OMG 4give me fthr 4 I have snnd LOL! 7

The Vatican — the folks who brought the world the Crusades v.1-8 and the no-meat-on-Friday thing — recently approved an iPhone app that helps guide worshippers through confession.

The app, called appropriately The Confession, is described as “the perfect aid for every penitent” and offers users tips and guidelines to help them with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It’s available through the iTunes store for a mere $1.99, so it’s not like you have to sell your soul to download it.

Fortuitously, the launch comes shortly after Pope Benedict XVI urged Christians to embrace digital communication and make their presence felt online.

In his World Communications Address on Jan. 24, Benedict encouraged young Catholics to share important information with each other online – although “sister mary frances + ruler = HAWT lol” is probably not the sort of thing he had in mind.

This is the first time the church has approved a mobile phone application, although it is not entirely unfamiliar with the digital world. In 2007, the Vatican launched its own YouTube channel. Rumors that the Holy See would soon launch an “I Can Has Communion” channel remain unsubstantiated.

News about the app made me think, what if all the digital technology that we take for granted had been around back in the day? Can you picture Jesus texting Paul: “Running late for supper – save me a seat near the middle.” Or posting on FaceBook? “SonOfGod just checked in at Golgotha.” Or updating his status? “FML – crucified – brb 3 days lol.”

Another feature of the app allows users to keep track of their sins. That made me think, if it were me keeping track of my sins on my iPhone, I would have gone for the 32-gig model and not cheaped out with the 16. As it is, I barely have room for all my music files, much less them and all my transgressions.

Although he gave the app the holy high sign, Benedict emphasized that digital communication was just one part of a much bigger picture, saying, “Virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact.” Ironically, it’s that very “direct human contact” stuff that has gotten the church so much bad publicity over the past several years.

And speaking of irony, Il Papa has to know that this app is for use on smartphones. But I wonder if he realizes that most people protect their smartphones by keeping them … yup … in a snug little rubber wrapper.


Party canceled due to end of the world; no rain date set 5

For the first time in I don’t know how long, my birthday – Oct. 22 – falls on a Saturday. And then today I find out that the world is going to end on Oct. 21.

Well, great. Just freakin’ great.

I’ve had my birthday fall in the middle of the week, which precludes any serious partying. And I’ve had birthday parties rained out, and that sucks, too. But I have never, until now, had a birthday pre-empted by the end of the world.

The source of this disheartening news? Well, the Internet, natch. According to a website belonging to Brother Mike, the Rapture will occur on May 21. Then, on Oct. 21, turn out the lights ‘cause the party’s over – before it even got started.

Brother Mike (no last name, unless Brother is his first name) has succeeded were others have failed – he has decoded the Bible and determined not only that the world is coming to an end, but also the exact day that it will do so. That’s great but I wish he could specify a time so I’d know whether to bother setting my DVR.

If you’re not familiar with the Rapture, here’s what Wikipedia says about it (full disclosure: I thought Rapture was just a song by Blondie). According to some, Jesus is supposed to come back; and when he does, those who believe will be taken by God up into the sky – literally and physically. The rest of us will be left behind to suffer seven years of tribulation. And apparently we don’t get credit for having suffered through eight seasons of Two and a Half Men.

A note here to anyone who might be driving around May 21: Buckle up! It will make it that much harder for God to snatch you out of your car. On the other hand, if God can snatch you out of your car, a seat belt is probably not going to be a lot of help. And if he really is the kind of guy who goes around snatching people out of their cars, he’s probably someone you don’t want to piss off.

According to the Bible, JC won’t just pop in unannounced like your pain-in-the-ass neighbor wanting to borrow your weed-eater; his second coming will be audible. The book of Matthew says Christ “will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet.” Trumpets are fine; as long as it’s not one of those damned vuvuzelas, that’s cool with me. And since I’m often listening to my iPod, an audible heads-up like a trumpet solo – maybe some Miles Davis or Chet Baker – would be most welcome.

Brother Mike is hardly the first to predict the end of the world. This sort of prognostication is extremely popular, especially amongst certain Christian sects. But it’s certainly not confined to Christians. Perhaps most famously, the Mayans predicted the world will end in 2012 – a full year after Brother Mike is predicting the final curtain. But ask yourself this – when was the last time you saw a Mayan? The world’s still around but where are they? And do they have a Web presence? If you want people to listen to your end-of-days predictions, a giant stone calendar is impressive but a Facebook page is better.

Anyway, Brother Mike got me to thinking – before I do a lot of planning, maybe I should check out his claim and see if it’s valid. No sense in sending out a lot of Evites if the world’s coming to an end the day before my birthday, right?

Several things make me question his judgment (you should pardon the expression). Chief among those is a note on his website that says it is best viewed with Internet Explorer. If he doesn’t know any better than to code for Explorer, I wouldn’t trust him to order lunch, much less predict the end of the world.

Road to Christmas paved with stress, frustration and Rice Krispy Treats 3

Like many people, I traveled over the holidays. And while getting to see family and friends is great, getting to where they are can be a trial.

Every year, we drive to Arkansas to see my wife’s family, and to Oklahoma to see mine. We don’t fly – mainly because I’m a cheap bastard. And the three worst things about driving are owning a tiny car, contending with other motorists who drive worse than I, and road food.

Driving would be OK if we had a grown-up car and not what is basically a go-kart with an mp3 player. Here’s how small our car is: for a couple of weeks after we bought it, we’d park it on the street. And every morning I’d get in and find it was full of bills and junk mail. Turns out the postman had mistaken our new car for the mailbox.

And the traffic! Our route takes us up Interstate 35. Under the best conditions, I-35 is a parking lot. Around Christmas, it’s a parking lot full of cranky, harried, and sleep-deprived people who would rather be just about anywhere else besides stuck in traffic. In other words, people just like me.

Crowded highways are one thing, and DWS (driving while stupid) only makes things worse. For instance, I was driving through Dallas and I noticed that the woman in the lane next to me was texting. As you know, texting while driving is extremely dangerous. I rolled down my window to chastise her and in doing so I spilled my Scrabble tiles all over the floor. And I was just about to nail a triple-word score with “irresponsibility.”

Another drawback to road trips is the food issue. My wife and I are ostensibly vegetarians during the rest of the year. But since most road food joints are heavy on the processed animal products and light on the tofu, being a non-carnivore on the road is not easy. And contrary to what you might think, Red Bull and Rice Krispy Treats do not make a balanced meal. In fact, in sufficient quantities they will induce visions of sugarplums. Great if you’re going to a Phish concert; not so great when visiting the fams.

Road food is also terrible if you’re trying to keep your weight under control. For 51 weeks of the year I try to eat well, plus I work out like a fiend. But I come home after a week away and I’m a lot less Daniel Craig and a lot more Jenny Craig.

The next time I go home for the holidays, instead of driving maybe I should jog.

Close encounters of the boneheaded kind 4

We see a lot of messages urging us to be mindful of identity theft and online crime and hacking and phishing and other things that sound vaguely like tropical diseases or maybe popular new bands. But I seriously think some people need more encouragement simply not to be boneheads.

I just read a story from my hometown, Oklahoma City, that illustrates my point. A 28-year-old man was recently arrested there on one felony count of sexual battery and seven misdemeanor counts of outraging public decency. But that’s not the boneheaded part.

Mark Anthony Richardson was busted after he allegedly conned a woman and her teen-aged daughter into repeatedly “baby sitting” him. He even got them to change his dirty nappies. That’s pretty gross, but it still falls short of boneheaded.

Richardson did this not once, not twice, but eight times. Yes – eight times he was able to convince two grown women that he was autistic and needed to be treated like an infant.

The mom said that her first encounter with the guy came in April. Her 18-year-old daughter had placed an ad on craigslist offering baby-sitting services. A man going by the name of “David” answered the ad and told the woman that he was seeking a sitter for his autistic 19-year-old son “Alex” who wore diapers, drank formula and used a pacifier.

Most people would have hung up on the guy right there – but most people aren’t boneheads.

The woman told investigators that Alex first showed up on her doorstep at 2 a.m. one morning. He arrived by cab, and stood on the porch repeating the number “4121” over and over. He was wearing a soiled diaper and very old clothes, and was carrying a backpack containing diapers, ointment, a bottle and a pacifier. He also had $40 and a typed note from “David” indicating that he needed to be fed.

During this first encounter of the creepy kind, the woman said she changed his diaper and got him clean clothes. She said she also read him a bedtime story because he kicked and screamed when she tried to tuck him in.

This is why I think we need an anti-bonehead campaign. Who would fall for this kind of scam? I mean, how many things are wrong with this picture? Let’s review. To begin with, the mom lets her 18-year-old daughter accept a baby-sitting gig – and for a special-needs kid, at that – without ever meeting the kid’s parents? And the kid shows up at 2 a.m.? In a taxi? Alone? Still no red flags? Plus, he’s wearing a dirty diaper and carrying all his kit in a backpack? Still … nothing?

OK, I can see falling for this scam once (actually, I can’t but it’s Christmas and I’m trying hard to be charitable), but these folks bit repeatedly. The “baby” comes back a total of eight times over the course of several months. On one occasion he grabs the sleeping 18-year-old daughter’s breast but mom tells her to go back to sleep, saying “he doesn’t know what he’s doing.” The woman also told police that “Alex” would become “sexually aroused” while he was being changed, and she often had to chase him through the house so she could finish the job (the diapering job, I mean).

In a court affidavit, Richardson said he had also “conned” his own family and did what he did “for the attention.” So, he cries, he screams, and he acts like a baby – all in the name of getting some attention. When he gets out of jail, he should apply at FOX News. Maybe he could take Glenn Beck’s place.

When rolls of fat are outlawed, only outlaws will have rolls of fat 7

I’m from Oklahoma (which is a great place to be from, I hasten to add); I don’t get back much so it delights me to hear news from my home state. The following Christmas tale is especially heartwarming.

In the town where my family lives, two women were recently arrested for shoplifting clothes from a department store. Shoplifting in itself is pretty unremarkable, especially at this time of year. What is remarkable about this pair is how they did it.

Ailene Brown, 28, and Shmeco Thomas, 37, were busted at the TJ Maxx in Edmond, Okla., when loss-prevention officers spotted them hiding stuff under their belly fat and their breasts.

Let me repeat that – they were hiding stuff under their belly fat and their breasts.

Cops said the dynamic duo took four pair of boots, three pair of jeans, a wallet and gloves; all totaled, the pair had managed to hide $2,600 worth of stuff under their … uh … insulation.

Again, let me repeat – four pairs of boots (that’s eight boots total, for you liberal arts majors) three pair of jeans, a wallet and some gloves. Under their fat rolls.

Man, that conjures up all sorts of unpleasant mental images, as well as lots of questions you probably really don’t want answered. Like, eight boots? Really? Assuming they split up the booty (Ha! See what I did there? Magic!) evenly, that’s still four boots apiece. How do you hide four boots on your person? Actually, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know.

The story prompts another question: what happened to all that merchandise that had been hidden where – so to speak – the sun don’t shine? Does it go back on the shelf for some unsuspecting shopper to buy and perhaps give to someone on Christmas morning? I hope not – can you imagine a loved one opening their present and asking, “Mommy, how come my new gloves smell like boobies?” Not pretty.

This is one place where those new airport scanners would have come in handy. In fact, I bet the cops who had to search these ladies would have chipped in and bought one on the spot.

Here’s a thought – if those scanners make it harder for would-be terrorists to smuggle stuff onto planes, then I bet they’d also make it harder to smuggle stuff out of stores. On the other hand, if someone can hide pretty much an entire ensemble under her (or – let’s be fair – his) fat rolls, I really don’t wanna see them nearly naked – on a scanner or anywhere else.

As distasteful as this tale is, it could have been worse – they could have been boosting stuff from Hickory Farms. I don’t even want to think about where they might have hidden the cheese logs.

Time to give thanks – as in, ‘Yes, I will have some more turkey, thanks’ 11

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I could not be happier. This is without a doubt my favorite holiday. I like it because it gives me the opportunity to be with my favorite people, to reflect on my great good fortune, and to start drinking before noon. Of course, I kid — no way I’m getting out of bed that early on a day off.

For those of you who are new to these shores, please allow me: Thanksgiving is our annual celebration by which we give thanks (duh) for our blessings, and also for the grace of the indigenous people of this continent who saved our ill-prepared forebears from starving. Over the next couple of centuries we showed our gratitude by killing most of them, and giving the survivors smallpox, alcoholism, and the reservation. Small wonder the holiday was originally known to Native Americans as “I Really Don’t Like The Looks of These Dudes Day.”

Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to be with family and loved ones (I nearly said family or loved ones — paging Dr. Freud!) In years past my wife and I would hit the road and head to Oklahoma to see family.

On a good day this trip takes about eight hours; this time of year, though, you can count on 12. Add bumper-to-bumper morons and a steady diet of talk radio, and it seems like 24 hours of automotive waterboarding. On the other hand, at the end of a trip like that, you’re thankful just to sit anywhere that doesn’t have a steering wheel in front of it.

No more of that for us, thank you. This Thanksgiving we will spend part of the morning selflessly preparing and distributing meals for the less fortunate, pausing only occasionally to wipe pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce from our haloes. After that it’s back to business as usual — we’ll spend the rest of they day eating like pigs, watching TV and snoring.

The eating-like-a-pig-at-Thanksgiving thing is a time-honored tradition in my family, and I was inducted at an early age. When I was a kid, my relatives would all fix a Thanksgiving meal but each would serve at a different time.

My dad’s brother’s family sat down at noon. My dad and I would be there (mom, of course, had work to do and so could not join us), napkins tucked into shirt collars, knives and forks at the ready, salivating for my Aunt Mora’s justifiably famous roast turkey.

After putting away as much food as we could, and burping our thanks and goodbyes, we’d drive to my dad’s sister’s house, where my Aunt Bert would be serving her Thanksgiving dinner mid-afternoon. Before she could say, “Grab yourself a plate,” I’d be tucking my knees under her table and clamoring for more mashed potatoes and gravy, and maybe just a sliver of pumpkin pie.

By the time we’d waddle home, I’d be swearing off food entirely. I would honor that vow – sometimes for hours — until my mom got our meal on the table around 6. At that time, the gluttony would begin afresh and we would gorge until the tryptophan hallucinations kicked in. And then we’d go back for seconds.

Time has a way of changing everything, and it’s especially rough on the stuff we cherished as kids. Birthdays are no longer the big deal they once were, and I’m starting to have serious reservations about the whole Santa deal. But Thanksgiving never changes. Actually, I take that back – every year I have a little more to be thankful for, and enough sense to realize that fact. Combine that with a second (OK, third) slice of pumpkin pie, and it’s small surprise that it’s my favorite holiday.