Christmas Delivery

It was Christmas Eve and the workshop was, of course, utter chaos. It was the same every year.

Sometime in February, a new Program Manager would propose a brand new process that would surely fix it last year's problems. “This time,” they’d say, “We’ll do it earlier. And we’ll do it better!”

It would always start with schedule adjustments:
  • The Naughty & Nice List must be frozen by June
  • Present orders due August first
  • Present manufacturing August-September
  • Present delivery to Shipping in October
  • Outstanding issues and errors processed in October
  • Final order adjustments in November
This, they said, would leave all of December to pack the sled, double-check everything, and take a big breath before Delivery.

The schedule would start slipping early on. First, the Naughty & Nice List wouldn’t be ready on time. The PMs would ask for it, but Evaluation would push back, saying, “The year hasn’t even happened yet! We don’t know whether they’re naughty or nice!” They’d offer some token names for the List (with some kids you always know how its going to end up), but it didn’t even account for 5% of the total List. The PMs would argue for incremental improvement and names would trickle in over the year, but the bulk of the evaluations really didn’t happen until late Fall.

Presents couldn’t be ordered in July, of course, because it wasn’t clear who would get what until the List was complete. Manufacturing stalled waiting on Ordering. And the entire Shipping department just went on a six month offsite to Aruba, knowing that there wouldn’t be anything for them to deal with until the last minute.

Finally it all always comes together in December, with everything happening in parallel, gumming up the works as elves are hand-carrying names, orders, and presents in a flurry of activity more like Black Friday at Walmart than Santa’s Happy Workshop.

This year, some PM (a new one, of course, as the previous year’s PM quit in a huff and took on a job in Returns (“At least Returns knows something about adhering to process!, ” she quipped in her obligatory departmental goodbye email)) had the bright idea of trying out some Agile methodology. They apparently ran across a huge stack of some book in Returns on the subject and thought that it would solve all of our problems.

The year started out with this discouraging email:

Hey Team!

As your new scrum master, I’m here to welcome you to 2014, or what I’m calling The Year of Process! This year, we won’t suffer any of the previous problems because we will iterate on deliverables in short sprints, delivering incremental product improvements based on specific customer requirements. Daily stand-up meetings will cover status as well as project overlap and bottlenecks, which will be adjusted through cross-team collaboration.

Through careful adherence to process discipline, we will all have a productive year and December will be a joyous holiday time instead of a slog.

So welcome to the Year of Process: It’s my gift to you!

Scrum Master Elf

Nobody understood or cared about this. Another year, another PM. Another PM, another attempt at fixing an unfixable problem.

We all showed up for the first stand-up meeting; we’d heard there would be donuts. Everyone but the PM was seated comfortably, despite his best efforts to get us to rise. We spent a few painful minutes in a round-table status discussion, then ambled off to get some more coffee.

The next day there was another stand-up meeting, but I don’t think anyone other than the PM showed up.

We’d get a flurry of emails on how things were going on an almost continual basis. I think the PM was just having a conversation with himself; I know that we weren’t listening. Emails with titles like, “February Sprint Deliverables!” and “March Deadline Approaching!” and “[URGENT!] April Requirements Due!” all got auto-filtered into our junk folders.

Around July, the emails stopped cold. The official story was that the PM had taken a vacation, from which he apparently never returned. The word on the street was that he had flipped out in the break room and started flinging sugar packets everywhere, shouting, “And you get process! And you get process! And you get process!” Security escorted him out and he’s supposedly recovering in his mother’s basement.

The rest of the year went the same as they always do, with everyone just hanging out playing poker until December and then kicking into overdrive to get it all done on time.

So here we were again: December 24th. The List had barely come in in time to have any of the presents ordered. But we pushed through a Code Red and got all the right forms submitted. The assembly line kicked into high gear, temporary elves were brought on, overtime was signed off on, and all of the presents were made to spec (though without, perhaps, the care and attention that they all deserved. But how is a five year old supposed to notice too much glue in a joint? Or whether their bear is cross-eyed? Or whether their toy trains wheels are trued?). We all formed a packing line to get the presents from Manufacturing into the sleigh, and it was all finally done with at least a minute to spare. Maybe even a minute and a half.

“Okay, Santa,” I said to my boss as he settled into his seat, putting his fresh quint-espresso into the cup holder (a recent addition to the sleigh, something we managed in the summer downtime). “Everything is here: all present and accounted for. It’s a wrap!”

He looked at me sternly. “You really need some new jokes,” he said.

“And I thought I had a gift!,” I said with a smile.

“Ugh. All right, let’s hook up the reindeer and get these delivered.”

“Yes sir!”

I turned to make it happen when he called me back.

“Oh, and one more thing.”

“Yes, Santa?”

“I have an idea for a present for me for next year.”

“Really? We’ve… we’ve… we’ve never had such a request, sir. I’m not sure we’re equipped. But we’ll see what we can do. Do you need a new sleigh? Dry-cleaning for your outfit? A new set of reindeer? A beard trimmer? World peace? What can we get you, sir?”

“I want a year without process.”

“Yes, sir!”


The Twelve Days of Christmas Shopping

On the first day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
A box.

On the second day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
Two cardboard boxes
And a box.

On the third day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
Three cardboard boxes,
Two cardboard boxes,
And a box.

On the fourth day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
Four cardboard boxes,
Three cardboard boxes,
Two cardboard boxes,
And a box.

On the fifth day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
Five envelopes,
Four cardboard boxes,
Three cardboard boxes,
Two cardboard boxes,
And a box.

On the sixth day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
Six cardboard boxes,
Five envelopes,
Four cardboard boxes,
Three cardboard boxes,
Two cardboard boxes,
And a box.

On the seventh day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
Seven cardboard boxes,
Six cardboard boxes,
Five envelopes,
Four cardboard boxes,
Three cardboard boxes,
Two cardboard boxes,
And a box.

On the eighth day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
Eight cardboard boxes,
Seven cardboard boxes,
Six cardboard boxes,
Five envelopes,
Four cardboard boxes,
Three cardboard boxes,
Two cardboard boxes,
And a box.

On the ninth day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
Nine cardboard boxes,
Eight cardboard boxes,
Seven cardboard boxes,
Six cardboard boxes,
Five envelopes,
Four cardboard boxes,
Three cardboard boxes,
Two cardboard boxes,
And a box.

On the tenth day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
Ten cardboard boxes,
Nine cardboard boxes,
Eight cardboard boxes,
Seven cardboard boxes,
Six cardboard boxes,
Five envelopes,
Four cardboard boxes,
Three cardboard boxes,
Two cardboard boxes,
And a box.

On the eleventh day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
Eleven cardboard boxes,
Ten cardboard boxes,
Nine cardboard boxes,
Eight cardboard boxes,
Seven cardboard boxes,
Six cardboard boxes,
Five envelopes,
Four cardboard boxes,
Three cardboard boxes,
Two cardboard boxes,
And a box.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
Amazon sent to me
Twelve cardboard boxes,
Eleven cardboard boxes,
Ten cardboard boxes,
Nine cardboard boxes,
Eight cardboard boxes,
Seven cardboard boxes,
Six cardboard boxes,
Five envelopes,
Four cardboard boxes,
Three cardboard boxes,
Two cardboard boxes,
And a box.


Thanksgiving Prayer

Now I lay me down to eat:
I prey upon the turkey meat.
Stuffing follows in its wake,
Buried in a gravy lake.

Now I lay me down to rest,
After some more chicken breast.
If I shall die before I wake,
I won’t regret this food I take.



The Optimist and the Pessimist

The optimist believes the glass is half full.
The pessimist believes the glass is half full - of poison.

The optimist says, "It's Friday!"
The pessimist says, "It's only two more days until Monday."

The optimist sighs.
The pessimist burps.

The optimist looks forward to tomorrow.
The pessimist doesn't bother.

The optimist looks away.
The pessimist looks bored.

The optimist says something happy.
The pessimist says, "We're all dead soon."

The optimist frowns.
The pessimist smirks.

The optimist looks on the bright side.
The pessimist looks for sunglasses.

The optimist thinks the pessimist is depressing.
The pessimist thinks the optimist is a jerk.
The optimist takes offense at the pessimist.
The pessimist takes a swing at the optimist.
The optimist pulls away.
The pessimist pulls a gun.
The optimist ducks under the gun, grabs the pessimist's hand and, in the struggle for the weapon, fatally shoots the pessimist.

The pessimist says, "See? I told you so," and dies.

The optimist says, "That's better!"


Things I Believe: Thoughts for Friday

Better to have loved and lost than never to have HATED SOMEONE SO COMPLETELY WHEN SHE LEFT AND TOOK EVERYTHING.

All work and no play makes Jack an adult.

Better laid than never.

Beauty is only skin deep, which is obvious when you cut the skin away and they're super gross.

A man who is his own lawyer is double-billing for his time.


When I am King: I'll Sell My Books on *All* the Online Stores!

After much gashing of teeth and dorking around with HTML, XML, CSS, ePub editors, validators, and many other pieces of arcane technology that I'd love to not have to know about, I finally managed to convert both of my comedy books into a form that's digestible by the Google Play Store.

This means that both books are not available on the Play Store. Better yet, I've made them totally reasonably-priced at just $1.99 each. Because I'm such a reasonable guy and all.

The books were already available in dead-tree format and for Kindle. And When I am King... II was already on the Play Store... but only in 'scanned' (PDF) format. The new twist now is that both books are also available in an e-reader friendly format (ePub) from the Play Store. For just $1.99. (Did I mention that already?)

When I am King...

When I am King... this book will be required reading. Until then, consider it important background reading on future social policy. And an excellent beer coaster.

When I am King... II

More Reasons to Put Me in Charge

Health. Politics. Parenting. Education. Coffee. Bamboo: serious issues that plague each of us every day. But aren’t we all too busy to deal with these them? Wouldn’t we like a friendly monarch to take over and solve all of these problems for us?

Kingship: It’s not just for princes anymore!


Cartoon: NP

Designers and developers don't really speak the same language.

(For the non CS geeks: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NP-hard).


Cartoon: Earthquake Preparedness

This is pretty much what it was like yesterday at 3:30 in the morning in my house.


Rounding Factor

Light and fluffy,
Mostly round,
Worth its weight,
Pound for pound;
Donuts are the
Best I’ve found
For eating on a Friday.

It’s not as though
They're fancy food
Or subtle; donuts
Ain't subdued.
Some might, in fact,
Just find them crude.
They’re gourmet food made my way.

They’re shaped like some
Majestic crown
Then deeply fried
To golden brown,
Boiled in lard
Until they’re drowned,
Then dried upon a rack.

Covered with a
Sugar glaze
Or sprinkled with
A powdery haze,
Fill with goop
In many ways:
A torus heart attack.


Cartoon: Conference Presentations

Now that a major developer conference is over, I like to reflect on what went into it, how well it went, and what it was like to actually prepare for it.

The easiest was for me to explain it would be in cartoon form. There is always an awkward disconnect between the organizers of the conference who, by the very nature of who they are and what they do for a living, expect everyone to be very organized about their presentations, and the engineers speaking at the conference. The engineers, because of what they do for a living (write code, ship products) tend to, er, not have slides and presentations at the top of their priority list, so there tends to be a bit of conflict leading up to the conference. Something like this:


Today I am Older

Today I am older
And closer to death.
I can feel the clock ticking
With every breath.

(I can’t find a third word
To rhyme with death)
It was my birthday today.

It’s not that I’m sad about
Aging. In fact,
The alternative sucks,
To be quite exact.

So I’ll take getting older
Over getting whacked;
Living’s better than not any day.


When I am King: Driver's Seat

When I am King...

Dating couples will take each other for a test drive.

When you're auditioning future mates, it's important to know how things will pan out in the long run. There are obvious elements to consider such as food preferences, body hygiene, and likelihood that they'd be a serial-killer. But by far the most important factor in relationships is how compatible you will be in the cars that you will share.

Will they shift the seat way up and tilt it so far forward that they can drive with their chest? Will they lean it back so far that they could take a nap in traffic? Will they boost the height and make you scrape your head when you try to cram yourself into the car?

None of these things seat settings are permanent, obviously; that's why they make them adjustable. But all of them take time to readjust every time you get into the car.

Every. Single. Time.

Take just one of those times and multiply it by several times a day for the length of a marriage. Suddenly a minor annoyance that's fixed in a minute became a needless waste of hours or days per year. Think about the various hobbies that you never have time for, or the novel that you never get around to starting because you don't have the time in your life; this is where that time went. Your partner stole that time by their relentless insistence that your car seat fit their body.

According to the Bureau of Tedious and Made-up Statistics (BTMS), most marriages last far less than the lease on your car. So maybe you're thinking that this doesn't seem too terrible, and that they're really cute. But cuteness erodes like the skyline view from your condo that got obscured by the new office block across the street. And the hassle of repositioning your car seat never gets easier. I would argue that, in fact, most marriages implode early due to this one single painful dynamic; none of us wants to waste our time on our comfort level, we just want it the way we always had it, before that other person came into our lives and just messed everything up.

So do yourself a favor: put your partner in the driver's seat and see what they do there. And if they change things around, leave them there.


Donuts: My Turn

It was my turn to go to the donut shop,
But I had no time and could not stop.
The future looked bleak and pastry-free;
I dreaded going to work.

I slowly opened my building’s door
Climbed the stairs, feeling bad, more and more,
Walked past the cubes and the offices,
Feeling like such a jerk.

When what did my drooping eyes perceive,
But something I could not scarcely believe:
Two boxes of donuts were there on display;
I was saved by a kindly co-work-


Video: Part of the Problem

I've always wanted to be a motivational speaker. I thought maybe I should practice.


Donut and Coffee

Donut and coffee,
Together again.
I haven't had these two
Since I don't know when.

Oh, wait - just last Friday,
Before the weekend,
I had three or four
(or five) then.


Advanced Photography: Lesson 1

A friend has begun to learn photography. His journey began, as it usually does, with buying good equipment. That's a great start, but is often overwhelming for beginners as its complexity can result in sub-optimal results, making one wonder why the equipment was so expensive, where all your money went, and why one's wife left.

To alleviate these problems, I thought I would post some lessons in photography, speaking from my vast experience as a hobby photographer myself. I am not a professional, because that means I would be making money on my photographs. This is not the case, since I take and share my pictures and experience simply for the joy of doing so.

There are a myriad of things to know when you first get started, but to avoid swamping you with too much information and making you wish you'd chosen a different hobby, like knitting or smoking, I'll start with one of the simplest, yet most effective principles of Great Photography.

Lesson 1: Take the Lens Cap Off

Many people skip this step entirely and either don't think that it matters or don't even know that it's a thing. But it is: It is a thing. In fact, it's not overstating it to say that taking the lens cap off may be the most important thing you can do for your pictures ever.

The effect of this lesson is so huge, in fact, that it is a bit of an anti-climax to some people, realizing that after they have mastered this lesson, everything else they learn as a photographer pales in comparison. Other critical lessons such as Not Dropping the Camera, Cleaning Mud Off the Lens, and Focusing on Something are all important, to be sure, but once you've mastered Taking the Lens Cap Off, everything else is child's play.

On the other hand, it's gratifying to know that you can do something so simple at the start to put your entire future hobby on a better footing.

The explanation of this lesson is simple:
Whenever you take a picture, first take the lens cap off.

The details are, of course, a bit more complicated. For example, should you take the lens cap off before you turn the camera on? What is the optimal delay between taking the lens cap off and taking a picture? Should you replace the lens cap after taking one picture and then remove it again before taking the next? Where should you put the lens cap when it is not on the camera?

All of these are great questions and worthy of future articles, although it is important to just get the essentials down for now. I'll let you, the reader and (I hope!) the future photographer play with some options here to get a feeling for what works for you. But the most important takeaway is: make sure that the lens cap is off every time you take a picture.

Technical Details:
Complex explanations are beyond the scope of this first lesson, but suffice it to say that the camera depends on light to capture images, and that the lens cap prevents that light from entering the camera.

Since this is a photography article, it is obviously necessary (and more fun!) to teach through pictures.

First, here is the result of taking a picture with the lens cap firmly in place:

I think you'll agree that the picture, while interesting in some respects, doesn't offer the viewer much to look at. This is because the lens cap was on while the picture was captured.

Here is what that same scene looked like immediately after taking the previous picture. First, I Took the Lens Cap Off, and then took the picture:

Hopefully you can see the difference and tell why you, as a budding photographer, should also Take the Lens Cap Off before taking your pictures.

Thanks for reading: come back for future lessons on Advanced Photography.


My Donut, My Savior

She said something nasty
(Oh, holy moley!):
She said that donuts
Are wholly unholy.

Whether jelly-filled bun,
Or a custard-filled roll,
Or simple and glazed;
They all have a hole.

Why she claimed what she did
Is a sad little riddle;
Each donut is holy,
Right there in its middle.

To each his own God;
Or religion profound.
I place my faith in
The Donut, most round.


A Month Without Devices: A Diary

After the softball game, as I waited for my daughter to pack up her things, I took out my phone and played a game for those two minutes, because that’s what you do now. There is no dead time anymore. Waiting in line at the store? Check the news. Walking to work? Check the weather. Speaking to a friend? Check your email and calendar. Anything else happening? Play a game.

It’s become a disease, where we are more and more addicted to these things in our pockets. I can almost remember a time when I used to simply not do things instead. I’d look around. Or have a conversation with someone. Or use my imagination. Or just not do anything, because I didn’t have to. But no longer: now I feel compelled to always be doing something, where ‘something’ means looking on my phone for the next communication or the next piece of information, or just playing an addictive game.

Well it’s time to stop this madness; it’s time to reset the system, to reboot me and go back to the way it used to be when life was simpler and there wasn’t this incessant need to keep reaching in my pocket for my Machine of Wonders. Or it’s at least time to find out if I can.

As of today, I’m starting a leave of absence from my phone and all of my many devices. I hereby promise to go a month without my new best friend, and to record my experiences as they happen. In doing this, I hope to learn more about the world around me, and maybe even a little bit about myself.

Day 1
Not much to report so far, since I just woke up. I’d like to check email, but just from habit.

10 am
I feel kind of tingly, like I have this need to keep picking up the device and looking for information, yet excited by the prospect that I don’t have to!

11 am
Feeling pretty good - it’s three hours now and no smartphone. I was late for a meeting at 1030 because I didn’t get a notification, but that’s to be expected as I work into this new system. I’ll just have to remember things better, maybe write things down more.

Feeling great - this is really enabling. I don’t think I’ve had so much time to just be me since… I’d have to check my calendar for the last time I felt like this. Going out to lunch with some old friends, can’t wait to tell them about my new experiment.

1:30 pm
Lunch didn’t work out so well. I thought I knew where that restaurant was; I wonder if it moved? Or maybe not having been there in a decade worked against me. It would have been easy to check maps on my phone, but that defeats the purpose. Anyway, I didn’t find the place until they were done with lunch and heading out. No time to tell them about my Month Without Devices. I’ll send them email about it instead, when I get back to my desktop machine.
In any case, I really enjoyed walking around the town for an hour. It was like a leisurely stroll, except for the part where I knew I was late meeting friends for that whole time.

Missed another meeting, but it was a pretty boring one with HR, no big deal. But I should really try to get to the makeup meeting at 4:00.

Missed the makeup meeting, too. What the hell? Like I can’t remember things for a single hour?

Forgot to arrange a ride home with my wife; I guess I’m walking. That’s great, it’ll give me more time with my thoughts. Thoughts like, I need to remember to arrange a ride tomorrow.

Missed dinner. I guess my wife was counting on me being here earlier. Whoops! Apparently she called, texted, and emailed me, but of course I didn’t get those messages. I don’t think she took me seriously last night when I told her about my grand experiment. She doesn’t understand how important this is to me.
She’s pretty mad.

Watched a pretty good show. I couldn’t place the main actor. I know I’ve seen him in something recently. It's killing me.

No games in bed tonight: I think I’ll read a book. Man, I used to really enjoy reading books, went through like one or two a week back in the day. Then again, I don’t really have any physical books here that I haven’t read since all of my new books are electronic.
Never mind, I’ll just go to bed. Probably better for me anyway, right?

2 am
Up in the middle of the night, as usual. No games to play, though. Or books to read. I guess I'll just lie here, collecting my thoughts.

Day 2
Jesus, what a stupid idea. What was I thinking?
Screw this.

Friday Donut Poem

It’s not that I needed a donut today.
It’s not like I’d die without it.
It’s just that I know we’d be better that way;
Eat one and then you won’t doubt it.

It’s round and it’s sticky and filled with delight,
Just gushing with goodness and fat.
Was ever there more of a wondrous sight
Than dough boiled in lard in a vat?

So stuff one down; No: two, three, or four!
There’s plenty for everyone here.
We won’t want them later, though there be more;
They’re better with coffee than beer.


When I am King: Mug Shot

When I am King...

Muggings will be more frequent and more appreciated.

I’ve never been mugged, but mugging seems like a really good deal.

Think about it: someone is offering you a service (not beating you up) in exchange for whatever money you have on you. Unless you’re carrying a huge stash from a recent bank heist, that’s a pretty good deal. The recovery time alone, on top of possible doctor’s visits and downtime, is well worth the few bucks in your wallet. And if you add the actual pain involved in the procedure, it’s worth that much more.

My favorite part about mugging is that it’s a fair system based on the enlightened principle of pay-what-you-can. Instead of the rather heartless capitalist mechanism of charging whatever the market will bear and expecting everyone to pay that price, the average victim is, instead, charged only what he or she has on them at the time, which is imminently more sensible and kind. If I were charged the real price for not getting the crap kicked out of me, it could cost thousands of dollars. As it is, I can walk around the dark places in the city confidently, knowing that I will only owe the twenty bucks that I happen to have in my wallet.

Compare this deal to the price of dinner or a movie, and I think you’ll see that it’s an urban experience that's well worth the price.

Of course, the mugger could always choose to hurt you even after you’ve given them your money. But that’s just not fair and I wouldn’t stand for it (I would choose, instead, to lie in the gutter moaning and bleeding softly).

In future installments, I’ll analyze the financial benefits of being sued, getting divorced, and being jailed for life.


Halve Your Cake and Eat It, Too

She halved the donuts, citing fat
And calories and such.
It worked for me; I simply helped
Myself to twice as much.


I Love You: A Valentine Poem

I love the way you brush your hair
While lying in the bed,
So strands of hair and dandruff drift down
On my resting head.

I love the way you look at me,
When outside in the sun,
With squinting eyes that look so mad it
Makes me want to run.

I love the way you call my name
When I am nowhere near.
The piercing shriek kills wildlife
And fills us all with fear.

I love the way you touch me,
Your caress is always kind.
It’s lucky people cannot see the
Bruises left behind.

I love the way you hug me
With embraces hard and fine.
In fact you squeeze so firmly that
I think you cracked my spine.

I love the way you run to me
When I come in the door.
Although I wish you didn’t knock me
Down onto the floor.

I love you with the whole of me,
With all the love I’ve got.
I love you, most of all,
Because I’m terrified to not.



I wanted to send all of you cards, but I didn't have your addresses. But here's what I would have sent:

Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
So am I
And so are you.

Happy Valentines Day

I'd offer my love,
But you wanted flowers instead.

Happy Valentines Day

I just wanted you to know that my calendar reminded me.

Happy Valentines Day

Here are some dead flowers
And candy hearts that taste like chalk.


The Hook

The shower hook
Upon the wall
Is barely on
The wall at all.

In fact, if I
should use the thing
My towel would
Most likely fall.

The situation’s
One I dread;
The tension hurts
Inside my head.

I cannot trust that
Hook held by a
Screw that’s hanging
By a thread.


When I am King: What's in a Name?

When I am King...

The name Chet will be used by more interesting movie characters.

It is the bane of my life to have the name Chet. I could have had a clever name, or a tough-guy name, or a unique name. But instead, due (if I understood the story correctly) to the massive amount of epidural drugs rocketing around my mother’s system when she was still recovering from what I did to her, I was given what everyone assumes is a nickname. Everyone I know eventually asks me, “What’s your real name?” and I can see the pity in their eyes when I reveal that I have nothing more to offer. Worse, it’s a name that is not unique, but is extremely uncommon because it’s, well, dorky.

I’ve met a total of three other Chets in my entire life. One of those was the guy I inherited the name from, so he doesn’t count. (I asked if I could give him the name back; apparently that wasn't polite). And none of those people, including my relative, actually had the name Chet, they just shortened their name to that nickname from the arguably dorkier name Chester, from which Chet is typically derived. Chester is not, I’d like to remind you, my real name. I just have Chet. Just a nickname. Just a dorky nickname based on a dorky real name.

At this point, many motivated children will turn to their backup plan: the middle name. This is, after all, why we have them - why else would we have a name that sits in the middle of the other two, never getting used except when applying for a drivers license or being yelled at by your parents? It’s the slient-p of the naming world. It’s the color ‘transparent’. It’s the Prophet Elijah that always gets a place to sit but never gets to come to the table. The frustrated and poorly-named child will whip that name out and start using it willy-nilly, producing such awesome names as F. Scott Fitzgerald.

So I turned to my middle name and found only Spencer, which, at my current age, doesn’t seem too bad. But to a twelve year old with glasses, that’s not much of an improvement. That’s like putting a “Punch me, jerk!” sign on your nose and then poking the bully next to you with your sharpened #2 pencil. So I stuck with Chet. At least I had the advantage that nobody gave me a nickname, since they thought I already had one.

For a time, I was in a phase where I would tell people that Chet was short for Hatchet Killer. In fact, I'm still in that phase.

Part of the reason that people actually know the name, despite nobody they know actually having the name (or admitting to it) is that books and Hollywood keep it alive. That’s right - I have a character name. When Hollywood wants a character with a strong stereotype personality, Chet is one of the first names they consider.

Apart from one oddball use of the name in a mystery novel (I believe it was the excellent Carl Hiaasen mystery novel Double Whammy), in which there was a redneck character named Chet, nearly all of the Hollywood uses of the name boil down to this: uptight oddball.
The Hardy Boys: The kid-detective's dorky, overweight, uptight friend was named Chet. Great.
Weird Science: Apparently I’m also an uptight military-school character.
Fargo: Chet was the doorman for the sleazy hotel where the author stayed.
Bay Boys: Once again, there was a doorman named Chet. Apparently it’s the only job Chets can get in that town.

There are other examples, but that’s the general trend. Uptight oddball, with a little bit of redneck mixed in.

Then I saw Turbo this weekend with the kids. And there’s a Chet in it. And you’ll never guess the character he plays. Ah, you guessed it - it’s the uptight, flaccid, and totally dull brother.

But here’s the disturbing part: As soon as the character (played by Paul Giamatti) started speaking, my whole family decided that it actually was me. Negative, sarcastic, and (I suppose) purple: I’m all of those things. So maybe Hollywood’s had it right all of this time. Or maybe I’m just playing the part really well. Because Turbo nailed it: I am that purple shelled, bad-attitude mollusk.

When I am King, Hollywood will change the rules and start using Chet as the name for action heroes and leading roles of all kinds. No more dorky sidekicks: we’ll have the big stars as our role models: tall, strong, … and probably still dorky, because they got stuck with the name Chet.

What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
Except Chet. Don't name that flower Chet.


When There Is A Donut

When there is a donut,
There is nothing wrong at all.
Life could be ruined, people could die,
Nations could crater and fall.

But if there’s a donut, just one single donut,
Then everything’s good as can be;
I open my mouth and suck it all in and
I am a happier me.

Some people might find me vapid,
My philosophy lacking and sad,
But when I taste the warm sugar and fat,
I figure it can’t be that bad.

Everyone has their own weakness,
Their own special thing they adore.
For some it’s true love or power or clothing
Or shopping all day at the store.

For others, it might be fun gadgets,
Or video games played all day long,
And who am I to judge these pursuits,
Or tell everyone that they’re wrong?

But meanwhile, I just need donuts.
In fact, I’ll just have that one.
(And then when I’m done with it, I’ll have another;
This time a cinnamon bun).

So let all the governments fail,
And storms break the Earth’s crust apart;
As long as I have my one single donut,
I’ll also have joy in my heart.


Things I Believe: Thoughts for Friday

Actions speak louder than words, UNLESS YOU USE ALL CAPS.

Talk is cheap, so be really verbose if you want your sentences to have any value at all.

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Tasting evil is fine.

Speak softly and carry a big stick. AND A CAPS-LOCK KEY.