Thursday, May 30, 2013

In Praise of Puns

You all know, Dear Readers, that I love words. I especially love puns, those word jokes defined as "the humorous use of a word in such a way as to suggest two or more of its meanings or the meaning of another word similar in sound." I got this love of puns from my mother, who was a world-class punster, but most of my family has it in some degree or another.

For this reason, it was with some amazement that I stumbled upon this article by Simon Akam on the other day: Please Do Not Chillax - Adjoinages and the Death of the American Pun.

The article brought up a point I hadn't thought about before: the difference between a pun (as we generally understand it) and an adjoinage, a different verbal animal that many people today sometimes consider to be a pun.

Adjoinages combine two words to make a new word or concept, and in this way they relate to the pun's use of different pronunciations of a word for comic effect. Two examples of adjoinages from the article are chillax (chill + relax), meaning to calm down; and bridezilla - referring to the bride whose desperate quest for the perfect wedding turns her into a raging monster (bride + Godzilla). Are adjoinages puns? No. Mr Akam writes,

"One erudite friend of mine suggests that the current crisis in American wordplay can be traced back to the Watergate scandal of the 1970s and the subsequent tendency to append any scandal-related noun with the suffix -gate. Before Nixon fell, my friend suggests, 'All American puns rhymed perfectly and snappily, as if the whole country were a Cole Porter musical.' While this may not be precisely accurate, it is true that in the United States puns have come in and out of favor over time ... the American pun persisted through vaudeville and comedians like the Marx Brothers and George Burns, before falling out of favor after World War II, as falling taboos made previously forbidden topics (e.g., divorce, sex, general dysfunction) legitimate material for a new American humor less reliant on wordplay."

The beauty of a pun lies in its simple twist on the sound and meaning you were expecting. A really good pun sneaks up on you, whacks your funnybone, and leaves you marveling at its clever wit. Adjoinages may also be clever, but are seldom as intricately funny on multiple levels as are puns.

Puns can be based on a single word, or on more than one. They can rely on sound, meaning, or both. Consider these examples:

Homophonic puns substitute one word for a similar-sounding word ... 

"I bet the butcher the other day that he couldn’t reach the meat that was on the top shelf. He refused to take the bet, saying that the steaks were too high."

Homographic puns use a word that has two different meanings, or substitute a word with the exact same spelling as the word for which it was substituted - 

"Corduroy pillows are making headlines;" or,

"Did you hear about the optometrist who fell into a lens grinder and made a spectacle of himself?"

And then there are compound puns, which use a string of two or more words that sound similar to a string of different words, like these ...

"Where do you find giant snails? On the ends of giants’ fingers;" and,

"A man walks into a psychiatrist’s office wearing only shorts made of plastic wrap. The doctor says, 'Well, I can clearly see you’re nuts.'"

Of course, if you overanalyze a joke, it loses some of its meaning. So I'll just drop the discussion here and encourage all of you to support your local pun, and keep this noble joke from dying out. If you have a favorite pun, leave it in the comments for the rest of us to enjoy.

Have a good day. See you back here for Cartoon Saturday.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Movie Review - Star Trek Into Darkness

Yesterday afternoon Agnes and I and our friend Nadja visited the local multiplex cinema (are there any more single, freestanding movie theaters any more?) to see "Star Trek Into Darkness." Bottom line up front (or "BLUF," as we say in Pentagon shorthand): I loved it, and the negative reviews are all from doo-doo-heads who don't know how to enjoy a movie.

As you know from previous posts about movies, I don't like to see movies in theaters much any more. There are usually too many ass clowns who want to yak or text on their cell phones, film the movie surreptitiously with their minicams, or carry on their noisy conversations that are more important than the film they paid $10 or more to see. Movies in theaters are also far, far too loud ... we always leave the theater feeling like we've been in the front row for the 1812 Overture, in front of the cannons. There are, however, some movies that I think just need to be seen on the Big Screen. The first installment of "The Hobbit" was the last one. I think "Ender's Game" will be the next. "Star Trek" was this one.

Okay, here's your spoiler alert - if you've been avoiding movie reviews and spoilers until you can see the movie yourself, stop reading now and come back after you've seen it so we can compare notes. Otherwise, read on.

Basic stuff: the special effects were wonderful, the acting workmanlike, and the volume overwhelming.

Viewers who are long-time Star Trek fans will either love (as I did) or hate all the references back to (and alternative timeline twists on) episodes and events in the original TV series (tribbles, anyone?) and the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Yes, actor Benedict Cumberbatch plays a character who turns out to be famous Star Trek villain Khan Noonien Singh, and he does it with a brilliantly-calibrated degree of both subtle menace and carpet-chewing intensity ... a terrific  performance. I'll never be able to watch him in the BBC update series "Sherlock" the same way again.

The other cast members were, I thought, superbly selected. Christopher Pine perfectly captures the cocky attitude of the original William Shatner version of Captain James Kirk, and Zachary Quinto does a wonderful version of Mr Spock. The actors playing Dr McCoy (Karl Urban), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Chekhov (Anton Yelchin), and Sulu (John Cho) were all great, especially Karl ("Dammit, I'm a doctor, not a torpedo technician!") Urban. Pegg and Yelchin perhaps played Scotty and Chekhov a little too much for laughs, but were superb in their roles; John Cho was an excellent Sulu (Dr McCoy had the great line, "Mr Sulu, remind me never to piss you off!"). I didn't think the romantic relationship between Lt Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Mr Spock was all that believable in context, but it was well-played.

Were there plot holes, strange scenes*, and occasional script weaknesses? Of course. But I don't go to the movies to look for reasons not to enjoy the show. And I really enjoyed this one.

Bilbo gives "Star Trek Into Darkness" two thumbs up.

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.


* Such as the Enterprise hiding on the bottom of an ocean, and Alice Eve (as a PhD weapons scientist) peeling down to her bra and panties for no apparent reason ... although both were entertaining images.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Sorry, No Prince Charming Here, Just Move Along, Ma'am ...

If you remember your childhood fairy tales*, you will remember the story of Sleeping Beauty, who was saved from a curse by the kiss of Prince Charming. Well, it's a good thing she didn't live in 21st-century America, because we seem to have a serious shortage of charming princes. Or charming men in general, for that matter.

I ran across this very interesting article by Benjamin Schwartz in the Atlantic Monthly the other day: The Rise and Fall of Charm in American Men. Mr Schwartz maintains that modern America men lack the indefinable quality of charm that marked many great actors of the past like Cary Grant** and, more recently, James Garner and George Clooney. He writes,

"For nearly 20 years, any effort to link men and charm has inevitably led to [George] Clooney. Ask women or men to name a living, publicly recognized charming man, and 10 out of 10 will say Clooney. That there exists only one choice—and an aging one—proves that we live in a culture all but devoid of male charm."

What is charm, though? I think all women would recognize it, even if most men probably woudn't ... and wouldn't care. Mr Schwartz offers this partial analysis of charm ...

"It’s an attribute foreign to many [American] men because most are, for better and for worse, childlike. These days, it’s far more common among men over 70—probably owing to the era in which they reached maturity rather than to the mere fact of their advanced years. What used to be called good breeding is necessary (but not sufficient) for charm: no one can be charming who doesn’t draw out the overlooked, who doesn’t shift the spotlight onto others—who doesn’t, that is, possess those long-forgotten qualities of politesse and civilit√©. A great hostess perforce has charm ... but today this social virtue goes increasingly unrecognized. Still, charm is hardly selfless. All of these acts can be performed only by one at ease with himself yet also intensely conscious of himself and of his effect on others. And although it’s bound up with considerateness, it really has nothing to do with, and is in fact in some essential ways opposed to, goodness. Another word for the lightness of touch that charm requires in humor, conversation, and all other aspects of social relations is subtlety, which carries both admirable and dangerous connotations."

So why don't today's American men value the quality of charm?

I think it's probably because of the desire on the part of many men to return to a simpler, more basic America, to a time when "men were men and women were glad of it," a time before metrosexuals and thug culture, the imagined time of the rugged American individualism so beloved of the GOP. Modern American men are supposed to combine the best qualities of Paul Bunyan, John Wayne, and Sam Spade, and screw all this charm stuff. We live in a high-tech time when charm is an attribute of quarks, and not of men.

I like to think of myself as being charming, although I'm not sure everyone who knows me well would agree, at least all the time. As my Blogger profile says, I believe in courtesy (certainly an attribute of charm), common sense (very uncommon nowadays), and fair play (not always available in a country and a time when the degree of fairness available to one depends largely on the amount of money one can apply to its purchase). I try to apply the Golden Rule, to be polite (until given reason not to be), and to give people the benefit of the doubt before assuming guile or rank stupidity. Does this make me charming, or does it just reflect what I'd like to be able to experience from others? Who knows? Maybe a little of both.

I think we could use a little charm nowadays. Sadly, a little is all we're likely to get for the foreseeable future.

Have a good day. Try to be charming. It can't hurt.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* I mean, traditional fairy tales like "Cinderella," "Rumplestiltskin," and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," not modern fairy tales like GOP economic theories and Democratic social idealism.

** When an interviewer once told him, "Everybody would like to be Cary Grant," Grant is said to have replied, "So would I!"  Another time, a reporter looking for accurate information for a story sent a telegram reading "How old Cary Grant?," to which Grant telegraphed back, "Old Cary Grant fine. How you?" I think I'd have liked this fellow.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

We'll Never Run out of Great Moments in Editing!

It's going to be a busy day, and it's been a few weeks since we've looked at a selection of great moments in editing, so why not take the low road and cringe along with those who may have lost their jobs over these stinkers ...

I know it's tough to get a good warranty on some car repairs any more, but this one is a little out of the ordinary ...

Some appliances nowadays come with a ridiculously short cord, supposedly for your safety ... the manufacturer claims it will keep you from accidentally pulling the appliance off the counter. But most of us don't have electrical outlets in just the right place, so we need extension cords, right? But safe ones we won't get tangled up in ...

I guess the reports of declining church attendance are not always correct ...

Oddly enough, when we were in Chicago this tour was completely booked and we couldn't get seats ...

I really would have liked to read the whole study. I'd really, really have liked to have helped with the research ...

The Ducks really had a bad day on this one ...

Someone got a "C" in his entomology class ...

Ah, yet another example of creative accounting of the sort beloved by Congress ...

I hope this store also sells ten-foot poles, because I'll need one to touch my next line with ...

Well, yes, I suppose so ...

And there you have it ... another collection of Great Moments in Editing. Oy.

In a little while, Agnes and I will be headed out to spend the morning with our local grandchildren; later, assuming we're not utterly exhausted, we've been invited to dinner by our friend Nadja. A day with the grandchildren AND a day we don't have to cook ... priceless!

Normally I wouldn't be posting tomorrow, it being Monday and all, but since it's a federal holiday and I'm off work for the day, I'll go ahead and post something after my morning gasp-a-thon on the elliptical machine. Drop by. I'll try not to short out the keyboard with the dripping sweat.

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


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Cartoon Saturday

Another week down ... and I mean really down ...

In the town of Moore, Oklahoma, 24 people - including ten children - were killed when the town was all but destroyed by a monster tornado that left another 93 people injured; in London, four men are in custody after brutally murdering a British soldier on a public street with a meat cleaver, claiming it was "because Muslims are dying daily;" in Washington state, a bridge on busy Interstate 5 collapsed, dumping cars and people into the frigid Skagit River - amazingly, no one was killed; in the penalty phase of the Jodi Arias murder trial, the jury deadlocked in tense deliberations, forcing the judge to call for a retrial in July; and in the South Korean town of Busan, a five year-old girl was killed when a man jumping to his death from an eleventh-floor apartment landed on her.

Some weeks, even the cartoons have a tough time lifting your spirits ... but we'll do what we can.

For this week's collection of theme cartoons, let's take a look at "apps" - those marvelous little programs that turn our telephones and tablets into high-tech wonders ...

Sometimes, this is how I look at it as a geezer-in-training ...

It's an obvious, but still gawd-awful pun ...

A little science fiction, anyone? ...

And Moses may have gotten those tablets just a couple of millennia too soon ...

My friend Dave, living in Germany, sends me great cartoons occasionally. Earlier this week he sent this one, which pretty well summarizes my attitude of late ...


It's summertime, and our children want to play outside. And they want us to play with them. And it's not always easy to fulfill their requests ...

Speaking of children, if you have any, you know that they'll repeat whatever they hear, no matter how  inappropriate it might be. Sometimes, that vow of silence can be a good thing ...

A few weeks ago we went on an outing to Linden Vineyards with our friend Nadja, and bought a nice selection of good wines. For my part, I love the Linden wines, but find them a little pricey ... this store is more in my price range ...

This week began the furloughs of some government employees, a result of the colossal act of Congressional cowardice and stupidity known as the "sequester." Many federal employees will take a pay cut of about 20% for this year as a result of the unpaid furlough days ... but of course (and as usual), Congress has exempted itself from the worst of the pain. Sometimes, though, it pays to remember that people were being furloughed and losing their jobs long ago, too ...

And finally for this week, another of those cartoons that's blindingly obvious, but nevertheless very funny. As it happens, there are a great many people active in politics* that this could apply to ... and it makes life interesting ...

And so goes the last edition of Cartoon Saturday for the month of May. This weekend is the three-day (for some of us, anyhow) Memorial Day weekend, on which we remember those who have paid the ultimate price in our nation's wars. Take a few minutes between trips to the pool and the barbecue to remember our fallen heroes, and to honor the country and the ideals for which they died ... even if Congress often insists on making a laughingstock of the country and a mockery of those ideals. 

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* For example, much of the Tea Party, Mitch McConnell, Code Pink, Nancy Pelosi, and the amazing colossal wingnut who has been selected as the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia, E.W. Jackson.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Reading Aloud

This post is directed more toward those of you who are - or are likely to become - parents, so if this condition doesn't apply, you may want to just move on and come back for Cartoon Saturday.

I read this very interesting article the other day on The Atlantic website: "There Are Plenty of Reasons Why Parents May Read More With Their Daughters." It drew my interest because one of my favorite pastimes is reading to children, and because reading to one's children is a multi-win activity ... it helps them learn the language, it provides opportunities for quality time to cuddle.

My own parents, and particularly my father, were world-class readers. Dad's readings were always fun and exciting, using different voices for each character, adding sound effects, and twisting some of the text into puns or clever malaprops (such as the book in which the characters Gaston and Josephine became "Gas Bomb" and "Josie-pheme"). When I read to my grandchildren, I tend to read the same way, much to their often frustrated delight ("no, Opa, that's not right!") ...

But, getting back to the Atlantic article by Nanette Fondas, why do we read more with our daughters than with our sons? There are a lot of theories, some of which deal with sexual stereotypes; Ms Fondas writes that

"... parents may be following cultural scripts and unconscious biases that suggest they should read with their daughters, and have active play with sons ... It is just more costly to provide a unit of reading to a boy than to a girl because the boy doesn't sit still, you know, doesn't pay attention ..."

Well, I think that it's entirely possible to get a boy to sit still long enough to listen to a well-read story. Personal experience shows that it's just as hard to get my granddaughters to sit still as it is to get any of my grandsons to sit still ... but just as rewarding when it succeeds.

Reading to small children is one of the most rewarding of activities. It combines teaching, learning, entertainment, and physical cuddling. The joy of listening to a child laugh at a well-told story is a reward beyond all price. Reading aloud is, in general, a rewarding activity. If I may engage in a little back-patting, I think I can do world-class readings of poems like "Casey at the Bat," "The Raven," and "The Fool's Prayer," among others ... not all suitable for the smallest of children, but fun for older audiences.

Have a good day Read more, both to yourself and to your children, both the boys and the girls. They'll love it and so will you ... and so will their children.

See you back here for Cartoon Saturday.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Embracing the Strangeness

I enjoy watching many of the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Talks that are available at ... unfortunately, I don't always have enough free time to listen to all the good ones, particularly those longer than ten minutes or so in length. But because I was off yesterday, recovering from the frantic activity of the weekend (see yesterday's post), I had some extra time to sit on the deck and listen to this fascinating TED Talk from Maria Bezaitis - The Surprising Need for Strangeness. Here's what the summary says of the talk:

"In our digital world, social relations have become mediated by data. Without even realizing it, we’re barricading ourselves against strangeness -- people and ideas that don't fit the patterns of who we already know, what we already like and where we’ve already been. A call for technology to deliver us to what and who we need, even if it’s unfamiliar."

Ms Bezaitis, a principal engineer at Intel, begins her talk with the admonition we all heard from our parents when we were children: Don't talk to strangers. This is good advice for a child, who needs to learn that some strangers can be a threat and need to be avoided. But it's less good advice for adults, because when we don't talk to strangers, we don't learn the things from or about them that we need to know, and from which we might benefit. Ms Bezaitis calls these things strangeness, and discusses the importance of learning to embrace the strangeness as a way of cooperating and moving forward.

Having been a strange fellow for many years, I like this concept.

But in all seriousness, Ms Bezaitis has an excellent point that is reflected in what passes for socio-political intercourse* nowadays. Many of us live in our self-contained bubbles of information that reinforce our preconceived ideas and convince us that the others are not just wrong, but completely bereft of any ideas or thoughts worth paying attention to. Consider the book by conservative icon Ann Coulter - How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must) ... her thesis is that a liberal (however you define the term) has absolutely nothing worthwhile to say, and not only can be but should be ignored. 

But this is not how we move forward. This is not how we learn. We learn not by ignoring the strangeness, but by pondering it and mining it for the nuggets of worthwhile information that might lurk there. The loudest and most rigid hyperconservatives and the loudest and most strident liberals are two sides of the same coin, each living in their own informational echo chambers and failing to consider that - just possibly - the other side actually has something important (or, at least, plausible) to say.

Of course, this doesn't mean that all strangeness is created equal. There are those purveyors of strangeness whose ideas are so far beyond the pale that they deserve not just to be ignored, but to be condemned. Consider the GOP candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia who compares Planned Parenthood to the Ku Klux Klan, claiming that “Planned Parenthood has been far more lethal to black lives than the KKK ever was. And the Democrat[ic] Party and their black civil rights allies are partners in this genocide ... The Democrat[ic] Party has created an unholy alliance between certain, so-called civil rights leaders and Planned Parenthood, which has killed unborn black babies by the tens of millions.”

The problem isn't that this individuals ideas are so reprehensible, but that there are plenty of people who will take him seriously. People who embrace his strangeness without thinking for themselves about whether or not there's any sense to it.

Take a few minutes (eight of them, to be exact) and listen to Ms Bezaitis' talk about strangeness. And then remember Bilbo's First Rule: 

Never let anyone else do your thinking for you.

Because not all strangeness is created equal.

Have a good day. Embrace the strangeness, learn from it what you can, and make informed decisions. If we don't, we'll never move forward.

More thoughts coming.


* No, Mike, not that kind of intercourse ... calm down.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Indian Wedding Weekend

Last Friday, Agnes and I flew to Chicago to attend the wedding of our son-in-law's brother Tad to his lovely bride Neha. This was a genuine Indian wedding with all the trappings, and it was an amazing festival of color, noise, and fun. Of course, there are pictures (we took more than 900), but they really don't do justice to the brilliant color and constant motion of an amazing weekend. Here's a brief summary of how it all went down ...

Our first event was a dinner and a traditional music and dancing party at a local temple on Friday evening. Everyone dressed up, of course, and our granddaughters Elise and Leya were obviously no exception ...

One of the traditions at Indian weddings is the painting of the ladies' arms and hands with intricate designs in henna. Leya had to have both hands done, of course ... here's the work in progress ...

And this is what it looks like when the initial application is done ...

The dark, glittery design dries and is mopped away with lemon juice, leaving the red henna designs on the skin. Leya also wanted to have her feet done, but was told that only the bride could have her feet painted. This picture shows a couple of things: a group of beautiful ladies, a selection of the gorgeously colorful Indian dresses (saris), and two parts of the henna process - the two ladies in the middle have freshly-painted designs that haven't dried yet; the lady on the left shows what the final design looks like ...

Family picture, anyone? Agnes and I with our daughter Yasmin and granddaughters Elise and Leya (peeking out from the back) ...

The dresses worn by the ladies were brilliantly colorful and exotic. Here's one small sample, showing Neha, the lovely bride (fourth from right), with a group of her friends ...

It was a long evening, with lots of (very loud) music and dancing, and everyone had a great time. Of course, as the hour grew late it was all lost on some of the younger attendees ...

Saturday was the actual wedding day, and the events began with a procession of the groom's side of the family and his friends through the parking lot from the hotel to the tent where the ceremony would be held. The procession was led by a drummer and a music car, followed by a decorated golf cart carrying the groom (and his niece who had grown tired of walking) ...

which was in turn surrounded by the large crowd of happily dancing friends and family ...

The procession eventually reached the site of the wedding, where there was more dancing and all sorts of ritual small events. One of the interesting things we learned was that the bride's family hails from northern India, and the groom's family from southern India ... and there are a great many differences in food and customs. We soon learned that we weren't the only ones who often didn't understand exactly what was going on or what we were eating ... but it really didn't matter because everyone was having so much fun - like this handsome young fellow, who seemed to pop up wearing a happy grin whenever he thought I needed something to photograph ...

It was difficult to get good pictures of the wedding ceremony itself, because there was a small army of event photographers who had their job to do, but I did get a few, including the lucky money shot as Tad put the ring on Neha's finger ...

The dinner and reception followed the ceremony, and everyone showed that they hadn't tired out from the events of the afternoon and the night before ...

It was also difficult to get good pictures at the reception because of the lighting and the nonstop action, but I did manage to get a few pictures of our granddaughter Leya really getting into the action on the dance floor ...

It was a great weekend of fun, culture, music, food, and color. By the time we flew home on Sunday afternoon we were utterly exhausted, but we'd had a wonderful time. The parties were grand, the ceremony impressive, and the weather perfect. The last thing to say is just to wish Tad and Neha the very best for a wonderful life together ...

Have a good day and a good week to come. More thoughts tomorrow.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Cartoon Saturday ... on Friday?

Special note: Cartoon Saturday appears on Friday this week because Agnes and I will be out of town for the weekend and I may not have Internet connectivity. The next post will probably appear Sunday evening or Monday morning. Sorry for the confusion, Mike ...

Oh, what a week it's been ...

The GOP is gleefully pouring gasoline on the fires of a series of real and imagined scandals, working overtime to ensure that the Obama administration is tied in knots and can't accomplish anything: Benghazi, IRS targeting of conservative groups, the Justice Department's subpoenaing of the telephone records of Associated Press reporters as part of a leak investigation ... oh, and let's not forget the routine votes to eliminate Obamacare.

Nothing's going to get done in Congress until the next presidential election, so you might as well sit back, relax, and enjoy the cartoons. The ones you didn't elect, anyhow.

In honor of our elected reprehensives, our theme selection of cartoons this week deals with the genus headupus deasses, otherwise known as the common politician ...

There's an art to managing your in-boxes if you're a mover and shaker in politics ...

I think the President has the same nightmare ...

I don't know if there's fine print in the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision that gives a quantity discount for the purchase of politicians by special interests ...

Why lie outright when you can baffle everyone so well with cherry-picked quotes and statistics? ...

And rounding out our salute to the political class ...

 Things are never quite all black and white ..

As government agencies scramble to live within the constrained budgets brought on by the Sequester, there are some pretty novel approaches to economy emerging ...

I don't know if John has a dog ... but if he does, his house probably looks something like this ...

And how would you like your news presented, sir? ...

And finally, last weekend we lavished love and praise on our mothers for Mother's Day. And then came the day after ...

And that's it for this week's edition of Cartoon Saturday. Agnes and I are in Chicago, attending the wedding our one of the members of our extended family, and are enjoying a weekend away from Disneyland-on-the-Potomac. I'll tell you the whole story when we return. In the meantime, have a good day ... more thoughts once we're home.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lingerie That's Really Shocking

There are a great many things that I would love to be able to say about the ridiculous grandstanding and buffoonery taking place in Disneyland-on-the-Potomac, masquerading as legitimate Congressional oversight. Sadly, I have to take a pass because I'm so angry about it that I need some time to gather my thoughts to write coherently. I'll get to it in the next few days ... in the meantime, let's talk about rape prevention underwear.

Yes, Dear Readers, last month Time Magazine ran this odd, if interesting article - Indian Students Develop ‘Rape-Prevention’ Underwear. India, of course, has been in the news because of a series of brutal, high-profile gang rapes and other vicious sexual attacks against women.

Three Indian engineering students have developed lingerie known as Society Harnessing Equipment, which incorporates “anti-rape” features to help women protect themselves against sexual assault. According to one of the developers, the underwear includes a GPS link and a cell phone transmitter which would send an SOS text to police and emergency services and to the girl's parents, and is capable of delivering a 3800 kV shock to an attacker.  The circuitry for the GPS and associated sensors are located near the breasts, where research indicates women are likely to be first assaulted.

The article goes on to note that the idea of devices to prevent rape is not a new one*. In South Africa the controversial Rape-Axe, a latex device worn by a woman like a tampon and studded (pun intended) with inward-facing, razor-sharp barbs to impale an attacker's private parts, was first introduced in 2005. Though the Society Harnessing Equipment can reportedly deliver up to 82 powerful shocks, it’s quite a bit more humane than the Rape-Axe**. 

The students are hoping to make their design available for purchase soon.

Not to make light of a serious issue, I think it would be interesting if we had a device which would deliver powerful shocks to the brains of elected reprehensives who are otherwise brain-dead and fixated on self-aggrandizing showboating*** rather than serious investigation of real issues.

Have a good day. Enjoy that electronic lingerie.

More thoughts coming.


* Of course, the famous chastity belt was meant to discourage not only rape, but consensual (if unapproved) sexual relations.

** Not that "humane" is necessarily a quality one might wish to apply to anti-rape device.

*** Yes, Mr Issa, I'm talking to you.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

More Odds and Ends

My brain just doesn't seem to be getting into gear this morning, so I guess I'll just share a few assorted odds and ends with you. It beats having to think coherently at this hour.

We'll be traveling to Chicago this weekend to attend a wedding, and since I've never visited more of Chicago than O'Hare Airport I thought I'd do a little research into the things worth seeing and doing in the City of the Big Shoulders ...

The Tea Party has found something existential to spin up about - America's favorite federal agency, the Internal Revenue Service (or IRS), has been caught paying extra-intrusive attention to the tax-exempt status requests of many conservative and anti-government groups. Nothing like waving the red tax flag in front of the bull that's already hysterical. Read the background of the story here. The issue apparently arose out of poorly planned and executed attempts by the IRS to parse the tens of thousands of requests for tax-exempt status which have poured in after the Supreme Court's wonderful Citizens United decision. The portion of the tax code which applies to political groups seeking such status is "501(c)(4)." I think I'll apply for tax-exempt status under section ... oh ... "501(gg)(917)eieio/wtf." The tax code is so vast and complicated, who'll ever know?

In other news guaranteed to fire up those who already mistrust the government, the Justice Department apparently has used wide-ranging subpoenas to obtain the telephone records of reporters working for the Associated Press (AP) as part of an investigation into the disclosure of classified information about a failed al-Qaeda plot. According to published reports, federal investigators obtained cellular, office and home telephone records of individual reporters and an editor; AP general office numbers in Washington, New York and Hartford, Connecticut; and the main number for AP reporters covering Congress. It's not only the Chinese who are hacking you.

Pretty soon we'll run out of government agencies to focus hatred on ... in addition to DOJ and the IRS, everyone loves to despise the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; FEMA; the FBI; and the National Security Agency. How long will it be before scandal hits, say, Head Start?

I'm reading a very interesting book by historian Nathaniel Philbrick - Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution. It's an engrossing and educational look at the city and the time that spawned the traditional American opposition to government, taxes, and just about everything that limits freedom. Strongly recommended.

And that's it for today. Time to draw a deep breath, put up my mental shields, and head off to work ... buoyed by the knowledge that I can retire in 1273 days. Not that I'm counting, you understand.

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mothers' Day, 2013

This marks the sixth year that I have revised and updated my traditional Mothers' Day post. If you've read it before, you may want to see if you recognize the changes.

Today is Mothers’ Day, the one day each year we set aside to honor the lady we undervalue the other 364. It’s the day we remember the person who made our hurts better, explained our homework, cooked our meals, washed our clothes, drove us where we needed to go, warned us about our less-savory acquaintances, embarrassed us in front of our friends, and did her best to point us down the straight line of a moral and upright life.

Mothers are the wonderful and woefully underappreciated people from whom the Army and the Navy stole their one-time recruiting slogans - the Army's "We do more before 9 AM than most people do all day," and the Navy's "It's not just a job, it's an adventure." With all due respect to Soldiers and Sailors everywhere ... you guys ain't got a clue.

Somewhere in my web surfings I found this little riff on how we look at our Mothers at different ages:

Age 4: Mommy can do anything!
Age 8: Mom knows a lot!
Age 12: Mother doesn't know everything.
Age 14: Mother doesn't know anything.
Age 16: Mother is so old-fashioned.
Age 18: Her? She's out of it.
Age 25: Mom might know something about that.
Age 35: Before we decide, let's ask Mom.
Age 45: What would Mom have thought about that?
Age 65: I wish I could talk that over with Mom.

It’s true.

My mother passed away twelve years ago at the age of 74. She spent a long and honorable life raising four children who, I like to think, made her proud ... most of the time, anyway. And in her twilight years, her once-formidable mind ravaged by Alzheimer’s Disease, she missed much of the result of her love and care and sacrifice – a son who finally knows how to dance (and who may yet write that book she thought he had in him), a small army of grandchildren, and six beautiful great-grandchildren who will never know her love and wisdom and the off-the-wall sense of humor that brightened the lives of everyone who knew her.

The next generation of Mothers has taken over. My beloved daughter Yasmin and the best daughter-in-law in the world, Tabitha, between them are raising the world’s six greatest grandchildren (Ava Rose was born last November). And someday those wonderful grandchildren will sit down on Mothers’ Day and reflect – just as their grandpa does today – on the marvelous, magical lady who gave up so much of her own life and dreams to make them who they are.

Take the time today to give your Mother a hug and a kiss. Someday, you’ll wish you had.

And so again this year, I wish my own Agnes, Yasmin and Tabitha, Amanda and Fiona, Chrissy, Kathy, Miss Cellania, and all the other mothers out there doing the world's toughest job, a very happy Mothers' Day and many more to come.

We couldn't be what we are, or do what we do, without you.

And lest you think I'm getting too maudlin about the whole thing, here's a picture from long ago of my Dad with four then and future moms: my daughter Yasmin, my sister Lisa, Agnes, and my mother ...

We're a weird family, but somehow we've all turned out all right. More or less.

Have a great Mothers' Day!

More thoughts later.