Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Arms and the Man (with Apologies to George Bernard Shaw*)

Fluff alert - no deep thoughts this morning, just an aging boomer's fantasies (the safe ones, anyhow).

We're getting to that part of the year that is the favorite of those of us who admire the shapely female arm - the sleeveless dress season of late Spring through early Fall. Those of you who have been reading this blog for very long know that I am a great fan of the feminine arm, but what you may not know is that there are others who think long and hard on this wonderful limb.

Consider this article by Libby Copeland I found yesterday on Slate.com: Sleeveless - The Sheath: a Particular Brand of Female-Anchor Sexy. From the article ...

"The sleeveless sheath dress, now ubiquitous on cable and local news, and especially beloved by morning news programs, is as much a uniform for TV newswomen as androgyny was in the mid-’90s, when boxy blazers and short hair reigned." 

Yes, Dear Readers, there is a reason why many of the most popular television newswomen tend to wear sleeveless sheath dresses - they're 21st century professional sexy. One of the reasons I can crank out my time on the elliptical machine in the early watches of the morning is the opportunity to see the news delivered by Diana Perez of ABC News ...

Followed by local newscaster Cynee Simpson ...

Poor old Walter Cronkite ...

How can you compete with today's news announcers?

Returning to the Slate.com article ...

"There’s a reason why the women of TV news have embraced sleevelessness while treading carefully in matters like cleavage (sexy weather reporters aside). Bare arms read as a kind of smart-sexy, a look that women in positions of authority can pull off. Michelle Obama is responsible for this, as are socialites of the Manhattan cocktail circuit, for whom bare arms long ago became a currency of wealth and fitness. MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski and Chris Jansing are fans of the look, as is CBS’s Gayle King, and CNN’s Brooke Baldwin. Fit arms are about control, a state of poised strength you work at ... if cellulite and cleavage can read as sloppy, toned arms are the very opposite; they’re all about intention and control. Which is why newswomen get to show them off. They are appropriate for early risers and Ivy League overachievers—the sexiness of success rather than vulnerability."

Well, we could analyze this to death, or we could just admire the ladies who have beautiful arms and aren't afraid to show them off ... like the First Lady, for instance ...

She makes news, rather than reporting it ... but who cares? - she's beautiful.

Enjoy the summer. Ladies, thanks for sharing with the rest of us ... I, for one, appreciate it.

Have a good day. Consider that the right to bare arms is a lot safer and more beautiful than the right to bear them.

More thoughts coming.


* Arms and the Man had to do with the sort of arms beloved of the NRA ... not the sort of arms exposed by tank tops, camisoles, and shells. I like the latter sort much better.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Great Moments in Editing Returns Yet Again!

Yesterday was a gorgeous spring day, and today looks like it's shaping up to be the same, so why sit inside and work on the computer any longer than necessary? How about another collection of Great Moments in Editing? ... it's been more than a month since the last one, after all, and it's time to start cleaning out the folder of pending items. Let's get to it ...

Before and after photos can be effective advertising ... sometimes ...

Uh, that's okay ... I seem to have lost my appetite ...

Would the insurance company call this a pre-existing condition? ...

Editors are needed in television studios, too ...

Who do you suppose came in first, second, and fourth? ...

If you saw this episode of "Dancing with the Stars," you know what they're trying to say ... but I'm not sure it came out quite right ...

You know, sometimes I think this diversity thing can be carried just a little too far ..

He's a politician! How is this news? ...

I don't think I'd ever want a job at this lab ...

Finally, as mea culpas go, this one probably leaves a little to be desired ...

And there you have it ... our latest collection of Great Moments in Editing. If you are a teacher of English, rejoice! - your talents are clearly still needed, if not always appreciated.

I'm not sure yet what the plans are for today ... the weather is going to be beautiful once again, so if we don't visit with our local grandchildren, I'll probably don the old work-in-the-yard jeans and my funky floppy hat and spend the day working in the yard and garden. Either way, I predict sore muscles by the time my alarm goes off tomorrow morning.

Getting old is the pits, but it does beat the alternative!

Have a good day and a great week. Come back on Tuesday for more thoughts.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Cartoon Saturday

I don't know about you, but I'm just about ready to pull the flush handle on this month ...

More than 300 people were killed when a sweatshop garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed and buried hundreds of workers; the mother of the accused bombers of the Boston Marathon insists that the bombings were faked (which will be news to all the people who lost limbs and the three who were killed); nearly 40 people were killed in a fire at a psychiatric hospital in Russia; faced with crowds of angry travelers and a desire to avoid inconveniencing themselves during their upcoming vacation, Congress passed a bill which ended the furloughs of air traffic controllers that had created large delays in air traffic; and in New York City, workers found a large section of landing gear, probably from one of the two airliners that destroyed the World Trade Center on 9/11, stuck in a narrow shaft between two buildings.

Come on, May ... you've got to be better than this. But in the meantime, we'll just go with the cartoons.

We start off this week with two takes on the old "wolf in sheep's clothing" theme ...

And ...

In an economy this tough, everyone tries to enhance their income however they can ...

Paging Mr Beck, Mr Glenn Beck ...

And wouldn't it be nice if the play-by-play for major league sports games was done by salary, rather than uniform number? ...

For this week's set of theme cartoons, we take a humorous look at the famous statues of Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, which have stared inscrutably out at the ocean for many hundreds of years. There are the irreverent takes on the statues ...

The idea Congress isn't the only group of large, dense, immovable objects incapable of doing anything ...

It's never good to disappoint the gods ...

It seems like this would be a legitimate question to ask ...

 And finally for this week, we come to the fundamental truth of all the "great" religions ...

And that's it for this week's edition of Cartoon Saturday. It looks like it will be another very nice weekend, weather-wise, which is great ... today Agnes and I will be traveling to Linden Vineyards with our friend Nadja to sample their new wines, and tomorrow will probably be spent being run ragged by our grandchildren ...

... but sore muscles never felt so good!

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


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Of Cell Phones and Toilets

Do you remember a time - long, long ago - when there were no cell phones? When, in order to use a telephone, you actually lifted a receiver that was connected to a base unit with a wire, then dialed a number?

In fact, when was the last time you actually dialed a number, as opposed to poking it into a keypad?

Do you remember a time when you took pictures with a camera, surfed the web from a desktop PC, and detonated bombs the old-fashioned way?

Yes, Dear Readers, people not much younger than I will scarcely remember a time when we didn't have portable, or cellular phones. We have been freed from the wires that limited us to a short radius of distance from the telephone base unit. We can roam wherever we like, having the most personal of conversations no matter where we are and who else may be listening. As long as there are enough bars*, you can talk to anyone, anywhere, at any time, about any subject, no matter how inappropriate or personal**.

Cell phones are everywhere. You can't escape.

In fact, according to this article I read last month in Time Magazine, more people in the world have cell phones than toilets. Consider this quote from the article ...

"Out of the world’s estimated 7 billion people, 6 billion have access to mobile phones. Far fewer — only 4.5 billion people — have access to working toilets. Of the 2.5 billion who don’t have proper sanitation, 1.1 billion defecate in the open, according to the study."

Well, those who have cell phones also frequently defecate in the open, just verbally.

I end this discourse with a message from your uncle:

Do it now. The rest of us will thank you.

Have a good day. Quietly. And come back for Cartoon Saturday.


* Speaking of bars, I think I could use one.

** I believe I've shared with you the very loud conversation I once overheard in Washington National Airport (I refuse to call it Reagan National Airport), in which an angry fellow was berating the person on the other end of the line for not getting him the desired appointment ... with his proctologist. Way more information than we all needed.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Your Fascinating Language Lesson for Today

When I crashed on the rocks of calculus back at Penn State many years ago and told my father I was going to change my major from Chemical Engineering to Linguistics, I think he had visions of me being permanently unemployed and living at home forever. What do you do with a degree in Linguistics, after all?

Well, if nothing else, you get to enjoy all the interesting things about language!

Courtesy of my friend and former coworker Andy comes this fascinating and informative article from The WeekA Handy Guide to Homophones, Homonyms, and Homographs.

Contrary to what you may believe, the terms homophone, homonym, and homograph do not refer to the sexual orientation of words, but to their sounds and spellings. Here is a really cool* Venn diagram** that explains the relationship among them:

Basically, homophones and homonyms sound the same but are either spelled differently or have different meanings, while homonyms and homographs are spelled the same, but have different meanings or pronunciations.

This is one reason why some people find English so difficult to learn. Of course, English speakers find other languages difficult as well ... comedian Steve Martin once said French was hard to learn because they have a different word for everything.

And as long as that's true, there will be plenty of jobs for teachers of English and other languages. Unfortunately, there will also be plenty of people who never learn to read and think properly in any language. They usually go into politics or extreme religion.

Here's a final thought: let's tell the Westboro Baptist Church about homophones, homonyms, and homographs ... they won't be able to use scores of words ever again!

Have a good day. Come back Thursday for more thoughts.


* If you have a degree in Linguistics, anyhow.

** Venn diagrams? I don't know ... what time is it now, ha, ha?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Miscellany

It's ridiculously early to be up on a Sunday morning, but I am ... one of Agnes's friends from Germany misread the time difference and called us at about 4:15 this morning. Nothing like a phone call in the middle watches of the night to get one's adrenaline pumping.

But as long as I'm up, I may as well post, right?

Just a few odds and ends for this NoVa Sunday morning, because I'm not awake enough yet to do much more ...

My brief comment in yesterday's post about "trying out my new recipe for giant soap bubble solution on the grandchildren" engendered a lot of comments. It actually worked out very well, although we were a bit hampered by the stiff breeze that came up from time to time. The mixture (which somebody posted on Facebook the other day) is pretty basic: six cups of water, two cups of ordinary dishwashing soap, and one cup of corn syrup (which gave the bubbles more strength and stability, but made the mix a bit sticky). Here's a picture of Leya trying out the solution with her battery-operated, fan-powered bubble blower (I had to buy two, exactly alike, so that she and Elise wouldn't argue over whose turn it was to use it). Now I want one, too ...

Elise quickly got the hang of it, too ...

Yay, bubbles!

On other fronts ...

Before I started this post, I crafted a long response to a comment left by a reader on last Tuesday's post - Why Bother with Those Pesky Laws? I think we'll just have to agree to disagree ... read his comment and my response and let me know what you think.

This afternoon, Agnes and I will be going over to Dance Studio Lioudmila in Alexandria for their Spring Dance Showcase. I'll be emceeing the show, and Agnes will be taking pictures. We've been away from the dance floor for a while, so it'll be nice to get back into the ... uh ... swing of things.

On a more serious note, it's good to see that the horrible situation in Boston has come to an end, at least for the time being. One of the alleged bombers is dead, and a second is wounded and in custody. It's time now for the spin doctors and the conspiracy theorists to take over. If it were up to me, I'd have just had the police fire a few warning shots into their heads ... but I guess that's why I didn't go into a career in law enforcement.

Oh, and speaking of e-books (I know we weren't, but just humor me, okay), why is it that (a) they're so expensive in relation to their print cousins, and (b) so full of typos and formatting errors? I guess I could understand the proliferation of formatting errors if I were reading an older book that was just scanned and reset by an OCR device, but I'm reading a brand new (December 2012) book right now (The Pointblank Directive: Three Generals and the Untold Story of the Daring Plan that Saved D-Day, by L. Douglas Keeney) that is full of annoying and distracting errors. If you are an editor/publisher and are reading this, how about doing a better job for your customers, eh?

And that's all for now. Maybe I can get another hour of sleep in, ha, ha.

Have a good day. More thoughts later.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Cartoon Saturday

It's been a hell of a week, not to put too fine a point on it ...

Three people were murdered and scores of others injured when two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon; only a few days later, police had killed one of the suspected bombers and captured the other after a massive manhunt; North Korean mini-tyrant Kim Jong-un pitched a new fit, threatening to declare nuclear war on the Boston Marathon bombers for stealing his news coverage; a fertilizer plant in the town of West, Texas, was destroyed in a massive explosion; and the Senate caved to pressure from the gun lobby and voted down all attempts to pass legislation to help control gun violence.

I don't know about you, but I need both a nice gin and tonic and Cartoon Saturday.

This week's collection of theme cartoons looks at the phenomenon of text messaging. It can provide a new twist on classic poetry ...

You may want to count to ten before sending some texts ...

I sometimes suffer from writer's block ... nowadays, people can suffer from other sorts of blockages ...

And texting may eventually change some of our most traditional academic events ...

The job market is pretty tight, and people are going to great lengths to make their resumes stand out from the crowd, like this fellow ...

... and this one ...

Same-sex marriages may be the latest rage, but they aren't the only sort of marriages some people would like to ban ...

When we bought new furniture for our rec room a few years ago, Agnes looked very closely at certain models of recliners she thought would be good for me ...

Maybe it's just me, but I think one can go a little too far with the all-natural/organic food craze ...

And finally, I never cease to be amazed at the television and print media ads for various medicines ... they spend so much air time and print space listing all the horrible possible side effects that I often wonder whether the cure is better than the disease ...

And so we bring another stressful and crazy week to an end. The weekend is supposed to be cooler and cloudier than the last few days, so perhaps it'll be a little more comfortable for sleeping, working in the yard, and trying out my new recipe for giant soap bubble solution on the grandchildren. A test run earlier this evening* showed that the new solution does, in fact, make huge and long-lasting bubbles ... the kids should love them.

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


* The neighbors got a kick out of seeing me standing in the cul-de-sac, blowing huge bubbles with the battery-operated bubble blower and the new bubble solution. It was a second childhood moment.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

In Search of Culinary Excellence to Help Forget Everything Else

First of all, let's have a nice, disdainful round of applause for our spineless Senate, which has ignored the desires of more than 90% of the American people and voted down expanded requirements for background checks on gun purchases. You can read who was intimidated by the gun lobby here.

Then a twenty-one-gun salute* for the evil bastards that murdered three people in cold blood while injuring nearly 200 more at the Boston Marathon. I'm sure that when these cowardly insects are finally brought to justice (and they will be), they will have some pious, high-falutin' excuse for this monstrous act, probably wrapped in twisted political or religious justification**.

And speaking of annoying insects, how about a shout to Kim Jong-un, who would be like a toddler going through the terrible twos except that most toddlers don't have the ability to murder tens of thousands of people when they throw their tantrums.

But enough of the bad news. Let's talk about fine dining.

Back at the old homestead many years ago, my brother Mark used to enjoy sitting in front of the heating vent in the living room, wrapped in blankets and eating mustard, pickle and salt sandwiches***. I'm sure he would enjoy the latest culinary masterpiece that you, too, can serve to your family and honored guests: the French Toast Reuben Nutella Elvis Sandwich ...

Yes, Dear Readers, from John Farrier's "Don't Eat That, John!" blog at Neatorama comes this amazing variation on the classic Dagwood Sandwich. To make one, you will need:

3 eggs beaten with 1/4 cup of milk;
2 slices of French bread dipped in the egg-milk mix;
2 slices of rye bread dipped in the egg-milk mix;
2 strips of bacon;
1 ounce of sliced banana;
1/4 cup of Nutella;
1/4 cup of creamy peanut butter;
4 1/4-inch thick slices of corned beef;
1 tablespoon of Thousand Island salad dressing;
1/3 cup of sauerkraut; and,
2 slices of Swiss cheese

Mike, feel free to use more bacon ... I'm sure two slices won't be enough.

Complete preparation instructions, with step-by-step pictures, can be found at the link above. If you decide to try it, and survive the massive heart attack, let me know how it turns out.

And keep the victims of Aurora, Sandy Hook, Boston, and all the other vicious murders in your hearts. 

If writing about inedible sandwiches seems out of place at a time of such horror, remember that we laugh when we can't cry.

Have a good day, and come back for Cartoon Saturday.


* Preferably aimed at their heads.

** What we used to call "bullshit" in more rational times.

**Yes, really.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Why Bother with Those Pesky Laws?

Do you mind if I philosophize for a moment?

Of course you don't. Of course, it's my blog, so I'll do it anyway, but I thought I'd be polite and ask.

I've been amazed at the ongoing circus over trying to come up with some common-sense ways to limit gun violence in our weapon-worshiping society. Many of the arguments made by both sides of the argument, but especially by gun advocates, are becoming increasingly shrill and wildly divergent from reality, to the point where it's all but impossible to have a rational discussion of a critical issue.

Here's one of the most ridiculous arguments I've heard from the NRA and other strident defenders of gun rights: "there's no point in enacting laws which restrict gun ownership, because the bad guys won't obey them and they'll only penalize law-abiding citizens."*

Well, duh.

If that's the case, what is the point of having any law about anything?

By definition, a lawbreaker is someone who ... breaks the law. The purpose of law is to protect the many from the depredations of the few. If we were all upright citizens who respected each other's rights and property, we'd have no need of laws. Sadly, that's not the case.

Laws aren't necessarily passed with the idea that they will proactively prevent people from being bad things, although that's certainly a part of it ... I'm sure there are some people who are dissuaded from committing crimes because of the possibility of experiencing the joys of prison life. But the law also provides a basis for punishing those who would willingly break the rules we as a society have enacted for our common protection.

My father always used to say that if you locked your doors and windows, it would keep out all the honest people, and that's true. It's also true that because we have laws, some dishonest people will be deterred from trying to break down those doors and windows ... and those that aren't know that they run the risk of arrest and prosecution.

The fifth commandment says "Thou shalt not kill," and all civilized societies have laws which apply criminal sanctions to a religious law. Do some people kill anyhow? Of course they do. But the existence of laws will deter some and ensure others that they can be punished. The eighth commandment tells us not to steal. Will some people steal, regardless? Of course they will. But we have laws against theft which allow such people to be punished.

Here's my point: the argument that laws restricting guns are useless because bad guys won't obey them is utterly stupid and unworthy of rational consideration. Of course bad guys won't obey the law ... but the law tells all of us what things we have agreed are worthy of punishment, and protects all of us by providing a basis for punishing those who transgress the limits we have agreed to place on dangerous activities.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think, but don't waste my time by saying laws are useless ... because the law is what sets us apart from the animals, who often behave better than many people.

Have a good day. Obey the law - it's there for your protection.

More thoughts coming.


* The bumper-sticker version is "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns."

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Arms You Can Bear. No, Really!

Yes, Dear Readers, I know ... the Second Amendment to the Constitution grants every American the right to own as many weapons of whatever type as he or she wishes. Even the Supreme Court says so. And the National Rifle Association is standing tall in the vanguard of your defense against the Jack-Booted Government ThugsTM who are plotting to take all your guns away from you. Pistols, rifles, assault rifles, they're all okay, because you never know when those black helicopters loaded with UN troops are going to swoop down and try to disarm you so they can take over America.

Take off the tinfoil hat for a minute and listen, I've got some good news for you.

A major issue at the moment concerns whether or not to ban outright or limit ownership of certain types of weapons ... specifically military-style assault rifles with large capacity magazines. If you are really concerned that the Big Bad Government is going to take away your rights (and there are some that are enumerated in the Bill of Rights beyond the Second Amendment), you will no doubt be pleased to know that there are a great many weapons it's still perfectly legal for you to own almost everywhere in this wonderful country. Courtesy of the Fiscal Times, here is a list of ten weapons other than ordinary "guns" that you can legally own:

1. Flamethrowers. Assault rifles are for sissies. If you really want to stop a bad guy with a gun, buy yourself a flamethrower. They are legal under federal law, and in 40 of the 50 states. Your fellow gun enthusiasts will recognize you as no lightweight, but as someone who packs serious heat*.

2. Miniguns. Screw assault rifles - get yourself a minigun (a Gatling-style machine gun which can fire 2,000 to 6,000 rounds per minute, or 166 bullets per second). Because they're actually machine guns, they're technically illegal; however, if your minigun was manufactured and registered before May 19th, 1986, when the federal ban on ownership of machine guns went into effect, you're in luck! Ammo will be expensive, though, with rates of fire like these. Stock up now!

3. Katanas. A katana is a traditional Japanese samurai sword. It has a razor sharp blade two feet or more in length, suitable for cutting off heads of illegal immigrants, drug dealers, and other violent felons with a single blow. But of course, you'd only use it for weed-whacking, right?

4. Cannons. Black powder cannons are legal and do not even need to be registered with the government, although the black powder must be purchased from a licensed explosives dealer. The amount of black powder you can buy at any one time under federal law is limited to 50 pounds, but the locally legal amount varies by state. A nice howitzer wouldn't keep those UN helicopters away, but it would make the UN troops think twice about storming your house**.

5. Crossbows. Crossbows are legal in most states, although some of them require you to have a license. They're not only good to have on hand when the zombie apocalypse comes (crossbows, not states), but they also shoot silently, freeing you of the unnecessary additional expense of a silencer or ear protectors to avoid hearing damage.

6. Grenade Launchers. Good news - grenade launchers are legal in all states, although they must be registered. Bad news - the grenades themselves are illegal. But what the heck - how cool would it be to tell your buddy who only has a measly AR-15 that you're packing a grenade launcher? You might miss that 14-point buck with a semi-automatic assault rifle and 30-round magazine, but a grenade launcher will not only bring him down, but gut him and cut him into stew meat for you.

7. Nunchucks. The nunchuck is a martial arts weapon that consists of two heavy cylinders of hardwood or metal connected by a chain. They are legal under federal law, although they are banned in some states ... generally for safety reasons, because so many dumbass Bruce Lee wannabees crush their own skulls each year flailing them around as if they knew what they were doing.

8. Umbrella Swords. Yes, bumbershoots with embedded swords are legal everywhere except California, Massachusetts, and New York. The blades average about 15 inches in length, and will let you channel Mr Steed with the best of them. You can even get them with extras, like a handle that doubles as brass knuckles. Bonus: you can stay dry during your battles with the Forces of Evil.

9. Spear Guns. Usually used by skin divers to shoot fish, they are legal everywhere in the United States. If those Jack-Booted Government ThugsTM come after you at the beach or in a public pool, you'll be ready for them.

10. Chain Whips. Simple chains, often bicycle chains, are traditional weapons of street gangs. Chain whips are weapons used in some Chinese martial arts styles, and frequently have links that are barbed or sharpened; they are swung so as to wrap the chain around an attacker to pull him off balance or break his hold on his own weapon.

And so, Dear Readers, don't worry about losing your right to bear arms ... there are a lot of arms out there you can still bear, without worrying that the Big Bad Government and its Jack-Booted ThugsTM  will take them away from you. As for me, I'm more partial to bare arms on ladies than to bearing arms, although you have a constitutional right to think otherwise. Just don't expect me to agree that my right to not get shot is less important than your right to own an arsenal.

I'm just sayin' ...

Have a good day and a nice rest of your weekend. More thoughts on Tuesday.


*"For real!", as my granddaughter Leya would say.

** Actually, your house is probably in more danger from real estate developers wielding the right of eminent domain than from UN troops rappelling from black helicopters, but nobody seems too worried about limiting the rights of developers, least of all the Supreme Court. Read about the Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. City of New London. You can read the text of the actual decision here.