Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bilbo Answers Your Questions: Part 1

Yesterday I invited all of you to submit your questions on any topic to ol' Bilbo, and as of this moment seven of you have responded. Because I always try to be a gentleman, I'll answer the ladies' questions first ...

1. Angel asked, "What are Bilbo's third and fourth laws?"

Actually, Angel, I have five laws at this point (the number varies, sort of like Gibbs' rules on NCIS). You know that the first two are:

Bilbo's First Law: "Don't let anyone else do your thinking for you;" and,

Bilbo's Second Law: "Don't ask the question if you don't want to hear the answer."

The other three are ...

Bilbo's Third Law: "Never pass up a chance to hug your children (and/or grandchildren) and tell them you love them." I learned this one late, and am trying to make up for lost time.

Bilbo's Fourth Law: "Never drive anyplace to which you can walk." It's cheaper, and you can use the exercise. And finally,

Bilbo's Fifth Law: "Never pass up a chance to go to the bathroom." You'll appreciate this one when you get older.

2. My friend Leslie wanted to know, "Are you and Agnes going to start dancing again?"

Our dancing was cut severely back over the last year by a combination of travel, illness, baby-sitting, and general lethargy. Our current plan is to ease back into things during the upcoming round of holiday parties, and start dancing regularly again in the new year. We will probably not compete any more, but will turn out to take pictures and cheer for our friends who do. In any case, I need to get back in terpsichorean shape for the Tango I plan to dance with my high-school friend Marilyn at the next reunion* ...

She paid a lot of money for that new knee, and it's up to me to help make sure she gets a return on the investment.

All but one of the other questions that were posed are political in nature, and we'll answer those tomorrow. The exception was Mike (who else?), who observed that, "The NSA already feeds me everything I need to know about you."

Thanks, Mike. I was already paranoid.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for more answers to your questions. If you have other questions, there's still time - leave a comment or e-mail me at der(underscore)blogmeister(at)yahoo(dot)com.


* Results may vary.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Getting Your Answer Straight from the Horse's ... uh ... Never Mind

This is another one of those mornings on which I have lots to do before I leave for work to do lots more. This, of course, truncates my time available to generate the witty, entertaining, and insightful blog post you've come to expect*, and so I'll have to go to Plan B ... otherwise known as, "post any old thing and at least somebody will read it."

No, not really. I think that I'm going to turn it over to you.

Here's your challenge, Dear Readers: ask Bilbo a question, and I'll answer it. I, of course, reserve the right to be selective in my choice of questions to answer (not everyone wants to know my underwear size, for example), but I will take on any question and answer it for you. It can be personal, philosophical, about current events**, or whatever. Just remember Bilbo's Second Law***: don't ask the question if you don't want to hear the answer.

Leave your question here in the form of a comment, or e-mail it to der(underscore)blogmeister(at)yahoo(dot)com. I will answer them in the order in which they are received.

Here's your chance. Use it wisely. It's not every day you get to tap directly into the accumulated wisdom of your favorite Curmudgeon-at-Large.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Silly you.

** Either AC or DC, it doesn't matter.

*** Bilbo's First Law is, of course, "Don't let anyone else do your thinking for you."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Explaining the Smoking Wreckage of Obamacare

The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, generally referred to (with a huge sneer, if you're a Republican) as Obamacare, is a classic example of a virtuous idea (allow Real People to actually be able to afford health care) gone wrong. Of course, it's had a lot of help going wrong ... the GOP has for years done everything possible to undermine it, and now that it's in trouble, they can point and say we told you so. Yes, Obamacare has problems, but the level of screaming hysteria, twisted statistics, and selective use of apocryphal stories has made it all but impossible to accurately evaluate it on its merits.

As a public service to you, Dear Readers, I offer this collection of useful information which may help you to evaluate your health care options. You may wish to take the short cut and just sign up for the Canadian Plan. Of course, you'll have to move to Canada, but at least they don't have Congress trying to screw it up.

Here we go ...

1. What Does "HMO" Stand For?

This is actually a variation of the phrase, "Hey, Moe!" Its roots go back to a concept pioneered by Doctor Moe Howard, who discovered that a patient could be made to forget about the pain in his foot if he was poked hard enough in the eyes. Modern practice replaces the physical finger poke with hi-tech equivalents such as voice mail and referral slips, but the result remains the same.

2. Under Obamacare, Do All Diagnostic Procedures Require Pre-Certification?

No. Only those you need.

3. I Just Bought New Health Insurance Under Obamacare. How Difficult Will It Be to Choose the Doctor I Want?

Just slightly more difficult than choosing your parents. Your insurer will provide you with a book listing all the doctors who were participating in the plan at the time the information was gathered. These doctors basically fall into two categories -- those who are no longer accepting new patients, and those who will see you but are no longer part of the plan. But don't worry -- the remaining doctor who is still in the plan and accepting new patients has an office just a half day's drive away!

4. What Are "Pre-Existing Conditions"?

This is a phrase used by the grammatically challenged when they want to talk about existing conditions. Unfortunately, we appear to be pre-stuck with it.

5. Will My New Insurance Cover My Pre-Existing Conditions?

Certainly, as long as they don't require any treatment.

6. What Happens If I Want to Try Alternative Forms of Medicine?

You'll need to find alternative forms of payment.

7. My Prescription Drug Plan Only Covers Generic Drugs, but I Need the Name Brand. I Tried the Generic Medication, but It Gave Me a Stomach Ache. What Should I Do?

Poke yourself in the eye.

8. I Have an 80/20 Plan with a $200 Deductible and a $2,000 Yearly Cap. My Insurer Reimbursed the Doctor for my Out-Patient Surgery, but I'd Already Paid My Bill. What Should I Do?

You have two choices. Your doctor can sign the reimbursement check over to you, or you can die of old age before your doctor signs the reimbursement check over to you.

9. What Should I Do if I Get Sick While Traveling?

Try sitting in a different part of the bus.

10. No, I Mean What If I'm Away from Home and I Get Sick?

You really shouldn't do that. You'll have a hard time seeing your primary care physician. It's best to wait until you return, and then get sick.

11. I Think I Need to See a Specialist, but My Doctor Insists He Can Handle My Problem. Can a General Practitioner Really Perform a Heart Transplant Right in His Office?

It's hard to say, but if your co-payment is low enough, there's no harm giving him a shot at it.

12. What Accounts for the Largest Portion of Health Care Costs?

The cost of air time for commercials criticizing health care costs.

13. Will Health Care Be Any Different in the Next Century?

No, but if you call right now, you might get an appointment by then.

14. How Can I Tell if I've Selected a Bad Health Insurance Plan?

Here are a few signs that you might have made a bad choice:

-  Staff physicians include Dr. Who, Dr. Kevorkian, and Dr. Demento.

- Your anesthesia choices include whiskey, a bullet to bite on, or a Louisville Slugger to the head.

- Your annual breast exam is conducted at Hooters.

- Tight fiscal controls prevent acquisition of separate rectal thermometers.

- The advice nurse on the phone tells you to "Take two leeches and call me in the morning."

- Tongue depressors taste faintly of Fudgesicle.

- Covered post-natal care consists of leaving your baby on Angelina Jolie's doorstep.

- Radiation treatment for cancer patients consists of having them carry packets of dirt from Chernobyl in their pockets.

I hope this has helped you to evaluate your options under Obamacare, or whatever is left of it after Congress gets done with it. You may be better off with the GOP version: take two tax credits and call someone who gives a damn.

Have a good day. Don't get sick. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, October 28, 2013

The Iceman Cometh Not (Sorry, Mr O'Neill)

My old* high school friend Mary Lou runs a used book store back home in Pennsylvania, and she recently sent me a delightful book by Bill Bryson titled I'm a Stranger Here Myself - a collection of essays Mr Bryson wrote for British audiences detailing his adventures in rediscovering American life after 20 years of living in Britain. I spent much of yesterday reading that book in the chilly fall sunshine, and found it to be both hysterically funny and deadly accurate.

Especially the short bit about American refrigerators.

Agnes and I have a typically American refrigerator, by which I mean a huge, hulking, energy-drinking storage compartment for leftovers we'll save and forget about until they walk out under their own power. Actually, we have two Huge American Refrigerators ... the other is in the garage and holds the overflow from the one in the kitchen.

Why do we need such enormous refrigerators? When Agnes and I shared an apartment in Germany, we had a typical European refrigerator that was about the size of the fridge you'd buy for your child's college dorm room. It was perfectly adequate, and it reflected the difference in shopping philosophies between Germans and Americans: Americans go to Costco or Sam's Club three times a week with an 18-wheeler and buy enough stuff to feed an average third-world nation for a month. Germans go to the local market every other day and buy just enough for the next day or two.

What's up with that?

I think the German way is much better. For one thing, there's less waste ... Germans don't have to, in the words of Mr Bryson ...

"... box (the refrigerator) up every four or five years and send it off to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta with a note to help themselves to anything that looks scientifically promising..."

It's also probably cheaper - they shop more often, but spend less each time.

Of course, one major advantage of a Huge American Refrigerator is that it comes in a box suitable for being transformed into a medieval castle for the neighborhood children. A European refrigerator comes in a box suitable for mailing a few odds and ends to distant relatives. Huge American Refrigerators are also more suited for movies about serial killers, in which they are usually packed with ... well ... you know.

If you want to read more about Huge American Refrigerators, you can check out this interesting article - The Huge Chill: Why Are American Refrigerators So Big?. I'd write more, but I need to go out to my Huge American Refrigerator and move enough things out of the way to find something I can take with me for lunch.

Preferably something that's been there less than six months.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* I use the term "old" in the most endearing and nonpejorative sense.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Old Crazy

On December 4th of last year I wrote a post titled The New Crazy, in which I discussed the pending release of DSM-V, the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. The DSM is the bible of the psychiatric community, containing all the numeric codes*, descriptions, and treatment information for all the officially-recognized forms of mental illness**.

This is all very interesting, but I recently found something even more interesting. Following a series of links led me to an article in Dangerous Minds which provided this list of the reasons why people were admitted to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in the nineteenth century ... click it to big it:

Now maybe it's just me+, but I think that - according to this list - most of us would have found ourselves in padded cells back then. Consider this brief excerpt from the list:

- Deranged Masturbation. I wouldn't touch my next line with a ten-foot ... uh ... never mind.

- Novel Reading. Sorry, Andrea.

- Political Excitement. Given the miserable display of behavior in Congress and by all sides in the current Virginia governor's race, I can believe it.

- Religious Enthusiasm. I wonder if there's room in the Trans-Allegheny Asylum for the entire Middle East and the extreme right wing of the GOP?

- Sexual Derangement. Um ... no comment.

- Feebleness of Intellect and Over Taxing Mental Powers. I believe this may explain the behavior of many of the more bizarre characters in the House of Representatives.

And the ever-useful,

- Gathering in the Head. I suppose this is what happens when there are too many voices there.

Yes, there's the New Crazy and there's the Old Crazy. Or both. Because I don't think the Old Crazy ever went away ... it just stuck around under an alias.

Have a good day, but don't be crazy about it. More thoughts tomorrow.


* If there isn't a DSM code for your weirdness, the insurance companies won't pay for your treatment.

** "Ass-clownery" is not included, but only because I didn't get a vote.

*** You may recall that I wrote briefly a few weeks ago about our visit to the "Public Hospital of 1773" exhibit in Colonial Williamsburg, which featured displays of how mental illnesses were treated throughout the history of the hospital.  Trust me - you wouldn't have wanted to be treated there in 1773.

+ But I don't think so.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cartoon Saturday - Halloween Edition

Bwa, ha, HAAAAA!!! ...

A mother of 14 (!) in Colombia has been arrested and accused of selling her daughters' virginity to make ends meet; two American seamen have been kidnapped by pirates from their ship in the Gulf of Guinea; having done everything they possibly could to strangle Obamacare in its cradle, Congressional Republicans held hearings*** demanding to know why the website is as screwed up as they are; Pope Francis has suspended a high-living prelate known as "The Bishop of Bling" for his luxurious lifestyle; and in Saudi Arabia, women continue to protest the official ban on their ability to drive ... and a conservative Saudi cleric announced that driving will damage women's ovaries.

Bizarre clerics, pirates, and Congress are scary enough, but now we're entering the time where things more frightening than Ted Cruz, Michelle Bachmann, and Sarah Palin* walk the land in search of victims. It's Halloween season, and here are 13** cartoons to get you into the mood ...

Things can be tough for vampire parents, too ...

Fashion faux pas ...

Who do you call when the curse goes wrong? ...

Some vampires can be caring and solicitous ...

Yes. Yes, they do ...

The equivalent of Retin-A for ghosts? ...

A headless horseman goes into a bar, and ...

The GOP approach to Halloween ...

As we suffer through a particularly unpleasant election season here in Virginia, this one probably resonates with most voters ...

Busted!! ...

Understanding the difference is important ...

And the charge was ...

And finally, the Family Feud game show is a great source of really funny moments ... and cartoons ...

We're enjoying a wonderful, cool, crisp fall weekend here in NoVa ... the temperature isn't predicted to go above 60 until Monday, and then not much, and no rain is predicted for a while. Agnes and I are going to go to the Belvedere Plantation Fall Festival with our local granddaughters today, which is always a hoot. Of course, we'll be utterly exhausted at the end of the day, but who cares?

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


* Hard to believe, isn't it?

** It seemed like the right number.

*** Otherwise known as "grandstanding public flagellations of witnesses for political gain." It's what they do in lieu of actually addressing problems and solving them.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Price of Paint By Airline Calculations

Our trip to Germany this past summer recalled for me one of the great economic mysteries of our time: how airlines set the prices for their tickets. If you've ever tried to buy an airline ticket, you know that the price advertised has no relation at all to the price you actually are charged: the final bill includes seventy-five layers of taxes, fees, tax fees, fee taxes, taxes on the tax fees, and fees for paying the fee tax. Then there are the surcharges, the ma'amcharges, charges for carry-ons, charges for luggage, charges for more desirable seats, charges for preferential boarding, etc, etc. And no matter what you pay, there is no one else on board the airplane who is paying the same amount you did.

A few years ago, I read a brilliant satire of airline ticket pricing that asked the question: what if hardware stores sold paint like airlines sell tickets? I lost my copy of the satire, but yesterday my friend Ken e-mailed me a copy, which I offer for you here so you can prepare yourself for your next thrilling flight planning experience ...

Customer: Good morning! I need to buy some paint. How much does your paint cost? 

Clerk: Well, sir, that depends on quite a lot of things. 

Customer: Can you give me an estimate? Is there an average price? 

Clerk: Our lowest-priced paint is $12 a gallon, and we have 60 different prices up to $200 a gallon. 

Customer: What's the difference in the paint? 

Clerk: Oh, there isn't any difference; it's all the same paint. 

Customer: Well, then, I'd like some of that $12 paint. 

Clerk: Yes, sir. When do you intend to use the paint? 

Customer: I want to paint tomorrow. It's my day off. 

Clerk: Sir, the paint for tomorrow is the $200 paint. 

Customer: When would I have to paint to get the $12 paint? 

Clerk: You would have to start very late at night in 21 days, or about 3 weeks. But you have to agree to start painting before Friday of that week and continue painting until at least Sunday. 

Customer: You've got to be kidding! 

Clerk: I'll check and see if we have any paint available. 

Customer: You have shelves full of paint! I can see it! 

Clerk: Yes, sir, but that doesn't mean that we actually have paint available. We sell only a certain number of gallons on any given weekend. Oh, and by the way, the price per gallon just went to $16. We don't have any more $12 paint. 

Customer: What?? The price went up as we were talking? 

Clerk: Yes, sir. We change the prices and rules hundreds of times a day, and since you haven't actually walked out of the store with your paint yet, we just decided to change. I suggest you purchase your paint as soon as possible. How many gallons do you want? 

Customer: Well, maybe five gallons. Make that six, so I'll be sure to have enough. 

Clerk: Oh no, sir, you can't do that. If you buy paint and don't use it, there are penalties and possible confiscation of the paint you already have. If you change any colors there is a $50.00 change fee, even if it is the same brand. Also, there are no refunds. 

Customer: WHAT? 

Clerk: We can sell enough paint to do your kitchen, bathroom, hall, and north bedroom, but if you stop painting before you do the bedroom, you will lose your remaining gallons of paint. 

Customer: What does it matter whether I use all the paint? I already paid you for it! 

Clerk: We make plans based upon the idea that all our paint is used, every drop. If you don't, it causes us all sorts of problems. 

Customer: This is crazy! I suppose something terrible happens if I don't keep painting until after Saturday night! 

Clerk: Oh yes! Every gallon you bought automatically becomes the $200 paint. 

Customer: But what are all these, "Paint on sale from $12 a gallon" signs? 

Clerk: Well that's our budget paint. It only comes in half-gallons. One $6 half-gallon will do half a room. The second half-gallon to complete the room is $20. None of the cans have labels, some are empty, and there are no refunds, even on the empty cans. 

Customer: To hell with this! I'll buy what I need somewhere else! 

Clerk: I don't think so, sir. You may be able to buy paint for your bathroom and bedrooms, and your kitchen and dining room from someone else, but you won't be able to get the paint for your connecting hall and stairway from anyone but us. And I should point out, sir, that if you paint in only one direction, it will be $300 a gallon. 

Customer: I thought your most expensive paint was $200! 

Clerk: That's if you paint around the room to the point at which you started. A hallway is different. 

Customer: And if I buy $200 paint for the hall, but only paint in one direction, you'll confiscate the remaining paint. 

Clerk: Yes, sir. And we'll charge you an extra use fee plus the difference on your next gallon of paint. But I believe you're getting it now, sir. 

Customer: Forget it. I'll go with the wallpaper.

I hope this helps clear up the mystery for you. Good luck booking that next flight.

Have a good day. Be here tomorrow for the Halloween edition of Cartoon Saturday.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

I Know What You Do ...

I don't remember if I've done this post theme before ... I think I did some years back, but if it's been long enough that I don't remember, I guess it's okay to do it again.

You know that I really love puns. Good puns and bad puns*, verbal and visual puns. I can drive you crazy with puns, and my mother was worse. I often get into running pun battles with my friends on Facebook that can go on for days. Puns ... you've gotta love 'em.

One particular category of puns I really enjoy is that of dreaming up names for people that reflect their occupations. My mother was great at this, and a great source of such puns nowadays is the NPR program "Car Talk," which ends each show with a hysterically funny list of staff members (the best so far is the head of their working mothers' support group, Erasmus B. Dragon).

So, in the interest of something light to get your mind off horrible things like the Virginia governor's race**, how about a roster of good names for people that hint at what they do ...

A medieval castle defense historian named Mandy Battlements.

A pair of parking lot attendants named Nick Adore and Denton Fenders.

A Japanese personal hygiene specialist named Oh Takashawa.

An insurance agent named Justin Case.

A female bouncer named Amanda B. Warov.

A Balkan historian named Hugo Slavia.

A female televangelist named Pearl E. Gates.

A personal grooming advisor named Anita Pearance.

A nurse named Angela Mercy.

A conspiracy theorist named Nadia Believeme.

A proctologist named Cameron Diaz.

A Hertz rental agent named Lisa Car.

A car salesperson named Portia Audi.

and finally ...

A social climber named Marion Ford DeMoney.

Anyone have any other ideas? Leave a comment. It will give us something to groan at besides the House GOP.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Usually the same.

** I'm voting for "None of the Above." 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

On Having One

As your Fairfax County Curmudgeon-at-Large, it's my duty to act like the grouchy old fart on occasion, dadgummit. Today is one of those days.

When was the last time someone told you to "Have a good one"? What kind of question is that? Have a good one of what? Hernias? Government shutdowns*? Platters of liver and onions? What?

One assumes that the actually intended message is "Have a good day," but if that's so, why not just say it?

But let's take the argument farther ... I can hear the tea party version now: "Don't you tell me what kind of day I should have! Government already encroaches too much on my freedom to have the kind of day I want, and I don't need you telling me to have a good day if I want to have a lousy one! I know my rights! Don't tread on me! We need a Constitutional amendment guaranteeing us the right to have the kind of day we want, without interference by jackbooted government thugsTM!"

So there!

If you're going to tell me to have something, tell me what it is**. I think the appropriate expression should be "I hope you have a good day," which implies a wish for something good, rather than the curt and demanding "Have a good one," which implies that you'd better have "one" or else.

Have a good day***. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Applicable only to Ted Cruz and other extreme Republicans.

** "Have a new car" would be nice.

** Or else.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

More Great Moments in Editing

Bernadette and Richard left yesterday, and things are getting back to normal* around Chez Bilbo. I have a lot of administrative tasks to catch up on, so let's just do a simple post today ... more Great Moments in Editing.

Some stores will go to any length to make a sale ...

Well yes, I guess it could be a sign ...

I don't know about you, but it really bugs me when I have steaks on my windows rather than on the grill ...

At least her depilatories seem to be working ...

It was designed by the same guy who designed that car in the circus that seats 75 clowns ...

Yet more fuel for the conspiracy theorists ...

Drugs in space ...

This one isn't really an editing glitch, but I think I would like this lady ...

I've heard of some interesting mixed-breed animals before, but this one is really interesting ...

Perhaps they do, but ...

And there you have it. Or them. Whatever.

Have you found a classic editorial blooper? A mis-captioned photo? An example of grand punmanship in a headline? Scan and e-mail it to ol' Bilbo. When I use it, I'll give you a shout.

No money ... just a shout.

Have a good autumn day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Or whatever passes for it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Do Not Mess with My Grandson!

Noah is my youngest grandson, and he's really cute. And I think I want to stay on his good side.

Have a good day. Don't mess with Noah.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Feeding Time at the Circus

You will recall, Dear Readers, that Agnes's cousin Bernadette and Bernadette's husband Richard have been our house guests for the last three weeks. They will leave tomorrow, having learned many amazing things about living in the US ... not the least of which is the amazing variety of goods and the impossibly low prices (by European standards and at the current dismal rate of exchange for the dollar against the euro) at Costco. Yesterday afternoon Bernadette packed a large box to mail home with all the things they've bought that didn't fit into the big suitcase, which they also bought.

One of the things we've tried to do while they were here, in addition to all the touristy stuff that I've already reported here, is to convince them that it is possible to find really good food in America ... not just the McDonald's hamburgers that are the European stereotype of American haute cuisine*. Before they arrived, Agnes sat down and carefully made up a detailed list of the things we were going to cook for them, and the places to which we would take them where they could enjoy things other than hamburgers. In addition to my famous Baked Macaroni and Cheese, we made them our delicious Grilled Catfish with Fresh Corn Relish, Stir-Fried Hunan Beef with Red Peppers**, Grilled Castillian Chicken with Bean Salad, my Sausage-Stuffed, Molasses-Glazed Acorn Squash, and even "Surf and Turf" ...

We also took them to more-or-less traditionally American-style restaurants like Mike's American Grill***, the Bonefish Grill, and the Korean Grill+.

Last night, the plan was for us to make my absolute, all-time favorite meal: Corned Beef and Cabbage. Of course, this is not the "traditional" version of the recipe, in which the cabbage is cut in wedges, chunks of carrot and potato are thrown in, and the whole is boiled into a tasteless pink mess ... this is our version, in which the brisket is baked low and slow in the oven, the cabbage is Agnes's wonderful Bavarian-style Cabbage, and it's served with garlic mashed potatoes. It's what she makes me for my birthday and other special occasions when fall rolls around and the nights are getting colder. Yum!

Unfortunately, we had to go to Plan B, because - until I went out to the auxiliary refrigerator in the garage at 2:00 PM to get the meat - I didn't realize that Agnes had bought a brisket cut from Babe the Blue Ox. It was a staggering 6.99 pounds, which, with a minimum baking time of an hour per pound, would have us dining sometime after 9:00 PM - well past the bedtime of us high-powered swingers.

So ...

Plan B was to go ahead and flip to the Last-Dinner-In-Virginia menu, originally intended for this evening - grilled steaks and Agnes's marvelous julienned jicama and carrot salad.

Unfortunately, when we began cooking, we found we had to go to Plan C because when Agnes cut into the jicamas she'd bought at the local market, she found them to be dried out and mealy. Okay, she decided, instead we'd make the excellent fatoush salad she learned to make in the local Lebanese cooking class, since we already had many of the ingredients. She put Bernadette and I to work slicing vegetables while she raced to the local supermarket for the other things we needed.

Bernadette and I hunched over our cutting boards with knives flying and had successfully generated the required amounts of onions, tomatoes, and red peppers when the phone rang. It was Agnes, calling to tell us that she'd decided to go to Plan D ... involving the much simpler mixed green salad, corn on the cob, and french fries to go with the steaks.


Well, as things turned out it was an excellent dinner. The carefully-cut onions, tomatoes, and red peppers ended up in the mixed green salad, the steaks were grilled to perfection, and the corn on the cob was sweet and cooked just right. I think we've successfully proved to Richard and Bernadette that Americans do, in fact, eat things other than McDonald's hamburgers++.

And we're having the Corned Beef and Cabbage tonight ... I plan to put the brisket in the over right after breakfast!

Have a good day. Eat well. More thoughts tomorrow.


* See, Angel, I know some French!

** Okay, it's Chinese ... give me a break, here.

*** I love their slogan: "Be Nice or Get Out."


++ Although I must tell you that I'm very fond of the "Angry Whopper" at Burger King.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Cartoon Saturday

Just when you thought it was safe to get out of bed ...

NASA announced that the earth had avoided a collision with an asteroid the size of three football fields; an ass clown who should have known better deliberately destroyed a delicate Utah rock formation that had existed since Jurassic times; Congress voted to solve the nation's debt crisis by appointing a committee to solve the nation's debt crisis ... having evidently forgotten how well The Supercommittee worked out; a couple in Texas has received a bill for $236,000 in unpaid highway tolls, while several other scofflaws owe more than $100,000 each; and in dreadful news for men everywhere, a new study indicates that excessive consumption of bacon may be harmful for a man's ability to produce healthy semen*.

Yep, we really need the cartoons this week.

For our selection of theme cartoons for the week, and in honor of the tea party's hysterical fury over the perceived horror of Obamacare, I've selected some cartoons dealing with the cost of our medical care ...

The ultimate in untreatable pre-existing conditions ...

This is about what most average Americans can afford ...

Delicate surgery. Very delicate ...

What's removed in Vegas stays in Vegas ...

Sorry you were misinformed ... America is not like most of the rest of the civilized world after all ...

Some insurance companies have very strict rules about seeking additional opinions ...

You know things are bad when your care team includes doctor, nurse, anesthetist, and insurance adjuster ...

How about a couple of ghastly pun cartoons to give you something else to groan about? ...

And ...

And because it's been an exceptionally yucky week, even by modern American political standards**, how about a couple of bonus cartoons?

This one dates back to last year, but it still applies ...

My friend Kathy is an incurable optimist*** ... I, not so much ...

And last but not least, a final really awful pun to see you through the weekend ...

It looks as if the weather here in NoVa is going to be nice for the next few days, so the final weekend of Bernadette and Richard's visit ought to be good for some last-minute sightseeing. As for me, I'll be practicing shaking my head in sad disbelief as I get ready for Congress to work creatively to solve the nation's problems****. And I already have a bad neck.


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



** And the fact that we almost got waxed by that asteroid.

*** One of the better pre-existing conditions.

**** I think I need to spend more time letting Kathy's optimism rub off on me.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Political Clip Art

One of the interesting things (and I used the term advisedly) about the recent political foot-shooting in Congress is the vast amount of political clip art that it generated. Some of it is quite clever and funny, some of it is amazingly stupid, all of it is interesting ... if only as a barometer of how much free time some people have on their hands. Here are a few examples, with my inescapable commentary ...

The tea party zealots are fond of shouting about what "the American people" want. Of course, the only "American people" they're listening to are the ones who live in their districts which have been gerrymandered out the wazoo to concentrate the lunatics. I think this sums up things a bit better ...

One wonders what William Shakespeare would have made of the current crop of Congressional ass clowns* ...

This one isn't political, strictly speaking, but I think it fits ...

 This one helps not so much with forgiving the far-right GOP, as with understanding them ...

And finally, this is one that I did up myself in an effort to help clarify for my foreign friends how our government actually works ...

Feel free to share. And remember that "we the people" are the ones who elected all these ass clowns, and can elect other ones at the next opportunity.

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


* The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 2.