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I spent the past week in Fiji with my wife, on Turtle Island. http://www.turtlefiji.com/, for what was our extremely belated honeymoon. It's a 500 acre island with about 100 staff and generally no more than 20 guests. At one point last week there were only eight guests, but that was unusual.

The experience is indescribable. There is no TV, no BlackBerry signal on most of the island, and no Internet unless you borrow some time on the gift shop computer. Each couple can book an entire private beach, complete with picnic lunch, almost any day you want. And these are no ordinary beaches. Any one of the several choices is the best beach you have ever seen. In fact, the movie Blue Lagoon was shot on this island. By the second day, your regular life becomes a faint memory. You are completely immersed.

The temperature hovered about 80 degrees and it was sunny every day. Apparently that is normal. The water was warm, clear and blue, and you could walk a hundred yards into the ocean before the water level was over your head. The sand was perfect, and never too hot on your feet. You can go barefoot from the minute the seaplane lands to the minute you head home. I am not exaggerating when I say it felt like I was in some sort of "Total Recall" simulated vacation where everything was too good to be real.

The staff memorizes the names of all guests, and you are on a first name basis from the moment you arrive. Every time we saw one of the Turtle Island staff, from any distance, they greeted us with the traditional "bula," huge smiles, and often our first names. The first day it seems freaky. By the end of the week you feel like family.

The guests eat most meals at a common table, on the beach, feet in the sand.  Everyone is extra friendly because there are so few of you in this shared experience, and you are all relaxed and happy. Somehow the physical beauty of the island makes everyone a better person. And the staff is so genuinely happy and warm that it rubs off on you. No kids are allowed on the island, except for a few "family weeks" each year. Our week was mostly honeymooners, anniversary celebrants, and couples who hoped to be married soon.

Each guest cabin (called a bure) has a dedicated "mama" who literally acts as your mom while you are on the island. She answers all your questions, arranges your picnic lunches on the beach, does your laundry every night, and cleans your room. If you want something, you just ask your mama. Our mama, Adi, was amazing. She made sure I got my vegetarian meals, and was our personal paparazzi. At the end she gave us a scrapbook she made with the photos she took during the week.

One of the guests reported seeing a couple that was about to leave the island, sitting on the beach weeping. I didn't understand that until it was our turn to leave. We wept too.

Best vacation ever. Now back to work.
 
An alert reader busted me for creating essentially the same comic twice.

http://digg.com/comics_animation/Boo_to_Scott_Adams_for_reusing_old_jokes_PIC


After drawing about 7,000 Dilbert comics, you might wonder how many times this has happened before. My best guess is that is has happened at least 70 times, some instances more egregious than others. That's because there are only about 100 different jokes in the universe. All jokes are rehashes of something that came before.  The best you can do is disguise them.


It makes me wish I had been born around 1,900 B.C. when the first great innovation in humor was invented: the fart joke.


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7536918.stm


After that, every seemingly new fart joke was nothing but a rehash. I've used the fart joke several times in Dilbert, with just enough subtlety to get published. Here's one



And another...




The joke in both Dilbert comics is about 4,000 years old. And that assumes the Sumerians didn't steal the joke from someone else.


My strip that runs today (August 1, 2008) is only a second cousin to the fart joke, and maybe the naughtiest thing I ever got away with.

 
A Dilbert reader sent me this true story:

I have a funny story for you about the security people at (company name deleted). I was leaving on a Friday afternoon with my laptop in hand (not in the case) and was stopped by security and told that I cannot take the laptop with me and that it had to be inside a bag.

I asked why and they said that there had been a lot of computer thefts. They asked where the bag was. I told them that it was attached to my bicycle which I had to leave at another building because they (security) won't let me take it (the bike) in with me. After a momentary standoff, they said I could fill out a form to take the laptop with me and I said that I would.

They then said that I could not fill it out - my manager had to. I told them that my manager doesn't work in the building, nor does anyone in my management chain. This posed a problem for the crack security team. At last, they formulated a brilliant solution to the problem. They told me that if I had grocery bag in my office I could put the laptop in it and everything would be okay . Of course, I don't have grocery bags in my office. Who would? I did have a windbreaker, however. So I went up to my office, wrapped up the laptop in my windbreaker, and went back down.

I don't see how this prevents theft because now it really looks like I am stealing the laptop. Satisfied that they had performed in the line of duty, the crack security team let me go on my way. Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet.
 
I can't decide if I prefer the candidate for President who says we should consider all the facts before deciding when to withdraw troops from Iraq or the one who says we should consider all the facts before deciding when to withdraw troops from Iraq.

On a marginally related note, I can't help wondering whether McCain and Obama are both closet atheists. My hunch is that they are.

McCain is famously quiet about his faith, which is strange for a Republican candidate. And you have to wonder what five years in a prison camp does to your belief, assuming his buddies who didn't make it out were praying too. My hunch is that he's not a believer.

Obama came to Christianity about the same time he realized it was useful to his future ambitions. He seems like a pragmatist to me. The majority of people at his education level aren't believers. My hunch is that he isn't a believer either.

I won't quibble if you disagree. It's just a feeling I get by watching how they operate and how they present themselves. The truth will never be known. What's your hunch?
 

I fantasize about running for President, but in the same way I fantasize about being Batman. I wouldn't want either job, but it's fun to think about how I'd handle certain situations. One situation that pops up all the time is when a reporter asks a candidate to respond to his opponent's campaign promises to do the impossible. My fantasy answer would be "My opponent thinks voters are stupid."


The great thing about that answer is that it would generate world headlines. Second, it would resonate as being honest and accurate. You'd have to make sure you weren't making unrealistic promises yourself, and that's the hard part. But it would be a killer line.


Calling your opponent names, like flip-flopper, clearly works to some extent. But telling voters that your opponent thinks THEY are stupid would work even better, especially if it is clearly true that he thinks that.


I've also been working on good sound bites for both Obama and McCain. Obama's sound bite is easy. He took heat for suggesting a specific timetable for withdrawal before he had visited Iraq and talked to the generals. That seemed dumb. Then he made the best political move I have ever seen, by saying a President has to see the bigger picture, so generals in Iraq can't be the ones to determine when we leave. Agree with him or not, it was a brilliant political move. He needs to capture that in a soundbite: "Generals fight wars. Presidents make peace." It sounds like universal wisdom. That's a good sound bite.


Now that the Iraqi Prime Minister wants the U.S. to leave on Obama's timetable, McCain's biggest issue is gone. Even if you think McCain was right about the surge, it is no longer relevant to the election. No one cares that an old guy once made a good decision. The average voter doesn't know enough about economics to make the economy a powerful issue for McCain, and it's too late for him to start hammering on social issues. So McCain's sound bite needs to be something vague yet persuasive. I suggest: "Do voters prefer words or actions?"


The great part of that sound bite is that everyone is programmed to automatically prefer words to action. And to the extent that Obama is viewed as a great orator, and McCain is seen as more of a man of action, you start thinking the sound bite actually means something. And phrasing the sound bite as a question forces the listener to automatically answer it, thus reinforcing it in the irrationsl part of the brain. It is the political equivalent of "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit." It sounds like a reason to the unreasonable part of your brain, which unfortnately makes most of your decisions.


The other sound bite I have been thinking about wouldn't work for the election, but it's funny: "Change is good until it's your turn to be the diaper."


Do you have a better sound bite for this election?


[Disclaimer: I don't think either candidate meets the minimum standard to be president. And I won't have a preference until I complete a poll of economists that I'm working on now.]

 
I spend a lot of time trying to concoct arguments that are so persuasive that even a hardcore unreachable will say, "Golly. Not only was I wrong, but probably stupid as well, and perhaps a little bit insane. I now adopt your viewpoint as my own. Would you like a bite of my sandwich?"

My favorite fantasy in this genre is imagining what I could say to a kid that would make him think he should substitute his own judgment for mine. My fantasy argument goes like this:Kid: Can I climb on the roof?


Me: No. You'd get hurt.

Kid: I'll be careful. And my friend Brian climbs on his roof all the time. He never falls off.

Now at this point you realize that regular reasoning isn't going to win the day. You have to resort to the "Because I said so" fall-back, but while effective, that never seems like a clean win to me. To the kid it appears you don't have a good reason and you're just being an ass about it. That's why I fantasize about the rest of the discussion going this way:

Me: Do you know who invented the roof?

Kid: No.

Me: It wasn't a kid. In fact, nothing important has ever been invented by a kid. Do you know why that is?

Kid: I don't care.

Me: It's because your brain won't be fully developed until sometime in your twenties.

Kid: I'm not listening TRA-LA-LA-LA-LA!!!

Me: You don't understand why you can't go on the roof because your brain isn't developed enough to understand the risk involved.

Kid: You suck. I hate you.

Me: I'll make you a deal. If you can find anything in this house that was invented by a kid, I'll admit that kids know as much as adults and you can climb on the roof. Use my computer, which incidentally was invented by adults. Go nuts.

(seven hours later)

Kid: Golly. Not only was I wrong, but probably stupid as well, and perhaps a little bit insane. I now adopt your viewpoint as my own. Would you like a bite of my sandwich?

Me: Thanks, but the last time you washed your hands was in amniotic fluid.

 
Dogs
Jul 25, 2008 | General Nonsense | Permalink
I have not spent much time around dogs, so our new puppy is quite a learning experience. For example, I have learned to exist in a sleepless stupor that is neither living nor dead. My IQ has dropped about 60 points and I find myself forming strong opinions on topics I don't understand.

Puppies are essentially little factories that take in small pellets and convert the raw material into barking and poop. My job, as foreman of the factory, is to make sure the output happens in the designated grassy area. I'm sure I would have gotten a bad performance review yesterday, as little Snickers delivered a pallet of product behind the dining room table and decided it was a chew toy. I got the roll of paper towels, placed it near the hazardous waste area, and left to get my hazmat suit and chemicals. This was a mistake. When I returned, one minute later, the roll of paper towels had been beavered into confetti. The dining room floor looked like New Year's Eve in Times Square, assuming the mirrored ball is actually an exploding turd.

I have watched enough episodes of The Dog Whisperer to know that I must establish myself as the alpha dog. I do this by trying not to cry when she bites me. I think it is working. Yesterday when she took me for a walk, I saw a leaf and didn't pick it up with my mouth. And I'm getting used to wearing the harness.

I had no idea that a dog would become the organizing principle for the household. From now on, all decisions are based on what is best for the dog. I was already lowest on the family hierarchy behind my wife, kids, and cats. This latest demotion stings. I have tried to adjust to the situation by merging in my mind the concept "what I want to do" with the concept "things that won't happen." My strategy is to wait it out. A dog lives what, 15 years? I tell myself I can do that time standing on my head. Wearing a harness.
 
A judge in New Zealand ruled that parents can't name their kid Talula Does The Hula.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080724/ap_on_re_au_an/new_zealand_bizarre_names


This makes me wonder what would be the very worst name you could give a kid to guarantee he or she gets beat up three times a day. You can play at home. How about...


Yormoms Uskank


Awanna Feelya


Punchme Hardasyucan


Inailed Yursister


Whatsituyu Ayhole

 
Yesterday I nearly killed a million people. It was a close call.

It all started as I sat in front of my drawing workstation and wondered how to finish a comic. The best solution I could come up with involved mocking Microsoft's Vista operating system. While I have no personal gripe with Vista, I know that many of my readers do, so it would have been a popular strip. After years of cartooning, I have a good sense of which comics will end up on cubicle walls and be passed around the Internet. This one would have been huge.

I wrote the line and leaned back, admiring my work. Then I had the "Holy crap!" moment. If I mock Vista, and it has an impact on Microsoft stock value, then Bill Gates will have a few billion dollars less to spend on humanitarian projects. Therefore, the comic could end up killing a million people. Those people are all strangers, but still.

I deleted the reference to Vista and went another direction.

I know what you're thinking. You think that a Dilbert comic isn't going to influence Microsoft's earnings. But what you don't know is that Dilbert has been used in several court cases where an attorney tried to demonstrate the date when obscure technical issues became "common knowledge" and therefore something that a reasonable person should know. The importance in the court cases is that a defendant couldn't claim ignorance about something that is so widely known it can be included in a Dilbert comic without explanation. If a Dilbert comic mocks Vista, the criticism transforms into "common knowledge" and could influence Mac versus Windows buying decisions.

Okay, granted, it is unlikely a Dilbert comic would have any impact on Microsoft. But given the non-zero risk that I could end up killing a million people, I decided to go another direction with the comic.

When those people I saved yesterday solve their malaria issue and get some food, I hope they chip in to buy me a card to say thanks.
 
I always appreciate progress bars that tell me my software is hard at work on my behalf. Any time I have to wait without a progress bar it makes me feel anxious. If I'm expected to be bored and unproductive for a minute or two, I want reassurances that something good is happening behind the scenes.

The other day I was wondering if there could be a better kind of progress bar than the usual ones I always see. Could the progress bar simultaneously assure you it is working, give you a time estimate for completion, and also entertain you in some minimal way?

Naturally my first thought went to Dilbert characters, properly licensed of course. Imagine a progress bar that involved Dogbert using a mallet to pound the Pointy-Haired Boss into the ground; the deeper he goes, the less time left to wait.

Or imagine Dilbert giving you a non-stop series of compliments corresponding to each level of completion, such as "You look nice today," and "I think you are smarter than your co-workers." The compliments would be shallow and random, but I'll bet it would hold your attention. The same model could be used with Dogbert as a fortune teller, giving you fake predictions that do nothing but make you feel good, e.g. "Today is your lucky day."

Or imagine a standard progress bar that goes from left to right, but a Dilbert character puts on a cowboy hat, straddles the bar like a horse, and kicks it jockey style any time it slows down. That would make me happy because I get angry at the progress bar when it stalls. I'd like to see it get kicked.

I would also happily read famous quotes or answer trivia questions streamed to me from some external source. It would add a tiny delay, but the payoff would be worth it. A minute of entertainment is better than 58 seconds of boredom even if you are in a hurry.

Perhaps a Dilbert comic could be the progress bar. It reveals itself from left to right as the job is being completed. The humor wouldn't work because the timing would be ruined, but it would hold your attention just to see how it ends.

Suppose you could choose your mood before any action that requires a progress bar, and the progress bar would be based on that choice. If you say you are in an angry mood, you might see Dogbert pummeling someone while you wait. If you are in a relaxed mood, maybe Ratbert suns himself and stretches, just looking cute and goofy.

Got any ideas for progress bars? (Yes, someone might steal your idea and make a fortune. But realistically, were you going to pursue it?)
 
 
 
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