This Year Will be Different!


Ten Hard to Keep New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Spel beter
  2. Write gooder
  3. Get in shape
  4. Lose weight
  5. Grow taller
  6. Increase I.Q.
  7. Become younger
  8. Save money
  9. Save the world
  10. Win Nobel prize

New Year’s resolutions. Many of us make them. Fewer of us keep them. We choose to do these things not because they’re easy, but because they’re hard. Or at least that’s what JFK said. Though I would hope there’s a better reason to do something other than for its difficulty. It’s hard to suck a baseball through a drinking straw. So even if you did it, so what. Baseballs taste terrible.

On the other hand you can make resolutions that are too easy. In which case they just become a ‘to do’ list. Then again, sometimes easy things to do are worthwhile. Like ‘watch Superbowl’ for instance. That’s easy to do. And if you’re a big football fan very worthwhile. Anyway, it sure beats sucking a baseball through a drinking straw.

Filed 12/28/10

Mary Christmas?


In spanish San is a man saint, like San Diego or San Juan. Santa is a woman saint, like Santa Monica or Santa Anna. So then, is Santa Claus really a woman? Would that mean Chris Kringle is some kind of a circus freak, a bearded fat lady? After all, Chris is one of those gender ambiguous names which could be either a man or a woman. You know, like Pat.

Then again, Santa is married to Mrs. Claus and I imagine same-sex marriage is a no-go for a Saint, male or female. Whether circus freaks would same-sex marry is something I don’t know. I mean, who would the half-man-half-woman marry, a man or a woman?

All that aside, Santa is also called Father Christmas and Saint Nicholas. That’s a man without a doubt. Besides, Santa Claus is mythical so I don’t suppose it really matters.

Filed 12/24/10

Economics in Four Pictures


I don’t know that any added verbiage will help or hurt the pics. They are what they are. You’re amused or you’re not. That’s the bottom line.

Filed 11/24/10

Packrats Might Come in Handy Someday


“Don’t throw that out, it might come in handy some day.” Sound like any­one you know? Maybe you? Taken to the extreme this is the philosophy of the packrat.

Take the true case of Mr. S who saved everything because “Well, you never know.” His house was all rooms with no room, just pathways between piles of stuff. Toys, broken televisions, non-working radios, newspapers, lumber, empty cottage cheese contain­ers… anything and everything whether valuable or not. Mostly not. He never traded in cars, just stored the worn out models on the property. Though if you peered into his garage you’d never know there were cars inside under all the other junk. Mr. S was the quint­essential packrat.

Why do they do it, you might wonder. My guess is anti-wasteful­ness, the notion it’s a shame to discard what is still good. Or at least not yet utterly rotted to the core. So instead of sending it to a landfill they keep their own private indoor landfill in the hope that sometime-or-other, somehow-or-other to someone-or-other “it might come in handy.”

Even if not themselves, “somebody could use this” they imagine. What’s lacking is a distribution system. Enter the garage sale. Or if they hope to fool people into thinking their junk is valu­able they call it an estate sale. Though your hardcore packrat only submits to a garage sale at the cajolery of rela­tives.

You might wonder, what’s the difference between a packrat and a collector.

Firstly, collecting is an activity, the collector goes out and gets. Packrat­tery is a lack of activity, packrats just let thing pile up. Second is selectivity, collectors collect specific things, packrats just accumulate everything. Next is worth, collectors usually have an eye on value, packrats merely consider if it “might come in handy some day.” Lastly, collectors usually organize, display and keep their collections clean, packrats not so much.

Which brings up a few last ques­tions. Do you have a guest bedroom no guest ever uses but is basically a storehouse for all your junk? If so, is it really a guest bedroom or a big closet? Can you not get the car into the garage because of all the gear in there? Do you have a storage unit which mainly contains stuff you don’t really need or use? If so, you just might be a packrat.

Filed 10/26/10

It Is What It Is, Whatever You Call It


Warm blooded animals, mammals and birds, have four limbs. People have two arms and two legs, birds two wings and two legs, cows, cats, dogs and such have four legs. Many cold-blooded animals also have four limbs, but many have six, eight, or many more. Crabs, shrimp, insects, and so on. Seems the bigger the brain the fewer the limbs. Which is not a hard and fast rule as snakes have no limbs at all and none are Mensa members. It appears to take more co-ordination and more brains to walk on two legs than four than six than eight than etc.

Now then, can a tail or a nose be a limb? How about animals with a prehensile tail used for grabbing like a monkey for instance? What about an animal with a prehensile nose? You know, elephants. Are they five-limbed? After all you don’t need to walk on it for it to be a limb. People don’t walk on their hands, as a rule. There’s no real point in answering these questions, which are more a preamble to an old riddle.

If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?

Four. No matter what you call it, a tail is not a leg.

Filed 10/4/10

A Silly Bit For No Good Reason Other Than I Wanted To and Don’t Have a Copier or Fax

Mouseover to enlarge

How often do goofy ideas pop into your head? Would they amuse anyone else? What do you do with them? In the old days you might try turning them into copier humor passing them around on paper. Later this became fax humor. Now-a-days we have the internet to make it faster and easier to share these silly things with email and blogs.

Of course the old days mentioned started in the 1970s. Before that, you just kept it to yourself. Which, in many cases might be just the place to keep it.

Filed 9/1/10

American v. English English


If you’ve ever listened to news from the BBC you’ll have heard a phrase which to American ears sounds odd, but is A-OK to the rest of the English-speaking world. Something along the lines of:

Joe Dokes was sent to hospital.

In the U.S. we’d say “to the hos­pital” not “to hospital.” Like I say, Americans find the British way tinny to the ear, almost ungrammatical or like something spoken by someone who’s first language was not English. But is it so odd? After all, “Joe Dokes went to school” sounds right. “Joe Dokes went to the school” sounds right, too, but means something else.

Then again, after getting out Joe went home. Not went to home or went to the home, just went home. Though if Joe were old and released from (the) hospital he could have gone home to the home. The retirement home, that is. There Joe might either lie in bed or lie on the couch. In any case Joe doesn’t lie in couch, always on the couch. Though he can lie (or lay) on the bed or in bed or even in the bed, which all mean about the same thing.

Though a younger Joe would return to his job where he’d be at work or at the office and never at the work or at office. On the other hand, in office isn’t the same as in the office. Elected officials are in office even when they’re not in the office but at home in bed.

Now then, Joe can be in school without being in the school. The first means he’s a student, the second he’s at a school building whether a student or not. This explains the British usage where in hospital means Joe is a patient, while in the hospital would mean Joe could be a doctor or visitor and is in the building. The latter use would even apply to a thing, as in the MRI machine was in the hospital, while it would never be in hospital. Yet if broken could be in the shop and not in shop.

What rules cover all this I don’t know. I guess grammar is in the ear of the beholder and might vary from place to place. Even if you don’t know the rules, some things just sound right or wrong. After all, as children we learn to speak properly without being taught rules of grammar until we get to school. And even then all those rules don’t always soak in, but we can still speak grammatically anyway.

Filed 7/20/10

Going Fast Fast


I had my own experience with sudden acceleration years ago when going to art school in Detroit. Not in a Toyota or Audi, but in a 1963 Chevy van. I was on my way back to class after lunch when suddenly the van just took off. After the initial surprise I jammed on the brakes. Soon enough the braking stalled the engine.

It was pretty hair-raising and heart-pounding though over pretty quickly, in a matter of seconds if memory serves. Still, you can cover quite a bit of ground in a few seconds in a run-away 1963 Chevy van. Luckily I was on a wide one-way street with no other traffic or lights or stop signs so I didn’t hit anyone or anything.

What I discovered had happened was the bolts holding the cross-member under the transmission broke. As a result the transmission dropped pitching the engine up jamming the accelerator open. I suppose I should have blamed GM for making a faulty vehicle where this could happen. Then again, the van was 20 years old. Per­haps I should have blamed the local road authorities for salting the roads in winter which caused the bolts to rust away in the first place.

I’ll call ABC News and see if they can investigate. Thirty years isn’t than long ago, is it?

Filed 4/5/10

Look at All the Stuff You Weren’t Looking For


What’s with the computers in TV crime labs? Do they really need to display every fingerprint or face it’s trying to match in its database? Why would the monitor show and reject each non-matching one with a black bar reading “No Match” and make a little bink sound? Wouldn’t that drive the lab workers crazy?

I mean, when you do a search function on your computer does it display what does not match? What would be the point? Can the computer only “see” if something matches by “looking” at it on the monitor? All a computer really understands is zeros and ones, the screen display is for the user. Are these crime lab folks staring at their computer as it goes through hundreds of fingerprints looking for a match which the computer stops at automatically anyway?

This reminds me of moviedom computers in the old days which “beepity-booped” and had banks of blinking lights. Which were for what, exactly? They randomly blinked but didn’t display any information at all. About all they did was show the computer was working, and at what speed. How is that helpful?

Actually, I can tell you how it’s helpful. It’s eye candy for the viewing audience. It’s TV, after all.

Filed 3/17/10

Non-recycling Recycling


You might be familiar with the catch-phrase, reduce, reuse, recycle. While this has a nice ring to it I think it’s slightly misunderstood or incomplete as some of what is called recycling seems like it, but really isn’t.

Take an aluminum can. When you drink the beer, soda or whatever, you return it to the store and jam it into one of those machines which crushes it into a big plastic bag. This is taken to an aluminum processor and even­tually becomes another can and the cycle comes full circle. This is real recycling, there’s a cycle, as indicated in the symbol of a triangular mobius strip that goes round and round.

On the other hand, recycled glass bottles don’t become new glass bottles. They can be ground up into aggregate for concrete roads and things like that. At which point it reaches the end of the line, they don’t reuse the glass as bottles for your daily ration of beer. So there is no cycle which means it’s not really recycling.

You might call that reuse instead. Yet is that really reuse? The bottle isn’t reused as a bottle, but as raw material for something else, though it remains glass.

A more direct reuse is an empty butter tub reused as a leftovers con­tainer. In this case you don’t shred the tub into bits or beat it to a pulp or any­thing. The container stays a container only with something else in it. That’s reuse where you don’t change its form or use really.

I propose the last case is reuse, and the aluminum can business is recycle, but what happens with the ground up glass is neither. It’s another category which I’d call repurpose. Notice with reuse and recycle they’re cyclical, the items or materials are used over and over.

Which isn’t the case for repurpose where you use a finished product as raw material for something else rather than in the same way. Repurposing this way means glass doesn’t wind up in a landfill but in a road. (Which then fits into the reduce category, too.) Still there’s no cycle to it.

Then again, a good deal of what we use is reused. When you eat off a plate you don’t throw it away, you wash and reuse it. Unless it’s a paper plate. Still, you could call that reuse. Similarly we reuse our clothes over and over and over. Until they get a hole in them then we throw them away, turn them into rags (repurpose) or patch the hole and continue to reuse them.

Perhaps patching or mending adds a new R to the saying, repair. After all, repairing something so you can continue reusing it keeps it out of the garbage stream, which seems to be the goal of all the Rs to begin with. So we wind up with…

Reduce, repurpose, repair, reuse, recycle.

That should clear things up. I think I’ve successfully solved a problem that didn’t need solving.

Filed 2/8/10

Turn Vice into Virtue


The proverbial seven deadly sins are anger, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, and sloth. People are mostly against these sins. At least in other people. However, if we replace the words with less odious terms to apply to ourselves we can transform from sinners into saints. Or if not saints exactly, sinners lite.

Instead of anger, say outrage.
Instead of envy, say equality.
Instead of gluttony, say gourmandery.
Instead of greed, say self-interest.
Instead of lust, say hot-blooded.
Instead of pride, say self-esteem.
Instead of sloth, say laid-back.

Now then, don’t you feel better about yourself? But don’t get carried away with the feeling or you’re back to pride.

On the other hand there are folks who make a virtue of “acting natur­ally.” These people will tell you checking your natural inclination in favor of some societal rule of behavior is fake, hypocritical or dishonest. (Is there a Dr. House in the house?)

But ask yourself, how many of the seven deadly sins are natural impulses. If your answer is seven, then the seven sins: anger, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, and sloth; become seven virtues: act naturally, act naturally, act natur­ally, act naturally, act naturally, act naturally, and act naturally.

An important point of civilization is to get people to act civilized and stop acting naturally. At least where our natural impulses are harmful. To behave according to social convention is not hypocritical if you believe it’s the right thing to do. You might say it’s the victory of the civilized mind over the natural brain, the triumph of reason over impulse.

Filed 1/21/10

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