Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Double Fistful of Nope

So a few days ago one of my Twitter peeps tweeted this article about a Harvard professor exploring the Amazon who came face-to-mandibles with a Goliath birdeater, the world’s biggest spider, and like a fool, I clicked on it.


According to the article, the professor, Piotr Naskrecki, was taking a nighttime stroll through the jungles of Guyana, as you do, when he heard strange rustlings in the undergrowth that sounded like “a possum or a rat.” He turned on his flashlight – wait, what? He was wondering around in the jungle at night and waited until he heard strange rustlings in the undergrowth to turn on his flashlight? This is why I never got a PhD, you guys.

Anyhoo, the good doctor turned his flashlight on the beast, and in his own words, “I couldn’t quite understand what I was seeing.”

If you read that article I linked to above, you’ll already know that it describes the spider in question as “puppy-size.” It further informs us that this particular species of giant spider can weigh more than six ounces (170 grams), with a leg span of up to 12 inches (30 cm) and “a body the size of ‘a large fist.’” As if Ebola, climate change, serial killers, antibiotic resistance, the GOP, school shootings, and all the rest weren’t bad enough, I now have to live with the knowledge that there exists in the world “puppy-size” spiders. I mean, okay, Pomeranian puppies, but still. And my doctor wants to know why I can’t sleep at night.

Of course, Dr. Naskrecki doesn’t see it that way. Instead of shrieking like Ned Flanders and fleeing into the night, he says he “lung[ed] at the animal, excited about seeing one of these wonderful, almost mythical creatures in person.”

On his own blog, Dr. Naskrecki explains that the Goliath birdeater – which, naturally, does not eat birds – is capable of growing so large because of its low metabolic rate. The Goliath birdeater also has claws, which is why it makes so much noise while stalking its prey, earthworms, across the forest floor. The terrified spider attempted to defend itself against the intrepid explorer by emitting a warning hiss and releasing “a cloud of urticating hair” that irritated Dr. Naskrecki’s eyes for several days. It also tried to bite him, apparently, with its “enormous fangs, capable of puncturing a mouse’s skull,” which is the exact thing that I, personally, would be worried about.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Calm the F&*k Down About Ebola Already

I thought I wasn’t going to get a chance to blog about Ebola, because I was super busy a couple of weeks ago when that first Ebola patient, Thomas Eric Duncan (may he rest in peace) showed up in Dallas and everyone started flipping all of their shit at once. And I said to myself, “This is why I’m never going to succeed as a blogger, because whenever something happens, I’m always too busy to drop everything and go for the SEO.”

But not this time, because everyone’s still freaking out about Ebola. In the past couple of weeks I’ve read more than enough statuses, tweets, threads, and comment sections to make me finally relinquish the last shreds of my hope that someday humankind will evolve beyond foam-drooling idiocy. There are  plenty of things two-thirds of Americans really ought to be freaking out about right now, including but not limited to climate change, the still-broken healthcare system, Congress, prescription drug abuse, heroin addiction, getting shot tomorrow, getting shot today, and I could go on, but you get the picture. Whenever I hear or see someone ranting about how Ebola is going to destroy this country, I mentally replace the word “Ebola” with the words “immigrants from the Third World” and it all suddenly makes a lot more sense.

The hysteria has gotten so bad that even Fox News, a media outlet not know for its calm, balanced, and rational perspectives, has had to come out and provide a calm, balanced, and rational perspective. When Fox News is telling you to calm the fuck down about something, that’s when you know you need a lie-down.

Let’s take a minute to go over a few basic facts about this situation:

This is not the movie Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman. Just because the fictional Ebola-like virus in Outbreak became airborne and killed Kevin Spacey does not mean that the real Ebola virus in the real world will become airborne and kill Kevin Spacey, or you for that matter. Movies are not real. In fact, the whole reason the writers of Outbreak had to make the fictional Ebola-like virus airborne is because if they hadn’t, it would have been a very short film indeed.

But hand sanitizer sales would have spiked after its release.

Image credit: User Dailybragger from Wikimedia Commons

You’re not going to get Ebola from riding on the same bus, plane, or train as someone who has the virus, and probably not even in the same taxi. For the umpteenth time, you can’t get Ebola unless the person is showing symptoms, and even then you have to have direct contact with the blood, sweat, saliva, urine, feces, vomit, breast milk, semen, vaginal fluids, or other bodily fluids of the person showing symptoms. The Ebola virus can survive in body fluids for about two hours outside the human body, so you’re not likely to catch it from sitting in the same chair or seat as someone who has been symptomatic. I mean, if the sick person who sat in that chair before you was literally dying and you didn’t clean the chair before sitting in it, you know, you might. But they won’t be and just calm the fuck down.

You’re not going to catch Ebola from riding one of the commercial airplanes that carried the second Texas healthcare worker from Dallas to Cleveland and back. The planes have been sterilized. I’m sorry you live every day of your life in crippling fear, but I’m not going to sit here and nod enthusiastically while you rant about how this is reason 4,957 why you’ll NEVER GET ON A PLANE EVER EVER.

No, “all of Ohio” has not been “exposed to Ebola now.” Amber Vinson was not running around the state licking people. Calm the fuck down.

Also, before you share a link on Facebook claiming that SEVEN EBOLA PATIENTS have been diagnosed in YOUR MAJOR CITY, do actually read the article and check out the site to make sure it’s not a work of poorly-judged satire. You are the reason we can’t have nice things.

You’re not going to catch Ebola from casual contact with everyday objects, including riding the bus or using a public restroom. Even if you came into contact with contaminated body fluids, the virus would have to get into your body through an orifice or a cut – it’s not absorbed through the skin. You’re American, you have Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer on your person at all times, and you’ve never sat on a public toilet seat in your life. Don’t even try to pretend otherwise.

You’re not going to catch Ebola from using exercise equipment at the gym. A person who is showing Ebola symptoms is not going to be in the gym. They’re going to be in the hospital – because, unlike most of West Africa, the U.S. has lots and lots of hospitals. I think you’re having a First World problem wrapping your head around just how sick a virus can make you.

Ebola is not a conspiracy by the Obama administration to make America more like President Obama’s native Africa. Even if Obama were secretly born in Africa, which he wasn’t, most immigrants come to this country precisely because it is different from their native countries. Shocking, I know. For the record, Kenya is not one of the countries affected by the outbreak and is currently on the opposite side of the continent. Look at a fucking map.

And while we're on the subject, Africa is not a country.

The CDC is not misinformed about how Ebola spreads and they are not lying to the public because reasons. Why would they do that? So you can die already and stop bothering them? The government wants you alive so it can keep collecting your taxes, dumbass. You don’t know more about contagious diseases than the CDC. I know you think you do, but you don’t. You think you can cure cancer with coconut oil and that it’s a good idea to just go ahead and let your kid get polio, but what you haven’t realized is that when you buy into all these conspiracy theories, you’re doing just what the tin foil companies want you to do. The good folks at the CDC did not get their credentials from a 12-year-old who’s really good at Photoshop. Calm the fuck down.

Unless you have been contacted by a medical professional and told that you, personally, may have been exposed to Ebola, then you are really, really not going to die of Ebola. You are going to die eventually, of course, but not of this. You’ll probably die of heart disease. You know what contributes to heart disease? Stress. Hint, hint.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

So It Turns Out I Have a Black Thumb

Remember last year when I wrote a couple of enthusiastic blog posts about the vegetable garden I planted? And do you also remember how I just sort of never mentioned it again? Yeah, there was a reason for that. It turns out that either I can’t grow vegetables or I live on accursed soil. I would say that this is a Sign from the Universe that I’m not supposed to be here, if I were the sort of half-educated hippie who believes that the Universe is a sentient being both capable of and willing to communicate with me personally. I mean, honestly, if the Universe were going to tell me things, I think It would send me a postcard or something.

So all the things I planted last year promptly died or were eaten by rabbits. Well, that’s not entirely true, I got like five peas and two tomatoes. These tomatoes were the size of golf balls. It’s no wonder all those Jamestown settlers died.

When I lived with the ex, Toad Blowhard, we had a bunch of houseplants and I was really good at taking care of them and they thrived. I thought I had a bit of a green thumb. So I was shocked and appalled when all of my plants died. I guess maybe it was really Toad who had the green thumb and I was just the one who watered the plants and kept the cat out of them.

NO SMALL FEAT, I might add.

No, I don’t know what happened. One day all the stuff looked great, the next it was all shriveled up and brown and dead and shit. I didn’t take any pictures, because I don’t want to remember.

If I have one quality that I’m entirely too proud of in spite of the fact that it’s driving me right to my doom, it’s my inability to accept failure. I mean, my tenacity. So, this year, I bought a gas-powered tiller and planted vegetables again.

I managed to get about half a dozen small tomatoes before my tomato plants inexplicably shriveled up and died in a near-repeat of last year’s performance. I say near-repeat because the plants actually grew to a more-or-less normal size before they died for no reason, so that was encouraging. I would have gotten up to three normal-sized tomatoes off of them, but I forgot a dose of deer repellant so the deer ate them instead. I also managed to grow two whole servings of green beans and several small, misshapen and immature bell peppers that were supposed to be purple but had to be harvested while still green, on account of their weight caused the plants to fall over. Rabbits got the lettuce and cantaloupes. The carrots never sprouted. The cucumbers put up a hell of a fight, but ultimately produced nothing.

I also grew a sunflower:

But two days after I took that picture, the sunflower fell over and died.

Will I plant a vegetable garden again next year? You bet your ass I will. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Waste Not, Because I Will Flip the F*&k Out About It

If there’s one thing that bothers the crap out of me – and I’m sure we all know by now that there's more than one thing that bothers the crap out of me – it’s people being wasteful. I particularly hate it when people waste food. This, btw, is why I’m getting fat.

It’s not the starving children in China I’m worried about. China is actually experiencing a pretty alarming childhood obesity problem, second in severity only to our own. Hilariously, the People’s Liberation Army is now too fat to fit into its own tanks, according to the Wall Street Journal.

My mother never guilt-tripped me about the starving children in Africa, because I’d read Calvin & Hobbes and I would have offered to send them my leftovers in the mail. Instead, if I didn’t want to finish my food – which happened a lot, because my mother’s idea of cooking was opening two cans and lighting a cigarette – my mother would go along with it, but then the next time I got hungry she’d say, “I want you to go to your room and think about all that food you wasted the last time I fed you.” Then she’d refuse to feed me until she was satisfied that I’d thought hard enough about the terrible, terrible sin of wasting food.

It didn’t make her a better cook, but it gave me a complex. Now I can’t stand wasting food. I’ve been known to eat until I make myself sick rather than leave any food on my plate in a restaurant, and I will eat the same leftovers every day for a week and then freeze them so I can eat them for another week at a later date, if that’s what it takes not to waste them. I’ve recently started feeding my kitchen waste to the marmot that lives in the woods on my property, in a sort of compromise with my own neuroses. I’ve spoken with the marmot’s doctor and we’ve agreed that he could stand to put on some weight.

This is not the marmot, this is his sexy cousin.
Image by user Clayoquot on Wikipedia.

All of this is relevant because I like to have parties, and the people who come to these parties like to bring unreasonable amounts of food and booze. On one memorable occasion I asked people over to build a fire in the fire pit and make smores and ended up with six fucking bags of marshmallows. SIX. I fed a bunch of them to Fatty because he loves them and also he plays with them for like half an hour first, which I figure burns off enough calories to balance things out. That’s not animal abuse, right?

Other food items that have been brought over and left in my house include a gallon freaking tub of ice cream from Aldi’s, and more recently – last weekend, for my birthday party – one and a half cheesecakes, two-thirds of a tres leche cake, and two giant-sized bottles of wine plus one normal-sized bottle of wine. In my weaker moments, I wonder if my friends are trying to get me to eat myself to death.

Now you might say, “Why not just save the bottles of wine, irrationally irate blogger?” And I would, Gentle Reader, if not for the fact that my friends opened BOTH giant bottles of wine and drank a glass from each of them. For the past four days, I’ve been staring at these mostly-full bottles of wine in my kitchen and thinking to myself, “Why would you do that? Why not just open the one giant bottle of wine? Why let both of them go to waste?”


Naturally I’m not going to drink two giant bottles of wine by myself – I’m not an alcoholic, and I don’t even like wine – so they have gone off. I just tasted one to make sure. Luckily, it turns out you can freeze cheesecake, but I can’t personally eat two-thirds of a tres leche cake, because I’m already getting fat from all the other things I forced myself to eat. But I’m still struggling to come to terms with the fact that I’m just going to have to THROW OUT two-thirds of a cake and two liters of wine. THERE ARE SOBER CHILDREN IN AFRICA, FOR FUCK’S SAKE.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Wacky People I’ve Met: Tide Bottle Pee Man

I’ve traveled a lot – to 40 states and a dozen countries, to be exact – and in all that traveling, I’ve met lots of people. Lots and lots of people. Some of those people are nut jobs. I’m always telling my boring friends who stay at home stories about the nutty, nutty people I’ve met in my many travels. Then it occurred to me, when I was driving home from yoga class, that I should really be telling these stories to all of you! They’re probably wasted on my boring friends who no doubt see them as proof that they should never, ever go anywhere, ever. So for the first installment in my ongoing blog series, Wacky People I’ve Met, I’m going to tell you guys about the Tide Bottle Pee Man.

I met the Tide Bottle Pee Man in California in 2004. Can you guess where I met the Tide Bottle Pee Man? I’m sure none of you will be surprised to learn that it was Venice Beach.

To be honest, Tide Bottle Pee Man wasn’t the strangest person at Venice Beach, and he wasn’t even the strangest person I’ve ever met. I know lots of people even now who are probably crazier than Tide Bottle Pee Man. But Tide Bottle Pee Man sticks out in my memory because he peed in a Tide bottle.

Some background: I was traveling with my hippie boyfriend, the Redheaded Guitar Player (not to be confused with the Redheaded Banjo Player, a different hippie boyfriend who may or may not appear later on in the series), and when we met the Tide Bottle Pee Man, he was living out of a van on Venice Beach. I mean, he was basically doing the same thing we were doing, but with a much nicer van. The Redheaded Guitar Player’s van was a 1972 Dodge Something-or-Other held together with bubblegum, dreadlocks and duct tape. The Tide Bottle Pee Man’s van was a much newer model, and while it wasn’t as big or as well-appointed as the Redheaded Guitar Player’s, it had one thing the Redheaded Guitar Player’s van did not – a Tide bottle full of pee.

The Tide Bottle Pee Man was a totally normal-looking dude. His hair was a little long, but he cut it that way on purpose. He was clean shaven and wore normal clothes. If you’d met him in a bar or coffee shop or something you’d have never guessed that he lived in a van and peed in a Tide bottle. The only way we know was on account of him standing next to said van, pointing out said Tide bottle, and saying, “I live in this van and pee in this Tide bottle.”

“Why?” asked the Redheaded Guitar Player, who was just as baffled as I was.

“Well, because I see it, and I think, clean, you know?”

The Redheaded Guitar Player and I looked at each other. Neither one of us wanted to ask why he didn’t just pee outside, although we totally had that exact conversation the minute we were out of Tide Bottle Pee Man’s earshot. For the record, neither of us had any good ideas about why Tide Bottle Pee Man peed in a Tide bottle.

I guess he was concerned about his privacy, but I’m a woman, and I’d bare my snow-white ass and pee outside before keeping a bottle of urine in my van. It’s even easier for men to pee outside. I know this because they never shut up about it.

Tide Bottle Pee Man was lonely, too. “Yeah, you know, I just wanted to get this van, and enjoy this lifestyle, you know, man,” he said. “I had a girlfriend, but she didn’t want to live in the van with me. I don’t know why.”

“Women, man,” said the Redheaded Guitar Player, in solidarity. I didn’t say anything, but the Tide Bottle Pee Man looked wistfully out to sea like he really didn’t know why his ex-girlfriend didn’t want to live in a tiny van with a guy who pees in a Tide bottle. I just can't stop picturing her trying to wash their clothes.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Seeking a Professional Writer Who Is Also a Wizard

* The following is a PARODY of a Craigslist Writing Gigs job ad. THIS IS NOT A REAL JOB AD, DO NOT TRY TO APPLY TO IT. (You know who you are.) *

Hi there! We’re seeking an experienced, qualified, research-driven professional writer/blogger/editor who is an expert on a wide range of topics including shopping, fashion, travel, dentistry, underwater basket weaving and more. Ideally we’re looking for a writer/blogger/editor who is an expert in at least seventeen fields. If you have a Master’s degree or higher in one or more fields in addition to at least a BA in English, communications, journalism or a related field, that would be perfect.

Of course we realize that not everyone can be an expert in every field, so if you want to narrow your focus down to five or six fields, let us know.

We’re specifically looking for a writer who can develop 10 to 12 pages of original content per week in specific niches, while putting together a content development team of about 30 to 40 people and working with them to develop, edit, place and promote shareable blog content for our client base of several dozen businesses in a wide range of industries. You should also be able to source open-copyright images from the Web or, ideally, be a photographer.

Our perfect candidate also has experience in video development and production, although this is not required provided you are able to kidnap a film student (graduate level only) and hold them captive in our basement while compelling them to produce our YouTube videos for us. You will need to supply your own set of chef’s knives for this.

In addition you should also be adept in Javascript, C++ and HTML. If you’ve picked up any other programming languages along the way please let us know. We’re going to need you to do some light web design and app development from time to time, but nothing major. Please have experience building infographics and charts.

We need someone who can spearhead our social media marketing efforts, so we’re looking for a real social influencer who has really made a splash on social media. Please send links to all of your social media profiles for the past ten years, as well as your login information.

If you have any experience with witchcraft or magic that would be a big plus, but only if you can provide references who will verify that your spells and talismans actually work. Also, some of us here at the office are really getting into the local food movement, so if you could establish and singlehandedly nurture a rooftop garden capable of feeding all 20 of us and our families, that would awesome. Please give us an overview of your farming experience in your cover letter.

If you think you’d be a good fit for this position, please send a cover letter and resume along with:

  • Your areas of expertise
  • Links to your blogs, websites and published articles
  • A comprehensive portfolio showcasing your writing abilities
  • Links to your favorite websites and blogs
  • Any memories you may have of your first day of school
  • Your firstborn son, or if you’re childless or only have daughters, one of your feet

If you have any questions about the position, please don’t hesitate to ask. The chosen candidate will receive a competitive salary of $300 to $400 a month.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I Have a New Tenant

So, remember a couple of weeks ago when I mentioned that not cutting your grass attracts snakes? I wasn’t joking. About a month ago, after not cutting my grass for like a month because my lawnmower broke down and I had to take it into Sears for repairs (Long story short: the Sears guy had to remove a large rock from inside the mower. No, I don’t understand it either.), I string-trimmed a snake. Don’t worry, I didn’t kill it. I think I stunned it though, because it just sat there and looked at me like – well, like I’d just walked up and shoved the business end of a string trimmer in its face, because that is exactly what I had done.

I stood there and stared at it like an idiot because that’s what I do when I see a snake. It stared back, because that’s what snakes do when they see a human.

I told you that so I could tell you this: about a week ago, despite having mowed my lawn at some point within the previous month, probably closer to the beginning than to the end of that month, I found a big damn snake in my garage. I mean, this snake was at least three or four feet long, although when I tell people about it, it was naturally forty feet long. I could tell it wasn’t venomous because of the shape of its head and because I have seen rat snakes before.

I spotted it slithering around in the corner of my garage when I was getting out of my car. My first reaction was, of course, to get out my phone and snap several pictures of the snake to post to Facebook. Not a lot goes on around here, you see. When you ask me what I’ve been up to lately and I just get real quiet instead of responding, it’s because I don’t want to say, “Well, the other day I saw a big damn snake in my garage,” but it’s either that, or nothing.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a really good photo of the snake because several of my possessions were in the way, damn them, and I didn’t want to scare it by moving the wheelbarrow and everything.

It's the thing with the head.

Then I got worried that maybe I shouldn’t leave the snake in my garage, like maybe it would crawl up into my car somehow and surprise me while I’m driving, so I texted my friend to find out what I should do with the snake. He advised me to pick it up with a snow shovel and remove it from the garage. But by the time I could get out my show shovel, I couldn’t really get at the snake anymore, because it had crawled back into its hole and was doing this:

I know this photo is kinda fuzzy, but I didn't want to get too close to the big damn snake.

When the snake saw me coming with the snow shovel, it bared its fangs at me. I texted my friend, “It just yawned at me is that a threat” to which he replied, “It mocks you.”


So in the end I just stood there and stared at the snake for several minutes, and it stared at me back. Then I realized I was in a Mexican standoff with a snake, so I put my snow shovel away and went back in the house. I haven’t seen the snake since. But I know it's out there, somewhere, mocking me.