Category Archives: Humor

If It Was a Snake…

In what has been described as a bizarre twist of fate, local hospitals have reported hundreds of incidents of snake bite victims in the past twenty-four hours.

“It started just after midnight,” said Dr. Malcolm Howell, the attending physician at Sacred Heart Hospital’s emergency room. “We thought the first couple of bites were just some strange fluke, but by the time morning came we understood that there was something much bigger going on.”

According to Howell as well as other authorities familiar with the cases, all of the incidents occurred  at local retail centers, though the link between these stores and the snakes is as yet unknown.

Deputy Howard Pickett with the Santa Rosa Sheriff’s office said, “We got them coming from Wal-Mart, Target, Dollar General, you name it. There just don’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it.”

Management at all of the affected stores refused to comment, but one employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity, offered a firsthand account describing the bitings.

“This lady was looking for air conditioner filters. She came up and asked me where they were, and I pointed because they were literally right behind her, you know? And then she laughed and said…well she said ‘If it was a snake-‘ And then she was on the floor screaming and this strange looking silver snake was latched onto her arm.”

According to doctors the description of the snakes has been uniformly similar with most witnesses describing a silvery, almost metallic sheen over the snakes scales. So far experts have had no luck in determining the exact species of snake involved in the bitings.

“It’s as if they vanish into thin air,” Dr. Howell told us. “We don’t know what they are or what anti-venom to use. Luckily the bites don’t seem to be fatal but still…” He paused as one patient screamed in the background.

The earliest victims seem to finally be recovering from their wounds, and the rumor that the snakes have some sort of supernatural origin seems to be taking hold in their minds.

“People have been saying it for years,” said Penelope Angela one of the early victims of the strange snake bites. “They find something they’ve been looking for right under their nose, and they say…you know, they say ‘If it was a snake…’ I know it sounds silly, but now maybe it really is.”

Another story employee also speaking on the condition of anonymity commented on the rumor saying, “People have been saying that same stupid thing to me for years, and each one of them thinks they’re the funniest man alive when they say it. If I had a dime for every one of them I’d be rich. But this is almost as good.”

Doctors dismiss the strange explanation as nothing more than superstition, but they have no immediate explanation to counter it.

“Superstition or not,” Penelope Angela said, “From now on I’m gonna make sure I’m not right on top what I’m looking for before I ask for help. Until you’ve been bitten yourself you don’t know. It’s not worth the risk.”

A Cure for Exploding Head Syndrome

Dear Twitter,

We need to talk. See, there’s this thing you do, not all the time mind you, but on specific occasions that is getting really irritating.

I’m talking, of course, about your practice of trying to be humorous about current events. This is on the whole, not a terrible thing. But two things cause it to become tedious in the extreme.

First, most tweeters aren’t that different.

Second, most tweeters aren’t that funny.

So what you end up with is a tweet stream filled with people making the same exact joke over and over and over again.

Let us take for example the recent non-event that was “The Rapture.” It might behoove us to ask why such a ridiculous notion gained such widespread interest in the first place, but such questions are beyond the scope of this letter. Instead, let me just say that if I had seen one more, “Well, I’m still here guys, hur, hur, hur” tweet on the twenty-first, my head very well may have exploded.

Can you imagine the mess that would have made, Twitter? Can you imagine the look of shock on my wife’s face if she had walked into the room and found my body crumpled on the floor amid the shattered wreckage of what had once been my shapely and brilliant head? Not so funny now is it?

I suppose that in some ways this phenomenon is an inevitable part of developing an ecosystem of information between individuals that all live on the same planet, but it is irritating all the same. This is why I’m send out a call to you to do your part to prevent head explosions.

And just how can you do this? Why, by using the Double Bass Test of course.

What’s that? You’re not familiar with the Double Bass Test? Well then allow me to enlighten you with a quote from the best time-traveling romantic detective ghost story ever written, Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.

“I’m a private detective.”
“Oh?” said Kate in surprise, and then looked puzzled.
“Does that bother you?”
“It’s just that I have a friend who plays the double bass.”
“I see,” said Dirk.
“Whenever people meet him and he’s struggling around with it, they all say the same thing, and it drives him crazy. They all say, ‘I bet you wished you played the piccolo.’ Nobody ever works out that that’s what everybody else says. I was just trying to work out if there was something that everybody would always say to a private detective so that I could avoid saying it.”
“No. What happens is that everybody looks very shifty for a moment, and you got that very well.”

The essence of the Double Bass Test is in asking yourself, “Is this joke so obvious that thousands of other people may be making it even as we speak?” If the answer is yes then don’t make the joke.

The Double Bass Test can also be useful in everyday life as our quote illustrates. Of course there will be times when a Double Bass Joke slips through the cracks, but on the whole you will be well served by following this principle, and thousands of beautiful heads everywhere can be saved from an awful and gruesome demise.


Albert Berg

P.S. My book is on sale in the Kindle store for 99 cents. I’m not very good at promoting these things, but if you were on the fence because of the price (and believe me I know what it’s like to balk at paying three dollars for a book because you just don’t have the expendable cash) then maybe this is a good time to snatch it up. I’ll probably keep this sale going until the end of the week. So there’s that.


Yesterday was National Towel Day and nobody told me. This makes me sad.

How to Start Charcoal without Lighter Fluid in Three Hours or Fewer


1. One empty bottle of lighter fluid.

2. Well-Marinated Steak

3. One Grill Full of Unlit Charcoal

4. One Box of Unlit Matches

Step 1: Pick up the bottle of lighter fluid and realize that it is empty.

Step 2: Get angry. Be creative here. Anything from glaring at the charcoal hoping it will burst into flames by the power of your fury to cursing the iron heavens is appropriate.

Step 3: Determine that a little setback like this isn’t going to stop you by golly. Remind yourself that the pioneers didn’t have lighter fluid and they cooked out all the time.

Step 4. Take approximately half the matches in your box and build a pyre inside the mound of charcoal. Light pyre.

Step 5. Get angry when this doesn’t work at all. More cursing of iron heavens (optional).

Step 6. Google, “How to Start Charcoal without Lighter Fluid” on your cell phone. Ignore the tiny voice in your head reminding you that the pioneers did not have cell phones.

Step 6. Follow instructions obtained on internet. Insert ball of wadded up newspaper and build charcoal up around it. Light.

Step 7. This doesn’t work either. More cursing of iron heavens.

Step 8. Shift your paradigm. Start to think of this as starting a fire rather than starting charcoal. (Note: paradigm in this example is an automatic. Extra steps may be required for standard shift paradigms.)

Step 9:  Gather kindling: bits of dry grass, tiny twigs, slightly less tiny twigs, small sticks.

Step 10: Push charcoal to the edge of grill and pile kindling in the middle starting with dry grass and tiny twigs.

Step 11: Light Kindling. Add slightly less tiny twigs and small sticks little by little as the fire catches.

Step 12: Pile charcoal on top of the fire you have started a little at a time, being careful not to smother it.

Step 13: Bask in the glory of your success. Tweet an obscure reference to Atop the Fourth Wall (optional)

Step 14: Grill and eat steak.

Step 15: Write blog post chronicling your adventure.

Step 16. Edit Blog post and realize you have two Step 6’s. Ignore.

The Value of Value

You know what word I hate?


I mean I know I’m not supposed to despise words for what they are, but…really? Could it BE any more vague. I mean I’m walking in the store, and my wife pulls a can of chili off the shelf and says, “These are a great value.”

And I say, “Well then maybe we should get the other ones.” And when she asks me what I’m talking about I say, “Well maybe they’re a lower value. We don’t want to have to pay a greater value than we have to.” And then she hits me up side of the head with her purse because she’s sick of being shoehorned into my jokes with clunky unrealistic dialog just so I can make a point.

But seriously, it’s everywhere. You’ll be in the store and you’ll see a sign that says “Books at a Value.” And if you’re me you think, “OF COURSE THEY’RE AT A VALUE! EVERYTHING IN THE STORE IS AT A VALUE. IF IT WASN’T AT A VALUE HOW WOULD PEOPLE KNOW HOW MUCH TO PAY?”

I am perfectly aware, that what they really mean is, “These Books are on Sale,” but I’m going to go on being annoyed by it. I know it’s inconsistent. I know I’ve sung the praises of the drescriptivist linguistic school on more than one occasion, and I know that I should be willing to accept a word for how it’s used, and not how I think it should be used. I know all that. But it STILL bugs me.

And don’t even get me started on people who have values.


Okay really, I was hoping you’d get me started. “Don’t even get me started” that’s just a figure of speech. It doesn’t have to mean…

Oh, yes I see your point. In fact I think the hypocrite alert is going off down the hall. Better go turn that off.


By the by, yesterday I sat down and chatted with Evelyn Lafont about writing and self-publishing my book A Prairie Home Apocalypse or: What the Dog Saw. If that sounds like maybe the kind of thing you would like to read, you should totally check it out.

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Zombiefied NPR

Those of you who have read my book, A Prairie Home Apocalypse or: What the Dog Saw may have noticed something strange about the title. You may have noticed that the book itself does not take place on an actual prairie. This is not a mistake. The first part of the title is actually an offhanded allusion to the NPR radio show, A Prairie Home Companion.

But after I was done writing the book, I thought about it for a while, and I wondered if there might be other NPR radio shows whose names might be zombiefied as well. The following short list is what I came up with:

1. Zombie Talk

2. Wait, Wait, Don’t Eat Me!

3. This American Death

4. Mourning Edition

5. Selected Shots

6. Dead-things Considered

7. The Diane Rehm Show (rimshot! [semi-obscure NPR joke that maybe no one but me will get but I’m still not explaining it])

That’s all I can think of. If you’ve got more leave them in the comments. I’m off into the navy blue and khaki yonder super early today, so I could use a little chuckle. If you cannot think of any jokes then you could always buy my book. That would make me happy too.

π out of e Doctors Agree

If you’ve been trolling for writing advice for any length of time, you’ve no doubt heard of the butt-in-chair approach to writing productivity. If you haven’t heard basically the advice runs thusly:

First you need a butt. Any size will do. Many human bodies come preequipped with butts for this very purpose. Consult your owners manual to determine if you are one of them. If you do not possess a butt, then strap a pillow to the back of your legs. That will work almost as well.

Second. Sit your but down in a chair. Any chair will do, but perhaps your butt has a special chair that it likes to sit in. This is fine provided the relationship does not go too far. My butt has become particularly friendly with a big red recliner that used to belong to my father.

Third. You write. I’m not sure what you write on since neither of the previous two steps said anything about getting any writing materials. Maybe you’re supposed to scratch the words into your skin with your fingernails. Personally I use a computer type device designed to sit on top of my lap. If you do not have a lap you may have to sit at a table or something.

So that’s the process. Basically it’s saying forget about inspiration and dive into your work. Those words ain’t gonna write themselves. I mean they might but that last time that happened…well I think it’s best not to talk about that.



But you know what? Sometimes I kinda hate this process. I’m not talking about the persevering even though you don’t feel like writing part. I’m talking about the sitting down part.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can only take so many sedentary hours before I start to come down with the dreaded disease I like to call the Sittin’ Around Blues. The Sittin’ Around Blues start in your lower back and move up your spine toward your head. Once they reach the head you’ll start to feel morose and lackadaisical. And if you let them go on for long enough, depression sets in.

So what do you do?

Well when I start to feel the Sittin’ Around Blues creep up on me I get up and take a health dose of Doing Something Else for a Change. Doing Something Else for a Change comes in a variety of handy shapes and sizes. There’s the Get Up and Clean the House for an Hour pill, and the Take the Dog for a Walk lozenge, as well as the Go Outside and Pull Some Weeds in the Garden suppository.

“But Albert,” you say, “what if Doing Something Else for a Change causes my ideas to evaporate into the aether?”

Never fret dear reader, for the side effects for Doing Something Else for a Change, include increased creativity, greater energy and enhanced inspiration, so that when you come back to your story it will seem new and interesting again.

But don’t take my work for it. If the Butt in Chair method is giving you the Sittin’ Around Blues, then try Doing Something Else for a Change and see if it doesn’t work for you.

[This blog post sponsored by Action Corp. the makers of Do Something Else for a Change as well as many other fine products. Do Something Else for a Change is sold in fine stores everywhere. Also crappy stores in some places. They’re really not that selective about who sells it.]


A Prairie Home Apocalypse or What the Dog saw is still on sale for Kindle and is available for other devices from Smashwords (I suppose I should specify that it is available for other ereader devices. It is not yet available for your vaccuum. We’re still working on the formatting there.) And for those of you Nook people out there who have been hounding me about this, I swear its coming soon. Also the book has gotten some lovely reviews over at Amazon, and I want to thank those of you who took the time out of your day to say nice things about the book. You all mean the world to me.

Radioactive Spaghetti Sauce and Cockroach Flavoured Noodles: The Hidden Perils of Cooking at Home

First off, see that little ‘u’ in the word flavoured? See it? Spell check says it’s not supposed to be there. But I’m keeping it anyway, because that’s how I roll. And just for good measure: harbour, labour, colour etc. Take that standardized spelling.

Okay, on with the show.

You know that moment when you overhear a Tyrannosaurus Rex discussing cooking techniques and you say to yourself, “Hey I could pull that off”? Well that’s how this story started. I was reading the delightful Dinosaur Comics by Ryan North, when I came across this page wherein T. Rex discusses the merits of making spaghetti sauce from scratch. I said to myself, “Aha, you must attempt this ‘spaghetti from scratch’ technique which this intelligent dinosaur has so eloquently espoused.”

That was the beginning of a journey. Specifically, it was the beginning of a journey to Wal-Mart, because I needed to pick up some tomatoes and olive oil. The way was fraught with peril and danger. I was forced to battle my way through driving rain and bitter cold for the better part of fifteen minutes.

I entered that swirling cauldron of humanity, otherwise known as Wal-Mart, and a few minutes later I emerged victorious with my much needed ingredients held high above my head like the spoils of battle. People kept looking at me strangely, but I paid them no mind. I knew what I was about.

I returned home and began the delicate process of dissecting the tomatoes. They were still alive when I cut them into quarters and scraped out their guts with a steak knife; I can still hear their screams.

But those screams were silenced when I put the tomatoes into the blender and turned it up to high. After a moment all that was left was a sickening pulp. I carefully pried off the top of the blender and gazed down upon my creation, but I saw to my astonishment that something had gone terribly awry. The sauce was a bright and glowing orange colour that blinded my eyes and offended my sensibilities.

Still the experiment was too far along to permit such things to stop me. I poured the pulpy orange ooze in a pot and started it simmering on the stove. Meanwhile in another pan I began to cook the meat of the rare and arcane Italian Sausage Dragon. When this had browned to perfection I placed it on the back burner and prepared for the final simple task of cooking the noodles.

Simple. I look back on my naiveté and shudder in horror. The process started well enough. I put the water on to boil and when it began to move itself aright in the pot I poured in the noodles. At first everything seemed normal. I went on checking my orange sauce for consistency and flavour, stirring occasionally. But out of the corner of my eye I kept catching a glimpse of something strange in the pot of noodles. Whenever I turned to look the thing was gone. At first I wrote it off to the fancies of my imagination, but then by chance I happened to be looking directly at the pot of noodles when the thing surfaced.

It was the body of a cockroach. I frantically grabbed for a strainer spoon, nearly knocking over the rest of the utensils of process, and began digging through the noodles trying to haul up that disgusting creature and save my dinner from ruination. Other men would have thrown out such a batch of noodles for the fear of the taint they might bear. There is a word for such men: women.

My wife looked over at my frantic flailing and asked me what was going on. I told her I was simply stirring the pot in a different manner for…better texture. She did not look convinced but she went back to her work without question.

Finally, I managed to scoop the cockroach out. I threw him into the garbage can and said a silent word of eulogy over his tiny body.

By this time the sauce had simmered down to the right texture and the noodles were perfectly done. I took them both to the table, and we began to eat.

The sauce was still coloured toxic orange but the flavour was wonderful. And the noodles tasted hardly at all of cockroach.


Addendum: my wife still doesn’t know about the cockroach. Luckily, she doesn’t read this blog, so I should be safe unless somebody rats me out.

Retail Rant #1

I’ve been working in retail for over six years now, and let me tell you, it’s no picnic. Okay, I’m lying. Most of the time it’s actually super easy. Except for the people. Now some of the people that I meet are wonderful and kind and a real pleasure to work with. But some of them…let just say you don’t want to be one of these people. Think you might be? I’ve provided a helpful list of things not to do or say to your helpful retail salesman. Read and enjoy.

1. Just because someone is wearing a nametag does not mean you are on a first name basis with that person.

I really really hate this one. I’m just walking through the store, and some schlub I’ve never seen before in my life will say, “Hey Al, can we get some help over here.”

That always sets my teeth on edge. Here’s a tip. “Excuse me sir,” works just fine. Seriously. I’ll assume you’re talking to me if those words come out of your mouth. If you’re not talking to me, I’ll be fine with that too. But do not call me by my name. If you know me it’s not a problem. I have customers who come in regularly enough for me think of them as acquaintances. But other than that, back off. My name is personal.

2. If you want something, just freaking ask!

I will never understand why men are such wusses. I mean, I’m not going to think less of you if you have a question. People ask me questions all day long. It’s my job to answer questions. But when you hang back while your wife asks me where to find the 243. shells that’s when I’m looking at you thinking, “What a loser.”

3. Do not ask “Why does this item cost X?”

Seriously? You really want to know? You want me to download my vast knowledge of economics into your tiny tiny skull? Because if you’ve got an hour we might get close to an overview answer. But it’s not going to change anything. The price is still going to be the price. If you do not want to pay that price, then LEAVE IT ALONE. It’s not that hard. You look at the item. The item costs five dollars. You have five dollars. Now make a decision. Which one do you want more? The item or your five dollars? Not that hard.

4. Stop asking “Why don’t you carry item X anymore?”

This is a question that seems to be burning in the minds of many of my customers, so I will answer it once and for all. There is huge man in a tiny office at the store’s headquarters. In that office there is a button labeled “Stop carrying the things that customer X really needs.” This man’s only job is to press that button. That is why. No amount of whining to me is going to change that fact. I have zero power over any of this stuff. Really.

5. There is no “n” in Mossberg.

Okay, yes, this one is weirdly specific, but it seriously ticks me off. Specifically it is directed at all the rednecks out there. I know you guys may not be much accustomed to reading but take a good hard look at the word Mossberg. Go on, take your time, we’ll wait. Do you see an “n” anywhere? No? Then stop calling it a Mossenberg! You say you’ve been hunting you’re whole life and you can’t pronounce the name of one of the world’s foremost producers of shotguns? How stupid can you be?

That’s all for now. I’ve got more, but I have to go to work.


A Moral Abdomination

Fellow writers,

I, like you, have enjoyed the tantalizing fruits that hang low from the tree which is called National Novel Writing Month; I have reveled in the unbridled inspiration to productivity that period of time encourages.  But I have become troubled my writing brethren, deeply troubled, by the horrific and insensitive nature of the name of that sacred month.

National Novel Writing Month.  I spit out the words with a sneer of indignation, and a hiss of disgust.  For what one nation may lay claim to such a treasure?  What one country can take hold of such a sacred institution, and claim it for her own?

No, fellow writers, this month of writing should be open to all peoples, of all countries, regardless of skin color, religion, or preferred method of eating Oreos (I myself am partial to scraping the white from the inside of the cookie with my teeth; do not judge me fellow brethren).

That is why I am proposing that we rise up and alter forever the oppressive name of this glorious month.

Let those in Zambia and Lizben and in the Republic of Djibouti no longer quake in fear as they feverishly pound out their novels in the dead of night, hoping beyond hope that the brutal and pernicious NaNo Enforcement Squads will not catch them at their craft.  Let the world write freely and openly, without fear of reprisal.

It has been a long and careful consideration, but at long last I have decided that our great month of writing should be no longer called National Novel Writing Month.  Rather, in the interests of inclusion and the fostering of creativity around the world, I offer the following appellation: International Book Composing Lunar Cycle.  Or InBoCoLuCy for short.

Join me fellow InBo’s, and do not fear their terrible wrath.  Our lives may be forfeit, but the river of our blood will water the garden of creativity for generations to come.  Together we can make the world a better place.

Final Impressions

One of these days I am going to die.  It’s a sad reality, and I’m not the kind to dwell on it, at least not any more, but it’s something we all have to face.  But I am going to say this, and I am going to say it only once: If anyone puts an “I Roll in Memory of Albert Berg” sticker in the back window of their car/truck/whatever I will personally start the zombie uprising from beyond the grave.  Your brain will be the first on our zombie menu of delicacies.

Every time I see one of these things I think, “Really?  That’s the legacy you think that person wanted?  A trite message written in peeling letters on the back of your Hyundai?”

If you want to honor me how about a nice gravestone with the inscription “All That You Love Will Be Carried Away” in Copperplate Gothic Light font.  Either that or “Eadem Mutata Resurgo” under a nautilus spiral.  Either one would be equally cool.

And speaking of which, whatever happened to gravestone inscriptions anyway?  All I see when I walk through the cemeteries these days is a name and two dates.  If you’re going to be dead you might as well make your final resting place at least a little epic.  When someone looks at my headstone I want them to think, “Now that must have been an interesting dude.”

Addendum: A quick Google search of the phrase “I roll in memory of” produced no relevant hits. Is this a local thing? Because I see it all the time when I’m driving. Man, now I feel bad for living in such a dump of a town.