Friday, October 09, 2015

The Right Cheek Ass Clown for October, 2015

Yes, Dear Readers, it's a new month! September is gone, October is here, and it's time to recognize more of the individuals who aspire to reach the lofty heights of ass-clownery. Today being the second Friday of the month, and last Friday having been dedicated to editorial gems, it's the day to recognize our

Right Cheek Ass Clown
October, 2015

and the award goes to

The Home Depot
Shoplifting Avenger

Last Tuesday at a Home Depot store near Detroit, a man loaded up a shopping cart with more than $1000 worth of power tools and raced out of the store to the parking lot, where an accomplice waited in an SUV with the motor running.

As the thief tossed the stolen tools into the waiting car and jumped in, a woman bystander pulled a concealed handgun from her purse and opened fire on the car as it sped away, possibly hitting one of its tires. 

Yes, you read that correctly. A woman with a valid concealed-carry license opened fire on fleeing thieves in a crowded parking lot ... a good girl with a gun working hard to stop a bad guy with a ... carload of stolen tools. 

The reactions to the incident, as you might suspect, depended on the political opinions of the person asked. An instructor licensed to train people for concealed carry licenses described it as "my worst nightmare as an instructor," and a commenter on the police department's Facebook page wrote, “Life ain’t Grand Theft Auto* ... You don’t freakin’ shoot at shoplifters!” Another person wrote, “Why in hell is she not arrested for opening fire in a public place that could have mistakenly hit a bystander? ... Shoplifting is a misdemeanor, not a shoot-to-kill offense. They should’ve tackled the woman down for public endangerment.”

Even some gun rights advocates conceded that the woman had made concealed-carry advocates look bad, although they argued she was an exception to the rule of upstanding and responsible heat-packers. Another comment on the Police Facebook page claimed that “Idiots like this one give the liberals that want to take our Second Amendment right away ammunition!”

Ladies and gentlemen, Dear Readers, for her deep draught of the good-guy-with-a-gun-protecting-the-candy-ass liberals Kool Aid ... and, thankfully, for not killing anyone with her stupidity, the Home Depot Shoplifting Avenger is named our Right Cheek Ass Clown for October.

Read what the experts have to say in this article. I'll bet you feel safer now, don't you?

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday ... more thoughts then.


Thursday, October 08, 2015

The Laws of the Internet

I think we're all familiar with Godwin's Law, the most famous of the Internet laws, which says that "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1." I have fallen victim to Godwin's Law myself, as I reported in this post from earlier this year. Here are a few other Internet laws that have been documented ... you can read a longer list and some notes on the provenance of the laws in this 2009 article by Tom Chivers.

Pommer’s Law: “A person's mind can be changed by reading information on the internet. The nature of this change will be from having no opinion to having a wrong opinion.”*

Danth’s Law (also known as Parker’s Law): “If you have to insist that you've won an internet argument, you've probably lost badly.”

DeMyer's Second Law: “Anyone who posts an argument on the internet which is largely quotations can be very safely ignored, and is deemed to have lost the argument before it has begun.”

The Law of Exclamation: "The more exclamation points used in an email (or other posting), the more likely it is a complete lie. This is also true for excessive capital letters."

Skitt’s Law: There are actually two versions of this law:

a. "Any post correcting an error in another post will contain at least one error itself;" and,

b. "The likelihood of an error in a post is directly proportional to the embarrassment it will cause the poster."

Now might perhaps be a good time to remind you of Bilbo's First Law: "Never let anyone else do your thinking for you."

Have you run across any other accurate Internet laws? Leave a comment so the rest of us can enrich our online experience.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow, when we'll name October's Right Cheek Ass Clown.

More thoughts then.


* This one is my favorite.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Better Sleeping Through Nudity

Comedian Steven Wright once said that when people asked him if he slept well, he'd tell them that no, he'd made a few mistakes. Some people seem to revel in telling us that they sleep long and well - happily retired old farts like John and Mike, for instance. But for many of us, sleep doesn't always come quickly and it doesn't always refresh us as it should.

What to do?

Funny you should ask ... because I just ran across this article: Science Says, Sleep Better Naked.

There are several advantages to sleeping better naked, according to the article.

The part about getting more sex is, of course, a plus, nudity being conducive to power cuddling. But at my age my birthday suit is pretty wrinkled and I'm not sure that sleeping naked is necessarily an advantage unless the lights are off. But that leads to one of the other advantages, which is that - allegedly - you'll (eventually) look better. As the author writes, when you sleep naked your body cools down more than if you're clothed, and ...

"When you’re at a nice, cool sleeping temperature, in a deep, restorative stage of sleep, your body releases the anti-aging hormones, melatonin and growth hormone (HGH), which boost cell regeneration, and keep skin and hair looking healthy and young. When you’re sleeping coolly and well, your body keeps the stress hormone, cortisol, in check. That’s a good thing: High cortisol levels may not only trigger an increase in insulin, it can decrease fat-burning and appetite-controlling hormones."

Here's another view of the pros and cons of sleeping in the nude ...

Do your part for better sleep ...

No need to send pictures ... I'll take your word for it.

Have a good day. Sleep naked. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Worms to the Rescue!

If there's any member of the animal kingdom that gets no respect, it's the lowly worm. Always underfoot, wriggling in the dirt, fit only to grace the fisherman's hook, the worm lives his short and brutish life without much more notice from us than a disgusted yuck! when he's found in the wrong place ... which tends to be just about anywhere.

But you may want to start treating worms with a bit more respect in the future, because it seems that they ... or one species of them, anyway ... may help save us from ourselves.

I ran across this interesting article the other day: Plastic-Eating Mealworms Could Help Reduce Landfill Waste.

Yes, Dear Readers, it seems that a scientific study* has concluded the lowly mealworm (or, to use his formal name, tenebrio molitor linnaeus) has gut bacteria which can break down and feast on various plastics like styrofoam and other polystyrenes, turning them into carbon dioxide and biodegradable droppings. You can read an abstract and download the full study here if you're so inclined ... and here's a picture of the hungry little heroes feasting on some of the millions of tons of waste plastic that would otherwise be with us for tens of thousands of years, being otherwise not biodegradable ...

Tests are still going on to determine whether the worms will remain healthy in the long term, and whether their ... poop ... is safe enough for use in growing crops, but so far the results appear to be positive.

I don't know about you, but I think this is pretty amazing. Who would have thought that common mealworms might be able to save us from one of our looming environmental disasters? And if we can find such valuable uses for mealworms, what might we be able to do with other worms ... candidates for political office, for instance? Right now, they consume vast amounts of cash and turn it into annoying campaign ads and hot air ... but might they be trained to make themselves useful by eating various waste materials ... like the hundreds of thousands of leftover campaign signs that litter the landscape after every election?

The possibilities are endless.

Have a good day. Treat those worms with respect, why don't you? Someday you might want to vote for one.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* I know this won't mean much to Republicans, but just humor me and read on, anyway.

Monday, October 05, 2015

The Last Time I'm Going to Write on this Topic

I wasn't sure I wanted to write this post, for two reasons. First, it's depressing to think that yet again innocent people have been murdered by a gun-wielding person.  And second, each time I write something about the topic of guns, my conservative friends treat me at best like a wooly-headed liberal simpleton who doesn't understand the Constitution and at worst like a wild-eyed commiepinkoratbastard who hates America and wants to confiscate everyone's guns and turn us over to the Iranians for forced conversion to Islam.

I'm sick of stupid cartoons and memes that make those of us who are horrified by the endless slaughter look like idiots. I'm tired of hearing the same old excuses trotted out each time there's a mass shooting. I'm tired of the crocodile tears being shed by those who refuse to admit that there's a real problem here.

Last week my friend Bob posted a link to one of the closest things I've seen yet to an even-handed discussion of the gun mess in this country: an article by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry titled Both Sides Are Wrong on the Gun Debate. Here's Why. Mr Gobry makes some sound arguments that address both sides of the argument, and though I don't fully agree with all his points, his article is worth reading for anyone interested in an attempt at an actual, fact-based discussion of a serious problem.

Here are some of the places where I agree and disagree with Mr Gobry ...

Mr Gobry first looks at the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which enshrines the right of Americans to "keep and bear arms." He suggests that both conservatives and liberals misunderstand the Second Amendment and the relationship of the right to keep and bear arms to the maintenance of a militia as the Founders would have understood the term. I agree with this assessment, but believe that he failed to note an important part of the historical record: Americans' traditional mistrust of a large standing army. The Founders, after all, had had the experience of subjugation under a standing (British) army, and it should not be forgotten that an Amendment not often discussed - the Third - prohibits the quartering of soldiers in private homes, except as prescribed by law. The alternative to a standing army that could be a threat to individual liberties was considered to be an armed and ready citizens' militia. The "well-regulated militia" described in the Second Amendment had a specific meaning that has been lost in the shouting*.

Mr Gobry goes on to note the obvious fact that there are hundreds of millions of guns in private hands in the United States, and that no matter what new laws might be enacted in the future, all those guns will remain in circulation, and will be utterly impossible to confiscate** ... as Mr Gobry writes,

"Short of establishing a totalitarian police state ... there is no feasible way to make America a non-gun-saturated country. Whether or not it is theoretically desirable that there not be hundreds of millions of guns circulating in America, it is simply not the world we live in. Any credible gun-related policy needs to take into account this inconvenient, stubborn fact."

By most measures, there are more guns in private hands in this country than there are people. Take off the tinfoil hat ... nobody is ever going to be able to take away your guns.

My biggest quibble with Mr Gobry's article is with his next section, which is headed "We Don't Have a Cure for Mental Illness" and in which he writes,

"... in America, a determined crazy person will find a way to get their hands on guns."

It's true that we do not have a good record of identifying and treating mental illness, and that many of the people who commit horrifying mass murders with guns are indeed mentally ill in some fashion. But not every person who uses a gun to kill is mentally ill, although mental illness is a convenient excuse to deflect attention from other factors. The small child that kills himself or others because he found and played with his father's poorly-secured gun is not mentally ill. The person who commits suicide by shooting himself may be mentally ill, but may just be temporarily depressed and attracted by the allure of a quick and painless death. The cheap hoodlum who kills someone in the course of robbing a convenience store may be mentally ill, but is probably just high on the power he gets from wielding a gun. The gang-bangers who riddle a street party with bullets in drive-by shootings may be mentally ill, but are more likely drunk with the power of life or death over their enemies. Yes, mental illness is sometimes a factor in gun violence, but it's not the whole problem, and pretending that it is creates a smoke screen that ignores all the other social, economic, and political factors involved.

Mr Gobry goes on to note that people have a right to self-defense. No argument there. But I would suggest that a little common sense might be in order ... is it necessary to openly carry an AR-15 with a hundred-round drum magazine attached into the world's busiest airport because "you never know where something might happen"***? Regardless of any other arguments, as noted earlier in the article, the country is completely awash in guns, and many people clearly perceive a need to carry guns of their own in order to protect themselves from real or perceived threats. As Mr Gobry writes,

"... it is hard to see how it is possible to severely restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens to own guns without also unacceptably restricting human rights as they are understood in the Enlightenment tradition in general, and in the Anglo-American Constitutional tradition in particular."

I accept that. But I also think that the rest of us have a right to feel safe, too ... and since I can't judge the mental state and intentions of a person carrying a large gun in public, I don't feel any safer when they're around.

Here's another point: advocates of gun rights point out - perfectly correctly, if somewhat disingenuously - that new laws will not prevent new murders ... that criminals and the mentally ill will always find a way to get their hands on guns. No argument there. But should we make it easy for them to do so?

Here's my final point, and it's one that I've made before and for which I've been ridiculed by defenders of gun rights: it is often said that laws aimed at restricting or controlling gun ownership and use are of no value, as criminals and the mentally ill will ignore them anyhow. This is absolutely true. But then the logical extension of that argument is also true: if laws are useless because they will only be observed by the law-abiding, why bother with laws at all****? Please don't tell me that criminals ignore the law. It just makes you look stupid.

Mr Gobry gives a good summary of the situation in his article:

"What, then, can we do about guns? Well, the first step is to have humility. Humility to recognize the facts as they actually exist, and humility to recognize that there is no magic wand that will stop every bullet. Second, there are, indeed, practical steps to take, such as closing the biggest loopholes in gun laws, and embarking on a significant, but realistic, endeavor to experiment locally and incrementally with initiatives to combat mental illness. But embarking on these practical steps entails having the humility to recognize that the utopian (or, perhaps, dystopian, in the light of stop-and-frisk) vision of a gun-free America just isn't going to happen. And third, most importantly and most difficultly, Americans should evolve their culture toward a greater recognition, as the original vision of the Second Amendment and the example of Switzerland point us to, that gun ownership is a right, yes, but also a responsibility. But this humble recognition is hampered by the fact-free, boasting utopianism of both sides screeching through this so-called debate."

This is the last time I'm going to write about this topic. The people who most need to listen and think - on both sides of the argument - won't, and I'm tired of being treated like the village idiot for trying to promote some rational discussion of a terrifying ... and terribly complex ... problem.

Before I go, here's a look at the scope of the problem ...

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Yes, I know how the Supreme Court has interpreted the Second Amendment. I respect their decision as the law of the land, which doesn't mean I think it was the right decision to make. Oh, and since we now have an actual standing army under civilian control, do we really need ... oh, never mind.

** By most estimates there are more than 300,000,000 guns in circulation. There are also about 11,000,000 illegal aliens in circulation. Neither the 300,000,000 guns nor the 11,000,000 illegal aliens can be - by any practical measure for which Americans would stand - rounded up. Get real.

*** Yes, it's happened. Read about it here.

**** Or as my father was fond of saying, if you lock your doors and windows, all the honest people will stay out.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Poetry Sunday

I love a good walk on a cool, crisp fall day. Or a warm spring day. Or a summer's day. In winter, not so much. Walking is good for you, so let's talk about it ...

Talk about Walking 
by Philip Booth 

Where am I going? I’m going
out, out for a walk. I don’t
know where except outside.
Outside argument, out beyond
wallpapered walls, outside
wherever it is where nobody
ever imagines. Beyond where
computers circumvent emotion,
where somebody shorted specs
for rivets for airframes on
today’s flights. I’m taking off
on my own two feet. I’m going
to clear my head, to watch
mares’-tails instead of TV,
to listen to trees and silence,
to see if I can still breathe.
I’m going to be alone with
myself, to feel how it feels
to embrace what my feet
tell my head, what wind says
in my good ear. I mean to let
myself be embraced, to let go
feeling so centripetally old.
Do I know where I’m going?
I don’t. How long or far
I have no idea. No map. I
said I was going to take
a walk. When I’ll be back
I’m not going to say.

Of course, there are other ways to look at it, particularly for those of us of steadily advancing age ...

It looks as if we dodged the worst of the bad weather this weekend ... lots and lots of rain, but only a few spots of serious, roaring wind (actually woke me up last night about 11:00). Today is still gray, chilly, and wet ... weather only for serious walkers. As a frivolous walker, I think I'll just stick to my inside chores again, and fortify myself with another pot of nice, hot, mulled cider.

Have a good day and enjoy the rest of your weekend. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, October 03, 2015

Cartoon Saturday

Outside my study window it's raining like the proverbial cow peeing on a flat rock. I know we needed the rain, but did we have to get it all at once?

A man murdered ten people* at a community college in Oregon on Thursday, using those guns that I'm told don't kill people; Representative Kevin McCarthy, the presumed next Speaker of the House, confirmed what everyone already knew by crowing in a Faux News interview that the endless investigations into the Benghazi tragedy were intended to torpedo Hillary Clinton's presidential hopes**; eleven people were killed when a U.S. C-130 transport aircraft crashed at Jalalabad Airport in Afghanistan; Russian aircraft began bombing targets in Syria this week because there was a clear need to have more bombs being dropped on what's left of the country; and hurricane Joaquin pounded the Bahamas and headed for the East Coast of the United States, intent on showing that it is at least as powerful a wind generator as Congress.

This week, in "honor" of the latest mass shooting and the predictable crocodile tears shed by the gun lobby, our collection of theme cartoons deals with ... of course ... guns.

If guns don't kill people, where do all the bullets in the bodies come from?

There's probably an element of compensation involved in the choice of firearm ...

 What the well-dressed gun aficionado is wearing this summer ...

There are some people who will have a great deal of answering to do one day ...


Shotgun weddings ...

Turning to other topics, gun violence isn't the only thing a lot of people are in denial about ...

You had to see this one coming ...

And it seems as if many of those laws are written to facilitate circumvention ...

This is how I feel when I try to file a complaint with one of those wonderful, ever-so-responsive corporations ...

I don't think I could have expressed this one any better myself ...

Well, it's a very wet, cold, miserable weekend here in NoVa as we get the one-two rain punch from our nor'easter and hurricane Joaquin. A good day to stay inside and deal with some of the chores I've been putting off ... like excavating the study (again) to see if I can find the surface of my desk. But then, I'd need a lot longer weekend than this to accomplish that. Sigh.

Have a good day, stay warm and dry, and come back tomorrow for Poetry Sunday.

More thoughts then.


* Or, as GOP presidential wannabe Jeb Bush put it, "stuff happens." Dumbass.

** For what it's worth, I don't think Hillary Clinton should be president ... but I also think that the GOP's Benghazi fetish is the most transparently political hatchet job in memory, and I understand why the Republicans are furious that Mr McCarthy actually admitted it.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Great Moments in Editing

When we live in a time of mass shootings, political chicanery, and the tinfoil hat fringe on the rampage, it's good to know that there are still things we can laugh at. Sometimes we can find funny things in print ...

Watch out for those counterfeit $40 bills ...

I'm getting older, and my teeth are not what they used to be, so I'd rather have the loose-packed than the hard-packed dirt floor ...

For when you want a nasty drink ...

I think I'll pass on these options ... do you have something else?

Appetite with proper pronunciation ...

The most accurate kid's menu ever ...

If you need roughage and the hard-packed dirt floor just doesn't cut it ...

Well, I supposed he had a reason for not screaming back ...

Well, yes ...

I wonder if they'd have gotten a different answer if they'd measured in cubic feet ...

And there you have it - our first collection of Great Moments in Editing for October. Have you seen one of your own? Scan it, or take a picture of it, and e-mail it to me to share with everyone else.

Have a good day. See you back here tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday.


Thursday, October 01, 2015

Happy New Fiscal Year

Yes, it is a relatively happy new fiscal year, as Congress pulled its head out of its collective backside and avoided stepping over the fiscal cliff.

For the time being, anyhow.

Instead of presenting a budget (as the Constitution requires them to do), our elected reprehensives have once again resorted to the dodge of a "continuing resolution" to keep the government lurching from one manufactured crisis to the next. What they've done is to ensure that the next manufactured crisis will come right at the beginning of the holiday season - an action that will surely endear them only to the most rabidly hysterical partisans of the anti-government fringe.

You may recall that just over a week ago Pope Francis reminded them (without evident effect on their behavior),

"Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you."

To reiterate the Pope's words,  Legislative activity is always based on care for the people.

Not the oil people. Not the big pharma people. Not the big business people.

All the people.

Not just the 1%.

We deserve better than than a Congress that bickers and argues and points fingers. We deserve better than a Congress that resorts to blackmail and useless gotcha votes intended only to show one side or the other in a bad light. And before you blame the President for the whole mess because he threatens to veto some legislation sent to him for signature, consider that he's announced what he won't approve ... if Congress goes ahead and sends it to him anyway, the result is likely to be pretty obvious, isn't it?

My conservative friends will strongly disagree, of course, and that's fine ... as long as they have better ideas and are willing to press their chosen representatives to negotiate in good faith rather than legislate by blackmail.

Happy New Fiscal Year. Let's see if we're still celebrating come December 11th ... which will be the next test of whether statesmanship and reason win out over partisan ass clownery.

Don't hold your breath.

Come back tomorrow for the latest collection of Great Moments in Editing. More thoughts then.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How Do You Know When You're Middle-Aged?

My friend Marilyn posted this on Facebook the other day, and I thought it was so funny that I just had to steal share it ...

How Do You Know When You're Middle-Aged?

1. You don't understand what young peasants are talking about.

2. You struggle to read Chaucer in weak candlelight.

3. You hate rowdy taverns.

4. You constantly worry that you might have the Black Death.

5. You don't know or care who Blondel is sleeping with.

6. You tell your wife that Crusaders seem to look younger every year.

7. You struggle with new technology such as the heavy plough and the longbow.

8. You find Gothic architecture too modern.

9. You keep forgetting who the King is.

10. You dream of buying a second hovel in France.

Have a good day. Enjoy your hovel ... as a modern middle-class American peasant, it's what you'll be able to afford.

More thoughts tomorrow.