Home
Have you noticed that people with impressive voices tend to become leaders? I first noticed this during my corporate years. Every male executive seemed to have a voice that resonated on more than one level, as if two or three people were talking simultaneously when they opened their mouths. I know that's a poor explanation so I just went to Youtube and searched for a CEO speech. The second one I viewed had the distinctive "leader voice."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUjoQPUsr4Q


Sometimes you hear a guy with a leader voice in a non-leader job and it immediately seems out of place. I wonder if the voice quality makes leadership more feasible or if the body chemistry that promotes leadership (say testosterone levels for the sake of argument) create an excellent voice as a side benefit.

There are plenty of leaders with sketchy voices, of course. Bill Gates comes to mind, as does the first President Bush. Obviously there's more than one way to get to the top. But I wonder if we will ever see a medical procedure to turn normal voices into leadership voices for the purpose of furthering a career.

My guess is yes.

 
A reader caught me using the same joke twice. See today's Dilbert:  http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2009-02-04


Then check out the comic I drew way back on 3/13/95.



I never repeat intentionally, but I often get a nagging feeling that something looks vaguely familiar. That's probably because the human mind is tuned to recognize patterns, and almost everything you see reminds you of something you already saw.

I suppose I'm most prone to repeating a line spoken by Dogbert because his voice is the one that plays in my mind all day. He says the things I am thinking but could never say in polite company. When someone tells me they got a "new position" at work, what I say aloud is "Congratulations!" But what I think in the deepest Dogbert part of my brain is "Grabbing your ankles?"

Okay, that's three times I've used that same joke. Ithink it's out of my system now.

 
Last week my cable box stopped responding to the remote. I went through the obvious checklist of changing batteries, checking the remote's settings, rebooting the cable box, making sure the remote still controlled the TV volume and power functions okay, and making sure the cable box could be controlled manually by the buttons on the front. Then I called Comcast's tech support.

They put me through the same steps I already tried then added reversing the polarity of the batteries in the remote to essentially reboot it. That didn't work. So the tech support person sent me to the nearest Comcast store to get a new remote control. The new one didn't work either. But of course the tech support person on my next call (an American woman in case you wonder) made me repeat all the steps that didn't make a difference last time just to be sure. At the end of the call the tech support person concluded, and I am not making this up, "The remote probably just needs to loosen up."

Pause while you digest that.

I had already requested a repair visit before this latest call to tech support, so I gave up and waited. When the repair guy came I described my problem and informed him in the best straight face I could muster that his company thinks maybe the remote control just needs to "loosen up."

The repair guy asked, "Did they really say that?" I confirmed that they did. I could see the last bit of hope drain out of his eyes as he just looked to the floor, slumped his shoulders, and shook his head in disbelief. He seemed a broken man. But he replaced the cable box and everything was fine. Later that night I doubt he bought anything to stimulate the economy, unless it was beer.

Okay, now changing topics, I got this story by e-mail:

"The door on the mini-refrigerator at work wouldn't close because the freezer compartment was iced over.  Two employees, a man and a woman, decided to thaw it out. They carried it down from the second floor to the warm outside so it could thaw without making a mess in the office.

When their boss heard what they did, he screamed at them for doing it without the assistance of the unionized maintenance group. So even though by now the freezer was completely thawed out, fully cleaned, and sitting outside the building, the boss contacted the maintenance people to schedule a day and time for them to bring it back in.

The day before the maintenance people were scheduled to bring it back inside the office, the boss saw that the refrigerator was missing from outside the building. He stormed up to the female employee's desk and screamed at her, ‘I told you not to ever move that refrigerator again!' She burst into tears and said, ‘I didn't touch it . . . I didn't touch it! I don't know what you're talking about.' Apparently someone thought the refrigerator was being discarded and took it home."

That night the two employees who cleaned the refrigerator did not buy anything to stimulate the economy. They cried themselves to sleep. At least that's my guess.
 
Recently I joined an indoor soccer league. We play on artificial turf inside a big warehouse. You might wonder why Californians need to play sports inside. Answer: Sometimes it is too sunny.

Actually, indoor soccer is about twice as fun as outdoor soccer owing to the fact you can play the ball off the walls, giving the game a new dimension. It's ridiculously fun.

I joined the over-30 coed league. I figured that guaranteed I wouldn't be the worst player on the field at any given time. What I didn't count on is that due to a schedule misfire, my team got lumped with the over-18 league and there was no practical way to fix it because the over-30 league was filled. We knew the younger league would be stiffer competition, but our players are reasonably fit for our ages, so how bad could it be? Plus our women are exceptionally good, and that's generally the key to winning in a coed league.

On Friday we played a team named Arsenal. The team name was our first clue we were in trouble. Let me tell you how that went.

Before the match I was doing some stretching and trying to scope out the players for Arsenal as they gathered. It was embarrassing having them near our team because it looked like some sort of educational film where we represented the "after" to their "before exposure to toxic chemicals." They were clearly elite athletes, possibly the products of genetic engineering. While I grunted and strained to keep one leg straight while touching my shin, an opposing player was scratching an itch on his back with his toes. While I was doing a little running in place, knees high, an opposing player was hovering six inches above the ground in a lotus position. He seemed to be glowing.

At first glance I noticed that their women were petite and unimposing. I breathed a sigh of relief until one of them stretched, and her long soccer shorts hiked up a bit. Oh God. Her thighs looked like The Incredible Hulk posing in front of a mirror. I doubt she even owns an automobile. I assume she leaps from one town to the next.

Her ball skills were awesome. During the game I made a lucky guess on which way she planned to maneuver and won the ball against all odds. This miracle lasted about one second until she body-checked me so hard I left a Shroud of Turin-like impression in the wall, except mine was screaming.

The game became the soccer equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters versus seven clumps of moss. Arsenal scored at will, often with trick shots. We ran, they glided. I literally counted the players on the field to convince myself they weren't playing with too many. I think some of them were holograms but I can't prove it. It was a massacre.

Before long the score was 12-0, still with plenty of time on the clock. I overheard one of the Arsenal players tell his team "Just header goals from now on." I guess that was intended to keep us from feeling bad about the score. It didn't work.

I wasn't clear if some sort of league "mercy rule" went into effect or the score keeper just got a bad case of carpal tunnel from pressing the button so often, but the score board stayed at 12 while our 60-year old keeper replayed the final scene from Bonnie and Clyde, except with soccer balls. I think we held them under triple digits.

In the end we only suffered three injuries, so most of us will be back again this Friday. We're hoping to do better, and by that I mean only two injuries.
 
Just when you thought we didn't have enough problems, a type of immortal jellyfish is making a move for world domination. Apparently they become younger after they procreate.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/4357829/Immortal-jellyfish-swarming-across-the-world.html


I welcome our jellyfish overlords. We humans like to think we're the pinnacle of evolution but the evidence doesn't support that theory. Let's see how we compare to jellyfish.

Starting with the obvious, when we humans become old we pay big money to inject rat poison in our foreheads so we won't look like this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sushisharpei.jpg


When Jellyfish get old they just hump their way back to childhood and start over. Seriously, who has the better system?

When humans want to find a mate they use online dating services and interview many strangers, at least half of whom have club feet and criminal records.

Jellyfish have the advantage of looking exactly alike. That means every jellyfish is aroused by every other jellyfish. When they want to mate they just grab the nearest jellyfish that isn't their own reflection and start going to town. Advantage: jellyfish.

Last night I watched the Jacksonville auditions for American Idol for the second time in two nights because the kids hadn't seen it the first time. Jellyfish spent last night making love and getting younger. Advantage: Jellyfish.

Okay, now it's your turn. Tell me what you have been doing recently and compare that to what jellyfish were doing at the same time. See who wins.

 
My Cat
Jan 28, 2009 | General Nonsense | Permalink
Soon after I started cartooning, about 19 years ago, I got my first pet, a kitten. I named her Sarah, after an editor who gave me my big break in cartooning.

I found the kitten from an ad in the paper. A local woman's cat had a small litter in need of homes. They were little tuxedo cats, mostly black with white paws and mixed faces. The woman put them on her sofa as sort of a line up from which I could choose. Three of the cats ignored me, walking to one end and playing amongst themselves. The fourth stared me straight in the eyes and approached. She selected me. Or at least that is how it felt. She made me feel special from the first second I knew her, and I hoped to return the favor.

Sarah bonded with me immediately. When I whistled, she would come running, climb on my chest in the Sphynx position and begin purring. She was a one-human cat. Rarely could another touch her without risking bloodshed.

Other cats came and went as my living situation changed. Sarah didn't care for any of them. She loved me intensely, and in her view no cat or human could compete. In time she became my office cat, to better avoid all creatures that were not me.

Every day since 1990 she competed with my work. When I picked up a pen, or lately a stylus, she would come running, yelling in cat language that I should pick her up and give her my full attention. She was my forced work break, and there were many. She was my only company for most of my day. Cartooning is a lonely art, but I was never alone.

Recently her tiny body started to shut down. But it never stopped her enthusiasm in seeing me. She dragged her arthritic body over to me every time I entered the room, even if I had only been gone for a second. She never failed to purr. I loved her intensely.

In the past month she had been letting me know the end was approaching. Maybe it was the way she moved or just some sort of animal ESP. I just knew. And so I spent as much time as I could with her, extra petting, in just the ways she trained me. Recent visits to the vet confirmed that there was no cure for old. We tried to enjoy the time we had.

Yesterday all of her systems reached their limits. The vet explained the options to my wife and me. I asked the vet what she would do in this situation if it were her cat. She wisely refused to say. I asked my wife. She wisely refused to say. This was my decision, and Sarah's. That is how it had to be. I looked at Sarah and asked her if she was ready. Her eyes told me she was, but the pain of uncertainty was unbearable.

Sarah had a history with the vet. Her chart had a big warning: She's a biter, and she has all of her claws. No one touched this cat safely but me. She was a vet's nightmare. And so the vet explained how this would come down. If Sarah allowed her leg to be shaved, and the injection to go in, without fighting, this would be the best alternative. Otherwise they would have to use some sort of cat gas chamber. That option seemed unthinkable. But it would be worse to try one method, fail, and go to the second. Again, it was my decision. And I was in no frame of mind to make decisions.

I opted for the injection, and hoped for the best. Sarah still had some fight left in her, as we learned minutes ago while the vet checked her vitals. But somehow she knew this was different. She knew it was time. After 19 years of fighting veterinarians, she let the vet shave her leg without the least resistance. And in so doing, she told me I made the right decision. I looked in her eyes as the life drained out of them. I was devastated.

But today I am happy, even more than usual. I think about how much Sarah enriched my life and I am grateful. I think about how much I learned from my relationship with her, and even from her passing, and I am thankful for it all. Today everyone in my life seems more precious. I'll always carry Sarah with me, and I know I am better for it.

 
No blog post today. Sick cat.
 
 I was surprised to learn that there is no universally agreed definition of life:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life


The definition of life is growing in importance. We want to know when human life begins for lots of ethical, legal, and religious reasons. We want to know that if we find something crawling around on Mars it can be classified as life. As artificial intelligence evolves, we want to know when to start granting androids rights. And if a human is in a coma, we want to know at what point that individual could be considered no longer alive.

So I was noodling with a functional definition of life that aims to solve our current and future ethical dilemmas. How about defining life as any discreet entity with the following qualities:


  1. Potential to feel pain.
  2. Potential to learn.


This definition keeps our future androids from getting full legal rights, since they can't feel pain. And it would let you pull the plug on anyone who doctor's say has no potential to ever feel pain or learn again. So far, so good.

One thorny issue is that life would begin at conception by this definition. It would be a separate argument as to whether the woman carrying the life has a right to terminate it while it is still in the early potential phase.

My definition keeps a virus from being considered life. And plants too, I think. That feels right. I don't think lettuce needs to be "alive" any more than my watch.

I haven't thought this idea through. I'm just throwing it out there for consideration.

 
As we recently learned, you and I might be holograms projected from the edges of the universe. In case you missed it:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20126911.300-our-world-may-be-a-giant-hologram.html


So what happens if the universe is expanding? It seems to me our holograms would change positions. Perhaps this explains what we perceive as movement. The edge of the universe moves, and suddenly I think I'm driving my car someplace.

The other thing that might happen is that our images would grow in size, the same way a projector's image grows as you back it up from the screen. We wouldn't notice the growth because everything would grow at the same time, with denser objects growing just a bit faster, thus creating the illusion of gravity.

If any of that seems inconsistent with scientific observation, don't worry. The great thing about being a hologram is that our memories of the past are all false. So if you think our planet orbits the sun, maybe you only remember learning that and it never happened. All bets are off when you are a hologram.

If our memories are false, you'd expect to see some inconsistencies in the historical record, just because all those false memories wouldn't fit together seamlessly. The longer the history, the more likely there would be inconsistencies. For example, we might have a popular theory that the universe suddenly inflated from a dot of nothing, or that most of the universe is made of invisible dark matter, or particles can have spooky entanglement issues from a distance, or light can behave like both a particle and a wave. Check, check, check, and check. You're sure those things will be rationally explained by science someday, but I'll predict new inconsistencies will be formed in the process, to perpetuity.

If our reality is a hologram, you might also expect that the theory of evolution would have some head-scratching parts. Maybe something like this:

http://www.newsweek.com/id/180103?gt1=43002


If you are tempted to argue that I'm misinterpreting something here, based on your vast knowledge, remember that your knowledge is all false memory. Or maybe just half vast.

 
The other day I was looking out my office window and something unusual flashed by on the road. I didn't get a good look at it but I could tell it wasn't an ordinary car. I wanted a better look, just out of idle curiosity, so I did what anyone would do in that situation: I reached for the remote control so I could rewind and play it back.

The only problem, as I soon realized, is that windows don't have a rewind feature. It was frustrating. It's not the first time I have reflexively reached for the rewind button. Sometimes I miss bits of conversation and I think for a brief moment I'll rewind and listen to that again. If you have a DVR at home, you might be having the same frustration.

Watching television still isn't as good as real life, at least on average, but that gap is narrowing from both sides. Real life is getting worse while the quality of television continues to improve. Case in point, have you taken your car to the dealer for servicing during the current economic downturn? If so, I pity you. You already found out that the dealership is struggling on the sales side and they are trying to make up the difference on the service side. These days the sales staff has no function other than to hold your arms and legs while the service staff screws you.

Try taking your car in for some minor service, such as an oil change. You'll end up paying for fixes that never actually happened, on car components that don't actually exist. For example, your service agent might tell you that if you don't get your flumerjib aligned, your kragwalter will oomulated and corrode the maxinflap. In a situation such as that, you know exactly two things:


1. If you take it somewhere for a second opinion, the second guy will screw you too, albeit in a new way.


2. If you try to service your car yourself, you will die in a fireball that will be visible from the International Space Station.

So you loosen your sphincter muscles, take a deep breath, and agree to let the suspicious stranger service your brains out. Your only solace comes from the knowledge that sooner or later an investigative reporter will bust your dealership.

I consider this to be one of the downsides of understanding economics. I know in advance, almost like ESP, that none of you have heard this from a car dealership's service department in the past two months:

Service Guy: "I fixed your ping by removing a twig that was caught under the fender. There's no charge of course, and your car is otherwise perfect. So I will just default on my mortgage and kill stray dogs to feed my family this week. Have a nice weekend!"

 
 
 
Showing 901-910 of total 1075 entries
 
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog