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Quips and Jabs — 1997-1998

David E. Ross

An unorganized collection of wry humor, short comments on politics, jabs at commercials, predictions, et cetera. There is no table of contents. Entries are in reverse order (newest at the top).

Not everything here is original with me. Those items that are marked with © are original, and I own the copyright. Those items that indicate contributed by might not be original creations of the contributors.

Current Quips and Jabs

Sometimes I think I understand everything; then I regain consciousness.

Contributed by Joan Kuehn

There it is, a swollen, red bump just above my right eye.

It's a zit!

I've got geriatric acne!

© 1998

On page 2 of the "Business" section of the 5 December 1998 Los Angeles Times, two articles caught my eye.

The first article — headlined "Ex-Employee of Intel Ordered to Halt E-Mails" — described the spamming of Intel by a disgruntled former employee. His latest effort involved messages to 30,000 current Intel employees, addressed to their company E-mail accounts. In that message, he claimed Intel was planning massive layoffs. A spokeswoman for Intel described the claim as inaccurate.

The other article described problems Intel is having because of its announced closure of a plant in DuPont, WA, and the planned layoff of all employees there.

© 1998


When you reach your peak, it's downhill in all directions.

© 1998

I'm sure you have all heard of "caller ID". This boon for paranoids allows you to see the phone number of whoever is calling you. It also represents a good profit to the phone companies, which not only sell the display devices but also charge a monthly fee for the service.

I live in California. Here, the very first paragraph of the state constitution grants the explicit right to privacy. Over half the residential phones in California have unlisted numbers. After the uproar over caller ID delayed its introduction in this state, the California Public Utilities Commission forced the phone companies to provide for blocking this feature. All I have to do is enter a two-digit code and #. Then, when I call a phone with caller ID, the display screen remains blank.

Apparently, too many people are blocking caller ID. This reduces the demand for that service, impacting the phone companies' profits. So the phone companies now have "block the blocker". Customers can block calls from phones that have blocked caller ID. Well, I can play this game, too. The message on my answering machine now says that anyone leaving a message can forget about receiving a return phone call if they are blocking the blocker. If they really want me to call them, they won't block this blocker.

© 1998

Regarding the new TV season:

Soon, we will have TV sets that can tune 500 different channels … to give us 10 times as much garbage as now.

If they can cancel a Broadway show after the first act, why can't they cancel a TV show after the first commercial?

© 1998

My daughter notes that, if a revived Communications Decency Act (CDA) is enacted by Congressional Republicans, those same Congressmen would be guilty of violating that law by posting the Starr report on the Web. At least we now know why President Clinton is such a strong advocate of the CDA.

© 1998

Exercise and work are very much alike:

© 1998

Some people age like a fine wine. They get more and more mellow as they get older.

I prefer to age like a good cheese. It's more fun getting sharper as time goes by.

(Anyway, old wine sometimes goes sour.)

© 1998

Q: How do you define a Canadian?

A: An unarmed American with a health plan.

Contributed by Nancy Burns

I went to one of the large chain music stores to order a CD of Louis Moreau Gottschalk's Cakewalk ballet. At first, the clerk thought Gottschalk was the artist, not the composer. Then she said she would do a search on their computer for the name Gottschalk, but I warned her that there are over 200 currently available recordings of his works. When she looked surprised, I rubbed it in by asking how many rock musicians have 200 recordings to their names. (I don't think a single employee at that store is as old as my daughter.)

By the way, the specific CD I ordered was actually released in 1994. How many rock recordings are still being sold even one year after their release? Yes, there are some; just consider the Beetles, who are still (deservedly) popular many years after their last group recording was made. However, in proportion to the number of recordings issued each year, very few rock recordings have the durable artistic quality that keep them in demand.

© 1998

The Christian Coalition claims in a newspaper advertisement that gays and Lesbians can be "cured" through Jesus Christ. What about Jewish homosexuals? Do they have to give up both a congenital orientation — programmed into them before birth — and also the religion of their ancestors?

If, as Senator Trent Lott (R, Mississippi) claims, homosexuals are sick and can indeed be cured, does their "illness" qualify gays and Lesbians for protection against discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

© 1998

After more than 33 years, I realize that my marriage is like home-made chicken soup. It is still simmering on the stove, getting richer, stronger, better with each passing minute.

© 1998

I write this having just returned from the farewell concert of Cantor Michael Anatole at Temple Adat Elohim (Thousand Oaks, California). After 24 years, the Temple's first and only cantor is leaving. To commemorate the event, Michael gave a concert of religious songs. All except one were his original scores. About half were from ancient Hebrew prayers; the rest represented Michael's own adaptations of English translations or original texts from his religious inspirations.

However, I write not because Cantor Anatole is leaving. I write because twice during this sacred concert cell phones rang! No one — absolutely no one — is so important that he or she could not leave a cell phone turned off or (better) leave it at home. Those who are truly important have assistants who can receive calls and take messages. Those of slightly lesser importance got that way by having at least enough intelligence to buy a silent, vibrating pager. Anyone else is merely showing off and should not be allowed to walk free without a keeper.

By the way, those who are sufficiently important that they cannot be away from the phone while commuting on the freeways are also so important that they have personal chauffeurs to drive while they concentrate on their phone calls.

© 1998

I just bought a new car. It is bright, shiny red.

My wife asked me why I chose red.

"If I'm going to have a mid-life crisis," I told her, "it must be now, before I'm too old."

© 1998

Yes, although I had not regularly watched Seinfeld on TV for two seasons, I did watch the final show. It was definitely not their best effort. Instead, it reminded me of the work performed by an employee who has already given notice that he is quitting (or, better, an employee who has already received notice that he is being fired).

Some reviewers commented that the four main characters were shallow, selfish, and self-centered. This was very evident in the final show. But this show reminded me that they were also self-defeating losers, having the ability to turn the best situations into disasters for themselves. Where the truth would not harm, they would still lie. Where courtesy would have been easy, they remained rude (even to each other). Newman was not gross; Jerry, Elaine, Kramer, and George were gross.

Unlike Murphy Brown, M*A*S*H, or Cheers, I will not miss Seinfeld.

© 1998

Buy a star for your mother for Mother's Day. Have a star named for her.

This is an ad I keep hearing on the radio. The problem is that the non-profit International Astronomical Union (IAU) controls the naming of celestial objects. While the IAU names moons, comets, and asteroids, the IAU is reluctant to name stars because some might have planets and one of those planets might have intelligent life that has already named its star. The IAU definitely does not sell naming rights.

Some of those who want to sell us star-names tell us that the name will be entered into a register that will be deposited with the U.S. Copyright Office. However, published fiction is also deposited with the Copyright Office. Oops! That's right: The register of star names is also fiction.

© 1998

Electric utilities are now deregulated in California. To keep rates from suddenly jumping, the Public Utilities Commission ordered a 10% rate reduction and a two-year freeze on rates. To pay for the reduction, bonds were issued that the utilities must repay. The cost of that repayment has been added to my electric bill. So, on the March bill from Southern California Edison, there is a $4.91 credit for the rate reduction and a $6.91 charge to repay the bonds. The "rate reduction" increased my bill by $2!

© 1998

The gas company, homeowner's insurance, mortgage lender, et cetera all send me payment envelopes printed with their logos and even parts of their addresses. Why then do they cut a window in the envelope and insist the payment stub must be positioned so that the address on the stub shows through the window? Wouldn't it cost less to prepare envelopes without the added step of cutting windows? If they already print information on the envelope, would it cost any more to print their complete address on the envelope?

Most of the envelopes say: "Do Not Staple." But the payment stubs are smaller than the envelopes. With a little jostling, the address on the stub is no longer visible through the window. Of course I staple, right through the outside of the envelope!

© 1998

A speed-reading program advertises on the radio that their course will allow you to read a complete novel in a half-hour lunch break. I do not gulp a glass of good wine in a single mouthful. I slowly chew and savor a prime, medium-rare steak. I want a colorful sunset to linger. Why would I want to speed through good fiction?

Beethoven's Symphony #9 deserves every one of its 75+ minutes. I'm never in a rush for it to end. I hope no one develops a speed-listening program.

Now another radio advertisement — this one for books on tape cassettes — claims that listening to a book is better than reading it. They especially promote the idea of listening to a book while commuting.

They just don't get it! There is pleasure in seeing the written word. There is convenience in being able to reread a paragraph without rewinding. I find freedom in reading at my own pace without being tied to the pace of a reader speaking into a microphone.

In any case, I surely don't want someone concentrating on an interesting portion of a book when he or she should really be concentrating on driving a car. (Yes, I also object to drivers hurtling along at 65 mph while dialing a cell phone.)

© 1998

The two most frightening things a parent can hear are:

© 1998

In a restaurant, why is it that the waiter or busboy (titles that can indeed be applied to female service employees as well as to male) pours water into my glass from the side of the pitcher? The pitcher has an excellent spout, which the person pouring never uses. Instead, by pouring from the side, I get too much ice and not enough water. Further, when the spout is not used, the table becomes a soggy swamp beneath the pitcher.

© 1998

A very prominent, over-the-counter cough medicine advertises on TV that it is the best because of its coating action. To dramatize this claim, it and a competitor are poured down glass throats to show how this brand coats better than the other brand.

Excuse me! Cough medicine is swallowed, not inhaled. I do not understand how coating the esophagus will help stop coughs that originate in the lungs and trachea. Indeed, if it coats the esophagus, its trip to the stomach will be delayed, which in turn delays its entry into the blood stream for delivery to where it will really work.

© 1998

Have you ever noticed that traffic announcers on radio speak in a strange shorthand?
More traffic in 10 minutes.
More traffic is the last thing we want. While we want more frequent traffic reports, we would prefer they report less traffic.
There's a stall in the #2 lane of Highway 123.
I picture in my mind a shower stall falling off a truck. Or is it a horse stall?

And why do they call it rush hour when the traffic is definitely not rushing?

© 1998

California Governor Pete Wilson wants to add days to the school year. Good! But he wants to pay for part of that by not paying high school teachers while students are going from one class to the next. Soon, he will want department store clerks to get paid only when customers are actually at the register but not when they are helping a customer find the right color or size.

© 1998

Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

Contributed by Mike Miora

Many companies distribute freeware or do not press for payments on shareware. Others provide various free services on the Web. They should all remember that "good enough for a freebie" is not good enough. The quality of a company's free products and services is an excellent indication of the quality of that company's for-purchase products and services.

© 1997

A new tract of houses near my home is called Verdigris, a very fancy name. Look it up and then tell me why anyone would want to buy a house with that name.

© 1997

"It's patented!" I have heard this claim in radio advertisements for a brand of vitamin C, a "natural" weight-loss product, and something that is supposed to restore lost hair.

So what! Almost every prescription drug available today is patented. A patent does not mean the product actually works. It merely means that no one else can manufacture it.

There was a time when patent medicine was the major feature of medical quackery.

© 1997

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.

Contributed by Joan Kuehn

Eating breakfast one Sunday morning, as my dear wife scanned the obituaries in the Los Angeles Times to see if our names were listed there (unsure whether it would be more surprising to find our names or not), I suddenly realized that we two are stars on the TV show Baywatch. My wife is something the lifeguards pulled from the Pacific, and I am a beached whale.

Obviously, even on Sundays, we are not "morning people".

© 1997

If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving definitely isn't for you.

Contributed by Mike Miora

I saw a really bad help-wanted advertisement, in which the employer made two serious mistakes — not typos but errors in judgment. My comments are too long for this page, so I put them on a separate page.

I mourn the passing of Robb's Plumbing in Thousand Oaks, California. Robb's went out of business earlier this year, and I feel sad every time I pass the boarded-up store.

Robb's Plumbing was a hardware store, specializing in plumbing parts and supplies. Founded before Thousand Oaks became a city (a city that now has a population greater than 100,000), the store continued in operation by the second generation of the Robb family (with the third generation as employees) until they could no longer compete with the hardware chains and mega-stores.

I might have found faucets cheaper at Home Depot, Orchard Supply, or Do-It. But when I had to repair my house's plumbing, I went to Robb's first. If I need one washer, the chain stores require me to buy a package of washers, sometimes only in assorted sizes half of which I will never be able to use. Robb's would sell me a single washer. If a faucet is damaged, the chains will gladly sell me a new faucet; I have to buy two so that the hot and cold water faucets will match. Robb's would rebuild my old faucet from a collection of salvaged parts. Most important, while the chain stores all seem to carry the same merchandise, Robb's carried plumbing items that I could not find elsewhere within a 25 mile radius.

Bigger is not necessarily better.

© 1997

Many banks now charge $1 or more if you attempt to use their ATM to get money from some other financial institution. On the other hand, if you have a teller cash a check from that other institution, most banks do not impose a charge. This is silly. It costs the bank more for the teller to cash your check than it does to give you money from an ATM.

Despite claims to the contrary by bankers, I think these ATM charges have nothing to do with the operating costs of ATMs. Instead, the charges are an attempt to induce you to open an account with the bank. But I already have an account with the "stagecoach bank". They still charge me to get money from my credit union through their ATMs. They want me to drop my credit union account. Fat chance!

However, the Co-Op is a network of ATMs operated by credit unions. An ATM or credit card issued by any credit union in the network may be used without a fee at any Co-Op ATM (within certain limits on the number of times per month). Just be sure that the ATM you use has a "No Fee" sticker.

© 1997, 1998

I found an essay "with attitude", an attitude that I truly appreciate. However, it is longer than what I want to put here, so I have put it on a separate Web page.

Why is gasoline always priced with 9/10 of a cent? Do the oil companies really believe we don't understand that $1.359/10 is really $1.36? If you have an answer to this question — and it is not merely a marketing ploy to make us think gasoline is cheaper — please let me know.

© 1997

Schools in the United States have the most timid, most inhibited curricula on sex education of any industrialized nation. The United States also has the highest rate of pregnancy among teenagers. I think this is another example of cause and effect.

© 1997

Some thoughts on sending E-mail:

The moving finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety or Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

Omar, the Tentmaker
(died ca 1123 ce)

Once a word has been allowed to escape, it cannot be recalled.

Horace (65-8 bce)

Someone concerned about President Clinton's recent knee injury donated the money to install a hot tub in the White House. For safety, it now needs a sign:

Power Enema Hazard!

Based on a concept by my brother Mark,
who has a hot tub in Oakland, California

The key to quality is that each participant takes a professional's pride in the work sufficient to put his or her name on the result.

© 1997

Effective communication: When the thought sent is the same thought received!

Winfred G. Allen

Now that even special prosecutor Kenneth Starr agrees that Vince Foster committed suicide, will those Congressmen and talk-show loud-mouths who claimed President Clinton ordered Foster's murder apologize? (I'm not holding my breath waiting.)

© 1997
(based on a concept by Heather Ross)

(A prediction made on 5 July 1997)

This past week, gold on the various commodity markets fell below its lowest price in 12 years. I predict that the "gold bugs" who so smugly bought gold as an investment or as a hedge against inflation and who very much distrust governments to preserve the value of money will now demand the monetization of gold — at prices well above the current cellar — in an attempt to have those same governments bail them out of a very bad investment.

It fell even lower on Monday, 7 July, to below $320 per ounce. This will make my prediction even more likely. Of course, the "gold bugs" will want gold monetized well above $350.

© 1997

Middle age is when everything falls off, down, and apart.

© 1997

My picture is not on any of my Web pages for a very good reason. The last time I saw a photograph of myself, I did not know whether to sue my mother or the photographer for how I looked.

© 1997

Copyright Notice

Each item with the © symbol is copyrighted by David Ross in the year indicated.
Each copyright applies to the item between full ruled lines.
For details about the rights I reserve, see my copyright page.

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