Thoughts at large:

You have to give the French one thing: at least they didn’t throw rocks and stage anti-American protests after we liberated them in World War II.

Why, when dogs are put out back, do they spend their whole time wanting to come in, and when allowed in, spend their whole time wanting to go out?

By my calculations, most Americans will waste seven months of their lives listening to this phrase: “When you finish recording your message, you may either hang up, or press pound for other options.”

To all companies sending me e-mails titled, “Gamble Online and Win” • I’m sorry, but you reached the wrong address. Please redirect all mailings to billbennett(at)

Those who have kids in weekend or afternoon religious school know that the constitutional conflicts between religion and politics in this country are nothing compared with the scheduling conflicts between religion and youth sports.

Where does the phrase scot-free come from? Or is it scott-free? Do Scots have a history of getting away with things?

And how about “Dutch treat?” Are Dutch men really cheap dates?

Am I the only man who feels that an umbrella is somehow not masculine unless absolutely necessary?

It may be because I was once walking my dog with a red umbrella, yellow rain jacket and knee-high winter boots when an acquaintance passed by and said I looked like the Morton Salt girl. Scarred me for life.

The number of cell phones has doubled in the last decade while newspaper subscriptions have stagnated. I’m prejudiced, but you have to admit: it says something that households willingly spend $1,000-plus a year to chat on multiple cell phones while balking at paying 50 cents to read the paper.

The movie “Holes” about delinquent kids who have to dig a big deep hole outside a prison camp to build character, then come back the next day and dig another next to the last. Kind of a metaphor for life, isn’t it?

Why does North Korea call itself the “Democratic Republic’ of North Korea when it’s neither?

“That uni is sick” turns out to be teen speak for “Nice Uniform.”

I still say there isn’t a more satisfying moment in participatory sports than connecting solidly with a baseball.

My daughter is very good at blasting the TV and ignoring the family, until her parents start talking in low tones about an adult subject, at which point she hits the mute button and you can see size of her ear double.

It has to be a misprint that the NRA wants to allow the public to buy semiautomatic assault weapons – something even President Bush opposes. What’s next, bazookas at Wal-Mart?

Proof that Americans are getting fatter: the FAA is now requiring airlines to add 10 more pounds to the estimated weight of each airplane passenger.

Do you find you have to be careful titling e-mail these days? If you title it “Hi” they’ll think you’re a porn queen. Title it, “Here’s an idea,” and you’re pitching a low-interest mortgage. Title it virtually anything else and people will think you’re selling Viagra.

Finally, a family has filed suit over that hazing incident in Illinois where girls were suspended for smearing mud, garbage and worse on underclass girls while beating them badly enough to send some to the hospital. Only the suit wasn’t filed by a victim, but one of the perpetrators saying her suspension is unfair. Given the mentality of parents who would support that, is there any question how the kid came to do this in the first place?

Mark Patinkin is a columnist for the Providence Journal.

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