Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Topless Gangster Party in Davos

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,

Saturday morning, Nurse & I woke up a little early and met up with her friends for an adventure in Vacaville – Midway Paintballing. Now the complex is located about an hour outside of the City, and is just off the freeway in a field in a small town next to an RV park… but don’t get it twisted, it’s actually a pretty fine establishment and I’m sure it makes some good money. They have several different arenas to choose from for a range of scenarios and skill levels. The cover even ranges from inflatable shapes on a football field, to construction spools & leftover plastic piping, to something that seems like an invasion in Western Europe with a stronghold and trenches and even makeshift particle board tanks. We went during a busy day, so we got the full gamut of guys showing up in camouflage with their specialized paintball guns & gear to us… basically beginners. There were even softball teams & families trying stuff out for the first time. Now, I had paintballed a few times as a kid but didn’t really get into it as much as you might think given my redneck background. It’s still a lot of fun & I don’t mind the welts and what-have-you from a good day out. We were there for a good 5-6 hours. Then right around the end of the day, I went & tried to do some ridiculous sliding into the cover because I was feeling a little cocky… and tweaked my back. Sum’bich! It’s still a little sore… and I had to sit out my basketball game last night… but all in all, it was a great time with Nurse & her friends. I would definitely do it again & highly recommend it.

That night, I was sitting around watching TV with my bad back when I was getting text messages from Dizzy. Apparently we were both sitting around not doing much… so I mentioned that I was about to watch “Return to Oz” for the first time since I was a kid, so if she cared to join me, that’d be cool. She did… and we watched it. Now, for those of you who have never seen it, here’s the synopsis. It’s a few weeks after the end of “The Wizard of Oz” (though inexplicably Dorothy has reverted from a 17-year old Judy Garland to a ten-year old Fairuza Balk from “The Craft” & “Waterboy” fame). After a time of insomnia, coupled with these fantastically crazy stories of a land called Oz that their daughter rants on about, Dorothy’s parents basically decide to commit her to a hospital for some electro shock treatment. By the way, the story is set in Kansas 1899… and if you didn’t know that, don’t worry, they mention it several times in the first few minutes. Anyway, while in the hospital (being supervised by Nurse Ratchet), Dorothy is magically transported back to Oz, along with her beloved chicken… to save it from an evil sorceress & rock lord who have taken power. Basically from there, it’s a bunch of craziness involving henchmen with rollerskates for appendages, a flying couch with a moose head on it, Jack the pumpkin king, a robot soldier & the creepiest smiling Scarecrow you can imagine. It’s great fun for the kiddies… and kinda creepy. Sidenote: In the story, the Wizard passes away or something… and they name Scarecrow the King of the Emerald City. Now… I know he got a brain at the end of first movie… but I kinda wonder how that discussion went when they were appointing the new ruler. Was it something like “Okay, we could go with one of the munchkins… or do we have any of those white witches left? No? Well, the flying monkeys are already in Congress so I guess that leaves us the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man & the Scarecrow. The Lion is now longer cowardly… but he’s got that public affairs fiasco with eating half of congress. The Tin Man is a strong candidate with a good war record… but he’s seen as a little soft since he got that new heart. He also has no soul & is basically a robot so he’s more fit to lead the robot army of tinker toys that we have. I guess that leaves us with… sigh… a thatched man of straw who just recently because smarter than a 5th grader.” It sounds ridiculous… but this was basically the 2000 Presidential Election about fifteen years earlier. Food for thought. The movie was a’ight I guess… we had fun making fun of it… and that’s what really matters.

Sunday, I made some b**chin’ red beans & rice with chicken sausage for dinner and stayed home for most of the day. Later in the day, Nurse & I watched another I hadn’t seen in a long time, “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” starring Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Vince Vaughn & the late great Pete Postelthwaite. Now, I had seen this movie once when it first came out… and I didn’t really like it, which is tough for me to say with a dinosaur flick. Oh yeah, plot first… a few years after the original, the company that funded Jurassic Park is scrambling with the impending death of the owner & trying to make a profit all the money that they poured into a failed investment. Well, the owner (“Spared no expense!”) sends a small team of four to a previously unmentioned island (conveniently) where they basically just let the dinosaurs roam around unchecked (that wasn’t explained why either). And… and for some reason on these team of four, he added the most irritating character from the first movie (yes even more than the little kid) statistician Ian Malcolm (Goldblum) because math is important when you’re working with live dinosaurs… and his paleontologist girlfriend (Moore) who’s already been on the island for a bit. So armed with a few tranquilizer darts and a first aid kit, the team of four go to the island… and I forgot to mention the African-American daughter of Jeff Goldblum (obvious resemblance) who managed to stow away somehow to get on this trip… and as you might expect, sh*t goes wrong. Of course. There’s really no way for this to possibly go right. Anyway, company send another team of hunters fully loaded to the teeth with weapons & battle experience, after sh*t goes wrong, some manage to survive & they bagged a T-Rex to take back to downtown San Diego for their new zoo (a la King Kong). Well, you can guess where it goes from there.

Okay, even as a kid, I can look past all the corny lines, ridiculous scenarios to introduce certain character demographics, plot holes & stuff like that because I grew up on Back to the Future, so I’ll let ya slide Mr. Spielberg. However, I just had one really burning question from my teenage years that has yet to be answered. A little bit of a spoiler alert: When the ship transporting the T-Rex crashes into the dock, I’m not even going to ask about how the ship crashed into the exact spot that it was supposed to go anyway… I’ll let you off with an explanation like “The autopilot controlled the direction but not the speed” or something like that. What I’m wondering about… is when they board the ship, they find random limbs of the crew scattered about insinuating that the T-Rex ate them all, as he was the only dinosaur on the ship. However, the T-Rex was in the cargo hold the entire time, as that is where he was found trapped when they boarded the ship. So who the f**k ate the crew? That’s the big one, and I’ll leave out little ones like how would the T-Rex have eaten the captain (all but his hand on the steering wheel) without destroying the little door that Jeff Goldblum would have to duck to enter? Anyway, I watched the movie… and again, it was alright to make fun of… but the 3rd one was definitely better. Dinosaurs rule! On that note…

Apocalypse Update - That burgeoning population of huge pythons that I’ve been rattling on about for years appears to be wiping out large numbers of raccoons, opossums, bobcats and other mammals in the Everglades, a study says. The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that sightings of medium-size mammals are down dramatically (as much as 99%, in some cases) in areas where pythons and other large, non-native constrictor snakes are known to be lurking. Scientists fear the pythons could disrupt the food chain and upset the Everglades' environmental balance in ways difficult to predict. "The effects of declining mammal populations on the overall Everglades ecosystem, which extends well beyond the national park boundaries, are likely profound," said John Willson, a research scientist at Virginia Tech University and co-author of the study. Tens of thousands of Burmese pythons, which are native to Southeast Asia, are believed to be living in the Everglades, where they thrive in the warm, humid climate. While many were apparently released by their owners, others may have escaped from pet shops during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and have been reproducing ever since. Burmese pythons can grow to be 26 feet long and more than 200 pounds, and they have been known to swallow animals as large as alligators. They and other constrictor snakes kill their prey by coiling around it and suffocating it. The National Park Service has counted 1,825 Burmese pythons that have been caught in and around Everglades National Park since 2000. Among the largest so far was a 156-pound, 16.4-foot one captured earlier this month. For the study, researchers drove 39,000 miles along Everglades-area roads from 2003 through 2011, counting wildlife spotted along the way and comparing the results with surveys conducted on the same routes in 1996 and 1997. The researchers found staggering declines in animal sightings: a drop of 99.3% among raccoons, 98.9% for opossums, 94.1% for white-tailed deer and 87.5% for bobcats. Along roads where python populations are believed to be smaller, declines were lower but still notable. Rabbits and foxes, which were commonly spotted in 1996 and 1997, were not seen at all in the later counts (100%?). Researchers noted slight increases in coyotes, Florida panthers, rodents and other mammals, but discounted that finding because so few were spotted overall. "The magnitude of these declines underscores the apparent incredible density of pythons in Everglades National Park," said Michael Dorcas, a professor at Davidson College in North Carolina and lead author of the study. Although scientists cannot definitively say the pythons are killing off the mammals, the snakes are the prime suspect. The increase in pythons coincides with the mammals' decrease, and the decline appears to grow in magnitude with the size of the snakes' population in an area. A single disease appears unlikely to be the cause since several species were affected. The report says the effect on the overall ecosystem is hard to predict. Declines among bobcats and foxes, which eat rabbits, could be linked to pythons' feasting on rabbits. On the flip side, declines among raccoons, which eat eggs, may help some turtles, crocodiles and birds. Scientists point with concern to what happened in Guam, where the invasive brown tree snake has killed off birds, bats and lizards that pollinated trees and flowers and dispersed seeds. That has led to declines in native trees, fish-eating birds and certain plants. In 2010, Florida banned private ownership of Burmese pythons. Earlier this month, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a federal ban on the import of Burmese pythons and three other snakes. Salazar said Monday that the study shows why such restrictions were needed. "This study paints a stark picture of the real damage that Burmese pythons are causing to native wildlife and the Florida economy," he said. Wait, there’s more…

Apocalypse Update Two - Florida wildlife recently officers found a veritable deadly reptile exhibit inside one man's Boca Raton apartment: A red-spitting cobra, a puff adder, a uracoan rattlesnake, two false cobras and even a small alligator. Basically the Rogue’s Gallery of Deadly Reptiles for all occasions. When you read the detailed descriptions of each of these reptiles, it's hard to imagine how anyone would willingly live with these deadly creatures. But that was exactly what Tyler Nolan was doing until he was caught keeping them without a permit. Nolan was cited for several health and safety violations. The alligator was released back into the wild while the snakes were turned over to a professional facility capable of caring for them (exterminator). Nolan reportedly cooperated with authorities, telling them that he was in the process of obtaining permits for all of the reptiles. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission first became aware of the situation when they received a tip that Nolan was housing the reptiles without proper authority (probably when he applied for the permits). As the group's website notes, Florida is already home to approximately 1,300 native species of fish and wildlife. The commission estimates that the state has also become home to nearly 300 non-native species. The same reason that so many people are drawn to the Sunshine State is what makes the need for proper wildlife regulations essential: "Florida's subtropical climate is ideal for many foreign species to survive. If these species escape or are released, they can easily become established here," the site notes. And to that end, the state does have some unusual wildlife permits, include those for Florida black bears and Florida panthers. Thankfully, the reptiles were all reportedly in good condition and were being kept in "secure enclosures," according to the Sun-Sentinel. Why would a man do this? Probably because he had no choice. The animals ambushed him & forced him to give them a safe home… or perhaps he was being unwillingly coerced into providing shelter for what appeared to be unfortunate travelers on the run from the snake whacking hordes out to destroy them (and save the world)? Whatever the reason, it happened… and your neighbor might be doing the same thing. Keep an eye out for suspicious behavior and report to your local wildlife department… and always keep a machete handy, just in case. You never know when you need a machete. That’s just common sense.

Zombie George Washington? - George Washington wasn't only America's first President (well, he actually wasn’t if you go by the official record where John Hanson was elected President in 1781 after the Articles of Confederation were signed… and there were actually six others elected before Washington in 1789 when the Constitution was signed… but you can google that sh*t later), but George was also almost its first zombie. After Washington died from an illness in December 1799, his family nearly accepted an offer from a physician who believed he could bring America's first commander in chief back to life. The website io9 writes that physician William Thornton is best remembered as the first designer of the U.S. Capitol. But he also proposed reviving George Washington's deceased body using a combination of blankets, an air pump and lamb's blood. Washington had become ill after traveling through the wet winter rain that year. He finally succumbed to his illness after a painful series of "treatments" that included regular blood drainings, having his stomach drained and drinking mixtures of vinegar, molasses and butter (mmm…). Washington famously told his doctors before passing, "I die hard, but I am not afraid to go." However, he was reportedly afraid of being buried alive and asked friends and family to wait three days before holding his funeral (Jesus complex?). The strange tale comes from Holly Tucker's book “Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution”, which was released last March. The morning after his death, Washington's step-granddaughter brought Dr. Thornton to the Mount Vernon. That's when Thornton made the offer to Martha Washington. The plan involved thawing Washington's body which had been placed on ice, rubbing it "vigorously" with blankets, performing a tracheotomy to pump Washington's lungs full of air and then finally an infusion of lamb's blood, which at the time was believed to contain special medicinal properties. Washington's friends and family reportedly turned down the offer not because they didn't think it could work but because they felt Washington would have wanted to rest in peace. Repeat: Not because they didn’t think it wouldn’t work… but because they thought he wanted to rest in peace… as opposed to be a walking dead man. As it turns out, Thornton had other plans for Washington's body as well (oh dear God). Thornton secretly included a burial vault in his designs for the Capitol and hoped it would be Washington's final resting place. Martha Washington reportedly agreed to that arrangement, only stipulating that she be entombed next to Washington after her own death. An interesting little tidbit for all you other people out there who flip through the channels and see… for example, what I saw on the History Channel last night, shows about how to survive a zombie apocalypse & how zombies may not be completely fake. Yes. That was on the History Channel. Primetime on a Sunday afternoon. Now for something a little bit more on the bright side of life… sorta…

Topless Gangster Party in Davos - Three radical (in every sense of the word) Ukrainian feminists braved the subzero chill at the Swiss ski resort of Davos on Saturday, going topless to protest against the World Economic Forum "gangsters". Now this politics I can stand behind… or preferably in front of. The three activists arrived at the security checks at the congress hall's entrance where they undressed, revealing slogans painted across their upper bodies including "Gangster Party in Davos" and "Poor Because of You." They also brandished signs saying "Crisis Made in Davos" and were arrested after they attempted to scale the metal fences with glass-cutter nipples intact. The Ukrainian group called Femen, whose slogan is "We Came, We Undressed, We Conquered," specializes in eye-catching stunts in which they protest topless, using their bodies to draw attention to sexual exploitation. Femen activists have previously protested outside the Parisian home of former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. In November, one activist also managed to sneak past security to partially strip in front of the Vatican's Saint Peter's Basilica just after the pope's Sunday Angelus. All I have to say is… giggidy!!!

Anyway, that should do it for today. Not a whole lot to catch you up on… but the Super Bowl Party is coming up on Sunday so that should be a whole lotta fun. Not sure who’s going to show up… but I’ll be there… and at least two roommates… and probably a few of their friends… and any neighbors that hear our shenanigans. Have a great day everybody!!!

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