How to Improve Your Life in 2012

As the year ends, people seem to be writing lists of blogs they read. However, this can be perilous. As Lucysfootball so aptly puts it in “My mom says I’m a catch; I’m popular,” a favorite blogs of 2011 post would, “end up like the one time I tried to do #FF on Twitter. If you’re not on Twitter, you don’t know about #FF. #FF is Follow Friday. You type in someone’s name you think your followers should follow, and hopefully they listen to you. But it becomes like a popularity contest, and people get their noses bent out of joint if they’re not #FF’d, or if others are #FF’d instead of them, and the one time I tried it I failed SO MISERABLY I have been hiding under my #FF rock ever since.”

Since I don’t even have a #FF rock, I had better not go there. So I will not at all explain to you which blogs I read and why. After all, this blog is a self-help guide. How am I going to help you help yourself if I am going on and on about what blogs I enjoy reading? Therefore, I am going to give you an entire self-improvement guide. For FREE. Ready?

1. Improve your life by learning about tea with @lahikmajoe.

Read Lahikmajoe’s tea blog and you will never think about Oolong leaves or bergamot oil the same way again. So go there, and start appreciating tea immediately.

Now we are all done with tea, I have to admit that my favorite posts on his tea blogs were actually the ones that had the least to do about tea. Therefore, I was absolutely THRILLED when Lahikmajoe started his new Dachshund Blog. You can read endearing dachshund stories here all day long. They save lives and they throw up chocolate. There is no end to the delight a dachshund can bring to your day. Plus, if you tire of reading about dachshunds (what kind of person ARE you???) you can read about beer songs from Texas, poop mail, and, of course, mad people on trains.

2. Be more sciency with @heinakroon.

To me, this blog is like one of those people who comes in and organizes all the clutter in your brain so that you can actually find stuff. They have people like that, right?

At Heinakroon.com, you can learn the science behind zombies  and find how why your Christmas tree can’t kill you. Or maybe it can kill you, just not by poisoning you. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention you can become a vampire lesbian.

I particularly love this blog, because Andreas Heinakroon writes about things I spend a lot of time thinking about. There is actually only one small difference in the way we operate.  I often wonder why people are obsessed with dieting or worried about zombies, but then I go off to look at shiny stuff or work on my martini recipe. Andreas thinks about these things, then he researches and writes stuff down in an organized fashion. After reading his blog, you will see the world in a whole new way. Just don’t get upset if he compares you to a primate.

3. Learn a new language with @lucysfootball.

Reading Lucy’s Football is what it feels like to ride a rollercoaster while laughing your head off. Then the rollercoaster jumps the tracks and goes flying dramatically off course and you have no idea if you are still on the same rollercoaster or if you are on a different type of ride all together. You don’t know if you will be safe and children could very well be in extreme danger, but you are still laughing your head off and you don’t even care. That is what it is like.

An added bonus to this blog is the fact that Amy doesn’t even stick to words in the English language. It isn’t that she isn’t familiar with the language. She is an eloquent writer. I think it is that the words and phrases that have been already invented are too limiting. If Webster had any vision at all, the words douchecanoe, douchecanoey, and asshat would already be in the dictionary.

There are also very interesting phrases that she will often highlight for your convenience in all capital letters. Phrases like BUCKING BRONCO OF BROKENNESS and my own personal favorite, PUT YOUR PANTS BACK ON DING DONG JOE.

All this considered, Amy is an altruist at heart, providing helpful guidelines for those of you confused by social media or laundry room etiquette. Just a hint, keeping your pants on is generally a good idea under most circumstances.

4. Take up cannibalism with @plumsauce10.

It is important when taking up a new hobby like cannibalism that you understand the social implications. For example, when you have cake, and a friend, which do you eat first? It is handy to know these things before such a situation presents itself.

Lucky for you, in her blog, Random Thoughts of a Plum, Lisa provides a clear guideline Important Rules to Abide by When Eating Friends, printable for easy reference.

The rules essentially break down to this:

“Don’t eat friends when there is cake” and “Only eat one friend a day so as not to piss off your significant other.”

But, just as with anything else, there are subtleties involved with cannibalism, as well as cholesterol considerations, so you should probably read the entire thing.

5. Spice up your wardrobe with @handflapper.

If you have never been Baby Depot wearing a FUCKING BELLS T-shirt, your life is poorer for it. If you do plan on having a FUCKING BELLS T-Shirt Outing, be ready for a grand adventure. You should also be ready for people to under-react to your t-shirt. People are so de-sensitized these days. I blame Mel Gibson. Also, bring a better photographer than Alice. Alice was extremely uncooperative. You can’t just run in for crazy meds without even taking a picture of the Salvation Army guy, Alice. Especially after you were promised tater crowns.

So that is it. Enjoy your new and improved life in 2012. Hurry and enjoy it now before we die because the Mayans forgot to finish their damn calendar. You’re welcome.

TWITTER!!!!

Twitter is full and I am locked out. I have no backup plan of where to put all the random crap that pops into my head.

I am IMPORTANT over there, Twitter! LET ME IN!!!

I just realized I can’t even post this blog to Twitter. Somebody please let me in. I’ll be quiet, I promise!

Milkshakes from the Past

You are probably thinking this is going to be one of those posts where I spend the whole time expounding on some trivial thing in life that actually took only about 20 seconds in real time, but now I am going to force you to spend 8 to 10 minutes reading about it. You are right.

Yesterday, I took my kid to McDonald’s for breakfast because we were out of bacon. And eggs. And toast. I tried to get him to eat oatmeal cookies for breakfast because of the oatmeal content, but he seemed to think that cookies were not a proper breakfast. Sometimes I don’t know what is wrong with that kid.

After we agreed that we would go to McDonald’s to get him a McGriddle, I glanced at the clock. It was 10:07. McGriddle service ends at that place at 10:30 sharp. “Don’t worry Mom,” my child says, “I’ll go get dressed.” (It is the week after Christmas, my kid is out of school, and yes, we have been in our pajamas all morning playing games on his new Wii. Don’t judge me. We will read a book later. Maybe.)

While I locate car keys, my seven-year-old proceeds to go into his room and pull out the most ridiculous match up of clothing I have ever seen. I usually set his clothes out for him to avoid this. Apparently, seven-year-olds think you can pull any random pants and shirt items from a drawer, and put them on without any planning or foresight. It always ends badly. However, the countdown had started, and there was no time to argue. We got in the car and arrived at McDonalds at 10:22. My kid tells me he wants a McGriddle with milk, then rushes off to go find a table.

Ordering at fast food restaurants is extremely difficult, even without the time pressure. There is a line behind you, waiting for you to order. There is a person in front of you, expecting you to order. You have to be extremely precise in your communication with this person in order for you to receive the food you are expecting. Then there is the menu itself, a glaring panorama with brightly lit pictures of food and numbers and drinks.

I have to remember my kids order, and mine. Then somehow communicate all this to a person with the clock ticking down to 10:30. It is a high-pressure situation.

There is one person ahead of me in line. I am trying to pay attention so I will see when they are finished ordering and move up. At the same time I am looking at the McGriddle pictures perplexed as to why they put cheese on them. Then I am trying to figure out if they come with milk. My kid asked for milk, but milk is only listed on the kid’s menu. There is no breakfast kid menu. Maybe I’ll just order it with milk to see what happens. How is the number seven different from the number six? Oh god, one has sausage and one has bacon. Which one did he want??

You can see that I have a lot going on inside my head. This is when I hear a voice behind me saying, “Are you interested in a free milkshake?” I turn to find an attractive looking guy standing behind me. At a McDonald’s, I know. It is hard to believe.

When I see attractive people, I always assume they are selling something. Probably because all the attractive, well-dressed people at my office are in sales. So, here is this guy with the Ashton Kutcher hair asking me about a milkshake. I give him my very best I’m-not-interested-in-signing-up-for-a-damn-credit-card-or-changing-my-electricity-provider glare. He shifts a bit, but continues, undaunted.

“You can get a free milkshake here. On November 25th.” He is obviously trying to communicate something with me by pointing to a hand-written sign on the counter that says “Get a free milkshake on November 25th” I consider the quickest way of ending this interaction and decide to pretend to be agreeable. Sometimes that works.

“Yes, I see that. Thanks.” I respond.

“On November 25th.” He repeats. The guy is not letting it go.

I continue with my tactic of being nice, but dismissive, “Yes, that’s great.” I tell him.

Finally, he decides I am never going to get it. “That is like a YEAR from now.” He blurts out. He now seems pleased with himself, but a little flustered at having to explain his own joke.

I missed it. He was being WITTY, and I missed it. I usually appreciate people being witty. But you just can’t spring it on me like that. I can’t be expected to deal with some kind of Ashton Kutcher look-alike in line at a McDonald’s trying to sell me a milkshake from the past while I am dealing with McGriddle deadlines.

This shirt will prevent unwanted offers of milkshakes from the past. You probably think this will not happen to you, but you can never be too careful.

So, to the good-looking guy in line behind me at McDonalds, sorry I didn’t get your witty banter. In all fairness, if you look like Ashton Kutcher, you shouldn’t even be in a McDonalds. This isn’t Beverly Hills. Go to a Chick-fil-A.

The good news is, that my kid and I had great time eating our McGriddles. He even demonstrated how he almost spit out his milk at school when his friend told him a joke one time. Morning accomplished.

How to Survive a Year

Well, we have made it through the holidays and it is time to start a brand new year. In order to assist you with upcoming activities and expectations, I have made you a month-by-month list of requirements. I am helpful that way.

January

New Year’s Day:

Welcome to the New Year everyone! If you manage to stay up until midnight, there will be paper hats, noisemakers, and champagne. New Year Resolutions will be made. Feel free to make as many resolutions as you wish as they can be ignored throughout the year.

Also, you will have put up a tree for Christmas that you should take down sometime this month.

February

You should definitely be ignoring your resolutions by now, so go ahead and cancel that gym membership. Also if you haven’t taken down that Christmas tree yet, you suck. Who cares if it was not your idea to put it up in the first place, take down the damn tree! Feel free to wad up all the lights carelessly as you won’t have to worry about them until next Christmas.

Valentine’s Day:

 You will be asked to address twenty valentine cards to the kids at your son’s school. You will have no idea who these kids are, just copy the names from the list the teacher gives you. Your kid will come home with exactly the same number of cards in his backpack, which you will then throw away. Don’t question the logic of this, just do it. There could be a romantic dinner in your future. Maybe flowers.

 March

Any flowers you got for Valentine’s Day will be dead. Find them and throw them out.

St. Patrick’s Day:

I’m not sure what day this is on, but you will need to remember to wear green. Wear green for the entire month just in case. Some people may ask you to meet them at an Irish pub for a pint and some corned beef. There could be green beer, which will seem like a good idea, but you should really go with a stout or an Irish red ale. They are much more authentic to the tradition than Bud Light with green food coloring.

April

April Fool’s Day:

Don’t believe anything anyone says. Pretend this is somehow different from every other day.

Easter:

Colored eggs, rabbits. Peeps. People dress up and go to church. If you are very unlucky, there will be hats. I’m pretty sure the whole Easter hat thing is dead, but as a general rule, you should avoid wearing fancy hats if at all possible.

May

Locate all the Peeps from Easter and throw them out. No one is ever going to eat them.

Mother’s Day:

Send your mom a card, and maybe some flowers. Stay out of any place serving brunch as these locations will be filled with women wearing corsages. A corsage is the dumbest thing ever. If anyone ever gives you one, you should immediately stab them with it.

June

Father’s Day:

This is not as big of a deal as Mother’s Day. Dads will take advantage of their right to sit on the couch and watch television. It is important to humor them by pretending that is not what they would be doing anyway. No one ever expects a dad to go to brunch wearing a corsage, which I find extremely unfair. You can’t tell me that people enjoy walking around with flowers pinned to their clothing. It is ridiculous.

July

Independence Day:

Your neighbor will invite you out to their place at the lake where he will make a speech about freedom, then try to kill everyone with fireworks. Make an excuse not to go.

August

If you are me, you live in Texas. August in Texas is an impossibly hot month. People will celebrate by taking pictures of their car thermostats with their phones to post to Facebook. I usually track these and send a notice to the winner. There is no prize for this contest, just bragging rights that you somehow did not get heat stroke from entering the roasting-oven environment of your car.

No one will feel like doing anything this month. You can’t even wear a corsage because the burning hot sun will strike it from the sky causing it to melt into your clothing. Which is why they won’t even sell you a corsage in August, probably.

September

School Starts:

In complete denial of the fact it is still freaking hot, stores will begin selling back to school clothes and jackets. Stores will also be selling lots of notebook paper, erasers, and crayons. If you are me, you will locate the most enormous box of Crayola crayons, then open it to smell the new crayon smell.

October

Halloween:

Stores will be selling costumes and scary zombie yard decorations. They will also begin putting up their Christmas displays. This is the perfect opportunity to go through each store adding skeletons to the baby Jesus manger scenes.

Decorate your house with spider webs and skulls. If you tend to have actual spider webs and skulls in your house, then win for you. Do nothing.

Carve a pumpkin into a face with crooked teeth. Save the seeds because you say you are going to roast them. Stock up on candy to hand out to kids. Pass out the candy. Take your kid around the neighborhood gather up candy. After all this effort, the amount of candy in your house will be exactly the same. Do not question the logic of this, just do it.

November

Take down the spider webs and skulls. Find a storage space for the scary yard zombies. The guest room closet is ideal. Turn your carved pumpkin so the crooked teeth face a wall. It is now a fall harvest display.

Thanksgiving:

School children will color Thanksgiving pilgrims and make turkeys by tracing the shape of their hand.

You may be asked to attend a formal dinner with extended family. If you are very unlucky, everyone will hold hands in a circle for what seems like eternity so that each individual can mushily announce whatever it is they are thankful for. No one will admit that is a form of torture. Try to think of something to say that isn’t too saccharine or embarrassing.

Following the awkward hand holding session will be a prayer, and finally, the ridiculously large dinner. You will watch the people who have been bitching about carbs all year long eat rolls, cornbread dressing, AND mashed potatoes…. at the same time. If you are lucky, there will be eight types of pie.

December

There is no excuse for that pumpkin now, and it is starting to smell. Throw it away. The seeds are probably in the back of the refrigerator somewhere. I’m sure you’ll get around to roasting them eventually.

Christmas:

You will put a tree in your living room and decorate it. It will not be providing shade. Don’t question the logic of this, just do it.

You will open the Christmas decorations stored from last year and wonder who the hell wadded up all the lights into a tangled mess. You could go out and buy new ones. Alternatively, you could spend the day untangling them and figuring out which of the bulbs on the damn thing is making all the other bulbs not light, then go out and buy new ones.

About mid-month, people will start asking if you are done with your Christmas shopping yet. Stores become overly crowded and at the same time start playing sappy, often religious-themed music over their public address systems. Twitter the names of these songs to your followers as you stand in line. Misery is best when shared with friends.

You struggle to wrap things that are oddly shaped, then your family comes over and gifts are exchanged. You will receive a few awesome unexpected things, one thing you didn’t know you needed, and some really dumb things you have no use for. Your trash/recycle bin will be obscenely full with paper and cardboard boxes on the very week no one shows to pick it up.

Congratulations!

And then, like magic, you are done. You made it. Congratulations to you!  Now… start over at January and repeat for the rest of your life. Don’t question the logic of this, just do it.

Ants on a Branch

First of all, I would like to say that I haven’t even quoted Steven Pinker yet and he has took most of the brunt for my opinions. Congrats to Steven Pinker, I might add. Also, this has been a very long day ending a very long week, so I might be rather drunk at typing.

That said, my mom was cozying up next to me and saying snacky-snack, while chewing loudly on an actual snack. I told her my laptop was broken and came in here. According to Steven Pinker, she is supposed to be the grandmother supporting the next generation. However, I shell out the bucks for after-school care. Sometimes my only solace is the kind logical words of Desmond Morris calling us the human animal, or Steven Pinker describing the odd logic of the brain.  You know what, Pinker has got bad press lately, let’s go there. Every quote from here on is from his book, How the Mind Words.

Rule 1. You think with your brain.

The truth is, that whether you chose to be creative with them or not, the chemicals in your brain rule you. You think with your brain. Every action you take during the day, and every word you type with you hand, depends on it. Accepting that, the problem with emotions is that they are “designed to propagate copies of the genes that built them rather an to promote happiness, wisdom or moral values.” Emotions can be “damaging to the actor’s happiness in the long run, uncontrollable, and impervious to persuasion.”  Our emotions are not engineered for our happiness, yet we are dependent on them to fuel our daily perceptions of the world.

Rule 2. Your brain was created by DNA

The cold truth is that our emotions do betray us. Our emotions rely on goals to tell us what to do. “Without goals, the very concept of intelligence is meaningless. Of course, the “Brain’s goal is not reproduction itself.” You must have one goal at al time, matched to the likelihood of achieving that goal… otherwise, if it is too much of of reach. You don’t want to lose the state of flow. (You see… I knew being objective would work out for me).

Rule 3. Your brain wants you to like those uppity women at your kid’s day care

The truth is that each “human emotion mobilizes the mind and body to meet one of the challenges of living and reproduction in the cognitive niche.” Emotions train us to be social creatures and adapt to one another.

Our brains are only a part of the DNA that struggles so hard and long to survive. That DNA is creative. It mixes and matches parts at a gamble. You see, Einstein, God DOES play dice with the universe. He will mix and match to the utmost extreme. Even until you become so good at logic, you forgo social interaction. DNA mixes the crap out of stuff just to see what will take. It doesn’t give a shit if we are happy. Emotions are brain chemicals. Brain chemicals are created by the DNA. Created by the very same DNA that wants to produce itself. Who is in control here? We are ants on a branch.

Rule 4. People who distort logic to their own ends will always win.

I just wanted to pick a fight. I’m actually creative myself. You see, I like to make these bracelets with beads. Apologies. Oh, wait… forgot I am making said bracelets to look hot. Back to Rule 1.

One more note from Steven Pinker, “The emotions are mechanisms that set the brain’s highest-level goals. Once triggered by a propitious moment, and emotion triggers the cascade of subgoals and sub-subgoals.” So, maybe it is true you get what you wish for, or think most about. Pick your next goal carefully, your brain may be watching.

Rule 5. If you made it this far, you win.

Enjoy a life of crime, or scientific achievement, whichever.

Satoshi Kanazawa, author of Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters brings up some interesting points. These points are particularly interesting, because they point out that men in particular would not be getting a lot done if they weren’t trying to impress people in order to have sex with them.

Let’s take the age-crime curve for example, widely accepted by criminologists describes the relationship between age and crime. In every society, the tendency to perform risk-taking behavior, such as committing a crime, peaks in late adolescence/early adulthood, decreases in the 20s and 30s, then levels off during middle age. Kanazawa points out that this phenomena is not limited to crime, but extends to “every quantifiable human behavior that is public (i.e., perceived by many potential mates) and costly (i.e., not affordable by all sexual competitors).” The relationship between age and productivity among male jazz musicians, painters, scientists, writers is essentially the same as the age-crime curve.

According to this theory, “both crime and genius are expressions of men’s competitive desires, whose ultimate function in the ancestral environment would have been to increase reproductive success.”

Let’s look at one of the major accomplishments of the past century, the home computer. This device has changed the way we communicate, shop, work, and look at porn. If Bill Gates didn’t need some grand scheme to seduce women, he would never have put that computer together in his garage. Of course, he probably didn’t know why he was doing it. No one ever bothers to think these things out. One day you are putting a computer together in your basement, then the next you have little reproductions of yourself populating the earth and asking why you are out of milk.

In fairness, I should bring up a counter-argument, which supports Andreas Heinakroon’s view of creativity for its own sake. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes true happiness as being in a state of ‘flow’.  Flow is when you are fully immersed in what you are doing. You become completely involved your activity so that the ego falls aside. You get caught up in the challenges of the moment so much so that time speeds by and you forget to eat.  However, most of us keep getting interrupted from flow by the kids we had, or the sudden urge to seduce people for sex. Plus, no one can pronounce this guy’s name, so I still win.

Thank you Charlie Sheen, because this phrase NEVER gets old!

Why Girls Rule and Boys Drool

Not too long ago, Andreas Heinakroon had a blog post contemplating the always-on aspect of human sexuality which has proven rare among mammals such as us.  The human animal is unusual in another aspect in that we are logically aware of the burden of reproduction: “the concept of reproducing and becoming responsible for a child for 15-20 years might cause us to hesitate to engage in any sexual activities. To counter this, our brain is flooded with sex hormones. They make us want to have sex no matter what – consequences be damned – and is essentially a logics override, making us single-track minded and focussed only on sex” (Sexy Monkey , http://heinakroon.com).

This blog post was similar to every other post this guy has on his blog in that I found the ideas behind it incredibly thought-provoking. So I responded with,” Was reading Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works. He said something about how men create great works, like scientific achievements and art, to increase their status and get the most desirable mate possible.” I think I also mentioned something about how it is ironic that home computers are used for porn. That is when @heinakroon said the words of war, “I don’t think I agree with that.” Granted, I read the book years ago and sometimes don’t remember stuff exactly right, but from that point forward, the battle was on. This was at 4am. At 4:10am, I was digging through bookshelves for that damn Steven Pinker book.

At 4:15am I was madly typing entire sections from the Steven Pinker book in order to prove to @heinakroon that every time anyone accomplishes anything of note, they are doing it for sex.

But, then I began questioning the root cause of my own intentions. What exactly is my motivation for typing from the Steven Pinker book at an odd hour?  Am I motivated by sex? Am I trying to sleep with Steven Pinker? He is very accomplished, and scientific, but I don’t even know what he looks like. Would I still want to mate with him if he has poor eyesight? Or really bad skin? Are these the types of genetic attributes I want to pass on to my next generation?

Checking the back of the book for a photo of Steven Pinker yielded no results. I contemplated a quick Internet search, but that would be sort of stalker-like activity at four in the morning. What if my husband comes in and wants to know why I am up in the dead of night looking at pictures of Steven Pinker? So, I decided that I was not typing from Steven Pinker’s book out of any kind of sexual motivation, thus putting @heinakroon ahead for the first round of debate. Then I went back to bed.

However, I would now like to revisit this scenario. Because look… Steven Pinker does not appear to have bad eyesight. Even better, he appears to have great hair, very similar to the long flowing locks of Fabio. He also has great looking skin for a Canadian.

So, the discussion is back on.

In order to prove my point, let’s allow Satoshi Kanazawa, author of Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters to propose a simple thought experiment: “Imagine a society where sex and mating were entirely a male choice; individuals have sex whenever and with whomever men want, not whenever and with whomever women want. There would be no civilization in such a society because people would not do anything beside have sex.” If Bill Gates was busy having sex with hot college girls, would he have still put together that computer?  It isn’t sex in and of itself that makes men create cool things, it is their need to impress the women they want to sleep with.

Kanazawa points out that the key consideration here is ‘female choice.’ In all species where the female makes the greater parental investment, the choice of whether or not to mate is up to the female. Women aren’t going to do it with just anybody, you at least have to have a cool car or a book out or something. Don’t take my word on this, there are plenty of people more qualified than me to support this theory, like comedian Bill Maher:

“For a man to walk into a bar and have his choice of any woman he wants, he would have to be the ruler of the world. For a woman to have the same power over men, she’d have to do her hair.”

According to Kanazawa, the power of female choice has shaped our civilization. ”Men throughout history have had to conquer foreign lands, win battles and wars, compose symphonies, author books, write sonnets, paint portraits and cathedral ceilings, make scientific discoveries, play in rock bands, and write new computer software in order to impress women so that they will agree to have sex with them.” Who wants to conquer land just to have it? It would be pretty boring in and of itself. You obviously need all that land to impress the girls that have all their teeth.

This is all good news in two very distinct and important ways.  Firstly, I was right and therefore win the argument on @heinakroon’s blog and possibly the entire Internet. Secondly, Steven Pinker wrote an entire book because he wants to get it on with me.

I wanted a shirt that said, ‘Steven Pinker thinks I’m hot,’ but he won’t answer my emails. I would feel bad making such a statement without confirmation.

So, now that we have established that I am right and everyone who does anything is probably motivated by sex, we can start making sense of the world. For example, the guy in the expensive sports car who cut me off in traffic today did so because he totally wants to have sex with me. He is showing off his assertive driving skills to gain my attention. Of course, I am not easily seduced with a fancy car and assertive driving. You will also need to have long flowing hair like Steven Pinker. Or, maybe if you are good at sports I will reconsider.

In my next posts on this topic, Satoshi Kanazawa will describe the similarities in criminals and geniuses. Also, Steven Pinker will explain how your brain is working against you. In the meantime, keep an eye on it.

How to Win at Christmas

Here are the things I perceive people doing at Christmas time. If you do these things, you are winning at Christmas.

Path A

1. Prepare and distribute cookies. @lucysfootball has several tried and true recipes and many family favorites. There are also books with recipes in them and well as eight billion recipes online. If you are choosing the online recipes, you should probably give yourself a week or two to sort through them. I’m sure there are lots of Food Network people baking cookies. You could spend a month or two watching those shows on your DVR. I would just go to Lucy’s Football: C is for Cookie and see which ones she is making though. That seems like the simplest approach.  You will also need to place cookies in some sort of container to distribute them to friends, co-workers and family.

2. Take a professional picture of you and your family doing various things and make it into a card with some sort of holiday greeting. A lesser alternative to this is buying some cards with doves on them and the word “Peace.” Although I don’t know why.

This is an actual card I received.

Doves don’t seem all that peaceful always flapping around. Plus, people hunt them here in Texas. Shooting at things gives us a reason to own the guns, but I digress. You will now need to address all your cards to people you know, apply stamps, and mail them. If you are me, you won’t have all the addresses, or the stamps, but you aren’t me so I’m sure everything will be fine.

3. Go shopping months in advance, buy items, then stash them away in a safe location to wrap and dole out at Christmas. If you are me, you will forget you bought the thing, and wonder about it a decade later when you finally clean out the hall closet, but you aren’t me. So you will be fine.

4. Get your kid’s picture taken with Santa. If you are me, you never do this because you realize you will have to stand in line at the mall. And also, you will have to go to the mall. Of course, this is Texas. @whoremongers informed me that you can go to a hunting goods store and the line for Santa isn’t nearly as long. Also, there are actual reindeer. Stuffed, of course. Taxidermy performed by elves, I assume.

5. Wear a Christmas sweater or sweatshirt with bells and/or snowmen.

Of course, if you choose to win at Christmas by doing these things, you will need a huge head start. Actually, you should have read this and started your preparations about two months ago. Sorry.

Path B

1. Don’t make cookies. @lucysfootball has some serious cookies injuries. You must avoid injuring yourself during the holiday season at all costs. Take that container of hard candies and nuts your neighbor left on your front porch to the office instead. It is much safer… for you at least.

Actual hard candies I received from my neighbor. Note how they are all sticking together.

2. Don’t even pretend to have the intention of sending cards. Definitely don’t buy a box of them at the store. You will be able to never hunt down all the addresses. Plus, where are you going to find stamps these days? Everyone pays all their bills online now. Do stamps even exist?

3. Shop only for the people you will actually see at Christmas time. Out of sight, out of mind. This will save you a ton on shipping costs. Also, don’t go anywhere to shop in person. Buy everything online. You can track it from the comfort of your computer desk rather than trying to find parking at the mall. No shops will be safe to go into for the entire month of December anyway. It is best stay home from November to January. If you need to, feel free to dip into the supply of creamed corn you have stashed away for zombie apocalypse.

4. Skip the visit with Santa. My kid thinks Santa has telepathy. He doesn’t need to see Santa, or write a letter. Somehow, right after he tells us what he wants for Christmas, Santa figures it out. Of course, this year Santa is having trouble finding certain Pokémon toy that seems to be more of a collector’s item then an actual toy, but that is what Santa gets for not checking in on the situation sooner.

5. Don’t bother with the snowman attire, just wear red. Red is plenty festive enough. If you don’t have red, wear black. Black is the new everything.

If you don't have black, try this shirt. It declares your festive intentions so you don't have to.

Whichever path you choose for your celebration, or lack thereof, I hope this time of year finds you well.

How to Escape Disaster While Maintaining Your Dignity

In his book, The Hidden Brain, Shankar Vedantam documents cases in which people die in disaster because they use the time when they could be escaping looking around trying to figure out what other people are going to do. For example, the people in the South Tower of the World Trade Center had 16 minutes to decide what to do on that fateful day after the first plane hit the North Tower. Officials advised over the public address system that people in the South Tower should stay where they were and not risk exiting the building into the danger of falling debris. Despite this recommendation, one guy put on his running shoes, laced them up, and took off down the stairs. I love that he took the time to put on his running shoes. I also find myself wondering if he took the extra time for double knots.

The problem with running shoe guy is that hindsight is 20/20. We operate in a herd mentality, looking around to our peers for the most acceptable course of action. This guy was probably a little quirky to begin with, or someone would have likely grabbed their own athletic gear and followed him. His co-workers probably watched him dash off thinking, “Look at Bill taking off with his running shoes. What a weirdo!” Then, if everything had indeed been fine and dandy, Bill would have been teased mercilessly for months about what would forever be known as, “Bill’s Running Shoe Incident.”

The moral of this story is if you go around putting on your running shoes with no imminent disaster occurring, people are going to make fun of you. In any potential disaster situation, it is equally important to both act decisively and not look stupid. This is why I suggest implementing what I call “The Starbucks Tactic.”

Consider a sample scenario. You are in your office and the fire alarm goes off. Most of you will glance around to your co-workers and say things like, “I wonder if this is a drill.” Some of you will look for signs of smoke that may or may not be pouring through the building.  However, being aware of the Starbucks Tactic, you ask calmly if anyone would like Starbucks. Your timely decision to go for coffee gives you the opportunity to gather your wireless devices and whatever cash you have on hand, then make your escape. If there is a disaster, you will be camped out at a safe distance with wireless and a latte. If there is no disaster and the fire alarm went off because someone left their popcorn too long in the microwave, then you have your wireless and latte, plus you don’t look like an over-reacting idiot.

Remember this tactic, as it could one day save your life. You are welcome.

In case anyone doubts your intentions.

For Further Research:

The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives, by Shankar Vedantam

Onions: Friend or FOE?

First, I would like to thank @debihen for sending me an invaluable article about the benefits and perils of onions. I have been undecided about onions for quite some time now. I like the idea of onions, but sometimes, people get carried away. Especially when they put raw onions in my potato salad without even asking me if I would enjoy having bad breath for an entire day, or being dead. I suppose they are only assuming I have recently been clipping coupons in order to purchase 800 containers of Tic Tacs, or a coffin. This is rarely the case.

As it turns out, onions are saving lives. Or trying to kill you. Let’s look at the facts:

In 1919 when the flu killed 40 million people there was this doctor that visited the many farmers to see if he could help them combat the flu. Many of the farmers and their family had contracted it, and many died.

The doctor came upon this one farmer, and to his surprise, everyone was very healthy.   When the doctor asked what the farmer was doing that was different, the wife replied that she had placed an unpeeled onion in a dish in the rooms of the home, (probably only two rooms back then). The doctor couldn’t believe it and asked if he could have one of the onions and place it under the microscope. She gave him one and when he did this, he did find the flu virus in the onion. It obviously absorbed the bacteria, therefore, keeping the family healthy.

I know you are thinking what kind of doctor carries around a microscope around from farm to farm in the year 1919, but I assure you it was very practical matter at the time. What they did not tell you was that the family was a family of extreme coupon clippers and the wife had just bought 800 onions because they were buy one get one free. But none of this matters. This family was indeed saved by onions; therefore, onions are our friends.

Call off the medical research teams and pull out the chef knives. The key to survival is onions.

Let’s look at the next key piece of evidence.

Now, I heard this story from my hairdresser in AZ. She said that several years ago many of her employees were coming down with the flu and so were many of her customers. The next year she placed several bowls with onions around in her shop. To her surprise, none of her staff got sick. It must work….Try it and see what happens. We did it last year and we never got the flu.

Personally, I have placed cut onions around my desk at work, and I have not caught the flu as of yet. Actually, I didn’t have onions handy from the outset and had to start off with cut rutabagas, but that hardly seems relevant. As soon as any germ carrying members of my office come around, I can see them scurrying away, obviously terrified by the onions. They work great.

However, I have recently begun to worry that the onions on my desk are trying to kill me, and not without good reason:

Lots of times when we have stomach problems we don’t know what to blame. Maybe it’s the onions that are to blame. Onions absorb bacteria is the reason they are so good at preventing us from getting colds and flu’s and is the very reason we shouldn’t eat an onion that has been sitting for a time after it has been cut open!

Take it from Ed:

Ed is a chemistry expert and is involved in developing most of the sauce formula. He’s even developed sauce formula for McDonald’s. (Dear Ed: Mixing pickle relish with mayo is NOT a sauce formula. It is an accident.)

Keep in mind that Ed is a food chemistry whiz. (Granted, I am not sure if Ed was granted this title based on his McDonald’s secret sauce formula, or from other unmentioned accomplishments. However, I am sure he is highly qualified in these matters.)   Someone asked Ed if we really needed to worry about mayonnaise. People are always worried that mayonnaise will spoil. Ed’s answer will surprise you. Ed said that all commercially made Mayo is completely safe and “doesn’t even have to be refrigerated.”

You hear THAT everyone? You have been refrigerating mayonnaise for years… for NOTHING! You could have kept it right by your bed at night all this time for snacking. Suckers!

Ed says that  when food poisoning is reported, the first thing the officials look for is when the ‘victim’ last ate ONIONS and where those onions came from (in the potato salad?).   Ed says it’s not the mayonnaise that spoils in the outdoors. It’s probably the Onions.

He explained, onions are a huge magnet for bacteria, especially uncooked onions. You should never plan to keep a portion of a sliced onion.. He says it’s not even safe if you put it in a zip-lock bag and put it in your refrigerator.

So, there you have it. Onions are certain death. If you want to kill someone, but a zip-lock bag of cut-up onions in their refrigerator. Then you should steal their mayonnaise, just in case. It is apparently going to take you forever to kill them with mayonnaise.

Please wear this shirt to warn others. Unless, of course, you are using onions to kill them.

I feel uncomfortable having the onions on my desk now that I know they are trying to kill me. I am going to stick with the cut up rutabagas. And, of course, the jars of mayonnaise.

Thanks, Ed! We all owe you one.

This shirt is for you, Ed. I am assuming you don't get proper recognition for your accomplishment.

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