Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. And not just because of all the cool Things under the tree. Sappy as it sounds, I love our family traditions. We do the usual stuff like stringing popcorn garland for the tree, watching It's A Wonderful Life, hanging stockings and eating an enormous feast with the extended family.
We also have a few non-traditional traditions. On Christmas Eve night we take all the kids out go-carting and then stop for fast food, but not for us, for Santa. My oldest nephew dreamed up the idea. He said Santa probably gets tired of cookies and milk. Wouldn't he like a juicy hamburger and frosty cold Coke instead?
It might seem odd to you, but as non-traditional traditions go, ours aren't so weird. Check out these strange traditions from other parts of the world:
Catalonians include the Caganer, a small figure of a pooping man, in their nativity scenes.
In Ukraine, they don' t decorate trees with fancy lights and tinsel. Instead, they decorate with an artificial spider and webbing. (I like this one - put your old Halloween decorations to work!)
In the U.S., kids get coal in their stockings when they don't behave. In Austria, a Christmas devil called Krampus is said to beat naughty kids with branches.
Of course, all Things poop being sort of my Thing, I like the Caganer from Catalonia. I also like the idea of the spider tree - what a great way to recycle and re-use your Halloween decorations. I think I'll pass on meeting up with the Krampus. I think I've been good this year, but why take chances?
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. See you next week,
Robert Scott was arrested and booked on obscenity charges by police in Kenner, Louisiana after trying to pick up a woman who sat outside her hotel eating lunch. The 78-year-old man approached the young woman, told her she looked like a model, and offered to take her out.
She politely declined, but the elderly gentleman was not deterred. He then offered, among other Things, to become her "sugar daddy". As the man's comments turned more and more explicit, the woman became offended and flatly told him to "get out of her face".
Ever persistent, the man then dropped his pants and underwear "to his feet", exposing his behind to her as she tried to eat. According to authorities, two other women reported similar encounters with the mooning man near the same hotel. He was taken into custody by the Kenner Police Department at the hotel and his bond was set at $5,000.
The moral of the story? If a woman tells you to get out of her face, don't stick your butt in it. The most you'll get out of it is a trip to jail, a big bail bill and probably a fine. But what you won't get is the girl.
Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking said this week that humans might be making a huge mistake by trying to make 'first contact' with alien species. Hawking is part of the "Breakthrough Listen" project. It's goal is to develop super sensitive radio receivers to listen in on alien civilizations. If they're there.
But there's another project called Breakthrough Message. It aims to create a transmission "representative of humanity and planet Earth" to send to an extraterrestrial civilization. They pledge "...not to transmit any message until there has been a global debate at high levels of science and politics on the risks and rewards of contacting advanced civilizations".
Professor Hawking thinks that's a seriously bad idea. He wants to eavesdrop on alien civilizations, but stay out of the conversation. In his mind, it's in our best interest to keep our heads down and our mouths shut. He says he worries that advanced aliens “will be vastly more powerful and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria.”
Some people think it might be dangerous even to listen to an alien message. It's possible it could be an encoded message like a computer virus that, once in our minds, could kill us. Or worse.
But the whole Thing might be a moot point. We've been broadcasting everyThing from I Love Lucy to Star Trek into the cosmos for decades. If someone is out there listening, it's probably too late to shut up now.
An Artificial Intelligence (AI) robot named Torobo-kun failed the entrance exams for Tokyo University for the fourth time last week. Here's Torobo-kun working on the exam, which consisted of eight tests covering five different subjects.
The robot scored well on its history and physics exams, but his English scores were, well, pretty awful. Which shows us that AI is still behind the curve when it comes to Things like context and interpretation, which are critical language skills.
Torobo-kun sored 525 out of a possible 950, which, any human student would tell the robot, is a pretty respectable showing. Though it wasn't enough to make the cut at one of the top-ranked schools in Asia, the AI robot could have chosen from among about 500 other colleges or universities in Japan.
But his creators claim that after four years of hard work, Torobo-kun has barely managed to improve his test scores so now it must "accept defeat and work at a 'real job'".
I feel bad for Torobo-kun. But this might be a good Thing for the poor robot. At least it doesn't have to study for any more exams!
I love writing about dumb Things criminals do to get themselves caught and subsequently ridiculed mercilessly by the press, Internet trolls, and of course bloggers like me. Remember this paranoid pair who got themselves busted with 20 pounds of pot in Idaho? Or the nerdy burglar who couldn't resist posting the clever steps he took to evade police - complete with geotags - on Snapchat? Pretty dumb, right? Well, meet Raymond Brooks of Youngstown, Ohio.
Mr. Brooks was pulled over last month after he cut off a police officer in traffic. The local paper reported that Brooks was "acting nervous and gave police permission to search his car." The search turned up a 9mm ammunition clip under a loose cup holder cover. The CD player also looked a bit loose, so police removed it from the dashboard. Behind it was a loaded handgun with an extended magazine.
Oh, but it gets better. Turns out Brooks is a convicted felon and therefore not allowed to possess a firearm. At all. So police arrested him. He was charged with "improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle and being a felon in possession of a firearm".
Still it gets even better. On the way to the jail, Brooks asked if he could get his gun back. On the way to the jail! According to the local paper, a response from police "was not recorded". My guess is if it had been recorded, the response would have been uproarious laughter.
I don't know about you, but I'm tired of the whole political Thing this year. I vote, yes. I pay attention, yes. I even volunteer if I think there's a good reason to lend my time and energy to an issue or a candidate.
After all we've been through this year, I think most of us are sick of all the scandals, the childish arguing, the candidates (both sides) avoiding the issues and the non-stop, day-and-night, back-to-back political ads. But I have some good news: it's almost over. I can tell because all of our political Things are on sale.
I just want to go to the polls, cast my vote and wait for the end of this rancorous season. Sure, I hope Things turn out the way I want them to, but if they don't...well...that's part of living in a democracy, right?
Maybe we sometimes forget the beauty of a system in which power changes hands in a peaceful, civilized way. Well, somewhat civilized. The other night my family was arguing all Things political. There was a bit of yelling. A few threats to leave the country if one side or the other doesn't 'get their way'. And everyone was trying to drag me into the fray.
But I refused to take the bait. I just said, "I'll live by whatever the voters decide. Isn't that what America is all about?"
Native American Indians knew that the marijuana plant was powerful medicine. They used it for sacred rituals and they also used it for healing. According to the history of cannabis, both written and passed down through generations, American Indian tribes used the plant for everything from diarrhea to sleep to pain relief.
Now 25 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use. Next month, nine more states will ask voters to approve legalization of the plant for either medical or recreational use.
As election day nears, a "new customer base" for the medicinal qualities of pot was revealed in the New York Times: your pets. According to the report, dogs and cats suffer from many of the same afflictions as their human counterparts, many of which are cured or relieved with cannabis. It's been shown effective in both humans and pets for seizures, anxiety, arthritis and inflammatory states such as arthritis.
WARNING: That doesn't mean you should 'smoke up' your dog. In fact, the psychoactive THC in marijuana is toxic to dogs. However, the non-psychoactive chemical CBD, which has been shown to prevent seizures in young children, is perfectly safe. In fact, it seems to work just as well in pets as it does in people.
I don't know what to think of all of this, but like most pet owners, I would do anyThing for my dog Bosco. So if it works, I'm for it. But I'm glad Bosco is a robust, healthy beast. He only visits the vet for his routine checkups or - most frequently - when he's eaten someThing he wasn't supposed to. By all accounts, medical marijuana wouldn't cure that.