Monday, April 11, 2011

Parental Rule #45

If you see a foreign substance and you’re not quite sure if it was produced by your child’s nose, mouth, or rear end…do not under any circumstances give it the taste test to try to figure out what it might be. Always assume it is something from your child, even if it does look like rich fudge topping.  It’s much better to be safe than sorry. Trust me on this one.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Etiquette of Laughing

Are you confused about what to do when somebody at the office cracks a joke? Do you laugh or report them to HR? Never fear, Mr. Office Etiquette has come to your rescue with: the etiquette of laughing at jokes in the office.

If the person delivering a joke is your boss, laugh. Laugh long and laugh hard. As a general rule, regardless of what your boss just said, laugh. The exception to this rule is if the last thing out of your boss sounded like, “Urp!” In this situation, laughing out loud is discouraged.

If the person is attractive to you, you should laugh but not as hard as if the person was your boss. Make up for the smaller laugh by ending the laughter with a smile and eye contact. A long smile, mixed with friendly eye contact, says, “Please find me as attractive as I find you.” It never works, it just makes your cheeks hurt and your eyes water but all the dating magazines recommend it.

If the person is a temporary employee, don’t laugh. In fact, pretend you didn’t hear the joke. With temps, you can get away with walking out on them mid-joke. Who cares? What can the person do?

If the person is a consultant, don’t laugh. They are not paid huge sums of money to crack jokes. They are, in fact, paid huge sums of money to do nothing. Make them earn it.

If the person delivering a joke is your friend and the joke is not funny you are obligated to laugh. This shows your support. Imagine you were cheering for that person at a baseball game and the person had just struck out. Laughing at the joke says, “Nice try, you’ll get ‘em next time.” Not laughing at the joke says, “You just lost us the championship game, you idiot. No Christmas card for you, Grinch.”

If somebody just made an off-color, rude, racist, or sexist joke, tell them you are offended and didn’t appreciate that joke. If you really don’t like the person, report them to HR immediately. This will earn you respect. Be sure to remember the joke and crack it with your friends when you’re off the clock – and then feel free to laugh as hard as you want.

If somebody is telling a long joke I can guarantee that they will forget the punch line. You will laugh harder at them for trying to remember the punch line than you will three days later when they finally remember and deliver the ending…at which point you can’t remember the joke anyway. Do not include them on your Christmas card list. This is your revenge for allowing them to waste your time.

No matter how funny your joke is, nobody in the company who ranks above you will laugh. This means, your boss, her boss, etc. The ironic thing is that you will hear them recycle your joke at the next meeting and you will be required to laugh heartily at it. Don’t expect any credit for it…not that you do since you are used to the fact that they get the bonuses because YOU work the unpaid overtime.

The funniest joke at the office ranks a 3.5 out of 10 in normal circumstances. This is because 1) at the office you and your coworkers are generally sober, and 2) most of the office employees (ok, ALL of the office employees) are nerds. Nerds laugh at jokes that rank 3.5 out of 10. Outside the office, you only laugh at jokes that rank 6 out of 10. Think about it.

(Tag line: Mark Palenske has spent a career figuring out when to laugh at jokes in the office, which might explain why he has so often been demoted.)

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Etiquette of Door Holding

In today’s society, the proper social etiquette surrounding door holding is as misunderstood by men as decent music is by Justin Bieber. Therefore, today’s article is dedicated to door holding etiquette.

A man should always hold the door open for a lady. Because Lady Gaga and the rest of society today has nearly led to the extinction of the “lady species”, men should give the benefit of the doubt and hold the door for anybody with any qualities that might be female.

If somebody holds a door open for you, you are required to perform an awkward half-run or fast-shuffle to get to the door as quickly as possible. This effort on your part is required to express appreciation for the person holding the door for you.

The maximum Door Holding Length is 10 feet. This means that a man should hold the door for any woman within 10 feet. If you hold the door for women more than 10 feet behind you, all sorts of problems arise. For example, the party you were with has long since forgotten you, disappeared into the restaurant and ordered their food while the woman for whom you are holding the door is forced to perform a half-run, arriving to the door in a sweat, in order to express her appreciation to you. The only exception to the Door Holding Length of 10 feet is if the person who is approaching the door is extremely attractive. In this situation, the Door Holding Length can be extended to 1 mile.

Bathroom stall doors should never be held open. This is because the only people you should see in the restroom SHOULD be the same gender as you. If this isn’t the case, one of you is in serious trouble, and neither of you should worry about holding the door as you race out to check and confirm you are indeed in the proper-gender restroom.

Elevator doors should be held open only if 1) eye contact was made with a person outside the elevator, or 2) the person is attractive to you. Shouts of, “Please hold that elevator, it’s an emergency!” can be ignored if neither of the two rules was met. Pretend you find something on the floor intensely interesting and avoid eye contact as the elevator doors slowly close in the person’s face. Etiquette does demand, however, that you wait until the doors close before you smile.

Unfortunately, society has degraded to the point that holding a car door open for a lady is no longer expected. In many situations, it is strongly discouraged, as the woman might assume you have alternative motives for approaching her and might hit you upside the head before spraying your eyes with pepper spray and kicking your shin.

You should ALWAYS hold the door open for any mother, especially your own. She can use the pepper spray on you as she sees fit. She has earned that right.

There are two door holding jokes, neither of which is funny. The first involves two men who simultaneously meet at the door. One will hold the door and with over exaggerated hand motions, wave the other through the door and say, “Age before beauty.” If somebody cracks this joke around you, proper etiquette allows you to spill your drink on their pants while walking past them.

The second joke, while funnier, is considered to be in poor taste in higher society. As you hold the door open for somebody and they walk through, stick out your foot and trip them. This joke has never gotten old.

I hope that these rules can be posted on doors throughout our nation to help men understand their obligation regarding door holding. Plus, it’s easier to trip somebody when they’re reading a sign on the door.

(Tag line: Mark Palenske was only kidding about tripping people…his humor has never progressed beyond the old, “Age before beauty” joke.)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sketch & Doodle

(Click on comic strip to enlarge)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Work Place Etiquette

I’m writing today’s column to help people properly understand everyday work etiquette. For example, on the rare occasion that somebody asks you a question you actually know the answer for, please don’t respond with, “I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you.” That joke was not funny the first time it was used, and unlike wine or memories of high school glory, it has not improved with age. Additionally, let’s face it, we read about workplace murders in the newspaper or online everyday, and when was the last time you read something funny online?

If the only noise coming from your cube is, “click, click, click” everybody knows you are playing Solitaire. (To confuse your co-workers, randomly type something once in a while or pick up the phone and have a conversation with yourself – just don’t ask yourself any difficult questions, you may blow your own cover).

If you pass somebody in the hall for the fourth time in an hour, please don’t ask, “Didn’t I just see you?” followed by a forced chuckle, “ha ha.” Instead, ask for their manager’s name and immediately report that person for not working. If the person is YOUR manager, smile and pretend you knew that already.

When returning from maternity leave, no matter how cute you think your child’s first bath was, showing the pictures to male co-workers named Mark Palenske can cross the line. That goes the same for first diaper changes, spit ups, and basically any photo the child is not cleanly dressed and sleeping. Remember this line, “If they’re dressed all cute and their shirt has no puke, show the photo and I’ll smile…show the child naked, and I’ll run a 4 minute mile.”

One of the worst work place etiquette infractions deals with poor conversation topics. No matter how big a fan you are of (please insert the proper noun): Star Trek, Survivor, your recent kidney stone operation, Paris Hilton, or University of Utah sports, it is safe to assume the rest of the planet cannot stand that topic.

If you are the only person speaking to a room full of slack-faced and drooling people, you are (there is no gentle way to say this) boring. Remember, it is not considered a conversation if you are only person speaking. Or if the topic involves Star Trek. Or if the topic involves naked photo’s of your newborn baby.

Clipping fingernails in the workplace can only be done in one situation: you work at a beauty salon and you are giving a manicure. Otherwise, wait until you are in the privacy of your own home, preferably during dinner when your spouse isn’t looking. Although it is impolite to clip fingernails at the office, etiquette does allow you to chew these same nails, or borrowed pens, to your hearts content.

If you notice somebody leaving a bathroom stall and exiting the restroom without first washing his or her hands, duty demands that you immediately go gossip with the entire office about it, to warn everybody of the disgusting situation. Of course, washing YOUR hands isn’t necessary since sending out this important information requires all diligence.

If people laugh at whatever you say, you are either: 1) very, very funny, 2) very, very attractive to the opposite sex, or 3) very, very important. Regardless of which, I hate you. If people never laugh at things you say you are either: 1) not very, very…nevermind.

No matter how quietly you think you are talking to your girlfriends, when sharing juicy details of last-night’s make-out session with your boyfriend, the entire male office is listening. Work place etiquette requires that you either turn up your volume so they don’t strain their necks while eavesdropping, or save it for the comfy couch in the girls’ restroom.

On the topic of comfy couches in the girls room: if you are female, please never brag to your male co-workers that you just took a thirty minute nap on the couch in the girls room. Men, who are unaccustomed to any modern conveniences in a bathroom, feel fortunate if we are able to dry our hands on a paper towel instead of our shirt before leaving. Also, we find it disgusting to imagine resting anywhere near (let alone in) a restroom.

If you find it necessary to crack a joke in an email, do not follow it with ‘haha.’ It makes you sound desperate, as though nobody other than yourself would ever find you funny. Instead, follow it with the threat, “If you don’t laugh at my joke, I’ll fire you.” Believe me, that will get the readers attention far better than a stupid joke. Unless the recipient can fire you. Haha.

This concludes today’s column. Please feel free to make a copy of this article, circle a particular paragraph for emphasis, and leave it anonymously on an annoying co-workers desk. (Of course, if I find this article on my desk, I will fire the person responsible. Haha).

Tag line: Mark Palenske wants to let everybody know that, although his column suggests otherwise, he does not have the authority to fire anybody.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sweet Poetry

They say poetry is for intellectuals. Well I’m not an intellectual but I sure as heck would like people to think I am. So with that in mind I’ve decided to explore the deeper side of life by writing some poetry (of course on the humorous side). I hope you find my stuff thought provoking. This is a poem I wrote called Crazy Heart and boy is it deep. It'll make you think, that's for sure. Please feel free to share your thoughts and feelings in the comment section below.

I’m sad. I’m crying.
Yet no tears come to my eyes.
Then I realize that I’m smiling
It’s difficult to cry while smiling.
No wonder no tears are forming, no tears are falling.
My eyes are scrunched, squeezing, trying to cry
but my mouth is simply smiling.
My mouth is overpowering my eyes.
My eyes have lost this battle.

With my eyes all squished and wrinkly
And my mouth all wide and smiling
I realize how crazy I must look.
But I’m not crazy.
Far from it.
So don’t you dare call me crazy,
Unless you mean “like a fox.”
I’m not crazy. Fool.
You are.
Quit being so judgmental.
My face may appear crazy on the outside
But you…you, are crazy on the inside
And that’s the worst kind of crazy.

If we were Indian, which I can say because it’s a poem
Otherwise I would have to say Native American.
But if we were Indian
I would be called Crazy Face but you,
You would be called Crazy Heart.
So don’t judge me, just love.
And let me cry in peace.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dating Pointers For Men

I recently read an article about Scott Peterson. You may remember him from several years ago….he was the man convicted of murdering his wife and unborn child while having an affair. Scott has received multiple marriage proposals from women across the nation. I don't understand why an adulterer sitting on death row is considered a good catch. Still, I can't help but feel bad for the clueless bachelors who are competing with the hardened inmates of the prison system…and losing. Let’s face it, prisoners have the advantage of working out all day and keeping in great shape. Plus, a woman will ALWAYS know where her prisoner is.

Therefore, I intend to help even the odds for out-of-shape, out-of-prison bachelors everywhere. Because I am married, and haven’t dated for many years, I am in a unique situation to give advice to unmarried men about how to become more attractive to the opposite sex. One might assume I am qualified because I used these same techniques and they successfully worked for me, but those people would be wrong. Instead, I tricked my wife into believing I was a death-row inmate who was convicted of murder, but that story is for another day.

Guys, some tried and true methods for impressing women include cleaning your apartment. By cleaning, I don't mean kicking filthy laundry underneath the bed to rot. Women, for some strange reason, like the idea of dating a man who can keep a clean, rodent-free apartment. Therefore, I recommend hiring a maid service since no man in the history of the world has managed a clean apartment. If you cannot afford a cleaning service, one will be provided for you. That’s right, I recommend moving back home. While women don’t normally get too excited about dating a 30-something man who lives with his parents, they do seem to prefer it to stepping on rats late at night.

Women love flowers. Flowers are to women what fire hydrants are to dogs: something bright that they like to sniff. Recommended flowers include roses, daisies, and those pretty yellow things. Never, ever try and impress a woman by showing her the collection of mushrooms growing from the rotten clothes beneath your bed. Mushrooms are not flowers, and trust me, in this situation your gardening skills will be wasted on her.

This next method should go without saying, but because this article is for men, I will say it. Don't flirt with other women while on a date. Many single men, and far too many married ones, fail to grasp this concept. An example will help to illustrate the problem. At dinner while being served by a cute waitress, do you chat her up and ignore your date who sits across the table and glares into her drink? If you answered “yes” I had better explain it in a simple-to-understand analogy: when you watch a football game, do you cheer for both sides? Of course not! Pick a team and go with them all the way. Figuratively speaking, of course.

Another option to impress the fairer sex is to take it slow before making the first move. Generally, busting a move the first date sends a signal of, "I watch too much tv and believe everybody makes out on their first date." While this works for the men on television, you have two things going against you: 1) the story on tv is scripted by idiots (mainly unmarried men) and not even close to reality, and 2) you aren’t nearly as attractive as the men on television. Instead, impress a lady by talking with her intelligently about something other than tv, sports, or how cute the waitress who served your dinner happened to be. If you have never tried an intelligent conversation before, which may be very likely, take it slow. Practice with yourself in front of the mirror and eventually you will be very surprised by the results. Only then are you ready to try it on a date, but please, leave the mirror at home.

Favorite, wrinkled shirts are great for wearing around home where nobody will ever see (or smell) you, but are forbidden on a date. Think about it, gentleman, Scott Peterson didn't get any marriage proposals until AFTER he changed into a freshly laundered jail suit. Try dressing up yourself. Stripes are in this season.

Under no circumstance should you ever tell a woman what you are really thinking. Doing so might cause her an upset stomach or possibly, depending on how much you actually tell her, heart-failure. Instead, lie. Lie through your teeth. In the rare case that you are actually thinking about your date, and not 1) the waitress, or 2) your favorite sports team, tell her you are thinking about her eyes. In a situation like this, as with boxing, you want to focus your efforts on your opponents face…the rest of your date’s anatomy is off-limits for discussion. Off-limits, gentlemen. Don’t mention anything but the eyes.

If single men are unable to follow these rules, I’m afraid that the nation’s jail cells will fill up with men hoping to get married. Men, there is hope! Once you’re married, these rules no longer apply.

Tag Line: Mark Palenske has never done jail time although once, in third grade, he did some serious “time out” time for a crime he swears he didn’t commit. It was his brother. The case is still under appeal.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Career Ambitions

**In order to appease the voracious appetites of my faithful fan base, I'd like to introduce you to my older brother, Mark. He may not be quite as funny and WARNING: he may not use quite as much toilet humor, but he's getting there. We have always talked about writing together, so we decided to finally make it happen. Here's one he wrote, and aside from the unfortunate dearth of potty talk, you can always recognize his work by his tag line. Enjoy!**

If you are anything like me, and I know I am, then you knew just what you wanted to be when you were younger. And for me that was a dictator of a third world nation. Call me strange, go ahead – you wouldn’t be the first, my shrink was – but the job of a dictator had a lot of fringe benefits that appealed to me in my youth. The lawlessness they lived by, the national holidays in their honor, the money, fame, and opportunity to see their portraits painted on every street corner made me want to jump in and lead a coup somewhere.

Then came the collapse of Saddam, the Taliban, and most of Northern Africa and I began to have second thoughts about my career aspirations. I decided I needed a profession with equal rewards but less risk. I ruled out the NBA mainly because I hate the shoes they wear and would feel awful endorsing a product I didn’t believe in, in return for only tens of millions of dollars a year. That fake lifestyle just isn’t for me…better to spend my life slaving away at a company I don’t enjoy that sells products I prefer not to purchase.

Therefore, I naturally shifted my career aspirations to becoming CEO of a fortune 500 company. They have a great retirement program. Cook a few books, scam millions of investors from their hard-earned retirement, fire my employees and replace them with slave labor overseas, con the government out of billions in owed taxes, and then get slapped with a short sentence to a five-star resort called ‘Federal Prison’ until I could live out my life as celebrity-billionaire and date girls my grand-daughters age. (You should have seen the face of my career counselor in college when I explained this career path to her—until I explained it to her, I don’t think she realized it even existed).

Unfortunately, my wife’s response was even less positive than my career counselor’s had been.

I have therefore finally settled on the next best thing: becoming an online blogger with my younger brother, Jared. The fame, money, and national holidays in my honor don’t quite measure up, but there’s something to be said about working from home in my pajamas while listening to music. Even Saddam never had it this good. Unless, of course, he ever made it to Federal Prison.

Once I settled my mind on the blogger career path, I realized that there is a lot I can do in this humble job. For example, I can make fun of other people in the name of ‘freedom of speech.’ And if they somehow track me down in my home and retaliate by punching me in the nose, I can sue. God bless this nation.

So, after great deliberation about the topic for this first column, and after consulting my lawyer regarding lawsuits, I have narrowed my choices. I have selected the most annoying, loathsome, insincere rodent known to mankind. No, I’m not talking about myself. This topic is aimed at the morning radio talk show person.

Talk about annoying, no pun intended. These disk jockeys are always announcing a song they’ll play right after another commercial break. Their humor (which I can safely say is far worse than my own) hasn’t been considered funny since the third grade…and even back then it was only ever considered funny by the weird kid who couldn’t sit still and always smelled badly. It has become so bad, I no longer listen to the radio….instead, I call random tele-marketers and start up conversations. I need help on many levels.

Therefore, I’m calling on concerned citizens of this great nation to do whatever must be done to save music on morning radio shows. Even if you didn’t vote in the last election, can’t spell your own name, or aren’t sure if you have a pulse, we could use your support. That’s right, I’m encouraging a grass-roots, radical wing to emerge and sue the pants off of any radio station that refuses to play music. If we can add frogs, owls, flowers, and O.J. Simpson to the endangered species list – saving them from certain extinction – surely we can get federal protection to keep songs on the radio.

To drum up support for this measure, I will focus on the positive: eliminating morning radio talk shows would reduce traffic accidents on our freeways. Instead of fumbling around in a dark cab of a truck, frustrated at the lack of music, while balancing a half-eaten apple and the steering wheel in one hand, and a pop tart and radio dial in the other, we will be able to keep our eyes where they belong…reading the bumper sticker on the car ahead of us.

If you know any morning radio show personalities, do the world a favor and give them this article. (And judging by the stupidity that passes as conversation on their shows, you might have to read the column to them, or at least help them with the larger words).


You can read in your quieter voice now. Whew. I might not be a dictator, but I have a feeling that 2011 is going to be better already. Now, we just have to do something about pulling down their stupid billboards promoting their silly morning shows. Then we’ll all be free to focus our efforts on world peace and on toppling more dictators.

Tag line: Mark Palenske is Jared’s older, less funny brother.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Best Method for Picking a Winning March Madness Bracket

Believe it or not, it’s that time of year again. And no I am not talking about daylight savings time or Easter or even spring (although I do love spring). What I’m talking about is the NCAA Basketball Championship, also known affectionately as March Madness or the Big Dance. I think most of you might know what I’m talking about… that crazy time of year when filling out brackets and discussing obscure basketball teams while gathered around the water cooler during breaks at the office is as common as TMZ exposing Charlie Sheen’s latest crazy shenanigans (I mean seriously, what’s up with that guy?); the time of year where everyone is pretending to work but in reality is tuning into the games via the computer, smart phones, or television sets; you know, that time of year where going to work is actually enjoyable because very little work is actually being done.

Gone are the phrases, “Have you seen the price of gas lately?” “Can you believe what’s happening in the Middle East?” or “I just got my Justin Bieber concert tickets and can’t wait to go,” which are typical topics of discussion amongst friends, family, and fellow workers. At this time of year those phrases are replaced by things like, “Did you fill out your bracket yet?” “You picked who to go to the Final Four?” “Well there goes my bracket…it’s completely busted,” and “I knew I should have picked that team.” Nothing seems to be able to bring people together like March Madness, where it is the individual against the masses in bracket pools across the country in hopes of predicting the eventual winners, all in the spirit of friendly competition… and of course a little cash to sweeten the deal. Whether you are a sports fan or art fan, Jew or Muslim, Republican or Democrat, nothing can bring two sides together like the bracketology of March Madness.

The greatest thing about March Madness is that you don’t have to be an expert or even a fan of college basketball for that matter to be able to do well in a madness bracket. In fact, often times knowing less is better when it comes to filling out the coveted brackets. It’s one of the few things in this world where the less work you put into it, the more you will get back, which (INTERESTING FACT ALERT) is why democrats as a whole usually do much better than republicans on their brackets. I’ve seen people who didn’t watch a game all season long win their pools because they didn’t spend as much time contemplating the intricacies of each individual matchup like some of the scholars of the game would. As they say (and by they, I mean the so called experts who usually do poorly in the end), when it comes to March Madness, expect the unexpected.

It is for this reason that I am offering my services today: the 3 best ways for filling out a bracket and ensuring that you finish in the top 25% or better in your bracket pool. These are tried and tested methods that have been proven over the course of years of intensive studies. So without any further adieu, here are the methods for filling out a winning bracket.

The first method is to choose your bracket according to team uniforms. I know it sounds funny but try it and I think you’ll end up pleasantly surprised. Look at the matchups and decide which uniform you like best of the two teams and pick them to advance. Or you could do the opposite and decide which uniform you dislike the most and choose that one to advance. Either way be consistent (either advance the ones you like or the ones you dislike, but don’t mix it up) throughout the bracket and you’ll be amazed at the results. (Hint: I like to consider shoes as part of the uniform. The reason for this is because I once picked a bracket using the uniform method but didn’t consider the shoes as part of the equation and finished seventh in my pool of 30 people. But I learned my lesson and the very next year, after taking shoe style into major consideration, I jumped to second place in my pool of 40. The shoes made a huge difference. You’ll be surprised at how often you may really like a uniform but hate the shoes, or love the shoes but hate the uniform. Going with just the uniforms is really basing your pick on just half of the information.)

The second method is very similar to the first but involves team mascots. Don’t look at it as Team A versus Team B. instead look at it, for example, as the Wolverines versus the Buckeyes. Decide for yourself who you think would legitimately win if they were thrown into a ring with each other, and advance that particular team. Some of you who are looking at my example might be saying “well that’s easy then, the Wolverines would beat the Buckeyes every time,” but if you do a little digging you will find that a Buckeye is in fact a poisonous seed. So sure, maybe a seed seems harmless sitting in a ring with a wolverine, but what would happen if the wolverine happened to eat that seed? I’ll tell you what, it would probably kill it. And not just kill it but sprout in the wolverine’s dead carcass to become a large healthy buckeye tree whose roots disintegrate and obliterate any sign of life that once inhabited that poor animal. So yeah, don’t just assume the wolverine would win every time. Do your homework and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at your accuracy.

Finally, the third and probably most accurate method for picking teams in the bracket is the coin toss. That’s right, the good old fashioned tossing of the coin and assigning each team either the head or tail. (side note: this also works quite well when taking tests.) Let the coin gods decide your bracket fate. This method is as good as using a Ouija board but a lot less scary and you don’t have to sign your soul over to the devil to do it.

So there you have it folks. A surefire way, or should I say three sure fire ways, to pick a winning bracket. Don’t thank me now…go out and try it, and then after you’ve been wildly successful in your own March Madness pool, come back to thank me by posting on my blog. Seriously though, best of luck to you budding March Madness bracketologists out there. See you in the Final Four.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Royal Flush

“No…no…no, this can’t be happening,” you think to yourself, “Please, no. Why me? Why now?” You flush the toilet for the second time but to no avail the water rises to just below the rim before slowly seeping back down. What do you do? You don’t dare risk flushing it for a third time because if your friends, who are gathered in the room near the bathroom, hear it will be obvious. The worst part about it is that it’s not even at your own house. You have to do something because you have already been in the bathroom way too long and your friends are going to start to wonder what’s happened. In a frantic panic you scramble around the tiny guest bathroom in search of the only thing that can possibly save you, a plunger, but to no avail. You’re stuck, or more correctly, it’s stuck – as in the doogie you just let go in your friend’s bathroom – and even a royal flush isn’t going to help you out of this situation.

As if clogging a toilet isn’t ever bad enough, doing it while in your friend’s bathroom during a party is even worse. What are you supposed to do in that kind of situation? If you walk out and pretend nothing happened you risk allowing someone else to go in there and do their business, risking the inevitable and highly feared double stacked doogie backup. And that’s not cool to do to anyone. I don’t even care if it was your worst enemy…still not cool. Not to mention how hard it is on the plumbing. I hate to admit that I once was a part of a triple stacked doogie backup and needless to say it wasn’t pretty. I’m not sure if my friend’s toilet ever did recover.

Here’s the deal, this is a problem that can easily be avoided in one of three ways. First, don’t ever take a dump in a friend’s bathroom, no matter how badly it hurts or how knotted up your guts may be. Although this is by far the most effective method for preventing a clogged toilet at a friend’s house, I understand that it may not be the most practical. The second suggestion is that we could all stand to use a little more fiber in our diets. I’m not going to get all preachy about this, but it wouldn’t kill us to eat a vegetable every now and then. I’m just saying. And finally the third method, one which would take a collective effort on all of our parts, is to make sure that every bathroom in the house has a plunger near the toilet. If this can’t be done, the least you could do is post some sort of signage stating the potential risk of pooping in that bathroom.

I think putting a plunger in each bathroom should be considered common courtesy when hosting friends over at ones house, otherwise you run a risk - as the host - of getting a double stacked doogie backup in your own toilet because nobody in their right mind is going to come out of a bathroom and ask you for a plunger in front of the rest of the group. Nor should they have to. It is your job as the host to provide it, in my most humble opinion on such a delicate topic as this.

I mean seriously, how hard is it to place a plunger in every bathroom of the house. I would understand the sparseness if it was a really expensive item - but it’s not. Even in today’s economy. Ten dollars or less will buy you a plunger, twenty dollars for your top of the line model, which still is not that much when considering a) the amount of embarrassment, and b) the cost in plumber’s fees you would be saving from having your friends go through the above scenario.

This goes well beyond just common sense and courtesy. This is a social issue that needs to be addressed. I’m not big on big government, but I think this might be something important enough to consider having a little government assistance in. Perhaps the government could provide some sort of buy back incentive program for stocking every bathroom in the house with a plunger. Maybe they could pay for half of the cost by sending you a rebate check upon them receiving proof of your receipt. I mean really, wouldn’t we just be making America a much better and much less embarrassing place? Can we really put a price on that? A collective effort on all of our parts could lead to a complete eradication of the feared clogged toilet or even worse, the double stacked doogie backup. Just as vaccinations have done for smallpox and measles worldwide. Make a stand people, and let’s say no to clogged toilets and embarrassing moments in social situations by providing every bathroom in America with a plunger. Now who’s with me?

Parental Rule #92

When attempting to clean the house it may be best to wait until after the kids have been put to bed if your hope is to keep the house clean for more than an hour. You might also want to consider this same time of night to invite guests over so that they can enjoy your clean house as well. Trying to clean a house during the day while the kids are awake is enough to drive anyone, no matter how strong you may be, crazy. If you find yourself laughing at this thought you either a) don't have any children, or b) have actually attempted to clean your home with conscious children and are therefore, by definition, crazy.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sketch & Doodle

(Click on comic strip to enlarge)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Choice is Yours

In our lives we face many choices. Choices such as running or pulling over when the police pull up behind you with their lights flashing, for example. Or a decision about whether or not to buy the new Justin Bieber, Never Say Never, album. Whatever the choice may be there are consequences, whether they be good or bad, for the decision you make. For example if you choose to run from the cops you may be spending some time in jail, however if you choose to pull over you could be receiving a ticket. And if you choose to buy Justin Bieber's new album, you might have to face the humiliation of your friends laughing at you for buying it. Then again, if you choose not to buy it, you could be missing a great opportunity of experiencing the talented musical sensation know as Bieber that is sweeping this country. The choice is yours, the consequences are not.

Which is why I find myself alone at home staring at the last piece of cherry cream pie in the fridge wondering what I should do. Now I know my wife told me I had better not touch it because she has yet to have a piece and that our kids and I have had more than our fair share. I also know that she said she planned on eating it as soon as she got back home from picking up our child from preschool. I understand all of this. But as I am sitting here staring at the pie, I realize I have a choice. I can obey my wife's wishes and leave the pie alone which will not help my grumbling stomach or I can choose to eat the last piece of the pie and face the wrath of a very angry wife later. Decisions... decisions...why do they always have to be so hard?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Eco Friendly Toilet Paper

It happens a lot. More than I would care to admit. You know what I'm talking about. You're in the bathroom, sitting down on the toilet about to take care of business when you notice the roll of toilet paper is nearly empty. (And just in case you were wondering, when I say "taking care of business," what I mean is "taking a poop on the toilet," but you might personally refer to it any number of ways: "having a BM," "taking a doogie," "dropping a deuce," etc. I'm just trying to keep it somewhat clean around here, no pun intended.) You break out into a cold sweat because of the predicament you're in. If you proceed and use the last of the toilet paper it will be your responsibility to replace the roll. However, if you're careful you might be able to use just enough to get the job done but making sure to leave some left over for the next user who would then be responsible for replacing the roll.

So it is probably at this point in the article, for those of you who haven't stopped reading it already, that you are wondering why I am talking on a topic such as this. I would have to say the reason I decided to write on this topic is because...well...everyone poops. And since everyone poops, toilet paper is a necessary luxury item in our life. Speaking of everyone pooping, there is an excellent book called Everyone Poops (My Body Science Series) which is a must read for adults and children, especially for any of you who are trying to potty train a child or adult for that matter. Since we've now established that everybody poops I thought it might be nice to talk about a few of the problems that come along with it, the biggest one of course in my mind, is from sitting down to do your business and finding the toilet paper roll nearly empty.

So what do you do when this happens? I'll tell you what I do. I try to get the job done with the least amount of toilet paper possible, knowing that if I can even leave a square or two on the roll I won't have to worry about replacing it. It's a little like playing Russian Roulette, only bathroom style. Every time you sit down you are taking a chance that the roll may be close to being empty. Is it going to run out on you? Are you going to have to replace the roll with a new one? There's no way you can know or even predict how messy things might be when you first sit down, making it very tricky to determine how much you are going to need. So the real question is, how lucky are you feeling?

What happens if you sit down and run out while you are halfway done with the job? Now you're in a real predicament. Sometimes though, believe it or not, this can be the best scenario because if you are not alone in the house you can yell until someone brings you a new roll, making the replacement a snap. You literally don't even have to leave the toilet seat to do it.

I have sometimes sat down to a toilet only to jump right back up before even starting just because I was lucky enough to realize there wouldn't be enough toilet paper to complete the job. But I'm not kidding when I say that I'd rather take care of business in another bathroom of the house or perhaps take a leisurely drive to the nearest public bathroom than to have to ration my toilet paper and replace the roll when I'm done.

The saddest part of this whole process is that it really doesn't take a whole lot of effort to replace a roll of toilet paper. I mean, ours is stored on the top shelf in the laundry room and it doesn't even require a step ladder or chair to retrieve it. In fact the process of replacing the toilet paper usually takes less time and effort than it does to take care of "the business" in the first place. Yet despite how easy it is I still manage to wind up with a huge knot in my gut every time I notice the toilet paper roll is nearing completion and that I might be the one stuck with replacing it.

A positive from all of this, however, is that I find myself being a lot more conservative with the toilet paper when it's near the end of the roll. When I know there isn't much left on the roll I use only as much as is absolutely necessary. Instead of the usual 4-5 squares (I feel so vulnerable sharing such personal information), we're talking 2-3. I have yet to get to the 1 square per wipe that Sheryl Crow so valiantly suggested a few years back, but believe me, I've thought about it a time or two but I believe The Doors said it best in their song Break On Through...with just one square I'm too worried about my fingers breaking through to the other side.

So it seems that the ends of the toilet paper roll are great for the environment. I mean, if it causes people to use less squares the closer it gets to the end of the roll, well, that's a good thing, right? Follow me on this: if it takes less squares of toilet paper to take care of business, then not as much toilet paper will be used, causing less toilet paper to be made, leading to fewer trees being cut down for the purposes of toilet paper-making. It's a wonderful "green" cycle of life. For toilet paper.

So I was thinking, which is never a good thing, that if we really wanted to save trees by using less toilet paper, maybe we could convince toilet paper companies to makes rolls with less toilet paper on them to begin with. The idea is that by doing this it would give each roll of toilet paper the appearance of being almost empty, so that people would inherently use less for fear of having to replace the roll. If a roll of toilet paper normally has, let's make it easy and say, 100 feet per roll, the toilet paper companies should instead take that 100 feet and spread it over 5 rolls. So for the price you'll be getting the same amount of toilet paper but less on each roll.

Think about what this one small act could do for our environment and it's precious resources. It's simple, it's easy, and it's a way for all of us to contribute without feeling like we're sacrificing. I could honestly see this becoming such a hit that even a guy like Al Gore would add these rolls of toilet paper to the 15 bathrooms at his house. So I call on toilet paper companies everywhere to take my simple yet effective suggestion into consideration, if not for yourselves, then at least for Mother Earth. To use a sports phrase I would like to say that the ball is in your court, toilet paper companies, and so (please let me use a common bathroom phase here) either "do the business" or get off the pot so someone else can.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Parental Rule #142

Parental Rule #142: when you talk to your children it is important to choose your words wisely and only after careful consideration - because even if you happen to forget what you said later that day or week, your child will remember as clearly and accurately as when you first said it, and without a shadow of a doubt, will hold you to whatever it was you said. You think an elephant never forgets? That's nothing compared to the photographic memory of a kid who was promised McDonald's at the end of the week.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sketch & Doodle

(Click on comic strip to enlarge)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

License and Registration Please

If you're ever pulled over by the police while driving, what is one of the first things they'll ask you when they get to your window? "License and registration, please." Of course sometimes depending on their mood they may or may not even say please. A drivers license, that little business card size heavy laminated document, serves as proof from the government that you have legally been tested and passed the test in order to drive.

But it's not just drivers licenses that we must obtain in this country in order to be able to do certain activities. We have lots of different licenses. There are marriage licenses that you need in order to get married. Licenses to own a business. A license for selling real estate and in order to cut and style a person's hair. In order to hunt or fish in the state you reside you must obtain a license. A lot of states require licenses to renovate your home. Certain fields of employment require licenses such as doctors, lawyers, plumbers, electricians, and pilots.

It's obvious we live in a world which requires licenses. If a license is required and you do not have one you cannot legally perform that activity. By doing so you would be breaking the laws that govern this country. However, we are free to do many things without having to obtain a license to do so. One of those things, as strange as it may seem, is to have children. That's right, having children does not require a test or proof of competency by our government. Hence the reason we often see people in public places and wonder to ourselves, "how in the heck were they allowed to become a parent?"

The answer is simple...they procreated. You see, our government does not require a license to procreate. Having children and the practice of rearing them is apparently not thought to be quite as important as cutting someone's hair or renovating one's house, things the government deems much more important.

What exactly is the point of licensing then, you may be wondering, if something as important as parenting does not require such a document? The answer is twofold really, the first being that licensing allows the government to make money and regulate certain activities that otherwise might not have any oversight. How else would you offset the costs of the DMV unless you pay for your driver's license? So in actuality, yes, you are paying to stand in those long lines at the DMV. That makes it even more maddening thinking about it, doesn't it?

The second reason for licensing is it is a way for the government to make sure that people are competent enough to perform whatever activity it is they are seeking the license for. Just as we would hate to board a plane whose pilot has barely even flown, we would also have a real problem with getting our hair cut by someone who mows lawns for a living. Licensing allows people to properly be trained and tested before being allowed to perform the activities for the safety and satisfaction of the rest of us.

So again the question falls back to why a person might be allowed to be a parent without first obtaining a license because believe it or not I read a recent article where there were quite a few people who thought it should be a requirement. It really seems like a no brainer. Parenting is probably the single most important activity in this world (not that everyone who is a parent thinks of it this way), and yet anyone can do it without obtaining any training or testing of competency, hence the reason for MTV's show, Teen Mom. It makes no sense. Alas, I'm here to tell you that it does make sense...perfect sense in fact, and here's why: because no amount of testing or training can properly prepare a person to be a parent.

Really. Nothing could ever truly prepare a person for parenthood. Even if there was some sort of training seminar or three-day workshop you could attend (you know the kind I'm talking about, the kind that serve coffee, juice, and danishes in the morning), chances are good that you would end up with a child that defied all the training you received and you'd find yourself back at square one.

Driving, in reality, is quite easy. It makes sense once you've been taught. Even the dumbest people in this world can learn to drive safely - brake means stop, gas means go, drive on the right side of the street, stop at red lights and stop signs, etc. It's pretty straightforward when you consider that all cars have gas pedals, brakes, steering wheels, and so forth. They all drive pretty much the same way. They all work on the same basic principles. But even the smartest people in the world couldn't learn how to be a good parent before actually becoming one because children aren't simple like that. There's no basic model.

There is nothing basic about it. You think children come with manuals? I wish. God knew the only manual parents would need is patience and love and a lot of it, and that is something that can't be taught except in the school of hard knocks. That's right, taught by reality...from living it. You learn to be a parent by parenting. You can't teach someone what it's like to be thrown-up on, or the art of having a blown out diaper on your favorite shirt. It can't teach you the hundreds of ways that children can stain your carpet or upholstery because children are constantly discovering new ways in which to do it. Humans have been evolving for ages, and children have been coming up with novel ways to test their parents' parenting skills for just as long...or maybe longer.

Every child is different and therefore every interaction with each child is different. Take tantrums, for example. Tantrums and children are like fingerprints and snowflakes...there are no two alike. Each are as unique and individual as the child. You may think you have seen enough grocery store tantrums in your life to know how to handle them...that is, until you actually have kids and your own child busts one out that is so different, so horrible, and so loud that you can only stand in disbelief and shock that this small person throwing themselves around on the ground and contorting herself in ways that you've never even imagined could possibly have been spawned by you. How's a license going to help you in that situation?

I just can't see how any amount of parenting classes or testing could have prepared me for the long nights of teething, instructed me on taking late night drives in a car to help them fall asleep, prepared me for how to comfort them after their first fall, or first heart ache. How could a license possibly help me to love my child unconditionally? How will it help me to raising them to be honest? To be friendly? To work hard? To dream big and follow those dreams? The answer is wouldn't.

Even if you could train potential parents, at what point would you feel they were ready? What would the test be to determine that they were qualified? Would we send them home with a watermelon for a week and see if they bring it back unbroken and named something normal? If that was the case, half of Hollywood wouldn't fail the test. I mean, have you heard some if the names they have for their children? Gwyneth Paltrow's daughter Apple (isn't that a fruit?), Courteney Cox's daughter CoCo (isn't that the monkey from the Cocoa Krispies box?), and Peaches Honeyblossom Geldof (as if one bad name wasn't bad enough, why not make it two?).

The truth is that government bureaucrats want nothing to do with licensing parents because many of them are parents themselves and understand the impossibility of it all. The only people who really think it's a good idea for parents to have licenses are those people who don't actually have children. As a parent I welcome classes, books, articles and advice from others on how to be a good parent. But I take it all with a grain of salt because every child is so different, so unique, and so special that there is no one correct way of raising them. It's unfortunate that there are some really bad parents out there. But I just can't see how a license would help someone like that. A license could never teach someone patience, love, or empathy. The only way to learn those powerful lessons is by jumping in and getting a little bit dirty.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Living the American Dream

I'll be the first to admit that I said a lot of stupid things during my years of growing up - and according to my wife, I am still growing up. For example, I can remember saying that I was going to be as rich and famous as Tom Cruise some day. Or was it that I was going to marry Nicole Kidman some day? Either way, it was a pretty stupid thing to say and I knew it. But there were times growing up that I said some pretty profound things as well. Like the time I told my friend, while discussing cartoons, that the Jetsons were basically the Flinstones but in space, and if Judy Jetson (despite the white hair) was real and not just a cartoon, every teenage boy in America would have a poster of her in their room.

I can also vividly remember saying that someday I wanted to have a family and nice things - and by nice things I meant, well you know, nice things; cars with leather seats, high-end electronics, the most expensive fishing gear, etc. However, nobody ever told me that I wouldn't be able to have both. I made it very clear to anyone who would listen that I wanted to live the American dream with a wife and a couple of kids, living in a nice house with a few nice paintings, driving a nice car, vacationing on our boat or in our motor home - but not once did anyone ever inform me that this was not actually possible. Life, unfortunately, has taught me the truth. I can have a family. Or I can have nice things. But I can't have both because they are in fact mutually exclusive. Like night and day, good and evil, Sonny and Cher.

This fact has never been more apparent to me than when I was pulling up to my house one day after work to find my kids playing outside. I happened to notice on this particular day my oldest daughter, who happened to be 4 at the time, repeatedly swinging something above her head and then slamming it onto the pavement of our driveway. As I got closer, I noticed the object in her hand happened to be my $350 golf club and she just so happened to be using it to pulverize her sidewalk chalk into oblivion. I think it was at this exact moment that reality hit me square in the face that it truly is impossible to have a family (and by "family" I mean "children") and nice things. They are and always have been mutually exclusive.

I dare you to name anything nice and I will find a way that kids would be able to destroy it. Kids work in destruction, if I can use a quote from A Christmas Story, the way other artists might work in oils or clays. It is their true medium; they are masters. There is no manmade object that I know of that is safe from being flushed, ripped, torn, shredded, pooped on, thrown-up on, or banged to death with a metal spatula.

So you have a nice car with leather seats. Have you ever seen what a hamburger and chocolate milk can do to leather? "So I won't allow my kids to eat inside my car," you are probably saying, "that will solve the problem." To that I would respond that you either have no children or you have no idea how kids work, because if you did you would realize that it is impossible from keeping them from destroying the inside of your car. Kids find ways of sneaking things into places you never even thought possible. For example we once ended up with Nutella smeared inside one of our car windows and we've never even owned a jar of Nutella in our life. How did it happen? You tell me. And if you are wondering how I know it was Nutella it's because I tasted it. Don't worry, I smelled it before tasting it so don't get all grossed out.

How about that new flat screen and blu-ray player you just bought? It's absolutely perfect - that is, until the flat screen meets the end of a metal fork and the blu-ray discovers what it's like to play a grilled cheese sandwich. What about those fancy new clothes you saw in the store and just had to have? Go ahead and kiss those goodbye. You may as well have just flushed your money down the toilet because new clothes are just begging to be puked on or have a blown out diaper while you're holding your baby on your lap. How about that brand new kitchen set you've always dreamed of? Have you ever seen what a kid can do with 5 minutes and a set of markers or pens to furniture? It's enough to make a grown man cry.

And if I may, I would like to take this opportunity to point out Parental Rule number 207. Never, and I mean NEVER, buy any art supplies that are not 100% washable. And even if they say they are, test them out first by buying a set and allowing your friend's kids to use them at their own house first. This is almost as important as Parental Rule number 206, which dictates that you keep all permanent markers locked away in a safe with your important documents such as passports, birth certificates, and social security cards.

Remember that classy Christmas tree you always swore you would have once you got your own place - you know, the one with white lights, white satin ribbon, and matching silver bulbs? Sorry Charlie, that's just a dream. You may as well forget about it, because once you have kids your tree will consist of lights in which only half of them light up, any bulbs within a child's reach will be broken, and that lovely white satin ribbon will be replaced by toilet paper that was colored with an array of crayons, markers, and colored pencils. Oh, and if your children are still in grade school you can plan on at least half a dozen homemade ornaments made of papier-mâché, hand prints on plates, and toothless pictures of each child.

Yes, there once was a time in my life when I thought I knew everything, that I thought it was possible to have a family and also some nice things. Come to my house today and you will find that I have absolutely nothing nice as far as "things" are concerned. And anything that could have been at one time considered nice has long since been destroyed by my artists in destruction, my children. However, what you will find at my home is a family as nice as they come and a husband and father who couldn't be any happier about where he is at in his life. Nice things can be great, but what use are they if you don't have a family to share them with?

Sketch & Doodle

I'd like to preface these cartoons by saying that I am very aware that I am not even remotely artistic. With that being said, I'd like to introduce you to Sketch & Doodle, a brainchild of mine stemming from the fact that the only thing I can draw is stick figures...and even then, not very well. Do me a favor and leave me a thumbs up or thumbs down on whether you'd like to see any more of them.

(Click on comic strip to enlarge)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Starving Children in Africa

There it was again, that commercial that tugs at the heart strings. You know, the one with soft music playing in the background while it flashes pictures of starving children in Africa across the screen, with a voice that says "for just a dollar a day you can feed a starving child in Africa. That's less than the cost of a cup of coffee." This tells me one of two things: Either people are paying way too much for their coffee, or food in Africa is a heck of a lot cheaper than in the US, because there is no way I could feed my kids on a dollar a day. Now let me stop this right here before anyone jumps to conclusions by assuming I'm making fun of starving children in Africa. I'm not. Far from it. I know it's a problem and something needs to be done about it. But that being said, I'm fascinated to know that just $1 a day is enough to help a child from starving.

I guess I didn't know a buck had that much buying power, especially in today's economy where the value of the dollar has been diving faster than Greg Louganis in the 1988 Olympics - that's right, I just pulled a seriously old school reference. He won gold by the way ,which is the same precious metal our dollar was once backed by, in case you were wondering. Yes, I realize Dollar Stores are springing up across America faster than the population of China is increasing, but still, $1, even in a Dollar Store, can't feed a person for a day - well not in America anyway.

I think that's what I am most interested in it is possible to actually feed a child in Africa for $1 a day. What kind of food they will be receiving? Is it three meals a day? Is dessert included? Or are we just talking beans and rice once a day? If it truly is possible to feed a child on just $1 a day in Africa, I'm going to have a serious talk with my wife about shipping my kids there just to save some money on food expenses. Kind of like an exchange student sort of thing, but until they're 18.

It makes some more sense now as to why we never see "feed the starving children in America" commercials. How would the commercial go? "For just $25 a day, you can help feed a starving child in America. That's less than three hours of work a day if you work for minimum wage. Think about it, for only three hours of every work day you can be feeding a child in America the rich nourishment they need to sustain life." It would be pretty difficult to find pictures of American children who aren't overindulged and obese to go along with the sad music. (Note: this is not to say that I think we should blame ourselves for this problem...see here for more details)

I just see too many complications in trying to feed America's starving children commercially. What are we going to do, show how $25 a day helps take them to McDonald's? And how would they address the chubbiness issue? "Yes, little Bobby may look a little plump around the edges, but trust us, he's really starving." It could end with a close-up on the chubby kid's face and then slowly pan out to see him in his living room, sitting on a couch with the sun shining brightly through the window as he is frantically playing away on the X-box while wearing his brand new Nike high-tops. Cut to end of commercial.

I just don't see organizations that are trying to feed the starving children in America working out very well, which is probably why most of them have turned to Africa for their cause. But still, to be able to feed a child on just $1 a day blows my mind. Africa is doing something right if food can be bought for so cheap. Maybe more people in America need to get off of Facebook's FarmVille and get out to farming in the real world (no not MTV's Real World, which there is nothing real about, but that is another whole discussion in itself). Maybe then we could feed our own children on just $1 a day.

In all seriousness I know that there are starving people all across this world and every little bit we can do helps. So I encourage everyone to give of any extra time or money they may have in fighting hunger in this world. I also encourage you to give of any extra money you might have to me. But it you can't, feel free to just leave me a comment here and there instead. You can even keep yourself anonymous if you'd like. I'm just beginning to wonder if I have any readers at all out there. And if I do, are you wondering the same things I am?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

America's Broken Healthcare System

Could you imagine taking your car somewhere to have its oil changed but not knowing what you would be paying for that oil change until after the job was completed? Where in this world would you pay for a product or service but not know how much it was going to run you until you received the bill in the mail? I'll tell you where, in our broken health care system, that's where. Look, I'm not here in support for a government-run form of healthcare, in fact I'm against it seeing how everything our government runs seems to go bankrupt. Social security...bankrupt. United States Postal Service...bankrupt. Medicaid and Medicare...also bankrupt. I think you get my point. Our government is not known for handling money or staying within a budget very well. That being said, I would be a fool if I didn't admit that our current healthcare system is as broken as Humpty Dumpty after he fell from the wall (personally I believe he was pushed).

Part of the problem I see with our health care system is that it seems to only cater to the insurance companies and not to the individuals. Doctors and hospitals jack up their prices knowing they will have to give a large discount to the insurance companies and thus, the price for medical attention has blossomed faster than a lily on a warm spring day. Have you ever over inflated a basketball to the point of it rupturing? It isn't pretty, a bit dangerous, and ruins an otherwise perfectly good ball. Our healthcare system is the ball and the costs for medical services represent the air inflating it. Our system is about to burst and we're not even all in the game.

So follow me on this. Doctors and hospitals are forced to raise the price for services because they know that the insurance companies are going to haggle with them for a large discount for sending people their way. That seems all right so far, doesn't it? But wait, what about all of us who have either very crappy or no insurance at all? What happens to us in this scenario? We are stuck paying those inflated costs without the benefit of getting a big discount like the insurance companies. So we're screwed.

So here is my solution. It's a simple one. Screw the insurance companies and cater to the needs of the individuals instead. Set your prices fairly and make insurance companies and individuals pay the exact same across the board. But here's the real kicker: I also want to be able to walk into my doctors office and have a menu of services offered with their listed prices. I'm so tired of asking how much some procedure might cost and having the doctors, nurses, and receptionists look at me as if I'm stupid as they scramble to try to find a price for me. Shouldn't you know what the procedures cost? I mean you're the ones performing them! The lady at Subway knows exactly how much she's planning to charge me for the footlong Spicy Italian before she ever gets out the meat and it too much to ask my doctor's office to be able to do the same? I understand that Dr. So-and-So thinks I need an X-ray. That's fine. Just tell me what it is going to cost so I can shop around and see if someone does it for cheaper elsewhere. At least give me a price I can compare it to. It is simple free-market economics.

Look, I'm a landscaper by trade, so I know a little bit about providing a service and receiving compensation for that service. I really wish I could tell people what they needed done in their yard, perform the service without them knowing how much it is going to cost them, and then bill them after their the project is said and done. That would be great for me, but it's not really practical for the homeowner or ethical on my part. When I bid a job, the homeowner knows exactly what it is going to cost them for each step of the project. That's how business works. You have something I want. You give me a price and I decide if I want whatever it is you have bad enough to pay the price you're asking. If I don't, I am free to shop elsewhere for a similar product, or maybe after shopping around I find that your price isn't so bad after all and come back to purchase it. See how this all works? Of course you do, it's our healthcare system that doesn't.

If I am going to have a heart surgery, show me what it costs. If I have to get my prostate checked with a greasy finger while singing "Moon River" (think Chevy Chase in Fletch), then I really would like to have some idea what it is going to cost me (besides my dignity) before I agree to have it done.

If this were to happen I can only imagine how easy my next doctor visit would be. I would walk in examine the board of procedures and prices above the receptionists desk, or perhaps sit down and peruse a handheld menu of procedures and prices. I look over them carefully, and decide what I need done and if it is going to fit within my budget before approaching the front desk.

"Can I help you sir?" the receptionist would say.
"Yes...I think I'll have one prostate exam, a strep check, and we better do a quick cancer screening as well. Oh and what the heck, let's also remove that wart that's been bugging me."
"Ok sir, it looks like your total is going to come to $750."
"Oh, that's weird. I thought I totaled it up to $800 in my head. How did I do that?"
"Actually sir, it normally would be, but today is Wednesday which is half off wart removal Wednesday. So that saved you $50."
"Wow, that's great. I'll have to remember that and tell my friends."
"Please do sir. And do you have a "Rewards" card with us yet? Every tenth procedure equals a free one of the same or lesser value."
"Well in that case, sign me up."

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Express Lane: 20 Items or Less

Let me paint a scenario for you. You are late for a party or function but need to get a few last minute items from the store. You race in and grab the needed items in a timely manner only to get into the express line - you know the one that's for 20 items or less - and of course, like always, there are a couple of people in front of you who are clearly over the express line limit. What do you do? What can you do? Are you supposed to just to grin and bear it even though these people are blatantly breaking the express line rules? I don't get it. I mean, the rule is posted right on the light-up sign, "20 items or less." Can these people not read? Can't they count? And why does it always seem to happen when I'm in a rush? I'm tired of having to stand in line and angrily count each of the items of the people in front of me. I really shouldn't have to.

The biggest problem I have with this is people in our society are not being held accountable. So a store makes an express line in order to make it quicker for people to get in and out who are just buying a few items. The store clearly marks the lane with signs, stating it is an express lane and the number of items allowed. And people completely ignore the sign with absolutely no reprimand whatsoever for doing so. Where is the accountability? What are we teaching our children - that rules are made to be broken? I've seen fist fights started over less.

The thing that really irritates me is that most of the people doing it know full well what they are doing and I know it's not their first time doing it. In the criminal world we would call them repeat offenders. The other day there was an old woman in front of me with about 35 items. 35. That is 15 more than the posted limit. If she were going 15 over the speed limit she'd be pulled over and given a breathalyzer and a ticket for reckless driving. I don't care if you're old. I'll help you cross the street, but I'm not going to put up with you going over the express line limit. I've had enough of this blatant disrespect for the rules. This isn't a black, white, old, or young issue...rules are rules and we're all expected to obey them.

But I think I've come up with a way we can solve this problem easily enough. It wouldn't take much and after a few times of doing it I can almost guarantee we wouldn't have any more offenders. So what is this bright idea? Simple. We arrest them for breaking the rules. That's right, haul them off to the city jail. Let them spend 24 hours in the slammer and think about what they've done for a bit. I'll bet that would solve the problem.

It could be an easy sting operation. The cops could be undercover and just look like normal shoppers milling about the express lane. Then when someone over the limit on items attempts to go through the express lane. Whamo! You handcuff them and read them their rights.

Yes. Yes, I can see this plan working effectively. I can see it now: an old woman in the line in front of me. I'm getting very angry, almost to the point of saying something, when out of nowhere the undercovers spring into action and handcuff the woman, who puts on her best "whatever did I do?" surprised look. And I scoot forward in the line one shopper closer than before. And as the cop hauls her off to jail I can hear him saying, "Ma'm, you can just leave those items there. Store personnel will take care of that. You won't need this stuff where you're headed anyway."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Shakedown is in Progress

Although most of us have never stepped inside a prison cell, we are all probably familiar with the term shakedown search. This term refers to the routine search for illicit contraband like weapons or drugs in a prisoner's cell, and interestingly, does not require a warrant in order to perform it. Prisoners are usually asked to stand outside their cell as the shakedown is in progress so as to eliminate any danger to the guard as he performs the search. A skilled prison guard will thoroughly search every crack and crevice of the cell, but will concentrate his greatest efforts on and around the bed and it's bedding.

I'm not a prisoner guard by profession, but I am the parent of a five year old daughter. As such, my call of duty often requires me to perform a shakedown of her room before putting her to bed. Why, you might be asking? Simple. Because if I don't she will hide illicit contraband that can (and WILL) be used long into the wee hours of the night. No, I am not talking about illegal drugs or weapons. I'm talking about toys - you know, Barbie dolls, flashlights, plastic cell phones, small purses containing miniature dress up clothes for miniature stuffed animals, my little ponies, necklaces, glow sticks, little people, board books, etc., etc., etc. - that could be used for play long after she should be fast asleep.

There have been many nights where my wife or I have gone in to check on our daughters long after putting them to bed, only to find our five year old still awake and quietly playing with toys. Because this occurrence is not uncommon, I find myself at bedtime acting more like a prison guard than I'd really like to be. I have to politely ask her to brush her teeth, thus removing her from the room, which allows me the precious time I need to perform the shakedown search in safety. I start near the pillow of the bed where I usually find the most explicit and largest number of contraband items. After the pillow I focus my efforts on the remainder of the bed by running my hand between the mattress and the frame of the bed - a perfect spot for hiding the smallest of the toys - and then make sure to check under the covers where odd bumps and protrusions are usually a dead giveaway for contraband. Once I've done a thorough search of the bed and collect all I can, I widen my search area to include the rest of the room (and do a quick cleanup of the room in the process), until I feel satisfied I've found everything that could possibly be used in the dark for play. Then I make sure sneak past the bathroom where she is hopefully still brushing her teeth to properly dispose of the illegal items back into the toy box, which is conveniently located in a different room all the way down the hall.

It is then and only then that I feel it is safe to allow my child back into her room where we say our nightly prayers as a family, kiss her goodnight, and tuck her into bed. Who would have ever thought that parents and prison guards had so much in common? Thanks to my five year old, I do. We haven't quite gotten to the point where we need automatic closing doors and video cameras, but it might be an option worth considering.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

You Got Jimmered

One word, two syllables: Jimmer. As in Jimmer Fredette, the name that's sweeping the country in men's college basketball. Never in the history of college basketball has a name meant so much or carried so much weight. But before I get started, let's review our word of the day. The word of the day is Gerund. A gerund itself is a noun, but by definition a gerund is a word having the characteristics of both a noun and a verb. It's true, I looked it up in my handy Merriam-Webster dictionary. So in other words, Jimmer although human (which is being hotly debated by anyone who has played him or had the unfortunate assignment to guard him) is now also widely considered a gerund in the sport of basketball.

How is it that a person can go from being your average unknown all American kid from a small town (Glens Falls) in upstate New York into an overnight sensational gerund? Not easily. It takes lots of hard work, dedication, hours of practicing in the hallways of your local church, testing yourself against inmates at a local prison as service, and coaching from an older brother (T.J. Fredette) who is determined to teach you the skills and grit necessary to make something of yourself someday.

When you first see Jimmer - if you're like me, an average sports fan who believes they are an expert in whatever sport it is we are discussing - you would probably think like I did that Jimmer looked like a kid who had lost his parents and somehow wandered his way on to the basketball court. You would say he doesn't belong in a backyard game of horse let alone on the basketball court of a Division I school. He is a 6'2" unathletic looking kid who looks as if he might still be in the process of losing some baby fat. His shot - with his left hand resting almost completely on top of the ball as it leaves his hand rather than on the side of the ball where the experts say it should be - looks as if he could use a little one-on-one time with the local middle school basketball coach. (Then again, after watching Jimmer play, I'm beginning to wonder if the shooting experts know what they are talking about.) If someone asked me to describe the way he runs down the court, I would have to take pause. I wouldn't exactly use the word run to describe it - I think a better choice of words would be loaf. He loafs down the court. There just doesn't seem to be anything about this kid that makes you think he's a baller.

But don't let this less-than-stellar description deceive you. After all, why would I be writing an article about him if he wasn't something short of spectacular on the court? Jimmer has an arsenal of ability that no one man alone should legally be able to possess, like the President of the United States and his ability to launch nuclear missiles with a touch of a button. Looking at him, you wouldn't think Jimmer possesses such ability - but he does, and he uses it wisely. He uses it to his advantage as he schools opposing teams on a regular basis, firing at will with deadly accuracy. Jimmer is like the F-22 raptor - when he's out on the court, watch out. He's stealthy, crafty, and quicker than you think, and before you know it he has lit you up by hitting everything he throws up between the inbounds and half court lines. It happens so fast at times it's almost painless. You might scarcely even believe it happened, until you hear the crowd around you suddenly chanting, "You got Jimmered!" {clap, clap, clap, clap, clap} You know, the gerund. The man who became a verb - a thing you do to someone.

Just ask Utah, BYU's biggest rival. He drilled them for 47 points on January 11, on Utah's home court mind you, which included a buzzer beater half court shot at the end of the first half that had every BYU fan in the universe howling with delight. By the time the game was over, everyone from Utah - the players, the coaches, the fans - had the same expression on their faces that you might see on a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. Jimmer Fredette was the car. Before the game they actually thought they had a chance, but by the end, like so many others, they got Jimmered. (It was on this night that I realized I might actually have a man crush on Jimmer. I thought it was only appropriate to tell my wife, who giddily reassured me by saying that she did too.)

However, 40+ points per game is not abnormal for "the Jimmer." This is one of the things that makes him so much fun to watch. Just ask the University of Arizona who witnessed, first hand, the thrill and excitement of getting Jimmered. The game was played on December 28, 2009 and Jimmer unleashed a fury of points (49 to be exact) on Arizona's home court before leaving the game with almost 3 full minutes left to go to a standing ovation from the home crowd out of respect for what they all just saw. In the words of Nike, we are all witnesses.

But I digress. We're not talking about last year, we are discussing this season where Jimmer has already rallied off 42 points against Colorado State on their home court, just after a game against UNLV where he scored 39 on their home court. Sadly, yes, Jimmer's heroic 39 point game against UNLV fell short of 40 points by just one point. That was some quick calculating on my part to figure that out, so you may want to double check the math on that just to be safe.

His best performance, however, would come against the #4 ranked team in the country, San Diego State. The game was heralded as the biggest game in Mountain West Conference history before it even started. Jimmer must have certainly gotten that memo because he drop kicked San Diego State for 43 points right where it counts, on a night when the rest of the BYU team struggled offensively. School was in session and Jimmer, the prized pupil, had all the answers. If there was any doubt before as to who was the best player in college basketball, it was most certainly answered on this night as the crowds of BYU fans rushed the court in hopes of getting a piece of Jimmer as soon as the final whistle ended the game. It was a scene that could not be forgotten: Jimmermania was now in full effect.

His performance was so inspiring it had even Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma Thunder tweeting about it after his own 47 point night. Kevin Durant tweeted, "Jimmer Fredette is the best scorer in the world!!" John Wall, The Washington Wizards starting guard, also tweeted, "Jimmer Fredette is cold! Respect." Not bad coming from a couple of the best players in the NBA, a place Jimmer hopes to be soon. It seems as if everyone wants to be a part of Jimmerfest.

So what about the naysayers who feel that Jimmer isn't athletic enough to make it in the NBA? They say it will be much harder for Jimmer to be Jimmer when he's going against the much taller, faster and more athletic players at the next level. Maybe they're right, but then again, maybe they're wrong. They should talk to the players and teams who have gone against him, only to be Jimmered. Teams double and sometimes triple team him and yet he still scores and makes plays. Teams will place their fastest and most athletic guys on Jimmer only to have him blow past them on his way to the basket. They try to use height to slow him down and he just drives past them or shoots over them. Front him and he'll blow past you. Play off him and he'll shoot the lights out on you from anywhere considered in bounds. I've seen him elevate above the tallest and drive past the most athletic of players day in and day out. And he has a wicked crossover that leaves his opponents on the ground with their jockstraps around their ankles. If you're trying to stop "the Jimmer," Fredette about it (Get it? I used his last name instead of the word forget. Clever ,I know). He can't be stopped.

Jimmer Fredette is probably the best shooter the MWC has ever seen. You know when he has the ball that he's going to score. It's not so much a matter of if but how. Will it be a layup, a pull up shot off the dribble or a 40 footer? In fact he's such a natural scorer that if he doesn't at least hit one 40 footer or score at least 40 points in a game, fans go home a bit disappointed and the national media credits the opposing defense with slowing "the Jimmer" down. That's what happened in BYU's last game against New Mexico where they lost to the Lobos in The Pit. Jimmer scored 32 points, but that wasn't enough to give the Cougars a win. For anyone else, 32 points would be considered a phenomenal game, but for Jimmer it was an off night caused by the stellar defensive play by the Lobos. Come on people, it was 32 points for crying out loud!

Jimmer's precision and accuracy would most accurately be compared to a heat seeking missile - when he's locked on target there is very little you can do about it except pray and hope for the best. His range is so long that announcers in other games are now referring to anything 3 feet or more past the three point line as "Jimmer range." So apparently his name is also now being used as an adjective - as in a word that describes his sick, nasty, wicked, outrageous, crazy range. Is there even a name for that? A word that can be used as an adjective, a noun, and a verb? I already looked up the other word so I'll let you the bookwork on this one. I have a feeling that "Jimmered" is a one of a kind.

So what can be done to stop Jimmermania from sweeping this country? Absolutely nothing. You may as well join in, because otherwise you'll end up like everyone else who has tried to stop Jimmer - shaking your head in bewilderment. Whatever you do, don't end up Fredetting (get it, I substituted his gerund in place of the word regretting) your chance to see this phenomenal player in action. Before you know it he'll have dumped 40+ points on your team and moved on to the NBA.

Life is just too funny to be taken so seriously