The “Skynet” project had a little trouble today. Luckily, GorT was able to use his time/space traveling subroutines and transferred the project into the 8th dimension for safe keeping. We’ve shelved the multi-rotor flying automaton concept for a bit later. ‘Puter is still shaking his head, now with a “I told you so look” on his face.
The Gormogons’ “Skynet” project went online today. Looks to be good. The Mandarin has hooked it into a bunch of geosynchronous satellites and GorT augmented its processing with a Bayesian neural network processing core. ‘Puter keeps shaking his head saying something doesn’t feel right.
Grounds for an Empire
The Czar is not a coffee drinker. By absolutely no means: he doesnt even like the taste of the stuff, since it tastes like some mild acid-based solvent that somebody left the top off of for about three weeks, and is now so stale that you would expect an elderly neighbor to offer you in hardened candy form. But we really dont care for that analogy. Plus, the Czar is not sure why someone would offer you stale, solvent-based candy. Its best we move on.
Anyway, we really dont like it. But we are not repulsed by it either: in fact, the smell of fresh-brewed coffee is a Very Good Thing. If you try to imagine the smell of it right now, chances are pretty good you can indeed almost taste it. As far as the caffeine piece of it, we obtain other sources. Notably soda. The Czar can easily down a couple of cans in no time flat. Of course, we dont mean the sodas flat… merely the time. We digress yet again.
So this little Seattle-based company decided that coffee must be The Next Big Thing, and began appearing every place where they could find three square feet of space… Body Snatchers-like. And lo, the Starbucks empire became reality.
Boy, were they right. Within seconds of opening any Starbucks, hordes of khaki-wearing minions start loitering nervously in front, mobbing the tables, reading pulp novels and sipping weird bean blends out of these tall white canisters so large that, we swear, if they had a dome-shaped top, people would be throwing trash into them.
Its so bad that when a construction company starts doing the exterior of a future Starbucks… or any retail place shaped vaguely like one… the coffee army shows up and starts camping out. Its like some Grateful Dead caravan, with its own microeconomy and subculture. And there they are, with their sweater-vests, designer sunglasses, and cell phones all milling about wondering when they can get a Bahamanian Jerk Bean blend and a gargantuan muffin with sugar crystals on it the size of dice. Does it matter that its months before opening? Not really: even if it dawns on them that they arent likely to get served, they just walk seven more feet to the left and find another Starbucks.
Why Youre Wrong
You cant order anything in Starbucks without being wrong. Its true: whatever you order, they correct you. Its like the counterpeople simply like to counter people. Just remember, they are informed, the customer is always wrong.
Id like the double decaf mocha twist frapaspresso lattacino, please.
At once, she rolls her eyes, shifts her weight to her other foot in disgust and says, Do you mean the double mocha decaf twist frapaspresso lattacino? with her voice lilting mockingly on the last syllable.
Um… yes, you say, having lost total control over the exchange, although youre darn sure she told you the opposite yesterday.
A grande? she asks, much in the same way a parent talks to a child who just mailed all of the rent money through the slots on a sewer cover outside.
Yes, you meekly reply, having no idea what size that really is, although you suspect its bigger than you can physically ingest.
The Sale, Wherein the Czar Slits His Own Throat
Let us share with you a true story. The Czar is standing, literally, in the center of Lambert International Airport in Saint Louis, waiting to meet up with a someone arriving later. Like nearly every day in the Gateway City, its hot and muggy. Wed spring for a beer, thank you, but by FAA regulation, all alcohol in an airport must cost over ten bucks.
So the Czar looks for an alternative, and discover theres a Starbucks behind us. We realize that theyre not too likely to jack up their prices any more than they already do, and walk over. Plus, theres no line. This actually shocks us.
The Czar looks up at the overhead board to get an idea of what we might want. Toward the bottom, theres a section titled Iced Tea, and below that a goofy name like Tazo.
May I help you? she asks cheerfully, eagerly awaiting to see how she can trip us up.
Yeah, Id like an iced tea.
We dont have that.
We glance up at the board, half-expecting to see that menu choice dematerialize before our eyes. Okay… we say very slowly.
She grins, knowing her triumph. We do have Tazo. Its an infused brewed tea blend, with select spices, served chilled.
The Czar stares directly at her. That is an iced tea.
But its different, she says, gleefully pointing her finger at the Czar, as though he was some Renaissance Pope arguing with Galileo.
Okay, the Czar sighs in defeat, Ill have that, and pull out a couple of dollars.
What size? she asks, realizing her immense fortune at being able to potentially humiliate us twice in one transaction.
What sizes do you have? we ask, realizing perhaps we could minimize the ridicule she must surely be documenting to her manager as a step toward promotion.
Tall, Grande, and Veinte, she sighs, realizing that victory is not so easily won with this one. Blast, she thinks. She was just forced to hand us the answers.
Whats the smallest one you have? we ask.
Your small is a tall? we ask, incredulous.
Yes. The next largest is a grande. It occurs to the Czar their medium is grande, which of course means large.
Well, I guess a tall then.
There! We wanted a small iced tea, but was denied. Instead, the Czar was forced to buy a tall tazo… and in turn, she hands us a small iced tea. We pay for it, and return to the gate where were waiting.
The Czar is pleased to report, it was a darn good cup of iced tea.
At this point, though, the Czar is pretty much forced to speculate as to what goes on in the mornings at a Starbucks. Immediately before opening, the manager has the staff rearrange the signboard, just to confuse the regulars. I want that split shot skinny replaced with a skinny shot split, the manager hollers, as staff furiously scramble to scramble the signboard.
The bags are ripped open, and the marble fudge cinnamon biscotti and marshmallow pecan muffins and the host of other confections designed by computer spill out. Theyre neatly arranged to be as scary as possible, and the doors are opened.
Lo, and they begin filing in. There they all are: the guy who sits there, staring zombie-like over the top of his low-fat latte, wondering what on earth happened to his free time as he plans to spend the next three hours here. And there she is… that woman that just clenches her teeth and nods grimly as her friend complains incessantly about how morale is so low at work ever since they insisted on staff showing up regularly. There he is… the guy in his 30s trying to look much younger and much more wealthy, sitting in his J. Crew ensemble wondering why nobody has noticed him looking at his expensive watch every couple of minutes. Oh, and heres the woman that always insists on coming in wearing the clothes she slept in, dragging behind her some recalcitrant dalmatian whos wondering why they just couldnt sleep in some Saturday.
And they all sit there, sitting, reading or talking, and spending a lot of time staring. And they glance at their watches and pagers, their left leg bouncing incessantly up and down like a sewing machine.
We cant help but think, as we bit into a pastry thats as soft and tooth-crackingly moist as particle board, that if we just slammed our mighty foot onto the floor, these people would all snap.
Look at them! Theyre one loud noise away from screaming, tearing their hair out, and diving through any convenient plate glass. These are people who honestly, and perhaps pathologically, believe theyre relaxing right now. In reality, if they were any more tense, you could strum them.
So we shake our head, and turn to the register just in time to see the counter person sniff and ask someone, Do you mean the half-shot double steamed mocha?
There’s very little devoted to the topic of ruining your own success, so rather than join the millions of people trying to make you rich (and themselves), the Czar thought he’d show you business slouches how to really shoot yourself in the foot.
Why would you want a business to fail? We’re not sure, but it’s evident a lot of business owners do. Who are we to question? Either way, we’ve compiled a short list of sure-fire tips for nosing her right into the dirt, and make yourself a true ensign of industry.
Note: a helpful, easy-to-remember glossary of business terms will not be readily found at the end of this page.
- Put as much stress as possible on your call-center people. You’ve probably heard of these people, because in addition to working for you, they deal with your customers directly. Ideally, you know you have customers as well. Anyway, when the customer calls your company’s phone numberto order “goods and services” (as the economists call it), or “stuff” (as you most likely have mentally reduced it to)they talk to your call center representatives (“those phone people”). Because of this, you’ll want to make their jobs, their lives, indeed, their very essence completely miserable. You can do this by changing procedures on them frequently, giving them a 1980s-era ordering system that breaks down anytime someone uses a photocopier elsewhere in the building, rotating new managers on them every month, and as little useful training as possible. Then, order them to increase sales by 35%. These elements are ideal for creating a good customer interaction:
Customer: Hi. I’d like to order a…
Call Rep: Shut up.
- Destroy morale at all costs. One thing to look for is how employees decorate their cubicles (those roofless holding pens, which are as close to a useful workspace as an empty cardboard refrigerator box is a “time machine” to a five-year-old). You can learn a lot about employee morale levels from their cubes. Cat posters are ideal. If an employee has a poster of a basketful of kittens and a “Smile” caption, things are good. If you see an employee with a poster featuring a frightened cat hanging from a branch, with a caption of “Hang In There,” you have a morale problem. If you have an employee displaying a skinned, bloody cat carcass nailed to a wall with a caption of “I Hate This Place,” you’re indeed well on your way… especially if it’s not a poster. Low morale causes turnover, which raises training and recruiting expenses astronomically. Plus, the resultant labor deficit overloads the remaining employees to where they begin quitting. So low morale is a good weapon for destroying your business. The best way to accomplish low morale is to treat your employees like you think they’re imbeciles. Do this by offerring tenth-percent raises, denying training classes, and producing as many restrictive policies as possible… then, balance that with utterly insulting incentives, such as a “You’re the best” certificate printed from PowerPoint clip art on a crummy laser printer, or perhaps a pizza day every third August, and a work-from-home policy which you should promote and advertise like crazy until you cancel it two days before it was supposed to start. Bad morale, you see, produces all sorts of good business-killing results.
Customer: Hi. I’d like to check the status of my order.
Call Rep: Yeah? When I was seven, I wanted to be an astronaut.
- Eliminate, or at least flip, the corporate vision. Once, in ancient times, no one bothered with corporate visions. Life was pretty simple: you opened a business, competed on the strength of your products and services, and reaped huge profits. Then, the whole Quality scam kicked in, and all work stopped so companies could write mission statements. Of course, there’s really only one mission in business: To make enormous piles of cash for the investors. But today, you see all sorts of idiotic fluff-haiku sloganism from companies; ultimately, it’s evident which one was written by the CEO, because it’s blindingly obvious (“To be the leader in our industry”), and which one was done by a committee, since it’s group-think babble (“To develop an efforts-driven matrix ownership, manifesting in career-oriented reward sponsorship and quality focus engineering”), and which were done by the corporate visionary, because it’s some weird Zen koan (“Results. Efforts. Tomorrow. Where do you hear the thunder?”). Start promoting this stuff in your own company, especially at the departmental level, because a great way to stifle ingenuity is to confuse vision with distraction:
Customer: Hi. I’d like to place an order, please.
Call Rep: Uh… I guess we still do that. Let me check.
- Layer management. It’s tough to find work for all those people, right? After all, you just bought another whole company, and at least 60% of them have functions identical to people in your parent company. You can’t fire all of them, frankly, because that would be painfully smart. Well, if you really want to louse things up, start promoting them to middle management. That way, they’ll add rolls of red tape to previously brainless procedures, harmlessly eat up their own time in endless meetings, and work on their resumes, which totally solves the problem. You can even have a couple of them reorganize operations, so that new org charts are handed out with every paycheck. Adding management improves the company’s intellect in the same way adding water improves gasoline:
Customer: Hi. I’d like to place an order, please.
Call Rep: I’d love to, but my manager is shaking his head no.
- Eliminate the human element. Customers like your sales reps. They actually love your receptionist. And they even are impressed by the complaints department. Therefore, you want to eliminate that bond of trust at once. For this, there is no better tool than voice response systems. This is different from voice mail (which is actually useful) by making your customers thoroughly disassociated with their prospective purchase. Typically, the voice response bit involves a perky woman’s voice who talks to you like you’re the idiot. Usually, these give you totally ambiguous choices, so that a customer spends twenty minutes waiting on hold before your one remaining call center rep even gets a chance to answer.
Customer: Hi. I’d like….
Voice Response: Thank you for calling. For vendor purchasing, press 1. For operations buying, press 2. For business sales, press 3. For all other calls, stay on the line. <dial tone>
Could you effectively employ all of these ideas? Yes, and even a math-poor ox like yourself can see how quickly each adds up to your perfect recipe for failure. By using all these methods together, you do create the perfect plan for disaster:
Customer: Hi. I’d like…
Call Rep: Please hold while your call is transferred to our nearest competitor. Thank you, and have a Quality Day.
As we know, having the dead around your place can become a tad inconvenient. And in our ongoing effort to provide you the best there is to be had by people like you, we’ve put together a few useful tips the Gormogons have found regarding raising the dead.
Use these in any order, really, but don’t get too carried away. Remember that results may vary, and we can’t be held responsible for any… um… unforeseen difficulties… which might arise.
- First of all, try waking the dead. Call their names loudly, and see if they respond. Remember, it’s critical that you don’t confuse the dead with people who are merely sleeping. Ask your local coroners about how embarrassing this is. If they don’t wake up and demand an explanation, try banging pots and pans. Be careful: the Chinese used to frighten away solar eclipses with this same method, but you have to pick one methodology and stick with it.
- Wake your own dead. If you get extremely loud and irritating (Nine Inch Nails works well if this is your goal… ask our neighbors), someone nearby may scream at you that you’re waking the dead. If in fact you are waking their dead, apologize. While a noble goal, remember that this may not fit in well with their plans, and inconvenience is something the enlightened person strives to avoid.
- Avoid magic rituals. Many dark arts feature rituals and incantations which allegedly return the dead to life. This, of course, is likely a waste of time. There is no evidence whatsoever that such practices will work, and if you’re going to raise the dead, you should at least attempt to do so in the most scientific manner possible.
- Voodoo is best left to professionals. If you’re a fully-qualified houngan, raise the dead carefully. Remember that zombies technically don’t count, since we’re not talking about raising the undead. But if you’re going after bigger game, and you’re no expert, you’ll need more than a few chickens or snakes to do it right. Houngans are very particular about their techniques, and don’t take well to interlopers who think they can hack it. Don’t be like the Czars friend Brian, who thought he knew everything after reading an FAQ, and wound up irritating a local “specialist,” who enacted a small price on Brian. If you’re ever in Chicago, stop by the Lincoln Park Zoo and visit his cage. Brian will be happy to demonstrate what happened to him (and he never did succeed).
- Electricity was a popular approach at the end of the 1800s, but never panned out. Massive voltage might have brought Mary Shelley’s monster back, but quite frankly our own research succeeded only in stinking up the place worse. And the bill! It would have been cheaper to run an air conditioner in every window here for a full year. If anyone’s interested in an old Jacob’s ladder (worthless for raising the dead, by the way, but the Czar was naive), shoot us an e-mail.
- Contrary to popular rumor, repeated watching of C-SPAN has the opposite effect. If you have C-SPAN on, you run the risk of becoming dead yourself.
- Reincarnation is a powerful consideration. If you believe in reincarnation, you’re probably only going to louse things up, and really frustrate a few people. By the way, if you do believe in reincarnation, could you explain how the world’s population has consistently gone up in the last thousand years? Where are all these new people coming from? Can they be trusted? You should fear everyone.
- Take notes. If you’re successful, it helps to be able to reproduce the feat, especially if you expect to be believed. Witnesses don’t always help. If you startle the dead back to life, be sure you write down what you did (firecrackers, cold water, pictures of Shelley Winters, etc.), so that other people can benefit from your findings.
- One question most people ask the Czar is: “Is it ethical to raise the dead and charge money for it?” The answer is yes, provided you don’t charge the recently reanimated. They probably lack the funds to compensate you and since they didn’t expect your service, it’s rude of you to demand it. Remember the relatives might not appreciate you reviving “Uncle Slither,” and they might balk at paying. Then what will you do? Our advice is that if you plan on charging next of kin for this service, get their agreement to pay in writing. The Czar can’t stress this enough, as the recently-returned tend to freeload for months at your place unless you get someone to take responsibility for them.
- If you mistakenly raise the wrong person, apologize. Manners go a long way here. You don’t like being roused from sleep, so imagine how they feel.
Well, no doubt there’s something in these tips to offend pretty much everybody. We hope that if you’re planning on raising the dead, you do so responsibly. Remember to be professional: dress well, and speak clearly. Extend every courtesy to your clientele, and try to network with other necromancers. Not only will they cover for you while you’re on vacation, but in many cases, they’ll be the ones reviving you in a few decades. Have fun, and above all, remember to floss!
Its all the rage, kids, isnt it? Once a side-feature of tabloids, even mainstream, real-news-only publications (such as The New York Post) are discussing the subject of alien abduction. According to some polls, more than 100% of all Americans have been kidnapped in the last twenty minutes, and those who havent are in a constant state of denial.
Rumor is, airport traffic control personnel find blips of alien craft on radar screens all the time, but are subject to intense cover ups, so that we never hear about them. Personally, were that true, youd think thered be more flying saucers routed into each other than there apparently are, but hey… perhaps thats covered up too.
Anyway, if you havent been abducted by aliens, youre clearly not hip, and probably live in a trailer park and eat Spam out of the can. Then again, these are the type of people who most frequently call in abductions. So, in an effort to make you popular, here are the Czars tips on getting yourself abducted.
Be Attractive To Aliens
Never be a scientist. Sure, you can come close and be a successful horror writer like Streiber, but nobody trusts a chronic fiction writer. A bit of the cry wolf problem, eh? The late Carl Sagan, for example, was never abducted, although he would have been an obvious choice, just so he could explain their technology to them in terms they could understand. Further, Frank Drake was never abducted, either, but would very much like to be, if only to prove that formula of his one way or another. Other scientists have been notably unkidnapped, such as Dr. Joyce Brothers, although there is some theory that she is, in fact, an actual alien.
Dont be too popular, either. People trust celebrities, and consequently would not be good choices: celebrities blow whistles on such operations, and would be disastrous for any secret abduction program. However, there is a rumor that the B-52s were abducted in the early 1980s, but not for scientific experiments… hey, even an alien has to party.
Be human. Very few dogs, cats, dugongs, or dingos report abductions. Maybe they are abducted all the time, but arent intelligent enough to realize their subconsciouses have been tampered with. Could be: the Czar had a dog who had serious memory lapses; and one of our buddies has a cat who cant account for a lot of his behavior.
In addition to being human, there are some other qualities you should have to be attractive to aliens.
- Be rural. Aliens hate crowded cities, and can never find parking; if you live by yourself off in the outer suburbs or in rural America, youre ideal.
- Dont be too smart. Aliens hate well-read individuals, who might shrug off a genuine abduction as nothing more than a waking dream, a flashback from just one teeny hit of acid at a party ten years before, or a harmless and brief microseizure in the neocortex. Boy, what a waste of time that would be!
- Dont fall for the notion that an alien species would have evolved under a vastly different ecology from ours, and therefore could not possibly look like the very-human description of little guys with big heads and black eyes. Ignore the fact these totally alien creatures look more like us than chimpanzees do, with whom we share 96% of our DNA.
- Be open-minded! It helps if you are open-minded to different ideas; not just alien abduction, but bone up on astrology, pyramid power, fairies and elves, and crystal healing. Aliens have very little time for people who live and work in the real world.
Be Polite When They Show
Show some courtesy when they do show… remember, they wont come screaming out of the sky at unbeliveable speeds, and they wont take you up to their ship with powerful technology that would require a lot of massive energy sources which would interfere with reception for counties around you (or parishes, if youre in Louisiana). No, theyll appear out of thin air, without a sound, take you up with no apparent means, and whisk you off to their ship without a trace, and certainly without disturbing your neighbors. Be sure to show them the same courtesy.
Have cookies. Aliens like cookies, and its the sign of a good host to offer them some. For heavens sake, people leave cookies out for Santa, and we know there aint no Santy Claus. Yet, no one ever thinks to do the same for real house guests. And for heavens sake, offer them good cookies. These guys have traversed thousands of light years, and arent in the mood for those stale, generic vanilla wafers. Get the name brand stuff.
Dont offer them milk until we determine if theyre lactose intolerant. After all, if they can travel space with transeinsteinian technology, they certainly have weapons to match, and nothing encourages a person to use them openly more than intestinal cramps.
Its okay to be excited at meeting the aliens, but remember the little guys hate flash photography, and definitely dont jam a camcorder in their face. Try to be subdued, and find a creative way to remember this historic meeting. Most people capture the moment by burying it into their unconscious so far that only wealthy and glamorous hypnotists can drag it out them by a combination of suggestion and encouragement.
Avoid making fun of their last names. Or their first names. Or whatever the name of their homeworld might be. They dont seem to have much grasp of spoken languages, and they do the best they can with telepathy. And since they can use telepathy, and you cant, its definitely rude to snicker. Although, ya gotta admit, some of their names are downright silly.
Mi Casa, Su Casa
Now, remember that theyre nice enough to take you up into their ship, which they only reserve for the vast majority of Americans. It helps to remember that youre in somebodys home.
Dont be pushing any buttons, and dont be swinging on any levers. If you spill something, apologize and offer to clean it up. Smile politely when introduced to others, and dont shake any three-fingered hands (theyre not big on arm-around-the-shoulder stuff or back slaps, which makes them rather like New Englanders).
Compliment their art work, provided you dont make the big faux pas and accidentally compliment a piece of equipment. Think how uncomfortable youd feel if you welcomed a visitor into your home and he got all excited by your sink nozzle.
Play along with their strange rituals. Theyre nice enough to follow some of yours; you should follow some of theirs. Let them gather around you, let them shine lights at you, stick objects up your nostril, or slice bits of skin off you. Theyre just being friendly, even if it is a little different. Believe me, its certainly no stranger than Greenwich Village, and think about how much time youve spent there!
And respect their traditions. When they drop you back at your place, and they usually are nice enough to give you a ride back to your own bed, simply repeat the gesture by pushing one into a chair and shoving a grape into his nose. It will be warmly appreciated by them.
But be down to earth, too: let them borrow a couple of CDs (anything by the B-52s, especially Good Stuff, which has a lot of inside jokes they love), maybe a video tape (funny hint: they even like to watch blank tapes!), or some earrings or a shirt or two. Theyll bring it back in the same condition they took it, and theyre quick to let you borrow some of their stuff, like time dilators, light cones (the Czar knows one guy whos got a bunch!), or other trinkets, like those crazy toroid sporans they buy but never wear.
Yall Come Back Now, YHear?
You may be tempted to rush off to the press with your amazing tale, but remember how the popular media mucks everything up (remember Independence Day… no one wants to sit through another one of those). Just sit back and await their next visit, although you might want to tidy up a bit. They dont eat lint, for goodness sake.
Make yourself accessible for follow-up visits. Leave your doors and windows unlocked at all times, and dont stay up too late. Dont get a satellite dish: the aliens frequently confuse them with radar dishes, and will be reluctant to park right out front.
Here’s some fun things you can do at an airport which will not only amuse you, but will also have the added topspin of getting you very urgently arrested.
Anyway, these are pretty inexpensive, which is good, because you’ll likely need a small fortune for bail money.
Drink a bottle of tequila, and then lay down on the moving walkways and look at the ceiling go by. When you reach the end, simply roll over onto the other one. This will be seriously cool.
When security is distracted, place a bag on the conveyor belt and walk away before anyone realizes you did it. In the bag, you should place an alarm clock and some ordinary road flares. What a riot! You’ll do serious time, for sure.
Have a large assortment of Civil War characters paged to the courtesy phone. Ask for J.E.B. Stuart, Robert Lee, and so on. If the services representative is a history major, simply comment on his or her obvious and unexpected employment success.
Start petting your suitcase reassuringly, and talking to it like a nervous dog.
Step onto the baggage carousel and ride it as far as you can. Just before it heads back into the restricted area, step off and move onto the next one in line.
If you’re at a small municipal airline, go up to a ticket desk and request an unbelievably exotic ticket, like round-trip tickets to Kathmandu. This works even better if the airline is really tiny: good indicators would be names like “Des Moines Regional Airlines,” “DC Beltway Airlines,” or “5th Ave To 8th Ave Airlines.”
If a fellow traveler asks you how to get to the baggage claim area, give him very specific directions on how to get to the air traffic control tower.
Or, Lessons in Being a Ghastly Ghostie
Well, the Czar is already scared, and he knows what’s coming. You talk about scary! Well, frankly, there’s nothing spookier than a haunted house, and we oughta know… we’ve been haunting them for years. And sometimes we scare ourselves, we’re so good. But it is a lot of fun, much like anything scary is (such as roller coasters, skydiving, and getting mugged), so we thought we’d share with you our sure-fire ways of haunting a house properly. And if you like it, drop us a line and let us know some of your scary ideas.
First of all, choose a good house. We recommend one with a lot of people in it, since an empty house is, well, kind of slow. You sort of have to make it count, then, and you wind up using all your best material up front. Best to have a house with a lot of people, because then you can pace yourself.
Do you want to be really noticed, right away? Pick a house with a dog. Dogs know about ghosts, and this can be a great intro. Rather than jump right in with frightening the bejeezus out of people, try warming up first. Make the dog bark at empty walls, or better yet, slowly walk toward the dog. Nothing looks neater than seeing the family dog walk backwards, fur up, and growling at thin air. Talk about an intro!
A house with kids is all right, maybe. We generally avoid it, because if you’re feeling a little poltergeistish, the kids usually get blamed for some of your best work. And kids today are too clever: they start setting little traps for you. If you like kids, then by all means have fun. We recommend shaking their beds, making their window shades shoot up, and opening and closing their closet doors at night. But whatever you do, don’t do anything cutesy, like move their toys around, squirt water at them, or shove them from behind. Do this, and the kids start seeing you as their play pal, and then there’s no chance of getting work done.
Go after the wife whenever the husband’s not home. It’s hysterical, because he never believes her. Try creaking floorboards when she’s by herself, rearranging her kitchen knives, or for an absolutely primo scare, wait until she’s quieted down for the night and then flush the toilet. We generally avoid the stupid goblin tricks, like saying “Mommy!” in your best child’s voice and then rolling a bowling ball down the stairs.
General scariness can be handled by confusion. Go down to the circuit breaker and then start switching the circuits on and off like mad. Strive for the strobe light effect. But don’t overdo it: only do this for a few seconds, and then switch every circuit back on as if nothing happened. The husband will likely go down and look the first couple of times, but don’t do anything more that night! After the third or fourth time, guaranteed, he’ll call an electrician to come look at it. And then, when the electrician is by himself, scare the pants off him. It doesn’t matter what you do, really, from sticking screwdrivers in the wall next to his head, to manifesting yourself as a bloody skeleton… the goal here is to get him to run out of the house screaming.
Another good hell-raiser is to make the faucets drip blood. It’ll require a little setting up beforehand, but it’s worth it. Make sure the whole family sees it. If blood makes you queasy, go for black or green slime; and if you’re really in luck, they’ll call in a plumber for you.
Poltergeist phenomena is a great showcase. Start small, so they don’t get too terrified. At dinner, flip a plate. During TV time, keep changing the channels every couple of minutes. Nothing too much! Over time, you can start moving furniture around if your back holds out.
When they’re gone for the day, at work and school, don’t think that you can rest. There’s plenty to do in an empty house, too. Start by changing the thermostat a couple of degrees up or down (it annoys Dad), and get to work by loosening the light bulbs and tilting the pictures. If they have a dog, you’re in luck. You can spend the whole day chasing Pebbles around the house, knocking over furniture and giving the dog a complex.
Remember to be polite. Real ghosts don’t do that attempted murder nonsense you see in the movies. Don’t try to drop pianos on people or push them over railings. And be professional: don’t be looking through the shower curtains at the family member of choice. Nobody tolerates a naughty ghost.
And don’t get in good with the family. Nothing is sloppier than a ghost who winds up eating dinner with the family and baby-sitting the kids. If they wanted that, they could have invited an in-law over. Stay scary.
By now, you should have a ghastly host of ideas. And remember, when they put the house up for sale, it’s up to you whether you want to make the house look sweet and innocent for the next family, or… well… sometimes you can’t resist blasting the real estate agent during a walk-through.
Everybody’s so up on the weather these days, and if you’ve been in an elevator lately, you notice it’s on the mind of every stranger that has an urge to talk to you. With all this pressure, it’s no wonder that you’ve been watching the meteorologists every night, sweating and straining to produce a five-day forecast when everyone knows forecasting methods aren’t accurate beyond 12 hours. So who can you trust? You know you can’t trust the weather guys, because they’re in it for the money. Well, who does that leave? Hey, who wrote this post, anyway?
What’s the first thing I need to know about the weather?
Nothing! Weather is summarized by light and water. Some days have more light than others, and some days have more water than others. What else could there be? Of course, there are definitely many degrees between those two. And we can easily depict it on a four-way matrix, if we thought for a minute you’d even look at it. Odds are, you don’t even know what that is. But that’s okay, because it doesn’t matter.
Okay then, what’s this el niño thing that’s screwing up the weather all over North and South America?
Who knows. Apparently, somebody in Australia keeps goofing off with the weather (and we’re pretty confident it’s a guy named Tony who lives in Sydney), which causes a warm mass of air to move to our side of the Pacific Ocean. From there, all sorts of kookiness happens, like rains of snow, hail, ice, frogs, locusts, and bubbly things. The name was given to it by bug-eyed Chilean fisherman, because when a large, continent-sized chunk of humidity comes rolling at you, it’s natural to associate that with a small boy. In their opinion, anyway.
How is the relative humidity index calculated?
It’s calculated with some sort of scale. There’s all kinds of crazy things associated with wet bulbs, or something, and frankly it sounds a little too silly to be science. But there it is.
How do clouds form?
Clouds form in all sorts of ways. Generally, warm air rises up, up, and still further up. You see, warm air rises, and cold air sinks. So the warm air keeps going upward until the cold air up high chills it. Just like when you exhale on a cold day, you can see your breath (and it’s probably greenish in color, from what we’ve heard), so too does the warm air get foggy when it slams into the cold air. A lot of fog up high looks like a cloud. Actually, it is a cloud. And so, that’s how clouds form. Ask a tougher one.
What are the different kinds of clouds?
See, that’s a better question. There are a lot of clouds, and yes, we know what they are. There are cumulus clouds, which are puffy, fat guys like the ones who insist on wearing Speedos at the beach. There are stratus clouds, which are grey and flat and look like overcast skies. There are cirrus clouds, which are thin, wispy clouds, just like those guys who insist on combing their sideburns over the tops of their heads, thinking they’ve fooled everyone. Also, there are combinations, like the cirrocumulus, the stratocumulus, the cirrostratus on rye, the cumulocirrostratus triple decker, the pulled pork stratus, and the cirrodiplodocus with bacon, hash browns… we don’t know what the heck we’re talking about.
No kidding. So what other types of clouds are there?
All kinds. There’s the fluffy white clouds (normally three) that are equally spaced in the skies of kids’ drawings; the evil, invisible cloud that a roommate emits after drinking four beers just after eating a mixture of tamales and garlic dill pickles; there’s the strange, internal cloud that occupies most of your brain until 10:30am; there’s also the cloud that hovers around doorways of non-smoking office buildings.
Is there any truth to some of the many folk tales surrounding weather?
Well, without knowing which tales you’re referring to, it’s gonna be hard to say. However, there are some truths! It is true that cows lay down before it rains, and also that birds fly low before a storm. Both are related to low pressure systems moving into an area. It’s true that a red sky at night heralds fair weather the next day, since it indicates no fronts are moving in. It’s even true that a hurricane produces high winds and heavy rains. It’s totally true that if you wash your car, it will rain within the hour. What isn’t true? That you won’t need that umbrella tomorrow.
What else do I need to know about the weather?
There’s plenty to learn. You could start asking about snow, fogs, whether it’s true that rain makes people melt, or even why it never hails inside your oven. My advice is that weather is easy to understand: you just have to study it in incredible detail for a very long time. Meanwhile, may your days be sunny. Except, that produces drought… hmm, maybe it’s just best to let the weather do whatever it wants. For a change.
A brief list, which shows that even Heisenberg could be certain about some things, at least.
- The best intelligence test is to put a person behind the wheel of a car. Almost no one would pass.
- People who look at flowers generally enjoy them more than people who eat them.
- Stay away from folks who kill any person they meet. There may be something wrong with them.
- Be safe! Many people choke eating whole pieces of fruit.
- Marry a nurse and you’ll never want for bedpans again.
- No matter what the naturalists tell you, dung beetles lead pretty miserable lives.
- The things we find most humiliating are often the things we do really well.
- A lot of people probably owe you some money. Call them.
- People who nod slowly when you speak to them aren’t remotely listening to you.
- Never take financial advice from someone who isn’t wildly rich.
- Cows are slower than horses; and they smell worse but taste better.
- People who hate snakes usually have few problems with shoes.
- The slower the emergency services, the worst the outcome.
- Those who enjoy extreme sports make a lot of noise.
- The cod is not a happy fish.
- The only good way to end a war is to beat the other side senseless.