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Friday, May 16th, 2008

Time Event
12:05p
Simplicity is what it's about

The easiest way to attract endless angry grumbling is to prepare your very own set of Usage Guidelines and insist on someone else following them. The United States is the world's greatest exporter of Usage Guidelines, averaging over 48,660,000 new policies promulgated annually to cover everything from how many spaces to put after the period ending sentences to how many little paper cups of Horsey Sauce to take at Arby's at one time. These policies are instantly resented by everyone they are applied against, and compliance rises to as high as nearly 0.296 people per year.

So I'm leaping into the Usage Guideline racket: there's no better way to express my idealistic hopes that the world can be perfected by enacting a few trivially easy changes in the ways people do things, there's no surer way of making myself embittered than watching everyone carry on in their un-enlightened fashion, and in the meanwhile I can sell nearly more than fourteen copies of books explaining the guidelines to members of the adoring public who thought they were buying sarcastic atlases instead.

First: I want a policy on acronyms. Acronyms were added to the English language for security during the first World War, when it was feared German agents might understand what anyone was talking about. While the fears proved unfounded -- postwar analysis discovered nearly all Germans spent the war in Germany or, at most, Belgium -- acronyms remained as insoluble lumps acting against comprehension. My guideline: if one is to use an acronym it must be followed on first use by an approximately correct expansion into actual words -- for example, ``NASA'' would be explained as the ``National Aeronautics and Space Accordion''; and on following uses shall be preceded by a person on foot carrying an orange flag. The obvious exception is the familiar and useful ``HONClBrIF''.

Next: When a person has more than a handful of DVDs some organization is necessary lest one instantly lose last week's purchase of the Popeye series, which I'm certain I put on top of the overdue library books. Shelving by title is an obvious scheme; another is shelving by how often one wants to watch them. I propose avoiding this decision which has brought so much inner turmoil to the masses of people easily frustrated and not shelve them at all. Instead the entire collection should be juggled continuously by a specially trained juggler or, if this is outside the entertainment budget, a specially constructed robot. The robot may be purchased pre-assembled, or it may be built to a kit, if one does not mind a generically constructed robot. The shabbily constructed robots will be outside the budget, with an umbrella over their heads so they do not rust.

Third: Let's clean up the dangling of participles. While I remain fuzzy on just what makes a participle, I think all agree a participle clutching desperately to a frayed rope while hanging off the train bridge stretching half a mile above the canyon floor below is a clear case of dangling. I propose anyone wishing to dangle a participle should mail a clear statement of intent to a specially appointed participle coordinator in Menomonee, Michigan, and won't she be surprised when she starts getting these postcards? Postcards are used rather than letters in envelopes as an economy measure, so the time spent opening envelopes can be put to better uses. The participle left dangling will be discovered, in the next installment of the serial, to have not been half a mile above the canyon floor but rather to have been standing in the living room, the rope will be not so much frayed as it will be a comfortable sofa, and the peril will turn out to have resolved itself.

Fourth: Alarm clocks should refrain from being so very alarming as we do not need the extra hysteria these days. They should instead be responsible-concern clocks.

I realize this is only a start, but I'm confident that should anyone start to follow these rules the world will grow better in over two ways, and not just because of what it does for the home consumer juggling robot industry. Thank you.

Trivia: The first Academy Awards were announced 18 February 1929, and were presented 16 May. Source: 1927: High Tide of the 1920s, Gerald Leinwand.

Currently Reading: Waterloo: Day Of Battle, David Howarth. Nothing makes you feel so grateful to live in the 21st century as knowing the alleged medicine of previous centuries: wounded soldiers recovered from the battlefield were in some cases bled by the surgeons because, apparently, they hadn't been bleeding enough all day long. Good grief.

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