Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hunger And Hope [BloggersUnite]

  • Sometimes the best way to begin is with a fact. Okay, here's one:

    In the year 2004, it was estimated that farming across the Earth already produces enough food to feed everyone on the planet - six billion, at that time. Indeed, the same statement added that twice that number - 12 billion - could be fed.

    -United Nations Food And Agricultural Organization

    Let your head try to wrap around that for a moment. We already have the resources that, if properly distributed, would once and for all end world hunger. Despite this, the UN estimates that 923-million people are hungry worldwide.

    Another fact:

    It's estimated that a person dies every second of every day from hunger, or diseases made worse by undernourishment. One in five of those who die is a child. That works out to 4,000 people an hour, 100,000 a day, 36 million people a year. More than half the deaths on Earth in a year can be attributed to hunger.

    - United Nations Food And Agricultural Organization

    Enough information for you? Well, how about a quote:

    "...[H]ope comes from just standing up"
    -Studs Terkel

    It's time to stand up. Stand up and work for those who are hungry. Yes, Big Government must be a part of the ultimate solution. But four thousand people this hour alone can't wait.

Below are links to a few groups that are fighting world hunger today. Look them over, then get involved if you wish. But remember that hunger may live up the street from you, or in the next block, or across the street from your best friend [then again, it could be your best friend...]. You probably know of groups near you that are helping to deal with hunger in your area. Support them as well, in body or spirit.

There are certainly more groups than these. Find one [or more], then go to work...

-Mike Riley

Thursday, April 16, 2009


One thing that Anybody who's ever looked into such things can tell you, is that every day of the year has one or more events commemorated by it [for instance, according to the Mayan calendar pictured at left, December 20th, 2012 is a day that should be devoted to "serene contemplation of birds - their grace and calmness, even at times of difficult winds". The next day is "Run Around like A Chicken Whose Head Has Been Cut Off Day"]. The degree of ridiculousness attached to so many commemorations depends, in part, on how silly you find the event or group being celebrated. Which is an incredibly convoluted way [the only way I do things] to bring up the fact that today, April 16th, is Blog Reader Appreciation Day.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first formal celebration of you at the other end of the Blogosphere. Personally, I think it's more than a little overdue. I can only speak for myself, but I'd at least like to think these little observations aren't just being filed away in a particularly dark corner of the Internet, only to be perused when I become President [or, more likely, when I become one of those unknown people who start firing rifles in a mall for no known reason]. The point is, I'd guess every blogger wants his/her words to be read, and enjoyed, by someone, somewhere, in the world. Hopefully, that someone is you.

While we're sharing with each other, Dear Reader, a favor; I don't expect it every time, and it's never a condition of reading this blog, but could you please leave a comment now and then, even if it's of the "You suck worse than anybody" variety? It's nice to be able to put a name, or maybe a face, to the people who actually take the time to stop by [especially helpful when compiling a list of malls to senselessly fire rifles in...].

The person who put Blog Reader Appreciation Day together suggests that posts on this day "thank and celebrate readers with special tributes...contests, and give-aways". I'll be brutally honest; I don't have much to give away. But here are a few links to sites that I've enjoyed:

-Free Albums Galore - A great site to find free and legal music to download. You probably won't know most of the artists. But discovering new music is frequently a joy in itself.

-All My Faves - You could do worse than using this as a start page. Quick links to many of the Internet's favorite stops, along with weekly surprises and new games. A surprisingly good time-waster. - Exploring maven Aibek looks for cool websites, software, and other unique Internet freebies. Then he posts them daily. Need a particular program? You may just find it here.

Sorry there isn't more. But you're probably aware of the major players in such matters. These are some names you may not know.

Before I go, a special thanks to my "followers". You ladies have put up with a lot, more than most people should have to, and I do appreciate it. If I ever learn how, I'll become your follower, too. Thanks also to my regular readers [as always, you know who you are]. And, if you've just discovered this blog,

-Mike Riley [who also writes the blog lab, Challenging The Thunder, and Coming Out Of The Candy Store. Thanks for reading them, also]

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dog Daze

If there's one thing that drives any resident of the White House absolutely bonkers, it's the fact that there are no secrets at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. So, despite the Obama Administration's best efforts, and a planned revelatory press conference scheduled for tomorrow [Tuesday], no one should be surprised that one of the bigger questions about the still-new President's home staff has already been answered, albeit unofficially; namely, the identity of the breed of the White House dog.

A quick review: on Election Night, President-Elect Obama promised in his acceptance speech that First Daughters Malia and Sasha would receive a dog when they moved into the Presidential mansion [presumably a reward for good behavior during the campaign. At the time, the promise of another First Dog in the White House drew as many headlines as the oft-repeated rumor that Malia and Sasha would be guest-starring in an episode of Hannah Montana]. Complicating the choice; one of the Obama children [I honestly forget which one] has allergy issues. This, of course, would limit the number of breeds that could be considered.

Public opinion was split on what the national [and international] media quickly named the Dog Question: the President said he was leaning towards "a mutt, like [himself]". Critics pointed out that a non-purebred puppy would be beneath the dignity of the nation's highest office. As the debate raged on, the business of America, already crippled by the on-going financial crisis, ground to a virtual halt.Finally, the Administration realized that the Dog Question needed resolution, and fast.It sprang into action.

The first step was the creation of an internal think-tank, called the Office of Dog Selection, Vetting [no one wanted to bring a scandal-ridden canine into the still-popular Obama White House], and Acquisition (ODSVA). Following the long-time Washington tradition that the most undesirable jobs go to one man, Vice-President Joe Biden was quickly appointed head of the new office [a Democratic insider noted, "Let's face it, he's got the time"]. Biden's first appointments to ODSVA included:
Cesar Millan - TV's "Dog Whisperer"...

Lassie - America's best-known dog [as well as America's best known female impersonator, since Lassie is always portrayed by a male dog; Biden received wide praise for this master-stroke, including both Middle America and the transvestite communities in a single choice], and, in a nod to bipartisanship...

Ron Paul - failed Republican candidate for President in the 2008 election ["Let's face it", one GOP insider noted, "he's got the time"].

The ODSVA was quickly established in a former missile silo in South Dakota. A series of rapid-fire meetings soon produced a "short list" of candidates [leaked to me by a former high school classmate now working in the State Department; sorry I can't be more specific than that]:

Fifi- a toy poodle. Met the hypoallergenic problem, but fell short on the "image" issue [reportedly, even Lassie turned "paws down" on her];

Shredder - a pit bull. Got surprisingly high marks from the Secret Service, but reportedly "unnerved" one of the Obama children;

Scoobie-Doo - iconic cartoon character. Actually went over quite well with the Obamas, but difficulties with the 3-D generation technology [especially outdoors] made his selection problematic, at best. In an effort to save the choice, White House officials reportedly experimented with...

an actor, dressed as Scoobie-Doo - unfortunately, he reportedly "creeped out" one of the Obamas [not the children, interestingly enough]. Perhaps it was his demand for "cigarette breaks" every two hours?

Finally, the committee decided on:
Bo - a Portuguese Water Dog. Reportedly offered by ailing Democratic patriarch Edward M. Kennedy [whose switch from supporting Hillary Clinton to Obama in the Presidential election may have helped push the President "over the top" in the campaign. A suggestion by the Secretary of State to gift Kennedy with "Shredder" was rejected as "mean-spirited" by the ODSVA].

At any rate, the new First Dog will be officially introduced sometime Tuesday. Don't say this blog didn't try to give you the news before it happened...

-Mike Riley

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Messing With House's Head

Regular visitors to this blog [which reaches its 150th post with this entry] know that I am quite the fan of the TV series House M.D. [as opposed to Doogie Howser, MD]. House being the kind of show it is, it frequently explores life-and-death issues in dramatic and unexpected ways. This past week, death came in an unexpected way to the doctors' side of the equation, with the unexpected suicide of series regular "Dr. Lawrence Kutner" [Kai Penn].

Well, first of all, there had been clues. As someone cagily pointed out in a "Comments" section on one of many blogs to discuss the event, "Kutner" was the only member of "House"'s new team not to have his private life examined. Through most of this season, Hugh Laurie has spoken in interviews of a "cataclysmic" event that would change the show's direction [indeed, in an article in last Sunday's Parade Magazine, he discussed his own struggle with depression, and mentioned the show's association with the National Alliance on Mental Illness]. Further, Kai Penn's exit isn't for one of the typical reasons that cause TV death [money issues, going on to movies, "creative differences"]. No, he's decided to take a medium-level job in the Obama Administration, working on liaisons between the White House and the entertainment community; Penn has been interested in politics for some time, and worked on the Obama election team, when time allowed. He says his stay in DC is of "uncertain" length, but plans an eventual return to acting.

Such unexpected changes on a TV series are sometimes called "jumping the shark" [from an episode of "Happy Days" where Fonzie did just that]; I think it's a bit premature to call Kutner's suicide another jump. First of all, foreshadowed or not, a suicide is always an unexpected, tragic event. Sadly, I would guess most of you reading this have an experience with a friend's or relative's suicide [I had a friend from high school kill himself the summer after graduation; one of my uncles also took his own life]. Certainly, it was a dramatic bombshell; such unexpected events were part of the myths and legends of every culture, and remain so to this day. Was the House audience emotionally exploited by it? Of course. By the act of suspending disbelief, we set ourselves up for such shocks. It's part of getting involved in an on-going story, caring about the people whose fictional lives we follow.
For what it's worth, I think the real "shark jumping" moment this season is yet to come; the widely-rumored consummation of the House - Cuddy relationship. Such relieving of sexual tension never works out; anybody old enough to remember Moonlighting, a show that was more consistently "out there" than House [or just about any other TV series ever aired on American broadcast TV, for that matter] will tell you they could have struck the sets after "Addie" and "Maddie" did The Big Nasty.

The Good Development from all this [and there is one] is the potential for character growth on the part of Dr House: yes, he will no doubt remain the "Sherlock Holmes" of medicine, solving the unsolvable cases. But even Holmes failed on a few occasions [so has House, but not so much lately]. Now he'll be confronted with resolving an act that, most likely, is unresolvable. The man with all the answers has a pounding question in the back of his head, and, unless and until he can find an answer, he won't be able to make it stop. We await future developments...
A final point; after Fonzie jumped that shark on water skis [Fonzie, not the shark], Happy Days went on to a further 100 episodes. Whether they were as good as what preceded them is a matter of opinion, but, if memory serves me right, it remained a top 10 - rated show for most of that time. Will House hold its position as one of TV's most fascinating hours? Time will tell.
-Mike Riley

Monday, April 6, 2009

Miss Scarlet, In The Bedroom, With A Tube Of Toothpaste

Not everyone is good at solving them, but most people seem to enjoy watching, or reading, or acting out, a good mystery. There's a beaut of one currently under investigation in Germany's capitol city, Berlin. A man there was reportedly spotted trying to leave a supermarket with a suspicious bulge under his coat. When a store employee grabbed him, 68 tubes of toothpaste fell to the floor. The thwarted thief punched the clerk, and in the confusion made his escape. His whereabouts, according to Reuters, remain a mystery. But far from the only one.

For instance, what does someone do with 68 tubes of toothpaste? Is he planning a massive "brushing" party? Could he be a dentist, stocking up to give free tubes to his patients? Or is there some darker purpose to his theft?

Before you laugh that theory off, consider a recent episode of the frighteningly-popular TV series, "CSI"; while performing an autopsy on a woman who had died of unknown causes, a "minty odor" was discovered in her stomach, along with an unknown green substance. Turned out the green stuff was fluoride toothpaste. The criminologists first theorized that the woman's husband had attempted a fairly clever crime with an unlikely murder weapon. One of the "experts" pointed out that fluoride toothpaste, consumed in large enough quantities, could be fatal [it is known that, before fluoride's tooth-preservation qualities were discovered at the end of World War II, it was principally used in rat poison and other vermin-exterminating products]. It came out during the episode that the woman in question [a former dental assistant] had an ulcer, causing damage to the stomach lining that would somehow increase the risks. It was estimated that two tubes of fluoride toothpaste [14 oz. or so each] would be enough to kill an adult. (For the record, the woman decided to kill herself, and set up an incredibly difficult suicide method that involved her handcuffing herself to the marital bed [it was bondage night], swallowing the fatal tubes of toothpaste, then undergoing what was described as an excruciatingly-painful death. All this, we add, to frame her husband for the murder.)

So, is there anything to this theory? Well, maybe. After running a Google Search [how else would you research it?], the mainstream site WebMD had nothing on the issue, but there were more than a few other sites willing to chime in on the matter. And almost all of them caution their readers to avoid fluoride [admittedly, most of them advised parents to strictly monitor how their children used fluoride in toothpaste and drinking water; a few, however, expressed the view that fluoride was unsafe for any one. One site mentioned the "two tubes will kill an adult" ratio used in the TV program]. Don't get me wrong; I respect WebMD, but I found out about the link between artificial sweeteners and nerve damage on The 700 Club, a good year before it crossed over to mainstream media. If you need a new issue to worry about, I'm glad to help.
-Mike Riley