Load up on deodorant because things are going to get thisclose in Berks

Berks County is growing and it likely won’t be long before it has a protruding belly.Which is only fitting, I guess, for a population known to be full-blown, corn-fed and ring baloney-fed.Berks had the third-highest population spike between 2000 and 2006 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. If you want precise numbers, Berks gained 27,511 residents for a grand total of 401,149 souls as of July 1, 2006. And we probably are rife with even more folks since then.So what is germinating all this growth? Well, friends, it’s not Miracle-Gro. It’s affordable housing and land availability, two precious commodities some of our sister counties are sorely lacking. So it shouldn’t be long before Berks is teeming with oodles and oodles of bodies.And there will be growing pains. An influx of mass will strain our infrastructure — roads, sewers, schools, etc. Trust me, this will be quite taxing indeed.As our available land shrinks smaller than the biceps on the Venus de Milo, our housing costs will spiral higher than a NASA space shuttle. By then, valiant but overmatched efforts at land preservation inevitably will have folded like a carpenter’s rule.So while you still have some extra dollars in your pocket, buy some elbow and knee pads. Because pretty soon we’re gonna be knee-deep in people, and there won’t be enough elbow room for all of us.

Just shut up, Ann Coulter!

By the time we get around to electing our next president, all of us might be worn away like an old rock.And it won’t be because of the presidential candidates.Nope, it’s the pompous windbag pundits who pollute cable chatfests with their churning seas of verbal fire that undoubtedly will topple us all into dissonance.The arsenal of clichés, insults and stock political jargon leaning either far left or far right will batter our senses until our loved ones start tapping us on the forehead as though testing for termites.The harrumphings of these commentators are arrogant and megalomaniac as they anatomize politics into so-much pablum. And the worse of the lot is Ann Coulter, she of the hard body and harder heart. Invective clings like so much spinach to her bicuspids. Currently the saucy right-wing fringe heroine is sparring with Elizabeth Edwards.If you follow all this nonsense, Coulter supposedly was jokingly riffing off of Bill Maher’s comments on Dick Cheney when she took her latest bowshot at John Edwards.In response to a question about having smacked Edwards with an anti-gay slur a few months or so ago, Coulter said Monday that she wished Edwards would have been killed in a terrorist assassination plot.All in tongue-in-her-pretty-cheek, she claims. “Oh yeah, I wouldn’t insult gays by comparing them to John Edwards,” she said. “That would be mean. But about the same time — you know — Bill Maher was not joking and saying he wished Dick Cheney had been killed in a terrorist attack. So I’ve learned my lesson. If I’m going to say anything about John Edwards in the future, I’ll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot.”Elizabeth Edwards fired back at Coulter yesterday, calling in to MSNBC’s “Hardball” to criticize her for “debasing” the political dialogue in the country. The lesson in all of this? Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will drive us crazy!

Some numbskulls shouldn't have naming rights

We all know that certain people shouldn’t be parents. And sometimes folks botch parenthood from the get-go when, with an acute lapse in taste, they anoint monikers on their offspring that hang like an albatross of agony around their poor necks for life. For instance, a couple in New Zealand recently tried to name their new baby “4real” — I kid you not. Fortunately, authorities thought their choice was too surreal and nixed it.Of course, we Americans still lay awful names on our young like Kleenex. Speaking of Kleenex, their kids probably need plenty of them through the years as people cruelly mock them.Indeed, here are some real names of real people, and if they whet your appetite for more naming nonsense, please hit this link: Fanny Fangboner John Senior, Jr. Orange Marmalade LemonPreserved Fish, Jr.Silence BellowsSugarporn PoopattanaIva OdorJ. Fido SpotKuhl BriezeSome names are a scream when they are tethered to a particular profession.For instance:Dr. Zoltan Ovary, gynecologistMrs. Screech, singing teacherDr. Bull, Pennsylvania State Secretary of Agriculture Cheatham & Steele, bankersMr. Joynt, marijuana analyst, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Crime Lab From personal experience, I worked for years with a sportswriter named Ken Tuckey. And the name of his column? You guessed it: Ken Tuckey’s Derby!

Surprise, surprise: Paris a lady with raging appetites

Unless they run across some spray-painting graffiti wizards, leopards don’t change their spots, zebras don’t change their stripes and the ludicrously wealthy don’t lose their sense of privilege.Living a life of indulgence is addictive, and the cycle feeds on itself.It seems Paris Hilton spent her time in jail insatiably scavenging for goodies and leaning on deputies to fetch them.Of course, besides being a celebrity, Paris, as you may have noticed, is a thin slice of delicious eye candy.I wonder if deputies would genuflect while doing favors for Rosie O’Donnell if her big mouth ever lands her in the pokey.

Thank God Almighty, free at last

The latest star turn by Paris Hilton transpired about 15 minutes past midnight Left Coast Time this morning.The most heralded and spoofed hotel heiress in the history of civilization was sprung from the pokey as the blaze of the media spotlight lit up the pitch-black early morning. Hilton, who apparently found God and lost 10 pounds inside the Los Angeles County jail, was not a black-draped or prison-garbed princess during her prison exit scene. Rather, she wore a big smile, a sage jacket, a white shirt and skinny jeans. Evidently the cat got her tongue during her incarceration and she did not answer questions spewing from the posse of bosom-close reporters and fans.So now what will happen now that Paris has been liberated? If she becomes just another boring good girl and follows through on her promise to no longer act like a dumb blonde, will she be left lunging for a trace of presence like a hunting dog with a bad nose?If so, life for her — and for her devoted voyeurs — may cease to be the gigantic cocktail party it was before she boogied to a jailhouse rock.Of course, whatever fate awaits our trusty heroine undoubtedly will play out online and on television.

Destiny lands a left hook right on the kisser

I imagine Zachary Dixon will be twitching with spasms of melancholy for sometime.Because fate sure has treated the Mertztown resident with reptilian coldness.He had spent two years of his life and thousands of bucks to restore a vintage 1956 Farmall tractor. Personally, I’m not all that fascinated by new tractors, let alone antiques. But obviously there are people who love old tractors because Dixon was towing his freshly restored tractor to the Antique Farm Tractor Show in Bloomsburg when the Northeast Extension of the Turnpike proved to be his road to ruin.Dixon apparently swerved to avoid a reckless driver, causing the trailer carrying the tractor to topple. It had to be horrible news for Dixon’s carotid arteries as the now-smashed tractor landed upside down with the trailer on top of it. Adding insult to injury, a Mercedes-Benz SUV piled into hit the wreckage, coming to rest on top of the trailer.The sight of such a terrible triple-decker sandwich had to be hideously difficult for Dixon to swallow. Fortunately nobody was injured, but the chilling sequence had to plunge Dixon into a deep freeze of despair. Such an intense labor of love deserved a much happier ending.

Hilda's Social Security number — don't leave home without it

The most harsh arithmetic lesson anybody can endure these days is if somebody rips off their Social Security number. Suddenly their finances can be devoured like so much barbecued shrimp.Which is why the late 1930s seemed to be safer times even though Hitler was about to transform Europe (and much of the rest of the world) into hell on earth.If you’re old enough to be playing the back nine of your life, you likely remember when new wallets came with sample Social Security cards.The vice president of the first wallet manufacturer to do so in 1938 thought it would be clever to use the actual Social Security number of his secretary. Perhaps she was slow with his morning coffee or didn’t keep his pencils sharp enough and he decided to get even.But I suspect, in the context of the times, he merely was being cute. Poor, infamous Douglas Patterson did not know what he had wrought. Hilda Schrader Whitcher’s 078-05-1120 became the most misused SSN of all time.What that company veep apparently didn’t account for was the sheer stupidity of the American public.Let’s face it, folks. There are many among us who have mothballs for brains. People whose craniums are dumber than heads of lettuce. The sample card should have been dummy-proof. It was only half the size of a real card, was printed all in red, and had the word “specimen” scrawled across its face. Nevertheless, many purchasers of the wallet adopted the SSN as their own. Indeed, over 40,000 cretins over the years have used Hilda’s SSN.The Social Security Administration eventually voided the number and gave her a new SSN … but not before the FBI knocked on her door.”I can’t understand how people can be so stupid,” Hilda once said. It would great if we could finger the Reading School District as the primary carrier in the sweeping epidemic of dumbness that has plagued our land for decades. But that would be a slight stretch.

Home schooling, anyone?

We don’t need no education Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 Pink FloydA report commissioned by the teachers union certainly doesn’t portray Reading High as the bucolic (and fictional) Mayfield High that Beaver Cleaver’s older brother Wally attended when he wasn’t busy getting The Beav out of benign jams.The report claims the administration doesn’t have control of Reading High School students and that serious safety issues exist in the school building. However, in a separate report issued to school board members, the Reading School District administration rebutted much of the criticism, saying it was exaggerated or based on anecdotal evidence.To be honest, neither you nor I can possibly know to what degree, if any, hyperbole is at play here. But it certainly seems that the administration and the teachers union need to work together to address whatever serious issues reside inside the Castle on the Hill.

If dangling a big carrot works in New York, why not Reading?

Breaking the cycle of poverty can be more difficult than dodging sledgehammer shots on a punt return.So some major Zeke props to Mayor Bloomberg, a couple of foundations and a couple of other entities for coming up with the cash to fund Opportunity NYC.Opportunity NYC simply provides financial incentives to encourage poor people to learn and work.In a nutshell, the program is designed to show those without economic means that they, too, can snack on success. And once they get used to the notion that doing the right thing pays off, faces once etched with recurrent sorrow will now permanently break into sunlight.Or so the theory goes. We shall see how all this transpires.Bloomberg and his well-heeled associates are throwing out some serious dollars to transfrom that theory into reality. Poor New York City kids can earn $600 for every Regents exam they pass. If they keep passing Regents exams until they get a high school diploma, they can pocket 3 grand.Destitute families who perform the basic functions they should be doing as responsible adults — like going to the doctor, getting a job and showing up for parent-teacher conferences — can make between $4,000 and $6,000 a year, tax-free. The two-year pilot program starts this fall and targets three different groups: families, students and single adults in subsidized housing. Before you get your undies all twisted in knots, taxpayers aren’t paying one red cent towards any of this.Well, all good ideas are worth stealing — or at least borrowing.So why not an Opportunity Reading to help spike those lousy test scores in the Reading School District and to help motivate parents in the city to get their act together and stop just hanging out? If more folks start studying and working, hopefully fewer folks will be dealing drugs and squeezing triggers. Mayor McMahon and some of the local foundations should start digging deep to mimic Bloomberg’s scenario.Indeed, the first funds could come from that drug money the city, the DA and the Berks Community Foundation are wrestling over.

U.S. Open hardly a beauty pageant

Golf is one sport where you don’t have to look liked a sculpted Adonis to play it well.The charm of the sport is you still can be an elite competitor while swallowing more cheeseburgers than human growth hormones.Watching the final round of the U.S. Open Sunday, the stark contrast in body types between new champ Angel Cabrera and Tiger Woods couldn’t have been more graphic had they played nude.Cabrera, if he has any muscles, conceals them well under chunks of body fat. And the dude smokes, too. Most PGA guys suck on their tees these days, not cigarettes. Cabrera was dropping butts and putts all over the cruel Oakmont Country Club course. And since Oakmont was tricked up enough to play even more hazardous than a minefield, it would have been smoking hot if one of Cabrera’s cigs had ignited a brushfire in rough that was thicker than a Russian novel. Woods, on the other hand, looks like he should be playing cornerback in the NFL. The guy is packing some serious guns, abs harder than calculus and pecs tighter than a miser.But, as Cabrera proved yesterday, golf definitely is not an exercise in vanity.