Thursday, February 27

What's My App?

When I heard that the mobile application WhatsApp had been acquired by Facebook for 19 billion dollars it occurred to me that maybe I should try to come up with an app I could sell to Facebook. I certainly didn't expect 19 billion dollars (after all this would be my first app) but 1 or 2 billion didn't seem out of the question.


The first thing I did was find out what I had in common with other app developers. I wanted to see if I had what it took to succeed in this field.

Here are my findings:

1. It helps to have been born in Russia and then leave Russia and move to America.

My conclusion: This could be problematical since I was born in Los Angeles, California, but - and this is critical - if I had been born in Russia I'm almost certain that I would have left Russia and moved to America the first chance I got. There is no way to know for sure, but I gave myself partial credit anyway.

2. Having dropped out of an Ivy League school seems to be a bonus.

My conclusion: I never attended an Ivy League school but if I had I know I would have seriously considered dropping out. Especially after the first report cards were issued. Again, I gave myself a partial credit on this one.

3. Almost universally the most successful app developers must allow their technological passions to overwhelm the need for any sexual gratification whatsoever.

My conclusion: Maybe having every little thing in common with successful app developers is not all that important.


Next, I checked out what the most successful apps actually do. It soon became clear that for an app to become a best seller it must have three things in common:

1. It must be a game;
2. It must make you more productive;
3. It must enable you to inform every person on the face of the Earth that you are being productive while playing a game.


It is very important to have a good name for your app. Remember in high school when you and your friends were going to start a band and you spent the first month or so coming up with a good name? Same is true for an app.

Facebook is a good example. It's like you are reading a book with your face on every page. Hey, I'm reading a book. Oh, look, there's my face. Book. Face.  Facebook. Very nice.


Keeping all this in mind I think I have come up with a winner.

Keep your eyes peeled for the exciting new app called...

Face Crush With Friends:
Professional Edition.

It will be releasing as soon as my Russian visa request and my application to Harvard are finalized.

Saturday, February 22


I had to switch tax preparers this year because my old preparer was just that - old. He chose to retire and move to a tropical clime rather than to continue sorting out my income and expenses as he has done for the past 30 years.

I asked around for a referral and Nelson, my nemesis,  suggested someone in Queens that he uses. (Those of you unfamiliar with Nelson can find out more about him here.)

"He'll get you all you deserve, and more!" enthused Nelson. This was not reassuring to someone who lists among his greatest fears "Going to jail for tax fraud". That fear appears on the list between "Getting food poisoning from drinking milk that is past it's sell-by date" and "Buying shoes that are a little too tight but letting the salesman convince you that they will stretch".

A few days later Nelson called and excitedly informed me that, "I got you all set up with my guy in Queens."

"Well, I wasn't really ready..." I began my excuse, but he cut me off.

"Not ready for tax time? Are you really willing to take that risk?"

Nelson, of course, knows that I am as risk-averse as they come so in the end I agreed to see his "guy in Queens."

Two nights later ("He only works nights and weekends! How convenient is that?", Nelson had said) I found myself on a 7 train heading into the wilds of the Borough of Queens. Following Nelson's directions I got out at the 33rd Street station and headed south two blocks to Van Dam Street. From there I took a left and went one block where I found myself standing in front of the Queens Correctional Facility. 

I reminded myself to pre-screen any directions I get from Nelson in the future.

I continued half a block farther to a narrow building which displayed the number I was looking for, along with a sign reading "Bail Bonds" in large Helvetica type. In the lower right hand corner someone had scrawled "Taxes".  

In the lower left hand corner, in the same handwriting, it said "Watch Batteries Changed".

As I was turning to head back to the subway station when the heavy metal door opened and a large-headed man stuck his large head out and said "You from Nelson?"

I was about to deny the allegation, but I was never good at lying to large-headed men so I said, "Yes. Yes I am."

He looked both ways and, although the street was deserted, looked both ways again before opening the door a bit wider and saying "Get in".

I squeezed through and waited for him to look both ways again before shutting the door. "Siddown," he said, gesturing toward a lime green plastic chair positioned before a large folding card table. 

He sat across from me in a pink plastic chair, shuffled some papers which were sitting on the table, picked up a pencil that looked to be an inch and a half long, looked up at me, and said, "Income?"

For some reason I had a sudden memory of playing "Marco Polo" when I was a kid, so I  replied "TAXES!" and smiled in that friendly way I have that never really works on large-headed men. 

A look of recognition flashed through his eyes as he said "Oh, right, Nelson said you were a wit." When he said the word "wit" he wiggled the first two fingers of each hand in the air.  "Yeah, I usually like to start with the income."

"Yes, sir," I said, resorting to the military patois I use when I get nervous. I opened the manila envelope I had brought and spread the papers on the table. "Income. Let's go."

"Let's start with cash income."


"Yeah. You know, the jobs you did for cash. Sales, deliveries, enforcement, that stuff."

I rummaged through my papers, although I knew I had no cash earnings for the tax year. Or any tax year, for that matter. I don't think I'd had any cash income since I stopped getting an allowance. Still, I felt that I had to make an effort to look.

"What do you know?" I said trying to sound surprised. "I don't appear to have any cash income this year. How about that?"

He rather forcefully crossed out three or four lines on a form he had started filling out and muttered, "No cash. No cash. No cash."

He looked up after a bit and asked, "Well, exactly what income do you have then?"

I handed him a couple of W2 forms. He looked at them for a moment like old friends he hadn't seen in a long time. "Ah," he said. "W2." He looked a little more closely. "This is your real name?"

"Well, yes."

He crossed out another line and wrote something down. "Real name," he said to himself, shaking his head. "Anything else?"

I timidly pushed over a couple of bank interest statements. He glanced at them, jotted something down on his form, crossed out a few more lines, and softly chuckled the words, "'Taxable' interest."

He sighed, turned his form over to what I deduced to be page 2 and asked, "Expenses?"

I paused for a moment, then again rummaged through my papers before saying, "What do you know..."

"No expenses?" He had raised his voice and it looked as if his head had gotten even larger. "How can you have no expenses? Don't you go to church? What about sales tax? Fire damage? What about business expenses? Social club dues? Travel? Solar panels?"

"Solar panels? I live in an apartment."

"Solar panels are a gold mine."

"Look, I just don't think I'm the type of taxpayer that you usually have for a client."

"Taxpayer? None of my clients pay taxes, friend. None."

"Right," I said as I began to gather up my papers. "Maybe I should be on my way..."

"Relax. Here." He scribbled for a minute and handed me a 1040 which was completely filled out with my W2 and interest income, no expenses, and a nominal refund. I looked it over and it actually appeared to be in order. 

"Thanks. Shouldn't you sign it or something though?"

"What? And use my real name?"


By the time I got home it was pretty late so to comfort myself I had two excellent homemade cookies and a glass of milk and felt very satisfied with myself.

Then I noticed that the sell-by date on the milk carton was two days old.

Saturday, February 15


After reviewing some of my recent posts I noted that my vocabulary had become somewhat limited. I read somewhere that most people only use about 100 words on a regular basis and I feared that I had become one of those people. I had to admit to myself that I was in danger of being, oh what's the word, you know kind of like dull but more like "not shiny"?

Never-mind, I'll think of it.

To help myself out I downloaded an app on my phone that sends me a new word everyday so I can punch things up.

Ha, I used the word "punch" just now. I haven't used that word in ages, so I think it's benefiting me already.

After a few days collecting new words, I had to go to the drug store to pick up some cold medicine. My pharmacist, Dr. Connors, is a little bit imperious (Ha! Another one!) so I was looking forward to impressing him with my new lexicon (Bam!).

I approached him and boldly said, "Salutations, Dr. Connors. I have gonorrhea in my olfactory organ."

He looked doubtful. "You have a sexually transmitted disease in your nose?"

I paused a moment while I quickly checked my phone. "I mean rhinorrhea. Yes, that's it. rhinorrhea in my olfactory organ"

"So you have a runny nose in your, uh, nose?"

"Precisely. And," I checked my phone again, "aqueous oculus...oculuses...oculinsky...?" The word of the day did not seem to cover latinate pluralities.

"Watery eyes?"

"Perchance," I taunted. I lowered my voice. "I think it might be the albumen."

"The egg white?" he skepticated.

"Yes. NO. Uh, maybe?" I said capriciously.

"So you have a runny nose and egg whites in your watery eyes?"  He was looking - I mean oculating - at me oddly, that is, leeringly, no, that's not it, warily.

Yes, warily.

"Well, yes, that's what I speculated," was my retorted. "Except for the egg whites. I'll just need some cold medicine for now."

"You mean nasopharyngitis serum?"

I paused a moment and resisted the urge to check my phone again.

"That's one way of putting it," I conceded.

Wait, oh yeah, lackluster. That's the word I was looking for.

Thank the Deity I won't experience worriment about that any longer.


Saturday, February 8

The Talking Car

I live in New York City and do not own a car. Still, since I spent a number of formative years in Southern California, I have a certain affinity for the automobile and am always interested in any advancements in automotive technology.

Recently I took two buses, a subway and a taxi cab to the West Side where Manhattan car dealers are located. I wanted to test drive one of the new cars with the talking feature that gives you audio advice while you are driving.

I was a little concerned when the salesman insisted that he didn't need to come along with me for the test drive. "I've had just about all I can take," he said, but then caught himself. "It will be a much more, um, satisfying experience if you are on your own."

When I started the car I heard a friendly female voice say, "Be sure your parking brake is disengaged before shifting into Drive." Very helpful, I thought. "Look both ways before merging into traffic." Okay, a bit intrusive but still, Safety First.

As I pulled onto the highway I thought I'd try out the sound system so I turned on the radio. A rather syrupy love song came on so I switched to an Oldies station I like. A few seconds later I heard the friendly female voice say, "Hey, I was listening to that."


"I was listening to that."

"I, er, uh, Is, is this the car?" I asked.

"Remember to check your rear and side view mirrors frequently. So you just change the station without asking?"

"Sorry," I grumbled. "I guess I didn't realize..."

"You are slowing down to a speed that is unsafe given the current flow of traffic."

I stepped on the gas to speed up. Perhaps I stepped a bit too abruptly.

"Why do you make it jerk like that!!!???"

"I was just accelerating."

"Well, you didn't have to hit the gas like that."

"That's how you accelerate! You hit the gas..."

The next part was somewhat muffled, but I believe I heard the words "Lead foot."

"I'm driving perfectly fine," I clenched. "Besides..."

"Remember to check your rear and side view mirrors frequently."

"I am checking..."

"Keep your eyes on the road ahead."

"How can I keep my eyes on the road ahead when I'm CHECKING MY GODDAM MIRRORS ALL THE TIME!!!"

"Road Rage Detector activated."


"Road Rage detected."


"Central Authority notified."

Central Authority? That sounded ominous. I concluded that it might be time to resort to reason.

"Look, I'm sorry I lost my temper..."

"This is Central Authority," a gruff male voice had replaced her. "Traffic enforcement."

"Oh, hello Mister...Authority," I said, trying to sound calm, respectful, and unragelike. "I was just out for a test drive and I think the voice thingy malfunctioned."

"Oh, the voice thingy. Don't worry about that. Happens all the time. Now, do you need any help?"

"Actually, I'm not quite sure where I am. Can you guide me back to the dealer?"

"Sure. Just take a left here."

The Oldies station was still playing on the radio so I leaned over and turned it off.

"Hey," said Central Authority, "I was listening to that."

photo credit: TheBusyBrain via photopin cc

Tuesday, February 4

Common Question

I was in my neighborhood used book store, looking through a bin of CDs labeled "Musical Oddities", when I came across something called "Common Question: a Country Music Salute to the LGBTQ Community." Intrigued, I invested the $2.99 and eagerly took the disc home.

Among several interesting cuts was a Lady Gaga composition performed by Billy Ray Joe, an older Country star who, I believe, was trying to make a comeback after several decades in rehab. Some of you may remember Billy Ray's signature hits "More Whiskey, Jesus" and "Get The Hell Out Of My Way" from several years ago.

In any case, I found the number quite compelling. Due to copyright restrictions, I can't play the entire song here, but I can provide this clip which, I think, gives an idea of the motif he was going for.

Click on the play button to hear the song.

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