The Weekly Essay

It’s Another Story.

Phone-in Phriday

May 10, 1996

I hate telephones. Let me rephrase that. I despise telephones.

The other day I had to call a company, and I got one of those recordings that give you options. "If this is regarding an order, please press 1 now. If this is regarding a problem, please press 2 now." I pressed 2. "If this problem is regarding a single book, please press 1 now. If this is regarding a long-term order, please press 2 now." I pressed 1. "If you have the book in hand, please press 1 now. If you were expecting the book and it has not arrived, please press 2 now." I pressed 1. Silence. Then, another recording: "The person you need to speak with is not available at this time. You are being routed to voice mail." I guess it goes without saying that I’m not going to hear from this person now, but a recording will probably call me in a few days to tell me what to do. This was a work matter, though, and our home telephones are rapidly becoming a means of greater self-expression. There are phones that allow you to choose what kind of ring you want. There are phones that have a speaker connected that will play a pre-recorded message telling you who is calling. And this is only the tip of the iceberg, folks. What about videophones? If I were you, I’d get in on the ground floor of miniature interior design because people are going to want backgrounds for the little image of themselves that appears on the screen. Everything from beer can pyramids to swimming pools and sprawling conservatories that couldn’t possibly fit in a one bedroom apartment. The problem with videophones is that, although they’ll be a great boon to the cosmetic industry, they’re going to be hell for anybody in an emergency at 3AM trying to call someone for help, because the person they’re calling is not going to want to have their goblin-eyed fishbowl face broadcast to a monitor no matter what the emergency is. And what about video answering machines? There’s an interesting thought: a lovely scene of a person strolling through a sunny field saying, "I’m not home right now, but please leave a message after I pick the daisy." Or maybe even a television spin-off–"America’s Funniest Answering Machine Videos". I know a few people who would include a clip of their brother hitting their cousin in the crotch with a baseball bat on their answering a machine if they could. It all comes down to one thing: technology is not inherently evil. And anyone who believes that has never been put on hold and forced to listen to a repeating pizza commercial.

For an obscure reference to Sri Lanka, please press 1 now.

36 politically correct ways to say someone is stupid

A few clowns short of a circus.
A few fries short of a Happy Meal.
An experiment in Artificial Stupidity.
A few beers short of a six-pack.
Dumber than a box of hair.
A few peas short of a casserole.
Doesn’t have all his cornflakes in one box.
The wheel’s spinning, but the hamster’s dead.
One Fruit Loop shy of a full bowl.
One taco short of a combination plate.
A few feathers short of a whole duck.
All foam, no beer.
The cheese slid off his cracker.
Body by Fisher, brains by Mattel.
Has an IQ of 2, but it takes 3 to grunt.
Warning: Objects in mirror are dumber than they appear.
Couldn’t pour water out of a boot with instructions on the heel.
He fell out of the Stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down.
An intellect rivaled only by garden tools.
As smart as bait.
Chimney’s clogged.
Doesn’t have all his dogs on one leash.
Doesn’t know much but leads the league in nostril hair.
Elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top floor.
Forgot to pay his brain bill.
Her sewing machine’s out of thread.
His antenna doesn’t pick up all the channels.
His belt doesn’t go through all the loops.
If he had another brain, it would be lonely.
Missing a few buttons on his remote control.
No grain in the silo.
Proof that evolution CAN go in reverse.
Receiver is off the hook.
Several nuts short of a full pouch.
Skylight leaks a little.
Slinky’s kinked.
Surfing in Nebraska.
Too much yardage between the goal posts.
In the pinball game of life, his flippers were a little further apart than most.

Must Metriculate

May 3, 1996

Folks, Friday has come around again and it’s now the monsoon season.

We all know what that means, don’t we? It means it’s time for students all over the place, from kindergarten to college, to graduate. I’d like to say congratulations to all students out there, and I hope whatever plans you’ve made work out perfectly. If they don’t, just remember that the best laid plans of mice and men…uh…are…I can’t remember the rest. I think it’s something to do with cheese. For those of you who are departing, let me leave you with some real words of wisdom which I saw emblazoned on a water tower in white letters three feet high: DEFY MEDOCRITY. Defy medocrity. Right. I’m trying really hard to imagine the person who would climb forty feet in the air with several gallons of paint and who couldn’t bother to take a dictionary. Or even a piece of paper with the correct spelling. And it’s not like it would have been that hard to fix. It’s not as if this person were Michelangelo standing back to look at the Sistine Chapel and saying, "Damn, I forgot to paint God." No, a vertical line wouldn’t have been hard to insert, and it really says something about the artist (and I do use that term loosely) who couldn’t even be bothered to go back and fix a mistake like that.

Maybe I’m missing something, though. Maybe it was done intentionally–one of those flubs that’s done to catch people’s attention. Maybe the artist knew that people like me would rant on about spelling and other petty aspects of the work, rather than focusing on the real message. Maybe what the artist was trying to say was, Mispelling is a sign of gratness.

Enjoy this week’s snippet. As we say on our little island in the Indian Ocean, You can keep a dog, but fiberglass is bad for your teeth. That’s not right…let me go get my dictionary…

Actual headlines from various newspapers

1. Police begin campaign to run down jaywalkers
2. Milk drinkers are turning to powder
3. Safety experts say school bus passengers should be belted
4. Quarter of a million Chinese live on water
5. Farmer Bill dies in House
6. Iraqi head seeks arms
7. Queen Mary having bottom scraped
8. Panda mating fails – veterinarian takes over
9. NJ judge to rule on nude beach
10. Childs stool great for use in garden
11. Dr. Ruth to talk about sex with newspaper editors
12. Soviet virgin lands short of goal again
13. Organ festival ends in smashing climax
14. Eye drops off shelf
15. Squad helps dog bite victim
16. Dealers will hear car talk at noon
17. Enraged cow injures farmer with ax
18. Lawmen from Mexico barbecue guests
19. Miners refuse to work after death
20. Two Soviet ships collide – one dies
21. Two sisters reunite after eighteen years at checkout counter
22. Never withhold herpes from loved one
23. Nicaragua sets goal to wipe out literacy
24. Drunk drivers paid $1,000 in 1984
25. Autos killing 110 a day – let’s resolve to do better
26. If stike isn’t settled quickly it may last a while
27. War dims hope for peace
28. Smokers are productive, but death cuts efficiency
29. Cold wave linked to temperatures
30. Child’s death ruins couple’s holiday
31. Blind woman gets new kidney from daughter she hasn’t seen in years
32. Man is fatally slain
33. Something went wrong in jet crash, experts say
34. Death causes loneliness, feeling of isolation

From somewhere in the Indian ocean…

April 26, 1996

If you work in an office like I do, you probably know the joys of being able to transfer calls from one phone to another. I’d love to be able to do this at home, especially since yesterday I learned how effective it is for dealing with telemarketers. I answered the phone in my office the other day and a voice that could belong only to a used car salesman or a telemarketer said, "I’m Jim Hedson with Datamarket Information Providing Services of Wisconsin Incorporated and I’d like to talk to you about an exciting opportunity for you and your library. May I ask to whom I’m speaking?" Well, I was taken completely by surprise, so naturally I said, "Henry Miller." If he batted an eye, I didn’t see it. "Mr. Miller, I’m with Datamarket Information Providing Services of Wisconsin Incorporated and I’d like to talk to you about an exciting opportunity for you and your library." Why do telemarketers repeat themselves? They might as well be saying, "I’m not listening to a damn thing either one of us says now so you can hang up." It really didn’t matter because I had blocked him out anyway, especially when I realized it was somebody in another department he needed to be talking to. That’s when I saw the light.

I saw how to deal with confrontational telephone situations for the rest of my life: transfer them! I could bounce this guy over to someone in Security, and they’d never find me! By the time Jim Hedson got back to my department, if he ever did, he’d have forgotten whom he was talking to. I waited it out, though, mainly because of my sudden fascination with the number of small holes in the ceiling. I was so busy looking around for a rubber band to shoot at the person in the office behind me that I almost missed the end of his speech. "…and we can do it right over the phone! Now, Mr. Miller, doesn’t this sound like a deal you need to take?" I cleared my throat and said, "Could you please hold for one moment? There’s someone I’d like you to talk to."

The last I heard, Mr. Hedson was learning more than he ever wanted to know about Tamil separatists. Enjoy this week’s bit, which also has to do with telephones.


1. If using a touch-tone, press random numbers while ordering. Ask the person taking the order to stop doing that.

2. Make up a charge-card name. Ask if they accept it.

3. Use CB lingo where applicable.

4. Order a Big Mac Extra Value Meal.

5. Terminate the call with, "Remember, we never had this conversation."

6. Tell the order taker a rival pizza place is on the other line and you’re going with the lowest bidder.

7. Give them your address, exclaim "Oh, just surprise me!" and hang up.

8. Answer their questions with questions.

9. In your breathiest voice, tell them to cut the crap about nutrition and ask if they have something outlandishly sinful.

10. Use these bonus words in the conversation: ROBUST FREE- SPIRITED COST-EFFICIENT UKRAINIAN PUCE.

11. Tell them to put the crust on top this time.

12. Sing the order to the tune of your favorite song from Metallica’s "Master of Puppets" CD.

13. Do not name the toppings you want. Rather, spell them out.

14. Put an extra edge in your voice when you say "crazy bread."

15. Stutter on the letter "p."

16. Ask for a deal available somewhere else. (e.g. If phoning Domino’s, ask for a Cheeser! Cheeser!)

17. Ask what the order taker is wearing.

18. Crack your knuckles into the receiver.

19. Say hello, act stunned for five seconds, then behave as if they called you.

20. Rattle off your order with a determined air. If they ask if you would like drinks with that, panic and become disoriented.

21. Tell the order taker you’re depressed. Get him/her to cheer you up.

22. Make a list of exotic cuisines. Order them as toppings.

23. Change your accent every three seconds.

24. Order 52 pepperoni slices prepared in a fractal pattern as follows from an equation you are about to dictate. Ask if they need paper.

25. Act like you know the order taker from somewhere. Say "Bed- Wetters’ Camp, right?"

26. Start your order with "I’d like. . . ". A little later, slap yourself and say "No, I don’t."

27. If they repeat the order to make sure they have it right, say "OK. That’ll be $10.99; please pull up to the first window."

28. Rent a pizza.

29. Order while using an electric knife sharpener.

30. Ask if you get to keep the pizza box. When they say yes, heave a sigh of relief.

31. Put the accent on the last syllable of "pepperoni." Use the long "i" sound.

32. Have your pizza "shaken, not stirred."

33. Say "Are you sure this is (Pizza Place)? When they say yes, say "Well, so is this! You’ve got some explaining to do!" When they finally offer proof that it is, in fact, (Pizza Place), start to cry and ask, "Do you know what it’s like to be lied to?"

34. Move the mouthpiece farther and farther from your lips as you speak. When the call ends, jerk the mouthpiece back into place and scream goodbye at the top of your lungs.

35. Tell them to double-check to make sure your pizza is, in fact, dead.

36. Imitate the order taker’s voice.

37. Eliminate verbs from your speech.

38. When they say "What would you like?" say, "Huh? Oh, you mean now."

39. Play a sitar in the background.

40. Say it’s your anniversary and you’d appreciate if the deliverer hid behind some furniture waiting for your spouse to arrive so you can surprise him/her.

41. Amuse the order taker with little-known facts about country music.

42. Ask to see a menu.

43. Quote Carl Sandberg.

43a. Quote Carl Sandberg translated into Spanish.

44. Say you’ll be able to pay for this when the movie people call back.

45. Ask if they have any idea what is at stake with this pizza.

46. Ask what topping goes best with well-aged Chardonnay.

47. Belch directly into the mouthpiece; then tell your dog it should be ashamed.

48. Order a slice, not a whole pizza.

49. Shout "I’m through with men/women! Send me a dozen of your best, Gaston!"

50. Doze off in the middle of the order, catch yourself, and say "Where was I? Who are you?"

51. Psychoanalyze the order taker.

52. Ask what their phone number is. Hang up, call them, and ask again.

53. Order two toppings, then say, "No, they’ll start fighting."

54. Learn to properly pronounce the ingredients of a Twinkie. Ask that these be included in the pizza.

55. Call to complain about service. Later, call to say you were drunk and didn’t mean it.

56. Tell the order taker to tell the manager to tell his supervisor he’s fired.

57. Report a petty theft to the order taker.

58. Use expletives like "Great Caesar’s Ghost" and "Jesus Joseph and Mary in Tinsel Town."

59. Ask for the guy who took your order last time.

60. If he/she suggests anything, adamantly declare, "I shall not be swayed by your sweet words."

61. Wonder aloud if you should trim those nose hairs.

62. Try to talk while drinking something.

63. Start the conversation with "My Call to (Pizza Place), Take 1, and. . . action!"

64. Ask if the pizza is organically grown.

65. Ask about pizza maintenance and repair.

66. Be vague in your order.

67. When they repeat your order, say "Again, with a little more OOMPH this time."

68. If using a touch-tone press 9-1-1 every 5 seconds throughout the order.

69. After ordering, say "I wonder what THIS button on the phone does." Simulate a cutoff.

70. Start the conversation by reciting today’s date and saying, "This may be my last entry."

71. State your order and say that’s as far as this relationship is going to get.

72. Ask if they’re familiar with the term "spanking a pizza." Make up a description to go with the term. Ask that this be done to your pizza.

73. Say "Kssssssssssssssht" rather loudly into the phone. Ask if they felt that.

74. Detect the order taker’s psychic aura. Use it to your advantage.

75. When listing toppings you want on your pizza, include another pizza.

76. Learn to play a blues riff on the harmonica. Stop talking at regular intervals to play it.

77. Ask if they would like to sample your pizza. Suggest an even trade.

78. Perfect a celebrity’s voice. Stress that you won’t take any crap from some two-bit can’t-hack-it pimple-faced gofer.

79. Put them on hold.

80. Teach the order taker a secret code. Use the code on all subsequent orders.

81. Mumble, "There’s a bomb under your seat." When asked to repeat that, say "I said ‘sauce smothered with meat’."

82. Make the first topping you order mushrooms. Make the last thing you say "No mushrooms, please." Hang up before they have a chance to respond.

83. When the order is repeated, change it slightly. When it is repeated again, change it again. On the third time, say "You just don’t get it, do you?"

84. When you’re given the price, say "Ooooooo, that sounds complicated. I hate math."

85. Haggle.

86. Order a one-inch pizza.

87. Order term life insurance.

88. When they say "Will that be all?", snicker and say "We’ll find out, won’t we?"

89. Order with a Speak-n-Spell where applicable.

90. Ask how many dolphins were killed to make that pizza.

91. While on the phone, fake entering puberty. Fluctuate pitch often; act embarrassed.

92. Engage in some serious swapping.

93. Dance all around the word "pizza." Avoid saying it at all costs.
If he/she says it, say "Please don’t mention that word."

94. Have a movie with a good car chase scene playing loudly in the background. Yell "OW!" when a bullet is fired.

95. If he/she suggests a side order, ask why he/she is punishing you.

96. Ask if the pizza has had its shots.

97. Order a steamed pizza.

98. Get taker’s name. Later, call exactly on the hour to say, "This is your (time of day) wake-up call, So-and-so." Hang up.

99. Offer to pay for the pizza with a public flogging.

If any of the above practices are rejected by the order taker:
100. Say, in your best pouty voice, "Last guy let me do it."

Fire burn and cauldron bubble…

April 19, 1996

Howdy folks. It’s Friday again, and a stormy, blustery Friday it is too. But the weather is probably different depending on where you are, so instead I’ll talk about something you find everywhere: grocery stores. Have you ever wondered who buys some of the stuff you see in grocery stores? I was in the meat section the other day looking for Pop Tarts, and I found this whole part of the meat section filled with stuff with had purple labels that said "Mature". Now, I don’t know anything about graphic design or anything like that, but if I had designed those labels, I probably would not have chosen a color that would accentuate so well the green tinge of the meat. Needless to say, I’ll leave the mature meat to the mature old men who wander the store talking to their eggs because I prefer hamburgers that have to be cooked instead of sterilized.

Oh, before I give you this week’s unrelated snippet, several of you noticed that last week went by without a single mention of Sri Lanka.

I was met in the parking lot by a couple of thugs named Romesh, and, to make a long story short, I did a special cleansing ritual in the jungle and everything’s all right now.


10. "I see the flat tax wouldn’t apply to you."

9. "Inflation isn’t the only thing going up around here."

8. "I’d like you to exercise my pocket veto."

7. "Could you give my voting lever a little pull?"

6. "I said I wanted to keep the governmetn out of the bedroom, but I didn’t mean this senator."

5. "Hello, my name is Sen. Bob Packwood…."

4. "…and hve you met my friend Sen. Ted Kennedy?"

3. "Would you like to import some fine foriegn salami?"

2. "Do you wanna go stuff the ballot box?"

1. "I’ve got an economic stimulus package right here in my pants…er, uh, pocket."

Finally Friday!

April 12, 1996

Yes, folks, it’s finally that time. I noticed the other day that there are more women on the Freethinker’s list than men. Naturally, this is something I’m proud of. I’m glad to be able to supply a gentler, kinder brand of humor that transcends boundaries of gender.

There are not going be any of those kind of jokes coming from me, especially about that frequent complaint from women that men never ask for directions. All right, on this one I do have to make a stand.

Women should realize that if they want men to ask for directions, they should take men some place that they want to go. No matter how secure in his manhood, no man is going to stop at a gas station and ask a redneck tobacco-chewing attendant, "Excuse me, is this the way to the Boutique de Satin?" On the other hand, put one of the macho types who supposedly never ask for directions in a slightly different situation. He’s got two tickets on the 50-yard line at the Superbowl and it’s ten minutes before kickoff. Do you think this guy is going to say, "Well, let’s just keep circling, that stadium has gotta be around here somewhere"? NO! He’s not going to be asking for directions–he’s going to be paying for them!

Just a little junk food for thought. And now for something completely different. Wait, that’s been taken. And now for something completely unrelated.

30 Ways to simulate being in the Navy when you’re at home

1. Lock all friends and family outside. Your only means of communication should be with letters that your neighbours have held for at least three weeks, discarding two of five.

2. Surround yourself with 200 people that you don’t really know or like: people who smoke, snore like Mack trucks going uphill,and use foul language like a child uses sugar on cereal.

3. Unplug all radios and TVs to completely cut yourself off from the outside world. Have a neighbour bring you a Time, Newsweek, or Proceedings from five years ago to keep you abreast of current events.

4. Monitor all home appliances hourly, recording all vital information (ie: plugged in, lights come on when doors open, etc)

5. Do not flush the toilet for five days to simulate the smell of 40 people using the same commode.

6. Lock the bathroom twice a day for a four hour period.

7. Wear only military uniforms. Even though nobody cares, clean and press one dress uniform and wear it for 20 minutes.

8. Cut your hair weekly, making it shorter each time, until you look bald or look like you lost a fight with a demented sheep.

9. Work in 19-hour cycles, sleeping only four hours at a time, to ensure that your body does not know or even care if it is day or night.

10. Listen to your favourite CD 6 times a day for two weeks, then play music that causes acute nausea until you are glad to get back to your favourite CD.

11. Cut a twin mattress in half and enclose three sides of your bed. Add a roof that prevents you from sitting up (about 10 inches is a good distance) then place it on a platform that is four feet off the floor. Place a small dead animal under the bed to simulate the smell of your bunkmate’s socks.

12. Set your alarm to go off at 10 minute intervals for the first hour of sleep to simulate the various times the watchstanders and nightcrew bump around and wake you up. Place your bed on a rocking table to ensure you are tossed around the remaining three hours. Make use of a custom clock that randomly simulates fire alarms, police sirens, helicopter crash alarms, and a new-wave rock band.

13. Have week old fruit and vegetables delivered to your garage and wait two weeks before eating them.

14. Prepare all meals blindfolded using all the spices you can grope for, or none at all. Remove the blindfold and eat everything in three minutes.

15. Periodically, shut off all power at the main circuit breaker and run around shouting "fire, fire, fire" and then restore power.

16. At least once a month, force the commode to overflow to simulate a ‘black water system’ boo-boo.

17. Buy a gas mask and smear it with rancid animal fat. Scrub the faceshield with steel wool until you can no longer see out of it. Wear this for two hours every fifth day especially when you are in the bathroom.

18. Study the owner’s manual for all household appliances. Routinely take an appliance apart and put it back together.

19. Remove all plants, pictures and decorations. Paint everything gray, white, or the shade of hospital smocks.

20. Buy 50 cases of toilet paper and lock up all but two rolls. Ensure one of these two rolls is wet all the time.

21. Smash your forehead or shins with a hammer every two days to simulate collision injuries sustained onboard Navy ships.

22. When making sandwiches, leave the bread out for six days, or until it is hard and stale.

23. Every 10 weeks, simulate a visit to another port. Go directly to the city slums wearing your best clothes. Find the worst looking place, and ask for the most expensive beer that they carry. Drink as many as you can in four hours. Take a cab home taking the longest possible route. Tip the cabby after he charges you double because you dress funny and don’t speak right.

24. Use fresh milk for only two days after each port visit.

25. Keep the bedroom thermostat at 2 deg C and use only a thin blanket for warmth.

26. Ensure that the water heater is connected to a device that provides water at a flow rate that varies from a fast drip to a weak trickle, with the temperature alternating rapidly from -2 to 95 deg C.

27. Use only spoons which hold a minimum of 1/2 cup at a time.

28. Repaint the interior of your home every month, whether it needs it or not.

29. remind yourself every day: "it’s not just a job, it’s an adventure!"

30. mix kerosene with your water supply to simulate the de-sal plant on the ship picking up jp5 in the intake — if a lit match thrown into your coffee pot doesn’t ignite it, add more kerosene.

Friday at last!

April 5, 1996

Life rarely ever goes the way you want to, doesn’t it? Whether it’s Tamil rebels or bad drivers, there’s no telling what’s going to happen next. That’s why I take comfort in remembering that everything I ever needed to know in life I learned in college: When crossing the street, ignore oncoming traffic. When people ask your opinion, they really want to hear their own. If it’s an essay test, don’t copy anyone else’s answers. Cram. Warm pizza and cold beer are good for you. We all need to sleep, and that’s why they invented classes like Breathing 101. Be nice to your roommate–you never know when you’ll need a car. If you’re going to regret doing something, do it anyway, because later on you’ll regret not doing it. Life will be fine as long as you read some and talk some and drink some and stay up late and when life gives you lemons, make pineapple juice.

And now for some more profound thoughts that someone else wrote:

I think animal testing is a terrible idea; they get all nervous and give the wrong answers.

Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same.

The graduate with a Science degree asks, "Why does it work?"
The graduate with an Engineering degree asks, "How does it work?"
The graduate with an Accounting degree asks, "How much will it cost?"
The graduate with a Liberal Arts degree asks, "Do you want fries with that?"

I am not a vegetarian because I love animals; I am a vegetarian because I hate plants.

The Lord’s Prayer is 66 words, the Gettysburg Address is 286 words, there are 1,322 words in the Declaration of Independence, but government regulations on the sale of cabbage total 26,911 words.

Half of the people in the world are below average.

There’s so much comedy on television. Does that cause comedy in the streets?

I still miss my ex-husband, but my aim is getting better.

If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant’s life, she will choose to save the infant’s life without even considering if there are men on base.

Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you recognize a mistake when you make it again.

On a tombstone: "I TOLD YOU I WAS SICK"

Based on what you know about him in history books, what do you think Abraham Lincoln would be doing if he were alive today?
1. Writing his memoirs of the Civil War.
2. Advising the President.
3. Desperately clawing at the inside of his coffin.

Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself. — Mark Twain

Calvin: People think it must be fun to be a super genius, but they don’t realize how hard it is to put up with all the idiots in the world.
Hobbes: Isn’t your pants’ zipper supposed to be in the front?

The dumber people think you are, the more surprised they’re going to be when you kill them. — William Clayton

My name is Joe Friday (part 2)

March 1, 1996

I carry a badge. It was cold that morning in the city of Colombo, and there was absolutely nothing afoot. I mean it. Nothing. It reminded me of Nashville, although at least in Nashville you have country music, which is part of what prompted me to go to Colombo in the first place.

For those of you who read through this morning’s offering going, "What?" I offer this instead. Next I’ll throw out some really arcane joke about Oscar Wilde and a jockey, and how…well, we’ll leave that one for later on.

Before I leave you to it, I was asked this morning how it is that I manage to get any work done. The fact is, this is my work. The Freethinker who asked was rather surprised to find that she actually owed me several thousand dollars, since you’re all supposed to be paying me a hundred dollars a week for this service. Void where prohibited. Some restrictions apply. Your mileage may vary. Has been found to cause cancer in laboratory animals.

One more thing (yes, I’m getting Columbo, the detective, confused with Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka)–for those Freethinkers who are going on Spring Break this week, have a fabulous time, and take the following words of wisdom with you. And even if you don’t take these words of wisdom, make sure you take some protection.

1. Indecision is the key to flexibility.
2. You can’t tell which way the train went by looking at the track.
3. There is absolutely no substitute for a genuine lack of preparation.
4. Happiness is merely the remission of pain.
5. Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.
7. The facts, though interesting, are irrelvant.
8. The careful application of terror is also a form of communication.
9. Someone who thinks logically is a nice contrast to the real world.
10. Things are more like they are today that they were before.
12. Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.
13. Friends may come and go but enemies accumulate.
14. I have seen the truth and it makes no sense.
16. If you think there is good in everybody, you haven’t met everybody.
18. If you can smile when things go wrong, you have someone in mind to blame.
19. One seventh of your life is spent on Monday.
20. By the time you make ends meet, they move the ends.
21. Not one shred of evidence supports the notion that life is serious.
23. There is always one more imbecile than you counted on.
24. This is as bad as it can get, but don’t count on it.
25. Never wrestle a pig. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.

My name is Joe Friday…

March 1, 1996

I don’t know how many of you out there are Trekkies, but I hope that you’ll appreciate these little amusing bits anyway. And for those of you who aren’t, well, I’ll send something later on in the day.

By the way, quite a few of you out there have asked about Wednesday’s comments on salt, and why there weren’t instructions on the packet of pepper. Well, that’s simple. An illiterate person might open the packet of salt, and seeing tiny white crystals, think it’s cocaine.

The Foundation To Prevent Salt Abuse wanted to prevent that from ever happening. What has that got to do with pepper? you ask. Simple: any idiot who shoves pepper up his nose gets exactly what he deserves.

Why did the chicken cross the road?
(Star Trek Version)

Chakotay: Whatever its reason, whatever its goals, we should respect its right to cross the road and seek its own spiritual awareness.

Neelix: Actually, Captain, I’m not really familiar with the chickens in this system. But, if you can catch it, I can cook it.

Riker: I don’t know why, but I know how: with pleasure, sir.

Worf: I don’t know. KLINGON chickens do NOT cross roads.

HoloDoc: How should I know? No one tells me anything around here. I didn’t even know we added chickens to the crew. All I know is that it would have been nice, BEFORE the chicken went off to the cross the road, if it had remembered to turn me off!

Dr. Crusher: If there’s nothing wrong with the chicken, there must be something wrong with the universe.

Dr. Soran: His heart just wasn’t in it. (Scenes of chicken torture with nanoprobes have been edited out.)

Scotty: Because she couldna take much morrrrrre.

Odo: I don’t know, but I’m sure it must be Quark’s fault.

Quark: Who, me?

Charlie X: Because it didn’t want to STAY…STAY…STAY…

Kirk: You chicken bastard, you killed my son…YOU chicken BASTARD, you killed…my SON…you CHICKEN bastard….youkilledmy…son!

Troi: I feel the chicken’s pain!

Kira: It was probably being chased by those cursed Cardassians.

Bones: Dammit, I’m a doctor, not an ornithologist!

Data: The chicken, in observing that it was on the opposite side of the 20th century Terran paved roadway, was aware that its immediate goal should have been to traverse the distance without interception by an kind of combustion-propelled personal transport vehicle, but I am unclear as to why any kind of domesticated fowl should desire to perambulate upon a conveyance normally reserved for the usage of…yes, sir.

Dr. Bashir: It probably heard about my amazing medical skills not to mention my sexual prowess and came to get some pointers.

The Borg: Crossing the road is irrelevant. The chicken will be assimilated.

Hugh the Borg: Maybe it just needed a big hug!

B’Elanna: I’m sure it felt suffocated by all the bleeping regulations of bleeping Starfleet and just couldn’t stand it any longer!

Picard: There are four lights!

Q: Wouldn’t you like to know? Too bad your puny human brain wouldn’t be able to comprehend the answer.

Uhura: Shall I open hailing frequencies so you can ask it, sir?

Tasha: That depends…was it fully functional?

Chekov: It must have been on its way to assist in saving my life for the billionth time..did I scream this time?

Khan: With my last breath I spit at the chicken…

Harry: I don’t know, it’s my first mission.

Paris: Well, I think that…say, that’s a lovely shirt you’re wearing.

Harvey Mudd: Chicken? I don’t remember any chicken. No no no, there’s been a terrible misunderstanding.

Janeway: Its primary goal was no doubt to get back to the Alpha Quadrant…and it probably misses its dog.

Nurse Chapel: Oh, Spock!

Lwaxana: Oh, Jean-Luc!

Spock: Fascinating, Captain.

V’Ger: To join with the Creator.

The Grand Nagus: Stupid chicken! You don’t cross the road all at once! You sneak across it quietly, without anyone noticing!

Gul Dukat: Well, that’s a very interesting question…I’m sure we can work out some kind of arrangement to obtain that information that will be to everyone’s satisfaction.

Kes: It was remembering back to the times when its ancestors crossed roads all the time! They lost those abilities because they stopped using them!

O’Brien: No problem, Commander, I’ll get right on it.

Wesley: I’m not sure, but I can figure it out if I reroute these systems and reconfigure the warp field and run a complete internal whootchacallit on the computers and…

Sisko: It was seeking deeper meaning. Jake, do you see what we’ve learned from all this?

Jake: Check out the babe that just came off that transport!

Geordi: Well, wherever it’s going, I’m sure it’ll have more luck with women than I do.

Sulu: Don’t call me Tiny!

Sarek: Sometimes logic fails me where chickens are concerned.

Mr. Homn:

Dax: To get to the other side. Kurzon might have disagreed with me, Tobin I’m sure wouldn’t have had a clue,and then there’s…

Tuvok: That’s not a question we’d prefer to hear from a senior officer.
It makes the junior officers nervous.

Gene Roddenberry: To boldy go where no one had gone before.

Double Dose For the Day

February 28, 1996

Do you ever find things that make you wonder where civilization is headed? Yesterday I was digging around in my file cabinet looking for some ketchup, and I found one of those little packets of salt that they sometimes give you at fast food places. I’ve seen some idiotic things, but this one pretty well topped them: instructions on a packet of salt! It said, "Tear along top. Add to food to improve taste." Who the hell came up with this? Who said, "You know, not everybody will know what salt is for"? And why didn’t they stop to think that anyone who doesn’t know what salt is for will probably not be literate in the first place? Or were they expecting aliens, who had learned our language by monitoring our TV and radio broadcasts, to be unfamiliar with the Ways of Salt? I can see this guy sitting in Salt Lake City saying to himself, "I must take time out from my monumental History of Salt to make sure people who go to fast food restaurants don’t misuse it." Yes, this man whose History of Salt goes from the days when Roman soldiers were paid with salt (how he would like to have been one of them!) to the present, and even contains a final chapter in which he looks hopefully to the future when everyone will have a proper electrolyte balance.

Pardon me for that obligatory rant. Let’s not dwell on salt anymore, and I promise to even avoid speculating about why pepper didn’t have the same instructions. Instead, enjoy two more little bits that will make you wonder even more about where society is headed.

1960’s Arithmetic test: "A logger cuts and sells a truck load of lumber for $100. His cost of production is four-fiths of that amount. What is his profit?"

70’s New Math test: "A logger exchanges a set (L) of lumber for a set (M) of money. The cardinality of set M is 100. The set C of production costs contains 20 fewer points. What is the cardinality of set P of profits?"

80’s education reform version: "A logger cuts and sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost is $80, and his profit is $20. Find and circle the number 20."

90’s version: "An unenlightened logger cuts down a beautiful stand of 100 old growth trees in order to make a $20 profit. Write an essay explaining how you feel about this as a way of making money. Topic for discussion: How did the forest birds and squirrels feel?"

IDEA FOR THE DAY: We have enough youth, how about a fountain of SMART?

One of the primary reasons cat flaps are called cat flaps is that they’re flaps specifically designed for cats, as opposed to dogs, or giraffes, or humans. All of this became abundantly clear to teenager Jason Evans, of Eastleigh, Hampshire, when he recently spent six hours stuck in one after using it in an attempt to get into his house. He was eventually cut free by firemen. In Germany, meanwhile, Gunther Burpus remained wedged in his front-door cat flap for two days because passers-by thought he was a piece of installation art. Mr Burpus, 41, of Bremen, was using the flap because he had mislaid his keys. Unfortunately he was spotted by a group of student pranksters who removed his trousers and pants, painted his bottom bright blue, stuck a daffodil between his buttocks and erected a sign saying ‘Germany Resurgent, an Essay in Street Art. Please give Generously’. Passers-by assumed Mr Burpus’ screams were part of the act and it was only when an old woman complained to the police that he was finally freed. "I kept calling for help," he said, "but people just said ‘Very good! Very clever!’ and threw coins at me.

Everybody wave!

February 26, 1996

This is a little late for some, and a little surprising for others, but we have some new additions to the Freethinkers Anonymous List. I would tell you their names, e-mail addresses, home addresses, and amusing and embarrassing details about their personal lives, but, well, the English language is a lot more amusing than anything I could tell you about them.

Speaking of Sri Lanka, do any of you out there receive "This Is True"? For those who don’t, it’s a weekly internet News of the Weird Digest that, until last week, was distributed to 92 countries worldwide. This week, believe it or not, number 93 was added, and it was none other than Sri Lanka. My operatives there were suitably impressed. Anyway, for any of you who don’t get it and would like to, here are the instructions:

TO RECEIVE "THIS is TRUE" every week free by e-mail, send e-mail to with the message: "subscribe this-is-true" (without quotes) — please: nothing else on the line.

And here is something that could be true:

Evolving the English language

Having chosen English as the preferred language in the EEC (now officially the European Union, or EU), the European Parliament has commissioned a feasability study in ways of improving efficiency in communications between Government departments.

European officials have often pointed out that English spelling is unnecessarily difficult; for example: cough, plough, rough, through and thorough. What is clearly needed is a phased programme of changes to iron out these anomalies. The programme would be administered by a committee staff at top level by participating nations.

In the first year, for example, the committee would suggest using’s’ instead of the soft ‘c’. Sertainly, sivil servants in all sities would resieve this news with joy. Then the hard ‘c’ could be replaced by ‘k’ sinse both letters are pronounsed alike. Not only would this klear up konfusion in the minds of klerikal workers, but typewriters kould be made with one less letter.

There would be growing enthusiasm when in the sekond year, it was anounsed that the troublesome ‘ph’ would henseforth be written ‘f’. This would make words like ‘fotograf’ twenty persent shorter in print.

In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments would enkourage the removal of double letters which have always been a deterent to akurate speling.

We would al agre that the horible mes of silent ‘e’s in the languag is disgrasful. Therefor we kould drop thes and kontinu to read and writ as though nothing had hapend. By this tim it would be four years sins the skem began and peopl would be reseptive to steps sutsh as replasing ‘th’ by ‘z’. Perhaps zen ze funktion of ‘w’ kould be taken on by ‘v’, vitsh is, after al, half a ‘w’.

Shortly after zis, ze unesesary ‘o’ kould be dropd from words kontaining ‘ou’. Similar arguments vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.

Kontinuing zis proses yer after yer, ve vud eventuli hav a reli sensibl riten styl. After tventi yers zer vud be no mor trubls, difikultis and evrivun vud fin it ezi tu understand ech ozer. Ze drems of the Guvermnt vud finali hav kum tru.

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