Author Archive: Christopher Waldrop

Trick or treat?

October 31, 1996

I was sitting here in my office looking like Harpo Marx, and suddenly realized that only a few of you can see me. The rest will have to wait for the photos to be developed. See, it’s Halloween, the absolute best holiday that you don’t get time off for, so I’ve decided to share frights and treats with all of you a day early. Specifically, I’ll be answering some questions and comments sent to me by various and sundry Freethinkers, which is a treat for you and frightening for me.

The first and most asked question is, "Is there really an Uncle Rupert?" Yes, there really is. Born on in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Rupert Hasselberry has been on the move ever since. Whether or not he’s my uncle is a tougher question, but then in my family any older gentleman whose relationship to me is nebulous (third cousin fourteen times removed or some other distinction that only genealogists would care about) is automatically an Uncle. It should also go without saying that, as a typical Southern family, some branches twist back on themselves in frightening ways, so on the whole Rupert’s side of the family has a gene pool you couldn’t even wade in.

Next, we have a comment. While ranting and raving about my cold last week, I said I was taking fifteen million miligrams of Vitamin C. Anonymous pointed out that shorthand for that would be fifteen kilograms, or roughly thirty-three pounds. All right, I admit–it’s my secret for weight-loss. Taking that much ascorbic acid daily keeps me slim and attractive. It also makes my skin a beautiful bright orange, and gives it a nice scaly texture.

Finally, a grammatical correction. Anonymous (not the former Anonymous but a different one who…oh, you know who you are!) took exception to my use of the word "snuck". Anonymous claimed that it was grammatically incorrect. Unfortunately, he was wrong. The forms of the verb "sneak, to sneak" have been a matter of contention among philologists for years, many of whom gave up the struggle and went on to something easy, like Indo-European pre-derivatives or translating the lacunae of ancient texts. See, it really comes from the Latin verb sneco, snucere (the precise meaning of which was "step quietly", but the Emperor Flatulus, known for his liasons with his wife’s handmaids, the slaves, and certain members of the Royal Stables is given credit for the clandestine connotation), an irregular verb which, like most Latin verbs, became even more irregular as it was put into its various tenses (most people don’t realise that Latin grammatists ate lots of cheese, which is enough to make anyone both irregular and tense). And even if you don’t buy this explanation, look in the expanded version of the Oxford English Dictionary under "snuck" where it says, "snuck v. (1895) past tense of sneak, coined by Frederick Jones, who made up some cockamamie explanations for the word’s origin".

That about covers it–enjoy this week’s treat. And remember, if you have any comments, be sure to send them to Frederick Jones, c/o The Freethinkers’ Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka.


TOP TEN REASONS TRICK-OR-TREATING IS BETTER THAN SEX

10. Guaranteed to get at least a little something in the sack.

9. If you get tired, wait 10 minutes and go at it again.

8. The uglier you look, the easier it is to get some.

7. You don’t have to compliment the person who gave you candy.

6. Person giving you candy doesn’t fantasize you’re someone else.

5. If you get a stomach ache, it won’t last 9 months.

4. If you wear your Batman mask, no one thinks you’re kinky.

3. Doesn’t matter if kids hear you moaning and groaning.

2. Less guilt the next morning.

and, the #1 reason trick or treating is better than sex…

1. IF YOU DON’T GET WHAT YOU WANT, YOU CAN
ALWAYS GO NEXT DOOR!

Fluthinkers Anonymous

October 25, 1996

I’ve been hit really hard with a winter cold. This isn’t just any ordinary cold, either–this one was probably bred in some secret underground laboratory and snuck out in the night watchman’s liverwurst. I’ve begged, pleaded, and blown my nose at it, but diseases are merciless, so I’ve had to declare war on it. I’m taking fifteen million miligrams of vitamin C a day, drinking orange juice, apple juice, grape juice, and when I get sick of all that, there’s Banana Raspberry Cranberry Passion Fruit Lime Tangelo Punch, the latest flavor from Ocean Wave, the company known for its high-salt fruit juices. I’ve even been tempted to start popping cold pills–you know, the ones that do nothing for your cold, but knock you out cold? Of course, they have the "non-drowsy formula", but have you ever noticed that on the back of those there’s a warning that says, "May cause drowsiness"?

What I like least of all, though, is cough medicine. All cough medicines taste like asphalt lightly sprinkled with fertilizer. All cough medicines except for my Aunt Ethel’s homemade recipe, though, the main ingredient of which was whiskey. Aunt Ethel came from that area of Central Europe where the leading cause of death is hypochondria, followed closely by cirrhosis of the liver. It was, however, from Aunt Ethel’s side of the family that I got the idea for this week’s edition. Back in the far reaches of my family tree, there’s my less-than-revered Uncle Theodosius, who once said, "’Tis but a minor ailment. ‘Twill not kill me." As poor Uncle Theo soon learned, though, diseases are merciless. So is history–but hey, who knew the Black Plague would be so bad?


Rejected State Mottos

FLORIDA:
The Gunshine State

ALABAMA:
Literacy Ain’t Everything

ARKANSAS:
At Least We’re not Oklahoma

ILLINOIS:
Gateway to Iowa

KENTUCKY:
Tobacco is a Vegetable

MAINE:
For Sale

MONTANA:
Land of the Big Sky, and Very Little Else

NEW JERSEY
You Have the Right to Remain Silent, You Have the Right to an Attorney

NEW MEXICO:
Lizards Make Excellent Pets

NORTH CAROLINA:
Five Million People; Fifteen Last Names

OHIO:
Don’t Judge us by Cleveland

PENNSYLVANIA:
Cook with Coal

SOUTH DAKOTA:
Closer than North Dakota

TENNESSEE:
The Educashun State

TEXAS:
Si Hablo Ingles

UTAH:
Our Jesus is Better than Your Jesus

Freudian Friday

October 18, 1996

Several months ago a counseling center moved in upstairs, so now I can’t help wondering if the strangers I sometimes ride the elvator with are therapists analyzing my every move. Needless to say I’m always tempted to pretend I’m talking to my dead mother or to pull out my penknife and say, "Normally I’m not allowed to have sharp objects." At the same time I wonder if any of the other people who work in this building are patients, and whether they ever share an elevator with their therapist. Can’t you just imagine the exchange?

"Hello, how are you?" asks the ever-courteous therapist.

"I’m fine."

"That will be sixty dollars."

Maybe they break it down, though–prorate it so an elevator’s ride of therapy is only sixty cents, enough for a Diet Coke. (I always imagine therapists drinking Diet Coke–it’s so non-threatening.) These poor people must get into real trouble at their next formal session, though. When they start pouring their heart out, the therapist comes back with something like, "Last time we met you said you were fine. You aren’t holding something back, are you? We’re never going to get anywhere if you don’t share." No matter what the patient says, it’s going to sound crazy–after all, why else would they be seeing a therapist?–so there’s no point in explaining that, if they "shared" their latest dream about being chased by their chainsaw-weilding grandmother, or if they "shared" how their dog doesn’t understand them anymore every time they got into an elevator, pretty soon everyone in the building would be taking the stairs.

Everyone, that is, except for the therapist who lives for that free Diet Coke every morning.

Enjoy this week’s collection of oddities:


Facts

One pail of water can produce enough fog to cover 100 square miles to a depth of fifty feet.

What was Frankenstein’s first name? Contrary to popular notion, Mary Shelley’s monster was nameless. Frankenstein was the creator-doctor. His first name was Victor.

The world’s record for running the 100-yard dash BACKWARDS was set by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, the black tap dancer who appeared in many Shirley Temple movies. He ran it in 13.5 seconds.

Dr. Sylvester Graham was a religious crusader who opposed the use of meat, tea, coffee, tobacco, corsets, and feathers. He invented Graham crackers, which attained success with the Puritans in the 1820’s because Graham claimed that they would reduce the sexual urges of young girls.

Thomas Edison was a judge at the first "Miss America" beauty contest in 1880.

Fish can get seasick if they are swirled in a pail or kept on board a rolling ship.

A clever salesman is sometimes humorously credited with the ability to sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo. Actually, many Eskimos own refrigerators. They use them to keep foods from freezing.

In 1940, accountants discovered the financial records of Benjamin Franklin at the archives of Philadelphia’s Bank of America. According to their findings, Franklin — the master of thrift — was overdrawn on his account at least three times each week.

One symptom of rabies is a powerful thirst. By a cruel twist of nature, another symptom is a swollen, painful throat which may cause convulsions if the victim tries to take a drink.

At least fifteen million people are having a birthday today.

For all its romantic significance in American history, the legendary Pony Express only lasted 18 months. When it went out of business, its financial backers lost $200,000.

For most of human history, scientists believed that meteors did not exist. The idea that rocks could drop out of the sky seemed absurd. President Thomas Jefferson once denounced Yale University when one of its professors claimed to have seen a meteor fall.

Which state was the 39th to be admitted into the Union? No one knows. North and South Dakota, the 39th and 40th states, were admitted on the same day. President Benjamin Harrison never revealed which of the two proclamations he signed first.

Quarrymen in ancient Rome sometimes rubbed wax on their marble blocks to conceal cracks and flaws. The Roman Senate passed a law that all marble purchased by the government must be "since cera," which means, "without wax." From this root comes "sincere," a word we use to mean "without deception."

Fetuses can get the hiccups.

In 1906, the horse-drawn traffic in New York City moved along at an average speed of 11.5 miles per hour. In 1978, a survey showed automobile traffic in New York City averaged only 7.9 miles per hour.

"It was the only time I ever went into combat stoned," said American soldier Peter Lemon, describing how he smoked marijuana one night, then fought off two waves of Vietcong troops, dragged a wounded comrade to safety — and won the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Cadet Edgar Allen Poe was discharged from West Point in 1831 for "gross neglect of duty." As legend has it, he was reporting to the parade grounds where the prescribed uniform had been "white belts and gloves." He showed up wearing a white belt and gloves — and nothing else.

The flowers of wheat have a life-span of less than two hours.

Frogs must close their eyes to swallow.

The word "kangaroo" means "I don’t know" in the language of Australian aborigines. When Captain Cook approached natives of the Endeavor River tribe to ask what the strange animal was, he got "kangaroo" for an answer.

The Harlem Globetrotters never played in Harlem until 1968 — forty years after the team came together.

The highest and lowest points in the continental United States are less than eighty miles apart (Mount Whitney and Death Valley, California).

What kind of animal did the three wise men ride on their journey to Bethlehem? The Bible doesn’t say they rode anything. According to Scriptures, it is entirely possible that they walked.

Man and the two-toed sloth are the only land animals that typically mate face-to-face.

Felix Wankel, automotive engineer and inventor of the rotary engine, never had a driver’s license.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was written by Ian Fleming, creator of the James Bond adventure novels.

The elephant is the only animal that cannot jump.

The Arlington National Cemetary cannot find an unknown soldier to occupy the fourth Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is dedicated to the men who died in Vietnam. Military identification- –ranging from X-rays to fingerprints to dental records — has become so sophisticated that there are no unknown remains that might be eligible for the Tomb.

A cheetah can jump from a standstill to 45 miles per hour in two seconds — an acceleration rate that cannot be matched by even the fastest dragsters.

Adolf Hitler owned nine thousand acres of land in Colorado. When it was discovered in 1942 that Hitler had inherited title to the land from relatives in Germany, it was being used by ranchers as grazing land.

Harry Houdini was the first person to fly an airplane in the continent of Australia.

Before the Civil War, Lincoln offered the command of the Northern forces to Robert E. Lee.

In the 1840’s, two New Englanders named Pettygrove and Lovejoy acquired a large tract of land in Oregon on which they planned to build a city. When the first settlers began to build, they were unable to agree on a name for their city. Lovejoy wanted Boston while Pettygrove wanted Portland. Finally, they flipped a coin. Pettygrove won.

In 1818, Easter was observed on the wrong day. The formula for calculating when Easter will fall was established nearly seventeen centuries ago; it is the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. Astronomers made a mistake in their calculationsin 1818, and the Christian world celebrated Easter on the wrong Sunday.

Corn is incapable of reproducing itself in the wild.

Wild rice is not wild. Nor is it rice.

The song "You Are My Sunshine" was written by James Davis — who also served as Louisiana’s governor for eight years.

Midway Island is so named because it is the nearest body of land to the geographic center of the Pacific.

Blackboard chalk is not made of chalk.It is made from plaster of Paris — which, incidentally, is rarely made in Paris.

The five interlocking Olympic Rings are colored black, blue, red, white, and yellow because at least one of those colors appears in every national flag in the world.

Who was conceived in the Immaculate Conception? The Immaculate Conception does not refer to Jesus in his mother Mary, as many think. It refers to the conception of Mary in her mother Saint Anne.

A bare-breasted woman caused a ten-car collision when she drove along the Hollywood Freeway in an open convertible. The incident was reported in a local newspaper with the following headline: "Bares 2, Rams 10."

An ear of corn will almost always contain an even number of rows — usually twelve, fourteen, or sixteen. An ear with an odd number of rows is rarer than a four-leaf clover.

Horrors!

October 11, 1996

Well, it’s that time of year again, and we all know what that means: wasps. It’s getting too cold for them outside, so they’re sneaking into our houses in search of a nice warm place to sleep. Now, I’m not allergic to wasps, but I’m deathly afraid of them, so I have a spray that kills them from about twenty feet away (still a little too close for comfort, but better than nothing). For some reason, though, wasps are really attracted to kitchens, and the warning label on the spray says, "Use only in well-ventilated area." If it were a well-ventilated area, there wouldn’t be a wasp trapped in there in the first place, but the other night when one showed up in my kitchen, I wasn’t in a state of mind to worry about such things. I was prepared to suffocate rather than be stung. Unfortunately the spray was in the basement–the other favorite room of wasps, and actually going and getting it would have required a leap of logic which I was incapable of making. Besides, that would have put a pretty quick end to the entertainment, wouldn’t it? That would be like the nice young couple on their honeymoon in Transylvania deciding that a hotel that uses human skulls for door handles might not be such a good place to spend the night after all, or like that wacky group of teenagers on a road trip to nowhere actually left the deserted camp when a machete-wielding maniac started picking them off one by one. It’s a logic you can’t explain–you have to be in one of those situations yourself to know why exactly you stay in a house where the walls drip blood or where there’s a wasp in the kitchen. Fortunately the evil beast, whatever form it’s in, always makes one fatal mistake. In the case of the wasp, it was coming into the kitchen. Wasps never realize that humans always keep deadly poisons right alongside food. I could almost hear the voice of the heroic scientist who saves the day: "There’s only one way to defeat this monster: hit it with enough Windex to clean the Sears Tower." Ah, there’s even a moral lesson here: Don’t knock housework–it could save your life. I emptied half a bottle on the beast and then crushed him. The insect’s reign of terror was at an end. Now the weather is turning cold enough to finish off all the others, so this is one horror flick that won’t have a sequel…or will it? Even as he spoke, a mad scientist was breeding a chemical resistant hornet…


Customers Do The Strangest Things
From ComputerWorld

Ontrack Data Recovery in Eden Prairie, Minn., specializes in recovering data from hard drives damaged by natural or man-made disasters. Here are a few true stories from Ontrack’s files:

– One customer guessed that maybe his hard drive didn’t work because it had been "sitting in a snowdrift by the barn for a while."

– Another customer, concerned that he would void the warranty if he disassembled the hard drive by removing the screws, used a hack saw instead.

– An Ontrack representative told a customer to pack his hard drive in peanuts for protection during shipping. The drive arrived the next day packed in salted peanuts – instead of foam peanuts.

– Another drive arrived smelling fresh & clean, wrapped in Bounce fabric softener sheets. The customer had been told to pack it with antistatic material before shipping.

A little junk mail…

October 4, 1996

Junk mail is rapidly becoming a household crisis. In recent years, junk mail has steadily become the lifeblood of the postal system, which is like replacing plasma with Kool-Aid. It’s becoming such a crisis, in fact, that if I don’t get to the recycle center soon, the clothing catalogs alone are going to force me out of the house on a tsunami of slick pages. The worst thing about junk mail is it’s addictive. Last night I caught myself sitting on my back patio reading about a home glue maker–discounted to $79.99!–and seriously thinking that I’d like to be able to make my own post-it notes. And at first glance a combination toilet brush and ice cream scoop seems like a good idea, but if it was really that great, what’s it doing in one of those catalogs? That’s the logic that normally eludes us when we’re confronted with the possibility of owning a limited edition guaranteed authentic strand of Elvis’s hair. To make it even worse, all these places accept every credit card ever invented. They’ll take Third World Express, Eastern Europe Economy, Recession International…some of these places are so desperate to get rid of 20,000 copies of Hickory Swillith and the Log Cabin Boys on 8-track that they’ll take roubles, bottle caps, food stamps–anything to get new addresses. When they get a long enough list of addresses, they can sell them to other junk mail companies–part of the great junk mail ecology–and invest that money in something really good. Sure, it may take fifteen or twenty years, but they’ll tell you junk mail is the ultimate way to get rich quick. They know that the stuffed monkey with a lighter on its head or the wacky shaving razor that squirts fake blood (WARNING: MAY IRRITATE SKIN) is going to be their gravy train ticket. Then they’ll be able to retire to some quiet place in the country where the post office will never find them…


SCIENCE EXPLAINED

The beguiling ideas about science quoted here were gleaned from essays, exams, and class room discussions. Most were from 5th and 6th graders. They illustrate Mark Twain’s contention that the ‘most interesting information comes from children, for they tell all they know and then stop.’

Question: What is one horsepower?
Answer: One horsepower is the amount of energy it takes to drag a horse 500 feet in one second.

You can listen to thunder after lightening and tell how close you came to getting hit. If you don’t hear it you got hit, so never mind.

Talc is found on rocks and on babies.

The law of gravity says no fair jumping up without coming back down.

When they broke open molecules, they found they were only stuffed with atoms.

But when they broke open atoms, they found them stuffed with explosions.

When people run around and around in circles we say they are crazy.
When planets do it we say they are orbiting.

Rainbows are just to look at, not to really understand.

While the earth seems to be knowingly keeping its distance from the sun, it is really only centrificating.

Someday we may discover how to make magnets that can point in any direction.

South America has cold summers and hot winters, but somehow they still manage.

Most books now say our sun is a star. But it still knows how to change back into a sun in the daytime.

Water freezes at 32 degrees and boils at 212 degrees. There are 180 degrees between freezing and boiling because there are 180 degrees between north and south.

A vibration is a motion that cannot make up its mind which way it wants to go.

There are 26 vitamins in all, but some of the letters are yet to be discovered. Finding them all means living forever.

There is a tremendous weight pushing down on the center of the Earth because of so much population stomping around up there these days.

Lime is a green-tasting rock.

Many dead animals in the past changed to fossils while others preferred to be oil.

Genetics explain why you look like your father and if you don’t why you should.

Vacuums are nothings. We only mention them to let them know we know they’re there.

Some oxygen molecules help fires burn while others help make water, so sometimes it’s brother against brother.

Some people can tell what time it is by looking at the sun. But I have never been able to make out the numbers.

We say the cause of perfume disappearing is evaporation. Evaporation gets blamed for a lot of things people forget to put the top on.

To most people solutions mean finding the answers. But to chemists solutions are things that are still all mixed up.

In looking at a drop of water under a microscope, we find there are twice as many H’s as O’s.

Clouds are high flying fogs.

I am not sure how clouds get formed. But the clouds know how to do it, and that is the important thing.

Clouds just keep circling the earth around and around. And around.There is not much else to do.

Water vapor gets together in a cloud. When it is big enough to becalled a drop, it does.

Humidity is the experience of looking for air and finding water.

We keep track of the humidity in the air so we won’t drown when we breathe.

Rain is often known as soft water, oppositely known as hail.

Rain is saved up in cloud banks.

In some rocks you can find the fossil footprints of fishes.

Cyanide is so poisonous that one drop of it on a dogs tongue will kill the strongest man.

A blizzard is when it snows sideways.

A hurricane is a breeze of a bigly size.

A monsoon is a French gentleman.

Thunder is a rich source of loudness.

Isotherms and isobars are even more important than their names sound.

It is so hot in some places that the people there have to live in other places.

The wind is like the air, only pushier.
 

Housewarmings, Freethinker Style

September 27, 1996

Well, it was a nice vacation, a good chance to get away from things.

Speaking of getaways, my Uncle Rupert recently returned to his hometown of Titusville, just outside Nashville, after a brief vacation of eleven years in Florida. See, Uncle Rupert–not really my uncle, by the way, actually he’s my father’s uncle by marriage, but there are some things like thin hair, heart disease, and Uncle Rupert that get passed on from one generation to the next. Anyway, Uncle Rupert ran into a little trouble last time he was in Titusville.

Actually, he says the trouble ran into him, which is like a man trying to drive to Europe by going through Virginia saying the Atlantic suddenly jumped in his way. Come to think of it, that is what Uncle Rupert said when, during World War II, he decided to drive to France and see how things were going. Anyway, what resulted in his last emigration to the Sunshine State was a business venture. Having flipped through two volumes of a fifteen volume set of books on air conditioning repair, he decided there wasn’t much to it and offered to repair his neighbor’s wall unit for substantially less than someone with even a vague understanding of air conditioning would ask. Rupert borrowed some appropriate looking tools from my grandfather, stuck them in his brand new overalls (later written off as a business expense) and set to work deciding where to begin his repair work. An hour later he decided taking the plastic casing off and working with whatever was on the inside would be a good start.

After getting shocked a few times, he unplugged the air conditioner and continued with the tricky business of stripping wires, wrapping the bare ends around each other, and sealing the whole thing with duct tape. He removed a few strange looking tubes, some green plastic parts, and a lot of really weird clutter he couldn’t even begin to describe. At five o’clock he started wrapping up his operation. Any leftover wires he taped to a long metal coil running along the bottom of the air conditioner, and he sealed the whole thing up with more duct tape and replaced the plastic cover. He explained to his neighbor, a kindly old woman who, as you’ve probably guessed, didn’t know Rupert that well, that he would have to buy some additional parts to replace defective ones he’d removed, but that she could still operate her air conditioner if she only turned it on after dark when the strain on it wouldn’t be as great. It’s been a matter of some controversy as to when exactly Aunt Vita got the calling to go help her mother do missionary work in Florida–a voice from above she hadn’t heard since Uncle Rupert had shot an endangered heron and shown all his neighbors this unusual bird he’d found on his property–but everyone agrees it came sometime during the confusion after the explosion. See, this was well after the Fourth of July, but with all the pretty colors in the sky, folks figured either Rick’s Fireworks Store had blown up, or they were being invaded by Mars.

As it turned out, it was neither, but the residents of Titusville celebrate the occasion to this day with fireworks and other assorted explosions, although nothing like that first display. In fact it was so extraordinary that Uncle Rupert’s participation in the festivities has been long awaited, and I understand that even now a few of his old acquaintances and close neighbors are planning a very special house-warming.
That’s this week’s edition–enjoy the weekend, and, as we used to say around my family, don’t do anything Uncle Rupert would do.

Summer vacation time…

September 5, 1996

Folks, I hate to break it to you, but I’ll be off for the next three Fridays. So this week’s edition is coming to you a day early, unless you’re in Sri Lanka, where, thanks to the international dateline, it will arrive on time for once. If you think you can’t live without your weekly dose of Freethinking, though, check out a new web site designed by one of your fellow Freethinkers, who will be a little less anonymous than he was. The site is:

http://www.nerosoft.com/Freethinkers.html

and contains archived versions of the very oldest editions. We all do foolish things when we’re young, so I cannot be held responsible for them.

Speaking of foolish things, the impervious Richard Nixon once said of politics, "This would be great if it weren’t for all the people." I’m beginning to feel the same way–about going to the movies. I love going to the movies. For whatever strange reason, I love waiting in line, spending $2 for 40 cents worth of a watered down soft drink, and getting a tub of popcorn which, no matter what I tell them, the movie theater attendants have soaked with butter-flavored melted Crisco. And I love trying to delicately season that popcorn with movie theater salt which, for some reason, is orange, and comes in a specially designed container with the Uncontrollable Flow(tm) top. I love the way my feet stick to the floor as I try to find just the right seat, and I love the new convenient drink holders that are either too large or too small no matter what size drink you get. All that is worth it to be able to relax for a little while in front of the large silver screen, lose myself in a movie…if it weren’t for the people. The people who sit directly in front of me when there are only about four people in the entire theater. The people who provide a running commentary–to themselves. The people who get the 42-ounce Burpola Soft Drink and spend the rest of the movie going back and forth while I cram myself into my seat to let them by. Or the weirdest one of all: the woman who, all through "Pulp Fiction", sat behind me saying "Ah’ve seen this before. Ah saw it on TV" while someone next to her kept repeating, "That ain’t true. It ain’t never been on TV." Why do I do it? Could I possibly love the communal cinema-going experience THAT much, or am I just certifiably insane? On second thoughts, don’t answer that–I have a pretty good idea what you’ll say.


Ways things would be different if Microsoft was headquartered in South Georgia

1. Their #1 product would be Microsoft Winders
2. Instead of an hourglass icon you’d get an empty beer bottle
3. Occasionally you’d bring up a window that was covered with a Hefty bag
4. Dialog boxes would give you the choice of "Ahh-ight" or "Naw"
5. Instead of "Ta-Da!", the opening sound would be Dueling Banjos
6. The "Recycle Bin" in Winders ’95 would be an outhouse
7. Whenever you pulled up the Sound Player you’d hear a digitized drunk redneck yelling "Freebird!"
8. Instead of "Start Me Up", the Winders ’95 theme song would be Achy-Breaky Heart
9. PowerPoint would be named "ParPawnt"
10. Microsoft’s programming tools would be "Vishul Basic" and "Vishul C++"
11. Winders 95 logo would incorporate Confederate Flag
12. Microsoft Word would be just that: one word
13. Instead of WWW servers, Microsoft would have KKK servers.
14. New Shutdown WAV: "Y’all come back now!"
15. Instead of VP, Microsoft big shots would be called "Cuz"
16. Hardware could be repaired using parts from an old Trans Am
17. Microsoft Office replaced with Micr’sawft Henhouse
18. Four words: Daisy Dukes Screen Saver
19. Well, the first thing you know, old Bill’s a billionaire
20. Speadsheet software would include examples to inventory dead cars in your front yard
21. Flight Simulator replaced by Tractor pull Simulator
22. Microsoft CEO: Bubba Gates
23. Redman plug’n’play interface.
24. They could still use Ky-row as code name for next upgrade, but Albenny would be the one after that.
25. Screen saver would be a kudzu vine which would consume your program manager.
26. Instructions for use would include "mash the control key."

Long weekend? Groovy…

August 30, 1996

A philosopher once said, "History repeats itself. First as drama, then as comedy." I knew this to be true long before I read it. After all, when I was growing up, everybody I knew was nostalgic about the 50’s and the 60’s–whether they lived through them or not. I knew the 60’s were going to come back when the 50’s did, and I knew the 50’s had come back when everybody I knew turned into the cast of "Happy Days", when buzz haircuts and names like "Chet" and "Dolores" got really popular again, and Elvis sightings tripled. Everybody was afraid of commies, too, so I knew that peace, love, and thirty-dollar tie-dye t-shirts were right around the corner. The eighties will be always remembered as a time when nostalgia was the national pastime, when technology and marketing made everything groovy, when it was hip to wear peace beads, peace symbols, make the peace sign, and carry the obligatory CDs of Janis, Jimmy, the Dead, and the Doors, not to mention those far out Greatest Hits compilations, with their portable Walkman stereos when they went out power walking. The trouble with the 60’s coming into the 80’s, though, was that everything was expensive. Those oh-so rebellious jeans with the holes in the knees were sold for an extra twenty bucks as "pre-ripped", and stuff that hippies used to pick up in junk shops now went for top dollar at designer outlets. Everybody was hip, and it was a gas for businesses. As the 60’s dragged on into the 90’s, I realized it was more appropriate to say that history repeats itself first as drama, then as marketing. Fortunately we seem to have escaped the same fate with the 70’s, but they were pretty much a comedy the first time around.

Enjoy this week’s non-nostalgic offering. Oh, and I’ve been a bit remiss about doing this, but there are a few new Freethinkers floating around out there, so everybody wave!


Excerpts from a Wall Street Journal article by Jim Carlton

A customer called Compaq tech support to say her brand-new computer wouldn’t work. She said she unpacked the unit, plugged it in, and sat there for 20 minutes waiting for something to happen. When asked what happened when she pressed the power switch, she asked "What power switch?"

Compaq is considering changing the command "Press Any Key" to Press Return Key" because of the flood of calls asking where the "Any" key is.

AST technical support had a caller complaining that her mouse was hard to control with the dust cover on. The cover turned out to be the plastic bag the mouse was packaged in.

Another Compaq technician received a call from a man complaining that the system wouldn’t read word processing files from his old diskettes. After trouble-shooting for magnets and heat failed to diagnose the problem, it was found that the customer labeled the diskettes then rolled them into the typewriter to type the labels.

Another AST customer was asked to send a copy of her defective diskettes. A few days later a letter arrived from the customer along with Xeroxed copies of the floppies.

A Dell technician advised his customer to put his troubled floppy back in the drive and close the door. The customer asked the tech to hold on, and was heard putting the phone down, getting up and crossing the room to close the door to his room.

Another Dell customer needed help setting up a new program, so a Dell tech referred him to the local Egghead. "Yeah, I got me a couple of friends," the customer replied. When told Egghead was a software store, the man said, "Oh, I thought you meant for me to find a couple of geeks."

A Dell technician received a call from a customer who was enraged because his computer had told him he was "bad and an invalid". The tech explained that the computer’s "bad command" and "invalid" responses shouldn’t be taken personally.

American Graffiti…Graffitti…Graffitti…

August 23, 1996

Is it just me or is grafitti becoming a lost art? It used to be really creative. Great phrases like "Keep America Beautiful–Stay At Home" and "When the going gets weird the weird turn professional" made grafitti seem like a worthwhile occupation. Even spooky, cryptic ones like "I’m watching you" sprayed on a wall with no windows could brighten up my day, but then graffiti’s slow decline began. I knew it when I saw "Defy Medocrity!"–when graffiti writers couldn’t even take the time to consult a dictionary. Then it got worse. In a restroom someone had written on the wall "Smile!" Sure, it’s a nice thought. That’s the trouble. It’s too nice. Then in the elevator this morning I saw that someone had scratched into the wall "2+2=4". Well. I wonder what genius came up with that. I think it’s because grafitti has become too public. Look–we all have computers, we all have screen savers, and this is a kind of acceptable graffiti. Now the misfits of society don’t have to go outside–they only have to sit down at their computer. I’ve found a solution, though. I’ve become a screen saver grafitti artist. So far I’ve only done little things–no political staments, just things like an entirely black screen with tiny dark red letters that say "What are you lookin’ at?" or sixteen verses of Monty Python’s "Spam" song. Next I’ll move on to bigger things–like maybe a private listserv that distributes humorous articles to people once a week.


Our future technologies are in the hands of our children. The following are all quotes from 6th grade science exams:

"When you breath, you inspire. When you do not breath, you expire."

"H2O is hot water, and CO2 is cold water"

"To collect fumes of sulphur, hold a deacon over a flame in a test tube"

"When you smell an odorless gas, it is probably carbon monoxide"

"Nitrogen is not found in Ireland because it is not found in a free state"

"Water is composed of two gins, Oxygin and Hydrogin. Oxygin is pure gin. Hydrogin is gin and water."

"Three kinds of blood vessels are arteries, vanes and caterpillars."

"Blood flows down one leg and up the other."

"Respiration is composed of two acts, first inspiration, and then expectoration."

"The moon is a planet just like the earth, only it is even deader."

"Artifical insemination is when the farmer does it to the cow instead of the bull."

"Dew is formed on leaves when the sun shines down on them and makes them perspire."

"A super-saturated solution is one that holds more than it can hold."

"Mushrooms always grow in damp places and so they look like umbrellas."

"The body consists of three parts- the brainium, the borax and the abominable cavity. The brainium contains the brain, the borax contains the heart and lungs, and the abominable cavity contains the bowels, of which there are five – a, e, i, o, and u."

"The pistol of a flower is its only protection against insects."

"The alimentary canal is located in the northern part of Indiana."

"The skeleton is what is left after the insides have been taken out and the outsides have ben taken off. The purpose of the skeleton is something to hitch meat to."

"A permanent set of teeth consists of eight canines, eight cuspids, two molars, and eight cuspidors."

"The tides are a fight between the Earth and moon. All water tends towards the moon, because there is no water in the moon, and nature abhors a vacuum. I forget where the sun joins in this fight."

"A fossil is an extinct animal. The older it is, the more extinct it is."

"Many women belive that an alcoholic binge will have no ill effects on the unborn fetus, but that is a large misconception."

"Equator: A managerie lion running around the Earth through Africa."

"Germinate: To become a naturalized German."

"Liter: A nest of young puppies."

"Magnet: Something you find crawling all over a dead cat."

"Momentum: What you give a person when they are going away."

"Planet: A body of Earth surrounded by sky."

"Rhubarb: A kind of celery gone bloodshot."

"Vacumm: A large, empty space where the pope lives."

"Before giving a blood transfusion, find out if the blood is affirmative or negative."

"To remove dust from the eye, pull the eye down over the nose."

"For a nosebleed: Put the nose much lower then the body until the heart stops."

"For drowning: Climb on top of the person and move up and down to make artifical perspiration."

"For fainting: Rub the person’s chest or, if a lady, rub her arm above the hand instead. Or put the head between the knees of the nearest medical doctor."

"For dog bite: put the dog away for sevral days. If he has not recovered, then kill it."

"For asphyxiation: Apply artificial respiration until the patient is dead."

"To prevent contraception: wear a condominium."

"For head cold: use an agonizer to spray the nose untill it drops in your throat."

"To keep milk from turning sour: Keep it in the cow."

Good morning, good morning, good…

August 16, 1996

I was in one of those health food stores the other day looking for some twinkies. Honestly–I figure anything with a shelf life of twenty-five years has got to be good for you. Twinkies are so full of preservatives that, if you eat enough, you’ll probably be just as well preserved as they are. Of course, your skin will probably look a little like fiberglass, and you may make a funny squeaking noise when you walk, but twinkies are the health food of the future. Why? I’ll come back to that. I didn’t find any twinkies, but what I did find was diet tea. Diet tea. Take a moment to let that sink in. It’s not as though it was some kind of prepared, fruit flavored tea that, in its regular form, is so full of calories that you might as well eat a handful of sugar. No, this was dry, leaf tea in the little flow-through baggies. Now, normally tea has about three calories anyway–and I may be estimating upward there, so I can only imagine what diet tea has. Maybe it has millicalories or something goofy like that. Honestly, a world that has to have diet tea is a world too obsessed with health for it to be healthy. No one’s going to think they can eat a great big custard doughnut and compensate by drinking diet tea. What they’re going to think is that, if things are so bad that even regular tea is fattening, they might as well say, The heck with it, I’ll just have a twinkie. Pretty soon this’ll catch on. People will begin to understand that indulging yourself once in a while is healthier than living on a 72-calorie-a-day diet, and maybe–just maybe–the health food stores of the future will have a pastry counter with a sign that says, "Hey, you’ve worked hard. Have a twinkie."

Enjoy this week’s offering.


How Not To Die: The Dumbest Deaths in Recorded History

Attila the Hun

One of the most notorious villains in history, Attila’s army had conquered all of Asia by 450 AD–from Mongolia to the edge of the Russian Empire–by destroying villages and pillaging the countryside.

How he died: He got a nosebleed on his wedding night

In 453 AD, Attila married a young girl named Ildico. Despite his reputation for ferocity on the battlefield, he tended to eat and drink lightly during large banquets. On his wedding night, however, he really cut loose, gorging himself on food and drink. Sometime during the night he suffered a nosebleed, but was too drunk to notice. He drowned in his own blood and was found dead the next morning.

Tycho Brahe

An important Danish astronomer of the 16th century. His ground breaking research allowed Sir Isaac Newton to come up with the theory of gravity.

How he died: Didn’t get to the bathroom in time

In the 16th century, it was considered an insult to leave a banquet table before the meal was over. Brahe, known to drink excessively, had a bladder condition — but failed to relieve himself before the banquet started. He made matters worse by drinking too much at dinner, and was too polite to ask to be excused. His bladder finally burst, killing him slowly and painfully over the next 11 days.

Horace Wells

Pioneered the use of anesthesia in the 1840s

How he died: Used anesthetics to commit suicide

While experimenting with various gases during his anesthesia research, Wells became addicted to chloroform. In 1848 he was arrested for spraying two women with sulfuric acid. In a letter he wrote from jail, he blamed chloroform for his problems, claiming that he’d gotten high before the attack. Four days later he was found dead in his cell. He’d anaesthetized himself with chloroform and slashed open his thigh with a razor.

Francis Bacon

One of the most influential minds of the late 16th century. A statesman, a philosopher, a writer, and a scientist, he was even rumored to have written some of Shakespeare’s plays.

How he died: Stuffing snow into a chicken

One afternoon in 1625, Bacon was watching a snowstorm and was struck by the wondrous notion that maybe snow could be used to preserve meat in the same way that salt was used. Determined to find out, he purchased a chicken from a nearby village, killed it, and then, standing outside in the snow, attempted to stuff the chicken full of snow to freeze it. The chicken never froze, but Bacon did.

Jerome Irving Rodale

Founding father of the organic food movement, creator of "Organic Farming and Gardening" magazine, and founder of Rodale Press, a major publishing corporation.

How he died: On the "Dick Cavett Show", while discussing the benefits of organic foods.

Rodale, who bragged "I’m going to live to be 100 unless I’m run down by a sugar-crazed taxi driver," was only 72 when he appeared on the "Dick Cavett Show" in January 1971. Part way through the interview, he dropped dead in his chair. Cause of death: heart attack. The show was never aired.

Aeschylus

A Greek playwright back in 500 BC. Many historians consider him the father of Greek tragedies.

How he died: An eagle dropped a tortoise on his head

According to legend, eagles picked up tortoises and attempt to crack them open by dropping them on rocks. An eagle mistook Aeschylus’ head for a rock (he was bald) and dropped it on him instead.

Jim Fixx

Author of the best selling "Complete Book of Running," which started the jogging craze of the 1970s.

How he died: A heart attack….while jogging

Fixx was visiting Greensboro, Vermont when he walked out of his house and began jogging. He’d only gone a short distance when he had a massive coronary. His autopsy revealed that one of his coronary arteries was 99% clogged, another was 80% obstructed, and a third was 70% blocked….and that Fixx had had three other attacks in the weeks prior to his death.

And finally there’s Lully, one of our favorite 16th-century composers, who wrote music for the king of France.

While rehearsing the musicians, he got too serious beating time with his staff, and drove it right through his foot. He died of infection.

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