Category Archives: Thoughts at Large

•  If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck but it isn’t a duck, then it is an impostor.  That is, a quack.

•  People in deep thought scratch their heads or stroke their chins as if doing so will help something intelligent to emerge.  How did such behavior evolve?  I would encourage some aspiring psychology major to conduct a study that answers the question, “Do people who touch their faces make better or faster decisions than those who refrain from doing so?”

•  Online product reviews often reveal more about the reviewer than they do the product.  For example, one reviewer rated a set of wood drill bits two stars (out of five) because they were “not good for drilling into cement.”  Was he trying them out on his skull?

•  Open letter to editorial columnist Maureen Dowd of The New York Times: why not just retire and spare yourself (and the rest of us) your unending misery from having to live in the same universe as Bill and Hillary Clinton?

•  You are sitting in a church pew during a religious service, but you do not observe that faith, and then a tray is passed to you, and you just smile and hand it to the next person in the row.  If only that tray had not been handed to you, everything would have been cool!  But now you’re getting looks.  That’s just one of the prices you pay for not believing.

•  Disillusionment wasn’t invented in 1964.  I doubt there was ever a generation that did not experience disillusionment — how the establishment thwarted us, how powerless and ineffective we are, what little hope remains.  Each generation (and person) defines itself by its response to disillusionment.

•  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times.

•  When Reince Priebus left, Donald Trump became the first president in over 100 years to not have a pet dog in the White House.

•  There are three kinds of books: the ones you’re glad you read, those that were a waste of time, and those you need to read.  Here is my three-column list of said books:

GLAD I READ
The Mind’s I
Slaughterhouse Five
The Last Temptation of Christ
Paris 1919
A Map of the World
Owl at Home
WASTE OF TIME
Consciousness Explained
Guns, Germs and Steel
Roger’s Version
Ivanhoe
The Ottoman Empire, 1700-1922
Journey to Ixtlan
NEED TO READ
The Brothers Karamazov
Works of Abraham Lincoln
Fountainhead
Of Human Bondage
The Barbarians
Freedom

 

I invite you to share yours in the comments.

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• I like to present myself as an expert on the last topic I read something about.

• I have no problem with George H. W. Bush getting called out for butt-grabbing women who happen to be nearby.  Old people should not have a free pass to grope, and let’s hope that this puts an end to that.  Let’s also (at the risk of saying something a man might say) try to maintain a distinction among rape, abuse, bodily insult, inappropriate touch and sexual harassment.  The pedant in me would like to say that if words mean anything, they should be consistent with the acts they describe, just as punishment should fit the crime.  But the woman in me says that all these acts fall on the continuum of living in a world full of arrogant, powerful-because-they-are-enabled, testosterone-driven men.

• Name-calling never served us well.  It enjoyed a long tradition in the U.S. (see late-19th and early-20th century political cartoons) but Donald Trump brought name-calling and playground-bullying, his blunt-force weapons of choice, into the 21st century.  We nerds know that the best response to a playground bully is to be smart, not to try to out-bully or out-ridicule, because that is the turf the bully knows best.  Parody of Trump — making fun of his hair, his hands, his oafishness — may be an escape for some but it does not comprise a winning tactic.  Smart people need to devise a smart response to Trump.  Everything else distracts from that.

• We in the United States seem to be helpless (perhaps impotent is the better word) when it comes to dealing with those we suspect to be sociopaths.  It is next to impossible for us to marshal and coordinate social, investigative and law enforcement resouces at the local, state and federal levels so that we might prevent the Sandy Hook or Las Vegas massacres.   There is no 711 number to report people we think may be dangerous.  If there were such a number, it would have to shut down in a matter of hours from the volume of calls.

• Mama Mia, Microsoft.  They offer six easy ways to do things, one hard way to undo them. Take Excel and the task of assigning / deleting a name for a cell range   One can assign a name to a selected range by moving the cursor to the name box above the grid, typing in the custom name and hitting ENTER.  Pretty straightforward.  But what if you want to undo this?  Instinct tells me to move my cursor to the range whose name I want to erase, click the name box and hit DELETE.

Afraid not.  One must instead: (1) Click the Formulas tab (why Formulas?)  (2) Locate the Name Manager icon and click it.  (3) Locate the range name in the name list.  (4) Click on the range name to select it and then click the DELETE button to delete it.  (5)  And finally click OK when the “Are You Sure” box appears.

I’m convinced that Microsoft software was developed by Catholics: easy to get married, hard to get divorced, and the escape key doesn’t work unless the priest gives his OK.

• I would have liked to have been the guy my friends would call to help him or her move, after which we would have a beer or two afterwards.  That never happened.  Perhaps I sent the wrong message or — more likely — presented the wrong muscles.

• Note to self:  The next time I go to Trader Joe’s and see a bottle of Barolo on sale for $13, it is going to taste exactly like what I think a bottle of Barolo on sale at Trader Joe’s for $13 would taste like.  It is never going to taste better because I paid less.

• Halloween Quiz:  If you stood perfectly still and an amoeba challenged you to a race to the nearest pumpkin, which one would win, the amoeba or the toenail on your big toe? Answer: an amoeba can crawl 5 micrometers a second.  This means they are 10,000 times faster than the rate your toenail grows.  So the amoeba would win easily, unless it gave your toenail a head start.  What makes this a Halloween Quiz?  Because fast amoebas are scary, man.  Especially the smug ones that challenge you to a race they know they will win.

• I have been cleaning out the storage room to make a space to do art.  I came across my box of poetry from high school and college and reacquainted myself with it.  I have finally acknowledged that these were not works of genius, and that even my well-scattered ashes would be embarrassed were someone to discover and read these writings after my death.  Thanks to the Art Gods for granting me this chance to throw them out first.

• By the way, they were pathetic, and no, I’m not going to post an example!  If you want a cheap thrill, go check your own storage room.

• Okay, here’s just one howler, from a high-school poem titled The End Results Confusion: “Aimless searches for meanings / Trivial in themselves / The confusion of our minds / Ends in rebellion from truth.”  Did every 1969 high-school boy try to imitate Jim Morrison or was it just me?

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• Scenic is a picnic with see in it.

• When one is young, there are not enough hours in the day.  When one gets older, there are not enough days in the year.

• Over one thousand people a year complete the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail in one hike (known as thru-hiking).  Compare this to the 50,000 runners who complete the 26-mile New York Marathon every year.  So I wonder: how many would attempt these feats if they were longer or shorter?  There must be an optimum difficulty level for such endeavors that is hard enough to be considered a challenge but attainable enough to get people to try.

• We just bought a new mattress at Ethan Allen.  I was not that happy with the experience, because Ethan Allen wanted to charge us a $125 delivery and set-up fee along with a $95 disposal fee for our old mattress.  None of the other stores we shopped had a delivery or disposal charge.  When we questioned the Ethan Allen salesperson about this discrepancy, her response was, well we have no idea what they do with old mattresses but we have to send them to the landfill.  As if JCPenney drives a truck into the mountains and dumps their old mattresses in the river.

We negotiated the $220 delivery-and-disposal charge down to $75 but I still feel like much of what we paid for this item was to compensate the entitled salespersons at Ethan Allen.  That said, the mattress feels great.  Maybe if I sleep better, I will write a less resentful blog.

• I was in a spelling bee in sixth grade.  I dropped out seven or eight people from the top.  The word I choked on: mattress.  It was the last time (until now) I cried over a mattress.

• Here in the Bible Belt, the Christian code-word for being well-off financially is blessed.  I wonder what the Bible Belt euphemism is for fellow-believers addicted to painkillers.

• It is tempting to allow time to have its say and let Donald Trump be judged by history as the injurious incompetent he is.  But the long perspective is small comfort: my history is this morning, my history is ten minutes ago, my history is the period ending this sentence.  I don’t have time for historians to decide whether Trump is comedy, tragedy or chaos.

• If I ever wanted to create a video to promote my art, the persons I would ask to narrate would be David Attenborough, Morgan Freeman, and Laura Linney.  For the lighter bits, Tom Hanks.  For my dammit-who-cares-what-you-like items, Samantha Bee.

• Are we the Pretender States of America?  Our leaders say we believe in x, y and z but their actions so often demonstrate the opposite.  The United States loves to pat itself on the back, as if we were the New England Patriots of Humankind, but where is the evidence that Americans are any less hateful or prejudicial to those who are unlike us than the people of any other developed nation?  We recite our myth of plain-spoken provincialism, we toss some of the bounty of our ill-gotten lands to the nations who marvel at our lavish parade, then we proclaim ourselves to be exceptional.  We are great — marketers.

• You have just read the otherwise unexceptional 500th post on The 100 Billionth Person (D is the Roman symbol for 500).  I made special bits for my 300th and 400th posts but was uninspired to make something special of it this time, as I am not sure who (if anyone) I am talking to anymore.  It’s not that I wouldn’t like an audience, it’s more that having an audience has not led to more connections, the two-way conversations I desire.

• So on we go to No. 501.  As Ringo says, Peace and Love.  You’re invited.

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