Saturday, October 31, 2009


You know the feeling. It's 3 a.m., and while normal people are sleeping so soundly they wouldn’t wake up if they passed a kidney stone, you're wide awake. Maybe there’s a finite amount of sleep to be had, and some people – babies, the infirmed, on-duty air traffic controllers – are hogging it all. It’s torture, worse even than getting drunk at a Halloween party and then because you don't have a costume, agreeing to coat your entire naked body in glue and then roll in a tub full of glitter, immediately followed by passing out on a pool table and later noticing that a few of the cue sticks are missing from the rack. Not that this ever happened to me.

Yes, the bedroom is truly a horror flick when you can’t sleep. You’ve got your possessed digital clock, glowing so brightly you think you’re having a near-death experience. The temperature keeps rising and falling, which you’re sure is due to menopausal hot flashes, even if you’re a guy. And let’s not forget the house-settling noises creaking to the rhythm of the Brady Bunch theme, which is a very scary song even in the light of day.

The traditional sleep-inducers rarely help. Take reading something boring. Like a bulldog so ugly it’s cute, a sixty-page manual for a stapler is so dull it’s interesting. Most insomniacs have read countless manuals, out loud, simultaneously translating from Sanskrit where needed. Then there’s drinking warm milk. Despite its tranquilizing tryptophan, this practice unfortunately keeps you up wondering if anything else besides paint tastes as bad. That only makes you obsess about how much the room needs to be painted, and how you never really liked this room, or your whole life, really. Even taking a sleeping pill can leave you wide awake. Usually that’s because in your stuporous fumbling in the bathroom you washed the pill down with Drano, which not only tastes almost as bad as warm milk but is also a digestive irritant for about half the population.

Luckily you could choose to be productive during your extra awake time. You could do your income taxes, for example. Studies show that tax returns completed by sleep-deprived Drano drinkers are up to 30% more accurate than those completed by fully conscious accountants.

The good news is that insomnia usually passes, clearing up as soon as people get rid of stressors like demanding jobs and draining relationships and weekly alien abductions. (By the way, having a history of those makes it really hard to get health insurance.)

The best plan is to keep counting ceiling tiles or your eyelid veins until you realize that as the saying goes, you’ll catch up on all the sleep you missed when you die. Of course, thinking about the inevitability of your death, especially when you’re so behind schedule because you’re never well-slept, is enough to keep you from ever falling asleep again.

In that case, just show up at my house, because I'll definitely be up. You bring the glitter.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Grocery Anxiety

I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m short on demoralizing waves of anxiety, I go grocery shopping.

A supermarket trip ought to be orgasmic for me, a certifiable gourmand. (Don’t let my small frame fool you. I can eat twice my weight in tofurkey.) Foodstuffs are therefore the clay I sculpt with in my kitchen playground. But for starters, much gets lost in the translation, or should I say, extortion. How can I buy bananas and almond butter and it comes to $47? Partly it’s because I require luxury chow like almond butter. However, most of my cart contains humble pasta, unassuming carrots, down-to-earth rice, and, after seeing the total bill, my escaped palpitating heart. Perfect – that’s one fewer organ I'll need to sustain if my husband and I decide to switch to a diet of not particularly hypoallergenic but notably cheap dumpster scraps.

It’s not only the prices that would get my goat, if we could afford one. Try as I might to keep my grocery junkets short, they’re usually long enough for the stock clerks to think that I, too, work there. This would be handy for smuggling out crates of salad dressing, but I’m always too busy plunging my head into the frozen vegetables section to dry up the nervous sweat I’ve generated over taking too long to shop. Guilt abounds that I’m not instead home vacuuming or some other chore that I frequently imply takes up my time but that I never actually do.

I don't get home for hours. After visiting Cheapest Mart, it’s important to let my ice cream liquefy in the trunk while swinging by Selection Central for Australian crystallized ginger and then Naturally Expensive for bulgur-quinoa patties. And for every product, I must check and recheck labels to screen out nasties like preservatives, artificial colors, and anything that might run the risk of actually tasting good.

To try and cut down on the number of trips, I always purchase truckloads of our number one staple – fresh produce. But this only doubles my desire to blend my neighbor’s cat’s Prozac into my morning Grape Nuts. (I kid you not; Fluffy’s on uppers.) This is because with every toss of broccoli and grapes into my cart, I worry that my husband and I can’t possibly eat it all before it rots into a slimy mass quite like the brain I never remember to bring grocery shopping. Yet I can never pace myself; I'm a delusional stockaholic who doesn’t need an impending snowstorm to justify buying enough fixin's to build an eighteen-story salad and a side(car) of stew.

Once home, I usually find that I forgot to pick up the most important items on my list. All week we must then eat omelets without the eggs, tuna sandwiches without the tuna, bouillabaisse without the boy and Cheerios without the cheer. I make up for that by overstuffing myself with bulgur-quinoa patties and remembering back to when I didn’t have to worry about going grocery shopping at all. I just ate whatever the heck my mother put in front of me. Rice-a-Roni, Hamburger Helper, TV dinners, and Spam.

Talk about depressing. Damned good thing I’ve got that cat Prozac.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

You're Afraid of WHAT?

BOO, samhainophobics! You shouldn't fear Halloween. But that's just my opinion (sorry if you have allodoxaphobia, the fear of opinions.) Read on unless you have sesquipedalophobia, the fear of long words. What subjects the mind to abnormal fears? Don't ask if you have psychophobia, fear of the mind. Jerry Seinfeld said the fear of public speaking, glossophobia, is more common than the fear of death, necrophobia, so at a funeral you’re better off in the casket than giving the eulogy. But what if the departed is to the right of the podium and you have dextrophobia – a fear of things to your right? And good luck at the gravesite if you're also a cemetery-fearing coimetrophobe.

What better time than Halloween to learn that not just vampires have phengophobia, the fear of daylight, and alliumphobia, the fear of garlic. Maybe you'll eat that but not peanut butter for fear it will stick to the roof of your mouth – if you have arachibutyrophobia.

Names of phobias keep up with the times. Computerphobia and technophobia have been added to the language. Surely we’ll soon be diagnosing Verizophobia (fear of cell phones), Friskophobia (fear of airport security), Aetnaphobia (fear of health insurance), and Lohanophobia (fear that cable TV will devote an entire channel to Lindsay Lohan).

Some things that the rest of us fear a little, phobics fear a lot. Hemophobia, nyctophobia, and atelophobia are the fears of blood, darkness, and imperfection. Of course, panophobes fear all three, because they fear everything. The whole enchilada and everything else in the restaurant.

According to the NIMH, people fear the IRS (57 percent) more than God (30 percent), dentists (58 percent) more than doctors (22 percent), and rats (58 percent) more than cockroaches (23 percent). At least once Halloween ends, a focus on fear will end, too. You’ll be able to put some of your worst fears to rest, whether there are names for those fears or not. Unless you have euphobia. That’s the fear of good news.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Better Never Than Late

Can we change that old saying to "Better never than late?" Lateness bugs me enormously because I jump through every hoop to be on time and it baffles me when other people don’t. My mother indoctrinated me early. She believed if you weren’t at least half an hour early, you were late. We arrived together at appointments and concerts, etc., literally hours early, giving me nothing to do but plan how to secretly adjust my mother's clocks and watches without her ever finding out.

Any way you time it, people who always show up at 8:40 for an 8:00 rendezvous are thorns in the sides of us who amazingly not only learned to tell time, but also to heed it. I never care how splendorous a straggler’s apologetic bouquet of flowers might be, or how vintage his Bordeaux. I’m just angry he took the time to stop and buy it. (Although I do appreciate the buzz an entire bottle imparts while I browbeat the transgressing latecomer into accepting permanent designated driver status.)

I understand that glitches arise, and acknowledge that chronic lateness can indicate A.D.D. and depression. But I always end up miffed when stiffed, because I cannot shake this belief: If my chronically late friends won a million bucks, and all they had to do to collect was to be at my house at 10 pm, they’d be on time. Which means they’re capable of promptness – just not when it's only me and my prizelessness at the other end.

I especially love the number one excuse I hear for lateness: “I was about to walk out the door when so-and-so called.” Believe it or not, there's this thing called "voicemail" which let's the caller leave you a message. According to a study I made up, the chances that the caller has an emergency are 1 in 26,000.

Technology works for and against punctuality. Electronic calendars are great for beeping out reminders that you have to be somewhere, giving you a greater chance you'll show up on my doorstep before I’ve given up and changed into flannel pajamas and a 70-pound lapdog. But with cell phones, some people think it doesn’t matter if they run late because it’s so easy to call and give the other person an updated ETA. These are the same people so addicted to their Blackberries and such that they're always late because they can't leave the house before checking 20 times that they haven't forgotten their cell phone.

Unfortunately I'm hardly ever brave enough to express my discontent, even if while waiting I was able to re-grout all my tile and grow my hair two inches. All I usually do is smile and clench my teeth around the hackneyed words, “That’s ok.” Occasionally, it really is ok. When we're not headed for a scheduled event or dining on a perfectly risen soufflé, sometimes timing doesn’t need to be so timely. Before my companion arrives, I know I should scrutinize my persistently stringent expectations instead of my watch. There, I said it – some of the problem resides with me. I really wish I weren’t such a stickler. I really wish the ticking clock didn't raise my blood pressure. I really wish I could take people’s lateness with a grain of salt. But not as much as I wish I could follow the lead of daycare centers that fine parents $3 for every minute they're late to pick up their kids. A lot of my friends would be coughing it up to me regularly – but only because it ain't a million dollars.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Deer Fear

My job selling products on air at QVC often has me driving in the middle of the night. At 3 am, it’s dark and deserted, and I’m scared. Not of drunk drivers, limited night vision, falling asleep at the wheel, or abduction by aliens. (As a salesperson I can just gab nonstop until they shove me right back out of the spaceship.)

No, what I fear are deer. The deer, I fear, are way too near. Everyone who drives around here has seen Bambi and friends hovering roadside. Lately though it's been Deerapalooza. Recently I spotted a family of venison-waiting-to-happen in the opposing lane. As I approached, the littlest member started trotting into, not out of, my path. Later a huge doe crossed the highway mere seconds before I intersected with its path. First I wondered why I spend so much on gas when I could just jump on one of these animals and yell “Giddy-up.” Next I pondered my abject terror of airbags. If you’re small like me (I’m 98 pounds even after eating dinner for six), airbags can really do a number on you. So can a 400-pound beast crashing through your windshield and ending up in your passenger seat. I don't think I'd like that, as much as I'd appreciate finally being able to drive in the HOV lane.

So I drive ridiculously slowly through deer country. The only thing lighting up the night more than the moon is its reflection off my white knuckles. I hold my breath if I so much as change radio stations, for fear that taking my hands off the wheel for even a second will make it harder to swerve if needed. It’s not the kind of anxiety that it’s good to put yourself through right before trying to appear relaxed on live TV, but the alternative is going on air wearing a deer stole as a body cast. I'm not feeling this would help sales.

I fully recognize that we humans took over the deer's habitat, and are now annoyed that they're in our way. I temper my aggravation with this thought, and with another: Deer might be more likely to save my life than to endanger it. I say this because I used to drive like a maniac. Though I never had an accident, I was playing Russian Roulette. Now, since being afraid to speed, I've slowed down in deer-populated areas – and everywhere else. And driving slower helps slow me down in other ways. I usually move my body too fast, resulting in the breakage of a lot of stuff, including my own skin. I also let my mind move too fast, resulting in the constantly racing, over-thinking, chaotic assemblage of neurons that I must sadly rely on as a brain.

Since lots of people need help slowing down, maybe what the roads need are more deer, not fewer. Imagine that all your drives were scenic, ten-mile-per-hour meanderings through a safari-like terrain peppered with prancing deer. Neither man nor beast would ever get hurt. The entire speed of life would decelerate, giving us all time to pay attention to the things that really matter, thereby cultivating a more peaceful world where all beings could live in loving harmony.

Yeah, I know. My dreams for the planet give new meaning to the expression "deer in the headlights." I guess I'm more like these animals than I think. Whether I'm on the road or just sharing my crazy philosophies, so many people seem to just flash their brights and drive around me.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Daylight Savings

This Sunday we turn back the clock for Daylight Savings Time. Call me crazy, but I like a little light when I get up in the morning so I can see if I’ve morphed into a giant Kafkaesque insect overnight. Either way, it feels like quite the power trip to be able to recover sixty whole minutes from the supposedly unchangeable March of Time. Obviously this march is pretty changeable after all, submissively changing directions when it sees the daylight savings roadblock. Time's sister continuum of space is just as wimpy and defenseless against the random whims of humans, or else there would be no such thing as MySpace.

I even like how daylight savings makes it get darker earlier in the evening. When the sun goes down, I try to let the pressure on myself to be productive go down with it. The sooner I can set aside figuring out how best to resurrect my writing career, and sit down with a Seinfeld rerun and a pound cake, the better. (By the way, if you eat pound cake or anything else right after you turn back the clock you can do it guilt-free because any calories consumed during that hour won't be absorbed.)

In fact, the earlier in the day that everyone finishes doing stuff and turns out their lights, the better for the world's energy savings. Don't worry about what's left undone. Both literally and figuratively, at the end of the day, accomplishment is overrated. That’s why I do things like write columns about daylight savings time. Rather than contribute to society in meaningful ways, I prefer to muse about things that people with stable psychological functioning manage to ignore. Next, for instance, I plan to research the trajectory of farm animals in the event of Earth's collision with an asteroid. Doctoral theses, I assure you, have been submitted on less deserving subjects.

Interestingly, it may not matter if you turn back the clocks this Sunday at 2 a.m. or not. Quantum physicists say time is a human construct and doesn't really exist. In celebration of this please join me on Saturday for this challenge: Get through the day without once looking at a clock. In your FACE, time. Who needs your imprisonment? We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore! I may also stop allowing myself to be constrained by money and work and weather and eating right and civility…oh, and gravity, too. I'll just flap my arms to lift off so fast that I'll break through this silly fictional time barrier once and for all. Just so you know, one more thing I plan to stop believing in is trying to fix my aforementioned unstable psychological functioning. I am so not flying to therapy in the new 6 pm dark.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Osama bin Coupon

Inventions meant to improve life – like cars, computers, cell phones, you name it – have a dark side, obviously. This has never been truer than for a certain Thing Which Should Not Be Named, but I'll risk it to expose the wickedness therein. It's the coupon.

The native North American coupon (Casholus Discountus) infiltrates one’s domain in insidious fashions. Droves appear in magazines and newspapers, as bulk mailings, as “rewards” for purchases, as downloadables and e-newsletters, as something the wind blew in and stuck to the bottom of your shoe. But whichever way my own coupons arrive, they're instantly recognizable as being even more useless than the rest of my mail. I either recycle them or ignite to create a dust bunny funeral pyre. But first I'm compelled to sort these spontaneously generating coupons, just to make sure I'm not missing major savings. Or to make sure there isn't a product or service that I might only find out about by way of the coupon.

And here's the result. One in 500 times, I manage to find a coupon for something I actually want, and actually remember where I put it, and actually take it to the store, and actually remember to use it at the register, and actually do all of this before the coupon expires. The other 499 times, I sacrifice time, energy and space to sift through and stock coupons which I'll never use. They'll instead collect behind the refrigerator, in drawers, under car seats, and in purse pockets, only to mockingly resurface when their products have been paid for in full and the receipts, which are second only to coupons in depravity, have crawled off into the very same hovels and disintegrated just before needed for tax time.

I'm especially appalled by the coupon's ability to incite purchases that the buyer wouldn't make if it weren't for the coupon. As an occasional victim, I've bought dog toys that I knew would be destroyed in four seconds, food I'm allergic to but I figure someone will eat, unneeded tools, unfashionable accessories, and over-the-counter drugs for conditions I don't have. Perhaps I should just accept this foolery as an unavoidable side effect of the "benefit" of coupons. But I can't do that, because the total I've saved due to coupons over the course of my lifetime, after correcting for the frustration of dealing with them, comes to $1.29.

Sometimes I think coupons should be outlawed, including keeping them out of the country at airport security: “I’m sorry, ma’am, to board the plane you’ll need to surrender that coupon in your back pocket. You can hold onto the blowtorch.” Coupons are essentially just advertisements to boost consumerism and are more evil than other forms of advertising because we've been seduced into collecting them and keeping them close. With most other ads, you either pass by (like billboards), finish hearing (like commercials), or trash (like e-mails or magazine ads). But a coupon is hard to scrap, because you might save sixty cents on a processed “food” or pay half price for overpriced shoes.

I could warm up to coupons is if they were for better things. I want a coupon from a bank that says “50% off money. Come into any branch, give us $30, and we’ll give you back $45.” Or how about a coupon from the courthouse promising “30% off your age. We’ll change the year on your birth certificate. Today you’re 40? Tomorrow you could be 28.” Have a cold? A really useful coupon wouldn't give you 20% off cough syrup; it would give you a 20% reduction in how long the cold lasts. These kinds of coupons I could really get behind.

Until then, I will continue my crusade against coupons. Not only will I subject them to defacing, burning, and flushing, but you can be sure that I will also fold, spindle, and mutilate (as soon as I figure out how to "spindle" something.) Watch out, Casholus Discountus. You want to save me money? You had better save yourself.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Clothing Suffocation

As Gap is my witness, I have too many clothes. I have a 26-year-old pair of jeans because damn it, they still fit. I have a 1980s sweater with shoulder reinforcements that would protect me from artillery fire. I hold onto silly socks because they were gifts, business suits because I need them once per decade, 52 T-shirts commemorating vacation locations, 54 pairs of shoes, 39 pairs of stockings, 12 bathing suits, and hand-me-overs from family, friends, and enemies (they are now).

Weirdly, I'm not a clotheshorse, or even a clothes gerbil. I wear maybe 20% of what I own. Most of the items I can't stand, fit into, match with other stuff, justify at my age, or even find. Some are coming apart at what used to be seams, until both age and unseen voracious boll weevil hybrids decimated them. Others reflect styles that were in fashion for ten minutes, and only in some remote Icelandic village. This here was an impossibly good deal. That there I wore the first time I ever 'd. Now these pieces do nothing but take up so much space that sometimes in the bedroom when I take a breath I end up with a skirt up my nose.

Yet I can't let go. I feel like an audience member of "Let's Make a Deal." It's like I think someone will show up offering me $5,000 for a 14-year-old pair of stretch pants patterned with palm trees. Got it right here! I can also provide a few low-cut blouses that would warrant arrest in the Red states. You should also look no further than my closet for a bridesmaid's dress that made me look like the Big Bad Wolf vomited on Little Bo Peep, cargo pants so big on me that I become the hidden cargo, and a white skirt whose stains I actually tried to cover with Wite-Out. How can you not keep such a testament to your own resourcefulness?

Clearly, I have vestiary conundrums because my advanced soul was born into this primitive era, an age when to conduct life as we know it, our spirits must still remain trapped in a physical, vulnerable form. Therefore we must depend on clothes to protect us from cold, discomfort, and abject ridicule. Please consider that my bloated wardrobe is an ironic manifestation of my subconscious rebellion against my corporeal limitations, whereby I keep a freakish surplus of clothing in order to suppress my burgeoning ethereal nature, which would never be truly accepted by the material civilization into which I have been cruelly and irreversibly thrust.

Yeah, I think I'll go with that. Otherwise I'd have to admit that I'm just a pathetic pack-rat, wearing palm tree-patterned stretch pants while awaiting the second coming of Monty Hall and regularly abusing Wite-Out.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cleaning for Company

I used to have awful "entertainment fear." Preparing my house for guests was a bigger deal for me than buying the house in the first place. But now I'm over it, having devised a devil-may-care system that anyone can use.

Begin by only buying intricate, multicolored carpet. Any dirt will then be mistaken for part of the complex patterns. Perfect – because everybody knows that vacuum cleaners, while designed to remove unwanted particles, actually deposit more than they remove. Vacuums do this to ensure their own job security.

As for windows, if you truly like them free of splattered insects, simply scrape them off halfheartedly, realizing that smudges will be left behind. History says fruit flies made ancient scientists believe in "spontaneous generation," but it was really smudges. Smudges regenerate out of nothing in seconds after being removed from any glass surface. It's actually more difficult to permanently remove smudges than it is to get out of a Verizon voice menu.

My advice for the powder room: Don't clean it. Just fill the toilet to the brim with toilet paper, declare "Plumbing emergency!" and then direct guests to the nearest gas station bathroom. Point out that since gas costs so much, we should all get our money's worth by using gas station soap, water, and paper towels whenever possible.

Straightening? Please. Straightening your house just makes people stay too long, because they can find places to sit. Ditto for making the house smell nice by lighting candles, baking cookies, bathing pets, or removing garbage. An inviting environment just increases the chances that people will say yes the next time you invite them over. The goal is to get to the point where no one would ever risk their health by stepping foot in your house. Bam, you're freed from maintaining your home and can bask in task-free squalor.

Obviously you shouldn't provide food and drink either. Why did someone decide, anyway, that in addition to the luxury of indoor plumbing, an evening at a friend's house should include consumables? If you absolutely must provide some, just promise me you won't go to the trouble of buying new stuff. You can throw a perfectly good party with beets and flat seltzer. If guests complain, ask them why they came – was it for the cuisine or the camaraderie? The munchies or the memories? The franks or the friendship? Keep making alliterative comparisons so they don't have a chance to answer.

It's a system that worked for me. After my friends saw my low standards, they insisted on being the ones to host our gatherings. They know that whatever shape their house is in, it can't be as bad as mine. They also know they can always count on me to bring beets.

Thursday, October 22, 2009



1 - Mix together some sugar and salt and then separate the grains back out again.

2 - Go door to door selling jars of boiling water. You have to move fast with this one.

3 - Address your envelopes by gluing on alphabet cereal.

4 - Train a pear to fetch – but without using voice commands, only hand signals.

5 - Plant a walnut and wait for the tree to grow.

6 - Count the tea leaves in each bag in a box of tea. Demand a refund if the bags don't all contain the same number.

7 - Fill the bathtub with cold water, then pour in ten pounds of Jell-O mix. Get in and take a nap for four to six hours.

8 - Go grocery shopping and sing every ingredient list to the tune of the Brady Bunch theme.

9 - Instead of using a pumpkin, carve a detailed face, recognizable as David Letterman, into a poppy seed.

10 - Sew a new wardrobe made out of pancakes using string cheese.

11 – Drain your blood and replace it with pineapple juice, and then put it back again. (Advanced)

12 - Eat liver and onions, die from disgust, get reincarnated, and begin again at the top of this list.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cat Hair

KIMBERTON, PA – Scientists have discovered what the single most abundant substance of all time is. It's cat hair, which beat out junk mail, but just by a hair.

Head scientist Morris Cheshire talked about the first piece of evidence. "It was twenty pairs of pants donated by people who had visited the homes of cat owners, and who against their better judgment, had sat down. Even though the pants had been washed, they contained enough hair to build several more cats. That's because cloth clings to cat hair even better than cats do. The force of attraction between cat hair and fabric is four million gauss. Unless the hair and fabric are of contrasting colors; then it's eight million."

Cheshire advises people not to brush their cats to remove loose hair, because every hair exorcised prematurely will cause fifty possessed replacements to grow back overnight. In fact, many cats have grown so much hair through this process that their bodies are now composed of 98% hair (plus 2% fish breath).

Cat owner Tootie Manfield says, "We should celebrate all the cat hair pervading our midst. There are much worse midst-pervaders. What if all cat hairs were replaced by pollen particles, or rubber eraser residue, or god forbid, those talking Scrubbing Bubbles? Call me a feline sympathizer, but cat hair serves a lot of good purposes. What's inside those stress balls people squeeze when they're frustrated? Cat hair. What's that coating on frozen battered fish made of? Cat hair. What's in those bags they pile up to hold back approaching flood waters? That's right, sand. But the bags themselves are made of cat hair."

Cheshire says the world will always have a surplus of cat hair, since cats will certainly outlive the human race. "They have enough hair to protect their vital organs from radiation due to nuclear fallout or complete depletion of the ozone." He says another reason for the omnipresence of cat hair is that it can travel long distances, which has its ups and downs. "Cases have been reported where cat hair left behind in California found its way by instinct alone all the way back to its grieving owners in New Jersey. But sadly, in remote regions of Earth where no cats have ever tread, people have been injured by earthquakes caused by gigantic migrating cat hair balls."

"Now we're looking for the least abundant substance of all time," Cheshire reports. "Although by definition, it can't be found." Which means a return to studying cat hair and its role in this century. Some suggest that cat hair will become the next weapon of mass destruction. The Secretary of Defense was eager to comment. "If the United States wants invincible world dominance, all we need to do is threaten to shake a thousand cats over uncooperative countries. Iran, North Korea – these nations should consider themselves warned. We've got cat hair. And we're not afraid to use it."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Public Transportation

I had a weird nemesis when I was growing up: Public transportation. It was just me and my mother, and she didn't drive, so we were slaves to it. By sixth grade I wished that the guy who invented the wheel had just kept quiet about the damn thing to spare the human race the whole transit authority anathema. And I didn't even know what "anathema" meant.

Mom's motto was, "If you're not early, you're late, and if you're late, you'll probably die." So our typical morning went like this:

MOM: It's time to walk to the bus stop.

ME: But the bus isn't due for hours.

MOM: The schedule you're looking at was last revised yesterday. It's too old to trust.

ME: Ok, but what's with the winter coat? It's July.

MOM: We might be waiting for a while. And don't talk back to me. People are reading this.

The old buses had fare machines with windows to view the coins, but the drivers never paid attention. If I didn’t have change I would just shove in a turkey sandwich. I continued to rely on public transportation throughout college, and it was always interesting figuring out where to go:

ME: What's the route to Johnsville?

TRANSIT CLERK: Walk three blocks north and catch the 102. Get off two stops before the guy sitting behind you does, and transfer to the 610. Whisper, "The chickpea is neither a chick nor a pea" to the pregnant woman in the green hat, and then get off right after her water breaks. If it's before 9:07, wait for the 709. Otherwise take the 125 back here to catch a cab that’ll take you straight through.

Sometimes I took the subway instead – very exciting. There was always the chance of getting caught in the closing train doors and leaving behind a scarf or a kidney. I'd also see commuters get injured by hurrying through turnstiles; most didn't even mind the accidental sex change as long as they caught the train. But my worst subway experience was all too typical:

ME: Sir, why did you just push me onto the tracks?

PSYCHOTIC: You were blocking my view of the clock.

ME: Why didn't you ask me to move?

PSYCHOTIC: My mother said don't talk to strangers. Anyway, train's coming.

ME: I noticed that. Could you maybe help me back onto the platform?

PSYCHOTIC: I'm sorry, what? Can't hear you over the train.

I survived that episode, thanks to the fact that it didn't really happen. But it's undeniably scary out there:

HIJACKER: I've got a gun, so nobody on this bus move. I'm detouring us four blocks east, to right in front of my condo. Let's go, buddy, make a left.

DRIVER: I'd love to, but the engine just broke down.

HIJACKER: All right. Everybody has to walk to my condo then.

PASSENGER: Wait. What's the point of having us all walk with you?

HIJACKER: Quit whining. I'll put you all in taxis once we get there.

The moral of this story is clear: Condos are really not a good investment. Also, don't get caught on a bus that breaks down. The original Gilligan's Island was based on a true story of seven people whose three-hour tour was on a bus, not a ship. After the weather got rough and disabled the bus, the passengers lived in a parking lot for years, surviving on seat cushion stuffing and making small appliances out of window locks.

Taking a cab wasn't any safer. I once agreed to share a cab with a 92-year-old woman who said she was headed to the same karate studio I was. A mile later she struck up a conversation.

WOMAN: Don't you just love how the countryside looks in the snow?

ME: Yes, but you know, it seems we must be taking some kind of detour.

WOMAN: Now just sit back and relax, honey, it'll all be over soon.

The next thing I knew Granny was using her third-degree black belt to steal my wallet and dump me in a cow pasture. It turns out she was in collusion with the driver and they were hitting twenty victims a day! I hate that people devise these horrible moneymaking schemes, and never invite me in on the plan.

As a last resort, no matter how short or long the trip, I would sometimes decide to "Go Greyhound." The seats had a very distinctive smell, much like motor oil combined with egg salad. And I had another complaint:

ME: These darn windows are always so dirty. I can't see out. Are we in Baltimore yet?

SEATMATE: You've been asleep for the past 21 hours. We're in Miami.

That's when I finally gave up and bought myself a car.

God, this is embarrassing. Does anybody know where I left it?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wick Obsessions

You know what's out of hand? The use, proliferation, design, display – and in weird cases, de-worming and post-graduate schooling – of one thing: The Candle. Personally I'm mired 18-inch-pillar deep in a hostile takeover by wax. I have candles in the kitchen. In the bathroom. On the coffee table. On my nightstand. I have candles that are defunct because I can't manage to dig out their wicks anymore. I've spent days trying, only to destroy entire knife sets as well as fondly remembered sections of my flesh. But when you've burnt only a smidgen of a 90-pound candle and can't light it anymore, you feel like an eco-criminal for tossing all that unused wax. Soon things like work and bathing give way to a clinical case of wick obsession.

Why don't I take all that old wax and make new candles? Sure, and right after that I'll whip up a fresh rosemary wreath and sew some adorable satin paisley remote control holders. Besides, if you don't melt the wax just right you'll start a very dangerous, Cinn-a-Maple-scented fire.

When I moved in with my husband, his offerings were added to my sorry collection of half-used tea lights, hideously malformed votives, and jar candles with that attractive soot coating. We now have enough candles to cremate Pennsylvania, if we could indeed release their wicks.

You have to hand it to candle manufacturers, though, for their creative and increasingly longer scent names, like Raspberry Almond Truffle, Sandy Pine Creek Breeze, Fresh Morning Lemon Willow Dew, Rose Vanilla Mango Brandy Sarsaparilla Punch, and Sun-Kissed Overripe Fairy-Tongued Deep-Fried Peach. But I'm still hoping for that candle so artfully scented that I don’t stop noticing the aroma after twenty seconds. Consequently I forget that it's burning at all, making me wonder if I should really ever be left at home alone. Because I frequently find, twelve hours after lighting it, a still-smoldering tiny metal disk that was once attached to my elusive friend, the wick. And whatever I had jerry-rigged as a candle holder – usually a sacrificial saucer of sorts – will never, even if it were incinerated – be totally free of wax particles again.

Admittedly, candles do cast a gorgeous glow, create a welcoming ambience, and come in every shape from puppies to sports equipment to banjo-playing gargoyles riding Willard Scott. And I know for a fact there couldn't be anything easier to re-gift than a candle, because I've done it so many times. Here's what I and everyone else is saying when they do that: "I picked this candle up for you at the last minute in the drugstore checkout line. I really have no imagination and don't want to spend much. I don’t even really know you, or why anybody gives anyone else a gift, ever."

Yet candles are just plain addictive. I still can't pass up bringing home a well-priced or unique candle, no matter how many brand new ones I already own. It seems like romantic dinners or baths (or romantic baths) are incomplete without one, two, or seventeen of them. I hate admitting that candles are reminiscent of a simpler, slower, electricity-free time when people relied on naught but the flame to light their nights, and that candles move me to use old-timey words like "naught" when I think of them. A candle still feels to me like the pièce de résistance of any setting, despite my wanting to take a machete to it and every one of its nothing-but-trouble friends, even as I tenderly light it.

I guess I'll just have to press on with my wick-digging, wax-smothering, soot-releasing, fire-starting, flesh-destroying, candle-infested days. It's a love-hate relationship I'd rather just give up, but unfortunately nothing holds a candle to it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Meditation for the Busy

The practice of meditation will put you in the greatest state of relaxation you'll experience until you're dead. But you don't have time, you say? Here are the top ways to squeeze meditation into even the busiest schedule.


Meditate during classes, if you're a college student. Does one attend school, and spend thousands of dollars doing it, just to toil for years to master the necessary skills for a meaningful lifelong career? Let’s be honest. The purpose of school is to relax.


Stop entertaining yourself at stoplights by flapping your arms and making barnyard animal noises. Meditate instead. When you forget to open your eyes, and hit other drivers who then yell obscenities, your mental peace will allow you to reply, "Bless you with the light of the Krishna, for I am uninsured and leaving now.” Should you be caught, you'll surely receive empathy from any one of the many traffic court judges who used to be Hindu yogi masters.


Meditate in your seat at football games. When people make noise and disturb your aura, point to your sandwich board with the words, "Quiet, please. Spiritual renewal in progress." Try it. Whole stadiums full of sports fans will be happy to shut up just so you can chill out.


Meditate during TV commercials. You’ll miss seeing things like super-magnified tooth plaque, the petrified matter exorcised from clogged drains, and shriveling Raid-soaked cockroaches, but it just might be worth the sacrifice.


Call a government agency for assistance and meditate while on hold, because you'll get in at least 23 hours a day of meditation this way. During that remaining hour when you have an agent's attention, you should keep meditating, rather than explaining why you need help. Studies show this will make it more likely you'll get your problem solved. That's because the agency already knew about your problem, and they were prepared to take the two minutes to solve it, but they just wanted to make sure you wasted a whole lot of time on it first. If you speak actual words to them, you can only really make it worse.


Meditate during airplane rides. When your seatmate inevitably starts talking endlessly about his urethra, simply remain motionless until your flight attendant thinks you're dead. Score! Instead of hearing surgery details, you're riding in the back with a toe tag and a much cozier blanket than before.


Meditate yourself into a mesmerized state while gassing up the car, by focusing on the gas pump's scrolling numbers. Then go stand next to another fuel customer and stare intently at his numbers. Repeat at next pump, and next gas station, and so on. Later that day you'll learn even more meditation techniques from your fellow catatonic psych ward patients.


Meditate in the bathroom in the morning. How many thousands of times have you performed the grooming routine? You can certainly do it with your eyes closed. Accidentally shaving your head instead of your legs will only strengthen your resemblance to a meditating Buddha, ladies.


Meditate right before checking out my latest blog post every day. Once you come to believe that your meditation euphoria is actually caused by reading this blog, you'll send me your entire life savings. Congratulations – you'll have more time to meditate than ever once you're broke and homeless. Hey, you are welcome.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Knocker ID

Nobody loves caller ID more than I do, champion call screener that I am. Here's what's still needed: An ID system for when people unexpectedly show up at your front door. In the novel 1984, "Room 101" subjected a prisoner to his or her own worst fear, whatever that might be. If Big Brother were to lock me in there, hands down my torture would be people dropping by unannounced.

I recently experienced this torture, even though it's been years since I escaped the Orwellian netherworld. The knock came; my pulse quickened, my dog growled, and lightning bolted (somewhere). I have no peephole, so I must either miss Ed McMahon's successor bringing me a sweepstakes check, or hold my breath and face the intruder.

So I bravely opened the door, despite that in my capacity as a work-at-home freelance writer, I hadn't showered in two days. My hair was scary and I was wearing ripped, stained, and mismatched "clothes." So naturally, it turned out to be a male friend I had last seen six years ago, back before I was self-employed and could actually still afford daily bathing. "Surprise, Holly!" he said, as I wondered if my face had changed enough to say, "I'm sorry – you're looking for who now?"

The whole time we were catching up, all I could think of was how address listings, which had permitted this atrocity, should really be outlawed. So should the act of dropping in itself. Unless someone comes up with "Knocker ID." You'd have a card reader like at the ATM machines beside your door. Visitorus Uninvitus would slip his drivers license into it, whereupon you would hear the person's name announced inside your house. Then you could either ecstatically throw open the door, or else freeze into position with your coffee halfway to your mouth until you heard the person leave. Unfortunately, for those bold enough to commit drop-in terrorism in the first place, leaving often takes an hour or two.

In other countries, dropping in is a much more frequent, accepted part of socializing. As for me, having lived by myself until marrying at 41, I have such an acute sense of personal territory that it's miraculous my house isn't surrounded by a moat and a Rottweiler pack. My belief is, unless people are bringing you free stuff or tidings of the next virgin birth, they should phone first.

Frankly even if Jesus himself wanted to come over to let me know of his Second Coming, I bet even he would give a little notice. WWJD = Why Would Jesus Drop In? He wouldn't. He'd want you to have time to freshen up, at least wash your feet.

Just remember, Knocker ID. You heard it here first.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Longwood Gardens: "Our Plants are Fake"

KENNETT SQUARE, PA – Proprietors of the thousand-acre Longwood Gardens, one of the nation's leading botanical gardens, admitted today that every last one of the estate's plants – each grass blade, tree, flower, and leaf – is actually fake.

“It’s all been a colossal lie,” said Jerry Smith, chief groundskeeper. Fighting back tears, he explained that the garden's worldwide visitors are only seeing synthetic replicas of common and exotic flora. This explains the garden’s audits, which have always shown an average $15-per-year expenditure for water.

“Yes, I thought it was kind of low,” said John Martin, chief financial officer. “I figured the water company was giving us a discount since plants and flowers are so pretty and all.”

Apparently the garden's originators had planned on using real plants, but then declared, “How the hell can we afford to originate this? It’ll cost a fortune whether we use real or fake plants, but real ones will require very pricey maintenance. Let’s use fake ones. Who’s in?”

Astonishingly, no visitors have ever complained about the ersatz plants. Most seem not to notice, even thinking they smell beautiful scents wafting from the extremely convincing plastic and fabric facsimiles lining walkways and adorning indoor conservatories. But the biggest mystery is how the grounds-keeping staff never even knew about the hoax.

“I still can’t believe it,” says Jimmy Moore, a Longwood worker for 20 years. “I just thought I was a really amazing gardener, because all the plants I'm in charge of always look so healthy and never seem to need much trimming. It's a mighty easy job for getting paid $10 a week."

Moore's coworker Lorraine Jackson had a different reaction. “This makes no sense. I’ve seen the grass grow. I’ve mowed it. I’ve raked dead leaves. I’ve eaten the herbs. I’ve seen bugs feasting on the displays. Now bugs don’t lie. They wouldn’t buzz around fake plants.” There are three possible explanations for Jackson's experience. It may be that some of the fake plants were obtained from really, really, really, really talented manufacturers, who were able to endow their products with organic qualities, such as growth and nutrition. Second, it could be that some of the fake plants, while starting out as completely inert items, gradually adapted to being buried in soil, and ended up becoming "ert." But experts agree that most likely, workers like Jackson have simply become delusional from years of breathing in the plastic plants' off-gassing.

Nothing like this has ever been documented before, except of course at the famous Gardens of Versailles. At best, it represents the egregious entrepreneurship of a few. At worst, it foreshadows countless revelations of mistruths. The sun, for instance, might actually be a cardboard cutout. There just might be another business, in fact, exactly like show business. And you might actually be able to live without your liver, rendering your lifelong resistance to selling it and choosing instead to work for money laughable and pathetic.

Longwood’s Smith has apologized profusely, but when asked what he plans to do to rectify the situation, he says probably nothing unless he’s threatened with imprisonment. Meanwhile, even after hearing the news, one of the garden’s most seasoned habitués, Mildred Mason, told a reporter that she'll keep visiting. “I always wondered why I could go to Longwood and my allergies would never act up. I’m actually thrilled.” When the reporter replied by calling Mason a halfwit, she became violent and ordered her seeing eye dog to attack. Charges have not yet been filed.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Beer Begets Brownies Binging

I just read a study saying those with alcoholic fathers are more likely to prefer sweets. Excellent! As if alcoholic dads didn't already provide enough perks, now they can be your excuse for sucking down the C12H22O11. (Yes, sugar and I are on a first formula basis.) Makes sense. If you had to watch while your father threw drunken fits, or while he forgot to come home for like, 20 years, then at the very least you're going to want a cookie.

Are you hearing this loud and clear, partners of Children of Alcoholics? No more nagging your lovers about their overindulgence in sweets; they can't help it. Any mates unmoved by this study result should take their annoyingly functional families and shove them down the Beaver Cleaver black hole from whence they came. Their self-esteem nurturing childhoods are just plain un-American.

Bottom line, if you're included among those whose mantra is "Dad-Drinks-But-All-I-Got-Was-This-Lousy-Sugar-Habit," count yourself lucky for not also inheriting alcoholism. I understand it can be somewhat problematic.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


A thousand scratches behind the ear to Japanese toy maker Takara for inventing the "Bowlingual," which translates dog barks into human emotions. It comprises a microphone attached to Fido's collar that transmits sound to a handheld console. From its programmed list of interpretations, the device may display that your pet means not merely, "Woof," but "I'm sad" or "I want to play."

I'll tell you who wants to play. Me. With this device, and my mutt Scooby. I've been trying to figure out what this dog is thinking ever since I plucked him from his littermates and domesticated him against his will. He frequently emits prolonged, surreal whines even after being fed, walked, petted, played with, and shown video of hot bitches. Sometimes he follows up with motionless bouts of staring at me through the passing of two or more equinoxes. Or he'll plaintively lick my kneecaps, and since no one else I know is willing to do that, I'd be thrilled to give Scooby whatever he wants.

Enter the Bowlingual. Can it help? I worry that "I'm frustrated" lighting up on a screen may not be enough. I'm going to need details like, "I'm frustrated because it's now 4, and you left at 10, and since I have no hope of ever achieving the developmental stage where children realize that objects they can't see may still exist, I thought you were gone forever. Forever! To heal from that kind of emotional trauma, I'm going to need three pineapples and a roasted pig."

Takara claims the Bowlingual is compatible with more than 50 dog breeds, from Chihuahuas to German Shepherds. I find this fascinating. What breeds are excluded? Is there something about Rottweilers, for instance, that makes this device simply start springing loose wires on trying to decide if the animal is requesting affection or just needs ketchup as a mailman condiment? I have no problem, however, understanding why Takara doesn’t tackle cats as well. If you want to know what a cat is thinking, you’d have to secure its collar not to a small $115 contraption but to three car batteries and a nuclear testing facility.

What we canine stewards really want is a gadget providing the reverse service of the Bowlingual. We need something that takes the sounds we humans make and interprets them for our dog. Sign me up for a gizmo that, when I tell Scooby, "don't jump on people," actually converts my words into a message that keeps his four peevish paws on the ground. I don't care whether that message is delivered in barks or Morse code or telepathic impulses or dolphin whistles or special sequences of various lunchmeat aromas.

The Bowlingual is a start, however, in improving communication between human and beast. I can't wait to get one, because I'm currently confused enough about Scooby's preferences that I end up throwing him nightly luaus, and it's getting rather expensive to keep purchasing those aforementioned pineapples and pigs. Don't even think about saying I cater excessively to my pet. You have no idea how breathtaking this dog looks in a pepperoni lei.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Antichrist Finally Nabbed

Paradise, PA – Concluding a hellishly eternal undercover operation, police have finally nabbed the Antichrist.

"For years we tried everything," commented the police commissioner. "We called out, ‘Here, little Antichrist. Here here, little Antichrist’. We placed want ads for insurance claim adjusters. We crashed shape-shifting night school courses. Nothing."

Officials were tipped off by hairdresser Bea Smith, who ordered a muffin at a diner and saw the face of the biblical fugitive clearly depicted in its crackled top. A SWAT steam stormed the diner's kitchen, where they found the Antichrist making extra money by posing for the dessert chef.

Lieutenant Dan Wilson was the one to apprehend the infamous transgressor, who just the night before had spontaneously combusted a record nineteen priests. Said Wilson, "I’m an atheist and a firm nonbeliever in all this fire and brimstone junk, so I was the only one who wasn’t afraid to approach the sucker. The other guys were all like, 'Oooh, noo, he’ll turn me into a serpent,' and peeing their pants. I just walked up and cuffed him."

Wilson became unavailable for further comment because later that day he disintegrated into a smoldering heap of pea-green vomit, neighbors report.

The Antichrist’s reign of terror was wide. He had infiltrated bible study groups, smoking and sitting cross-legged, rolling his eyes while loudly repeating, "Yadda yadda yadda." He had been traveling the country masquerading as George Bush, but even with his orange neon eyes and head full of crowned horns, no one noticed. He even had a short gig singing show tunes at the experimental "Trump Hotel, Casino, and Inferno." Trump showgirl Theresa King noted, "He was kind of quiet, ate live chickens for breakfast, and kept talking about getting a job with R. J. Reynolds. Me and the girls were glad to have him around; he made a decent pimp. He knew a lot about sex, which was weird because he said he’d only ever slept with one woman. Klara Hitler, I think he said her name was."

The Antichrist had also worked briefly as an auto mechanic. His former boss, Benny Sheister said, "That didn’t work out. He was too honest. Plus he wouldn't stop talking about some 'final battle of Armageddon' that he kept asking customers the right address for."

What, now, is his best punishment? Life? Death? Making him banter with Regis when Kelly Ripa’s on vacation?

For the moment, the Antichrist is holed up in a jail cell, awaiting trial while he creates quizzes on Facebook (search for "Antichrist Schmantichrist"). Johnny Cochran is expected to defend him.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bear Safety

During a trip to the Canadian wilderness, my husband Jim and I learned a lot about bear safety. I was hoping that since "safety" also means crossing guard, "bear safety" would be an orange-vested, upright bear helping kids cross the street. Alas, the phrase can be explained by that old joke: "Wear bells to forewarn of your presence when hiking into bear territory. Note black bear droppings, which contain berries, and grizzly bear droppings, which contain bells."

Tips we learned: To scare off bears while hiking, yell "Way-o." (It seems strange that bears fear calypso, but on some level, who doesn't.) Distinguish aggressive grizzlies from black bears, when their "G" t-shirts are in the wash, by the humps on their backs. Consider packing bear spray – yes, bear spray. Don't hike while slobbering your way through tuna fish. Hike in groups of six or more. If you do see a bear, don't approach for photos, since pressing the shutter release is harder with a missing arm.

If the bear is far or doesn't see you, leave. If it's close or sees you, avoid eye contact and back away slowly. If it "bluff charges," raise your arms to look bigger. If it contacts you, play dead in Position A. If it attacks, react with Strategy B. Do X if it's defending food, Y if it's defending cubs, XY if it's a black bear, and YX if it's a grizzly. I could see it now.

I'd be faced with a bear and say, "Wait, Bear. I have to locate the right response in my manual."

The stage is set. With three friends, Jim and I begin an eight-mile hike through a place called Whitewater Canyon. I'm feeling only two pigtails short of being a fearless, yodeling Heidi. Then I read in the guidebook, "The likelihood of seeing a grizzly here is high." The trailhead sign notes nothing about natural beauty – the entire text is about the beauty of surviving grizzly encounters. Suddenly I feel less like Heidi and more like Ham.

We make a pact that we'll each keep the person behind us within sight, which lasts for three minutes. Eventually we spot grizzly tracks. I supplement my "Way-o's" with my whistle – until I'm informed that the whistle isn't for scaring off bears but for signaling humans that you're in trouble. I think mortal dread should count as trouble.

The canyon is magnificent, with waterfalls, evergreens, and moraines leading to a glacier. The terrain looks so much like Disney World's wilderness simulations that it seems the bears should be fake, too. Jim and I agree that if one of us sees a bear, we'll say, "There's a bear." I wonder about this holding up in practice. Later we’re perched on a rock when he looks behind me and says, "Oh my god." I freeze, sure I'm soon about to have ex-flesh. It seems like an hour passes before he says, "Up there – mountain goats." Thanks, dear. I almost just swallowed my trachea.

We run into a German couple, whose backpacks I virtually jump into to increase our numbers. Soon the woman points to the other side of the canyon. "Look, a grizzly bear!" And there he is – lumbering across boulders and snowfields. Our friend starts singing this Native American "Attract-a-Bear" song she learned. Darned if the bear doesn't start walking in our direction. Luckily he was about a mile away.

I was never happier to crawl into a cramped pickup truck at the end of the hike. You can be sure that the next time I venture into grizzly territory, I'll be absolutely sure to – oh wait, maybe no next time for me. Still trying to snap my trachea back into place.

* Postscript: I've hiked into grizzly territory again since this writing. We saw the same grizzly as before. I know it was him because his breath smelled like a German couple.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Election Consolation

Right after Bush beat Kerry in 2004, I tried to cheer up those as disappointed as myself.

Here were my "Top 12 Reasons Why Kerry Supporters Can Still Rejoice."

1. Since you're about to become even less able to afford health care, you'll probably be too sick to go to war when you're drafted.

2. Eventually you'll get used to headlines like, "Bush giving Schwarzenegger 24 hours notice before invading California."

3. Saturday Night Live will get to continue "parodizing the admistration's misunderestimated strategeries."

4. If Fidel Castro can fall down and go boom, so can Bush.

5. Somebody will finally solve the biggest Clue game mystery: Laura Bush and Colin Powell did it, in the Oval Office, with a very large tub of body butter.

6. It'll be fun deciphering Constitutional amendments like: No man shall marry another man nor be allowed to have an abortion unless he leaves none of his stem cells behind.

7. There are only 190 countries left for Bush to bomb, which gives him only about one week until January 2009 to attack each, or one year each if he sticks with the countries he's heard of.

8. Poor voting reform will probably enable us in 2008 to elect a U.S. president who isn't even on the ballot.

9. Maybe next time there can be two presidents – one for Democrats and one for Republicans. That shouldn't be any harder to achieve than eliminating the electoral college.

10. Lives will be saved as science gathers more clues from Bush about how humans can survive even without blood supply to the brain.

11. Bin Laden's next target will surely be a state that went for W, but no terrorist alert can even make you blink, since the worst terrorist is already in the White House.

12. There's always the option of seceding from the Union. I just e-mailed France to see if they would take us.