Sunday, February 26, 2017

Poetry Sunday

Agnes and I are on vacation, but the good poems don't stop just because we're on the road. This week, in honor of the current political atmosphere, we bring back this classic poem from William Butler Yeats ...

The Second Coming
by William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity." I couldn't have said it better myself.

Have a good day. Come back on Friday for another collection of editorial gems. More thoughts then.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Cartoon Saturday

Agnes and I are on vacation, but I certainly don't want you to do without your Cartoon Saturday. There's no news summary this week, but we do have plenty of cartoons ... on the appropriate subject of vacations and travel!

Well, I imagine that's what it feels like when three or four cruise ships arrive in the harbor at the same time ...

Buying the appropriate gifts is always a concern when traveling ...

There's economy travel and there's economy travel ...

Shore excursions can cost quite a bit ... but there are ways to economize ...

Budget Eurailpass ...

You can spend too much time visiting specific sites ...

There's always a catch ...

I say this all the time, but still keep doing it ...

TSA agents have to find their fun where they can ...

The list is getting shorter all the time ...

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for Poetry Sunday. More thoughts then.


Friday, February 24, 2017

The Left-Cheek Ass Clown for February, 2017

It would be entirely too easy to hang this week's Ass Clown award on a political recipient, as there are literally thousands of them clamoring for the attention. But I've decided to look in a different direction this time, and so I've decided to name as

The Left-Cheek Ass Clown
February, 2017

The Individuals Who
Determine the Price
Design the Packaging
of Printer Ink

There are a lot of products and services that have utterly unconscionable prices and a totally opaque system for setting those prices - prescription drugs, real estate, and airline tickets are a few examples - but the one that grabs me more often than any other is the price of the ink cartridges that feed my printer. Anyone who owns an ink-jet printer knows about the insane cost of the ink cartridges ... and will also join me in wondering why every manufacturer uses a different type of cartridge for each of its printers, so that if your printer dies and you're stuck with unused cartridges, they are useless unless you purchase exactly the same printer again ... which you can't, because they have a sales half-life of about three days. And you also know that most manufacturers* design their printers so that they will reject cartridges that have been refilled or which are of off-brand manufacture.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Readers, for their cynical and greedy manufacturing and pricing systems, the February 2017 Left-Cheek Ass Clown Award goes to the manufacturers and sellers of printer ink and cartridges.

Think about that the next time you have to replace your cartridges.

Have a good day, and come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday. More thoughts then.


* I'm talking to you in particular, Hewlitt-Packard.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

On the Road Again!

Bilbo's Random Thought Collection will be on vacation for a few weeks beginning today. I have already written the Friday (Great Moments in Editing and Signage and Ass Clown Awards), Cartoon Saturday, and Sunday (Musical and Poetry) posts, which will automatically publish while I'm away, and I will also try to post from time to time as my schedule and access to the Internet permit.

Regular daily posts will resume around the middle of March.

Have a good day, enjoy the Friday-through-Sunday posts, and don't give up on ol' Bilbo. There will be plenty more thoughts coming after a break to reboot my brain.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Four Freedoms, 2017

As I noted in my daily historical note on my Facebook page yesterday, on February 20th, 1943, The Saturday Evening Post cover featured “Freedom of Speech” - the first of Norman Rockwell's paintings illustrating the “Four Freedoms” that President Franklin Roosevelt said, in his 1941 State of the Union address, that everyone in the world should enjoy.

Rockwell's paintings illustrating the other four freedoms: Freedom of Worship - 

Freedom from Want - 

and Freedom from Fear - 

were published on the magazine's cover over the following three weeks.

At a time when our freedom of speech is challenged by a contemptuous president who blames “fake news” for critical coverage of which he does not approve, and by people on all sides who would rather shout down opposing views than debate them honestly; when freedom of worship applies only to one's own choice of religious belief; when children in the most wealthy and powerful nation on earth lack food, housing, and good schools - and a government willing to stand up for them; and when government relies on a steady drumbeat of fear and accusation in an attempt to force its agenda, strong defense of our crucial First Amendment rights is more important than ever.

Do your part.

Have a good day. Speak out. Defend your freedoms against those who would take them away. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, February 20, 2017

A Two-State Solution?

In the unhappy Middle East, one of the abiding beliefs is that the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian impasse lies in the "Two-State Solution," under which Israel coexists in peace with an independent Palestinian state consisting of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip*.

Official support for the Two-State Solution has been the official US policy for many years, although there's some indication that the Trump administration may be willing to jettison it in favor of full support of Israel.

But if the Two-State Solution doesn't work for the Middle East, perhaps it will work here at home as a way of separating Republicans and Democrats. Consider the electoral college results for the 2016 Election, represented as a map showing red (Republican) and blue (Democratic) states ...

The discontinuous areas of the West Bank under Palestinian control and surrounded by annexed or controlled by Israel are analogous to the situation of the blue states in the American heartland, surrounded by seas of red. Perhaps we are moving toward our own Two-State Solution, in which angry, bitter Conservatives live together in their own walled-in, law-and-order nation bordering a sister nation of angry, bitter Liberals**.

Have a good day here in the Disunited States of America. More thoughts tomorrow.


* There are precedents for a geographically-divided nation ...  following the partition of India into Hindu and Muslim nations in 1948, the Muslim portion consisted of "East Pakistan" and "West Pakistan." "East Pakistan" later broke away to become what we now know as "Bangladesh." Another precedent can be seen in the one-time "United Arab Republic," a short-lived union between Egypt and Syria that existed from 1958 to 1961. History appears to show that such geographically-divided nations don't work in the long run.

** There's also a precedent for a geographically divided political entity in this country ... look at Michigan.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Musical Sunday

Two weeks ago, we showed Mexico a little love from Jimmy Buffett. Today, we visit the other side of The Great Wall of Trump once again as, with Johnny Rodriguez, we ride our thumbs to our neighbor to the south ...

Vaya con Dios y buenas dias. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Cartoon Saturday

Another Valentine's Day is past, and February is half over. Only three years and eleven months until the election, not that I'm counting.

National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigned* after charges arose that he had illegal policy discussions with the Russian ambassador to the US before Donald Trump became president; after removing them last October, Playboy magazine will begin publishing nude photographs again; NASA has named a winner in its competition to develop a way to manage excess ... uh ... feces trapped in astronauts' space suits**; the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il was murdered in Malaysia, and Malaysian authorities refused to return the body to North Korea without DNA proof of the man's identity; and the American Girl*** doll series has released its first male doll - Logan Everett.

Since Mr Trump and his minions have everyone in a tizzy over aliens, illegal and otherwise, I thought that this week's cartoon selection should feature some ...

It's nice that they have special abduction plans. I wonder if the implanted devices are covered ...

Nothing like looking on the bright side ...

Now this is an alien abduction ...

We interrupt this program ...

There are monoliths, and there are monoliths ...

Upwardly mobile aliens ...

It's not always the humans who who are harmed by alien contact, as the next three cartoons demonstrate ...

and ...

and ...

Timing is everything ...

And there you have it - the Alien Edition of Cartoon Saturday. Don't tell ICE.

It looks like it's going to be a nice weekend weather-wise, at least here in NoVa, where many are looking forward to a long weekend for the Presidents Day holiday. The meteorological prognosticators are starting to suggest that we will not have a winter this year ... which probably means that we'll have about 18 inches of snow for the Fourth of July. Sigh.

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow on Musical Sunday.


* Or was fired ... it depends on who you ask.

** One wonders if there will be a related app to help manage excess poop in White House news conferences.

*** Did you ever wonder why everything in the American Girl store is made in China?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Great Moments in Editing and Signage

Here we go again ...

I wonder if citizen's arrests rules apply in cases like this ...

Sometimes the editors miss unfortunate juxtapositions of stories ...

Is it any wonder the economy is in a mess? ...

You've got to watch out for the more crooked branches on the family tree ...

Um ... no, thanks, I'll pass ...

Well, yes, it would do that, wouldn't it? ...

There are some good reasons to ask for relief from jury duty, but some go a bit too far ...

Why not? ...

I suspect that the original decision may have been made by a Republican ...

And we are worried about this why? ...

And there you are ... proof positive that there are jobs available for good editors. Apply now.

Have a good day. See you tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday ... more thoughts then.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Songs Everyone over 50 Should Own?

Yes, I belong to AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons. This makes me an official, card-carrying Cantankerous* Old Fart, dadgummit.

Although I am a proudly Cantankerous Old Fart (#grumpyopa), I don't always agree with everything AARP endorses, and one example is represented by this article from the AARP website: 16 Songs Everyone Over 50 Should Own. This is the list, compiled by writer Jacqueline Mitchard:

Once Upon a Time, by Frank Sinatra

Harvest Moon, by Neil Young

Lately, by Stevie Wonder

A House Is Not a Home, by Dionne Warwick

Little Green, by Joni Mitchell

Gangsta's Paradise, by Coolio

Landslide, by Stevie Nicks

* Hotel California, by The Eagles

You Shook Me All Night Long, by AC/DC

* C'est La Vie, by Emmylou Harris

* He Stopped Loving Her Today, by George Jones

For What It's Worth, by Buffalo Springfield

* Crazy, by Patsy Cline

* God Only Knows, by The Beach Boys

Jailhouse Rock, by Elvis Presley

In My Life, by The Beatles

Well ...

I don't think much of this list, although there are a few (five, to be exact) songs on it that are on my "Very Favorite" playlist (they're marked with asterisks before the title). I agree that Stevie Nicks belongs on the list, but I would replace Landslide with If Anyone Falls. God Only Knows is fabulous, as is Hotel California. Elvis and Neil Young belong on the list, but I'd go with Return to Sender rather than Jailhouse Rock for Elvis, and I'd represent Neil Young with Unknown Legend rather than Harvest Moon. I can't stand rap, so my list would drop Coolio or any other rap or hip-hop performer. And Joni Mitchell should give up her place to Judy Collins - either Song for Judith or Send In the Clowns ought to be on the list. No AC/DC - make it ZZ Top and Sharp-Dressed Man. The Beatles are okay, but I'd go with Eleanor Rigby, and I'd just drop George Jones, Emmylou Harris, Buffalo Springfield, Dionne Warwick, and Stevie Wonder.

Above all, how can anyone over 50 not own some Jimmy Buffett? I'd be hard-pressed to pick a single tune, but A Pirate Looks at Forty, Growing Older, But Not Up, It's My Job, and Perfect Partner are top contenders.

So, how about you, fellow Geezers, Geezerettes, and future Geezers ... what would be on your over-50 playlist? Leave a comment so we can share the tunes.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow, when we offer the next collection of Great Moments in Editing and Signage. See you then.


* And isn't "cantankerous" a great word? It makes for some good alliterative combinations, as in "cantankerous curmudgeon."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Prescription for Members of Congress

Have you been wondering what it will take to get GOP members of Congress to stand up to President Trump? Big Pharma may have the answer ...

Fear not: researchers are hard at work for an equivalent medication for female members. One can only hope that it will be covered by their medical insurance.

Go ask Alice, then send a four year supply to your senators and your representative. It can't hurt.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day, 2017

True love ... isn't it wonderful?

Happy Valentine's Day.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Why Are We Still Arguing About Immigration Policy?

I can't believe we are still arguing about immigration enforcement and reform after all these years. No, wait ... yes, I can ... because every discussion ends up with people on all sides shouting past each other, and immigrants - both legal and illegal - caught in the middle. The election of Donald Trump and the legitimization (by his ignorant rhetoric) of anti-immigrant feelings has led to a fresh round of anti-immigrant sentiment and a new tidal wave of raids designed to arrest and deport illegal immigrants.

I am, as are all Americans (including those we call Native Americans), the descendent of immigrants*. My paternal ancestors came to the US (legally) from Hungary, and my maternal line goes back to ancestors who immigrated (legally) from Germany. I am married to a fully-legal, green-card holding German who has worked and paid taxes in the United States since 1983. I have no problem whatsoever with legal immigration, because our country was built on it. I do, however, have a problem with those who - for whatever reason - choose to ignore the law and come here illegally. While their intentions may be good, their willingness to ignore the law is not.

I know from experience that navigating the legal immigration system is a pain in the neck. When I married my wife, it took months to maneuver through the system, with numerous trips to the American consulate for round after round of interviews and various hospitals for various tests. I had to arrange for the translation of hundreds of pages of documents written in convoluted legal German**, and at one point I commented - only half-jokingly - that the rule seemed to be that when the weight of the paperwork exceeded the weight of the bride, we'd get the visa. This is why I have no sympathy for those who choose to ignore the established process and enter the country illegally.

But while I have no sympathy for those who ignore the law, I have even greater disdain for those who rant and thunder about the horrors of illegal immigration, but offer no suggestions for solving the problem beyond such stupid placebos as "build a wall" or "deport them all." Those of you who have been long-time readers of this blog know that I have already floated (several times, with incremental adjustments) my recommended plan for immigration reform. I won't repeat it again ... if you're new to this blog, you can go back and read the most current version of my plan here. I'll be the first to admit that there may be some weak spots or difficult legal issues to overcome, but I think it's one of the first - and perhaps the only - serious, comprehensive, and realistic plans to fix our broken immigration system.

Many complain that illegal immigrants come here to steal jobs from decent, hard-working, taxpaying American citizens. This is patently stupid. Large numbers of immigrants do, in fact, come to America in search of work, but the jobs they take are largely those that Americans don't want to do for the wages and conditions offered. I haven't seen long lines of jobless Americans signing up to pick crops in the hot sun, or to do the miserable and bloody scut work needed by our industrial meat industry. Nor are they lining up to be maids, janitors, dishwashers, busboys, taxi drivers, trash collectors, and landscape workers. If they were, there wouldn't be a market for immigrants - legal and illegal - willing to take those jobs.

And consider this: the price you pay for your produce is kept relatively low because the people who pick it - largely illegal immigrants - are paid extremely low wages. Deport all those migrant farm workers, replace them with American citizens (if you can find any willing to work that hard), and watch your grocery prices skyrocket as they receive the pay and benefits legal American workers demand. If you're willing to pay more for your food in order to get rid of the people who keep your prices down, good for you.

At the upper end of the immigrant spectrum, the law allows firms who need the skills they aren't finding in American workers to sponsor visas for appropriately-skilled immigrants. Perhaps if we encouraged more Americans to become scientists, engineers, and doctors, there would be less demand for qualified immigrants. Hmmm ...

Bottom line: let's enforce our immigration laws, but smartly. Let's get serious about understanding the scope of the problem and coming up with real, workable solutions that are both legal and representative of our character as a nation that welcomes legal immigrants and the skills and cultural gifts they bring.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Yes, even the people we call "Native Americans" came here originally from someplace else ... many across the land bridge that used to connect Siberia with Alaska. Of course, you can still see Siberia from Sarah Palin's porch.

** Think American legalese is bad? You have NO idea ...

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Poetry Sunday

At this time when everyone is angry with everyone else, and immigrants - legal or otherwise - are being demonized and blamed for every ill, it's good to remember that we all suffer, as Stephen Dunn reminds us, from the same cold ...

The Same Cold
by Stephen Dunn

In Minnesota the serious cold arrived
like no cold I'd previously experienced,
an in-your-face honesty to it, a clarity
that always took me by surprise.
On blizzard nights with wires down
or in the dead-battery dawn
the cold made good neighbors of us all,
made us moral because we might need
something moral in return, no hitchhiker
left on the road, not even some frozen
strange-looking stranger turned away
from our door. After a spell of it,
I remember, zero would feel warm—
people out for walks, jackets open,
ice fishermen in the glory
of their shacks moved to Nordic song.
The cold took over our lives,
lived in every conversation, as compelling
as local dirt or local sport.
If bitten by it, stranded somewhere,
a person would want
to lie right down in it and sleep.
Come February, some of us needed
to scream, hurt ourselves, divorce.
Once, on Route 23, thirty below,
my Maverick seized up, and a man
with a blanket and a candy bar, a man
for all weather, stopped and drove me home.
It was no big thing to him, the savior.
Just two men, he said, in the same cold.

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


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Cartoon Saturday

We are now just three weeks into the presidency of Donald Trump. I'm ready to wake up now and be thankful that it was all a bad dream.

Controversial Michigan millionaire Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education in a vote which required the Vice President, acting as President of the Senate, to cast the first tie-breaking vote on a cabinet nominee in history; White House press secretary Sean Spicer accused those who questioned a botched raid in Yemen of insulting the memory of a Navy SEAL killed in the raid, ignoring years of GOP harpig on the events in Benghazi, in which four American diplomats were killed; Alabama senator Jeff Sessions was confirmed by the Senate to be Attorney General on a nearly (one Democrat voted to confirm) party line vote; President Trump's* nominee for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, described the president's relentless attacks on the judiciary as "demoralising" and "disheartening;" and on Thursday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision to temporarily block the ban on refugees imposed by President Trump.

This week, in honor of the GOP's relentless efforts to "fix" the health care system and make health care more affordable for the insurance companies, here's a collection of cartoons about the cost of medical care.

Well, that's one way to look at it ...

This is where the GOP wants to take Medicare ...

It takes your breath away, doesn't it? ...

I can relate ...

 Most of us do ...

The wrong people are wearing the masks ...

When the doctor delivers the unpleasant results ...

It's all in how you present the options to the patient ...

Some tests are critical to determining the proper course of treatment ...

Open wide and say, "ow!" ...

And that's it for our second Cartoon Saturday of the month ... my attempt to help you cope with the barrage of unsettling news. Stay healthy, because the continuing health of your medical care is in the hands of some pretty inept surgeons.

The yo-you weather we've been experiencing here in NoVa is zipping back up again - after snow squalls that produced occasional white-out conditions (but little to no accumulation) on Thursday, we're expecting temperatures in the mid-sixties today, and up to 70 tomorrow (that would be about 19° today, and 21° tomorrow, for those of you who observe the Celsius scale). That means we'll probably have snow up to our armpits in a day or two. Sigh.

Have a good day and a great weekend, and come back tomorrow for Poetry Sunday. More thoughts then.


* It still hurts to write that.