I belonged to Toastmasters for about ten years. I had a good time, learned a bunch, met good people, and gave some good speeches. When that stopped happening, I dropped out.
Toastmasters has a lot of competitions. One is the Evaluation speech, where someone gives a
test speech, contestants evaluate it, and the evaluations are evaluated. This is one of the test speeches I gave. It was sometime between 2005 and 2010. It's sad that a lot of the things I place in the future are still in the future
There are five great movies: The Producers, The In Laws, The Wizard of Oz, Charade. These aren't movies like Casablanca or Citizen Kane that grace most great lists. So you ask,
John, what makes a movie great? I will stop and watch a great movie whenever I see it on TV, no mater how many times I’ve seen it before and can recite all the dialogue. The fifth great film (for those of you counting), Raising Arizona, was on the other night. If you’ve seen it, you know it concludes with a dream sequence where Hi sees into the future. If you haven't, trust me–it ends with a dream sequence.
I don’t know if it was the movie or the double mushrooms on the pizza, but that night I had a dream, too. It was about America.
I had a dream where people listened before they spoke, and asked more questions than they gave answers.
I had a dream where elected officials went to their legislatures and offices, and governed in the best interests of the people, not playing more politics and looked out for number 1.
I had a dream where the outstanding floor cleaner got more respect than the average CEO who walked on the floors.
In my dream, people didn’t have to live up (or down) to other people’s expectations of them.
In my dream, we could all look up to a star-filled sky, no matter where we lived, and dream.
In my dream, Cuban doctors could volunteer to help American disaster victims and their help would be welcomed, not turned away.
I had a dream where a little white boy or a little Vietnamese girl would be honored for delivering the best Martin Luther King Day speech.
I had a dream where everyone had a passion and a belief, and were enthusiastically encouraged to follow their passion and their dream.
I had a dream where everyone was treated fairly, no matter who they knew.
In my dream, daydreaming was a good thing.
In my dream, people wished me luck and meant it.
In my dream, people rejoiced in what I could do, not complained when I fell short of the mark.
I had a dream, where the bar was raised, but nobody said I couldn’t jump.
I had a dream where people never stopped asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I had a dream where television reporters actually told me about new things.
In my dream, I could dance and sing, and even if I wasn’t good, nobody cared.
In my dream, when somebody started to sing, everybody knew the words and joined in, just like in the movies.
In Raising Arizona, it’s unclear if Hi ever wakes from his dream. Personally, I don’t think he did–his dream stretched on and on into the future.
Sometimes, you just wish that life could be like the movies.
The big story is the weather. There's some white stuff outside. The weather people have been predicting it for weeks (story below). I guess it's good. If it wasn't for weather, there'd be no news at all. I hear that there's a big storm predicted for the northeast a couple of days from now. That might keep Phil in his hole for the second. I'll take it. I'm looking forward to spring.
Sometime in early January crazed weatherfolk began predicting snow for that week. On Monday. It was coming on Thursday. On Tuesday, Friday. On Wednesday, Saturday. On Saturday, the flapping faces pretended they hadn't said anything at all about snow. On Monday, they started again. And then again. If we had a quarter inch of snow for each minute they spent predicting it, single story houses would have disappeared.
Well, darned if it didn't finally work. It snowed last night. While it didn't impress me, there was enough snow to have school called off. That itself isn't exceptional, but the local school district is still all virtual learning.
This is what terrorized the village:
So, if you're a breathlessly bloviating prognosticator (remember these are professionals. Do not try this at home.), what do you do? You double down. Now the prediction is we're going to have snow on Sunday. And Tuesday.
I hope it doesn't snow–it'll just make the precipitation people impossible to live with. Which, frankly, is tough enough now. So much time wasted waiting for something to happen when I could have been learning Urdu or doing something useful.
Normally I try to keep the worlds of TomatoPlanet!! and Facebook separate (fear of 'worlds colliding' and all that). But I'm going to make an exception, because TomatoPlanet!! is the land of the absurd, and I may have put together four absurd words over there that deserve to be here, too.
One of my more activist friends was publicizing a conservation effort involving forests. We are supposed to importune our Delegates in Richmond to improve conservation efforts by letting them know
I stand for trees.
I brake for trees. Even I'm not sure what it means.
Sometimes it's a livable moment: Somebody to Love, by the Jefferson Airplane.
President Biden pledges to convert the 645,000 vehicle Federal fleet to electric vehicles.
If you want to make money on this: the government is going to need at least 645,000 charging stations, probably more since some vehicles, like long-haul mail trucks, will need multiple chargers. Add in the wiring and other infrastructure to get electricity to the chargers, and things like portable batteries to charge cars that unexpectedly die, you're talking some good pocket change.
Why do you think your soaps labelled Fresh should smell like a florist's dumpster that hasn't been emptied in a week?
Why is it the only thing your soaps won't wash out is the stench your product leaves in already-worn clothes?
Why do you think that we want to smell like a florist's dumpster? Or is this your way of supporting social distancing?
The house across the street has a mail slot next to the front door. Ever since I was a kid, I thought that was the coolest thing ever. We didn't have a mailbox or mail slot. Our mail was put in a milkbox, a square passthrough that in itself was pretty cool, although I didn't think so at the time.
Anyway, I'm still waiting to live in a house with a mail slot.
For some reason, People magazine thinks I want to know
What stars from Geraldo Rivera to Chrissy Teigen are saying about Trump's second impeachment.
No. Just no.
First, a warning: I am probably not the best person to write a piece about gifts–giving or receivIng. I'm told I'm very hard to gift. I don't have good responses when asked what I need or want. Still, here we are.
I've been posting poems on Facebook for nearly a year now. One of the Christmas series poems mentioned returning gifts, which prompted one of my readers to comment about how disrespectful, despicable, and just plain not nice the practice is.
I thought her response odd, considering how a) a fictional narrator can't do gifting or returning or re-gifting, and b) the poem that she was taking me to task for was itself a gift, unless you consider the minute or two spent reading a form of payment. Is criticizing a form of return?
But it did get me thinking about the whole complicated dynamic of giving gifts, starting with why we give gifts (in general and in specific), through the response and ultimate disposition of the gift. As I go into detail, I'm sure I'm going to miss stuff. Like I said, it's complicated.
A lot of the dynamic is captured in the movie A Christmas Story. Two gifts stand out: Aunt Clara's bunny pajamas, and the Red Ryder. Ralphie didn't like the pajamas, they weren't right for him, but he was expected to thank Aunt Clara for them and wear them at least when she came to visit. For Aunt Clara, they may have been a labor of love, been a reflection of what she thought Ralphie was, or may have been a last-minute what do I get the ungrateful little bugger this year? Ralphie's needs and happiness were probably the last thing on Aunt Clara's mind, so should we be surprised when Ralphie is less than grateful (although at some point she probably did think Ralphie will like that)? Do we favor intent or happiness in determining the success of the gift transaction? And what did Ralphie get his aunt? I bet it was dusting powder. I gave away a lot of dusting powder when I was a kid. Soap, too.
We still have the problem of what to do with the bunny pajamas in Ralphie's closet. They can stay there, taking up space, worn only while they still fit and Aunt Clara visits.
(Totally random aside: Why is pajamas plural? No one says go put on your pajama. Even the diminutive 'jammies' is plural. I thought maybe because there are two pieces [tops and bottoms] but they're plural too. End of aside.)
Or they can be to someone who can use them, although I struggle to think of who that might be. They could be altered for Randy, but that would be double humiliation: ugly and demeaning hand-me-downs.
what was Aunt Clara thinking? could be a factor. People give gifts because they have to, because it's something they know the recipient wants or needs, or because the gift signifies our vision of what the recipient's life is or what the giver thinks it could/should be. I have a niece who used to give us things like fondue pots and margarita trees. They were very nice gifts, but I can only surmise that my niece pictured us traveling in exotic, jetting-setting circles. That, or she wanted to be invited over for margaritas and fondue. Whatever the image, it was very different than the life we were leading.
Aspirational gifts tell the recipient what we would like them to be. So the gift of a doctor's kit to a child might be saying we want a doctor in the family, and you've been selected. I have no idea what Aunt Clara's gift was suggesting to Ralphie.
On the other hand, the Red Ryder is a real gift. It is given in understanding (Ralphie's dad, by way of explanation, says
he had one as a kid), without thought of potential danger or harm. It has a certain impracticality–socks are not good gifts. And Ralphie worked for the rifle–writing the essay, putting ads in his mom's magazine, visiting Santa.
And the real tell, older Ralphie announcing it was still the best gift ever. That doesn't happen often. Usually, gifts have a greatness shelf life.
There is one universally awful gift–the
a gift has been made in your name to the donor's favorite charity. Bonus awful points if the donation was made to a charity/cause you actively don't support.
So anyway, to get back to the original question. I think re-gifting is OK, as long as you think the gift is something the new recipient will truly like and maybe even treasure.
Sorry for taking up your time. I'm betting that after reading this, the whole gift-giving mess is no clearer for you. I know it's not for me.
The Love Theme from Mystery Science Theater 3000.
I write poetry. Some of it is good, most not.
I watched the Inaugural, and heard
The Hill We Climb. I imagine my reaction was sort of like Tom Brady's and Aaron Roger's on seeing Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen coming up in the next wave of great quarterbacks–a mix of envy, anger, respect and joy. Except, of course, poetry is not a competitive sport. And I am not Tom Brady or Aaron Rogers. And poets get paid peanuts. Otherwise, the analogy holds.
Hooray for poets.
There are a few passages in Scripture that intrigue me, because they're just dropped in, with no follow up, The giants in Genesis. Joshua making the sun (and moon) stand still. The story of Gamaliel the Pharisee from the Acts of the Apostles, as follows:
Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, 'Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.
For people of a certain bent and training, God is the greatest designer, engineer, etc. the world has ever seen, and man is his greatest accomplishment. Some go so far as to say perfect.
Well, I'm not going to go that far.
After having used a late-model male chassis for nearly three-quarters of a century, I agree it's a pretty good design, but certain things weren't completely thought out, to wit:
A headline in 9to5Mac announced that Apple was extending the free trial period for Apple TV+ to July 2021. I thought,
Gee, that's a long time! We might consider signing up for that! Until I realized that this is already 2021.
Buzzfeed News tells us,
The Man Arrested At An Inauguration Checkpoint With A Gun And Ammo Says It Was A 'Mistake ' And That He's A Security Guard.
From the Washington Post:
Misinformation plummeted by 73 percent the week after Twitter banned Trump.
World's Oldest Orangutan Euthanized at Oregon Zoo at Age 61: 'She Inspired Generations.' I have to ask because this headline comes from People magazine.
OK, the normal I would like to return to is a normal that includes civility, less screaming, owning our own actions, maturity, and a world-class infrastructure that can produce, distribute and dispense whatever we need on a short turnaround schedule, from toilet paper to vaccines. It's embarrassing, considering how far we've fallen from oh, say, 1943, when we were able to complete three Liberty ships and build 84,853 aircraft (or 232 airplanes) a day. If we want to be a world leader, we have to start acting like one, and do things the rest of the world wants to emulate. Getting the vaccine distributed might be a start.
Q: I'm 37. My microwave has a special Kids Menu with buttons for hot dog, pizza, oatmeal, and baby food. Can I use the kids menu if I'm preparing food for myself?
A: If you have received proper training from a kid, yes.
Q: Ca I let my baby use the baby food button without supervision?
A: If your baby can reach the button, open the door, take the lid off the baby food jar, put it in the microwave, cook the food, and take the food out of the microwave, your baby can do anything it wants, including driving a car.
In the Catholic Church, there are major saints, minor saints, and all the rest, whose existence, presence, and motivation in our lives we recognize on November 1st–All Saints Day, which is a holy day of obligation.
I'm going to treat Martin Luther King Day as an All Saints Day. In addition to King, I will also be thinking of all the people who have worked towards equality, up to and including giving their lives in the pursuit of justice and freedom (even though they may not have been aware that's what they were doing), as well as as well as the people who worked diligently for the cause. We should remember all these people as we honor the memory of Dr. King on January 18.
I'm sure it was just a coincidence (even though we all know there is no such thing as coincidence) that I've been reading Carl Sandburg's Chicago Poems, and came upon two that seem relevant in the current times: I Am The People, The Mob and Government. Carl could be a little cynical at times, although some think of him as a realist in the tradition of Edward Hopper and Theodore Dreiser.
Another Sandburg poem, Gypsy contains these parade-stopping lines:
Snatch off the gag from thy mouth, child, / And be free to keep silence.
Funny how we forget that freedom of speech has a corollary: freedom to remain silent. Not explicitly protected by the Bill of Rights, but I'm sure strongly encouraged by the Founding Fathers.
Followed by these:
Tell no man anything for no man listens, / Yet hold thy lips ready to speak.
Not only was Jeremiah a bullfrog, he was a good friend of mine.
My primary reading this week has been a Christmas gift from my wife, Grammar for a Full Life by Lawrence Weinstein, whose primary thesis is awareness of and modifying language and structures can serve a means to modify life and our approach to it. He uses examples from his own life, including one from his grammar school principal, which influenced his whole approach to life, one that pretty much boxed out creative or spontaneous activity.
So the question is: What one comment made by a parent, teacher, relative, or other authority figure, set you (consciously or unconsciously) on the way you approach life? It's not so much a you should be a [insert specific career], but along the lines of
Johnny is very detail-oriented, or
Jenny is very artistic, so Johnny becomes an actuary, accountant, research scientist or engineer and Jenny becomes a designer, teacher, or singer.
I'm enjoying the book, not only because I enjoy reading about words and language, but also because the author is so passionate about the subject, and posits that the way a person speaks and writes says something about personality and approach to life.
Chapter 2 (where I am now. I'm reading slowly). discusses active and passive voice, with discussion of transitive and intransitive verbs.
Weinstein has a chapter on imperatives, which reminded me of my favorite paragraph in a writing textbook. It comes from Donald Murray's Write to Learn, 2nd ed. It starts Chapter 5. In its entirety:
Wait. Don't write yet. So many rules broken. A one word sentence. Two imperative sentences. A four word paragraph. And the very idea that a teacher would write a sentence that tells students to not write, well, breathtaking.
Speaking of rules, how many did I break in that last paragraph?
Which also reminds me of a section from Joseph Williams' Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace. (1st ed.). He makes a distinction between RULES, Rules, and rules. A RULE is nonstandard English, never broken by a native speaker, unless the speaker/writer wants to look stupid. An example would be a double subject, like
These rules they be good for you, A Rule (also called an optional rule, is something that complements the RULES. Think of a sentence that starts with a conjunction, splits the infinite, and ends with a preposition. All optional, all ignored, but the source of much angst amongst the grammatically prudish. A rule is a convenient convention that isn't a rule at all They're sort of like what we used to call
Sister Says Theology in Catholic school. Williams also refers to them as folklore, RULES broken: 0. Grammar mavens irked: all of them.
More from About Grammar as it inspires me.
Vanity Fair lets us know, in its own inimitable way, that
Ivanka Trump reportedly won't attend Biden's Inaugural &340;after maybe not being invited in the first place?) I can hear the discussions at the Inaugural Committee now.
Did you invite her?
Of course not.
Maybe she's coming as somebody's plus one.
No, Hunter's already told us who his plus one is, and she ain't it.
Do you think she got a gag invitation, like from one of those places that will put your face on a Time Magazine Man of the Year cover? (chuckles all around).
Actually, invitations have nothing to do with it. I'm betting Daddy changed her curfew time. Maybe Mike Pence's, too, but Mike's being rebellious.
Unnamed female (hereinafter referred to as
she) will no longer be coming 'round the mountain. She will instead be availing herself of regularly scheduled flights into local airports, and consequently going over the mountain.
The six white horses have been placed in a rescue facility with lovely pastures and paddocks, and are being well cared for.
My wife was watching The Great British Baking Show in the other room. One of the contestants was running out of time in a particular challenge, and one of the hosts (Mel Giedroyc) noted she was over-multitasking, trying to commit blending, stirring, measuring and baking at the same time.
It was then that I realized that there are different levels of activity in participles. You can be baking, but in reality you're doing nothing to further the process. Baking is a sort of umbrella term, under which you perform a lot of other things. Baking, i the narrow sense of
in the oven is not as taxing as stirring, or example.
Funny language, English. Especially when you hear it spoken on TGBBS.
Frankly, I'm not. I just found out I'm cisgender. All this time, I thought I was a guy, and If you want to get technical, heterosexual.
Next, I'll probably find out that I'm heterodox.
And I also just found out, listening to the latest episode of
Where's all the vaccine? that I'm also in Group 1b because I'm over 64 and comorbid. Here all this time I thought I was very cheerful and upbeat.
Princes kept the view all along the watchtower. This was right after the joker told the thief that there must be a way out.
I'm sure the joker was kidding. After all, the princes were keeping the view, and probably watching, too. All avenues of escape were cut off. But then, that's the joker's job, isn't it?
Well, that was an interesting week. The weatherpersons spent the entire week telling us how it was going to snow on Friday and/or Saturday morning. Large blocks of wasted time. See the
Saturday morning Poem, below, for a longer reaction. And There was the gafuffle in Washington. I'm still trying to figure out what the goals were. There would be no overthrow, no Trump continuation., not even an extended discussion. Based on the way some of the people were dressed, it looked like either street theater or a bus going to a Renaissance Festival lost its way.
Not in my lifetime.
Why radicchio is the ingredient we need right now.
Headline in Fansided:
The real reason [the Chicago Bears] lost to the Green Bay Packers.
From an article in The Guardian about a fugitive found in a tree in a swamp in Western Australia:
Faust said he stripped to his underwear and handed Voskresensky his shorts and a beer as the trio made their way back to Darwin. 'He looked like he needed a beer, although he was in a bad way,' Faust said.
We have the usual kinds of noise in our neighborhood. Lawn mowers. Trucks. Minor construction. Recently, though, it seems to have been pretty quiet, enough so we can hear birds and things. Today is different. In the middle distance, we can hear chain saws, generators, and all sorts of mechanical devices. I don't know if I'm drawing an unreal line, or if somebody said,
it's the new year. Let's get back to work.
2021: the year of sick but tidy.
It's the fifth anniversary of David Bowie's death. Speaking of, I saw a couple of
the year in dead people tributes. Maybe it's just me, but a lot of famous (and semi-famous) people, especially Hollywood types and musicians shuffled off their mortal coils in 2020.
The Conspiracy Theorist saw a headline from People magazine:
Ivanka Trump Mistakenly Tags Meat Loaf in Photo of Her Dad.
No mistake about it at all, the Conspiracy Theorist believes. He posits that the mistakes made in tweets and other messages by the Trump family and other officials are actually code for other activities.
MeatLoaf instructed the faithful to march to the Capitol after Dad's speech and try to gain entry.
Covfefe was a notice to international hackers to start working to infiltrate U.S. Government financial institutions, like the Department of Commerce.
More Hillsong pastors resign as Justin Bieber confirms he's left the church.
I don't know if the headline writer is implying a false causality, but if true, we may be witnessing either the end times or the second coming.
Or it's just Vanity Fair's known penchant for name-dropping and claiming celebrities are responsible for everything.
O.K., I said I wasn't going to do New Year's resolutions. This is a resolution that coincides with a new year. Also, it will stay in effect only so long as it seems useful.
To wit: I will no longer pay attention to the forest. I am going to pay attention to a few trees–a sapling or two and a mature tree, and make sure they're doing well.
Other resolutions, short and sweet.
clever hack(or synonyms like clever, ingenious, brilliant, or genius). Don't read about or do hacks.
I thought about it for about two seconds, but I am not going to swear like an Englishman. Too much research.
Reading is like fertilizer for my life.
I was getting coffee this morning, and reached to get my favorite Sunday mug. My sister gave it to me back in 1984 or so. It's handmade, got a peasant shape, and a nice color combination, As I started to pour coffee, I also thought about the other mug that she gave me at the same time, but which broke less than a year after she sent it (an encounter with a one-year-old).
This is an old mug, I thought,
But then, I realized that, as pottery goes, well, it's not really all that old. Archeologists are finding much older pottery all the time. They get really excited when they dig up pottery, even if it's only shards. They can tell, just by shape, decoration, type of clay used and the amount of pottery, how old it is, what it was used for, where it was made and how big the site was, to piece together a story of the people who lived there.
Then I realized that potters are really story-tellers, and history makers. Some other remarkable things about pottery are that archeologists find it almost everywhere. Very few civilizations didn't make pottery (Eskimo and hunter-gatherer civilizations come to mind).
Another thought: Broken pottery is as useful to archeologists as a complete piece. So the mug I tossed over 35 years ago is as useful to them as the mug I was holding (unless, of course, they're planning on drinking coffee.
A final, totally random thought. When archeologists excavate, they mostly find things of the earth–pottery, glass, metal, and stone. They don't find as much wood, paper, skins, animal parts or other organic materials (this conclusion is based on totally random watching of shows about archeological digs)
Mother Earth takes care of her own, it seems.
Also, I have to start pouring and drinking coffee faster. That's a lot of thought for so early in the morning.
I may be wrong about doing this, but I have not been practicing social distancing with my invisible friend.
At least, I don't think I have.
I've used the name TomatoPlanet!! for this collection for probably 15 years, and I've been mulling changing the name, which I do when I get bored. A few possible candidates, but with problems. First candidate: RunningonEmpty.com. Short, descriptive, accurate. Problem: it's already taken. Candidate number two: RunningwithTypewriters.com Pros: Available, quirky. Problems: I already have a quirky website name. Half this stuff couldn't be done with a typewriter, and none of it is. We'll leave it to Tom Hanks, who already has the strangely obsessive relationship with typewriters market sewn up. The third entry: If_Steve_Martin_Wasnt_Talented_This_Is_What_He_Would_Produce.com Problems: Steve Martin's flotilla of highly paid legal beagles won't look kindly at unapproved use of Steve Martin's name. And really, who is going to take the time to type www.ifstevemartinwasnttalentedthisiswhathewouldproduce.com? It looks like the name of a friggin' Welsh town. Upside: Accurate, unless you believe there is no way Steve Martin could sink to this level of dreck, even after a full frontal lobotomy.
TomatoPlanet!! it is, then.
At the end of December, McDonald's began advertising the McRib sandwich as
the most important sandwich of the year.
And that, my friends, is the grand finale for 2020. First, that it would have an important sandwich. Second, that it would be the McRib.
It's been a long time since I've had a destination,
must watch TV show. On January 3 (AKA today), BBC America will begin a six-part series based on Terry Pratchett's wildly popular Discworld series. I've read maybe 30 of the 41 novels (OK, I can hear you asking,
if these are so popular and so good, why haven't you read them all? Two reasons: a)since the pandemic killed the libraries, and maimed in-person retail, my sources have dried up. 2) frankly, I've sort of lost track of which books I haven't read). and so I'm looking forward to this series, which will be featuring one of my favorite characters.
However, as always, I have one worry. I have a mental picture of the characters that inhabit this world. What if these people are nothing like the people who live in my head?
I've been posting a lot (it seems) of call-response pieces. Call out a headline, don't read the article, make a supposedly humorous comment. It's cheap, easy and I don't have to leave the house.
I should probably give credit to my literary progenitors. There are many, but credit should definitely be given to the folks behind Texas Monthly's Bum Steer Awards. Fun for all, heartier laughs if you've done time in Texas.
Hallmark Movies in search of: a)small European countries with a photogenic castle and handsome, unmarried prince who speaks impeccable English. Ideal candidates should be unknown to American audiences and not used as a setting for a Hallmark movie before. b) small to medium sized towns with charming central cores that have not had their Christmas festival/show )chorale already organized to perfection by hot-shot career-driven designer who came home for the holidays. Will consider local bakery/bookstore owner sin place of designer. Prefer town with Black mayor. c)Condo/Resort developer looking for quaint, charming town as site for a project that will destroy the charm of the town. Prefer company with tough, no-nonsense CEO with a soft heart.
Just a reminder: all Hallmark movies are some variation of The Wizard of Oz or a Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland film.
The Food Network suggests
3 Things You Need to Make in Your Instant Pot First.
My iPhone has started identifying suspicious calls as
scam likely. I think that would be a great name for a character in a story. I just don't know if it would be a hero, a villain, or a sidekick. For some reason, I think genre fiction would work best, either science fiction or a western.
Test Admin would be a good name, too.
We upgraded phones, and so the hunt is on for the on-off switch, which moves from model to model and device to device. Great fun.
I haven't thought about these in a long time. I do now because I suspect that this end-of-year into new year we'll be hearing a lot of
I hope this year things are better/get back to normal kind of thing, said in a way that indicates hope is bestowed by some sort of power out there somewhere.
It's not. Believing, hoping and loving are all susceptible to modification, or more simply, you have it in your power to alter faith, hope and love. They're active verbs. Someplace along the way, for example, non-believers made a conscious decision to not believe, if not in God, then something, like the Buffalo Bills winning the Super Bowl. But then people began to believe, and some of the believers worked to get the right coaches and players.
So faith, hope and love all work together, but more importantly, it's in our power to bring them to life.
Might be a good thing to remember in the new year.
Famous (or semi-famous) people can't just die anymore. Their death has to be connected to some life marker, usually something in the relatively near future.
So-and-so died three days before her 53rd birthday. Yeah, so? Yeah,
Bob was nominated for more Higgldy-Piggeldy awards than anybody else, but he
died 363 days before his 93rd birthday, with no explanation of whether this future event was important to Bob or whomever. What did they do, and even more importantly, what were they planning on doing/accomplishing and now won't that might have been important to them–or us? That's what I want to know. There's always something that you can draw a line to. Make the line something significant.
I lived in Houston in the mid-seventies, when the Houston Oilers were truly bad. They had some good players, but something was perpetually going wrong. It was always easy to get tickets for Oilers games. Then I moved away, and the Oilers got better, to the point where they were arguably the second-best team in the NFL.
Unfortunately, the best team was the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were in the same conference as the Oilers and blocked the way to the Super Bowl. Great rivalry, great football, but the Oilers never made it to the Super Bowl.
I sincerely hope (there's that word again) the same thing doesn't happen to the Bills with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Happy New Year!
Yeah! Same to you. You can't imagine how happy I am to put 2020 in the rear view mirror. (Looks around.) Does anything seem different to you?
(Looks around.) No, not really. Wait. All the leaves finally fell off that tree.
That happened last year. In November, I think.
Oh. It seems colder than at this time last year.
A little, maybe.
Make any New Year's resolutions?
The usual–diet, exercise, talk to myself less, or if I keep talking, listen less. You?
(chuckles.) Sounds about right. No, no resolutions. Woulda broken them by now anyway, so I don't even try anymore.
(A pause.) Well, I guess I'll be heading back inside. The mask is beginning to itch.
Yep, mine too. Good talking to you. Happy New Year!
There's a bird somewhere nearby screaming
You're pretty, You're pretty over end over. It may be one of those things like on the TV ghost shows where the investigators claim the grating sound they heard is the purported ghost saying
Be sure to drink your Ovaltine, and I'm just reading into it. Also, I have to remember that many people are hearing this. Plus the over and over and over aspect is beginning to get on my nerves, and do I want to accept compliments from an annoying creature?
Ah, heck. It's been a bad year. I'll take it. Thank you, bird.
(Courtesy of Gil Scott-Heron.)
Four letter words or four syllable words won't make you a poet/It will only magnify how shallow you are and let everybody know it.
This will be a light week for comments, as my brain has been occupied by visions of flour, sugar, butter and eggs that come together so beauteously as to win the gingerbread house competition in a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie, even though none of them are housers, and only one is gingerbread.
There's generally universal agreement that 2020 was the mist sucky year in memory. That would be a more compelling statistic if we could remember much before 2017. However, as we're about to put the year behind us, I've noticed some stuff that, if only for a moment, we could be thankful for.
For me, the year in thanks breaks into two parts: January through, oh, mid-November, and from then to now.
we're all in this together,or that
we're in difficult (or unprecedented) times,or all the other cliches that got spewed out. I think most Americans have figured out that the correct responses are
No we're notand
they always are and we already knew that.In November, politicians and their lawyers brought their comedy
Agame to the table, but thankfully faded slowly into irrelevance.
guy insisting on not wearing a mask,but they, too, seem to have mostly faded with the summer heat.
But there are solid year-long good news stories, too. Like food banks always seem to respond to people in need, no matter how stretched they are. Or nurses and hospital staffs who complain about being stretched to the breaking point, but still show up to do the job. Ditto all the essential workers who were invisible in February, but now have some visibility. I hope all that recognition continues. And finally, no matter how much some people will say we have to get back to normal, they're not well. The old normal was not a good healthy place.
The BBC reports that a
mysterious monolith made out of gingerbread appeared in Corona Heights Park in the US city of San Francisco on Christmas Day.
I read the article and was rewarded with this finale:
the city's Recreation and Parks Department's General Manager, Phil Ginsburg, told Californian news company KQED: 'We will leave it up until the cookie crumbles.'
I wonder if they found the remains of a yet unseen Hallmark Christmas movie? Also, kudos to Phil for bringing his best Dad-joke file to the party.
A Boeing 737 Max was being moved from storage to deployment in Montreal. It took off, but mechanical/instrumentation difficulties forced the pilots to abort the trip. In Tucson. Not encouraging, or a good look.
Last week (?) I wrote about how surprise should be added to the inevitabilities of death and taxes. well, I forgot one–software (especially system) upgrades. The are two rules governing their behavior. They will appear, demanding to be installed, when you least want them to. When they are installed, They will break something, usually once you've learned to rely upon your customization, and once you've learned to live without the customization, whatever you did will mysteriously reappear of its own accord.
I didn't think about it much at the time, but my wife pointed out that she hadn't seen It's a Wonderful Life on TV anywhere (it finally showed up on Christmas night). I didn't recall any showings of he original Miracle on 34th Street, either. We had to make do with two marathon days of A Christmas story and multiple showings of White Christmas.
According to The New York Post:
Keith Richards gets cockroach named after him for 77th birthday.
The Keith Richards roach was given its own guitar. As opposed to the
The Keith Richards guitar was given its own roach, which happened many times during performances, I'm sure.
I also wonder what they have planned for Keith's 80th birthday.
OK, so maybe a few comments.
This is probably one of those
you're doing it wrong things, which I detest, but we are encouraged to take cat naps, which are normally thought of as being short.
Our cat has been napping in my lap for over four hours, and will wake up only when I push her off my lap, which will annoy her no end. So if you're going to catnap, do it right!
The BBC has its own specialist disinformation reporter. I wonder if that means that now that the
adults have latched onto disinformation, if the cool kids will have to do something else.
The Week, a time for anticipation. A large percentage of the population will be braving the elements and CDC warnings and travel over the river and through the woods. Weathermen anticipate snow. What will Santa be putting in my stocking? Will it be coal? And if so, where did Santa find coal? Some parts of the anticipation will be anticipating snow. A subset of that, like me, who know too much stuff, will be wondering if Santa brings anthracite or bituminous. Another segment wonders what coal is. and finally, Trump supporters wonder if Santa will bring Donald Trump 7,500,000 votes that were erased by fraud and by Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro.
Don't forget December 21 marks the reappearance of the Christmas Star. Right after sunset in the southwest is the best viewing time. It's also good of the sky is clear. If you want the best view, though, you're going to have to go to the Southern Hemisphere. Don't forget a swimsuit. It's summer there.
Pantone announced their Color of the Year. Actually, it's two–Illuminating and Ultimate Gray.
Pantone has a lot of reasons and research behind the choices, as well as having aspirational goals for the effect the colors will have. But you gotta wonder sometimes. Laurie Pressman, a VP at the Pantone Color Institute, said this about the Ultimate choice:
We have to acknowledge that gray has been around forever. It's sort of like Labrador Retrievers–always one of the most popular dogs, but never a winner of the AKC's Westminster Dog Show.
BTW, for you webweavers out there, the new colors in hex are #F8D948 and #939597. However, Pantone colors don't make good background colors, as I found out to my chagrin in, you guessed it, 2020.
Many people are shocked and horrified that the divisions in America are so deep.
It's always been like that, frankly, and nicely encapsulated by Shirley Jackson's
Thanks to Garrison Keillor for the story around the publication.
Just when I thought 2020 was going to go out with all the nastiness that it showed throughout the year, it goes and does something like this, as seen on the camellia bush in the back yard.
Gardeners tell me that camellias aren't necessarily all that strange this time of year, but that narcissus are, like these in the front yard.
From NBC News.
Former Israeli space security chief says extraterrestrials exist, and Trump knows about it. A 'galactic federation' has been waiting for humans to 'reach a stage where we will understand... what space and spaceships are,' Haim Eshed said.
'Galactic federation,' huh? We don't 'understand space and spaceships,' huh? So I guess that would make us pre-Klingon. Not good news. Their ships are so icky looking.
We can do better.
The reason Trump hasn't said anything about knowing this is his team is scouting locations for the Trump/Galactic Federation Casino and Golf Resort, with ample parking for spaceships. These are aliens that Trump likes!
Anyway, it proves what I've been saying all along–if there's intelligent life out there, they're most likely smart enough to not contact us.
If you write, you have to read. If you've begun writing something you've spent your life up to this point avoiding (oh, let's say poetry), you read more poetry. So, in this hypothetical, you probably read some authors that you like, and who influence the way you write poetry, say, folks like Walt Whitman, Carl Sandburg, Charles Bukowski, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, and Gil Scott-Heron.
Start Two: Being a writer can be hard, seeing as there are so many things to write, each with its own standards of excellence, and these change over time. Some require self-revelation (a current fashion in poetry); others promote a complete absence of self (as in technical writing). One universal across all forms (with the possible exception of some boilerplate text) is
thou shalt not lift a particular collection of words in a particular order from somebody else, unless you want to give credit to the originator.
So imagine my shock/grief when I was reading Gil Scott-Heron's poem
Coming from a Broken Home, and encountered these lines:
She could take hers and outdo yours,/or take yours and outdo hers./
she may not have been in a class by herself,/ but it sho' didn't take long to call the roll.
Now, they're not bad lines. In fact, I like them a lot, particularly when I first heard them, attributed to Bum Phillips, the one-of-a-kind football coach of the Houston Oilers in the early '80s. Bum was known for catchy turns of phrase. I don't know who copied who, or if they both copied someone else, but I do know (his'n/your'n) can be tracked to 1960. On the (class by himself) the first citation I chased down is from Bum, in 1979. Gil's poem was first published in 1990. So I dunno. Enough sadness to go around.
We were listening to NBC News a few nights ago (
listening to: background noise and flickering images to accompany dinner, some of which surface into the frontal cortex, where they are are usually discarded quickly). When the broadcast was over, I realized that, for the the first time in living memory,
Donald Trump was not mentioned in any context for an entire newscast.
This may not be a big deal, as I am a charter member of the short attention span theater. Of course, lots of sports shows are willing to point out that
xxx is the first player since 2019 to achieve this feat. Which deserves either a golf clap or a yawn. It's like Jim Thorpe or Abraham Lincoln was involved somehow.
Already the middle of the month, and it's just going to get more frantic. Packages must be mailed now. Which means things must be wrapped now, bought now, selected now. That's my Christmas Eve routine–I don't appreciate having it pushed forward.
I'm thinking it's time for us to emulate the Brits and the Canadians, who have Boxing Day on Dec. 26. But let's do our new holiday right–have a
reception of the Christmas gifts day, maybe around the beginning of February. I know we have a lot of holidays then (MLK Day, Valentine's Day, Presidents' Day&341; but what better time of year to have an extra holiday than in the middle of winter? Maybe we could roll restocking and buying of the live Christmas tree to that day, too. I'll be darned if I'm going to be forced to rush out and buy a tree on December 1.
It's an interesting concept to push the Christmas season back as well as forward. I'm sure retailers won't complain.
The Big Think reports
A new study shows our planet is much closer to the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center than previously estimated. 2,000 light years closer, in fact. They don't tell us how how close we are now. The 20-year study also says Earth (and presumably the entire solar system) is moving faster–about 16,000 mph faster.
Good news for those with a need for speed.
For many people, travel over the holidays has become a Christmas tradition. Airports and highways are crowded as millions of Americans travel home, metaphorically over rivers and through woods, or jet off to warmer climes sometimes to visit an aged parent in a Florida or Arizona senior city, or sometimes to get to Cabo or Vegas to dislax themselves.
It's nice to see old traditions being continued. After all, travel around the celebration of the birth of Jesus is the only thing we know that the Holy Family did, first from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and then from Bethlehem to Egypt. All the other stuff is just pasted on.
I have no explanation for Thanksgiving travel, though.
slight severe storm risk for this area: A shortwave trough over the Mid-South will amplify and become negatively tilted as it reaches the Lower Mid-Atlantic Coast towards 12Z/Saturday.
Before you laugh, remember you're paying for this stuff.
I just saw one of Buzzfeed's lists of things that you do that show you're adult (AKA old). I hit a bunch of them, but one was interesting, about the adjusted value of a hundred-dollar bill.
That didn't particularly interest me, but I started thinking back (which is much more predictable than thinking forward). In my lifetime (let's just say it started sometime in the Truman administration), I have possessed perhaps three $100 bills. The money wall gives me $20s, and so for me that's the high end of the American currency system. If I recall, I was able to use one to actually buy something, but the other two I had to deposit in the bank to make them usable. So if you're looking for a drug dealer or money launderer, I'm probably not your guy.
Whenever police conduct a raid, they list the things taken, and it almost always includes a large sum of money. Two questions: what exactly is a large sum of money? Right now, I'm carrying a sum approaching $100, and I think that's a lot of money. And two: why is having a large sum of money at hand a sign of criminal activity? I thought that was the way America worked. Have a dream. Work hard. Get rich. Have lots of money. Run for President.
Maybe the large sum is all in $100 bills, and, like me, the cops never saw any growing up, and figure they had to be acquired through nefarious means. Or maybe all the cash is in wrappers marked
Mike the Money Launderer or
Doris the Drug Dealer.
It's amazing how easy it is to be a lawbreaker. Pretty much every time I get in a car, I'm going to speed. Not much–five miles an hour, but still...
Every Thursday, the city where I live collects the trash, and insists that for them to do the job, I must put the trash cans at the curb between 6 pm Wednesday and 7 am Thursday. I have had weeks where the trash was put on the curb as late as 9:30 am.
This life of crime is very exciting. I wonder what I should try next. Maybe walking in the street, and walking with traffic instead of against traffic.
Then I'll rob a bank, and take only $100 bills.
I've been noticing a lot of webpages are screwing up grammar and word choices, especially homonyms (words that sound the same but are spelled differently and mean diifferent things. Today's group is sight, site, cite.
What, you want more? Greedy buggers.
Snowfall is a depressing sightqualifies.
Sometimes, the only things that are remotely palatable on TV are ghost shows. Sad commentary on the time we're watching TV, I guess. Anyway, there are three things that intrigue me.
How do old ghosts, like from say the Civil War or 17th Century, manipulate new technology? How does a ghost from 1650 know how to make a flashlight turn on and off, speak through a radio or make a TV or ceiling fixture go crazy? I'm surprised a ghost hasn't reformatted a hard drive yet.
can you...? Lots of shows have investigators who ask the ghost to answer a question, or manipulate an object–a light, a door, or perform some activity–bake a cake, sing a song. Why would the ghost want to do that? I mean, what's in it for them?
professional human response. Actually, if they like a laugh, the ghosts will comply. There's nothing funnier than when one of these
professionals gets the response they requested, and then runs off screaming like a child.
It used to be that someone who won a lot of money immediately acquired a lot of unknown relatives and people with sad stories to tell, the goal being to separate the winner from some of his winnings. But you had to be a big, famous winner.
Nowadays, we all get to share in that tradition, as unknown relatives are replaced by telephone scammers. I got maybe a dozen calls yesterday, none of which were answered or left messages, but I bet they were going to tell me there was a problem with my Amazon account or my Apple device had experienced a security breach.
A while back, I talked about businesses impacted by the pandemic. One industry I forgot to :mention was convention centers. I imagine they're getting hit pretty hard by group meeting restrictions. Of course, many if not most of those convention centers were funded by taxpayer bonds, and I'm sure many of the contracts have clauses making the operators whole if certain goals aren't met, so we're probably on the hook for that, too. I say probably because
economic development and
transparency are never uttered in proximity to one another, proximity in this case meaning
in the same state.
It's December. I mention that because in the flurry of post-election blues, continued covidity, endless Black Friday, and a not-really-Thanksgiving, you may have missed it. One day blends into another.
Today is the feast of St. Nicholas, a third-century bishop of Myra who somehow morphed into Santa Claus. He was reputed to give gifts secretly, but that's still a stretch to fat guy, beard, red suit, North Pole and sitting in a mall. Nick is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, prostitutes, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, unmarried people, and students. Personally, I don't have any special celebrations planned, but you would hope in that list of motley folk, somebody will.
So why am I always #2? I'm more popular–no one ever says
You're full of #1. Does #1 have an emoji? Well, yes, but I dare you to tell me what it is without looking it up. I'm much more socially responsible. Do you ever hear of a guy walking casually up to a tree in the woods to take a dump? or off the end of a dock? No! Have there been entire episodes of South Park dedicated to pee? Don't be silly! Does #1 give you quality time alone to think deep thoughts or read a good book? Never! It's all about do, zip, and go.
Even though I have a majorly recognized brand presence, just once, I'd like to be #1. Thank you.
I think this is a positive sign. NBC News reports
rapper quit his music career to start a cat rescue. The rapper TrapKing thinks it's a good career move, too.
In another NBC News report, that monolith in Utah has disappeared and been replaced by a small stone pyramid and rock cairn. One visitor examined the original structure and showed it was more curved than straight, not at all like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, not what earlier pictures would lead us to believe. Also, informed speculation calculates the original might have been there over five years without being noticed, which means the suspected original prankster is off the hook.
I'm not sure if I am disappointed or delighted that the trickstery continues. But if all the above is true, I admire the dedication and fortitude of whoever could have left it there that long without saying anything, and not just getting discouraged and removing it.
We are supposedly living in a
Golden Age of television. If so, they forgot to tell our cable provider. Constant ghosts, Nazis, cooking contests, people fixing houses, alien abductions, strange creatures, archeology, and what all, all the same. There is no new programming, just renaming and repackaging and reshowing. It's trash TV at its finest.
You can tell they're running out of ideas, so they're cross-pollinating, injecting aliens into ghost stories, mashing up architecture and Nazis, bigfoot and engineering and cooking shows and auctions with, well, everything.
Still, it's got limitations. I'm here to help, with some outside the box thinking. To wit:
hot chick.There's a fresh challenge from a different alien race each week. And you don't want to see what happens when a bachelor is voted off the island and into his partner's digestive system!
The Computer Chronicles continues. Last week, the program I used to upload files to the internet server broke. This week, Dropbox has started eating files, including a number of poems for a class assignment, and (drumroll, please) snippets and tidits I was collecting for your delight and delectation. So if this is shorter than you might anticipate, well, that's the reason.
If you happen to look up at the moon on November 30, you will be looking at a full moon variously known as the Cold Moon, Frost Moon, Winter Moon, Beaver Moon, Oak Moon, Moon Before Yule, Child Moon, Kartik Purnima, Karthika Deepam and Tazaungdaing Festival Moon, and Ill Poya.
There's supposed to be an 80% eclipse then also, but nobody wants to tell me where on earth we can see it, which is OK, since it's supposed to happen around 4:00 in the hey of hem, so I'm not seeing it anyway, even if it was happening in my backyard.
The New York Times has a nice report on a metal slab that appeared in the rock canyons of Utah earlier this month. Nobody has taken credit for it, or knows how long it's been there.
The picture in the Times shows the monolith in Utah with another picture showing a similar sculpture in a gallery in Manhattan. I think it looks a lot better in the desert.
The suspected artist said something in 2002 about putting his art pieces in remote natural places. Unfortunately, he died in 2011, so we'll never know if he got around to it..
According to authorities, and artist needs permission to place art on federal lands, so the sculpture is illegal. If that's true, that's the kind of regulation that should be repealed, not the stuff about clean air or continuing to protect birds or workplace safety.
From the U.S. Sun:
Trump ‘furious’ at Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and legal team ‘fools that are making him look bad’ in election battle Now, I thought Trump was able to, and did, everything on his own, and didn't need help with anything. Strikes me that's the case here.
TomatoPlanet!! has been in existence (with a couple of name changes) since about 2003. It reflects the interests of its author/creator, John McCarthy. The sole purpose of Tomato Planet!! is to provide an outlet for my attempts at being creative. At various times, these interests have included writing (always writing–fiction, poetry, speculative essays, and humorous writing), coding (html and css) taking pictures, cooking, and cartooning. As interests waned (camera broke and was never replaced, cooking became more functional and simpler), pages devoted to these activities were phased out, to the point where TP!! was a single page. A lot of the writing and subject matter had a limited shelf life, and so instead of archiving it in an accessible fashion, it was just taken off-line and parked in the shed.
Some people missed things, and I put some things back. Most pages have been updated (Stories is a work in progress). Miscellany, which actually has a long history (one of the predecessors of TomatoPlanet!! was called McCarthy Miscellany.), has been rethought, and should be getting more love this year.
All work is based on observation of the world around me.
Serious writing, the poetry and stories take a different approach to capturing these observations. Cartoons and speculative essays take very little seriously, reflecting the world. If you look long enough, you realize that the orbital pattern is random ellipses, not perfectly round. I try to capture the absurdity of that. Not all the way to dark absurdity like Camus and Sartre, or even like Samuel Beckett–I sort of pull up in the land of Douglas Adams and Joseph Heller. I should be so lucky as to write half as well.
If you view the world through absurdist-colored glasses, you will enjoy some of the material here. If you're not an absurdist, well, you haven't been paying attention.