A Couple Walks Into a Store . . .

Dec 24, 2009

. . . they each put on a Santa hat . . .

. . . and walk out.

Viva Manuary!

Dec 22, 2009

I learned of this annual tradition a couple nights ago from some friends we bumped into at the grocery store. Here's what Urban Dictionary has to say on the subject:


The month of January, whereby men partake in a month long celebration of masculinity with activities enshrining masculinity: Unadulterated violence, booze, meat, and chivalry. Exact reasons for this are unknown, yet theories have arose as it being in response to the high stress nature of the holiday season, thereby men resorting to mantastic* facial hair to compensate for seeing their in-laws.

The growing of facial hair in a full out bearded style, to represent the rejection of aesthetics.

The consumption of meat and/or beer (bonus points for both) with/as every meal.

The masculine duty of protecting women in need.

Partaking/instigating fist fights with those who are deemed combat able. Combatants include: Douche bags, consenting MEN, and Douche bags. No hair pulling, biting, or other feminine behaviours are acceptable.

Other masculine behaviour. All acts must be witnessed by fellow MEN partaking in MANUARY.

Girl: "Why did you get in a fist fight with that greasy guy grinding on every girl in sight?"
MAN: "Because he was a douche and it's MANUARY"

Girl: "Why don't you have some salad?"

Boy: "By golly! She looks like she'd be easy, and she has cute friends!"
MAN: *Left Hook* "It's MANUARY. Hello ladies, how is your evening?"

*It's MANtastic! Almost as good as good as the Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year Award.

On Passion

Dec 18, 2009

Some people ask, “What if I haven’t found my true passion?”

It’s dangerous to think in terms of “passion” and “purpose” because they sound like such huge overwhelming ideas.

If you think love needs to look like “Romeo and Juliet”, you’ll overlook a great relationship that grows slowly.

If you think you haven’t found your passion yet, you’re probably expecting it to be overwhelming.

Instead, just notice what excites you and what scares you on a small moment-to-moment level.

You grow (and thrive!) by doing what excites you and what scares you everyday, not by trying to find your passion.

- Derek Sivers, What Matters Now

Feats of Strength

Dec 17, 2009

For the past year or so, we've been suffering an increasingly debilitating case of atrophy. Or, well, our car has. Our hatchback, to be specific. The StrongArms have been slowly losing their strength, resulting in quite a bit of frustration and hilarity.

At the supermarket: Use one arm to prop open the hatch, while using the other to load groceries into the back of the car. You can't actually do that if you're loading large items, say like a case of water. So you let go and move really really quickly to grab the case of water with both hands, while the hatchback thinks about collapsing. You turn around, you reach inside the car, the hatchback bonks you on the head. And laughs.

See? I'm getting frustrated (and bruised.) And the hatchback thinks it's funny.

So. We talked to our mechanic about it, and they want to charge us a couple hundred bucks to replace two hatch lifts. We come home and consult Dr. Google, who tells us we can buy two new StrongArms for under $40 total, plus we'll need an extra special $5 screwdriver with a star-shaped screw head. (This is where that math degree comes in handy.) $200 versus $45. Easy to see who wins this match-up.

We order the lifts and super-special screwdriver. And this past Tuesday night, we did it ourselves. Let me tell you about that.

We pop the hatch, and I'm given the enviable job of holding up the back while Handsome handles the tough stuff, like unscrewing a couple odd-shaped screws. Anyway, I'm standing there, gently holding up the back, when he finally wrenches the screw free from the body. And that's when then the full weight of our hatchback fell on my back. Arms straining, sweat pouring, back muscles crying in pain.

Do you know how heavy a hatchback is? Friggin' heavy, people! Heavy like there's a reason we call them StrongArms. Because they've gotta be. They're even gas charged, says so on the label. I am not gas charged; I am weak. I am not powerful enough to hold up a giant chunk of metal, over my head, without moving lest I crush my husbands skull.

And you do know what happened next? Well. We may be weak, but we're not stupid. And by "we," I mean "I." I grabbed a rake and used it to help prop open a giant piece of my car. So me and the rake, we're holding up the car while Handsome reads the instructions to figure out how to install the new StrongArms.

We'll pause just a moment while you read that last line again.

Anyway, after a few minutes, he finally gets all the bits and pieces arranged in the proper configuration and attaches the first shiny, new hatch lift. And lo, the weight was lifted and I was free, or almost free. Because you know what? It takes BOTH lifts to hold that sucker up, and the crushing weight returned the moment he got the second dead StrongArm free. But this time, we've got a system, and it works because in less than a quarter of the time it took to install the first one, the job is done!

And then we spent the next half-hour opening and closing the hatchback for the sheer pleasure of seeing a hatch hold itself up. (Sorta like the first time your toddler figured out how to flush the toilet.)

It was a Christmas miracle!

My Inbox Overfloweth

Dec 16, 2009

Dear Retailers,

Just because it's Christmas (or as I like to think of it the Great American Consumer Extravaganza) you do not have the right to spam me relentlessly EVERY SINGLE MOMENT OF EVERY SINGLE GOD-BLESSED DAY with your deals and specials and perfect last-minute gift ideas. I used to like you; now I hate you. HATE. YOU. Because you're harassing me!

So stop harassing me already! You thought that clogging my email box would lead to more sales? Seriously? Well. You're wrong about that little hypothesis. There's not a chance in hell that'll I'll buy what you're selling. If anything, I am now not only less-inclined to patronize your store in future but will probably actively avoid you altogether. Because you suck at advertising, though you're world class at aggravating the hell out of people. At least that's something to be proud of.

I hope Santa brings you switches and coal. Merry Christmas!

You suck,

Words To Live By

Dec 15, 2009

We are the strivingest people who have ever lived. We are ambitious, time-starved, competitive, distracted. We move at full velocity, yet constantly fear we are not doing enough. Though we live longer than any humans before us, our lives feel shorter, restless, breathless...

Dear ones, EASE UP. Pump the brakes. Take a step back. Seriously. Take two steps back. Turn off all your electronics and surrender over all your aspirations and do absolutely nothing for a spell. I know, I know – we all need to save the world. But trust me: The world will still need saving tomorrow. In the meantime, you’re going to have a stroke soon (or cause a stroke in somebody else) if you don’t calm the hell down.

So go take a walk. Or don’t. Consider actually exhaling. Find a body of water and float. Hit a tennis ball against a wall. Tell your colleagues that you’re off meditating (people take meditation seriously, so you’ll be absolved from guilt) and then actually, secretly, nap.

My radical suggestion? Cease participation, if only for one day this year – if only to make sure that we don’t lose forever the rare and vanishing human talent of appreciating ease.

- Elizabeth Gilbert, What Matters Now

Go ahead and download the free eBook, What Matters Now. It's worth your time.

We Wish You a Weird Christmas

Happy Holidays from the Great Christmas Shark

Celebrate the Reason for the Season with the First Annual Socket Monkey "Living" Nativity

Patience of a Saint

Dec 12, 2009

This is my cat in a reindeer costume. You can tell she's already planning her revenge.

The Mustard Revelation

Dec 11, 2009

So you all know that I now like mustard. And in the spirit of greater mustard appreciation, I decided to add a tablespoonful to my pork loin marinade last night. Here's the quick and dirty recipe:

1/4 cup light olive oil
1/4 cup red wine
1 tbsp. grainy brown mustard
orange-ginger-sesame seasoning
fresh ground pepper

And you know what? It needed more mustard! I never thought I'd say that.

Nonetheless, the pork loin was fork-tender and flavorful. (But it needed more mustard.) Caramelized onions and celery were a perfect accompaniment, but I should have cooked twice or three times as much.

Not Grieving

Dec 9, 2009

When my Aunt Katy died, there was a terrible hole in my heart. She was a joyful fixture of my childhood and adolescence, and I still think of her often. Like most grief, the anguish and tears gave way to happy, though now-bittersweet, memories.

This weekend, my uncle, my mother's oldest brother, passed away, leaving behind an amazingly tolerant wife and two adult children. I don't know exactly what killed him, only that it had to do with his heart or perhaps diabetes or maybe both. And while I feel for the family he left behind, I'm not grief-stricken for his loss.

Because, you see, he didn't like me, or at least that's the impression he gave. He didn't like me or my sister or my parents. And I feel strangely guilty in admitting that I didn't like him much either. I understand, through third-hand accounts, that he changed his life in the past several years and was a different man. But my family never knew that different man; he was not part of our lives.

Like Aunt Katy, he was a fixture of my childhood - an angry, judgmental fixture. He enforced a code of silence among the children around him; "do not speak unless spoken to." It is no surprise, then, that we never really knew one another. No surprise that I avoided him in favor of the company of his younger sister and brother.

I don't know what this says about me, that I'm not mourning for a member of my family who is, or was, a virtual stranger to me. But I do know this: his wife and children knew someone else, and they are hurting. And I'm sorry they lost someone they loved.

Eat Something New Every Day

Dec 7, 2009

Well, maybe not every day, but at least once in a while. Though given my avowed hatred of several popular food items, I really should try to eat something new a few times a week, at least.

In the past week, I have eaten and enjoyed mustard and both black and green olives. Not together, of course. That's disgusting.

First, the mustard. This time every year, Handsome and I get a hankering for sausage and sauerkraut, so we picked up some fresh-made German bratwursts at Sprouts Farmers Market, along with some cabbage and, of course, grainy, brown mustard. Cook it all up; sit down to dinner. I stare at the mustard jar. I should try it. Everyone else I know loves mustard. Maybe I only hate the fake-yellow kind.

So, I taste it and, lo, it is good! Very good. Delicious, actually. So, we has more sausages a couple days later. And I've eaten half a jar of mustard in a week. Go figure.

And now, the olives. I have horrible, horrible memories of my sister chasing me around the house with an olive on each finger; which might explain the hatred of all things olive. Seriously. I won't even buy Extra-virgin olive oil - because it tastes like olives. Anyway, this weekend, we had a pizza with pepperoni, sausage, meatballs, roasted red peppers, onions, two kinds of olives - everything in the kitchen, apparently. And I ate it, olives and all. Without choking. I mean, I could taste the olives, but I didn't want to spit them out - which is my natural reaction when I find them hiding in my food. They weren't bad.

Handsome thinks this isn't an accurate measure of my new-found appreciation for the olive. "Try them on their own, without the benefit of pepperoni and cheese and sauce. I'll bet you still don't like them."

He's probably right. And I'm not going to risk it.

The Strangest Feeling

Dec 4, 2009

Yesterday, I had my eyes dilated for the first time in my life.* And that is a seriously freaky experience, not even considering the light sensitivity. Which, by the way is pretty amazing. Especially when all the car headlights look like giant insect antennae and everything even remotely shiny at the store was catching my eye. Made for a slightly ADD experience, which isn't too different from normal. Just sparklier.

Anyway, what made it all really bizarre was the fact that my right eye dilated almost immediately, and my left eye took nearly half-an-hour to catch up. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "lazy eye." So, eyes dilated . . . nothing to see here . . . perfectly normal . . . blah blah blah. And we leave the eye doctor and go about our business with the assurance that my vision will be back to normal within in the next 3 hours, or there-abouts.**

And six hours pass. Left eye had returned to normal after those aforementioned three hours. (Who's lazy now, eh?) But that right eye was wide open. At nine o'clock at night. So, I walked around the house squinting that one eye in order to make out the details of the world around me. Because it was the middle of the night and without the squinting everything was SHINY! and BRIGHT!

Seriously freaky experience indeed.

*Yes, I know. I'm stubborn. And persuasive. I mean, do you know how much effort it takes to talk an optometrist out of dilating one's eyes, for nearly twenty years? I AM that good.

**"There-abouts" is a southern word meaning approximately. But you knew that already. You also know the meaning of "tump" and "sop" and "yorn."

The Deranged Inflatable Penguin

Dec 3, 2009

Seriously, how could one NOT want to stab, kick, punch, or shoot the inflatable decorations. I mean really! Look at this thing:

Good News on the Immigration Front

Dec 2, 2009

It appears that Mexican immigration into the US may be beneficial to Mexico's future. Consider this news:

Exposing so many Mexicans directly to the U.S.'s democratic system of government has increased support for, and participation in, democracy back home.

Drawing on the results of a 2006 public opinion poll of 650 Mexican citizens, they conclude that migration "leads to higher rates of nonelectoral political participation, greater tolerance of political and social difference, and more critical evaluations of both democracy and observance of rights in Mexico."

Specifically, they found that having friends or relatives who have migrated to the U.S. or Canada "greatly raises one's proclivity toward democratic participation."

I Can Haz Nap Now?

Dec 1, 2009

I Did It!