Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Quick Hits, Pt. II

I have a couple of full-length posts planned, but haven’t found the time to write them. Hopefully I will soon before they lose their relevance.

• An Australian sheep farmer fell for a new variation of the internet Nigerian banking scam and it doesn’t reflect well on him.

Des Gregor, 56, has arrived back in Adelaide after being held hostage in the African nation of Mali for 12 days.

Mr Gregor, a sheep farmer, set off to Mali on what he hoped would be an exotic adventure, during which he would not only meet his African bride but pocket a huge dowry in gold.

The target of his affections was a woman purportedly called Natacha, a Liberian refugee in her twenties whom he had met and fallen in love with over the internet.

Seriously. Not only did he expect to meet a woman in her twenties who would agree to marry him (which I guess isn’t that unrealistic in the age of mail order brides), but the kicker is that he was supposed to collect an $86,000 dowry on top of that. What a jackpot. A presumably attractive wife 30 years younger than him and $86,000 for the chore of marrying her. Some people can be incredibly naïve, but you think something about the scenario would have raised red flags in his head or caused him to implement some precautions.

This immediately strikes me as one of those Catch-22 crimes. The plan is flawed in that anyone dumb enough to fall for the setup is unlikely to have the necessary money to pay the ransom. The man is a farmer (not a profession known for its wealth, although they often live better than you may think), who is old enough that his parents are likely dead and who is clearly not married and thus has no source of income beyond his own. The ideal target, as in the one most likely to fall for the plot, is the non-ideal victim, as he has nothing to lose by going to the authorities. Gullible and naive? Yes. Rich and desperate to avoid embarassment? No.

• There’s apparently been a spate of idiocy across Oceania.

A couple in New Zealand is planning to call their newborn son Superman after officials rejected their original choice of 4Real.

Pat and Sheena Wheaton have been frustrated by rules in New Zealand banning names that begin with a number.

Mum and Dad decided to call their son 4Real after seeing an ultrasound image of him. It was then they realised that their baby was "for real".

I’m not a huge fan of the unique names craze, but it doesn’t bug me that much unless the names are ridiculous. This is one of those cases. Seriously, what the fuck are they thinking? If there’s ever been a bigger sign that a couple is unfit to be the guardians of their child within the first couple of days of his life, I’d like to read about it.

Also, here’s an article from the Wall Street Journal on how naming one’s child is seen by many as a way to “brand” the child and make him or her unique, which in my view isn’t always a good thing.

"Names have become a matter of fashion and taste," says Harvard sociologist Stanley Lieberson.

Not everyone is happy about this development. Albert Mehrabian, a professor emeritus of psychology at UCLA and author of "The Baby Name Report Card," has conducted surveys of how people react to different names. He found that more common names elicited positive reactions, while unusual names typically brought negative responses. To him, giving children names that stand out may ultimately be no different than sending them to school with their hair dyed blue. "Yes, you can have someone stand out by being bizarre, but that doesn't mean it's going to be good," he says.

Karen Markovics, 36, who works for the planning department in Orange County, N.C., spent months reading baby books and scouring Web sites before settling on Nicole Josephine. But now, four years later, Mrs. Markovics says she wishes she'd chosen something less trendy -- and has even considered legally changing her daughter's name to Josephine Marie. "I'm having namer's remorse," she says.

That amused me. In article that told of babies named Nevaeh (heaven spelled backwards, for those who don’t know the story), Evander, Jackson, Sheridan, Beckett and Zayden (none of which are among the terrible choices I’ve heard of here or there), apparently Nicole is too radical. Nicole is too trendy, despite the fact it’s been among the top 50 names in the US constantly for the last three decades.

Unfortunately, I think this paragraph summarizes far too many people’s approach to naming a baby:

Lisa and Jon Stone of Lynnwood, Wash., turned to a name consultant because they didn't want their son to be "one of five Ashtons in the class," says Mrs. Stone, 36, a graphic designer. For Mr. Stone, 37, a production director for a nonprofit arts organization, the challenge was to find a "cool" name that would help his son stand out. "An unusual name gets people's attention when you're searching for a job or you're one in a field of many," he says.

Or you’re the idiot called “4Real” who never gets taken seriously at any moment in his life.

• I got another good literal laugh out loud moment at lunchtime at work thanks to a baseball message board I lurk at once or twice a day. The posters were discussing an article discussing whether it made more sense for the Oakland A's to sign Barry Bonds or stay with Jack Cust. Most posters, and myself, agree that Bonds is the better player, but the difference between him and Cust won't be worth the difference in their salaries. However, we are also in agreement that it is not an either/or scenario and that the A's could sign both of them, playing one in LF and one at DH.

Anyhow, someone was pointing out advantages to Bonds and said that he's an attendance draw, as sold out crowds have been following him around for the entire summer. He concluded his post by asking, "Have sold out crowds been following Jack Cust around since May?"

Poster #2: No, but the A's are third in road attendance in the American League behind the Yankees and Red Sox.

Poster #3: I never knew the A's were so popular.

Poster #4: Fonzie certainly seemed to like them.

Absolutely golden.


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