An alert reader busted me for creating essentially the same comic twice.


After drawing about 7,000 Dilbert comics, you might wonder how many times this has happened before. My best guess is that is has happened at least 70 times, some instances more egregious than others. That's because there are only about 100 different jokes in the universe. All jokes are rehashes of something that came before.  The best you can do is disguise them.

It makes me wish I had been born around 1,900 B.C. when the first great innovation in humor was invented: the fart joke.


After that, every seemingly new fart joke was nothing but a rehash. I've used the fart joke several times in Dilbert, with just enough subtlety to get published. Here's one

And another...

The joke in both Dilbert comics is about 4,000 years old. And that assumes the Sumerians didn't steal the joke from someone else.

My strip that runs today (August 1, 2008) is only a second cousin to the fart joke, and maybe the naughtiest thing I ever got away with.

A Dilbert reader sent me this true story:

I have a funny story for you about the security people at (company name deleted). I was leaving on a Friday afternoon with my laptop in hand (not in the case) and was stopped by security and told that I cannot take the laptop with me and that it had to be inside a bag.

I asked why and they said that there had been a lot of computer thefts. They asked where the bag was. I told them that it was attached to my bicycle which I had to leave at another building because they (security) won't let me take it (the bike) in with me. After a momentary standoff, they said I could fill out a form to take the laptop with me and I said that I would.

They then said that I could not fill it out - my manager had to. I told them that my manager doesn't work in the building, nor does anyone in my management chain. This posed a problem for the crack security team. At last, they formulated a brilliant solution to the problem. They told me that if I had grocery bag in my office I could put the laptop in it and everything would be okay . Of course, I don't have grocery bags in my office. Who would? I did have a windbreaker, however. So I went up to my office, wrapped up the laptop in my windbreaker, and went back down.

I don't see how this prevents theft because now it really looks like I am stealing the laptop. Satisfied that they had performed in the line of duty, the crack security team let me go on my way. Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet.
I can't decide if I prefer the candidate for President who says we should consider all the facts before deciding when to withdraw troops from Iraq or the one who says we should consider all the facts before deciding when to withdraw troops from Iraq.

On a marginally related note, I can't help wondering whether McCain and Obama are both closet atheists. My hunch is that they are.

McCain is famously quiet about his faith, which is strange for a Republican candidate. And you have to wonder what five years in a prison camp does to your belief, assuming his buddies who didn't make it out were praying too. My hunch is that he's not a believer.

Obama came to Christianity about the same time he realized it was useful to his future ambitions. He seems like a pragmatist to me. The majority of people at his education level aren't believers. My hunch is that he isn't a believer either.

I won't quibble if you disagree. It's just a feeling I get by watching how they operate and how they present themselves. The truth will never be known. What's your hunch?

I fantasize about running for President, but in the same way I fantasize about being Batman. I wouldn't want either job, but it's fun to think about how I'd handle certain situations. One situation that pops up all the time is when a reporter asks a candidate to respond to his opponent's campaign promises to do the impossible. My fantasy answer would be "My opponent thinks voters are stupid."

The great thing about that answer is that it would generate world headlines. Second, it would resonate as being honest and accurate. You'd have to make sure you weren't making unrealistic promises yourself, and that's the hard part. But it would be a killer line.

Calling your opponent names, like flip-flopper, clearly works to some extent. But telling voters that your opponent thinks THEY are stupid would work even better, especially if it is clearly true that he thinks that.

I've also been working on good sound bites for both Obama and McCain. Obama's sound bite is easy. He took heat for suggesting a specific timetable for withdrawal before he had visited Iraq and talked to the generals. That seemed dumb. Then he made the best political move I have ever seen, by saying a President has to see the bigger picture, so generals in Iraq can't be the ones to determine when we leave. Agree with him or not, it was a brilliant political move. He needs to capture that in a soundbite: "Generals fight wars. Presidents make peace." It sounds like universal wisdom. That's a good sound bite.

Now that the Iraqi Prime Minister wants the U.S. to leave on Obama's timetable, McCain's biggest issue is gone. Even if you think McCain was right about the surge, it is no longer relevant to the election. No one cares that an old guy once made a good decision. The average voter doesn't know enough about economics to make the economy a powerful issue for McCain, and it's too late for him to start hammering on social issues. So McCain's sound bite needs to be something vague yet persuasive. I suggest: "Do voters prefer words or actions?"

The great part of that sound bite is that everyone is programmed to automatically prefer words to action. And to the extent that Obama is viewed as a great orator, and McCain is seen as more of a man of action, you start thinking the sound bite actually means something. And phrasing the sound bite as a question forces the listener to automatically answer it, thus reinforcing it in the irrationsl part of the brain. It is the political equivalent of "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit." It sounds like a reason to the unreasonable part of your brain, which unfortnately makes most of your decisions.

The other sound bite I have been thinking about wouldn't work for the election, but it's funny: "Change is good until it's your turn to be the diaper."

Do you have a better sound bite for this election?

[Disclaimer: I don't think either candidate meets the minimum standard to be president. And I won't have a preference until I complete a poll of economists that I'm working on now.]

I spend a lot of time trying to concoct arguments that are so persuasive that even a hardcore unreachable will say, "Golly. Not only was I wrong, but probably stupid as well, and perhaps a little bit insane. I now adopt your viewpoint as my own. Would you like a bite of my sandwich?"

My favorite fantasy in this genre is imagining what I could say to a kid that would make him think he should substitute his own judgment for mine. My fantasy argument goes like this:Kid: Can I climb on the roof?

Me: No. You'd get hurt.

Kid: I'll be careful. And my friend Brian climbs on his roof all the time. He never falls off.

Now at this point you realize that regular reasoning isn't going to win the day. You have to resort to the "Because I said so" fall-back, but while effective, that never seems like a clean win to me. To the kid it appears you don't have a good reason and you're just being an ass about it. That's why I fantasize about the rest of the discussion going this way:

Me: Do you know who invented the roof?

Kid: No.

Me: It wasn't a kid. In fact, nothing important has ever been invented by a kid. Do you know why that is?

Kid: I don't care.

Me: It's because your brain won't be fully developed until sometime in your twenties.

Kid: I'm not listening TRA-LA-LA-LA-LA!!!

Me: You don't understand why you can't go on the roof because your brain isn't developed enough to understand the risk involved.

Kid: You suck. I hate you.

Me: I'll make you a deal. If you can find anything in this house that was invented by a kid, I'll admit that kids know as much as adults and you can climb on the roof. Use my computer, which incidentally was invented by adults. Go nuts.

(seven hours later)

Kid: Golly. Not only was I wrong, but probably stupid as well, and perhaps a little bit insane. I now adopt your viewpoint as my own. Would you like a bite of my sandwich?

Me: Thanks, but the last time you washed your hands was in amniotic fluid.

Jul 25, 2008 | General Nonsense | Permalink
I have not spent much time around dogs, so our new puppy is quite a learning experience. For example, I have learned to exist in a sleepless stupor that is neither living nor dead. My IQ has dropped about 60 points and I find myself forming strong opinions on topics I don't understand.

Puppies are essentially little factories that take in small pellets and convert the raw material into barking and poop. My job, as foreman of the factory, is to make sure the output happens in the designated grassy area. I'm sure I would have gotten a bad performance review yesterday, as little Snickers delivered a pallet of product behind the dining room table and decided it was a chew toy. I got the roll of paper towels, placed it near the hazardous waste area, and left to get my hazmat suit and chemicals. This was a mistake. When I returned, one minute later, the roll of paper towels had been beavered into confetti. The dining room floor looked like New Year's Eve in Times Square, assuming the mirrored ball is actually an exploding turd.

I have watched enough episodes of The Dog Whisperer to know that I must establish myself as the alpha dog. I do this by trying not to cry when she bites me. I think it is working. Yesterday when she took me for a walk, I saw a leaf and didn't pick it up with my mouth. And I'm getting used to wearing the harness.

I had no idea that a dog would become the organizing principle for the household. From now on, all decisions are based on what is best for the dog. I was already lowest on the family hierarchy behind my wife, kids, and cats. This latest demotion stings. I have tried to adjust to the situation by merging in my mind the concept "what I want to do" with the concept "things that won't happen." My strategy is to wait it out. A dog lives what, 15 years? I tell myself I can do that time standing on my head. Wearing a harness.
A judge in New Zealand ruled that parents can't name their kid Talula Does The Hula.


This makes me wonder what would be the very worst name you could give a kid to guarantee he or she gets beat up three times a day. You can play at home. How about...

Yormoms Uskank

Awanna Feelya

Punchme Hardasyucan

Inailed Yursister

Whatsituyu Ayhole

Yesterday I nearly killed a million people. It was a close call.

It all started as I sat in front of my drawing workstation and wondered how to finish a comic. The best solution I could come up with involved mocking Microsoft's Vista operating system. While I have no personal gripe with Vista, I know that many of my readers do, so it would have been a popular strip. After years of cartooning, I have a good sense of which comics will end up on cubicle walls and be passed around the Internet. This one would have been huge.

I wrote the line and leaned back, admiring my work. Then I had the "Holy crap!" moment. If I mock Vista, and it has an impact on Microsoft stock value, then Bill Gates will have a few billion dollars less to spend on humanitarian projects. Therefore, the comic could end up killing a million people. Those people are all strangers, but still.

I deleted the reference to Vista and went another direction.

I know what you're thinking. You think that a Dilbert comic isn't going to influence Microsoft's earnings. But what you don't know is that Dilbert has been used in several court cases where an attorney tried to demonstrate the date when obscure technical issues became "common knowledge" and therefore something that a reasonable person should know. The importance in the court cases is that a defendant couldn't claim ignorance about something that is so widely known it can be included in a Dilbert comic without explanation. If a Dilbert comic mocks Vista, the criticism transforms into "common knowledge" and could influence Mac versus Windows buying decisions.

Okay, granted, it is unlikely a Dilbert comic would have any impact on Microsoft. But given the non-zero risk that I could end up killing a million people, I decided to go another direction with the comic.

When those people I saved yesterday solve their malaria issue and get some food, I hope they chip in to buy me a card to say thanks.
I always appreciate progress bars that tell me my software is hard at work on my behalf. Any time I have to wait without a progress bar it makes me feel anxious. If I'm expected to be bored and unproductive for a minute or two, I want reassurances that something good is happening behind the scenes.

The other day I was wondering if there could be a better kind of progress bar than the usual ones I always see. Could the progress bar simultaneously assure you it is working, give you a time estimate for completion, and also entertain you in some minimal way?

Naturally my first thought went to Dilbert characters, properly licensed of course. Imagine a progress bar that involved Dogbert using a mallet to pound the Pointy-Haired Boss into the ground; the deeper he goes, the less time left to wait.

Or imagine Dilbert giving you a non-stop series of compliments corresponding to each level of completion, such as "You look nice today," and "I think you are smarter than your co-workers." The compliments would be shallow and random, but I'll bet it would hold your attention. The same model could be used with Dogbert as a fortune teller, giving you fake predictions that do nothing but make you feel good, e.g. "Today is your lucky day."

Or imagine a standard progress bar that goes from left to right, but a Dilbert character puts on a cowboy hat, straddles the bar like a horse, and kicks it jockey style any time it slows down. That would make me happy because I get angry at the progress bar when it stalls. I'd like to see it get kicked.

I would also happily read famous quotes or answer trivia questions streamed to me from some external source. It would add a tiny delay, but the payoff would be worth it. A minute of entertainment is better than 58 seconds of boredom even if you are in a hurry.

Perhaps a Dilbert comic could be the progress bar. It reveals itself from left to right as the job is being completed. The humor wouldn't work because the timing would be ruined, but it would hold your attention just to see how it ends.

Suppose you could choose your mood before any action that requires a progress bar, and the progress bar would be based on that choice. If you say you are in an angry mood, you might see Dogbert pummeling someone while you wait. If you are in a relaxed mood, maybe Ratbert suns himself and stretches, just looking cute and goofy.

Got any ideas for progress bars? (Yes, someone might steal your idea and make a fortune. But realistically, were you going to pursue it?)
I plan to put solar panels on my new home when it gets built, which is bad for my wallet but good for the world. The world benefits because I will be generating about as much electric energy as I use, for once. I lose because if I could wait about three years before installing the system, the cost will probably drop so much that I will have a faster payoff. It's probably a difference of some tens of thousands of dollars. Unfortunately for me, but good for you, I'm obligated to start right away because solar panels were a condition of approval from the city, and that won't change. Nor should it. I'm helping to drive down the cost for the next person.

I was reminded of this when I heard about Al Gore's ambitious recommendation that we should attempt to generate all electricity from green sources in ten years. Many experts believe that timetable is too ambitious.

What do you think?

It is safe to assume the federal government will be more hindrance than help. Any real progress will come from brilliant individuals inventing things, funded by super rich investors. I can't see them cracking the full nut in ten years, no matter what gets invented.

Meanwhile, 99.99% of the general public is treating this as a spectator sport. It makes you wonder how you can help, since this might be the most important battle our species has known.

I can vote for the candidate who has the best energy policy, but none of them have plans ambitious enough to make a difference. And yes, I recycle. But let's face it: Recycling is the masturbation of energy policy. It might make you feel better, but it won't put a dent in global energy needs.

I wish some entrepreneur would create a way for citizens to invest in clean energy sources without having to gamble in abstractions such as the stock market or venture funds. I would love to invest in, for example, a particular windmill, or a piece of a solar farm that is generating a particular amount of energy each day. I would even invest in a few feet of new transmission cables in a specific place. I wouldn't care that it was a great investment if I knew it was directly helping save the planet.

If I could name my windmill, and see webcam pictures of it on the Internet to see how it is running, along with a widget on my desktop telling me how much power I am generating today, I would invest in it just to help save the planet, even if I knew the financial return was marginal. The same goes for investing in discrete parts of a solar farm, or any other clean energy source.

I realize windmills are expensive. But I'd be happy owning a share of a particular windmill with friends. We could name it together.

My prediction is that the brilliant scientists and the super rich investors working on clean energy can't meet the ten year goal by themselves. Some entrepreneur is going to have to figure out a way to get the other 99.99% of the country involved. If that happens, the ten year goal seems feasible to me, assuming the government stays out of the way.

Showing 1071-1080 of total 1124 entries
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog