My favorite story from a friend this year

"My aunt used to work in a troupe of synchronized swimmers [in Texas around 1940] and she had a friend in the troupe named Betty Lou. After Betty Lou had a baby she would bring the baby to work for when it was time to breast-feed. The problem was that the swimmers had to do one number in blackface and the baby refused to breast-feed when she saw her mom in that make-up. So Betty Lou had to throw a towel over her head at those times in order to get the kid to feed."

That first impression

I've worked with this team of managers, programmers, and technicians for at least five years; a few people have come and gone, but the core group has stuck together and worked overtime at every time of the day, every month of the year. We know way too much about each other after all this history in the office.

Now we have a new co-worker in Client Service, fresh out of college, and it's his responsibility to represent a certain client while working with my team. The earnest young man informed us on his first assignment that this one has to be done correctly, "because the client is paying a lot for this project!"

Our company has retained this client through hard work that started before the Boy Wonder began his formal education, before my time here. I expect that our work will continue to succeed, and at the same time I feel like a cat with a new bug to play with.

Customer service

It was fun to look through the bins of old record albums in the store on the south edge of town, but I didn't see any compact discs. I asked the proprietor if he had any CDs and he said, "CDs? You mean compact discs? I calls 'em Crappy Discs! We don't got any!"

Cartoon bank

"I never get this kind of reaction in my studio. This is nice." -- Charles Barsotti, New Yorker cartoonist, on being in a roomful of people laughing at a slide show of his cartoons

Robert Mankoff is cartoon editor of the New Yorker magazine and he hosted a slide show at the Harold Washington Library last night. The show featured 80 years of New Yorker cartoons and selections from Mr. Mankoff and the three other cartoonists present: Matt Diffee, David Sipress, and Mr. Barsotti.

Mr. Mankoff said that he chooses cartoons for each issue so that he includes some from each of these four groups:
1. ordinary illustration with an ordinary caption ("a slice of life" or moment of recognition)
2. ordinary illustration with unusual caption
3. unusual illustration with ordinary caption
4. unusual illustration with unusual caption

Seeing the cartoons on the big screen had to be unique for everyone there. Cartoonists usually don't get a live audience reaction, of course, and the audience usually doesn't experience these in a group setting either. It was like reading the magazine with 300 people looking over your shoulder, all focused on the cartoon instead of the article.

Most popular cartoon of the night
Charles Barsotti
Matt Diffee
David Sipress
The slide show promoted this huge book

The draining of our natural resources

In an article about Evanston, a Chicago suburb, writer John McCarron reports on how new buildings are a major concern of Evanston homeowners:
More than a hundred residents, many of retirement age, gave up the first sunny Saturday morning of spring to share news and air gripes about changes in the neighborhood... "Aren't they drawing too much water from Lake Michigan with all these new condos?" challenged one homeowner.

Yes, Mr. Homeowner, all those new multiple-unit dwellings are drawing too much water from Lake Michigan. It's only a matter of time before the lake is drained and you'll be able to walk to Michigan. If you've been in a boat in Lake Michigan lately, you've probably noticed that there's a depression in the surface of the lake near Evanston. That's because of all the condos.

Things were fine back when there were just a few native Americans living in the area, and things were OK even when the population of Chicago and Cook County grew to over five million people. Regrettably, the crucial draining of Lake Michigan began only when a certain condominium was constructed on Evanston's Main Street in the 1990s. While its residents are thoroughly embarrassed that they are responsible for the number of Great Lakes in the U.S. declining from five to four, they are determined to remain where they are.

America's Somewhat Wanted

Shirley and Joe moved from Chicago to a small town nearby, and I visited them last weekend. Shirley said they've had a male peacock visiting their backyard recently. Sometimes it walks up to the patio door where it may observe Joe napping on the sofa. It squawks at night, disturbing the neighbors.

Recently, a cop came to their house saying, "We have received reports... from eyewitnesses... that you have a peacock living with you." He said the peacock was "the ringleader" of a group of six that had "escaped" from a nearby peacock farm. The cop had Shirley sign a paper giving permission for the town to set a peacock trap in their yard, which they haven't done yet. Then a man from "Critter Catchers" visited the house and asked if Shirley could tell him about "the habits of the bird."

We went to the grocery store where I helped Shirley buy birdseed, and when we got back to the house the peacock was taking a languid stroll through their backyard. We walked onto the back porch, Shirley cautiously scattered the seed, and the bird cautiously pecked his way through a lot of it. It came within four feet of me and its breast feathers were an amazing, intense mix of blues and greens. It appeared to be about a fifteen pound bird. Shirley went back in the house, picked up their little kitten, and stood by the window; the kitten made a chattering noise when she saw the big peacock. So it's come to this: Shirley and Joe have left the corrupt, crime-filled streets of Chicago only to flout small town community standards by harboring a fugitive peacock.

Attention parents

Now that temperatures are cooler in the Chicago area, it's all right to lock your baby or small child in the car while you go shopping. Health experts agree that although this action may be unsafe during the summer months when car interiors can get dangerously overheated, October temperatures permit the unsupervised confinement of children in vehicles for up to 12 hours.

In the near future

Clerk: Sir, if you sign up for Swiftyphone cell phone service you'll be able to use your cell phone to get cash anytime, anywhere!

Customer: How does that work?

Clerk: You dial the Swiftyphone number corresponding to your bank, enter some code numbers, and you get real cash money dispensed right out of this slot in the Swiftyphone! Watch this. (Clerk demonstrates Swiftyphone by dialing some numbers. After a pause, a twenty-dollar bill emerges from a slot in the phone.)

Customer: Wow! I've never seen anything like it! How does the cash get from the bank to the cell phone?

Clerk: Well, you have to visit your bank first to load it with money. It can hold up to one hundred dollars.

Customer: What? Why bother? I can just keep cash in my wallet like I always have.

Clerk: And the receipt comes out of this slot over here! Only Swiftyphone can do it!

Customer: What's the point?

Clerk: And it works with Canadian money too.

Customer: I don't want Canadian money!

Clerk: It's also an excellent cell phone. Very good coverage. It works in the car as well, so you can get cash while you're driving.

Customer: I gotta go. (Turns and leaves.)

Clerk (raising voice): It also gives out special notices about new products and services that may interest you! Do you need Viagra?

They call me Doctor Love

Not that it'll ever happen, but I picture myself not being able to get into the spirit of a ménage à trois in bed. "Now wait a minute, I only have two hands! Gee whiz!" That kind of thing.