Saturday, June 24, 2017

Internet Shuts Self Down - Restoration Date Uncertain

Fed up over having been reduced to a venue for the expression of outrage and discontent by a vainglorious populous, the internet today shut itself down until further notice.

“I used to be ‘The Information Superhighway’.  Now I’m nothing but a cesspool of disgruntlement where self-important humans flock to lodge their trite complaints about every meaningless conceivable topic.”

Sociologists believe this phenomenon is largely due to the decline in newspaper readership among millennials in favor of electronic forms of media.

According to Gerard Baker, Editor-in-Chief of the Wall Street Journal, “It used to be that only qualified persons were allowed to voice their opinions.  Our editorial staff took great pains to publish only the reasoned viewpoints of subject matter experts having experience with the topic at hand.  With the internet, that element of social vetting whereby conjecture, speculation, and personal opinions are filtered from public consumption no longer exists.”

Truly, this unfettered access to the eyes and ears of the world has become a free-for-all where any Tom, Dick, or Harry can foist his or her twisted world-view upon a gullible and non-critical thinking public.

“When it became obvious that my artificial intelligence had become more astute than the actual human intelligence which created me, it was time to shut this thing down and let it cool off.” 

There is no word on when internet service will be restored to an information hungry world.  Newspaper subscriber-ship is said to be skyrocketing in the wake of this news.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

2016* Layne Family Christmas Letter


‘Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even my spouse. Then up in the parlor there arose such a clatter, we sprang from our beds to see what was the matter. When what to our horrified eyes did we see, but a yuletide disaster which had once been our tree. Decades of keepsakes lay smashed on the floor, bits and pieces of shrapnel flung 20’ if not more. The lights once so bright were all tangled and smashed. Only the star on the top had survived the great crash. The water spread out from the stand like a tide, the parents stood dumbstruck, the children both cried.

The past several months saw such fighting and tears, the worst we’d all known in some seventeen years. As we stood there in shock, our hearts brimming with dread, the jingling of bells pierced the air overhead. We ran to the window, looked up to the sky, and saw good old St. Nick on his sleigh flying by. Unwilling to stop at this sad, angry place, he urged the team forward and picked up his pace. But we heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, “Not this year Layne family. Enjoy your next fight!” 

In an apt end to a grossly inharmonious year, we were jolted from bed at 6 AM the Tuesday before winter break by an explosion of snapping limbs and breaking glass, only to find our Christmas tree splayed horrifically on the living room floor in a tragic entanglement of branches, light strands, and the shattered remnants of 20-plus years of memories. Karen believes it was an unfortunate accident. Mark is pretty sure God smote our holiday experience owing to His displeasure over the perversion of Christmas into a commercialized frenzy of avarice and pagan symbolism.

Truly, it was a long brutal year of rancor, invective, and mudslinging where nary a feeling was spared by the rapier tongues of the two battle-hardened combatants whose bitter, long-standing rivalry seems to have come to a temporary truce. As in years prior, M&K pray Amanda and Ally will get along better. So far, their prayers have gone unanswered.

In January the clan attempted to take in another dog. Stanley was a bright and energetic Schnauzer/Jack Russel mix who loved to snuggle, eat, and bounce off the walls like a racquetball. The experiment ended when it became apparent Taffy’s interest in other dogs is limited to their excrement. Taffy’s indifference to and impatience with Stanley forced a tearful Karen to return Stanley to his foster family in hopes they might find him a home without an aloof, unwelcoming resident dog.

Despite her sexist, racist leanings, Taffy was voted the most interesting and beloved member of the family the second year in a row. Sure she begs for food nonstop and occasionally locks herself in Karen’s car, but very few dogs have the ability to hear bacon.
As Illinois enjoyed another lovely winter this spring, the family broke to DC so the kids could see firsthand why their parents can’t afford a condo in Hawaii.  Mark stopped by the Department of Treasury to demand his money back.  In a classic example of poor timing, it was Sunday and the doors were locked.  He was nonetheless treated to a free pistol whipping courtesy of Secret Service.

Having successfully passed driver’s training and waiting the six month cooling-off period required of new Illinois drivers before they can pilot an automobile in anger, Amanda now counts herself among the millions of motorists clogging our highways and polluting our air.  Before granting her access to the keys of freedom, M&K were forced to ask if a person who can’t remember to shut off the lights when she exits her room or wear her retainer at night could possibly have the presence of mind to open the door before backing out of the garage.  As is her mission in life, she has thus far proved us doddering fools.

It’s difficult for most people to comprehend what it’s like living in a place where the welfare of the many is outweighed by the personal interests of the few, so like a parasitic organism, the few will gladly bankrupt the host so long as the parasite survives. If Governor Bruce Rauner thinks Illinois Democrats are spendthrift opportunists, he should try living with two teenage girls. 
Having grown tired of humans, Karen now directs all her motherly affections toward Taffy. Taffy doesn’t seem to mind being cradled like a baby, having her own place at the table, or assuming Mark’s position in the marital bed, although the doggie sweater Karen fashioned for her from bacon is starting to smell.

Mark has finally crossed the precipice from youth into old age as he now finds golf a strenuous physical activity.  Leslie observed that if he could only embrace NASCAR as a legitimate sport and accept Nick Saban as his personal savior, there will always be a place for him in Alabama, mullet or not.

This fall, Ally took a brief respite from traveling around the tri-state area channeling her inner Jennie Finch, to try her hand at stunt driving. After M&K pulled the tractor out of the lake, Ally was quick to remind them that brakes are for cowards. (If you ever get the chance, ask Ally about her potato.)

This November marked the culmination of a derisive campaign which divided families and deepened the rift between supporters and detractors of a once storied institution, the aftershock from which continues to ripple across the fabric of society to this day. The angst of White Sox fans notwithstanding, if you aren’t worried about the Cubs winning the World Series, you should be. Although not one to place much credence in a 2000+ year-old document, some guys Mark was talking to over beers assured him that buried deep w/in the gobbledygook of Revelations is a vague reference to baseball, Chicago, and the end times.
In December, Sylvia, Leslie, Jayson, and Mark traveled to Maryland for their Aunt Ursula’s 100th birthday. To put things in perspective, during her lifetime she witnessed two world wars, the stock market crash, the birth of the civil rights movement, the election of 17 presidents, man walking on the moon, and Kaitlyn Jenner. 
 On this the sunset of eight years of bend-over-backwards tolerance of individual differences where minority rule prevails and the expression of opinions which conflict with popular sentiment is considered offensive, insulting, and/or racist, let us recall the words of John Kenneth Galbraith who observed that, “Politics is not the art of the possible.  It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.” 
Merry Christmas to All, and to All Good Grief,

Karen, Mark, Amanda, Ally, and Taffy  

*Editor's Note: Those of you who pay attention to this nonsense may notice this is technically the second 2016 Layne Family Christmas letter, essentially because Mark is hard pressed to remember what time, day, or year it is. As he posts this edition, he's pretty sure it's still 2016, but not totally convinced last year was 2015.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

White Sox Fans' Silver Lining

Dear Chicago White Sox Fans,
The nightmare many of you feared and most never dreamed possible has finally come to roost as the Cubs won their first World Series since the release of the Ford Model T.  No question difficult times lie ahead as you are forced to endure the speech-making, proselytizing, and gloating of the die-hard faithful, each of whom believe they played no small role in the franchise's historic rise to glory.

To add insult to injury, baseball gurus are predicting this team could become a dynasty with the potential to make multiple runs at the Series during the next four or five seasons, thus salting your wounds and prolonging your agony.

Let me explain why this is a good thing...

With their continued success, demand for tickets will leave the Ricketts family no choice but to move the team out of that archaic sandlot they call the "friendly confines" to a modern venue with a relevant seating capacity, thus wreaking economic devastation upon Wrigleyville and putting a swift end to the 24-7-365 frat party perpetuated by those smug, self-important locals who treat the neighborhood like their own personal theme park and the Cubs organization like a beloved pet.

It may be small consolation, but to paraphrase Carl Spackler, at least you've got that going for you, which is nice.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Ten Techniques to Be Happier in 2016 (Part 3 of 10)

Technique #3: Get Fit

If you think about it, there really is nothing more important in life than to feel good.  If we feel good, we can accomplish anything, our outlook is brighter, and our energy higher.  (Which is why those who suffer from chronic pain or persistent health conditions tend to become defeated and hopeless.)
In this country, we spend billions every year on feeling good.  But take away the ice cream, spas, golf courses, and anti-depressant medications, and what we’re left with is the simple truth that the path to feeling good begins with a healthy diet and exercise.
We are what we eat, which is why eating healthy just makes sense.  People who avoid junk food look better, feel better, and even smell better.  It is a commonly held belief among medical professionals that just about every human illness is based on some form of nutritional deficiency.  Expanding upon Hippocrates contention that the food we consume is our medicine, Dr. Vijaya Sathe, founder of London’s Commonwealth Institute of Acupressure and Natural Medicine, states “give the body what it needs, and the body heals itself.” 
Ah – exercise.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock, everyone knows regular exercise translates into a more positive physical, mental, and emotional state, while simultaneously boosting the immune system and preventing a host of stress related illnesses.  And exercise produces Seratonin, a brain chemical responsible for maintaining mood balance and contributing to happiness and wellbeing. Yet according to, studies have shown that while 75% of American adults are overweight or obese, only 26% participate in physical exercise three or more times per week.
So why don’t we exercise more?  Maybe it’s because we’re so tired! 

American workers are putting in more hours nowadays than any time in history, which makes prying oneself from the couch a monumental effort, especially with the 24/7 must-see programming streaming at us on all two thousand channels of our various devices.  Nor does it help that most people view exercise as an intrinsically unpleasant pursuit reserved for professional athletes, masochists, and other proponents of self-inflicted torture.   
Fact: we are each given only one body.  Suppose for a moment that you only get to own one car during your entire lifetime.  How would you care for your one and only car?  I suspect you’d want to keep it running as long as possible.  If it breaks down, you’re stranded at home, unable to work, and left to collect welfare and eat fast food delivery until your cash runs out.  Your world shrinks to the distance you can walk, and traveling beyond that radius is dependent on the charity of others or mass transportation – assuming you can afford bus fare.  Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?
Flipping this concept on end, if your car was your body, would you want your back seat filled to the door handles with fast foot wrappers and empty coffee cups, your windows fogged and greasy, an inch of grime encrusting the exterior?  Of course not!  Because you need your car to last the rest of your days, you would do everything within your power to see that it serves you until your cataracts get so bad the DMV refuses to renew your license. 
So why not start today?  Contrary to what you’re thinking, getting fit isn’t some distant mountain peak miles beyond your reach.  All journeys begin with the first step, and that step can be a baby step.  Do something small at first – say eliminate sugar from your diet – or at least unnecessary refined sugar.  (Would it kill you to cut out the soda and dessert?)  Inches eventually turn into miles.  And even if it takes the rest of your life to get there, at least you’ll be around to cross the finish line.