Off the Top of My Head

December 8. Nothing particularly remarkable about today, except that it's Sunday. Christmas is two-and-a-half weeks away, and I'm in about the same shape as I normally am–that is, clueless what to get people, and for people I've already gotten things for, procrastinating on wrapping and/or shipping. I haven't even gotten out the Christmas music yet. Sadness. Otherwise, we have a mix of happy and sad today.

Why I Love this Job

You get to make things up. Like:

  • 39% of people who tie strings to their fingers or put rubber bands around their wrist to remember things admit to pollsters that they forget why they placed the memory aid in the first place. Of that number, 22% say they forgot they were wearing the string or rubber band.
  • 27% of people who regularly set electronic reminders say they sleep reminders three times before dismissing them. 83% admit they dismiss the task without doing it.
  • 12% of Facebook users claim they friend people with the specific intention of unfriending them the next day.

Note to bloggers and presenters: if there are numbers, it seems more believable, especially if the numbers are specific. Two-thirds is too general. 66% is specific, even though it's two-thirds. Numbers should never be preceded by about or approximately, no matter how true that may be. Only engineers do that. Don't be an engineer.

The downside of the job. Sometimes mistakes were made (sometimes you just gotta love passive voice). Sometimes the mistakes were made here, like in my last post, when I said there were 400,000 leaves in the front yard

I misspoke (another marvelous construction). This morning, I looked at the trees across the street, and there must be at least 20,000 leaves still clinging desperately to the branches. Now, someday soon I'll be right, but for now, I'm a little shy of the total. Apologies. Of course, there will always be leaves in the yard, even within ten minutes of raking. There's something wrong with the world

You get to remember. Now, I go back to the good ol' days a lot, even when they're not so good, and beyond my existence. But that's another neat thing about the job–you get to remember anything. Things to remember this week include the Feast of St. Nicholas (December 6), who is often confused with Santa Claus; The Attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7), in which the Japanese (unwisely) dragged the United States into World War II; December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (which this year falls on a Sunday, so one Mass covers two obligations. Or in the vernacular, one stone, two birds); and December 12, which is both the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and my Dad's birthday. My sister did a fantastic post on the anniversary of his death in his centenary year. Simple, yet comprehensive. You should read it

You get to decide how lazy you want to be. Now, if I had wanted, I could have linked every item in the previous paragraph. If I wanted, I could have added a couple of pictures to liven things up. Truth of the matter is, I didn't want to. So there.

I get to provide interesting and potentially useful information. There's lots of information out there, and sometimes I pass it along. For example, Pantone, the color people, have named their Color of the Year. If you missed this, the color is Classic Blue. For those of you who speak RGB/HEX, it's also called #044c81. If you color of the yearalready knew that, you're excused from the test. The class is tired of curve busters.

It's a creative outlet. I do cartoons, poetry, short fiction and the craziness up here. The job gives me someplace to put all this stuff. In the case of the cartoons and T-shirts, it also gives me a bit of a push. There are only so many times you can say, Can I get away with replaying a cartoon from three (five, seven) years ago? After three times in the same month, I get embarrassed and write a new cartoon or two.

I get to make people laugh. If I get the chance to make fun of stupidity along the way, well, so much the better. Since we're most of a month before New Years, it makes perfect sense to start the year in review and lists for the ten best books, ten best TV shows, ten most benevolent dictators. As an extra added attraction, they've also started best of the decade lists, even though were a full year out from the true start of the new decade. Besides, they're stupid lists. Just once, (OK, twice) I would like to have read one of the books, seen one TV show, or lived under one benevolent dictator. Who knows? Maybe the book, TV show or dictator that's right for me will appear sometime later in December, and I will never know, because they were too late to make the list. Alas and alack.     Top


Ms. T gets in the holiday spirit.


Fred the Flower

Just 'cuz it's organic doesn't make it healthy..

Fred the Flower

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

Observations from the front porch couch as evening comes


I have to write a poem.

I am not successful.

There are no thoughts.

I am a failure.

I pocket my pen

Recline on the couch,

Watch the world pass,

My strength overcome again.

Dog and Owner.

The man is uncomfortable

Jogging down the street–

Feet lifted too high,

Knees at odd angles.

The dog is happy. He knows

How to trot, jog, run, walk,

Not embarrassed by what is on

The other end of the leash.


Bicyclists wobble down the street.

Their lights flash and warn,

But there are no cars

For them to scare away.


I do not believe it is the new moon.

It holds the shadow of the old moon

Off center in its embrace.

If I believed in simile

I would say the moon is like my life.


In the back of the house

The radio plays

A hit from the Eighties.

I cannot recall the title

Even though constantly played then.

I’ve thankfully forgotten the singer.

I resume ignoring it.

...other people's voices


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

Austin Kleon's blog

More quirky cartoons at The Oatmeal

they said it

Now in the carousel (upper right).

Earlier We Said

On December, 3, we ponder the wonders of nature, and wonder why the people who invented central heat and the indoors they heat don't get more credit.

Why I'm from Upstate New York.


A story of sadness and depression from my weather app. I'm just getting everyone ready for the holiday season, and for winter, which doesn't start for another three weeks or so. I highlighted the really sad, depressing parts.

Three day snow totals since Saturday evening in the Albany, NY area have ranged between 18" to 28". As of 10 pm Monday night, Albany Airport had 18.3", which tied December 24th through 25th, 1966 for the sixth all-time snowstorm in the month of December. More snow has fallen since.

Here's the thing. You get that kind of snow, you want the record. You don't want to be tied for stinking sixth, for crying out loud.

Seasonal Futility–Local Edition

oak leaf

Did you know that the average-sized mature oak tree has about 200,000 leaves? Leaving aside the wonders of nature in the tree producing that number of leaves each spring, that means that now in the last fall there are 400,000 oak leaves in front of my house–in the garden, the lawn, the street, and covering the steps and the sidewalk. Especially the steps and the sidewalk. The not-interesting thing is that we don't have any oak trees in our yard. They're a gift of Mother Nature and the neighbors across the street. I try to let those who give also take away. Sometimes Ma will blow some of them away, but that's more of a redistribution effort–once the space has been vacated by the old leaves, new leaves take their place, I guess the ol' nature abhors a vacuum thing.

Well, the city doesn't like vacuums, I guess. Leaves in the gutters clog the storm drains, leading to ponding and street flooding. If there's one thing Norfolk doesn't need, it's more flooding. So today, after the rain, they sent out the street sweepers to clear the gutters, in spite of the fact that a huge number of leaves are just waiting right next to the curb to jump into the empty space.

I'm sure the sweeping is making someone feel better. Me, I've hit that stage of life where I espouse the philosophy of let the leaves fall (and blow) where they may. You can do that with leaves. Not so much with snow. So good luck, Albany, Upstate, New England and anyone else that's busy cranking out those picture postcards of gentle snowdrifts, and then pushing the snowdrifts out of the way.

TomatoPlanet!! is a random collection of writing, cartoons, and things that strike my fancy. © 2003-2019, John McCarthy

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