Monday, October 23, 2017

Why I Think the Way I Do

I'm sure it comes as no surprise to you, Dear Readers, that I think Donald Trump is a complete disaster as president, and that I really don't understand how some people can continue blindly to support him despite all evidence of the kind of person he is, the damage he is doing to the nation, and his complete lack of practical, ethical, and human qualifications for the position.

But one thing I've observed over the years is that one's position on any issue is a result of that person's life and personal experiences. This is why I try my best to understand people who see issues differently - or totally opposite - from the way I do. And so it occurred to me that it might be useful to spend some time in this space explaining to you where I come from, why I think the way I do, and why I'm just absolutely unable to fathom how the greatest country on earth has come to this point.

There's some fairly personal stuff ahead, so I'll understand if you don't want to read it ... you can just come back tomorrow and read some other stuff, and I won't mind a bit. You've been warned ... here we go ...

In a few weeks, I'll be 66 years old (yes, I'm a "boomer," with all the baggage that comes with it). I'm retired (twice), living on my military pension, Social Security, and investments. I've always been fiscally conservative, but living on a fixed income makes it a lot more important to watch the old cash flow. I'm watching the financial news a lot more closely nowadays.

I was born into a middle-class family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My father ran his own business as an advertising illustrator, and my mother stayed at home with us until we were all older; she then went to work, eventually retiring as an executive secretary at an insurance company. My parents were fiscally conservative, strict but fair, and well-educated.

My parents were always polite and considerate of others, and raised us to be the same. I believe in treating everyone with dignity and respect until they show they aren't willing to reciprocate.

And my parents both had marvelous senses of humor - Dad with shaggy dog stories and Mom with puns. I like to think I have a good sense of humor, and I try not to take myself too seriously ... by the same token, I don't think much of those who are full of themselves.

I went to a parochial elementary school and a public high school. Both were completely white ... I had no routine contact with blacks (or any other minority) on a daily basis until I went to college.

My undergraduate degree is in Linguistics, with a minor in German (in which I'm conversationally fluent). I am absolutely convinced of the value of learning a second language as a way of improving one's understanding of the rest of the world.

I served 23 years on active duty in the Air Force, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. One of my brothers retired from the Navy as a Warrant Officer, and the other enlisted in the Army (but didn't make it a career). If your idea of serving the nation consists of wearing L.L. Bean camouflage outfits, owning 30 guns, and running around in the woods waving a Gadsden flag and pretending to defend us against the Big Bad Government, rather than enlisting and serving in the armed forces to face a real enemy, I think your world view is pretty juvenile.

Speaking of serving in the armed forces, I believe it's a great way to expose people to members of other races, ethnicities, and religious beliefs. When your life may depend on being able to work closely with everyone else in your unit, it tends to help bring people together and foster understanding and cooperation.

I earned a Master's degree in International Relations while stationed in Germany. As a result of this education, living abroad, traveling extensively, serving in the Armed Forces, having friends in many foreign countries, and speaking another language, I tend to have a pretty internationalist point of view. Yes, putting America's interests first is important ... but in a world where every other country wants to put its own interests first, we need to learn how to balance our needs, wants, and interests with those of other countries so that - as much as possible - everyone walks away from the table with something.

I'm married to a wonderful lady who is a citizen of Germany and a permanent resident (Green Card holder) of the United States. We went through an amazing amount of time, effort, and bureaucracy to arrange her legal permanent residence, which is why I have no sympathy for those who believe it's all right to enter this country illegally. We are a nation of immigrants ... but we are also a nation of laws, and those who want to come here should be willing to abide by those laws. I'm on record with my proposal for fixing our immigration system ... unless you've got a better idea and are willing to put it out there for comment, just shut up about your stupid wall.

I have three grown children and six marvelous grandchildren. I care very much about the quality of the world that they will inherit, so if you're in favor of ignoring the science about climate change, if you support rolling back the regulations that have helped to give us breathable air, clean water, and safe foods and medicines, and if you refuse to vaccinate your children against disease, sorry - I think you're a fool.

I no longer adhere to any particular religious belief, because too many people who do have conspired to drive me away with their intolerance and (sorry) holier-than-thou attitude. It might be nice if some people could get back to something as simple as the old Golden Rule, rather than using their rigid religious beliefs as a club with which to beat those who believe differently.

Well, that's enough for now. Those are a few of the life experiences that have shaped my opinions and beliefs, and which may help you better understand why I rant the way I do on particular topics. What shapes your beliefs and political positions? I hope it's not some shouting head on Faux News or, or the latest lame-brained tweet from someone in high office. Leave a comment and let us know what sorts of things shape your approach to life.

Have a good day and a good week to come. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Poetry Sunday

Halloween is just over a week away and in keeping with our Halloween theme of cartoons and poetry for the month, here's an eerie classic by Edgar Allan Poe ...

Annabel Lee
by Edgar Allan Poe

It was many and many a year ago,
     In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
     By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
     Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
     In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
     I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
     Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
     In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
     My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
     And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
     In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
     Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
     In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
     Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
     Of those who were older than we-
     Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
     Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
     Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
     Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
     Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
     In the sepulchre there by the sea,
     In her tomb by the sounding sea.

I love this poem, which I believe contains one of the most beautiful sequences ever written:

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
     Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
     Of the beautiful Annabel Lee

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


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.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Faith Pyramid

Last week in this space, I grumbled about complicated and convoluted modern religiosity, as opposed to the simple "love thy neighbor" dictum of early Christianity. Continuing with that topic, here's an interesting take on the ramifications of religious belief, courtesy of Crispian Jago's* blog, The Reason Stick ...

Since "thoughts and prayers" are the only thing that Congress is able to quickly provide - on a nonpartisan basis - in response to mass murder and natural disasters, it's worth thinking about where those prayers fall on the faith pyramid. Hint ... low.

I have faith in the love of my wife and family, the passage of the seasons, and endless political ass-clownery. Any more, not much else.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Last June in this space, I featured another of Crispian Jago's offerings, The Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense. I find his thoughts devastatingly clever, if not always suitable for children.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Grocery Marathon

Here's a recent cartoon that speaks to me on several levels -

As you know, one of my favorite pastimes is cooking. I get a huge rush out of turning a pile of assorted ingredients into a well-presented, heavenly-smelling dinner, and always enjoy the satisfaction of sitting back at the end of the meal with the knowledge that I made it myself ... often using the herbs grown in my own garden. Cooking is my drug.

If you enjoy cooking, it also helps if you enjoy grocery shopping ... and unlike a lot of men, I really like grocery shopping.

There aren't many days that I don't visit one of the local major grocery stores or one of the smaller ethnic markets that are located all over our area, searching for some ordinary or unusual ingredient for the latest culinary experiment. During our trip to Pennsylvania last weekend, I returned with a huge cabbage (between 5 and 10 pounds), two large, beautiful heads of cauliflower, two quart boxes of brussels sprouts, and all sorts of other bounty from the Mennonite farms of the area. Last night, about 1/4 of the cabbage went into one of our favorite recipes - stir-fried chicken with cabbage, cashew nuts, onions, and mushrooms ... a great dish that always leaves at least one more meal's worth of leftovers*.

My other ongoing project is an attempt to make our own ginger ale. I've been brewing a "ginger bug" - similar to a sourdough starter - that forms the basis of the recipe, and now that the bug appears to be ready, I'm going to make the actual ginger ale later today. It needs to ferment and steep for 2 to 3 days ... I'll let you know how it turns out.

Oh, and getting back to the cartoon we started with - I'm the local master of carrying 75 bags of groceries at once to avoid making multiple trips from the car to the pantry. But on the other hand, the marathon continues when I realize - as I invariably do - that I've forgotten something and need to go back to the store. Oy.

And now all this talk about food and cooking has made me hungry. Time for breakfast!

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* E-mail me at "der(underscore)blogmeister(at)yahoo(dot)com" if you want the recipe.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Dealing with Assholes

I'm number 14 on the waiting list at my local library for a book I couldn't possibly pass up - The Asshole Survival Guide: How to Deal with People Who Treat You Like Dirt.

Author Robert Sutton defines an asshole as "... someone who leaves us feeling demeaned, de-energized, disrespected, and/or oppressed. In other words, someone who makes you feel like dirt," and goes on to theorize that there are two types of assholes: "certified" and "temporary." Dr Sutton suggests that we all have the capacity to be temporary assholes under the proper conditions*, while a certified asshole is someone who always treats people poorly, and takes pleasure in the misery of others. For an interview in which he spells out his theories of what assholes are and why they act the way they do, check out this interview on - "A Stanford Psychologist on the Art of Avoiding Assholes."

In the course of my life, I've had to deal with some pretty despicable human beings who reveled in making my life, and the lives of those I love, miserable. Sadly, dealing with people like that is never easy, particularly when they can't be ignored or avoided. Nevertheless, Dr Sutton suggests that one of the best, if most difficult, approaches to dealing with an asshole is to "... simply learn not to give a s**t. Not giving a s**t takes the wind out of [his] sails." He won't change, but if you're able to ignore him as if he were an annoying insect, it can help you get on with your life.

My most annoying asshole, sadly, can't be ignored ... and so I'm waiting rather impatiently for my name to creep up the waiting list for Dr Sutton's book to get some other ideas. I'm willing to try just about anything that won't attract the attention of the coroner.

Suggestions welcome.

Have a good day, and avoid assholes when you can. More thoughts tomorrow.


* This is true. I try hard to treat everyone well, and it takes quite a bit to wake up my inner asshole, but if someone is willing to go to enough trouble to do it, I'll gladly try to make it worth their while. The problem, sadly, is that a true certified asshole doesn't care about the feelings of anyone else, and I'm not sure that I could out-asshole a true professional.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Poetry Sunday

We're well and truly into autumn, now, when the days are getting shorter and cooler and the nights longer and deeper and more mysterious. Halloween is only about two weeks off, and after that the holidays tumble over us one after the other through the end of the year. Today is October 8th, which is two days too early for this poem, but it is October, and the imagery applies ...

October 10 
by Wendell Berry 

Now constantly there is the sound,
quieter than rain,
of the leaves falling.
Under their loosening bright
gold, the sycamore limbs
bleach whiter.
Now the only flowers
are beeweed and aster, spray
of their white and lavender
over the brown leaves.
The calling of a crow sounds
Loud — landmark — now
that the life of summer falls
silent, and the nights grow.

Have a good day, and enjoy the crisp days and the cool nights so good for sleeping with open windows. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, October 07, 2017

Cartoon Saturday

New month, new bad news ...

Nearly 60 people were murdered and more than 500 injured by a man who used high-powered weapons to shoot indiscriminately into a crowd at a Las Vegas music festival before killing himself; investigators have discovered that the murderer who massacred dozens and injured hundreds of people had used inexpensive kits to - legally - modify his guns to fire in a fully-automatic fashion; Donald Trump visited the devastated island of Puerto Rico and heaped praise on his administration for doing a marvelous job while 95% of the island was still without power, most hospitals were still out of operation, schools remained closed, food and clean water were short, and many remote communities remained cut off; Hurricane Nate is closing in on New Orleans; and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in hot water following reports that he referred to Donald Trump as a “moron.”

Since we're into the month of Halloween, when ghouls, ghosts, goblins, Republicans, and other horrifying things emerge to scare us, each of this month's Cartoon Saturdays will feature cartoons about a different sort of scary creature. We'll begin our month of terrifying cartoons with a collection featuring zombies ...

Even the walking dead aren't beyond politics ...

Zombie ladies have special problems ...

Obviously ...

Zombie toys ...

I feel like this often ...

Some dietary beliefs survive beyond the grave ...

It was a good question ...

Now introducing the Zom-BeeGees ...

I think she's talking about much of modern America ...

Sorry, Shirley ...

And so it goes ... the first of our October Halloween-themed Cartoon Saturdays. Come back next week for cartoons based on another frightening thing.
Agnes and I are in Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania, where Agnes is taking a class in embroidery techniques and I'm killing time with a visit to Penn State (yesterday) and visits to various farm markets to stock up on fresh vegetables, meats, and other good stuff. Not looking forward to the long drive home tonight, but I really did enjoy the visit to Penn State.
Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow.

Friday, October 06, 2017

The Right-Cheek Ass Clown for October, 2017

The seemingly endless year of 2017 is grinding mercilessly on, filled with legal, meteorological, natural, and other disasters piling on top of each other in a relentless assault. And if hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires weren't enough, we continue to add layers of ass clownery atop the misery to make it worse.

We've made it to the beginning of October, and so it's time to announce the first of our Ass Clown awards for the month. It's always hard to separate the chaff from the lesser chaff, but it's my job and so I'll step up to it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Readers, today we do something special. Today, we announce not only

The Right-Cheek Ass Clown for October, 2017

but also our first

Lifetime Achievement Award
Superior Ass-Clownery

and the award goes to nine-time previous winner

Donald J. Trump

By presenting this award, I realize I may be accused of simply picking low-hanging fruit. But in my defense, I would point out that few people have worked so tirelessly to prove themselves worthy of this dishonor. Although Mr Trump had already won the award a staggering nine times (either by himself or in combination with another recipient), he has continued to raise the ass-clownery bar (or lower it, depending on how you view things). In the two weeks alone, he has:

- Insulted and demeaned the people of Puerto Rico, including direct personal attacks on the mayor of San Juan, who had criticized the administration's response to the devastation left on the island by Hurricane Maria, and implying that the island had not suffered a "real catastrophe" like Hurricane Katrina.

- Continued a useless and distracting squabble with the National Football League over players' peaceful protests of violence against minorities.

- Spent a weekend at his exclusive golf resort in Bedminster, NJ, while millions of Americans were still reeling from the disaster of Hurricane Maria ... including dedicating a golf trophy to the people of Puerto Rico at a time when most of the island still lacked functioning hospitals, clean water, power, and basic communications connectivity.

With presentation of this Lifetime Achievement award to Mr Trump, he is longer eligible for future Left-Cheek, Right-Cheek, or On-Crack awards, and becomes the first member of the Ass Clownery Hall of Fame.

We deserve better.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday, when we start our four-weekend Halloween celebration - more thoughts then.


* The Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, was reported to have called Mr Trump a "moron" during a meeting at the Pentagon this past summer, a comment he did not directly deny when questioned by reporters.