Feb 26, 2008

Famous Swords: Crocea Mors

According to the legends presented by Geoffrey of Monmouth, Julius Caesar’s sword was given the name Crocea Mors (Latin for "Yellow Death"). The British prince Nennius acquired the sword when, during hand-to-hand combat with Caesar, it became lodged in his shield.

The sword killed everyone Nennius struck with it. Nennius died fifteen days after the battle from a head wound inflicted by Caesar, and the sword was buried with him.

Feb 25, 2008

Ben Goes Fantasy Fishing

That's right! Today I signed up for ESPN's BASS Challenge Fantasy Fishing. I have to admit I signed up because it sounded completely wacky, but it looks pretty cool. It's no different than Fantasy Golf - you basically pick a team of pros and their tournament performance determines your score. You can change anglers at any time (except during tournaments) if you've got a poor performer. Unfortunately, I signed up late, so I'll be missing the first tournament. The boat above belongs to Kevin VanDam, the star of my team.

I'm still trying to decide if fishing is a sport, and I could be persuaded either way. There's real elements of skill involved, fierce competition, specialized techniques and equipment, big money and sponsorships. On the other hand, there's no high school or NCAA fishing teams (at least as far as I know) so it's kind of an insider's game. You don't have to be physically fit (outside of having enough muscle to lift the fish) and honestly -- couldn't I have a good day and feasibly do just as well as these guys?

I guess it all comes down to the audience. No one wants to watch someone else do something they could do just as well, and these events draw big crowds and lots of viewers. These people have to respect the talent and skill of the competitors, or they wouldn't watch. So the jury's still out.

Anyway, you can get your own Fantasy Fishing team here. If you want to join my group and compete against me, type "fish on!" in the search bar or click here. See you at the lake!

Feb 22, 2008

Famous Swords: Gram

In Norse mythology, Sigurd is the central character in the Völsunga saga. Sigurd's sword, Gram, was originally forged by Weyland the Smith for Sigurd's father, Sigmund, who received it in the hall of the Volsung after pulling it out of a log into which the god Odin had stuck it—nobody else could pull it out.

By the time Sigurd received his father's sword it was in pieces. He asked his stepfather Regin (a gifted smither) to reforge it, and the resulting sword was so powerful it clove an anvil in half. Regin then sent Sigurd to kill the dragon Fafnir and recover the treasure that was stolen from Regin's father. Sigurd kills the dragon by digging a pit under a trail that leads to a stream and plunging his sword into the dragon’s heart. Regin, however, corrupted by the cursed gold, plans to kill Sigurd and take the treasure for himself. Sigurd learns of this plot and ends up killing Regin.

Why Women Live Longer

So you know women have a higher life expectancy rate than men, right? Some "experts" might try to tell you that men don't live as long due to one or more of the following reasons:
  • Men generally have higher levels of testosterone, insulin, and other anabolics that cause oxidative stress.
  • On average, men consume more tobacco, alcohol and drugs.
  • Men tend to be more aggressive, and thus more likely to encounter violence.
  • Men take more risks when they drive cars or motorcycles.
  • Men only have one X-chromosome, which makes them more prone for X-linked hereditary diseases.
Phooey on all that! I've discovered the real reason why women live longer... and here's my evidence:

Feb 15, 2008

Famous Swords: Morglay

Sir Bevis of Hampton was a real Anglo-Saxon hero whose strange adventures were told all over England. The famous sword, Morglay, with which he won so many battles, is still kept as a relic in Arundel Castle. He was one of the first to fight against the new forces from Europe that were trying to conquer England.

Morglay, the magic sword that could never be broken, was given to him by Josian, a princess and childhood friend of Bevis whom he later marries. You can click here to read the complete tale of Sir Bevis.

Things to ponder...

I hate forwarding junk emails - so if I receive one and it's got some decent content I usually just post it here. I recently received a list of so-called "ponderisms" from my Supervisor (forwarded, of course) and I thought a couple of them were pretty good.

  • How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?
  • If a deaf person has to go to court, is it still called a hearing?
  • Why do people pay to go up tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?
  • Why do toasters always have a setting that burns the toast to a horrible crisp, which no decent human being would eat?
  • If Wile E. Coyote had enough money to buy all that ACME crap, why didn't he just buy dinner?
  • Did you ever notice that when you blow in a dog's face, he gets mad at you, but when you take him for a car ride, he sticks his head out the window?
  • Why does a round pizza come in a square box?

Feb 13, 2008

Famous Swords: Greysteel

Greysteel was a sword carried by a Norse hero named Koll the Thrall. Koll was once a slave of a Norse King named Alrek. On a trip to Sogn, Koll spotted a girl brewing ale and told King Alrek of her beauty. The king met the girl, and they were wed the same year. To reward Koll, King Alrek made him an earl and gave him a residence south of the Hard Sea.

Later, Koll and another earl named Gunnvald both asked to marry the same woman, and Gunnvald was granted her hand. After that, Koll secretly took a great army to Stord, and they set fire to Gunnvald’s house. Gunnvald came out and was killed. His foster son, King Josur, showed up with an army to avenge Gunnvald’s death, and when Koll saw his sails, he ran to his warships. They fought, and both King Alrek and Koll fell to King Josur along with the better part of their army.

TIME Magazine is for Nazis and Commies

Guess who was TIME Magazine’s “Person of the Year” in 1938? Well, let me give you some facts about 1938. Benny Goodman and his orchestra became the first Jazz musicians to headline at Carnegie Hall, Joe Louis knocked out Max Schmeling in the first round of their rematch at Yankee Stadium, Superman debuted in Action Comics, Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds caused widespread panic across the country, Seabiscuit defeated War Admiral in the “Match of the Century”, and Howard Hughes completed a 91-hour flight around the world. But none of these events was enough to garner the award for their subject. And it didn’t go to a popular statesman like Winston Churchill or FDR. So who won TIME Magazine’s “Person of the Year” award in 1938? Oh, just a guy named ADOLF HITLER.

In 1934, Hitler declared himself Führer, and combined the offices of President and Chancellor into one – remaining a totalitarian ruler until his suicide in 1945. The Nazi Party emphasised nationalism and antisemitism as its primary political expressions, eventually resorting to murdering its opponents to ensure success. After the restructuring of the state economy and the rearmament of the German military, Hitler established a totalitarian and fascist dictatorship. He then pursued an aggressive foreign policy which resulted in the German Invasion of Poland in 1939, drawing the British and French Empires into World War II.

So who won the award the next year, in 1939? How about JOSEPH STALIN, General Secretary of the Communist Party for 31 years. After he became the de facto party leader and dictator in 1928, his programs of industrialization and collectivization in the 1930s coupled with his campaigns of political repression cost the lives of millions of people. However, it helped to make the Soviet Union the second largest industrial nation by 1937, so I guess he deserved the award.

TIME must have decided they were being a little too obvious, so in 1940 they gave the award to Churchill, and FDR received it in 1941. But they couldn’t deny their true sympathies, and Stalin won it AGAIN in 1942!
Hmmm.....no wonder the magazine’s border is red!

Feb 8, 2008

Famous Swords: Curtana

Saint Edward the Confessor, son of Ethelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy, was the last King of England from the House of Wessex, ruling from 1042 until his death in 1066. Edward was canonised in 1161 and is considered a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, which regards Edward the Confessor as the patron saint of kings, difficult marriages, and separated spouses. Curtana was the name of his sword.

According to the mythological history of Curtana, its tip was broken off by an angel to prevent a wrongful killing. A more recent Curtana, or "Sword of Mercy", is believed to have been made for the coronation of Charles I of England and is included in the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. The blade is cut off short and square, indicating the mercy of the sovereign. It is used in cermonies to bestow knighthood, and is among the five swords used at coronation ceremonies.

Raiding the Office Stash

My company is currently going through some serious cost-savings initiatives. For instance, instead of ordering more Post-Its, they've put a box in the copy room to collect discarded paper. This paper will be cut-up and given to employees to use in place of Post-Its. I said, "In that case, we're going to need a whole lot more Scotch Tape!"

One of the other initiatives includes consolidating all supplies into an old manager's office who was "encouraged to pursue other endeavors". We're supposed to take any unused supplies to this "stockpile" where they can be monitored and distributed. This is not only beneficial for the company, but also for me! We're still in the collection phase, so today I snuck into the room and found a 100-count box of large paperclips and a ruler with all the presidents' portraits. Later, I went on a second run and guess what I found? Thirteen packs of Scotch Tape!! No lie. That stuff is worth it's weight in gold! I swiped three (one for each member of my team) and also a three-hole punch to replace the one they took out of my area.

Taking supplies from the "haves" and giving them to the "have-nots" kind of makes me feel like a modern-day Robin Hood. Or Zorro. Yeah, Zorro's much cooler because he has that "secret identity" appeal. I mean, you'd know Robin Hood as soon as you saw him. But Zorro puts on that black strip of fabric with two eye slits and no one can tell who he is (Kind of like Superman in reverse). Everyone's like, "I don't know where Don Diego de la Vega went, but here's Zorro! The workingman's friend, the defender of freedom, the distributor of justice."

Yeah, that's definitely me.

Feb 7, 2008

Famous Swords: Zulfiqar

Ali ibn Abi Talib was the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad and was raised in his household. When Muhammad reported that he had received a divine revelation, Ali, then only about nine or ten years old, believed him and professed Islam. He was the first male to accept Islam. For the ten years that Muhammad led the community in Medina, Ali was extremely active in his service, leading parties of warriors on battles, and carrying messages and orders. Muslims greatly respect Ali for his knowledge, belief, honesty, his unbending devotion to Islam, his deep loyalty to Muhammad, his equal treatment of all Muslims and his generosity in forgiving his defeated enemies.

By most accounts, Muhammad presented Zulfiqar to a young Ali at the Battle of Uhud. During the battle, Ali struck one of the fiercest adversaries, breaking both his helmet and his shield. Seeing this, Muhammad was reported to have said "La fatà illa Ali, la saif illa Zulfiqar" meaning "There is no hero but Ali, and no sword except Zulfiqar". This is widely engraved on weapons and has become a battle cry for some Muslims.

Feb 6, 2008

Optical Illusion Switcheroo

If you look at the above images from your seat in front of the computer, Mr. Angry is on the left, and Miss Calm is on the right.

Now, get up from your seat, and move back about 10-12 feet. What do you see? If you're having trouble, try double-clicking on the image to view it at full size.

This illusion was created by Phillippe G.Schyns and Aude Oliva of the University of Glasgow.

"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift." --Albert Einstein

Famous Swords: Joyeuse

Charlemagne is not only regarded as the founding father of both French and German monarchies, but as the father of Europe: his empire united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Romans. Charlemagne was engaged in almost constant battle throughout his reign, often at the head of his elite bodyguard squadrons, with his legendary sword Joyeuse in hand.

The name of Charlemagne's sword, Joyeuse, translates as "joyful." Some legends claim that it was forged to contain the Lance of Longinus within its pommel - others state it was supposedly smithed from the same materials as Roland's Durendal and Ogier's Cortana.

Feb 5, 2008

Random Acts of Patriotism

A few weeks ago, I went out to the parking lot after work and found this magnet on the back of my car. I don't have any idea how it got there, and I had to check several times to make sure I was looking at the right vehicle. Even after I unlocked the door, I was looking around the interior to make sure I was in my car. It was a little unnerving...I had the intense feeling like I was in someone else's space.

The magnet was definitely not new, and it was broken near the top. But it still functioned (obviously) and proudly declared its message, "God Bless America". I have to admit that it is one of the more attractive ribbon-style magnets I've seen. I've see a couple of crappy ones where the artist didn't understand perspective or exactly what a folded ribbon looks like.

Anyway, there are only two ways it could have gotten there: a) it fell off of somebody else's vehicle and a passerby put it on my car thinking it was mine, or b) someone took it off of their car and put it on mine on purpose (kind of like a "random act of patriotism"). The latter is definitely my favorite, so that's what I'm going with.

I left the magnet on the car for a couple of weeks, but then I decided it was time to move it along. Someone else deserves a parking lot freak out! So one night after work, I stuck it on someone else's car and took the picture below:

Hopefully the driver will enjoy spreading the message of patriotism for a few weeks before they "pay it forward" and move it along. Or it will end up in the trash. Either way, God Bless America!

Humorous note: Both Angela and I independently came up with the phrase "Random Acts of Patriotism". Talk about a perfect match!

Feb 4, 2008

The Great Toothpaste Ruse - The Sequel

I've been fooled again! Back in August, my wife pulled the old switcheroo on me and had me using the flat, stale toothpaste while she enjoyed the ample goodness of the fresh tube. I was fooled that time because she had pushed the box up against the electric toothbrush so I couldn't see that the flaps were open. (You can read that post by clicking here.)

Since this tube has been getting low, I've been keeping an eye on the new box, making sure it hasn't changed positions. And it hasn't. Finally, after a particularly grueling squeeze, I sarcastically asked my wife, "You're STILL using this old tube?"

"No", she replied.

Ha! I knew she was joking because the box hadn't been opened. I went back to the bathroom and started brushing. As I brushed, I started thinking. I looked at the box, and I could clearly see that it hadn't been opened. I continued brushing, and thinking, and thinking and brushing, and then - just to be sure - I picked up the box. And guess what I saw...

The box was opened! The flaps had been folded into the box so I couldn't see them. She had used visual perspective against me! The open end was out of my line of sight, and because I couldn't see the flaps, I assumed the box was closed on that end. Diabolical! Calculating! Genius!

I was both flabbergasted and impressed. She had done it again. When I looked out around the corner with the box in my hand, she started laughing. She thought I had already known, so that's why she was so truthful. What I believed to be sarcasm was actually truthfulness. Go figure!

Stay tuned for The Great Toothpaste Ruse III. I'm sure it will happen sometime around July. And I'll be ready! Remember, all rules are off in the last installment of a trilogy...