Sunday, January 24, 2010

phrases that make no sense

Every so often I'll come across an individual who clearly has no idea what he/she is talking about, and emphasizes this by using a Phrase That Makes No Sense.

In order to bring peace and harmony to the world, I have included a small sampling of said phrases in the post that follows. I warn you: these are not all of the Phrases That Make No Sense, and there are more being added every day, but it should give you a taste of what to look for.

If you find that you have used or are using one of these, please, don't despair. Repentance is available to all via cold-turkey abdication1

I could care less


Chris: Hi, I'm afraid I've just busted the engine of my dad's car to the tune of four thousand dollars2, and could use some moral support.
Woman: I could care less.

People. That makes no sense. You're trying to express how little it matters to you. You're trying to shaft someone. Have you ever taken a millisecond to think about what you're saying? You're admitting you CARE to some degree. This is no zing. This phrase just says you are contractually lazy. That is, use the contraction: I couldn't care less.

Appropriate example:

Chris: Hey, I just posted a new article on The Complete Guide to Everything!
Woman: I couldn't care less

I can't complain

Really? Seriously? Are you so bereft of imagination and/or creativity that you can't complain about one single thing? I live a paradisiacal existence in the heart of a romantic foreign city and I complain ALL THE TIME. You can't complain at all? Yes, you can. Hop off your little prideful humblewagon. Stop being so intellectually lazy and find something to be miserable about.3 Sheesh. You're not fooling anybody with your false declarations of perpetual bliss.

With all due respect

Translation: "I think you're the lousiest piece of vile misery who has ever walked the face of this wretched planet."

With all due respect, we all know what you mean when you say it, so just get it out.

It seems to me that maybe, pretty much always means no

Jack. Please. Since you seem so nice, let me say this in the nicest way possible: did you not have a mother? Was it not completely obvious to you the seventieth time she said maybe that she meant no? Did she say you could 'maybe' see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when it came out on video and then never got it for you? Did she say you could 'maybe' have that king-sized Snickers bar and then cruelly feed it to the man-eating scouts that very day?

Furthermore, did you never have an uninterested girlfriend? Did she never say you could 'maybe' hold hands next week? Or that you could 'maybe' kiss her on the veranda?4

It makes zero sense that you consider this phrase some sort of revelation.

You know what your problem is?

You. Speaking to me in that patronizing way. Yes, I know what my problem is. I'm 28, I live alone, I had chocolate milk and cheese pasties5 for Sunday dinner, and now I've got someone who thinks they can somehow enlighten me on one of my problems. I've got them down. Give me a solution.6

Never say never/Anything is possible!

There is a large swath of impossible things. It is impossible, for instance, to transverse London at a rate greater than six meters per hour. It is impossible to have a conference call without it sounding like a short-wave radio broadcast from FDR. I will never experience marriage as a 27 year old. My brother, given his bad eyesight, will never be an astronaut.

If you miss when shooting for the moon, it doesn't mean you land among the stars. It means you're two hundred thousand miles away from earth in a vacuum deathtrap, begging Houston to go wake up Gary Sinise to get you home.

1. That's Phrase That Makes No Sense number one. I made it myself.
2. Do not ever ask me about that day.
3. Not an hour ago I had a woman telling me how much she hoped for rain while camping so that everyone could be miserable. "The more they complain, the happier I am."
4. No thanks, lips will be fine. Sorry. Couldn't help that one. I actually had a few better examples on the girlfriend+maybe scenario, but I'm afraid some exes actually read this...
5. Pasty: the second best thing that starts with a 'p' and rhymes with tasty.
6. Er, in truth, it's sort of a stretch to denote this as a Phrase That Makes No Sense, but I'm much too lazy to think up another category right this second. And there was no other easy way to integrate my great pasty line (see previous footnote).


First we hear about Haiti collapsing, and now there are reports that Ricky Gervais is quitting twitter! What is this world coming to? He says it's because he thinks it's "pointless" and "undignified". As an active tweeter myself, I have to, yet again, exercise my powers of persuasion and illumination to show Mr. Gervais the light, and yes, explain twitter. I love twitter! Twitter is great! The Emperor has beautiful new clothes!

My sister was bad mouthing twitter the other day, so I sat down with her (while watching my feed, of course), and proceded to explain why it was so useful:

"Do you know those days, when you've been stuck inside for the entire day, and your five kids have been yelling, and you feel like you need t"

"o scream? That's what us tweeters feel like every day."

This appeased her to some extent, so I followed up with:

"Twitter is our release mechanism."

"RT @thechrisperry Twitter is our release mechanism."

I threw that fancy bit in at the end for her. Yeah. Only inducted members into the tweeter club know what RT means. And only super cool inducted members know that tiny snowmen count as one character. Sometimes, to feel cool, I just walk around town saying 'RT ☃'.1

Whatever it is, it's not pointless. Without twitter, I wouldn't know what it was like to have a life. Now, my mom spent a good portion of my childhood trying to convince me that I had a life, as well as trying to convince me that there did, in fact, exist a condition called being "big boned", but we're not going to cover the latter topic today. However, one glance at twitter will convince even the most loving of mothers that I do not, in fact, have a life. I see evidence of my friends having lives; that is, skiing, smooching girlfriends, finding wives, attending rock concerts, and then there's the occasional friend who only seems to wake up, eat, and discuss "celebrities" with whom I am unfamiliar.

Of course, technically they're not friends.2 Facebook has friends, but in twitter, I just follow them. They're my followees. This was the point in the conversation where my sister calmly suggested I stop doing those sorts of things, and I had to reassure her that yes, I was obeying the restraining order.

Personally, I tweet because I physically can't communicate. Let us here mourn the moment during a date when instead of yelling, "we're all going to die!", I yelled, "I'm going to kill you!" I can assure you, if twitter were my method of communication, I would not have made that mistake, and I probably wouldn't have spent the better part of my adulthood praying that little slip didn't get around. I may follow you, but I'm no serial killer. When given the option, I would probably rather communicate electronically with pretty much everything.3 I believe this trait may be somewhat responsible for the "not having a life" scenario described above.

And people follow me? Er, that might depend on your definition of people. I can't really say that there are sentient humans following me anymore, as I believe my last one hundred and thirteen tweets have covered the amazingly-interesting gamut of a) this publication, b) my statistics skills, and c) the occasional re-tweet of various and sundry strange characters.

For example, through twitter, I'm able broadcast to the world important thoughts like these: dusting off my autoregressive conditional heteroskedasticity modeling skillz

How is that not helpful to people? In that one short bit of text not only do you learn that I'm a nerd, and thus have confirmed my lack of life, but you also learn that I'm so hopelessly clueless that I can't even fathom what a nerd I am. Women! Run away! Scream if I ask for your phone number!

In hindsight, I probably should have followed my friend Mz. Berry's line:

"People are gonna be glad I'm not on Tweeter."

(Thanks to @jhammer for that amazing line)

1. Yes, I'm aware it makes no sense, but I'm betting my sister won't catch on to that. She's too busy keeping her children from ripping the wallpaper off of the bathroom walls.
2. At least, not any more. I'm sure every one of them has just de-followed me out of retaliation for my heretical discussion of the twitter.
3. And this definitely goes for dates. This can be problematic when the general world consensus is that it is the height of terribleness to email or text or, ahem, facebook women when asking for dates (not that I've done any of those...)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

health care

Health care is the discussion du jour among the politically inclined. That is, the politically inclined who are capable of debating a topic that appears to have begun legislative deliberations sometime in the Mesozoic Era. At the moment, that group of people includes the Senate (motto: The Lower Our Approval Rating, the More Money We Spend), a half dozen or so pundits who make money by threatening to sic Sarah Palin on the country, and thirteen Iowans who got confused and turned on their collective television set hoping to find it was that magical time when people actually cared about Iowa; that is, either caucus season, or the re-opening of The Music Man.

Much like abortions, fully-automatic weapons, and Simon Cowell, half of the country considers health care to be an innate right of humanity, and the other considers it a forerunner to the apocalypse. That is, the Democrats (motto: If You Don't Spend It, We Will), in their usual tradition of trying to appear 'nice', think people should have access to 'doctors', no matter how much said 'access' might actually cost, and Republicans (motto: Don't Worry, We Did) worry that if a certain part of the electorate gets access to medical care they'll be alive and voting Democratic that much longer.

To be fair, that's an oversimplification of a very complex and nuanced topic. The only way to adequately portray political positions is to carry around large signs calling other people socialists.

Speaking from my experience in the UK, Britons, are, of course, overjoyed to hear Americans are looking into fixing the obviously-broken health care system. They'd send congratulatory notes, but couldn't possibly, or they'd lose their place in queue for their routine checkup(s). On a related note, England is closed, pending the return of their doctor (who was sent to Haiti).

That being said, there are valid reasons for not reforming health care. In the current system, doctors make a killing, my fellow actuaries are rolling in dough, the jocks-turned-pharma reps who stole all the beautiful women in high school can continue to earn double my salary and pay for various and sundry plastic surgeries, and attorneys like John Edwards can strike it big and be a pox on humanity.

On the pro side, however, it would make me look a lot more successful if my family members in the health care industry suddenly took a cut in salary, and maybe I could convince my mom that it was a good idea to pass up medical school in order to have more time to play Battlefield 1942 in school.

I'd like to end reminding you that a) only socialists have health care, b) the accidental system we stumbled upon wherein employers provide health care is holy and sacred, and c) like always, the rich should pay for all of it, because I'm all out of cash after that Big Mac. And they should pay for my fancy flying unicorn as well.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

airplane travel

Airplane travel is meant to scare the ever-loving crap out of you. I consider it entirely unacceptable that the probability of my flight beginning in Duluth and ending floating in some random shark-infested body of water is large enough to warrant the placement of a life jacket under my seat.

I know, I know, the probabilities are supremely slim. Yes, I know that per mile traveled you're more likely to get in a car accident or whatever it is they say. I get it. But it's still possible! I don't even like sharks!1

In my defense, I don't have a problem driving, mainly because they don't go to the trouble of reminding you of all of the gory possibilities every time you get in a car:

Should we careen off a roadway and end up floating in the Pacific, we've installed life jackets under your seat. They even have little lightbulbs so that sharks with bad smell-o-vision can find you quicker, as there is no chance on earth that any sort of rescue would come anywhere near you in time for you not to die of hypothermia. Look at the pretty lights! Also, here's some oxygen in case we run out in our trip. We hope you don't wet your pants and faint the minute you see those little yellow cups drop!

That's not even begin to speak of the many other delightful ways in which airplane travel can kill you. There's always mechanical failure, unexpected bad weather, pilot error, pilots getting distracted looking at their laptops error, and, my favorite, vanishing over the Atlantic failure.

How exactly is it that a form of transportation can completely vanish? Is this 1600s sailing or GPS-enabled flying? Does the black box2 not have GPS? Are we still navigating by compasses?

Luckily, most of you don't share my ridiculously-irrational aversion to flying, but the powers that be have also managed to make flying one of the most uncomfortable modes of travel as well. Unless you'd consider a fourteen year old kid sitting next to you elbowing you in the back for over six hours comfortable.3

And they don't just mess you up on the plane. And it's not just the man who's trying to get you down. Let's finish today's instructions with a little bit of a quiz on navigating airports. Answers are linked in the ever-present footnotes.

When entering a long security line full of frustrated people trying to make it to their planes as quickly as possible, when should you remove your large coat or jacket?
  1. Somewhere in line.
  2. At any possible moment in your sad little life which falls prior to arriving at the conveyor belt.
  3. After you've arrived at the conveyor belt, spent two precious minutes loading your five carry-on bags on the belt, and have walked up to the metal detector, then need your own special little reminder that you, like every other single person in the entire nation of the United Kingdom that has been through the ordeal (including at least three dozen people in front of you), have to remove your jacket.
  4. 4

After you have passed through security, when is it advisable to reclothe and situate yourself?
  1. Immediately after the detector, park your three hundred pounds of love in front of the only possible access route to the belt, and proceed to take as much time as possible to wrap yourself in your dozens of smelly layers.
  2. At any moment after that precise minute, which could be, for example, while in the terminal, while in the air, while over Duluth, or any other possible time of your life, up to and including the year 2051.
  3. 5

What are acceptable practices when peeing in an airport bathroom?
  1. Standing right next to the lone individual in the bathroom, ensuring that there are no urinal blockers. Leering over every few seconds.
  2. Missing. Peppering the ground in front so that any observant human is forced to widen their stance as much as possible and remain three feet back out of puke-ridden disgust.
  3. Talking to anyone. Like, say, yourself.
  4. Looking directly at the floor at all times, avoiding any sort of interpersonal interaction, and escaping the very moment you can, all while holding your breath and plugging your nose to evade the floating urinary molecules.
  5. 6

I love flying! I hope you all get to experience it soon! Especially you people who take your sweet time in security!

1. When they're eating me, that is. Like every other sane human, I love them when they're eating anything else. Sharks rock.
2. Speaking of the black box, I just want to take the time here to insult whoever it was who made the joke: "If the black box is indestructible, why don't they make the plane out of it?" Sir. That's not funny. It's stupid. Indestructibility has never been the complaint about flying. Randomly plummeting 36,000 feet is the complaint. If balsa wood were guaranteed to not suddenly crash, you bet I'd be the first person in that rickety old plane.
3. I had to physically restrain myself from slapping him, especially when he stole my leg room. Kid! Go eat some paste or something. I'm trying to sleep through this misery!
4. A: Yes! B: Even better! C: I spit on your memory and wish destruction would rain upon you with the fury of a thousand stinging Brazilian bees.
5. A: I pray you are vexed with nothing but poisoned twinkies and ho-hos. B: Please, marry me! No matter your age, religion, or gender! Even if you clip your toenails on the carpet!7 It doesn't matter! I love you!
6. A: Please, save the rest of us and go directly to jail. Stay there you horrible creep. B: May you only ever receive the blackest coal in your flea-ridden stocking. C: Do everyone a favor and remove your vocal chords. D: You, like me, have some serious issues.
7. I'm lying. That does matter. A lot. Take the time to reclothe where you want, but keep your miserable toenails off the carpet.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

family dinners

Many of you have just experienced these festive occasions, so I believe the time is ripe to discuss some of their finer points. To be clear, I'm not talking about your typical family dinner; I'm referencing the big occasions where your extended family gets together and you try and avoid that one awkward cousin.1

I'm an expert in family dinners, having participated actively2 in them for many, many years. Of course, my entire repertoire of experience in these matters comes from a single family (my mom's side, the Kelly family) but I'm just going to make the supremely logical assumption that everyone is exactly like me, and every family exactly like mine.3

The Kellys are of Irish heritage, and like all people of Irish descent, have no idea what Ireland is like beyond being the land of leprechauns. Lack of cultural heritage aside, the Kellys do a great job of creation on the culinary front, which culminates in single meals that would provide the population of Burkina Faso its yearly sugar, starch, and meat dietary requirements.

Family dinners begin with a salad. Of course, the definition of salad is a little broader than your standard fare. I think I was seventeen before I saw a salad composed of lettuce, and this at a friend's house. Salads can be anything from pure jello, to pear-infused green jello, to orange jello with apples and marshmallows topped with a three-inch thick layer of whipped cream, to a whipped cream soup with pieces of apples, bananas, and marshmallows. In short, salads are deliciously sugary affairs.

Vegetables also play very important roles in family dinners. Vegetables like potatoes (mixed with cream and butter and cheese). Or sugar-glazed sweet potatoes. Every so often you'll get a boiled carrot coated in caramelized brown sugar. In a pinch, you could serve any vegetable, I suppose, as long as it came from a can. The last time a fresh vegetable made an entrance into the Kelly family dinner it was promptly shouted out amid protests.4

The centerpiece of the main course is always some form of meat. Sometimes this meat is accompanied with seas of gravy, sometimes it comes with food-poison-inducing stuffing5, but it always makes an appearance. This may be a problem in some regions, given dietary preferences and the likes, but here the term vegetarian refers to people who don't eat red meat, except on rare occasions like holidays and other days people hold family dinners. If ever a vegan attends a family dinner, there may be an awkward moment while someone tries to rustle up some water that wasn't shot and killed for dinner, but luckily, any vegan coming within fifty miles of our home will starve. Why else would you never hear about vegans living in flyover country? There's just no sustenance.

All of this food builds up to the true purpose of the family dinner: dessert. The last family dinner had no fewer than thirteen different kinds of said sugary goodness. For example, I am now sitting within twenty feet of banana split pie, cookies, a pan of brownies, chocolate from Germany, the UK, and local chocolatier, as well as Sees chocolate, chocolate pecan pie, and ice cream, having finished off the pumpkin bread, Boston cream pie, banana cream pie, and cream pie some days previous.

My family has a history of type 2 diabetes and heart problems.

On that note, I will see you in the gym. I'll be the one with the ill-fitting clothes trying to roll through the door.

1. Or, should you be blessed with somewhere in the neighborhood (I've never actually been able to count them) of forty eight cousins, maybe a dozen or so awkward ones. Actually, let's be serious: if you have that many cousins, you're all awkward.
2. And by "participated actively" I mean "ate as much as possible, then lay on some hidden couch in a catatonic state, avoiding doing anything that could be classified as 'washing dishes'".
3. In that vein, I'd like to apologize for the divorce your parents went through, and I'd like to discuss with you why exactly the word goose was banned in your household for several years in your youth.6
4. Legend has it this was in the year 1242, when it was technically the O'Calleigh family.
5. I have yet to forgive said cook of said stuffing. I stopped vomiting hours before my flight out of town.
6. This was, of course, the motivation behind such constructs as 'gooth', and 'silly gooth'.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Christmas is a magical time for young and old alike.

For the old, it's a time for families to get together and discuss all of the psychological problems of the absent family members. This is magical because rarely can a family agree on what psychological deficiencies manifest themselves in the individual. Anxiety disorder? OCD? They can be so hard to differentiate. Christmas is a time of agreement.

Christmas is magical for the young because they get toys. Lots of toys. These toys possess magical properties in their own right, as toys asymptotically approach one of four primary objects: a gun, a sword, a whip, or a rock (to be thrown, of course). All toys are used in one of these four ways.

My nephew got a fake drill for Christmas. What does that become? A gun, of course.

Another nephew got one of those fake stick horses. Yeah, that'd be a sword. My stomach and ears have yet to forgive his mother.

Of course, I should add that the previous rule doesn't only apply to toys: any object will be used in one of those four ways. For example, not only does the belt on the toy gun holster become a whip, but so does the rope found on the floor. And we're all familiar with the many uses of the empty roll of wrapping paper.

I hope you had an enjoyable Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa (that's for you, Jay), Druidic Winter Solstice, or whatever holiday you happen to celebrate. And I hope the remote control mini cooper I gave my nephews survives the next year of being used as a throwing stone.

blind dates

Everyone loves blind dates. Or, at least, setting other people up on blind dates. In a stark reversal of the old adage, misery loves company, company (those who have found true love) loves misery (or the awkwardness that a blind date will surely bring).

That being said, if you've set me up on a blind date, I'm immensely grateful. You at least think that some poor sap can be duped into marrying me. This is admirable. It's also a bit sad, as the probability of getting set up is a function of age and desirability. Do you think Brad Pitt ever got set up? How about the old dude who last dated a woman in the Mesozoic era?1 I rest my case.

If you've just been set up on a blind date, don't despair. There is a set pattern that all blind dates follow. Once you know the pattern, you can find it in yourself to turn down blind dates from those you respect the most without feeling the least bit of pressure of guilt and lost opportunities.

Step A: The Greeting

You either first speak on the phone, or in the company of your friend and his beautiful wife. In either circumstance, the greeting establishes the complete lack of interest on the part of either party. This was once communicated to me by referencing a love interest in a foreign city. Most excellently done, I say.

Step B: The Small Talk

When making small talk, the object is for both parties to quickly establish the insanity of the other party. First person to do this wins. For example, you could win on a date by getting her to reference the large amount of fear she feels about an ex-boyfriend, have him show up at one point on the date, accompany her in speaking with him, then hear how she was engaged to him two weeks after the date.2 Admittedly, this is a longer process than is typical. You can usually verify psychological instability if any interest in you is shown.

Step C: The Meal

Not much to know about this. Pick a cheap non-fast-food place, and pray that you don't here discover that she is six years your senior, and deeply interested in marrying you. Now.

Step D: The Activity

At this point, your best strategy is to make the date as awkward as possible. One way you could accomplish this is to play a friendly game of Scattergories with the group of happily-dating couples. At the end of the game, when I mention how badly I lost, you could make a comment like, "that's what you get for thinking you're better than everyone else."3 This is the best way to segue into the next step.

Step E: The Awkward Goodbye

You're in the home stretch, so there's no reason to skimp on the goodbye. Walk her to the door of her home, the college housing she still inhabits despite having graduated from school several years ago, or, if you're lucky, the car with which she will drive herself home. Keep the conversation light. If you're up for a laugh, reference how much you'd like to "do it again" sometime, and watch her try and be polite whilst thoroughly horrified. This is the best part of the blind date.

Blind dates make for the best stories. Don't pass by the opportunity to see what exactly your friends think about you by seeing what discomfort they decide to inflict on you, and on your poor date!4

1. If you happen to be one of the dozens of women I've dated, I assure you this is a joke. I've dated loads and loads of women who haven't gone on to be successful mothers and grandmothers. I promise.
2. They hare happily married and have three children, last I heard.
3. Granted, it was a true statement, but that doesn't make it any less awkward. You could at least have the decency to anonymously blog about me six years later.
4. I'm leaving in one hour to go on one. Shoot me in the face.