Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Son of the Return of Great Moments in Editing, the Sequel, Part IIa

Lots to do this morning, and I'm not quite awake yet, so let's just do a few more of our classic moments from the world of good editing ...

If those automatic reductions to the Defense budget caused by the inability of Congress to do its job kick in in 2013, military surplus stores will do a booming business. Where else can you get that attractive kevlar bra and panty set for your girlfriend?

Some turkeys are easier to hunt than others ...

Times are tough, and churches need to be selective ...

I'm sure the population of Warren sleeps better knowing that those bogus prognosticators are off the streets ...

Stop the presses!!! ...

Stop the presses again!!! ...

No better time than the present to stock up on ... things ...

As excuses go, this one really isn't bad. And it was probably fun, too ...

That surely was nice of them, wasn't it? ...

And finally, you can spend a bit more and get a little better publicist to develop your slogans for your business ...

Have a good day. Remember the value of a good editor and proofreader. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Brief Tax Rant

If you want to watch a Republican's head explode, say something positive about taxes. Actually, nobody likes to pay taxes but, as we see every day, everybody likes the things taxes pay for. What we really want is something for nothing ... or something that, in true Wall Street fashion, is paid for with someone else's money.

But let's be realistic for a minute.

If we want frivolous things like schools, police and fire protection, and an army, we're going to have to pay taxes. The issue is not whether or not taxes are necessary - they are. The real issue is twofold: how to fairly assess and collect the right amount of tax from individuals and businesses, and how to decide what those taxes will pay for.

What constitutes fair in the tax debate is, of course, a matter of opinion. If you have an income of $20,000, any amount of tax taken out may seem unfair. If you have an income of $1,000,000, it may seem unfair that you are asked to pay a larger portion of that income in taxes. Fair is relative.

Here's an example of a tax issue that makes me go AARRGGHH!!

I commute to work every day using a so-called SmarTrip electronic card which is loaded with money that is debited each time I tap it on a Metro turnstile or a fare box on a bus...

One of the ways I can add money to this card is by designating a small, IRS-approved part (currently $130) of my pre-tax pay to be automatically loaded to it each month. This helps pay for my daily commute, keeps a car off the roads, and provides me with a modest tax savings. Is this fair, when compared to benefits not enjoyed by people who don't commute? Probably not. But it's my little tax break, and in a deep and cobwebby part of my fundamentally conservative heart, I'll defend it fiercely.

Now, the IRS has recently decided that the commuter benefit must be more tightly regulated to prevent abuse. My SmarTrip card has been automatically partitioned to separate money for commuting (by bus or train, which is not taxed) from money used to pay for parking (which is not supposed to be paid for with the pre-tax commuting benefit). The fact that you might have a multi-stage commute which requires you to drive to (and park at) a Metro station to catch your bus or train is immaterial. Is this fair?

This is a small but, to me, very annoying tax issue. The law provides all sorts of loopholes which allow some categories of well-represented taxpayers to avoid paying tax on huge amounts of money, while Congress (not the IRS, who are just the enforcers of the laws Congress passes) wants to make sure that I'm not abusing that untaxed $130 per month on my SmarTrip card.

I don't have a big point or message today ... just an observation on one small part of the stupidity of the anti-tax movement and the equal stupidity of the tax code that Congress has written - one that offers benefits and protections to those who can afford Platinum-Plus RepresentationTM from the representative they've bought and paid for.

The rest of us, just suck it up and fill out that 1040. Take solace in the fact that you're doing your part to support the job creators.

And if you believe that, I can make you a good deal on a bridge.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Puns, and Today's DUMBCON Level

Today is the day I go back to work after the luxury of a four-day weekend. This is not an altogether bad thing, as I have a job to go back to, and I can certainly use the walk to and from the bus stop and around the rings and corridors of the Pentagon to work off all that turkey and the trimmings.

And that's gotta be a lot of walking, let me tell you.

Because I have to get myself organized and ready to get my nose back to the grindstone and my shoulder back to the wheel, today's post will be on the simple side. Even a Republican should be able to understand it, even if it will still be beyond the capabilities of most Democrats. That's why we're using pictures.

This first one goes out to my blogging friends who are teachers of English (yes, Kathy and Melissa, I'm talking to you) and to my nephew Ed, as he begins his college education in English literature ...

You may remember the utterly ridiculous movie Snakes on a Plane from a few years ago ... a film memorable mainly for its display of Samuel L. Jackson's ability to cram the largest amount of foul language into a given period of time. Here's another, more entertaining, look at snakes on planes ...

The Department of Homeland Security has given up its much-parodied color-coded terror alert system. But we still need some way to distinguish between various alert levels. How about the Terrier Alert Level ... ?

And if that Terrier Alert System doesn't work for you, there's always Bilbo's National Stupidity Condition Index - the DUMBCON. You can read about it here, but here's the graphic for your use:

In case you were wondering, we're still at DUMCON 1 ... thanks to Congress, Iranian mullahs, both political parties, and the financial mismanagement industry, there's no longer any need for DUMBCONs 5 through 2.


Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ikea Is the Swedish Word for "Hernia"

Before we get to the good stuff, I noticed on my Blogger dashboard that today marks my 1900th post! While 1900 is a nice, round number, though, all it really means is that the actual celebrateable (?) milestone is just 100 posts away ... if I keep up my usual schedule, probably sometime in late March or early April. I'm thinking about something appropriate for my 2000th post ... if you have any suggestions for topics (that won't land me in jail, Mike), put them into a comment or e-mail me.

And now for the main event...

Yesterday I engaged in another of my cherished annual traditions. We borrowed our son-in-law's truck and used it to haul all of our Christmas decorations back from the storage unit ...

After unloading the decorations at home, I loaded up the truck with junk and trash and drove it to the landfill in Lorton. Quite the swinging weekend, eh?

But there's more!

On the way home from our daughter's house after picking up the truck, we also stopped at the local Ikea store to pick up a few new pieces of furniture we'd been intending to buy. For those of you not familiar with Ikea, here are a few notes to help you understand the concept:

1. The average Ikea store is so big that it has its own zip code. Some Ikea stores are so big they require customers to have a passport and visa to enter.

2. An Ikea store is cleverly laid out so that it takes you a minimum of three days to get from the entrance to the checkout. The marked route through the store ensures that you will have the opportunity to see and admire every single item they sell, regardless of what you went there to buy in the first place.

3. All Ikea products have names. You don't just buy a bookshelf or a coffee table, you buy a Billy bookshelf or a Vejmon coffee table. I think this is silly. I don't need to be on a first-name basis with my furniture.

4. Everything you buy at Ikea comes unassembled, requiring you to haul it home and put it together yourself.

4a. The average disassembled item comes packed into a box carefully designed to be too large to fit into the trunk of any car not made to haul supplies for the Army.

4b. That box weighs a minimum of four tons and requires a Bucyrus Erie crane to get it off the shelf and onto your cart.

Good luck getting it from the cart to the bed of your pickup truck, and into your house once you get home.

4c. Any Ikea product of any size consists of at least 75 pieces made of solid lead covered with an attractive wood veneer. These pieces are assembled using thousands of screws, nails, grommets, flanges, and other assorted oddly-shaped connectors, all carefully counted out and packaged in convenient plastic bags which strew parts in all directions when opened.

4d. The assembly instructions for an Ikea product have no words ... they consist of drawings which guide you step-by-step through the assembly process. The assembly instructions for the Galant Drawer Unit on Casters (with birch veneer) is 28 pages long, and includes a separate booklet that explains how to set the combination lock. Here is a typical page:

Good luck, and bring that magnifying glass with you.

4e. No Ikea product can be assembled in the space available where you want to install it. This means you must assemble it someplace which provides enough space for you to spread out all the parts and maneuver them around ... a soccer field, for instance ... and then transport it in its fully-assembled form to the room where you actually want to use it. Sadly, that Bucyrus Erie crane probably won't be of much help by this point.

4f. Once you have completed the assembly and installation of your Ikea product, you will notice several things:

4f(1) It looks beautiful.

4f(2) You will need to dispose of an enormous amount of packing material.

4f(3) You will require the services of a psychiatrist and a chiropractor.

Yesterday, I assembled and installed two large Billy bookcases (one each for my study and Agnes's study), the aforementioned Galant drawer unit for Agnes's study, and a Vejmon Coffee Table for the living room. They all look very nice, but my eyes hurt from squinting at instructions and I feel like someone has been beating me with a two-by-four.

So ...

If you like modernistic, spiffy furniture you can address by name and have boundless patience, a Bucyrus Erie crane, and a 55-gallon drum of Bengay ointment, Ikea is the place to shop. Good luck.

Just don't call me to help you.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cartoon Saturday

Had enough of turkey and endless leftovers? Waddle on over and let's recap the week ...

The Joint Select Committee on Finger-Pointing and Avoidance of Responsibility (otherwise known as the "supercommittee") dissolved this week, having (as expected) accomplished absolutely nothing; a woman in Pakistan is under arrest, suspected of killing her husband, dismembering him, and attempting to cook and eat him (if you haven't read the classic Roald Dahl short story Lamb to the Slaughter, now would be a good time); basketball team owners and players may have reached a tentative agreement to end the lockout which has stopped the playing season; some people desperate for Black Friday bargains resorted to violence, including a California woman who attacked other shoppers with pepper spray so she could get a discounted video gaming console; and in Afghanistan, a young woman who was raped, then jailed for adultery for reporting the crime, then forced to marry her attacker, has had her sentence reduced from 12 to three years ... and remains in jail because she didn't report the crime quickly enough.

Yep. It's definitely time for Cartoon Saturday.

Thanksgiving is over, and we all had something to be thankful for ... no matter how small ...

Of course, there are always problems after Thanksgiving ...

I don't know whether to dedicate this one to my friends who are English teachers, or my friends who are attorneys ...

Times are tough in the looting and pillaging business ...

But they're good for the businesses that support modern-day looting and pillaging ...

If you've ever driven in downtown Washington, DC, you can appreciate this one more than most ...

Two riffs on a theme ...

And ...

And squeezing just a bit more out of the ant theme, we're all familiar with the modern managerial mantra (wow, more alliteration!) of do more with less ...

And finally for today, you just know that this is coming ...

Well, Dear Readers, Thanksgiving is over and it's now time to move into the Christmas season. Of course, if you shop at any big box store, you know that the Christmas season began shortly after the Fourth of July, but that's neither here nor there. If you survived Black Friday, good on 'ya. If you still have a few dollars left, there are 29 shopping days left.

Good luck.

Have a good day. Enjoy the last of the holiday weekend. More thoughts tomorrow.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Odds and Ends for Black Friday

Because I am still in my state of L-tryptophan-induced stupor, and am thus unable to generate coherent thoughts on a single theme, I thought I'd just dip into the Blog Fodder file for some odds and ends. Digital leftovers, if you will. Sit back and read on ...

You surely know by now that today is "Black Friday." This is not another self-congratulatory ethnic celebration, but the slang term for the day after Thanksgiving when - based on all-out attempts to generate huge sales - most retailers see their balance sheets go from the red of loss to the black of (well, at least this year) less loss. Many stores have been open since midnight, with bleary-eyed staffs looking to draw in customers clutching the few dollars they have left. If you have a death wish, go ahead and hit the malls. Me, I'm staying home to put up the Christmas decorations.

Turning to other important topics, like the end of the world ...

It has been known for some time that the calendar of the ancient Mayan civilization supposedly predicts that some sort of world-ending apocalypse will occur in 2012 (there was even a movie about it a few years ago). Well, now archaeologists in Mexico have supposedly discovered a second Mayan reference to 2012 as the year the world will end. Inscriptions on the Mayan temple at Comalcalco, when translated, appear to combine the names of evil Mayan deities such as Perry, Gingrich, Cain, and Bachmann, and a once-powerful but now less-worshiped demigod known as Obama, with reference to the year 2012. We're doomed.

The peaceful, fun-loving government of North Korea has announced its traditional holiday expression of goodwill and fellowship toward South Korea, threatening to turn the South into a "sea of fire" should the government of the South (referred to as "the group of traitors") "impair the dignity of (the North) again and fire one bullet or shell toward its inviolable territorial waters, sky and land." In a related story, the Republican National Committee has hired Kim Jong-Il to help draft GOP campaign slogans.

This weekend marks the official debut of the revised English-language Mass at Catholic churches around the country. There was flailing agony years ago when the Mass transitioned from the traditional Latin to English; now there's flailing agony as the Mass transitions from English to ... different English. Speaking as one who studied Latin in high school for three years (two of them trying to get out of Latin I), my advice is: stick with the English, however convoluted you think the new version is. You're better off.

And that's it for Black Friday 2011. Come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday ... you should be awake by then.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving, 2011 - Part 2

If you've read any of my previous Thanksgiving Day blog posts, you already know that this is my favorite holiday of the year. It's the time when we gather with family and friends, eat too much, drink too much, and generally celebrate the good things in life. It's the time I get to prepare the traditional Thanksgiving dinner (and be thankful that I don't have to rely on Congress to do it for me) ...

In the mad rush of everyday life, at a time when the Capitol Hill Clown Show and the miserable state of the economy make each day a new struggle of worry and head-shaking, it's sometimes difficult to remember that we really do have things for which we can be thankful. This is what I wrote at this time last year:

A beautiful wife that makes getting up every morning worthwhile;

Three loving and successful children who have made their own marks on the world;

Five adorable, intelligent, and loving grandchildren that can warm the most jaded heart;

The world's best son-in-law and daughter-in-law;

A job (still!);

A home;

Good health (well, most of the time, anyhow);

The good fortune to be able to live in a country which, for all its faults, gives me the opportunity to enjoy all of them;

The ability to write what I wish in this space without worrying about the heavy hand of the censor;

The ability to enjoy the good things of the world that would be denied by those whose harsh and intolerant worship of a jealous and angry God ignores the beauty and possibilities of the present in favor of a belief in an imagined paradise in an unknowable future.

Yes, in spite of the best efforts of Congress, the financial mismanagement industry, and legions of political, social, and religious ass clowns to screw it up, I still have many things to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day. And as I get ready to finish cleaning the house and cooking the dinner for our friends who will join us later in the day, it's only right to take a few minutes to acknowledge that I am, as ever, most richly blessed.

To all of my friends out there in the blogosphere, new and old, here and overseas, I send out the very best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving and a safe and joyful holiday season to come.

Don't let the turkeys get you down.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

And the Award Goes To ...

Yes, Dear Readers, it's time once again for ol' Uncle Bilbo to present the richly-deserved Ass Clown of the Week Award!

But wait! This time, it's special, for two reasons!

First, today, we present an award covering not just a week, but an entire month, the level of recognized ass-clownery being so stupendous as to deserve dishonor over a longer period of time. And second, we have a tie for worst first place, and so recognize not one, but two dishonorees.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Ass Clown of the Month Award is presented jointly to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the so-called "supercommittee") and to Republican gadfly and loose cannon par excellence Newt Gingrich.

We first cite the members of the "supercommittee," for wasting the nation's time and treasure while accomplishing absolutely nothing, making our so-called government the laughingstock of the world, and imperiling our children's and grandchildren's future.

The self-serving and ludicrous closing statement (sent out by the committee's co-chairs by e-mail and as a post on the committee's website, because they were too ashamed to face the people and admit their failure) says it all:

"After months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee’s deadline ... Despite our inability to bridge the committee's significant differences, we end this process united in our belief that the nation's fiscal crisis must be addressed and that we cannot leave it for the next generation to solve. We remain hopeful that Congress can build on this committee’s work and can find a way to tackle this issue in a way that works for the American people and our economy."

If there was any "hard work" or "intense deliberations" involved, I didn't see it. And if these ridiculous, ideologically fossilized and morally bankrupt finger-pointing blowhards left any work "that Congress can build on," I didn't see that, either. If ever the Ass Clown of the Month Award was deserved, it is now.

And because the ass-clownery just never ends, especially in an election year, a second award is presented to Newt Gingrich ...

for his personification of the "compassionate conservatism" of today's Republican Party. Specifically, Mr Gingrich is cited for his recent assertion that child labor laws are "truly stupid," and his belief that children's work ethic could be enhanced and money saved by replacing expensive unionized school janitors with after-school student labor. Who needs to waste all that time on school work, anyhow? ... the current crop of Republican presidential wannabees clearly demonstrates that education is unnecessary if you are sufficiently ideologically rigid.

And so, Dear Readers, I give you the joint dishonorees for the month of November. Tomorrow may be our beloved holiday of Thanksgiving, but I find little to give thanks for as I look at these ridiculous ass clowns.

I'd go on, but I'm so angry I'd just splutter on the screen.

Demand more from your elected reprehensives, but expect less ... as Jerry Reed once famously remarked, "He who expected nothin' ain't gonna be deceived!"

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Places I Have and Have Not Been

I'm a pretty well-traveled fellow. Thanks to a career in the Air Force, a love of travel, and a family spread out over a large area, I have meandered across Western Europe, much of the US, parts of Canada, and as far south as Mexico and Panama. Not too bad, although the list of other places I'd like to visit before shuffling off my mortal coil remains long.

The other day my brother Mark in Florida forwarded me a clever e-mail titled The Places I Have and Have Not Been, which cleverly summarizes some other locations I have either already been, or yet may find myself. I've added one or two of my own locations to the list, so let's take the trip together, eh? ...

I have been in many places, but I've never been in Cahoots. Apparently, you can't go alone. You have to be in Cahoots with someone.

I've also never been in Cognito. I hear no one recognizes you there.

I have, however, been in Sane. They don't have an airport; you have to be driven there. I have made many trips there, thanks to my friends, family and work.

I would like to come to Conclusions, but you have to jump, and I'm not too much on physical activity anymore.

I have also been in Doubt. That is a sad place to go, and I try not to visit there too often.

I've been in Flexible, but only when it was very important to stand firm.

Sometimes I'm in Capable, and I go there more often as I'm getting older.

One of my favorite places to be is in Suspense. It really gets the adrenalin flowing and pumps up the old heart ... and at my age I need all the stimuli I can get.

From time to time I have been in Communicado, but I try to make sure I have my cell phone, a package of writing paper, and a good pen when I go there so I don't get lonely.

And sometimes I think I am in Vincible, but life shows me I am not!

More and more often I find myself in Dignant ... I frequently go there when I read the news coming out of Washington (most of the people who should be working there are in Ane, anyhow).

I have been in Deepshit many times; the older I get, the easier it is to get there.

I'm sure we've probably seen each other in one or two of these places.

And that's how ... and where ... it is for this rainy, chilly morning here in Northern Virginia. No matter what the weather, though, you need to hurry up and finish that shopping for your Thanksgiving dinner - the stores will only get more crowded the longer you wait.

Have a good day, no matter where you have it. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving, 2011 - Part 1

Those of you who have been with me for a while know that in our family, we have a tradition (at least, since 2007) of having a Thanksgiving family reunion on the weekend before the actual Thanksgiving holiday. It's a bit rushed, but it avoids the holiday traffic, the cost of travel is usually less than it is the following week ... and the stores haven't been sold out of whatever you need.

We all converged on my sister Lisa's house in Pittsburgh this past weekend for the annual reunion, and - in spite of pinkeye, various creeping crud illnesses, and the Construction Zone from Hell between the hotel and Lisa's house - everyone had a great time. And there are pictures!

The out-of-towners always stay at the same hotel not far from Lisa's house. We like it because it's clean, friendly, has free breakfast, and has a big pool, which is good for helping children burn off excess energy (of which they usually have lots). They do cringe, though, when we all descend on the breakfast area at once ...

Leya and Marcy really like the pool ...

Cousin Eddie set the table with the good family china ... Great Grandpa still can't believe that so much of it has survived so many years of family dinners!

Our son Matt made it back to Pennsylvania from Los Angeles for the first time in several years, and was a big hit with all the children. Even with Elise. She was glad to see him. Really ...

I usually end up having to carve the turkey. This year, I decided to try a new technique I learned from watching back episodes of Dexter ...

After dinner there's usually a gather-around-the-table game of some sort. This year it was "Apples to Apples," a word-comparison game which was a big hit with everyone ... except when their answer didn't get picked by the judge ...

It was a long day, and both Opa and Elise were pretty pooped out as the evening wore on ...

On Sunday morning, we all cleaned up for the traditional family pictures. We started off with the whole group (except for our brothers Paul, who wasn't able to get off his shift as an EMT, and Mark, who wasn't able to come up from Florida this year) ...

And finally, the other picture that sums up all the things Agnes and I have to be thankful for - the picture with all five of our grandchildren ...

Has Elise got a cute scowl or what?

And that was our first Thanksgiving for the year. I'm always glad that we're close enough together (well, mostly) that we can get together and have this family blast each year. It's important for everyone to know that they're part of a larger family, and that we all love each other. In a world full of political dumbassity, violence, and hatred, it's good to reflect that there really are still things out there for which we can be thankful.

Later this week, we'll do the whole thing again when we celebrate Thanksgiving with a group of our friends here at home in Disneyland-on-the-Potomac.

But for now, it's time to get ready to go back to work. I'm not complaining, though ... I still have a job - and nowadays, that's something to be really thankful for.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cartoon ... uh ... Thursday?

Yes, Saturday is two days away ... but since Agnes and I will be leaving in a few hours for our annual pre-Thanksgiving family reunion up in Pittsburgh, and I get hate mail when Cartoon Saturday is even late going up, I figured I'd do this ahead of time. I'll be spending Saturday cooking a turkey the size of a Volkswagen while getting reacquainted with everybody, so blogging won't be at the front of what's left of my mind. So here goes ...

The deadline for the Congressional "supercommittee" to finish accomplishing absolutely nothing is just six days away; a man who claims to hate the President has been arrested after allegedly shooting at (and hitting) the White House; Lindsey Lohan's photos shot for Playboy magazine are said to be "brilliant" ... by Heidi Fleiss, the former Hollywood madam; the United States will soon begin rotating troops through a base in ... Australia1; and at least four people have been killed in severe storms across the American south.

Yep ... no question ... you need a big dose of Cartoon Saturday. Early, even.

We start off with three cartoons presented in sets of two ... first, perhaps God doesn't need to do His own smiting any more ...

... or, perhaps, He (She?) could just take a different approach ...

Two takes on a ... uh ... cutting edge theme ...

And ...

The possibilities of this theme are endless ... and mainly off-color ...

And ...

Remember the "Mobius Dick" cartoon from a few weeks ago? Here's the sequel ...

If you don't get it, check here.

I can see how our customs might confuse the first aliens to visit. From space, that is ...

Triangular relationships can be difficult ...

And finally, I've never really understood the appeal of tattooing ... and I've especially never understood the appeal of body piercing ...

And that's it for your weekly injection of cartoon humor. As I said, we'll be leaving in a few hours for Pittsburgh, and I probably won't have time to post this blog until next Monday morning (I hate it that NaBloPoMo is in November), so this will have to hold you until then. I'll be up occasionally on Facebook, for those of you who are my friends there, and the next post will have the pictures of the reunion weekend. Of course, without a wide-angle lens, the post-Thanksgiving dinner photos may be hard to manage, but I'll do my best.

Have a good day and a great weekend. Come back and visit this space on Monday.


1 A simmering hotbed of al Qaeda activity, no doubt.