Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Cleanup Needed on Aisle 1

There's been a huge surge recently in the recognition of the problem of sexual harassment, with many prominent persons (mostly men) in the worlds of politics*, business, and entertainment forced out of their jobs or prominent positions because of their sexual misdeeds. It's led to a lot of soul-searching in some quarters, and much discussion of what can be done to help end the problem.

There was an interesting piece in the Washington Post this past Sunday titled "The One Best Idea for Ending Sexual Harassment," in which a number of prominent people** offered their best ideas. All were good, and I could see most of them actually taking hold, but one of them appealed to the linguist in me: Kishia Clemencia, a captain in the Washington DC Fire and EMS Department, suggested Let's clean up the language. She wrote it this way:

"In our agency, you have to lead by example. Discipline is important. When those in positions of authority are crude in conversation, it fosters an environment that makes it easy for misconduct to happen. Vulgarity in language, even if inappropriate touching never happens, trickles down throughout the organization. If people in a position to lead and make decisions constantly curse and joke about sex while playing down complaints about harassment, it sends the message that harassment is not a problem — and that everyone else should feel the same way. Loose conversation promotes a negative culture throughout the chain of command. It’s hard to change people’s morals or values individually, but the agency can set the precedent that that kind of language is not acceptable — from the top down."

We all know the old schoolyard taunt that sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me ... but they will. The use of crude sexual language, particularly by those in positions of authority, sends the message that this is okay, it's normal, get used to it.

Unfortunately, we have gotten used to it. And the most egregious offender is getting a free pass.

Have a good day, and watch your language. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Apparently applicable to Democrats only ... the GOP denies it has a problem, and it clearly doesn't - because it stridently denies it has a problem.

** Who have not been accused of anything so far.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Health Care Terms, Defined

Back in June of 2010 I wrote a tongue-in-cheek, satirical post* in which I provided snarky answers to questions about the American system of health care. It's been seven years since then, and so I figured it's time to revisit the topic and help provide clarity to a complex topic. Here are explanations of some of the terms which are often tossed around in the heated debate** over various health care options ...

"Socialized Medicine"

There are several definitions of this controversial term. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as "medical and hospital services for the members of a class or population administered by an organized group (such as a state agency) and paid for from funds obtained usually by assessments, philanthropy, or taxation." The GOP defines it as "a callous and unjustified giveaway by a satanic system that forces rich, healthy people to pay for the care of losers who shouldn't have gotten sick in the first place."

"Prescription Drug Coverage"

There are two definitions of this term. The first is "health insurance or a related plan that helps pay for prescription drugs and medications." The second is "the dense blanket of laws, tax code provisions, confusing legal wording, and conflicting statistics that prevents patients from understanding the cost of prescription drugs and making informed decisions."

"Single-Payer System"

As the name implies, this is a system in which there is only one entity, typically a government agency or private system operating under a government charter, which pays for health care for citizens. Most of the developed world uses this system, which has the advantage of reducing costs by reducing administrative overhead for health care providers. From a conservative or libertarian perspective, it's the equivalent of socialized medicine and must be avoided at all costs because everyone knows that government utterly ruins everything it touches***.

"Death Panel"

--> According to a claim originally made by Sarah Palin and continuing to be believed by the credulous, it's group of faceless government bureaucrats that decides whether specific persons are worthy of receiving health care. A death panel differs from the current health care system only insofar as government bureaucrats, rather than insurance company analysts, make decisions on the provision of health care.

A derogatory term applied by conservatives to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the health care reform program enacted during the presidency of Barack Obama. The GOP is totally and completely opposed to the ACA and is intent on replacing it with something. Anything. Some day. 


The extra money you pay to your doctor or pharmacist for service after you've already paid your insurance premiums.


The amount of money you have to pay before your insurance company begins to pay the benefits you're already paying premiums for them to provide.

I hope this helps you understand some of the confusing terminology of health care. My best advice: don't get sick. You can't understand it, and you probably can't afford it.

Have a good day. Eat lots of apples to keep expensive doctors away. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Hard to believe, isn't it?

** "Debate" is defined here as "wild and uninformed shouting and the use of out-of-context anecdotes and statistics to bolster one's position."

*** No wonder it's only lasted 200-plus years.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Musical Sunday

There are two Musical Sundays before Christmas, and for the first one I thought I'd share this great song by a lady I met through a mutual friend on Facebook ...

It reminds me of this ...

... except more fun to listen to.

If you loved today's song from Marita Brake, buy her great CD, The Road I Took to You. You'll love it.

Have a good day and enjoy the rest of your weekend. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, December 09, 2017

Cartoon Saturday

And away we go ...

Representative John Conyers (D, MI) retired from Congress after allegations of sexual misconduct, even as calls by Democratic senators for Al Franken to resign increased; after weeks of vacillating, the GOP establishment has closed ranks and fully endorsed Roy Moore for the vacant Alabama Senate seat, deciding it was more important for a Republican - accused by multiple, credible witnesses of sexual misconduct with underaged women - to win than any Democrat; the International Olympic Committee has banned Russia from competition in the 2018 Winter Olympics following allegations of widespread state-sponsored doping of Russian athletes at the 2014 games hosted by Russia; and Donald Trump upended decades of US policy and threatened to inflame regional tensions when he announced plans this week to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the US embassy there.

This week, in honor of sticky situations, how about some cartoons about stick figures ...

The right weapon is necessary for the best defense ...

But you need to be careful with that non-stick spray ...

Jealousy ...

But is the ink covered by his medical insurance? ... 

When stick figures fence ...

CSI Pencil ...

I know how he feels ...

Less expensive than the gym ...

The magician leaves a clue ...

When art therapy doesn't work ... 

It's going to be a cold and blustery weekend here in NoVa, although the nasty white stuff* we were expecting seems not to have materialized so far, thank goodness. We're planning a quiet weekend at Chez Bilbo, in the hopes that reality does not intervene, as it is wont to do.

Have a good day and a great weekend, and don't forget to cast your votes for the Ass Clown of the Year. More thoughts tomorrow on Musical Sunday, featuring some classy Christmas music.


* Snow, not neo-Nazis.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Great Moments in Editing and Signage

New wonders for a new month ...

The latest from the GOP Gift Shop ...

Well, it's a mistake anyone could have made ...

These are the sort of statistics that our elected reprehensives shout at each other instead of analysis ...

I wonder if his HMO is a sole provider ...

It can't hurt ...

For those who need a good, stiff drink ...

Graduation can be a challenge ...

Yes, please ...

Well, it would save time shopping for that ham and egg breakfast ...

I think there's a layout editor who needs to find a new line of work ...

And there you have it - your first batch of editorial gems for the month of December. Because you need something to laugh at besides Congress.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday - more thoughts then.


P.S. - The balloting for Ass Clown of the Year is underway, and here are the leading candidates as of this morning:

Sarah Huckabee Sanders - 25 votes

Donald Trump - 20 votes

Ted Cruz and Roy Brown - 10 votes each

Every Other 2017 Award Winner to Date - 5 votes

Let your voice be heard! Vote now for your choice - balloting closes at 11:59PM on December 31st.


Thursday, December 07, 2017

For Whom the Toll Tolls, Revisited

You may recall that back on November 16th I wrote a post fulminating about the insane "dynamic" tolls imposed as a "traffic management" measure on Interstates 95, 395, and 495 here in Northern Virginia. That post featured a photo of the toll warning sign near my home showing a toll of $20.80 for a local trip of about 10 miles ...

Well, that was so last month.

On Monday of this week, Interstate 66 inside the DC beltway changed over to a toll road with dynamic tolls, and here's an interesting photo from the morning commute:

In case you're having trouble reading the sign, it shows a toll of $34.50 for a trip of about 10 miles on I-66. On Tuesday, the highest recorded toll on the stretch of road was nearly $40.00.

If you think this is actually a traffic management feature, let me make you an offer on a slightly-used bridge. 

The Virginia state government originally claimed the tolls would max out at $7 for the morning rush and $9 during the afternoon rush; however, after the huge tolls recorded on Monday and Tuesday, state transportation officials said those projections were based on an "average" trip, and not on trips taken at the heaviest of peak traffic times. 

Get used to being screwed like this in more and more areas as your government discovers it's running out of money because of ill-considered and unnecessary tax cuts and reliance on dogma rather than good sense and effective planning.

I'm surely glad I don't have a daily commute any more ... but I still end up getting stuck with these outrageous tolls occasionally.

Have a good day. Avoid driving on the Interstates in NoVa if you can ... if you can't, get that second mortgage approved before you set out.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow, when we air our first collection of Great Moments in Editing and Signage for the month.


Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Why I Hate Yogurt

Well, I actually don't hate yogurt ... what I hate is shopping for yogurt.

Last Sunday I decided to make a recipe which required plain, whole-milk yogurt as an ingredient.

At my local store I discovered that - although there are acres of shelf space filled with yogurt - there's almost no such thing as plain, whole-milk yogurt.

There's non-fat, low-fat, 0%, 2%, and 4% yogurt.

There's yogurt with vanilla, blueberry, strawberry, peach, guava, and every combination thereof.

There's yogurt made from cow, sheep, and goat milk.

There's yogurt derived from almonds, soy milk, coconut milk, and other stuff.

There's Greek, Icelandic, and Australian yogurt.

There's drinkable yogurt (Kefir).

All flavored yogurts may be purchased in single-serving cups or in small packages of a pint or so, but if you want plain, old, whole-milk yogurt, it comes only in single-servings (very difficult to find), quarts, or 55-gallon drums.

I just needed a couple of spoonfuls of plain, whole-milk yogurt ... is that too much to ask?

Evidently, it is. And it's not good for my blood pressure, either, which is another issue entirely.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Dealing with Realia

My friend Mary has turned out to be a veritable fountain of interesting information about words and the larger general topic of language. Last week she sent me a link to a fascinating article titled My Sammelband has Frisket-Bite, subtitled "A Short Glossary of Delightful Library Terms." Never having worked as a librarian (although I have spent countless hours in the visiting and enjoyment of libraries), I'm not familiar with all of these terms, some of which are pretty esoteric*. Here are a few of my favorites:

Realia - objects and material from everyday life. As nowadays opposed, probably, to virtualia or fakia.

Inherent Vice - the tendency in physical objects to deteriorate because of the fundamental instability of the components of which they are made. I suspect the term can also apply to the deterioration of non-physical objects which are inherently unstable, like economic theories based on hugely optimistic assumptions of future conditions.

and ...

Palimpsest - a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain. I suspect that Donald Trump views former President Obama's record as a palimpsest for his attempts at governance.

I think there are probably some other library terms that didn't make the list, such as:

Bibliotormentor - a person who folds down the corner of a page to mark his place, or who cracks the binding of a book to make it lay flat.

Biography - also known as "fiction" when applied to many political figures.

and ...

Science Friction - the grating sound made when closed minds reject accepted science.

Any other terms? Leave a comment.

Have a good day. Support your local library. More thoughts tomorrow.


* "Esoteric" does not mean, "Of or relating to Standard Oil of New Jersey, currently known as Exxon."

Monday, December 04, 2017

Voting Now Open for the 2017 Ass Clown of the Year!

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Readers, today is the official start of the selection campaign for

The 2017 Ass Clown of the Year

By December 29th (the On-Crack Ass Clown for December, and the last biweekly award for the year) I will have named 26 individual awardees in 2017, all of whom are eligible for the annual award. Of course, if there's someone I missed or someone you like better, you are free to vote for the write-in candidate of your choice. Here are the basic ground rules for the Ass Clown of the Year voting, unchanged from previous years except as noted:

- Chicago Rules apply: you may vote as many times as you want, for as many candidates as you want. You may cast votes on behalf of yourself, your family members, your friends, your pets, your friends' pets, or anyone else, living or dead. In the interest of fairness, I ask that you not cast more than ten votes at any one time for any one candidate ... just vote more often.

- You may vote for any of the 26 biweekly award winners (the first 24 are listed below, and the last two will be announced on December 15th and 29th), or for anyone else you wish. SPECIAL NOTE: Donald Trump, having been presented a lifetime achievement award in October after receiving the award nine previous times, is no longer eligible for selection as a Right- or Left-Cheek Ass Clown; however, he may receive Ass Clown of the Year votes in this, his final year of eligibility.

- You need not be legally authorized to vote in an official American election.

- Photo ID is not required. If you are concerned that the Russians will manipulate the results to undermine the integrity of the award without such identification, consider that conspiracy theorists already convinced that elections are rigged will assume that any IDs presented will be falsified, anyhow. And in any case, integrity is a quaintly outdated concept in today's political world in which "facts" require no proof other than conformity to one's preconceived notions. I worry more about my fellow citizens than I do about the Russians.

- Votes will be accepted from now until 11:59 PM on December 31st. You may vote by leaving a comment on any blog post between now and then; by sending me an e-mail; by sending me a PM on Facebook if we are connected there; or in person if we should happen to meet.

I will provide periodic updates on the balloting as a PS to upcoming blog posts, and will announce the 2017 Ass Clown of the Year in this space on Monday, January 1st, 2018.

Here are the first 24 Ass Clown awardees for 2017, and the dates of their awards, in case you want to go back and review the citations:

January 13 (Right-Cheek) - Buzz Feed
January 27 (Left-Cheek) - White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer
February 10 (Right-Cheek) - Education Secretary Besty De Vos
February 24 (Left-Cheek) - Pricers and Packagers of Printer Ink
March 10 (Right-Cheek) - James Craig Baker and Brandon Brent Vreeland
March 24 (Left-Cheek) - White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (2nd award)
April 7 (Right-Cheek) - Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin
April 21 (Left-Cheek) - United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz
May 5 (Right-Cheek) - Hillary Rodham Clinton
May 19 (Left-Cheek) - Representative Al Green (D, TX)
June 2 (Right-Cheek) - Vice President Mike Pence and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt
June 16 (Left-Cheek) - The News Media
June 30 (On-Crack) - The GOP Health Care Plan and Its Supporters
July 14 (Right-Cheek) - The Trump Family
July 28 (Left-Cheek) - Donald J. Trump (8th award)
August 11 (Right-Cheek) - Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump
August 25 (Left-Cheek) - Louise Linton
September 8 (Right-Cheek) - Senator Ted Cruz (R, TX)
September 22 (Left-Cheek) - Senators Lindsey Graham (R, SC) and Bill Cassidy (R, LA)
October 6 (Right-Cheek) - Donald Trump (9th Award and Lifetime Achievement Award)
October 20 (Left-Cheek) - EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt (2nd award)
November 3 (Right-Cheek) - White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders
November 17 (Left-Cheek) - Roy Brown
December 1 (Right-Cheek) - James O'Keefe

Let your voice be heard! Vote early! Vote often! Help me heap dishonor on the Ass Clowns who work so hard to Make America Groan Again.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, December 03, 2017

Poetry Sunday

At the intersection of poetry and film noir ...

I beseech thee, O Yellow Pages...
by Barbara Hamby

I beseech thee, O Yellow Pages, help me find a number
for Barbara Stanwyck, because I need a tough broad
in my corner right now. She'll pour me a tumbler
of scotch or gin and tell me to buck up, show me the rod
she has hidden in her lingerie drawer. She has a temper,
yeah, but her laugh could take the wax off a cherry red
Chevy. "Shoot him," she'll say merrily, then scamper
off to screw an insurance company out of another wad
of dough. I'll be left holding the phone or worse, patsy
in another scheme, arrested by Edward G. Robinson
and sent to Sing Sing, while Barb lives like Gatsby
in Thailand or Tahiti, gambling the night away until the sun
rises in the east, because there are some things a girl can be sure
of, like the morning coming after night's inconsolable lure.

Perhaps you should look under "M" for Maltese Falcon.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow, when we launch the 2017 Ass Clown of the Year campaign.