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Quips and Jabs — 1999-2000

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

Quips and Jabs 1997-1998

"Tech Times" is a weekly section of the Los Angeles Times. This section focuses on technology for consumers, including home computers. A recent edition of "Tech Times" contained a comparative review of three Web filtering programs for home use.

The review contained not one word about how these filtering programs block access to Web sites that are indeed suitable for children. Recent reports indicate that the brands of filtering software reviewed have blocked access to the Web sites of Congressional candidates; the Democrat, Green, and Reform Parties; and the Million Mom March and other gun-control organizations (but did not block access to the NRA's Web site).

Somehow, I expected a major newspaper to be especially sensitive to issues relating to freedom of communication. While reviewing filtering software was a legitimate news item for "Tech Times", the review should have mentioned the fact that this software blocks access to more than merely the "bad" sites.

© 2000

Master Card logo
Campaign spending: $184,000,000
Having your little brother rig the election: Priceless.


The first attempt by the United States to launch a space satellite into orbit failed. Before we could succeed, the Soviet Union successfully orbited Sputnik. From city halls to the Capitol in Washington, our elected officials denounced how our schools failed us.

Later, the Soviet Union successfully put the first human, Yuri Gagarin, into orbit and safely returned him to earth. This happened before the United States had an astronaut in orbit. Again, our politicians decried the failures of our school systems.

But then, when the United States successfully sent men to the moon and back, not one public official praised our schools or how they educated our populace to accomplish such a great deed.

Is it possible that our public schools are the cause of everything that is wrong in America but have contributed nothing to what is right? NO! The truth is that politicians seek a scapegoat for failures but want to claim personal responsibility for successes.

© 2000

If at first you do succeed, try to hide your astonishment.

From a fortune cookie in a Chinese restaurant

A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.

Contributed by Mike Miora

I needed some plain (unruled) 3x5 file cards, but the local drug store (where selling prescription drugs often seems to be merely a sideline) did not have any. So I went to Staples during my lunch break.

I only wanted about 100, but the smallest pack was about 500. However, it cost less than $3, so I thought I would buy it anyway. I'll probably have enough to last me another 30 years.

There were only two registers open, and one was also handling returns and refunds. At the other register, there was only one customer. I thought this would be great. Mistake! The woman had a check from her office that was not sufficient for her purchases. She had to go to her car for cash. Then the register clerk needed ID to accept the check. This meant another trip to the car. (Who goes into a store without a wallet??)

As the customer left for her second trip into the parking lot, I left the line and went to the returns and refunds register. As the clerk started ringing up my little purchase, I commented to the clerk that — during lunch — there should be more registers open since many customers have only a limited amount of time to shop before they must return to work. Just then, a third register opened. It was 1:00pm, and lunch was over.

I hate shopping!

© 2000

The Fugitive is back. A popular TV mystery during the 1960s (and much more recently, a feature film), The Fugitive is a new series on TV again this season.

Comedies, drama, and romances are often resurrected. They can be enjoyed again and again. But The Fugitive is a mystery. We all know whether Dr. Kimble is caught and serves his sentence for murdering his wife or whether the one-armed man is discovered to be the real murderer.

The mystery is gone. There is no suspense. Why bother?

© 2000

A gas station near my house has a small grocery. Inside is a banner advertising chocolate chip cookies:
2 for 99¢

6 for $2.99

Three times two cookies is six cookies, but three times 99¢ is $2.97.

© 2000

I would rather have the brilliance of a 100 watt long-life incandescent light bulb than the momentary flash of a 10,000 watt strobe.

© 2000

The irreplaceable person is someone whom, when he or she leaves, no one bothers to replace.

© 2000

Pat Buchanan chose Ezola Foster as his running mate in his Reform Party campaign for the Presidency. My daughter doesn't know whether she is more surprised that Buchanan would choose a black woman or that the woman would even consider appearing on the same ticket with Buchanan.

In the meantime, the real choice is between tax-and-spend Democrats and borrow-and-spend Republicans.

© 2000

The radio advertisements for some nostrum asserts that it is safe and has no side effects because it's natural. Consider the following:

And remember all those people who die of natural causes.

© 2000

Progress: Failing further along than you have ever failed before.

© 2000

The automobile manufacturers claim that sports utility vehicles (SUVs) are trucks and not automobiles. The buyers of SUVs support that claim because then their vehicles are exempt from stringent pollution and fuel-efficiency standards that apply to automobiles.

If SUVs are trucks, however, why then are they not subject to the same driving rules as trucks? In California, the maximum speed limit for trucks is 55mph even in the rural areas where automobiles can go 70mph. Trucks are required to stay in the right lanes of most freeways and are prohibited from certain freeways. And trucks are not allowed in carpool lanes.

© 2000

Hypocrisy Alert

New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani — a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate — wants to post copies of the Ten Commandments in all public schools. Given his current personal problems, perhaps they should be pruned down to the Nine Commandments, omitting "Thou shalt not commit adultery."

Yes, I do believe that even the most public of persons should be allowed their private lives. But when those individuals preach about "family values" and other moral issues, their private lives should reflect their public positions. Adultery does not make Giuliani unfit for Senator, but hypocrisy makes him unfit even for Mayor.

Suggested by a column written by Los Angeles Times contributing editor Robert Scheer

© 2000

By a vote of 5-4, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that the states may ignore federal laws prohibiting age discrimination in employment. While very disappointing, this decision was no surprise. After all, before he was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bush, Clarence Thomas was Chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under President Reagan. There, Thomas (one of the five justices who blocked enforcement of the prohibition against age discrimination) held up action on over 20,000 age discrimination cases until the statute of limitations expired. If he had done this as a private attorney, he would have faced millions of dollars in malpractice claims and would have been disbarred. However, the Republican administration saw great potential in Justice Thomas; slowly, he would unwind those pesky anti-discrimination laws that make employers treat their workers fairly.

© 2000

If there really is a God who created the entire universe with all of its glories, and He decides to deliver a message to humanity, He will not use as his messenger a person on cable TV with a bad hairstyle and too much makeup.

Contributed by Harvey Kern
Possibly originating with commedian Howard Karlin

A 25th wedding anniversary is the time for gifts of silver, a 50th is for gifts of gold, and a 75th is for gifts of diamonds. Just before our 35th wedding anniversary this year, both our dishwasher and clothes washer needed to be replaced. Last year, just before their 35th anniversary, our dear neighbors had to replace their clothes washer.

Yes, for a 35th wedding anniversary, the appropriate gift is a major appliance!

I just received the manufacturer's rebate check for $90: $40 for the clothes washer and $50 for the dishwasher. It is indeed nice to receive this money, but it leaves the basic question: Why? Why is there a rebate? Why does not the manufacturer and dealer instead arrange to reduce the prices? If the prices had been reduced, I would have saved over $96.53, not $90. That is because sales taxes would have been computed on the lower price.

I have long wondered about rebates for buying a new automobile. Personal property taxes (2% on automobiles in California) and sales taxes (7.25% in the county where I live) are computed on the sales price before rebates. A $1,000 rebate and a $1,000 cut in the price would cost the manufacturer the same. But the customer would save an additional $92.50 if the price were cut. In other words, for the psychological reward of receiving a cash rebate — a reward provided by holding a check for $1,000 but not provided by the less visible cut in the price — the customer pays an extra $92.50. Further, since the personal property tax is levied every year when the registration is renewed (on a declining value starting with the original sales price), the customer eventually actually pays well over $100 for the rebate. I wonder what would happen if I told an automobile dealer that he could keep the rebate if he would cut the price.

© 1999

In a statement heard on the radio during my morning commute, Los Angeles's interim Superintendent of Schools Ramon C. Cortines said that "the schools do not belong to we administrators." I surely hope not! The schools should not belong to we anything, but they might belong to us. Anyone who does not know the difference between we and us — between nominative and objective pronouns — and how to use them certainly does not belong in a position controlling the education of our children.

© 1999

A radio commercial for a food supplement described calcium as the most abundant mineral in the human body. Calcium is not a mineral; it's an element. Sure, that sounds like I'm quibbling over terms. But if element and mineral can be used interchangeably, then the most abundant "mineral" in the human body is hydrogen (part of water), not calcium. Obviously, the food supplement is another product whose promoter cannot be trusted with the truth.

© 1999

If the taxpayers subsidize it, the taxpayers have a right to control it. No one should be asked to pay taxes to support something that offends their religious sensibilities.

These sentiments have been expressed (not in these exact words) by New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his supporters regarding the controversial exhibit of art from the Saatchi collection at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. These same sentiments should also be expressed regarding vouchers and other forms of tax subsidies for students attending parochial schools. After all, teaching those children the dogma of their own religion — but not teaching them mine — offends my religious sensibilities. The interesting thing about this is that many of the same individuals who would support government censorship of government-subsidized art are the most vocal about blocking any kind of government control over government-subsidized private and parochial schools.

© 1999

Am I the only one? Or does anyone else notice the incongruity — the conflict between purpose and practice — in a fitness center applying for a permit to sell beer and wine? The Spectrum Club in Thousand Oaks, California, has such an application pending.

© 1999

Q. What's the worst part about getting a lung transplant?

A. The first couple of times you cough, it's not your phlegm…

Contributed by Todd Gamble

In a radio advertisement, one of the major German automobile manufacturers — not Volkswagen or Daimler Chrysler — begins by describing research that concludes birds that fly fast live longer than birds that fly slow. The advertisement then segues into boasting how fast their vehicles go.

Fast birds live longer than slow birds? The slow-flying parrot lives decades longer than the fast hummingbird. Geese outlive sparrows but can't outfly them.

If they present false information about birds — about well-known lifespans — can I trust them to be honest about their automobiles?

© 1999

"The Gas Company" (Southern California Gas Company) is changing its identity. Soon it will be known as Sempra Energy Company. This, of course, raises an important question (except to the managers at The Gas Company): What was wrong with the old identity?

If nothing was really wrong with the old identity, the cost of changing — new stationery, emblems on trucks, signs on buildings, meter reader uniforms — is a total waste that will likely be collected from the rate payers. If, however, something is indeed wrong with the old identity, merely changing the name will be insufficient. The corporate philosophy, operating procedures, and management style will also have to change. In other words, those executives who decided on this change will have to leave.

When I read the billing insert from my latest gas bill about this change, I was strongly reminded of System Development Corporation (SDC). SDC no longer exists, having been bought by Burroughs, which was then merged into Unisys, which then sold the business group containing the remnant of SDC to Loral, which was bought by Lockheed-Martin, which spun it off to become L3 Communications. But before all that, in the early 1970's, SDC hired a new CEO, George Mueller. Although he kept the SDC identity, one of Dr. Mueller's first acts was to create a new image for SDC. After all, the old image stood for integrity and technical excellence.

Is The Gas Company abondoning substance in favor of superficial froth? Or are they trying to run away from a problem that will nevertheless catch them?

© 1999

Non-Sequitur cartoon; person demanding freedom for his religion and then squashing someone who suggests tolerance for other religions In my editorials, I often write about how freedom of religion as expressed in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution requires that we tolerate other beliefs and not try to impose our own beliefs on others. In this Non Sequiter cartoon for 22 May 1999, Wiley Miller clearly shows why this is necessary. Since government represents all of us, this necessity includes not having any government-sponsored practices that promote one religion over another or that promote religion in general over non-religion (e.g.: prayer in public schools).

© 1999

Last week a psychic answered a knock at his front door and was shot to death (true story). Nancy [my daughter's friend] heard this and said, "Why did he open the door when he obviously should have known it was going to happen?"

It's sort of like the Psychic Friends Network going bankrupt. Didn't they see it coming?

contributed by my daughter, Heather Ross

When I donate to a charity, political campaign, or social justice program, my donation comes from a budget I established for myself. My funds are limited, and I want my money used in the most effective manner for furthering the causes I support.

To stay within budget, I generally donate to any specific cause only once a year. To promote effectivity, I ask that my donation not be used to solicit further donations from me. Thus, I ask recipients to avoid soliciting me within 11 months of receiving my donation. When I receive a solicitation for more money within only a month or two of my donation, I put that cause on my Boycott list for the next 18 months.

When I place a cause on my Boycott list, I use their prepaid envelope to notify them of their transgression. They just don't get it! They still continue to solicit me again and again. Oh well. Their waste of paper, postage, and effort indicates they really do not need my money.

© 1999

Hypocrisy Alert

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a report noting that as much as a third of the bottled water sold in the United States is contaminated by either bacteria or pollutants. The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) then accused the NRDC of unfair scare tactics.

For years, members of the IBWA advertised their products by implying that tap water — much more carefully regulated and tested than bottled water — was unsafe. I guess that scare tactics in favor of your own product is fair but the truth in favor of a competing product is unfair.

© 1999

Please explain to me the economics of pricing motor fuels.

Gasoline must be specially blended for California to meet this state's air pollution laws. So when two refineries in this state were severely damaged by explosions (one late last year and one in March of this year) and a third was out of service for maintenance and repairs, the price of gasoline soared as supplies dwindled. After all, the lost production capacity could not be satisfied from out-of-state refineries that were not designed to provide the special blend. But why did diesel fuel also jump in price? Diesel is the same all over the world. (Yes, my car is a diesel.)

Then, California Governor Davis announced that the additive MTBE would be phased out of use. This is one of the ingredients of the special blend that reduces air pollution. When MTBE was first used, the price of gasoline jumped. The oil companies claimed that it cost more to include MTBE in the blend. Now the oil companies warn of another increase in the price of gasoline, caused by the elimination of MTBE. Apparently, it costs to add it and it costs to not add it.

© 1999

The American Electronics Association issued a report card on the climate in California for high technology businesses. This report card will serve as the Association's agenda for lobbying in Sacramento, the state capital.

High on the agenda are improving public education in order to produce the talented workforce that creates the innovations needed by the electronics industry and renovating such infrastructure items as roads, water supplies, and sewer systems. Also high on the agenda is reducing state taxes.

Once again we see a demand for expanding government expenditures coupled with a refusal to pay for them.

© 1999

While watching a movie, have you ever noticed:

contributed by Mike Miora

recycle symbol Many of the forms and publications available online from the IRS show the recycle symbol, which indicates the use of either recycled paper or paper that can be recycled. How do they know what kind of paper on which I am printing?

© 1999

I practice indirect vegetarianism. I let the steer eat the vegetables; then I eat the steer.

Steve Balanowski

hemisphere: half of the earth as divided by the equator

This definition, spoken by a little girl, introduces the radio commercial for a learning center. Later in the commercial, the center claims how much they can increase a student's achievements in mathematics and reading.

The definition suffices when discussing the northern and southern hemispheres of the earth. But what about the eastern and western hemispheres, which are not at all divided by the equator. Not only the earth but also the moon, Mars, and the sun can be divided into hemispheres. An educational service that puts an emphasis on mathematics should know that even hypothetical spheres — existing only in the mind — can also be divided into hemispheres by any arbitrary great circle.

If I were concerned about a child's education, I would avoid any service that uses inaccurate, incomplete definitions of technical terms in its advertisements.

© 1999

colonoscopy: a medical procedure during which a doctor checks to see if you have been flossing your teeth regularly … by looking the long way.

© 1999

Why is it that my mother (88) expects me to call her and then my children (32 and 27) also expect me to call them? Who calls me?

© 1999

In 1998, I had some very painful surgery on my gums. The periodontist who did the surgery advised me to brush between my teeth if I did not want a repeat of this very traumatic experience. He gave me a starter set of two kinds of brushes. They look like very small bottle brushes, one kind is a tapered cone and one is cylindrical.

I tried buying additional brushes at both Sav-On and Rite Aid drug stores, but neither chain stocks the particular sizes I need. At both stores, I was told that, if they did not already have shelf space for the items, they could not order them for me.

That is, if they do not already stock the item, they will not stock it. I have heard similar comments about grocery items in a supermarket and a particular brand of bedroom slippers in a department store. In these cases, how in the world do these stores ever stock a new item? What do they do when the existing items are no longer manufactured?

By the way, Long's Drugs carries one of the brushes and readily ordered the other when I asked. The ordered brushes arrived within three days. Sav-On and Rite Aid are larger chains than Long's. They prove that the biggest is not always the best.

© 1999

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