Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Friday, June 15, 2018



It's summertime in America and that means Major League Baseball is in full swing. Attendance is down 6%, and teams are dreaming up new ways to sell tickets. So just about every game has a special theme: Giveaways, Special Promotions and Heritage Nights. All toll, there will be 1,800 such events this season. Our favorite is Vegan Night at Pittsburgh's PNC Park. Most involve free gifts handed to  the first 10,000 fans at the ticket gate. Here are seven notable examples from this season:

Aaron Judge Jedi Bobblehead. New York Yankees. The key to a successful giveaway is to tap into something that is already currently popular. Star Wars fits the bill, and almost every club has a promotion involving The Force. The Yanks took it a bit too far by turning their slugger into a Jedi knight.

Inflatable Prince Guitar, Minnesota Twins. Prince was not known as a sports fan, so it's doubtful he'd approve of this purple novelty item. (The reclusive artists wouldn't even let Weird Al spoof his hit songs!) Nonetheless, on the 60th anniversary of his birth last week, the Twins honored the coolest dude ever born in Minneapolis with this!

Mother's Day Tote Bag, Arizona Diamondbacks. Shopping for Mom is always difficult, so let the thoughtful folks at the ballpark take care of it for you! What mother wouldn't love a shiny polyester purse with a rattlesnake logo on it?

Boston Red Socks, Boston Red Sox. Baseball began in the 1800's, and players initially wore Victorian era clothes. Loose knickers were covered at knee level by long stockings. These leggings were so prominent, the whole team got named after them. Next month, you can get replica red socks at a Red Sox game. NOTE: Everyone already has white socks, so Chicago is not having this promotion.

Mets Cereal Bowl, New York Mets. It's always a safe bet to have a promotion aimed towards children. Backpacks, hoodies and caps are always sure bets to get kids' attention. But a cereal bowl? This is the exact type of thing that gets thrown out by mom when no one is looking.

Nelson Cruz Wine Stopper. Seattle Mariners. Some promotions are geared exclusively for adults. For example, last month in Seattle the first 10,000 folks (21 years and up) received this very classy item for your formal dining room ensemble. Watch out, mom's gonna toss this one out too!

Boogie Board, Tampa Bay Rays. If you want to surf, but aren't coordinated enough, head to Florida for a free boogie board. It's two feet of floating foam fun. Simply hug on tight and ride a wave...without having to try to stand up. This looks like the best of the giveaways this season!

Saturday, June 9, 2018



The World Cup is a mere week away! For the first time ever, Russia is hosting the massive spectacle. Matches will be held in eleven different cities...covering an area as large as Western Europe itself. For those of us unfamiliar with Russian cities other than Moscow, here's a quick rundown of the venues by stadium capacity.

Moscow: Luzhniki Stadium. Capacity: 81,000. Originally named Lenin Stadium, Russia's national stadium has hosted numerous memorable events since opening in 1956...including the 1980 Summer Olympics. It was remodeled for soccer and is now home to both the Spartak and CSKA Moscow clubs. It's new name is after the meadows nearby on the banks of the Moskva River.

St. Petersburg: Krestovsky Stadium. 66,881. The semifinals and 3rd place game will be held in the crown jewel of this year's World Cup. Nicknamed 'The Spaceship,' the state-of-the-art, technologically advanced arena is the pride and joy of the World Cup. At a cost of $1.1 billion, it's one of the most expensive stadiums ever built.

Sochi: Olympic Stadium. 47,659. Constructed for the 2014 Winter Olympics, this stunning arena has since been converted into a soccer stadium. It's located next to the centuries-old resort town and is the southernmost venue for this year's cup.

Volgograd Arena. 45,015. History buffs know this city as the site of the bloodiest battle ever. Two million Russian, German and Italian soldiers perished at the Battle of Stalingrad. Modern residents want to move forward, but it's hard when you're always in the shadow of the world's tallest statue commemorating the battle.

Saransk: Mordovia Arena. 45,000. The smallest city on the list has just 300,000 people. Yet Saransk boasts 1,000 years of history. Tartar mosques, Leninist monuments and Tsarist palaces dot the landscape. Hopefully, the new stadium will bring more visitors here in the future.

Nizhny Novgorod Stadium. 44,899. Another city steeped in history, 'Newtown' dates back to 1221. It was home to many principalities and serfdoms before Genghis Khan burned it all down. In 1923, it was renamed 'Gorky' after the Soviet poet.

Rostov-on-Don Arena. 43,702. Located on the Sea of Azov, Greeks first built a colony here in ancient times. Tanais was later settled by Goths, Mongols, Venetians, Turks and Cossacks. Today, the city is known as Russia's tech hub, as it is the place for a new start-up.

Kazan Arena 41,405. The longtime capital of the Tartar Golden Horde, Kazan was a longtime rival of Moscow. This spectacularly ended in 1552, when the aptly-named Ivan the Terrible came in and murdered everyone. Afterward, Catherine the Great built a Kremlin just like the one in Moscow. It remains intact and is the symbol of the city.

Ekaterinburg: Central Stadium. 35,000. The Easternmost location for the cup cities, Ekaterinburg is at the foot of the Ural Mountains, the traditional boundary between Europe and Asia. Formerly known as Sverdlovsk, it's where a fictional Dr. Zhivago took refuge and where real-life Tsar Nicholas II was assassinated.

Kaliningrad Stadium, 35,000. Putin is making a statement with this selection. Kaliningrad is not part of Russia proper...it's a small enclave wedged between Poland and Lithuania. When known as Koninsburg, it was the easternmost Baltic port in the Prussian Empire. Russia grabbed it during World War One and never gave it back. It's a source of anger in the region, and Putin loves to exacerbate his neighbors.

Friday, June 1, 2018



A recent study at the University of California, Irvine revealed what many Americans already knew: Pop music getting progressively sadder and angrier. Researchers found a "clear, downward trend" in bright, happy songs and an upward trend in melancholy tunes. Another study by the Royal Society for Open Science went even farther, analyzing 50,000 songs released between 1985 and 2015. They categorized the mood of each track and then assigned each a Happiness Index. Their results were the same as the UCI study.

We here at the DUNER BLOG conducted our own study to confirm the results of the previous two studies. We concur. A staffer feels the matter is best described by one song in particular. "Out of My Head" was a #5 hit in 1998 by the band Fastball. The chorus is "I never meant to do bad things to you." However, when it was remade by Camila Cabello in 2017, she changed key words. She croons: "I only want to do bad things to you." See? Camila knows the current pop climate is all about anger and revenge, not kindness and remorse.

Why the change from glad to sad? Researchers fell it's simple: Happy isn't 'cool' any more. Look no further than the 2016 Presidential election. Trump ran a campaign based on attacks and insults...a stark contrast to the traditional, uplifting and positive presidential runs of the past. Other mediums feel it too. A show like 'Happy Days' could never top the Neilsons these days. Nope, crime show CSI is #1 today. Likewise, violent movies out-earn romantic comedies at the box office.

Thankfully, not everything in the two studies was gloom and glum. Two very positive trends were also noted. First, the happy songs that do top the charts in this decade are extremely fun. Flo-Rida's 'My House' and...of course....Pharrell Williams' 'Happy' (duh) both scored 10's on the Index. Secondly, they found pop music is no longer the male-dominated realm of the past. In fact, three of the top five artists of the 2000's are women. Way to go Beyoncé, Rhianna and Adele!

Finally, one possible reason for the increase in somber songs is the fact the methodology Billboard employs to rank the pop charts has changed. Nowadays, things that didn't exist twenty years ago are added to the formula. YouTube hits and I-Tunes sales were added to the equation five years ago. Radio stations prefer upbeat and fun songs, but today they only account for 25%. At any rate, we here at the DUNER BLOG are hoping for a compromise. We don't want to return to the Partridge Family ordering us to 'C'mon, get happy!" But we've also had enough of Sam Smith. Cheer up, mate!

Saturday, May 26, 2018



The massive volcanic eruptions on the Big Island of Hawaii has captured the world's attention. Did you see that glowing hot lava engulf the Nissan Sentra? Or how about when it sliced through the four-lane highway? Spectacular images like this have grabbed headlines across the globe. After all, Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes on earth. How are they ranked? By the Volcanic Explositivity Index, of course! Let's check out the current standings:

#1 Kilauea, Hawaii. To qualify for the Expolsivity Index, a volcano must have erupted in the last 10,000 years. So 95% of the volcanoes on earth score a zero. Since its erupting right now, Kilaeua naturally tops the list with a score of 5. It has an enormous plumbing system of lava-filled veins stretching sixty kilometers underground. So it has massive reserves and could keep exploding all year long. Whatever...scientists. In reality, it seems the goddess Pele is really angry. Everyone in Hawaii just needs to leave leis in the lava flow to make her happy again.

#2. Mount Etna, Sicily. Although not currently erupting, the Italian volcano also grabbed headlines back in 2014 when it too spewed lava into people's homes. In fact, people have been talking about Mount Etna for centuries, as it has been continuously active for the last 3,500 years. That's when Zeus trapped the 100-headed demon named Typhon underneath. Let's hope he never makes it out, because only the Avengers could stop something this mean and hideous.

#3. Piton de la Fournaise, Reunion. Located on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the Peak of the Furnace is gigantic. It boasts a caldera that's a whopping five miles wide. A good portion of this has collapsed into the sea. It hasn't erupted since 1986, but seismologists worry about this volcano. A large eruption would result in a catastrophic mega-tsunami that would destroy coastal areas of India and East Africa.

#4. Mount Yasur, Vanuatu. Of all the volcanoes on this list, this South Pacific spectacle is the most easily accessible for tourists. Although no one has fallen into the steep caldera, three have died after getting hit by flying shards of flaming hot lava. Authorities now have a ranking system of when it's safe to go exploring. Smarter tourists know it's best to see Mount Yasur erupt at night from a nearby boat at a safe distance. That way you can see a magnificent reflection in the water of the eruption. That's what Captain James Cook described when he first explored the region in 1774.

#5 Volcan de Colima, Mexico. Since 1576, this volcano has erupted a staggering 43 times. At 12,533 feet, it's also one of the world's highest volcanoes. On January 28th, Colima sent ash exploding 5 kilometers into the sky. Although it's Mexico's most active volcano, most people worry more about Popocatepeti. It's less active, but its proximity to Mexico City makes it more dangerous.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018



OMG! Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding is just three days away! As your trusted news source for all things royal (remember our three-part series on William & Kate's wedding?), we here at the DUNER BLOG got you covered. One of the unique aspects of the upcoming spectacle involves Meghan's celeb status. So we thought we'd list the confirmed stars for Saturday's nuptials.

THE CAST OF SUITS. They've spent eight long seasons together filming the popular TV drama together. This means the actors themselves (Gina Torres, Rich Hoffman, Patrick J. Adams, Sarah Rafferty and Gabriel Macht) have all become friends too. It's that sweet? In today's cut-throat world, it's reassuring to know that real-world friendships do exist. Another example: Captain Stubing, Doc and Isaac from The Love Boat still golf together. Awww..

SERENA WILLIAMS. A chance meeting at the DIRECTV's Celebrity Beach Bowl in 2014 led to a surprising friendship. Amazingly, Suits is one of the tennis legend's favorite shows. Since then, their relationship has grown. Serena is a "down to earth chick" who is great "to lunch with" blogged Meghan. Awww..

PRIYANKA CHOPRA. Okay, this friendship makes a little more sense. Priyanka and Meghan have a lot more in common. Both are gorgeous TV stars on popular shows. These two met at the ELLE Women In Television event in 2016. It seems Meghan really likes attending feel-good, corporate sponsored events.

SPICE GIRLS. Enough of the bride's famous friends...let's see who Harry is bringing. First up is the second most popular girl-group of all time: The Spice Girls (The Supremes will always be #1). Sadly, according to Page Six, Mel B will not be attending. She angered Buckingham Palace months ago by boasting, erroneously, about how the Spice Girls will be performing at the reception. They will not.

GEORGE & AMAL CLOONEY. Prior to meeting the Hollywood heartthrob, Amal Alamuddin was known as a famed international barrister for international rights cases. She even represented Julian Assange in a deportation case. Naturally, this put her in the same circles as Prince Harry...internationally known do-gooders tend to hang out together.

ELTON JOHN. What would any Royal Wedding be without Sir Elton? It's been that way ever since he struck up a friendship with Princess Di way back in the 1980's. Apparently, he was there for the boys after her death and remains a positive figure in Prince Harry's life. Unlike the Spice Girls, he will definitely perform at the reception.

Friday, May 11, 2018



For many travelers, a trip to the tropics isn't complete until you snorkel in a coral reef. For example: You can't possibly go to Honolulu without diving into spectacular Hanauma Bay. Likewise, Cancun's top attraction is swimming next to the world's second largest coral reef. Sadly, if want to snorkel around these fantastic living creatures, you'd better hurry. Many reefs are struggling to live in polluted oceans. In fact, last year scientists declared The Great Barrier Reef officially dead.

How does the biggest living creature on earth suddenly die? You can see The Great Barrier Reef from space! Well, although coral is sharp (and cuts through your foot like a knife through butter) in actuality, it is a sensitive creature. A slight change in ocean temperature or acidity is toxic for coral health. "We didn't expect to see this level of destruction of the Great Barrier Reef for another 30 years," exclaimed Terry Hughes, a director at Cook University in Queensland.

Hoping to prevent the same fate for their prized reef, officials in Hawaii took drastic measures. Although officials cannot control ocean temperature, they can try to tame ocean acidity. On Monday, the state legislature passed a bill which will soon be signed by Governor David Ise. It bans all sunscreens with oxybenzone or octinoxate. The former, also called BP-3, washes off snorkeler's bodies when they are swimming around the reefs. Next, they attack precious reefs. It damages the coral DNA and causes deformities in baby coral. The National Ocean Service declared it "highly toxic to juvenile corals."

Uh-oh! We can hear our ocean-loving but pale-skinned readers starting to panic. "How can I possibly swim in the tropics without sunscreen!?" Fortunately, not all sunscreens contain BP-3. There are plenty of other brands that are coral-safe. They employ other chemicals to protect your skin. The problem is that zinc and titanium oxides leave a white layer on your skin. You know, like a lifeguard's nose! While these brands aren't popular anymore, a Life Science biologist reminds us: "It's worth looking a little goofy to save the reefs."

We here at the DUNER BLOG salute Hawaii for the preemptive legislation. Fortunately, Coppertone Sunscreen lobbyists do not exist so the bill was passed without interference. Unfortunately, the law won't take effect until January First, 2021...so there still are politics involved. Also unclear is how to enforce such an ordinance. Bikini inspections? Despite these issues, the Aloha State is sending a loud message to the rest of the tropical world: Action is needed to save one of earth's most majestic natural treasures.

Friday, May 4, 2018



Once found in every strip mall in the nation, the travel agency is now on the endangered business list. Hit hard by the advent of online airline ticketing, these days a travel agent is about as common as a DVD player. Yet this doesn't mean they aren't still needed. See, everyday, Geography-challenged consumers purchase airline tickets to the wrong destination. Here are four such stories:

San Jose, California / San Jose, Costa Rica. Four thousand miles separate the Latin American capital from the American tech capital. When Spanish colonists named two cities after Saint John, they thought this was far enough apart. Not anymore! Let's see: Both cities have large populations, big airports and similar codes: SJO & SJC. Callie Zucker thought she had clicked on the correct one when she bought tickets online. When the flight home from Italy landed in the tropics, she realized her mistake.

Auckland, New Zealand / Oakland, California. Perhaps the most famous mix-up happened decades ago to Michael Lewis. After flying home from Germany, he was switching flights at LAX. When he heard the announcer at the gate announce a similar sounding city name, he got in line. How did he board the flight? He asked: "Oakland?" and the attendant said "Yes!" Next, the flight crew somehow forgot to scan his incorrect boarding pass. Ouch! Fortunately, Air New Zealand flew back the exhausted passenger for free the next day.

Granada, Spain / Grenada, West Indies. Although not commonly confused, Travel & Leisure covered a humorous tale about this item recently. It involves Lameda Kingdon from the UK. She proudly booked herself a getaway to sunny Granada. She boarded a flight that she thought was going to Spain. After a gin & tonic, she naturally chatted up the passenger seated next to her. "She corrected my pronunciation," explains Kingdon. "No, dear. They call it Gren-a-da." Lameda had never even heard of the place she was flying to.

Sydney, NSW / Sydney, Nova Scotia. This one is funny because the two destinations are so dreadfully far apart. This was made painfully apparent to Milan Shipper, an adventurous 18-year old from Holland. He booked...all by himself...a spectacular hiking trip Down Under. Yet after transferring planes in Toronto, he knew something was afoot. First, he wondered if the twenty-seat aircraft was big enough to cross an ocean. Also, the "plane was going right, not left," explained Shipper.

So...remember readers...always triple-check those online airfares. Happy travels!