Category Archives: Thoughts at Large

• On a recent edition of CBS Sunday Morning, host Jane Pauley interviewed cartoonist Garry Trudeau.  My spouse remarked how odd it must be to interview one’s own husband.  “Trudeau is Jane Pauley’s husband?” I said.  “Yes, how could you not know that?” she said. In my defense, I do know who was the first to verify Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity (namely, astronomer Arthur Eddington, in 1919).  But how could anyone not know that?

• Speaking of Einstein: Alan Lightman, author of the 1993 novel Einstein’s Dreams, made a seemingly innocuous observation in the third paragraph of his prologue as he described “… the young man’s desk … cluttered with half-opened books …”  I had nearly finished the paragraph when I stopped to ask myself, what exactly is a half-opened book?

• Life is like calculus: a lot of unnoticeable differences make a difference.

• Rank these Nabisco snack products from highest to lowest fat content: Oreos cookies, Cheese Nips crackers, Chicken in a Biskit crackers, Ritz crackers, Nutter Butter cookies.  Answers below (and no fair looking at their so-called “Nutrition Facts” labels).

• The actor Meryl Streep has appeared in over 55 films and has won three Oscars and eight Golden Globes.  Netflix streams only three of her films, Julie and Julia, Mamma Mia! and The River Wild.  These may have been very good films, but they clearly do not measure up to Happy Gilmore or The Ridiculous 6 — just two of the thirteen films on Netflix starring zero-time Oscar or Golden Globe winner Adam Sandler.

Ritz wins with 28% fat, followed by Chicken in a Biskit at 26%, Nutter Butter at 21.4%, Oreos at 20.5% and Cheese Nips at 20.0%.  See, Oreos aren’t as bad as you thought.

• Saying “oops” when you accidentally honk your horn and no one is around.  Closing the bathroom door for privacy when you are alone in the house.  Reaching for the light switch when you enter a room during a power outage.  These are a few of my behavioral things.

• A guy with an identity crisis answers the phone and says, “Hello, is this me?”

• In early 2017, I wrote here about the so-called Trump Rally in the U.S. stock market and pointed out how the rise in stock prices after his election was nothing unusual, despite all the chest-thumping by Trump and his shills.  Now, as Trump enters his third year, there is not even a mirage of a rally for him to take undeserved credit for — the S&P 500 index is exactly where one would expect it to be based on its long-term trend (7.1% per year).

• I like to think of myself as an evidence-based person — I am skeptical of product (and political) claims, I never buy extended warranties (companies would not sell them if they didn’t make money) and I don’t pray.  Yet I harbor my own superstitions.  I take lutein every day on the off-chance it will preserve my eye health.  I don’t root for athletes to fail (except for Tom Brady) because of the what-goes-around-comes-around principle.  And I always tip well, in the belief that those extra couple of dollars will matter to someone.

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• Some people “collect” experiences.  For example, there are those whose goal is to attend a baseball game in every major league park in a single season.  There are those who wish to step foot on every continent.  One person’s mission was to visit a pub next to each of the 270 underground stations in London.  And one person, it seems, intends to view every one of the 110 films (and counting) in which Liam Neeson has performed.  Indeed, I am now sort-of watching what may be either the 27th or 43rd or 71st of those films, along with the aforementioned person.  I have nothing against Liam Neeson, mind you — he perfected the role of the sensitive, tough-under-fire problem-solver extraordinaire, the very trait that my co-watcher admires in me.

• I never served in the armed forces.  Everything I know (and don’t know) about serving in the armed forces comes from films.  If I were to believe how military service is depicted in modern films, I would conclude that only the baddest of the bad-asses, or those who want to become bad-asses, need apply.  Compare this image with those who served in (and won) World War II: factory workers and salesmen, florists and actors, plumbers and painters.  Everyday guys, your dad and mine.  At least that is what I learned from those John Wayne and Robert Mitchum films.

• Why is train travel not very popular in the United States?  For the answer, consider this: when a film calls for its hero to become trapped and hurtle near-powerlessly to his demise, what vehicle is chosen as his conveyance?  Elephant?  Rickshaw?  Segway?  No — train.  People distrust trains in films and for good reason: they are enormously heavy, have tons of momentum and ride slippery rails.  All that romantic clickety-clack is just a distraction from the high-speed havoc underfoot.

• When a Cheerio falls onto the floor, I leave it there — it may help save a drowning ant.

• I just opened a gallon of milk whose container insists that I should have consumed it several days ago.  I think the fact that I bought the milk before it expired and took it home and kept it nice and cold before I opened it should count for something.  Ungrateful milk.  We’ll see whether it seeks revenge.

• It is probably wiser to let words flow like wine than the other way around — but this may depend on how one chooses her words.

• I need to read more Nietzsche.  I may not agree with even half of his aphorisms but I did appreciate this one: “Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies.”  Given the convictions of Congressional Republicans and the lies that emanate from the White House, it would seem that, together, they’ve got things covered.

• So the Scrabble Gods have decreed that a few hundred words that were already words will now count as words.  They also decided OK will count as a word, even though it is not.  I guess OK must have won the Scrabble Electoral College.

• There are takers and partakers.  Some of the latter are as intolerable as the former.

• People’s final wishes are not so much wishes for themselves (since they won’t experience them) but the experience they would force upon whomever has to deal with their earthly remains.  Making elaborate plans for others to carry out (my nostalgic wish was to have my ashes scattered in Schenley Park in Pittsburgh) is not very considerate.  So, I say give your survivors a break — don’t direct them from the grave and don’t ask them to do gratuitous things.  And I say to my loved ones, when I’m gone, do what works for you.  You’ll know what that is, and we may all rest assured that I will not object.

• All this rumination about final arrangements… it must be the milk.

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• As the legendary 19th-century mathematician and master of infinities Georg Ferdinand Ludwig Philipp Cantor said, “There are two kinds of people in this world: those who are one of those kinds and those who are not.”

• After many dozen online contests, I have found there are three types of Scrabble games.  One may draw lucky letters and score one great word after another, an embarassment of riches; or one draws a few good letters among mostly mediocre ones, just enough to give one hope during the uncertain struggle; or one’s letter tray follows a winding road, veering between six consonants and a vowel and one consonant (surely a V) and six vowels (mostly I’s and U’s), delivering a stern lesson in frustration and powerlessness.  That’s life.

• Actually, I am tiring of online games.  And more to the point, I am growing tired of luck.  If my prospects when entering a given endeavor are no better than 50-50, perhaps it’s time to pick a different endeavor.  No point being quixotic at this point of my life.  Better to use what I know, whatever that is, to produce good things, whatever they may be.

• At the supermarket, one can buy 20 tablets of the brand-name laxative Senokot for $6.98 (or 35 cents each), or one can buy 100 tablets of the generic version of the same laxative, sitting right next to the Senekot, for $3.78 (4 cents each).  Simple choice?  Note the empty space in the tray where several boxes of Senekot once sat.

This (click on it) is the most annoying television commercial I have had the misfortune to watch in a long, long time.  It gives a bad name to being progressive.

• The enemy of one’s enemy may be one’s friend, but it does not follow that a foolish man pointing out another fool is smart.  Indeed, he may be a stable genius.

• What we call nations are simply land-collectives.  They may be founded under variously-stated precepts and principles, but in the end they are about people holding onto land.

• Here’s another supermarket find, from the same store on the same day (click image to enlarge).  You may choose (on the left) 8 oz. of Premium Saltines for $2.97 or (on the right) 16 oz. of Premium Saltines for $2.98.  The 8-oz. box is made for people who are afraid to have too much of a good thing.

• Someone close to me recently made an intriguingly-stated observation: “The dead trees look great not there.”

• A few weeks ago, there was a story about mothers waiting in line for hours on end at shopping malls across the nation, with their young children in tow, to take advantage of a Build-A-Bear promotion.  I wonder how many hours those people will stand in line to vote.

• Procter & Gamble, the maker of Tide and Pampers, is trying to obtain trademark rights for millenial catchwords and phrases such as LOL and WTF.  This is a pretty radical idea for such an old-and-storied company — are we about to see a product in our supermarkets called “WTF Is In This Diaper?”  In any event, two can play this game.  If I had lots of cash and a suitable lack of brains, I would develop a Star Trek-themed funeral-home franchise called “He’s Dead, Jim,” a toilet-bowl cleaner called “Grime of Thrones” and a line of roach-killing products under the “CU-L8R” brand.

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