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Everybody’s A Critic

October 8, 1999

After several years of slogging along in this job, I have finally made an important decision. I’ve decided what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be a movie critic. After reviewing all the possible options, and after reading a rant in which a movie critic complained that the movie critic field is overstuffed with no-talent hacks, I realized it’s the perfect job for me. Since, according to the collective wisdom of movie critics, 99% of the planet’s population is composed of no-talent hacks, and since the critics can’t agree which hacks are really talented, I figure I’m either a no-talent hack myself (which would make me perfect for the job) or I’m a moving target (which is a good thing for a movie critic to be, since all the stars of explosive action films are, in real life, completely incapable of hitting moving targets).

Other qualifications include the fact that I can use words like "insouciant", I’ve seen a few movies in my life, and I was frequently beaten up on the playground as a child. I also have perfect vision, although even if I didn’t, I could still be a film critic. Many film critics, you may have noticed, wear glasses, and they use their thumbs to rate movies because those little stars are just too darn hard to see. The advantages of being a film critic include free popcorn, being able to write for a newspaper but never having to dig deeply into complex issues (actually this is an advantage of working for most newspapers), and being part of show business without ever having to worry about being caught in the back of a corvette with a large halibut wrapped in leather. In fact, movie critics are involved in bizarre scandals all the time, but you never hear about them because, well, no one cares.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


An Engineering Tribute

The US Standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That’s an exceedingly odd number.

Why was that gauge used?

Because that’s the way they built them in England, and the US railroads were built by English expatriates.

Why did the English people build them like that?

Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that’s the gauge they used.

Why did "they" use that gauge then?

Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

Okay! Why did the wagons use that odd wheel spacing?

Well, if they tried to use any other spacing the wagons would break on some of the old, long distance roads, because that’s the spacing of the old wheel ruts.

So who built these old rutted roads?

The first long distance roads in Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their legions. The roads have been used ever since.

And the ruts?

The initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagons, were first made by Roman war chariots. Since the chariots were made for or by Imperial Rome they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

Thus, we have the answer to the original question.

The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original specification for an Imperial Roman army war chariot.

Specs and Bureaucracies live forever.

So, the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what "Horse’s Rear"came up with it, you may be exactly right. Because the Imperial Roman chariots were made to be just wide enough to accommodate the backends of two war horses.

Now, there’s even more…

There’s an interesting extension of the story about railroad gauge and horses’ behinds.

When we see a Space Shuttle sitting on the launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are the solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at a factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs might have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line to the factory runs through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than a railroad track, and the railroad track is about as wide as two horses’ behinds.

So a major design feature of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system was determined by the width of a horse’s rear!

Now you know what’s "behind" it all


Many of you have heard Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and others speak of the "Homosexual Agenda," but no one has ever seen a copy of it. Here is a copy obtained directly from the Homosexual Headquarters. It reads as follows:

The Homosexual Agenda

6:00 am Gym

8:00 am Breakfast (oatmeal and egg whites)

9:00 am Hair appointment

10:00 am Shopping (preferably at Neiman Marcus or Nordstom)

12:00 PM Brunch

2:00 PM 1) Assume complete control of the US Federal, State, and Local Government, as well as all other national governments, 2) Destroy all healthy marriages, 3) Replace all school counselors in grades K-12 with militant homosexuals who seek to recruit children for the homosexual lifestyle, 4) Bulldoze all houses of worship, 5) Secure total control of the INTERNET and all mass media, and, 6) Be utterly fabulous

2:30 PM Get forty winks of beauty rest to prevent facial wrinkles from the stress of world conquest; aroma therapy

4:00 PM Cocktails

6:00 PM Light Dinner (soup, salad [arugula & balsamic vinegar dressing], Chardonnay.

8:00 PM Theater

10:30 PM Cocktails in a charming neighborhood bistro.

12:00 am Bed (dujour)

Survival of the Fattest

October 1, 1999

According to a plethora of recent and not-so recent studies, an overwhelming majority of Americans are overweight. One study even went so far as to say that 90% of Americans "exceed the minimum requirement for obesity." There’s just one thing I’ve never been able to get out of these studies, though: what exactly is their standard of normality? What’s healthy, or, as some put it, "ideal"? If only 10% fit into the category of "normal", I’d call that pretty abnormal. I’d also suspect that their standard of measure is a group of translucent supermodels with heroin addictions.

These reports blame a variety of factors, most commonly increased food production, a better standard of living, the fact that Americans consume more junk food, and overlook the fact that these sort of statistics have only been kept for about thirty years now, exactly the time period when most people moved off their family farms and into more sedentary desk jobs. Admittedly, exercise machines have become a booming business, but usually they’re only used a few times and then put in the closet or under the bed, where they’re conveniently designed to fit. This is because homo sapiens, unlike the hamster, is a practical species. When we exert force, we want to actually get somewhere. In fact, in the early days of mammalian development, the rodents who eventually became us were quite content to sit around nibbling grain and staring at rocks, and would only get really active when a hungry dinosaur came around. The dinosaurs, of course, were always on the go, and it says something that they’ve been extinct for several hundred million years.

As we progress into the next millenium, the studies on obesity are only outnumbered by the claims that the world will end from some terrible catastrophe such as another ice age, or a worldwide famine. In the event of either of those possibilities, the ones who will survive will not be the emaciated wonders, but the ones who can hold out the longest. Maybe the authors of those studies, who are, presumably, "normal", had better start bulking up.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


  1. Follow your dream! Unless it’s the one where you’re at work in your underwear during a fire drill.

  2. Always take time to stop and smell the roses and sooner or later, you’ll inhale a bee.

  3. Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me, either. Just leave me alone.

  4. If you don’t like my driving, don’t call anyone. Just take another road. That’s why the highway department made so many of them.

  5. If a motorist cuts you off, just turn the other cheek. Nothing gets the message across like a good mooning.

  6. When I’m feeling down, I like to whistle. It makes the neighbor’s dog run to the end of his chain and gag himself.

  7. It’s always darkest before the dawn. So if you’re going to steal the neighbor’s newspaper, that’s the time to do it.

  8. A handy telephone tip: Keep a small chalkboard near the phone. That way, when a salesman calls, you can hold the receiver up to it and run your fingernails across it until he hangs up.

  9. Each day I try to enjoy something from each of the four food groups: the bonbon group, the salty-snack group, the caffeine group and the "What-ever-the-thing-in-the-tinfoil-in-the-back-of-the -fridge-is" group.

  10. Into every life some rain must fall. Usually when your car windows are down.

  11. Just remember: You gotta break some eggs to make a real mess on the neighbor’s car!

  12. When you find yourself getting irritated with someone, try to remember that all men are brothers and just give them a noogie or an Indian burn.

  13. This morning I woke up to the unmistakable scent of pigs in a blanket. That’s the price you pay for letting the relatives stay over.

  14. It’s a small world. So you gotta use your elbows a lot.

  15. Keep your nose to the grindstone and your shoulder to the wheel. It’s a lot cheaper than plastic surgery.

  16. This land is your land. This land is my land. So stay on your land.

  17. Love is like a roller coaster: When it’s good you don’t want to get off, and when it isn’t, you can’t wait to throw up.


One day, a young man went to apply for a sales job at a major department store. He told the sales manager that he didn’t really have any experience, but he was willing to try his hardest to learn. The manager liked his attitude and decided to give the guy a chance.

At the close of business the next day, the sales manager decided to stop in to see how the kid was doing on his first day.

He asked, "How many sales did you have today?"

The salesman answered, "One."

"How come only one," asked the manager. "Most of my salesman have 20-30 per day! How much was the one sale you made?"

The salesman answered, "$133,344.00"

"WHAT!?! What did you sell?"

"Well, a guy wanted a small fishing hook, so I sold him a medium fishing hook, then I sold him a large fishing hook. Then he needed a rod, so I sold him a light action rod, the upgrade to a medium action rod, and then changed it to a fully balanced combo. Then I told him he was going to need a boat, so I took him to the boating department and sold him a 14-foot motor boat, then upgraded him to a 20-foot cabin cruiser. Then I told him that his Volkswagen wouldn’t be able to tow the boat, so I took him to the car department and sold him a sport utility vehicle."

"A guy came in for a fishing hook and you managed to sell him all of that?" asked the manager.

"No, he came in for a box of tampons, and I said, "Hell, your weekend is shot anyway, why not do some fishing?"

Start Spreading the Insecticide

September 24, 1999

As you may have heard, the city of New York has a problem with mosquitoes spreading the disease encephalitis (which makes a stunning bow tie and cummerbund). In response, city officials have ordered that the entire city be repeatedly blanketed with the insecticide malathion. Here are a few of the instructions to city residents:

1. Stay inside during the spraying. Obviously this was written by the same guy who wrote the pamphlet "How To Avoid Shark Attacks" and whose first instruction was "Get out of the water."

2. Close all doors and windows during the spraying. I suppose there are some people who, while staying inside, would be tempted to open their windows to get a better view of those really cool looking helicopters, but I’d say those people are asking for a lot more than just a face full of insecticide.

3. Wash all childrens’ toys left outside during the spraying before handling them. The same applies to children.

Interestingly, malathion wasn’t the first choice of the city officials, but the mosquitoes were found to already be resistant to DDT. Thanks to this spraying, however, next year’s batch of mosquitoes will also be resistant to malathion, which means sprayers will have to use pyrethrins, chlorine gas, and possibly even radiation. By the end of the next decade, New York is expected to be infested with enormous, eerily intelligent mutant mosquitoes, which residents agree will be a vast improvement over the current police force.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


Signs That You’ve Had TOO MUCH Of The 90’s

You try to enter your password on the microwave.

You now think of three espressos as "getting wasted."

You haven’t played solitaire with a real deck of cards in years.

You have a list of 30 phone numbers to reach your family of 5.

You e-mail your son in his room to tell him that dinner is ready, and he emails you back "What’s for dinner?"

Your daughter sells Girl Scout Cookies via her web site.

You chat several times a day with a stranger from South Africa, but you haven’t spoken to your next door neighbor yet this year.

You didn’t give your valentine a card this year, but you posted one for your email buddies via a Web page.

Your daughter just bought on CD all the records your college roommate used to play that you most despised.

Every commercial on television has a web-site address at the bottom of the screen.

You buy a computer and a week later it is out of date and now sells for half the price you paid.

The concept of using real money, instead of credit or debit, to make a purchase is foreign to you.

Cleaning up the dining area means getting the fast food bags out of the back seat of your car.

Your reason for not staying in touch with family is that they do not have e-mail addresses.

You consider 2nd day air delivery painfully slow.

You refer to your dining room table as the flat filing cabinet.

Your idea of being organized is multiple colored post-it notes.

You hear most of your jokes via email instead of in person.

Lost In Translation

September 17, 1999

"A classic is a book which people praise rather than read."–Mark Twain

Remember those cheap black and yellow study guides you and your friends used in school? I’m referring to the ones that are claimed by the publishers to enhance and supplement school-assigned reading, but so thoroughly dumb down the works they cover that they replace the need for even buying the real book. That is, of course, unless you have to bring the book to class, in which case the attractive black and yellow cover reminds you that reading it is vaguely akin to criminal activity. Anyway, the times they are a’changin’, and for a new generation, these "study guides" are now available online, and they’re new and improved. Instead of just boring stuff about books and other school crap, the site also includes "study break" links to sites about music, video games, and sports. Now with a simple click of a button, students can skip reading _Frankenstein_ and instead breeze through the summary, the list of characters, and "kewl" answers they can use on essay questions. At least until their attention deficit disorder kicks in.

This was of course, a necessary development because of the increasing number of classic books that can be found online, none of which have links that take students to more interesting sites. Other books now available online include the Idiot’s Guide to the Internet, which, according to designers, has experienced a surprisingly low number of hits. Apparently anyone who needs the guide isn’t able to find it online, proving that it isn’t just book-buyers who are idiots.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


"Posterior Automotive Safety Bar Adhesive Papyrus Reflectionary Notations" (…again….and STILL dern funny!)

40. If you can read this – I can slam on my brakes and sue you!

39. Jesus loves you, but everyone else thinks you’re an asshole.

38. 100,000 sperm and YOU were the fastest?

37. Your gene pool needs a little chlorine.

36. You’re just jealous because the voices are talking to me.

35. DON’T PISS ME OFF! I’M RUNNING OUT OF PLACES TO HIDE THE BODIES.

34. JESUS SAVES..Then Passes it To Gretzky..He Shoots..He..Scores!

33. Jesus is coming! Look busy!

32. You are depriving some poor village of its IDIOT

31. Save Your Breath … You’ll need it to blow up your date!

30. Forget world peace. Visualize using your turn signal.

29. My Hockey Mom Can Beat Up Your Soccer Mom

28. GROW YOUR OWN DOPE, PLANT A MAN

27. All Men Are Animals, Some Just Make Better Pets

26. Some people are only alive because it is illegal to shoot them.

25. I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.

24. WANTED: Meaningful overnight relationship.

23. BEER: It’s not just for breakfast anymore.

22. So you’re a feminist…Isn’t that cute.

21. I need someone really bad…Are you really bad?

20. Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.

19. All men are idiots….I married their king.

18. The more you complain, the longer God makes you live.

17. IRS: We’ve got what it takes to take what you’ve got.

16. Hard work has a future payoff. Laziness pays off now.

15. Reality is a crutch for people who can’t handle drugs.

14. Out of my mind…Back in five minutes.

13. Hang up and drive.

12. Smile, it’s the second best thing you can do with your lips.

11. I took an IQ test and the results were negative.

10. Where there’s a will…I want to be on it.

9. It’s lonely at the top, but you eat better.

8. Don’t drink and drive…You might hit a bump and spill your drink.

7. We are born naked, wet, and hungry….Then things get worse.

6. Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies.

5. Consciousness: That annoying time between naps.

4. Ever stop to think, and forget to start again?

3. Be nice to your kids…They will pick out your nursing home.

2. Always remember you’re unique…Just like everyone else.

and the #1 bumper sticker of the week…………..

1. Honk If You Want To See My Finger

Died In The Wool

September 10, 1999

What do cartoon characters, hot sauce bottles, barracudas, Albert Einstein, bikini-clad women, piano keys, DNA, the Three Stooges, and famous paintings all have in common? Answer: they’ve all appeared on neckties. Now we can add infectious diseases to the list. A new line of ties features various diseases including herpes, bubonic plague, smallpox, and others. There are, of course, all kinds of advantages to these neckties. In meetings, if you’re sporting a snazzy hemorrhagic fever design, your boss might turn to you and say, "Johnson, this idea is almost as infectious as that tie of yours." Or you could intimidate a client by unbuttoning your double-breasted suit to reveal that you’re sporting none other than the common cold, or the slightly less common hantavirus. The late great comedian Lenny Bruce said tuberculosis was one of the hippest diseases you could get (right below pellagra). Now you can be hip by wearing tuberculosis without the risk and expense of getting it.

The company improved on their idea by expanding their line to scarves and, believe it or not, boxers. Although there are more romantic things you can wear under your clothes or to bed than gonorrhea, consider this: botulism can take you back to that would-have-been-romantic honeymoon in Mexico, cholera can be a memento of a harrowing stopover in Laos, and then there are all the "romance diseases." Mononucleosis is also known as "the kissing disease", in Shakespeare’s time syphillis was called "the French malady", and the word staphylococcus is so suggestive it doesn’t need any other names. What’s the next fashionable move for this company? Maybe a whole line of children’s clothing called "Babies With Rabies". But the malaria necktie will always remain the greatest achievement. Like the corporate drudge job that forces you to wear a silk noose around your neck every day, malaria isn’t fatal; it just makes you miserable for a very long time.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


GOD’S TOTAL QUALITY MANAGEMENT QUESTIONNAIRE

God would like to thank you for your belief and patronage. In order to better serve your needs, He asks that you take a few moments to answer the following questions. Please keep in mind that your responses will be kept completely confidential, and that you need not disclose your name or address unless you prefer a direct response to comments or suggestions.

1. How did you find out about your Deity?
___ Newspaper
___ Bible
___ Torah
___ Book of Mormon
___ Koran
___ Divine inspiration
___ Dead Sea Scrolls
___ My mama done tol’ me
___ Near-death experience
___ Near-life experience
___ National Public Radio
___ Tabloid
___ Burning shrubbery
___ Other (specify): _____________

2. Which model Deity did you acquire?
___ Yahweh
___ Father, Son & Holy Ghost [Trinity Pak]
___ Jehovah
___ Jesus
___ Krishna
___ Zeus and entourage [Olympus Pak]
___ Odin and entourage [Valhalla Pak]
___ Allah
___ Satan
___ Gaia/Mother Earth/Mother Nature
___ God 1.0a (hairy thunderer)
___ God 1.0b (cosmic muffin)
___ None of the above; I was taken in by a false god

3. Did your God come to you undamaged,with all parts in good working order and with no obvious breakage or missing attributes?
___ Yes
___ No

If no, please describe the problems you initially encountered here. Please indicate all that apply:
___ Not eternal
___ Finite in space/Does not occupy or inhabit the entire cosmos
___ Not omniscient
___ Not omnipotent
___ Not infinitely plastic (incapable of being all things to all creations)
___ Permits sex outside of marriage
___ Prohibits sex outside of marriage
___ Makes mistakes (Geraldo Rivera, Jesse Helms)
___ Makes or permits bad things to happen to good people
___ When beseeched, doesn’t stay beseeched
___ Requires burnt offerings
___ Requires virgin sacrifices
___ Plays dice with the universe

4. What factors were relevant in your decision to acquire a Deity? Please check all that apply.
___ Indoctrinated by parents
___ Needed a reason to live
___ Indoctrinated by society
___ Needed focus in whom to despise
___ Imaginary friend grew up
___ Wanted to know Jesus in the Biblical sense
___ Graduated from the tooth fairy
___ Hate to think for myself
___ Wanted to meet girls/boys
___ Fear of death
___ Wanted to piss off parents
___ Needed a day away from work
___ Desperate need for certainty
___ Like organ music
___ Need to feel morally superior
___ Thought Jerry Falwell was cool
___ My shrubbery caught fire and told me to do it

5. Have you ever worshiped a Deity before? If so, which false god were you fooled by? Please check all that apply.
___ Mick Jagger
___ Rajanish
___ Baal
___ The almighty dollar
___ Bill Gates
___ Left-wing liberalism
___ The radical right
___ Ra
___ Beelzebub
___ Barney T.B.P.D.
___ The Great Spirit
___ The Great Pumpkin
___ The sun
___ Elvis
___ Cindy Crawford
___ The moon
___ TV news
___ Burning shrubbery
___ Other: ________________

6. Are you currently using any other source of inspiration in addition to God? Please check all that apply.
__ Tarot
__ Lottery
__ Astrology
__ Television
__ Fortune cookies
__ Ann Landers
__ Psychic Friends Network
__ Dianetics
__ Palmistry
__ Playboy and/or Playgirl
__ Self-help books
__ Sex, drugs,rock and roll
__ Biorhythms
__ Alcohol
__ Tea leaves
__ EST
__ America Online
__ Mantras
__ Jimmy Swaggert
__ Crystals (not including Crystal Gayle)
__ Human sacrifice
__ Pyramids
__ Wandering in a desert
__ Burning shrubbery
__ Barney T.B.P.D.
__ Barney Fife
Other:___________

7. God employs a limited degree of divine intervention to preserve the balanced level of felt presence and blind faith. Which would you prefer (circle one)?

a. More divine intervention
b. Less divine intervention
c. Current level of divine intervention is just right
d. Don’t know…what’s divine intervention?

8. God also attempts to maintain a balanced level of disasters and miracles. Please rate on a scale of 1 – 5 his handling of the following:
(1=unsatisfactory, 5=excellent):

Disasters:
flood 1 2 3 4 5
famine 1 2 3 4 5
earthquake 1 2 3 4 5
war 1 2 3 4 5
pestilence 1 2 3 4 5
plague 1 2 3 4 5
spam 1 2 3 4 5
AOL 1 2 3 4 5

Miracles:
rescues 1 2 3 4 5
spontaneous remissions 1 2 3 4 5
stars hovering over jerkwater towns 1 2 3 4 5
crying statues 1 2 3 4 5
water changing to wine 1 2 3 4 5
walking on water 1 2 3 4 5
VCRs that set their own clocks 1 2 3 4 5
Saddam Hussein still alive 1 2 3 4 5
getting any sex whatsoever 1 2 3 4 5

9. Do you have any additional comments or suggestions for improving the quality of God’s services? (Attach an additional sheet if necessary.) If you are able to complete the questionnaire and return it to one of our conveniently located drop-off boxes by October 31 you will be entered in the One Free Miracle of Your Choice drawing (chances of winning are approximately one in 6.023 x 10 to the 23rd power, depending on number of beings entered).

Life’s Little Emergencies

September 3, 1999

A few weeks ago I talked about how thrilled I was about the prospect of never being able to use 911. What I neglected to mention was that, here is Music City, we have another number to call for more pressing emergencies than 911 would be able to handle. After doing some finagling, I finally managed to get an operator at this place to take some notes on a routine night of calls. Here they are:

2:04PM: Beginning of my shift, and already Ed (not his real name)is on the line. He’s locked his keys in his car. He’s in a panic. I stay on the line with him until the locksmith arrives. Fortunately the wait isn’t long.

4:39PM: A woman just called in because she’s lost in a strange-looking neighborhood. I ask her to describe the area, and realize she’s in the parking garage of the downtown mall. Fortunately she’s on a cell-phone so I’m able to direct her toward the exit. Although she runs into another car on her way out, the important thing is I was there to give her the help she needed when she needed it.

6:25PM: Ed’s called in again. This time he can’t find the keys to his house. Again I keep him on the line until the locksmith arrives, but also talk to him about seeking counseling for his problem. As a chronic key loser, Ed really needs to understand that there won’t always be locksmiths around to let him in. I’ve seen cases like Ed’s before, and the sad thing is he’ll probably end up overloaded with keychains and hanging around the backs of hardware stores.

6:37PM: Phil (his real name) can’t decide whether or not to pop the big question to his girlfriend. I get my supervisor to stall him while I contact our department of Sexperts, Astrologers, And Advice Columnists and advise them we have a Code Black on the line. His call is transferred smoothly. These kinds of calls really bring it home to me why I love this job. In an ideal world, people like me wouldn’t be needed, but as long as we are, I’m proud to be that friendly voice on the other end of the line.

9:47PM: A few minutes before the end of my shift a woman calls in because her neighbors are having a party. They’re not getting rowdy yet, but she’s peeked in the windows, and believes drugs, probably alcohol and tobacco, are being used. I take down the address and realize it’s my house! What’s my roommate doing having a party without telling me? I assure her someone will be there to check into this situation right away. Enjoy this week’s offerings.


How To Attend a Meeting

To really succeed in a business or organization, it is sometimes helpful to know what your job is, and whether it involves any duties. Ask among your coworkers. "Hi," you should say. "I’m a new employee. What is the name of my job?" If they answer "long-range planner" or "lieutenant governor," you are pretty much free to lounge around and do crossword puzzles until retirement. Most jobs, however, will require some work.

There are two major kinds of work in modern organizations:

1. Taking phone messages for people who are in meetings, and, 2. Going to meetings.

Your ultimate career strategy will be to get a job involving primarily No. 2, going to meetings, as soon as possible, because that’s where the real prestige is. It is all very well and good to be able to take phone messages, but you are never going to get a position of power, a position where you can cost thousands of people their jobs with a single bonehead decision, unless you learn how to attend meetings.

The first meeting ever was held back in the Mezzanine Era. In those days, Man’s job was to slay his prey and bring it home for Woman, who had to figure out how to cook it. The problem was, Man was slow and basically naked, whereas the prey had warm fur and could run like an antelope. (In fact it was an antelope, only nobody knew this).

At last someone said, "Maybe if we just sat down and did some brainstorming, we could come up with a better way to hunt our prey!" It went extremely well, plus it was much warmer sitting in a circle, so they agreed to meet again the next day, and the next.

But the women pointed out that, prey-wise, the men had not produced anything, and the human race was pretty much starving.

The men agreed that was serious and said they would put it right near the top of their "agenda". At this point, the women, who were primitive but not stupid, started eating plants, and thus modern agriculture was born. It never would have happened without meetings.

The modern business meeting, however, might better be compared with a funeral, in the sense that you have a gathering of people who are wearing uncomfortable clothing and would rather be somewhere else. The major difference is that most funerals have a definite purpose. Also, nothing is really ever buried in a meeting.

An idea may look dead, but it will always reappear at another meeting later on. If you have ever seen the movie, "Night of the Living Dead," you have a rough idea of how modern meetings operate, with projects and proposals that everyone thought were killed rising up constantly from their graves to stagger back into meetings and eat the brains of the living.

There are two major kinds of meetings:

1. Meetings that are held for basically the same reason that Arbor Day is observed – namely, tradition. For example, a lot of managerial people like to meet on Monday, because it’s Monday. You’ll get used to it. You’d better, because this kind account for 83% of all meetings (based on a study in which I wrote down numbers until one of them looked about right). This type of meeting operates the way "Show and Tell" does in nursery school, with everyone getting to say something, the difference being that in nursery school, the kids actually have something to say.

When it’s your turn, you should say that you’re still working on whatever it is you’re supposed to be working on. This may seem pretty dumb, since obviously you’d be working on whatever you’re supposed to be working on, and even if you weren’t, you’d claim you were, but that’s the traditional thing for everyone to say. It would be a lot faster if the person running the meeting would just say, "Everyone who is still working on what he or she is supposed to be working on, raise your hand." You’d be out of there in five minutes, even allowing for jokes. But this is not how we do it in America. My guess is, it’s how they do it in Japan.

2. Meetings where there is some alleged purpose. These are trickier, because what you do depends on what the purpose is. Sometimes the purpose is harmless, like someone wants to show slides of pie charts and give everyone a big, fat report. All you have to do in this kind of meeting is sit there and have elaborate fantasies, then take the report back to your office and throw it away, unless, of course, you’re a vice president, in which case you write the name of a subordinate in the upper right hand corner, followed be a question mark, like this: "Norm?"

Then you send it to Norm and forget all about it (although it will plague Norm for the rest of his career).

But sometimes you go to meetings where the purpose is to get your "input" on something. This is very serious because what it means is, they want to make sure that in case whatever it is turns out to be stupid or fatal, you’ll get some of the blame, so you have to escape from the meeting before they get around to asking you anything. One way is to set fire to your tie.

Another is to have an accomplice interrupt the meeting and announce that you have a phone call from someone very important, such as the president of the company or the Pope. It should be one or the other. It would a sound fishy if the accomplice said, "You have a call from the president of the company, or the Pope."

You should know how to take notes at a meeting. Use a yellow legal pad. At the top, write the date and underline it twice.

Now wait until an important person, such as your boss, starts talking; when he does, look at him with an expression of enraptured interest, as though he is revealing the secrets of life itself. Then write interlocking rectangles like this:

(picture of doodled rectangles).

If it is an especially lengthy meeting, you can try something like this (Picture of more elaborate doodles and a caricature of the boss).

If somebody falls asleep in a meeting, have everyone else leave the room. Then collect a group of total strangers, right off the street, and have them sit around the sleeping person until he wakes up. Then have one of them say to him, "Bob, your plan is very, very risky. However, you’ve given us no choice but to try it. I only hope, for your sake, that you know what you’re getting yourself into." Then they should file quietly out of the room.

This ain’t kosher

August 27, 1999

Recently a Mississippi school board barred a Jewish student from wearing a Star of David because, they said, it was a gang symbol. The decision was first made by a teacher, and then the school principal. The student’s father is filing a lawsuit against the school board on the grounds of religious discrimination. Now, personally, I’d like to know what gang uses the Star of David as its symbol. Hillel’s Angels, maybe? To make matters even worse, the school’s principle has publicly questioned the legitimacy of the lawsuit because he doesn’t believe the student’s father is very devout in his faith. This statement was based on the fact that the father’s wife is not Jewish, and also what little of the man’s house the principle had seen while burning crosses in front of it. As a final, interesting twist to the story, Pat Robertson, head of the Christian Coalition, has stated that he believes the school board’s decision represents ignorance and religious intolerance, which is his way of saying he approves of it.

Note: The above was written just under a week ago when the story first hit the news. Since then it’s attracted national attention. As a result the Mississippi school board reversed its decision. As part of an apology, a member of the school board said, "We didn’t think we were violating anybody’s rights." This is because it’s generally assumed in Mississippi that Jews don’t have rights. Among the groups that put pressure on the school board were the ACLU, the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, and the Mississippi State Department of Tourism, which was afraid that the sudden influx of intelligent, tolerant, and well-spoken carpetbaggers might damage the state’s image. Fortunately it’s all over now and Mississippi can once again resume its job of making Kansas look progressive.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


"The trick is to stop thinking of it as ‘your’ money." (Tax Auditor)

"The hardest thing in the world to understand is income tax!" (Albert Einstein)

"When there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income." (Plato)

"There are two distinct classes of men… those who pay taxes and those who receive and live upon taxes." (Thomas Paine)

"The Government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend upon the support of Paul." (George Bernard Shaw)

"There is no art which one government sooner learns from another than that of draining money from the pockets of the people." (Adam Smith)

"He who has the base necessities of life should pay nothing; taxation on him who has a surplus may, if need be; extend to everything beyond necessities." (Jean Jacques Rousseau)

"Like mothers, taxes are often misunderstood, but seldom forgotten" (Lord Bramwell)

"War involves in its progress such a train of unforeseen and unsupposed circumstances that no human wisdom can calculate the end. It has but one thing certain, and that is to increase taxes." (Thomas Paine)

"In the matter of taxation, every privilege is an injustice." (Voltaire)

"But in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes." (Benjamin Franklin)

"A taxpayer is someone who works for the federal government but who doesn’t have to take a civil service examination." (Ronald Reagan)

"Does self assessment mean that Australia will becomes a land of untold wealth?"

"There can be no doubt concerning the duty of each citizen to bear a part of the public expense. But the state on its part, insofar as it is charged with protecting and promoting the common good of its citizens, is under an obligation to assess upon them only necessary levies, which are, furthermore, proportionate to their means." (Pius XII)


THE RULES OF CHOCOLATE

If you’ve got melted chocolate all over your hands, you’re eating it too slowly.

Chocolate covered raisins, cherries, orange slices, and strawberries all count as fruit, so eat as many as you want.

The problem: How to get 2 pounds of chocolate home from the store in a hot car. The solution: Eat it in the parking lot.

Diet tip: Eat a chocolate bar before each meal. It’ll take the edge off your appetite and you’ll eat less.

A nice box of chocolates can provide your total daily intake of calories in one place. Isn’t that handy?

If you can’t eat all your chocolate, it will keep in the freezer.

But if you can’t eat all your chocolate, what’s wrong with you?

If calories are an issue, store your chocolate on top of the fridge. Calories are afraid of heights, and they will jump out of the chocolate to protect themselves.

If I eat equal amounts of dark chocolate and white chocolate, is that a balanced diet? Don’t they actually counteract each other?

Money talks. Chocolate sings.

Chocolate has many preservatives. Preservatives make you look younger.

Q: Why is there no such organization as Chocoholics Anonymous? A: Because no one wants to quit.

If not for chocolate, there would be no need for control top pantyhose. An entire garment industry would be devastated.

Put "eat chocolate" at the top of your list of things to do today. That way, at least you’ll get one thing done.

Tune in, turn on, hang up

August 20, 1999

The Telecommunications Deregulation Act of a few years ago has brought many advantages with it, including reduced rates, a plethora of 10-10 numbers that will not only save you money but also give your phone number to companies you never heard of, and finally it’s broken up the main telephone monopoly and made it into an oligopoly that’s capable of fixing rates, driving small companies out of business, and giving telemarketing agencies free access to unlisted residential numbers. Back in the old days when there was only one phone company, you had two choices: you could deal with them, or you could get a couple of coffee cans and some string.

Nowadays you don’t even have to deal with one of the major companies. There’s a new beast out there called the prepaid phone service. You may have seen the commercials for these. The deal is you pay in advance for a specific amount of local and long distance time, and you pay an extra charge for anything over that time. If you’ve seen the commercials, then you may have noticed the fine print that says, "911 Service costs extra." (For those of you who live outside the United States, 911 is the number to dial in the event of an emergency.) Boy, I can’t tell you what a relief that is. I’ve never had an emergency that required me to call 911, but I’m a very nervous person so I’m always worried that I might have to. But what if I forget the number? What if they put me on hold? What if I get a message telling me to choose an extension and I’m calling from a rotary phone? What if it’s like ordering a pizza and they’ve never heard of my street? What if an ambulance comes for me and I don’t have any money to give the driver a tip? In an emergency, not having 911 will give me a lot less to worry about and I can focus on more important things, like finding a neighbor who will dial it for me.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


A THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Too often, we lose sight of life’s simple pleasures………

Remember, when someone annoys you, It takes 42 muscles in your Face to frown BUT, it only takes 4 muscles to extend your arm and SMACK the asshole upside the head.


Q. What happens if you run out of gas while you’re flying?
A. Personally, we make it a point to take vitamins and get lots of rest before we fly so that fatigue is not a factor. There’s nothing more dangerous than a tired pilot. Next question.

Q. Why do airplanes climb so steeply after takeoff?
A. For statistical reasons. Since the vast majority of accidents occur on or near an airport, the pilot wants to get away from there as quickly as possible.

Q. How do you keep from getting sick while doing loops and spins and stuff like that?
A. It’s a discipline we developed when our instructor once said, "I wanted to throw up, but I wasn’t sure which way it was!"

Q. What causes turbulence?
A. We’re not absolutely sure, but studies indicate that it’s either tea or coffee. All we know is that every time we pour a cup, the ride gets bumpy.

Q. Why do some pilots insist on flying when the weather is bad and they can’t see where they’re going?
A. Because they don’t want to cancel motel reservations at their destination.

Q. What happens when your landing gear won’t go down?
A. Your insurance goes up.

Q. Have you ever had an accident in an airplane?
A. Yes. I once ruined a pair of trousers while landing in a 35-knot crosswind.

Q. Is it true that the FAA can suspend your license at any time, for no good reason?
A. The rumor is a gross exaggeration; they only work weekdays, 9 to 5.

Q. Is it expensive to learn how to fly?
A. Not really. It only costs about $1,000 . . . oh, you mean with an airplane and an instructor?

Q. What is the one basic thing that keeps an airplane in the air?
A. Money!!!

Q. How much does an airplane cost to own?
A. About three times as much as you have!

Q. But, hasn’t the recent enactment of tort reform and product-liability limits made an impact on the cost of airplanes?
A. It certainly has. They used to only cost twice as much as you had!

The Year Of Living Vicariously

August 13, 1999

Someday I’m going to travel to exotic and faraway places.

In the meantime, though, I get by reading travel literature. I’m a travel-story addict. And I’ve learned a lot not only about the world but also about the fine art of travel writing, an art that delicately balances fact and fiction, although the delicacy of the balance depends on how much the writer is being paid. Here are a few of the most important rules of travel writing:

  1. No matter where you go, always go on a whim. This will really irritate people who, even if they were to buy their tickets a decade in advance, still could not afford that dream trip to Bora Bora. But never mention that "whim" is travel writer code for "company expense account." A travel writer’s whims are not only paid for by someone else, they’re also tax-deductible.

  2. If you’re in an especially exotic place ("exotic" is defined as "no four-star hotels") mention over and over again that you speak the local language, be it Ibo, Tamil, Sinhalese, or Tonga. Make it very clear that anyone not able to speak either the local language or French will never have the exciting and fulfilling experience you’re writing about.

  3. If it rained the whole time and you were stuck in your hotel room with a tropical disease, make the airport sound like the most incredible place in the country. Then spend your last night in the hotel bar talking to people who have just arrived and base your article on what they plan to do.

  4. If you’re a guy and staying on a tropical island or peninsula, make sure you spend at least one night drinking with a tourist from another country. For example, if you’re from the United States and you’re in New Guinea, find a Canadian and buy him drinks on a whim. Be sure to mention that he was crude, barbaric, and rude to the locals, and that you quietly disapproved of his behavior.

  5. I have no advice for women travel writers. Or married travel writers. According to travel magazine stories, only single men travel.

  6. When writing a "travel on a budget" piece, don’t mention that you only visited the hostel or tent where you claim to have slept. Do, however, mention the lack of toilets, the holes in the roof (if there’s a roof), and the foot-long rats. This will discourage anyone who really thinks they can see Brazil on fifty cents a day.

  7. When writing about travel anywhere in Western Europe, Greece, or Australia, don’t mention historical landmarks, museums, or local points of interest. The focus of your story should be nightclubs. Be sure to mention what a fabulous dancer you are.

  8. The exception to the above rule is Amsterdam. People travelling to Amsterdam might be pleasantly surprised to find there’s a Van Gogh museum they can visit in between smoking dope at a cafe and cruising for hookers in the Red Light District.

  9. The only reason to visit Africa is to do something idiotic like crossing the Sahara on a dune buggy. According to travel writers, there is really nothing interesting in Africa. This is because nightclubs are not very common there.

  10. The life of the travel writer is one of perpetual, albeit mandatory, vacations. So even if your "vacation" is in some stinking backwater hellhole, remember that your trip is being at least partly financed by a travel agency that makes its money by selling package deals to people who want to visit this hellhole. Make the best of it because, if you screw up badly enough, the next hellhole may be your permanent destination.


Button slogans

  • Well, this day was a total waste of make-up.

  • Make yourself at home! Clean my kitchen

  • Who are these kids and why are they calling me Mom?

  • Don’t bother me, I’m living happily ever after.

  • Do I look like a freakin’ people person?

  • This isn’t an office–it’s Hell with fluorescent lighting.

  • I started out with nothing & still have most of it left.

  • I pretend to work. They pretend to pay me.

  • I’ve found Jesus. He was behind the sofa the whole time. (No doubt scared to death.)

  • If I throw a stick, will you leave?

  • You! Off my planet!

  • Therapy is expensive. Popping bubble wrap is cheap! You choose.

  • Bottomless pit of needs and wants

  • If I want to hear the pitter patter of little feet, I’ll put shoes on my cat.

  • Does your train of thought have a caboose?

  • Errors have been made. Others will be blamed.

  • And just how may I screw you over today?

  • And your crybaby whiny-assed opinion would be . . .?

  • A PBS mind in an MTV world.

  • Allow me to introduce my selves.

  • Whisper my favorite words: "I’ll buy it for you."

  • Better living through denial.

  • Whatever kind of look you were going for, you missed.

  • Suburbia: where they tear out the trees & then name streets after them.

  • Adult child of alien invaders.

  • Do they ever shut up on your planet?

  • I’m just working here ’til a good fast-food job opens up.

  • I’m trying to imagine you with a personality.

  • A cubicle is just a padded cell without a door.

  • Mall whore: I can suck the numbers right off your credit cards

  • Don’t worry. I forgot your name, too!

  • Adults are just kids who owe money.

  • I work 40 hours a week to be this poor.

  • You say I’m a bitch like it’s a bad thing.

  • Macho law forbids me from admitting I’m wrong.

  • Nice perfume. Must you marinate in it?

  • Chaos, panic, & disorder–my job here is done.

  • A woman’s favorite position is CEO.

  • Everyone thinks I’m psychotic, except for my friends deep inside the earth.

  • Is it time for your medication or mine?

  • Does this condom make me look fat?

  • Earth is full. Go home.

  • I plead contemporary insanity.

Not Waving But Drowning

August 6, 1999

There’s a shortage of lifeguards around the country this summer. Considering that most of the lakes, beaches, and community pools I’ve visited over the years were lifeguard-free, this is surprising, but I heard it on the radio so it must be true. Apparently lifeguards on TV outnumber real lifeguards by a staggering amount. (The same, interestingly, is true of police officers, private detectives, advertising agents, and wealthy, wacky people in their twenties who live amusing, catch-phrase laden lives.)

Part of the problem seems to be that businesses in malls are offering better wages and better benefits. They allow teenagers to sit in an air-conditioned room and do nothing, rather than forcing them to sit in the hot sun and do nothing. For some reason it’s also easier to ignore someone whose taco was put together incorrectly than someone being attacked by a shark. But at least lifeguards don’t have to wear hairnets. The shortage of lifeguards has forced those beaches and pools that seem to think they’re necessary to raise the wages they offer, and this has in turn drawn applicants who–I’m not kidding here–don’t know how to swim. Fortunately most of them have been turned away, but for safety’s sake, always swim with a buddy, never lose sight of the shore, and make sure you swim in areas with signs that say, "Swim At Your Own Risk", "Warning: Dangerous Undertow", and "Beach Off Limits Due to Biohazard".

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


How to Have Fun at Wal Mart

  1. Take shopping carts for the express purpose of filling them and stranding them at strategic locations.

  2. Get boxes of condoms and randomly put them in peoples carts when they don’t realize it.

  3. Set all the alarm clocks to go off at ten minute intervals throughout the day.

  4. Run up to an employee (preferably a male) while squeezing your legs together and practically yell at him "Where are your tampons?". (It’s especially effective if you’re also a male.)

  5. Try on bras over top of your clothes. (Ditto.)

  6. Make a trail of orange juice on the ground, leading to the restrooms.

  7. Walk up to an employee and tell him in an official tone,"I think we’ve got a Code 3 in housewares," and see what happens.

  8. Tune all the radios to a polka station; then turn them all on and turn the volumes to "10."

  9. Challenge other customers to duels with tubes of gift wrap.

  10. Re-dress the mannequins as you see fit.

  11. Test the fishing rods and see what you can "catch" from the other aisles.

  12. Put M&M’s on layaway.

  13. Move"Caution: Wet Floor" signs to carpeted areas.

  14. Set up a tent in the camping department; tell others you’ll only invite them in if they bring pillows from Bed and Bath.

  15. Contaminate the entire auto department by sampling all the spray air fesheners.

  16. Nonchalantly "test" the brushes and combs in Cosmetics.

  17. When someone asks if you need help, begin to cry and ask, "Why won’t you people just leave me alone?"

  18. Look right into the security camera, and use it as a mirror while you pick your nose.

  19. Take up an entire aisle in Toys by setting up a full scale battlefield with G.I. Joe’s vs. the X-Men.

  20. Ask other customers if they have any Grey Poupon.

  21. While handling guns in the hunting department, suddenly ask the clerk if he knows where the anti-depressants are.

  22. Switch the men’s and women’s signs on the doors of the restrooms.

  23. Dart around suspiciously while humming the theme from "Mission Impossible."

  24. Set up a "Valet Parking" sign in front of the store

  25. In the auto department, practice your "Madonna" look with various funnels.

  26. Hide in the clothing racks and when people browse through, say things like "pick me !! pick me!!" and scare them into believing that the clothes are talking to them.

  27. When an announcement comes over the loudspeaker, assume the fetal position and scream, "No, no! It’s those voices again!"

  28. Go to an empty checkout stand and try to check people out. If you see people waiting in line at other checkout stands, be sure to yell, "I can help you over here!"

  29. Drag a lounge chair on display over to the magazines and relax. If the store has a food court, buy a soft drink; explain that you don’t get out much, and ask if they can put a little umbrella in it.

  30. Go into the dressing room and yell real loud…Hey, we’re out of toilet paper in here!

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