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The Truth Is Out There. WAY Out There.

July 14, 2000

For those of you without basic cable, or who may simply be unfamiliar with the term, cryptozoologists are scientists who search for animals whose existence is disputed, such as the Himalayan yetis or the New England mothmen. The term combines "zoology", which is Greek for "study of life", and "crypto", which is Greek for "load of crap".

Whether you believe ’em or not, you have to admire cryptozoologists. These are, mostly, intelligent, dedicated people, willing to sacrifice money, reputations, and even friends in order to prove that the evidence of Bigfoot’s existence is "inconclusive." These are people whose careers consist of being featured in tongue-in-cheek documentaries on basic cable (and PBS in its trashier moments). And in some cases these are people who are willing to ignore all scientific evidence and instead take at face value the unverifiable report of a couple of drunk fishermen.

Admittedly, cryptozoologists were responsible for finding the Vietnamese pseudo-oryx, but they haven’t gotten a clear picture of a Jersey Devil, found a Patagonian ogopogo skeleton, or gotten Champy to come up for a big hunk of fishbait and a photo op. They haven’t even figured out how the vicious, tragophilic chupacabra, indigenous to Central American folklore, made it all the way to Moscow, although some suspect it may have been disguised as a first-class airline passenger.

Admittedly, some of these scientists do work at MIT, one of the world’s most prestigious institutions, whose tuition rates are so high partly because it lets cryptozoologists "borrow" (or "destroy") equipment. And those documentaries can be pretty interesting, especially when the scientists are one day away from incontrovertible proof that a giant reptile is living in a cold Northern lake that’s barely able to sustain a small population of minnows, or when the brontosaurus is only a half mile away. Of course that’s when the funding runs out. Even the most dedicated scientist can’t be bothered to walk a half mile without funding. Then it’s time to pack up the broken equipment and head back to MIT to work on other projects, such as a camera that doesn’t jiggle wildly and underexpose everything.

Cryptozoologists are always secure in the knowledge that, next year, they’ll be able to return to the same spot with even more valuable equipment, which they’ll unfortunately drive over in the parking lot.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


The following concerns a question in a physics degree exam at the University of Copenhagen:

"Describe how to determine the height of a skyscraper with a barometer."

One student replied:

"You tie a long piece of string to the neck of the barometer, then lower the barometer from the roof of the skyscraper to the ground. The length of the string plus the length of the barometer will equal the height of the building."

This highly original answer so incensed the examiner that the student was failed. The student appealed on the grounds that his answer was indisputably correct, and the university appointed an independent arbiter to decide the case. The arbiter judged that the answer was indeed correct, but did not display any noticeable knowledge of physics. To resolve the problem it was decided to call the student in and allow him six minutes in which to provide a verbal answer which showed at least a minimal familiarity with the basic principles of physics.

For five minutes the student sat in silence, forehead creased in thought.

The arbiter reminded him that time was running out, to which the student replied that he had several extremely relevant answers, but couldn’t make up his mind which to use.

On being advised to hurry up the student replied as follows:

"Firstly, you could take the barometer up to the roof of the skyscraper, drop it over the edge, and measure the time it takes to reach the ground. The height of the building can then be worked out from the formula H = 0.5g x t squared. But bad luck on the barometer."

"Or if the sun is shining you could measure the height of the barometer, then set it on end and measure the length of its shadow. Then you measure the length of the skyscraper’s shadow, and thereafter it is a simple matter of proportional arithmetic to work out the height of the skyscraper."

"But if you wanted to be highly scientific about it, you could tie a short piece of string to the barometer and swing it like a pendulum, first at ground level and then on the roof of the skyscraper. The height is worked out by the difference in the gravitational restoring force T=2 pi sqroot (l / g)."

"Or if the skyscraper has an outside emergency staircase, it would be easier to walk up it and mark off the height of the skyscraper in barometer lengths, then add them up."

"If you merely wanted to be boring and orthodox about it, of course, you could use the barometer to measure the air pressure on the roof of the skyscraper and on the ground, and convert the difference in millibars into feet to give the height of the building."

"But since we are constantly being exhorted to exercise independence of mind and apply scientific methods, undoubtedly the best way would be to knock on the janitor’s door and say to him ‘If you would like a nice new barometer, I will give you this one if you tell me the height of this skyscraper’."

The student was Niels Bohr, the only person from Denmark to win the Nobel prize for Physics.

Call me a cab

July 7, 2000

Recently I had the opportunity to ride on Nashville’s buses. On one of my trips, I sat next to a man who called himself an "assiduous mendicant", and explained that his primary occupation was "surveying alternative sleeping arrangements." In exchange for some spare change, which he assured me would go toward his 100 proof medication, he gave me some advice about riding the buses. I’ll share that advice with you–for free–because buses everywhere are exactly the same.

  • Buses don’t stop in residential areas (such as suburbs). Buses are public transportation, and the public doesn’t live in residential areas.

  • Don’t bother getting an early start. If the bus schedule says the first bus comes at 7:05 and the second bus comes at 7:19, go ahead and sleep a few extra minutes. If you go the stop and wait for the 7:05 bus, you’ll still end up taking the 7:19 bus. Actually the 7:19 bus IS the 7:05 bus. No one’s really sure what happens to the 7:19 bus, and anyone dumb enough to sit around wondering is going to miss the 7:34 bus.

  • No matter which side of the street you’re on, there will be more bus stops on the other side. Chances are the other side of the street will have stops every eight feet. You’ll have to walk two miles to find one.

  • When you see the bus you want, step directly in front of it. Standing at the bus stop is not sufficient. But be careful: buses are the only vehicles on the road that will stop for pedestrians, because they’re in no hurry to get anywhere.

  • Modern buses have soft seats covered with dark fabric. The fabric is dark so you won’t notice that they’re wet.

  • You don’t want to know why the seats are wet.

  • Next to every third seat will be a button or cord or some other device that’s supposed to tell the driver you’re ready to get off. On modern buses it’s designed to look exactly like part of the wall. This is because the driver doesn’t care that you’re ready to get off. Press the button, pull the cord, or punch the wall three or four times, then get ready to jump off at the next stoplight.

  • No matter where you get off it will be at least one mile from where you’re actually going. You’ll also be on the wrong side of the street.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


[Now that the 90’s are behind us…]
23 SIGNS THAT YOU’VE HAD TOO MUCH OF THE 90’s —

  1. You just tried to enter your password on the microwave.

  2. You now think of three expressos as "getting wasted."

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

  4. You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of three.

  5. You call your son’s beeper to let him know it’s time to eat. He e-mails you back from his bedroom, "What’s for dinner?"

  6. Your daughter sells Girl Scout Cookies via her web site.

  7. 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.

  8. You didn’t give your valentine a card this year, but you posted one for your e-mail buddies via a web page.

  9. Your kids just bought a CD of all the records your college roommate used to play.

  10. You read the label on chicken soup to see if it contains echinacea.

  11. You check your blow-dryer to see if it’s Y2K compliant.12.Your grandmother clogs up your e-mail, asking you to send her a JPEG file of your newborn so she can create a screen saver.

  12. You pull up in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if anyone’s home.

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

  14. You buy a computer. A week later it is out of date and sells for half the price.

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

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

  17. Your reason for not staying in touch with family; they do not have e-mail.

  18. You consider second-day air delivery painfully slow.

  19. Your dining room table is now your flat filing cabinet.

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

  21. You hear most of your jokes via e-mail instead of in person.

  22. You’re reading this.


SOUTHERN SAYINGS…..

  1. "Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit."

  2. "It’s been hotter’n a goat’s butt in a pepper patch."

  3. "He fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down."

  4. "Have a cup of coffee, it’s already been ‘saucered and blowed.’"

  5. "She’s so stuck up, she’d drown in a rainstorm."

  6. "It’s so dry, the trees are bribing the dogs."

  7. "My cow died last night so I don’t need your bull."

  8. "Don’t pee down my back and tell me it’s raining."

  9. "He’s as country as cornflakes."

  10. "This is gooder’n grits."

  11. "Busier than a cat covering crap on a marble floor."

  12. "If things get any better, I may have to hire someone to help me enjoy it."


NOTICE TO NORTHERNERS MOVING SOUTH

The following is a pre-approved posting whose purpose is to offer insight and advice to Northerners moving South.

  1. Save all manner of bacon grease. You will be instructed on how to use it shortly.

  2. Just because you can drive on snow and ice does not mean Southerners can. Stay home the two days of the year it snows.

  3. If you do run your car into a ditch, don’t panic. Four men in the cab of a four-wheel pick-up with a 12-pack of beer and a tow chain will be along shortly. Don’t try to help them. Just stay out of their way. This is what they live for.

  4. You can ask Southerners for directions, but unless you already know the positions of key hills, trees and rocks, you’re better off trying to find it yourself.

  5. Get used to hearing, "You ain’t from around here, are you?"

  6. Don’t be worried that you don’t understand anyone. They don’t understand you, either.

  7. The first Southern expression to creep into a transplanted Northerner’s vocabulary is the adjective "big ol," as in "big ol truck," or "big ol boy."

  8. As you are cursing the person driving 15 mph in a 55-mph zone, directly in the middle of the road, remember: ALL Southern folks learned to drive on a John Deere, and this is the proper speed and lane position for that vehicle.

  9. If you hear a Southerner exclaim, "Hey, y’all, watch this!" Stay out of his way. These are likely the last words he will ever say, or worse still, that you will ever hear.

  10. Most Southerners do not use turn signals; they ignore those who do. In fact, if you see a signal blinking on a car with a Southern license plate, you may rest assured that it was already turned on when the car was purchased.

  11. If it can’t be fried in bacon grease, it ain’t worth cooking, let alone eating.

  12. The wardrobe you always brought out in September can wait until December.

  13. If there is the prediction of the slightest chance of even the most minuscule accumulation of snow, your presence is required at the local grocery store. It does not matter if you need anything from the store. It is just something you’re supposed to do.

  14. Satellite dishes are very popular in the South. When you purchase one, it is positioned directly in front of the house. This is logical, bearing in mind that the dish cost considerably more than the house, and should, therefore, be prominently displayed.

  15. Be advised that in the South, "He needed killin’" is a valid defense.

Whose DNA Is It Anyway?

June 30, 2000

Earlier this week it was announced that the Human Genome Project was complete and had mapped human DNA. Then it was announced that the project was almost complete, and had mapped 90% of human DNA. Then it was announced that this was really just a rough draft, and it will be years before it’s really complete, or, as they put it in technical jargon, "finished". And in a final development to the story, the people originally hired to do the publicity for the human genome project are now standing on a streetcorner holding signs that say, "Will do PR work for food."

Scientists also say that when the project is finished, it will serve humankind, but not deprive us of the mystery and wonder which keeps poets busy. Scientists, of course, always bring up poets to give a human dimension to their projects. Poets respond with silence, probably because they don’t receive large research grants that would allow them to hire even incompetent publicity people. Among other expected benefits of the project, scientists hope to identify the genes that cause men to leave the toilet seat up, women to buy so many shoes, and people to think hackneyed jokes about the sexes are actually funny.

Meanwhile grade school teachers are concerned that they’ll have to start teaching their students DNA sequencing, since this is about as useful for students’ futures as making collages of the four food groups. The biggest concern among teachers is that the equipment costs will be prohibitive. The biggest concern among students is that DNA templates don’t have nearly the same humor value as frog gonads.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


If you receive an e-mail entitled "Badtimes," delete it immediately. Do not open it. Apparently this one is pretty nasty. It will not only erase everything on your hard drive, but it will also delete anything on disks within 20 feet of your computer.

It demagnetizes the stripes on ALL of your credit cards. It reprograms your ATM access code, screws up the tracking on your VCR and uses subspace field harmonics to scratch any CD’s you attempt to play.

It will re-calibrate your refrigerator’s coolness settings so all your ice cream melts and your milk curdles. It will program your phone auto dial to call only your mother-in-law’s number.

This virus will mix antifreeze into your fish tank. It will drink all your beer.(For God’s sake, people, are you listening?!?!)

It will leave dirty socks on the coffee table when you are expecting company.

It will replace your shampoo with Nair and your Nair with Rogaine, all while dating your current boy/girlfriend behind your back and billing their hotel rendezvous to your Visa card. It will cause you to run with scissors and throw things in a way that is only fun until someone loses an eye.

It will rewrite your backup files, changing all your active verbs to passive tense and incorporating undetectable misspellings which grossly change the interpretations of key sentences.

If the "Badtimes" message is opened in a Windows95/98 environment, it will leave the toilet seat up and leave your hair dryer plugged in dangerously close to a full bathtub. It will not only remove the forbidden tags from your mattresses and pillows, it will also refill your skim milk with whole milk.

**WARN AS MANY PEOPLE AS YOU CAN.**

In case you are a blonde, this IS A JOKE.

We Must Metriculate

June 23, 2000

You may have noticed that I took a few weeks off. I was actually asked to speak to the graduating class of Catalpa University, but, as I later learned, I was Number 81 on a list of 82, the first 80 being unavailable. And I made sure to tell them what wonders that did for my self-esteem when they called to tell me that Number 78 had gotten a replacement to pick up the garbage that day, and was therefore available. Rather than let it go to waste, which it would have even if I’d read it to a crowd of drooping mortarboards, I thought I’d share it with you. Here’s my speech to the graduates:

As I look out at the blank gazes of those of you who aren’t looking at your watches, I think what a great equalizer time is. Someday you and I will share a rest home, and will reminisce about what times were like before people had computer linkups installed directly in their cerebrums. We’re separated by so little, despite the fact that I’m pretty sure people are going to call you Generation Z. I’m a member of Generation X. Consider yourself lucky to be at the end of the alphabet. It will give you some distinction, unlike Generation X, which used to be known as "slackers", and is now known as corporate cannon fodder. Generation Y started up Internet companies and became fabulously wealthy. You’re not going to be fabulously wealthy. The Internet companies are either going under or sucking each other up like some deranged executive amoeba. You’re also going to be corporate cannon fodder. Your only chance for wealth is a game show, and people are already getting tired of those. I would share some words of wisdom with you, but you already know everything. Your collective knowledge is overwhelming, but don’t worry. It will decline significantly in the years to come. Therefore, I’ll share some of what you already know with your parents, who are so far removed from your myopic, corporate advertising-driven world they have no idea what’s going on.

  • Drugs are funny. I’m not advocating the use of drugs, because there’s nothing funny about a bad drug experience if you’re the one who took the drug. However, there is enormous humor value in Dave down the hall who got loaded up on LSD and spent the rest of the night thinking he was being attacked by the bathroom tiles.

  • A penny saved is worth the same as a penny thrown out the window. Even if you gather a whole pile of pennies together they’re worthless because Don, the guy at the all night grocery, won’t take a handful of pennies. Nickels are slightly more valuable, but only in quantity.

  • Regardless of where you went for Spring Break, whether it was Cancun, Tijuana, Baja, Las Vegas, Rio de Janeiro, or Boise, it was the wrong place. Attractive people having more fun than you will ever have were filmed at some other place, and the best you can do is watch it on television. But at least you can use what’s on television to make up some exciting stories about what happened to you and you can rub those in the face of your friend who spent the week volunteering at homeless shelters in Bolivia. On second thought, don’t — he or she will be your boss someday because "Once did 27 Jello-shots while dancing naked" doesn’t look good on a resume.

  • Don’t criticize people who relinquish their principles for money. Face it: you’d do the same thing.

  • Stay close to those friends who took care of you that night you drank an entire bottle of whatever it was — assuming you can remember. Someday they might work for you, and people with that kind of loyalty will make your job easy.

  • Finally, keep your sense of humor. You’ll need it when you get fired.

That’s it. So long, farewell, live long and prosper, don’t take any wooden nickels, don’t take any pennies whatsoever but leave them in the plastic thing next to the cash register, and where’s my check?

So long, goombahs!

May 19, 2000

After hours of careful consideration and brainless TV watching, I’ve finally decided to leave my present job in a library and take on a whole new career on the Mafia. Of course I did the proper amount of research first. In addition to those hours of TV, which were enough to convince me that the Mafia is glorious, fun, and not nearly as dangerous as my conversations with the FBI have suggested, I also called up my old friend Benito "The Pangolin" Brancusi (no relation to the sculptor). Mr. Brancusi and I first met in Florida when I was six years old. I was there with my family, and he was taking care of some business with some very special friends he referred to as "goons". We talked about seashells, how much fun it was playing in the surf, and the proper way to conceal a large firearm under a beach towel. I even did him a favor: I delivered an oddly shaped seashell to another man in a pinstripe suit.

Mr. Brancusi was very grateful, and said I had a real knack for "whacking people". As it turned out, though, the Mafia business isn’t what it used to be. Thanks to a series of high-profile movies, television shows, and Congressional hearings, anyone even tangentially associated with the Mafia has made enough money that there’s no reason to "whack" anybody anymore. What was once a proud and glorious business built on a system of honor, respect, and heavy weaponry, has been reduced to a group of old men in expensive suits eating linguini and reminiscing about the good old days when they might’ve been caught dead in the same room together. I begged Mr. Brancusi for a suggestion, some way I could get into the business of being able to kill people on a whim, holding small neighborhoods in fear, and building up frequent flyer miles to Italy.

"Well," he finally said after some thought. "There’s always televangelism."

Enjoy this week’s offerings–or I’ll whack you!


Words of wisdom

BEER TROUBLESHOOTING

SYMPTOM: Feet cold and wet.
FAULT: Glass being held at incorrect angle.
ACTION: Rotate glass so that open end points toward ceiling.

SYMPTOM: Feet warm and wet.
FAULT: Improper bladder control.
ACTION: Stand next to nearest dog. Complain about house training.

SYMPTOM: Beer unusually pale and tasteless.
FAULT: Glass empty.
ACTION: Get someone to buy you another beer.

SYMPTOM: Opposite wall covered with fluorescent lights.
FAULT: You have fallen over backward.
ACTION: Have yourself lashed to the bar.

SYMPTOM: Mouth contains cigarette butts.
FAULT: You have fallen forward.
ACTION: See above.

SYMPTOM: Beer tasteless, front of your shirt is wet.
FAULT: Mouth not open, or glass applied to wrong part of face.
ACTION: Retire to restroom, practice in mirror.

SYMPTOM: Floor blurred.
FAULT: You are looking through bottom of empty glass.
ACTION: Get someone to buy you another beer.

SYMPTOM: Floor moving.
FAULT: You are being carried out.
ACTION: Find out if you are being taken to another bar.

SYMPTOM: Room seems unusually dark.
FAULT: Bar has closed.
ACTION: Confirm home address with bartender.

SYMPTOM: Taxi suddenly takes on colorful aspect and textures.
FAULT: Beer consumption has exceeded personal limitations.
ACTION: Cover mouth.

SYMPTOM: Everyone looks up to you and smiles.
FAULT: You are dancing on the table.
ACTION: Fall on somebody cushy-looking.

SYMPTOM: Beer is crystal-clear.
FAULT: It’s water. Somebody is trying to sober you up.
ACTION: Punch him.

SYMPTOM: Hands hurt, nose hurts, mind unusually clear.
FAULT: You have been in a fight.
ACTION: Apologize to everyone you see, just in case it was them.

SYMPTOM: Don’t recognize anyone. Don’t recognize the room you’re in.
FAULT: You’ve wandered into the wrong party. 
ACTION: See if they have free beer.

SYMPTOM: Your singing sounds distorted.
FAULT: The beer is too weak.
ACTION: Have more beer until your voice improves.

SYMPTOM: Don’t remember the words to the song.
FAULT: Beer is just right.
ACTION: Play Air Guitar

And as it was once told to me, let us pray….

THE BEER PRAYER

Our lager,
Which art in barrels,
Hallowed be thy drink,
Thy will be drunk,
(I will be drunk),
At home as I am in the tavern.
Give us this day our foamy head,
And forgive us our spillage1s,
As we forgive those who spill against us,
and lead us not to incarceration,
But deliver us from hangovers,
For Thine is the beer,
The bitter and the lager,
Forever and ever, Barmen.

Oops.

May 12, 2000

Because I couldn’t think of a subject for this week, I’ve been reading a book about how to boost creativity. Amazingly nothing diminishes creativity more than reading about how to be more creative. I’ve just gotten to Chapter 5, Make Mistakes. That’s the theory: creative people in all fields make more mistakes than their colleagues. But what sort of mistakes do you make? The book doesn’t give much help in this regard. It just lists off examples of various mistakes that paid off. For instance, Silly Putty was discovered by mistake. So was penicillin, the chocolate chip cookie, and polyester (there’s a bad example in every group).

The problem is this is a little like telling someone that the way to make large amounts of money is to take large amounts of money and invest it. You have to be pretty brilliant and creative to begin with to turn your mistakes into something as useful as Silly Putty, and even then it’s hit or miss. You might end up with something useless like, well, Silly Putty, and that would be a problem because it’s already been invented. Alexander Graham Bell, for example, isn’t famous because he spilled acid on himself. He’s famous because he invented the telephone and became the first person in an emergency to be put on hold. For Thomas Edison, persistence paid off. He kept working at the lightbulb until he got it right. With his machine for talking to dead people, he was smart enough to realize what it was: a mistake. People remember Leonardo da Vinci for the Mona Lisa, not because he designed a flying machine that doesn’t work. (Actually, I’m not all that sure why he’s remembered for the Mona Lisa.) He’s also been credited with the invention of the submarine, another idea which didn’t come to anything.

In fact, Da Vinci may be the only person in history who’s famous for nothing BUT mistakes. Or maybe that submarine would have worked, but no one wanted to build it because they were afraid they’d meet their counterparts in the ocean. This proves that five hundred years ago people were just as moronic as they are now. Back then they believed aquatic versions of every person lived under the sea. Nowadays people believe they can become successful by making lots of mistakes. That kind of thinking led to the Love Bug virus, whose presumed creator claims it was released by mistake. Obviously his experience failed to teach him one very important lesson: Don’t come out of hiding.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


Useful Phrases

  • Thank you. We’re all refreshed and challenged by your unique point of view.
  • The fact that no one understands you doesn’t mean you’re an artist.
  • I don’t know what your problem is, but I’ll bet it’s hard to pronounce.
  • Any connection between your reality and mine is purely coincidental.
  • I have plenty of talent and vision. I just don’t give a damn.
  • I like you. You remind me of when I was young and stupid.
  • What am I? Flypaper for freaks!?
  • I’m not being rude. You’re just insignificant.
  • I’m already visualizing the duct tape over your mouth.
  • Ahhh…I see the whacked out fairy has visited us again…
  • I will always cherish the initial misconceptions I had about you.
  • It’s a thankless job, but I’ve got a lot of Karma to burn off.
  • Yes, I am an agent of Satan, but my duties are largely ceremonial.
  • No, my powers can only be used for good.
  • How about never? Is never good for you?
  • I’m really easy to get along with once you people learn to worship me.
  • You sound reasonable…Time to up my medication.
  • I’ll try being nicer if you’ll try being smarter.
  • I’m out of my mind, but feel free to leave a message…
  • I don’t work here. I’m a consultant.
  • Who me? I just wander from room to room.
  • My toys! My toys! I can’t do this job without my toys!
  • It might look like I’m doing nothing, but at the cellular level I’m really quite busy.
  • At least I have a positive attitude about my destructive habits.
  • You are validating my inherent mistrust of strangers.
  • I see you’ve set aside this special time to humiliate yourself in public.
  • Someday, we’ll look back on this, laugh nervously and change the subject.


Occasionally, airline attendants make an effort to make the in-flight safety lecture and their other announcements a bit more entertaining. Here are some real examples that have been heard and/or reported:

"There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane."

As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Washington National, a lone voice came over the loudspeaker: "Whoa, big fellas. WHOA!"

After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in Memphis, a flight attendant on a Northwest flight announced: "Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as hell everything has shifted."

"Weather at our destinations is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but we’ll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you and remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than Southwest Airlines."

"Your seat cushions can be used for flotation, and in the event of an emergency water landing, please take them with our compliments."

Once on a Southwest flight, the pilot said, "We’ve reached our cruising altitude now, and I’m turning off the seat belt sign. I’m switching to autopilot, too, so I can come back there and visit with all of you for the rest of the flight."

"Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the bag over your own mouth and nose before assisting children or adults acting like children."

"As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses."

"Last one off the plane must clean it."

Heard on Southwest Airlines just after a very hard landing in Salt Lake City. The flight attendant came on the intercom and said: "That was quite a bump and I know what ya’ll are thinking. I’m here to tell you it wasn’t the airline’s fault, and it wasn’t the pilot’s fault, it wasn’t the flight attendant’s fault. It was the asphalt!"

Another flight attendant’s comment on a less than perfect landing: "We ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal."

After a real crusher of a landing in Phoenix, the flight attendant came on with, "Ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Captain Crash and the Crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt against the gate. And once the tire smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we’ll open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal."

Part of a flight attendant’s arrival announcement: "We’d like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you’ll think of us here a US Airways."

And from the pilot during his welcome message: "We are pleased to have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight."

Gardening Is Decadent And Depraved

May 5, 2000

The other night I was in a home improvement/gardening/construction warehouse looking at different kinds of herbicides, pesticides, and omnicides. I have to respect the companies who make these chemicals because, with all the pro-environment movements, all the efforts going to save endangered areas and species, not to mention the obvious environmental damage, the diminishing biodiversity, the tons of fish that wash up on beaches daily, it takes guts to thumb your nose at all of that. These companies are saying, "Screw Nature! We’re going to cement the planet and paint it green!" Of course a few wimp out and call themselves "environmentally friendly", but, come on, if they were really environmentally friendly, they wouldn’t be very effective, would they? No, I prefer the ones that promise to kill everything within a one-acre radius, including dirt, the ones that have labels that say, "Warning: Causes Liver Damage If Looked At Directly."

But as I was strolling along the aisle, I came to the section with rodent poison. On every box was the same picture of a timid mouse in a crouching position, his little paws hanging just below his little pink nose, his eyes bright and his ears perky. He was, as much as I hate to use the word, cute. I know they carry rabies and typhoid and the plague, but how could I kill something that looks so much like the hamster I had in fifth grade? How could anyone, with the exception of psychopaths, buy that stuff with the intention of using it? That’s when it hit me: some people have nice lawns and gardens because they have an appreciation for beauty. Others are just deeply repressed serial killers whose manicured lawns mask mass graves of thousands, maybe millions of innocent victims of various species. And who can tell which is which? Mr. Griffiths with his prize-winning begonias might look innocent, but what if one of these days he flips out and buzzes the neighborhood with a crop duster? I can’t offer any answers. I’m too distracted by that lovely scene out my window of wildflowers blooming, butterflies dancing through the grass, and squirrels playing. Yep, it’s definitely time to get out the lawnmower.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


You Might Be in Education If…

  • You believe the staff room should be equipped with a Valium salt lick.

  • You find humor in other people’s stupidity.

  • You want to slap the next person who says, "must be nice to work from 8 to 3:20 and have your summers free."

  • You believe chocolate is a food group.

  • You can tell it’s a full moon without ever looking outside.

  • You believe "shallow gene pool" should have it’s own box on the report card.

  • You believe that unspeakable evils will befall you if anyone says, "Boy, the kids sure are mellow today."

  • When out in public you feel the urge to snap your fingers at a child you do not know and correct their behavior.

  • You have no time for a life from August to June.

  • Marking all A’s on report cards would make your life SO much simpler.

  • When you mention "vegetables" you’re not talking about a food group.

  • You think people should be required to get a Government permit before being allowed to reproduce.

  • You wonder how some parents ever MANAGED to reproduce.

  • You laugh uncontrollably when people refer to the staff room as the "lounge."

  • You believe in aerial spraying of Prozac.

  • You encourage an obnoxious parent to check into charter schools or home schooling.

  • You believe no one should be permitted to reproduce without having taught in an elementary setting for at least five years.

  • You’ve ever had your profession slammed by someone who would never DREAM of doing your job.

  • You’ve ever had your profession slammed by someone with no experience or knowledge in the field but who is "appointed" to be your boss.

  • You can’t have children because there’s no name you could give a child that wouldn’t bring on high blood pressure the moment you heard it uttered.

  • You know you’re in for a MAJOR project when a parent says, "I have a great idea I’d like to discuss. I think it would be such fun."

  • You think caffeine should be available to staff in IV form.

  • You smile weakly and want to choke a person when he/she says, "Oh, you must have such FUN every day. This must be like playtime for you."

  • Your personal life comes to a screeching halt at report card time.

  • You’ve had to listen to approximately 15,000 jackasses who think they’re being funny and original when they say, "Well, those who can’t do, teach!"

  • Meeting a child’s parent instantly answer the question, "Why is this kid like this?"

FREETHNKR

April 28, 2000

Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against vanity plates. The problem is there are only so many reasonable combinations that are possible. With more and more people getting vanity plates, pretty soon we’re going to start running out of good ones. The other day I saw one that said, "CRASHR". How did the guy get away with a plate like that? More to the point, why did he even bother? It would have been cheaper to go out and get a bumper sticker that said, "I accelerate for pedestrians." Or maybe he should have just gotten one that said, "Warning: Driver has no insurance." This is just a sign that peoples’ self-esteem has reached such a collective all-time low that we’ll take pride in even our worst attributes. If Hitler were alive today, he’d be driving a VW Beetle with the license plate "JUKILLR" (but not in Alabama, where that plate has already been taken).

Then there are those cute vanity plates, the ones that say things like "JNSPORSH", which are usually attached to a car that’s held together by duct tape, coathangers, and cardboard. And then there are the ones that are so bizarre I’m sure they’re bound to cause accidents because people are so busy trying to figure out what they mean. I think half the drivers with really weird vanity plates just like to look in their rearview mirror at stop lights and watch the people behind them squinting and making fish-faces. The other half probably really think "GQRLMX" is the name of their home planet, and their dilapidated sub-sub-compact is the scouting craft of an alien invasion fleet.

So far, though, the most interesting vanity plate I’ve seen is the one that says, "HACKER". Admittedly, among some computer wizards the word "hacker" means rebellious, cool, even dangerous. The reality is that ten years ago the word "hacker" meant "computer geek with too much equipment, too few friends, and not enough knowledge to get a real job". Of course times change, words take on new significance, and an innocuous term can develop profound implications. Such is the case with the word "hacker", which now means, "computer geek with too much time, not old enough to get a paying job, and wanted by the FBI". People who get such blatant license plates usually end up making them.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


If you’ve seen this before, I apologize. If you haven’t, and are fed up with ill treatment from banks and other impersonal businesses, read on ……….

ANY BANK PROBLEMS?

Letter received by a bank recently and printed in the New York Times. (Note: whether this was actually printed in the NY Times has not been confirmed, but then neither has most of what’s actually been printed in the NY Times. -CW)

Dear Bank Manager,

I am writing to thank you for bouncing the check with which I endeavored to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations some three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his presenting the check and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honor it. I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire salary, an arrangement which, I admit, has only been in place for eight years.

You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account for $50 by way of penalty for the inconvenience I caused to your bank. My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to re-think my errant financial ways. You have set me on the path of fiscal righteousness.

No more will our relationship be blighted by these unpleasant incidents for I am restructuring my affairs in 1999, taking as my model the procedures, attitudes and conduct of your very bank. I can think of no greater compliment, and I know you will be excited and proud to hear it.

To this end, please be advised about the following changes: First, I have noticed that, whereas I personally attend to your phone calls and letters, when I try to contact you I am confronted by the impersonal, ever-changing, pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has become.

From now on, I like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person. My mortgage and loan repayments will, therefore and hereafter, no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by check, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee of your branch, whom you must nominate.

You will be aware that it is an offense under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope. Please find attached an Application Contact Status which I require your chosen employee to complete. I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative.

Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Justice of the Peace and that the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof.

In due course I will issue your employee a PIN number which he/she must quote in all dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits, but, again, I have modeled it on the number of button presses required to access my account balance on your phone bank service.

As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Let me level the playing field even further by introducing you to my new telephone system, which you will notice, is very much like yours.

My Authorized Contact at your bank, the only person with whom I will have any dealings, may call me at any time and will be answered by an automated voice. By pressing buttons on the phone, he/she will be guided through an extensive set of menus:

  1. To make an appointment to see me.
  2. To query a missing repayment.
  3. To make a general complaint or inquiry.
  4. To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there; extension of living room to be communicated at the time the call is received.
  5. To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am still sleeping; extension of bedroom to be communicated at the time the call is received.
  6. To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.
  7. To transfer the call to my mobile phone in case I am not at home.
  8. To leave a message on my computer. To leave a message, a password to access my computer is required. Password will be communicated at a later date to the contact.
  9. To return to the main menu and listen carefully to options 1-8.

The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering machine. While this may on occasion involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration. This month I’ve chosen a refrain from "The Best of Woody Guthrie:" "Oh, the banks are made of marble With a guard at every door And the vaults are filled with silver That the miners sweated for." After 20 minutes of that, our mutual contact will probably know it by heart.

On a more serious note, we come to the matter of cost. As your bank has often pointed out, the ongoing drive for greater efficiency comes at a cost – a cost which you have always been quick to pass on to me. Let me repay your kindness by passing some costs back.

First, there is the matter of advertising material you send me. This I will read for a fee of $20 per 1/4 page. Inquiries from your nominated contact will be billed at $5 per minute of my time spent in response.

Any debits to my account as, for example, in the matter of the penalty for the dishonored check, will be passed back to you. My new phone service runs at 75 cents a minute (even Woody Guthrie doesn’t come free), so you would be well advised to keep your inquiries brief and to the point.

Regrettably, by again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover setting up of this new arrangement.

May I wish you a happy, if ever-so-slightly less prosperous, New Year.

Your humble client,

The Dating Scene

April 21, 2000

The other day I happened to look at a bottle of bottled water, on the off-chance that I might see something that would make me want to pay money for it, or even possibly drink it, and I noticed that it had an expiration date. Why does bottled water have an expiration date? After a certain time does it start to break down into hydrogen and oxygen? Do the minerals carried by the fresh mountain faucet that provides this water start to settle to the bottom and become toxic? Or is it simply that, because water falls, more or less, under the category of food and drugs, it has to be assigned an expiration date? Here are a few other things that you’d never expect to go bad that also get expiration dates:

Batteries. Why batteries need an expiration date is a mystery. They’re certainly not food (unless you happen to have a cadmium deficiency). Scientists have in fact conducted tests to find out what happens to batteries after their expiration date has passed, although their recording devices merely stop working. A couple of television networks are currently working on "When Good Batteries Go Bad" specials.

Beer. Beer has an expiration date but doesn’t need one because it never stays around long enough to expire. It’s not like wine which improves with age. The fresher beer is, the better it tastes. In fact, putting expiration dates on beer is simply encouraging people to drink.

Soda. Soda has the same food value as batteries. But unlike batteries, it never really goes bad. When future archaeologists are digging the remnants of our culture out of our own landfills, they’ll find vending machines and be able to enjoy the refreshing fizz and caffeine rush that is actually the only thing that gets 90% of the human race out of bed in the mornings.

Cigarettes. A lot of sweaty-faced CEOs have, while tugging their collars and stammering like defendants at the Nuremberg trials, stated that tobacco is not a drug. Despite this, cigarettes have an expiration date. Now this is a good idea. With the increasing number of non-smoking areas, the higher prices, the addition of strange and lethal chemicals to tobacco, and the generally bad press, smokers are getting pushed around a lot lately. I’m glad that something is being done to look out for them. That is, of course, unless those expiration dates actually refer to the smokers themselves.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


Gullibility Virus Spreading over the Internet!

WASHINGTON, D.C.-The Institute for the Investigation of irregular Internet Phenomena announced today that many Internet users are becoming infected by a new virus that causes them to believe without question every groundless story, legend, and dire warning that shows up in their Inbox or on their browser. The Gullibility Virus, as it is called, apparently makes people believe and forward copies of silly hoaxes relating to E-Mail viruses, get-rich-quick schemes, and conspiracy theories. "These are not just readers of tabloids or people who buy lottery tickets based on fortune cookie numbers," a spokesman said. "Most are otherwise normal people, who would laugh at the same stories if told to them by a stranger on a street corner." However, once these same people become infected with the Gullibility Virus, they believe anything they read on the Internet. "My immunity to tall tales and bizarre claims is all gone," reported one weeping victim. "I believe every warning message and sick child story my friends forward to me, even though most of the messages are anonymous." Internet users are urged to examine themselves for symptoms of the virus, which include the following:

  • the willingness to believe improbable stories without thinking
  • the urge to forward multiple copies of such stories to others
  • a lack of desire to take three minutes to check to see if a story is true

T.C. is an example of someone recently infected. He told one reporter, "I read on the Net that the major ingredient in almost all shampoos makes your hair fall out, so I’ve stopped using shampoo." When told about the Gullibility Virus, T.C. said he would stop reading e-mail, so that he would not become infected. President Clinton has been advised by the National Health Council. He has had an emergency session with former presidents Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, and Lincoln. All agreed he should not quarantine the country. This is not being reported in the major news media to avoid panic. Anyone with symptoms is urged to seek help immediately. Experts recommend that at the first feelings of gullibility, Internet users rush to their favorite search engine and look up the item tempting them to thoughtless credence. Most hoaxes, legends, and tall tales have been widely discussed and exposed by the Internet community (see, for example, the web site www.snopes.com, which dispels a lot of so-called urban legends). Many companies have internal support groups to help employees minimize the impact of this terrible virus.

*******************************************************

Forward this message to all your friends right away! Don’t think about it! This is not a chain letter! This story is true! Don’t check it out! This story is so timely, there is no date on it! This story is so important, we’re using lots of exclamation points!!! For every message you forward to some unsuspecting person, the Home for the Hopelessly Gullible will donate ten cents to itself. (If you wonder how the Home will know you are forwarding these messages all over creation, you’re obviously thinking too much, and believe Bill Gates, Disney, and President Djibouti of Farentonia will send you $5000 for helping them test their new e-mail system.)


Is the Horse really Dead?

Indian tribal wisdom says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. However, in business we often try other strategies with dead horses. See if any of these look familiar:

  • Buy a stronger whip
  • Change riders
  • Appoint a committee to study the horse
  • Move the horse to a new location
  • Provide status reports daily on the dead horse
  • Rename the dead horse
  • Create a training session to increase our ability to ride
  • Add more managers/supervisors per dead horse
  • Hire a consultant to give their opinion on dead horses
  • Promote the dead horse to a supervisory position
  • Terminate all live horses to redefine productivity
  • Arrange to visit other sites to benchmark how THEY ride dead horses
  • Provide an incentive bonus for the jockey Schedule a meeting with the dead horse to discuss his productivity problems
  • Do a cost analysis study to see if contractors can ride it cheaper
  • Hire another consultant to refute the first consultant’s opinion that the horse is really dead
  • Bring in a motivational speaker to see if you can’t get the horse to rise from the dead
  • Form a team, positioned to shift the horse’s paradigm

Finally, if all else fails,

  • Prop the horse up, put ribbons in his mane & tail, and see if you can’t find a buyer!!

One Less Thing To Worry About

April 14, 2000

The other night I happened to turn on an interview between a prominent journalist whom I’d never heard of and an apiary. Actually the journalist probably wasn’t that prominent–if he was he wouldn’t have been interviewing an apiary. He’s probably wrecked his career because from now on he’ll be known as "that apiary-interviewing guy", except to his friends and family who will continue to call him "Loser". Anyway, the topic of discussion was the dangerous African killer bees that, in the 1950’s, came to South America to escape persecution in their homeland. Because they had no natural predators, the bees flourished and, being ambitious and always on the lookout for better jobs, have been moving progressively northward where, if you believe prominent journalists, they will eventually wipe out the human population of North America.

The killer bees live in hives, are extremely aggressive, and will attack with the slightest provocation. And ever since the 1970’s, they’ve been appearing in bad movies which convinced me and anyone else who didn’t already have enough to worry about that killer bees were, with global thermonuclear war, the greatest threat to human life on the planet. Then the Soviet Union collapsed and I’ve had nothing else to be afraid of but killer bees.

Unfortunately the apiary in his interview revealed that killer bees, being tropical, can’t survive harsh winters, and, due to interbreeding, will eventually pick up the characteristic docility of native bees. The prominent journalist, disappointed that all those people who made fun of him as a child will not die horribly from multiple bee stings, then turned to the camera and assured viewers that we can still worry about radon, cholesterol, nuclear waste, explosive landfills, political destabilization in the Baltic states, Africa, parts of the Middle East, parts of the Midwest, and southern Asia, giant asteroids on collision courses with the Earth, and the remote possibility that giant starfish may one day crawl out of the ocean and kill us all.

Personally I was a lot happier with the bees.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


If the World was a Village

Version #1 (shorter version)

If we could shrink the Earth’s population to a village of precisely 100 people with all existing ratios remaining the same, it would look like this:

  • There would be 57 Asians, 21 Europeans, 14 from the Western Hemisphere (North and South) and 8 Africans.
  • 51 would be female; 49 would be male.
  • 70 would be non-white; 30 white.
  • 70 would be non-Christian; 30 Christian.
  • 50% of the entire world’s wealth would be in the hands of only 6 people and all 6 would be citizens of the United States.
  • 80 would live in substandard housing.
  • 70 would be unable to read.
  • 50 would suffer from malnutrition.
  • 1 would be near death, 1 would be near birth.
  • Only 1 would have a college education.
  • No one would own a computer.

When one considers our world from such an incredibly compressed perspective, the need for both tolerance and understanding becomes glaringly apparent….

Version #2 (longer version)

If the world were a village of 1,000 people, it would include:

  • 584 Asians
  • 124 Africans
  • 95 East and West Europeans
  • 84 Latin Americans
  • 55 Soviets (including, for the moment, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, etc.)
  • 52 North Americans
  • 6 Australians and New Zealanders

The people of the village have considerable difficulty communicating:

  • 165 people speak Mandarin (Chinese)
  • 86 English
  • 83 Hindu/Urdu
  • 64 Spanish
  • 58 Russian
  • 37 Arabic

That list accounts for the mother tongues of only half the villagers. The other half speak (in descending order of frequency) Bengali, Portuguese, Indonesian, Japanese, German, French, and 200 other languages.

In this village of 1,000 there are:

  • 329 Christians (187 Catholics, 84 Protestants, 31 Orthodox)
  • 178 Moslems
  • 167 "non-religious"
  • 132 Hindus
  • 60 Buddhists
  • 45 atheists
  • 3 Jews
  • 86 all other religions

One-third (330) of the 1,000 people in the world village are children and only 60 are over the age of 65. Half the children are immunized against preventable infectious diseases such as measles and polio. Just under half of the married women in the village have access to and use modern contraceptives.

The first year, 28 babies are born, That year, 10 people die, 3 of them for lack of food, 1 from cancer; two of the deaths are of babies born within the year. One person of the 1,000 is infected with the HIV virus; that person most likely has not yet developed a full-blown case of AIDS.

With the 28 births and 10 deaths, the population of the village in the second year is 1,018.

In this 1,000-person community, 200 people receive 75% of the income; another 200 receive only 2% of the income.

Only 70 people of the 1,000 own an automobile (although some of the 70 own more than one automobile).

About one-third have access to clean, safe drinking water.

Of the 670 adults in the village, half are illiterate.

The village has six acres of land per person, 6000 acres in all, of which: 

  • 700 acres are cropland
  • 1,400 acres are pasture
  • 1,900 acres are woodland
  • 2,000 acres are desert, tundra, pavement (and other wasteland)

The woodland is declining rapidly; the wasteland is increasing. The other land categories are roughly stable.

The village allocates 83% of its fertilizer to 40% of its cropland — that owned by the richest and best-fed 270 people. Excess fertilizer running off this land causes pollution in lakes and wells. The remaining 60 % of the land, with its 17% of the fertilizer, produces 28% of the food grains and feeds for 73% of the people. The average grain yield on that land is one-third the harvest achieved by the richer villagers.

In the village of 1,000 people, there are:

  • 5 soldiers
  • 7 teachers
  • 1 doctor
  • 3 refugees driven from home by war or drought.

The village has a total budget each year, public and private, of over $3 million — $3,000 per person if it were distributed evenly. Of the total $3 million:

  • $181,000 goes to weapons and warfare
  • $159,000 for education
  • $132,000 for health care

The village has buried beneath it enough explosive power in nuclear weapons to blow itself to smithereens many times over. These weapons are under the control of just 100 of the people. The other 900 are watching them with deep anxiety, wondering whether they can learn to get along together; and, if they do, whether they might set off the weapons anyway through inattention to technical bungling. And if they ever decide to dismantle the weapons, where in the world village would they dispose of the radioactive materials of which the weapons are made?

Taken from "If the World Were a Village" by Donella H. Meadows. The Millennium Whole Earth Catalog.

For this information and more, see the World Village Website.

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