Friday, April 30, 2010

Why a Slide Rule is Better than a PC

First of all, do you even know what I'm talking about? If you went to school when dinosaurs like Mike and I did, you are probably familiar with the good old trusty, frustrating, guaranteed-to-make-you-look-like-a-geek Slide Rule.

This is a traditional Slide Rule:

This is a fancy circular Slide Rule:

You can go here to read everything you ever wanted to know about Slide Rules.

If you are of a certain age, you learned how to use a Slide Rule, rather than a calculator, to do your scientific and mathematical calculations. It was accurate enough for your routine needs, required no power, was lightweight and easy to carry, and was relatively cheap. It didn't have a memory, but if you needed to record your data, you used the only required peripheral device, the Paper Pad.

Today, few people use a Slide Rule because we have expensive graphing calculators and PCs. These are far more accurate than the good old slide rule and Paper Pad, but have their own problems. Here are a few of the many reasons Slide Rules are better than PCs...

1. A Slide Rule doesn't shut down abruptly when it gets too hot.

2. One hundred people all using Slide Rules and Paper Pads do not start wailing and screaming due to a single-point failure.

3. A Slide Rule doesn't smoke whenever the power supply hiccups.

4. A Slide Rule doesn't care if you eat or drink while using it.

5. You can spill coffee or a soft drink on a Slide Rule and keep on computing.

6. A Slide Rule never sends you snarky system messages about upgrades, reboots, and damaged files.

7. A Slide Rule and Paper Pad fit in a briefcase with space left over for lunch or a change of underwear.

8. You don't get junk mail offering pricey upgrades for your Slide Rule that fix current old errors while introducing new ones.

9. A Slide Rule doesn't need scheduled hardware maintenance, an IT staff, and a 24/7 help desk outsourced to a team of geeks in Carjackistan who barely speak English.

10. A Paper Pad supports text and graphics images easily, and can be easily upgraded from monochrome to color.

11. Slide Rules are designed to a standardized, open architecture.

12. You can use a Slide Rule to hit the obnoxious person in the next cubicle.

13. Nobody can steal your identity by hacking your Slide Rule.

14. You can upgrade your memory without limits by simply adding additional Paper Pads. No need to reconfigure anything, change any settings, or do any backups. "Backing up your data" consists of putting the old Paper Pad away in a drawer.

15. Nobody will make you feel bad by introducing a smaller, faster, cheaper Slide Rule next month.

Slide Rules. Don't leave home without them.

Have a good, low-tech day. More thoughts tomorrow, on Cartoon Saturday.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Remembering to Forget

Depending on how long you've been with me on this blogging journey, you may remember a post I wrote back on December 17th of 2006 on the subject of forgetting...or, more accurately, not forgetting. That post was based on an interesting observation by Lance Morrow in his book Evil: An Investigation - in discussing the mutual, visceral hatreds of all sides in the wreckage of what was once Yugoslavia, he asked a simple, but profound question: what happens if no one ever forgets?

He was addressing the issue of lingering hatreds ... the endless nursing of deadly grudges and animosities that prevents people from making peace and moving on to a better future. Israelis and Palestinians in the Levant, Serbs, Croats and Muslims in the former Yugoslavia, Armenians and Turks, blacks and whites, North Koreans and everyone else - what happens when we never forget past ills, real or imagined?

Yesterday I found a new take on this idea in this article by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger - "Remembering the Importance of Forgetting."

In this article, Mr Mayer-Schonberger discusses what he calls "the permanancy of the past in the present," the fact that nothing digitally saved ever really goes away. Every e-mail you ever wrote, every document you ever saved, every digital photo you ever took tends to last forever, because storage is so cheap and easy that the default option today is save rather than delete.

I know it's true. When I bought my first computer in 1988, it had the biggest hard drive you could get at the time: a staggering 20 MB. I remember saying to Agnes, "Wow...20 megabytes...we'll never fill it up!" Today, of course, it's not unusual to have a single photo or document that's 20 MB or larger. When the 250 gigabtyte hard drive on my Mac failed a few months ago, I replaced it with a 1 terabyte drive...and the local stores are selling 1.5 and 2 terabyte drives.

It's now easier just to save everything than to go to the trouble of figuring out what to delete. At the office, we get periodic stern messages from our IT managers warning us to archive or delete files because our shared storage drives are nearing capacity. For a project I'm now working on, I have at least seven different versions of the document stored...and there will no doubt be several others by the time all the coordination comments are adjudicated. Oh, and there are also many versions of the comment adjudication documents that I also have to save to show how we accommodated everyone's concerns.

It's worse at home. In the days of film cameras, we filled up a 12- or 24- or 36-shot roll of film, had it developed, threw away the bad pictures, and saved the best ones in photo albums and scrapbooks. Today's digital cameras allow us to take hundreds of pictures and only print the ones we decide we like...but there's no need to delete the others, because storage is cheap and easy. The picture file on my Mac is 17.83 gigabytes in size...and doesn't include all the pictures I've archived on CDs and DVDs, or the ones I haven't yet transferred over from my laptop to the new 1 terabyte drive on the Mac.

When Agnes and I vacationed in Alaska, I took over 1200 pictures in seven days. When we went to Mexico, I took thousands more. I have no idea how many pictures of the five grandchildren I have.

The default option is save ... up to the point where you no longer have any idea what you have, and what's really important. As Mr Mayer-Schonberg writes,

" is worth remembering that there is a lot of value in forgetting. Forgetting permits us to transcend details and generalize, to see the forest and not just the trees."

What if nobody ever forgets? What if we continually are able to dredge up information we'd forgotten was out there, that may no longer be valid but can be reinterpreted and taken out of context to create from the past a false image of the present? Mr Mayer-Schonberg writes that,

"...we are increasingly confronted with outdated information taken out of context, from anachronistic news stories to emotional e-mails and compromising pictures that we had long ago forgotten. For example, more and more employers are researching job applicants through Google and social-networking Web sites. There are already many cases of people being denied jobs or promotions because of what is unearthed. But these are reflections of a person’s past; they rarely provide accurate information about the present."

Can we put the digital toothpaste back in the tube (or, more accurately, squeeze more of it out)? Can we learn the need to delete the unnecessary as well as the need to save that which is truly important? Can we even tell the difference any more? What digital time bombs are waiting in our blogs and our Facebook pages, waiting to blow up in our faces?

It's worth thinking about.

We all know the old adage about digital documents: save early, save often. Perhaps now we need its companion adage: delete regularly, delete ruthlessly.

Because what if nobody ever forgets?

Have a good day. Delete something. More thoughts tomorrow.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

As If You Needed Something Else to Worry About...

Earthquakes, mudslides, out-of-control Toyotas, hurricanes, drug gangs, tornadoes, gun nuts, rap "music," extreme left-wing Democrats, murderously fanatical Islamists, environmental pollution, grand opera ... it's all enough to make you want to go back to bed and pull the covers over your head. How could things get worse?

How about invading space aliens? Not cute, gentle ETs ...

But really nasty ones ...

Yes, there are illegal aliens and there are illegal aliens. Some you can legislate against (not that anyone will pay attention to the law), and some you have to just scream and run from ...

You may wish to read this cheerfully optimistic article on CNN online: Should We Fear Space Aliens?

The answer is a resounding maybe.

It's entirely possible that aliens who stumble upon us could be friendly, benign, and willing to help us reach a higher level of technological and social evolution.

It's also possible that they might be afraid of our propensity for violence and intolerance, and unleash a can o' cosmic whoop-ass on us like we'd use Raid on a nest of cockroaches.

Should we look for life elsewhere in the vastness of the universe? Sure. I'm convinced it's out there, and it would be wonderful to know that we're not alone in the endless void. Should we advertise our presence by beaming signals out randomly? Uh, probably not. No sense in letting potentially hostile life forms know that we're capable of things like street gangs, "reality" TV shows, and cage fighting. I'm not ready to be the catch of the day at some tentacled alien's corner diner.

Give me good old earthbound illegal aliens any day. They may be scofflaws, an economic drain, and a general pain in the neck, but at least they don't eat you.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

From the "Why Bother?" Department...

Need a bemused shake of the head this morning? Consider this interesting article from CNN online: Muslim Swimsuits Bare Little on Turkish Catwalks.

The article describes, with pictures (of course) a fashion show highlighting swim fashions for Islamic women. These fashions are characterized by outfits which employ the maximum amount of material to show as little of the actual woman as humanly possible. Modesty is the chief characteristic of these fashions, which completely cover the arms, legs, and hair, leaving only hands and face's an example:

In enlightened garden spots like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, only the eyes are exposed (if that)...

Of course, the point is not to swim or be comfortable, but to ensure that men are not distracted from godly pursuits by the ogling of ungodly women.

Me, I have no problem with swimsuits, regardless of the number of pieces (i.e., one or two). The only problem I have with swimsuits comes when they are not appropriate for the lady's body type. An observation I made in Europe long ago was that most ladies who go to topless beaches...shouldn't.

And before you ladies jump on me for that comment, I have the same problem with inappropriate swimsuits for men...there's nothing that spoils a perfectly good beach like a fellow with an enormous, hairy beer gut hanging down over the tight Speedo he thinks will attract the attention of desirable ladies to the outline of his manly hydraulics. The word "yuck" comes to mind.

In my case, of course, I'm always reluctant to be seen in public in swimming trunks. It's so annoying to be followed by crowds of beautiful women ... who probably just think I know the way to the public restrooms.

And let us remember the words of famous model Cindy Crawford: "They were doing a full back shot of me in a swimsuit and I thought, Oh my God, I have to be so brave. See, every woman hates herself from behind."

And lest I get behind in my schedule for the day, I think I'll leave it right here.

Have a good day. Wear the right swimsuit.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, April 26, 2010

"Lawyering Up"

One of the more interesting new expressions of the last few years is "lawyer up," defined by the Urban Dictionary this way:

"Lawyer Up (intransitive verb): to stop answering questions during a police interrogation and request a lawyer."

I think this is an elegant term, and very useful. Not for me personally, of course, not yet having been caught at never having done anything nefarious, but for politicians, priests, aging Nazis, and - yes - lawyers everywhere. One wonders how the concept of lawyering up for advice on matters of personal misconduct might have been employed by various historical a young George Washington accused of chopping down his father's cherry tree...

"George, did YOU chop down the cherry tree?"

"No, Dad."

"I think you are lying, son. I saw you out here with your axe. Your punishment will be much worse for you if you lie. Now, tell me the truth!"

"Dad, I answered your question truthfully. Still, I must take complete responsibility for all my actions. While my answer was legally accurate, I did not volunteer information.

"Indeed, Dad, I did cause the cherry tree to be lying on the ground. To do this was wrong. It constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible.

"I know my answer to you gave a false impression. I misled you, my own father. I deeply regret that.

"I can only tell you I was motivated by many factors. First, by a desire to protect myself from the embarrassment of my own conduct.

"I was also very concerned about protecting Mom from this shock.

"What I did, Dad, was use a saw to cause the cherry tree to fall. Only after the tree was already down did I go get my axe to chop off individual branches. So, I chopped off branches, but sawed down the tree. Look at the saw cut on the stump and the axe cuts on the branches. Therefore, legally, I told the truth.

"I ask you to turn away from the spectacle of this fallen tree and to return our attention to a solid family relationship."

Lawyering Up ... a great American tradition that allows you to be in the company of such stellar figures as OJ Simpson, Bill Clinton, and Tiger Woods.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Downside of 3-D

The tremendous success of films like Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, and How to Train Your Dragon which were filmed and shown using three-dimensional technology, has led to a rush of movies and television shows trying to capitalize on the 3-D craze. Television sets that are "3-D ready" are already being marketed, and more movies that appear to leap off the screen at you are in the works. The technology of entertainment is racing ahead.

Look at the historical record:

First we had "moving pictures;"

Then "talkies" were the technology of the day;

Monaural sound gave way to stereo;

CinemaScope and widescreen came next;

"Smell-o-vision" had its (mercifully brief) time;

Dolby digital technology gave us amazingly lifelike surround sound;

IMAX gave us gigantic, mind-blowing images to go with the Dolby sound;

Now we have the latest technical evolution of 3-D.

And on and on and on. The technology of television and movie entertainment is incredible.

Too bad the content isn't keeping up.

Television still offers us things like My Mother the Car and Enos, while the history of movies contains gems like Heaven's Gate, Wrestling Women vs the Aztec Mummy, and Gigli.

Technology can take you only so far before there has to be a story worth telling and actors worth watching.

Which brings us to this interesting article from CNN online: Can 3-D Movies, Television Make You Sick? (Hint: the answer is yes, for more than one reason)

Read it and think about some of the real dogs you've seen on TV and in the movies before you run out and plunk down $3000 or more on that 3-D capable big-screen TV.

Oh, I apologize to dogs everywhere for the characterization in the previous paragraph.

Have a good day. Leave the 3-D to the everyday world, where you don't need funky glasses to enjoy it.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cartoon Saturday

Eleven people are missing after a huge oil rig exploded and burned in the Gulf of Mexico; a man in Rochester, New York, allegedly tried to sell his children on Craigslist; during a visit to Iran, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda called for a "nuclear-weapons-free world," while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinenjad remained unimpressed; doctors in Spain claim to have performed the world's first full-face transplant; and eleven suspected pirates have arrived in the United States to face criminal prosecution for attempting to attack U.S. Navy ships near Somalia.

Just like the cavalry in an old Western, Cartoon Saturday rides over the horizon to your rescue!

First, a clever commentary on the state of political affairs...

So far, I haven't had any takers on my latest offer to send a real, handwritten, ink-on-paper letter to the first five people who ask. Last time, I had five takers in no time (Amanda, Fiona, Mike, Andrea, John, and my daughter). Closest I've come is Mike's suggestion that I could write to him five times, ha, ha. Do you suppose people still know what a letter actually is?

There's a strong push in many quarters to make broadband internet service available to everyone. It's so much faster than dial-up service. Or earlier levels of download speeds...

Two more looks at modern technology...first, a 21st century reimagining of Shakespeare...

And a tech factor that contributes to the problem of obese children in America...

Finally, yet another great crash test dummy cartoon...

It looks like it's going to be a nice day here in Northern Virginia, if a bit cloudy...could be another good time to pull weeds in the garden. Or sit on the deck and drink gin and tonics. Hmmm...

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Friday, April 23, 2010

The All-New $100 Bill

One of the major crimes that is resolutely fought by police and federal authorities in this country is counterfeiting, defined as "the illegal reproduction of money with intent to deceive." That means that the person who prints the money wants to trick you into believing that it is actually worth something. We call this individual and his accomplices the Department of the Treasury.

But seriously, folks...

Counterfeiting is a serious problem. People must have confidence in the value of the cash they pull out of their wallets to pay for food, new cars, lottery tickets, baggy jeans, and double venti vanilla cappuccino frappes at Starbucks. Iraqis and Afghans need to be confident that the huge pallets of shrink-wrapped $100 bills we ship to their countries are worth enough to pay them to stop acting stupid for a while.

One of the ways your government fights counterfeiters is by redesigning the currency every few years. This year it's the turn of the beloved $100 bill, also known as the "C-note" or the "Benjamin" (in honor of the American historical figure whose grumpy visage is on the front). The Treasury Department this past Wednesday unveiled the redesigned $100 bill, which includes an embedded security thread, a new watermark, and a holographic image of Benjamin Franklin that wags its finger in disapproval when the bill is placed on a copy machine.

I personally don't care about the redesigned $100 bill. The chances that I'll ever see an actual $100 bill, real or counterfeit, is vanishingly small. The truth is that the $100 bill exists for the convenience of lobbyists, who find it a convenient denomination for stuffing envelopes to be presented to the legislators they are renting. After all, a $10,000 payoff paid in one-dollar bills would require a small steamer trunk, whereas the same bribe paid in Benjamins could be conveyed in a fairly small envelope able to be conveniently carried in an inside pocket or hidden in a freezer. C-notes are also popular with rappers, as they make an impressive wad with which to impress ladies who would otherwise recognize them as talentless low-lifes, and to compensate for the small size of their ... uh ... never mind.

So, friends, be confident that the Department of the Treasury is taking every technical measure to ensure the security of the hundreds that you shell out to your congressman, corner drug dealer, or the IRS. And the rest of the Federal Government and the financial mismanagement industry are working together to ensure that those hundreds aren't worth enough to make them worth counterfeiting.

Now, that's security.

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


Thursday, April 22, 2010

More Pens, Quickly

This is one of those mornings when I've got to get myself off to work early, so it'll be a short post. It's actually part two of yesterday's discussion of pens.

There are two pictures from my pen collection I didn't share with you yesterday. First is this one, which is a closeup of one of the dip pen nibs:

As you can see, it's in the shape of a pointing index finger, which I think is rather cool. I have another which is in the shape of a different pointing finger...but this is a family blog.

This is the pen and pencil set that Agnes made for me a few months back at a pen-turning class she took at a local woodworking shop...

She's very talented that way. It's a good division of labor: she makes the pens, and I write with them.

I'm afraid that's going to be it for today...I have to drive to the Metro station and leave the car so that I can pick it up later and go to an afternoon meeting across town. That means getting to the Metro garage in time to actually get a parking place, so...

Gotta run. Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ode to the Humble Pen

As you know, my dear and long-suffering readers, I like to write as much as I like to read. Those who like to read always look for book stores and libraries, while those of us who like to write always know where the stationery stores are...where to buy the writing paper, notepads, envelopes, and other tools of the writer's trade, like pens.

This past Sunday the Washington Post ran a front-page article that paid homage to one of the most widely-known and used, and yet most invisible symbols of the US government: the humble, durable, Skilcraft ballpoint pen:Those of you who live outside the US may not recognize or appreciate it, but if you have ever been in a US government office, mailed a letter at a post office, or served in the military, chances are you have used the iconic, blind-made, Skilcraft ballpoint pen. Being made for the government, the pen is designed to a very detailed set of specifications, which are summarized in this chart from the Post article:

The amazing Skilcraft ballpoint pen is like a Christmas fruitcake: indestructible and long-lasting.

For my writing taste, though, this pen is just a bit too short for comfortable writing. For day-to-day use, I prefer the Pilot G2 fine-point rolling ball pen with blue ink and rubber grip:

I buy them in boxes of 12 at the local office supply store.

For writing personal letters, though, I enjoy writing with a nice dip pen. Here are a few of the dip pens from my collection:

These pens, except for the blue glass Murano pen (second from the top), are characterized by a body which can accommodate various nibs to produce various styles or qualities of lines. I prefer a fine-point nib for most of my writing. Here are a few close-ups of some of the nibs in my collection...

This one is called, for obvious reasons, an "Eiffel Tower" nib. Also shown is one of the spiffy pen holders I use to keep the ink-loaded pen off the desktop. I found this particular holder in a stationery store in Montreal during our trip there for our 20th anniversary...

This is a closeup of the nib of my Murano glass pen...

This is an absolutely beautiful pen, but I don't use it quite as much because the point is a little too large, and it produces a fatter line than I usually like.

Of course, if you use a dip pen, you need ink...

As you see, I keep three colors of ink in my nifty bottle holder, but I prefer to use blue for my writing.

I also have a fountain pen that uses ink cartridges...

This is a nice pen, but the barrel is a little too fat for comfortable's best for writing signatures (when you don't have to press to make 16 copies, which is death on the nib).


Everything you ever wanted to know about my pen collection. If you would like to have a personal letter, written with a genuine dip pen and bottled ink, send your snail mail address to bilbo_the_blogger (at symbol) yahoo dot com, and I'll send you your very own letter. There's just something about getting a nice, handwritten, personal letter in the mailbox that e-mail and text messages just can't match.

Such a deal! Act now...because of the amount of time it takes to write a long letter with a dip pen, only the first five respondents can be accommodated.

Pens. They're low-tech, simple to operate, and will always work when the power goes out. Don't leave home without them.

Have a good day. Write more. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bait and Switch

You're all familiar with the old "bait and switch" scam, right? That's the one where the con man promises you something really nice ... then, when you're in the mood to buy, he lets you know that the nice thing he promised isn't available at the moment, but you could have something else, which he claims is just as good if not better, and costs just a little bit more.

I have to admit that I've pulled a bait and switch on you today, although there's no real cost to you involved.

My original plan for today (as I wrote yesterday) was to write a post on the subject of pens - devices people use for writing. Unfortunately, two things intervened:

1. I didn't get the photographs shot that I wanted to use as illustrations; and,

2. My son sent me a link to an article that he thought would make great blog fodder.

Well, he was right. We will discuss pens tomorrow. Today, let's talk about the real cause of earthquakes.

According to this article from Faux, a "senior Iranian cleric" explains that devastating earthquakes are caused by women who wear overly revealing clothing and behave promiscuously.

Yes, all you scientists who have been studying plate tectonics, volcanism, and the fluid dynamics of rock strata have missed the boat: all that time you spent poring over seismographic squiggles in a laboratory or digging rocks in the hot sun could have been put to better use watching pretty girls on a warm spring day.

I suppose, in a perverse way, that this odd fellow with his turban wrapped too tightly may have a point, for I have often felt the earth shake when a beautiful lady in summer clothes walks by, but somehow I don't think that was what he had in mind.

Isn't it odd how God picks all sorts of bizarre ways to make his (her?) desires felt? A small group of silly idiots in Kansas believes that God is punishing the United States for condoning homosexuality by allowing soldiers to be killed and horribly injured in war, and demonstrates at their funerals with signs like "Thank God for maimed soldiers." In Iran, a strange fellow whose brain hasn't quite made it out of the seventh century believes God is sending earthquakes because women don't dress and behave properly.

And people wonder why I have a problem with some religious beliefs.

I really did plan to write about pens today, and I really do plan to write about them tomorrow. But I just couldn't miss the opportunity to shake my head over the utterly bizarre things people will believe.

And while you're shaking your head, consider that the fellow who thinks earthquakes are caused by scantily-clad women is a representative of the country that is trying very hard to build an atomic bomb.

I think our reality check has just bounced.

Have a good day. Ladies, show your support for science by wearing short skirts and tank tops today!

More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Blue Monday

Did you ever wonder why we call it "Blue Monday?"

Naturally, we're blue in the sense of down or depressed, at the thought of the end of the weekend and the start of a new work week. But somehow it seems not to be a quite appropriate term.

We're not blue like the Pandorans from the smash hit film Avatar...

And a few months ago here in Northern Virgina, we had a few Mondays in a row that were much less blue than as white as you can imagine (think blizzards)...

So, why do we call it "Blue Monday?"

I don't know. All I know is that I thought this was a clever dodge to get a short post to start the week while I put together a longer and - hopefully - more interesting post for tomorrow, when we'll talk about pens. You know, those things some of us use for writing letters. Except for Mike, who uses his to poke holes in jar lids and open bathroom doors that have accidentally been locked from the inside.

Have a good day. Be here tomorrow to discuss the wonder of ... pens.

More thoughts then.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Stop the Presses! We're Still Reading

I was at a loss for something to blog about today until I read Amanda's latest post - Back in the Swing of Reading. It's nice to know there are other people out there who enjoy reading as much as Agnes and I do.

Some of my earliest memories involve my parents reading to me, and I in turn read to my own children and now my grandchildren. From the "See Spot run" primers, Dr Seuss, and Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories all the way to the novels and current events and history books I enjoy reading today, reading has always been an important part of my life.

At any given time, I'm usually reading three books: my Nightstand Book, my Commuting Book, and my Dining Table Book. At the moment, the Nightstand Book is American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from Poe to the Pulps, edited by Peter Straub; the Commuting Book is The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War, by David Halberstam; and the Dining Table Book is Dracula: the Un-Dead, by Dacre Stoker.

Yes, Agnes and I read while we eat. There's plenty of time to talk during the rest of the day.

I usually have a stack of books waiting to be read, a running note on my iPhone where I can list the books that have caught my eye that I want to read, and a few books on reserve at the local library that I want to read, but don't want to buy at the moment.

So many books, so little time.

Amanda writes about her mother maintaining that it was a waste of money to buy books when there are libraries own mother's position was that it's never a waste of money to buy books if they're books you really enjoy and may want to read again. There are a few authors whose books I'll always buy, but most of the time now I'll check the book out of the library to read, then buy it if I liked it enough to spend the money.

We have lots of books. At the moment, there are about 10 large boxes of old books in the garage - victims of our most recent attempt to free up shelf space - that are waiting to be donated to the library or the Salvation Army...and we still don't have enough space for all the books we have. Agnes has been moving toward her new Sony Reader Touch Edition, which holds hundreds of books in a digital format, saving lots of space (and weight, when traveling), but at the moment, I'm still too much of a traditionalist to go digital with my reading. I like the feel, the weight, and the smell of a book that's ink on paper. I like being able to highlight, underline, and make notes. Somehow, for all its advantages, a digital reader just isn't for least right now.

Well, I could go on and on, but this is cutting into my reading time.

Have a good day. Read more. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cartoon Saturday

Air travel across Europe has been thrown into chaos by vast ash clouds from a volcano in Iceland; in Michigan, a man tortured a four year old child to death for wetting his pants; for tax purposes, the General Electric Corporation's U.S. operations lost $408 million, while its international businesses recorded a $10.8 billion profit; the Securities and Exchange Commission has charged investment firm Goldman Sachs with defrauding investors in a sale of securities tied to subprime mortgages; and in what was once called the "Holy Land," the ruling Hamas government in Gaza executed two Palestinian men on a charge of collaborating with Israel.

What would you do without Cartoon Saturday to help you make sense of it all?

My attitude toward opera is well-documented. And, evidently, shared by many...

Every good blues singer needs a good nickname, particularly one that's both appropriate and topical...

With budgets being cut back all over, everyone is being forced to do more with less. Those of us who are government contractors are no different in having to do our part...

Have you ever noticed that some very religious people hear exactly the message they want to her from their faith...?

Agnes doesn't like it when I refer to her as my "trophy wife," but I'm very proud of her ... and it's a concept with a long and proud history...

And, finally, did you ever think that some of the things you learned about in your history classes might have been a little ... well ... different from the way they were described in the books...?

It looks as if it's going to be a cloudy, rainy day here in Northern Virginia...if it's not too rainy, it may be a good day to get some serious weeding done in the yard. That's one outside chore I have to keep up with, because our weeds always grow at least five times as fast, high, and bountifully as our flowers and herbs. What's up with that?

Oh, and I'm feeling a little blast of mixed pride and mortality today: my beloved oldest grandchild Marcy is hitting the double digits today as she turns 10 years old. I remember a time when she looked like this ...

And now she looks like this ...

I feel old. Proud and happy, but old.

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


Friday, April 16, 2010

The Device You Really Need

I'm always looking for ways to help you understand and cope with the nasty and unpredictable world in which we live. As a public service, here is a little device I've found that will help you evaluate political commentary:

Don't thank me. It's all part of the service.

Have a good day. More thoughts coming with Cartoon Saturday...tomorrow.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Job Opening

Jobs are scarce in a lot of places nowadays, but there's one job that's always available. Not everyone qualifies, and not everyone can do it well...but for those who can handle it, it's the best job in the world.

Courtesy of my friend Bob, here's the position description for the ultimate job...


Mom, Mommy, Mama, Ma
Dad, Daddy, Dada, Papa, Pop

Long-term, team players needed, for challenging permanent work in an often chaotic environment. Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills an be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24 hour shifts on call. Some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in far-away cities! Travel expenses not reimbursed. Extensive courier duties also required.

Job offers lifetime tenure. Applicant must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily, until someone needs $5. Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly. Also, must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule and be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds flat in case, this time, the screams from the backyard are not someone just crying wolf. Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets and stuck zippers. Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and coordinate production of multiple homework projects. Must have ability to plan and organize social gatherings for clients of all ages and mental outlooks. Must be willing to be indispensable one minute, and an embarrassment the next. Must always hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. Must be willing to assume final, complete accountability for the quality of the end product. Responsibilities also include floor maintenance and janitorial work throughout the facility.

None. Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills, so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you

None required (although it would be helpful). On-the-job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.

Get this! You pay them! Offering frequent raises and bonuses. A balloon payment is due when they turn 18 because of the assumption that college will help them become financially independent. When you die, you give them whatever is left. The oddest thing about this reverse-salary scheme is that you actually enjoy it and wish you could only do more.

While no health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and no stock options are offered, this job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth, unconditional love, and free hugs and kisses for life if you play your cards right.

Apply now with someone you love.

To all you parents out there...good luck. If you're a parent already, you know this is pretty accurate. If you're not yet a parent, someday you'll understand the understatement.

Have a good day. Be a good parent...someday, someone will thank you.

More thoughts tomorrow.


P.S. - today is tax day. If you haven't yet rendered Caesar's portion unto him, you have only a few hours left.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Counting Heads, Whether or Not Brains Are Inside

You have probably heard about this thing called the Constitution. You know, the document written by a bunch of dead white guys in the late 1700's that lays out the structure and authorities of the government of the new country they'd just launched. Ever read it? You can check it out here.

One of the things that most amazes me nowadays is that there are a vast number of screwballs out there who shout loudly about protecting their rights under the Constitution, but who have no idea what it actually says. Most of these are on the far right, although a smaller number can be found on the just hear the right-wingnuts more because they're louder and better organized.

Here's an interesting current topic: the census. There are lots of people out there, particularly on the deeply conservative right, who object to the census as a dreadful infringement of their rights, designed only to give the Terrible Federal Government all the information it needs to enslave them and take away their guns. After all, the Constitution gives them the right to privacy, right?

Well, not really. There is no Constitutionally-protected right to privacy per se...the closest it comes is in the Bill of Rights, where the Fourth Amendment says that, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Perhaps it's splitting a legal hair, but this isn't quite the same as a "right to privacy."

Getting back to the census, do you suppose that those who refuse to cooperate with the census on the grounds that it's an invasion of their supposed "right to privacy" know that the Constitution actually mandates a census every ten years? Yep, it's right there in Article I, Section 2. Check it out.

So, let me see if I've got this teabag version of history right...

If the Constitution says I'm allowed to do something...own guns,'s absolutely sacred and inviolable, and the least suspicion that anyone might infringe on that right is a call to form militias and stockpile supplies against the coming armageddon.

On the other hand, if the Constitution imposes a responsibility on me...allowing myself to be counted in a census, or paying taxes (Article I, Section 8) for instance...that's a gross infringement of my rights.

Rights, yes. Responsibilities, no.

I understand it now.

Everybody hates The Government until he needs it...when Medicare eligibility kicks in, or when there's a major disaster that requires national-level assistance for recovery, let's say. At those times, everybody loves The Government...they just object to having to do anything to pay for it.

I don't like paying taxes, but I recognize that they provide the funds for government at all levels to function and provide the services we've come to expect. I don't object to paying taxes per se, although I do object - strongly - about how that money is spent, which isn't the same thing. For instance, I don't mind paying for an Army and for Social Security and Medicare...but I don't like my tax dollars being spent to pay for services for illegal immigrants, foreign aid for countries that turn around and spit on us, or bailouts for incompetent financial managers.

But I'm rambling.

This all started with a rant about clueless bozoheads who object to cooperating with the census because it infringes on what they believe are their "rights." The Constitution ensures you have rights, but it also imposes some responsibilities. The two go hand in hand.

Unless, of course, "The Constitution" is something you just invoke without reading.

Like most of the Far Right.

Have a good day. Demand your rights, but carry out your responsibilities. Both are vital parts of a democratic society.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Peace and Quiet

If there's one thing I enjoy, it's peace and quiet. Unfortunately, both are in short supply. Peace, of course, is a relative term any more. Nowadays you might define it as something like "the absence of open war."

Quiet is more attainable but, unfortunately, also pretty rare.

Quiet, the absence of undesirable noise, is very rare these days. I got to thinking about it recently while reading David E. Kyving's fascinating book, Daily Life in the United States, 1920-1940. Early in the book, during a discussion of a time when electricity was not widely available in rural areas, Dr Kyving writes,

"The farmhouse had a lower noise level, and not just because there was no television; it had no humming refrigerator, no flushing toilet, no whirring appliance motors. Things did not make noises; the only sound came from people, animals, and natural forces like the wind."

It's hard to imagine that much quiet, isn't it? Inside the house we no longer even notice the steady low roar of central heating and air conditioning, the beeps and squeaks of various appliances, the little warning sounds when e-mail arrives, the omnipresent background accompaniment of the radio and the television and the mp3 player, and the ringing (or desired musical or verbal alert) of the telephone. Step outside and we hear the distant hum of traffic, the roar of passing aircraft, the mechanical snarls of lawn mowers, leaf blowers, edgers, chainsaws, and other outdoor tools, and the raucous roar of motorcycles. On the street we're bombarded with traffic noise, advertising, panhandlers' pleadings, and the endless, if involuntary, sharing of cell phone conversations, boom-box music, and leakage from other people's ear bud headsets on all sides. In the office we hear ringing phones, background conversations, and the steady background accompaniment of copiers, printers, and other office machines.

And we haven't even mentioned the endless, clueless blather coming from both ends of the political spectrum.

Yep, quiet is a thing of the past.

That's why I really appreciate the degree of quiet I'm able to impose on my surroundings when I can. I really appreciate my noise-cancelling headphones (a godsend on long airline flights) and the ability to close doors and windows to keep outside noise to a minimum. It's hard to imagine a time when it really was quiet except for the sounds of nature. I vaguely remember the summer between my high school graduation and the start of college (shortly after the dinosaurs died out), when I attended an Outward Bound course in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of southwestern Colorado. We spent a month hiking and camping in the remote wilderness, far from the noises of "civilization" ... and it was a wonderful experience. I've seldom been in a place so completely quiet.

It used to be that the gold standard for quiet in the modern era was the library. Now, of course, libraries are equipped with computers, printers, copy and fax machines, and other sources of background noise, and many library-goers think nothing of making and receiving calls on their cell phones. It's gotten to the point that you have to work very hard to find a refuge from the ambient noise of modern daily life. It's worth it...but isn't it a shame that it's necessary to work so hard for it?

Are you doing your part to keep the noise down? I, at least, thank you.

Have a good day. Quietly. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Fun with Dogs

If you don't have a dog, you probably won't understand or appreciate this post, so you may want to go elsewhere temporarily. I won't mind.

We are taking care of our daughter's dog Nessa, a big, happy, slightly neurotic Chocolate Lab whose life centers on sleep, play, and food, not necessarily in that order. When she's hungry, she'll bring you her empty food dish and drop it repeatedly at your feet just to remind you that it's empty. When she wants to play, she'll bring you the preferred toy and drop it right in the middle of what you're doing until you throw it, play tug-of-war, or let her chase you to get it back. When you take her for a walk, she'll carry the day's preferred toy with her to remind you that the walk is just the prelude to playing with her when it's over. She's a lovable dog. She'll even play catch with someone who can't throw the frisbee more than about three feet..

She is also, like all dogs, easy to spin up with simple things. Like lights.

Nessa will go crazy chasing the spot of light reflected from your wristwatch, the glass from which you're drinking, the suncatcher hanging in the window, or anything else. At night, when I take her for her before-bed constitutional, she will happily try to chase the beam of light from the flashlight I carry to help find the deposits she invariably leaves in the most intensely pitch-black spot she can find. This is especially fun when it's raining and I have to hold the leash, the umbrella, and the flashlight in one hand while carefully scooping up the ... um ... stuff with the other.

People other than I have noted the propensity of animals to get hysterical about lights...

I frequently wish my boss were so easy to please...

Someone once said that if you want a friend in Washington, DC, get a dog. If you want companionship and entertainment, do the same.

As it happens, I might be able to make you a good deal on a happy, clueless Chocolate Lab. Let's talk.

Have a good day. You may not be able to spend it sleeping happily in the sun or chasing frisbees, but do the best you can.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Coal Mining

Twenty-nine people died last week in the nation's worst coal mining disaster in decades. The tragedy is compounded by the knowledge of how dangerous and utterly miserable a miner's life is.

I'm lucky. I was born into the part of my family that didn't work in the mines.

One branch of my father's side of the family lived in a small town in central Pennsylvania, and worked in the mines. We'd visit once a year, which was all it took for me to learn two important lessons:

1. These were good, salt of the earth people doing a hard, nasty job.

2. I could never be a miner.

The town was filled with people who invariably looked far older than their years. A man of thirty who worked the mines might well look to be a hard sixty. Respiratory diseases were almost obligatory, the result of breathing coal dust every working day. The dreaded "black lung disease," (coal workers' pneumoconiosis) was normal. Beneath the layers of grime that could never quite all be washed away were bodies kept pale by years of backbreaking labor miles away from the sun.

Coal mines are dark, dirty, claustrophobic, and utterly miserable places. My uncle Joe took us about a hundred yards into a mine tunnel one day, and I couldn't wait to get out. I can't imagine doing that job every day, year after year.

According to the news broadcasts, the owner of the mine has a history of ignoring safety violations, or of doing the absolute minimum necessary to avoid prosecution for them. If this is true, there is no condemnation or punishment great enough. The miner's life is hard and dangerous enough. Deliberately making it more so is contemptible.

Pray for the lost souls in the mine, and for those who will surely be lost in the future. Your way of life depends in large part on the sacrifices they make doing a deadly and miserable job.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cartoon Saturday

29 miners are dead after a horrifying disaster at a West Virginia coal mine with a long history of dangerous safety violations; the president of Poland and his wife have apparently been killed in a plane crash; more than 200 people are known dead in massive mudslides in Brazil; according to the United Nations Children's Fund, a 12-year-old Yemeni bride died of internal bleeding following intercourse three days after she was married off to a man at least twice her age; and gentle, peace-loving Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad announced yesterday that his even-tempered and peace-loving nation has "fully mastered nuclear technology," bringing a nuclear weapon that much closer to someone who has threatened to wipe other countries off the map.

All rise for Cartoon Saturday...needed now more than ever.

As part of the movement to bring skyrocketing health care costs under control, many hospitals are looking to capitalize on older and less-costly technologies...

Sometimes, you've just gotta feel old in the presence of all this modern technology...

But sometimes, though, you want technology to come to the rescue...

If you're a fan of the over-the-top TV thriller 24, this is pretty funny. If you're not, well, just move on, folks, nothing to see here...

Do you ever worry about your prescription drugs after reading the huge list of possible side effects? It's an older problem than you think...

And finally, it's possible to take truth in advertising a bit too far...

It looks like it's going to be a nice weekend here in Disneyland on the Potomac...the sun is singing, the birds are shining, and the Republicans and Democrats are squalling. A normal day, just with better weather.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Friday, April 09, 2010

I'm Taking Friday Off

From blogging, that is.

I have a lot to do this morning before heading out to slay the work dragons, so I'm going to just take a day off from the blog. I know you'll understand. And if you don't, well, there are about 200,000,000 other blogs out there to choose from. You'll probably be able to find one you like.

Anyhow, Cartoon Saturday will be here tomorrow. See that you are, too.

Have a good day. Back tomorrow.


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Why I'm Not a Lawyer

Because I know who my parents are, ha, ha.

But seriously, folks...

Every once in a while, something I write here gets people riled up enough to make comments that make me rethink my original position...or, at least, the passions that led to my original position.

A week or so ago, I wrote in this space (read it here) about a court decision I found utterly incomprehensible: the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the case of Snyder v. Phelps. You can read the decision yourself at the link, but the Readers' Digest version is that the court rejected a suit filed by Albert Snyder, the father of a Marine killed in Iraq, against the Westboro Baptist Church for privacy invasion, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy, and ordered Mr Snyder to pay some $16,000 to the church to compensate it for costs incurred in fighting the suit. You may recall that the Westboro Baptist Church is notorious for its demonstrations at the funerals of military personnel, in which they praise the deaths and mutilations of these personnel as God's punishment of the United States for condoning what it believes is the sin of homosexuality.

I got several really excellent comments on that post, but two especially are worth your time to go back and read: one by my friend and part-time nemesis the Eminence Grise, and the other from my old high-school friend Ed, now a practicing attorney.

Ed's comment in particular made me go back and think about what I wrote, and why. His comment begins,

"Let me be the devil's advocate (and in the case of Phelps that's pretty close to the truth). Of course Phelps and his brood are vile and their speech is offensive beyond description. However, freedom of speech does not apply only to inoffensive speech; in fact, it is only offensive speech that needs protection, as no one would attack it if they were not offended. As I like to say, you don't need the First Amendment to protect your right to say 'Have a nice day.'"

He's right, of course. And he goes on to write a very good defense of the court's decision on the suit, if not on its awarding of the court costs to the defendants. Although I had read the decision (all 44 agonizingly legal pages of it) before writing my piece, I was writing from my passionate heart and not from my legalistic a result, I let my passions get away from me and got away from the real issue: that the First Amendment protects all speech, particularly the speech we may not want to hear. I still think that Phelps and his clan are despicable human beings with religious beliefs that are incomprehensible to normal people ... but Ed is right: their demonstration at the Snyder funeral was being conducted in full compliance with the law, and their speech is as constitutionally protected as is mine in this blog. The court decision offers a wonderful quote from an earlier decision that's worth re-quoting:

"Notwithstanding the distasteful and repugnant nature of the words being challenged in these proceedings, we are constrained to conclude that the Defendants’ signs and Epic are constitutionally protected. To paraphrase our distinguished colleague Judge Hall, judges defending the Constitution 'must sometimes share [their] foxhole with scoundrels of every sort, but to abandon the post because of the poor company is to sell freedom cheaply. It is a fair summary of history to say that the safeguards of liberty have often been forged in controversies involving not very nice people.'"

It's worth your time to read the full decision. It will make you think, and it will make you grateful for the Constitutionally-protected freedom of speech all of us - especially the most disgusting - enjoy.

Thanks, Ed. I don't think I could be a lawyer, but I'm glad you are, and I appreciated the comment.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


P.S. - remember the old quote from Hansell B. Duckett ... "What this country needs is more free speech worth listening to." True then, true now.


Wednesday, April 07, 2010

You Knew It Was Coming Sooner or Later...

Yes, friends, if you've been sitting there waiting for the other shoe to fall, wait no longer: the first airline has announced plans to charge for ... carry-on luggage.

Spirit Airlines announced yesterday that it will begin charging between 20 and 45 dollars for carry-on bags which must be placed in an overhead bin on board the aircraft. In a magnificent bit of 1984-style Newspeak, a spokesman for Spirit Airlines tried to put the best spin on the new charge by saying, "In addition to lowering fares even further, this will reduce the number of carry-on bags, which will improve inflight safety and efficiency by speeding up the boarding and deplaning process."

While it's true that I have often been frustrated by people who block aisles and delay boarding and deplaning as they try to stuff bags the size of upright pianos into overhead bins, I blame the airlines for not making them check those bags at the gate. Charging an extra fee for carry-on bags has nothing to do with improving safety and efficiency - it has to do with making money. And nobody with a functioning brain (that leaves out most Republicans and Democrats) can possibly believe that this new fee will result in "lowering fares even further." I must have missed the part where they were lowered in the first place.

I sometimes envy my online friend Craziequeen and her ability to escape to the 14th century. I wonder if the local lord charged extra for baggage loaded on mules?

Inquiring minds want to know. Sort of.

Have a good day. Pack less.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

A Short Book Review and a Fun Contest

The "commuting book" that's been keeping me company on the bus and metro the last week or so is a fascinating volume by Deborah Blum titled The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, and it's wonderful. Not a book to be read while eating, to be sure, but a great read for anyone interested in crime, punishment, and history.

Agnes and I are big fans of the TV shows Bones and NCIS, both of which feature forensic sciences as key parts of their plots, and Ms Blum's book tells us how the modern science of forensic medicine grew out of the study of poisons and the establishment of the first true professional medical examiner's office in the United States. The book is divided into chapters which focus on various poisons (Arsenic, Chloroform, Wood Alcohol, Cyanides, Mercury, Radium, etc.), and although packed with scientific detail, it's written in a light, fast-moving style that often reads more like a popular whodunit than a work of history. If you're interested in science, history, police science, or all three, you will love this book. I got it from the library, but as soon as it's out in paperback, I'm going to buy it for my library.

Another one of my guilty pleasures is the weekly "Style Invitational" contest that appears in the Washington Post every Saturday. Each week, it offers a different bizarre, humorous contest with off-the-wall prizes, and some of the entries are truly hysterical.

This past Saturday was the annual appearance of the contest called "Post Time," in which the paper lists 100 of the horses eligible for the annual Triple Crown races (the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes, and the Preakness), then asks you to pick any two (regardless of sex), mate them, and name the foal. The contest hinges, of course, on the fact that foals of prize horses are usually given a name that combines elements of the names of the sire and dam. One of the examples given in the paper suggests you could mate the horses "Dublin" and "Odysseus" and get a foal named "Bloomsday." You can check out the contest - and enter it - here. I have a bunch of entries to submit...I'll share them with you after the deadline (next Monday).

That's all for today. Time to be off to the races ... so to speak.

Have a good day. Don't poison anyone. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, April 05, 2010

Dream Jobs

You may recall that in my post of March 28th (Something Else to Worry About), I wrote about the need to counter the latest insidious terrorist threat: exploding breast implants (I am not making this up, as Dave Barry would have said). You may also recall that I selflessly volunteered to help the TSA screen for these dastardly, murderous has to do one's patriotic duty, after all.

Well, it occurred to me that, as enjoyable and rewarding as such a job might be 99 out of 100 times, that 100th time might be...well...rather unpleasant.

So I'm looking for another - safer - dream job, and I think I may have found it.

According to this article on CNN, an Irish travel agency called Runaway Bride and Groom is having a contest to hire for the "ultimate job in Ireland" - "honeymoon testers."

Yes, friends, if you win this contest, you and your beloved (maybe even your husband or wife) can have a job visiting exotic resorts around the world on someone elses dime, evaluating those resorts for suitability as honeymoon destinations.

I've already submitted about 7,000 entries. I'll let you know how it comes out.

In other job-related news, we have determined that our granddaughter Leya - at age 2-1/2 - is destined to become an optometrist. Her latest thing is "fixing" Oma and Opa's glasses...which means taking them off, then putting them back on (usually sticking the arms of the glasses into an eye or an ear) and adjusting them by pushing on the lenses until the glasses are firmly seated against the eyeballs. Those of you familiar with toddlers can imagine the condition of the lenses once this activity has been completed...

I wonder if the outcome is covered under my health insurance?

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, April 04, 2010

Happy Easter!

It's a glorious spring day here in Disneyland on the Potomac, and today is Easter Sunday, the day Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead.

Actually, Easter does not commemorate an exact date, like the Fourth of July or the 25th of December as's what's known as a "movable feast," meaning that it does not fall on the same date each year. The date of Easter (and, hence, all the other dates that depend upon it, from Ash Wednesday through Lent and Good Friday) is calculated by determining the Sunday which follows the full moon that falls on or after the vernal (spring) equinox.

Heck, I have enough trouble simply remembering everyone's birthdays (just ask my daughter-in-law).

Anyhow, today is Easter. Devout Christians celebrate it in church, children awake to find colorful baskets filled with candy and dyed eggs, and the President and First Lady sponsor the annual White House Easter Egg Roll (which will actually be held tomorrow on the White House lawn). Republicans, of course, will reflexively boycott the Easter Egg Roll this year if only because President Obama is hosting it; while Democrats will boycott it because they can't all agree on why they should support it in the first place.

That's life here in DotP.

But it's Spring, and the cherry blossoms are out in profusion around the city...

Yesterday I planted my new basil and rosemary seedlings, and got a start on clearing away the wreckage left by our miserable winter...the heaps of dead leaves, the broken branches, and the general mess...not to mention the 756,000,000 dandelions that are already shooting up all over the place. Today, before we head down to visit our local grandchildren, I hope to get still more of the mess cleared away, and perhaps get a few more flowers planted.

Spring has sprung, as they say, and at times like this I have to ask myself:

"Why on earth are you sitting at the computer when it's so nice outside?"

Good question. It's time to go.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, April 03, 2010

Cartoon Saturday

A boatload of Somali pirates lost their boat, weapons, and pride when they attacked a ship whose call for help was answered by the destroyer USS Farragut; unknown gunmen murdered 25 people in an Iraqi village; singer Erykah Badu faces a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge from Dallas, Texas police after stripping while walking down an Dallas street (it was apparently for a music video); the economy added 162,000 jobs in March...not surprisingly, Republicans are blaming President Obama because the number wasn't higher; and a domestic extremist group has sent letters to 30 state governors, demanding they resign as part of their "Restore America Plan"...which calls for those governors to "be removed" if they don't resign.

Oh, baby, do we ever need Cartoon Saturday.

You might need to think about this one for a minute, but clowns are always good for a cartoon...

I always thought that the advertising line ought to be "paying for a diamond is forever." This is, after all, the industry that told you it was appropriate to spend three months' salary (assuming you actually still have a job) for that rock to show your affection...

You've gotta do what you've gotta do...

The importance of good communication...and pronunciation...

Another one of those "gotta look closely" cartoons...

And finally, for those of you who still believe in that "trickle-down economics" voodoo thing...

It's going to be a gorgeous Easter weekend here in Northern Virginia...time to get my garden planted and continue the ongoing work of fixing the wreckage of my landscaping left in the wake of last winter's blizzards. Good thing I like staying busy.

Have a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow.