Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bah humbug - Brownies banned from singing Christmas carols for pensioners

Some people just don't seem to get the concept of having the Christmas spirit. You reach out and do something nice for people and in turn it makes a person feel good. That's the way it's supposed to work.

The administrators who run the Marlowes Centre in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire in (not so) jolly, old England could use a dose of holiday esprit. For nearly 20 years, Brownies and Girl Guides put on a carol concert for pensioners and the disabled at a shopping centre, however their joyous voices will be heard no more since the powers-that-be have deemed they were/are a safety risk. The risk in this case was the area around a 25 foot Christmas tree where the Guides used to sing. The approximately 100 girls were were/are considered a health and safety risk because they could obstruct fire escape routes.

See...lots of people - happy people and shoppers - used to stop and listen to the girls causing what they believe could be a bottleneck.

Bosses at the centre say a Christmas tree positioned outside New Look and new mobile trade stalls have limited the number of performers the centre can host at one time.

Marketing manager Eileen Gannon said, "with changes made to the centre's Christmas decorations and trade units there simply isn't space for a huge number of performers."

"We're disappointed, but our priority has to be the safety of people inside the centre."

The carolling has been taking place for 20 years and now suddenly they've become a risk?

She said the new rules were open to change in the future, as decisions made on decorations in the centre are different each year.

Another centre worker said: 'There were a lot of Brownies last year and they caused absolute chaos.'

What a wonderful example of holiday spirit they have set for the young Brownies! Maybe shoppers could consider showing their holiday spirit in ways that will make their feelings felt - $$$$$.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Experts study the line in queuing

There are all types of queuing or lining up but it's doubtful that people would assess it as enjoyable...or interesting. For many of us having to wait in a line, for example, at the supermarket or buying fast food, is not a pleasurable experience especially when interlopers attempt to squeeze in front. But I digress.

Unbeknownst to most of us, lining up is now a subject of a study by experts in the field of queuing psychology.

Say what? Yup. Actually, one wonders what type of background would be required to be a line-up-psychologist.

A study is currently being done focusing on the psychology of the reaction of your ordinary people to lining up...and waiting for whatever.

The director of the Center for Engineering Systems Fundamentals at MIT, Richard Larson, believes that their findings may not always reduce wait times, but they can cut frustration and make people feel better . He should know having researched queuing psychology for more than twenty years.

Eliminating empty time, for example, makes waits seem shorter, Larson found in his research.

Visitors lining up for attractions at theme parks see this principle at work with queues that often use clever design and technology to make the line itself entertaining.

Read more about Larson's findings and theories here:

Personally, "line-jumpers" are the worst offenders but here's some basic queuing pschology 101:

- Occupied time feels shorter than unoccupied time

- People want to get started

- Anxiety makes waits seem longer

- Uncertain waits are longer than known, finite waits

Unexplained waits are longer than explained waits

- Unfair waits are longer than equitable waits

- The more valuable the service, the longer the customer will wait
- Solo waits feel longer than group waits

(Source: David H. Maister, "The Psychology of Waiting Lines")

Go figure that waiting in line is now considered a science!

Friday, November 21, 2008

There are liars...and then there are liars...

Some people call them fibs depending on the extent and depth of a made-up story. A fib is considered a small, trival lie but a lie is your grand daddy of a fib as in your new and never-met Nigerian friend left you a lot of money because of the spelling of your name.

It could be said that some people make an art of lying and this is the case with competitors who recently participated in the World's Biggest Liar Contest held at the Bridge Inn located in the English Lake District.

The origin of this contest dates back to the 19th century with one Will Ritson who lived and owned a pub in Wasdale Valley and had a reputation for telling stories about the heritage of the area. Some people believed his stories while others thought they were merely tall tales. Over the years Will's tales expanded to the point where it grew into "The World's Biggest Liar" competition held every November.

On November 20, liars from all over the globe gathered together at the Bridge Inn and when all the lies had been told, John "Johnny Liar" Graham took home the honors, again, for the 7th time.

Seven times... Those are some lies he must have told! Thinking further about this, one wonders if politicians are aware of this competition... I mean, it seems like a natural but I digress.

A local farmer, he clinched the title impressing 8 judges with a story/lie detailing the experience of a trip to Scotland in a wheelie bin (definition: A wheelie bin is a type of waste container and is made in several different types-Wikipedia) that went under the sea.

By the way did I mention there's a fortune waiting for everyone if your name contains the letters a, e, i, o, u and sometimes, y. Really...

Watch the liar in action in a video clip here:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Zoo claims poo is gold

For most pet owners, pet feces more commonly known as pet poo, is a by-product of sharing their lives with non-humans. They poop. You scoop and then it's into the trash can, however, the Toronto Zoo has devised a plan whereby they are turning animal feces into fuel.

Talk about recycling.

The zoo currently shares its premises with 5,000 residents and it is proposing to erect a plant to convert animal and food waste into biogas using bacteria.

According to Wikipedia, Biogas typically refers to a gas produced by the biological breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen. Biogas originates from biogenic material and is a type of biofuel. Now you know.

"These bacteria are going to have a feast on this stuff, this feces that would have gone to waste and put the methane straight up into the air, and they're going to produce more methane quickly that we can use to shove through a generator and produce electricity," said zoo curator David Ireland. "This stuff is gold."

Read the rest of the story here:

What's more the the zoo believes it could produce enough fuel to cover its own needs as well as those of a few thousand homes. They estimate the cost of building a facility to convert the poo into fuel would be $13 million to building, it could (always that darn word!) make money back in 5 years selling the end result being electricity.

Energy produced from cow manure at an Ottawa Valley dairy farm won a $50,000 innovation award from the Ontario government last year.

So far there have been no news reports of studies concerning the conversion of cat or dog poo being converted into fuel. Now that would be innovative!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Just how old is the dead parrot sketch?

A customer enters a pet shop.
Mr. Praline: 'Ello, I wish to register a complaint.
(The owner does not respond.)
Mr. Praline: 'Ello, Miss?
Owner: What do you mean "miss"?
Mr. Praline: I'm sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint!
Owner: We're closin' for lunch.
Mr. Praline: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this parrot what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.
Owner: Oh yes, the, uh, the Norwegian Blue...What's,uh...What's wrong with it?
Mr. Praline: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'E's dead, that's what's wrong with it!
Owner: No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting.
Mr. Praline: Look, matey, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.

Monty Python fans will recognize the above ramblings as part of the "Dead Parrot" sketch and now an ancestor of the famous comedy sketch has been discovered in a joke book that dates back to 4th century Greece.

Go figure but then again, not surprising given the range of subjects on the series.

Philogelos: The Laugh Addict, which has been translated from Greek manuscripts, contains a joke where a man complains that a slave he was sold had died.

"When he was with me, he never did any such thing!" is the reply.

In the Python sketch, written 1,600 years later, the shopkeeper claims the dead parrot is "pining for the fjords".

The 265 jokes in Philogelos are attributed to Hierocles and Philagrius, about whom very little is known.

Interesting item, actually, on how old (very) jokes and themes travel throughout the ages.

The rest of the Dead Parrot Sketch for Python-ites can be found here:

Other jokes in the book include:

- Someone needled a well-known wit: "I had your wife, without paying a penny". He replied: "It's my duty as a husband to couple with such a monstrosity. What made you do it?"

- An Abderite sees a eunuch talking with a woman and asks him if she's his wife. The man responds that a eunuch is unable to have a wife.
"Ah, so she's your daughter? "

- A misogynist is attending to the burial of his wife, who has just died, when someone asks: "Who is it who rests in peace here?".
He answers: "Me, now that I'm rid of her!"

I guess you had to be there at the time...

And for people interested in finding out about the contents of the allegedly World's Oldest Joke Book, Philogelos: The Laugh Addict, try here:

Keep in mind that humor is subjective.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Why not a first family cat for the Obamas?

Just wondering as I'm sure it does many others who have far too much time on their hands, why the pet of choice for first families is a pooch. Don't get me wrong - I'm a dog lover from way back - but it strikes me that there should be equality when it comes to choosing a pet.

According to news reports, President-elect, Obama, will be adding to the family with the selection of a new puppy. See what I mean?

When it comes to the actual selection, Obama said there were two priorities: to have a "hypoallergenic" breed that sheds less hair, because daughter Malia has allergies, and to have a rescue dog.

Nice to note that the first family is setting an example by choosing a rescue dog. Be that as it may, it would be nice I think, to perhaps consider also adopting a pet cat. After all, cats are easy to care for in that they are an independent lot. For example, a cat can be left on its own with food and water and really they're quite content, being independent by nature.

Taking it a step further, why not a pet bird? Parrots are very intelligent and talented birds. There's a lot of entertainment value when visiting heads of state come to call. Think of the impact of a dancing parrot like Snowball:

Meanwhile, everybody is weighing in as to what type of dog the first family will choose and what name will they select.

Read the story here:

The article includes background information about former White House pets - but no cats. Or parrots...or rats...hamsters...snakes...

Meanwhile, the Humane Society of the U.S. has some wonderful cats waiting to be adopted should there be a "first cat" in the White House:

They also have a very informative article focusing on how to select the right cat and/or dog here:

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sarah Palin speaks to - um - Nicholas a way

So y'see...Governor Sarah Palin received a phone call from whom she believed to be French President Nicholas Sarkozy and they chatted about - let's see now... their common interest in hunting and geography with Sarkozy informing her that he can see Belgium from his home. You know - important political stuff like that.

After about 5 minutes of this fascinating exchange of information, Palin was subsequently informed that she was pranked by well-known Montreal radio pair, Marc-Antoine Audette and Sebastien Trudel who known as the Masked Avengers, who also pranked Mick Jagger among other celebrities in the past.

See photos of the pranksters here:

Meanwhile, enjoy the phone coversation here:

I did.