My comic on 5/24/08 raised some questions. In the third panel, Dilbert makes a reference to "churning my own butter." Readers wondered if that was intended to be a naughty double entendre. Read it again if you care to refresh your memory.
This comic was written in my usual way. I started with a premise and drew the first frame hoping I would eventually figure out how it ended. I had a notion that it would end with a reference to something old-fashioned, and I expected to cycle through lots of options before landing on something funny. As it turned out, "churning my own butter" was both the first thing I thought (it's the most obvious) and also the funniest, precisely because it does suggest a darker joke. The boss's line, "You make it sound creepy" was the frosting, so to speak.
Wait, I think I just did it again.
I'm in the (long) process of building a house. The house will have solar panels, but it bugs me that I can't be off the electric grid entirely. There's no convenient and economical way to store energy at your own house while the sun is shining. But is that technology imminent?
Some car companies are allegedly coming out with vehicles that operate on compressed air. Here's one.
How hard would it be to convert that compressed air technology to a home generator? My solar cells could compress air during the day and the compressed air engine would produce electricity at night. There would be plenty of waste in the process, I assume, but it sounds feasible to me.
I'd also like to have a house with two elevators that are balanced so that when one goes down, the other is pulled up. And I would only use the elevators for going down, so my weight causes one side to be heavier than the other. To slow the descent, I'd be compressing air into my home air battery. If you need to go up, you use the stairs. It's healthier. I'd have a full-power elevator option for the elderly and handicapped, but everyone else would be an energy producer.
Then I'd put the guest bathroom on the second floor so I gain some electricity every time a guest goes to take a whiz. It wouldn't balance out the water use, but it would make me feel better. And every time my wife or kids asked me where some lost item or other was, I'd say, "I saw it upstairs."
I wish it was Dilbert. But today it is the May 16th Pearls Before Swine. Check it out today at this URL, but after today it will be in the archive.
In the news, a JetBlue pilot allegedly made a passenger give his seat to an off-duty flight attendant. The flight was full, so the passenger was ordered to sit on the toilet for three hours.
I'm sure your reaction to this story was the same as mine: That passenger got the best seat in the house! He had lots of leg room, total privacy, no one trying to hog the armrest, no seatbelt requirement, and all the whizzing he could handle. So naturally he sued the airline.
The passenger's problem was that he didn't know how to make the best of a great situation. I would have kept the door propped open and yelled "Waiter! More Diet Coke!" every time a flight attendant walked past. And I would have gathered up enough blankets and pillows to feather my little nest.
You might be thinking that the toilet seat in the bathroom has more cooties than Rick Solomon's beard. That's true, and it's why you should always pee in the little sink. But I digress. My point is that there is some theoretical number of airline blankets that will give you three hours of protection. Then all you have to worry about is the germs on the blankets themselves.
The real victims in this story are the two-hundred passengers who had to share one bathroom. They're the ones who should be suing. Airlines have a rule that you can't congregate around the bathroom and wait in line. That means you have to keep one hand on your seatbelt buckle and get ready to pounce as soon as the door opens. If anyone else makes a move, you might need to show your box cutters and yell something about Allah to clear the aisle. It's either that or your bladder will burst. There are no good choices here.
The passenger in this story had his own private suite for three hours and apparently missed the opportunity for a solo flight to the Mile High Club. I assume this is the case because he arrived in California all angry. If you put most men of that age group behind a locked door for three hours, with no other form of entertainment, you need a gurney and an IV at the other end.
Few things fascinate me more than seeing something work when it really shouldn't. For example, as you know, nothing is more boring than listening to another person talk about the dream he had last night. Therefore, you would assume, a comic that is nothing but an account of a stranger's dream should be the most uninteresting comic in the universe. And yet it isn't.
Artist Jesse Reklaw turns people's dreams into four-panel comics on the Internet. They have no coherent story line and no punch lines. If you read only one, you would probably scratch your head and wonder what he was smoking. But if you read several it feels like accessing the dream part of your brain while being awake. It's the strangest sensation. Check it out.
The hardest part about writing is capturing your own (or someone else's) inner thoughts. For example, if I ask you to tell me something funny or frustrating about your job, you'd give me tales of coworkers eating your food from the break room fridge, or tell me your boss is incompetent. But those aren't thoughts, just observations. We seem to store memories in terms of actions and some broad emotions, but not thoughts. And it is the thoughts you generally don't voice that make writing interesting.
Let's test this. In the comments section, tell me what you were DOING immediately before reading this blog, and also tell me what you were THINKING about while you did it. If you can do both of those things, you are halfway to being an interesting and humorous writer.
For example, "I was answering an e-mail from my coworker Karl while thinking he won't understand my answer because he has an unusually small head that probably can't hold much of a hat much less a brain."