Weird But True!

Due to administrative oversight, murder is legal in more than two dozen U.S. municipalities.

Staring upward into the moving blades of a ceiling fan from a prone position may induce hiccups.

The screw is merely a cylinder wrapped with an inclined plane!

Among the items salvaged from the Titanic debris field on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean was a nearly complete set of elephant bones.

It is physically impossible to simultaneously experience flatulence and vertigo.

The dish that we commonly call ravioli was first known as lasagna, and vice-versa. Read More

Good Friday

Them Catholics sure know how to make themselves miserable, let me tell you. I know, ’cause I used to work with one. Fred Murphy, that was his name, he used to work down in the supply cage, only decent guy in the whole department. Everybody on the shop floor knew to go to Freddy if you needed something, ’cause he’d actually listen to you and do whatever he could to help. Maybe he couldn’t always fix your problem, but he’d go to bat for you every time. I never knew anybody who didn’t like Freddy, except maybe the old fart who used to run the supply cage like it was his kingdom and we were the serfs. Anyway, ol’ Fred was a good guy.

Now we were all second shifters back then, including Fred, and somehow or other we started up a Friday morning bowling league. Might have been Mel Gordon’s idea, he was a pretty good bowler before his heart attack. The rest of us were just in it for a good time, you know? Couple of beers, some greasy food, who cared about the score? It was a great way to unwind before the last shift of the week, and you knew the weekend was on the other side. Fred was kind of a quiet guy, not pushy at all, and it took awhile before someone thought to ask him to join our league, since it was all guys from the floor. But once he joined us, he never missed a Friday, not so long as the league lasted. Read More

April Fool’s Day: A Brief History

April Fool’s Day has long been a socially sanctioned occasion for lighthearted pranks. Like many traditions, the roots of this celebration of tomfoolery belie its modern celebration. In fact, April Fool’s Day has a somewhat sinister origin that is seldom recognized today.

The genesis of the April Fool is said to have arisen some time during the early reign of Julius Caesar, prior to the adoption of the Julian calendar in 46 BCE. In those days, there was no month of April, and Martius (March) segued directly into Maius (May). As a means of testing the mental fortitude and gullibility of new recruits, Roman centurions used this time to perform a secret annual hazing of the rookies among their ranks.

On the last day of Martius, the greenest of the garrison were informed with great solemnity that Emperor Caesar’s beloved dog, Aprilis, had unexpectedly died that morning. The young soldiers were further told that Caesar was subsequently so distraught that he had ordered a special day of mourning for his departed pet. All citizens were to stay indoors for the entirety of the next day, with business to resume as usual the day after that. Naturally, it was added, Caesar would be highly offended if he were to see anyone, even a Roman soldier, out and about on this day of collective grief. Read More

Sharpening Student Skills

When it comes to hitting the mark on test scores, one innovative educator at a San Diego charter school may be onto something. Ron Owens, a fifth-grade teacher at Cosner Exceptional Academy, has daringly defied conventional wisdom by putting pocket knives in the hands of elementary students. While many educators might cry foul at the very idea of ignoring zero-tolerance weapons policy, Owens has the full support of CEA’s CEO and principal, Horace Cosner.

“The results speak for themselves,” gloats Cosner. “Children who regularly participate in Mr. Owens’ Mumblety Peg Club score anywhere from fifteen to thirty-seven percent higher than their peers on the Language Arts and Math portions of their state STAR tests.”

Yes, mumblety peg, the quaint knife-tossing game that disappeared from schoolyards generations ago, is making a comeback thanks to Owens, and while no one can conclusively prove a causal connection, there is no denying that a correlation between the pastime and higher test scores apparently exists. What is it about this erstwhile bygone pursuit, a series of motions in which players fling knives from their wrists, elbows, shoulders and heads, that seems to sharpen student skills? Read More

Black Friday 2050


NEWSCASTER:  And now, over to NewsForYou Nine’s roving reporter Matilda Morris, who’s standing by live at the Best Buy at the Big Shoppes at Birch Meadows.  Matilda?

MATILDA:  Thanks, Kent!  For the past several months, this parking lot has been a thriving community, a curb-to-curb sea of tents and shanties that have served as a home-away-from-home for several hundred of our city’s most dedicated consumers.  They come from all walks of life, rich and poor, young and old, cyborg and android, but they are united in their passion for the latest in personal and home electronics at rock-bottom prices.  I have with me Scott and Sara Sanderson, who moved into Best Buy Bargainville in September when news was leaked that a limited supply of portable, self-adhesive wall mural televisions would be made available at the insane price of one thousand ameros.  Scott, is it worth it to put your life on hold for so long just to snag a great bargain?

SCOTT:  No doubt it’s worth it.  Last year I waited until the end of October to get in line, and I came away empty-handed.  I’m not going to let that happen again! Read More

Trick Or Treat


An icy wind cut through the fabric of my jeans and numbed my legs as I paused under the streetlight at the end of the block.  When had it ever been so cold in October?  And where was everybody?  Our dark street was as deserted as it might have been on the bitterest winter night.  Even the dry and brittle leaves seemed lonely as they scratched along the pavement of the empty road.  My gloved fingers fumbled with the pillowcase that contained all that I had to show for the evening, a take that seemed disappointingly modest compared to the great hauls I recalled from Halloweens past.

With every exhalation I could feel my breath condense against my perspiring face, which was concealed behind the stifling latex of a full-head Frankenstein mask.  I pushed back the bulky cuff of my heavy coat to reveal my watch.  7:09.  Still nearly an hour of trick-or-treating left.  As I trudged onward, a rivulet of sweat trickled from the back of my mask and descended between my shoulder blades, causing me to shudder.  I let out a short gasp against my unforgiving mask, adding more moisture to the rubbery enclosure that was turning my expedition into an alternating series of smothering heat and quivering chills. Read More

Three Days Of Darkness


“Take that, Satan’s minion!” cried Moe.


Three Days of Darkness!


            “Good grief!” exclaimed Moe Hardee as he perused the latest Parish Post.  He ran his fingers through his blonde hair and cast a worried glance toward his brother, Hank.  “It says here that Padre Pio has prophesied Three Days of Darkness!”

            “Gee,” remarked Hank, dark-haired and one year older than seventeen-year-old Moe, “that will sure put a crimp in our boating plans!”  Hank and Moe were the sons of famous detective Denton Hardee, and they had been looking forward to a weekend expedition on Bartlett Bay with their Mayport High chums.  “Read me the details.”

            “Well, according to Padre Pio, an enormous cross in the sky will signal the imminence of three days of darkness, during which the sun will not shine and demons will run loose throughout the streets.”

            “Holy moly!” reacted Hank, whose customary reserve and lack of impulsiveness had been rattled by the startling news. Read More

The Annotated Edward Cramer


An early influence?

When children express their boundless imagination in writing, the results can be bizarre.  I am regularly reminded of this as a teacher of elementary-age students.  It is my privilege to observe their literary development at a formative stage, when their novice attempts to emulate various styles sometimes merge with their limited background knowledge to surreal and unintentionally humorous effect.

What I try to remember when evaluating student narratives is how incredibly strange my own attempts at storytelling were at that age.  As unusual as some of the student work I’ve encountered has been, none of it has surpassed some of my juvenile efforts in their breadth and depth of sheer weirdness.  Take, for example, The Glass Eye, a macabre stab at humor that I wrote circa second or third grade.  Its off-kilter flavor is apparent even in its byline, as I attributed the work to Edward Cramer. Read More

Two Minutes For Holding


Things had just quieted down in the east wing when the welcome silence was pierced by another bellowing shout from Room 11.  “Loo-eeeeze!!”

“Good heavens,” sighed Kaylee from behind the nursing station.  She brushed a lock of hair from her eyes and replaced the phone in its cradle.  “Doesn’t that man ever stop?”

“I can tell you’re new here,” drawled Janice as she checked items off of her clipboard.  “I don’t even notice it anymore.  It’s like the racket them geese make out on the patio.  Drives you crazy at first, but then you get used to it.”

“I don’t know if I can ever get used to that.  It makes me want to jump out of my skin every time he does it.  Imagine having a man shout at you like that!  Then again, I suppose poor Louise probably got so used to hearing it that she just tuned him out like you do.”

“Poor Louise?”

“Well, I’d say she was poor, having to put up with Mr. Francis until the day she died.”

Janice gave a hoarse laugh that died out in a series of coughs.  “Ah, honey, you know what they say when you assume!  Far as we know, nobody was putting up with Mr. Francis but himself.”

“What about Louise?”

“There’s never been any Louise that we know of.  Old Mr. Francis was a bachelor, didn’t have no kids, lived alone and never said boo to the neighbors about any Louise until they started hearing him shouting the name over and over like he does here now.”

Kaylee furrowed her brow.  “Well, that’s…odd.”

“And that ain’t the half of it!  Wait ‘til you see him with his hockey players.” Read More

Dynadormophis Up


What if people could bank, sell, and buy their sleep?

It doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with a sleeper or a dynamo, every service call on a Dynadorm unit leads to an angry or incoherent customer.  That’s why there’s such a high turnover rate for us service techs, never mind the money.  I don’t care what kind of debt you have hanging over your head, the first time you get assaulted by one of these people, no amount of compensation seems worth it.  It’s not the physical trauma of it, it’s the terror of dealing with the unhinged.  There’s nothing more dangerous than some sleep-deprived zombie who’s counting on you to get up and running again.

I’ve had all sorts of weapons pulled on me, dodged my share of thrown objects, and more than once I’ve been forced to threaten a client.  Dynadormophis tells us not to in the handbook and every training session, but they know what goes on at the front line, and you do what you have to do.  They’ll never admit it – that’s what keeps the lawyers off our backs – but every rookie soon learns that corporate doesn’t care what we do so long as the green keeps flowing.  And they expect the green to keep flowing.

After all, it’s the service contracts that keep us in business.  You can rent a Dynadorm fairly cheaply these days, relatively speaking, and outright buying one is within reach of some, but you’d be a fool to think that’s the extent of your investment if you expect the thing to keep working.  I see the same scene over and over again.  That first call usually comes sometime in the first or second year of operation, by which time the unit is well out of warranty and its owner has become financially, emotionally, and/or physically dependent on it.  They can’t believe that the call is going to cost so much, swear up and down that nobody in sales ever made the cost/benefit ratio of a service contract clear to them, then finally stop stamping their feet and cursing long enough to accept our generous offer of applying seventy-five percent of their bill toward a long-term contract.  After that, they’re pretty much hooked. Read More

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