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T. Buckingham Thomas:  A Personal Website

ESTABLISHED BY TOM THOMAS (AS GEOCITIES.COM/TBTHO) OCT. 25, 2000

To search the site, click the icon to bring up a Yahoo search box.
Replace ql in the box with the word or words you seek.

 

JULY 27, 2015    BLUEFIN?  YELLOWFIN?

Funny how memory works.  I encounter the word “abalone” and think yes, that’s a type of tuna.  No, I’m wrong.  An abalone does live in the sea, but it’s a shellfish.

What’s the tuna word I’m thinking of?  Anemone?  No, an anemone lives in the sea, but it’s a predatory polyp.  Or an anemone also could be a flower that lives on land.  How confusing.

For a type of tuna, I’m looking for a similar word.  Starts with an a.  Artichoke?  No.  It has a b and an l in it, I think.  Albino?  Abdominal?  Abominable?  Abysmal?  Albanian?  Alabaster?  Ali Baba?  Algebra?  Albuquerque?  Abracadabra?  I finally give up, knowing it’ll come to me later.

And five minutes later it pops into my head, totally unbidden.

Perhaps the difficulty arises from never having looked at the word closely before now.  Obviously, it must have been derived from alba, white, and core, center.  (And don’t try to tell me, Mr. Webster, that it comes from the Arabic for “the precocious camel,” which is al-bakura.  That would only put me back on the abracadabra track.) 

 

JULY 24, 2015    DESCARTES BEFORE THE HORSE

It’s National Tell an Old Joke Day!

Joe Cieply told one at the high school reunion last month.  You see, he and Roxye live in the Bluegrass country near Lexington, Kentucky.  That's horse country.  So Joe said, “I have a horse joke.”  He recited:

A horse walks into a bar.

The bartender asks, “Why the long face?”

Silence.  We had been expecting more.  I remarked, “Seems I’ve heard that before.”  It certainly qualifies as an old one.

I have a horse joke,” offered Nick Taylor, the Episcopal priest.

Let’s hear it.

A horse walks into a bar.

The bartender asks, “Can I get you a beer?”

The horse says “I think not” and vanishes.

Silence again.  Blank looks.  Head-scratching.

Nick had to remind us of the famous saying, “I think, therefore I am.”  You see, his horse had applied the negative corollary:  Non cogito, ergo non sum.  He was “thinking not.”  Therefore he was amming not.

Faint groans.

 

JULY 21, 2015    NOTHING AT RISK

My favorite Janis Joplin song wasn’t released until after her 1970 death:  “Me and Bobby McGee,” written by Kris Kristofferson.  But I never completely understood the line “Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose.”  Freedom means a lot more than that!

Only recently did retired sitcom writer Earl Pomerantz enlighten me on his blog.  In essence:

Having no authority, effective power or insider clout to affect anything, I am therefore free — to argue any position I want to, and fear no consequences whatsoever.

In the absence of meaningful repercussions, I can say whatever I want to and, unlike the “Dixie Chicks” whose lead singer once told an audience she was ashamed she was from Texas when the sitting president at the time was from Texas, my records will not be banned from country music radio stations for doing so.

Ah, the freedom of having nothing to lose!

 

JULY 18, 2015    REACHING FOR THE SAME PIECE OF CAKE

Earlier this week, the following situation happened to me for the third time in the last 20 years.  (One remembers such scares.)  That’s me in the red car, merging onto the expressway. 

I match my speed with the 50mph blue car and see that there’s a space for me in front of him, so I switch on my left-turn signal and begin to merge.

But the green car is in a hurry.  He’s closing in on the 55mph orange car in front of him, and he perceives the unoccupied space in the slow lane as an opportunity to zip around the orange car by illegally passing him on the right.

The green car and I head for the same empty spot.  Not expecting an intruder from two lanes over, I don’t notice him until we almost sideswipe!

I swerve violently to the right to avoid a collision, then back to the left and back to the right to regain control, and finally drop in behind the green car just before running out of room on the entrance ramp.

In the future, how do I avoid these near misses?  I don’t know.  I'll just have to continue to be vigilant behind the wheel.

 

JULY 13, 2015    HE'D BUILD A GREAT, GREAT WALL

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that Donald Trump quickly shot to the top of the polls in the race for the Republican nomination for President.  For one thing, name recognition is a major factor.  Trump is a celebrity running against politicians (14 of them so far).  At this early stage, low-information voters may not know much about the others, but they have heard of The Donald.

Nevertheless, in a letter to the editor published today, Oren Spiegler of Upper St. Clair does register surprise.  “I find it stunning and sad that Donald Trump, the coarse, crude, arrogant, condescending loudmouth of the Republican Party, has soared to first or second place in polls.”

I’m not that stunned, because I think there’s a second reason.  A significant portion of Republican voters are themselves coarse, crude, arrogant, condescending loudmouths.  Let’s call them CCACLs.  They’ve found in Trump a champion who speaks their language.  He promises easy, simplistic answers.

Mr. Spiegler wonders “whether any candidate is willing to display sufficient courage and decency as to challenge and attempt to disassociate the party from Mr. Trump.”

Some have in fact registered disagreement with Trump’s rantings.  But I suspect his typical opponent doesn’t want to denounce him too strongly, because after Trump drops out of the race, the opponent will need some Trump CCACLs to switch their votes to him.  He doesn’t want those voters to have written him off as a coddler of immigrants, an unpatriotic Donald hater.

 

JULY 12, 2015    A HUNDRED NAMESAKES

Scientists estimate there are 3,800 Americans who, like me, are named Thomas Thomas.  Or maybe it’s 700.  Depends on the methodology.

I think I’ll stay with my original guess of 2,000.

This month’s 100 Moons article lists 100 of us.

 

JULY 6, 2015    HOW WILL IT AFFECT ME? YOU?

On Twitter, for some reason I’ve been following Scott Renshaw, the longtime arts and entertainment editor and film critic for Salt Lake City Weekly.

So the holiday weekend is behind us.  Is the bombardment over?  Has your cat found its way back home after fleeing the noisy celebrations?  Has the dog dared to crawl out from underneath the bed?  Has the all-clear sounded?

Here’s part of what Scott has been griping about lately.

*  *  *  *  JULY 2, EVENING

I wish I had the kind of relationship with my neighbors where I could tell them to knock it the hell off with the fireworks.

*  *  *  *  JULY 4, MORNING

I wonder if my neighbors would be as patient with me setting off fireworks at 8 in the morning as I was with them at 11 last night.

Watch Independence Day today and celebrate the American tradition of making bad choices thinly rationalized by patriotism.

*  *  *  *  JULY 4, AFTERNOON

Sitting out in the heat waiting for the 4th of July parade and fireworks because I love my family more than I love my own comfort.

Parade float throwing peanuts instead of candy:  You're like the Halloween house handing out raisins.  If raisins were a fatal allergen.

O hai!  Ominous clouds!  Gusty winds on the 4th of July, because for a little while there I was worried some moron with homemade bottle rockets wouldn't cause a wildfire.

Marvel must be feeling pretty cocky that Captain America T-shirts have now become acceptable “patriotic” clothing.

*  *  *  *  JULY 4, EVENING

“Boom Boom Pow” has replaced Neil Diamond's “America” in the fireworks show.  I want my country back.

Going to sleep is just a foolish wish at this point, because SPLOSIONS.

Yes, I know you want to be setting off fireworks at 11:30.  But see, your “want to” exists in a world of laws and other people.  Dickhead.

Here's the thing:  I generally think, “How will my behavior affect other people?”  And I foolishly expect it should be a universal principle.  And so I fume impotently on Twitter when I'd love to be sleeping.  Lucky you.

“When you think about it, the 4th of July would be the best time to shoot someone.” —my wife, insuring I will not sleep at all tonight.

[2-minute-long period of silence]  Me:  “Dare I even hope?”  Laura: “You shouldn't. You'll just be even more pissed off.”

You know it's love when someone cares enough to remind you that hope is a futile endeavor.

*  *  *  *  JULY 5, MORNING

Early enough on a Sunday morning after a holiday that I might as well rant into the emptiness.

I make what jokes I can about the “hey I'm launching fireworks at midnight” thing, but it's one of many symptoms of a societal sickness.  It's hardly a brand-new one — I refuse to get all “kids these days” about it — but it feels like it's getting worse all the time.  It's an overwhelming brand of narcissism:  What I want and what I feel are the only thing that exists.

When I see some a-hole weaving through traffic, there's no other conclusion to be drawn but “Nothing else matters but my needs.”

So much public debate seems to revolve around conflicts where people refuse to acknowledge that their position affects others negatively.

I'm rambling.  Sorry.  It just feels sometimes like the idea of a society is waved off as utopian by radical individualists.

No “right” is limitless.  We can disagree on which rights have which parameters, but at least consider that parameters should exist.  You do not have a 1st Amendment right to a religious practice that involves human sacrifice.  You do not have a 2nd Amendment right to a nuke.  Once we acknowledge those things, we can start having reasonable discussions about the responsibilities of living in a society.

Anyway.

 

JULY 4, 2015    WHAT ARE THEY SAYING?

Here’s some insight I’ve gathered from the Internet over the past week.


Inspired by a tweet from Mark Evanier . . .

A conservative claims:  “I insist on Freedom of Religion.”

A liberal responds:  “Good.  People of all the different religions should be free to follow their own consciences.”

The conservative actually means:  “I insist on the freedom from being required to live in a world that isn't run in strict accord with my religion.”

So this isn't about "religious freedom."  It's about being free to discriminate against those who have beliefs different from yours.  It is, in fact, the exact opposite of religious freedom:  It is imposition of your religious beliefs on others.

Rev. Shelly Strauss, New Alexandria, PA
Letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 17, 2015 


Inspired by tweets from Eric D. Snider . . .

A conservative claims:  “The truth is, it is in the Bible that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

A liberal responds:  “No, it isn’t!  Stop saying that!”

The conservative actually means:  “I know it’s in there.  Maybe I can’t find the chapter and verse; no scripture specifically, just ‘the Bible.’  Of course, I use ‘the Bible’ and ‘my pastor at church’ interchangeably.”


Inspired by an article from Amanda Marcotte . . .

A conservative claims:  “Same-sex marriage undermines traditional marriage.”

A liberal responds:  “Are you crazy?  How is a straight couple’s marriage threatened just because two other people also get married?”

The conservative actually means:  “Same-sex marriage may not weaken a traditional marriage that already exists, but it does provide another opening for willful people in the future to eschew holy matrimony.  You see, marriage used to be a duty.  When a man became an adult, he was expected to marry the girl arranged for him (or if he selected her himself, he had to obtain her father’s approval).  His wife was obliged to submit to him, to stay home and take care of the house, and above all to bear him many babies.  But the recent Supreme Court decision ‘redefines marriage as an institution of love instead of oppression.’  Freedom has broken out.  People feel free to make other arrangements as they see fit, even arrangements that don't include procreation.  Needless to say, conservatives oppose such freedom.”

 

JUNE 30, 2015    SHARE THE STREET

The tree-lined area that I've highlighted could be considered to be the entrance to downtown Pittsburgh.  It's a portion of  Liberty Avenue, between Point State Park (bottom) and Stanwix Street (top).

Multiple streets intersect, resulting in dangerous congestion.  Several dozen experts gathered in the city last week to study it.

“We saw all kinds of behaviors where people weren’t obeying the rules,” Florida traffic engineer Ian Lockwood told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  “It takes a long time for everyone to get a green light.  The thing’s not working.”

So they came up with a radical idea.  First, divert some of the traffic off Liberty Avenue to parallel streets on either side.

But then, remove all the lane markings and crosswalks from that block!  Remove all the signs and traffic lights!  Even level all the curbs and sidewalks!  Just let all the cars and trucks and buses and bicycles and pedestrians go wherever they like, whenever they like, using their common sense to share the space with everyone else.

That’s nuts.  Or so it seems, one participant admitted.  But it might just work.  Shared space has been successful in several European cities.  We’ve even seen it in the U.S.; this video is a few years old, but it shows San Francisco’s bustling Market Street without signs and signals.

“The key to a shared space,” the newspaper explained, “is creating a design that causes drivers to slow down, which improves safety.”  Paradoxically, the resulting slow but steady traffic can actually move through the congested area in less time, because no one is standing still, idling, waiting two minutes for a light to change.

“Doing away with the rules forces drivers and pedestrians to interact and cooperate.  Ownership of the entire street vests with everyone.  Drivers pay attention to pedestrians and other drivers rather than signals and signs.  Foot traffic increases, stimulating retail development.”

It occurs to me that it won’t be possible to eliminate all signs.  It will be necessary to explain to drivers and pedestrians before they reach the shared space that they’re about to enter the Wild West, a lawless open free-for-all.  They should not expect any government-painted lines on the pavement nor any stop signs granting them the right of way over other people.  They should be prepared to respect their fellow citizens and defer to them.

I imagined what such a notification might look like.  It's in the traditional Pittsburgh colors.  It’s in the traditional shape of a Yield sign.  And it alludes to the traditional nickname of Pittsburgh’s downtown, the Golden Triangle.

Will city planners approve the shared space concept?  Personally, I doubt it.

However, “if this got done,” says Robert Ping from the state of Washington, “it would be on the national radar screen.  People would come here to see it!”

 

JUNE 26, 2015    12C BUZZWORD

In introductory college chemistry, organic chemistry is a more difficult laboratory course than inorganic, because the molecules are more complex.

In broad terms, organic chemistry means “containing carbon” — specifically, carbon compounds like proteins and carbohydrates.  Inorganic chemistry includes everything else like metals and acids and salts.

I just brewed myself a cup of chai tea.  The package of teabags says it’s “organic.”  Of course it is.  To me, all food is organic, not because of how it’s grown but because it contains carbon.  Inorganic tea would not taste good.  So there.

 

JUNE 20, 2015    HE SAID, SHE SAID

In the misty past some members of my Richwood High School class, nearing graduation, climbed the iconic water tower that loomed over our village.  On the side of the big black tank under the RICHWOOD they proudly painted “Class of ’65.”

Since then this escapade has often been mentioned, but I never heard the full story.

Denny Roberts wrote that he got “in big trouble for it.”  That was in a book of memories we exchanged last weekend at our reunion.  So I asked him about it.  He told me he did the painting with the help of Gene Somerlot and Pete Ransome.  Also, our class wasn’t the only mischievous one; the tower had been tagged by older classes in prior years.

However, Pat Ransome Kyle-Beatley told a different tale.  She wrote, “I can recall climbing the water tower with Sheila Ward to paint ‘Class of ’65.’  Don’t believe what Denny Roberts had to say.  Too bad the girls were responsible for this.  Where were our guys?”

Alas, we may never know the truth.  Nevertheless, I went ahead and tabulated some of the details and statistics from that book of memories.  I also added a whole bunch of Tonya Davis Payne’s reunion photos.  It’s all in a follow-up story, More on the 50th Reunion.

 

JUNE 16, 2015    
THE ORANGE AND THE BLACK

I’m back from my high school reunion!  And I’m sporting this shirt that was being sold by Criss Somerlot.

Many more photos and comments are in my article called Tigers Roar.

 

JUNE 10, 2015    FINAL TESTAMENT

They were inside jokes when they were written.  Half a century later, even fewer people can understand them.  Nevertheless, they're in my files, so now they're online, whether you "get" them or not.

They're the bequests made by the members of the Class of 1965, as read at the very last Richwood High School Junior-Senior Banquet.  They're known as The Will.

 

JUNE 5, 2015    E-MERGING FROM RHS

Looking forward to my 50-year high school reunion, it’s time for another guest article from a classmate.  In this case, the article is also 50 years old.

Looking backward in 1965 on our four years of high school, Roxye Carter Cieply (seen here in a recent Facebook photo) wrote a memoir that was included in a publication called The Merger.

 

JUNE 1, 2015    HE CALLED FOR HIS FIDDLERS THREE

At the beginning of your correspondent’s career, 62 years ago, I was all prepared to conduct an exclusive interview with the king! 

Notice my hands; I seem to be holding my notebook like an accordion.  As I recall, old King Cole was a merry old soul, and a merry old soul was he.  But then our one-on-one was upstaged by the arrival of Daffy-down-Dilly. 

Actually, we were all in costume for our kindergarten operetta.  It was the spring of 1953.  I played Mother Goose's secretary, Kelly Drake portrayed the king, and Sherry Keigley was the daffodil.  As Nathaniel Hawthorne observed,

Daffy-down-Dilly
     Has come to town
With a yellow petticoat
     And a pretty green gown.

And thus have I colorized this portion of the cast photo.

The story of this epic production is this month’s 100 Moons article.

I’ll get another chance to talk to the king later in the month when our high school class holds its 50-year reunion.

 

 


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