Off the Top of My Head

October 18. More of the same. See last week, the week before, and the week before. Except it's colder, but I'm tired of talking about the weather.


I humblebrag about procrastinating, but darn it, I'm good at it. Procrastination with explanations. Logical procrastination. Schedule-based procrastination. Senile mental-lapse procrastination. Medical-based procrastination with a slip from a doctor. Just flat out no excuses procrastination. I have two storage lockers full of procrastination-related items (many available for purchase).

But I may have met my match. How do I procrastinate over something that involves procrastination? That is, how do I put off procrastinating?

So many headlines, so many unread articles.

Things I'll never know, questions I'll never get answered.

From CNN: A Texas teenager breaks two world records for longest legs. So how exactly do you go into training to compete? And two world records? I wonder if, like in boxing where there can be multiple champions, the two records can be held by two different people?

And now I'm wondering if I have a body part that might be record worthy. Maybe emptiest head.

From TMZ: Lady ambushes Target employee fiance, demands marriage on the spot. Uh, first of all, she's no lady. Second, I wonder what department they ended up getting hitched in? Frozen foods? Sporting goods? Stationery? Will the reception be held at the food court (popcorn and hot dogs) in the front of the store? And finally, I hope the couple was registered at Target. One stop convenience for guests who had neglected to get a gift beforehand.

From Mashable: Scientists think they've found a way to get your cat to pay attention to you. How do I get the cat to read the article? I'm presuming they're making a distinction between paying attention and actually getting the cat to do what you want. All the Nobel Prize-winning scientists put together can't figure the second part out.

And I cheated. I read that the solution was to practice slow blinking. I decided to give it a try, and I can't get the cat to look me in the (slow-blinking) eye.

So I'm not holding out much hope.

A BBC headline about The Americans who almost always predict the President. Almost always? Way to hedge bets, BBC!

And a headline from Sports Illustratedthat shows the importance of doing a little proofreading after running the spell check: Padres Out Fielder Tommy Pham Stabbed in Altercation, in 'Good Condition.'

Back on the bottle.

Back in the day in Europe and then the Americas, water was less than potable, and so people turned to alcohol to quench their thirst: – beer, wine, hard ciders. Now we're not talking Everclear or Bacardi 151. We're not even talking malt liquor strengths. Although there was a thriving market for strong liquors, most consumption was of small beers, wine, and ciders.

And consume it people did. All day. When I read what the Founding Fathers drank and when, I'm amazed they got any thinking done, much less wrote a constitution and founded a country.

But then, cities and countries began to build water systems that allowed for water purification. Part of America's greatness is that the vast majority of people can go into the kitchen and turn on a tap without fear of catching something.

Well, it turns out it might not quite be time to store away the ol' cider press. According to the EPA, the water supply of over 130 million (also known as 35% plus) Americans does not meet requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

So Flint and Newark are not one-offs. They're poster children, the leading indicators of another growing problem.

The problems with monster movies.

No, not big, high-grossing films. I'm thinking here of movies featuring a lead of dinosaurs or other oversized creatures. I was watching The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, part of TCM's October horror offerings. It's standard Godzilla ripoff fare–creature awakened from sleep at the bottom of the ocean, finds big city, trashes it, hero figures out way to get rid of it, creature thrashes around and dies, relief all around.

There are two problems with watching a movie like this. First, at a certain point, the audience begins to feel sympathy with the big inarticulate lunk. After all, he's just fulfilling his essential nature. He didn't do anything wrong, and just doesn't understand why people are being mean to him. It doesn't help when the climax and killing take place someplace other than where the death and devastation and city-trashing occur.

But mostly, the problem is the death is so anti-climactic. We know it's going to happen. Beast is shot. Beast thrashes around (in this case inside and then in front of a burning roller coaster). Beast falls. Beast makes one final, valiant attempt to struggle to its feet. Beast fails, flops, and dies. But then, now what? No lessons learned, no flash forward to next year, No hey, let's go get a beer, not even a who's going to clean this mess up? All they do is roll credits.

Speaking of cinematic clean-ups.

I've mentioned before that part of my wife's wind-down-after-work routine includes watching old TV westerns like Cheyenne, Maverick, and Tales of Wells Fargo. Often, there will be an encounter on a road (or sometimes in a town) that includes gunfire, and usually a death or two. Many times, the survivors (also called the winner) are in a hurry, and leave a dead body or bodies, as well as guns, gunbelts, horse and saddle and other equipment at the scene of the confrontation. Sometimes someone will stop and bury the deceased, but sometimes not It makes the vultures happy, but who gets all that stuff? And what about the poor still-saddled and bridled horse? I feel really bad about it. Can horses eat with a bit in their mouth? I'm surprised archeologists and prospectors aren't turning up stuff all over the Old West.


Classic halloween cartoons.

Fred the Flower

Fred tries to get in the holiday spirit.

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

Saturday Morning Poem

Number 36 in the series.


Our next cat

Will have factory installed

Safety features.

High visibility markings

And a collision avoidance system

That detects the presence

Of human feet in the night

And sounds a warning,

In addition to the already included

Evasive maneuvers package

With early warning alarm.




The little boy next door explains
about brontosauri, tyrannosaurus,
pterodactyls, and the others
that roam the earth.
He is fervent
describing what they eat,
where they live,
distinguishing marks,
what they like to do.
Dinosaurs are not extinct,
they are now small
made of plastic
have no feathers,
but for all the world
exactly the same
as their ancient ancestors,
and sleep
in a box
under the bed.




Big Think has some thought-provoking articles.

Eric Scott's 1 and done.

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

My sister Mary Pat's blog: LaBrea Rambles.

Suzanne's blog: The Tabard Inn.

Austin Kleon's blog.

More quirky cartoons at The Oatmeal.

Last Week


October 10. We are right in the middle of the astrological sign Libra, which represents balance, artistry, love, diplomacy, fairness and indecision. It may surprise you that your humble writer is a Libra.

No, I didn't think so.

This week has been all about hurricanes. At least that's all the local news could talk about. If I could put all the time that they've talked about these storms together, I could add a week to the year. Not that I would want to add a year to 2020, but I could. We may see as much as an inch of rain from Delta, which works out to an hour of talk for each tenth of an inch of rain. Nobody has mentioned whether or not the airline is pleased with all the extra publicity it's getting from having a storm named after it.

Facebook removes picture of too-sexy onions.

too sexy onions

I'm pretty sure this is what Facebook was trying to protect us from. The suggestiveness of it all!

Ooh, baby, what ya got there? Is that a Vidalia? Texas 1015? Did you start without me? Naughty boy! I just love the smell of raw onion on your breath! Kiss me, you fool! Are those green onions in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? Whaddya say we get out some olive oil and maybe sauté us up a batch? Or we could just let them simmer and sweat, if you catch my drift. First, I'm going to watch you peel the skin from that sexy brown orb to reveal the firm white flesh underneath, and then I'm going to go squirm into something more comfortable.

I might be awhile, 'cuz I'll be thinking of that Walla-Walla you're holding. Don't start deglazing until I get back, you allium babe!


When I was in graduate school, my sister gave me two mugs. Birthday, maybe Christmas. Doesn't matter. My favorite–little penguins in a wintery scene–was broken quickly. The second mug then became my favorite.

It still is. I try to use it on Sunday mornings, which I still consider the pinnacle special day, even though between retirement and pandemic it has sort of become just another day.

Anyway, as I was pouring coffee into it today, I realized the mug is 35 years old. I know, not Roadshow worthy, but still getting up there. Although I must say, the mug doesn't look 35 years old, and I don't feel 35 years older. Even with the passing of icons (discussed below), life has a certain, I don't know, continuity, that makes me feel like I'm still on the edge of greatness, and still the same. My knees and bowels are quick to remind me that ain't so, though.

Breaking with Tradition.

Although I try to make it a practice not to, I just had to read the article (from The Newspaper>) under the headline: Among 30 cities, Singapore ranks 16th in dementia innovation readiness. First, I didn't know that dementia innovation readiness was a thing. And that there's a competition with I guess judges and rules, also came as a surprise.

American cities tended to do poorly, supposedly because we have younger populations and aren't as concerned with problems of aging. Or maybe we've done the work, and have the policies, but forgot where we put them.

Safety First.

Lana del Rey

Headline in The Guardian: Lana DelRey criticized for wearing mesh mask to poetry reading. It doesn't matter. Speaking as someone who participates in poetry readings, a poetry reading is the ultimate in social distancing, possibly exceeded only by being the only person in a football stadium. Lana could have shown up in a mesh dress and it wouldn't have drawn a crowd.

More R.I.P for Music Legends

Another bad day for musicians, fans, and even casual listeners. Add Eddie Van Halen and reggae singer Johnny Nash (I can see clearly now) to the pantheon.


Eddie Van Halen had the soul of a writer, or an artist, or a writer should have the soul of Eddie Van Halen. Two quotations:
If you're a musician you just play until you die. It's not an ordinary job.
...rock & roll guitar, like blues guitar, should be melody, speed, and taste, but more important, it should have emotion. I just want my guitar playing to make people feel something: happy, sad, even horny.


And a couple of other notes:

Eddie Van Halen never recorded a solo album.

All through his life/career, he was an inveterate tinkerer, with equipment and with technique, to get the perfect sound.

One of the songs referenced in many of the Eddie tributes was Pretty Woman. While I enjoy the Vah Halen version, the song was written (and performed) by Roy Orbison. That's probably the best example of the difference between a forger/plagiarist, a cover band/transcriber, and a steal like an artist operation.

And Two More from the world of sports.

Bob Gibson, Hall of Fame pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, died this week. He was one of a group of outstanding pitchers in the era–Juan Marichal, Whitey Ford, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and later, Nolan Ryan.

Gibson was a gamechanger. Not just how an individual game went, but the entire sport. Gibson's dominance forced rulemakers to lower the height of the mound by five inches (I'm sure not the first time the phrase level the playing field was used, but definitely the most appropriate), much like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led to bans on dunking in basketball (which led him to perfect his sky-hook, a more devastating shot).

They couldn't outlaw Gibson's scowl, though.

Right after writing this, I read that Whitey Ford has also passed away. Not as dominating a pitcher, but equally iconic as the lead pitcher for the Yankees at the top of the rotation.


Following the abolition of seven sports programs at William & Mary, an English professor accused the Athletic Director of plagiarizing the letter announcing the cuts. The AD resigned.

Now, speaking as a writer, yes, plagiarism is bad. Don't do that. Speaking as a technical writer, it's called boilerplate. It's an acceptable practice for lower-level transactional writing in a certain context that doesn't require a lot of creative thought to be applied. Meeting announcements and agendas. Letters from banks and insurance companies. Church bulletins. Changes to personnel. Press releases. I dread to think what would happen to premiums if my insurance company hand-crafted a personal letter every time they sent me an invoice. As far as I'm concerned, if the AD changed all the Stanfords to William & Marys, and Stanford didn't complain, I'm good. Besides, how many ways can you say we're cutting sports programs? How many are needed?

I don't know if the English professor had a vision that, when the AD was told she had to write the letter, the AD would retire to her attic garret and, in the feeble light of a guttering candle, agonize over whether to use a simple comparison or stretch it to a triplet, and decide whether to make it a simile or metaphor or not, and then got miffed when she found out the AD didn't. The AD had bigger problems than the source of the missive.

Either way, I think what we have is an English professor that needs something meaningful to do, and we should all be glad that W&M is keeping her off the street.


A long time ago, I said that one regret I had was never being able to speak for my people, or even as one of my people. This is because in part when my people (old white guys) speak, they usually say things like pizza and beer or football, or laxative.

However, I just noticed that in this post I was able to speak based upon my high-status, privileged position as a writer, and I did it three times!

I will accept congratulations later, when I get up from my nap. It's a lot of work, speaking for your people.

Late to the Party Again.

Once again, I totally missed an internet meme sensation. Two, actually, because I lived through the original Dreams event, so don't need to see pictures and videos of people drinking cranberry juice.

No, the one I'm thinking of is some pointless scary joke meme. Not a clue what, why, how. But that is apparently the whole point. Time to pull my head back into the shell and resume my anonymous, pointless existence as an old white guy spokesperson on social media.

Learning Experience

I watched the local school board meeting (virtually). Among other things, I discovered that it is entirely possible to commit Death by Power Point using Zoom as the primary delivery system.

I didn't doubt that it could be done. I just hadn't seen it.

I've lived a charmed and blessed life.

Two Moments in Politics

The Amy Coney Barrett product rollout event in the yard of the White House is now being dubbed as a superspreader event. I'm surprised it hasn't been upgraded to perfectspreader event. I mean, isn't everything perfect at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave?

And in other politics, the same day that the President praises the citizen losers of the U.S. Military, he also claims that the parents of the real losers (the ones who died in service) were the ones who gave him coronavirus. If you ever needed an example of a mixed message, this might be it. One of them was something the Donald was told to say. The other was what he wanted to say. I'll leave it to you to decide which is which.

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

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