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

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.

12 30 18

Happy 2019!

In the past I've written about resolutions, maybe too much–about not keeping, about not making, about not talking, about some resolutions I've actually maybe and sorta kept, about frustration, and so on. Fun, but all ultimately futile.

This year I've decided to try something different–sorta.

Happy New Year!

I'm going to try to make smart resolutions–that is, they'll be limited in number, scope, achievable, realistic, measurable, with a defined endpoint. So no more Exercise more, or even Start sending writing to publishers. I've tried that before. It doesn't work. Now it will be send to two publishers this month. I think I tried SMART in 2012, and it didn't work.

What will be different this year will be that, in my assessment of last year and ways to improve myself, I will look for things that meet the criteria, of course, but I will also look for things that I did well or better in the past year, whether the result of a resolution or not, and bring them forward into this year, matching them with a new resolution. I hope to achieve two things: a) to keep doing them, preferably more/better; and b) remind myself that I can succeed.

I'm going to mix it up, too. First, I won't make just one big lump o' resolutions, I'll spread start dates out aver the year (I'll add start and end dates to the calendar). The benefit to this is if one resolution crashes and burns, he others are still intact.

I will also be putting in place whatever infrastructure I need to succeed. So I know that if I am going to exercise more, I need a place to do that, proper exercise gear, and equipment if necessary. Previous resolutions of walk every day or even three times a week got derailed the first time it rained or snowed. So I need an exercise destination. But I also need another reason to go to the exercise place. The exercise in and of itself isn't enough. So I will wrap the exercise around a visit to the library, or taking or teaching a class. I will also need a Plan B. This is another place I can lean upon past successes. Sooner or later, progress or growth hits a snag, if it doesn't get totally stopped. How did I move around the block in the past? Can I apply the lessons learned here?

Anyway, happy new year, and good luck and success in any and all of your resolutions, and just in living.

12 29 18

Saints Day

Today is the feast of Thomas à Becket, famous for being martyred and for being played by Richard Burton in the movie. In the iconography (formal, stylized pictures), he is shown as an archbishop with a wounded head, the would being represented by a large broadsword going from eartip to eartip. It's not as gory as it sounds..

It is also the feast day of Marcellus the Righteous, a fifth-century abbot. He may have been a saint, but I bet, based on the sobriquet, he was a real pain to live with.

Bring It On!

2019 is going to be a fabulous, wonderful year.

I insist, that's why.

Speaking of Sobriquets

I'm going uptown in 2019. No more pen names, pseudonyms, AKAs, or aliases, only sobriquets. Maybe the occasional nom de plume. That's classy too.

Proof Positive

Yesterday, I pointed out how things happen earlier and earlier. Happy Easter! Today, I was in the grocery store, where I saw a display of Easter candy, definitely a modern record. It's not even 2019 yet. There are 113 days until Easter, just in case you were wondering. It sure puts those Only 20 shopping days until Christmas signs and advertisements from the good ol' days to shame, doesn't it?

12 28 18

Feast of John the Evangelist

Today is the feast of John the Evangelist, the only one of the original 12 apostles to die of natural causes (the others were martyred or committed suicide). I am told that I am named after him (my patron saint). John wrote the mystical gospel. so I think those are reason enough for a post.

The Year in Review

Much like the Christmas shopping season, which starts earlier and earlier, Year in Review lists are appearing further away from the end of the year. I started seeing them before Christmas this year (maybe they're filling the vacuum left by Christmas shopping). Lists like Entertainers Who Died in 2018, The Year in Disasters, and Fashion Trends We Wish Had Died in 2018, But Didn't popped up earlier and earlier. I expect them to be a part of the Black Friday shopping experience any year now.

What I want to know is, what happens with events that happen too late to be on these too-early lists? Let's say I die on December 31, or two days after the list People Who Never Lived up to Early Expectations is published? Do the list makers publish an addendum? Am I tacked onto the beginning of the next year's list? Or am I relegated to the ether of the not remembered at all, like The Cisco Kid TV show? No matter which is he method, less than satisfying. I'd complain, but most likely, I'd be dead, which sort of lessens the impact.

12 26 18

Special Boxing Day Bonus Post!

Boxing Day is why I prefer to say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. It comes the day after the holiday of the year. Nobody seems to know what it celebrates, or how or when it got started. We don't know what the name means, not that that matters because nobody uses the name (you don't hear, for example, an ESPN announcer saying We have a complete slate of Boxing Day bowl matchups, or people enquiring if you have special plans for Boxing Day). The only thing we can agree on is that Boxing Day has nothing to do with pugilists practicing their trade.

This is an attempt to rectify that neglect. Sit back, pour a refreshing cup of egg nog, cut off a hunk of fruitcake, and enjoy some lovely time-wasting TomatoPlanet!! entires destined to become classics! (classic–stuff from last week or before.)

Oh, yeah. Happy Boxing Day!!!

Mystical, Magical Events

President Trump does not like his predecessor. So imagine my surprise when, after President Obama tweeted Enjoy the holiday season with the ones you love, President Trump took that advice and announced he was spending Christmas alone in the White House.

Surviving the Holidays

The holidays can induce a lot of stress. Shopping, travel, cooking, and relatives all can contribute. To survive, some suggest developing a holiday strategy. I guess depending upon where your stress points are, it can be comprehensive, or focused on one particular element of the holiday festivities.

I decided to give it a try this year. So I came up with a stunningly simple three-step strategy/plan:

  1. Be kind and cheerful to everyone you meet.
  2. Say home. Do not open the door, except for delivery people.
  3. Watch only old holiday movies on TV. Ignore the ads.

So far, it's working. Feel free to try this yourself for the remaining holiday time.

Read Headline, Skipped Article.

Big Think sends along this: Decades of data suggest parenthood makes people unhappy.

We needed data?


12 23 18


Merry Christmas!

How to Be An Artist

Jocelyn Glei passes along a link to a neat article, How to Be an Artist, by Jerry Saltz. The opening line is fun: Anyone can be an artist. It's just not for everyone. My favorite rules are number 6, Start with a pencil, and number 11, Listen to the crazy voices in your head.

12 16 18

Mind of God

Did you ever wonder if God looks at his creation, and says I should have stopped after five days?


...why horseradish that's been skinned, ground up and put in a jar is prepared, but when we do that to garlic or ginger, it's ground or minced or maybe chopped. When we do that to mustard, it's just mustard.

They Said It

Billie Burke

Age is of no importance unless you’re a cheese.

Billie Burke

Or, I might add, for Scotch whisky.


McDonald's purse-snatching victim receives Happy Meal from burger chain.

Hasn't she suffered enough?

Actually it was pretty nice. the manager dropped it off when he checked on her at the hospital.


Isn't fulfilled like, redundant or something?

12 9 18

'Tis the season for communication.

By Mail...

Dear Santa,

Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to read my letter. I appreciate everything you do, and appreciate the quality service and presents you provided in the past. I still remember finding the model train (HO is still the best, I bet you agree, Ho-Ho-Ho) and the Gilbert microscope under the tree.

I know it's been a while since I've written, and non-traditional for adults to write, but I thought I'd try again. You just haven't been getting my thought missives. Maybe that's because I was making the requests to the responsible parties, or at the wrong time of year. Also, I wasn't sure how much you had adapted to the whole new technology scene. If you are playing in that space, I have two requests:

A modem with an on-off switch. In spite of huge advances, the cable company still thinks it's a good idea for me to reset my modem every month or so. The Voyager spacecraft can send data for forty years over a billion miles of space, but my modem can't reliably deliver data from the cable to my computer for longer than two months without having an aneurism or hemorrhaging internally. And yet, the cable company doesn't have a modem with an on-off switch. No, I have to unplug the modem, pull out the battery, wait, and plug it all in. Stupid. So if you can get me a cable modem with an on-off switch, I would be grateful.

A weather app with an updatable icon. Since I've had my iphone, every year I've been asking your Apple elves for a weather app that can show the temperature and whether it's raining or sunny on the icon so I don't have to open the app. Every year, they release an iOS update without this feature. I know they can do it. The clock and calendar apps update every minute and every day, respectively, and I know when I have new mail, phone cals, and messages. Why can't a weather app icon change so I know what's going on without opening the app?

Oh, and please give some third-world people with real problems like war and starvation some stuff that they can use, too.

Thanking you in advance,


By Phone...

Ring... Hello?

Hey, honey, it's me. Look, I'm sorry but I'm afraid I'm going to have to work late again tonight.

That's the third night this week! What is it this time?

I'm still redacting the Mueller Reports.

How stupid do you think I am? It's that redhead down on the second floor, isn't it? You're going to have dinner and go dancing with her, aren't you?

No, it's the report. There's a lot of redacting to do! Honest!

(Sobs.) And here I've given you the best years of my life!

(Mutters under his breath) If this is the best, I wonder what the bad ones were like.

(suspiciously.) What was that, Mister?

You can call Robert if you like. Look, as soon as the report is released, I'l take the rest of the day off and we can do something nice together.

I swear if you come home smelling like booze and cheap perfume you are dead to me.

If I smell like anything, it will be Magic Marker. Gott get back at it. The quicker I finish this the quicker I can come home. Give my love to the kids. G' night.

(Hangs up.)

By Text...

I got Mr. Bongo the cutest Santa hat!

Xmas cat 1

Here is Mr. Bongo making alterations to the Santa hat!

Xmas cat 2

Mr. Bongo explained how he feels about wearing cute Santa hats.

Xmas cat 3

12 2 18

The Christmas Spirit

After being primed for Christmas last week with Santa and the parade, and all the sales, and the constant playing of 80's electronic Christmas music (when Chip Davis goes to hell, there will be a special level where he will listen to Deck the Halls over and over and over, like it does in our lives this time of year), and reminders to give generously to local charities, we should all be in the Christmas spirit, right?

Except we're not.

At least, many of us are not, because there are many Christmas spirits (yes, I know, rum, brandy, bourbon, egg nog. Ha-Ha). Here are a few of the more common:

  • Religious Christmas. The core, the foundation. If you celebrate a religious Christmas, you are probably observing Advent right now, or at least bringing more religious observations into your life. When I was growing up in a religious household, we always had Advent calendars, celebrated the feast of St. Nicholas, tracked the progress of the Wise Men, and the creche was the first ornament unboxed. If you fit this model, There are no secular carols like Jingle Bells for you. Presents are unwrapped after attending church services. And don't wish certain religious types Seasons Greetings! instead of Merry Christmas unless you can live without that ear they're about to chew off.
  • Commercial Christmas (aka White Christmas, aka warm fuzzies). Your shopping is complete, but you keep looking for just one more perfect thing or huge sale. Your front yard is filled with jolly snowmen, jolly Santas, and jolly trees. You participate in gingerbread house and ugly sweater competitions. Any religious elements that have snuck in have been secularized (every Silent Night is sandwiched between Walking in a Winter Wonderland and Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer). You have A Christmas Story on a replay loop. You go hoarse wishing people Seasons Greetings! There is Christmas Magic, not miracles. Miracles are too religious. However, Santa is immortal and omnipotent, or at least all-knowing.
  • Saturnalia. Celebrate and party! All your gifts are Party on! T-shirts wrapped around bottles of booze. You join organizations just because they have great Christmas parties. You avoid anyplace that might remind you of holiday traditions (like giving). You have calculated the shortest routes to travel between places celebrating the holidays. You bought a pound of mistletoe and placed it where there are cute people to kiss. You spend the holidays skiing in Colorado or snorkeling in the Caribbean. Your favorite holiday song is Baby, It's Cold Outside.
  • Bah Humbug! It's cold, raining or snowing, it's dark when you go to work and come home. And you're expected to cook and put up decorations and buy and wrap gifts, too? Everyone has their hand out. Everyplace you try to go there's a whole bunch of people getting in the way. Smile? Just not going to happen. Christmas music is the worst music ever written. A Christmas Carol is he best movie ever, except for that really lame unbelievable ending where Scrooge goes soft in the head and heart. Fruit cake.

There are of course mixings, but by their dominant trait shall ye know them, and treat them accordingly. They can get right ornery if you don't.

11 25 18

The Aftermath

Thanksgiving has come and gone. The world is still the same. To wit:

  • We should put a giant fence not along the border, but around Washington, and then charge admission. Finally, politicians would be paying their own way, and as an added attraction, they wouldn't be escaping to mingle with the general populace. I don't know when we've had such a great collection of people who individually and collectively disprove Darwin's Theory of Evolution, but they must be controlled.
  • Thanksgiving dinner was very pleasant, even if I did cook too much (for the 22nd year in a row). So much to be thankful for. For some reason, cleanup seemed easier this year.
  • The psuedo-scientists and people dedicated to preventing everybody else from having a good time abandoned their attempts to convince us that we were all going to die if we cooked stuffing in the turkey. However, they turned their attention to convincing us that the turkey itself was going to kill us. Buried deep in the articles there was a note that it was raw turkey, usually ground. Personally, I find it hard to put stuffing in a turkey patty, but then, I'm funny that way. The turkey scare seems not to have worked, so now the doomsayers are turning their attention to pork (i.e. ham) a popular Christmas main course. Unfortunately, all they can find to try to scare us with is imported Vietnamese pork delicacies. Traditionally, they have not been on our Christmas menu. We'll keep it that way.
  • My sister, who lives in upstate New York, is already complaining about the weather. Now, granted ten inches of snow is a little much for mid-November, and highs of 5° are definitely wrong, but it's not like it was unexpected. I've stopped watching the Weather Channel, so I don't know if they assigned a stupid winter storm name to this storm.
  • Black Friday seems to have lost its insanity. Boredom? Better deals online? The aging-out of crazed shoppers who love to do that sort of thing? Not really sure, I'm not one of them, but it was nice to be spared the sight of people being trampled fighting for a big-screen TV.
  • The stock market is undergoing a correction.
  • We went to the Eastern Shore Studio Open House on Friday. A good representation of crafters and artists, especially around Onancock. It was a surprising year, as we actually bought some Christmas gifts for specified recipients. Usually, we get nice things that we like, intending to decide later who to send them to, but then, weelll, it doesn't happen for whatever reason. I guess we were intended to be the giftees all along.
  • The place where we usually buy a tree for Christmas has moved locations. Against all logic, they seem to have moved closer to the house.

I hope your holiday season is merry and bright, and if you have children, that they are, too.

Clubs With Attendance Issues

It's been a long time since I've done a groaner (at lest intentionally). Accept it in the spirit of the season.

Americans love getting together, particularly in groups where they can have fun and do good things. Sinclair Lewis poked gentle fun at this tendency in his novel Babbitt. But there are some groups, no matter how useful or fun, that just don't meet. These include:

  • Procrastinators Quorum. They try, but they just keep putting off meetings. The club motto is Next Meeting, Next Month.
  • Introverts Anonymous. The business meetings are fine, but the socializing afterwards is hell. Members would rather skip the fun part than subject themselves to the pain.
  • Anonymous Anonymous. They tried starting each meeting with having each person introduce themselves as Hello, I'm Fred, Not really. but even that was too much information to hand out to people in public. It has an affiliate club, Protected Witnesses.
  • Loners Forum. They couldn't find a space big enough to maintain each member's comfort zone.
  • American Memory Association. Members forget to come to the meetings.
  • Association for the Motivationally Challenged. Members have no reason to come to meetings. There's a special chapter for method actors.
  • Sedentary Citizens of the United States. Just mustering the strength to get up and drive someplace with no opportunity to lie down at the other end is why this club's members never attend meetings.
  • Support Group for the Directionally Challenged. Turn left. No, no, your other left. Some members manage to cross state lines to try to get to the meetings. Many are called, but few make it.

They Said It

We'd get sick on too many cookies, but ever so much sicker on no cookies at all.

Sinclair Lewis

11 18 18

RIP Thanksgiving?

The Halloween Sugar Explosion is over. We had plenty of time to prepare–candy was out in the drugstores right after labor day, and orange and black decorations were everywhere (unless those were advertisements for a particular television series). We slid through Veteran's Day, and now it's time to shift our thoughts to Thanksgiving.

I'm sorry, but that is no longer a viable plan. Thanksgiving has been subsumed into Christmas.

Alas, thanksgiving

Christmas, of course, has nothing to do with the religious event at the core of Christianity and over which we supposedly fought wars for years. This Christmas is all about consumption. It used to be that retailers would wait until the day after Thanksgiving to start appealing to Christmas shoppers. Thanksgiving was all about family, friends, food, thanks, and then football. One of the centerpieces of the day was the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Back in the day, it was enjoyable–marching bands, floats, giant balloons–all marvelous things. Santa Claus brought up the end, signaling the start of Christmas. Now the parade is unwatchable, with toy marketing dominating floats, and musicians and Broadway shows interrupting the parade to perform every five minutes, literally show-stopping performances. Not that you can hear the performances–the network coverage team is too busy talking to stars of network shows, with the occasional guest star dropping by, rendering the parade a moving backdrop for talking heads.

The problem for Thanksgiving is that we don't buy very much. I mean, yeah, I'll have a three-figure grocery bill for the week, but the holiday doesn't do much for the economy or profits. As Roger Swain pointed out once, you can garden without spending any money. All the house renovation shows, however, require major expenditures to match a house to the owners' taste (or on TV, the taste of the designer-contractor). Take a guess–do you see more home renovation shows or gardening shows?

So sales start earlier and earlier. Black Friday sales start in the middle of November. The Hallmark Channel, always the trendsetter, began its Countdown to Christmas before Halloween.

So rest in peace, Thanksgiving. Maybe sometime the Christmas selling will move so far forward that it will free up some space so we can celebrate Thanksgiving again.

May you celebrate and enjoy a traditional, stress-free Thanksgiving with friends and family.

On the home front

I am our cook for Thanksgiving. We will be down to family in town, so it's a small celebration this year ((I might be able to get away with a ten-pound bird). Fortunately it's a compatible group with no loud discussers. However, there have been times that I have been thankful for having a small kitchen, so I can shoo people away and prepare food in peace. No loud discussions, no bemoaning of fates, just the occasional sizzle of turkey drippings hitting a hot pan. Nice.

11 5 18

Reflections on Daylight Saving Time

Random thoughts about the event of the weekend.

What, no centennial celebration? In the United States, Daylight Savings was implemented in 1918. I don't recall any celebrations of the fact. No parades, no day off, no storewide savings. Or maybe there were events, but they were only an hour long. Either the centennial went by quietly, or I just slept through it.

Extend the Benefits. Scientists claim that there are four benefits to returning to not-daylight-savings-time. General consensus is that fall (the extra hour) is a good thing, while losing an hour in the spring is a bad thing. I'm all in favor of health, so here's my proposal: Let's do away with the springtime part of Daylight Savings. Life goes on as normal in the spring, but in early November, we add an hour of sleep. So our schedules are messed up, and in about ten years we'll be going to school and work at the witching hour. Every good plan has a flaw, but we're smart people. We'll figure it out.

About the cats. Granted, cats have no respect for boundaries of space and time, but I'm always surprised how quickly they adjust to the changes, especially the Mr., our designated alarm cat (actually, as is true of all cats, he assumed the position. If you tried to designate him, he wouldn't do it). He settles into the the new times quickly (within 24 hours), getting one of us up at 5:00 to feed him, and then he returns at 6:15 to make sure we're up to face the day.

Clock-changing. There were no problems this time. I know where all the non-self-setting clocks are, and had them all done by 10:00. Normally, there's always one that I miss, and then panic when I see that I'm way late for something.

How do the TV people do it? I've always wondered. This year, I was awake for the switch. The program guide listed shows at 1:00 and 1:30 AM, and then it showed programs at 1:00 and 1:30. Not earth-shattering, but I'm glad I got that cleared up.

Apt 123

2 10 19

Ms. T tries to engage Duchi.
Ms. T foregoes chocolate.
When a young man's fancy turns to math.

Fortnightly T-shirt

2 10 19

Stop waiting

Fred the Flower

2 10 19

Fred gets a message.
Fred has a visitor from another time.