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When we consider the serious electricity shortage in California, our reaction, as concerned Americans, is: Ha ha!

No, seriously, we are alarmed. Because history teaches us that whatever happens to California -- smog, road rage, tofu, coffee that is mainly air, cell phones, the belief that abdominal muscles are attractive, Shirley MacLaine, people taking rollerblading seriously, grandmothers sporting new, flagrantly inappropriate bosoms -- eventually happens to the rest of the nation. Thus it is vital that we analyze the California electricity shortage and see if we can develop a workable solution before we become bored and change the subject.

Our first question is: What, exactly, is electricity? When we look in our Microsoft Encarta encyclopedia, we see that "electricity" is defined as a "class of physical phenomena resulting from the existence of charge and from the interaction of charges." What does this mean, in layperson's terms? It means that whoever wrote the Microsoft Encarta encyclopedia is a big fat dope. Because we know from our junior-high-school science training that electricity is actually a fast-moving herd of electrons, which are tiny one-celled animals that can survive in almost any environment except inside a double-A battery, where they die within minutes.

Electrons are formed when clouds rub together and become excited. This was proved in the famous experiment wherein Benjamin Franklin flew a kite during a thunderstorm and was almost killed. Encouraged by this success, Franklin went on to conduct many more electrical experiments, including rolling a hoop in a thunderstorm, playing hopscotch in a thunderstorm and doing somersaults in a thunderstorm. Finally one night he was caught wearing only a bonnet and playing "Mister Pooter Rides the Pony" in a thunderstorm, leaving the authorities with no choice but to arrest him and make him ambassador to France.

Nevertheless, Franklin had proved an important scientific point, which is that electricity originates inside clouds. There, it forms into lightning, which is attracted to the earth by golfers. After entering the ground, the electricity hardens into coal, which, when dug up by power companies and burned in big ovens called "generators," turns back into electricity, which is sent in the form of "volts" (also known as "watts," or "RPM" for short) through special wires with birds sitting on them to consumers' homes, where it is transformed by TV sets into commercials for beer, which passes through the consumers and back into the ground, thus completing what is known as a "circuit."

But enough technical talk. The problem is that California is running out of electricity. The situation is so bad that in some hospitals, they don't have enough electricity to power those electric-shock paddles that get people's hearts started again; instead, the doctors and nurses have to hold hands, scuff their feet across the carpet in unison, then shout "CLEAR!" as they touch the patient's chest.

Who is responsible for California's electricity shortage? You could blame the power companies; or you could blame environmental wackos; or you could blame the entertainment industry, which uses over 750 billion watts of electricity per day just to blow-dry the cast of "Dawson's Creek"; or you could blame (Why not?) the Firestone tire company. But you would be wrong. Because obviously the real cause of the California electricity shortage is: college students.

I base this statement on widespread observation of my son, who is a college student, and who personally consumes more electricity than Belgium. If my son is in a room, then every electrical device within 200 yards of that room -- every light, computer, television, stereo, video game, microwave oven, etc. -- will be running. My son doesn't even have to turn the devices on; they activate themselves spontaneously in response to his presence. Now take my son and multiply him by the number of college students in California, which according to my research is "(EDITOR: Please insert number of college students in California)" and you see my point, which is "(EDITOR: Please insert my point)."

The question is: What can the rest of us do to help our fellow countrypersons in California? The answer is that we can send them our spare electricity. Just imagine what would happen if all the households in this great and generous nation got out their extension cords and connected them together, forming a giant electrical "chain of helping" across the fruited plain to the Golden State! Millions of people would be turned into generous smoking lumps of carbon, that's what. So maybe we should go with Plan B. This involves building a really, really, really big kite.

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