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


5 21 18

Clueless

What connects wine and pundits? Or pundits and normal consumer behavior?

Nothing, apparently.

Data Point 1: For years, computer pundits have been saying Apple prices are too high. People won't buy Apple products because they cost too much.

Funny, they never say people won't buy BMWs or Mercedes or Jaguars because they cost too much. Or fancy handbags. Or meals in restaurants with tablecloths, and/or $15 avocado toast on the menu.

Recently, the noise from the flapping faces has reached maximum decibeliosity with the iPhoneX. This verdict is everywhere, except in Apple sales, where iPhoneX sales are a significant portion of the mobile phone market.

Data Point 2: I went to a wine tasting the other night. Afterwards, I was chatting with shop owner, and I mentioned that I had just read that wine sales were down two percent that year (yes, I did homework). She said yes, true, but the low end wines were being hurt. Sales of more expensive wine were actually rising.

Data Point 3: Recently, H&M, the Swedish fast fashion retailer (read cheap), announced sales were down and they were having sales to clear out excess inventory. Seems people are buying better-made, more expensive clothing.

Data Point 4: Even in cell phones, sales are overall flat, but sales of cheap phones in China are down 22 percent year over year.

So to the pusillanimous pontificators of the pundit world, I say, Come into the 21st Century, flapping faces! Look around! See what's happening in the world! Make what you're saying match up with something that resembles reality! Be relevant! Do your homework! After all, I did (see two percent and 22 percent, above).

Totally irrelevant aside: Using Pusillanimous above made me think back to its most noted use. Who ever thought we might look back at Spiro Agnew as the golden age of political discourse? End aside.

Thank you.



5 13 18

Let's Google that.

Earlier this week, Google demonstrated a new product that purportedly could make intelligent phone calls that are indistinguishable from those made by humans. Everyone was all up in arms about what it all means, if we will be able to believe anything we hear, etc. etc. The usual handwaving, in short. Two observations:

  1. As John Gruber noted, it's interesting that Google chose to do a video presentation, not a live demonstration. That might mean nothing, but it might be nothing, too (that is, this is how we picture it working if we ever get around to doing some coding and making a workable prototype someday).
  2. Also interesting that natural human speech was duplicated by adding stops and starts, and a slight stammer. In short, by making mistakes.

I still think we're wasting too much time on artificial intelligence and should do more to fix natural stupidity.


5 6 18

A Story Lesson

The breakroom has a TV. During lunch a couple of days ago it was turned to one of those chattering chipmunk channels They were interviewing one of the Parkland students, snd askedWhat do you want (from the Federal Government)? She replied,To feel safe in school.

This is a wholly commendable goal. Perhaps we can make our schools safer for learning and students. Perhaps if we can make our schools safer, it can flow into the rest of our society.

It's at best a dream. We have never had safe schools. Exhibit A and B? Greg Marlowe and Michael Blum. They were the official grade bullies in grammar school. (Each grade had its own bullies.) Every day, most of us, I'm sure, went to school in dread of being noticed by Greg or Michael. I know I did.

I'm sure that survivors go to school each day with a heightened level of fear, and that this may carry over to other schools. But I'm equally sure that millions of students fear the possibility of a random shooter much less than they fear their Gregs and Michaels.

Solve bullies, solve Greg and Michael, and schools will be much safer and happier places for all of us. If you fix the Gregs and Michaels in grammar school, you probably go a long way toward fixing workplace harassment.

We''ll be bucking hundreds of years of tradition, but hey, it's worth the attempt.


Another headline

Most Americans Think Big Tech Should Be Regulated Like Big Banks

This was in the same news cycle as reports of Wells Fargo being fined $1 billion. Big tech probably would like that kind of wriggle room in regulation of their industry.


Making the story fit the way it is story we made up.

A story in the Washington Post was headlined Amazon-Whole Foods just claimed its first victims.

An aside: remember it's in the best interests of the Washington Post to keep the Amazon name in the news, as they share an owner (Jeff Bezos). End aside.

It's a nice story. Too bad it's not all true. In fact, I would think that a 450-store grocery chain being bought by a web-based company that struggles to turn a profit is a relatively minor factor in stores, even grocery stores, closing.

Selling groceries is traditionally a hard business. It has been since my father was a weekend butcher at a small family-owned grocery when I was a kid. It's been hard for hundreds, thousands of stores and chains that have gone under. It wasn't AmaWhoF that did them in. It was the same thing that is still doing in stores across the retail spectrum. Things like:

  • mismanagement
  • over/too rapid expansion
  • losing touch with customers
  • acquisitions/buyouts
  • capitalization
  • being bought by private venture firms who pass the debt off to the stores they just bought, and keep the real estate, forcing the stores to pay them rent.

I'm sure there are a lot that I'm missing, but if you dig a little more, often there's a whole host of problems that have nothing to do with AmaWhoF,

Another aside: Since I wrote this, Hasbro. announced its quarterly earnings. They missed guidance and expectations. Their reason? Not Amazon, not AmaWhoF, but the Toys 'R Us' bankruptcy. End aside.



4 21 18

Mistletoe Update

I saw some mistletoe in a branch and wondered how it became associated with Christmas.

No, I cannot lie to you nice people. I was already wondering about mistletoe. It just fell into my head unbidden. That's just weird. But maybe not for me.

Anyway, I knew you would like to know what I discovered. Mistletoe is poisonous–maybe. It is a parasite, but doesn't really harm the host tree. It has seeds.

the goddess Frigg

Kissing under the mistletoe has something to do with the goddess Frigg protecting or honoring her son. They didn't explain the association with kissing at Christmas. It may be more likely something to do with good luck and hospitality, or the Druids, who thought it provided fertility and protected from witchcraft. Hanging it in the doorway was a symbol of peace and good will. All nice, but still not explaining smooching under it at Christmas.

Friday was named after the goddess Frigg, if you thought the name sounded familiar. There is no reason, it seems.

Mistletoe was reintroduced by the Victorians, so who knows what they were thinking? They sort of invented our modern Christmas and maybe they just spun out of control. I was kind of hoping it would be something like it's winter and so we bring signs of life into the house, like the tree and mistletoe, but that's not it.

The only real take-away for me is to echo Dave Barry: Wouldn't 'The Goddess Frigg' be an incredible name for a rock band?


You're Doing It Wrong!

I hate those headlines. But it's fun to do one yourself.

Out there in the big world, there is something called ISO 8601, which sets up standards for representing time. That's where that YYYY-MM-DD format comes from. Also, the group dictates that Monday is the first day of the week. If that catches on, just think what it will do to Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses and other religious groups that have their services on the seventh day of the week because it's the seventh day of the week.

Some people have too much time on their hands. Next: ISO 564312: International Standards for breathing!


Headlines Again!

The headline:

Seven engines to avoid like the plague

Is one of them the Chevrolet Cliche?

Here's my headline: Seven cliches to avoid like... well, just avoid them, OK?

Does anybody even know what the plague is anymore, or why we should avoid it? Unless you're living in Madagascar, you haven't had a chance to experience (or avoid) bubonic plague (AKA the plague) since, oh, the mid 1800s. Cholera and yellow fever are on the decline, too.

Long story short–it's not the plague you should avoid–it's lazy writers and their lame cliches. Which you should avoid like puns.

See? It's not that hard.


Bet You Didn’t Know

On my way to looking up something else, I came across this, courtesy of Definitions.net. Don’t know what I’m going to do with it now, except share, ‘cuz it’s that good.

In Norse mythology the Swedish king Domar of the House of Ynglings was the son of Domalde. He was married to Drott the sister of Dan the Arrogant who gave his names to the Danes. Drott and Dan are in this work said to be the children of Danp son of Ríg. His rule lasted long and after the sacrifice of his father Domalde the crops were plentiful and peace reigned. Consequently, there is not much to tell about his reign and when he died at Uppsala he was transported over the Fyris Wolds and burnt on the banks of the river where a stone was raised over his ashes. He was succeeded by his son Dyggvi.



4 15 18

Glass Redux

Drink up!

You remember the old phrase, An optimist sees the glass as half-full, and the pessimist sees it as half-empty. (If you forgot it, well, there it is again. You're welcome for the reminder.) I made some comments a while back about extending it to other personality types. The cynic will say it's gone bad or it's undrinkable, a statistician will try to determine what percentage of glasses are in that condition, a control freak tries to limit access. A world-worrier reminds you how far a woman in Africa has to walk to get water for her family. A whiner says it's not cold enough. And a realist shrugs and drinks what's there. Wrote it and forgot it.

Recently, there's been a some follow-on. Odd the way you can forget about something, but then it pops up in two or three unrelated places at pretty much the same time.

Anyway: An engineer will contend that the glass is full, half with gases (and possibly other compounds) in a liquid state, the rest in a gaseous state, A pragmatist will point out that the glass is refillable. The nice people at Quiet Revolution pointed to an article about Stoics who reflect upon the something in the glass to drink.

All done. Time to forget until the next time.


Computer Security

So let me see if I've got this straight. Facebook is on the hot seat with the Feds for not taking enough care of its users' data and information. Apple, on the other hand, gets in trouble with the Feds and other law enforcement agencies for being too good at protecting user data and information.


They Said It

Fortunately, i never took her up on her advice (to get counseling).
If I had sought counseling, I might have become a more mature, emotionally well-adjusted human being. But I preferred becoming a writer.

Viet Tranh Nguyen



4 6 18

Enough with the Reading Already.

I've either got to stop reading, or be more discriminating in what I read. Once again, I bumped up against some gems:

  • Following an article about the Oklahoma teachers' strike and the governor's reaction, there were some sponsored posts, the lead of which was Become a Teacher.
  • I was looking at a request for proposal, in which the prospective Contractor was told, No alcohol, illegal drugs, domestic animals, firearms, explosives, or minors shall be brought to the site under any circumstances. So it's OK, I guess, to bring foreign animals. We shouldn't plan on that bring your kids to work day, though.
  • Voters divided ahead of Pennsylvania elections. Yeah, so? Voters are always divided before an election–sometimes more evenly than others. Voters will continue to be divided after the election, too.

Composers who should be more famous

OK, it was early and I hadn't fully checked in to life yet. The announcer said the next piece was by Geronimo Frescobaldi and my immediate thought was That's the coolest name in the history of classical music! Why haven't I heard of this guy before? The music was nice, too.

Turns out it was Girolamo, not Geronimo. Cool, but not way cool. Sad. For a few moments, I was interested in classical music. I'm not sure if that was a bigger deal than being fully awake in the morning, but an accomplishment nonetheless.


More wacky writing

An author used the word spiffy in an article, and he wasn't even trying to talk antique. But I got interested enough to see when spiffy was used un-ironically. I couldn't find that, but I did find out that spificated was a synonym for drunk. So there's that.


Making the right lifestyle choices.

I am not what you would call an active guy. My daily exercise routine consists of walking from the house to the car, and then back again. In my defense, that includes four or five stairs each way!

I have been criticized for my disinterest in healthy living. I don't care, but you can imagine my reaction when I read that 150 million users of a popular exercise app had their personal data stolen. On the one hand, it was a terrible thing. On the other hand, I can't imagine a nicer group of people to have this happen to. Especially the ones who criticized my fitness routine. Well, I have better things to do with my time. And now, money.


They Said It

Writing by hand on paper is becoming a revolutionary act. Reading a physical book is becoming a revolutionary act. Protecting the books in our libraries, the arts and humanities in our colleges and universities is becoming a revolutionary act. Doing things with warm hand to warm hand, face to face, without photographing them, posting them, is becoming a revolutionary act.

Lynda Barry



3 18 18

Some Days in the Middle of March

The 14th–Pi Day

In honor of Pi Day, I offer this story form Justin Wilson.

A young man from the deepest part of the Atchafalaya Swamp showed promise in school, and so was sent off to the university. The family was very proud of him, as he was the first of his family to go to college, and actually the first to leave the family homestead.

Well, the young man arrived at college and was taken in by the social life. He stopped going to class, partied late and slept later.

At Thanksgiving, the young man went home. All his relatives doted on him. When asked about school, he changed the topic.

After dinner, his gran'pappy said to him, 'Well, boy, you've been up in that school for months now. What have you learned? Say something smart.' The boy drew a breath, stammered and finally said, 'Pi-r-square.'

The old man stepped up and briskly slapped the young man upside the head. 'What foolishness are they teaching you there? Everybody knows that pie are round. Cornbread are square!'

What can we learn from this story?

  • Thee's a difference between book learning and real world learning.
  • Get a story ready for your return home.
  • Anticipate questions.
  • Adopt the philosopher's stance: If you were smart enough to understand, you'd be a philosopher. You're not, so I can't.
  • Parents just never understand.
  • Never go home again.

The 15th–Ides

We have now completed 20 percent of the year.

I think we need a more contemporary version of Julius Caesar, like if done on social media. Spurinna: @jcaesar beware the ides of March.
jcaesar: nada so far.#beware #ides
spurinna: @jcaesar beware ides!
marcbsenator @jcaesar I unfriend thee. #idesofmarch
jcaesar: @spurinna @marcbsenator et tu, brute? First facebook, now twitter?
spurinna: @jcaessar told you so. #idesbad marcantony @marcbsenator i'm going 2 talk the bro up, dude. #friendsromascountrymen


The 16th–Separator Day

For those of you who follow college basketball, the 16th will be Big March Madness Upset Day, as UMBC, the 16th seed, beat No. 1 Virginia in the NCAA Tournament.

For those of you into signs, portents, and numerology, it's noteworthy that the 16th seed beat the #1 seed for the first time ever on the 16th day of the month.

For the rest of us, this is a day that gives us a breather between the frenzy of the Ides of March and the excitement of St. Patrick's Day.


The 17th–St. Patrick's Day

In Ireland, it is a religious feast day, heavy on the church and praying. and some parades. In the United States, it is a day of parades, drinking, wearing of the green, marathons, drinking green beer or otherwise. It also seems to spark more non-related political controversy than other celebrations.

Frankly, it all seems a little tired, and tiresome. And I'm of Irish descent. #heresy?


The 19th–Passion Sunday

This is a brilliant Catholic concept. First you have Lent–40 days of prayer, fasting, self-sacrifice and general bleah in February and March. Then just when people are settling into the routine, or falling off the Lenten wagon, you drop in Passion Sunday (the fourth Sunday of Lent), which is (or was) an intensifier, intended to remind (or warn) people of more prayer, fasting, self-sacrifice, and reminders of all that Jesus sacrificed for us.

Brilliant! Simply brilliant!


And a look ahead and back, all at the same time

There's been a lot of hand-wringing in these here parts by professional hand-wringers and TV meteorologists (mostly the same people) about the chance of snow on the first day of spring. No big whoop, I think, snow's pretty common in late March, at least back home. Besides, didn't Phil see his shadow? So we're going to have six more weeks of winter no matter what. This is just part of that.. But then, I got to thinking, after the 40 days of Lent thing, about numbers.

So I decided to do some math (the sacrifices I make for you, dear readers!). There are 47 (or so) days from Feb 2 to the first day of spring (Mar 20, 21, or 22–it depends), or a little under eight weeks. Or, no matter if Phil sees his shadow or not, we're going to have six more weeks of winter. And snow sometime in he next day or two.

Another non-event to remove from the calendar.



3 10 18

Things I Sorta Didn't Learn from Dave Barry But Did Learn from Mr. Rogers

A while back (while back: a unit of time roughly equal to I don't remember) I read (and recommended) Dave Barry's 25 Things I've Learned in 50 Years. My favorite thing is the last thing–Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance.

I said that was my favorite. That does not mean I ever acted on it by getting up and dancing. I think something may have lacked the necessary oomph or conviction (on Dave's part).

Mr. Rogers

Now, PBS is pushing a show about Mr. Rogers. In the ads, Mr. Rogers never says Get up and sing, even if you can't. No, he leads by example. I can sing better than Mr. Rogers, and I can't carry a tune in a bucket if Renee Fleming was helping me lift it.

I don't know if I'm going to sing in public. But if Mr. Rogers can sing on the tee-vee with people watching, well, maybe I can get up nd sing too.

So if you see people running away from someplace with blood running from their ears, well, you'll know I gave it a shot.


They Said It.

There's usually a better way to tell a story than a chronological one.

Dr. Nick Morgan


Get in Line, Chelsea.

Chelsea Clinton claims she and Ivanka Trump are not talking. Two things:

1) There are a lot of people who are not talking with Ivanka Trump. Me, for example. Probably the pharmacist at the corner drug store. Lots.

2) Sometimes you catch a break.


Arse over teakettle.

A subheading on a Huffington Post article proclaimed, Oprah asked God for a clear sign.

I thought it was usually the other way around. I know for a fact that He is a member of Oprah's Book Club.



3 3 18

Proofs Against the Existence of an Intelligent Creator

Sinuses

an intelligent creator

Oh, No! Headlines

Argentine Navy Shoots at Illegal Chinese Fishing Boa.

It was pink, wasn't it? I just know it was pink. When will they learn? The Argentine Navy hates pink. They will let a discreet white boa slip by, or turn a blind eye to a neon green one, but never pink. It's just rubbing their noses in it. You deserve what you got, Chinese Fishing boa.


Not the metric system

When exactly did school buses become a standard unit of measure? I just heard my third reference to something being as long as a school bus this week. There are many lengths of school buses. I presume they're referring to the long ones, but I still don't know how long that is. Why not a city bus or a box car or an eight-passenger executive jet? I don't know how long any of those are, either. But at least every boxcar is as long as any other box car. They should use those instead.


Spam Alert!

My email provider is pretty good about catching spam. It's rare that any slips through. Every day, though, I check the spam notification email to make sure they weren't a little too aggressive and trap something that I actually want to read.

Most of the spammers cover the usual topics. Vanna White photos. Cheap printer ink. Hot Russian Babes want to date you. Nigerian oil minsters. Emails I seem to have sent to myself but don't remember. Military grade flashlights and pens. The ultimate back shaver.

I wonder what web site I visited prompted that one. Anyway, most of the back shavers look like staplers, hole punches, or razors on selfie sticks. These are not my idea of the ultimate back shaver. The ultimate back shaver is blond, Swedish, named Inga or something akin, and comes armed with, well, Inga is a professional and she'll know what to bring.

I hope it's not one of those stapler-looking thingies, though. They scare me.


Arguments in Favor of the Existence of an Intelligent Creator

Stretching in bed in the morning before you get up.


Productive People

I'm trying to reduce the stack of magazines next to the chair. The Fast Company I selected had an article about 136 habits of productive people. I must not be hanging in the good productivity circles–I recognized almost none of the people. It was hard to track common threads, since they didn't ask anyone the same questions, except for get up and go to bed times. With one exception (Venus Williams), everyone got up around 5 AM or before and often worked late.

Short story: I will never be successful. OK, productive. Aren't they the same thing? I cannot get up at 5 AM. Without my cat alarm clock, I'd have trouble with 6:15. They didn't talk to any writers, but I know a lot of them are early risers, too.

Doomed, I am. And at such as early age


Fred the Flower


5 13 18

Fred shows some badminton form.
Fred shows some badminton form.
Fred shows some badminton form.

Apt 123


5 20 18

Ms. T discovers the perils of stardom.
Ms. T has a 'mishap'

Fortnightly T-shirt

5 20 18

wisdome of Ms. T.