Thursday, May 8, 2008

Can somebody explain Marmaduke to me?

Okay, I really need your help. I've been tormented for years by a question. I need to find someone, anyone who actually enjoys Marmaduke and why. Professional journalist types might, at this point, go on to say something like, "for those who are not familiar with it, Marmaduke is a classic comic strip featuring a great Dane blah, blah, blah." But I, not being a professional journalist type, know that every English-speaking organism on the planet knows about this hideous strip. I have never read, seen, heard of, or walked by a newspaper that does not have this awful blemish on the history of illustrated humor. What's more, it's often at the very top of the funnies page. Nothing like opening with your best material!

My disgust with this horrible excuse for funny is aptly summed up by Joe Mathlete, who has created the "Marmaduke Explained" blog (not linking there, as it's not entirely family-friendly, but still reeely funny). According to Joe, Marmaduke consists of four alternating jokes: "Marmaduke is big, Marmaduke is [a jerk], Marmaduke thinks he's people, and the occasional inexplicable bit of 'phantom humor.'" Joe gives examples of 'phantom humor' on his site, but it's essentially a random thing that apparently occurred to the cartoonist as being funny, but is in no way related to the strip or its characters.

At no time have I ever found this strip funny. I generally understand which of the four jokes the cartoonist is telling on any given day, but none of them have made me so much as smile. On, Marmaduke is categorized under Ages 30-50, Family, and Pets. I am between ages thirty and fifty, I have a family, and I have had pets. Nothing. And I have never met anybody in any of those categories who actually finds the strip funny.

Don't get me wrong... I hate other comics with four or fewer jokes, too. The Family Circus only has three jokes: the dotted line schtick, the Not Me/Ida Know deal, and one-of-the-kids-says-something-precious old saw. There are also several things that occur that are not really jokes (like grandpa looking down from heaven or grandma delivering a Sunday School lesson theme). I guess they're supposed to warm the cockles of my heart instead. Keep away from my cockles please, Bil. And that's the other thing: "Bil." Good grief (to quote Charles Schultz)! I'm going to start spelling my name with a silent Q just to be unique.

Even so, I can still actually see why some people enjoy The Family Circus. The Dennis-the-Menace-on-Prozac effect may actually be appealing to some. Not me, but some. I tend to think that it grossly overshoots "cute" and hits "cutesy" most of the time. And yes, I'm a parent, so I'm equipped to get the jokes. It might be funny if my kid said it, but it's not if he pretends his kids did. And the reliance on three jokes gets tiresome after a decade or two, too.

Even so, The Family Circus seems to have the wit and edge of Non Sequitur and The Far Side along with the sardonic quality of Agnes, compared to my arch-nemesis Marmaduke. The lack of actual funny, along with the visual appeal of Zippy the Pinhead, make for a comic strip slightly less enticing than the art of Get Fuzzy with the dialog of Rex Morgan, MD. It never deserved to share the same page with the sacred Calvin and Hobbes (may it rest in peace) or the niche but hilarious Dilbert. How does it end up in every newspaper in history? I have to think that there's some Haliburton-style government contract involved.

So back to my plea. I have to find somebody who actually likes Marmaduke so that they can be reported to medical science and studied. Please reply via comment to this post with any information you can share. The world waits.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

C.A.E.: The alliance

Hopelessly Eclectic is pleased to report that our Crimes Against English: Business unit is teaming up with Clinton from the wildly funny and suitably eclectic Comedy4Cast podcast to harness the power of what Clinton calls business-speak and we have termed Talking Like a Manager. In his dabblings in the black arts of the Alpha Suit, Clinton has called upon his legion of followers to try to plant a new trendy phrase into the business lexicon.

The phrase: Dog ear
The context: "That's a good point, but out-of-scope for this work breakdown. Let's dog ear that for a later meeting."

The allure of the phrase is obvious. What a great image—turning down the corner of a page in a book or magazine to come back to later. At least, it's a great image until the seven smurftillionth repetition has flogged it to a dry, leathery husk of an expression. Yeeeeess, Smithers! Let us join Clinton in his unholy quest.

But wait! A few reminders before you set off on your quest.

The dilemma of the Lesser Suit
Trendy business phrases are typically bestowed on the humble masses by the Alpha Suit. If a Lesser Suit attempts to plant "dog ear" during a random meeting, the Alpha Suit will be suspicious. Since it's clever, the Alpha Suit may even be jealous—not having thought of it first—and kill it by ridiculing the Lesser Suit.

The Alpha Suit will not have this reaction if he hears the phrase from a silverback of another pack, especially if he believes it to have originated from a Grand Alpha Suit. If you are a Lesser Suit, you can use this to your advantage by planting the phrase in a meeting immediately after you have attended a conference, meeting, or even conference call attended by a Grand Alpha Suit or his minions. This is especially powerful if you are assigned to give a presentation about the recent meeting to your team and Alpha Suit. Liberally pepper your talk with as many mentions of the new phrase as you can.


  • Use this phrase a lot. The sooner a clever phrase sounds tired, the sooner it sounds indespensable when Talking Like A Manager.
  • Especially target your Alpha Suit after the initial introduction; he will become uncomfortable at being out of the loop and become biologically required to use the phrase as well, with a Tourets-like frequency and force.
  • When speaking to lesser suits, attribute the phrase (indirectly) to the Alpha Suit. For example: "Bob was going on and on about the project budget until Rick told him to dog ear it until the May numbers came out."
  • Never explain the meaning of the phrase when using it. That covers it with the stink of something new and creative; the pack will instantly mob and kill it. If you use the phrase casually and without explanation, Lesser Suits who don't understand will feel stupid and lust for the power of your words.
  • If you're asked where you heard "dog ear," never answer directly. An incredulous smirk or "you've never heard of that?" will generally suffice. Otherwise choose something smug and dismissive like "You must not have been invited to that meeting."
  • And finally, don't try to execute Operation Dog Ear without careful planning. A cadre within your pack may want to work together to find the optimal time and place to put your plan into action.
Listen to Comedy4Cast and watch this space for details and progress of this critical initiative. Together, we can infiltrate the uppermost ranks of the Alpha Suits and bring utter ruin on their accursed heads. BWAAAAAAHAHAHAHA! Also, it'd be pretty funny if we could actually get it to stick.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Crimes Against English: Email

Crimes Against English is a semi-occasional feature of Hopelessly Eclectic. I use these posts to shame alleged native English–speakers into stopping the senseless abuse of a language that's just minding its own business, after all. For more information about C.A.E. philosophy, see

We at CAE are thrilled to bring you the latest innovation in defeating language criminals: the email exposé. Today, we bring you this real example, unearthed by the CAE operative code-named Y-Contributor. The following email was sent from a maintenance technician to the plant manager of a large facility in a major manufacturing company. Names have been changed to protect the clueless.

To: (Supervisor), (Plant Manager)
From: (Technician X)
Date: xxxxxx
cc: Bert
Subject: power outage

Me and Bert for a air conditioner to be bad. One of
the condenser cooling fans has a bad bearing we think.
There is 2 of the unit that are not running. The
latest on in the only one that is turned off on the
north side of the building. The other one in on the
south side. There also may be a problem with on on
the paint booth as well. Ever thing was running good
when we went home.

Best Regards
(Technician X)
City, state
Phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx
Fax: xxx-xxx-xxxx

After rereading, we realized that we need to emphasize that this is real. The only changes we made were to remove identifiable information. To paraphrase Dave Barry, we are not making this up.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Bag boys and drive-thrus

I have a mission. Maybe you can help. I'm trying to find the secret headquarters of an organization whose name I don't know, but which I'm calling the Coalition of Really Annoying People (from whom we buy stuff). I know, not very catchy, but I'm working on it. Like "dark matter," this secretive group is invisible to scientists; however, we can detect its presence by the effect that it has on everything around us, bending light, altering orbits, keeping Dancing With the Stars on the air....

I postulate this CRAP to be responsible for the fact every time I go somewhere to buy stuff, employees uniformly do the same infuriating things to make my life more difficult. I'm picturing a secret underground training facility somewhere beneath the Mojave desert. Row upon row of men and women stand at rigid attention, besmocked, beaproned, and behatted (I'm pretty sure those are words, right?) in the uniforms of their regiments.

A surly, burly, really large man paces back and forth in front of the assembled masses, shouting: "Drive-through privates! Where do you put the coins when you hand change out the window?!" A deafening roar comes back as the pleebs yell in unison, "Right on top of the foldin' money, sir!" He smirks and issues another challenge. "Bag-boy cadets! How do you bag the biggest, bloodiest hunk of meat in the shopping cart?!" From another quarter of the cavernous hall comes, "Right on top of the Wonder Bread, sir!"

The drill instructor walks crisply up to a lone teenager standing at the very front of the room. The boy's body is so bionically stiff that it appears he may actually sprain something without moving. It's clear that this poor soul is on display, an example for the others. The loudest challenge yet is barked, barely three inches from this trembling boy's face. "When somebody asks where to find the sandpaper, what do you do, boy?!" All the color drains from his face, but he musters, "Sir, I say 'Probably over near the adhesives,' Sir!"

"Do you point in the right direction?!"
"Sir, no sir!"

"Do you look in the right direction?!"
"Sir, no sir!"

"Do you you give an aisle number?!"
"Sir, no sir!"

"Do you ever, under any circumstances walk the enemy to the product and hand it to them?!"
A wince and a gulp. "No sir, I do not, sir!"

Having made his point, he turns back to the sea of faces in front of him. "Richards here has bought himself 30 days on bread and water! If I ever catch one of you maggots being attentive, solicitous, proactive, or sensible again, I will personally bust you down to weekend night janitor! Do I make myself understood?!"

The room shakes with the resulting "Sir, yes sir!".

Somewhere else within the labyrinthine complex, a room buzzes with activity. New recruits are role-playing.

"I'd like to get a number one, with ketchup and pickles only, with fries and a Coke to drink."

A tidy, precise woman addresses the room: "What did Chambers do wrong?"

A recruit in front offers "Ma'am, he didn't say anything. He let the enemy get the whole order out. He had no defense."

"Show him how it's done, Barnard. Reich, order again."

"I'd like to get a number one, wi-"
"What would you like to drink with that?"

"Um, a Coke, and I need that burger wi-"
"Do you want me to king-size that for you for only 99 cents?"

"No... um, thanks. Hey can I get ketch-"
"Can I get you anything else?"

"Yeah, ketchup and pickles on that burger, please."
"Okay, two number ones, one with just ketchup and pickles and a Coke to drink. What do you want to drink with the second meal? Do you want that king-sized, too?"

The instructor smiles, "Excellent, Barnard. Now you try it again, Chambers."

The whole huge compound thrums with the evil energies of the unholy service employee indoctrination machine. We must find it and infiltrate it. And destroy it. The scope and reach of this organization must be huge, as they have penetrated all layers of our society and every region of the country. We must... stop... them... Talking like... Shatner.... Please... before it's too.... *gasp*

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Drive the Hopelessly Eclectic way

Though I like to joke around in this space, I don't want people to think that I'm unaware of the Important Issues of the Day. So today, I will try to offer some solutions to a problem that vexes many today: the plight of suburban assault vehicle (SAV) driver.

When I took my son to preschool today, I was saddened to see a young mom trying in vain to drop off her two young children. What was the problem? She was very sensibly driving the kind of mammoth vehicle that is usually accompanied by the sound of mortar explosions and close-air support from A-10 Warthogs and attack helicopters. Because you never know when the orange-clad sixth-grade crossing guard may in fact turn out to be an insurgent. Clearly, this mom had her priorities in order, but my kid's school is woefully short of parking spaces larger than a city block.

As the soccer-mom is replaced by the combat mom (or the gilded quad-cab mondo-super-duty pickup mom), where will all of these folks park their SAVs before they go back home or traverse the rugged terrain to the nail salon?

I have the solution: The Hopelessly Eclectic Extreme Car Makeover. The key to remember is that the defining feature of these vehicles is not actually the size. Size is just one way to broadcast obscene wealth, contempt for the environment, and supreme ugliness. Our squadron of talented artisan car detailers will apply just the right paint job to lend a poorly-proportioned, ungainly look to the BMW, Infiniti, or Mini Cooper of your choice. What's more, we will encrust the exterior with precious stones, $100 bills, and civet cat coffee beans to let the world know just how much spare cash you have lying around.

"The vulgar ostentation is great," you may say, "but driving something I can actually park somewhere will rob me of the opportunity to burn up the entire output of an OPEC country during a typical month. How will I help us to keep up with China in pollutant production and singlehandedly add 45 cents to the cost of every barrel of oil?" We've got you covered. Through our Adopt-A-Barrel program, you can purchase fossil fuels by the barrel (currently $116 each). Why wait for it to be refined, when we can burn it for you on our own facility with no pesky catalytic converter to keep the good stuff to ourselves? For a modest annual fee, we'll even knock down the rainforest of your choice.

The downside, of course, will be the inability of your new car to crush, mutilate, spindle, and smithereen other cars (and their drivers), should you get into an accident. I admit that we don't have a solution for that. Even great ideas have their tradeoffs. But consider a final advantage as a consolation prize: you can probably only fit one or two SAVs into the attached hangar at your house right now. By pimping out the Hopelessly Eclectic way, you'll have room to stockpile a whole fleet of rides that show the real you. Happy driving!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Crimes Against English; we're baaaaack!

Crimes Against English is a semi-occasional feature of Hopelessly Eclectic. I use these posts to shame alleged native English–speakers into stopping the senseless abuse of a language that's just minding its own business, after all. For more information about C.A.E. philosophy, see

CAE operatives come in many varieties. I invite you to visit The Chronicles of George to see the fine work of one such defender of the language's virtue. Many of my friends from the IT world are already familiar with this site, which recounts one man's experiences with a tech-support guy whose "grasp on the written word is shakier than a canoe full of epileptics." Enjoy.

Monday, April 28, 2008

But I digress...

Since the kindling of politics has lit a fire under me again literarily, (wow, does that metaphor totally not work!) I need to find a new home for such things. To avoid the risk of de-eclectifying this column, I'm moving all (most) things political to "Be nice to America...". I'll keep populating this space with... well... whatever it is that's here. Really, I will!

McCain: The conversion is complete

Well, it's happened. The Church of Rove has finally baptized its most resistant candidate for conversion. So much attention has been given to Obama's embarrassing clergy connections of late that the press has completely missed the story of the real epiphany. Under the benevolent eye of Pope George the Dubya, John McCain has been born again. The miracle became most evident in recent days, when Brother John recanted his heresy and declared potential presidential rival Barack Obama "out of touch" and "insensitive" to the plight of poor people because he doesn't support extending the Bush tax cuts that he earlier decried because they help rich people instead of poor people. Under a President McCain, the nation's neediest will be able to sell their boats, their rental properties, and their stocks without such a big tax penalty. Can I get an 'Amen!'?

The Spirit must really be moving when the ex-foe of irresponsible spending can't give away enough of the operating capital that runs the country. In addition to permanizing Bush's whole raft of tax bonanzas to the wealthy, Brother John wants to give everybody a couple of dollars back on every tank of gas. It'll be a real savings for the impoverished when they are filling up their Hummers and Escalades. Where's the money coming from? Who cares?! Let me hear a 'Haleluia!'

But Sinner-John's apostasy was never just about the economy. In February of 2000, the blasphemy rang out loud and clear: people who used a thin veneer of dogma and piety to justify hate, bigotry, and self-interest were called "agents of intolerance" by this intractable scoundrel. But never fear. Since the Straight Talk Express 2.0 left the station, McCain's reawakening has become evident. He has made speeches at Bob Jones and Liberty Universities. He even told the tempter Russert in April of 2006 that he no longer believed Jerry Falwell to be such an agent. Testify!

Evidence that the Spirit has descended on McCain continues on and on. McCain has abandoned comprehensive immigration reform, now saying that nothing else can be done until the border is 'secured' (that is until we've built a big wall, complete with razor wire, around the entire country and deported every last illegal). Campaign finance reform? You betcha'. Oh he's using the public financing system for his campaign (What are you crazy?! He could never out-raise that Obama character!). But it works better that way. He can use his paltry funds for 'respectful debate' such as "Hamas wants Obama; so vote your fears!" In the meantime, the RNC can spend unlimited amounts of money on 'issue ads' that question Obama's patriotism, religion, national origin, and whether he murders cute little kitties just for fun.

In another promising sign, McCain has exploited a loophole in his own former vice of campaign finance reform and has taken to flying around in private jet of his wife's company for much less than the going charter rate. Well, it's legal (because his wife owns the jet... even though they have separate finances and she isn't helping the campaign in the teeniest way), but it does stick its thumb in the eye of the spirit of finance reform. Praise be!

At least Brother John has never wavered in his support of the Holy War in Iraq. He truly understands that the War on Terror is the only Way we can remain in power in perpetuity. Indeed, he has even taught Pope George a thing or two. "Stay the course" seems awfully wimpy next to "Heck... send 'em all in!" The wise expenditure of pretty much all of our military resources gives new meaning to the taunts of North Korea and Iran when they say "You and whose army?!"

Brother John's political foes pounce on his willingness to stay for 100 years, when everybody knows that he meant it was okay to stay for 100 years as long as people aren't being killed over there like they are now. (No word yet on when our continuing success in Iraq will yield people not getting killed there so the 100 years can commence. But I digress from my homiletic thread....) Where was I? Oh yes... Mazal Tov! Oops, sorry. I forgot that the Church of Rove digs Jews in a political sense only. Lost my head.

So anyway, take heart, Brothers and Sisters. That evil thorn in our side—who fancied himself a Maverick—is now a gelding. We are free once again to continue with the ritual sacrifice of those without trust funds on the altar of captiali democracy. Please turn in your hymnals to the Service of Rapturous Adoration of the Flag. Let's sing together "You're Either For Us or an Elitist."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Clinton's Big Win


  • Anatole Koletsky of the Times of London today declares "The Democrats must admit it: Obama would lose to McCain."
  • Clinton demands to know "Why can't Obama close the deal?"
  • Blah, blah blah
Okay, I was going to put a whole bunch of quotes up there, but I couldn't put up with the tripe anymore. Here's what happened on Tuesday:

  1. Obama tried really, really hard to win in a reliably blue state whose elderly and Catholic voters just love the heck out of Hillary.
  2. He closed a 26-point gap to about 10 points.
  3. And yup, he didn't win.
Well, duh. It would be super terrific for his campaign if he had, but the Clinton brand won. Let me say it again: a state whose demographics overwhelmingly, crushingly tilted the state in HRC's favor went to HRC on Tuesday. And I repeat: well duh.

Yes, the blue hairs and the blue collars love Bill Clinton, who regularly says "Vote for me" while stumping (ostensibly) for his wife. He really does. But 73 paragraphs earlier, he's sure to say "This is what Hillary says...." Despite Bill's best efforts to be obnoxious, many of the truest, bluest Democrats want to see if they can get back some more of what was so much better than the last eight years.

Aside from the fact that 1) Hillary wasn't running the country then, and 2) Bill won't be running the country if she wins, there are lots of other reasons to laugh so hard that you cough up blood when you listen to all of the "this proves that only Hillary can win" crowd. Everybody come along with me on this astounding foray into logic vacuum:

"Obama can't beat Hillary in Pennsylvania" = "Obama can't beat McCain in Pennsylvania"

So, by the commutative property (or whatever. I was a music major.):

"McCain" = "Hillary'

Is anybody with me here? Yes, approximately half of Democrats like her better than him. And many of them like her much, much better than him and are really angry that she's not winning.

But to suggest that Obama can't win because he can't take away a state that was tailor-made for her is just silly. Would everybody agree that North Carolina is similarly a strong demographic for Obama? The RCP average of the most recent (but still really old) polls in North Carolina have Obama ahead by 15.5 points. So between now and the North Carolina primary, does anybody believe that Clinton will narrow the gap? If she did, it might be almost as impressive as what Obama did in Pennsylvania. But she won't. Where Obama has the ability to chip away at leads that she gets by dint of political inertia, Obama tends to solidify and capitalize on the demographics that he gets as freebies.

Clinton/Wolfson/Penn/Ickes have been bemoaning the amount by which they've been outspent in Penn. Hee hee. Why not just take out an ad saying "My opponent can raise more capital and out-advertise me. Just imagine what he can do in a race against an opponent with a lethargic base who is suspicious of their candidate!"

Seems like the Clinton camp is praising Obama with faint damns. Anyway, I'll be waiting to see Hillary come out on top in North Carolina. After all, I heard that she'd raised $2.5mil within microseconds of being declared the winner in Pennsylvania. Well shucks, with all of that money, if she can't close the deal in NC, I'll be wondering what's going on.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Aerie Musings

Interested in the thoughts of a philosophical, outdoorsman, theological historian? Try:

The author is my brother-in-law, and Good People.

C.A.E.: Business

Crimes Against English is a semi-occasional feature of Hopelessly Eclectic. I use these posts to shame alleged native English–speakers into stopping the senseless abuse of a language that's just minding its own business, after all. For more information about C.A.E. philosophy, see

In today's issue, we continue the riveting discussion about Talking Like a Manager. As described in our last installment, verbing is your most important tool to become, well, a tool. Skilling up for verbing takes time, though. (Smooth, huh? I dare you to try it out in your next staff meeting.) In the meantime, the average guy or gal seeking to become the Alpha Suit shouldn't be standing still. Enter the gratuitous reflexive.

You remember the reflexive form from junior high English, right. You use "self" with the appropriate pronoun because you are doing something to or about yourself. (Or somebody is doing something to or about him/herself.) For example:

I have nobody to blame but myself for getting myself in trouble when I recommended to my teacher that she go perform an impossible act on herself.

Pretty straightforward, right? Sure, if you're not Management Material. If you want to fast-track yourself to Alpha Suithood, you really need to flout the rules of English. You can appear more refined and important if you gratuitously tack "self" onto random first-person pronouns. Like so:
Please familiarize yourselves with the proposed new policies. I'd like to socialize the changes before productioning them. If you should have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask Raymondo or myself.

I know I used a lot of advanced techniques in that last example. You may not be ready to integrate them into your Alpha Suit skill track yet, but I believe that immersion is the best way to learn.

In any case, note the gratuitous use of "myself," when non-Alpha Suit types would stick with the technically-correct "me." (Yes, I know that nobody can ask myself or do anything else to myself except me, but we're talking about business actualization, not grammar.)

Note that nobody but an actual Alpha Suit could get away with the following without inspiring quizzical looks and/or eye rolls:
This report was prepared by myself over the past months.

Don't try it unless you're an Alpha Suit... even if you hear an Alpha Suit say it. It is much too powerful magic for Lesser Suits. Your use of the gratuitous reflexive needs to be more subtle, usually dragging in at least one other person for camouflage. But fear not—through careful planning, you too can use this highly effective tool. Here are some examples to send you on your way. Happy selfing:

Everybody but Tami and myself were made aware of the changes to this policy. Can you help me understand why I wasn't looped on this?

I'm not convinced this project would have gone forward, had anybody but myself been the lead.

Myself, I wouldn't have made that choice.

When somebody has a chance, could you fill in Pierre and myself?

The meeting was run by the lead team and myself.

Q: Who built that web page? A: Actually, myself.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Wednesday Haiku Extra Bonus

For computer error message Haiku:

Wednesday Bonus Haiku

So this is "hump day"
Less appealing than it sounds
Better luck next Wed.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

C.A.E.—We have operatives everywhere

Crimes Against English is a semi-occasional feature of Hopelessly Eclectic. I use these posts to shame alleged native English–speakers into stopping the senseless abuse of a language that's just minding its own business, after all. For more information about C.A.E. philosophy, see Crimes Against English.

My compliments to Barbara J. Harrison for her clever letter to the editor in the Saturday Des Moines Register this week. I name her Honorary C.A.E. Operative of the Week in recognition of her contributions to grammar excellence everywhere. Check out the letter for a good laugh or two.

Update: Sadly the Des Moines Register doesn't keep stuff on its website forever; thus, this link is broken. I have Learned My Lesson and will rip off content and put quotes around the whole thing in the future.

Friday, January 26, 2007

What—no Wife Points?

In the aftermath of my provocative exposé about the little-understood Husband Points System, I've been asked many times (mostly by the voices inside my head) "Why only a Husband Points system? Isn't there also a Wife Points system? How about some way for men to reclaim some power?" Poor sods.

These questions arise from a fundamental misunderstanding of the Way The Universe Works. Here are some practical reasons a WP system (and remember, you can substitute GP for Girlfriend Points, or whatever equivalent you prefer) will never work:

The negative feedback loop
In the previous two Husband Points articles, we clarified that HP are not redeemable for anything. Instead, they exist to be lost. The very act of losing HP carries the penalty of making interactions with your sweetie Less Pleasant. Let's pretend that you have instituted a Wife Points system. You have done this surreptitiously. Why? Imagine your mate's reaction to the idea. An immediate waterfall of HP rain down on the floor.

Do you begin to see the problem? Let's take it further and imagine a case in which the wife is question is clearly ogling some attractive man. (If she is cupping her hands and mumbling something like "...could bounce a quarter off those...," it obviously exacerbates the situation.) Now imagine applying the point system: Clearly, she deserves to take a hit in WP.

Imagine that your wife now says, "You know, I'm not really feeling like Chinese tonight. Could we do Indian instead?" Springing on your opportunity to cash in on those lost WP, you say, "Well, if you really want to, I could eat Indian. I just don't see why we can't go where I want to for a while." According to the fictitious WP system, you are well within your bounds... There will never be a good outcome from this. You will begin bleeding so many HP that a tourniquet around your neck will actually sound appealing.

Do you fully appreciate the problem? The effect of a WP system would be exactly the same as the effect of the HP, but much, much more! You may as well pour gasoline on yourself and try to put out fires by stomping on them.

The... Er... affection angle
In the HP system, loss of HP can render the husband less likely to encounter the... er... affection of his beloved. This tends to make a Big Impression on us. Such impressions can be strong motivators in our perseverance and creativity in avoiding Husband Point loss.

Now compare the effect of the HP system with the effects of the WP system: you lose points, you get nothing. She loses points, you get nothing. It's the same thing. What are you, stupid?

I hope this clears up the question of Wife Points at long last. If you wish to inflict that kind of karmic sinkhole on yourself, have party. Me, I'm going to go and sit quietly in the middle of a darkened room and try very hard to avoid losing any more HP.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


I thought now might be an ideal time to begin leaking personal information about myself to the press, in preparation for the announcement about my presidential exploratory committee. So please enjoy the following FAQ (Fictitiously Asked Questions):

So how does a guy with two music degrees end up being an Operating Systems Analyst?
The first section (about 50 measures or so) goes along about like everybody expects it to. Suddenly, there's a caesura, followed by a frantic 10-measure transitional section marked by discord and tremolo. This section is marked in the score as "lifelong hobby becomes new job." The transition ends rather painlessly, but leads to an entirely new key. Another 50 measures later, dramatic music signals the beginning of another (however much more gradual) transition. This work is as yet unfinished.

Always loved music, theater, and computers/technology. Went to school with majors in Music Education and Theater. Dropped theater a couple of years in, because I had to graduate eventually. Married my sweetie. Graduated a semester later with a Bachelors of Music Education. Substitute taught for the rest of the school year in the Sioux Falls, SD public schools. Got a graduate assistantship and went back to school for another year and a summer. Graduated with a Masters in voice performance.

Moved to Jewell, IA to teach middle school and high school vocal music there. After three years there, moved to Des Moines to take a great high-school vocal job at Lincoln High School. After that year, realized that teaching music was not my vocation. The following occurred to me: "Hey, I love computers, too. I bet I could make some money doing that!" Studied to earn some certifications, took a Temp IT Flunkie job for a few months until I found my job at the company where I still work.

Great job. Learned a lot, had a great time, got good. During the past (almost) 5 years, still a great job, continued learning a lot, having a great time, getting good. About 4 years in, my life experiences all ganged up on me to help me realize what I want to do with my life. Soon thereafter, began school full time again to get prerequisites for med school. More about that in another FAQ.

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck...

Five what?

What is the meaning of life?
Flossing. Some may point out the Douglas Adams contention that "The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything" is 42. Some would do well to remember that The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is fiction, whereas my answer is a lie.

You actually thought people might be amused by this article?
Look. This is hard work. I'll admit that mistakes have been made. The article I started is not the article we're in now. But we can't just desert these paragraphs. It will simply embolden the unfunny content. The unfunny content doesn't believe we have the stomach to continue. We must stay the course follow this new way forward. I understand that some may be skeptical of my decision to deploy more words into this article. Naysayers are naysaying that it's already a lost cause. I don't believe that. I believe that with more strategically-placed unfunny words, we can have continuing victory in this article. But it's not an open-ended commitment. We're doing our part. This article has to start making itself funny while my words hold its place. Although I won't place an arbitrary, artificial time line for this to occur, which I'm sure will increase the pressure the article is feeling to get real funny in a hurry. To help this funniness emerge, we will take bold...
(entry reached length limit and was truncated)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Great game

I'd like to tell you about a game you've never heard of. (Well, maybe you have. If you have, you are officially cooler than I am—big surprise, huh?) I learned about it last weekend, and I love it.

This game is The Kingdom of Loathing ( If you're an RPG (Role-Playing Game) fan, you'll find this game fun, familiar, and jarring. If you've never played an RPG before, you really want to give this one a try.

This KoL is a free, web browser-based, multiplayer RPG with stick-figure graphics that add to its considerable charm. Instead of gold (tritely used in other games), the currency of the Kingdom of Loathing is meat. Yup, meat.

If you want to learn more, the Wikipedia entry actually provides a much better summary than the website itself.

I encourage all of you, gamers and non-gamers, to visit this site, create a character, and play the game for a little while. Then, come back and post your game reviews as a comment on this article. All reviewers will be entered into my punctuation raffle. Two winners, drawn at random, will receive an assortment of periods, commas, semicolons, em dashes, and even braces (subject to availability), mostly used in context.

Raffle is void where prohibited. Please allow 4-6 days for delivery via first-class email. En dashes may be substituted for em dashes if Bill feels like it. The context offer does not apply to braces unless you sign a waiver holding Bill harmless in case of acute pain caused by Perl code samples.

Wednesday Haiku

You come here seeking.
Wit? Style? Maybe the profound?
Better luck next time.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

C.A.E.: Business

Crimes Against English is a semi-occasional feature of Hopelessly Eclectic. I use these posts to shame alleged native English–speakers into stopping the senseless abuse of a language that's just minding its own business, after all. For more information about C.A.E. philosophy, see

Today, I introduce a spin-off of my popular "Crimes Against English" series. It is "C.A.E.: Business"; I have modeled this spin-off to be just like the lucrative CBS C.S.I. franchise—except without the lucre. I hope to release "C.A.E.: Home Decor" soon.

Today's episode of C.A.E.: Business is called Talk Like a Manager. Though the silliness involved is not unique to managers, it is this group that has brought the art of Talking Like a Manager to heretofore unknown pinnacles.

The first, and most crucial, step in talking like a manager is to verb whenever possible. Allow me to discourse on this important topic:

Verbing is a basic requirement for anyone hoping to pursue a career in management. Whether you are tasking a resource with a new opportunity or workshopping a new idea with the executive team, verbing is essential to demonstrate that you can conference with the best of them.

To verb is to lie in wait for a helpless, perfectly good noun to come along, wrestle it to the ground, and bury your fangs in its delicate part of speech. This allows you to establish yourself as the Alpha Suit, strutting triumphantly as you wipe the verbal gore from your chin. At least, that is what the hunter-verber does. The hunter-verber dazzles simple business serfs with verbing prowess.

Most managers (and some non-managers) simply wait around for the leavings of the Alpha Suit's repast: "Did he just say 'you can conference with the best of them'? I'm going to have to verb that too that in my next staff meeting." These shadowy figures are scavenger-verbers, scuttling creatures who spread the language fungus of their second-hand meal throughout the community. Soon, even non-business folk are infected. Eventually, all of the little woodland animals are displaying imitations of the Alpha Suit's plumage. (Well, if the managers say it, it must be Better and More Professional.)

Note that verbing is just one small part of establishing oneself as the Alpha Suit. To climb that ladder, you study many other dark arts, including:
  • The gratuitous I: "Yes, I learned that when the CFO was meeting with Tom and I."
  • The gratuitous myself: "If you have any questions about the new procedure, please send an email to your supervisor or myself."
  • Utilizing: "I had wrist problems too, until I started utilizing an ergonomic mouse."
  • Other words that mean something totally different than the sense in which they are being used: "Well, Sydney, I think that sounds like a great idea. Let's socialize that over the next week or so and see what we end up with."

I promise to cover these disparate topics at greater length in a future exciting episode of C.A.E.: Business.

Not everybody can be the Alpha Suit, but you can seem like the Alpha Suit to your herd if they hear Alpha Suit leftovers from you first, before they hear them from everybody else. For example, let's say you go to a meeting with the Alpha Suits from many large herds, perhaps even the Grand Alpha Suit. You will no doubt hear several carefully-designed phrases that are clever and catchy. The difference between these clever, catchy phrases and, say, a cliché is this:

  1. A cliché may sound cute and may once have been clever, but it's had all meaning sucked out of it by mindless repetition.
  2. A clever, catchy phrase from an Alpha Suit has had the meaning pre-sucked out of it before the mindless repetition that is about to ensue.

So be on the lookout for a clever, catchy phrase. Remember that you only gain standing in your herd if they hear it from you first.

And don't neglect your verbing duties.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Arioso—blogger medium

Among the eclectica I intend to share with you on Hopelessly Eclectic is a special feature called "Arioso—blogger medium" (big surprise if you read the title).

People who know me well might say "Strange, I'd have considered you more of a large than a medium. Well, an XL really." Not that kind of medium, silly. I recently discovered that I have been endowed with technopsychic powers (although some scholars consider them psychotechnic). These powers enable me to channel writers throughout the blogosphere, capturing their unique voices and ripping them off for my very own blog.

"Strange," you might say, "I was under the impressions that mediums channel dead people. Can't you only channel dead bloggers?"

Aha! One might think that, but I seem to have the gift (and the curse) of being a rare clairvoyant–medium, with the ability to receive and transmit live bloggers on both VHF and UHF, as well as satellite. It truly is a wondrous gift.

For those of you who have not sampled widely of the fruits of the blogosphere, there will now be no need. I will bring a great variety of styles and content to you right here on my site. For those of you blog floozies who wander about the Internet, consorting with all kinds of authors who may or may not practice safe hosting... come home. I'll type sweet nothings meant for your monitor alone. Also, my computer is virus–free. Honest. It's a Mac.

In today's episode of "Arioso—blogger medium," I will channel Chuck Kempenburg, representing the genre of blogging that may alternately be called "The year–round Christmas letter" or "If I ever blog like this, please impale me on the nearest umbrella immediately." (Medium's note: I cannot be held responsible for spelling, punctuation, grammar, or halitosis contained in a channeled blog.)

Hello again. It's afternoon now, and I've had a little nap since my last post. We got a call from Eugenia at Yale Technical College. She's made the Dean's List (again). We're just as proud as we can be of her. Art History can be a tough major, and she's really working hard. Her paintings use to be on our refrigerator but now their up in the Druessel Gallery on campus. (Ha!) She's still not sure what she wants to do after college, but we figure it wouldn't hurt to have another couple of senior years. (She hates it when I tell that joke.)

Jeanie is still going through the Change, but she's pretty agreeable most of the time anyway. (Ha!) Her job is going good, and she'll probably get that promotion to assistant night shift department manager pretty soon. The assistant night shift department manager right now is getting ready to retire, and Jeanie has the most seniority.

The kids were all home for my birthday on Saturday, and did we have a hot time! We were having a lively game of Scat, and Benji (he's a Sophomore at Gerald Milfton Senior High, and at the top of his class in Auto Shop) suggested that we switch to Jenga. I tell you, there was more hootin' and hollerin' than this house has seen in a long time. As usual, Rachel's husband (the socialist) really didn't seem that interested, but I could tell he was having a good time when he took out that yellow brick from the very bottom.

Rachel and Karl headed back to Arizona this morning so they could get back in time for Rachel to be on jury duty (the first time in our family!!). It should be interesting. Nobody was killed or anything, but there was something on the news about cruelty to iguanas. Rachel has always been wonderful with animals, so she's very qualified for the trail.

Well, I suppose I ought to sign off for now. I've got to get to my urologist appointment by 4. It's nothing bad. Just the usual kind of stuff. I'll see you all later.