2004: Don’t Look Back (Part 2)

December 16, 2004

And the year got even weirder…

June 2004-Students at an elementary school in River Heights, Utah, saved pennies for over eight years. It was started as a math project by fifth-grade teacher Dave Jorgensen who wanted to show his students how much a million really was, so they collected one million pennies, worth $10,000, proving that a penny saved…is a penny. And a million pennies saved…still isn’t very much money.

July 2004-Researchers in Japan determined that yawning is infectious in chimps, proving, among other things, that researchers around the world have entirely too much time on their hands. The researchers showed videos of chimps yawning to other chimps, who then yawned in response to watching the yawning videos. The results were published in the British online journal The Royal Society Biology Letters, and if this story isn’t enough to make you yawn try reading that publication.

Also in July I switched to a new brand of peanut butter. This one goes much better with dill pickles. Mmmmm.

August 2004-Terrell Jones, a student in an Atlanta, Georgia high school was removed from class for wearing a t-shirt that said, "Hempstead, NY 516" because school administrators thought the shirt referred to marijuana. After the administrators searched the internet, they finally accepted that Jones’ t-shirt referred to the town in New York state and its area code where he and his parents had lived before moving to Georgia. No one’s sure what the school administrators had been smoking when they decided to pull Jones from class.

September 2004-Attorney General John Ashcroft, whose critics sometimes compare him to J. Edgar Hoover, which is distinctly unfair because Hoover looked much better in a dress, sent out a request to libraries that hold government documents to find and destroy five particular documents. The documents were deemed "not appropriate for external use". Two of the documents were texts of federal laws, because nothing would be more dangerous than allowing citizens to read the laws that apply to them.

Also Russian President Vladimir Putin continued his country’s march toward democracy by canceling governors’ elections in local provinces, deciding instead that they should be appointed by the Kremlin.

October 2004-A federal judge finally blocked the Texas-based web site operating company StarProse Corporation that for months sent harassing e-mails to Missouri public school officials. The company had threatened to describe the public school officials as gay if the officials refused to share personal information, including their race, age, and sexual orientation, which raises an interesting question: If the company was planning to intimidate officials by "outing" them, why not just go ahead and call them gay without any evidence to back it up? That’s what third-graders do. There’s no word yet on whether employees at StarProse responsible for the e-mails ever completed the third grade.

Also in October, the town of Soap Lake, Washington, needed something new, and architect Brent Blake had just the idea: the world’s biggest lava lamp. Lava lamps first became hot in the early 1970’s, then they cooled, floated to the bottom of the cultural consciousness, and have now become hot again and risen back into public view. Blake has proposed the giant lamp as a way to revitalize the town’s economy which is struggling, although how exactly attracting large numbers of hippies will do that remains a mystery. If built, the giant lava lamp will exceed in size the one that Raquel Welch and Donald Pleasence swam through in the 1966 film "Fantastic Voyage".

November 2004-Ohio’s Issue 1, which makes it unconstitutional to grant anything resembling marital benefits to unmarried couples. Proponents of the law hoped to protect Ohio’s citizens by making it illegal for Ohio State University, and all other institutions, businesses, and cities in the state to offer domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples. Issue 1 doesn’t specify the gender of the couples, though, so unmarried couples may not be able to jointly own property, visit each other in the hospital, and domestic violence protection orders may not apply to unmarried couples. And just in time for the holidays!

December 2004: Representative Gerald Allen from Alabama has written and submitted a law that would prohibit "the purchase of textbooks or library materials that recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle." Mr. Allen’s law also would require that books already in state-funded schools and library shelves be removed. "I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them," he said to explain what would be done with the books, because, after all, burning them would be wrong.

Meanwhile Senator and medical doctor Bill Frist raised eyebrows on a television talk show. When asked whether it was possible to spread HIV through sweat and tears, the Senator replied that, yes, that was possible. Although he didn’t mention that no medical research has ever determined that HIV could be spread through sweat or tears, he did add that it would be "very hard" to transmit the disease in this way.

And finally some happy news: Paco the python, who was accidentally shipped in a box with a DVD player from Missouri to Secaucus, New Jersey, survived the trip and is being shipped back home in temperature-controlled comfort. Paco slithered into the box unnoticed and was shipped with the DVD player which was being sent back for repairs. Secaucus Town Animal Warden officer Kevin Kessler said, "things like this do happen". Especially in New Jersey.

That’s all for this year. Freethinkers Anonymous will return in 2005. Thanks for making this one so much fun.

The preceding has been brought to you by Freethinkers Anonymous. We’re dedicated to making pinball an Olympic event in time for the 2116 Olympics.

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