Off the Top of My Head

February 23. An interesting week. President's Day, a doctor's appointment, a storm that wasn't and books that had to be returned to the library. But I was still able to crank out the quality material in spite of the hectic schedule. You're welcome.

This N' That

Boids. Stinkin' boids.

The other morning, my wife mentioned that she hasn't seen many birds around the feeder, and actually it was pretty quiet, bird-noise wise. I hadn't noticed, but she's boids. Stinkin' boids. right. I know it's not time for the migrants to return, but even birds who normally stick around, like doves, chickadees and wrens, aren't here.

I don't know if it's climate change, strange weather, local air/water quality issues, the quality of food offerings, other noises and disturbances (there has been a lot of construction around here), or rumors of a family of foxes moving into the neighborhood being true. Whatever it is, I hope it changes back soon.

Too Easy.

Headline over National Geographic article: Mars is humming. Scientists don't know why.

Oh, come on, scientists! Everybody else on the planet knows why! It's because Mars doesn't know the words!

Drip, drip.

Delta has introduced a new faucet that users can talk to (note to pedants: I don't care, and now it's not the end of the sentence so nyaah!). So instead of touching the handle and putting an imprecise amount of water in a container, users can say Tell Delta to put 24 ounces of water in the dog bowl.

Me, I'm going to wait until the faucet can deliver the water to where I need it, and will know how hot the water needs to be. Until then, it's bears on roller skates.

New Leader

My grocery store is not what you might call eco-friendly. At least, they make it difficult to bring reusable bags to replace the plastic bags they prefer. As the bags get thinner and thinner, cashiers have to use more and more bags to ensure that the bag does not burst its bottom. While appreciative that the bag doesn't burst, I end up taking ever larger wads of useless plastic out to the trash, because I don't know where to recycle them and have maximized their use around the house. So at most, the bags have a useful life of two hours in my space. Fifteen minutes in the store, another fifteen minutes in the car, a half hour unloading in the house, and finally an hour sitting around on the countertop until they go out to the bin.

I think on my last grocery run I may have broken a personal record. I have had two items in two bags, once two items in three bags. This time, I had two bottles of wine, each in its own bag, and then they were double-bagged, so four bags for two items.

I can't wait for one bag for each item in the entire order. That's the ultimate bar to jump.     Top

Winter Storm Terrorizes Tidewater Virginia!

On Wednesday, February 19, reports began circulating of a monster winter storm that had put this area in its crosshairs. Residents anxiously gathered around radios and televisions to get the latest word on the approaching behemoth. Other intrepid souls ventured out in the dozens to replenish supplies of shovels, rock salt, water, generators, and other essentials. One store reported shelves of beer and potato chips being emptied. Snow removal crews from state and local governments spread brine on streets.

Finally, on Thursday evening, the assault began. First rain, then as temperatures plummeted, a mix of wind-driven rain and snow fell on the heads of the prepared and unprepared alike. Schools and businesses scrambled to announce Friday closures. Finally, with the sounds of the storm pelting windows and walks, we retired to bed, hoping and praying and when we awoke, the power would still be on and that we had suffered minimal damage.

After a fitful night of sleep, we rose to a bright and mostly sunny Friday. TV reports were encouraging. There had been only one casualty–a man sprained his knee while spreading salt, a report later proven unfounded. We finally built up the courage to peek around the curtains, fearful of what we would see. We were delighted. At least in this little corner of the Tidewater, we had been spared the brunt of nature's wrath, as seen in the accompanying pictures.

winter 2020 winter 2020 winter 2020


Getting Ready

After all the excitement of Valentine's Day and President's Day, this week we have two more big celebratory days–Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday. I'm sorry, you can't have one without the other. Mardi Gras exists only because of AW.

I'm betting if you pay any attention, it's to MG (sorry about the abbreviations. I'm starting a new gig writing pharmaceutical ads for TV, and I need the practice). To redress this imbalance, I'm passing along a charming medieval ditty: Ring around a rosie, a pocket full of posies. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down. Snopes has certified that this song does not have anything to do with the Black Death. The only other explanation for the ashes reference is AW. So enjoy. If you take Lent seriously, you go to church and get ashes. The ashes are the tastiest thing you'll get for the next forty days. Then you get to enjoy and gorge on Peeps, the only time of year they're tasty.

Maybe enjoy isn't quite right.     Top

Simple Explanation

A recent BBC headline notes that Donald Trump got his wall–in India.

This should not be surprising. After Mexico agreed to pay for the wall, they put construction out for bid. An Indian company won. The only hitch is who is responsible for transportation and installation of the structure, which is why we haven't seen much hardware along the southern border.    Top


An insurance company is running an ad featuring two couples in a restaurant. At one point, one woman asks the waitress what she's studying in college. When she replies, Art, the woman asks, So what will you do for money?.

I so want the waitress to reply, I was thinking of prostitution, or drug dealing, or insurance fraud. That would be funny.     Top


Fred the Flower

Fred wrestles with the most unpleasant season as best he can

Fortnightly T-Shirts

Sometimes it's a mug, sometimes a meme, sometimes it's funny. But the price is always right.

T-shirts you just can't buy.


Poetry Corner

Third in a series.

Saturday Morning Poem


somehow, the cat knows

when the alarm

is supposed to sound

and appears minutes before,

just inches from my face

starting me awake,

open eyes a signal

that the kitty can start

kissing my chin and batting at my cheek.

It is too early for any morning.

Resistance is futile.

Rolling over not an option.

The radio clicks on.

I groan and untangle myself

from the sheets.

Duty almost done, the cat

scampers to the edge of the bed,

waiting for me to achieve verticality.

Then she jumps down and races off

to sit impatiently

in front of her food bowl.


Lest we forget Ms. Tarzana is an actress.

Top      Oscar 'toons

Big Think has some interesting, thought-provoking articles. I do a lot of I didn't know that when visiting.

Newest comic I'm following is Eric Scott's 1 and done. Be sure to check out the January 13th 'toon.

Shawn Girvan is getting some content on his website. Click on Vestiges when you go to Girvanaca

My brother-in-law Harvey's academic-politics cartoon: SNAF-U

My sister Mary Pat's occasional musings: LaBrea Rambles

Suzanne's blog: The Tabard Inn. Suzanne's posting again.

Austin Kleon's blog

Gary Larson and The Far Side are back! Replays now, new comics to come. You might want to give that we're going to foul your browser with third party, fourth party and known bad guys' cookies disclaimer a quick read before you click I agree. And then clear your cookies.

More quirky cartoons at The Oatmeal

Last Week

February 16. Valentine's Day was Friday, and President's Day is tomorrow, but I'm not excited. I'm married, and so chocolate appears when needed (the gift of chocolate is itself a reason to celebrate) and I don't need a car, furniture, or bedding, so Prez Day is a bust, too. But you can celebrate with all the high-quality material below.

Politically (Correct)


Today's question, asked in a BBC headline: Should your e-mail say if you're a he, she or they? Apparently some companies are encouraging employees to indicate identification preference.

The correct answer, of course, is all of the above.

And a moment in remembrance of Pat. SNL played it for laughs. Little did we know then that they were foretelling the future.

Back in Time

The doctor's office was backed up and running late (a different doctor, and this was the first time in like ten years so no big deal). I was glancing at the magazine rack and noticed a copy of Boy's Life. I was surprised– I didn't even know it was still being published.

Boy's Life

To be fair, I'm not in their target demographic anymore, so I had no reason to know, nor for them to let me know. I picked it up and flipped through it. I wanted to see what had changed since a was a reader/subscriber back in my Cub Scout days.

I am pleased to report: Nothing. As I did when I was a subscriber, I started with the back page: It's still Think and Grin, possibly the worst collection of jokes known to humankind, which is about what you would expect since the jokes are all submitted by eight-to-twelve year-old boys, who are possibly the worst judges of humor anywhere. Consider also that submitters are hamstrung, since Think and Grin does not accept fart jokes, a major component of the young male jokester's toolkit. It would be like a drug store not stocking aspirin.

A sample joke (names have been changed to protect the participants): A: What has four legs and can't walk? B: Tell me. A: A chair.

Other elements of the magazine are still intact, too. Inspirational articles. Scouts accomplishing things articles. Equipment articles, and doing things articles (I was especially impressed with the 'planning projects' article). And I'm pleased to report that even Pee-Wee Harris is still gracing the pages of the magazine. The only thing I noticed missing was ads offering young scouts the opportunity to sell Grit Magazine. Sic transit gloria entrepreneurship.

Boys Life had an influence on me. I read it religiously (although when I was eight, I read everything religiously). So in honor of this influence, I would like to tell you what I thought was the funniest joke ever when I was eleven, which I read in Think and Grin. A cruise ship hired a magician to entertain the passengers. The ship's cook had a parrot, who disliked the magician. Every night during his act, the parrot would watch the performance and shout out, Fake! Fraud!

One day the ship sank. All that was left was a long plank, with the magician sitting on one end and the parrot on the other. For two days, they drifted. Finally, the parrot said, OK, wise guy, what did you do with the ship?


Not Even Close

Today in our not-continuing series You Should Pay More Attention, People Who Make Claims Fast Company makes a claim: The company piloted [hiring the first person who applies for a job], which was pioneered by the New York social enterprise Greyston Bakery, in its North Carolina distribution center at the end of 2019....

I hate to burst their tiny little bubble (which is a lie. I'm loving it–it's what I live for), but this is old news. Remember all those old movies and TV shows where an enterprising young person sees a Help Wanted sign in a window, takes the sign out of the window, and marches into the kindly old proprietor and proclaims, I'm your person! (aside: we're really going to have to examine this gender-neutral language thing a little more closely.)

Of course you don't remember! You're way too young to watch TV shows and movies like that! But trust me, it really happened in the America that somebody may have lived in.

Anyway, hold that innovation award, unless recycling old practices is a form of innovation.

Good News/Bad

the mackenzie brothers

I'm not even sure if good and bad balance here. The good news is that Rick Moranis, legendarily of SCTV, is returning to acting after a twenty-six year hiatus (explanation: I just didn't miss it). The bad news? His first role will be in a sequel to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.


I was looking at an old notebook and found this list. So generous that I share. I have no idea what its purpose was. I may have been pointing out that success and failure were relative. Who knows?

  1. Christopher Columbus. He ended up broke, in jail, and never achieved his goal–sailing west to India.
  2. Where's William?
  3. Douglas Corrigan. In 1938, Corrigan filed a flight plan to fly from Long Beach to New York City, and return. When he left New York, though, he claims to have gotten disoriented and flew to Dublin, Ireland, instead, thus earning him derision and the nickname Wrong Way Corrigan. What folks don't know is that Corrigan wanted to pilot the first solo nonstop flight from the United States to Europe, but authorities didn't think the airplane he was flying could make the trip, and didn't give clearance. So, subterfuge, which he had to maintain, or he could have ended up like Christopher Columbus.
  4. In 2014, Google sold mobile phone maker Motorola to a Chinese company for $2.9 billion, which would be a prretty good deal if it hadn't bought it for $12.5 billion in 2012. It reminds me of the old joke: Q: how do you make a small fortune gambling in Las Vegas? A: start with a large fortune.
  5. Aunt Mary.
  6. Harold Stassen ran for the Republican nomination for President in 1948. And 1952. And 1960, 1964, 1968, and every four years after that until his death in 2000. As far as we know, he was serious each time, although people stopped taking him seriously in 1956.
  7. Me. (a late addition to the list.) I didn't want to point out all these legendary fails without pointing out numbers 2 and 5. I have no idea what was going to go after Where's William? and Aunt Mary. I don't even remember which William (Shakepeare? Prince William? William the Conqueror?), and I have two Aunt Marys, if I was even referring to one of my own aunts. Now, I could have just removed 2 & 5 from the list, but it's not the kind of guy I am. Plus I get paid by the word (disclaimer: pants on fire alert. We need a fire extinguisher over here), so the more excess verbiage I can cram in here, the better. Or more lucrative (see how this works?)


TomatoPlanet!! is a random collection of writing, cartoons, and things that strike my fancy. © 2003-2020, John McCarthy

 Top      Home      Poems     CarToons     Stories     The Attic     Miscellany     E-mail 

You've probably noticed that each page has a different background color. They're the Pantone Colors of the Year from the last decade. This page is Classic Blue, the 2020 Color of the Year.