Tag Archives: funny

Remember When People Did Not Put Pictures of Their Kids on Facebook?

The young man lounged on the psychologist’s chair, looked up at the ceiling, and exhaled.

“I just couldn’t believe my parents would have put pictures of me on Facebook.”

“And does it bother you that they did that?” the psychologist asked.

“Of course it bothers me,” the young man said. “I mean, imagine you are going through life, thinking about what you are going to have for dinner, or whether it’s time to throw out the ice cream because it has that ice beard growing all over it, and one of your parents’ friends posts a picture of you on Facebook from when you were an infant and in a diaper, with the caption, ‘Remember those days!’ And when you investigate a little to find out how this friend of your parents obtained this picture and proceeded to post it without your written consent, you are told that the picture was already posted by your mother 25 years ago! And then upon even further investigation, discover that this was not the only picture she posted, nor the most revealing.”

“And you think it was inappropriate for your mother to do that?” the psychologist asked.

“How could it be appropriate? How would you like if someone was posting pictures of you without your consent?”

“So people do not post pictures of you now without your consent?”

“Oh, of course they do. Like, when we’re all out at a party or a bar or something. People take pictures of the evening and then post the pictures on Facebook so that the world knows we have a life. If I happen to be in the picture, then I get on Facebook. But that’s totally different. I knows what’s going on. I have some control over what I’m wearing.”

“So is it the not having control over your wardrobe what bothers you about your mother posting pictures of you as an infant?”

“That’s only part of it. Because it wasn’t just the pictures. As I started to speak, there would be these little snippets of dialogue that my mother would share with the world.”

“What were these snippets like?”

“Oh, you know. These little witty things, like ‘Mommy, how come the moon doesn’t fall down?’ or ‘Mommy, why does garbage stink?’ I mean, really, why did the world have to know that?”

“And you don’t think that the ‘world’ as you put it would think it nothing more than the ordinary things that a toddler would say?”

“But that’s just the point! There’s a permanent public record of me saying ordinary things to an ordinary mother who took the ordinary step of bragging to the world about the ordinary things her toddler says and does. If she had stayed silent, the world might have thought me extraordinary!”

“I see. So you believe that by posting your childhood pictures and verbiage on Facebook, your mother removed all the mystery that would have otherwise surrounded you.”

“Exactly!”

The psychologist nodded and jotted a few final notes. Then he looked at the wall clock.

“It looks like that’s all the time we have for today,” he said. “I’m a little jammed up next week so my assistant will call you to schedule your next visit.”

After the young man left, the psychologist went on his computer, logged in to his Facebook account, and started typing a post.

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, a patient comes in with a truly extraordinary complaint….

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Remember When the Affordable Care Act Wasn’t In the News Every Day?

The Director knew it was time for a staff meeting.

“All right, everyone. The deadline’s almost here. The President’s promised a smoothly functioning healthcare website by tomorrow. Now, I know everyone’s been yellow capletsworking hard. Visits to non-work-related websites like Facebook and Above the Law dropped by 40% in November. I’m proud of that figure and will make sure that New York Times knows about it. But the fact remains that despite our intense efforts the website is, in a word, still not working. So we’re down to our last option – paper applications.”

The following day, when millions of Americans visited the federal government’s healthcare website to see who won the bet, they were confronted with a perfectly functioning, non-glitch riddled single webpage, with no links or forms or fields or even photographs, but one toll-free telephone number.

When the number was called, the caller would be put in touch with someone who took their information and then read back to them the different health policies that were available to the caller and the price. It was clear from the very beginning that the “qualified healthcare agents” that took the calls had been greatly influenced by technology and faced challenges adjusting to world run by humans.

“Thank you for calling healthcare.gov,” the agents would say in their best cheerful machine-voice. “Press 1 if you are calling about individual policies. Press 2 if you are calling about family policies. Press 3 if you have experience building large websites.” When they realized they couldn’t tell which number had been pressed, they would say, “Why don’t you just tell me what you are calling about?”

After a day the telephone lines were hopelessly congested. The Director had to call another meeting.
“Okay,” said the Director at another staff meeting, “the telephones aren’t working out so hot, either. The average wait-time has grown so long that people are complaining about the hold music. And here I thought people liked Lawrence Welk. All right, well, we’ve got to go back to the drawing board. What’s a drawing board? I don’t know. Look it up on Wikipedia.”

The only thing left to do was to have people sign up in person. People were annoyed at having to drive all the way to Washington, D.C. just to shop for medical insurance, but the complaints subsided a bit when the President issued Executive Order 94029 which authorized valet parking.

The wait time to see an agent was still very long. And the long journey made it even longer, since people figured, “Well, if we came all this way and waited all this time, we may as well ask as many stupid questions as possible.”
The wait time to meet with a federal healthcare agent became so long that people were practically living in the lobby. They had to miss appointment, including doctors’ appointments. The government had to arrange for doctors to visit the lobby and examine the people waiting in line. The convenience more than made up for the lack of privacy.

The people in line started liking the lobby doctors so much that they lost their interest in procuring health insurance that would require them to find a new doctor. They started letting others go ahead of them in line, hoping to extend their stay. “Oh, you go on ahead of us,” people would say. “We haven’t decided what we want yet.”

The lobby grew ever more crowded, and eventually some members of Congress introduced a bill to expand the lobby and the number of doctors that serviced it. The bill won bipartisan support, largely on the strength of a rider that increased the Netflix subsidies for senators and their staff. The Affordable Care Act Sign-Up in Person Waiting Lobbies proliferated around the United States, so that whenever people had to see the doctor they would just go to one of these lobbies, get in line, and wait for the doctor to come around with the stethoscope and little rubber hammer.

A cottage industry of lobby-care grew, and almost overnight people started seeing everything from examination tables on wheels to mobile MRI apps for smartphones. Around the time that they started adding operating tables to the lobbies, the website was finally fixed. No bugs, no glitches, no crashes. But no one bothered signing up. The millions of Americans waiting in line already liked the plan they had, and wanted to keep it.

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Remember When the Toilet Worked, Part I?

I know I haven’t blogged in a while.  I’m working on a book – my first – and just coming up with the right approach has taken up all my writing juice for the past month.  I know what Kristin Lamb would say about that line, but there it is.  I appreciate your patience, and pray that you’ll be even more patient as I experiment a little with these posts.  -MK 

The toilet ran every ten minutes whether the flush handle had been pressed or not.  I could not sleep at night.  I would lie in bed, waiting for that lonely sound of water rushing into the porcelain tank.  When the sound would start again, I would tense up as if startled by gunshot or a wild animal.

To understand what was wrong with my toilet requires some knowledge of toilet physics.  The toilet comes in two large pieces: the bowl and the tank.  Prior familiarity with the bowl is assumed.

The tank has three internal organs: the fill valve, the flush valve, and the flapper.  A pipe from the wall sends water into the tank through the fill valve.  The fill valve stops the water from coming in when the water level in the tank is at a certain level.  That is what is happening after you flush, and you hear the water running, and then it stops suddenly.  The water level in the tank has reached the appropriate level and the fill valve has stopped the water from flowing into the tank.

Attached to the outer side of the tank is the flush handle, colloquially called “the handle,” as in “jiggle the handle.”  And at the base of the tank is a large hole that leads into the bowl.  Under normal conditions, a piece of rubber known as the “flapper” prevents the water in the tank from flowing through that hole into the bowl.  Attached to the flapper is one end of a chain, and the other end of the chain is attached to one end of a long lever that runs parallel to the base of the tank.

The other end of the lever is attached to the handle.  So when you press on the handle, you push one end of the lever down, causing the other end of the lever to rise, in turn pulling up on the chain, that lifts the flapper, and permits gravity to pull the water in the tank down into the toilet bowl.  This is the act of the flushing.

When the handle is released, the flapper is brought back down by the force of gravity, once again sealing off the tank from the bowl.  So the tank begins to fill with water again, and does not stop until the fill valve stops it as explained above.

The flush valve is a vertical tube.  The flapper is affixed to the base of the flush valve in two points, around which it pivots when pulled up by the chain.  The flush valve definitely does something else, but I’m not sure what it is.

The entire premise of the tank rests on the assumption that when the flapper is in the down position, it will not allow any water to leak from the tank into the bowl below it.  For if water is permitted to leak from the tank into the bowl when the flapper is in the down position, the water level will fall, causing water to rush into the tank because the fill valve now thinks that the toilet has been flushed.  And since the fill rate is far greater than the leak rate, the water level will of course rise enough to stop the flow again, until the leaking lowers it again, and on and on into infinity.

For some reason, water was leaking through my flapper even when it was in the down position, causing the infinity cycle just described.  This was why I could not sleep at night.

I bought a shiny new flapper.  A red one.  When I returned home and took the top off the tank, there was the old flapper.  “You’ve had a good run,” I said, and unhooked it from the base of the flush valve and dropped it in the bathroom wastebasket with a great showing of respect.

I hooked the new flapper onto the base of the flush valve.  I could already see the difference.  The new flapper was heavier at its center, and it hung over the hole with greater authority than its predecessor.  And it was red.  My troubles, I believed, were at an end.

But mere moments after tucking myself in to bed I was startled by the sound of the tank filling up.  The new flapper had done nothing to stop the trickle of water into the bowl.  I would have to fight another day.

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Filed under Home Improvement

Remember When Football Was Dangerous?

The head coach watched the film from the previous week’s game and he didn’t like what he saw.

“The defense is soft,” he said to his defensive coordinator, who was standing right next to the head coach.  “Armin, are you paying attention?  Put down that apple fritter a second and watch what I’m watching.”

Armin did as he was told.

“Now look,” the head coach went on, “I know there’s a been a bit of an adjustment for defenses ever since they banned tackling and put tickling, of all things, in its place.  Believe me, I understand.  But we’ve still got a game to play.  And that game requires discipline to win, even if your only defensive weapon is a tickle.  You’ve got to target the opponent’s weak spots, and then go through the tickle.  You’ve got to tell those clowns to target, and follow through.”

Armin had to admit his head coach was right.  He finished his apple fritter and licked his fingers and then washed his hands and went out onto the practice field.

“All right everybody,” Armin said to the defensive players when he arrived at the practice field, “put down your iPads and gather ‘round.  There’s something I need to say to all of you at once, and my iCoach Instant Lecture isn’t working.

“Now look,” Armin continued, “I’ve been looking at the film from last week, and we’ve got to do a better job at tickling the offense.  I mean, this is ridiculous.  You’ve got to do it like this.”

Armin went up to one of his players, and violently shot his hands right into the player’s armpits and tickled him with grim determination.  The player collapsed on the ground, convulsing with laughter, and crying, “Stop…hee, hee…Stop…hee, hee…I can’t take it.”

“Now that’s the way you’re supposed to tickle an opponent,” Armin said.

“But coach, aren’t we doing that?” asked the team’s top pass rusher, one of the best defensive players in the league, and the heart and soul of the team.

“Have you seen the film from last week?” asked Armin.  “You guys aren’t targeting and following through.  You’re just fluttering your fingers around their sides.  You can see their faces – they barely crack a smile.  Last year you led the league in tickles.  Now, just last week, on one play you were right up at the quarterback, and instead of attacking his throwing armpit and maybe forcing a fumble, you kind of just massaged his back and cost us a touchdown.”

The all-pro looked down at his shoes.

“Now, look,” Armin said.  “We’re still in contention for a wild card spot.  So let’s go out there and get ready to throw some serious tickles on Sunday!”

*          *          *

“I’ve got to say, this defense we’re watching has really come back to life from its mid-season tumble,” said the first announcer.

“It’s like this team was last year, when they came within a missed field goal of the Super Bowl,” said the second announcer.  “I don’t know what the coaching staff said to them during practice this week, but it sure fired up this gang.  Just look at defensive coordinator Armin Feldhammer on the sideline there.  Now that is energy.”

The camera showed Armin gesturing wildly at the referees.

“Are you kidding me!” shouted Armin.  “You call that a late tickle?  He still had the ball when he got in there!”

Armin threw his headset down on the ground, picked it up, and made sure it was still working.  He wished he hadn’t used so many pronouns, and he was angry at the referees, who were taking this late tickle nonsense too far.  So a study showed that years of tickles caused nerve damage in the armpits.  This was football, for crying out loud.

Overall, though, Armin was in a good mood.  This was going to be a win, thanks mainly to his defense, which had held the other team’s offense to 42 points, a league-wide low for that week.  The tickle tutorial during practice had been worth it.  Armin didn’t like to give his players humiliating lectures.  But sometimes a coach had to make his players see what they could be, rather than what they were.

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Remember Twinkies?

The archaeologists were done for the day.  It was getting dark and Happy Hour at the Drunken Pick Axe lasted just until 7:00 p.m., after which time the drinks were served only in plastic cups, a prospect most of the dig team found unrefined.  The young graduate student, formally named Byron Russelbeard III, but who had somehow earned the nickname Spacecake, was putting away the tools when he noticed a little yellow object protruding from the inner wall of the large hole in the ground.

He stuck his head up out of the hole and waved for the others to come over, but they responded with pantomimed drinking motions, and kept walking away.

Spacecake turned back to the object.  Proper procedure would have been to note its size, color, and position in the log book and then cover it up with a paper towel.  But his laptop had already started downloading the latest version of iTunes, and paper had been extinct for many years.

And Spacecake was curious.  The yellow object was wrapped in a clear plastic shell that was malleable to the touch, and Spacecake was induced with a sudden desire to eat it.

“That’s crazy,” he said to himself, but still the object called to him.  Inside of a minute Spacecake had dug out the object and placed it in his pocket and was walking away with a nonchalant whistle he had seen someone do in a movie.

Spacecake returned to his room and took the object out of his pocket and examined it with his penlight.  He turned on his pocket recorder.

“Oblong object,” he spoke into the recorder, “about six inches long, a continuous height of two inches, and a continuous width of slightly less than two inches.  Appears to be made of a yellow cake-like substance and wrapped in thin transparent plastic…late 20th or early 21st Century.”  He examined the object’s underside.  “Ventral surface shows three white dots, regularly spaced lengthwise.”  He looked closer.  “The white substance is creamy.  I want to eat it.”

He snapped off the recorder.  What was the last thing he had said?  That he wanted to eat it?  He replayed the recording.  Yes, he had said he wanted to eat the object.

“But that’s crazy,” he said.  “I mean, it’s an artifact, buried under earth for many—”

There was a noise outside.  Kind of like a scratching, like someone—or something—was trying to find a way inside.  Spacecake dropped the recorder on his bed and covered up the object.  He opened the door and looked outside.

“Hello?” he said into the darkness.  “Who’s there?”  He could hear his heart pounding and he was sweating.  He shut the door slowly.

“Probably just the wind,” Spacecake said aloud, and laughed nervously.  He ran his hand through his hair and exhaled.

He uncovered the object.  The yellow cake—he was convinced now that it was cake—glowed under the small light and Spacecake was again filled with a desire to eat it.  That would be a serious breach of archaeological ethics.  For years he had studied and worked to get this chance to be on the most elite team of Apatosaurus diggers in the world.  Taking the object out of the hole was bad enough.  To unwrap it would throw all that hard work away.

Spacecake unwrapped the object, peeled back the plastic, and took a bite.  Oh ecstasy!  He had never tasted anything like it.  It was pure sweetness with no nutritional value.  It was the most wonderful thing he had ever tasted.  His mind was so overwhelmed by the explosion of taste that he did not hear the door open and the footsteps coming up behind him and the blunt object hitting him over the head.  As all went black, Spacecake was still moving the yellow cake and white cream around his mouth and savoring the taste.

 *          *          *

“Whatever it was, it was quick and painless,” the detective said, staring at Spacecake’s lifeless body lying on the floor.  “Look at that smile on his face.”

“But the configuration of his hand…it looks like he had been holding something when…when it happened,” the program director said.

“Maybe that was what his killer was after.”

“But what could it be?”

“I guess we’ll never know,” the detective said.

The program director nodded, took one last look at what had once been his most promising graduate student, and walked towards the door.  The detective held the door open, and then shut it gently behind them, leaving the body completely alone…save for the small, unnoticed, pocket-sized recorder laying on the bed.

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Filed under Current Events, Eating and Drinking

Remember Election Night?

I’m watching a flat screen television, and on the flat screen television is another flat screen television that shows an image of all the states.  Some states are blue, some states are red, but all states are peppered with little dots that denote locations of Denny’s.  Next to the flat screen—the one on TV, not the one in my living room—stands a news reporter.

He touches one of the states, and the screen zooms in so that the state fills the screen and now all that state’s counties can be seen, some colored blue, and some colored red.  He touches one of the counties and the screen zooms in yet again so that houses can be seen, some blue and some red.  He touches one of the houses and now the rooms of the house fill the screen, some blue and some red.

He touches one of the rooms, and the room grows large so that now two people in the room can be seen.  One person is blue, the other red.  Then he touches one of the people, and now we can see inside the person’s brain.  Some of the brain cells are blue, and some of them are red.  Most of them are green.

A second news reporter comes over and tries to touch the screen.  The first reporter slaps the hand away.

“Only I can touch the magic screen!” the first reporter says, and the awkward moment  that follows is mercifully interrupted by an exciting ritual.  There are loud noises and fireworks, dancers and clowns, fire-eaters on stilts and acrobats, and above them all a graphic that reads “Projection!”  It is announced that one of the states is projected to be painted in a certain color even though only 2% of the votes have been counted.

The channel goes back to the reporters.  The first reporter toggles the screen between this election and the election of 1840, when there were fewer states and more log cabins.  The second reporter has a black eye but tells us that we are now going to hear from a correspondent in one of the voting precincts.

The image shifts to a large cat with a poofy face.  It has green eyes and white whiskers that radiate in perfect symmetry.  Behind the cat are people trying to clear a paper jam from the vote-card reader.

The second reporter speaks to the cat.  “Tell us, what are you seeing in terms of voter turnout?”

The cat licks one of its paws, and then rubs the paw over its face a few times in a circular motion.  Then it looks back at the screen and blinks.

“Yes, that seems to be the story we’re hearing all over the nation tonight.”

My TV goes back to the first reporter with the magic screen.  He is showing what the electoral situation might look like if Florida was rotated 90 degrees towards the Gulf of Mexico.

Then the image on my TV shifts to the headquarters of one of the candidates.  From the sequence of percentages that flash at the bottom of the screen, I can tell, using a slide rule, that this candidate is about to have a lot of free time.  But the people at the campaign headquarters still wave their arms and go “Whoooo” when they see themselves on the big screen.

I eat another piece of leftover Halloween candy.  There is a small mound of wrappers next to the bowl.

We’re back to the first reporter with the magic screen again.  The screen is frozen at the election of 2612, with water covering most of the coastal states, and their votes tallied by counting the bubbles that rise to the surface.  The second reporter is trying to help by sticking a pen into the restart button at base of the magic screen, a terrifying treatment for the first reporter, who apparently forgot to save his work.

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Filed under Current Events, Politics

Remember When There Were No Interactive Graphics?

You may recall that about a year ago we ran a post here titled, “Remember When There Were No “TIPS” Jars?”  It was a pretty terrible piece and I forgot about it almost as soon as I published it.  Well, about a month ago I received an email from someone who had prepared an interactive graphic on tipping for an organization known as the Hospitality Management Schools.  She had come across the tipping post, and wondered if I could take a look at the interactive graphic on tipping, and see if perhaps it would be of use to my readers.

My first thought was that I was not sure if anything posted here is of use to my readers.  But after a month of procrastination, two follow up emails, and a very bad dream in which I found myself inside an interactive graphic that showed my recurring dreams by subject in high school, I finally checked out the tipping site.  And if you check it out, I think you’ll come to the same conclusion I did: the graphic is much more valuable than the static text you find here.

What did we do before we had these nifty interactive graphics?  We had to imagine the characters and figures moving.  Back during the oil embargo of the early 1970s, people had to imagine the reduction in the production of oil and the corresponding increase in gas prices and pants bottoms.  Back during the Plague, people had to imagine the increase in rainfall and corresponding graphic of corpses piled atop a wooden cart being pushed by Eric Idle, yelling, “Bring out yer dead!”  Back during the Roman Empire, the emperors would have had to imagine a little arrow along a timeline that could be pushed with a corresponding red splotch growing all around the Mediterranean Sea.

I wish there had been an interactive graphics website when I was taking chemistry.  There would have been a red stick figure for the acid and a blue stick figure for the base, and they would join hands and become salt and water and a polypropylene bottle to hold the water.

An interactive graphic would have become really handy when we were reading Hamlet in English class.  The landing page would have stick figures of all the main characters—Hamlet, Ophelia, the joking friend who always comes in through the kitchen door—and clicking on each one would start an animation of their gruesome death without the effort of parsing through the lines of “What ho, Sirrah?” and “S’blood” and “Methinks this play hath much movie logik.”

If you search for interactive graphics, you are likely to find graphics on topics in economics or history or something else that isn’t going to make you the life of any party on this planet.  What they need are more interactive graphics about the practical side of life.  Like an interactive graphic on mowing the lawn.  There would be buttons showing different sizes of lawn, and a corresponding meter showing the day in the week in which the mower of the household would start being asked if he was going to mow the lawn that weekend.

Or an interactive graphic showing the Nielsen rating of Keeping Up With the Kardashians on the X-axis, and the number of people who can place the Civil War in the correct half-century on the Y-axis.  Or demonstrating how to politely take a seat in the middle of row at a crowded movie that has already started.  Or on how to keep an open syrup bottle from making all the adjacent containers sticky.

But I guess tipping is as important a practical activity as there can be.  Few things in life cause me more stress than how much to tip the various folks who through conscious effort make my life more pleasant.  The interactive graphic dispelled every question I could ever have.  In fact, I was so engrossed in the educational animation that I forgot to go out to a restaurant, get a pedicure, or have a café au lait sculpted by my town’s most celebrated barista.

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