Monday, January 21, 2019

National No Name-Calling Week

I was checking my online database of daily/weekly/monthly observances this past weekend and discovered that - lo and behold! - today is the start of National No Name-Calling Week - a week organized by educators and students to end name-calling and bullying in schools.

No Name-Calling Week was started in 2004, inspired by James Howe’s novel The Misfits about students who, after experiencing name-calling and bullying, run for student council on a No Name-Calling platform. And it's appropriate (if unfortunate) that we should need a week dedicated to the eradication of childish name-calling and boorish, bullying behavior.

It's especially unfortunate that we need such a week because one of the worst offenders in the realm of childish name-calling happens to sit in the chair once occupied by the likes of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt. Yes, when the President of the United States stoops to snidely and childishly taunting "Cryin' Chuck," "Pocohontas," and "Crooked Hillary," something is badly amiss.

So, Dear Readers, why not send your tweets to @realDonaldTrump ... or even write him a letter or an e-mail ... and suggest that he grow up and set an example for the nation's children ... and adults ... by stopping his use of childish name-calling and bullying, if only for one week. Just tell him to be best.

Have a good day. Don't resort to name-calling. More thoughts coming.


Sunday, January 20, 2019

Poetry Sunday

This past Wednesday we celebrated the birthday (in 1874) of Canadian poet Robert W. Service, who was known as "The Bard of the Yukon" for his stirring, lyrical poems of the northern wilderness and the people who lived there. One of my favorite Service poems is this one, which tells an eerie tall tale of Yukon adventure, and is one of my favorite poems to read aloud ...

The Cremation of Sam McGee
by Robert W. Service

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
      By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
      That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
      But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
      I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam 'round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he'd often say in his homely way that "he'd sooner live in hell."

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn't see;
It wasn't much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and "Cap," says he, "I'll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I'm asking that you won't refuse my last request."

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
"It's the curs├Ęd cold, and it's got right hold till I'm chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet 'tain't being dead—it's my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you'll cremate my last remains."

A pal's last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn't a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: "You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it's up to you to cremate those last remains."

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows— O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I'd often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the "Alice May."
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then "Here," said I, with a sudden cry, "is my cre-ma-tor-eum."

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared—such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn't like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: "I'll just take a peep inside.
I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked"; ... then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: "Please close that door.
It's fine in here, but I greatly fear you'll let in the cold and storm—
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it's the first time I've been warm."

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
      By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
      That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
      But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
      I cremated Sam McGee.

Have a good day. Stay warm. More thoughts coming.


Saturday, January 19, 2019

Cartoon Saturday

And you thought things couldn't get any worse ...

British lawmakers devastatingly rejected the Brexit plan put forward by Prime Minister Theresa May, but then kept her in office by rejecting a no-confidence vote called by the political opposition ... because who the hell wants her job?; the Trump Petulant Shutdown of the US government continued into its 28th day with no end in sight; former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen admitted paying the owner of a technology services company to help doctor results of an online poll to help Mr. Trump's presidential campaign; citing security concerns linked to the ongoing government shutdown, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote to Donald Trump suggesting a postponement of the State of the Union address scheduled for January 29th, and in return, Trump withdrew military aircraft support for her planned trip to Afghanistan; and police in Phoenix, Arizona, are investigating the discovery of the remains of a newborn baby found in the trash can of a women's restroom.

In honor of two successive weekends with winter storms, how about a salute to snowmen. Okay, snowpeople ...

Busted! ...

Freudian drip? ...

CSI: Snowfall ...

Punk snowman ...

Whatever works ...

Making a ... clean breast of things ...

Shovel it off! Shovel it all off!! ...

Sauce for the gander ...

Just a hunch ...

Snowman, updated ...

Stay warm and enjoy your weekend. More thoughts tomorrow, when we go north in winter with Poetry Sunday. See you then.


Friday, January 18, 2019

The Left-Cheek Ass Clown for January, 2019

Today is the 18th day of 2019, The Trump Petulant Government Shutdown of 2018/2019 is 27 days old, and it's time to name

The Left-Cheek Ass Clown for January, 2019

I was sorely tempted to once again name Mitch McConnell as the dishonoree but, although (having been an awardee six times since 2012) he's close to receiving our second Lifetime Achievement Award (Donald Trump received the first), there are other deserving Ass Clowns who are doing their part to drive the nation to social, political, and economic ruin. And so it is that I have decided to bestow the Left-Cheek award for January to Trump Whisperer

This is the third award for Senator Graham (his first was in November of 2014, and the second was a joint Left-Cheek award in September of 2017). Senator Graham has become the most steadfast and stalwart defender of whatever Donald Trump says or does, regardless of how silly. He is one of the few people who might conceivably have the conservative Republican credentials to talk sense into Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, but he choses to stick with rearranging the deck chairs on the GOPs political Titanic, often in angrily histrionic terms.

And the most depressing part is that a few years ago, a gentleman came up to me on one of our cruise vacations asked me if I was Lindsey Graham. Sigh.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Readers, the Left-Cheek Ass Clown for January, 2018, is Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Well deserved, indeed.

Have a good day, and come back tomorrow for a wintery Cartoon Saturday. More thoughts then.


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

National Hat Day

I regularly visit an interesting website that lists all the days, weeks, and months which have received special designations. There are, of course, days, weeks, and months to honor or commemorate just about everything you can imagine (and a lot of things you probably couldn't), and it turns out that today - January 15th - has been designated as National Hat Day.

Hats aren't very much in fashion nowadays unless you are the Queen of England

or you need a silly Grandpa Hat to wear in the sun

or you need to wear one as part of a uniform

so I suspect that National Hat Day is an invention of the Milliners Guild or some other organization devoted to advancing the cause of decorative (and, doubtless, expensive) headwear.

But hats aren't just decorative ... they serve many other purposes, such as identification, protection, and messaging. In present-day America, for example, one commonly observes the "MAGA" hats worn by die-hard Trump supporters

and the ever-popular tinfoil hats ... also worn by many Trump supporters as well as by those on the far left of the political spectrum. These come in many shapes and sizes, from the simple

to the complex

and even the playful

Of course, there is also the special version made for the Trump supporter who needs protection from unwelcome ideas but is unwilling to give up the messaging value of his or her Trump-approved headgear.

So, Dear Readers, happy National Hat Day! Wear 'em if you got 'em!

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Musical Sunday

This past Tuesday, January 8th, we celebrated the birthday of The King - Elvis Presley. In honor of his big day, and of the National Security Agency, how about this classic Elvis tune ...

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


Saturday, January 12, 2019

Cartoon Saturday

Cartoon Saturday ... because you need something to take your mind off the news.

Donald Trump's petulant shutdown of the federal government became the longest in history as it entered its third week with more than 800,000 government workers and tens of thousands of other people that depend on government contracts put out of work; a 13-year-old girl who vanished in October after her parents were found dead in their northwestern Wisconsin home has been found alive; US forces began withdrawing from Syria; in Europe, heavy snow brought life to a halt in parts of Germany, Austria, Norway, and Sweden; Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg missed oral arguments for several days as she recovered from cancer surgery, leading conservative activists to ramp up their list of new candidates acceptable to the right; and the White House has begun eyeing sources of funding for the Trump Border Wall if, as expected, Mr Trump declares a national emergency as a way to bypass Congressional and public opposition to the wall ... among the sources of money being considered is funding intended for disaster relief in Puerto Rico and Texas.

The behavior of our present administration suggests that a collection of cartoons about barbarians might be in order ...

Who knows what goes on at Mar-a-Lago? Besides golf ...

And so it begins ...

Financial concerns are always important ...

Nowadays the pillaging is done through banks and law firms ...

Cyberbarbarians on the march ...

A good question ...

Barbarians in the digital age ... "pillaging" is an introductory level law school course ...

Effective division of labor ...

Viking temps? ...

Looking on the positive side ...

There are barbarians at the gates, even on Cartoon Saturday ... better bar the doors.

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts coming.


Friday, January 11, 2019

Great Moments in Editing and Signage

Welcome to the first collection of editorial and signage gems for 2019 ...

Okay, but are they watertight? ...

For how long, and at what temperature? ...

I sometimes think Congress has similar requirements ...

Ummm ... okay ...

I can't think of anything to say on this one ...

And so is winter ...

Yes, I can see that. Sort of ...

Sound layout guidance is always good ...

I guess this would be a good reason to learn ASL ...

Well, it's certainly a contributing factor ...

And we're off and running for the new year! I hope you enjoyed this collection. Don't forget that I'm always glad to accept your contributions ... e-mail them to me at any time!

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow, when Cartoon Saturday comes back.


Monday, January 07, 2019

Thinking About the Next New Element

While researching the daily compilation of famous birthdays and historical events I publish on my Facebook page, I learned that on this date in 1939 a French physicist named Marguerite Perey discovered the element Francium, the last naturally-occurring element to be discovered. Every subsequently-discovered element has been identified using particle accelerators and nuclear reactions to add protons to elements that already exist.

I'm thinking about this in two ways.

First, Francium was discovered by a woman. At a time when we're pushing to get more women into STEM* careers, it's worth remembering that women have always been making their mark in science ... indeed, Mme Perey was a student of the great Marie Curie, the discoverer of the element Radium and the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences (physics and chemistry).

Second, the name Francium was derived from the name of the country in which it was identified (France, of course). I'm not sure what the formal process is for determining the names of new elements, but I imagine that had it been discovered in present-day America, it would have been named Trumpium ... because who knows more about chemistry and physics** than Donald Trump? And who is better about putting his name on things in big letters?***

Which leads me to another thought ... what might be the properties of a new element named in honor of Donald Trump? Would it be completely inert or have wildly unpredictable properties? Would it be a dense solid or a gas whose properties are difficult to pin down? What color would it be? It would surely not exist in nature, but would arise from the breakdown of other, more stable elements; indeed, it would probably work as a powerful catalyst for the destruction of more useful compounds.

Any other ideas? It's elementary, after all.

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.


* Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

** And everything else, too ... just ask him.

*** Well, until they become a national embarrassment, like the Trump Shutdown. 

† I'm not going for the obvious comment.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Poetry Sunday

For our first Poetry Sunday of 2019, why not a poem in honor of the generic new year? ...

To the New Year 
by W. S. Merwin 

With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible

With "our knowledge such as it is and our hopes such as they are," we creep tentatively into 2019. Good luck.

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