Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: My Year in Review

Just when you probably thought I was never going to blog again, I’m back. I totes should have probably written more Christmas posts this year, but I already wrote a ton last year and the year before, and there’s only so many things you can say about Christmas. Maybe by next Christmas I’ll think of some great new ideas, and maybe monkeys will fly out of my ass.

Anyhoo, it’s New Year’s Eve, and that can mean only one thing – time to get drunk! Woohoo! Also, time to reflect on the year gone by, but not in a sad, mopey, “I’m 365 days older and {redacted} pounds fatter” kind of way, but in a happy, positive, “the future’s so bright and Christ it burns” kind of way.

I'm kind of failing at optimism right now, so here's a smore.

I just looked over last year’s “year in review” post and realized that this year hasn’t been nearly as eventful as the previous year. I’ve just been kind of maintaining this year. LET’S REVIEW:

I Started Rescuing Cats

In January (I think), I started volunteering with a local cat rescue, Homeward Bound (formerly Friends of the Four-Legged and Furry) and started rescuing cats. There’s really not much else to say. I’ve helped rescue a lot of cats. If you need a cat, I can hook you up.

I Got Stiffed by a Client, But They Paid Me in the End

This was perhaps the most exciting thing that happened to me this year. Regular readers will know that at the beginning of the year, I did some work for a company called Crowdsource and then they didn’t pay me for it. I wrote a whole blog post about it if you want the details. Long story short, they didn’t pay me for like six months, until I filed complaints online at RipOffReport.com, Writer’s Weekly, and here, among other places – at which point, the VP of Workforce contacted me and personally intervened in order to make sure I got paid every cent I was owed. It was a very pleasant surprise.

I Got Another Cat

"What, I do what I want."

This one is related to the first one, because that’s where I got the new cat. Not that I’m some crazy cat lady who can’t control herself when presented with cats. I needed a second cat, because the first cat was going bonkers with sheer boredom. He had taken to sneaking up behind me, leaping up and sinking his claws and teeth into my ass, just to entertain himself. So I got him another cat so he would have someone else to bite – someone who can bite back, and teach him how it feels. Fatty has been happier, more cuddly and less bitey since the Noob came to live with us, although he’ll still capitalize on the opportunity to bite my houseguests whenever I might have some.

And do other kitty things, like stealing my chairs.

I Made Some New Friends 

This was good, because a lot of my old friends kind of sucked. Joking.

Not joking.

I Broke My Ass, and It’s Not Okay

So this just happened last week and I haven’t been to the doctor yet so I don’t have confirmation, but I’m pretty sure I broke my tailbone snowboarding on Christmas Day. That’s what I get for trying to spend Christmas doing something I enjoy instead of with my family, re-enacting Jerry Springer’s greatest moments. I really love snowboarding and now I’m not going to be able to do it for at least another month and maybe not even for the rest of the winter, so I’m upset. After this, I’m getting butt armor.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas Trees – For Christians Only!

It’s that time of year again – the time to be merry whether you like it or not. It’s also that time of year when at least half of all Americans spend four weeks squawking about how oppressed they are because other people aren’t Christian too. I’m being generous in that assessment because the most recent Pew survey found that 78.4% of Americans identify as Christian, and while I realize that not all Christians are Bible-thumping spit-sprinklers, I’ve also listened to my elderly Catholic aunt go on often enough about “keeping the Christ in Christmas” to know that evangelicals don’t have a monopoly on yuletide ignorance.

Those of you who have read my previous post on the matter will know that X has been used to symbolize Christ since at least the 16th century -- a period in which one really didn't go around not believing in Christ all willy-nilly.

This is what persecution looks like, just FYI.

Earlier today I saw someone on Facebook passing around that ridiculous photo of the sign at the Christmas tree farm that says “For Sale – Christmas Trees $45 – For Christians Only!” My first thought was, “How can they tell?”

A quick Google of the phrase “Christmas trees for Christians only” revealed that the Christmas Tree Issue is a matter of HOT DEBATE on discussion forums all across the Midwest, due to a Biblical passage found in Jeremiah 10:2-4:

Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers, that it move not.

Uh oh, you guys, that sounds an awful lot like the Bible forbids Christmas trees.

And then I fell into a 40-minute rabbit hole of forum-reading that left me sitting with my mouth gaping open, which I try never to do because my granddad always warned me that it attracts flies, wondering if these people could possibly be serious. Not only have the True Christians™ (I’m not joking; they’re using a trademark on that) cottoned on that CHRISTMAS TREES ARE HEEEAAAAATHEN YOU GUYS but they’re also getting upset over the natural evolution of decorative traditions with time. A choice quote:

Not only do they want us to believe that the Christmas tree is to be a part of the holiday tradition, what I'm now seeing is a departure from the traditional way of dressing up the tree. I've seen a whole lot of Christmas trees in my lifetime, and have decorated a whole lot of them, and I have NEVER (not until the last couple of years or so) seen the lights strung vertically. So, while I totally agree with you that there is a perversion of what the holiday (adopted by Christians) was intended to be, they now are using that perversion to completely kill off the Christmas holiday altogether. Vertically- dressed lights. Purple Christmas lights that look like they were left over from Halloween. Silly- looking, artsy-fartsy, contemporary Christmas decorations showing up in stores.

You must not be that fucking old if you don't remember these.

But, if it’s not part of the holiday tradition, then what are you so upset about? OMG you guys, I just can’t even. I am completely unable to even. Later down the thread someone who claims to be a reverend accuses another user of throwing “queer orgies around the pagan tree” and as far as I can tell he’s completely serious, and also wants us to contact him privately for pastoral advice. Yuck.

Naturally, no one mentions that the entire holiday of Christmas itself is pagan in origin, as I have discussed before. According to Leicester University researcher Philip Shaw, early Christians sought to preserve pagan traditions out of a sense of fascination with them, and out of the need to preserve what they saw as their own heritage.

Early Christians didn’t see a need to celebrate Christ’s birth, but when the heretical belief that Christ was not a man but a spiritual entity began to take hold, the early Church chose to humanize him with a celebration of his birth that, conveniently, coincided with the midwinter parties people were already throwing.

Though the modern Christmas tree has its roots in early modern Germany, it may derive from the Polish pagan tradition of suspending an evergreen branch called a Podlaznicka from the ceiling, and draping it with nuts, apples, colored paper, cookies, ribbons, colored wafers, and stars made from straw. Believers invested this branch with the power to bring prosperity and a successful harvest in the coming year.

I think I'll put one up this year. I need a successful harvest.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

More Things I'm Not Thankful For

Last year around this time I wrote the seminal piece “Things I’m Not Thankful For” because, frankly, all this late-autumn (early winter?) gratitude gets a little old. Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so, because everyone loved it. So here, for your Thanksgiving enjoyment, are some more things I’m not thankful for.

Books that Suck

I have a lot of friends who will only read things that will “improve” them, by which they mean “give them bragging rights at dinner parties.” Just for the record, I think that’s idiotic.

Reading educational or nonfiction books is one thing, but only reading “classics” even though you hate them does not make you a better person in any way. It just makes you more stuck up. Life’s too short to read that books that suck – and lest you think I don’t know what I’m talking about, I hold a degree in literature, so I can assure that I have read plenty of books that suck.

Dudes on the Internet

OMG FUCK DUDES ON THE INTERNET. They’re disgusting and condescending and the same time. Case in point: Read the comments on my recent post, “Do You Feel Ugly Without Makeup?”, in which various men not only fell all over themselves to assure me that I don’t need and really shouldn’t wear makeup (despite this being, you know, my face to do with as I please), while attempting to invite themselves to my house, because I mentioned my tits, which must mean I'm up for being gangbanged by half a dozen strangers.


Cat Butt

Every morning I wake up to a face full of cat butt, and I also get it throughout the day periodically, and sometimes the cat farts in my face for good measure. Mostly it’s the Noob who puts his cat butt in my face, probably because he thinks I’m going to lick it clean, like the other cat does. No dice, buddy.

Shopping for Winter Clothes

Winter is with us again, and you must dress like you’re going to a funeral. Oh, you want color? Here’s brown, that’s a color. You want a nice, thick sweater? LET ME CHOP THE ARMS OFF THAT FOR YOU.

Bra Shopping

Why is it that a bra feels perfectly comfortable when you try it on, but after bringing it home and wearing it for a few hours, it makes you want to rip your own tits off? I have one comfortable bra that I wear every day, and I guess that’s just the way it’s going to be for the rest of my life.

This is why our mothers burned their bras, isn't it?

Image by Einar Helland Berger

Car Repairs

I have nothing against the repairs themselves, it’s the cost. This month my car needed head gaskets, a new strut, something done to the axle, and four new tires. It’s still probably cheaper than a horse.

And less bitey.

Image by destiny.dodge

Christmas Car Commercials

Few things are more obnoxious than Christmas car commercials. The kind of person who buys a car as a Christmas gift doesn’t need an advert to remind him to do it, and the rest of us don’t need to be reminded that there’s a kind of person who buys a car as a Christmas gift.

The Entire Christmas Season, Actually

Yeah, I’m thinking of quitting Christmas. I can’t put up decorations because my cats will eat them and need surgery/die, I don’t really believe in Jesus anyway, and I don’t have anyone to buy presents for or any kids who need me to pretend that a fat supernatural stalker is breaking into our home to eat baked goods and leave electronics. The only good thing about Christmas is that it’s a good excuse to throw a party. I used to feel sad that I didn’t have a family on Christmas, but then I thought about all the drama I’m missing and all the money I’m saving, so now I think I’ll just keep it this way forever. 

This is your cue to exclaim "YOU DON'T LIKE CHRISTMAS!?!?" like I'm breaking the fucking law or something.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Fun Friday Facts Number I Don’t Even Know Anymore: BEARS

I am so not feeling this right now you guys, but I am writing this post because I love you, and in keeping with the current theme of animals, bears it is. Because bears are pretty awesome, and also this:


Those are newborn black bear cubs in the loving hands of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife employee, right before the mother bear ripped his head off, probably, or possibly right after, or maybe even during, I don’t know, the picture doesn’t really make it clear, all I know is that you’re not supposed to come between a mother bear and her cubs, buddy. Put those cubs down and back away.

Bears have their own website, yo. Bears.org is a “site designed to help you find information about bears.” And help me it did.

Did you know that the black bear, one of the more prolific bear species, also comes in brown, white, and blue? The blue or glacier bear is a subspecies of the American black bear that lives in the region between Glacier Bay and Yakutat Bay, in Southeast Alaska, in the temperate rainforest of the Tongass National Forest. Here’s a picture of two of them standing next to a regular black bear so you can see the contrast:

Cinnamon, light brown, chocolate brown and blond black bears may be mistaken for grizzly bears:

This one ran out of Charmin.

Grizzly bears are usually larger, with a “broader, more concave skull,” and a “shoulder hump.” Grizzly bears are also more aggressive than black bears. Both kinds of bears mostly don’t eat people, but sometimes they do kind of eat some people, a little bit, but knowing people they probably deserved it.

The Kermode or spirit bear is a white, or cream-colored, black bear native to British Columbia. It is not an albino, just a pale-colored bear. White bears are 30 percent more effective at catching fish than their darker counterparts, because their pale color makes them less visible to the fish.

It also manages to look far more thoughtful.

There are between 400 and 1,000 spirit bears in the wild, but naturally, their habitat is under threat.

Pinnipeds, which include seals, walruses and sea lions, are the bear’s closest living relatives.

There are only eight species of bears in the whole world. According to Bears.org, these are the American black bear, the brown bear, the polar bear, the sloth bear, the Asiatic black bear, the spectacled bear, the giant panda bear, and the sun bear.

Spectacled bears, the last surviving species of short-faced bear, are also the only bears native to South America.

You can really see the shortness of its face in this picture.
Image by Cburnett from Wikipedia.org

Like the giant panda, the spectacled bear eats a largely plant-based diet, especially fibrous plants, but also honey, sugarcane, berries and corn.

Polar bears, which feed mostly on seals, are the most carnivorous, and the most aggressive, species of bears. Unlike other bears, they do not hibernate in the winter, except for the pregnant females. The polar bear’s fur is not actually white, but is translucent, to allow light and warmth to travel to the bear’s skin. It has an underlayer of orange or yellow fur beneath this translucent fur.

This photographer has definitely been eaten.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Clever Responses to Awkward Questions

A Mother Life

Sometimes in life, we’re called upon to answer awkward questions. I’ve always found that the best defense against other people’s (willful?) guilelessness is sarcasm, because I’m an expert at shutting people out. (Ha ha ha, I totally mistyped that as “shitting people out,” and it was the BEST TYPO EVAR.) I have this dry sense of humor and deadpan delivery that makes lots of people wonder if I actually meant the crazy shit I just said, and makes others believe me with a blind and childlike faith. (For example, I once convinced a female friend that women aren’t allowed to pump their own gas, but that’s neither here nor there.)

I also enjoy making people feel just as awkward as they have made me feel, because I’m a bad person. So I’ve compiled some clever responses to the awkward questions we all face in life. Feel free to use them the next time some nosy old lady gets all up in your grill.

The Awkward Question: “When are YOU going to get married?”

There comes a time in your life when you can’t attend a wedding without some elderly aunt or total stranger squawking out this awkward question, and that time comes when you first attend a wedding.

The Clever Response: “My husband hasn’t been born yet.”

The beauty of this one is that it keeps getting better as you get older. BECAUSE COUGARS, AMIRITE?


The Awkward Question: “Why are YOU still single?”

The inbred cousin of the first awkward question, this awkward question always turns up when you least expect it to ruin an otherwise wonderful day. It’s usually asked by a well-meaning friend or acquaintance that really ought to know better.

The Clever Response: “I failed to forward a chain letter in [year of last breakup].”

By this logic, ANYONE could find themselves alone. Which is how it really is anyway, because it’s not like you can just ride into the next village, snatch up a man, carry him home over the back of your horse, and live happily ever after.

Things sure have changed since my grandmother's day.

The Awkward Question: “Where did you get the money to pay for that!?”

I get this one a lot because, as a professional writer, no one believes that I earn any money at all and everyone just scoffs, rolls their eyes and repeats, “YEAH, BUT WHAT DO YOU DO?” at top volume like I’m deaf or don’t speak English. So when shouting back, “I EARNED IT FROM WRITING” proves fruitless, I need to take another tack.

The Clever Response:  “I won the lottery.”

This one is great because sometimes people actually do win the lottery, so now there are several dozen people walking around believing I won the lottery, and at least one of them also believes that women aren’t allowed to pump their own gas.

Despite the fact that she's been pumping her own gas without incident all this time.
Image by Aaron Lawrence

The Awkward Question: “Why don’t you ever wear makeup?”

Okay, so you probably don’t get this one if you usually wear makeup/are a manly man, but I get it all the time because I don’t wear makeup. I don’t have anything against makeup, I like makeup in theory, but it’s expensive, I always forget I own it and I don’t really know how it works. My mother wasn’t a makeup person either and she never taught me how to use it. I didn’t think there was anything odd about this until I had dental work done a few months ago and spent the whole time listening to my hygienist and my dentist chat about how their mothers MADE THEM wear makeup every day from the time they were 12 and they HATED IT, but now they’re glad because THEY ALWAYS LOOK SO NICE AND PUT TOGETHER. I wasn’t sure if I should have been offended or not.

The Clever Response: “But I AM wearing makeup!”

Try to look indignant when you say it. This will baffle them long enough to give you time to escape and go find someone who can stand the sight of your hideous bare face.

Also, it's a lot more polite than pointing out that you're prettier than them.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Fun Friday Facts #87: Penguin Edition

I Don't Like Mondays Blog Hop

I decided to do penguins this week because octopuses went over well last week, and penguins are also animals. Sea creatures, even, you could say. I’m sure you’re following my logic here.

Also, in the course of my research for an article this week I came across this picture of the Second Coming of the Penguin Jesus, and I had to use it:


Image by Marc Heiden from Wikitravel.org.

I’m sure you’re all aware that penguins live most in Antarctica, not at the Arctic, because you’re all so smart (and talented and attractive). The northernmost species of penguin is the Galapagos penguin, which may venture onto the north side of the equator when feeding.

Image by derekkeats

It can survive in the tropic climate of the equator thanks to the cool waters of the Humboldt and Cromwell currents, and also of course thanks to the grace of the Penguin Jesus.


Penguins are the fastest swimmers of any bird species, and can dive deeper than any other birds. They’ll emerge from the water to leap into the air while swimming, a process that coats their feathers with miniscule bubbles. These bubbles cut friction, allowing them to swim as fast as 20 mph (32 kph). The leaps also allow them to escape from predators.

The penguin’s distinct coloration camouflages them in the water. If you happened to see a swimming penguin from above, you’d see that its dark back blends in with the dark water, and from below, its white belly is hard to detect against the sunlight.

Unlike other bird species, penguins molt all of their feathers at once, in what’s known as a “catastrophic molt.” The process takes two to three weeks and the penguin must fatten itself up beforehand to survive, because they can’t swim or hunt without all of their feathers. The molting penguin will lose about half its total body weight in the process.

And will look awful.

Image by David Monniaux

Most penguin species live in such large, tightly compacted colonies that scientists can spot where penguin colonies from space by the swaths of penguin-shit-stained ice.  

Some penguin species are dwindling – such as the yellow-eyed penguin of New Zealand, of which there are only 4,000 remaining; the erect-crested penguin of New Zealand, which has experienced population declines of 70 percent over the past two decades; and the aforementioned Galapagos penguin, which has experienced population declines of 50 percent since 1970. A few species are thriving, however; the Macaroni penguin boasts a population of more than 11.6 million breeding pairs, and Adelie penguin populations are growing as polar ice cap melt has freed up more of the rocky land on which these creatures thrive. In general, penguins that live closest to the South Pole are surviving in the largest numbers, which penguins that live closer to the equator are more vulnerable to climate change.

Emperor penguins are the fifth heaviest bird species and the largest penguins; they can reach a height of four feet (1.2 m) and weigh 100 pounds (45.3 kg). The second largest penguin, the King Penguin, is almost three feet (0.9 m) tall and 35 pounds (15.9 kg). Ancient penguins, which emerged about four or five million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs, were almost human-sized.

When hot, a penguin will pant like a dog, spread its wings and fluff out its feathers to cool down.

Baby penguins are not waterproof.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Do You Feel Ugly Without Makeup?

Okay, so full disclosure, I meant to write this post a good two weeks ago, but did not, because I have shit to do, including replacing the carpet in my guest bedroom after the Noob peed all over it, and, I’m told, getting so drunk at a Halloween party that I tried to make out with a guy and then cried for half an hour when he rejected me. It’s just as well; I probably would have puked on him.

That bastion of journalistic integrity, the Daily Mail, recently published the results of a study that 9 out of 10 women wear meticulously applied makeup on the first few dates with a new man, and are careful never to let him see them without makeup for at least the first month of the new relationship, even going so far as to wake up in the middle of the night to sneak off to the loo and apply more makeup so that the poor sap wakes up the next day and thinks to himself, “Awww, she looks so beautiful even when she sleeps.”

When I discovered that all the other women are getting up in the middle of the night to paint their faces so that their boyfriends don’t have to see them without makeup for A SINGLE SECOND, I understood for the first time that this is why dudes say dumb shit like, “I prefer a natural woman who doesn’t wear makeup – you know, like Kim Kardashian.” They have no idea. They think our faces really do look that way all the time.

Apparently a third of women say that their boyfriends probably wouldn’t be dating them if they’d seen them without makeup “too early,” and a third also say they wouldn’t want to run into their ex whilst not wearing makeup (well, no shit), and a fifth say they wouldn’t go to work without makeup.

I’ve probably mentioned before that I don’t wear a lot of makeup, because I’m not sure how to do it. I keep telling myself I’ll learn and sometimes I’ll even buy a bunch of it and Make a Decision to start wearing it “more often” (not “every day” because I work at home and don’t leave the house, and why am I going to spend half an hour painting my face for the cats) but I never get beyond just the face powder and mascara and maybe, on a special occasion, some eyeliner, because that’s all I can manage. The rest of makeup remains a mystery to me.

Not that I don’t get why other people would wear it. I’ve seen those “before and after photos” of the plain chicks putting on makeup and doing their hair and probably getting airbrushed a little and then looking all hot. If I knew how to do that I would totes do it for dates even if it meant that I was single forever because all my dates’ heads kept exploding.

They pretty much do that anyway.

But getting up in the night to put on makeup so dude doesn’t have to rest his delicate eyes on my mascara smudges? Hells no. I’m a human being with body hair and a mustache and weird lips and bags under my eyes and too much chin fat and amazing tits, and the sooner he comes to terms with that, the better. Besides, I like to know as soon as possible if he’s going to be one of those bratty ones who bitches and whines about wanting a “natural” woman, so that I can dump him before he manages to move into my house.

How about you? Do you get up in the middle of the night to put on makeup for a new man, and if so, HOW DO YOU EVEN MANAGE THAT??? Tell me in the comments, I’m dying to know.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Fun Friday Facts #86: Octopus Edition

Today is All Saint’s Day, but saints are boring, and octopuses are not. I’m pretty sure I haven’t covered octopuses yet, but please don’t correct me if I’m wrong – I hate that.

A female octopus is known as a hen. She can lay up to 400,000 eggs during her fertile period, which lasts seven to 14 days. Males fertilize the eggs by placing their spermatophores into the funnel through which the female breaths (!!) or by simply handing them to her. For reasons no one understands, the female octopus always accepts the male’s love juice with a right tentacle. She probably uses all the left tentacles to wipe her ass.

The mother octopus sacrifices all for the care of her young, which she guards so thoroughly that she even stops eating. Once the eggs have hatched, the mother suffers “a cascade of cellular suicide,” which the Smithsonian Mag describes as “starting from the optic glands and rippling outward through her tissues…until she dies.”

How freakin' graphic.
Image by albert kok from Wikipedia probably.

All octopuses have venom, which they inject using a beak that protrudes from the side of their head. One species, the blue ringed octopus, has enough venom to kill a human. Just one blue ringed octopus, though only 5 to 8 inches (12 to 20 cm) in size, has enough venom to kill 26 adults. Its venom contains a tetrodotoxin, similar to that found in poison dart frogs and pufferfish. At least two people have died due to blue ringed octopus bites, but if the results of my Google search are any indication, you can buy them to keep as pets.

It lures you in with its prettiness, AND THEN IT STRIKES.
Image by Jens Petersen from Wikipedia, definitely.

Most of an octopus’s body is pretty flexible, enabling the animal to squeeze into the tiniest of crevices. In fact, the solidest part of the octopus, aside from its human-killing venom beak, is its eyes, so an octopus’s ability to squeeze into small spaces is pretty much limited by the size of its optical orbs.
Remarkably, the octopus’s eyes retain their orientation even as the octopus itself changes position – when the rest of the octopus rolls over or flips up on its side, its gaze remains fixed on the same spot.

Two-thirds of an octopus’s neurons are found not in its head, but in its tentacles. This allows the tentacles to think for themselves. They’re capable of solving their own problems, like how to open shellfish, probe nooks and crannies, or slap researchers who have lopped them off and are pinching them in order to see how they’ll react.

Octopus ink contains tyrosinase, a compound that causes irritation to the eyes of predators and can confuse their senses of taste and smell. The octopus is not immune to its own ink. If it doesn’t escape from its own ink cloud fast enough, it will die.

The blood of the octopus has a copper base, unlike the iron-based blood of many vertebrates. This allows the octopus to tolerate lower water temperatures and lower oxygen levels in the water, but makes it very vulnerable to the acidification of the world’s oceans that is occurring as the result of climate change.

Finally, the male octopus’s sexual organ, called the ligula, is found at the end of one of its third right arm. So, don’t let it touch you with that one, I guess. 

I think this one might be a female, though, it looks like it has a funnel.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fun Friday Facts #85: Halloween Edition the Second

I Don't Like Mondays Blog Hop

I was going to say that I was shocked to find, when I went back and dug around in my old blog posts, that I didn’t even do a Halloween-themed Fun Friday Facts last year, but that would be a lie. Last year was the presidential election, and that was the scariest thing imaginable. It always is because goddamn if this country isn’t overrun with stupid lunatics.

But I digress.

The year before last, I blogged about the origins of Halloween, trick-or-treating, Halloween costumes, and jack-o-lanterns. Feel free to go ahead and read that blog post if you’re new here, I’ll wait.
For the rest of you:

According to at least one dubious source, bats became associated with Halloween because of the ancient Celtic tradition of building a bonfire at Samhain. Bonfires attract bats. That I can at least verify based on personal experience, because when I was a kid my mother used to drag me out camping all the time and there were always bats trying to crash the party. My mother hates bats, for the record. I don’t know what she thought she was doing.

Contrary to what popular belief, no one has ever tried to harm a random child by poisoning Halloween candy. A single child, 8-year-old Timothy O’Bryan, died in 1974 from eating Halloween candy poisoned with cyanide. It doesn’t really count as a random act of violence, however, because poor little Timothy’s own shitty father gave him the candy, after taking out a life insurance policy on him and his little sister, 5-year-old Elizabeth. To cover his tracks, the father, Ronald Clark O’Bryan, gave the candy to a few other kids as well, hoping to pass his children’s deaths off as the work of one of those mad Halloween poisoners we keep hearing about. None of the other children ate the poison. Ronald Clark “The Candyman” O’Bryan was executed in 1984.

He looks the type.

Candy corn is one of those things you either really love or really hate, apparently. I, for one, really love it, but then again I’ll shove anything sugary into my fat face unless it’s black licorice, fuck that. Anyway, lots of other people apparently also love candy corn, because candy companies make 9 billion pieces of it a year. That’s enough candy corn for everyone on Earth to eat a single kernel each year, and still leave enough for me.

A candy maker called George Renninger invented candy corn all the way back in the 1880s, when “butter crème” candies were popular. Renninger’s sole innovation was to shape the candy like a kernel of corn and layer it in three colors, which made it difficult and time-consuming to produce by hand in the days before factory automation, but I guess the novelty of the thing made up for it. Back then, there was no such thing as sweet corn and only the poorest of the poor ate corn at all, so the candy was marketed and widely known as “chicken feed.”

Mmmm chicken feed.

As I’ve mentioned before, trick-or-treating didn’t really take off in the U.S. until the 1930s, but in the post-World War I period, American candy makers attempted to give us another reason to buy candy in October – “Candy Day,” a manufactured holiday allegedly meant to spread “good will, appreciation and good fellowship” and to educate the public about the – get this – “real food value of candy.” Granted, it was 1916; they were probably still bleeding people and feeding them mercury back then.

A few years later, “Candy Day” was renamed “Sweetest Day” by Herbert Birch Kingston, an advertiser who realized Americans aren’t as stupid as they look, and repackaged as a reason to appreciate widows, orphans, shut-ins and the disenfranchised. The holiday caught on after that, because we all like an excuse to feel good about ourselves without actually doing anything to deserve it, and remained popular all the way up until the 1960s, until it was eventually swallowed by the even-more-popular Halloween, which will eventually be swallowed by Christmas.

There is no Thanksgiving, only Zuul.

Monday, October 21, 2013

I Suck at Watching TV

So the thing is, I’m not actually that good at watching television. I’m just not motivated enough. I was reading Jenn Something Clever’s post “How to Watch Fall TV in 16 Easy Steps,” and thinking to myself, “You lost me at step one.”

I won’t even watch an online video that’s longer than a minute. I’ve got things to do. I’ve got toads to wait for.

She’s committed. I’m not committed. TV thinks I’m commitment-phobic. I think TV is nice but not marriage material.

Perhaps it’s needless to say that I don’t follow programs very well. Sometimes I’ll follow a show fairly well through several seasons, then miss it once for some reason, forget about it altogether, then find it two years later on Netflix and think, “Oh yeah, I was watching that.” I used to watch Game of Thrones but I spaced it two episodes into the third season and they’re probably all dead by now.

Kidding. I’ve read the books. I know that only half of them are dead by now.

Usually I’ll turn the TV on, only to end up grabbing a nearby book (there’s always a nearby book) and looking up two hours later like, “Shit, I left the TV on again. Oops.”

I follow exactly two shows, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, because I’m fashionable and shit. Also I didn’t actually follow Breaking Bad for the first four seasons, I just binge-watched them on Netflix. I nearly lost it when I visited some friends in Chicago for Riot Fest, but luckily I remembered that they always show the last episode right before they show the new episode. I’ll definitely lose The Walking Dead if season four doesn’t include more zombie attacks, cause that’s the only reason I watch it, to see who’ll get eaten (hint: I hope it’s Carl).

You might be surprised to learn that I do have a certain fondness for reality television. I was still a kid when The Real World came on so maybe it made some sort of unhealthy impression on my developing brain that presages the awful future, or maybe I just like feeling superior to people (hint: it’s the second thing). 

I like to watch Hoarders: Buried Alive when I’m tempted to feel sorry for myself, because it reminds me that hey, at least I’m not hoarding and buried alive. From time to time I watch Wife Swap the way you’d watch a train wreck if it were an hour long. I keep hoping they’ll swap wives for real, but they never do.

Then again, I guess they can't put THAT show on network television.

Image by imagerymajestic from FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Here's What I've Been Doing Instead of Blogging, Just in Case You Were Curious

I Don't Like Mondays Blog Hop

So Christina Majaski’s started nagging me about not blogging anymore, which is probably fair enough, because as it turns out I haven’t actually blogged since the end of August. Oops.

The last post I wrote was a fantabulous piece debunking brain myths. And I just now realized “fantabulous” was a word only because the spell-checker didn’t flag it. I googled. It’s a word.

I’m sure you’ve all been lying awake at night, clutching your pearls, constantly refreshing your browser window and going on with your lives as you’ve waited for me to post again, and I’m sorry. Longtime readers will know that I periodically disappear for weeks at a time because I can’t handle the pressures of fame. Stop drowning me in hundreds of comments and sacks of fan mail, you guys, I can’t take it.

Here’s what I’ve been doing instead.

Working a Lot

And stressing the f*ck out about it. It’s been pointed out to me that I should be happy just to have work, by people who don’t understand that there’s no way you can say "You have no right to complain, you've got it good" without sounding like a tool.

Celebrated My 29th Birthday Again

I went out for sushi with a couple of my girlfriends like a goddamn grown-up because I am one. The waitress, who didn’t speak English very well and didn’t really understand it that well either, nevertheless figured out that it was my birthday and brought me, I shit you not, a balloon animal hat.

Here I am wearing it.

She and her colleagues gathered around my table and sang “Happy Birthday to You,” which I’m pretty sure is copyrighted, while banging on a drum. I was given a bizarre but not unpleasant dessert. I stoically wore my balloon animal hat for the rest of the night like a goddamn grown-up, because I am one.

Half-Finishing Blog Posts

This one probably goes without saying. Even as I type this I’m thinking that there’s a pretty good chance I won’t even finish this one. The first blog post I didn’t finish was going to be called “31 Things I’ve Learned” and it was going to be my birthday post, but as it happened I could only come up with one thing, because I guess I haven’t learned much, despite having graduated from college.

Incidentally, the one thing was, “If someone who lives or works in the adjacent space asks you if you’ll be bothered by them practicing their instrument every day, ask them to play you a song right then and there before you make your decision.” Yep, that’s what I learned in college. It cost me a hundred grand, but I’m giving it to you for free. You’re welcome.

I also did not finish writing a post about why my cat won’t shut up, why my cat won’t stop peeing in the guest bedroom, and How I Feel About TV. That TV one was supposed to be a #ThemeThursday post but then I didn’t quite finish it on time and now I feel like it’d be weird to post it. Also I just found out that #ThemeThursday is not a thing anymore so I don’t know what that means for me and my homeless, forlorn post about television.

Wondering If I Got a Blog Award That I Forgot to Mention

For weeks now I’ve had the nagging thought that someone gave me a blog award at some point and that I’ve forgotten to mention, linkup and answer those ridiculous survey questions everyone gives out (“You’re stranded on a desert island with Cher, Albert Einstein, and a monkey. How long does the train take to travel from New York to Chicago?”). If you gave me a blog award at any point in the past forever, and I haven’t acknowledged it, please hit me up in the comments.

Cleaning Up Cat Pee in the Guest Bedroom

If you were planning on visiting me, I’d reconsider. The guest bedroom is in a state. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Fun Friday Facts #84: This Is Your Brain on Myths

The brain is an amazing supercomputer capable of organizing who knows how many autonomic functions while simultaneously allowing us to talk, walk, text, and perform astounding feats of genius, possibly at the same time. And yet there are still people out there who think we only use ten percent of it. *sigh*

You do use your whole brain, just in case you were wondering. It’s a big job, being a brain. You have to give it 100 percent.

I had never heard that the brain wrinkles every time you learn something new, but according to the Internet some people believe that the brain wrinkles every time you learn something new. Of course it doesn’t. I actually haven’t seen (or, like I said, heard) anyone say that they believe the brain wrinkles when you learn something new – I’m just extrapolating that people believe that because there so many articles debunking it. Just saying “brain wrinkles” kinda gives me the heebie-jeebies.

It's like a walnut or something. Gross.

The brain wrinkles (*shudder*) are there because, as humans evolved and the brain grew bigger, it had to fold in on itself in order to still fit inside the skull. If you were able to unfold your brain it would be the size of a pillow case. I assume that’s a standard-size pillow case; they didn’t specify. We’re born with all the brain wrinkles (*shudder*) we’re ever going to have in our lives.

Even though preserved brains are kind of a pale, dull grey or beige color, living brains are black, white, grey and red, as you can see from this fresh one:

Btw I only said that to work in this gratuitous fresh brain picture. Gross.

I also learned in the course of my research for this blog post that the thing about your brain staying alive for 30 seconds is also a myth. As may be aware, this belief is based on observations made by witnesses to guillotine executions in revolutionary France – apparently people’s severed heads were seen blinking, attempting to speak, looking at people, and even wearing indignant expression. LOL yeah, indignant expressions indeed.

According to modern science the rapid rush of blood out of the brain following decapitation would render you unconscious in about three seconds. It’s kind of a relief, actually. Now I know I’ll never have to spend 30 seconds gawping at my own headless corpse. That’s one less thing to worry about.

Of course, the brain, as I said before, is not a computer. It’s a brain. But the practice of comparing the brain to a computer – and using computing metaphors – is prevalent in modern society. According to this fascinating post on Smithsonian.com, people have been comparing the brain to advanced and somewhat mysterious technology for centuries. French philosopher Rene Descartes, writing in the 17th century, compared the brain to a hydraulic machine system; Freud compared the brain to a steam engine; later on people compared the brain to a telephone switchboard and later to an electrical circuit.

But all this time, it's been a brain after all. Gross.
Image credit: Gaeten Lee

Subliminal messages also don’t work, because it turns out that guy who invented them actually lied about how well they worked, saying that soft drink sales went up 18 percent and popcorn sales went up 57 percent, when in fact they did not go up at all. Studies of the effectiveness of subliminal messages failed to produce any evidence that they influence viewers’ actions at all. So, that’s one less thing to worry about too, I guess.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fun Friday Facts #83: Mysterious Monuments

One day, in 10,000 years, the cyborg archeologists of the future will scratch their abnormally large heads and wonder how we built Mount Rushmore, the Golden Gate Bridge or the Eiffel Tower with our primitive technology. Some of them will decide that it was aliens.

It's always aliens.
Image credit: Jin Zan

Moai (that’s pronounced mow-eye – I had to look it up) are the human figures carved by the Rapa Nui people of Easter Island. There are 887 of them, about half of which remain at the quarry.

They were carved to embody ancestors or powerful leaders, and they may have served as status symbols. Dr. Anneliese Pontius advanced a theory that the monoliths were carved as a form of ritualistic treatment for leprosy, since the residents of Easter Island couldn’t simply send their lepers to another island or call Jesus or anything. A popular 19th-century theory, now debunked, held that Easter Island was a remnant of a lost continent and that many more moai were submerged under the sea.

Although many people think of the moai as just being giant stone heads, that’s a misconception that arose because most of the photos we see of them show them mostly buried:

In fact, these are whole statues which depict, in most cases, an overly large head set atop a torso. Most of them do not have legs.

Construction of the moai began around 1200 AD, when the island was heavily forested, and continued until around 1500-1600 AD, when the last of the trees were cut, presumably to facilitate the construction and erection of the moai. Scholars aren’t sure if the moai were moved on sledges or “walked” by tilting them side to side. The era of their construction seems to have ended abruptly, and the native islanders are believed to have pushed at least some of the moai down afterward, although an earthquake might have been responsible for toppling some of them.

Image credit: Rivi

The Grave Creek Mound is one of the largest burial mounds in the U.S. It’s found in Moundsville, West Virginia, across the street from the old penitentiary. I’ve been to both and I have to say, the penitentiary is a lot more exciting. If you’re in Moundsville and you only have time to do one thing, I recommend the penitentiary. But I digress.

The Grave Creek Mound was built by the Adena people, who lived in the area around 2,000 years ago. It took about 100 years to build, as they constructed it in stages, beginning in about 250 BC and ending around 150 BC. There are multiple graves within the mound, with a different one on each level. The mound originally came with a moat, about 40 feet (12 meters) wide and five feet (1.5 meters) deep.

The moat has been replaced with a picnic area.

No one knows why the mound was built or who the people inside of it are, or why they were so important, but there’s a statue of an elk in front of it for some reason.

I don't think the elk is original.

The Carnac stones, located near the French village of Carnac in Brittany, make up the largest collection of prehistoric standing stones in the world. They were erected between 4500 and 3300 BC. Over the centuries, the stones have been used as livestock shelters and ovens. Many of them have been used for building materials and others have been moved to make way for roads. Most of the stones are lined up in rows, and there are three main groups – the Ménec, the Kermario, and the Kerlescan – which may have once been unified, before all the house-building, road-making and baking aforementioned. There are also grave mounds, stone tombs, single standing stones and other formations.

Some believe the stones had some sort of astronomical purpose, pointing to supposed connections between the alignments of the stones and the position of the sun at solstice. Others think the stones had a funerary purpose. French engineer Pierre Mereaux believed the stones were used to detect and measure seismic activity. Legend holds that the stones were members of Roman legion cursed by the wizard Merlin. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Night Owls Are Just Better – It’s Science! (A #ThemeThursday Post)

It’s #ThemeThursday again, and I’m feeling super proud of myself for doing this four Thursdays in a row now, even though the first Thursday was late. This week’s theme is, “Early Bird or Night Owl – Which One Are You?”

Everyone who knows me at all well knows that I’m a huge night owl. If I didn’t have sleeping pills, I’d be awake all night and sleep all day. For years that was just what I’d do, but it gets kind of shitty because you can never really go anywhere or do anything, because nothing is open at night (except for pubs) and everyone is asleep (except for drunks).

The worst thing about being a night owl is that everyone gives you shit over it. I’m an adult and I pay my bills, so you’d think it’d be no one’s business but my own if I want to keep odd hours, but you’d be wrong. If I had a dollar for every time someone called me lazy, I’d build a fucking children’s hospital so they’d never stop feeling like assholes. Name-calling can’t make me change my body clock, but it will make me change my phone number.

I reckon they’re just jealous, because, as I’ve said before, that’s what I always assume when people give me a hard time for no good reason. After all, some of the most brilliant minds in history were night owls, including Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Robert Louis Stevenson, Hunter S. Thompson, Thomas Edison, Charles Bukowski, and President Barack Obama.

A recent study by the University of Madrid found that night owls possess “the kind of intelligence associated with better jobs and higher salaries,” according to The Telegraph, because of their creativity, analytical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Another study by the London School of Economics and Political Science suggests that night owls are more likely to have higher IQs.

So suck it, morning people.

I’ve been this way since I was a kid, and after decades of struggling to live on a “normal” schedule, I broke down and saw a doctor. He tried to tell me that “Sleep problems are usually temporary.” I didn’t laugh in his face, because that’s rude.

The doctor also wanted to know why I couldn’t just sleep during the day and stay awake all night if that’s what my body clock wants. I’m a freelance writer, after all, so I have a greater degree of control over my schedule than most, so if I want to sleep late, I can pretty much arrange that – and believe me, I do, because not having to wake up at the taint of dawn is one of the few perks of a job where I get no sick days, no vacation pay, no health insurance, no pension plan, and no respect.

But I don’t want to sleep all day. Sure, I spend most of my waking hours at work just like everyone else, but you can’t work all the time. Sometimes you want to go somewhere (besides a pub) and if you live alone and works from home, sometimes you want to talk to other humans (besides drunks). So I’ve been trying, with the help of medication, to become a daywalker. There’s no fooling your circadian rhythms, though. Even if I get plenty of sleep, I’m still pretty much worthless before noon. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fun Friday Facts #82: Sharks

It was Shark Week last week, and did you know that 80 percent of people who get attacked by sharks survive? So, if you’re terrified of sharks like my friend, Sharky-Sharky No-Legs, rest easy.

Sharks are fascinating, which is of course why they have their own week. I also did whales last week, so sharks kind of go along with that theme, in that both are sea creatures.

The first sharks are believed to have appeared as long as 420 million years ago, making them literally older than God. Modern sharks began to appear around 100 million years ago. One of the oldest sharks is the Cladoselache, which dates from about 370 million years ago:

I was going to make a joke about how funny it looks, but then I remembered that sharks are still kind of weird-looking.

"Stop, you'll make me cry."
Image credit: Hermanus Backpackers

One of the biggest predators that ever lived was the Megalodon, a shark that lived from 28 to 1.5 million years ago and is now extinct.

The Megalodon grew to sizes ranging from 46 to 59 feet (14 to 18 meters). Regular readers will remember that it was the Megalodon’s giant, fossilized teeth that protected many Europeans from poisoning throughout the Middle Ages – or so they believed. Shockingly, dipping a shark’s tooth – even one that is the size of a toddler’s head – into your poisoned wine will not make it safe to drink.

But I can see why they would think that.

Sharks are cartilaginous fish, like rays and skates. Their skeletons are made of cartilage. The reason there are so many fossilized shark teeth floating about is because they are made of calcium phosphate, which fossilizes easily. Also, a shark may lose more than 30,000 teeth in its life, replacing them at a rate of once every eight days in some species.

Most shark species grow multiple rows of replacement teeth on the inside of their jaws, which move forward as if on a conveyor belt. The exception is the cookiecutter shark, which replaces entire rows of teeth at a time. It feeds by biting round chunks out of its prey, and has been known to attack whales, dolphins, porpoises, other sharks, and submarines, which it finds to be an acquired taste.

It also looks like a swimming penis.

Because a shark has no rib cage, it can be crushed under its own weight if brought onto land.

Most sharks can’t live in fresh water, although there are at least two species – the bull shark and the river shark – which can. The bull shark is one of the most dangerous species known to man, along with the great white, the oceanic whitetip and the tiger shark, because they are most often found in shallow waters where humans are wont to play around looking like seals.

In fact, a couple of years ago, a fisherman named Willy Dean caught an 8 foot, 1 inch (2.5 meter) bull shark in the waters of the Potomac River, at Cornfield Harbor. Just two days earlier, Dean’s friend Thomas Crowder captured an even bigger, 8 foot, 3 inch (2.51 meter) shark a little upstream, at Tall Timbers. Though Crowder’s shark drowned and he discarded its corpse, Dean elected to keep his.

“Some people say shark is good to eat. We’ll see,” he told journalists.