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

4 17 19

Notre Dame

Notre Dame Cathedral

I never visited Notre Dame de Paris, so the news of its destruction probably didn't have the same impact on me that it had on others. What I find interesting is how people came together to pay tribute and remember–by singing hymns.

I also wondered if there were any buildings or structures here in the city where I live (Norfolk, VA) that could elicit that kind of response. The answer is no. There is nothing here that is at the center of the community. It helps if he building has been around for a while, but there are surprisingly few structures here that have any history, even though this is one of the oldest cities in the country. With the exception of a couple of churches and houses, everything is new–replacement structures. Even the few old buildings are private, and none have the romance and connection to the community associated with Notre Dame. I also wondered if any buildings would still be around after 800 years.

Finally, there have been suggestions of rebuilding. I wonder if we have another hundred years, a couple billion dollars and most importantly the perseverance and dedication to start work on something we won't see completed. Update: The politicians are getting involved. President Macron says the renovated Notre Dame will be even more beautiful and they've announced an architecture competition to design a new spire. As always, they don't get it.

New York Times Strikes Again.

While the traditional world of print journalism and newspapers in particular has been dying a slow painful death, the New York Times has been busy trying innovative approaches, especially in its magazines. One of the first was an the issue dedicated to New York City, where readers had to turn the magazine sideways to view (and read) it. Very tiring. A hit and a miss, in that order.

T magazine, April 14 2014

The April 10 issue of the style magazine is another case in point. The primary text content consists of plays with a theme of Imagining America in 2024. The fashion is interspersed with the various plays. Personally, I found the concept really exciting, a novel approach to presenting fashion and plays. The bad news is the plays (at least the ones I [started to] read) are really depressing, and all seem to be coming out of the brutalist school or the thought school that the function of art is to polemicize, educate, and to make sure that nobody except the insiderati and socially precious feel good about anything. But I'm going to keep pushing on.

The Times giveth and the Times taketh away. I read something like that somewhere, probably not in the Times.


Some YouTube dude (no link because stupid) has a video entitled Seven Ways James Bond Breaks the Rules of Style.

  1. I love the whole conceit (aside alert: did you know that you only need to change one letter to make conceit into concept? I didn't either) that fashion fascists think they can make one-size-fits-all pronunciamientos and people will actually follow along like sheep. My favorite delusionist was John T. Molloy, the author of Dress for Success, who in the 1970's was given to declaring things like never wear a brown suit to work.
    Well, a few years later President Ronald Reagan wore a brown suit in the Oval Office, and suddenly, Molloy caved on the rule like a cheap suit. Brown was OK.
  2. If you have a sense of fashion, no rules are going to help or hurt you. If you don't, the rules aren't gong to help, and may make you look awful.
  3. James Bond makes fashion. He doesn't follow, The path is 1. Trendsetter. 2. Fashion trend. 3. Fashion rule. 4. Go back to 1.
  4. And really, when was the last time you heard anyone comment on James Bond's clothing?

4 14 19


I mistyped something and popet came out. Which is really close to the word poppet. Which nobody uses anymore, which is too bad. It's a neat word and fun to say. I may start using it as a general substitute for profanity. Oh, poppet! he said in frustration. Poppet, poppet, poppet!


Whatever Happened to...?

  • Farmville
  • Singing Fish
  • Bluecollar Comedy
  • Pokemon Go

4 10 19

ALL-NEW!! Uh, sorry, no.

I've talked about the power of the word new before (too long ago too lazy to research, but even this topic isn't new). The old high point was a bar of Ivory Soap, which has been the same since the late 19th Century, I saw that had a giant new! sticker on it. Wondering how you go about changing an icon, I looked at the smaller print, and found out it was new packaging.

We have a new winner in the new! marketing wars, as seen below. Cabot Cheese is excellent, and probably my wife's favorite fancy cheese. So I had a sinking feeling again when I saw the New! sticker on the label. Cabot is doing a new label–sometime in the future. But not messing with the cheese. Smart move, except it's going to take me a while to find the new one. I hope the grocery store keeps it in the same space on the shelf.

cabot cheese

It wouldn't be a TomatoPlanet!! left-column entry without some useless information-chat. Ivory Soap is 99 and 44/100 percent pure. They never say pure what. And what is the other 66/100 percent? Also, it turns out that Ivory Soap's ability to float is not the result of an accident. One of the Gambles figured it out, at least according to Proctor & Gamble, who on the one hand should know, but on the other might have a vested interest in making it look planned as opposed to benefitting from an oops! moment.

Way to spoil a perfectly good urban legend-myth, P&G.

Losing It

Yeah, I don't need to hear from you folk who are saying I lost it a long time ago. When I was typing in the date above, I suddenly had the distinct impression that April 10th marked something important, a recurring event. It's not a holiday, it's not a birthday (at least one marked on my calendar) there's not even anything I have to do today. So now I'm making things up to remember, as opposed to forgetting things. It's the anti-Alzheimer's, which probably isn't even a thing.

Food Fight

Speaking of food, I am pleased to announce that Blue Bell ice cream is once again available in the Hampton Roads area. Now I have a legitimate excuse for my expanding waistline.

4 7 19

Success in ...

Three or so years ago, Dr. Nick Morgan provided what he called Seven Keys to Successful Public Speaking. I think they apply in a lot of other areas, including life. The qualities are:

  1. Authenticity–express your values, goals and needs.
  2. Clarity–keep the big picture, keep straight, keep our heads in the game.
  3. Consistency–keep messages straight and story unitary.
  4. Transparency–work openly.
  5. Empathy–understand and be open to more perspective.
  6. Engagement–engage in your stories, hear their story.
  7. Stay Connect–follow up after the fact.

One of the things I find interesting is how the description of the element isn't always what we would normally think of. I don't think of needs as being part of authenticity. I guess that's what makes he list good, or at least prompt some thought about what he items really are.

William Goldman Said It

In The Princess Bride.

Life isn't fair, it's just fairer than death, that's all.

Enough about my beauty. Everybody always talks about how beautiful I am. I’ve got a mind, Westley. Talk about that.

Then let’s look on the bright side: We’re having an adventure, and most people live and die without being as lucky as we are.

4 3 19

Music News

The Rolling Stones just announced that they had to cancel their tour this summer because of Nick Jagger's health problems. The Stones were just one of the graybeard acts on the road, a list which includes

  • Fleetwood Mac
  • Yes
  • Beach Boys
  • The Eagles
  • Santana
  • Heart
  • Aerosmith
  • Rod Stewart
  • Beatles (just not as a band)
  • Rod Stewart
  • Billy Joel
  • Eric Clapton
  • Who
  • Gordon Lightfoot

This may be the first summer touring season where the roadies' team will have to include a certified emergency medical technician in addition to the usual lighting and sound guys.

3 31 19

More on Nothing

In my last post, I mentioned White Collar Zoo, a popular book that at least I had never heard of (you, my gentle readers, being smarter, probably have). Well, while looking around for information, I came upon a reference to the book on a site called Goodreads (again, gentle readers, smarter, etc.), which allows people to rate and review books. Four people apparently have read and rated White Collar Zoo (average 3.0 out of five, or average-average), and there's another half-dozen or so who plan to.

I just found that interesting, not knowing that there would be that many copies of the book floating around or people planning to read it.

And Yet More Headlines

Since we're in the WAYBAC machine anyway, we're going to try a recurring feature one more time, but this time with all new headlines (sorry for the redundancy–new does not need little helpers like all. Been hanging out in popular culture too much, I guess).

Our first entry, from CNN: Police stoned at flash mob in Frankfurt. I didn't know pot was legal in Germany.

Next, from an Apple News contributing site: McDonald's employee suffers first degree burns in customer coffee attack. Apparently the customer threw two cups of the McDonald's coffee back at the employee, who ended up in the hospital.
And we're supposed to drink that stuff?

From KFSN TV in Texas, we find out that sometimes, the real story is in a casual subhead: Body of man wrapped in front of Texas home, police say. Anybody missing a family member who fits the description is asked to call the Galveston Police Department. Has anyone seen Grandpa? Or the poinsettia Christmas paper?

3 27 19

Back in the Dark Ages

The New York Times bestseller list has been around since 1931, which seems like an odd time to start a list of anything tracking people's buying habits. For God knows what reason I was poking around in the list the other day, and thought I'd share:

  • In October 23 1949 (the week I was born), the number one fiction book was Rage to Live by John O' Hara, and non-fiction was White Collar Zoo by Clare Barnes Jr. The book that had been on the fiction list longest was The Big Fisherman by Lloyd Douglas (also on the list–Nineteen Eighty-Four); the non-fiction, A Guide to Confident Living by Norman Vincent Peale (56 weeks).
  • Fifty years ago in March 28, 1969, the most popular fiction book was Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth, and Money Game by Adam Smith topped the non-fiction list. The longest resident of the fiction list was Airport by Arthur Hailey (59 weeks on the list) and in non-fiction, Money Game had hung around for 41 weeks.

Three interesting but useless observations: 1) All of the authors mentioned were huge (except maybe Barnes), household names with multiple books topping the best-seller list. O'Hara and Roth had critical as well as popular acclaim. Now, if you want a copy of A Rage to Live from the local library, they'll have to get it out of storage for you. 2) Many of the long-term residents on the non-fiction list in 1969 were about spirituality in some way. In addition to A Guide to Confident Living, Fulton Sheen's Peace of Soul and Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain had been on the list for 27 and 45 weeks, respectively. So mindfulness is not a new thing–just rebranded spirituality. Interesting we keep coming around to finding answers for good ways to live our lives. 3) Obviously a best-seller list is going to skew contemporary, but I find it interesting how many good writers have been thoroughly scrubbed from people's reading lists and minds. All the more reason why I write for now, and in a few months this post will disappear from public view. Sort of a Snapchat.

3 24 19

Unfair! Unfair!

With the continued push for women's rights, equality and respect, why do we still have a situation where only one planet is named after a woman (Venus)? Sun, moon and earth are sort of gender-neutral, which is the way things should be (although they sometimes undergo gender-assignment). Of the eight remaining planets, (yes, I'm one of them), you would think more would be named after people or gods of the female persuasion. One is 12.5 percent, far below the 50 percent of the world's population that claims to be women. This is an outrage that screams for redress!

Some may say that many of the moons in the solar system are named after (mythological) women, and are very substantial bodies (and no, I'm not calling anybody large-boned). All well and good, but think about what a moon does–it's an object that revolves around a planet named after a male figure. I think we've moved far beyond that in the 21st Century, don't you?

The solution? Let's have a contest! After the unilateral demotion of Pluto we know we can't trust astrophysicists with the job, and no, you can't rename Mars Boaty McBoatface. First, that's not a woman's name (probably) and second, oh, never mind. You never take any of these things seriously, which is why we're in the fix we're in.

They Said It

The Weather Channel [reminds] us there’s always a catastrophe somewhere or other, always someone flooded from his home or running for his life from a funnel-shaped cloud.

David Sedaris

The Good Book Says...

A while back (sorry, lazy and disorganized, so no link, but you don't need it to understand this, so just keep reading, alright?) I went off on phrases that were patently untrue but were repeated as truth, sort of weaponized wisdom, as they are trotted out when someone wants you to act in a certain way, and need the backup of authority.

Well, one of the phrases was Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.

On the way to looking something else up, I found all of verse 1:9 of the Book of Ecclesiastes: What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. So all of you people who have been running around wielding the doomed to repeat history chestnut, stop. You can't argue with the Good Book!

As a side note, I hope the author of Ecclesiastes has been collecting royalties for the song Que Sera, Sera.

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.


Apt 123

4 13 19

Things they don't tell you in Sunday School.

Fortnightly T-shirt

4 13 19

Mr. Nagaduchi understands how things work.

Fred the Flower

4 13 19

A Fred classic.