Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Thursday, February 23, 2012



"Pssst!  I got something out of this world for sale!  It's a Moon Rock.  Yep, it was picked up by an astronaut on the moon, taken to the spaceship, flown back to earth, and now I got it.  It's right here in my overcoat pocket.  Shhh!  Keep it down...this baby is valuable.  Yeah...you can have it.  Half a million Euros!!" Sound too fantastic to be true?  Well, the above conversation really happened to JOSEPH GUTHEINZ JR.  The man known as the "Moon Rock Hunter" has tracked down 77 missing moon rocks and returned the irreplaceable artifacts to their rightful homes in the museums where they belong.  Talk about a superhero!

You must be asking yourself...how does something as valuable as a Moon Rock end up in the pocket of a jacket of a shady dude from the Bronx?  Here's how it all started: During the Apollo 17 Mission, astronaut EUGENE CERNAN (TRIVIA: He's the last man to walk on the moon) snatched up the hugest boulder he could find.   He took it to the module, transported the brick back to Earth and gave it to PRESIDENT NIXON.  Dick loved it!  He loved it so much, he wanted to share "the greatest human accomplishment" with the rest of the world.  So the president ordered the Moon Rock be split up into 185 pieces.  One fragment was sent to each of the 50 US state governors.  The remaining pieces sent to the 135 heads of state Nixon deemed worthy enough of a Moon Rock.  All rocks were mounted on plaques with the respective flag and a brief, pompous statement.

The Honduras Moon Rock.
The problem is lots of chaos has erupted down on earth since the last lunar mission in 1972.  In this forty-year span, many third-world governments have been overthrown, museums have burnt down and lots of bank vaults got looted.  Unfortunately, during these emergencies, the moon rocks...along with many other priceless items...simply disappear.  For example, when Nicolae Ceausescu was abruptly executed in 1989, the dismantling of his palace was rather hectic.  The Romanian Moon Rock became one of the many valuable items of National Heritage that "simply cannot be located" by the new government.  In the last four decades, many other nations in the world who received moon rocks have experienced similar, chaotic transitions of power.  It's sad but true: Most of these fantastic, four-million-years-old, one-of-a-kind stones have been officially declared missing by NASA.  

This really pisses off The Moon Rock Hunter.  Like the famous movie icon Indiana Jones, he lives a double life.  By day, he is a mild-mannered teacher at Alvin Community College in Houston, Texas.  But...at night...he changes into a renegade!  He dawns a cape, cracks a whip and hunts down deposed dictators in muggy Central American jungles...searching for stolen artifacts.  Currently, JOSEPH is busy trying to find Cyprus' Moon Rock.  It seems the artifact has slipped into the hands of a diplomat's son who has been trying to sell it on the black market in Dubai.  He's also on the case of Ireland's lost Moon Rock.  When fire engulfed the observatory where it was held, it was presumed destroyed.  The Moon Rock Hunter knows these babies are tough and can survive any earth fire.  He has tracked it to Finglas Landfill and wants to start digging!

The DUNER BLOG salutes you, MRH!!
Okay...so maybe the Hollywood version of Joseph Gutheinz could be glamorous...but in reality, he just wants people to know the facts about Moon Rocks.  Back in 1972, President Nixon had nothing but goodwill in his heart when he distributed pieces of the moon to fellow world leaders.  The fact that today, 160 of the 270 (60%) Moon Rocks are unaccounted for by NASA is truly a worldwide tragedy.  And let's not just blame dictators in places like far-off Zaire...of the one hundred Moon Rocks distributed to US governors, twenty-four are on NASA's Unaccounted For List.  But don't worry...the Moon Rock Hunter is on the case.   The top of his list is Alaska's missing Moon Rocks.   Seems they disappeared after a curious museum fire.  Joe's tracked them to Arthur Coleman Anderson, the museum curator's stepson, currently living in Corpus Christi.

Keep on Hunting, Moon Rock Hunter!  Keep on Hunting!

Thursday, February 16, 2012



For the 99% of Americans who live in what Alaskans call the "Lower Forty-Eight," this has been one mild winter.  And...no...it's not just your imagination.  Last month was the fourth warmest January in the 48 contiguous states since meteorologists began keeping records, back in the early 1800's.  Just how hot is it?  It hit 60 degrees (16C) in New York City.   Usually frigid Minneapolis clocked in at 48 degrees (9C).  How about this? This year, the SUPER BOWL (America's most treasured event) was held in Indianapolis...inside a heated, domed stadium.  But, it was warm enough in Indiana on February Fifth to play football outside.  Anyhow...you get the picture...it's been a unseasonably warm winter in the USA.

However...things couldn't be more different in Alaska.  So far in Anchorage, 112 inches of snow has fallen this season...more than double the average.   While Alaskans are used to snow, (Duh!) these record amounts are creating some unique problems...particularly with Alaska's huge moose population.  See, moose hate walking in the snow.  They have very long, wobbly legs and it just doesn't work out very well.  So, to avoid the dreaded snowbanks...and save valuable winter calories...moose seek out any and every clearing. Unfortunately, the only places cleared of snow in Alaska this winter are highways, roads, railway tracks and parking lots.  The clumsy beasts simply can't move fast enough and are being struck and killed at alarming rates.

Just how bad is it?  The Alaska Moose Federation (AMF) wants a state of emergency declared in Mat-Su Borough (Alaska doesn't have counties), home to one of the densest moose populations on earth.   Here, 269 moose have died this year as a direct result of human / moose accidents.  This number even eclipsed 1994...the worst winter in 100 years!  Anyhow, the AMF has been busy.  They've cleared 25 feet on either side of the railways tracks and 15 feet on each side of the highways.  They've also creared 50 miles of moose specific trails. "It really, really works," AMF head Gary Olson said. "The next day after we take a Sno-Cat through there, the trail's covered with moose tracks!"

It's not just the moose who are suffering...humans are feeling the pain too!  It's estimated people living in the Mat-Su Borough will cough up $10 million dollars this winter in moose related expenses.  The AMF estimates each human/moose incident winds up costing an average of $35,000 in total costs.  This includes not only the body shop, but injuries, loss of work, animal services, emergency vehicles, etc.  ERs note that bodily harm in car accidents is much worse in 2012 than back in 1994.  This is attributed to the current surge in smaller, more energy efficient cars, that don't protect as well as the steel Chevy Impalas of days past.  Joanna Reed at Alaska Highway Safety Office say there's one way not to become part of a moose-related collision statistic this winter: "Assume all moose have a self-destructive streak.  Assume it's going to throw itself in front of you."

This could be your porch, Sarah Palin!
The good news for both moose and humans in Alaska is that the worst of the winter is over.  The Spring Equinox is March Twentieth this year...a mere month away!  And, as much as we'd like to blame humans and our dreaded "civilization" for the spike in moose deaths...we do have to share some of the anger with Mother Nature.  Sometimes 'Acts of God' occur and innocent animals die.  Finally...we here at the DUNER BLOG were happy to learn that the gigantic moose carcasses aren't going to waste.  They are taken to prisons where they are butchered by inmates.  Then, the moose meat is then taken to local food banks.  SARAH PALIN...are you reading??? We're seeing a great 'photo-op' here!!! 


Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2012/01/23/1995702/deep-snow-may-lead-to-record-moose.html#storylink=cpy

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Portrait of St. Valentine; Dublin Cathedral.

Given the high readership of the earlier holiday-themed blogs, (THE TRUTH BEHIND ST. PATRICK'S DAY and CHRISTMAS TREE CONTROVERSY IN BERLIN), we here at the DUNER BLOG thought we'd answer some of the many readers' questions we've received regarding VALENTINE'S DAY.  Sorry...we can't answer all the thousands of letters and e-mails we receive daily!

Just who the hell is Saint Valentine anyway?  (Justin, Boston)
Easy...Justin! Watch the language! Valentine lived in Rome under the reign of Claudius II.  The emperor was having difficulty recruiting soldiers for his war in Pannonia.  Life was still abundant in Rome, so able-bodied men cited an old ordinance that forbid husbands from entering the army.  Men wanted to stay home with their wives instead of fighting in soggy Serbia.  To solve the problem, clever Claudius passed an edict banning all marriages!  So, everyone went to the illegal Christian priest Valentine...the only person in Rome who would perform wedding ceremonies.

Where did the traditions of flowers and cards come from? (Julie, London)
It's hard to hide from Roman legions. Valentine was soon caught and imprisoned.  Our priest was popular, and many paid their respects to him by tossing flowers and cards over the wall into his cell.  One well-wisher in particular touched Valentine's heart: The warden's blind daughter.  Before he was executed, he wrote her a special letter.  He signed it "From Your Valentine" and the phrase has stuck ever since.

Wasn't February 14th already a Roman holiday? (Greg, San Jose)
Indeed it was, Greg!  The "Feast of Lupercalia" protected humans from wolves.  Its origins trace all the way back to the founders of Rome, Remus and Romulus, who were cared for by a she-wolf (NOTE: Not to be confused with the awful Shakira song).  The celebrations were rowdy: Boys cut out goat brains and threw the blood on the girls for good "fertility" luck.  Talk about fun! 

Why is there always so much traffic on Via Flaminia on Valentine's Day? (Costanza, Rome)
Santo Cielo, Costanza!  You'll be late for tee time!  On February 14th, Valentine was first beaten with clubs, then stoned and finally beheaded outside the Flaminian Gates...the traditional Roman execution site.  Today, a basilica near the Piazza del Popolo is a site of many saintly pilgrimages.  NOTE: Public executions continued here until 1846.

How did the birds figure into the equation? (Antonio, Amsterdam)
It began with a sonnet by celebrated English writer GEOFFREY CHAUCER.  It included the line "For this was sent on St. Valentine's Day...When every fowl chooses his mate." This started the legend that on February 14th, male birds begin to search for that special companion.  Another forgotten medieval avian tradition states that the first type of bird a girl sees on Valentine's Day will determine her future husband.  If she sees a bluebird, she'll marry a happy man, but if it's a sparrow...she'll marry a poor man.  A blackbird will get you a priest for a husband...but if you first see a crossbill this means your spouse will be argumentative.  And hope you don't happen upon an owl on this Valentine's Day...because then you'll "remain a spinster" for the rest of your love life!

We here at the DUNER BLOG wish everyone a HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!!  XOXO

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Knut poses before the event,

If you haven't noticed, TV is currently obsessed with competition shows.  Not since the Game Show Craze of the 1970's has the world so embraced the need to compete and win...all while being filmed for a later national broadcast.  Since the year 2000, singing and dancing competitions have dominated TV ratings in the US and UK.  But...let's face it...those are the nice shows.  In search of the elusive ratings goldmine, television networks are taking more and more risks in hopes of luring viewers. On NBC's Fear Factor, the object is to eat more cockroaches and can drink more donkey urine than anyone else.  Then there's Silent Library on MTV.  Here, teen students are physically harmed...and the winner is the one who doesn't scream.   Ever watch the weightlifters pull trucks on ESPN2?  Heck, there's even a game show called... I Survived A Japanese Game Show!

Anyhow...we here at the DUNER BLOG have discovered the ultimate physical competition which amazingly is not on any TV Network (Are you reading...Hollywood executives??).  It's called the Tough Guy Competition and it was held on Sunday in Perton, Staffordshire, just outside of Birmingham in Central England.  The winner was KNUT HOHLER a 26-year-old Physician from Germany.  He completed the 7.4 mile endurance course in 1 hour, 11 minutes.  He's getting lots of publicity on the German tabloid circuit...but little mention in the English speaking world.  (Thank God for the DUNER BLOG!)

Notice the chunks of ice...January is the coldest month.
So...you're asking yourself...just what separates the Tough Guy Competition from all of the other endurance events?  I mean, how could anything be more strenuous than the IRON MAN TRIATHLON?  The answer is: Yes.  Why?  Because when you run in the Iron Man, there are no camouflaged commandos firing smoke bombs at you!  In the Tough Guy Competition you have to swim through flooded underground tunnels and dredge a half mile through a frozen swamp.  Then you gotta throw wood planks to walk over fire pits.   And don't forget the dreaded barbed-wire crawl.  Sound scary?  Well...don't worry...each step of the Tough Guy Competition comes with a Pain and a Fear rating.   This way you have an idea of how much misery to expect.  See...it is more difficult than the Iron Man!

Now...all the lawyers must be asking themselves...isn't this a liability nightmare?  Haven't people died trying to complete this insane death sentence?  The answer is yes.  Before anyone can legally compete in the Tough Man Competition, you must first sign a waiver affectionately called the "Death Warrant."  It absolves the establishment of all legal encumbrances including dismemberment, third-degree burns, and...yes...death.  So far, two people have died in the competition.  Leicestershire native MICHAEL GREEN died in 2000 and another man succumbed in 2007, who wished to remain anonymous.  Both died from heart attacks.  The worst injuries this year were six broken pelvises and one broken neck.

Doesn't this look like fun?
So...think you're tough enough to beat HERR KNUT?  Are you a man or are you a mouse?  Well, don't ask that question to BILLY "Mr. Mouse" GREEN, the founder of the competition, that question.  The ex-Royal Army Grenadier Guard is one tough crumpet...he famously completed the 1981 London Marathon wearing a pantomime horse.  He watches the recent spike in Reality TV Competitions and laughs...knowing his will always be the best. It's now in it's 25th year and getting bigger and bigger.  This year, he had to turn away 250 people.  And...according to Green...NO ONE has ever completed the entire course to his strict rules and regulations.  Why don't you become the first?