Monday, December 28, 2009

Get ready to look SO GOOD! OR Weight just a minute!

It's almost New Years and that means resolutions! Like every previous year I am resolving to lose weight but this year is different. This year I know the secret to permanent weight loss and I'm going to share it with you!

Ready? The secret to losing weight is there is no secret. It's just hard work and persistence. What a drag.

One place said, “simply replace your bad habits with good habits” like that is super easy to do. I promise that a salad is not even one tenth as satisfying as a pint of Ben and Jerry’s or some fried chicken. I also promise that running on a treadmill is not nearly as fun as watching television. Even watching someone run on a treadmill on television is funner than actually running on a treadmill. Incidentally, The Treadmill is actually a medieval torture device invented around the same time as The Rack and The Iron Maiden.

I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted until a little process called “aging” took my metabolism out into the street, blindfolded it, lit it a cigarette and shot it dead. If I eat something these days I can feel myself get fatter as I chew.

To make matters worse, the American market victimizes fat people. It sells them fatty, processed (and delicious) food until they are about to burst, tells them they are hideous at every turn and then turns around and sells them diet pills and exercise equipment. Where can my people turn? Everyone is trying to take our money.

I am NOT relieving overweight people of their responsibility for being overweight. Just because Burger King sells a 1,000 calorie sandwich does not mean that people need to buy it. Nor do people need to order said sandwich in a value meal that adds another 920 calories of fried potatoes and sugar water, bringing one meal to a grand total of 1,920 calories.

However, I AM saying that maintaining a healthy weight is very difficult.

One huge part of the economy helps people get fat while another promises to make them skinny again, all for a modest price. Throw in pharmaceutical corporations that sell antidepressants and a media that portrays impossibly underweight people on the opposite side of the unhealthy weight spectrum as ideal and there you go. Good luck, sucker!

The least these companies could do is be upfront with the people they are taking money from. For example, all exercise programs/machines/DVDs show “Before and After” people. In the “before” pictures the person is pasty and at least 100 pounds overweight, sitting on a couch, remote in hand. The “after” person is always a tanned, sexy, chiseled specimen in a leopard print bikini. For only $29.95 and as little as 8 hours a week? I think a lot other stuff happened between “before” and “after” besides the “Ab-Solution.”

Sugar also makes it hard to maintain a healthy weight. I love sugar, but it is not good for me and is brimming with empty calories. I don’t really have a problem with sugar, though. I could quit sugar any time I want! I could also feed all of the hungry people in north America, cure cancer and get healthcare for everyone.

That’s right, I can’t quit sugar. Sugar is exactly like heroin except you don’t have to inject it and the government can actually regulate and tax sugar. I could quit sugar about as easily as I could quit air. I'd die and I'd take a few suckas with me.

Wish me luck and remember: never get between me and some chocolate cake.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Coming out of the closet on Christmas OR Merry December Gorilla OR It's beginning to look a lot like Capitalism

WARNING: This blog contains the word "womb." I thought I'd warn you since that word grosses some people out. I don't know why, lots of people have them. Not me, but lots of other people do and they seem to be fine.

It’s that time of year again: winter weather, Christmas is in the air and I’m coming out of the closet.

I love winter weather, especially when it’s so cold that my ears hurt. Not just the outside part, either. Some days it’s so cold that I swear my actual eardrum is shivering, which really hurts, as you would imagine.

I love it when the snow stays on the ground, melts just enough to turn to ice and tons of people walk on it, polishing the ice to a lethal pearly sheen. It’s hilarious when other people fall, but I know that, Karmically speaking, I’m due for a fall soon. I’ve laughed pretty hard at falling people and what goes around is certainly coming around my way.

In cold weather I can never bring myself to get out of the shower. I think there is something psychologically soothing about a warm, wet, womb-like environment. While I’m in there my subconscious says to me “Stay! The last time we left a place like this only bad things happened.” The cold, cruel world waits just outside that plastic curtain.

Then there’s always a guy (yes, it’s usually a man) who invariably says things like, “Cold? This isn’t cold! I lived in Alaska for a hundred years. In ’72 it was so cold that all the water froze and we had to lick ice cubes to keep from dehydrating. My eyelids froze open and I got frostbite on both of my pinky toes. I’d be out here in my underdrawers getting a tan but I got cited last time I did that.”

In addition to hilarious ice falls and annoying dudes, cold weather is also associated with Christmas and other holidays. I celebrate Christmas because of the religious significance, but more importantly I like to get free stuff.

The trouble is not everyone celebrates Christmas. For a while it was cool to say “Happy Holidays” and that would cover everyone. People who celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukah, Solstice, Eid al-Adha and Bodhi Day and anything else were all united by one trite greeting.

Then I found out that some people don’t celebrate anything at all. So much for “Happy Holidays.” I can’t say anything to anybody without the possibility of alienating them. I now treat Christmas kind of like “don’t ask, don’t tell.” I don’t wish people a “Happy” or “Merry” anything. Someone asked me if I celebrated Christmas and I was like, “Yeah, but I'm not out yet.”

Last year we were driving around town in December and one house had a giant lighted version of “The Abominable Snowman” from Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. My sister Miranda blurted, “What is that supposed to be, a holiday Gorilla?”

We laughed hysterically but then I thought to myself, What a great idea! I decided to popularize the “December Gorilla.” The December Gorilla could represent the shared evolutionary heritage of all humankind. He would not be affiliated with any religion or previously existing holiday.

The December Gorilla would give bananas to the whole world. He would be cool with Christians, Jews, Muslims, Bhuddists, Nudists, Hindus, hippies, people that drive Hummers, vegans and, yes, even Republicans would get a banana from the December Gorilla. He wouldn’t even care if you’ve been naughty or nice. He would spread the banana love indiscriminately, regardless of race, color or creed. What could be offensive or alienating about that?

Unless you are allergic to bananas, in which case you need to find some other holiday, freak.

PS - Check it out: some people are already down with the December Gorilla!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Luddites unite! OR My super-boring meeting disrupted the space/time continuum

I was in a meeting the other day that lasted TWO HOURS. It was terrible. I’m sure whatever was being said in the meeting was oh-so-informative but whenever a meeting goes over 40 minutes I have a hard time focusing one second longer. There is a little “attention span” gauge in by brain and after 40 minutes the needle hits “E,” the little light goes on and my brain shuts down.

Part of the problem was I expected the meeting to last an hour but it lasted two. That is like going to the dentist for a cleaning and then getting both of your legs amputated!

I don't know whether it's better or worse to have a clock in plain sight at a boring meeting. In this case there were no windows to the outside and I had a clear view of the clock. After a while I started to think, The clock has stopped. It must have. I’ve been in this meeting for at least four whole weeks but the clock is only showing two hours. What is going on? Maybe time is simply standing still. The sheer boringness of this meeting has torn a hole in the space/time continuum and we are stuck in this conference room forever! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

(That is the sound my brain makes when I’m in meetings for over 40 minutes: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!)

One thing that unnecessarily prolongs meetings is the fact that most people can’t edit themselves. A lot of professionals don’t know the meaning of “concise,” “to the point” or even “short and sweet.” Some professionals just love to hear the sound of their own voice, over and over and over, whether anyone else is listening or not. They don't care. It's like a drug for them: the more they hear of themselves, the more they want to hear of themselves. Some people can express one simple idea over and over for up to 45 minutes at a given stretch. This idea could realistically be expressed in one sentence minimum or one paragraph maximum.

People should have to prepare written statements that conform to these guidelines, or we could have on of those little plastic hourglasses that used to come with board games at every meeting. When someone starts to talk the hourglass gets flipped over and the sand starts to run. When the sand runs out after one minute the speaker’s turn would be over. If they hadn’t stopped speaking of their own volition they would get cut off mid-sentence by someone else and/or shot with a paintball gun.

I would also bring a picture of people beating a dead horse and when people start droning on and on I will point to it and say, “See this? This is you. Shame on you.”

Along these same lines, office e-mails are way too long and I most certainly do not have all day to read wordy e-mails. Call me a neo-Luddite or a Protestant Luddite or whatever but I hate Twitter. I am not so vain as to suppose that people care to read whatever ridiculous thing I am doing at any given moment, nor am I so bored that I care to read what ridiculous thing someone else is doing at any given moment. However, I think Twitter is onto something with the 140 characters thing. I wish they could make all the office e-mails that way. If your e-mail is over 140 characters long you can’t send it until you pare that mess down.

I’ll stop now. I don't want to beat a dead horse.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mustache discrimination is everyone's problem OR Beware the wrath of the pash rash OR Truly a Movember to remember

Recently, as you may already know, I grew a mustache for the wonderful and inspired men’s health fundraiser called Movember. Just about the time I got used to the shock of seeing my mustached face in the mirror December rolled around, Movember was over and the mustache went about as quickly as it came.

Well, that’s not true. It didn’t come quickly at all. I grow a pretty weak mustache, come to find out. If I grow a mustache in conjunction with a beard you don’t really notice, but by itself my mustache is thin and blonde and pitiful.

I usually wear a “stubble” beard, which is sort of in fashion right now and is also a great excuse not to shave. I thought it looked pretty cool until I saw that Edward guy from Twilight wearing one on some magazine cover and I thought “The good times are definitely over.” My faith in stubble beards was again shaken when a friend started wearing one. He’s a nice guy but he wears diamond earrings and only buys his clothes from certain stores in the mall where they pay homeless people wear out the clothes before people buy them to make them more expensive. I’m not sure that’s anything I want to be associated with.

Let me just say that, in contrast, having a mustache feels kind of like having toothbrush bristles superglued to your upper lip. Not the most comfortable fashion statement, I admit. My undying respect and admiration go to the brave dudes who rock a mustache full-time, and even more undying respect and admiration goes to the spouses/girlfriends/partners of these dudes.

I’ve seen pictures of my dad and his friends back in the heyday of mustaches, carefree days before he got a real job, got married and fathered me. In all the pictures he and his friends all have mustaches. No one is un-mustached, and without exception they all look pretty legit. This of course was about 30 years ago, and I think it’s a scientifically proven fact that mustaches look exponentially cooler in the presence of silk shirts, bell bottoms and shaggy ‘70s hair.

But like everything else, facial hair styles change. The Mustache enjoyed rampant popularity in the ‘70s and ‘80s before its popularity took a drastic nosedive right around the time that “Magnum, P.I.” was cancelled.

Then somewhere along the line mustaches started to be associated with perverts, pedophiles, pimps and creeps. This is where I come in.

My moustache wouldn’t win any mustache contests (they actually have these, which is awesome) but it showed up enough for people to start mistrusting me. Mothers would clutch their children to them when I would walk by. Women gave me dirty looks. Coworkers made a disparaging mustache remarks behind my back. I got passed up for promotions. I was always getting pulled over by the cops.

It appears that I have been a victim of Mustache Discrimination. That’s right. I said it. Mustache Discrimination. No one likes to talk about it and we pretend that we’re all equal but Mustache Discrimination affects thousands of Americans each year and it’s really a crying shame. I’ve tried to tell the American Civil Liberties Union but they just hang up on me. You and I both know that Mustache Discrimination is not right and people are equal regardless of race, creed or facial hair orientation.

I ask that someone reclaim The Mustache, bring it out of darkness and restore it to its rightful throne in the facial hair pantheon.

Not me, of course, but somebody should.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Awkward is as awkward does OR Embrace the awkward

Logically you would never try to have a conversation with someone you had no interest in talking to, but it seems like an awkward conversation is better than an awkward silence, if only slightly. I find myself having to make awkward conversation all the time: at work, at church, out in the community.

Public transportation, though, is kind of like the Holy Grail of awkward conversations, at least for me. Trains, buses and subways are where the awkward gather.

Me, I take the train to work. Compared to driving, the train is super cheap. So not only am I saving money, I’m also sitting in super cramped quarters with about 9,000 other people, approximately 14 people per square foot. People are practically sitting in my lap but I am saving money and being environmentally responsible.

And if 13 people in your personal bubble wasn’t awkward enough, some of the 13 are always very chipper and want to talk and talk about everything and nothing, unaware that it is six o’clock in the morning and you are sitting as close as a teenage couple on a drive-in movie date.

Most of these just like to hear themselves talk, I suspect. They are away from their cats, cellmates or drug dealers and just need someone to talk to. It’s not so bad because usually all you have to do is say “uh huh” in the right spots and let them ramble harmlessly on about their kids, political opinions and medical conditions.

Another group is the “too much information people.” These people have issues ranging from moderate to sever and are in need of a therapist. They can’t afford one, so some random guy on the train will do just as well.

One guy was telling me about his “relationship” troubles, how he and his girlfriend had been fighting. I became interested in spite of myself when he forlornly said, “It just hasn’t been the same since she got that restraining order against me.” He was optimistic, though. He followed up that shining example of “too much information” with “Every relationship has its ups and downs.”


A third variety of talkers just want to tell you how awesome they are. They want to talk about how they threw the state championship-winning touchdown pass in ’88, are the leading expert in their field and are really good with women.

Yes, sadly, this third group is predominately made up of men, but you can work this to your advantage because an extremely high percentage of people in powerful positions are people who love to hear themselves talk. If you can feign interest long enough, you can get in good with politicians, management and college professors.

I’ve found that a certain amount of awkwardness training is good, especially if you’re into dating. When an awkward silence comes along you have to decide whether to embrace it or try to navigate around it. You have to be pretty savvy (kind of an awkwardness connoisseur, if you will) to know which to do. You might never know when a solid background in awkwardness might come in handy.

Even if you have been dating someone a long time there are still awkward conversations. For instance, I dated a girl who was absolutely obsessed with the Sacramento Kings and that’s all she could talk about. I had to pretend that I gave a crap, which was positively exhausting.

A person who can’t handle awkwardness in conversation is the same person who ends up handling break-ups and other relationship problems through text messages.

Don't be that person.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Turkey overdose kills New Mexico family OR Turkey for me and turkey for you

As the year draws to a close I try not to think about all the New Year's resolutions I haven't kept or how the year has gone by so fast and I haven't accomplished half of the things I wanted to. Instead, I think about all the holidays coming up and all the food I'm going to eat.

This week is Thanksgiving aka The Great Turkey Massacre aka Vegan's Worst Nightmare. I laugh really hard inside when I think that this state-sanctioned turkey genocide must chafe vegans like crazy. I don't disagree with vegans in principle, I just think that most of the vegans I've met are snotty, pretentious, hypocritical and holier-than-thou like crazy. I get along better with plain ol' vegetarians because we have more things in common like eggs, cheese and Ben & Jerry's.

Only in America would we devise a holiday devoted to eating. The best way to celebrate is with excesses of excesses, I always say. According to stuff I found on the internet, the average American consumes around 5,000 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving. That is like eating two and a half days worth of food in one meal plus a few tablespoons of lard. It is also about as much as people in other countries eat in one month. God bless America.

My family gets together and cooks all morning and most of the afternoon. We each make a certain dish and my mom acts as Thanksgiving commander-in-chief, coordinating our efforts to make the stuffing, potatoes, side dishes and desserts. It's quite a job. She does all this while she handles cooking the sacrificial turkey and making the gravy and such.

I saw my mom make gravy one year and that is a gross process. First you pull a little plastic bag of turkey organs out of the middle of the turkey where they are preserved like some urn in an Egyptian mummy sarcophagus. Then you chop them up and cook the crap out of them and voilà! Turkey innard gravy. Mmmmm-mmmmm. I might become a vegan too, if I think about it too much. But it tastes so good on mashed potatoes.

After cooking for 8 or so hours and when the turkey, gravy, potatoes, 800 sides dishes, 800 pies, salads, relish tray and cranberry sauce are all ready we sit down and start our feast. We eat for about 30 minutes. Then we stagger away from the table and scatter throughout my parent's house and find a place to sleep like people in drug-induced comas. If you came into the house right after we eat you might mistake us for some cult mass suicide.

After Thanksgiving we have left-over turkey that lasts approximately until next Thanksgiving and turkey hangovers, which can last until Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanzaa/Solstice. When I wake up the day after I eat a turkey sandwich to try and clear my head, the “hair of the dog that bit you” and all that.

I perused the internet for ways to curb overeating on holiday meals. A lot of sites said to reduce your alcohol consumption, because alcohol impairs your judgement and lowers your inhibitions. That, and no one likes a drunk who eats all the pumpkin pie.

One site said not to use certain illicit drugs that make you super hungry before you eat Thanksgiving dinner, which is hilarious to me.

I never really associated Thanksgiving with drug use but I guess my family is pretty conservative in our Thanksgiving celebration.

The only drug we abuse on Thanksgiving is tryptophan, and lots of it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I wake up weird and whiny OR I break for stolen lunches

I've complained a lot about growing up, becoming an adult and getting a real job. I've fought it the whole way but after four months I have to say that being grown up is not so bad. The worst part so far is waking up early.

In college there was always the option of getting late classes or sleeping through classes and getting the notes from an over-achieving friend. There were also tons of holidays, sometimes class got canceled and sometimes I would just pretend that class was canceled.

If it was work that was threatening to wake me up early I could always call in sick to whatever crappy minimum wage college student job I had that I didn't care if I got fired from. Most places that employ college students kind of expect them to be super-flaky anyway and they don't take it too hard when you bail on them.

Unfortunately, those days are in the past. Now I frequently find myself rising before the sun, and just as frequently, I find myself arguing with my alarm clock, which is a silly thing to do seeing how an alarm clock is an inanimate object and can't really be swayed one way or the other.

Alarm clock: Beep beep beep beep beep beep

Me: What?! It can't be 6 already!

Alarm clock: Beep beep beep beep beep beep

Me: But I'm so tired.

Alarm clock: Beep beep beep beep beep beep

Me: I swear I just went to sleep! Honest!

Alarm clock: Beep beep beep beep beep beep

So, having failed to convince my alarm clock to alter the space/time continuum and give me a few extra minutes, I wake up. But just barely.

Working is not so bad because the older I get, the more money I get, but I also lose my youth and my general enthusiasm for living. This principle could best be described in this graph I made in Microsoft Paint:

Working for a living is fraught with temptations, too. Where I work the office refrigerator is like The Garden of Eden. You know what The Garden of Eden is, don't you? God made the earth, saw that it was too clean, peaceful and orderly and decided to create the first man and woman whom he called Adam and Eve, respectively. Then God told them not to eat certain fruit, which of course they did the first chance they got.

Upon questioning Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. The serpent didn't have a leg to stand on. God was so annoyed that he kicked them all out of the pretty garden and they had to start wearing clothes, paying taxes and flossing.

The fridge is in the break room, but some people are too good to store their meals in a community food cooling receptacle, so they have their own small personal fridges in their offices. I can't afford one, and I think that having you own personal fridge in your office is borderline ridiculous, so I am content to stash my bologna sandwiches with everyone else's stuff.

The problem comes when I see what everyone else has for lunch and I am sorely tempted. Would it really be so bad to steal Co-worker's leftovers from Olive Garden? I ask myself. Other Co-worker would probably never miss that fried chicken, I think. Like Adam and Eve, I would definitely be cast out of the break room for eating that forbidden fruit. The main difference is that I'm not naked and God is not really involved, so far as I can tell.

Thank goodness.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Girlfriend gift getting is getting easier

After years and years of championing the cause of single people and just generally smack-talking committed relationships I have decided to take the girlfriend plunge. That's right, ladies. I am off the market. Cry if you must and then you'll just need to get over me.

One night I was hanging out with my brother Brennan. He just got engaged recently, so this story obviously takes place before he got engaged because engaged people evaporate into thin air the instant they become engaged and their friends never see them again. Anyway, I was complaining about how I was broke and needed to figure out how to save money.

“You should just break up with your girlfriend,” Brennan said. “That is the most cost effective thing a man can do.”

He is absolutely right, but it's not like he can really talk because he just shelled out a bunch of money for an engagement ring, which is basically a huge conspiracy. Long ago the world's jewelry retailers came together from all over the world and held a super-secret meeting. They asked each other, "How can we sell more diamonds?" Then a ratlike, shifty-eyed jewelry salesman said, "Let's make it a 'tradition' that when a couple gets engaged the man has to buy the woman a really expensive diamond ring. Then when they get married he has to buy her another one."

Luckily Brennan's fiancee is super cool and only wanted a regular-sized, modest ring. My GF is also awesomely low-maintenance, but dating in general is not cheap. As a man, you have to pay for dinner and basically everything else too. If a man and a woman are out and money is being spent, it is a safe bet that it is coming straight out of the man's wallet.

In a serious relationship you are obligated to buy gifts for birthdays, your anniversary, Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanza/Solstice/whatever, and Valentine's Day. That's four gifts a year minimum. And that's only if nothing else comes up. If she has a kid you have to add Mother's Day and then you also have to get her stuff if she graduates and when you get in trouble.

And so, if you want to keep you girlfriend and not declare bankruptcy a simple solution is to skimp on gifts. Here are a few examples:

The first thing I do is get her something I want and then steal it back. CDs are great for this.

GF:Stir the Blood by The Bravery? Who the heck is The Bravery? And I don't even like this kind of music.
Me:You'll love them. Can I borrow it?

The next trick is to make her something because girls eat that up. A “homemade” card is pure frugal genius. If you put a poem in there – no matter how shocking or awful – you are set for life. If your girlfriend doesn't like the free gifts then she is probably a gold digger and you need to tell her to take that poem and hit the bricks. Homemade gifts save money and weed out losers!

If you own a guitar, that is a money saving device! And if you don't have one, buy one. It will easily pay for itself after 1-2 gift-requiring days. Songs are an awesome free present, and they don't even have to be good. Just throw in a few metaphors (“I love you like salmonella loves improperly cooked chicken”) and something about “true love.” The perfect gift for any occasion for only $FREE.99!

You can also substitute cheap stuff for expensive stuff. Instead of buying my GF perfume I get her fried chicken because that is a smell I really get excited about.

Monday, November 2, 2009

More thought on Halloween OR Don't send your ill-mannered kids to my house asking for candy ever again

Another Halloween has come and gone and I find myself in a reflective mood. I've decided that when it comes to dressing up there are two types of people: those who LOVE to dress up and those who can really do without it.

I am, of course, the latter. I love Halloween but not costumes. I love pumpkins, fall weather and, most importantly, candy, but weird outfits are not my cup of tea, ok? Little kids dressing up = cute, adults dressing up = annoying.

The “thrive on dressing up” group, on the other hand, starts planning their costume for next year the day after Halloween. And the weeks before Halloween they are always saying what they are going to be. These people might even go so far as to make a costume. Goodness gracious me.

The two groups cannot communicate either. The pro-costumers can't understand why other grown people don't get as excited about playing dress-up as they do. Don't get me wrong. If you like to dress up, by all means, dress up. Just don't make me do it too. I want to save my money for candy.

The main problem is costume selection is tricky. This year I thought about buying a bald cap and shaving my beard into a goatee and going to work as my office manager for Halloween. I figured this would either be a huge hit and he would be flattered or it would be a huge bomb and I would be on his crap list forever. I decided the risk was too big to take for a new-ish employee.

When dressing up on Halloween in an office setting you run the risk that no one else will come in costume and you will look like huge fool. Nothing ventured nothing gained, right? If this is the case you can just show how confident you are and proudly strut around the office, flaunting your Halloween spirit and youthful exuberance. Or you can call somebody to bring you a change of clothes and change in the bathroom partway through the day.

Some people did dress up. We had several very serious meetings that day and I had the hardest time keeping a straight face when discussing serious child welfare matters with Little Bo Peep, a French maid and a giant whoopee cushion.

On Halloween night I was passing out candy and a little kid came to my door. When I threw the candy into his pillowcase he said, “Ugh, I don't want to eat that.”

What?! Have you ever heard that “Beggars can't be choosers,” punk? Pretty sure what you're doing right now qualifies as begging, so get the heck off my porch!

Last blog I smack talked white people for not giving out very much candy to trick-or-treaters, so I had to put my money where my mouth is and buy a grip of candy.

I poured all my candy into a bowl and when the kids would come by I would hold the bowl out to them and let them reach out some candy. That was a stupid way to do it, but I was laboring under the false impression that little children are innocent and sweet. Little kids are greedy, if you didn't already know. I didn't. Some of those kids pulled out ridiculous amounts of candy in just one little fist. Other kids weren't shy at all and grabbed with both hands, or took several handfuls.

By the end of the night I was having to ration the candy, one piece per trick-or-treater.

Darn those stingy white people.

PS - 
"Tony Hillerman Week" is November 1-8. If you haven't read his stuff, you should.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sugar and more sugar to the rescue

In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. Fortunately in the fall – after he has wasted a few perfectly good seasons on love – a young man's fancy lightly turns to much more awesome thoughts of Halloween. Well, I guess I can't speak for every young man and their fancies, but I can say that my fancy turns to thoughts of Halloween, specifically the candy. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

I know Halloween is coming because everyone in my office building has caught the Halloween spirit and have covered the halls and offices in skeletons, ghosts and pumpkins. One of the units has gotten really enthusiastic and their hall is way more Halloween-y than ours and they make fun of us.

Rival unit: “Hey when are you going to decorate your hallway? Oh, you already did? That's funny. It's not very scary. It looks like a baby's nursery or something. Frankly, the men's restroom is more scary than that.”

This is true. The men's restroom is pretty scary, but that's neither here nor there. The point is that it is getting kind of creepy around the office. Just the other day I was fixing my lunch in the break room and out of the corner of my eye I saw someone lurking in the shadows, watching me. It gave me the jibblies. What creepo is watching me microwave my frozen burrito? I thought, trying to quickly make a plan. Brandishing my burrito like a weapon I whirled, ready to fight. To my chagrin I had almost jumped a cardboard witch cutout that someone had put up without my noticing. Luckily, no one else was in the break room to see my burrito ninja moves.

To add to the holiday cheer a bunch of kids are coming to our office to go trick-or-treating on October 30, which is a pretty sweet deal. I figure there are at least 50 offices, the equivalent of at least two streets. The kids only have to walk a few feet between offices, which will be way quicker than if they actually went door-to-door. That is a lot of candy-per-minute, plus it's a day before Halloween so they can go out and get more loot the next day. Kids these days. So spoiled.

I feel bad giving kids a bunch of candy and sending them back to their parents all hyper and full of cavities, so I was toying with the idea of giving out something healthy, like apples or sugar-free gum or floss. Then I remembered people like the dentist that lived in the neighborhood and gave out toothbrushes embossed with his office number and I realized everybody hates that guy. When you are inventorying your stash that toothbrush goes straight into the trash, along with those black and orange peanut butter things.

This brings back all the memories of trick-or-treating as a kid, when we would try and go to the rich neighborhood because there were houses that were fabled to give out whole candy bars and dollar bills. One of my friends and I went out one year and we had been knocking doors for a while when he said, “You know, white people don't give out very much candy.”

It was true! We kept track the rest of the night and, sure enough, the people who gave out the least candy were European Americans/Anglos/caucasians/politically correct term of your choice.

“Nice. One roll of Smarties. Thanks, Mr. Johnson.”

Everybody else fairly threw candy at us. It was quite a phenomenon.

Love can wait until spring. Right now I'm glad it is the season for candy.

PS - In your experience, who gives out the most/least candy? Comment if you want.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My friends are good at being bad

My friends are all liars. That sounds harsh but it's totally true. Sure, they are liars with good hearts and wonderful intentions, but liars just the same.

Basically they tell me what I want to hear, because they are really good friends. Or are they? They mean well, but I can never tell what my friends are giving me: the truth, or the truth watered down a lot so it won't hurt my feelings.

For example: I was dating a girl named So-and-so and I thought she was great. Coincidentally, my friends all thought she was great too. She had a bunch of weird, red flags popping out all over the place but I couldn't see them because I was totally enamored with her and enamored with being enamored. My friends didn't say a word. Why do they let me run headlong into girls who are train wrecks? Because they don't want to hurt my feelings, those jerks!

I started to figure it out when the lovely, sweet So-and-so and I would break up. Curiously, the same friends who agreed with me when I thought she was wonderful and flawless were now agreeing with me when I would grumble, cry and moan about how terrible she was. “Yeah, she was totally wrong for you,” they would say. Why didn't they tell me sooner? Oh yeah, my feelings. I don't think I would freak out and yell at them, but I can't be sure because no one has ever told me the truth.

But now I have friends I can trust, or rather I have friends that I've had long enough to know when they're lying.

Me: “Oh, man. So-and-so is really great, you know?”

Friend: “Yeah, she's, um, unique.”

Right here is where, in the past, I would've charged on ahead and raved about So-and-so, blissfully unaware that my friend does not approve but doesn't want to poop on my puppy love party. But now I'm older, and, I daresay, wiser. Here are a few euphemisms that my friends use to avoid telling the truth:

“unique” = weird
“nice” = ugly
“spunky” = bossy
“confident” = mean
“earthy” = dumpy
“she knows what she wants” = high maintenance

So forth and so on. Dating itself is kind of just one big lie, isn't it? A first date is essentially a lying contest to see who can get the other to believe a bunch of lies.

What you say: “For fun I like to run, bike, swim, kayak and climb mountains. My hobbies include vaccinating orphans with dirty faces in third world countries, neutering abandoned kittens at the local animal shelter and knitting scarves and woolen mittens for elderly people with bad circulation."

What you mean: “For fun I usually watch a whole season of The Office on DVD in one sitting, only getting off the couch when I run out of 'Chunky Monkey.' And that's about it.”

I'd like to say I'd never lied on a first date but it's not true. One time I was trying find some kind of common ground with a girl who I had absolutely nothing in common with. The tricky part was she was super attractive, so I wanted desperately to have something in common with her.

She started talking about music and I though to myself, “I'm saved! I love music!” Then she said, “I really like the band Chicago. I think their music is really great. Do you like Chicago?”

I won't tell you what I said, but the next time you Peter Cetera croon “You're the feeling in my life, you're the inspiration” try not to think about what a liar I am.

PS - Please comment!

Monday, October 12, 2009

I left my heart in Chimayo OR Dirt off your shoulder

This week I made a pilgrimage to Chimayo, New Mexico, home of the world famous Santuario De Chimayo. It's been called “the most important Catholic pilgrimage center in the United States” and 300,000 people come to this little church each. Many of the pilgrims report experiencing religious miracles but when I went I had an epiphany about booty.

Yes, booty, if I may call it that. I'm lucky I had the epiphany at all because basically I did the whole holy pilgrimage thing all wrong. First of all, I didn't go during “Holy Week” (the week after Easter) which is reportedly the most miraculous time to go. I also didn't go to the Santuario, the historic little church that makes it all possible.

I didn't even get any “holy dirt,” which is dirt from the Santuario grounds. The pilgrims take so much with them when they leave that the church has to bring in 25 to 30 tons of new dirt per year! You're supposed to rub it on yourself or eat it, but I'm not that hardcore.

The most glaring error I made was driving to Chimayo. The truly faithful walk the whole way, from as far away as Albuquerque (90 miles).

Mostly I was just in Chimayo by coincidence.

It's a long drive so I checked out a state car for the day and brought a book on CD to listen to. Of course the car I was assigned for the day didn't have a CD player. It did, however, have a super-crackly AM/FM radio and the only radio station I could get in Chimayo was the Top 40 pop/hip-hop/R&B station.

During the drive I discovered that: 1. radio stations basically play the same ten songs over and over and 2. people who write radio songs have an unhealthy fixation on female anatomy, specifically booty in many cases.

I like junk in the trunk as much as the next guy, but I'm not about to go write a song about it, especially not one that gets played 900,000 times a day. What if my mom heard it? If she did I know I would be getting one seriously angry telephone call.

Mom: “Did you seriously write a song about some girl's butt?”

Me: “Um, yes. I believe I did.”

Mom: “So you're saying that women are little more than pieces of meat to be ogled. Didn't I teach you better that that?!”

Me: “But it's number 1 and sold a million copies! My booty song has made me a millionaire!”

Mom: “You're not my son. You and your booty song are dead to me.”

How lame would it be to be a “one hit wonder” with your one hit being a booty song? Pretty lame, I'd wager. Remember Sir Mix A Lot?

I tried to compile a comprehensive list of booty songs but I got tired. It was just too stinkin' long. And I've always wondered, what was the first booty song and who wrote it? Maybe I will get a Ph.D. and write my dissertation on booty songs. That would be rad to be the foremost authority on booty music, although it might be hard to get grants to fund my research.

Anyway, according to many songs, the most desirable traits in a woman are:

1. A hot body
2. Proficiency in “shaking it”

Personality? Overrated! Intelligence? Not necessary! Common interests? Don't bother! What you really need to be asking yourself is: “How does she look in a club on the dance floor?”

I think this is why I've been unlucky in love. I haven't put enough focus on booty.

Fortunately, it's never too late to start.

PS - When I was stopped in traffic I pulled up next to someone who was playing air drums and singing along to a song on the same station that I was listening to, so they were singing the song that was playing in my car. Weird. It felt like a very surreal, very low-budget music video, like Taylor Swift was a dude who is really good at playing air drums and drives a Ford Escort.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Predictive texting makes eating people easier OR Text, drugs and rock and roll

Technology is awesome but it is always scary when it goes wrong. Examples include nuclear reactors melting down and sprinkling the countryside with radioactive fallout, malfunctioning traffic lights causing accidents and Bluetooth headsets that turn people into huge morons.

See what I mean? I also believe I've made it very clear that I am not a huge fan of text messaging (read: I freaking hate text messaging) and the technology that really has me on edge these days is predictive texting. On one hand, it uses a lot less keystrokes and saves time. On the other hand, if it is not handled carefully predictive texting can make you look like a witless fool in the blink of an eye.

Yes, it's true. I know from sad experience. As cool as I like to think I am I've been a victim of technology gone horribly awry. A while back I was dating someone but we hadn't announced it to the electronic interweb gossip community by changing our Facebook statuses to say “In a relationship.” This caused quite a stir among our friends.

“Wait, you're dating Whatshername?” people would ask me incredulously.

“Yes.” I would reply, credulously.

“But it's not on Facebook! How can this be?”

Oops. It's true. I realize now that if two people haven't declared their relationship status on Facebook then they aren't technically dating at all. They might as well be total strangers or pen pals or something like that. That's what I would tell her when I forgot important dates.

“I don't know why you're so upset. Since we aren't official on Facebook, we aren't technically dating as far as anyone else is concerned, so technically I don't really have to remember your birthday.”

That is technically a good excuse. Mostly we just didn't want to publicly announce our relationship because we didn't want to have to also publicly announce our breakup later, should it go that way. Perhaps it was cynical to go into the relationship talking about breaking up, but I wasn't about to have people leaving me pitying, condescending comments on my page.

Anyway, one of my friends had heard about me and Whatshername from an actual person but wanted the reassurance of confirming it through electronic media so she sent me a text message.

“Hey, I heard you have a new girlfriend,” she texted.

“Yeah I'm dating Whatshername,” I replied.

I thought my response was pretty straightforward but my curious friend started acting (texting) all weird.

“What? Why?” she texted.

“Because she's cool and we have stuff in common, I guess,” I replied. “Why not?”

“Why?! Because that's gross and weird.”

I was totally bewildered but after approximately one hundred clarifying texts back and forth I realized that when I had texted “I'm dating Whatshername” the text predictor had turned what I thought was going to be “dating” into something else and my text message had actually read, “I'm eating Whatsherface.”

So my friend was laboring under the false impression that I had turned into a zombie or cannibal and was eating Whatsherface with a knife and fork with some jalapenos on the side. Maybe I should've put that on Facebook, like, “About me: I like eating people.”

Aside from being really embarrassing, this example of technology-gone-wrong raises an interesting philosophical question: “Is it better to be 'in a relationship' or a cannibal that eats other people?”

I'd say it's about the same thing.

Monday, September 28, 2009

By the skin of my teeth OR The tooth and nothing but the tooth, so help me

I don't mean to brag, but when I went in to the dentist for my 6 month cleaning the hygienist fairly swooned over how good my brushing and flossing were. She complimented me on my enamel, which I thought was kind of forward but I was flattered nonetheless.

When the dentist came in and started poking around in my mouth and announced – way too cheerfully – that I had a cavity, I was super annoyed.

“What about my nice enamel?” I asked the dentist, a tad angrily.

“What about it?” she replied.

First of all let me say that dental insurance doesn't do anything for you and getting a filling was still wicked expensive. I need to quit my job and get involved in health and dental insurance. It seems like a pretty lucrative scam, plus it's more legal than selling crack and only slightly less ethical.

After they take your money the first thing they do is stick a needle in your gums. This hurts, almost as much as when they take your money. When they first stabbed me with it my eyes started to water. The assistant was pretty attractive (or at least the parts of her that weren't covered by a mask were attractive) so I was a little embarrassed. Then I remembered that they had a needle poking into my gums! I had every right to have a watery eye or two!

I was really curious about what was going on in my mouth, with it costing so much and all. They better be filling my cavity with pure gold. The dentist was wearing a face shield and I could see my mouth reflected in it. I was watching intently for a while but then I realized that me watching my reflection bore a creepy resemblance to me staring longingly into the dentist's eyes, so I quit. I didn't want to distract her while she had both of her hands in my mouth.

And speaking of hands in my mouth, I counted and during the procedure there were no less than 8 objects in my mouth at any given time. Four hands (the dentists and the assistants) plus the spit sucker, water sprayer, drill and mirror. The dentist would tell me to do stuff like, “Bite down,” or “Turn your head slightly,” but she had spit sucker, water sprayer and drill all going at the same time which amounted to quite a dental racket. I couldn't understand a word she was saying. At first she would just talk louder and louder but I still had no idea, and, even worse, I had no way to express that I had no idea. Eventually she just started pantomiming things to me, like dental Charades, which I will be playing at the next party I throw.

At one point the assistant fired up something that sounded like an outboard motor. I couldn't see it, so all I could do was be terrified. For most of the time the room also smelled like high school metal shop and all the while I was trying to keep my mind off of the fact that they were drilling into my teeth, which is easier said than done.

The cherry on top was as they were drilling Avril Lavigne came on the radio, the one where she's like, “Hey Hey You You, I can be your girlfriend.” It's a good thing I wasn't a spy with a bunch of secrets or I would have spilled them all just to make it stop.

Honestly I think I had a cavity because of my unhealthy relationship with sugar, so after this I've sworn off sugar forever. I'm a changed man.

No Snickers bar is worth that pain and agony.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Burn, baby, burn OR 50 foot trolls are people too!

I found out this weekend that there is a little pyromaniac in everyone that wants to get out, even in full-grown adults. People really like to see stuff burn.

Here's how I figured it out: This past weekend my friends and I went to Fiestas de Santa Fe, which is an annual celebration that takes place in the New Mexico capital city of Santa Fe.

In and of itself Fiestas is not that interesting. It began in 1712 to celebrate an expedition by Capitan General y Gobernador Don Diego de Vargas Zapata y Luján Ponce de León y Contreras el Marquez de la Nava de Barcinas. Don Diego's big feat was “reconquering” the territory of New Mexico in 1692. This was a big deal because during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 the Spaniards had been beaten like a drum, booted out of New Mexico and otherwise embarrassed by the native Pueblo indians/Native Americans/First Nations/politically correct term of your choice.

The Pueblo people revolted because the Spanish “conquistadors” were trying to eradicate their culture and religion. De Vargas also enforced his “peace treaty” by killing hundreds of people, so was the return of the Spaniards really a good thing? Should it be celebrated? Like a lot of other historical events, let's just gloss over the bad stuff and make an excuse to drink ridiculous amounts of alcohol.

The event that kicks off Fiestas is the burning of a 50-foot tall puppet named "Zozobra." A lot of people think it's some cool religious or cultural ceremony, or some pagan ritual but no. It was really just the idea of some old white guy. The good people of Santa Fe had been celebrating Fiestas for a good 212 years when Philadelphia artist Will Shuster came to New Mexico because he had tuberculosis and the climate was good for his recovery. Shuster started the Zozobra idea and people loved it. Go figure.

As you can see, Fiestas is a delightfully twisted celebration.

We were among the 23,000 people who turned out to see Zozobra burn for the 85th time. Zozobra is supposed to represent all of your problems. There is a “gloom” box at the front that you can go put your “troubles” into, and they load all the contents into Zozobra right before they burn him, so when Zozobra goes up smoke so do all your troubles. You could write something that is bothering you on a piece of paper, or throw in divorces decrees, pictures of exes, etc. I threw in the bills for my student loans, my credit cards and some speeding tickets.

The actual burning of Zozobra takes about 30 seconds, so they have to stretch it out a little bit. This means the celebration is about 1% awesome and about 99% filler. First there are about a hundred local bands of varying (and I mean VARYING) skill levels. Then somebody comes out dressed in a hooded robe and reads Zozobra’s death sentence, which is kind of morbid if you think about it. It includes all the charges against Zozobra. One of the charges is “Being a 50 foot bogeyman,” which kind of sounds like discrimination to me.

After the death sentence they have “fire dancers,” which are kids dressed up in ghost outfits who dance around with fiery sticks, a ridiculously dangerous activity. I should also mention that Zozobra growls the whole time. That is to say, some dude backstage growls into a microphone, and 45 minutes is a long time to go “Rawr! Rawr!” His growls sort of tapered off after a while, and once I think I heard Zozobra growl, “Rawr! Somebody get me a glass of water! Rawr!” Then the guy got his second wind and resumed growling with gusto.

Let me just say: puppet growling + fire dancers + 45 minutes = TEDIOUS! The people around us were clearly getting bored and were saying things like:

“Just burn him already!”

“Man, this would be so much cooler if we had some ‘shrooms!”

“Leave Zozobra alone! He’s just a giant troll! Can’t we all just get along?”

Then the moment we’d all been waiting for: they shot a bottlerocket into Zozobra’s head and he caught fire and in 30 seconds the crowd of 23,000 immediately began trampling one another to death to get out of the park. And did I mention there is ONE BRIDGE into the park? This means that all 23,000 people were bottle-necked in one spot, and there was pushing and shoving like you wouldn't believe! It was kind of like being caught in the current of a cursing, yelling river of B.O.

¡Viva la Fiesta!

The whole evening is condensed here:

Monday, September 14, 2009

Waking up is hard to do OR Snooze Button Blues

The snooze button is the worst invention ever. What purpose does it serve? What does an extra nine minutes of sleep really do for you? It's not like those nine minutes are nine minutes of sound, quality sleep. The snooze button really just makes you late for work and drives everyone else in the house crazy.

I thought I was the only one who wondered about the inventor of the snooze button, but a lot of people have written and raged about him/her/it. I say him/her/it because no one really knows who invented it. A chinchilla could've come up with the idea for all I know. One day it just came out of its little burrow and patented the idea, sold it to a few clock companies and is living very comfortably now in a much larger and more extravagant burrow.

Some people give snooze button inventor status to Lew Wallace, the guy who wrote Ben Hur, but that seems kind of random that a guy who writes movies would also invent alarm clock accessories. Plus, there are differing stories that put all sorts of different people as the Sultan of Snooze. It is likely that a lot of these snooze theories and legends are rubbish, as I limited my search to things I could find on the internet. Everyone knows that roughly 99 percent of information found on the internet is rubbish, present blog excluded of course.

What was the enigmatic snooze button inventor thinking when he made his brilliant discovery that would change the way the world sleeps? What were the thoughts that were going through this great mind? I expect something along the lines of, “I'll give the world more sleep, nine minutes at a time.”

They have all sorts of clocks designed to combat the “snooze effect.” There are alarms on wheels that start going off and then roll off your nightstand across your room so that you have to find them, which supposedly “guarantees” that you'll be wide awake. For me the only thing that chasing an annoying clock robot across my room in the early hours of the morning guarantees is that I will be super angry and said robot clock will likely get destroyed his first morning on the job.

Then they have a “sonic boom” alarm clock, which has an alarm that is 113 decibels. I looked it up and that is the same volume as a thunderclap, a jackhammer or being in the front row at a rock concert. This particular model is good if you like to wake up scared to death. “Holy crap! World War III is starting! Or worse, I'm in the front row at a Daughtry concert! Oh wait. Nope. It's just time for work.” I don't think cardiac arrest is a good way to start the day.

There are other crappy ways to wake up, too. A couple mornings ago I was dreaming that I was a serial murderer who had been convicted for all of my murders and I was getting executed in a gas chamber. I woke up in a cold sweat and quickly deduced what had happened (I'm good at deducing, and you could say I'm very "deductive," or "deductible" even). It turns out my neighbor was warming up his ancient car right by my open window and, consequently, my room was filling with noxious exhaust. What a way to start the day.

It was a Monday, too.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Maybe, baby OR Hit me baby one more time

Happy Labor Day, everyone! And speaking of labor, my sister Miranda just had her baby and he is a bundle of joy. And poop. And throw up.

My mom and dad went to “help” her have the baby. This means moral support in the delivery room, more or less, since everyone knows that the mom does all the work. All the doctor really does is catch and clean up, and the grandparents and husband just kind of cheer and give the mother positive affirmations.

Anyway, I guess Miranda’s labor was really rough and actually kind of scary. My dad (a seasoned delivery room cheer squad veteran of seven births) tried to explain it to me. There was something about “tearing” and “hemorrhaging” and that’s all I remember because when he got to “stitching” I passed out cold. Not really, but I sure thought about it.

My brother-in-law Rafa managed, to my surprise. I always make fun of Rafa and say he’s a wiener and I thought for sure he’d be passed out on the floor first thing. I give Rafa a hard time because when he and Miranda were dating she was also dating another guy, and I was rooting for the other guy. Well, Rafa won and I’m a sore loser so I always talk a lot of trash on Rafa. But in this case he surprised me.

Anyway, I also learned that baby-having involves a lot of colors. The baby is starting to turn a normal color now, but he didn’t start out that way. When my mom first e-mailed me some pictures he was a dark purplish-red and was kind of smooshy in texture (I am told this has something to do with him getting squeezed out of a birth canal a couple minutes before the picture was taken). He looked like a screaming beet with hair.

On the other hand, Miranda looked pale and white in the pictures. I’d put some of them up but she threatened me with a switchblade and a really nasty-smelling dirty diaper.

“But you have a motherly glow,” I said.

“I’ll glow you,” she said, angrily brandishing the putrid abomination of a baby diaper.

So you’ll have to take my word that she looked pretty sick. The baby is less purple now, and has more of a reddish tint, kind of like a crying, pooping watermelon’s insides.

They named him Kaleo, which is a pretty good compromise in my opinion. It’s unique, but not half as obnoxious as some of the other names they were tossing around.

Rafa is kind of controlling when it comes to what the baby will be named. Miranda has some ideas for a middle name, but Rafa keeps shooting them down. He keeps asserting that he is the boss, which makes sense because he contributed a whopping 23 chromosomes to the whole process. Oh wait. That doesn't make sense. My issues with this are:

1. It’s 2009.
2. If I remember correctly, Miranda was the one who squirted the thing out, lost a bunch of blood and got stitched back together, right?

But somehow Rafa thinks he gets to have the last say in what they name it. I guess someone made him the new baby-naming sheriff in town. Not only does that seem a little unfair, but I know my sister (not to mention my mother) and I think Rafa is taking his life in his hands. But he won’t listen to my warnings, oh no!

“These women are going to kill you, man,” I say with urgency in my voice.

“I’m the man and I get to name the baby,” he says, resolute in his stupidity.

Sounds like famous last words to me. Or a nice epitaph.

PS - Having a nephew is awesome because I can hold him until he cries or poops and then hand him straight back to his mom, like, "Here, my interest in your baby has expired." It's all the perks of having a a baby with no actual work or responsibility.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sounds fishy to me OR When I say "I love you," you say "You'd betta!"

My brother has a betta fish named Stan, and we do not get along. I think it is because Stan knows about my dark and sordid fish past and he hates me for it.

Every morning I walk past Stan’s bowl and he starts to attack the glass like a crazy fish and then we stare each other down for a while.

First of all, let me say a living thing that you have to care for is the worst present an adult could possibly give to another adult. “Happy Birthday! Here’s some responsibility.”

With that being said, on my twenty-third birthday a “friend” gave me a betta fish. Great. Something I have to feed every day and a nasty fishbowl I have to clean every week. And what does it do for me? Blow bubbles, of course!

I don’t blame my friend, though. I blame Wal-Mart for having fish that are so inexpensive that they can be given as insincere birthday presents. Wal-Mart can’t pay its employees a living wage, but it can sell you fish for about the same price as a Big Mac. But I digress.

My mom had a baby when I was senior in high school, which is the single-most embarrassing thing that can happen to you. I had bad skin and bad hair and now my mom was having a baby! That meant that… well, you know what that meant! Horrible! I told her I deserved to name the baby because she had shamed me so, and I wanted to name him “Herbert.” Apparently that is not how it works. She named him “Quinn” and told me exactly what to do with the name Herbert. Again, I digress.

So I named my fish Herbert, and I will say this for betta fish: they aren’t cool pets, but they absolutely will not die. I had expected Herbert to die in the first few days, like the goldfish I had when I was a kid, but pretty soon “a few days” lapsed into “a few months.”

I got sick of Herbert, quit cleaning his bowl and only fed him sporadically. I feel bad about it now, but at the time I was quite busy with college, work and chasing women. Herbert would wipe a little window in the green gunk growing on the sides of his bowl and look out of it with forlorn fish eyes. But he wouldn’t die.

Eventually I moved, but I didn’t want to take Herbert with me. I didn’t want him sloshing around in my car during the move, and I didn’t want to give him to somebody because I knew firsthand what a sucky present a fish makes. So I flushed him.

That’s right. We said our goodbyes and then Whoosh! I’ve seen Finding Nemo, though, and I know for a fact that Herbert is now happily reunited with his father.

And now, several years later, I think Stan has a fishy feeling about what I did to Herbert, which explains the animosity. Or maybe he’s mad because I make fun of his “bubble nest,” which is something a male betta makes by blowing a bunch of nasty bubbles that look like foam on top of the water.

The idea is that a female betta will come by, mate with him and then lay her eggs in the bubble nest. Stan is looking for love, but Stan is the only fish in his bowl and it’s not working out so well for him. I think he’s frustrated, and my taunts don’t help any.

“Still no mate, eh Stan?” I ask smarmily. “I see you’re still blowing bubbles, though. Keep trying!”

If fish looks could kill…

Monday, August 24, 2009

Take this with a grain of salt OR Slugging it out at work

At my new job I have my own office and my own desk. There are six drawers in my new desk: four are empty and pretty straightforward, but the other two are a baffling mystery.

You see, one of them is filled with salt, and the other with sand. OK, “filled” is not exactly the right word, but each drawer has a fair amount of each.

The bottom drawer on the left hand side of the desk contains a thin layer of salt. I first figured this out when I tried to put my new stapler in there and I heard it crunching around. I reached my hand in there and it came out coated in a white, crystalline substance.

I figured out that it was salt, but I won’t say how. I may or may not have tasted some mysterious white crystals that I randomly found in my desk, which may or may not have been the worst idea ever. I was curious! Don’t judge.

Luckily it was salt and not something else, but that set me to wondering, “What drove this person to fill their desk drawer with salt?” For the rest of the day I thought about it while I worked.

I have no idea who was in this office before me as they left no evidence of themselves. No one really talks about him/her either, although I suspect that no one really notices who comes and goes here because the turnover is so high.

Anyway, after a while I came up with two theories. First, I surmised that this person had lived in mortal fear of slugs. Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of entomology can tell you that the best way to kill a slug is to pour salt on it. Logically, if you were afraid of slugs you’d keep a grip of salt at your disposal, which my mystery desk predecessor obviously had. You never know when one of those slimy things will creep up on you and you have to be ready for them.

I read about slugs and they eat a lot of harmless things like dead leaves and stuff, but they also eat carrion (dead animals) and other slugs, which makes them nasty vulture-cannibals. Honestly, after my research I feel a little uneasy about slugs too. (I left the salt in the drawer, just in case).

My second salt drawer theory suggests that the previous occupant really liked margaritas, which have salt on the rim of the glass. He/she simply kept a drawer-full of salt on hand so that he/she could make a margarita at any given moment. After working this job for a couple of months, I can’t say I blame them.

That still leaves the sand drawer. What the heck was that for? It is right in the middle of the desk where normal people usually keep pencils and pens. The only logical thing I can figure is that the former occupant was lonely and needed someone to drink margaritas with and to confide their fear of slugs to. So he/she bought a lizard and built him a sandy little habitat in the desk drawer. During the day he/she would sneak it crickets and other lizard snacks.

I guess I will never know why I have a drawer filled with salt and a drawer filled with sand, although sometimes when I'm working I swear I hear something scrabbling around somewhere deep inside my desk.

I figure it's the lizard. Or a cannibal slug.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I'll stick with you OR This a test

I like my new job, but the downside is that I have to commute one hour each way. The upside is that during this time I've made some important discoveries.

For anyone else who is mathematically challenged like me, I already got out the calculator and figured out that is two hours of my day spent in a car. What a drag.

But while I'm sitting in traffic I use that time to look at bumper stickers and it gives me a deep sense of satisfaction. I feel like I'm conducting social research from the comfort of my Geo Prizm.

The first thing I've realized, and this could be called “Barben's First Law of Bumper Stickers,” is that there are only two types of people who put bumper stickers on their cars: hippies and people with extremely poor taste. I feel strongly that every bumper sticker falls into one of these two categories.

“But what about political bumper stickers?” you ask. Don't worry, the First Law of Bumper Stickers applies to them, too. Here's how: liberal, Democrat-type stickers fall into the “hippy” category, and conservative, Republican-type stickers obviously fall into the “people with extremely poor taste” category.

Hippy bumper stickers include ones like “Food not lawns,” “Jesus was a liberal” and “Renewable energy is homeland security.”

Then there are all the rest. It's sad to say, but the lion's share of bumper stickers belong in the “people with extremely poor taste” category. I am hesitant to even give examples.

Fortunately even the tackiest of bumper stickers serves a grand purpose. They are kind of like a “Seal of Genuine Stupidity.” Oftentimes, bumper stickers can be thought of as the “Ignorance Broadcasting System.” Most bumper stickers might as well be saying, “I'm a huge idiot. Here's some proof. ” Just the other day I saw a fine example of the ignorance broadcasting system:

Oh. My. Goodness. All I can say is that I hope that guy gets rear-ended. And by looking at bumper stickers I can tell that I wouldn't want spend a single second with the occupant of a given car. That sounds shallow, judgmental and mean but I don't have a lot of free time, so why spend it with annoying people?

You might be surprised, as I was, to note that the crown jewel of the “people with extremely poor taste” category is not even a bumper sticker. I was driving to work the other morning and was thoroughly unsettled to see the following dangling in front of me as I waited at the stoplight:

Yes, that is exactly what it looks like: fake plastic testicles to hang from the trailer hitch of your ludicrously oversized truck. Luckily, I have to get up really early and I often skip breakfast, so I just dry heaved a bunch instead of throwing up.

The guy who invented this is either a total skeeze or a super-genius who is laughing all the way to the bank at all the skeezy dudes who are buying his product.

It made me want to get a bumper sticker that says, “God Bless America.”

Monday, August 10, 2009

Once in a blue moon OR I want to see you dance again on this Harvest Moon

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like weird stuff happens when it’s a full moon. Take this past week when there was a full moon: stuff got crazy.
First off, three of my friends got rear-ended, and while I was driving I saw no less than three car accidents, all rear-endings! That can’t be coincidence. Six rear-endings in one day, and those are just the ones I saw. I think I can safely say that full moons cause rear-ending-type car accidents.

Actually, that was the only crazy thing that happened, but it got me thinking about full moons and lots of crazy stuff goes down during full moons. For one, hospital emergency units see about 10 percent more patients during full moons and most nurses and doctors believe the moon negatively affects patient behavior.

Full moons make people go crazy. During a full moon there is a dramatic rise in admissions to psychiatric hospitals, arson attacks increase by 100 percent and murders and other violent crimes increase. Basically, if you’re going to go bat-crap crazy, you’re most likely to do it under a full moon.

The funniest moon fact is how full moons put coral reefs “in the mood,” if you know what I mean. Most coral only mates under a full moon. I wonder if the full moon has that same effect on people? Not sure I want to know.

Full moons get names, too, depending on the month, like, “Sprouting Grass Moon” and “Fish Moon.” August’s moon is called a “Grain Moon,” and in this month people experience unexplainable cravings for Cheerio’s and whole wheat bread. Okay, I made that up, but September is the “Fruit Moon.” During that moon people are known to experience an inexplicable need for Jamba Juice and banana bread. Totally true.

The coolest moon name is February, which is the “Wolf Moon.” This name is undoubtedly referencing the coolest full moon phenomena: lycanthropy, which is a fancy way to say “werewolf-ism.” There are many variations but generally a werewolf is a regular person who turns into a ravenous beast during the full moon and then turns back into a regular person after.
I am sure that people get a little uneasy around me when it’s a full moon since I am kind of hirsute. I think I might look suspiciously like a werewolf.
Maybe I am a werewolf, now that I think about it. When someone turns into a werewolf they don’t usually remember it, right? Sometimes werewolves even eat their family and friends, because they aren’t in their right mind and are only thinking werewolf thoughts. I might have been out on tons of full moon rampages and not even remember it!
Sadly, a cursory analysis will show that I am probably not a werewolf. All of my family and friends can be accounted for, I don’t have any mysteriously ripped clothing and I don’t recall ever being bitten by a werewolf. I can even remember what happened during the full moon (like the six car crashes). I guess I am not a werewolf after all. But I can still hope, can’t I?

I can’t wait to see what happens next full moon.

Monday, August 3, 2009

I told the Witch Doctor I had a stye in my eye OR I only have eyes for you, baby OR Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

A few months ago my eye started hurting and I discovered an angry red bump on my eyelid. Thus began the ophthalmic journey that would bring me to the brink of madness.

First I had to wait to start my job. Then I had to wait for my benefits and insurance to kick in. Then I had to get an appointment with a general practitioner, which proved to be a feat in and of itself. Nobody in town was making appointments until October, three months away.

So I went to the Urgent Care on the advice of a smarmy receptionist, and it is there that I learned that Urgent Care doctors suck, or at least mine did. For only a $30 copay he basically gave me some attitude and told me to see a specialist.
By a miracle I got in to see the ophthalmologist within a month. I sat in his waiting room for two hours before I finally got to see him. I was a little worried about my visit. Somebody told me my red bump was a “stye,” and I promptly looked the word up on WebMd (bad idea). It said that a stye is basically a nasty, ugly pimple in your eye. Awesome.

Also, in my months of trying to get seen by a doctor my stye had gotten bigger and redder. A “friend” said it might have to get “lanced” and “drained,” which is a nice way of saying they might have to cut it open and let all the gunk ooze out. Fun times.
So when the doctor finally called me back I was a little nervous. He poked my eyes with all kinds of exotic instruments. Just when I thought he couldn’t possibly have anything else to jab my eyeballs with he would supernaturally produce another device and stick in my eye. He put a couple of different drops in my eyes. He made me read letters off of a chart.

And then he said, “You have a stye, which is basically a nasty, ugly pimple in your eye.”

“Good diagnosis,” I said. “WebMd told me as much. What do we do about it, doctor?”

And, honest-to-goodness, this is what he said: “Well what you’re going to need to do is put a hot compress on your eye twice a day. I recommend a potato. Just sick it in the microwave for a few minutes and then put it on your eye. Oh yeah, and omega 3 fatty acid also helps, so you’re gonna want to take some fish oil, but don’t skimp. Get the expensive fish oil because cheap fish oil will make you smell like a tuna fish sandwich.”

I was dumbfounded. “You’re telling me to take fish oil and put a hot potato on my eye and that will cure me? Should I sprinkle some sour cream, chives and bacon bits on there too? Does it need to be under a full moon? Is there an incantation I should say first? What kind of old wives’ tale witch doctor ophthalmologist are you? You really feel OK taking my money?”
But of course I didn’t say any of that. I just let him write “potato” and “fish oil” on a piece of paper for me like it was a prescription and send me on my way.

All I can say is, “second opinion.” And I want my $30 copay back.