Saturday, March 22, 2008

Supermarket robber hypnotises checkout girls

Italian police have issued video footage of a man who has been hypnotizing supermarket checkout staff and getting them to hand over the cash.

In every case, according to reports, the last thing staff remember is a man leaning over and saying 'Look into my eyes' before suddenly finding the till is empty.

In the latest incident captured on video footage the man walked into a bank in Ancona in northern Italy.

He waited until he got to a female bank clerk and, according to the video footage, appears to hypnotise her into handing over more than £600.

He then calmly walked out.

The cashier who was shown the video footage reportedly has no memory of the incident. She only realised what had happened when she saw the money missing.


Meghan McCain has a Blog

Meghan McCain, of course, has a blog but its not all political. She is interested in pop culture including music.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Law & Order: Plastic Surgery Victims Unit

Last week I watched Law & Order in which Lara Flynn Boyle guest starred as an unscrupulous reporter looking for answers in a case that involved dog-fighting, wine fraud, and divorce. Except had I not noticed her name in the credits, I would never have realized it was her. Yes, she has had that much plastic surgery.

The former Twin Peaks and Practice star looked so unlike herself that there was actually a thread on Yahoo! Answers, asking, "Is that really Lara Flynn Boyle on Law and Order right now? It doesn't look like her."

On another note, the character played by Boyle is loosely based on Amy Jacobson, who was fired last year from Chicago-based WMAQ-Channel 5. Jacobson was taped by a rival news team wearing a bathing suit to the home of a murder suspect whose wife had been missing for months. When questioned, Jacobson insisted she was taking her two children swimming on her day off when she got a call to go to his house for a poolside chat. In the Law & Order episode, Boyle plays an ambitious reporter who uses her sexuality to try to break the case.



Thursday, March 20, 2008

Changes at Starbucks

Starbucks has not been doing well at the cash register. As the economy weakens and competition stiffens, it's getting harder to sell coffees at $3 to $5 a cup. The New York Times reports from the company's shareholder meeting where CEO Howard D. Schultz laid out his plan to turn around the company. Here is the list of changes.

Improved automated espresso machine that grinds coffee for each drink and has a lower height — so customers can see baristas making their beverages. [no big deal]

Starbucks will introduce a new coffee blend next month, called Pike Place Roast, is a reference to the location of the first Starbucks store. [no big deal because Starbucks only offers 1 bold blend a week so unless you buy the beans, you won't get it very often]

Baristas will be directed to brew smaller batches of coffee and refresh the coffee in urns every 30 minutes. Today, coffee can sit in Starbucks stores for as long as two hours. [a small improvement in service]

The company plans to introduce health-and-wellness-related food and drinks and energy beverages later in the year. [well I'm not impressed with the current menu]

Beginning in mid-April, users of the customer card can customize their drinks — adding vanilla or using soy milk, for example — for free. He described this as a start to an evolving rewards program. [I don't use the card]

Bobby Orr Turns 60

Hard for me to believe it but Bobby Orr has turned 60. One of hockey's biggest legends. He is a Canadian cultural icon. Legend has it that the Maple Leafs screwed up signing the local phenom. Stephen Brunt of the Globe has done an excellent story on Orr.

One of my favourite Orr memories was the famous Quinn hit. In 1969, Pat Quinn was a slow hulking defenseman for the Maple Leafs who caught Orr with his head down and knocked him out. Quinn was assessed a questionable elbow penalty - mostly for having the gall to knockout a hockey God in BOSTON! The Boston fans went crazy. Quinn had to be escorted from the penalty box because some of the fans began hitting him. Garbage rained down in Quinn's direction. Finally police were brought in to safely escort Quinn to the dressing room.

Hard to say who the greatest NHL player of all time. The game has evolved so much that comparisons don't work. But I never saw a player dominate in the way that Bobby Orr did in his era. When he played he was the fastest skater, the best stickhandler, and the most accurate shot. He was so good he made stars on other teams look ordinary. He was the only defenseman to win a scoring championship.For those who never got to see him play, look at this highlight reel of Bobby Orr rushing the puck.

What is Eliot Spitzer most guilty of?

Poll results for the question above:

Being the biggest hypocrite in America 33%
Being rich and powerful 1%
Transporting a prostitute across state lines 3%
Paying $5,000 an hour for sex 11%
Making his wife stand next to him while he apologized 49%

It looks like people are most worked up about his wife's participation in the apology. I don't think she was necessarily coerced into doing it. From what we hear about her, I don't think Silda Wall Spitzer could be coerced. Rather it may just signal that she isn't about to give up on this marriage. She has invested a lot of herself in it. Not so easy to walk away.

Arthur C. Clarke (1917 -2008) and 2001: A Space Odyssey

I see Arthur C. Clarke passed away this week. He was a brilliant and prolific writer with about eighty books and hundreds of articles. His most famous work was the groundbreaking 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I remember when the film opened in Toronto in 1968 at the Glendale Theatre. The theatre was on Avenue Road, just north of Lawrence Avenue where a No Frill store is now located. The original 70 mm release was advertised as Cinerama and the Glendale was equipped with special projection optics and a deeply curved screen. It was an incredible visual image and the movie was in the Glendale for 2 entire years and in the theatres for a total of 4 years. There were long line ups for months. It wasn't unusual for movies to stay in theatres for up to a year since VHS, DVD, and pay-per-view didn't exist. Movies were made to be seen in theatres and that's where you saw them.

Honestly, I've seen the movie many times and it does nothing for me. At the time the special effects were ground breaking. But for me the movie dragged. There is little dialogue and not much action either. Watching the movie is like watching an artist paint a portrait. You have to be a serious science fiction fan to appreciate the story. Instead of dialogue the film used lots of imagery, symbolism and classical music.

Spanning 4 million years from the dawn of man to the title year (2001), the film starred Keir Dullea as an astronaut attempting to decipher the meaning of an alien artifact discovered on the moon. His crew is sent to Jupiter to track the source of the monolith's radio signal, with dire consequences.

The film received mixed reviews. Now I don't mid neither here nor there. The critics either raved about the movie or hated it. Every adjective imaginable was used on this film: dull, brilliant, unimaginative, a masterpiece, pretentious, etc.

First Day of Spring?...Not Here

Dube and Davison win Bronze at Worlds

It was 13 months ago that Jessica Dube lay bleeding on the ice after having her left cheek sliced by partner Bryce Davison's skate blade during a spin at a competition.

Dube and Davison appear to have bounced back. The pair won bronze medals yesterday at the World Championships. Their best finish at Worlds was 7th in 2006 and 2007. In fact, questionable judging (hey it's figure skating) robbed them of silver.

Speech was good, but sticking with Hillary

The Philadelphia Daily News conducted a poll from March 11-16, the showed Hillary Clinton with big lead over Barack Obama. Everyone is wondering what impact Obama's widely publicized speech on race in Philadelphia on Tuesday would have on voters. It seems that perhaps very little.

The Daily News called 14 voters who took part in the survey yesterday and found nearly all reacted positively to the speech, though none said it changed their preference.

Poll director G. Terry Madonna said the speech probably helped defuse the controversy over Wright's remarks, but "my sense is that it probably hasn't moved a lot of the blue collar voters [Obama] needs to reach.

I suspect a lot of polling will take place in the next week.

"Speak English" sign at cheesesteak shop not discriminatory

A split three-member panel of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations ruled that a sign in the South Philadelphia cheesesteak shop, Geno's Steaks, did not convey a message that service would be refused to non-English speakers.

The case, filed 21 months ago, consumed hundreds of hours of legal time and was the subject of a seven-hour hearing in December. It attracted national attention to shop owner Joey Vento and his sign: "This is America. When ordering, please speak English."

Yup, what a waste of time and money!

Rentals in Manhattan

The Real Estate Group of New York released its Manhattan Rental Market Report and writes that given the "continued softening" of the rental market and diminished demand, one- and two-bedroom rental prices have dropped, anywhere between 2-5%.

Take a look at these prices! OUCH! The rental market in Manhattan will always be nuts.

QEW Shut Down by Cows

Commuters in Mississauga must have had fun this morning.

A truck carrying cattle flipped on the QEW near Dixie this morning and four animals escaped from the vehicle. The OPP had to shut down the westbound lanes to round up the wandering cows.

The still-scared creatures ended up in a residential neighbourhood where animal control workers and police worked to keep them in sight while awaiting a truck to haul them away.

UPDATED: Sadly one of the animals was shot and killed by OPP officers after it injured two people and then repeatedly charged at police. At least 30 rounds were fired into the cow using handguns.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Five Years of War

President Bush today declared that "the successes we are seeing in Iraq are undeniable" as he gave another rousing defense of the war on its fifth anniversary.

As the war entered its sixth year, Bush refused to concede any setbacks in the conflict, where nearly 4,000 Americans have been killed and the country has been plunged into sectarian violence. Never admit to your mistakes continues to be his MO.

Meanwhile 32 people were arrested today when they tried to block entrances to the Internal Revenue Service in protests marking the fifth anniversary of the war. Though antiwar protests have shrunk in size over the past five years, in contrast to the massive protests of the Vietnam War era.

More on the By-elections

Turns out everybody won in Monday's by-elections, if you buy the spin—the Liberals because they scored three of four seats up for grabs, the Conservatives because they took a closely contested seat from the Grits, the Greens because they tripled their previous popularity, and the NDP because...hang on, this is a tough one...oh, yeah, because they came in second to the Liberals in popular vote. Aren't we an optimistic bunch in Canada.

Kidding aside, it really is hard to read the election results because it the 4 ridings are not necessarily representative of all Canadian voters. So you could spin it either as good news or bad news.

Clearly, the Greens have to most to be happy about even though they didn't come close to winning a seat. Their popular vote was at about the same level as the NDP in the by-elections and the ran third in 2 races including coming within 36 votes of a second place finish. The even beat the Conservatives in Rosedale. Still with such low voter turnout what will it all mean in a general election. Yesterday's Decima poll shows national support at 8% which is not likely to mean a seat in the near future. Also are they just the beneficiaries of protest votes or do their numbers represent true supporters?

The Liberals won 3 out of the 4 by-elections but they lost one seat since all 4 were previously Liberal ridings. The Vancouver win was razor thin. The Saskatchewan loss illustrated how Dion's attempts to parachute a preferred candidates keeps backfiring on him. The Green Party success is not good for the Liberals because the Greens are poaching on centre-left voters. Dion will likely use the Environment as the centre piece of the Liberal election platform which puts them in direct competition with the Greens.

The Conservatives grabbed a seat and came close in Vancouver. But they did miserably in Toronto which won't like translate into a majority government in the future. Also the Decima poll shows support slipping most in Quebec and Ontario. Their support has been largely stalled for 2 years now. However, any shift in votes from the Liberals to the Greens might produce wins for Conservatives in tight races. The same thing ocurred when Reform and the PCs competed for right of centre voters.

The NDP have to be the big losers. They find themselves competing with the Greens for third spot in many ridings. It will be interesting to see what happens in NDP ridings during the next general election.

High Gas Prices Lead to Desperate Measures

An Arizona woman who bartered sex for gas money ended up stabbing her victim and partially severing her finger.

With gas prices soaring, Kelli Still bartered oral sex for gas money with a male acquaintance over the weekend. The encounter did not result in a contractual sex act but an aggravated assault when the woman pulled out a pair of scissors and began attacking the man.

She also suffered wounds from the scissor attack. When authorities arrived at the house in Mesa, both people were covered in blood. Still told deputies the fight was a result of a sex-for-gas contract gone bad.

Happy Purim...

...from Nosh the Hamentash!

Lots of interest in female pole vaulters

Twenty years ago, your typical female pole vaulter was a bulky East European that was often the butt of jokes and targeted for drug testing. Well along came a pretty California high school pole vaulter, Allison Stokke, who became a reluctant Internet sensation. I did a post and it gets dozens of hits every day. She is certainly pretty but her popularity can't be just due to her looks. I think it has a lot to do with how she broke from the athletic stereotype.

Well it looks as if Allison's popularity might be eclipsed. An Australian pole vaulter, Melanie Adams, is about the same age and perhaps more striking in the beauty department. Not only does she have aspirations to be an Olympic athlete but also to have a modeling career. Not sure if she is a good enough athlete but a modeling career is realistic. She's been vaulting since the age of 11. She has her sights set on the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and the 2012 London Olympics.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Speech

Obama has been able to avoid the race issue for months but he had to address it this week. I'm not sure he hit a home run but it was a great speech. It will likely bolster his campaign but its too early to tell if and how it will impact on the Pennsylvania primary next month. Even if this blows over, he still has to deal with Hillary Clinton. The two have been hammering each other and splitting the party. The ulimate winner may be too damaged to win in November.

Mugshot of the Week

Holidays are coming up so here is a father and son combination.

Meet the Bebees. Father Floyd, 48, and his son Justin, 21, were arrested last year (on different dates). As you can tell the Bebees are forehead tattoo enthusiasts.

Spring Break Special: Kristen the Call Girl

In honour of Spring Break, here are some pictures of Kristen (Ashley Dupre), Eliot Spitzer's call girl in Florida back in 2003. She was filmed by Girls Gone Wild. Yeah, she is going to have a great musical career.

What a difference a week makes

Last weekend we got hammered by a huge blizzard. There was over foot of snow. But a week later the sun has begun to melt the mounds of snow on my lawn and my snowdrops have began to poke through. Nature is amazing.

What call girl?

Baseball Players are Whimps

noticed that Blue Jay pitcher A.J. Burnett has been whining about the finger nail he lost in a car door at spring training. He can't throw his curveball until the nail grows back in so poor A.J. has been working on a changeup during spring. I wonder if this were the regular season, whether Burnett would have spent some time on the disabled list.

It reminds me of some other whimpy injuries that have disabled Blue Jays in the past. Rico Carty was disabled my a plastic toothpick in his finger. His batting average dropped from .320 to .245 as a result of that injury. Bob Bailor was disabled after being cut my oyster shells. Paul Molitor dislocated a knuckle when it got stuck in another player's glove. Glenallen Hill missed a few games after falling out of his bed while having an arachnophobic dream about spiders. He dreamt that spiders were devouring him, jumped off his bed, fell through a glass table, and crawled through the shards of glass.

But there are some stranger injuries on other teams. Charlie Hough broke his pinky finger while shaking hands. Mickey Tettleton went on the DL with a severe case of athlete's foot - caused by tying his shoes too tight. I'm not making this stuff up.

Jose Cardenal missed a game in 1972 because he was kept awake all night by crickets chirping in his hotel room. Jose Cardenal missed a game in 1974, because he couldn't blink. He swore his eyes were stuck open. OK, Jose had issues.

Rickey Henderson missed several games because of frost- bite. In August! Kevin Mitchell strained a muscle while vomiting. Reliever Larry Anderson strained a rib muscle getting out of a Jucuzzi.

Terry Harper injured his shoulder after giving another player a high five. Greg Harris injured his shoulder trying to flick sunflower seeds into the stands from the bullpen.

Baseball players are the softest athletes on this planet.

Man Files Suit After Injured By Lap Dance

You thought Eliot Spitzer had chutzpah? A broker named Stephen Chang has recently filed a lawsuit claiming he was injured when a stripper giving him a lap dance swiveled, causing her shoe (most likely one of those clear ones with the massive heels) to smack into his head.

Chang, who is married and works for an unnamed investment firm, went to the Hot Lap Dance Club (really NSFW beyond the homepage) near Madison Square Garden in New York last November where his dancer's moves were a little too hot.

So how much is a black eye worth today?

Washington D.C. Gun Law Goes to Supreme Court Today

A little more than a year ago the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District Circuit first called the Wahsington D.C.'s gun laws unconstitutional. The final test of those laws takes place today before the U.S. Supreme Court.

At stake is much more than the District's gun laws. While the city's restrictions on the ownership of handguns is the example that provoked the lawsuit that pushed the issue through the American legal system, the Supreme Court will focus its sights on a larger question -- does the U.S. Constitution guarantee a collective or individual right to own a gun?

Dachau Concentration Camp Opened 75 Years Ago

The Dachau concentration camp was the first regular concentration camp established by the Nazi government on March 20, 1933. Heinrich Himmler, in his capacity as police president of Munich, officially described the camp as "the first concentration camp for political prisoners." It was located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory near the northeastern part of the town of Dachau, about 10 miles northwest of Munich in southern Germany.

During the first year, the camp held about 4,800 prisoners. Initially the internees consisted primarily of German Communists, Social Democrats, trade unionists, and other political opponents of the Nazi regime. Over time, other groups were also interned at Dachau, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals, as well as "asocials" and repeat criminal offenders. During the early years relatively few Jews were interned in Dachau and then usually because they belonged to one of the above groups or had completed prison sentences after being convicted for violating the Nuremberg Laws of 1935.

The number of Jewish prisoners at Dachau rose with the increased persecution of Jews and on November 10-11, 1938, in the aftermath of Kristallnacht, the numbers jumped dramatically.

The number of prisoners incarcerated in Dachau between 1933 and 1945 exceeded 188,000. The number of prisoners who died in the camp and the subcamps between January 1940 and May 1945 was at least 28,000, to which must be added those who perished there between 1933 and the end of 1939, as well as an uncounted number of unregistered prisoners. It is unlikely that the total number of victims who died in Dachau will ever be known.


Dion Gets Reinforcements

Well the Liberals were expected to win at least 3 if not all 4 of the by-elections held yesterday. Afterall, they were all Liberal held seats. Some for 20 years. And they won 3, just losing Desnethe-Missinippi-Chuchill River (longest riding name in Parliament) in Saskatchewan. The voters there were the only ones angry enough about their parachuted star candidate to vote against the Liberals.

So Dion now has Bob Rae and Martha Hall Findlay in the House to aid in attacks on the government. But what do the by-election results mean? Well not much. The same can be said for the September 17, 2007 by-elections in Quebec. Often you can't read in much in by-elections results. Depends on the voting history in those ridings, local issues, existence of star candidates, timing and a host of other factors. In fact, the latest Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey shows support for both the major federal parties being even.

Conservatives: 32%
Liberals: 32%
New Democrats: 17%
Bloc Quebecois: 9%
Greens: 8%

A Decima poll around the time of the Quebec by-elections, six months ago show very similar numbers.

Conservatives: 32%
Liberals: 29%
New Democrats: 17%
Greens: 14%
Bloc Quebecois: 5%

So the parties can spin this anyway they like. We are looking at another minority government following the next election. Likely this spring.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Jersey Also Loves a Good Sex Scandal

Not content to sit idly by while New York's elected leaders have all the fun (albeit with a Jersey girl), Jersey's been brewing another scandal of its own. Former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey came out as a "gay American" (those are his words) and his wife, Dina Matos McGreevey, was purportedly shocked.

The McGreeveys are in the midst of an acrimonious divorce. She accuses him of hiding his homosexuality before and during their marriage and has sued for damages. He has said she should have known he was gay. Jim McGreevey resigned in 2004 after acknowledging an affair with a male staffer who he said was trying to blackmail him. The ex-staffer said he was sexually harassed by the Democratic governor.

Well, it turns out that Dina Matos's shock may have been just an act, because apparently she'd had three-ways with her husband and another man prior to moving into the governor's mansion. Yes, you heard right—the McGreeveys were allegedly getting it on with one of Mr. McGreevey's former aides, one Theodore Pedersen. McGreevey has come out to acknowledge it but his ex is denying it. Pedersen says he only had sex with Dina Matos McGreevey, who claimed she missed the signs that her husband was gay. We're wondering why the whole wanting to be naked with another man thing didn't tip her off.

Toronto Murder #11

Surveillance video has picked up the disturbing shooting last Friday in the Dufferin and Allen area in which 6 people were hit. The video shows the shooter pulling out a gun and without a second's pause, fir3w straight at the six men assembled in front of a Lawrence Heights housing complex. He then backs away while still firing He runs away and so does other man who just happens to have witnessed the shooting. Police are looking for the witness. I doubt he will be coming forward. WARNING. This is a shocking video.

This is the 11th homicide this year in Toronto. An exclusive Maclean's magazine survey finds Toronto is no where near the ten top dangerous cities in Canada. In fact it's 26th. Still there are neighbourhoods you want to stay away from. And this is one of them.

Ryerson Student Appeal of Facebook Study Group Ruling

Applause and cheers greeted first-year Ryerson student Chris Avenir following his appeal in front of a Ryerson faculty appeal committee over academic misconduct charges and possible expulsion for his participation in a Facebook study group. That's how it was reported in the Toronto Star. Personally I think the media has sided with the students to make the university look bad. The school is being made to appear as if they have no clue Facebook is about.

The computer-engineering student became the administrator of a Facebook group called Dungeons/Mastering Chemistry Solutions last term, where 146 classmates shared tips on homework questions that counted for 10 per cent of their mark. He passed the course with a B, but the mark was changed to an F after the professor, who had stressed the work should be done independently, found the group.

Well if you are supposed to work independently and you share answers whether by sharing hand written notes or online, that is cheating. Why is that so hard to understand? The problem with students today is that they display their personal life online for the world to see. Then shocked to find out that there are consequences in doing that.

Mr. Avenir, you've just received another valuable life lesson.

UPDATE: Seems a combination of public pressure and a willingness to compromise has saved Chris Avenir. Ryerson will not expell him and he will not flunk the course either. But because there the "potential for large-scale cheating," the university recommended Avenir get zero on the 10 per cent of the course covered by the Facebook group, and that he attend a workshop on academic integrity. A fair decision.

Shock Ads

Someone find the lady a good lawyer

I couldn't help but laugh at this one!

Happy St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day is a day of hard-core drinking, and it is hard to find inventive green drinks that don’t use (gag) crème de menthe. The following tasty drink. Beats green beer.

1 ½ ounces Bombay Sapphire gin
2/3 ounce Midori
1/3 ounce blue curaçao
Juice of half a lime
Ginger ale
Lots of ice

Pour all ingredients, except the ginger ale, into a shaker. Shake, then strain into a glass with ice and top with ginger ale. Stir. Garnish with a wedge of lime.

Eventually every St. Patrick's Day ends in a drunken brawl.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

SNL on Eliot Spitzer

Struggling Arena Football League To Hold Game Outdoors

In an attempt to invigorate interest in what many see as a niche or novelty sport and thereby broaden their fanbase, Arena Football League Commissioner David Baker announced that the April 17 contest between the Colorado Crush and the Dallas Desperados will be held at an outdoor facility. "Once again, the Arena League is on the cutting edge of sport with its newest innovation—football played on an outdoor field with a natural grass surface," said Baker, adding that he hopes the game being broadcast on ESPN2 will raise public awareness for the league. "This is the way arena football was meant to be played." Since they went on sale Monday, a total of three tickets have been sold for the game. Another source noted the size of the audience for the outdoor NHL game held on New Years Day between the Buffalo Sabres and the Pittsburgh Penguins.