12/31/2009

Video: Bunny Day

Today, a slight departure from my usual "Enough About You..." fare: a nature movie.

I went with the kids and a friend of theirs to Zeum in San Francisco yesterday and made this claymation pic.

12/09/2009

Things I Believe

Anything worth doing is worth doing right
away.

Measure twice, cut once.
Then have your finger reattached before trying a second cut.

Misery loves company memos.

12/07/2009

When I am King: FacerealityBook

When I am King...

Social networks will be more realistic.

For a social networking site, Facebook is vastly different from any society I’ve ever been a part of. Instead, it’s like a great big warm hug from your friends, smothering you in caresses of affirmation and "You go girl!" and "LOL!"s until you can’t breathe for all of the positive reinforcement.

A typical status update may be something like, "I really want that danish … but I shouldn’t!" followed by scores of comments like, "You deserve it!" and "Me too!" and "Go on, just one can’t hurt. Or even two! :):):)"

It’s like a magic eight ball, only the random answer generator is made up of real people, just trying to give you the answer you want.

When I am King, social networks will keep it real. There won’t just be “friends” you can add to your circle, but your circle will instead include arch-enemies, vague acquaintances, and random lookers-on. Any question or status posted to the ether will solicit real responses from people that honestly don’t give a damn. The same danish-pining post above may engender responses like "So?", "Then don’t, fatty. Now piss off." and "Skip the Danes, try the Swedes!", plus some random heavy-breathing comments. And maybe a homeless guy asking for change. That’s what a social network is all about – honest answers to life’s questions.

Now, back to work. Or should I go get a donut instead?

12/01/2009

Things I Believe

Limitation is the sincerest form of flat.

A bird in the handle is worth two in the bushel.

Today is the first word of the rest of this sentence.

11/27/2009

Holiday Tales

Thanksgiving always puts me in a thoughtful mood. Then it puts me to sleep.

This year, I'm thinking about some books I'd like to write. I'm pretty close to finished, since I've already thought of the titles:
  • Get Stuffed: An Eater’s Guide to Thanksgiving
  • One Foot in the Grave, One Leg in the Throat: Proper Turkey Eating Habits
  • Gravyboat Train: The Butterball Turkey Story
  • Feaster Famine: When the Turkey’s Gone
  • Fowl Balls: I Can’t Believe I Ate the Whole Turkey
  • Turkey Brothel: A Hard-Boiled Tail

11/25/2009

Totally Adequate: Thanksgiving Edition

Being Totally Adequate is not just a part-time responsibility; you're on all the time. This is even more true for the holidays, when events necessitate putting up with other people and impressing them all with your adequacy.

If someone invites you for Thanksgiving dinner, try to be your most Totally Adequate self:
  • Bring cheap wine. Don't take the chance that your hosts aren’t wine people and wouldn’t appreciate the thought and expense.
  • Don’t shower or dress up that day. These people invited you, not some gussied-up image of you. So just come as you are.
  • Try to dominate the conversation at the table with tales about yourself. For one thing, this removes the awkward silences as everyone tries to think of something appropriate to say. Besides, these people are probably really interested in knowing more about you or else they wouldn’t have invited you.
  • If your hosts don’t offer, ask if you can take home the leftovers. It’s usually a chore finding room in the fridge for all of it, so you’ll be helping out. Besides, you can eat well for a week on that stuff. Don’t take everything, though; leave the stuff you don’t like, with appropriate phrases like, “You can keep this – it was pretty gross.”
Be part of what you can be: Be Totally Adequate.

11/23/2009

Things I Believe About Traveling

When packing, you will only remember the next-to-last item after you have zipped your luggage.
You will remember the final item after your plane has taken off.

In Belgium, “medium rare steak” translates to “cow sushi”

11/09/2009

Public Option Options

America has been in a tizzy for the past few months over the health care debate. And who can blame us? How dare the government try to figure out how to put together a system less screwed up than the one we already have.

At the heart of the debate is the “public option.” Since this is the piece that is the most controversial, it seems worth discussing some public option options. This idea stems from a comment by Luke Burbank (I believe) on the show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, when he proposed the “Public Enemy Option”, where the band Public Enemy would make health care decisions. This is a great idea, but in the spirit of the public option, it seemed like we needed even more public options. How about:

Public options
Wall Street traders would create a hedge system of stock options on the health of each patient. Like everything good in this country, we can break it down to its capitalist essence and let the market decide whether the patient should have access to care. If traders are bullish on the patient, then chances are good that the patient could make an appointment. If the market is down on the patient, then put prices would soar and the patient, like the call options, would expire worthless.
At the very least, this system allows the family of the patient to come out alright in the end; either Pop would be treated and live or the money the family invested in puts would really pay out. It’s win-win.

Public indecency option
Conservative proponents are in favor of barring people from healthcare for anything that might be construed as lewd or disgusting. This includes any procedure that relates to sexual activity, plus anything that requires the patient to undress. For example, hangnails would be covered, but tummyaches would not.

Pubic option
This plan was an earlier, more narrow form of the previous one.

John Q Public option
Under this plan, anyone considered “average” would qualify. Applicants would be required to take a test and barely pass to qualify.
We all want the average American to have access to healthcare, but not those above or below average.
Above-average people probably have access anyway, or they can make the money they need to pay for it, or they have family money or loans they can draw on. And if not, maybe a little sickness is just what they need to pull them down a peg and make them more like the rest of us.
Meanwhile, below-average people shouldn’t have access because, well, why start improving their lot now? This is what being below-average is all about; suffering a little more than everyone else. If we start changing that fundamental right and characteristic, what else do these people have?

Heath care option
This plans has been tossed about by the environmentalists, but honestly: why even bother? Can’t the grasslands care for themselves?

11/06/2009

Little Jokes for Friday

Do people drink rice wine for old times’ Sake?

Do bootleggers make whiskey still?

Do beer guzzlers drink for what ales them? Should they take Pils instead?

10/30/2009

Tips on Being Totally Adequate

In this confusing world in which we live, where it’s always “rush-rush-rush” and “Would you like whip on that Viente?” and “You’re standing on my foot,” we need to take a step back and think about what really matters. In the end, we’re all just people trying to get along and get by. Don’t you think that if we were all kind to each other and went out of our way to help on another that this would be a better world for all of us?

But being kind and helpful takes far too much work; who has that kind of the time and energy? Plus, we’d feel silly and might be ridiculed by others, and we should always let our actions be governed by peer pressure. As the saying goes, “To appear to be wise, let your peers be your guides.”

However, it wouldn’t take a lot of effort to be more adequate. In fact, you may find that being adequate is actually more time-efficient than other approaches. We needn’t really change the way we do things at all, except that when faced with a choice of behaviors we pick the one that causes the least disruption, so that everyone can get on with their business.

Here are some tips for leading a more adequate life:

When someone does something really nice for you, like giving you a present or saving your life, be sure to look vaguely in their direction and smile slightly. No thanks is necessary, because someone close enough to you to do this for you must know how you feel.

When you are driving along, approaching an intersection where you will turn and you see someone waiting for you because they think you’re going straight instead, don’t use the turn signal. Using it would let the person know that you intend to turn and they could go ahead, but that’s just forcing them into the awkward position of trusting you to not go straight anyway and plow into them. Also, a turn signal is just one more piece of blinking data in this already information-littered world; by not turning it on, you’re letting that other person’s brain relax slightly, enjoying the time that they spend waiting for you to possibly drive past. Besides, it’s so much effort to flick the turn signal stick; save that energy for more important things, like walking to get your next cup of coffee.

When you’re approaching a doorway and someone is there holding the door open for you, don’t acknowledge them. They were just doing this to be kind, and derived full enjoyment of it from the action. It would just be awkward if you thanked them.

Don’t make cruel jokes about others behind their backs; that would be mean. But do laugh when others do so. The victim is not even present and wouldn’t know, but the person making the jokes would be hurt if you didn’t play along. Besides, they might make fun of you next time unless they think you’re one of them.

These are just examples, and can’t begin to cover the full spectrum of ways in which you could lead a more adequate life. Think of them as parables. Or as allegories, without the annoying animals. Look for their inner meaning and see how you can apply it to your daily routine, and I think you’ll find yourself becoming totally adequate.

10/26/2009

Bedtime Stories

Dylan Thomas mumbled, “I can’t remember whether I drank for six days and six nights when I was twelve or was sick for twelve days and twelve nights when I drank.” And then passed out into the guacamole. Again.

I was hanging out again with Dylan, working through the remnants of a six-pack of scotch. I was asking his opinion on reading bedtime stories to children, but was having trouble getting anything more out of him in his brief periods of consciousness than a few hiccups and a belch or two.

It’s my studied opinion that reading to kids is a horrible experience. It sounds great from the outside, of course: you get time with your child and you get to read them the classics and the books that you loved from your childhood. Plus, it’s a great excuse for climbing into bed early and avoiding tedious responsibilities around the house like unstopping the toilet in the downstairs bathroom or putting out the small electrical fire in the laundry room.

But then you encounter the reality of it: kids don’t want to hear what you want to read. You approach the situation with goals of reading Wind in the Willows, or The Hobbit, or passages from Freud, but your kids complain that they’re not enjoying your selection and hand you a Dora picture book. How compelling can it be when the girl’s best friends are a map, a backpack, and a fox that steals her stuff?

So I put it to Dylan as he lay moaning on the table, “Is it better to read anything than not read at all?”

Dylan muttered something unintelligible in Welsh with too many L’s and slumped to the floor. A brilliant man, Dylan, and a heckuva guy to have over when you wanted a game of Parcheesi and a hangover for the following week. But it was always difficult reading the his meaning. It’s the poet’s way: using words carefully to impart imagery and beauty while completely eluding comprehension.

I would rather stick to my principles and keep reading my choices of Hume, Descartes, and essays from Bloch to the kids, but then they pull out their ultimate defensive weapon: they fall asleep. So is it worth trying to educate them against their will, or should I just give up and have them enjoy their bedtime stories instead? Do I send them to bed wiser for the experience, yet crying in horror from Dante’s descriptions of Hell? Or do they go to bed happy and satisfied, knowing that once more Swiper has been defeated by the clutch timing of a knapsack?

Dylan was awake later, licking the grout on the tile floor, hoping for remnants of a fantastic vindaloo we’d had that evening, when he gave me his answer: “Do not go gentle into that Good Night Moon.”

Then he fell asleep with his face in the dog's bowl.

10/16/2009

Little Jokes for Friday

I wonder, sometimes, about death and dying. For instance:

Do undertakers re-hearse?

Do grave diggers have coffin fits?

Do dead footmen get headstones?

If a story lacks plot, is it just not grave enough?

10/09/2009

When I am King: Entitlement

When I am King...

We will all have important-sounding titles next to our names.

My kids’ school has a new principal who sends out emails to the parents every week, always making sure to sign it with his name, “Dr. Feeg Cremble.” And that’s really nice, because I don’t know about you, but I find it totally reassuring that the principle has a graduate degree. I don’t know what I’d do if he was just an ordinary guy with enough educational background to become principle. So of course I would want to know his educational qualifications with every email he sends. I may have forgotten since his last email, so it’s great that he reminds us all every time.

This use of “doctor” is typical and expected with medical doctors, of course. We want them to tell us that they are doctors so that when someone in the room gets sick, we know whom to sue for malpractice.

But that’s not the people I’m talking about – I’d like to focus on the ones with academic degrees. I mean, I’m sure that becoming a surgeon is difficult and time-consuming, but think about the poor guy that spent 5 years in grad school crashing frat parties until the university finally gave him a degree just to get rid of him? He needs just as much attention as that other profession, so it’s right that he lay claim to it as often as possible.

There are many non-medical people that I’ve met that have “Dr.” on their business cards or signatures, or that introduce themselves as Dr. SoAndSo. But I don’t feel we have enough of this in our society. I know that there must be more PhDs in education, science, and art that we need to know about. And, in fact, we should know more about everyone through their titles. Why would I just want to know someone’s name and possibly their married status when they introduce themselves, when I could know much more about their academic qualifications?

When I am King, everyone will have titles that reflect who they are, what they’ve done, and how important they feel they are in their own world.

For example, everyone should obviously list the degrees that they have achieved, such as “BFA Music,” “MS Botany, “ and “BA Women’s Studies (minor Greek, concentration Literature).”

But even that’s not enough. How do we know how good they are in their subject? Or whether we can trust them to be the person we seek out when someone’s suffering from a sudden attack of Liberal Arts Deficit Syndrome? These titles should have enough information that everyone will know everything pertinent about you, including academics as well as occupations. Think of them as short resumes attached to your name. For example:

“Gloria Grendle, PhD Nuclear Physics, Top Secret Weapons Designer”
“Becky Bristol, 11th Grade (GPA 1.7), Skanky Barfly”
“Bob Baker, Game-winning hit 8th grade little league city championship, Town Drunk”
“Jon Brown, B.A. History (GPA 2.8), M.A. Danish History (GPA 3.2), Barista”

These new titles will be so much more informative than mere names and will save us so much time wasted in actually having to talk to people. Entire conversations can be covered just in the introductions, avoiding countless hours of wasted time actually talking to people just to determine that you have nothing in common with them. Why bother getting to know people when you can use their academic qualifications to determine whether it’s worth it?

Titles: Let’s take them to the next degree.

10/07/2009

When I am Kindle

When I am King...

I'll offer my book for the Amazon Kindle.

Due to the overwhelming request of ones of readers, I've made the just-selling book When I am King... available for the Amazon Kindle. Now you can enjoy the experience of reading material in digital form that was originally available in digital form then published in hardcopy. Perhaps next year we will offer another hardcopy version based on the Kindle edition.

The Kindle version is unique in its own way, offering fancy "linked" entries on the Contents page, in addition to a lower price ($3.95) than the tree-based version of the book (now only $6.95). Collectors will certainly want to acquire both versions, probably multiple times.

10/06/2009

Little Jokes for Tuesday

When your feet are asleep, are they comatoes?

If you want them awake, should you sock them?

When they wake up, are they completely heeled?

10/02/2009

Little Joke for Friday

If a group of men can be called “brethren”, does that make a group of women a “sistern”? Or would that just be a pisser?

9/26/2009

When I am King: O, Besity!

When I am King...

Children will no longer be fed.

Ours is truly a growth society - we’re growing fat. Clothing sizes are getting larger, our cars have become monstrously huge just to fit us, and entire industries have sprung up in the medical community to help us get back to a reasonable size so that we can do it all again.

The only things that haven’t compensated for our girth growth are airplane seats, which are still built for the body of an average 8 year old anorexic. Of course, this dynamic is intentional, helping to make air travel the wonderful experience that it is.

Last year, Disney World had to fix up their “It’s a Small World” ride. For one thing, they had to make the boats more buoyant to keep our massive bodies afloat. Also, they plan to rename the ride, with the top contenders being:
  • It’s a Big, Fat World
  • It’s Not a Very Small World Anymore
  • It’s a Small World with Huge-Ass People
and
  • Caution: Boats May Sink

There are many theories on our growth curve. Is it the sugary drinks we suck down like we’re racing to put out an intestinal forest fire? Is it the fast food that we supersize just in case we don’t get another meal this decade? Is it the food itself, so filled with preservatives that we’re being mummified in life? Is that we buy so much food at these warehouse stores that we have to eat larger portions just as a means of storing it in our houses? Or are we parents stuffing our children at an early age, responding to some obsolete and disturbing instinct of fattening up our domestic animals for consumption?

My ministry has been studying the problem and has come to the following conclusion: we need look no further than our children. That's a good thing, because they're getting so huge we can't see past the little porkers.

Any parents out there know that when your kid is involved in activity, any activity, from a sport to a scouting group to a book club, there has to be snacks. Some parent is involved in coming up with the snack schedule, and then all of the parents end up bringing snacks on their turn. Donuts, juice boxes, cookies, candy, some token fruit which usually goes uneaten, chips, pizza… there’s always food at these things. And if you ever suggest actually not bringing food, the other parents stare at you in horror. “They’ll need a snack! They’ve been in school for two whole hours after lunch!” Never mind that the activity ends right before dinner time and you’ve just stuffed them with enough junk to fill a piƱata; they must be fed.

So the kids go on with their activities, eating more all the time, getting them into a habit of gorging themselves that will have them crushing their bathroom scales in adulthood.

When I am King, there will be no more snacktivities. In fact, there will be no more food for children at all. We will keep them on a strict IV-drip diet to ensure that they get just enough nutrients to survive (ours is not a cruel regime). We must reverse the fattening trend and get our young ‘uns back down to where they should be. We will give them a good place to start from, so that they can have plenty of time to grow into the obese adults that we know they’re capable of becoming.

And now, I’ll leave you with a song. This is one of the jingles being considered for Disney’s revamped ride:
It’s a world of food, and a world of drink,
It’s a world of eating, till we can’t think.
There’s so much that we eat
That it’s time we agreed
It’s a fat world after all.

Chorus:
It’s a fat world after all.
It’s a fat world after all.
It’s a fat world after all.
It’s a fat, fat world.

There are happy meals that we supersize,
And those chicken parts taste so good with large fries.
Now it’s harder to hide
‘Cause our butts are so wide
It’s a fat world after all.

Chorus:
It’s a fat world after all.
It’s a fat world after all.
It’s a fat world after all.
It’s a fat, fat world.

9/24/2009

Little Jokes for Thursday

I wonder:
Do horses have stable relationships?

Are roosters hen-pecked?

Do pigs have pen pals?

9/17/2009

Corporate Survival Guide: Doorway to Success

“Power,” as a great general may have said once, “is gained not through great works, but by great rumors.” It doesn’t matter what you actually do, but rather what others think you might have done. This is as true on the corporate battlefield as it is in real life, particularly in the mad, scheming power-grab that is your everyday office life.

One of the easiest ways to generate buzz is through visible interaction with your management chain. I call it: “The Doorway to Success.”

Try this: walk over to your boss’s office and say loudly, just outside the office, “I’ve got to talk to you, now!” Then quickly enter the office and shut the door audibly. Then ask your boss something innocuous, like “How was your weekend?” or “Nice shoes! Where’d you get them?” In a pinch, you can also try, “Whoops, forgot what I was was going to say! Don’t you hate it when that happens?”

Once the conversation is over, open the door and move quickly back to your desk with an intense look of constipation on your face. Pretend that there’s an alien trying to bust out of your chest, and you’re keeping it trapped inside through sheer willpower.

After you do this a couple of times, you’ll notice heads of coworkers popping above the nearby cube walls like prairie dogs at dinnertime; everyone wants to know what’s going on. Of course, there is nothing happening - it was all pretense. But that’s my point: it’s the same thing.

There are two impressions that you’ve created in your coworkers through this action:
  • Something big is going down: People don’t usually get worked up in the office except when the coffee maker is broken or a toilet overflows. Seeing someone agitated and talking to management about the issue must mean that something is happening that’s pretty important.
  • You know something about it: This is the most important element. It’s less important what you know than the fact that you know it and they don’t. It is critical to follow-through on this with your coworkers. Some will wander by and hint subtly that they’d like to know what’s going on, but you need to avoid dropping any hints, while still looking that you could. Some will just come out and ask you what you know. Feel free to tell these people that you can’t say anything, and that you’re surprised they don’t know. It’s always good to take people down a peg when you can, because your importance in the hierarchy is always relative to those around you.
Of course, this tactic works best when your boss has an office. Stomping loudly into the cube and asking how their tennis game is coming along doesn’t work nearly as well.

If your manager has a cube, here are a couple of alternatives to think about:
  • Find a door: Tell the boss in their cube that you need to talk, but not here. Then bring them through your department, taking a circuitous route past as many coworkers as possible, continuing to repeat things like, “It’s really important” and “We need a private place to talk about this” and maybe some tidbits like, “I don’t know how The Board is going to deal with this.” Finally, drag the boss into an unoccupied office or meeting room and proceed as above. (Bathroom stalls generally don’t work as well, as they tend to give the conversation an entirely different flavor and your boss may try to call security).
  • Find someone else: Frankly, if your boss has a cube, you should probably find someone more important. Offices are a mark of distinction on the corporate battlefield, like promotions or executives knowing your name (or at least guessing at it). The subtle message from the executives to the cube-bearing manager is, “You’re not important enough to have private conversations.” So why are you wasting your time talking to them? Find someone that is that important; you should pretend to be in the know with people that actually are.
Finally, be sure not to overplay this strategy. People will only buy it if they think you are getting secret information at reasonable intervals. Also, your manager may start wondering why you keep making such a big deal of asking them what they had for lunch, or how they take their coffee, or how to request lumbar support for your office chair. I’d suggest limiting the “Doorway to Success” technique to no more than ten times per day.

9/12/2009

Death Rattle & Hum

The calendar’s days were numbered.
The mantle clock’s time was up.
The condiments all were dried out and gone
Except one, which soon would ketchup.

The short man was not very long for this world;
His house was one big deathtrap.
The welcome mat lay at death’s doorway
And his dog drank just one final lap.

The man thought he’d live forever,
That his time on this Earth would be long.
But he failed and he passed away one day;
It turns out he was just plain dead wrong.

9/08/2009

Corporate Survival Guide: Add Spies to Life

Success on the corporate battlefield is all about information: what you know and how you use it. But there are always two kinds of information: the data that you have and, and, and that other stuff.

On the battlefield of corporate life, it is inevitable that your enemies will discover facts about you that you would rather be kept private. For example, they may have pictures from your trip to Vegas when you woke up with a massive hangover and three young goats. Or they may know about the torrid affair with Smith from HR. Or perhaps they discovered the pack of lies you call your resume. Or maybe they witnessed the simple misunderstanding between you and the other internal candidate for the Supervisor position, where you beat them to death with your hole punch.

Nobody leads a perfect life, especially warriors bent on success upon the battlefield. As the book “Flawless Fellows Finish Fifteenth” claims, good people have bad careers.

So what do you do about information leaks? How can you protect your career while also doing what you must to get ahead?

One solution is to simply lead a better life.

But seriously, you need to learn to control the damage. There are two approaches that I recommend to today’s corporate warrior: Counter Espionage and Spin.

Spy vs. Spy

Ever since Brutus got the point across to Julius Caesar that a little more intel on his friends would have been helpful, unscrupulous tyrants have understood that spy networks are a critical part of getting and keeping power. How else would King Arthur have known of his knights’ lancing a lot with his wife? Or how else could Neville Chamberlain have successfully achieved peace for our time without secret intelligence that Hitler merely wanted a vacation home in Czechoslovakia? And how could any parent possibly trust their teenage kid without paying their friends to nark on them?

Spying is a critical and necessary part of power. And it’s fun, to boot!

What you need to do is get the same kind of information on your coworkers that they could get on you. But you have to go further. Remember: you don’t just want to maintain parity with them like some awkward Cold War. No, you want to crush them like carpet-bombing an afternoon tea party. This means that you have to act first and act fast. Spy on them, find out things they don’t want publicized, and fill your secret files.

On rare occasion, you will come across people that have nothing to hide. Perhaps they are actually happily married, don’t sleep around with people at work, and haven’t even committed a felony. However unlikely, you must be prepared to deal with this situation, either by forcing the situation (which usually involves getting them drunk and making the compromising situations happen), or by just making stuff up. Fabrication is perfectly fine, as long as it would be damaging in the extreme cannot be proven to be false. Politicians have built entire careers on this single tactic.

Now that you have the information, you can decide what to do with it. If you have the upper hand because they do not yet have anything on you, then you may choose to run with it. You could take the information to them and squeeze them hard for such things as promotions, recommendations, or permanent cutsies in the cafeteria line. Or, depending on how dangerous they are to you in the chain of command, you may want to leak the information now and be rid of them. One less person on the payroll is one less body in the promotion and bonus shark tank.

Spin

The other approach to secrets is to use yours to your advantage. Depending on the information that someone has on you, you may choose to simply message it appropriately. For example, that affair with the person in HR could be used to paint you as someone who is willing to sleep your way to the top. This trait could be seen by your management as a benefit, depending on how blind and desperate they are.


Regardless of which approach you take, start building your ammunition dump now. If information is power, then secret information is superpower, like X-Ray vision or running really fast in a spandex suit. Get that information and crush your enemies, for the good of humanity, or at least your career.

8/31/2009

When I am King: Fit for a King

When I am King...

We will all be less active and more fit.

I’ve written elsewhere about plans to ensure better exercise and health. And these are important steps, no doubt, because “a fit kingdom is a kingdom that fits” (we’re currently trademarking that phrase).

But I’ve been thinking about it and I’ve come to a new realization that by doing less, we can actually do more. All this exercise, and working out, and sweating, and getting in shape, and trying to stay in shape… - where does it get us? We have no time for anything else in our busy lives, like watching more TV. And to make it worse, we have to work out harder and harder just to try to get the same kind of benefit that used to come from far less activity.

But by careful observation of inactive people, I realized that these slugs have found the answer. These people get very little exercise as a rule. When they finally do something physical, they get a great workout from very little activity. Just walking a hundred yards causes more sweat and heavy breathing than a high school dance.

Think about it: if you sit on the couch watching the tube all day every day, then just the act of getting up to make yourself a sandwich can be a great workout.

When I am King, we’ll all sit around and do nothing. And by so not doing, we’ll enjoy the benefits of exercise in quick workouts such as scratching our nose, or burping.

Sure, these minor workouts like getting up to go to the bathroom will hurt, but it doesn’t sound too bad if it only lasts for a matter of seconds. No more weights, no more cardio machines, no more spinning classes or pole dancing or whatever it is that you do to stay fit. Just sit down, relax, and let atrophy do the work for you. Six weeks of no movement at all, and you’ll be ready for some serious workouts just grabbing beer from the cooler.

And the best part is that putting on more weight will just increase the workout you get. so go ahead: eat that seventh donut! Have another milkshake! It’s all part of the plan.

8/29/2009

Things I Believe

There is no such thing as “too much dessert.” Unless it’s made with rat poison or shards of glass.

There is also no such thing as “too much money.” Except when stuffing coins up your nose.

8/23/2009

When I am King: Stimulust Package

When I am King...

I will lower the prices on important consumer products to boost spending, increase consumer confidence, and rake in the dough.

In the first, and perhaps most important, step toward my overall Stimulus Package plan, I have lowered the price on my book, enabling people who could not afford the treatise the chance to pick up this fabulous product at a fantastic, new, low-low price.

By reducing the price by one dollar, or 100 shiny copper pennies!, I have started a snowballing effect that will eventually fix the entire world economy. People that wanted the book previously but who had to save that money to eat or buy drugs will now be able to own the book, giving them both something to do with their time and something to burn when the winter freeze arrives. Meanwhile, the publisher will make money producing more of these books, so that they can pay their workers, who will probably go out and buy the book themselves, developing a rich cycle of buying, producing, more buying, more producing, and some skimming off the top. And finally, the huge royalties that are certain to roll in from this $6.95 book will enable the author to plan for future, deeply unspecified stimulus activities, plowing the massive profits into more beneficial and happy programs like this one.

Sure, some liken a stimulus package to putting a used bandaid over a gushing jugular wound. Others say that it is more like caulking a shattered foundation during an earthquake. But I think that the global economic crisis is easily solved, book by book.

8/17/2009

Titlation

It's been a while since my last blog entry. The truth is, I have been writing a lot, what with all of these books I'm working on. For example, there's my modern novel:
Too Polite to Rock
Then there's a self-help book:
Clean Panties, Clean Mind
And finally, a hard-boiled crime novel:
Sleep with the Chickens

8/02/2009

When I am King: I Told You So

When I am King...

For any readers that find these articles funny or even absurd, I offer the following:

Way back in 2007, not long after I had first started my campaign for King, I posted the blog entry Fast Lane, on ideas for speeding up the tedious chores of our busy lives, like reading, smelling flowers, and dental hygiene. For example, I proposed food products with embedded bristles and strings to allow us to brush our teeth while we ate, instead of the old-fashioned and time-consuming process of eating and then having to clean our teeth afterward.

While I was traveling several months ago, I ran across the following machine in a men's room.


That's right - it's a chewable toothbrush, with food and bristles all wrapped up in one tasty package.
Some readers think these posts are all a big joke. But I consider them more prophecy, or perhaps just a big TODO list for when the throne is finally mine.

7/30/2009

Things I Believe

A funeral home is a bad place to play hide-and-seek, and poor Billy should never have climbed into that coffin.

Sunscreen on the eyeballs is not a good substitute for sunglasses.

Turning off the water main before removing the faucet handle is probably better.

“No Pants Fridays” may never catch on at the office.

The grass will always seem greener on the other side of the fence until you spray it will weed killer.

7/23/2009

Corporate Survival Guide: Be the Master of All You Survey

If you’re slogging through the trenches of today’s corporate battlefield, you’re probably bombarded constantly by internal company surveys. Management apparently wants to know how happy you are, what you think of the company, how much you like the food in the cafeteria, and how clean the restrooms are.

Those who are not true Corporate Warriors (“Fodder”) may be thinking one of two things about these surveys:
  • “I’d really like to help the organization improve itself; I will gladly fill out these forms so that the company keeps getting better and better!”

  • “why do I have to fill out another survey? Shouldn’t I do some real work instead?”
Both of these responses are, of course, dead wrong. The company doesn’t actually care about improving itself; it’s already doing pretty well. But those in charge of the surveys would definitely like you to spend your time on the surveys instead of real work; the amount of time you spend thinking about your corporate environment is directly proportional to how important the bureaucracy can feel about itself. The more surveys, the more satisfied the company.

No, the real way to think about these surveys is the way that you, the Corporate Warrior, think about everything you do at work and in life in general:
How can I improve my position through this task?
There are actually two different ways that you can profit from employee surveys: completing them and authoring them. Both require different approaches and skill sets, so I will cover them separately.

Completing Surveys

There are two main tips for filling out any company survey:
  1. Get your name in there
  2. Use “Other” fields as much as possible
Credit where Credit is Due (to You)

Most surveys make a point of being anonymous. The theory is that they just want general feedback and statistics so that they can collect an overall impression of how the employees feel. But seriously: do you think that if someone says something really horrible about the place they wouldn’t want to know exactly who that loser was so that they could fire their sorry butt, pronto?

Similarly, if someone (read: you) said glowing things about the company (read: your management chain), they would want to know who that person was. Imagine: if someone said that you were good-looking, wouldn’t you want to know who said it so that you could determine whether you felt honored, deserving, or just creeped-out by it?

Chances are that the surveys have some means for determining who filled them out. But just in case, you want to make it very obvious in your answers so that there was no way they could avoid tracing it back to you.

The way you make this possible is by copious use of the “Explain” field.

Explain Yourself

Most of these surveys consist of simple multiple-choice questions. Many of the questions will have no write-in field, in which case you should just pick the answer that you think the executives most want to hear. But for any question which has an “Other” answer with an “Explain:” field, it’s all yours. You should select that “Other” choice and then call forth your inner Shakespeare to wax eloquent on the topic presented in the question, the overall survey, the executives that authorized the survey, and the company leadership in general. And always tie it back to you.

Let’s look at a couple of examples to see how this works.

Here’s one from a survey about employee morale, complete with how a true Corporate Warrior would respond:
167. Please rate your overall satisfaction with the company. Consider whether you would recommend this company to others:
__A. Very High
__B. High
__C. Medium
__D. Low
__E. Very Low
X_F. Other
If “Other”, please explain:
I was confused by this question – is there really any correct answer besides “Very High?” Seriously, does anyone bother to choose anything else? If so, you might consider whether the jobs they are performing here couldn’t be better performed by someone else (such as me, Bill Frentzner).
I not only *feel* great about this company and want to recommend it – I *do* recommend it to others on a constant basis. I make it a point to call everyone I know, every day, to tell them what a wonderful place this is to be. I figure my day isn’t complete until I’ve made everyone jealous of how perfect my life is because of this job. And it must be working, because now they all hang up on me when they hear it’s me; they must be really jealous!
I also tell my coworkers how great it is here, just to make sure that we’re all on the same page. Sometimes, like last Tuesday while helping mentor my co-worker Greg Schneel, I get the feeling that some employees aren’t ecstatic to be here. Greg (Schneel, two “e”s, one “l”), for example, rolled his eyes when I said my regular piece about how happy I was to be working here. But I’m positive people like Greg are just oddballs in the mix and that all of the right-minded people are completely on board with where this company is at.
Thank you!
Sincerely,
Bill (“Bill”) Frentzner
Cube 74b (next to the 3rd floor stapling room)
Badge #478,982

Here’s another example, from a survey about restroom cleanliness:
47. Please rate the overall timeliness of bathroom facilities personnel in responding to issues:
__A. Fast
__B. Adequate
__C. Slow
X_D. Other
If you selected “Other”, please explain:
I was going to select Fast, but frankly that’s not an adequate description – the facilities group is without fail immediately on the problem, no matter what the issue, nor how long it takes. I (Bill Frentzner) was saying to my co-worker (Jerry Crously) the other day, “Jerry, you should stop complaining about the restrooms, the facilities department, and the overall company structure – this company is great in every respect. You might say that the company, like that guy in the bathroom, is really going places!”
Clearly, management is doing great things here: always has, and always will!
Thank you!
Sincerely,
Bill (“Bill”) Frentzner
Cube 74b (next to the 3rd floor stapling room)
Badge #478,982

Note, in the examples above, that there are some key points made in every response. Like political candidates in a debate, it doesn’t matter that you answer the question, but that you stay on message:
  • It’s all about you. Include your name and any other relevant information that can help the survey analyzers track you down. It’s not worth saying great things about the company if you don’t get credit.

  • Always tell them how great they are. Even though you picked “other”, make it clear that you did so only because either the top-rated selection wasn’t high enough or because you needed room to explain how great it really is. Your goal in these responses is to be excerpted for slide presentations at all-hands meetings. Management will want to show everyone how wonderful things are, so they will choose some quotes from these ‘anonymous’ surveys as examples of how others felt. You’ll know that you’ve gotten your personal agenda across by writing one of those chosen.

  • Upward mobility is relative. Always remember that there are two ways to get ahead of your co-workers: by being advanced yourself and by having your peers pulled back. Your answers can help you on both fronts by allowing you to paint yourself in a good light while also portraying some of your co-workers negatively. Be sure to be very specific, with names and possibly home addresses, so that your Human Resources department can get right on those morale problems.
It goes without saying that if there’s a field at the end of the survey that invites an open response, go for it. Use the tips above to create a response of such eloquence and obsequiousness that the executives cannot help but notice and reward you.

So start filling out those surveys. But go beyond that: seek out other surveys to complete: join email aliases at work just to have the opportunity of getting and filling out more of these, ask around to see if there are other surveys you haven’t seen yet, and fill out multiple copies of surveys whenever possible.

Surveys, like ridiculously expensive holiday gifts for your boss and acquiring blackmail photos of executives’ weekends in Vegas, represent some of the best opportunities for stepping up the ladder that you will encounter. Besides, they’re free and they give you a nice break from all of that tedious ‘work’ you have to do.

Authoring surveys, the other half of the survey ecosystem, is another critical skill on the Corporate Battlefield. But we’re all out of room for this week and I have some surveys to write; we’ll cover this in a future installment.

7/18/2009

Music to my Ears

We've all had that feeling of having a song stuck in our head. Typically, it's the first song you hear that day. You only have to hear a couple of notes of it, then it's there for good, slam-dancing around your brain throughout the day until you finally drown it out with alcohol or sleep. Then the next morning, you wake up to some other annoying tune and it all starts again.

That's why I've programmed my alarm clock to play John Cage's 4'33" every morning. For the rest of the day, I just keep hearing artistic silence.

7/13/2009

Little Joke for Monday

If you want to understand a man, walk a mile in his shoes.
If you want to piss him off, don't give him his shoes back.

7/11/2009

Things I Believe

I believe that wallpaper paste actually doesn't taste like tapioca.

I believe that alligators don't want to be petted.

I believe that helping the elderly cross the street works better if you cross with the light.

I believe that holding your breath under water is not easier when the water is boiling.

I believe that a hand grenade is not a good substitute for fireworks.

I believe that dunking for french fries is much harder than dunking for apples, especially while the fries are cooking.

7/09/2009

Little Joke for Thursday

Once again, I found myself listening to the Wait Wait Don't Tell Me! podcast last week (my main source of world news). There was an important story about a Massachusetts man that is attempting to unionize pigeons to ensure that only trained, local pigeons are used in movies filmed in that state.

Surely, getting those birds to band together would be a real coo. (Or would that be a coop?)

7/01/2009

Little Joke for Wednesday

A friend of mine once threatened to jump off a cliff. I told him to go ahead - I figured it was a bluff.

Unfortunately, he fell for it.

6/28/2009

When I am King: On Wedding Anniversaries

When I am King...

Wedding anniversaries will be celebrated with more appropriate gifts.

Anniversaries are supposed to be accompanied by gifts representing the time of servitude: paper, silver, gold, diamond. But what do these gifts represent, other than expensive drags on the savings account? We might as well give each other mortgages, or loan documents. These gifts seem aimed at preserving relationships through debt management and obligation, rather through bonds of love and appreciation.

When I am King, I will institute a system of more practical, or at least more representative gifts. Rather than saddling couples with debts far outweighing their emotional attachments, these presents will be truer to the nature of marital bonds. Let's examine recommended gifts for some of the hallmark years in a marriage.

Year One: The traditional gift is paper, which seems fine to me. Paper represents both an element of nature of the marriage as well as the danger of being easily dissolved and imminently flushable. But rather than just any piece of paper, I recommend a copy of the marriage certificate, which serves to remind your spouse both of the beginnings of your beautiful relationship and of their vows to actually stick around.

Year Five: The traditional gift is one of wood. To some extent, this material appropriate; it is organic, natural, and a more solid version of the flimsy paper tossed around in the first year. But I would instead recommend that the gift be more indicative of the strong bonds forged in your relationship: handcuffs. This gift is both metaphorical, signifying the fettering bonds of love and overwhelming responsibility, and practical, being able to lock down either spouse or both until such time as tempers cool back down.

Year Seven: The traditional gift is one of wool or copper. Which I don't get at all. You either give a scratchy sweater *or* some new plumbing fixtures? What are you implying by these gifts? I think the wool is closest to the mark, since seven is the year of the 'itch', when couples first start realizing how bored they are with their partner and how life would be far more interesting if spent with, say, the mailman or some random floozy seen in a dark bar after several stiff drinks. But rather than give a gift reinforcing that itchy idea, it seems far better to give one that addresses the problem; give itch relief. The gift can either be a back-scratcher or a large bottle of Calomine lotion. Remember: with marriage as with poison ivy, you can't possibly fix the root problems festering inside, but you can at least try to mask the symptoms and hope they go away soon.

Year Ten: Tradition suggests a gift of tin or aluminum. Here again, I would break with tradition. Giving cheap metals feels more like you're giving Jiffy Pop or foil-covered leftovers from dinner rather than a present of some significance. At this mature stage of the marriage, you should give a present of more weight and meaning:: I suggest rust. Rust expresses the paired feelings of being based on something solid at the core, while also exposing the inherent erosion and ugly decay on the surface.

Year Twenty: The traditional gift is china, which seems partially appropriate. But giving a new, complete set of china seems wrong; a marriage of twenty years is neither new nor complete, but is rather a basically workable set of miscellaneous pieces, held together through practicality and inertia. Also, a set of china can be a work of perfection and beauty, which is far from the ramshackle workings of a marriage of twenty years. I suggest, instead, an incomplete set of everyday dishes, all taken from different and random sets, and all somewhat cracked and abused. Like marriage, the set is neither beautiful to behold nor appropriate for fine occasions, but it is serviceable and able to withstand at least a couple more breakages before being completely dysfunctional and ready for disposal.

Year Twenty-Five: Twenty-Five years is a long time. A really long time. A really, really, really long time. In fact, twenty-five years, in marriage time, is more like 250 years or normal life. As such, this occasion demands something more significant than most other anniversaries. The traditional gift is one of silver. Apart from the fact that silver, if left to its own devices, will tarnish and look, like many marriages, soiled and abused, I find this gift unacceptable. For one thing, silver objects well cared-for will retain their early sparkle forever, which is quite different from relationships which have a hard time retaining their initial allure as far as the end of the church aisle, with the happy couple already drawing the battle lines about who's doing laundry for whom and whether the default toilet seat position should favor Him or Her. Instead of silver, I propose a gift more indicative of this point in the relationship: a fossil. These dead remains are significant both in their ability to carry on years after their usefulness and in their story of the ultimate end of the subject in question. Likewise, many marriages carry on for years after life expired and exist only insofar as their skeletal remains are still visible to any who bother looking for them.

Year Fifty: Tradition has it that gold is the right gift for this many years of wedded bliss, but I would suggest something more useful, meaningful, and thoughtful for both parties: a divorce. Hey, you both made it this far, you deserve a little bit of freedom before the rendering truck comes to collect the bodies from the stable. Go out into the wide world, meet some new people, try dating, and realize why you got married in the first place.
When you do get back together again, might I suggest a gift of paper for the first year.

6/25/2009

Little Big Joke for Thursday

In the latest Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! show (my favorite podcast and, disturbingly, my primary source of world news), there was a discussion about the journal, "Obesity."

Mo Rocca, a regular panelist, wondered whether the magazine has centerfolds. I don't know, but if there are any, I'm pretty certain they have stomach staples.

6/24/2009

Little Joke for Wednesday

If someone invents a beer that's good for your teeth, I propose the following slogan:

Tastes great! Less fillings!

6/20/2009

Things I Believe

I believe that cannibalism is a personal choice.

I believe that drooling can be a form of flattery.

I believe that guns don’t kill people; bullets do.

I believe that dishwashers don’t double as catwashers.

I believe that banging your head repeatedly against the sidewalk doesn’t help you solve your problems, but it does help you forget them.

I believe that porcupines don’t make good footballs, after all.

6/16/2009

When I am King: On Birthdays

When I am King...

Everyone will get old.

Some people say that getting old sucks, but I disagree. Our bodies and minds are engineered to make sure that our lives improve as we get older. Sure, there are mishaps along the way. And debilitating illness and terminal disease may creep in to spoil the fun. But in general, life gets better as we slowly erode. Here are a few examples:

Memory:
Our memories fail as we age. This has several advantages. For one thing, we can’t remember how much worse we feel now than we did when we were younger. Also, we eventually forget our birthdays and even how old we are.

Alcohol:
We can’t drink as much as we used to, so it takes far less for us to have a good time. For that matter, it takes far less to bring on a hangover which must, by definition, mean that we had a fantastic time the night before.

Vision:
Our eyesight degrades, which has several implications. For one thing, our personal space expands since we can’t see people anymore when they’re too close. This prevents unnecessary contact and the spread of disease. Also, our eyes provide an automatic soft-focus filter to things that we see, making our loved ones look more romantic and our reflections look less wrinkly.

When I am King, aging will be celebrated with cakes and candles and insincere wishes for good health. Or do we already do that? I forget.

6/14/2009

Video: Chickens, Chickens, Chickens

Although this Chicken anthem was posted in an earlier article, it was felt around the office that the underlying message would have more impact, especially with today's web-centric audience, in video form:

Sunday Comics: Chicken Tales


6/09/2009

Corporate Survival Guide: Complimentality

When someone at work says, “Great trip report!” what they’re really saying is, “You suck at everything else!”

Obviously, the ability for today’s Corporate Warrior to accurately digest and clearly communicate information is a critical skill on the Battlefield of Business. But when it becomes your defining characteristic, it’s time to start hoarding office supplies and packing up your desk.

Compliments, like financial reports, are more significant in what they don’t say. If someone reads some article you wrote and says, “Great piece!” you can take some amount of satisfaction that, even though they probably didn’t mean it and may not have actually read it, they did say that they liked it. As a whole, sum total, in entirety. On the other hand, if they read it and everything else you’ve written and take the time to point out a single sentence or word and say, “I liked that,” you should understand both that they may have liked that nugget … and that they didn’t actually like anything else in your vast volume of work.

Like most methods of personal attack, it is critical for today’s Corporate Warrior to hone this skill. The ability to superficially compliment co-workers while simultaneously slamming them for their inadequacies is crucial in achieving your end goals of being seen as better than them and, as a result, rising above them. You want to mix the paired skills of coming across as generous and yet not giving any ground to people whom you would rather see below you on the ladder than above.

At the same time, you will be building a foundation of insecurity in your co-workers that will, if done right, last them a lifetime.

The key to this skill is to congratulate your peers on completely unimportant things, while never acknowledging anything that they may either care about or which may be an attribute that is actually important in the workplace. The trip report example above is a good one. What better way to recognize a peer’s efforts than to compliment them on the results of them? And yet what better way to belittle their overall efforts in the corporation than to fail to recognize skills more closely connected with the job they are paid to do?

Let’s take a look at some other examples of effective compliments. Feel free to use these in your workplace or, for the more advanced Corporate Warriors, to learn the pattern and come up with some compliments of your own.

  • “Good thing John’s on the team – he makes great coffee!”
  • “About that report, Joan – great font!”
  • “Everyone: I’d like you to stop by Jim’s cube sometime and see how clean his monitor screen is. What do you use for that, Jim?”
  • Susan – fantastic punctuation!”
That’s all I have for this lesson. Excellent reading!

5/31/2009

Chicken: The Original White Meat

Upset for years at the Pork Council’s use of the slogan, "The Other White Meat," the Chicken Council recently pecked back at them with their new campaign:

Chicken: The Original White Meat. Except for the dark meat.
Council leaders feel very positive about the move. "Make no bones about it," clucked Earl Fenster, co-Rooster, "we’re back. We’ve been winged by a fowl shot from those dirty swine, but we’re ready. We’ll see who has egg on their face this time."

The council has other slogans ready to keep the campaign in flight:

  • "From our range to yours"
  • "Pork fat’s bad for you. Chicken fat, maybe not so much"
  • "What’s your beef with chicken, anyway?"
There are also several new chicken products in the pipeline, such as:

  • "Chicken Beakon: Mouth-watering and crunchy, too"
  • "Chicken Nuggets: No bones about it"
Finally, they’re introducing a new song that they hope will capture the hearts and imaginations of chicken lovers everywhere:
Chickens, chickens, chickens –
They’re really good to eat.
Eat ‘em, eat ‘em, eat ‘em,
From beaks to skinny feet.

Frying, frying, frying –
On grills or in hot oil.
Cooking, cooking, cooking,
In soups upon the boil.

Cut them, cut them, cut them,
With knife and dinner fork.
Healthy, healthy, healthi-
-er than big fat pork.

5/23/2009

Award to the Wise

Here’s an award speech I’d like to see:


"First of all, I’d like to thank the academy, because it’s in my contract.

Secondly, I want to thank my parents. I’m sure they didn’t mean to leave me at that rest stop in Ohio when I was a small boy. But it was because of that chance abandonment that I was forced to seek refuge in the local forest and live on berries and small sticks, eventually being adopted and raised by a family of squirrels. It was that experience that gave me the courage, confidence, and strength of character that made me the vapid, shallow person you see before you. Mom and Dad, wherever you are, know that I will never forget you like you forgot me.

I also want to thank my adoptive family, the squirrels. I only wish they could have been here tonight to be with me. But sadly, they are no longer with us. It was a cold, hard winter one year and I had to eat them.

I want to thank the guy that used to mow my lawn. It was watching him work, week after week, cutting the grass, blowing the leaves, pruning the fence posts, that convinced me that I never wanted to really work for a living. And here I am.

Of course I’d like to thank the director, the producer, and the writers, all of whom worked tirelessly to make my character more important than all of the other characters in the film. Without those efforts, I would have just been another actor in the film instead of the guy standing up here.

I’d also like to thank the other actors, but I forget their names and never liked them anyway.

And finally, I want to thank you. Without an audience, I would just be a guy standing up in front of a camera, waving to an empty room. As Shakespeare once said, according to my speechwriter, “All the world’s a stage.” But if you weren’t out there on your audience stage, I couldn’t be up here on my stage stage, and it would be a boring play indeed, especially for me.

Thank you!"

5/18/2009

When I am King: Bamboozled

When I am King...

There shall be no more bamboo.

I’ve just spent the last while (surely no more than two lifetimes) cutting back a small thicket of bamboo. I pined for the first time for my own Death Star - I think that eradicating an entire planet is probably the only way to get rid of the awful plant. In fact, it seems likely to me that that’s actually what the Empire was up to when it torched those planets. They weren’t test-driving their new gadget or playing hardball in negotiations; they were just trying to cut back on their landscaping costs.

But even if you did manage to destroy a planet in order to kill some bamboo (a worthy cause, all things considered), I’m certain the evil stalks would survive. It might spend years, centuries, millennia out in space, drifting along in the cosmos, but it would eventually end up on some poor, unsuspecting planet and quickly take root and take over.

Bamboo is what crabgrass wants to be when it grows up. It’s a virus with roots. It’s gang violence with leaves. It’s a photosynthesizing serial killer with thousands of clones very close by.

When I am King, there will be no bamboo on our land. Sure, it’s beautiful in the movies. And there it shall stay. People that otherwise would have spent fruitless lives just trying to keep bamboo in check can spend it on other activities instead, like weeding crabgrass or watching movies with beautiful bamboo backdrops.

5/08/2009

When I am King: Reconnections

When I am King...

Renewing old acquaintances will be much more efficient.

Through the wonders of social networking sites like FaceBook and LinkedIn, we now reconnect with old friends in a way that was never before possible. Previously, if you wanted to find someone you used to know, you would have to do real work, like making a phone call or, even worse, writing a letter. Now, a plethora of opportunities to reconnect come unbidden through the portals of our lives.

Each time we reconnect with someone, we send them a note to catch up. And every time we do this, we give roughly the same information: we ask them what they’re up to, tell them how we’re doing, enumerate the number of children and pets we have, and tactfully skirt the issue of jail time.

Consider the countless seconds, nay, minutes we waste writing the same information to all of these people. With that extra time in our lives, we could be sending or responding to friend requests of other people we no longer know, or staring mindlessly at the visual noise on these social sites about everyone else we’ve already connected with.

When I am King, reconnections will be much more efficient, saving time and social energy. People will be more productive, more connections will be made, and everyone will have the dirt on everyone else, making it a more interconnected and paranoid society overall.

We will achieve this goal through the use of simple templates which fill in most of the pertinent details, leaving you to just select some choices and personalize the note before sending it off. This approach has worked well elsewhere and it should succeed for the social networking arena as well. Here is a sample:
[Their name]!

Great to hear from you! What have you been up to the past, oh, [Number] ["decades", "years", "minutes"]? We haven't seen each other since [personal reference, for example: "you said you never wanted to see me again", "you hit me", "I filed that injunction", "Tuesday"]!

I’m in [Location] now, [working at CompanyX, crashing with Mom & Dad again, living out of a shopping cart]. It keeps me busy, that’s for sure! In the meantime, I’ve had [Number] [kids, fish, nervous breakdowns], which is a lot, believe me! How about you?

Hey, I always wondered, did you ever [personal reference, for example: "get out of jail", "get that leg sewn back on", "solve that acne problem"]? And do you still [personal reference, for example: "play the tuba", "hum Barry Manilow tunes through your nose", "hate me"]?

Hey, it was great catching up with you. Keep in touch!

[Your name]

Little Joke for Friday

I wonder:

If your stalker harasses you, is it an idol threat?

5/04/2009

When I am King: Mutterhood

When I am King...

Dogs will train parents.

People pondering parenthood will often get a dog first as part of easing into eventually having kids. Through raising a dog they can learn how to care for another living being, get used to the responsibility of feeding someone regularly, and adjust to not forgetting about them when they go on vacation.

There is merit in this approach, but dog ownership doesn’t go far enough. We need to add some critical elements to owning a dog to make it begin to cover the territory.

When I am King, everyone would be required to own dogs, with these additional requirements:

Own several dogs: Even if you plan to have only one child, things happen and pretty soon there are several running around in the house. Or even if you do only have one, they tend to attract other kids like flies on meat. You’ll need to make sure your system can handle the chaos of more than one running around in the house constantly.

Train your dog: Most owners put their dogs through obedience school, but once/week for 2 months doesn’t begin to cover the education responsibility of a parent. You should enroll your dog in enough classes so that they are in school several hours each day. Do this for at least twelve years or their entire lives, whichever comes first.

Use diapers: With countless hours in obedience class, your dog will be house-trained and won’t need the diapers. But you will. Dealing with messy diapers is one of the joys of parenthood and should be a part of any parent training regimen. Some children wear diapers for several years, but feel free to limit your dog-diaper training period to just 2 years; pretend your dog-child is advanced.

Take pictures: Wear our your camera and video camera taking pictures and movies of your dog. And most importantly, send updated pictures to relatives constantly. Kids change in interesting ways as they grow up, and you must pretend your dog does too and that your friends and relatives care.

Tend to the sick: Several nights a year, spend a sleepless night caring for your sick dog: take his temperature (you’ll want to use the rectal thermometer to avoid his teeth), give him medicine, and comfort him. Of course, he won’t actually be sick, because dogs generally aren’t. But remember, this is your surrogate child. Pretend.

Enroll them in activities: Playing in the yard and sleeping in the house is not enough for your dog; if that’s all our children did, we would be a lazy and complacent society. No, you must enroll your dog in several activities: sports, music, art, dance, and anything else that’s available. Preferably you should have them in at least two activities at a time, so that you are in constant conflict over performance times (“How do I get him to the recital at 3 when his soccer game doesn’t end until 3:30?”). It is also key to tell people that you don’t want to overschedule your dog, that it’s so important that he be given the opportunity to simply play … and then go ahead and overschedule him because that’s what everyone else is doing. Ideally, many of the activities will involve travel on the weekends, so that your family can enjoy the experience of spending weekends driving the dog around to games that they won’t win and won’t remember.

Kick them out: When a dog is 21, or 3 in dog years, lock them out of the house with kind words like, “Get a job!” It is natural for a parent to expect their children to care for themselves at this age.

Let them back in: Of course, it is also natural to be completely wrong, so you should let your dog back in after a few minutes and resign yourself to taking care of the mutt forever.

4/25/2009

When I am King: Earth Daze

When I am King...

People will have many more days of planetary celebration.

I hope you enjoyed Earth Day this past week. I know I did - I spent all day living on the planet, not leaving it for even one second.

But Earth Day has always seemed somehow, I don't know, dirty to me. I mean, why celebrate soil? When you have kids in the house, you live your life in a pile of dirt, so taking a day to celebrate it seems a bit much to me. It's like having Lint Day, or Dust Day, or What-the-Hell-Is-That-on-the-Ceiling-and-How-Did-It-Get-There Day.

When I am King, I will institute several other days of celebration for our planet's people:

Girth Day: While Earth Day is about less waste, Girth Day is about more waist.
The holiday is typically celebrated by binge eating.

Dearth Day: Earth Day is about using less, Dearth Day is about having less.
The day is celebrated by scavenger hunts for everything you don't have enough of, like cash, paired socks, and time.

Birth Day: This is not the traditional celebration of when each of us was born. Instead, this is a celebration of birth itself.
Each of us will undergo extreme exertion, a nearly lethal amount of pain, and then finish by covering ourselves in viscous fluids. The final part of the ceremony is marked by our receiving an epidural drug strong enough to knock us out for a week.

Mirth Day: This should be a funny one.

Perth Day: Everyone in the entire world will crowd into Perth, Australia for this single day.

Worth Day: Each person will calculate their net worth to the penny on Worth Day. This was not possible in prior years, but thankfully the implosion of world financial systems has made everyone's net worth just about zero, so it should be an easy and fun exercise.
The occasion is usually celebrated with heavy, somber drinking.

4/17/2009

Hellephone: An Ode



For those who wish to follow along at home:

Is music-on-hold a measured response?
Does it harmonize more than it’s helping?
Do answering systems with options galore
Leave us screaming and drooling and yelping?

I usually feel like I’ll never escape,
Spending life in an infinite loop.
Surely Hell does not have tortures worse than this pile
Of infuriating, telephony poop.

“Press one for a menu with more number options,
Press two if you’re feeling bold.
Press three if you want to repeat these choices,
Press four for music-on-hold.

Press five if you want to record a message
Press six if, instead, you do not.
Press seven if you want the menu in Swedish,
Press eight if in Cypriot.

Press nine in emergency; this will connect you
To menus read out much more quickly.
Press zero to hang up; you can call back later,
When you’re feeling a little less prickly.

If none of these options appear to be yours
Perhaps you just dialed for fun.
We’ll hang up now, and thank you for calling
The hotline at 9-1-1.”

4/12/2009

Little Jokes for Easter

I wonder: Have the baby chicks in Easter eggs dyed and gone to heaven?


Q: What do you call bread that rises on the Sunday after Good Friday?
A: Yeaster

Sunday Comics: Easter Basket Case

The Easter Bunny no longer visits the homes in
Feegle County.

4/09/2009

Little Joke for Passover

A friend asked why I hadn’t posted any Passover jokes. Thousands of years the Jewish people have suffered and we should make jokes?

So here’s one:

Q: Who travels the world this weekend, hiding pieces of matza for the children to find?
A: The Easter rabbi

4/03/2009

Little Joke for Friday

I recently looked at my bank statement. After I recovered, I tried to figure out what the slogan about my "Financial Well Being" meant. I think I've narrowed it down to either:

My finances are deeply underground and under water

or

My investments have been like throwing coins into a deep hole in the ground and making a wish.

4/02/2009

Geek Joke: April Fools Post

I didn't have anything to say here in the past few days, but I'd still like credit for stuff I said elsewhere. So if you haven't checked out my Flex blog recently and you're another member of the huge and yet strangely underserved community of geeks that love comedy about the Flex platform, please read my Post: Fix Prefix article posted April 1st, 2009.

3/29/2009

Sunday Comics: Geekosystem

In another of our ongoing series on the life and habitat of the Geek, we present The Nesting Geek:













3/27/2009

Little Joke for Friday

I wanted to hang out with a group of people like me, so I joined a dopplegang.

3/22/2009

Little Joke for Sunday

I don't like flying, so the last time I traveled, I didn't take a plane. I took a rhombus.

3/20/2009

Discord, Datchord

The stage remained dark;
Something was wrong.
The audience waited
To hear a good song.

The guitarist knew nothing
And needed a set full.
And the state his instrument's neck
Was just fretful.

The drummer was beat and
The bassist was low.
The trumpeter looked ready
To pack up and blow.

The singer was busy
Coughing up lung.
The rhythm guitarist was
Tuned out and high strung.

The band was hungover from
Last night's pleasures:
Too many bars filled with
Too many measures.

Only the pianist was
Keyed up that night,
His instrument ready
In black and in white.

He was feeling quite grand
As he started to play
And not quite so low when he
Solo'd that day.

The ivories were tickled,
The ebonies, too,
The music was funky
And mildly blue.

Then he kicked back the stool
And he started to pound,
Creating a rhythmic and
Deafening sound.

Octaves were slamming,
Glissandos were flying.
Some of the girls in the front
Were seen crying.

The rest of the band then
Woke up and joined in,
Adding to the wonderful
Musical din.

One tune followed others
Till they played all they wrote.
All thanks to the pianist -
A musician of note.

3/14/2009

3/05/2009

Corporate Survival Guide: The Performance Review

On the real battlefield, advancement happens through attrition. On the Corporate Battlefield, it happens through the annual Performance Review.

The performance review is the process by which, through the phases of peer feedback, self-evaluation, and one-on-one meetings with management, we can lie through our teeth to get what we want.

There are several steps to the review process. Let's examine how you can use every one of them to improve your career:

1) Peer Reviews of You
The typical review cycle begins with your manager gathering names of your peers that have worked with you and who may be able to provide input on your performance. Sometimes, the manager will know some names to start with. But your manager may solicit names from you since they have been focused so much on their own career that they really haven't paid much attention to their team. This is where your plan begins.

First of all, give your manager some names of executives of the company whom you have supposedly worked closely with. Your manager will be surprised and impressed, and will gladly add those names to the list because it gives your manager a chance to get his own name in front of them. Of course, you have never met these people, but you know for a fact that they're way too busy in executive meetings, golf games, and SEC depositions to take the time to respond to a performance review request for some employee they've never heard of. But the idea was not to actually get a review, but instead to score points with your manager for supposedly having worked with these people enough to request a review.

Next, give you manager names of people in other departments, preferably with important-sounding titles. Then, find a way to intercept communications to these people so that you can field the review requests and respond on your own. If intercepting proves too difficult (this strategy was far easier in the days of inter-office memos and smoke signals), come prepared with letters from these people to simply give to your manager. Explain that they are too busy to be bothered with a review, but took the time this past weekend to jot down some thoughts on your major contributions to the company. Be sure to avoid using the personal pronoun "I", and don't sign your own name to these letters.

Finally, your manager will probably insist on names of some people in your group. Give names of the people whom know you the least in the group. What you're looking for is a vague acknowledgement that you have worked on the team, but no real in-depth review of what you have done. Save those more personal reviews for the fake letters from others (see above). It is critical to not let people with close knowledge of your accomplishments into the review process. After all, if you have been fighting the Corporate Battle successfully in the past year, you have been focused solely on your own career, and the poor slobs that have had to bear the burden of your unfinished tasks may not react kindly when asked about your performance.

2) Your Review of Peers
Your manager may ask you for reviews of some of your peers. At this time, you should also send him reviews of any of the star performers in the group; these people are your competition.

Success on the Corporate Battlefield s not an absolute measure, but a relative one. It is not just how you are doing, but how others are doing in comparison to you. So it is just as important to tear others down as it is to build up your own accomplishments to godlike quality.

Your actual reviews should take many forms, but in general should start out with something like this:
"I have enjoyed mentoring [peer] for the past year, despite [his|her] obvious limitations and inability to execute on even the simplest tasks. Compared to my own work on our shared projects this year, their work was shoddy and unfinished, but of course they are still quite junior and may be able to improve some day. For example, on the Fenster Account, I was able to secure commitments from 7 other department heads to proceed forthwith....."
Note how the review starts out positive, saying something nice about your co-worker before completely savaging them. Also, note how even when you discuss others on your team, you should mention your own stellar performance; tossing in words like "mentoring," "leading," or in some cases "tolerating" will do nicely. Finally, notice how you can eventually turn the conversation entirely to a description of your performance. Make your manager know that you are really the only person that counts on the team.

3) Self Evaluation
Although your review of peers, if well done, are thinly-veiled autobiographies, your self evaluation is really your chance to shine. This is the time when the manacles come off and you can brag to your fullest ability. No superlative is too great, no description too verbose, and no way you should stop at less than 50 pages. I have even seen some leather-bound books submitted as self-evaluations, which probably made for good night-time reading for the managers. The important thing here is to bury your manager so deeply in details and explanations that they won't have time to check any of the facts. Make any claim you want here, because it's all free.

One tip: when you turn your copy into your manager, apologize for not getting it to him sooner, but explain that some of the executives had asked for it and you had to run those copies off at the same time.

4) Manager Meeting
The review process climaxes in a one-on-one meeting with your manager. They have compiled all of the data above and may have even read some of it. They will then come to some conclusions about your performance that they wish to discuss with you.

This is your final chance. Remember: your manager's conclusions are not set until the end of this meeting. So do whatever you can to improve their impression of you even more.

Suck up.

Start the meeting, before they've even started to speak, with something like:
"I just wanted to tell you that it's been a real pleasure working for you. As I was telling [some executive's name], were it not for such strong management support, I would not have been able to perform at the peak I achieved in the past year. This is my dream job, and you are my dream boss. No matter what the rest of the folks on the team may say about you, I really like working for you."

5) Goals
Finally, after the performance review is over, you may be asked to come up with goals for the next year which you can then be judged upon for the next review.

Only one tip here: keep them vague.



Now get out onto that battlefield and charge forth into the next year.

Remember: in Corporate War, it's not about how well you're doing your job, but how well people think you're doing it. The performance review is a perfect opportunity for you to tell them exactly what to think.