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Thursday, September 27, 2007Die Differently!!!!!!!!
We all shrug off our mortal coil eventually. Whilst we all look forward to a long and happy life, there are some unfortunate souls who leave this world with a touch of humor. If you’re gonna go, go out in style.
In New Orleans more than 100 lifeguards threw a party to celebrate their first year without any tragedies. While they were partying, one of the guests, who was not a life saver, fell into the swimming pool fully clothed and drowned, even though four lifeguards were supposed to be on duty at the time.
In Japan, Kenji Urada was killed when a robot at the Kawasaki factory where he worked mistook his head for a component that needed tightening up.
Chess Grandmaster Gudkov checkmated a computer three times in a row at a public tournament in Moscow. The next time he touched the machine it got it's revenge by electrocuting him.
A naked man running across New York's Brooklyn bridge singing “Oh what a beautiful morning!” was run over by a car and killed.
Hello, my name is Rebecca. And I’m online dating.
There I’ve said it. That wasn’t so bad. I’ve admitted to the fact that I’ve created a first-date version of myself on the Internet for the entire world to view and subsequently pick apart like a Hooters chicken wing.
I made my foray into the online dating world in January of 2006 and my decision of which site to use was a tough one. Because I cannot in good conscience associate myself with a site that aligns itself with a doctor who goes simply by his first name, because I’m not Jewish, and because I have no patience to fill out a survey that takes roughly two hours to complete, I opted for the free version of a Web site that makes me laugh without fail, thinking that perhaps I might find a free version of a man who makes me laugh without fail. That’s right, in my attempt to alter my romantic destiny, I chose a site named after a vegetable. I chose The Onion. (Note: The Onion shares its database of members with Nerve, Salon, Fast Cupid, some local newspaper Web sites, and probably other sites I don’t know about. For convenience sake, I’ll just refer to it as The Onion.)
I chose The Onion after narrowing down the online dating space to what seems to be three major players. My personal assessment of each—right or wrong, from a straight woman’s perspective and in an extremely over-generalizing fashion—is:
Mr. Regular Guy = match.com
Mr. Square Guy = eHarmony
Mr. Slightly Edgy/Quirky Guy = The Onion
One reason I think The Onion is a little edgier is because of the questions asked in the member profile. The Onion’s questions give you a tiny bit more insight than the standard religion/education/favorite things-type questions. Whether this is information you want or is actually helpful in making a first impression about the person is a different story, but the answers can be a fun (and sometimes disturbing) read. Some of the more fun questions include: favorite on-screen sex scene, _____ is sexy; _____ is sexier; if I could be anywhere right now, and if I had a million dollars.
I also like The Onion because funny people read it. For me personally, it’s a little bit of a litmus test. People who get The Onion will probably get me and my weird sense of humor. Friends of mine who are members via Nerve and Salon say the same thing; they identify with the type of content on those sites and want to date people who relate.
The biggest selling point of The Onion is that you can date for free as a Standard member. You don’t have access to a few things that paid members do, but you’ll still be able (for the most part) to conduct a thorough search. The advantages to being a paid member are being able to see all of a member’s photos (as opposed to just the main one), coming up higher in search returns, being able to search by specific criteria (which admittedly would have been helpful for me in weeding out all those men under 6'1"), and of course, sending emails to people you’re interested in. But if you want to work The Onion freebie, never fear. You can still email members you’re interested in by purchasing points. (Sending an email is 200 points. The minimum purchase is 2000 points for a mere $10.) As a Standard member, you can receive emails—so make sure your picture is good. Also, look for members that have Standard Contacts status—you can email them for free.
The real proof, of course, is in the dates. Every person I’ve gone out with (and there have been many, trust me) has been incredibly interesting, regardless of whether or not we had a connection. I wouldn’t say that every single one of them was funny and edgy (but then, I’m sure many of them wouldn’t say that about me either considering I’m still single), but they each had an interesting creative wrinkle of some sort. They also all lived either in San Francisco or very close to San Francisco which is a top priority for me. (I actually did give in to filling out that blasted questionnaire on eHarmony but I never went out with anyone because 80 percent of my matches lived at least an hour outside the city. Something to think about if you’re considering eHarmony.)
But after one year on The Onion and what seems like an endless flow of first dates, I’m still single. I never went out with anyone past three dates. I’m acutely aware that this may be a user issue rather than a site issue but even so, I think it’s time to move on. I’m not excited about my other options, but as they say, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.
Still, I give The Onion my personal stamp of satisfaction and approval. If you’re not ready to make a huge financial commitment to online dating, or if you like the idea that you’re on an edgier, more “underground” dating site, it may be the right place for you.
Two mobile homes were badly damaged by fire in Center Township, Beaver County, and a couple who lived in one of the trailers is facing charges Tuesday -- even though they are also victims of the fire.
Crystal Adams, 31, and James Chandler, 33, are accused of reckless endangerment, because police say the two grabbed their pet dogs and fled the fire at Center Manor Court but left Chandler's young son behind on Friday night.
The 4-year-old boy was treated for smoke inhalation after a firefighter ran inside and pulled him out, township Fire Chief Bill Brucker said.
Police said the firefighters learned that the boy was still inside the burning mobile home about 20 minutes after Chandler and Adams had already gotten out, when the two allegedly told firefighters that they had forgotten the child.
"They were asked numerous times by law enforcement -- I overheard at least once or twice -- 'Is there anyone else in these trailers?' Brucker told WTAE Channel 4's Sheldon Ingram.
The boy was conscious when a firefighter found him in a bedroom, Brucker said.
"You tuck your kid in bed, you should remember that he's still in there," Brucker said.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
In the several years since our wedding, my wife, Elizabeth, and I have had the typical disagreements over money, in-laws, and the talent of Jonathan Safran Foer. To resolve these minor spats, we've tried to observe that old spousal chestnut: Never go to sleep angry. However, until recently, we hadn't done much to address the one major cause of disharmony in our marriage—a growing crisis that happened while we slept. Or, more precisely, while I slept.
I am a snorer. A virtuoso snorer, really, with a repertoire ranging from a breezy whistle to a staccato snort. (Click on the player below to listen to an audio clip of my snoring.) My default snore is a variation of the "Snorchestra," a high-pitched stab of an inhale releasing to a low grumble that builds in intensity until Elizabeth wakes up and takes action.
Traditionally, that action has come in the form of a pleading "Chip!" which my brain semiconsciously translates into "Snoring! Turn to side! Now!" (I snore only while lying on my back.) But a year or so ago, the situation began to worsen. Elizabeth and I started referring to the actions of our "sleep selves" to explain the spiteful nocturnal behavior we preferred not to think of as our own. (It was foul-mouthed, sometimes violent—shouting, punching, kicking.) Worst of all, our sleep selves started to infiltrate our awake world. We woke up grumpy, and even staggered our bedtimes so that Elizabeth could fall asleep first. Snoring had driven a wedge between us.
We were not alone. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, 45 percent of "normal adults" snore occasionally and 25 percent snore every night. Most snoring is caused by the muscles in the mouth, tongue, and throat relaxing to the point that they vibrate against each other and partially block the flow of air during sleep. Anything that further relaxes those muscles—like alcohol—or contributes to the blockage—like extra fat—can make snoring worse. (Snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea, a serious condition in which the obstruction is so complete that the snorer quits breathing for seconds at a time. If you think you have apnea, see a doctor.)
In the abstract, the fact that so many others snore (or live with a snorer) is comforting. But in practice, not so much. Finally, this past spring (motivated in part by Elizabeth being pregnant), I went looking for help.
First, I took several online questionnaires to determine what kind of snorer I was. The consensus: I belong to the population of "socially incorrect" snorers, who are, as the clever minds behind Put an End to Snoring define it, "more a menace to others than themselves." (Disclosure: I still have my tonsils, and I've broken my nose a couple of times. I've also seen an ENT about snoring and was diagnosed as being a "mild" snorer.)
Severe snorers have many options available to them, from medical procedures like uvulopalatopharyngoplasty to breathing apparati like the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine. We socially incorrect snorers can choose from a multitude of so-called remedies that comprise a minor but colorful subset of the massive "sleep racket." Anyone familiar with late-night infomercials will recognize the look and tone of those pushing these snoring solutions—everything's "all natural" and "FDA-approved." Often, the power of "earth magnets" and "essential oils" is invoked.
I wasn't looking for a miracle. I just wanted an easy, inexpensive remedy that would help cut down on my snoring—quickly. I narrowed my list to six varying remedies. To rate them, I designed a scoring system that borrowed from figure skating and golf (two sports that usually put me right to sleep). I tested each remedy for five consecutive nights and evaluated them using three criteria. I tossed the best and worst scores for each criterion, and averaged the middle three. I then added the averages and rounded to the closest whole number to get a total score. The total with the lowest score won.
Ease of use
(10 = very uncomfortable/1 = not uncomfortable)
I don't like sticking anything inside of me that doesn't need to be there, so remedies that had to go inside my mouth or nose fared worse. Otherwise, did it hurt to apply or use? Was it a pain to set up? Did it require much maintenance? Was it hard for me to fall or stay asleep while using it? Was there an adjustment period? Were there side effects?
(10 = actively hated/1 = didn't dislike)
Did the remedy scare or repulse Elizabeth? Did my use directly affect her sleep (i.e., did it make noise, give off an odor, or crowd the bed)? Did she notice a difference in my snoring, or in her sleep? How often did she have to yell at me? How did she feel the next morning?
(10 = much worse than usual/1 = better than usual)
Was I more or less sluggish than usual? Was my mouth dry? Did I feel tired? Did I look tired?
The Results (from nightmarish to dreamy)
Pureline Scoreclipse nasal clip, $14.95
There are many nasal clips on the market. This one purports to cure snoring by using "rare earth magnets." The magnets put pressure on the septum, which supposedly increases circulation in the nose and promotes the opening of the nasal passages to help cut down on snoring.
But I never got around to testing the clip because it hurt to wear, felt invasive, and repulsed Elizabeth so much that she couldn't even look at me while I wore it. "I'd rather you snore than sleep with that thing in your nose," she said, settling the matter.
Ease of use: 10
E's reaction: 10
Morning after: n/a
Generic boxing mouthpiece, $1.99 and up
"Custom fabricated dental devices" like Snore Guard and Silent Nite help severe snorers by keeping the jaw in the same position during sleep that it is in during the awake hours. Their over-the-counter cousins are glorified boil-and-bite mouthpieces at a significant markup. I ordered one such product called a SnoreMate, but it got lost en route from South Africa. So, I went to a local sporting-goods store and asked the sales guy which mouthpiece he'd recommend. He walked me over to the boxing section, handed me a double mouthpiece set, and said that a customer had bought one earlier to "help during his schizophrenic seizures." Sold.
Elizabeth, however, was not a fan. "You look like a monster," she said. After the second night, I wasn't keen, either. I slurped throughout the night, but woke up with cottonmouth. I had that dry, rubbery taste all the next morning, even after brushing. One morning, I discovered I had taken the mouthpiece out during the night. I didn't remember doing this, but it was not a strong endorsement from my sleep self. Worst of all, according to Elizabeth, I snored heavily every night.
Ease of use: 7
E's reaction: 9
Morning after: 8
Breathe Right Strips, $14.99 for a box of 30
Anyone who's watched a pro football game in the past decade will recognize Breathe Right and other nasal strips. These cross the bridge of the nose and stick to the nostrils, "lifting open" the nasal passages to make it easier to breathe through your nose. I have used nasal strips periodically since they came on the market in the mid-1990s. I like that raw rush of cold, dry air I seem to take in when wearing one. I feel as if I'm breathing better, even if I'm not. Of course, the strips have their obvious problems. They're an expensive full-time habit, and they often peel off of one side of my nose after an hour or two. Plus, they leave strip marks on my face the next day.
Elizabeth finds them ridiculous. "They don't work," she said. "You basically just have a piece of Scotch tape on your face." Still, I wanted to include them to see how they'd perform in a test environment. As she expected, I snored every night, though I did feel a little peppier on several mornings.
Two provisions of the USA Patriot Act are unconstitutional because they allow search warrants to be issued without a showing of probable cause, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as amended by the Patriot Act, "now permits the executive branch of government to conduct surveillance and searches of American citizens without satisfying the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment."
Portland attorney Brandon Mayfield sought the ruling in a lawsuit against the federal government after he was mistakenly linked by the FBI to the Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people in 2004.
The federal government apologized and settled part of the lawsuit for $2 million after admitting a fingerprint was misread. But as part of the settlement, Mayfield retained the right to challenge parts of the Patriot Act, which greatly expanded the authority of law enforcers to investigate suspected acts of terrorism.
Mayfield claimed that secret searches of his house and office under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act violated the Fourth Amendment's guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure. Aiken agreed with Mayfield, repeatedly criticizing the government.
"For over 200 years, this Nation has adhered to the rule of law — with unparalleled success. A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised," she wrote.
By asking her to dismiss Mayfield's lawsuit, the judge said, the U.S. attorney general's office was "asking this court to, in essence, amend the Bill of Rights, by giving it an interpretation that would deprive it of any real meaning. This court declines to do so."
Elden Rosenthal, an attorney for Mayfield, issued a statement on his behalf praising the judge, saying she "has upheld both the tradition of judicial independence, and our nation's most cherished principle of the right to be secure in one's own home."
Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said the agency was reviewing the decision, and he declined to comment further.
Received apology from FBI
Mayfield, a Muslim convert, was taken into custody on May 6, 2004, because of a fingerprint found on a detonator at the scene of the Madrid bombing. The FBI said the print matched Mayfield's. He was released about two weeks later, and the FBI admitted it had erred in saying the fingerprints were his and later apologized to him.
Before his arrest, the FBI put Mayfield under 24-hour surveillance, listened to his phone calls and surreptitiously searched his home and law office.
The Mayfield case has been an embarrassment for the federal government. Last year, the Justice Department's internal watchdog faulted the FBI for sloppy work in mistakenly linking Mayfield to the Madrid bombings. That report said federal prosecutors and FBI agents had made inaccurate and ambiguous statements to a federal judge to get arrest and criminal search warrants against Mayfield.