We talkin' 'bout fractals

March 25th, 2019 9:06pm

A long time ago, basketball player Alan Iverson went on a rant when asked about missing practice. Here is a link to that:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGDBR2L5kzI

As the author of The Fractal Murders, I decided to make a parody of that, and I call it, "We talkin' 'bout fractals."

Click here for my parody video:  We talkin' 'bout fractals.   The video may not open, but may instead download and you may have to then click on it  to view it.

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Great Moments in My Air Force Career

June 3rd, 2018 1:48pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

Early one morning in 1985 or 1986, while I was serving as a young Air Force legal officer, my pals and I were sitting around the lounge at the Base Legal Office at Offutt Air Force Base, drinking weak government coffee and talking sports. Parking on that side of the base was limited, and you had to arrive early if you wanted a decent parking space.

We were a group of young JAG officers, mostly captains, one first lieutenant, and one crusty old Senior Master Sergeant whose job was to oversee the enlisted staff.  We were talking about a young boxing phenom named Mike Tyson.  My back was to the entry.

Suddenly the Senior Master Sergeant stood and called the room to attention.  I’d been on active duty more than two years already and had never seen anything like that in the relaxed atmosphere of the Base Legal Office. And I thought, “Sergeant Longuil, I’m not falling for your bullshit at 7:00 a.m.”  But then my pals also stood and came to attention.  So, I turned around in my seat to see what was going on.    

And there was the four-star general that commanded the Strategic Air Command, General John T. Chain.  And the full colonel who job it was to follow him around.  I stood, faced him, and came to attention.

Well, I guess General Chain figured my response was “good enough for a lawyer” because he said nothing. Unaware of the parking problem, he remarked about how good it was to see folks at work so early in the morning, then went on with the rest of his day.

As I look back on this incident, I think if you are going to give a man the power to destroy the world by deploying ten thousand nuclear weapons from missiles, bombers, and submarines, it’s probably good that he has the kind of personality that can let small stuff - like a young captain not standing quickly - go like water off a duck’s back. 

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The True Story of Snappy the Turtle and Trooper White

February 23rd, 2018 11:42pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

This is a true story. I changed the names to protect some of the men involved.  Some are from Nederland and own, like, music businesses and stuff in Nederland, and they would not want their involvement known. I have also changed my brother Roy Cohen’s name to “Troy” to protect his identity.  Oh, and I changed the name of the Nebraska State Trooper because the tall Caucasian Trooper with the buzz cut that was patrolling Highway 83 near Thedford that Wednesday morning probably would not want his supervisors to know about this. 

These events took place in July of 2008.  Each year some of my guy friends get together and rent a bunkhouse on the Niobrara River near the Nebraska / South Dakota border.  We call this Mancation. It’s a yearly event where we sit around the fire discuss quantum physics, praise our mothers, and drink milk.  I don’t want to give the exact location because some of the guys have wives and girlfriends, and they don’t want the wives and girlfriends hiring someone to spy on us.

It was a beautiful, sunny morning and I driving my Dodge Durango north on Nebraska Highway 83 with the music cranking.  There were four other men with me –  my brother Troy and three others.  The windows were down.  I had not consumed any alcohol or drugs because I was driving.  And I don’t do that kind of thing. Troy and the others had maybe consumed some tequila, a few Colorado herbal products, and/or some other things. I mean, if we’re being honest, they were in an altered state. Because we had just purchased enough alcohol at the WalMart in North Platte to supply fourteen men for five days.

You must understand that we kind of stood out. Because I had a Thule rooftop carrier on top of my SUV and we had written “Kim Jong-Il’s Dead Body” on it in yellow paint. And we had written a lot of other silly stuff on the sides of my vehicle.

Highway 83 has one lane in each direction and there is very little traffic. There are mostly just a lot of marshes, cows, and red winged blackbirds.  When what to my wandering eyes should appear but a snapping turtle that must have been fourteen inches in diameter slowly crossing the road. We could not believe this size of this guy. I mean, Thedford, Nebraska, ain’t exactly the Galapagos. 

Now, my mom is from Alabama, and I lived in Alabama while in the Air Force, so, though I am not a redneck myself, I know the redneck mind. I can think like a redneck. And I realized that if we did not help this turtle, whose named was Snappy, get to the other side of the road, some redneck in a pickup would purposely run his 275/65 R17’s over Snappy and kill him. 

But though I can think like a redneck, I’m also half-Jewish, which means I can also think like God. Or at least Moses. I knew the right thing to do was help Snappy. We pulled off to the side of the road. We all got out of my SUV and approached the turtle. I carefully put one hand on each of side of Snappy’s shell, thinking I would just pick him up and deposit it on the grass on the other side of the road.

Well, let me tell you, those little f$#%$ers have LONG necks that can reach around further than you think and bite you faster than a Republican congressman caught having sex with a child can say “family values.”  And they’re freakin’ heavy. So, I instantly dropped Snappy and knew I needed to come up with another plan.  “Find a stick,” I said.

Sticks ain’t easy to come by in the sandhills, but Troy produced a tiki torch from the back of my SUV, so I used the torch to start prodding Snappy to the other side of the road. The absurdity of five over-educated middle-aged men using a tiki torch to prod a giant turtle across a highway in rural Nebraska amused me. And it was even more amusing to Troy and my friends because they were enjoying what you might call a tequila sunrise.  So, we were all laughing hard and a couple of the guys wanted to get photos of this turtle.

It was about this time that the Trooper (remember the Trooper?  This is a story about the Trooper) pulled in behind my SUV and activated his flashing lights. He exited his vehicle, took a as they say in police jargon, took a quick look at the rooftop carrier with “Kim Jong-Il’s Dead Body” painted on it, and said, “Good morning, fellas, I’m Trooper White from the Nebraska State Patrol, what do we have going on?” He was trying hard to keep a straight face and give the stern State Trooper look.

Being a lawyer, I knew just what to say. “Well, we were just minding our own business and driving the posted speed limit with Kim Jong-Il’s dead body on top of my truck when this freakin’ giant turtle thumbed us down…”  And then Trooper White couldn’t hold it in anymore and cracked a smile.  And I explained we were just trying to do a good deed for Snappy before some drunk liberals from Colorado high on pot tried to run him over.

Trooper White really couldn’t think of anything to charge us with, but he was amused and stayed with us until I finished prodding Snappy to the other side of the road. He was very friendly. He did not ask any of us for our ID and if he noticed that Troy and the others might have consumed a few things, he didn’t say anything. 

Trooper White pulled away and then we all piled back into my Durango. Troy and the others went back to maybe consuming a few things. I never asked Troy or the others about the quantity of illegal substances they might have had in the back of my SUV. I didn’t want to know. Snappy went on to lead a productive live. He lives with his wife and three children near Thedford, Nebraska.

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The Proper Use of Animal References in Law

July 31st, 2017 11:38pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

CLICK HERE TO READ "The Proper Use of Animal References in Law." 

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Three Models for an Analysis of the Aesthetic Value of Country Music

August 26th, 2016 5:21pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

Three Models for an Analysis of the Aesthetic Value of Country Music

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Trump Vows to Fire Smokey the Bear

July 15th, 2016 3:47pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

On Sunday Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump vowed to fire Smokey the Bear if elected. Speaking to a crowd of more than fourteen people at the Foursquare Pentecostal Gospel Church in Clanton, Alabama, Trump vowed that if elected his first act would be to tell the famed symbol of forest fire prevention, “You’re fired.”

Noting that Democrats had long ago chosen a black bear to be the mascot of the U.S. Forest Service, Trump said, “The choice of a black bear was a meaningless act of political correctness and shows how racist the liberals are.”  Trump added, “We must choose our fire prevention mascots based on merit – not skin color.”

“When I am president,” Trump thundered, “my first act will be to make the polar bear the official symbol of forest fire prevention in America!” Buoyed by the cheers of the crowd, Trump added, “In 2016, there is no reason America’s fire prevention mascot can’t be white!”

After Trump’s speech, CNN anchor Jake Tapper asked Trump whether it would be fitting to make the polar bear America’s symbol of forest fire prevention given that Alaska is the only state that is home to polar bears.  “Have you ever seen a forest fire any place where polar bears reside?” Trump responded. 

“There are no trees in the Arctic,” Tapper pointed out.

“I’m tired of your liberal BS,” Trump said. “That’s it.  No more interviews for CNN!”

Later that day on a Fox News program Trump repeated his vow to fire Smokey the Bear.  “Listen, “Trump added, “that corrupt skank Hillary Clinton may be in bed with the Black Lives Matter movement, but the Trump administration will be colorblind.”  Trump added, “In fact, I think we need to get rid of this ‘Give a Hoot! Don’t Pollute’ owl, too. Maybe replace him with a toucan or something. You won’t believe how much color America’s mascots will have in a Trump administration!”

Trump’s comments cast doubt over the future of McGruff the crime dog, who is black. A senior Trump advisor told me, on the condition of anonymity, that Trump may replace McGruff with a Chihuahua in an attempt to woo Hispanic voters. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has experience as Trump’s lap dog, is also a possibility. 

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How to Fight a Bear

May 5th, 2016 1:25pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

Well, spring is here and so are the bears. We tend to think of bears as big, cuddly, loveable creatures, but the truth is bears are mean. Bears hate people. Even though we built roads in their territory to make it easier for them to travel and built houses in their woods stocked with food to make it easier for them to eat, these ungrateful mammals are always eager to fight a human. Given this reality, it’s vital that mountain residents know how to fight a bear.

The first thing to remember in a bear encounter is – don’t run! You can’t outrun a bear.  A bear has more speed than a hooker at a Republican convention. When a bear sees you running away, that bear will chase you down like a Republican pouncing on an Exxon study denying climate change. The bear will catch you and eat you, so don’t run!

The other important principle to keep in mind is that the bear weighs a lot more than you. There are no weight divisions in bear boxing. The bear doesn’t care if you are a heavyweight or a bantamweight. Either way, the bear will outweigh you by several hundred pounds. Given the massive size of these man-hating creatures, you DON’T want to get into a wrestling match with a bear. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu won’t do you any good in a fight with a six hundred pound bear.

While bears possess superior speed and strength, many humans have one important advantage over bears – 85% of Peak-to-Peak area residents are smarter than the average bear. You can prevail in a bear fight – if you use your brain.

The first question to ask when a bear confronts you is what is the bear’s motive? Is the bear motivated by profit or does it just want to mess with you because it’s a mean, man-hating bear? If the bear just wants your sandwich, the solution is easy. Throw the sandwich as far as you can behind the bear’s head. Being a gluttonous animal, the bear will turn around and take off after the sandwich. Then all you have to do is run like heck in the opposite direction.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of bear attacks are not motivated by profit. Bears want to fight you like Republicans want to repeal Obamacare. It’s just their nature.

If you must fight a bear, remember that bear boxing differs from traditional boxing in several critical ways. First, a bear fight is not organized into three-minute rounds. Second, there is no referee. Third, there are no rules. If a bear bites your ear, head-butts you, or hits below the belt, those things are perfectly legal. In fact, bears don’t even wear belts.

When forced to fight a bear, it’s important to know that most bears are right handed. According to the University of Montana Journal of Ursine Pugilism, the percentage may be as high as 99.44%. This means you want to stand with your left foot forward so you can pepper the bear’s snout with left jabs to prevent the bear from getting close to you.

Where should you hit the bear? Focus on the bear’s snout. Bears have long snouts. Consequently, it’s much easier to hit a bear’s snout than to hit it in the eye. You’d have to get much closer to the bear to hit it in the eye. And you don’t want to get closer to the bear than you have to. And a bear’s snout is filled with sensitive nerves. God gave bears long snouts to make it easier to box them, so take advantage of it. Focus on the snout!

As I stated, bears are not smart. It’s easy to fake them out. One effective technique is to feint to the bear’s body twice with your left hand, then duck under and come around with a solid left hook to the bear’s temple. This is the technique Joe Frazier used to use on bears. You would think the bears would catch on because his fights are available on YouTube, but they keep making the same mistake.

Bears are so stupid. Once I was fighting a bear that was holding his own. Suddenly I put up my hands and made the universal time out sign. The bear look confused, but he stopped fighting. I pointed at its foot and politely said, “Your shoe’s untied.” Forgetting that bears don’t wear shoes, the dumb animal looked down at his feet and I threw great uppercut that nearly took his jaw off.

Another technique is to let the bear punch itself out – the Rope-a-Dope. Just lean up against a tree and use your arms to protect your face and body. Most of the bear’s punches will just bounce off your arms, doing little harm. Eventually the bear will get tuckered out and drop its paws, and THAT’S when start showing the bear who is the boss. I once used this technique on a Mexican bear named Robearto and by the end of the fight he was saying, “No mas!”

By using your superior intellect, you can get inside the bear’s head. Trash talking can be very effective and cause the bear to lose focus. Don’t be afraid to scream at the bear and taunt it. The bear already hates you and wants to kill you, so it’s not like you’re going to make the bear any more angry. Say things like, “Your momma’s so fat, her senior picture was taken by satellite.” Then, when the bear gives you a quizzical look, do a quick Ali Shuffle and throw a straight right to its face. In fact, when Ali fought bears, he liked to recite poems. He’d say things like, “I am so pretty, you ain’t so great; eat your berries and salmon, I’ll take you in eight.”

It’s important to believe in yourself when fighting a bear. Too often, I’ve seen young bear fighters become intimidated by a bear’s size. But in bear boxing, size doesn’t always matter. Hit a bear in the spleen a few times and he’ll come down to your size. I remember February 15, 1978, when a 197-pound kid named Leon Spinks took the heavyweight title from the much larger Muhammad Ali. How did Spinks pull this off? He believed in himself.

Now, many people will tell you the best way to deal with bears is to avoid confrontation. This is bad advice offered by naïve people with good intentions. Remember, bears want to fight you, kill you, raid your refrigerator, eat your edibles, and sleep in your recliner. If you don’t stand up to a bear, it will think you are weak and this will only encourage aggression. The only thing bears understand is force, so always be willing to fight a bear. Appeasement did not work with Hitler and it doesn’t work with bears. That’s why Neville Chamberlain never won a bear fight.

Look, there is nothing more fun than watching a pathetic bear limp back home with shame on its face because he knows he got beat by a 58 year old lawyer that he outweighed by four hundred pounds. Now he’s got to explain that to his friends. Like a Republican who has to explain why he lost to a Kenyan born Muslim community organizer intent on imposing Sharia law or to a draft dodging, pot smoking womanizer. They just can’t fathom that they lost.

Of course, no amount of knowledge and training can guaranty that you will prevail in a bear fight. But by understanding bear psychology and the basics of bear fighting, you can greatly improve your odds. Just remember the bear necessities, the simple bear necessities.

Note: The author makes no warranty, express or implied, that the advice in this article will help you in the event you must fight a bear.     

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A Palm Grows in Nederland

February 18th, 2016 8:41pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

A Palm Grows in Nederland

The time has come. Let’s face it – Nederland winters are long and brutal. A little wind in October can make for a cozy evening, but by the time May rolls around, I’m done with the wind.  And the snow. I get that we live 8,236 feet above sea level, but by the time May rolls around, I’m done with snow. And the cold. It’s nice not to have to use my refrigerator between October and May, but by the time May rolls around, I’m done with the cold.

I guess I’m more of summer person. I love Nederland summers. While folks down below endure 95 degree days, we can count on a balmy 72 degrees. I can wear shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops. Listen to Jimmy Buffet and drink margaritas. Maybe even take a quick dip in Barker Reservoir if the fuzz ain’t around. It’s like Hawaii without the palm trees. Which brings me to the topic of this week’s column.

I want a palm tree in Nederland this summer. And not just any palm tree. I want a forty foot tall Canary Island Date Palm in the traffic circle by June 1st.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Your thinking, “Why in the name of God does Barb let some washed up lawyer who thinks Jack Daniels is a food group write a column for the Mountain-Ear?” I have no clue, but hear me out.

Nederland is losing millions of dollars in revenue each year because tourists don’t view Nederland as beach destination. Nederland is basically dead between the time Frozen Dead Guy Days ends and the Fourth of July. Nobody visits Nederland during that time, except to buy pot.

I’m telling you, folks, we’ve got big trouble right here in Cannabis City. Nederland’s gotta have a palm tree and I mean she needs it today. Trouble. I’m talkin' 'bout trouble, with a capital 'T' and that rhymes with 'P' and that stands for palm.

Oh, think my friends, how could any poker table ever hope to compete with a Canary Island Palm?  Remember, my friends, what a handful of palm trees did to the famous, fabled streets of Los Angeles.  Oh, a palm will do it, my friends, oh, yes! I say a Canary Island Palm Tree, do you hear me? Well, Nederland’s gonna have a palm tree. As sure as the Lord made little green apples, and that palm’s gonna be tall and strong. And you’ll see the leaves swaying in the breeze. And you’ll hear the thunder of people stopping to get their photos taken beside the HIGHEST PALM TREE IN THE WORLD; the shimmer of car horns honking! And you’ll feel something akin to the electric thrill I once enjoyed when Gilmore, Liberatti, Pat Conway, The Great Creatore, W.C. Handy and John Philip Sousa all came to Nederland on the very same historic day.

Now, I can already hear the same tired old liberal arguments from the lame stream media and the secular humanists – a palm tree will die in when winter comes. Always with the negative waves.

Folks, I didn’t just pick the Canary Island Palm Tree out of my big, hairy butt. I earned a Masters in Law degree in Agricultural Law! There are more than 2,600 species of palm trees on earth. But the CIPT is perfect for Nederland. The CIPT can tolerate temperatures down to 14 degrees and has been grown as far north as England.

Sure, it will probably die by mid-December, but what a glorious summer we will enjoy. And with tourists flocking to Nederland to enjoy the new Margaritaville festival and get their photos taken with THE HIGHEST PALM TREE IN THE WORLD, we can easily afford to remove the dead palm tree each winter and plant a new CIPT each summer.

But why, some say, a palm tree? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to bring a palm tree to Nederland. We choose to bring a palm tree to Nederland in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

I’ve done the research. It will cost between $10,000.00 and $15,000.00 to bring a Canary Island Palm Tree to Nederland. And that is why I have established a GoFundMe campaign called A Palm Grows in Nederland. I’m not taking money from Wall Street or the Koch Brothers. I can’t be bought. If you’d like to see a palm tree in Nederland this summer, please make your contribution at https://www.gofundme.com/apalmgrowsinned

With your help and by God’s grace, when June rolls around we’ll be nibblin’ on sponge cake, watchin’ the sun bake, and all of those tourists will be covered in oil.

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A Generic Singles Profile for Boulder County Women

January 24th, 2016 2:34pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

I recently completed my first year of Internet dating. It has been educational. I have met many nice women and even made some good friends. I have also read the profile of every single woman in Boulder County. Because Internet dating is hard enough without having to spend hours writing a profile, I decided to create a generic profile you single women can use as starting point if you decide to dip your toes into the Internet dating waters. Here it is:

Hi.  My name is (insert name). I am a strong, intelligent, independent, passionate, confident woman and I’m comfortable in my own skin.

I’m an optimist; I see the glass as half full.

I'm low drama. If you are separated or recently divorced, I wish you the best, but please do not contact me.

Family is very important to me.

I am drawn to the beauty of Colorado and love the outdoors.  I enjoy hiking, skiing and (pick at least three more) skiing, x-country skiing, telemarking, snow shoeing, backpacking, kayaking, rock climbing, cycling, running, mountain biking, hang gliding, skydiving, hiking 14ers, bungee jumping, paddle boarding, Cross Fit, triathlons, 10K’s, and marathons.

Although I love the outdoors, I can really rock a little black dress.

I am spiritual, but not religious.

Yoga changed my life.

I also meditate and strive to practice mindfulness and gratitude.

My favorite book is (pick one) (The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle) (The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz) (The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho).

I love to travel. Next year I am going to (pick one) (Nepal) (Peru) (Thailand).

On a Friday night you can usually find me (pick one) (dancing at the St. Julien) (at the Boulder Shambala Center) (catching an indie film).

I am (pick one) (vegan) (vegetarian) (trying the Paleo Diet).  I love to cook and love having my partner in the kitchen with me.

I love to give back. I volunteer each week at (pick one) (the Boulder Food Bank) (the Boulder Valley Humane Society) (the Boulder County Justice Center as a Victim Advocate).

I desire a man who is confident, but not arrogant.  A man who is financially stable, but not concerned about material things. Fit, but not obsessive about it. Hard working, but easygoing.  Dependable, but adventurous. 

A sense of humor is a must!

Chemistry is very important.

Please have a photo in your profile if you message me.

I’m not interested in a long distance relationship.

I am not looking for a hookup or FWB, so please pass me by if that is what you seek.

Thanks for stopping by and good luck in your search!

There you have it.  That should give you a good start. Feel free to use and modify it as you see fit. The only catch is that with every single woman in Boulder County using essentially the same profile it can be difficult for men to understand what makes you unique. If you want to increase your odds meeting a great guy, consider adding a few of these: (I love my Denver Broncos) (I really need to get my Victoria’s Secret spending under control) (I think making out is way underrated) (I’d have to say my favorite material possession is my waffle iron). If you need help, you can contact me through the Mountain-Ear.  Good luck! 

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Resolutions for the New Year

January 13th, 2016 2:24am - Posted By: Mark Cohen

Well, it’s a new year, so I took some time to reflect on how I could improve during 2016.  Many people make resolutions for the New Year, but their resolve tends to weaken over time. One reason is that people set the bar too high. They said, “I’m going to run for President this year” or “I’m going to lose two hundred pounds by next month.” Not wanting to make that mistake, I decided to try to keep my resolutions for the New Year more realistic. Here they are:

First, I resolve not to f$^&k up.

Second, I resolve not to kill anyone no matter how strong my desire or how deserving the potential victim may be.

Third, I will cut back on my freakin’ cussing.

Fourth, I will be more optimistic in spite of the fact that the media bombards me every day with news of war, poverty, injustice, corruption, stupidity, and environmental catastrophe. Not to mention the fact that the sun will burn out in a few billion years and earth will become a frozen ball of ice so cold that the only creatures capable of surviving here will be Republican politicians.

Fifth, I’m gonna work on my freakin’ humility. Let’s face it, I had to good fortunate to be born a white male in the wealthiest nation on earth to parents that were not horrible. I had many advantages that contributed to my success. In America, a white male in a white shirt and striped tie can get away with just about anything.  (BTW, a big shout out to the Gilpin County deputy that just gave more a warning for speeding a few weeks ago). 

Sixth, I will be more grateful. I don’t have cancer. Not counting mental health issues, I don’t have any illness. My thirteen-year-old SUV is paid for and runs great. (Shout out to Terry for taking such great care of it). The Broncos snagged the number 1 seed even though they had a new coach and started an inexperienced quarterback for part of the season. There is much to be thankful for.

Seventh, I will take better care of myself. I will floss and brush my teeth each day and try not to wear the same underwear more than two days in a row.

Eighth, I won't let little things upset me. Whenever I sense tension coming on, I will take a deep breath and relax all my muscles as I exhale. Except when a driver slows down as they approach the freeway on the ACCELERATION ramp. I’m still gonna give those people the imaginary finger.

Ninth, I am going to try to respect the opinions of those who do not share my political beliefs. If a politician believes God created the earth six thousand years ago in spite of the evidence of carbon dating, they have a right to be stupid. This is America. If a politician thinks the fact that in the past fifty years we reached 300 parts per million and then 400 ppm in atmospheric carbon dioxide for the first time in 800,000 years is completely unrelated to our use of fossil fuels, well, I guess it could just be a coincidence.  If a politician who values the sanctity of life wants to give tax breaks to the rich while poor people lack access to basic healthcare, who am I to point out the hypocrisy? If a politician opposes abortion but wants to de-fund Planned Parenthood, who I am to point out that Planned Parenthood provides services that prevent unwanted pregnancies and thereby helps reduce the number of abortions? If a politician claims to believe in states’ rights, but then opposes the right of the states to legalize marijuana or assisted suicide, who am I to point out the inconsistency?

Finally, I won’t take it personally if someone doesn’t immediately like one of my Facebook posts. as Sun Tzu once said, “True friends can go for hours without liking each other’s Facebook posts, but when that after dinner like finally comes through, it’s like that long absence was never there.”

            There you have it. Ten realistic resolutions for the New Year. Wish me luck.

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Merry War on Christmas

December 16th, 2015 1:06am - Posted By: Mark Cohen

Merry War on Christmas

Yesterday, December 7th, 2015 – a date which will live in infamy – the War on Christmas was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the hot air forces of the Republican party.

I admit it. I love the War on Christmas.  It is my favorite time of year. I know some folks get depressed during the holidays, but not me. Let me tell you why I treasure this special season. 

First, I enjoy the unique way the word “war” is used when we refer to the War on Christmas. The traditional definition of “war” meant the use of military force to defeat another nation. But during the War on Christmas, we can use “war” any way we want. It can mean Starbucks removing a 16th century Norse woodcut of a twin-tailed mermaid from its coffee cups. Or just saying, “Happy Holidays.” In addition, if we can use “war” that way, why not use it other ways? When I finish this column, after my coffee loosens things up a bit, I’m going to declare war on my gastrointestinal tract. If you know what I mean.

The War on Christmas is such a happy time of year. People are so nice to each other. You’ll see someone on the street, smile at them, and say, “I hope you enjoy the holidays” or “Happy Chanukah,” and this makes them feel so good. Then they start getting into the spirit of it and treating others kindly. Pretty soon everyone is being nice to each other, which is somewhat ironic given that it’s a war.

I enjoy decorating for the War on Christmas. I enjoy cutting down pine trees and putting lights on them to remind people of the many pine trees that grow in Nazareth and the wonderful electrical system that city had two thousand years ago. I have a manger scene, of course, that features a blond haired, blue-eyed baby Jesus just like the real one, but sometimes I will do something unique with my manger scene for the War on Christmas. Like position a live platypus right next to the Virgin Mary. Now I know there wasn’t really a live platypus present when Christ was born, but the War on Christmas is supposed to be fun.

One of the best things about the War on Christmas is watching the young children. We buy them presents and wrap them in brightly colored wrapping papers that don’t show a single image of Jesus. Many times the wrapping paper features a snowman or Santa and some reindeer because the War on Christmas is a winter holiday. We put the presents under the tree while the children sleep. The next morning they are so excited and they rush to the tree to start opening presents. They are so happy. My children love the War on Christmas.

Another fantastic thing about the War on Christmas is the way it boosts our economy. The National Retail Federation estimates Americans spend $465 billion during every War on Christmas. People go to the mall, shop for presents, and maybe even enjoy an Orange Julius (because there is no nativity scene on an Orange Julius cup). And the money we spend on presents trickles down to those less fortunate than us and helps create jobs.

Music is another wonderful aspect of the War on Christmas. People get together and go door-to-door singing Christmas carols and spreading good cheer. Kids learn Spanish because all the stores have Jose Feliciano’s Feliz Navidad playing in the background 24/7.

One of our family traditions for the War on Christmas is to watch It’s a Wonderful Life, a film about democratic socialism.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated attack on the War on Christmas by the Republican party, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the people when I assert that we will not only defend the War on Christmas to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that the War on Christmas is in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God.        


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Against Traffic Laws

November 17th, 2015 3:30pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of the government trying to control my life. Take traffic laws, for example. Why should government decide how fast I drive? The Declaration of Independence states that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are unalienable rights. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that liberty includes a constitutional right to travel. Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618 (1969). If we have a right to travel, doesn’t it follow that we have a right to decide at what speed we travel? The Declaration of Independence also states government derives it just powers from the consent of the governed. I’ve checked all my personal papers back to 1958 and I never consented to speed limits.

History has shown that anything government can do the free market can do better. I say get government out of the business of regulating traffic and let the free market do its job. This approach offers at least five benefits.

First, by eliminating all traffic laws, we would immediately see lower taxes. There would be no need to collect taxes to pay for traffic cops, traffic courts, or traffic control devices.  Allowing citizens to keep more of their hard-earned dollars would stimulate economic growth because we would spend a portion of the money we save to purchase consumer goods, thereby creating jobs. As we all know from Econ 101, the money we spend would trickle down to those less fortunate than us.

Second, doing away with traffic laws would enable America to better compete in the global economy. Most people agree that Germany makes higher quality automobiles than we do. Why? Because Germans can drive as fast as they want on the Autobahn. With government out of the picture, Germans are free to design high performance vehicles and are motivated to do so. Or take Japan, for example. You can’t visit Japan without seeing a high speed bullet train. Germans and Japanese workers arrive at their jobs more quickly and return home sooner. They waste less time on unproductive commuting and spend more time actually manufacturing goods and providing services. If America is to compete in global markets, we must reconsider our outdated beliefs in the need for traffic laws.

Third, eliminating traffic laws would save energy and improve the environment. Do you know how much electricity is required to power traffic lights in a major city? It takes 1.21 gigawatts to power every traffic light in Denver for one hour. Coal provides most of that electricity. Coal is dirty and burning it creates greenhouse gases. Eliminate traffic signals and save a critter. That’s what I say. Eliminating traffic laws would also allow us to remove all sorts of ugly signs from our roads and highways. I’ve lived in Nederland for twenty years and if there is one thing I don’t need to see it is a road sign that reads, “CAUTION: HIGH WINDS.”

Fourth, allowing the free market to control the flow of traffic would greatly benefit minorities. It’s no secret that rural communities, where there is little traffic regulation, are mostly white. (I’m ignoring the issue of Hispanic farm workers who are not paid enough to purchase vehicles anyhow). In the big cities, where traffic regulation is rampant, the minority population is greater. This makes it more difficult for minority workers to get to work quickly and get more hours so they can put food on the table. Traffic regulations clearly have a disproportionately negative impact on minority populations.

Finally, eliminating traffic laws would compel us to take greater responsibility for our driving. We’ve become so accustomed to the nanny state protecting us that we no longer take responsibility for our own actions.

Now, I can already hear the same tired old liberal arguments. We are not a nation of individuals, but a society where the actions of one person may affect the rest of us. We need government to regulate our conduct for the greater good, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, whatever. Just remember, if we allow government to regulate traffic, what is to prevent government from regulating things such as marijuana and abortion? It’s a slippery slope. As Sen. Rand Paul said, “I don't care if you're a Republican or a Democrat, there is something profoundly un-American about using the brute force of government to bully someone.


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Great Lawyers in History: Edwin Hubble

November 1st, 2015 4:23pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

Today I write about one of the great lawyers in history, Edwin Hubble. Hubble’s story starts at the beginning of time. You see, not all that long ago most western people believed God created the universe in about 5,000 B.C., and that he did it in six days. Most people believed in a static universe, and therefore the question of whether it had a beginning was one of metaphysics or theology.

But one day in 1929, Hubble, a lawyer and pretty good heavyweight boxer who sometimes messed around with telescopes, noticed that another galaxy was moving away from ours at an impressive speed. He turned his telescope in a different direction and saw another galaxy speeding away from ours. This happened several more times.  No matter what direction he looked in, other galaxies were zooming away from us. “Hey Grace,” he shouted to his wife, “the universe is expanding.”

“That’s nice, dear,” his wife said. “Did you take out the trash?”

Hubble theorized that there might have been a time when things in the universe had been much closer together. The question of the beginning of the universe was thrust into the realm of science.

Today, because of the insights of Hubble and those who followed him, we know that the universe began about 13 billion years ago. At that time, all of the matter and energy of space was contained in a single infinitesimally small point. It was infinitely hot and infinitely dense, like some Fox News anchors, but then there was a Big Bang.

Hubble was born in Missouri in 1889. Tall and powerfully built, Hubble was a gifted athlete, participating in baseball, football, basketball, and track in high school. He won an academic scholarship to the University of Chicago and while there won spots on the basketball and track teams. He earned a degree in mathematics and astronomy in 1910. A gifted boxer, promoters touted him as the next “Great White Hope” – a man who could beat the black heavyweight champ, Jack Johnson. The fight never took place, though some biographers claim Hubble fought the heavyweight champion of Europe and did well.

Hubble became a Rhodes Scholar and studied law at Oxford. Upon returning from Oxford in 1913, he practiced law, but he did not enjoy it. He then taught Spanish, physics, and math at an Indiana high school, where he also coached the basketball team.

In 1914, Hubble returned to the University of Chicago to study astronomy, earning his doctorate in 1917. He then enlisted in the army and was sent overseas, but by the time his division arrived in France, World War I was essentially over. In 1919, he moved to Cambridge to further study astronomy. He again served in the army during World War II, this time as the head of ballistics at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, and eventually rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. 

Upon returning from Cambridge, Hubble accepted a position at the Mount Observatory near Pasadena, California.  In 1925, he wasthe first to demonstrate the existence of other galaxies. Later, in 1929, he proved that the universe was expanding.    

Hubble won many scientific honors, but during his life astronomers were ineligible for the Nobel Prize in physics. In 1990, the United States launched the Hubble Space Telescope, which is still orbiting Earth and functioning.

In 1949, Hubble suffered a heart attack while visiting Colorado. He never fully regained the stamina needed to spend all night in a freezing-cold observatory. Hubble died of a cerebral thrombosis in 1953.


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How to Run an Effective Meeting

September 27th, 2015 11:59pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

How to Run An Effective Meeting

1. Show up at the meeting at few minutes early so you can read all the meeting materials that you should have already read.

2. At the appointed time, say in a loud voice something like, "OK, it's noon. Let's get started." Pause for two seconds. Some people will still be yacking after that, so in a loud voice say, "The first item on the agenda is X. Are there any comments?"

3. After each person makes a comment, say something positive such as, "That's a good point, Bob" or "Nice insight, Marcy." Do this even if the comment was the most stupid thing you have ever heard.

4. When all the comments are done or the comments begin to get redundant, say, "Is there a motion?" (Someone will make a motion).

5. Say, "Is there a second?" (6-8 people will second the motion so they can feel like they contributed to the meeting and see their name in the minutes at the next meeting).

6. Say, "All in favor?" (Everyone will raise their hand or say 'Aye.')

7. Say, "All opposed?" (Nobody will oppose it).

8. Repeat this process for each agenda item.

9. When the last agenda item has been concluded, say, "Is there a motion to adjourn?" Nearly everyone in the room will say, "So moved."

10. There is no need to ask for a second since anyone who did not say, "So moved" will immediately say, "second."

11. Say, "Thank you all for coming and for all your hard work. I'll see you all again on (insert date of next meeting).

That's all there is to it.  Is there a third grader in Colorado that could not do this?

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The Common Law of the Weight Room

June 22nd, 2015 3:37am - Posted By: Mark Cohen

The Common Law of the Weight Room

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