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?

Life is just too funny to be taken so seriously