Thursday, December 31, 2015

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Today is December 31st - the very last day of 2015. Tonight is the bacchanalian festival of New Years Eve, when people gather in large numbers to celebrate the coming of the New Year by drinking too much and playing with explosives ... rather like the Fourth of July, just with colder weather,

I don't know about you, but I'm happy to see the receding backside of 2015. It was a year that began with the death of my father and the death of Agnes's father within a week of each other, and continued through employment uncertainty. enormous amounts of depressing Congressional buffoonery and low-brow, fact-challenged presidential campaigning that often made it embarrassing to admit to being an American.

On the positive side, my son and his family moved back to the States from Germany, finally getting all our grandchildren on the same continent, if not in the same state. Agnes and I enjoyed our Western Caribbean cruise in November, and the annual trip to Chincoteague Island in August, and we celebrated our first large-scale family Thanksgiving and reunion in several years,

Continuing with the positive, I'm still employed ... for a few more months at least. I'm still more or less healthy (and in order to ensure that I stay that way, my daughter gave me a Fitbit for Christmas, along with the stern announcement that she's going to be monitoring my vitals, diet, and exercise closely in the coming year). Agnes has not strangled me in my sleep yet, either, which is an amazing thing in itself.

Looking ahead to 2016, I plan to retire by the end of the year, allowing myself more time to play with my grandchildren, attend reunions (of my college drill team in April, and Agnes's school in July), plant a real garden, get started on the book my mother always thought I'd write, and wallow in depression over the state of the country. Oh, and document all of it on my blog, which I hope you will continue to read and enjoy.

Have a safe and happy New Year's celebration, and - in the words of one of the best toasts I've ever heard - may the best of last year be the worst of the year to come. And come back tomorrow, New Year's Day, when we name the 2015 Ass Clown of the Year.

Happy New Year!


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

How to Improve Presidential Campaigns, Part 2

You may recall that I wrote a post back on December 10th titled How to Improve Presidential Campaigns, which included things like cage fights instead of "debates" and a requirement for candidates advocating military action to have actually served in the military. Some of you offered your own ideas, including John (who advocated shorter campaign seasons), and allenwoodhaven (who proposed electrified platforms for campaign debates that would deliver painful shocks to the bare feet of candidates who didn't answer the question that was asked, or went off on tangents). But I'm always on the lookout for new ideas, and I found one today as I was reading this article from - It’s Time to Call Foul on the Cruelty of Beauty Pageants: Trump May Not Own the Miss Universe Pageant Anymore, but His Dehumanizing Worldview Permeates All Beauty Pageants.

The article, as you have probably guessed, is a fierce diatribe against beauty pageants that objectify young women. But although in our more enlightened era beauty pageants may no longer be as acceptable as they once were, I think they may have a role to play as a way of winnowing down the field of presidential candidates. Consider these new elements of the new Presidential Pageant:

The Tuxedo (for men)/Pantsuit (for women) Competition. Since we seem to pick our candidates on curb appeal* rather than intellect, why not replace useless "debates" with a series of evaluation events hosted alternately by GQ and Women's Wear Daily to help us evaluate candidates on the basis of their wardrobes?

The Speedo (for men)/Bathing Suit (for women) Competition. If the thought of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton as president horrifies you, imagine how they'd come across in this competition. Look at it as a way to see what the candidates have to hide.

The Talent Competition. In a "normal" beauty pageant, the contestants do things like play the piano, sing, dance, or (I'm not making this up) field-dress a deer they've shot. The talent competition for presidential candidates might include events like Speed Lying, Fund Raising, Law Skirting, and Creative Blather (which evaluates the candidate's ability to talk for a given period of time without actually saying anything).

The Interview. Candidates are asked a series of softball questions by a tame media representative of their choice, and are evaluated on their ability to provide evasive or non-germane answers.

At the end of the pageant, the winner would be crowned President and make a poised and dignified walk across the stage while a chorus sings the traditional song, "There he/she is, Mister/Madame President!**"

It could work ... and it's certainly no more cynical and demeaning than the current process. What do you think?

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Term borrowed from the real estate field, but it also applies here ... perhaps we need signs posted everywhere that say "curb your candidate."

** Based on the traditional Miss America song.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"On the Reception and Detection of Psuedo-Profound Bullshit"

You may have heard of this study, which was featured in the November 2015 issue of Judgment and Decision Making, the journal of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making. It's a fascinating study at any time, but at this juncture in our history - when facts are blithely ignored or, worse, invented by people aspiring to the most important office in the world, and when people who should know better unquestioningly lap up the most egregious of BS - it's really important. In case you don't want to read the whole study (but you should), here's the abstract:

"Although bullshit is common in everyday life and has attracted attention from philosophers, its reception (critical or ingenuous) has not, to our knowledge, been subject to empirical investigation. Here we focus on pseudo-profound bullshit, which consists of seemingly impressive assertions that are presented as true and meaningful but are actually vacuous. We presented participants with bullshit statements consisting of buzzwords randomly organized into statements with syntactic structure but no discernible meaning (e.g., 'Wholeness quiets infinite phenomena'). Across multiple studies, the propensity to judge bullshit statements as profound was associated with a variety of conceptually relevant variables (e.g., intuitive cognitive style, supernatural belief). Parallel associations were less evident among profundity judgments for more conventionally profound (e.g., 'A wet person does not fear the rain') or mundane (e.g., 'Newborn babies require constant attention') statements. These results support the idea that some people are more receptive to this type of bullshit and that detecting it is not merely a matter of indiscriminate skepticism but rather a discernment of deceptive vagueness in otherwise impressive sounding claims. Our results also suggest that a bias toward accepting statements as true may be an important component of pseudo-profound bullshit receptivity."


The paper draws an interesting distinction between lying ("which entails a deliberate manipulation and subversion of truth"), and bullshit ("something that is designed to impress but that was constructed absent direct concern for the truth*"). I would contend that both outright lying and bullshit are major components of political discourse today, the problem being that so few people are either able or willing to distinguish them from discourse worth hearing and using as a basis for sound decision-making.

This paper introduces the concept of the Bullshit Receptivity (BSR) Scale as a measure of the propensity for individuals unquestioningly to accept bullshit, and documents four studies which attempt to analyze the various factors which result in higher or lower BSR scores among persons exposed to bullshit. These factors include religious beliefs, political biases, belief in the supernatural, lack of education in logical thinking and analysis, and lack of education in general.

It's pretty clear that the BSR score of the average American voter, particularly those who support odious buffoons like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, is off the scale.

Can you, Dear Readers, adequately detect and respond to bullshit, no matter which party shovels it out? As the 2016 presidential sweepstakes intensifies, I hope so.

Have a good day. Cultivate a low BSR score. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Emphasis mine. It's pretty clear that there is a lack of "direct concern" for the truth in most political campaigns. While all politicians are guilty at some time or another of spinning data to present a more favorable picture of "the truth," it seems that in the current environment, there is a complete lack of concern ... if not outright disdain ... for proven facts and demonstrated science. Methinks we're screwed.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Musical Monday

Well, Christmas is technically over, but I couldn't resist sharing another great Christmas song. Marty Robbins is one of my favorite singers, famous for his gunfighter ballads (you heard "Mr Shorty" in this space a few weeks back) and for lots of other wonderful music, such as this - one of my favorite holiday songs ...

Yes, I'll take one of you in every size ... and take my time with the unwrapping!

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Poetry Sunday

If joy and hopeful expectation lead up to Christmas, there's a certain melancholy that comes with the end of the season. This poem by Jane Kenyon captures some of that with a look at the memories that come with packing away the decorations for another year.

Taking Down the Tree
By Jane Kenyon

'Give me some light!' cries Hamlet's
uncle midway through the murder
of Gonzago. 'Light! Light!' cry scattering
courtesans. Here, as in Denmark,
it's dark at four, and even the moon
shines with only half a heart.

The ornaments go down into the box:
the silver spaniel, My Darling
on its collar, from Mother's childhood
in Illinois; the balsa jumping jack
my brother and I fought over,
pulling limb from limb. Mother
drew it together again with thread
while I watched, feeling depraved
at the age of ten.

With something more than caution
I handle them, and the lights, with their
tin star-shaped reflectors, brought along
from house to house, their pasteboard
toy suitcases increasingly flimsy.
Tick, tick, the desiccated needles drop.

By suppertime all that remains is the scent
of balsam fir. If it's darkness
we're having, let it be extravagant.

Have a good day. Enjoy the extravagant darkness of winter as we wait for the coming of spring.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Cartoon Saturday

Aren't you glad you're at home with me, reading this blog, rather than braving the stores for the day-after-Christmas madness?

In Las Vegas, a woman with a three year-old child in her car killed one person and injured more than 30 others when she drove her car down sidewalks crowded with holiday revelers; 76 people were killed in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen when an enormous mountain of construction waste collapsed, burying homes and factory buildings; Miss Universe Pageant host Steve Harvey threw the pageant into chaos and became a web-wide laughingstock when he accidentally announced the wrong winner of the contest; the newest film in the Star Wars series enjoyed the biggest box office opening in movie history, earning an estimated $248 million in North America alone; and Donald Trump - having reached rock bottom in crude and distasteful remarks about his opponents, continued (to the delight of the GOP base) to seek new depths, saying that Hillary Clinton's bathroom break during the last Democratic debate was just too "disgusting" to talk about, and then claiming that Ms Clinton "got schlonged" by President Obama in the 2008 presidential race.

Since this is the last Cartoon Saturday for the year, I thought it would be fun to roll out some more awful puns to get us ready for the horror of the coming intensification of the Presidential Sweepstakes ...

Sometimes the funny bone just ain't funny ...

I've eaten in places like this ...

You should have seen this one coming ...

Well, what else would you give a retiring dental hygienist ... ?

This one is pretty low ... so to speak ...

Sometimes the ol' lizard just doens't want to come out of the cave ... so to speak ...

Think about it ... it really is funny ...

Perhaps more beans in his diet ...

Oy ...

And finally, a more-or-less traditional Christmas pun ...

I hope you and your families had a great Christmas celebration yesterday, and are able to look forward to a relatively calm and peaceful week before the big New Year celebrations. I, for one, will be glad to see the receding backside of 2015, and I surely hope 2016 will be better for all of us ... of course, there's the awful spectacle of the presidential sweepstakes looming, but we can try to grit our teeth and hope for the best.

Have a good day and a calm and relaxing weekend. More thoughts tomorrow, when Poetry Sunday returns.


Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Day, 2015

If you came here looking for the Great Moments in Editing feature, come back again in two weeks ... today and next Friday are already booked for special posts. You'll get over it.

Today is Christmas Day, the day on which Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, whose lessons and example many of them decline to follow. Beyond the Christian world, it is a season for general good cheer, the exchange of gifts, and two weeks of uplifting and sentimental television shows which temporarily replace the sex, violence, and cynicism of the remaining 50 weeks of the year.

We’ve long bemoaned the commercialization of Christmas, in which the purchase and exchange of gifts has replaced thoughtful contemplation and love of family. But now, Christmas has been politicized as well. Conservative shouting heads complain about a “war on Christmas,” and both Christians and non-Christians complain about discrimination because they don’t want to have to accommodate religious ideas and traditions which are not their own. Angry Scrooges object to hearing “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Hanukkah,” “Happy Solstice,” “Happy Kwanzaa,” or a plain-and-simple “Happy Holidays.” Nuisance lawsuits force towns and cities to remove nativity displays from public places. Scrooge lives on.

The traditional Christmas story that most of us recognize is told in the Bible in the second chapter of the gospel of Matthew:

2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 
2:9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 
2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. 
2:12 And this shall be a sign unto you; You shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 
2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 
2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Whatever happened to the part about “peace on earth and goodwill toward men*?” It seems to have been replaced by “peace on earth, goodwill only to those who agree with me, and the rest of you can go to Hell.” It’s been replaced by rigid intolerance and stiff-necked self-righteousness that belie both the spirit of the season and the values and teachings of the person whose birth is being celebrated.

Nevertheless, for those willing to put aside their cultural tunnel vision and their petty carping and hatreds, the Christmas season offers a time for joy and renewal, regardless of the religious tradition they profess to follow. It’s a season in which men (okay, persons) of goodwill can come together and treat each other like real human beings rather than like despised “others” … if, of course, they’re willing to bend enough to do so.

And it is, above all, a season for children, who have not yet been spoiled by the cynicism and hatred they’ll learn all too soon. The look on a child’s face on Christmas morning is a wonderful thing, and it reminds us that there is still joy to be found in life, if only we can get past the greed, selfishness, and political chicanery.

And so, Dear Readers, Agnes and I and our extended family wish all of you a very joyous Christmas and a safe, happy, and healthy new year. Blog on!

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Okay, “persons.” Don’t get your holiday knickers in a twist.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve

Today is the day of Christmas Eve, when millions of people across the nation and the world make their annual pilgrimage to the mall in search of the gifts they haven't yet purchased. Tonight, children will set out milk and cookies for Santa and desperately try to stay up late in hopes of seeing him, parents will use salty language as they try to deal with the toy for which "some assembly (is) required," and stores will sell out of the batteries you didn't realize you needed for that toy for which "some assembly (is) required."

Here's an appropriate quote from comic author Dave Barry:

"Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the Holiday Season, that very special time of year when we join with our loved ones in sharing centuries-old traditions such as trying to find a parking space at the mall. We traditionally do this in my family by driving around the parking lot until we see a shopper emerge from the mall, then we follow her, in very much the same spirit as the Three Wise Men, who 2,000 years ago followed a star, week after week, until it led them to a parking space."

Ah, the holidays!

Tomorrow, I'll put up my annual Christmas post ... for now, here's a brief message for the clueless shouting heads that are trying to spin an idiotic "war on Christmas" ...

Ho, ho, ho and all that seasonal stuff.

Tonight at Chez Bilbo we will celebrate Christmas in the German way, with a good dinner of Agnes's rouladen with red rabbage and spaetzle, followed by opening gifts under the tree and a good night's sleep. That constitutes a wild Christmas after a certain age.

Come back tomorrow for my traditional Christmas thoughts.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Dear Santa ...

Well, what could it hurt ... ?

Who knows? Some Christmas wishes come true!

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow to help me celebrate Christmas Eve. More thoughts then.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

As I Get Older I Realize ...

Amazing what you can find on the Internet, isn't it? I ran across this yesterday, and it's just spot on with my own experience, especially #'s 4, 5, and 8 ...

1. I talk to myself because sometimes I need expert advice.

2. Sometimes I roll my eyes out loud.

3. I don't need anger management. I need people to stop pissing me off.

4. My people skills are just fine ... it's my tolerance of idiots that needs work.

5. The biggest lie I tell myself is, "I don't need to write that down - I'll remember it."

6. When I was a child, I thought nap time was punishment. Now it's like a mini-vacation.

7. The day the world runs out of wine is just too terrible to think about.

8. Duct tape can't fix stupid, but it can muffle the sound.

9. Wouldn't it be great if we could put ourselves in the dryer for ten minutes and come out wrinkle-free and three sizes smaller?

10. "Getting lucky" means walking into a room and remembering why I'm there.

What would you add to the list, Dear Readers? Leave a comment and let us know.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Musical Monday

I met singer/songwriter Marita Brake on Facebook through a mutual friend ... who I also met on Facebook through a mutual friend. It's interesting how the ripples radiate out from the small stones we drop into the pond of life, isn't it? Anyhow, this is a great Christmas song from Marita that asks a very timely question ...

I think it's a great song, and it makes a fine introduction to Christmas week. And for the record, it's not too late to be good, as long as you're realistic about the chances of Santa seeing it the same way you do ...

Have a good day, and try to be good ... Christmas is just four days away.

More comforting thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Poetry Sunday

Ogden Nash was an American poet known for his light, humorous verse. He was the author of more than 500 poems, marked by his trademark unconventional rhymes and puns. This poem is his cautionary tale about the dangers of mocking Santa during the holiday season ...

The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus
by Ogden Nash

In Baltimore there lived a boy.
He wasn't anybody's joy.
Although his name was Jabez Dawes,
His character was full of flaws.

In school he never led his classes,
He hid old ladies' reading glasses,
His mouth was open when he chewed,
And elbows to the table glued.
He stole the milk of hungry kittens,
And walked through doors marked NO ADMITTANCE.
He said he acted thus because
There wasn't any Santa Claus.

Another trick that tickled Jabez
Was crying 'Boo' at little babies.
He brushed his teeth, they said in town,
Sideways instead of up and down.
Yet people pardoned every sin,
And viewed his antics with a grin,
Till they were told by Jabez Dawes,
'There isn't any Santa Claus!'

Deploring how he did behave,
His parents swiftly sought their grave.
They hurried through the portals pearly,
And Jabez left the funeral early.

Like whooping cough, from child to child,
He sped to spread the rumor wild:
'Sure as my name is Jabez Dawes
There isn't any Santa Claus!'
Slunk like a weasel or a marten
Through nursery and kindergarten,
Whispering low to every tot,
'There isn't any, no there's not!'

The children wept all Christmas eve
And Jabez chortled up his sleeve.
No infant dared hang up his stocking
For fear of Jabez' ribald mocking.

He sprawled on his untidy bed,
Fresh malice dancing in his head,
When presently with scalp-a-tingling,
Jabez heard a distant jingling;
He heard the crunch of sleigh and hoof
Crisply alighting on the roof.
What good to rise and bar the door?
A shower of soot was on the floor.

What was beheld by Jabez Dawes?
The fireplace full of Santa Claus!
Then Jabez fell upon his knees
With cries of 'Don't,' and 'Pretty Please.'
He howled, 'I don't know where you read it,
But anyhow, I never said it!'
'Jabez' replied the angry saint,
'It isn't I, it's you that ain't.
Although there is a Santa Claus,
There isn't any Jabez Dawes!'

Said Jabez then with impudent vim,
'Oh, yes there is, and I am him!
Your magic don't scare me, it doesn't'
And suddenly he found he wasn't!
From grimy feet to grimy locks,
Jabez became a Jack-in-the-box,
An ugly toy with springs unsprung,
Forever sticking out his tongue.

The neighbors heard his mournful squeal;
They searched for him, but not with zeal.
No trace was found of Jabez Dawes,
Which led to thunderous applause,
And people drank a loving cup
And went and hung their stockings up.

All you who sneer at Santa Claus,
Beware the fate of Jabez Dawes,
The saucy boy who mocked the saint.
Donner and Blitzen licked off his paint.

And so, Dear Readers, even if you're too old to believe in Santa, you'd best make sure he still believes in you!

Have a good day and a wonderful holiday season. Come back tomorrow for a Christmas edition of Musical Monday ... more thoughts then.


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Cartoon Saturday

Less than a week until Christmas, except you wouldn't know it from the whole lack of peace on earth and goodwill toward men ...

An engineer working at Mumbai airport died after being sucked into the engine of an Air India plane; Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was punched in the head by a teenager during a campaign event; GOP presidential wannabe Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin engaged in mutual admiration as their bromance warmed up; a New Delhi court has freed a young man convicted in a heinous gang-rape and torture case after he served only a three-year sentence; and in Augusta County, Virginia, all schools were closed for a day after enraged parents objected to an exercise in which students in a world geography class were asked to copy the Arabic calligraphy for the Islamic profession of faith - the parents claimed it was an attempt to convert their children to Islam, while the teacher viewed it as an exercise in the complexity of Arabic script.

Since Christmas is coming up in just a few days, what else could we use as the cartoon theme for this week? ...

That whole "making a list and checking it twice" thing is a gold mine for cartoonists ...

As is the "he sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake" thing ...

How the GOP would balance the North Pole budget ...

And you thought it was what made small children cry when forced to sit on Santa's lap for pictures ...

Oh, it's coming ...

Before you give those four calling birds, consider the consequences ...

Oops ...

Well, it's a bit literal, but ...

I loved this one ...

And finally, did you ever think of the problems Mrs Santa has? ...

So, Dear Readers, is your Christmas shopping done? Is the tree decorated? Is the outside of your house lit up like a Star Wars convention? If not, good luck. Agnes and I have three different parties to attend this weekend, which will just about peg our fun meter for the season. Yee, HAH!

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow, with Poetry Sunday.


Friday, December 18, 2015

The Left Cheek Ass Clown for December, 2015

Getting a bit of a late start today, as our ISP crashed and my internet connection has been down since about 3:00 AM. It has just come back up, and so it's now time to get down to business and name

The Left-Cheek Ass Clown
December, 2015

And the award is presented to ...

John Edward Parsley

Although it is tempting to give the award to any or all of the hyperbolically fearmongering GOP presidential candidates, there are other worthy awardees out there as well, among them the temperamental Mr Parsley.

Mr Parsley, 62, was angry over a billing dispute with the manager of a hotel in Alva, Oklahoma. Angered because his credit cards were declined, he threatened to drive his truck through the hotel lobby ... and did so. No one was seriously hurt, and Mr Parsley was arrested, charged with assault and malicious injury to property, and remains in jail. According to the police report of the incident, when police asked him why he thought driving his truck into the hotel was a good idea, Parsley told police that "they thought he was bluffing, and he proved he wasn't." according to the report.

For his unique, but stupid way of handling a dispute, Mr John Edward Parsley is named our Left Cheek Ass Clown for December, 2015. I expect, however, that most of the current GOP presidential candidates, eager to show how tough they are with foreign bad guys, would be willing to offer him a job as Secretary of either State or Defense.

Don't forget that the balloting is underway for Ass Clown of the Year. Donald Trump still has a commanding lead, but there's still plenty of time to cast your votes for other candidates if you wish. Remember that Chicago Rules apply, so be sure you, your pets, your friends and relatives (living and dead) have the opportunity to make their voices heard. Balloting closes at 11:59 PM on December 31st, so get those votes in now! 

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


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Three Things

I have a lot to do today and I need to get an early start, so I was looking for a simple topic for today's post. Enter my friend Marilyn (aka Wabbit), who put up this meme on her Facebook page - "Three Things." It's easy, it's simple, and here we go ...

Three Names I Go By:
1. Opa / Grandpa
2. Bilbo
3. Bill

Three Places I've Lived:
1. Pittsburgh, PA (my hometown)
2. Berlin, Germany (one of the most amazing places on earth)
3. Shreveport, LA

Three Places I've Worked:
1. The main language laboratory at the Penn State University Park campus
2. The US Air Force (23 years)
3. Jacobs Technology

Three Things I Love to Watch:
1. Ballroom dance competitions
2. Falling snow

Three Places I Have Been:
1. Panama
2. London, England
3. Oslo, Norway

Three Things I Love to Eat:
1. Corned Beef and Cabbage (the corned beef baked and the cabbage made according to Agnes's Bavarian-style recipe)
2. Sushi
3. Kassler (German smoked pork chops) and sauerkraut

Three Things I'm Looking Forward To:
1. Retirement
2. Christmas
3. Season 6 of "Game of Thrones"

Well, there it is: simple, easy, and quick, and you've learned a bit more about ol' Bilbo. If you want to copy this for your own blog, feel free; if you want to leave a comment using any of the Three Things, have at it.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow, when we'll name our Left Cheek Ass Clown for December, and don't forget to cast your votes for the 2015 Ass Clown of the Year - balloting ends at 11:59 PM on December 31st, and we'll name the winner on January 1st, 2016.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Guest Post

Yes, it's me, Santa ... and I'm pissed. You think you've got problems? Let me tell you ...

Thank goodness for cheap cloud storage, or I'd never be able to keep up with my Naughty List, which is longer than it's ever been. I can keep the Nice List on a 256K floppy and still have room for my Christmas card list, which isn't very long nowadays.

The Chinese are burning coal faster than I can buy it up to fill stockings for you sorry lot. Thank goodness I can still get plenty of poisonous mine tailings and spilled oil sludge to make up the difference, even if the price is going through the roof.

And the elves - I can't get the damn elves to work ... all they want to do is hide on shelves and drink egg nog and giggle all the time.

What's up with you, Congress? If I can get a bunch of lazy elves to churn out enough toys for every child on earth - and deliver them all in one friggin' night, no less - I'd think you could do something productive, like pass a damn budget. No. All you want to do is poke fingers in each others eyes and stage stupid gotcha votes on things you know have no chance of passing. Sit down and play nicely together, you idiots.

All you morons running for president are looking at a pretty bleak Christmas morning. Especially you Republicans - since you want to keep all the damn foreigners out, I won't be able to get a tourist visa to bring you the coal and sawdust that's all you deserve. And you Democrats need to get a clue as well ... you're more socially conscious than the Republicans, but you need to figure out how to pay for everything you want to do.

Nobody's getting any guns for Christmas. - you've got way too many already. I'm tired of drunks shooting at Rudolph's nose, and refusing to do anything to help reduce gun violence won't just get you on my Naughty List ... I'll pass your name to the other guy with a red suit whose name begins with "S," and I can pretty much guarantee you don't want to be on his list.

That's all for now. Get your heads out of your butts and start showing a little Christmas spirit, or else. The NSA* and I see you when you're sleeping, know when you're awake, and know if you've been bad or good, so be good, for goodness sake.



P.S. - Bilbo says to be sure to cast those votes for Ass Clown of the Year, and reminds you to come back tomorrow for more thoughts.


* I had to subcontract the surveillance job ... I'm too busy supervising all those damn elves.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

13 Traits of Smart People

Last month I read an interesting article in Business Insider with this catchy title: 13 Science-Backed Signs You're Smarter Than Average. The article discusses 13 things - some of them I found surprising and all of them backed by at least one scientific study* - that indicate an individual is likely to be of above-average intelligence. Let's see how I did on the list ...

You Took Music Lessons. Off to a poor start ... not only did I never take music lessons, I couldn't carry a tune if it had handles on it.

You're the Oldest. Yep, got that one. I'm the oldest of four ... I have a younger sister and two younger brothers.

You're Thin. Well, I used to be ...

You Have a Cat. Wrong again ... if I want to be dissed by an animal, I'll just post something innocuous on Facebook and wait for the trolls to emerge.

You Were Breastfed. Yep. I still admire the beautiful containers the milk comes in.

You've Used Recreational Drugs. Wrong. Never did and never even had the inkling to do so.

You're Left-Handed. Nope ... righty all the way.

You're Tall. Nope. At 5 feet, 10 inches, I'm about average. Of course, compared to my grandchildren, I'm still a giant.

You Drink Alcohol Regularly. I enjoy a nice gin and tonic, dirty martini, or peartini two or three times a week, which I assume means "regularly."

You're Politically Liberal. Yes and no. I'm more politically schizophrenic - part conservative (not the crazy part) and part liberal (not the pie-in-the-sky part). I like to think of myself as a slightly right-of-center independent, even though my conservative friends seem think I'm way to the left of Lenin.

You Learned to Read Early. Absolutely. My parents (particularly my mother) were voracious readers, and we all got started reading at a very early age. This may indicate above-average intelligence, but it also tends to indicate financial destitution from a lifetime spent buying books.

You Worry a Lot. Oh, yes!

You're Funny. No matter if they mean "funny (ha-ha)" or "funny (odd)," I think I'm solid on this one.

Well, let's see ... I figure I scored about 6.5** out of 13, for 50% ... which would make me halfway smart. That's not so bad ... I'm still far ahead of the entire GOP presidential field and Hillary Clinton.

How do you shape up? Leave a comment and let me know. I like to hang out with smart people, but I'm flexible.

* If you're a Republican, don't let that "backed by scientific study" part worry you ... you can always discount it on the basis of liberal bias.

** I gave myself half credit for the "thin" trait, because ... well ... I used to be.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Musical Monday

As you may remember from my introduction to yesterday's Poetry Sunday offering, yesterday would have been my father's 92nd birthday. He was a good and decent man, and I miss him every day. This wonderful song by Dan Fogelberg sums up many of my feelings ...

Have a good day. Honor your father ... he'll be gone all too soon.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Poetry Sunday

Today is Sunday, December 13th, and it would have been my father's 92nd birthday if things had gone differently. Dad passed away just shy of eleven months ago, and the hole in my heart where he used to be is slowly starting to heal. This poem by George Bilgere uses the metaphor of taking out the trash to talk about love, loss, and the things we learn along the way of life.

Taking Out the Trash
by George Bilgere

I remember as a child
watching my fader take out the trash
at the frozen crack of dawn, cursing
as he dragged the stinking cans to the curb,
and thinking, that's not something
I'm ever going to do.

In other ways I was a model son,
standing at the mirror as he shaved,
dabbing the warm cream on my cheek,
dreaming of a razor
and whiskers of my very own.

Watching him light up
as he read the Sunday paper,
one eye squinted against smoke
and bad news, had me reading the funnies
before I could even read, my eye
squinted against nothing.

And the deft, one-handed way
he straightened his fedora's brim,
while at the same time
adjusting the coordinates
of rake and tilt,
makes me regret that the hat,
like my father, has vanished,

along with the strop and razor,
and lathery bowl of curds.
Even smoking, and the Sunday paper
are on their way out.

These are the losses I'm mourning
this morning as I drag the stinking
trash cans to the curb.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for Musical Monday; more thoughts then.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Cartoon Saturday

I keep hoping I'll wake up and discover that it's all been a bad dream, but no such luck ...

In comments made during a hearing on an affirmative action case, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia seemed to suggest some black students belong in lesser colleges ("slower-track school(s) where they do well"); billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal called Donald Trump "a disgrace not only to the GOP but to America" ... and Saudi royal billionaires ought to know a disgrace when they see one; on Friday, the day the federal government was due to run out of money, Congress did what it does best -- punted the deadline for a few more days to avoid a shutdown rather than doing its job and coming up with a rational spending plan; an Oklahoma City police officer was found guilty of raping 13 or more women he had taken into custody on various charges; and a gaudily-pained 1964 Porsche once owned by rock legend Janis Joplin sold at auction for a record $1.76 million ... which is probably what the car would have ended up costing had Joplin taken out a car title loan and paid it back with the minimum monthly payment.

Since it looks as if I may be moving into retirement somewhat earlier than planned, I am now trying to navigate the treacherous shoals of finding my own health care plan. Thus, the affordability of health care seems like a good topic for this week's cartoons ...

I think we can all relate to this one ...

Sometimes it doesn't look like an all-bad option ...

One of the most critical tests the doctor performs on you ...

For the medical community, this constitutes emergency surgery ...

You've heard of those stress tests, right ...

Nowadays, a very apropos question ...

The most important part of your medical history ...

The powers of modern medical technology ...

Remember that part earlier about the fine print? ...

And finally, the most important specialist in any hospital is ...

So there you have it - the second Cartoon Saturday for the month of December. It looks like it's going to be a gloriously un-Decembery weekend here in NoVa, with no precipitation and temperatures possibly getting as high as a balmy 70 degrees, so it's not easy to get into the dashing-through-the-snow-in-a-one-horse-open-sleigh mood, but I'll do my best. If you're one of the people to whom I usually send my annual Christmas letter, don't despair - I finally finished the last of the letters yesterday evening and will start posting them today ... cards may take a bit longer.

Before I go, don't forget that voting for Ass Clown of the Year is in full swing, with Donald Trump still enjoying a commanding lead. Don't miss out! Cast your votes early and often, and remember that balloting closes at 11:59 PM on December 31st.

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


Friday, December 11, 2015

Great Moments in Editing

And away we go ...

Well, I would, too ...

I know where I'm taking my car when the time comes ...

The class of 2015 clearly did not absorb the rules for Roman numerals* ...

Just the gift for the children of someone you don't like ...

Stock up now ...

I know the menu said "Chef's Surprise," but I had no idea ...

I think it will be tough to refute the charge ...

But I'm sure it did not reduce the cost of the hospital visit ...

Well, he was clearly following the directions from the corporate office ...

The GOP's latest attempt at immigration control ...

Have a good day. Hug an editor. Come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday ... more thoughts then.


* In case you aren't familiar with Roman numerology, the correct form is MMXV.