Tuesday, September 2

Take THAT Vladimir Putin!

Vladimir Putin has announced that Russia will no longer be importing Western fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, or milk products. 

Okay, Vlad the Naysayer, fair enough. It’s clearly time for The West to retaliate and boycott some of those Russian foods we love so much.

First off, no more Vodka. That’s not so hard, really, since the best Vodka comes from France. That’s right, Grey Goose is French. So we are okay, there, at least until the next time The French piss us off!

Second, caviar is out! Don’t worry, though, fish egg lovers. It turns out that there are several excellent American caviars available. Wal-Mart and Costco carry a full supply, and you can order enough to last ten years or more, and for a very reasonable price.

Third, cold soup. The Russians have so many varieties it is hard to pick just one, but, really, why bother to choose. Just eliminate them all because, well, COLD SOUP!!! Need I say more?

Fourth, pirogue. It’s some kind of mystery meat wrapped in a pastry. In other word, A BURRITO! Well, we don’t need to get our meat wrapped up by Vladimir Putin. We can get good old All American Mexican Food and be just as happy.

Finally, McDonald's. McDonald's has several hundred restaurants in Russia so to be truly patriotic Americans should vow to stop eating Big Macs. 

Okay, let’s not go overboard.

Friday, August 29

Waiting for iPhone

The new iPhone is coming. 

Next month. 

Just two weeks away. 

Anybody can wait two weeks, right?

 It’s only 14 days.

 It’s just a fortnight.

 336 hours.

Not long at all.

20,160 minutes. 


Nope, not long at all.

Monday, August 25

The Last Unemployed Man In America

Lionel Krowder fired up his ancient notebook computer and waited patiently while the obsolete operating system loaded and laboriously began executing its start-up routine. Lionel took preternatural comfort in the consistent way it carried out its instructions each time he applied power. He had even grown fond of the IGNORE button in the error message window that always popped up one minute and twenty-nine seconds into the process. “Hello, Mr. Ignore.” he would sometimes mutter, clicking on it gently.

He began scanning the email subject lines which descended down the screen like a ladder to nowhere. They all contained either the words “regret”, “sorry”, or “unfortunately”. He sighed and looked out the filmy window of his third floor walk-up apartment.

No job today, he thought.


He was startled out of this trip down self pity lane by an electronic alert coming from his mobile phone.  The sound was not the usual text message beep-beep-beep that he heard once or twice a day, but rather the chimes which indicated an actual telephone call. The chimes were the default sound programmed into the device at the factory and he had never felt it worth the trouble to choose something more personal.

He touched the answer icon on the smudged screen, brought the phone to his ear, and cautiously said “Hello?”

“Mister Lionel Krowder?” The voice was formal with little inflection. Very businesslike, thought Lionel. That can't be good.

“Yes, this is Lionel Charles Krowder,” said Lionel, hoping that perhaps the formal voice had called the wrong Lionel Krowder. Perhaps they wanted Lionel Michael Krowder or Lionel Phillip Krowder or Lionel...

“Hello, Mister Krowder.” said the voice, sounding very much like Lionel Charles Krowder was exactly the Lionel Krowder to whom he wished to speak. “This is the Bureau of Labor Statistics. How are you today?”

“I'm fine, I guess. How can I help you?”

“It has come to our attention that you are still unemployed even after several years of unprecedented economic growth. Is that true?”

“Actually, I have several opportunities in the pipeline,” he lied, trying to preserve some semblance of self respect.

“According to our records your most recent set of applications have all been rejected, Mr. Krowder,” said the voice authoritatively.

“Excuse me?”

“'The position is no longer available', 'We have no openings at this time', 'Your talents do not fit the profile'. Shall I go on?”

“How did you...I haven't even...”

“You haven't even read these emails, have you Mr. Krowder?”

Lionel did his best not to sound defensive. “I usually just read the subject line. To save time.” As if he had time to save, he thought.

He tried to sit up straight, but couldn't quite maintain the stiff spine and thrown back shoulders of an optimist. Why the hell bother? he thought. It's not like anyone can see me. Then his head popped up and he looked around his room suspiciously. Or can they?

“Can I help you with something?” Lionel was getting annoyed by this interloper.

“Yes you can. We are prepared to release the latest employment statistics, and it would appear that you are the only person left who is still unemployed.”

“Don't be ridiculous. There must be lots of other people who are unemployed.”

“No one else is unemployed, Mr. Krowder.”

“What about felons? Surely felons are having a hard time finding a job.”

“A lot of people like to hire felons. Ever since Orange Is The New Black.”

“Well, I can't believe I'm the only unemployed person left. People in my age group, for example. I'm in my late forties/early fifties”.

"You are fifty-eight years old, Mr. Krowder."

"Right. Well, I bet fifty-eight-year-olds have a heck of a time finding a job."

"There is a one hundred and one year old man working in a hardware store in Poughkeepsie, New York. There is a ninety-three year old woman plowing fields on a farm near Lincoln, Nebraska. There is a one-hundred-six year old brain surgeon performing operations in Chicago, Illinois. There is a eighty-nine year old small forward playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves..."

"I still can't believe that everybody has a job but me."

“Well, we don't include those who are”, he lowered his voice in disgust, “no longer looking for work.”

“But I am looking for work. “

“Yes, we know, Mr. Krowder. That's the problem.”


“We would very much like to report the unemployment rate as zero percent, but as long as you are statistically included in the 'seeker' category, that can't happen.”

“What do you mean?”

“While you are still looking for a job the unemployment rate is 0.0000000006%.”

“That's such a small number. It's almost zero.”

“Mr. Krowder, we are the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 'Almost' is not a statistic. Perhaps I didn't make myself clear. We very much want the unemployment rate to be exactly zero.”

There was a pause that extended from brief to awkward. Finally Lionel said, “So you want me to stop looking for a job?”

“That would be ideal, Mr. Krowder. As I mentioned, those who are - ,” again his voice became a repulsed whisper, “no longer looking for work - are not included in the statistics. I'm glad you concur...”

“Wait! Hold on. Maybe I still want to be looking for a job.”

“Looking for a job that is 'No longer available' Mr. Krowder?”

“Obviously not...”

“'No openings at this time'?”

“It's just a matter of...”

“'Your talents do not fit the profile'?”

“I admit it's not going to be...”

"Don't you think it's time to face the fact that there is no job for you? None. Not any."

“Well, I'm not a quitter, damn it. I'm going to keep looking for a job until I find a job.”

“That would be unwise, Mr. Krowder. Our calculations show the chances of you actually finding a job is only 0.0000000006%”.

"The same as the unemployment rate?” 


"You just said the chances of me finding a job are the same as the unemployment rate. Interesting coincidence, don't you think?"

"Let me just check those numbers again.” There was a pause and I could hear heavy breathing and the clicking of a keyboard in the background.

"Well, what do you know? It appears there's been an anomaly in our heuristics.” 

"What does that mean?"

"No matter what parameters I enter, the result is always 0.0000000006%. How about that?” He sounded bemused. 

"For crying out loud, you almost had me dropping out of the labor force because your horisits..."

"Heuristics," he corrected.

"Whatever they are, they were screwed up! This is unforgivable.”

I heard a shuffling of papers and after a moment he said, "The Bureau of Labor Statistics wishes to convey its sincerest regret if the items mentioned in this outreach interface caused you distress, Mr. Krowder, and requests that you ignore the information that was disseminated.”

"Is that supposed to be an apology?"

"Not quite. Merely a pro-forma expression of regret."

"That's it? ‘A pro-forma expression of regret’?” A sly thought wended its way into Lionel's mind. “It seems to me," he said cunningly, "that my time and trouble is worth something."

"You mean some sort of compensation?"

"Yeah, right. It seems to me that some sort of compensation is in order."

"Well, I suppose that might be a possibility."

"Good," Lionel pounced eagerly. 

"Yes, indeed. That might definitely be a possibility. In fact, the possibility of your receiving compensation from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is exactly..." There was a pause as the sound of a keyboard again floated across the ether.


Friday, August 15

Political Poll

I was sitting in my living room the other afternoon enjoying a "Murder She Wrote" marathon when the phone rang. I picked it up and a very pleasant young woman asked if I would share my opinions on some of the more weighty issues of the day. I told her I'd be happy to, and began to set her straight on exactly what is wrong with the world and what should be done to correct it.

"No, no, no. You have to answer a questionnaire," she said desperately. "I have the questions right here."

"Oh. Okay. Go ahead," I said, muting a rather involved explanation of why another innocent life had been snuffed out in the rustic hamlet of Cabot Cove.

"Thank you." Her voice became more officious. "Would you describe yourself as being informed on the candidates and issues?"

"Well, I'm as informed as any voter, I suppose."

"So you are a low-information voter," she said confidently.

"Wait a minute. I'm not low-information."

"Where do you get your information?"

"I look at the Internet a lot."

"So you're a sub-information voter."

"Look, I have as much information as any citizen," I said resentfully. "I'm focused like a laser on the issues facing this country, and nothing is going to deter me from a deep, unflagging involvement in that pursuit." Take that!, I thought smugly. "So just ask your questions, and we'll see who's sub-informed!"

"All right, sir," she said, properly admonished. "On a scale of one to five, where one indicates you disagree, two indicates you somewhat disagree, three indicates you..."

"How much longer is this going to take?" I asked as I tried to read Jessica Fletcher's lips explaining to Sheriff Tupper why it was necessary for the librarian to poison the English professor.

"It should only take three or four minutes, sir, but first I have to explain the scale. On a scale of one to five, where one indicates you strongly disagree, two indicates you somewhat disagree, three indicates you..."

"'...neither agree nor disagree'. I get it. Let's go."

"...four indicates you somewhat agree," she persisted.

"...and five indicates I strongly agree. I told you I get it. Can we just get on to the damn questions?"

"Well, you don't have to be so mean," she said. I thought I heard a sniffle.

"Are you crying?" I asked. "There's no crying in political polls."

"I'm not c-c-crying."

I began to feel the slightest bit of regret, but I couldn't help going on. "Well, you sounded like you were crying," I grouched.

"You're my first call. I just hoped I'd do better."

A bolt of self-recrimination sobered me. "Look, I'm sorry. I was just , well, I was watching 'Murder She Wrote'..."

"The Marathon? Oh, I wanted to watch but, well, obviously I have to work."

Now I felt even worse. Here was a working woman, trying to make it in the world, probably never poisoned anyone, and I was giving her a hard time. "I'm really sorry. Can we just start over?"

"No. The rules say once we've had personal interaction with the subject the poll is invalidated."

"Well, for what it's worth I think you were doing a great job."

"Thank you," she said, sounding a little brighter. "Before I go I have to indicate what invalidated the poll. How would you feel if I put down you were being an uncooperative, mean spirited,..."

"...old poop?" I said helpfully.

"Well," she laughed, "I can't put that down, but what if I did? What would you think?"

I paused a moment and considered my behavior..

"Probably agree," I said.

Wednesday, July 9

Come Fly With Me

I recently had the opportunity to engage in the adventure that is air travel in early 21st century America. I hadn't flown in a while and I was eager to find out about the latest innovations.

My wife and I arrived at the airport about four and a half hours before our flight was scheduled to depart to make sure we would clear check-in and security with time to spare.

"Do you really think it's necessary to get here so early?" my wife asked patiently.

"Don't worry about that," I replied condescendingly. "By the time we clear check-in and security we'll be running to make the plane."

Clearing check-in and security took about 15 minutes.

As we sat in the waiting area my wife glanced at the departure schedule overhead which indicated our flight had been delayed and would now be leaving in six hours.

"Should we start running yet?" she inquired innocently.

After reading the books we had brought for the flight, checking and rechecking the email on our phones, and enjoying a meal purchased from the airport souvenir shop (I had beef jerky, potato chips and a candy bar; she had dried fruit, peanuts, and a disgusted look on her face) we were beginning to get a little bored. I was looking around for someone to ask what was taking so long when a young woman in a militaristic uniform approached the podium, which stood beside our boarding gate.

"We are ready to begin pre-boarding," she said over a muffled PA system.

As we began to gather our carry-on luggage I couldn't help posing this question to no one in particular: If waiting to board an airplane for six hours isn't considered "pre-boarding", what exactly is?

"Pre-boarding will begin with Loyalty Program Members only," said the young woman behind the podium.

"Are we Loyalty Program Members?" asked my wife.

"I'm not sure," I said. "I'll check."

I approached the young woman behind the podium while enduring the withering gazes of those who were certain they were Loyalty Program Members and who had already begun lining up.

"Hey, buddy. There's a line," growled one especially loyal member.

"Yes, I see," I said, not quite knowing who I was talking to. "I'm just not sure if I'm a Loyalty Program Member or not."

This produced a round of chuckles among those in the loyalty line. "How many times have you flown this year?" came a voice.

"Actually, this is my first trip."

The chuckles turned to guffaws and then to peals of laughter.

"Let me give you a clue, buddy," said the voice that had spoken first. "If you don't fly once a week, then you're not a Loyalty Program Member."

"Once a WEEK?!" I said too loudly. "You people all fly once a week?"

"At least," said another voice, nervously. "You can't miss a week. Oh, no."

"What happens if you miss a week?" I asked.

There was a universal gasp and I think one woman fainted.

"You lose your points!" said a businessman in a three piece suit, his voice cracking slightly. "All of them!"

"You don't want to lose your points," said a young woman, looking around nervously as if she were afraid of being overheard. "Once they're gone, they're gone for good."

"That sounds bad," I commiserated. "I guess you wouldn't be able to board before everyone else then."

An evangelical voice came forth. "That's not the only benefit. There's the extra leg room. And bigger seats."

"Bigger seats," murmured several of the people in line, nodding their heads.

Then an older gentleman added, "And the flight is faster in the Loyalty Program Seats."

"Don't all the seats get there at the same time?" I reasoned. "I mean, they're all on the same plane."

The entire line repeated, "The flight is faster in the Loyalty Program Seats. The flight is faster in the Loyalty Program Seats." They were looking off into the distance, but they didn't seem to be seeing anything.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the young woman behind the podium begin to raise a walkie-talkie to her lips. I thought is was best to return to my seat in the waiting area.

"Well," inquired my wife, "did you find out if we are Loyalty Program Members?"

"I don't think we are." I shuddered. "I don't think we want to be."

After a few minutes the young woman behind the podium announced that people with small children would be allowed to pre-board as well. Then several other categories of passengers with special privileges were also permitted to pre-board.

After a while I looked around an noticed that my wife and I were the only ones left in the waiting area.

After a short pause the young woman behind the podium announced urgently, "Final boarding! Final boarding! The doors will be closing in one minute."

We grabbed our carry-on and began hurrying to the gate. "I told you we'd be running," I said triumphantly. "I told you."

We sped through the boarding gate, scrambled through the tunnel, stumbled down the aisle toward the rear of the plane, and found our seats which were conveniently located next to the toilet.

After we belted ourselves in and were reasonably comfortable, I turned toward my wife who I consider my most trusted confidant and advisor. "Let me ask you something."


"Do these seats seem slow to you?"