Saturday, October 21, 2017

Cartoon Saturday

Here we go again ...

A month after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, a million people are still without running water and three million are without power on the island; 60 people were killed in two suicide attacks on mosques in Afghanistan; former White House strategist and ultra-conservative firebrand Steve Bannon unleashed a "blistering" attack on former president George W. Bush after Bush, in a speech delivered in New York, condemned bigotry, lies, and conspiracy theories in a speech that, while not mentioning Donald Trump, was clearly directed at him; and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to walk back comments she made on Friday that it was "highly inappropriate" to criticize Chief of Staff John Kelly because he was a four-star general.

An October filled with rampant ass-clownery continues, and - to help you cope - so do our Halloween-themed cartoons - this week highlighting witches ...

Of course there's an app for that ...

It ought to be the first step to solving the problem ...

Parking legally ,,,

What can happen with online dating ...

There's an app for that, too ...

Slightly irregular ...

It's always bad ...

And don't forget the eye of newt (gingrich) ...

It's the latest in cauldrons ...

Once upon a lineup ...

And there you have it - a real witches' brew of cartoons for a cursed October.

Here in NoVa our stretch of glorious fall weather looks as if it will continue through the weekend and into the first part of next week ... great news for my power-walking and not so great news for the leaves that are steadily piling up in the yard, crying out to be raked. Sigh. At least it's something that I can do outside to enjoy that wonderful sunshine.

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow, when we continue with our Halloween celebration with a visit from Edgar Allan Poe on Poetry Sunday. Be here!


Friday, October 20, 2017

The Left-Cheek Ass Clown for October, 2017

With the continuing rise in the level of ambient ass-clownery in the world, it's getting harder all the time to select a single deserving Ass Clown every two weeks. I know that I keep mentioning that unfortunate fact, but it's nevertheless true. I tend to change my mind on the selected recipient each time more often than Donald Trump changes his mind on his approach to health care.

But it's time to present the award, and unlike some people I could name, I'll take on that responsibility.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Readers, our choice for

The Left Cheek Ass Clown for October, 2017


Environmental Protection Agency Administrator

The Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1970, during the presidency of Richard Nixon*, to "consolidate in one agency a variety of federal research, monitoring, standard-setting and enforcement activities to ensure environmental protection. Since its inception, EPA has been working for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people."

No longer.

According to the EPA website, Mr Pruitt "will lead EPA in a way that our future generations inherit a better and healthier environment while advancing America’s economic interests." But today's EPA is far more in tune with the business interests of miners, manufacturers, and other businesses who chafe at the costs and difficulties imposed by measures intended to promote "a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people." Under Mr Pruitt's direction, environmental and health protections have been routinely diluted or rolled back in response to business desires and in ignorance of established science.

Before being appointed by the business-friendly Trump administration to administer the EPA, Mr Pruitt had a long record of filing lawsuits aimed at protecting the environment and human health ... you can read a detailed list here. And since taking office, he has moved swiftly to roll back more than 30 Obama-era environmental protection regulations that are insufficiently business-friendly.

I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during the 1950's and 60's, and remember the foul air we breathed and the poisonous water of our beloved three rivers. I also remember the streams that ran bright red and yellow through the coal regions of central Pennsylvania, heavily contaminated by the poisonous runoff of vast mountains of mine tailings.

I have the usual level of old-guy nostalgia for some of the past ... but a return to the past of air we couldn't breathe and water we couldn't drink is not part of it.

For his steady emasculation of the agency that helps to ensure we have a healthy environment - an agency we really need at a time when the administration is intent on wrecking the national health care system that treats the problems caused by reckless environmental contamination - Scott Pruitt is named as the Left-Cheek Ass Clown for October, 2017.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow, when Cartoon Saturday continues with the Halloween theme.


* Not widely known as a tree-hugging hippy longhair crazy person.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Secrets of Irresistible People

Are you upset because people don't like you? Anxious to salvage your presidency? Here's an article from Forbes Magazine that may help - 11 Secrets of Irresistible People.

I won't go through all 11 of the secrets, but these six seem pretty important at this point in time:

They Treat Everyone with Respect. Using petty, high-school nicknames ("Crooked Hillary," "Lyin' Ted," and "Little Rocket Man") pretty much misses this mark;

They Follow the Platinum Rule. What's the platinum rule? It's a variation of the traditional Golden Rule (treat others as you would have them treat you) which says treat others as they wish to be treated. Of course, if you're dealing with a narcissist, this may be difficult;

They Focus on People More than Anything Else. Rather than thinking only about themselves, they genuinely care about other people;

They Recognize the Difference Between Fact and Opinion. Not too many people can do that nowadays;

They're Authentic. What you see is what you get ... you don't have to wonder where you stand with them; and,

They Have Integrity. Remember what that is?

I don't need to be irresistible, but I do want to be treated with dignity and respect, and I try to treat others the same way. It would be nice if we all felt the same way.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Apropos of Nothing

I'd never given it much thought, but it turns out that development of the concept of nothing, or of a number representing nothing (zero), is considered to have been one of the most important events in human history, as discussed in an interesting article I read recently in Indeed, nothing is an absolutely vital concept, and yet it was rejected by religious leaders in medieval Europe as being evil, and a symbol of Satan.

I'm sure there's a televangelist out there somewhere who could explain why zero remains a symbol of evil in today's world, but there's more evidence of its importance in understanding current politics. Consider just a few of the many uses of nothing ...

It allows us to document the legislative achievements of Congress;

It lets us comprehend the ethical standards of the Trump administration;

It lets us explain strategic planning at the highest levels of the Trump administration;

And the availability of zero allows us to depict the size of the national debt ... as long as you pile up enough of them to the left of the decimal.

Where would we be without nothing?

Perhaps in rural Puerto Rico.

Have a good and mathematically sound day, safe in the knowledge that you have nothing to fall back on.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Going Out in Style

How do we remember and memorialize our most significant citizens?

When the mighty pharaohs died in ancient Egypt, they were buried in huge pyramids and elaborate tombs stuffed with gold and other funerary gifts ... today in America, we honor our presidents by building libraries and naming aircraft carriers for them ... except for Ronald Reagan, who not only has a library and an aircraft carrier, but whose name has been applied by the GOP to a huge federal building in Washington, as well as the local airport, a highway, a Metro station, and lots of other stuff*.

We also honor our presidents and our citizens great and small with fawning obituaries and with funeral services in varying degrees of ceremonial complexity. An interesting article in the Washington Post a few days back discussed the art of the obituary page, analyzing the wide range of names that reflected America's multinational and multiethnic makeup and explaining how death notices are written. Lest I be accused of being morbid, the article was actually fun and clever, focusing on the death notice of a local woman whose announcement was full of the funny Yiddish phrases and terms she loved to use.

And, as so many things do, that got me to thinking ...

What might we expect to see at the funerals of some current "notables?" Here are a few of my thoughts ...

Mourners attending the interment of Harvey Weinstein will be invited to grope up handfuls of earth to throw on the coffin.

Donald Trump will have the biggest, best funeral in history. It will be held at the magnificent Mar-a-Lago estate - the finest of its kind in the world - and will be attended huge numbers of mourners - far more than attended the funeral of any other past or present president, king or emperor, for that matter. You'll never see a bigger, more lavish or better-attended funeral, believe me!

Mike Pence's funeral will showcase the magnificent presidency of Donald Trump, the greatest president of all time, whom Mr Pence was proud to serve as the highlight of his professional life. His gravestone will feature Donald Trump's name first, and in larger letters.

Jeff Sessions will never die or have a funeral, because Donald Trump will refuse to accept his death certificate. He will continue in office indefinitely as a political zombie, neither dead nor alive.

In spite of the traditional song that implores mourners to "bury me not on the lone prairie," Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke will insist on a prairie burial, because all that useless, empty land out west should be available for everyone to use as they want. Mr Zinke's personal flag will be flown over the grave at all times to show that he's present.

The funeral of NRA President Wayne LaPierre will include an honor guard armed with semiautomatic weapons fitted with bump stocks for extra event protection against terrorists, criminals, and other commiepinkoratbastards, and will feature a 300 million-gun salute.


Hillary Clinton's obituary will blame everyone else for her death.

Those are my ideas - what are yours? Leave a comment so that we can make sure we send off our betters in style.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* You can find a complete list here.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Golden Sewer

Long ago, when I was a lowly Second Lieutenant in the Air Force stationed at Barksdale AFB in Bossier City, Louisiana, one of my numerous* additional duties was "Wing Silver Recovery Monitor." It involved collecting and securing the exposed radar film from the wing's training missions, and delivering it once a week or so to the local DRMO (Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office) so that it could be processed to recover the silver it contained as a result of the developing process. This was a not-overly-onerous duty that had the benefit of getting me out of the office for an hour or two, although I was never particularly convinced that the amount of film I turned in (a few pounds at a time) contained enough recoverable silver to reimburse me for the gas I needed to drive to the DRMO**.

I hadn't thought about my days in silver recovery for a long time, at least until I ran across this recent story: How $1.8 Million in Gold Flowed Through Switzerland's Sewers.


According to the story, an estimated 95 pounds of gold worth nearly two million dollars laces Switzerland’s waste water from the refineries that process about 70 percent of the world’s gold. The discovery was made by environmental scientists monitoring levels of trace element contamination in sewage sludge*** at various locations in Switzerland. Here's the bottom line:

"While the scientists advise that, for the most part, it’s not economically worthwhile to recycle many of the trace elements found, the region of Ticino is a different, gilded ballgame. This area is home to several gold refineries and, at certain sites, the scientists write, 'concentrations of gold in sewage sludge are sufficiently high for recovery to be potentially worthwhile.'"

Somehow, I can't see a bunch of grizzled old sourdoughs leading pack mules into the Swiss Alps to pan for gold in sewage sludge. And I'm not sure I'd like to have the additional duty of Gold Recovery Officer in any of those locations.

At least in Switzerland, it could be a pretty shi ... uh ... unpleasant job.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* When you're a Second Lieutenant ... and particularly when you're the junior Second Lieutenant ... you can count on drawing every additional duty no one else wants. Which is most of them.

** Ha, ha - fooled you! I didn't get reimbursed, anyhow.

*** This is another reason why it's better to be a linguist than an environmental chemist.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Musical Sunday

Since we're just over two weeks from Halloween, it seems appropriate that we should have some Halloween-themed music for our Musical Sundays. Here's a classic from Warren Zevon ...


Have a good day and enjoy the rest of your weekend. Hope things don't get too ... hairy.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Cartoon Saturday

We've reached the halfway point of October, and the need for a good shot of cartoons is more necessary than ever.

Donald Trump chipped away again at the Affordable Care Act, using an executive order to withdraw the cost-sharing fiscal supports which help compensate insurance companies for covering all applicants, not just the best risks; Mr Trump threatened Puerto Rico (by tweet, of course) with the withdrawal of FEMA, military, and other government support provided in the wake of the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria; a black man beaten on tape by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, has been accused of "unlawfully wounding" a white supremacist that day; Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein is the subject of a flood of accusations from women that he sexually molested or raped them over a period spanning decades; and 31 people are dead and huge swaths of Northern California have been devastated by huge wildfires driven by high winds.

We continue our celebration of the month of Halloween by featuring appropriately-themed cartoons - this week starring Frankenstein*.

It's what I need to come to life, too ...

The theological implications are staggering ...

There are body-builders and there are body-builders ...

It might be easier to find the right feet than the right shoes ...

Locally-sourced parts ...

Frankenstein, 2.0 ...

Why dating Frankenstein can be frustrating for some ladies ...

Piercing envy ...

Frankenstein, the Ikea version ...

Why am I not surprised? ...

Frankenstein - not the poster child for those who consider themselves to be self-made men and women.

It looks as though we'll have nicer weather here in NoVa today than the last few, with at least partly-sunny skies and no rain, and it'll brighten up still more later this afternoon when we welcome our old friends Scott and Karen and their family for dinner. Why mow the lawn when you can party in the house?

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow, when Musical Sunday takes on the Halloween season.


* Yes, I know that "Frankenstein" is actually the name of the monster's creator and not the monster himself, just work with me on this, okay?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Great Moments in Editing and Signage

Here we go again ...

It pays to be careful when selecting your attorney ...

I'm not sure this ad is a ringing endorsement ...

Just honest enough ...

This must be one of those responsible gun owners I've heard so much about ...

That was some snack ...

Your tax dollars at work ...

I think the student isn't the only one who isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer ...

It's the latest in hybrid weapon technology. Don't worry ... the NRA will be sure you can have as many of those high-caliber knives as you want ...

It's important to clearly specify the requirements of the position ...

It wouldn't be a health risk in most of modern America, and particularly in DC ...

And there you have it ... the latest collection of Great Moments in Editing and Signage. Don't forget that I'm always on the lookout for more of these - if you find one, take a photo, scan it, or e-mail me the file. When I use it, I'll be sure you get credit for the find. Send files to me at der(underscore)blogmeister(at)yahoo(dot)com. 

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for our second Halloween-themed Cartoon Saturday of the month. More thoughts then.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

How Would We Talk to Aliens?

One of the recurring themes of science fiction stories is the idea of the "first contact" - what happens the first time we come face-to-face with a species from another world. There are generally two ways such stories develop: either the aliens are friendly and want to get along with us, or the aliens are hostile and want to get rid of us so that they can take over the earth and wipe out or enslave the population. The first type of movie tends to be more cerebral, and is exemplified by films like "Arrival," while the second is more dramatic, and is exemplified by classic stories like "The War of the Worlds."

As a linguist, I'm interested in the idea of first contact and the question it raises: when we first meet an alien race from another world, how will we communicate with them? This article from the Real Clear Science blog poses that question and offers some thoughts.

First of all, communication will hardly be possible unless it's face-to-face, or at least closer than planet-to-planet. Considering that transmissions moving at the speed of light would take between 4 and 24 minutes (depending on the relative positions of the planets) to travel to Mars, any communication over that distance will be pretty disjointed and choppy ... and that's just to Mars. It would take about 200 years for a round-trip communication to the nearest earth-like planet, assuming an instant reply. Even considering the novelty, it would be a boring conversation conducted over generations.

Consider also that effective communication requires a shared basis of understanding. Here's a simple example: when I say "dog," you get a picture of a particular animal, along with the cultural and psychological elements we connect with dogs and our relationship with them. The aliens might have a similar relationship with an animal called a beffel*, creating a shared basis for communication on the topic of inter-species relationships. But what if the aliens don't keep pets? What if they believe it's blasphemous to have a master-pet relationship with another living creature? What if they actually worship the beffel, are horrified that we would keep an equivalent creature in a subservient position and launch a religious war to protect their god figure?

Here on Earth we have thousands of languages, most of which are mutually incomprehensible. Can we assume our alien race has one language, without the complications of dialect, slang, and the other factors that complicate mutual understanding?

Many scientists have suggested that communication with aliens might be based on mathematical principles, which we assume are universal. We base much of our language and thought on the concept of base ten ... useful because we have ten fingers and ten toes. But what if our aliens have, say, seven fingers and hooves instead of toes ... how might this alter their view of mathematical principles and relationships and complicate our understanding of that view?

But more important than all of this is a single simple question: how will we effectively communicate with an alien race when we can't even communicate effectively with each other? Republicans and Democrats have the same ultimate vision of America as an economically vibrant, secure nation of unlimited freedom under a benevolent government ... but profoundly different visions of how that can be achieved. The great monotheistic religions insist on their primacy and exclusivity - you will never reach heaven unless you accept Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior, or unless you absolutely believe that there is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet. If you believe otherwise, there is simply no point in communicating with you ... this is why the Donald Trumps of the world want to keep Muslims out of the United States, and why non-Muslims are forbidden to enter the Islamic holy city of Mecca.

If we can't talk to each other, how will we talk to aliens? Sooner or later we may have to answer that question, and the answer won't be easy.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow, when we share more Great Moments in Editing and Signage.


* The "beffel" was a domestic pet kept by an alien race in a series of novels by Harry Turtledove.