Friday, March 30, 2012

AT LARGE Fake News Friday: iPad Users Pretty Much OK With Them Catching Fire

CUPERTINO, Calif. (CAP) - Reports of the new version of the iPad heating to exorbitant temperatures have not fazed Apple's customers, who say that to have the company's latest technology they're more than willing to put up with slight inconveniences, such as catching on fire.

"It's really not a big deal," said Vallco Mall shopper Pete Hearst, 29, while tossing his iPad back and forth from hand to hand to avoid burning his fingers. "Just don't hold it for too long, or touch it, and it's not really a problem.

"I mean, look at that screen!" he added. "The picture's not even blurry even though I'm tossing it in the air. I mean, wow."

In Cambridge, Mass., longtime Apple products user Jason Knowlton, 22, agreed, noting that the screen resolution was "just awesome - did you know it has more colors than the human eye can see?" Particularly Knowlton's eyes, which were burned when flames shot out of his device 10 minutes after he first started using it.

"But it was the best 10 minutes of my life," he said, noting that the blindness is only temporary, and actually less painful than the time he accidentally inhaled an iPod shuffle.

According to Apple spokesperson Shelley Chambers, the new iPad is actually operating within technical specifications, "give or take a few dozen degrees."

"Early adopters understand that each iteration of a new technology is going to have its own unique facets," and that some of those facets could involve excess heat or the occasional explosion, she said.

"The early astronauts knew about those risks, and so do Apple customers," said Chambers. "It's sort of like the same thing."

Users of the Microsoft Zune have faced similar issues with their devices, seeing early models shut down on New Year's Eve and cause acute dermatitis. Asked whether more recent models have resolved those issues, Microsoft spokesman Paul Schlemp responded, "You mean we still make those?"

Schlemp declined to comment on whether the current iPad problems could be related to the exploding European iPhones and iPads that Microsoft was accused of sabotaging in 2009. "I could tell you, but then I'd have to time out your operation while waiting for a response from the receiving (POP) server," he said.

"Just a little Microsoft humor there," he added, then laughed like a donkey.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Column: Help! I think I may be middle-aged!

Thank you for your interest in our program, “Help! I Think I May be Middle-Aged!” Please be assured that many people have similar concerns to yourself; however, just because you’re beginning to feel middle-aged doesn’t mean you actually are. It could be allergies.

With that in mind, please take a few minutes to complete this simple test, which will determine whether or not middle age is really taking its toll.

1) You’ve cut yourself while shaving:
a) The top of your head (5 points)
b) Your ears (10 points)
c) Your back (15 points)
d) Other non-facial area (please don’t share which — 20 points)

2) True or False: Some idiot from the oldies station keeps playing recent songs, like “Heart and Soul” by Huey Lewis and the News. (“True” — 10 points)

3) Your children respond to your jokes with:
a) Gurgling (0 points)
b) Polite laughter (5 points)
c) Eye movements that make you fear their eyes will retract into the backs of their heads, never to be seen again (10 points)
d) The icy glare of death (15 points)

4) True or false: You tend to think of your parents as younger than you actually are right now. (“True” — 10 points)

5) Finish this sentence: “My idea of a wild night is ____.”
a) Attending a concert (1 point)
b) Watching a concert on TV (5 points)
c) Watching the late news on TV (10 points)
d) Sitting down to watch the late news and waking up on the couch in the middle of the night, drooling on myself (15 points)

6) Essay: List all the medications and vitamins you are currently taking on a regular basis. (5 points per medication, 3 per vitamin, extra 10 points if any of them are blue)

7) Fill in the blank: “What are you complaining about? When I was a kid, we only had ____ channels!”
a) 100 (0 points)
b) 50 (5 points)
c) 13 (10 points)
d) 3 (15 points)
e) What’s a channel? (25 points)

8) How would you classify your relationship with your spouse?
a) Steamy (0 points)
b) Romantic (5 points)
c) Comfortable (10 points)
d) Don’t bother us, we’re on the couch drooling (15 points)

9) Which “Batman” villain do you most resemble?
a) The Joker (1 point)
b) King Tut (5 points)
c) Egghead (10 points)
d) The Penguin (15 points)

10) How may pairs of glasses do you own? Give yourself 5 points for each pair.

11) Which of the following statements best describes your reaction upon entering your most recent high school reunion?
a) “You haven’t changed a bit!” (1 point)
b) “You haven’t changed a bit, other than looking vaguely plastic and frozen!” (5 points)
c) “Who are all these old people?” (10 points)
d) “Why does the DJ keep playing recent songs, like ‘Heart and Soul’ by Huey Lewis and the News?” (15 points)

12) Quick! Who do you think of when someone mentions the first lady of the United States?
a) Michele Obama! (0 points)
b) Laura Bush! (5 points)
c) Hillary Clinton! (10 points)
d) Lady Bird Johnson! (100 points)

Your score:

60 or under: You have nothing to worry about. Get back to your trendy raving club, you hipster.

61-100: You have some time left, but middle age is bearing down on you like a paunchy, graying freight train.

101-150: We’re sorry to inform you that you are squarely in the throes of middle age. Please step away from those jeggings. We’re talking to you, sir.

151 or higher: Middle age must be sounding pretty good right now. If you can still remember it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

AT LARGE Fake News Monday: Teens Gird For 'Hunger Games' Movie By Eating Each Other

LOS ANGELES (CAP) - It wouldn't be the most anticipated film series since Twilight if mayhem didn't ensue at the Los Angeles mall tour stop for The Hunger Games, which was held at the Westfield Century City Mall on Saturday. That it would result in bloodshed and possibly cannibalism took some people by surprise, though.

"It was horrible - horrible!" said a visibly shaken Lt. Carl Bender of the Los Angeles Police Department, whose officers tried to reign in the group of more than 1,000 12- to 16-year-olds, mostly girls, who rioted when they couldn't get close enough to stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth.

"Especially Josh Hutcherson," noted Lt. Bender, referring to the actor who plays Peeta Mellark in the upcoming Hunger Games movie, and whom Bender described as "admittedly dreamy."

"I'm just saying," Bender added, grimacing as an EMT bandaged the area where a 12-year-old San Bernadino girl had bitten him on the calf.

Apparently the crowd became unruly when security guards attempted to get them to back away from the stage, and a group of youngsters near the front upended the guards' Segway scooters. Before long the stars had been shuffled to an undisclosed location and the crowd overran the mall, violently letting loose on each other and mall personnel in an attempt to get to Lawrence, Hutcherson and Hemsworth.

"Especially Hutcherson," Bender reiterated.

According to witnesses, the violence started when hundreds of girls overran a giant cornucopia display filled with rolled-up Josh Hutcherson posters and started whacking each other mercilessly with them. The ones who didn't get their hands on posters wound up fashioning flaming arrows out of hangers they pulled from displays in the mall's Hollister store.

"At first it was just chaos, but eventually the crowd settled down into separate camps that started plotting out strategies to out-survive the others at all costs," said Pretzel Time cashier Sarah Farliski, who witnessed the melee. "It was almost as if they had to start making choices that weighed survival against humanity and life against love.

"I'm just saying," she added.

Police reported several possible fatalities among the crowd, primarily via arrow injuries, land mines, poisoned berries and genetically mutated wasps, in addition to the people beaten to death by Josh Hutcherson posters. Reports of cannibalism were yet to be confirmed, although "there's no denying these kids were pretty hungry," said Farliski, who also reported selling a record number of pretzels.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Friday, March 09, 2012

Column: What's your pet thinking? You don't wanna know

If you spend enough time around animals, it’s hard not to wonder what they’re feeling at any given moment. Are they vaguely like us, given to their own feelings of elation, frustration and ennui? Or are they primarily motivated by hunger and a need to scratch themselves, which would make them exactly like us?

Well, it looks like we may not have to wonder much longer. is reporting that brain researchers are closer than ever to determining what animals feel, via a process that involves … wait, let me check my notes … ah yes, tickling rats. And if you just got an image in your head of MIT doctoral candidates tickling rats and saying “Who’s a good rat? Who’s a good rat? You are!,” my work here is done.

So this study teaches us a few interesting things — one, that rats enjoy a good laugh just like the rest of us. And also, it turns out that when they’re scurrying underfoot they may not be looking to eat your food or chew your face off, but instead might just want a good tickle. You should really consider coming down off your kitchen chair and giving them a nice belly poke, just to see what happens.

But more importantly, studying the rats’ reactions helps show us what it’s like to feel, well, like an animal. For those of us who live with more than a few of those, it’s only a small leap from there to imagining a pet therapy session where we can finally understand our furry friends’ innermost thoughts. In my house, for instance:

Penny (yellow Lab): I know it sounds crazy, but I can’t shake this feeling that the dog in window is taunting me.

Autumn (multi-colored cat): That’s you, you idiot! Haven’t you noticed you’re both always barking at the same time?

Lilly (black Lab): I wonder if all these other dogs went away, would the people here let me eat their food?

Corona (golden retriever): I’m feeling remarkably well adjusted, but I’d feel even better if I crawled onto the head of that guy on the couch.

Bruce (black kitten): Those people keep watching and pointing as I play with these empty supermarket bags. … What’s their gimmick, anyway?

Sally (other golden retriever): I’m starting to feel anxious that there might be a squirrel somewhere. I better start barking incessantly just in case.

Squirrel (squirrel): Nuts, nuts, nuts — is this all there is?

Penny: I wonder if I went away, would the people here let the dog in the window eat my food?

Guy on the couch: Why are all these animals staring at me? And why is there a golden retriever on my head?

But the findings go way beyond pets. According to the ABC post, “the happily chirping lab rats might eventually lead the way to new notions of how consciousness itself … might be similar, if not exactly the same, in many species.”

In other words, animals might see the world exactly as you do, which ostensibly could complicate matters next time you go to eat one. I know I’ve always been able to justify it by convincing myself that they don’t really mind — “Oh good, my wings and thighs are being useful!” — whereas if they actually experience being eaten the same way we would, they might have some reservations about it.

As for the pets, it makes me wonder if we should be reconsidering certain things we put them through, such as making them sleep in crates, and walk on leashes, and evacuate into litter boxes. Well, that last one would be convenient for anybody, but the other things.

But as fascinating as the research is, it’s probably not wise to spend a lot of time laboring over what the findings mean for our overarching relationship with the animal kingdom. In the end, after all, we’re the ones with the bigger brains, so we get to make the rules. Besides, we have other, more important, concerns to worry about.

For instance, I can’t shake this feeling that the guy in window is taunting me.

Friday, March 02, 2012

AT LARGE Fake News Friday: 'Actuary of Valor' To Feature Actual Accountants

HOLLYWOOD (CAP) - The directors of the upcoming Sony Pictures release Actuary Of Valor originally planned to use actors to play a team of crack Certified Public Accountants, but when they started doing research for the film, they quickly changed their minds.

"As we set out on the research project, we met the guys and were just blown away," says director Frank McHue. "These were some of the most amazing men we'd ever met. They were so different from the Hollywood, popular-culture stereotype. They're not Leo Blooms. Well, they're sort of Leo Blooms, but not as funny."McHue said it's about time real accountants got their due.

"Our lead in the movie, Chief Morty" - the accountants in the film are not fully identified to protect their privacy come tax season - "he's such a humble guy," said McHue. "We were like, Wow, we need to let the American public know these guys are special. To properly tell their story, we couldn't do it with actors. We just felt like it had to be from the men who've actually experienced it."

The plot, in which the accountants help people and businesses find write-offs they wouldn't have otherwise known existed, is based on actual, real-life experiences of the accountants in the movie.

"The hardest sequence to nail was the explanation of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)," says McHue. "It was a three-week sequence that we needed to shoot completely in six days because of the availability of the guys. You're talking about tax time here. They're swamped!"

Morty said overall, he enjoyed the filming, even if it took a while to bring the directors up to speed. "In the beginning it was a WIP - at first these guys didn't know the difference between an ITR and an IWO," he said, laughing so hard he almost lost a pen out of his pocket protector. "But we set them straight on that pretty darn quick."

Fellow accountant "Fred," also in the film, said he was happy to be able to contribute to the plotline by sharing his actual experiences. "Like that New Year's Eve that time, when all our Zunes crashed," he recalled.

"That was high drama," he added, making a snorting noise.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]