Saturday, February 28, 2009

Cartoon Saturday

A topless coffee shop has made a big hit in Maine; Mexican drug wars are spilling over the border to threaten American border towns; the economy had contracted at the fastest rate in a quarter-century at the end of last year; the Vice President has convened a task force on the Middle Class (that will certainly make things better); and Chinese police shot a Tibetan monk who set himself on fire after local authorities had forbidden a group of monks to observe a traditional prayer festival.

Thank goodness for Cartoon Saturday!

Nothing like being able to look at the bright side of things...

You can tell things are getting bad with the economy when even the big law firms are letting people go. I wonder if they wrote their own contracts...

Rodney Dangerfield used to complain that when he called the suicide prevention hotline, they put him on hold. I wonder if that happens here...

I'm always worried about using some of those powerful drain cleaners for fear that they might wreck my plumbing. I'm ready to try the green, eco-friendly approach...

Everyone needs some help in the kitchen from time to time...

And finally, a clever take on the old cowboy song "Home on the Range" ...

The next few days here in Virginia look like they'll be pretty yucky, weather-wise. Hope they're better where you are. Looks like a good time to sit in front of the fire and read or watch some of those DVDs.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Friday, February 27, 2009

Making Sense of the Statistics. Not.

Everyone has an opinion on the we got into this mess, how to get out of it, and whether or not one party or the other is recklessly hell-bent on ruining the country with its ludicrous policies. As for the last one, well, it's a big country, and it takes both Republicans and Democrats working together to really bring it to its knees. I guess we'll be okay, then, because there's no chance of the Republicans ever stooping to work with the Democrats, and the Democrats are too busy in the short term sticking it to the Republicans in revenge for the Republicans doing it to them when they were in power. I have a mental image of President Obama addressing a joint session of Congress and starting his speech with something like, "Now children, play nicely..."

But I digress.

As I've often moaned in this space, part of my problem with making sense of the economy is that I don't know what numbers to trust. Both sides of any economic argument can march out mighty battalions of numbers and percentages and ratios, reinforced by endless divisions of spun history, to "prove" that their side of the argument is totally correct, and you're a brainless moron if you don't see it. What it actually proves is that statistics are like prisoners in damp and lightless dungeons: if you torture them long enough, they'll tell you whatever you want to hear. Which brings me to the intellectual knife fight I've been carrying on with my friend Anonymous over the last few weeks...

It all started back on the 15th of this month when Suzy Q commented on my post "Danger - Political Rant. Keep Back 50 Feet." I had complained that I couldn't understand the Republican reliance on tax cuts as the answer to all economic ills, and Suzy Q offered a link to a document she thought would help me understand. Since Anonymous is always proving his arguments by telling me to "look it up," I decided to do that: I followed Suzy Q's link and found this April 1996 report of the House Joint Economic Committee - The Reagan Tax Cuts: Lessons for Tax Reform. The first thing I noted when I read it (although you have to look to find it) was that it was not a product of the entire "Joint Economic Committee," but rather of its Republican members; thus, it provides the expected glowing review of the efficacy of tax cuts as an economic stimulus measure. The next thing I noticed was that its arguments were buttressed by two references and no footnotes.

Trolling on through the Joint Economic Committee's website, I found another report. This one was titled "Extending the Bush Tax Cuts is the Wrong Way to Stimulate the Economy," and it was dated April 2008. It's cover clearly specified that it was a report by the majority (i.e., Democratic) staff of the committee and, as you might suspect, it takes the exact opposite viewpoint, demonstrating (with two pages of references and a bazillion footnotes) that tax cuts don't work. I'll e-mail you a copy if you want to read it.

So who's right? Even allowing that the two reports were published 12 years apart, there seems to be a radical difference in how the history and the statistics are interpreted. Do tax cuts work or don't they? Is it any wonder that the American people don't know who to trust when they are asked to support a particular philosophical approach to resolving the fiscal crisis?

I guess my hero Will Rogers knew what he was talking about when he said that the income tax has made more liars of the American people than golf has.

And I'm still confused about the economy and unlikely to be unconfused any time soon.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

How Old Is Opa?

I generally object on principle to a lot of the e-mails that zip around, carrying overly simplistic rants or overly rosy pictures of "how much better things used to be." This one, though, has just enough truth to it to make me pause for thought. As I watch Marcy, Joe, Noah, and Leya grow up, sooner or later they're going to ask how things were when Opa was young...

And I might answer with just about all of this circulating e-mail reminiscence...

“Well, let's see...I was born before: television; penicillin; polio shots; frozen foods; Xerox; contact lenses; Frisbees; and The Pill.

“There were no credit cards, laser beams, or ball-point pens.

“Man had not invented panty hose, air conditioners, dishwashers, or clothes dryers (mom hung the clothes out to dry in the fresh air unless it was raining, and then she hung them in the basement), and man hadn’t yet walked on the moon

“Every family had a father and a mother, unless one or the other was dead.

“Until I was 25, I called every man older than me, ‘Sir.’ And after I turned 25, I still called police officers and every man with a title, ‘Sir.’

“We didn't have gay rights, computer dating, dual careers, day-care centers, or group therapy.

“Our parents taught us to live by the Ten Commandments, good judgment, and common sense.

“We were taught to know the difference between right and wrong, and to take responsibility for our actions. Serving your country was a privilege, and living in America was a bigger privilege.

“We thought fast food was what people ate during Lent.

“Having a meaningful relationship meant getting along with your cousins.

“Draft dodgers were people who closed their front doors when the evening breeze started.

“Time-sharing meant time the family spent together in the evenings and weekends…not purchasing condominiums.

“We didn't have FM radios, tape decks, CDs, electric typewriters, or yogurt, and guys didn't wear earrings.

“We listened to the Big Bands, Jack Benny, and the President’s speeches on the radio.

“And I don’t ever remember any kid blowing his brains out listening to Tommy Dorsey.

“If you saw anything with ‘Made in Japan’ on it, it was junk.

“ ‘Making out’ referred to how you did on your school exam.

“We had 5 & 10-cent stores where you could actually buy things for 5 and 10 cents.

“Ice-cream cones, phone calls, rides on a streetcar, and a Pepsi were all a nickel, and if you didn’t want to splurge, you could spend your nickel on enough stamps to mail a letter and two postcards.

“You could buy a new Chevy Coupe for $600, . . but who could afford one? Too bad, because gas was 11 cents a gallon.

“And we were the last generation to actually believe that a lady needed a husband to have a baby No wonder people call us ‘old and confused’ and say there is a generation gap... and how old do you think I am?

"This really old man...would be only 59 years old."


I'll be 58 this year, and I can relate to almost all of the above. As I said, much of it is overly simplistic (what would that $600 car have cost in 2009 dollars, or the 11-cent-per-gallon gas in the context of an early 1950's wage?), but it does show how much things have changed just in my lifetime.

It's something to think about as I get ready for that 40th high school reunion coming up in October.

That's all for now...time to creak off to work.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It Came from the Blog Fodder File - Part 3

I have lots of things I want to write about this morning, but unfortunately I need also to use this time to make some notes for Day 2 of the conference I'm instead of the profound and insightful comments you were expecting on President Obama's speech and the Republican response, here are a few random things from my overflowing Blog Fodder file...

Have you heard about the new breakfast menu at Denny's honoring Nadya Suleyman, the mother of the California octuplets? The Octo-Slam has 14 eggs, no sausage, and the other diners have to pay your bill.

Mike Peters, editorial cartoonist extraordinaire, identified the intersection between Hollywood and Congress very well this past week...

A few excellent quotes from my I-Wish-I'd-Said-That file...

"But thus do I counsel you, my friends: distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful!"
- Friedrich Nietzsche

"I went to the store the other day to buy a bolt for our front door, for as I told the storekeeper, the Governor was coming here. Aye, said he, and the Legislature too. Then I will take two bolts, said I."
- Henry David Thoreau

"God is love, but get it in writing."
- Gypsy Rose Lee

"To go to a church expecting to find the Divine is like going to a prostitute to find true affection and love. At best, you'll get an aproximation of what you were seeking, you'll end up having to pay for it in time and money, and will be ridiculed if you're not completely satisfied with the result."
- Jack G. Montgomery

"A sociologist is a scientist who blames crime on everything and everyone, except the person who commits it."
- Laurence J. Peter

All the world's a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed."
- Sean O'Casey

And finally, here's a marvelous website I stumbled on the other day - The site features videotaped lectures on many topics from professors at major colleges and universities...and it's FREE. The downside is, of course, that you can't ask questions and don't get any academic credit. The upside is that you get great lectures from great instructors...and it's FREE. And did I mention that it's free? You're already wasting enough time at the computer...why not spend some of that time expanding your mind somewhere else besides Bilbo's place?

That's all for now...gotta do some of that unfortunate work stuff before heading out to slay the day's dragons.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Blundering Down Memory Lane

I've been traveling down memory lane quite a bit lately, since I received the postcard announcing the 40th (gasp!) reunion of my high school graduating class. Well, not memory lane, exactly. In my case it's more like memory weed-overgrown-barely-visible-footpath, my memory being what it is.

And I've also been enjoying others' memories - if you haven't been following Fiona's ongoing serial story of her engagement and wedding, you're missing a true classic. Don't read it with your mouth full unless you want to make an enemy of whoever may be sitting nearby.

But Fiona's wedding tale (which hasn't gotten to the wedding night yet...dammit, Fiona, write faster!) reminded me of my own wedding all these many years ago. Agnes and I were married in a civil ceremony at the local registry office (Standesamt), and it was a very nice affair, right down to the paparazzo who was hanging around and shot the (very) candid pictures of us. The best part though, as you might suspect, was linguistic...

Agnes is German. Her maid of honor was German. I spoke fluent German, as did my best man. Nevertheless, because I was an American, the nice lady who married us wanted to be absolutely sure I knew what I was getting into, so she did the entire ceremony in both English and German. Unfortunately, something was lost in the translation...

Original German (summary translation): the two of you have come here on this day in the presence of your friends to join your lives together in matrimony and to live together in blah, blah, blah more flowery language, raise your children and honor and respect each other and more blah, blah, blah, etc, etc.

English Translation: "Yew haff come here today to get married."

Well, it wasn't quite that bad, but it was close.

We did, actually, get married that September day long ago, and things have been fine ever since, even on those days Agnes had occasion to wonder what she was thinking when she married such an eejit (thanks, Fiona!)

But back to the high school reunion...

I was somewhat distressed at our 30-year reunion back in 1999 at how many people I didn't recognize. Of course, I don't look very much like I did at graduation, either. If one of my female friends said at the time that I looked like a Presbyterian minister in my yearbook picture, what would she think I look like now? And what does a Presbyterian minister look like, anyhow? I think she probably had a mental picture of a tall, gaunt, ascetic fellow with the corners of his mouth permanently set at 8:20 (with apologies to those of you who may, actually, be Presbyterian ministers).

I got brave and posted a few then-and-now pictures on my Facebook page, which is visited by a handful of my old high school friends, so there are at least a few of us who will recognize each other behind the time-worn wreckage that has replaced the 18-year old babes and studs who marched out into the world 40 years ago.

This is going to be interesting...but you'll have to wait until October to see how it actually comes out.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Little-Known Laws

I believe in obeying the law. When you think about it, the willingness to obey laws represents our willingness to sacrifice some of our personal freedom for the greater good and safety, and it's one of the things that sets us apart from other animals. More or less. Some laws are unjust, of course, and we are fortunate to live in a country that allows us ways to petition to have them changed. Some laws are just dumb. And some laws are unwritten, but no less binding...

The Law of Inconvenient Lubrication - After your hands become coated with grease, your nose will begin to itch and you'll have to pee.

Heisenberg's Corollary to the Law of Gravity - Any tool, when dropped, will roll to the least accessible location and randomly change its location as you blindly grope for it.

The Law of Observational Probability - The probability of being watched is directly proportional to the stupidity of your act.

The Law of Random Numbers - If you dial a wrong number, you never get a busy signal and someone always answers.

The Law of Conservation of Alibis - If you tell the boss you were late for work because you had a flat tire, the very next morning you will have a flat tire.

The Law of Variation of Rates of Movement - If you change checkout lines in a store, or traffic lanes, the one you were in will always move faster than the one to which you moved.

Bilbo's Law of Event Arrival - At any event, the people whose seats are furthest from the aisle will arrive last, will be very large, and will require that everyone in the row stand up so that they can squeeze past. At least one will step on your foot.

The Starbucks Law of Declining Temperature - As soon as you sit down to a cup of hot coffee, your boss will ask you to do something which will last until the coffee is cold.

Murphy's Law of Locker Selection - If there are only two people in a locker room, they will have adjacent lockers.

The Law of Physical Surfaces - The chances of an open-faced jelly sandwich landing face down on a floor covering are directly correlated to the newness and cost of the carpet/rug.

The Law of Theoretically Logical Argument - Anything is possible if you don't know what you are talking about (see Congress).

Brown's Law of Physical Appearance - If the clothes fit, they're ugly.

Wilson's Law of Commercial Marketing Strategy - As soon as you find a product that you really like, they will stop making it (has anyone seen the Mexican beer called Simpatico that disappeared years ago?).

The Law of Medical Treatment Necessity - If you don't feel well and make an appointment to go to the doctor, by the time you get there you'll feel better. If you don't make an appointment, you'll stay sick.

Bilbo's First Law of Automotive Thermodynamics - the amount of time needed for your car's heater to become fully operational can be calculated by subtracting one minute from the total amount of time necessary for the trip. If the outside air temperature is below zero degrees Fahrenheit, subtract five seconds from this figure for each degree below zero.

There are lots of other such laws, but you get the idea. It's just part of life.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Cartoons, Conversations, and Common Sense

Most of my readers look forward to Cartoon Saturday for a bit of a lift from the relentless bad news of the rest of the week, and that's why I've come to do it as a regular feature of this blog. Well, that, plus it gives me a day on which I don't have to do a great deal of thinking about deeper topics.

But cartoons can have the opposite effect, too.

Look at how many people died in the explosion of "Muslim rage" over the cartoons of Mohammed published in a Danish newspaper a few years ago. And look at the outburst of self-righteous anger over the now-infamous Dead Chimp cartoon published in the New York Post this past Wednesday.

For those of you who live overseas and haven't heard about this row, and for those of you who may just be returning from vacations in the Oort Cloud, here's the Reader's Digest version of the story: a NYP cartoonist combined two stories - the difficulty in crafting an economic stimulus package, and the police shooting of a homicidal pet chimpanzee - to create a cartoon showing two police officers viewing a bullet-riddled chimp and remarking, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."

For the record, I thought the cartoon was dumb, but I understood the point: that the stimulus bill was such a mess that it could have been put together by a bunch of chimps. Many, though, including shameless opportunists like Al Sharpton, immediately thundered that the cartoon was racist because it likened President Obama to a chimp. The NAACP has demanded that the cartoonist be fired, and CNN's commentator Roland Martin has claimed the cartoon is an insult to black persons in general.

Now, step back a moment and think about the speech delivered by Attorney General Eric Holder earlier this week in which he called the United States "a nation of cowards" because "we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race."

This is true.

To the extent that we "talk with each other" about race, the conversation generally tends to be one-sided, with each side trying to outshout and outlecture the other, and any attempt to hold to equal standards of thought and behavior immediately criticized as "racist." It's hard to hold a conversation when everyone's shouting and noone's listening.

Those who thought that former DC mayor Marion Barry ought to go to jail for tax evasion have been called racists by some, as if race trumps respect for the law, the performance of civil obligations, and setting a good example.

Sensitivity to the feelings of others is an important lesson we're all supposed to learn as we grow up. But so is moderation. As long as we are spring-loaded to perceive insult where none exists, and to react with anger to things that are patently silly, we're never going to have Mr Holder's conversation. Julian Bond, the chairman of the NAACP, said that the offending cartoon "... was an invitation to assassination of the president of the United States and anyone who was not offended by it doesn't have any sensibilities."

Well, I wasn't offended by it, and I like to think of myself as a reasonably sensitive person. I thought it was silly, but I think it's a real stretch to view it as "an invitation to assassination of the president." President Obama didn't write the stimulus bill, Congress did...although it's much easier to focus attention on one president than on 535 members of Congress riven by political differences and lacking in ability to discuss and compromise.

Are you offended by this...?

Was your first thought that it implied that all bloggers are of one race, or was it that there are a lot of dumb bloggers out there? When you hear the old saying that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually produce the collected works of Shakespeare, do view it as racist, or as a silly and meaningless analogy?

It's time to take a deep breath, sit back, and start having Mr Holder's conversation, instead of seeking opportunties for discord and harping on perceived slights for political advantage and TV coverage.

My mother was fond of saying that little things affect little minds. And we seem to have no shortage of either.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Cartoon Saturday

A woman remains in in critical condition after being mauled by her friend's pet chimpanzee; Socks, the pet cat of former President Bill Clinton and his family, has been put to sleep; Zimbabwe's cholera epidemic is getting worse; US auto makers are asking for billions of dollars in additional loans in lieu of building cars people actually want to buy; unemployment is still high and going higher; and one of the most-watched YouTube videos this week is of a fight in the yard of a Wisconsin middle school.

Aren't you glad Cartoon Saturday is here to help you get over the bad news?

Season Eight of "Dancing with the Stars" is only a few weeks away! I'm ready...

It's wonderful to watch our grandchildren grow and develop and acquire new skills...

I guess I shouldn't feel so bad about my foot problems...

Global warming, global's cold out there! ...

It's interesting how new gadgets can be made more user-friendly and easy to understand (except for video recorders, of course)...

And finally, go ahead and admit that you really knew, deep down, that this is the way the financial management industry actually looks at us...

Got more to worry about? Don't worry - Cartoon Saturday will be back next week to help you get through it. Until then, though, you're on your own.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Stop the Presses!!

Now, wait a minute..."stop the presses!" is an old cliche that refers to the old-time newspaper industry, when the cigar-chomping city editor would shout this at his hapless press operator in response to some fabulous, Pulitzer-quality story that had just crossed his desk.

But it makes no sense in the age of the Internet, does it?

What do you say nowadays? "Impede the flow of electrons!!" ??

Well, I digress...but for a reason.

We stop the presses this morning for this amazing story from CNN Online: Men See Bikini-Clad Women As Objects, Psychologists Say.

I'm shocked! Shocked, I say! Who would have thought such a thing?

And who would have paid for a study to prove it?

Susan Fiske, a professor of psychology at Princeton University, told the CNN reporter that "This is just the first study which was focused on the idea that men of a certain age view sex as a highly desirable goal, and if you present them with a provocative woman, then that will tend to prime goal-related responses."

Yes, I've been known to experience prime goal-related responses. Somewhat less frequently as I grow older, but I know whereof the good professor speaks.

Professor Fiske's study involved showing photographs of fully-clothed and bikini-clad women to men for a fraction of a second, then measuring the activity shown in different parts of their brains. The result was that men tended to show more activity in the brain areas associated with handling tools and intending to perform actions, and to remember the bikini-clad women's bodies better than those of fully-clothed women. The CNN report goes on to address a supplementary study on both male and female undergraduates, which found that men tend to associate bikini-clad women with first-person action verbs such as "I push," "I handle," and "I grab," instead of third-person forms such as "she pushes," "she handles," and "she grabs." On the other hand, they associated fully-clothed women with the third-person forms, indicating these women were perceived as in control of their own actions. Women who took the test did not show this effect, according to Professor Fiske.

I think I wasted my time studying the reconstruction of dead languages in college.

Dr. Charles Raison, a psychiatrist and director of the Mind/Body Institute at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, wasn't involved in Professor Fiske's study, but had his own take on what it meant, noting that both women and men have something to learn from such research: women should be aware of how they are perceived when wearing provocative clothing, and men shouldn't let feelings of impersonal sexual longing interfere with their more personal relationships with other women, including female friends. "Many men make foolish choices because of sexual attraction," Dr Raison said.

Bilbo said, "Duh..."

I think the subject requires additional study. Therefore, I ask all of my female readers to e-mail me photographs of yourselves in bikinis so that I can evaluate the work of Professor Fiske. For purely scientific reasons, of course.

I'll let you know how it comes out.

Have a good day. Cartoon Saturday's coming.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Write Stuff, Part 2, and Lost 2: The Pentagon

Sometimes the planets just line up and things happen serendipitously (wow...I didn't think I could spell a word that long this early in the morning).

Yesterday I wrote about writing, as in cursive handwriting, and its decline. I got lots of comments from my online family, most of them variations on the theme of Boy Is My Handwriting Yucky. This morning, my Joke of the Day e-mail contained this piece:

When you write copy, you have the right to copyright the copy you write, if the copy is right. If, however, your copy falls over, you must right your copy. If you write religious services, you write rites and have the right to copyright the rites you write. Conservative people write right copy and have the right to copyright the right copy they write. A right wing cleric would write right rites and has the right to copyright the right rites he has the right to write. His editor has the job of making the right rite copy right before the copyright can be right. Should Thomas Wright decide to write a right rite, then Wright would write a right rite, which Wright has the right to copyright. Duplicating that rite would copy Wright's right rite and violate copyright, which Wright would have the right to right. Is that about right?

Didja get that? I hope so, because I'm not even going to try to repeat it.

New topic.

I've become a big fan of the wonderfully weird TV show Lost...I'm working my way through the first four seasons on DVDs, and am just as confused as everyone else who's ever tried to figure out what's going on with the hatches, polar bears, smoke monsters, ghosts, "Others," and other things. But it has occurred to me that I'm living in my own version of Lost, because I work in the Pentagon. Those of you who have been stationed there (yes, Katherine, I'm talking to you) will understand. The rest of you, take a few minutes and read this article from yesterday's Washington Post: The Building That Runs Rings Around the Wiliest Generals. I feel like Indiana Jones trying to find his way into some vine-festooned old ruin...except that in Washington, the vine-festooned old ruins are all serving in Congress.

That's all for now. I have to find something to pack for lunch, then head off to once again try to find my office in the Five-Sided Squirrel Cage on the Potomac. It's not as easy as you think.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Write Stuff

I recently finished reading a fascinating book by Kitty Burns Florey titled Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting. It's a very interesting look at the development of writing systems, the history of cursive script, and the declining art of writing things (other than shopping lists) by hand. Nowadays, children learn to print, then to "keyboard." The elegant cursive script learned by those of us of a certain age is not much addressed, and the value of good handwriting is minimized.

Those of you who have received my letters and postcards know that my handwriting is the sorrow of the nuns who tried to beat the Palmer Method into me in grade school...
Nevertheless, good handwriting, like good speaking, is an important component of how we are perceived by others. Time was that elegant handwriting was a sign of a good education and general social grace. Nowadays we print or type, and typewritten letters offer no sense of the personal effort that went into the creation of the epistle. For business writing, typing may be all right...for personal correspondence, there's nothing like ink on paper in one's own hand.

Ms Florey discusses the development of various writing systems and the evolution of writing instruments, from sharpened reeds to quills to dipping pens to various types of fountain pens, ballpoints, rollerballs, felt-tips, etc. You can even learn to make your own ink.

She also refers you to a wonderful website called Omniglot, a guide to the writing systems and languages of the world. At this site you can find all the various alphabets of the world - present and past, real and imagined. Trekkies can find Klingon and Romulan, and fans of The Lord of the Rings will find Tolkien's Dwarvish and Elvish scripts (although the Dwarvish runes are mischaracterized as the alphabet of the orcs). You can also find pronunciation guides and hints for learning foreign languages. You don't need to have a degree in Linguistics to enjoy the site and find it fascinating.

Do you have the write stuff? Read Ms Florey's book, check out Omniglot, and find out by writing Ol' Bilbo a letter.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Only As Old As You Feel...

You may recall from yesterday's post that Agnes and I spent yesterday at our daughter's home, helping take care of Leya while a workman installed their home security system.


If it's true that you're only as old as you feel, this morning I feel like I've passed Mike in the superannuation sweepstakes. Amanda's comment on yesterday morning's post is particularly appropriate...she said: "I think all grandfathers have that kind of dread about a full day with the grandchild. They love it but at the same time, they know they are going to be completely wiped out. My mom told me that my dad would keep disappearing whenever they were watching Aaron. It turned out that he was sneaking cat naps!"

I didn't get any of those cat naps, but we did have a great ... if exhausting ... time. Here's part of the story in pictures...

In Japan, I've heard that the girls walk on your back. In Virginia, it's a little different...

An energetic toddler can be challenging enough...but when she double-teams you with the dog, things are tough...

No lying down on the job, Opa! Sit up!

Now roll over!

This was the prelude to her patting me gently on the back to make me go to sleep, the way the teachers at her day care center do. As you might suspect, no actual sleep was involved.

Time to help mama fold the formerly-clean shirt from the laundry basket...

But there are more important things to do with that shirt, like playing "Where's Leya?" ...

Or having a tug-of-war with Oma...

Or helping mama polish the floor ...

Want to know how I felt at the end of the day? Check my profile photo. But there's nothing like a happy, loving grandchild to make you feel both exhausted and fulfilled.

Now, it's time to go to work so I can relax.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Yet Another Way to Waste Time...

I wasn't wasting enough time blogging, so I decided to start up a Facebook page. Or site. Or whatever you call a Facebook place.

Actually, that's not quite true.

I created the Facebook thingy several years ago because we needed one to access the Facebook location of someone else we wanted to get in touch with. Within a week or so, I had done a mental RAM dump and forgotten the password. Then, during the last week, two things happened: I got a postcard announcing the 40th reunion (AARRGGHH!!) of my 1969 high school graduating class; and someone suggested I use Facebook as a way of staying in contact with friends.

I thought about it, and remembered that I already had a Facebook thingamajig out there in the ether somewhere with nothing in it. After a few hours of trying every password I could think of, I finally got back into it, then spent a few more hours over the last two or three days filling it up with stuff. Much of the work had already been done for my blog, so that much was easy. And I only have about 750 billion digital photos to select from, so that was sort of easy. And now, presto! Bilbo is also up on Facebook. Within a day, I had six friends established there. If you are interested in reaching me via this new time-waster, e-mail me (bilbo_the_blogger(at)yahoo(dot)com) and we'll work it out somehow...I'm still not sure how the whole thing works.

Today will be a busy day...we're going to spend the day at our daughter's house, helping to take care of Leya while the house crawls with workmen installing their new security system. Leya can tire us out in a normal two- or three-hour visit...I can only imagine what she can do to us in a full day.

If I don't post tomorrow, it's because I'm still asleep.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Danger - Political Rant. Keep Back 50 Feet.

As a blogger, I'm delighted that we have the sort of bloviating lunatics in Congress that we do, because it means I'll never run out of things to blog about. As a citizen with a functioning brain (no comments, please, Mike and Fiona), I'm appalled at the ludicrous antics of our elected reprehensives as they do their best to make political hay out of the worst economic crisis since the Depression.

Nobody's blameless here. Both sides have plenty to answer for, both in creating the current mess and in pointing fingers at each other for perpetuating it. But yesterday's Republican Weekly Radio Address by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was so far over the top I was ready to move to someplace like Zimbabwe where they understand sound financial management and cooperative relationships between political parties. You can listen to Senator Murkowski's address and read the text by using the hyperlink I provided...but unless you're a brain-dead, die-hard, bottled-in-bond, aged-in-wood, dyed-in-the-wool, head-up-and-locked, hide-bound conservative who just knows the Republican party has all the answers and all Democrats have pointed tails and are hell-bent on ruining the country, you may want to have a large-capacity bucket available to throw up into.

The first thing that astounds me is the sheer gall of taking the gently aggrieved position that those irresponsible Democrats aren't being bipartisan and taking our fiscally responsible positions into account. In point of fact, the Democratic majority isn't doing anything any different than the Republicans did when they were in the majority. Steamrolling the opposition when you are in a position of strength is a well-recognized, if despicable, Congressional tradition. The difference here is that President Obama, whatever else you may think of him, has made herculean efforts to court what in most countries would be a loyal opposition. Sadly, the only loyalty on the opposition side of the aisle seems to be to the most radical end of the Republican continuum, represented by self-important windbags like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly.

Senator Murkowski goes on to lament the cost of the stimulus package, noting that all the money will, one way or another, have to be borrowed. "All this spending adds up," she gently admonishes, "and has to be paid back -- paid back by our children and their children." Well, fancy that...I've been saying this for months, and I don't even have a radio show to whine on any more. The senator fails to mention that the standard Republican solution for all problems is tax cuts. How waving the magic wand of tax cuts, which decrease government income, will help the government to pay its bills still mystifies me, although it appears to be quite clear to the few people who still believe in trickle-down economics. One might also ask where the Republicans were when their president over the past eight years led us into a ruinously expensive war of questionable need, then paid for it off the books to hide the true cost from the American people...all the while castigating those who questioned it as weak-kneed, un-American supporters of terrorism or worse.

Senator Murkowski ended her address with these words: " Republicans continue to pursue policies that strengthen our economy and create jobs, we'll insist that taxpayers aren't only protected -- but also well informed. Republicans in Congress have pledged to work with the majority party. It's my hope that they take us up on our offer as we closely monitor how and where this money is spent." The clear insult she delivers to the President and the current majority party is that they do not wish to strengthen the economy and create jobs - only to spend money as recklessly as Republicans have done when they had the chance. Pork-barrel spending is not the personal trough of either party. She claims that Republicans in Congress have pledged to work with the majority party...and yet 100% - every single one - of the House Republicans voted against the economic stimulus package. And how close an accounting of government spending have they wished when they were in the majority, busily digging (with the contrivance of bone-headed Democratic policies, to be sure) the economic hole into which we have now fallen? I wish she would have delivered this address on television so I could see if she was able to keep a straight face while earnestly delivering such a load of bald-faced horse hockey.

It's been a long time since I've been so enraged by a political speech. Senator Murkowski's sincere, breathless, we-know-what's-right-but-they-refuse-to-listen-to-us hyperbole makes me sick. Political cartoonist Pat Oliphant said things about as well as I ever could...and in fewer words:

I love my country. But I often wonder how much those we elect to run it do. When they can deliver ludicrous drivel like Senator Murkowski's speech instead of thoughtful debate and principled cooperation and compromise, I have to wonder.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cartoon Saturday - Valentine's Day Edition

Fifty people have been killed in a terrible airplane crash in Buffalo; in Iraq, a female suicide bomber blew herself up in a crowd of women and children on their way to a religious festival, murdering at least 38 and wounding 50; House Republicans demonstrated their commitment to bipartisanship by voting 100% against the President's proposed economic stimulus legislation; money has actually been spent to remake the "classic" slasher film Friday the 13th; and Peanut Corporation of America has filed for bankruptcy after peddling tainted peanut products that sickened 600 people and killed nine.

Don't shove...there's room enough here at Cartoon Saturday for everyone who needs a break from the relentlessly bad news.

For Cartoon Saturday's special Valentine's Day edition, we have a mix of old classic and new classic cartoons that pull the concealing veil off the reality of love ...

This cartoon has been in my collection for years, and pretty much sums things up ...

The sentiment is updated pretty well by this more contemporary cartoon from the wonderfully twisted comic strip Lio ...

You can say it with flowers, or you can say it with ... well ... never mind ...

Disclaimer: this was not how Agnes and I celebrated our 25th anniversary ...

There are Valentines, and there are Valentines. I've never gotten one quite like this, but it's been close ...

And finally, I loved this one if only because it was such a clever and unexpected twist on the old Cupid thing ...

If you haven't been to the big blogparty at Craziequeen's Palace yet, check it out right still have a few hours before it's over, and she's got a great virtual dance floor!

And speaking of dance floors, we had a great Valentine's party at Studio One last night. There was a nice, very red crowd ... yes, that's me in the front, with Agnes's gently restraining hand on my shoulder ...

The ladies had a good time with Leslie's "Build Your Own Boyfriend" kit. You'd be surprised at the variety of different stick-on clothes and accessories that found their way to the figure's ... um ... nether regions. And Melissa did, finally, get something to eat.

Hope you have a fun Valentine's Day with your beloved. Or with your husband or wife, ha, ha. Don't forget Craziequeen's blogparty.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Countdown to Valentine's Day, and Becoming a Better Person

Yesterday I shared with you the approach to Valentine's Day taken in the progressive and gentle kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where the religious police enforce a ban on things red in the days leading up to that horribly satanic day. Today, we have this interesting article, sent to me by my friend Leslie: "Loose" Women Launch Pink Panty Protest. Yes, lest you think that only ultra-conservative Muslim clerics with their clue chutes up and welded shut get hysterical about Valentine's Day, from India comes this story about normal women protesting the self-appointed morality police of the ultra-conservative Hindu organization Sri Ram Sena. The ladies say their mission is to "go bar-hopping on February 14 and send hundreds of pink knickers to Sri Ram Sena," which believes that pubs are for men and that women should stay home, have children, and cook meals for their men. Go, ladies!

For my part, I always enjoy our Valentine's Day dance party, where everyone is encouraged to wear red, and I am always amazed by what beautiful dance dresses can be fashioned from so little material. Sadly, there seems to be an inverse mathematical relationship between the amount of material contained in the dress and its cost.

Speaking of dancing, if you haven't seen Mike's blog this morning, he has a great video clip of a Lindy Hop competition, and said he thinks Agnes and I are in the crowd somewhere. I wish. Forty years ago I could have danced like, the somewhat slower dances are more my speed. Of course, if you're going to dance anyhow, why not pick a dance in which you can hold a beautiful lady close enough to smell the perfume, rather than dribbling her across the floor like a basketball?

Earlier this week, CNN published this article from The Frisky: Ten Ways to Become a Better Person. If, like me, you need help, here's the list (with my commentary, of course):

1. Pack your own lunch. Yep, I've got that one down.

2. Call your mom for no reason. Mom passed away long ago...I wish I could.

3. Volunteer. The way the economy is going, it may be the only way you'll be able to work.

4. Tip, even if your order was messed up. I'll usually tip unless the server was just downright rude, clueless, or clearly incompetent. I may need a reference from them someday.

5. Get over a grudge. This one's not easy. I'm only holding one grudge, but I'm nursing that one.

6. Call up an old friend. Even better, write him/her a letter. Everyone loves getting mail that doesn't demand you send money in return.

7. Bake cookies for your coworkers. Forget it. I can cook with the best of them, but I'm a hopelessly inept baker. If I have to bake anything, I subcontract the job to my daughter, who is a fabulous baker.

8. Finish your book. No problem there. I finish books all the time. I just need to write one of my own.

9. Get up 30 minutes early and make breakfast. I refuse to get up any earlier than I already do.

10. Learn something new. There's nothing like the feeling of accomplishment when you learn something outside of your normal range of interests. Someday, I hope to be able to learn how to make the clocks on all my electronics quit flashing 12:00.

As Mike has pointed out already, today is Friday the 13th. If you suffer from triskaidekaphobia, stay home, don't break any mirrors, avoid black cats, and don't walk under ladders.

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. Do something nice for your beloved. Ladies, this means you, too - there's nothing wrong with treating your guy right occasionally.

Have a good day. Cartoon Saturday is coming to help wrap up your week. Be here tomorrow.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Odds and Ends. Mostly Odds.

A few things from the Blog Fodder file...

From the delightful paradise at the heart of the ever-tolerant Middle East comes this story: Saudi Arabia Bans All Things Red Ahead of Valentine's Day. Yes, according to the bearded, frowning guardians of medieval morality, Valentine's Day "encourages immoral relations between unmarried men and women," and each year the kingdom's religious police raid stores ahead of the horrible day to make sure no red clothing, roses, Valentine's cards, or other such hideously evil things are available to tempt the pure and right-thinking citizens...who go to neighboring countries to buy red clothing, roses, Valentine's cards, and other such hideously evil things. I think I'll wear as much red as I can on Valentine's day, just on principle.

Are you a closet Taliban? According to Tudor Constantin's blog, you might be a Taliban if...

1. You refine heroin for a living, but you have a moral objection to beer.

2. You own a $3,000 machine gun and $5,000 rocket launcher, but you can't afford shoes.

3. You have more wives than teeth.

4. You wipe your butt with your bare left hand, but consider bacon "unclean."

5. You think vests come in two styles: bullet-proof and suicide.

6. You can't think of anyone you haven't declared Jihad against.

7. You consider television dangerous, but routinely carry explosives in your clothing.

8. You were amazed to discover that cell phones have uses other than setting off roadside bombs.

9. You've often uttered the phrase, "I love what you've done with your cave."

10. You have nothing against women and think every man should own at least one.

Getting back to the ever-joyous world of the Middle East, a cheerful and fun-loving Egyptian cleric named Galal al-Khatib presented, in a televised sermon, a three-step plan for men who need to discipline recalcitrant wives. You can read the full translation (and watch the exciting video) at the MEMRI website. A few highlights:

* “The first measure for reforming a disobedient wife is to admonish her. The husband should talk to her gently, reminding her of God, and reminding her that if she wants to enter Paradise, she must obey him. He must tell her that by pleasing her husband, she pleases God, and that his rights supersede the rights of her parents.”

What if she still won't obey?

* “Okay, if admonishing doesn’t work, the next measure is ‘banishment.’ Some say that the wife should be banished from his bed, while others say he should refrain from having sex with her, although I do not agree with the latter view, because having sex is one of the rights of the husband, so how can he discipline her by depriving himself of sex?”

And if all that doesn't work...

* “Okay, he’s tried admonishing, he's tried banishment - but nothing. Her emotions are numb, and she says: Good riddance. So what is the next measure? … Beating … Beating is one of the punishments of religious law ... By beating his wife, the husband is saying: You've committed a grave sin that merits beatings.”

Somehow, I don't think this is the sort of moral guidance the author of the song "Gimme That Old-Time Religion" had in mind. This is real old-time religion.

And finally for today, I found this great quote in a list of comments by police officers replying to complaints from people who were irked about getting tickets:

"Fair? You want me to be fair? Listen, fair is a place where you go to ride on rides, eat cotton candy and corn dogs, and step in monkey poop."

Just a few things to think about as you face another day in the economic trenches...

And remember: life ain't fair. Watch out for the monkey poop.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Observations on Role Models, Taxes, and Blog Comments

From the Department of They're Laughing Their Fannies Off At Us Again comes this article from The Telegraph newspaper in Britain: U.S. Porn Actress 'to run' for Senate Against Disgraced Politician. Yes, porn actress Stormy Daniels is considering a run for election to the seat of Louisiana Senator David Vitter, who is in disgrace after being connected with a ... um ... prostitute. Ms Daniels has challenged Senator Vitter to a debate, and offered to wrestle him if he refuses the face-to-face discussion of the issues. Well, all I can say is that if a senator who's a porn actress can't deliver a good stimulus package, we may as well give up.

I know you're tired of me grousing about the economy and taxes, but this one is just too good to pass up. Former Washington, DC mayor Marion Barry - superior role model for DC citizens that he is - has federal prosecutors after him yet again for failure to file his tax returns. The prosecutors cite Mr Barry's "recalcitrant" attitude toward paying his taxes, and note that the former mayor and current city council member has failed to file his returns on time in eight of the past nine years, and he is already on probation for other tax offenses. Mr Barry has called efforts to get him to pay his taxes "frivolous" and has said his tax problems are a "personal matter." I'm sure that average persons like you and I can use that excuse with the ever-understanding tax authorities. If Marion Barry isn't the poster boy for shameful refusal to do a basic civil duty, I don't know who is. What a role model for DC's citizens. This clown belongs in jail.

The Republicans are still whining that the President's proposed economic stimulus legislation doesn't contain enough tax cuts. Now, I freely admit that I don't understand higher economics...or lower economics, for that matter...but I fail to see how the government is going to pay back the $1 trillion-and-growing stimulus package if it deliberately reduces its major source of income. If you're brain-dead enough to still believe in that old snake oil about tax cuts being the answer to every economic problem, go for it. There's a chance it may help now, but when the time comes for our grandchildren to pay back all the loans the government will have to take out to make up for the lost tax revenue, they won't be singing hosannas for us.

Finally, if you haven't checked out the comments on yesterday's post about bus seat selection, go back and check out the comment posted by Moose, dealing with the creative application of knitting needles in seat selection. I knew we raised our daughter right!

That's all for now. Some of us have to get to work to make the money the government needs to tax to make up for the taxes the Marion Barrys and Tom Daschles of the world don't think they need to pay.

Maybe I can hit them up for a loan.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Psychology of Bus Seat Selection

As you know from my frequent gripes about the quality of service, I ride the bus to work. Service reliability and timeliness bitches aside, I enjoy riding the bus (or the Metro train, when I give up on the bus): it gives me about 50 minutes in which I can read or take a nap, and I don't have to worry about driving in our notorious traffic.

But I can also engage in people-watching, which is one of my favorite pastimes. And I've been thinking that I can get a PhD dissertation out of my observations of how people choose their seats on the bus.

Here are Bilbo's Random Observations on Bus Seat Selection:

1. If there are sufficient empty 2-person seats, everyone will sit by him- or herself.

2. If all the 2-person seats are occupied:

a. Women will:

(1) Sit with a woman they know;
(2) Sit with a man they know;
(3) Sit with a woman they don't know; or,
(4) Sit with a man they don't know, and pretend to sleep.

b. Men will:

(1) Quickly scan the bus, then sit next to the most attractive woman, passing up any number of available seats in order to do so.
(2) If there are no attractive women, they will sit next to anyone recognizable as a woman from the front of the bus.
(3) If there are no seats available next to women, they will sit in the available seat with the most room.

3. Attractive women sitting alone will generally pile their purses, briefcases, shopping bags, etc, on the seat next to them in order to obviate 2b(1). They may also:

a. Move their things from the seat to make room for someone they don't mind sitting with.

b. Avoid making eye contact with anyone so that they will not have to move their things from the seat and sit with someone they don't want sitting next to them.

4. Men sitting alone will discretely scan riders as they board the bus, then:

a. Discretely move their briefcase or lunch box from the adjoining seat in the hopes that an attractive woman will sit next to them.

b. If no attractive women board, leave their briefcase or lunch box on the seat next to them to prevent other men from sitting there until the next opportunity for a woman to board, when 4a again applies.

5. Bilbo will:

a. AM, local bus to local Metro Station - pick any vacant seat and read. Greet acquaintances as they board the bus, but keep briefcase and lunch pail on adjoining seat to prevent annoying persons from sitting there.

b. AM - Express Bus, local Metro Station to Pentagon - pick any vacant seat. Sleep. Wake up and get off when person in adjoining seat shakes him awake.

c. PM - Express Bus or Train, Pentagon to local Metro Station - pick any vacant seat and read. Greet acquaintances as they board the bus, but keep briefcase and lunch pail on adjoining seat to prevent annoying persons from sitting there.

d. PM - local bus to neighborhood - pick any vacant seat and read. Try not to sleep, as will usually not wake up until bus returns to the Metro Station.

6. Everyone will: avoid sitting next to people who are drunk or talking to themselves.

Well, it's time to get ready to head out for 5a. If you are a bus or Metro rail rider, what do you think...are my observations accurate? Let me know.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, February 09, 2009

The Death of Trust

Disclaimer: the title of this post isn't original - I lifted it from a very interesting article by Sin-ming Shaw reproduced at the Project Syndicate website last week.

I've long thought of economics as little more than herd psychology, and the behavior of individuals and markets in the recent meltdown of the world economy has pretty much reinforced that opinion. But Mr Shaw points out something I've heard other commentators say, if not quite so well: that much of the problem with the economy is based on the death of trust - between individuals, and in our governmental and financial institutions.

Trust is something that's harder to come by all the time, in every part of our lives. Internet scams, crooked and greedy financial firms, deceitful and hyper-partisan politicians, and the simple anonymity of the Internet have fueled a gradual decline in simple trust between people. Zipcode, in her recent blog interview with OCGirl, said that, "...I trust no one. Everyone starts with 0 trust from me and works their way up. Yeah, I know its not fair, but I constantly get burned or used."

When you think of it, trust is really what makes the world go round. We trust our spouses to be faithful to us. We trust our employers to pay us fairly and live up to the promises made when we were hired. We (grudgingly) trust our government to tax us fairly and spend the money thus collected wisely to, as the Constitution mandates, "...establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." We trust that our money is worth something because, as Mr Shaw writes, "...we collectively decide to trust the government when it says that 100 is 100, not 10 or 50. Money, therefore, is about trust, without which no society can function."

Agnes and I have different approaches to trust. I have always been a fairly trusting soul, taking people at face value...and it's gotten me burned more than once. Agnes is more or less suspicious of everybody. Sadly, I'm coming around to her way of thinking more every day. Where has my trust gone?

I don't trust anyone in the financial industry, particularly those who profess to be financial advisors. It was bad enough when I objected to the simple fact that they are the only industry that gets away with charging you money for a service they make a point in writing of not when I look at the IRA and 401k that have lost half their aggregate value in a year, I have less trust than ever.

I don't trust Republicans who whine that the Democrats are not being bipartisan...after they spent eight years treating Democrats exactly the same way when they were in power.

I don't trust Democrats who, like Republicans, are too ready to let their party's agenda be hijacked by its most extreme elements.

I wish I could be more trusting again, but it's going to be a long time before I can have the level of trust that our elected leaders need to make the country work again. And it'll be even longer before I can trust anyone in the financial industry.

And you can take that to the bank.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

Sunday Randomosity

Believe it or not, I cannot think of a single thing about which to write this morning.

Well, that's not quite true. I can think of lots of things to write about this morning. I just can't focus enough to write a full-length post about any of them.

And so, here is yet another collection of short, random things from my Blog Fodder file...

1. Miss Manners, the etiquette lady, has recently deplored "Ovation Inflation" - the tendency of audiences to give standing ovations to even the most mediocre performances. She believes this cheapens the honor represented by a standing ovation, depriving truly outstanding performers of the confirmation that they have excelled at their craft. I guess I agree. I always thought that a standing ovation was what happened when a chicken laid an egg while in an erect posture.

2. Three more Tom Swifties:

"I'm going to use a large explosive to kill the tiny mites on these fish," Tom said bombastically.

"Conifers stink," Tom opined.

"This is the best sandwich ever!", Tom cried suboptimally.

3. A list of new dog breeds recently recognized by the American Kennel Club:

Collie + Lhasa Apso - Collapso, a dog that folds up for easy transport.

Spitz + Chow Chow - Spitz-Chow, a dog that throws up a lot.

Pointer + Setter - Poinsetter, the traditional Christmas pet.

Great Pyrenees + Dachshund - Pyradachs, a puzzling breed.

Pekingese + Lhasa Apso - Peekasso, an abstract dog.

Irish Water Spaniel + English Springer Spaniel - Irish Springer, a dog fresh and clean as mountain air.

Labrador Retriever + Curly Coated Retriever - Lab Coat Retriever, the choice of research scientists.

Terrier + Bulldog - Terribull, not a good dog.

Bloodhound + Labrador - Blabrador, a dog that barks incessantly.

Malamute + Pointer - Moot Point, owned by…oh, well, it doesn’t matter anyway.

Collie + Malamute - Commute, a dog that travels to work.

Deerhound + Terrier - Derriere, a dog that’s true to the end.

Bull Terrier + Shitzu - You figure this one out.

4. Terrible joke of the day:

A man goes to the doctor’s office and moans, "Doc, you gotta check out my leg. Something's wrong. Just put your ear to my thigh; you'll hear it."

The doctor cautiously placed his ear to the man's thigh and heard, "Gimme a hundred bucks. I need a hundred bucks!"

"Why, I've never heard anything like this before! How long has this been going on?" said the doctor.

"About a week. But there's more, Doc. Put your ear to my knee."

The doctor placed his ear to the man's knee and heard, "Gimme fifty bucks. Come on, lend me fifty bucks!"

The doctor was dumbfounded. "I don't know what to tell you. I've never encountered anything like this before!"

"Wait, Doc, there's more. Put your ear to my ankle."

The doctor did and heard, "Please, gimme a twenty. All I'm askin' is a measly twenty bucks!"

The doctor shook his head. "I have no medical diagnosis for you," he said. "But I can tell you this: your leg is broke in at least three places!"

Perhaps by tomorrow morning I will have regained my focus and be able to write a proper post. Or not. You'll just have to come back to find out.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, February 07, 2009

Random Bonus Thought...

I was reading over the High School Meme post and was reminded of a story concerning Mrs Smith the Humanities teacher...

In my senior year, I had Mrs Smith's class immediately following the Civics and Government class taught by Mr Richard Horst. At one point Mrs Smith was teaching a section on the great European philosophers, and I told her that I was glad I had her class after Mr Horst's.

"Why?", she asked.

Because, I answered, it just wouldn't do to put Descartes before the Horst.

I never understood why she didn't fail me on the spot.

Cartoon Saturday

In Colorado Springs, a man armed with a Klingon sword (a bat'leth) held up two convenience stores and remains at large; actress Jennifer Anniston was in tears after finding a single gray hair; actor Christian "Batman" Bale launched a profane category 1 tantrum on the set of his new movie (using the f-word an astounding 36 times) after a crew member irritated him; in true bipartisan spirit, Democrats and Republicans in Congress are peeing on each others shoes and blaming each other for failure to be bipartisan instead of passing economic recovery legislation; and Robert Mugabe is still running Zimbabwe as his personal ATM while hundreds have died in a cholera epidemic and inflation is at 231 million percent.

Sit down, have a drink, and let Cartoon Saturday take your mind off things for a while.

One of the things that really irritates me is people who have to refer to themselves as "(insert ethnic/racial/sexual/etc group)-Americans." You're an American or you aren't. If the hypen is that important to you, go and live where you'll feel better. This rather sums up the stupidity of hyphenated people for me...

I'm always amazed at how people are always sending text messages to friends located elsewhere, their thumbs flying over tiny keyboards while they carry on halfhearted conversations with the people actually there in the room with them. They're starting earlier all the time, too...

I don't know if I should be worried that I actually understood the joke here...

I liked this one just because it was so wonderfully dumb...

Even though Amanda and Mike try to fill the gap, I still miss Numeric Life. Nobody could do numbers like she could. Except, perhaps, for ...

And finally, you know things have gone too far with junk liability lawsuits and ridiculous claims for damages caused by people's rank stupidity when you see the real impact ...

Well, now that that's out of the way, I guess I should do the usual fun things for a Saturday morning like bringing my checkbook up to date, deciding what to fix for breakfast once Agnes gets up, and renting a front-end loader to move the dirty wash down to the laundry room so I can think about washing it.

I love relaxing weekends.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Friday, February 06, 2009

Craziequeen's High School Meme

This interesting article popped up yesterday at Time Magazine online: Facebook - 25 Things I Didn't Want to Know About You. The article says that the "25 things about me" meme that apparently is running rampant on Facebook is "... just so stupid. Most people aren't funny, they aren't insightful, and they share way too much..." and that "...An estimated 5 million of these notes — that's 125 million facts — have appeared on the website within the past week. Assuming it takes someone 10 minutes to come up with their list, this recent bout of viral narcissism has sent roughly 800,000 hours of worktime productivity down the drain" (disclaimer: I don't use blog takes up time enough).

Do we really care to know that much about each other? Sometimes. I've made a fairly large number of virtual friends through this blog, people I will likely never meet in person, and I'm genuinely interested in them, in how they think, and in what they have to say. Well, except for the Japanese language videos Mike posted yesterday, maybe. I don't like to be tagged for memes, but when I find one, and it strikes my fancy, I don't mind doing it because I like to think it might be entertaining to my friends out there in the cyber world.

Which brings me to The High School Meme I picked up at Craziequeen's Palace yesterday, tucked in amid the photos of all the snow in Britain. I have mixed feelings about the four years I spent in high school, and doing this meme helped bring them back into focus for me. If you care, read on. If not, come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday...

1. Did you date someone from your high school? – Yes. Her name was Debbie. I haven't seen her since about 1970 (see #18 and #19 below).

2. Did you marry someone from your high school? – No.

3. Did you car pool to School? – No…we only lived about a half-mile from the school, and I walked. You don't see that happening nowadays.

4. What kind of car did you have? – I didn’t have a car until after I graduated from college. I was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force, and had to have my father co-sign the loan for the car because I had no established credit!

5. It is Friday night then; where are you? – Usually at home, reading or watching TV.

6. It is Friday night now, where are you? – Dancing, where else?

7. What kind of job did you have in high school? – I did lawn and garden work around the neighborhood. No one mows lawns, pulls weeds, and trims trees like I do.

8. Were you a party animal? – Not hardly.

9. Were you in band, orchestra, or choir? – No. I did run on the cross-country team, though. At one time, I was a pretty mean long-distance runner. I never finished first, but I always finished. And I acted in the junior and senior class plays and the senior year talent show.

10. Were you a nerd? – I was the standard to which all other nerds aspired. Wannabe nerds had pictures of me hanging on their walls for inspiration. One of my female friends told me that in my yearbook picture I looked like a Presbyterian minister.

11. Did you get suspended or expelled? – No. I was a good boy. The nuns beat all the rebellion out of me in grade school.

12. Can you sing the school song? – Yes. But you don’t want to hear me do it. You can tell if I'm singing because you can hear the dogs howl for miles around. If Agnes and I are singing a duet, the dogs don't bother howling ... they just leave.

13. Who was your favorite teacher? – Mrs Penny Smith, the Humanities teacher. A wonderful lady who was the true Gold Standard for teaching excellence. She passed away quite some time ago, depriving generations of students of her love of the humanities and her gift for teaching. She and my mother were kindred spirits and good friends.

14. Where did you sit during lunch? – In the cafeteria with my friends. I was usually too shy to try to sit with the girls I admired.

15. When did you graduate? – June, 1969.

16. What was your school mascot? – The Tiger.

17. If you could go back and do it again - what would you do? – Skip high school and go straight to college.

18. Did you go to the Prom? – Yes, both the Junior and the Senior Proms. I had a different date for each ... I took Nancy L. to the Junior Prom and Debbie D. to the Senior Prom. My mother taught me to dance the clutch-and-shuffle before the Junior Prom. I sure wish I had the ballroom dancing skill then that I have now...

19. Do you still talk to the person you went to the prom with? – I haven’t seen or talked to either Nancy or Debbie since I graduated from high school.

20. Do you still talk to people from your school? – I’ve traded e-mails with a few people, and I know there are some who read my blog from time to time, but the last time I actually talked to anyone from my high school was at our 30th anniversary reunion in 1999.

Okay, once again more than you ever wanted to know. How was your high school? If you want to do the meme, have at it.

Tomorrow is Cartoon Saturday, and I've got a good crop of funnies for you. Be here.

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.