Archive for March 2012
There’s also this: http://wp.me/pSXPz-wh
Originally posted January 30, 2011
We both know that I’m already six years old, and that a six-year-old is very different from a three-year-old or a nine-year-old. But it appears that our sensibilities regarding proper behavior for a six year old differ markedly. I seek here to correct a number of important misconceptions you seem to have, and the consequent expectations you harbor, expectations that I contend are unreasonable.
Let us begin with your assumption that I hear what you have to say. I do often hear you, especially when the subject involves junk food or dessert. Say the word “pizza” and I’m all ears, even from two floors away. But quite frequently, for some reason, you choose to speak of subjects that carry no interest for me whatsoever: doing homework; putting away laundry; getting out of bed. My ears simply do not pass on to my brain the instances when such subjects are addressed; they constitute little more than background noise. So if you wish to gain or retain my attention, I recommend restricting the subject of your conversations to chocolate, play dates, fun visitors and exciting trips.
Another flawed expectation on your part involves my clothes. You seem to be under the impression that the mere presence in my dresser drawer of, say, underwear that fits, means that I will willingly don it. Not so. The red pair has seams that bother me; that green pair is the wrong color; I just don’t like the white ones. If no other pairs are available, I will not be persuaded to put on any of the ones I do not like. Just pretend they do not exist.
Let us move on to getting ready for school. I realize this is a sensitive topic, as you seem to get agitated about it almost every morning. I therefore recommend that, as I do, you simply stop caring about it. Anyway, Grandma tells me that you did exactly the same thing when you were my age, and when she talks about it, she has a gleam in her eye.
This brings us to the subject of my doing things you just told my older brother not to do. You seem to be under the impression that telling him not to do something somehow translates into my not doing it, as well. I have no idea where you got that idea. You were talking to him, not to me. He shouldn’t be throwing in the house, yes; you made that perfectly clear. But you weren’t addressing me, so why do you expect me to follow suit? We’re individuals, after all.
Along similar lines, when you do admonish me not to engage in certain activities, such as hitting my little sister even though she manifestly deserves it, I do not automatically apply that admonishment to all future occasions. Each situation is unique; I simply do not presume that yesterday’s rules of engagement still pertain today. Especially not when I don’t feel like following those rules anyway.
When you instruct me to put my shoes or boots upstairs in the shoe drawer, what you really mean is that I should dump them on the floor of my room and come back down. Similarly, when you tell me to put books away, you mean to lay them haphazardly across the top of other books, not to place them neatly, spine out, on the shelf; that would waste precious time I could use to provoke my brother and sister.
About the dining room chairs: while they do well as surfaces for sitting at the table, they function at their best when leaned back just so on their rear legs. This allows the user to play a balancing game. And at the table, it seems you misunderstand why God gave us fingers. I do not need a fork. And as for the mess that gets on my hands, that’s why I have a shirt. I don’t know why this seems so unclear to you.
I hope this little letter has cleared up some misunderstandings. I shall be only too happy to address similar issues if you require, but if you wish to discuss these things, please at least take into account what I have written above. Then we can move on to more subtle issues, such as holding off on going to the bathroom until the moment before my bladder would burst.
This little item from Inc.com asserts that the phrase, “I will try” signals an openness to failure that automatically dooms your proposed activity in the eyes of supervisors, prospective employers, clients, rampaging badgers, etc. “3 Words that Guarantee Failure,” the writer calls it. And it may be so. But those can hardly be the most egregious words to avoid in any proposal. They’re just so…lame. And everything about business communication is lame. It has to be, or you frighten off the delicate wallflowers who have the money you want.
But we can do better. Here, therefore, are the top 12 phrases and statements that guarantee rejection or failure before you get off the ground:
12. Dear Ugly: Using this greeting, or variations thereof, to open a cover letter or other kind of business communication will invariably result in rejection. Remember that at many companies, the first person to see your letter will be not Ugly himself or herself, but a less secure individual acting as clerk or secretary to Ugly, and will be moved to relegate your letter, and CV, no matter how impressive its contents, to the circular file. And even if your mail goes directly to someone important enough to matter, you want to flatter. Really. I know it’s hard for someone as bitter as you, but you must, uh, try.
11. I has: Grammar, you imbecile. You are not an LOLcat, and even if you were, proper LOLcat syntax calls for “I can has,” and even then, only as a way of seeking permission. You will note that few, if any, cats hold positions of influence at major corporations.
10. …and in general, embezzle as much of your assets as I possibly can: Bad form. Advancement and wanton misappropriation of property may go hand in hand in today’s corporate (and political) world, but it is impolite to aver such things at the outset. Subtlety is your friend. You goddamn idiot.
8. …to destroy your company: As threats go, this one’s a biggie, but this formulation risks not offending the reader personally. As we all know, personal affronts are your ticket to rejection, failure and lawsuits. Play your cards right and you might even earn a contract – on your life.
7. Companies like yours, who give thieving bastards a bad name: “Such as.” Grammar again. Careful, ladies and gents.
6. As you could see from the attached CV if you weren’t an illiterate toad: You have no idea whether toads can read, or whether the reader is in fact a toad. This shows sloppy research at best, and outright carelessness at worst.
5. My strong nose-picking skills: Although the cover letter is the place to highlight attributes not necessarily evident from your CV, you do want to reserve the space for talents germane to the position for which you are applying, or the project you are proposing. This writer doubts that nose-picking skills of any kind are an asset in business. Even if you are applying for President of the Fourth-Grade Gross-Out Club, that organization can hardly be expected to solicit CVs and go through the arduous process of selecting candidates when turnover in that position happens, by nature, every single year.
4. My political views, which can only be described as Neo-Caligulan: It’s unclear what you mean by this. You cannot assume that the reader knows Roman history, and will therefore remain unaware that you plan to promote an equine to a senior position and slaughter most of the leadership. Perhaps you see this as an advantage, but keep in mind that Caligula did not end well. You might fare better with Stalin. Meaning emulating him, not actually trying to fare with him personally. That would be stupid. He’s dead, you know.
3. My plan to convert all employees, and their families, to homosexuality: You know that’s not possible, right? Ambitious is good; unrealistic is not so good, and prospective clients and employers have a very good grasp of the difference. Aim high, but not ridiculously high.
2. All office space not currently occupied by space aliens: This meaningless detail detracts from your main points – as far as the willfully ignorant sheeple are concerned, all office space remains free of alien life, and you risk confusing the reader. You might do better with something closer to the general (if erroneous) perception of reality such as, “all space not currently in use as a hiding place for illegal immigrant workers.”
1. But while I consider driving customer satisfaction to unprecedentedly low levels to be only a minor achievement: Such weak phraseology. Be forthright. State things directly: “I relish making my client/employer regret entering this line of business in the first place.” Less wordy and more to the point.
You can apply these lessons. I know you will try.
To whom it may concern:
This letter is to request insurance coverage for the termination of pregnancy in our patient, Gloria Patterson (policyholder ID# 487-55-5444).
The pregnancy in question began without complications approximately three months ago, but a sonogram on 13 March revealed that the embryo has a genetic abnormality that invariably results in myriad problems if the pregnancy is carried to term, as we shall presently detail. Please note that this list is partial, and by no means represents all the serious defects that such a child will suffer if born.
1. Increased susceptibility to urinary tract infection: Babies born with this embryo’s genotype have a urinary tract much more exposed to the open air and its ubiquitous pathogens than the typical phenotype. This increased risk begins at birth and does not cease throughout the patient’s life.
2. Much higher incidence of certain cancers: The genotype results in children with myriad organs that simply do not exist in normal humans, organs that frequently give rise to cancers, most notably as a result of infection by the HPV pathogen, but by no means exclusively or largely resulting from infection.
3. Late onset bleeding episodes: These bleeding episodes typically occur past the first twelve years of life, but occasionally present once or twice in the weeks immediately following birth. They last several days at a time, and are frequently associated with severe abdominal pain and elevated stress hormones; the regular occurrence of such bleeding – usually every month – lasts for decades. In the most severe cases, a lifelong regimen of medication is needed to moderate the abdominal pain that can debilitate the patient for several days, often to the point of requiring bed rest.
4. Higher incidence of weak bones and fractures later in life: The densitometric data for similarly afflicted patients beyond their fourth decades features a sharp increase in osteoporosis, putting them at greater risk of debilitating fractures.
5. Higher incidence of perforation of the lobule auricle: Although the genetic mechanism of this phenomenon remains uncertain, it is nevertheless clear that this embryo’s genotype is associated with a vastly increased likelihood that the patient will end up with at least one hole in each earlobe by age 11. The perforations can be masked with all manner of adornments, but the use of such implements puts the patient at risk for infection. Furthermore, even if left without such cosmetic concealment, the apertures frequently fail to reseal.
6. Very high incidence of parasitic growths: Beyond a certain age, these patients report occasional growths in their abdomens lasting an average of forty weeks. Aside from the obvious disfigurement that these growths cause, they also are associated with nausea, swollen lower appendages, extremes of appetite and intense hormonal activity, among many others symptoms.
7. Stunted ciliar growth on face and torso: Even once they hit puberty, these patients’ face and upper abdominal areas remain smooth, indicating a shortage of mature follicles in those locations.
8. In-utero atrophy of Wolffian bodies and ducts: In patients without this condition, the mesonephros in the developing fetues gives rise to the efferent ductules of the testis, the epididymis, vas deferens, seminal vesicle, and vestigial structures such as the appendix testis, appendix epididymis, and paradidymis. However, in patients suffering from this abnormality, the mesonephros largely regresses in human females, though vestigial structures such as Gartner’s cysts, the epoophoron, andparoophoron are common. This departure from normal anatomy contributes to myriad disorders nonexistent in normal physiology, and presents significant barriers to diagnosis of many conditions.
9. Missing chromosome and chromosomal duplication: As noted, these patients entirely lack one chromosome, instead relying for biochemical regulation and protein generation on a duplicate of an existing adjacent chromosome. This abnormality lies at the root of all the symptoms detailed above.
In light of the foregoing, we recommend that your company approve funding for the procedures necessary to terminate the patient’s pregnancy. We remain at your service for any questions relating to this case.
Lester P. Weintraub, OB/GYN Michael Schwartz, OB/GYN
Managing partners, Weintraub & Schwartz Medical Practice
A year since the start of an uprising against Basher Al-Assad’s rule, millions of people did not gather in public places across the U.S. to demand that the United States intervene to protect the Syrian populace from government forces. Tens of thousands of civilians and armed rebels have been killed since the uprising began.
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) did not address a throng of protesters on the Mall in Washington, D.C., calling for resolute American military action similar to the NATO operations in Libya last year. “It is past time for us to stand up for the civil rights of the people of Syria and protect them from the brutality of the Assad regime,” Schumer did not say to thunderous applause from the nonexistent crowd. “America has the resources, the stamina and the moral imperative to show our support and defend the oppressed citizens of Syria,” he did not continue.
The White House did not respond with an official statement acknowledging the complexity of the situation and expressing solidarity with the Syrian people. President Obama did not incorporate mention of the rally and the sentiment it did not express when he did actually conduct his weekly radio address.
“We have a serious naval presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, and can provide air support for the Syrian rebels,” Obama was not heard to say to the American people. “Just as we did in Libya, American or NATO or other internationally sanctioned military action is a serious consideration right now,” Obama did not say.
The rally did not attract approximately 75,000 people, and traffic inside the D.C. Beltway was not disrupted. A smaller counter-demonstration calling for a more isolationist US foreign policy similarly did not take place.
“The American people have enough to worry about without barging into the back yard of every third-world dung heap,” Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), did not say. About 500 people, primarily Tea Party activists, were not present, and were not holding placards denouncing talk of further US military involvement overseas.
“Are You Syri-ous?” read one placard that no one held aloft. “More troops in the Eastern Med shows you have a tiny head!” no one chanted. Demonstrators in neither rally mugged for cameras or were interviewed by members of the news media, which did not extensively cover the non-event.
Experts on foreign policy have not weighed in the impact of the rally, and have not invoked it repeatedly in discussing the attitude of the American public toward continued involvement in foreign conflicts. However, anti-Israel advocacy groups have had no problem interpreting this development to suit their agenda, as they seldom base their positions on factual events.
Wilkes-Barre, PA (Reuters) – Few residents of this Lehigh Valley town consider their part of the Keystone State a bastion of diversity, but the extended Brewster family revels in the differences among its many members.
Kevin Brewster, 45, was raised Methodist, but had no problem marrying Katherine Brown, an Episcopalian by upbringing, in 1993. Katherine’s brother George left the fold completely as a teenager and considers himself an agnostic, but can occasionally be persuaded to attend Lutheran services with his wife and children.
“We love how much variety we have in our family,” gushed Pearl Brewster, Kevin’s mother, in a recent interview. The sixty-eight-year-old widow described her own childhood, in which the backyard barbecues on Sunday afternoons were known far and wide as a place to meet Christians of all Protestant stripes. “As far back as I can remember, Mom and Dad were active in the community, always trying to welcome in lots of different kinds of people to our church, to show them how to be like us,” she recalled.
Kevin and his sister Marcia 41, now Marcia Collins, promote further diversity in their children’s development by sending their combined six children to three different Sunday schools. “Last year we had a moment of intense satisfaction when all three schools united to protest the planned opening of a mosque downtown,” said Marcia’s husband Neil, 42. “We were really, really gratified to see that our kids and their cousins could be a part of several different communities at once, and that they could so easily bridge those communities to defend democratic values we all hold dear.”
Charles Brewster is Kevin and Katherine’s oldest, an active sixteen-year-old with interests as varied as X-Box and Playstation. He and his group of sundry friends all attend Columbus High School, though his friends’ interest differ markedly from his own: one prefers softball; another football; a third and fourth, all things MTV. Despite these vast gaps, the five of these diverse white male middle-class Christians have found common ground in rituals such as intimidating the only two African-American students in the school.
Pastor Gregory Phillips, whose church the Brewsters attend, has been pleasantly surprised by the amount of openness his congregants display to those different from themselves. “I try to instill a desire to invite all into the arms of the Lord, no matter what kind of Christian they might be,” he said. “I had no way of knowing just how well my lessons would resonate with the people in the pews, but I’m very happy to see everyone taking them to heart.”
“Why, just a week ago little [eight-year-old] Marissa [Brewster] came to me all excited about the opportunity to meet new people at a traveling show coming to town this weekend,” he continued, referring to an Israeli dance troupe scheduled to make a stop in Wilkes-Barre on a nationwide tour. “She can’t wait to see with her own eyes the horns growing out of their heads.”
Originally published January 17, 2011
Our thumb is black, not green. When it comes to horticulture, I have not the golden touch, but the gravel scratch. We have never knowingly brought plants into our care, but all the dead ones littering the house at various stages of our life have somehow not broadcast clearly enough to others to refrain from presenting any to us as gifts. Or perhaps the benefactors had it in for the poor things.
The children have yet to ask for a pet of any sort, but, like most parents, I, too, was once a kid, and it’s only a matter of time. I might frame a gentle refusal in terms of responsibility, commitment, the seriousness of caring for the life of another creature, etc. But behind it all, I know, lies my realization that if this household cannot sustain members of the plant kingdom for any respectable period, what hope does it have for actual vertebrates?
I should have taken the hint years ago, really. My parents bought us a succession of fish just begging to leave this mortal coil, never quite grasping what a death sentence it was for an animal to be brought within my purview. Some lasted for a time, yes, but it was not the fishes’ mortality that prompted my parents not to buy any more; it was simply that no one was interested in them any longer. So they decided to subject a different succession of doomed creatures to our pit of despair.
First up was a salamander that barely lasted a week; that was 1986 or 87. A little while later, a break in the gloom occurred when my younger brother was given a garter snake; he spent a while researching the care and maintenance of these reptiles, and that might account for that lone bright spot in the otherwise sordid history of pets and Thag. It subsisted on scraps of fish from the supermarket, which my mother procured free. We occasionally supplemented this rather monolithic regimen with freshly dug earthworms. You have not lived until you have experienced the unique set of willies to be had from observing a snake devour a live worm. It’s wriggles galore, with a dash of death thrown in as a bonus.
It’s possible the success of this mostly maintenance-free snake went to our heads, and in 1988 my parents bought me a guinea pig. It did quite well for a time, and I grew to love that creature. I willingly cleaned his cage on schedule, and tolerated the stink its presence imparted to my bedroom. I reveled in the squealing that heralded my arrival home from school. I felt flattered, even vindicated, when my younger sister requested a guinea pig later that year – whereas normally, her following in my footsteps would engender nothing but annoyance and dismissiveness.
Eventually, the happy couple produced two litters, of which we sold a bunch and gave away two babies to a friend. All was hunky dory in the Thag pet universe. Until January 1989, when my beloved guinea pig got sick in a hurry and died before we could get him to a vet; my mother even tried shielding me from the immediacy of the death when she took the cage into her bedroom when she realized the moment was nigh. He passed during the night, but my mother sent me off to school the next morning leaving me to assume there was still hope, that the little guy might make it to the vet that day and get treated for whatever was stopping up his digestive tract. Naturally, I couldn’t focus in school at all that day, my mind whirling with concern, and I rushed into the house that afternoon bursting with anticipation of whatever the vet said to do.
My mother gently broke the news; I didn’t actually start wailing until I touched my guinea pig’s strangely stiff corpse, the sensation bringing home the finality of the situation. That feeling didn’t hit me again for another ten years, at the burial of an elderly family member: the hollow sound of the first clods of earth landing on the casket underlined the permanence of the loss, and at that moment a new round of crying set in.
I interred my pet’s body in the back garden-cum-burial-ground that had served as the final resting place of at least one dead bird we had found over the years, and I marked the spot with a triangular rock I found nearby. It disappeared not too long afterward, under unknown circumstances, and I hadn’t even thought about that until now.
We got another snake in the meantime, a boa constrictor. Eventually, the garter snake also died, the boa constrictor and remaining guinea pig were given away, and pet life ceased from my parents’ household. All told, a mixed success, but at least all four children survived more or less intact.
The prospect of a pet for my children fills not so much with dread as with sorrow, really. But it’s precisely the experience of the inevitable loss of a creature for whom one has cared that makes me hesitant to rule out a pet completely. Do I really want to deny my children the depth of emotion that only such a loss enables? It’s a tough, tough question, with no easy answer.
I apologize, but not really, for the non-humorous turn this post has taken. I promise to make it up sometime in the next week with at least one irresponsible analogy, one remark to insult the intelligence, and one bad pun.
At a press conference outside City Hall, representatives of FOX News, ABC News, NBC and CNN told reporters they were “sick and tired of you guys willfully distorting everything we do.” The journalists lambasted the assembled crowd of reporters, calling into question their integrity as human beings, their worth as journalism professionals and their ability get even the simplest things accurate.
“Nobody knows better than we do that you’re capable of doing some amazing things,” said Chuck Scarborough, a seasoned NBC anchor. “But your sloppy work and your unabashedly biased reporting have left our reputations in tatters.”
The protest comes on the heels of several blows to the credibility of news outlets nationwide. Beginning with the Jayson Blair scandal at the New York Times in 2003 and the uncritical calls for war in Iraq based on nonexistent evidence of weapons of mass destruction, the industry as a whole has suffered setback after setback in attempting to regain a semblance of competence in the public perception. However, the protesters charge that the news media have sandbagged their efforts to rehabilitate their hard-won reputation by failing to adhere to proper journalistic standards.
Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., publisher of the New York Times, acknowledged in a recent interview that news organizations occasionally shot themselves in the foot. But he asserted that the media bears a share of the blame for the fallout, distorting or misrepresenting key facts. “Here’s an example from just the other day - ‘Israel Bombards Gaza after Militants Launch Rockets’ – what kind of journalist hides behind some stupid ‘style guide’ that proscribes the use of the word ‘terrorist’ when it’s patently appropriate? Those cowards behind the editorial desk at the New York Times, that’s what kind. Those dolts give the rest of us a bad name.”
Though pressed by the protesters to defend their positions and work, the journalists covering the event succeeded in keeping the interactions professional, focusing on the event and not the interaction with the principals. Well, except for that Bob Costas twerp.
The General Union of Youth Sustainability (GUYS), based outside Chicago, charges that the sole producer of women “consciously and deliberately designed the female units to decay at a rate far above that anticipated by the consumers,” the organization said in a press release. The manufacturer, Guardian-Origin Designs (GOD), has been the only producer of women for several millenniums. Although the patent on the original design is no longer relevant, no other firm has managed to engineer the manufacture of anything that might compete with GOD’s creation.
Phil Landerer, Director of GUYS, presented statistics that he said prove his organization’s allegations. “GOD has a lot to answer for. Here we have men in the market for partners with systems that can serve their needs for the long haul, only to find that crucial systems start breaking down irreparably when the units are only a few decades old. Maybe the lack of competition has made GOD complacent in quality control. GUYS will have none of that; we wish to remind GOD that it’s only a matter of time before someone else comes up with a more efficient, sustainably youthful model.”
Landerer stopped short of calling for a full-scale boycott of GOD’s products, explaining that for many consumers, the women produced by GOD are the only recourse they have in pursuing meaningful long-term relationships. He did note, however, that GUYS will launch a nationwide trade-in program later this year, in which aging female partners can be exchanged for newer, better-performing models.
Such programs have long existed, but usually on an ad hoc basis, and certainly not on the comprehensive scale that GUYS would want, according to Cass Nova, who has studied consumer habits in the mating industry. Nova’s most recent article, currently awaiting publication, attempts to define specific thresholds beyond which consumers will no longer tolerate a female unit functioning below its original capacity.
From research conducted over several decades, Nova posits several variables, some of which strongly correlate. The two most closely related factors are reproductive capacity and physical attractiveness, both of which deteriorate in most units beyond a certain age. In contrast, male units seem, by and large, not to suffer compromised reproductive capacity to nearly the same degree as females, and their physical attractiveness, according to the data, does not seem to have a direct bearing on their ability to find a suitable partner.
It is exactly that disparity that Landerer’s group seeks to address. “We call on GOD to bring female units up to the standard of their male counterparts, which, suspiciously, do not suffer the same set of defects that the females do,” the GUYS statement read. It continued with a litany of other grievances, notable among them the apparent deafness of GOD to centuries of complaints.
Strikingly, the bulk of the complaints that GOD has not addressed comes from the female units themselves, according to Faye Slift, president of the Committee Of Unduly Geratrified Amore Rejects (COUGAR), an organization that offers support for users whose female units have begun to deteriorate, but who lack the resources to invest in an entirely new unit. COUGAR provides counseling that emphasizes the advantages of a female unit with more miles on its figurative figure, but Slift acknowledges that it remains an uphill battle.
Ironically, notes Slift, GUYS will not cooperate with COUGAR, preferring instead to focus on improved access to younger models. Slift understands the position of GUYS, but points out that GOD manufacturers only about one percent more female units than male ones, which only serves to drive up prices for the newer models and cuts a large segment of potential consumers out of the market entirely. Such unfortunates must settle for the used or rejected units that only become available when the wealthier users have finished with them, and often the units have suffered significant wear and tear by then.
“It might be a better strategy to focus on quantity, rather than quality,” suggests Slift. “It’s clear that the manufacturer isn’t interested in improving the design of the female, but maybe GOD will consent to simply increasing the ratio of females to males. Taking the demands of the market into consideration would just be a more humane thing to do.”