Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cartoon Saturday

On with the show ...

A winning ticket for the world-record $640,000,000 MegaMillions lottery jackpot was sold at a convenience store in Maryland ... unfortunately, not to me; a massive data breach at a payment processing firm may have compromised credit and debit card information from all of the major card brands; the youngest widow of Osama bin Laden has spoken of how bin Laden spent his years in hiding after orchestrating the 9/11 terror attacks - among other things, he fathered four children, at least one of whom was born in a government hospital in Pakistan; President Obama has applied additional sanctions to Iran in an effort to dissuade that country from pursuing its nuclear program; and police in Mexico have arrested eight people accused of killing two boys and one woman as human sacrifices for Santa Muerte - the saint of death.

No doubt about it ... we're ready for Cartoon Saturday.

This week we're featuring symbolic cartoons, starting off with the usual egregious pun ...

My nephew Eddie found this one for me ...

It's one of the things that makes Agnes cute, too ...

This is the problem with much of our religious, social, and political discourse nowadays ...

Some people just have no respect for those around them ...

Okay, how about another stupid visual pun ... ?

A scene from the new TV series - Law and Order: Special Orthography Unit ...

Some people will try to get away with anything ...

You're not paranoid if they really are out to get you ...

And finally, at my age, sometimes you just need especially capital letters ...

It looks like it's going to be a good weekend: we had a great dance party last night, this evening Agnes and I will meet one of my old high school friends for dinner as he passes through town, and tomorrow we'll get to visit with the most adorable grandchildren east of the Ohio border. Life is good!

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


Friday, March 30, 2012

Editor Wanted. Soon. Please.

It's Friday, I'm tired, and I need to save my energy so I can go dancing tonight. What to do for a quick and easy, yet entertaining blog post? Ah, inspiration! - Yes, Dear Readers, it's time once again to celebrate the creative ineptitude of some editors...

Well, yes, that could be a problem ...

Another stereotype confirmed ...
Not quite soon enough ...

It must be a union contract requirement ...

And you thought we needed health care reform before ...

Well, I guess you do have to do a certain amount of preparation for a good showing ...

Now you can save all that money you'd have spent on Beano ...

Now if only Emmber's roast beef would address this problem as well, we'd be in good shape ...

I don't know about you, but this is a lot more information than I needed ...

And finally, it's always good when someone knows what he really, really wants ...

And now the weekend beckons to us from the far side of Friday. It ought to be a good weekend ... there's dancing tonight, grandchildren to visit, a lawn that I can probably mow from my second-floor study window, and ... just maybe ... some relaxing to be done.

Time to get ready for work so I can make the weekend start sooner.

Have a good day and a great weekend. Be here tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday!


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Words That Don't Exist, But Should

One of my former co-workers the other day sent me this list of useful words that ought to be in the dictionary, but somehow have been missed by the Websters of the world. I think they are known as sniglets, and there is a larger collection of them you can purchase here. This is the list I received from Devin, with a few of my comments added ...

Aquadextrous (ah kwa deks' trus) adj. Possessing the ability to turn the bathtub tap on and off with your toes.

Carperpetuation (kar'pur pet u ay shun) n. The act, when vacuuming, of running over a string or a piece of lint at least a dozen times, reaching over and picking it up, examining it, then putting it back down to give the vacuum one more chance.

Disconfect (dis kon fekt') v. To sterilize the piece of confection (lollipop) you dropped on the floor by blowing on it, assuming this will somehow 'remove' all the germs. (Bilbo's Alternative Definition: v. The action performed by a toddler who licks all the icing off a donut before offering it to you with a happy smile)

Elbonics (el bon' iks) n. The actions of two people maneuvering for possession of one armrest in a movie theater or on an airplane.

Frust (frust) n. The small line of debris that refuses to be swept onto the dust pan and keeps backing a person across the room until he finally decides to give up and sweep it under the rug.

Lactomangulation (lak' to man gyu lay' shun) n. Manhandling the "open here" spout on a milk container so badly that one has to resort to opening the 'illegal' side.

Peppier (pep ee ay') n. The waiter at a fancy restaurant whose sole purpose seems to be walking around asking diners if they want fresh ground pepper. (Bilbo's Note: the size of the pepper mill wielded by the Peppier is a sign of the elegance of the restaurant - a truly classy establishment will have a pepper mill the size of a telephone pole with a built-in aiming light, which must be operated by a crew of two)

Phonesia (fo nee' zhuh) n. The affliction of dialing a phone number and forgetting whom you were calling ... or why ... just as they answer.

Pupkus (pup'kus) n. The moist residue left on a window after a dog presses its nose to it.

Telecrastination (tel e kras tin ay' shun) n. The act of always letting the phone ring at least twice before you pick it up, even when you're only six inches away.

And this one of my own ...

Telenalysis (tel uh nal' uh sis) n. The act of deciding whether or not to answer the phone based on a review of the Caller ID data.

Now it's your turn ... if you know of a good word we need to include in the next edition of the OED, leave a comment or e-mail it to me. These are too good not to share.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Slow and Quiet

Two things that make modern life hectic and annoying are the fast pace and the constant background noise. In an age of computers, fast cars, instant-on television, the telephone, and instant communication via e-mail and tweets, we've grown used to things happening right now. We seldom have a chance to stop and smell the proverbial roses. And along with the fast pace of life comes the constant background noise ... the pervasive hum and roar of traffic, the whir of fans and hard drives on the computer, clueless twits yakking on their cell phones, the barking of dogs and the roar of leaf-blowers and lawn mowers, and the obnoxious blather of political attack ads that blend into an oppressive and disheartening blanket of noise that never quite goes away.

So what do you do about it?

Back in October of 2007 I wrote a post about the Slow Cities movement, which seeks to make cities more livable by reducing traffic, increasing green space, and taking other measures that help to slow down the pace of life and make the city living environment more pleasant. One of the requirements for designation as a Slow City is a reduction in the ambient noise level ... something not easy to do nowadays.

But not impossible ...

Yesterday we looked at the suggestion to bring back traditional telephone booths to give people a place to have their cell phone conversations without bothering everyone else. And in the current (March 26th) issue of The Atlantic is an interesting article titled The Science of Quieter Cities that looks at the problem of reducing environmental noise. As cities grow larger and more populous, the level of noise goes up relentlessly and the need to keep it damped down is one of the keys to helping huge numbers of people living cheek-by-jowl in crowded conditions sane and healthy.

The article is very interesting, and describes many of the technological things we can do to help either reduce background noise by making individual things more quiet, and by designing our buildings in ways that help to reduce unwanted noise while allowing more pleasant sounds to filter through. All of these measures will help, but all the technology in the world won't help to correct boorish human behavior ... you can't put up sound walls around ass clowns shouting into their cell phones, or blasting rap and heavy metal "music" from their bass-enhanced car stereos, or shouting obscenities at each other without thinking about the sensitivities of the people around them. The simple application of what we used to call good manners would help reduce a lot of unwanted noise; sadly, good manners are in short supply nowadays.

Slower, quieter cities and lives are - in Shakespearean terms - a consummation devoutly to be wished. We can achieve them partially by technology, and partially by treating each other better. Perhaps we can start now.

Or perhaps we should just wait until the election year din dies down. Sigh.

Have a good day, and have it slowly and quietly. You'll feel better.

More thoughts tomorrow.


P.S. - as long as we're talking slow, here's another related article: A Slow Books Manifesto, in which author Maura Kelly suggests we may want to go back to reading books that need to be read and savored slowly. She writes,

"In our leisure moments, whenever we have down time, we should turn to literature—to works that took some time to write and will take some time to read, but will also stay with us longer than anything else. They'll help us unwind better than any electronic device—and they'll pleasurably sharpen our minds and identities, too."

Live slow, read slow, and enjoy the quiet. Good advice. I like it!


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bring Back the Telephone Booth!

In last Sunday's odds-and-ends post, I offered pictures of a couple of updated cell phones. Today, we look at a proposal to bring back one of the iconic parts of the telephone experience - the venerable phone booth.

If you are my age or older, you no doubt remember the humble telephone booth, which offered a quiet, relatively private location from which to make phone calls. These came in many sizes and shapes, from the traditional glass-and-steel streetside box ...

to the more elegant, burnished wood cabinets found in fancy restaurants and hotels ...

But with the advent of the ubiquitous cell phone, the need for an enclosure containing a coin-operated telephone has pretty much disappeared. The telephone companies have found that installing and maintaining phone booths and coin-operated phones just isn't worth the effort and expense any more, and the traditional telephone booth has gone the way of the Edsel, the passenger pigeon, the dinosaurs, and reasonable, thoughtful statesmen in Congress.

But in an article on CNN yesterday, commentator Bob Greene suggested bringing back the phone booth in a new form - a comfortable, private enclosure for holding conversations, noting that

Phone booths were a wonderfully democratic invention, intended to shut out the noise of the immediate outside world so the person in the booth could privately, in silence, talk with someone miles away.

You've probably been annoyed at least once a day by some clueless ass clown shouting loudly into his (or her) cell phone at inappropriate times and locations, broadcasting the most intimate and embarrassing details of their lives and relationships to everyone within earshot. Mr Greene offers an elegant solution to the problem, asking

If there were clean, convenient, phone(less) booths readily available, don't you think that people would step into them to make their cell phone calls? Who wouldn't opt for privacy and quiet if it was there for them to take?

Who, indeed?

I remember the experience of sitting in cramped, hot phone booths to make the personal long-distance calls I couldn't make from my office phone, and of searching for the loose change demanded by the operator to keep the conversation going. I also remember keeping myself in ice cream money by checking the coin return slot of each pay phone I passed, always finding the occasional dime or quarter to add to my pocket money.

And what about Superman? He used to use phone booths as a convenient, private place to change from mild-mannered Clark Kent into the Man of Steel. What would he do today?

And so I agree with Mr Greene - bring back the phone booth ... without the phone. Offer us convenient, clean, private places to make the cell phone calls we'd otherwise inflict on our neighbors ... or in which to hide from the din of the world around us.

Have a good day, and have it quietly and privately ... your neighbors will thank you.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, March 26, 2012

The Apocalyptic Language of Politics

You may have noticed that our political "leaders" tend to be given to over-the-top language to emphasize the seriousness of their positions on issues. They don't just talk about budget cuts ...

They refer to the nuclear option of shutting down the government to demonstrate their steadfastness in opposing excessive spending. Unexpected spending bubbles hit like bombs. Proposed cuts to the Pentagon budget amount to fiscal castration. President Jimmy Carter referred to the need to cope with energy crisis of his time as the moral equivalent of war. We declare wars on problems like drugs and poverty. Members of both parties take no prisoners and engage in cutthroat negotiations as they try to take a meat ax to various programs ...

A Meat Ax

Even worse is the act of taking a goofy meat ax to Pentagon programs, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

A Member of Congress Prepares to Wield a Meat Ax

In an article last month in the Washington Post, writer Greg Jaffe looked at some of the apocalyptic metaphors used to address the impact of proposed budget cuts.

Using such wild hyperbole confuses issues and leads to emotional, rather than rational discussion of serious problems. If you're willing to go to the mat on an issue, or to club your opponent like a baby seal, you probably aren't interested in seeking compromise. Our parents (well, my parents, anyhow) used to say that sticks and stones will break your bones but names will never hurt you. Unfortunately, when politicians use terms like Nazi to describe their opponents and their positions, we're probably better off if they'd just go back to the sticks and stones ... you can take those away easier than you can fix a brain that's politically ossified.

Stop using apocalyptic language ... it's just murder ... murder, I tell ya.

So, what are your "favorite" politically apocalyptic expressions that we ought to send to the linguistic dustbin? Leave a comment and let me know.

Have a good day. Tone down the rhetoric.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Odds and Ends for a Busy Sunday Morning

Well, things are temporarily quiet here at Chez Bilbo. My sister and her family have been visiting from Pittsburgh this weekend, their desire to see the famous DC cherry blossoms somewhat tempered by the miserable rain that settled in just in time for their arrival after more than a week of glorious weather. Nevertheless, we've tried to make the most of it, hiking around the Tidal Basin and the monuments in rain that alternated between "annoying drizzle" and "get-the-ark-out-of-the-garage-dad," eating late dinners, and attending the second birthday party of our youngest granddaughter Elise. There's nothing that will tire you out quite as much as hiking all over DC, then going to a party for a hyperkinetic two year-old and her equally lively four year-old big sister. I need to go back to work so I can relax.

Anyhow, because we're still in the busy mode for today, I thought I'd just offer up a few things out of my pictorial blog fodder folder, with appropriate comments...

How about them gas prices, eh ... ?

Over at Captain Picard's Journal, the weekend question is "What tasks do you find easier to do nowadays with the advent of new technology? What others are harder?" I think that telephones are a lot harder to use, mostly because of overly complicated instructions and increasingly-tiny keys. Here's the phone I'm waiting for ...

There's also a new NRA-sponsored phone for die-hard Second Amendment supporters ...

This one goes out to all you vegetarians who are shamelessly violating the rights of plants everywhere ...

Particularly appropriate during election season ...

And finally, a look at life as seen by toothbrushes ...

It's now time for breakfast and the enjoyment of the last day with Lisa and her family. Tomorrow begins Phase 2 of the Spring Break Adventures at Chez Bilbo, when our son and two grandsons arrive for a week of excitement in Disneyland-on-the-Potomac. It'll be interesting ...

Have a good day. Brush your teeth and carry the right phone.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

My 2,000th Post! Welcome to Cartoon Saturday!

Yes, Dear Readers, after six years and 1,999 previous posts, today ol' Bilbo hits the big 2k! And how better to celebrate than with Cartoon Saturday? Let's get to it, shall we ... ?

An American soldier facing multiple counts of first-degree murder for a rampage in Afghanistan in which he is alleged to have killed 17 men, women, and children, may face the death penalty in his upcoming trial; anecdotal evidence suggests that the new iPad may suffer from overheating and other problems; Mexico is spending millions of dollars on preparation for a visit by Pope Benedict; celebrity-for-some-unknowable-reason Kim Kardashian was attacked during a red carpet appearance by a woman who dumped a bag of flour on her head; and professional annoying conservative gadfly Newt Gingrich is still hanging in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, doing his best to make even a nutcase like Rick Santorum look good.

2,000th post or not, I'm betting you need this week's dose of Cartoon Saturday ...

Leading off with this week's selection from the miserable pun collection ...

I had to look twice at this one before I figured out what the real joke was ...

It's been a tough week at work, but I'm not complaining ... at least I have a job ...

From the "Classic Tales Revisited" collection ...

This is the one I could probably afford ... but on second thought, maybe the wrinkles aren't so bad after all ...

We all know the type ...

I think I've found my small-business opportunity as we stagger toward the election season ...

Gone to a better place ... ?

And finally for today, this one is dedicated to my nephew Eddie, who has a thing about toilet paper, and to Agnes, who is very particular about how the roll is set up ...

And there you have it ... my 2,000th post and Cartoon Saturday, all in one. Yee, hah!

It's going to be a mixed-bag weekend ... my sister Lisa and her family are visiting from Pittsburgh (YAY!) and my beloved youngest granddaughter Elise turns two today (double YAY!!) ... on the downside, Agnes is sick as a dog (sorry, Nessa) (BOO!), we can't go to Elise's birthday party because of Agnes' illness (double BOO!!), and rain is predicted just in time for Lisa's long-awaited visit to see the famous cherry blossoms (triple BOO!!!).

But we'll make the best of it all, because that's what we do. Elise will be two whether we're at the party or not, Agnes will turn away from death's door because she's just too ornery to stay sick for long, and we'll see the cherry blossoms one way (on the trees) or another (soggy on the ground).

And thanks to all of you for making this blog what it is. I'd write it anyway ... but your readership and comments ... and your virtual friendship ... make it fun.

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


Friday, March 23, 2012

Fairy Tales Go Hi-Tech

I've gotten hooked on the TV series Once Upon a Time, which follows the adventures of fairy tale characters who have been cursed and are living unhappily ever after in the small town of Storybrooke, Maine. The episodes tie together the lives and adventures of the individual characters (Snow White, Prince Charming, Rumplestiltskin, the Evil Queen, Jiminy Cricket, and many more) in the fairy tale and the "real" worlds, and are really fascinating.

Which leads one to wonder how we might update our classic fairy tales and children's stories for the more technologically savvy children of the 21st century ...

Little Bo Peep never loses sheep because of their embedded silicon tracking chips.

Cinderella searches for her prince on - and leases her pumpkin-colored SUV at

Hansel and Gretel use GPS rather than bread crumbs, but had a difficult time stuffing the wicked witch into her microwave oven.

To avoid travel stress, Alice now plans her Wonderland vacation with

A reformed Ebenezer Scrooge sends Bob Cratchett to update his certification for Excel and Quicken, and has encouraged him to get his MBA.

Jack's breakthrough discovery in the bioengineering of bean stalks made him a fortune when he sold it to ConAgra.

Old McDonald uses voice recognition to make ordering easy at his agricultural auction site

Romeo and Juliet avoid tragic problems by keeping in touch through their smart phones.

With her early Web capabilities, Charlotte is now a motivational speaker at tech conferences around the world.

The Pied Piper switched career fields after his tunes were bootlegged on Napster.

Little Red Riding Hood doesn't worry about big, bad wolves after getting the concealed carry permit for her .357 Glock 31.

King Arthur has replaced his expensive round table with a satellite video conferencing suite.

The Mad Hatter has chilled out considerably since his psychiatrist put him on Prozac.

Gulliver is on sabbatical using up all his frequent flyer miles.

The Queen of Hearts no longer makes her own tarts since she discovered Pillsbury Tarts-in-a-Can (15 minutes in a 250 degree oven).

Jack and Jill order their Evian on

The Evil Queen has replaced her outdated, hard-to-maintain magic mirror with a broadband Skype connection.

And finally,

The Princess sleeps much better since she replaced her pea-infested bedding with the new Sleep Number mattress.

Any other updates you can think of? Leave me a comment.

Have a good day. Tomorrow will be my 2,000th post, and it's Cartoon Saturday ... be here for the festivities.

More thoughts then.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hateful Phrases

Yesterday I ran across an article aimed at small businesspeople that everyone in business or government ... or any service-related position ... ought to read: 5 Phrases Customers Hate the Most. You can read the entire article if you want, but here are the Big Five:

"That's our policy." The author of the article says he usually responds to this weak dodge by saying, “Your internal policy decisions have nothing to do with my expectations of customer satisfaction.” I would just say something like, "I understand. My policy is to take my business elsewhere, and take as many of your customers as I can with me. Would you like to try again?"

"There's nothing I can do." Of course there's something you can do ... you can pull your head out of your backside and connect me with someone who has a functioning brain.

"Would you mind holding for a moment?" This one is bad enough, but even worse is when the person on the other end answers the phone, says "ABC Company, please hold," and then immediately sends you to Holding Hell to listen to cheezy music and recorded ads without giving you the option to say "no."
"You'll have to go to our website." I really hate this one ... generally because I've already been to the website and need to talk to a human being.


"That's the manufacturer's responsibility." No, ass clown, it's not the manufacturer's responsibility ... I bought the item from you, and you were happy enough to take my money without having me send it straight to the manufacturer. How about taking responsibility for the item you sold, eh?

Each of these is totally infuriating to Real People who are trying to get service or a simple answer to a question. My experience over the years is that it usually takes at least three phone calls to different people in any organization to finally get to the person who can actually help, or is willing to do so.

I've found that it sometimes helps if I ask for the name of the person I'm talking to, and make a point of saying that I'm noting the date and time of the call. Asking to be transferred to a supervisor sometimes helps also, although it usually comes at the cost of being put on hold yet again.

Here are a few more irritating phrases ...

"Your call is important to us, so please continue to hold." My call is obviously not important ... otherwise, someone would have answered it.

"Press one for (insert choice here)." The degree of infuriation here is compounded when I press the correct number and am connected either to another set of numeric menus or to someone whose English is so abysmal as to be unintelligible.

"Can I have your customer number, please?" This one is legitimate, but becomes infuriating when you've already entered the requested number at the beginning of the call, before being connected to a human being.

And finally,

"This call may be monitored and recorded to ensure customer service." Oh, come on ... the only thing being recorded is my phone number, so that you can sell it to someone else who can call me at inconvenient times to ask stupid questions or try to sell me something I don't need or want.

So, Dear Readers, how about you? What are the phrases that make you grind your teeth in helpless rage? Leave a comment for ol' Uncle Bilbo ... you don't even have to talk to someone in Bangalore to do it.

Have a good day. Don't bother holding ... just come back tomorrow. More thoughts then.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Selecting the Right New Car

After many years of faithful service, Agnes' beloved 1996 Pontiac Bonneville SSEi is no longer economically repairable and must go to that Big Lot in the Sky. We're sorry to see it go, especially Agnes, who thought its advertising tag line - "Luxury with attitude" - was written for her, and who loved its super-turbocharged engine ... it would go from zero to jail in about three seconds.

But all things must pass, and now we have the problem of seeking out a new vehicle to replace it. Agnes wants something that's comfortable on long trips, is reliable, and gets good gas mileage. I'm looking for something that will be safe on our chaotic highways, and can dominate the automotive scrum of the morning and afternoon rush hours.

I want a tank.

Now, you'd think that it's not easy to buy a used tank, but you'd be wrong ... following a few links from a recent article on Yahoo News brought me to the fascinating website of a company called Mortar Investments, which sells reconditioned military vehicles. Including tanks! How cool is that?

Mortar Investments can sell me a World War II-vintage Russian T-34 tank for a mere $38,965 (only about $3,000 more than we paid for the Bonneville 16 years ago) ...

Or for something a bit more sporty, they offer a more modern Russian T-72 tank for just $50,097 ...

Just think of it ... a tank! No more worrying about inconsiderate ass clowns dinging your doors in parking lots ... no more annoying searches for a good parking place (just park on top of whoever is in the spot you want) ... no more cursing vainly at morons who cut you off at intersections (just one round from the main gun, or a few rounds from the machine gun, will cure that behavior pretty fast). Of course, acceleration isn't what one might wish, gas mileage is poor, and the interior can be a bit cramped for those lovers-lane moments ... but when it comes to safety and security, you just can't beat it.

I want a tank. Now to convince Agnes ...

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What the Teacher Meant to Say ...

I've written often enough in this space about the sad state of American education, and the lack of respect we show both for education in general and the hard-working teachers we rely upon to pack knowledge into our children's heads. The anti-intellectualism of people in this country - especially on the far right - is shocking, and bodes ill for the future.

Teachers are tremendously important to our children and, thus, to our future. Unfortunately, because Little Johnny/Jane is a perfect creature incapable of doing wrong, teachers can't always tell parents what they really need to know. Here are a few examples of the sorts of things teachers say during those parent-teacher conferences ... and what they would say if they weren't afraid of being sued ...

Your son has a remarkable ability to gather needed information from his classmates.
He was caught cheating on a test.

Karen is an endless fund of energy and viability.
The hyperactive monster can't sit still for five minutes.

Fantastic imagination! Unmatched in his capacity for blending fact with fiction.
He's definitely one of the biggest liars I have ever met ... the kid's got a brilliant future in politics.

Margie exhibits a casual, relaxed attitude to school, indicating that high expectations don't intimidate her.
She hasn't turned in a single assignment all term.

Her athletic ability is marvelous, and she exhibits superior hand-eye coordination.
The little creep stung me with a rubber band from 15 feet away.

Nick thrives on interaction with his peers.
Your son needs to stop socializing and start working.

Your daughter's greatest asset is her demonstrative public discussions.
Classroom lawyer! Why is it that every time I explain an assignment she creates a class argument?

Johnny enjoys the thrill of engaging challenges with his peers.
He's a bully.

An adventurous nature lover who rarely misses opportunities to explore new territory.
Your daughter was caught skipping school at the fishing pond.

Unlike some students who hide their emotions, Charles is very expressive and open.
He must have written Whining for Dummies.

I firmly believe that her intellectual and emotional progress would be enhanced through a year's repetition of her learning environment.
Regretfully, we believe that she is not ready for high school and must repeat the 8th grade.

Her exuberant verbosity is awesome!
Does this child ever shut up?

Teachers. What would we do without them?

Have a good first day of spring ... more thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Some Thoughts on Bullying

It seems like the latest crusade (if I can use that very non-PC word) is the one against bullying. There was an extensive discussion of it on NPR's Diane Rehm Show the other day, the high school where my granddaughter's dance competition took place was plastered with anti-bullying posters, a Google search on the term bullying gets you about 71,600,000 hits, and there's even a National Bullying Prevention Center and a Bullying Information Center available online. There have been high-profile stories of young people driven to suicide by incessant bullying. The only thing it doesn't have is it's own colored ribbon, but I may have missed it.

So, when and why did bullying get to be such a huge issue?

You will no doubt be profoundly shocked, Dear Readers, to know that I was not always the handsome, buff, witty man of the world you have come to know over the last six years. No ... during my elementary and most of my high school days I was a skinny, bookish, bespectacled fellow who seemed to have a permanent kick me sign taped to his back. I wasn't especially athletic (although I was on the high school cross country team, where I typically finished near the end of the pack) and didn't move in the upper crust of my high school (which, as at most high schools, was populated by football players, wrestlers, and cheerleaders). Things got better in my junior and senior years, but it seemed to take forever to get there.

Bullying back then seemed to be more physical. I got used to getting snickered at, tripped or shoulder-slammed in the hallways by passing thugs, and having small things stolen. Bullying today seems to be more "full-spectrum" (to use a military term) - the physical element is still there, but is augmented by the ability to bully remotely via anonymous online Facebook posts or Twitter tweets.

Bullying has always been with us, and it will not go away because of radio shows or posters on high school walls. I think it starts with poor parenting - parents who don't properly educate and supervise their children, and is exacerbated by a culture of failure to accept responsibility for one's actions. It may also be made worse by a modern behavioral culture that seeks peaceful resolution of conflict, rather than fighting back.

In any case, it's tough to fight back against a bully nowadays. Back in the day, my father always counseled me to fight back ... which was good advice that I took when I could, except that fighting back against someone significantly larger than you are isn't always a viable option. Nowadays, if you fight back against a bully, the bully's parents are likely to sue you for damaging their precious little boy (or girl). My mother often told me to ignore the bullies ... which was also good advice, except when I was smarting from another hallway body block or from the embarrassment of being picked on.

I've sometimes wondered over the years what happened to the worst of the bullies I encountered in elementary and high school. There were four of them, and I suspect that they either met sad ends at the hands of bullies larger than they were, or ended up in professions in which the skills of a bully can be channeled into profitability - used car sales, law enforcement, or politics, for example.

Yes, bullying is a problem that's tough to address, because it has so many causes and because the parents of bullies tend to not believe that dear little Johnny could ever do anything bad. On an individual level, it can be difficult to stand up for yourself when you're considered an outsider who isn't part of the in-crowd. Parents need to educate and properly supervise their children, and bullied children need to know that they can fight back without being themselves accused of something.

I survived it all. Today's children can, too. We need to teach them how.

Have a good day. Diss a bully.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring Has Sprung, etc

Yesterday turned out to be a completely marvelous spring ... hell, summer day here in Disneyland-on-the-Potomac. The sun smiled down from a nearly cloudless sky, the birds sang in the trees, and Bilbo spent most of the day working on repairing winter's damage to the yard. Or at least, to that part of the yard seen from the street (you have to prioritize, ya' know what I'm sayin'?). We also visited the local grandchildren and learned how to play "What Time Is It, Mr Wolf?", which is much fun when played with a two year-old who has just a happily vague sense of what it's all about.

So, yesterday was a great day. Today should be similar, weather-wise, and my goal is to get my garden plots cleaned out and re-composted in readiness for the spring planting. And after that, it should be just about time for a well-deserved gin and tonic on the deck to help get ready for the work week ahead.

Ah, spring!

Turning to other things ...

The Style Invitational Contest is a weekly feature of The Washington Post, in which readers are invited to submit their humorous answers to all sorts of crazy questions and set-ups. This morning, Miss Cellania reprinted some of the better responses to one of my favorite Style Invitational contests: take a well-known foreign word or phrase, change it by a letter or two, and redefine it. Here, for your Sunday laugh quotient, is a sampling ...

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

Ex post fucto - Lost in the mail.

Idios amigos - We're wild and crazy guys!

Cogito, eggo sum - I think; therefore, I am a waffle.

Rigor Morris - The cat is dead.

Responde s'il vous plaid - Honk if you're Scots (that one's for you, Fiona!)

Que sera serf - Life is feudal.

Le roi c'est mort. Jive le roi - The King is dead. No kidding.

Posh mortem - Death styles of the rich and famous. Or, a really classy funeral.

Pro bozo publico - Support your local clown.

Monage a trois - I am three years old.

Felix Navidad - Our cat has a boat.

Haste cuisine - Fast French food.

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

Quip pro quo - A fast retort.

Porte-kochere - Sacramental wine.

Ich liebe rich - I'm really crazy about fat food. Or, I'm a gold-digger.

Fui generis - What's mine is mine.

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

Veni, vidi, visa - I came, I saw, I bought.

Ca va sans dirt - And that's not gossip.

Merci rien - Thanks for nothin'.

Amicus puriae - Platonic friend.

Any others? Leave a comment ... and enjoy the good weather.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Cartoon Saturday

Happy St Patrick's Day! Have a sip o' the old green beer and let's go ...

An American soldier is in custody after allegedly murdering 16 Afghan civilians ... which, in the local Islamic culture, is considered far less of a crime than burning copies of the Koran; Osama bin Laden evidently at one point planned to kill President Obama so that a "totally unprepared" Vice President Biden would become president ... of course, were he really looking for totally unprepared, he should have held out for Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich; a court in New Jersey has ordered the winner of a MegaMillions lottery jackpot to share the winnings with his co-workers, ruling that he fraudulently claimed the entire sum; in an outburst of techno-hysteria, crowds lined up for blocks to purchase the latest version of the iPad; and a disgruntled Goldman Sachs executive resigned from the company via a stinging OpEd article in the New York Times in which he characterized the company's culture as being "as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it" ... which, on today's Wall Street, is really saying something.

And so, naturally, we need Cartoon Saturday to help make it all better ...

We lead off with the usual Gawd-Awful Pun of the week ...

Just when you thought you'd seen all the St Patrick's Day cartoons ...

And ...

Turning to the world of high-tech, the GPS cartoons just keep on coming ...

As do those about digital reading devices ...

Speaking of reading and related things, this cartoon goes out to my blogging friends Kathy and Melissa, and to teachers of English everywhere ...

This one is so wrong, on so many levels, but soooo funny ...

Everybody's a critic ...

I can recall my school years being unpleasant at times (as a result of what we would today call "bullying," there having been a few such ass clowns in my elementary and high schools), but never actually dangerous. This cartoon uses wild exaggeration to take off on a real problem ...

And finally for this week, presidential wannabe Rick Santorum, no particular mental giant in his own right, has castigated President Obama for using teleprompters and for having other people write his speeches. Methinks that Mr Santorum has his own way of crafting his speeches ...

And so passes another week of ass clownery at home and abroad. The weekend looks as if it'll be pretty nice weather-wise, so perhaps I can do some more work on the impenetrable tangle of stuff that's out there where my lawn and garden used to be. I'll let you know how it works out.

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