Monday, February 28, 2011

A Few Questions, Part 3

Dear Madame L,

If a person owns a piece of land do they own it all the way down to the core of the earth and up into space? 

Dear Boggled,

Unfortunately, you probably own only the very surface of your land. Someone else can buy mineral rights to your land (and this includes gas and oil rights), or you can buy those rights yourself, if you think there may be something beneath the topsoil that's worth digging for.

If you have any concerns about this, check with the Realtor who sold you the property and/or get some legal advice.

Yours to the core,
Madame L

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Few Questions, Part 2

Dear Boggled,

You asked Madame L if water in toilets south of the equator really goes in a counter-clockwise rotation. 

Madame L regrets to tell you that it does not. It would, if the toilet were big enough to be affected by the Coriolos Force. But (fortunately for all of us) not even the largest known Earthly toilet is large enough for that.

North or south, the direction of the water going down is determined by the shape of the toilet and the direction of the water coming in. 

Madame L thinks if you tried flushing toilets in various places, say, department stores, fast-food joints, your own house, and so on, even in the northern hemisphere, you might find that in some the water goes down sometimes in the clockwise and sometimes in the counter-clockwise direction. If you want to try this experiment, Madame L would like to hear the results. Water, only, please.

Yours in fun and science,

Madame L

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Few Questions, Part 1

Dear Madame L,

If a person owns a piece of land do they own it all the way down to the core of the earth and up into space? 

Why does mineral water that 'has trickled through mountains for centuries' have a 'use by' date? 

If the professor on Gilligan's Island can make a radio out of a coconut, why can't he fix a hole in a boat? 

And last but not least, does the water in the toilets south of the equator really go in a counter-clockwise rotation?

These questions have been boggling my little mind for a while now. I'd much appreciate your thoughts/answers.


Boggled Mind 

Dear Boggled,

Amazing questions! Thanks for asking. Madame L will divide these up and answer one at a time. 

For today, Madame L wants to answer your third question, because it's the easiest to answer: 

If the professor on Gilligan's Island can make a radio out of a coconut, why can't he fix a hole in a boat? 

The answer: Plot.That's all. And didn't we all love it?

Boggling with you,

Madame L

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Oprah, where are you now...

...when little children need you?

Madame L talking about the children who are being exposed to whooping cough because their parents believe that normal childhood preventive vaccines cause autism.

You hosted Jenny McCarthy, not a medical professional, not a scientist, in fact with absolutely NO credentials in the subject of anything except being a Playboy bunny. You listened as if she had something worthwhile to say. And because you listened, people believed. You have a lot of power, and I hope you'll use it to help little children.

Now it's time, Oprah, to host somebody who will tell the truth. The truth has been out there for awhile, that those claims are not true.

But here's the real rub: The doctor who made the original claims doctored the evidence (pun intended). Dr. Andrew Wakefield has been found responsible by the British medical journal BMJ for "misrepresenting or altering" the medical histories of ALL 12 of the patients he studied.

According to Wales, "Dr Richard Roberts, head of immunisation and the vaccine preventable disease programme at Public Health Wales, said: 'It is shocking to read the BMJ has identified evidence of deliberate fraud in Andrew Wakefield’s research.'"

Here's BMJ's own account of the results of its research. This was published more than a month ago.

Oprah, where are you now? Won't you please make as much an effort to reveal the truth as you did earlier to support the unfounded beliefs of ignorant people?

I'm Just Saying...

Yep, what I said: Some very rich people want to get richer while making sure that members of the Middle Class get poorer and lose rights they have come to take for granted.

It turns out that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) received $43,000 in campaign donations from the Koch Industries Political Action Committee, in addition to $65,000 from the Republican Governors Association, which had received $1 million from the Koch group. (Information from Mother Jones)

Fox News is claiming now (2 pm, Pacific Time, 02/23/2011) that the public service unions' rhetoric is "heating up" so Wisconsin's "security" forces need to tighten up. More balanced news organizations show the union members and protesters continuing to gather peacefully, while it's the governor who is heating up the rhetoric.

What's more, the governor has admitted that his whole plan has been all along to weaken labor unions, NOT to balance the budget (which as we all know could be balanced by raising corporate taxes instead of breaking the backs of the Middle Class):

A journalist pretending to be David Koch called the governor, who actually took his call. (He won't talk to any news organization except Fox News at this point.) Gov. Walker told this reporter, Ian Murphy, that he is going to lure the missing 14 Democrats back so he can force the vote.

Walker has no intention of compromising.  Who does he think he is, anyway?

But the good news is that some other Republican governors are backing off, just a bit. Why? Because polls show that 61% of Americans SUPPORT the collective bargaining rights of public servants and OPPOSE efforts to destroy them.

Trying to Get It

Madame L is going to try to answer this question, posted in the Comments to her posting about Qaddafi:

Thanks for the answer. That helps. But now Jeff has raised more questions: Who's Mubarak? And, while I'm somewhat aware of what al-Qaeda is, what is a "Caliphate?" Maybe this isn't the forum to ask and answer these questions, so feel free to not, if you'd like.
Trying to Get It

Dear Trying:

Madame L knows it's hard to put this all in context. Of course you really do know that Mubarak has been president of Egypt for 30 years. 

Madame L understands why Americans, with their tradition of democracy, elections, a free press, and a strong political opposition, find it hard to envision someone who is called "president" in the way the people of Egypt have seen him: as a cruel dictator who imprisoned thousands of people and allowed them to be tortured and killed without being charged with crimes, without any due process whatsoever; and as a man who got rich while his people couldn't afford to buy bread.

But that's what being "president" has meant for him.

Not so different from Colonel Qaddafi, after all. (By the way, Madame L read yesterday that Qaddafi never promoted himself to general because when he promoted himself from captain to colonel, after leading the military coup that brought him to power, he abolished all ranks above colonel.)

Madame L saw on TV last night Col. Qaddafi insisting that he will not step down, but will go through the streets killing everyone who has opposed him. He said he will fight to his last drop of blood and die a martyr. Madame L laughed when she heard an Arab journalist say that many Libyans will be happy to grant him that final wish.

And Madame L is frankly glad to see people in other Middle Eastern countries following the example of Egypt. She is hoping the U.S. government will open itself to the idea of actual democracies in those countries instead of supporting dictators and false presidents and fake monarchies as it has done in the past. She hopes we will trust the people to elect governments that will represent them instead of supporting repressive regimes in the name of protecting people from Muslim extremists (and for the real purpose of protecting rich American oil companies and investors).

"Al-Qaeda"  of course you know is Arabic for "the base." It was started in 1989 as a group of mujaheddin or holy warriors fought to get the Soviets out of Afghanistan. The U.S. supported these people for years, and it's possible that some of the weapons the U.S. supplied them are now being used against American troops.

Finally, the caliphate: This word used to refer to the original Muslim system of government formed in Turkey that was supposed to unite the people under a caliph chosen by Sharia law.

Knowing that, Madame L still doesn't understand the stretch made by Glenn Beck in his ridiculous conspiracy theory. He claims that some "Caliphate" headed by the Muslim Brotherhood is going to take over throughout the Middle East, protests are going to spread throughout the world and even to America, and the end of the world will follow shortly. Mr. Beck points to the protests in Wisconsin as proof that he's correct.

Madame L has already commented on the differences between the protests of the people in the Middle East and the way their "leaders" are handling them and the protests in Wisconsin, Ohio, and New Jersey. 

Yet Madame L believes there IS a connection, and it is this: Rich people throughout the world, people with no conscience or soul, will do anything they can to get richer. If this means turning back 50 years of union-led collective bargaining for public employees (i.e. teachers, nurses, social workers, firefighters, police officers, and so on) to save, say $300 million, while refusing to raise corporate taxes to the average U.S. level, which would save the state $50 billion, then they're fine with that. The corporations, after all, elected those politicians and can keep them in power or boot them out. Madame L hopes she is not the only person who sees this connection.

Madame L has appreciated this opportunity to point out the true evil worldwide conspiracy that reasonable and conscientious people must fight against: The conspiracy of greedy and corrupt politicians and businessmen to deprive hard-working people of freedom and democracy --- and to roll back those rights wherever they currently exist.

More questions? Thanks,

Madame L

Monday, February 21, 2011

Another Very Interesting Comment

Madame L notes the following comment about inertia, from Madame L's sister:

Okay, I wasn't going to leave comments, because I figure that I say too much as it is. But I couldn't resist mentioning that Madame L's and her sister's mother used a different form of inertia-moving motivation than the mother you described. My memory is more like: "If you don't get up and eat your breakfast, I'm gonna get the flyswatter!" :-)

Madame L responds: Ah, thank you for the memories! How could Madame L have forgotten that most effective motivational force, the flyswatter.... Also, the hairbrush and the coat hanger....

A Worrier

Dear Madame L,

I know someone who worries a lot.

Lately, since I told him I think he worries a lot, he has started worrying about worrying so much.

Now he has started worrying about the fact that he's worried about how much he worries.

I'd like to suggest some deep breathing exercises. (Breathe in, 4 counts; hold breath, 6 counts; breathe out, 8 counts.) But I think he might start worrying about whether he's taking deep enough breaths, holding them long enough, etc, etc, etc.

Here's what Mark Twain said about worrying:
"Drag your thoughts away from your troubles... by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it."

Easy for him to say! How to actually do it?

Please help! Sincerely,


Dear Worried,

Madame L thinks she knows exactly what you're talking about, because she tends to be a worrier, too.

Madame L has found a great Web site with info about why we worry and some techniques for not worrying so much.

And of course Web MD has a bunch of resources, including the fact that "people who come from divorced homes are 70% more likely to have generalized anxiety disorder."

Here's another great quote to help worriers realize just what a waste of time all that worrying is:

"If you want to test your memory, try to recall what you were worrying about one year ago today." ~E. Joseph Cossman

And here's a whole page of quotes about worrying, why it's bad for you, how to stop, etc.

What else works? Anyone?


Madame L

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Who is Colonel Qaddafi?

Dear Madame L,

I have a question that I'd appreciate hearing your un-researched answer, because I know that you can answer this question without researching it: Who was/is Colonel Qaddafi? I know I could do my own research, but I am full of inertia and would like to hear your answer rather than researching my own. I honestly don't know, other than something about Libya?, and would love to hear what you have to say.

Thanks in advance for your reply,

Your inertiated little sister

Dear Little Sister,

Thank you for that question! Colonel Qaddafi is the dictator who has been oppressing the people of Libya for more than  40 years now. He is a ruthless killer. He is responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocents. 

UPDATE: Since Madame L first wrote this response, she has seen on the news that Qaddafi has ordered his citizens fired at with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Hundreds if not thousands of people have been killed and critically wounded. Qaddafi and a look-alike make brief appearances among crowds of people who have been paid to wave flags and cheer, far from the protesters.

But that is now, and you will still want to know a bit more of the history. So Madame L is continuing with her original post:

In order to curry favor with the West, at one point he made some kind of treaty with the U.S. and Israel and then kicked thousands of Palestinians out who had been living in Libya. But before and since then he has mostly hated the West.

If Madame L were a psychologist, which she is not, she would say he is a megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur. Is that redundant? Or a psychopath. Or all of the above. He's a monster.

Madame L was struck by a Vanity Fair slide show a couple of years ago which extolled his sense of fashion, with tongue firmly in cheek. (Sorry, you said not to do any research, but Madame L simply had to look that up and post it. It explains the delusional part of her amateur diagnosis. It would be funny if he weren't such a monster.)

Qaddafi's response to the recent demands of his people for freedom and democracy---the people of whom he claims to be the "Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution"---has been to call in his military and police units to shoot them, even, reportedly, shooting at them from helicopters. (And, as noted above, now to open fire with machine guns and RPG's.)

Here's his name in Arabic, which shows why it's so hard for people to transliterate his last name into Roman alphabet characters:   معمر القذافي

Muammar isn't so hard, but that "q" and that "d" are hard to know what to do with in English. So sometimes people write "Qaddafi,' sometimes "Gaddafi," "Ghaddafi," "Ghadhafi," and so on. Madame L has read that there are more than 30 ways of spelling this in non-Arabic languages. Madame L, although no more of an expert on transliterating Arabic into English than on psychology, prefers the "Qaddafi" spelling because the "q" is really a "q."

So, those are a few facts about the colonel. By the way, he was a captain when he took power, immediately promoted himself to colonel, and I forget the reason he gave for not making himself a general. (But Madame L bets you can find that information in Wikipedia's article about him.)

Madame L's sister mentioned Qaddafi in connection with the governor of Wisconsin because of his heavy-handed disregard for human rights, not because Madame L thinks Gov. Scott Walker (R) really intends to massacre the government employees whose rights as citizens he stands ready to steamroll over.

Thanks for asking, Little Sister. Please pray for the people of Libya, Bahrain, Jordan, Algeria, Kuwait, Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, all the countries of the Middle East, the great State of Wisconsin, and the entire United States of America: for them/us to continue to have the strength to fight for and maintain their freedom and human rights, and for the oppressors to be brought to justice. 

And if you can find a way to act, to help your prayers be answered, please do that, too.

Yours truly,

Madame L

Why do you read Prince Valiant every Sunday?

Dear Madame L, Why does anyone read Prince Valiant in the Sunday comics?

Answer: Unfortunately, Madame L must answer that she does not know the answer to this question, even though she is one of those people who faithfully reads Prince Valiant every Sunday. 

Madame L started reading Prince Valiant when she married her beloved husband, who loved the comic strip. Eventually, when he stopped reading it, Madame L could not bring herself to stop.

And now, as is her wont, Madame L would like to ask you, Dear Reader, a question: Why does anyone (including her beloved husband) NOT read Prince Valiant?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

In honor of this day, Madame L presents to you, Delicate Reader, two new questions and answers:

Question 1: When is a married man in a bar lying?

Answer: When his lips move.

Question 2:  What did Rev. Billy Graham's wife Ruth say when asked if as a Christian she would ever consider divorcing her husband?

Answer: "Divorce? No. Murder? Yes."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Question and a Comment

Dear Madame L,

You mentioned inertia in your very first column. What is inertia, anyway?

Answers: (There are lots of answers to this question!) If you ask a physicist, she will say inertia is the tendency for an object in motion to remain in motion; and, likewise, for an object at rest to remain at rest. 

That is why it's so hard to get up off the couch when you're watching the Grammys, for example.

That's very closely related to Madame L's beloved mother's answer to the question of inertia::  It's another word for laziness.

Inertia is also why it's so hard to stop a moving car, or a bicycle, or a human body. To do that, as Sir Isaac Newton pointed out, you need to apply a force.

In Madame L's mother's world, the force was often a psychological one, which was as motivational as any physical force. For example, "If you don't get up and eat your breakfast, you'll be late for school." No, wait, that's not such a good example. Here's a better one: "If you don't get up and eat your breakfast, I won't let you go outside and play with your friends on Saturday." That's more like it. 

And, applying a negative force, or a slightly different psychological motivation, to stop an action: "If you don't stop chasing your brother and trying to hit him with a baseball bat, I won't let you go outside and play with your friends on Saturday."

For some other, non-physics, definitions of inertia, check out Wikipedia's excellent explanation.

Comment: Madame L would like to thank Jeff for his comment on her suggestions for getting along online and in life in general. He wrote about his grandmother's rules for life:

My grandma, born in Germany but raised in Kentucky, taught me this:
-Work hard - there are no excuses for not.
-Work smart - if you think about it as you go you won't waste a lot of time reinventing something.
-Be kind - always, to everyone.

Madame L would also like to thank Jeff's grandma for teaching Jeff those rules.

Thanks again, all, for your questions and comments. Please let Madame L continue to give you advice about problems at work and at home, at the mall, while jogging around your neighborhood, and while relaxing on a Sunday afternoon. You may ask questions by commenting here or by writing an e-mail to Madame L at

Madame L hopes to hear from you soon.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Madame L is IN!

Dear Friends,

Madame L is available to answer all your questions about personal, work-related, social, and even political issues. 

Please feel free to leave questions in the "Comments" box or to write Madame L at

Madame L asks that you follow these rules for questions and comments and, now that she's thinking of it, for all your interactions both on- and off-line:

---Never be mean, snarky, or vulgar.

---Express even strong disagreements with politeness and civility.

---Greet the day with a song. (Off-line---unless you want to share the chorus with Madame L and her readers)

Yours in neighborly good will and fun,

Madame L

Thursday, February 10, 2011

How to Answer a Loaded Question

Dear Madame L,

I've received an email message from a person who wants to know about my current employer. This guy wrote, "Is he good to work with? Is he hands-on and helpful, or what is his supervisory style? I've already applied for the job, but I haven't interviewed with him yet. I saw your name on the web page so I thought maybe you could help me."

Here's the problem: The boss this guy is asking about is NOT a good manager, is very difficult to work with, and has alienated many of the people who have worked for him. But if I tell this person the truth, it will almost certainly get back to my boss.

The guy also wrote, "If you'd like to talk on the phone, I'll understand," and gave me a cell phone number to call. 

I Googled his name, and he appears to be a real person who could plausibly be applying for a job with my company. I know a phone conversation would be "safer" than an email message, but I think even that could turn against me at some time in the future.

Because here's the thing: Nobody will ever tell the truth about this boss. No one told me! I understand why, of course, because they didn't dare say anything negative, because their---our---getting any job in the field any time in the future depends on a good recommendation from him. So we all grin and bear it, and hold in our frustration.

I think I'd be doing this guy a favor by steering him away from the job. On the other hand, what if he's the one person who finally gets along with the boss and enjoys the work? What should I do? I'm completely ----

---- Stumped and Anxious

Dear Stumped,

You've analyzed the situation perfectly, and you already know the answer. So Madame L guesses you were just wanting permission, which Madame L hereby gives:

Do nothing. Absolutely nothing. You do not have to reply to this message. You do not have to call this person.

In fact, your not replying is exactly the answer the guy is looking for: If your boss were a good one whom you think other people would enjoy working for, you would feel happy to reply to the message, maybe even invite the guy out for lunch to talk about how much everyone likes working there and loves the boss.  Your lack of reply says the opposite, as succinctly, and without risking your job or future, as possible.

And now Madame L has a question for you: Why are you still working for that boss? Snap on your water wings and jump ship as fast as you can.

Madame L understands that it's hard to move on in our current job market, but she suspects that what's keeping you in your job is a bit of inertia, which she urges you to fight.

Finish whatever project you need to finish so you can move on, and finish with such a flourish that you'll receive high accolades from your boss.

Madame L promises that there will come a time, maybe a year from now, maybe ten, when you'll look back with a little bit of fondness on your current situation because of the perspective of time and distance you will have gained. 

Please keep in touch and let Madame L know how it's going.

Your friend in circumspection,

Madame L