Archive for December, 2008

Judging the judges — on TV

December 19, 2008

gavel.jpgI’m not sure we have enough TV judges appearing on the local airwaves.

For the lead item in today’s column, I perused the Observer’s TV listings and saw that a mere 12 different TV judge shows air on the television channels in the region each weekday.

And they occupy just 23 hours of daily programming. (Since most of the shows are 30 minutes long, you can tell that some of the TV judges are on several times a day — and on various channels.)

Wow! Until now, I hadn’t realized the extent of TV judgedom.

Today’s column notes that TV judges aren’t analogous with real judges — though many viewers may think they are. Not all of them have experience as real judges, either. But most do seem to have real law degrees.

Legal commentators think TV judge shows are eroding our view of, respect for and knowledge about how the real legal system does and should work. Go here and here to read a couple of articles on that subject.

But doggone it, TV judge shows are entertaining — to some. Or, uh, judging by the proliferation of the shows, to a lot of people.

Below: A rogue’s gallery of the TV judges now on our airwaves, plus one who was just pretending to be a real TV judge. Can you pick that person? If you can, click on the pic to go to a video spoof of a TV judge show.

judge-alex.jpg  judge-cristina-perez.jpg  judge-hatchett.gif 

 judge-jeanine-pirro.JPG  judge-joe-brown.jpg  judge-judy1.jpg

judge-karen.jpg  judge-lynn-toler.jpg  judge-marilyn-milian.jpg

judge-penny1.jpg  judge-phil-hartman-on-snl.jpg  judgedavidyoung_2.jpg

judge-mathis1.jpg 

My stars!

December 18, 2008

Well, our stars… or the stars. And galaxies. And nebulae. And interstellar gas. And universe.

As anyone who reads the Live Wire column or this blog or my occasional stints covering Fay to Z when Greg Phillips is otherwise engaged, I ramble around.

Today, I’ve rambled back to a place that I mentioned in that Dec. 3 stint doing Fay to Z: the Boston Globe’s really cool Big Picture feature and particularly one current feature there — an online Big Picture Advent calendar using photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. They’re just amazing. The creator of the calendar adds a new photo to the site every day.

Below is the photo from Day 1 of the calendar. Click here to see the rest — in huge, screen-spanning glory.

    2004-star-v838.jpg

If you’re so inspired, check out some of the hundreds of other photos taken by the Hubble, which are posted at its site.

Maybe you’re wondering about the colors in these photos. Yeah, they were added in — but with a scientific purpose in mind. The colors are used to enhance detail as well as to show types of light that aren’t visible to the naked eye. There’s a much better and more detailed explanation here.

Meanwhile, for real knowledge about what’s going on in the sky, stay tuned to Johnny Horne’s Backyard Universe.

If your trash, recycling or yard waste is picked up on Thursdays…

December 16, 2008

trash-pickup.jpeg…or, in the case of yard waste, on Fridays, too, here are some schedules for city residents to be aware of as we head toward the last Thursday and Friday before Christmas and New Year’s Day (which fall on consecutive Thursdays).

Each type of pickup will be following a different schedule over the holidays so clear out what you can this week if it could be problematic.

Trash: It’s the least of your worries. If your regular pickup is Thursday, it’ll be picked up on the Fridays after Christmas and New Year’s Day.

blue-bin.jpgRecycling: This caused a lot of confusion at Thanksgiving because the people with regular Thursday pickup assumed it would be picked up on Friday, just like trash. Nope. It wasn’t picked up ’til the following Thursday.

And, in fact, that’ll be the case at Christmas, too — Thursday pickup people will lose their recycling pickup Christmas week, but, if they have their bins out the following Thursday, it’ll be picked up. Yes, on New Year’s Day. Trash won’t be picked up that day, but recycling will be. The recycling is picked up by Waste Management, a private contractor.

raking-leaves1.jpegYard waste: If your yard waste is regularly picked up on Thursdays or Fridays, and it’s not out by the curb in a bin or bags by this Thursday (Dec. 18) or Friday (Dec. 19), don’t bother taking it there ’til the week after New Year’s Day. They won’t be servicing the regular Thursday or Friday pickup routes during the two holiday weeks.

For general information about the city’s sanitation programs, go here.

Tub talk

December 16, 2008

bathtub1.jpgIn today’s column, L.R. wanted to know who in the area could reglaze a porcelain bathtub.

I listed a number of businesses that do this work.

But I also wanted to provide some links here to more information about this procedure for anyone who wants to understand it a little better before they either go shopping for a contractor or consider doing it themselves.

It’s not an easy process and it really needs to be done correctly — and safely.

To learn a bit more about it, check out this info at the This Old House site and these two lengthy posts by contractors — this one and this one — at Bob Vila‘s message board.

Meanwhile, because my brain just works that way, this tub talk post reminded me of another old SNL skit — Celebrity Hot Tub with James Brown (Eddie Murphy). I always remember this fondly — not least, because I got to see James Brown perform at the Cape Cod Melody Tent in the ’80s and he was almost exactly like this — minus the hot tub and Dr. Joyce Brothers.

SNL doesn’t have the skit at its site. And it’s been yanked off YouTube several times for copyright infringement. But I found a site where it’s posted, until the SNL legal peeps show up. Watch it while you can. And shhh.

celebrity-hot-tub-1.JPG

Yeah, that’s the ticket

December 12, 2008

In today’s column, B.K. asks whether there’s anyplace in the area where a private person can get a lie detector test done.

Indeed there are, as the column explains.

moepolygraph1.jpgI didn’t go into the arguments about the validity of lie detector tests. Some believe the tests can be beaten. Some question their reliability. But, if they’re administered by qualified examiners, they’re accepted by authorities in many places, including North Carolina.

They can certainly produce uncomfortable moments. I think you probably know that if you ever saw “The Moment of Truth” on Fox, which is returning next year. While I like plenty of trashy shows and reality TV, I didn’t like what I heard about this one and I didn’t watch it.

But this question did remind me of another memorable bit of TV from the much more distant past. I took the title of this post from it. I’m talking about Tommy Flanagan, the Pathological Liar, a recurring Jon Lovitz character on “Saturday Night Live” back in the ’80s. He told lies of hilariously monumental proportions.

SNL is pretty thorough about getting clips from the show taken off YouTube as fast as they’re put up so there’s no Tommy Flanagan there.

But at least the show has some old clips at its site and, if you could use a laugh, you absolutely should watch this bit in which Tommy Flanagan and Pee-wee Herman meet up in jail and start blithely lying to each other. I wonder what a polygraph test would make of them.

liars-club.JPG

Space heaters

December 9, 2008

space-heater.jpegWhen it’s cold — and when money’s tight — they can help you cut costs and keep warm.

But, if you go this route, be sure to get a quality heater and be sure to operate it correctly to limit your risk of fire (from any heater) or carbon-monoxide poisoning (from heaters that burn fuel, such as kerosene).

In fact, if your home isn’t already equipped with smoke detectors and a carbon monoxide detector or two, you’d do well to invest in these devices, too. If you already have them, go check them to make sure they’re working properly. Go! Do it now. If you procrastinate, you’ll forget and it’ll never get done. I’ll wait right here…

…All right.

space-heater1.jpgToday’s column gives a brief rundown on what to look for in an electric space heater. Here are some other resources to check for info on all sorts of space heaters:

*Even if you’re not a subscriber to Consumer Reports, you can access the nonprofit mag’s basic information about space heaters. That includes advice on how to choose a space heater and information about safety risks.

What you can’t see, unless you’re a subscriber, is its ratings and quick recommendations about space heaters. If you keep it on the down low, I’ll sidle over and say the mag gives good marks to some DeLonghi, Pelonis, Honeywell and Holmes heaters, whose prices range from $30 to $110.

*The U.S. Department of Energy has information about both electric and combustion space heaters.

 *The Consumer Product Safety Commission has detailed information about both sorts of space heaters.

*There’s a good feature on space heaters at the This Old House site.

Meanwhile, some safety highlights

If you get a portable electric space heater, make sure it will turn off automatically if it tips over. Plug it directly into the wall or, if you must use an extension cord, make sure it’s a heavy-duty 14-gauge cord.

kerosene-space-heater.jpgIf you get a combustion heater, it must be vented properly. Never, ever, ever fill it with gasoline. Never fill it while it’s hot. Don’t overfill it with fuel (because the fuel may expand). And don’t store unused fuel inside the house.

With any sort of space heater, don’t go to sleep with it on. Keep it at least 3 feet away from flammable objects such as bedding, furniture and drapes. Don’t put it in a place where something flammable might fall on it, such as a towel.

Recycling during the holidays

December 8, 2008

lotsa-christmas-presents.jpgWe’re coming into what has to be considered the equivalent of leaf season for recyclables: Christmas and its landslide of gift boxes and wrapping paper that could be recycled — if you could get it picked up.

bottles.jpgThat’s not to mention likely upticks in discarded glass and plastic bottles, aluminum cans, paperboard food boxes, food cans, and other recyclable packaging related to holiday parties and feasts.

In the case of many — most? — households, it’s bound to amount to more than your blue bin can handle. For one thing, gigantic cardboard boxes cannot be made to fit in the blue bins. (I’ve tried.)

Couple all that with these facts:

1. If your recyclables are typically picked up on Thursdays, you’ve got an extra bad situation over the holidays.

That’s because Christmas falls on Thursday this year and, understandably, the recycling trucks won’t be working that day. Note: Recyclables aren’t picked up by the city, but by Waste Management under a contract with the city.

But, unlike the city with its garbage trucks, Waste Management won’t make up that recycling day’s pickups on Friday or Saturday. It doesn’t have the manpower or equipment. Instead, that day of pickups is lost forever, leaving you with all those recyclables for another week. (I feel your pain; my recycling is picked up on Thursdays.)

I can hear some of you calendar-minded folks now: Agh! New Year’s Day is the very next Thursday.

But! They will be picking up recyclables on New Year’s Day. Note: This will be the deal in the future, too: If your recycling pickup day falls on any holiday except for New Year’s Day, you’re out of luck that week.

blue-bin-is-full.jpeg2. But what if you have more recyclables than your blue bin can hold?

This is already a routine problem for some households. And it’s why the city’s acquiring bigger “super” recycling bins that it will sell to interested residents. But these bins won’t be available until January, at the earliest, according to a city spokeswoman. She didn’t know what they might cost.

Meanwhile, if your recyclables don’t fit in your cart, you’re typically out of luck. They don’t have to pick up stuff left beside the cart, even if it’s in a recyclable paper bag.

one-arm-reycling-truck.jpegAnd they can’t pick it up if they’re — well, he’s — in the one-person truck. That’s the truck that has a special arm that lifts the blue bin waaayyy up in the air and shakes it out over the truck. Just one person mans that truck and, even if he had the inclination or the time, he doesn’t have the ability to toss extraneous stuff to the opening on top of the truck. I don’t know if there’s some other way to toss in extra recyclables but the guy’s on a schedule.

So… Whaddaya do?

flattened-cardboard.jpgFortunately, as in leaf season when they have loose-leaf pickup, there’ll be some slack afforded recyclers immediately after Christmas. If you flatten your cardboard and set it beside your bin on your pickup day, they’re supposed to pick it up, too, even though it won’t be in the bin.

That just applies to cardboard, though.  Other out-of-the-bin stuff will be ignored. (Supposedly.)

If you’re so inspired, you can cart other excess recyclables to a recycling center. See this post for info on where these are and what they accept. There are both county- and city-operated recycling sites. The county sites take more sorts of stuff.

reuse_reduce_recycle.jpgAll of this might put you in mind of a couple of other ways to deal with potential Christmas trash — create less of it (that way you have less to dispose of) and reuse parts that are reusable (save gift bags; reuse good wrapping paper; wrap stuff in newspaper or cloth; or use some to make a cozy fire). Those are the first two R’s in equation that includes recycling.

And they’re not bad ideas, especially in light of this disheartening news about recycling — as with the rest of the economy, markets for recyclables are slumping terribly.