I am one of President George W. Bush's gardeners. Mr. George likes to talk to me.

Monday, May 31, 2004

Legislating Math

Mr. George often comes up to me and asks questions while I'm working in the White House garden. Usually, he asks me about what kind of fertilizer I use, and why I don't use more chemicals to really kill the insects. But sometimes he asks me questions about astronomy, geology, or math. Just the other day he wanted to know what it means to square a number. Why square?

"Well, it works like this, Mr. George," I said, making four dots in the ground with my walking stick. "You see these four dots? Let's say you want to square the number 4. So what you do is you create a bigger square by repeating the number 4." I then drew three more sets of four dots to create a larger square.

"So 4 squared is 16. See the 16 dots in the bigger square?"

"So what does "square root" mean?

"Simple. If you want to take the square root of the number 16, you go back to the number that you had to make the bigger square from." I then drew a circle around the first set of four dots that I drew.

"Oh, I see. So the square root of 16 is 4." Mr. George then grabbed my stick. I was nervous that he was going to ask about cubing numbers, so I thought about stacking dirt clods to convey a 3D model, but Mr. George veered off in a different direction. He poked the ground to make a single dot. "Just to get this straight, the number 1 squared is 4, and the square root of 4 is 1."

"No, Mr. George. This model doesn't really work for the numbers 0, 1, and 2. Or negative numbers."

"Why not? It should."

"But it doesn't."

"Is that some of that fancy nuance the liberal media is talking about?"

"I don't know."

"Well, I'm going to fix this. I'm going to make a law that says the number 1 squared is 4, and that the square root of 4 is 1. It works better that way. It just does." He pointed my stick at the ground.

"You can't make a law about that," I said.

"Yes I can," he said. He was talking loudly and waving around the little stick. "I can add an amendment to the Constitution. We'll call it the Nineteenth Amendment. That's my job. It's what I do."

"But then all the math books would be wrong. It'll cost too much money for schools to update their books."

"Not if I make a federal law that requires every state to come up with the money to pay for new books. Just trust me."

I asked Mr. George if I could have my stick back, but he was too deep in thought.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

No Blogging on Sundays

It's my day off. I'm going to visit the World War II memorial.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Chatting with the Lord of the Dance

One of the great things about working as a gardener at the White House is that I get to meet famous people. Like Lord Michael Flatley. He came up to me, danced a little jig, and introduced himself.

"Good day, sirrah! I'm the Lord of the Dance."

"That's not what I heard."

"Oh, you heard about my little contest with that American, did you? I admit it: he defeated me once in a Seattle dance-off."


"Be that as it may, I regained my Feet of Flames title recently in Nepal. The American will probably blame his loss on the mild case of pulmonary edema that he contracted while rescuing those sherpas from the summit of Mt. Annapurna. But two days was plenty of time to recover from such an affair."

"How did you finally defeat him?" I asked.

"Simple. I began the reel with jump threes, slid into hop threes, and then moved into a unique tuck-back trade step that was part of the sevens. The American kept up through the hop threes, but then he grew confused by my hornpipe reel, and became so positively intimidated by my treble jig that he burst into a fit of spastic coughing. The title was mine — again."

"Can I see the dance?"

"Sure, if you pay me thirty-seven dollars."

"That's seven hours of pay. I don't have that kind of money!"

Mr. Flatley walked away, but as he did so, he winked, pirouetted, and did what I can only imagine to be the tuck-back trade step that he used to defeat his nemesis. I sure did like Mr. Flatley. And Mr. George told me that I get to meet Mr. Rush Limbaugh next week.

Friday, May 28, 2004

17-Year Bugs

This morning I wrapped the lilacs on the north side of the White House with cheesecloth to prevent the cicadas from destroying them. The garden variety cicadas don't do much damage to trees and plants, but this species of cicada that comes out every 17 years is particularly nasty.

I thought the young red maple I planted a couple of years ago was big enough to withstand the cicadas, but I was wrong. Many of the limbs near the top of the tree were broken and saggy and turning brown. As I was standing there looking at the tree trying to decide whether to spray it or wrap it, Mr. George nudged my shoulder.

"Your little tree is dying."

"The cicadas are destroying it."

"Yes," said Mr. George. "They like to eat trees."

"Actually, the female uses her ovipositor to dig a channel in a branch, where she leaves her eggs -- that's what's causing the branches to break off."

"Yep," said Mr. George. "They sure do like to eat trees."

Good vs. Evil

Sometimes I like to ask Mr. George about what's going on in the world, and he likes to tell me the answer. He says it's good practice for him to bounce ideas off of me, because I represent his core constitutionality. But today I didn't even ask a question. Mr. George just came up to me while I was edging the lawn and started talking.

"Listen here, Lenny. There's two kinds of people in the world. There's good people over here-" and he held up his right hand. "And there's bad people over here-" and he held up his left hand. "The good people love freedom and democracy. The bad people, and the evil people, you know the bad people and the evil people can pretty much be lumped in the same thing, and they don't love freedom. Saddam is evil. He just is. William Hung over there in North Korea with all them nucular bombs is evil. And so is John Kerry and all the Democrats."

"My mother is a Democrat," I said.

"Sit down, Lenny. You might take this kinda hard. What I'm doing is making the world safe for freedom and democracy. I'm a part of history, see? And anyone who doesn't support me, and anyone who doesn't love freedom, and freedom is a very important principle, so therefore anyone who refuses to live under democratic reign is evil."

"But what if a Democrat catches you telling a lie? Are they evil for reporting you?"

Mr. George paused for about ten seconds. He made his decision: "Yes, they're evil. You see, I'm a leader, and I need to lead. And sometimes I need to do bad things to help good prevail. If someone says I'm lying, that hurts me as a leader, and that's not good. It's bad. And bad and evil are two pods in a pea."

"But what if they're telling the truth?"

"They're not coming from a position of strength. They're coming from a position of weakness. Instead of being patriotic, they're being sedultory. They want to weaken America. Weakness is bad. And bad is one of the pods."

I kept edging the lawn. This was a lot to think about. Mr. George is like deep water that runs still.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Bombing Iraqi Homosexuals

Mr. George came up to me outside the White House while I was trimming the rose bushes, so I asked him what all the fuss was about. He told me that the reporters wanted to know why we bombed the bejeesus out of a wedding party in Iraq. So I said, well, why did we bomb the bejeesus out of the wedding party? And he said it's top secret. I said I wouldn't tell anyone and come on, Mr. George, I have a right to know. So that's when he whispered the reason to me: "A top general told me it was two homosexuals getting married. We're building a nation over there, and we need to nip that whole sodomy thing in the butt."

But then I asked about the wedding singer that got killed. Was he a homosexual too? And Mr. George said that collaborative damage was part of war, and that these Iraqis are not innocent. That wedding singer was a Baathist, and he liked to sing love songs by The Magnetic Fields.

Mountain Biking with the President

People keep asking me why the President of the United States has scabs on his face. I went to Texas with him to help out with his daffodils, and he insisted that I go on the mountain bike ride. It rained hard a week before the accident, so there were some gullies. At the beginning of the ride, Joshua the secret service agent told us all to watch out for the prairie dogs and gullies. It just so happened that a prairie dog bolted out in front of us, and Mr. George veered straight off into the gully, flipped over the front of his bike, and landed on his face and shoulder.

The secret service guy helped Mr. George up while I straightened out his bike and wiped off his water bottle, which had fallen out of its cage. Mike asked Mr. George why he didn't lift his tire over the gully and Mr. George said, "If someone had told me that there would be a prairie dog in that spot, and if someone had told me not to ride in that gully, I would have done something about it." Then Mr. George got back on his bike and kept riding as if nothing happened. When we got back to the ranch house, Mr. George was upset. He ordered me and some other guys to kill all the prairie dogs on his ranch. After we killed about a third of the prairie dogs, he told us to nevermind the prairie dogs, start going after the armadillos.