Saturday, August 24, 2013

Quick Update

Agnes and I are in the teeming megalopolis of Schwedelbach, Germany, enjoying the company of our son and his family (four of the six grandchildren). The weather is great, the food is excellent, and the quality time with the grandchildren (oh, and their parents, too!) is priceless. Pictures to follow once I can download them.

Hope you are all well. Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts later.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Yes, the day has finally come for Agnes and I to take our long-anticipated and much-needed vacation. We are headed for Germany to visit our son and his family and Agnes's parents and other relatives, attend the wedding of Agnes's nephew, and generally travel all over the country enriching the coffers of the Deutsche Bahn.

What this means for you, Dear Readers, is that this blog will be posted only intermittently for the next three weeks, because we will not always have Internet access. I'll post when I can, but can't promise regular editions of Cartoon Saturday (my last experience with trusting Blogger to load scheduled posts didn't work out). Sorry about that. Just think how much better you'll feel when we get back and I get back on my regular posting schedule!

For now, how about a couple of travel related cartoons?

It will come as no surprise to you that air travel isn't as much fun as it used to be ...

I looked long and hard for these, but couldn't find them anywhere ...

If you've ever gone through the experience of trying to find the best travel bargain online, you'll appreciate this one ...

Of course, using a real travel agent doesn't always work out, either ...

And finally, some seasoned travelers just can't resist the urge to show off ...

This has nothing to do with travel, but I thought it was very funny - the "Honest Trailers" take on advertising for the last Star Trek film (sorry about the leading advertisement - I wish I knew how to get rid of that stuff) ...

And so, Dear Readers, we're off. Take good care of yourselves, and don't give up on ol' Bilbo even if the posts are not coming as often as usual over the next few weeks ... I'll be back.

Have a good day. More thoughts when we get a good Internet connection.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Useful Things

People can be ingenious, inventing all sorts of new, interesting, and useful things. They can also go into extreme religion and politics and really screw things up, but let's not talk about that right now. Let's look at some neat new inventions. For the kitchen, you can get specialized pizza scissors to cut that perfect slice ...

Or this way-cool space-saving knife set ...

For the obsessively accurate cook who can't measure exactly enough* comes this digital measuring cup ...

For people like me who suffer from a stiff neck, there's this wonderful new rear-view mirror for the family car ...

There's also this awesomely useful keyhole for drunks and people with poor eyesight ...

And, for those conspiracy theorists of the far right and the far left for whom a simple tinfoil hat just isn't enough ...

Buy now! Operators are standing by!

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for the last post before Agnes and I go on vacation. More thoughts then.


* Agnes and I use the TLAR ("that looks about right") measuring system, which is cheaper and just as good.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Yet More Editorial Gems

Let's start off the new week with a new batch of great moments in editing, shall we?

I absolutely agree with this opinion ...

I'm glad that the A-Team of EMTs was on the job ...

Exploring, yes. Discovering, not so much ...

I think I know how the school board supported the designers of that float ...

Slow and steady wins the race ...

I'll bet that really hurt ...

Paragons of generosity, those Irish ...

The old commercials said that "There's always room for Jell-O ... but they didn't mention where ...

Mr Brown is actually in the pink ...

And finally, a major element of the GOP's comprehensive plan for health care reform* is a crackdown on employees' abuse of sick leave ...

And so we begin a new week. Agnes and I will begin our long-anticipated, desperately-needed vacation on Wednesday, so my chief goal for the next two days is to get to Wednesday. Wish me luck.

Have a good, editorially-correct day.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* Fooled you, didn't I?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hat Thievery

Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous summer day here in Northern Virginia, and we spent most of the afternoon in an outing with our local grandchildren to Burke Lake Park, a great (free!) picnic and fun location not far from our house. We enjoyed a picnic lunch, rode the train and the carousel, and visted the open house display by the Fairfax County Police Department, but the high point of the afternoon was ... as it often is ... a spirited game of "Let's Steal Opa's Hat."

Ever since I developed the solar panel on the back of my head, I've taken to wearing a floppy sun hat while working in the yard or spending time outdoors. My granddaughters Leya and Elise have decided that it's great fun to play keepaway with said hat.

First, of course, you have to catch Opa ...

Once you've caught him and stolen his hat, you need to make sure he can't move fast enough to get it back ... either by attaching a high-energy grandchild to each leg ...

Or by just weighing him down ...

Elise is never satisfied with just one hat when others are available ... mama's cap was up for grabs, too ...

Elise gleefully points out that ha-ha-I've-got-your-hat-and-you-don't. 

Elise's dad told us one time that we shouldn't bother with setting up a college fund for her - given her mischievous nature, a bail fund would probably be more useful in the long run. True dat!

That was yesterday. Today we'll celebrate Leya's sixth birthday with a tea party for Leya and her friends. This ought to be interesting. 

Have a good day, and enjoy the rest of your weekend. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Cartoon Saturday

Did you ever notice that "August" and "AAARRRGGGHHH" start with the same letter ... ?

In Florida, a 7-month-old boy died after eating a laundry detergent pod; eighteen sailors burned to death when a fire broke out on the Indian navy submarine Sindhurakshak; General Motors is recalling nearly 300,000 Chevrolet Cruze cars because of brake problems*; in the Philippines, 26 people are known dead and hundreds are missing after a passenger ferry collided with a cargo ship; and in Egypt, hundreds of people are dead in the spreading conflict among security forces, supporters and opponents of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

Yep, time for the cartoons.

This week's selection of theme cartoons deals with communication via smoke signals ...

Sometimes you aren't able to answer an incoming smoke signal ...

Inappropriate language crops up everywhere nowadays ...

The technology of smoke signals continues to advance ...

You can get spammed with smoke signals, too ...

And - of course - smoke signals are "cloud compliant" by their very nature ...

Moving on to other topics, attention to detail is very important at work ... in some jobs more than others ... 

It pays to know just what sort of book club you're joining ...

You can't hire just any lawyer ... they're very specialized ...

This sounds like my sort of long-term retirement planning ...

And finally for this week, this one is so obvious that I wonder why I haven't seen it before ...

And that's it for this week's edition of Cartoon Saturday. It's going to be a busy weekend as we celebrate our granddaughter Leya's sixth (!) birthday and get ready for our vacation that starts on Wednesday ... but more about that later.

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


* Not to mention the inability to spell "cruise."

Friday, August 16, 2013

Area 51

You know all about the famous Area 51, don't you? The place where the government is storing the wrecked UFOs and where the autopsies were conducted on the corpses of the alien beings who flew them. Area 51 has figured prominently in films like Independence Day and Area 51 (oddly enough), and in the general popular culture as the avatar for ultrasecret government facilities. Area 51 is said to be so secret that it doesn't appear on maps and its very existence is officially denied*.

Until now.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by National Security Archives researcher Jeffrey Richelson, the CIA has released a declassified map which actually shows the famous Area 51, located about 150 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada ...

Well, now we know it's really there. So what's really there?

What would you expect to find stored in a super-top-secret government facility located in the trackless wastes of the Mojave desert? Does it look like the secret warehouse from Raiders of the Lost Ark ... ?

Forget the Ark of the Covenant, wrecked UFOs, and alien corpses. Here are a few of the things I think are really stored at Area 51:

- Jimmy Hoffa.

- Brains and hearts the GOP isn't using.

- Brains the Democrats aren't using.

- Common sense and civility Congress isn't using.

- The person who really shot JR.

- Iraq's WMD.

- Bigfoot.

How about you, Dear Readers? What do you think is stored at Area 51, and what is it really being used for? Put on those tinfoil hats and let ol' Bilbo know what you think.

Because, as they used to say on The X-Files, the truth is out there.

Ignored, but out there.

Have a good day. See you tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday.


* Sort of like climate change, at least in some quarters.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Thursday Odds and Ends

There's just too much to comment on, so let's just take on a few of them at once ...

1. According to this article based on a report from the Department of Agriculture, it costs $241,080 - 3% more than last year - to raise a child born in 2012 from birth to age 18. This does not include the cost of college. You can read or download the full report here, calculate the cost of raising your child here, or just look at this cool summary infographic (click it to giganticize it, or see it online in various larger sizes here):

It was tough enough for me when my children were small ... I don't know how they manage with their own children now.

2. Speaking of the economics of modern interpersonal relations, this article from Time Magazine discusses the results of a study that indicates men would like women to chip in and help pay for dates, but are afraid to ask. The study was based on a survey of 17,607 "unmarried, heterosexual men and women" who responded to a questionnaire posted on You can read the entire story, but here is a summary of the basic results:

- 84% of men and 58% of women said that men paid for most dating expenses.
- 39% of women hoped men would not ask them to contribute.
- 44% of women were annoyed when men “expected” women to pay.
- 44% of men said they would stop seeing women who never pay for dates.
- 64% of men believed women should pick up from time to time, though 76% said they felt “guilty” saying so.
- 4 in 10 men and women said that dating expenses were usually shared within the first month, and nearly three-fourths (74%) of men and 83% of women said they’re shared by the sixth-month mark.

So much for the gazillions of dollars I spent through high school, college, and my inter-marriage period trying to impress the ladies with my fiscal independence.

3. The word literally literally no longer means "literally." In a reflection of how language and the meaning of words change over time, major dictionaries - including the Oxford English Dictionary - have updated the definition of the word literally ... it no longer carries its original meaning of "in a literal manner or sense; exactly," but now officially has the new, informal meaning: "used for emphasis or to express strong feeling while not being literally true." I literally don't know what to think about this.

4. People do many strange things nowadays, such as voting for hysterically ultra-far-right Republicans and brain dead ultra-far-left Democrats. Back in 1959, they did things that were strange, but made more sense than GOP fiscal and social policies. Like outhouse stuffing ...

When you gotta go, you gotta go ...

And I gotta go to work. Have a good day. More thoughts coming.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

And You Can Take THAT to the Bank ...

Are you fed up with exorbitant fees for banking services that used to be free? Tired of the 75 page notices in 0.00629-point font that tell you all the ways the bank can screw you and all the rights you waive for the privilege of being screwed? Had it up to your ears with mortgages foreclosed on the basis of forged documents, or processed by robo-signers who don't bother to read what they're signing?

This story is for you.

A Russian gentleman named Dimitry Agarkov one day received an unsolicited offer for a credit card from an online bank called Tinkoff* Credit Systems. Instead of just shredding it like most of us would, Mr Agarkov scanned the agreement, changed the terms to suit himself, signed it, and sent it in. A few days later, the agreement was accepted - apparently without having been read - and he received his new credit card**.

It took a while for Tinkoff Credit Systems to realize what they'd agreed to. The amended agreement that Mr Agarkov submitted - and the bank accepted - contained these conditions:

1. A 0% interest rate; 

2. Unlimited credit;

3. No fees; and,

4. A requirement Tinkoff Credit Systems pay a very large fine for changing or canceling the contract.

Mr Agarkov used the card for two years before the bank discovered what had happened and canceled it. In true bank fashion, Tinkoff Credit Systems also sued Mr Agarkov for $1,363, claiming that he owed them charges, interest and late-payment fees. A court ruled that, because of the no-fee, no-interest stipulation Mr Agarkov had added to the contract, he owed only his unpaid $575 balance. Mr Agarkov then sued Tinkoff Credit Systems for 24 million rubles (about $727,000) for not honoring the contract's terms.

The bank, as you might expect, is spewing vast clouds of righteous indignation, and has accused Mr Agarkov of fraud. An attorney representing Mr Agarkov doesn't take that any more seriously than the court did. He's quoted as saying, "They signed the documents without looking. They said what usually their borrowers say in court: 'We have not read it.'" 

Take that, bank!

I would advise that you not try to do the same thing yourself, because this story almost certainly has already resulted in the big banks adjusting the ultra-fine print of their contracts to protect themselves from their own ineptitude. But at least one fellow seems to have beaten them at their game ... a hero for our time.

Have a good day ... but not on credit, if at all possible. More thoughts coming.


* No apparent relation to the testicle-eating fish Mike wrote about today, although their credit terms might remind you of them.

** Model not included.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

God's Satisfaction Questionnaire

From my humor collection comes this classic piece ...

God's Satisfaction Questionnaire
Please Answer All Questions

God would like to thank you for your belief and patronage. In order to better serve your needs, He* asks that you take a few moments to answer the following questions. Please keep in mind that your responses will be kept completely confidential, and that you need not disclose your name or address unless you prefer a direct response to comments or suggestions.

1. How did you find out about God?

__ Newspaper
__ Television
__ Word of Mouth
__ Tabloid
__ Bible
__ Torah
__ Other Book (specify): _____________
__ Divine Inspiration
__ Burning Shrubbery
__ Near Death Experience
__ Other (specify): _____________

2. Which model God did you acquire?
__ Yahweh
__ Jehova
__ Allah
__ God
__ Father, Son and Holy Ghost Triplet
__ Jesus
__ Satan
__ None of the above, I was taken in by a false god

3. Did your God come to you undamaged, with all parts in good working order and with no obvious breakage or missing attributes?

__ Yes __ No

If no, please describe the problems you initially encountered. Use a separate sheet of paper if necessary.

4. What factors were relevant in your decision to acquire a god? Please check all that apply.

__ Indoctrinated by Parents
__ Wanted to Piss off Parents
__ Indoctrinated by Society
__ Needed a Reason to Live
__ Needed Focus in Who to Despise
__ Need to Feel Morally Superior to Everyone Else
__ Desperate Need for Certainty
__ Imaginary Friend Grew Up
__ Hate to Think for Myself
__ Needed a Day Away from Work
__ Fear of Death
__ Wanted to Meet Girls/Boys
__ Like Organ Music
__ My shrubbery Caught Fire and Told Me to Do It

5. Have you ever worshipped a God before?
__ Yes __ No

If Yes, which false god were you fooled by? Please check all that apply.

__ Odin
__ Zeus
__ Apollo
__ Ra
__ The Great Spirit
__ The Great Pumpkin
__ The Sun
__ The Moon
__ The Bomb
__ Cthulhu
__ The Almighty Dollar
__ Left Wing Liberalism
__ Right-Wing Conservatism
__ Other: ________________

6. Are you currently using any other source of inspiration in addition to God? Please check all that apply.
__ Tarot
__ Lottery
__ Astrology
__ Television
__ Fortune Cookies
__ Psychic Friends Network
__ Dianetics/Scientology
__ Palmistry
__ Self-Help Books
__ Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll
__ Biorythms
__ Tea Leaves
__ ESP
__ Chanting Mantras
__ Televangelist (specify which one)
__ Crystals
__ Human Sacrifice
__ Pyramids
__ Wandering around a desert
__ Burning Shrubbery
__ Other: _______________
__ None

7. God employs a limited degree of Divine Intervention to preserve the balanced level of felt presence and blind faith. Which would you prefer (circle one)?

a. More Divine Intervention
b. Less Divine Intervention
c. Current level of Divine Intervention is just right
d. Don't know...what's Divine Intervention?

8. God also attempts to maintain a balanced level of disasters and miracles. Please rate on a scale of 1 - 5 his handling of the following (1=unsatisfactory, 5=excellent):

a. Disasters

Flood 1 2 3 4 5
Pestilence 1 2 3 4 5
War 1 2 3 4 5
Famine 1 2 3 4 5
Plague 1 2 3 4 5
Earthquake 1 2 3 4 5
al Qaeda (or Similar Organization) 1 2 3 4 5
Spam 1 2 3 4 5
Congress 1 2 3 4 5
Tea Party 1 2 3 4 5
Code Pink 1 2 3 4 5

b. Miracles

Rescues 1 2 3 4 5
Water Changing to Wine 1 2 3 4 5
Spontaneous Remissions 1 2 3 4 5
Talking, Flaming Shrubbery 1 2 3 4 5
Stars Hovering over Towns 1 2 3 4 5
Crying Statues 1 2 3 4 5
Cubs Winning the Series 1 2 3 4 5
Congress Actually Does Something Useful 1 2 3 4 5
Walking on Water 1 2 3 4 5
VCRs That Set Their Own Clocks 1 2 3 4 5

9. Do you have any additional comments or suggestions for improving the quality of God's services? (Attach an additional sheet if necessary):

Thank you for your time in completing this valuable survey to help God improve his service to you.

* Please note that God is all-powerful and independent of sex or sexual orientation. The pronouns "He," "His," "Him," etc, are used solely for grammatical convenience and are not intended to specify a particular sex.

Have a good day. Give yourself a plenary indulgence for completing this survey.

More thoughts coming.


Monday, August 12, 2013

The Problem of Asteroids

No, they are not an uncomfortable problem faced by NASA professionals working on the International Space Station.

Asteroids are chunks of rock that tumble through space in various orbits. Many are thought to be remnants of unformed planets; others may be pieces broken off of planets or moons by the impact of meteors, or ejected into space by volcanic activity. Whatever their source, they can be bad news.

This picture appeared today on the APOD (Astronomy Picture of the Day) website operated by NASA:

It shows the orbits of over a thousand known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (or PHAs) - those that are more than 140 meters across, and whose orbits pass within 7.5 million kilometers of Earth. We live in a tough and crowded neighborhood.

Because the impact of a meteor or large asteroid is thought to have caused "extinction-level" events in the past (why your next-door neighbor isn't a dinosaur*), there have been calls by scientists for serious study of ways to prevent PHAs from hitting the earth. This would, of course, be expensive and difficult to do, exciting movie treatments notwithstanding (see Armageddon and Deep Impact** for examples). The cost and size of an asteroid protection program would also make it a politically problematic issue ... as The Onion noted in this article from February of 2011: Republicans Vote To Repeal Obama-Backed Bill That Would Destroy Asteroid Headed For Earth.

I have three ideas for programs to address the problem of asteroid impacts:

1. Launch an enormous tube of Preparation A into orbit on a trajectory designed to impact a threatening asteroid, shrinking it to a more manageable size that would not cause overly catastrophic damage. 

2. Try to adjust the orbit of the asteroid so that it would strike a relatively useless area of the earth that wouldn't be missed - such as the Middle East or Capitol Hill.

3. Let Congressional Republicans hold repeated votes on repealing the asteroid. Eventually, the accumulated volume of hot air might help provide a protective cushion that would deflect the oncoming threat.

Whatever we decide to do, we probably need to start doing it soon. Although none of the PHAs shown in the NASA image above is expected to pose a threat within the next 100 years, new potential threats are being discovered every year, some of them worse than Congress, if you can imagine such a thing.

Have a good day. In the event of an asteroid strike, remember to duck.

More thoughts coming.


* A real one, with scales or feathers, I mean.

** Okay, Deep Impact dealt with a comet strike rather than an asteroid. Just work with me on this one.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Ass Clown of the Month Award for August, 2013

Yes, Dear Readers, it is time once again to roll the drums, blare the trumpets, and roll out the tattered and stained red carpet to honor an individual whose actions have earned him (or her, gotta worship at the festooned altar of full equality) the prestigious designation of Ass Clown of the Month.

As it is every month, making the choice among so many eminently-qualified candidates was very difficult. With 535 members of a do-nothing Congress, two worthless gubernatorial candidates here in Virginia, countless far-right and far-left social and political nutcases across the country, and the murderously brain-dead members of the various al Qaeda franchises across the Middle East, it would be easy to throw up my hands* and drop the whole thing as too hard to do. But there was one amazingly ludicrous wingnut this month whose actions stood head and shoulders above even the most useless members of Congress. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the August, 2013, Ass Clown of the Month -

Casey James Fury

Who, you ask? Casey James Fury is the individual who, because he needed an excuse to not be at work, set a fire that destroyed the $400 million nuclear submarine Miami while it was in drydock at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in May, 2012. This week, he was sentenced to 17 years in prison and ordered to pay $400 million in restitution to the Navy**.

For costing the Navy (and you and I as taxpayers) nearly half a billion dollars by trying to get out of work, Casey James Fury is declared our Ass Clown of the Month.

It'll be tough for September to top that one, but I'm sure it will work out.

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.


* Or just plain throw up.

** Yeah, good luck with that.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Cartoon Saturday

As another week swirls down the drain of history ...

In Oklahoma, a man trying to save his daughter from a flood-stranded vehicle was swept away and drowned; a man in Florida allegedly killed his wife, then posted pictures of her body on his Facebook page; a jury in Kentucky has acquitted a 17 year-old in the beating death of his 14 year-old stepbrother two years ago; in response to growing criticism, President Obama announced new proposals to reform government surveillance programs; and Japan’s soaring national debt, already more than twice the size of its economy, has reached a new milestone, surpassing one quadrillion yen*.

For more manageable numbers, let's turn to this week's ten cartoons ...

Someone else has noticed the proliferation of Congressional committees that seem to exist only for the purpose of investigating stuff ...

Our theme cartoon selection this week deals with mimes, surely one of the most cartoon-worthy of characters. We have military mimes ...

Two takes on what happens when mimes go to the great, silent beyond ... 

and ...

No other comment necessary ...

And the question that has bothered philosophers for so long, does a mime have the right to ... oh, never mind ... 

A classic look at the birth of ideology ... click it to big it ...

Two looks at characters having trouble with their English lessons ... Yoda ...

And Elvis ...

And we wrap up this week's cartoon collection with a look at the personal history of the little-known Jewish frontier gunslinger ...

Later this morning, I will join Agnes and brave the teeming throngs at the local American Girl** doll store to do some birthday shopping for our granddaughter. I wanted a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, but lost the toss. Oh, well.

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


* You'd think that a nation that has ritualized tea parties would be better able to control its debt, wouldn't you?

** Good luck finding anything in the store that isn't made in China.