have yelled at.
• I Secretly Want To Punch Slow-Walking People In The Back Of The Head: This angry group boasts 1,268,798 members.
• If 1,000,000 People Join This Group, Nothing Will Happen: Self explanatory. They must have achieved their goal.
• I Will Go Out of My Way To Step On A Leaf That Looks Particularly Crunchy: There are 222,183 members of this crispy foliage-loving set.
• Because I Read Twilight I Have Unrealistic Expectations in Men: This group of disillusioned women (and maybe some men) are 261,574 strong. Oy.
• Dora the Exlorer Is Sooo An Illegal Alien: There are actually 272,347 members in this peppy-Hispanic-kid-haters club.
• I Have To Sing The ABCs To Know Which Letter Comes Before The Other: 46,879 is the number of pathetic alphabet singers in this group. Wonder if they kick off their shoes to count higher than 10?
• I Read The Group Name, I Laugh, I Join, I Never Look At It Again: There are 84,901 nonchalant members of this devil-may-care squad.
• When Someone Says "Stop" My Brain Says "Hammertime!": 89,200 fans. Can't touch that.
• Dear Homework: You're Not Attractive And I'm Not Doing You: There are 1,446,572 fans who hate doing homework. Sweet.
• Those Who Enjoy And Partake in the Distribution and Acquisition of High Fives: Only 30 members. But yeah! High fives all around.
• I Flip My Pillow Over To Get To The Cold Side: This one is strange, yet somehow comforting, with 750,552 members.
• When I Was Your Age, Pluto Was A Planet: This one will soon hit the 1 million mark, along with the one about walking to school backwards in the snow barefoot.
• People Who Always Have to Spell Their Names For Other People: Apparently there are a lot of people with hyphenated names filled with apostrophes and the phonetic equals to the normal way of spelling simple names. In fact, there are 542,485 of them.
• I Use My Cell Phone To See In The Dark: There are obviously a lot of people in need of flashlights. 776,872 to be exact.
• For Those Who Have Ever Pushed A Pull Door: In the worlds of entering and exiting, there are 183,792 "special" people.
• Why Yes, I Do Frequently Burst Out In Song: With 555,008 members, this group lives for the hills to be alive.

We think the most strange profile we saw was one posted by Adrian Andersen, who claims that if he gets 500,000 people to join his group, he will legally change his middle name to Facebook (he has 175,368 members currently). This dude says he is "dead serious" and promises to post his birth certificate if it happens. His middle name now is Rene. Can't say we blame him for wanting that change. Dudes shouldn't have chick names.

We did a Facebook search for therapy. We found a store called Therapy. We found a bunch of therapists. But we found no one offering any therapeutic relief from Facebook.

Wait...we can log off. What a novel idea.

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Bigfoot. Sasquatch. Skunk ape. Whatever you call it, the conclusion is the same. No one really knows whether it exists.

There have been numerous sightings over the past few decades, and interest in the mythical creature gained momentum in 1967, when two California men filmed what appeared to be a large, hairy biped walking into the woods. It's the famous shot of Bigfoot we've all seen, where the creature turns and looks at the camera.The footage is known as the Patterson-Grimlin film. Since that time, eyewitness accounts have been reported all over the U.S. Plaster casts of footprints have been made and photos have been taken. There are numerous clubs and organizations that study the phenomenon, even groups who gather in the woods at night, waiting, watching and listening for proof.

Yet there has been no physical evidence produced.

One of the most recent sightings that made national headlines was in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, in the forests near Lake Anna. There have been 14 sightings in that area in the past decade. Three people recently spotted a shaggy, super-size figure on two legs walking across their wooded property. Cameras have been set up for a month now to capture an image of the creature. So far, Sasquatch hasn't returned to the property.

Par for the course.

Also reported recently was a sighting in Cleveland County, North Carolina. A man spotted an ape-like creature, with a long beard and yellowish blonde hair, standing about 10 feet tall. The creature had wandered onto the man's property in the early morning hours. The property is located in a sparsely-developed area of the county.

Whether you believe Bigfoot truly exists or not doesn't sway those who are convinced the creature exists. Frankly, Bigfoot enthusiasts don't care if you believe or if you think they're nuts. They are instead keenly focused on their goal: proving the creature does exist.

One such person is Mike Greene, of Salisbury, North Carolina. He's nationally recognized as an expert Bigfoot investigator. But he's not crazy. He's a retired state fraud investigator, and has a master's degree in behavioral psychology. He admits that his hobby is a little strange, but insists it's legitimate.

Greene claims he's seen Bigfoot several times during the 20 years he's been searching for proof. A self-proclaimed skeptical person by nature, Greene has made hundreds of trips around the U.S. and Canada, has spent $75,000 on high-tech equipment like night vision goggles, cameras and infrared illuminators. He used a thermal imaging camera to capture footage of what he says is a Bigfoot in North Carolina's Uwharrie National Forest in April 2009. Greene said it wasn't a man in a costume, since that would look splotchy and irregular as a thermal image, since the costume would suppress the body heat in varying degrees. The image on the video was solid white, which Greene said is consistent with what should happen when a warm body is videotaped using that technology.

A Bigfoot believer/expert who viewed the tape said, "I don't know what is on that tape. But it is definitely in the woods and it definitely seems to be naked."

Perhaps that best sums up the whole Bigfoot controversy. We don't know what it is, but it's definitely in the woods and seems to be naked.
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The only thing the cell phone industry and public health care advocates can agree on is this – more research is needed.

The subject of the two entities' current debate is a new local ordinance in San Francisco that will require cell phone retailers, come February 2011, to provide radiation emission information at phone displays wherever the devices are sold. Health care advocates say radiation emitted from the phones can cause brain tumors, while cell phone industry experts say the new law will just frighten consumers.

Experts say there's enough evidence out there to support the allegations that long-term cell phone use may increase the risk of certain kinds of cancer, and they believe consumers have the right to know, hence the development of the new law in San Francisco, which many hope will set a precedent for similar laws all over the country.

Cell phones do emit a small amount of radiation, measured in Specific Absorption Rate. The Federal Communications Commission limits wireless devices to a SAR level of 1.6 watts per kilogram of tissue. According to FCC reports, the BlackBerry Bold is the greatest offender, with a radiation level of 1.55. The Motorola Brute i680 is the least offensive, with a level of 0.86.

Other phones listed, along with their rates, include Motorola Droid, 1.50; LG Chocolate Touch, 1.46; HTC Nexus One, 1.39; Apple iPhone, 1.19; Samsung Instinct, 1.16; Motorola CLIQ, 1.10; Samsung Mythic, 1.08; and Pantech Impact, 0.92.

Further research is merited, says World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer director Christopher Wild. The organization is conducting a study that will examine whether children and teens who use cell phones frequently have an increased risk of developing brain tumors. Children may be especially vulnerable because their skulls are thinner than those of adults.

But John Walls, spokesman for The Wireless Association, said there are no health risks from cell phone use. He added that a device would have to emit 50 times more radiation than the FCC allows before it would create a health problem.

Health experts have also said there is no consistent evidence that cell phone radiation emissions pose any kind of medical risk. A long-term study by the World Health Organization found that cell phone users overall had no increased risk for glioma or meningioma, two common types of brain tumors.

The study did find a slight increase in brain tumors in a tiny subset of people who used cell phones six to 12 hours a day.

But experts on both sides point to the fact that there hasn't been a study on the potential problems that could be caused by more than 10 years of cell phone use.

Scientists say radiation from cell phones is different than the kind that causes cancer. Radiation that causes cancer, called ionizing radiation, is emitted by X-rays, nuclear bombs or the sun. Cell phones emit radio frequency energy, or radio waves, which are a form of electromagnetic radiation also used by radios and televisions.

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When listening to politicians these days, it's wise to do so within filtered parameters if your ears are somewhat...delicate. It seems lately that dropping the proverbial "f-bomb" has become the red badge of courage among the political set.

The latest to spout the expletive is Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who was caught on video tape. After several hours of listening to input from a planned community advisory committee, Robertson had apparently had all he could take. But he seemed to have forgotten one tiny detail – his mic was still on. And he dropped a few f-bombs.

To make matters worse, someone posted the rant on YouTube. Since then, Robertson has publicly apologized for his slip-up. He's not the first to publicly display his potty-mouth, nor is he the most infamous.

Vice President Joe Biden famously dropped the bomb the day President Barack Obama signed the historic health care reform bill into law. According to reports, when Biden introduced the president, he leaned over to him and said, "This is a big f**king deal." Like Robertson, Biden's short-term memory issue popped up, and he momentarily forgot that he was indeed wearing a mic. Oops.

Other politicians have also slipped up. Former Vice President Cheney told Patrick Leahy in 2004 to go, um, do something to himself. John Kerry was quoted in Rolling Stone magazine as saying George Bush had "f**ked up the Iraq war." Rod Blagojevich has made an art of dropping the bomb...he's known for slipping the expletive into his conversations about every three or four words, on average.

The most bizarre slip had to have come from the Governator himself, Arnold Schwartznegger. When the governor sent a message to state legislators as to why he had vetoed a bill, it was discovered that the first letter of each line down the left-hand margin of the letter bore the message, "F**k you." Of course, Schwartznegger and his camp said it was mere coincidence.

But we have to ask these politicians, along with all the others who've dropped the bomb without getting caught yet, why? In order to be an elected official, you have to be, we assume, a reasonably intelligent person with a reasonably sufficient vocabulary. With all of the words out there that are available for use, why would you choose that one? It's offensive, vulgar and just not necessary.

Clean it up ladies and gentlemen. We didn't elect you to cuss. We elected you to take care of our country's business.

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