Did I Read That Right?

This assembly of signs and article headlines comes from a friend of a friend.  They are not new but too good to pass up.

Proofreaders, editors (or former proofreaders and editors), English teachers and writers may want to cover their eyes.  I’m not sure how you then read this post but you may not want to.

Did I read that sign right?

On the door of a restroom:

TOILET OUT OF ORDER. PLEASE USE FLOOR BELOW

In a Laundromat:

AUTOMATIC WASHING MACHINES: PLEASE REMOVE ALL YOUR CLOTHES WHEN THE LIGHT GOES OUT

In a London department store:

BARGAIN BASEMENT UPSTAIRS

In an office:

WOULD THE PERSON WHO TOOK THE STEP LADDER YESTERDAY PLEASE BRING IT BACK OR FURTHER STEPS WILL BE TAKEN

In another office:

AFTER TEA BREAK STAFF SHOULD EMPTY THE TEAPOT AND STAND UPSIDE DOWN ON THE DRAINING BOARD

Outside a second hand shop:

WE EXCHANGE ANYTHING – BICYCLES, WASHING MACHINES, ETC. WHY NOT BRING YOUR WIFE ALONG AND GET A WONDERFUL BARGAIN?

Notice in health food shop window:

CLOSED DUE TO ILLNESS

Spotted in a safari park:

ELEPHANTS PLEASE STAY IN YOUR CAR

Seen during a conference:

FOR ANYONE WHO HAS CHILDREN AND DOESN’T KNOW IT, THERE IS A DAY CARE ON THE 1ST FLOOR

Notice in a farmer’s field:

THE FARMER ALLOWS WALKERS TO CROSS THE FIELD FOR FREE, BUT THE BULL CHARGES.

Message on a leaflet:

IF YOU CANNOT READ, THIS LEAFLET WILL TELL YOU HOW TO GET LESSONS

On a repair shop door:

WE CAN REPAIR ANYTHING. (PLEASE KNOCK HARD – THE BELL DOESN’T WORK)

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Proofreading is a dying art, wouldn’t you say?

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Man Kills Self Before Shooting Wife and Daughter

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Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says

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Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers

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Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over

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Miners Refuse to Work after Death

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Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant

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War Dims Hope for Peace

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If Strike Isn’t Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile

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Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures

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Enfield ( London ) Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide

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Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges

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Man Struck By Lightning Faces Battery Charge

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New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group

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Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft

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Kids Make Nutritious Snacks

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Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half

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Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors

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Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead

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Did I read that right?

Push the Panic Button!

Many, many years ago I had a summer job in the research and development arm of IBM.  It may seem very unlikely today but back then IBM was known solely as an all-male organization where you wore only white shirts, black ties, wing-tip shoes and all-blue or all-black suits.  Those of us in R & D were considered wildly outré because we were allowed to wear patterned ties, loafers and sport jackets.   I know this is hard to absorb so please take a moment, sit quietly, take deep breaths and react calmly.

I was joined by a motley crew consisting of a chemist, an electrical engineer and two lab-technicians who rebelled, in a modest way, to the straight-jacketed marine-sergeant like rules that the company imposed on us.   For example, the chemist’s office was in a noisy corridor and mine was in a quiet cul-de-sac.  Since my job was temporary, he asked if he could switch his office with mine.  I did not care but the Oberfuhrer office manager objected vehemently.  My office was too small, according to the official IBM manual on office sizes, for the chemist’s pay grade.  The chemist had no objection and I had no objection but this carried little weight with the office manager so we stayed put.  It made the chemist furious and it was then that we found a way to relieve the oddities and irregularities of our work environment:

The Panic Button!

Remember that this was way before personal computers, Photoshop, cell phone cameras or other conveniences.  The lab technicians went to their workshop and created a panic button.  They made the top of a semitransparent plastic with instructions.  It did, in fact look remarkably like today’s Office Depot Easy Button except that it was white instead of red:

Panic1

We added a switch, a light, scribed the appropriate symbol on the underside of the plastic, mounted it on the nearest wall, stood back and waited for the first case of panic relief.  We didn’t have to wait long.

Every week we crammed into our boss’ office to review the work we were doing.  Our boss – known affectionately as “Shaky” because he daily smoked about a million cigarettes and drank about a million cups of coffee with the resulting shakes – would review our fruitless efforts to create a new substance that would improve the performance of computers worldwide.  Each week we failed; were told to repeat the same experiments and come back in a week with, supposedly, better results.  The repetitive and useless endeavor began to get to the electrical engineer whose frustration started to boil over.

Quick, we said, push the Panic Button!

Panic2

Yes I know it was childish and tame by today’s standards.  It also didn’t make sense.  Why would you push a Panic Button to relieve stress?  But it worked: It amused us and annoyed the up-tight, straight-laced guys in white shirts, black ties and dark suits.  We could all use a Panic button from time to time.  In the words of George Ade, “A good jolly is worth what you pay for it.”

The Official Rules

The official rules

In an earlier post, I wrote about Finagle’s Creed which described every information technology project that was ever worked on or will be worked on.  Several of you commented by adding laws and corollaries of your own and I realized that someone had already done the work of amassing all the rules by which we work and live.

No, it’s not The Bible but it is the bible of official rules.  Paul Dickson wrote a book entitled The Official Rules.  This book, sadly now out of print, is “the definitive, annotated collection of laws, principles and instructions for dealing with the real world.”  Dickson organized the rules alphabetically from Abbott’s Admonitions (1. If you have to ask, you not entitled to know.  2. If you don’t like the answer, you shouldn’t have asked the question.) to Zymurgy’s Seventh Exception to Murphy’s Laws (When it rains, it pours).

Dickson followed his first book with The New Official Rules and, for a long while, entertained submissions for any subsequent “new” rule that he had overlooked.

Here are a few random examples from both books:

  • Boren’s Laws of Bureaucracy:  (1) When in charge, ponder; (2) When in trouble, delegate; (3) When in doubt, mumble.
  • DeVault’s Razor:  There are only two laws. (1) Someday you will die.  (2) If you are reading this, you are not dead yet.
  • Erma Bombeck’s Rule of Medicine:  Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.
  • Exxon’s Law of Energy Costs:  We’ve upped ours, now up yours.
  • Leahy’s Law:  If a thing is done wrong often enough, it becomes right.  Corollary: Volume is a defense to error.
  • Mrs. Murphy’s Law (also known as the Buttered-Side-Down Law and now as Sod’s Law):  An object will fall so as to do the most damage.
  • Russell’s Right:  If it succeeds, it is right.  If it fails, it is wrong.

I added two of my own:

  • Curmudgeon’s Law #1:  To a fire department, there is no such thing as a “little fire.” (from personal experience)
  • Curmudgeon’s Law #2:  Nothing is impossible so long as you don’t have to do it.
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London Pub Signs

The British still have a way with words:

pub1 pub2 pub3 pub4 pub5 pub6 pub7 pub8 pub9 pub10 pub11 pub12 pub13 pub14 pub15

Chex Mix Turds

March 2014

General Mills, Inc.
P.O. Box 9452
Minneapolis, MN 55440

Dear General:

I know that your company is a venerable one, in existence for the last 500 years or so, and has fed me and countless other millions of people such staples of life as Wheaties, Cheerios, Total and Yoplait.  You trained us to know that Wheaties was the Breakfast of Champions™; added every flavor and color to Cheerios except rhubarb and puce and made us feel unhealthy if we didn’t jog a mile or two before eating Total or Yoplait.

So what, pray God, is this substance that I found in a recently purchased bag of Chex mix (Traditional) to which I have become addicted?

chexturd

What does this look like to you?

Yes, you are correct.  Turds, but saltier.  An alternate theory might be meteor turds from a distant galaxy (still quite salty).  Both theories do not explain how these substances got into my package of Chex mix (Traditional).

I have no idea why your quality control person was missing-in-action on the day that this batch of Chex mix (Traditional) was produced but, suffice it to say, while this bag may have “60% less fat than regular potato chips” (your words), it has “100% more turd-like lumps than potato chips” (my words).  Presumably, your quality control process has not confused potato chips with buffalo chips.

Here I am, mindlessly sitting in front of the cable TV watching an episode of some inane series like Duck Dynasty or Jersey Shore, happily munching away, when I am overcome with revulsion from chomping down on one of these brown beauties.  I might as well have been eating a salt lick.  The bag from which I was consuming this inedible stuff should have said Chex licks instead of Chex mix.  The fact that these lumps were the color of excrement did not add to my gustatory experience.

You advertise on the bag “Earn cash for your school!”  How?  By getting kids to accumulate Chex mix turds and turning them in for high Phosphorus content returnables at the local dump?  By leaving them on the living room carpet and getting unsuspecting parents to pay extra cash to the kids while they re-potty train the innocent house dog or cat?  By saving them up and using them in place of road salt on snowy winter days?  By selling them at rock and gem shows as “meteor shit?”

General, I have been a faithful patron of your company for the last couple hundred years and I am not about to give up now but I am having serious doubts.  Finding these lumps in my Chex mix (Traditional) package makes me think that you should hire Tom Hanks and have him reconstitute his Forrest Gump role advertising Chex mix (Traditional) with the slogan:

“Life’s like a package of Chex mix; You never know what crap you’re gonna get.”

Please, let an old man enjoy his snacks without the trepidation of consuming indigestible brown blobs.  Total is supposed to have “100 percent of the daily value of 12 essential vitamins and minerals.”  Manure is not one of those.  Cheerios cereal provides “1 gram of soluble fiber per serving.”  Road roses are not considered soluble fiber.  Wake up and fire that quality control guy and hire a new one who will keep salty meteor shit lumps out of my Chex mix (Traditional).

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Curmudgeon-at-Large