Statistics Saturday: Some Things That Yeah, We’ve Tried Already, They Didn’t Work


  • Turning it off and back on again.
  • Going back into the other room and thinking what we wanted to come in here for.
  • Club soda.
  • Writing an apology for losing our temper, at least, since it is true to say we were wrong to do that.
  • Trigonometric substitution.
  • Offering it again, with a raisin as treat.
  • Unplugging and replugging it.
  • Putting “make to-do list” as the first item on the to-do list.
  • Counting the seconds off.
  • Putting a plastic ruler on top of the drawing tablet to make the reference lines.
  • Drop-catching the pinball.
  • Translating the sentence into Latin to see if its meaning is clear.
  • Screaming into the pillow.
  • Keeping a log of every time this happens so you can prove you aren’t imagining it.
  • Dedicating 15 minutes a day to resolving e-mails until there’s only like a couple dozen in there.
  • Jiggling the key.
  • Putting both spellings into Google to see if one’s way more common than the other.
  • Preemptively striking.
  • Having a little tray on the endtable for all keys.
  • Celery. Lots and lots of celery. All the celery.

Oh! But a slant rhyme, I bet that’s exactly what we need!

Statistics Saturday: How Father’s Day Card Descriptions Of My Father Compare To The Actual My Father


Trait Father’s Day Cards Say My Father Has Are They Correct?
Sloppy No.
Lazy Not really.
Sports-obsessed If “thinks there is a best professional sports venue, and that it is Fenway Park, and probably could name a New York Yankee if pressed” (we’re from New Jersey) then yes, otherwise, not really.
Beer-obsessed Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha no.
Cranky Not since he stopped working rotating shifts in like 1984.
Full of really good ignored advice Other than that one about starting a retirement account when I was still in college not really.
Mechanically inept Only if you hold against him that the dishwasher in the old house would not stop leaking even after he replaced it and everything connected to it maybe five times.
Flatulent No.
The Human ATM No.
Barbecue-obsessed If “can barbecue fine, thanks, but is really happier making broiled chicken and other grown-up meals like that” counts.
Golfing No.
Napping Yeah, although usually the cat climbs onto his chest and naps first. But I understand they have an agreement about this.
Overprotective No.
Fishing I cannot imagine my father enjoying anything less than a day out fishing, and that includes “watching the televised Congressional impeachment hearings against my brother on Fox News while waiting at the car dealership for an emergency transmission overhaul to get finished”.
Long-suffering Well, that’s fair enough.

Also, why are there no cards for father-in-laws? Or a month back, for mother-in-laws? I haven’t done a rigorous survey about this, but I’m going to bet there are more people who actually like their spouse’s parents than there are people needing birthday cards for someone turning 100.

Robert Benchley: Hedgehogs Wanted


Reading the newspaper has always been a great source of inspiration for humorists. For example, in this piece from My Ten Years In A Quandry And How They Grew Robert Benchley sees brilliance in an ordinary-looking advertisement. It’s a short but perfectly-crafted piece.

Hedgehogs Wanted

An advertisement in a London paper reads: “5,000 Hedgehogs Wanted.” Of course, it’s none of my business, especially as it is an Englishman that wants them, but I trust that I may speculate to myself without giving offense.

One hedgehog I could understand, or possibly two, to keep each other company. There is no accounting for taste in pets, and I suppose you could get as attached to a hedgehog as you could to a dog, if you went about it in the right way. I, personally, would prefer a dog, but then, I’m dog-crazy.

But 5,000 hedgehogs seem to be overdoing it a bit. When you get up into the thousands with hedgehogs you are just being silly, it seems to me. And, aside from the looks of the thing, there is the very practical angle that you might very well find yourself hedgehog-poor.


There must be something that hedgehogs do that I don’t know about that makes them desirable to have around in large numbers. They may keep away flies, or eat moths, or even just spread out in a phalanx and prevent workmen from lying down on the ground, or picnic parties from camping out on private property. Whatever their special function, it must be preventive.

Of course, there may be something in the back of the man’s mind about quills. He may be forming a gigantic toothpick combine or starting a movement back to the old quill pen. In this case, he has his work cut out for him. Shearing, or plucking, or shaving 5,000 hedgehogs is going to be no sinecure. And he is going to run out of swear-words the first day. Just the plain, ordinary “ouch” is going to get him nowhere.

On the whole, my advice would be to give the whole project up, whatever it is. Unless, of course, the advertisement has been answered already and he has his 5,000 hedgehogs on his hands. In that case, I don’t know what to advise.

Ian Shoales: Temp Work


Ian Shoales, as I said in introducing this week, was the creation of Merle Kessler, and he’s a great character: sneering and cranky without, at least for me, losing his likability, even if I probably wouldn’t want to spend too much time with him. Kessler developed Shoales’s persona with a biography full of the frustrated ambitions that sound right for someone aiming to be a creative success and carrying on even though the lottery of fame doesn’t pay out much. Shoales’s life is marked with failed relationships and annoyed bosses and indignities petty and grand. I don’t know whether Kessler, or anyone he knew, ever was sued for libel by his high school principal, but it’s the kind of thing I find easy to imagine happening to someone like him, and to see it mentioned as an aside in an essay on, oh, say, Elvis Presley has an electrifying effect that I didn’t realize I wasn’t getting from Dave Barry or old Bob Newhart records (much as I cherished them).

Here, from 1984, is one of these partly biographically-informed essays by Ian Shoales. I can believe that what he describes in the first paragraph really happened, if not to Kessler then to someone. While it’s all quite funny, to me anyway, it’s also all fairly good advice if you’re hoping to make it as an artist. If I ever give it a try I’ll take this advice.


Temp Work

Along the way to my present success I’ve had to work for a living, usually at “temp work”, as it’s called in professional circles. I have moved furniture, filed, typed, answered phones, and I probably have the world’s record for getting fired. This is because I’d show up at work unshaven, wearing sunglasses, and not wearing socks. I figured, “I’m not an executive, who’s gonna care?” Well, after my third temp job in a week, I finally took Mom’s long-distance advice, and got a beige seersucker three-piece for five bucks at Goodwill. It fit me like a glove, and I wore it to my next temp job. But when the permanent employees saw me approach the water cooler, they all scattered. Nobody would come near me. Finally a little bald guy worked up the courage to ask me who I was. He had me pegged as some corporate honcho checking up on worker efficiency, I guess, because when I told him I was a temp worker, a look of relief passed over his face. Then he replaced that look with one of utter disregard. By noon, all employee fear of me had vanished. So the next day my suit vanished to be replaced by blue jeans, and the next day my job vanished to be replaced by poverty.

But if you’re an artist of any kind, it means you’re going to have to get the kind of job you get till you get to do what you want to do. So let me give you some advice about the temp-worker scene.

  • Never drink beer at your desk. Supervisors don’t like it.
  • Permanent employees probably won’t appreciate your Joe Cocker impression.
  • If you’re moving furniture, don’t move a desk if somebody’s sitting at it.
  • Never call corporate executives by their first name, or ask them if they want to play a couple of holes on Saturday.
  • Don’t try to find Pac Man on the personal computer unless you’re invited by your supervisor.
  • Never ask the supervisor for a date.
  • If you’re answering the company phone, say, “Hello,” not, “Yeah, what do ya want?”
  • I know temp work can get dull, but never rearrange the filing system without permission.
  • Don’t rewrite business letters in blank verse.
  • If you’re supposed to show up at work on Tuesday don’t come in on Wednesday.

I know this is basic stuff, but don’t draw faces with white-out on the desk; don’t make jewelry out of the paper clips; don’t compose melodies on the Touch-Tone phone; don’t ask to borrow the Selectric overnight — remember always, you’re just a ghost in the working world.

Somebody will eventually publish the 1,500-page rock-and-roll novel gathering dust in your sock drawer. Your ship will come in, and then you’ll have temps of your own. And they better not call you by your first name.

         — Not rich, 1/15/84.

A Futile Warning


Over on trekbbs.com, the leading web site among places I can be bothered to go to find stuff to say about Star Trek still, somebody asked the question “How to introduce my girlfriend to the Borg?”? And I think that question’s something whose answer the world deserves to have.

Don’t introduce your girlfriend to the Borg! For crying out loud, they’re rampaging monsters from the Delta Quadrant determined to assimilate humanity into a genericized, personality-free mass-mind paste. If you’re trying to get your girlfriend in to that, frankly, it’s suggesting you have some deep issues in your relationship and maybe you and she just shouldn’t be interacting right now.

I admit I’m saying this without knowing their past. Maybe she made the original poster spend some time in a Cylon enclave or something in which case things are a little more evenly balanced. But even then if you’ve got a relationship where you’re both introducing the other to galaxy-destroying menaces then maybe you should be seeing other people or maybe those flying space pancakes that get stuck to your back and make you build starships. Have some sense, people.

How To Keep In Touch


It’s hard staying in touch with all the people you want to these days. There’s just so much Internet out there, and people will go off to all sorts of corners of it, and you might never see them again and worse, realize you don’t know when it was you stopped seeing them. What you need is a way to get back in touch with them.

There’s only one really effective way. You need to get them to eat a large plate full of iron filings, and then turn on your giant electromagnet. Obviously the tricky part of this is not getting people to eat iron filings — what else are they going to do with them, start a smelting operation? — but rather coordinating with other people who are also trying to get back in touch with people, since you don’t want your people paths to get crossed and accidentally pick up people you didn’t have any interest in seeing again. There is no solution to this problem.

And Now I’m All Wet


Well, that shows me. After another angry phone call I actually went out and checked the back yard and what do you know? I peeked under the blanket of light snow and the pond in our backyard had got out. I don’t know how long it’s been doing this but when I do track down where it’s gotten I’m going to have to have a serious talk with it, and I don’t know how to do that. I’ll take advice, if you have any.