Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sick of standardized testing? Bubble THIS in

© George Waters

With all the standardized testing our children undergo these days, if a child gets "left behind" it will only be because he was still bubbling answers in when the boat pulled away from the dock.

My kids, before their schooling is done and they begin their inevitable careers as underpaid but highly esteemed bloggers, will have endured, at a minimum, the STAR test, CAT/6, SAT, CAHSEE, and quite possibly the TACHS, COOP, SSAT, ISEE, SHSAT, the FAB 4 and the Dave Clark 5.

So I have developed a test of my own, which combines all of the tests above into one, in an effort to simplify life for the students of our nation, and also to sell my weighty and expensive study guide. I call my test the "ASSI-9." 

Below are a few sample questions:
1. Which of the following may be said about the American Revolution?
a) The food wasn't as good as the French one
b) Say what you want, they had great hats
c) The book was better than the movie
d) Every time Paul Revere yelled "The British are coming!" everyone had to drink a shot

2. 4 (x - y) = 4x - 4y is a good example of:
a) things I used to know
b) what am I, Stephen Hawking?
c) I was never very good at geometry
d) I missed that lesson because my piercing totally got infected

3. What is meant by the phrase "He wears his heart on his sleeve"?
a) The transplant did not go exactly as planned
b) His feelings are always easy to figure out, since he is screaming in agony
c) He has absolutely no fashion sense when it comes to organs
d) You should see what he wears on his tie

4. Cats claw your furniture into ribbons, urine-mark your walls and deliver small dead rodents to your feet. Based on this information, we can deduce that:
a) owning a cat might be fun
b) cats never attack large rodents
c) cats think your feet are their master
d) a Broadway show is no place for cat-themed entertainment

5. Henry David Thoreau lived alone in the woods for two years. Historians now know that during this time he:
a) plowed through a heck of a lot of pork rinds
b) could never, no matter how hard he tried, get past 93 bottles of beer on the wall
c) gained new human insight into nature as a way of picking up babes
d) invented the "I spent two years staring at a pond and all I got was this lousy" t-shirt

6. If 257 x 900 = 900 x a, what is the value of a?
a) Nowhere near what it was back in '99
b) What is the value of a what?
c) "Value" is the bourgeois conceit of capitalist running dogs
d) I was never very good at geography

As you can see, my test very much lives up to its name. In this, it is exactly like every other test your child will take, but with mine, the dozen standardized tests your child might otherwise have had to endure are compressed into one, the most important one, the one for which I get paid.

Please contact your school board and tell them you want your child to take an ASSI-9 test today. I have no doubt they will be happy to oblige.

Country Mottos Which Need A Makeover

© George Waters
The Wa Blog

Every great country has a motto, like the United States ("Now with 40% more swing states!").

I am joking. Our motto, of course, is "In God we trust," which our forefathers clearly came up with back before we started putting so much stock in our automatic weapons.

As hard as it is to believe, Great Britain has never had a motto. Recently, Prime Minister Gordon Brown (personal motto: "I am 'Anyone but Tony Blair'") has challenged his citizens to create a five-word slogan which represents the British in the way a great people who invented blood pudding and haggis deserve.

Top vote-getters in a London Times poll were: "Once mighty empire, slightly used," "Try writing history without us," and the winner, "No mottos, please, we're British." A few of my other favorites: "Full service will soon resume," "Mind your own bloody business," and "Drinking continues till morale improves."

Ah, the British. It must be hard to live in a place which was once acknowledged by the world to be its preeminent power, knowing that its glory days are behind it, watching other, hungrier countries taking its former place as #1.

Hey, wait a minute.

Many countries create mottos in Latin, which they probably think makes them sound more lofty. Brazil's motto, for example, is "Ordem e progresso" ("We'll have the soup!").

Some countries' mottos work best in their native language, as with Wales: " Y ddraig goch ddyry cychwyn" ("I'm choking. Little help!").

Or in Turkey: "Egemenlik kayitsiz sartsiz milletindir" ("Tofurkey is from Satan!").

Some countries' mottos even work best in a language completely unrelated to their own, like Uganda's: "Mi ganda es Uganda."

A surprising number of countries have no official motto, which I think is a mistake. A motto sets you apart, announces who you are, and also allows you to fill up those pesky border areas on your currency.

Some countries try to get by just using some generic slogan like "Fellowship, justice and freedom" or "Free refill Fridays." Somebody should give these countries some creative counsel, so for their betterment, I have come up with my own motto suggestions, and I submit them here for your approval:

Morocco: "Because 'Less-occo' just sounded kind of negative."

Paraguay: "When you just don't have enough room for the whole guay."

Jamaica: "Jamaica me crazy? No, we hadn't heard that one before. That's hilarious!"

Guyana: "Where dudes go for memorabilia."

Antigua and Barbuda: "We can't find us on a map either."

Oman: "We're what you say when you dent your dad's car."

Poland: "Birthplace of Edgar Allan Poe."

Qatar: "We're what you learn to play after you master the qiano."

Mali: "Like Bali, but without the babes."

South Africa: "It's not just for Whitey any more."

Togo: "Would you like to try that on our new cheesy Parmesan bread?"

Mauritania: "We sank off of our own coast years ago."

Seychelles: "Actually, we don't sell squat by the seashore."

Hey, I am only trying to help these folks stand out from the crowd. In today's world, you need a hook. I mean, who had ever heard of the island of Mauritius before my motto, "Fishes nutritious. Delicious! Mauritius"?

Now take Botswana. Botswana could really use my help. Its actual motto is "Pula" ("Rain"). Yes, "Rain." Truthful, yes. Sexy, no. I say we drop the weather forecast and go saucy. Saucy sells. How about this:

"Birds wanna. Bees wanna. Botswana. Don't you?"

Come to think of it, maybe Great Britain is fine the way it is.

. . .

Thanksgiving Tips for the Clueless

© George Waters

While I am not an advice columnist per se (a Latin phrase meaning "purse"), most advice columns simply require using common sense, and I can certainly fake that. So, since this is a week in which many people have Thanksgiving-preparation questions, I am here for you with my faux (a French term meaning "best") advice: 

Dear George, what is the best temperature/time combination to cook the perfect turkey? Sincerely, Perfectionist in Pasadena.
Dear PiP: First of all, there has only ever been one perfect turkey, and that was Jesus's turkey, so get over it. Many people like to cook a turkey for five hours at 325 degrees, but I have never been a "follower." So I put my turkey in at 85 degrees last Labor Day. I haven't checked it lately, but I am sure it will be great for Thursday. It is too late for you to do this, so just buy a really big chicken and a lot of wine. 

Dear George, my mom and stepmother are not on speaking terms, but I have to invite them both. How should I deal with seating arrangements? Signed, Flummoxed in Fontana. 

Dear Flum: Seat them right next to each other. This will make it easier for you to hear the Cowboys/Jets game. 

Dear George, I turned 18 this year, and now that I'm a man, my mom wants me to carve the turkey. I have no idea how. Signed, Turkey Trouble in Temple City.
Dear TT: Now that you are 18, your mother will start asking you to do a lot of things you don't know how to do, like grow up. The key here is to proudly take the carving knife and proceed to cut slices which are alternately transparently thin and as thick as a "Harry Potter" book. To cement the deal, bust a huge sneeze on the bird too. Guess how soon you will be asked to carve the turkey again. That's right. 

Dear George, is there such a thing as "too much pie"? Sincerely, Curious in Covina.
Dear Curious: I am often asked if there is such a thing as a stupid question. I have always said no, but I stand corrected. Dude, the concept of "too much" pie is like the concept of "too many" black olives on your fingertips. No way. 

Dear George, what is the most appealing centerpiece for my table? Sincerely, Decor-deficient in Duarte.
Dear Dec: The centerpiece of your festive table is the most important element in your guests' enjoyment of the holiday. I would go with two flat-screen Sony Bravias set back to back facing the long way down the table, so nobody misses any part of this meaningful celebration of America's team. 

Dear George, my hipster aunt from Santa Fe and her husband, the Reiki healer, have made it clear they won't set foot in my home unless I provide Tofurkey with Ancho chiles. What the heck is that? Signed, Stressed in San Berdoo.
Dear Stressed: Tofurkey is a tofu-based meat substitute. Anchos are dried Poblano chile peppers grown in the Central Mexican state of Puebla, famous for their sweet, mild paprika flavor, moderate heat, and a hint of jalapeno and tobacco undertones. What were you, raised in Antarctica? 

The main thing to remember Thursday is that a long time ago, Indians helped white settlers survive the winter, and in return the white man showed them how to completely cover their land, ocean to ocean, with Jiffy Lubes. Ask any Indian. Before us, it took for-freakin'-ever to lube.

You're welcome, Indians. You're welcome. 

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Help subscribing

Five reasons to subscribe to The Wa Blog:
  1. It's not $4.00+ a gallon, it's free.
  2. If you don't subscribe, you will totally miss my upcoming post about that thing with the stuff you like.
  3. Everybody's doing it. And then they're going and subscribing to The Wa Blog.
  4. If you are just randomly checking the blog occasionally, the day you don't check is the day I post about you and your ilk.
  5. Remember when you were young, you used to always say "I'll try anything once"? You don't say that much any more. Try this.
Try it using a Reader

Try it using your email

Or get me via Twitter

Need more help understanding which is better for you? O.K...

. . .

Below is for people who are brand new to reading blogs or subscribing to them. If you are going to read blogs, and I personally think it is a great way to waste valuable time you will never get back, you can get the blog to come to you.

On my home page you will notice the little button which looks like this:

Clicking on it will open a page of choices for you. These are called RSS Readers. You don't need anything special to activate one. Just pick one from a site with which you are familiar. Because I use Google to search a lot, I chose the Google Reader. But most of the others work the same way. You can pick Yahoo or AOL or whatever.

Let's say you click the little Google icon. It takes you to a new page where it asks you if you want my new blog posts to appear on your Google home page or in Google Reader. I don't use a Google home page or Yahoo home page. If you already do, you can pick that, and add my blog so that the headlines from my new posts appear on your home page just like a news headline. Easy.

If you choose to use a Reader, a Reader is just a special Web page where you can start collecting blogs in one place. So once you have clicked on the "Subscribe" button up above, and clicked on your choice of Reader, you create a free account. Write your login and pw somewhere. You will then be taken to the new Reader page. Add the Reader page to your Favorites or Bookmarks. Although my blog will come to you, using a Reader page means you still have to go and open the page to check for updates.

If this is too confusing, you can also subscribe to The Wa Blog by email. On my home page you will see this box to do that.

Signing up this way will send you my blog entries in an email format rather than you reading them on a Web page.

Once you enter your email address in the box, and click "Subscribe," Feedburner will pop up with a message asking you to type in a few letters in order to fight spam. You do that, then click to complete the sign-up. A confirmation message will be sent to your email. The email will contain a link which you must click to activate your email subscription to The Wa Blog. Also, if the time ever comes when you want to stop receiving the emails, it is easy to unsubscribe. A link to do that is always at the bottom of each email.

Any other questions about this stuff? Contact me. And thanks for your interest.

Wa Wear

I design funny t-shirts and mugs. Mouse pads. Stickers. Magnets. Even pin-on buttons. These can be found at my Cafepress.com store called Wry Tees. Also my store DNF Hound.

At Wry Tees, lots of the shirts have slogans which are writing-oriented, like "Ask me about gerunds!" and "Don't make me get out the red pencil." There are also "Gatsby" references, and "Moby Dick" quotes and a pic of Shakespeare in blue eye shadow which, if you are a theater geek like I am, you must go and snag right now. Or if you are like me, and putting things off is what makes you you, "Procrastinato, ergo sum" is the design for you.

For some reason, I also started coming up with a lot of funny designs for pregnant women and parents which sell really well. I guess women who are expecting develop a great sense of humor. So if you are pregnant or need a baby shower gift, you just found it. If the expectant mom you know has a sense of humor, you are all set. If she does not, get her a copy of "What to Expect When You're Expecting," so she can scare the cr*p out of herself.

At DNF Hound, it's all about geocaching t-shirts and gifts. Like to be first-to-find a clever geocache cap? DNF Hound's the place. Don't know what geocaching is? Visit Geocaching.com to learn all about the hobby. Then you will understand why my geocaching hazards design is funny. And my Star Wars/Altoids riff. And the one describing the top five warning signs you are obsessed with geocaching.

I am not going to say there is something for everybody at my shop. I hate that. But there is something for you. So go already, and help the world dress a little more amusingly.

. . .

Humor Columns

Below are fair samples of the kind of humor columns I write. If you are a publisher, and would like to reprint one of these in your papers, contact me for reprint rates.

Feel free to link to these from your own blog. If you want to post the actual text, though, please contact me first for permission, and please maintain the copyright notice, my name, and the URL of www.TheWaBlog.com.

Thank you,

George Waters

Sick of standardized testing? Bubble this in

Country Mottos Which Need A Makeover

Thanksgiving Tips For the Clueless

More humor columns on this blog may always be found here.

. . .


I would love to hear from you, sure, as long as your comments are either a) positive, b) intelligent, c) funny or d) belligerent enough to inspire me to mock you openly to my wife.

Feel free to contact me, especially if you are an editor who wants me to write for you or somebody who can get me a bit part in the next "Hunger Games" movie.

. . .

About George

Hi, I'm George Waters.

I'm what they call an "award winning" humor writer. I write a weekly humor column for newspapers, as well as funny freelance essays for other publications and Web sites.

I live in Southern California in a flat, baking valley named for San Gabriel who, by all appearances at least, was a saint.

I am married, with kids and a dog. As I am sure Dave Barry would attest, a humorist without a dog is like a plumber who doesn't own a wrench.

This blog exists for one reason: I could no longer hold back the urge to inject the world's English lexicon with the phrase "Wa Blog."

I recommend subscribing to The Wa Blog. It's free. That way, my stuff comes right to you. Which is the same line I used to woo my wife.

My blog posts automatically go to Twitter, so you can follow me @TheGeorgeWaters if you prefer that to email. 

. . .

If you would like to know where "Wa" (pronounced like "saw") comes from, here is a brief explanation...

The Origin of "Wa"

What is the origin of "Wa," you ask, because you are sitting in your cubicle pretending to work? It's funny the things that stick. In college, my friends, like all college students overburdened by the requirements of studies and hoisting multiple cases of beer, wanted to lighten their load in every way they could.

So to make their lives that much easier, to reduce the burden of pronouncing both syllables in my last name, my friends took to simply calling me "Wa." I don't remember exactly which friend coined it, but chances are it was Ted.

Coincidentally, the word "Wa," in Japanese, means harmony and balance. In fact, "Wa" even refers to specific things which are Japanese. For example, "Wafuku" means Japanese-style clothes. Ironically, in college, even though my friends did not know anything about Japanese-style clothes, they shouted "Wafuku!" at me a lot.

So it is that I name my blog "The Wa Blog." You may not know that "Wa Blog" is also part of the lyrics to the five-note musical theme which the alien spacecraft in "Close Encounters" plays to communicate with earthlings. The full five notes go like this: "La la loo WA BLOGGG!"

"Wa Blog!" is also a great thing to blurt out loudly in a meeting if anyone asks your opinion of the sales projections. Or randomly on a first date. Seriously. I could use the exposure.

. . .

Other derivations of Wa:

You Gotta Have Wa, a very entertaining book about the word "Wa" and the sport of Japanese baseball.

The Japanese symbol for Wa

Wa state

. . .