Sunday, October 31, 2010




(Reuters) - Michael Jackson's sudden death sparked an outpouring of grief around the world, but fans also opened their wallets to make him this year's top-earning dead celebrity with $275 million, Forbes said on Monday. (more after the break)


Ask someone to name a Christmas song, and you might get a hundred different answers. Ask them to name a Halloween song, however, and they are almost assured to respond with the “Monster Mash.” For almost half a century, this catchy little ditty has been considered the anthem of the holiday, and has probably been played at just about every Halloween party held since the early 60s. Today, we take a loving look back at this classic composition.
Few had ever heard of Bobby Pickett prior to 1962. A struggling singer and actor, they might never have heard from him, except that Mr. Pickett possessed the ability to do a pretty good Boris Karloff impersonation. And with the help of some famous friends, he wrote a very catchy little tune about a mad scientist whose monstrous creation invents a catchy little dance – the Monster Mash. Here’s the original track, (complete with a clever Legos video!)

Bobby Pickett’s new song didn’t garner much attention at first from record labels, until he met producer Gary S. Paxton, who had already scored a novelty hit with “Alley Oop” a couple of years prior. Paxton assembled a group of musicians, dubbed The Crypt Kickers (that included the legendary Leon Russell on piano), to record the song. Pickett supplied the voice of the mad scientist narrator (in the spirit of Karloff), as well as throwing in an equally impressive Bela Lugosi impression for one of the tune’s later lines.
The song, and its associated dance (based loosely on the “Mashed Potato”, another popular craze), were quickly embraced by the public, with the release rising to the #1 position on the Billboard charts in October of 1962. Its re-releases also charted in 1970 and 1973, and it has since become perhaps the most beloved Halloween song of all time, played at millions of holiday parties and festivities every year. Numerous artists have attempted to cash in on its popularity with their own renditions as well. The Beach Boys did a cover of it in 1964, Vincent Price did his own rendition in 1977, and believe it or not, the real Boris Karloff was so impressed by the song that he performed it himself on the television show, Shindig, in 1965.
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October 31
1517:Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Palace church, marking the start of the Protestant Reformation in Germany.

1846:A heavy snowfall trapped the Donner Party in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

1864:Nevada became the 36th state.

1941:Work on the Mount Rushmore monument was completed.

1956:Rear Admiral G. J. Dufek became the first person to land an airplane at the South Pole.

1984:Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated.

1992:Pope John Paul II admitted that the Roman Catholic Church had erred in convicting Galileo of heresy 350 years earlier.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010


"It is a great ability to be able to conceal one's ability."
Francois de La Rochefoucauld


Lou Seal, the mascot for the San Francisco Giants.Image via WikipediaWatching Baseball Through 'Knothole' Isn't Naughty When Giants Play
San Francisco Ballpark Offers 100 Stand-Up Guys a Vantage Point Worth Waiting in Line For

There's an etiquette, including no bathroom breaks, for fans watching a game for free at the opening called the 'Knothole' in San Francisco. (more after the break)


Staying alone in a hotel room can make even an experienced traveler nervous. Whether you're male or female, sometimes you just "get a bad feeling," which can make it darn near impossible to sleep. (More after the break)


this video uses macro photography showing a spider’s web, covered in droplets of dew.

The Web from Bill Newsinger on Vimeo.


Rotary International staff members are working with District 3400 to acquire information about Rotarian-led disaster relief efforts after a tsunami and volcanic eruption killed more than 370 people and displaced tens of thousands in Indonesia.
The tsunami, triggered by a 7.7 magnitude earthquake on 25 October, destroyed villages on the remote islands of Mentawai. More than 400 people remain missing. A day after the tsunami hit, Indonesia's Mount Merapi erupted, killing more than 30 people and displacing 40,000 as residents fled the area.
Updates will be posted at as they become available. Please send any questions or concerns regarding these disasters to
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2005:Civil rights icon Rosa Parks, who was arrested 50 years earlier for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man, is the first woman and second African American to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

1831: Escaped slave Nat Turner is captured in Southampton County, Va., and arrested for leading a bloody slave rebellion that killed more than 55 whites in August of that year.  In the aftermath of the revolt, an even greater number of blacks were killed in retaliation by white mobs and militias.

1938: Hundreds of thousands of radio listeners panic when they tune in to the CBS broadcast of "War of the Worlds," starring Orson Welles, believing that the dramatic radio play's news reports of a Martian invasion are real.

Friday, October 29, 2010




Sure, grilling season may be over for those of us in colder climates, but there are still plenty of places where the grilling will be on all winter long. If you are lucky enough to live in one of those places, keep reading - because you can win some free EZ Grills for your photography skills.

EZ Grills are easy to use instant grills - filled with all natural charcoal, these grills can go from your car to cook-out in a matter of minutes. The grills come in two sizes - regular and party. Once lit, the grills can be used for up to an hour and a half.

Now, to win some free EZ Grills, all you need to do is throw a party using the product - make photos of the event, and send them in to EZ Grill. For each EZ Grill in the photo, they'll send you one freebie in return (up to three grills). To make the contest even nicer, when you register, EZ Grill will send you coupons for $2 off each grill purchased in retail stores, or you can buy them online and save 30% off right away. Things can get even better - if you enroll to be a product tester, you may even be sent some free products from the EZ Grill lineup!

Click here to head on over to the promotion page, and fill in the form.
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A patient having his blood pressure taken by a...Image via WikipediaOf all the problems with the U.S. health-care system, one of the most vexing for patients is simply sitting in the doctor's waiting room. Being ushered into the exam room, only to be left shivering in a paper gown, to wait some more, adds to the aggravation. It's the health-care equivalent of being stuck on the tarmac in a crowded plane.(More after the break)


The Misconception: All buttons placed around you do your bidding.
The Truth: Many public buttons are only there to comfort you.
You press the doorbell button, you hear the doorbell ring. You press the elevator button, it lights up. You press the button on the vending machine, a soft drink comes rattling down the chute. (More after the break)

Your whole life, you’ve pressed buttons and been rewarded. It’s conditioning at its simplest – just like a rat pressing a lever to get a pellet of food. The thing about buttons though is there seems to be some invisible magic taking place between the moment you press them down and when you get the expected result. You can never really be sure you caused the soft drink to appear without opening up the vending machine to see how it works. Maybe there’s a man inside who pulls out the can of soda and puts it in the chute. Maybe there’s a camera watching the machine, and someone in a distant control room tells the machine to dispense your pop. You just don’t know, and that’s how conditioning works. As long as you get the result you were looking for after you press the button, it doesn’t matter. You will be more likely to press the button in the future (or less likely to stop). The problem here is that some buttons in modern life don’t actually do anything at all. The magic between the button press and the result you want is all in your head. You never catch on – because you are not so smart. For instance, the close buttons don’t close the elevator doors in most elevators built in the United States since the Americans with Disabilities Act. The button is there for workers and emergency personnel to use, and it only works with a key. Whether or not you press the buttons, the doors will eventually close. But if you do press the buttons, and later the doors close, a little spurt of happiness will cascade through your brain. Your behavior was just reinforced. You will keep pressing the button in the future. Non-functioning mechanisms like this are called placebo buttons, and they’re everywhere. Sound engineers and video editors sometimes press a key on their computer keyboards or click around with the mouse and change absolutely nothing, or make the screen go blank for a few moments. When clients ask for nonsensical changes to a project while hovering over the worker’s shoulder, they can press the placebo button and tell the client they’ve made the requested change. Most people will be satisfied and convince themselves they’ve seen a slight difference. Computers and timers now control the lights at most intersections, but at one time little buttons at crosswalks allowed people to trigger the signal change. Those buttons are mostly all disabled now, but the task of replacing or removing all of them was so great most cities just left them up. You still press them though, because the light eventually changes. In an investigation by ABC news in 2010, only one functioning crosswalk button could be found in Austin, Texas; Gainsville, Fla.; and Syracuse, NY.
The city deactivated most of the pedestrian buttons long ago with the emergence of computer-controlled traffic signals, even as an unwitting public continued to push on, according to city Department of Transportation officials. More than 2,500 of the 3,250 walk buttons that still exist function essentially as mechanical placebos, city figures show. Any benefit from them is only imagined.
- New York Times, 2004
In many offices and cubicle farms, the thermostat on the wall isn’t connected to anything. Landlords, engineers and HVAC specialists have installed dummy thermostats for decades to keep people from costing companies money by constantly adjusting the temperature. According to a 2003 article in the Wall Street Journal, one HVAC specialist surmises 90 percent of all office thermostats are fake (others say it’s more like 2 percent). Some companies even install noise generators to complete the illusion after you turn the knob.
In a survey conducted in 2003 by the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration News, 72 percent of respondents admitted to installing dummy thermostats.
“We had an employee that always complained of being hot,” recalls Greg Perakes, an HVACR instructor in Tennessee. “Our solution was to install a pneumatic thermostat. We ran the main air line to it inside of an enclosed I-beam. Then we just attached a short piece of tubing to the branch outlet (terminating inside the I-beam without being attached to any valves, etc.).”
The worker “could adjust her own temperature whenever she felt the need,” Perakes says, “thus enabling her to work more and complain less. When she heard the hissing air coming from inside the I-beam, she felt in control. We never heard another word about the situation from her again. Case solved.”
- The Air-Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration News, Mar. 27, 2003
Placebo buttons are a lot like superstitions, or ancient rituals. You do something in the hopes of an outcome – if you get the outcome, you keep the superstition. Dancing to bring the rain, sacrificing a goat to get the sun to rise – it turns out these are a lot like pressing the button at the crosswalk over and over again. Your brain doesn’t like randomness, and so it tries to connect a cause to every effect; when it can’t, you make one up.


"The only reason I made a commercial for American Express was to pay for my American Express bill."-Peter Ustinov


An American Airlines Boeing 757-223 landing at...Image via Wikipedia
This past Wednesday Yahoo Travel,revealed  "America's Meanest Airlines" . The story, "based on the Airline Quality Rating (AQR) Report, which covers 18 domestic carriers," lambasts American Airlines, United, Delta and several other airlines, including four regional carriers. (more after the break)