Before you buy that Christmas gift, ask Mr. Knowitall

imageSince the introduction of Mr. Knowitall, who is our resident historian, economist, food critic, movie reviewer, foreign affairs consultant, science correspondent, consumer products expert and vending machine repairman (not necessarily in that order), many of you have written in seeking advice about holiday gift-giving.

Due to the enormous volume of email we received, they will be answered through a lottery-style process — which means that, until he wins the lottery, Mr. Knowitall will continue to answer your questions.

So let us begin.

Dear Mr. Knowitall: Do those electronic muscle stimulators really help trim fat and tone muscles?
Really hope so in Reedsport

Dear Really: As you know, the principle behind the device is the utilization of a continuous sequence of small shocks that stimulates muscle activity, similar to your body’s own natural electrical impulses. An easy way to think of it is to visualize a car and its battery. Now visualize the car, the battery — and a pair of jumper cables clamped to your buttocks as someone starts the engine. While there’s no scientific proof this will trim fat and build muscle, studies show that most people find themselves stimulated enough to go to the gym after one session.  Continue reading

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Your decomposing pumpkin could threaten mankind

This weekend, watch for falling pumpkins.

I left the house this morning and made an important realization: What I had assumed was a fleece-lined, bright orange sweatshirt laying crumpled on the front steps was actually NOT a garment at all.

It was our jack-o-lantern.

This realization was made while attempting to pick it up. Though my intention was to give my children a stern lecture on taking care of their clothing, I decided instead to scream uncontrollably after grabbing a handful of pumpkin mucus. Somehow, our pumpkin’s aging process had accelerated, causing it to collapse in on itself and sprout white fur — literally — overnight.

This isn’t an isolated incident. Anyone who hasn’t disposed of their jack-o-lantern by now has witnessed this process, which we can all agree defies the natural laws of physics. One morning, your pumpkin’s face is triangle-eyed and gap-toothed as normal. The next morning, it is Buddy Hackett. Continue reading

Congress gets recess, our kids get spring break — What about US?!

image If you’re a student or educator, you are probably getting excited about the approach of SPRING BREAK! Wee-HOO! For students of all ages it means a week of crazy fun with little or no responsibility, whether you’re a fifth-grader planning a Spongebob Squarepants marathon to Bikini Bottom, or a college student planning a bikini bottom marathon of a different kind. If you’re an educator, it means a student-free week away from grading papers with so much red ink your desk resembles a sacrificial altar. Seriously, are they learning NOTHING between Tweets in class?!?

Even Congress gets what is referred to as “recess.” Let’s be honest: If I performed as poorly at my job as they have, I would get what is referred to as “fired.”

That being said, for the rest of us, spring break holds about as much anticipation as trash day or a release date for “Frozen 2.”

This is particularly true for those of us with teenagers at home, many of whom will openly mock us each day by selfishly sleeping in. Then, in an added display of thoughtlessness, they will still be in their pajamas and deciding on breakfast when we come home for lunch! The audacity! Especially since they misspelled “audacity” on their last quiz! Continue reading

If at first you don’t succeed, I’ll meet you in customer service

[BEEP] Hi, this is Ned. I’m out of the blog-o-sphere today and probably curled up with an empty carton of egg nog and a pile of Almond Roca wrappers. But if you’ll leave your name, blog and a brief message, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can think coherently which, coincidentally, is one if my New Year’s resolutions! Happy Holidays! [BEEP]…

image It was many Christmases ago when I found myself standing in line with approximately 800 other husbands (conservative estimate) who, like me, had been sent to return the Christmas gift they had gotten their wives.

I should probably point out that I’m not still waiting in that line and have since re-married. I don’t think that is a coincidence.

However, I can distinctly remember the experience for a number of reasons. First, because it’s rare to see so many men standing in line for something that isn’t leading to a sporting event, urinal or more beer.

Not necessarily in that order.

Secondly, I remember it because the loudspeaker, which was positioned directly over my head, played the same Christmas song 16 times. This was over the course of an hour, by the end of which I was making up lyrics I can’t print here. Continue reading

Santa Summit prompts Greenland ‘No-Fly Zone’

Santa's Christmas Eve will go a little quicker now that he can skip Greenland.

Santa’s Christmas Eve will go a little quicker now that he can skip Greenland.

What makes email great is that it’s so darned easy to use. For example: If you come across something that absolutely HAS TO BE SEEN by everyone you know — like say a picture of a cat doing chin-ups — you can simply click a button and send it to 100 people. Or in the case of my favorite aunt who still hasn’t mastered this process, you can send that very same knee-slapping picture to one person — such as your favorite nephew — 100 times.

The reason I bring this up is because, if not for email, I sincerely doubt someone from Midland, Mich., would’ve gone to the trouble of sending me a photo of 176 Santas standing on the deck of a fishing boat off the coast of Greenland (And YES, this is primarily the kind of email I get.) Continue reading

When planning your ‘Black Friday’ shopping, don’t forget Bigfoot

There are many advantages to shopping with Bigfoot. Keeping a low profile is not one of them.

There are times when, as a columnist, I am faced with the difficult decision of choosing between two equally important topics in order to meet my deadline.

Then there are times like this when, thanks to years of experience and accidentally consuming a quadruple espresso meant for the person next to me at Starbuck’s, I realize both topics can be combined into a single, well-structured piece of journalism.

Which is why, today, we will be talking about how to prepare for holiday shopping with the help of Bigfoot.

As some of you may have heard, a hiker in Utah posted video of what appeared to be Bigfoot rummaging through the brush.

In addition, some of you may have heard about Thanksgiving.

I don’t believe this is a coincidence. Continue reading

No pumpkin-carving experience is complete without a near-fatal knife wound

imageCarving a jack-o-lantern used to require little more than a pumpkin, an oversized kitchen knife, and a tourniquet. It was a simple matter of plunging a 10-inch French knife into the gourd of your choice and creating a triangle-eyed, square-toothed masterpiece of horror.

In those days, the trickiest thing about making your jack-o-lantern was deciding on how to light the candle.

Option one: Light candle, then attempt to lower it into the pumpkin without catching your sleeve on fire.
Option two: Put the candle inside the pumpkin first. Then attempt to light it without catching your sleeve on fire.
Option three: Accept the inevitable and just light yourself on fire, then go find a candle.

After a quick trip to the emergency room for stitches and some light skin grafting, you could return home and set your jack-o-lantern on the porch, where it would remain until gravity and molecular breakdown eventually caused it to collapse in on itself like the birth of a new star — appropriately enough, usually around Christmas time. Continue reading

My firefighter fitness test shows I’m getting older and faster… say WHAT?

I shaved HOW many minutes off my time?

I shaved HOW many minutes off my time?

As a volunteer with our local fire department, I am required to take an annual physical agility test to prove I can, among other things, walk a balance beam and drag 100 pounds of concrete mix — things we often do as construction workers firefighters. The test includes seven stations that need to be completed during a running clock within 15 minutes or less. And there’s no station called “refreshment swig” or “brownie lift.”

I asked.

The seven stations of the test are:
1) Crawl and Lift: Cross the fire station bay on your hands and knees three times, stopping to lift a 20-pound roll of fire hose over your head each time. Think of it as shopping on Black Friday.

2) Hose drag: Pretty much what it sounds like. Drag 100 feet of hose for 50 feet in one direction, then the other. Kind of like taking your kids to the grocery store.

3) Lift and Carry: A dummy weighing 100 pounds is lifted and carried 30 feet in one direction, then carried back. I’ve seen this happen in bars at closing time.

4) Ladder Carry: Demonstrate the proper lifting technique and carry the ladder 50 yards in one direction, set it down, pick it up and carry it back. This is similar to helping your wife move furniture. Continue reading

Helpful tips for Southerners dealing with Fornicating Locust

(Today I’m actually coming to you from the offices at Long Awkward Pause, where we like to say “offices” instead of climate-controlled storage units…)

image It’s June 2014, and that means a new generation of newlyweds in The South will be racing past family and friends while being showered with frantically mating cicadas. What are cicadas you ask? Think really big crickets.

No, think grasshoppers on steroids.

Actually, think “Hopper” from A Bug’s Life.

For those who haven’t experienced cicada season, it’s easy to imagine if you keep one thing in mind: For six weeks, wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be doing it within the general vicinity of at least 200 cicadas, each of which will be participating in something generally reserved for late night cable. To make matters worse, thousands of male cicadas will be attempting to attract disinterested females by repeating a series of deafening mating calls, which entomologists, after years of research, have finally translated to mean: hey baby hey baby hey baby… (Click here for more at LAP)

Mother’s Day cards have no rhymes for ‘episiotomy’

(With today being Mother’s Day, I felt it appropriate to skip this week’s edition of “Post Traumatic Sunday” and, instead, post a different kind of flashback to say Thank You to all the mothers who sacrifice so much each day, many of whom still have their own kind of flashbacks whenever they hear the words “breast pump”…)

image For many of you, Mother’s Day means sending a flowery card that says all the wonderful things you’d say if only you had a thesaurus and someone from Hallmark breathing down your neck. The truth is, the meaning of Mother’s Day has been lost over the years thanks to stupid greeting cards filled with heartfelt phrases like:

If your love was an ocean, you would’ve drowned me as a child.
Or,
When I think of love, I think of you. Because of this, you have no grandchildren.
Or,
With every smile, I remember a special moment that will never ever be forgotten — Happy belated Mother’s Day!

The true meaning of Mother’s Day, as any mother will tell you, has absolutely nothing to do with flowery cards or fond memories — and everything to do with sacrifice. That’s right. You want to let Mom know you really care? Forget about comparing her to “a beautiful rose laden with thorns of caring,” and remember all the stuff she endured for you even before you HAD a memory. If you’re not sure where to begin, I have two words for you: Breast Pump. Continue reading