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April 30, 2006

Great moments in high school softball

On Thursday, Candice Thompson, the pitcher for the girls' softball team at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville was ejected from the game for smiling.

In case you think I'm making this up, the article in the Washington Post, linked above, reports the pitcher's version of the events:

"I usually just smile to get my frustration out," she said. "He came up to me and told me, 'If you don't get that grin off your face, I'm going to eject you.' And then I said, 'Sir, I can't smile?' And he said, 'You better cut that crap out.'"
The umpire said it was body language, kind of like belly dancing, I think:
The umpire, John Gretz, had issued a prior warning to Thompson and said the ejection was for "unsportsmanlike conduct," which included a "mocking laugh."

"Basically, she wanted some more close pitches to be called strikes, and the way she expressed that wasn't [only] smiling," Gretz said. "It was a combination of gyrations -- raising hands up in the air, an exasperated body language -- and comments like, 'Where was that pitch?'"
The RM team forfeited the game after the ejection.

Fortunately for everyone, cooler heads prevailed. The next day, the umpires' association announced that the ejection should not have occurred, and Thompson will not have to serve the automatic one-game suspension that goes along with an ejection. The forfeit, however, will stand.

The forfeited game could possibly have been rescheduled, but the solution the umpires came up with seems surprisingly reasonable.

:) Hey, wipe that smile off your face!

Click here to read more . . .

Married women to hubbies: Drop dead!

As if to pay husbands back for all the jokes men have made about wives, some experts are saying that women are better off when their husbands are dead.

And if you think I'm exaggerating, read this New York Times article, called "The Bell Tolls for the Future Merry Widow." The article begins by noting the actuarial trends in longevity for men, pointing out that the longevity gap between men and women has shrunk to five years. Good news, right? Wrong!

By necessity, women have gotten used to a life lived for long periods without men. They have had the advantage in life expectancy since the late 19th century, when overall longevity started to climb. More than men, women have developed strong friendships to support them in their frailest hours. They have forced doctors to pay attention to their health concerns. They no longer have to cater to men. Travel companies now cater to their interests.

"Women don't need men as much as men need women," said John Gray, the therapist and author of, most famously, "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus."
The article finds people who are willing to concede that women whose husbands live longer reap a few benefits -- like having someone around to help them when they get old, even "given the limited capacity of men." So says Ronald D. Lee, described in the article as "an economist and the director of the Center on the Economics and Demography of Aging at the University of California, Berkeley." Men also make more money, so women will be better off financially by having their hubbies around.

But when push comes to shove, the article tells us, women would be better off pushing and shoving their husbands off the train:
But men and women growing old together is not always easy.

"Men have this expectation that women should take care of them," Dr. Gray said. "And she has her own expectations, that she should be there for him."

Particularly after retirement, she is not used to having him around quite so much. "It's different taking care of him for dinner, as opposed to him being home all the time, and expecting her to make every meal," Dr. Gray said.
And this lovely little vignette:
As one Connecticut woman in her 70's was heard to retort recently when her husband asked if they were ready to move to an assisted-living facility, "You've had assisted living for 40 years."
So how does the article sum things up? Here's a hint: Guys, watch your backs.
Marriage lowers everyone's risk of death, Professor Lee said, but the benefits go mostly to men; women lower their risk only slightly by marrying. Similarly, a man's risk of death increases sharply after the death of a spouse; a wife's does only negligibly.

"Women are very helpful for men," he said. "Men are not very helpful for women as spouses."

Women not only do fine despite a spouse's death, they may even do better.

* * * * *

People have traditionally felt sorry for older widows, thinking they had so few prospects for remarrying, she said. The truth is, they may not want to remarry.

"They're the ones taking care of everyone; they've often taken care of a frail husband, and doing it again isn't necessarily appealing."

Then there are the disputes over sex. Dr. Gray said a woman's sex drive increases as she ages, while a man's declines. But then, is Viagra upsetting that balance, putting men in retirement homes permanently on the prowl?

On that count, at least, things may even out. And that may be true over all.
Heidi Hartmann, who's identified as "a labor economist and the president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research," thinks it's all a question of money: "Money attaches to the men." She adds: "Men are generally happier when they're married. The women may not be happier, but at least they've got more money."

All I can say is: "How romantic!"

Here's the problem with all of this. It involves gross generalization and works on the assumption that married people don't actually love each other, that they're in a purely pragmatic alliance in which women get money and men get care. Every single wisecrack in the article falls by the wayside when a marriage is based on love. My mother spent the last year of my father's life doing literally nothing but caring for him around the clock. If you could offer her back my father, as sick as he was in that final year, where the deal was that she had to continue to give him 24-hour care, she'd take it in a split second.

Click here to read more . . .

April 28, 2006

Naked news - late April edition

I'm heading out of town for the weekend (and, no, I'm not writing this from work), so I thought I'd leave you with the late April edition of Naked News, the feature that offers the latest on happenings in the raw, in a crass effort to increase site traffic.

1. Our first item, via Fark, brings us a report from the St. Louis area of a 50-something married couple found nearly stark nekkid, after their truck was wrecked on the highway. You won't believe me, so I'm quoting the news account:

The rescue crew that freed a husband-and-wife truck-driving team from their wrecked rig Thursday morning found them nearly naked.

But it isn't what you're thinking.

The couple, with the wife driving, were headed north on Interstate 255 near here at 12:57 a.m. when their tractor-trailer went into the median and hit a culvert.

Both occupants were trapped under the dashboard.

The wife, Lalita Sudyvonroediger, 51, said in an interview from her hospital bed that she had been wearing a large T-shirt, but nothing else.

"I tried to be comfortable," she explained. "I was traveling where nobody could see me from the outside." She added: "I wasn't planning on stopping."

Her husband, Barry N. Weinberger, 52, was indeed naked, and asleep in a rear bunk at the time of the accident.
I love this. It never would have occurred to me to drive a truck naked, or even my own car. I try to be comfortable, too, but I would always wear at least a loin cloth. And this quote from the woman is priceless:

"I was driving down the road listening to the radio, and the next thing I saw a pine tree coming at me," she said.
2. A former Mets ballplayer, originally from Japan, named Tsuyoshi Shinjo, is taking off his uniform, literally, to become a nude model. (via MetsBlog)

Shinjo announced his retirement and startled fans by disclosing his new career path.
What the fans at Tokyo Dome didn't realize when 34-year-old Shinjo told them on April 18 that he was removing his uniform, was that he was speaking literally, according to Shukan Gendai (5/6-13).
As the article notes, Shinjo is something of a personality.
"It was typical Shinjo. I wasn't surprised at all," baseball analyst Takenori Emoto tells Shukan Gendai, regarding the sudden retirement. "I think part of the reason there was so much showbiz in the announcement was that the entire Pacific League seemed to be caught up in Shinjo and he was basically running wild, doing whatever he wanted to. He didn't give a damn about his team as long as he looked good."

Actually, it's not the first time Shinjo has retired. After a fight with management at the end of the 1995 season, Shinjo announced he was retiring from the Hanshin Tigers, who he played for at the time. He changed his mind a little while later, playing a few more seasons for the Tigers before heading to the U.S. where he played three seasons in the Majors, two for the New York Mets with a season at the San Francisco Giants sandwiched in between.

"This time, he really means it," Emoto opines. "At his age, it's no longer possible to hide the fact that he's not the batter he once was. It's a sad time for a professional ball player."
What's odd is that most people would decide they're not the nude model they once were long before deciding they were not the batter they once were. I hope he knows what he's doing.

Then again, a guy who's married to a former pin-up and who plans to do a double nude shot must know what he's doing.
Added to these points, Shinjo's wife, Shiho, is a former pin-up queen who retired following their 2000 marriage, but has recently returned to work in showbiz. Some women's magazines have already reported on the couple's planned double-act display of undress.
And, yes, for those of you who haven't yet clicked on the link, there's a photo of his wife accompanying the article, a rather demure one, actually. It's a cover shot from some Japanese magazine. Basically SFW.

3. This final story doesn't technically qualify as naked news, but when I tell you it was written by Pamela Anderson, you'll understand why I'm including it. Ms. Anderson, identified as "an actress" and "honorary chair" of PETA, writes a piece on the Wall Street Journal's website, entitled "No Way to Treat a Relative / Chimps shouldn't be forced to live like me."

I'm not sure, but I think the point of the article is that we shouldn't use apes and non-human primates on TV or in movies. But the subtitle suggests to me that we also should make sure that these primates are not forced to endure the shame of artificial bodily enhancements and underground internet videos. That's a goal I can heartily endorse.

Click here to read more . . .

April 27, 2006

Cracking the WHIP -- fantasy baseball status report

Before the season started, I gave you my advice about drafting a fantasy baseball team, which involved focusing very much on WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) when choosing pitchers. I noted that I had drawn a lousy slot in the draft (9th out of 10), and that this season would test my theory.

Nearly four weeks later, things are going surprisingly well. I'm second in the 10-team league, trailing only the guy with the 10th draft pick. Go figure. My hitting has been very good, even though I have stars (Abreu, A. Jones, M. Cabrera) but no superstars. My pitching took a while to settle in. For the first few weeks, I was languishing in 6th to 8th place, but things have picked up since. Pedro is pitching well; Ben Sheets is back from the DL; and I snagged Bronson Arroyo from the free agent list.

There's a large gap between me and 3rd place, but it's still very early in the season, and there's no time to be complacent.

Click here to read more . . .

Darfur and Iraq

Since the Jews seem to be way out front on Darfur, let me throw a stink bomb.

If we can stop genocide, by all means let's do it, and do it now. But where were these people when we were trying to rally support for toppling Saddam Hussein, who was responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, for gassing the Kurds, and for numerous other unspeakable acts?

I remain persuaded that the key difference between Iraq and Darfur is that the United States has a national interest in Iraq and no national interest, other than our humanity, in Darfur. My longer explanation is here.

If you'd like to discuss this in the comments, please be civil.

UPDATE (4/30): Via Michelle Malkin, this photo:

UPDATE (5/2): The New York Sun's editorial discusses the Darfur Double Standard:

We'd be remiss, however, if we didn't say that we also hope that the Darfur rally yesterday helps to illuminate the hypocrisy of some of those on the left. They want military action now to oppose a genocidal regime in Sudan and to protect its victims. Yet they opposed military action in Iraq to oust a regime, in that of Saddam Hussein, that had engaged in ethnic cleansing of Iraqi Kurds and Shiites and had rained scud missiles on Israeli cities.

This Darfur double standard was underscored by the list of announced speakers for yesterday's "Save Darfur" rally. They included at least three members of Congress - Nancy Pelosi, Donald Payne, and Michael Capuano - who voted against the liberation of Iraq. Mr. Payne, a Democrat of New Jersey, has reportedly gone so far as to say of the Iraq war, "I have never seen such a misuse of our power." Ms. Pelosi, a Californian who is the Democratic leader in the House, has endorsed Rep. John Murtha's demand for an immediate American withdrawal from Iraq.
The editorial goes on from there, naming names.

Click here to read more . . .

Gas sticker shock

I recently bought regular unleaded gas at $3.14.9 a gallon. Yikes!

But this chart indicates that the price of gas, adjusted for inflation, is not way out of line.

I commend to you two useful discussions of the subject of gas prices: first, Power Line's attack on the Senate Republicans' noxious bill called the "Gas Price Relief and Rebate Act of 2006," and second, Soccer Dad's discussion of market forces and politics in a post called "Logic Rationing."

Click here to read more . . .

April 26, 2006

Mrs. Attila reads the Times so you don't have to

After watching her husband write Pillage Idiot for the past year and a half, Mrs. Attila still doesn't appreciate the beauty -- the austere beauty -- of blogging about extremely immature subjects. But she still likes reading the New York Times, delivered daily, which is more than I can say for the rest of us. And she still enjoys reading me the good ones.

So thanks to her, I have a nice tidbit for you today.

It may surprise you, but I haven't watched any episodes of "My Super Sweet 16" on MTV, a reality show that, according to the Times, "follows teenagers as they painstakingly plan their elaborate celebrations (which can cost as much as $200,000), argue over the details with their parents, fret over guest lists and shop for their first cars. There are tears and tantrums and nouveau-riche displays of conspicuous consumption."

The Times quotes the former Wonkette and current pathetic novelist, Ana Marie Cox, who's a critic of the show. (I mean, who could possibly object to it?) Cox opines:

"Their blingy flings are not celebrations of accomplishment; they're celebrations of self," Ana Marie Cox, a Time magazine columnist, wrote in this week's issue. "What used to mark the end of childhood now seems only an excuse to prolong the whiny, self-centered greediness that gives infantile a bad name." Ms. Cox compared watching the show to eating an entire sheet cake, "wax decorative candles and all."
To show that one who's rich and powerful enough to pull strings need not spend huge sums in order to engage in conspicuous consumption, one father, "music mogul L.A. Reid," boasted of not spending a lot on his son's party:

"Everybody else spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, but I didn't spend anything," Mr. Reid said proudly. "I got my friend's club. I got my friend to perform and I got my friend to D.J."

"There's absolutely no way that I would ever spend that type of money," he continued. "I think it's over the top and sickening and a real poor representation of wealth."
But it's not just the outflow of money; it's the colossal tackiness of the whole thing. And then again, it's also the outflow of money.

"Dr. Srinivasa Rao Kothapalli, a prominent cardiologist in Beaumont, Tex., is more than willing to relinquish his checkbook," the Times notes. He's having a joint birthday-graduation party for his 16- and 18-year-old daughters, a small affair for 500 in his 4-1/2 acre backyard. And this is my wife's favorite part of the article:
"We both want to lose three pounds," said Priya [the 16-year-old], who received a Mercedes convertible and an assortment of diamond jewelry for her birthday. Her sister's graduation gift package included a Bentley, diamonds and two homes in India.

"I was really surprised," Divya said, "because I was only expecting a Bentley and one house."
And my wife's final remark on the subject? "I'm sure glad none of these people are Jewish."

UPDATE (4/27): Here's an angle not covered in the Times: a girl with a staff and a publicist, as well as a mom and dad: "The marketing of Marissa Leigh, age 16, is a job that employs 12 people." And her sweet 16 party cost only $150,000. (Via BOTWT)

Click here to read more . . .

Three questions

1. How do you say "Pillage Idiot" in Chinese?

2. How do you say "goyishe kop" in Chinese?

3. How did this get through the censors at Google China?

Click here to read more . . .

April 25, 2006

If Dan Rather interviewed Mary McCarthy

Pillage Idiot's Great Moments in the History of Broadcasting
Volume I, No. 14

For more photo comics, check the "Photo Comics" section on the sidebar.

Click here to read more . . .

Lobbyists eliminate the middleman in Maryland

It used to be that when lobbyists were interested in enacting legislation, they persuaded a legislator to introduce a bill. But maybe that's just inefficient.

A column in the May/June 2006 edition of AAA World written by the president of AAA Mid-Atlantic suggests as much:

At a hearing before the Maryland Legislature last March on a bill AAA Mid-Atlantic had introduced to address these problems, a member testified about how his daughter’s lost key ended up costing $455 to replace, as well as days missed from college while her car—her ride back to college—was towed to a dealership. She then waited days for the replacement key.
So you think this is just sloppy writing? Could be, but I strongly suspect it reflects the lobbyists' view of how Annapolis works.

Click here to read more . . .

April 24, 2006

Osama bin Toast - one more time

I'm probably the only sentient being in the world who still thinks Osama bin Laden is dead -- except, perhaps, for Mrs. Osama, who is just engaging in wishful thinking. My series "Osama bin Toast" is here, here, here, and here.

Do I have sound, empirical or logical reasons for my belief? Is the Pope Jewish? Judge for yourself.

Anyway, I had to laugh when the major newspapers had multiple OBLgasms about the newest audiotape from "Osama." It's the standard Democratic Party talking points:

"Your aircraft and tanks are destroying houses over the heads of our kinfolk and children in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya and Pakistan. Meanwhile, you smile in our faces, saying: 'We are not hostile to Islam; we are hostile to terrorists,'" bin Laden said, according to excerpts of the audiotape attributed to him and broadcast by the al-Jazeera network.
The Washington Post has excerpts from the transcript here.

I know this couldn't actually be Osama who made the audiotape, even though the Post says that the tape "sounded like" Osama. The reason is that the New York Times wrote this:
His voice sounding strong and combative, Mr. bin Laden implied that killing American civilians was justified, beseeched Muslims to fight any Sudan peacekeeping force and called for the creators of the offensive cartoons to be turned over to Al Qaeda for punishment.
How stupid do you think we are? If it were really Osama, he wouldn't "imply" that killing American civilians was justified. Don't you remember September 11? He would have stated in no uncertain terms that it was justified and desirable.

Obviously, this is just some out-of-work actor in Hollywood getting paid to do a cheap Osama impersonation. They couldn't even afford to hire a decent speech writer.

The real Osama is pushing daisies somewhere a couple of hundred miles north of Karachi.

UPDATE (4/25): On a serious note, Counterterrorism Blog has an extensive analysis of the speech, by Walid Phares. (via Hot Air)

UPDATE (4/26): My comment above about Osama's use of Democratic Party talking points was a cheap shot, but it wouldn't have been if I had made it about Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his latest videotape:
Accusing Bush of "arrogance" in refusing to respond to bin Laden's recent offer of "a long-term truce," Zarqawi said the president had "become a liar to your own people . . . you claim that everything is under control . . . and it appears afterward that you are lying."

Click here to read more . . .

April 23, 2006

The official "Is Josh Bolten Jewish?" post

I'm always getting visitors who are looking to find out whether some well known person is Jewish. Lately, a lot of these (roughly half of which have been from overseas) have been about Josh Bolten, the new White House Chief of Staff. I suppose the reason is that I had a post last month called "The 'Israel Lobby' claims yet another victory," about his appointment.

So for all of you who want to confirm that Josh Bolten is Jewish, here are:

Top Ten Signs That Josh Bolten Is Jewish

10. Staff meetings last longer on Mondays and Thursdays.

9. Has his mother on speed dial, but she still says he doesn't call enough.

8. The ring on his cell phone is "If I were a rich man."

7. Came in to the office on Purim dressed as Bibi Netanyahu.

6. His office furniture is covered with clear plastic.

5. Has two file baskets on his desk -- "To Do" and "Goyishe Kop."

4. His office is referred to by staff as "The Lobby."

3. Condoleezza Rice beats him up for his lunch money.

2. W's nickname for him is "The Mohel," because, well, you know.

1. The official White House photo of Bolten (left), following a staff meeting:

Click here to read more . . .

Mug him again!

Tom Fox, the Christian "peace activist" murdered by the same Iraqi terrorists he was supporting, was celebrated yesterday by comrades, whose motto was "To those who held Tom we declare: God has forgiven you."

It was the message of Christian Peacemaker Teams, the Toronto- and Chicago-based peace group that Fox served in Iraq after he quit his job running a grocery store in Springfield. The Rev. Carol Rose, the organization's co-director, told more than 200 of Fox's friends and colleagues that the banner was hung in Baghdad after his body was discovered last month.

"What is forgiveness?" she asked at the service at Foundry United Methodist Church in Northwest Washington. And then she answered: "Forgiveness is refusing to be bound by the evil that has been done to us or to anyone else. Forgiveness does not mean it was okay to kill Tom . . . but it means I won't hold those who did that wrong in a position of wrongdoing."
We saw last month that when the other morons were rescued by American and British forces, they resented their rescuers and refused to give them credit at first, until after they were publicly berated for saying they had been "released," rather than "freed." But the idea that they also won't blame the murderers for Fox's death is really turning morality on its head.

I'm reminded, as I always am, of something else. Ed Koch, while he was Mayor of New York, wrote a few books. In one of them -- I think it was "Mayor" -- Koch told a story about a city judge who was soft on criminals. Koch was giving a speech to a group of the elderly in which he mentioned this judge, and he noted that the judge had been mugged. But the judge came into court the next day and told the courtroom that although he had been mugged, he was not going to let it affect his treatment of criminal defendants in any way. At this point in Koch's speech, an old lady in the back yelled out, "Then mug him again!"

Click here to read more . . .

"Where have you been hiding it?"

Via Ace of Spades HQ:

Prison Visitor Allegedly Uses Vagina To Smuggle Live Grenade

POSTED: 1:02 pm EDT April 20, 2006

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador -- A Salvadoran woman is in some trouble after she allegedly tried to smuggle into the country's main prison a military grenade and marijuana hidden in her vagina.

The cylinder was about 10 inches long and 4 inches wide. Officials didn't say what prompted them to check Lidia Alvarado, 44, but authorities have raised the security level at jails across the country, fearing inmates may be planning something.

Alvarado was visiting two inmates serving 25 and 30 years when she was arrested. She now faces drug and weapons charges.

Police who inspected the M-67 grenade said it was in working condition.
I guess life imitates Woody Allen. Remember the movie "Sleeper"? It's been ages since I've seen it, but there's a scene in which Woody and Diane Keaton are sneaking into the operating room disguised as doctors to steal the nose of the leader, the only remaining part of him after he's been killed by a rebel bomb. As they're discussing plans, Keaton suddenly displays a huge, huge handgun. Woody says, "Where have you been hiding it? Don't tell me."

Click here to read more . . .

April 21, 2006

Driven to distraction

Another example of why studies are a waste of time. Did we really need a study to prove to us that auto accidents are mostly the result of distraction or drowsiness? Like, DUH, dude.

Here is a graphic from the WaPo website that lists the main causes of accidents.

What I want to know is where is the category for "reaching around to whack obstreperous 4-year-old in back seat"? Does that fall in the category of "reaching for a moving object"?

Click here to read more . . .

Visitor of the day - 4/21

I always thought the Krauts had a foolproof way of figuring out who's Jewish, the Nuremberg Laws. But apparently not. This visitor really missed the boat.

Click here to read more . . .

FDA denies medical weed

The FDA's announcement that it sees no medical evidence supporting the medicinal use of marijuana is simply an excuse for me to rehash (har!) the song I wrote last year after the Raich decision came down: My federalist dope.

Proponents of the medicinal use of marijuana have criticized the FDA, but one of the principal opponents has another thought.

Representative Mark Souder, Republican of Indiana and a fierce opponent of medical marijuana initiatives, proposed legislation two years ago that would have required the food and drug agency to issue an opinion on the medicinal properties of marijuana.

Mr. Souder believes that efforts to legalize medicinal uses of marijuana are a front for efforts to legalize all uses of it, said Martin Green, a spokesman for Mr. Souder.
That would be a shock, wouldn't it?

Click here to read more . . .

April 20, 2006

Kosher meals in Maryland prisons

I seem to be in the minority on this one, but please tell me why we should care if observant Jews who commit crimes and are sentenced to prison can't get kosher meals there.

We don't send Jews to prison on trumped up charges in this country, so if you're convicted, there's a pretty damn good chance you've actually committed a crime. And if you're a criminal, and if you don't care about following a law that affects your relationship with your fellow citizens, why should we care whether you're able to follow another law that at most affects your relationship with God? Besides, if you know you're not going to be able to keep kosher in prison, maybe you you'll try not to commit crimes. Just possible, isn't it?

Someone needs to point this out, but according to an article in the Washington Jewish Week, everyone else in Maryland seems to be trying to make sure there are kosher meals in state prison for people who observe the laws -- well, some of the laws, anyway.

Click here to read more . . .

Pillage Idiot Passover Diet

Sure, Passover's over. For this year. But let's face it, we've been celebrating the holiday for about 3,300 years -- at least, after eight days it seems as if we have -- and it's pretty likely to come again next year at about the same time.

So let me give you my tried and true Pillage Idiot Passover DietTM, under which I actually lost weight this year:

Matzah -- k'zayit; zeitim -- k'matzah.

That's it.

Let me explain. You eat absolutely as little matzah as you are required to eat (the size of an olive) and you eat as much olive (by which I mean fresh fruits and vegetables, and, of course, dried fruits) as you used to eat matzah. Fruits and vegetables = good. Matzah = bad. You can also eat a reasonable amount of meat and fish, but don't abuse the privilege.

If you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, and especially dried fruits, you won't be hungry. Trust me.

Click here to read more . . .

April 18, 2006

Doo drops

I found this post from a few days ago at Ace of Spades HQ. There's a product called "doo drops" that's billed as useful for the cloak-and-dagger crowd. The seller's site describes the product thus:

These "special ingredients" are just what you may need in some "special situations". Manufactured under contract by DSG Laboratories to fulfill the occasional unusual operational requirement of CIA and other federal agents, these products are now available for non-governmental sale. Use only with utmost discretion.

Doo Drops look and smell just like real diarrhea. Many useful applications, all of which will be left to your imagination. It's just like a tube of explosive diarrhea, except silent for stealth deployments. It comes in a handy dropper-top squeeze dispenser for rapid, realistic applications. All-natural. SMELLS LIKE CRAP.
As Ace points out, very few products advertise that they smell like crap.

Now, take a look at the name of the company that markets this crap -- I mean, this product: Shomer-Tec. It sells law enforcement and military equipment. Given the name, they just have to be Israelis or yordim (Israeli ex-pats), but I haven't yet found any confirmation of this at the site. Well, at least they didn't name the product "shilshul."*

*If you've never heard of shilshul, please DON'T click here -- if you do, it's at your own risk -- for the game, but you can click here for a halachic angle.

Click here to read more . . .

Mmmmm, placenta!

Apparently, some people think it's cool to eat the placenta after their child is born. WuzzaDem imagines the photo. Jonah Goldberg cites The Straight Dope. (The relevant person now is joking about it but isn't clearly ruling it out.)

And here, we are offered an opinion on kashrut. You knew there had to be one somewhere.

Click here to read more . . .

April 16, 2006

You tawkina ME?

Without actually asking for a rabbinical opinion so as to avoid the embarrassment of acting inconsistently with the opinion I had sought, I did a little research and found there was a machloket (difference of opinion) on whether attending a baseball game was permissible during the year-long mourning period. I've basically given up my concert series for the year -- my wife goes with a friend -- but it didn't really seem inappropriate to see a baseball game. (And please don't tell me in the comments that there really isn't any machloket. I don't want to hear that.) So I went to Shea Stadium with my mother and my kids and saw the Mets beat Milwaukee, 9-3. I suppose I could have asked one of the thousands of moderately to very frum people at the ball game, now that it was too late, but I have to say I was thinking of them more in terms of help for a minyan in case the game went on too long. It didn't, and I got home in plenty of time to go to my father's shul for mincha-maariv.

(The epilogue is that at mincha-maariv the rabbi noticed a sunburn on my forehead and asked whether I had spent the day outside. Discretion being the better part of valor, I simply said yes, without explanation. He added, "Or were you up with Hashem in the heavens?" I responded, "You don't get a sunburn there." And I quickly added, "So they tell me, so they tell me.")

I've told you that boring story to tell you this one. Today's New York Times has a front-page mini-article called "New York Leads Politeness Trend? Get Outta Here!" about the City's efforts to enforce manners -- or social convention, call it what you will. Since a failed public-school system is too challenging for it to deal with, the City has been passing legislation that penalizes bad behavior.

The model is a City law that authorizes jail time for people who interfere with a sporting event. Used to be, a guy who ran onto the field during a ball game would be kicked out of the game and given the equivalent of a parking ticket. No more.

What's more, you can now get a $50 fine for putting your feet up on a subway seat. You can get a $50 fine for talking on your cell phone during movies, concerts, and shows. Parents who are unsportsmanslike at little-league games can be ejected and are allowed to return only after taking anger-management classes.

A member of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors has his doubts about this approach:

"It sounds like your City Council is getting really uptight," said Aaron Peskin, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, who, along with his colleagues, has nevertheless looked to New York's laws for guidance. "It all seems a little overwrought."
And even New Yorkers are wondering.
The famed Gray's Papaya hot dog chain tries a similar tack, selling "Polite New Yorker" buttons for $1. About 60 are sold a week, but most go to tourists who think they are a joke, says the owner, Nicholas Gray.

"I try to do my part," said Mr. Gray, who requires his employees to wear the button on their uniform even though he does not. "I'm not always that polite. I'm just another New Yorker."
But Letitia Baldridge, who was White House social secretary for President Kennedy, is pleased.
"Most people just seem to ignore common sense and common courtesy so it does have to be legislated," she said. "To have this happen in New York is going to inspire a lot of other people. I cannot applaud it enough. My hands are tired from clapping."
Quite honestly, it's going to be a major adjustment for New Yorkers.

And along those lines, I have a confession. When I drove back to my mother's house from the Mets game today, there was a lot of traffic. The road divides a couple of miles outside the ballpark with the left two lanes going to the Cross Island Parkway and the right two lanes to the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, where I was headed. The right two lanes were backed up, so I (and some other drivers) got in the third lane and headed toward the Cross Island Parkway -- and then cut in just before the road split, saving about 20 minutes. I figured I had to do it now before the City passes a law against it.

POSTSCRIPT: I'm headed back home tomorrow, but I probably won't be able to post much this week. I want to thank fee simple for offering his thoughts about Star Trek technology, and I'd like to encourage him to continue posting whenever he pleases, at least through the end of the week.

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April 15, 2006

fee simple: "Scotty, I need more power!"

Since the time the original Star Trek was first broadcast, various science fiction props on the show have become common reality -- flip top communicators, motion-sensing sliding doors, voice-responsive computers, and so forth. Although not yet operational, the U.S. military is also working on an energy beam weapon mounted on an aircraft for ballistic missile defense.

There are two recent stories describing further progress toward making the world more like Star Trek.

The first story is about NASA's plans for an anti-matter spacecraft.

Most self-respecting starships in science fiction stories use antimatter as fuel for a good reason – it’s the most potent fuel known. While tons of chemical fuel are needed to propel a human mission to Mars, just tens of milligrams of antimatter will do...
* * *
The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) is funding a team of researchers working on a new design for an antimatter-powered spaceship...

The second story is about hangover-free Synthehol.

Synthehol is a science-fictional substitute for alcohol that appears on the Star Trek:The Next Generation television series. It allows drinkers to experience all of the enjoyable, intoxicating effects of alcohol without unpleasant side-effects like hangovers.

Now, all we need for our starship to be fully outfitted is Yeoman Janice Rand.

Posted by fee simple.

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April 11, 2006

Push for assistance

When I went food shopping with my older son last year, I think it was the first time he had seen the self-service lanes at the Giant. When you scan an item, a female voice says, "$1.69" or whatever the price is. My son observed that the voice was very loud. I said, "Yes, and it's a good thing it's just announcing the prices and not the things you buy. 'Loaf of bread. Loaf of bread. CONDOMS!!!!'"

Well, it seems that CVS has set up a system like the one I was joking about. At some CVS stores, the condoms are locked in a case where there's a button that reads "push for assistance."

Keith Eby had a somewhat similar experience. A day after the 37-year-old health-care consultant found the condoms locked up at his neighborhood CVS at Logan Circle, he tried the CVS on M Street in Georgetown, near his office. Same problem.

"I don't get embarrassed easily, but even I couldn't imagine ringing a buzzer and having everyone in the store know I was purchasing condoms," said Eby.
And it's not just CVS:
CVS, the leading drugstore chain in the Washington area, is not alone. Some Safeway and Giant stores in the District also lock up condoms, as do most Shopper's Food & Pharmacy Warehouse stores in the nearby suburbs. (Two chains that don't lock them up, no matter where their stores are located, are Rite-Aid and Eckerd.)
Remember the Woody Allen movie "Bananas"? The Woody Allen character is in a bookstore and wants to buy a porn magazine. He's embarrassed, so he buys Time, Newsweek, and other mainstream magazines and slides the porn magazine into the pile. At the checkout, the cashier says: "Fifty, a dollar, dollar and a quarter..." and he yells to the back: "Hey, Ralph, how much is a copy of Orgasm?" When the guy doesn't hear him, he shouts: "Orgasm. This man wants to buy a copy. How much is it?"

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More European bra fears

It's very hard to imagine a guy writing a column about his underwear.

I mean, not including guys who write for GQ, it's very hard to imagine a guy writing a column about his underwear. And nobody reads GQ, anyway.

But some women seem to think it's empowering to write about theirs. Anna-Stina Nykänen writes a column in the Finnish journal Helsingin Sanomat called, in English, "The truth about bras."

When a woman ruminates about bras and their significance, you can be quite sure she'll say nothing interesting. They really ought to assign men to write about that subject.

Here's a typical observation in the column: "For once it was shown how different women really are, and I do not mean just the breasts - I mean ideals as well." And this: "I feel that every woman has the right to have a good bra." (You do! You do! Haven't you read the UN Convention on Rights in Undergarments?)

There's also the obligatory remark about how men just don't understand:

It is hard for a man to imagine how bothersome it is to try to hold a serious conversation, while constantly feeling the shoulder strap of the bra slip downwards. How is one supposed to fix it in a subtle manner? You can't just reach under your collar without completely losing credibility.
Which, as any man will tell you, is ridiculous. Has any woman had to rearrange her, uh, private region, without attracting attention, when her underwear got in a bunch. Huh? Ever try doing that while discussing the second-quarter earnings?

At the end, Ms. Nykänen leaves us with this deep thought: "A bra is part of being a woman, no matter what it holds." Perhaps. But a man is part of the future, no matter what it holds.

(via BOTWT)

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April 09, 2006

Kitniyot Liberation Front

I guess the complaints about the ashkenazic prohibition of kitniot on Passover has been taken to a new level. (For details, see here and here.)

Reader "Just Moi" writes and points to a posting on the janglo group at Yahoo by someone representing the "Kitniyot Liberation Front." I don't know if you need a Yahoo account to access this, so let me quote:

From: Kitniyot Liberation Front
Date: Fri Apr 7, 2006 1:55 am
Subject: INFO4U: Join the Kitniyot Liberation Front

Have you ever wondered why after having gathered
together in Israel from every continent that there are
those of us who will not eat at each other's homes on
Pesach because of the presence of legumes?

Have you ever thought that just maybe Jews living
together in Eretz Yisrael should no longer be divided
in accordance with the Ashkenazi-Sephardi labels which
arose in the first place as a result of our having
been expelled from Eretz Yisrael into our various
places of Exile?

Have you pondered whether a minhag not to eat
kitniyot which began during the galut as an Ashkenazi
practice should now prevent two Jews living in the
same building in Petach Titkva from eating at each
other's homes?

Have you been waiting for a halachic approach with
vision which promotes Jewish unity?

Then,you've found the right address at the Kitniyot
Liberation Front at kitniyot@....

For a shiur explaining why Ashkenazim may eat
kitniyoth go to:

Yonathan Ben Shimshon
Kitniyot Liberation Front
If you follow the link to, and you search for "the roadmap," you'll find the relevant shiur. I've downloaded it but haven't listened to it. It runs well over an hour.

If any of my readers actually listen to it and there's something interesting and relevant, please post in the comments.

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Visitor of the day - 4/9

For the record, the photo link this visitor found contains photos from my Israel trip last summer. No gay jockstrap photos, but it does describe the sensation of floating in the Dead Sea: "one of the sensations is a little like putting Ben-Gay in your jockstrap."

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April 08, 2006

Haloscan comments on Blogger

If you're like me -- you have a blog on Blogger and have decided that the Blogger comment system stinks, so you use Haloscan for comments instead . . . have I got a tip for you.

You know how, when you go to your Haloscan "manage comments" page and you see a new comment there, but there's an obscure post identification number next to it, right? If it's not the first comment, you can figure out which post it belongs to by reading the earlier comments, but if it is the first comment for a post, you're left to guess which post the comment responds to.

No longer.

Haloscan has a beta feature that replaces the numerical post ID with the actual title of your post. And it works.

Go to Haloscan's "manage comments" page, click on "Settings" at the top. Then click on the "Beta features" tab. Next to "Fetch Blog Post Titles," click on "Setup/Activate" and follow the instructions.

Well, maybe this isn't completely new, so sue me. Just use it.

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Proposed new Mets stadium

Fred Wilpon, owner of the New York Mets, has been trying to get support for a long time for a new stadium for the Mets. Now, the plan is to finance the deal heavily with tax-exempt bonds.

But I've moved out of New York, so I don't really care about the money. What I care about is the stadium. Take a look at the renderings of the proposed stadium. I'm not bowled over.

UPDATE: MetsBlog remarks here.

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New member of Maryland Blogger Alliance

We warmly welcome The Baltimore Reporter, the fourth and newest member of the Maryland Blogger Alliance. Please click on the link and check it out.

Soccer Dad points out that the Alliance has doubled in size in less than two months, which is a very high rate of growth. The last time we doubled in size was when I was the only member and he joined.

Three of our members (including Maryland Conservatarian) write a lot of serious material about Maryland politics. I write far less, but you can see my posts about Maryland by looking on the sidebar for "Maryland meshugas."

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April 05, 2006

World's ugliest rabbit gets married

As if inter-species marriage weren't enough.

According to an article in the Telegraph (hat tip: fee simple), the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is denouncing a marriage between two giant rabbits in England, the male of which is, in my humble opinion, the ugliest rabbit in the world. (Check the photo accompanying the article.)

Now, even ugly people and critters have a fundamental constitutional right to get married. But it does really confirm that while the male of the species looks for evanescent qualities, like beauty, the female looks for power and stability.

So let's examine what the RSPCA is exercised about:

The rabbits - Roberto and Amy - are both more than 3ft long and each weighs just under three stone, and were wed in the Britain's first ever rabbit nuptials.

Roberto, aged three, is 3ft 6in long and is believed to be the biggest rabbit in the world. Organisers dressed Amy in a mini veil and a wedding band was placed around her paw.

But the RSPCA branded the stunt as "belittling" and criticised the organisers for sending out the wrong message about animals.

"We would be opposed to anything that would cause distress or suffering to animals and we are opposed to the dressing up of animals as it belittles them," Joanna Barr, RSPCA spokesperson, said.

"This puts the wrong message across. Animals are not toys to be dressed up."
I just knew it. The animal-rights wackos want to have nude rabbit weddings! Where's Pat Robertson when we need him to denounce nude rabbit weddings?

I'd like to know what happens at a rabbit wedding. Do they play rabbit organ music? Do the guests eat the bouquet that the bride throws? Does the clergyman say: "You may kiss the bride. Hey, wait, I said 'kiss,' not . . . uh, can't you wait till you go back to the hotel?"

But really, this is no joking matter. Given the astronomical rate of birth to unwed rabbits, we need to encourage marriage among lagomorphs.

Even if we must run roughshod over the RSPCA.

Click here to read more . . .

The return of kitniot

I've realized for several weeks that Passover is coming up. But it really was brought home to me when I started getting a lot of hits for "kitniot" based on my piece last year entitled "The four stages of kitniot." (For the record, the stages are denial, anger, fear, and humor.)

At one point, "The four stages of kitniot" was ranked second on Google on searches for "kitniot." Now, it's down to third or fourth, depending on whether you count two results from the same domain as one or two. The moral is: Fame is fleeting, but kitniot are forever.

And now there's really no doubt about the imminent arrival of Passover. The New York Times had an article this morning called "It's Passover, Lighten Up" about the increased availability of kosher-for-Passover desserts that aren't rock-hard and awful. Kitniot (spelled "kitniyot" there) made a cameo appearance in the article, which reported that Rabbi Jeffrey Wohlberg of Adas Israel, a Conservative shul in Washington, told his congregants last year that they don't have to refrain from kitniot.

Last year, Rabbi Wohlberg said it was permissible for his congregants to eat legumes, called kitniyot in Hebrew. They are usually beyond the pale at Passover for the most rigorous observers, but are increasingly accepted by many Conservative and Orthodox rabbis, particularly in Israel.
I find the last statement -- about Orthodox rabbis -- hard to believe, unless they're sephardic.

Not to be outdone, the Washington Post has several articles today about Passover. The only trouble is that they blame kitniot on The Lobby.

Only kidding, I think.

But please do check out the Post's photo of gorillas "enjoying" matzah. We sons of pigs and monkeys like to see that our near relatives in the gorilla family are observing the holiday, too.

Just so long as they stay away from kitniot.

UPDATE (4/9): Kitniyot Liberation Front???

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April 04, 2006

Feingold gets cover from the Dems on his censure resolution

For more photo comics, check the "Photo Comics" section of the sidebar.

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Visitor of the day - 4/4

Shouldn't these guys be watching the ports?

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April 03, 2006

Things that amuse me

1. Jeff Goldstein channels Cynthia McKinney ordering food at an Olive Garden restaurant.

2. Fark founder Drew Curtis writes about the top 10 internet spoofs. The one I noted here was the GI Joe hostage (actually, Cody Special Ops). What was funny about it was that AP fell for the fake story.

3. Five Saudi women, "[t]ired of playing second fiddle to men in conservative Saudi Arabia," went off and had sex-change surgery abroad, according to Reuters. (Via LGF) More from Al Bawaba (which "is one of the most dynamic companies in the Middle East today, and is making a real difference in the Arab world" but still has this anti-semitic Tom and Jerry article on its homepage): "By becoming men, the women said, they would have the opportunity to enjoy those privileges denied them as Saudi females but allowed to Saudi males, including rights taken for granted in other societies, such as driving a car." The Al Bawaba article explains that most of these operations take place in India, "where the operation is preformed [sic]." Preformed? I suppose the reason these are "preformed" in India is that the Saudi women were men in their previous lives.

4. This last one really deserved its own post (borderline SFW, use discretion), but it won't get that. Make sure to scroll down. My only comment is that now I understand European bra fears.

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Visitor of the day - 4/3

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April 02, 2006

Cracking the WHIP -- fantasy baseball advice

Among the many things in my life that I pretend to know something about is how to pick a fantasy baseball team.

This is my fourth year in a league with colleagues at work, the brother of one of them, and my younger son (who's been in the league since last year). We play the "wuss" version, which means no salaries, no keepers. We have a draft, and the only thing that limits you is the players who have been picked earlier. Then we use rotisserie scoring with a modified 5 X 5. (Actually, it's 6X 6. We've added strikeouts as a negative batting stat to the traditional R, HR, RBI, AVG, and SB, and we've added HR allowed as a negative pitching stat to the traditional W, K, Save, ERA, and WHIP.) Rotisserie scoring means that the teams in the league are ranked for each statistic. With 10 teams in the league, first place for a stat means 10 points, second place 9, third place 8, etc., and you add the points for all the stats to find your place in the league.

The way I do my draft is to put my picks in order by position. Then, I decide where the dividing line is between "A" picks and "B" picks (and sometimes "C" and "D"). If one position is running out of "A" picks, I might switch plans to grab the last "A" pick at that position.

For those of you who play in a league like this, I have a useful tip, which I think can be worth about 3 to 10 points in the overall standings. I figured this out my first year (after stumbling through the first half of the season having no idea what I was doing) based on a comment from someone else in the league, who, oddly, hasn't pursued its implications.

The tip is fairly simple: When you draft pitchers, or pick them up after the start of the season, you should place a very high emphasis on their WHIP. WHIP is short for Walks plus Hits per Innings Pitched. If you have two similar pitchers, and one has a good WHIP, go with him. In fact, you should be willing to give up a little power (strikeouts) for a better WHIP.

The reason this works is that as the season wears on, teams tend to be fairly close together in WHIP. It isn't unusual for 6 or 7 of 10 teams to be bunched between 1.20 and 1.25 in WHIP. So if you can get your team's WHIP up from 1.25 to 1.19, you'll gain about 6 or 7 points in rotisserie scoring. If you move it from 1.22 to 1.19, that may be worth 4 or 5 points. In addition, low WHIPs correlate with low ERAs, so your focus on WHIP gives you a twofer.

For example, last year, Scott Kazmir of Tampa Bay had more than 8 strikeouts per 9 innings -- a solid power pitcher -- but his WHIP was a horrendous 1.46. No way I would pick him. In contrast, take a guy like Pedro Martinez. Toe injury and all, he's a much better bet. He also had more than 8 strikeouts per 9 innings last year, but his WHIP was 0.95. I admit Kazmir isn't really comparable to Martinez by any measurement. I simply used him as an example. My goal in selecting pitchers is to avoid anyone with a WHIP over about 1.22. If I pick someone with a WHIP as high as 1.25, I'll be very careful before activating him.

This seems to have worked for me. Not to boast, but two years ago (my second year in the league), I finished first of 8 teams, and last year, I finished second of 9 teams, missing a chance to win on the final day by stupidly gambling and starting four pitchers. This year will be the big test of my WHIP strategy, because I got a lousy position in the draft order, which was picked at random. I was 9th out of 10. (The order snakes back from last to first in even-numbered rounds, so the main thing you lose is a decent first-round pick, which is surprisingly important. I've had Albert Pujols for both of the past two years.)

So we'll have to see, but I'm pretty confident I can do the "wuss" fantasy equivalent of Billy Beane style moneyball, focusing heavily on WHIP for my pitchers.

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Member of the club

Sometimes, there's something really reassuring about the repetition involved in the davening while saying kaddish. And then, sometimes things are surreal.

[Editor's note: When I wrote this post, I included too much identifying information in telling a less than flattering story about someone, who's really a nice person, and I decided on further reflection to remove it.]

That same day, I realized that three months of saying kaddish had educated me on a lot of the technical rules about what is said and what is not said during the services. It's a little like being a member of a club and learning the club secrets. (I have this feeling even more so, because we daven nusach sefard at my shul, apparently because of some hasidic origins, and there are more than a few differences from when I davened nusach ashkenaz in the past.)

For example: During the repetition of the mincha amidah, I really wasn't paying attention. I was standing near the library shelves and browsing the Talmud. But I noticed -- out of the corner of my consciousness -- that the fellow leading mincha, who had just emerged from his shiva, was reciting the priestly blessing, which is not generally recited during mincha. As I was thinking, "Huh?" in my perceptive way, someone was whispering to him, and he skipped on to the next paragraph. Next, since maariv was rosh chodesh, we needed someone to lead davening who wasn't a mourner. Another technical rule I had picked up. The three non-mourners declined, but we found someone observing yahrzeit. Trouble is, when you observe yahrzeit, it might well mean you haven't been to daily minyan for a year, so this guy had to be prompted to start with shir ha-ma'alot, to skip baruch ha-shem l'olam amen v'amen, and to say the second bar'chu before the alenu -- all of which are nusach sefard things, and all of which I knew from recent experience.

So I was shaking my head and thinking that three months earlier I knew none of this and now my head was full of all those little rules. And I was a member of the club.

POSTSCRIPT: This morning, I arrived a few minutes late to our first shul softball game of the season. All games in the league start at 9:00, except for games involving at least one orthodox shul team, which begin at 9:15 on the theory that people may be late after davening. I raised the question with a team member who had said kaddish for his father a few years ago whether going to daily minyan helped his batting average. The conversation went on for a minute or so in a mock-serious way, without an answer. But, coincidence or not, I went 3-for-5 with two singles and a homer. That's about as many hits as I had all last year, and I can't remember the last homer I hit. It was probably in a board game.

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Visitor of the day - 4/2

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