Monday, December 22, 2008

Humor Me: Attention frantic shoppers


Just three days until Christmas, everyone. You know what that means?

You guessed it! We only have 12,000 more chances to hear “Last Christmas” by Wham! on the radio.

But wait a second. This is no time for Wham! bashing. It’s already Dec. 22, the annual day when, even without the aid of my psychic friends network, I can read the thoughts of my father from 1,000 miles away.

“Hmm … December 22,” he’s thinking. “Still a little early for Christmas shopping.”

He’s still got a couple days, after all. Plenty of time to operate his shopping version of football’s hurry-up offense: lots of running around, lots of trying to stop the clock and very, very few touchdowns.

I saw it up close for years. Every Dec. 23 -- sometimes Dec. 24 -- my dad and I would head to the mall in his truck to find gifts for my mom. Dad would puff on a cigar as he formulated a shopping plan.

It was the same plan every year. First, my dad would try to find a book without knowing the title or the author’s full name. Second, he would try to find some perfume with no idea what my mom wanted. Third, he would search through a rack of sweaters, pick one out, and ask me, “Do you know your mom’s size?”

No, I didn’t know my mom’s size. I didn’t know anything. I was a 10-year-old who thought the true meaning of Christmas was spelled A-T-A-R-I.

So how did my dad’s shopping turn out?

Well, one Christmas my mom unwrapped a huge box of food storage containers. It was a 24-piece set, if I remember correctly, that included –- get ready for the exciting part –- MATCHING COLOR-CODED LIDS.

I don’t remember exactly what happened after that, but I’m sure it didn’t share the spirit of It’s a Wonderful Life.

That’s what can happen when you wait until the last minute. Sure, you might have plans for exciting gifts, romantic gifts, maybe even gifts that will be remembered forever. But what happens to good intentions in the heat of the moment?

They melt into gifts like a Chia Pet, The Clapper or “Richard Simmons’ Sweatin’ to the Oldies 3.” Or a product that features an infomercial where people hyperventilate when they discover a breakthrough in carpet-cleaning technology.

Of course, these days we can fall back on the gift card. Ah yes, the gift card! Perhaps the greatest invention since Ron Popeil first scrambled an egg in its shell. The gift card is quick, easy, and lovingly says, “I have no idea what you want.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s better to be ignorantly truthful than to send an inappropriate gift to someone you’ve lost touch with. I wouldn’t want to send my former college roommate and potential alcoholic a subscription to the Beer of the Month Club. I wouldn’t want to send my ol’ buddy Tom Cruise "The Complete Guide to Prescription Painkillers" when he would prefer a gift card redeemable on Mars.

But can you really give a gift card to everyone? For example, my wife and I share a bank account. So if I buy a gift card for her, I’m pretty much sending the message, "Honey, you have my permission to spend 100 bucks at Bed, Bath & Beyond."

That’s right, little woman, I am allowing you to spend money. My wife would love that.

But she might get a gift card anyway. Because with only three days until Christmas, I’ve still got a little shopping to do. That’s right ... I’m one day from becoming my dad, frantically shopping and considering the gift of locked-in freshness.

So I’ll be out there with the other last-minute shoppers, searching for gifts and trying to remember that it’s about the "spirit of giving." You know, that "it’s the thought that counts."

That really is true. But unfortunately, the thought that counts is the one inside the head of the person receiving the gift.

Especially if that gift features color-coded matching lids.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Humor Me: Here come the carolers


Before we start caroling, I want to thank everyone for coming out on this chilly night. It’s great to know that, even in the holiday rush, we can take time to share the spirit of the season with neighbors who are civilized enough to appreciate our music.

If you don’t know me, I’m Mrs. Mapleberry, and I’ll be leading the group again this year. That’s why I’m wearing this green sweater, and that's why I asked all of you to wear red sweaters. Some of you didn’t, but that’s fine because you can still spread holiday cheer while standing behind someone who is wearing the correct color.

I know everybody is cold, but I have a few announcements before we get started.

First of all, although I’m a music teacher at the local elementary school, please don’t be intimidated by my musical ability. It’s a combination of natural talent -- Praise God! -- and years of diligent training. My angelic voice might remind you of Celine Dion, or perhaps Whitney Houston before her terrible tragedy of meeting Bobby Brown. But for you musical beginners, be assured that I will not criticize your efforts. Unless, of course, you hit each other with song flutes like the heathens in third grade.

Please give a special welcome to Barb, who has made it out here despite her recent illness. Barb thanks everyone for their prayers and says her recent bout with salmonella showed her the true value of friends and the importance of properly cooking a turkey. Remember to use those food thermometers, everyone!

Also, I would like to pass along that David, one of our most devoted singers of the past few years, won’t be with the group this year. But with your prayers, I believe his unfortunate run-in with the law will be cleared up soon. And in light of his arrest, I remind you that although the lyrics of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” say that we won’t go until we get some figgy pudding, we will go if a restraining order is slapped on us. That’s also why we won’t be sharing holiday harmonies this season with 4704 Oakwood Blvd.

But that’s OK, because there are many more homes that want to hear us croon our happy tunes. They might turn off every light in the house as we approach, but remember, the holiday spirit is in everyone! When a door is closed in our faces, we must open our hearts! When a rude comment could lower our spirits, we must raise our voices!

Before we go, I also need to address some confusion we had with the lyrics last year.

In “Frosty the Snowman,” the correct lyrics are “a corn cob pipe and a button nose, not “a corn cob pipe and a bloody nose.” Why anyone would think that the word “bloody” is part of such a delightful song, well … that’s almost as crazy as the night last year when Fred pretended to ride an illuminated reindeer.

That’s also why we won’t be singing at 4215 Juniper Road. Or at 4221 Pine Lane, where we eventually found Fred passed out in a manger. This year, there’s just coffee in that thermos you’re holding, right Fred?

Let’s also be clear on the lyrics in “Winter Wonderland.” It’s “later on, we’ll conspire as we dream by the fire,” not “later on we’ll perspire as we dream by the fire.” It’s a common mistake, and correcting it should be no sweat. Ha!

No sweat … don’t you get it? I was talking about perspiring and then said, “no sweat.” Well, maybe everyone is too chilly too laugh.

So let’s get moving, and remember to check your song sheets for the selected verses that I will be doing solo. During those verses, please don’t attempt to hum because it could be distracting. You may, however, hold hands and sway.

Finally, remember that we are all God’s children, and everyone’s voice is sweet music to the ears of God. In the ears of humans, however, some voices are the equivalent of fingernails scraping on a chalkboard. If your voice falls into that category -- and I can help determine that for you -- please celebrate the season by simply moving your lips to the words.

That way we can all experience the joy of caroling.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Santa isn't so nice

My kids watched Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer a few days ago. It always brings back memories because I watched this every year as a kid. There's the Abominable Snowman's crazy eyes, Rudolph's nasally "She thinks I'm cute" and Hermie the elf's swoosh of blond hair, which makes him look like an early-'80s skater/surfer.

There's also that painfully bad/long "There's Always Tomorrow" song. I think that's generally when my brother and I would fight for a few minutes before the show would regain our attention.

But the thing that stands out to me most is this:

Santa does not come off well.

Actually, he appears to be a jerk. He gives Mrs. Claus a hard time, he seems generally rude and he actually condones discrimination based on having a red nose. When he first sees Rudolph, he's aghast.
"You should be ashamed of yourself," he tells Rudolph's father, Donner.
Way to go, big guy. Scar Rudolph for life.

But then, on one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say ... Well, he should've said he was sorry. Instead, you know the story. Here's what Rudolph's response should've been:
Really, you need me now because Christmas is in peril? Won't I be an embarrassment to you when people see my genetic difference that you were so quick to point out as a flaw? You should be ashamed of yourself.

And oh yes, I want a contract. Saving Christmas should be worth a pretty penny. Please speak with my agent.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Christmas Story is still golden

The movie A Christmas Story has so many memorable lines and characters that I could write all day about them. Some friends and I were talking about the movie the other day and what parts were best.

I can't possibly rank them, but I love watching the Santa visit at the Higbee's store. I love the attitude of the elves.

It's hilarious to see how much the elves -- wearing those ridiculous hats -- enjoy sending the freaked-out kids down the big slide. Perhaps the most bitter elves ever, although I don't know many elves.

But, in my opinion, the greatest line in a movie of great lines is uttered by narrator Jean Shepherd (whose novel the movie is based on). It comes after Ralphie says the f-word and is asked by his mom where he heard that word:
"Now, I had heard that word at least ten times a day from my old man. He worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium; a master."
Shepherd wasn't a very nice guy, I've heard. But with writing like that, it's no wonder he was so popular. He's one of the reasons I wanted to be a writer.

I'll pull out the Christmas Story DVD again this weekend.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The boys talk about Santa and Christmas

As the countdown continues toward Christmas, I got some expert opinions on the holiday, and especially Santa, from my kids:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Humor Me: Christmas decorating tips


I know this might offend some people, but I just have to say it: The Christmas display in your front yard is terrible.

Of course, by “you” I don’t mean YOU, the much-appreciated person who faithfully reads this column or accidentally clicked on it while searching for something else. I’m talking about all those other people, who obviously don’t share our impeccable taste in Christmas displays.

Please pass this column on to them. I’m writing it because I think these tips could be helpful, while also serving as continuing penance for my actions during the Christmas season of 1985.

More on that later. But first, here are some ideas for creating a display that all of your neighbors will be talking about –- hopefully not in court.

First of all, DO NOT skimp on lights. It’s easy to think you’ll have enough when you’re jamming them in your cart at Super Target, but will you really have enough? A simple guideline is that, for every square foot of yard you are decorating, you should have at least twice as many lights as your neighbor.

Once the lights are out of the boxes, or untangled from last year's Christmas Wad O’ Lights, you need to test them. Do not panic if the lights don’t work immediately. Simply check the bulb connections, and if the lights still won’t turn on, shake the string violently for several seconds. If this doesn’t work, and nobody is looking, shake the lights again while screaming obscenities. Many of the older twinkling lights, especially sets of 50 or less, can be intimidated into working. I’ve seen it happen.

Once the lights are working, it’s time to decorate. Use small and large lights, blinking and steady, to make your house look warm, merry and ready for gamblers. If Wayne Newton knocks on your door and asks for directions to the casino's showroom, you’re on the right track.

But please, please, be careful. A friend of mine broke his arm a few years ago when he fell off the roof while putting up lights. So keep in mind that you don’t have to get on a roof to create a festive scene. In fact, you don’t have to get on a ladder. Simply put the lights up as high as you can on the house, and then maybe throw a string of lights toward some high tree branches.

As for the question of clear or colored lights, well, you can forget about that. Use clear lights and colored lights. Create a holiday scene so intense that it’s forever burned into people’s memories –- and retinas. Create a holiday glow so bright that it enhances the dramatic elements of your display, such as the huge Homer Simpson in the inflatable snow globe, the dancing Santa who appears to have the drug-withdrawal shakes, or the six-foot plywood painting of the cowboy saying, “Merry Christmas, y’all!”

That brings me to the topic of Christmas figurines, inflatables and other huge lawn decorations. An important question to ask is, “At what point is it just too much?” The official answer, of course, is “when the homeowners association threatens litigation.”

The unofficial answer is a little less clear. But basically, when you have so many figurines that Rudolph’s red nose appears to light the way for the three wise men to find the baby Jesus, who is in a stable that includes Kermit the Frog wearing a Santa hat and playing guitar, it’s probably time to rein in the festiveness. And perhaps stop drinking so much egg nog.

Anyway, I hope those tips help. And remember that, even if you succeed at making your house look like a gingerbread casino, it’s Jesus who is the reason for the season. And it is He who knows that I was just a dumb, na├»ve, 14-year-old paperboy in 1985 when I tried to fling that newspaper over a front-yard manger scene.

I know He'll forgive me for the errors of my ways. And for that newspaper not quite making it over the manger scene.

To be on the list that is sent out when a new column in posted, e-mail Have a great week.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Speaking of Christmas lights ...

If you live in the Dallas area, there is a pretty amazing display at the home of Jeff Trykoski in Frisco. Jeff is a very nice guy who also does the incredible computer-synchronized display at Frisco Square.

You can find out where to see Jeff’s house at Trykoski Christmas. If you go, you can also bring canned food to donate to the Frisco Food Bank and Frisco Family Services Center. The family collects it in front of the house.

Last year, I visited Jeff and put together a video on the setup of the display and its opening night. Here’s the link to Humor Me video: Amazing Christmas Lights.

Control Christmas lights on the Web

Christmas lights have come a long way since the days of “one bulb burns out, they all burn out.”

You can see how far displays have come by visiting, a Web site created by Alek Komarnitsky of Lafayette, Colo. Visitors can control the lights on the house and the inflatable decorations in his front yard and watch it on Web cams. The Web site is free, but he’s also raising money for a good cause: research for Celiac Disease. More information is on the Web site.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Humor Me: Holiday brag letter


Happy holidays, everyone, and welcome to the annual Wixon holiday letter.

The holiday season can be pretty hectic, but it’s nice to get this chance to reconnect with friends and family. I certainly think it’s worth taking a few minutes, especially during this joyous time of year, to pass along warm wishes while weaving in preposterous lies about my family to make you insanely jealous.

Hey, isn’t that what a holiday letter is supposed to be? You know, a brag letter?

That seems to be the goal of many of the letters I receive each year, which are loaded with words in ALL-CAPITALS and more exclamation points than a text message from BFFs. (Like, you know, BEST FRIENDS FOREVER!!!). Here’s the kind of thing you’ll find in brag letters:

Our 5-year-old continues to show UNBELIEVABLE ability in math, science, music and sports! Also, some of his paintings have been called GENIUS, so we’re not sure if he’ll be an INCREDIBLE artist, or a pro athlete, or a WORLD-FAMOUS musician who cures cancer!!!

Well, my letter won’t be like all those letters that are tucked inside Christmas cards and stuffed with lies. I vow to spread holiday cheer by telling the truth about 2008, and I hope the Wixon letter makes you feel better about your year.

It started with the blessed arrival of our third son, Nathan Wixon. He’s now 10 months old. Nathan might be a genius, but for now, he stays busy launching himself off the changing table and spitting up on every one of my shirts. He’s also crawling now, which allows him to zip across the living room and try to chew on the coffee table. Yes, he likes to gnaw on wood. It’s like having a baby and a puppy at the same time, except he won’t chase balls. Also, Nathan has declared his feet a “sock free zone” by pulling them off seconds after we put them on. If you see a tiny white sock blowing through a parking lot at a grocery store or the YMCA, it’s probably Nathan’s.

Cooper is now 3 years old and full of energy and an adventurous spirit that leads to lots of fun and falling backwards off the couch in frightening ways. He also dresses himself and defies the law of averages by putting on his pants backwards 75 percent of the time.

Cooper also knows most of the alphabet, his numbers from 1 to 20 and how to blame inanimate objects for harming him. One time, he was crying on the floor by the kitchen table and when I asked him what happened, he said “the chair pushed me off.” He has also blamed the dirt for getting on him and blamed Maggie, our dog, after he’s fallen down. He also claimed once that Nathan pushed him, which is a pretty amazing feat for a baby reclined in a bouncy chair. (Maybe Cooper was trying to put socks on him. I don’t know).

Cooper also became potty trained this year, which was a big achievement for him. It didn’t start out well, however, when I received this e-mail from my wife early in the year:

For the sake of my sanity and the safety of your child, we are not potty training for a month. I've put everything pertaining to potty training away. There will be no talk of potty training for a month. Hopefully in a month he will be ready to try again. I don't think he is ready and it is turning into a power struggle. So if he tells you how he pooped and peed in his underwear and then 30 minutes later peed while hiding in the shower curtain, just try to change the subject.

OK, now on to Ryan, who is 6 years old. I can’t believe how fast he’s growing up. He really is very, very smart. Too smart, probably, because he’s figuring lots of things out, including how I’m not that smart. Certainly not as smart as Wall-e, the movie character who has become a yearlong obsession. Ryan also started kindergarten this year, and has really enjoyed it since the first day, when he was placed on the wrong bus and didn’t show up at the bus stop where his mom was waiting. Fortunately, the mix-up was corrected and Ryan made it home before an Amber Alert was issued.

Ryan is a very deep thinker, and he likes to try new things. One day, he wanted to try coconut milk. Why? Who knows? But after drinking some, he gave me this assessment: “It tastes like a flagpole.”

“Have you ever tasted a flagpole?” I asked.

Ryan said no. So then how do you know what a flagpole tastes like?

It just tastes like a flagpole, Ryan said.

Good enough.

Ryan also played on his first basketball team this season. Anyone watching him play for just a few minutes would notice two things:

1. He seems to enjoy playing.

2. He seems to be under the influence of cold medicine that includes the warning, “May cause extreme drowsiness, do not take while operating heavy machinery.”

Yes, Ryan’s focus wasn’t so good on the court. He followed behind the action, occasionally glancing at the scoreboard, mesmerized by the big glowing numbers. Then he would look down at the lines on the court and check out the wristband he was wearing. Sometimes it was like Ryan was part of a video trick that made everything around him move in fast motion while he stayed in slow.

But he had fun.

This is getting long, so I can’t really get into the details of other exciting moments including my wife breaking her wrist, Maggie chewing up -- and throwing up -- various plastic objects and how Cooper tells people that “Daddy’s hair is broken and he needs new hair.”

But overall, it was a very good year. I feel very blessed to have a great wife, three great kids, my health, a job and a car that reliably runs with a brake light that won’t turn off.

That’s it for my letter. Now I’ll just wait for the holiday letters to start arriving in my mailbox so I can read about everyone’s exceptional year. If you’d like to send me yours, feel free. I love good fiction.

Please note, however, that my policy is to stop whenever I see any of these phrases:

“He is a genius.”

“Simply phenomenal.”

“My new BMW with the three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel.”

To be on the list that is sent out when a new column in posted, e-mail Have a great week.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Black Friday Diary

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

I'm taking the day off, but for anyone planning to do some Christmas shopping tomorrow on "Black Friday," I decided to post my diary of the day from a couple years ago. I met lots of interesting people:

Tired, money-saving columnist for The Dallas Morning News

I never thought I would be a Black Friday doorbuster. Getting up before 5 a.m., battling for a parking spot, zipping through department stores for 50 percent off sweaters and a complimentary snow globe …

The early birds can have that. I’ll gladly be the sleeping rooster and pay full price later.

So what the heck am I doing in my car, heading toward the mall on the day after Thanksgiving? Being a dedicated humor columnist, that’s what. I’m determined to give all you sleepyheads, who would never sacrifice four hours of sleep for four bucks off a Chicken Dance Elmo, a feeling of the most frenzied shopping day of the year.

Also, Target has Candyland, Chutes and Ladders and Cootie for the rockin’ price of $3.88. My wife tells me these are on my 3-year-old son’s Christmas list, so maybe I can get a jump on shopping while I put together this diary:

6:05 a.m.
My wake-up call comes earlier than expected when I hear my 5-month old son crying upstairs. I’m awake, and some stores are already open, so I guess I should just get out of bed and get my day started.

I pull into a parking spot at my first destination, Super Target. In the spot next to me is a car with a back seat filled with two crock pots, a 20-inch pure flat TV/DVD combo and four poinsettias. Looks like an open invitation to a Johnny-No-Good burglar, or perhaps a father who has discovered all of the Candyland games are already gone.

I found the games in the back of Target, along with several thousand people trying to get down the same aisle. I’ve got Candyland in my hands, but I might have to use it as a weapon to get to a checkout line.

I’ve made it to my second destination, the Stonebriar Centre megamall in Frisco. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is playing over the speakers, but the sign says Santa won’t arrive until 9 a.m. The big guy gets to sleep in.

More than 100 people are lined up at Victoria’s Secret, which opens at 8 a.m. Among them is Tina Riner of McKinney, who lets me in on the secret: free supermodel totebags for the first 200 customers.

According to a sign in the front window, shoppers can also find “sexy gifts inside!” The sign seems unnecessary, considering it’s posted in front of leggy mannequins wearing red-and-black thong underwear and pink Santa hats.

Restoration Hardware is open, but apparently nobody has noticed. Or maybe bath fixtures are still not a hot Christmas item.

I see the first person running –- a true sign that the shopping pace is quickening. The man runs for about 100 feet, then slows to a walk to catch his breath, then runs again. It looks like Thanksgiving dinner has taken a toll on his shopping stamina.

The calm in the storm of shopping is the children’s play area, where I find Judy Dixon sitting next to a stroller and several bags of shopping loot. Dixon, who flew in from Las Vegas to spend the holidays with family in McKinney, is watching her three granddaughters while their parents shop.

“We’ve been up since 4 this morning and it’s been unbelievable, honey,” she tells me. “We went to Wal-Mart first, and there were some fights over plasma TVs.”

Hmm … maybe I need to check out a nearby Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, Dixon doesn’t have any boxing gloves to offer me.


People are standing in line to get free goodie bags from the Stonebriar Centre information counter. Two teenage boys open their bags and realize they’ve received coupons to Glamour Shots. They are actually excited. I wonder if Glamour Shots will feel the same way.

Santa has arrived, and immediately the line to see him is halfway to Timbuktu. But there’s good reason why. This Santa is as authentic as I’ve ever seen, from belly to beard. He’s even fanning himself, so maybe he really is from a much colder climate.
After getting the OK from Santa’s manager – yes, Santa has a manager – I get to interview the big guy before the stream of kids begins. It turns out that this Santa is the only one Stonebriar has ever hired, and I’m right about his authenticity. “I can’t go anywhere without kids coming up to hug me,” he says. “At Wal-Mart, going out to dinner, everywhere … I get recognized.”

After interviewing him, I ask for his name so I can quote him. But I add that he doesn’t have to give me his name if he doesn’t want to spoil the mystery. He says he doesn’t mind, then leans over to me, and says very deliberately.

“It’s Santa Claus.”

Hey, I’m a believer.

I have found the youth of America. They are packed into an American Eagle Outfitters store that is pounding rock music and attracting teenagers like ants to a half-eaten donut. One of the boys has piercings in his eyebrow and lip, putting a thought in my mind that proves I’m getting old: I would rather eat an ant-covered donut than do that to my face.

Bath & Body Works is filled with people spraying samples on each other, creating a perfumed smell so strong that I might cough up a bag of potpourri. I head for a sign that says “perfect gifts” and find Island Hot Spot warming body scrub with coconut extract and sugar. Sounds delicious.

I notice that there is a Starbucks on each level of the mall. It’s good to know that, if an acute caffeine deficiency should strike, I won’t pass out on an escalator trying to get a fix.

I’m walking into the final stop of my shopping day: Wal-Mart Supercenter. There are no fights, no scuffles, not even a shouting match. Everything seems downright civil throughout most of the store.

As people clear, I can see that Hurricane Consumer has hit Wal-Mart hard. Things have been pulled off the shelves and replaced in the wrong spots. A Desperate Housewives Dirty Laundry Game is next to a Sesame Street 2-in-1 Giggle Guitar. I assume that was not intended.

Walking to my car, I realize I’m being stalked for my parking spot. I briefly consider taking bids on the primo spot I lucked into, but then I decide that’s not the polite thing to do.

And who needs money? I’ve already saved four bucks on Candyland.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Thanksgiving disaster story

A couple of years ago, Yahoo! asked readers to tell Martha Stewart their worst Thanksgiving disaster. Allegedly, Stewart would be reading these -- and probably laughing at our ineptitude. There was one that I thought was particularly funny.

It was posted by Kathleen K. (I cleaned up the grammar a bit):

My worst Thanksgiving disaster just came last year at my daughter’s. I was taking the turkey out of the oven when, unbeknownst to me, some grease had fallen on the floor of the oven. This caused a ball of flames to shoot out and caught my hair on fire.

Wow! That would be a great story as is, but there’s more:

Everyone came running into the kitchen and my son in law, who was standing next to me at the time, starts hitting my head to put the flames out. Well my dear husband decides that a bowl of water would do the trick and proceeds to pour it all over me. I ran upstairs in tears and with the help of my daughters was reassured it would be OK. After 40 minutes later, Thanksgiving dinner was served and all had a great time. Even me with my singed hair smelling horrible.

And finally, mom passes a lesson on to her daughter (and perhaps a guilt trip):

This could have all been prevented if my daughter had used a roasting pan instead of these tin things that you throw away after using. These can be very dangerous when there’s as much grease that a turkey has.

I hope your Thanksgiving goes a little more smoothly.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Jet pack and the Royal Gorge sounds dicey

A daredevil hopes to propel himself across a southern Colorado canyon using a jet pack powered by hydrogen peroxide. Sounds pretty daring, but here's the really scary part:
Eric Scott tells the Rocky Mountain News he's never traveled as far as he wants to Monday - 457 meters.
This seems like a good way to try it. If you run out of power, you're only about 300 meters above the ground.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Texas Stadium auction ... pee like a Cowboy!

Are you a Dallas Cowboys fan?

Well, then you're in luck. Right now, you can find hundreds of items from the historic Texas Stadium up for bid at Bidspotter. Might any of these interest you?






I think I'm going to bid on a goalpost. But I have to check first with my homeowners association to see if I can put it in my backyard.

Flight attendant lands plane

Welcome aboard!

This is your captain speaking. I think I'm the captain, anyway. I'm have some trouble focusing right now, but please don't panic. ...
An Air Canada co-pilot having a mental breakdown had to be forcibly removed from the cockpit, restrained and sedated, and a stewardess with flying experience helped the pilot safely make an emergency landing, an Irish investigation concluded Wednesday.
Having a pilot forcibly removed from the cockpit? Wow, that's even more frightening than seeing passed-put pilots dragged down the aisles during a flight. Even if one of the pilots is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The flight attend landed the plane. Surely, you can't be serious.

End of the Yugo, the car that was barely a car

Remember the Yugo? From the 1987 commercial:

"I bought my Yugo because now I can afford a brand new car."

But could he afford the repairs? Soon after the Yugo hit American markets in 1986 for the price of $3,990, it started getting a bad reputation. From this story:
U.S. owners complained of frequent engine failures and transmission problems — with the manual gear sticks sometimes detaching and ending up in their drivers’ hands.
Wow. Switching gears and the gear shift pulls off into your hand. What a "pride of ownership" moment that would be.

Anyway, the last Yugo just rolled out of the factory. Yes, it was still in production all these years after it stopped selling in America. Apparently, it was much loved by others.

Maybe it's because those people have a very different view of the joy of driving. This is how one person described driving a Yugo:
“This is driving in its most natural form. You feel every bump, squeak and jolt, and one can enjoy the sweet smell of gasoline and exhaust fumes. No car can replace it.”
The sweet smell of gasoline and exhaust fumes. Maybe that scent is available in a Glade Plugin.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The first Thanksgiving had no cupcakes

Much is disputed about how the first Thanksgiving went down. Did the Pilgrims and Indians feast together? Did the Pilgrims provide food for the Indians? What was actually eaten?

Well, definitely not sliced turkey, cheese cubes, popcorn and juice. But that's what my son's kindergarten class was having today as part of their Thanksgiving feast. Maybe some cupcakes, too.

I know Ryan was really looking forward to dressing up in his costume (not sure if he is a Pilgrim or an Indian). But it would be interesting to see what he learns from his teachers about the history of Thanksgiving. If you want to learn about other not-so-truthful history lessons taught in classrooms, check out this book: Lies My Teacher Told Me.

Maybe it's better that we don't the food lineup of the original Thanksgiving. I don't think venison, wild fowl, nasaump—dried corn pounded and boiled into a thick porridge and mashed pumpkin would go over well with the kindergartners.

Acing your annual job evaluation

You walk into the boss's office and feel the first beads of sweat
on your forehead. You heart begins to race, your mouth gets dry, and you feel like an 8-year-old facing interrogation over a broken lamp.

It's the annual employee evaluation, a time for paranoia, sweaty palms and painful silences that stretch out longer than the director's cut of Apocalypse Now. But relax. These answers to common evaluation questions will help you get through it.

Q. Where do you see yourself in five years?

A. Taking on bigger challenges, expanding my role with the company and helping the company strengthen its position for the future.

(Strategically vague, it's the perfect answer to an evaluation question because it says nothing.)

Q. How do you feel you benefit the company?

A. I'm a team-oriented person who works hard and wants the company to improve.

(Important note: Never say you are willing to do "whatever it takes" to help the company improve. "Whatever it takes" would include working weekends.)

Q. In what ways do you think the company can improve?

A. By dedicating itself to improvement, nourishing an environment that allows for improvement and taking bold steps toward improvement.

(Exquisitely nonsensical. You might sound like a politician, but at
least you're playing it safe.)

If you're still worried about your evaluation, remember this: the boss isn't listening very closely, anyway. He or she is probably busy scheduling a meeting on how to have effective meetings.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pregnant Man is big news?

Did you watch Larry King's interview with the "pregnant man" last night. Or did you see when Barbara Walters interviewed him?

I didn't watch either because I think it's the dumbest story in the world. But I did see this great exchange from the transcript of the Larry King interview:
Larry King: Are you surprised at all of this attention, or did you expect it?

Pregnant man: Honestly, we are quite surprised. We naively thought that we were going to be able to get away with me giving birth without anyone knowing.
Honestly, you are a liar. You've got a book out right now. Of course you knew you would get the attention. You crave it.

I still don't get, however, why we give this "guy" so much attention. He's not a guy. Which is why it's completely unamazing when the headlines say, "Pregnant man expecting a second child."
Beatie was born a woman but underwent hormone therapy before he was legally declared a man. He had a mastectomy but kept his female reproductive organs when he underwent a sex change in the late 1990s.
So he's still has the woman parts, and yet somehow he is having a baby. It's amazing!

What's amazing is how so many TV networks find this story fascinating.

Friday, November 14, 2008

First Life, Second Life ... just get a life

I love modern technology and the Internet, but virtual worlds do not appeal to me. Maybe it would be fun for a while, but then you realize many of the other people who are playing it are like this:
A British woman is divorcing her husband after discovering his online alter-ego was having an affair with a virtual woman in the fantasy world of Second Life.

Amy Taylor, 28, said her three-year marriage to David Pollard, 40, came to an end when she twice walked in on him watching his online character, Dave Barmy, having sex with other virtual women.
And here's more insight into their relationship:
Taylor always had suspicions about Pollard's online loyalty. At one point she hired a virtual detective to test whether his avatar was cheating on her, after finding him at the computer watching his character having sex with a prostitute.
She hired a virtual detective?

Seriously, get a life. A real one, not a virtual one.

Another dangerous pest control strategy

First, the frightening logic of using a blow torch to get rid of spider webs near the roof of a house. Now another dangerous way to get rid of pests that resulted in injury:

Setting an ants nest on fire.

If I can find a story on someone trying to shoot cockroaches with a bow and arrow, I'll be sure to post it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Politics, Uncle Obama and a 3-year-old

My 3-year-old son Cooper saw a picture of the White House this morning and excitedly told me, "DAD! That's where Uncle Obama and John McCain live!"

I'm not related to Barack Obama as far as I know, but Cooper somehow has heard "Barack" as "uncle." I've told him it's Barack Obama, but he prefers to say "Uncle Obama." I hope the President-Elect doesn't mind.

Cooper certainly likes Obama. He told me that's who he was voting for. That negated the vote of my 6-year-old, Ryan, who got to "vote" in his kindergarten class. Ryan voted for John McCain because, after weighing the issues heavily, he decided that McCain looked a lot like his Sunday School teacher. Sadly, I've heard adults give weaker reasoning for voting for a candidate.

I told Cooper that George Bush still lives in the White House for a couple months until Obama moves in. Cooper then told me McCain will get to live there after "Uncle Obama."

"It will be his turn," Cooper said.

Cooper is all about fairness.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Terrell Owens' tips for kids

Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens gives his tips for kids. Note that No. 5 would also be good for a guy going to the batting cage.

Pain down below nets one million bucks

For a guy, how much does it hurt to get hit, um ... down there?

Well, the pain could be worth a million bucks.

A man in Florida went to a batting cage, and when the light went off on the machine and the pitches were supposed to be done, out came another one. And it traveled, at 60 mph, toward THERE.

He was hit and injured. Then came the lawsuit which resulted in $160,000 for medical expenses and $1 million for pain and suffering. Even though he didn't go to the doctor for a couple of days.

Lots of pain, but that's also lots of money. I wonder what the statute of limitations is on a lawsuit such as this. Back in high school, a basketball teammate threw an unbelievably bad pass at an unbelieveably bad time and it resulted in pain I would still describe as "unbelievable."

At least for a few minutes, anyway. Shouldn't that be good enough for a few thousand bucks?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Toyota's Saved by Zero annoying a nation

You know that "Saved by Zero" ad campaign that Toyota is running right now? If you don't, then you probably don't watch much TV. It's hard to miss the ad because it's in such heavy rotation.

Also, it's very annoying. Even to the lead singer of The Fixx, Cy Curnin, whose song "Saved by Zero" is used in the ad, with new singers adding to the cheese factor. Also, Curnin said that it's strange to hear the song used to sell cars.

From The Las Vegas Sun:
"The song was written from the point of view of the release you get when you have nothing left to lose. It clears your head of all fears and panics and illusions and you get back to the basics, which is a Buddhist mantra, which I practiced back then, and which I still do," he said. "The idea of the song is how great it is to get back to zero."
Well, the car dealers do have very little to lose these days because sales are down. The song would probably be most appropriate for General Motors, which is plunging "Like a Rock," its former ad campaign.

If you haven't seen the "Saved by Zero" ad, it's below. And here's The Fixx's version.

City councilman won't live this down

A man was allegedly drunk when he was subdued at a nightclub recently after urinating on attendees of a Grateful Dead tribute concert.

Nice. Even better, the man is a city councilman and director of a charter school. Here's an interesting part of the story:
A "source" told The Daily News that Lipski was "very drunk," and said it wasn't the first time he acted up at the nightspot.

"We've dealt with this man before," the source is quoted saying. "He's never peed on anybody, but he gets really belligerent and drunk."
I wonder if he ever used that as a campaign slogan. "I've never peed on anybody."

Friday, November 7, 2008

Burning cobwebs is not a good idea

Any house fire is a sad story. It's even more sad when the homeowner is absolutely, 100 percent not at fault. That is not the case in the following story:
A single-story home in Sargent was damaged by fire Wednesday morning after the homeowner accidentally set the fire while cleaning cobwebs from the eaves around the exterior of the residence with ...

A blow torch.

Come on, stop laughing and shaking your head. It might seem strange to aim flames toward your home, but those cobwebs can be very pesky. Sticky, too. So who wouldn't be tempted to incinerate the cobwebs instead of sticking a broom or stick up near the exterior of a house?

I actually feel really bad for these people because their home is going to need a lot of repair. Especially after next week, when someone tries to kill a fly on the wall with a spear gun.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Some people need a better way to celebrate

I can only imagine the pride Barack Obama felt as he addressed more than 200,000 people in Grant Park in Chicago late Tuesday night. It was a fabulous speech, as was John McCain's earlier in the night.

Yes, a proud moment for Obama and for the country. But since we are a country of both shining lights and complete idiots ...
West Sider Narada Thomas, 23, told police he shot a .22-caliber revolver in the air to “celebrate Obama becoming president." And 37-year-old Andre Murph, of Aurora, shot a 9mm into the ground several times in the 700 block of West 60th Place to express his joy.
They might need to express their joy in a jail cell.

Also, there was this:
Peer pressure seemed to get the better of 54-year-old Joseph Morgan, who allegedly was caught holding a .22-caliber gun in the air on his back porch in the 5700 block of South Lowe Avenue.

His excuse, according to prosecutors?

“Everybody else is shooting their guns, I figured, ‘Why not?’”
Why not? Think a little harder. Yes we can.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Humor Me: Dude, I'm getting old

This is a column I wrote a year ago for The Dallas Morning News when I turned 36. But now that I've turned 37, I still feel about the same.

Humor Me: Dude, I'm getting old


My phone conversations with my dad usually follow the same pattern. There's weather talk, followed by sports, politics, updates on the grandkids and, finally, an awkward silence that ends with, "Hold on, I think your mother wants to talk to you."

Yep, it's a pretty strict routine. But there is one wild card that my dad can play at any time:

"I'll tell you what Matt ... it's hell to get old."

I never know when that's coming. But I can generally count on it, because my dad's been telling me that since the days when I thought third-graders were the big kids.

Fortunately, my dad left the hell of getting old out of our conversation last week. Either out of courtesy, or quite possibly, forgetfulness, he didn't mention it on my birthday.

And, you know, I thought that was really nice. Because the pain of aging isn't something you want to hear when you're turning 30.

Which, uh was six years ago for me. I'm now 36.

But does that bother me?

Not at all. You know how a kid will say "I'm 5-and-three-quarters" because he doesn't want to be lumped in with the 5-and-one-quarters who still like Elmo and don't know how to tie their shoes?

Well that's me. I'm 36 years and one week. I'm proud of all of my age -- proud enough that I want to shout it from a rooftop. It's just that I can't get on the rooftop because my back is kind of sore, and my knees are getting creaky, and that charley horse in my leg is acting up, and my corns are killing me. Also, at my age, I shouldn't take the risk of falling down and breaking my hip.

See, I'm still young enough to kid around. And I really don't feel like I'm getting older. Make me 15 years younger for a day and I would feel a difference, but right now, I feel as though I can do all the things I did when I was 21. Other than date, because my wife forbids that.

I'm sure I'm naive about aging. I've probably gained weight in the last 15 years, and I've definitely lost hair. I might be a step slower, and not just when I have my two kids clinging to my leg. [Author note: I now have three kids. Nathan, I you have not been forgotten].

But the thing with aging is that it doesn't have the formal rites of passage that come with growing up.

As an adult, you don't take a first step, start kindergarten, hit puberty or hit a Taco Bell drive-thru speaker with the car you get on your Sweet 16. You just start seeing gray hairs, begin reading labels for fiber content and become a little obsessed with the price of gasoline.

Suddenly, just a few years after you were the world's hope for the future, you're part of the past. You're a sir or ma'am instead of a dude, bud or miss, and your demographic slides from Mountain Dew to Country Time Lemonade.

And then you get something like the "Healthy Lifestyles" packet of offers in your mailbox. I'm hoping it was a mistake, because here are some of the products selected especially for me:

-Walk-in bathtub to help "maintain my safety and independence."

-The Jitterbug cellphone, featuring large "simple yes and no buttons" and "no confusing icons."

-The Exerstrider: The World's #1 Fitness Walking Poles.

I also got a brochure that asked me, "Are You Dreaming of Retiring to Florida Soon?"

Actually, I am dreaming of retiring. But not to Florida, and not soon. My financial adviser tells me that outside of a lottery win or a financial strategy that involves a possible prison sentence, I need to keep working for some time.

And that's my plan. Because I'm hoping to live to a ripe old age, or at least old enough to attract stares by mowing my lawn while wearing Bermuda shorts, black dress socks and sandals.

Maybe then I'll start telling my kids how it's hell to get old. But for now, at age 36 and one week?

It's still OK, dude.

[Cake photo courtesy of Joey Gannon]

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Early election projections

From very unofficial polls and observations, our news team is able to make these early projections on the day of this historic election:

** At least one potential voter will see the line to vote and ditch it to save 25 percent on selected merchandise at Dillard's.

** Somewhere in America, a person will trot out a joke from 2000 that ends with the punchline, "It was a hanging chad!"

** A person will ask their employer for time off to vote and then take a long lunch.

** One potential voter will show up at a voting location without any identification or a voter registration card and then storm out when told he cannot vote. It will be the most entertaining part of the wait in line for the other voters.

** A PTA at an elementary school where voting takes place will raise more than $500 by selling baked goods beyond the election lines.

** Late in the evening, or perhaps tomorrow morning, Barack Obama or John McCain will concede victory to his opponent and then congratulate him before going home and cursing him repeatedly.

** Campaign signs will still clutter the sides of roads a week from now.

** Millions of Americans will breathe a sigh of relief that the election is over, allowing us to go back to our lives and focus on more important things, such as the continuing feud between Heidi and Lauren on MTV's "The Hills."

The healthier Twinkie

One of America's most iconic snack cakes, the Twinkie, is now available in a healthier version.

Well, not really healthier. Just smaller. But that won't stop its maker, Hostess, from trumpeting the 100-calorie Twinkie as an amazing breakthrough in snack-food technology. From the release:
Hostess is introducing a great tasting, portion controlled option of the snack cake that has been a part of our popular culture for generations -- the Twinkie. The brand that makes America's most iconic snack cakes is now offering 100 Calorie Pack "Twinkie Bites". Available nationwide, each Hostess 100 Calorie Pack of Twinkie Bites contains three moist and delicious mini Twinkie cakes filled with the brand's signature creme filling.
Given that a Twinkie is pretty much nothing but sugar, and perhaps some cut up Nerf balls, these new Twinkies must be seriously mini. But hey, it's still a Twinkie.

On a side note, nothing screams fun like "portion controlled option."

For more info:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Watch out Joaquin, Joe the Plumber sings, too

A lot of people were surprised when Joaquin Phoenix announced he is retiring from acting to pursue a music career. But can Phoenix, who was nominated for an Oscar in 2006 for his portrayal of singer Johnny Cash in "Walk the Line," really have a successful music career?

Why not? It appears that just about anyone has potential for the music biz. The latest example is Samuel Wurzelbacher -- better known as the everyman "Joe the Plumber" from the last Presidential debate -- is planning to record a country music album. According to this:
On Tuesday, Wurzelbacher joined country music artist and producer Aaron Tippin to form a new partnership that includes booking-management firm Bobby Roberts and publicity-management concern The Press Office to field the multiple media offers he’s received over the past few weeks.

Among the requests: a possible record deal with a major label, personal appearances and corporate sponsorships. A longtime country music fan, Wurzelbacher can sing and “knocks around on guitar” but is not an accomplished musician or songwriter, according to The Press Office’s Jim Della Croce.
I'm sure it will be fantastic.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Vanilla Ice is freezing my brain

A couple of days ago, I turned to a radio station and "Ice, Ice Baby" came on. My first thought was, "Wow, somebody would actually play that?"

But I admit that I didn't change the station until, as Vanilla "Robert Van Winkle" Ice suggested, I checked out the hook while the DJ revolved it. And then I remembered just how catchy that song was back in the early '90s. And if it comes back on the radio again, I might actually listen again. It's great nostalgia, even with lyrics as lame as "light up a stage and wax a chump like a candle."

Now the song is stuck in my head. Will it ever stop? Yo ... I don't know. But turn off the lights and I'll glow. Hearing the song also reminded me of the Vanilla Ice parody featuring Jim Carrey.

Too cold, too cold.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Humor Me: A life of trick-or-treating


A reader in Texas, picking out a set of vampire fangs while suffering from low-blood sugar, sends in this question:

“When is a person too old to trick or treat?”

For some reason, I get asked this every Halloween. Several times, actually, as I stand in front of people’s houses with my hand out, telling them I’d like something with chocolate AND peanuts.

OK, I’m kidding about that. But seriously, are you ever too old to trick or treat?

What’s important is that you’re young at heart -- and that you don’t mind if a wolfman mask highlights your receding hairline. You shouldn’t have to give up trick-or-treating simply because you’re taller than the people handing out the candy, or because you’re supposed to be “mature,” or because you need to get to sleep because your annual prostate exam is the next morning.

No, you shouldn’t have to give it up. But at some point, we all stop touring the neighborhood for freebies. At least legally.

When does that happen?

Well, it’s different for every person. But it usually comes after the four life stages of trick-or-treating:

1. Toddler to age 4

Everyone says you’re adorable, but you don’t know what that means. You have no idea why you’re dressed as a pumpkin, or a ghost, or -- if you’re my mother and want to scar a child for life -- as a ballerina boy. Getting candy from the neighbors is great, but it disappears from your treat bucket even when you don’t eat it. Daddy seems to eat a lot of candy as he guides you around the neighborhood.

2. Age 5 to 8

You realize your candy fantasy has come true. Every other night, you have to eat all of your spaghetti, and at least six green peas, to get a measly dish of Jell-O for dessert. On this night, you just say “trick or treat” and adults hand over enough candy to fill your pumpkin bucket. You spill the bucket at least once, cry for a moment, and then realize you are wasting precious time. When you get home, your parents say, “you can eat five candies before bed, and we’ll save the rest for later.” You put on your costume again the next day and ask, “How many days is it until Halloween?”

3. Age 9-13

You’re interested in your costume, but more interested in how much candy you can jam in your plastic bag, which has replaced the bulky, less-aerodynamic plastic pumpkin. You run from house to house, trip over a sprinkler head and break it, and nearly knock over a 3-year-old dressed as Dora the Explorer. Knowing your parents will limit your candy intake when you return home, you eat while collecting. You start to cross the street while unwrapping a candy bar, and a car screeches to a halt when the driver sees a chocolate-smeared Harry Potter in the headlights.

4. Age 14+

You don’t have time to find a costume because you have to call a friend who is pretty sure another friend said something bad about you – “for reals” -- and also because nobody understands you and your life is more dramatic than “Days of Our Lives.” So you just wear something black and put some stage blood on your face. You ditch the plastic bag for a pillow case, which allows for more storage, and try not to look up when saying “trick or treat.”

And then, with much reluctance, you give up trick-or-treating. I can’t remember when I gave it up, but I remember it was hard. For one thing, it meant admitting that it was time to grow up. But just as important, the candy pipeline ran dry.

Sure, now I can buy all the candy I want. (And instead of the small “fun size” versions, I can get regular candy bars, which I suggest calling “mind-blowing euphoria size”). But when I was a teenager, money was tight. Sometimes I had to choose between sugary goodness and Extra Strength Clearasil.

And for a kid, the sweet stuff is extremely addictive. I ate chocolate until my stomach hurt and tossed back Sweet Tarts even when I was sick of them. That’s why I don’t do drugs. If I could eat Pixy Stix until the dust came out of my nose, imagine what would happen if I tried anything stronger than NyQuil.

Yes, candy is hard to give up. And giving up childhood is even harder. So this Halloween, please make sure Stage 4 trick-or-treaters feel welcome. I’ll try to do the same, although I won’t be home for part of the night.

That’s because I have a Stage 1 and Stage 2 treater at home. I’ll need to follow them around, keep them on the sidewalk and tell them to say “trick or treat” when the door opens. And, of course, remind them to say “thank you” when they get the candy.

Especially if the candy has chocolate AND peanuts. That’s just as delicious when you’re a Stage 5 treater like me.

To be on the list that is sent out when a new column in posted, e-mail Have a great week.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Congratulations, but not on your spelling

A beautifully decorated cake can be a great way to say "congratulations."

Unless, of course, you spell it "cangrtalation."

This is truly amazing.

Source: Cake Wrecks.

Incredible pumpkin carvings

Next week I will perform a very basic pumpkin carving that my kids will think is great because they have very low expectations. If I can even get the eyes centered right and the facial features to be balanced, it will be a small miracle.

To make sure my kids aren't disappointed, I'll make sure they don't see these carvings from Villafane Studios.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Another reason to end Disney on Ice

Tough luck for hockey fans in Huntsville, Ala. Last night's hockey game between the Hunstsville Havoc and the Columbus Cottonmouths was canceled because of ice conditions.

Who is to blame?

Disney on Ice.
After this weekend's Disney on Ice show, the Von Braun Center staff was not able to prepare the ice for hockey and ensure the safety of the players, Havoc officials said.
Just too much fast-paced skating by Goofy, Mickey and the other Disney skaters. Maybe Pluto attempted too many triple toe loops.

Reached for comment about the situation, Mickey said, in an annoyingly high voice, "Heh, heh, Sorry," while placing his huge mouse hands in front of his face to create the international mascot sign for "Oh no!"

Fans were able to receive refunds for the tickets, which I'm sure were quite expensive for a game featuring a team named the "Cottonmouths."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Backyard cremation, and it gets weirder

The daughter and grandson of an 84-year-old Tehama County woman who apparently died in December have been arrested on suspicion of cashing her retirement and Social Security checks after they allegedly cremated her body on a makeshift barbecue behind their Edith Avenue home.

Yes, that qualifies as bizarre. But if you read more here, you'll discover other details such as how the daughter had made a necklace out of her mother's remains and this:
The culvert had been used by the family as a makeshift barbecue, he said, noting that the family had used it to cook their Thanksgiving turkey several weeks before Allmond's death.

It's not known if they used it after the alleged cremation.

"I hope not," Hosler said.

The Snuggie is a real product

This is not a Saturday Night Live commercial parody, it just looks like one. The Snuggie is a real product, and it gives you the freedom to stay warm while using your hands!

Also makes a great costume for anyone who wants to dress up as a monk for Halloween. I think my favorite part is when it says "similar products sell for up to sixty dollars."

So I guess there are similar products out there.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Humor Me: Where's the actual cat?


While walking my dogs around the neighborhood a while back, I saw a flyer for a lost cat. It looked like a typical flyer, looking for a typical cat with a typical name. I’ve changed the name to protect the innocent, but I’ll call the cat “Fluffy.”

I thought that Fluffy was part of a typical flyer. But as I looked closer, I noticed that under a huge photo of a cat, which I presumed to be Fluffy, were these words:


The disturbing flyer brought up a couple of questions:

1. How dumb does Fluffy’s owner think we are? OK, so there wasn’t a photo of Fluffy available when he/she/it skedaddled out the door. But did Fluffy’s pursuer need to include a generic photo of such an exotic animal? (I would think not, but just in case, I included a photo of a cat. But it's not the actual cat that is "not actual cat" in the flyer.)

Anyway, how many people in the cat-fancied Dallas area, let alone planet Earth, are not familiar with a cat?

Cat? What’s a cat? If you were talking about a Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat or maybe a Golden-rumped Lion Tamarin, well then maybe I would have an idea what to look for. But what is this “cat” you speak of?

On to the second question. But before I do that, I should point out that I do have a warm heart for people who lose their pets and for animals in general. I felt really bad a few years ago when I saw a flyer for "Lost Bird." What are the chances that pet was ever found?

On to question No. 2:

What if Fluffy is not really lost? What if Fluffy, lured by dreams beyond his/her/its owner’s front door, is intentionally avoiding capture?

Obviously a solo career is no more advisable for a cat than it was for Van Halen’s David Lee Roth. The odds are really against you out there, whether you’re a domesticated cat or a temperamental vocalist with teased hair and a spandex-heavy wardrobe. (OK, so Diamond Dave did have some success as a solo artist. Maybe a domesticated cat's chances of survival should be compared to Roth's national radio show, which I believe lasted about three minutes.)

I guess Fluffy’s owners do deserve a little credit. They did go through the trouble of posting a flyer on the streetlight in front of my house, so that says something. But the lack of an actual photo of Fluffy says something, too. Most important, maybe it said something to Fluffy about his/her/its place in the world.

So thinking from a cat’s perspective, which is one of the myriad skills I learned during my years of journalism training, I can see at least one reason why Fluffy might have made a break for it:

OK, so I’m not the most photogenic cat in the world. And the time I spend cleaning myself, rubbing against legs and coughing up hairballs – well, those aren’t exactly Kodak moments. But after all of these years of chasing away mice, properly using the litter box and fighting my feline impulses to shred the drapes, couldn’t they have taken one dang photo of me? I mean, what if someone steals me? What if I get lost? Not one photo of me ever … I guess that means they won’t miss me when I’m gone.

That’s why I believe it’s possible that Fluffy is trying his/her/its paw at the single life. Just packed up the mouse toy, took a little catnip, and hit the streets.

But I hope that’s not the case. I hope someone found Fluffy or he/she/it decided to meander back home. I hope that there was a tremendous homecoming in which Fluffy was welcomed with open arms, cat toys and a new scratching post.

And I really hope someone took an ACTUAL picture of the celebration.

To be on the list that is sent out when a new column in posted, e-mail Have a great week.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

New Kids on the Block comeback

New Kids on the Block is/are making a comeback. How could this happen? Do people actually want to see this group nearly two decades after the NKOTB heyday?

Yes, apparently. Here is the first comment from a Dallas Morning News blog asking for New Kids' fans to share their memories of the boy band that either induced screams of excitement or terror years ago:

I understand now why people pay megabucks for concert ticks. I was too young at the time to see NKOTB, but I cried at the time when they came bcse my mom wouldn't take me and I had every poster, tee, cassette, and any thing else I could get. JOEY was always my fav and I thought we were meant to be together because we had the same b-day and year Dec 31 so I will definitely be any where in the arena just for a chance to gaze into his eyes and sing all of their songs back to them. I love you JOEY!! HANGIN TOUGH.

Watch out NKOTB. Could be a stalker. OMG!!!

Beware the football stadium handshake

During the fall, I usually write a column from a high school football game every Friday night. It's interesting to see how big football is here in Texas compared with my Arizona roots. Some of the high school stadiums seat close to 20,000 people, and when a stadium is full, it's a great atmosphere.

It's also an absolute germ-fest. One of the things I've noticed at most stadiums is that there is no soap in the bathrooms. I don't think it makes me a clean freak to be a little grossed out by this. Maybe providing soap is just too expensive for the school budgets, I don't know. Some stadiums have soap, but many, many do not.

I think it's a little gross, but it might not concern many people in the north of Britain.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My dog eats her vegetables

Our family dog Maggie, a combination of Welsh Corgi and several other breeds, is truly one of the most special dogs I've ever met. And by "special" I mean emotionally unstable.

Her idea of giving affection is to jam her head into your neck. Seriously. For a while, I thought maybe she was trying to crawl inside my mouth. Now I just think she's a little wacko. Lovable, but wacko. She's probably scarred from the time she spent in the pound before we adopted her almost 10 years ago.

Anyway, this blog post isn't about Maggie, it's about the dog bones we give her as a treat. The other night I was looking at the bag of Ol' Roy treats -- from Wal-Mart, nothing but the best for our dog! -- and noticed the five flavors it listed.

The flavors dogs love:

Beef (Yes)
Chicken (Yes)
Bacon (Yes)
Peanut Butter (Uh maybe ... Maggie does like a bite of PB&J once in a while)

And this:


What dog craves the flavor of vegetables?

Well, maybe Maggie does. She has never turned down any flavor of the treats.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Humor Me: The best gift for a kid is not this

I bought a gift for my 6-year-old son to take to a birthday party last week, and it reminded me of the worst birthday gift I ever presented to a friend. It was a gift my mother insisted would be a good one. Here's the story:

Humor Me: The best gift for a kid is not this

Standing on the patio waiting for my turn to pin the tail on the
donkey, my 8-year-old mind counted down to disaster. Each second
ticked louder as I waited for the humiliation bomb to explode and
doom me to a life inside my bedroom.

They would all laugh, that I knew. But would the events of the
birthday party get back to my school? I cringed at the thought of
such delicate information making its way into the hands of the
third grade's Powers That Be. The powers that had the ability to
turn molehills into mountains, cooties into a devastating social
disease and one kid's upset stomach into a nickname he would never
escape: Barfy.

It all happened so fast, the birthday-party reversal of fortune.
One moment I was looking forward to my friend Lance's party; the
next I was longing for an abandoned refrigerator I could climb
into. I became more nervous as the moment of my demise grew near.

As we started birthday games, I wondered whether the other
kids knew something was wrong. Sure, I looked cool. In fact, I felt
like the height of late '70s fashion. I had Op corduroy shorts on
and tube socks, probably the ones with the green stripes, pulled
up to my knees. But the ticking in my head grew louder.

"I hope you get some good stuff for your birthday," I said to
Lance. (Or at least something close to that.)

"And I hope you get something good from me, too. I really
don't know what I got you. My mom got it."

Playing dumb was my only hope. I had to lay the groundwork for more excuses to come. She got the gift when I was at school, I told Lance. I couldn't emphasize enough that I was not involved in the selection.

Anything electronic that made beeping noises would've been a great gift. Or how about a Star Wars action figure? Lance and I were a little beyond that age, but it still could pass without notice, without the uproarious laughter that was sure to come when Lance opened my gift.

For a moment, I thought that even something from the Barbie collection would be better than my offering. Then Lance's mother announced that it was time to open gifts.

Lance got a video game for his Atari 2600. He also got several electronic games that made lots of beeping noises. And then ... "This one is from Matt," Lance's mother said.

Ticktock. Boom.

"What is it?" Lance asked, pulling off the last bits of wrapping
paper. I shrugged my shoulders, playing the naive strategy into

"It's a pair of moccasin slippers," Lance's mom said, serving as the
opening bell to a four-alarm blaze of laughter.

The laughter started in the front of the room and quickly spread to
the back. It raged all around me. Where was an abandoned refrigerator when you needed it?

Seriously, moccasins as a birthday gift. But it wasn't just a pair of moccasins, it was a craft kit to make a pair of them. Isn't that what every 9-year-old boy wants for his birthday?

I guess my mom thought so, even though I pleaded with her for days to let me pick out a different gift. She insisted that it would make a great gift. Yeah, maybe for Lance's grandmother.

Fortunately, I survived with minimal scars. I also learned a good lesson that I remember each time one of my sons needs to get a birthday gift for a friend. It's very simple, really:

Any kind of toy, yes. Make-your-own-slippers kit, no.

And Lance, if you're reading this, I'm sorry about the lame gift of moccasins. And I'm even more sorry that your mother made you wear them.

To be on the list that is sent out when a new column in posted, e-mail Have a great week.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

NBC's lineup 30 years ago ... yeesh

NBC has been struggling to find hit shows the last few years. "30 Rock" and "The Office" get a lot of hype and are are actually very good, but they don't get great ratings.

But things had to be worse 30 years ago, when NBC was launching its fall season. The promo for it is below, and check out the new shows it was hyping:

Waverly Wonders
Grandpa Goes to Washington
Sword of Justice
Dick Clark's Live Wednesday
Who's Watching the Kids

Wow ... those turned out to be classics!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Incorrect hair dye, correct verdict

The economy is in the tank, your 401(k) is looking like a 401(KO'd) and more businesses are expected to layoff employees in the coming months.

But let's look at the bright side. At least your social life hasn't been ruined like that of one Connecticut woman, who suffered through the devastation of having her blonde hair dyed brunette.

She was so traumatized that she needed anti-depressants. Also, she says she suffered "headaches and anxiety, missed the attention that blondes receive and had to stay home and wear hats most of the time."

And because we are in America, this leads to the obvious question:

How much is she suing for?

Actually, I don't know the amount. But a judge nixed her coif complaint.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

10-year old drives, but at least he was sober

When a 10-year-old gets behind the wheel, you've got to expect that the car will be driven a little erratically. So when a 10-year-old was clocked doing 90 mph in Tennessee, that made it more frightening.

But hey, his parents were in the car with him. Maybe they were just trying to get a jump on his driving training. You know, so he'll be really ready to go when he gets his learner's permit in about five years.

Or maybe not. According to the story, the 10-year-old crashed the van after his dad had drank about 15 beers. Also, when police in Tennessee arrived, "a woman was trying to swallow as many pills as she could."

Cap it all off with this:

The dad was wearing a T-shirt that said "Buy this dad a beer." Looking at the mug shot, yeah ... I can see him wearing that shirt.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Man saves dog from shark

This is one of the most amazing stories you'll read about: A dog is recovering after its owner dove in to save his pet from a shark.
Greg LeNoir said he took his 14-pound rat terrier Jake for a daily swim at a marina last Friday. The five-foot shark suddenly surfaced and grabbed nearly the entire dog in its mouth.

LeNoir said he yelled, then balled up his fists and dove headfirst into the water off a pier. He hit the shark in the back and the creature finally let go of the dog.
The result: Man and dog are safe and recovering. The owner said Jake (here's a photo of him) doesn't like swimming pools, but they'll have to find another place for him to swim.

After getting attacked by a shark, I think Jake might reconsider the charm of swimming in a pool.

Maybe these women need a federal bailout

This just in for about the fifth straight day: The bailout is about to pass or fail.

That's still the top story in the nation, overshadowing stories such as this:
A Florida teenager claims he was attacked and robbed by four topless blonde women on his way to work.
Olmer Morales, 18, told police the attack happened as he rode his bike to work. They stole $100, according to the police report. Maybe the women actually considered it a tip for a very unusual exotic dance.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bizarre spa treatments

The economy is struggling and people are trying to save money. That could mean that your planned trip to the fancy resort is off this year. You're probably a little bummed about that, but hey, at least you won't be wasting your money on these spa services:

Nightingale Excrement Facial
Bird droppings on your head might be a tragedy, but nightingale droppings on your face are a luxury. At least that’s how the Diamond Hawaii Resort and Spa in Maui feels. A cream with nightingale droppings is part of every facial there.

The Snake Massage
At a spa in Israel, you can have snakes placed on your back to slither away the aches in your muscles. Don’t worry, the spa says, the snakes are non-venomous. So it’s not creepy or anything.

Ear Candling
You might be surprised how many spas offer this service, in which a hollow candle is placed in a person’s ear and the top is lit. Why? Well, according to one of the spas, it improves mental clarity. Yeah, sure. And celebrities go to rehab centers to be treated for “exhaustion.”

The Buns Facial
Many spas now offer facials for all four of your cheeks. The exfoliation, cleansing, and microcurrent therapy promise to really get your rear in gear.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Apache music video

A friend of mine sent me the link to this video.

All I can say is wow. These guys were so very cool. Or they thought so. If you thought the first MTV videos were pretty low-budget, you'll be amazed by this:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The bravest squirrel ever

The bravest squirrel ever has made my front yard his home.

A couple of days ago while I was doing some yard work, I saw him climbing up and down our Oak tree and running around the front lawn, burying acorns in the yard. "Squirreling" them away I guess would be the best description.

At one point, he came within five feet of me, chewed on the outside of an acorn and then buried it in the grass. I needed to walk in his direction, but I didn't want to scare him, so I said, "Hello there." (Yes, I was talking to a squirrel, and no, I don't do drugs. If I did do drugs, he probably would've talked back.)

When the squirrel heard my voice, he got up on his hind legs into an alert position and swooshed his tail. But, although he was only a few feet away and was facing me, he actually looked off to the side a little. That's when I wondered if maybe he's a squirrel with impaired vision.

Whatever his situation, it was fun to watch the squirrel scurry around the grass with a bunch of nuts, bouncing from spot to spot to bury them. Each time he would dig down a little, push the nut down with his nose and then use his front paws to adjust the grass over it. As he did this, he looked around the lawn to check to see if anyone was spying on his hiding spot.

I won't tell, Mr. (or Ms.) Squirrel. And please, stay out of the street.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Duck duck goose touchdown celebration

Next time, maybe the football players can get some kids out of the stands to help after the touchdown:

Assault with a smelly weapon

If someone passes gas next to you, it's not just an annoyance. According to the police in South Charleston, West Virginia, it's battery.
When police were trying to get fingerprints, police say Cruz moved closer to the officer and passed gas on him. The investigating officer remarked in the criminal complaint that the odor was very strong.
But not strong enough to be considered assault with a deadly weapon. The officer is expected to fully recover.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Skimpy outfits get cheerleaders in trouble

We've got trouble in Moscow. Well, Moscow, Idaho, anyway. It seems that some people have deemed the cheerleading outfits too skimpy.
Less than a month into the football season, the Idaho Vandals are undergoing another makeover after spectators complained that cheerleaders' uniforms were flashing a little more than school spirit.
Sorry, no photos available. But the Idaho football team has been outscored 163-45 this season, so the fans need something to look at.

Also, the story says that the football team's uniforms have been changed because the school logo didn't look right on the seat of the pants. Who would've thought that would happen?

Here's the quote from another story:
Rob Spears, the school's athletic director, says nobody realized just how the logo placed in the center of the players' behinds would look before they tried their pants on.

Latawnya the horse says say no to drugs

There are many ways to warn kids about the dangers of drugs. One way that I don't recommend is to have them read this book:

Latawnya, the Naughty Horse, Learns to Say "No" to Drugs

I'm not sure why she's a naughty horse, but the book includes illustrations of horses drinking and smoking. It also spurred this funny user review on
On the surface, Sylvia S. Gibson's stirring account of equine tranche de vie is an eye-opening page-turner. When picked up for the fourth and fifth time, however, the story is far deeper than initially expected. These horses represent humanity, and they are smoking drugs. WE are smoking drugs. Gibson is a wordsmith, subconsciously compelling the reader to put oneself in Latawnya's hooves.

This brillant work is rated with 4 stars because the story is deceptively written for children, but it deals with heavy issues: horses smoking drugs, horses drinking alcohol, horses overdosing, and horses dying. Some of the illustrations are quite graphic as well, depicting most of the previously mentioned situations, as well as horse-to-horse kissing. It was wise for the artist to avoid images of horses hugging. Be warned if you have children under 18.

This should be required reading for mankind. Dig deep into this story.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Humor Me: Welcome to autumn in Texas


It's the first day of fall, the season of crisp mornings, nippy evenings and colorful leaves crunching beneath your feet. The long, hot summer is over, and the change of seasons can be felt in every chilly breeze in North Texas.

But close the refrigerator door, would you? Even the excitement of autumn's arrival isn't worth the chilling reality of a whopping energy bill. It's better to wait for Mother Nature's frosty breeze, which should arrive in Texas any minute now.

Or in a day or two. Or a week. Or perhaps by early October, a month in which the Dallas temperature once reached 106.

It's hard to complain about this year's September temperatures, but autumn's
arrival here is much different than in Minneapolis, Chicago or Denver, which had more than an inch of snowfall on this day back in 2000. That same day in North Texas, the temperature hit 96.

That's 10 degrees warmer than normal, but 86 won't send anyone
scurrying for the long johns. It's nothing like the 16-degree welcome to fall in Bondurant, Wyo.. a few years ago. Residents there are bracing for the hard freeze as North Texans welcome -- and on some days, plead for -- a soft breeze.

Residents of cold-weather capitals are pulling out rakes to clean up falling leaves, while in Texas, the crunching beneath our feet isn't from the colorful signs of autumn. It's just burnt grass, crispy from the sun.

In Massachusetts today, dogs, perhaps wearing sweaters, will chase squirrels
gathering acorns for the frigid months ahead. In North Texas, dogs will give up the chase when they trip over their panting tongues. Later in the day, a New Hampshire resident will begin thinking of her wardrobe in layers - the "wicking," "insulating" and "protection" layers that cold-weather warriors know well. Around here, insulating still refers to keeping the heat out of your home. Protection means sunblock and mosquito repellent.

Wicking? Well, it sounds a lot like wicker, as in a wicker chair on a patio. And today, the official first step in the march toward sad winter skies and happy holidays, some Texan will be lounging on a wicker chair, sipping iced tea while wearing Bermuda shorts, sandals and a Hawaiian shirt.

That's the start of fall in Texas. On autumn's inauguration, we're more likely to see sand volleyball games than sand trucks dealing with a wintry storm. We'll see barbecues smoking in back yards rather than chimneys puffing smoke. And while frost warnings are a possibility in colder parts of the country, the first-day-of-fall frost warning for North Texans goes something like this:

If you can't feel your fingers anymore, stop digging in the ice chest for the last beer.

Texas' most traditional sign of fall is football season, and that's obviously here. But it's not like in Chicago, where Bears fans -- hopefully, only the men -- are preparing to show their pride by ignoring frigid temperatures and painting their chests to cheer at the Bears' home field. Cowboys fans might also go shirtless, partly to show their spirit, partly because Texas Stadium has no air conditioning.

But while Texas doesn't have many of the traditional signs of fall, we can sense the season's arrival. We hear the home's AC unit click off occasionally. The lawn takes more than two weeks to go from manicured to knee-tickling. And the sun takes 10 minutes longer to bond melted lip balm to pennies on a car dashboard.

Texans also begin adapting to the changing conditions. For example, the 80-degree wind chills remind locals to bring a T-shirt or light coverup to throw on after getting out of the pool. You'll also see many North Texans sipping their frozen margaritas outside these days, taking advantage of the improving weather and escaping
the chilly temperatures found in many restaurants.

It's far less traditional than leaves changing colors and geese flying south, but it's not so bad to be nontraditional. The traditional winter, the one feared by those who cackled when the temperature hit 106 here this year, brings snow and ice in a seemingly endless cycle. A cycle that is just around the corner.

As for us, the long, hot summer is over. Autumn is here, and it's the season to celebrate, because the ice will soon be here.

Would you prefer cubed or crushed in your lemonade?

To be on the list that is sent out when a new column in posted, e-mail Have a great week.