Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How to Sneak Candy into the Movie Theatre

I have to take a moment to share. This lit up my week. My husband and I went to see "Avatar" last weekend. Want to guess what I saw before I'd even finished parking? A HUGE sign on the outside of the movie theatre asking the audience to leave their grocery store popcorn and their cheap, sleazy gas station drinks at home.

Are they serious? Have you seen what they're charging for movie tickets these days? I know they have to make a buck and we're robbing them blind by slipping our own candy past their concessions, but give me a break!

There's a reason fewer people are going to the movies these days, and only 90% of that reason is the inability of the entertainment industry to come up with a well written screenplay the public actually wants to see. (Yes, I have proof. Just look at BloodRayne. 1 or 2. Take your pick.) The other 10% is the way they're robbing you blind with a huge mark-up on their concessions!

Sneaking food into movie theatres isn't hard. I've made a fine art of it over the years, first as a flat broke high school student then as a not-so-broke adult that remembers what it was like to be a flat broke high school student. Oh ye doubting Thomases, give these sneaky techniques a try (and follow the links for some even sneakier ones) and you'll never have to pay for theatre concessions again!

Buy a Man Bag

The first thing you need to do is start carrying a bag. You want this to look completely natural, so you're going to need to practice. A lot.

Suck it up men, it's all for the cause.

Change Your Shopping Habits

Sneaking food into a movie theatre isn't something that should be done on a whim. Careful strategy is required if the operation is going to be a success. For example, you need to make the right choice when deciding what food you're going to bring in with you.
Ice cream is always a bad idea, as are Fudgesicles, Creamsicles, ice cream sandwiches, Cookiewiches and any other variation thereof. You laugh, but it's been done! (No, not by me, thank you very much.)

Giant bags of popcorn don't travel well either. You're going to have a trail of crumbs rivaling Hansel and Gretel's bread crumb trail. Everything in your bag is going to smell like popcorn. You'll have strange birds assaulting you in the streets (like the seagulls weren't bad enough). You don't want to go there.

Small packages of Skittles, candy bars, Werther's Originals and (my personal favorites) gummy bears are ideal covert fodder. Why?

1) They're virtually untraceable. The theatre sells the same packages, so how are they going to know?
2) They're easily disguised. They slip into a purse, pocket, backpack or bra cup without leaving evidence behind.
3) They're easy to lie about. OF COURSE you always carry candy in your purse. You never know when your blood pressure is going to take a dip. Theatre staff aren't going to touch that one with a ten foot pole.

Soda can be a little trickier, since you have no good reason to be walking around with a bottle of Mt. Dew in your purse. Take my advice and sneak in water instead, especially if there's a good chance they're going to bust you. Water is healthier. It's cheaper. Thousands of people carry bottles of water in their purse/diaper bag/backpack every day. It's a win-win situation.

Purses and diaper bags are never, ever searched in movie theatres. I'm sure it's a privacy thing. I'm equally sure they don't want to risk running into a not-so-fresh Pamper.

Parents, don't be afraid to hide behind your kids! Nobody looks twice at a diaper bag filled with juice and crackers or a child's backpack stuffed with cookies. Children are notoriously picky eaters. No one's going to ask questions if they eat a grande sized bucket of popcorn but drag around a bag of Flipz because they refuse to touch the theatre's "homemade" pretzels.

Just don't let the little darlings talk. The turncoats will rat you out the first chance they get.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How to Tell When Someone's Lying Through Their Teeth

"The worst part of being lied to is knowing you weren't worth the truth."

Who's seen NCIS? Those of you who have, you know what-or who-I'm talking about here. Ziva. The walking lie detector. The interrogation goddess. Admit it, wouldn't you kill to have those mad skills?

Not everyone has the genetics, or the masochistic desire, to become an Israeli assassin (a reputation that's giving the Mossad's intelligence operations a bad rap). What they do have is the skills to tell when someone's trying to pull a fast one by lying through their teeth.

**Yes, I know "Lie to Me" is probably more meaningful here. I don't watch it. Sue me."**

The Eyes Have It

You know, I've heard it said that people who lie can't make eye contact. I'm going to say they're wrong, and here's why. People who can't look you in the eye feel guilty about something. They're also not very good liars. If they don't feel bad about what they're doing, they believe they have a reason to lie and there's no guilt involved, they're going to look you in the eye and tell you whatever it is you want to hear.

If you've ever had to convince a relative you loved the light-up Santa sweater they bought you for Christmas, you already know how hard it is to fake emotions. Most liars don't get it quite right. Their facial motions don't match up to what they're saying. The timing's wrong, the expressions are wrong, and they either hold it too long or not long enough.

Nothing says "I'm lying" faster than a school picture day smile. A smile that only involves the muscles directly around the mouth rather than the whole face and never reaches the eyes isn't heartfelt. It's there to placate you. The person is assuming that you have no idea what's going on, you're too stupid to live and you'll never know they aren't telling you the truth.

It's All in the Hips, It's All in the Hips

Unless they've taken public speaking classes, most people talk with their hands. When they do, their gestures are usually outward. They say the liar takes up less space.

It's true-sort of. Liars are more likely to touch their face, their ears and their neck rather than their heart or abdomen. They're also more likely to be still. Think about a talking head on TV. They're still. They're calm. They deliver the news without emotion. That's what a liar will do with a well rehearsed story.

It Wasn't Me!

Would you believe someone using contractions and bad grammar is more likely to be telling the truth? Liars gravitate toward much more formal responses-for example, "I did not" rather than "I didn't". The inexperienced liar is an English teacher's dream student. Does that seem horribly wrong to anyone else?

Disclaimer: A good liar already knows all this. These are probie mistakes no criminal mastermind is ever going to make. Confirm the lie one way or the other.

Monday, February 22, 2010

How To Build the Washington Monument Out of Playing Cards

If you ever want to leave your co-workers weeping in jealous misery, drag a deck of playing cards into work. No, I'm not suggesting you break into a game of strip poker or fleece them out of next week's paycheck. That would be mean. And wrong. And leave you with absolutely nothing to do on your lunch hour!

I want you to build a house on the corner of your desk using nothing but your good looks, your talent and your ability to intimidate your co-workers into staying out of your office!

Card houses are awesome, the ability to build one a sign of the gods. Why? Because most people can't do it. It doesn't have anything to do with their hand-eye coordination. They just don't have the patience to perfectly weigh the cards against each other or the ability to hold their breath for hours on end.

In December of 2004, Brian Berg built what was then (and may still be) the largest house of cards in the world. Picture found at

Since "Nobody move, nobody breathe" is about to become your new favorite catchphrase, you don't want to find yourself hoist on your own petard.

The first step to any successful card house is to smuggle in a deck of playing cards. I recommend grabbing a used pack from a Vegas casino. Their cards are guaranteed clean, free of the smudges and scuffs that go along with ordinary decks for perfect weight, and a surefire way to intimidate your co-workers.

Nothing makes you cooler in an office full of geeks than saying you picked up a deck from a dealer in Vegas.

Every good structure starts with a plan. I suggest you craft yours before you start putting cards together. You can build the White House, the Capitol Building or the Washington Monument if you play your cards right, but you need that plan to tell you how big you want to make your foundation.

To Make the Washington Monument

Now for the tricky part. You have to actually start building! Take a deep breath, and give your hands a shake. You don't want nerves getting in the way. Now take two playing cards and stand them up in a perpendicular manner on your desk. Very, very carefully, tilt them together until the tops touch, the cards form a triangle with the table and the structure is standing on its own.

Repeat ad nauseum to form the base, then start building up. Remember, that second layer can be tricky. Cards are slippery, and the slightest twitch will send the whole structure crashing down around your ears. I recommend building a base that's approximately four card triangles by four card triangles and maintaining those dimensions until you reach the top. At the top, do a 3x3, then 2x2 structure until you have the peak.

Take a picture, then sit back and preen. Some idiot's going to come by and knock it down in a minute. Enjoy the glory while it lasts.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How to Pack for the Zombie Apocalypse

lolcats funny cat pictures

2012 might not be the magic day (ancient calendars are so unpredictable) but the end of the world is coming. Sooner or later, the end of humanity is going to be upon us…and zombies are leading the charge! With all that gnashing and munching on brains, we ordinary snack foods are going to have to be well prepared (and well packed) to stay two steps ahead!

The Food

No well planned zombie apocalypse would be complete without an emergency cellar filled with canned food and plenty of water. That is, of course, if the zombie apocalypse is going to end one of these days. I wouldn't count on it.

Instead of a cellar, pick an RV and load it up. You'd think with over half the human population on a brains-only diet, veggies would be easier to come by. You'd be wrong. Fresh fruits and veggies are going to be a thing of the past if the zombies don't stop eating the workers, so take advantage of them while you can!

Don't forget to buy a hefty supply of cow brains. They're not quite the same as human brains, but it should distract the zombie horde long enough for you to hop in the RV and make your getaway.

The Clothes

There's nothing like sporting a $700 suit to make you NOT want to get eaten (as if you needed more incentive). Remember, clothes make the man. A lack of clothes makes a meal.

I suggest plenty of leather and denim. Demon hunters swear up and down they're harder to bite through! Don't forget your cold weather gear. Sooner or later it's going to be impossible to avoid taking that winter trip through the mountains. Most humans have the good sense to stay hidden when the snowy winds begin to blow, so zombies are usually starving in the wintertime.

The Entertainment

Contrary to popular belief, running for your life isn't actually one thrill after another. There are hours and hours of boredom interspersed with moments of sheer, unadulterated terror. Load up for the terror, prepare for the boredom.

You need to pack light so you can ditch the truck if it gets overrun, so don't bring collectibles or antiques with you. Trashy chapbooks and outdated textbooks are great entertainment, because you can read them once and throw them away without feeling guilty about it!

And if you have to slow a zombie down, a nice, solid thwack! from a 30 lb. textbook should do the trick.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How to Make Your Kids WANT to Get Up for School

I have one very simple philosophy on mornings. Employers and schools with ridiculous ideas like starting classes at eight in the morning need to be shot. Morning people? Let me tell you, some of my best friends are morning people. I've never understood the insanity that drives them to bounce out of bed before the alarm goes off.

And these are genes I've handed off to my children. You almost have to feel sorry for them.

Kids who refuse to admit that the crack of dawn exists are a blessing when you're caught in a never ending cycle of bottles, diapers, animal crackers and dirty laundry. They'll drive you nuts when the time comes to boot them out the door and onto a school bus. Did you know that the average school day starts between seven and eight o'clock in the morning? It doesn't seem to matter how much research they're doing on later start times, the school bus still rolls past my door at 7:45.


Mornings can get…interesting when you're trying to roll your kids out of bed and out the door that early. Dressing themselves? Forget it. Feeding themselves? Not a chance. You're lucky if their eyes are open enough to get out the door without having to ride piggyback to the bus stop! (Believe me, mine have tried.)

Keeping that in mind, I went digging around for some fun and creative ways to make your kids actually want to get up in the morning. Here's what I found.

Fluffy, Fluffy, He's Our Man, If He Can't Do It, No One Can!

Every cat has a morning routine to get a head start on a long day of sleeping, napping and chasing dust bunnies. It usually involves playing patty-cake with your bed head until you get up and make him breakfast! Encourage your child to take over the care and feeding of the family pet. You'll go through the day without smelling like cat food, they'll move their morning entertainment to your child's bedroom and your kids will enjoy waking up to the piteous yowling and prostration of a malnourished, starving fuzzball every morning.

All thirteen pounds of him.

The Moon, The Bear and the Big Blue House are Waiting for You to Come and Play!

Once upon a time, waking your child up by softly crooning children's songs in his ear was adorable. Mom and Dad acting like oversized bears or wacky rabbits was awesome! Let me tell you my friend, those days are long gone. If you roll into your children's rooms and break out your best Donald Duck imitation, burst into song and spin around their room like a princess, they'll get up just for the sheer, unmitigated pleasure of making you shut-up.

Works for me.

A Cold Shower Starts the Day Off Right

An invigorating splash of cold water is the best way to chase that early morning glaze from your eyes. Imagine what a full body treatment can do! The next time you're renovating your home, set their room on a separate sprinkler system. In the morning, just kick it on and listen to the delightful hum of them bellowing in the shower.

Pro Tip: Toss some laundry detergent in the mix and you can multi-task! Who said you weren't efficient?

Scream, "Oh My God, It's Hannah Montana!" at the Top of Your Lungs

If you have a tween in the house, this requires no further explanation. If you don't, don't worry. Your day will come. Oh yes, your day will come…

Why Use One Alarm Clock When Twenty Will Do?

This is my personal favorite. The person who invented this ingenious method of rolling their children out of bed deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. Or a court martial for cruel and unusual punishment. It could go both ways.

This is both inexpensive and easy to do. Go to your local dollar store and pick up ten or twelve battery operated alarm clocks. Figure out what time you need your child to get up and set one to that time. Then, set the other eleven alarm clocks at preceding two minute intervals.

For example, let's say you need your child out of bed by 6:45.

1) Set alarm clock number one for 6:45.
2) Set alarm clock number two for 6:43.
3) Set alarm clock number three for 6:41.
4) Set alarm clock number four for 6:39.
5) Set alarm clock number five for 6:37.
6) Set alarm clock number six for 6:35.
7) Set alarm clock number seven for 6:33.
8) Set alarm clock number eight for 6:31.
9) Set alarm clock number nine for 6:29.
10) Set alarm clock number ten for 6:27.
11) Set alarm clock number eleven for 6:25.
12) Set alarm clock number twelve for 6:23.

Once all the alarm clocks are set, sneak into their room and hide them. Preferably far away from the bed, and nowhere near each other. You don't want them to find two at a time, after all! They'll love having a scavenger hunt to start their day, and they'll be bright eyed and bushy tailed when it's time to get on the bus.

Monday, February 15, 2010

How to Spit for Distance

There's nothing like summertime. The hot summer sun. The soft, lapping waves of the ocean crashing on the sand. The smell of spit frying on the sidewalk.

Wait. Spit?

That's right, ladies and gentlemen. American Airlines ain't the only thing flying in the summertime! When the temperatures start climbing people start climbing out of their winter burrows, and they're bringing their bad habits with them. Not the least of which being spitting bubble gum, tobacco, watermelon seeds or saliva any durn place they feel like it. Let me tell you, there's nothing like being outside when it's literally hot enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk and smelling the sweet smell of sizzling cud on the cement!

There's nothing like the smell of mucus in the morning.

Of course, we're not here to talk about these ordinary men and women. We're here to talk about the extraordinary ones. The ones that have dedicated their lives to the fine art of hocking loogies and replanting their garden from the comfort of their front porch. These are the few, the proud, the professional spitters.

Did you know that every year the men and women of Luling, TX hold the annual Watermelon Thump? That's right, a Watermelon Thump, home to the World Champion Watermelon Seed Spit and hometown of the current record holder, Luling native Lee Wheells. Every year contestants hock their seeds down to the finish line in an attempt to beat his 1989 record of 68 feet and 9 1/8 inches.

68 feet, using nothing but the muscles in his neck and mouth. I don't think I can throw a baseball that far! And there's a little part of me, the part that thinks it's really, really cool when someone has pink flamingoes in their front yard, that would love to know how he did it.

Apparently, it's all in the lips.

All right, not really, but after Happy Gilmore who could resist! Actually, like most great sports accurately spitting for distance is a matter of dedication, practice and perfect technique. Here's a look at how the people of Luling are making it happen.

First, you have to moisten the mouth. Apparently, lubrication is the most important step! It makes sense if you think about it. It's a lot easier to drop a spoonful of cookie dough when your hands are covered in cooking oil than it is to do it when they're actually clean.

You'll notice I left the greased pig analogy out of this.

Anyway, the best way to start is by taking a drink of water. Then, you have two choices:

If you're spitting seeds you grab the watermelon seed (the heavier, the better) and place it on the tip of your tongue with the point facing out. Roll your tongue around it to create a perfect firing tube, suck in air through your nose as you tip your head and upper body back, then exhale rapidly through your mouth as your head comes flying forward. The seed will go flying.

If there's no seed to be found and you don't have the willpower to go another minute without watching the spit fly, let your jaw drop slightly. Wiggle your tongue and picture your dentist to incite saliva production under the tongue. Yes, that's right, you actually want to drool! Then, draw the tongue back and down to scoop up the spit, curl the edges, purse the lips, breathe deep and watch the spit fly!

It apparently helps if you get a running start too, although I've never taken that theory for a test drive. In my little world, forward momentum+forward momentum=a big, fat crash at the end. But hey, I guess a few bruises are the price you pay for being the watermelon seed spitting champion of the world!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

How to Touch Your Nose with Your Tongue

Greetings! I know, I know, I've been a lazy blogger the last couple of days. I thought I'd make up for it today by tackling one of man's most perplexing dilemmas.

How DO you touch your nose with the tip of your tongue?

This is a great way to wow your friends and family at your next birthday party, and it's not hard to do if your tongue is willing to play along. You put your hands on the table (or your lap, or the chair, or anyplace else they'll stay out of the way). You stick your tongue out as far as it can go. There's no need to stand on manners here, pretend you're a frog going for a fly. Slowly curl the tip up and back until your tongue makes a backward "L" and the tip touches some point on your nose.

That's all there is to it!

This is going to be very, very easy for some people, since their tongues are going to be naturally predisposed to touching their noses. The ability to touch your nose with your tongue is a genetic trait that rolls down from parent to child. It doesn't seem to have any preference in carriers, and it has been known to skip a generation or six from time to time. So if your dad can do it and you can't, don't take it personally. It doesn't mean he didn't love you, and there's no need to put your therapist on speed dial while you work it out. It just means your mother's non-nose touching DNA was a little stronger and decided to boot Dad's off the scene!

Large noses and long tongues seem to be a vital part of being able to pull this off (elephants have no problem with it), so if you don't have one or the other you probably don't have much chance of making the Olympic nose touching team. All right, so it's not really a sport. It's only a matter of time. In the meantime, don't feel bad if your tongue refuses to pick your nose for you. It just means you're one of the millions of people whose tongues have decided snot is disgusting and they don't want anything to do with it!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How to Write a Thesis/Research Paper/Term Paper in 5 Hours or Less

Procrastination, how do I love thee. Let me count the ways! I love thee for the episodes of Castle I've never missed. I love thee for the books I read when I should have been working. And I love thee for the hours and hours of sleep I would never have gotten if it hadn't been for you.

"Why do today what you can put off 'til tomorrow?"

Most of all, I love thee for the way you've forced me to hone my research and writing skills so I can produce top quality research papers in a mere fraction of the time it should have taken me to earn an A…or even a C!

"Procrastination is suicide on the installment plan."

Ladies and gentlemen, how often have you blown off homework in favor of doing something more exciting, like watching paint dry? No names, please, I'd hate to have to pretend I know about this! Unless you're one of the thousands of students who farm out their research papers to professional writers who may or may not know what they're talking about, you've inevitably found yourself scrambling to slip a paper past your professor's nose at the 11th hour.

Now, you can take that C and be grateful you didn't fail (believe me, I've been there!). That's a perfectly acceptable option. However, if you have a vested interest in keeping your financial aid you can consume massive quantities of Mountain Dew, kick your brain up on high and crank out a paper that's going to leave your drinking buddies wondering what you've got on your professor when you walk out the door with the highest grade in the class!

**Caffeinated coffee, Coke and Pepsi may be substituted for Mountain Dew if it generates a similar response in the "ability to go for days with no sleep" section of your brain. If you don't do caffeine, forget it. You're already doomed!**

First, forget about doing research and taking notes. You don't have time for that. You're either going to have to beat up the geek down the hall and steal theirs (which only works once, since they learn to keep a falsified set of documents after that) or do your research on the fly. Keep your book close at hand, and go to Google and type in your keywords as you go along. The 'net will keep spitting out information, your book will keep falling in line, and you'll keep adding pages to your work.

~If you happen to have a draft outline of your paper telling you what key points you want to hit, now's the time to break it out. Being able to plug and chug can save you whole minutes of critical thinking!~

Write your introduction first, and just keep going. This is no time to edit! This is blogging at the professional level. The idea is to get all the information on paper as quickly as possible. Think of it as grabbing a box of puzzle pieces and dumping them out on the table. You're going to need to sort them all out eventually, but it's a lot faster to dump and sort in bulk than to try and do it a little piece at a time.

"Anyone can do any amount of work providing it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment."
~Robert Benchley

Finally, my personal favorite-Create your reference list as you go along. If you put a quote in your paper, hop on down to your reference list before you write another word. This saves you from a) having to go back and find all your references all over again when you're done, and b) having to change quotes and information because you can't find the source you used in the first place. (I really, really HATE when that happens!)

NOW go back through and fix every time you spelled "THE" as TEH and AND as ADN. Trust me, they're there! Don't trust your spell check unless you're in a HUGE hurry, because it's never going to catch everything. Make sure you're using the right formatting (MLA vs. APA) and that your flow of ideas makes sense. Read it through three times, twice to make changes and a third time to make sure you didn't miss anything. Then print and submit!

Bonus Points: If you're like me and you're absolutely incapable of bullshitting your way to 20 pages of information when 15 will do, you can stretch the length of your paper and earn yourself some extra bonus points by adding graphics, tables, charts and quotes anywhere they apply. Professors love the dramatic tie-in of visual media and direct referencing, and you'll love their ability to plug in the gap when you run out of things to say and don't want to start babbling like a loon.

Of course, there's a time and a place for babbling too. You did say you were majoring in psychology, didn't you?

"Only Robinson Crusoe had everything done by Friday."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

How to Introduce Yourself Without Sounding Like a Dork

Do you have any idea how many times in your life you're going to recite your vital statistics? I was reading somewhere that we meet 100,000 people in our lifetime. That means we're going to introduce ourselves 100,000 times the first time and who knows how many by the time you've had to introduce yourself two or three times because they can't remember your name! They all have the same questions: Where do you live? Where do you work? Are you married? Do you have any kids? Have you lived here long?

I have to look at some of those 500 page autobiographies I see in the university library all the time and laugh, because everything anybody ever REALLY wanted to know about them could have been said in a paragraph or less and was probably repeated over and over again while they were alive. Explain to me why we need the minutiae of their lives after they're dead that we never cared about when they were still breathing?

I started taking college classes again recently, and at the start of each class we have to write a brief introduction. It was fun at first, but by the third or fourth class I'd already read the vital stats of most of the people who were in there with me. I knew where they worked. I knew who was married and who had kids. I knew who was on the career path and who was just going back to college to say that they did it. There were no more surprises.

And so, we finally get around to the topic of today's blog. Thanks for sticking with me through my aimless ramblings, you knew they'd get somewhere soon! Let's talk about how to introduce yourself, the first time and every time after, without sounding like a dork!

C'mon, do you really want to be that guy who defines himself by his job? Is the fact that you're married with children really the only thing you can say about your life? Yeah, it got Peg Bundy and Kate Gosslin their own cable TV shows, but what are the odds that you're going to get that lucky? Not nearly as good as you'd like to believe it could be, let me tell you!

The first thing I'd recommend is to tell the people you meet on the street your shoe size instead of your name. I mean, the government's practically reduced us all to meaningless numbers anyway. Wouldn't it be nice to be known by a number that actually means something to you instead of something completely random? (You can substitute any number you want for this, but ladies, I recommend leaving your bra size out of the mix. That doesn't end well for anyone.)

Next, when you introduce yourself you should toss your least favorite movie out there. I love the looks I get when I confess that I don't really like "Titanic" and could have lived my life quite happily without having seen "Druids" or "Australia." Slipping into your favorite movies from here is usually a smooth segue, especially if it's something memorable like "Shrek," "Kung Fu Panda" and "Madagascar."

Now it's time to move on to the truly obscene. Do you bite your nails? Suck on your toes? Steal teeth from the Tooth Fairy to make one of a kind accessories? Regularly fantasize about piercing your eyebrows using nothing but a piece of sharpened bone and your bare hands the way the cavemen used to do it? Let me tell you, you might be laying it all on the line at the very beginning, but I guarantee you're never going to have to remind anyone of who you are ever again!

And when you get right down to it, the Hokey Pokey is what it's all about.

Monday, February 8, 2010

How to Find a Princess That Can Handle Her Own Drama

We grew up on stories of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, women whose looks could have shot them to the top of Vogue's MVP list but didn't have the common sense to get themselves out of trouble. Without Prince Charming (and a Fairy Godmother or two) to ride to the rescue, they'd still be sweeping up ashes or trapped in a Never-Never-Land of eternal snoozing.

Not to belittle the contributions these women made to present day literature (although I probably should), but isn't it time we started telling our daughters bedtime stories about women with a more promising future than a lifetime spent as a trophy wife to some nameless man walking around living on Daddy's money? Is that really the kind of role model you want her to have? If you're sick and tired of watching princesses smile charmingly while they take whatever dirt their evil stepmother/father's enemies/kingdom's version of a Wicked Witch decides to dish out, try these princess stories for a change!

Mulan. She decides her crippled father's being an idiot, so she runs away from the promise of an arranged marriage to join the army. Saves the kingdom. Becomes a national hero. Do I really need to go on?

The Princess Novels. These modern retellings of our favorite childhood fairy tales turn everything you ever thought about Snow White, The Little Mermaid and Cinderella on its ear. These aren't princesses that need rescuing, I can tell you that! (Although you might want to emphasize that going on a bloodthirsty rampage isn't the best way for a 16 year old princess to pass her time…)

Star Wars. Yes, Han Solo spends some time digging Leia out of trouble on a regular basis, but this hardy princess pulls her weight! This isn't your typical, fainting miss.

Dora the Explorer. She turns into a Snow Princess, that should count for something! This adventurous first grader doesn't back down from anything, always minds her manners, and can make her way from Mexico to the Arctic Circle and back without paging the media first. Who doesn't love that?

The Princess Diaries. She's a little inept. She's a lot lost! And let's face it, Prince Charming is nowhere to be found. But girls will fall in love with Princess Mia as she bumbles her way toward royalty without letting go of what makes her so delightfully normal in the first place.

Friday, February 5, 2010

How to Win at Rock, Paper Scissors (You've got issues. We've got answers.)

Ahhh, the melodious sound of yet another petty argument about whose turn it is to take out the trash, walk the dog in 10 degree weather or crawl into the snake infested crawl space to thaw out your pipes. Just another day in paradise.

Unless you're on the losing end of these arguments, of course.

Whether you're a wimp at heart or just fond of being able to spend the night in your own bed, if you've had about enough of coming out on the losing end of arguments with friends, family and your significant other you're going to need a better strategy than sheer stubbornness. It's time for a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors?

This time honored tradition doesn't just come with three easy-to-do hand motions and rules even a first grader can get. It also comes with its own set of top secret strategies designed to make sure that even when you're the one sitting on the losing end of an argument, you're not the one walking away a loser (because really, if why would you want to toss a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors out there if you were winning anyway?).

According to the USA Rock, Paper, Scissors League (yes, it really exists) the first rule of Rock, Paper, Scissors is that rock is for rookies. When you're playing against an inexperienced player, expect them to want to come out strong. Rock's going to be the first move they throw down on the table! Lead out with paper, and you'll be waltzing in roses while they're waltzing around the bathroom, toilet brush in hand.

That's especially true if you're playing against a man. Statistically speaking, although scissors is the least played move in RPS (Rock, Paper, Scissors) history women with a little experience under their belt are more likely to lead out with that than any other move.

If your opponent has put the smack down on their rock twice in a row, go ahead and put scissors or paper on the table next time. Most players aren't going to play the same move three times in a row, so you'll either tie or walk away the victor. You're also pretty safe going with whatever move would have lost to their last one, since the subconscious just has to stick its nose in where it doesn't belong and try to outdo itself.

When you've got absolutely nothing, go with paper.

If you absolutely, positively cannot stand to lose another round of Rock, Paper, Scissors (and heads are going to roll if you do), I recommend therapy. Immediately. While you're waiting for the shrink's office to call you back, however, you can always cheat.

Yes, you can, in fact, cheat at RPS. Go figure.

The best way to make sure you're the undisputed champ in your house (and nip arguments in the bud with the mere threat of whipping out your mad Rock, Paper, Scissors skills) is to hold back your throw, just a split second, and check out the angle of your opponent's wrist. If it's straight ahead they're probably going for rock. 45 degrees or more almost always indicates scissors, with paper falling somewhere in the middle.

This requires split second timing, however, and shouldn't be used if there's money involved. (Wait. Why are you putting money on a game like Rock, Paper, Scissors anyway? You may want to speak to your shrink about your gambling habit while you're at it…)

Rock Paper Scissors:
How To Cheat At Rock Paper Scissors

Thursday, February 4, 2010

How to Wake Someone Up Just By Staring at Them (Your cat can do it, why can't you?)

When I came up with the idea for this blog, one of the first things someone suggested to me was a "how to" on waking someone up just by staring at them. After all, it works for cats. Why wouldn't it work for people too?

I had to admit, she had a point. An alarm can go off for fifteen minutes or more without even being noticed, but a cat perched on a pillow looking deep into your sleeping retinas can yank you out of Dreamland at a moment's notice. (It's almost as effective as the sound of a child standing in the doorway at 3 o'clock in the morning announcing they need to throw up…but not quite.) There's no question about whether or not this staring thing works. The question is, if a cat can do it, why can't you?

Well, several in-depth hours of research later I can firmly reassure you of three things. One, if you follow your cat's example, share a pillow with your child/spouse/friend/roommate and stare at them for a while, they will wake up. Two, it has absolutely nothing to do with ESP, psychic powers or telepathy. (They may wake up, but you're going to have to tell them it's their turn to make breakfast.) And three, whoever you try this out on is going to think you're really, really creepy. Be prepared to get suspicious looks for the next couple of days until things get back to normal.

Since ESP doesn't seem to play an integral role in the waking up process, why does staring someone in the face work? The evidence suggests it has more to do with proximity to their mouth, cheeks and nostrils than the actual staring process. You may breathe, shift the pillow or make a noise that jump starts the self preservation center of their brain and lets them know someone's close by. Since being sound asleep with a predator sniffing at your face isn't a great way to beat Darwin's rules of longevity, the thalamus is going to shoot the fact that someone's getting up in your face along the fear pathway to the amygdala and the hypothalamus, setting the stage for a fight or flight response.

That could explain why you're so cranky when you finally do wake up!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How to Identify a Vampire (Think you're living next to Edward's second cousin? You could be right!)

They're all over the news these days, these elusive creatures of the night. Whether you're a "Twilight" fan or you think Stephanie Meyer has neutered the vampire as a species, you have to admit-the woman's done great things for publicity! Vampires are now the supernatural community's worst kept secret, and everyone who's anyone is dying to be one.

That means there's more fake vamps than bottle blondes rolling around out there! (Although to be fair, if I believed the complete extinction of blondes was really going to take place before 2202 I'd probably be reaching for the bottle too…)

The question then becomes, how do you tell the difference between a phony vamp and a genuine, blood sucking fiend?

a) You're not going to find a vampire on the beach on a sunny day. Whether they spontaneously combust or sparkle and shine, the bottom line is that sunshine is NOT a vampire's new best friend! So the dude flashing fang from the towel next to you? Nothing more than a clever imposter with some great dental work.

b) Inconspicuous is the name of the game when you're trying not to get staked. The woman in black at the table next to yours making a big deal about how she's on a liquid diet? Not the one you need to worry about. It's the gentleman in the business suit in the back of the room that "eats" a full meal without taking a bite that you want to watch out for. Clever vamps have had centuries to learn how to blend in. (Darwin tends to weed out stupid vampires fairly quickly.) They're very, very good at appearing normal, and you're going to need a sharp eye if you're going to bust them in all their paranormal glory.

c) Have you ever bled onto a white shirt? It stains. Badly. Since most vamps don't have a day job (and contrary to popular belief, not all of them are filthy rich) replacing those shirts gets a little expensive. Flowing white shirts with ruffled collars and puffy sleeves that inevitably end up covered in wine and who knows what else by the end of the night? I don't think so.

d) You can't teach an old dog new tricks. If you're talking to someone and they don't speak jive, slang or street talk, you could be talking to a vampire. Those old world manners and middle aged mastery of English are hard to overcome. If they can recite the Urban Dictionary from A to zOMG, there's an excellent chance you're looking at a fraud.

e) Fangs. There's always been some debate about whether the vampire has retractable fangs or if they're just really, really good at not showing their teeth when they smile. My recommendation? If you happen to get a paper cut and the person you're with thuddenly tharts talking with a lithp, it's time to reach for the stake.

f) Finally, let's talk about blood. Most specifically, let's talk about your blood. It doesn't matter which version of vampire mythology you buy into, vampires crave blood the way a junkie craves a fix. They're also fascinated by arteries, surface veins and, of course, your luscious neck. So if your date seems to be more interested in your circulation and the results of your latest cardiac tests than your college education and dreams for the future, beware. You're either sitting with a vamp or the conversation has gotten really, really boring. Either way, without immediate intervention this date can only end in disaster.

The bottom line is, it's hard to tell whether you're hanging out with a vamp or not until they actually start chewing on your neck (which is actually a common misnomer, since vampires don't actually do flesh). If you're not sure if you're dealing with a real vamp or just another Gothic wannabe, err on the side of caution. Slip a cross around your neck and toss a clove of garlic in your pocket. Better to smell like yesterday's primavera than find yourself turned into a Happy Meal with legs for Count Dracula's newest apprentice!

How Do I Do That?

Are you a home improvement enthusiast? An avid do-it-yourselfer? Are you looking for the answers to life's big questions about flooring, carpeting and all those other projects you've been putting off since you decided to move out and bid a fond farewell to your landlord?

If you are, go to the URL bar at the top of this page and type in You're in the wrong place, but they'll help you get back on track sooner or later!

This how-to blog isn't about learning how to fix your house, fix your car or build the world's greatest treehouse. This is the place to come for the answers to life's even bigger questions, like how do I get my kids to eat their veggies? What's the secret behind solving the Rubik's cube? How do you convince the gamers in your house to step away from the computer? How do vegetables without arms play the tuba? Is there a secret to finding jeans that fit without having to try on every pair in the store?

And how are you going to survive the zombie apocalypse?!

Yes, that's right, we're going to deal with the issues. The issues the newspapers don't touch with a ten foot pole! All right, so it doesn't look like much right now, but give us some time. It took over 800 years to build Rome, after all! In the meantime, come back often-and if you have ideas for a "How To" blog, or would like to be a guest blogger every now and again, shoot me a note at and let me know. Or comment below. Or don't. It's up to you.

**The usual addendum: This blog is strictly for fun. It's not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You cannot sue me if you followed the advice listed here and it didn't work. And if the zombies really do come, don't take the time to read this blog. RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!**

Here's to building a blog by the people, for the people. We might not change the world, but if we work together we might be able to make it a little bit easier to live in!