If your city is like most others in this great country, it is no doubt struggling to pay its bills and balance its budget – unless your town is Beverly Hills, in which case you can stop reading now.
No one knows how our cities have fallen into such financial distress. Could it be that for decades tax rates have steadily declined while we citizens have relentlessly demanded safer bridges, better schools, and daycare centers for our pets?
As we all prepare to march on our state legislature with our latest referendum to demand lower taxes, how can our cities build the libraries, community centers and skate board parks with oxygen bars that are guaranteed for free by the Bill of Rights?
I’ve given this issue a great deal of thought because, as a humor writer, I have a lot of time on my hands. The solution to this perplexing fiscal crisis is clear: If you love your town, start committing crimes.
Because municipalities make big money on tickets for infractions, all you have to do as a patriotic resident is pick the violation you fancy most and go for it. Do you like running stop signs? Back up and run it again. That will bring in $300+ to the city coffers. Prefer public acts of indecency? Try streaking down Main Street. That’s probably good for $500 easy. Your city council will thank you (and probably offer you a free bath towel).
Recently I helped our younger teenage daughter, Emmy, purchase her first car. She had no idea how much used cars cost. I think she was hoping to afford a slightly used Lexus. What she got instead was a lesson in how much cars actually cost. Emmy hates it when I mention her by name in my blog, so I will just call her “Miss Enthusiasm” – “M. E.” for short.
When we started this process, like a lot of young people, Emmy’s, I mean M. E.’s concept of buying a car was rather simplistic: You buy a Japanese luxury car on Craigslist from someone you’ve never heard of named Vinny for a few hundred dollars. Your only ongoing expense is the gasoline fill-ups required four times a year. Period, the end. More esoteric concepts like collision & liability insurance, vehicle registration, tire rotations, oil changes and other routine maintenance were vague abstractions that she had never quite grasped – mainly because she invariably tuned out my relentless attempts to explain the substantial ongoing costs of vehicle ownership. I apologize, M.E., for intruding upon your much more fascinating texting conversations with Haley on more important topics like whazzup.
When the time finally came for her to look for a car, I told M. E. I would contribute up to $3,000 towards the cost. Anything beyond that – including insurance was her responsibility. The only part I am sure she heard was the part of about me paying $3,000 – which is really all she needed to know, because she was pretty sure that figure would be enough to get her that brand new 2015 Lexus LS she saw on TV. I explained to her that cars cost a lot more than she imagined, so she reluctantly lowered her sights towards a used car – specifically the 2013 Lexus LS – ideally with the Bose surround-sound stereo system and the chrome wheel package. I could tell I was in for an exhausting couple of days.
I recently bought a new laptop because my old one was having problems. From my purchase experience, I want to pass along the following helpful piece of advice: NEVER EVER BUY A NEW COMPUTER.
Limp along with your Apple Lisa for as long as you possibly can – because once you buy a new computer, your nightmares have just begun. The following is a 100% true retelling of my experience.
I chose to shop at one of the major Big Box retailers. I will change their actual name in this column so as to protect their identity. I walked into WORST BUY, and the salesperson Brad was quite helpful. He directed me to a perfectly adequate laptop. It had keys with letters and numbers in exactly the right locations. He told me that it had a 1.33 gigahertz dual processor with 2 GB of memory, 32 GB of storage, and a Windows 8.1 64-bit something or other. I had no idea what he was talking about, but it came in blue. I like blue. So I bought it.
Then I asked Brad if they could transfer all my data from my old computer to the new one – you know, email contacts, calendar appointments, embarrassing photos of my girls naked in the bathtub when they were two years old, saved so I could show them at their future weddings – you know, important files.
For the very reasonable fee of $150, they could transfer it all. So I said “sure.” Brad then passed me over to their tech team, the name of which, again, out of respect for their privacy, I will disguise. After only a 20-minute wait, I was greeted cheerfully by a member of their Greek Squad team named Nick, who was extremely helpful and said the job would be done overnight. So when they finished the overnight job four days later, I returned to WORST BUY to pick up my new computer. When I got home, I discovered just how helpful they had actually been, and by “helpful” I mean they had somehow managed to lose ALL OF MY DATA.
It’s time patriotic, flag-waving Americans stand up for our God-given right to oppose any minority group that makes us feel slightly uncomfortable. The time is now to raise arms – and legs – against the moral decay of this once great land. Join me in opposing the misguided policy of marriage equality for left-handed people. As our forefathers would no doubt agree: WHAT’S RIGHT IS RIGHT! Therefore anything else must be wrong.
Now, before you start getting all tied up in knots, I’m not saying that all left-handed people are bad. I’m just saying, why take the risk of letting them marry? If we do, the odds are their innocent children may grow up to be left-handed too. We need to stop this epidemic – for the children.
I honestly don’t mind if someone is left-handed – just so long as they don’t behave left-handedly around me. Thankfully, southpaws represent only a tiny sliver of the American population – less than 11% of our nation’s 321 million people. So it’s not like we have to interact with their type on a daily basis – unless we are forced to leave home to get groceries.
Have you ever met a left-handed person you really trusted? Me neither. And I should know. I’m married to one. There is no shortage of hysterical – I mean historical – reasons for treating left-handed people differently. Those reasons date back more than 2,000 years. In ancient Rome, the Latin word for “left” was sinistra. It’s where the modern term “sinister” comes from, which, according to Webster’s Dictionary, literally means “threatening or portending evil, harm, or trouble; ominous.” The word “left” derives from the Anglo-Saxon word lyft, which means “weak”. The Dutch word for “left” is links, which also can be translated as “cunning, shifty or risky”. And the Dutch invented Dutch Chocolate, which I love. So if they don’t trust left-handed people, who am I to argue with the wisdom of people who wear wooden shoes and live below sea level, protected only by dikes?
On July 4th, we will once again celebrate our independence from the tyranny of England. Those British monarchs can be so oppressive. If it were up to Queen Elizabeth, we’d all be forced to drink Earl Grey tea with every meal.
Every year at this time, Americans proudly mark our independence with fireworks, burgers on the grill and binge drinking. And why shouldn’t we? Ours is the greatest nation in the solar system. I’m a patriotic American – something my wife will never understand because, sadly, she’s Canadian.
When it comes to being great, no country on earth is better than the U.S. of A. We’re NUMBER ONE! Look at the Olympics – God almost always backs the Americans – except in soccer – because he knows that Americans love God more than any other country. Every time a U.S. athlete wins, the first thing he does is give thanks to God. The Czech Republic (ranked the least religious nation on earth) never thanks God. And do you remember the last time they won a gold medal? Me neither. Because they hate God.
Oh sure, I’ve read a few misleading statistics about how the USA ranks 12th in college graduates, 27th in life expectancy, 37th in healthcare, 47th in press freedom and 53rd in ability to locate Mexico on a map. (I’m pretty sure it’s somewhere west of France.) But most of those statistics came from CNN’s World Desk Editor Fareed Zakaria. And that sure doesn’t sound like an American name to me. He probably has an axe to grind about his visa status.
I don’t care what statistics you want to throw in my face. It doesn’t change the fact that the USA is #1 in the world. Finland may rank first in education. And technically speaking, the Netherlands’ first place ranking in broadband access just nudges out our 23rd place finish. But in many other categories, the USA is Numero Uno. For example, America ranks …
- 1st in guns per capita
- 1st in cocaine seizures
- 1st in obesity
- 1st in percentage of the population that’s incarcerated
- 2nd in carbon emissions – but we’re coming after you, China! So watch your back!
My plan to become a millionaire and retire by the age of 40 is a little behind schedule. Personally, I blame it on a combination of factors: the recent volatility of the stock market, global warming, and the shrinking market in publishing for humor writers who are paid $500,000 / year for working eight hours a week. But mostly I blame my financial situation on China. Those ruthless bastards.
I tried starting my own business, with dreams of launching the next Facebook or Instagram. But after several weeks, I‘ve concluded that my mail-order business, Rent-a-Snake.com, is probably doomed.
Turns out being an entrepreneur is way harder than it looks. It requires a clear vision, years of hard work, unyielding persistence, and a willingness to take intelligent risks. My train pretty much left the tracks at “a clear vision.” Besides, who has the energy for all this hard work? There must be an easier way to become a multi-millionaire – and it’s called “Kickstarter.”
I’m excited to announce my own Kickstarter campaign to make yours truly a mega-millionaire. What is Kickstarter, you ask? It’s a web-based fundraising service intended to help bring projects to life by means of “crowdsourcing” the financing. What is crowdsourcing, you ask? Well, it’s the process of using the internet to get a “crowd” of people to help produce a project collaboratively, like Wikipedia. What’s Wikipedia, you ask? Stop reading right now. Just stop. You’ll never get the rest of this piece. I suggest you go online and Google it. Oh wait. Never mind. You’ve probably never heard of Google either.
Last weekend I did something new and different. I tried a new adventure called an Escape Room. For the uninitiated, escape rooms are the latest fad activity in which they lock 8 to 14 people in a room. The group is given clues and puzzles to solve in order to make their escape. I’m a puzzle person. Sounded like a fun outing.
I invited thirteen of my closest, soon-to-be-ex-friends to join me. The theme of our escape room was Jules Verne’s classic novel, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. Our mission: Find the key to escape before our submarine, the Nautilus, ran out of air.
Being a natural-born leader, I assumed the part of legendary Captain Nemo and immediately took charge of this mission. I’m not sure precisely when the mutiny began. It might have been when I ordered my crew to report every five minutes with any new clues they had unearthed. Or maybe it was when I ordered them to swab the decks. Group morale is such a touchy thing.
Turns out escaping from an escape room is an extremely difficult challenge. We had to solve a myriad of puzzles to unlock boxes, only to find inside even more enigmatic puzzles. As the Captain, I quickly came to two important realizations: 1) getting out of this escape room was going to require enormous brain power and concentration, and 2) I did not bring nearly enough money to bribe the staff to tell me what the clues meant.
When I was first learning how to color in 1st grade, my art teacher taught us about red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black and white. Pretty much all the colors I’ve needed ever since. Then I got my first box of 64 Crayola crayons. It blew my mind. So many colors I had never imagined. One called Reddish Orange. Another one called Orangish Red. And Indian Red, which I could not in clear conscience draw with until they renamed it Native American Red.
Recently I learned that Crayola has actually retired 34 colors – including Lemon Yellow, Teal Blue and Thistle. Did you know that for the rest of eternity there will never be anything drawn in either Burnt Umber or Magic Mint? And yet for reasons unfathomable to the normal brain, they continue to crank out that annoyingly wimpy color, Periwinkle.
They’ve replaced the retired colors with nouveau-sounding ones like Asparagus, Bittersweet, Inch Worm and Tumbleweed. What the hell color is Inch Worm?
It’s hard enough for my 8-color-palette brain to grasp the difference between Sage and Mint. More astonishingly, for all the colors in Crayola’s 64-color box, I’ve discovered there are literally hundreds of shades of white. When did that happen?
My artist wife and I were discussing what color to paint her art studio. Apparently, it’s important that artist studios be painted in neutral tones like white – I have no idea why. I had suggested Bubble Gum Pink, but apparently that’s not quite neutral enough pour ma femme artiste. No, she insisted, it had to be a shade of white. A shade of white? Hmmm….
Recently my wife Michele and I started a new chapter in our lives by moving to a lovely, somewhat remote island. We also decided to start working together. We thought, what better way to strengthen our marriage than to spend every waking minute of every single day together – eating, playing, sleeping and now working? What could possibly go wrong?
Okay, I know what you’re about to say: What were you thinking? But before you question our wisdom, I should point out that our skill sets are remarkably complementary. On the one hand, my wife is an extremely talented portrait artist. And on the other hand, I am the husband of an extremely talented portrait artist.
My job will be to market my wife’s portrait business. I am an experienced professional marketer. For example, remember the pet rock – a crazy, fun idea from the 1970s that generated millions in sales simply by packaging an ordinary rock in a box with funny instructions about how to care for it? Brilliant marketing. No, that was not actually my idea. But the idea for selling a 25-pound box of litter for your pet rock was mine. Sadly, it never made it to market. Okay, perhaps this isn’t helping make my point about being a marketing guru.
My wife wanted someone to oversee marketing so she could spend more time painting – and shooting down every marketing idea I came up with. (I still think my idea for her to parade the sidewalks of Seattle in a sandwich board handing out coupons for $10 off a portrait would have worked. But alas, we’ll never know because she squashed that idea, too.)
When it comes to parenting, I don’t always make the best decisions. I’m not always sure what the right thing to do is in a difficult situation.
Like the time our elder daughter begged and pleaded with me to let her drive the car to the mall. It was a sunny day. Traffic was light. And she had behaved extremely well all week long. So against my better judgment, I said okay. Two minutes later, she smashed the car into a stop sign barely 100 yards from our driveway. A part of me can’t help but wonder whether in retrospect I made a mistake giving in to the incessant pleadings of an eight-year-old to drive my minivan.
Sometimes my wife questions my ability to make the right call. Heck, she rarely listens to any of my opinions unless at least four complete strangers tell her the exact same thing – which got me to thinking: maybe the way for me to make better parenting decisions is to poll the opinions of total strangers.
In the most recent presidential election, the polls were incredibly accurate forecasters of people’s voting preferences. Nate Silver’s 538 blog accurately predicted the Electoral College winner in all fifty states. Politicians use polls all the time to help them decide how to vote. Should we legalize gay marriage? Poll your constituents. Should we cut defense spending? Do a poll. Should we ban hurricanes during the last week of a presidential campaign? (97% of Republicans resoundingly voted yes.) Read More…