Saturday, July 16, 2016

This is a Reminder from Your Avatar -- The Colonel Carries on #40

By Polly Esther

Epigraph: “Take a chill pill. Things could be worse, and very soon will be.”

Wily Vladimir Putin managed to win a 1960 Vladimir Putin Look-Alike Contest under the false name of Rex Harrison. He spent the prize money on surveillance equipment and a down payment on an iron maiden.


Potrzebie is a Polish word that means "as needed." It's the dative singular of "potrrzeba," which means "need" or "necessity." You might see it on an aspirin bottle in a context like "take two as needed." On the Polish Wikipedia, "potrzebny przypis" means "citation needed." If the word makes you think of MAD Magazine, you're of a certain age. The Polish pronunciation is something like "po-TSCHE-byeh." There isn't any non-Polish pronunciation, but some MAD fans, ignorant of the word's origin, give it the old college as "pot-ra-zee-bee." To cultivate an air of cosmopolitanism, try saying it to mean "hello," "goodbye," "please," "thank you," "I beg your pardon," and "may his memory be a blessing."


Seven-year-old nephew Jacob and I were talking about “personal space” when he said, “The whole planet is my personal space, so shoo! Shoo! To Mars!” He'll go far. Or I will.

Reminded me of cousin Christopher’s announcement one day, “I’ve saved up all the parking meter time I paid for but didn’t use, and now I own all of today. Kindly get off my day.”

I see that the French foreign minister has said that the new British foreign secretary, Brexiteer (=Breleaver) and former London mayor Boris Johnson, “is a liar.” I must find out what was bad enough to put a French diplomat off his stride.

The new British prime minister, Theresa May, seems nice enough, a less Teutonic Angela Merkel. I heard a news reporter pronounce her forename “Terezza,” so I eventually got around to Googling the pronunciation and heard from two allegedly UK sources that it’s “Tereeza.” Like Condoleeza Rice. American reporters will likely catch up, as they did with hard-g “Angela.”

Hope she’s pro-American, unlike Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party. To him, the EU is as bad as the US, and vice versa: twin evil colossi. He was a pro forma Bremainer.

I say let the UK into Nafta. It makes sense for the world’s fifth largest economy to be plugged into a large free trade area. If not Europe, why not North America? An inexpensive Jaguar in every garage.

Another idea I like is, ahem, fundamentally transforming our federal government into a parliamentary system much like Britain’s. About now the prospect of short election campaigns, concentration of responsibility, and absence of gridlock and logjam is irresistibly seductive. It would be prudent to try it out in some states first, those “laboratories of federalism.” Nebraska already has a unicameral legislature, but not a true parliamentary setup.

If the head of state is just a figurehead, we could formalize our dynasties: let a Kennedy be the monarch in odd-numbered years, a Bush in even.


Could emitting a very, very loud b-flat pitch near a black hole destroy it? I overheard a rumor to that effect, and mean to bear it in mind against the day of need, that is, potrzschebie.

At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.

Abandoned sheep are easy prey for wolves.

Coyotes are essentially little wolves, better adapted for secret lives in inner cities.

The mole people who inhabit New York subways may be well adapted to live in tunnels on Mars to search for traces of Dasani.

It is said that “God created men, and Colt made men equal.” Like the Colt revolver, the PowerPoint presentation is an equalizing and democratizing technology. Its working title was DumbDown.

PowerPoint has eliminated the advantage enjoyed in earlier ages by speakers who organized their material well and mastered the arts of getting and keeping an audience’s attention.

Today you can flourish in the corporate, academic, governmental, and nonprofit worlds, even if you are illogical and inarticulate — as long as you can slap together a boring slideshow.

Next slide, please.

This is a slide of a cute kitten, of the kind often included in otherwise dull PowerPoint presentations. Enjoy.


It has long bothered me whether a gerund always takes a possessive adjective or not. Should I always say “I hope you don’t mind my wasting your time” or is it sometimes okay to say “I hope you don’t mind me wasting your time”? I think there may be a British/American difference here. Comments welcome.

Solipschitzism is a simple but implausible philosophy developed by Sol Lipschitz. It holds that the whole universe is a creation of his mind and exists only in his mind. He’s not proselytic, because he thinks that you and I are figments of his imagination, so why should he bother trying to persuade us of anything?

Greek had a written form, now called Linear B, that was lost in the Bronze Age Collapse. It was largely syllabic, with some ideographs. Hundreds of years later, the Phoenician consonantal alphabet was adapted to represent the Greek tongue, and written Greek was back in business. Symbols for consonantal sounds absent in Greek were adaptively reused to represent vowel sounds. As Alan Sherman would say, “Hello Plato, Herakleitos! Now at last let words unite us!”

I think Homer actually existed, or else Socrates would have told us otherwise, or would at least have asked some acutely uncomfortable questions, as was his unwanted wont.

Socrates: Why was six afraid of seven?

Critias: I don’t know, Socrates. Why?

Socrates: Because seven ate nine.

Critias: That is so anachronistic, it’s blasphemous. You had better take care what you say, Socrates, or you’ll get into serious trouble.

Socrates: What, me worry? Less chance of that than of finding a “faithful translation.” By the way, can you lend me a hundred drachmai till the Ides of March? I need it to tide me over till I need more.

Critias: I wish I could, Socrates, but I have to rush away now to prosecute my father for impiety. (Exit, chaste as a Spartan bear.)

Socrates: Good riddance to bad rubbish. What ho! Here comes Panda Ray! (Curtain.)


A state senator foiled a bank robbery. Money recovered.

Pseudo-Socratic pop quiz:

Question: What’s an example of an unanswerable question?

Answer: What will be commonplace in fifty years that’s inconceivable now?

For Pete’s sake, don’t copy the answer of the person next to you. That would defeat the psycho-anthropological purpose of the quiz. A defeated psycho-anthropological purpose has nothing to lose and fights like a cornered wolverine.

Fortune cookie fortune: “A pitcher is worth a thousand words, a crock much less.”

Some dear friends are taking a car vacation to see, inter alia, distinguished examples of architecture in Buffalo, New York, including one by Frank Lloyd Wright. As near as it is to Niagara, the place is not called "Falling Water."

Hope your Bastille Day was happy.

African proverb: “Water the thorns for the sake of the flowers.”

What do you call it when a chicken sees a salad? Chicken Caesar salad.

Money can’t buy happiness, but you can cry as easily in a new BMW as on a bicycle.

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