Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

Archive for May 2011

Serve More Junk Food or the Bunny Gets It

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We, the undersigned, children of the household, hereby declare our dissatisfaction with the parental policy regarding the category of comestibles commonly referred to as “junk food.” The delineation of our grievances in this matter follows.

1. A detailed survey of our peers reveals that our household policy of only one (1) junky snack per week falls far below the average for each of our peer groups. Our observations and inquiries point to a median daily junky snack provision of two (2) such snacks per child.

2. The parental definition of “junky” is at odds with the sensibilities of our peer groups and their parents. While in this family the prevailing categorization refers to anything containing disproportionate quantities of sugar, fat or salt, society at large holds to a significantly narrower definition. As evidence, we adduce the practice of many classmates who bring chocolate spread sandwiches to school for lunch, and countless families who habitually consume burgers, hot dogs and fries for dinner.

3. There has yet to be a single provable instance in which the consumption of junk food immediately before a meal has affected the appetite of the eater to a substantial degree.

4. The practice of allowing dessert only on weekends leaves the children of this family egregiously under-supplied in comparison with their peers, many of whom even bring dessert to school to eat with their lunches.

5. The parental idea that fruit can somehow serve as dessert flies in the face of societal sensibilities, according to which the “dessert” label can only apply to substances with added sugar and/or fat.

6. The instances in which the parents of the family have neglected to prepare dessert to the liking of every single child are too numerous to catalog. In each case, the child with unfulfilled wishes is left to ponder why his parents seem not to love him as much as they do his siblings, who for some ungodly reason seem to like oatmeal cookies.

7. The serving size of junky snacks and desserts in this household falls far short of the typical serving sizes by which our peers and their parents abide.

In light of the above, we the children petition the authorities to prevail upon the parental units of this household to adhere to more widely accepted standards regarding junk food and desserts.

Respectfully yours,

The children of Thag and Miggtha

Written by Thag

May 31, 2011 at 10:49 pm

I Solemnly Swear to Abuse My Electoral Office

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Hi, we’re your local government, and we’re here to make your life difficult.

Nothing too objectionable, you understand; no long-lasting violations of your civil rights. Just some major inconveniences, such as shutting down all the local streets for a parade of dubious value. Because that’s how we engage your civic pride: making it exceedingly difficult for you to get around and get things done in this city.

That birthday party on the other side of town your son wants to attend? Well, we’re sorry you baked those brownies, but they’re not going to be necessary now that you can’t get him there. The nice family dinner with grandma you had planned? It’ll have to be some other time, when she’s not available. What did you expect, that we would just lie down and let you live your lives when we have to justify our taxation of you by getting your attention the only way we know how? Please.

It’s not as if we don’t have lives of our own and families to support. We don’t just mean the relatives we place in cushy municipal jobs; we mean actual children and stuff. Those private schools aren’t exactly free, you know, and drawing a salary from your tax dollars is the only way we can make those diamond-studded ends meet. That means generating enough activity around town to make the citizenry think we’re accomplishing things left and right. It doesn’t matter whether we do anything constructive; we doubt you’d be able to tell the difference. Those road work projects that close off a lane of traffic along a major artery? That’s just drilling, leaving it open for a month and sealing it up again. We don’t know a thing about actually fixing stuff, but we have to pretend we do, or we’re out of a job. We’re sure you understand.

You do understand; there’s no other logical explanation for your continued tolerance – and, dare we say, continued reelection – of us and our policies, if an incoherent bunch of civic kludges can be called policy. So we thank you for your generosity from the bottom of our swelling checking accounts and municipal pension funds.

Now don’t forget to pay your parking tickets. Daddy needs a new plasma TV.

Written by Thag

May 30, 2011 at 4:11 pm

If You Wish to Read This Post, Fill Out Form N-102

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I wanted to submit the proper forms to the municipal offices so that we would be eligible for a discount on tuition for our four-year-old. So I went with all the relevant documents I could muster, plus a few irrelevant ones just in case, and registered her for the upcoming academic year. When asked to produce evidence regarding my declared low income, I showed the one measly freelance contract that accounted for all my taxable income in 2010. They had me sign a declaration that I earned some pitifully small amount, and am therefore applying for a major discount. All was hunky dory.

Until a couple of weeks ago, when the municipality sent us a letter saying, “If you don’t send us Form X for 2008, Form Y for 2009 or Form Z for 2010 by date Q, you will not be eligible for the discount.” This perplexed me, as I was not in possession of Form X, Form Y or Form Z for any of those years, and was not quite sure how to obtain them.

Fortunately, I knew where the tax authority offices were (Location F), and hopped over there to find out whether they could provide me with them. I dutifully took a number and waited the requisite time it takes the clerks in Department G  to polish their nails before deigning to see us members of the public, and showed Clerk A the letter delineating what I needed. She said she couldn’t help me; her department could only issue Form W, which of course would not help. She recommended that I go downstairs to Clerk B in Department H to get Form V, which, although it does not declare an amount of income or of taxes paid, does certify that I do not have a file with the tax authority as an independent contractor or freelancer.

I had no idea how that would help, but I figured if I got my hands on that form and came back for further advice, they might offer some. So I descended into the bowels of the building and found Department H, only Clerk B was unwilling to see me, referring me instead to Clerk C in the next room, only Clerk C was in fact in a different room at the time, putting boxes of archival material in random stacks. In fact it only became clear that she was Clerk C when she entered Clerk C’s cubicle and sat at the desk. Whereupon she gave me the obligatory “What the hell are you doing here?” look that must be part of the training program (Course P).

I presented the letter again and explained my situation: I can’t get Forms X, Y or Z because my situation does not fit any of those forms, but the municipality will only accept X, Y or Z. Clerk C informs me that she can only give me Form V, but there’s no way I can get anything like what I’m after. I thanked her and returned to Department G, where I waited another half hour while the clerks took turns going on coffee break – Procedure O dictates that the break room be staffed at all times, and with only three clerks on duty, this proved quite a challenge. But eventually, they broke down and started handling visitors again. I prayed I would not have to deal with Clerk A again, lest she yell at me for misunderstanding that I could not accomplish what I wished, and was grateful to have my number called by Clerk D, who informed me that she could not issue anything like what I needed.

But I had considered that already, and countered with a request for Form U, which the same office had issued for me each year, in advance of my signing the contract, so could I just have a copy printed out? She shrugged and said OK, but it wouldn’t help; Form U, it seems, is pro forma, not the official numbers. Then she noticed that in 2008 I had processed the form at Location J, not Location F, so she could not print it out. Impossible, I replied; I was in the adjacent cubicle with Clerk E when I filed that form. She checked again and realized she was looking at the wrong entry, printed out the right form for me and sent me on my way. Time to find a fax machine.

The fax machine, however, was out of order, because the people in Department G had failed to complete Requisition K, so I went to a friend’s office across the street and sent along the documents, praying that they might do the job.

But of course I soon got a call from the municipality, in which Municipal Clerk L wondered aloud what the hell I was sending her, and didn’t I realize I was supposed to send Form X, Form Y or Form Z? Well, yes, I replied, I realized that quite clearly, only my status does not permit me to have any of those forms; nevertheless, my low income justifies the discount, and could you please just use whatever information I’ve sent you? After some talking past each other some more, we agreed that I should send her the pages of the freelance contract that specified the maximum amount I was to be paid in the contract year.

Except by now I was home, and nowhere near a fax machine. Time to start calling friends. Here’s how it went, and I swear I am not making any of this up:

Friend (actually relative) A: Uh, yeah, we have one, I think, but my husband’s out of town and I have no idea how to connect it.
Friend B: Sorry, the machine at our office was never connected.
Friend C: No, but you might try (completely random, ridiculous suggestion, i.e. Friend G)
Friend D: Receptionist said she’s in a meeting.
Friend E: No, sorry, we don’t have one, we’re staying with (Friend F, in a different part of town). Yes, they probably have one, but I’m not there right now, I’m actually at home, but we have no electricity for the last week and a half, so even if we did have one, you couldn’t use it now.
Friend H: Yes, I had one for about half an hour a few days ago, but I connected it to the wrong kind of transformer and fried it.

Desperate, I went out to the office of Friend D in case she could tolerate my walking in on her meeting, only she wasn’t there. So I wandered toward the house of Friend H, and along the way passed the house of Friend G, the one suggested by Friend C in a fit of insanity, and chanced it. Of course he had a fax, and one that worked just fine, thank you very much.

Municipal Clerk L called again, wondering why I’d sent those pages; didn’t I have something with more relevant information? We rehashed the situation several times more until she realized we were at an impasse: either the bureaucracy would have to yield, or I would. And I can be a pain to bureaucrats. Clerk L said she would work with what she had, and hope for the best.

I asked if she knew what forms to fill out to authorize hoping. She didn’t understand. I guess that wasn’t part of the training.

Written by Thag

May 29, 2011 at 3:52 pm

I’m Even Scummier than I Look. Say, Is That Beer?

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You’ll have to pardon the broad brush with which I spread this tar: guys are scum. I realize that exceptions exist, but fifty-thousand non-scum males in a sea of nearly three-and-a-half billion scumbags does not a refutation make. So the assertion stands erect, if you catch my drift.

I do not exclude myself from this characterization. My publicly pristine behavior stems mainly from fear of exposure as a slime bucket, not from any inherent revulsion for scummitude. I empathize with the poor dirtbags who get carried away pursuing the scumbag lifestyle, even as I castigate them for it.

This realization hit me for the umpteenth time last night as my wife and I were sitting around with a couple of female friends, discussing the case of one of the latter: she, about thirty years old, was informed by a thirty-three-year-old male that he found her too old for his liking – he was looking for someone about eight years younger. I had three simultaneous reactions: (1) My God, that guy is such a scumbag; (2) This poor woman was probably disgusted, confused and furious; and (3) I see where he’s coming from – if I could get away with such a policy, wouldn’t I give it a shot?

The problem is that it seems to work, if only based on the observation that women tolerate a heck of a lot more crap than guys do in their potential (or actual) partners. Most women know that Mr. Perfect does not exist, and came to that realization at a young enough age, enabling them to consider potential mates outside the perfect range, whether that refers to age, weight, quantity of hair, annual income or some combination thereof. Guys, on the other hand, are always looking for something “better” to come along, and thus keep channel surfing through life, always looking for what else is on. It takes a particular set of circumstances to make a guy realize he’s not going to find anyone better than a particular woman, and put down the remote control.

On rare occasions, those circumstances are maturity and a firm grip of reality. In many others, it involves a shotgun. In others still, it involves money. Often, however, it involves a sensible third party who hits the guy over the head with the revelation that he’s never going to find someone like this again, usually following an evening of intense guy behavior, i.e. something involving beer.

In my case, there was no beer involved, but there was a sensible friend who made me realize how crazy I was not to jump at the opportunity sitting before me for months already – a fait so accompli that within days of our first meeting people were asking my future wife and me whether we were dating each other. We barely knew each other and wouldn’t start dating for half a year yet, but all around us were people seeing the manifest rightness of the match. My inner guy, however, took a while to come around (it should be noted that inner guys, as a rule, don’t live all that far inside, if you know what I mean).

We’re not going to cure guys of scumminess; it’s hard-wired into the Y chromosome, and it served its purpose in the days of the mastodon and saber-tooth tiger. But can we keep enlightened society going for long enough that eventually, Darwinian processes will cause scumosity to evolve into a survival disadvantage?

I’m not holding my breath. You can’t drink beer that way.

Written by Thag

May 27, 2011 at 4:48 pm

War Crimes? More Like Prime Times!

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It’s shaping up to be a great summer for a war.

All the pieces – and I don’t just mean artillery pieces – are coming into place: military buildup, militant rhetoric, crescendoing tensions between longtime foes. It doesn’t get any better than this. The pundits will pontificate; the analysts will anal; and the media will frenz. Some people might also die, and that will make for excellent human interest stories during lulls in the fighting, to help keep everyone interested.

There’s a good reason to wait for the late spring or early summer to start an offensive: the spring thaw often makes transportation of heavy equipment difficult, so this time of year has historically been the best season for mounting a campaign. And with clear weather on the horizon for the next several months, you can anticipate massing troops and armaments in numbers that would make Napoleon drool. No wonder there’s so much excitement in the air – people are anxious for the adventure to begin already!

Napoleon, after all, learned a hard lesson about fighting in the winter, and would approve of this timing. He would also salivate, as I’m sure you all do, at the sophisticated weapons systems of which he  could never dream: fighter jets; cluster bombs; cruise missiles; main battle tanks. Even the lowly (har!) antipersonnel land mine would give Clausewitz the jollies.

But it’s not just the technology that gets people excited: nowadays people are consumed by the thought of collateral damage, which means that the soldiers are not the only ones involved in the action. Not so long ago, before air power and rockets, only the combatants at the front came into contact with danger or got a chance to kill and maim. A civilian with ambitions to do the same had to get trapped in the thick of the battle, or at least to be caught by the pillaging enemy in its aftermath. Not anymore: a modern stray projectile can destroy homes and lives hundreds of miles from any battlefield – or better yet, make the entire home front a theater of operations in itself. And even those civilians ensconced far away can monitor the proceedings in real time, thanks to the internet and social media.

Let us celebrate, then, that the world can soon become a global pillage.

Written by Thag

May 27, 2011 at 9:21 am

You Exist Only to Serve Me. Right, Mom?

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I believe you misunderstand, madam: my not getting the biggest piece of cake actually is the end of the world.

As you know, after all, this is my favorite kind of cake: rich chocolate cake with smooth mocha frosting. If I do not end up with the lion’s share of its chocolaty goodness, I simply cannot go on – and nor can the universe, the persistence of which depends on me. I cannot recall the universe existing without me; therefore my continued wish to exist ipso facto determines whether the universe continues to function. QED.

I cannot fault you completely for not immediately grasping the importance of giving me exactly what I want lest existence itself cease; you might not have noticed, as you seem to be operating under the assumption that the other children in this household deserve some of your attention. So allow me to enlighten you in that respect: life itself, not to mention the movements of the heavenly bodies and interstellar dust, possess meaning only insofar as my desires are fulfilled. This serves to explain the vehemence with which I protest your refusal to allot the largest portion of cake to me. Consider what is at stake, madam.

Your continued attempts to discuss such concepts as “compromise” and “sharing” demonstrate that you have not absorbed the thrust of my remarks. The fact that Tommy has not yet received a single serving yet I demand a third might appeal to some puny or marginally noteworthy sense of justice, but in the grand scheme of things – which is to say, my agenda – it remains of negligible importance. As we established in the preceding two paragraphs, whether or not Bridget receives any cake at all, let alone a piece approaching mine in volume, means exactly nothing.

What’s more, your mention of my recent rejection – just last week, you assert – of the selfsame cake to justify serving me less than I wish entirely misses the point. My desires, as fickle as you may find them, nevertheless give your existence purpose. It matters not whether you find them in any way consistent. Make me happy, and life fulfills its purpose; deny me, and everything you see around you might as well disappear, for it has betrayed its existential objective.

A wise move, madam, placating Bridget with a variety of sweet for which I do not care. You seem to be gaining awareness of the way things are meant to operate in this world. Let us hope you internalize the lesson by the time I turn six, and life shall run smoothly.

Written by Thag

May 26, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Are You (a) Wealthy or (b) *Really* Wealthy?

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Thank you for completing this Golf Digest survey. We appreciate your time and effort. The information you provide will help us gain a better picture of our readership, and enable us to tailor our content more closely to your preferences.

1. Age:
(a) 40-44
(b) 45-49
(c) 50-54
(d) 55-dead

2. Sex:
(a) Male

3. Annual income:
(a) $999,999 or less
(b) $1,000,000-$9,999,999
(c) $10,000,000-$49,999,999
(d) $50,000,000 or more

4. Occupation:
(a) Business Executive
(b) Attorney
(c) Professional athlete/entertainer

5.  Skin tone:
(a) White

6. How many cars do you own?
(a)  3-5
(b) 6-25
(c) 25-99
(d) The entire UPS trucking fleet

7. How many acres does your primary residence occupy?
(a) 350-999
(b) 1,000-9,999
(c) 10,000-99,999
(d) My last name is Trump.

8. What is your preferred pastime?
(a) Golf
(b) Squash
(c) Tennis
(d) Options trading

9.  Number of homes you currently own:
(a) 5-10
(b) 10-20
(c) 20-30
(d) When I stay at a hotel, I purchase it for the duration of my stay.

10. Number of children:
(a) None
(b) 1

11. Religion:
(a) Protestant

12. Favorite charitable cause:
(a) The Republican National Committee
(b) Forest Lake Country Club
(c) The American Petroleum Institute
(d) The Betty Ford Clinic

13. Of what achievement are you most proud?
(a) Leveraging debentures
(b) Negotiating the purchase of a major work of Impressionist art
(c) Marrying the daughter of a prominent financier
(d) Running a major sports franchise into the ground

14. Which of the following phrases generates the most excitement for you?
(a) Cultural attaché
(b) Made in China
(c) Trickle-down
(d) Ronald Reagan

15. What is the most offensive term in the English language?
(a) Labor Union
(b) Affirmative Action
(c) Democratic Party
(d) President Obama

16.  Which undergraduate university did you attend?
(a) Harvard
(b) Yale
(c) Princeton
(d) Dartmouth

17. What is your ancestry?
(a) Mayflower arrivals

Thank you for taking this survey.

Written by Thag

May 24, 2011 at 3:58 pm

I Can’t Afford Talent; I’ll Just Spray Stuff on Walls

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I think I’m picking up your subtle message: you have a tiny penis.

There’s little else that could explain your behavior, Mr. Bosch, or Ack, or whichever graffiti tag you’re ejaculating everywhere these days. I can’t walk more than a few steps without your “artwork” assaulting my field of vision. You probably think you’re being creative, or manly, or just plain expressive, but what you’re actually being is idiotic, not to mention blatantly compensating for a certain shortcoming. It’s a good thing you can only afford spray paint, or we might have to deal with yet another muscle car on the roads, driven by yet another tiny penis.

For a while I thought you focused more or less on this neighborhood, making regular aesthetic adjustments to the walls, electrical cabinets and other random flat surfaces of the vicinity. Surely this person must have a life, I reasoned, and does not spend every night marking his territory in the manner of a marginally talented whelp, only with a substance even more noxious than dog urine. But no: a foray this Saturday into other sections of town provided evidence that you do not restrict your unwanted attentions to our area, but slather your moniker and incomprehensible logo wherever vertical surfaces may reside: second-floor balconies; bus stop shelters; park benches; sides of buildings; doors. Yes, doors to private residences, whose only offense was being installed where you could reach them, with your can of paint and your tiny penis.

Perhaps you think I am taking too critical a tone, not showing enough empathy for the poor soul who feels compelled to create art but cannot find acceptable outlets for his vision. Perhaps you have been huffing too much paint: we humans have this principle called respect for others and, by extension, for the objects associated with those others. Since I assume your parents were also human, you were probably exposed to this notion at some point during your development. That you disregard it now by defacing the neighborhood only demonstrates that something more powerful is at play here: your really tiny penis.

I looked for a positive angle, a possible silver lining to your message, but gave up when you misspelled “F**k the galleries” by leaving out one of the L’s in “galleries” all over the side of the theater. You had to climb up a sign post to do that, which meant that the poor theater employee assigned the job of cleaning up after you had to do that also, and risk a fall just to erase your goddamn mistake. If you were normally endowed, you wouldn’t feel compelled to act so selfishly, but I cannot find anything positive about inconsiderate behavior so perfectly consistent with a tiny penis.

What happens now? Will you mature? Get arrested and removed from the streets? Get caught vandalizing the wrong surface and find yourself bludgeoned to unconsciousness with your own can of paint? Here’s some advice: make your groin an easy target, so they’ll be more likely to miss.

Written by Thag

May 23, 2011 at 10:18 pm

My Love for You Is More Beautiful than an Oozing Sore

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Although you may fervently wish for love at first sight to exist, love does not spontaneously combust; like the fungus between your toes, it must be given the proper environment, then nurtured. Only then may it blossom, and send out its infectious spores.

Too many of us, it seems, want to believe the fantasies, that people can experience lasting attraction within the first seconds of meeting. Attraction, yes; love, not so. The lust that rears its head in those initial moments may persist, like that large pimple on your forehead, and you might even seek to renew it with the greasy food of new thrills. Alas, just as the connection between acne and greasy food only exists in the realm of myth, so too does a lasting connection based solely on physical attraction.

How, then, to establish the right environment for love, the medium of congealed sheep’s blood, if you will? Engage the mind, not merely the body; look for a mate whose values match yours, much in the way HIV attacks only certain white blood cells. Ensure that when the pathogens of romance begin colonizing the petri dish of your emotions, they have plenty of agar and nutrients upon which to feed. Then let the eukaryotic germs of true love spread themselves throughout your system.

But even the most self-aware couples can fall into a rut of humdrum relationships, when they find themselves too busy to nurture the festering froth of pathogenic love. That only underscores the importance of setting aside chunks of the fermenting sourdough starter of shared living, to allow the fungal growth of emotional intimacy to take place.

Nevertheless, a couple cannot become complacent, and allow the candida infesting the intimate zones of their lives to wither and perish, for a relationship is a delicate thing, constantly under peril of attack from the antifungal creams of jealousy, power games and roving eyes and hands. When, even unwittingly, a lover chooses to continue reading a book when the other needs some company, that slathers antibacterial ointment on the open pustules of true closeness, rendering any meaningful connection in subsequent moments, days and weeks more difficult than getting the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus to bind to human cells.

But armed with the knowledge that the biochemical threats to the metastasizing tumors of love are constantly trying to gain access to our emotional bloodstream, we as couples can remain vigilant in our efforts to keep the invasive cells and spores of pestilence and plague in our systems.

Written by Thag

May 23, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Oh, and the Dean of Students Is Just a Guy Named “Dean”

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My previous post afforded y’all a sneak peak at the fictional educational establishment I intend to open. The thundering hordes of interested students – who exist in the same dimension as the school itself, which is to say, not this one – are clamoring for more offerings. Next time, I should consider charging tuition.

You will notice, of course, the complete absence of business courses, which serves to explain why that idea didn’t occur to me earlier. There is, of course, an Economics department, but that’s about as connected to business as Physics is related to study of the paranormal: an incidental set of principles that don’t really inform the subject at hand.

I could of course introduce a line of courses in the study of the paranormal, but we’re all better off if I open a Religion department. Comparative religion, for example, would take a good hard look at Christmas vs. Hanukkah gifts, and whether Christianity features anything wrongly hyped in quite the same way as the game of dreidel. It would then move on to an anthropological look at why you idiots keep taking flagrantly metaphorical Biblical passages literally, as compared with passages of sacred texts that other religions tend to misinterpret. Should be great fun, up until the moment someone brings a gun to class.

I almost considered offering courses in Drama, but you prima donnas don’t need any more encouragement. Bunch of self-centered whiners is what you are. That last thing you need is further training in commanding the center of attention. Hey! I’m the one speaking here! Stop focusing on yourself!

And we haven’t even mentioned the tricky subject of faculty. That’s easy. We just need to recruit a sufficient number of dynamic, charismatic, knowledgeable, reputable, qualified educational professionals, and do so at a major discount without compromising quality. You will of course notice that such people willing to work for a pittance exist only in some fantasy world, which is pretty conveniently located.

Written by Thag

May 22, 2011 at 4:05 pm

One of These Days I’ll Go Back to Finish My Degree in Racial Profiling

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2011-2012 Course Catalog

101  Why It’s Never OK to Make Fun of Other Groups, No Matter How Stupid Their Practices Are
102  But If You Couch Your Mockery in Scholarly Terms You Might Get Away with It
103  So Give It a Shot and See Whether the Professor Notices

101  Pornography Disguised as Highbrow Aesthetics
102  Cutting Away What Doesn’t Look Like an Elephant
201  The Difference Between Your Doodling and Jackson Pollock’s Doodling, as Measured in Cash
301  Sculpture: Moving Beyond Play Doh
401  Conceptual Art: Moving Back to Play Doh

101  You’re Not Actually Made of Dust, Despite What you Learned in Sunday School
101  Staring Really Closely at Your Hand Will Not Give You the Same Results as a Microscope
102  The Theory of Evolution and Other Threats to Morality
102  Lab: How Not to Maim Yourself with a Scalpel During Dissections, You Goddamn Oaf
201  Horrible Diseases with Really Cool Names
201  Fungi: They’re Not Just for Breakfast Anymore. Some of Them Can Get You Quite High.
301  Medical Ethics and Other Old-Fashioned Ideas

101  Repeat After Me: Noo-Clee-Ar, not Noo-Cyu-Lar
101  Atoms Are Far Too Small to See No Matter How Much Weed You Smoke
101  No, You Will Not Be Learning How to Make an Atomic Bomb This Year
102  The Periodic Table Is Not for Tracking Your Menstrual Cycle
201  Organic Chemistry, Using Only Naturally Synthesized Compounds
301  Love Potion Number Nine

101  C, C++, and Other Predetermined Course Grades
101  Data: Is That Singular or Plural?
102  COBOL Was that Bad Robot, Wasn’t He?
201  Indiscreet Structures (by Registrar Approval Only)
202  Illogical Structures
301  The Blue Screen of Death
404  Not Found

101  Basic Principles that Only Hold True in the Classroom
201  Economics Is Hard, Doggone It
301  You Will Be the Only Person Registered for a High-Level Economics Course

101  Insulting Others with Fancy Vocabulary
101  Incorporating Sexual Innuendo into Any Context
102  Books Your Parents and Teachers Would Be Horrified to Know You Have Read
102  The Art of Critical Analysis Without Cracking Open a Single Book
201  Shakespearean Scatology
201  Mocking Victorian Prudishness
202  The Complete Irrelevance of Chaucer

101  Western Civilization I: What Makes Whites Awesome
101  Western Civilization II: What Makes Whites Even More Awesome
102  US History I: 1770-1860 – What Makes These Particular Whites Even More Awesome than European Whites
102  US History II:  1860-present – We Are So Awesome, We Even Made Our Blacks Awesome
201  History of New York City: The City You Love to Hate to Love, Knowuddamean?
202  Early Modern Europe: In-depth White Navel-Gazing
203  Modern Europe I: Imperialism Just Made Sense, Considering How Awesome We Were
204  Modern Europe II: Failing to Explain Why So Many of Us Thought Nazism Was a Good Idea
301  Chinese History I: Basic Mangling of Mandarin Pronunciation
302  Chinese History II: From Cheap Plastic Toys to Everything You Will Ever Own
301  Japanese History I: Ignoring Everything until the Samurai, Because They Were Pretty Awesome, Too
302  Japanese History II: The Awesomeness Evaporated When They Bombed Pearl Harbor

101  Didn’t You Learn to Count Years Ago?
102  The Theory of Numbers: Why We Need So Many
101 Statistics for Idiots: Just Input the Following Data into SPSS and Print the Results
201  Calculus Is Just a Big Word for Nerd Stuff
202  Those Big Curvy “Integral” Symbols and How to Use Them as Kitchen Implements
301  Become a Big Exponent of Misapplied Mathematical Terminology

101  Do, Re, Mi and Other Staples of Scrabble
102  The Three B’s: Your Course Average
201  Arrhythmic Training: Make Your Heart Skip a Beat
202  The Structure of the Sonata and Other Hyundai Products

101  Newtonian Physics: Why You Can’t Get Up in the Morning
102  Planetary Motion and Other Dorky Dances by Johann Kepler
201  Electricity and Magnetism in a Non-Dating Context
301  Biophysics: This Is Why You’re Fat

101  All About Freud
102  Why Freud Was All Wrong
201  Non-Freudian Nonsense
202  Maybe Freud Knew a Thing Or Two
301  We’ll Get back to You on the Freud Thong – Thing! I Meant Thing!

Written by Thag

May 19, 2011 at 10:23 pm

Connect the Dots, People! Obama Is a Vampire!

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Time to let the cat out of the bag: the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn is meant to divert the world’s attention from developments in the Air France crash investigation.

Let’s put on our thinking caps and connect a few dots, shall we? He’s a Frenchman in a position of power, and his name was constantly mentioned as the leading candidate for the presidency in the next election. Naturally, this makes him a ripe target for scandal, whether true or manufactured. And there’s the fact that he’s Jewish – you couldn’t pick a better target for the public to latch onto: banker, predator, Christ-killer. He’s a ready-made attention grabber. So why now, exactly? What took the authorities so long, unless they were waiting to overshadow other important news affecting France? Two dots, connected.

Remember,this is Flight 447 we’re talking about – and as we all know, 447 is the numerical value of Strauss-Kahn’s initials in Hebrew plus the word “MiG” in Hebrew – which points to theories that a Soviet-made fighter jet intercepted the Airbus and shot it down. Another dot joined, and a picture begins to emerge.

All this could be attributed to bizarre coincidence, but for the additional reports – still unconfirmed but nonetheless tantalizing – that the USS Carl Vinson, which dumped Osama bin Laden’s body into the sea, was actually using the sea burial as a cover for the far more sinister activity of removing materials from the sea, namely important physical evidence of flight 447’s fate. It must be more than coincidence that Carl is merely a form of Charles, the first king of France – and Vinson is related to vines – i.e. wine – that quintessentially French beverage. This was an Air France flight, remember.

And then we must consider the US government’s refusal to show photographs or video of Osama bin Laden’s corpse or the operation that supposedly resulted in his death. What greater evidence of a cover up do you want? “Osama bin Laden” has the same number of syllables as “Rio de Janeiro,” where flight 447 originated!

So you sheeple can swallow the official story, hook, line and sinker. We critical thinkers, who look skeptically at everything the lazy mainstream media throws out, know the truth, because we refuse to let the Goebbels-wannabes run the show.

And don’t get me started on all those carcinogens in name-brand underwear.

Written by Thag

May 19, 2011 at 12:02 am

Thou Shalt Make the Chocolate Bunny One Cubit Tall…

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I think I know what’s missing in mainstream western culture: Talmudic debate.

Imagine, if you will, earnest discussions of how many cubits tall your Christmas tree must be in order for your family to discharge its obligation: you wouldn’t want to discover, the morning after, that you’ve got to rewrap all the gifts and give it another go, because you went and skimped on the height; you also wouldn’t want to discover that you’ve used an invalid species of conifer – or, heaven forbid, a deciduous – rendering the whole ritual an exercise in yuletide futility; and you certainly wouldn’t want to have to track down a competent authority, whoever the hell that might be, to rule on whether you have fulfilled the minimum requirements for the proper volume or number of gift items placed under the tree, especially so late at night. Then, of course, since the tree had been used in the fulfillment of a holy rite, you couldn’t dispose of it any which way after the holiday; you’d have to respect its once-sacred status by only using the needles for dignified purposes, its wood for honorable use.

This thought occurred to me as I chowed down on surplus Easter bunny chocolates this evening – and by the way, I love the fact that the package bears the prominent mark of kosher certification. If there’s one market you definitely want to tap with Easter chocolates, it’s religious Jews. I bet they find the same crappy Hershey’s chocolate somehow more appealing when it appears in the guise of flagrantly idolatrous, pagan imagery that their sources constantly depict as abominably disgusting.

I don’t mean that we need more arcane regulations of life’s minutiae. Lord knows the various layers of government and governmental agencies provide more than enough. But if you’re going to live life inspired by God, then by God apply Godly wisdom to every situation. If, say, you’re going to the movies, you’d need to consult the relevant tractate, where you would find the sages holding forth on the technicalities, of course – how many times must one say, “Excuse me,” upon attempting to return to one’s seat in the middle of a row; whether a single IMAX film can serve in place of two regular films – but also on the thematic, the epic, the moral: what sort of person seeks out only G-rated films; whether those who spill their Cokes have a place in heaven; why a person must strive to see at least three movies with Anthony Hopkins in a central role before one ascends to those great coming attractions in the sky.

But back to the Easter chocolates: is there a minimum quantity one must consume on the appointed day, within an allotted time frame? Must one bite the ears off the bunny first, or may one devour the beast feet first? And, since rabbits are one of the unclean species delineated in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, how does one cleanse himself of the contamination that must surely result from the indulgence – does mere immersion in a ritual bath suffice, or must one undergo a period of quarantine, after which one is sprinkled in cocoa powder? Our current lore is silent on these important matters of ritual, so there’s no way to know whether it’s been done right.

So it’s time to develop procedures. Let me know when you’ve done so. I’ll be here, trying to figure out where the chocolate bunny’s trachea and windpipe would be so I can slaughter it properly.

Written by Thag

May 17, 2011 at 10:35 pm

The Anchovy Pizza Comes with a New Buick

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Waitress: Good evening. I’m Sheila. How are you?

Husband: Fine, thank you (takes menu). (To wife) Honey, would you like a menu, too?

Wife: No thank you, dear; you know what I like.

Husband: OK. (opens menu) Let’s see…pasta…pizza…

Son: Dad, do they have ice cream?

Husband: Not until dessert, Dean.

Wife: But if you finish all your food first, you may have two scoops.

Waitress: I’ll come back in a few minutes when you’re ready to order.

Husband: No, please stay – I have some questions about the toppings for the pasta – what’s with the sauces?

Waitress: (Looks over) That’s, uh…um…uh oh. I think there’s been a mistake.

Husband: You mean you don’t have that topping? That’s fine; I’m partial to – hey, why don’t you have alfredo sauce anymore?

Waitress: We do! It’s just the menu’s been – here it is, where the ice cream toppings should be.

Husband: Alfredo sauce on ice cream? That’s repulsive!

Son: Can I have that for dinner? It’s healthy, right? Mom, what’s alfredo sauce?

Wife: Mushrooms and cream.


Waitress: Sir, it’s just a mix-up on the menu, it doesn’t mean –

Husband: Why on earth would anyone want tomato cream sauce on their ice cream sundae?

Wife: On second thought, I think I will take a menu.

Waitress: (Handing menu to wife) Please don’t get upset; the toppings are still –

Husband: Don’t get upset? What have you done to my gnocchi? How am I supposed to enjoy it with any of these sauces?! Magic Shell?! Whose idea of dinner is this, anyway?

Wife: Dear, calm down. Sheila? Why do you offer chocolate sprinkles on the pizza, but not anchovies?

Son: That‘s what I want! Mom, can I have pizza with chocolate sprinkles?

Husband: Are you out of your mind?

Waitress: We don’t offer –

Husband: It says here you do. Buy why in blazes would anyone order anchovies on ice ice cream? Get me the manager!

Waitress: Sir, as I tried to explain –

Husband: Explain?! How can anyone explain offering pesto as an ice cream topping?!

Wife: Dear! Please calm down!

Waitress: I- I’ll go get the manager. (Leaves)

Son: So can I have the pizza with chocolate sprinkles?

Husband: Absolutely not. We’re going to get this straightened out. Honey, can you believe this?

Wife: (Holding face in hands) No, dear. (Takes deep breath) Can’t you see they just switched the sections of the menu by mistake?

Husband: Well, that’s some mistake! Reese’s Pieces on ravioli? Tortellini with butterscotch sauce?

Son: Oooh! That’s what I want!

Wife: I thought you wanted the pizza.

Son: I changed my mind! May I have the turtle weenie with butterscotch?

Husband: THE WHAT?

Wife: Tortellini, dear. Please, calm down! You’re making a scene!

Husband: SO WHAT IF I AM?

Manager: What seems to be the trouble, sir?

Husband: I’ll tell you what seems to be the trouble! You lot! Mixing up all the toppings and sauces! A guy can’t put together a decent meal anymore because you’ve gone and exchanged the pasta and pizza toppings for the ones that properly go on ice cream!

Manager: Sir, please get a hold of yourself. We’ve done no such thing.

Husband: (Shoving menu in manager’s face) Then what do you call this? Do you mean to tell me I can have my choice of M&Ms, hot fudge or chopped nuts on my fettucini, or I can have ice cream primavera, but not the inverse? What is wrong with you people?

Manager: Sir, if you cannot discuss this calmly, I will be forced to ask you to leave. It’s only the menu that’s been messed up, sir, not the actual choices. You can have your pasta primavera, and no, we do not offer colored sprinkles on pizza.

Son: But what about chocolate sprinkles? I wanted chocolate sprinkles on my pizza!

Wife: You said you wanted tortellini with butterscotch sauce.

Son: I changed my mind again. I want the pizza with sprinkles.

Manager: As I said, that’s a dessert topping, not a pizza topping.

Husband: But it says right here on the menu that the sprinkles go on pasta! Are you telling me my son can’t have what he wants?

Manager: You…you want to have sprinkles on pizza?

Wife: No.

Son: Yes!

Wife: No!

Husband: But can he?

Manager: Uh, yeah, I guess if he really wants it…

Husband: So the menu is right!

Manager: No! It’s a mistake!

Son: I want pizza with chocolate sprinkles!

Wife: No!

Son: Yes!

Wife and Manager: NO!

Husband: (to Manager) You stay out of this! We’re the customer, and the customer is always right! If my son wants pizza with chocolate sprinkles, by God, he’ll have pizza with chocolate sprinkles! It’s right here on the menu!

Manager: Sir, as I keep trying to tell you, the menu is wrong.

Husband: But you just said he can have it if he wants it!

Manager: Well, yeah, he can, but it’s not a very good idea!

Husband: Why, is there something wrong with your pizza? Or your sprinkles? It wouldn’t surprise me, considering your sensibilities when it comes to flavors that any fool can see are incompatible.

Manager: OK, that’s it. I’m sorry, sir, but I must ask you to leave.

Husband: Look, I’m sorry I got so upset. What if we just order now?

Manager: (suspiciously) O…kay.

Husband: Fine. Then I’ll have the angel hair pasta with two scoops of coffee ice cream.


Written by Thag

May 16, 2011 at 9:08 pm

It Will Rain on Your Birthday Party Because You Deserve It

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For Belinda’s fourth birthday party, we wanted something really special, something she’d remember forever. She’d be grateful and appreciative, and never make trouble again. Because that’s the way kids’ minds work, right? Abnd giving the little darling exactly what she wants is the best way to raise a child. So we hired someone to run the party for us, and she picked out a theme: knights and princesses! All the kids were invited to come dressed as knights or princesses! And there would be balloons! And store-bought cake! And fun, managed activities! And no down time whatsoever! And all these exclamation points!!!!!!

It was shaping up to be a great party – as the day came, Belinda couldn’t stop talking about it, and which of her nursery schoolmates would come. I didn’t want to disappoint her, so I didn’t mention any of the five boys whose parents don’t let them socialize with girls after they turn three, for religious reasons. I also completely forgot about Shane, whose parents I should have talked to in advance, because there was a good chance he’d come dressed as a princess, and Belinda would just get confused and upset.

Then there was Thag, who didn’t bother telling his daughter there was a theme, just that she should come dressed up as a knight – and she didn’t even know what a knight was! I think these people do it on purpose, just to make my life difficult! And on top of that, there were all these allergies the kids suddenly had – how was I supposed to know that little Dara couldn’t eat peanuts, Jake can’t get near tree nuts, Gretchen has a sensitivity to wheat gluten, Marlo and Gregory can’t have eggs or dairy, and Joshua’s parents insist on raw foods only? Well! My parents certainly never had to worry about any of that, and somehow we all did just fine. To heck with all those restrictions! If they don’t want to eat the ridiculous quantities of junk food and chemically enhanced desserts in unnatural colors, fine by me!

We decided to hold the party in the big public park nearby. So we got there an hour and a half before the scheduled time to set up: balloons, streamers, bags of party favors, games, and of course, litter. We brought extra litter just in case there was actually enough room for all of our refuse in the existing receptacles.

But of course no one showed up on time, and Belinda got antsy and upset. And the woman we hired, Nancy, kept dropping not-so-subtle hints about the time she would leave and not a second later unless we paid more, no matter how late things got started. We reluctantly agreed to have her start the obnoxiously loud music, which was the signal for he rain to start falling. Belinda started crying again. Gary started kicking things. Nancy smirked and started packing up her things, and then we got into an argument because her time wasn’t up and I’d paid her already. I started crying. Little Chester was the only one enjoying himself, as he got to the cake when everyone else was busy, and rolled around in the mud and wet grass.

So I don’t know about Belinda, but I’m certainly never going to forget this. But it also means I’ve got to make it up to her somehow: a bigger party next time, with twice as much excitement! And an indoor, rain-proof facility! And staff to wait on my little princess hand and foot! And gaudy colors that would cause Stevie Wonder to cower in fright! Yes! I’d do that for my daughter! And I know you wouldn’t do it for yours, which shows how much better I am at parenting than you.

Written by Thag

May 15, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Is Your Receding Hairline a Sign of Ecological Crisis?

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Fellow head lice, we have reached an environmental crisis point: our habitat is shrinking.

We proud members of the pediculus humanus capitis species have colonized this scalp from time immemorial, raising brood after brood of nits, finding exactly the right spots to lay our eggs, and perhaps, if fate allowed, witnessing further propagation by our numerous descendants. For generations we have sought out the coziest spots on this head, forming vibrant communities around the ear and nape.

For a time, we could count on favorable living conditions even at the top of the head, where our lore tells us few lice could flourish – but we could nevertheless dwell there in peace when the gods would gather up the hair into a warm, insulating bun or ponytail.

But it has been some time since our glory days. While the blood mines are as rich and nourishing as ever, only a fool could not notice that our world’s hairline has receded, making the entire top of the head uninhabitable, even to the hardiest among us. Who knows how much longer we have left? Will the protective layer of hair continue its decline, leaving us exposed to the harsh elements? Will it continue only along the top of the head, leaving the area around the ears safe for our children? Will it stop at some point, or is this civilization doomed?

We simply cannot stick around to find out, for by then it may be too late. We must, for the sake of our illustrious and venerable infestation, take the initiative: we must marshal our resources and set forth to find more hirsute pastures. We can only know whether we shall succeed once we have done so. But it only takes one of us to sow our genetic seeds on a new scalp, a new world. We must depart fully confident that at least one of our many relatives shall find abundant head cilia, and promptly lay eggs.

Let us go forth now, and split into rotating shifts who will ascend to the tips of the hairs above, each seeking a sign of a new world to inhabit: of luxuriant, insulating hair; of nutrient-rich blood; and of no dreaded close-toothed comb, whose existence we have not encountered but which we fear nonetheless.

Onward, fellow pediculus humanus capitis! The itch to survive persists!

Written by Thag

May 13, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Stop Calling Gerontology “The Study of Old Farts”

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You’re not supposed to make fun of old people, you know. Even if they make easy, hunched-over targets.

It just shows poor taste, lack of judgment. And I’m not even talking about the feisty old people who will beat you ceaselessly with a cane in response. That is, if they can hear you in the first place. No, this rule applies to all old people, no matter how tempted you may be to mock their frailty.

That means no fiddling with hearing aids – such as merely mouthing words, causing them to turn up the volume, at which point you shout – and no imitating the way geezers hack and spit. No calling them geezers. No pulling your lips back around your teeth to evoke denture-free gums. And no comments about hair dyed unnatural shades of red or blue.

Old people are more keenly aware of their increasing infirmities than anyone else is, so there’s little need to remind them that their joints no longer function properly, that their degenerating vision makes it difficult to identify people, or that they can spend the better part of the morning just trying to tie their shoes. Bringing up incontinence will just piss them off, so hold it in.

Be aware that depression often occurs among the elderly, so avoid flippant references to it. The sense of losing control as one’s memory and control deteriorate would make anyone anxious, let alone someone who must now rely on others for basic hygiene. And never, ever, mess with their pills. Even if giving them a little too much of those green ones will cause the patient to sing rude songs.

Finally, never let on that old people creep you out. Being reminded of human mortality is never pleasant, least of all in the form of a shriveled up crank with a faulty memory. But you must retain your composure, even though the person before you may have long since jettisoned his or her own sense of dignity, such as by announcing that he shall no longer be wearing any pants.

You think I’m being tasteless; no, I’m instructing you how to avoid being tasteless. How will you know not to reflexively condescend, as if addressing a toddler, unless I tell you? You’re not very smart, after all, are you?

Written by Thag

May 12, 2011 at 11:09 pm

WARNING: This Child Comes With No Warranty

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Thank you for acquiring a 2011 Human Child. The universe believes you will enjoy countless hours of meaningful interaction with your Child, but doing so requires preparation. Please read these instructions carefully to acquaint yourself with the important features of your unit.

Please note that some packages contain two, or occasionally more, units, but the overall maintenance procedures remain the same as for a single Child. Your service provider can offer detailed information on the care and upkeep of your Child, but be advised that these consultations are generally conducted for a fee. Payment plans are available in most areas, as well as insurance policies to cover both routine maintenance and malfunctions. Malfunctions are less likely if you adhere to a proper maintenance regimen.

Your Child comes with an alert system to indicate that your attention is needed in one of the following areas:
– Nourishment (see chapter 3)
– Hygiene (see chapters 4-6)
– Structural or systemic malfunctions (see chapters 7-8 or consult your service provider)

CAUTION: Do not subject your Child to sudden impact against any surface. This may damage the unit and cause it to malfunction. See chapter 7 for more information.

CAUTION: The unit does not come equipped with a language module, and therefore cannot receive instructions. This feature is not included to enable the user to develop patience, as well as the serenity to accept that the non-verbal, non-walking, cognitively immature Child possesses the capacity to control your life for the next several decades. If you are unprepared to cope with this realization, please rob several banks per week to ensure adequate income for your unit to be cared for by others. With the proper regimen of care and maintenance, the language module will be downloaded automatically over the next several years.

CAUTION: The unit does not come equipped with a chewing apparatus. Consequently, the insertion of solid objects into the unit’s oral orifice (fig. 1) is not recommended. Solid objects may be brought into proximity of the oral orifice if the volume of that object exceeds that of a standard softball. Objects inserted into the oral orifice may become stuck and interfere with the functioning of the breathing apparatus (see chapter 2) and the nourishment apparatus. Should this nevertheless occur, contact your service provider immediately.

CAUTION: The care of this unit will cost you precious sleep when you need it most. It will ruin your most cherished and valuable household objects. It may interact unfavorably with other such units, especially those kept in close proximity. It will become the source of your most intensely frustrating moments as well as those of your most profound pride. It will make you liable for expenses you never dreamed existed, especially if your unit is female.

Please read all instructions carefully.

CAUTION: Even reading the instructions carefully will not adequately prepare you for the experience of parenthood. Oh, and there is no warranty.

Written by Thag

May 11, 2011 at 3:46 pm

I Have a Tuesday Night Reservation with Your Spam Filter

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I’m sorry. I’ll try not to do it again. It was a stupid idea.

You see, I went a long time without checking my spam folder. Upon clicking on that long-neglected link, I came face-to-screen with the realization that I had missed out on months’ worth of fabulous offers. Some were even in languages I didn’t know existed. And some were quite possibly English, but not necessarily. I mean, they used real English words, mostly spelled correctly, but put them together in ways no speaker of English ever would. Those mostly came from Nigeria. I didn’t know there were so many Africans with oh-so-tantalizingly close access to millions of dollars. No wonder the continent is in trouble: all that useful cash, locked away from the public. If everyone wrote back to those Nigerian widows today, we could solve the AIDS crisis, a couple of wars and food distribution problems from the Sahara southward.

Now, I do not, currently, have a need for a certain pill, the name of which will prompt some filters to regard this post as spam, but it features a phonetic rhyme with a set of waterfalls shared by the U.S. and Canada. That pill promises to eliminate certain performance issues in men. Oodles of messages offering it end up in my spambox everyday. But should I save all those messages, in case, when I reach a certain stage of middle age, I might need said med? The more sources I consult, the more likely I am to find to a competitive price – and as I understand, the going rate for this particular non-chewable tablet is something like twenty bucks per dose. I’d better set up a filter to override the spam-detector and file those messages away for safekeeping. In fact, if you’re looking to get rid of yours, I’ll take your leftover messages in that vein, as well.

Now, I do wish I could understand Russian, because a good number of the messages in there are in that language. How the hell am I supposed to know what they’re telling me? What am I supposed to do about this? What if it’s some really crucial information that my English-speaking sources have missed? The same goes for what I guess is Chinese. I need help, but I can’t deal with all that gibberish on my own!

Then there are the offers to increase one’s physical endowment. I do not, thank you very much, require enhancement of my bust, least of all through what appear to be thoroughly unscientific means, but if I were, I would wonder how you knew, since I certainly wouldn’t be going around telling everybody I was considering it. So I suspect I’ve been getting these messages in error, and they are intended for someone else with a similar address. As for roughly analogous offers directed at males, thank you, but I believe those were received in error, as well; I’m quite unlikely to broadcast, uh, shortcomings in that region, so even if it were relevant, I wouldn’t trust my anatomy to people with no sense of discretion.

Of course I could occasionally make use of access to pharmaceuticals with a diminutive price tag – available only with a physician’s endorsement – so should I save those messages, as well, and refer to them again next time the little ones need some amoxycillin? This sure is getting complicated. There are so many helpful people out there, waiting to provide assistance where it might be needed – and here I sat, losing faith in humanity. Well, from here on in I resolve to pay more attention to the wrong side of the incoming e-mail tracks. Those neglected messages would appreciate it, and it’s the least I can do for them.

Now, would you like to see that for-sure authentic video of Bin Laden’s death?

Written by Thag

May 9, 2011 at 2:38 pm

This Is Tech Support. How May I Piss You Off?

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Bill GatesMr. Gates? You wanted to see me, sir?

Thank you, sir. My colleagues and I are proud of our work, too.

I don’t understand, Mr. Gates. We’ve always tried to make Windows operating systems as close to flawless as possible. Quality Control has been really diligent about it. What seems to be the issue?

On purpose? No way, sir! I doubt any of of us are even capable of intentionally messing up the – huh?

You…you mean you want us to make it less than perfect? I don’t understand; why would we want to knowingly equip hundreds of millions of users with faulty technology that requires so much follow-up care – oh. I think I see where this is going, sir. Oh, goodness. May I have a moment to digest this?

OK. I just had to reorient my entire professional world view. Let me see…so, uh, did you have any specific flaws in mind, Mr. Gates, or should I get my team to brainstorm from scratch on this? Mmm-hmm. Do you mind if I write this down, sir? Oh, good, you made a list already. May I? Thank you.

– “Agonizingly slow startup. Must be slow enough to cause peak aggravation, but not so slow as to prompt abandonment of the system.” Wow, sir. You really have given this a lot of thought.

– “Compatibility issues with every non-Microsoft browser.” Of course. Might I also suggest, sir, that we throw in a few quirks with Internet Explorer itself, just to squeeze the user a bit more? Thank you, sir.

– “Software crashes that affect every application in use at the time.” Oooh, good one. Did you mean merely that all open applications get frozen when one crashes, or that all open applications get permanent adverse alterations to their code? Well, that’s something of a tall order, but I’ll look into it.

– “Error messages that look like only a Windows expert would understand what went wrong.” Mr. Gates, we could go a million different ways on this: gobbledygook; menacing-sounding indications of failed processes; warnings about conflicting instructions that could result in some unknown catastrophe. Well, those are just off the top of my head, sir. I could get people to come up with a package of messages guaranteed to maximize the user’s sense of impending doom without entirely extinguishing the last ember of hope that they might not completely lose all their work.

And the last one: “System code that degrades over time, rendering even the most reliable machines close to useless.” Hmm. I’ll have to give this one more thought. We might want to team with the Intel people on this one. Is that it for now?

OK, Mr. Gates. I’ll get my staff together and try to come up with half-a-dozen more proposed “features” of our systems, and submit those to you. We’ll try to have a draft proposal on the whole package by the end of the month. Trouble? Oh, no, sir, I don’t anticipate much. After all, we all use Macs.

Written by Thag

May 8, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Inbound, We Have a Delay at the Coffee Machine…

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Good morning, this is Eric Mortensen with the traffic report for the Polinsky residence, brought to you by Sherwin-Williams paints.

Access to the second-floor bathroom remains spotty with delays of ten-to-fifteen minutes as each of the four children attend to their morning hygienic routines. Outbound along the same route we have delays resulting from an overturned laundry basket, creating a bottleneck in the upstairs hallway. Mrs. Polinsky is on the scene, and cleanup efforts are underway, but expect at least a ten minute delay downstairs as the scolding and repeated admonitions to put stuff away continue.

The kitchen-bound hallway is also backed up as Mr. Polinsky meanders through it looking through the morning paper on his way to get some coffee. This morning’s shuffle through the hallway is taking a bit longer than usual because the Pirates actually won three games in a row, and Mr. Polinsky is stunned by the developments. We recommend taking an alternative route, possibly even going out the front door and in through the side entrance to the kitchen, to avoid further delays when Mr. Polinsky remembers that he forgot to bring in the mail. Today, a bunch of bills are expected to arrive, so steer clear of Mr. Polinsky until he has had at least two cups of his morning Joe.

The wait at the toaster is up to eight minutes now, after Mrs. Polinsky had to run upstairs to deal with the laundry mess we told you about. That made the English muffins burn, and she’ll have to put another set in the toaster for Mr. Polinsky in order for him to get out to his train on time. You’re best off focusing on getting juice or cereal instead this morning, but be aware that heavy delays at the refrigerator are a distinct possibility today, since three out of the four Polinsky kids are taking a bag lunch to school today, and didn’t bother to prepare anything last night. You’ll want to steer clear of the kitchen when Mrs. Polinsky returns and begins reacting to these developments, which could generate another five-minute delay for anyone who arrives after that point.

The same three kids have some after-school programs scheduled for today, which means they need bus fare or other arrangements for getting home, so expect Mrs. Polinsky to keep them at the door reminding them repeatedly of all those details. It shouldn’t take more than a minute or two for each kid, but be advised that those last-minute goodbyes sometimes stretch out. And we’d like to remind our listeners that today is a special alert day, with a birthday party this afternoon at 4 for the youngest. If you must enter the Polinsky residence this afternoon, arrive on foot, use the side entrance and avoid the kitchen if at all possible. This is Eric Mortensen. Back to Jess and Mark in the studio.

Written by Thag

May 7, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Thag’s Guide for the Funeral Clueless

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Are you flummoxed by funeral etiquette? Does burial protocol confound you? Are you mortified by the thought you might do something horribly inappropriate or offensive during the dear departed’s last rites? As a public service, we at Mightier than the Pen have composed a basic guide of Dos and Don’ts for the morbidly obtuse. Don’t thank us: we’re just wasting everybody’s time.

Do: Wear subdued colors to funeral.
Don’t:  Loudly critique the sartorial choices of mourners.
Definitely don’t:  “Who dressed the dead guy – blind weasels?”

Do: Reflect on the transience of life, and therefore its preciousness.
Don’t:  Audibly discuss the disposition of the deceased’s assets.
Definitely don’t: Push a competing heir into the open grave .

Do: Express your sympathy to the loved ones of the deceased.
Don’t: Express wonder that anyone could love the deceased scumbag.
Definitely don’t: Disrupt the eulogies repeatedly with ribald heckling.

Do: Inquire whether there is a charity to which you may donate in the deceased’s name.
Don’t: React negatively upon being informed of the preferred charity.
Definitely don’t: Announce that you shall instead be donating the deceased’s body to science.

Do: Keep a respectful distance from the family at the graveside.
Don’t: Be intrusive or obvious about photographing the proceedings.
Definitely don’t: Try to score an interview with a mourner as the casket is lowered into the ground.

Do: Keep conversation to a minimum.
Don’t: Shush people who talk a little too much.
Definitely don’t: Shush the person delivering the eulogy.

Do: Remark how restful the deceased looks at an open-casket ceremony.
Don’t: Compare the deceased’s looks to those of others present.
Definitely don’t: Use the deceased as a ventriloquist’s dummy to berate others present.

Do: Shed tears at the loss of a loved one.
Don’t: Pass around a slice of onion to help people generate insincere tears.
Definitely don’t: Pass around sneezing powder.

Written by Thag

May 5, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Can We Get a Sniper Hit on the Bozo in the Left Lane?

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It’s not exactly a slow news day, but I’m having trouble coming up with a topic for today’s tantrum. Maybe that’s because I don’t use the news as my source of ire. That honor is reserved for bad drivers.

You know which ones I mean: the ones who enter the intersection without making sure they can get out at the other end, thus perpetuating gridlock; the ones who don’t signal; the ones who drive infuriatingly slowly when they’re right in front of me.

But the news? Meh. Osama Bin Laden? That’s old turban already; it was, like, three news cycles ago. And stories of irksome people meeting a violent end are hardly rare. I just can’t think of any recent factual ones offhand. What offends me most about the operation was that no one outside the usual suspects found a way to directly blame Israel. What has become of our knee-jerk anti-Zionists? Are they suffering a change of heart? A weakening of conviction? Getting bored of the whole enterprise? I can understand getting bored of it; you ever spend decades in a Lebanese refugee camp? Not exactly Manhattan’s Upper East Side (not exactly Hoboken’s Upper East Side, either). When a friend asked me this morning, in all seriousness, whether I thought the Israelis were involved, I said, “No. If they were, do you think it would have taken ten years?”

Which naturally leads to the brilliant idea of having the Israelis deal with all those lousy drivers. Think about it: they have this legendary prowess when it comes to achieving the seemingly impossible, of accomplishing earth-shattering things deep in unfriendly territory: Entebbe in 1976; Eichmann in 1960; Dubai in 2010; Tunis in 1988; your linen closet in 1997 (you thought no one knew about that one, huh? I have my sources). What territory is more unfriendly than the streets, populated as they are by nitwits who somehow managed to finagle their ways to a license? We need the Mossad on this one, and you know it.

Of course a cursory examination of the way Israelis drive might be in order before taking this proposal to the various movers and shakers in your area. I am sorry to report that the results of such a survey are not encouraging. As a matter of fact, once upon a time a good number of New York City cab drivers were Israeli nationals, before the wave of South Asian immigrants, a fact I conveniently pulled out of my derrière. During that entire period, the reputation of the New York City cab driver improved not a whit, nor did the presence and influence of such supposed role models burnish the image of New York drivers in general. It turns out that Israelis, like every other bunch of human beings, are mostly lousy drivers.

Which means we have to fall back on a more practical plan for dealing with all those morons on the road. Where’s that team of Navy SEALs?

Written by Thag

May 4, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Kid Logic: Your Brain Will Contort

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I can’t understand it: I wore my favorite shirt yesterday, and it’s still not back in my drawer from the laundry! Better complain to Mom.

My sister is eating across the table from me as I do my homework. I think I’ll go over there and draw all over her cracker with my pencil.

A friend came back home with me from school. Dad, may I have a piece of paper and some crayons so I can completely ignore him?

Mom just told me the school bus is leaving in twenty minutes, and I still have to get dressed, eat breakfast and make sure my lunch is packed. This is the perfect time to start a major LEGO project.

Dad just folded and sorted all my laundry into neat piles. Time to dump it indiscriminately on my bed and ignore it for a few days.

My brother nearly ruined the mechanical pencil sharpener by inserting a blue marker. But this is a red marker, which is completely different.

My parents warned me not to throw things in the house, but these blocks are so much fun to chuck around, I’m sure this situation is an exception.

My little brother and sister are bothering me as I try to read on the couch. I could go somewhere else and get some peace and quiet, but I’d rather sort-of relish the sort-of attention and be unable to get any reading done.

A second ago, Mom warned my sister not to do something. That means I should do it right now.

Dad worked hard to make the pizza dough, roll it out and put exactly the right things on top. I’ll complain that my piece touched something I didn’t ask for.

I want dessert, and my parents warned me that any more misbehavior would result in no dessert. Oooh! I know! I’ll sing that annoying song one more time!

If my brother did something he wasn’t allowed to do, I get to do it, too. It’s only fair.

Written by Thag

May 3, 2011 at 9:43 pm

I’ll Have My Attorneys Call Yours About Asking You Out

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WHEREAS George L. Lucas has noticed that Emily B. Smith is in the same American History class as he; and

WHEREAS Mr. Lucas has noticed the charming way Ms. Smith holds a strand or two of hair in her mouth as she thinks; and

WHEREAS Mr. Lucas is far too shy to express his attraction directly to Ms. Smith; and

WHEREAS Ms. Smith has beautifully smooth, dark hair and freckles; and

WHEREAS Mr. Lucas is a sucker for freckles; and

WHEREAS Mr. Lucas harbors a fear of rejection that prevents him from attempting even to initiate acquaintance with Ms. Smith; and

WHEREAS Mr. Lucas doubts that Ms. Smith, in her loveliness, would even notice a dweeb such as he; and

WHEREAS this morning Ms. Smith sat across from Mr. Lucas at lunch in the cafeteria; and

WHEREAS Ms. Smith’s presence made Mr. Lucas’s pulse race and his palms sweat; and

WHEREAS Mr. Lucas simply lacks the resolve to act on his manifest desire for social connection with Ms. Smith:

RESOLVED: that Mr. Lucas might think about asking Jerry Thomas, who seems to be able to talk to interact with girls without devolving into a drooling, grunting cretin, to ask Tricia Baker, who sits next to Ms. Smith in Math class, whether she might consider, you know, hypothetically, getting to know Mr. Lucas, or maybe just saying hello.

Written by Thag

May 2, 2011 at 2:42 pm