Friday, February 28, 2014

Better Sex Through Arugula

First of all, following up on yesterday's post in which I asked for opinions on whether I should participate in Mustache March, here are the results: the majority of you who voiced an opinion thought that I should go ahead and grow the 'stache. Agnes voted against. Sorry, Dear Readers ... you lose. Nevertheless, I will virtually participate in Mustache March by using the photoshopped image that Agnes created for me on my blog and on Facebook during the month:*

Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about something more interesting. Aphrodisiacs.

Yes, I thought that might get your attention.

Yesterday I ran across this interesting article in Time Magazine online: Seven Foods for Better Sex. Forget the South Beach Diet, the Atkins Diet, the Imperial Diet, and the Diet of Worms ... this is a diet I can get into. In case you don't want to read the whole article, these are the seven foods that are, for various reasons generally involving vitamin and mineral content, conducive to better dancing the horizontal tango:






Figs; and

Citrus Fruits.

Now, given the fact that I absolutely love everything on the list (well, Arugula is okay, but I prefer butter lettuce), you'd think that my sex life would have Hugh Hefner calling me for advice. Sadly, it isn't so, but diet can only compensate so much for looks, personality, and an overly modest bank account. Such is life.

I wonder why daikon radishes didn't make the list ...

They should have a place on the list if only for phallic imagery.

As for me, I'm waiting for the updated list that includes Reuben Sandwiches, french fries, butter pecan ice cream, and medium-rare steaks topped with sautéed mushrooms and onions and washed down with a nice Cabernet Sauvignon. Unfortunately, I think I'll be waiting a while for that one.

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

More thoughts coming.


* Oh, and you can probably forget about Novembeard this year, too.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Things Are Gonna Get Hairy ...

Those of you who have been reading this blog for very long know that I retired from the Air Force after 23 years of flying a desk in support of those gladiators of the air who flew more glamorous things. I still work for the Air Force as a contractor, and I consider myself to be a life member of the fraternity (and sorority!) of those who take the oath to defend the nation.

For those who are on active duty nowadays, things are tough. There are frequent deployments to garden spots like Afghanistan, with all the attendant dangers and the stresses of separation from families and loved ones. There's the challenge of "doing more with less" in an era of budget reductions, and the uncertainty of being able to continue a career in the Service as the force downsizes to meet the harsh realities of the new fiscal climate.

Keeping up the spirits of the troops in the face of adversity is always a big job for commanders and supervisors at all levels. They're always looking for things to boost morale ... especially nowadays, things that don't cost anything.

The Air Force has a morale-building tradition that dates back to the days of the Vietnam War. Here's how it was described in a 2009 article by 1st Lieutenant Elizabeth McLean of the 387th Air Expeditionary Group ...

"Mustache March originated during the Vietnam War when a fighter pilot named Robin Olds grew what he called a 'bulletproof mustache.' At the time mustaches weren't allowed to be sported in the military, but Olds, who was far from home on a military base in Vietnam, thought the mustache defined his individuality, so he kept it. This occurred in the month of March 1965. Thus the roots of Mustache March were born. Since then Air Force pilots have devoted one month of defiance of the Air Force facial hair regulations as a way of good-natured protest, and pay to tribute to General Robin Olds."

This year, the Air Force continues the Mustache March tradition as a way of giving the single-digit salute to war, budget woes, and all the other bad stuff going on in the world. The Air Force Chief of Staff, General Mark Welsh, has decreed an all-in Air Force-wide mustache-growing competition. And lest the women feel left out*, General Welsh points out that they, too, can participate ...

“Their job is to ridicule us nonstop about the idiotic look that these mustaches will have on most of us, as we try to look like Tom Selleck and end up looking like a three-haired mole,” he said. “Fight’s on.”

Now, I've never worn a mustache, and have never particularly wanted to. My father wears one and it makes him look distinguished, but I just can't see myself with a soup strainer. Nevertheless, in the interest of camaraderie with my active duty Air Force brethren, perhaps I'll give it a shot. Agnes has applied some of her PhotoShop skills to see how things might turn out ...

What do you think? Should I go for it?**

Have a good day. Keep doing the Spring Dance ... sooner or later it's got to work.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* Most Air Force women don't have mustaches. I can't speak for the Army and Navy, much less the Marines.

** Hint ... the correct answer is "no."

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Using the Information

Here's an interesting quote sent to me by one of my former co-workers:

"We have thousands of times more available information than Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln. Yet which of us would think ourselves a thousand times more educated or more serviceable to our fellowmen than they? The sublime quality of what these two men gave to us - including the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address - was not attributable to their great resources of information, for their libraries were comparatively small by our standards. Theirs was the wise and inspired use of a limited amount of information. Available information wisely used is far more valuable than multiplied information allowed to lie fallow."*

The key sentence in that quote is, I think, the last one ... "Available information wisely used is far more valuable than multiplied information allowed to lie fallow." This is one of the big problems we have nowadays - we're awash in information, but little of it seems to be used properly. People cherry-pick the bits of information that agree with their preconceived ideas and let the rest lie fallow. We have lost the realization that information properly applied can act like fertilizer on a field, causing other information to grow and lead to new, better insights.

Sadly, though, much of the information in which we're swimming is nothing more than fertilizer**, unless wisely applied ... which it usually isn't.

Just a thought for a snowy Hump Day.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* The speaker was Mr Dallin H. Oaks, an American attorney, jurist, author, professor, public speaker, and religious leader.

** I could have said "bullshit," but decided not to.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

All the Time There Is

I remember once reading the observation that, although we complain that there's never enough time, we have all the time there is. That's a fairly deep thought for this early in the morning. But on the subject of having enough time, here's a poem I found online yesterday that I thought was very perceptive ...

Time Enough
by Dennis O'Driscoll

The tally of years
added up so rapidly
it appeared I had
been short-changed,
tricked by sleight
of hand, fallen victim
to false bookkeeping.

Yet when I checked
my records, each
and every year had
been accounted for,
down to the last day,
and could be audited
against old diary entries
(client briefings,
dental check-ups,
parent-teacher meetings,
wedding anniversaries),
verified with credit
card statements
(multi-trip insurance,
antibiotics, concert bookings,
mobile top-ups).

And, although
nagging doubts
inkling that I had
been ripped off
in some way,
given short shrift,
made to live at an
accelerated pace,
rushed through
my routines with
unseemly haste—
nothing could be proved,
no hard and fast
statistics adduced.

I had, it seems,
unknown to me,
been living my
life to the full.

I hadn't thought about it before, but there's a difference between filling up your life and living life to the full. There's always something more that needs doing, some chore to accomplish, some unpleasant task to finish. These are the things that fill up your life. On the other hand, we live life to the full when we make the time for things that are fun, that we dream about doing and - sometimes - manage to fit in around the other stuff. There are still plenty of things on my bucket list that I haven't done yet, so I guess I need to get moving. And so should you.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday Morning Joke

Alexander the Great, Napoleon, and Louis XV met up in the astral plane for a chat.

Since they'd all been great military leaders in their day, they decided to visit earth to see how war had changed, and were amazed by the advances in the technology of warfare.

"Wow!" said Alexander the Great. "If I had had just a few of these tanks, I could have conquered all of Asia!"

"Incredible!" said Louis XV. "If I had had just a few of these airplanes, I could have finished the Seven Years War in just a few weeks!"

"Amazing!" marveled Napoleon. "If I had had Fox News nobody would have ever heard about my defeat in Russia!"

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Tank Tops

Briefly: the weather was so beautiful yesterday here in NoVa that I actually saw young ladies out wearing tank tops ...

Of course, I prefer the ones without armor, which tends to hurt when you hug the lady.

Have a good day. Do your Spring Dance and maybe we'll see more of those tank tops soon ... but this year I'm not holding my breath.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Cartoon Saturday

Here we go again ...

Arizona's state legislature has passed a bill allowing business owners, as long as they assert their religious beliefs, to deny service to gay and lesbian customers; yet another winter storm is headed across the country; a container ship hammered by hurricane-force winds in the Bay of Biscay lost more than 500 containers when they were swept overboard; fierce riots continue in Ukraine between pro-Russian and pro-European factions of the population; and right-wing hero and towering intellect Ted Nugent has apologized ... sort of* ... for calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel**."

Back at the beginning of the month, Cartoon Saturday featured cartoons about hell. This week, in the interest of equal time, we have a selection of cartoons that look in the other direction ...

A look at specialized faith healers ...

Everything has to be up to date in the 21st century ...

And I do mean everything ...

The plagues have been updated, too ...

The real problem with religion, as I see it ...

And then there's the real answer to the unknowable question ...

Agnes and I met with our financial planner this past week to see whether or not my retirement plan is realistic ... 

There were two really great editorial cartoons this past week. This one took off on the death earlier in the week of a snake handling preacher who should have known better ...

Strange as it may sound, there really are some people who are doing things in Congress ...

And we wrap things up this week with a look at why an invasion of the earth may not work out quite the way the aliens intended ...

And there you have it ... another week swirls down the drain of history, and I've done my small part to help you get over it.

It looks as if we're going to have a beautiful day here in NoVa, which is nature's way of lulling us into a false sense of security before slamming us with the snowstorm predicted for midweek***. Agnes and I will be out taking care of important business today, like buying fabric for her latest quilting projects, and buying the Season 3 DVDs for Game of Thrones for me. And there's other stuff like grocery shopping, laundry, cooking, and assorted chores, but we'll worry about that later.

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


* What he actually said was, "I do apologize–not necessarily to the President." What a generous and warm-hearted guy, eh?

** He's clearly a graduate of the Kim Jong-Un School of Stupid, Yet Creatively Bombastic Insults.


Friday, February 21, 2014

More Blossoms from the Garden of Great Editing

It's been a few weeks, so why not another visit to the collection of wonderful print gems?

I'm not wearing those shorts without a cup ...

I've never thought so, particularly in this political climate ...

Well, what did you expect? ...

Well, they should have worked at PayMore ...

I'll bet those are some very uncomfortable panties ...

Well, what did you think it would look like? ...

You definitely don't want to have to worry about all that fun ...

Somehow, I'm not surprised ...

It always worked for the jocks in my high school, too ...

I don't even know what to say to this one that wouldn't get me into trouble ...

And there you have it - another collection of editorial classics from the Bilbo collection. Have you seen any lately? If so, copy them in context and send the image to der(underscore)blogmeister(at)yahoo(dot)com, and I'll give you a shout when I feature them in a future post.

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


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Reading the Fine Print

I know I shouldn't just automatically accept the 7,000-line-super-fine-print user agreements that most of us just click through when we do things online ... but I usually do. And so do you, probably. But do we really know what's in that fine print?

Here's an interesting article about the things hidden in the fine print of agreements from a credit card giant - Capital One Says It Can Show Up At Cardholders' Homes, Workplaces. The newly-updated Capitol One credit card agreements specify (in 0.00000735-point type) that "we may contact you in any manner we choose" and that such contacts can include calls, emails, texts, faxes or a "personal visit," at "your home and at your place of employment."

And speaking of those calls, Capitol One tells you (very quietly) that, "We may modify or suppress caller ID and similar services and identify ourselves on these services in any manner we choose." That means that they can trick you into picking up the phone by pretending to be someone else, someone non-threatening. Nice, eh? And legal, too, apparently.

Do you remember the story from last year about the online retailer that sued a couple for making negative comments about the retailer on a rating website? Apparently, the fine print of the sales agreement they signed had a "non-disparagement clause" that prohibited them from saying anything bad about the company ... and they never read far enough down in the agreement to see it (if they read the agreement at all).

What are some of the other things that might be hiding in that fine print? It wouldn't surprise me to find things like this ...

"Don't make us angry. You wouldn't like us when we're angry."

"In the event of a dispute, you agree to arbitration. We reserve the right to select the method of arbitration, which is cage fighting to the death against a rabid, starving grizzly bear."

"Accounts more than thirty days in arrears will incur a penalty. The current penalty is forfeiture of your firstborn male child. In the event that no male child is available, you may be sold into slavery in the Middle Eastern nation of our choice."

Lots of people nowadays are spun up over what they think horrible Jack-Booted Government ThugsTM are planning to do to them, but no one seems to worry about all the things that Big, Bad Business is already doing to them with absolute impunity, and usually with their consent, witting or not. Regardless of how you feel about your Government, there are legal and Constitutional limits on its authority, and plenty of people willing to sue The Government* at the drop of a hat over real or perceived transgressions of authority. But who protects us from all the things that businesses can do to us? Big Business contributes vast amounts of money - often anonymously - to political campaigns that allow them to pull the strings on lawmakers. If you don't think there's a Platinum-Plus level of legal privilege and entitlement that applies to those with deep pockets and not to you, you need to lay off the medical marijuana.

You may not get to write the fine print, but you need to read it**. It's not always the Big Bad Government that's out to screw you.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Such as Rand Paul and the American Civil Liberties Union.

** Me, too.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Top Ten Bookstore Pickup Lines

There are a lot of reasons to enjoy reading. It's relaxing, you can learn a lot of things, and full bookshelves make your house look warm and inviting. And then there are bookstores ... one of the greatest places on earth for learning, relaxation ... and meeting people. I'd hate to think that brick-and-mortar bookstores would ever be replaced by online sales, because some of these bookstore pickup lines* are just too good to pass up ...

10. Care to come back to my place for a little Dickens?

9. When you're tired of dating speed-readers, call me.

8. You're pretty nicely stacked yourself!

7. Have you seen a copy of Tax Tips for Billionaires?

6. Who's your favorite Karamazov brother?

5. I've got a great reading light next to my bed.

4. I can bench press a whole stack of James Michener novels.

3. While you're turning those pages, mind if I lick your fingers?

2. You're hotter than Emily Dickinson in a tube top!

1. Is that an unabridged dictionary in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?

Got any others that come to mind? Leave a comment. You may meet that special someone on your next visit to Barnes and Noble ...

Have a good day. Read more.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* Courtesy of David Letterman.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Some time ago my friend Katherine* sent me a link to an interesting article, with the accompanying comment, "Oh, you have to write on this!  Sounds like you would write if you were assisting them!"

The link was to a story in Advertising Age magazine that led me in turn to the website for a browser plugin called Downworthy, advertised as "(able) to turn hyperbolic viral headlines into what they really mean."

Are you annoyed by hysterically overwrought headlines on online stories that turn out to be silly and mundane? Downworthy is a plug-in for the Chrome browser that translates common over-the-top online headline expressions into something that's a bit more accurate. From the website, here are a few of the substitutions that are built into the program:

"Breathtaking" becomes, "Fleetingly Inspirational."

"OMG" translates to, "No One Cares. At All."

"Stop What You’re Doing!" yields, "Bookmark Now and Later Completely Forget About."

"This Will Blow Your Mind" becomes, "This Might Perhaps Mildly Entertain You For a Moment."

"You Won't Believe" equals, "In All Likelihood, You'll Believe."

And finally,

"This Will Change Your Life Forever" translates to, "This Will Not Change Your Life in ANY Meaningful or Lasting Way."

Here's a link to a sample article to which Downworthy is to be applied ... and here's the screenshot after Downworthy:

I think this is brilliant ... it's a great program that also has tremendous promise as a device for translating political bullshit into accurate language. It might help clarify airy political statements like these:

"Obamacare is a complete disaster that means the end of civilization as we know it" translates to, "We Republicans can't figure out anything better, so we'll trash Obamacare and hope nobody realizes we don't have a workable plan of our own."

"Reagan proved deficits don't matter" (a quote from former Vice President Dick Cheney) becomes, "AAUUGGHH!! The deficit is vast and we're all going to die!!"

"If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan" (a quote from President Obama) turns into, "If you like your doctor, maybe you can keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, maybe you can keep your health care plan. Hell if I know."

“There’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws and it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes” (a quote from House Speaker John Boehner) translates as, "I can't get my party to do a damn thing, so I may as well blame everything on the President."

"Every month that we do not have an economic recovery package 500 million Americans lose their jobs" (a quote from Senator Nancy Pelosi) comes out as, "The entire population of the United States is only about 320 million, but 500 million is such a nice round number and nobody ever questions statistics, anyhow."

"Anything said by Ted Cruz" translates as "Blah, blah, blah, self-aggrandizing BS."

The possibilities are endless! Got any proposed translations of your own? Leave a comment ... we can always improve the program!

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Thanks, Katherine! You da lady!

Monday, February 17, 2014

There's a Fee for That

Agnes is making plans to go back to Germany in the Spring to visit her father. She discovered the following when she checked on the cost of the air fare for the trip (Washington to Zurich, Switzerland; and then Frankfurt, Germany back to Washington):

Cost of Air Fare (steerage class): $476.00. Woo, hoo!! Good price, eh? Not so fast there, bucko ... next comes ...

U.S. Customs User Fee: $5.50 (this probably pays for the bored guy who stands there by the exit and collects your customs declaration forms)

U.S. Immigration User Fee: $7.00 (this is apparently what pays for the maintenance of about 50 immigration processing stations at Washington Dulles International Airport, no more than three of which have ever been open for use of US Citizens and Permanent Residents at any time we've passed through in the last year)

U.S. APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) User Fee: $5.00

U.S. Federal Transportation Tax: $35.00

September 11th Security Fee:  $2.50 (they charge it no matter what date you fly)

Germany Airport Security Charge: $9.00

Germany Air Transportation Tax: $57.60

Germany Passenger Service Charge: $44.40

International Surcharge: $516.00 (I have no idea what this is)

U.S. Passenger Facility Charge: $4.50

Grand Total: $1,162.50

In case you were following all that, the flight itself cost only $476.00. The assorted taxes, fees, charges, tax fees, tax charges, fee taxes, surcharges, ma'am charges, etc, added up to $686.50 - a bit more than 1.5 times the cost of the flight itself. And it still doesn't include things like baggage fees, surcharges for "premium seats"*, and charges for meals, headsets, pillows and blankets, "preferred boarding," oxygen, etc.

Too bad it's such a long swim to Europe.

This piling-on of taxes and fees and such isn't limited, of course, to air travel. Have you looked at your telephone and/or cable bill recently? These are the extra add-ons to this month's bill from Verizon for my landline phone, cable TV, and Internet service ... most of which represent Verizon passing on its costs of doing business to yours truly:

E-911 Tax;

Federal Excise Tax;

Virginia State Sales Tax;

Virginia Communications Sales Tax;

Virginia Public Rights-of-Way Use Fee;

VLD (Verizon Long Distance) Carrier Cost Recovery Charge (I sure wish I could charge somebody to recover my costs);

Virginia Cost Recovery Surcharge (ditto).

Regulatory Recovery Fee - Federal (ditto again);

Federal Subscriber Line Charge (I think that this is the one that subsidizes NSA monitoring of your phone);

Federal Universal Service Fee (so that aliens can make calls on my dime?);

VLD Long Distance Administrative Charge (I think this one pays for the guy who dreams up all the new fees, charges, surcharges, taxes, etc);

PEG (Public, Education, and Government) Grant Fee (I discovered that this pays for all sorts of programs nobody watches - like live coverage of boring meetings of the sewer commission - but it also pays for the public access TV and radio stations in the county ... and since I had my own public access radio show for nine years, I actually benefited from this one); and,

Regional Sports Network Fee (we never watch any sports programs, so I guess we're subsidizing all those who do).

Smoke signals** are starting to look pretty good.

Have you ever noticed that about once a year, you get a letter or a few lines on your billing statement that grandly announce that, because of increases in their costs, your monthly bill is being increased? Nice, eh? Wouldn't it be nice if you and I could write to all those folks and tell them that, because of the increased cost of everything and the failure of our employers to increase our salaries, we are unilaterally reducing the amount we choose to pay them by a certain amount?

Yeah, good luck with that. That's when you learn about late fees, penalties, and just-because-we-can charges.

Okay, I guess I'm done complaining. It doesn't do any good, and my blood pressure is high enough already. There's probably a special surcharge for bitching, and for blood pressure over a certain level, anyhow.

Have a good day. There's no charge for it ... yet. More thoughts tomorrow.


*Anything other than a middle seat between two annoying, smelly giants.

** Verizon would probably add on a fuel surcharge to cover the cost of wood for the fire.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Bringing Back Acts of Chivalry

You may have noticed that in the "About Me" section of my blog (over there on the left) I tell you that I believe in "courtesy, common sense, and fair play." Think about that first one for a moment - courtesy. One of the sad things about modern life is how poorly we tend to treat each other. Simple acts of courtesy and kindness are relatively rare, particularly in comparison to the number of acts of boorish behavior on the part of people who ought to know better. Just look at the fact that we need a term for "road rage," that people shoot each other in movie theaters over texting, that some young people feel the need to act like thugs to establish "street cred." Listen to some of the intemperate comments made by the members of Congress you'd think should be setting a better example. In the words of Rodney King, "Why can't we just get along?"

A few days ago one of my Facebook friends posted a link to an interesting article titled "Eight Acts of Chivalry to Bring Back." The author is part of the "New Chivalry Movement," described as "a community for modern men who are striving to be better in all areas of life." It's sad to think that we need such a movement, but good to see that we actually have one.

But getting back to the eight acts of chivalry to bring back ... here they are, in case you don't want to read the whole article:

1. Giving up Your Seat. I was always taught by my parents that it's proper for a gentleman to offer up his seat to a lady or to a sick or elderly person if there are no other seats available. They may not take you up on it, but making the offer is the right thing to do. Interestingly enough, a while back on the Metro, a young woman actually offered me her seat on a crowded train. I declined, but it was a very nice gesture, even if it made me feel old and decrepit.

2. Pulling Out a Woman's Chair. This was another of the polite things I was always taught to do. The lady is, of course, perfectly capable of pulling out her own chair, but the action indicates that the gentleman cares for her comfort.

3. Opening Doors for Her. I do this whenever the situation arises. But it's interesting that I've often had doors opened for me by ladies. Chivalry lives in both sexes, even if it's on life support.

4. Calling, Not Texting a Date Invitation. This one is pretty new ... when I was dating, texting wasn't an option, you had to call the lady or ask in person. Sending a text seems a pretty shabby way to ask someone out.

5. Compliments, Compliments, Compliments. Nowadays, paying a lady a compliment can be a dangerous thing, no matter how sincere and well-intentioned (can you spell harassment lawsuit?). This is sad, because I'd like to think that a real lady would appreciate a simple, honest compliment. If someone tells me that I look good (a rare enough occurrence, to be sure), I am pleasantly surprised and genuinely appreciative.

6. Walking on the Street Side of the Sidewalk. This one is pretty simple - historically, it was designed to protect the lady from being splashed by passing traffic, hit by garbage thrown from an upper floor window, or harassed by ass clowns shouting unwanted comments from passing cars. It's also a relatively safe act that generally won't lead to complaints of sexist behavior.

7. Walking Her to Her Door. This is a nice gesture that tells the lady you are concerned about her safety. It can also lead to uncomfortable situations in which it appears that you are angling for a kiss or an invitation to come inside for some advanced nookie, so - unfortunately - it's best to be careful with this one.

8. Dropping Her Off First When Parking Far Away. I do this for Agnes all the time if it's raining or the parking place is a long way off. It's a nice gesture.

To these eight acts, I might add these:

9. Put the Phone Away. If you're with someone and you're not a doctor on call, it's very rude to check your phone every fifteen seconds, send text messages, or answer every incoming call or text. Give your attention to the live person you're with.

10. Be Cheerful. I don't know if it's true that it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown, but smiling is a good idea. I try to be cheerful as much as I can, and I find that people react well to it. There's plenty of time to be grumpy if the other person turns out to be an ass clown.

The article notes that although some chivalrous acts derive from the chauvinistic mindset of the past, when they were performed for women because “they can’t do it themselves," they can also represent thoughtful measures that can reflect love, caring, and respect. In a time when everybody believes they deserve respect, all too few people seem willing to give it.

Let's bring back chivalry. Or, as the motto of one of our favorite local restaurants says, "Be nice or get out."

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Cartoon Saturday - the Valentine's Day Edition

And the beat(ing) goes on ...

Legendary comedian Sid Caesar passed away this past week, as did former child star and UN Ambassador Shirley Temple Black; a passenger aboard a British cruise ship was killed after the ship was hit by a "freak wave;" wealthy venture capitalist Tom Perkins suggested that only taxpayers should have the right to vote, and that those who pay more in taxes should get more votes; Taylor Swift cut her hair; and eight valuable vintage Chevrolet Corvettes fell into a 40-foot-wide, 20-foot-deep sinkhole that opened up in the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.


Yesterday was Valentine's Day. Love may be in short supply nowadays, but there are plenty of cartoons that can help us cope ...

Cupid is a key figure in many Valentine's Day cartoons ...

Shields up!! ...

It's always important to use the right tool for the job ...

Did you just feel a bump? ...

Chasing away annoying pests ...

Looking for love in all the right places ...

Two spins on the same theme ...

And ...

One learns to pace oneself in love ...

Good idea, bad execution ...

Agnes and I celebrate Valentine's Day ...

Truth in packaging ...

And that's it for another Cartoon Saturday and another Valentine's Day. If there are any typos in this post, blame it on the snow ... my fingers are in quite some pain from banging on ice with my snow shovel, and we won't even discuss how the rest of my baggy old body feels from shoveling away all that white stuff*.

Later today we'll enjoy a visit from the local grandchildren, to whom snow is a wonderful thing ... they being too small to have to help shovel it away. I think I'm ready for my second childhood.

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


* More of which we're expecting today, after which - by Wednesday - the temperature is supposed to get up to 61 degrees (that would be 16 for you, Ross and Amanda). Climate change is a pain in the gazootie, as is getting old.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Good Bye, Sid Caesar

I was saddened to hear earlier this week of the death at age 91 of legendary comedian Sid Caesar. With his long-time partner Imogene Coca and many other partners, Sid Caesar performed some of the funniest comic routines I've ever seen, and he did it all without the profanity and gutter humor that many of today's so-called comedians employ to wring uncomfortable laughter from their audiences, rather than genuine merriment. He was a master of the double-talk routine, carrying on in made-up languages as in this classic routine, titled "The German General" ...

Another wonderful skit was this piece featuring Sid Caesar and Nanette Fabray as a married couple having a wordless argument to the tune of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony ...

Most of you who are younger than I may not know much about Sid Caesar and his work, and that's a shame.

One of my favorite Sid Caesar skits was also one of his shortest, and yet employed the most complex build-up to a silly punch line. The scene was a huge, glittering ballroom crowded with men and women in evening dress and an orchestra playing stately waltzes in the background. A long flight of baroque stairs led down to the ballroom, and at the top of the stairs was a large double door, manned by a uniformed attendant armed with a long, ornate staff. From time to time the doors would open, and a couple would enter. The gentleman would present a card to the attendant, who would read the name, then pound his staff on the floor three times before booming out the names of the new arrivals ... "LORD AND LADY RAMSWELL-HIGGENBOTHAM," or whatever, whereupon the new arrivals would grandly sweep down the stairs to the party below.

Okay ... that's the setup ...

The door opens and in peeks Sid Caesar, woefully out of place in a garish plaid jacket and striped pants. He looks around, confused, then spies the attendant. He sidles up to the attendant and whispers in his ear. The attendant pounds his staff three times on the floor and booms out ... "MR AND MRS MENS' ROOM, PLEASE!"

Well, I thought it was funny. Maybe you just had to see it ... unfortunately, I couldn't find it on YouTube.

Sid Caesar exemplified the type of humor that I think is the funniest, and the sort of delivery and timing that I try to emulate in my own comic attempts. So long, Sid. They're not making them like you any more.

And it's sad.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Some Thoughts on TV Shows and Civil Rights

Outside my study window, snow is falling heavily (as it has been since last night at about 8:00). It looks like we've got somewhere around 6 to 8 inches of snow now, and in a few hours, it's supposed to change to freezing rain and sleet before changing back into snow later in the afternoon. A snowplow just came down the street and pushed everything into our driveways before heading back up the hill and laughing.

Next year, I will NOT forget to pay the Spring Bill.

But let's forget the snow for a while and talk about other things, like what we learn from television shows.

You might recall from my answer to Angel's question in the last "Ask Bilbo" post that I don't watch a great deal of TV, although there are a few shows that I enjoy, among them NCIS and Bones. Agnes, for her part, likes Criminal Minds and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, which are too dark and violent for me.

I like NCIS and Bones largely because of their ensemble casts of quirky characters who somehow work well together. On NCIS, I'm in lust with Abby, the goth forensic scientist who seems to combine brilliant and bizarre in just the right measure. On Bones, I like the character of Dr Temperence Brennan (the titular "Bones") who is both tremendously intelligent and completely and hysterically devoid of people skills, which makes for some great dialog.

But although I enjoy those shows, and some other police-type programs, I find that they trouble me ... mostly because of the cavalier attitude they portray toward our civil and constitutional rights.

Consider some of the standard scenes that appear in almost every episode of the modern police procedural:

- The authorities routinely employ a few keystrokes on their computers to troll through the "financials" of persons of interest, thumbing through bank account statements and other financial data without the least mention of bothersome things like search warrants.

- When a "person of interest" is identified, police officers or special agents* are gruffly directed to "bring 'em in" for an interview/interrogation - again, without discussion of warrants. These scenes frequently end up with the individual so brought in being shouted at and accused of the crime ... which almost invariably proves to have been committed by someone else (this scene is a feature of almost every episode of Bones, with Special Agent Seely Booth doing the shouting and threatening).

- People are routinely tracked by GPS location of their cell phones, or by reviewing footage from traffic cameras and other surveillance devices.

- Individuals in custody are frequently manhandled, sometimes brutally, by the authorities who have arrested them.

Now, don't get me wrong ... I have no problem with our law enforcement agencies doing what they need to do to bring down criminals and terrorists and other such evildoers, as long as it's within the limits of the law they are sworn to uphold. But the depiction of law enforcement agencies in popular entertainment blithely ignoring the civil liberties of individuals creates a poor image of those we trust to protect us. Worse, it gives a skewed impression of the abilities and powers they can bring to bear against the average citizen, feeding the worst paranoid fantasies of the tinfoil hat-wearing fringe and causing a backlash against police and intelligence-gathering capabilities that are legal when properly employed.

So ...

Enjoy your favorite TV shows, but remember the skewed vision of police powers and civil rights they present. The law enforcement and intelligence communities need certain powers and capabilities to do their jobs ... but we need to recognize the rights and freedoms we have a right to expect. The dividing line is often hard to discern in the era of high technology and information presented out of context, wildly distorted, or in pursuit of private agendas.

Remember Bilbo's First Law**.

Have a good day. Stay warm and dry. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Did you ever wonder why everyone in these shows is a "special" agent? When does an ordinary, garden-variety "agent" graduate to becoming a "special" agent? Discuss.

** Never let anyone else do your thinking for you.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

We're Off to See the Blizzard

As the Starks say in "Game of Thrones," Winter is Coming.

Coming, hell ... it's been here, and it just won't leave, dadgummit.

Yes, we are awaiting the arrival this evening of the storm that is being viewed down in Georgia in mega-apocalyptic terms. Around here, we're expecting anywhere between 5 and 10 inches of snow. Or sleet. Or freezing rain. Or just rain. Or maybe nothing. Nobody quite knows yet, but bread, lunch meat, toilet paper, and DVDs at the local Red Box are all flying off the shelves in the usual flailing hysteria and hunkering down that accompanies the arrival of the merest flake of snow here in NoVa.

At least the miserable winter weather, whatever it turns out to be, gives ignorant dumbasses who don't understand science a chance to squawk that "global warming" is a godless liberal commie plot to destroy America. It gives children a chance to stay home from school, and parents the challenge of juggling work schedules to make sure those children are entertained and cared for on their unexpected holiday. And it balances out the bitching we'll be doing in six months when it's hotter than a Sofia Vergara pictorial.

Look at the bright side ... if you have to go out and drive in the snow, you will probably be in your enclosed car with the heater and defroster and (maybe) heated seats. You won't enjoy motoring like our grandparents (or great-grandparents) did ...

So, if you're in the path of the winter storm that's barreling across the South and up the East Coast, just suck it up. It'll be August soon enough, and you'll be wishing for some of that white stuff.

Trust me.

Have a good day. Stay warm and be careful out there. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Ass Clown of the Month for February, 2014

Yes, Dear Readers, it's time once again to "honor" our Ass Clown of the Month!

As always, we were awash in deserving candidates and it was difficult to make a selection. But it's got to be done, and so ol' Bilbo will step up to the plate and make the call. This month's awardee was nominated by Steady Reader allenwoodhaven, who made an excellent and timely nomination. The Ass Clown of the Month Award for February, 2014, goes to

Russian President* Vladimir Putin

For his use of the Olympic Games as a cash cow for his cronies and the Russian Mafia, ensuring that facilities were unfinished, environmental damage was widespread, toilets were unable to handle toilet paper, and virtually every aspect of the preparations ran outrageously far over budget, Russian President Vladimir "Macho" Putin

is awarded the designation as February's Ass Clown of the Month. Oh, and he gets extra credit for hiding and protecting American traitor Edward Snowden**.

What a guy.

Have a good day. Send your nominations for future Ass Clowns of the Month to der(underscore)blogmeister(at)yahoo(dot)com.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* And former director of the KGB.

** Who was our Ass Clown of the Month last July.