Saying is Believing

We have many sayings that we use to express general concepts that apply to any particular situation. But sometimes these sayings fail us. For example:

Last week, our lawn mower broke down. But I couldn't put it out to pasture; it just couldn't cut it.


More Happy Thoughts

Do new employees in funeral homes have to go through an intership?

Did you hear about the guy that caught a bad cold when they buried him alive?
He was coffin for the rest of his life.

Welcome to another beautiful, sunny day of drought.

April showers bring mud.

Don't doubt yourself.
Get at the root of the problem instead: doubt your parents.


When I am King: Flower Power

When I am King...

“A rose by any other name would still draw blood.”

I never look at a flower without hearing it screaming in pain. Plants can't make sounds, so how else would they express themselves besides with their colored petals? It certainly gets our attention, but then we mistake it completely:

Person: Oh, look at that beautiful flower!
Person: I've never seen that shade of red before. So brilliant!
Person: It sure would look nice in that vase on the dinner table! [snip]

Some people are also misled by the aroma of flowers. It can't smell that good if it's bad, right? But think of all of the places in our lives where nice scents cover something awful, from the odorizers in mortuaries to perfume and cologne covering the lack of a shower. For me, the winning coverup odor is Lysol, which I can't smell without thinking of all of the carpet accident cleanups of my childhood dog, Bingo.

Flowers odors are just the same. Sure, they smell fine on the surface, but I know that it's just a pale cover for underlying putrescence. It makes sense, after all: flowers are only hours or days away from certain death. The odor is just there to make the patient feel better about their final torturous time among us.

This misconception of plants goes beyond flowers, however. I recall my first morning in Eugene, Oregon, walking around the university campus, which has many old-growth pine trees. It was a wet morning, something that occurs basically every day in Eugene, and the pine trees exuded a powerful smell of ... pee. It smelled like a pack of wild dogs had peed everywhere: on the trees, on the grass, on the buildings, on my leg.

I'm a dog person, so I'm normally okay with dogs going where they need to, as long as I don't have to clean it up and spray it with Lysol. But it's another thing to nurture plants that smell like it. It makes me wonder about those car fresheners in the shape of pine trees. Maybe people should just let their dogs have their way with the car upholstery instead.

People may talk about how beautiful flowers are, but they completely ignore the fact that their brilliant petals are indicators of horrific death throes. Similarly, people may wax poetic about how beautiful old pine trees are, but they omit anything about the smothering odor of urine.

In my kingdom, flowers will be fertilized with anesthetic, to ease their suffering. And pine trees will be regularly sprayed with Lysol.


What's News?

News is such a downer, don't you think? There's all this horrible stuff going on all over the world, and the news media feels that it's their job to bring it all to us. The worse the news is, the better the story is for them.

Wouldn't it be nice to get a more balanced view of things, and occasionally hear about the events that aren't happening in the world, too?

I now present to you:

What's News?
Where No News ... is Good News


When I am King: Dreams of Class

When I am King...

I have a dream. About French class. It's a nightmare.

Let me see a show of mouse-clicks: who has recurring dreams about school that involve total, abject failure? For me, the scenario is this: I realize in my dream that the French final is tomorrow, but somehow I've forgotten to go to class for the entire term. Now I have to learn the entire language and textbook by the following morning. Je dois etudier beaucoup.

What's particularly disturbing about this dream is not related to French, or failing a class, or the manic way in which I'm running around in my dream looking for the classroom like a character in Run, Lola, Run. No, the disturbing part is that I haven't been in any kind of classroom situation for over 15 years, had not taken a single French class for years at that time, and French was never any kind of huge priority for me in the first place. And yet I apparently still worry about missing French class.

Many huge things happen in life that we should worry about: marriage, work, kids, war, gnomes hiding under the bed, financial ruin, and hair growth in undesirable places. But missing French class seems to be the only way my brain can express its uptightness.

The fix here is, of course, obvious. My government will require that everyone attend regular French classes. These classes will be structured in such a flexible way that it will be impossible for anyone to ever miss a class, or to suffer on the Final Exam for having done so. In this way, our society will get rid of the emotional baggage that we have endured for so long.

Of course, this plan may cause the possible burden of speaking another language, a result which defeats one of the great American skills of speaking only English. But there will be no requirement of actually learning French, or of using it outside of the classroom. The intent is to simply be able to make it to French class successfully, not to get anything useful out of the experience. Remember, this plan not about French. It's about class.


When I am King: Syndrome Syndrome

When I am King...

Everyone's personality disorders will be properly and uniquely labeled.

My wife was talking to someone yesterday that explained how her daughter, at age 4, did not like wearing socks because she has “sensory integration issues”. The mother went on to explain, in a worried voice, that she doesn't know what is going to happen in Kindergarten when she'll have to suck it up and wear her socks day in and day out.

Obviously, the solution here is to provide a medical note to the teacher from her doctor, explaining how the girl's feet cannot be enstockinged because of this terrible mental state from which she suffers, and that she should be excused from any sockish requirements because of her disability.

Some people might think that the girl simply doesn't like wearing socks, but this paints far too simple a picture. There is clearly something wrong with her that needs to be called out with a Medical Classification. I'm thinking she will also need an Aid in the classroom, to help her get by in an academic situation rife with other children that wear socks with ease.

Meanwhile, I recently saw an ad on TV for a new drug that helps combat the symptoms of “Restless Leg Syndrome”. Apparently, the situation where I'm in bed tossing and turning and my legs just want to move finally has a label. And a drug. I was previously misled into thinking that I just had a hard time going to sleep, and that a glass of scotch and a good book were the cure. Now I understand that there is something more insidious, more mentally disturbed, and more treatable is going on. I should rush out and buy the drug. I wonder if it is just dehydrated scotch?

More syndrome classifications are created every day, for everything from different subclasses of Autism to medical terms for “Bully”. Most of these labels are created for children. It's not that kids are the only ones that have issues, but that there's no use figuring out what adults problems are since we're half-dead anyway.

But I believe that our society has not gone far enough in this syndrome labeling system. As a parent, I've come to know many many children (three). I firmly believe that all kids are unique, with original problems and issues all their own. What good is it to group the kids into buckets of classifications that they may uncomfortably share with hundreds or thousands of other children that they don't even know?

Also, the medical classifications are so specific, covering only particular aspects of someone's personality, like Austism or Repetitive Speech Disorder. What if someone is not only ADD, but is also a jerk?

And what happens as the person changes over time? These classifications are static and do not change with the personality they attempt to describe.

No, clearly we need a new system that allows us to express the individuality, issues, hardships, and ultimate triumph of each person. A label that lets everyone else know that, although this person has serious issues, they are overcoming them every single day and they are still here to prove that they are equal to the challenge.

The system of classification will be called “names”. Each person will have a relatively unique name that they can be called, which will denote everything about that person's character. Furthermore, "names" will be flexible enough to change their meaning as the person changes.

So while my name may currently include the meaning “has short hair,” as my hair grows longer the name's meaning would change with me and would denote “needs a hair cut”.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's been a long night and I need to grab a scotch pill and go to sleep.


When I am King: School Daze

When I am King...

Getting kids ready for school must get faster.

Anyone that has tried to get kids ready for and delivered to school in the morning knows that this is a demanding and physically impossible task. You run around a chaotic household in a caffeine- and adrenaline-stoked haze and end up forgetting at least one critical thing, realizing when you drop off your kid that you're missing either a lunch, a shoe, some article of clothing, or a child.

There are several discrete tasks to accomplish in the morning rush. We need to wake up each kid (often the hardest task), get them dressed, get their lunch ready, feed them breakfast, dress them in a coat if necessary, and take them to their destination.

I propose implementing several schemes to optimize this process, thus improving school attendance, reducing parental stress, and making for a generally happier society.

First things first: you're not going to attempt this insanity without a good dose of stimulants in your system. Making and drinking coffee used to, before children, be a slow and pleasurable experience, from grinding the beans to carefully measuring the grounds to brewing the coffee to finally sitting down and drinking your cup while your system slowly woke up. Now, you're lucky if you have time to make a cup at all. The answer, of course, is chugging some instant coffee crystals. It's awful, but only if you think of it as a substitute for a cup of coffee. It's not. It's something to tide you over until you drop off the kids and then get to have your cup of coffee. To make sure that you get it soon enough, keep a jar on your endtable and eat it when you first wake up.

Get kids dressed the night before, including socks and shoes. Not only does this save on time spent dressing in the morning, but it also saves on the cost of pajamas. Sure, it makes for a little less comfort getting to sleep, but once they are asleep the kids won't notice.

Lunches will be made ahead of time. I like to make lunches whenever I have the time, like during a summer work break, and them store them in the freezer. The kids might complain that the texture of their peanut butter sandwiches and chips is 'weird' and 'gross' after semi-thawing out during the morning, and that the milk is hard to drink with chunks of ice in it, but I tell them that it's a whole lot better than the lunches I had when I was in school. This is a complete lie, of course, but kids have no way of knowing this.

It always amazes me to see a family breakfast scene in the movies, where the kids and parents all gather around the kitchen table to partake in a feast of eggs, juice, milk, pancakes, and bowls of fresh fruit. There's conversation, time for serious discussion and parental pep talks, and plenty of time for everyone to eat a complete breakfast. Does anyone human actually eat breakfast like this?

In my experience, the morning is a mad dash. The parents are running around getting stuff ready for themselves and the kids and have no time for idle chit-chat at the table. Chances are, anything out of their mouths are shouts and orders. It doesn't matter what the shouting is about; it's just important that the kids know that they're serious about it. The kids are too busy waking up to care much about talking, unless it's a conversation like “But I said I didn't want milk in my cereal!” And the meal is certainly not a four-course repast, with multiple choices for all appetites. The family is lucky if there's one large bowl of dry Cheerios with several spoons for sharing.

To ensure that the kids will get breakfast at all, I propose storing breakfast food in the pockets of their clothes. This might be a breakfast bar, a fruit, or a couple of handfuls of cereal. Note that the cereal option should skip milk as the pockets do not hold liquids well. The food might get a bit crushed during a night of sleeping on it, but it's better than nothing at all. Once again, try the line about how this breakfast is so much better than the breakfasts of your youth.

Wakeup Time
Waking the kids up is one of the biggest bottlenecks to the whole process, in my experience. If you can't wake them up, you can't feed them, dress them, or get them to their destination. Every optimization above helps here: the more that you can do the night before, the later the kids can sleep, and the easier it is to wake them up. So finally, when you do have to wake them up, it's much easier to do so. But we need to take this one step further.

I propose that kids sleep in the car directly. This saves on the final step of preparations in the house, and makes it possible to let the little darlings sleep all the way until you finally reach the destination. In fact, during cold nights the kids will sleep with coats on, reducing yet another step in the process of getting them ready in the morning. Then it is a simple matter of turning on AC/DC's “Hells Bells” at full volume in the school parking lot, and the kids are instantly awake and ready for another day of learning, learning, learning. Note that you may want to limit their late-night liquid intake with this panicked wakeup procedure.

This system will inspire new and exciting developments in automobiles, as larger models are developed to accomdate lunch freezers and more comfortable bedding. Current SUVs which can only fit carseats the size of full-size beds simply won't do, and ones that have fold-out Queens and Kings will not be long in coming.

Of course, these optimizations only address one small facet of raising school children. There are many more that my ministry is hard at work on. I kid you not.


When I am King: Fired Up Again

When I am King...

All jobs will last only for one year. At the end of that year, the employee in that job will be fired.

(This is a much-anticipated, startling conclusion to my recent All Fired Up posting.)


I have observed a subtle nuance of jobs that is related to seniority. The longer you've been at a place, the less you actually accomplish.

The Peter Principle is similar, with its lofty ideals of promoting people to levels of incompetence. But promotion and incompetence are not really the issue. Instead, I'm talking about people getting so busy in a company that they cannot get anything accomplished in any single task.

Any parent of multiple children has seen this effect. At some point during the day, like every 5 minutes or so, all children will need attention at roughly the same time. For example:
  • Kid #1 says, “I want juice!”. So you go to the fridge and open it up.
  • Kid #2 promptly tips their cereal bowl over on the counter and it starts dripping onto the floor. You close the fridge door and walk toward the sink to get a rag.
  • Kid #1 says, “Juice!”. You reply politely that can't they see that you're $#*!& busy right now and you continue to retrieve the rag from the sink.
  • Kid #2 starts crying as the bemilked cereal spills onto their lap. You consider saying something to calm them down, but decide against it as wasted effort. You continue getting the rag.
  • Kid #1 tries a different tack: “Can I now have some juice please?” You ignore this and walk over to start wiping up the spill.
  • Kid #2 is now spreading the spill out on the counter with both hands, dumping more onto the floor. You try to stop this activity, tipping over a glass of milk in the process, which now spills onto Kid #2's lap and the floor. Kid #2 cries louder.
  • Kid #1 walks over to the fridge and opens it up. You start to clean up the newer spill of milk.
  • Kid #1 grabs the glass juice container, hefts it out of the fridge and promptly drops it on the floor, smashing it into a million pieces and spraying the fridge, the walls, and you with juice.
  • Kid #1 starts to cry. You don't even consider trying to comfort them. You probably, instead, say things that I won't write here. You pick up both kids and, wincing at the pain of glass shards penetrating your slippers, walk them out the the kitchen and set them in the hall. You run to the garage to get the major cleanup items, tracking juice, milk, blood, and broken glass in your wake.

(Personally, I find it easier to start each day by pulling open the fridge and tipping out random contents onto the floor, just to get that part of the meal over with. It just avoids all of the uncertainty about who's going to spill what in the next few minutes. Of course, more usually gets spilled anyway, but at least I set a baseline of spillage that we can all depend upon.)

Notice how, beyond the frustration of dealing with multiple tasks, you actually accomplished nothing. Even worse, every minute of this process only sees more tasks added, and no visible progress on the existing tasks.

Our brains simply weren't meant to deal with multiple tasks like this. Each task that we begin takes time to spin up on, time to accomplish, and time to wind down. If we get enough tasks that we're trying to work on simultaneously, all we do is spin up on them without getting a darn thing done on any of them.

In my experience, the longer you're at a company, the more tasks you attract, like lint on refrigerator coils, or hair on soap. And the more tasks you have, the less you get done on any of them. Finally, at some seniority level, you reach a steady state of productivity where all you can do is simply participate in meetings and process email, and even then you're missing various meetings and email along the way.

You're not actually accomplishing anything at either one of these tasks. You go to the meetings, but have no time to get anything done on the items discussed. And you barely have time to read your emails, much less actually reply to them or consider what they're about.

Much better to avoid seniority altogether. If you're not around long enough at a company, then nobody will know you, and they won't know to give you tasks. You won't get added to all of those long email lists with zillions of other people, so you won't get as many emails. You won't be invited to meetings, since nobody knows to invite you.

Of course, everyone at any company will be in the same boat. There will be no meetings or email, since everyone will be relatively new and nobody will know anyone else in the organization.

Maybe, just maybe, everyone can concentrate on getting things done during the day. Like looking for the next job, since they're going to be fired within the year and will need one.

The one exception to this policy will be, of course, the King. Monarchy, like stupidity, is for life.


Sunday Comics: The Easter Story

Although Easter is a beloved tradition in our culture, many people do not understand the story behind the holiday. In honor of this day, I offer this pictorial explanation.


Friday Night


Saturday Night

Sunday Morning: The Resurrection

Hoppy Easter!


Pretty Good Friday

With the holiday celebrations this weekend, I figured it was time for some religious jokes. Between the Jewish celebration of suffering (Passover) and the Christian celebration of rising from the dead (Easter), combined with a rabbit somehow distributing eggs and multi-colored candy that looks like bunny poop ... this weekend just begs for jokes.

What do you call a loaf of bread that's baked this Sunday?

What do you call it when you celebrate Passover the day before Easter?

In the interest of being cross-cultural, I would offer up something about Islam, but that's allah the jokes I got.


When I am King: All Fired Up

When I am King...

All jobs will last only for one year, after which the employee in that job will be fired.

This may seem, at a very superficial level, rather harsh and demeaning. However, I think you will see that this system of temporary employment is actually great for the employees.

Job Security

Job security is normally thought of in terms of how long your job will last. So the idea of getting axed after such a short period seems at odds with job security. However, the reality in today's employment market is that no job is secure.

Either the company will go south, or your department will tank, or your product will fail, or there will be some reorg, or your boss will find that morally suspicious stuff you've been posting on the internet in the company's name, or one of a host of other Bad Things will occur that put your job at risk. Every single day.

We all constantly wonder: “Will I still be employed next year? Next month? Next week? After lunch?”

What kind of job security is that?

Wouldn't it be more secure to know, for certain, that you will be fired on a specific date? At least then you could depend upon something. How much security can there be with some many constant nagging questions? Give me the sure thing of knowing that I'm gone, and then at least I know what I can count on. Or, rather, not.

Of course, the nature of people's jobs will necessarily change and involve much more ramp-up time learning whatever the job entails, since everyone will switch jobs so much more frequently. But more importantly, people will need to spend a major portion of their year-long tenure at any job looking for the next job.

This is not a new concept, however. Politicians have perfected the art of spending their entire term in office seeking re-election for the following term. This is the only thing that keeps our government working. Can you imagine the gridlock that would result if politicians actually paid attention in their jobs and tried to do something useful?

There is more to say in favor of mandatory firings, but in the interests of informing a society with a short attention span, I'll continue the discussion in another posting, leaving a cliff-hanger of an ending here. Can't you feel the suspense building?


Sunday Comics: Heaven and Helmet

It's Sunday, so of course I'm thinking about comics and religion all day.

Heaven: the ultimate gated community

I was wondering:

Do think the hosts of Hell ever take road trips to heaven? Maybe they go on panty raids, or toilet-paper heaven's gate. Or just tailgate outside, boozing it up and cat-calling new arrivals.

If there is a Doggy Heaven, like my parents always assured me there was, do you think that it's next to People Heaven? If so, don't you think it would be a hellish racket?

Do you think there's any music besides harps and strings in heaven? Would electric guitars be allowed? What about drums? What if we called it "heavenly metal music"?

I guess you probably get a free robe to wear when you get into Heaven. If you were ever kicked out, would you get to keep the robe? Or would they notice if you packed it in your suitcase and walked out with it? Would it just show up on your room bill later?