Right Now in Stuff You Should Know

I generally prefer to invest my money in bacon chili cheeseburgers and 10-pairs-for-$3 socks, but I'm fascinated by all of the other ways there are to invest that can actually make money. People try to grow their cash through buying gold they never actually see and hog bellies from the future and with insurance policies on other people's investments. I've recently learned of another investment strategy I hadn't heard of called CD laddering. From what I understand it's safe (though comparatively low returning) and is gangbusters for people living on fixed incomes, since it generates predictable, dependable cash flow. Investing in certificates of deposit (CDs) is about as close to a sure bet as you'll get when you give your money to other people, since like savings and checking accounts, CDs are guaranteed by the Federal Insurance Deposit Corporation (FDIC). Back in the day, before the bailout, the FDIC insured accounts up to $100,000; since then the federales have temporarily extended the guarantee to $250,000 and in May continued the extension until December 31, 2013.

I came in to work today and randomly clicked on what ended up being an extremely tragic and compelling story on CNN.com. A couple of weeks ago in Arivaca, AZ a woman and two men posing as U.S. Marshals busted into the home of Raul Flores and shot he and his ten year-old daughter in the head. They claimed to be looking for an escaped prisoner and that the house was surrounded by immigration officers. After the double homicide was committed, the trio got into a shootout with Flores' armed wife while she was on the phone making a 911 call. The wife can be heard screaming for the people to get out and there are random bursts of gunfire and moaning. Flores was shot in the leg, but survived and got back on the line with 911. Let me just say that it's a truly harrowing recording and pretty upsetting to listen to.

Can you control your dreams?

In a lucid dream, the sleeper is aware that he or she is in a dream state. Does that mean you can control these dreams? Where did this concept come from? Tune in to this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com to find out more about lucid dreaming.

Thanks to newslite for this article about cats and how smart they may or may not be. They tested kittehs by placing a fishy treat on one end of a string to see if they would realize that pulling the string closer to them meant it was treat-time. They passed! Then the researchers placed a second, unfishy string in beside the first one and found that the cats were just flat out confused. They did previous tests on dogs and they worked it out no problem. I think this clearly shows that cats are the stupidest stupid heads that ever walked the earth. OK - so now for my real opinion on the matter. Why are researchers at Canterbury Christ Church University messing around with this kind of "study?"

What's grosser than a black, twisted umbilical cord remnant dangling from an infant's belly just before it falls off? Very little, but I think perhaps removing organs through the belly button beats it. One more time: removing internal organs through the belly button. Good God. The BBC reports that a British surgeon with the absurdly cool name Paraskevas Paraskeva has gotten down what he calls keyhole (or single incision laparoscopic) surgery, the belly button being the keyhole. Dr. Paraskeva has gotten so good at his procedure that he can get n appendix out of you within 20 minutes; gall bladders take about an hour. You could drop some film off, have your gall bladder removed through your navel and pick up your photos on the way home, since the surgery is outpatient.

China's Ghost Brides: Dyin' for a Man

I don't know if it's because my heart's been all swoll, but I find the traditional Chinese practice of ghost brides particularly charming. Back in the mid-20th century, Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution did everything it could to rid China of its traditions and mythology, including the practice of marrying a dead girl to a dead single man. The Telegraph reports that the custom is making a resurgence these days, especially among rural Chinese.

Podcast Goodness: Innovations and the Peter Principle

Hello there, friends. Hope everyone is having a stellar week out there in the real world. Josh and I have had a good few days, despite being chained to our cubicles and fed raw meats by Jeri every other day (tomorrow is guinea fowl!). On a little show we like to call Stuff You Should Know, Dr. Compasshead and I dived into some innovations the world could use and something called the "Peter Principle."

The Peter Principle describes how workers who excel in bureaucratic systems are promoted until they reach their level of incompetence. Learn more about the Peter Principle in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.

Trepanation: Drilling Holes in Demented People's Skulls is Therapeutic, Says Doctor Stifling Giggle

My father's father built his own house with his own hands many decades ago, which meant that he knew every single inch of the place. Which is why it was so [insert your own adjective here] when he became demented and got stuck in the very corners he'd constructed.

The co-founder of of the photo share Web site Flickr has launched a new site that helps you out with your decision making. Catherine Fake's site, Hunch.com, allows users to input information about themselves to build a "taste profile" that's then used to deliver three options for each question. Fake wants to make it clear that the site won't be able to aid you in your quest for emotional support. Its goal is to help solve "informational probalems." Some examples she gives as to how it can help are with questions like:

The world's problems necessitate innovative solutions. Listen in as Josh and Chuck propose some innovations, from teleportation to an international language, that the world needs right now in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.

So this slightly disturbing survey came out yesterday on CNN.com. The medical journal "BMC Family Practice" surveyed 722 Britons (people from England) about where various body organs where located. The participants were shown four body diagrams with the organs depicted in varying sizes and locations in the body. They were then asked to choose which one was correct, organ by organ. Turns out only 46.5 percent could pinpoint the correct size and location of the heart. That would be the human heart. Not only that, but only 31 percent could identify the lungs, 39 percent found the stomach and 32 percent for hit the kidneys. What's more, 589 of these folks were outpatients in a hospital. The same survey was performed in 1970 and researchers today expected better results thanks to the dawn of the information age. Unfortunately the results were about the same, despite the wonders of the Internet.

Thanks to the fine folks at Boing Boing for this one. A couple of half-wit Japanese smugglers were cold busted trying to sneak $134.5 BILLION in U.S. treasury bonds into Italy from Switzerland. Yes, you read that number correctly. Apparently ten of them were "Kennedy bonds" worth a cool $1 billion each. Then they had 249 government bonds worth half a billion each. Right now there's no word on whether or not the bonds are real or counterfeit, but either way it's a pretty intriguing story. And get this -- if they are real, by law Italy can lay claim to 40 percent of the loot. That means almost $54 billion by my math, although the amount varies depending on which article you read. That much money could reverse Italy's current deficit, or could rebuild the earthquake-devastated region of Abruzzi five times over.

Podcast Goodness: Tesla and Carbon Capture

Hello there, friends! What do you say about a little blog recap? This week Herr Clark and I touched on the life of visionary scientist Nikola Tesla and re-covered an old podcast that needed some love. I'll say one thing about Tesla... favorite inventor ever. This dude was right up my alley -- smart, odd, bad businessman, no time for anything but his passions.

Peru: Oil, Blood and Rainforest

Peru's suddenly gotten a lot more interesting lately. If you were a fan of the revolts against President Albert Fujimori's cocaine dealing government, you're going to love its civil unrest. The Economist ran an article yesterday on the moves being made by the country's indigenous groups in an effort to force the overturn of some recent laws that allow of timber and oil resources. Actually, law is probably the wrong term. They were actually part of a series of 99 decrees issued by President Alan Garcia using special powers imbued by Peru's congress.

Thanks to co-worker and fellow screenwriter type Rob Sheppe for sending me this one. An elderly woman in Tel-Aviv received a shock when she got home on Monday and found that she had a nice, new mattress for her bed. Seems that her daughter had discarded her old lumpy mattress in favor of a nice, new one as a surprise. The daughter was the one who was surprised though, when she learned that the reason the mattress was lumpy was because it was stuffed with her mom's life savings -- nearly a million bucks. The pair alerted the local dumps there in Israel and they've assisted in trying to locate the cash. They've even added security teams to make sure no one else is after the loot. So far they've had no luck. I gotta say though, the mother had a great attitude about the whole thing. She said that while her "heart is crying" that things could be much worse and that one or both of them could have "been in a car accident" or "had a terminal disease."

If one is so inclined, one may look around and find all manner of everyday threats to our health. There is bisphenol-A (BPA) in plastic water bottles (a recent Harvard study found that people drinking from these bottles for a week showed an increase in BPA in their urine by as much as 69 percent). The food we eat will definitely kill us. A survey of national chain restaurants in the U.S. found that slow-food places like Applebee's or T.G.I. Friday's are the unhealthiest, so much so that fast-food places didn't even register in the top 10. (The Cheesecake Factory's Chicken and Biscuits entree, for example, has about 2,500 calories -- the same as an eight-piece bucket and five biscuits at Kentucky Fried Chicken.) Plus, there are plenty of buses. If you weren't a trembling blob of death-fearing jelly already, here's some more bad news.

Carbon capture and storage is a way to filter excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it. Tune in as Josh and Chuck discuss current methods of carbon capture and storage -- and how feasible they are -- in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.

Cash For Clunkers: Yet Another Testament to Congress' Ability to Write Bills With Delightful Names

Oooo, lordy, I love it when the liberals are in power. I'm about to make me a cool $4,500 from the federal government. NPR was all atwitter on the way in to work with news of the Cash for Clunkers bill that's easily made its way through the House and is poised to pass the Senate sometime in the near future. The bill gives a nearly five grand rebate to people who trade in their cars that get 18 miles or less to the gallon for a car that gets 28 miles or more per gallon.

Let's put this puppy to bed, shall we? Coming in at the number one spot, eclipsing all others, ladies and gentlemen -- I give you switchgrass. Switchgrass is a warm season grass, nothing more than a prairie weed. But just because it has the word grass in it, don't think it's anything like the fescue growing in your back yard. A full season of growth for switchgrass can top out at ten feet high with tough, thick stems. Turns out, this stuff is a miracle worker when it comes to producing biofuel. A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences states that switchgrass can produce 500 percent more renewable energy than the energy required to be grown and processed.