Thursday, August 27, 2015

What's in a Name?


You may have seen this article on CNN yesterday: The Most Popular Baby Names Are ...

The Social Security Administration publishes an annual list of the most popular baby names because ... well ... why not? You can read the list for 2014 at their website here, and you can read my comments below.

First of all, I note with great satisfaction that William is the fifth place male name. I'm sure it would be higher on the list, but we Williams* are generous fellows, and don't like to show up everyone else.

The first-place male name is Noah ... a fine name which happens also to be the name of my youngest grandson.

On the female name side, the fifth-place name is Ava ... a beautiful name which is also the name of my youngest granddaughter. Emily, in seventh place, is the name of my beautiful little niece in Germany.

The CNN article also offers for comparison the most popular baby names in the United Kingdon, where Ava comes in at number six on the list for girls and William at number ten for boys. Noah, sadly, doesn't make the top ten in the UK, although Tyrion (from the popular character in the books and TV series "Game of Thrones") is said to be popular.

The names we give to our children are important, because they'll have to answer to them for a long time. I wrote a cautionary post on this topic back in 2013, which you can read here. To all my friends who are pregnant or may become pregnant in the future, think carefully about the name you choose ...


Have a good day. Come back tomorrow when we will announce the name of our Left Cheek Ass Clown of the Month ... whose name does not appear on either the US or UK top-ten list.

More thoughts then.

Bilbo

* Yes, my real name is William, but you can call me "your eminence." Or my other preferred title, about which you can read here. You can read about my search for a suitable coat of arms to go with the title here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Things We Expect, and the Things We Don't


An interesting thing happened to me the other day.

I had gone into a local book store to buy some books for my granddaughter*. After leaving the bookstore I ran a few more errands, and arrived home an hour or so later. On unpacking the bag from the bookstore, I discovered that the clerk had put into the bag not only my receipt, but also the charge slip I'd signed.

I had to go out again later for something else, so I drove back to the bookstore and went to customer service to give them the signed charge slip.

Well ...

They were shocked that I'd brought it back. The look on the clerk's face was one of amazement, as was that on the face of the manager who came out in response to her summons ... she fell all over herself thanking me for bringing it back. As I walked away, I could hear them still chattering and expressing surprise that I'd actually brought back the charge slip.

So, here's my question: when did we start being amazed by someone who tries to do the Right Thing? Have we become so used to poor, selfish behavior, with everyone looking out for Number One, that the Right Thing actually shocks us?

Now, I'm not trying to portray myself as a paragon of good behavior, but I do try to live the values of honesty and fair play that my parents taught us, and to pass them on to my children and grandchildren. It's not always easy, but if we don't do it ourselves, how can we expect good behavior of others ... especially our political class?

Have a good day. Do the right thing.

More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

* The Day the Crayons Quit, The Day the Crayons Came Home, and The Book with No Pictures.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Random Observations


Courtesy of my old friend Ken, here are a few random ... if odd ... observations:

The location of your mailbox shows you how far away from your house you can be in a robe before you start looking like a mental patient.

My therapist says my narcissism causes me to misread social situations. I'm pretty sure she was hitting on me.

My 60 year kindergarten reunion is coming up soon; now I'm worried about the 210 pounds I've gained.

I'm getting really tired of always having to slowly raise my hand when someone says, "Who does something like that?”

I wonder what the job application is like at Hooters . . . do they just give you a bra and say, "Here, fill this out"?

The speed in which a woman says "Nothing" when asked "What's wrong?" is inversely proportional to the severity of the shit storm that's coming.

If I make you breakfast in bed, a simple "Thank you" is all I need. Enough already with the "How did you get in my house?" business.

On average, an American man will have sex two to three times a week, whereas a Japanese man will have sex only one or two times a year. This pisses me off. I had no idea I was Japanese.

I can't understand why women are okay with the fact that JC Penny has line of clothing for mature women called "Sag Harbor."

I think it's pretty cool how the Chinese made a language entirely out of tattoos.

When I die I want to be reincarnated as a spider, just so I can finally hear a women scream "Oh God, it's huge!"


As you can see, I have ... interesting ... friends. Thanks, Ken, for the observations. Do you have any others? Leave a comment.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

Monday, August 24, 2015

Medieval Chemistry


If you ever studied science in school, you were introduced to the famous and endlessly useful Periodic Table of the Elements, which arranges the known elements by their atomic numbers, and groups them according to their general properties. The first generally-accepted Periodic Table was developed by Russian scientist Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869, and the current version looks like this:


Now, while the Periodic Table has many uses for scientists, it also lends itself to modification for humorous purposes. For instance, back in August of 2008, I featured a version I'd found called "Dapperstache's Periodic Table of Awesoments," which you can revisit here, and Miss Cellania wrote an article for Mental Floss in 2013 that featured nine Periodic Table parodies, with links to many others.

But one of the best versions I've seen in a long time is this one, which popped up recently as a Facebook post from one of my friends - it's Ye Olde Periodic Table:


Yes, it was much easier to be a chemist back then, when there were only four elements to worry about, and no bothersome oversight by the jack-booted government thugsTM of the FDA and the EPA digging through all your test results and worrying about job-killingTM things like safety and the environment ...


Have a good day. It's element-ary, after all.

More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Poetry Sunday


Yesterday was the anniversary of the birthday (in 1893) of American writer, poet, and critic Dorothy Parker, known for her razor-sharp wit and acid tongue. In a review of the novel Beauty and the Beast, by Kathleen Norris, she wrote, "I'm much better now, in fact, than I was when we started. I wish you could have heard that pretty crash Beauty and the Beast made when, with one sweeping, liquid gesture, I tossed it out of my twelfth-story window." It was also Ms Parker who was famous for such comments as "Brevity is the soul of lingerie," and for this excuse as to why she had not turned in an article on time - "Someone else was using the pencil." She also wrote a number of poems, among them this one that, I think, captures her personality perfectly:

Neither Bloody nor Bowed 
by Dorothy Parker 

They say of me, and so they should,
It's doubtful if I come to good.
I see acquaintances and friends
Accumulating dividends
And making enviable names
In science, art and parlor games.
But I, despite expert advice,
Keep doing things I think are nice,
And though to good I never come
Inseparable my nose and thumb.

I never knew Dorothy Parker, but I think I'd have liked her.

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

Bilbo

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Cartoon Saturday


There are five Saturdays in August this year. This is the fourth. And if you're like me, you need the cartoons ...

The US stock market plunged by a dramatic 531points yesterday, marking its biggest loss of the year and its worst week since 2011, and other major indexes around the world also fell for the week and most are negative for the month; three Americans on a French train, including two Service members, attacked and subdued a man armed with an AK-47 and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, probably averting a massacre; every year since 1963, the Japanese government has presented each citizens turning 100 a commemorative silver cup worth about $65, but with 29,357 persons turning 100 in 2014 alone, Japan can no longer afford the estimated 260 million yen ($2.1 million) cost, and is considering less expensive options; a rally in Mobile, Alabama, attracted 30,000 supporters of Donald Trump's presidential campaign ... in other news, roving packs of zombies in search of brains went elsewhere; and tensions in Korea continued, with North Korea continuing its bombastic barrage of threats even as representatives of the North and South met to try to defuse the escalating situation.

In honor of the miserable state of the stock market, today's collection of theme cartoons deals with that mainstay of middle-class economics: loans ...

You have to know what the terms mean before you fill out that loan application ...


Here's another example ...


This is probably how the question really ought to be phrased ...

This one reminds me of the old joke about the loan officer being a person who is happy to lend you his umbrella, but wants it back as soon as it starts raining ...


Most of mine were like this ...


Applying for a loan really is a pretty straightforward and simple process ...


But enough about loan misery ... let's move on to some other topics. I thought this was a great historical look at the traditional vacation picture ...


If you're on Facebook like I am, you get used to the sorts of things your friends post ... especially the fitness nuts who have to let you know how far they ran, how may Buicks they bench-pressed, how many laps they swam, or ...


We finish up with two cartoons taking different looks at the common shepherd. There's nothing like a little high-tech to make things easy ...


I wonder if he really needed the financial advisor ...


And that's it for the fourth Cartoon Saturday in August. I hope you enjoyed my attempt to help you survive another week of bad news, political buffoonery, and overall chaos. Yesterday was a glorious day here in NoVa, weather-wise, and today looks to offer more of the same, but with a bit more humidity. It looks like a great day for a nice long walk ... I think I'll see if Clara is available for a date, since Agnes will be in Germany for another week and a half.

Have a good day and a great weekend, and come back tomorrow for Poetry Sunday. More thoughts then. 

Bilbo

Friday, August 21, 2015

Great Moments in Editing


Yes, Dear Readers, it's that time again ... time to get in touch with your inner editor and enjoy a new collection of Great Moments in Editing*!

Well, that's one way to earn extra credit ...


I guess it depends on who's wearing it ...


And this is surprising how ... ?


I'll pass, thank you ...


I'd worry if it leaked when it didn't rain ...


So I've heard ...


You have to wonder who's in charge of counting up the end-of-day receipts ...


I wonder if she found one yet ...


Well, it would be, wouldn't it? ...


It's nice they let Ben and Alex play with the big boys ...


Doing my part for keeping editors and proofreaders fully employed ... it's the least I can do.

Have a good day. See you tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday - more thoughts then.

Bilbo

* Okay, they aren't all true editorial errors, but somebody let them get into print, right?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Dental Economics, or the Tooth, the Whole Tooth, and Nothing but the Tooth


Let's talk about the economics of teeth, shall we?

There were two things that led me to ... uh ... sink my teeth into this topic. The first was a letter from my dental insurance company, proudly announcing that I can get dependable and affordable dental coverage* when I retire (I have dental insurance through my employer now). This is one of the many things I have to worry about as I approach the age of full geezerhood, along with finding affordable medical care, affordable food, affordable housing, and pants that belt up under my armpits. I'm just glad to know that my elected reprehensives of both parties are working hard on the issue: the GOP is working hard to maximize profits and minimize costs for the insurance companies and the medical care industry, while the Democrats are working hard to provide Real People with the best possible care without regard for how it gets paid for. Good luck with all that.

The other thing that got me to thinking about teeth was this article: Tooth Fairy Tightens Purse Strings, Pays Less Per Tooth.

It seems that the Tooth Fairy**, that cheap bastard, is cutting back on payments to children for their lost teeth. According to the article:

"After hitting a high of $3.70 per tooth in 2013, [the Tooth Fairy's] average payout dropped to $3.43 in 2014 and is down yet again to $3.19 this year, according to a new survey by Visa. And she clearly favors the rich. Kids in families who make less than $75,000 a year are getting just $3.07 per tooth, while kids in families who earn more are averaging $3.46, reports UPI. She also has a thing for the Northeast, where kids enjoy the highest average return of $3.56 per tooth; kids suffer the most in the South, where a tooth goes for just $3.07."

Well, hell! ... I remember Little Bilbo and his siblings back in the 50's getting a dime for a regular tooth and a quarter for a molar. Times change, don't they?

And - believe it or not - there is also a "Tooth Fairy Calculator App" available at the iTunes app store to help you calculate the proper payout for a particular tooth, based on gender, education, state, age, family size, marital status and household income.

And finally, there's the GOP tooth fairy ...


But that's enough biting sarcasm for now.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

* Luckily, eye care is presently covered under my medical insurance (also provided through my employer), which will help me read the fine print in the offer from the dental insurance company.

** Not to be confused with the somewhat more sinister "Tooth Fairy" in the Thomas Harris thriller Red Dragon.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Rant About Elevators and Rents


I haven't had a good rant lately, and I think I'm about due. Bear with me on this one for a while, because it's going to take a while ...

First off, there was an article a while back in the Washington Post about a DC hardware store, a longtime neighborhood landmark, that is closing after 35 years in business because of skyrocketing rent for the store space. The owner noted that his rent has nearly doubled in the last three years, and said that "When the rent is so high, it becomes very hard to make money."

Well, not for everybody. It seems to me that the person who owns the store space is making lots of money. He just makes it by soaking the hell out of his renters, who have to pass the costs on down to their customers who - being at the bottom of the economic food chain - have to eat it because they can't pass their increased living expenses on to anyone else.

Which leads us to my rant about rents and the failures of those who charge them ...

I rent a 10-by-10 foot, non-climate controlled storage space in a local self-storage facility that's part of a nationwide chain. I've been renting this space for a very long time, and one of the most reliable facts of life is that every July, the rent I pay for that space goes up. Last year it went up by $19 per month. This year it went up by $16 per month. Per month, that may not seem so bad, but it works out to a lot of money over the course of a year*.

Now, back in January, 2014, I was taking all of our Christmas decorations back to the storage unit to put away until the following season. I was riding up in the wheezing, creaking freight elevator and happened to notice that the elevator inspection certificate would expire at the end of that month.

I didn't think about that for a while, but when I needed to get some things out of the storage unit a few months later, I noticed that the elevator inspection certificate was still the one that expired the previous January. On the way out, I mentioned it to the on-site manager, who faithfully assured me that the elevator was safe and they were working the issue.

My rent having just gone up, I was a little upset that they couldn't handle something so ordinary (and legally required, per county ordinance) as an elevator inspection, and so I made it a point to check that certificate each month when I went in to pay the rent. Each month, I got the same response - a variation on "don't worry, it's safe, we're working on it."

I was pretty well fed up by the time January 31st of 2015 rolled around, the inspection certificate had been expired for a full year, and I was tired of getting stonewalled by the on-site manager. In March, I sent an e-mail to the company's district manager, asking when the elevator would be inspected and certified safe ... and I enclosed a picture I'd taken of the expired certificate.

I received no response to the e-mail. I told the on-site manager that if I received another rent increase notice and the elevator hadn't been inspected, I'd report the whole thing to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). She made all the right noises and assured me (as she had each month up to that point) that she was keeping the district manager informed, but nothing happened.

Sure enough, at the end of May came the post card from the company, announcing the usual rent increase, effective July 1st. I duly submitted a complaint to the Better Business Bureau, including a copy of my unanswered e-mail to the district manager and a copy of the photo of the expired inspection certificate ... now nearly a year and a half out of date.

The BBB promptly acknowledged receipt of my complaint, and then things went dark for about another two weeks ... at which time I got another e-mail from the BBB, telling me they had referred my complaint to one of their offices in California! I called the local point of contact at the BBB to ask why my local problem was not being handled locally, and he told me that their procedure was to refer all such issues to the BBB office located nearest the home office of the company concerned, which in this case was in Glendale, California.

The issue sat there for another week, at which time the California BBB office sent me an e-mail to tell me they'd assigned a case number, and referred me to their website where I could track the resolution of the issue. Two weeks later, the website announced that the case had been closed ... with no further explanation or information. And, needless to say, no contact from the storage company.

I managed to find a phone number for the local district manager of the storage company, and called him directly. There was, of course, no answer, and so I left a detailed message on the answering machine, giving a brief history of the complaint and noting that he had never responded to my earlier e-mail request for information.

A few days later, the district manager called me back. Here's what he said:

1. He'd only been in the job for a few months, so he couldn't tell me why things were the way they were and he wasn't to blame. He was working with a company to fix the elevator so it would pass the inspection, but the paperwork on display would probably continue to be out of date because the inspectors had to do that part, and he couldn't control how they did their jobs.

2. He had no control over the rent I was charged, which was set at the national level and depended on a lot of factors like the zip code, the space size, proximity of the space to the elevator, the phase of the moon, the latitude and longitude of the Playboy Mansion, and the value in Greek drachmas of five square yards of linoleum**.

3. He told me that although he didn't have the authority to reduce the rent I was being charged, I could pay less if I cancelled the contract for the space I have now, rented a different space of the same size in the same facility for the new renter's introductory price, and moved all my stuff.

I told him that was stupid. His response was the equivalent of a take-it-or-leave-it shrug.

And today - August 19th, 2015 - the elevator inspection certificate has been expired for more than a year and a half, in which time my rent has been raised twice and I've been casually farted off by both the storage company and the Better Business Bureau ... which is supposed to be looking out for my interests, ha, ha.

But that's life in a capitalist system. If the GOP should win the next election and keep kissing the backsides of big business interests, there'll be no point in complaining about rising prices, lousy customer service, or jobs shipped overseas, because when the ruling party worships at the festooned altar of the Holy Church of the Mystical Job Creator***, Joe Consumer is completely unimportant and beneath notice.

Unless, of course, he's late with his rent ... in which case he gets plenty of notice.

And my rent will continue to go up every July, whether or not that elevator is ever repaired and inspected.

End of rant. I'll let you know if the elevator is ever fixed.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

* The obvious solution, of course, is to get rid of most of the stuff that's stored there. Unfortunately, for a lot of reasons that's not an option.

** He really didn't put it that way, but his explanations made about as much sense.

*** Let me hear you say, "Hallelujah!" ... then look around for all those jobs they're supposed to have created.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Favorite Movie Scenes


There's an Internet meme that pops up from time to time asking one to name one's favorite movie scenes. I don't usually like to do memes (because they end up getting you tagged for millions of other memes, most of which are stupid or uninteresting), but I rather liked this one because I love movies. In this regard, I'm right up there with one of my favorite singing groups, the Statler Brothers ...



And so I'll share with you, Dear Readers, some of my favorite movie scenes (and I apologize in advance for some of the ads that come up before the clip starts ... they're a pain, but they're the price of YouTube) ...

From "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King": in the face of overwhelming odds, King Theoden* rallies his troops at the siege of Gondor:



The first 20 minutes of "Saving Private Ryan":



The battle between the Enterprise and the Reliant in "Start Trek: The Wrath of Khan"**:



Taylor finds the wreckage of the Statue of Liberty on the beach in "Planet of the Apes":



Although it's no longer politically correct nowadays to honor or show any sympathy for those who fought for the Confederacy, this scene of Pickett's Charge from the movie "Gettysburg" has to call forth respect for the courage of those who charged at the Union line:



And finally, from the same film but from the other side's perspective, the 20th Maine on Little Round Top, outnumbered and out of ammunition, routs the Confederate attack with a bayonet charge led by ... of all people ... General Joshua Chamberlain, an English professor from Bowdoin College:



I have a lot of other "favorite" scenes ... what are some of yours? Leave a comment.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

* I love the acting by Bernard Hill ... the way his expression starts with one of desperation and horror, then sets into one of, "screw you, orcs, we're coming for your heads!"

** The starships are much better actors than William Shatner.