Monday, June 30, 2014

The People We Choose to Honor

Back in February of this year, I wrote a post titled "Who Gets the Statue?" which reported on the proliferation of statues of former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in Russia and asked why it was considered okay to erect a statue to the dictator who murdered millions of his own people* ... but why it is not considered okay to erect a statue to Adolf Hitler, who also murdered millions of his own people. The short, if unsatisfying, answer is, of course, that Hitler lost the war and nobody erects statues to losers.

I thought about the who-gets-the-statue question again when I read this amazing article that reports on the erection in Sarajevo of a statue of Gavrilo Princip ... the man who murdered Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie and set in motion the events** that led to the First World War and its bitter outcomes that still bedevil our world today.

Evidently there are still people who believe that a politically-inspired murderer whose crime was indirectly responsible for two world wars and the deaths of tens of millions of people is a hero***. Bosnian Serb head of state Nebojsa Radmanovic attended the dedication of the statue, and said, "These fighters for freedom a hundred years ago have given us the direction to follow for the next hundred years."

If this is the attitude of such people, it looks as if the next hundred years are likely to be very unpleasant.

Who gets the statue, indeed?

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.


* Let us also not forget Mao Zedong, who also murdered tens of millions of his own people, but is nevertheless revered in China, it being too dangerous for the Communist Party to admit that its hero was a murderous dictator.

** My friend Arizona Dave points out that this is a wonderful example of the Butterfly Effect.

*** For another rumination on the subject of heroes, go back and read my post from August 26th, 2012, Another Word for Hero.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Poetry Sunday

I have plenty of casual friends, plenty of Facebook friends (many of whom wouldn't recognize me if we passed on the street), plenty of acquaintances and work colleagues, but very few people I would consider to be really close friends ... the kind that I could count on to help me hide a body, for instance. As this poem by Rudyard Kipling reminds us, the truly close friend may be only one in a thousand ...

The Thousandth Man
by Rudyard Kipling

One man in a thousand, Solomon says,
Will stick more close than a brother.
And it’s worthwhile seeking him half your days
If you find him before the other.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine depend
On what the world sees in you,
But the Thousandth Man will stand your friend
With the whole round world agin’ you.

‘Tis neither promise nor prayer nor show
Will settle the finding for ‘ee
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of ‘em go
By your looks or your acts or your glory.
But if he finds you and you find him,
The rest of the world don’t matter;
For the Thousandth Man will sink or swim
With you in any water.

You can use his purse with no more talk
Than he uses yours for his spendings,
And laugh and meet in your daily walk
As if there had been no lendings.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of ‘em call
For silver and gold in their dealings;
But the Thousandth Man, he’s worth ‘em all
Because you can show him your feelings.

His wrong’s your wrong, and his right’s your right,
In season or out of season,
Stand up and back it in all men’s sight -
With THAT for your only reason!
Nine hundred and ninety-nine can’t bide
The shame or mocking or laughter,
But the Thousandth Man will stand by your side
To the gallows foot - and after!

Good friends are a treasure beyond price. Keep them close.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Cartoon Saturday

Let's get started quick, before the House Republicans try to sue us ...

A Mexican police helicopter crossed into Arizona on Friday and fired two shots near US border agents in what Mexican authorities later claimed was a mistake; an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa is said by the World Health Organization to be "out of control;" House Speaker John Boehner (R, OH) announced plans to sue President Obama, finally finding something that all Republicans could agree on; the Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law which established "no-protest" buffer zones around health clinics that perform abortions, deciding that the protection of protesters' free speech was more important than protecting clinic patients from vicious and hateful - and often violent - harassment; and in Brazil, the US national soccer team advanced to the next round of World Cup competition despite losing to Germany and earning the scorn of anti-soccer gadfly Ann Coulter.

Aren't you glad you can read the cartoons instead of taking Valium to escape the lunacy?

This week's selection of theme cartoons looks at the insect world ...

I wonder if their medical insurance covers eye exams ...

And corrective lenses if they're indicated ...

Standard questions at an insect interview ...

Sometimes they enjoy a little ... light ... reading ...

Even insect parents need to be mindful of what their children are watching on TV ...

I hear they don't allow these types of insects in the Bible Belt ...

Okay, so much for our look at the insect world ... now let's turn to other subjects, like this dreaded conversational opening ... 

Have you been watching the World Cup games? Perhaps you have one of those stupid foam fan toys ...

Looks like you got the right number ...

And finally for this week, it's getting harder all the time to tell the difference ...

Congratulations! You have survived another week and can enjoy the weekend ... something I plan to do as soon as I get the lawn mowed, the garden weeded, the chores done, etc, etc.

Monday will come soon enough.

Have a good day and a great weekend. Come back tomorrow for Poetry Sunday.


Friday, June 27, 2014

The Third Ass Clown of the Month for June, 2014!

As you know, Dear Readers, I’ve been observing the activities (or, more correctly, inactivities) of our government with head-shaking disdain for some years now. Every time I think our elected reprehensives have finally hit rock bottom, they surprise me by manfully* continuing to dig in search of new depths of stupidity.

And this is why, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have decided to present an unprecedented third

Ass Clown of the Month Award

for June, 2014.

The deserving recipient is ...

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R (OH)**

You may have read this past week that Mr Boehner has announced that he plans to sue President Obama for failing to execute the law as he is required to do by the Constitution***, and for governing without due regard to the Congress by issuing executive orders and using recess appointments+ to fill positions. Although he would not cite specific examples of Mr Obama's alleged wrongdoing, Mr Boehner piously intoned his charges in a memo sent to his House colleagues,

"On matters ranging from health care and energy to foreign policy and education, President Obama has repeatedly run an end-around on the American people and their elected legislators, straining the boundaries of the solemn oath he took on Inauguration Day"

Shame on the President for trying to govern in the face of implacable opposition! You may enjoy this take on Mr Boehner's position - Boehner Calls Obama's Practice of Accomplishing Things Unconstitutional.

For his shameless pandering to the hyperconservative base, and for wasting the time and money of Congress, the courts, and the American people with a ridiculous lawsuit that should be laughed with prejudice out of any courtroom, John Boehner is awarded the third Ass Clown of the Month award for June, 2014. Of course, in Mr Boehner's defense, filing a frivolous lawsuit is a lot easier than coming up with actual workable programs, providing leadership to his fractious party, and cooperating in the business of government.

Have a good day. If you live in Ohio and voted for Mr Boehner, I hope you're happy with the quality of your representation ... if not the quantity of its accomplishments.

See you here tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday.


* No offense intended, ladies. Many of those reprehensives surprise me by continuing to dig womanfully, too.

** Mr Boehner has already received the Ass Clown of the Month Award once before. You can read his previous award citation here.

*** Article II, Section 3: “…he [the President] shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed …”

+ Article II, Section 2: “The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.” Of course, the Supreme Court just decided that this part of the Constitution was unconstitutional, so to speak (the ruling was in the case NLRB v. Noel Canning (12-1281), decided on June 26th).

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Giving Names to Machines

The other day I read a very interesting article by Adrienne LaFrance in The Atlantic: Why People Name Their Machines.

We know that people like to give names to inanimate things. For instance, many of us name our cars (my friend Katherine once drove a car she named "Oskar") or our boats (the “Sally May”). Many gun owners like to name their weapons with monikers like “Big John” or, as Ms LaFrance reminds us in her article, Davy Crockett’s “Old Betsy” or the fearful World War I German artillery piece “Big Bertha.” And, of course, the infamous Kalashnikov automatic rifle beloved of terrorists and guerillas. We have the “Archimedes Screw” (which is not something one purchases from a Greek marital aids shop), the Mae West lifejacket, and the Ford Edsel (named for Edsel Ford, who probably would rather have been memorialized by something other than a marketing disaster).

We give names to things for any number of reasons. As Ms LaFrance says at the end of her article,

Machines don't need names, but we feel the need to name them—out of a mix of affection, perhaps, but mostly out of a desire to reorganize forces more powerful than we are so that they appear to be under human control.

This got me to thinking about all the other sorts of machines that might benefit from having names to personalize them, such as

A duplicating machine called Kate;

A bilge pump called Rush;

A hot air blower called Ted;


A device for treating severe memory loss called Dick.

Hmmm … I think I could get used to this. Any of you have any other creative suggestions for names for machines? Leave a comment.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Frog Walk

In a footnote to yesterday's post, I mentioned an incident that took place between me and a stuffed frog many years ago. Naturally, Arizona Dave - who has probably known me longer than most of you - immediately popped up and wanted the details. And so ...

Let us return to those golden days of yesteryear ... somewhere around 1975 ... when Bilbo was a Second Lieutenant in the US Air Force, stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, Louisiana ...

Those of you who have never been in the service need to understand up front that a Second Lieutenant is the very lowest of the officer grades. A Second Lieutenant is generally tolerated by those both above and below him in the chain, who credit him or her with the intelligence and abilities of a single-cell animal, and gets about as much respect as Rodney Dangerfield on an average day.

Now that we all understand that ...

In the year 1975-ish, Second Lieutenant Bilbo lived with his wife and little son in a house on the air base and walked to and from work every day, sometimes by way of the Shopette, a small on-base convenience store that sold ... among other things ... toys.

Okay, now the stage is set for the story ... we have a Second Lieutenant ... who walks to and from work on base ... by way of the Shopette ... where toys are sold ...

On the day in question, I received a call at work from my wife*, who wanted me to stop by the Shopette on the way home and pick up a toy she'd seen that she wanted for our son. Without thinking, I agreed.

At 4:30 PM, I left work and walked a few blocks from my office to the Shopette, where I purchased the requested toy ... a stuffed frog. But this was not just any stuffed frog ... this stuffed frog was about five feet long, colored in gay splotches of vivid green, black, and yellow, with goggly eyes, a big, happy smile and a bright red tongue hanging out. I had written the check** and was on my way out of the store before I realized that it might not be the best idea for a Second Lieutenant to be walking across the base - in uniform - during the afternoon rush hour - with a five-foot green and yellow frog under his arm.

And it got worse.

I was standing at a major intersection on the base, a Second Lieutenant in uniform, with a five-foot, green-and-yellow-and-black frog under my arm, being pointed and snickered at by all the passing traffic while waiting for the light to change so I could walk the last few blocks home, when the hands of the clock reached 5:00 PM and - just as on every military base around the world, the first notes of Retreat began to play ... followed by the National Anthem as the flag on the headquarters building was lowered for the day.

Military etiquette requires that if you are outdoors when Retreat sounds, you immediately stop (if you are in a car, the driver stops and gets out), face the flag (or in the direction of the music, if the flag isn't visible), and stand at attention. And when the National Anthem begins to play, you salute.

And there I stood, at a major on-base intersection, a Second Lieutenant in uniform, with a grinning, five-foot, green-and-yellow-and-black frog under my arm, as The Star-Spangled Banner began to play.

I unceremoniously dropped the frog, which lay there next to me (without saluting) as I rendered the honors to the flag.

When the last notes of the music finally died away, I dropped my salute as professionally as possible, recovered my frog, and walked home with all the dignity I could muster with a five-foot, green-and-yellow-and-black amphibian under my arm.

As I remember, little Jason loved the frog, and it took me months to live down the walk home from the Shopette.

And that is the story of Bilbo's frog walk.

Have a good day. Don't carry any large stuffed frogs if you can help it.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* This was pre-Agnes.

** This was back when we used to write checks for things, rather than swiping a card through a reader.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Weekend with the Grandchildren

How much fun can you have with a pair of hyperactive grandchildren in two days? Enough to feel your age.

On Saturday afternoon, we visited Leya and Elise at their house. Leya wanted to plant the idea that we should go to to the amusement park at King's Dominion the following day, and so she thought it would be fun if she and I drew our own amusement park in the cul-de-sac with sidewalk chalk. The name of the roller coaster was her idea, as were the pirate ship, slides, jungle gym, and boys' and girls' porta-potties...

She had me draw several cars at various points along "The Blood Dropper," and gave me specific instructions on how to draw one of them: note the hat that has blown off the fellow in the last seat, and the sparks flying from the wheels ...

While this was going on, Oma Agnes and Elise enjoyed some quality cuddling time ...

On Sunday, we did indeed go to King's Dominion, and Elise was very specific about all the rides she wanted to go on. She had to have her own copy of the park map and know where we were at all times ...

The park has a section for smaller children called "Planet Snoopy," with a Peanuts theme. Elise got a big charge out of "Charlie Brown's Wind-Up" ...

Elise listens attentively as Leya pontificates on the relative merits of various types of soft ice cream ... 

One of these days, I'm going to get to ride ...

In the afternoon, after things warmed up a bit, the girls wanted to go swimming at Big Wave Bay at the Water Park. I told Elise she couldn't go into the water until her mother was ready to go with her. Here, she demonstrates her sneaky grin as she edges sideways - an inch at a time - into the pool.

In the meantime, Leya found creative ways to play with the poolside water jets ...

I don't like roller coasters very much ... getting whipped around at high speed while trying to keep my lunch where it belongs isn't my idea of a good time. Nevertheless, Leya conned me into riding the Woodstock Express roller coaster with her. In this picture, Leya and I haven't even started the ride yet ... I was just practicing my terrified look.

Elise rode the roller coaster, too, along with riding Lucy's Tugboat with Agnes ...

As we were on the way out of the park, we were approached by a young man who had won a very large prize in one of the games that he didn't want, and wondered if the girls would like to have it*. And so it was that we drove home in two cars: Yasmin and Agnes and the girls in one car ... and me and a huge stuffed pig in the other**. Elise loves the pig ...

It was a busy two days, but it's always fun to spend time with the grandchildren you love. I think I'll have my energy built back up by Wednesday or so.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Oddly enough, this is the second time this has happened to us at the same park. Many years ago, when our daughter Yasmin was about the same age as her daughter Leya is now, a sailor on leave won an enormous stuffed dog he couldn't take back to his ship with him ... and he gave it to Yasmin. 

** Someday, I'll tell you the story of the day I took a walk with a huge, green-and-yellow stuffed frog. In uniform. Me, not the frog.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Watch This Space

These relaxing weekends will be the death of me, yet.

Those of you (like Mike, John, Andrea, Amanda, and Kathy, among others) who are also my friends on Facebook* already have an idea of what sort of weekend it has been at Chez Bilbo. And since I haven't had the time to properly organize all the pictures and stories from that busy weekend, I have decided to give myself the day off to catch up on all the things I didn't get done over the weekend, and to prepare a better post for tomorrow. I'd like to think I've built up some credit for regular posting that will let me skate for one measly day ...

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for the stories and pictures of a heckuva weekend.

More thoughts then.


* If you would like to join me on Facebook, too, send an e-mail to der(underscore)blogmeister(at), and I'll send you the information for a friend request.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Poetry Sunday

Ogden Nash is widely known as one of the great writers of light, humorous poetry. He wrote more than 500 poems in the course of his career ... I'd never heard this one before I ran across it a few weeks ago, but I really like it and it seems appropriate for a summer Sunday ...

I Didn't Go to Church Today
by Ogden Nash

I didn't go to church today,
I trust the Lord to understand.
The surf was swirling blue and white,
The children swirling on the sand.
He knows, He knows how brief my stay,
How brief this spell of summer weather,
He knows when I am said and done
We'll have plenty of time together.

I hope you're enjoying this first Sunday of summer, whether you went to church or not.

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Cartoon Saturday

Ready ... set ... go!

Pope Francis spoke out this week against the legalization of recreational drugs, calling their use "evil;" President Obama announced that the US would send about 300 military personnel to Iraq to train and advise the same Iraqi forces they trained and advised before, but who abandoned their equipment and fled in the face of the enemy; inmates in Texas prisons have filed a federal lawsuit demanding air conditioning for their cells, which they claim are excessively hot; the CIA revealed the existence of a one-time plan to create and distribute Osama bin Laden action figures that would in time develop evil faces* to scare children; and in Japan, an assemblywoman giving a speech about the need for more services for women was heckled and insulted by male colleagues who told her to get married and questioned whether she was able to bear children.

After a week like this, cartoons are a relief, aren't they?

Last week, our collection of theme cartoons dealt with cowboys. This week, we turn to pirates ...

Not all pirates operate on the high seas ...

Do pirate ships really need warning signs? ...

Pirates often need specialized prosthetics ...

Does a pirate's health insurance cover such things? ...

This one isn't about pirates, strictly speaking, but it's too good not to use ...

And finally for this week's collection, at the intersection of fearsome pirates and terrible puns ...


Turning to other topics, I always suspected that this was what advocates of campaign finance reform actually mean ...

Lunch hour in the Pentagon is often like this ...

I can understand this one, having seen the number of ultra-high-end cars in this area ...

And rounding out this week's Cartoon Saturday ...

Well, it looks like it's going to be a nice weekend here in NoVa ... a little rain this morning, and then warm and sunny through tomorrow. Good weather for playing with the grandchildren and puttering in the garden. I wonder if I can convince the grandchildren to putter in the garden? Hmmm ...

Have a good day and a great weekend. See you tomorrow for Poetry Sunday.


* The red-and-black faces were very much like those of the evil Darth Maul of the Star Wars films, although the similarity would probably be lost on most of the intended recipients.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Yet More Editorial Gems

How quickly two weeks fly by, eh? Time for another collection of the groaners that make editors facepalm themselves ...

I think I may skip this festival ...

Well, who would you blame? ...

The real danger is that the coyote would want to lead ...

Well, yes ...

It wasn't mine ...

Why am I not surprised? ...

Well, perhaps this is why we're not good at math ...

Everything has to be available in Spanish nowadays ...

Well, yes, I guess it probably would ...

What more can I say? ...

If the carpenter's rule is "measure twice, cut once," the writer's should be "read several times before clicking on 'send' or 'publish.'"

Have a good day. See you back here tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday. More thoughts then.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Updated Fairy Tales

Some time ago I read a clever article on Miss Cellania's blog that wondered how our favorite fairy tales might be different if they'd been written today. I thought I'd dig it out of the blog fodder file and share it with you today, along with my additions and edits. Consider these updated fairy tales ...

Little Bo Peep keeps track of her sheep with embedded silicon identity chips.

Cinderella searches for her prince on

Hansel and Gretel use GPS rather than following a trail of bread crumbs; however, they had great difficulty stuffing the wicked witch into her microwave oven.

Alice now plans her Wonderland vacations with

The Three Little Pigs bought a condo in a gated community with 24-hour security.

A reformed Ebenezer Scrooge sends Bob Cratchett to update his certification for Excel and Quicken.

Jack has just launched the IPO of his company based on the bioengineering techniques that led to major breakthroughs in bean stalk productivity.

Sleeping Beauty sleeps better with her CPAP machine.

Old McDonald uses voice recognition to make ordering easy at his agricultural auction site -

Little Red Riding Hood's concealed carry permit came in useful when she emptied a 15-round magazine into the Big Bad Wolf.

Romeo and Juliet avoid tragic miscommunications by exchanging text messages frequently.

With her extensive web experience, Charlotte is now in great demand as a motivational speaker at tech conferences.

King Arthur has been able to slash his royal travel budget by using satellite video conferencing rather than flying his knights in for round table meetings.

Gulliver uses his frequent flyer miles to do even more traveling.

Jack and Jill avoid unexpected medical expenses by arranging for home delivery of bottled water.

And ...

The Three Billy Goats Gruff avoid problems with the troll at the bridge by using their E-Z Pass transponder.

Have a good day. Keep your fairy tales up to date* ... your children and grandchildren will never believe them otherwise.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* Not applicable to the GOP.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Highly Specialized Headgear

When I was growing up in the 50's and 60's, men still wore hats. Nowadays, not so much, except on special occasions. There are lots of different kinds of hats. There's the bowler* ...

The boater ...

And the top hat ...

And there are specialized sorts of hats, like the military shako ...

And the kepi ...

And the German Pickelhaube** ...

And the more modern versions of the military helmet, like this one ...

And there are the really specialized hats, like the diving helmet ...

And the beer hat ...

But there's also a fairly new sort of headgear that has gained great popularity, particularly in Congress and the echo chambers of the extreme media ... the asshat***.

The man in the photograph is a professional asshat. Do not try this at home.

Have a good day. Wear normal hats. More thoughts tomorrow.


* You may remember the evil henchman Oddjob in the James Bond film "Goldfinger," whose weapon of  choice was a bowler with a razor-sharp brim that he threw like a frisbee.

** Yes, I own one. It's way cool.

*** The Urban Dictionary defines an asshat as, "One whose head is so far up their rear end it could pass for a hat; used to describe a person who is stubborn, cruel, or otherwise unpleasant to be around."