The intended but failed joke was that in Elbonia their pets are pigs. Thus the pig was practicing his fetching. You see, fetching doesn't come naturally to pigs. They need to practice on their own. But that's not the joke. The joke was that in good times the pig is a pet and in bad times he's dinner.
This wasn't my best work, according to the comments online, and I am forced to agree. Some readers were confused. Others imagined a cleverer joke than I actually wrote, based on a strip years earlier where the pig was minister of finance for Elbonia. That theory held that his bad job performance was catching up with him.
My second failed strip of late involved Dogbert trying out the flash feature on the company's new cell phone. This one didn't work but it's only half my fault this time.
The problem this time is that the outside service that adds color to daily strips (mine and others) decided the dead guy should be Dilbert, and they colored his necktie to conform to that theory. The dead guy is supposed to be Ted. I never color anyone's tie with Dilbert's distinctive style for exactly this reason. (I only color the Sunday strips myself.) Correct coloring wouldn't have been enough to save this comic, but it didn't help either.
You might wonder why I go through patches where Dilbert comics mostly suck for a few weeks, such as this one, and patches where I seem to be on top of my game. Some of it is probably just a matter of diet, exercise and sleep. But the bigger part is that I try different ways to go at the comics for a few weeks at a time. Notice that both of the comics that failed are missing an action scene that is implied. In the pig strip you don't see the future dinner preparations, and in the camera flash scene you don't see the flash itself happening. In both cases someone expires, and in both cases the topic is more fantastical than the usual office happenings.
The comics I am drawing now, that will run in late June, are back to standard office material. If I did too much of either the fantastic or the mundane it would cause a sort of snow blindness for the material. And I've found that the best way to draw young males into reading the strip is to kill some characters now and then. So while the quality of the strip has been down for the past few weeks, young readership probably went up.
I might be crazy, but I'm crazy like a pig.
He's a smart guy, successful in his career, knows where he's going, with a lovely wife and kid. Apparently he sets high goals and is willing to push through the pain to achieve them. I admire that.
But I also wonder if he's made a good engineering choice for his body. As regular readers know, I see the human body as a moist robot. Happiness is a function of making sure the chemistry of your brain has the right mixture of raw materials. And to get there you need to make good engineering choices plus have a little luck.
As I see it, this fellow has chosen the one sport most likely to destroy his knees: running long distances on pavement. That's like building a skyscraper on a sand foundation. He runs a high risk of blowing out a knee or two, leading to less exercise, higher weight, health issues, and ultimately a suboptimal mixture of brain chemicals. I'll bet you can name three friends who have already taken that path.
By way of contrast, much of my life is designed to protect my knees. My preferred sport is tennis, so we're building a court at our future home that will have a relatively cushioned surface. It makes a big difference on knees, and it's the main reason we're building a home instead of buying one.
My other major exercise is indoor soccer on artificial turf, which is surprisingly easy on the knees unless I get a kick or a twist. The new artificial turfs are better engineered to avoid the injuries typical of the earlier versions. You can run all day on it and the knees feel great.
My non-sport cardio exercise involves a recumbent bike, which is ideal for knees. My doctor recommended it for that reason. Our new home will also have a pool, so I will add swimming to the mix. And I put a lot of effort into staying within my recommended weight range because experts say every pound on your buttocks feels like five to your knees.
You could argue (convincingly) that my choice of soccer isn't a good risk for my knees. But the over-30 league isn't that dangerous, relatively speaking, and I've dropped four pounds since the season started. Okay, okay, I agree that's a rationalization for "I like to play soccer." But you see the point. Be good to your knees or.
Many of you pointed out the problem of corruption in China. One source says it might amount to $86 billion per year, or 10 percent of government spending.
Therefore the Democratic/Republic form of government is better than Chinese communism, right?
I would argue that corruption is independent of the form of government. Corruption is just as much a crime in China as it is in the U.S. The difference is the effectiveness of enforcement. If you look at America early in this century, corruption was rampant, probably on the level of China today, yet our system of government was the same as now.
Consider that our system of government took more than 200 years to beat corruption down to its current level. China's political system is relatively new and their country is relatively huge. The only relevant question is whether corruption in China is trending better or worse. And I don't know the answer to that. Do you?
You can't measure trends in corruption by dollar amount. If corruption stays at a constant rate, the dollar amount would be growing. So someone Google me up a good statistic on Chinese corruption trends.
Although the Communists run the show, I assume most citizens have the right to join the party and work their way up the ranks. So merit appears to be important in their system. Obviously any big political system will have its share of corruption and favoritism. It's unclear to me if China is better or worse than the United States on those measures. But I imagine that getting caught with your hand in the public till in China means death. Here it means reelection. Advantage China.
Chinese citizens can vote for their local leaders, at least from the slate of candidates deemed appropriate by the party. And those local leaders in turn select higher level leaders, and so on. Is that less fair than the political systems in so-called democratic countries? Philosophically, it might be less fair. On a practical level, that's not so clear.
As far as I can tell (in five minutes) you don't get to be the head guy in China unless the Communist Party supports you. So it's far from a dictatorship. And the party has a huge incentive to pick the most effective leader. There's a lot to like about that system.
Unlike the political system in the United States, the Chinese don't base policy on superstition. They are more pragmatic. If you think God is talking to you, you probably don't go far in the Communist Party. Advantage China.
Obviously you have to include in this discussion the issues of human rights. China comes up short on that measure compared to western democracies. But what is less clear is whether the majority of Chinese would prefer it otherwise. Perhaps they appreciate the lower crime rate, for example.
If the Chinese had a more free press, would the citizens be better off? I appreciate the free press telling me that Governor Blagojevich tried to sell political influence. But in China he would already be executed, whether I read about it in the newspaper or not. Advantage China.
China's government is more like a large business enterprise. IBM doesn't have a free press reporting about its manager's decisions, but that doesn't make them less effective. They weed out the crooks and idiots in their ranks because it is in their best interest to do so. China's Communist Party apparently has a similar system. Would a free press make much difference in their case?
I started this discussion by admitting my ignorance. That situation hasn't changed much since I wrote this blog post. Feel free to correct any misconceptions here.