Tomato Planet
Probably pretty ugly if using Internet
Explorer 9 or earlier.

3 20 19

Words and Non-Meaning

When I was in college, I would take the train from Rochester to Toronto, usually to visit friends. One year, I traveled on New Year's Eve. When I took my seat, I found someone left a copy of the New York Times. I thanked the God of Newspapers Left Behind, and settled in.

The paper included Russell Baker's column. He reflected on New Year's Eve celebrations, and more specifically, our use of euphemisms to cover our bad habits. Mostly, it was long lists of words we use when we don't want to say we're drunk, interspersed with No one will be drunk tonight. They may be...

I was reminded of this recently when I came across someone using the phrase Netflix and chill, which is sort of like friends with benefits, which is like hooking up, which sometimes is like a one night stand, and on and on (thinking of, is there such a thing as a two-night or four-night stand, or anything between one-night stand and married [living together isn't it]?). If I worked at it, I could probably come up with as many euphemisms for casual sex as Baker did for getting drunk.

But then I realized that the number of euphemisms is a function not only of desire to hide a not-socially-approved embarrassing activity, but also of time. So nobody makes whoopee any more, and even friends with benefits is on the outs. We have to have ways of hiding stuff from the oldsters.

Poor euphemisms. They have such a short life.

They Said It

The people who [are] trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off. Why should I?

Bob Marley

3 17 19

St. Paddy's x 365

The world is filled with outrage and people being offended. Someone is aways saying or doing something somewhere, often with innocent intent, that will offend someone and at minimum spark demands for apologies and reparation, if not a lawsuit. Outrage can spring up as quickly as I can say Another pitcher! on St. Patrick's Day.

Shamrocks have three leaves, not four.

Ah, yes, 'tis St. Patrick's Day. And a happy saint's day to ye, laddies and lassies (Is he calling us dogs? And why isn't 'lassies' first? Is he saying we're secondary to men? I'm offended! [See how easy that was?]).

Well, anyway, back to St. Pat's Day. I've often heard it said (and read it on many T-shirts, so it has to be true) that on St. Patrick's Day, everyone is Irish. I've also noticed that the Irish, as a group, have a curiously defining characteristic. Tell a joke based on a stereotype of any ethnic group, and someone from that ethnic group (or maybe even not from that group but wanting to defend the rights and dignity of all people) will become offended and found an anti-defamation league. Tell a joke based on an Irish stereotype, say a drunken Irishman (the basis of almost every Pat & Mike joke known), and there's sure to be an Irishman nearby who wants to tell an even funnier Pat & Mike joke, and may be willing to stand a round, too.

So that's why I'm proposing to make St. Patrick's Day a daily event. We're all Irish then, and we should act that way. More happiness, more jokes, less anxiety, less anger and outrage. Sounds like a win-win, even without more beer.

I'm sure it will offend someone somewhere.

3 13 19

More thoughts from the shower

Our first is actually a pre-shower thought, and appeared while waiting for the water to warm sufficiently to actually shower. I thought about when people recommended (mostly to teenage boys) that they should take a cold shower when they felt, um, warm, I guess (does anybody do that anymore in a non-ironic way, or is it a part of American lore and transmitted from generation to generation, like jokes told by third grade boys?). I recall taking cold showers, but because there was no hot water, not because I needed to dampen raging teenage hormones. Anyway, I was wondering about how long the effects of the cold shower lasted. I'm guessing about as long as the cold shower did.

I like the word misspelled. You rarely see it misspelled (unless people leave out the second s). Few words have two double letters (three sets if you count the 'e's). There are options for spelling (misspelled and mis-spelled). It's kind of fun to say, with the 's' and 'l' sounds. And most of all, it's non-judgmental. When someone points out a misspelling, it's like it's help. It's not you misspelled this word, it's more Oh. thanks for the help.

This one is complex, which is what usually happens when something drops in from nowhere. There are lots of different inputs for it. 1) A number of non-governmental agency (NGO) aid groups in disaster torn regions who distribute food and other supplies have stopped giving it away. Rather, they sell it to grocers and other store owners for a minimal price. In turn, the shop keepers sell it to people. People get fed, the stigma of handouts is gone, and the economy is strengthened.

2) There are a number of food deserts (defined as an area where people where the nearest supermarket selling fresh, healthful food is a mile or more away) in the United States. Over 28 million people live in these areas. 3) The American model for for food banks is often a two-step process–a food warehouse that collects donations and sends food to food pantries or soup kitchens, which in turn get food to hungry people.

What happens if we take the capitalistic model the NGOs use overseas and apply it to the American food deserts? Set up some of the recipients as small stores. The warehouse would supply them food at a (minimal) cost, which they would then sell in their stores. Obviously the store owners would need help–financing, permitting, inventory, bookkeeping– but I think it would provide a lot of benefits over the current system. Plus, at least for a few people, it might help break that cycle of poverty that we keep hearing about.

Wow. It's cold on here this morning.

3 10 19

Daylight Savings Again

Did you remember to turn all you clocks an hour forward? I did, and it feels wonderful! Now, I won't be late to things today, even though there's nothing on the calendar, or maybe I'll be way early for the things I don't have to go to. I forget which it is in the spring, but I'm ready!

I don't know what all the fuss is. So you have a minor disruption and don't know what time it is. The rate of heart attacks goes up 24%, and just when you were getting used to waking up when it was mostly daylight, you're waking up in the dark, and driving to work for an additional four weeks staring into the rising sun. The pain and difficulties are more than worth all the benefits we get from DST, like being able to pull weeds from the garden when you get home from work! And um, well, I'm sure you have your own list of good things that happen with DST. I'm sure it's just coincidence that DST uses the same letters that the acronym for sexually transmitted disease does.

I have to admit I cheated a little bit. I changed all the clocks last night before I went to bed, and went to bed at my usual time, only under daylight savings. Of course, the clock-setting doesn't matter, as we will have our semi-annual power blip in about an hour or so, where the power will go out just long enough to cause all the electric clocks to reset, and I'll have to set them all over again.

But for a couple of hours, I can bask in the knowledge that I got it right, and did a good job. Yay for me!

Well, I'm sorry that you feel that way.

They Said It-Sorta.

There's a quotation by Albert Einstein that startsYoung Einstein If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree... The problem, my friend, is not with the fish.

Also, I don't know if the mind that could come up with an image/analogy like that is the genius Albert Einstein or the couldn't-match-his-socks Albert Einstein. And frankly, I don't think it matters–it's fun either way.

3 6 19

Headlines, More

In Gizmodo: Elixir of Immortality Uncovered in 2,000 Year-Old Chinese Tomb

Strikes me you should take the elixir before you enter the tomb.

'Splaining Things

I saw an article about eagles at Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee. The main gist of the piece was interesting, but what I liked was this passage: Reelfoot Lake is less a lake than a system of bayous, creeks and swampland connected by areas of shallow open water. It was created in the winter of 1811-1812 when a series of powerful earthquakes and aftershocks caused 15,000 acres of cypress forest to sink. The waters of the Mississippi River rushed into the depression. To eyewitnesses, the river seemed to be flowing backward.

I've heard about the Mississippi flowing backward during the earthquake, and I often wondered what that looked like–how much of the river, for how long, what happened to boats, and so on. This explains it. It was nature creating a new lake. Not really about the river, but it gives a new view to the scale of the Mississippi River and the amount of water, that it can fill a 15,000 acre lake and still keep flowing.

By way of comparison, Naval Station Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world, covers 6,200 acres. Disney World in Florida is over 27,000 acres, with 12,000 of that devoted to the Disney Wilderness Preserve. Only 5,900 acres of the remaining 15,000 acres has been developed. Manhattan's land area is 14,600 acres.

They said it

People do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

3 3 19

Changing the View

I've been trying to catch up on my podcast listening, and finally pushed The Accidental Creative to the end of May, when Todd Henry interviewed Geoff Woods about his (then) new book, One Thing. The podcast was about the ability to focus, and comes highly recommended. He spoke about the importance of doing the one thing you can do now, no matter how small, to move toward your goal.

About halfway through, Woods said something that stuck. He asked, when you turn on your computer, what's the first thing you do? Most people start by checking e-mail and then checking social media. What you're doing, he says, is saying you don't know what you're supposed to be doing, and by responding to e-mails, you're letting everybody else take control and decide what your priorities are. When we don't have clarity or focus on the goals, we end in react mode, deal with urgent matters, or what's convenient.

But I'll tell you, it's hard. I don't even have new e-mail notifications turned on, but every day, when I turn on the computer, the first thing I do is check e-mail. In the few days since I heard the podcast, I think about it and still check e-mail first thing. Old habits break hard, or maybe not checking is a new trick I just can't learn.

Not Learning

A long time ago, (too long, too lazy to look up) I wrote a piece about my ideal newspaper–how the entertainment section would have articles about TV and movies and interview the people who make them about the show, and sports would talk about games and report scores, for example. It would not have articles about a star getting busted for drugs, or contract negotiations, selling a house, or showing up at a charity event. Those would be in regular news or a legal section, business, real estate, and society, respectively. In short, the section title should provide a guide to what will be in that section.

The New York Times apparently did not read my post. Guess which section the following first sentence was in? A few miles and a few days from this weekend's start of the Iditarod sled dog race, a glaciologist named Shed O'Neel stood in his sun-drenched office at the United States Geological Survey, talking about climate change.

That's right, dear readers, it was the Sports Sunday section. I can only guess that the writer thought he was interviewing Shaquille O'Neill (AKA Shaq), the legendary Hall of Fame center for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Even if that is the case, though, the article should be in the science and technology section, or some place where they don't have to invent a lame hook to the Iditarod to burn two pages of the sports section on climate change.

2 27 19


I remember back to some disaster in the 80s when people were calling their TV stations to complain that their soap operas weren't on. I don't have that problem, but I am very glad today for our local public radio station. They have news broadcasts that last five minutes, at 6 AM, 7 AM, and 8 AM. That's it for the day. I hate it when the raise money, but grateful on days like today where I can get a news summary of Cohen and the North Korean summit talks when something has actually happened, instead of the incessant analysis and pre-game analysis (Cohen is expected to say this). A happy day of some nice classical music.

I'm not hiding, or trying to avoid staying informed. I just don't find the benefit of letting the flapping faces flap on when there's nothing to add.

Oscar Review

In spite of not seeing any of the nominated films, I still watched the Oscars telecast. Here are some takeaways:

  • No host? No problem. There was no host. The show was a hot mess, but that was just poor organization, not because there was no host. It might be a chance for a total rethink and reboot.
  • Slipping ratings? Here's a fix. Let's face it–old people watch TV. PBS knows this, and so they skew programming old during fundraising. Not only did I not know much if anything about the nominated films and actors, I recognized very few of the people presenting or doing anything else. The only names I recognized were Spike Lee, John Williams, Helen Mirren, Sam Elliott and Glen Close, none of whom won. Now I know it's time for a new generation and all, but where are the megastars that might get a couple more people watching? No George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Leo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, or Cicely Tyson. I heard Brad Pitt was there, but I didn't hear him mentioned. I could fill the rest of this page with the names of the people who weren't in attendance but whose names and faces you'd recognize.
  • Fix the pre-game show. Sorry, Red carpet. It is just boring. The most interesting thing was Spike Lee saying My brother to Billy Porter and Billy saying it back. Then they just sort of stood there. Which was less worse than celebrities who kept looking around and saying Hey there goes Glen Close. Add to the unknown celebrities the who are you wearing question, especially to guys wearing tuxedos. Didn't recognize designers, either.
  • At least they fixed the dead people. The memoriam piece was held at another venue, with the LA Symphony. Instead of telling everyone to hold your applause... they just cut the mikes in the main theater.
  • Forget the music. Cut the mike. Let people know that they have x seconds to thank folks. After that, cut the sound. Have another presenter's station ready, where there is a live mike for the next award. It sounds cruel, but they were warned. Maybe have a stream on line for the thank you speeches, where they can go on as long as they want.
    If you have to have music, keep Queen on stage for the whole ceremony and let them riff on some of their favorite tunes, with the amplifiers at 11 for when honorees start to wander.
  • Ryan got inside the theater.. Some of the red carpet chat was inside the theater. Not a bad idea. On the plus side, Ryan and the carpet gang know how to politely shut people down nicely when they run long. Also, nothing written down.

Resolution Update

Bottom line: I've been keeping them. The iffiest has been cartoons, but I've started drawing them again (mot recent Apt123 is to the right. Everything else has been proceeding nicely. Thanks for your help.

2 24 19

Da Muze sez...

Writers are supposed to have a muse. I write, and yes, I have one. Mostly, she shows up around 5 literary bobbleheadsin the morning, whispers sweet nothings in my ear that often are useful ideas that can be turned into fabulous stories, poems, cartoons, or at least bon mots (Aside: I know it's not the cat, because he never shows up until 6 o'clock, and uses his highest volume to remind me they are out of food), and then disappears (the Muse, not the cat).

I usually react by promptly rolling over and going to sleep; staying awake but in bed, pondering how to develop the idea, go back to sleep, and not remember anything when I awake; getting up and writing the idea down in an illegible scrawl; or remembering.

This morning is one of the remembering mornings, and I just had to share. The Muse came to me and said, If you were a famous celebrity, would you want a bobblehead or an action figure of you done first?

Thus demonstrating that this writing thing is not as easy as it looks.

Random Factoids

There are 31,000 registered nudists (or naturists, if you prefer) in the United States.

  1. I didn't know you needed to register.
  2. With whom do you register?

2 20 19

Feelin' It

In this case, it equates to old. My wife and I were watching an iceskating competition. One skater was using music from Simon & Garfunkel. My wife wondered out loud why the skater was using old Simon & Garfunkel. I said it's all old Simon & Garfunkel, since they broke up, uh, 49 years ago. Or one year after the Beatles broke up, also known as a half-century ago.

I was able to avoid other wrning signs, like my high-school fiftieth reunion. Not too much way to avoid the deluge. Way to feel old.

They Said It

Three today.

This is him all over. The place accommodates more than 2,200 people, but all he can see are the [30] unoccupied seats.

David Sedaris, on his father's reaction after attending one of his concerts.

When you're totally physically worn out, it's much easier to be calm.

Siggi Hilmarsson

I write five gratitudes, five worries five intentions. It's a way for me to prioritize what really matters.

Dona Sarkar, on her morning routine.

2 17 19

Presidents' Day

George and Abe together again

Probably most of you are too young to remember when in February we celebrated two presidential birthdays–George Washington and Abraham Lincoln (and if you're old enough to remember that, it's past your bedtime. Go upstairs and put on your pajamas now!). But now, we have one day to celebrate all 45 of the buggers, worthy or not. Advertisers still focus on Lincoln and Washington because a) advertisers are lazy and like to recycle all the pictures they have of Washington and Lincoln; b) they are generally known as upstanding dudes who were the father of our country and the Great Emancipator, respectively; and c) it's the end of the holiday season (which started with Halloween) and we're tired.

To celebrate the day properly, I am passing along some (admittedly random but all true) facts about presidents.

  • George Washington probably chopped down a cherry tree. New common wisdom is that George Washington didn't chop down a cherry tree. C'mon. Mount Vernon was a very large estate. It had orchards. Some trees got felled. Washington at least gave orders.
  • Abraham Lincoln did not free any slaves. The 13th Amendment did, and that all went into effect after the Civil War (and Lincoln's assassination). The Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in non-Union states. Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri and West Virginia had slaves before and after the Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation would be like the United States telling Canada to give all its first nation people new cars.
  • Warren Harding was caught in flagrante delictu with his mistress Nan Britton in a White House closet. George Washington did not meet with his lover in the White House. Of course, there was no White House at the time. Other presidents did.
  • John Kennedy and William Taft are the only presidents buried in Arlington Cemetery in Virginia.
  • William Howard Taft is the only president who also served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
  • Franklin Roosevelt collected stamps.
  • Theodore Roosevelt was a big-game hunter.
  • Jimmy Carter took the least amount of vacation time (79 days) of any modern president.
  • William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison are the only grandfather/grandson presidential duo in American history.
  • Grover Cleveland was the only president to serve non-consecutive terms. He was also the only president to get married in the White House.
  • James Buchanan was the only full-term bachelor.

Totally random fact: my computer calendar just popped up a reminder that President's Day is tomorrow, and identified it as regional. I think that's wrong (it's a federal holiday), but if not, how the mighty have fallen, and what are all those mattress-selling people having instead of a Presidents' Day sale?

2 14 19

Happy Tasteless Candy Day!

You may know it as Valentine's Day, and it raises visions of fancy dinners, hearts, flowers, jewelry and chocolate. What doesn't taste good, you ask?

Remember Sweethearts, the little heart-shaped candy beloved of schoolchildren the world over? Necco sold over 8 billion of the candy most associated with Valentine's Day each year. It's been a while since I had them (probably grammar school, or as an ironic gift), but I remember them as being rather tasteless, even more tasteless than Necco wafers, the other signature candy the company made. The company has been around since before the Civil War, and one common joke was that the candy tasted like it had been around since before the Civil War, too.

Notice the generous use of the pasts tense. Apparently 8 billion is no longer enough. Necco suddenly shut down in July of last year. I'm guessing they were done in by cheaper competitors who also cheated by making candy that actually tasted like something. Also gone: Clark Bars, Necco wafers, Mary Janes, Sky Bars, and something called Nut Zippers. It's too bad. I liked Sky Bars, except they were really hard to find. You had to hit an old-timey candy store.

Apparently 140 people lost their jobs. I feel bad for the people who had to come up with all those little sayings. On the one hand, it's hard to work meaning into eight letters. On the other hand, some of them were really lame, especially when they were trying to be relevant.

2 10 19

Kitchen Hazards

If you want to live an exciting life, all the danger you need is in your own kitchen!

  1. Pets who insist on sneaking into the kitchen and sitting in the middle of the floor and right in your way.
  2. Brown on food=tasty. Brown on old muffin tin=not tasty.
  3. A call from the grocery store telling you that flour you bought and used for Christmas baked goods is being recalled for salmonella contamination.
  4. A precarious pile of cookbooks on a high shelf.
  5. Water on the floor

They Said It

Death happens to other people.

Terry Pratchett

2 10 19

State of the World

News from all over. If I'm going to keep reading stuff like this, I may just want to stop reading.

The Washington Post provides a spectacularly misplaced modifier in a discussion of a Grammies controversy:

Ariana Grande, Childish Gambino, Drake and Kendrick Lamar all reportedly declined to perform, marking another rough year for the award show.

When they don’t take home the big prize, he [Ehrlich] said, the regard of the academy, and what the Grammys represent, continues to be less meaningful to the hip-hop community, which is sad.

Delish tells us about not-a-good-idea, but perfectly understandable: Gordon Ramsay recently came under fire when his new National Geographic show Uncharted was announced, the synopsis of which described how Gordon would travel to different countries teaching those who live there how to cook their own food.

Finally, Rolling Stone magazine waxes rhapsodic in the headline and subhead of an article that revels a little too much in clashing imagery: Review: Bob Mould Channels Hüsker Dü on Savagely Upbeat ‘Sunshine Rock’. It’s a pleasure to hear new music from Mould during America’s current cultural crisis. What may surprise you is how violently happy he can sound.

2 6 19

Trapped in Time

I've mentioned PechaKuchaNight before. In one presentation, I mentioned how Seinfeld was a creature of its time–if they had cell phones, half the episodes would have been over in two minutes. Phone call, Jerry reschedules with Elaine or Kramer, done deal.

Well it works the other way around, too. Hallmark Movies has been raising No Service Available and cell phones in general to a high-art plot device. Apparently there are no land lines available in Hallmark Land anymore. It's sad to see the demise of listening in on the extension as a way to find things out. Now, you just have to be sitting in a restaurant or coffee shop to overhear someone at the next table spill the beans.

BTW: PUN ALERT! Sorry–sorry, too late.

BTW 2: There will be a PechaKuchaNight at Charlie's American Cafe on Granby St. in Norfolk on Thursday, Feb. 7 (tomorrow night) at 7 pm. As always, a good time. I promise.

Unclear on the Concept

By law, vodka is supposed to be odorless, tasteless, and colorless. So why when I go into the ABC store are there shelves and shelves of vodka in every flavor except asphalt and guano?

And no, I'm not suggesting those should be flavors.

And yes, I realize there is an unclaimed pun in the headline. I'm unsure if I want to claim it.

2 3 19

Ernie? Bert. Bert? Ernie.

An article from six-seven years ago, one of those semi-pseudo-scientific things, recently surfaced again. Using the Muppet World as an analogy, it divided the world into two parts–the orderly/organized (represented by Bert and Kermit) and the disorganized/chaotic (Cookie Monster, Ernie, and Oscar the Grouch).

We can all identify with one of the groups or be put in one of the two camps. It's another one of those sliding-scale things that allow us to categorize how we deal with the world, like introvert-extrovert; thrifty-spender; leader-follower; and creative-whatever the opposite of creative is. Nobody is at either extreme. I may be mostly a follower, but I have leadership moments. It gets complicated.

At one point the writer comments that in the universe, the orderly and the chaotic have to maintain a balance, so that the orderly and disorganized/chaotic are in balance.

That's just wrong. It may work in the Muppets world, or in the whole universe but not here in the human dimension. A deeply chaotic person needs only a fraction of the time to create disorder that an orderly person needs to impose order.

I'm sure there's some sort of mathematical formula for it, but I'm not real good at math. Besides, even though the equation is the foundational formula of mathematics, mathematicians are a big part of the chaos theory cabal, in which they try to create the science of surprises (surprises are never good). If you prefer, chaos is the border between order and disorder. If you ask your average Joe, Does chaos tend towards order or disorder? most will probably say disorder.

What's sad is that math and to a certain degree science, posited that we could put order on the universe and describe with accuracy actions and properties of everything if only we did everything using mathematical and scientific principles, never telling us that the deck is stacked (crookedly) against us.

Do you want worse? According to James Gleick, scientists came to chaos theory by observing their own behavior. Whenever they came up with an anomaly (a wrong answer [a one-in-a-million different answer]) or answers that did not fit their prediction or match other results, they simply discarded the outlying answers. Meanwhile, those in the liberal arts and soft sciences get hammered by the scientific set for not being rigorous or precise or objective enough, while themselves concealing their own dirty little chaotic secrets.

I'm not sure how the cosmic forces of order and disorder balance things out on the human level, but chaos/disorder is bound to win. It's too easy for an orderly person to stop for just a moment and add to the problem. Someday, even the best librarians are bound to say, Screw it, I'm not going to reshelve those books. Just leave 'em on the table, or a mom, when the eight-year-old says for the hundredth time, why should I make my bed? I'm just going to mess it up again tonight, says. You're right. Just leave it. Have a nice day.

Someday, Kermit will stop being the fixer and organizer and will join Cookie in strewing crumbs around. Oscar, meanwhile, will smile, be polite, and not disrupt things.

That's just not going to happen, though.

We are all doomed, as W.B. Yeats said: Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

So it goes.

They said it

Never stop learning because life never stops teaching.


1 30 19

Lost Arts

Supposedly, Tip O'Neill was a regular visitor to the Reagan White House for happy hour. These guys had diametrically opposed politics, but they did get things done for the country. It wasn't perfect, but they muddled through. They gave a little to get a little, a win-win. They compromised, as shown in the first figure.

traditional compromise

Sometime after Reagan, probably starting during the Clinton administration, the art and the idea of compromise changed. There were winners and losers. Compromising now meant conversion, as in the second figure.

DC compromise

In the new era, this has been replaced again by my way compromise, It's now not just win-lose, but win-obliteration. Faced with an untenable situation, the opposition pushes back, with the result that nothing happens, shown in the third figure. Compromise becomes the staus quo.

the new compromise

I'm hoping that what goes around comes around. Unfortunately, the last time this happened, we had to go through five years of civil war, and it's been restless ever since.

1 27 19


Here are some odd things about books (and the people who read them).

  • You can buy them before they exist! Right now Amazon is letting you buy books that they will deliver next month, or sometime later this year.
  • Except for some books by anonymous, every book has an author. It just may not be the person who actually wrote the book. No other creative endeavor has the equivalent of ghost writers who completely disappear. Music has composers, artists sign their works, and anybody associated with the making of a film or television show is listed in the credits, even down to the catering crew (If writers gave credit to food providers and other supporters, the list probably wouldn't be much longer than spouse or family).
  • You can't throw away a book. Well, I can't, at least. No matter how much I dislike a book, or was bored by it, I can't just toss it. I still have an old biology book or two floating around in the basement somewhere. They have no intrinsic value amd take up space, but they're still there.
  • Giving books (away) can be tricky, too. Say you've read a just O.K. book. Do you give it to someone? What if they don't like it and hate you for wasting their time? The problem is with the personal connection. Little free libraries seem to be an exception that work. Getting books presents the same problem, even if you like books. There are books and authors you just don't like. The gift book is an obligation, like the unappealing picture given to you by your sainted maiden aunt who is artistically challenged that you have to acknowledge to the point of displaying the picture during visits.
  • Unless you're a library, there's no such thing as loaning a book. Think about the books you love and thought someone else would too. So you loan it to them, with every expectation of getting it back, to the point of carefully writing name and maybe phone number on the first page.
    Did you get the book back? I never do. I have a couple of Anne Rice books that somebody insisted I have to read. Maybe I will someday. You just gave someone a favorite book. Better to buy them their own copy. See giving books, above.
  • People say bad things about books, even if they haven't read them. Now, they say bad things about well, lots of things, but somehow it's different with books. If someone disses a book you like, it's not that they are a jerk (which they totally are), but somehow your judgment is called into question, if not your entire life.
  • Remainder bins are sad.

1 26 19

Bonus post!

Budweiser now claims that its makes its beer with wind power.

I always thought it was the other way around–the beer makes the wind.

I wonder if it's a zero-impact kind of thing where input=output?

1 23 19

Life is like...

It's the depressing part of winter, the time when even the most chipper of critters start suffering from s.a.d. Snow. Cold. Flu. Award shows. Local strawberries are at least four months away. I have entered sad/bleak truth phase of midwinter. A bit early, perhaps, but totally appropriate. It's been cold here!

  • Models for life: Forest Gump’s line about the chocolates is not right. You have choice. You have to reach in and select one, even if the basis of choice is square, round, lumpy or conical (spoiler alert: the square ones are caramel). And no matter what, you're going to get a coconut-filled piece if you don't like coconut. Always.
    box of chocolates?But even then, you still have a choice. After you bite into the coconut piece, thinking it's an orange cream, you can spit it out. Plus, chocolate is sweet and sort of fun, and there's variety, at least until you've eaten all the stuff you like, and all that's left is a couple of sad walnut clusters and half-eaten coconut pieces.
  • Life is more like a Roadrunner cartoon, where you're the Coyote. You make all these plans, buy all this equipment, and the next thing you know, you're standing in midair twenty feet off the edge of a cliff (help sign and Acme anvil optional). But your plans are good plans, reasonable plans, that deserve to go right. But they don't. Bummer.
  • I think a lot of people’s lives are most like a pinball machine. You get set in motion, bounce off a lot of bumpers and paddles, maybe score a bunch of points, and come to rest at the bottom of the machine. About the only thing you're responsible for is maybe some hang time, that few moments of hovering before you go crashing against the wall and off in a different direction.
    But if you're in the pinball machine of life, go down screaming–no matter from joy, fear, anger or excitement. Life is better that way.

1 20 19

Paint by Number

For some unknown reason, certain items become objects of ridicule. Some, like drum circles and disco, probably deserve it. Other logical targets, like buying already torn jeans, miss the mockery.

Some targets, though, like fruitcake, handmade Christmas sweaters and paint by number, are mystifying. People mock fruitcake. Legend has it that there are only a very limited number of fruitcakes in existence. They're never eaten or even opened. Instead, they are shipped around the country each Christmas to another recipient, who stores the gift until the following Christmas, when it is again boxed and sent off to a (distant) friend or relative. Fruitcake could survive a nuclear holocaust. The best use of fruitcake is as a doorstop.

I happen to like fruitcake. Right now, I have two in the kitchen, being soaked in brandy. I like the slight stickiness of of a piece of properly made fruitcake (not a fan of cake-style) I like the cheerful red and green candied fruit bit (and I dk/dc* what the green fruit is).

Paint by number is another favorite target. PbN got a bit of a reprieve with the recent interest in adult coloring books, which is PbN with crayons, colored pencils and pens. I don't know why. Nobody is harmed by PbN. Only some art by the yard painters may be impacted. It doesn't deserve the felonious crime against art that the snobberati apply to it.

Nobody, even people who do PbN, lay any claim to making great art. They do it for fun, for relaxation, and enjoyment.

At least, that's why my father did it. I remember him sitting at the kitchen table with his template, brushes to the left, a wipe rag, and the numbered, little plastic pots of paint ranged above the template. He worked carefully and methodically. I don't recall if he did the numbers sequentially or if he worked in blocks (upper left, center, lower right).

However he worked, it made him happy. He had a little bit of a creative streak. He liked to prepare Sunday brunch for us, with baked goods (popovers and cornmeal muffins with homemade strawberry preserves baked right in) a specialty. I still remember a pinewood derby car he whittled and painted in a blue metallic finish with a white racing stripe. With wood putty, he inset the grill of the car. It was a lot of work. I probably didn't appreciate it then as much as I should have–and do now.

So maybe PbN wasn't the most creative thing Dad could have done, or not as creative as real painting, but I think it spoke to something creative in Dad that didn't have a chance or an opportunity to blossom. I'm fortunate–I'm able to and encouraged to follow my creative passions.

One definition of art is its ability to generate an emotional response in the viewer. We all have different triggers. Some people respond to impressionists, others to post-modernists, still others to Greek sculpture. For me the six paintings that Dad did are art–they generate an emotional response. They have a value far beyond what the pieces would fetch at Sotheby's, or for that matter, any of the million dollar investments auctioned off there.

I have a new appreciation for labors of love. So when I see or hear something where the enthusiasm and passion may be beyond the skill, I'll try to look beyond the object and see the joy and the love that led to its coming into existence.

* dk/dc: don't know, don't care.

1 16 19

Setting Priorities

Popular Science magazine reports that The Milky Way could crash into another galaxy way sooner than we thought.

Thought 1: I have populated my calendar into December of 2019 (there is still space to invite us to dinner, by the way), so unless this crashing Milky Way thing is going to require a reorg or shuffling of the 2019 calendar, well, I don't care.

Thought 2: Whaddaya mean we? Who besides Popular Science writers and some astronomers think about this stuff?

Also in space news at Popular Science, in case the Milky Way article just wasn't enough for you, you can read An exploding space cow could be linked to a newborn black hole. Unless, of course, a lack of proper capitalization on the title upsets you, then you want to get your space news from someplace else. If you're lactose intolerant, proceed with caution.

Hey, that's a pretty funny thought. And where do you get your space news from, Mr. Jones? or First in Providing Space News Since There Was Space!

And finally, we find out that great tits are killing birds and eating their brains. Heck, they've been doing that (at least the brain the great titeating part) to male homo sapiens for ages.

Groaners like this are provided free of charge. There will be no refunds.

Let It Snow–There.

BBC News reports on weather in Europe: Snow brings large parts of Austria, Switzerland, Norway and Sweden to a standstill.

I'm sure it's bad, and my meteorological geography is not what it should be, but aren't those the places in Europe that people go skiing? It's the same as reading Buffalo brought to standstill by snow. Like the Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, you don't expect that.

Some things go right

From Bloomberg News: Theresa May faces worst government defeat in 95 years in key Brexit vote.

She doesn't look that old. Compliments to her plastic surgeon.

1 13 19

Oh, no! More resolution stuff!

For some reason, the resolutions are coming along quite nicely this year. I'm actually ahead of the game on some. Part of it comes from getting more deeply into writing, and since so many of the resolutions had to do with various aspects of my writing life, that worked out well. Synergy, don't you know.

Saying it out loud, and building on success.

I think part of the reason for success so far has been committing to the resolutions in public, insofar as anyone reads this thing. That helped. I'm taking the outside world a little more seriously.

Having a plan.

I think having a plan also helps. Knowing what I'm doing and parceling it out are two big items. I even made myself a little checklist for when I accomplish my goals, Little checks can be a good motivator. I can also see at a glance when I missed hitting a target.

Hugs all around!

I thought I would phase in new resolutions a little more slowly, like maybe at the beginning of the month, or every three months, or something. I've already added another–hugs. The way I picture it, the hugs will be distributed three ways:

  • Real live hugs. I'm not a demonstrative person (not demonstrative=an I of 73 on Briggs-Meyers), so I'll be starting slowly with this. Mostly, it will be people I am close with, but I will watch for opportunities, and be more accepting when hugs are offered.
  • Virtual hugs.
  • Hugs for me.When I do something good (in either sense of the word) I am going to acknowledge it. If I do something wrong, I'll acknowledge that too, but I'm not going to let it own me. No more false modesty. Balanced modesty. If other people won't tell me, I'll tell me, like I did here.

Sorry about all the resolutions stuff. I promise no more (at least for a week).

1 9 19

Pictures and Words

Ol' Ma Nature

Back in November, we were at the garden store to purchase some pansies for the yard (don't hate me because I chose to live in a warmer climate [and getting warmer by the minute]). While there, we saw a three-pack of cauliflower on the end-of-season shelf, and on a whim we bought it. We joked about what to do with the huge harvest of veggies we would have.

Well, the darn thing survived, and is almost thriving. We have two cauliflower blossoms or whatever you call them. One could be harvested and provide a satisfying meal for two, as long as one of the two is not a big fan of cauliflower (and that wold be me). The weather people tell us we will have warmer than usual temperatures for the next few weeks except for maybe the chance of snow this weekend, so who knows? We may actually get something large enough to eat.

January harvest?

The cauliflower is not the only thing slightly out of whack. The ginger was putting out new blossoms in mid-December, and now the camellias are starting to bloom. Last year at this time, we were dealing with 14 inches of snow. No complaints, trust me.

January surprise


One of my Christmas gifts was a pair of Allbirds, a comfortable athleisure shoe made from wool (or wood). They're very nice, but also fun. When I opened the box, there was stuffing to help the shoe hold its shape. I was expecting a wad of brown tissue paper, but instead found these:

the inserts

Lots of fun, and bonus points to the manufacturer for really thinking through the customer experience. Of course, it all pales if the shoes aren't comfortable, but they thought it through.

They Said It

Don’t hold your breath for five or seven years.


Why yoga is good for you.

The Sunday New York Times has a wonderful article by Mohammed Hanif titled I Love Doing Nothing. So Why Am I Bad at Yoga? (unless you're reading it in the paper, in which case it's called Yoga Is Not a Competitive Sport). Most of the article is about savasana, or achieving nothingness. What caught my eye, though, was the line After you have elevated your heart above your head in Downward Dog... My wife tells me this is one of the most popular positions in yoga. That doesn't matter. What I like is the whole idea of elevating your heart above your head. It shouldn't just be for yoga. We should try to apply it to life, too.

1 6 19

Epiphany, Feast of

3 kings

Today, January 6, is the Feast of the Epiphany, a very big deal in the Catholic calendar, especially in the Eastern Rite and Eastern Orthodox churches. The feast celebrates a lot of things–the revelation of Jesus' divinity, as seen in the visit of the three wise men, who followed the star to Bethlehem to bring gifts to the baby King. It is also the 12th day of Christmas (yes, children, oldsters celebrated things after they happened, not before as we do, in a mad dash to get clicks and eyeballs), and generally considered the end of celebrating Christmas.

So, alas, I'm afraid it's time to put Christmas away, including the 12 drummers and 11 pipers, even though they've just arrived.

It's probably just as well. It was getting kind of noisy in here.

The putting away will include the Christmas cartoons to the right, so read fast! They're coming down soon.

Resolution Redux

The sharper-brained among you (i.e., those who are able to maintain an attention span of 300 words or so) may have noticed that for my Apt123 resolution, I did not follow one of the rules I stated at the beginning of the post: that is, I did not say what regular production of Apt123 would be. I will produce one Apt123 or Fred the Flower each week in the coming year. Note I will complete one cartoon a week, not that you will necessarily see it.

The sharp-eyed among you may have also noticed a misspelling. That has been corrected.

Otherwise, I have been keeping to my goals (the New Year's Day post was a Wednesday post put up a day early). Yay for me!

That felt good, the yay for me. I may have to incorporate that into round 2 of this year's resolutions.

Goals reached, unless you count the structure of the resolutions, in which case I set a modern record for myself, in breaking a New Year's resolution before the New Year started.


On yesterday's' New York Times editorial page, I came across this: ...a way to make the repairs without immiserating commuters. Turns out it's a real word, and not something the Times made up, thus ruining a chance to accuse the Times of trying to be Sarah Palin.

I still like Sarah's word refudiate, by the way.

Speaking of the New York Times, today they used the word midichlorian. I have been accused of having a big vocabulary (guilty), but I was clueless. Context did not help. My wife (with her own big vocabulary) didn't know. I looked it up. It has something to do with the Force in Star Wars. Otherwise, still clueless.

Once more with the New York Times. A couple of posts ago, I pointed out how things were happening faster and faster. Today, the Times had an entire section devoted to the Oscars. The 2019 Oscars. The 2019 Oscar nominations. The 2019 Oscar nominations that will be announced on January 22.

To be (sorta) fair to the Times, I saw at least a dozen other websites claiming foreknowledge of who will be nominated and who will will win. But they aiin't the Times.

1 1 19

Be It Resolved

On Sunday, I wrote about (and yet another) new plan for resolving my resolution conundrum. I realized that I talk about resolutions, but never share what the resolutions are. People who talk and worry about this kind of thing say not declaring an intention, getting it out in public, is a form of avoidance.

Yeah, probably.

I think I may have tried that once. It didn't help. Well, I'm going to try again. Here are the first batch of resolutions. They mostly have to do with writing. They also fit my own new criteria for resolution making.

  • Write, revise and complete one poem a week. This is doable. I think I wrote 30 poems last year (average two pages), so I'm close. I have had success before. The real trick will be jumping on an idea when I have it. I have all these post-its in my poem book with ideas written on them. For the ones that are a year old or older, I don't have a clue half the time what I intended to do with them. So I have to get them from the cover to a page while they are still fresh and I can develop the thought behind the idea. If they're aged road kill, they have to go.
  • Write two blog posts a week. I heard those groans and grumbles! And don't think I don't know who made them. I'll be speaking severely to you later. Actually, this is also very doable. For the past week, I have been writing and posting on average every other day, so it's just a question of scaling back to twice a week. Also, most of the posts I make have multiple subjects/topics, so it's as much a question of redividing and uploading as anything else.
  • Maintain a regular posting schedule. Again, I'm pretty good about this. I get most posts up by Sunday night or Monday morning. I usually write or refine on Sunday morning, and then go do something else. I have to stop that--no diversions or digressions. Sunday by noon, Wednesday by mid-evening. I'm close. It's doable.
  • Start getting stuff out there. Whether it's open mics, public readings, sharing stories and poems with other writers, or sending material to journals and magazines, I need to get my writing out in public. So, one reading/submission in January, two in February. three in March. Beyond that, we'll gauge it by response and availability of venues. It would probably be a good idea to not refer to my writing as stuff if I want to be taken seriously, too.
  • Resume regular production of Apt123. The sharper-eyed among you may have noticed that I have been recycling Apt123 cartoons for a while now. I have some 50 ideas in various stages of development. It's time to start getting them on paper and finishing them. Doability? High, if the cats let me (they think it's necessary that I be closely supervised when I'm drawing). Many of the Christmas cartoons on the right were prepared this year.

I think that's enough for now. I don't want to get overwhelmed and frustrated. I want to succeed, so when I roll out the next batch of resolutions in March, I won't be wallowing in the pits of despair from failed resolutions of New Years past.

And Happy New Year! Good luck with your resolutions. If you're reading this, you have been successful at staying alive, a very important step in making and keeping resolutions. Or just living. I didn't say all this new writing would be profound.

Those of you who were grumbling and groaning earlier, I'll speak to you now.

Apt 123

3 10 19

Celebrating the saint's day. Ms. T is not cleear on Mr. Nag's concept. Ms. T tries to get Mr. Nag in the spirit.

Fortnightly T-shirt

3 3 19

What's important for the universe.

Fred the Flower

3 3 19

Fred celebrates a proper St. Pat's.