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Three ways to waste time
during the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is a waste of time.Charles Hartley

With that in mind, during Sunday’s behemoth boondoggle I recommend you take wasting time to new heights.

Your goal should be — trust me on this — is to waste more time and be less productive during the game than any one of the 100 billion who will tune in.

For your first time-wasting task, take out a yellow notepad. As the first quarter unfolds, doodle pictures of what you see. Draw doodles of whatever you think is not worth doodling such as a sideline cameraman, a speckle of dust of your TV set, the TV wire on your living room floor, or a person in the stands who looks dull and non-reflective.

Once you finish three doodles, get scissors. Cut out your doodles. Take them outside in your backyard. Drop them on the ground. Stand there for one hour and 45 minutes. Don’t move. Your job is to think about nothing. Focus on that word: nothing. Visualize it.  Once one hour and 45 minutes have elapsed, pick up the doodles, walk into your front yard, and punt each doodle in succession with your right foot.

The paper won’t elevate. No matter.  You will have killed time. This should get you to the half-time show.

Second, go to your junk drawer. Every house has one. Yours will be an eclectic spread of something similar to broken screwdrivers, unsharpened pencils, photos of your kids playing on the swing set, balls of cotton and the like.

Dump everything onto your living room floor. Organize the junk by categories. Put the tools, such as the screwdriver and paint scraper, in one area. Cluster the office supplies, such as pens and yellow post-it notes, in another area. And so on.

Then — and this is critical — walk around your house searching for other things to add to the junk drawer. If you find things that don’t belong in any of the groupings you created, be strong. This might be a Raisinette you find underneath a den couch or a hair pin worn by your daughter in kindergarten. Be open-minded.

Drop to your hands and knees and look under every bed in the house. There is bound to be something in there that, in your gut, you believe should be in the junk drawer. Before you commit to doing anything with this new-found junk, hesitate for 25 minutes. This will waste time. The longer you hesitate the more time will run by.

Don’t move until you are sure the fourth quarter has begun.

Then, instead of actually putting the new junk you find into the drawer, lay it all out on the floor with the other junk. Don’t expedite. Avoid efficiency. Drag this process out.

Midway through the fourth quarter, embark on your third and final time-wasting trek, which is full-blown investigation of the inside of your loafers. Go in your closet and grab them. Sit on the floor. Peer into one of them. Notice the color and texture. See what brand is it. Go to your computer and Google the brand name. Once you get it called up, do not — I implore you — do not read it. Go back to the shoe. Smell it. If it smells, smell it again. Judge the smell.  Go get the yellow notepad on which you doodled.

Scribble lines to make a makeshift chart. Along the X axis write in separated columns “smells like Newark, New Jersey,” “smells like my high school locker room rest room” and “smells like a trash dumper.” Along the Y axis create two rows. In the first row write “left shoe” and in the second “right shoe.” Put a check mark in the appropriate box for each shoe.

By this time the Super Bowl will be over. You will have wasted more time during the game than anyone else.

Don’t devalue this. You outperformed 100 billion people.

In my mind, you will deserve to be awarded the NFL’s Vince Lombardi Trophy.

— Charles Hartley

Charles Hartley is a freelance writer who has had more than 1,000 articles published in a wide range of media outlets focused on humor, sports, business, technology and consumers. He has earned master’s degrees in journalism and business administration and a bachelor’s degree in English and communications.

Boot camp hell

It all started with the misguided decision that I should try something new. Why I thought the answer was boot-camp class and not a nice wine-tasting class remains a mystery.Alaina Smith

The first sign of trouble appears when I see the teacher, whom I will call Miss Perky. She’s just finished teaching a weights-workout class, yet she remains alert and ready to lead boot camp. She is a petite, lean, muscle-covered machine. Tiny droplets of enthusiasm glisten on her forehead.

I ask her what gear I need. She says to grab a step and light, medium and heavy weights, though only one of each size. I pick up the lightest triplet of weights possible, set up my step and survey my classmates. Although this is new-year’s-resolution season, I see no curvy comrades. Instead I see very fit men and women, possibly bionic. I ignore this red flag at my own peril.

The class starts at 5:45 p.m. with jumping jacks. Soon we are punching, jabbing and shuffling while holding a weight in our right hand. We do three sets of each move amid Miss Perky’s shouts of “UPGRADE!” — our cue to frantically chuck the weight aside and snatch a heavier one without missing a beat.

The stereo is playing popular songs wound up to a frenzied tempo designed to explode the human heart. Miss Perky is singing along, as holding a heavy weight while doing speed drills on her three-tiered step has not yet put her out of breath. Meanwhile, I’ve decided I’m not going to “UPGRADE!” except occasionally, and never to the heaviest weight.

By 6:25, she’s still on the right arm. This does not bode well. Assuming this is an hour-long class, she’s past due to change sides. By the time she finally switches arms, I am exhausted and despondent. I’m barely going through the motions, sullen as a knocked-up check-out girl.

As we near the one-hour point, Miss Perky whips out the truly crazy moves. My classmates don’t seem daunted, but all I can think is, “Oh, hell, no.” I have already been “modifying,” doing my lunges off the step at a normal speed rather than attempting her scissor-legged, lunge-bounce. I’ve already put my head below my pounding heart to try her plank-like, kicky thing, AND NOW, I’m supposed to mimic her as she bounces out of push-up position and jumps atop her precariously high step?

By the time she suggests push-ups, I want her dead. It is unclear whether this has anything to do with the fact that I forgot to eat my protein bar at 4 p.m., and so my last food was approximately six hours ago, or whether my homicidal urges are completely appropriate given the circumstances. Rather than cooling the class down, she has kicked it up a gear. As we were already in super-high gear, I have no idea what to call this. It’s the kind of gear that makes normal people throw a rod. All I know is that I am totaled, my engine steaming and  hissing with futility.

Just past the hour mark, Miss Perky shows no signs of slowing down. The voice in my head that had urged me not to quit walked out 15 minutes ago. I decide to throw in the sweaty towel. I put my gear away and go, leaving the maniacs and their supreme leader behind.

Next time I want to try something new, I’m going to the cute little Italian trattoria I’ve heard so much about. I can’t think of a better way to “UPGRADE!”

— Alaina Smith

Born with an appreciation for all things sedentary, Alaina Smith pursues her love of great stories by writing, reading and watching movies with her husband, Frank. Her true tales appear in anthology series including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Chocolate for Women, A Cup of Comfort and more.

Out of touch

Judy ClarkeThere’s a first time for everything. Ah yes, I remember the days when, if you wanted a table in a busy restaurant, the hostess would write your name on a pad, tell you how many minutes you’d have to wait, and point you towards a comfortable sitting area.

Then along came those annoying buzzer things to hold or stick in your pocket. They resemble something from “Star Wars.” Scare the bejesus out of you when they buzz.

Now there’s a newer twist. The technology that arrived with iPhones and iPads usurped buzzers. Where have I been, you’ll ask? Hm, well, locked in my own little world still using a landline, and neither twittering, tweeting nor texting. I do have a cellphone, but it’s only for emergencies, my emergencies. My immediate family and one or two friends have the number. Phone’s seldom turned on, though.

Recently we went to a new restaurant within walking distance from home. I gave the hostess our name, told her there would be four of us. She asked for my phone number. I considered lying since it was obviously a marketing ploy — get our number and hound us with phone calls. But I gave it to her and prepared to wait. Not minutes, mind you, but an hour — an hour until we were seated, and 40 minutes until we got the pizza we’d ordered the instant we sat down. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So, when Leslie and Martin arrived, I mentioned I’d had to give our phone number. Leslie burst out laughing. “You gave them your home number, didn’t you, Mom?” Her laugh bounced off the high ceilings.

“Well, she asked for my phone number” I huffed. “I don’t give my cell number to just anyone, you know.”

My daughter knew without asking that I didn’t even have my cell phone with me. She explained restaurants nowadays want your cell number to alert you, especially when there are a lot of people waiting to be seated. By this time there were at least 25 people standing around, and as many more walked out when they heard how long the wait time would be.

“I’m standing right here. If she calls our name, I’ll hear her…” Leslie started to interrupt, with a comment about my hearing I was sure, so I amended my words to, “…I’ll read her lips.”

“What if you decide to go shopping down the street?”

“If I wanted to go shopping, I’d go shopping. I wouldn’t be standing in line here…” I spluttered. “And, no, I don’t want a smart phone so a hostess can call me to say my table is ready when I’m standing two feet away!” Oh yes, I was on a toot.

“Other people like the convenience,” my daughter argued.

Convenience would be getting seated in a restaurant in a reasonable amount of time, without benefit of a phone call,” I grumbled.

“Sorry, Mom, but you’re out of touch.”

At least I’m not as out of touch as my grandparents who refused to have a telephone at all. “If someone wants to talk to me,” Granddad said, “they can come to the door. We’ll set on the porch and we’ll talk.” 

My mother was as frustrated with her parents as my daughter is with me.

— Judy Clarke

Judy Clarke is a wife, mother of two daughters, grandmother to two grown grandchildren, reader, writer and blogger in southwest Virginia. Her two non-fiction books, Mother Tough Wrote the Book and That’s all she wrote, can be found on her friends’ and family’s shelves, and she’s working on a novel, But why? (That’s the title of the novel, not a question to self).

Instructions for idiots

Ann_GreenWhy do those who engage in lawsuit prevention assume that I’m a moron? I understand that the specter of packs of lawyers wielding class action suits is the direct cause of new product instructions that are unreasonably detailed.  I think, however, that the folks who write these things have sunk to the level of insulting.

The instructions that came with my new digital alarm clock, provided in English, Spanish and French, are a case in point. The instructions include the following instructions: “Read these instructions. Keep these instructions. Heed all warnings.  Follow all instructions.” The English instructions are headed by the word “English” in boldface.

At the top of the first page is a triangle containing an exclamation point. Explanation: “The exclamation point within the triangle is a warning sign alerting you of possible instructions accompanying the product.”

Included is an illustration of a person pushing a very tall portable cart, the kind you might use for A/V equipment. The drawing is encased in the classic circle with a slash through it. What this has to do with my tiny clock is still in question.

Further instructions: “Do not place lighted candles, cigarettes, cigars, etc. on the products.” How about firecrackers?  Further down: “No naked flame source such as lighted candles should be placed on the apparatus.” Who knew?  There is also a handy illustration of an electrical outlet in case I don’t know where the plug goes. Thanks for that!

This is what they call a user manual? How about a loser manual or a moron manual. Idiot instructions. Directions for Dopes. You get the idea. How stupid do they think I am? Stupid question. Very.

I had to remind myself that the purchased apparatus is an alarm clock, not a nuclear device. Boy, I’d love to see the user manual for those.

Somehow I managed to get the alarm clock working. I was then motivated to check some other instruction booklets. The one for my can opener provides fair warning not to “open cans of flammable liquids such as lighter fluid.” My dishwasher booklet cautions: “Do not abuse, sit or stand on the door or side racks of the dishwater.” From the folks who sold me a coffeemaker: “Do not touch hot surfaces. Use handles or knobs.” and “Burns can occur from touching hot plate, hot metal parts, hot water or steam.” My refrigerator manual defines the words “danger” and “warning.” Danger: “You can be killed or seriously injured if you don’t immediately follow instructions.” Emphasis theirs. “Warning” is defined as “You can be killed or seriously injured if you don’t follow instructions.” I am also advised against using oven cleansers on my refrigerator. The booklet accompanying some pills I take is longer than the U.S. Constitution. I haven’t even skimmed it.

Maybe future instruction writers can be convinced to break things down even further while at least being entertaining:

This product works a certain way.

We’ll show you how if that’s okay.

No matter what you think you know.

We’ll just assume you’re very slow.

Pay attention and you’ll learn:

Don’t drop, don’t hit, don’t throw, don’t burn.

Ann Green

Ann Green is a freelance writer, editor, PR consultant and tutor.

The problem with vegetables

Sherri KuhnOne of the biggest challenges moms face is getting their kids to eat vegetables. Because, seriously, what kid really gets uber psyched over broccoli? Um, yeah. Not mine.

Neither does my husband. Unless you count corn chips as a vegetable.

So from the time the pediatrician said I could start introducing solid foods to my first kid, I have tried to create the perfect vegetable. That one vitamin-loaded side dish that would ensure my kids would not only ace the SAT and be an incredibly gifted athlete but also solidify my position in the Mom Hall of Fame.

How hard could it be?

Side note: why they call puréed baby food “solid” is beyond me.

So I started buying veggies. I cooked them, puréed them and froze them into cute little cubes in ice cube trays.

Cute, right? And so handy. My mom friends were totally impressed, I’m sure.

It made my husband gag. “Are you really going to feed him THAT?” he asked, already taking sides in the vegetable war I would fight for the next 18 years.

Traitor.

But one by one, those little cubes were thawed, heated and maybe even mixed with other “solid” foods like rice cereal or something else (ricotta and peas, anyone?). I took pride in creating these one-of-a-kind combos, especially when they didn’t immediately come slithering back down my baby’s chin and onto his lap.

And then, finger foods.

Smoothly pureed vegies like carrots, butternut squash and green beans are not finger foods, regardless of what your toddler might like you to believe. So I had to change up my menu and start thinking of vegies that my wee one would actually eat with his fingers, rather than simply using his fingers to throw them over the side of the high chair.

Side note: cats do not like green beans.

We tried lightly steamed green beans, small cubes of roasted butternut squash, peas (that didn’t end well), tiny little broccoli “trees” and small pieces of avocado until we found a winner.

Carrots.

The little dude liked carrots.

And so began an 18-year obsession (mine) with the baby carrot.

You could steam them and cut them small for little ones, or set out a bowl of them at snack time for older eaters. Stumped on what to serve for lunch? A bowl of baby carrots can easily elevate dinosaur chicken nuggets or mac and cheese to healthy lunch status. Playgroup at the park? Grab a plastic container and fill it up with baby carrots. They’re the perfect snack in the car, because unless your kid uses it for a magic marker or spits them out, they aren’t messy. Sure, I still included the always-handy pretzel sticks, goldfish crackers or pieces of string cheese. But the carrots were always there. Like a vitamin A packed BFF.

When my kids went off to elementary school, the carrots trudged along… safely wrapped up in a wet paper towel and a plastic container or sandwich bag (don’t judge). After a few years my son asked if I could leave the carrots out of his lunchbox, claiming he “didn’t have enough time” to eat all of the items I included.

Looking back now, I can clearly see. It was the beginning of the end.

My kids continued to grow, in part because of (or in spite of) the baby carrots in the bowl on the table.

I mean, what’s not to love? They are crunchy, colorful, small and easy to eat. Full of vitamins. Like a little mommy insurance policy that I’m doing this gig right.

Until about three months ago, when it all came crashing down.

I had still been putting the baby carrots on the table, even though my kids are old enough to choose their own snacks and lunches.

But I noticed that nobody was eating them.

They would dry up and turn a chalky white before the bag was even half empty. I was worried that my one tried-and-true mom trick had lost steam.

Then? The intervention.

I decided to put it all out on the table. Bare my soul.

“Um, hey… so I’ve been thinking that maybe we’re a bit tired of baby carrots?” I choked out at the dinner table. My mind was racing with ideas for our next veggie star. Rutabaga? Baby bok choy? Beets?

And my husband and daughter let me down easy, gently. They admitted that yes, they were tired of the old stand-by vegetable and that they would be perfectly fine if I stopped buying them. My chest tightened a bit. How would I keep them all healthy?

And life went on, amazingly much the same as before. I stopped buying the baby carrots and resisted the urge to quickly substitute a new crunchy vegetable in a bowl at mealtime. Chinese snap peas? Jicama?

Until fate introduced me to the spiralizer.

This incredibly cool kitchen gadget has opened up a whole new world of vegetables to me. I can turn vegetables into noodles! Substitute them for pasta! I can spiralize parsnips, beets, zucchini, butternut squash, jicama and broccoli stems.

And carrots.

And suddenly, I’m back on my game.

— Sherri Kuhn

Sherri Kuhn is a freelance writer, copy editor, blogger, grammar junkie and social media addict. She loves playing with words, editing and writing articles about everything from nail polish to parenting topics. On her blog Old Tweener she writes from the heart — with an occasional side of sarcasm and humor. With a son in college and a daughter in high school, she always has something to write about. Her writing has been featured at Huffington Post, SheKnows, AllParenting, Moonfrye, Mamalode and BlogHer.  She was chosen as a cast member for the 2012 Listen to Your Mother show in San Francisco. Sherri lives in Northern California with her family and crazy yellow lab.

Hernia! Hernia! Hernia!

Rachel KoenigA hernia is one of those conditions that I probably misunderstood as a child.

I had older male relatives that had suffered through one or two, and remember the recovery involving a sustained period of avoiding heavy lifting. I probably thought it had to do with your back. “Darling, don’t lift that suitcase — your hernia!” I had heard multiple women yell at their husbands. Perhaps I had confused it with sciatica — a common mistake I’m sure since they both end in ‘a’ and sound like Greek Mythology heroes. (Wasn’t Hernia the name of Zeus’ wife?)

The truth is actually more….gross. A hernia occurs when an organ or fatty tissue squeezes through a hole in your muscle wall in various places throughout your body. For a while, it might poke through on occasion without doing much harm (“Pardon me, is that a hernia in your abdomen, or are you just happy to see me?”), but if the organ or tissue pokes through far enough to get stuck in your muscle wall, it can become strangulated and lose blood flow and start to die, causing extreme pain and an emergency situation to be repaired.

I have recently become more of an expert on hernias since the diagnosis of my own several weeks ago; a diagnosis which dovetailed my 40th birthday, and which provided me a hearty handshake and introduction to middle age.  “Welcome,” said my hernia, “to the phase of your life where you eat high-fiber muffins, drink decaf green tea and start collecting a laundry list of embarrassing minor medical diagnoses. Enjoy your stay.”

The type of hernia that I had was an inguinal or groin, which most commonly affects men. This made me briefly question my femininity, especially upon relating the news to my ex-husband who charmingly questioned whether I had in fact grown a pair of testicles since we had divorced — a notion that no doubt would be relieving and satisfying to him.

Whether I was genetically prone to hernias or whether I had torn a muscle during pregnancy was a question I chose to answer by allowing the blame to fall squarely on the shoulders of my two children who had certainly ruined my body in other ways, as well.

When discussing treatment options with my surgeon, he informed me that I could repair the hernia with surgery right away or “wait for a while” but the idea of greeting my naked self each morning with an odd lump under my skin that I now knew was a piece of my intestines poking out of my groin convinced me to schedule the operation. Because….yuck.

The surgery was scheduled for late in the afternoon, but I was advised to arrive two hours early in order to sit in the waiting room for an extended period of time while I turned the pages of a tattered People magazine from several months ago and observed an assortment of my co-patriot patients in various stages of anxiety and apprehension, straining to hear the news on the wall-mounted flat screen TVs that were “turned down in consideration of others.”

My husband and two boys accompanied me to the hospital where I was given a unique patient number that could be tracked on a monitor on the wall of the waiting room. Depending on the color of the bar that was labeled with my number, my family could follow my progress. A yellow bar meant “Just Arrived.” A green bar meant “In Procedure” and a blue bar indicated I was “In Recovery.”  I was comforted by the fact that there was no black bar, which likely could have meant “On the Way to the Morgue.”

Once the waiting in the waiting room was done, I was led back to the “pre-op” or staging area, where I was permitted to wait some more, this time dressed in a flimsy hospital gown that opened in the back. The fact that my intended surgery site was on the front didn’t seem to bother anyone.

I was invited to lay in a bed with wheels behind a half closed curtain as an assembly line of doctors and nurses marched in and out, each quizzing me on my name and birth date to the point where I began making mistakes in my anxiousness. I was told my surgery would begin in an hour. The fact that there was nothing to do but lay there and imagine multiple scenarios of surgical mistakes or accidents gave me plenty of time to dwell on every smell, every noise and every person who walked through. The laughing nurses down the hall. The computers set up at each bay with the words “Authorized Use Only” in an ominous and continuous scroll on the screens. I looked across the hall to the curtained room there and the woman lying in a very similar state to my own. “What are YOU in for?” I wanted to call, but that seemed inappropriate. I thought about asking for a magazine, as I noticed a rack of more old People’s on the wall, but then I started thinking about how many other patients with unknown diseases may have touched them and changed my mind.

Eventually I was asked to denote the side of my body that had the hernia with a purple marker. This decidedly low tech approach to ensure my doctor didn’t open me up on the wrong side did nothing to ease my mind.

As I watched the ink spread out on my skin, I began to panic it would disappear by the time I was wheeled into the operating room, where I would be sedated and unable to confirm which side to repair. Perhaps the doctors would open me up on the wrong side, realize their mistake, hastily change course and hope I didn’t notice post-op. I had just gotten to the lawsuit settlement numbers in my malpractice fantasy when the anesthesia must have kicked in, because I remember nothing until I woke up in recovery, with both my hernia and my faith in modern medicine repaired.

— Rachael Koenig

Rachael Koenig is a writer and humorist deriving most of her inspiration from her two sons, aged nine and five, and step-daughter, aged 13.  Her site Maxisms contains personal stories and a collection of precocious, snarky and hilarious conversations between herself and her children. Her work has recently appeared on scarymommy.com, rolereboot.org, whattheflicka.com and The New York Times parenting blog Motherlode. She thinks of herself as more of an essayist than a blogger, because she is old-fashioned and grumpy and out of touch with modern social media vernacular. Also, “blogger” still sounds like something one would pull out of a left nostril. She can be reached on Facebook.

Who — or what — is killing America’s bloggers?

Con ChapmanIt’s 11:39 a.m. EDT and I’m about to tap out my first “blog post” of the day.  As I wait to connect to the Internet, I scan the front page of the Sunday New York Times when my eyes come to a screeching halt. 

The hairs stand up on the back of my neck — even though I went to the barber last week, and they’re shorter than normal.  A headline sets my heart racing — ”In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop.”

That’s right.  Someone — or something — is killing America’s bloggers.

It was in the Times — above the fold, as they say in the newspaper business. It had to be true, right?  I mean, it’s not like the Times is ever wrong, except for the Jayson Blair stuff, and the articles they ran about John McCain and a female lobbyist and the fake stories by Lynette Holloway on rap music and bilingual education. Say it ain’t so, Mr. Sulzberger!

No, this story is too big for them to fudge the facts, and it hits home for me and every other blogger in America today. Our lives are at stake. We’ve got to figure out who — or what — is killing America’s bloggers before it’s too late and we can’t redeem our promotional points on a pair of left-handed tweezers with compact mini-fridge at Brookstone.

I’ve got a few suspects in mind. Let me parade them before you, police line-up style.

Print journalists. Every time a blogger taps out a post in America today, he or she depresses the market for paid journalism. “Why should I pay you?” a modern-day Perry White yells at cub reporter Jimmy Olsen. “I can get content for free on the World Wide Web!”

As a result, wages for print reporters have sunk from poverty levels to sub-poverty levels, prompting concerned residents of Sudan to send relief packages filled with crunchy-style dung beetles to AP stringers across America. I know how hard it is to survive on news industry wages. As a reporter just out of college writing a story about welfare, I discovered that I qualified for food stamps — I was my own scoop!

Turtles. Don’t be so quick to count out our slow-footed “friends.” Box turtles are America’s most popular free pet, as kids bring them home after an afternoon of crawling through storm drains, give them inapt names like “Skippy,” then put them down in the basement and forget about them.

But turtles are most dangerous when they’re the most adorable. During the first five to six years of their lives, they are carnivorous — how do you think they catch the insects, snails, slugs, worms, fish, frogs, salamanders, rodents, snakes and birds they live on? Let me give you a hint — they don’t need a Segway.

La Cosa Nostra. Preposterous? Don’t kid yourself. With legalized casino gambling sweeping the country and increased recycling cutting into trash-hauling profits, the Mafia needs new sources of revenue every day. What better way than to muscle in on the lucrative business of blogging. Here is a redacted excerpt from an FBI surveillance tape recorded by a “wired” blogger at a WiFi hotspot in an Italian restaurant in Boston’s North End:

BLOGGER: taptaptaptaptaptap . . .

TONY “THE ICEPICK” GRAVANO: Uh, Mr. Blogger, the boss read your post about Mafia nicknames.

BLOGGER: Great — would you mind commenting on it?  It will help put me on the front page.

GAETANO “JOEY POCKETS” DISALVO: Here’s his “comment.” It was stupid.

BLOGGER: Did he read the terms of service about “flaming?”

GRAVANO: He didn’t read no terms of service. He don’t need to.

DISALVO: We notice you got an on-line screen name — “Gerbil.”

BLOGGER: Yeah — cute, huh?

GRAVANO: How’d you like to wake up someday with the bloody head of a gerbil in your bed?

Aliens from the THX 1138 Spiral Galaxy. There’s been a conspiracy of silence about UFO sightings in America since the 1950s, long before the notion of blogging ever seized the American imagination and forced it to post its most intimate thoughts on a medium that can be accessed by highly evolved beings through mental telepathy.

Still, exponential growth — estimated at 50,000 new blogs per day — has resulted in a volume of useless information that threatens alien immune systems.  “Either shut down LOL Funny Schnauzers,” according to a message received at the International Space Station, “or we reverse Earth’s gravitational field using hand-held Quark ‘n Gluon Dustbusters.”

Angry Spouses. Criminologists say 70 percent of all murder victims knew their attackers, and bloggers represent particularly vulnerable targets. “Bloggers in pajamas can’t run,” says Merle Walker, head of the On-Line Crime Unit of the Missouri Highway Patrol. “They’re self-absorbed, sipping their coffee, glued to their screens, so they’re sitting ducks for angry spouses who sneak up and apply chokeholds from behind,” he notes. “When we survey the crime scene and read what the victims were about to post, the motive is clear.”

— Con Chapman

Con Chapman is a Boston-area writer whose works include The Year of the Gerbil, a history of the 1978 Yankees-Red Sox pennant race, 10 published plays and two novels, Making Partner and CannaCorn (Joshua Tree Publishing). His articles and humor have appeared in magazines and newspapers including The Atlantic Monthly, The Boston Globe and The Christian Science Monitor.

Lyin’ lipo

Rosie SorensonIn the past few weeks, we’ve been subjected to extreme depictions of female beauty as represented by Keira Knightely and Kim Kardashian. Everyone knows by now that Keira, fed up with being airbrushed by the media, posed topless and demanded no Photo-shopping. “Here I am,” she seemed to say. “Deal with it.” As if her slim figure represented some kind of controversy, some outlier of femininity that needed to be “dealt with.”

Next up, Kim Kardashian, whose butt occupies its own zip code. A glossy magazine featured a photo spread of her, oiled up, naked, and with God knows how much Photo-shopping applied.  The picture, she said, has made her feel more “confident.”  Oh, snap. No college degree for this girl, no siree!  Forget about that book learnin’ — pumped-up boobs and butt is all a girl needs to feel “confident.” Oh, double snap!

It’s not new to notice that our culture is ca-razy when it comes to women’s bodies — probably always has been, but it seems more perverted now than ever. Women are caught in a slip stream of sexism that vacuums up their thoughts, actions and self-esteem in a way that neatly bypasses men.  Men are not subjected to the daily, hourly hammering of their self-image. Just imagine if men had to bob and weave and skirt and deal with full frontal scrutiny, criticism, contempt and downright hatred. Their productivity would suffer accordingly.

As much as we rail, though, who among us is immune to all the images of surgically enhanced “beauty” that bombard us every day? Not me. I admit to feeling the inexorable pull toward Botoxlandia. Will I be able to resist?

Fifteen years ago, I decided to have liposuction. I simply had to do something about my saddlebags — you know, those wobbly bits protruding from your upper outer thighs? In retrospect, I realize they weren’t all that big, but I had lasered in on them like a heat-seeking missile, an enemy to be obliterated.

I scheduled a consult with a famous San Francisco dermatologist-cum-cosmetic surgeon who made frequent appearances on TV talk shows to tout his talents. He led me into a very cold exam room, ordered me to undress and to stand naked in front of a white screen. He whipped out his magic marker and drew lines around the places on my body he thought needed work. When he completed his drawings, he snapped a few Polaroids and handed me the photos of my front, back and sides. I glanced at them, horrified, at his handiwork. I’d been transformed into a trembling bovine, my body parts readied for market: here’s the sirloin, here’s the rack of ribs, here’s the rump roast.

I donned my clothes and hurried away from this over-eager scalpel of a man, my hand clutching the outrageous cost estimate for allowing him to have his way with my thighs, butt and tummy.  What I did instead was lose 15 pounds and exercise more. Now that I’m older and some fleshy stuff is relocating to a more southern hemisphere, I realize that if I had succumbed to his treatment plan, my lower body might be mistaken for that of a 10-year-old boy.

Several years after that humiliation, I learned the doc had lost his license because, during an eyeliner tattooing procedure, he stabbed a young woman in the eye and left her half-blind. Oh, triple snap.

But, have I learned my lesson? The siren call of Botox, with its easy-peasy promise of removing that pesky cross look of furrowed flesh between my eyes is getting louder and louder. I mean, who wants to look mad all the time when you’re not?

Stay tuned.

— Rosie Sorenson

Rosie Sorenson is the award-winning author of They Had Me at Meow: Tails of Love from the Homeless Cats of Buster HollowHer work has appeared in the Los Angeles TimesChicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and others. In 2007, she won an honorable mention in the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.

Reflections of Erma