christmas bucket

Killer gifts

As I was leaving the grocery store, I walked past the little bank embedded in the front wall.  To give it that homey, “We’re the faceless corporate behemoth that cares!” vibe, sometimes they put out a whiteboard with a handwritten message.

This was the whiteboard message today:

bucketlist

(Author’s note: For those unfamiliar with the terms, a “Christmas list” is a list of all the gifts a child (or adult) wants Santa to bring them.  A “bucket list” a to-do list of all the experiences a person wants to achieve before they “kick the bucket” (i.e. die).  A “Christmas Bucket List”, by extrapolation, is a list of all the things and experiences a person wants have before they die on December 25th.)

I’m still trying to wrap my head around some of these items.  As I write this, today is October 29th.  Christmas is 8 weeks away.  If I found out I had two months to live, here are some of the painful conversations I would have with my friends and loved ones:

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park 11

A spooky little sale like you

(Uncharacteristically Appropriate Disclaimer: This post contains graphic references to advertising graphics for actual goods and/or services that exist and may still be available.  I don’t make them.  I don’t use them, and I don’t recommend them.  My role is to mock them.)

Parental Advisory: The following post contains images of cookies, penguins, and deceased popcorn magnates that may be too intense for young bargain hunters.

As Halloween approaches, the stores take a brief break from the 30th week of Ordinary Christmas Shopping Time to roll out all the black and orange decorations that don’t really say “Christmas”.

About a week ago, my brain’s Noticing Subsystem was alerted to a local commercial advertising “Spooky Savings” on some product or another.  I don’t remember what it was, but I vaguely remember that it was some ordinary product, rather than something Halloween-related (costumes, candy, etc.)  What I do remember was the phrase, “Spooky Savings”.

Let’s take a step back.  The term “spooky”, according to some random Internet website, means “eerie, scary; like or befitting a spook”.  Like any sane person, when I think of things that are spooky, my first thoughts are, of course, haunted amusement parks patrolled by dinosaurs (above), and Scooby-Doo (below).

Scoobydoo_Super_Spooky_Double_Storybook_t

So of course, when I searched for the term “spooky savings”, I expected to find things that were eerie, scary, and like or befitting a spook.  (Disclaimer: No, I didn’t.)  This is some of what I found:

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Spoiler alert II

CDC Spokesman:

At approximately 1230 hours on Tuesday, October 14th, sensors at the National Irresponsible Research Laboratory in Chicago reported an Expected Apocalypse Event involving a lethal biological agent.  The incident has been traced to a lone researcher who accidentally shattered a vial of zombie virus while eating his lunch.  Per standard procedure, the laboratory was instantly sealed from all outside contact, and the laboratory automated sensor system immediately began analyzing the environment for any pathogens.

Upon verification of exposure by automated and manual systems, the CDC triggered Phase One of its SHAD Protocol.  As a Phase One risk factor, the exposed researcher was immediately Shot in the Head And Decapitated by the cleanroom’s Containment Drone.  The contents of the room were subsequently incinerated at a temperature of 2000°F, followed by radiation exposure sufficient to make the surrounding area lethal to all forms of life for the next 500 years.

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Spoiler alert

CDC Spokesman:

U.S. hospitals can safely manage a patient with the zombie plague by following our recommended infection-control procedures.  It’s important that we do not let fear of the undead overtake our reasoned approach to any zombie apocalypse.  There is zero danger to the U.S. public from these two zombies or the zombie plague in general.  People who are zombies are not walking around on the street.  They are very, very dead and pretty much confined to a hospital.  Zombies do not pose a significant risk to the U.S. public.  Keep in mind that zombie plague is not something that is easily transmitted.  That’s why, generally, outbreaks dissipate.  But the key is identifying, quarantining, and isolating those who contract it and making sure practices are in place that avoid transmission, such as not biting or getting bitten by a zombie.

 – Leaked script page from the upcoming prequel filmThe Walking Dead: We’ve Got This Under Control

tradingplaces_santa1

Home invasion for the holidays

In seasonal apocalyptic cheer news, leaders of Minnesota’s drunken zombie Santa community are calling for calm after one of their members paid an early visit to a St. Paul family.

The Santa, whose name is being withheld because he had been too dead to remember it and too drunk to pronounce it, was cited for premature breaking and entering by an undead intoxicated person, and hunting teenagers out of season.

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rat regret

Rats of contrition

In rodent psychology news, rats are capable of feeling regret about their own decisions, in sharp contrast to the popular stereotype of rats as confident pests with high self-esteem.

Researchers set up a test called “Put a Bunch of Food on the Floor and Wait to See What Happens”, in which they put a bunch of food on the floor and waited to see what happened.

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Drinking to a long shelf life

I was at Starbucks this morning, and there was a sign up on the board for their new hand-made sodas (some assembly required). I’m not sure exactly what the appeal of making sodas to order could be — it’s not as if the carbon dioxide (now with TWICE the oxygen of regular carbon monoxide!) can go bad. And it’s not as if the baristi (baristovians?  baristites?) have nothing better to do with their days than lovingly hand-craft something that sits on the grocery store shelf for weeks at a time.  But I have surprisingly little hands-on experience running a coffee empire, so I’m sure there’s some logic involved. (Disclaimer: I’m not so sure there’s some logic involved.)

But with all the possible advertising hooks Starbucks could come up with (“Twice the Oxygen of Carbon Monoxide — 50% Less Lethal!” or “More Fun to Watch Being Made than Sausage!” would be my suggestions), the Starbucks near my house chose this one:

Made Right Before Your Eyes!

I find this very off-putting.  My eyes were made in 1961, lovingly hand-crafted from only the finest rods and cones.  (Disclaimer: some of them have gone bad.)  I’m not sure I want to drink soda made right before that.  Wine or cheese is one thing.  (Disclaimer: Wine and cheese are two things, unless you put port wine in your cheese.  Never put Camembert in your merlot.)  But 53-year old soda has probably gone flat by now.  Although I feel bad about the Starbucks Corporation storing soda pop for over half a century, without even asking me if I wanted it.  (Disclaimer: I probably would have ordered 7-year old root beer when I was 6, if Starbucks had had the foresight to be founded in 1967.)

(Author’s Note: This is the kind of stuff my brain pulls on me all the time.  I often wonder how the rest of humanity functions.)

rethinkrobotics-baxter-collaborative-robot

Labor pain

In violent rhetorical question news, experts at the Massive Internal Trauma (MIT) Technology Review are asking, “Industrial robots should be able to hurt their human coworkers, right?  Who’s with me on this?”

Setting limits on the level of pain a robot may “accidentally” inflict on a human is a crucial goal, according to the Automatons for Flaying, Ligatures, and Crushing Internal Organs (AFL-CIO), the nation’s largest machine union.  Existing guidance from regulators assumes that robots operate only when humans aren’t nearby, drastically reducing their opportunity to inflict pain on humans.

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funny face drink

Garden Word Salad

Earlier this week, I found myself at the local Fresh Market.  (Disclaimer: I do not often look for myself at the local Fresh Market, because the chances that I would be there are very small.)  But I was there for a reason.  Let me explain.

(Disclaimer: Unlike most stories about me behaving atypically, this story does not begin with, “So, there was this girl…”.)

I am not a connoisseur of fresh, healthy food, as you can probably tell from my dining habits. But every so often I get a hankering (more than a yen, less than a yearning.) for a band sub.  When I was a kid, back when Sleestak ruled the earth, my high school band used to sell submarines one Saturday a month, to raise funds to buy band things like ocarinas and sousaphones (as opposed to banned things like Cuban cigars and carved ivory ocarinas and sousaphones).  The band came around the week before and took orders, and the subs were delivered Saturday morning.

Band subs were the greatest sandwiches in the world.  Cold cuts and lettuce and tomato and onions and Italian dressing.   They arrived just before lunch time, infused with flavor (from the French infuse “to sit in the back of a 1978 AMC
Gremlin since 4AM until the Italian dressing soaked into the bread”).

So the other day I had a hankering for a band sub.  Having no high school band handy, I went off in search of ingredients.
The hardest ingredient to find is the tomato.  Tomatoes are almost extinct, having been crowded out of their habitat by some kind of crunchy red things that ship well.  These tomatoids creep into tomato nests at night and eat their young.  The proper, or “squooshy” tomato, survives only in hidden tomato preserves. (Disclaimer: They are not hidden on the shelf behind the raspberry preserves. I looked.)

This is how I wound up at the Fresh Market.  As I approached the entrance, I was greeted by this sign above the entrance:

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I smiled wistfully (from the German wistful “as much as you can comfortably put in a wist”), knowing that they would in fact be seeing me soon.  Then I stepped inside to be seen.

I was immediately surrounded by a dizzying array of foods and food byproducts.  But as I entered the produce section, I began to realize that something was awry (more than afoot, less than amiss).  Rather than the normal foods they sell in my regular supermarket, Fresh Market is a leading retailer of GMOs (Grammatically Modified Organisms).  Here’s what I mean:

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poker hands

Hands on deck

With my birthday now past, I bring to an end my 53rd (or Joker) year.

In my 54th year, I have decided to move beyond Jokering to the next card in the deck of life, so I plan to devote my next year to the ranking of hands:

Full House

Full-House

beats Two of a Kind

FRONT: MARY KATE OLSEN, ASHLEY OLSEN / BACK: CHRISTOPHER SIEBER, SALLY WHEELER

which beats Two of a Kind.

two travolta

Ranch hands

ranchHands_group

outrank jazz hands.

jazzhands

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