Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Updated Foreign Phrases

A degree in Linguistics is interesting, but not especially useful on a day-to-day basis except as a springboard to discovering the joy of language. As in these expressions, which I pulled out of my ya-ha file, and which (according to my notes) were the winners in a contest in which contestants were to take a well-known expression in a foreign language, change a single letter, and provide a definition for the new expression. It may have been from the Washington Post's weekly Style Invitational contest ... it sounds like that style.

To start you off on a holiday-shortened week, here you go ...

Harlez-Vous Francais? - Can you drive a French motorcycle?

Veni, Vipi, Vici - I came, I'm a very important person, I conquered.

Cogito Eggo Sum - I think; therefore I am a waffle.

Rigor Morris - The cat is dead.

Respondez S'il Vous Plaid - Honk if you're Scottish (this one's for you, Fiona!)

Que Sera Serf - Life is feudal.

Jive le Roi - The king is dead. No kidding.

Pro Bozo Publico - Support your local clown.

Felix Navidad - Our cat has a boat.

Haste Cuisine - Fast French food.

Veni, Vidi, Vice - I came, I saw, I partied.

Quip Pro Quo - A fast retort.

Aloha Oy - Love; greetings; farewell; from such a pain you should never know.

Mazel Ton - Tons of luck.

Visa la France - Don't leave your chateau without it.

Ca Va Sans Dirt - And that's not gossip.

Merci Rien - Thanks for nothin'!

Amicus Puriae - Platonic friend.

These last two don't quite follow the rules of the contest, but are too good to pass up ...

Cogito, Ergo Spud - I think, therefore I yam.

and,

Veni, Vidi, Velcro - I came, I saw, I stuck around.

I, of course, can't stick around ... it's time to go to work.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend in Pittsburgh

Agnes and I drove up to Pittsburgh this past weekend for what has become our quasi-traditional Memorial Day family reunion. This year, we also celebrated the high school graduation of my very talented nephew Eddie who excels as a musician, artist, writer, and all around nice guy. I'm jealous.

My sister Lisa and her husband Ed planned and organized the entire shebang. The weather was beautiful and the house gaily decorated ...

With a party tent out back to handle the expected multitudes ...

Eddie was, of course, the man of the hour ...

But in spite of being surrounded by large crowds of his attractive young lady friends all afternoon, he still had time to entertain cousins Joe, Noah, and Marcy who think he's such a cool guy ...

Our family is a big fan of the various Dollar Tree-type stores where lots of cool toys and things to entertain small children can be had cheap. Great Grandpa must have spent thousands of dollars at those stores over the years, and the tradition continues. Here, he watches Jason helping Noah with the latest attraction: balloons that, when blown up and released, fly wildly around while making very loud farting noises ...

There was a large roll of butcher paper and a bucket of markers with which all the guests could write their messages of congratulation to Eddie on his graduation. All his friends left their comments, of course ...

And, this being the sort of family it is, so did his admiring relatives ...

My grandson Noah demonstrated his absolute mastery, at age five, of the art of cool ... which he, of course, gets from his grandfather ...

We had to have a few family shots, of course. Here, my sister Lisa, brother Paul, and I demonstrate how to keep Dad from running away before we could get the picture taken (he likes to pretend he doesn't know us, but it's too late) ...

And what sort of weekend would it be if Agnes and I didn't get a picture of ourselves with some of the world's most adorable grandchildren?

And, of course, a picture of me with my oldest son Jason, of whom I am justifiably very proud ...

Yes, it was a great weekend. You should see the pictures I wasn't allowed to post...

I hope your weekend has been as much fun.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cartoon Saturday

Accused mass murderer and former Bosnian military commander Ratko Mladic has been arrested after a manhunt lasting more than 15 years; the city of Joplin, Missouri, was largely destroyed by a monster tornado with winds of more than 200 mph; the Chinese government is nearly ready to publish its latest work of historical fiction - a politically and socially tricky history of the Chinese Communist party that seeks to put the best possible face on two of modern history's greatest man-made catastrophes: the "Great Leap Forward" and the "Cultural Revolution;" North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is visiting China for some reason; and the Supreme Court has upheld an Arizona law that imposes harsh penalties on businesses that hire illegal immigrants.

If Mike can celebrate Friday the 13th at random, I can celebrate Cartoon Saturday on Friday. Fair's fair.

We lead off this week with two takes on love in the cyber age ...

and ...

Two takes on singing the blues ...

and ...

You don't usually think of funerals as a subject for cartoons, but sometimes you can find a twist on even the bleakest of events, as these three cartoons demonstrate ...

and ...

and finally ...

When children meet the intersection between traditional and high-tech schooling ...

What your health insurance provider won't tell you until the last minute ...

And we wrap up this week in cartoons with one of the best summaries of economic data I've seen in quite a while ...

Cartoon Saturday is appearing early this week because tomorrow will start early and be a long day as we attend the high school graduation festivities for my nephew and celebrate our annual Memorial Day Weekend Family Mini-Reunion. These relaxing weekends are exhausting ... I'll be ready to go back to work on Tuesday so I can unwind.

Posts may be a little irregular this weekend, but don't despair - things will be back to normal (or as normal as they ever are) soon. Keep your eyes on this space.

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.

Bilbo

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Budgeting for Disaster

Sometimes, there's an article so good that I can't add much to it. Thanks to my friend Ed, who pointed me to this amazing piece via his Facebook page: How the GOP Is Budgeting for Disaster. If you had any doubt about what "compassionate conservatism" and "fiscal responsibility" mean for government in the age of tea party fantasy budgeting, this will give you a pretty good idea. If you don't have time to read the whole article, the last paragraph sums it up:

"I'm sure no one is surprised that the same Congress that steadfastly protects tax cuts for the wealthy while voting to maintain subsidies for the oil industry worth about $4 billion, after a quarter in which the world's six largest publicly traded oil companies announced $38 billion in profits, is eager to shaft poor women, gut regulation of the financial sector, and degrade our ability to monitor catastrophic weather events. If your goal is to drown government in the bathtub, there's going to be some collateral damage along the way. But the bad economics of it all are truly crazy-making. Scrimping now so we will inevitably pay more later - whether for healthcare, or to clean up after tornadoes, or for picking up the pieces after another economic meltdown - is profoundly irresponsible. Call it disaster economics: a fiscal strategy guaranteed to blow up."


Have a good day. Keep an eye on those Congressional wingnuts.

More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Teaching Math Through the Years

From my ya-ha file comes this interesting look at how the teaching of mathematics has changed over the last half-century...

1950: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?

1960: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

1970: A logger exchanges a set "L" of lumber for a set "M" of money. The cardinality of set "M" is 100. Each element is worth one dollar. Make 100 dots representing the elements of the set "M". The set "C", the cost of production, contains 20 fewer points than set "M." Represent the set "C" as a subset of set "M" and answer the following question: What is the cardinality of the set "P" for profits?

1980: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. Her cost of production is $80 and her profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

1990: By cutting down beautiful forest trees, the logger makes $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the forest birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down the trees? There
are no wrong answers.

2000: By laying off 40% of its loggers, a company improves its stock price from $80 to $100. How much capital gain per share does the CEO make by exercising his stock options at $80? Assume capital gains are no longer taxed, because this encourages investment.

2010: A company outsources all of its loggers. The firm saves on benefits, and when demand for its product is down, the logging work force can easily be cut back. The average logger employed by the company earned $50,000, had three weeks vacation, a nice retirement plan and medical insurance. The contracted logger charges $50 an hour. Was outsourcing a good move?

2011: After outsourcing its logging operations to China, a company decides to increase its contributions to various political parties and organizations to ensure future tax breaks and other business incentives. If the company has $1 million available for investment as a result of employee wage and benefit concessions, what is its optimum mix (expressed as a percentage) of spending on:
a. Republican Congressional candidates.
b. Democratic Congressional candidates.
c. Local judgeships.
d. Political action committees (NOTE: you are not required to identify specific PACs - see Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission).
e. The NRA.
You may use imaginary numbers. Be prepared to justify your answer.

Modern mathematics ... you've gotta love it. At least I can balance my checkbook to within about $25, which is more than I can say for Congress.

Have a good day. By the numbers.

More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What a Burglar Doesn't Want You to Know ... and Other Stuff

Today is the birthday of Robert Zimmerman, probably better known to you as Bob Dylan. He's 70 today, and can't sing any better than he could at 30. Lucky for him his lyrics are good.

On this day in 1626, Peter Minuit bought the island of Manhattan from the Lenape Indians. He paid them in trade goods like cloth, kettles, axe heads, and drilling awls (not trinkets and baubles, as the legend would have you believe) worth about 60 silver Dutch guilders.

Depending on how you calculate the value of those guilders in today's money, Mr Minuit paid approximately $1000 for the property ... an amount that might amount to a down payment on a square foot of Manhattan real estate today, and which represents - at today's prices - about a 17 billion percent return on his investment. Take that, Donald Trump.

My daughter sent me an interesting article yesterday titled Things Your Burglar Won't Tell You. Good stuff, much of it pure common sense, but all valuable and all obtained from convicted burglars. Here you go:

1. Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.

2. Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier.

3. Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste, and taste means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have.

4. Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it.

5. If it snows while you're out of town, get a neighbor to create car and foot tracks into the house. Virgin drifts in the driveway are a dead giveaway.

6. If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don't let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it's set. That makes it too easy.

7. A good security company alarms the window over the sink, and the windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom - and your jewelry. It's not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too.

8. It's raining, you're fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget to lock your door - understandable. But understand this: I don't take a day off because of bad weather.

9. I always knock first. If you answer, I'll ask for directions somewhere or offer to clean your gutters. Don't take me up on it.

10. Do you really think I won't look in your sock drawer? I always check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet.

11. Here's a helpful hint: I almost never go into kids' rooms.

12. You're right: I won't have enough time to break into that safe where you keep your valuables. But if it's not bolted down, I'll take it with me.

13. A loud TV or radio can be a better deterrent than the best alarm system. If you're reluctant to leave your TV on while you're out of town, you can buy a $35 device that works on a timer and simulates the flickering glow of a real television.

14. Sometimes, I carry a clipboard. Sometimes, I dress like a lawn guy and carry a rake. I do my best to never, ever look like a crook.

15. The two things I hate most: loud dogs and nosy neighbors.

16. I'll break a window to get in, even if it makes a little noise. If your neighbor hears one loud sound, he'll stop what he's doing and wait to hear it again. If he doesn't hear it again, he'll just go back to what he was doing. It's human nature.

17. I'm not complaining, but why would you pay all that money for a fancy alarm system and leave your house without setting it?

18. I love looking in your windows. I'm looking for signs that you're home, and for flat screen TVs or gaming systems I'd like. I'll drive or walk through your neighborhood at night, before you close the blinds, just to pick my targets.

19. Avoid announcing your vacation on your Facebook page. It's easier than you think to look up your address.

20. To you, leaving that window open just a crack during the day is a way to let in a little fresh air. To me, it's an invitation.

21. If you don't answer when I knock, I try the door. Occasionally, I hit the jackpot and walk right in.

And one last hint - if you don't like guns, keep a can of wasp spray handy, instead of pepper spray - it can deliver a seriously painful and blinding blast at an attacker from up to 30 feet away.

Just a public service from yours truly who, as ever, has your best interests at heart.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Grandparent Thing

You've probably noticed that I enjoy being a grandparent. It's the reward you get for not strangling your children when they were teen-agers. It's also good for a lot of great stories about the things grandchildren say and do. Courtesy of Miss Cellania, here are a few good grandparent stories...

1. She was in the bathroom, putting on her makeup, under the watchful eyes of her young granddaughter, as she'd done many times before. After she applied her lipstick and started to leave, the little one said, "But Gramma, you forgot to kiss the toilet paper good-bye!" I will probably never put lipstick on again without thinking about kissing the toilet paper good-bye!!

2. My young grandson called the other day to wish me Happy Birthday. He asked me how old I was, and I told him, "62." He was quiet for a moment, and then he asked, "Did you start at 1?"

3. After putting her grandchildren to bed, a grandmother changed into old slacks and a droopy blouse and proceeded to wash her hair. As she heard the children getting more and more rambunctious, her patience grew thin. Finally, she threw a towel around her head and stormed into their room, putting them back to bed with stern warnings. As she left the room, she heard the three-year-old say with a trembling voice, "Who was that?"

4. A grandmother was telling her little granddaughter what her own childhood was like: "We used to skate outside on a pond. I had a swing made from a tire; it hung from a tree in our front yard. We rode our pony. We picked wild raspberries in the woods." The little girl was wide-eyed, taking this all in. At last she said, "I sure wish I'd gotten to know you sooner!"

5. My grandson was visiting one day when he asked, "Grandma, do you know how you and God are alike?" I mentally polished my halo and I said, "No, how are we alike?"
"You're both old," he replied.

6. A little girl was diligently pounding away on her grandfather's word processor. She told him she was writing a story. "What's it about?" he asked.
"I don't know," she replied, "I can't read."

7. I didn't know if my granddaughter had learned her colors yet, so I decided to test her. I would point out something and ask what color it was. She would tell me and was always correct. It was fun for me, so I continued. At last she headed for the door, saying, "Grandma, I think you should try to figure out some of these yourself!"

8. When my grandson Melvin and I entered our vacation cabin, we kept the lights off until we were inside to keep from attracting pesky insects. Still, a few fireflies followed us in. Noticing them before I did, Billy whispered, "It's no use Grandpa. Now the mosquitoes are coming after us with flashlights."

9. When my grandson asked me how old I was, I teasingly replied, "I'm not sure."
"Look in your underwear, Grandpa," he advised. "Mine says I'm four to six."

10. A second grader came home from school and said to her grandmother, "Grandma, guess what? We learned how to make babies today."
The grandmother, more than a little surprised, tried to keep her cool. "That's interesting," she said, "How do you make babies?"
''It's simple," replied the girl. "You just change 'y' to 'i' and add 'es'!"

Just a little something for you to look forward to when you have your own grandchildren.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday Odds and Ends

We had a wonderful afternoon yesterday, with a visit from our local granddaughters (oh, yes, and their parents, too) and our friend Nadja. The weather was beautiful, the new grass is coming in nicely in the front yard (along with the uninvited weeds and crabgrass) and my garden is growing up a storm, thanks to (or perhaps in spite of) granddaughter Leya's energetic high-pressure watering from a distance of about four microns. The sun shone, the birds sang in the trees, Nessa "enjoyed" the attention of the children, and we dined on Opa Bilbo's Famous Fajitas. Granddaughter Elise also demonstrated how children are able to dine by osmosis as nutrients leach into their bloodstreams from the food smeared on their faces.

Life is good.

And it appears it will continue to be so, as (not surprisingly) the world did not come to an end yesterday evening as predicted by Harold Camping of Family Radio International and his believers, many of whom sold or gave away their possessions in preparation for the "Rapture" that turned out to be a non-event. The fact that Mr Camping had previously predicted the end of the world for a date in 1994 did not appear to cause his followers any significant worry as they approached their opportunity to get the Christian equivalent of 72 virgins in an imagined paradise. Better luck next time.

If you are looking for a foretaste of what the 2012 presidential election will be like, you can read this article from today's Washington Post: Political Groups, Now Free of Limits, Spending Heavily Ahead of 2012. You can rest assured we will continue have the worst government money can buy, thanks to the partisan financial tsunami unleashed on the electoral process by the Supreme Court's amazing 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

And finally, you may be interested - as I was - in this opinion piece by Michael S. Roth, President of Wesleyan University: Why Liberal Arts Matter. Mr Roth writes in part ...

"My parents were part of a wave of Americans after World War II whose confidence in the future and belief in education helped create the greatest university sector in the world. Students from all walks of life began to have the chance to acquire a well-rounded education, and it was on this basis that Americans created a vibrant culture, a dynamic economy and a political system that (after many struggles) strove to make equality before the law a fundamental feature of public life ... A well-rounded education gave graduates more tools with which to solve problems, broader perspectives through which to see opportunities and a deeper capacity to build a more humane society."

Something to think about as we watch misguided politicians wreck our children's future by slashing spending on education. Because without a good education that combines the sciences and the arts, and teaches people to think instead of shout mindless slogans, we get the Tea Party, Rapture fanatics, Holocaust deniers, and single-issue wingnuts of every persuasion.

And they are not the people I want leading the America my grandchildren will live in.

Have a good day. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cartoon Saturday - The Rapture Edition

Harold Camping and his followers claim a massive earthquake will mark Judgment Day - the second coming of Jesus and the beginning of the end of the world - starting at about 6:00 PM today ... because Mr Camping last predicted that the end of the world would occur in 1994, I'm not especially worried; six people have been killed in a suicide bombing at a hospital (!) in Kabul; 16 people have been killed by a remote controlled bomb placed on an oil tanker truck in Pakistan; a 20 year-old Palestinian woman was murdered by her uncle to "preserve the family honor" because he suspected she might have had "improper sexual relations;" and Sarah Palin has announced she has "fire in (her) belly" for a presidential campaign ... an announcement that does not engender quite the same feeling in my belly.

Cartoon Saturday - what else could better help you prepare for the end of the world or the prospect of a Sarah Palin presidency?

We lead off today with two cartoons riffing on the same theme ... the first is so obvious I can't believe it hasn't been used before ...

And then there's this somewhat different approach ...

The underlying joke here has been used many times, including in a scene from Kentucky Fried Movie, but it's still funny in a dumb sort of way ...

Just yesterday in this space we talked about the Federal law which mandates clear writing in plain English (the follow-on law requiring plain Spanish will surely come after the next few semis packed with illegal immigrants arrive). You can, of course, get your English a bit too plain ...

Another clever cartoon based on an obvious, but not previously observed, pun ...

Clowns are always good for great cartoons, and I just added this new one to my collection this past week ...

Insurance companies are a prime target for cartoons as well, because it's otherwise hard to find something to laugh about with companies that offer such a low return on your investment (as I learned this week when I found out how little my insurance would pay for my last trip to the dentist) ... and since I don't care much for cats, this cartoon is a double header ...

Drivers' education for today's driver ...

I loved this one because it combined the obvious and the silly ...

And finally, you have to wonder sometimes about the degree of cognitive dissonance needed to be either a hard-shell, head-in-the-socioeconomic-sand Republican or a pie-in-the-sky ultra-liberal Democrat ...

It looks as if it's going to be a beautiful weekend for a change, so it's time for me to wolf down my breakfast and head out to the yard to do battle with all the things growing there that I didn't plant. If the world ends this evening, at least the lawn will look good.

See you back in this space tomorrow, after the world misses yet another ending appointment.

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.

Bilbo

Friday, May 20, 2011

They Said WHAT???

Yesterday, while I was at work struggling to craft a document that would be agreeable to three different, opinionated, and eternally-squabbling organizations, I received an e-mail from my daughter with a link to this wonderfully optimistic article: Feds Must Stop Writing Gibberish Under New Law.


Yes, Dear Readers, according to the Plain Writing Act of 2010 (a mere three pages!) and the Federal Plain Language Guidelines (all 117 pages of them) which offer helpful information on how Federal agencies can implement it, you should actually be able to understand the laws, regulations, and other information issued by your government.

What a concept!

For those of you who have struggled for years to learn Old Church Slavonic, the official language of the Federal Government, this will be welcome news. It should also be of great interest not only to teachers of English such as Kathy and Melissa, but to everyone who desperately yearns to know just what the hell those instructions on your Form 1040 - or the Federal standards for almost anything - actually mean.

A long time ago I had a heated, yet friendly discussion about legal gobbledygook with a friend who is a lawyer. He strongly objected to the negative image of tortured legalese because, in his opinion, such language was important for its precision and legal clarity - because every letter of every word had been endlessly litigated over many years until its meaning was crystal clear.

At least to lawyers, as we saw in the famous parsing of the definition of the word "is" by former President Clinton. As George Will once commented, "Creative semantics is the key to contemporary government; it consists of talking in strange tongues lest the public learn the inevitable inconveniently early."

So check out the Center for Plain Language and encourage your elected reprehensives (and their appointed officials) to use the Language of Real People instead of strange tongues.

There's no telling what we might learn if we could actually understand the arcane language of government.

Have a good day. Cartoon Saturday is coming! More thoughts then.

Bilbo

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Well, That About Sums It Up...


Yesterday, one of my friends posted a link on his Facebook page to this article from the Los Angeles Times: Senate Republicans Block Action on Oil Tax Breaks. One of the most interesting parts of the article reads ...

"Republicans contend that the tax breaks are necessary to encourage domestic production. The repeal effort also was opposed by the oil and gas industries, which contributed more than $21 million to House and Senate candidates — about three-fourths of which went to Republicans — in the last election cycle, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics."

In the world of business, is it really necessary to have a tax incentive to encourage doing something it makes sense to do in the first place? Just curious.

Anyhow, the article, citing data in a report from the organization Taxpayers for Common Sense, says that the value of tax breaks to the oil and gas industry is about $16 billion per year; the bill voted down in Congress took aim at about $2 billion of that which is steered to five major oil companies: Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, and Chevron. These would be the oil companies which have posted record profits this year.

Just a little something to think about while you're sitting in line at the gas station, thinking about partisan efforts in Congress to slash spending on wasteful, frivolous things like ... oh ... education and health care.

When considering the actions of your elected reprehensives, it's useful to consider the wise words of immortal sage Jerry Reed: "He who expected nothin' ain't gonna be deceived."

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Things You Learn About Your Readers...

Over the life of this blog, I've managed to build up a stable (and I use the word advisedly on several levels) of regular readers whose comments I always eagerly await and enjoy. I've learned a lot about you, Dear Readers, in that time ... but you can still surprise me.

Yesterday, I took a serious virtual beating from some of you over one line in my post: I wrote: "...I'll take Nessa for a walk and then go to work. It's too early to drink."

The comments were not long in coming.

Gilahi wrote: "I'm sorry, sometimes I just don't understand some of the nonsensical sentences that show up here."

Banister commented: "It's never too early to drink. For an otherwise brilliant man you can say some of the dumbest things!"

Margaret (Peggy or Peg, Too) fired back: "Too early to drink? My grandmother always told me that it's 5 o'clock somewhere. How did you not learn this as a child?"

And Mike noted, characteristically: "That's why I sleep until noon. So it's not to early to drink."

You guys are the best! Your point is noted and appreciated (particularly since living here in Disneyland-on-the-Potomac will drive anyone to drink), and I am hanging my head in digital shame for my unfortunate comment. Of course, it is only 5:10 in the morning as I write this, and the coffee seems a bit better to toast you with than the gin and tonic I will surely enjoy after a stimulating day at the office ... nevertheless, I appreciate that the sun is over the yardarm somewhere, so enjoy the beverage of your choice.

Gilahi and I have enjoyed several happy hours swilling beverages and solving the world's problems (or, at least, making them no worse) ... if you find yourself in the DC metro area and are interested in doing the same, the first round's on me. You can help me repair my battered image as a cheerfully tippling bon vivant.

But after 5:00, please ... the boss frowns on drunken snoring at my desk.

Have a good day. Cheers, salut, down the hatch, etc.

More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Stop the Presses! Donald Trump Not Running for President!

Yesterday, professional self-important windbag and Class-A ass clown Donald Trump announced that, after much windy self-promotion and useless, divisive and time-wasting gassing about President Obama's citizenship status, he has decided not to run for president in the coming election.

Yawn.

Given the Republican stable of loud, brainless non-entities groping for a chance at the presidency so that they can inflict the maximum amount of damage to the nation's image and to those not wealthy or healthy enough to rate Republican concern, I guess the thinning of the noisy herd by one overinflated bozohead is about as good news as we might wish for at the moment.

Speaking of good news, it appears that we have nothing to worry about if Congress continues to dither about raising the nation's debt ceiling. According to Senator John Kyl (Arizona Republican), the nation cannot default on its debts because the Constitution doesn't allow it. Well, with all due respect to Senator Kyl, I don't think that's quite what the 14th Amendment says in section 4, the first sentence of which reads:

"The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned."

Questioning the validity of the debt, Senator, is not quite the same thing as thinking that defaulting on it is forbidden.

Of course, the second sentence of the 14th Amendment may apply. It reads in part:

"But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States ..."

I wonder if this includes debt resulting from the actions of Congressional lunatics playing chicken with the economic life of the nation.

I also wonder if any of them has read this wonderful article: Battle Over National Debt Ceiling Has Negotiation Experts Shaking Their Heads. If you need a good cry over the competence of our elected reprehensives, this will help.

And now, depressed over the state of affairs, I guess I'll take Nessa for a walk and then go to work. It's too early to drink.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo



Monday, May 16, 2011

Of All the Plankety-Plank Things...

When I think of "planking," I think of a nice filet of marinated salmon grilling slowly on a white wine-soaked cedar plank.

This is yummy.

But apparently there is a new approach to "planking" which involves people having themselves photographed lying down in odd, humorous, or bizarre places ... some of which are so dangerous that police in Australia (are you paying attention, Amanda?) are warning people against the practice.

This is stupid.

Planking appears to be the latest Internet-encouraged rage, blamed for an increasing number of accidents involving brain-damaged dumbasses who feel the need to "plank" in ever-more-dangerous places, like the fellow in Australia who fell to his death while being photographed "planking" on a hotel balcony railing. Another clown was cited for trespassing when he was arrested while "planking" on top of a police car.

According to this article on CNN, the trend appears to have begun in 2009 as the "Lying Down Game" on Facebook before reappearing lately as "planking."

Personally, I can think of much better games to play while lying down, but I guess that's just me. I wooden like to do something overly dangerous, ha, ha.

Moving on ...

Despite the rain, we had a great weekend that featured a nice dinner to celebrate the birthday of our friend Nadja on Saturday evening and a full morning of playing with our local grandchildren yesterday. That was when I learned that Leya is much better at riding scooters than I am ... a somewhat humbling discovery.

And now it's time to scoot off to work.

Have a good day. Plank on the grill, not the balcony. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thoughts for a Rainy Sunday

Outside my study window, the rain is coming down in a steady stream, and the latest meteorological prognostication (how 'bout them big words, eh?) says it will continue to do so pretty much through the coming week. This is, of course, good news for my lawn and garden, and bad news for people living in low-lying areas. Yes, we need the rain ... but not necessarily all at once, thank you, Mother Nature.

I learned today that on this date in in 1813 a group of Quakers founded the Asylum for the Relief of Persons Deprived of the Use of Their Reason - the first private mental health hospital in the United States. The Quakers built the institution, which still exists today as Friends Hospital, on a 52-acre farm in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that they purchased for about $7,000. At the time that Friends Hospital was founded, mental disorders were not well understood, and were usually treated as criminal behavior rather than as a treatable illnesses. The Quakers wanted to institute a new type of care for the mentally ill, who up to that time were often beaten and abused, or locked away in isolation for much of their lives. They described their new philosophy of care this way:

"To provide for the suitable accommodation of persons who are or may be deprived of the use of their reason, and the maintenance of an asylum for their reception, which is intended to furnish, besides requisite medical aid, such tender, sympathetic attention as may soothe their agitated minds, and under the Divine Blessing, facilitate their recovery."

This is an admirable goal, and the Quakers deserve our admiration and respect for taking on the care of some of the least-understood and most troubled members of our society. And although it is surely flippant to make the observation, and I mean no disrespect to the staff of the Friends Hospital, I hope they have plenty of room to accommodate the 535 members of Congress who appear to have been "deprived of the use of their reason."

Today is also the anniversary of the birth in 1856 of L. (for Lyman) Frank Baum, the author of The Wizard of Oz. Mr Baum loved to tell fairy tales to children, and one day he decided to set down in writing his tall tale of the fabulous adventures of young Dorothy in the magical land of Oz.


He wrote:

"No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home."

And a dreary, rainy day is a good day to stay home and dry.

More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cartoon Saturday

It was on this date in 1804 that Merriwether Lewis and William Clark departed on their exploration of the American West, equipped in part with "Rush's Thunderclapper" laxative pills (whose two main ingredients were mercury and jalape├▒os); in Pakistan, Taliban suicide bombers killed 80 people at a military training school in revenge for the death of Osama bin Laden (who, it might be remembered, killed thousands without the least remorse); a man wielding a large knife beheaded a woman in a supermarket on Tenerife in the Canary Islands; in Louisiana, the Army Corps of Engineers is preparing to open floodgates on the Mississippi River to deliberately flood low-lying areas of Southern Louisiana in order to reduce the threat to New Orleans and Baton Rouge; and in Washington, executives from the major oil companies testified before Congress to defend their tax breaks...despite the evidence of enormous profits earned in the past fiscal year.

Rest easy: Cartoon Saturday receives no questionable tax breaks.

Video games are becoming much more specialized nowadays ...

Some animals have better press agents than others ...

From the department of obvious cartoon topics I hadn't seen mined yet come these two offerings ...

and ...

There's conflict resolution, and there's conflict resolution ...

It's comforting to have someone to blame for soaring prices and the wreckage of the economy. These three cartoons offer some takes on who's responsible ...

and ...

and finally ...

Or maybe we just need to admit that there aren't any problems, after all ...

And to wrap things up for this edition of Cartoon Saturday, I suppose this is yet another of the reasons why health care is getting so expensive ...

It looks like it's going to be a dreary, rainy weekend that will stretch into a dreary, rainy week. Maybe it's time to take another stab at cleaning out my study.

Nah.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo