Code, nerd culture and humor from Greg Knauss.

Well, now that that nonsense is out of the way, maybe I can find some time to hang our Christmas lights...

From our family to yours1,

Merry Christmas2!

  1. Or other non-traditional collective unit.

  2. Or other year-end3 non-denominational celebration.

  3. Of the Western Gregorian calendar.

Twas the night before Christmas,

And all through the house,

Not a creature was stirring,

Except for Mikey who just cut his first tooth and was wailing like, geez, the world was coming to an end.

I'm wrapping presents -- the one part of this holiday hoo-ha that I'm any good at -- and Tom wanders into the room. I pick up an empty paper roll, hand him another and start making light saber sounds as I tap them together. He stares at me.

"Like this," I say, and wave my roll around. "Bbbbwwwew! Zzzew! Bkkkkt!"

An enormous smile breaks across his face and he waves his tube back and forth excitedly.

"That's it!" I say, as he continues to swing the cardboard back and forth. "That's... Um."

He wanders over into the corner of the room and reaches behind a chair, still waving the tube. He leans as far back as he can, poking the nose of the roll deep into the shadow.

He's vacuuming.

"No, no, Tom," I say. "Light sabers! Weapons! Fighting!"

He pulls his tube out from behind the chair, points to it, then to another room. "Ee!" he says, and wanders off, still waving it at the ground, sweeping it in small arcs in front of him.

"But... Fighting!" I say, as he disappears out the door. From the next room, I can hear Joanne say, "Oh! Are you vacuuming? Good boy!"

And suddenly rushing out and getting him a good, old-fashioned, stereotypical-gender-role-affirming laser gun for Christmas doesn't seem like such a bad idea.

I plop the chess set down on the counter and hand the cashier my credit card. He swipes it through the register, runs the wand over the UPC on the box and asks -- in the sort of dazed monotone I remember from working retail at Christmastime -- "Would you like batteries with that?"

Have you ever heard the other verses to "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"? From a CD Joanne insists on playing:

Bring us some figgy pudding,

Bring us some figgy pudding,

Bring us some figgy pudding,

Bring it right here.

We won't go 'til we get some,

We won't go 'til we get some,

We won't go 'til we get some,

So bring it right here.


The thought of figgy-pudding-crazed lunatics planting themselves outside my door and threatening to stay there until I cave in to their demands really sums up the whole holiday season for me. Nothing says it's the Yuletide like caroling terrorists.

I've got a black leather day-planner, had it for years. Over time, the loop on the side has gotten kind of frayed, making it hard to slide the pen into it. Rather than, y'know, actually fixing the problem, I've taken to just stuffing the pen into the other end, through the loop but headed in the wrong direction. It works, of course, but leaves everything off balance -- the pen juts out uncomfortably, always getting in the way and catching on things.

In other words, my day-planner has an erection.

There is a special place in Hell for whoever invented the half-page ad that folds over the Sunday funnies.

Last night, I remembered the name Cheryl. That happens to me every once in a while, just out of the blue.

Maybe fifteen years ago, in high-school, I was walking down the hall when I ran into a large knot of friends, standing in a semi-circle, like how people eat dinner on TV.

"Hi, Larry!" I said, starting at the left and working around. "Hi, Todd! Hi, Jill! Hi, Laurie! Hi, Bill! Hi, Susan!" -- and, yes, I'm making up names at this point, because I've forgotten most of the people I knew back then -- "Hi, Ted! Hi, Janet! Hi... Uh.


Oh, God, what was her name? I had just greeted eight other people by name and I was not going to get by with a casual "Hi!" and a wave. What the hell was her name?

I said, "Uh," again, so that nobody would realize I was stalling.

What was her name? Short. Bobbed hair. Damn!

The ten of us stood there and -- if you count the fact that I was having some sort of out-of-body experience -- we all watched me rummage through the back of my head trying to find something to attach to the face.

It was the most awkward forty-five minutes of my life, especially because it was compressed into three seconds.

Eventually, I gave up and tried to get by with a casual "Hi!" and a wave. I think I fooled her.

Later, I pulled Larry aside and he said, "Cheryl."

I slapped my forehead. "God! I knew that!"

"Everybody knows that."

"Cheryl!" I said to myself. "I've gotta remember that."

And so a decade and a half later, every once in a while and without warning, my brain will scream, "Cheryl!" in a panicky reminder to itself. I haven't seen the woman since we graduated, but if I ever run into her -- sometime, somewhere -- I'm going to be able to offer a casual, "Hi, Cheryl!" Then I'll throw in a wave for good measure.

And she'll say, "What was your name again?"

A handy tip for mall shoppers:

You've got the whole goddamned escalator ride to make a decision about which way you're going to go when you get to the top, you empty-headed little feeb! Don't step off and then just stand there while people who are familiar with how legs work pile up behind you! Move, damn you, move!

Thank you.

One of the gifts that Joanne and I are getting for Mikey -- geez, I hope he doesn't read this site -- is called Baby Smartronics Alphabet Nest-a-mals.

Yes, "nest-a-mals."

I'll just let that soak in for a second.

Some marketing guy somewhere took nesting cups with pictures of animals on them and used his Yale MBA to come up with "nest-a-mals." For which he was paid enough to support his cocaine habit.

I mean, seriously. How does something like that actually get out onto the streets? Was it a sarcastic suggestion that got out of hand? Was it some sort of industrial sabotage? There are enough jokes in that name -- "That's the worst case of nest-a-mals I've ever seen!" "Ouch! I was just kicked in the nest-a-mals!" -- to cause a perfectly happy woman to start punching her husband in the arm while telling him to shut up, just shut up, God.

Trust me on this.

I've taken to measuring my stress in the morning, during my commute, in PPH. It gives me a pretty good indicator of how my day is going to go and whether I'll be able to work through lunch or if I'll have to take my book and go to the park and eat ice cream, just to keep from killing whoever happens to walk through my office door.

PPH is profanites per hour.

It takes me about thirty minutes to get into work on an average day -- give or take an Eddie Bauer Expedition-driving idiot or two -- and if my PPH stays anywhere under four, I can be pretty sure it'll be a good day. Four to ten or so and I have to put some time aside to stare out the window and breathe deeply and look at pictures of my kids. Ten to twenty PPH -- and if you think five or ten curses in a half-hour commute is a lot, you don't live in LA -- and I'll shut my door as soon as I get in to work. Twenty to forty and I'll tell my co-workers to nail it shut behind me. Above forty and--

The restraining order forbids me from talking about above forty.

If your youngest son, while happily sucking on his toes, suddenly lets loose with a thunderous fart, do you:

  1. Point a finger and loudly claim, "It was him!"

  2. Assume there's some sort of call and response thing going on and answer.

  3. Beam proudly and say, "That's my boy!"

Ha. Trick question. It turns out that none of these is the right answer. At least, not according to Joanne.

Questions Not to Ask at the Gym: First in a Series

"If these are the quadriceps and these are the triceps and these are the biceps, where's the unicep?"

I've got my theories, but I decided it wasn't a good idea to mention them in a room full of sweaty, overly-muscled men. It, um, might have been taken the wrong way.

Nothing says "Christmastime!" like the grunting and swearing that goes along with putting up a tree.

I went for my first free-weight workout in, oh, ever yesterday and I finally understand how exercise allows you to lose weight: my arms are too damned sore to raise food to my mouth.

Pouting lips, a coquettish gaze, full breasts spilling from a silk teddy: just what you'd expect from my appearance on

Minus the lips, the gaze and the breasts, of course. And I only wore the teddy while I was at home, writing.

There is such a thing as a free lunch. You just have to go to CostCo and wander around to all the product sample tables to get it.

Tom recently learned that things are different sizes, and has been enthusiastically explaining that fact to anybody who happens to wander by. He presses his thumb and forefinger tightly together for "little" and spreads his arms out over his head for "big." Mikey? Little. Tom? Big. The car? Big. His ball? Little.

I came home from work yesterday and Joanne was on the back porch, folding laundry. Tom sat on the floor nearby and watched her. "C'mere," she called when she heard me. "Watch this."

She yanked a sock out of the dryer. Tom pressed his fingers together and made an affirmative grunt: "Little."

She pulled a bathtowel. He swung his hands up, over his head and out: "Big."

She yanked out out a pair of my jeans. Tom's arms swept up and wide, as far as they could go, and he punctuated the motion with a little, "Eeee!" He pointed to me, then to the jeans, then pinwheeled his hands again, for emphasis.

Which I translated as, "Damn, you've got some big pants there, Dad."

The three things most fundamentally wrong with the world: an opinion arrived at while shopping at the Toys R' Us near where I work:

  • That toy steering wheels -- for ages two and up -- include not only toy horns, toy ignition keys, toy radios but toy cellular phones, too.

  • That the sold-out N*SYNC doll was Lance Bass.

  • That Barbie's ethnic friends are less expensive than her white ones.

Forget "The Sixth Sense," this is the single creepiest page in "Goodnight Moon":

Goodnight nobody.

Once, years ago, I had a morning deadline, a lot of code to write and a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew. Around 4am, I realized that the window was still open and I was freezing, I hadn't gone to the bathroom is something like fifteen hours and I was having trouble hitting the keys because my hands were trembling.

Man, do I miss those days.

Bu, lbh rabezbhf trrx. Abg bayl qvq lbh erpbtavmr ebg13, ohg lbh obgurerq gb qrpelcg vg.

Give me ten minutes, a steak knife and a big wad of bile backed up in my throat and I can turn a Barney kid's toothbrush -- the only brand our supermarket carries -- into regular kid's toothbrush.

And only slightly injure myself in the process.

Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard: Third in a Series

"'Where is Thumbkin? Where is Thumbkin?'

"'Here I am! Here I am!'

"'How are you today, sir?' 'Very fine, I thank you!'

"Run away! Run away!

"'Where is Pointer? Where is Pointer?'


Hi there! My name's GREG KNAUSS and I like to make things.

Some of those things are software (like Romantimatic), Web sites (like the Webby-nominated Metababy and The American People) and stories (for Web sites like Suck and Fray, print magazines like Worth and Macworld, and books like "Things I Learned About My Dad" and "Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard").

My e-mail address is I'd love to hear from you!

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