Thursday, August 30, 2007

Overheard assholes: "Leave"

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"I'm going to slap you in front of everybody, and then we're gonna leave."

— mother, to her son, around 5,
at Shaw's, for reasons unclear

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The answers to all your questions

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Having this Website is a big responsibility sometimes. Every day, people come here through bizarre Google searches, looking for the answers I don't have to questions I never knew existed. Then they leave.

These are some actual Google searches that brought people to this Website. Hopefully I can provide some real information for them.

North America, "allergic to mrs dash": This search brings you to this post on Black Fonzie, featuring a movie where I flush out my nose with a neti pot. However, it contains no information as to whether or not people can actually be allergic to Mrs. Dash.

The original flavor of Mrs. Dash contains these ingredients: "Onion, spices (black pepper, parsley, celery seed, basil, bay, marjoram, oregano, savory, thyme, cayenne pepper, coriander, cumin, mustard, rosemary), garlic, carrot, orange peel, tomato, lemon juice powder, citric acid, oil of lemon."


Anyway, if you're allergic to any of those things, I'm guessing you're allergic to Mrs. Dash.

Case: closed.

New Jersey, "how many ounces of water in neti pot": Another neti pot question!

I have a Rhino Horn neti pot that holds 10 ounces. Your face will hold significantly less.

Case: closed.

• Salem, Ore., "picture of fonzie's nephew": No, Salem, Ore., it is not this guy at right. That person with the awful haircut is Chachi Arcola, Fonzie's cousin.

Fonzie's nephew is Raymond "Spike" Fonzarelli. He appeared in four episodes and, yes, even dated Joanie once. However, due to the complicated and rather icky nature of the Fonzarelli family line, Spike was referred to in the show as both Fonzie's nephew and cousin. Because such a relationship would be a crime against nature, Spike's character was rewritten into the douchebag you see here.

Case: closed.

• McLean, Virginia, "dinosaur excrement for sale": This search referred the searcher to a column I wrote some time ago on strange eBay sales. Unfortunately, this will not help him or her if he or she is interested in purchasing fossilized dinosaur shit today.

Dino dung that has been fossilized is known as coprolite. Yes, I know it sounds a lot like "craprolite." If for some reason you really want ancient turds hanging around your house, there are Websites that sell coprolite real cheap.

Case: closed.

• United States, "hamburglar running with money picture": This search took somebody to this archive page, which doesn't contain any such picture. Probably because no such picture exists. The Hamburglar steals hamburgers. He's not interested in money.

Case: closed.

• United Kingdom, "grapefruit make poo black": This person clearly has an immediate problem that this column could not help.

I still can't help. Sir or ma'am: If you're reading this, run, do not walk, to a doctor. Assuming you can run comfortably without pooing yourself.

Case: still open.

• Greece, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Japan, "anal swine": A while ago, I interviewed Stephen Colbert, and I reprinted a transcript here, with the title "You can't spell 'news analysis' without 'anal swine.'" Ever since then, I've been getting Google searches for "anal swine" a couple of times a month.

It puzzled me until I did a brief Google search myself. Just as I suspected, it's a porno movie. Great. I'm not providing a link here, because I'm not a pornographer. The director, Rob Rotten, however, is. If you're interested in some of his other films, has him listed as being an "actor" in such cinematic timepieces as "Magic Sex Genie," "Latex Nurses," "Tails of Perversity 9," and "Boobs a Poppin' 4." He is also actor/director of "Sperm Sponges," "Scurvy Girls" and its sequel, "Scurvy Girls 2."

Before you ask, in case you suspect your girls have scurvy, check them for purplish spots on their legs, bleeding from the mucous membranes, and spongy gums leading to tooth loss. Treat the girls with fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly those high in vitamin C.

Case: closed.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

It's OK — we're just badly screwed

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If there’s one fundamental principle I live by, it’s to see the good in everybody. It doesn’t matter who people are. Take upbeat people, for instance. Most optimists don’t mean to be annoying — they just haven’t had a good talking-to yet to depress them. See? You take a negative thing and you make it a positive!

Here’s an example. On a recent commute home from work, I was stuck in traffic for about 15 minutes behind a white Dodge van with this silly message painted on the back:

“Why Worry?”

It touched a nerve. Worrying is one of my most cherished hobbies.

If I were a negative person, I’d roll my eyes at that sort of carefree brainlessness. But no, I like to see things in a more positive light. I try to take that cynicism and push it way, way down inside my body, down into my feet, where it gets transferred to my car’s gas pedal and is later expelled as toxic carbon monoxide emissions.

The guy in the “Why Worry” van probably just wasn’t aware of the fact that there are actually thousands of awful, horrifying things he should be worried about right now. He wasn’t being silly on purpose — he just doesn’t know any better!

If I ever see him again, I’m flagging him down. We’ll pull over somewhere safe and brightly lit, and I’ll share with him this list I’ve drawn up, reasons explaining exactly why he should be worried:

• Let’s start with the universe. Let’s just get that out of the way. Our best science tells us that the planets and stars and solar systems and nebulae and black holes and quasars — basically, like, all objects everywhere — are all flying outward from a single point. And someday, the universe could stretch apart in dimensions so radically different than we know now, futzing with the Earth’s orbit and sending the planet either hurtling away from the sun or into it. Both options — either being wicked cold or wicked hot — pretty much stink, particularly if you’re investing for the long term and can’t withdraw your money early without penalty.

• This, by the way, is assuming a comet the size of Finland doesn’t slam into us first.

• Want something to really keep you awake at night? Right now, somewhere in America, at least one kid is kneeling on the edge of his bed with hands folded, begging God to please, please, please let him be on “So You Think You Can Dance.”

• Plus, he’ll be so busy doing it that he won’t read a book.

• Vice President Dick Cheney’s approval rating is in the mid-teens. Don’t feel relief. That means around 15 to 18 percent of people polled are still clinging to the belief that this insane, shambling, flesh-eating Republizombie is doing “a good job.”

• I’m looking right now at someone in my office who looks like she’s about 9 years old. There’s another one, a guy, a few desks away who looks to be around 11. The other day, talking to a guy my age, I found myself absently referring to them as “those kids.” The worrisome part? They’re not really “kids” — they’re college interns. I got old and nobody told me.

• Speaking of kids, they’re not just wearing flannel pajama bottoms as public attire anymore. You want something to worry about? I saw a young woman wearing both flannel pajama bottoms and a pajama top. Like a whole Heathcliff Huxtable pajama ensemble. Also, flip-flops. This is distressing. If clothing habits are going to get even more casual, there’s not much room left — and I don’t mean nudity. That actually takes some effort. No, the only way forward from here is feety PJs and diapers.

• This one hits me every so often. If somebody in your office picks his nose and then touches the doorknob, everyone else who touches that doorknob just picked that guy’s nose, too.

• Worry about this the next time you’re in the car. If tomorrow the price of potato chips suddenly soared to $6 a bag, I’d be fine. I could eat more salad, more chicken, more eggplant, or what have you. If the price of gas suddenly soared to $6 a gallon tomorrow, I’d have to pay it. Either that or I’m fired. I can call out sick, but I can’t call my boss and say I’m too cheap to come in. All my car runs on is gas — try as I may to get it to run on love, the engine won’t turn over. There’s no public transportation that can get me to work. No carpools, either. I can’t ride my bike 45 miles in the morning. And since the price of gas is more or less arbitrarily defined, there’s almost nothing to say it won’t be $6 a gallon tomorrow. Not worried yet? People used to believe $3 a gallon was unthinkable. I paid that last week.

• I love to cook, but there’s no relief from worries when I’m cooking, either. Every time I use my frying pan, the one I use to sauté nearly everything, that the Teflon coating is almost all gone. Flaked off. You know where that Teflon’s gone? Yes, that’s right. Just below the navel, two inches to the left, collecting in a hard, black lump. Probably everyone has a frying pan like that lying around. It’s sitting in your stomach, too.

• Tarantulas in your shoes. You never know. That’s why you have to poke at them a little with a long stick before you put them on.

• I can’t grow a decent lawn. That’s not really worrisome in and of itself. But if I can’t grow a decent lawn, how can I expect to raise a kid who will not only be interesting and attractive and not crazy, but who can get into Harvard and win the Nobel Prize I’m never going to win?

• Sometimes there are worries within worries. I was bored at work today, so I went online and asked Google what percentage of Americans believes in Bigfoot. Not that I do — I just wanted to know. After about 30 seconds of research, these are the figures I came up with, in numerical order: 15 percent, 17 percent, “about 35%,” “a plurality,” 54 percent, 57 percent, 57.96 percent 59 percent, “a lot,” 74 percent, and “about 89 percent.” First, it worries the hell out of me that even 1 percent of people believe in Bigfoot — even just one guy somewhere believing in Bigfoot is a big problem. Secondly, it worries the hell out of me that the Internet can’t even provide a straight answer to a bogus question.

• Want a worry that’s more specific? Some study from Australia just published claims that having a laser printer in your office is as dangerous as having the room full of second-hand smoke. I don’t know how much stock I put in this, but for the record, at my job, I’m in charge of changing the printer cartridges. Just want to state that now, in case there’s a lawsuit later.

• And speaking of that, there’s that cat at the Providence nursing home who can allegedly predict people’s deaths by hanging around them. I have two cats. They hang around me all the time. You tell me — what else am I supposed to think?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Shock the monkey (if by monkey you mean me)

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My wife and I were at the Starbucks in Seekonk one recent weekend, and a very nice man there recognized me as the writer of this column. If I’d had my coffee before he talked to me, I would’ve been awake enough to ask him his name — but I wasn’t. Sorry. Anyway, the nice guy told me he’s at that Starbucks pretty much every day.

My kind of guy!

We people in the newspaper game need lots of coffee in order to function properly. What do you think — the news just happens? We have to sit in front of a desk for eight hours a day and decide whether to suppress knowledge (next month’s hostile alien invasion, for example), spin it to serve Our Secret Liberal Agenda, or ignore it and write something about Paris Hilton instead. Try doing that on just tap water.

My newspaper job wakes me up at the absolutely repulsive hour of 1 a.m. I’m cranky, tired, and in no mood to leggo anybody’s Eggos. All I want that early in the morning is coffee and lots of it.

I usually end up bringing a Thermos of coffee to work, and sometimes I get more afterward. But the caffeine buzz been weak lately. The more early mornings I work, the more caffeine it takes to keep me awake. But the more caffeine I drink, the more I get used to it, which means I can’t stay awake at 3 a.m. — which means I need more caffeine. There’s a word for this effect. It rhymes with “spladdiction.”

To fill my need for greater and greater amounts of caffeine, I bought a product a few weeks ago I thought would help: Shower Shock.

Yes, Shower Shock is a bar of caffeine-infused soap sold by You use the soap like any other and absorb the caffeine through your pores. For someone like me who gets up early, is spladdicted to coffee and who sometimes smells funny, it sounds perfect.

Just read the description: “Shower Shock is an all vegetable-based glycerine soap which does not contain any harsh ingredients like ethanol, diethanolamine, polyethylene glycol or cocyl isethionate.” So, for people who enjoy a smidgen of cocyl isethionate, very sorry.

“Each bar of Shower Shock contains approximately 12 servings/showers per 4 ounce bar with 200 milligrams of caffeine per serving.” By comparison, the National Coffee Association says an 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee can contain an average of 85 mg of caffeine.

That sounded promising, so I bought one bar online. charges $6.99 per bar of soap. That price alone made me feel pretty pop-eyed — until I saw the shipping charges: $6.19. Grand total for one bar of soap: $13.17. Yikes! says the soap is “scented with peppermint oil.” Hell, yes. When it finally came in the mail, I could literally smell the soap through the cardboard shipping box. To picture the scent, imagine a Wrigley spearmint gum factory exploded and set fire to the Altoids factory next door.

I decided I’d test it by using it for a week without drinking any coffee at all to make sure the only caffeine I got was from the soap.

At 1 a.m. the next morning, so tired I could only open one eye, I groped for my Shower Shock bar and washed up. The second thing you notice about Shower Shock, after the sickening ribbon-candy scent, is that it looks white — almost clear. For some reason, I’d been expecting soap that substitutes for coffee to be brown.

I showered like I usually do and felt nothing. I wondered if maybe I hadn’t used enough to get the full 200 mg, and lathered up all over again. As I dried off, I did notice that I hadn’t yawned yet since I used it, and my skin felt tingly. Seemed promising.

The rest of the morning was … let’s just say, “eventful.” I kept a diary of it. I should just reproduce that here:

2:23 a.m.: It’s been 30 minutes since I used Shower Shock. No major effects yet except a slightly faster heartbeat, but am hopeful.

2:38 a.m.: Had first yawn. I usually yawn more than this. Apart from that, I’m still tired.

5:23 a.m.: Had second yawn at work. The Shower Shock is definitely working, as it’s been a while since the first yawn. Also not sure if I’ve blinked since then. Found out there’s free hot cocoa at the coffee machine. Must resist.

5:39 a.m.: Co-workers keep asking what smells like candy canes. I say nothing.

6:02 a.m.: Four and a half hours after using Shower Shock. Feel tired, but not sluggish. Definitely caffeinated. Realized again that I paid $13 for this and nearly started to cry.

6:49 a.m.: Jittery. Heart rate elevated. I think. Probably. It feels elevated. Jittery. Eyeballs vibrating. Wow! Hoo! Whoa!

7:36 a.m.: Coughed and saw floaty things. They went: Weeee!

7:50 a.m.: More tired. But not! Caffeine! Works! Soap! Very thirsty! Goodbye!

8:25 a.m.: Seven hours later. Head pounding. Eyes can’t focus. Hands twitching. Leaned back in chair and fell asleep. Woke up when I realized I could still read with my eyes shut. Somehow have transcended space and time. I have never felt so alive!

8:26 a.m.: Uh-oh. I feel the caffeine crash coming…

8:27 a.m.: Just crashed. Will curl up on desk and use PC keyboard as pillow until the headache goes away.

9:29 a.m.: After-effects are not good. Extreme tiredness, also spiders crawling up my back and arms. When I ask people to flick them off, they reply no thanks. Rubbing my back against the computer just attracts more spiders. I’m taking a nap in the stairwell until they go away.

10:43 a.m.: Feel much better now. Caffeine starting to wear off. Ate some cherries. Swallowed a pit. Now my stomach feels weird. I’ll be back in a sec.

From there, the diary goes into rather unsavory details. But I pretty much learned my lesson after the seven-hour hippie freak-out. From now on, if I want coffee in the morning, I’m having it the way nature intended: light cream and sugar, in a 20-gallon drum, piped through a hose and out my shower nozzle.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Flexible pets for people with bendable minds

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An interesting thing about human beings is that we keep inventing new ways to be lazier than the previous generation. In the past two years alone, how many new inventions have we developed just so we can be really, really lazy? Leaf blowers. Drinkable yogurt. I can’t be bothered to count the rest, but it’s a lot, probably.

And now, for the lazy person who has a very small amount of conditional and egocentric love to share every so often, there’s a new invention: part-time dogs!

Read this story from the AP:

“From the state that popularized purse puppies, drive-thru dog washes and gourmet dog food delivery comes the latest in canine convenience — a company that contracts out dogs by the day to urbanites without the time or space to care for a pet full-time.”

Did I mention this is in California, or was it already obvious?

Yes, it’s FlexPetz, a service that rents out dogs for any occasion. Let’s say you really like dogs — nothing makes you feel better than when you’re playing with them, throwing them sticks, horsing around with them. Except you can’t own one. You’re too busy, or you’re too old, or mean old Mr. Roper won’t allow them in his building.

Before, as a dog lover who couldn’t own a dog, your two options were either to deal with it like a grownup, or to round up all the stray puppies in the neighborhood and pack them one-by-one into your tiny apartment by the dozens and never let them out until the authorities are alerted to the stench. What a hassle!

Now you can call up FlexPetz! They’ll let you pick up a dog once in a while, or even deliver it to you. Then you take it for walkies and play frisbee, and return the dog to FlexPetz when you’re finished using it. (After 8 p.m., dog returns go in the mail slot.)

But don’t call it a rent-a-pet service! The good people at FlexPetz bristle at that. See?

“Marlena Cervantes, founder of FlexPetz, bristles when people refer to her five-month-old business as a rent-a-pet service,” the story continues. “She prefers the term ‘shared pet ownership,’ explaining the concept is more akin to a vacation time share or a gym membership.” However, unlike a gym membership, you’ll actually use the dog.

FlexPetz takes the guesswork out of being a responsible pet owner. Can’t remember if dogs eat food? FlexPetz gives you pre-measured food with every rental. Don’t know what kind of surfaces dogs like to sleep on? Not a problem! FlexPetz gives you something called a “dog bed.” Dog piddled on the carpet? Simply return it as defective.

Best of all, there’s no commitment and no intimacy. Hooray, I think. This could revolutionize the concept of companionship. With FlexPetz, having a best friend who always loves you unconditionally doesn’t have to be such a goddam drag.

For this pleasure, FlexPetz charges a modest fee. According to its Web site, that’s $100 a year. Wait. And then $50 a month, in advance. Also, you pay $150 for a training lesson, but that’s it. And also, plus there’s a $25 daily fee for each weekday. If you want weekends, that’s $40. And members are required to rent a dog twice a month or pay for it anyway, so there’s another $50. Think of all that credit card swiping as elbow exercise.

If you’re too lazy to do the math — and who isn’t? — here it is: renting a FlexPetz dog for the minimum number of days per month, weekdays only, will cost you $1,448.15. Want a dog every weekend for a year? That’s $6,044.15. Before tax.

Being an owner of two dogs myself and a lover of all creatures great and cute, the more I researched FlexPetz the more I was horrified. Then, angry. Then, depressed, as I came to realize that people will pay big money for anything as long as it allows them to get out of being responsible.

I’ve taken the liberty of preparing some frequently asked questions about pet rentals, in case you’re still interested. You aren’t, are you? Please don’t be.

Q. I love animals! Except I don’t want them in my life. And I hate dogs. Is there another kind of pet I can rent?

A. Glad you asked! Coming soon to FlexPetz are new FlexFish, the only goldfish that work part-time to service your ego. For a simple $26 per-day fee, $120 yearly payment, plus $37 a month, and a one-time training fee of $229.99, you can rent a goldfish of your very own! And they rent the bowls really cheap, too!

Q. After a long, hard day of flushing fistfuls of wadded cash down the toilet, I’m too exhausted to actually pick up a rental dog. Do they deliver?

A. Even better! Starting now is a new service: NetFlixPetz. Simply go online and make a list of the dogs you want. In one business day, NetFlixPetz will send you three dogs from your list. When you’re finished with one, return it in the handy postage-paid duffle bag, and they’ll send you a new dog from your list.

Q. What if my FlexPetz dog is too tired from being pimped out all week to play when I rent it?

A. As far as I’m aware, FlexPetz currently does not have a “cranky canine” clause to allow for dogs who end up loafing on your couch while you wave your rental contract at them irritably. Try tying pork chops around your neck. That got the dog to play with you when you were an ugly kid.

Q. FlexPetz calls its service “shared pet ownership.” Isn’t that sort of like calling prostitution “shared girlfriendism”?

A. I bristle at that, sir! FlexPetz is nothing like prostitution. With FlexPetz, you don’t have the hassle of a relationship — you just have as much fun as you want. Then, after you’re done with it, you pay them money. They got all kind of bitches (and male dogs are available too). They can do tricks all day, all night, whatever you want, whatever you need. They love you, long time!

Q. I love dogs, but can’t own one. And FlexPetz is expensive! Is there a service out there that’s cheaper?

A. Yeah, it’s called “going to the animal shelter and being a volunteer dog-walker.” It’s free. You’ll love it, and they’ll love you for it. In Fall River, there’s Forever Paws and Faxon. Go there. Shelter dogs need attention, exercise and permanent, stable homes a lot more than they need to be passed around as playthings for rich, emotionally needy saps (although, if you are such a person, most shelters also gratefully accept donations).
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