Thursday, July 02, 2015

Robot Wedding


From the Department of I Couldn't Make This Stuff Up comes this major news story: the world's first robot wedding took place in Japan last Saturday.

I can understand you not noticing this event, because in the past week we've been concerned with weddings of other sorts here in the US of A, but this is really a big deal ... after all, it's not every day that two inanimate objects get married. Here are a few pictures from the Big Event ...

As you can see, the groom - a handsome mechanical man named Frois - decked himself out in a smart black bow tie, while the blushing bride, Yurikin, wore a traditional white dress.


The ceremony culminated with the traditional kissing of the bride, although there was perhaps a bit more tongue involved than most of us are used to ...


And the reception featured the traditional wedding cake, the batter for which was made with eggs, flour, sugar, and 40-weight oil ...


You can read the whole story and watch the video here. Be sure to read the comments after the story ... they're the best part. Here are a few samples:

"The wedding night must have sounded like a #10 tin can filled with marbles;"

"I wonder if they had to get an electrician's signature on the marriage certificate to verify circuit board compatibility;"

"I wonder how they procreate? Do they need lubricant or is it all show and no go? Either way, SCOTUS* will allow it;" and finally,

"Shame on you haters! You're all robophobic..."

Of course, there are other things to think about in conjunction with this wedding. For instance, one wonders about who the maid of honor might have been ...


Or the best man ...


The mother of the bride ...


And nowadays, you need to have security at high-profile public events ...


Yes, Dear Readers, nowadays in America marriage is a right we grant to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. In Japan, it's a right granted regardless of mechanical construction. They're way ahead of us.

Have a good day. You may now tune up the bride.

See you tomorrow for the announcement of our Right Cheek Ass Clown for July.

Bilbo

* Supreme Court of the United States, in case you're not familiar with the acronym.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

What We Do with Our Dining Rooms


I read an interesting article the other day that wondered whether it's time to get rid of the formal dining room as a separate part of our homes ...


Although everybody needs to eat, it seems that very few people use their dining rooms any more, at least not for dining ... the article says that 75% of the homeowners surveyed said that they don't usually eat their meals in their formal dining rooms; instead, 42% said that they dine in their eat-in kitchens, while 34% said they eat in their family room or in front of the television (which is usually in the family room or living room).

So why do we still build houses with formal dining rooms, and what do we use those formal dining rooms for, if not for dining?

I don't know about you, but in our house, we actually do eat in the formal dining room two or three times a year ... usually at Thanksgiving and Christmas or we have enough guests that they won't fit into the kitchen. The rest of the time we use the dining room table and chairs for storing pots and pans, the cushions for the deck furniture, and other things we don't have room to store anywhere else. We also store extra dust underneath the table.

What else do people use their dining rooms for? According to the article, they're being repurposed as work spaces or sitting rooms, or the walls are removed to make larger open spaces by combining the dining room space with the kitchen or living room. I think there are other potential uses for the dining room as well ...

1. Rent it out to Starbucks ... they're always looking for new locations.

2. Let the local politicians know that the highest bidder can tack it on to his (or her) wildly-gerrymandered district.

3. Add multiple layers of soundproofing and turn it into your own "50 Shades of Grey" playroom.

4. Gain extra tax advantage from the space by telling the IRS it's the conference room that goes with your home office.

5. Use that nice, big table for ... well ... use your imagination.

Other ideas? Leave a comment.

Have a good day. Enjoy your dinner, wherever you eat it. Come back tomorrow, when we'll name our Right Cheek Ass Clown for July*.

Bilbo

* The suspense is killing you, isn't it?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Saving the World


We know that the world is a dangerous place. Just consider a few of the dangers we face every day:

- Mass Shootings. Of course, these are not as bad as we think, because we now know that guns have nothing at all to do with them ... the problem is drugged-up crazy people lured by the irresistible siren song of "gun-free zones" ... lock up the crazy people, eliminate gun-free zones, and get more guns into circulation and the problem will solve itself ...


- Environmental Catastrophe. When there's a vast floating island of trash known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, when China's air quality is so terrible that the government deliberately understates the degree of pollution, and when even the Pope warns that you're wrecking the planet, it's probably time to worry.

- Economic Collapse. If you're part of the Great Unwashed, this should probably worry you more than it does.

- The 2016 Presidential Election. Donald Trump. Ben Carson. Ted Cruz. Need I say more?

- Gay Marriage. Oh, wait ... never mind that one. It's fixed.

Yes, we  have plenty of things to worry about, but although no useful action will ever be taken on gun violence, the garbage will continue to mount, the economy will lurch along from crisis to crisis, and we'll elect the windbag who tells us what we want to hear*, there are some terribly dangerous things that we actually are doing something about.

Well, not we as in the sense of all of us ... we in the sense of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). You may be murdered by someone exercising his Second Amendment rights, choke on polluted air, die from eating tainted meat, lose everything in the next stock market crash, or endure a hyperconservative GOP presidency, but NASA is working to protect you from a real and clear threat: Giant Killer Asteroids ...


Yes, Dear Readers, this recent CNN article describes how NASA is planning to protect us from the cataclysmic threat of Giant Killer Asteroids (or "GKAs," for short) by developing technologies to nudge them aside, causing them to change trajectory and miss the earth ... making it possible for us to destroy the planet on our own, without outside assistance.

Of course, there are other options for dealing with this cosmic threat. One would be to announce that the GKA is preparing to stake a claim in the Spratley Islands, whereupon the Chinese government would immediately mobilize its Navy and police forces to keep it away.

Another approach would be to announce that the GKA will pose a clear and present danger to ethnic Russians when it lands. Russian President Vladimir Putin would immediately take action - secretly, of course - to cause so much trouble for the asteroid that it would go someplace else**.

Yet another tactic might be to let it be known that there isn't a single Starbucks location on the asteroid. Starbucks would immediately build coffee bars every few hundred feet on the surface of the GKA creating enough change in its drag coefficient*** to divert its course away from the Earth.

NASA could drop a hint to the NRA that the GKA isn't real, but is actually a cynical distraction to divert attention from the Jack-Booted Government ThugsTM coming to confiscate everyone's guns. The enormous howls of anger and outrage would generate a vast pressure wave in the atmosphere that would easily shove the asteroid at least back out to the orbit of Neptune.

And if all else fails, we could always launch giant tubes of Preparation A to crash on the surface and shrink the asteroid to less painful dimensions.

Do you have any other ideas? Leave a comment.

Have a good day. If you see an enormous fireball coming out of the sky straight at you, duck. More thoughts tomorrow.

* Or what most lines up with our preconceived ideas.

** The CIA believes that the mess Putin has created in Ukraine is actually a field test of his Giant Killer Asteroid Protection Scheme.

*** The "drag coefficient" is a dimensionless quantity that is used to quantify the drag or resistance of an object in a fluid environment, such as air or water; it does not refer to the appearance of an object inappropriately dressed in female clothing.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Sex, Marriage, and Hysteria


Since there obviously hasn't been enough written about the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v Hodges that marriage between same-sex couples is legal in all 50 states, I thought I'd weigh in with my two cents. Stop reading if you're sick of the whole thing ... I'll be off on another tangent tomorrow and you can come back then.

Let me begin by saying that I'm not gay. I'm as straight as they come, and I find the idea of sexual attraction between men or between women to be ... well ... unsettling, if not actually distasteful*. But I also understand that there are people in this world who, for whatever reason, are attracted to persons of the same sex. I don't know why this is so ... if the reason is chemical, psychological, or whatever. I accept that there are such people. I don't have to think or feel the same way, and it's certainly not my place to pass judgment on them when even the Pope says it's not his place to do so. As it happens, I have a great many friends who I know are gay or lesbian, and probably others who are, but haven't "come out." That's fine. If they don't make a fuss about my being straight, I won't make a fuss about them being gay. There are too many worse problems that divide us to waste time on this one.

However ...

I don't believe that a marriage between two adults of the same sex is the right environment in which to raise children. I believe that a child grows and benefits from having loving parents of both sexes, and while a same-sex couple can certainly love a child, they cannot give that child the lessons of life and the points of view that can be taught by a father and a mother. Same-sex marriage is wonderful for adults ... not so good for children.

That's all.

Have a good day. Grit your teeth and accept that not everybody thinks and acts the same way you do ... you'll be happier. More thoughts tomorrow, when we consider something we really ought to worry about.

Bilbo

* This has nothing at all to do with religious beliefs and everything to do with what I personally feel comfortable with. 

P.S. - I doubt that the issue of marriage - gay or straight - ever crossed anyone's mind while they were writing the Constitution.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Poetry Sunday


Since the Supreme Court this week created mass hysteria  by declaring that marriage between same-sex couples is legal, I thought a poem about love might be appropriate ...

The More Loving One
by W. H. Auden

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.


Love the one you want. Just don't expect everyone to understand or approve.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Cartoon Saturday


It's the last Cartoon Saturday for June ... and you know you need it.

At least 27 people were murdered by gunmen, apparently representing the so-called "Islamic State," who stormed a hotel in Tunisia on Friday, while gunmen also attacked a gas plant in France, decapitating at least one person and injuring several others and blew up a Shiite mosque in Kuwait; the worst drought in 100 years is threatening a massive famine in North Korea; Bristol Palin, daughter of former Vice Presidential candidate and conservative gadfly Sarah Palin, announced that she is pregnant, not that anyone outside of her family really cares; convicted murderer Richard Matt, who escaped from Dannemora Prison several weeks ago and was being intensively hunted by police, was shot and killed on Friday, while fellow escapee David Sweat is still at large; and Patrick Macnee, star of the classic television adventure series "The Avengers," passed away at the age of 93.

At a time when we really need some genuine heroes*, this week's collection of theme cartoons features none other than the Caped Crusader, Batman ...

It took a while for Batman to get just the right costume for his sidekick ...


And the final design may have had some considerations other than striking fear into the hearts of the bad guys ... 


The famous Batman portrait ...


The Batsignal could come in handy in more ways than one ...


And it can appear at inconvenient times, too ...

 

Batman and Robin at the diner ...


The sidekicks always seem to get the scut jobs ...


And sometimes things aren't always what they seem ...


I have two more cartoons for this week not on the Batman theme, but too good to pass up. Some of you have already seen this on on my Facebook page ...


And, speaking of Donald Trump** ...


And that's it for this week's edition of Cartoon Saturday. Agnes and I are dog-sitting again this weekend, and - of course - it's pouring down rain outside ... so I need to find an umbrella and coax Clara into going for a walk before we get the severe storms predicted for later in the day. Gotta take care of the grand-dog, you know.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for Poetry Sunday. More thoughts then.

Bilbo

* You can read some other thoughts on heroism in this post I wrote back in August of 2012.

** No, please don't. Really.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Great Moments in Editing


Yes, it's time to stop thinking about Ass Clown awardees until next week. Today, it's another group of great moments in editing ...

Well, I guess that would work ...


Speaking of flashers ...


Proper job scheduling is important to completion ...


Uh, no thanks ... I'll just stick with the traditional pink one ...


Editor seeks new position: call BR-549 ...


Good choice ...


There's nothing quite like giving your beloved the right gift ...


Are they easier to remove, or what ... ?


I think I'd want to be remembered for something else ...


And finally, from the Department of Mixed Messages ...


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

Bilbo

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bottoms Up!


Yesterday I got an e-mail from my old friend Dave, with whom I served in Berlin many years ago. He wrote to tell me of an interesting article he'd stumbled upon and thought I would enjoy as a topic for a blog post ... he sent a link to the article and went on to say, "If you've already written on this, please direct me to the post. If not, I'd love to read what you have to say on the subject."

Well, Dave, I haven't written on this particular subject before, so let's see what we can do with an article from US News and World Report titled "Stop Drinking Camel Urine, World Health Organization Says."

Chances are you haven't passed up a glass of iced tea in favor of a glass of camel urine for refreshment on a hot day, but it seems that some people in middle eastern countries do ... and, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), they probably shouldn't. It seems that camel urine, refreshing though it might be, can carry the virus which causes the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS. According to an article on the WHO website titled Frequently Asked Questions on Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus,

"Until more is understood about MERS, people with diabetes, renal failure, chronic lung disease, and immunocompromised persons ... should avoid contact with camels, drinking raw camel milk or camel urine, or eating meat that has not been properly cooked."

I find myself, uncharacteristically, at a loss for words, and I can't help but imagine what the camels think about this ...


And I have to wonder ... who collects that camel urine? What training is involved? Do they have a union? What sort of benefits package comes with a job collecting camel urine? And how does one describe that sort of expertise on one's resume?

I understand that people eat and drink some pretty strange things*, and I don't mind an occasional gastronomic adventure**, but I think I'd draw the line at drinking urine, camel ... or otherwise ...


Sorry, Dave - I think I'll stick with a nice, cold beer***. And by the way, I have written on the subject of urine (albeit human) before, most recently this past May ... you can read it here.

Have a good day. Enjoy a glass of cold, refreshing water, why dontcha, and then come back tomorrow for our latest collection of Great Moments in Editing.

More thoughts then.

Bilbo

* Such as haggis, yak butter tea, assorted insects, and fugu.

** Within limits.

*** Angel has a few suggestions.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Naming Things


Those of us who live here in the National Capitol Region have grown used to some oddly-chosen names for places, buildings, and major highways.

For example, US Route 1 from Washington south to Richmond, Virginia, is known locally as "The Jefferson Davis Highway" ... making us one of the few nations that would name a major artery after a traitor (Jefferson Davis, for those of you reading this in other countries, was the president of the Southern states during the Civil War*). We also have Route 50 - the "Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway" - named for two famous Southern civil war generals, not to mention the Army's nearby Fort A.P. Hill, named for yet another Southern general.

We don't just name things after traitors, although if we did we might consider renaming DC's Blue Plains Sewage Treatment Plant in honor of Edward Snowdon. For instance, Interstate 95/395, the major north-south artery into Washington known as the "Henry G. Shirley Memorial Highway," was named for a former Virginia Highway Commissioner, a major bridge over the Potomac River is named for President Woodrow Wilson, and a stretch of state route 234 in Prince William County is known as "The Ronald Wilson Reagan Memorial Highway." Former president Reagan's name also graces the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport**.

But if we were to do some appropriate naming, we might make other choices.

For instance, since Interstate 95/395 (north-south) and Interstate 66 (east-west) are traffic-choked nightmares on which one can sit for hours in miserable gridlock, why not name one "The US Senate Highway" and the other "The US House of Representatives Highway?"

And why not name more of our local landmarks in honor of their corporate owners, the way we name sports arenas ... like "The Koch Brothers Capitol Hill." We could also name them in honor of those who provide them with large amounts of business, like the National Rifle Association Emergency Room of the Washington Hospital.

Looking beyond Washington, why not rename Mount St Helens as "Mount Cruz," in honor of the large quantities of hot air and poisonous gas vented by the senator from Texas?

Any other ideas? Leave a comment. Inquiring minds want to know.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

* Known in much of the South, where Confederate figures are still frequently revered as heroes, as "The War of Northern Aggression." 

** If they could figure out how to do it, the GOP would change the name of Washington, DC, to Reagan City ... or "Ciudad Reagan," in an attempt to cozy up to Hispanic voters.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Arms We're Not Allowed to Bear


Most Americans don’t know much about the Constitution*, but they know the Second Amendment (the one that guarantees the right to keep and bear arms) by heart; and they probably at least recognize the Fifth Amendment (protection against self-incrimination**). Indeed, many people over the years have found the Fifth Amendment to be quite useful after they’ve gone overboard exercising their Second Amendment rights in a way that attracted the attention of the local coroner.

It seems to me that we’ve gone totally nuts over the last few years on the topic of guns and the Second Amendment, with common sense, practicality, courtesy, and simple decency taking a back seat to paranoid political agendas. Nowadays it’s not enough to just own a gun … you’ve got to have a bigger one than anyone you're likely to meet, and carry it everywhere you go, just in case someone else might try to shoot you … not an unreasonable fear when people are allowed to pack heat in places like bars, which do not encourage self-restraint and prudence.

I think we need to take another look at what the Second Amendment actually says. Forget the part about “a well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state” … the Supreme Court has decided the founders weren't really talking about militias, anyhow. Let’s look at the most important, but least-considered word in the Second Amendment: the word arms.

If you look up arms in the American Heritage Dictionary***, you will find one of the definitions to read, “Weapons, especially firearms.”

The key word here is especially, which acknowledges the existence of other types of arms as well … and that leads us to my question: why does the Second Amendment not protect our right to bear arms other than firearms? Why can’t I take my battleaxe, war hammer, broadsword, mace, or dagger to the local supermarket? Why can’t I carry falchions or cutlasses on the street? If I can carry an AR-15 rifle with a 100-round drum magazine into the nation’s busiest airport, why can’t I carry a crossbow there? If I can have a gun rack in my truck, why can't I mount a lance on it? Are these not arms, my right to carry them duly protected by the Holy Second Amendment, let me hear you say hallelujah?

A few days ago the Arkansas Times published a satirical article titled “A Modest Proposal,” which suggested that since the open carry of firearms was legal in Arkansas “as long as the person doing the carrying doesn't intend to commit a crime,” the next step in personal protection should be to legitimize the open carry of “large butcher knives, rusty machetes or razor-sharp hatchets.”

Using the same arguments put forward by supporters of the open carry of firearms, the article presented a tongue-in-cheek advocacy for the legal open carry of arms other than guns, such as the aforementioned “large butcher knives, rusty machetes and razor-sharp hatchets.”

Now, the article was clearly satirical and sarcastic to the point of being over-the-top, but the online comments posted to it were truly instructive. The howls of rage from gun advocates were deafening, and every single one of them missed the point … that the open carry of weapons of any sort can be frightening to those of us who can’t distinguish the people who don’t intend to commit a crime from those who do (the “good guys with a gun” from the “bad guys with a gun,” as so memorably described by NRA mouthpiece Wayne LaPierre after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre). When I see someone packing major heat in a public place, my first thought isn't that he (or she) is a well-trained, civic-minded protector of the weak, ready to blast away heroically at evildoers who would use their firearms for nefarious purposes ... he (or she) doesn't have a glowing halo, or wear a sign prominently reading "NRA-Certified Good Guy with a Gun."

No.

What I see is someone who is carrying a deadly weapon, whose state of mind is unknown, and whose intentions and motives I cannot judge. As far as I'm concerned, that person poses a definite and potentially life-threatening danger to me and others around me.

So ...

Those of you who absolutely insist beyond reason and discussion that you absolutely must be permitted to carry your firearm of choice+ any place you wish need to understand that your actions - which are generally legal - can be interpreted as highly threatening to those of us who don't know your intentions and your state of mind.

Of course, you don't care ... and looking threatening is probably what you wanted in the first place.

Which is why if you want to be able to carry a gun, I want to be able to carry a sword.


Have a good day. Be rational. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

* And what they know is largely inaccurate. 

** That would be the famous “taking the fifth” so beloved of police and lawyer shows.

*** And it should not surprise you that I have.

+ Don't bother telling me what the Second Amendment says ... I know what it says. Explain to me why you aren't willing to discuss it rationally. Refusing to discuss it is not an argument.