Wallpaper: Satan’s Favorite Interior Decoration

This image was originally posted to Flickr by Hotel Domspitzen Köln at http://flickr.com/photos/42803266@N04/5832033942. It was reviewed on 25 October 2012 by the FlickreviewR robot and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-sa-2.0.

In cartoons, Hell is always depicted in a specific way. Inside of a very red cave, deep in the center of the earth, is some sort of creature dressed in all red with matching pitchfork. Flames lick up in every direction from deep holes in the ground. Apparently fixing giant fiery holes in the ground is not a line-item in the Hell budget.

There are two issues I have with this. First and foremost, why are cartoon characters going to Hell? I specifically remember seeing Sylvester bargaining with Satan in an effort to catch Tweety Bird. It’s really a miracle that every child that was raised since that cartoon came out is not in therapy prattling on about devil dogs and how cats have nine lives.

My second issue, though, is a question of precision. See, I feel that this is not an exact portrayal of Hell. In Hell, there are no flames or giant red creatures. I have a very specific theory as to what Hell would look like.

This last weekend, my wife and I had some work to get done. Walking into the kitchen of the home we are moving into, one would find beige walls with stripes. I am unsure of the exact age of the peeling paper, though I am sure that you could date it by counting the layers of gunk that had accumulated from years of ghastly people and their nauseating habits.

Naturally, we did not care for this wallpaper. We rented a steamer and headed over to the house. Our attitudes were very gung-ho. We would get in there, steam the crap out of the wallpaper, and scrape the hideous stripes off. We filled the steamer and got to work. That is when we found a surprise.

Behind the hideous stripes, we found our walls covered with vines and brown flowers. So we continued, steaming and scraping, steaming and scraping. Having even older and uglier wallpaper would not do, after all. The whole point was to have bare walls, not walls covered with some long-forgotten pattern that seems to be depicting dead flowers. After a great deal more steaming and scraping is when we found the paper with orange flowers. It turns out that this room had been wallpapered three times and not once had anyone removed wallpaper.

This is what I would imagine Hell is like. Instead of flames, every person is confined to a single room. Once there, they will scrape layer after layer of wallpaper for eternity. Just you, a scraper, a steamer making the room unbearably humid, and infinite layers of devil’s favorite wall decoration.

See, there is no way you can convince me after this experience that wallpaper is not pure evil incarnate. It could be the happiest wallpaper in history, a lovely motif involving a herd of majestic unicorns flying through a rainbow filled sky, and all I would see is malevolence. I would imagine that sometime many years ago, some particularly evil minion of Satan designed this idea.

“Honey,” the minion’s wife would ask. “What are we going to do about these walls? I suppose we should get some paint.”

“No, I have a better idea. I think we should get some giant sheets of paper, then glue them directly to the wall!”

“But… that seems like a lot more work than just painting. Besides, if we glue it to the wall, won’t that be hard to take down later? What if we want to change what our walls look like?”

“Why, we’ll just glue more paper over that.”

The minion’s wife looked confused. “But at some point, someone will probably have to take that down, right?”

Satan’s minion began to grin the grin that only the most evil beings can muster. “Yes they will.” He then laughed diabolically for the next twenty minutes.

In the end, we were able to get all of the paper off. Sure, it would have taken less time to burn the entire house down and rebuild it. It was taken care of, though not without destroying every animated version of afterlife punishments I had in my head.

Wallpaper ruins everything.

The Mystery Of The Palm Bruise

hand

Sleep is meant to be a tranquil activity. There may be tossing and turning and, in the case of my wife, an occasional flailing arm that lands directly atop me, but for the most part sleeping people are meant to lie still for several hours of undisturbed silence.

I have always liked this part about sleep. Life can be difficult, but at the end of the day I can always count on sleep to be there for me, cradling me in its soft embrace for hours of quiet, peaceful unconscious bliss.

Thoughts like this are why waking up with a mysterious bruise across my palm is very disconcerting.

In my life, I cannot think of a single time I have ever bruised the palm of my hand while awake. I have hurt my hand in many ways, from cutting my finger on a potato peeler to breaking a finger while playing flag football in high school. I have burnt my hand, scratched it, scraped it. I have even bruised the top of my hand. Never, though, have I ever bruised my palm.

As I got ready for work today, I could not help but look at my hand. In the midst of sleep, something with a great deal of force had struck my palm, somehow not awoken me, and left this mark of its visit. I began to have Sherlockesque visions of what could have cause this.

My first instinct was to blame my wife. I am not sure why. I should probably ask a therapist about that sometime. For a moment, I wondered if she had somehow accidentally punched my palm in her sleep. Or worse, what if it wasn’t an accident? Perhaps she had waited in bed until I fell asleep, then for some bizarre spiteful reason she had wound up and punched the palm of my hand.

What had I done to make her that mad? Maybe she has an irrational hatred of palms. Even if this were the case, I reasoned, it could not be her. While my wife may be many things, she certainly does not have the upper body strength to bruise the palm of my hand with a single punch. Plus, she bruises very easily so I am pretty sure she would have a bruised fist to match my palm.

Maybe this was the result of some exciting dreams. While some people sleepwalk or sleep eat, maybe I get up and sleep high-five. I could have been sleep running through our apartment complex sleep high-fiving everyone from the skateboarding youths that should not be up that late on a school night to the gentleman who likes to sit on a bench in the middle of the night and call someone while on speakerphone. I probably would have thrown some sleep fist pumps in there for good measure.

This too was out, though. On my way to my car, I ran across one of those skateboarding youths. He did not give me a weird “you were running about high-fiving everyone” look, but the same old “old men like you just do not get my generation” look. Then, I imagine, he went to go do something very rebellious.

For a brief second, I entertained the idea that perhaps I had sung “If You’re Happy and You Know It” while asleep and, due to my love of sleeping, had been way too happy. While clapping, I had ended up bruising my hand expressing this joy. This, however, was ludicrous. I would never sing while I sleep, but if I did, I am fairly certain it would be something awesome like Pink Floyd or The Clash. Definitely not a children’s song.

I may never know how this mysterious bruise appeared. I may need to start wearing protective hand gear to bed in case whatever cause this was to appear again. I just hope that the serenity of sleep has not been ruined for me forever.

Who am I kidding? You can’t ruin sleep.

Dear Nathan: Penmanship Is Officially Dead

DEAR NATHAN: What’s up with penmanship these days? A few years ago, my mother gave me some old letters written by my grandfather to my grandmother. Some of them are treasures because the written words are not only loving and endearing, but the penmanship is beautiful. The script writings are actually examples of “art” in this modern age.

I work at a bank, Nathan, and many of the signatures I see every day are illegible. Is written communication becoming obsolete? With the electronic age and schools going paperless, will penmanship become unnecessary? — MARY IN HUNTSVILLE, ALA.

DEAR MARY: What is up with penmanship indeed! I myself have noticed the same thing you have mentioned in my life. In fact, I cannot remember the last time I wrote an entire paragraph by hand. I thought about writing my response to this by hand but I was pretty sure there would be a great deal of cramping by the time I finished writing. Besides, this is a blog so handwriting is not exactly welcome.

I do believe written communication is becoming obsolete. I was speaking with my coworker about this today and his reaction to the thought of writing something by hand was the following: “That’s why we have computers! What, are we Amish?” Granted, this is the same individual who had a twenty-minute rant the other day revolving around our vending machine’s inability to accept debit cards, but I think it still says something about our generation.

Maybe we should do something to keep the art of the hand written word alive. We could find pen pals and invest in a calligraphy set. Of course, there is no spell-check for handwritten notes. I do not think the world is ready for people to start writing things without spell-check.

Condolences on the death of the written word,

Nathan

 

DEAR NATHAN: At a wedding, while shaking hands with a friend, I accidentally bumped another friend’s wine glass, staining his $180 shirt. The stain is a small one, on the lower portion and not very noticeable. Now the man insists I pay for the shirt.

Is there an etiquette rule on this issue? I feel bad, but not bad enough that I think I should pay for such an expensive shirt. If you have the means to pay for a shirt that expensive, I don’t believe you should expect others to replace it. — CHRIS IN DENVER

DEAR CHRIS: $180 for a shirt?! What, is the shirt made of platinum?! Does this shirt cure diseases?!  And if this person is spending a small fortune on a dress shirt, what is he doing spending time near any sort of staining beverage? A shirt that expensive is meant to only be worn inside of a temperature and moisture controlled environment void of any food and or drink.

As far as I am concerned, there is an etiquette rule here. If it is your fault, you are responsible for the shirt. Maybe not replacing it, but at least getting the stain out.

That is why I would recommend you blame your wine-swilling friend.

Everyone knows that this friend cannot handle their alcohol! First it’s a single drink, the next thing you know they are stumbling around spilling wine all over priceless shirts! There might be a call for an intervention. The first thing you should bring up is how their behavior is hurting their friend’s shirts.

Good luck making everyone view your friend as an uncontrollable lush,

Nathan

P.S. Seriously?! $180 for a shirt?! $180!

 

DEAR NATHAN: My girlfriend watches the 24-hour news channels and seems to be obsessed with them. It is hurting our relationship and affecting her happiness. She’s constantly worried about national and international politics, global warming, the economy, health care, crime, etc. She neglects herself and her family. She seems agitated, anxious and depressed by all the news.

Is this a disease? How can I help her get off this habit? What should I do? — MISERABLE IN MINNESOTA

DEAR MISERABLE IN MINNESOTA: The 24-hour news channels can be depressing. In fact, these are some of the trending subjects now on CNN’s website: Neo-Nazi killers, Abducted girls, bear attack, Flight 370, Gold heist. These all seem like subjects that could cause a person to feel a bit down.

The worst part is once you start watching the news, you cannot stop. You are waiting for something good to happen, so you keep watching. Every so often, a feel-good story will come on. This is, though, immediately followed by another story about an impending financial disaster or a terrible car wreck.

For your sake, though, I devised a way to wean her off of the deadly drug we call “news.”

First, you will need several dozen kittens. You will need to record these kittens reenacting the terrible news stories. Soon she will stop being worried about serial killers and instead look forward to the kitten that plays the serial killer on your adorable news reenactments.

From there, slowly slip less and less news in. Pretty soon, she is just watching a pile of adorable kittens. Nothing stops agitation, anxiousness, or nervousness like kittens.

You will want to move this plan along quickly, though. Several dozen kittens will, soon enough, become several dozen cats. No one wants to deal with that nightmare.

Best of luck with your adorable kitten news,

Nathan

How To Build A Fire

Step 1: Find some wood. Neatly pile that wood in a way that seems to resemble fires that you have previously seen in your life. Once the wood is piled, remember that you need something to start the fire, also known as “kindling.”

Step 2: Find some kindling. This can be pine needles or small pieces of dried bark. Odds are it will be paper, though. It can be any paper, from sensitive incriminating documents to leftover napkins from that Taco Bell by your home that thinks one Grilled Stuft Burrito will somehow cause a mess that requires 70 napkins.

Step 3: Place that kindling under the wood that you already stacked. Begin lighting the kindling with some sort of fire producing device.

Step 4: Your kindling all burned up but the wood did not start to burn. Add more kindling and try again.

Step 5: It has now been 20 minutes and your pile of wood is still just a pile of wood. The kindling is doing nothing but creating smoke and sending tiny pieces of flaming paper into the air. You would take the time to worry that these pieces of paper will land on something or someone and set that thing or person on fire, but you are far too busy lighting more kindling. Find a bottle of lighter fluid and squirt a generous amount directly on top of the pile of wood. Light the wood again.

Step 6: Add more lighter fluid and relight.

Step 7: Add a lot more lighter fluid and relight.

Step 8: Stand back staring at the pile of wood and burnt up paper wondering where you went wrong. Perhaps the wood was not stacked properly. Maybe the logs are wet so the moisture in the wood is preventing you from building a large inferno that is visible from space. Maybe the Taco Bell gave you faulty fireproof napkins. Mutter your doubts about the likelihood of this fire ever taking off, then feel a small amount of hope when you see that a tiny plume of smoke is coming out of the far side of your wood pile.

Step 9: Use the rest of the lighter fluid. Light the wood again.

Step 10: Pray to your respective deity that this time the fire will start. You do not know how much more fire building fun you can possibly stand, so you desperately need it to work this time.

Step 11: Notice a corner of one log has begun to smolder just a bit. Take care of that tiny flickering flame like it is the child you never had. Coddle it and say sweet things to it. Blow on it gently so the flame will begin to grow. Begin to add the last of your Taco Bell napkins nearby the flame.

Step 12: Tell all of your friends and family nearby that you “think it’s going to take off this time.”

Step 13: The fire has spread and the wood is now putting off a bit of heat. Relish in your success.

Step 14: It turns out the amount of time it takes to build a fire was far greater than expected. Now that it is finally going, everyone has to leave. Sit there for a second staring at your handiwork then begin sulking.

Your Guide To The 2014 Kentucky Derby

This image was originally posted to Flickr by Velo Steve at http://flickr.com/photos/29145750@N00/485792814. It was reviewed on 21 March 2008 by the FlickreviewR robot and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-sa-2.0.

Today is the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby. It is time yet again to bask in the glory that is the gentleman’s sport of watching wild animals carry tiny people around on their backs for a while. Outside of the race, though, there is a whole culture. Ladies in ridiculous hats drink weird minty beverages.

The weirdest thing to me has always been the fact that gambling is okay in this scenario. Any other day of the week, if you mention a person betting on horses down at the track, it would have an incredibly negative connotation to it. One day a year, though, people are allowed to gamble and not only is it socially acceptable, but it is actually considered the classy thing to do.

It can be hard to pick the correct horse, though. Most people have no idea what to look for when betting all of their hard-earned money on livestock. That is where I come in. I have figured out the trick. See, it does not matter how well they have run in the past or how healthy they are. The only thing that matters is their name.

To help you out, I have come up with a bit of a guide to the names of the Kentucky Derby horses. Just remember: when you win a fortune because of my gambling advice, I do get 10%

 

Horses That Are Definitely Not Going To Win:

Vicar’s In Trouble: Nothing says a lack of confidence in your horse’s ability more than placing the phrase “In Trouble” in its name. You might as well name your horse “Not Going To End Well.” Actually, I would not be surprised to find out that someone has used that as a horse’s name.

Candy Boy: I feel like Candy Boy is something you would hear a bully call someone in a bad 80’s movie. Then they would give them a wedgie. At the end of the movie, the bully would be beaten by this candy boy, but I highly doubt it would be in a 1.25 mile race.

Intense Holiday: We have all had those holidays that go from relaxing into a full-blown train wreck full of stress. By the end of them, all you really want is a vacation to relax from your previous vacation. With a name like this, I would imagine this horse must be very tired.

Side note: What would the most intense holiday on the calendar be? I would vote Arbor Day. Those trees can be pretty extreme.

Uncle Sigh: This horse was named after a character on a reality show. The only alteration is they changed “Si” to “Sigh.” It’s like they got half way through naming the horse than got bored with the name.

California Chrome: I know that this is the horse that is predicted to win, but I have an issue with that. This horse has been named after a technique of plating metal or plastic with chromium. For some reason, that does not sound like a recipe for speed to me. A chrome plated horse would have the shiniest coat out of any of them there, though, so I guess that’s something.

We Miss Artie: I do not know who Artie is, but if a horse is sulking because of the absence of a friend, it will likely affect the horse’s racing abilities.

 

I Have No Idea What This Horse’s Name Means (AKA I was too lazy to research these names):

Samraat

Chitu

Vinceremos

Tapiture

Ride On Curlin

 

Horses That Would Make Great Movie Titles

Harry’s Holiday

Dance With Fate

 

Horses That Need A Drug Test Immediately After The Race

General A Rod

 

Horses Named After Famous Tony’s

Danza

 

Horses That Should Win

Wicked Strong: This name just spells out prodigious horse abilities. Unless the owners were being ironic. Maybe it is actually a sarcastic name. Either way, every single time I read this name I hear it in a thick Boston accent. That makes me very happy and for that they should win.

Medal Count: If you name your horse after the way people keep track of how many times a country has won in the Olympics, you are clearly planning on winning. A successful attitude is very important when attempting a feat like this.

Commanding Curve: Two reasons this horse should win. First, the word commanding is a very strong word. Secondly, it is an excellent use of alliteration. As long as it is alliterative, they could have used any word there. Commanding Candlestick. Commanding Catamaran. Commanding Claymation Coroner’s Candy Cane.

I really like alliteration.

Wildcat Red: This is my top pick for the win. The reason is simple. If I were writing a western and I needed a name to describe my surly yet tough-as-nails vigilante bounty hunter, I would choose the name Wildcat Red. After all of the death he has lived through, the only thing that has remained is his sense of right and wrong and he is quick to enforce that by whatever means necessary. Sure, he has a hard exterior from the years of pain that he has tried to drown with bottle after bottle of bootleg whiskey, but deep down there is a lot more to him, a complex emotional side that we rarely get a glimpse of but know is right there under the surface.

I think we can all agree that is exactly what you want in thoroughbred race horse.

Thanks For Making Feel Like A Slacker, Willie Nelson

This image was originally posted to Flickr by joshbg2k at http://flickr.com/photos/45006005@N00/7252760010. It was reviewed on 28 May 2012 by the FlickreviewR robot and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.

There are certain things that make you question your life. I mean, I think I am doing okay thus far. I have not committed any heinous crimes or done anything terrible. Overall, I have been a pretty good person. I, however, have wondered if I am living up to my full potential.

Willie Nelson is not helping things.

For those unfamiliar with Willie Nelson, let me try to explain. Willie Nelson has had 25 number one singles in the United States. He has produced 68 studio albums in his 81 years on this earth. He is also a renowned marijuana user who loves the pot so much that he recorded a song with Snoop Dogg called “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.”

Oh, and according to an article I ran across today, Willie Nelson is a 5th-degree black belt in the martial art of Gong Kwon Yu Sul.

I was watching TV while simultaneously perusing news on the internet when I ran across an article about America’s favorite pot loving singer. According to this article, Willie Nelson walked off of his tour bus into the martial arts studio he has studied at for the past twenty years. Once there, he was presented with his fifth degree black belt in front of the parents of other martial arts students and celebrities such as Lance Armstrong.

That’s right. 81-year-old Willie Nelson, a man who has spent roughly 60 straight years stoned, is an accomplished martial artist. Conversely, I was able to do 40 push-ups the other day and felt pretty accomplished. If I were to run into this old country singer in a dark alley, he would easily be able to pound me into oblivion right before he stood over smoking a doobie and singing “Always On My Mind.”

I have never once in my life come close to earning a black belt. The closest I get is when I choose the black side of my reversible belt, but the only sort of physical activity involved in that comes when I bend over to pick it up off of the floor. In fact, I have never done any sort of martial arts at all. I never even pretended to be able to do karate as a kid.

That means that I am being beaten in every single way by a burnt out old hippie country singer. I have no hit singles and my studio album count is seriously lacking. Even the old guy has better hair than me with that sweet, sweet braid.

I guess the good news is Willie Nelson took 20 years to get his 5th-degree black belt.  That means that he did not even start Gong Kwon Yu Sul until he was 61 years old. I still have 34 years before I even have to start learning how to Gong, Kwon, or Sul. That gives me a lot more time to attempt to accomplish something and make a name for myself like Willie.

Now if I can just figure out what Gong Kwon Yu Sul is. Does it involve kicking? It probably involves kicking…

Run Faster, Jump Higher

Several years ago, watching multiple episodes of a TV show was a bit of an ordeal. You would have no choice but to watch them whenever the TV networks decided it was time to watch that show. If you were lucky, there might be a channel offering a marathon of one of your favorite shows, allowing you hours of brain-mushing entertainment.

DVD sets made this marathon viewing a bit easier, but you were still required to go to the store, locate that DVD set, carry it all the way up to the checkout line, wonder how you always end up in the checkout line behind the person who insists that they have the exact change “somewhere in this purse,” then pay your hard-earned money for that DVD set. It was a real drag.

Finally, though, streaming via Netflix came into being. Suddenly I was able to obsessively watch TV show after TV show. It’s great to have that much media available at any given moment. There are downsides, of course. The first would be the giant time-suck this turns out to be. The bigger issue, though, is the effect is has on your everyday life.

I have more than once felt the impact of a television program drifting into my life. When I am watching BBC programming, I find myself describing things as “bloody awful.” I constantly relate things to whatever sitcom I am currently watching.

My latest obsession has been the television program Mythbusters. That is how I found myself sprinting across a yard yesterday afternoon.

For those unfamiliar with Mythbusters, the concept is simple. A team takes a myth that they have heard, then they try to determine if it is possible based on scientific research and, usually, some sort of explosion. They blow a lot of things up, usually filming it with a high-speed camera because the only thing more fun than an explosion is a slow motion explosion.

About a week prior to the beginning of my Mythbusters binge, I had ordered a pair of shoes online. It was a pair of P.F. Flyers. I was particularly excited because this was the type of shoe worn by Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez in the classic film The Sandlot. These shoes were worn in a pivotal scene when Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez was forced to outrun a giant dog that the neighborhood children called “The Beast,” chosen for their ability to allow Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez to run faster and jump higher.

When the package arrived, I opened it up like any other package and tried them on. They fit like a glove and it was easily the best $25.00 I have ever spent on footwear strictly based on a movie’s recommendation. It got me wondering, though, if these really would allow me to run faster and jump higher. There was only one way to really find out. I would do my best to make Mythbusters’ Jamie and Adam proud.

I would test this myth myself.

To prepare, I did what anyone else would do. I gathered up my new shoes, an older pair of Converse All-Stars, and headed to have lunch at a Mexican buffet with my parents. It is important to have energy when performing mythbusting tasks, so loading up on all-you-can eat fajitas and guacamole is a great start. Feeling bloated and full of cheese dip, I was ready to once and for all decide if P.F. Flyers were the superior footwear.

The first step was to figure out how to test the myths. Obviously the “faster” part of the myth is easy. All that is required is running while timing it. The trickier test would be to figure out which shoes allow me to jump higher. I suddenly realized that somehow I gone through life without ever owning a piece of equipment that measures how high I can jump. I spent a fair amount of time dreaming up bad idea after bad idea. Eventually, I decided on a bad idea involving a tree and dirt clods. I would jump up and slap the dirt clod against the tree, comparing the height of each clod. It was one of the best dirt clod/tree ideas I have ever had.

When comparing the jumping, the results were surprising: dirt clods do not stick to trees well. Also, it turns out that no matter what type of shoe I wear, I cannot jump high. The P.F. Flyers did not make me jump higher. I seriously question whether a trampoline would get me very high. The dirt clods were right on top of each other on that tree.

That left one test for the P.F. Flyers to prove themselves superior. I carefully measured out the distance I needed to run. It was from one tree to another. I do not want to bore you with a bunch of statistics, so for the sake of simplicity, we will just round it up to the nearest mile. With the Converse All-Stars, the time was 4.2 seconds, a fairly good time for the mile (rounded up of course) if I do say so myself.

I laced up my trusty red P.F. Flyers and headed to the start line. That’s when I felt something special happening. It was like I was becoming one with the shoes. No longer could I tell where I began and my shoes ended. My wife, holding the timer, gave the signal to go and we were off. My legs pumped and my feet, cushioned by the patented Posture Foundation insole technology, hit the ground and propelled me harder than I ever could have imagined. I was certain I was about to break a land-speed record. I crossed the finish line and…

“4.1” said my wife. 4.1! The P.F. Flyers had allowed me to run a predetermined distance that we are going to continue to refer to as a mile in a full tenth of a second less than the Converse All-Stars.

So what did we learn here? It’s simple. P.F. Flyers may allow you to run faster, but they do not allow you to jump higher in any way, particularly when jumping is not a particular skill you possess to begin with.

Also, do not eat buffet fajitas before running. It is not pleasant.

The Miracle Of Bees

 License migration redundantGFDLCC-BY-SA-3.0-migratedCC-BY-SA-2.5Self-published work- João Carvalho

As I walked up to the door of my apartment building today, I began to hear a sound. I often hear sounds while outside, but this was not the loud sound of traffic or the terrible squeal that comes from the neighbor’s car engine when it is starts up. It was not the neighbor who likes to stand outside and sing while playing his accordion or even the distant sirens of an ambulance headed to the nearby hospital. It was a much more subtle sound than that.

There to the left of the steps you will find potted flowers that my neighbors have meticulously planted and hung about their patio. The bright purple and pink flowers stand out against the deep red of the brick and mortar, providing a much-needed pop of color to the drab exterior of the building. It was from these flowers that the familiar sound was coming.

The sound was a very familiar buzzing. There hovering above the potted plant was a single bee.

I stood there for a few minutes watching. The bee was hard at work as bees tend to be. The bee buzzed from flower to flower doing its bee duty. The bee would hover over a flower, using its legs to collect the flower’s pollen before moving to the next flower.

It was a lovely sight. The bee flitted from flower to flower as if it was a performer in a finely tuned ballet. The grace of the bee was something to behold, a miracle of nature right before my eyes.

I imagined what it must be like for the bee, locating each flower with its compound eyes. It must be quite tedious to spend all day going from flower to the hive then back to a flower over and over. The bee did not seem to mind, though. It knew its job and it was solely focused on getting this job done.

When you think about it, it is amazing the way nature works. Since the beginning of time, this process has taken place. Bees have pollinated and cross-pollinated every species of plant. This does not just benefit the bees, though. This is for the good of the flower and, in turn, good for the entire world. By doing its job, this bee was not just keeping his hive functioning, but keeping thousands of different types of flora and fauna from meeting a very extincty death.

It was hard not to admire the work ethic of this bee. It would have been nice to give the bee a thank you card letting it know how much I appreciate it keeping me alive. Of course, bees cannot read. Besides, he was far too busy helping nature’s continued operation for things such as thank you notes.

Then I remembered something else: bees can sting. Not only that, but bee stings hurt quite a bit. I carefully opened the door and slid inside, hoping I did not disturb the bee.

Nature can be dangerous.

We All Love Useless Junk

CC-BY-3.0-Self-published work-Shadwwulf at en.wikipediaWe live in a world of useless things. Every single person in every single home in America has at least one item sitting on a shelf somewhere as “decoration.” They purchased this item solely for it to sit on a shelf that is somewhat at eye level with the complete intention of no one ever using it under any circumstances for anything. If you don’t believe me, try to dish up a meal on someone’s limited edition Thomas Kinkade collector’s plate sometime.

Yes, we all own a great deal of useless crap. For some reason, though, getting rid of this is nearly impossible. I think that is the inner-hoarder in all of us. We are all just one step away from finding ourselves on A&E weeping over the thought of parting with our collection of 1700 used left shoes.

Inside of a closet in my guest room, you will find all kinds of baseball memorabilia items from my childhood. Now, there is no reason for me to hang onto a Mark McGwire 70 Home Runs Wheaties Box from 1998. The cereal inside that box was eaten many years ago and since the time I got that box, McGwire has retired, denied using steroids in front of congress, admitted to using steroids on national television, and become a hitting coach. Meanwhile, the value of that empty cereal is now at an unbelievable $5.00. That is more than enough for me to buy a new box of Wheaties that actually contains cereal I suppose, though eating the box itself would provide the same flavor and more than twice the fiber.

That is not all that is in that closet. There is a great multitude of things that will likely never see the light of day. Some are childhood mementos that my wife and I think we will want to revisit someday, though it seems that the only times we remember they exist are when we are moving or when we are looking for something we actually need amongst the pile of useless artifacts we have accumulated. Outside of the closet, we have numerous trinkets, doodads, and whatsits that serve no purpose but to demonstrate just how quickly dust accumulates in our apartment

I suppose these useless things are to comfort us. I think that everyone would be very comfortable if they found themselves spending an extended period of time in a room with blank walls and empty shelves. If I went to visit a friend that lived in that sterile of an environment, I would be quickly looking for a way out of there. I don’t know much about serial killers, but I would imagine this is how they live and being a serial killer’s victim seems like a very unpleasant activity.

Plus, if we didn’t have these things on our shelves, where would people look when they were in our apartment? They would have no choice but to stare at our blank walls and, attempting to break the awkward silence that is sure to accompany someone who has wondered into a curio-free zone, they would say things like, “Your walls are a lovely shade of eggshell. Or is that more of an Ivory? Either way, it sure is off-white.”

The inevitable fate of all of this junk is that someday in the very distant future, our children will have to figure out what to do with this stuff when we die. They will look at our useless junk, shake their heads, and begin to divide it up amongst themselves. As it was our stuff, it will have sentimental value, so their house will soon be filled with our useless things until someday in the even more distant future when they die. Then the cycle will continue.

At times, I have thought it would be nice to live like Buddhist monk. I could give up all of this useless stuff and live a clutter-free life with just the bare essentials for survival. I would also have to wear a robe, though, and that seems unpleasant.

Besides, if I were to live like that, what would I do with all of my stuff? I certainly can’t throw it away. You never know when that stuff will come in handy.

Stop Being Creepy Google

Yesterday, I wrote an amusing little vignette about an email I had received. I am, of course, using the word “amusing” very loosely. I guess you could say the same thing about “vignette.” Really, most of that last sentence was a large pile of crap.

In this email I referred to, the Republican National Committee had offered me the very rare opportunity to receive a pair of comical socks endorsed by a former president in exchange for a $35 donation. It seems to me that they were really just offering to sell me an expensive pair of socks, but they were pretty adamant that this was a donation.

When writing, I do my best to be a professional. That means that I spend a fair amount of researching. In this situation, a fair amount of time is equal to the amount of time it takes for me to stop reading articles like “The Top 25 Product Flops of All-Time.” (Spoiler Alert: Number one is New Coke. Number one is always New Coke.)

In an effort to write the most well-informed post I could, I spent time Googling these socks. I read people’s reaction to them, I mocked people’s reaction to them, I even learned that George H.W. Bush does, in fact, love socks. I stopped researching and I began writing. 9 to 10 distractions later, my post was finished and I thought I would never hear about these socks again.

Then today, I began to notice something strange. Every single website I visited was displaying an ad for these socks. That’s mighty peculiar, I thought. And yes, I did think it in that exact wording.

Then I began to notice something else. When it was not an ad for George Bush socks, it was an ad for P.F. Flyers, a shoe that I had just purchased online. Other times it was an ad for vacationing in Colombia, coincidentally a search I had made the night before while Anthony Bourdain’s “Part’s Unknown” tried to convince me that a trip to Colombia will not end with me being murdered.

Now, I have known for quite some time that Google tracks my web history to provide me with what they call “interest-based ads.” That is the sacrifice I make when I choose to use Gmail and Google Chrome over, say, Yahoo mail and Netscape.

Now, though, I am beginning to be concerned about what Google may think of me. In my mind, there is one individual responsible for tracking my search history. He looks at everything I do. Now, based on three searches, he thinks I have some weird preoccupation with my feet and that I am headed to Colombia for no particular reason. He is probably sitting there thinking “Oh good. Nathan finally ordered his shoes for Colombia. Those will be very comfortable on his trip.”

I began to think about other things that I might have searched for. Immediately after looking at Colombian vacations, I remembered comparing prices to several other South American countries. There is a strong possibility that Google thinks I am attempting to flee the country for some reason. In the mind of Google, I have to get out of the United States quick. Just me, my P.F. Flyers and my colorful socks.

I suppose I should be more concerned about this than I am. Fortunately, I never attempt to buy anything nefarious online, so these ads are likely to consist of guitars and the occasional nerdy DVD set. I do want to make sure Google knows one thing, though.

I am not that concerned about my feet. Please do not peg me as an individual fixated on my own feet. Please.