Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric and whimsical observations about the absurdities of contemporary life:
  • Politicians talk and talk and posture and promise, but when the smoke clears, the dirty dishes are still in the sink.
  • I understand that one of the tropical storms really battered the Outer Banks of North Carolina the other day.  (Apparently the Outer Savings and Loans escaped unscathed.)
  • I thought that "No Outlet" and "Dead End" were two ways of saying the same thing.  Perhaps not.  According to "No Outlet can mean that though other streets may branch off of the road ahead, they don't lead anywhere either." 
  • Speaking of which, what on Earth does "Obey Your Signal Only" mean?  Is it possible to obey two signals at once?  And which signal is yours anyway? (If you're in an unfamiliar area, sometimes you have no idea.) No law-enforcement officer has ever been able to explain this to me. It's a totally meaningless sign.
  • "It is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong."--Economist John Maynard Keynes
  • First it was the baffling bedbug outbreak . . . and now comes word that Australia is suffering its worst outbreak of locusts in 75 years!  (They move slowly when the sun's up, but at night they can fly high and fast, sometimes traveling hundreds of miles. "A farmer can go to bed at night not having seen a grasshopper all year and wake up in the morning to find his fields full of them," said a University of Sydney expert.)
  • Damage report: A mile-wide swarm of locusts can chomp through 10 tons of crops--a third of their combined body weight--in a day.
  • All locusts are grasshoppers, but not all grasshoppers are locusts. But you knew that.
  • So is that the extent of Bad Insect News this week?  I'm afraid not. Farmers in several Middle Atlantic states are battling a pest whose voracious appetite has left dry boreholes in everything from apples to tomatoes to soybeans. That would be the stink bug, which in addition to its ravages emits a pungent odor sometimes descirbed as skunklike.
  • This just in:  "Some executions in the U.S. have been put on hold because of a shortage of one of the drugs used in lethal injections from coast to coast."--Associated Press, Sept. 27.  Whaa?  Has there been a run on the stuff?  Is this the new chic "drug of choice"?
  • (Actually, The sole U.S. manufacturer, Hospira Inc. of Lake Forest, Ill., has blamed the shortage on unspecified problems with its raw-material suppliers and said new batches of sodium thiopental will not be available until January at the earliest.)
  • What do these men have in common?  Darren Balsley, Rick Eckstein, Rick Knapp, Joe Vavra, Jim Skaalen, Alan Cockrell, Derek Shelton and Bruce Walton. Give up? They're all either major-league hitting or pitching coaches!
  • (I can see how men with scant or undistinguished playing  careers can succeed as big-league managers, if they have studied the game extensively, are good motivators, etc.  But for what I call the "skill positions"--hitting and pitching coaches--one would think some kind of a proven track record would be mandatory in these "how-to" areas.  And there have been such types--Bob Gibson, Billy Williams, Kirk Gibson and a few more. Guys with some "street cred"!  But they've been in the minority.  Unless they have an extreme love of the game, the superstars take their millions and generous pensions and fade to black. So if you're a high draft choice who got $30 million just to sign your name, how much regard are you going to have for a guy with a career .219 batting average or a career Earned Run Average of 6.23 who never made more than $30,000 a year?)
  • "That's just gravy on the cake."--Former Milwaukee Brewers/Boston Red Sox slugger George "Boomer" Scott, who made my Ballplayer Quote Hall of Fame with that beauty.
  • Sunday Night Baseball, ESPN, mid-July. The cameras pan the stands, and you see about 40,000 sweltering fans in T-shirts and cutoffs.  In the broadcast booth?  Jon Miller, Joe Morgan and Orel Hershiser in three-piece suits.  Hey, guys, it's a damn baseball game, not a meeting of the G-4 Summit.  Lighten up, for God's sake!
  • People who say "asterick" instead of "asterisk" should be jabbed repeatedly with colored hors d'oeuvre toothpicks.
  • What's the difference between an epoch and an era?  (Maybe an era is an epoch that got more ink.)
  • Book Title of the Week: "The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic At Work and At Home," by Dan Ariely.
  • I didn't need a government commission to tell me the other day that the "recession is over."  I could tell two weeks ago when the truck weighing station on South U.S. Hwy. 43 was open after being closed for about two and a half years.
  • "If you think you're funny, you're probably not."--Woody Allen
  • "Cool is the enemy of funny: You can't be cool and funny at the same time."--ex-"Saturday Night Live" performer Tracy Morgan.
  • Eighth entry in the Wisconsin Town I Didn't Know Existed Until I Saw It Mentioned in an Obituary sweepstakes: Osseo, Wis. (r.i.p. Grace Blahnik, Green Bay Press-Gazette, Sept. 9, 2010). Previous entries: Athelstane, Walhain, Duck Creek, Breed, Anston, Sobieski and Amberg.
  • I know it sounds silly, but I'm always slightly taken aback to see the obituary of a M.D.--especially if he (or she) was less than 90 years old.  (And how much respect do you have for a doc whose stomach is in another area code?)
  • Today's Latin lesson: Vos adepto quis vos persolvo pro.  ("You get what you pay for.")