Category Archives: Thoughts @ Large

Thoughts @ Large: 81

•  If you want to insult someone who has done a lousy job, give them an attoboy.  Note the subtle difference between this and an attaboy.  An attaboy indicates approval, but attoboy is formed from the metric prefix atto, which means 10-18 (one-quintillionth) of an attaboy. The smallest of small praise.

•  Well, perhaps not the very smallest.  Unbeknownst to most of us this past November, the “powers” that be (specifically, the 27th General Conference on Weights and Measures) adopted four new metric system prefixes to describe the most perversely large and small.  You can now award someone a quectoboy, 10-30 of an attaboy, one-trillionth of an attoboy. After giving you the scowly-eyes, the recipient of your quectoboy at the drive-thru is sure to appreciate your metric awareness by spitting in your liter of Diet Coke.

•  Ban-Lon proved to be a waist of time.

•  A recent New York Times article discussed an infamously low bridge in Cambridgeshire, England, which was struck by vehicles over 30 times last year.  The bridge (the underpass on the left in the image below) has less than 7 feet of clearance:

Photo Credit: New York Times

The authorities seem clueless how to keep taller vehicles from crashing into this bridge.   The damages and delays have cost the government-owned rail system millions of pounds. Might I suggest a couple of fixes?  First, install a 15 mph speed hump in the side road, followed by a plastic “limbo stick” warning barrier, the kind you often see at the entrances of car washes and parking garages.  If that’s not enough to get people’s attention, then put an electric eye at the top of the ramp, mounted at the same height as the underpass, and have it trigger flashing red lights on the bridge.  This has got to cost less than repeatedly fixing stupid.

•  The older I get, the less interested I have been and the less energy I have spent judging how other people live.  In the end, we all get by.  Just be kind.

•  I was mildly pleased, when I bought a car in 2021, that the first three letters on my new license plate were JBK, for Just Be Kind.  The numbers, however, didn’t mean squat.

•  In their self-interested defense of unfettered U.S. capitalism, CEO’s have often claimed that “billionaires create jobs.”  But do they?  In December 2022, our unemployment rate declined to 3.5 percent, thanks to gains in leisure/hospitality, health care, construction, and social assistance.  Meanwhile, Facebook has decided to lay off 11,ooo of its workers, while Amazon is about to lay off 6% (18,000) of its workforce.  Billionaires, you be you.

•  I have a “Shark Tank” idea.  I call it ACU-TENDER™.  My product consists of a set of acupuncture needles along with recipes and instructions on how to acupuncture the pack of ingredients I send you each month, so you can ACU-TENDERIZE them.  Let’s say you want to cook chicken breasts tonight.  You lay out the chicken breasts on your bamboo (important!) cutting board, and then you twist/spin your ACU-TENDER™ needles int0 the chicken breast to give it that magical flavor and mouth-watering texture that Western cooking methods cannot replicate.  Sharks, aren’t you sold already?

•  A wise man once said… nothing at all.

•  I don’t believe I have mentioned this, but if I did, please excuse.  I finally found a local eyecare/eyeware outfit (here!) that does not try to upsell you on useless (but profitable) coatings and lens treatments.  The add-on that most optometrists try to push nowadays are blue-blocking lenses for outdoors and/or electronics.  One optometrist even had me watch, ironically enough, a video on the dangers of blue light before doing my eye exam.  But Harvard Medical School insists there is NO EVIDENCE to support this, and that there are far better ways to care for your eyes.  So, before you make your next eye appointment, mention blue light to the staff and see if they trot out the scare tactics.  If so, remember what you read here.

•  I assume we all have personal calming sounds.  Mine include seagulls and ocean waves.  I had never heard this soundscape in person until my late-30s, but when I did, it was as if the waves reached inside me somewhere and unlocked a lock.  It seems that this particular outerscape magically and gently allows stress in my innerscape to escape.

Your calming sounds are no doubt different.  They may be the whirs of a sewing machine; the cadence of chatter in a family-member’s home; the echo of footsteps and whispers in a stone-walled cathedral; the lone honks of late-night taxis; the songbirds welcoming dawn.

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Thoughts @ Large: 80

Doing a little tidy-up of items that don’t merit a whole post but might warrant a scintilla of scrutiny, a crumb of contemplation, a mote of mentation…

💡 Over 300 people in the past 100 years have died electively by a process one could call suicide by mountain.  I am referring to the (mostly) men who have perished trying to scale Mount Everest — all avoidable deaths.  Our spectacle-obsessed culture encourages, even celebrates, risky adventures that often end in healthy people dying.  (Don’t even talk to me about the stupidity of air shows.)  At the same time, our culture thwarts the desires of old, worn-out people to choose death rather than spend their last months in an Everest-scale descent through “long-term care.”  I guess their struggles just aren’t gutsy enough.

🗑️ I know, it’s a bad idea to start Thoughts @ Large with a negative item, since it sets a tone that is hard to dispel later.  So let’s do something lighter next!

️✈️ If you did a search for Allegiant emergency landing, what do you think might pop up?  How about these headlines:  2011: Orlando-bound Allegiant Air flight forced to land in Pittsburgh.  2015: Allegiant flight makes emergency landing in St. Pete.  2016: Allegiant Air flight headed to Pittsburgh makes emergency landing due to turbulence.  2018: Allegiant flight makes emergency landing in Cedar Rapids.  2018: Allegiant flight performs emergency landing at McGhee Tyson Airport.  2020: Passenger says Allegiant plane’s NC emergency landing was ‘a little scary.’  2021: Flight 1313 makes emergency landing in Lexington.  2021: Allegiant airplane blows out tire after rough landing at Logan.  2021: Allegiant flight from Sanford lands safely following ‘mechanical issue’ shortly after takeoff.  2021: Bird strike forces emergency landing of Allegiant flight in St. Pete.

That was just the first page of the Allegiant emergency landing search results.

👎 By the way, we are not flying Allegiant to visit New York City after the holidays.  This will be our first foray post-pandemic, and we don’t want to spoil it with little annoyances like emergency landings.

🔠 After weeks of observation, I have developed what I call the “Positive Wordle Theory.”  If there is a choice between a few Wordle answers, then the more likely answer is the one with the more positive emotional connotation.  This means, pick BRIDE instead of BRINE, CHARM instead of CHART, MEDAL instead of PEDAL.  There is a bias.

🥦  I’m the kind of guy who, after buying a new salad dressing and deciding I really don’t like it, will homeopathically add a little of it to every salad I make from then on until the bottle is empty, rather than throw the stuff out.  Be glad you’re not married to me.

🌧️  The 1966 Beatles song Rain is one of my all-time favorites.  I love Ringo’s drumming (this video is fun) and the electro-twangy guitar.  It’s also a great listen while taking your car through the car-wash.  But the point of this item is my mondegreen (misheard lyrics) in Rain‘s refrain.  Where John sings, Ra-ain / I don’t mind / Shi-ine / the weather’s fine, I always heard the last line as the worthless climeWhich I thought made perfect sense for a song that celebrates rain!

☯️  There is no such thing as unconditional trust in another being, mortal or otherwise.  We decide who we trust, and why, and that makes it conditional.

💩 One of the more regrettable articles I got sucked into reading recently is this one, on the features and drawbacks of oil diffusers, titled — for the sole benefit of search engines — Your Diffuser May Be Harming You.  How so, you ask?  The authors of the article, who of course have no vested interest other than selling their own diffuser, present an overview of alternate oil diffuser technologies.  The potential harm to you, they claim, consists of “diffusing harmful chemicals that are in our everyday tap water.”  God help us, I suppose, if we had to breathe the stuff that we already drink.

Strange how people who use oil diffusers do not grasp that they deposit tiny oil droplets on one’s walls, floors and furnishings, and that is how your diffuser may be harming you.

⚙️ From the Only-Half-the-Battle Department:  It is easier to improve yourself than to improve other people’s perceptions of you afterward.

😁 I just finished reading, back to back but on unrelated whims, the autobiographies of the comic-actor/musician Harpo Marx and the comedian/actor/musician Steve Martin.  Harpo’s is the far better read, as it mostly consists of warm and entertaining accounts of his youth, his family and his renowned circle of friends, with amusing details of his career.

The difference in the tone and tenor of Martin’s bio could not be more pronounced — in his stand-up years, Martin was detached from his family, and from himself.  He observes that his is “not an autobiography but a biography, because I am writing about someone I used to know.”  His recollections feel familiar but emotionally hollow.

Steve aimed to be funny; Harpo wanted to make life fun.  Both succeeded.

⏱️ Routine is great in the right settings.  In the military, it helps ensure a fast, predictable response to a superior’s command, or in football to a play called at the line.  Adherence to routine reduces manufacturing defects, piano-playing flubs and errors of unfamiliarity.  Routine offers a sense of security in an uncertain world, like armor that deflects worry.

But all armor is brittle, suitable only for the attacks for which it is designed.  Resilience is more powerful than armor.  Resilience comes from experience, from being vulnerable, from withstanding numerous minor (and hopefully few major) assaults on our beings and  learning/evolving survival skills.

We err when we protect our children with the armor of routine but spare them experiences that would build their resilience.  The ultimate balancing act for a parent.

🛠️  People have their favorite tools for certain tasks.  I have a set of language-helper tools that I often use when writing this blog, and I thought I would share them here:

  • My favorite online thesaurus is now the OneLook Thesaurus.  I like its ability to sort results by closest meaning, alphabetically, or length. The home page of OneLook.com offers a number of additional word-search tools.
  • My favorite rhyme dictionary is the Rhyme Zone, which also offers a variety of ways to find and filter results.  It is not perfect, however — for instance, president is given as a 100% rhyme for resident, whereas resident is only a 72% rhyme for president.  Hm.
  • I use the The Free Dictionary to find idioms/phrases which incorporate a given word. It’s OK but not a treasure trove.  For disco, Free Dictionary returns deader than disco, while other idiom sites return nothing… because disco is dead?
  • What I really need is a tool to help me generate metaphors related to a certain word or concept, say, dance.  Vivid, imaginative metaphors are hard for me to come up with.  Ideas dance around inside my head but then the music stops and they all go home.

The more I read the New York Times, the more shitty the long-term prospects seem for our world and for humanity.  As a result, I’ve been reading less of the New York Times.

🗑️ I know, it’s a bad idea to end Thoughts @ Large with a negative item, since it sets a tone that is hard to dispel later.  So let’s do something lighter next time!

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Shots @ Large

• If you’re bothered by the number of mentally-disturbed people in America contemplating mass violence at this moment, think of the vaster number of politicians letting it happen.

• It is time for liberals to make a stand for repealing the Second Amendment.  If liberals stand for anything, they have to let go of even feigned respect for its ambiguous phrasing and the Supreme Court’s irresponsible interpretation of what bearing arms means in America.  Liberals need to make it clear that every mass shooting from this day forward is on the dogmatists and obstructionists to answer for and do something about.

• I love to hear criminal justice officials lament how mass shooters who exhibited violent tendencies in the past “fell through the cracks.”  When it comes to guns in America, it’s all cracks and they know it.

• In “Anthem” Leonard Cohen wrote:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Very poetic, graceful and full of promise, but my posthumous question for you, Mr. Cohen: Does taking the long view really make the short view palatable?

That’s OK, no one expects the dead to answer.

• Clouds, especially storm clouds, appear to have a lot of substance but are basically fog.  People, especially stormy people, share many attributes with clouds.

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