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Deck the U-Hauls…

December 13, 1996

Well folks, it’s that time of year again, and you know what that means: decorations. I love to go out and look up and down the street at the different varieties. There are the really eager people who put theirs up the day after Halloween, when most of us are throwing out the catalogs that we’ll wish we’d saved when we see the crowds at the mall, but most of these people stick to the very subtle decorations. Usually nothing more than their tree and a few lights. Some go for the too subtle–that single string of red lights that makes their house look more like a brothel than a place of Christmas cheer. Next come the less than subtle decorators, the ones who actually fall at the other end of the decorating spectrum. These are the ones who pride themselves on adding at least one Santa and one nativity scene to their yards every year. Santa on the roof, Santa on the porch, Santa in a sleigh, Santa standing up, Santa taking a nip from his very own bottle of Christmas cheer, and in every space not occupied by a Santa, there’s a nativity scene. A stable with animals, a stable with three wise men, a stable with a star on the roof, a stable with Santa and his reindeer on the roof. And even the minute spaces aren’t left empty. No, they’re taken up with elves, reindeer, igloos, six-foot plastic candles, and blinking light displays that, by themselves, take enough electricity to power a small town. My favorite of them all, though, has been the smallest. Last year, an out-of-the-way house I see every morning on my way in to work had a nativity scene perched on the seat and handlebars of a Harley Davidson. This year, the original Christmas family occupies the back of a U-Haul trailer. Looking at the general trend of decorations, I can’t blame them for wanting to travel. Who could sleep with the cross between Christmas and Las Vegas lighting up the night next door?

Have a nice holiday everybody, and before you go, here’s a little something else. And let me remind you that Freethinker Editions may be non-returnable and non-refundable, but they’re also non-fattening and, like mail-order fruitcake, you can keep passing them around for years to come.


Dear Santa:

We’re worried about you. From your rosy red cheeks to your legendary girth to your all-night sleigh ride around the world, you may be at risk for diseases, maladies, mishaps and lawsuits that send chills through our Santa-loving hearts.

The latest warning comes from the National Rosacea Society in Barrington, Illinois. Dermatologist Dr. Jerome Litt says you have "a clear-cut case of rosacea," a skin condition that also affects millions of Americans, particularly at middle age. Unable to examine you personally, the good doctor based his finding on a well-circulated report that your "cheeks were like roses, (your) nose like a cherry."

Sadly, many observers conclude that red-skin condition comes from hitting the Christmas-punch bowl a little too hard. Sadder still, rosacea can be aggravated by holiday stress, hot chocolate and overexertion…all things you may encounter this time of year. The one bright note in Dr. Litt’s message is that certain antibiotics can help, and he advises you to see a North Pole dermatologist. But the news about your facial tint is only our latest source of concern.

A careful examination of what we know about you and your lifestyle raises a host of other trouble signs:

OBESITY: Frankly, Santa, this may be your biggest area of concern. Studies show overweight men have more than double the normal risk of heart attacks and increased chances of many other diseases. We’ve seen the pictures; we’ve noticed you in the malls. And we’ve heard that your tummy shakes "like a bowlful of jelly" when you chuckle. On this, we’ll take part of the blame. All these years, we’ve set out milk and cookies on Christmas Eve. With 102 million homes in the US alone, even if 1 in 100 homes put out two cookies and a cup of milk, that would make and overnight snack of 2 million cookies and 63,750 gallons of milk. Maybe it’s time for Mrs. Claus to get you a NordicTrack or a Thighmaster. But be sure to have the old ticker checked out before you start an exercise regimen.

PIPE SMOKING: You’ve been pictured with a pipe, and even though an apologist in The New York Times once claimed it’s only a prop, a witness who encountered you in his home said "the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath." According to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, pipe and cigar smokers have twice a nonsmoker’s risk for lung cancer, four times the risk for larynx cancer and two to three times the risk for cancers of the mouth and esophagus. Even if the pipe’s just a prop, it might be a good idea to lose it. Remember, you’re not just a saint, you’re a role model.

STRESS: Dealing with Christmas wishes from millions of kiddies could certainly put one on the emotions hot seat. And anxiety can surpass even smoking as a risk for certain heart problems. On this point, though, we have some good news: A medical news service says laughter… evidenced by your trademark "Ho, ho, ho"… one of the best stress-busters going.

SOOT: We admire your ability to slip up and down the average chimney, an opening about 12 inches by 16 inches. But creosote flakes on the chimney walls are toxic and can lead to respiratory problems. Brent Rigby of Emerald City Chimney Sweeps in Kirkland said his people never actually go into a chimney, and wear protective masks when they reach up through the fireplace to vacuum the soot.

RSI (REPETITIVE STRAIN INJURY): Cards and letters by the bagful arrive on your doorstep through regular mail, but this year we’ve noticed you’re also receiving, and answering, e-mail on at least four Internet addresses, including one based in Seattle: We applaud your move onto the information superhighway, with this caution: too much keyboard work can result in painful injuries to the hands, wrists and arms.

DEER MITES: Close, continuous contact with your trusty reindeer means if they get mites, so might you, says Dr. David DuClos, a veterinary dermatologist in Lynnwood. Watch out for itchy rashes, and keep the deer out of your bed.

FROSTBITE, HYPOTHERMIA: You usually bundle up, and that’s good. A Weather Service satellite recently showed the temperature at the North Pole was 13 below zero, and high winds are common. Exposure to such conditions can cause frostbite in minutes.

MALL THUGS: You spend a lot of time in shopping malls, so you already know things are getting a little tough out there. Try not to walk back to your sleigh at night alone.

MEMORY TROUBLE: It’s been said that you make a list, then check it twice. Just being careful, or developing a little memory problem?

SAD (SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER): This time of year, there is virtually no daylight at the North Pole, and a lack of sunlight can trigger depression in some people. Maybe a full-spectrum light would help keep you jolly.

VIRAL INFECTIONS: A young witness saw you kissing Mommy underneath the mistletoe last night. You know this is colds and flu season, don’t you?

SLEIGH ACCIDENTS: We’ve seen plenty of pictures of you in that sleigh, but never with a seat belt, and we’d sure hate to see you get hurt. By the way, when you cruise through Seattle this year, be sure to cover the load.

JET LAG: Fatigue, dizziness and insomnia are all dangers that travelers face when they cross through several times zones. And few travelers cross all 24 of them in a night, like you do.

SKYJACKERS: OK, you’ve been lucky so far, but they’re out there.

Knowing all the dangers you face makes us feel that much more fortunate that you’re still faithfully delivering the goodies to good boys and girls every Christmas. But you might want to try to reduce some of those risks before your insurance company decides to boost your rates. Which reminds us: You DO have insurance, don’t you?

Jack Brown
Seattle Times staff reporter


December 6, 1996

Folks, it’s been one of those weeks. Among other things, I ran out of post-it notes, my computer crashed fourteen times, I didn’t even have time to dangle strange things out of my office window this week, and to top it all off I spent one afternoon getting a tooth drilled and filled which, no matter what drugs they load you up with, is never a pleasant experience. Right when I thought I was about to go completely insane, I got an e-mail with the subject "Remember Cancun?" I’ve never been to Cancun, but according to someone named Ivor Feldman, he and I had a really wild time down there a few years ago. If he wasn’t kidding about the amount of tequila I had that weekend, then it’s possible that my lack of memory is because of brain damage but…well, who would EVER forget having a friend with a name like Ivor? Especially one who claims to have been right there with me when I wrapped bar towels around my waist and danced for pesos on a cantina table. He said he still isn’t sure where I managed to find high heels in my size at four in the morning. No amount of brain damage would ever blot that out of my memory…or could it?

Anyway, once I recovered from my confusion, I suddenly felt a lot better. Ivor and his fantastic weekend were exactly what I needed–whether it really happened or not. A wise man once said, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn professional." Thanks to Ivor, I feel like I’m practically chairman of the board now. Although it was probably a mere case of misdirected e-mail, I couldn’t resist giving back to Ivor a little of what he’d given me. I wrote back, "Thanks for the pick-me-up, Ivor. How are Gretchen and the kids?"

Hey, it’s the least one professional could do for another. Enjoy this week’s two offerings.

In France, the young assistant pastors do not live in the main rectory. That is reserved for the Pastor and his housekeeper.

One day the pastor invited his new young assistant pastor to have dinner at the rectory. While being served, the young pastor noticed how shapely and lovely the housekeeper was and down deep in his heart he wondered if there was more between the pastor and the housekeeper.

After the meal was over, the middle-aged pastor assured the young priest that everything was purely professional…that she was the housekeeper and cook and that was that.

About a week later the housekeeper came to the pastor and said, "Father, ever since the new assistant came for dinner I have not been able to find the beautiful silver gravy ladle. You don’t suppose he took it, do you?"

The Pastor said, "Well, I doubt it but I’ll write him a letter."

So he sat down and wrote, "Dear Father, I’m not saying you did take the gravy ladle and I’m not saying you did not take the gravy ladle. But the fact remains that it has been missing since you were here for dinner."

The young assistant received the letter, and he answered it as follows:

"Dear Father Pastor, I’m not saying that you do sleep with the housekeeper and I’m not saying that you do not sleep with the housekeeper. But I do know for sure that if you slept in your own bed you would find the gravy ladle."


1. Call.
2. Don’t lie.
3. Never tape any of her body parts together.
4. If guys’ night out is going to be fun, invite the girls.
5. If guys’ night out is going to involve strippers, remember the zoo rules: No Petting.
6. The correct answer to "Do I look fat?" is never, ever "Yes."
7. Ditto for "Is she prettier than me?"
8. Victoria’s Secret is good. Frederick’s of Hollywood is bad.
9. Ordering for her is good. Telling her what she wants is bad.
10. Being attentive is good. Stalking is bad.
11. "Honey", "Darling", and "Sweetheart" are good. "Nag","Lardass", and "Bitch" are bad.
12. Talking is good. Shouting is bad. Slapping is a felony.
13. A grunt is seldom an acceptable answer to any question.
14. None of your ex-girlfriends were ever nicer, prettier, or better in bed.
15. Her cooking is excellent.
16. That isn’t an excuse for you to avoid cooking.
17. Dishsoap is your friend.
18. Hat does not equal shower, aftershave does not equal soap, and warm does not equal clean.
19. Buying her dinner does not equal foreplay.
20. Answering "Who was that on the phone?" with "Nobody" is never going to end that conversation.
21. Ditto for "Whose lipstick is this?"
22. Two words: clean socks.
23. Believe it or not, you’re probably not more attractive when you’re drunk.
24. Burping is not sexy.
25. You’re wrong.
26. You’re sorry.
27. She is probably less impressed by your discourse on your cool car than you think she is.
28. Ditto for your discourse on football.
29. Ditto for your ability to jump up and hit any awning in a single bound.
30. "Will you marry me?" is good. "Let’s shack up together" is bad.
31. Don’t assume PMS is the cause for every bad mood.
32. Don’t assume PMS doesn’t exist.
33. No means No. Yes means Yes. Silence could mean anything she feel like at that particular moment in time, and it could change without notice.
34. "But, we kiss…" is not justification for using her toothbrush. You don’t clean plaque with your tongue.
35. Never let her walk anywhere alone after 11 p.m.
36. Chivalry and feminism are NOT mutually exclusive.
37. Pick her up at the airport. Don’t whine about it, just do it.
38. If you want to break up with her, break up with her. Don’t act like a complete jerk until she does it for you.
39. Don’t tell her you love her if you don’t.
40. Tell her you love her if you do. Often.
41. Always, always suck up to her brother.
42. Think boxers.
43. Silk boxers.
44. Remember Valentine’s Day, and any cheesy "anniversary" she so-names.
45. Don’t try to change the way she dresses.
46. Her haircut is never bad.
47. Don’t let your friends pick on her.
48. Don’t bad-mouth her family/friends/job — even if she does.
49. Listen.
50. The rules are never fair. Accept this without question. The fact that she has to go through labor while you sit in the waiting room on your ass smoking cigars isn’t fair either, and it balances everything.

A Weather Report

November 27, 1996

Look for clear skies in the morning, high of about eighty degrees, and the monsoon rains beginning at 2:30PM. And if you live in the Northern hemisphere…

Well, folks, it’s nearly that time. Aunt Vita began warming up the deep fat fryer early this morning, and all of us are, I’m sure, looking forward to a well-deserved vacation. All of us, that is, except for the Canadians, who celebrated earlier in the year, which probably makes their Christmas shopping a lot easier. And then there are my operatives in Sri Lanka, who don’t have a major holiday until February… Now that I’ve successfully led my train of thought so far around the bend that there’s no hope of ever getting it back, let me just say have a happy Thanksgiving, and hope that none of the kids below are cooking at your house.

A Thanksgiving Cookbook

by Mrs. Geraghty’s Kindergarten Class

NOTE: Mrs. Geraghty will not be reponsible for medical bills resulting from use of her cookbook

Ivette – Banana Pie:
You buy some bananas and crust. Then you mash them up and put them in the pie. Then you eat it.

Russell – Turkey
You cut the turkey up and put it in the oven for ten minutes and 300 degrees. You put gravy on it and eat it.

Geremy – Turkey
You buy the turkey and take the paper off. Then you put it in the refrigerator and take it back out and cut it with a knife and make sure all the wires are out and take out the neck and heart. Then you put it in a big pan and cook it for half an hour at 80 degrees. Then you invite people over and eat.

Andrew – Pizza
Buy some dough, some cheese and pepperoni. Then you cook it for 10 hours at 5 degrees. Then you eat it.

Shelby – Applesauce
Go to the store and buy some apples, and then you squish them up. Then you put them in a jar that says, "Applesauce". Then you eat it.

Meghan H. – Turkey
You cut it into 16 pieces and then you leave it in the oven for 15 minutes and 4 degrees. you take it out and let it cool and then after 5 minutes, then you eat it.

Danny – Turkey
You put some salt on it to make it taste good. Then you put it in the oven. Then you cook it for an hour at 5 degrees. Then you eat it.

Brandon – Turkey
First you buy it at Fred Meyer. Then you cut it up and cook it for 15 hours at 200 degrees. Then you take it out and eat it.

Megan K – Chicken
You put it in the oven for 25 minutes and 25 degrees and put gravy on it and eat it.

Christa – Cookies
Buy some dough and smash it and cut them out. Then put them in the oven for 2 hours at 100 degrees. Then take them out and dry them off. Then it’s time to eat them.

Irene – Turkey
Put it on a plate and put it in the oven with gravy. You cook it for 1 minute and for 100 degrees. Then it’s all cooked. Your mom or dad cuts it and then eat.

Moriah – Turkey
First you cut the bones out. Then you put it in the oven for 10 hours at 600 degrees. Then you put it on the table and eat it.

Vincent – Turkey
You cut and put sauce on it. Then you cook it for 18 minutes at 19 degrees. Then you eat it with stuffing.

Jordyn – Turkey
First you have to cut it up and put it on a plate in the oven for 9 minutes and 18 degrees. Then you dig it out of the oven and eat it.

Grace – Turkey
First you add some salt. Then you put it in a bowl. Then you put brown sugar on it. Then you mix it all together with a spoon and then you add some milk and mix it again. And then you put it in a pan. Then you put it in the oven for 15 minutes and 16 degrees. Then you take it out of the oven and then you eat it.

Alan – Turkey
First you shoot it and then you cut it. And then you put it in the oven and cook it for 10 minutes and 20 degrees. You put it on plates and then you eat it.

Jordan Salvatore- Turkey
First you put it in the oven for 15 minutes at 100 degrees. Then you cut it up and then you eat it.

Jordan Simons – Chocolate Pudding
Buy some chocolate pudding mix. Then you add the milk. Then you add the pudding mix. Then you stir it. Then you put it in the refrigerator and wait for it to get hard. Then you eat it.

Whitney – Turkey
Cut it and put it in the oven for 50 minutes at 60 degrees and then you eat it.

Jason – Chicken Pie
Put the chicken in the pot and put the salad and cheese and mustard and then you mix it all together. Then put chicken sauce and stir it all around again. Then you cook it for 5 minutes at 9 degrees. Then you eat it.

Christopher – Pumpkin Pie
First you buy a pumpkin and smash it. Then it is all done. And you cook it in the oven for 12 minutes and 4 degrees. Then you eat it.

Christine – Turkey
First you buy the turkey. Then you cook it for 5 hours and 5 degrees. Then you cut it up and you eat it.

Ashley – Chicken
Put it in the oven. Then cut it up. Then I eat it.

Jennie – Corn
My mom buys it. Then you throw it. Then you cook it. Then you eat it.

Jordan – Cranberry Pie
Put cranberry juice in it. Then you put berries in it. Then you put dough in it. Then you bake it. Then you eat it.

Adam – Pumpkin Pie
First you put pumpkin seeds in it. Put it in a pan and bake it at 5 degrees for 6 minutes. Then take it out and eat it.

Jarryd – Deer Jerky
Put it in the oven overnight at 20 degrees. Then you go hunting and bring it with you. Then you eat it.

Christina – Turkey
Get the turkey. Put it in the oven. Cook it for 43 minutes at 35 degrees. Put it on a plate, cut it up, then eat it.

Joplyn – Apple Pie
Take some apples, mash them up. Take some bread and make a pie with it. Get some dough and squish it. Shape the dough into a pie shape. Put the apples in it. Then bake it at 9 degrees for 15 minutes.

Isabelle – Spaghetti
Put those red things in it. Then put the spaghetti in it. Then cook it in the oven for 2 minutes at 8 degrees.

Bailey – Chicken
Put pepper and spices on it. Cook for one hour at 60 degrees. Then eat it.

Nicholas – White and Brown Pudding
First you read the wrapper. Get a piece of water. Stir. Then you eat it.

Sean – Turkey
Put it in the oven for 5 minutes at 55 degrees. Take it out and eat it.

Lauren – Turkey
First you find a turkey and kill it. Cut it open. Put it in a pan. Pour milk in the pan. Put a little chicken with it. Put salsa on it. Take out of pan. Put it on the board. Cut into little pieces. Put on a rack. Put in the oven for 7 minutes at 10 degrees. Take out of the oven and put eensy weensy bit of sugar on it. Put a little more salsa on it. Then you eat it.

Olivia – Corn
Get hot water and put on stove. Wait for 8 minutes. Put corn in. Then put it on a plate. Then eat.

Siera – Pumpkin Pie
Get some pumpkin and dough for the crust. Get pumpkin pie cinnamon. Cook it for 20 minutes at 10 degrees.

Kayla – Turkey
Buy it. Take it home. Then you cook it. Put it in the oven for 1 hour. Take it out of the oven. Put it on a plate. Then you eat it.

Tommy – Pumpkin
Cook the pumpkin. Then get ready to eat the pumpkin

Wai – Pumpkin Pie
Get a pumpkin. Cook it. Eat it.

All tangled up and no place to go

November 22, 1996

I have slightly longer than average hair, which in some cultures is normal, but in the South it has resulted in some rather strange reactions. The most interesting one yet occurred only a few nights ago. While walking into an establishment with my wife and another young woman, a gentleman on his way out said, presumably to the three of us, "Hellooo ladybugs." Admittedly, the gentlman in question had an excuse. He’d obviously spent the better part of the evening with his friend Jack Daniels and could barely walk straight. I knew there was no point in mentioning that all of us, myself in particular, did not deserve that name, since we lacked hard red shells, wings, and an extra pair of legs. It would also have been pointless to mention to this particular gentleman that he was in no condition to be driving, much less trying to score with insects. Instead I enjoyed the good laugh he gave me, which is more than I can do with some of the other comments I get when I explain that my name is not "Ma’am." They range from the tight-lipped "H’m!" to obsequious grovelling. And let’s not forget all the times I’ve been on my way out of a public lavatory and been informed that I was in the wrong one. I have to say that I have at least some hope for the grovellers, though. They’re on their way to learning a lesson my Aunt Molly taught me long ago: Always be polite, and remember that we all make mistakes. It’s a lesson I tried hard to remember when, at a family reunion, Aunt Molly asked me whose daughter I was.

Enjoy this week’s offering.

50 Fun Things to do in a Mall

Note: Any resemblance of names in this article to actual large powerful corporations capable of destroying mere mortal humans like sparrows in a jet turbine is, um, pure coincidence. Really.

1. Ride mechanical horses with coins fished out of the reflecting pond.
2. Try pants on backwards at the Grap. Ask the salesperson if they make your butt look big.
3. Dial 900 numbers from demonstration phones in Radio Shlock.
4. Sneeze on the sample tray at Heckory Farms and helpfully volunteer to consume its now unwanted contents.
5. At the bottom of an escalator, scream "MY SHOELACES! AAAGH!"
6. Ask the sales personnel at the music store whether inflated CD prices are in pesos or rubles.
7. Teach pet store parrots new vocabulary that makes them unsalable.
8. Stomp on ketchup packets at Burger Queen…
9. …but save a few to slurp on as snacks. Tell people that they’re "astronaut food".
10. Follow patrons of D. Balton’s around while reading aloud from Dianetics.
11. Ask mall cops for stories of World War I.
12. Ask a salesman why a particular tv is labeled black and white and insist that it’s a color set. When he disagrees, give him a strange look and say, "You mean you really can’t see it?"
13. Construct a new porch deck in the tool department of Sears.
14. Wear pancake makeup and new clothes and pose as a fashion dummy in clothes departments, occasionally screaming without warning.
15. Test mattresses in your pajamas.
16. Ask the tobaccanist if his hovercraft is full of eels.
17. If you’re patient, stare intently into a surveillance camera for an hour while rocking from side to side.
18. Sprint up the down escalator.
19. Stare at static on a display tv and challenge other shoppers whether they, too, can see the "hidden picture".
20. Ask appliance personnel if they have any tvs that play only in Spanish.
21. Make unusual requests at the Piercing Pagoda.
22. Ask a salesperson in the hardware department how well a particular saw cuts through bone.
23. At the pet store, ask if they have bulk discounts on gerbils, and whether there’s much meat on them.
24. Hula dance by the demonstration air conditioner.
25. Ask for red-tinted lenses at the optometrist.
26. Sneak up on saleswomen at the perfume counter and spray *them* with your own bottle of Eau de Swanke.
27. Rummage through the jelly bean bin at the candy store, insisting that you lost a contact lens.
28. Ask a saleswoman whether a particular shade of panties matches the color of your beard.
29. In the changing rooms, announce in a singsong voice, "I see London, I see France…"
30. Leave on the plastic string connecting a new pair of shoes, and wander around the mall taking two-inch steps.
31. Play the tuba for change.
32. Ask the Hamond organ dealer if he can play "Jesus Built My Hotrod".
33. Record belches on electronic sampling keyboards, and perform gastric versions of Jingle Bells for admiring onlookers.
34. Ask the pharmacist at the drugstore which leading cold remedy will "give you a really wicked buzz".
35. Ask the personnel at Pier 1 Imports whether they have "any giant crap made out of straw".
36. "Toast" plastic gag hot dogs in front of the fake fireplace display.
37. Collect stacks of paint brochures and hand them out as religious tracts.
38. Ask the information desk for a stroller, and someone to push you around in it.
39. Change every tv in the electronics department to a station showing "Saved by the Bell". Chant the dialogue in a robotic voice, and scream if anyone tries to switch channels on one of the sets.
40. Hang out in the waterbed section of the furniture department wearing a Navy uniform. Occasionally run around in circles yelling "scratch one flattop!"
41. Hand a stack of pants back to the changing room attendant and scornfully announce that none of them are "leakproof".
42. "Play" the demo modes of video games at the arcade. Make lots of explosion noises.
43. Stand transfixed in front of a mirror bobbing your head up and down.
44. Pay for all your purchases with two-dollar bills to provoke arguments over whether they’re real.
45. If it’s Christmas, ask the mall Santa to sit on *your* lap.
46. Answer any unattended service phones that ring in department stores and say "Domino’s."
47. Try on flea collars at the pet store while occasionally pausing to scratch yourself.
48. At the stylist, ask to have the hair on your back permed.
49. Show people your driver’s license and demand to know "whether they’ve seen this man."
50. Buy a jawbreaker from the candy store. Return fifteen minutes later, fish it out of your mouth, and demand to know why it hasn’t turned blue yet.

Travelling Circus

November 15, 1996

I was sitting with one of my operatives in Coffee By The Gallon the other day, having a cappucino mocha triple-caff latte, and he said that last week’s edition sounded rather hostile, not only to Russia, but to travel in general. I’d like to set the record straight, because nothing could be further from the truth. I had a wonderful time, and even if I’d had a lousy time, I wouldn’t give up a minute of it. Years ago, I learned to always appreciate travelling and experiencing new cultures, to make the best of whatever happens on any journey life takes us on. It was a lesson taught to me by Uncle Rupert. You may remember that Uncle Rupert failed in his attempt to drive to Europe, but there’s more to the story, and it has a very important moral lesson. During World War II, Uncle Rupert applied for military service. Although his application was stamped "Try Again Next War", he was put on a list of volunteers who would be called up in the event of a shortage of hostages. That wasn’t good enough for Rupert. He decided he’d drive to Europe and see how things were going. Like any good traveller, he made many stops along the way, and saw a lot of new and strange things. He travelled through towns that had more than one paved road. He saw his first bank which had soft, comfortable chairs he would have spent all day in if some stranger in a uniform hadn’t tried to take his rifle away. The most exciting part, he said, was seeing how potatoes grow. He used to amaze us with tales of how he could pull the stem of an ordinary looking plant and potatoes would pop right out of the ground. Then he’d have to run, because someone would start yelling at him. Still, he said, those were the best potatoes he ever had, partly because of the unusual flavor you can only get from cooking on an engine block. Finally he had to turn around and come back because he couldn’t make sense of the map he had, which was probably the same one Columbus used, but he never spoke bitterly about his journey. No, Uncle Rupert had been seized by the urge to travel. There were those who claimed he got the urge only when he accidentally shot a neighbor’s parrot, or after he happened to burn some leaves a little too close to another neighbor’s storage shed, but we know the truth. Only once did I hear him speak sadly of never making it to Europe. But, he said in his philosophical way, it was probably all for the best. With a war on, the place was probably full of foreigners.

Real Examples From Real Resumes

–Here are my qualifications for you to overlook.


–Responsibility makes me nervous.
–They insisted that all employees get to work by 8:45 every morning. Couldn’t work under those conditions.
–Was met with a string of broken promises and lies, as well as cockroaches.
–I was working for my mom until she decided to move.
–The company made me a scapegoat – just like my three previous employers.


–While I am open to the initial nature of an assignment, I am decidedly disposed that it be so oriented as to at least partially incorporate the experience enjoyed heretofore and that it be configured so as to ultimately lead to the application of more rarefied facets of financial management as the major sphere of responsibility.
–I was proud to win the Gregg Typting Award.


–Please call me after 5:30 because I am self-employed and my employer does not know I am looking for another job.
–My goal is to be a meteorologist. But since I have no training in meteorology, I suppose I should try stock brokerage.
–I procrastinate – especially when the task is unpleasant.


–Minor allergies to house cats and Mongolian sheep.


–Donating blood. 14 gallons so far.


–Education: College, August 1880-May 1984.
–Work Experience: Dealing with customers’ conflicts that arouse.
–Develop and recommend an annual operating expense fudget.
–I’m a rabid typist.
–Instrumental in ruining entire operation for a Midwest chain operation.

From Russia, with…

November 8, 1996

I heard on the news recently that Russia’s president now has a heart with more bypasses than the Santa Monica Freeway. It’s not hard for me to be sympathetic because, if I lived in Russia now, I’d probably have heart trouble too. I remember fondly my own trip there a few years ago, when I thought I was going to the Soviet Union and ended up landing in Russia instead. I consider myself lucky that I was one of the last people to see Lenin, although probably not at his best. His skin looked like fiberglass and the fringe of hair around his head was turning green. I haven’t heard what’s become of his tomb now that he’s no longer residing in it, although I still think it would make an excellent nightclub. They could even concoct some fancy mixed drinks with names like The Opium of the People, The Stalin Stormtrooper, or maybe even The Soviet Union, made from fifteen liqueurs that don’t mix…After finding out the breakfast jelly was caviar (not the nicest surprise first thing in the morning), sampling Russian cognac (three parts turpentine one part grain alcohol, with some wood varnish for color), and being asked on every corner if I wanted to buy a furry hat, I was allowed to leave via Aeroflot. Aeroflot, the Russian airline, really lives up to its name. After taking our seats, the stewardess explained that there were no seatbelts, no flotation devices, and the plane was in serious danger of breaking apart when it scraped the treeline three hundred feet in front of the runway. At least, that’s my best guess, because it was all in Russian. The English part was a pre-recorded message that was mostly static with a little bit of what sounded like words. The captain then got on the intercom and said that, now that the Laugh At The Americans sign was on, the plane would be taking off. We took off, and went to a forty-five degree angle. The plane stayed at that angle for roughly half the flight. During the other half we were at a forty-five degree angle going down. The moral of this story? Travel broadens the mind. Make sure you take plenty of aspirin.


In 1950: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is four-fifths of the price. What is his profit?

In 1960: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is four-fifths of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

In 1970 (new math): A logger exchanges a set L of lumber for a set M of money. The cardinality of set M is 100, and each element is worth $1.00. Make 100 dots representing the elements of the set M. The set C of the costs of production contains 20 fewer points than set M. Represent the set C as a subset of M, and answer the following question: What is the cardinality of the set p of profits?

In 1980: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80, and his profit is $20. Your assignment: underline the number 20.

In 1990: (outcome-based education): By cutting down beautiful forest trees, a logger makes $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? (Topic for class participation: How did the forest birds and squirrels feel?)

In 1996: By laying off 40% of its loggers, a company improves its stock price from $80 to $100. How much capital gain per share does the CEO make by exercising his stock options at $80? Assume capital gains are no longer taxed, because this encourages investment.

Trick or treat?

October 31, 1996

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Less guilt the next morning.

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


Fluthinkers Anonymous

October 25, 1996

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

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

Rejected State Mottos

The Gunshine State

Literacy Ain’t Everything

At Least We’re not Oklahoma

Gateway to Iowa

Tobacco is a Vegetable

For Sale

Land of the Big Sky, and Very Little Else

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

Lizards Make Excellent Pets

Five Million People; Fifteen Last Names

Don’t Judge us by Cleveland

Cook with Coal

Closer than North Dakota

The Educashun State

Si Hablo Ingles

Our Jesus is Better than Your Jesus

Freudian Friday

October 18, 1996

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

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

"I’m fine."

"That will be sixty dollars."

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

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

Enjoy this week’s collection of oddities:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least fifteen million people are having a birthday today.

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

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

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

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

Fetuses can get the hiccups.

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

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

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

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

Frogs must close their eyes to swallow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The elephant is the only animal that cannot jump.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corn is incapable of reproducing itself in the wild.

Wild rice is not wild. Nor is it rice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


October 11, 1996

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

Customers Do The Strangest Things
From ComputerWorld

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

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

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

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

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

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