When I am King: Card Blanch

When I am King...

There will be greeting cards for more likely occasions.

Statistically speaking, there are nearly as many divorces as marriages. Just like death is the only certainty in life, divorce is almost guaranteed as soon as you tie the knot. It is, after all, just a knot, which you can usually pick apart with your teeth and fingernails. Or failing that, a rusty cleaver always does the job.

It is strange, then, to consider the world of greeting cards in this relationship reality. We have wedding cards and anniversary cards. And a myriad of beautiful friendship-oriented cards that sing out, “I just wanted to spend $4.95 on a piece of folded cardstock and an envelope so that you know that I was thinking of you when I was in the grocery store today.” But there is no stock of cards that address the most fundamental fact of most marriages: termination. Where are the divorce cards?

When I am King, there will be a new genre of cards that address this important phase of life. It is guaranteed that these cards will sell nearly as many as the marriage cards, since they are nearly equal in numbers. In fact, the cards targeted at celebrity divorces in particular should outsell celebrity marriage cards, since celebrities seem to get divorced at a far greater rate than they marry. (It’s not clear how the math of this works out - I have my best scientists on the problem now, plotting multi-dimensional graphs of time vs. beauty vs. IQ vs. child stardom vs. wealth vs. drug rehab. I expect to see an aswer soon in the tabloids).

We have worked out some preliminary attempts to share with you. Artists are still working on the visuals, but expect elements such as faded roses, cobwebs, knives, and pictures of lawyers.

I want to spend the rest of my life with you

far away

A marriage is the gift of a lifetime

Where’s the gift receipt, because I need to return it.

Our love is like a beautiful flower arrangement

Cut short, cooped up in a small space, and dead

Remember that part in our vows that went, “I promise to honor and obey?”

Obey this: Get the Hell out.


When I am King: Operation: Diet

When I am King...

Losing weight will be an easy operation.

I had surgery recently and lost ten pounds in the following week. This is not even including the weight of the appendix that the surgeons removed. So we’ll round it off and call it an even 50 pounds.

All I had to do to lose the weight was sleep peacefully while surgeons gave my insides a manicure with a buzz saw. Then I took some prescription drugs for a few days.

Meanwhile, traditional dieting is difficult. Who wants to eat fiber when there’s ice cream in the fridge? Why wouldn’t you have a beer if all you need to do is open the fridge, see there’s none left, get in the car, drive around to find a store that’s still open, realize they don’t sell beer, drive around some more, finally buy a 6 pack, drive home and open up a bottle? And who in their right mind orders a salad with light dressing at a restaurant that also serves anything else?

But give someone drugs with instructions like, “Do not drink alcohol while taking this drug or YOU WILL DIE” and, “Consumption of dairy products or anything similarly tasty will inhibit the effects of this drug and YOU WILL DIE” and a diet becomes somehow easier and more palatable. Add to that the fact that, for reasons I don’t fully understand and are probably highly complicated and explained by Latin words, you really have no appetite after surgeries like this. Apparently your insides feel rather petulant and sulky after someone has been in there exploring with a camera and a swiss army knife. So even when you find a food that won’t kill you but that you think you can muscle down past your taste buds, you realize that you’re not really hungry after all.

When I am King, diets will become much easier. Instead of depending on complicated and completely undependable factors like motivation and willpower, dieters will have an operation and drug regimen to help enforce the rules. Having problems controlling the sugar intake? Maybe a procedure that messes with your blood-sugar ratio will help. Can’t resist the double-fudge sundaes? Try an operation and antibiotics that prohibit dairy. Too difficult to keep your hand from picking up another bottle of beer? Try amputating the hand.

This approach has the added benefit of immediately removing items from your body, freeing you from the weight they take up immediately. An appendix is small potatoes, but consider what you could lose overnight through removing larger organs, or whole limbs. A hand may not be worth the trouble for its weight, but consider the 10-20 pounds an arm would bring. Or double that for a leg. The head is quite dense and gives great immediate results, although you should consider this option carefully while you still have a brain because you won’t live long enough to enjoy the benefits.

So next time you want to lose weight, consider surgery ... if you have the guts.


Christmas Mourning

The presents are opened,
All gifts are unwrapped.
But something inside the children
Has snapped.

Paper and tape fill
The air like confetti
And cover all surfaces
Like shredded spaghetti.

Junior’s tied up with
Ribbons and bows.
How it all happened
Nobody knows.

Brother Jim is
Playing with dolls.
Amputated limbs
Line the doorways and halls.

Sister Patricia
Sings like a choir
When someone unknown
Sets her hair on fire.

The boys must have loved
All the presents they got
‘Cause they haven’t been heard from
After that shot.

The little kids
Are in the upstairs hall
Seeing if their gerbil
Survives a big fall.

Dad is passed out
And fell off the couch.
He drank too much brandied
Eggnog  again (ouch!).

Mom is nowhere at all
To be seen.
She escaped early on
In a sweat-covered sheen.

Uncle Bob is curled up,
Softly weeping
Hoping that his
Wounds will soon stop seeping.

Auntie Jane
Just sits and rocks
And hums and chews
Her red Christmas socks.

For hours, Grandma hasn’t
Moved her head.
For all we know,
She could be dead.

Some friends stopped by
To visit a spell,
But ran away screaming
From our little Hell.

We’ve locked ourselves
In the basement with care
With hopes that tomorrow
The house will be there.

We’ll hide here all day and
Shiver with fear,
Then do it again
This same time next year.


If Santa Used FaceBook

This is an excerpt from our 2011 family holiday haasecard.

Happy holidays!


The Santa Letters: Jenny

I've been fortunate enough to receive some correspondence from Santa this year, letters that he's written to some of the many children around the world who wrote to him. I'll post some of the more thoughtful pieces to spread the warmth and happiness of Santa throughout this holiday season.
- Chet

Dear Jenny,

Thank you for your letter last week. It arrived without an envelope, and addressee, or even a single correctly spelled word. But I got it. The post office always sends the “looney letters” to me. You might even call me the Head Looney! Ha, just joking; I’m sure there are crazier people than me. If so, I should hire them, because you don’t have to be crazy to work here, but it sure helps! Ha!

By the way, have you noticed the sky lately? It just seems, I don’t know, closer than it used to. Or maybe I’m just getting taller, but I don’t think so, because my coat still fits. I think it’s scientists, harnessing the powers of the ozone to control us. Watch out for them.

Don't worry, I’ll be okay. I have enough firepower here at the pole to take out everyone in this hemisphere. I’m just itching for them to try something.

Gotta go, I think I hear them at the door now.

Ho ho ho,


The Santa Letters: Henry and Simon

I've been fortunate enough to receive some correspondence from Santa this year, letters that he's written to some of the many children around the world who wrote to him. I'll post some of the more thoughtful pieces to spread the warmth and happiness of Santa throughout this holiday season.
- Chet

Dear Henry,

Thank you for your letter. The one last week. The one you sent. Last week. I got it. It.

I’m reading it now. I’ve also got a scottle of botch in front in front of me. I don’t know which one I enjoy more, although the scotch does go down smoothlyer.


To the Parents of Simon,

Thank you for your (and I mean your, not Simon’s, letter of last week):

“Simon would like a stuffed bear, an electric train, and a savings bond worth $100.”

Isn’t it about time you let Simon make his own way in the world? Let him fight his own battles, win his own victories, die in his own defeats. He’s been too long tied down by the apron strings and should be cast off to make his own path. Like Oedipus, let him find his way and return triumphant one day to kill his father and … okay you don’t have to let it get that far. But you know what I mean.

Let him write his own letters, ask for his own toys for Christmas. He’s two, for Christ’s sake. Leave him alone.



The Santa Letters: Sheila

I've been fortunate enough to receive some correspondence from Santa this year, letters that he's written to some of the many children around the world who wrote to him. I'll post some of the more thoughtful pieces to spread the warmth and happiness of Santa throughout this holiday season.
- Chet


I’m not sure who you think you’re dealing with, but I am not a “Customer Service Department”, nor are we an “Organization.” And what’s more, you cannot “exchange or return for a refund” anything that I gave you. Gave. That’s the key word here. Gave. I didn’t sell you anything, and I’m not about to give you anything in exchange for it. It was a gift. If you don’t like it, don’t use it. Better yet, give it to someone else with better taste. Or wait - how about if you take it and smash your hand with it repeatedly until it can never again write such thoughtless and bureaucratic drivel.

Don’t look for me this year, sister. I won’t be coming to your town. You are now officially on my naughty list.



The Appendix

It was a quiet day at the office. A cup of coffee, a little coding, a little snack, some more coding, more coffee, then into a meeting. At which point my appendix decided that 46 years cooped up inside my body was more than enough.

I don't know if it was a coffee overdose or the tedium of another meeting, but the organ had had it; it wanted out. And it was going to get out, one way or the other. I believe its strategy was based on the plan used in Alien - find the quickest way out of the body. I decided to give it another route and had it forcibly removed instead.

The process of getting to the removal stage was, of course, not quite so easy. First we had to figure out what the problem was. All I knew was that I had severe nausea and pain in that whole gut area. I've seen enough movies to know what the problem was: I was about to go into labor. As I told my wife on the way to the hospital, "The contractions are about 10 seconds apart."

My second thought was that it might be appendicitis. This came from my general approach to medical problems, where I just assume the worst possible scenario. A reasonable diagnosis would instead be that I simply had some kind of flu, and that I should go to bed and sleep it off. And in fact that's what the first doctor came up with. He gave me some really nice drugs, including a shot that took me about five minutes to go from pain-wracked to happy, drunken stupor and then knocked me out for 16 hours.

This was great, of course. I haven't had that much sleep in one session since, well, since ever. I should have life-threatening organ failures more often. Unfortunately, the drugs and flu diagnosis didn't change what was going on inside. When they finally saw the results of the blood tests, they sent me in for a CT scan to make sure nothing was wrong. I waited patiently (the painkillers were still swimming in a happy narcotic haze around my system) to hear that everything was normal. Instead, they came and told me that I needed to go to the Emergency Room. Stat. Apparently, they saw the little bugger trying to execute its cunning plan for exit. If only they'd had a CT scanner on the Alien ship. But then we wouldn't have gotten to see Sigourney Weaver blasting alien carcass in the sequel. Life is a tradeoff.

So off to the ER we go. First, I get to sit through triage, going through the same questions that I've answered many times before so that the nurse can decide whether to admit me. Apparently the hospital doesn't trust the word of the clinics. Perhaps I should have groaned louder. Or threw up on her desk.

I finally get admitted, get put in a bed in ER and … wait. Here's this organic time bomb in my gut, just waiting to explode, and I'm sitting there for four hours while a long parade of nurses, technicians, administrators, and surgeons come trooping through my room, most of them asking the same questions, like "When was the last time you ate?" I must have said, "One Saltine cracker at 8:30 this morning" about 15 times. I think they didn't believe me. I mean, who eats Saltines anymore?

Most of the visitors also drew blood. I think this is what medical professionals do when they don't know what else to do. I wasn't on the operating table, so they couldn't actually cut me open. So they drew blood. Over and over and over. Now I'm not a medical professional, so I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that they only need a little tiny bit of blood for each of those many tests they ran on my blood. So why did they need so many different vials of it? Were they trying to starve the appendix into submission? Or is it easier to cut me open if I'm not going to be spraying the docs and the room with gallons of blood? Maybe if they can just whittle it down to a trickle, it makes everything that much more pleasant.

Whatever the reason, by the time they were done I'd been stuck at least 10 different times, between the blood draws, the IV drip, and the several "Oh, that vein doesn't seem to want to cooperate" mishaps. In the end, I felt like my arms had lost several games of mumblety-peg. Though it still wasn't as bad as five minutes outside with the mosquitos on an early Minnesota evening in July. I miss Minnesota.

Finally, everyone seemed satisfied; I had informed the entire hospital staff about the single Saltine I'd had that day, and there was nothing more they needed to know. So they moved me into the Operating Room wing. Not into an actual Operating Room, because those rooms were still occupied. Maybe they didn't bleed those patients enough and were still scrubbing down the results.

No, they moved me into a corridor in the OR wing. There I was, sitting next to shelves piled high with plastic medical devices (the one closest to me held "intubation tubes", which I recall from early seasons on House is the main device used by every doctor for every patient). And there I lay, on my gurney. Just me in the corridor, next to the shelves. I was afraid they'd find me there years hence, when someone went looking for another stash of intubation tubes. "Hey, there's a guy here!," he'd call out. They'd answer quickly, "Ask him whether he ate anything this morning. And draw some blood!

But after a half hour of me observing the complete lack of anything interesting, someone new came by, hooked up the good drugs, wheeled me into the operating room and … I woke up two hours later.

So here I am "recovering" this week. It's a weird thing, recovering from this kind of surgery. If I'd had an amputation, I could see the evidence. If I were on serious mind-altering drugs, then I wouldn't feel like doing anything. But after this kind of operation, you feel nearly normal. The main thing you're supposed to do to recover is not actually act normal. Don't exercise, don't lift anything bigger than a fruitcake, and definitely don't go skydiving, or you'll find yourself back in the OR corridor. I think they just want to bore you to health.

I'm not sure why I wrote about this, except that it was something different I did recently, so it seemed worth recording. Like winning the Nobel prize, or traveling to Portugal; it's not something you do every day. Well, unless your Portuguese. And maybe I wanted to pass along this advice to anyone that has a similar experience: always assume the worst outcome from anything you feel. Then you won't be surprised when it comes true, plus you'll have the added benefit of feeling good about yourself because you were right. And if it's not true (which it generally isn't), you'll feel better about whatever the real problem actually is.

Oh, and don't eat that Saltine in the morning before your surgery. They just won't shut up about it.


The Santa Letters: Suzie

I've been fortunate enough to receive some correspondence from Santa this year, letters that he's written to some of the many children around the world who wrote to him. I'll post some of the more thoughtful pieces to spread the warmth and happiness of Santa throughout this holiday season.
- Chet

Dear Suzie,

Thanks for your letter last week. It meant so much to me to hear what you want me to give you.

Meanwhile, the reindeer are on strike again, as usual. They’re just fine all year long: no responsibilities, just out playing their reindeer games day in, day out. Then when we get into the season, they know they’ve got me over a barrel and they go for it: higher wages, more food, bigger troughs, early stud plans, higher 401k matching: the works.

They’ll come around. It usually just takes some Christmas charm and good old-fashioned threats to make them see the reason for the season. Occasionally I have to follow through on my threats, but I haven't had to do that since Schlitzen in '78.

And Mrs. Claus, well, she’s on strike too, I guess you could say.

Ho ho ho,


The Santa Letters: Timmy

I've been fortunate enough to receive some correspondence from Santa this year, letters that he's written to some of the many children around the world who wrote to him. I'll post some of the more thoughtful pieces to spread the warmth and happiness of Santa throughout this holiday season.
- Chet

Dear Timmy,

Thank you so much for your letter dated “Novmenbr 32th”.

First of all, I’d like to say: ask your Mom for a little help with the spelling next time. I had a hard time getting through your letter trying to figure out what in the Hell you were trying to say. And I’ve seen a lot of bad spellers over the years, believe me.But since it was mostly just a list of the crap you want for Christmas, I struggled through it alright.

In the future, you probably want to sanity-check (or as my Head Elf likes to say, “Santy-check”, the miserable punning bastard) the contents with someone familiar with our language. For example, I assume you wanted “a horse” and not “whores”. It’s not an unusual Christmas wish, but I don’t get that request much from four year olds.

In any case, I can’t fit either option on my sleigh, much less down your chimney. How about a nice football instead?

Ho ho ho,


The Santa Letters: Johnny

I've been fortunate enough to receive some correspondence from Santa this year, letters that he's written to some of the many children around the world who wrote to him. I'll post some of the more thoughtful pieces to spread the warmth and happiness of Santa throughout this holiday season.
- Chet

Dear Johnny,

Thanks for your recent letter in which you so thoughtfully just listed everything you wanted without asking anything about me. I’m sure you meant to, but just didn’t get to it, right? Right.

Things here at the North Pole are, well, they’re cold and miserable. Not like it’s any surprise to anyone; we knew what we were getting into when we moved here. But I never get used to it. It’s just so damn cold this time of year. It’s colder than a freezer on the Mars rover. For all they’re talking about global warming, you think it’d make it nicer up here, but not as far as I can tell. Maybe the glaciers are melting, but I’m not.

I guess we just lied to ourselves when we settled here. For one thing, we went house shopping in the summertime, which is always a mistake. Everything looks better on a summer’s day. What you really want to do is see a place at it’s worst. If you could tour a house during a blizzard in mid-winter, or during a hurricane evacuation, then you’d really know the downsides. But no, we saw something that looked almost nice, and convinced ourselves that it’d be fine. And now we’re stuck, so far underwater on the mortgage that we couldn't dig ourselves out with all the snow shovels I make every year.

And at first we loved the isolation. If there was one thing I couldn’t stand it was all the people around in our old neighborhood. Always stopping by, putting in a good word for themselves, trying to see what List they were on, asking what they were going to get for Christmas. Bah! We had to move up here just to keep from strangling the next neighbor that just happened to drop by unannounced.

But after a few decades, the silence really gets to you. You start to have conversations with icicles. And you don’t want to know what happens with the reindeer on a cold night. Good thing they can’t talk.

Still, it’s better than some places. At least the crime rate’s low here. Anyone stupid enough to be skulking about outside at night dies of exposure before the morning anyway. There’s always a couple each year. Keeps the price of feeding the herd down.

Ho ho ho,


When I am King: End-dorsements

When I am King...

All products will use unknown actors in their advertising.

There’s something sad about the use of famous people to pitch products. I should buy a watch just because a sports star is paid to wear one during an ad? Or I should buy some insurance just because an actor I know is paid to talk about it? Or I should wear a certain kind of bra just because an actress I like is paid to say that she wears it (which, by the way, didn't fit me at all)?

Unfortunately, the system works: we recognize these people, pay more attention to the ads and, for some reason, feel better about buying the products just because these people got paid to endorse them. It’s a sad statement on society that we look to others to make our product decisions for us, even when these other people are not friends and were simply pocketing a check for the odious chore of selling out.

But there’s something even more pathetic about a company that hires unknown actors to do the job. Take, for example, the ad banner below that I ran across recently. You know when they say the name of the actor that (a) they’re not famous enough for you to recognize by sight, but (b) they hope that you’ll at least recognize their name. But sometimes, when the company doesn’t have enough money or sense, neither one is true and we end up with ads like this one. I don’t recognize the face and I’ve never heard her name before.

This situation drew me in further than any famous face would have; I wanted to know more. It turns out that she’s some kind of finance person, famous (I suppose) in circles where people give a crap. This didn’t make me any more interested in the product, but at least I noticed it just because the situation was so ridiculous.

When I am King, all products will use complete unknowns for their advertisements. Products will be chosen based on the curiosity of people to find out more about the people pitching the product: Who are they? Why were they chosen? What does that have to do with anything? Why am I wasting my time finding out?

It’s also possible that consumers will then make choices based on the merits of the products themselves instead of unhealthy interest in someone paid to fake their interest in it. Alright, maybe not.


When I am King: Time to Go

When I am King...

There will be no time like the present.

Tick, tick, tick...

We have an atomic clock. Or, rather, as Wikipedia corrects me, a radio clock, receiving radio signals from an atomic clock system somewhere else. This is a comforting distinction, as I’d rather not have an atomic device directly in my house. Much better to have it in the neighbors’ house, where we can derive benefits such as accurate time while foisting the potential for a core meltdown on them. They’re nice people, I’m sure, but they’re not us.

Centrally located in our kitchen, the clock is in the perfect place for a timepiece that always shows the correct time. Even amidst the uncertainties of as many as two (2) time changes per year, due to the incomprehensible and hopelessly outdated “Daylight Savings Time” tradition, our clock will always tell us what time it is right … now.

Or at least that was the theory when we bought it.

In practice, our atomic clock is just a clock. It either doesn’t talk to the atomic clock server, or it doesn’t bother to listen to the conversation. I think that it must be a teenage clock, knowing with deadly certainty in its acne-covered head that it is right, and that the atomic time server is an old fool.

So when the Daylight Savings Time change occurred a few weeks ago, we gave it a couple of days to get its act together. After that waiting period, we took the thing down and changed the time manually, as usual. Honestly, I don’t know how we manage it twice a year: reaching up, taking it down, spinning the little minute-hand wheel, and then hanging it back up on the wall. It’s all a bit too much and we have to take the next several months to recoup the energy to do it again in reverse. It’s a good thing that the time change doesn’t occur more often.

My wife called me yesterday to inform me that the clock had just adjusted itself. So now it’s an hour early, since we’d already, at great personal energy expense, set it back an hour. Again, I detect adolescent behavior at work, with a petulant, “You want me to change my time, Fine! There, I did it! Happy?!?!” [followed by the slamming of a virtual bedroom door and the boosting of heavy metal stereo volume to tsunami levels somewhere in the house of time]

I liked the idea of the atomic clock - no more worry about whether the time was incorrect; it would just work. But between its relationship difficulties with the time pulse, the draining of its batteries, and the fact that it doesn’t actually keep time that well to begin with, it’s worse than a normal clock without the fancy atomic-clock feature.

With a normal clock, I’d know to keep an eye on it and would never completely trust its information without checking some backup source. But with this kind of device, you feel like it must be right, making its mistakes a continuous surprise. It’s like having an untrained dog versus one that is mostly trained. With the untrained dog, you keep him confined to areas he can’t destroy and can mostly keep things from going off the rails. But with a dog that is mostly trained, you trust him enough to have the run of the house, and eventually come home to find your leather shoes in his mouth and a steaming pile on your bed.

Even a broken clock would be more dependable - at least it would be correct twice a day. The atomic clock runs constantly slower than the real time, guaranteeing that it will only be correct when we bother to reset it, which happens twice a year.

I thought the clock on my phone would serve the same purpose - it’s talking to some time server out in the ether (probably costing me serious airtime minutes in the process - after all, time is money). So its time is always correct. Until you go out of service, like on a plane or in a sub under the Antarctic, or in a great coverage area when the mobile network is feeling despondent. Then you look at this dependable time piece and it says nothing, because you told it to get the time from some service that it’s not on speaking terms with at the moment. So now you have to set the time manually, but the only time you know is the one from your phone, which isn’t very helpful at the moment.

When I am King, there will be no more time. It’s so difficult, never quite knowing what the real time is, or whether your clocks are lying to you. Moreover, it’s stressful having appointments scheduled at exact times, trying to figure out what time it really is, being late because you had to get a coffee on the way and then had to go to the bathroom because of the coffee and then you met someone outside the restroom that you hadn’t talked to for a while and grabbed a coffee with them, and had to go to the restroom again where you met someone else and had a conversation with them. By the time you get to the meeting, it’s over and everyone is upset just because your clocks weren’t giving you the correct time. So no more: time will be a thing of the past.

That’s all for now - it's time to go.


Things I Believe: Thoughts for Friday

Don't cry over spilled milk. Cry over the bleeding wound caused by its container.

A rolling stone gathers no moss, so there's nothing to cushion the blow when it hits.

A stitch in time saves nine, so doing no stitches at all saves ten.

A thing of beauty is a joy forever, or until the beauty fades and they become bitter, tragic parodies of their former selves. Whichever comes first.