New Year’s resolution solutions...

Wish you had a swell New Year’s resolution but can’t figure out what it should be? You are not alone. In fact, fictional surveys show 64 percent of Americans are pledging to quit doing something, start doing something or some unrealistic combination of both. But you better get cracking because the informal deadline for filing New Year’s resolutions is coming fast. Clinical data reveals that less than 9 percent of people actually achieve their so-called resolutions. So, to help you beat the odds, my crack team of New Year’s resolution-ologists has compiled some handy guidelines. But before we begin, a word of caution: The surgeon general warns that New Year’s resolutions are the leading cause of failed New Year’s resolutions. Because of the staggering failure rate of January vows, many find it helpful to set the bar low (for example, pledging not harm a tadpole or purchase government cheese on eBay). Vague yet uplifting oaths are also said to be popular this year. Here are some sample life-affirming resolutions (along with realistic fall-back measures for when they invariably fall through): * Listen to my heart (disregard brain, kidneys, liver and lungs). * Stop and smell the roses (spray something on that stench coming from the basement). * Live life to the fullest (pack your stomach to its fullest). * Appreciate the simple things (don’t try any remotely complicated things). * Trust my instincts (avoid thoughtful analysis of my options). * Take up a musical instrument (put down that musical instrument). Experts also advise us to beware simplistic-sounding commitments like “Quit smoking” or “Exercise more.” Instead they suggest being more specific by saying something like “Quit smoking those noxious, cancer-causing, arsenic-infested death sticks that are slowly killing you and that everybody...

Bicycle time travel

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Dateline 1889. One thing I adore about this little burg we call Portsmouth is that we love to blur the lines between present and past. And what better way to time travel on a warm November day than perched atop a contraption whose front wheel stands no less than 4 feet tall and whose back wheel is a sporty 17 inches? Oh, did I mention my old-fashioned high-wheeler no brakes? The social cycling event of the season, this was the inaugural Portsmouth Tweed Ride. Hosted by the Swell Society and Old as Adam — the folks who brought you the Gatsby on the Isles gathering this summer — the ride attracted several dozen distinguished gentlemen clad in tweed jackets, caps and knickers and stylish ladies dazzling onlookers in their Gatsby-era garb. The two-state spree started at Papa Wheelies bike shop on Islington Street and featured hospitality stops along the way at White Heron Tea & Coffee and the Book & Bar in Market Square before a scheduled wrap-up at the Press Room, with proceeds benefiting the Portsmouth Historical Society and the John Paul Jones House. We pushed off from Papa Wheelies, stopping traffic with the utmost courtesy and ringing of handlebar bells. Ah, nothing like rolling through time on an old-fashioned high-wheel bike — gasoline-powered horseless carriages whizzing by as we traversed the cracked, gray macadam of Islington Street. Camaraderie was the order of the day, as our procession caused much turning of heads and encouraging exhortations from the periphery. Down to Strawbery Banke and the South End, across the new Memorial Bridge into Kittery, Maine, and back to gather for a team daguerreotype at the North Church. Unfortunately, I had to return to the present...

Polar vortex questions? Ask Professor Doppler...

Due to some recent confusion caused by extremely cold weather, today we check in with noted meteorological advice columnist Professor Doppler. The professor — whose academic credentials include a Ph.D. in Cloud Technology from Cumulonimbus University and a master’s in Thunder from Kelvin State — has generously agreed to answer a few questions from readers. The author of “Patchy Fog,” “Life in the Frost Lane” and “Nor’Easter Bunny: Friend or Foe,” he was recently honored by the Fahrenheit Foundation for his ground-breaking environmental manifesto “Global Warming Caused by Increased Activity in Hades.” * * * Dear Professor Doppler — I heard on TV that they’re blaming this recent cold snap on something called a “polar vortex.” But Rush Limbaugh says that’s just a term the liberals made up as part of their stupid global warming scam. Please tell me the truth, professor, is there really a polar vortex? — Virginia Yes, Virginia. There is a polar vortex. In fact, weather legend Al Roker took Mr. Limbaugh to task for his gust of misinformation (video). The lovable buffoon schooled the hateful hot-air balloon on the “Today” show, blowing up an excerpt from his 1956 Weatherman 101 textbook and drawing a big circle around the term “Polar Vortex.” * * * Dear Professor Doppler — Me and the missus live about 15 feet from the ocean in a house that used to be about 75 feet from the ocean. Any major upcoming weather events we should be concerned about? — Jasper O’Dingus, Hampton Dear Jasper — Now that you mention it, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is said to be tracking a category 12 megastorm building strength down in Antarctica. If, as predicted, it slams into a back-door cold front...

My favorite spaceman

Long, long ago, in a galaxy that now seems very far away, I got a chance to interview a future astronaut. The year was 1987 — long before my career as an internationally obscure writer had achieved liftoff — and the future spaceman was a fellow York (Maine) High School kid named Chris Cassidy. Now, the chance to interview an astronaut doesn’t come along every day. And looking back, I gotta say, I kinda blew it. Sure, I was only at York High School that day to cover a home football game against whoever (probably Marshwood) and Chris was there in his capacity as the Wildcats’ senior quarterback. So afterward, I approached him for the usual sports-type interview with a couple of softball questions about football. You might say, “Hey, there’s no way I could have known this kid would go on to a decorated military career as a Navy SEAL (heading to Afghanistan two weeks after 9/11, according to his NASA bio) and then literally launch himself into the stratosphere as a genuine astronaut.” But there were tell-tale signs — the ramrod straight posture, the clear-eyed, straight-arrow demeanor, his singular focus on the mission of the team. Plus, he loved wearing a helmet. And the kid sure loved his Tang, couldn’t get enough of it. OK, I’m only kidding about the Tang, but the rest is all true. Also true is that not only has he been living up in the International Space Station since March, he also just helped rescue an Italian colleague when water began leaking into the man’s helmet during a spacewalk. (I hate it when that happens.) Yes, the two were just an hour into a planned six-hour spacewalk to perform what has been...

My dad’s advice was ‘write stuff’...

My dad died a few days before Christmas in 2005. And, boy, did he love to laugh. He also, as parents do, possessed profound insight into the lives of his children. When I graduated from college, I knew that I loved to write but had little idea about what type of career to pursue. But my dad did. He told me to go see the woman ran who our hometown York Weekly — guiding me directly into what has become a deeply fulfilling 30-year career in journalism. Yet another “light-bulb moment” from a man who used to bring home the bacon creating advertising campaigns in a Pittsburgh skyscraper with the firm Ketchum, MacLeod & Grove. Yes, my dad was an ad man like those guys on “Mad Men.” Over the years, I have thanked him in print for nudging me into the newspaper world — a field with limitless possibilities for creativity and personal discovery. June 1999, in this newspaper, I roasted him with a rollicking Father’s Day salute under the headline (borrowed again today): Father’s advice to son was “write stuff.” It began: “I’m in the newspaper business today thanks to the nurturing influence of a very wise gentleman. Nelson Mandela.” No secret that my ever-present impulse to blend humor and humanity comes from my dad — self-described “Depression baby” turned dashing young Air Force pilot, advertising exec, mid-life adventurer, small business co-creator — and from my mom. I am also joking when I say that his words of wisdom included: “Keep your eye on the ball to prevent ghastly facial injuries” and “Wait at least 30 minutes after eating lemon meringue pie before scuba diving for pirate treasure in the York River.” June 1991, in this newspaper,...

Ozzie Sweet: photographer...

One of the profound honors of working as a journalist is the privilege of peeking into the lives of fascinating human beings. Showing up with a pen and some paper. Sharing a conversation. Then telling their story. I spent about three hours with Ozzie Sweet at his home in York Harbor back in 2001. I had never heard of him, but I understood I would be meeting a man who, in addition to his legacy as a pioneering sports photographer, also created images from private moments shared with such 20th century icons as Grace Kelly, Jimmy Durante, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Albert Einstein. Ozzie was famous for putting his famous subjects at ease — getting them to relax so, in an age peopled with stiffly posed portraits, a true-life image would emerge. Now my job was to create a picture of him. A black and white. Made up of words. I was a little nervous. But, just as he did with his sports heroes and movie stars, Ozzie instantly put me at ease. He was old as hell even back then (almost 83), exuding the white-haired wisdom of an ancient master, but his spirit … seemed to me almost preternaturally youthful. His smile, ever-present, suggested a love of life and people. His eyes exuded warmth and invited intimacy. And though I was “working,” when Oscar Cowan Corbo started telling his story, I was enchanted — feeling a bit like an awestruck audience member at a real-life matinee. A certified dreamer born in 1918 and raised on a farm in New Russia, N.Y., he ran off to Hollywood as a young man. Charmed his way into a role in a movie starring John Wayne! Drafted into the military during World...

42 thoughts about lists

Welcome to the Information Age, aka the Internet Age — where the information on the Internet is served up in bite-sized nuggets with provocatively formulaic headlines for you to click on. Yes, along with countless modern advancements, efficiencies and pleasures, few could deny that the Digital Revolution has also given rise to the Golden Age of Lists. In fact, a recent survey revealed that “lists” now make up somewhere between 11 and 85 percent of all “content” on the Internet. You literally can’t miss this tsunami of lists: 7 Baby Elephant Videos That’ll Make You Want to Be a Better Person. 15 Signs Your Cat May Be Obsessed with Kim Kardashian. 11 Ways to Spice Up Your Sex Life (No. 9: Jalapeno what?!?). Why lists? Leading Internet experts theorize that we humans have evolved shorter spans to help us cope with the extraordinary amount of useful and useless information that now bombards our brains nearly every minute of every day. Never in the history of human consciousness has there been so much information chopped up and dished out in lists. 10 Top Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Fingerprint. 14 Ancient Cultures That Worshipped Chrysanthemums. 8 Hilarious Videos of Morons Getting Roughed Up by Wild Animals. To advance my understanding of this super-hot Internet trend of presenting everything in lists, I started making a list of these lists. 18 Signs That You’re a Child Trapped in a Grown-Up’s Body. 54 Outrageous Facts About the Sex Lives of Animals. 21 Reasons Plants Are More Pleasant Than People. And then things got a little out of control. Afflicted as I am with adult onset satire, my mind began to involuntarily churn out pretend list headlines that struck me as comical for one...

Worst advice columnist ever: Dear Blabby...

I probably should have mentioned this earlier but, yes, in addition to my mad skills as a highly paid, semi-professional op-ed pundit, I am also (seek counseling) a certified advice columnist. However, due to my late start in this time-honored profession, I am quite possibly one of the worst advice columnists of all time. First some important guidelines: Please limit all questions to 25,000 words or less. And please refrain from any queries involving cough medicine, gnomes or three-wheeled bicycles. Also a disclaimer: The advice offered herein is for entertainment purposes only. We are in no way legally or morally responsible for any person, personage or corporate entity who acts on aforementioned advice only to have it blow up in their face. There, that ought to cover it. Oh wait, the following advice is void where prohibited. Dear Blabby, I’m a longtime senior citizen. When I park in certain areas of downtown Portsmouth, pigeons sometimes poop on my car. Should I divorce my husband? — Angry at Birds Actually, most people tend to separate minor everyday annoyances from their careful consideration of such immensely important life decisions as whether to maintain a partnership with a spouse or significant other. But something tells me you are not “most people,” are you? No, I think the message those pigeons are actually sending you is that you should stay inside and never, ever drive anywhere ever again. Dear Blabby, A friend of mine — yes, that’s it a friend; I’m definitely not referring to myself — is concerned he may have become addicted to sniffing glue and drinking vanilla extract. I think he’s also hooked on crack. What should I do? — Edgy in Exeter What you want to do is sit...

Hibernate: Winter survival tips...

Could be just my imagination — a possible bipolar hallucination — but it seems like as I get older, winter keeps getting colder. Single-digit temperatures. The ever-present fear of frozen pipes, frostbite and flu. Wild wind-chill factors whipping raw ice molecules right up into your bones. (Winter Survival Tip No. 1: If your fingers get frostbite, single-digit temps may cause multiple-digit losses.) Sorry, but the term “Today’s high: 3” has lost its wintery charm. Sometimes I just want to tell Mother Nature to take this weather and shovel it. I know I’m supposed to be a hearty New Englander and all that, but dang — the bitterest days are brutal enough to make a body want to just curl up and hibernate. Though it is more customarily associated with larger mammals such as bears, this time-honored winter survival technique is actually gaining popularity in the human demographic. Yes, I am talking about literally lowering my heart rate to a couple of beats per minute, reducing the functions of my vital organs and all internal metabolic processes to the absolute minimum, thus entering a sleep-like state in which I will conserve energy while power-napping all the way until, say, late March. Sound like a good idea? Not only will you peacefully snooze through nasty nor’easters, blizzards and polar vortexes, your slumber will also provide refuge from any and all political upheaval — including but not limited to fiscal cliffs and filibusters, debt ceiling debacles and full-on government shutdowns. It’s a winter win-win. You’re saving on food and fuel costs while getting some much-needed beauty sleep to boot. Plus, the best part — before tucking yourself in at hibernation time, it is imperative that you build up your internal reservoirs of...

Health care horoscope

Did you know that people who consume 50 milligrams of cornpone each day are 32 percent less likely to suffer from rickets, gangrene or curvature of the liver? No? That’s because it can be hard to separate fact from myth in modern medicine. Should you take one aspirin a day to ward off lockjaw, scarlet fever and unmitigated gallstones? Hard to say. Maybe a fistful of vitamins to combat vertigo, clubfoot and cerebral hemorrhoids. I feel fortunate to be in pretty good health for my age (sophisticated carbon-dating technology confirms I was born just over a half-century ago). Nevertheless, seems like every day the medical-industrial complex releases new reports about stuff that can kill us — or at least cause a 24 percent greater risk of mumps, whooping cough and fudgesicle-cell anemia. So this week I went to the doctor for my checkup. Across the awesome Memorial Bridge to the new York Hospital in Kittery. Not naming names (Fred), but my awesome doctor has the idea that your quality of life (physical, social, spiritual) is somehow tied in with your overall physical health. We talked about blurry eyes. A bum foot. A little bit of heart trouble (the romantic variety, thank goodness, not the coronary kind). Of course, I also wanted to have him check me out for anything caused by a deer tick or a mosquito. Plus, Pox News said we’re due for new batches of bird flu, mad cow and monkey pox. And since my company just got sold/purchased, I wanted to make sure I was still covered for varicose brain, adult onset celibacy and post-traumatic soiled pants syndrome. In fact, there are so many hazards, real and imagined (the surgeon general just issued warnings about Cap’n...

Holiday safety tips

Christmastime is fun, right? Donning our gay apparel and pigging out on figgy pudding. Cruising all over the place in a one-horse open sleigh. But along with the joy, medical professionals warn, the holidays may also be hazardous to your health. Myrrh: The Silent Killer Overindulgence is a major Christmas peril, as we feast and feast again with family and friends. More ham? Another leg of lamb? Maybe just one more dollop of Granny’s caramelized butternut squash? There’s not enough food on your plate. Better Santa size it! Cookies and cakes for dessert? Please pass the custard. How about a couple more eggnogs? For every fun activity there is a corresponding hazard — from falling off the ladder while trimming the tree to a painful sledding injury called tobogganer’s knee. It’ll be getting super slippery out there. Jack Frost will be nipping at your nose and other extremities. And don’t get me started on icicles. Why, you can even pull a hammy trying to keep the turtle doves and the partridges out of the pear tree. Bottom line: You better watch out. And you better heed the following holiday safety tips. Or yule be sorry. — First up, candles. There is nothing more beautiful than a Christmas evergreen trimmed with flaming candles. But (life expectancy before total immolation: 5 to 7 minutes; odds of entire house being destroyed, too: 68 percent) experts agree it is probably not wise to utilize fire as a Christmas decoration. — An electric carving knife is not a toy and should never be used to rip through ribbons and wrapping paper to get at those presents. — Cornucopias: Do not eat these. You don’t know where that nasty-looking basket has been. Plus, that one...

Humor quiz

OK, so here’s the deal. My bosses are pressuring me to provide 10-15 percent more laughs in each column. So in order to better serve you, the reader, I have compiled this questionnaire as part of my work in the cutting-edge field of humor column research. I’m hoping the data you provide by taking the following quiz will help me tap into the very marrow of the human funny bone. The first 10,000 respondents may or may not be eligible to win a gold-embossed collector’s edition copy of my new worst-seller, “Jiminy Cricket: Man or Myth?” (Offer void in parts of South Berwick.) To further incentivize your participation, I am also in a position to offer seven lucky readers a 50-cent gift certificate toward the purchase of any 2014 Dodge Durango SXT. Now, to ensure optimum results, I must request that you please hold any laughter until the end of this column. Warning: The following questions are “multiple choice,” so respondents will need a working knowledge of the “alphabet.” 1. Do you prefer humor columns that are: A. Knee-slapping B. Side-splitting C. Rib-tickling D. Gut-busting E. Windpipe-constricting F. Myocardial infarction-inducing 2. When is your favorite time to read humor columns? A. During an intimate moment with a loved one. B. While speeding down the freeway, drinking hot coffee and texting a friend. C. After my weekly liposuction treatment. D. In those peaceful, solitary moments just before flushing. E. Never; the very thought of smiling, or God forbid laughing, makes me physically ill. 3. What is your favorite snack to nibble on while reading humor columns? (Select up to 6) A. Kippered herring B. Tofu jerky C. Lima bean pizza D. Deep-fried whatever E. Refried greens F. Oysters Rockefeller G....

Facebook: 57 Things You May Not Know...

I spent several hours looking at the world’s most popular social media site; you’ll never believe what happened next By John Breneman So I’ve been spending way too much time on Facebook the past couple days and I have learned many things. For example, dogs are a popular and much-loved pet. And a high school acquaintance burned two big piles of brush. And salmon blood may hold the key to treating traumatic injuries. And there have been some spectacular sunsets along the Piscataqua River this week. And for every breath-taking photograph there are like eight cellphone snaps of somebody’s latest meal. And there appear to be a whole lot of cute babies not only in this area, but elsewhere, too. And a 2012 UNICEF study reports 23.1 percent of American children are living in poverty. And some people hate cellphones in restaurants. And you, too, can have firmer arms in just 60 seconds. And a lovely woman who once made me happy, then sad, is campaigning for state Senate in Maine. And there has been a horrible tragedy in the Ukraine that threatens to further destabilize an already messed-up world. And Facebook may not be the optimal forum to receive insight about the never-ending, now-escalating Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And, quick video reminder, try not to use gasoline to start your bonfire. And a former Boston Herald colleague nicknamed “Geezer” is well on his way to becoming a legend in his native Iceland. And a lot of people are not big fans of President Obama, but are not particularly articulate about why. And don’t miss the latest news involving something about actor Joaquin Phoenix’s forehead. And cutting down the rainforest is being blamed for an “out of control” ebola epidemic somewhere,...

People watching

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — For people who like people watching, I recommend pulling up a wooden bench or metal chair in Portsmouth’s brick-lined Market Square. Here in the heart of our historic downtown, one can’t help but feel the pulse of our tiny city by the sea. Now that another eight-month winter has come and gone, I’ve taken newfound enjoyment in the simple pleasure of just grabbing a coffee, kicking back and watching our corner of the world roll and stroll by. Why, just the other day I noticed … An old-timer (cause you don’t see a lot of young people doing this) reading a morning newspaper whose front page I’d just finished paginating around midnight. Younger people — feet moving, thumbs flittering, eyes tightly focused on their phones — using their peripheral vision not to see their surroundings but to avoid bumping into them. Many wearing white wires in their ears. When trying to tune in to the rhythms of the square, you’ll notice folks moving both purposefully and aimlessly — some happy to hold a door, others too busy or oblivious. One morning, a man with a laptop outside the coffee shop had his sleepy golden retriever sprawled out on the tight little corridor amid the outdoor seating, seemingly as if to block the maximum amount of sidewalk humanly, or caninely, possible. Beautiful dog. I don’t think he or his master even noticed peopled stepping over him. A day or two later, same man’s best friend was sprawled out half-blocking the business’ other door. Oh well, guess I’ve become a curmudgeon in my old age (52 in human years). Our Portsmouth is small and far from diverse, yet there’s almost always a cool cross-section of local humanity on...

Pullet surprise scoop on Port City chicken coop...

Are you ready for the city of Portsmouth’s next great controversy? This one promises to be a real barn-burner. It’s not a dispute about the mammoth buildings transforming the face of downtown, or about some windows getting changed without an OK from the window police. And it’s not a fight over unsightly blights on our historic cityscape — such as the toxic heaps of rusty riverfront scrap metal. Perhaps most shocking of all, Portsmouth’s internationally renowned parking shortage has nothing whatsoever to do with this latest hullabaloo. However, the new brouhaha is loosely connected to the recent ruckus over whether erecting an old-timey skating rink at the Strawbery Banke Museum would serve as a magnet for hockey-playing ruffians, whom neighbors feared might drink beer and fill the South End air with bawdy language and f-bombs (“fiddlesticks”). This latest squabble threatens to erupt as soon as Wednesday, when the Board of Adjustment is scheduled to hear a request for a variance that would be needed to erect a historically significant chicken coop on the grounds of Strawbery Banke. Some observers say they haven’t heard a peep of protest. But already there are rumblings about a new civic group being formed (Citizens For a Chicken-less Future, or CFCF). And there is word that advocates of the plan — the coop would replicate one kept near the Abbot Store by the Pecunies family in the 1940s — are already lobbying for future inclusion on the National Register of Historic Henhouses. The biggest potential concerns, according to Planning Director Rick Taintor, are obvious — “noise and smells.” But along with the anticipated squawking about decibel levels and the ghastly specter of fowl fecal matter, the proposal raises a wheelbarrow full of unanswered questions....

Godzilla!

Do you believe in Godzilla? I do. Didn’t used to — thought he was just a man in a rubber suit stomping on tiny buildings and cars, chomping on toy trains. However, I have since come to learn that he is not only the most awesome radioactive action star of our time, the most fearsome metaphor for nuclear apocalypse ever to earn a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame — but also, for me, a source of profound creative inspiration, an atomic artistic muse of literally monstrous proportions. Godzilla burst onto the scene in 1954 in “Godzilla,” reportedly born to embody the fear of nuclear destruction in the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He went on to star in almost as many movies as Nicolas Cage (though most hard-core Godzilla-philes regard the 1998 “Godzilla” to be an epic debacle). Now at age 60, Godzilla is back, blazing his way onto the silver screen once more in a new film entitled — you guessed it — “Godzilla.” Director Gareth Edwards promises his new Godzilla (release date: May 16) will hew true to the proud origins of the King of All Beasts. It features an all-star cast (Juliet Binoche, David Strathairn) headed by “Breaking Bad” superstar Bryan Cranston. And, unconfirmed reports suggest the larger-than-life leviathan will be larger than ever — clocking in at 350 feet tall. Along with his millions upon millions of devoted fans, I am eager to see what the rebooted Godzilla has in store for us measly humans. Unlike his most passionate followers, I did not discover a love for Godzilla as a youngster — was more into Spider-Man, Speed Racer and the campy spectacle of professional wrestling, where the characters had such colorful names as...

Vladimir Putin: Unauthorized biography...

Boohoo. Crimea River. That’s what Vladimir Putin says when the rest of the world whines about what a bad man he is for seizing part of a neighboring nation. Now basking — often topless — in the glare of the international spotlight, the Russian tough guy has gone from someone most Americans rarely thought about to a man who grabs nearly as many headlines as the Kardashians. In recent months, he has been universally condemned by voices that believe in national sovereignty and the rule of law, mocked by yours truly (Putin is Fabio without the hair and the ravishing woman) and, of course, praised on Fox News (their narrative: Putin, strong; Obama, weak). Through it all, the man who seems so hyper-focused on his macho self-image insists that taking over the Crimean peninsula had nothing to with validating his own masculinity or some weird case of peninsula envy. Now there is rampant speculation that he may try to invade more of Ukraine, or even move on to Georgia. (The mayor of Atlanta could not be reached for comment.) And though the U.S. has imposed economic sanctions aimed at crippling Putin’s ability to import his favorite chest wax and male enhancement products, the man who brought us the wacky Winter Olympics at Sochi is still ranked by Forbes as the most powerful person in the world. (Obama clocks in at No. 2; not to brag, but this year I climbed two notches to number 7.151 billion.) But just who is Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin? Born Oct. 7, 1952, in Leningrad to Maria Shelomova and Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin, little Vlad grew up as “an average, normal person,” he recalls in his official Kremlin biography, subsisting largely on cabbage soup and boiled...

Marathon madness

Today’s Boston Marathon is a truly awesome spectacle — 36,000 determined souls dashing, gasping and staggering 26.2 miles through the streets toward Boston. The deadly high-speed crashes and the human carnage… oh wait, that’s car racing. If you are running, I salute you. And to encourage you, I offer — without the slightest sense of irony and just a touch of churlishness — the old adage: Break a leg. But be forewarned, the surgeon general has determined that marathon running may be hazardous not only to your health but to every tendon, ligament and piece of cartilage in the human body. I was actually tempted to run this year because I could really use the $150,000 grand prize. But I had to pull out because of, uh, a ruptured flexor ligament in my, um, quadriceps. Yeah, that’s it. Nope. Actually it’s because by my calculations it would take four to five days to reach the finish line, plus my chances of survival would be only about 40 percent. So once again I am penciling myself in as a pre-race favorite in the prestigious Armchair Division. Let’s just say that my only attempt to run Boston provided ample proof that I am not cut out for marathons. I got to Hopkinton real early, then walked four miles to the starting line. The aroma was a pungent blend of Ben Gay, Aspercreme and Triple-Action Gold Bond Powder. When the starter’s gun went off, I was instantly trampled by a pack of Cub Scouts jogging for the Jimmy Fund and a couple stringbeans from the Kenyan junior varsity. Just as I found my stride, my right kneecap flared up as if I’d been stung by a giant bee, but it was actually...

Questions on death penalty? Ask Prof. Gallows...

To help shed light on Thursday’s 12-12 state Senate vote that keeps capital punishment on the books in New Hampshire, today we check in with noted death penalty advice columnist Professor Gallows, who has generously agreed to answer a few questions from readers. Dear Professor Gallows — I’m no religious scholar, but I always thought God was quoted as saying, “Thou shalt not kill.” Not, “Thou shalt not kill, unless the person did something unspeakably evil.” — T.C. Dear T.C. — The death penalty is an extraordinarily controversial issue — one of the most fascinating loopholes mankind has created when it comes to obeying God’s commandments. And the people we’ve elected to decide on our behalf whether it is right or wrong are often faced with a mind-numbingly difficult decision. For example, here’s what Hampton Republican state Sen. Nancy Stiles said after casting her vote to keep the death penalty in New Hampshire. “I’ve always felt (capital punishment) was always a good tool to have in the tool box.” Adding some context to what may sound like a spectacularly unfortunate choice of words, she said, “There are some crimes that are so heinous that it is deserving.” Further explaining why she believed it was so important to maintain New Hampshire’s ability to kill killers, Sen. Stiles said jailing such a person like a “caged animal” is “not respecting life either.” If that sounds like some twisted logic, consider the words of her colleague Sen. Russell Prescott of Kingston, who describes himself as “pro-life.” “I believe life is so important that we need to make sure there are consequences to harming life.” Try to wrap your head around that one. On second thought don’t. It will make your head hurt. He...

New York Jock Exchange

One of this week’s most interesting news stories involved San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis — who struck a deal with a financial company to publicly trade himself like a stock. Under the reported terms of the agreement, San Francisco-based Fantex Inc. will pay Davis $4 million in return for 10 percent of his future earnings. According to the Associated Press, Fantex plans to conduct an initial public offering of stock (Wall Street wheeler-dealers call this an IPO) after getting regulatory approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission, selling some 421,100 shares of stock at $10 apiece. Naturally, this does raise unusual questions about whether investors acting on knowledge about the health of Mr. Davis’ groin or hamstrings could be accused of insider trading. However, my belief is that other athletes are bound to strike similar deals. (Consider, for example, big-time college football and basketball stars, “amateurs” who are currently prohibited from earning a penny while the NCAA, their schools and the TV networks reap fortunes from their exploits). So in order to cash in on this lucrative new economic opportunity, today I am establishing the New York Jock Exchange. I will only take a nominal fee for each transaction. Meanwhile, since my work administering the newly emerging “jock market” is certain to enhance my potential for future revenue, I will also be orchestrating an IPO for yours truly. The terms have yet to be determined, but a cool million or two will buy you 10 percent of my future earnings. At only 52 years of age, I am in terrific health (knock wood) and suffer no apparent diseases or disabilities. Plus, my brain regularly functions at roughly 9 percent of its full capacity, which I am told...

Professor O’Blarney on Saint Patrick’s Day...

To help explore the true meaning of St. Patrick’s Day, today we check in with the legendary Irish advice columnist Professor O’Blarney. The professor — whose credentials include a Ph.D. in limericks from the University of Sligo and a master’s in shillelagh studies from Tipperary State — has generously agreed to answer a few questions from readers. The author of “Romancing the Blarney Stone” and “Meet Me at Maguire’s,” he was recently honored by the Fitzgerald Foundation for his groundbreaking best-seller “Leprechauns: Friend or Foe?” * * * Dear Professor O’Blarney — What’s the deal with leprechauns? My buddy says they can grant three wishes and possibly even hook you up with a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But another friend said something really scary about them and I need to know the truth. Can you get leprosy from a leprechaun? — Jimbo Rodriguez Boise, Idaho Dear Jimbo — I am very glad you asked this question because it affords me an opportunity to debunk a scurrilous myth that has unfairly tarnished the reputation of the leprechaun community. While it is true they are mischievous, shoe-making little imps fond of sporting red beards and green knickers, they generally do not — repeat DO NOT — prance about, over hill and dale, giving people leprosy. You might be thinking of gnomes. One caveat, however. If the leprechaun in question suffers from leprosy, stay the heck away from the little devil. Also, if you are lucky enough to see a wee leprechaun on St. Patrick’s Day, you may wish to reconsider that ninth Guinness. * * * Dear Professor O’Blarney — It seems like St. Patrick’s Day is all about wearing something green and going out and...

Shipyard prison: The Next Brig Thing...

Hey Apple. Hey Google. What would be cooler than locating your new East Coast genius lab in a crazy, century-old prison castle inspired by Alcatraz and featured in an infamous, Oscar-nominated Jack Nicholson flick? Newsflash: The U.S. Navy is once again looking to lease the magnificent island fortress known as the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard prison. The breathtaking oceanfront site is currently ranked by Triple Action News as one of the top 5 top-secret real estate opportunities in the world. Long story short, the Navy is looking for a few good companies — anchor companies — so I wanted to put our prison on your radar screen. In my capacity as self-appointed talent scout slash marketing wizard, please allow me to introduce the first unofficial slogan for this epic economic engine by the ocean. “Shipyard prison redevelopment: The Next Brig Thing” Aye aye, captains of industry. Point your GPSes over to Portsmouth and Kittery. Lock in on Seavey Island, Piscataqua River. Google Earth it. Swoop in over the Atlantic from the East. Imagine a suite of executive offices perched up in those castle turrets. Then send an advance team to c’mon out and kick the towers. Since our cutting-edge, clean-technology anchor tenants, will be creating hundreds (thousands?) of high-paying jobs, we will need to feed the people. My restaurant team is in talks to open in early 2016 a swanky joint called The Mess Hall — serving savory seafaring rations and pouring the region’s finest locally brewed grog. Other eateries might opt for trendy Navy yard names like The Dungeon and Remedial Toxic Waste Site No. 342A. A submarine restaurant is a nautical no-brainer. And Gangplank seems like a logical name for a floating, wooden-hulled watering hole pouring tall PBRs...

Bitcoin bonanza

TOKYO (AP) — The Mt. Gox bitcoin exchange in Tokyo filed for bankruptcy protection Friday and its chief executive said 850,000 bitcoins, worth several hundred million dollars, are unaccounted for. Bitcoins, you say? If you’re like most people, you’ve probably heard the word “bitcoin” and have a vague sense that it is some kind of virtual or digital currency. But really, what the heck is it? To me, the most fascinating thing about bitcoin is this: Talk to your friends and financial advisers about it, read a few scholarly articles on the topic, listen to some business journalists on TV — and I guarantee you will still not know what bitcoin is. Here’s how Reuters describes it: “A form of electronic money independent of traditional banking, bitcoins started circulating in 2009 and have become the most prominent of several fledgling digital currencies. … The virtual currency relies on a network of computers that solve complex mathematical problems as part of a process that verifies and permanently records the details of every bitcoin transaction that is made.” OK, swell. That explains everything. Let’s try again. Some say bitcoin is a revolutionary new form of nationless, paperless currency that could reshape the way the world defines money. Others say it is a mysterious virtual currency wrapped in a riddle wrapped  inside a powerfully encrypted enigma. Still others insist it is an elaborate practical joke begun in 2009 by American actor George Clooney to get revenge on Matt Damon for putting itching powder in his trousers on the set of “Oceans 15.” Noted bitcoin insiders say this week’s crash of the most prominent bitcoin exchange, Tokyo-based Mt. Gox, only confirms that it is not too late to lose your actual and/or virtual...

Daft Olympians

Well, the Winter Olympics are almost over — with closing ceremonies to air tonight featuring Vladimir Putin’s epic high-tech multimillion-ruble salute to Vladimir Putin. But first, it will be fascinating to see if host country Russia can prevail in the first-ever Olympic vodkathlon. I don’t always get super-revved for the Winter Games, but I must confess I am going to miss seeing human beings spin and soar across the ice and snow, their dazzling mid-air maneuvers frozen in slo-mo. (Additional confessions: I still can’t tell a triple Salchow from a quadruple Gorbachev. And, I secretly want to try that event where you hop on a baby sled and whistle down an ice chute at 1,255 mph. What could go wrong, right? Nothing to luge.) I’ll also miss those inspiring stories about unlikely Olympians overcoming great obstacles and odds. You know the ones: Born with webbed feet, a beak and a flipper for a right arm, this Olympic hopeful refused to let crude taunts about his resemblance to a penguin crush his dream of making the Antarctic curling team. Born with a club foot, punctured lung and fetal alcohol syndrome, doctors said this one-time Norwegian test-tube baby would never be able to shovel a sidewalk, let alone go for Olympic gold in the men’s skeleton. Looking back, in my capacity as an amateur Sochi-ologist, these post-Olympic observations come to mind. Favorite event: The ski jump. You know, back when I used to ski jump … yeah, right. Not a chance, comrade. I’d be too scared to even peek over the edge of the ramp. Favorite moment: New Hampshire old-timer Bode Miller blazing his way to bronze. Favorite image: That U.S. bobsledder busting through the bathroom door and sharing it with...