Off the Top of My Head

January 26. We have entered the dark period of American life, where approximately half of the American population is suffering withdrawal from from a full slate of NFL games. There is the Pro Bowl today, of course, but there's usually no particular reason for the defense to show up, and limited tailgating opportunities. We only hope the sufferers have the intestinal fortitude to tough out this week, and focus on the bright light that is February 2. We wish all the best to those–co-workers, spouses and families–who suffer with those experiencing withdrawal.

Creative Space

Mark Wilson, in Fast Company: It’s a bitter irony of life: Children’s imagination is unlimited, but their capacity to realize it won’t be developed until they grow up. And over those decades, as kids become adults who learn how to use computers,  drive a car, and pay rent, they lose something. Maybe creativity doesn’t die as we grow older, and one’s career can always still peak, but I think most of us would agree that the sensation of boundlessness fades as we age—that the sheer possibility of it all feels more finite.

Interesting article. Obviously this doesn't work for some creative types, who really focus on one or two things and ae able to maintain their creativity throughout life, but I wonder if there's some correlation between creativity and capability, if somehow as we become more capable we become less creative. Maybe we have some given capacity for doing and creating, and before we learn, the space is given totally over to creativity and as we learn, begin to add other skill sets and understand that there are rules and ways of doing things, the space to know all that takes over the space to dream all that.

Maybe it's not, as I generally believe, that a lot of the reason that children who love to draw when they are three, have that desire driven out of them by teachers by the time they're in third grade as they are made aware that the quality of their work is substandard. Maybe it's just, as they discover that they have to draw inside the lines, that knowledge replaces three hundred different ways to draw mommy and daddy. Or a dinosaur. Or maybe it just starts to seem like work.     Top

Old Lit?

By way of Austin Kleon, a review of Donald Hall's A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety by John Wilson notes that many (more) authors are living longer and remaining productive to the end. He says that older authors have much wisdom we can learn from, and proposes creating an old adult category, much like the young adult category.

I'm agin' it, even though if I ever get around to publishing something, I might benefit. But to me, it's just anther label, another convenient way to categorize, slot and dismiss a group of people who aren't a group. Second, most of the categories we have now are based on intended audience (children, young adult, LGBTQ, chick lit) type/genre (fiction, biography, history, poetry, religious, spiritual), country of origin (American, British, Ecuadorian) or approach to subject matter (science fiction, romance, investigative, mystery). Old adult would join black authors as a category based on something really irrelevant to the writing. It may play into or flavor the composition, but is not necessarily a key component. Black writers and senior writers can write young adult science fiction, or Ecuadorian historical romance.

Not all YA authors are young adults. Some young writers write some profound stuff. Librarians already have enough problems. This is one they don't need.     Top

Alternate Realities

Every now and again, it would be nice to escape from what passes for reality these days. I may have just found a way.

The impeachment trial has been dominating news and daytime TV, to the point where it's easier to turn the idiot box off and do something useful. But every website has coverage, too. You can't avoid it except, it seems, on the BBC app. There, you can select a view. There are tabs for regular, most watched, and My News. Each one is still curated/edited, and basically just rearranges the same stories. My News presents stories in groups of four. Mine are US and Canada, UK, EU, Sports, Technology, and so on. Handy.

Today, my four choices in US and Canada did not include any impeachment news, even though the Senate trial s going on. It did think it was important that I know Jessica Simpson suffered from childhood abuse, and is telling the world. Through the BBC apparently.

It isn't the best, but I'll take it.

Pop Quiz: Jessica Simpson's sister was accused of lip-synching a song on Saturday Night Live. What was her first name? And for bonus points, what was the name of the song?     Top


Fred the Flower

Fred likes routine.

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

To Boil the Egg

You need, of course, the egg.

The water, the pan, the timer,

The spoon to lift the egg from hot water.

One egg will suffice, but many are better.

Eggs are not social,

There is no benefit to individual attention.

They boil well in groups,

Shells clacking together in merry harmony.

You need also those things that cannot be collected,

The time and the desire.

Provide them when needed.

The time can be spent patiently waiting

Or doing other kitchenly things

That require but a few moments to complete–

Dishes, perhaps, floor mopping,

Making muffins with blueberries or bananas

(Whichever you have),

Tackling the tasks that remain undone

In the normal ebb and flow of life,

Victims of the universal desire

To do more and be more,

To make each moment produce.

Better, though, to spend the time

In contemplation

Of transformations accomplished

By judicious application

Of heat and time.

More time or less time, more or less heat,

Do not boil better eggs.

Succumbing to desire is its own reward.

But always at the fore–

To boil the egg.

You need, of course, the egg.


Ms. Tarzana never tires of talking about herself.`



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

Week of January 19.

Brought to you by the world of high tech.

First, a major omission has been corrected. There is now an emoji for scissors (✂️), which recently has garnered a lot of discussion. While most of the discussion has centered on how the scissors could not be closed, pundits have completely missed the important point. Even though it's only a picture, nobody should run with emoji scissors.

Second, in stupid computer tricks, my computer, completely unbidden by me, has started flagging what it considers grammar errors, using the same indicator as the programs use for misspellings. I am a good speller. I am excellent at writing clear, correct sentences. What I am not good at is typing. So I have to keep the spell check on to catch (some of) the typos. I resent being told I have a dangling participle or am ending a sentence with a preposition by the same people who brought us autocorrect. If I really want to trigger it, all i have to do is write a sentence without a verb. It's also big on chastising me for misuse of homonyms. Stop it!

It's the time of year when the tech press starts dreaming of what they would like in their next phone. A ten-inch screen! Wheels! It can fly! It can go to work in place of me!

My desires are a little more prosaic. I want the tech I have to work the way I want it to work. For example, I have a number of devices that share a calendar. They synch through some cloud somewhere. That feature works pretty well. But why, when I set an alarm, do the warnings go all over the map? I set once device to warn me ten minutes before the event. Another device will warn me an hour before the event. I don't know how to fix that. And while I'm at it, the devices (I'm looking at you, iPad) can stop adding additional alerts. I only need one alert, thanks. And if you must add an alert, can you make it for a sensible time, and not 27 minutes before or The lifespan of a Mediterrenean fruit fly?

Space Force Redux

I have not seen all of the uniforms for the space force (I have been following the online discussions with great delight&341; but I hope the selections include a red shirt for explorations of a planet's surface.

Paying Attention/Not Paying Attention

Paying Attention: Captain Crabby's signboard announces that they won a local magazine silver award, and that means they are best at losing.

Not Paying Attention: We have a box of Kashi granola in the pantry, which gets sprinkled on yogurt about once a week. We've had it for a while. Today, I noticed for the first time that, on the back, there is a picture of five women sitting on paddleboards performing some sort of yoga maneuver. This is embarrassing, as in my prime (when I was about ten), I would have noticed this before the box was opened. Now, it took forever, and I still haven't read the text that I'm sure explains what the women are doing because I don't have a pair of reading glasses with me. In my prime, I would have had the text read also before the box was open.

Repeat sic transit gloria comment from above.

Life on Mars? NASA Wants to Know!

The Big Think reports on NASA's program to a) go to Mars, b) collect soil samples that potentially contain life, and c) bring it back to earth. Even though this won't be happening until 2031, NASA is already preparing for the concern people will have about being potentially exposed to alternate life forms. Mars Like with the Moon rocks, the material will be locked away in a sterile environment while scientists examine it. They are already assuring us that, even if alive, it will be different material and can't affect us. The odds are in their favor, but what happens if the DNA is the same as ours? Lots of material for thought there (pun on material not intended, but we'll take it). I'm betting major freak-out.

This program makes economic sense (Freud alert! I originally typed econcomic). In addition to development, staffing, training, and construction costs, think of all the conspiracy theorists that will be able to make a living from this. What has NASA found that they're not telling us about? Mutant Martian Lifeform Escapes from Lab, Terrorizes Neighborhood!

Even so, I can already hear some of the questions, and in a spirit of national pride and helpfulness, I am willing to provide some answers.

  1. Will they be bringing back any little green men? No. They're little, but still too big to fit in the spacecraft.
  2. What precautions will scientists be taking? Since scientists are not sure what the lifeforms will react to, they will ring the lab in active cold viruses, Twinkies, and alternate constant playing of Tibetan throat music, annoying music, and even more annoying music. They may not keep Martian life in, but these measures will most certainly keep earthlings out.
  3. Will they be brining back any little green men? No. Turns out little green men don't travel well, and would require too many drugs and air-sickness bags to make the trip.
  4. Will the Martian lifeforms be going on tour when they're judged safe? NASA has made some tentative plans for a thirty-city tour, ending in Roswell, New Mexico. Dates are still fluid but tour T-shirts and jackets with designs based on the recently revealed space force uniforms are being prepared.
  5. Will they bringing back any little green men? No. Analysis has revealed that TV transmissions reached Mars starting in 1953, and Martians are deathly afraid that if they come they will be forced to watch episodes of My Mother the Car, Silver Spoons, Small Wonder and Belvedere until they die. Which will undoubtedly be pretty quick.
  6. Will they bringing back any little green men? No. No. No. Which part of no are you not understanding?
  7. Is this part of a massive NASA/Department of Defense coverup? Sure. Knock yourselves out. If I said no, you wouldn't believe me.


Life at the New York Public Library? Yes!

The Big Think also reports on a study done at the New York Public Library on its most popular (most checked out) books in the last 125 years, based on their circulation records. Some interesting findings:

  • Of the top eleven books, seven were children's books.
  • snowy day stamp
  • The most popular book was Snowy Day by Jack Ezra Keats. The book has its own postage stamp and there's a Keats Foundation.
  • Snowy Day was checked out nearly 500,000 times, which sounds like a lot until you divide by 58 (the number of years it's been around), and then consider there are nine million New Yorkers who could have read it. Suddenly, not so big.
  • Even though the records review went back 125 years, the oldest book on the list was published in 1936.
  • Half the adult books were dystopian novels.

And why eleven? Turns our the library is not filled with calm, non-judgmental book lovers. Some of the people interviewed for the article contend that Goodnight Moon would have been the number one book if New York Public Library children's librarian Anne Carroll Moore hadn't taken a hate on it when it first came out. It took almost thirty years for the book to find its way onto the shelves.

Sic transit gloria ratings list fame.

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

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