Golf Lessons and Post Traumatic Stress

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/2008/05/golf-lessons-and-post-traumatic-stress.html
When I was about 8 years old, my grandparents signed my brother and me up for golf lessons at their country club. At 8 years old, I didn't know a thing about golf (this was before Tiger Woods made it cool and before golf video games were any good), but I had seen it played, and I can't say I was chomping at the bit to try it. Nonetheless, grandma and grandpa signed us up as a gift, and since pretty much anything that grandma and grandpa gave us turned out to be good, such as money, candy, and other things our parents didn't want us to have, we figured this golf thing could be a sweet deal. And that's not even factoring in the notion of having a big club that we can hit something with, which, when you're 8 years old, having any kind of weapon is pretty much the greatest thing in the world, right behind getting sugary cereal for breakfast.

So the first lesson rolls around and our teacher is this blond haired blue eyed yacht club type complete with sweater over his back, too much gel in his hair and too much snob in his voice. Of course, at 8 years old you don't recognize the specific personal touches that make someone a tool, but no matter your age, you still get that creeped-out feeling up your spine.

Once the brigade of polo-shirted children congregated, our teacher (I don't remember his name, but based on his appearance, it was probably Chad) starts teaching. Most of that part of the lesson was hideously boring, due in part to it not involving hitting anything with my club/weapon, but mostly due to Chad being about as exciting as watching old people playing Scrabble. Luckily, I was about as impatient then as I am now, so I went ahead and started putting while Chad was still instructing. Needless to say, Chad got mad. It's fortunate, then, that my young mind was overcome with a feeling I would only later identify as an utter lack of respect for anything Chad said or did.

Fast forward to sometime later when Chad is no longer mad. Chad brings us all to the driving range, where he gives a very precise, very detailed 5 minute lesson on how to drive a golf ball at the driving range. We then proceed to haul off and whack our balls as hard as we can in a way that is neither precise nor detailed. Naturally, it was my favorite part of the lesson.

After a lot of head shaking and heavy sighs on Chad's part, we left the driving range and got to take a ride on the golf carts. Despite numerous pleas and begging from a gaggle of Evil Kneivel-inspired children, Chad didn't try to hit any big jumps. This, I'm sad to say, lowered his coolness rating even further; at this point, the only thing staving off the mutiny was his allowing us extra time on the driving range, since we were all clearly so entertained by our ineptitude. He finally stopped at the end of the range, I suppose to teach us something. I couldn't tell you what that something was, because half of the kids ran through the trees and found a suburban jungle that would be perfect for exploring.

Our expedition party waded into the thick reeds, swinging our golf clubs like marauders with machetes, looking for crocodiles to wrestle, or savages to decapitate, or ancient Mayan ruins to ransack (despite the fact that, at 8 years old, I had no clue what a Mayan or a ruin was). Suddenly, and without warning, one of the kids started screaming and running back toward the protection of Chad and his repulsive cologne (judging from his character, it was probably Ralph Lauren, or something made by some other guy with two first names, one of those being a girl’s). The rest of us wondered if there weren't actually crocodiles or savages afoot, and we suddenly questioned the safety of our imaginary safari. One by one, shouts of panic echoed through the suburban jungle, and before I had a chance to ask anyone what was going on,another child ran by me, his face puffed out as though he had gone through some experimental plastic surgery involving marshmallows. Through the slit of an eye, I could see pure terror as he screamed
"Bees!"

All at once I started running, not even knowing which direction, just trying to escape this near invisible enemy. All around me I could hear other kids--good, decent kids, with families and their whole futures ahead of them--cut down in the prime of their lives by the owners of the incessant buzzing. Swatting at myself everywhere I felt anything, I finally made it out alive, breathing heavily, stinging all over, and thanking sweet merciful Jesus for a chance to continue my existence for at least one more day.

We lost a lot of good kids out there; I tried so hard to block out the events of that day, but you can only run away from your memories for so long.

I eventually tried golfing again, and to my surprise found that I enjoyed it. That is, enjoyed it when I wasn't being attacked by a pack of vicious yellow jackets. And when I didn't have to put up with Chad.

What a loser.

The Selfish Hippie says "You've got baggage!"

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/2008/05/selfish-hippie-says-youve-got-baggage.html

There’s a lot of bad juju going around these days about plastic bags. One article I read even said America was the worst offender in terms of using too many plastic bottles and bags. Those providing comments point out that plastic is a byproduct of oil production. And yet still others disagree with that.

Of course, you all know my thoughts on this by now. I don’t really buy into bad juju without some substantial proof or a good reason. And since we’ve got people arguing over the basic fact of where plastic comes from, it doesn’t look we’ll be getting any good proof anytime soon, so here’s the good reason.

Using more plastic will cost you money. Not in the traditional sense of having to pay for plastic bags (although some ultra-hippie places like the pacific northwest are heading down that road. No, I’m talking opportunity cost. Many grocery stores give anywhere from 3-10 cents back for each bag that you bring in, and often they still come out ahead because they no longer have to pay the costs of supplying those plastic bags. So, if you bought 4 reusable bags (about $1-2 each at the grocery store) and used them each grocery trip (about 4 bags worth of food every week), they’re pretty much paid for within a year, then you start earning money on them. Sure, it’s pennies on the dollar, but those are pennies you didn’t have before. (N.B. Since I don't shop at Ralph's, Albertson's has said they give you 5 cents for each bag used.)

Not convinced? I can see that. But as companies focus more on cutting costs, I wouldn’t be surprised if more stores start charging for plastic bag use, and then the savings will start skyrocketing. In the meantime, go ahead and use plastic bags, but reuse them too. Here’s a few ways to do that.

Personally, I don't do any of those except the small trash can plan. Those plastic grocery bags make a mean trash can liner, and I have such a small can anyway because I barely throw anything away (I reuse everything I possibly can to get my money's worth). They're also good as a carrying case that you don't care about not getting back, such as when you’re bringing a six-pack to the Saturday night festivities. Because let’s be honest: three hours and three sheets to the wind later, you’re not going to remember to take your bag with you when you go home.

I forget things all over the place. That’s one of the reasons I don't allow myself to buy fancy sunglasses or have children. I've definitely lost a few duffel bags and backpacks in my life. Plastic bags are perfect because I don't care if I forget them.

And don’t even get me starting on buying bottled water. If you live in America, quit being a damn pansy and drink the tap. It’s safe, I promise. I can’t vouch for any other countries, though all the ones I’ve been to except Mexico I’ve drank the tap with no problems.

So, maybe plastic isn’t as bad as some of the bad juju says it is. I tend to agree with George Carlin (video below) in that since plastic came from the Earth, it probably thinks of plastic as one of its children. Nevertheless, the best reason not to use it is a good reason for doing most things: to save money.

And as we all know, that’s what the selfish hippie is all about: Saving Money While Saving the World.


Bono and the Mystery of the Rock'N'Roll Bathroom

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/2008/05/bono-and-mystery-of-rocknroll-bathroom.html

I’m on the pot when I hear it. And no, I don’t mean I’ve been smoking the crazy reefer, I mean I’m actually in the bathroom, doing my business, when a slightly echoing version of U2’s “Stuck In A Moment” drifts into my bathroom.


A few things come immediately to mind: Is my phone ringing? No, I don’t have that song as a ringtone. Perhaps a car with an exceptionally loud radio is driving by outside? Unlikely, but I suppose possible. Am I so focused on completing “the task at hand” that I’m humming to myself? No way, I only did that once, and it wasn’t U2, it was Raffi.


Clearly, this will need some further investigating.


I finish up, flush it down, wash my hands and turn around, and it’s gone. I don’t hear anything anymore, and now I’m wondering if I ever actually heard anything in the first place. I take a few steps back into the bathroom, and there it is again, very low in volume but definitely present. Is the ghost of Bono still haunting me? I consider this briefly before remembering he is still alive and has never haunted me in the past.


I put my canine-like hearing to the test, and “sniff out” where the noise is coming from, only to find, after a few seconds of twisting and turning my head at various heights and precarious locations that U2 is piping out of the toilet, still “Stuck in a Moment.” It takes me another few moments to realize that the toilet itself isn’t playing Dublin-based alt-rock. Rather, I’m getting the leftover scraps from my apartment neighbor’s stereo. It seems I've got a neighbor who is an aspiring apartment DJ.


Surreal, yes, but I don’t mind it. Since that day, I’ve enjoyed some great classic tunes while evacuating. The Stones’ “(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction,” Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” even Cash’s “Ring Of Fire,” and all of them seemed, somehow, to have something to say about their accompanying bowel movements. God only knows whether “Ring of Fire” affected the burning feeling I experienced or it was just coincidental.


Either way, I’m glad we haven’t had any Iron Maiden bathroom excursions yet. I have a feeling that would require some extensive cleanup. (In case you're interested, here's the complete "number 2" playlist. Enjoy.)

Grasp the knowledge of the universe with the click of a mouse

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/2008/05/grasp-knowledge-of-universe-with-click.html

By the power of Grayskull the internet, I now know EVERYTHING.


Okay, maybe not, but I feel as though I have the capability to know everything (except perhaps, some security-related information, heavily guarded by the government or corporations).


The other day, I wanted to make dinner, but I only had garbanzo beans, garlic, green beans, and a package of bacon. So I went over to allrecipes.com and searched by ingredients and found an easy minestrone soup. It's no apartment gourmet, but it'll do.


Last month was my first time doing taxes when I actually had money to be taxed on, so when I didn’t know what the heck was going on, I surfed the net. First of all, I figured I should know a little about what taxes I had to pay and why, and howstuffworks.com was helpful in that regard. Then, I wanted to see how to pay as little as possible, so I asked my friends at wikihow.com for some info on that. After that, I’m basically an expert.


Okay, maybe not, but I think I definitely could be if I wanted to, just by cruising the web and spending a million hours of my life sorting through complicated tax codes.


Since that didn’t sound too fun, the last thing I decided I wanted to know was economics. After all, we’re supposedly in a recession, so why does everything keep costing me more money? I headed back to howstuffworks.com to refresh my memory on how the economy works in general. After the crash course, I checked out some lectures by MIT professors at the MIT Open Courseware site. And just like that, I’m an economical genius.


Okay, maybe not, but if I could read as fast as I could click, and if I could slow time down at will, maybe I would have the time and ability to become one.


I’m convinced that, by the power of Grayskull the internet, and with a little hard work, anyone can gain at least a passing knowledge of any topic, and with a little more time and effort, could have a commanding grasp of any subject matter. Now, if only there was a way to download information directly from the internet into my mind… but I guess that’s something to look forward to in the future.

The Selfish Hippie teaches you how to read

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/2008/05/selfish-hippie-teaches-you-how-to-read.html
Since it’s sunny and warm year-round in Los Angeles, I had to go to my home town of Sacramento (where it was a pleasant high-70’s/low-80’s this weekend, but edging close to 100 this week) to figure out that we’re coming into summer. That can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but this selfish hippie will be engaging in an activity dreaded by high school students everywhere: summer reading.

So, since we’ll be doing some book-learnin’ this summer, I thought I’d offer a few tips to save your cash and spare some paper in the process. You know, in the spirit of “being green” and “sustainability” and all that junk.

There’s a magical world of free stuff
It’s called the Library! Not only do libraries stock the newest book releases, but they are getting better and better at having great selections of DVDs and CDs as well. I can’t remember the last time I paid for a movie rental because the library always seems to have at least one movie I would like to watch. Also, with the invention of this cool thing that I like to call “the internet,” libraries have gotten super easy to use.

For example, libraries may differ from county to county, state to state, but it seems the majority of them have some sort of “place a hold” system where you can reserve a copy of the book you want to read, and if it’s not available, the library will find the next available copy from any library in the system, send it to your preferred home library, and notify you when it’s available for pickup. For most books, this is a couple of weeks at most, just enough time to read another book. I usually order another book as soon as I pickup the one that just arrived, so I’m on a nice laddered book delivery system to keep me constantly entertained. (If you’re in the LA area, check out our library.)

There’s ANOTHER magical world of MORE free stuff
Websites are popping up like whack-a-moles these days with free books you can download. Whether it be Project Gutenberg, Google Books, or Wowio, there are tons of free downloadable books available by just Googling “free books”

Not into words? There are free audiobooks, too. Try LibriVox for quantity and selection or Simply Audiobooks for quality.

For every book you buy, sell one first
For those times you really feel the need to purchase a book, here’s a good rule to live by. Take a look at your bookshelf, right now. Count how many books you’ve read on there. Now, count how many of those you’ve read more than once. I’ll bet you’ve got a single digit number. Unless you’re a literature maniac or teacher, you probably won’t be reading most of your books more than once, so you really don’t need to keep them other than to look smarter because you have so many books on your bookshelf.

So, next time you are desperate to purchase a book, sell one of yours first. Amazon.com marketplace is good, as is Half.com. Something I’ve tinkered with but haven’t actually used it fully yet is swaptree.com (here's a good explanation of it). Basically, you fill out a profile of the books you have and the books you want, and it will allow you to trade one of yours for one you want with someone else on the site. Oh, and it works with DVDs and CDs too. Very community-like, which all you budding selfish hippies should love.

College is the best time to experiment
This is especially true when it comes to books. With college textbooks costing two arms and two legs these days, anytime you can get one free online, from a library, or at least used off Amazon or Half.com is good for the pocketbook. And if you don’t want to bother buying used then selling those books again 6 months later, you could try renting them. It probably ends up costing more, but might be a little bit less work.

So, when you're not busy reading the glorious words of the selfish hippie, enjoy some free summer reading. And until next time, keep saving money while saving the world.

My favorite teacher: Television!

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/2008/05/my-favorite-teacher-television.html
Sometimes I think everything I need to know in life I can learn from TV.

One thing I'll never understand is the intricate workings of the minds of TV characters. For example, the other day I sat and enjoyed a fine episode of season 1 (the only good season) of "The O.C." The driving force behind this entire series is the abundance of secrets that the characters keep and then ultimately end up revealing, either purposefully or accidentally. In this particular episode, Kirsten and Sandy (her husband, a man, in case you hadn't figured that out from the extremely masculine name) have found out a secret about Sandy's mother, The Nana.

In the midst of their discussion, cue Seth, their son, who wanders into the kitchen and nonchalantly asks "What's going on?" Any fool and his cousin can see that there is no agenda behind this question. The tone of voice, the demeanor during delivery, and the sheer commonality of such phrasing as "What's going on" clearly indicates that Seth has no idea his parents are talking about anything deep, meaningful, or secretive. It's merely another greeting. But, since we're in the land of TV and, as I've already pointed out, TV characters minds seem to work differently than the rest of ours, Kirsten and Sandy both immediately and simultaneously utter "Nothing."

Now, let's go back and examine the mistake they made there. No, never mind, let's not, because there's nothing to examine. When someone asks you "What's going on," you should automatically respond "Not too much, yourself?" or "Oh, just the normal business of life" or "I've just killed twelve people and am planning to buy the Galapagos Islands" or any of the other 2,873,951 variations on that response that would cleverly avoid any and all suspicion. Yet time after time I see these characters make the same mistake, barking out "Nothing" in such a tone that even if nothing actually was going on, a non-English-speaking toddler would become suspicious.

Perhaps TV is like a great, free life coach. We can all learn from the mistakes of TV characters; both big (getting your wife's sister pregnant while on your honeymoon cruise) and small (blurting a suspicious "nothing" when something, clearly, is up).

More money- and world-saving tips from the Selfish Hippie

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/2008/05/ive-been-getting-little-off-track.html
I've been getting a little off-track lately with crusades and Canadians and stories of solar-powered stegosaurs, so let's get back to the basics. Here's a random smattering of tips and tricks to help you live out the code of the Selfish Hippie: save money while saving the world.

What a Crock!
For Christmas last year, I asked for a crock pot for purely lazy reasons. After a few somewhat disgusting stews, I've had some good times making some delicious meals that take about a half an hour of work and that make so much I can live off the leftovers for up to two weeks. Imagine my delight, then, when I read about how good crock pots are for your energy bill. Bingo! So, as long as you can avoid any mishaps like burning pork shoulder and making your whole apartment smell like roast pig (yes, it does happen), then the crock pot can be your favorite method of cooking like it is mine.

Toothbrush Tricks
According to my dentist, old toothbrushes should be changed for new ones every 2 months. According to about.com, it's 3 months. Either way, that's 4-6 toothbrushes per year. So the first tip, while it's not necessarily hippie, is to stock up when prices are down. For example, I caught a toothbrush sale a month ago where they were 50 cents apiece. Needless to say, I won't need to buy another toothbrush for a few years. Now that you're stocked up, let me lay some hippie speak on you: after you're done using that toothbrush on the hard to reach places in your mouth, toss it in the dishwasher to clean it and then use it for those hard to reach places in the home. Window tracks, tile grout, and many other things that you can blackmail a child/roommate/girlfriend into cleaning are prime candidates for the toothbrush trick. If you're not into cleaning, they're also great for all sorts of craft and woodworking projects. Be creative.

Water Worriers vs. Water Warriors
Water can be a major sinkhole on your bills. Luckily, there are all kinds of ways to use less water, do less work, and save more time and money. If you're not down with the whole "If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down," mentality for bathroom energy efficiency, here's a few other tips on how to save water. (And no, you don't have to buy into the doom-and-gloom apocalyptic shpeal at the beginning of that article, but you can still profit from their tricks.)

Free Money Reminder
In case you missed my song and dance about this new site called Revolution Money Exchange, check out that previous post. Basically, this site is like PayPal but without credit cards. Instead, you send money directly from your checking account to another. They are completely secure and legitimate, and it's actually run by one of the guys from AOL (but it's not total rubbish like AOL). And, even cooler, extended until May 15, they're giving away $25 just for signing up. If you click on the green button on the right and sign up as my referral, I'll get a $10 referral bonus, which I'll then split with you. So basically, you're coming away with $30 for doing almost nothing. I already spent most of mine on booze and women, then wasted the rest of it. Oh, and the service they provide is pretty cool, so it'd be worth using even if they didn't pay you to.

Do you feel like you're becoming a selfish hippie? Have some tricks or tips you'd like to share with the community? Leave them in the comments. Until then, keep saving money while saving the world.

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