Stoic Comforts

By Shawn

The ancient Stoics had lots of helpful ideas about how to console yourself whenever you’re feeling blue. Unfortunately, their writings aren’t very accessible to us today. To fix that problem, I offer you Stoic Comforts, a series of choice quotations from Epictetus and Seneca made into inspirational posters. Get motivated to abandon your attachments to trivial objects and perform your duties without emotional disturbance!


The Great Cat Wars

By Ann

There is a small space: on my desk, behind my laptop, under my lamp. Little did I know, that in the 3,000+ square feet available in our house, this itsy bitsy less than a square foot would become the site of what can only be known as The Great Cat Wars.

It only seems fair to properly introduce the warring parties.

Contender #1: Ollie

Ollie, draw me like one of your french girls

Contender #2: Sophie

Sophie noticed the spot first.

(Please excuse the quality of the following images. I’ve done my best, but the lighting in the spot is terrible. Objectively, most things about the spot are terrible.)


Over time, Ollie noticed Sophie noticing the spot.


It is worth mentioning that, if Sophie hadn’t noticed the spot, Ollie never would have noticed the spot. He generally prefers beds and couches, and you know, actually comfy spots. He does not especially like the spot. However. He does not want Sophie to have the spot.

There is a long and sordid history of Ollie coveting ALL the spots. In response, Sophie has become somewhat creative:

Not pictured: her current favorite spot, which is inside our bathroom cabinet.

Sophie has proven quite a match for Ollie in hand-to-hand combat if she cares to fight, but frankly, she’d usually rather hunker down in garbage spots, because she’s a pretty big fan of garbage spots anyway. Still, Grant and I do not appreciate Ollie encouraging her garbage-troll tendencies. So, if she’s sitting with one of us, and he tries to harrass her, we send him on his merry way. Otherwise, we try not to interfere too much as long as Ollie isn’t being a mega-jerk.

It’s a thin line. And, through trial and error, Ollie has found exactly what that line is. If Sophie is sitting with us, he may not bite her or otherwise attack. But no one said he couldn’t sit next to her. Or stare at her. Or ever so gradually scoot closer and closer until neither one of them is comfortable.

This does not always work on Sophie. She can wait it out, and eventually, he’ll give up. She can nudge him back, and possibly make him slightly more uncomfortable than he is making her. Or, perhaps most deviously, she’s learned that she can occasionally poke him into biting her, which she knows will get him kicked out.

Most often, it is a Cold War. A war of glaring and nudging and patience. And it is waged daily, on my desk.

The most recent battle, as told via Ollie’s inner monologue:


Hello, Sophie. Fancy seeing you here again. I’m so excited to see you here that I shall bestow completely innocent kisses on your forehead.


Oh, hi, cat-mom. Just saying a considerate hello to my favorite cat-sister.


Look how much I love my cat-sister. I love her so much I’m going to lick the inside of her ears relentlessly because I know how much she enjoys that.


Oh, did you happen to scoot over, Sophie? Here, let me join you.


AHAHAHAHA, SIMPLE FOOL! You’ve stepped to the side, leaving room for me to lie down. Now, the light of glorious heaven shines down upon me and you have been shunted into darkness. DESPAIR, CAT-SISTER! DESPAIR IN DARKNESS!




Hmm? What’s that over there? Has Sophie… moved on? So soon? What is that she’s playing with?


Ooh, neat! A spider!



This is usually how it goes: I start with a cute cat on my desk… I end up with nothing. And so, while sometimes Ollie wins and sometimes Sophie wins, inevitably, the real loser of the Great Cat Wars is me.

United Kingdom Divided Over Craigxit

By Shawn

Yesterday saw another set of salvos exchanged in the ongoing public debate over the secession of actor Daniel Craig, or “Craigxit,” as it is popularly known. Following the surprising outcome of a March referendum in which the forty-nine-year-old movie star declared himself a sovereign microstate, British politicians are divided over how to implement the Craigxit vote and its significance for Craig’s future relations with the United Kingdom.

“Craigxit means Craigxit,” declared Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May in a speech to the House of Commons. May had been in favor of the latest actor to portray James Bond remaining a part of the United Kingdom, but has promised to respect his decision. “It is time to come together and forge a new, deep and special relationship with Daniel.”

May is not the only “Remain” politician to have reconciled herself to the referendum results. Craig was invited to address Parliament in the wake of the vote, and he managed to win over a number of Tories with a dramatic reading of his poem, “I Know a Place Where the Daniels Are Free.”

“It changed me,” said Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. “I hadn’t wanted an independent Craiglandia. But at one point during his address, Daniel Craig looked me right in the eye, just as he was reciting the line, ‘They have made me a James in Bonds,’ and it shook me to the core. I love Daniel, but we have to let him go. It’s what he wants.”

This sentiment was been echoed by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, who had campaigned half-heartedly for Craig to stay and has now taken to reassuring the British public that they will still have Timothy Dalton.

Yet others, such as First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, remain staunchly opposed. “Scotland voted to remain a part of the United Kingdom in the expectation that Daniel Craig would still be a part of it,” Sturgeon asserted. “Casino Royale was very popular up here. If Daniel is permitted to leave, then I pledge to seek a second referendum on Scottish independence, a third if we lose the second, and a fourth just to drive home the point. Needless to say, if we go, we are taking Sean Connery with us.”

The only person eligible to vote in the Craigxit referendum, Craig himself remains adamant that the outcome must be respected. “Daniel Craig must have liberty,” the actor proclaimed. “Daniel Craig must reassert control over his borders. Daniel Craig will use the tax money he saves and a couple of syringes he found to start his own National Health Service.”

At this time, Craig has begun work on a makeshift Capitol Building outside Westminster Abbey, and is currently soliciting cardboard and metal scraps from sympathetic members of the public.

If You Give a Politician $5…

By Shawn


Whenever I donate to political campaigns, I’m impressed by the relentlessness of their e-mail follow-up. Within a matter of days, my inbox is deluged by e-mails, trying every conceivable tack, in every conceivable emotional register, to elicit just one more small donation. Since I enjoy receiving these so much, I thought I’d share a few.


To: Shawn Friar
From: Senator Politician

Subject: GREAT NEWS!!

Dear Shawn,

President Donald Trump just SHAT HIMSELF, because AN OUTLIER POLL shows that SENATOR POLITICIAN is AHEAD of his rivals! Imagine it, TASTE the sweet feeling of Senator Politician lapping up President Trump’s glowing orange tears. Mmm, his DELICIOUS SADNESS is EXQUISITE, is it not? Don’t you want to ensure this GLORIOUS FUTURE comes to pass?!?

–Senator Politician



To: Shawn Friar
From: Senator Politician



Dear Shawn,

Congressman PAUL RYAN must be laughing his butt off, because Republicans just ran a DESPICABLE ad claiming that I am actually HITLER’S DOG BLONDI. I won’t lie to you, Shawn—they made a $40 MILLION ad buy, and we’re in desperate need of cash to respond. Unless we can raise $3 BILLION to run an ad explaining I am not the GERMAN SHEPHERD of a MASS-MURDERER, we’re in serious trouble! PLEASE help us!

–Senator Politician



To: Shawn Friar
From: Senator Politician

Subject: I Need Some Money for the Bus

Dear Shawn,

We’re e-mailing on behalf of Senator Politician because… Well, this is a little embarrassing, but Senator Politician took a bus out to one of his campaign events and forgot to bring enough cash for a bus ticket back. We swear, this never happens to Senator Politician—he’s usually very responsible. But if you could help him out this one time so he can get home, it would be a big help. Please. Just a few bucks. Please.

–Senator Politician



To: Shawn Friar
From: Senator Politician

Subject: holy fucking shit

holy fucking shit oh my fucking god it’s a goddamn emergency the only thing that can stop the dawn of the fourth fucking reich is your donation please it’s so bad we wouldn’t ask if we weren’t literally all going to die but we’re all going to die unless oh my god you wouldn’t happen to have five dollars or so would you holy fuck that would be awesome give it to us now right now oh my sweet fucking jesus in the name of the virgin mother hurry up the end of freedom is goddamn fucking nigh




To: Shawn Friar
From: Senator Politician

Subject: Here’s a Riddle—What Has Five Dollars and So Far Has Done Nothing to Advance the Cause of Freedom Today?

Hint: It’s you, bitch.

–Senator Politician



To: Shawn Friar
From: Senator Politician




–Senator Politician



To: Shawn Friar
From: Senator Politician



Following his successful siege of Ironforge Keep, Congressman PAUL RYAN has all but one of the pieces he needs to complete THE TESSERACT. No one knows the TRUE POWER of the ancient artifact, but it will doubtlessly grant PAUL RYAN the dark energies he needs to transform MEDICAID into BLOCK GRANTS. The last piece rests at Castle Valor, where SENATOR POLITICIAN has assembled a motley crew of HEROES determined to hold out against RYAN at all costs! The cause looks hopeless, their future bleak, unless…!

–Senator Politician



To: Shawn Friar
From: Senator Politician

Subject: Hey.

Hey Shawn,

Listen, we need to talk. A month ago, when I received $5 from you, I was pretty excited. My aides and I were all like, “Whoa, who’s the new guy?” Hell, it’s a little embarrassing to admit, but after that first donation, I was thinking about you a lot. Like, I’d be trying to focus on legislating, but I’d find my thoughts drifting, and… well, you get the picture.

But now it’s been a month, and nothing from you. No calls to my staffers, no small donations, nothing. I’m like, what happened here, you know? It seemed like things were off to such a good start.

Have you… have you been donating to other campaigns? It’s the special election in Georgia, isn’t it? You’ve been giving money to that little hussy in GA-06! I thought our election was special to you! WELL I GUESS I WAS WRONG. Why am I even RUNNING when you don’t give a shit?! Maybe I’ll drop out! Yeah, fuck it, maybe I’ll just drop out and to hell with our party controlling the Senate! Would you like THAT? Do I have your attention NOW?

–Senator Politician



To: Shawn Friar
From: Senator Politician



Congressman PAUL RYAN is currently in your house CHOKING YOUR MOTHER. At this very moment, RYAN’s hands are tightening around YOUR MOTHER’s neck, his lips twisted in a cruel smile. “Time to answer the question, what if Atlas strangled?” the wicked Speaker of the House chortles. His laughter builds as your mother struggles for breath, already anticipating the pleasure he will take in her final, desperate convulsions. SENATOR POLITICIAN looks on in horror. “If only I had $5!” our hero thinks. “Then I’d have the power I need to save her…”


Senator Politician


Houses Fix Themselves, Right?

By Ann

A couple weeks ago, our thermostat broke.

I noticed when it got really cold.

My husband also noticed when he got home from work, and it was really cold.

Him: Sweetie, I think there’s something wrong with the thermostat.

Me: Oh, yeah. It’s broken.

Him: What do you mean it’s broken? Did you put new batteries in it?

Me: Yeah. And they didn’t work, so…

Him: So… were you going to do anything about this?

Me: I mean, I put on a sweater.

Him: No. If the thermostat’s broken, we need to get it fixed, right?

Me: Oh. Right.

Him: Because that’s what normal people do. When things break.

Me: Right, right.

Then, we called out the repair person, and I had another conversation with eerily similar themes…

RP: I see the problem! See this battery plate? It’s caked over with some residue, so the new batteries aren’t able to transfer the charge. I’ll just clean that off, and it should be good as new! (Cleans it off. Thermostat turns on.) Yep, there we go! Good as—hold up, what’s this? (Thermostat’s numbers glitch out so that it’s impossible to read.)

Me: Oh, yeah, no worries, it’s been like that.

RP: What? How long have you been using it like this?

Me: Not that long. Just, um… a few…

RP: Days?

Me: No…

RP: Weeks?

Me: Months. Several months.

RP: Are you serious? How can you even read this screen?

Me: Well, you can’t really. But see that half a number that shows through there? If you look at that, you can kind of guess.


Me: And then, if you get it wrong, you can definitely tell in an hour or two.

RP: Um.

Me: Because boy does it get uncomfortable. You know?

RP: Right. That’s because your thermostat is broken.

Me: I see.

RP: It’s been broken for several months.

Me: I see.

RP: You need a new thermostat. Because I can’t do anything with this.

Me: I see.

The good news is we got a new thermostat. So problem solved, right?

But then, a couple days later, my husband is looking out the window…

Him: Hey, is there something lying on the ground over there?

Me: Hmm? Oh, yeah. That’s been there.

Him: What is it?

Me: I dunno. I guess a piece of the house.

Him: A piece of the house.

Me: I assume so.

Him: How long has that been there?!

Me: I dunno. At least a couple…

Him: Days?

Me: Um. No…


It occurs to me, there might be some sort of trend here.

Handy Mnemonic Devices

By Shawn

1.) righty, tighty; lefty, loosey (turning screws)

2.) ROY G. BIV (colors of the rainbow)

3.) my very excellent mother just sent us nine pizzas (planets of the solar system, plus Pluto)

4.) churches have steeples, it’s wrong to eat peoples (cannibalism)

5.) i before e, except after c (spelling rule)

6.) leaves of three, let it be (poison ivy)

7.) om nom nom so right it’s wrong (cannibalism)

8.) never eat shredded wheat (cardinal directions)

9.) thirty days hath September … (days in a month)

10.) don’t keep a second refrigerator filled with children (storage tip)

Titles for Unsettling and/or Deeply Alienating Children’s Books

By Shawn

  1. Sigmund Freud And Our Dynamic
  2. Just Who Is Mommy Really?
  3. The Lobster That Was Not Anthropomorphic
  4. A Beginner’s Guide To College Debt
  5. Where The Wild Things Aren’t, Because It’s Boring There
  6. Daddy Will Someday Grow Frail
  7. Under The Bed?: The Real Monsters Are Inside You
  8. The Stork That Takes Returns
  9. Never Trust a Turtle
  10. Goodnight, Ozone Layer
  11. Where’s Waldo?: My God, He’s Right Behind You
  12. Strange Hugs
  13. Blood on the Inside, Blood on the Outside
  14. The Very Emotionally Hungry Caterpillar
  15. What’s It All About, Werner Herzog?
  16. Newer Baby Is Best
  17. So You’ve Decided To Live
  18. Are You My Mommy? 2: “Nope,” Says Everything
  19. Richard Scarry’s Big Book of Regicides
  20. Oh Boy Let’s Sort The Mail

I Know It’s a Little Late to be Asking This, But—Could Anyone Tell Me What “Schools” Is?

By Betsy DeVos (and Shawn)

Hi, America, it’s me, Betsy DeVos. I’ve recently been nominated by President Donald Trump to serve as Secretary of Education. I couldn’t be more honored, and I hope I’ll be confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday. But before I tackle my new job, I was wondering—is there anyone out there who could tell me what “schools” is?

I keep hearing this term, and I’m getting the sense that it might be important to whatever it is I’ll be doing. What’s most troubling is, the way people keep saying it at me, it’s almost like they expect me to already know what it means somehow.

For example, at my confirmation hearing, one of the senators kept asking me things like, “Do you believe schools should be taking a proficiency-based or a growth-based approach?” I managed to deflect the question pretty well by saying something like, “Uh huh, yeah, ‘schools.’” But in my head, I was thinking, “What is this guy talking about? Are they really allowed to just make up words like that?” And I was pretty angry for a while.

But then I started to suspect that it was a real word, because I kept hearing it on the news. I’d be watching CNN, and the anchor would be like, “Betsy DeVos burble burble SCHOOLS.” After the sixth or seventh time this happened, it dawned on me that I had a real problem on my hands.

When the kids don’t know something, they’re always using the Internet, so I thought I’d try that. I looked up Google’s address and wrote them a letter, in which I very politely asked, “Please, oh Google, what is schools?” So far, they haven’t responded. Maybe it’s my router? I’m not much of a tech whiz.

If I don’t get to the bottom of this, I’m worried it could affect my job performance. The other day someone was asking how schools should handle sexual education. And I gave what I thought was a pretty measured response, which is that sexual education is something the children should learn from department store mannequins as God intended. The questioner looked at me bug-eyed, and I thought, “Oh no, I didn’t use the word ‘schools’ in my response.” So then I yelled “Schools!!”, but she only stared harder. I’m not sure if I wasn’t loud enough, or if I waited too long, or what.

I guess things aren’t as simple as they used to be. When I was a kid, education had nothing to do with “schools.” My parents gave me a broken abacus and “Jesus Loves Businesses” coloring book, and those things, plus a department store mannequin, taught me everything I needed to know. But I’ve got to be Secretary of Education for the children of the 21st Century, and that’s apparently going to involve this schools in some capacity, however limited. So please, America, fill me in—you seemed happy to explain to Ben Carson what is house, and it’s only fair you do the same for me.


A Mother-Daughter Outing to the MVA

By Ann

Yesterday, my mom and I went to the MVA together. Here’s how that went.

After waiting for two hideous hours:

Mom: Hi, we want to transfer the car title from me to my daughter.

MVA Rep: You don’t have the same last name. You need proof of relation if you don’t have the same last name.

Mom: Yes, I’m sorry, we didn’t realize that until we got here. But we were hoping, since her middle name is my last name, and that’s all written out on her driver’s license, and also because the address on the car title is the same as her home address, that might work as proof?

MVA Rep: But you don’t have the same last name.

Mom: That’s correct.

MVA Rep (To me): Why is your name different?

Me: Huh? Because my last name is my Dad’s—

MVA Rep: Are you married?

Me: Yes, but—

MVA Rep: Oh, so your name changed when you got married.

Me: No. This has always been my name.

MVA Rep: Always since you got married?

Me: No. Always.

MVA Rep: So you’re not married?

Me: No, I am married—

MVA Rep: Do you have your marriage license?

Me: Uh, no, why would I need my—

MVA Rep: To confirm your name change.

Me: But I didn’t change my name when I got—

MVA Rep: Hold on, now I’ve got to go look up your marriage license in the computer.

(Walks away for incredibly long amount of time.)

MVA Rep (Finally coming back): Well, we don’t have your marriage license in the computer.

Me: Right. Okay, but I’m sorry, what I’m trying to say is that it wouldn’t matter whether or not you all had my marriage license, because that has nothing to do with my name.

MVA Rep: So you’re not married?

Me: No, I am, but—

MVA Rep: If you’re not married, I have to look up your birth certificate.

(Starts to walk away again.)

Mom: Wait, but on her birth certificate, my last name is different than it is now. Does that matter?

MVA Rep: Your name doesn’t matter. Her name needs to match yours.

Mom: I’m sorry? My name on the birth certificate doesn’t matter, or—

MVA Rep: No. I’m checking her birth certificate. Your name doesn’t matter.

Mom: But my name needs to match hers?

MVA Rep: Correct.

Mom: But my name doesn’t matter?

MVA Rep: Correct. I have to go look up her birth certificate.

(Walks away for incredibly long amount of time. Again.)

MVA Rep (Finally coming back. Again.): We don’t have her birth certificate either. You’ll need to come back.

Mom: Okay, so it doesn’t matter that her middle name is the same as my last name?

MVA Rep: Let me show you something. You see how your last name starts with a “C” and you see how your last name starts with an “F,” they’re not the same last name.

Mom: We understand that we don’t have the same last name.

MVA Rep: So, since she’s not married—

Me: I am married!

MVA Rep (Completely unfazed): You need to bring in her birth certificate. Next!

What a stellar outing. Mom and I can’t wait to do this all over again next week.