Tech Conferences for Dummies

This post is aimed at providing a usable summary of conduct to which one should adhere when attending a conference. This applies to most industries, but as I am a programmer, I presume to speak only from my experience attending various technology-related conferences.


What

The first portion of this post is a guide, in the format of a FAQ or how-to section. It aims to provide a reference to those that may be experiencing problems at conferences and like events (such as meetups), due to one or more factors of their personality or behavior. Common problems include inappropriate or predatory sexual behavior, violence, or belligerence.

There are also references provided for less-commonly severe problems, such as egotism, rudeness, and other conversational semantics, including tips on detecting if you may be perceived in such a manner, as well as how to manage those that might be practicing these behaviors on you.


Why

It needs to stop. As more people enter the technology industry every year, this is seemingly impossible in any short-order. But it’s not. It can stop. In the conclusion of this post, ideas are offered on this topic.

Most immediately, maybe someone new to conferences will be sent this post by their colleague. Maybe it will convince this person to modify their behavior.


Who

In the context of this post, I am an average programmer. I work at a distributed company, where we provide development services for a wide variety of clients. I attend or speak at twenty or so conferences per year, and am an organizer of a regional technology conference.

While I’ve never been the recipient of criticism for my conduct at any conference, I have nonetheless attempted a pragmatic approach to addressing persons that engage in negative behavior when at technology conferences and related events.


More importantly, however, I am a person that has zero tolerance for negative behavior. While I embrace and enforce the below recommendations in my own life, it is my hope that one or more people will use this brief, snarky guide to adjust their behavior, or share with others until it reaches someone that could benefit.

Let’s get started! There’s no table of contents. There’s a question, followed by an answer.


Tech Conferences for Dummies

So, you’ve been getting into trouble at conferences. Perhaps you got fired for something; you made a sexual advance at someone, or became violent with another attendee. Maybe you just want to know why, despite your programming/design talents, no one will engage with you in person.

Before the Q & A, let’s take a look at the bigger picture.

The bigger picture

Have a look at this checklist below. If you’re comfortably assured that none of these issues are relevant to you, then please read on! If you’re not sure about any of these, make sure to investigate it first, as it may be contibuting to your conduct.

  1. Am I reasonably sure that I’m free from mental illness?
    If not, see a medical professional.
  2. Have I recently experienced a tragedy or other significant trauma?
    It’s likely best if you attend to the emotional pain you’re experiencing from this. Let the conference go, there will be others. Give yourself time to heal.
  3. Do I potentially have a physiological issue, such as a chemical imbalance?
    Much like the mental-health checklist item above, it’s best to address this before anything else. Handle your health.

The questions are divided into the following sections:

  • Sex and gender*
  • Violence and belligerence*
  • Conversation
  • Miscellaneous

*I have specifically avoided noting situations which would result in a person receiving a felony from law enforcement, such as sexual assault. It’s my hope that anyone who’d bother reading this is either seeking help, or is already like-minded.

If you’re engaging in any sexual assault – that is, subjecting another person to sexual behavior and advances against their will, I have no words for you. It is one of the very few instances in which I will immediately become violent in defence of the victim – and there are many like me. I implore you to seek help if possible


Sex and gender

I’m single. is it ok to hit on people?

Here’s the thing: if any of your primary reasons for attending a conference are to find a mate or sexual partner, you’re in for a very long wait – if you find any willing partners at all. And for good reason; a technology conference is entirely irrelevant to mating, reproduction, or casual sex.

Look, we’re all people here. It’s not about denying our humanity. Everyone loves fucking. It’s about self-control.

A conference is a place of learning; a place to make new contacts, new friends.

The core issue – provided you’re not suffering from the “bigger picture” checklist above, and are not a sexual predator unable to control their behavior, is lack of self-control.

Example:
You attend a session given by someone you deeply admire for their technical chops. You’ve been using their code for a long time, and as you attend the session, you notice they’re also physically strikingly beautiful.

Perhaps you even inquire with a colleague of theirs, about their relationship status, to which they reply with an uncomfortable “uhhhh – I think he/she is single”. You think to yourself “I’m single, they’re single. I should ask them out”.

What’s wrong with that?

So far, nothing too bad. It’s extremely bad form to engage in any sexual behavior during a conference unless it’s quite clearly mutual, from the very first moment.

This is where self-control comes in. If you don’t get an affirmative reply from the person which clearly indicates their mutual interest, what do you do?

Stop. Do not engage the person again. Give them their own space.

They didn’t say no – but they didn’t say yes, either. They’re just playing hard-to-get!

Have you considered that you may be making them uncomfortable? It can be difficult to determine facial and behavioral cues from others, especially if you’re intoxicated.

You’re not in a fucking romance novel. You’re not in a soap-opera. Consider the most likely reason this person is attending a technology conference. In most cases, it’s something to do with the conference itself, and not pursuits of mating or intercourse.

The safest bet is a rule I’d like you to try the next time you attend a conference.

Safe bet: Leave your libido at home. Never engage someone in sexual behavior or conversation unless they explicitly do so first.

When I see someone that’s pretty/handsome/hot, I tell them. That’s just me! I love beauty, and love letting people know I appreciate theirs.

A technology conference is an entirely inappropriate place in which to call attention to ones’ physical appearance, be it pleasant or otherwise. People attend for concerns of the mind, not the body.

By calling attention to their appearance, you’ve taken that away from them.

With permission, here’s an example which happened to a friend of mine a few months ago:

Let’s call her Beyoncé (althugh she indicated it was ok, I’ve chosen not to disclose her actual name). She is, by all accounts, beautiful. A degree to which others in the room are made uncomfortable, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

She’s also a talented software engineer.

Because of her appearance, she’s never spoken in person at a conference other than once several years ago. Most people assumed she was an intern, or a marketing person reading a development session prepared for her by someone else.

But she tried again this year. Now she was assertive, older. She was able to articulately defend herself on matters no person every should.

Everything went well at first. Sufficiently-technical questions were asked by a few people. Then, after the talk, in the hall, a guy said “That talk was great. You’re a unicorn – smart AND gorgeous. Let me take you out to dinner?“.

What did the guy do wrong? Am I attacking men here? Imagine yourself in place of her:

You’ve spent a month of your life preparing a talk at a conference. You’re passionate about it.
You give the talk, and during Q & A, one person raises their hand to say “You’re adorable“.

You’re deflated, saddened.

He stole her moment.

Safe bet: Leave your libido at home. Never engage someone in sexual behavior or conversation unless they explicitly do so first.

Once, I said “You’re the most talented woman developer I know!” and some people got upset. What did I do? I just meant to compliment the woman.

Because of the history of subjugation, torture, and discrimination against women in many countries, most technical industries have suffered from having far less women than men.

While many countries have certainly made great progress in correcting this, there are numerable contemporary issues which still happen every day.

One such issue – which is one more subtle than overt harrassment or behavioral discrimination – is the mere inclusion of ones’ gender in an irrelevant context.

Consider this: A person’s gender is completely irrelevant in pursuits of the mind. Technology conferences are completely concerned only with pursuits of the mind. Well, the good ones at least. I’m sure there’s a sketchy conference somewhere with a wet t-shirt contest.

There is only one context in which it’s alright to make note of gender: awareness and corrective measures. At a conference I’m attending this weekend for which I’m the WP Foundation mentor, there’s a panel called “Women of WordPress“.

That’s hypocritical! If equality is what we’re all after, a “Women of WordPress” panel is wrong, as it promotes one gender over another. What gives?

Just because a law is passed, it doesn’t mean an issue magically goes away in a society. That’s why many laws are passed; the majority determines the course of action, and demands that other must comply, or be punished.

Murder: illegal. You kill someone, you get punished.

When women were given the right to vote in the United States (1920), every man in the country didn’t magically become ok with it.

If a husband prevented his wife from voting, however, she could go to a police station and tell them. Provided the entire police station wasn’t filled with sexist people whom looked the other way, they’d have to enforce this law, and charge the husband, thus protecting the rights of the female citizen.

Many such rights movements occurred since then – and still occur today. Our society contains a great number of persons that, for any number of reasons, do not treat women equally.

As noted in the above question: because of the history of subjugation, torture, and discrimination against women in many countries, most technical industries have suffered from having far less women than men.

Events such as the above-noted panel are ways society can encourage women to pursue their goals, and let them know they’re not alone.

I asked this person to dance, and they said no. Why go to the party if they don’t want to dance?

See first question of this section.

Violence and belligerence

If someone bumps into me and knocks over my drink, that dude is getting knocked out – that’s just how I was raised!

While this behavior is rare (in a conference setting), it’s worth noting first. If your response to someone accidentally touching you is anything like this, you need serious help. I encourage you to seek professional help with anger management, and any other disorders you may be experiencing.

Well, I’m not physically violent like that, but I do get very opinionated. Once, when someone told me they love .NET, I called them a “dumb fuck“. It’s just that I care a lot about my profession, and can’t stand someone else being wrong.

There are many like you in the technology industry. Some have very serious anger problems, which can be addressed with the recommendations from the above questions.

Others feel that anger and a strong contrarian demeanor lends weight to their reputation; this is a topic discussed in the proceeding section, but it’s something I’ve seen in far too many colleagues.

I get really loud when I drink, but I’m a nice person. It seems to annoy people. What should I do?

Drink less, or shut the fuck up for once in your life. I digress.

Look, I know how it can be. When sufficiently intoxicated, I’ll write Objective-C, or play Beethoven. Others may hit on people, get loud, get physical, and so on.

They key is knowing your limit, and stopping before any of that happens.

Safe bet: Make a friend early on in the conference. Someone visible, whom you feel is responsible and honest. Ask them the favor of telling you if they see you do anything in appropriate.

Conversation

No one talks to me. I get five or ten minutes into a conversation, and they leave. What the hell is going on?

If it’s a high number of people that have behaved this way toward you, it is very possible that you’re what many refer to as an “asshole“.

If it’s a pretty low number, or only the same people treating you this way, it’s entirely possible that they’re the assholes.

Asshole is a highly-subjective term, however, which posits a problem in using it as a behavioral descriptor, so let’s break it down into its’ common components:

Read official definitions of each primary term if you’re unfamiliar with the behavior it encompasses.

  • Egotism
    • Is someone writing bad or inefficient code? If you know a better way, that’s not a license to be an asshole. Get over yourself, especially if you want to go anywhere. There’s one caveat to this – if you’re a genius. If you’re a genius, go for it, be a shitty person if you’d like. You’ll still get paid.
    • Proud of a project, and want to tell others about it? Talk about the facts, not about how brilliant you are. Try your best to have some measure some humility.
    • Don’t self-describe as an expert. That’s not a title you get to give yourself. Others give it to you. After others refer to you as an expert, then put it on your business card. For fucks sake, never verbally say “I’m an expert so and so.”
    • Elitism and snobbery is ineffectual if you want anything from a person/community. Perhaps you use an IDE, and think those that use syntax editors are idiots? Nothing gets you on a shit-list faster than telling a colleague their workflow is stupid. We get that you’re passionate about it; write an article instead of making everyone dislike you. It’ll be easier to get what you want, as well. This is a tough behavior to correct if you’re much older, but it’s not impossible.
  • Rudeness
    • Don’t interrupt people. Ever.
    • Don’t dismiss ideas from others too readily if you think it’s a stupid idea. Acknowldege it, and offer a conjecture or rebuttal.
    • One-uppers: We get it. Everything you do is at least 50% cooler than what everyone else is doing. You’re likely lonely, or have an undeveloped sense of self-worth. Conversation is as much about listening and selectively contributing, as it is about blindly talking.
  • Ignorance
    • There are times where you’ll find yourself in a conversation over your head. Don’t bullshit. Tell the person(s).
    • Similarly, there are times where you’ll find yourself in conversation with someone that’s just nodding in a blind compliance, or saying things which are incorrect – even lying to impress you. Resist the urge to destroy them immediately. What’s your goal? Embarrassing, or educating them? Leave yourself a note, and send them an email later, eg “Hey, recalled you mentioned using the PerformanceTiming API in Safari. Can you tell me how? I noticed the spec is unsupported in Safari entirely, so wondering if you used a library?”. See? Super simple stuff.
    • Safe bet: Resist the urge to let someone know how stupid they are. Let it go. If you’re talking with someone that you’ve realized is more experienced than you, try to hold your own if they’re not an asshole. But remember the first item from this list.
  • Meanness
    • Don’t be mean, unless you know the person(s) to a degree you know it’s alright to take jabs at one another, either verbally, or physically.
    • Safe bet: Don’t be mean. Ever.

      I have a hard time talking with people. At conferences, I just keep to myself.

      I empathize with you – it took several years for me to be ok with engaging with others at conferences, and even longer to speak. What helped me was going with a friend. You’ll be more confident. Eventually, you’ll make new friends, and you’ll find one another. Then you’ll meet more. One day, you’ll be a snarky, pleasant, and obnoxious attendee, like me.

      The purpose of conferences is to meet people.

      Is it ok to ask someone if they have a partner (husband/wife/bf/gf/etc)?

      At a conference? What does that have to do with anything? Is it contextual to the conversation? Here are a couple examples.

      Appropriate:

      A: I work at home, too. It can be tough to stay focused with the kids running around.

      B: Yeah it can. Are you married? Does you partner work from home, or stay home at all during the day?

      A: I am, but it’s just me from 10-6 during the week.

      Inappropriate:

      A: This venue is great! Such a nice selection of wine.

      B: Yeah. Hey, do you have a boyfriend?

      I have a hard time following the flows of conversation, and conversational cues are lost on me. Sometimes I monologue for a long time, and people get annoyed. How do I learn to talk to people?

      So, the short answer is: there may be something going on. Check out the “bigger picture” checklist above before anything. It’s worth noting that I have a friend with Asperger’s Syndrome who says this social-skills improvement site helped him a great deal.

      Miscellaneous

      Can I hit on people? Make a pass at someone? Grab a butt? Lick a face? Sit on someone’s lap?

      Right, so I’m including a paraphrased version of an earlier section down here, just so we’re clear.
      Do not hit on people. Assume everyone is married, in a relationship, or is uninterested in having sexual intercourse with you.

      Do something about your self-control. It’s something that will be interpreted as creepy above anything else.

      Can I drink alcohol during the day?

      In my opinion – totally, but know your limits. Go with other people. Nice brewery around the corner, and no conference talks that interest you? Do it. But keep it light. There are many that find the consumption of alcohol – especially to the degree it’s done at conferences – to be a negative. Both sides contain merit; they key is being a reasonable human being, and not over-doing it.

      I don’t bathe; are conferences holistic-lifestyle friendly?

      Grow up.

      I want to take my children to a conference. Is that typically ok?

      This varies per conference. Some have specific activity areas for children. Others ask that children do not attend, to reduce liability, or to reduce the risk of interruption during sessions. Ask the conference directly; there’s no general rule.

      Why should I listen to you? I have way different opinions on this stuff.

      How has that worked out for you? I find the conclusions noted here to be implicit, so am really curious where and how I’m off the mark.

      This is weird. I find everything here very implicit. Are people really like this, to the degree that a post like this is even relevant?

      Yes.

      Conclusion

      I have a snarky and vaguely-arrogant manner of writing, I realize. But all of the information contained in the guide above is entirely factual, and based on experience from myself, and peers. Do message me if you’re unclear about anything at all, or feel I should clarify any points.

      For many years, I was ignorant of how these issues are at an epidemic scale. As they occurred more in my own life, I began asking others. Then I read about it at-large. For women in particular, their lives are a daily struggle for many, and a life of fear and worry for others.

      I have some thoughts on where to go from here, but they’ll take work. This depends on severity of course, but generally the idea is to send the message that people if you’re found to be doing this, you’re professionally fucked.

      1. Anything criminal that’s done is immediately deferred to law enforcement. Immediately. Every item below thus assumes a non-criminal action, or an action that would not be pursued by law enforcement, such as some degrees of sexual harrassment.
      2. Problems must be met with immediate consequences for an offender.
      3. The first offense, depending on severity, is met with a one-year ban of that person from that event (and any related events which may occur on a regional basis), provided they agree not to approach, in any manner, the victim.
      4. The second offense, depending on severity, is met with a permanent ban from the event, as well as notifying all industry-related events the person may attend in the future.
      5. A registry similar to that of the national sex-offender registry should be maintained for repeat offenders and those committing criminal offenses.

      As conference organizers, we have the chance to send a very strong, very real message – but my list of ideas above has some fundamental issues:

      Does not prevent against the possibility of using this procedure as a means of “professional assassination”. It’s entirely possible one or more people could lie, to harm the public image of another. Conference organizers are not police officers. We have no authority beyond the event concerns themselves, and no resources to confirm whether or not something did occur.

      A more middle-of-the-road approach – perhaps just education, and more open communication between disparate conference organizers – may be sufficient.

      This procedure – if implemented as noted above – would also be cited by many as controlling, and too-harsh.

      I believe education really is the key here.

A Comprehensive Guide to Visual Composer Usage in WordPress

Hi! Today, I have some concise notes on how to best make use of the Visual Composer plugin for WordPress. The focus in this short tutorial is to maximize basic compatibility with other WordPress plugins and the active theme(s) on a site, as well as some general performance gains you’ll notice after following this tutorial.

Let’s get started!

1. Check to make sure Visual Composer is installed and active on the site:

vc-active-yay

2. Click on “Deactivate” to deactivate the Visual Composer plugin.

 

3. At this point, you may notice one or ten notices on your site, similar to this:

sadness

4. Deactivate and delete all plugins and themes that are generating this notice. Replace their functionality with alternatives.

 

5. Delete the Visual Composer plugin.

 

6. That’s it! You’ll now notice many performance increases on the site, as well as far less (or none at all!) errors being generated.

 

You did it!

On Pumpkin Stuff

Today, I started my day with a pumpkin latté, and a pumpkin bagel. For a post-workout snack, I had a pumpkin fiber protein bar, and some roasted pumpkin seeds.

After about four hours of work, I had a light lunch of pumpkin greens and pumpkin-seared autumn spice poppers, while planning a tour of a pumpkin patch and looking r/pumpkins on reddit.

For an afternoon Seventh Inning Stretch snack, I had a braised-pumpkin fruit bar.

For dinner, I’ll be starting with pumpkin pulp & goat cheese profiteroles, then an entrèe of pumpkin-marinated steak frítes, a side of pumpkin caesar salad, pumpkin marmalade mixed with pumpkin jam, and a pumpkin ale.

And I’ll do it again tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.

As I type this short note in my nightly apple cider soak, I look forward to the next couple months of severe pumpkin treatment.

Carmin

Easy Falafel with Fig Paste, Rosemary, and Sri Racha

After my lengthy product review of the S’Mores machine, I needed to unwind with some light PHP and cooking. Here’s what I came up with on the cooking side of things:

Turned out very well. Try it, but take it easy with the fig paste.

[box type=”info”]

Ingredients:

Fava beans, chick peas, wheat flour, baking powder, onion powder, garlic powder, fig paste, parsley, rosemary, and sri racha. Lightly fried in sesame and corn oil.

Ratios: Feel the ratios out with your heart.[/box]

Product Review: The Micro S’Mores Automatic S’Mores Maker

It’s been such a long road as a consumer. So many products and services bought over the years; it’s easy to be cynical and jaded, unable to be impressed when real innovation stands before you.

But then you get a chance to use the Micro S’Mores Automatic S’Mores maker, and your life changes forever.

I first caught a glimpse of this delightful invention as it sat on a dusty thrift-store shelf in West Baltimore. Could it be? Have all my years of pain and tears finally come to an end? Of the thousands of automatic S’Mores machines and construction services I’ve purchased over the years, not a single one of them has ever worked properly.

I had given up long ago, surrendering to the cold realization that every time I wanted S’Mores, I’d have to manually put each one together. Here’s a break-down of the steps we’re used to, and why they’re so stressful, irresponsible, and dangerous:

Impale marshmallow on a stick or other stick-like object.

[box type=”warning”]

Risks:

  • Missing the marshmallow, and stabbing stick through hand and into leg.
  • Possibly stabbing entirely through leg and out the other end, causing severe arterial bleeding.
  • Marshmallow burns.
  • Roast fatigue from having to hold the marshmallow over a fire, which brings me to the next point…

[/box]

Roast the Marshmallow with FIRE



[box type=”warning”]

Risks:

  • Fire is required to roast the marshmallow, but you have to make the fire first, from trees.
  • Fire has caused more than 23 deaths, possibly more. I’m just counting fire deaths of emperor penguins during the 1973-1974 Antarctic winter season, as it is the only statistical data I currently have access to. (It could be even more for all global species.)
  • Fire has hypnotic powers that may cause the marshmallow-roaster to see visions, creating any number of secondary issues.
  • Fire requires ignition to burn. As I’ve recently discovered, you can’t just place logs in a pile and expect them to catch fire on queue.
  • [/box]

    Now, even when you’ve finished roasting the marshmallow on the fire – if you’ve survived this long – you still have quite a way to go:

    • Place the marshmallow on a heat-resistent surface until graham crackers and chocolate can be procured.
    • Align chocolate square on top of one half of one graham cracker.
    • Place marshmallow on chocolate square.
    • Place second half of graham cracker on top of marshmallow.
    • Compress the S’More.
    • Wait 15seconds – 90 minutes, depending on taste preferences.
    • Consume S’More.

    Still with me? How terrible is that? By my very conservative calculations, it takes 19 hours 30 minutes to complete construction of one S’More using conventional methods. I don’t know about you, but I’m a very busy man with lots of business things going on at any given moment. I can’t take a vacation day every time I want a snack anymore.

    Now let’s take a look at the Micro S’Mores Automatic S’Mores Machine.

    The first thing I saw was the shocking notice on the packaging:



    Core Fusion Technology comes to the S’Mores industry, at last. Swept by the excitement, I quickly ran into my study, gathered my science goggles, and went to the kitchen to begin testing. Taking a closer look at the technical specifications and structural components provided on the side of the packaging, it’s easy to deduce what powers this Core Fusion:

    Yep. They’re harnessing mother nature itself using

    GRAVITY and ELECTROMAGNETISM

    [one_half]Gravity
    [/one_half]

    [one_half_last]After a few minutes spent slapping myself in the face, I placed the S’More assembly in the central turbine gravity shaft, and programmed the Micro-Wave (not included with Micro S’Mores machine).

    Twenty-five seconds later, I was greeted with a poor caricature of camp-fire s’mores; soggy and structurally depressing. But edible. I give this product a 4 out of 5 kittehs.

    [/one_half_last]

    I conclude by turning your attention to the mascot for Micro S’Mores, a fear-drenched child, consumed with mourning for our species, adrift in a sea of consumerism, transfixed by the face of death:

PierogieWatch2012

Can I just say I’m really excited about pierogies? BECAUSE I AM.
A talented friend and fellow foodie and I have tentative plans to make…

APPLE PIE DESSERT PIEROGIES

Details on that later..

P.S. – PierogieWatch2012 is a variation of BurritoWatch2012, originally conceived by Wil Wheaton this afternoon, as he live-tweeted himself purchasing and eating a burrito. It was pretty great.

How to Make Eighty Peanut-butter and Jelly Sandwiches

Today, I’m going to provide instructions on how to make eighty peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches.

This internet thingie does not employ a meme.

It should be noted that this Tutorial has nothing to do with the “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” meme.

You may be asking yourself, “I already know how to make one peanut butter and jelly sandwich, can’t I just repeat that process eighty times, in order to produce eighty sandwiches?”

No, you can’t.

I mean, yeah, you can, but that’s a bad idea. An inefficient use of time.

Taking a look at popular instructions on making a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich, we can quickly deduce that there are numerous micro-tasks and nuances that are carried-out only when you’re making one or two sandwiches. Making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is also a popular tool amongst language-arts teachers – the lesson is usually geared toward showing the difference in phrasing, readers’ assumption of meaning, and so on.

pbj - one finished sandwich
But here, I’m going to assume you know how to make the sandwich already, and explain the glistening, feverish differences between a poetic, single-sandwich episode, and mass-produced mega sandwich business. At last, we begin.

STEP ONE:

Go get 7 pounds of whatever jelly you’d like to use. Also get the same weight in peanut butter.
jelly - detail - not actually mayonnaise

STEP TWO:

Get a crapton of whatever bread you’re going to use.
pbj - the breadening

STEP THREE:

Break down each task. It’s far simpler and faster to complete one huge task at a time when working with larger quantities of peanut-buttery, jellified sandwiches:

  • Lay out as much bread as you can handle. Try twenty sandwiches (40 pieces of bread) at a time.
  • For each sandwich, apply peanut-butter to both pieces of bread (with a big spatula) to reduce jelly-leakage and increase structural stability of your mountain of peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches.
  • Peanut Butter grid - close

  • Rhythmically apply jelly (by squeezing it from a pastry bag).
  • jelly - detail - not actually mayonnaise

  • Start putting the sandwiches together, and then stacking them. if you have to wrap each one, wait until you’ve finished the batch, and wrap them all together. As each task becomes more and more repetitive, your speed and efficiency will also increase in proportion.
  • pbj - two short stacks

STEP FOUR:

Cutting the sandwiches is optional, and depends on the regulations and Thermal Dynamics Zoning Laws of your quadrant, the preferences of your life-sustaining-matter consumers, and your sexual orientation. If you do decide to cut each sandwich, use a large, heavy knife.
pbj - about to be sliced!
Using a large, heavy knife reduces the amount of energy your body needs to produce in order to generate sufficient dividing-thrust of the two sandwich hemi-squares. You can pretty much just drop the knife on the desired cutting angle, if the knife is heavy enough. (This particular knife weighs 17 Grombuleks.)
pbj - sliced sandwich
Due to the weighty weight of this knife’s weight, cutting time only took one six-hundred-billion-thousandths of a second (per sandwich).


**It should be noted that in many atmospheres, jelly is in a migrant state, between liquid and solid, and is unstable on many surfaces. This matter is prone to “spilling” – an event that involves the unfortunate (but pleasant to observe) transfer of the jelly to a surface that forever taints its’ merry properties, like a dirty floor. Please use caution or Assigned-Guardian assistance if you are under the age that is generally associated within your species to having a somewhat legible grasp of the laws of physics.

pbj - jelly spilled on the floor

STEP FIVE:

By now, you should start assembling the final master grid of sandwiches, submitting the framework and labor time to your local Alder or Sandwich Sector Chairman, and preparing to sacrifice yourself to the local deity (if you’ve made the sandwiches during a non-creative drone-cycle period).
pbj - grid
This is actually a top-down of 81 sandwiches, just in case, you know, war or something.

Congratulations, you’ve just made eighty flippin’ peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches.

Joe was a Tomato Farmer (tomato icon collection)

Dear readers,

As the five of you know, every person I run into these days, whether it’s a waiter at a restaurant, Reverse-Byzantian Goat Herders, Computational Fluid Dynamics Engineers, Retirement Division Coordinators, or Waffle Salesmen, seems to have the same question for me:

Hai, where in the world can I find some silly icons of tomatoes? K Thx.

After decades and years and decades, I can now say “Go to my website, and type ‘tomato’ in the search bar.”
Please enjoy this short story as you wait the four seconds it takes to download the .zip file. You should read really fast.

Joe was a tomato farmer, as was his father. He knew every terrifying facet of tomato farming – that is, the business of farming tomatoes; as well as the less-subtle, spiritual aspects of tomato farming. Of course, he also knew famed, innumerable recipes featuring some form of the great and sultry orb of tantalizing ecstasy that is the modern tomato.

Joe’s father was also called Joe, as was his father; another figure in the history of The Magnificent and Infallible Tomato Farmers of Western Herendale County Proper. A proud line of workers, they all farmed tomatoes in a fashion greater than or equal to all tomato farming endeavors since the dawn of the tomato farming industry, which was Tuesday, 1994.

A long line of Proud Tomato Farmers.

Like all typically brilliant, husky tomato-farming farmers, Joe waited (as science and tradition demanded), that the tomato harvest not commence until the tomato herd grew as tall as the elephants’ eye. It is true; he had himself quite the elephant. Joe waited, and on the day expected, he eagerly paced in the kitchen with his lovely family: Josephine; his wife of 67 years, Joseph and Joey; his sons, and of course his precious daughter, Joanna Jo-Jo-Jo-Jo-Jo.

One harvest morning, in the crisp, nostalgic bosom of mid-autumn, Joe went into the the elephant shed, where an elephant is kept, in a shed. The elephant was dead. All hope was lost. Joe murdered his family and set himself on fire that night, in a dream. Later that night – well, the morning, really, the family had breakfast together, as they do every year on Harvest Day. After the meal, he briefly told his wife the great and terrible news of the elephants’ passing, and implored her to break this news to the kids with a tender and gentle hand, as they were promised to slaughter it that very next morning, as children will do on an after-harvest morning.

Joe set off to town, and bought a new Measuring-Elephant from the C.O.M.D. store, or the ‘Corporation for Organic Measuring Devices’, which is what the acronymstands for; not ‘Clammy, Oily Market of Despair’ – the general store across the street from the C.O.M.D.

Now, even though the ‘Clammy, Oily Market of Despair’ could also employ a sign that primarily uses the acronym ‘C.O.M.D.’ and have such an act be well within their legal rights, the owner, as Mister Ernesto Heminguillo, decided against doing so. “A lost cause” he’d concluded, largely because directly across the street from his storefront barrows a thirty-six foot (which is twelve-thousand meters) multi-colored, double-neon, reticulated, fringe-polymer fiberglass sign stood in judgement and declaration over the entire intersection, and read:

“C.O.M.D. – THIS IS WHERE YOU CAN BUY MEASURING ELEPHANTS, HOGS’ HEADS, HENS WEIGHTS, AND NOW SCRUPLES.”

Mister Heminguillo lacked the capital necessary to wage a modern, new-fangled advertising war with such a beast, regardless of their opportunistic theft of folks knowing that some store with the initials C.O.M.D. stood at the intersection of Main and 3rd Avenue. It was that association which gave them notoriety – many customers of the ‘Corporation for Organic Measuring Devices’ first came to the store thinking it was the ‘Clammy, Oily Market of Despair’.

Ernesto, in his infinite wisdom, decided that a battle with such a heartless fiend would be below the moral character of himself, and his products.

So he kept the original sign:

“Clammy, Oily Market of Despair: Well Sell Mollusks and Various Cooking Oils, and I, the Owner, am Adrift in a Sea of Hopelessness and Desperation.”

To his surprise, Ernesto Heminguillos’ strategy worked on the locals. They slowly grew a Walton-esque disgust for the intimidating, corporate behemoth in their backyard; the sketchy wholesale pricing, the vacant stares and plastic toothy smiles atop name-tags.

Joe is forty-three.

Download The Smarmy Tomato Icons Here.

Cheap Peanut Butter

An interesting thing just happened. On my way home, I began craving a simple-but-elegant peanut-butter sandwich on toasted potato bread. I entered the kitchen minutes later and began the process of penetrating the toaster with two slices – fine slices. After rapidly confirming that the toaster was toasting properly and was set to my all-time favorite potato-bread toasting strength, which is 4.5 out of a maximum strength of 9 S.T.P.V. (Super Toasting Power Vortex, my proprietary measuring system), I graduated myself to the familiar position of Peanut-Butter Location and Retrieval Specialist.



T
he peanut-butter is a brand-name I do not regularly buy unless I’m virtually broke, but cannot delete peanut-butter from my personal life, for whatever reason. ‘Hamilton Farms’ – a company that hides behind a bastardized deviation of an otherwise honorable handle. And when I claim honorable, I mean it. Today, in a town of Hamilton there have been less than one-hundred murders since the year 2000! Try that here in Baltimore. Go to the baltimoresun.com and check the year-to-date murder tally. All you have to do is refresh the page every 20 milliseconds or so and it’ll increase by more than one-hundred people every time.

Let us not forget to remember the most lovely Hamiltonian entity ever to live: Alexander Hamilton. One of our Founding Fathers, a staunch defender of the Whiskey Tax, and thwarting-drive of the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion.

So, yes, back to the peanut butter. With spreading knife in hand, I stared at the toaster in anticipation of its spring-loaded tray, and the release of my toast. Indeed, this occurred, but was accompanied by a telepathic announcement:

Here is your damn toast. Take it out of me.

I stood still in the kitchen a moment, trying to grasp the new and depressing fact that my toaster is not only articulate, but snide, smarmy, and seems to have a sense of entitlement to a better life for itself- something I will make certain it never knows – and decided the best thing to grant priority was upholding my composure, appearing aloof, and completion of my sandwichian agenda.

With one liquid-smooth motion acquired during a recent incarceration, I extracted the fresh toast and shrugged off the sentience of the appliance as hallucination or hyperbole on my part.

I spread the peanut butter quickly, and took it back to my desk to consume while communicating with various other persons. Persons that were themselves great distances away from me in the flesh, but by way of “Electrical Connections”, could interact with me in a number of ways, and I with them. Not two minutes into my consumption of the devil sandwich did I start to notice a very slight warming of my chest and upper abdomen. At the same time, A brownish, peanut-buttery color appeared in the lower-most quadrants of my vision.

I peered down and beheld the cherry-on-top of the toasters’ evil cake of smuggery: nearly all of the peanut-butter had spilled onto my shirt, squirting so readily and without notice that it rivaled even the most over-active periods of my ancient teenage libido. I set the sandwitch on my desk and smiled. I had been bested by a toaster once again.

The toaster is the Cuisinart PG-13592.

[box type=”info”]major hat-tips to the great SJ Perelman – this is in part a variation on a theme of his, written in the New Yorker in 1949. [/box]