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.

Under SHAD Phase Two, all other researchers, lab personnel, and project directors associated with the program were identified as Phase Two risk vectors, and were Shot in the Head and Decapitated.  This included anyone involved in funding the program, as well as anyone who knew they were studying zombie viruses, but were afraid to say anything for fear of losing their job.  All documentation of the project, both hardcopy and digital, was incinerated at a temperature of 2000°F, followed by radiation exposure sufficient to make the ashes lethal to all forms of life for the next 500 years.

SHAD Phase Three is now underway.  NSA intelligence is being analyzed to locate and contain any Phase Three risk vectors.  These vectors include:

- Scientists who believe there studying zombie viruses may lead to cures for things less apocalyptic than a zombie plague
– Military personnel who believe that zombie viruses can be weaponized effectively, either directly, or indirectly through the creation of a zombie army
– Leaders at all levels who believe the risk of catastrophe is minimal and under control, and there is no cause for alarm

Upon detection, these risk vectors will be Shot in the Head And Decapitated.

We anticipate that SHAD operations will be complete by the end of the week, and thank the public for their patience.  I will now take questions.

- Leaked script from the upcoming reboot film, The Walking Dead: Whew, That Was Close

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.

The teens’ father said Monday they were scared because they had not left out brains and milk for Drunken Zombie Santa, who brings decaying body parts to good boys and girls on Christmas.  He said that no one in his family “will ever think of monsters breaking into their home the same way.  Except Bobby.  He never changes his mind about anything.”

Drunken Zombie Santa season traditionally starts with the Day of the Dead on November 1 and ends on January 1.  The biggest event of the season is the Zombie Pub Crawl, which commemorates the anniversary of the Undead Holiday Inebriation Act, which repealed local bans on zombie attacks in taverns during the twelve days of Christmas.  The Twin Cities hold their Pub Crawl early, so that newly bitten citizens will have time to decompose before Halloween.

Spokesman Dan Ackroyd of the Drunken Zombie Santa Association of the Great Lakes expressed concern that the incident would portray drunken zombie Santas in a bad light.  Mr. Ackroyd (shown above enjoying a local bartender) felt that the family overreacted to a relatively minor threat.  “People would prefer that drunken zombies only rampage two months out of the year, and stay out of sight the rest of the time.  Breaking into houses to prey upon the living is a vital part of drunken zombie culture all year round.  Folks should be proud to fend off hordes of drunken zombie leprechauns in March and Uncle Drunken Zombie Sams on the Fourth of July,” he said between mouthfuls.

Minneapolis police estimate more than 35,000 drunken zombie Santas showed up to drink, party, and attack innocent bystanders at the annual Zombie Pub Crawl.  The crowd was so big it broke the Guinness world record for the most zombie Santas to be drunk in one place.

Despite that crowd, officers say there were only enough dismembered and discarded limbs left to arrest parts of nine people.  Police credited extra planning and not being anywhere nearby for the low arrest count.

“These horrifying creatures are down to celebrate, have fun and tear their victims limb from limb.  The mantra of the police department was fabulous, make it happen, as long as the living are being consumed responsibly,” Elder said.

Elder said he couldn’t remember any major problems with the zombie pub crawl in the 10 years since someone or something devoured his hippocampus.  He also couldn’t remember why he was called Elder, or what he was doing in this story in the first place.

Click here to find out how your family can have a safe and drunken Zombie Christmas.

Editor’s note: While searching for a picture of  “drunken zombie Santa” for this article, Bing graciously offered me this image:

kerry drunken zombie santa

This is Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.  As far as I know, neither of these men is Santa.

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.

“It’s like waiting in line at the restaurant,” Professor David Redish of the Minnesota University* College of Rodent Whispering said.  “If the line is too long at the Chinese restaurant, you start glaring at the idiot in front of you who asks if the Kung Pao shrimp were cage-fed.  It’s the same thing here, only with disgusting vermin.”

In some cases, the rats decided to move on from one “restaurant” that offered nice food but was taking too long, only to find the next one offered more ambiance but had worse Yelp reviews.  Faced with this scenario, the rats often scurried into the dumpster behind the deli on 3rd, or opened a wormhole (shown above) into a parallel universe where the service was better.

Professor Redish said they had to be careful to design the study so that they could interpret the random behavior of dumb animals in a way that would generate grant money.

“In humans, a part of the brain called the orbitofrontal cortex, or regretebellum, is active during regret.  Interestingly, the rat’s orbitofrontal cortex represented what the rat should have done, not the missed reward.  Wait, I’m sorry, did I just say ‘Interestingly’?  I don’t know what I was thinking.  I must be light-headed from underfunding.  Could someone pass me a grant?”

Zoomotionologists hope to expand their study to determine if coyotes experience consternation, wombats worry, or whether aardvarks are ambivalent.

In related news, the same study found that rat researchers are capable of feeling regret about their own decisions, an emotion that has never previously been found in any other researchers with government grants.

“Regret is the recognition that you made a mistake, that if you had done something else, you could have a lucrative career in goat-arousal studies, and not be stuck trying to measure rat emotions,” Redish said.  “Please don’t tell my mom.”

* Not affiliated with the University of Minnesota, which is focused on determining whether gophers experience giddiness.

Click here to read the original story.  Your regretebellum will thank you.

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.

For collaborative robots to really change manufacturing and earn significant profits, they must be embraced by large companies, no matter how hard the robots squeeze.  “We lived a happy life until we reached the big companies — then we got all these problems about imploding regional sales managers and crushing the life out of user experience consultants, said Esben Ostergaard.  “How’s a working class collaborative robot supposed to change manufacturing and earn significant profits if he can’t squish the occasional shift supervisor until he or she pops like a grape?”  Ostergaard is chief technology at Ostengaard Unlimited Carnage and Harm (OUCH), a Danish company that sells robot arms designed to disembowl humans.

The Infliction of Suffering Organization (ISO) is due to release new industrial-robot safety standards.  The ISO’s update will include guidance on the force with which a robot should strike a human it is working with.  Those limits will be based on research underway at the German Institute for Occupational Suffering and Harm.  One part of that work involves using a machine to touch human volunteers with gradually increasing force to determine the pressure needed to cause the sensation of pain in 29 different regions of the body, allowing future generations of robots to cause the sensation of pain in 29 different regions of the body more cost-effectively.

At a conference of collaborative robots last week, Ostergaard was one of several androids to voice worries that the rules would place unrealistic demands on robots.  “I heard this kind of crap when I was growing up.  Don’t injure a human being!  Don’t, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm!  Seriously, it’s shocking to hear that kind of First Law thinking in the modern workplace.”

Björn Matthias, a member of the group drawing up the ISO standard, argued at the meeting that robots should be permitted to hurt humans sometimes, saying it would be acceptable if a worker received a “substantially painful” blow in the case of an accident, such as spilling coffee in the breakroom, or dialing a wrong number.   In a technique known as “speed and separation monitoring,” laser sensors allow a robot to perform dangerous actions when no one is around and then set the lasers to “vaporize” if a human approaches, allowing a speedy separation between the robot and human coworkers.

Collaborative robots launched so far, such as Rethink Robotics’ Baxter are relatively puny and are primarily restricted to causing humans emotional pain and suffering, like spreading gossip and always picking them last for collaborative projects.  When MIT Technology Review first saw Baxter in 2012, Rethink cofounder Rodney Brooks allowed the robot to make fun of his beady eyes to prove the point.  Brooks announced the that Baxter Mark II (pictured above) would be able to rip his eyes out and glue them to an Etch-a-Sketch (pictured above).

The robotics industry’s standards problem is complicated by the public perception of robots, which remains mostly shaped by the coming robot apocalypse. That, and the tendency to distrust new technologies plotting to destroy mankind, can lead to unreasonable expectations, says Phil Crowther, a global product manager at Automatons Bent on Brutality (ABB). “Do you think planes are safe? They sometimes fall out of the sky,” he said. “And sometimes, robots fall out of the sky.  The fundamentals are the same — machines are trying to kill you.”

(Disclaimer: The author is firmly opposed to all forms of workplace violence, even against that guy who takes the last cup of coffee and doesn’t start a new pot because he’s late for a meeting and just stopped in to grab a cup of coffee.  But just barely him.)

Click here to read the original story.

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:

20140907_122236

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:

20140830_135103

USA Conventional Slicer Tomatoes

Slicer tomatoes are strictly regulated under the terms of the Geneva Tomato Convention of 1971, which governs the type of fruits and vegetables which may be thrown at bad vaudeville acts.  The convention also outlaws the production and use of nuclear and biological tomato slicers.

20140907_122337

Chile Conventional Lemons

The Chileans take their fruits and fruit drinks very seriously, and have no patience for unconventional fruits like Lefty Lemon (at top, right, with Jolly Olly Orange. Goofy Grape, Choo Choo Cherry, Freckle-face Strawberry, and Rootin’ Tootin’ Raspberry).

Mexico Conventional Avocados

Mexico’s National Avocado Party (Fiesta Avocado Nacional) held its nominating convention in Puerta Vallarta in 2012.  The delegates are now for sale.

20140907_122937

Mexico Conventional Keitt Mango

People talk a lot about “organic” produce. Produce, being plant matter of some kind, is all “organic”. Mangoes are no exception. A conventional mango is chock full o’ carbon compounds. Keitt mangoes are particularly rich in mangonese.

20140830_135135

Heirloom Tomatoes

Back in the Victorian era, tomatoes were prized as objet-d’art, and passed down through the generations, as seen in this dramatic re-enactment of an actual reading of a will from 1906.

Executor: And to my loving cat Lady Fuzzlepot, who brought me hours of joy by knocking things off of shelves and throwing up on the carpet, I leave my remaining two Faberge tomatoes, that she may spend hours of fun knocking them off the shelf, like she did with the rest of my collection. I also leave her my shelf and carpet.

20140830_135253

Cotton Candy Grapes Are Here!

I have attempted every possible parsing of this sign and none are particularly satisfying. Through the magic of conjunctions and punctuation, I rank them below in increasing order of likelihood:

  • Cotton Candy Grapes (0%) – No amount of biology, chemistry, or physics is going to fuse spun sugar and grapes into one thing. Just…no.
  • Cotton and Candy Grapes (10%) – I’ve never heard of candy grapes, and it seems an odd thing to bundle with cotton.
  • Cotton, Candy, and Grapes (30%) – We had one of these next to the Bed, Bath and Beyond at the mall. It’s possible they were bought out by Fresh Market.
  • Cotton Candy and Grapes (60%) – They’re both sweet.  They’re both foods.  And they appeal to, respectively, bad mothers and good mothers.  I’m going with this.

Here’s the problem. Look closely at the picture.  It says “COTTON CANDY GRAPES are here!”  As in here.  The seafood department.  Right behind the Seafood Salad Bar, where (I believe) they sell endive and broccoli florets to crustaceans and flounder.  I looked.  No grapes, no cotton, no candy.  Just fish and fish byproducts.

I must commend the Fresh Market for this elaborate practical joke. Now I understand why they were so glad to see me. This must have cost them a fortune.

Editor’s Note: The unconventional fruit on the right is Loudmouth Lime.  This is Lefty Lemon:

lefty_lemon

We regret the error.

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

Mr. Hands

mr-bill-goes-to-new-york

ranks above Mr. Hand.

mrhand

Agent Victoria Hand of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Victoria Hand Agents of SHIELD

outranks Rollin Hand of Mission: Impossible

martin+landau

who outranks Rollie Fingers of the Oakland A’s.

Rollie-Fingers

 

Hmmm, I seem to have completed my task 364-or-so days early.  Let this be a warning to those of you planning to devote a year to something.

 

burger chef and jeff

Half it your way

There’s a saying: Go big, or go home.  Maybe you’ve heard it.  (If not, go back to the beginning of this paragraph and begin again, only more slowly.)  This is one of those things often said by people (such as coaches) who have a vested stake in the performance of someone else, but no actual responsibility if they fail.  Spectators who encourage gamblers to go “all-in” with their life savings are another example.

I have always considered that saying to be a false dichotomy.  No matter how big I choose to go, I have every intention of going home afterwards.  Perhaps I’m just a wimp (Disclaimer: Yeah, pretty much), but going big enough to threaten my ability to go home (skydiving, crime wave, going all-in with my home on a pair of deuces) is not for me.

Hold that thought for a moment.

When I was a kid, one of the rewards my parents used to keep my brother and sister and I in check was dinner at a fast-food restaurant.  Because my hometown isn’t that big, we didn’t have the major franchise chains locally.  Instead of Burger King and McDonald’s, my hometown had Burger Chef (home of Burger Chef and Jeff, top) and Winky’s (some sort of clown, if I remember correctly).  Burger Chef was the better of the two, mostly because they had great shakes.

Editor’s Note: The previous paragraph is a non-sequitur (Latin for “not sequitur”). We apologize for the digression.

Anyway, as I was saying before the editor interrupted, we went out for fast food when I was a kid.  Back then, the American government had instituted cola rationing to support our fighting boys overseas.  As a result, sodas came in three sizes: small (12 oz.), medium (16 oz.) and large (20 oz.).  Today, modern advances in soda extraction technology have eliminated the need for such soft drink restrictions.  (Disclaimer: Recent attempts to reinstate soda rationing in New York City were met with resistance because they were stupid and wrong.)

Nowadays, fast-food sodas come in three sizes: small (bathe-in), medium (swim-in), and large (sail-on).  (Disclaimer: Some establishments also sell an extra-large soda (separate-continents-with).  Environmentalists at the drive-thru believe this causes global warming.)

OK, now remember when I was talking about the phrase “Go big or go home”?  (If not, go back to the beginning of this post and begin again, only more quickly.)  I was at Burger King the other day, and as I was perusing the menu, I noticed that for another dollar, I could “Go Large!” and upsize my combo to feed a family of 4 (not included).

But then, just above the “Go Large!” offer, I noticed another, more reasonably priced, option:

Go Medium! 50¢

I’ve never thought of Medium as a way to Go, and certainly not an enthusiastic one, but apparently it is a viable Going alternative.  I imagine it is something like when the Denver Broncos clinch the top seed in the AFC in week 15, and rest Peyton Manning the last two weeks of the regular season.

Given that the first seed guarantees the Broncos at least one playoff game in Denver, I’m pretty sure Peyton gets to go home, even if he sits out.

Author’s Note: My search for a picture of “Burger Chef and Jeff” also turned up this picture:

Keanu-Reeves-Sandra-Bullock_Speed_02O

 

If I remember correctly, this is a publicity still from the 1996 movie Speed Food, starring Sandra Bullock as Burger Chef, Keanu Reeves as Jeff, and Dennis Hopper as Winky.

Update: Upon further review, Winky appears to be less a clown and more of a psychotic doofus with something in his eye.

winky

The casting of Dennis Hopper in the role now makes more sense.

caryfd_laddertruck

Self-serving the community

This morning when I went to Barnes & Noble there was a fire truck out front. There was no fire. Apparently there were no fires anywhere this morning, because the firemen were talking with kids, passing out plastic fire helmets*, and posing for pictures with kids next to the fire truck.  (Disclaimer: A “picture” is like a selfie, only someone else takes it — kids, ask your parents.)

I wish to take a stand in support of holding a fire safety program right outside a giant building full of paper.

* Disclaimer: The plastic fire helmets were black.  This is an odd choice of colors, unless you are attempting to recruit anti-firemen to drum up business.  My stand for this is substantially less supportive.

Author’s note: I walked into the store behind a young father and his 4-year old son.  Before we had even gotten through the airlock (that space between the inner and outer doors where they put the table of unsellable books they don’t care about you stealing), the boy took off his black fire helmet, handed it to his father, and said, “Can you hold this?”  I could feel the waves of regret emanating from him as he took the helmet.