Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Good Old Days

March 29, 2010

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Item in the Idaho Statesman from January 14, 1900:

"Miss Beryl Davis of Meridian led discussion on 'Why Children are not Reading?' at the Ada County teachers meeting in Boise."

(Yes, that's 1900--110 years ago.)

February 23, 2010

Although texting while driving seems to be a new low in cluelessness, inattentive driving is hardly a new problem.

This gem appeared in the Idaho Statesman on January 2, 1938, courtesy of the National Safety Council:

A "Daffy Drivers" cartoon shows a car in a river with a woman saying to her husband, "Fold your road map up now, Oscar--our trip's over!"

The caption says, "WATCH THAT ROAD! Yes, brother, you might as well fold up that road map and head for home. You thought you could watch the map and the road at the same time. ...Mister, it's a fundamental of the safe driving code that you keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the steering wheel and your mind on the job of getting there safely."

Guess things haven't changed all that much.

January 13, 2010

Today’s crossword had an Ovid quote: “Let others praise ancient times, I am glad I was born in these.” I wonder what the “good old days” were in Ovid’s time? I wonder if he wrote down some examples?

And that brings me to some more ancient wisdom. I was thumbing through Hesiod, and found the following gems:

Invite your friend to dinner; have nothing to do with your enemy. Invite that man particularly who lives close to you. If anything, which ought not to happen, happens in your neighborhood, neighbors come as they are to help; relatives dress first.


When you deal with your brother, be pleasant, but get a witness…

Do not let any sweet-talking woman beguile your good sense with the fascinations of her shape. It’s your barn she’s after.
And for all that we hear about people having such short life-spans back in those days, he advises:
And have a forty-year old man, still young enough to follow the plow… such a man will keep his mind on his work and drive a straight furrow…

Thirty is about the right age to marry, he says.

He has a lot of guidelines on when to plant, when to plow, when to do just about everything. Clearly a man who was interested in details.

I just love this stuff.

January 2007

1. Remember when Mini-Golf courses used to actually have moving parts that demanded skill and timing? When my sisters and I were growing up we had to shoot through the moving arms of a windmill one one hole, then put the ball into the empty space of a moving mill wheel on another. There were also other challenges.

Now the golf course makers throw in a few doglegs, then RAISE THE LIP OF THE HOLE so that it's difficult to make the ball roll in, and call that a challenge. I call it lame.

2. I saved all the articles from the first mission to Mars back in July of 1976. I like going back and reading about how they hoped to find out if there was life on Mars by August. There was also a prediction that we'd be on Mars by 2005.

I love the optimism those articles showed, I really do. It sort of makes me feel like we were all wide-eyed kids for a change, instead of cynical scientists, reporters and citizens.

3. Remember when Superbowl commercials were fun?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My Brushes with Culture

April 7, 2010

Ordinary Life Close Up

We went to see a neat photography exhibit last week. A guy walks around with his camera, looks at basic everyday scenes, then finds something zoom-worthy. After he’s taken a close-up of a particular segment, it’s not only unrecognizable, but fascinating. (Who knew a painted yellow arrow on pavement would have such interesting patterns?)

His website doesn’t actually give you the original scene, so it doesn’t look nearly as impressive as it would if you could see where the pictures came from. But if you want to look, go to

November 1, 2009

There was an EXCELLENT exhibit at the art museum here last summer. A woman uses spools of thread to recreate masterpieces—upside-down! And then you look through a crystal ball, and the pictures turn out right-side up and totally awesome! (They don’t look like much with the naked eye.) We got “The Last Supper” and some Holbein stuff here (and the detail was incredible!); but from the film they ran, we saw that she has actually done cool stuff like Spock, McCoy and Kirk as well. It was so amazing I went to see it twice.

The artist was trying to make a point about the brain and perception; but most of us just liked the nifty pictures.

January 10, 2010

I attended a simulcast of an opera ("Der Rosenkavalier") from the Met in New York yesterday. They show it at the multiplex. So, not only can you bring popcorn into the theater (I was tickled to see the little old ladies with their big buckets of popcorn at the Opera), but they showed it in the theater closest to the Ladies' Room. So no long waits at intermission; and since everybody's wearing typical movie attire, i.e. jeans, nobody holds up the line wrestling with pantyhose or other hazards of fancy dress. (Remember jumpsuits—the worst thing to happen to the bathroom line in the history of bathroom lines?)

Also, should you wish to leave at the second intermission, having had enough fun for one afternoon, you've only paid a fraction of the price, so you only feel a fraction of the guilt.

I confess I dozed off for about five minutes and so missed a sentence, but nothing I couldn’t catch up with.

Regional Differences

In Louisiana in the spring, newspaper articles talk about what to do if an alligator shows up in your yard. (Answer: Wait until it goes away.)

In the West we have what to do when you encounter a cougar. (I forget.)

Visitors to Yellowstone are reminded not to pet the bison, or put children on a bison's back for a photo op. (You'd think that one would be a no-brainer, but it happens.)

We also have avalanche workshops--how to tell if you're in a danger area and avoid it, etc.

August 20, 2009

From Sunday’s paper, in a column about what to do when you encounter a moose: “If the long hairs on a moose's hump are raised, its ears are laid back and it is licking its lips, you are too close.” If you can see any of that, I’d say so.

September 9, 2009

Letters to the Editor about the wolf kill that’s been approved:

One says, “It will be the first animal I’ve harvested that I couldn’t eat…”

Another says, “Good recipes for wolf are hard to come by, so here is one I found in an old family recipe book...Wolves may be refrigerated and prepared using your favorite recipe for bear…”

Everybody who’s reading this, go call your mother and thank her for serving you chicken.

December 4, 2008

At a meeting last night, one woman mentioned that she visited her daughter’s farm in Oregon, and the daughter was trapping gophers. I think another woman thought it was neat, until she found out that the daughter was killing the gophers. “She kills the gophers?” she asked in a horrified tone.

I wondered a) what she thought the woman was trapping the gophers for and b) if she was from California. (Around here, tree-huggers and liberals are assumed to be from California unless they can prove otherwise. I imagine that gopher-lovers might fall into the same category.) At any rate, she’s clearly not a farm person.

(Update: about six months later the lady did, in fact, move back to California.)


April 7, 2010

I heard on the radio a few weeks ago that Lady Gaga was set to break a record. I thought that maybe she was going to put on some regular clothes, but instead it had to do with sales figures.

November 4, 2008

Today I tested a scientific theory: That changing lanes in traffic really doesn’t get you that much farther ahead. (I didn’t set out to test it, I was just running late.) It may not make much difference in a traffic jam on the highway, but on regular streets it can make the difference between getting through a light or sitting still for 2 minutes. My conclusion: If I don’t piddle around so that I leave late, I won’t have to worry about it.

May 28, 2009

Driving home the other day I wondered if the driver ahead of me realized the irony of having a bumper sticker saying, “Jesus for Life”, while inciting other drivers to homicide by driving 15 miles under the speed limit on a busy two-lane, no-passing road.

January 21, 2009

The Superbowl is coming up. I wonder when the people in charge of half-time entertainment will realize that people born after 1950 can sing, too. In the last few years we’ve had the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, and this year Bruce Springsteen. I’m going out on a limb here, but I’ll bet that even people born after 1980 would be good entertainment.

September 9, 2009

Some people were upset that President Obama wanted to address schoolchildren in a speech to be televised at schools. Brainwashing incarnate, they fear. I don’t think they needed to worry. Anybody who thinks that schoolkids will listen to ANYBODY speak for 20 minutes obviously doesn’t know them very well.

November 1, 2009

I always say I’m going to take my camera around and photograph signs I think are funny or interesting. At the beginning of the recession, Jiffy Lube’s marquee said, “Things will get better.” Another company last month had, “Boss in town, help us look busy.” And I passed another store that had stenciled in the window “Gun permit forms” and under that a paper banner that said, “DIVORCE KITS.”

Most Pointless Uses of the Word "Education"

Feb 21, 2008

There was an article in the paper today about what to do with dogs vs. hiking trails, as hikers are unhappy with the dog doo-doo they encounter. One woman said she didn’t think that ticketing the owners would be a good idea. “I think more public education is needed,” she said.

I wondered how much education a person needs in order to know not to leave dog poop lying around on a public hiking trail.

Thinking about potential ads boggles my mind. (A close-up of a disturbing encounter between a foot and a pile of doo-doo, with the words THIS IS ANNOYING splashed across it?)

January 19, 2010

There’s a letter in the paper today from a woman complaining about the fines for DUI. She says all she learned was that drunk driving is expensive, and not that she could have killed someone. She said that the penalties should focus more on education than on fines.

It’s like with the people who wanted more public education about doggie doo on the trails: How much education do you need on the subject? Do you need a probe inserted into your brain to download the relevant information? Why? How are you tuning out the constant bombardment of “Don’t Drink and Drive” messages that have been plastered around or broadcast for the last several decades? Anyone???

Fair and Balanced? Newspaper Contradictions

January 14, 2009

Newspaper clips:
Last week the paper had an article in one section on all the great things the new, expensive cell phones can do; and in the Business section the same day it had a column by a financial guru extolling the virtue of NOT conspicuously consuming, and saying how austerity is becoming the new fashion.

This morning, on page 1 is an article on how oil-rich countries are devoting money to finding green sources of energy because they know the oil won’t last forever; in the Editorial section is a column by a guest writer, headlined, “It’s Time Washington Realized the Need to Drill.”

I guess that’s fair and balanced reporting.

September 1, 2009

The Farmer’s Almanac says it’s going to be bitter cold this winter from the Rockies to the Appalachians, with milder weather on the coasts. The National Weather Service says there will be warmer-than-normal temperatures across the country because of El Nino. I’m waiting to see who wins.

September 9, 2009

Damned if you do and damned if you don’t:
1. Consumers cut debt by a record $21.6 billion in July. Good, right? But no: apparently those pesky consumers are actually SAVING their money—or using it to pay down debt—instead of spending it to keep the economy going. Darn them!
2. We had a wetter-than-normal spring in Boise. Good for keeping down the forest fires, right? But no: once the rain wears off, the Gloomy Gusses said, all the underbrush that grew in Spring’s wet conditions would be a fire hazard in the dry season.
3. We’ve actually had a very mild fire season: Ten thousand acres so far, way down from 2007’s two million. Good, right? But no: When fire DOES take hold (next year, maybe), it will have THAT MUCH MORE FUEL to burn harder.

As the saying goes: Some people wouldn’t be happy if you hung ’em with a new rope!

That goes for newspapers, too, I guess. If they’re too perky, people think they’re not taking life seriously enough. On the other hand, how many articles can there BE on how to save money in the recession, cook more nutritious meals, make sure your kids are learning the right stuff, etc.? I get so depressed reading about all the things I’m not doing (or the headlines, rather, since I skip the articles these days), that I want to eat a ton of chocolate, buy a big-screen TV and let my kid run wild because I’m too down to really deal with her. Not the effect they were hoping for, I’m sure.

Odd Things I've Seen

April 15, 2008

The National Park Service is putting wireless access in the parks. Go figure—I guess getting away from it all doesn’t mean what it used to. (If I wanted to be hooked up with something un-wildernessy, it would be a microwave for microwave popcorn. Who needs a computer?)

August 28, 2008

I see some odd things when I take my morning walk around the neighborhood. One day I passed a house and was impressed that three cars could fit side-by-side in the driveway. Then it occurred to me to wonder what the heck was in the three-car garage.

Why do they advertise Oreos on the gallon of skim milk? (Saw this one in Illinois.)

Christians vs. "Law and Order"

April 15, 2008

There was an episode of “Law and Order” a few weeks ago that annoyed me immensely. They had some fundamentalist dude calling himself a Christian who incited a teen-aged boy to kill his mother to cleanse her from her sin of adultery. Of all the arguments the D.A. used, not one involved the fact that Christ didn’t advocate that hard-line stuff. In fact, He said, “He among you who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”

“Law and Order” always does that—any time they deal with a “Christian” theme, they use wacko, pseudo-Christian types and use them to point up the flaws in religious zealotry. They (the writers) come off looking like jerks. In this case, they made the people of New York look stupid, too. The jurors, who smuggled a Bible into the jury room, couldn’t undermine the man’s “religious” beliefs either.

Twelve people in a room with a Bible and not one of them could find the New Testament?

I think the people of Manhattan should tell the “Law and Order” writers to quit making them look like idiots.

January 2010

A few weeks ago I saw another “Law and Order” dealing with a “Christian” theme—this episode was from around 2000. A former nun kills a kid while attempting to perform an exorcism, claiming that the Archangel Michael was giving her instructions. Jack McCoy says, “Maybe he was,” instead of asking the woman the obvious question: If you thought the kid needed an exorcism, why didn’t you tell the mother to go to the Catholic Church?

Seriously, the people of Manhattan ought to give the writers what-for for making them look like idiots.

May 13, 2018

Beating a dead horse:

Episode “In God We Trust” (2005):

Saw another “Law and Order” where a guy kills someone, finds Jesus, and lives an exemplary life for 11 years until they catch him. He’s willing to do time, but his lawyer and others feel that his true repentance should keep him out of jail. Again no one seems to be able to refute the argument on biblical grounds.

St. Paul, anyone?

The Economy

November 11, 2008

OPEC is talking about decreasing oil production to counteract the slowdown in oil purchases. One consumer advocate was quoted as saying, “It’s not fair to arbitrarily lower output because the demand is low. That will push prices higher again!” I wondered what he thought OPEC did. Isn’t the whole point of a cartel to keep prices up?

January 13, 2010

China is at it again: This time they’re using cadmium, a poisonous metal, in children’s jewelry. They freely admit that it’s the bottom line that drives them. Just as it’s the bottom line that keeps American companies using their factories instead of building them here. I guess eventually we, the consumers, are going to have to choose: Do we want to spend more money on products or on health care issues related to buying cheap products? Stay tuned…

Big Food Brother

July 30, 2008

Well, let’s see. New York City has banned trans-fats in all restaurants; Los Angeles is forbidding fast-food new restaurants to open in South L.A. for a year on the grounds that the higher rate of obesity there means that the people in this poorer neighborhood don’t have enough restaurant choices.

Seems a bit paternalistic to me: As if people who dine out don’t realize that restaurant food isn’t as wholesome as what they can make at home. And as if poor people don’t know that they can order a salad or grilled chicken at a fast-food place, and must be protected from the world “for their own good.” Is anyone else getting the creeps over this?

When we were growing up (can you see me with white hair and spectacles, haranguing from my rocking chair?)—I repeat, when we were growing up, fast food was a treat, not a permanent lifestyle choice. We controlled the fast-food, the fast-food didn’t control us.

September 17, 2009

There’s a proposed 1-cent tax on soda, to help fight obesity. I can only assume that sugar and white flour will be the next things to be considered unsafe. Then white pasta, because whole-wheat is healthier. And any cooking oil that is not canola; and margarine used in baking. I can see my jar of marshmallow fluff (and the resultant Christmas fudge) swept away on a river of taxes and disapproval.

Don't mess with my chocolate chips!!!

Once they’ve run through the food groups they can monitor TV and computer usage and tax people for the amount of time those are turned on. The possibilities are limitless.