Thursday, February 2, 2012


Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric and whimsical observations about the absurdities of contemporary life:
  • I didn't have an imaginary friend when I was a kid.  I had an imaginary bully!
  • The NFL playoffs brought back some painful memories about high school:  Our team was so bad that the coin toss was usually intercepted!
  • Jim's Faded Phrase of The Week:  "Dating the stork."
  • Is there anything more useless than a Wal-Mart greeter?  How does Target survive without them?
  • As a public service and a great time-saver, here is Jim's "Privacy Notices Made Simple":
  • We can do anything we want, and you can't do anything about it, unless your battery of attorneys is bigger than ours.  Thank you and get lost.
  • "There are many more Italian-American CPAs than hit men, not that I want to watch a cable TV series about accountants."-- Author Bill Tonelli to Tom Santopietro, author of "The Godfather Effect," in the Wall Street Journal.
  • Speaking of Italians, best headline of the year so far in the fabled New York Post (over a picture of the beleaguered captain of the ill-fated cruise ship Costa Concordia):  "Chicken of the Sea."
  • Irony of the Week:  Celine Dion's song "My Heart Will Go On" was playing in one of the ship's restaurants when the Costa Concordia hit a rock and began to sink.  Death toll thus far:  17, with 16 still missing.
  • Another Strange Statement spotted on an Actual Product: On a packet of Sunmaid raisins: "Why Not Try Tossing Over Your Favorite Breakfast Cereal?"
  • If you ask me, Bob Dole is going around the country stirring up apathy!
  • "It might work in practice, comrade, but it doesn't work in theory."--Old  Marxist joke regarding anything that deviated from pure communist economics. (SZSEZ:  Your go-to source for Marxist economist humor.  Not much call for it, but . . . )
  • If you're wondering why America is losing out on jobs, consider this from a New York Times article about why Apple does so much of its manufacturing in China:
  • "Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly-line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the [Chinese] plant near midnight. 
  • "A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames.
  • "Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day. ‘The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,’ the executive said. ‘There’s no American plant that can match that.’ ”
  • Exactly.  America has become the Land of "Debby Has To Go On Her Break Now" (after putting in a grueling two hours at the checkout counter).  China is the land of people working 12-hour shifts at a moment's notice.
  • "99.99 percent of all castles in America are located in fish tanks."--Demetri Martin
  • In four days, the United States uses more water than the world uses oil in a year.-- from the book "The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water," by Charles Fishman.
  • I love it when foodies and restaurant critics call an establishment "a destination restaurant."  As opposed to--what?--the company lunchroom?  A place you were taken to at gunpoint?  A place you know is lousy but go to anyway because it's nearby?
  • I'll believe in the Ride-Sharing Program when the president's limo starts participating.
  • Obituary Headline Nickname of the Week: "Benny Honna."  As in:  Benjamin "Benny Honna" Shaw, Green Bay Press-Gazette obituary Jan. 4, 2012.  R.I.P. Mr. Shaw.
  • "In a thousand years, archaeologists will dig up tanning beds and think we fried people as punishment.”--Actress Olivia Wilde
  • Celebrity Trivia Note of the Week:  The real first name of recently departed soul singer Etta James was . . .  Jamesetta.  Last name:  Hawkins. 
  • "Who Knew?" Note of the Week: Ms. James reportedly never knew who her real father was but suspected it was Rudolf Wanderone--better known as Minnesota Fats.  (And all along we always thought he was just a pool hustler!)
  • Today's Latin Lesson:  Non habemus ad vos non tetri idem.  ("We don't have to show you no stinkin' badges.")


Navy SEALS, meet the dolphins

Iran's threat to block the Strait or Hormuz, the Persian Gulf passage through which about one-fifth of the world's oil shipments pass, has ratcheted up tensions with the U.S., prompting tough talk and a rare direct letter from the U.S. to Iran's government. Iran could block the strait, too, U.S. military officials say, either by attacking tankers with small, fast torpedo boats or laying mines. But if Iran mines the Persian Gulf, retired U.S. Adm. Tim Keating tells NPR, don't worry, because "we've got dolphins." Yes, mine-detecting dolphins may be America's secret to keeping the world's oil supply flowing. Here, a guide to the U.S. military's marine mammals:

How do dolphins clear mines?

They don't--at least not by themselves--but they are really good at finding mines and marking their location for Navy divers to destroy. "They are astounding in their ability to detect underwater objects," says Keating. Dolphins have an amazing ability to differentiate between natural and manmade objects — say a BB and a kernel of corn, from 50 feet away — using their natural sonar. When they find a mine, they drop off a floating marker or acoustic transponder so humans can find it.

How do we train these dolphins?

Not unlike you would train a hunting dog, or a police K9 unit: Navy trainers in San Diego reward the dolphins with fish or other treats after they complete assigned tasks.

Isn't this dangerous?

The Navy says the dolphins never get close enough to the mines to set them off. But animal-rights proponents aren't convinced, pointing out that porpoises are certainly large enough to accidentally explode a mine--and themselves. And "there are no numbers available on dolphin battlefield fatalities," says Jamie Condliffe at Gizmodo. Working for the U.S. military poses other risks for the marine mammals, says John Hudson at The Atlantic Wire. Iran can't tell a military dolphin from a wild one, so Iranian soldiers could indiscriminately attack all dolphins they see.

Are mine-hunting dolphins a new idea?

No. The U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program has been training dolphins and sea lions since the 1960s, and mine-detecting dolphins have been used in at least two previous conflicts, most recently the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when eight Navy dolphins helped clear more than 100 mines and underwater booby traps placed by Saddam Hussein's forces, according to Smithsonian Magazine. The U.S. only declassified the Navy's sea mammal program in the early 1990s, and maintains that its dolphins are used only for defensive, non-combat operations like detecting and marking mines and enemy swimmers, and quickly identifying safe passage for landing troops.
--The Week magazine (via ABC News, Atlantic Wire, BBC News, Gizmodo, Green Prophet, NPR, Smithsonian, Wikipedia)