When I was a kid, my siblings and I were pretty bad about snooping for presents. Every year our parents would come up with more and more clever places to hide gifts, and we'd respond by improving our skills at breaking and entering. For example, one year my brother made a makeshift card to jimmy open the locked door of the room where the presents were hidden. The only year we didn't succeed in our snooping efforts was the year they put the presents in the attic. Even then we knew they were there, but we didn't have any way to get up there. My parents would also tape a bedsheet across the doorway of the living room to try to keep us out until morning, but I always snuck in anyway. Ah, traditions.

What kooky Christmas traditions does your family have?

A Snowball's Chance in Our Parking Lot

We’ve had three significant snowstorms in the last three weeks. While the snow on the ground has mostly melted in between storms, the piles produced by snow plows have not. Our parking lot is gradually shrinking. Before the storm this morning, this drift was taking up 5 parking spaces.

When I was a kid, we used to head to the church parking lot across the street and dig in these drifts to make forts.

Have a Zantac Candy Cane

Everyone I have spoken to this month has asked me if I’m “ready for Christmas.” I don’t understand what that means. Why do people give themselves so much to do this month that it all becomes one big endorsement for lobotomies? Calm down, people! Nobody cares if you didn’t get your giant, inflatable Peanuts-character-themed nativity scene on the lawn. Next July you won’t be sitting around mourning the fact that you gave people in the neighborhood the exact same wassail mix as Judy down the street (curse her eyes!). As you lie on your deathbed, surrounded by family, you’re not going to be thinking, “Oh, if only I had been able to find that glass reindeer ornament I searched for my whole life!” And if that is the thought you take with you as you depart this mortal life, you can take comfort in knowing that the world will not be made worse by your passing.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Christmas decorations and giving gifts and all that. But I don’t see why those things are such a focal point of the season. I’m not one to talk about the “true meaning” of things, but I feel reasonably confident in the assertion that the true meaning of the season has little to do with icicle lights and four-hour sales events (today only!).

The Year of Giving Names to Years

I think it would be kind of fun to be able to look back on each year at its end and give it a name. If I had to do that for this year, I would call it the Year of Mechanical Failure. It boggles my mind that there could be so many automotive and electronic problems happening within the space of one year. Personally, I feel it’s because we had gone so long with nothing wrong that the universe realized it was getting behind.

Anyway, if you had to give 2007 a label, what would it be? The Year of Time Wasted Reading Joel’s Blog? The Year of Gross Diseases? Go ahead and spill your guts.

Holiday Gift Guide

Christmas shopping can be a significant source of stress during the holiday season. Being the nice guy that I am, I feel obligated to share with you some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years when it comes to giving gifts.

One of the most important things to consider is how much you’re going to spend on each person. If you spend significantly more than they do, you could embarrass them, and if you spend less than they do, you might come across as a cheapskate. So the best thing to do is to wait until they give you a gift, upon which you can say that theirs is still being shipped. Then you can open the gift they gave you, giving you an idea of how much you can spend. Another advantage of giving gifts late is that it allows you to re-gift anything you don’t like to someone you haven’t shopped for yet.

For men, shopping for the woman in your life can be a daunting task. Women tend to scrutinize gifts beyond all reason or logic, as it forms their opinion of your opinion of them. (“Running shoes?! He does think I’m fat!”) The only way to avoid this is to give her a gift that gives her the impression that you think she’s perfect, which is a picture of herself. If any of you actually have the guts to try this, let me know how it works.

For women giving gifts to men, you need to give them something that will make them feel powerful. Assuming a monster truck is out of the question, you can get them power tools (it really doesn’t matter what; men love all tools, even if they have no idea how to use them) or just about any electronic gizmo you can find. (“Wow! A little box with switches and dials on it!)

Now, when buying gifts for young children, you should remember the cardinal rule: Whatever you buy them, they will only like the box it came in. So you might as well go get the cheapest toy you can find, throw it away, and just wrap the box. When purchasing for older children you can relax, safe in the knowledge that nothing you buy them could possible satisfy them. They will never be happy until they have every toy and gadget that every other kid at school has. This knowledge sets you free because, as long as they’re going to complain anyway, you might as well just get them socks and underwear, saving all your money for the “family” present, which is that big-screen TV you want.

My Darling Clementine

I feel so ashamed that I used to be in the dark. I mean, I actually used to eat tangerines. I know, it’s shameful, but I had not yet tasted the sweet manna of clementines. Clementines are a particular variety of mandarin orange, and they are so wonderfully sweet and juicy that I’m salivating just thinking about them. They’re really easy to peel, too. If you have never had one, I insist that you drop whatever you’re doing and head off to the store to find them. I know it sounds strange, especially if you’ve had canned mandarin oranges, which are pretty terrible to eat plain. But you won’t regret it.

One other fruit that might be even more delectable than clementines is the Asian pear. You occasionally see them around here, but they’re about the size of an apple. The pears they grow in Korea are the size of a grapefruit. They have the delicious taste of a pear and the crisp flesh of an apple. You can sometimes find them in Asian markets; they’re not quite as good when they’ve had to travel so far, but they’re still worth trying.

My Stars!

I’d just like to state, for the record, that I don’t care in the least about the private lives of celebrities. I don’t read star gossip magazines, I don’t watch Entertainment Tonight, and I probably wouldn’t recognize Brad Pitt on the street if he stopped to ask me what time it was. I think they’re entitled to live their own lives.

Now, with that little disclaimer out there, it’s story time.

One night when I was in college, my roommates wanted to get some people together and go play a game they called Bigger and Better. The idea is that you pick a small, worthless object and go knock on somebody’s door. Then you offer to trade the item for something bigger or better. The idea is that as you keep doing it, you end up with something really good, like a Wonder Woman action figure, or an aircraft carrier.

Well, on this particular evening we decided to drive out to a fairly nice neighborhood in the hopes of finding some generous people. There was nobody home at the first house, so we went next door. A middle-aged woman opened the door, and we told her what we were doing. As she went back into the house to find something for us, somebody in the group started saying that she looked like somebody famous. The door was open a little bit, and we could see some family pictures inside on the walls that seemed to support this idea. When she came back to the door holding (I’m not making this up) a jar of Osmond Jelly, we realized that Marie Osmond had opened the door for us. So everybody went nuts (except for me, as I had no more than a vague idea who the Osmonds were), and somebody got her to autograph a scrap of paper, and we took home our prize and a far more interesting story. Sorry, but I don’t remember how the jam tasted.

Do you have any stories about meeting someone famous?

Hi, School!

Something just occurred to me. Most people I talk to hated high school and would never go back, but I would actually like to go back with the knowledge and experiences I have now and do it all over again. I think I could have really done better for myself and avoided some mistakes I made.

What about you? Is high school a series of painful memories to be repressed, or was it one long, never-ending party?

Only in Dreams

Dreams are weird. I don’t know about you, but one of the things I remember most about dreams is the scenery. I regularly have dreams in certain settings. For example, I occasionally have a dream involving a lake or swimming pool, and I can usually breathe underwater. I also regularly have dreams in which I’m hanging out on the upper floors of a skyscraper. Of course, I also have the old standby dreams about not being fully dressed in a public place. What’s the point of that? Why does just about everyone have basically the same dreams?

Share your thoughts, or tell me about some dreams you’ve had.

Put Your Matrimony Where Your Mouth Is

There is no better medium for studying society than television, mostly because you can do that studying in your pajamas. So, through a careful and objective scientific study of the media, I have compiled a list of things you should never say to your spouse. Most of these fall in the husband-saying-to-wife category, because if there’s one thing we have learned from television in the last 15 years, it’s that men are of unequivocally inferior intelligence.

You might want to skip dessert tonight, honey.

Wow, she’s way hotter than you!

Rub your feet? Gross! Have you ever smelled them?

I gotta tell you, prison grub was better than your cooking.

What’s your name again?

Great news! My mom is coming to stay with us!

Now that you mention it, it does look like a new wrinkle. And look, it’s got a friend!

There is no way you’re going to squeeze into that.

I’m having lunch tomorrow with my ex, ok?

Are there any I’m forgetting (besides the obligatory “Yes, it does make your butt look big”)?

Take My Hand with Your Glove of Love

Don’t we all have some article of clothing that we just love to death and wish we had bought ten of so they would last us forever? I have a pair of black leather gloves that I got in Korea. They were about $10, I think, and they fit perfectly. I have pretty small hands, and I can’t for the life of me find a pair of gloves in the U. S. that fit right. So I wish I had bought several pairs of those gloves.

What article of clothing is it you have that you wish would last forever?

Chef? Boy, Are We!

I enjoy cooking. Well, I enjoy eating and get some satisfaction from eating when it’s something I made. I like to take meals that I enjoy in restaurants and learn to make them at home, so I can save money and make it just the way I want it. Like many men, I often cook without paying attention to the exact amount of things I use, and I’m always tinkering with a meal trying to get it just right.

There are, however, a few personal rules I follow in the kitchen. Here are some of them.

If it requires a thermometer, it’s too much trouble.

Double the amount of cheese.

Double the amount of sauce.

Gravy can cover just about any mistake.

Smoke coming from the pan is a bad thing

Be careful when buying the store brand—sometimes it’s disastrous.

What rules do you follow in the kitchen?

Get Your Buzzer Ready

Where would society be without the magazine quiz? To honor this cherished tradition, I have cooked up the following quiz for you.
For those of you who need your existence to be validated by others, this will help you determine how manly your music is. Listen to a song typical of your taste and answer the following questions.

1. How many electric guitars are audible?
a. 1
b. 2 or more
c. What’s a guitar?
d. Do violins count?

2. What portion of the words can you understand?
a. 50% or less
b. There’s too much screaming for me to make out the words
c. All of them
d. Mozart didn’t write lyrics

3. How long is the hair of the lead singer? (If singer is female, score zero for quiz and go arrange some flowers.)
a. He’s bald
b. Shoulder length or longer
c. He looks like Chris O’Donnell
d. I don’t know; he’s been decomposing for 200 years.

4. When you turn up the music as loud as your stereo goes, what is your reaction?
a. Wow, this sounds better!
b. My neighbors called the police, and I can’t type in handcuffs.
c. The louder it is, the more embarrassed I am to be listening to Michael Bolton.
d. My neighbors showed up offering me his extra ticket for the symphony.

5. Which of the following most closely resembles the name of the lead singer?
a. Ed
b. Max Fightmaster
c. Prince
d. Hermengild von Rauchenmeier

Scoring:
Score 2 points for every A, 5 points for every B, slam you hand in the car door for every C, and half a point for every D.

Results

0 to 5 points: You are in dire need of some serious rocking out. Go pick up some AC/DC before you turn into Whitney Houston.

6 to 12 points: You have a glimmer of hope, but you should throw out all your Brian Adams CDs and check out some Aerosmith.

13 to 19 points: you know how to rock, but you try not to frighten small children. Let your hair grow an extra inch or two for maximum rockability.

20 to 25 points: You are probably a drummer for a band called Death to All Things Good and Wholesome in the World. Can I have your address so I can send you my demo tape?

Fiction, Baby!

I love reading. Since elementary school, I have always read for enjoyment. (And yes, the reading material has increased in complexity of language since then, poop head!) I do have a hard time reading nonfiction books, though. I enjoy reading articles in magazines and researching topics online, but a book-length work of non-fiction tends to bore me. I often hear about the great books other people are reading on subjects such as boat repair and the Oort cloud. Then I consider that I’m usually reading about far-off worlds and advanced technology, and I realize something important: Those people are either really boring or they’re making it up to impress people. I get enough mundane information during my day. When I read, I want to escape to other world where they have fantastic advances such as flying cars and dustpans that don’t leave behind that little line of dirt when you sweep your kitchen floor. If you want bland, “applicable” information, just go watch C-Span, which also happens to be a great cure for insomnia.

Who Needs a Rollercoaster?

I live on a dead-end street. No, not just metaphorically, it really is a dead end. In fact, to exit the street you have to make one of the worst blind turns imaginable. The street you turn onto is narrow, with concrete barriers on the opposite side, so there’s not room for anyone to swerve if you pull out in front of them. So I pretty much take my life in my hands every time I have to go anywhere.
To add an extra element of danger, a sheet of ice develops on the street whenever it snows. For some reason, the city plows shun our neighborhood, so as more cars drive on the street it polishes the ice to a lethal smoothness. Most of the street is clear within a few days, but the last 15 feet or so takes weeks and weeks to melt. So the point at which you need to slow down and slowly creep out, straining your neck up to see over the fence, becomes the point at which it is almost impossible to stop.
My point is, if you’re looking for a life-threatening thrill, just head over my way this winter to satisfy all your adrenaline-pumping needs.

Have an Enjoyable, Non-Denomintaional Winter Season

In making a comment on another blog, I came up with something that is so darn clever that I felt it deserved its own entry. Given the current political climate, this is what "Merry Christmas" will soon be reduced to:
"The Author of this card wishes to endorse a felicitous Season upon the Recipient, where 'Season' refers to the period between the approximate dates of November 23 and January 2. The wishes are in no way to be construed as adherence to or endorsement of a particular system of beliefs and have no cash value. Should the Season of the Recipient in fact not adhere to established measures of prosperity, including but not limited to economic, familial, or emotional prosperity, the Author accepts no responsibility. By accepting this message, the Recipient absolves the Author from any and all responsibilities pertaining to the salutations contained herein."

Take My Electrons, Please

I suppose winter is really an underrated season. I mean, it gives us a chance to take a break from complaining about the heat by complaining about the cold. It allows us to feel less guilty when we drink hot chocolate every day. It affords us the opportunity to do donuts in parking lots (or bagels, of you prefer).
The story of winter you never hear is that the humidity all freezes out of the air, horribly drying your skin. That’s not the worst of it, however. The real evil of winter is in the static electricity that lurks where you least suspect it. I was nearly electrocuted a couple times just trying to kiss my wife. Our couch is so charged with static that your hair starts to rise the moment you sit down. I tried wiping things down with dryer sheets, but it’s at best a temporary solution. I feel like I’m living in one of those old dryer sheet commercials. “Static! It’ll stop you…”

Playing Is Half the Battle

I’m pretty certain that every generation experiences this, but that doesn’t make it any less real. I went to Toys R Us the other day and was amazed at how much toys have really changed in the last 20 years. I mean, there were still plastic animals and legos, but it really does seem like everything today needs batteries. It just seems like toys were so much cooler when I was a kid. You actually had to use your imagination to play. Too much passive entertainment like TV and talking toys will stifle the imagination. Unfortunately, that means that the rising generation will use their less-developed imagination to create even less original passive entertainment, which will lead the next generation to be even less original… It’s a terrible downward spiral.
Maybe Tickle-Me Elmo can cheer me up…

Mr. Stapler

I have the greatest electric stapler I use at work. At first I thought it was a weird luxury, but I really do staple a lot of things during the day. So when mine stopped working the other day, I was saddened and distressed. But it's back up and running today, after I tinkered with it (no, it was not just unplugged). Maybe I should name it. What's a good name for a stapler?

Gearshift

It really bothers me that so many people have only one way of doing things. They go at one speed all the time. I’m big into adapting what I’m doing based on how much time I have. If I need to get something done quickly, I can just move faster. If that isn’t enough, I pick the most important parts to do. I just don’t understand how some people are unable to change gears, so to speak. I won’t give any examples because they would invariably involve someone I know who might be offended. But you know who you are. I am shaking my finger at you in disapproval.

Color, Blindness

So I got dressed in the dark this morning. I don’t know why, exactly. I mean, nobody else was in the room, so there was nobody to wake up by turning on the light. But I grabbed a shirt that wasn’t the one I thought. I lucked out, in that it’s only a slightly different color than the one I was aiming for, but I’m still going to feel self-conscious all day because my tie doesn’t quite match as well as it should. Sigh

Honk Thump Bump Crap!

There’s a school crossing I pass by every day, and sometimes school just got out and the lights are flashing, so I slow down to 20 mph. But that’s a speed that’s so difficult to maintain that I pretty much have to watch my speedometer the whole time. So there’s actually an increased risk that I’m not paying enough attention to the road and could hit a kid. Maybe I’ll see if I can get my cruise control to work at such a slow speed.

Bah!

Just in case there’s anybody out there who still doesn’t think I’m a terrible person, I have something to tell you. I don’t like Christmas music. I enjoy the holiday itself. I love spending time with family and friends, and, as previously mentioned, I love eggnog. But Christmas music… I don’t know. It’s just so repetitive. I get tired of being told what someone I’ll never meet wants for Christmas, even when it’s just peace on earth and snow and roasted chestnuts.
That’s the other thing. Nobody roasts chestnuts anymore or hangs mistletoe, instead favoring plastic and painted styrofoam. Maybe people still go on sleigh rides, in the few places that still see significant snowfall. So, for the most part, these songs are no longer really relevant. They exist as sort of a memory of another time seen as romantic, when in fact if we were transported back to such a time we would be aghast at the lack of electronics and pain-free dentistry.
Here is another example of those posts in which I have no idea how I got from point A to point B.

Courtesy Laugh

Isn’t it weird how some things can be hilarious when you are tired but totally lame when you’re in full possession of your mental faculties? Last night I was sort of half asleep and the following conversation took place between two people in my mind.

Person 1: “He’s really crabby sometimes.”
Person 2: “And the rest of the time?”
Person 1: “He’s not here.”

Now, to be fair, I can’t remember the exact words, so it may have actually been funnier, but that’s the general idea. For some reason, in my half-asleep state it seemed pretty clever. Then I finally remembered it a few minutes ago, and I can’t for the life of me understand why I was so entertained by it.
I guess the point is that if you’re a stand-up comedian, you should play some lullabies to get the audience to start to doze off.

Taste-Tastic!

It’s funny that I did a couple posts about super powers but neglected to mention the super power that I do have. Are you ready for this? I’m a supertaster.
I know, I know. You’re all so astonished that you’re wondering the same thing: How can I make money by knowing someone with super powers? Well, it’s surprisingly difficult to capitalize on the situation. I would love to be a cheese taster, but it’s a surprisingly difficult industry to break into. Hollywood has nothing on the cheese-tasting business.
Some of you may be wondering what exactly a supertaster is. For that, I refer you to the song “John Lee Supertaster” by They Might Be Giants. Or you can always use the power of the internet to find out. Basically I perceive tastes far more intensely than the “average” person. Okay, so like 25% of people are supertasters…
The moral of the story is that no matter what you do well, there is always a huge umber of other people who can do exactly the same thing at least as well as you do.

Break a Leg

Last night I saw a musical at a high school. I must admit that my experience was somewhat colored by the fact that, generally speaking, I don’t like musicals.
There are, of course, exceptions, but overall I think you’ll find that most musicals please women but not men. With a few minor changes, however, I think you could adapt most musicals to allow everyone to enjoy them. Here are a few suggestions:

Remove half of the songs.

Take the remaining songs and shorten them by half. In the case of the obligatory grand finale, reduce the length by two-thirds.

All French accents should be replaced by a Western drawl.

Replace each dance with a fistfight.

Each act must contain an on-stage car or wagon chase. The chase must be set to the theme from Benny Hill.

Whenever a character dies, he or she should be alive again in the next scene with the explanation “Just kidding!”

More talking animals

To provide motivation for the actors, the audience members should each be issued a piece of rotten fruit “just in case.”

Do you have any other suggestions?

When the Egg Comes A-Nog Nog Nogging

There’s one thing that makes this time of year great. No, no, besides Christmas and Thanksgiving and family togetherness facilitated by stressing oneself to the point of a nervous breakdown. I’m talking about eggnog.
Oh, eggnog. Thick, creamy, golden ambrosia. Making the lowliest peasants feel like kings and queens. Warmer of hearts. Filler of stomachs. Ladies and gentlemen, I propose a toast. To eggnog!

Kwality

I just had a great idea. You know how kids are famously picky when it comes to food? Well, I realized that they’re much more discriminating than the FDA apparently is, given the rash of food recalls we’ve experienced recently. So we should team up each adult inspector with a toddler, and watch the quality of food products increase. Genius!

Laughter: Now Guilt-Free!

Sometimes I wonder if our sense of humor reveals our true beliefs and values. For example, I admit that when I see a tiny woman driving a huge truck, with her eyes barely above the steering wheel, it amuses me. Does that make me some sort of misogynist? I don’t think she doesn’t belong behind the wheel, it’s just amusing for some inexplicable reason.
I also think it’s funny when harmless injuries happen to people, like when people get smacked on the head with a cardboard tube or hit with a nerf ball. Does that make me a misanthropic sadist? Well, maybe. But look at it this way. I’m providing as much amusement to other people as they are to me. We may not all be willing to help each other achieve financial independence, but at least we can all score the occasional laugh off of each other. We might as well enjoy it without feeling guilty.

I’m trying to decide if I’m a night person or a morning person. I don’t have a problem waking up or getting out of bed, but I don’t just keel over at 9 p.m. either. Is this another case of how labeling people doesn’t really work? Is labeling someone a labeler just another label? Label is one of those words that sounds weird the more you think about it.

This stream of consciousness is brought to you by the letter Z, or the lack thereof.

Quick Question

Has anybody, anywhere, at any time actually enjoyed eating Bit-O-Honey candy? why do they make that stuff? It's like chewing gum with nuts in it. Seriously, I want to know if you can find anyone who likes it.

Geeky or Geriatric?

I must be getting older, because I’ve started using my shirt pocket to actually carry things on occasion. Well, maybe that’s not so much a sign of getting older as it is a sign of getting nerdier. Either way, it’s slightly depressing.
Wait a minute. Maybe there are some parallels here. Old people and nerdy people both wear their pants high. They stereotypically wear glasses, have health problems, and like bland food.
Sometimes I’m so insightful that it’s scary.

Potential Energy

I’m convinced that I have some undiscovered talent that would make me the best in some field or other. I guess that’s one reason to try everything you can, because that way you have a better chance of finding it. It could be some sport, or artistic medium, or simply the ability to wear a beard of bees without getting stung. Whatever it is, I know that if I can only discover it, my financial worries will be over.

Does anybody else ever think about this? If not, maybe the wondering itself is my talent, which would be very sad.

By the way, this is my 151st post. So, to whoever doubted my ability to write that many posts about nothing, Pbth!

Round 2

In light of yesterday’s post and the ensuing comments, I will use my incredible knowledge (i.e., the fact that it’s my blog) to settle the matter once and for all. Yes, that’s right. Thousands of scientists throughout the years have dedicated entire lifetimes to studying the differences between men and women, but I’m going to answer the questions right here and now.
The real key to this issue, as well as questions of addiction and even gender identity itself, lies in the mixture of genetic predisposition and environmental stimuli. That is, certain behavioral patters are predisposed genetically. But for the most part they are able to be overcome based on the environment and the experiences of each individual. For example, a person may be predisposed to alcoholism. But he obviously can’t become an alcoholic if he never touches the stuff. Do you ever hear anybody argue “I’m an alcoholic because God made me that way”? Of course not. It’s accepted that we exert some control over our behavior.
And so it is with much of the way we act and even think. Our genes provide a basic program, if you will. But we, through effort, can alter the source code, to continue with the software analogy, to gain a measure of control over the outcome. A woman who is raised exclusively around men is unlikely to exhibit all of the stereotypically female behaviors. But, at the same time, studies show that young boys and girls are more likely to gravitate to toy trucks and dolls, respectively.
So the real answer is that, taking each gender as a whole, there are marked differences between the way women and men act, but any given individual is going to vary greatly.
If you read this whole thing, you have earned a gold star. In fact, make that a pink or blue one.

XX Vs. XY

I’ve never described myself as a manly man, and I’m pretty certain that everyone who knows me would agree with that. As I have become a more-or-less responsible adult, however, I have begun to feel the pull of machismo. Part of this stems from the need to learn to fix things to save money. But it also seems to be a natural, inevitable process most guys seem to go through. And when I successfully fix something on the car, for example, it leads to a great sense of accomplishment.

Here’s a case in point. Down the street a ways, somebody is selling an old jeep. I don’t know exactly how old it is, how much they want for it, or even if it’s in running condition. And I certainly don’t need another car (although maybe it would end up more reliable than the ones we have, given our recent troubles). But something inside me is begging to call that number and find out. I’ve always wanted a jeep. I don’t know why. They aren’t very comfortable to ride in, and they probably get terrible gas mileage.

So here’s the question: Are we hard-wired with tendencies toward certain behavior? Do women feel an uncontrollable urge to put on makeup and impractical footwear?

Check out Wordsmith to explore the issue further.

Perchance to Dream

Last night I think my brain wanted to cover all the bases when it came to dreaming. There was somebody chasing me, some sort of alien takeover of the earth, and I was the star of a one-act play. Apparently I didn’t have any trouble remembering my lines, but I think my dream skipped over the actual performance to the congratulations afterward. I wish I knew what the play was about.

John, John, Bo-Bohn..

I have often heard people say things like “I’m no good with names, but I never forget a face.” I don’t know why there’s some sort of requirement that we remember one or the other. Personally, I am terrible with both names and faces.

Seriously, every time I’m introduced to someone new I instantly forget both their name and their face, unless there’s something especially unique about them. If you’re 8 feet tall, have purple skin, wings, and your name is Vlad the Impaler, I will probably remember you. If, however, you’re a white male, about 6 feet tall, and have short, dark hair and brown eyes, there’s pretty much a zero chance that your name or face is going to stick in my memory. It’s nothing personal. It’s just the way my brain works.

I also have an irrational fear that even when I’ve learned someone’s name, I will end up being wrong if I say it out loud. So there are times when I will avoid it, even when I’ve known the person for weeks or months.

So I’d like to apologize in advance for getting your name wrong, Ned. Or is it Ted? Come to think of it, have we met before?

Pre-Owned Furniture Emporium

I think every neighborhood has one of these spots. It all starts innocently enough when someone putting an old desk out by the curb with a sign saying "Free!" Then someone adds an old washing machine. Pretty soon it blossoms into this crime against civilization:
I'm so proud to live in this neighborhood.

Tele-What?

In today’s most laughable news story, the Writers Guild of America just went on strike. Apparently this means nobody will be writing anything for television until the strike is over. My question is this: How will anybody notice?

I mean, seriously, “original” writing these days means watching television shows from other countries and trying to figure out how best to steal their ideas. There hasn’t been a truly original idea in television in decades.

The ironic thing is that the worst-case scenario is also the best-case scenario. In the case of a prolonged strike, people might actually venture outdoors, or into the increasingly unfamiliar world of reading. Children might rediscover their latent imagination, and parents might learn to actually interact with their children. What a tragedy that would be!

Dude, Look! Like, a Lady!

I was thinking about how there is an Academy Award category for best actor and one for best actress. But there aren’t two gender-specific categories for best makeup artist or best director. Is acting really something women and men can’t compete in fairly?

I understand how there are separate men’s and women’s Olympic events, at least when it comes to things like weightlifting or gymnastics. I wonder about things like tennis, though. Can a female professional tennis player not compete fairly with a male professional player? What about golf?

The funny thing to me is that some people are going to significant lengths to blur the lines between genders. It’s only a matter of time before a man surgically altered to become a woman tries to get into women’s sports, thinking he can easily beat the other women. For centuries, even millennia, women were denied equality with men. Now, in some cultures, things are finally becoming more or less equal. But we hang on to some of these strange differentiations, thinking that a male and female actress can’t compete as apples and apples, which seems especially strange in liberal Hollywood.

I guess these are strange thoughts. But what else would you expect from a guy?

Super-Duper?

Think about your stereotypical super powers. What if somebody had them but only partially? I don’t mean lame powers like in Mystery Men or The Specials; I mean the really good powers, but not having them at full strength. I can’t imagine that would be terribly effective at fighting crime. Imagine someone who is able to fly, for example. Who’s to say they could necessarily fly any faster than they could walk? It’s funny to imagine somebody slowly puttering across the sky in a spandex suit, while the criminals make their getaway in a car.

Then there’s the ability to turn yourself invisible. Well, that’s another situation in which partial ability doesn’t do you much good. The ability to become translucent is likely to aid in medical diagnosis, but it’s not really handy when it comes to fighting crime, although some villain might become squeamish at the sight of your internal organs and run away.

The only partial-strength superpower I think would be really useful is super strength. You might not be able to arm-wrestle Superman, but you’d still be able to impress the ladies at the local gym. And it would be even better if you were really scrawny.

Uncompromising Compromise

I’m kind of an all-or-nothing person. If there’s one piece of pie left, Id rather have it all or give the whole thing to someone else than split it. I can remember being the same way about dating. If someone didn’t want to date me, and we weren’t friends originally, I had no desire to try to be friends. I had enough friends; the last thing I wanted was to hang around someone, pining away after her.

I’m not saying compromise is bad. There are many situations in which it’s the only sensible solution, especially in big, important issues. But when it comes to the little things, compromise just tends to leave everyone feeling unsatisfied. At least if one of you gives in, the other will be satisfied. This is part of the idea of recognizing that you can’t expect to get your own way all the time.

Hello, Ween

I love Halloween. I love that it doesn’t have the cutesy feeling of other holidays. I love dressing up. I love that nobody talks about “the true spirit of Halloween.” I love that you don’t have to give and receive presents and cards, which eliminates a lot of stress. You don’t have to feel guilty if you just have a good time, or even if you do nothing at all. It’s just a holiday that’s there to be enjoyed. So go forth and find the Great Pumpkin!

Brownie Nose

So I was wondering about the origin of the term “brownie points.” It looks like it relates to the term “brown nose,” which derived from the girl-scout-type group Brownies. Apparently it used to have a more negative connotation that I think it does now.

Think about all the times you’ve done something that earned you brownie points with someone. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could somehow cash in all your points? What’s the point of earning these hypothetical points if there’s no way to redeem them? You can sometimes get a favor in return, but they seem to expire if you save them until you really need them.

So, from now on, whenever I do anything that’s worth brownie points, I’m going to ask the person how many points I get so I can keep track of them. Then I’ll create some kind of brownie points catalog so I know what I can redeem them for.

Hmm, this is starting to sound like a lot of work. If anyone wants to do that for me, it would be worth 640 points.

Your Head... Smells Like a Smoothie

Have you seen any commercials lately for hair products? They seem less like shampoo commercials and more like advertisements for Dole. The claim is that by “infusing” their products with “natural essences” it will help your hair be shiny and, presumably, ready to munch on before the main course.

Why does anybody think that your hair needs vitamins? Vitamins nourish your body when they are absorbed through your digestive system. Your hair is not alive. That’s why it doesn’t hurt when you cut it. You might as well pour milk on a skeleton, hoping it will keep the bones strong.

Frankly, I’d rather trust unpronounceable chemicals to keep my hair clean. At least they’ve been developed and tested in some lab. Let’s not shop for hair products at Jamba Juice.

Take the Plunge and Fall

There’s no doubt that fall is a beautiful season. The moon is beautiful too, but that doesn’t mean I ever want to live there. The problem with fall is that when I leave the house in the morning I have to wear a jacket and scrape the frost from my windshield. Then, at the end of the day, it’s warm enough out that my car interior could be used as a slow cooker. Since I have no desire for a daily vehicle-prepared pot roast, I find the swing in temperatures uncomfortable.

Fall is the ultimate indecisive season. It can’t decide if it’s trying to be summer or winter. Now, I don’t mind the summer lingering (sorry, Jen, but 80 degrees is still preferable to 20 degrees); the problem is the wild swing in temperatures, which a less enlightened guy might liken to female mood swings. So we might as well launch ourselves headlong into the dark, dreary winter. Let’s go, already! Get it over with—rip off that bandage in one swift motion!

Insecticide


This is a drawing of a box elder beetle. We get a lot of these beetles in the house. They don’t bite and they don’t get into our food or anything. They just walk around, looking for decaying plant matter to eat. It’s sort of like having a bunch of little pets that you don’t have to take care of. They do occasionally fly around inside (which makes my two-year-old point and say “Whoa! Bug!”), but they really don’t bother us.

This life, however, is apparently not always fulfilling enough. And so, at about 10:00 last night, one of these little critters decided to climb up into a halogen floor lamp and take his own life. The immediate result of this, aside from the poor thing’s demise, was that we wondered if our house was on fire. Let me tell you, the smell of frying insects is probably something to avoid whenever possible.

The Pace of Life

I’m a fast walker. It’s true. I admit it. It all started in junior high school when I suddenly had to make it to several different classrooms every day with only five minutes in between and oh I bumped into that guy and almost dropped my trapper-keeper!

The problem didn’t get any better in high school. Now I was in a bigger school with more students. I did become skilled at moving through a crowd (here’s where being rail-thin paid off), but I retained the fast walk. In college the distances grew even greater, and despite a longer break between classes, there was little opportunity to slow down.

So now when my wife and I go to the store, I feel compelled to get from the car to the store as fast as possible, as if I’m hurrying to a bomb shelter before the Luftwaffe arrives. Meanwhile, my wife is walking at a normal pace, probably even a little slower to avoid being seen with me.

If I go to the mall by myself, I move at least three times as fast as anybody else in the place. I know what store or stores I’m going to, so there’s no point in wasting time in transit. It’s as if everyone else is moving in slow motion.

Is this simply a case of efficiency, or is it a problem? Should I be forced to wear weights around my ankles to slow me down? I just want to be normal…

Cleanliness Is next to Impossible

I think it would be fair to say that I’m a reasonably clean person in most respects. I don’t throw my clothes on the floor, I try to do my dishes (unless there’s already a pile in the sink—then I give up and just add to it), and I do my best to keep my fingernails clean.

For some reason, though, I can never keep a desk clean. It seems so harmless to just set a paper on my desk, but before I know it, it has somehow multiplied until it looks like I cut down the Amazon just to have an excuse to use my paperweight of the Lincoln Memorial that I got when I was eight.

I wonder if we all have one or two ways in which we struggle to be clean. I’ve seen bedrooms where the color of the carpet has long ago vanished into the realm of quantum uncertainty, and nobody dares look, lest by ascertaining the color it becomes an ugly one. Some people just can’t seem to look like they’ve bathed within the last week, even fresh from the shower.

Am I right about this? What do you have trouble keeping clean or organized (and I don't want you to say "thoughts")?

Quilt While You're Ahead

In my neighborhood there’s a quilting store. In fact, there are two, across the street from each other. Every time I pass by, there are women between the ages of 40 and 70 getting into or out of cars there, meandering across the street ignoring oncoming traffic. There’s a certain “look” that all these quilting women seem to have.

At this point I should emphasize that I have no objection to the hobby of quilting. I have a few quilts and blankets made by relatives, and they can be great gifts. The thing that bothers me is that somehow I have the impression that this is what these women do with their lives. From sunup to sundown they are hunched over quilting frames, feverishly trying to outdo “that hussy down the street who doesn’t even tie the right kind of knots but gets all the attention with her flashy designs.” As I drive by it’s difficult to resist the temptation to yell something like “Why don’t you contribute something meaningful to society, instead of wasting all your time and money on quilting?!” I recognize the irrationality of this, but that’s how I feel.

Do you have any irrational issues with anger?

North of the Border

The other day I saw a flock of birds apparently flying east for the winter. This could mean any number of things. Maybe the leading bird was a bird politician and was telling the others that they were going south. Or maybe they were just on their way to pick up the last member of their group before migrating. "Get up, Leroy, or we're leaving without you!"

Another possibility is that the earth’s magnetic pole is reversing. Apparently this happens on the average about every 250,000 years, and some scientists think that it will happen soon. If so, that could mess with animals’ sense of directions. And it will make a good excuse for when men get lost. “Don’t blame me! I was just going by the earth’s magnetic field!”

Ting-a-ling?

Every morning on my way to work I see a certain car parked in a certain lot. It’s a 2006 or 2007 Mustang GT with some pretty expensive work done on it. It’s a very masculine-looking car. This morning I saw the owner, and it is a twenty-something man. The thing that doesn’t quite add up for me (and call me old-fashioned here) is that he apparently works at a flower shop.

I can understand a guy working at a flower shop. It’s a perfectly honorable job to have. But it seems to contrast with the typical image of the guy who has the souped-up sports car.

Maybe the car is compensation.

Hello! My Name Is Bingo!

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m not a big fan of current naming trends of children. Here are some rules I have come up with that will help children avoid intense ridicule at school.

No mixing names. If the parents’ names are Linda and Bob, don’t name your child Binda, Lindbob, or Boblinda. It's not nearly as clever as it seems.

No words that might have a meaning in other context. This is not so much because they’re all bad (April is a perfectly good name), but I know I’d be confused if I kept hearing my name constantly for one month out of the year. Maybe it’s just me, but imagine if your name were Computer. You’d hear it all the time, and you’d probably be driven to a murderous rage.

Be careful about spelling. Take Brian Regan’s advice and spell your girl’s name Amy instead of Aymie. Think of how many times throughout her life she’ll have to have that spelling corrected. The originality isn’t worth the inconvenience. Let your child distinguish herself by her actions instead of her name.

I know you don’t want your child to have the same name as four other children in his class, but that’s not sufficient justification to name him Methylchloroisothiazolinone. That’s not a name; that’s a shampoo ingredient.

You might want to steer clear of names that are traditional of an ethnicity other than your own. A white boy named Sione might be beaten up by Polynesian boys, which is probably something to avoid.

Remember that your child will one day grow up. She might be embarrassed to run around as a high-powered executive if her name is Binky Boo.

The point of this advice is to actually consider your child’s feelings, but you're just going to ignore it. That's it; I wash my hands of all of you.

Somebody Take Photoshop Away

Here's another product of my diseased imagination.


I Canna Do It!

It’s very romantic to dream about nothing being impossible. While that may be true, in the sense that, logically, nothing can be proven to be mathematically impossible (so I guess only impossibility is impossible… but then it’s not… but then it is…I think I just broke my brain), there are some things which have such an infinitesimally small probability that we could pretty much say they are impossible. Here are a few things that I consider impossible:

Getting a toothpaste stain out of a tie.

Microsoft Word actually formatting a document the way you want

Looking as attractive or as unattractive as you think you look

Ordering a pizza that will satisfy everyone’s tastes (The difficulty increases exponentially with each person involved.)

Finding good-tasting food that’s nutritious (If you claim that you enjoy bran muffins and Brussels sprouts, you’re either deluding yourself or you’re adding unhealthy things to make them palatable.)

So what do you think is impossible?

There's the truth.... and THE TRUTH!

This morning I got to wondering what it would be like if everyone in the world suddenly became completely honest in every way. I imagine that international issues would be resolved more easily.

U.N. Nuclear Inspector: “So, where are your materials for making nuclear weapons?”

Kim Jong Il: “Right through here. Watch your step—the doorway is a bit low. Oh, and we put poison in your water. You’ve probably got 5 or 6 minutes to live.”

Politics would be a little more straightforward:

"Vote for me! I promise to forget all of you the moment I’m elected and dedicate myself to indulging in every kind of personal excess. Oh, and by the way, I inhaled and I liked it!”

Advertising would sure be interesting:

"Buy Superslim Pills! They don't work, but we've got families to feed!"

It’s on the level of personal relationships that we would truly suffer (I’m sure you could see this coming):

“Honey, does this make me look fat?”

“It sure does. But it’s certainly better than what you usually wear.”

As you can see, we would all have to learn to take criticism and be more humble in general. Otherwise, we would probably be reduced to communicating with electronic devices instead of people.

Wait a second…

Take It Like a Man

There’s a part in the movie Night at the Museum which I particularly enjoy. Ben Stiller’s character is about to have his head rammed with a model train, which he really doesn’t want to happen. Owen Wilson’s character says something to the effect of “Quit whining, and take it like a man!”

As silly as this may seem, I think it’s good advice to apply to life in general. We are so obsessed with making people pay for mistakes that we are becoming less and less willing to “just deal with it.” For example, if I order a meal in a restaurant and don’t like it, it’s not necessarily the restaurant’s fault. It’s my fault for ordering the Grilled Dog Poo in the first place (thanks, Johnny).

We need to accept that sometimes things just won’t go our way. Occasionally we purchase an article of clothing that falls apart within a few weeks, or a gallon of milk that’s sour. These things happen. Take it like a man.

I’m not saying we should never ask others to take responsibility for their actions. I got my car back from the shop, and I think they accidentally broke something while they had it. You better believe I’m going to try to get them to fix it for free. But if my package of Girl Scout cookies is short one tagalong, I’m not going to take them to court over it.

Get over it.

Give Me a "P"!

I’m not really a patient person. I think I’m a lot more patient now than I used to be, but I’ve still got a long way to go, particularly when I’m having a conversation.

Sometimes I’m talking to someone who is taking too long to get to the point, and my mind wanders. It’s hard not to daydream about slapping them and screaming, “Get to the point, you steaming mound of turkey fertilizer!” When I forget myself and actually shout it, that’s generally the end of thoughtful discussion (although it does change the subject, so maybe there’s something to be said for that tactic after all).

The other problem I have during a conversation occurs when I’ve already thoroughly researched the issue at hand and familiarized myself with the different points of view before reaching a conclusion. Nevertheless, once the topic is introduced, people will proceed to inform me that I am incorrect because of some point which I’ve already considered. Basically, I’m five steps ahead of them in the conversation, and my brain is about to eject itself and parachute to safety if I stick around much longer.

So if, in the middle of a conversation with you, I clutch the top of my head and start running away screaming, I'm sorry. Please don’t take it personally.

What kind of things do you have trouble being patient about?

"...was everybody dancing on the casket?"

I was thinking about what sort of epitaph I might like on my tombstone (hey, but you never know). I think it would be fun to put something a little silly on it, like “Dig here to find out whose grave this is” or “I'm with stupid-->”

But let’s be honest. No matter what kind of fun things you might want done at your funeral or what you want on your tombstone, your family will just override your wishes anyway. I suppose you could make their inheritance contingent on fulfilling your wishes. “To my brother Bill I bequeath $10,000, if he sings “O Danny Boy” at the funeral, in Pig Latin, while drinking a glass of pickle brine.

“And to my sister Suzie, I leave my house, if she can recite the entire periodic table while jumping on a pogo stick.”

As long as you leave out the obligatory “Mwa ha ha ha!” in the will, it could still be a solemn occasion.

Help Stop Laryngial Tremens

All right, people. Listen up. This is going to be tough for some of you, especially the ladies. It’s time to lay down the law. Just because you can sing vibrato doesn’t mean you should sing every song that way.

Yes, I know. It takes skill and control. It also takes skill and control for me to turn a doorknob with my feet, but you don’t see me doing that in front of company.

Now calm down and take a deep breath. Together we can get through this.

Subjective Objectives

Five things I want to do before I die:

Eat an ostrich egg omelet

Try at least a hundred kinds of cheese

Have a novel published

Fish in the ocean

Own a house (have it all paid off)

What about you?

Warning! Pun Ahead!

This morning I had a great idea for another Harry Potter book, a prequel to the series. It would be called Harry Potter and the Giblet of Fire. Then I remembered that they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Great Britain. Sigh. Such a wasted opportunity.

Shun the Non-believer! Shuuuuuuun!


So a few weeks ago I wrote a post about a mysterious calculator at work. Finding only skepticism, however, I snapped a pic of today’s cryptic message. Admittedly, it’s a pic from a camera phone, but it should still suffice. I mean, seriously, how do you type a semicolon on a calculator? How do you get multiple decimals?

"We're through the looking glass here, people."

I Work in a Button Factory...

Do you ever look at strangers and wonder what they are really like? I think we all tend to look at people we don't know and assume they are just another grain of sand on the beach of life, without anything unique about them. For example, I recently met a man who, it turns out, is a nationally-ranked pole-vaulter. Talk about something you wouldn’t expect. It’s these unexpected things that give us individuality. Here are a few things about me that you may or may not know.

I like cheese and jam sandwiches.

I have the amazing ability to wear size 10, 10 ½, or 11 shoes.

By concentrating, I can produce a strange, tickling sensation inside my body. I really want to know the physiological explanation of this.

I have a sneaking suspicion that if I were rich, I would become a real jerk (or at least more so).

I secretly aspire to be a James-Bond-movie-style criminal mastermind.

Now it’s your turn. What things do people generally not know about you that make you interesting?

Hair Today...

Sorry about the lame title. It was an homage to all those Bugs Bunny cartoons which used the word “hare” in them (which was about 85% of the cartoons in which he appeared).

Anyway, those of you who know me are probably aware that I usually go too long between haircuts. I’m currently at that point where the hair starting to take on a mind of its own and become totally unmanageable. And my sideburns are starting to look like those of the man for whom the term was coined:



Any yet I always put off getting a haircut, for reasons which are unknown to me. Let’s consider the possibilities.

1. I know my hair is only going to last so long. I’m tempted to take pictures of my hairline to see how fast it’s receding. So I want to cherish every last moment with it, and getting it cut is symbolic of losing it.

2. I got a bad haircut once, when I was about 12, and the trauma has stayed with me despite the overwhelming odds that it will be a good cut.

3. I hate spending $15 or $20 that I feel could be better used elsewhere, such as on the purchase of a funny hat or half a dozen bags of Doritos.

So how can I overcome this irrational fear?

Sincere Question

There are some things in life that I don’t understand, such as why the following foods exist:

Pre-packaged sandwiches

Green-apple flavored anything (except actual green apples)

Pasta salad (but I love actual pasta)

Butter cookies in a tin

I honestly want to know if you know anybody who likes any of these things (I’m guessing green apple has some fans).

Pointless Experiment

Don’t yawn. Seriously.

Okay, after you read that, did you have an irresistible urge to yawn? I certainly did after writing it.

Sign of the Times




















This little beauty has been appearing around the office today.

You Are Utterly Average in Every Way

Some people can’t take criticism, while others can’t take compliments. I won’t pretend that I’m great at taking criticism, although I make an attempt to keep an open mind (at least that part of my mind that’s not actively plotting revenge). I’m utterly terrible at taking compliments, though. Part of the problem stems from studying other languages. In many parts of the world the only way to receive a compliment is to deny it vehemently.

“I like your coat.”

“This old thing? I stole it from a dead hobo. It makes me look and smell like a rotting whale carcass.”

In other parts of the world, if you compliment someone’s clothing, they will try to take it off and give it to you. This leads us to a discussion entitled “The World’s Worst Pickup Lines,” which is best left for another time.

In truth, the only universally acceptable way to deal with a compliment is to immediately spill a hot drink on yourself, scream, and run for the nearest bathroom. It maintains your dignity while defusing a potentially awkward situation.

The Result of My Having Free Time

Spider (He is our hero!)

Well, it’s that time of year again. I know what you’re thinking, and no, I don’t mean that time when the leaves turn golden, the air turns crisp, and the warm aroma of an apple pie baking in the oven drifts gently through the house. No, it’s the time of year when you’d better take a close look at your shower before you hop in each morning, because there’s nothing quite like standing there naked and wet, only to discover a large spider crawling toward your exposed foot.

I try not to kill spiders as a matter of principle. I usually put them outside or just leave them be. But when I’m at my most vulnerable, dripping wet in the shower, and I see one in there, it’s more than likely not going to survive the encounter. To all the arachnids for whose untimely death I bear responsibility, I offer my most heartfelt apologies.

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop.

Why, Yes, I Do Happen to Have a Saw...

I like to learn about things. Sometimes I’ll be looking up some information on the Web, and the information leads me to something else, which leads me to something else, until I end up learning about Soviet ICBMs instead of the origin of the lute. I’m sure this is partly due to a lack of mental discipline, but to me the whole world is terribly fascinating.

Most people I know would probably agree that I know a little bit about a lot of things. On the other hand, my comprehension of a particular subject is often not terribly deep. The “jack-of-all-trades” concept has a negative connotation, but I think that’s unfair. I prefer to think of myself as a Swiss army knife of a person, ready with a spork or a fish scaler. It may not be an ideal knife for peeling vegetables or committing armed robbery, but when you need an all-purpose tool, it’s not a bad thing to have around.

Not that I’m trying to get invited to more parties or anything.

Huked on Foniks Wurkt fur Me!

Do you remember those “Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” posters? Yes, yes, we all thought they were cute at the time. But the fact is, I probably learned far more useless facts in school than relevant information. For example, how to distinguish between Doric and Ionian Greek pillars has, strangely, never been a qualification for employment; and I rarely ever need to calculate the cosine of anything.

No, no, the useful skills and information I learned in school were often unintended side-effects of my education. I know how to recognize the moment a guy is about to punch me, and I know how to make a museum-quality sculpture from paper, tape, spit, and paper clips.

What lessons did you inadvertently learn in school?

It's 11:00. Do you know where your children are?

I recently had an idea for a website for parents. The idea behind it is that there are all kinds of things going on with kids that parents might not have a clue even exist, so how could they ask their kids about them? So my friend Todd helped me set up the site www.kidsavvy.org to serve this purpose. It's still under construction, and there isn't much content on there yet, but we hope to expand quickly. I'd appreciate it if you'd pass the word along to parents so we can start to collect more information that may be helpful.

Now Playing

Do you have any DVDs that play several previews before you can get to the actual movie? That really bothers me. I paid for this disc. I own it. I don’t need Hollywood cramming more and more advertising in my life. Has anybody ever bought a movie because they saw the preview on a disc they just bought? They’re always for some really famous movie you already know, or they’re for some show that is apparently intended as a cure to insomnia. Let’s see if I can make one up.

“Imagine a world where everything you knew (dramatic pause)… is turned upside down. Trevor Dingbat was just an ordinary boy… until one day, his life was changed forever. Now he’s facing the greatest challenge of his life because he decided to… Wish upon a Star.”

I totally made that up in 30 seconds. But it sounds genuine, doesn’t it?

[Update: According to the IMDB, Wish upon a Star is a real movie, made in 1996, about a girl who wishes to trade places with her older, popular sibling.]

Personal Neologisms

Butt Crack n.: The small opening at the top of the car window allowing smokers to dislodge the ash from the tip of a cigarette

What words do you secretly use to describe things?

Playing Favorites

Have you ever filled out one of those surveys which asks you for your favorite ________? They sometimes circulate on the internet among friends, but I’m referring to an actual piece of paper you fill out, like on the first day of class, or when joining some other group.

Anyway, I filled one of those out a week ago. In this case, it was specifically about music. It asked for my favorite song, musical group, and music-related memory. Favorite music-related memory? How many people have a ready answer to that question?

I must be strange, because I don’t generally have “favorite” things. I don’t have a favorite color, for example. I don’t have a favorite food. I don’t have a favorite song. I’m sure this is unusual, but I don’t like the idea of my whole life and personality boiled down to a few words.

Blurb

Have you ever looked at a really old book? I mean something at least 200 years old. Aside from the occasionall work like Don Quixote, they’re nearly always some treatise on religion or some academic endeavor. Where are the trashy romance novels from the 1500s? I’m sure the predominant thinking is that there was a lot more censorship back then, but I think maybe that kind of material was just so well used that it hasn’t survived to the present day. Think about the books you read often. Aren’t they in worse shape than your old college textbooks? Which are more likely to survive for centuries? Suppose some disease wipes out humanity, and several centuries later extraterrestrials visit our world. They’re going to think we all read Dialectal Readings on Metaphysics instead of Harry Potter. They’ll wonder how we got wiped out if we were so smart.

Honk Beep Beep Honk Beep

Like it or not, your car makes a statement about you. Here’s an accurate guide I just made up to what some of those statements are.

New Corvette: I have money and I like fast cars.

New BMW: I have a lot of money and I like German cars.

Hummer: I demand that you acknowledge my presence! Out of the way, mortals!

Cadillac Escalade: I demand that you acknowledge my riches! Worship me, impecunious masses!

Honda Accord/Toyota Camry: I have no will of my own.

Toyota Prius: I’m so concerned about the environment that I conveniently neglected to calculate that, compared to a Corolla, I pay $1700 more per year in order to save $500 in gas.

The Highs and Lows of Height

I was a pretty short kid, right up until about my junior year of high school. I didn’t feel like I ever had a real growth spurt, but eventually I attained my present, average height. So I understand what it’s like to be short, and from living in Korea for a couple of years I understand what it’s like to be tall (the average height there is increasing quickly due to better nutrition, but I was still taller than average). And I must say, there is something about being taller than someone that makes you feel a little bit superior in some inexplicable way. It’s not the same for men when they’re taller than women, but I bet women feel it especially strongly when they’re taller than men. And, inversely, I feel a little inferior to those taller than me.

Just for the record, most of the people I know, tall or short, male or female, adult or child, could effortlessly beat me into submission, so I have no idea where the feeling comes from. There’s absolutely no logic behind it, and no physical basis for any sort of superiority. It’s just one of those irrational things about being human. Is it just me, or is this a common thing?

Hankerin' for Hangers

I’ve heard that hangers seem to multiply in the closet, until you have way more hangers than clothes. It seems to be one of those ideas in the public consciousness, like losing socks in the dryer. Well, I must say that this is one thing that doesn’t apply to me. In fact, I bet a small percentage of the population, including me, seem to mysteriously lose hangers. That’s probably why the rest of you keep finding them. There’s some weird closet-specific geographic displacement field transporting my hangers into your closet. Maybe I’ll start writing my name and phone number on my hangers. Give me a call if they turn up.

Trust Me

Recently I was reminded of one of the few useful skills I possess (I’m afraid the ability to open doors with my feet will not result in significant financial gain). For some reason, I have the ability to convince people that I know what I’m talking about, even when I’m completely making things up. Personally, I think it has to do with wearing glasses and looking as much like a nerd as possible. I’d like to try an experiment talking to people on the street, trying to gauge by their reaction how much they believe my "knowledge" on various subjects. I’d do it with glasses, neat hair, and a spiffy orthopedic shoe/sweater vest combo.

At any rate, the question is this: how can I make the most of this ability, short of becoming a “scientist” for the tobacco lobby?

11001001010011101001

There’s a strange phenomenon happening in the cubicle next to mine. My coworker has a standard solar-powered calculator sitting on his desk. Every morning when he comes in, there’s something different on the display. Sometimes it’s a regular number, but sometimes it has multiple decimal points and minus signs that we couldn’t duplicate if we tried. I wondered if the cleaning folks might have used it (I’ve done janitorial work, and it’s not fair that they always get blamed for things, but that’s a subject for another time), but they certainly wouldn’t need to use it every night, and it’s doubtful that they could create the theoretically impossible display of characters.
So, throwing Occam’s Razor out the window (that stupid monk always spoils everything), what could be causing this? I think that point is the location of a weakness in the space-time continuum which allows people in another dimension to communicate with us. Now we just need to figure out their code.

Killing Time

If you ask people what period in history they would like to live in, they’ll usually choose a time period that seems romantic or exciting to them, like Renaissance Italy, or ancient Greece, or the old west. I must be weird, because I’m too practical. I wouldn’t go back in time at all. I’d rather stay in the present, for the most up-to-date knowledge of medicine (and hygiene). I don’t want to live in a time when they just have to pull your teeth out if you have a toothache, or you die from various mysterious “fevers.” And I certainly don’t want to live in a time when daily showers are unheard of.

What time period would you like to live in, or (if you’re like me) just visit?

Dissecting the Funny Bone

Contrast is a very important principle to learn. I first learned about it in a desktop publishing class. You want to balance the colors on a page so it’s not overwhelming or lopsided. It’s also important to remember in fashion. It looks better to wear some light and some dark instead of all one shade.

Contrast is also a key element of humor. I like to take incongruous things and put them together. The best example I can give of this is when, a couple years ago, some friends and I decided to make up a fake band. So we took two words with completely different feelings to them and created Puppy Guts. We never got around to actually writing any songs, but that’s not important when you have a name that cool and create accompanying artwork (thanks, Nathan).

Let’s see what funny, original band names you can create (like Death Socks or Munchkin Assassins). Go forth and be funny!

Confession Time

Regarding yesterday’s post, in order to be fair I should have listed something negative that I myself like to point out to people. For me, it’s lack of sleep. It’s as if I think it’s cool to advertise that I’m wandering around in a semi-conscious state of delirium. Then again, that state of mind is sort of my excuse for doing something ridiculous like brag about my ridiculously delirious state of mind.

"It's all a rich tapestry."

Guess What? I'm Terrible!

Have you ever noticed that certain negative things can be trendy? Not only is it popular to have a certain car or hairstyle, it’s also somehow laudable to have certain things wrong with you. One thing is being afraid of clowns. I’m not sure why this is such a popular fear, unless it has something to do with Seinfeld. I know several people who have mentioned this fear, and I can’t help but think that in some cases if may be an affectation.

Another thing is having migraines. I’m not sure why this is so popular, especially since they are excruciating, but everybody seems to be having them. And the interesting thing is that people will say things like, “Sorry, I have a migraine.” The only time I had anything that might be termed a migraine, it was so painful that I couldn’t speak or stand. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying migraines don’t exist. I just wonder if they’re as common as people think.

So am I totally making this up, or are there other negative things that people brag about?

Oh Boy! Another Belgian Waffle Maker...

I spent the majority of the day yesterday attending several events pertaining to a wedding. I tried to find an original but useful gift. The only way to know if I succeeded, of course, is to wait for a year, go to the couple’s home, and poke around to see if they kept it.

It was fun to attend all these events, because this couple organized things almost exactly the same way my own wedding day was. This is great because I essentially have no memory of that day. I don’t remember a single word that was said during the ceremony. I don’t remember what we had for the luncheon (which, by the way, was some truly killer chicken cordon bleu yesterday). I don’t remember any of the greetings or advice from people. I don’t really even remember who came to anything.

I do, however, remember two particularly useful gifts. One was a first aid kit. This is such a great gift because it’s something you need to have in your home, but it’s not something others are likely to think of. And if you do get multiples, you can put one in your car. You’re bound to use it sometime. The other great gift we got was around $70 in one-dollar bills. This was great because a honeymoon is likely to be replete with occasions in which tipping is customary, and you don’t want your spouse to see you stiffing people.

So let’s stop re-gifting that old Star Trek steak knife set.

Horror Spray

Sometimes I use hairspray in the morning. Sprayed in the confines of the bathroom, I can’t help but breathe it in for a couple of minutes. I have this strange and compelling fear that the hairspray is clogging the alveoli in my lungs, causing me to slowly suffocate. Sometimes I even hold my breath before I spray and try not to breathe until I leave the room. Is this an unforeseen byproduct of anti-tobacco advertising or a warning sign of impending madness?

If I could be a vegetable (literally, I mean; my mental state often enough approaches that definition...), what kind would I be? By giving this question the hours of thought it deserves, I have come to the conclusion that I would like to be a brussels sprout. The reason is that if I were to get eaten, I would want to be as disgusting as possible to my killer. Some might call this pretty cynical. Others might not know me that well.
Then there's the question of what vegetable I resemble most. In other words, if I were to become a cartoon vegetable, what would I be? I'll rely on your creative-thinking skills to inform me (be kind).
What about you? What veggie would you be, and what do you most resemble?

Back in '82...

The responses to yesterday’s post made a little connection happen in my brain. Here’s what it looked like:





The connection was this: people always think the present is worse than the past (or their imagined future). That’s why people are always complaining about the weather no matter what the season. There’s a proverb in Korea that illustrates this: The frog forgets what it’s like to be a tadpole. And, really, it’s good to live in the present. Otherwise you end up like Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite. And I don’t think any of us would like that.

Post of a Good Hell

For some reason, as I was falling asleep last night, I began to wonder what my own personal hell would be like. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

It would be really windy, all the time, and super hot and humid. Everybody, including me, would be renamed Dakota (Sorry to anybody who likes that name, if any of those people can read, but it’s my hell, not yours). I would be forced to listen to muzak versions of really bad jazz while cashiering endlessly. I would have to wear a Hot Dog on a Stick uniform, and every customer would be buying really sharp objects like porcupines and bits of broken glass. There wouldn’t be a bar code on anything, and whenever the line got down to one person a hundred more people would come up at once and start yelling at me to speed up.

What would your hell be like?


[Update: One more thing that would happen is everyone would copy me. Just kidding, Jer.]

Don't Mess with Beefy

When I lived in Korea, there was this really expensive department store we used to hang around on occasion. When I say expensive, I mean they sold $1,000 sweaters and $1,500 gold pens. They had racks of furs tantalizingly close to the outer doors. I was always surprised that nobody ran off with them. Maybe they did.

Anyway, they had a lot of security people who walked around the place, and I was always fascinated that they weren’t the big, burly men you might see in a similar place here. Many of them were actually women (not to question the beat-down ability of women, particularly in a country which practices a lot of martial arts). I remember two of the women in particular. We called one of them beefy, because she actually was pretty formidable-looking. The other one was dubbed Sideburns, for obvious reasons.

This really doesn’t have a point. I just felt like reminiscing a little bit.

The Pen Is Mightier than Being Bored

I started writing a post about the trapped Utah miners and the emotional manipulation employed by the media, but that kind of bored me. So instead I’m going to go for something a little more lighthearted.

I like pens. Can I just say that? I’m constantly in search of the perfect pen. There are many criteria involved: how smoothly it writes, how much the ink bleeds, how rich and dark the color is (I prefer to use black ink), whether it clicks or has a cap, how much it costs, and whether it is disposable or refillable. The list goes on. Maybe I’m weird. Or maybe this fascinates me because I’m so interested in language. At any rate, you might be bored, but at least I’m not anymore. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to daydream about Bics and Pilots.

[Note: I'm messing around with templates, so don't get weirded out if the layout is different every time you visit.]

Save Your Breath

There are some things you should never say, because no matter how true they may be, nobody will believe you. Here are some examples.

1. I’m not stupid!

2. No, that dress does not make you look fat.

3. Of course I’m over 21, I just forgot my ID!

4. Reality shows are the greatest! (Okay, some people will believe this. See item #1.)

5. The sugar-free kind tastes just like the regular kind.

6. I thought the speed limit on this road was 50, officer.

Can you think of any others?

5 a.m.

There’s something magical to me about the hour of 5:00 a.m. True, I usually sleep through it, but that’s sort of the point. It’s the hour by which most night owls hit the sack, and I think the majority people are able to sleep in until at least 6:00. Traffic outside seems more calm, and that nocturnal silence seems to prevail for a brief time before the world wakes up. Occasionally I wake up at some point during that hour, and it’s nice to just lie in bed enjoying the calm. Everything seems right with the world at 5:00 a.m.

Okaybye

When you finish a phone conversation, have you ever noticed how many times you have to exchange words like “okay” and “see you later”? There seems to be some set number of conversational volleys before you can let the ball of communication drop. Pay attention the next time you’re on the phone. You can’t just say “Bye,” and hang up, or you’ll seem rude.

My problem is that I always seem one exchange ahead of the other person. When I say “Bye,” the other person still needs to make two comments, so they end up quickly saying “Okaybye” before hanging up.

Seriously, pay attention to your phone conversations and see if this isn’t the case. Try saying goodbye one round earlier and listen to the other person splutter. It’s fun to do, especially when someone you don’t care for calls you.

Death vs. Pestilence

The new figures on international life expectancy just came out, with the U.S. ranking a dismal 42nd. Still, the average life expectancy has increased to 77.9 years for the average person in this country.

That doesn’t mean you’ll have a pain-free life, of course. You might have a chronic disease for decades, and you’ll probably spend several weeks every year sick with a cold. So here’s the question: Would you give up a portion of your life in exchange for having perfect health? Let’s say you could live to be 65 with perfect health, as opposed to 78 with health problems. What would you do? I'm betting the answer has to do with your overall health.

You Scratch My Ego...

I just had an imaginary conversation between Bill and Hillary Clinton in my head. It went something like this:

Hillary: “Fine. You can go out carousing, but you have to help me get elected president. Plus you have to at least act meek and penitent in public.”

Bill: “Deal!”

The Pants Dance

Here’s an idea fresh off the, uh, synapses. Generally speaking, there is one person in every relationship who plays the dominant role. There’s usually one person who makes the majority of the phone calls, perhaps makes most of the conversation, and “wears the pants,” if you will. Well, this morning I thought of another indicator. It’s the person who does the driving. I often see people dropped off at work by a spouse, but the person being dropped off here was the driver, so the other person has to get out and walk around to the driver’s seat. It would make more sense efficiency-wise if one person just drove the whole way, so I wonder if it’s an indicator of dominance. What do you think?

And the Battle Rages On

I have spent an unusually large amount of time thinking about how men and women think and speak differently. No matter what feminists would like us to think, there are differences, and that’s a good thing. Each gender, for example, tends toward a predisposed set of skills which facilitates dealing with the other. For example, men are good at something called "strategic incompetence," as it was worded in a Dilbert strip. The idea is that you make youself appear so stupid that you avoid being given any responsibility.

There is one skill women possess that fascinates me. If I could master this skill, I could probably conquer the whole world. Here’s a hypothetical scenario.


Woman: I decided you didn’t need those old clothes in the bottom of the dresser, so I threw them out today.


Man: You what? That was my autographed [insert favorite athlete here] uniform! How could you throw that away without asking?


Woman (tears welling up in her eyes): I was just trying to help keep things clean… (begins sobbing)


Man: I’m sorry, honey. Let me buy you something expensive. Will that make you feel better?


The idea is that the woman can do something wrong, but the man ends up taking the blame and even apologizing. However upset the man gets, the woman doubles the intensity when she becomes upset at his becoming upset. In a contest of such emotional depth, the man will invariably lose. Hence, it all becomes his fault.

It is true that politicians are accomplished at delegating blame, but nobody is really fooled by it. Perhaps that’s an endorsement for more women to enter politics. They might be just as slimy as men, but at least we wouldn’t realize it.

O Sicko Meo

When I was in elementary school, I used to get a sore throat often in the summer, especially around my birthday. Eventually I had my tonsils removed. Then, a couple of years ago, I had a horrible stomach ache on my birthday. This year, I had a horrible stomach ache the night before my birthday and the night after (I didn’t really have that much cake). Something fishy is going on here. I suppose to be scientifically valid, I need to keep track of the other days I’m sick to see if I’m really sick more often on my birthday than any other day, but that would involve work. It’s much easier to just claim that mysterious forces are at work.

1+1=1

Today I’m going to get a bit political. I usually avoid politics, except for solving the occasional worldwide problem. So if you find the topic boring, well, it’s not as if you’re paying for this.

Apparently North and South Korea are again talking about the possibility of considering maybe trying to begin to reunite a little bit. This situation, however, involves several almost insurmountable problems. First and foremost, the dictator of North Korea is an idiotic narcissist who throws a significant part of his population in gulags and starves the rest, while maintaining a standing army of a million men. And what resources aren’t spent on the military are spent trying to make the rest of the world think they have nuclear weapons. Second, somebody would actually have to relinquish power in order to make two governments into one, and I don’t think rock/paper/scissors is going to be sufficient to make those decisions. Finally, it would basically mean that a country of 50 million would have to support an additional 23 million, which could collapse the economy entirely. They’ll need to sell a lot of Hyundai cars to keep things running.

Maybe we should try to get North Korea to host the Olympics. It certainly helped the South Korean economy prosper. They could convert some of their gulags into domiciles for Olympic athletes. They could have athletes toss javelins into the DMZ to get rid of a few mines. They could even add a new event: tunneling across the border. It could work!

Oh My Stars!

Something strange is happening to homes all around us. It started as a craft project, then grew into a nightmare of interior design. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… the star!

I’ve been noticing this symbol appearing on more and more houses over the past few months. I have two possible explanations for this. One: This is a subtle, sinister sign of membership in a secret organization dedicated to the destruction of humanity. Two: It’s a symbol of the herd mentality we often try to deny but rarely escape.

I’m not sure which possibility is more frightening.