A letter to a devoted friend

I write for a humor blog with two friends, James Malins and Cherie Michiko, called Misusing Big Words. This post was originally published here:
http://misusingbigwords.blogspot.com/2008/02/letter-to-devoted-friend.html

There you are, sitting in the corner, staring at me with those big black eyes and those funny little eyebrows. And that smile—it’s as if you’re saying to me “I know you. I know everything about you. And I accept you.”

Though I never realized it before now, you’re the best friend a guy could ever have, Clippit.

I don’t care what the others say. It doesn’t matter to me when they tell me “It’s just a paper clip, and not even a real one at that.” So what if you can’t hold together my papers the way a normal paper clip would. You hold together my life like no one else can, and to me, that’s what is real.

Sure, they call you the Microsoft Office Assistant, but if only people got to know you, they’d realize there’s so much more. They’d see past the outer fa├žade of joviality into the deeper pain and anguish within. They’d understand that even though you don’t have emotions like us, you still feel things deeply. They’d know that when you have a good idea, and demonstrate your desire to share your knowledge with us through your use of the animated light bulb, you hurt when nobody pays attention to you.

I know you must have watched me make a million mistakes in life, knowing you could help, but not knowing how to tell me without making me feel inferior. But it’s OK, Clippit, because I appreciate now the value of your suggestions. I know you’re just trying to help, and just like any good friend, even though your advice sometimes is pretty worthless, for the most part you are spot on. Like that time I accidentally auto-formatted my English paper—you were there for me then, and you are there for me now.

So I just wanted to tell you, Clippit, how much I value your being around. I feel like I can ask you anything. Even when I ask you silly things like “Help me take over the world,” you always know how to gently bring me back to Earth by telling me instead how to format my paragraphs or add borders to my document. It’s your own subtle way of keeping me in check, and I’m able to understand without getting offended.

Finally, Clippit, I just wanted say thanks. Thanks for being my friend. I owe you one, big guy. I’ll see you in a few days for that big project.

Sometimes I don't even know what my mind is thinking...

I write for a humor blog with two friends, James Malins and Cherie Michiko, called Misusing Big Words. This post was originally published here:
http://misusingbigwords.blogspot.com/2008/02/sometimes-i-dont-even-know-what-my-mind.html
I wrote this piece after a trip to the movie theater one day. I got about a page into it and then... fizzled... Too bad too, because as I was writing it, I was thinking to myself "Yes! YES! I am insightful! I am wise! This is amazing!" It was like pitching 8 innings of a perfect game, and then walking away from the mound without turning back. Anyway, read on.

Do people who are dying get more out of life?

Case in point: "The Bucket List," the new movie in which Jack Nicholson and
Morgan Freeman get into all kinds of crazy shenanigans after both have been
diagnosed with terminal cancer. As a film, it was very enjoyable, but not
without its heart-wrenching moments.

However, this is not a review.

What I'm more interested in is the notion of doing all the things you ever
wanted to do in life but just never got around to. After all, that's what the
bucket list is--a list of things you want to do before you "kick the bucket."
While I normally applaud this idea and enjoy the romanticism of it, this time
around another thought struck me.

What if you're the type of person who lives his life like this all of the
time? Someone who doesn't have a list of things he has wanted to do for years
but never gotten around to because if he wants to do something he does it? Does
not that person deserve a film about himself (even if he can't narrate it in the
voice of infinite wisdom of Mr. Freeman)?

It brings to mind the old story of the prodigal son--and I'm confident that
no matter what your religious upbringing, you have some familiarity with it. The
elder son stays with the father, helping him around the house, generally being a
good son, while the younger man moves away, goes knee deep in booze and women,
and gets drugged out and sloppy drunk in a Lohan-esque spree, only to come
crawling back to pops when the money is gone. Dad accepts him back and has a
party for him.

It’s a touching tale of unconditional love and forgiveness, except that it
impresses upon us a completely twisted worldview.

Psychologically and economically speaking, why are we rewarding bad behavior?
The prodigal son, like “The Bucket List,” romanticizes the notion of “make your
mistakes along the way, because you’ll have a chance to correct them later.

Nevermind. This doesn’t make any sense.

See what I mean? If anyone can make sense out of this or can pull out a unifying theme/idea that is worthwhile, go for it. I just found it funny that I had actually compared the Bible to Lindsey Lohan. By the way, does anyone remember when she used to be hot (ie "Mean Girls")? What happened there?

Stormy Music

I write for a humor blog with two friends, James Malins and Cherie Michiko, called Misusing Big Words. This post was originally published here:
http://misusingbigwords.blogspot.com/2008/02/stormy-music.html
I lay in bed, reading quietly. The window, inches from my head, sounds with the tiny noises of raindrops drumming against the glass and the sill below like so many popcorn kernels popping. Through the pillow, the muffled sound invades my ears and reminds me of the sound of hunger, of my stomach growling, or of the sound of gas bubbles making their way through my intestines. For some reason, those two things sound the same. As I half listen to the rain and hear this sound of hunger and pre-flatulence, I feel myself getting nauseous.

It’s not just the sound that nauseates, it’s the idea, the feeling. I am alone, in this room far from home, there is no one here that will come to drink hot cocoa and tell stories about the times the rain spoiled their birthday party or car accidents they were involved in caused by rain-slick roads or how nice it is to curl up in an easy chair in front of the fire when the weather starts to make one depressed. There’s just me, the wind howling and distracting me from the pages of my book.

I wrap myself in the covers, but I can’t seem to get warm. No, that’s not right, I’m sweating, I must be warm. I just can’t get comfortable. I turn to one side, then the other, letting the blankets ooze under my body, cocooning myself in warmth, but it’s not enough to warm my thoughts.

I read the last sentence again, then I read the whole paragraph again, then I read the whole page again, and each time I finish I realize I don’t remember anything about what I just read. Did anything important happen to the characters? Did anyone die? Was anyone born? I think I would remember something like that, so I decide none of that happened and I continue reading. I push through to the end of the chapter and close the book, knowing that tomorrow I will pick it up and read the whole chapter again.

All the while the nauseating rain drums the windows, beating out the steady music of stormy weather.

The Selfish Hippie 2: Full Throttle

I write for a humor blog with two friends, James Malins and Cherie Michiko, called Misusing Big Words. This post was originally published here:
http://misusingbigwords.blogspot.com/2008/02/selfish-hippie-2-full-throttle.html
This is the second installment of the Selfish Hippie. For the previous post, go back.

As you know, I’m a fan of conserving, but I don’t do it for the environment. No, Mother Nature is getting the fringe benefits of my selfishness. I conserve because I’ve found ways to do it that help me and the economy, financially. Here’s some of the more recent ways to save money by being hippie-like.

Take Stuff from Work
This one is a given: slowly siphon pens, paper, paper clips, tape, glue, scissors, etc. from your desk or supply closet at the office. Let's face it, they don't really need one set of each of these for every desk; people are irresponsible and will lose them somehow anyway. This way, you are constantly borrowing each others materials, building a community (which hippies love) and at the same time sticking it to the man in a small way.

Reverse Junk Mail
Speaking of sticking it to the man, here's a miniscule but fun way to punish companies who send unsolicited mail while at the same time supporting your government (that way you don't have to feel bad stealing from the government at other times). Those credit card offers you get every week all come with a pre-paid self-addressed envelope. If you simply throw away the offer, the company has spent about 1 cent sending that to you. However, if you send them back that pre-paid envelope, it now costs them 39 cents at least (more as postage rates go up). Just make sure you don’t include any personal info so they don’t think you’re signing up for their crappy offer. (Some people go even further with this...)

Get Your Sh*t Together
Every month or two, do a complete full scale assault on bedrooms, closets, cabinets, common areas, garages, etc... anywhere you keep a lot of junk. Go through and clean and organize all the junk, and you'll be amazed at the things you find. About 1/4 of it you can sell on eBay, 1/4 you can donate to charity ($$ tax write-off $$), 1/4 you’ll likely want to keep or can reuse somehow, and 1/4 of it you can throw away.

"Trade" with Your Workplace
Speaking of reusing old junk, oftentimes cleaning out a home office will yield all kinds of strange office supplies which you probably never used (for instance, that industrial sized box of paper clips you bought at Costco because, well, you never know when you'll need to clip paper together). You could keep these in your home office if you want, but it’s a much more practical idea to bring them to your work. Offices use this kind of stuff all of the time, so you might as well give back a little, since you won't be using them. Plus, this way there's no guilt for pilfering stuff from your office (see above). This way, you're not even stealing, you're trading!

Do you have any tips on how to become a Selfish Hippie? Look for more installments in the near future.

Wiping or Flicking? Who Nose!

I write for a humor blog with two friends, James Malins and Cherie Michiko, called Misusing Big Words. This post was originally published here:
http://misusingbigwords.blogspot.com/2008/02/wiping-or-flicking-who-nose.html

Cost-Benefit Analysis: Booger Flicking vs. Booger Wiping

I don't care what you say about boogers, everybody pulls one out every now and then. Maybe it's that one elusive fellow that doesn't quite come out when you blow your nose, or perhaps you get no greater sense of accomplishment than digging in nice and deep in the morning and cleaning out all the overnight gunk buildup. Either way, from my travels and my study of different peoples, one thing seems to be a uniting factor.

Everybody is a nose-picker.

Some people find nose-picking disagreeable. To you disagree-ers, I disagree. It's a necessary bodily function, like burping and farting (and almost as fun, too!), and it helps keep you healthy and even exercises your dexterity. After all, boogers are all the dirt, dust, and other allergens polluting the air that your nose is able to catch before you breathe them into your lungs. Don't believe me? Check out this article (in easy to read, "kid-friendly" terms) about all the gross stuff that make up boogers.

So, we've established that everyone picks their nose, and we've established that nose-picking is good to get all that stuff out of there. Now, what do you do with it once you've got a fresh one sitting on your finger?

In my estimation and research, there are three options: put it in a tissue and throw it away, wipe it on an unseen surface (such as underneath the driver's seat or under a desk), or flick it as far as possible (I've seen one fly across an entire classroom before). For the purposes of this article, let's assume no tissue is available, leaving only two of the three options available.

Costs of wiping
  • Makes that part of chair/desk/etc unusable, except for booger wiping.
  • Probability someone will notice and be disgusted rises sharply.
  • You miss out on the fun of flicking.
Benefits of wiping
  • You know exact location of booger.
  • Next time you wipe, you can compare sizes, shapes, and consistency with previous boogers.
  • If sitting in furniture of someone you despise, it's a nice way to leave them a small gift.
  • Due to composition, boogers are always wipeable, but not always flickable.
Costs of flicking
  • You don't know exactly where it went (ie possibility of stepping on booger later).
  • Possibilty of someone you know and like being hit by "friendly fire."
  • Sometimes won't work if consistency is particularly sticky.
Benefits of flicking
  • It's fun.
  • If in a moving vehicle, you can flick it out the window and send it back to it's home in nature.
  • Can be used as a subtle attack method against everyday enemies.
I must say I'm surprised at the results. I thought for sure flicking would be the clear winner, but it seems costs of flicking are equal to the benefits, while the benefits of wiping outweigh the costs. It seems, though, that if you practice and can control the direction and velocity (as well as account for wind resistance and aerodynamics), flicking could be a better choice.

What do you think? Am I missing some costs? Benefits? Which do you prefer, and why? Names can remain anonymous, though as we've already established, everyone is a booger-picker, so there should be no shame.

We're Freakin' Famous

I write for a humor blog with two friends, James Malins and Cherie Michiko, called Misusing Big Words. This post was originally published here:
http://misusingbigwords.blogspot.com/2008/02/were-freakin-famous.html
In case you weren't aware, we're official. Read it and weep. With joy.

The name is Bond. Mr. Bond.

I write for a humor blog with two friends, James Malins and Cherie Michiko, called Misusing Big Words. This post was originally published here:
http://misusingbigwords.blogspot.com/2008/02/name-is-bond-mr-bond.html
I'm now 23 years old, and I've just recently joined that magical world where everybody has a first name.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, ask any child his best friend's dad's name. It's not "David," it's "Mr. Hasselhoff." (Yes, that's right, this particular hypothetical child is best friends with David Hasselhoff's son.) But not me. When I call someone on the phone, I boldly ask "May I speak with Steve, please?" And I don't even get a strange reply, just a prompt "Sure, one moment please."

I work with all sorts of people of all ages and backgrounds, and am on a first name basis with all of them. I supervise many people old enough to be my parents, and some even old enough to be my grandparents, but when I walk the halls, I suavely call out "Hey Janie," "How's everything Tim," "Looking good there, Ron." I am the guy that, as a child, I never thought I'd grow up to be.

The funny thing is, there are some exceptions. My third grade teacher is still "Mrs. Wilder;" in fact I don't even know her first name, and I wouldn't dare call her it if I did. My childhood friend's dad is still "Dr. Adamson;" the closest I've come to calling him by his first name is letting "Doc" slip once, and I felt ashamed for three days afterwards. It’s like when a professor tells you to call him “Chuck” after you just finished a semester of calling him “Mr. Norris.” (Yes, this hypothetical professor is none other than Chuck Norris, who, even in my fantasy world, no matter how many times he told me to call him Chuck, I would never drop the "Mr. Norris." Here's some reasons why.)

There’s something inherently difficult about going from one level to the next. It’s a graduation from authority figure to friend status, and it's also a lingering mental block from the days of Lincoln Logs and action figures and Sega Genesis when the Mrs. Jones's and Mr. Smith's were the voices of reason, telling us "No roughhousing" or "Don't throw water balloons in the house."

I'd like to think I'll get past this mental block, but truthfully, I don't think it will happen. Even as the world changes and kids these days get less respectful of their elders, I don't see my language changing. Heck, my parents still call some older people by their proper "Mr. Copper," "Mrs. Zinc" names.

I guess what I'm saying is whether I'm 23 or 53, my world ain't getting any more magical than this.

What sort of name hangups do you have?

The Selfish Hippie, our newest superhero

I write for a humor blog with two friends, James Malins and Cherie Michiko, called Misusing Big Words. This post was originally published here:
http://misusingbigwords.blogspot.com/2008/02/selfish-hippie-our-newest-superhero.html
Perhaps it’s because I’m young, fresh out of college, and surrounded by California liberals, but it seems that being a hippie is coming back in style in a big dreadlocked way.

I don’t wade too deeply into the political pool (I think there are more important things in life than staying current with all the idiotic and bureaucratic things politicians do), but I would say liberals and conservatives would probably agree on the reason for this resurgence of Birkenstock-wearing organic fruit-eating hippies—hint: it has less to do with the delicious taste of tofu and more to do with bad taste left in the mouth from the current administration.

Politics aside, though, I’m learning to embrace my inner hippie for all the wrong hippie reasons. Thusly, I am creating the character of the “Selfish Hippie.”

After watching the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?,” I find myself saddened by the death of something that so clearly would have been an incredible product that millions would have loved and that had the potential to literally change the world. But my sadness comes not from the fact that this car would have helped Mother Nature. No, what I care more about is the fuel economy.

Electric vehicles, as well as hybrid-electric vehicles, are capable of achieving incredible mileage for the amount of energy used, and all that energy saved puts money back in my pocket. And that’s money I can spend in other sectors of the economy (movies, restaurants, bowling), being the good little consumer that I am.

After all, the “bottom line” is one of the main concerns for me, the Selfish Hippie.

My roommates have lambasted me on several occasions for disagreeing with the theory of global warming. And while it’s true I don’t believe global warming is a serious issue (and I often have to beat back the hippies that attack me for saying that), I still vehemently agree with many of the procedures that people have come up with to “prevent” it.

For example, using less electricity, or smarter electricity, such as fluorescent light bulbs, double-pane windows, etc is a great idea—it saves money on the power bill. Walking anywhere that’s less than 3 miles away is beautiful—gets you exercise and uses less gas. Using the back of day-by-day calendars as scratch paper helps avoid having to pay for post-it notes. Plus, don’t forget the granddaddy of cost-saving hippie tips: drinking tap water instead of buying bottled.

Anything you can think of that reduces the amount of energy you use, or that reuses things you might otherwise throw away, will help pad your bank account while saving the world. And that’s what being a Selfish Hippie is all about: saving money by saving the world.

So next time you’re sitting around, passing the peace pipe, not bathing, talking about how “trees are so cool, man,” spend some time figuring out ways to become a Selfish Hippie, instead of thinking of ridiculous ideas like this one.

I vote for better voting

I write for a humor blog with two friends, James Malins and Cherie Michiko, called Misusing Big Words. This post was originally published here:
http://misusingbigwords.blogspot.com/2008/02/i-vote-for-better-voting.html
I’ve just finished voting by taking a little metal peg and punching a hole in a thick piece of paper.

Seriously.

Are we still in kindergarten? Did I miss something? The 20th century called and they want their voting procedures back.

How is it that I can get a credit card and a bank account, enroll in college, pay virtually every bill I have, and complete 90% of my everyday tasks online, but to vote in any sort of government election I still have to take time out of my day to trek over to some dilapidated church or bingo hall or the like and poke holes in paper cards like an uninterested school child.

Don’t tell me it’s because computers aren’t secure. People aren’t secure. On the list of things I don’t trust, there are a lot more people than machines, mostly because the majority of mistakes machines make are due to human error.

Don’t tell me it’s because of costs, either. You know who the majority of poll workers are? State employees. I had a friend who had a job with the state one time, and he did about an hours worth of work per day but got paid for 8 hours at more than $15 per hour. Now multiply that by however many employees at each polling place (let’s say 5, for the sake of argument) and the numbers start to add up quick. Plus, I’m sure the state governments pay at least something to use the various polling locations. You can’t tell me that creating a computer system that would make all of that obsolete for the foreseeable future would not be cost effective.

And don’t tell me it’s because it’s less efficient. Obviously, the most efficient way to do this would be via the internet, but people don’t think the internet is safe or secure enough to transmit that information (although apparently Democrats do). I think that’s hogwash, and with the right measures in place it wouldn’t be an issue, but even so, we can do it without using this crazy world wide web and still be more efficient.

First of all, voting consumes endless amounts of paper, and even if it’s all recycled (which I doubt), the government is still endorsing using huge amounts of energy to manufacture all of this paper. Then there’s the extra time and money spent counting the ballots, whereas a computer would record them electronically. And of course, there’s that sneaky human error factor again, which might accidentally drop a few votes here or there. Or there might even be the faux “human error” factor: the biased employee who “accidentally” drops a lot of votes off of one or another candidate. Computers eliminate all of these issues.

So how ‘bout it, Uncle Sam? I know I’m not alone in asking this: can we finally graduate kindergarten?

Mourning morning

I write for a humor blog with two friends, James Malins and Cherie Michiko, called Misusing Big Words. This post was originally published here:
http://misusingbigwords.blogspot.com/2008/02/mourning-morning.html
Every morning when I wake up early, in that fuzzy region between consciousness and actual wakefulness, I like to spend a moment or two of my time imagining what life would be like if I could return to slumber rather than set out to do whatever it is I have to do at such an unholy hour. I also like to ponder what the consequences might be if I were to skip whatever it is I need to do and opt to sleep-in instead. And on those rare, special occasions, I come to the fantastic epiphany that the world will not end if I stay in bed a couple extra minutes. I’m not going to discover the cure for cancer or end world famine today. Heck, let's be honest, I probably won’t even recycle. Might the world would be better off without me for the next couple of hours?

It's at this point that I shake myself, scoff (audibly), and think, "How absurd a notion! The world is never better off without me."
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