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Snakes alive!

October 6, 2000

"Show me something illegal, and I’ll show you something stupid."
–Penn Gillette

This is true: according to a news article in the London Times some criminals are using snakes and Barbary apes to hold up people in the Metros (known here as "subways") of Paris. Since snakes and apes don’t require reloading or sharpening like those new-fangled knives and guns, they’re the obvious choice of weapon among Parisian criminals. Of course, even the least exotic species of snakes require good-sized cages, food, warmth, and water. Poisonous species (which make up about one-third of the snakes confiscated by Paris police) generally require live food, and, depending on the species, large cages and very carefully controlled temperature, light, and humidity.

Then there are the apes which grow to a size of 55 pounds. It goes without saying that they need pretty large cages. However, they have the added advantage of automatically attacking a victim’s genitals first. Then there’s the problem of actually getting the money from your victim. Presumably criminals walk up to someone holding a snake in their hand and say, "Hey, give me all your money or this snake will bite you." Of course the first instinct of most people would be to run away. (You can’t fire a snake, after all.) Even if the person was cornered, snakes are, well, snakey. If you’ve ever held an angry snake (note: to make a snake angry, hold it tightly with your hand and wave it at someone) you know that, when released, their first target is going to be the person who was holding them. This has led many criminals to walk up to people and say, "Excuse me, could you hold this snake and make it angry, and also hand over your wallet?" The apes, of course, are a little easier because all you have to do is release them, but again the victim’s first instinct will be to run away.

There’s an old joke about two guys photographing a lion in Africa. The lion notices them and starts roaring threateningly. One of the guys reaches down and puts on a pair of running shoes. The other one says, "Do you think you can outrun a lion?" The first one says, "Forget the lion. I just need to outrun you!" The moral of this story? If someone lets a Barbary ape loose near you, you’re going to run away. The ape will think, "Why should I waste time chasing that guy when I can attack the genitals of this idiot standing here holding an ape cage?"

The sad part is some people have handed over their money to these criminals. The good part is that all the victims were only carrying Euros.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


Job Hunting

These are taken from real Resumes and Cover Letters, and were printed in the July 21st, 1999 issue of "Fortune" Magazine:

  1. "I have lurnt Word Perfect 6.0 computor and spreadsheet progroms."

  2. "Am a perfectionist and rarely if if ever forget details."

  3. "Received a plague for Salesperson of the Year."

  4. "Wholly responsible for two (2) failed financial institutions."

  5. "Reason for leaving last job: maturity leave."

  6. "Failed bar exam with relatively high grades."

  7. "It’s best for employers that I not work with people."

  8. "Let’s meet, so you can ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over my experience."

  9. "I was working for my mom until she decided to move."

  10. "Marital status: single. Unmarried. Unengaged. Uninvolved. No commitments."

  11. "I have an excellent track record, although I am not a horse."

  12. "I am loyal to my employer at all costs… Please feel free to respond to my resume on my office voice mail."

  13. "My goal is to be a meteorologist. But since I possess no training in Meteorology, I suppose I should try stock brokerage."

  14. "I procrastinate, especially when the task is unpleasant."

  15. "Personal interests: donating blood. Fourteen gallons so far."

  16. "Instrumental in ruining entire operation for a Midwest chain store."

  17. "Note: Please don’t misconstrue my 14 jobs as ‘job-hopping’. I have never quit a job."

  18. "Marital status: often. Children: various."

  19. "The company made me a scapegoat, just like my three previous employers."

  20. "Finished eighth in my class of ten."

  21. "References: none. I’ve left a path of destruction behind me."

These quotes were taken from actual Performance Evaluations:

  1. "Since my last report, this employee has reached rock bottom and has started to dig."

  2. "I would not allow this employee to breed."

  3. "This associate is really not so much of a has-been, but more of a definitely won’t be."

  4. "This young lady has delusions of adequacy."

  5. "Works well when under constant supervision and cornered like a rat in a trap."

  6. "When she opens her mouth, it seems that this is only to change whichever foot was previously in there."

  7. "He sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them."

  8. "This employee is depriving a village of an idiot."

  9. "This employee should go far and the sooner he starts, the better."

These lines are actual lines from Military Performance Appraisals:

  1. Got into the gene pool while the lifeguard wasn’t watching.

  2. A room temperature IQ.

  3. Got a full 6-pack, but lacks the plastic thingy to hold it all together.

  4. A gross ignoramus — 144 times worse than an ordinary ignoramus.

  5. A photographic memory but with the lens cover glued on.

  6. Bright as Alaska in December.

  7. Gates are down, the lights are flashing, but the train isn’t coming.

  8. He’s so dense, light bends around him.

  9. If he were any more stupid, he’d have to be watered twice a week.

  10. It’s hard to believe that he beat out 1,000,000 other sperm.

Next Question, Please

September 29, 2000

Vladimir Nabokov would not do interviews unless he got a written list of the exact questions to be asked well enough in advance that he could prepare answers. Stanley Kubrick was the same way. Kurt Vonnegut admitted that, after he’d done one interview, he took the written transcript and moved things around so he’d sound funnier and more intelligent. I’ve never been interviewed, and at the rate I’m going I never will be. But I’d still like to be, so I’ve written up some questions I’d like to be asked–along with the answers I’d like to give.

Question: Where do you get your ideas?
Answer: I have a friend in Miami who roots around in Dave Barry’s garbage.

Question: How long have you been doing "Freethinkers Anonymous"?
Answer: All my life. I have some hilarious stuff about boogers that I did in kindergarten.

Question: What would you do if stranded on a desert island?
Answer: First I would make sure there were no hostile natives or TV shows. My next priority would be food and shelter. After that I would make some friends out of sand, bamboo, and volcanic rock. I would write funny thoughts on clamshells and, once a week, distribute the shells to my "friends".

Question: I have a funny story about spiders taking over a small town in North Dakota. How do I get you to write something about it?
Answer: Send it to Dave Barry. He’ll throw it away, and it will eventually get to me. Either that or he’ll write something about how "Spiders Taking Over A Small Town In North Dakota" would be a really good name for a rock band.

Question: Why do you write?
Answer: I once had a college professor who said, "There is no such thing as a stupid question." He said this because a few years earlier he had berated a student for asking a stupid question. The student filed a complaint, and the professor was fired. The fact that the professor had been dressing as a woman and acting as the girls’ swim team coach didn’t help his case. Then someone mentioned that he’d led them to three championships and he was reinstated. What was your question?

Question: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Answer: Write a bunch of questions to myself and then answer them.

Question: Do you think you should get out more?
Answer: Please refer to the answer above.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


A Brit, a Frenchman and a Russian are viewing a painting of Adam and Eve frolicking in the Garden of Eden.

"Look at their reserve, their calm," muses the Brit. "They must be British."

"Nonsense," the Frenchman disagrees. "They’re naked, and so beautiful. Clearly, they are French."

"No clothes, no shelter," the Russian points out, "they have only an apple to eat, and they’re being told this is paradise. Clearly, they are Russian."


THINGS TO PONDER

  • If you choke a Smurf, what color does it turn?

  • Is it OK to use the AM radio after noon?

  • What do chickens think we taste like?

  • What do people in China call their good plates?

  • What do you call a male ladybug?

  • What hair color do they put on the driver’s license of a bald man?

  • When dog food is new and improved tasting, who tests it?

  • Why didn’t Noah swat those two mosquitoes?

  • Why do they sterilize the needle for lethal injections?

  • Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle?

  • Why is it called tourist season if we can’t shoot at them?

  • Why do you need a driver’s license to buy liquor when you can’t drink and drive?

  • Why isn’t phonetic spelled the way it sounds?

  • Why are there Interstates in Hawaii?

  • Why are there flotation devices in the seats of planes instead of parachutes?

  • Why are cigarettes sold at gas stations where smoking is prohibited?

  • Have you ever imagined a world without hypothetical situations?

  • How does the guy who drives the snowplow get to work?

  • If the 7-11 is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, why does it have locks on the door?

  • Why is a bra singular and panties plural?

  • You know that indestructible black box that is used on airplanes? Why don’t they make the whole plane out of that stuff?

  • If a firefighter fights fire and a crime fighter fights crime, what does a freedom fighter fight?

  • If they squeeze olives to get olive oil, how do they get baby oil?

  • If a cow laughs, does milk come out of her nose?

  • If you are driving at the speed of light and you turn your headlights on, what happens?

  • Why do they put Braille dots on the keypad of a drive-up ATM?

  • Why is it that when you transport something by car it is called a shipment, but when you transport something by ship it’s called cargo?

  • Why don’t sheep shrink when it rains?

  • What would Geronimo say if he jumped out of an airplane?

  • Why are they called apartments when they are all stuck together?

  • If con is the opposite of pro, is Congress the opposite of progress?

  • If flying is so safe, why do they call the airport the terminal?

When’s the next bus?

September 22, 2000

Some time ago I talked about how educational riding the bus can be, but I forgot to mention that waiting for the bus can be just as educational as riding one, especially early in the morning. And you can observe a lot more while waiting for the bus because, no matter how frequently they come by according to the printed schedule, the fact is you will always wait at least twenty minutes for the next bus. Buses, because their size and density distorts normal space-time, operate on a schedule that can only be understood by Stephen Hawking. Unfortunately Hawking concerns himself with less important matters like the nature of the universe, what happens to matter in black holes, and whether he’ll get to appear in another "Star Trek" episode.

Here are some things I learned while sitting at the bus stop:

  • The flashing "WALK" sign at crosswalks will last just long enough for pedestrians to get far enough that they can’t turn back, but not far enough to get them out of the way of a massive truck barreling through a red light.

  • People going to work look miserable. Really miserable. A lot of the world’s unhappiness could be cured if people didn’t have to go to work.

  • People going to work are so miserable they don’t know they’re being watched. It’s amazing how ubiquitous nose-picking is on the morning commute. Nose-picking is closely followed by teeth picking.

  • Loud music, especially music with heavy bass, distorts a car frame. Every car that went by me with its speakers thumping was bent in a bizarre, downward curve. Apparently such heavy bass also breaks glass–which explains why none of these cars have windows, and all have cracked windshields.

The best part, though, about sitting and waiting for the bus is I got to see a character known only as "Dancin’ Man". Dancin’ Man is a local phenomenon. He’s a guy who walks up and down the street serenading the traffic, smiling, and even blowing kisses to the cars going by. No one has any idea who he is or what he does, but early in the morning, he’s the happiest person on Earth, so obviously he’s not going to work.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


Writing Tips

  1. Avoid alliteration. Always.

  2. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.

  3. The adverb always follows the verb.

  4. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

  5. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.

  6. Remember to never split an infinitive. 

  7. Contractions aren’t necessary.

  8. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.

  9. One should never generalize. 

  10. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know." 

  11. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.

  12. Be more or less specific.

  13. One-word sentences? Eliminate.

  14. The passive voice is to be avoided.

  15. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

  16. Who needs rhetorical questions?

  17. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

  18. Don’t never use a double negation.

  19. Proofread carefully to see if you words out.

  20. A writer must not shift your point of view.

  21. And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)

  22. Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!!!!!!

  23. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.

  24. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.

  25. Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; they’re old hat; seek viable alternatives.

Free For All ©

September 15, 2000

The other day I picked up a bag of bagels. The words, "Mmm, they’re tasty!" were printed on the bag, followed by the (TM) symbol–which stands for trademark. The entire label–including, presumably, "Mmm, they’re tasty!" was copyrighted. I don’t understand intellectual property law, but based on some of the litigatory threats I’ve received because of my "offerings"(tm) I now owe the bagel company for use of its trademarked phrase "Mmm, they’re tasty." It’s bad enough that I’ve now made the mistake of typing the phrase and distributing it to a group of people three times now, but should the company decide to make me pay, they may want me to account for all the times in my life I’ve said, "Mmm, they’re tasty."

Am I overreacting? Maybe. But in 1997, summer campers were warned that they might have to pay for singing copyrighted songs around the campfire–or their camp would be sued. The legal pit bulls and their organization quickly backed down, but not before camp counselors had to slap their hands over the mouths of campers innocently singing "Puff the Magic Dragon". (Okay, admittedly, we didn’t sing "Puff the Magic Dragon" even when I was a summer camper, but there are an estimated four million copyrighted songs. There’s a good chance that someone owns the rights to "99 Bottles of Beer".)

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for artists, writers, composers, and others making a living. Most of them work very hard and deserve compensation (and I’m not just saying that to avoid shooting myself in the financial foot). But there’s a difference between being compensated and getting greedy. Besides, advertising puts monetary value to everyday phrases, which devalues language and forces people like me to use high-falutin’ expressions such as "devalues language."

But I don’t think my small complaint will make any difference, so I’ll take the "If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em(c)" attitude. So I’ll be copyrighting and trademarking "Freethinkers Anonymous", and all variants thereof, including "free", "anon", "an", and sometimes "y". You can still use these words without fear of retribution, because copyrights and trademarks only apply to advertising firms and other large businesses. That’s why I’m not copyrighting the word "think". It’s too rarely used to be profitable.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


(Note: Normally I don’t forward true stories or news articles as offerings. This case seemed exceptional.-CW)

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) – Eighty years after he shinnied up a 15-foot flagpole to grab a souvenir, a former Olympic diving medalist handed back his ripped-off trinket – the original Olympic flag.

Hal Haig "Harry" Prieste, now 103 and confined to a wheelchair most of the time, said Monday (Sunday night EDT) that he took the flag as a dare at the 1920 Games in Antwerp, Belgium, and kept it in a suitcase. The flag is now regarded as the first to feature the five rings on a white background that have become the Olympic symbol.

Prieste only discovered its importance during an interview at a U.S. Olympic Committee awards dinner in 1997, when a reporter told him the original flag had gone missing and never been located.

"I thought I ain’t going to be around much longer – it’s no good in a suitcase," Prieste said after handing the folded linen flag to International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch at the start of the IOC’s annual meeting.

"It was no good to me – I won’t be able to hang it up in my room," said Prieste, who is considered the oldest living Olympic medalist. "People will think more of me for giving it away than keeping it."

IOC vice president Anita DeFrantz introduced Prieste to the session as a "living legend," adding that he had run in the Olympic torch relay at Atlanta in 1996 at the age of 100. At that age he was still doing push ups and had just quit ice skating.

He also was greeted by IOC member Jacques Rogge, a representative of Belgium, where the flag was snatched.

The flag is slightly discolored and is tattered along the edge where Prieste ripped it off the flagpole, but otherwise in good condition, the USOC said.

After the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, Prieste returned to California and embarked on an entertainment career, becoming one of the original Keystone Kops and appearing in 25 movies. He said Charlie Chaplin was a pal and that he was in the studio when the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy was formed.

He later moved to Broadway, working vaudeville before joining a circus as a comedian and skating in the Ice Follies.

Always the entertainer, Prieste, who is hard of hearing and going blind, ensured he upstaged the IOC meetings going on inside the Regent Hotel in downtown Sydney. Gaining some momentum after a slow start, the veteran showman managed to stand up from his wheelchair on occasions and hold court for a throng of reporters and TV cameras. And he didn’t want the curtain to come down when officials tried to usher the impromptu press conference outside.

"Where’s the TV camera gone," Prieste said as he was being relocated. He flew into Sydney late Sunday, two days after leaving his nursing home in Camden, N.J., and said he hopes to attend the opening ceremony Friday before departing Australia next week.

"I’m proud to be part of the ceremony," he said. "When I give (the flag) away, it makes me feel good, I made good use of the flag. You can’t be selfish about these things."

Carolyn La Maina, a long-time friend who accompanied Prieste Down Under, said the springboard bronze medalist from eight decades ago still enjoyed pizza and root beer and the occasional chocolate-coated cherry. "He’s in great shape really, but he’s losing his sight and he can’t hear very well, so his sense of taste gives him something to live for," she said.

Volunteers Wanted

September 8, 2000

Every year when kids go back to school, I think back on my own childhood, and how I got most of my education during the summer when I was out of school. That’s the most profound thing I have to tell younger generations, and it’s probably the last thing teachers want me to tell them. Unfortunately it’s true. I have nothing profound to say about growing up because I have a hard time remembering most of it, and when I do, it seems like I was on a speeding train in a tunnel, facing backwards. My childhood is the fast-receding tunnel entrance. But there are a few small, less than profound lessons I do remember, lessons I learned from my friend Phil. My friend Phil taught me about:

Hair. I learned that a human being (namely, Phil) could be lifted by his hair off of my tricycle. This was especially useful on that one occasion when Phil refused to get off my tricycle when asked.

Behavioral conditioning. Once you have lifted someone off of your tricycle by the hair, he won’t get on your tricycle any more.

Gravity. When pushed off a three-foot retaining wall, Phil would fall. (There was no reason for this, as in the case of the hair experiment. Pushing Phil was, as they say, done purely in the interests of science.)

Cushioning. The thick layer of flab around Phil’s middle protected him from any lasting damage when he happened to be pushed off a three-foot retaining wall.

Arachnology. Perhaps the most important lesson Phil ever taught me was that black widow spiders are deadly. Actually my parents told me that, but they never would have had to if it hadn’t been for Phil. I had my trusy bug-collecting jar, and was turning over rocks. Under one I found this amazing looking spider. It was shiny and black, with a really cool red hourglass design on its belly. But it looked potentially dangerous, so I said, "Hey Phil, come here and grab this spider and put it in my bug-collecting jar."

Looking back, I realize that, as a child, I was destined to be a movie producer, or a tenured university professor, or to hold some other job in which lackeys do all the work and I get all the credit. So how did I avoid such a career? Beats me. I don’t remember much after I entered the tunnel.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


4 STAGES OF LIFE

  1. You believe in Santa Claus.

  2. You don’t believe in Santa Claus.

  3. You are Santa Claus.

  4. You look like Santa Claus.

FACTS OF LIFE

  • Raising teenagers is like nailing JELL-O to a tree.

  • There is always a lot to be thankful for, if you take the time to look. For example, I’m sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don’t hurt.

  • The best way to keep kids at home is to make a pleasant atmosphere and let the air out of their tires.

  • Families are like fudge . . . mostly sweet, with a few nuts.

  • Today’s mighty oak is just yesterday’s nut that held its ground.

  • Laughing helps. It’s like jogging on the inside.

  • Middle age is when you choose your cereal for the fiber, not for the toy.

  • My mind not only wanders; sometimes it leaves completely.

  • If you can remain calm, you just don’t have all the facts.

  • You know you’re getting old when you stoop to tie your shoes and wonder what else you can do while you’re down there.

GREAT TRUTHS ABOUT GROWING OLD

  • Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional

  • Insanity is my only means of relaxation.

  • Forget the health food. I need all the preservatives I can get.

  • You’re getting old when you get the same sensation from a rocking chair that you once got from a roller coaster.

  • Perhaps you know why women over fifty don’t have babies: They would put them down somewhere and forget where they left them.

  • One of life’s mysteries is how a two pound box of candy can make a person gain five pounds.

  • Every time I think about exercise, I lie down till the thought goes away.

  • It’s frustrating when you know all the answers, but nobody bothers to ask you the questions.

  • I finally got my head together, and my body fell apart.

  • There cannot be a crisis this week; my schedule is already full.

  • Time may be a great healer, but it’s also a lousy beautician.

  • The older you get, the tougher it is to lose weight, because by then your body and your fat are really good friends.

  • Age doesn’t always bring wisdom. Sometimes age comes alone.

  • Just when I was getting used to yesterday, along came today.

  • Sometimes I think I understand everything, then I regain consciousness.

  • Amazing! You just hang something in your closet for a while, and it shrinks two sizes.

  • It is bad to suppress laughter; it goes back down and spreads to your hips.

  • Freedom of the press means no-iron clothes.

  • Inside some of us is a thin person struggling to get out, but he or she can usually be sedated with a few pieces of chocolate cake.

  • Seen it all, done it all, can’t remember.

Fork You!

September 1, 2000

A few years ago the Scottish comedian Craig Ferguson speculated about what it would be like if, through some twist of linguistics, the word "table" were replaced with the word "scrotum". Then, apparently, old ladies would talk about buying antique scrotums while the rest of us giggled.

I hate to contradict Craig Ferguson, who is so intelligent and funny he’s almost unknown in the United States, but the fact is it’s all a matter of context. If the words "scrotum" and "table" were reversed, those who enjoy such juvenile humor, and those who are mature enough to smile appreciatively at such juvenile humor, then there would be nothing funny about what old ladies were saying. Meanwhile late night cartoon characters would be giggling and saying, "Heh heh, you said ‘table’", and news reporters would deliberately mispronounce the name of the planet "Chippendale".

Maybe it was Mark Twain who put it best. Like many of us, he couldn’t prevent himself from spewing a stream of invective after missing an easy billiard shot. His wife stormed up to him, and calmly and coolly repeated back to him every word he’d just said. Twain replied, "Well, you know the words, now you need to learn how to say them."

Or maybe I was the one who said it best. In high school, one day at lunch, I waved an eating utensil at a friend of mine and said, "Hey, fork you!" A teacher promptly grabbed me by the neck, I yelled, "What the fork?" and was suspended from school for two days. You’d think a history teacher would have appreciated a joke about the Donner party, but I guess it’s all a matter of context

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


Prison Vs. Work

IN PRISON…….You spend the majority of your time in an 8×10 cell.

AT WORK……..You spend most of your time in a 6×8 cubicle.

IN PRISON…….You get three meals a day.

AT WORK……..You get a break for 1 meal and you have to pay for it.

IN PRISON…….You get time off for good behavior.

AT WORK……..You get rewarded for good behavior with more work.

IN PRISON…….A guard locks and unlocks all the doors for you.

AT WORK……..You must carry around a security card and unlock and open all the doors yourself.

IN PRISON……..You can watch TV and play games.

AT WORK………You get fired for watching TV and playing games.

IN PRISON…….You get your own toilet.

AT WORK……..You have to share.

IN PRISON…….They allow your family and friends to visit.

AT WORK……..You cannot even speak to your family and friends.

IN PRISON…….All expenses are paid by taxpayers with no work required.

AT WORK……..You get to pay all the expenses to go to work and then they deduct taxes from you salary to pay for prisoners.

IN PRISON…….You spend most of your life looking through bars from inside wanting to get out.

AT WORK……..You spend most of your time wanting to get out and go inside bars.

IN PRISON……There are wardens who are often sadistic.

AT WORK…….They are called supervisors.

IN PRISON…….You have unlimited time to read e-mail jokes.

AT WORK……..You get fired if you get caught.

NOW GET BACK TO WORK!

Don’t Ask Me

August 25, 2000

Web gurus and other technophiles like to brag that the Internet will one day eliminate books, magazines, libraries, paper, and any form of writing utensil. In fact there are some who have even written books on the subject, which were then printed on paper. Go figure. Web gurus also claim that the Internet will eliminate, has eliminated, or is beginning to eliminate television. This explains the large number of web sites that are advertised on television, and the even larger number of web sites that are devoted to lonely people talking endlessly about their favorite television shows. In fact, the Internet is a little like television, but instead of having five-hundred channels and nothing to watch, you have an extraordinary number of web sites and nothing to read, watch, listen to, download, or use to crash your computer.

I’m not opposed to the Internet. It is an extraordinary source of information, but by the time you’ve filtered out the garbage to find what you were looking for, you might as well have gone to the library. I was pretty excited a few weeks ago, though, when I saw a web site advertised that proved to be the ultimate informational locus, a place where you could type in any question and an answer would be delivered to you immediately. (Depending on your Internet connection, "immediately" could mean immediately, or it could mean a couple of hours.) So I went there and typed in an innocuous query: "What is the greatest depth at which starfish have been found?" Several answers came back: "Click here to buy books about STARFISH HAVE BE! Click here for encyclopedia entries about STAR! Click here for encyclopedia entries about FISH! Click here for teaching resources about EN FOUND!" I tried to narrow my query: "I want information about starfish." The answers I got were even worse: "Click here for encyclopedia entries about INFORMATION AB!" When I typed in just "starfish" I was given links to starfish games, puzzles, children’s clothing, and about six dozen rock groups. So much for getting an answer. If you need me, I’ll be at the library.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


Beer Philosophies

Buy a man a beer and he wastes an hour. Teach a man to brew and he wastes a lifetime."

"You can’t be a real country unless you have beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer." Frank Zappa

"Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut." Ernest Hemmingway

"Always remember that I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me." Winston Churchill

"He was a wise man who invented beer." Plato

"Time is never wasted when you’re wasted all the time." Catherine Zandonella

"A woman drove me to drink and I didn’t even have the decency to thank her." W.C. Fields

Lady Astor to Winston Churchill: "Sir, if you were my husband, I would poison your drink." Winston Churchill’s reply: "Madam, if you were my wife, I would drink it."

"Work is the curse of the drinking class." Oscar Wilde

"When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading." Henny Youngman

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." Benjamin Franklin

"If you ever reach total enlightenment while drinking beer, I bet it makes beer shoot out of your nose." Jack Handy

"Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza." Dave Barry

"The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind." Humphrey Bogart

"People who drink "light beer" don’t like the taste of beer; they just like to pee a lot." Capital Brewery, Middleton, WI

"Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer." Dave Barry

I drink to make other people interesting." George Jean Nathan

"They who drink beer will think beer." Washington Irving

"An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools." Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

"You’re not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on." Dean Martin

Words, words, words

August 18, 2000

"Words are like money; there is nothing so useless, unless when in actual use."–Samuel Butler

The past few weeks some people have noticed that I’ve thrown some fancy words into my commentaries. Examples include "metriculate", "malodorous", "sublimate", and "testes". Last week, I meant to use the word "bilious", but forgot to. (And since I’m talking about words I wanted to use but didn’t, I’ll throw in "disingenuous" and "miscreant".)

Some of you who are lexicologically impaired contacted me to ask about "abattoir" which, yes, does mean slaughterhouse. Surprisingly no one contacted me about "tragophilic", which is a neologism that means "goat loving". Why am I doing this? It’s not for anyone’s edification–I’m pretty sure that most people who read this don’t need any supplementary tutelage, and the ones who do probably know of better sources than me. It’s actually because of a terrifying article I read about the declining number of English words in common usage.

Never mind that the lexicon of English is still larger than that of most other languages. In addition to global warming, toxic pollution in the oceans, the eastward spread of the hanta virus, the northward spread of malaria, and declining sea cucumber population in the Galapagos archipelago, the shrinking English language was one more thing to keep me from my nocturnal repose and disrupt my circadian rhythms. I had visions of George Orwell’s utopia in which people walk around quacking like ducks. Well, as long as we’re human beings we’ll need equivalents of "yes" and "no", which, in the future, will be replaced by "totally" and "whatever". Wait a minute. That’s not a utopia. That’s a Tuesday night sitcom.

I have seen the future, and we’ll all be attractive, wealthy, never have to work, and live in huge apartments. Am I looking forward to the future? Totally!

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


It may surprise you that the word "nice" does not have a nice background. In fact it comes from the Latin word nescius, which means ignorant. In addition to foolish and stupid, the word nice, in the English spoken in the Middle Ages, also meant wanton. By the 15th century it meant "coy." A hundred years later it also meant "dainty." And only in the 18th century does it finally mean agreeable.

Have a nice day, I think.

(Source: THE OXFORD DICTIONARY OF ENGLISH ETYMOLOGY)


I thought you might all get a kick out of these translations…now, these are a series of famous quotes and their authors that were translated by computer from English into different languages and then back into English…enjoy!

  1. "We do not have fun."–Victory Reigns

  2. "Speak smoothly and you take a great small stick."–Theodore Roosevelt

  3. "It reads my edges. NO NEW CONTROLS!"–Wanderer shrubs George Herbert

  4. "Doctor Livingstone, I am conceited?"–Henry Mr. Stanley

  5. "I cannot not obtain satisfaction."–The Rocks of the Rolling

  6. "Not there is commerce like the exposure commerce"–Irving Berlin

  7. "One does not worry: he is happy"–McFerrin Police officer

  8. "Flutter, flutter, small beater!/How I ask myself in which you are!"– Lewis Carroll

  9. "The wood is beautiful, dark and in depth./ But I have the promises to conserve…"–Freezing of Robert

  10. "The one that we called raised/ By any other name would smell like candy."–Guillermo Snakespeare

  11. "It was better of the periods, it was defective of the periods."– Charles of thickening

  12. "He does not count its hens before they are shocked."–Aesop

I May Already Be A Loser!

August 11, 2000

The other day I was opening a bag of chips. The bag was one of those shiny pseudo-aluminum foil bags, decorated in bold shades of green and pink that nature never intended to exist separately, much less together, when my eyes, throbbing from the pressure of a stress headache, fell on the words "You may already be a winner!" Somehow these words were like a nail driven into my already screaming forehead, and, like the masochist I deny being, I actually started to read the contest instructions. Now, I’m not big on contests. I don’t follow lotteries. Even if I had a winning lottery ticket I probably wouldn’t realize it because, while the world was biting its nails, the ticket would already have been destroyed in the laundry. Of course the fact that the chances of winning a lottery are usually 468 trillion to one takes some of the suspense out of them. I suppose if you’re really gullible and call up those psychic hotlines that claim to give out winning lottery numbers there’s some suspense, but believe me, the shock of losing will be nothing compared to your phone bill. Please, if you’re one of the people who calls those numbers, ask yourself this: If those psychics have winning lottery numbers, why are they giving them away to pathetic lowlifes who are willing to pay $5.99 a minute just to have someone to talk to? I understand there are some people who actually become addicted to these phone lines. People with this addiction will sometimes spend 24 hours or more on the phone. Do you have any idea how much 24 hours at $5.99 a minute will cost you? These people don’t–otherwise they’d spending it on something useful, like therapy. Or they’d get one of those exclusive health club memberships so they could have a team of experts give them reasons to loathe themselves they never dreamed of.

So anyway, I’ve noticed that all these contests say, "No purchase necessary". Of course you have to buy the product to get the details, unless the grocery’s security camera is turned the other way. Apparently you can write to the company and get a free game piece or whatever. I don’t know what sort of legalese forces companies to do this, but I imagine there are a couple of guys in the mailroom who sit around laughing as they stuff each return envelope with a "Sorry, try again!" piece. The thought cheers me up slightly. I like thinking that, even though there are a lot of sad, gullible people in the world, there are a few who are such pathetic losers they think of themselves as superior

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


Camping Tips

Lint from your navel makes a handy fire starter. Warning: Remove lint from navel before applying the match.

Get even with a bear who raided your food bag by kicking his favorite stump apart and eating all the ants.

A hot rock placed in your sleeping bag will keep your feet warm. A hot enchilada works almost as well, but the cheese sticks between your toes.

The best backpacks are named for national parks or mountain ranges. Steer clear of those named for landfills.

While the Swiss Army Knife has been popular for years, the Swiss Navy Knife has remained largely unheralded. Its single blade functions as a tiny canoe paddle.


Top 10 Reasons To Go To Work Naked

  1. Your boss is always yelling, "I wanna see your ass in here by 8:00!"

  2. Can take advantage of computer monitor radiation to work on your tan.

  3. Inventive way to finally meet that person in Human Resources.

  4. "I’d love to chip in, but I left my wallet in my pants."

  5. You want to see if it’s like the dream.

  6. So that you can add "Exotic Dancer" to your exaggerated resume.

  7. People stop stealing your pens after they’ve seen where you keep them.

  8. Diverts attention from the fact that you also came to work drunk.

  9. Gives "bad hair day" a whole new meaning.

  10. No one steals your chair.

Food, Glorious Food!

August 4, 2000

Whenever anything becomes popular enough, there’s a reaction against it. Newton’s Third Law Of Motion seems to apply to cultural movements, so if there’s one person on the planet who wears earrings as lapel pins, someone out there is vehemently against the wearing of earrings as lapel pins. It’s when something becomes really popular, like being a vegetarian, that the opposition becomes noticeable. A lot more people are becoming vegetarians these days, for their health, because they recently toured an abattoir, or simply because they can’t get that article about veal calves out of their heads.

So it didn’t surprise me the other day when I got a flyer in the mail from CARE–Carnivores Acting Responsibly and Ethically. What I found inside disturbed me: a picture of a carrot gruesomely sliced open, with forceps pulling its flesh back to expose…well, whatever’s in the inside of carrots. An article titled "A Vegetable Tragedy" below the picture contained the following information: "Every year millions of pounds of carrots are subjected to untested pesticides, poor watering, and left vulnerable to vermin. Then, at the peak of their lives, they’re plucked, screaming, from their peaceful subterranean existence and packed into airless plastic bags. Many more are peeled, packed into cans, and left to turn to mush, while others are pureed in a hideous process that leaves them a thick, orange liquid. Meanwhile, on so-called organic farms, carrots are starved without proper fertilizer, forced to grow alongside other vegetables in rows that stunt their natural growth, and sold at exorbitant prices. Don’t let this continue to happen! Turn away from the vegetable aisle in your grocery store! For more information, call 1-888-MMM-MEAT!"

Wow. Now I’m afraid to eat anything. Meanwhile, I got a flyer in the mail this morning from PAB–People Against Breathing. I think I’m just going to throw this one away.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


HOW TO SURVIVE A HORROR MOVIE

  • When it appears that you have killed the monster, never check to see if it’s really dead.

  • If you find that your house is built upon or near a cemetery, that was once a church that was used for black masses, had previous inhabitants who went mad or committed suicide or died in some horrible fashion, or had inhabitants who performed necrophilia or satanic practices, move away immediately.

  • Never read a book of demon summoning aloud, even as a joke.

  • Do not search the basement, especially if the power has just gone out.

  • As a general rule, don’t solve puzzles that open portals to Hell.

  • If you find a town which looks deserted, it’s probably for a reason. Take the hint and stay away.

  • Don’t fool with recombinant DNA technology unless you’re sure you know what you are doing.

  • If you’re in a spaceship, make sure the escape module can hold the entire crew. If it can’t, take it and leave before anything happens.

  • Do not stockpile large amounts of weaponry in your basement. They’ll either be useless against the monster, or he’ll get there before you do.

  • If you’re running from the monster, expect to trip or fall down at least twice, more if you are of the female persuasion. Also note that, despite the fact that you are running and the monster is merely shambling along, it’s still moving fast enough to catch up with you. Note: Many movie monsters may be unused to confrontation. Despite the fact that the monster may have killed all your friends, remember that it caught them by surprise. As long as you know where the monster is, you have a chance.

  • Do not keep all your sharpened kitchen knifes in one of those wooden block thingies on your worksurface.

  • When you’re searching a house because you think there’s something dangerous there, for God’s sake turn the bloody lights on!

  • If the lights are bloody, do not continue searching the house. Leave immediately.

  • Never back out of one room into another without looking. It’s always behind you.

  • Never, ever, ever turn off the paved road onto a gravel or dirt road.

  • Always make sure that your car has a fresh battery so it will start immediately in times of crisis.

  • Don’t count on your car to start even if it does have a fresh battery. Have some alternate form of transportation (such as a military helicopter) ready.

  • Never say that you’ll be right back because you won’t.

  • If anything other than water (blood, thick goo of any color)comes out of a faucet, do not call a plumber. Leave the house immediately.

  • If, looking in a mirror, you see a figure behind you that you don’t see upon turning around, you see a different room than the one you are in, you see a figure other than yourself looking back, or your reflection tells you to get out before it is too late, proceed to the nearest exit with all speed.

  • If you open a door and the room you see is not the room that should be there, do not explore it. In fact, even if you close the door and see the correct room after re-opening it, vacate the house.

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