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Astronomy Picture of the Day


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Crocodile and shark clash in battle Down Under

It is being heralded as the clash of the titans – the moment when a crocodile and a shark went head to head in the wilds of Australia, and the shark came off second best.

Battle of the titans: Looks like the crocodile is winning

The nine foot long saltwater croc attacked the shark in a river and then hauled it onto the bank in order make a meal of it.

An amateur fisherman captured the extraordinary clash between Australia's two most feared predators while on a barramundi fishing trip in the Northern Territory.

"We went past one section of the river and we heard some splashing," Paul van Bruggen told the Northern Territory News in Darwin.

"We looked across and saw a shark's tail coming up out of the water and then a crocodile's head came up and grabbed it."

By dragging the flailing shark onto dry land, the crocodile appeared to have adapted its hunting technique to its prey – crocodiles normally snatch animals such as wild pigs and kangaroos from the river bank and then plunge them into a 'death roll' underwater.

"How smart is the crocodile? It if was you or me it would be dragging you in to drown you, but it takes the shark up on dry land," said Mr van Bruggen.

The amazing encounter – rarely captured on film before – took place in the Daly River, one of many huge tropical river systems which empty into the Timor Sea, off Australia's north coast.

The crocodile was unfazed by the presence of the fishermen, who flocked to the area last week for a barramundi fishing competition, the Barra Classic.

"We were about 15 metres away and it didn't bat an eyelid," said Mr van Bruggen.

Saltwater, or estuarine, crocodiles are among the most aggressive predators in the world. They can grow up to 23 feet in length and weigh more than a ton.

The number of saltwater crocodiles has dramatically increased across northern Australia since commercial hunting was banned in the early 1970s.

From a low point of about 5,000, there are now estimated to be up to 85,000 in the Northern Territory alone, with tens of thousands more in neighbouring Queensland and Western Australia.

About a dozen people have been killed in crocodile attacks in Australia in the past 20 years.

Original here

Pirate’s Booty

An ex-Jack Sparrow spills on life at the Magic Kingdom

Like everyone, I grew up going to Disneyland. Even as an adult I loved it there and went at least once a month. I was an annual pass holder, though not like the freaky ones you may have heard of. I’d see the park’s characters and think, “It’d be so cool to work here.” But there was never a character I really wanted to play. I had a role on the television show Veronica Mars and was working at Coco’s when a friend told me Disneyland was casting a Jack Sparrow character. I had already played Jack as a hobby at San Diego’s Comic-Con and the Renaissance Faire.
Thirty-seven actors showed up that day, four of us in costume. Only eight were chosen for the next round. We were told we would be auditioning the next day at Disneyland. When I showed up, there were now 23 guys—15 that had been pulled from in-house auditions. There was this assistant who would come in and pull people one by one—“Steve, can you come with me?” Then you’d never see Steve again. Finally I was sitting all alone in the room. After 15 minutes they pulled me into another room where two other guys were sitting. They told us we were going to be Disneyland’s first Jack Sparrows.

Disney warned us we were going to have a lot of horny women coming on to us. They were also worried about girls. I heard Disneyland had an Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. She was very flirtatious, and they finally pulled her because men found her too sexually arousing and were acting out.

The male character they had pulled was Tarzan. He moved around the tree house dressed in just a butt flap. Disney had hired these good-looking, muscular guys—even airbrushing abs on—and apparently there was excessive pinching of Tarzan’s ass by the park’s female visitors. Knowing all this, and also knowing what women were like around Jack at the Renaissance Faire, I told the other guys, “Don’t complain if girls flirt with you too much. If you do, they’ll pull the character from the park.”

Disney wanted us to tone Jack down, so they put us through an acting class to discover reasons why Jack walks and talks the way he does. Obviously he is based on Keith Richards, who’s always messed up, which is why they came up with the class. “Don’t be flirtatious,” they told us. “See women as trouble.” And they said as far as alcohol goes, don’t even mention drinking. But the Pirates of the Caribbean song is all about drinking, and they’re drinking all along the ride. So I eventually broke that rule, because it would have taken me out of character. When parents took pictures, I’d say, “Everyone say ‘rum,’ ” and the parents loved it. The kids would just ask, “What’s rum?”

When training started, I found out the park allowed mustaches but had a no-facial-hair policy for all employees. I had the Jack goatee, and I threw a small fit. No facial hair for this character? Why would you want to glue on a mustache in summer? You can see the glue! I took a day to consider whether I wanted the job. I walked the park, and suddenly I saw the most amazing Belle I’d ever seen. Beautiful. She was coming out of the characters’ entrance near Star Tours and bantering with Push the Talking Trash Can. An entire crowd was being entertained, and that just sold me. I thought, “I want to work here.”

I had a MySpace page as Jack Sparrow, and I asked if I could keep that. They said no. Two days later an assistant found a blog I’d written about auditioning. They said, “You need to take that blog down in two hours or you’ve lost your job.” They said, “You cannot give out information about auditioning for Jack Sparrow.” I also had to sign documents that stated if I was in the park and out of costume, I could not tell people that I played Jack Sparrow. I was told that the thing for employees to say was, “I am friends with Jack Sparrow.” I was worried I couldn’t do the character at Renaissance Faires anymore. But as long as I didn’t make money, I was told, I could put on my own costume outside the park.

It took over an hour to get Disney’s suit on. In the dressing room there is one long makeup table and a wall with a long mirror. I think over 100 character actors were there. You had face characters like Jack, Aladdin, the Mad Hatter, and you had fuzzies, the characters in costumes. The face characters and the fuzzies dressed apart. There was a ranking system in the dressing room: If you were a princess, you pretty much got that long mirror wall. For some reason the Jacks always ended up in the back corner.

As Jack, I had four hour-long sets a day. We worked in New Orleans Square. I would find a place I liked, and the hosts would set up my line. A host is someone who helps run the line of people that forms to meet you. They’re basically your security. When we started, Disney thought they wouldn’t give us a host. They thought we’d mingle. I laughed at that. I said, “I don’t mean to be the guy that knows it all, but from Renaissance Faires I can guarantee you this character will have the park’s longest line.” Disney had invented a Jack Sparrow autograph the three of us learned, and immediately the line for autographs was gigantic. The Jacks ultimately got two hosts.

We were the Johnny Depps and the Jack Sparrows of Disneyland. People called you either “Johnny” or “Jack.” They wanted to talk with you or ask for your autograph. It took me a while to get my rhythm down. I could figure out five or six different things to say to kids, so that by the time the sixth kid was gone, the next group in line hadn’t heard what I’d said to the first kid.

You never knew when the casting department was going to come into the park and watch you—they came out of nowhere—or something might end up on YouTube. If a character does something a parent believes is wrong, that’s the video that ends up on YouTube. I was on YouTube after I sat in a lady’s stroller. It’s something I often did, and parents would laugh and take pictures. But management came to me and said, “It looks like you’re sitting down on the job, and we can’t have that.”

There is a big thing in the park about not being visually linked to another character. You’re told to stay in your area. But Pluto was a friend of mine, and one day he came over to see me. We posed for photos, and the next day he told me it was on YouTube. Eventually he got fired.

I'll be honest: I didn’t follow all the Disney rules. I played Jack like he was real, and if a woman flirted, I would flirt back. Women loved it. But there were also women who would have too many beers at California Adventure or smuggle in alcohol you could smell on their breath, women who were clearly sloshed.

Here’s a napkin someone wrote on for me: “I will give you a blow job on your break, so sexy! Kim—714-XXX-XXXX.” I would also get offers from women in my ear: “Anything you want, just find me.” I had a girl who had turned 18 the day before. She was with a high school group, and she wrote down her room number at the Downtown Disney hotel. I had a lady hump my leg one day in the park.

Annual pass holders—eventually you would become the favorite of certain ones. Most characters were weirded out by the pass holders. Weird was a mother having her kids ditch school so she could come see me. Or coming to every set I did and walking the line over and over again just to talk to me. But I didn’t mind them. I built up about eight solid regulars that came for me. My biggest fans were a mother-daughter team that would talk a little, walk to the end of the line, and then come around again. I could see them twice a week, every week, every set.

We were told Disney prefers that the characters don’t date, and the characters even have a slogan: “Don’t Date Disney,” or DDD. Dating at Disneyland is difficult. But I already had a thing for the Ariels when I arrived. They have red hair, and I love red hair. After I met my girlfriend, an Ariel, and we started dating, we would need to talk to each other backstage under our coats because employees would try to snap photos with their phones—Ariel and Jack together.

One problem about playing a character at Disneyland is that you are the Hollywood of the park. For the most part, ride operators and the people making the food love the characters, and they treat them like royalty. But the leads—the park’s assistant managers—every character had problems with them. The smallest rule broken, they call upper management and complain.

For the most part, if you’re not in trouble, you don’t see management. It wasn’t until the end that I started seeing them a lot. I had a lady who wrote on a comment card that her son had seen me and said, “Look, it’s Jack Sparrow!,” and Jack Sparrow had turned around and said, “No shit.” My manager said, “I don’t think you would say this, but where’d they get the idea?” I said if they’re in a stroller I say, “Nice ship.” She told me to say “Nice boat” from now on.

What people typically get suspended or fired for is a hugely flawed point system. If you’re part-time and you build up 24 points, you can be fired. Points come from things like clocking in late—even only a minute late. That’s one-and-a-half points on your record. You call in sick the day of work? Three points.

I was driving from L.A. and traffic in the morning was awful, so I started coming in at six because I was so worried about being late. I’d arrive early, get breakfast, and then forget to clock in on time. I never heard anything about it until seven months later, on a day when I actually was late and they told me I had 23 points. At that time I was working five days a week. Now every day I had to worry about hitting that clock because I was up for being fired if I missed it.

We were also not allowed to post pictures of ourselves in costume on MySpace. But I had a picture of Ariel and me kissing backstage, a photo I kept on my private page. I was warned by friends to take it down, and I did, but not before someone made a copy of it and turned it in to Disney. Management pulled me in and talked to me about it.

Then I got a good amount of money back on my tax return, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation was holding a fund-raiser where, for $1,500, you could see the premiere of the third Pirates film at the park. My girlfriend and I bought tickets. People who had worked earlier premieres said attendees came in costume. I had my own pirate costume, and I thought, “Let’s go in costume.” I was playing with danger, but my contract said I could dress up if I wasn’t being paid. They closed the park early that night and showed the movie over the river by the ride on a huge screen. It was amazing.

A week goes by. I think nothing of it. Then I see another Sparrow is scheduled the same day I’m on. I didn’t know what was happening until a manager came and said, “We got to take you down and talk to you.” At the premiere some foreign press outfit had done an interview with me. They asked my name. I didn’t give my real name, Pinto; I gave my stage name, Hillock. But someone behind the camera also filmed the interview, and they put it on YouTube. Management said, “We saw the video. You went to the premiere, you gave your real name, and we’re letting you go on that.” I said I wasn’t working that night, but they told me that I still represented the company.

They had a manager walk me off the property. She told me she felt bad. She took me past security and then asked for my Disney ID. I asked when I could come back. She said in five years I could reapply.

You’d hear that it sucks to work for Disney. They’re Nazis in Mickey hats. But I’d thought, “How bad could it be?” By the time I got fired, half of me was relieved. I was getting sick of constantly being barked at about what to do. It was a month before I went back to the park. I missed it. At first I thought it would be a Walk of Shame, but everyone was very nice.

Not long after that I went back to stand in my girlfriend’s Ariel line on Valentine’s Day and give her flowers. I was wearing a beanie and a sweatshirt, but the parents in line were asking me, “Are you Jack Sparrow? You’re him, aren’t you?” I looked to the line’s host, who was a friend of mine. He said, “You don’t work here anymore—do what you want.” But I did what I was trained to do. I said, “Jack Sparrow and I are just friends.”

Original here

Top 10 most annoying office habits

AUSTRALIANS spend more time at work than those in almost any other developed country, which is sort of annoying.

But it's not as annoying as some of the office habits which we seem to have allowed ourselves to either fall into or to tolerate. Here are our 10 leading annoying office habits.

Office drummers

Why don't these tap-tap-tappers just bring in a 16-piece drum kit and get it out of their systems? There are fewer annoying office habits than the person who has to tap out a rhythm while waiting for their brain to engage into first gear. There are unconfirmed made-up rumours that the CIA is now using the office-drummer technique in terrorist interrogations after finding it more effective at extracting information than attaching car batteries to soft body parts.

Foghorn phone voice

In the same way that your television volume appears to jump up nine notches when the adverts come on, there's a breed of office worker who raises their tone several decibels as soon as they pick up the phone. You can help by explaining their voice is carried not through very long cardboard tubes but through conversion to electrical currents down a copper wire which, almost instantaneously, are then amplified at the other end through a speaker. If they don't understand this, just speak louder.

Pod pong

"But this is the latest fragrance from the streets of Paris. All the celebrities are wearing it," they may plead. Wearing it _ yes. But marinating themselves in it overnight? Probably not.

Key smashers

All offices have at least one person who appears to think that to make the little symbols on their keyboard appear on the screen, they need to exert the force of an atomic bomb through the ends of their digits. Either this, or after a freak gardening accident, they now have lump hammers for fingers.

Paid for nothing

Finally _ a good reason to smoke. You get paid for standing out in the sunshine chatting to your wheezy and addicted mates while the fresh-lunged members of the workforce are indoors putting their nicotine-free fingers to work. You could ask the smokers to start pulling their weight, except their lungs would probably collapse. You could also give them some mouthwash as a gift, to help mask the breath-of-a-thousand-cigs.

Snot funny

What is it with people who _ riddled with pleurisy, the bubonic plague or cancer of the entire body _ still think it's a good idea to come in to work? The world really won't stop if that report doesn't get finished and the boss more likely regards you as a mug than a martyr. Your work mates, of course, will shower you with love for ruining their plans for the weekend and keeping their kids out of school with the germs you give them.

Lucifer's lunch

Egg and mayonnaise sandwiches, tuna fishcakes, blue cheese with crackers, breakfast burritos with extra onion and chips with salt and vinegar _ all food items which require urgent federal government or United Nations action to ban them from the workplace. Alternatively, ask your boss to find some funds to hire a permanent on-site SWAT team armed with fumigation guns. Or just ask your colleague to bring something that doesn't stink (or, in the case of the chips, require you to leave and buy some yourself).

Ringtone hell

If your office friend intermittently decided to play bits of his favourite music collection from a speaker on his desk, you'd probably ask them to leave their taste for death-metal or American R&B at home. So why, then, is it OK to have Usher's latest offering, or a 50 Cent classic (is he called that because that's how much most people would pay for one of his records?) playing six times a day _ or 22 if it's Friday.

Space invaders

You distinctly remember hearing the boss bring your new work mate over to his or her work area and say, "This is your desk". The boss did not follow that up with the words, "but feel free to use your colleague's desk for overspill if there's not enough room for your inane gossip magazines and pictures of your 17 children".

Eau de underarm

Deodorants were invented in the '50s _ which is a year, not the age you have to be before you start using them. There are fewer things more noxious than a damp-shirted male who, after working up a sweat running for the bus, is left to "mature" over a keyboard for eight hours.

Original here

Woman with brain disorder arrested and locked up because police thought she was drunk

A woman who suffers from a disease which causes balance problems was thrown into a cell - because police mistakenly thought she was drunk.

Lorraine Parkin, 37, who is teetotal, was driving away from a supermarket when an officer ordered her to stop her car.

Mrs Parkin was asked whether she had been drinking. The woman officer asked her to step out of her car and confiscated her keys.

Lorraine Parkin has a rare brain condition but was mistakingly arrested and locked up for drink driving

Mother- of- three Mrs Parkin explained that she suffered from Huntington's disease, showed her medication and offered to take a breath test.

Police were nearby and at one stage up to ten officers surrounded her as they waited for a breath test kit to arrive.

She said that when a kit could not be found officers bundled her into the back of a van and took her to a police station where she was placed in a cell.

Huntington's disease is a progressive hereditary condition, which affects the body's nervous system.

Sufferers can have unco-ordinated movements and slurred speech, which make them appear drunk.

Mrs Parkin, from Swinton in Greater Manchester, was stopped after a police officer saw her walking to her car.

Last night, she accused police of discriminating against the disabled.

'I have never felt so humiliated and small,' she said. 'I could not even tell friends and family without bursting into tears. I felt terrified as I have never in my life been in the back of a police van.

'I was kept at that police station while they checked with the DVLA and found I was fully road legal including all relevant up to date retests.

'The police then rang my doctor to confirm that my tablets were a legal prescription.

'The doctor confirmed my diagnosis and my tablets but the desk sergeant said this was not enough information and I would have to be seen by the police doctor.'

Eventually Mrs Parkin, was released without charge.

Officers still insisted she was collected from the station by family or friends, saying she was in no condition to drive.

Mrs Parkin has been stopped several times before by police who believed her to be drunk. She is calling for more training for police on how to deal with the disabled.

'I feel sick and tired of being judged by others,' she said.

The life expectancy of someone diagnosed with Huntington's disease is generally around 15-20 years though some can live much longer.

Police confirmed that Mrs Parkin was taken to the police station because a breath test kit was 'not available at the roadside'.

A spokesman said: 'The woman was taken to Swinton police station at 11am where officers were able to verify her symptoms.

'She was released without charge just after 11.50am, having spent less than an hour at the police station.'

Original here

Holy Cheeto, It’s the Mother of God!

The world can be a pretty depressing place sometimes—just watch the nightly news. Is it any wonder we look for assurance from above that we’re not alone, that somebody is watching out for us? Whether it’s a sign of desperate times, or a sign that we’re desperately seeking divinity, images of God are cropping up in the least expected places. I can understand looking for renewals of faith in everyday life, but I personally draw the line at a holy Cheeto.

Cheeto Jesus

While eating Cheetos, I rarely examine the intricate details of the crunchy snack. In fact, I’m more focused on not noticing its artificial orange coloring. If Jesus appears via Cheeto, would that make Chester the Cheetah a disciple? Would Frito Bandito be the devil? The questions are endless.

Crabapple Mary

Does anyone see the Virgin Mary in this crabapple tree? The woman who found it seemed to think so, but I guess one woman’s holy mother is another woman’s gnarled old tree.

Jesus with a Side of Sauerkraut

Jesus is back, and he’s in dumpling form! Okay, maybe someone got creative with a lighter. Oddly enough, this is just one instance of many in which holy figures appear on fattening foods. Maybe people are trying to make their indulgences a little less sinful.

Virgin Mary on White, Hold the Butter

Had I created this divine grilled cheese sandwich, I think I would’ve said, “Hey, there’s a face on this,” shown it to my roommates, and then eaten it anyway. Diana Duyser had far more self-control and sold it practically uneaten on Ebay for $28,000. She then got a tattoo of the slightly-burned Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich on her chest, confirming my suspicion that she is crazy. [(plus, I saw the video, and she’s missing a lot of her front teeth…)]

Mother Teresa as a Cinnamon Bun

First of all, this cinnamon bun looks all kinds of nasty, even when placed on classy purple velvet. Mother Teresa wasn’t too happy about being compared to the sugared dough mass. She asked the coffee shop in which it was discovered to stop selling merchandise with her name attached to the bun, and someone actually stole the bun in 2005.

Bloody Mary

This guy claimed that the Virgin Mary saved his life in a motorcycle accident, a fact evidenced by her appearance on his nasty leg wound. I think this guy just wanted to show off his gnarly scab to the masses.

Cooking with Jesus

This product is perfect for all of those unfortunate souls who wait anxiously—to no avail—for Jesus to appear on their tortillas, carpet stains, and so forth. Although this article says the pan was eventually found to be fraudulent, the idea of having Jesus staring up at us as we sit down to pancakes in the morning was kind of nice.

Original here


sunlight is a fabulous thing :-)

A Beautiful Natural Phenomenon :-)

There are truly superb rainbow definitions and supernumerary formation explanations for why you see supernumerary bows and double bows here.

The spokes of the rainbow wheel are explained here nicely too.

Supernumerary Rainbow: Occasionally, another beautiful and striking rainbow phenomenon can be observed, consisting of several faint rainbows on the inner side of the primary rainbow, and very rarely also outside the secondary rainbow. They are slightly detached and have pastel colour bands that do not fit the usual pattern. They are known as supernumerary rainbows, and it is not possible to explain their existence using classical geometric optics. The alternating faint rainbows are caused by interference between rays of light following slightly different paths with slightly varying lengths within the raindrops. Some rays are in phase, reinforcing each other through constructive interference, creating a bright band; others are out of phase by up to half a wavelength, cancelling each other out through destructive interference, and creating a gap. Given the different angles of refraction for rays of different colours, the patterns of interference are slightly different for rays of different colours, so each bright band is differentiated in colour, creating a miniature rainbow. Supernumerary rainbows are clearest when raindrops are small and of similar size. The very existence of supernumerary rainbows was historically a first indication of the wave nature of light, and the first explanation was provided by Thomas Young in 1804.

Pictured: Jumbo jet splits in two as it tries to take-off

These pictures capture the moment a jumbo jet soared off a runway and split into two.

The accident happened as the cargo plane tried to take off at Brussels' Zaventem airport.

The plane narrowly escaped landing on a railway line as it came crashing onto the tarmac.

The Boeing 747's five crew all escaped via an inflatable emergency slide on the American Kalitta plane on Sunday.

Split in two: The plane soared off the runway and narrowly missed a railway line

"The accident happened during take-off of the plane, which was going from Brussels to Bahrain," a Zaventem airport spokeswoman said.

"We don't know what caused it, there is an investigation under way."

Fire brigade spokesman Francis Boileau said that four of the crew had minor injuries.

The plane was carrying cars and was full of fuel.

Lucky escape: The crew of the cargo plane only suffered minor injuries

It came to a halt some 200 metres from the runway and only 10 metres from a railway line.

"There was a danger of an explosion just after the accident because it was full of kerosene, about 100 tonnes of it, and there was a big leak when it broke," Boileau said.

"We see from the tracks on the runway that the pilot tried to stop the aircraft because he understood he could not bring it up into the air, and he drove it off the runway."

The Kalitta Air company's website says it is a Michigan Limited Liability Company owned by Conrad Kalitta.

It started in November 2000 with three Boeing 747 aircraft and the fleet has grown to a present total of 18 B747 freighters.
Emergency: Rescue services arrive at Brussels's Zaventem airport

Original here

I'm so lonesome I could cry

Straight, proud, unmarried men over 30 (Spurmos) are in crisis. So many have settled down or succumbed to marriage there's no one left to play with

Man drinking beer from bottle wearing T-shirt saying single and ready to mingle on it

At some point, 50 million years or so ago, a stegosaurus must have woken up from a long and satisfying night's sleep. He stretched, scratched his bum and maybe picked a bit of caveman from his back teeth. He then headed outside to catch up with his mates only to discover that the whole place was eerily silent.

“Where the hell has everybody gone?” he must have asked himself. Where was his drinking pal the brontosaurus? Where was the tyrannosaurus with whom he was going hunting? Where was the pterodactyl who invited him to the football? All gone.

I feel I know how that stegosaurus felt because I feel the same way. As a single, heterosexual male in my mid-thirties, I am a dying breed. We are facing extinction. I have watched my friends picked off, one by one, like blue whales in Japanese fishing waters. I've witnessed a senseless destruction of our natural habitat. Like Brazilian rainforests being cleared for strip mines, table-football tables are being replaced by love seats and wine racks are making way for shoe racks.

And yet this tragedy is going by unnoticed. If we were the blue-balled Bahamian jungle sloth, or the squat-nippled Arctic fruit bat, scores of do-gooders would be rattling tins outside Tube stations. They'd be petitioning world leaders to raise awareness of our plight. Someone might organise a charity concert or, at the very least, record a charity song for us. We'd have a minor royal as chairman of our own charity: Spurmo - Straight Proud Unmarried Men Over-30.

I remember a time when my friends and I roamed free in great herds like buffalo dominating the open plains of the American West. But as our numbers dwindle, I've had to lower my standards. Not my standards with the women I date. I've had to lower my standards with men. Through necessity, I've found myself associating with guys I'd never have been friends with at university. But I need someone to go out drinking with.

“You're exaggerating,” a female friend told me. “There are plenty of single guys your age for you to play with.”

Yes. True. There are. Thousands of them. But they're wearing tight white T-shirts and meeting for cosmopolitans to discuss which Sex and the City character they are. That's not what I'm talking about. I mean men at the same stage of life with whom I can drink/laugh/hang out/watch sport/pull women.

Another friend, an attractive blonde 23-year-old law student, told me it doesn't matter if there aren't any single men my age to go out with. I can join her and her friends. Yes, sure, like the lonely Great Ape of Rwanda could hang out with the lemurs. He could, but he'd feel as conspicuous as I do in a group of 23-year-old law students. As nice as they are, I can't help but feel they're staring at me wondering, “who invited Old Man Time?” I don't have any trouble talking to 23-year-old girls. But I'd be wanting sex and they'd be wanting career advice.

I don't begrudge my friends who have married and forsaken me. I'm happy for them. I'm by no means anti-matrimony. I plan on marrying one day. I just haven't found “the One”... or if I have (which is more likely), I just didn't realise it at the time. Love is a wonderful thing. Finding the right woman can make a man do the most amazing, irrational things. My brother is a perfect example. He was leading the ultimate bachelor lifestyle in Los Angeles, but when he met his future wife, this lifelong animal-hater sold his Aston Martin so that she and her four cats could move in.

I can't wait until I feel moved to act similarly. But it doesn't change the situation that, right now, there aren't many of us left. And it's a lonely world out there when you realise that you're closer in age to Homer Simpson than to Jessica Simpson. And that your lifelong fantasy of sleeping with a Yummy Mummy no longer involves an older woman.

Contrary to what you might think, the wives of our friends are not the Spurmo's enemies. The wives like us, mainly for purposes of matchmaking with their single female friends. We have a different enemy: babies. The babies themselves are not the problem. It's what those babies do to their fathers. A friend of mine was a legendary party animal. Now, as a father of two, he nurses a pint of shandy and announces his departure at 9pm,assuming we can get him to the pub in the first place.

It's the double standards where babies are concerned that I find objectionable. If a baby pukes, everyone rushes around like a Kennedy has been shot. But, if I should do likewise after three vodka tonics, a bottle of red and four sambucas, does anyone mop my fevered brow? No, they leave me to make my own way to KFC for a party bucket with mashed potatoes, gravy and onion rings. And when a baby kicks up a fuss, it is rewarded with boob. But if I start crying and demanding boob, I'm simply asked to leave the bus/cinema/restaurant/church.

I just want the Spurmo to be appreciated. We deserve to be protected as much as - if not more than - other endangered species. Let's face it, if the last 60 Californian condors are suddenly wiped off the face of the Earth, it wouldn't really effect your life. (I bet you didn't even know that Californian condors existed.) Straight unmarried men over 30 make your world a more interesting place. Being in our thirties, by definition we've had more life experiences than men in their twenties. We have wisdom, perspective and insight. The fact that we're single means that we don't talk about children. For that alone we should be applauded. Without us, the dinner party as a form of popular entertainment would die.

And the importance of our contribution to the global economy cannot be underestimated. Since we've been working longer, we have earned and saved more. Because we don't have to spend any of it on children, we prop up many important industries: luxury car and watch manufacturers, champagne makers, the entire male grooming industry, high-end electronics, travel and sport industries, overpriced romantic restaurants, hair growth research and development, etc. Without us, economies would crumble. And the world would be at a considerable loss without such luminary Spurmos as Voltaire, Beethoven and the Wright brothers. For these reasons, we deserve to be given the consideration due to other endangered species.

I don't want those on the cusp of Spurmo-dom, however, to think there's no upside. There is. It is a stage of life to be embraced and encouraged. We can do pretty much whatever we want, whenever we want and can generally afford to do it. More importantly, remember all those beautiful women who wouldn't give you the time of day when you were in your twenties? If they're still single, in their mid-thirties, desperation has probably caused their standards to drop low enough for you to stand a serious chance.

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How to tell if you're a Spurmo
When you meet a woman, do you check her wedding ring finger?
On holiday, are you always put in the worst room of the chalet/villa?
Is hair loss a greater threat to the planet than global warming?
Do you mention ex-girlfriends early in a conversation so that people don't assume you're gay?
Have you ever said: “Fifteen years is not that big an age difference.”?
Do you have two or more godchildren?

(Answer yes to 2 or more: you're a Spurmo)

Spurmo heroes
George Clooney, Christian Slater, Jack Nicholson , Indiana Jones, Hugh Hefner

Historical Spurmos
Sir Isaac Newton, Vincent van Gogh, Voltaire, Ludwig van Beethoven, Sir Francis Drake

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Japan man stalks toll-free line to hear woman's voice

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TOKYO (Reuters) - A Japanese man was arrested for calling a food company's toll-free number 500 times in 16 months because he wanted to hear the woman's voice on the automated tape, police said on Monday.

The 38-year-old plumber, who was arrested on Sunday, made 3,100 hours worth of free calls to the company, costing it almost 4 million yen (19,500 pounds) in phone bills, a police spokesman in Takasaki, northwest of Tokyo, said.

"He gets excited by the woman's voice on the guidance tape," the spokesman said, adding that the voice sounded normal to the detective who was involved in the investigation.

The food company asked for its name to be withheld. The spokesman said police are investigating if the man placed an excessive number of calls to any other firms.

(Reporting by Yoko Kubota; editing by Sophie Hardach)

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5 Things You Didn't Know: Condoms

The historical effort to make a condom that prevents pregnancy and the exchange of STDs while being as unobtrusive as possible during the sexual act has been mired by religious mores, outright denial and extreme levels of creativity. Most parties, regardless of their general opinion on the use of condoms, have come to accept that sex is all but inevitable between human beings. With that in mind, it stands to reason that condoms serve a number of noble purposes. Shocking and sad to think it took thousands of years for humans to figure that out.

Unfortunately, the condom suffers from at least one massive PR problem: namely, that the condom always looks like a great idea after the fact. However, before and during the act when it matters the most, not so much.

In an effort to give their profile a boost, we took a look at five things you didn’t know about condoms.

1- Condoms have appeared in cave paintings

In Johnny Come Lately: A Short History of the Condom, author Jeannette Parisot claims the appearance of condoms in cave paintings are estimated to be 15,000 years old. Although Parisot notes that the condom is being used during sexual intercourse, that doesn't signify the condition for which the man was wearing the condom. This is another matter altogether, since the man in the cave painting could have been brandishing the condom for one of three reasons: some sort of ritual, as protection against pregnancy or as protection against an STD.

All three are reasonable possibilities. There is no cause to think that the clever minds behind cave paintings hadn't also discovered some connection between the sexual act and one of any number of outcomes, including pregnancy or a stretch of days featuring extremely painful urination.

2- Condoms used to be available only by prescription

Condoms have come a long way toward both general acceptance and availability. An 1824 text, described as state-of-the-art, offers a condom-making recipe with no fewer than a dozen extremely time-consuming steps involved in making condoms from sheep's "intestina caeca." With so much time required, it is little surprise that early condoms were considered reusable.

In the U.S., there was a time that condoms were available only by prescription, but doctors held up a double standard -- they would prescribe them to men so that husbands could protect themselves against getting STDs from prostitutes, but they wouldn’t prescribe them to women so they could prevent themselves from getting pregnant or for any other reason.

3- The oldest rubber condoms date back to 1855

Discovered during excavations of Dudley Castle in West Midlands, England, these condom fragments were made from the guts of animals and it is believed they were distributed to slow the spread of venereal diseases (now known as STDs) during the English Civil Wars.

Distributing rubber condoms to soldiers to slow or prevent STDs has not always been common practice. In the U.S., during World War I, condoms were discouraged by the American Social Hygiene Association, which felt that if you were foolish enough to have sex, you deserved the STD you got. One of the chief proponents was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the time, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. No surprise that many of those vets brought STDs home.

We've got a few more things you didn't know about condoms...

By World War II, the outlook was decidedly more reasonable and American GIs heading overseas were led by films encouraging them: "Don't forget -- put it on before you put it in."

4- Condoms have been sold in vending machines since 1928

The condom available in vending machines celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2008, courtesy of the company who manufactured the first brand-name condom, Germany-based, Fromm’s. Their product, Fromm’s Act, not only appeared in vending machines first, they also had a presumably unauthorized Mickey Mouse as their pitch-man.

Putting condoms in machines has, at times, proven controversial, especially in the U.S. when they appeared in high schools. The concern was that this kind of availability would promote sex -- i.e., you weren’t thinking about having it until you saw the condom. This has often been the stance of conservative or religious groups who pitch abstinence.

5- Invisible condoms may be next

For all those folks forced to use leather, silk, velvet or rubber as thick as an inner tube, the invisible condom could only be a pipe dream. In this case, "invisible" actually means a gel that hardens according to increased temperatures.

Clinical trials on the invisible condom have been carried out by Quebec’s Laval University, in conjunction with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Centre Hospitalier de l'Universite Laval.

It is one of a number of products being developed which falls into the category of a female condom, some of which have received government approval. The Invisible Condom, however, is still awaiting approval.


Condom use worldwide varies drastically. Consider the difference between Japan and Somalia: The Japanese have the highest rate of condom use in the world compared to other birth control methods, as high as 80%. Meanwhile, in late 2003, condoms were outlawed by the Islamic Ulema Council in Somalia, which declared that selling or using them was potentially punishable by flogging.

Also, in 2001, the World Health Organization concluded that condoms with spermicide nonoxynol-9 not only were no more effective at preventing birth control than those without it, but also that the chemical increased “the risk of HIV infection when used frequently by women at high risk of infection.”


According to a 1997 study published in The Journal of Sex Research of the many motivations people have for engaging in sex, procreation is the motive cited the least. Virtually everyone who’s had sex can agree. The staunch hold-out is the Catholic church, which continues to advocate sex for procreation purposes only and argues against the use of birth control methods such as condoms. Despite this, the church is a major force against the spread of STDs such as HIV in areas that need it most such as Africa, even though they continue their one-dimensional pitch of abstinence.

In the past, the consequences of sex without condoms included pregnancy and a host of very irritating, but generally not life-threatening, STDs. HIV changed all that, making the decision to have sex with or without protection a potentially deadly one; and while a vaccine or a cure for HIV remains the subject of laboratory research, people are not going to stop having sex -- ever.

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Cannabis blunder at Tokyo airport

Sniffer dog at airport - file photo
The cannabis was hidden to test Narita airport's sniffer dogs

An unwitting passenger arriving at Japan's Narita airport has received 142g of cannabis after a customs test went awry, officials say.

A customs officer hid a package of the banned substance in a side pocket of a randomly chosen suitcase in order to test airport security.

Sniffer dogs failed to detect the cannabis and the officer could not remember which bag he had put it in.

Anyone finding the package has been asked to contact customs officials.

"This case was extremely regrettable. I would like to deeply apologise," said Narita International Airport's customs head Manpei Tanaka.

Strict laws

The customs officer conducted the test on a passenger's bag against regulations. Normally a training suitcase is used.

"I knew that using passengers' bags is prohibited, but I did it because I wanted to improve the sniffer dog's ability," the officer was quoted as saying.

"The dogs have always been able to find it before... I became overconfident that it would work," he said.

Japan has strict laws against drugs and possession of small amounts of cannabis can lead to a prison sentence.

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PRIDE: Waybe Rooney flies the flag

A football fan says police ordered him to remove an England flag from his car – because it could be deemed racist.

Ben Smith, 18, was pulled over for a routine spot check by an officer who inspected his tyres and road tax.

But the labourer was stunned to be told that a St George flag covering his Vauxhall Corsa’s parcel shelf was offensive to immigrants.

He initially thought the officer was joking until he was threatened with a £30 fine if he refused to remove it from view.

Mr Smith, of Melksham, Wiltshire, said: “I honestly could not believe what the police officer was saying.

“He wasn’t rude about it at all. He was just very matter-of-fact about the flag being racist and offensive to immigrants.”

Mr Smith, an avid England football fan, said he used the flag to cover up a new set of speakers, which he wanted to hide from would-be thieves

He said: “I just thought he was joking and started to laugh, but he looked at me very seriously and said that I would have to pay a £30 on-the-spot fine if I refused.

“It was really strange and I drove home quite shocked.”

Tory MP Philip Davies, who campaigns against political correctness, said: “If this is the case then it is disgusting and totally outrageous and the policeman ought to be ashamed of himself.

“How on earth can it be racist to fly your own flag in your own country?

“It is this sort of politically-correct thinking that has helped to create the problems we have today. I would like to see the Association of Chief Police Officers make it clear that anyone flying the Union Flag or the flag of St George will not be prosecuted.”

PC Dave Cooper, of Wiltshire Police, could not confirm details of the incident as it had not been logged.

But he admitted there might be situations where a police officer considered the displaying of a flag as an inflammatory act.

He said: “It all depends on the context. If they are going past a lot of Polish people, for instance, and abusing them, then we possibly would ask them to take the flag down.”

He said the officer involved in the incident could have been based anywhere in Wiltshire. The fact there was no log of Mr Smith being stopped indicated there was nothing wrong with his car.

But Chief Inspector Charlie Dibble, of Wiltshire Police, believed the issue was more likely to be one of road safety.

He said: “The officer asked him to remove the flag from his parcel shelf, where he admits it was covering his speakers.

“Road safety and the ability to have a clear view at all times of what is behind you is of great public importance.

“Officers are encouraged to take positive action in this regard and this would apply if there was any object obscuring the driver’s view.”

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This Is Funny Only if You Know Unix

FOR a certain subset of Internet users, “Sudo make me a sandwich” may as well be “Take my wife ... please.”

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A series of panels from Randall Munroe’s online comic strip, xkcd.

Perhaps some explanation is in order. Before giving up the goods, however, we should heed the warning of Randall Munroe, the 23-year-old creator of xkcd, a hugely popular online comic strip (at least among computer programmers) where the sandwich line appeared. Mr. Munroe believes that analyzing a joke is like dissecting a frog — it can be done, but the frog dies.

Still, he plays along, explaining that “sudo” is a command in the Unix operating system that temporarily grants godlike powers: “The humor comes from people who have encountered typing a command and having the computer say ‘No,’ and they say, ‘Oh, yeah, sudo says,’ and the computer does it. Kind of like ‘Simon says.’ ”

Hence the set-up: one stick figure says to another, “Make me a sandwich,” only to be told, “No.” Thinking quickly, stick figure No. 1 says, “Sudo make me a sandwich,” and the once-recalcitrant stick figure No. 2 must comply.

Mr. Munroe, a physics major and a programmer by trade, is good for jokes like this three times a week, informed by computing and the Internet. By speaking the language of geeks — many a strip hinges on crucial differences between the C and Python programming languages — while dealing with relationships and the meaning of a computer-centric life, xkcd has become required reading for techies across the world.

The site, which began publishing regularly in January 2006, has 500,000 unique visitors a day, he said, and 80 million page views a month. (Why “xkcd”? “It’s just a word with no phonetic pronunciation,” his Web site,, answers.)

Mr. Munroe has become something of a cult hero. He counts himself as among the fewer than two dozen creators of comic strips on the Web who make a living at it.

At Google headquarters, a required stop on the geek-cult-hero speaking tour, he recently addressed hundreds of engineers, some of whom dutifully waited for him to sign their laptops. He said he had only wanted a tour of the place but had instead been invited to speak. The real thrill, he said, was that a hero of his, Donald Knuth, a professor emeritus of computer science at Stanford and a programming pioneer, was in the front row.

“It’s comparable to Bill Gates’s being in the front row,” he said. “I got to have lunch with him. He’s in his 70s, but people he is in touch with must have told him about it.”

While the comics play on the peculiarities of code, they are as much about escaping the clear, orderly world of commands to engage a chaotic sphere known as real life, or perhaps merely adulthood.

So one comic has a graph showing “my overall health” entering a steep decline “the day I realized I could cook bacon whenever I wanted.” Or, in one of Mr. Munroe’s favorites, a stick-figure couple revel in an apartment filled to the brim with playpen balls, “because we are grownups now, and it’s our turn to decide what that means.”

And, in a rare lapse from his plain-and-simple drawing style, a pair of stick figures walk in an increasingly beautiful landscape after first declaring: “I feel like I’m wasting my life on the Internet. Let’s walk around the world.” At the foot of a gorgeous mountain, however, one turns to the other and says, “And yet, all I can think is that this will make for a great LiveJournal entry.”

Mr. Munroe is clearly still getting used to his celebrity and to running a business. He and his roommate, Derek Radtke, work on the Web site out of their Somerville, Mass., apartment, and they recently hired an employee to handle e-mail.

“People are generally surprised that we make a living from it,” Mr. Munroe said. Without being specific, he said that the sales of xkcd merchandise support the two of them “reasonably well.” He said they sell thousands of T-shirts a month, either of panels from his strip or in their style, as well as posters.

“We’ve been getting a lot more efficient,” he said. “We were losing money on every T-shirt sold overseas for a while.” (But you can make it up in volume, I helpfully suggested. He moved on.)

A fan of newspaper comic strips since childhood, Mr. Munroe can simultaneously call himself an heir to “Peanuts” while recognizing that his quirky and technical humor would never have made it in newspapers.

On the Internet, he said, “You can draw something that appeals to 1 percent of the audience — 1 percent of United States, that is three million people, that is more readers than small cartoons can have.”

In that way, and many others, the Web has been a salvation. “People doing comics on the Internet are free of all the baggage that goes with being with a syndicate,” he said, “the editorial control, the space limits, the no control over what can be done with your cartoon.”

The Internet has also created a bond between Mr. Munroe and his readers that is exceptional. They re-enact in real life the odd ideas he puts forward in his strip. A case in point was the strip called “Dream Girl.” It recounted a dream in which a girl (stick figure with flowing hair) recites a bunch of numbers into the narrator’s ear.

“The xkcd person is the kind of person who would take that and run with it,” he said. The numbers were coordinates and a date months in the future.

The strip’s narrator says he went there and no one came. “It turns out that wanting something doesn’t make it real,” the strip concludes.

But on that day in real life, hundreds of fans met in a park in Cambridge.

And then they all ordered sandwiches.

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