"...it's like Will Rogers, Jean Shepherd and some grumpy Jewish man all rolled into one."

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

At least three of these New Year's resolutions are sincere

Promises should be kept, while rules are made to be broken. New Year’s resolutions fall somewhere in-between.

1. Let my friends and family members know how important they are to me, by stack ranking them.

2. Stop yelling, "OW!" and then giggling every time I nibble on a piece of sharp cheese.

3. Admit that when I say, "I'm going ice fishing," it just means I'm sucking the last of the bourbon off the cubes at the bottom of the glass.



4. Get around to losing those 30 extra pounds before my next birthday.

5. Hmm.. seeing that my next birthday is less than 2 weeks away, maybe the one after that.

6. As part of that attempt -- eat healthier. Step 1: start sprinkling turmeric on my ice cream.



7. Accept the things I cannot change, have the courage to change the things I can, and gain the wisdom to recognize the difference between parsley and cilantro.

8. Be more open to the opinions of others, and hear them out before trashing them for their ignorance.

9. Start every day with a dream and then just keeping hitting the snooze button.

10. Give up on my goal of teaching the cats to use the toilet, since I don't always make it there myself.



11. Stop and admire the natural beauty that surrounds us before Donald Trump manages to obscure it all in a thick cloud of coal dust.

12. Appreciate all that I have been given and ask only for what you have that I don't.

13. Treat my wife with all the love and affection she deserves, especially before she realizes she could have done much, much better.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Christmas Peril

(With sincere and genuine apologies to Clement Clarke Moore.)

'Twas the night before Christmas, when up in Trump Tower
The Pres-Elect watched TV in the wee hours.
The Donald was hung, he’d proclaimed to the land,
We shouldn't be misled by the size of his hands.
Priebus and Ryan were all snug in their beds,
While visions of disruption danced in their heads.
Kellyanne with her bleached hair, and Bannon with stubble,
Continued to plot how to cause so much trouble.
When out on Fifth Avenue arose such a bleat,
The Donald stopped what he was doing, mid-tweet.
He'd sign on again later to call Baldwin a hater,
But now he descended his gold escalator.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Reminded Sir Trump where his hands should not go.
When what to his wandering eyes did appear
But his Cabinet members, who gave him a cheer.
(But not old Chris Christie, face round and waist thick --
The brain trust decided that he was a dick.)
More rapid than denying the impact of hacking
He whistled, and shouted, thanking them for their backing:

“Now, Zinke! Now, Pruitt! Now, ‘Mad Dog’ and Haley!
You know I’ll embarrass you all almost daily!
And Tillerson! You know you’re controversial,
But I’ll sell them on you like an Exxon commercial.
There Puzder! My labor guy! (How I love your name.)
Hot chicks in bikinis are what brought you fame.
And Pruitt! I don’t give a damn what the tree-huggers say,
Get started dismantling that vile EPA.
There’s Ross! He’s my Commerce guy. He’s almost 80.
(I won’t let him ponder on issues too weighty.)
Ben Carson for HUD! My black friend -- that's you!
Between you and Kanye, I'm now up to two.
Who's that with head bobbing? Oh, there you are, Mitt!
You thought I'd give you a job? Ha, you dumb shit!
There’s more of you out there; don’t yet know all your names,
But soon at your shuffling feet I’ll lay blame.”

Trump was chubby and plump, like an orange so ripe,
And I laughed when I saw him, giving him reason to gripe.
With a wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had so much to dread.
He spoke many words, ‘cause he knew all the best ones,
And walked back inside, arm in arm with Jeff Sessions.
And brushing his hair back on top of his pate,
He returned to his Twitter account to berate.
But I heard him exclaim, in words no longer puzzlin’ --
Happy Christmas to all, and to hell with the Muslims!


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Standing on the Alleged

I've just learned that Kim Kardashian, who largely removed herself from the public eye after allegedly being robbed in Paris a few months ago, has returned to social media by posting two Instagram videos where she is allegedly shaking her "booty."

CORRECTION: Kim Kardashian has posted two Instagram videos where she is shaking her alleged "booty."

LET'S TRY ONCE MORE: Kim Kardashian has posted two Instagram videos where a "booty," allegedly hers, is being shaken.

NOPE, THAT WASN'T RIGHT EITHER: There does not appear to be any ancillary contribution to the shaking of said "booty." The shaking seems to be completely within the control of the person pictured in the videos, who may be Kim Kardashian or, it is alleged, perhaps one of her sisters, and whose "booty" is the body part in motion.

GETTING CLOSER: The Instagram videos that are alleged to show Kim Kardashian shaking her "booty" may mark her return to social media. In response to critics who claim this is a salacious re-emergence, the Kardashian camp responded that the videos were done in a tasteful manner since the "booty-shaking" appears in slow-motion, making it artistic and not at all lascivious.

HEY, NOW: I have just stumbled across a new word -- "concupiscent." That would have been a good one to use in the previous paragraph.

TO CONTINUE: There was also another picture posted on Instagram that included breasts resting upon a second "booty." As I write this, ownership of these body parts has not been firmly established, but because of the degree of concupiscence on display it is alleged all the parts are associated with at least two Kardashian family members. However, none of the parts are alleged to belong to either Kris or Caitlyn Jenner.

IN SUMMARY: Kim Kardashian, who is alleged to be a "famous celebrity," but is definitely someone for whom I have no use, continues to generate what I used to refer to as "fake news." Now, "fake news" is described as fiction posted online which is alleged to have influenced the outcome of the recent election and, as a result, the foundation of our democratic process has allegedly been undermined by the efforts of so-called state-sponsored "bad actors."

Speaking of "bad actors" -- that pretty much describes the Kardashians, doesn't it?

Speaking of "fiction posted online" -- that pretty much describes the T&A in these screenshots, doesn't it?

I am now nearly out of patience, allegations and quotation marks. Back to the (alleged) "real" news.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Thirteen Last-Minute Gift Ideas for 2016

As I write this, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are still more than two weeks away and yet all the "hot" holiday gift items seem to be in short supply. When you call the Snuggies people and are told the only choice left is the Two-Tone in Gold and Avocado Chevron Stripes, size 3XL...It's time to get creative so as not to completely stiff the people upon whom you are counting to give you much nicer gifts than you reluctantly purchased for them.

Here are thirteen gift ideas for those of you who have waited too long and/or were hoping for a Bernie Sanders victory and his subsequent issuance of an ushanka to every citizen of the New Socialist Republic to celebrate the secular Winter Solstice:



Donald Trump Gift Basket of Deplorable Foods: A delectable assortment of fried chicken, french fries and overcooked steaks, but absolutely no humble pie.





Mike Pence Stopwatch: Click on the timer and watch it run backward to a simpler time when men (real men, if you catch my drift) knew what was best for everyone else.



Hillary Clinton Glass Ceiling Cleaner: May not perform as expected in shattering your expectations.



Tim Kaine Vanishing Cream: Apply and watch yourself disappear back into obscurity.



Jill Stein Abacus: However you do the math, it still doesn't add up. (Also available in Pat McCrory Special Edition.)



Gary Johnson Compass: No matter where you are, you'll still be directionless.



GOP Sampler: 17 assorted varieties, mostly nuts, a few clusterf---ks, some milquetoast with only one dark to choose from, and one with a surprisingly bitter finish after all the rest have been consumed and cast aside.



DNC Vanity Mirror: Originally designed to reflect a bright future but unexpectedly shatters in the harsh morning-after dawn of reality.



The 2016 Ford "Millennial": Doesn't burn expensive fossil fuels because it's not going anywhere. Special 100% self-interest financing available.



Rainbow Coalition Flag: Sorry, now available only in White.



Vegetable Repealer: Puts things back the way they were before, regardless of how beneficial they were once offered for your consumption.



Alt-Right Guard Deodorant: Covers up the stench but there's still a festering reality causing the stink that you ignore at your own peril.



Fake News of the World Subscription (online edition): All the post-truth, fact-free, false-flag, conspiracy-obsessed stories that stubbornly refuse to go away. Free pizza with every order!
--
Please make your checks payable to "My Non-Existent Charitable Foundation" to make your purchase tax-avoidable. Delivery by Christmas is, according to the mainstream media, all but guaranteed. If you are not satisfied with your purchase, you can tweet about it but at your own peril.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Proust Is In The Pudding

I'm very flattered to have been invited by the editors at Vanity Fair magazine to be featured in an upcoming issue's "Proust Questionnaire," a venerated feature on the last page where notables in the arts respond to a series of questions first made popular through responses from the renowned writer Marcel Proust. Such prominence in the magazine is a clear indicator that the individual being featured has "made it" in their field.

One slight correction to the above: I should have said I *would be* very flattered to receive such an invitation from the editors... But they say in order to achieve what you want, you need to visualize it first, right? So when that invitation does come, I'll be ready to respond while the iron of celebrity is still hot (or at least lukewarm) -- as indicated by my proposed responses below: 

What is your idea of perfect happiness? When someone brings me another beer before I even ask for it. ⧫ What is your greatest fear? That I'll run out of beer. ⧫ What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? My almost painful level of commitment to justice and equality for all. ⧫ What is the trait you most deplore in others? Hubris. ⧫ Which living person do you most admire? The one answering this questionnaire. ⧫ What is your greatest extravagance? A near-limitless supply of beer. ⧫ What is your current state of mind? Beer-addled. ⧫ What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Temperance. ⧫ On what occasion do you lie? On Thanksgiving, when I say the turkey was delicious and wasn't dry at all. ⧫ What do you most dislike about your appearance? The envious stares it elicits from passers-by makes me uncomfortable. ⧫ Which living person do you most despise? Any one of several bosses I've had. ⧫ What is the quality you most like in a man? Someone secure enough in his masculinity to pick up the tab for any group I'm part of without being prompted. ⧫ What is the quality you most like in a woman? Someone who demonstrates her commitment to feminism by not expecting me to pick up the check. ⧫ Which words or phrases do you most overuse? "Oh, sorry -- I seem to have left my wallet at home." ⧫ What or who is the greatest love of your life? Other than myself? ⧫ When and where were you happiest? About seven minutes ago, sitting in this chair, when someone brought me another beer. ⧫ Which talent would you most like to have? I'd like to be a faster and mor e acurate typits. ⧫ If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? My underwear. ⧫ What do you consider your greatest achievement? Changing my underwear while still holding on to a beer. ⧫ If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? Well, I've already lived as a person, so I imagine it would be as a thing. Perhaps as a cold mug of beer. ⧫ Where would you most like to live? I'd like most of me to live in the Swiss Alps, and the rest of me could stay in a timeshare in Boca. ⧫ What is your most treasured possession? I have a box full of Krugerrands buried in my backyard, 10 paces due west from... uh, never mind. ⧫ What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Puns. No, wait -- those are the lowest form of wit. I think the lowest depth of misery is once you get ten or fifteen feet below surface level, right when it makes your ears pop. ⧫ What is your favorite occupation? The Allied occupation of Japan is a famous one, but I wouldn't exactly call it a "favorite." ⧫ What is your most marked characteristic? My dermatologist has been keeping tabs on a suspicious-looking mole on my back. ⧫ What do you most value in your friends? The amount of cash in their wallets they are willing to part with when we are out on the town. ⧫ Who are your favorite writers? Those who will offer to write a blurb for the back cover of my next book. ⧫ Who is your hero of fiction? It's a toss-up between Archie or Spiderman. ⧫ Which historical figure do you most identify with? Kim Kardashian ⧫ Who is your hero in real life? Judge Judy, because I also like to render unfavorable decisions against people I've just met. ⧫ What are your favorite names? Rising Tide, Ballast Point, Rogue, Dogfish, Oskar Blues and, in a pinch, Budweiser. ⧫ What is it that you most dislike? When I have to wait for someone to bring me another beer. ⧫ What is your greatest regret? That I didn't come up with a better answer to the previous question. ⧫ How would you like to die? On the contrary: I'm gonna live forever. I'm gonna learn how to fly. I feel it coming together. People will see me and cry. I'm gonna make it to heaven; light up the sky like a flame. I'm gonna live forever. Baby, remember my name. (Remember, remember, remember...) ⧫ What is your motto? "Nescio si i sentio exstaticos uel ludicrum," which roughly translates as, "I don't know if I feel ecstatic or ludicrous."

If When this comes out in the magazine, do you think they'll comp me a few copies?


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Putting the Angst in Thanksgiving

If you’re still trying to decide what to serve for Thanksgiving this year, here are a few favorites from my recipe file. They are guaranteed to please -- and you should remember, in this context, the word “guarantee” has no basis in fact or implies any legally enforceable standard for satisfaction. What are you going to do if you don’t like them, or end up in the emergency room as a consequence of ingesting – sue me? I’ll see you and your ambulance-chasing huckster attorney in court, sucker. Enjoy!

Turkey ceviche. Have your butcher remove the skin and bone from a 4 - 5-pound turkey breast. Using the same knife you almost sliced your finger off with last Thanksgiving, dice the raw turkey into quarter-inch cubes. “Cook" the diced turkey by placing in a glass or other non-reactive bowl and marinating in 1 cup of freshly-squeezed lime juice; refrigerate for 3 hours. Remove and add finely chopped tomatoes, red onion, celery, green bell pepper, parsley and cilantro and gently combine all ingredients while drizzling with ½-cup EVOO. Season to taste with salt and pepper and a dash of Maalox®.

Chocolate cake stuffing. Using your favorite boxed cake mix, prepare two 9” layers. Sauté chopped onion and celery in butter, then mix in one layer of the cake, crumbled. Add 1 tablespoon each of poultry seasoning and rainbow jimmies. Stuff the bird with the mixture and bake until you realize hours too late that the built-in thermometer has malfunctioned, leaving the turkey completely dried out and beyond salvaging. Save the day by bringing out the second cake layer to serve to your disappointed guests. OPTIONAL: Drizzle gravy over top of cake before slicing.

Sauced cranberries. Open a can of prepared cranberry sauce while sipping chilled vodka, straight up, since that’s the extent of your culinary abilities. Have a bandage ready when you inevitably cut your finger on the sharp edge while removing the lid. Sloppily dump contents of can into an antique crystal serving dish, possibly chipping it. Toss onto the table, which will likely break the antique at its base, and then immediately return to the sanctuary of the living room to sullenly keep at it with the vodka until everyone leaves.



Green bean casserole. Par-boil two pounds of trimmed beans, drain and immediately immerse in ice water to preserve their color. Arrange evenly in a shallow pan and pour the prepared contents of one box of lime Jell-O® over the beans. Place dish in the refrigerator until the gelatin sets. Once the mixture has solidified, remove from refrigerator and top with french fried onions. Bring to room temperature on the kitchen counter and then forget to serve with the rest of the meal.

Sweet potato casserole. Boil 11 pounds of peeled and diced sweet potatoes for one hour, or until all traces of color are removed. Drain and mash using a mallet or garden weasel. Stir in the contents of one bag of granulated sugar. (NOTE: For those who require this dish to be sugar-free, you are shit out of luck.) Pour the resulting mush into a Bundt pan that has been lined with mini-marshmallows. (Another NOTE: If you are obtaining the mini-marshmallows by sifting through packets of powdered hot chocolate mix, be sure to rinse all traces of the cocoa from the mini-marshmallows so as not to disrupt the delicate balance of flavors this dish requires.) Bake at 400 degrees for two hours and then invert the Bundt pan. When the casserole refuses to release from the pan, swear uncontrollably for ten to fifteen minutes and then get on with the rest of your life.

Roasted cauliflower and Brussels sprouts with bacon. Thinly slice one head of cauliflower florets and 1-1/2 pounds of Brussels sprouts, lightly season with salt and pepper and then sauté in safflower oil until tender. Separately, pan fry two packages of bacon until crispy and nicely browned. Throw away the sautéed vegetables and serve the delicious bacon to your appreciative family.



Mac and chinos. Prepare a box of macaroni and cheese according to the package directions and serve while insisting everyone wear matching outfits during dinner.

Glazed carrots. Trim two pounds baby carrots, removing tops and tips before peeling, which will result in approximately three ounces of remaining vegetable. Using a small brush, apply several layers of shellac to each carrot stick. Place in a colorful serving bowl and advise these are not to be eaten.

Spiral sliced ham. Combine one cup light brown sugar, 1/4 cup prepared mustard and two tablespoons cider vinegar. Mix thoroughly in a bowl and then drizzle over a 12-pound boneless, skinless cured ham. (What it has been cured of is not important.) Bake in a 350 degree oven for two hours. TO SPIRAL SLICE BEFORE SERVING: Insert the tines of a large serving fork into the center of the ham and secure the handle in the chuck of a 1/2" drill. As you operate the drill, have another family member (preferably your wife's least-favorite uncle) firmly press a sharpened carving knife against the surface of the spinning ham. Involve any children present in the meal preparation by having them chase after the flying pieces of meat and place onto a china platter.

Pumpkin pie. Really? You make your pies from scratch? What a complete waste of time. Just buy whatever brand is on sale, prepare according to the package directions, chip away the burnt edge of the crust and obscure the processed flavor by spritzing half a can of whipped cream on it.



Remember that everything tastes better when it’s made with love, which is why so many family dinners are fondly recalled as being inedible.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

To Speech His Own

Welcome to Part XXIV of my series, "Learn How To Better Espresso Yourself Through Proper Word Choosing." In today's lessen, we will review the Parts of Speech and how to combine those parts into a hole.

There are somewhere between six and a gazillion parts of speech, depending on how you categorize them. For this lesion, we'll go with what I have listed below. If you have any modifications or additions to this list you'd like to suggest, please email me at stuffitinasock@whocares.net.

The Parts of Speech are:

Nouns

A noun is defined as being a personplace or thing. Examples of each:
  • Person: the President-elect, a xenophobe; the milkman (since both milk and man are nouns, "milkman" is referred to as a "renoun," mostly because of the rumors he fathered several children in the neighborhood).
  • Place: My father often said he would like to put me in my place. I'd respond with, "Where -- a volcano? The supermarketMoosewood Lake?" He'd reply, "How about the hospital?"
  • Thing: This one is easy, since there are many things -- that thing over there; that thing we were just talking about; "That Thing You Do;" let me thing about it for a while.
proper name is a noun -- "Hey, Jim!" An improper name is also a noun -- "Hey, Jim! You shithead!"

In later lessons, we'll get into further depth about sub-categorization of nouns -- abstract, collective, and wait until we talk about the Seven Mutant Plurals! (I believe at least five of them were featured in the last X-Men movie.)

Pronouns 

A pronoun replaces a noun. To illustrate:
  • "In high school, my girlfriend Gail informed me she'd be going to the senior prom with Jim Westlyn instead of me."
Replacing a noun, especially one who showered his girlfriend with flowers and unrelenting affection, and particularly with a shithead like Jim Westlyn, can be devastating.

Verbs

Verbs describe an action or state. This can be a little confusing since you might think Maine and New Hampshire are places and therefore nouns, but apparently they are actually verbs. What can I say? Grammar is a rough business. I don't make the rules; I just follow them.

When we talk about verbs we also must talk about tense. This is understandable because the election results have left many of us feeling that way.

As a side note, one of my favorite vocal groups back in the day was Peaches and Verb. They sang "Shake Your Groove Thing" -- in that song title, Shake is a verb and Your is a possessive pronoun, but what is Groove? Groove is like "the boogie" -- you'll know it when you feel it.

Modifiers

There are two basic kinds of modifiers, adverbs and adjectives:
  • Adverbs modify verbs. If we were to insert an adverb into the sentence, "See Jack run," in order to modify the verb run, we might say, "See Jack run. No running inside the house, Jack!" In that way we would modify Jack's action.
  • Adjectives modify nouns or pronouns. As an example: "Upon hearing he was planning to take my girlfriend to the prom, I beat the shit out of the pronoun Jim Westlyn." I certainly modified his face, but Gail still wouldn't go to the prom with me.
Preposition

Prepositions are very common words, such as in, at, on, by, before and multitudinous. Let's use one in a sentence: “I’ve got a preposition for you, Westlyn -- leave Gail alone or I'm going to modify your face."

Conjunction

I had conjunction once and was out of work for three days. Symptoms include red, itchy eyes and a very unappealing discharge.

Interjection

An interjection is what I was hoping would happen after attending the senior prom with my girlfriend Gail. As you may have inferred, that plan did not come to fruition.
--

In our next lesson, we’ll explore how to choose between that versus which, who versus whom, love versus infatuation, and how to put up with relative pronouns during the holiday season.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Midnight Rile We All Must Hear

Listen, dear voters, and you shall hear
Of the kinds of surprises politicos fear.
In the month of October, in Zero-Sixteen
Hardly any evidence remained still unseen.
Who can forget that famous vid-e-o?

One candidate said to his friend, “I’m a star!
I’m rich! And they’ve all seen me on the TV.
I really just don’t care who most of them are --
I put out my hand and I grab their p***y.
One if by jet, and two if by bus
There’s more than enough chicks for the two of us.
Ready to grab and cause great alarm.
I want them for sex; they’ll succumb to my charm.
When that fails, then Tic-Tacs I use to disarm.”

He sort of apologized – then with hair a-flutter
Returned to the trail, launching yet more attacks.
But all of a sudden one more, then another
Made claims that, in years past, consent he had lacked.
He said, “All are liars! I never molested!
I’ll sue! I will win once my case has been rested.”
The clamor distracted from what John Podesta'd
Allegedly said, since his emails were hacked.

Meanwhile, his opponent, through every device
Sent emails without confidentiality.
Totally disregarding sage advice,
And claimed to not know the meaning of “C.”
First she denied it, then she proclaimed
In hindsight she should have accepted some blame.
Yet nothing was criminal – Comey said the same.
But just when we thought a review had been thorough
A new warning came from the Federal Bureau.

While following up on the trail of a sexter
Who shared a device with her closest aide,
The FBI found more emails sure to vex her.
This scandal was one that would not go away.
No sooner would Hillary claim, “All is well!”
Then some revelation would bring a fresh hell.
Over and over, it was a tough sell.
She’d battled; established a lead with the electorate
But doubts of her trustworthiness may have wrecked it.

On through the campaign trudge Hillary and Donald
With near every night yet another reveal.
Claims from yet one more woman he fondled;
Money her foundation may have concealed.
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
His claim if she wins – Second Amendment no more.
She says he’s unqualified, dangerous to boot.
If he wins, she says our society will uproot.
In this hour of darkness and peril and need
The people will waken and wish they could hear
A message of hope, an inspiring creed.
Instead of this campaign that generates fear.
We want inspiration – we get rant and rave.
While patriot Paul Revere spins in his grave.

"I risked my life for THIS?"

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Using Every Employee in the Book

Here's the seventh article in my series: "Tell Your Disruptive Business Model To Quiet Down Or Else We're Going To Have To Ask The Two Of You To Leave."

Today's installment offers templates for workplace policies addressing the most common employee issues you encounter. You are welcome to make use of these at no cost. Well, I say "at no cost" but believe me -- if you implement any of these you'll certainly pay in the long run.

RESPECT IN THE WORKPLACE

We do not tolerate any harassment based on gender, age, race, color, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, and religion.

That doesn't leave you much to choose from (all that's left: outdated hairstyle; annoying speaking voice; height or lack thereof), so choose your moments with precision, make your digs small and sharp and then -- walk away; don't look back.

ATTENDANCE AND ABSENTEEISM

Each employee is an important contributor to the company's mission (we have to say this) and each employee is needed at work to assist in the accomplishment of the company’s goals and objectives -- whatever they may be; I've misplaced my little wallet-sized card that spells them out. Absenteeism can lower the morale of other employees who have to perform the work of the absent employee. (Except when that guy from Marketing with the horrible b.o. calls out -- everyone breathes a sigh of relief.)

Daily attendance is an expectation of all employees -- other than members of the Leadership Team, who spend three out of every four weeks either at a convention in Las Vegas or an "off-site" on St. Simons Island.

Emergency time off is offered to employees for such unscheduled events as personal illness (real or imagined), immediate family member sickness (which does not include your cousin who is "like a sister" to you), and doctor appointments (which always seem to require you to leave work right after lunch and take the rest of the afternoon).

DRESS CODE

We expect employees to dress appropriately in business attire. Because our work environment sees frequent visits from customers, clients, the public and investigators from the SEC, professional business attire is essential to keeping up the charade.

Business attire for men includes suits (but please avoid sharkskin; see "SEC" in the preceding paragraph), sports jackets, and pants that are typical of business formal attire at work (as opposed to business formal attire worn around the house over the weekend). For women, business attire includes pant and skirt suits and sports jackets appropriate to a formal business attire environment, along with an unruly and overly-shiny pin affixed to a lapel. For those who are gender-fluid -- we just throw our hands up in the air; it's your call so please don't sue us. Regardless of identity: underwear is always required and preferably worn next to the skin.

Employees are expected to demonstrate good judgment and professional taste. Of course, expectations here are very low and therefore we often let it slide when someone wears flip-flops or black shoes with brown socks.

INTERNET AND EMAIL USE

Voice mail, email, and Internet usage assigned to an employee's computer or telephone extensions are intended solely for the purpose of conducting Company business. But we all know the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Online shopping, gaming, watching streaming media such "Game Of Thrones," wagering on fantasy sports websites and viewing pornography are examples of behavior that must be handled discreetly and only when you think no one else is watching.

FRATERNIZATION POLICY

Company employees may date, develop friendships and relationships both inside and outside of the workplace as long as the relationships do not negatively impact work. However, the Company discourages employees from having relations inside of the workplace; that's not what the "Mother's Room" is for. Any relationship that interferes with the company culture of teamwork, the harmonious work environment or the productivity of employees, will be addressed by applying the progressive discipline policy. Any relationship that results in daily drama at the level of a soap opera will be gossiped about and result in the use of separate tables in the cafeteria for the convenience of "us" versus "them."

The exception to this policy relates to managers and supervisors. Managers and supervisors can get away with all kinds of shit; HR is completely useless when salaried positions are involved in the shenanigans.

REPORTING VIOLATIONS OF THESE POLICIES

Any employee who witnesses or is victimized by a violation of company policy is encouraged to snitch report it without fear of retribution. You can anticipate retribution; just don't fear it.

Employees wishing to make such a report anonymously are kidding themselves can call the Company Hotline at 1-888-FULL-VOICEMAIL. However, use of a personal cell phone during working hours is a violation of company policy and will result in disciplinary action up to and including being pelted with overripe tomatoes, or being assigned to a project doomed to fail until you decide to resign in order to "pursue other interests." We wish you well in your next endeavor.
--
Your electronic signature here indicates your acceptance of and commitment to blind obedience with these policies. Additionally, you are also waiving your right to sue, seek remediation, request restitution or other redress, or drop the f-bomb in response to anything that happens in the workplace. 

Welcome to the team!



Sunday, October 16, 2016

Double, Double, Toilet Trouble

Our good friends Bert and Marsha came up for a visit this past week. We were celebrating a number of special occasions -- Bert's 60th birthday; his retirement at the end of the month; our long-standing relationships, both singly and as couples.

Plans for our time together included, as always, enjoying good food, wine and beer, the resumption of a decades-long tennis rivalry between Bert and myself, and our wives getting their chakras aligned during a yoga session. After spending the weekend at our place we'd drive to Acadia National Park for a few days of sightseeing, bolstered with some shopping in the various quaint towns on Mount Desert Island. Here's the chronicle of our action-packed time together:

SATURDAY
  • Carol and I leave the house fifteen minutes late for our drive to Portland to pick up Bert and Marsha, who are flying up from Raleigh.
  • We return to the house to get Carol's sunglasses.
  • And once again for her cell phone.
  • As we speed toward the airport I wish I had taken advantage of one of those two U-turns to relieve myself.
  • We arrive only to find their flight is delayed. We cool our heels in the cell phone lot, which is devoid of men's or women's rooms, for thirty minutes while waiting for our friends to summon us to the Arrivals area.
  • We pick them up and start to head downtown for some lunch and exploration.
  • Before we exit the airport, we pull into the cell phone lot again so Marsha can get a sweater out of her suitcase to ward off the brisk Maine fall weather.
  • Shockingly, we find a parking spot right in front of the restaurant where we plan to have lunch.
  • We enter and I make a beeline for the restroom before we place our order. The others follow suit.
  • I return to the car to put change in the parking meter.
  • I return to the car again to get Carol's jacket since it's chilly in the restaurant.
  • After lunch, we stroll to a neighboring coffee shop to warm up.
  • I return to the restaurant to retrieve the credit card I left behind.
  • I return to the car to put more change in the parking meter.
  • After finishing our coffee, we get ready to visit two local breweries to enjoy samples in their tasting rooms. But before leaving, I step into the single bathroom.
  • Then Marsha does the same.
  • Then Bert.
  • Then Carol.
  • By now, I have to go again so I visit the men's gender-neutrals' room one more time.
  • Approaching the brewery, parking is limited so we prowl for an extended period. When a tight space opens up I masterfully squeeze into it. Carol objects to having to slither out of her door but I don't hear her complaint since I am dashing inside to find the toilet.
  • The others enter and immediately head for the stalls.
  • We order our brews, find a table, and some of us saunter toward the W.C. again.
  • After we finish our beer, Marsha goes to buy a souvenir t-shirt while the rest of us return to the privy.
  • We strike out for the second brewery. Once we arrive, I tell Carol what to order for me while I look for the latrine.
  • We carry our drinks to the outside patio area. I have both mine and Carol's in my hands since she has gone to the powder room.
  • We finish and decamp for the car, making a quick dash back inside to use the john.
  • We pull into our driveway an hour and fifteen minutes later. Before I even put it in Park, Carol jumps out of the still-moving car so she can be the first into our one and only washroom.
  • That evening we make a nice home-cooked meal for our company, enjoying a few bottles of wine with dinner. Between their early departure for the airport and the number of adult beverages consumed during the day, Bert and Marsha are ready to turn in early. Bert asks if anyone wants to use the loo before he gets ready for bed, and the three of us take turns.
  • Forty minutes later, Bert finally has a chance to wash up. As he exits, I barge past him in order to take care of business once more.
  • We all stagger upstairs to our respective bedrooms for a good night's sleep.


SUNDAY
  • I wake up at 5:15 AM with an urgent need to visit the little boy's room. I decide to stay up and get breakfast prepped. As Carol, Bert and Marsha wander downstairs later that morning, I ask everyone how they slept and the responses are startlingly similar - "Fine, except when I got up at two/three/four o'clock to pee."
  • After breakfast, we take turns using the shower. Hours later, everyone is washed and dressed and now it's time for lunch.
  • We drive to Hallowell so our guests can check out our favorite spot there. Great food and very spacious commodes.
  • After lunch, we park at a spot down by the Kennebec River where the town has placed colorful Adirondack chairs. We sit and chat idly while looking for sturgeon, osprey and eagles, keeping one eye on the Porta Potty and alerting each other as it becomes vacant.
  • After returning home, Bert and I decide to play tennis as the ladies get ready to go to their yoga session. This necessitates everyone needing to complete their toilette.
  • Bert runs me around the court like a reporter rushing to find the source of Donald Trump's fantastical claims. Remaining gracious in defeat, I permit Bert to be first to visit the head when we get back to the house.
  • We spend the rest of the afternoon watching football, eating Cheez-Its, drinking beer and occasionally seeing a man about a horse.
MONDAY
  • Stuffing enough luggage into the back of the car to last for a month-long ocean cruise, we leave for our two-night stay in Bar Harbor.
  • As we approach town, we check the directions for our lodging and discover it's not in Bar Harbor as we thought but instead thirty minutes away in Southwest Harbor. We ask Google Maps to redirect us and also query, "Where's the closest bathroom?"
  • We check into a lovely B&B where the only drawback is the steep stairway from the lobby to the second and third floors. Climbing the steps rivals using the iron rungs needed to scale Acadia's Precipice Trail.
  • That evening we go out to celebrate Bert's birthday with dinner at a first-rate restaurant in Bar Harbor where the only drawback is the seven-minute walk from our table to find the doors marked "Hommes" and "Femmes" located back in the bar area.
TUESDAY
  • We plan to spend our one full day in the park making several hikes. We've chosen to start with the Ocean Walk, which offers spectacular coastal views along with a marked pedestrian crossing that leads to public facilities in the parking lot across the road from famous Thunder Hole.
  • Our next stop is the Jordan Pond House for lunch. The parking lot is jammed, so we drop off our wives to get us on the waiting list for a table while Bert and I search for a place to leave the car. 
  • We walk back from the overflow lot to the restaurant. Carol tells me the wait will be thirty minutes, so I decide to find a comfort station.
  • I return and cannot find Carol, Marsha or Bert.
  • I finally stumble across Carol, who tells me she was waiting "right over there." I look in the direction she points to see a crowd of what appears to be hundreds of people restlessly milling about until their tables are ready.
  • Carol asks me to return to the car to get her phone. I walk back and search the entire car without finding it. I return to the spot where I left her and cannot find Carol, Marsha or Bert.
  • Ten minutes later, Carol suddenly appears to say she has been "right over there" the entire time. I look in the direction she points and the crowd now numbers in the thousands.
  • Our table finally opens up and we enjoy a pleasant lunch featuring those famous popovers. Afterward, we depart for the trail around Jordan Pond after stopping for a quick tinkle.
  • We cut our hike short since we are finding it increasingly chilly in the late afternoon shadows and decide to return to the car, taking the long route through the restaurant so we can make a pit stop before heading back to our B&B.


WEDNESDAY
  • Before leaving MDI for home, we drive to Bass Harbor in order to take a glorious afternoon cruise around the outer islands of Blue Hill Bay. After passing the lighthouse we see harbor and gray seals, eagles, egrets, heron, gulls and cormorants; idle near the pens of a large salmon farm in the bay, and explore the contents of a lobster trap our guide pulls onboard. We envy all of these creatures since they can urinate with abandon whenever they want, whereas we're trapped on this boat for the next two hours.
  • Once we return, three of us dash toward the free-standing sanitation stations at the end of the dock. Carol insists on wanting to use a "proper bathroom." I pull up the directions to our dinner destination -- a lobster pound as we exit the island -- which is 26 miles away. Carol says she can't wait that long. I offer to stop twice along the route but she declines, with gas station accommodations also below her standards, and instead she continues davening in the back seat until we reach the restaurant. The place is mobbed with end-of-season diners, but before Carol tells me her order she dashes off to attend to her urgent need. I am left in the midst of a frenzied hoard of shellfish-crazed gourmands who batter me from side to side as they push their way to the front of the line where they select their dinner and then back into another line to choose their sides and pay. When Carol returns she finds me in a daze from the pummeling I've taken. All I can mutter is, "... french fries or coleslaw..."


THURSDAY
  • That morning, although I put up more of a fight, Bert thrashes me on the tennis courts yet again. We return to clean up before it's time to take him and Marsha back to Portland for their trip home.
  • As part of our ongoing quest to discover the ultimate lobster roll, we target a shack located along our route to the airport. Despite the hours posted on their website, we find a "CLOSED" sign on the door. Just as we dejectedly turn away, one of the owners pops his head out from a neighboring building and tells us to step inside; he's still got everything up and running and will be glad to serve us.
  • We place our orders and step out onto a small patio to await our food. Within minutes, trays are in front of us and we each take big bites to compare notes. Let me tell you, these lobster rolls are unquestionably the...
Oh, dammit -- I have to go to the can. Back in a few.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Defensive driving saves lives but wrecks marriages

We were recently on the road for six hours in each direction between Maine and New York to see family. I was behind the wheel the entire time so Carol could check Facebook on her phone for friends posting new videos of kittens adorably provoking larger animals without being eaten alive.

While unpacking the car after we made it home, Carol turned to me and said, "You are a defensive driver." I offered my thanks for her compliment. "You misunderstand," she responded -- "I don't mean that you drive well; I mean that you can't accept any criticism regarding how you handle the car."
I was rather flummoxed by her observation and asked her to provide some examples. "You pass people on the right." I said that was only when some fool in the far left lane was going too damn slow. "You drive too fast." I reminded her she was just as anxious to get home as I was. "You fiddle with the radio and take your eyes off the road." I told her I could not tolerate any country music, had recently become a big fan of hippity-hop, and would listen only to tunes of that genre.


"This is what I mean! You have an excuse for every bit of your obnoxious behavior!" I responded she was welcome to take over the driving duties any time if she felt she could do better. She sighed while saying, "You continue to prove my point," and then walked into the house, leaving me to bring in our overnight bags, her hanging clothes, a half-eaten bag of potato chips, several empty pouches of M&Ms, and the seven pairs of shoes she'd packed for our two-night visit.

But after letting her bitching comments sink in for a bit, I decided to practice what she'd preached and make an effort to become a less frantic, more considerate driver. I had to run a number of errands yesterday and spent a fair amount of time on various roads. Every time someone was merging onto the Maine Turnpike, I moved into the left lane to provide them with a clear path rather than gunning it to get ahead of them. When a car was trying to turn onto the street from a parking lot, I slowed and signaled them to pull out in front of me instead of rolling past and further delaying their egress. When the light changed on a two-way street, I flashed my lights to permit the opposing driver to complete a left turn before I proceeded through the intersection. I have to admit -- I felt more relaxed behind the wheel and didn't even bother to change the station when Fetty Wap's raspy rap faded and Kenny Chesney's tremulous voice came through the speakers.

Last on my list was to pick up Carol at work since her car was in the shop. Because of all the courtesies I'd extended and the measured pace I'd traveled throughout the day, I ended up arriving a half-hour later than she expected. But I figured once I told her how I'd taken her words to heart and embraced a more responsible approach to being on the road, she'd understand and be pleased that I'd turned over a new leaf.

I was wrong about that. "What took you so long?" she asked as I hopped out and went to open the passenger door for her. I said driving at the posted speed limit, while safer, also took a bit more time. "Why didn't you let me know you were running late?" I pointed out that keeping my focus on the road meant I couldn't allow myself to be distracted by texting or talking on the phone. "I'm going to miss the start of my yoga class, so you'd better hurry up and get me there as quickly as possible." I stated that as long as I was driving I had no intention of putting her in harm's way by rushing to get anywhere. Carol looked at me and said, "Fair enough" before pushing me out of the way, jumping into the driver's seat and taking off toward her appointment.

The setting sun illuminated the evening sky with brilliant pinks and purples, and I drank in the peaceful vista while trying to flag down a ride from passing motorists who obviously could have benefited from the same insights recently shared with me about what constitutes courteous driving.  As the temperature dropped and I started to shiver from the cold, I hoped that Carol was following her own advice and wouldn't allow herself to become distracted by calling to see where I was; also she'd driven off with my phone still in the car. Once I realized no one was going to stop for me, I had an epiphany while jumping out of the way of the cars that swerved to feign they were going to run me over:  the safest way to drive was to not drive at all. I would gladly turn over all responsibility for being behind the wheel for future trips to my life partner.

And just wait until she hears what I have to say about the way SHE drives, from the comfort of the passenger seat.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Showered With Affection

When couples who have been together for many decades are asked for their secrets, a frequent response is, "We've never argued once." Carol and I, after 35 years of marriage, agree with that statement. We've argued many, many times.
In the earlier years of our union, the only way to describe those battles are as "blowouts" -- yelling and screaming, slamming doors behind us while storming off to separate rooms. We're certainly not proud of those behaviors and came to the realization long ago that it wasn't healthy for our relationship. If we intended to stay together (which we did, and have, happily), something would have to change. That would be me.
Over time I've learned to express myself in more constructive ways. One of the fundamental tenets of couples communication is avoiding "you" statements and focusing on "I" statements. Years ago I'd be inclined to say to Carol, "You are always nagging me about fixing the leaky pipe under the sink." That's not constructive. The positive approach to discussing the concern is to focus on my own feelings about the situation and offer a recommendation to resolve the issue. Now I would say, "I feel anxious and resentful when you keep reminding me about the leaky pipe under the sink, so I would like to suggest that you go to hell."


Years ago we traveled with a group from New York to Washington, DC for an overnight trip to see the gem and mineral exhibit at the Smithsonian. (Anticipating what I'm about to tell you, I experienced a classic Freudian slip while writing this last sentence and initially typed "gem and miserable exhibit.") After a busy day at the museums and dinner with everyone that evening, we turned in for the night and something sparked an argument. This one was replete with slang terms for various body parts and suggested uses for them other than what the Lord intended. After a ridiculously long period of shouting invective we finally wore each other down, made up and caught a quick nap before meeting everyone for breakfast prior to checking out of our hotel. We walked into the dining room, smiling and holding hands, and made the usual "Good morning!" chit-chat with the others in attendance. At some point I asked one couple if they'd found their room comfortable. The wife replied, "Oh, it was terrible! We didn't get any sleep at all." I naively questioned what the problem had been and she answered, "The people in the room next to us had a loud argument that went on nearly all night. And the LANGUAGE they used... it was appalling!" So far as we could assess, this woman had not pegged us as the couple responsible for the contretemps. Carol and I quickly grabbed juice and coffee and beat a hasty retreat back to our room, saying we still needed to pack and would find our own way to the train station for the trip home.
A few years later I won a trip to New Orleans as a reward for performance at work. Winners could bring their significant other. (At least one attendee took this literally and brought his girlfriend along -- leaving his wife home with their kids.) The company put on quite a spread -- limos from the airport, top-notch accommodations on Bourbon Street, organized activities during the day and visits to the best restaurants in town in the evenings. In addition, when we returned to our rooms after dinner we found different stunning gifts awaiting us each night -- portable CD players (back when that was still a novelty), embroidered suede jackets, coffee table books loaded with glossy photos depicting the city's history. Every moment of the visit was carefully planned and focused on maximum enjoyment. So, of course, Carol and I found something to get into a squabble about after returning to the hotel one night. I honestly don't recall what set us off, but I do remember that I eventually grabbed a blanket and a pillow and moved into the only other place where I could sleep alone -- the bathtub. Were this a scene in a rom-com, Carol would have come into the bathroom just as I dozed off and turned on the faucet, leaving me drenched and sputtering. Instead, at some point we recognized how foolish we were being, mumbled exhausted but heartfelt apologies, and found our way toward cuddling back in bed and enjoying the rest of the trip together. Well, we also unwittingly gave up $200 in free chips at a casino but, in the spirit of renewed harmony, jointly blamed one of the trip organizers for the misunderstanding and gave him the stink-eye for the rest of our stay.
bathtub
Many years (and some intense counseling sessions) have passed since these incidents. We have been in a much better place for decades, with only an occasional and relatively benign skirmish between us. These days our only battles are over whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher or why I have to watch another goddam episode of Rizzoli and Isles instead of the ballgame. We've learned to treat each other with courtesy, respect and boundless affection, and we're a much happier couple because of it.

Plus, we only have a shower stall now and there's no WAY I can sleep standing up.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

How to deceive in business without really crying

I'm pleased to announce the imminent publication of the next volume in my corporate leadership skill-building series: Business? Fo' Shizzness! Previous titles that have found their way to the top of the remainder pile include:


  • Workplace? More Like Jerk-place
  • How To Get Your Dream Job Without Actually Falling Asleep During the Interview
  • Your Employees May Be Abusing FMLA -- Here's How You Can, Too
I've received some very flattering responses to the earlier books; witness these testimonials:
  • "I found your last book very helpful when I was unexpectedly 'separated' from my last employer. At 487 pages in hardback, it left quite an impression when I smacked my supervisor over the head with it while being dragged from the building."
  • "After reading your article, 'Ten Sure-Fire Ways to Lose a Job,' I took it to heart and vowed to make changes in my behavior at work. It worked! Now I am unemployed and LOVING IT!!"
  • "I always discover something of value in your publications, John. The last time I thumbed through one at a yard sale I found a $2 bill that someone had been using as a bookmark."
I've been in the business world for quite some time now and have conducted my fair share of interviews (it's like hosting a talk show, but instead of chatting with movie stars you find yourself sitting across from their accountants) and managed plenty of people (much like herding cats, but with less success).
Here's a preview from the new book's Chapter MCXVII -- "Whether You Live To Work Or Work To Live, I Still Need That Report First Thing Tomorrow Morning":

1. See how your candidates react to the unexpected. Experts recommend arriving ten minutes before the scheduled start of an interview. Once your prospects are announced, storm out of your office and demand to know why they are twenty minutes late. If you can keep a straight face throughout their flustered apologies, so much the better.

2. Ask if they would like something to drink before getting started. If they say no, reply with, "Too bad -- I hate to drink alone," and break out a bottle of Scotch. If they say yes, slide a can of Moxie their way.

whiskey

3. Do not hire anyone who brings lunch to an interview. Unless it's a salad; all the business etiquette guides say to stick with something that comes in small bites you can eat with utensils.

4.  Ask this, then sit back and get ready to watch a mind being blown. "What would you do if someone asked you a hypothetical question during an interview?"

5. Here's an easy way to identify those false "accomplishments" listed on a résumé. Rip it up and ask the candidate to hand-write a new one on the spot.

6. Learn to use open and closed questions appropriately. An example of the former is, "How early are you willing to come in to open the office?" An example of the latter is, "How late you can stay in order to close the office?" Follow up with probes to uncover more information, such as: "In that case, can you bring my coffee in the mornings?" and "Do you really have anything to go home to after work?"

7. Positive reinforcement drives stronger performance. An example is telling your team you are positive they will all lose their jobs if sales don't increase by 100% in the next quarter.

8. "A leader is a dealer in hope" -- Napoleon Bonaparte. "A dealer is a leader in dope" -- Napoleon Dynamite.

9. If you want to get more out of your people, you've got to put more into your people. That's why offices have so much junk food laying around.
donut

10. The best interviews are two-way conversations. The worst interviews are when the hiring manager enters the conference room eighteen minutes late with a half-eaten donut in hand and says she's running behind so "this will have to be short."

BONUS! You've surely seen this so-called "inspirational" chart more times than you can count:

tenthings

Here are some additions to that list, offered here exclusively and guaranteed to be equally as useless:

tenmorethings

If this preview hasn't encouraged you to open your wallet for my new book, then you are far smarter than I am normally willing to give credit for. You wouldn't be looking for a new job by any chance, would you?