When I am King: Sound Off

When I am King...

Children's toys will not be allowed to make sounds.

I discussed size constraints on childrens' toys in a previous article. Today I need to discuss something equally as important: kids' toys should be inaudible.

I would use the phrase “seen and not heard,” except that I'd be happy to not see the toys, either.

It's midnight. The lights are off and you're just drifting to sleep. Then, from somewhere outside your room, you hear a “beep-beep!” Your eyes crack open, but all you hear is silence. So you ignore it. You're just drifting off again, and “beep-beep!” This time your eyes pop completely open. But once more, there's nothing. You just settle down again when “beep-beep!”.

Now you're completely awake. You've got to find what's producing the sound and eliminate it. But of course, all you have to go on is that short sound burst, issuing forth every 5 minutes. It's like a game of freeze tag where you can only move during the beeps, proceeding forward and swiveling your head, catlike, in a vain attempt to get closer to the source. You feel like the Terminator in a bathrobe.

Usually, you give up in frustration, stuff some toilet paper in your ears, and spend the next two hours pretending you can't here the sound drilling into your brain.

If you're very lucky, you'll find the culprit after a desperate, halting search of at least an hour. It always turns out to be some toy, buried in a chest full of other toys, whose button got somehow pushed. You dislodge it, freeing the button. You need to make sure this doesn't happen again, so you grab a shovel and bury it in the back yard, next to the other unmarked midnight graves. When the deed is done, you return to bed victorious, the smell of the grave fresh under your fingernails.

Finally, you can go to sleep. Five minutes later, just as you're nodding off, you hear RRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Some toy's button got pushed while you were moving things around to get the first toy.

That's for the toys with working batteries. More disturbing are the ones whose batteries are in their death knell. These toys are particularly frightening if they're speaking toys. As the battery dies, the toy starts talking in tongues and satanic voices. There are few things more disconcerting than Elmo saying “I love you” in the voice of Darth Vader.

But dying batteries for these creatures must be similar to our neurological diseases. As their brains die, sparks of random thought creep in. I could swear I heard Dora, with her dying breath, say “suck blood ... suck blood ... suck ... blood”. Maybe they're just latent wishes, built up from months and years of abuse or neglect, coming out like a confession on their death bed.

It is to protect our children, and my sleep, that I will enact a law banning toys that make sounds. No speakers, no squeakers, no voices, no choices: kids' toys will be inaudible.

Some might argue that this would limit the playing potential of children. “Oh rot,” I say. Whatever happened to imaginary friends? Or hearing voices? Maybe it's time the kids of today got back to the old traditions of hallucinations.

Others might argue that this law would be harmful to the toy industry, and limit the spectrum of toys available. On the contrary: I believe this could spawn entire new lines of toys to answer the silent call. For example, in the educational realm, all of the toys that currently teach kids to pronounce letters and words could teach sign language instead, which is a valuable skill. Especially around grumpy parents.

On the action figure front, I can envision a host of new toys on the market, such as the Teenage Mute Ninja Turtles.


Savior Self

I found Jesus last week.

It turns out he's been sleeping in a bus station.

I gave him a couple of bucks. I mean hey, he died for our sins and all.


Pregnant Pause

There's a phrase in English, "Great with child", which apparently means "really, really, really pregnant."

Where did this saying come from?

Do you think if you asked a woman that was 9 months pregnant how she was doing, she'd say "Great!"?


At best, she might say "Okay", but the response would probably be something more like a penetrating "How do you think I'm doing?" stare, or maybe just a wishful "I'll be better soon". Or maybe she'd slug you.

Of course, it's a different matter once the child is born, the pregnancy is over, and the hell and torture of labor is completely forgotten, which for the father is like an hour later. Then, the woman might be more inclined to say something more positive, like "Better".

Maybe the original phrase was just a mis-communication. Maybe some woman was describing her general feeling of being rather rounded-fruit-like, and said something like "Grape, with child". This makes sense, since she knew she'd soon be raisin the kid.


Cheap Eats

I admit it: I'm cheap. So when I go out to a restaurant, I try to spend wisely.

  • If I'm feeling spendy, I might order wine, but I always look at the bottom of the wine list. But they could organize these lists better. They always have sections for types of wines, like "Cabernet" and "Vin de Boeuf", or countries, like "Italy" and "Iceland". But I've never found a listing by sealants, like "Corks" and "Screwcaps", or containers, like "Bottle", "Box", and "Paper bag".

  • I never look at the chef's specials, which are always more expensive. These items seem particularly silly when the 'specials' are printed permanently in the menu. How special can they be if they were invented 5 years ago by the owner? You think the chef actually enjoys making these? "Oh goody, someone ordered the duck! Let's make this one special!"

  • I never order a side salad. What's 'side' about it when it costs as much as an entree? I might as well double-up on my main dish for that price.

So I'm pretty excited about my new idea. I've come up with a theory for how to eat the best food in the world and never pay a dime for it. I haven't tried it out yet, but I'm pretty sure it'll work:

  • Find a restaurant that you absolutely love, the pricier the better. The main restrictions are:

    • it has to serve food that you could eat over and over

    • it has to be open all day, every day

  • Order a fabulous meal. Whatever you want. Spare no expense. Even order a side salad.

  • Take a long time eating that meal.

  • Take so long eating that meal that it's time for the next meal.

  • Repeat until you die.

The key is that if you never leave, they'll never bring you the bill. So you never have to pay.

I can't try it out now because I have stuff to do. But if you try it, let me know how it goes. If I don't hear from you, I'll assume that it worked.


Cheers and Booze

Here's a handy drink recipe that I discovered one day.

I was really sick one day, through a combination of too many drinks the night before plus a really nice case of stomach flu. I spent all day in face-to-face conversation with the toilet bowl. The toilet didn't have much to say, but it was a great listener.

Then finally, that evening, I decided that maybe I would feel better with a little food in my stomach. I went to a nearby store and, being in a healthy frame of mind, bought a banana and some orange juice. I ate them, felt fine for a few minutes, and then back up they came. But the weird thing was, it was like throwing up a smoothie. And I have to say, it tasted pretty good.

So the next time you want a smoothie, maybe you don't need a Jamba Juice or even a blender. You just need the right combination of ingredients and a weak stomach.

On a different note, you've probably heard about these mix-in-the-mouth drinks at fancy parties. Someone lies down on the bar, the bartender pours in the shots of liquor and mixers, and the person gulps it down.

This sounds fun, but too tame. Where's the challenge, the risk, the danger? I want to see someone drink a mix-in-your-mouth blended margarita. Get one of those portable blender things, some Tequila, some margarita mix, some ice, and let her rip. Now that would be a party drink.


When I am King: Global Warning

When I am King...

Warning labels will be attached to everything.

Some people actually think that there are too many labels as it is, but I feel that “no extreme is too extreme” when it comes to safety. Fortunately for all of us, lawyers, class-action lawsuits, and juries made up of our peers have helped create a critical infrastructure of helpful warnings.

For example, some might complain that the “Caution: beverage may be hot!” label on a coffee cup might be obvious. But what if I'd never had coffee before, and didn't know it was hot? And what if I bought a cup because I thought it might be nice to pour over my head or in my lap? Thank goodness there's a label there to prevent the ensuing scalding torture.

Or how about the label on the top steps of ladders, “Caution: Do not step here”. Some might think this was something that everyone knew already. But what if I just got home from a rousing performance by Stomp and wanted to try my hands and feet at some of their dancing shenanigans? I'd go running up the ladder and - whoops! Good thing there was a label there for me to read so that I didn't hurt myself.

Or consider the hair dryer in the bathroom. It's a good thing that it has plenty of labels that say things like “Do not immerse in water!” and “Warn children of death by electric shock!” I'm positive that if I hadn't discussed this with my four year old, she would not now be experimenting with electricity and water, learning first-hand what she should and should not do with sinks and appliances.

My personal favorite is the label on the continuous towel dispenser in public restrooms that warns installers that “Failure to follow proper installation instructions may result in serious injury or death.” I can't imagine what horrible death by strangulation they have in mind, but fortunately that warning serves as a constant reminder that certain death is just one sanitary roll away.

These labels have obviously been great for our society, and have prevented countless deaths, dismemberments, and boo-boos so far. But they haven't gone far enough. There are so many ways in which we can still get injured in this world without ever knowing until it's too late.

My administration will make sure that labels are present anywhere that danger may lurk. For example:

Trees are natural causes of harm, and should be labeled as such:
  • Warning: Setting fire to this tree and standing under it may result in full-body scarring, unpleasant odors, and death
  • Warning: Attaching plaques to this tree may result in sap leakage onto fingers, which can reduce motor coordination, resulting in delayed response time, bodily harm, and death.

Surgeons are obvious dealers in death and destruction, and patients should be warned. There will be labels on surgeon masks that read:

  • Warning: This surgeon uses sharp and dangerous instruments that may result in serious injury or death.

Babies will have their own labels:

  • Warning: Shaking or dropping may cause serious injury or death

In fact, people are probably the largest causes of death on the planet. We will all need our own labels:

  • Warning: This person may be wielding dangerous items which could result in serious injury or death

Fruit can be dangerous when eaten improperly and will be required to bear this label:

  • Warning: Swallowing this fruit whole or sticking pieces of it in your eyes or up your nose may cause serious injury or death.

Finally, all labels will be required to have their own warnings:

  • Warning: reading this label while driving, operating heavey machinery, or juggling chainsaws may cause serious injury or death.

Warning: Reading the above article may result in serious injury or death.


Have a Heart

Valentine's day is an important day for me, and I hope it is for you as well. After all, what other event is so engineered around rejection and heartache? Besides life itself, obviously.

Rather than go out and buy cards, I prefer to make my own. Here are some that I'll be giving out this year.

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Blah blah blah blah blah blah
Blah blah blah too

Be mine, dammit.

Of course, not everyone has a sweetheart, so traditional Valentines cards don't always work. But most people could probably find a use for this card:



Not Mine.


Happy Thoughts

I woke in bed up this morning with a warm feeling. I really hope my kid gets toilet-trained soon.

The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence. Then you get over there and realize it's Astro Turf.

In Oregon, things actually are greener. It's called "moss". I remember the blacktop outside my apartment in Eugene being a greentop for 8 months out of the year. True story - I remember a neighborhood kid being asked what the sky color was: "gray".

If you go outside on a winter day and it's really bright and warm, don't forget to think about the polar ice caps melting.


Thoughts for a Friday

Have you ever noticed that when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a skull?

Remember: Guns don't kill people. They just enable death to happen a lot quicker and messier.

Allergies suck. There are so many things in the world to be allergic to: dust, plants, dogs, cats. But have you ever known anyone that is allergic to spit? Or skin? Or nostril hairs? Or tears? Man, that'd make life a living Hell.

Why does "litter" mean both a cat's kittens and the place she poops? Should we call our families toilets?


When I am King: It's My Way and the Highway

When I am King...

Highways will speak.

In California, we have reflective bumps on the highway lines to warn drivers that they are crossing a line that they might not want to.

I was in a car the other day that was weaving back and forth over these lines, and I was wondering whether this system could enable blind people to drive. As long as there were enough bumps around, and the bumps were somehow encoded, then maybe people could stay in the correct places by sound instead of sight. When you hear lots of little bumps on the right, you know you're veering into the breakdown lane. When you hear less, but larger bumps on the left, you know you're veering into the passing lane to your left. And when you hear your a crash and screams, you know you've veered into a car in front of you.

I wondered if we could take this a step farther and impart real information with these things. How useful is it to just hear a bunch of rumbling, that just tells you that you're crossing some line? There's no sense for whether that's a bad thing or not; it's just a small piece of information. That's a lot of bumps and serious roadwork labor for just that tiny bit of data. It's like looking at one of those maps in a mall that says “You are here”, but without showing you where anything else is.

My administration will undertake a huge public works program that I call Talking Bumps.

Highway lane bumps will be installed that tell us useful things. Through the magic of Morse Code, or some other post-19th century technology, the bumps could talk to us. As cars drive over the bumps, the frequency and height of the bumps could communicate critical information to the drivers and passengers.

We could install public service announcements into the roads, like:
  • “Have you payed your taxes yet?”
  • “Your highway department wishes you a nice day”
  • “Vote for the incumbent governor; the other guy's an idiot”

We could have systems set up to raise and lower the bumps dynamically to communicate traffic information, like:

  • “2 miles ahead: traffic completely screwed”
  • “Bridge out: jump now”
  • “Bumpy road”

Cities could establish a new revenue stream with bump-ads, such as:

  • “Get off your phone and drive ... unless you're with Wally's Wireless Service!”
  • “Falling asleep? Coffee and amphetamines at the next exit”
  • “Isn't it time you had your shocks checked at Bob's Bumpy Auto Ripoff Shop?”

For highways with long-distance travelers, the bumps could be used to help entertain drivers and keep them awake. For example, interstate stretches could offer a series of classic novels, like “On the Road”.

Inevitably, Talking Bumps will become so popular that cars will purposely drive on the traffic lines just to hear the messages. To avoid unsafe driving conditions of cars driving on the edges of the lanes, manufacturers will simply make bigger cars so that they can be driven in the center of the lanes and still straddle the edges. Fortunately, this is already a trend in American car sizes, so we should be full prepared when the bumps are installed.

Some colder places like Minnesota may not be able to use highway bumps because snow plows would rip them up during the winter months. In these places, it should be a simple matter to create and fine-tune more potholes to achieve the same effect.


Poetry. Sheer Poetry.

Sometimes, I find that it helps to reflect on those places and people that are special in my life. I took some time out this weekend to do so with this dramatic poetry reading. This is an epic piece that dates back many years to my college years with my friend Jim Friedmann, a similarly-minded serious young student. I hope that it inspires you as it has inspired me.



When I am King: Fruit Pizza Stoppings

When I am King...

Fruit toppings will no longer be allowed on pizza.

I know that this will be one of my more controversial decrees. But I feel strongly that government has a duty to intercede on behalf of society and to impose regulation in critical areas for the betterment of its citizens. Fruity pizza is clearly in this realm.

Many people apparently think that pineapple on pizza is good. They're wrong.

Fruit and pizza simply don't belong together. It's like cats and dogs, balloons and stilettos, babies and power outlets, celebrities and spouses; they just don't get along. Would you add milk to your orange juice? Prunes to your salami sandwich? Broccoli to your jello mold? Salsa to your ice cream? String beans to your smoothie?

As part of this change, I will rectify ancient botanical mistakes and finally declare tomatoes to be a vegetable.