Monday, January 31, 2011

Powered by Imagination, Part 2

Back in December of 2008 I wrote a post based on a news report about the updating of the classic red Radio Flyer wagon, and I shamelessly purloined the title of the post - Powered by Imagination - from the tag line of the otherwise unforgettable 1992 movie Radio Flyer. My point in that post was to comment on how ultramodern toys (in this case, a Radio Flyer wagon that was ergonomically correct, safe, and equipped with a dock for an mp3 player) rob our children of the opportunity to imagine the things an older, less advanced toy might call to mind. I asked myself - and, by extension - you, Dear Readers, this question: "how do we aspire to greater things without imagination?"

I thought about this topic again last week when I read this article on - The Purpose of Science Fiction: How It Teaches Governments - and Citizens - How to Understand the Future of Technology.

Author Robert J. Sawyer wrote that...

"At the core of science fiction is the notion of extrapolation, of asking, 'If this goes on, where will it lead?' And, unlike most scientists who think in relatively short time frames - getting to the next funding deadline, or readying a product to bring to market - we think on much longer scales: not just months and years, but decades and centuries ... That said, our [science fiction writers'] job is not to predict the future. Rather, it's to suggest all the possible futures—so that society can make informed decisions about where we want to go.

An unfettered imagination is what allows children to learn and adults to conceive of a better future. If your religion forbids you to think about anything but achieving an eternal paradise after death, or if you deny yourself the ability or opportunity to ask yourself if this goes on, where will it lead?, we'll never learn and never advance.

Star Trek, 1984, the novels of Michael Crichton, and many other examples of very fine science fiction are out there - enjoy them, and don't lose the power of imagination. For a start, read the great novellas Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell (turned into an original and a remade film titled The Thing) and Farewell to the Master, by Harry Bates (the story on which the science fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still and its flashier but forgettable 2008 remake were based). You can thank me later.

Have a good day. Imagine a better future. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

There's an App for That

If you are one of the gazillions of people who own smart phones, you know that there are a lot of techno-drones out there coming up with vast numbers of applications ("apps," for short) that can be installed on those phones to allow you to do all sorts of non-phonish (I made that term up) things. Long gone are the days when you used your telephone to simply call up another person and have a you can use your phone to send e-mail, text, surf the web, turn your home appliances on and off, program the digital recorder on your TV, and much more. If ET showed up today, he wouldn't phone home, he'd just remotely activate the mothership from his smart phone and tell it to have the coffee ready on board when it arrived to pick him up.

Many people have complained that all these electronic devices have, rather than improving our ability to communicate with each other, actually made it more difficult. Instead of the dying art of letter-writing, we have text messages written in shorthand. Instead of intimate face-t0-face conversation over a cup of coffee or a cocktail, we have whispered (or, more often, shouted) conversations over a cell phone in overly public places.

Yes, Dear Readers, your smart phone ain't necessarily your friend.

Consider this interesting article from CNN about some of the new apps that help you either to avoid human contact or - perversely enough - help you find the right thing to say if you've lost the art of conversation entirely. Here are a few of the better ones ...

iPology - don't know how to apologize for whatever it is you did (or didn't do)? There's an app for that on the iPhone! "iPology" will help you come up with just the right degree of grovel to meet your needs.

Profanity (for Android) and iSwear (for the iPhone) - when just calling someone a fatuous numbskull just won't carry the right degree of weight, but your drunken longshoreman vocabulary is coming up short, never fear - these two apps will have you cursing like a sailor in no time.

Pick-up Lines - if your love life consists of typing dialog to a large-busted avatar on a flickering screen, but you have no idea how to relate to a live, breathing woman, fear not! The "Pick-up Lines" app will have you spouting cheesy come-ons like a professional lounge lizard in moments! And the ladies haven't been forgotten, either - there's an "Anti-Pick-up Lines" app to help you shut down those pasty-faced Lotharios.

What If? (for iPhone) and Did You Know? (for Android) - okay, so you don't want to go for the goofy pick-up line ... you'd rather try to go the suave, debonair route and impress the lady with your erudition, but don't know how to start a meaningful conversation with a living being. These apps are for you - both will generate interesting observations and bon mots that will have you sounding like an international jet-setter before you know it.

Me, I'm looking for the app that will help me survive the 2012 election season by giving me new and powerful ways to respond to political robo-calls. I'm looking for an app that automatically replies to canned political flatulence and empty rhetoric with requests for specific information on specific policies. Even better would be an app that automatically generates ten votes for the opponent of any ass clown whose campaign annoys me with a robo-call.

A guy can dream, can't he?

Have a good day. You don't even need an app for it.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cartoon Saturday

Violent unrest has spread to Egypt in the wake of the "Jasmine Revolution" in Tunisia; a man has been arrested in connection with the shooting deaths of two women in Michigan, one of them the mother of two small children; as Dallas gets ready to host the Super Bowl on February 6th, adult club owners are warning of a shortage of as many as 10,000 strippers to entertain the expected crowds; and Washington DC continues to recover from last Wednesday afternoon's rush hour snow and ice storm that stranded thousands of commuters, left streets clogged with abandoned cars, and continues to leave large areas of the national capital region without power ... conclusively proving that you don't need Republicans to bring progress to a grinding halt.

Just in time to help maintain your sanity, Cartoon Saturday is back!

The Department of Homeland Security announced earlier this week that it will scrap the useless and widely mocked system of color-coding terrorist threats. The search for a replacement system looked at how other countries assess threats ...

Forget the metric system ... there are a lot of other ways to measure things that are more meaningful ...

I don't know about you, but I'm really tired of television ads from lawyers urging me to sue on the basis of things I never heard of before. Sooner or later, we'll get to this point ...

Speaking of color-coding ...

Modern medicine relies on all sorts of exotic tests and reports, some of them more crucial to your treatment than others ...

Clever on so many levels ...

And finally, the weather forecasts here in Disneyland-on-the-Potomac are always telling us about snowstorms in winter and heat waves in summer. Perhaps we need a new sort of forecast that's more useful ...

Well, Dear Readers, you've made it through to another weekend. With any luck, the ice will melt from our street today so that we can finally get up the hill and do important things like buy food and stock up at the library for our next burst of winter, expected on Tuesday and Wednesday. I'm thinking of taking up a collection to buy an early spring - who's with me?

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


Friday, January 28, 2011

The Fun Continues...

Well, yesterday we dealt with the aftermath of our 5-inch mini-Snowmageddon. Not all that much snow (compared to what we got in Pittsburgh when I was growing up there), but plenty enough to cause amazing chaos in Disneyland-on-the-Potomac. Nothing - not even the Republicans - can do more to bring progress to a screeching halt than a little snow.

But that was yesterday.

Yesterday, I opted to take a day of unscheduled leave rather than try to drive sideways up our hill and out to where the roads had actually been plowed and treated. Today, the plows have come down my street and lovingly groomed the 5 inches of snow into 2-1/2 inches of ice. Yesterday, our local buses ran a "Saturday schedule," which means there was no service anywhere within walking distance of my igloo. Today, they're running an "adjusted normal" service, which means that my bus route is operating, but the buses won't come into the neighborhood - I need to walk a bit less than a mile up to the local shopping center to pick it up. I don't mind the walk...the problem is that the bus supervisors can't or won't tell you the times the bus will actually arrive at and depart from said shopping center.


The last time they did this, during the Snowmageddon of February '10, I hiked up to the shopping center in knee-deep snow, only to arrive just as the bus was leaving, whereupon I waited about 45 minutes for the next one.

Double sigh.

Well, enough kvetching. Time to put on my four layers of long johns, three sweaters, parka, two hats, gloves, mukluks, and Yak Trax, and hit the road in search of a bus.

If you haven't heard from me by this time tomorrow, send out this guy...

Have a good day. Stay warm and dry while you wait for Cartoon Saturday.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

It Ain't Snowmageddon, But It's Enough...

It's 6:20 AM as I start to write this...just about two hours later than my normal schedule. Why am I running so late, you ask. Blame it on the snow.

Yes, we had a fast-moving yet ugly snowstorm that rolled through here yesterday afternoon and evening, just in time to hose up the afternoon commute for the tens of thousands of drones that make Disneyland-on-the-Potomac such a wonderful place to live and work. Here are a few vignettes from yesterday afternoon and this morning ...

As the storm was approaching, the Federal Government announced it was shutting down and releasing all workers two hours early. The practical effects of this were as follows:

1. It didn't make any difference to me, because the first bus I can take home from the Metro station didn't run any earlier, anyhow. I left work an hour earlier than usual.

2. All the people whose commutes generally span a space of about four hours left work at once, which meant sardine-room only on all Metrorail cars. The overcrowding, predictably, prevented the doors from properly closing and - equally predictably - each time the driver opened the doors to try to close them properly, more people tried to jam in. Somehow, we made it to the Springfield station, where ...

3. The rain changed to sleet and then to snow while we waited for our local bus. Since this bus is almost always late in perfect weather conditions, we were not surprised to find it late in the prevailing conditions. We loaded up and the driver heroically carried us at a crippled snail's pace through appalling weather conditions and miserable traffic. He even, amazingly enough, drove the full route through our subdivision, which the buses usually won't do in conditions far better than those.

4. Time of arrival at home: exactly five minutes later than my normal arrival time, despite leaving work an hour earlier than usual.

All things considered, I had it pretty easy. There were plenty of horror stories of people needing seven hours or more to get home, and the roads were clogged with abandoned cars that had spun out and gotten stuck. But such is life in the big city.

This morning I got up at my usual time, bundled up, and went out to shovel out our driveway and sidewalks. We have about five inches of very heavy, very wet snow - the kind that is utterly miserable to shovel. I got the sidewalks cleared and a path dug out around the car, but there isn't much point in shoveling out the entire driveway, since our local streets haven't been plowed and are pretty much impassable. My local bus system is running a Saturday schedule, which means that it's not running to our neighborhood, so unless and until I can get up the hill and out to the main roads, I'm enjoying what we euphemistically call "a day of non-scheduled leave."

As storms go, this one was miserable, but nothing on the scale of last year's fabled "Snowmageddon" (you can relive that marvelous experience in pictures here and here), and we certainly didn't have the dangers faced by Amanda and her family in the Australian floods ... nevertheless, it was bad enough.

And now, I need to take a nice, hot shower and get reacquainted with my feet.

Have a good day. Stay warm. More thoughts tomorrow ... or perhaps later today, who knows?


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Of Eagles and Turkeys

Many countries have chosen the majestic eagle as their national symbol. Stylized eagles appear on national flags, great seals, military unit patches, and recruiting posters. The mighty eagle, soaring high above his domain and swooping down mercilessly on his enemies, is an obvious choice for a symbol of national power.

Or is it?

It was on this day in 1784 that Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to his daughter in which he admitted he was not pleased about the choice of the bald eagle as the symbol of America. He wished it had not been chosen as a symbol of our country because it was "a bird of bad moral character." Franklin wrote about the eagle: "Like those among men who live by sharping and robbing, he is generally poor, and often very lousy."

Mr Franklin believed there was a different bird that should have been chosen as the national symbol of his new nation: the wild turkey.
"The turkey," Ben wrote to his daughter, "is a much more respectable bird, and ... a true original native of America."

History may well have proven Mr Franklin right. The mighty American eagle doesn't soar quite as high as it used to, and Congress is long on squawking turkeys and short on mighty eagles. When I think about those who would murder us in the name of twisted religious beliefs, seize our merchant vessels off the coast of Somalia, and ship tons of drugs into our cities, I rather miss this fellow ...

Because there are some times when being a turkey just won't do.

Have a good day. Honor the turkey at Thanksgiving, and the eagle on the other 364 days.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How It Should Have Ended

In case you've never run across it, let me draw your attention to the wonderful website called How It Should Have Ended, which features ... duh ... the endings that various movies should have had. Some of them are very clever (I particularly liked their ending of The Lord of the Rings).

But if you're not into video, perhaps you'd prefer to look at how fairy tales should have ended. You know, fairy tale ... as in, "Republicans really do care about you if you're not rich, healthy, and heavily armed," and "Ours is a peaceful and tolerant religion." You can recognize a fairy tale because most of them end with the standard line, "... and they lived happily ever after."

But did they, really?

Here are a few examples of how fairy tales end in the real world ...

"And they stayed together because of the kids."

"And she never learned her lesson never to eavesdrop on any of his phone conversations again."

"And he realized that money actually could buy happiness."

"And with all that alimony, she finally bought the castle she’d always dreamed of."

"And he never found out out the child wasn’t his."

"And eventually, she came to terms with the fact that she was probably going to have to save herself."

"And they lived happily ever … until the following winter."

"And she never had any idea that he was actually gay."

"And eventually she came to realize that her stepmother wasn’t evil - just demanding."

"And she sometimes wondered whether a kiss that reanimated her from the dead was really grounds for a lifelong romance."

"And the three of them lived happily ever after."

I think these are more accurate than the original endings, but I probably won't use them when I read the stories to my grandchildren. The amount of time our children have to enjoy happy endings is short enough ... let them enjoy it while it lasts.

Have a good day. If you can't live happily ever after, at least try to live grudgingly ever after.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Confessions and Redemptions

We all have our deep, dark secrets ... the things we never want to admit to anyone because of the shame and embarrassment they might bring down upon us. But sometimes, you just have to hang your head, grit your teeth, and admit the terrifying reality you've buried deep inside for so many years.

I don't give a %#$! about professional sports.

There, I've said it.

The result of that sad confession, though, is likely to be a mass un-friending of me by all my old high-school friends who have been using Facebook to share their breathless following of the Pittsburgh Steelers as they march toward their Super Bowl matchup with the Green Bay Packers. And since all the beautiful girls I lusted after in high school have finally decided - now that I'm a pushing-60 grandfather - that I wasn't so bad after all, we just can't have that.

So ... confessions be damned! I declare myself, here and now, to be a born-again, rabid fan of my hometown team!

Go, Steelers!

Terrible Towels beat Cheeseheads any day!

Our quarterback's name has more letters in it than your quarterback's name!

We've already won twice as many (6) Super Bowls than you have (3), and only that washed-up has-been team from Dallas (we won't dignify them by mentioning their name) has been to the Super Bowl as many times as we have (8) ... and we've won more of them than they have.

"Steelers" even sounds more powerful and impressive than "Packers".

Our cheerleaders (especially those from good old NA High) are cuter than your cheerleaders!

Just phone in your concession now, Green Bay, and save yourselves the embarrassment.

Have a good day. Root for the right team on February 6th.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Two Wolves

Our language is awash in all sorts of expressions and stories, the origins of which are lost in time or obscurity. You've no doubt heard gazillions of probably-apocryphal stories that are "old Irish/Chinese/African/Indian sayings," or "found in an old church," or something similar.

Since my hands are still not quite thawed out from walking Nessa this morning (it's 16 big degrees outside my study window), I'm just going to minimize the typing and share with you this alleged "old Indian" story that I've heard in many forms over the years ... most recently from my friend Bob who is always good for blogging material. Regardless of its provenance, it's a good story with a useful message. It's the story of the two wolves ...

"One evening an old Indian told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, 'My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.

'One is Evil - It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

'The other is Good - It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.'"

"The boy thought about it for a minute and then asked the grandfather: 'Which wolf wins?'"

"His grandfather replied, 'The one you feed.'"

Have a good day. Stay warm and feed the right wolf.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cartoon Saturday

Threatener-in-Chief Osama bin Laden has issued yet another threat, this time to France; in New York City, a juvenile justice counselor has been convicted of sexually abusing two female teens in his care; authorities in Germany have charged two doctors with negligent manslaughter after a German porn actress died following breast enlargement surgery; Democratic representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee struck a blow for sober judgment, reasoned debate and civility in government when he compared GOP charges that the government is taking over health care to lies spread by Nazis before the Holocaust; and legal executions in the United States may be delayed because the sole American manufacturer of an anesthetic widely used in lethal injections has announced that it will no longer produce the drug.

Just in time, Cartoon Saturday rides to your intellectual rescue.

Three-D, shmee-D ... I'm waiting for the next logical step in movie technology ...

And how about the next step in ensuring our safety and security ...

Did you ever wonder what happened after some of the great moments in cinematic history? ...

Nessa wanted me to include this one ...

Sometimes, you just need to look for the obvious explanation for your tech problems ...

I think I'd rather just be voted off the show, thank you very much ...

This one is so obvious that I can't imagine it took this long for someone to draw it ...

Our struggling Metro system here in Disneyland-on-the-Potomac is looking for new ways to raise funds to keep trains and stations in repair and passengers safe. One recently-floated idea is to sell corporate naming rights for the stations on the system. If it works for Metro, why wouldn't it work for cash-strapped families? ...

Great moments in merchandise returns ...

And finally, Shoe states the obvious ...

It looks like it's going to be a really cold weekend here in Northern Virginia ... no snow until around mid-week, but bitter cold. How cold is it going to be? Well, the lawyers are all standing around with their hands in their own pockets.

And that's cold.

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


Friday, January 21, 2011

Peek-a-Boo, I See You!!

When you're a grandfather, you re-learn all those games you played with your children, the same ones your parents played with you. It warms your heart to see how happy a small child can get when you play a silly game like peek-a-boo.

But other people are playing peek-a-boo with you, too (Kathy - note the alliteration!), and they're not really playing.

I spotted this article on the local NBC news website yesterday - More Surveillance Cams Coming to D.C. Here is an excerpt from the article:

"The (D.C. Homeland Security) agency is planning to add thousands of security cameras throughout the District. It also plans to centralize all the camera feeds from private businesses, Metro and the housing authority. The city already centralized feeds for more than 4,500 cameras operated by the District Department of Transportation and D.C. Public Schools. Those feeds are monitored 24 hours a day."

Yes, not only is Big Brother watching, but he's already watching from more than 4,500 places and is preparing to add thousands more.

Surveillance cameras are a fact of life in the modern world, where violent crime and terrorism are real dangers against which those who would protect us are seeking every possible weapon for their arsenals. But though the intent of keeping us safe may be laudable, it's disconcerting to think that every time you visit the bank, check out at the grocery store, enter a public building, drive down the street, or do just about anything else, you can pretty much guarantee that somebody has got it on video. It's even possible for a nefarious person to remotely activate the webcam on your computer and watch you at home. I'm afraid to scratch an itch any more.

One day not long ago I decided to try an experiment and count the number of surveillance cameras that documented my movements between my home and my office. I stopped counting at 28, most of which were in and around the Pentagon. Just between my office door and the men's room (a distance of about 150 feet or so) I counted at least three.

And did you know that you can actually access the near-real-time feed from many of those cameras? Many cities and popular tourist locations make it possible for you to view the images from their cameras.

So ...

You may as well smile and make sure your hair is combed and your shirt tucked in at all times. You never know who will be watching.

Have a good day. Smile for the camera.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Are You a Regressive or a Modernist?

Yesterday I read this article from a link on John's Facebook page - The Commandments: The Constitution and Its Worshipers. This morning, Mike featured it in his blog post. You really need to read it and think about it. Do it now. I'll be waiting in the next paragraph.


Okay, now read this article by Michael Lind - America in the Age of Primitivism. Here's a quote that sums up the starting point of the argument:

"Following the world wars, the U.S. and other liberal democracies rebuilt themselves as modern, technology-based, progressive societies that offered a higher standard of living to ordinary people than ever before. Gradually they liberalized their cultures, shedding the vestiges of priestly control, moved toward meritocracy away from aristocracy and dismantled racial caste systems. They devoted themselves to great civil engineering projects, like hydropower dams, nuclear power plants, continent-spanning highways and space exploration.

"And then their people suddenly got tired of modernity and tried to crawl back into the past."

The article is well worth your time to read and ponder. Having read it, you can better appreciate the definition offered by Ambrose Bierce in The Devil's Dictionary: "Conservative: noun, A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others."

Oh, and he also defined Congress as "A body of men who meet to repeal laws."

How's your health care?

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Good Day for Fiction

On this date in 1809, Edgar Allan Poe was born. He is known, of course, for his wonderfully eerie tales of terror, horror, and the macabre, many of which have been made into some of the worst movies of all time. He is also the author of two of my favorite poems: The Raven and The Bells. Who but Poe could use the word tintinnabulation in a sentence, and who else could write a line like,

"Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

Oh, and nevermore is when the Baltimore Ravens will beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. So there.

Today is also the birthday (in 1887) of literary critic, author, and all-around fascinating curmudgeon Alexander Woollcott, a charter member of the Algonquin Round Table and the fellow Harpo Marx once said "looks like something that had gotten loose from the Macy's Day parade." He was known for his devastating critiques of stage plays he didn't like, and once said "I'm tired of hearing it said that democracy doesn't work. Of course it doesn't work. We are supposed to work it."

Perhaps someone should tell Congress.

And speaking of fiction, you may be interested in this article which examines the efforts by some people to make sure that American history agrees with their rose-tinted view: Tennessee Tea Parties Demand Textbooks Contain No Mean Things About Founding Fathers. This is what happens when you insist on wearing a tricorn hat that's too tight, waving a Gadsden flag, and insist on shouting at length about things of which you actually know nothing.

And that, Dear Readers, is all for today.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Things That Make You Go AARRGGHH - Parking

Unlike most men, I love to go shopping - especially for groceries. This is not a bad thing since I love to cook, and it's difficult to cook without ingredients, most of which must be purchased at stores to which I have to drive.

One of the things that takes the gloss off a shopping expedition, though, is the search for a place to park. I believe the only place you can see more ass clowns than a joint session of Congress is in a shopping center parking lot on a busy day. If cars had existed in biblical times, I firmly believe dumbass parkers would have been one of the plagues God dropped on the Egyptians.

If you are one of those people who, for some reason, would like to be able to park like a moron, but aren't sure how to do it, here are a few helpful hints ...

When waiting for a parking spot, stop in the middle of the road, don't signal, and orient your car diagonally to prevent others from passing.

Always park on the lines, taking up as many spots as possible. Diagonal parking is preferred. Even with a subcompact car, you can take up at least four spaces by putting the center of your car directly over the point where the lines of all four spaces intersect; if you have a full-sized monster, you can take up at least six spaces by aligning your car along the line separating two rows of spaces.

In a crowded parking lot, if you find a spot and have the opportunity to pull through to an adjacent one, drive up half way and stop on the line, taking both.

As you pull into a spot, if you see that the space ahead of you is empty and you see another driver signaling to take it, pull though and take it from him.

Always park close enough to the adjacent car so that the other driver must grease up with Vaseline to squeeze into his/her car.

When getting out of your car, hit the adjacent vehicle with your door as hard as you can.

When driving through the parking lot, ignore the painted lanes and drive diagonally from one end to another at a high rate of speed. Turn a few donut spins, too.

When stopped in front of a store and waiting for a friend/relative to make a purchase, make sure that you are stopped in the middle of the road. The same rules applies to picking-up and discharging passengers.

When a vehicle from the opposite direction is signaling and waiting for a parking space, position your car so that you are in his way and let the car behind you take it.

If you have Handicap license plates, use up a regular parking spot.

If you hit the adjacent car with your door and leave a dent, wait for a car, which is painted the same color as yours, to drive down the aisle looking for a place to park. Then back out, giving up your spot like "Mr. Good Guy", and park somewhere else.

If the vehicle in front of you stops to let a pedestrian cross or another vehicle turn, pull into the lane of opposite traffic and attempt to pass him.

When exiting a shopping center into a busy road, exit through the narrow "ENTER ONLY" driveway, stick the nose of the car into traffic, and wait.

When driving through a parking lot with alternating one-way aisles and angled parking spots, drive the wrong way. Then when you see a parking space, take 20 minutes to do a 12-point turn to pull into it.

Always leave your shopping cart behind or tightly between parked vehicles.

Empty your ashtrays on the ground in shopping center parking lots. While you’re at it, dump out all the garbage too.

If you change an infant's diaper in a parking lot, leave the soiled diaper under the car next to you.

If you have handicap plates, always take a handicap parking spot, even if the handicapped person in your family is not with you.

When another vehicle is waiting for you to pull out of a spot in a crowded parking lot, take your time. Adjust the mirrors, your seat, and the radio. Roll down your window, light a cigarette, and eat your lunch. Feel free to go through your shopping bags and look at what you just bought.

When pulling into a parking spot, if there is a shopping cart in the way, lightly tap it with your bumper and send it rolling into an adjacent car. Then, when you step out, if the cart is still too close, push it down the parking lot aisle and let it go. While the cart is flying solo, turn around and walk toward the stores.

When pulling out of a shopping center, always have the front of your car sticking out in the middle of traffic.

If you are pulling out of a parking lot and you want to drive into another shopping center which is only about 100 feet to the left, quickly make the left turn, dart head-on into the opposite lane of traffic and turn into the next parking lot.

When walking back to your car in a busy shopping center, gesture to other drivers waiting for a spot to make them think that you are getting in the car and leaving. Then walk between the cars to the next aisle and do it again.

When holiday shopping at the mall, which requires you to load your bags into the car and go back in to do more shopping, don't tell the driver who is sitting patiently watching you load your car and signaling for your spot.

If you don't have handicap plates, park in a handicap spot. You should also joke with your passengers that if anyone says anything, you'll just walk with a limp.

When there are many open parking spots close to the store, choose the one right next to the guy who parked his brand new car all the way in the back.

When exiting a parking lot and making a left turn across a multi-laned main street, pull out into the first lane of oncoming traffic and stop. Wait until the next lane is clear, pull up and stop again. Do this until you have driven across far enough to make the left turn.

Park your gargantuan SUV or maxi-van so that it occupies at least four spots that are labeled "Subcompact Cars Only."

When walking back to your car, if you notice other shoppers walking past your car to get to theirs, press the buttons on your keychain remote so that your car's alarm makes a sudden loud "BLOOP BLEEP!!" that scares the crap out of them. Even better, pop your trunk so that it suddenly yawns up at them.

If you don't see a speed limit sign in the shopping center parking lot, there isn't any!

Finally, always be sure to block traffic while you wait for a spot directly in front of the store, no matter how many other free spots there are further down the row.

Don't thank me. It's all part of the service. If you want to read one of my earlier rants about stupid moments in parking, go here.

Have a good day. Stay out of parking lots whenever possible.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Great Moments in Editing, Part 2

Yesterday in this space we discussed the ongoing non-issue of whether or not words have consequences. Today, we look at a few examples of how words can drive behavior ... like hysterical laughter and head-shaking. Yes, it's Great Moments in Editing, Part 2! You can find Part 1 here.

And they say schools don't teach our children proper language...

Never used. Obviously...

Well, some things take time...

I always wondered what was really in those chicken nuggets...

Yes. Yes, it is ...

One small step for a man, one giant leap for ... never mind ...

I've always wondered why professional clairvoyants never win lotteries ...

Thanks, but no thanks ...

Have a good day. Watch your words.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

I'm Okay, You're a $&%@#!

Since the horrific murders in Tucson last week, we have gone from a sense of shock to the predictable finger-pointing and use of the tragedy by self-important ass clowns on all sides to score cheap political shots. The part of all this that amazes me the most is the utter refusal by those most guilty to recognize that the thoughtless use of intemperate language has consequences.

I have long been fascinated by language, and proudly have a BA degree in Linguistics hanging on my study wall. But nobody needs a sheepskin to recognize that the things we say can lead to consequences we may never have intended ... or intended to go as far as they did.

Did somebody give a ranting speech in which they specifically told Jared Loughner to buy a gun and plenty of ammunition, go to a political event, and murder six people? Of course not. Did a lot of people give a lot of speeches in which they characterized government as a deadly threat to Americans' liberties, even going so far as to call up Thomas Jefferson's infamous "blood of tyrants" comment? Sure did. Does such intemperate and violent language create an atmosphere in which impressionable people can be convinced to do terrible things. Absolutely.

There was a wonderful discussion yesterday on the NPR Weekend Edition Saturday program in which host Scott Simon interviewed Eric Deggans, television and media critic for the St. Petersburg Times. The two men discussed the issue of how hyperpartisan bickering and finger-pointing have played out in the media in the week since the murders in Tucson. Here is one of the best parts of the discussion (which you can read and listen to in total on the NPR website here):

Scott Simon: I was interested in something you wrote this week in answer to people that say, look, this is just talk, it's just rhetoric, there's no proof that rhetoric leads to action.

Eric Deggans: Right. Well, what I noticed is that we have an entire free broadcasting media system built on the idea that media images promote specific action. That's the point of commercials on television, the idea that you present a product in an attractive way and it makes people want to buy it. And so if that is good enough to fuel an $8 billion TV commercial industry and pay, by the way, the salaries of Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow and everybody else who works on free television, then certainly that notion might be something that we might want to think about when it comes to the kind of really extreme rhetoric that we've seen out there.

I don't think I could have expressed it any better. As Mr Deggans points out, we spend billions of dollars each year on advertising campaigns to convince people to buy things or take specific actions (go on a Carnival cruise, buy a Ford, eat at Red Lobster, use this new miracle drug, etc). Common advertising is benign, but the same tactics and techniques that get you to buy the right kind of frozen pizza can be used for far worse purposes.

It's absolutely ludicrous to believe that rhetoric doesn't have consequences. Did the rhetoric of Adolf Hitler help drive millions of Germans to commit ghastly crimes whose consequences are still felt today? Does the fiery language of a self-styled "holy man" like Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq make people rise up in violence against their enemies? Can a useless buffoon like Hugo Chavez keep the political pot boiling in South America with his bombastic and ludicrous rantings about the evils of everybody but himself?

A recent article in takes a different view. In an opinion piece titled "In Defense of Inflamed Rhetoric: The Awesome Stupidity of the Calls to Tamp Down Political Speech in the Wake of the Giffords Shooting," columnist Jack Shaffer writes,

"For as long as I've been alive, crosshairs and bull's-eyes have been an accepted part of the graphical lexicon when it comes to political debates. Such "inflammatory" words as targeting, attacking, destroying, blasting, crushing, burying, knee-capping, and others have similarly guided political thought and action. Not once have the use of these images or words tempted me or anybody else I know to kill. I've listened to, read—and even written!—vicious attacks on government without reaching for my gun. I've even gotten angry, for goodness' sake, without coming close to assassinating a politician or a judge."

I praise Mr Shaffer's commendable self-restraint, but he misses the point.

He - and many other commentators, particularly on the right - equate a much-needed call to tone down violent political rhetoric with an across-the-board attempt to nullify the free-speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. The issue is not one of denying anyone the right to criticize the government (which I certainly do often enough in this space!), but one of asking people to be more civil and more thoughtful in what they say.

Do you still think words don't have consequences? Take a look at what happens when you say something in Pakistan that might, however loosely, be construed as "blasphemy." This article by Aryeh Neier sums up the problem pretty well. It's not quite the same issue as overheated political diatribe here at home, but the underlying lessons are the same: words have consequences, and legislating away freedom of speech and thought is a very bad idea ... no matter how good it sounds at the time.

What's the takeaway from this discussion? Just this: you are likely to get much farther and achieve much more politically with a rational discussion of specific issues and various approaches to resolving them than you are with an approach that says, "not only are you wrong, but you are criminally stupid and deliberately hell-bent on driving the country straight to hell, and I have to do everything in my power to win this argument by demonizing you and everything you stand for because you are so obviously an ignorant moron."

Words have consequences, no matter what the Rush Limbaughs and the Sarah Palins and the Glenn Becks would have you believe. If they didn't, why are they still talking?

Have a good day. Be's not really that difficult.

More thoughts tomorrow.


P.S. - Remember Bilbo's First Law - Don't let anyone else do your thinking for you. Just a helpful reminder.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cartoon Saturday

Zine El Abidine ben Ali, the embattled leader of Tunisia, has fled the country and sought refuge in the jet-set playground of Saudi Arabia; actress Zsa Zsa Gabor has had her right leg amputated after a deep lesion proved untreatable by antibiotics; a hundred people have been killed in a stampede outside a religious temple in southern India; Michael Steele has been ousted as chairman of the Republican National Committee; and, in Maine, governor Paul LePage struck a blow for civil discourse and thoughtful exchange of ideas when he enraged the local chapter of the NAACP by telling them they can "kiss my butt" if they are upset over his decision not to attend a ceremony honoring Martin Luther King.

Welcome to Cartoon Saturday, your cure for the common angst.

I love my iPhone, but sometimes, you know, you just wanna make a telephone call...

Health care reform is great, as long as you can afford it...

This one is so sick, yet so obvious...

Sometimes, dating that hot babe may not be the best idea...

I've lived in the South, where they really know how to do speed traps...

There are some dirty jobs out there, but someone's got to do them...

And finally,

There are plenty of people around here who subscribe to this approach to snow shoveling and animal care...

And another weekend begins. There are bills to be paid, grandchildren to be played with, and chores to be done.

I guess one out of three ain't bad.

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


Friday, January 14, 2011


These days, if you don't like violent police dramas that involve serial killers, explosions, frantic car chases, and general mayhem and sadism, it's hard to find something truly entertaining on television. If there ever was a "good old days" on what FCC Chairman Newton Minnow once called the vast wasteland, it was The Hollywood Squares.

In its heyday, with guest stars like Paul Lynde, George Goebel, Rose Marie, and Charley Weaver, it was hysterically funny. It was spontaneous and unscripted, and yielded the sort of instant humor you don't hear much any more. You may have seen this collection of great moments from The Hollywood Squares floating around, but at the end of a difficult week, it's good for a few belly laughs at what television today could be if we'd let it ...

Q. Paul, what is a good reason for pounding meat?
A. Paul Lynde: Loneliness! (The audience laughed so long and so hard it took up almost 15 minutes of the show!)

Q. Do female frogs croak?
A. Paul Lynde: If you hold their little heads under water long enough.

Q. If you're going to make a parachute jump, at least how high should you be?
A. Charley Weaver: Three days of steady drinking should do it.

Q. True or False, a pea can last as long as 5,000 years.
A. George Gobel: Boy, it sure seems that way sometimes.

Q. You've been having trouble going to sleep. Are you probably a man or a woman?
A. Don Knotts: That's what's been keeping me awake.

Q. According to Cosmopolitan, if you meet a stranger at a party and you think that he is attractive, is it okay to come out and ask him if he's married?
A. Rose Marie: No wait until morning.

Q. Which of your five senses tends to diminish as you get older?
A. Charley Weaver: My sense of decency.

Q. In Hawaiian, does it take more than three words to say 'I Love You'?
A. Vincent Price: No, you can say it with a pineapple and a twenty.

Q. What are 'Do It,' 'I Can Help,' and 'I Can't Get Enough'?
A. George Gobel: I don't know, but it's coming from the next apartment.

Q. As you grow older, do you tend to gesture more or less with your hands while talking?
A. Rose Marie: You ask me one more growing old question Peter, and I'll give you a gesture you'll never forget.

Q. Paul, why do Hell's Angels wear leather?
A. Paul Lynde: Because chiffon wrinkles too easily.

Q. Charley, you've just decided to grow strawberries. Are you going to get any during the first year?
A. Charley Weaver: Of course not, I'm too busy growing strawberries.

Q. In bowling, what's a perfect score?
A. Rose Marie: Ralph, the pin boy.

Q. It is considered in bad taste to discuss two subjects at nudist camps. One is politics, what is the other?
A. Paul Lynde: Tape measures.

Q. During a tornado, are you safer in the bedroom or in the closet?
A. Rose Marie: Unfortunately Peter, I'm always safe in the bedroom.

Q. Can boys join the Camp Fire Girls?
A. Marty Allen: Only after lights out.

Q. When you pat a dog on its head he will wag his tail. What will a goose do?
A. Paul Lynde: Make him bark?

Q. If you were pregnant for two years, what would you give birth to?
A. Paul Lynde: Whatever it is, it would never be afraid of the dark.

Q. According to Ann Landers, is there anything wrong with getting into the habit of kissing a lot of people?
A. Charley Weaver: It got me out of the army.

Q. It is the most abused and neglected part of your body, what is it?
A. Paul Lynde: Mine may be abused, but it certainly isn't neglected.

Q. Back in the old days, when Great Grandpa put horseradish on his head, what was he trying to do?
A. George Gobel: Get it in his mouth.

Q. Who stays pregnant for a longer period of time, your wife or your elephant?
A. Paul Lynde: Who told you about my elephant?

Q. When a couple have a baby, who is responsible for its sex?
A. Charley Weaver: I'll lend him the car, the rest is up to him

Q. Jackie Gleason recently revealed that he firmly believes in them and has actually seen them on at least two occasions. What are they?
A. Charley Weaver: His feet.

Q. According to Ann Landers, what are two things you should never do in bed?
A. Paul Lynde: Point and laugh.

I should wear one of those stupid plastic bracelets that reads: WWPLS? - What would Paul Lynde say?

Well, it's finally Friday once again, and time to get ready for the weekend. I've been ready since, oh, Tuesday. There's dancing to be done tonight, grandchildren to be visited over the weekend, and - with luck - some relaxation to be had.

Don't call me ... I plan to be very busy doing as little as Agnes will let me get away with.

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


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Set 'em Up, Barkeep!

We all know what a terrible scourge alcoholism can be, and what its cost to society is in terms of ruined health, broken families, and deaths from alcohol-related accidents. For all that, though, the social imbibing of alcohol is an integral part of most societies. The workingman's beer and the executive's cocktail aid relaxation at the end of a long day, and a nice glass of the right wine can make even a simple dinner a more pleasant experience. For yours truly, a nice gin and tonic is a gift of the gods of summer.

So, we have this love-hate relationship with good old C2H5OH. We know how dangerous it can be, but we love it anyway.

And a new study seems to indicate that abstaining from alcohol can be hazardous to your health ... I call your attention to this fascinating short article from the Mother Nature Network - Study: Abstaining from Alcohol Significantly Shortens Life.

According to the article, a rigorous 20-year study of 1,824 persons between 55 and 65 revealed that only 41 percent of the moderate drinkers died compared to 69 percent of the nondrinkers, once economic, social, other environmental factors had been controlled. The study seemed to show conclusively that, in spite of the increased risk of accidents and impaired judgment associated with heavy drinking, the danger of alcohol addiction, and increased susceptibility to various cancers and diseases associated with alcoholism, those who drink alcohol in moderation are simply less likely to die than people who don't.

The article goes on to suggest that ...

A possible explanation for this is that alcohol can be a great social lubricant, and strong social networks are essential for maintaining mental and physical health. Nondrinkers have been shown to demonstrate greater signs of depression than their carousing counterparts, and in addition to the potential heart health and circulation benefits of moderate drinking (especially red wine), it also increases sociability.

I'll drink to that. Responsibly, of course.

Have a good day. Here's mud in your eye!

More thoughts tomorrow.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Useful Definitions

It looks as if it's going to be one of those wonderful mornings: we had about an inch and a half of snow during the night, which means one thing: passengers riding the local Fairfax Connector buses can "expect delays." How this is different from the service provided on a clear, warm spring day I don't know, except that when the bus is suffering from its normal degree of delay on a clear, warm spring day, I'm not freezing my patootie off at the side of the road.

What does all this mean to you? A short post, since I need extra time to dig out my YakTrax, long underwear, and heaviest scarf. And for this post, I once again provide a thankful tip of the hat to my friend Bob, who offers these unique and useful definitions for common terms:

Traffic Light - a devilish apparatus that automatically turns red when your car approaches.

Divorce - a postgraduate course in the School of Love.

Pioneer - an early American who was lucky enough to find his way out of the woods.

People - some make things happen, some watch things happen, and the majority has no idea what's happened.

- the ability to eat only one peanut. Also, the ability to refrain from bitch-slapping morons spouting inane blather from the political and religious extremes.

Salesman - a man with the ability to convince his wife she'd look fat in mink.

Cannibal - a person who likes to see other people get stewed.

Egocentric - a person who believes he is everything you know you are.

Foreign Film - any movie shown in a Texas theater that isn't a western.

Optimist - a girl who looks at a bulge and sees a curve.

Magazine - a collection of glossy, printed pages that advertise products you don't need while telling you what's coming in the next issue.

College - the four-year period when parents are permitted access to the telephone and the family automobile.

Emergency Numbers - important numbers you should always keep close to your telephone, such as the police station, the fire department and restaurants that deliver.

Opera - a bizarre form of entertainment in which a guy gets stabbed in the back and instead of bleeding, sings in Italian. For two long acts.

Buffet - a useful French expression that roughly translates as, "Get up and get it yourself."

Baby-Sitter - A teen-ager who must behave like an adult so that the adults who are out can behave like teen-agers.

Tattoo - Permanent proof of temporary insanity (or, in the words of the Jimmy Buffet song, "a permanent reminder of a temporary feeling").

Don't thank me - it's all part of my ongoing quest to help enrich your vocabulary.

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


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

You probably think of me as a highbrow intellectual, sipping a glass of white wine while lounging in my wingback chair and pronouncing lofty thoughts, but it's not true. I don't own a wingback chair. And in any case, I have some guilty pleasures that would probably deny me membership in the Society of Highbrow Intellectuals.

Schlocky horror movies for one.

Yes, I admit it. I absolutely love cheesy monster movies, Mexican vampire flicks, and other such brain candy. I like good horror movies, too ... but I'll take a 1950's or 60's monster movie with lumbering rubber creatures and lantern-jawed but inept heroes. I prefer my heroes to be ept, but that's neither here nor there.

I got to thinking about this when I saw this tribute to horror movie superstar Peter Cushing this morning at Miss Cellania's blog:

If you can't read the caption, it says:

Killed Dracula with a pair of candle stick holders.
Blew up Alderan.
Fought Daleks.
Has been at the Earth's core.
Killed more vampires than Buffy.
Outsmarted Moriarty.
Verbally bitch-slapped Darth Vader.
I beg your pardon, but do you really think Chuck Norris can top that?

My kind of guy. Perhaps Pete and Chuck can come to DC and straighten out Congress.

But anyhow, here's a partial list of Bilbo's Favorite All-Time Great Schlocky Horror Movies (with links to their Internet Movie Data Base pages so you know I'm not making them up):


Turn down the lights, settle in with a big bowl of popcorn, and enjoy the kind of movies they don't make any more. Well, they do still make them...just not as well.

It'll take your mind off all the real horrors out there.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Gimme That Old-Time Religion...

One of the most original and intriguing blogs out there is Indexed, written by a brilliant young lady named Jessica Hagy and "published weekday mornings as the coffee brews." Ms Hagy expresses the world around us in terms of simple charts and venn diagrams, and some of her diagrammatic observations are - in my humble opinion - brilliant.

The other day, she posted this two-chart series that asks "Where Do You Stand With the Olympians?". At a time when people tend to take religious beliefs to mind-numbing extremes that can even include demanding the murder of those who don't worship the "correct" way, it seems as if we might as well go back to the days when the gods on Mount Olympus played us like cheap fiddles. Here are Ms Hagy's two charts showing how to interpret the wraths and the blessings of the gods -


If you aren't able to enlarge the diagrams (I still haven't figured out why I can't get them to enlarge properly when clicked, dadgummit), you can get Card #1 full-size here, and Card #2 here.


Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


P.S. - According to this morning's news, Congress has announced it will suspend all legislative activity for a week in honor of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other people murdered and seriously injured last week in a horrific shooting in Tucson, Arizona. I think that's a good gesture ... but given the way Congress has been working lately, how will we notice the difference? And if you want to know how little ossified political attitudes can change in response to evidence, you can read this.



Sunday, January 09, 2011

Murder in Tucson

It is a sad but, I have to say, predictable day here in America. Sad, because six people - including a nine-year-old girl - and a Federal judge were murdered in cold blood; predictable, because we have not only allowed the conditions which led to this tragic event to flourish, but we have encouraged them.

Here is what we appear to know right now: a 22-year-old man with a history of making violent threats went to a "Congress on Your Corner" event at which Representative Gabrielle Giffords was meeting with her constituents, pulled a handgun with a 30-round magazine, shot Representative Giffords in the head at close range, and then proceeded to shoot other people in the crowd. His rampage ended only when he had to stop to reload his weapon, at which point he was tackled by bystanders and held for the police.

We don't know at this point what motivated this lunatic, or whether he acted alone. But I believe this tragic event was predictable for at least two reasons.

One is that we have allowed to develop - particularly on the far right - a culture of hypercritical and often semantically violent rhetoric that views government as an enemy to be fought by any means. Many of these people have a grossly simplistic view of an idealized Constitution that most have never read, or have read only selectively. They thunder about individual rights, but ignore civic responsibilities. They demand lower taxes, but insist on the services those taxes pay for. They fervently believe all will be well if only "out-of-control government spending" could be eliminated, but object to any cutbacks in the areas where most government spending takes place - defense and entitlement programs.

Another reason this event was predictable is blind worship of the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Legal and constitutional scholars have debated since the birth of the Republic exactly what the actual intent of the Founders was when they wrote the Second Amendment - was it to allow unrestricted private ownership of weapons, or was it to provide for the availability of weapons to equip a militia for public defense? Unfortunately, there is not the least doubt in the minds of those for whom the Second Amendment was somehow edited out of the Ten Commandments by some commie-pinko-liberal-activist judge ... it means that the right to own any firearm, of any sort, in any quantity, for any reason, is utterly inviolate and completely beyond any rational discussion. This is why anyone can purchase a high-powered handgun with a large capacity magazine and produce the horror we saw yesterday on a Tucson street corner.

As I've written here before, I support responsible gun ownership. I have owned guns in the past (although I don't at the moment), and the Second Amendment says what it says, poorly-written and broadly-interpreted though it may be. My objection is to the absolute and unquestioning worship of the types of firearms that have no place in a responsible civic society (how many people do you know are out in the woods hunting deer with a handgun with a 30-round magazine?). When the National Rifle Association can use its enormous clout to intimidate lawmakers and prevent the rational discussion of a critical issue, something is wrong.

And the price of those dual problems of unthinking gun worship and overheated political rhetoric is what we see: six people dead and eleven others gravely wounded - some because they chose to enter a life of public service and make themselves available to those they serve, and others because they wanted to meet their elected representative, as is their right in a participatory democracy.

No matter how much of a head-up-the-backside ultraconservative you are, if this doesn't make you think, nothing will.

But I'm not holding my breath.

Pray for the families of the dead and the recovery of the injured. And pray for the future of responsible civic action in a nation that's lost sight of individual responsibility while worshiping individual rights.

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


Saturday, January 08, 2011

Cartoon Saturday

Welcome to 2011!

In Canada, a would-be actress staged a fake casting call for infants and used the occasion to try to kidnap a one-month-old baby; two freshman Republican reprehensives had to have their first votes in Congress invalidated when it was discovered that they had not attended their swearing-in ceremony; police in Los Angeles have identified two men suspected of raping disabled women in a care facility; officials in North Korea, evidently forgetting that they killed two soldiers and a number of civilians when the shelled a South Korean island last year, have suggested that their southern neighbors "...discard any unnecessary misgiving, open their hearts and positively respond to the north's proposal (for 'early and unconditional talks')"; and in Washington and Idaho, lucky winners are dividing a $380 million Mega Millions lottery jackpot that should have been mine.

Now, more than ever, we all need Cartoon Saturday.

The Republicans have taken charge of the House of Representatives, and in a spirit of bipartisan fellowship have declared that they are ready to undo everything any Democrat ever did. I hope they don't realize that Democratic presidents led the nation to victory in World War II ...
The Republicans are, though, good at coming up with creative solutions to multiple problems...

The old comment that "with friends like these, who needs enemies?" seems to have been copyrighted by Pakistan ...

I wonder how I can get into this program ...

The new leadership in the House of Representatives is springing into inaction on the nation's problems by conducting large numbers of "investigations" into the Obama administration. Perhaps Representative Issa could use some help in figuring out just how many investigating committees he needs ...

I've never understood the term Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, which seems to me to be a cover term for the mathematical sleight-of-hand that allows you to derive diametrically opposite conclusions from the same data, depending on what you want your audience to hear. I wonder which of the generally accepted principles covers revenue derived from nontraditional sources ...

Happily, none of my children ever used this excuse about homework. Unfortunately, we'll just have to see whether any of the grandchildren pick up on it ...

I was going to use "Get back in shape" as a new year's resolution, but then I remembered that round is, in fact, a shape, so I dropped it. But I may get creative about the whole fitness thing in 2011 ...

I just couldn't pass this one up ...

And finally, sometimes there's a cartoon that speaks right to the heart ...

I note from comments received over the last few Cartoon Saturdays that some of you are having problems reading the cartoons because they don't enlarge when clicked. I'm not sure what the problem is, although I suspect it may have something to do with my editing of extraneous html coding that the Blogger system seems to inject into each post. I've tried to be more careful with that this time ... let me know if it works.

Outside my study window here in Northern Virginia, the snow is coming down heavily and steadily, although the meteorological prognosticators (weathermen, Mike) say we're only supposed to see a "dusting" of the white stuff. All I can say is that it's getting pretty dusty outside. Looks as if it will be a good day to spend indoors, taking down all the Christmas decorations.

Just a party animal, that's me!

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.