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04/01 Direct Link
I find myself in need of advice. But...

Maybe you have noticed, if you start talking and what you say is not a zingy one-liner, people will turn away from you and go back to watching TV. The bonds of love and friendship are not enough to overcome this natural reaction, which has evolved in us for the purpose of protection from boredom.

But my problem is complex and sad, because of what has happened, and my situation cannot under any circumstances be made to seem zingy, zippy, or eXtreme to the max. You've stopped reading already, haven't you.

04/02 Direct Link
A friend quit his job, and now he begs for validation on the street. He wasn't getting enough of it in his office. He'd be, like, "Hey, how about that spreadsheet I did," and his co-workers gave a response that was less validating than he would have liked. Also, there was some kicking.

Now he goes up to people and asks them whether or not they like his shirt and things like that, and most of them are supportive. He seems to thrive in his new environment. We are betting on how long it takes before he joins a cult.

04/03 Direct Link
It's getting dark outside. If I don't close my windows now, bugs will see the light and start to crawl in.

But for the first time since last year a warm breeze is blowing through my apartment, and it feels so good.

I have a glass of wine and a warm breeze and from somewhere the smell of sandalwood, and I don't mind sharing my apartment with centipedes if it means I can have this for a few more hours.

If you live in a place that is always warm, you don't know what it means to long for spring.

04/04 Direct Link
For eight years we had a president who believed that at any moment Jesus would come riding out the clouds to smite the world with fire. An aggressive and muscular atheism seemed a reasonable response.

But listen: history is replete with bearded dudes in robes, and only a precious few taught the importance of unconditionally loving everyone, even enemies, and the value of responding to violence with peace.

The people who call themselves his followers are fair targets for mockery, as are the institutions built around his name, but you'll never hear me say anything bad about the guy himself.

04/05 Direct Link
I have this white thing on my tonsil, and it hurts like a bastard. I went to the doctor's office, but when I told the receptionist I don't have insurance, their private security thugs hit me with these electrified sticks and chased me off the property.

"Do you have any asprin," I asked them, "for my tonsil?"

"I am only licensed to hit people with this stick," one said, looking ashamed. "I am not licensed to give medical advice or dispense drugs."

"Don't feel bad, buddy," said the other one. "We don't have insurance either, as we're just security thugs."

04/06 Direct Link
My can of chickpeas has offered me the opportunity to win a trip to Guatemala.

I peel back the label and see a note: "GUATEMALA." That is a good sign. I just need three more of these and I am Guatemala-bound.

The GOYA executives are getting nervous, probably, because I am so close. "You are an American," they will tell me if I win. "You should be pretty much terrified to travel anywhere right now. Why don't you just stay at home and eat more chickpeas?"

I will eat more chickpeas either way, GOYA. Congratulations on a fine product.

04/07 Direct Link
Sometimes the IT person comes over to help you with your style sheet, and her perfume comes in through your nostrils and starts kicking your guts in from the inside.

This is because it is the exact same perfume which was sometimes left on your couch by a different person, and when you smelled that perfume you would close your eyes and wish she was back on the couch with you again.

So the IT person asks you why you are making a face like you want to lay an egg, and you lie and respond that you don't know.

04/08 Direct Link
"I saw Tina outside today."

"Oh, yeah?"

"Yeah, I can't believe she's pregnant, she's so skinny."

"I know, she looks skinny from the front, but if you look at her from the side it looks like she swallowed a basketball."

"Hee hee!"

"And you know the other thing about her? She's hippy."

"Yeah, mm-hmm."

"She is, she's hippy."

"She is, that's right, hippy."

"Hippy, you know? She's got those hips for child-bearing."

"Yeah, that's probably what it is."

"She's got the pear shape."

(I was subjected to this conversation today for much longer than I would have liked.)

04/09 Direct Link
One of my friends has the best dog in the world.

Sometimes when she goes away she leaves him at my place to spend the night, and we have a party. I let him stay up past his bedtime and watch R-rated movies (he licks my ear during the boring parts), and I give him dog-safe snacks. "You can come over any time," I tell him.

(I was going to point out something sad, but some things are better left unsaid. I will fill the remaining space by telling you that he is super fluffy and likes carrots.)

04/10 Direct Link
We were going to call our band "STP" (for "Searing Tonsil Pain") but that name is taken, so we settled with STREPTOROXXUS. With a name like that we had to grow our hair out and wear vinyl jumpsuits with gold chains. (Maybe we are a little bit confused.)

Come out to open mic night at the Muddy Cup Coffee Shop to check us out!

Our hits include:

* Wow-Wow Baby (Your Love is Like a Tonsil Infection)
* Botched Tonsilectomy of the Heart
* I'm Gonna Aggravate Your Tonsilitis Tonite

(Or... wait until we get a cooler venue and some better songs.)

04/11 Direct Link
April 11
ALBANY, NY

The Albany Knitters' Association, days away from declaring bankruptcy, received a mixed blessing in the form of a corporate sponsorship from Gatorade.

Although they were given a new knitting hall, the members of the association have to knit slogans into their designs now, like, "Knit Until It Hurts, then Rehydrate with the Great Taste of Gatorade." Also, they are only allowed to knit SweatKerchiefs(TM), which they donate to high school athletic teams. They have initiated a hostile takeover of the Albany Macramé Club, and the world is now officially much worse than it was yesterday.

04/12 Direct Link
It's getting increasingly difficult for me to fritter away the period between the time I get home from work and the time I fall asleep. The fact that I have more or less become a hermit does not help. This is probably not a healthy way to live.

I am too good at making excuses. I need to get myself one o' them motivational posters. You know, with a picture of a polar bear or something on it, and the word "EXCELLENCE" underneath in big white letters.

(I keep a bottle of wine under the sink for nights like this.)

04/13 Direct Link
Gary thinks it is an absolute laugh-riot to pronounce it "CAT-sup" every third or fourth time he says 'ketchup.' I don't even have to tell you anything else about him; you know the type.

Gary invited me to go out to lunch with Emily and Cathy (the two women who had that conversation about Tina, our pregnant co-worker) and I went along.

I wanted to get inside Gary's mind. Gary, do you use CAT-sup jokes to mask your pain? Are you crying out for help, Gary? We are a family, Gary, we want to help you.

04/14 Direct Link
I step through the front door of the co-op, and am greeted by the sound of a child's urgent cry in the produce section.

"Mommy mommy mommy!"

She has spotted a new kind of twelve-dollar organic purple yam, and she wants it more than she has ever wanted anything in her life.

The mother asks, "If I cook this, would you even eat it?"

After a moment of looking at the yam, the child replies that she would not. Amateur! The yam goes back on the shelf. Her acquisitiveness will go unsatisfied until she learns how to lie.

04/15 Direct Link
Have you met your friends' parents? Maybe you've spent the night at their house and seen them in their natural environment.

It is a cozy scene. See how they shuffle about the house in mangy slippers? Notice how they sit around watching TV, not speaking to each other except to make comments about commercials? Does this fill you with confidence in the institution of marriage?

I know what you're saying: I will never let my slippers get like that. My comments on commercials are way funnier. Don't you think they once thought as you do? Don't you admire them, somehow?

04/16 Direct Link
Have you felt the fresh, invincible feeling of recovering from an illness? It is the feeling that you don't need to stay on the couch shivering all day any more, and you can get back to the business of tackling real-world responsibilities, like hanging out on the couch and eating solid food.

Because even an untoasted bagel was too agonizingly pointy for me to swallow, I had been re-acquainting myself with the various forms of gruel (oat! lentil! rice!). Today, though, I had a sandwich, the April air smelled sweet once again, and nothing can stop me now.

04/17 Direct Link
Do you want to know how I met Julia?

I was waiting at the bus stop outside the office supply store when she walked up, half-seriously grumbling about something.

"Can you believe you have to buy a five-pack? It's an outrage, I tell you."

I had no idea what she was talking about, but I nodded my head. Most things now-a-days are outrageous, anyway.

She opened the bag and pulled out a five-pack of gold star stickers, like the kind your teachers used to give you at school.

I had never seen so many before.

04/18 Direct Link
I guess she recognized the look on my face.

"Yeah, I know," she said, smirking. "It seems weird that you can just go into the store and buy these. You should have to earn them, right?"

I nodded again.

"Mrs. Schumacher used to put them on my nose," I said.

"Right," she said, "and you lived for that, right? Then around fourth grade you stopped getting gold stars, and you started to wonder whether you were doing something wrong.

"It creates a serious crisis of confidence in kids who thrived on praise. You were one of those, I can tell."

04/19 Direct Link
"And let me tell you, I am not going to go around the classroom handing these out for every little thing, so I will never in my life use up all 1,750 of these."

"No, you shouldn't," I said. "You'd cause inflation by diluting the value of gold stars."

(As a side note to the younger generation, trying to dazzle a pretty girl with Economics is not the preferred method.)

She took one of the packages out of the wrapper and handed it to me.

"You seem like a good kid," she said, grinning. "You just earned 350 gold stars."

04/20 Direct Link
If you have been thinking of committing some crimes, I would like to dissuade you. I have flipped through the Journal of Forensic Science, and I can tell you that you will get caught. Those guys are good. They know all about "Thyroid Cartilage Ossification and Multislice Computed Tomography Examination." Yes, they do, whatever that is. Do you want to mess with those guys?

What is it you're after, anyway? Money? Revenge? We all end up in the same place. Why not live out the rest of your days as an honest person and enjoy the sleep of the innocent?

04/21 Direct Link
The good news is that I have stopped using coffee as a substitute for sleep. Waking up is easier, and I don't walk into walls any more.

The difficult nights of insomnia, also, are more or less gone, the chronic nausea, the terrifying centipede hallucinations; all these things are slowly fading away.

Yet, hasn't something been lost here? Let's not lose sight of the big picture. I have lost a few precious evening hours of mindlessly surfing the Internet and looking at animated banner advertisements. I was generating revenue... for someone... way out theeeeeeere....

(I still burst into song sometimes)
04/22 Direct Link
I have to write down the date several times a day. It is a part of my job.

What happens more often, though, is that I write down what I think the date is, which is often not the correct date at all.

Today, for example, I consistently wrote that it was February 22, 2010. There is no way nearly four months have gone by since the start of the year. Time does not go by that quickly. It must be February.

Not only does time go by that quickly, but it is accelerating. It is not a good feeling.

04/23 Direct Link
About three weeks later I bumped into her at a conference.

"Hey," I said.

I pulled out my wallet and showed her that I carried a sheet of gold stars with me, in case I wanted to recognize some truly meritorious deeds. She also carried some in her purse. Neither of us had peeled any of them off yet.

I took one and stuck it on her nose, and she did the same to me.

Three hours later I ran into her again, and both of us were still proudly wearing our stickers. I asked her if she liked falafel.

04/24 Direct Link
I saw some of the new Saturday morning cartoons today. My report is this: they don't make any dang sense.

They're all gem-of-power this, book-of-power that, and just constant enchanted animals everywhere, swirling, swirling all over the screen. It was disorienting. The frequent commercials for greasy, corn syrup-laden snacks were a welcome respite from the insanity.

Because of time restraints, the idea of each episode having a moral lesson has been removed. Cartoons are the medium through which one generation passes on its values to the next, so I am slightly concerned about the future.

04/25 Direct Link
If you have ever worked in an office, you must have encountered the staple remover. It looks like a little metal crocodile, and it invites you to make it go "nyam nyam nyam" with its mouth. You can not resist. After that, the staple remover will probably bite your finger. If it then goes on to bite your office rivals, well, that is not your fault.

I sometimes use the staple remover's bite to keep myself awake at work. When used as a puppet, it speaks with a gruff, crocodile voice, and should represent the views of the common man.

04/26 Direct Link
Sometimes I get behind my desk and put on little puppet shows for my co-workers. They are often one-man shows with the staple remover making subversive statements about corporate policies. At times, I introduce other characters, like the oppressive stapler boss, the tape dispenser from human resources, and the overworked, sociopathic pair of scissors. The scissors quickly became a breakout character and an office favorite.

My boss allows these shows because they improve morale, and usually put a temporary stop to the weeping. (At any time at least one person is weeping in my office, which he finds distracting.)

04/27 Direct Link
Today Jean was weeping. Her sister had made a smarter career move and lives in a big house and has beautiful clothes, and she, Jean, goes home every night to her can of dinner in her tiny apartment.

For Jean, I draped a tissue over a lollipop to create "The Ghost of Hope-That-Was." The staple remover and the ghost had a dialogue about life choices, and then the scissors screamed and leapt out to attack them both, to great applause.

Taking my bow, I saw a tear in Jean's eye and I knew I was making a difference.

04/28 Direct Link
After a few weeks of Office Supplies Theater, Gary became uncomfortable with the fact that he was less and less in the spotlight. He began to stand up in the middle of my shows to make announcements, like,

"I HAVE BEEN TO THE LOUVRE. LET'S TALK ABOUT ART SOME TIME, GUYS."

or

"I FIND EUROPEAN WINES SUPERIOUR TO THOSE MADE IN THE UNITED STATES."

I had to create a special "Mr. Dry-Erase Marker" character to point out that Gary was a man of the world with excellent taste in order to minimize the interruptions to my increasingly complex productions.

04/29 Direct Link
My boss called me into his office.

"Listen, in these little animal shows you do, I want you to put in a message about not stealing office supplies."

It seemed a small price to pay for the chance to continue doing something I loved. I had stopped doing my job altogether to devote more time to writing scripts and making props.

A week later he said, "I need you to have the main guy say that he loves the great taste of Doritos."

He had started to sell product placement rights to my shows, and he offered me fifteen percent.

04/30 Direct Link
I have a feeling that story would have really taken off if April hadn't rushed to such a cruel and abrupt end.

If you consider my near-obsession with office puppetry and the fact that I have run out of things to complain about (now that my tonsil problem has cleared up) I'd say we will find out what happens next soon enough. I can not wait.

Meanwhile, in the real world, the tulips are blooming and it is another gorgeous day. The Tulip Festival is next weekend! I can get excited about small things because spring is finally here.