A Paranoid’s Guide To Summertime Fun

Getting my summer on.

Getting my summer on. Portrait by Alfred George Stevens.

Ah, summer.  Warm breezes and budding flowers call us outside after a long, cold winter.  I answered that call just the other day.    I strode briskly along and inhaled deeply, filling my lungs with life-giving fresh air…and about 273 gnats.

Summer isn’t all fun and games.  Here are some valuable tips for surviving the coming months.

Sun:  Sol, Ra; the ancients had many names for the energy source of life.  Except when you have skin like mine, it’s also the source of sunburns so bad you can’t wear a bra for a week.  This is sure to lead to skin cancer and death.  But if you get too little sun you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and develop a severe Vitamin D deficiency like I did.  Both of these can cause depression, which will probably lead to suicide and death.

It might be better to avoid the sun, invest in a good sun lamp and drink more milk.

Nature:  There’s a wonderful state park practically in my backyard and now is the perfect time to go there and commune with nature in Zen-like harmony.  As long as you can find Zen-like harmony when surrounded by thousands of out-of-control school children on field trips.  Or legions of clueless big-city visitors falling into canyons and generally causing a hullabaloo.

Perhaps you should wait to experience nature in February when nobody else is around.  Better yet, watch a National Geographic special from the safety and comfort of your own living room.   Once you’ve seen a tree or two, you’ve got the general idea.

Bugs:  Bugs play a vital role in our ecosystem.  Nonetheless, anyone with half a brain avoids them in any shape or form at all times.

Stay indoors and keep a can of Raid handy.  If you’re the adventurous type and insist on going outside, I suggest wearing a head-to-toe beekeeper’s outfit.

Water: It’s hot outside – what could be better than a refreshing swim?   Great idea…if you’ve got a death wish.  Chlorination levels at a public pool can cause permanent injury.   And if the chlorine level isn’t high enough to damage your retinas, GET OUT NOW!  Every one of the 100 screaming kids playing Marco Polo in that pool is also peeing in it.

Maybe you prefer your swimming au naturel.  How do you feel about contracting Dengue fever, being dragged under by a shark, or getting sand in sensitive body orifices?

What’s wrong with a nice soak in your own, sanitary bathtub?

Barbecuing:  There’s nothing like the taste of a hamburger hot off the grill.  Except now experts say that the fat dropping onto the coals gets turned into cancer-causing agents, which then splatter back and are reabsorbed by your dinner.  That’s assuming you get that far in the barbecue process.  First you have to navigate to the deck without severing a major artery by tripping and falling through the patio doors.  Then you have to deal with the very real possibility that when you squirt lighter fluid on the fire, the flame travels back up the stream to the bottle in your hand, causing an explosion that takes off your arm.

Perhaps a trip to McDonald’s would be better.

Armed with my valuable advice, I‘m sure this summer will be safe and happy for everyone.  Feel free to call me if you have any questions.  I’ll be sitting in my bathtub with a Happy Meal and a glass of milk, watching Wild Kingdom on TV.

 

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Big Game Hunting In The Wilds of Indiana

Go to the Nudge Wink Report and you will find tales of daring and grand adventure! Also a post I wrote.

The Nudge Wink Report

thebighunt

My quarry was in sight.  After years of searching, the biggest prize of all would soon be mine.  Mine!  I thought back on how I had arrived at this point.

It was purely by accident.  I had been cruising the internet, casually checking out events of interest.  A rather ordinary picture scrolled across the screen. I looked idly, preparing to move on when there, in the corner, I caught a glimpse of it.  I thought I saw…but no, it couldn’t be.  Could it?  I froze the screen and tried to enlarge it, but at that magnification it was nothing but fuzzy pixels on the screen.  I couldn’t tell.  It LOOKED like it might be my quarry.  But it was hiding, way in the back, behind the more ordinary specimens that had been the subject of the photo.  I scanned the description, but nothing was said about the one in the…

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Arrrr! How I Fought Off Cap’n Microbeard and His Bloodthirsty Band of Pirates

Cap'n Microbeard

Photo of CEO Cap’n Satya “Microbeard” Nadella (the blackguard) courtesy of Microsoft. Though ’twere embellished a wee bit.

Look sharp, mateys!  If yer ship be flying the flag of Windows 7 or 8, batten down the hatches and prepare to repel boarders.  Cap’n Microbeard and his bloodthirsty band of pirates be sailin’ the interwebz’ stormy seas.

A co-worker turned on her computer last Monday morning and was hailed with a message congratulating her on upgrading to Windows 10.  Shiver me timbers! We be sailin’ with Windows 7 on all the computers in our office and I don’t aim to change me allegiance – not now, anyways.  Maybe later when all of me programs are compatible, but maybe never. That’s fer me, the captain, to decide.  Leastways, it should be.

Microsoft thinks differently.

Their Windows 10 upgrade icon is stuck faster ‘n a barnacle to every ship in our armada, and it pops up more often than mermaids off the port side after double rations of grog.

“10 is great!”  The screen trumpets.

“10 is fab!”   The screen shouts.

“Upgrade to Windows 10 and you’ll lose 20 pounds, be 2 inches taller and never have to worry about unsightly ring-around-the-collar again!”  The screen brays.

Belay that talk! It’s a constant peril, like sirens luring unwary sailors to their doom on the rocks.  I warned me sailors to ignore the sirens’ song and plugged their ears with wax, but one gave in.  She swears she didn’t, but the evidence was right thar on her screen.  Nobody walks the plank unless’n it’s at the point of a sword, and computers don’t execute programs all on their own.

An hour later I had to eat me words.

I was sailing along in calm waters, checking emails, when me own screen turned the color of the deep blue sea and an announcement flashed across it that Windows 10 was being installed.  That scourge of the seven seas, Cap’n Microbeard and his band of pirates, had their grappling hooks in me ship.

I didn’t go peaceful-like – hell no.  I grabbed me cutlass and fought like a demon. I thrust, I parried, the sweat drippin’ into me eyes as I hit “Esc” and “Alt+Ctrl+Delete” over and over again.  Cap’n Microbeard and his picaroons outnumbered us 100,000 to 1 and they kept on a-comin’ with fiendish strength.  Twas clear the blackguards wouldn’t stop til they dragged us down to Davey Jones’ Locker.  And installed Windows 10.

Me lads fought bravely, but we was losin’ ground. The counter on me screen inched its way from “0% installed” to “4% installed.”  Cap’n Microbeard taunted me, the yellow-bellied son of a pox-ridden-whore, saying, “Do not turn computer off during program installation.”  It looked like we was dead men, and they don’t tell no tales.  In a last-ditch effort to save me trusty ship and crew, I tried one final, desperate act.  I turned it off.

That did the trick.  Cap’n Microbeard and his Microsoft cutthroats slunk off with their tails between their legs like the mangy dogs they is.

We bound up our wounds and surveyed the damage.  The first ship, what they’d temporarily captured, was put to rights.  Then I parleyed with some other ship captains on the interwebz.  Turns out Cap’n Microbeard and his hornswaggler crew had been terrorizing the peaceful waters of the interwebz nigh on a year.  Their attacks had become more frequent and bloodthirsty of late as they had vowed to capture every ship flying the Windows 7 and Windows 8 flags.

“Where’s the King?” We cried. “Why don’t his troops clap this blackguard in irons? “  Seems Cap’n Microbeard is more powerful than the King’s justice.  Brigands now rule the seas of the interwebz.

Right sharp we posted lookouts in the crows-nest day and night, loaded our six pounders for action and changed our Windows Update security settings from “Install updates automatically (recommended)” to “Let me choose.”  We warn’t to be caught sleeping again.  After several days of smooth sailing we thought we’d seen the last of that brigand.

windowsbattleatsea

That’s me in the crows-nest, fighting valiantly.

That’s when he struck again.

The sentry in the crows-nest cried out, “Sail ho!” Our settings was still on “Let me choose,” but there warn’t no warning and no choosing involved – Windows 10 update commenced on its own on another one of me ships.  Cap’n Microbeard musta come alongside and crept silently aboard; probably came up the anchor cable the way most rats do.   He was trying to download Windows 10, yet again.

Scupper that! This time we was prepared and sprang into action with all hands on deck.  We made short work of the business and soon had that bilge-rat and his followers over the side.  But there warn’t no false sense of security for us this time.  Sure as a case of the clap follows a trip ashore to crack Jenny’s cup, he would be back.  What to do?

I parleyed on the interwebz again.  Lawlessness now rules the operating system seas, and the King won’t protect us honest sailors, so other captains have taken matters into their own hands.  They hired on mercenaries; brought ’em aboard to protect the crew and cargo from intruders.  The scuttlebutt was that  Cap’n GWX Control Panel and his gang was good.  We hired ’em on.

I don’t like having strangers on me ship, and I ain’t sure I trust Cap’n GWX.  Mayhap he’ll turn out to be as big a scalawag as Cap’n Microbeard.  But a captain’s gotta do what she must to protect her own, so on we sail, uneasy, waiting to see if these calm waters will last.

To Cap’n Microbeard I say; avast, ye scurvy mongrel!  If ye and your crew of slimy bilge rats try to board me ship again, you’ll feel the taste of me cat-o-nine tails on your backs afore you’re keelhauled.  Or maybe I’ll make ye dance with Jack Ketch.  Yer choice.

Arrrrrrrr!

Has Cap’n Satya “Microbeard” Nadella and his Microsoft crew tried to board your ship with Windows 10?  Did they succeed?  Are you as mad as I am?  Can I get an ARRRRRRRRRR?

Check out the Pirate Glossary for more pirate lingo, mateys.

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10 Beauty Tips For Beautiful Beauty

clarabowwithmoneyhairandlips

You can’t watch Bravo, E! and other highbrow TV channels, or pass magazines like Us Weekly or Star in the check-out lane at the grocery store without being bombarded with pictures of the Beautiful People.  How did they get that way?  More importantly: how can YOU get that way?

For the first time ever, secrets once known only to the Beautiful People are revealed to you, the Unwashed Masses.  Here are my 10 Beauty Tips for Beautiful Beauty:

1) Be young.
I recommend being 16 years old. Time, sun and gravity are all fighting against you and they start winning the battle once you pass 20.  Any younger than 16, however, and the benefits of firm, youthful skin are outweighed by the flesh-crawling-creepiness of the realization that the sex god or goddess being lusted after is little more than a child.

If those sexy children are professional models selling beauty and fashion products, however, it’s OK.  This is considered normal business practice.

2) Be rich.
Poor people have to spend their money on non-beautifying items like “food” and “shelter.” This leaves very little spending cash for essentials like $1000 per half-ounce face cream made from baby beluga whale testicles, which elixir is guaranteed to possibly temporarily reduce the appearance of fine lines when viewed in extremely murky light.

In this area, less is never more: more is more.  More money is always more betterer when pursuing beauty.

3) Pick good parents.
Scientists say genetics are perhaps the single most important determinant of health, and the same goes for beauty. It’s crucial to select your parents carefully because when you look at them, you’re looking at your future.  Ask yourself:

        • Do Mom’s jowls keep quivering for 5 minutes after she stops shaking her head?
        • Does Dad’s paunch make people ask when the baby is due?
        • Do the varicose veins on Mom’s legs look like a New Jersey road map?
        • Does the top of Dad’s head resemble the “before” picture in a Sy Sperling Hair Club commercial?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, you may want to consider trading these parents in for better models.

4) Have big lips.
The tiny, bee-stung mouth was all the rage in the Roaring Twenties, but times and fashions change. Now you have no chance at being considered beautiful unless your lips are roughly the size and color of a baboon’s ass in heat.  Good thing you’re rich (see Tip #2) so you can afford to have tissue from dead people surgically implanted in your lips, a procedure known as the “Real Housewife.”

5) Avoid stress.
Stress causes wrinkles which make you look old, which is not young, and therefore not beautiful (see Tip #1.) Some of the major life stressers to avoid are:

        • Jobs
        • Family
        • Friends
        • Thoughts of renouncing your U.S. citizenship if either Trump or Clinton gets in

“How,” you may ask “can I avoid these things?”

If you have already followed Tip #2 and are rich, you are well on your way to minimizing stress.  You can afford to ignore people and situations you don’t like.  You can spend your days at the spa listening to calming, New Age music while pursuing the latest money-is-no-object beauty treatment, like having your body slathered in mud made from pulverized lava from Mount Vesuvius, 14k gold dust and Peruvian llama urine.

It is a tiring regimen, I know, but nobody said that being beautiful was easy.  Anything truly worthwhile in life rarely is.

6) Hang out with ugly people.
Make sure you are always the best looking in any group by only socializing with those who are uglier or fatter than you – preferably both at the same time.  Clever people learn this tactic in junior high and perfect it in high school.

If the ugly people around you are your parents, however, you may be in trouble (see Tip #3.)

7) Avoid the sun.
The sun causes wrinkles which make you look old. As we have already learned (see Tip #1) being young is vital for beauty so avoid the sun at all costs.  The problem is that hot young surfer babes and studs look even hotter with a deep suntan.  Alas, the very thing that enhances beauty in the short run will destroy it in the long run.  This is what we call a Beauty Conundrum.

Your best bet is to lie out in the sun a lot when you’re 16, and then stay that age.

8) Be dumb.
Thinking involves concentration, and most people knit their brow and purse their lips when they do that. These activities lead to wrinkles, assuming your lips haven’t been so stuffed with cadaver tissue that they can no longer move.

Besides, it is a truth universally acknowledged (in every teen movie and Rom-com made in the last 30 years) that smart people always have glasses, pull their hair back in tight buns and wear sensible shoes.  They can’t possibly be beautiful.

There you have it.  Learn my 10 Beauty Tips for Beautiful Beauty and follow them faithfully and soon you, too, will be beautiful.   Couple your newfound beauty with behavior that even trailer-trash would consider tacky, and you might catch the eye of a reality TV producer.  Someday YOU may be one of the Beautiful People staring out at the Unwashed Masses from the cover of a check-out lane magazine.

You’re welcome.

 

 

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Taking My Art On The Road

Some of my work

Some of my work

It’s hard to make a living as a writer, no matter how talented you are.  And if you’re a poet?  Forget about it.  Poetry doesn’t pay.  It may sound romantic to starve in a freezing attic in Paris, but the reality is that life is much more pleasant with a steady paycheck and benefits.

That’s why I took a job with the Department of Transportation; Division of Highway Poetry.

We write the pithy poetry for those LED highway message signs.  You know the ones I mean; they’re either permanently mounted over the highway, or temporarily set up at the side of the road.  They’re programmed with different messages, which sometimes flash to really get drivers’ attention.

I bet you’ve seen some of my work:

  • Click it or ticket.
  • Speed kills.
  • Phone in one hand, ticket in the other.
  • Loose lips sink ships.

The secret to successful highway sign poetry is to make it short and snappy.  Especially short.  You’ve only got a second or two for your message to register before the driver is past it and on their way down the road.

A former colleague of mine, Bud, had a real knack for this, but his stuff tended to be a bit too long for the medium.  You may have seen this poem of his:

This guy I knew once drove distracted,
So his car with another impacted.
His car was a wreck,
He broke his fool neck,
And his pain was severe and protracted.

He was really proud of that one, and rightly so.  It has great internal rhyming and a powerful message.  Alas, it was too much of a good thing.  A driver attempting to read that sign didn’t notice that the semi in front of him had stopped suddenly.  The ensuing 67-car pileup meant the end of the driver, as well as Bud’s career with the Division of Highway Poetry.

You might think that everything that can be said about driving has already been said, but I’ve still got lots of great ideas.  Here are a few ditties I’m working on now:

  • Only a doo-doo head texts while driving.
  • Don’t be a clown,
    Slow it way down.
  • Going slow?
    See the light.
    Drive your car
    In the lane on the right.
  • Knuckle down and buckle up.
  • Only talk when your hands are free,
    Doobee, doobee, doobee-ee.
  • Driving while drinking?
    What are you thinking!!??
  • Use your head or you’ll be dead.
  • Slow or stopped traffic ahead.
    Like that’s different from any other day on this road.
  • “Make sure your tires are properly inflated,”
    She suggested with breath that was bated.
  • What the heck; don’t wreck.
  • Bridge out ahead.
  • Watch for motorcycles…especially in California where those idiots come barreling right up the line between the lanes of traffic on the highway.  What is WITH that crazy, dangerous behavior?
  • You’ll get passed if you’re not fast.
  • Road rage isn’t nice.
  • To be or not to be, that is the question…that some drunken loser may decide for you if you don’t keep your eyes open and drive defensively!
    (*first line courtesy of William Shakespeare.)
  • DON’T CRASH!!!!

This kind of poetry may not have the soul-stirring power of Shakespeare’s sonnets, but I think I am providing a valuable public service.  And I bet even The Bard would have taken this gig had it been available back in his day.  In addition to 4 weeks vacation, we get full dental AND vision.

 

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Dear Travelocity

Stampede over to the Nudge Wink Report today and hear how Travelocity and their interwebz marketing brethren are making my life miserable. Curse the dastards!

The Nudge Wink Report

It ain't easy to run in heels. It ain’t easy to run in heels.

Dear Travelocity,

It’s over between us.

I stopped by your site last week to look at hotels for a possible weekend getaway in Chicago.  Now you won’t leave me alone.   I got two emails from you just this morning asking about my Chicago vacation plans.   I don’t HAVE any such plans.  Those emails arrived in the same batch as one from TripAdvisor, their 15th in the last 2 weeks suggesting not-to-be-missed B & Bs in the San Francisco Bay area.  My mouse must have accidentally hovered over that option on their site a couple of weeks ago.

You’re chasing me like a starving lion after a wounded wildebeest.  Before you can get to me, though, you’ll have to elbow aside the relentless stalkers from Staples.  Their ads hawking paper shredders have been following me throughout the internet ever since I made the…

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Step Away From the 1040 Before Somebody Gets Hurt

Back away.  Back.  Away.  Now.

I’ve got a sharpened #2 Ticonderoga pointed at my jugular, and I’m not afraid to use it.

The floor is littered with broken pencils, crumpled 8863s and tufts of naturally blond hair, pulled out by the roots.  The air reeks of stale coffee and desperation.

I’ll never get my taxes done.

First I have to do federal for daughter #2 as a dependent, then again with her on her own.  After I figure which is best, I need to do federal for me and the hubster.  Then do state of Illinois for me and state of California for daughter #2.

Then pay everyone money.  Lots and lots of money.

I’m an intelligent woman.  For cripes sake, I took both tax and cost accounting in college.  But I can’t do it.  I CAN’T DO IT!

These are the actual instructions for a worksheet from the 1040 instructions.  No, don’t look away, you coward.  In order to fight evil, you must first recognize it.

 

This is the “Simplified Method”, thank goodness! All you have to do is:
1)      Enter the total annuity payment from the Form 1099-R
2)      Enter the cost of the starting plan, except if you completed this worksheet last year.  Then skip line 3 and enter the amount from line 4 of last year’s worksheet on line 4
3)      Enter the appropriate number from Table 1 below, BUT if the annuity starting date is after 1997 then
4)      left hand red and
5)      right foot blue

The IRS is playing Twister with my brain.

I can’t even figure out when I need to send these in.  Aren’t taxes always due on 4/15?  Unless 4/15 falls on a weekend, then it’s the next business day.  Unless the next business day is a holiday in the District of Columbia.  No fooling.  Washington D. C., one city – not even a state – is having a holiday, so the due date has been changed for the entire country.

Happy Goober Days to all!

Well guess what?  I can’t turn my taxes in on Monday, because it’s an important holiday here in Peg-o-Legville.  It’s the annual Goober Festival. We spend the entire month of April celebrating this character’s lasting contribution to American television.  Some also celebrate peanuts, and that’s ok, too.  The point is it’s only fair that NOBODY has to do his or her taxes until 5/1 when our holiday is over.

Why can’t there be one tax?  They could shorten the whole, foul business down to 2 lines on the return:

-Did you make any money last year?
-Send it in.

Shhh.  What was that sound?  Did you hear that?   They’ve got the place surrounded.  The IRS is everywhere, and now they’re coming for me, but I’m not going quietly.   I’m taking their foul minions down with me.  They will all be bloody with pointy pencil pokes and paper cuts before this is through.

It’s too late for me, but save yourselves!  File the short form.

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