Video gamers on the cutting edge

My sons grew up playing video games. In fact, they still do even though they’re now adults.Some kids never grow up, I guess. Either that or playing video games is more of an addictive habit than breathing.I never thought my sons were wasting their time playing video games.One, it kept them busy so they didn’t fall into bad habits like robbing convenience stores or plotting revolutions in Third World countries. Two, it made their hand-eye coordination sharper than a mother-in-law’s tongue. Consequently, they were talented athletes.Now one is an attorney and the other is a numbers cruncher in a treasury department. Noble professions indeed.OK, perhaps the lawyer picked a dubious profession. After all, you can tell when it’s really cold outside when you find a lawyer with his hands in his own pockets.But my sons should have been surgeons. Thanks to all the hours they spent playing video games.It seems surgeons who have played video games for more than three hours a week at some point in their lives outperform those who have never played video games.Researchers have found that surgeons who have been regular video gamers make fewer errors and are faster than surgeons who opted to study anatomy instead of playing video games.Which makes ample sense to me. If you have to go under the knife, you want a surgeon who can make a scalpel feel like a joystick instead of a cheese grater! But just pray he or she wasn’t up all night playing video games.

Tombstone blues for Christianity?

Having just finished shoveling snow and in the process of quickly shoveling some cereal into my mouth this morning, my mind certainly wasn’t thinking about the resurrection of Christ.But a “Today” show segment dramatically shifted my focus from the Reading Eagle sports section. A surprising segue for me, I must admit, since theology isn’t normally sitting in the front pew of my mind. The segment focused on filmmaker James Cameron’s controversial new documentary, which claims Jesus may not have only been buried with a wife, but a son as well. “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” which premieres March 4 at 9 p.m. on the Discovery Channel, chronicles recent efforts to apply modern science to the 1980 discovery of a set of “bone boxes” under what is now an apartment complex near Jerusalem.Cameron and investigative journalist Simcha Jacobovici, who wrote a companion book “The Jesus Family Tomb,” said statisticians who have looked at markings on the bone boxes estimate that the probability the remains uncovered in 1980 are not those of Joseph, Mary, Jesus, Mary Magdalene, a son of Jesus and other relatives are more than 100 to 1. “Today” host Meredith Vieira, who read the book and watched the documentary, said the implications are astounding given that billions of people have been taught that Jesus was resurrected both in spirit and body, ascended to heaven, never married and had no offspring.According to Cameron and Jacobovici, the bones discovered in the limestone boxes in 1980 were quickly reburied, following the Jewish traditions. Archaeologists quickly discounted the theory that the boxes contained the bones of Jesus and his family because the names inscribed on the boxes were quite common in the region during the 1st Century. Jacobovici said that the archaeologists who were so quick to dismiss the find never asked statisticians for an opinion about the likelihood that boxes inscribed with names like Joseph, Mary and Jesus would all be found in the same place and be dated back to the time that Jesus lived. The film and book, I imagine, could shake the pillars of Christianity just a bit. But maybe not. I’m sure the Vatican and Protestant fundamentalists won’t be buying into this as gospel.

Eagles show Garcia the door as they open it for Feeley

It wouldn’t be a mite harsh to say Jeff Garcia was as dumb as a stump when it came to playing hardball with the Philadelphia Eagles.After all, the Eagles worship the salary cap as if it were the Holy Grail. They never dig the shtick of players with an inflated sense of economics.Garcia is much too animated to sport a poker face. So it’s not a total shock that he overplayed his hand with the Eagles.The Birds reached agreement with A.J. Feeley on a three-year contract extension Sunday. Which means Garcia won’t be returning to Philadelphia.Garcia was the perfect fit to quarterback the Birds’ West Coast offense. And after going 5-2 in relief of Donovan McNabb, he should have embraced the opportunity to remain with the Eagles. Especially since McNabb’s reconstructed ACL tear likely won’t be fully functional until midseason.The Eagles weren’t wearing poker faces when they made it clear to Garcia and his agent they weren’t interested in getting into a bidding war for his services. The Birds wanted to seal a deal with Garcia before free agency kicked in later this week. But Garcia blew it by asking for a five-day window to ponder other offers on the open market.So the Eagles slammed the door shut on Garcia and opened it for Feeley to be McNabb’s backup.Suddenly, Garcia is on the outside looking in.Perhaps Denver might sign him if the Broncos jettison Jake Plummer. And supposedly Tampa Bay might be interested. Then again, Bucs coach Jon Gruden covets any guy who once took a snap from center. Apparently neither Chicago nor Minnesota is a Garcia suitor.Bottom line: Garcia wouldn’t know a golden opportunity if it came served on a bed of lettuce with sauce béarnaise.

An environmental probe could provide a periscope to see into a growing cancer concern in Muhlenberg

With the tentacles of cancer entangling a growing number of people from the Muhlenberg School District in their tragic embrace, it was encouraging to read today that our county commissioners may initiate a probe into possible environmental causes.While people who live in the school district probably are not yet boiling with angst over the possibility of a cancer cluster in their backyard, there has to be a brimming reservoir of unease in the township. And justifiably so. Between 1994 and 2005, 12 people who grew up in the district were diagnosed with cancer. Eight of them with cancers of the lymphatic system. All but one victim graduated from Muhlenberg High School. With the rates of Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas occurring among young Muhlenberg residents at a rate 145 times greater than expected, the environment would seem to be the culprit. Especially considering that over the years Muhlenberg Township has had a number of industrial businesses, some of which have been linked to environmental problems.Cancer clusters, however, apparently are difficult to prove and unearthing a particular environmental cause in an investigation could prove elusive.Nevertheless, there needs to be an attempt to cobble together some answers on this scary situation.When this story first broke on January 21 and I posted a companion blog that same day, the comments it generated indicated an acute need by some to know more about what’s going on in Muhlenberg. Perhaps a probe won’t be conclusive enough to either alleviate anxiety or shatter peace of mind. But it’s more than worth the shot if it gives people some insight into exactly what they may have been exposed to.

A matter of perspective

Fellow bloggers Dana Hoffman, Al Walentis and Tullio DeSantis have been all over the breastfeeding controversy curdling at the Berkshire Mall.I’m not surprised the topic of breastfeeding in public has alarm systems shrieking in some folks bivouacked with yesterday.People should just lighten up on both sides of the issue. And both sides should realize that an uncovered breast in public, even in a discreet nursing situation, rarely goes unnoticed.

Disorder in the court

That nutball judge in Florida, the Dishonorable Larry Seidlin, was the perfect Petri dish to further develop the insanity of the entire Anna Nicole Smith death saga.His Broward County, Fla., court proceeding on where to bury Smith’s decomposing body was essentially a star turn for the judge and his head-dripping narcissism.He ratcheted the Smith saga nonsense even higher with his screwball monologues and one-liners. He even sobbed at one point. Nobody would call this clown a hanging judge. They would just want to hang him.I think he was auditioning for Jay Leno’s job. Sorry, Larry. Conan O’Brien already has landed that gig. For the one or two of you out there that might still care at this point, the judge awarded custody of Smith’s remains to her daughter’s guardian, who said Anna Nicole will be buried alongside her son in the Bahamas. Wouldn’t it be a kick if Judge Larry wound up actually being the father of Anna Nicole’s 5-month-old daughter Dannielynn?Judge Larry then would be a lock to knock Judge Judy right off the air.Stay tuned!

A whopper of a fish tale

Personally, I think fishing is for boring people whose minds are dark woods full of lightning bugs.But life’s a funny old possum that sometimes causes us to undergo a quick sea change in opinion.For instance, a fishing crew has caught a 990-pound, 39-foot-long colossal squid that could prove to be the biggest specimen ever landed, a New Zealand fisheries official said today.I imagine the two hours it took to boat that big sucker in Antarctic waters was anything but boring. Indeed, it must have been more of a rush than climbing inside a gasoline pump and taking a deep breath.To put the size of this monster into context, one expert said if calamari rings were made from the squid they would be the size of tractor tires. They’d have to stack some tables together at The Peanut Bar to serve those babies!

Just another day in the celebrity circus

The bizarre world of celebrities is so surreal that no gifted fiction writer could make this stuff up.Take today, for instance.Britney Spears and her bald head reportedly left a live-in rehabilitation facility early today, less than a day after checking in.It would be second time in a week the pop star has entered a rehab facility and checked out before her first day was finished.I guess Brit is taking the drive-through approach to rehab.Meanwhile, the battle over Anna Nicole Smith’s body is getting ugly. In the immortal words of Gomer Pyle: surprise, surprise!Her estranged mother complicated matters today when she told a judge she wants to exhume her grandson in the Bahamas and bring his body home to Texas to be buried alongside his starlet (and star-crossed) mom.Smith’s longtime companion, Howard K. Stern, is fighting for the former Playboy centerfold to be buried next to her son in the Bahamas, where he died from apparent drug-related causes last year.The judge is encouraging both sides to reach a quick compromise. It seems Anna Nicole’s body is decomposing quickly and soon will be pitifully unsuitable for a public viewing (you know, the whole ashes-to-ashes routine, not to mention the flies and maggots). And that sure would tick off the paparazzi.While these matters of high importance are unraveling like rayon before our very eyes, the war in Iraq drags on. I guess we’re all too preoccupied with the clowns to notice the warriors.

Sorting through the ashes

Today is not one of my favorite days.Of course, I guess Ash Wednesday is not supposed to be a fun day. It should be more of a gloom and doom day. But the warmer temperatures and bright sunshine today don’t feel so penitential. Perhaps Mother Nature isn’t a Christian.Since Ash Wednesday kicks off the Lenten season, it’s a day to fast and abstain. At least if you’re Catholic.I’m Catholic, although I have serious doubts I’ll ever be canonized. I just wasn’t born with religious fervor hot as broth. My religious fervor is more like ice water.For instance, I haven’t gotten ashes on my forehead since I was in high school. I guess it’s a vanity thing. Since my forehead is big enough to serve as a landing strip for a small plane, I’m sort of self-conscious about it. Especially since my hairline mounted a full retreat in my 20s. At least when I was in high school my bangs could somehwat hide the ashes. The only way I could hide the ashes these days would be to wear a bag over my head. So I abstain from ashes. Still, I try to follow the Lenten regulations. Except for giving something up for Lent. When I was a kid, I used to give up candy for Lent and some years I even stuck to it. For the last 40 years or so, I really haven’t given up anything for Lent. Of course, I do console my conscience a bit by reminding it that I haven’t shot anyone during Lent for the last 40 years or so. Not to point fingers, but there are plenty of people in Reading who can’t claim that distinction.Perhaps I could give up blogging for Lent. But that would mean denying folks the chance to skewer me with nasty comments.I’ve been pretty good about abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday. I do like seafood, so that’s hardly carrying a cross. The trick is to remember not to eat meat. Truth be told, I have forgotten at times. But apparently ignorance is bliss. If you forget and eat meat, you’re absolved. I like that kind of justice.Fasting is another matter. I really have to work hard at it. It’s not as if I’m a glutton who spends hours a day shoveling junk into my mouth until my esophagus screams in protest. But I’m a snacker. How else do you think I can survive the torment of slaving away in Marketing/Promotions? So I chew a lot of gum and pray one of my dental bridges doesn’t start crumbling like the Penn Street Bridge. After all, the sticker shock of dental crowns and bridges these days rivals PennDOT’s annual budget. At least my teeth aren’t as crummy as the roads in Pennsylvania.The tricky part about eating today is that you’re supposed to eat two small meals that don’t add up to the one big meal you’re allowed. I’ve been a little lax on this because I’m not real good at counting calories. So I make sure I eat a really big dinner so that my usual breakfast and lunch combined don’t dwarf my super-sized supper.But enough about me. Feel free to share any of your fond Ash Wednesday memories with me. Unless, of course, you’ve given up reading my blog for Lent. Then never mind. But check back with me on Easter.

Folks who are too lazy to remove snow and ice from their vehicles should be parked in igloos for the duration of the winter

The crime du jour these days seems to be poaching shoveled-out parking spots that your neighbors shed blood, sweat, tears and muscle strains over.But an eviler crime is committed by those lazy louts who fail to remove snow and ice from their vehicles. I guess they were in too much of a rush to flee to the grocery story to stock up on water, bread and toilet paper — a winter storm ritual in Berks County.Well, at least three people were injured Monday in four accidents involving chunks of ice flying from vehicles on Berks County roads, police said. Nobody likes having their windshield slobberknockered by a hunk of flying ice. Even a NASCAR driver would be distracted by such a violent intrusion in concentration.I just wish there were some experts in psychic phenomena out there who could see to it that some sort of thought transference of common sense and common decency could be delivered to these morons.