What is up, sometimes comes down

Lots of things fall from the sky – raindrops, snowflakes, hailstones, parachutists, cluster bombs, highwire walkers who trip, airplanes that run out of fuel, to name a few.

Lisa Webber of Novato, California, was sitting in her house one evening last week when something fell out of the sky and hit her roof. Evidently, lots of things fall out of the sky and hit rooftops in northern California because she didn’t bother to check it out or think much of it until she read a story in the paper the next day. It reported a large  meteor soared down over that part of the state, exploding into a giant fireball and very likely sending meteorite bits and pieces all over the place.

A photo of the fireball, taken by a person with a smartphone who apparently actually stopped texting long enough to take a picture of the fireball. Must have been on drugs.

That’s when it hit her.

No, not a meteorite. It hit her that she might know what hit her roof. So she went looking in her backyard. And found this:

Greetings Earthlings, we come in pieces.

Fascinating. Rocks that fall to Earth from way, way out in outer space look surprisingly like … rocks in my backyard. Maybe I live on another planet. I’ll get back to you on that.

Anyway, not only did Lisa find this otherwordly-looking specimen in her yard, but one of her neighbors climbed up on her roof and found this:

Neither rain, nor snow, nor bits of space boulders will keep this roof from shielding its occupants. By the way, Lisa’s neighbor may be one of those hand models. Professional-like point there.

Remarkable. They don’t make houses in California that stand up during earthquakes, but they do build them strong enough to repel fallout crashlanding from another galaxy.

So, here is Webber, standing in her backyard, holding what she thinks is a midget meteorite and looking at what she knows is a dent in her shingles. Now what?

Exactly – good educated guess on your part. She contacted Peter Jenniskens, head of the CAMS (Cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance) project, which is jointly run by NASA and the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute. I mean, what else would she do?

Of course it also helped that the CAMS project put out a public call for information on possible meteorite sightings soon after the fireball.

“I wasn’t sure at first,” Jenniskens said after examining Webber’s rock. “The meteorite looks very unusual, because much of the fusion crust had come off.”

Yeah, I noticed that too.

But, fusion crust or no fusion crust, this rock ain’t fooling someone who heads up Allsky Meteor Surveillance. Jenniskens knows his space chunks and identified the rock as a meteorite. The stone, he reports, is dense and responds to a magnet, although scientists recommend not bringing magnets near suspected meteorites to avoid disrupting their natural magnetic fields.

No, I’m not making this up. I’m not that good.

So, Lisa’s happy, Jennisken’s happy, Lisa’s neighbor still is up on the roof and this planet has one more meteorite.

Meanwhile, on the dark side of the moon, idling in Park after passing over Earth after traveling here from another universe far, far away …

“Ischak, get your alien butt in here!”

“Yes, Commander Utstitzagarv, what is it?”

“Ischak, I’m sitting here, watching the noon news on CNN (Celestial News Network) and what am I looking at right now?”

“Hmmmm … looks like a woman talking to a reporter, holding a rock.”

“Oh, not just any rock, Ischak. She says it’s a meteorite, that it fell out of the sky last night and hit her roof …”

“Wow, strange things sure do happen on Earth, hey sir?”

“Ischak, if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a millennium times … DON’T FLUSH when we’re passing over inhabited planets!”

“I know sir, but it just seems so unsanitary to just leave it floating there …”

“Well, you do have a point there. It is kind of funny how these Earth people get so excited about our droppings. Not very intelligent beings, are they now? Say, how long has it been since we emptied the kitty litter, Ischak?”

“Oh, a couple of light years at least.”

“Great! What do you say we swing over their dark side tonight and give the dopes a meteor shower!”


You lose some, you lose some

Every now and then I get this irresistible urge, call it a yearning even, to be so filthy rich that even China comes to me, begging to borrow money.

Hey, I know it’s insane. And yeah, I also realize that no one else has such looney thoughts. But that’s just the kind of wild and crazy guy I am.

Actually, it’s not so much that I have an urge as it is that I get a message. I’ll be walking along, say in the canned vegetables/condiments aisle at the supermarket, and suddenly I’m awash in a bright light, from above.

I’m stunned. I realize it’s either a sign from God, or one of the florescent bulbs in the ceiling lights above me is about to flame out.

The Lord works in mysterious places.

It’s often at that moment that I hear … The Voice … saying,

Doth Get Thyself Rich!, or

Spill in Aisle 7!

It’s God … or the grocery manager on the P.A. Either way, it’s a message. And I must heed it. So I either look to see if there’s a puddle of yellow mustard ahead of me, or head straight to the customer service desk and buy a lottery ticket.

I’m not a habitual lottery ticket buyer. I know the odds are about a bizzillion to one that I’ll even win my dollar back. But while the lottery is a fool’s game at retirement planning, at that moment it’s one for everyone but … me.

After all, if the message really is from “Above,” God must be my bookie.

So I plunk my dollar down (only one, I’m not that religious) and ask for a “quick pick.” See, God doesn’t ever tell me the numbers to play so I figure He’s picking them for me, through the machine. Call it divine randomization.

Or the Immaculate Wager.

I can hear your head shaking from side to side. You don’t believe this can happen, do you? Ahem – a case in point …

This man reportedly won a multi-million dollar lottery jackpot. And look, it has not only made him rich … but evidently handsome. Now, tell me God had nothing to do with this. I think not.

In the words of your kindly Sunday School teacher from decades back – yes child, miracles do happen. Every day. And not just in churches. But in state lottery headquarters too.

Now, since I periodically receive celestial gambling encouragement, you may be muttering, “OK smart guy, so if He’s telling you it’s time to play, why haven’t you won it big yet?”

Oh, ye of little faith. Sigh.

It’s at times like this when I can hear these sonorous words of inspiration, put forth by the caller at the local church’s weekly Bingo game, held every Friday night down in the basement below the sanctuary of Our Lady of Perpetual Motion Church:

You can’t win, if you don’t pray.

Binders full of … boring

You watch the presidential debate last night?

Yeah, me too.

So … when did you fall asleep?

Ladieeeeees and gentlemen … welcome to the never-ending 2012 Presidential Election, the “Battle below the Beltway!”

In this corner we have Willard “I have Mormon-ey than God” Mitt Romney! And in this corner, the “Hawaii-Ya Kid” … Barack Hussein Obama!

If only. Throw in a few low blows and I might actually pay attention during this thing. The more Obama and Romney talk, they less they manage to say. And while we can’t seem to get a straight answer to any question we have, we’re left with this – a few undeniable and pretty sad conclusions.

1. Barack doesn’t like Mitt.

2. Mitt doesn’t like Barack. And,

3. They’re both absolutely, positively convinced they know exactly what’s wrong with America. And they’re not afraid to tell you, me and the rest of the nation:

It’s all … HIS fault!

As you can see, they don’t exactly agree on that one. Well, I guess two out of three ain’t so bad. Right. This is no way to find someone to run a country .

So if they more they say, the less sense they make, how are we voters supposed to make a decision once we pull the curtain closed and are left alone in the voting booth this November?

Well, this is a democracy. Majority rules and all. So we can look around and see who’s lining up behind these candidates. Check out their supporters, who’s endorsing them and plans to cast their lot with them. If nothing else, we can go with the crowd.



Okaaaaay. Maybe not.

You know, maybe we should just trash this whole “by the people, for the people, screw the people” method of governing. The more I watch presidential campaigns, the more I think we may have to change our form of government.

Maybe … a dictatorship?

Um – maybe not. Too “my way or the highway”, and way too many tacky uniforms.

Wait a minute, there’s another way to go. Backwards. We might have been a little quick to revolt back in 1776. A little too eager to throw off the yoke of Great Britain and cast the Union Jack back across the Atlantic.

Yes, I’m talking a monarchy. Who needs a president when we can have … a king?

YES, that’s it …. we must bring back the King!

Hello, Earth? This is Felix falling …

Sheesh, some people will do just about anything to get their name in the news.

Take Felix Baumgartner, for example. To be more specific, take Felix Baumgartner to New Mexico, put him in a pressurized capsule attached to a helium balloon and send him aloft. Let him float up into the wild, blue yonder to, oh, say 24 miles. That’s 128,100 feet up.

In other words … way-the-frig up.

OK, so there he be. What’s next? Look out the window? Click a few pictures for the folks back home in Austria? Give Domino’s a ring and ask for a delivery?

Nah. How about open the hatch and jump? Oh sure, good idea. Well, while wearing a spacesuit and a parachute, of course. After all, the man’s not crazy. Much.

So Felix, you’re 24 miles up above the Earth, you’ve opened your cozy capsule’s door and heaved yourself out through it. Now what?

“Let me tell you – when I was standing there on top of the world, you become so
humble. You don’t think about breaking records anymore, you don’t think about
gaining scientific data – the only thing that you want is to come back alive,” the 43-year-old Austrian-born daredevil told reporters afterwards.

No caca, Sherlock. Oh, and don’t forget, there’s another thing. Right about then, you … fall. Very fast. No, make that very, very fast. More than 119,000 feet. Down. In just under 4 and a half minutes. Which translates to Mach 1.24, with a top speed of about 833.9 miles per hour.

Look Ma, no spaceship …

… but at least I didn’t forget the parachute!

Ho-hum. Piece of cake. Never doubted it.

I suppose some will question the necessity of doing such a daring and potentially  suicidal act. Still more will question the man’s sanity for even thinking of doing it. And still others who will shake their heads in bewilderment and ask Felix … Why?

Not me. I know why. See those Red Bull sponsorship emblems on his suit? There’s the reason, the motive behind the mystery, the “smoking Brahma,” so to speak.

I’ve often downed enough of that human rocket fuel to propel myself up 24 miles into the atmosphere, it only makes sense someone would want to find out what it feels like to come down from it.

I tip my silver can to you, Felix. Cheers.

Why Fido craps in your house

October really should be my favorite month. After all, I was born during it. It usually has most of the best weather of the year in New England – the beginning of autumn. It’s not too cold, not too warm. It usually contains more than a few days packed full of dry, crisp air and covered and smothered by crystal-clear, bright blue skies. And all of it is quite nicely accented with treeloads of falling leaves in a whole host of blazing shades.

From the beginning of the month, it’s a little piece of heaven on Earth around here. But then it all goes to hell on the last day … Halloween.

I’m not talking about the night full of roaming hordes of children dressed as Scooby Doo or Dora the Explorer or one of the three Ninja Turtles knocking at my door, looking for free candy in compensation for enduring the public humiliation of walking around dressed as Scooby Doo, Dora the Explorer or one of three Ninja Turtles.

I’m not even bothered by the other youthful gangs – the slightly older but far dumber kids who can’t find their butts with a piece of toilet paper but despite that handicap, still somehow manage to hang it from every single limb and twig of the tree in my front yard.

No, I’m talking about a large herd of supposedly mature, wiser people out there. They don’t put on silly costumes. They don’t waste expensive eggs by throwing them against my vinyl siding.

No, they’re so far beyond that kind of silliness. Of course, because they’re adults. Adults don’t make fools of themselves.

They make fools of their dogs.

Why anyone would look at the perfectly normal furry canine face of their pooch and see Yoda looking back at them is beyond me. Or an alligator. Or even more insane, an alligator eating their dog.

This is not what Darwin had in mind when he came up with the concept of natural selection.

Seriously … what is wrong with you, people?

I’m not asking you that question, by the way. That’s your dog speaking.

Well, they may not be saying that to you in words. But you damn well know they’re saying it to you. All you have to do is look at their eyes, gazing up at you in astonished wounded wonderment as you tie that sombrero to their heads. Look at their body language, as they droop in shame and embarrassment when they realize you really are expecting them to go outside wearing that fake hot dog roll.

You’re just lucky you’re not looking at their snarling, slobber-dripping teeth, and realizing that, even wearing stupid cardboard “Tin Man” panels, Fluffy still can chase you down, disembowel you, and eat your ears off.

So, for your own good, and possibly to save your miserable misguided lives, here’s my version of Halloween pet costume aversion therapy for you and your kind. Print these pictures out and tape them, facing you, to your foreheads. And for the next 18 days wear them and stare at them.

Maybe, just maybe … there’s hope for you. Otherwise, I hope you’re at least decent fodder for Fifi.

Really … REALLY? Piss on you and your Raggedy-Ass.

You are sooo fortunate that this knife is not whole and wooden.

When you take me out of this thing, I’m plunging these tusks into you.

Wrong, wrong, wrong … in so many ways, WRONG.

There, that should do it. But, if you don’t take this therapy nor heed this warning, well … good luck to you, though I don’t really mean it.

And when you get up in the middle of the night, stumble down the hall in the pitch-black darkness heading to the bathroom, and just in front of the door your bare foot steps down and sinks into a heaping, steaming, fragrant pile of something far-too-horribly-organic-to-imagine …

You deserve it.

Eat it and weep

“Don’t play with your food.”

“What else am I supposed to do with it?”

“You could try eating it.”

“What, and ruin my mashed potato Mona Lisa?

When I was a kid, I never had much of a chance when it came to conning my mother and talking my way out of eating all of the food on my plate. Of course it might have helped if the mashed potatos I’d smeared all over it actually looked like Mona Lisa.

Back then, if I played with my food for too long I’d get sent to my room. With the plate. These days, if some fast-food restaurants play with their food, they just may end up going to the bank. With the cash.

Take Pizza Hut Middle East, for an example. Yes, there’s a Middle Eastern division of the American-created chain of Italian fast food restaurants. Almost has a “world food” feel to it, doesn’t it?

Well, while you might think the people working at the Pizza Hut out there at the Oasis are just waiting around for the next caravan to pull in for take-out, they’re not. They’re playing with their food. And finding people actually will buy it and eat it.

All right, you read the English in the top lines from left to right, and then the Arabic lines underneath them from right to left. Bi-lingual Pizza Hut Middle East customers must get vertigo … just reading the menu.

Kit Kat cookie-candy encased in pizza dough. Interesting? Very interesting. Appetizing? Lemme think. No. And wouldn’t a Kit Kat melt out there in the dessert, I mean, desert? Gastronomically ghastly, you ask me.

But wait, not so fast-food there. The menu-making folks over at Pizza Hut U.K. evidently aren’t to be outdone by their Middle Eastern colleagues, though. Yes, there’s also a British branch of the American-based Italian fast-food restaurant chain. Now you know why King George was so adamant about crushing that nasty American Revolution way back when. The king wasn’t afraid of what we’d do over here, but what we might end up doing over there.

With good reason. The poor monarch may have woken up in the middle of the night suffering from nightmares of food like this being eaten in the realm.

I’ve heard pizza called a lot of things … but “succulent”? Blimey.

Yup, that’s a hot dog peeking out of that crust end there. Why else would you need a mustard “drizzle” for a pizza?

That may sound weird, but what would really seem odd is that this menu item is available only in the U.K. There are no plans to bring it to America.

Well, it doesn’t seem so crazy. We Americans would want nothing to do with such a crass combination on our dinner plates. Leave the weiners out of the pizza dough, mate. Well, unless there’s also cold beer in that crust. We have our standards, after all.

I mean, really. If you’re going to play with American pizzas, you’d better do something that makes sense. Or at least saves time.

Like the pies coming out of a Boston pizzeria called Salvatore’s. Someone there, wondering how to “jazz up” the pizzas, got the idea of combining them with toppings soaked and infused with booze – like raspberry-flavored vodka, Kahlua or rum.

Probably cuts down on the use and cleaning of glasses in the bar. See … aren’t we Americans clever? An idea not only for the thirsty, but the thrifty.

In the high-heat ovens, the pizzas quickly come out baked to perfection, though aren’t in there long enough to cook down the alcohol levels. But while Salvatore’s says some of their pizzas pack a punch and you need to be 21 and show an I.D. to buy one, you’d probably have to eat at least two to get a buzz from them.

Lemme think.

Can do.