Getting tuna off the lunch menu is every kid’s dream

The typical school lunch … at least in the eyes of your child.

Kids today are lucky.

Their school cafeteria experience will never include Mrs. Kidzyak’s “creamed tuna surprise,” which is still sitting in the shape of an ice cream scoop somewhere in my digestive tract.

Thirty years from now, they won’t be getting up from the couch and suddenly burp tuna, peas and what I’m pretty sure was Elmer’s Glue. And they will never have to explain why they can’t go into a deli because of an irrational fear of anyone in a hair net. Continue reading

My greatest childhood fear? Being bitten by a radioactive moth

I still live in fear of being bitten by a lame radioactive insect, like the newly discovered “Poodle Moth.” (goggles are optional)

For most of us, there comes a time in our lives when we must face the truth, and accept the fact we will never actually possess any type of super-human powers. This includes the ability to fly, shoot laser beams out of our eyes, or look good in a skin-tight costume.

As a child, I spent countless hours thumbing through comic books and dreaming of the day I would be bitten by a radioactive insect — and knowing full well that, with my luck, it would probably be something stupid like a moth:

“Curses! It’s Moth Man, here to foil my evil plans! HOW CAN I STOP HIM? Hey — maybe I’ll try this porch light…”

In fact, I was so sure that I would end up as a lame super hero that, with the help of my friends, we came up with a plan to MAKE me into “Spider-man” before there was any chance of me being bitten by a radioactive moth, ear wig, silverfish or stink bug. Continue reading

New iPhone still no match for Nokia exploding cell phones

Being a journalist, I naturally received an advanced preview of the new iPhone5, which I was told came from a reputable dealer somewhere in Costa Rica.

Technology is great.

Except when it explodes in your pants.

I’ve never really liked cell phones to begin with. Now that they’ve started self-detonating, I like them even less. According to a news article sent in by Dan Collins of Alpharetta, Ga., Nokia has launched an investigation into why, once again, two of its cell phones burst into flames.

And yes, I said AGAIN.

As you might expect, demand for Nokia cell phones has dipped slightly as a result of these incidents. That’s because luxuries like instant text messaging, computer games and video imaging don’t mean much if your cell phone suddenly ignites into flames, turning your morning commute into a flaming lap dance and an appearance on The World’s Wildest Police Chases. Continue reading

Only REAL men can iron clothes at 3,000 feet

To prepare for the 2013 Extreme Ironing Championships, I have begun training at the Eugene Airport. My cardio and resting heart rate have improved dramatically thanks to my running partners at airport security!

I have reached the conclusion that most of the world’s ironing is now being done by men. I say this because it’s the only explanation I have for a sport called “extreme” ironing, which is actually being lobbied as an Olympic event by “ironing enthusiasts” — a phrase referred to in the Bible as a sign of the coming apocalypse.

“And four horsemen will come from the sky. And they will lay waste to the land, but not before having their robes pressed by ironing enthusiasts.”

It’s easy to understand how extreme ironing evolved if you keep in mind this simple truth about the male species:

Given enough time, any man performing a mundane task will find a way to hurt himself.

And if you can hurt yourself doing it, then it’s practically a sport already. Sure, bowling and golf may appear to be exceptions to this rule. But ask anyone who has ever jammed their finger in the ball return, or inadvertently left a tee in their back pocket, and they’ll tell you there is plenty of danger involved. Continue reading

If a man is attacked by his tent in the forest, should he make a sound?

Our family loves to go camping. In fact, we make sure to get out and pitch our tent — without fail — once a year.

Traditionally, this takes place during the busy Labor Day Weekend so that as many people as possible can witness a 46-year-old man being attacked by his own tent. In my defense, I have to say our tent is very large; especially when it is laying flat on the ground.

If I hadn’t lost the step-by-step instructions that came with it, I’m sure the assembly process would be a lot easier because, as a man, I could use them to, step-by-step, blame everything on having lousy instructions. What this means is that over the Labor Day Weekend my handiwork will again be mistaken for a hot air balloon that has crash-landed into our family’s camp site.

I bought this tent 20 years ago while living in Texas. As you know, everything is bigger there — including tents — which is why I tried to find the smallest model available. This turned out to be a tent called Quick Camp, which was a handy, two-compartment structure roughly the size of a jet hanger. Despite its size, the salesman assured me that the assembly process was very simple. He said that the entire thing could be erected in less than 20 minutes with a little planning.

And he was right.

As long as the plan includes staying out of the tent.

For some reason, it collapses on me every time I go inside. I’m not talking about an inconvenient buckling of the walls; this is more like an instantaneous implosion of water-resistant nylon that required the assistance of a search and rescue team:

“Listen up! Team ‘A’ will start at the west quadrant near the mosquito netting. Team ‘B’ will take the dogs and follow the perimeter until we can —”
Woof! Woof!
“Quick — over HERE! I think someone’s moving under this giant door flap!”

In spite of these experiences, I still feel it’s important for our family to go camping together. That’s because, as a parent, I know our kids really hate it. I mean, sure — it’s pretty exciting while Dad is flopping around under 200 yards of nylon. But once that’s over, and I’ve decided that we’re all going to sleep out under the stars LIKE REAL PIONEERS! they begin to realize that everything they know about civilization has been left behind.

And by “everything,” I mean cell phones and television. In the primitive world of camping there are no Smart Phones. No X-Boxes.

There is only dirt.

And time.

And if they’re lucky, enough fire to cook a marshmallow.

Eventually, as the shock of not having their devices wears off, children enter what I feel is the most important phase of their camping experience: Realizing that we, the parents, are the key to their survival. This epiphany starts the moment I pull out the old camp stove, give it a few pumps, then light the picnic table on fire. In that instant, the only thing that matters is reaching out together as a family and finding the nearest fire extinguisher.

So, during Labor Day Weekend, if you happen to be in the neighborhood, feel free to stop by our tent.

The rescue team could probably use your help.

(You can write to Ned Hickson at nhickson@thesiuslawnews.com, or at the Siuslaw News at P.O. Box 10, Florence, Ore., 97439.)

Save water by fixing that leaky light switch

The great thing about shows like Extreme Home Makeover is that they inspire ideas on how to improve your home. The bad news is that people like me then try to implement these ideas without the benefit of a trained professional. The result is our bathroom, which currently has a commode with hot running water and a wall heater that can only be turned on by unscrewing the third bulb in our vanity mirror.

I’d like to point out it wasn’t my idea to take what had been a simple plan to increase the space in our bathroom and turn it into a major remodel. However, after one teeny mistake, my family insisted on a total makeover — which brings us to our first home improvement tip: The Importance of Bearing Walls.

You will discover that there are certain walls in your home — possibly even in the bathroom — which should not be removed because, as it turns out, portions of your home will collapse. As important as “bearing walls” are to your home’s infrastructure, they aren’t marked as such and, as a general rule, look just like other walls in your home. Which is why anyone who accidentally removes one, thereby inadvertently causing the total destruction of an otherwise functional bathroom, should be forgiven for this oversight.

So, let’s assume the worst happens, and you find yourself standing in the middle of the downstairs bathroom while surrounded by the upstairs closet. And let’s assume your family, in a show of support, still hasn’t insisted on hiring a professional. Such as a hit man.

The next step is to rebuild the bathroom — and your family’s trust — as quickly as possible. To do this, you’ll need organization and a basic knowledge of plumbing and electricity. If you don’t possess this knowledge, don’t worry! You will quickly gain it through practical experience, i.e., connecting the wrong wires and practically electrocuting yourself. Through this process of trial and error you will eventually be able to flush the commode without causing the outlets to spark.

The first step, however, is to clear the area of debris. Depending on the extent of damage to your bathroom, you may be able to do this quickly and easily by shoveling the debris directly through the floor and depositing it under the house. If a hole doesn’t exist, feel free to make one. If your spouse catches you, feel free to crawl inside and seal it up behind you.

Once the room has been cleared, it’s time to rebuild. Start with the bearing wall. Aside from its structural significance, it will symbolize the emotional healing process you are trying to foster with your family — and help avoid the need for a physical healing process should the bathroom be out of commission for more than 24 hours.

Next comes plumbing and wiring, which, I’d like to point out, should never been done at the same time. Sure, it may be faster and easier to run new wiring through an existing water line. But take it from me: If your pet occasionally drinks out of the commode, it’s not worth the risk. The same goes for any other shortcuts that could turn your morning bathroom visit into what looks like an episode of So You Think You Can Dance.

That said, I hope this advice has been helpful. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I’ll be happy to answer them as soon as I fix this leak in the light switch.

(You can write to Ned Hickson at nhickson@thesiuslawnews.com, or visit his blog at nedhickson.wordpress.com)

Going on Safari? Always bring a chimp for back-up

We’re going on Safari! … uh, wait… No we’re not. Someone get the chimp from tech support!!

At this moment, someone at Apple is undoubtedly being rousted out of bed to address the fact that my Safari web browser suddenly crashed without warning.

This probably hasn’t happened to you. At least not since starting this paragraph. But it happens to me a lot, especially while reading the latest news on the presidential race, when I often find myself snoring face down on my keyboard.

But when I awake, there is a helpful pop-up window telling me my Safari application has unexpectedly quit, just in case I wasn’t aware of this, and was continuing to pound the space bar like a chimp trying to open a coconut.

I would never do that, of course. We have an IT department fully capable of pounding the space bar for me. Assuming “Chim-Chim” isn’t busy throwing yesterday’s lunch at someone.

Regardless, there are always three options in the pop-up window to help resolve the situation: close, reopen and report. Without getting too technical, I will explain how each of these work:

Close: After clicking on this option, your Safari window closes much the same as it did on its own, usually while in the middle of a critical banking or Fantasy Football transaction, except with the added satisfaction of having done it to yourself;

Reopen: Clicking on this will reopen your Safari window, providing you with an opportunity to blink before blankly staring at the same three helpful options again;

Report: I could be wrong, but I suspect this works much like crosswalk buttons, which are spring loaded and connected directly to …

Nothing.

Their sole purpose is to provide pedestrians with something to do until the light changes every three minutes ANYWAY, regardless of how many times they pound the button into the light pole.

Because of this suspicion, I have never actually used the report option until this morning when, in an act of desperation, I clicked on it and suddenly heard cars crashing in the crosswalk outside our office.

Ok, not really. But I was promptly given an official looking window to write in, along with an equally official send to apple button to click.

At the bottom, in small print, I was assured no personal information would be sent with the report, nor would anyone contact me a result of submitting it, thereby making it nearly impossible for someone named “P-Ram” to track me down and take my computer.

To be safe, I decided to keep Chim-Chim with me anyway.

Looking at the text window, there was limited space for my report. Being a journalist, I am used to using words usefully, and not just filling space with useless words that might otherwise be used for something useful, to wit I wrote:

Hi. I’d like to report that Safari stinks.

Satisfied that I accurately described my problem to the folks at Apple, I pressed the send button.

The response was almost immediate. The question is how long I should let Chim-Chim pound the space bar.