My greatest childhood fear? Being bitten by a radioactive moth

I still live in fear of being bitten by a lame radioactive insect, like the newly discovered “Poodle Moth.” (goggles are optional)
For most of us, there comes a time in our lives when we must face the truth, and accept the fact we will never actually possess any type of super-human powers. This includes the ability to fly, shoot laser beams out of our eyes, or look good in a skin-tight costume.

As a child, I spent countless hours thumbing through comic books and dreaming of the day I would be bitten by a radioactive insect — and knowing full well that, with my luck, it would probably be something stupid like a moth:

“Curses! It’s Moth Man, here to foil my evil plans! HOW CAN I STOP HIM? Hey — maybe I’ll try this porch light…”

In fact, I was so sure that I would end up as a lame super hero that, with the help of my friends, we came up with a plan to MAKE me into “Spider-man” before there was any chance of me being bitten by a radioactive moth, ear wig, silverfish or stink bug. Continue reading My greatest childhood fear? Being bitten by a radioactive moth

New iPhone still no match for Nokia exploding cell phones

Being a journalist, I naturally received an advanced preview of the new iPhone5, which I was told came from a reputable dealer somewhere in Costa Rica.
Technology is great.

Except when it explodes in your pants.

I’ve never really liked cell phones to begin with. Now that they’ve started self-detonating, I like them even less. According to a news article sent in by Dan Collins of Alpharetta, Ga., Nokia has launched an investigation into why, once again, two of its cell phones burst into flames.

And yes, I said AGAIN.

As you might expect, demand for Nokia cell phones has dipped slightly as a result of these incidents. That’s because luxuries like instant text messaging, computer games and video imaging don’t mean much if your cell phone suddenly ignites into flames, turning your morning commute into a flaming lap dance and an appearance on The World’s Wildest Police Chases. Continue reading New iPhone still no match for Nokia exploding cell phones

Computer acting up? Backhand it with an anti-static wrist strap

As a last resort, you may chose to place you computer on top of a trash receptacle and threaten it at gunpoint. Remember: Threatening the monitor is a waste of time. (And yes — sadly, this is a current photo of my computer system)
Today, we will be covering basic troubleshooting techniques for your computer. By the end of this column, you will know how to identify a problem within your system, and then determine whether you can:

a) Fix it yourself, or

b) Save yourself the trouble by taking your computer somewhere and shooting it.

To begin with, most of us have absolutely no idea how a computer works. This is illustrated by the fact that, when there’s a problem, we get really mad and yell at the monitor. This is sort of like yelling at the refrigerator because the container we thought was “Cool Whip” actually turned out to be refried beans left over from last year’s Cinco De Mayo party. Continue reading Computer acting up? Backhand it with an anti-static wrist strap

Somewhere on the Internet, someone is staring at my blog

I’m a little uncomfortable with exposing my blog, so please; try not to stare.
I’m about to do something a little risky — possibly even controversial — by explaining how you could be the first person, aside from my wife, to see my blog.

… On second thought, I suppose I should include that disoriented espresso drinker at the cyber-cafe who, after stumbling into my bathroom stall searching for a Wi-Fi signal, caught a glimpse of my blog when it was on my laptop.

But HEY — aside from them, you’ll be the first.

As you can probably tell, exposing my blog is something I’m not entirely comfortable with. However, considering how hard I worked to get my blog up in the first place, I’d like as many people to see it as possible because, as I’ve learned, they can go down without warning, usually right in the middle of something important. Continue reading Somewhere on the Internet, someone is staring at my blog

Chewing the fat inside a giant Wienermobile

“After realizing the size and scope of this assignment, I was feeling a little inadequate.”

After more than a decade of working in the high-pressure environment of our newsroom, where at any given moment you could find yourself surrounded by as many as two other journalists all typing at once, it takes a lot to get our adrenaline pumping.

In fact, we have been at the epi-center of the national spotlight three times here in Florence. Sure, two occasions came after being singled out as having the nation’s highest rate of … (yawn) … retirees.

But the third time involved REAL explosives.

And a dead whale.

And quite possibly an unlicensed demolitions expert going through a divorce. This would explain using half a ton of dynamite to dispose of a rotting whale carcass that washed ashore, and how one onlooker literally chewed the fat after being struck by a piece if flying whale blubber.

Hey, it was 1970! Whales didn’t have the safety features they have today! Even experts, with their fancy calculations for trajectory, explosive force, velocity, alcohol content, etc., couldn’t have anticipated a piece of whale fat, roughly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, taking out an actual Volkswagen Beetle.

Because we are subjected to this kind of tension-filled atmosphere on a regular basis, last week, when a 27-foot-long Wienermobile rolled into town, we met it with the kind objectivity you’d expect from seasoned journalists who laugh in the face of high-velocity whale fat:

We immediately leaped from our chairs and simultaneously wedged ourselves in the doorway so tightly we had to be dislodge with a copy machine.

This left our editor with the difficult task of deciding who would cover this assignment. After taking into account experience, dedication and overall proximity to the door, she chose me to cover the giant Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. I have to admit, after seeing the size and scope of this story, I began to feel a little inadequate.

However, Wienermobile driver “Lots-of-Ketchup” Lisa assured me this reaction was very common.

She then took me on a tour of the Wienermobile, which can seat eight comfortably, or as many as 26 uncomfortably, depending on how strictly the seatbelt law is enforced in your area, particularly when it involves people riding on top of a 27-foot-long hot dog.

I know what you’re thinking:

How can I get a job like THAT?!?

OK, maybe it was just me.

But according to the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile website (, any college graduate who is “outgoing, creative, friendly, and who has an appetite for adventure” can be a candidate.

Having a good driving record also helps because, according to Lisa, in spite of its naturally aerodynamic design, handling a Wienermobile on the open road, and even proper waxing and buffing, takes practice, which is why drivers must attend special classes at “Hot Dog High,” and why, coincidentally, I am moving on to the next paragraph as quickly as possible, while this is still a family-friendly column.

I would like to thank Lisa and the folks at Oscar Mayer for including us on their national tour. I’d also like to thank them for avoiding fatty fillers in their hot dogs; the last time something 27 feet long and full of fat came to Florence, the results were explosive.

(You can write to Ned Hickson at, or at the Siuslaw News at P.O. Box 10, Florence, OR, 97439, or visit his blog at

Going on Safari? Always bring a chimp for back-up

We’re going on Safari! … uh, wait… No we’re not. Someone get the chimp from tech support!!

At this moment, someone at Apple is undoubtedly being rousted out of bed to address the fact that my Safari web browser suddenly crashed without warning.

This probably hasn’t happened to you. At least not since starting this paragraph. But it happens to me a lot, especially while reading the latest news on the presidential race, when I often find myself snoring face down on my keyboard.

But when I awake, there is a helpful pop-up window telling me my Safari application has unexpectedly quit, just in case I wasn’t aware of this, and was continuing to pound the space bar like a chimp trying to open a coconut.

I would never do that, of course. We have an IT department fully capable of pounding the space bar for me. Assuming “Chim-Chim” isn’t busy throwing yesterday’s lunch at someone.

Regardless, there are always three options in the pop-up window to help resolve the situation: close, reopen and report. Without getting too technical, I will explain how each of these work:

Close: After clicking on this option, your Safari window closes much the same as it did on its own, usually while in the middle of a critical banking or Fantasy Football transaction, except with the added satisfaction of having done it to yourself;

Reopen: Clicking on this will reopen your Safari window, providing you with an opportunity to blink before blankly staring at the same three helpful options again;

Report: I could be wrong, but I suspect this works much like crosswalk buttons, which are spring loaded and connected directly to …


Their sole purpose is to provide pedestrians with something to do until the light changes every three minutes ANYWAY, regardless of how many times they pound the button into the light pole.

Because of this suspicion, I have never actually used the report option until this morning when, in an act of desperation, I clicked on it and suddenly heard cars crashing in the crosswalk outside our office.

Ok, not really. But I was promptly given an official looking window to write in, along with an equally official send to apple button to click.

At the bottom, in small print, I was assured no personal information would be sent with the report, nor would anyone contact me a result of submitting it, thereby making it nearly impossible for someone named “P-Ram” to track me down and take my computer.

To be safe, I decided to keep Chim-Chim with me anyway.

Looking at the text window, there was limited space for my report. Being a journalist, I am used to using words usefully, and not just filling space with useless words that might otherwise be used for something useful, to wit I wrote:

Hi. I’d like to report that Safari stinks.

Satisfied that I accurately described my problem to the folks at Apple, I pressed the send button.

The response was almost immediate. The question is how long I should let Chim-Chim pound the space bar.

Loosen up with the help of bio-engineered yogurt

It’s that time again when I am faced with the difficult task of sorting through news tips sent in by readers and, after careful consideration, deciding whether to change my mailing address. Based on what I’ve received over the last several weeks, it’s clear that in the wake of events like the economic rollercoaster, the growing momentum of the presidential elections and North Korea’s recurring threat to become a nuclear power “Capable of rivaling the U.S., or at least parts of New Jersey,” there has been one subject on the minds of readers from California to Alberta, Canada. And that subject, as you’ve probably guessed, is “irregularity.”

Thanks to the many sharp-minded readers who send me the kinds of articles that the “bigger,” more “professional” news sources with “computers from this decade” and “ a staff of two or more people,” won’t cover, I have received multiple tips about an important nationwide study sponsored by the Dannon Company, which concluded residents of Orlando, Fla., are — and we’re not pointing fingers here — the most constipated Americans in the country.

In fairness, some say the study is inconclusive since, in many cases, researchers, who were stationed in fast food restaurants throughout Orlando, were chased out by security before many surveys could be completed. The only thing everyone seems to agree on is that Ex-Lax is kicking itself for not conducting the study first. According to Dannon, the 50-city survey was conducted to promote its floundering Activia yogurt, which is designed to help Jamie Lee Curtis with her irregularity.

Admittedly, I’m no scientist, but I think I can explain how Activia works. Let’s say I’m visiting Orlando. Naturally, I become constipated almost immediately. Following the advice of my hotel maid, an observant woman who has noticed my toilet paper has remained sealed for the last three days, I purchase a tub of Activia yogurt and begin shoveling spoonfuls into my mouth at a rate generally reserved for super-sized meals. Nearing the completion of my yogurt, I read the side panel on my container and discover I have just consumed a product which describes itself as “specially designed to survive passage through the digestive system, arriving into the large intestine as a live bacteria culture.”

It is in this moment — while poised with a mouthful of fruit flavored, bio-engineered bacterium — I can feel Activia working to eliminate my constipation by effectively scaring the — [fecal matter] — out of me. Don’t get me wrong. I’m no organic health food crusader. Truth be told, I have nightmares about the world’s tofu supply becoming self aware. The difference is that tofu’s rise to power will come naturally, based on its own merits, and after the development of what I suspect will be a large curd army.

Man’s fall from the top of the food chain will be through the process of “natural selection,” and not the result of bio-engineering gone wrong within — and I’m speaking purely in metaphoric terms — mankind’s collective large intestine. Unlike tofu proliferation, we have a choice when it comes to ingesting stool softening bacteria.

One solution? Climb a glacier.

According to a study conducted by Alaska epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin, one in three climbers who ascend the Kahiltna Glacier are stricken with diarrhea. Again, like the makers of Ex-Lax, executives at Charmin are kicking themselves.

My point is this: Solving Orlando’s constipation crisis by introducing bio-engineered yogurt, in my opinion, seems a little drastic. Especially when we could take a more “natural” approach by providing Orlandons with an ice pick and sending them up a glacier.

I tried contacting Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer about this. Unfortunately, all the lines were backed up.

(You can write to Ned Hickson at, or at the Siuslaw News at P.O. Box 10, Florence, Ore., 97439)

Parents: Lung capacity key when choosing inflatable toy

We live less than 15 minutes from our favorite lake. The problem is, it also happens to be everyone else’s favorite lake, which means in order to get a spot within the vicinity of actual water, you have to be there when the gates open at noon and participate in something similar to the Oklahoma Land Rush. It’s not uncommon to see small children strapped to inflatable toys and tossed ahead of the crowd in order to claim prime territory.

As a parent, it’s not a gamble I’m willing to take with my child. Especially since, as a general rule, it only counts if your child is in an upright position once they skid to a stop.

The good news is that once the initial pandemonium is over, things generally settle into a state of peaceful co-existence as, one by one, parents begin passing out while blowing up inflatable toys. Sadly, the evolutionary process has not been able to keep up with the growing demand for larger and larger inflatable animals. Unless you are a pearl diver by trade, chances are your lung capacity is nowhere near what it needs to be in order to fully inflate your child’s favorite water toy.

This has created a generation of children who are routinely disappointed by their parents during the formative “summer vacation” years, when parents are trying to build a foundation of trust and respect — something that’s hard to do when your child sees you pass out facedown between the tail fins of a plastic humpback whale.

I speak from experience. My son’s favorite water toy is an inflatable “Shamu” that, when fully inflated, can be seen from space. Though I consider myself relatively fit (and by that I mean relative to other people standing in line with me at Burger King), I have yet, in a single sitting, been able to inflate my son’s whale beyond the point it stops resembling a decomposing whale carcass. That’s about the time dizziness and suspected cerebral hemorrhage forces me to breath pure oxygen — which, fortunately, is now available to parents in single-use canisters at the snack bar.

Sure, I’ve tried inflating the whale before driving to the lake.


I quickly discovered there wasn’t enough room in our mini van to fit a fully inflated whale and four children. This left me with three options:

1) Bring the whale and leave the kids.
2) Stay home and let the kids drive the whale to the lake themselves.
3) Strap the kids to the top of the van and hope for the best.

I went with our third option, but strapped the whale on top instead of the children when I realized an important point:
Aerodynamically speaking, the whale would give me better gas mileage.

I’m no Boy Scout, but I know how to tie a knot. I stand by that to this day. Just as I did in court, when I argued that it was a single, unexpected 120 mph wind gust — and not defective knot tying — that caused a nine-foot inflatable whale to go tumbling into oncoming traffic. Thankfully, no one was injured, although a family of six on its way back from the local aquarium is still in counseling. Because of that experience, and a court order, we save the “Shamu” inflation process for the lake.

Naturally, the same goes for the deflation process which, in many ways, is even more demoralizing. That’s because in order to get all the air out, I — a grown, 45-year-old man — must roll around on top of a plastic sea mammal while holding onto a tiny air nodule located in a region SOMEONE should have realized was going to look highly inappropriate. Not to mention depleting any respectability I had in the eyes of my children.

However, in the end, ask any father who wants his kids to have fun and he’ll tell you the same thing:

It’s just part of the rising cost of inflation.