Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Everything You Wanted to Know About Getting A Colonoscopy - But Were Afraid To Ask


I recently had my first colonoscopy. I know a bunch of people my age who ought to have had theirs as well but are procrastinating. If you’re fifty or over and haven’t had yours yet, read this to know what to expect (and consider this your wake-up call). If you have had one, what better way to commiserate and have another good laugh at what you’ve been through? And if you’re not fifty yet, this’ll be a good dose of schadenfreude and a sneak preview of what you have to look forward to.

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a procedure a doctor carries out to screen you for colon cancer. Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths. The lifetime risk of getting it is 1 in 23 for men and 1 in 25 for women. Early detection is key. Colorectal polyps are fairly easy to find and remove before they can develop into cancer. Details here.

What exactly is the colon?

The colon is one of those weird organs down there in your guts. It removes water from digested food and creates stool, which it conveys to the rectum. As this is already getting gross, I’ll leave it at that.

How does the doctor see in there?

Doctors have got a “back door” they use, through which they thread in a camera the size of your finger.

Which finger?

I forget. To be honest, I haven’t dwelled on that, for obvious reasons. But in all seriousness, the process is a hell of a lot less invasive and awful than chemo, surgery, etc.

Who should get a colonoscopy?

Anybody over fifty should get one, plus anybody with other risk factors like family history of colon cancer, or trouble with digestion, or if a doctor recommends it for any other reason.

Is there any legitimate excuse for a person over fifty not to get a colonoscopy?

Of course not. Don’t be lame, just get it done. As you’ll learn from this post, it’s really not that bad.

What is the preparation for a colonoscopy?

For a week, you have to eat refined food like white rice, white bread, pasta, etc. instead of good high-fiber stuff like whole grains, brown rice, beans, etc. (So, for a week you get an interesting tour into how so many clueless Americans eat.) Also off-limit are seeds, nuts, popcorn, iron, fish oil, and vitamin E. Then, 24 hours before the procedure, you’re not allowed to have any solid food. You can have light-colored juices or broth, or even Jell-O (but why bother)?

The other thing you have to do is completely remove every particle of food, and its downstream waste products, from your system. You do this by drinking four liters (more than a gallon!) of a prescription laxative drink.

Is this pre-op process straightforward and well-documented?

Well, that depends on where you’re having your colonoscopy done. The place I went to sent me a big packet of paperwork, and then I got a phone call saying, “We screwed up your paperwork so we just sent out a second batch. When you get the first packet, throw it away. Only read the second packet.”

Well, I received both packets on the same day so I had to figure out which was the evil twin. One set of documentation failed to specify when and where the procedure would take place, and who would perform it, though it did include a “Visit Date” that was wrong. The other packet at least had the procedure date, time, and location, though it also had a (different) wrong “Visit Date” listed. It also provided the doctor’s name, which was helpful, though it also provided a second doctor’s name that was wrong.

I called up to ferret out which packet was the correct one. Turns out, the packet lacking the when-and-where information was actually the right one. Having sorted this out, I requested clarification about the timing of the laxative drink, GoLytely. The directions say to drink 8 oz. every 10-15 minutes, and to “Take 1st dose (1/2 gallon) at: 4pm the day before” and “take 2nd dose (1/2 gallon) at: 5-6 hours before the procedure.” Well, my procedure time was 8 a.m. Did this mean I had to get up at like 1:30 a.m., and then roust myself again every 10-15 minutes until done, to finish 5-6 hours before, or do they mean at least 5-6 hours before? I asked if I could just be done with all the drinking—and its explosive result—before bed. (No, I didn’t put it so bluntly.) The gal answered, “Uh, well, um, I think … yeah, before bedtime should be fine … just, uh, go with that.” She really didn’t inspire confidence.

I called my big brother for a second opinion and he said, “Yeah, I got up every ten minutes for half the night—it was a total drag!” Keep in mind that you’re not just drinking this gross drink. You’re also rushing to the toilet. So this timing thing is important, and I’m here to tell you from personal experience, getting it all done before bed (in my case midnight) is A-OK. The doctor’s office didn’t send me away for incomplete evacuation, which had been my greatest fear (this having happened to someone I know).

Is the laxative drink really that disgusting?

At no point did the gag reflex kick in. That said, it’s pretty damn disgusting, perhaps even more so than bong water (but at least you’re braced for it; I’m pretty sure nobody has ever drunk bong water on purpose, at least no resolute non-pot-smoker like me). Here is a video of my very first 8-ounce shot of GoLytely:

It may or may not help to mix it with the flavor packet. I was on the fence about this, and my decision wasn’t helped by the packet instructions, which clearly say “Not for direct dispensing to the patient,” as thought the pharmacist is supposed to mix the flavor packet with the drink powder before I leave the pharmacy. Could there possibly be any skill involved in this operation? I can’t imagine, and yet the instructions are very clear on both the packet and the jug of drink mix:

The lemon powder smelled like that disgusting Country Time Lemonade mix. If I did decide to flavor my drink, I pondered, why limit myself to the lemon option? I could mix in the flavor packet from some Top Ramen, to have, like, shrimp flavor, or beef, or a combo. But ultimately I decided to drink it neat.

The first flavor to hit my tongue was like someone else’s saliva, but salted and slightly fizzy as though fermented. Then the aftertaste hit me like a thump: very chemical-tasting, like bleach or solvent. So yeah, GoLytely really is gross, but again, nothing that would make you hurl. The problem is, you have to drink nine 8-oz. glasses of this, ten minutes apart, for the first “dose” (i.e., session), and then, hours later, another eight 8-oz. glasses of it, so it gets mighty old.

By the way, my instructions didn’t tell me how many glasses to drink in the first “dose” so I had to do the math myself:

You said something earlier about the “explosive result” of this beverage. Can you elaborate?

Well, over an hour into my first “dose,” when I’d had eight 8-oz. glasses (i.e., 64  oz, almost two liters) of the miracle elixir, nothing had happened yet. I texted my brother with this worrisome update, and he wrote back, “Oh boy. Just you wait!” He wasn’t wrong. Five minutes later, I decided to take the throne and see if anything would happen. I’ll spare you the details, but an hour later I was still there. The word “hydrant” isn’t exactly right, but it’s close.

Hours later, after the second round of GoLytely, I again started feeling some serious stirrings down there, and suddenly (oddly) started to shiver. I ran for the bathroom, up a couple sets of stairs, with all the urgency of an action hero fleeing a building that’s about to explode. I made it just in time … it was so close I didn’t have a chance to close the door. My wife, from one nearby bedroom, and my daughter, from the other, burst out laughing simultaneously upon hearing the whooshing sound. If you don’t think this all sounds pretty funny, click this link immediately, and go read that post, before continuing with this report.

How will I know I’m ready for the colonoscopy procedure?

Trust me, if you’ve completed all four liters of the laxative, you’ll be ready (so long as you didn’t “cheat” and eat anything in the 24 hours before your procedure time). The official directions imply that you don’t need to drink all four liters if you have “clear rectal discharge,” but I find this to be a) gross, b) a needless thing to determine, and c) a great name for a rock band.

All this being said, in my case I can report that after my last toilet visit (which was, remarkably, at like 5 a.m., over five hours after my last glass of GoLytely), it looked like I’d only peed. So complete was the elimination, I lost four pounds. That’s after drinking about nine pounds of GoLytely. Do the math…

Will the nurses be hot?

This is a dangerous question to answer, but arguably the most important one in the entire report. Needless to say, your mileage may vary, but in my experience, these nurses were considerably hotter than the one who helped with my vasectomy. Perhaps this is by design … to encourage periodic colonoscopies, they’d want to make the whole ordeal as pleasant as possible, whereas with a vasectomy nobody wants to instill the wrong kind of, uh, attention.

Will I unexpectedly get disqualified from the procedure and sent home?

As touched on earlier, if you don’t follow the instructions and evacuate your system, you could be sent home. Other than that, I guess the only problem could be if your vital signs don’t look good. I had a tiny glitch in this department. After taking my vitals and wandering off, the nurse came back and said, “Um, are you a very active person?” At first, given recent events and current circumstances, I thought she was referring to my bowels. But then I understood, and said, “You mean, working out a lot? In that case, yes.” She replied, “Okay. I ask because your pulse was only 45 so we thought you might be on some … medication.” I assured her 45 bpm was normal for me, and it was smooth sailing from there.

Will they stick me with a big needle?

Of course they will, it’s a doctor’s office and you’re there for a “procedure!” They run an IV to administer the anesthesia. But they’re total pros. Two nurses discussed which vein to use … not because they couldn’t find a good one, but because my skinny arms presented an embarrassment of riches. “My husband is just like you,” one nurse said. “He’s got such great veins, I sometimes ask him, ‘Can I please run you an IV, just ‘cause it’d go so well?’”

Will they give me a drug to make me forget everything?

This will depend on where you get the procedure done. My brother, when he had his colonoscopy, did get the forget-everything drug (I think it’s typically Versed, aka midazolam) and didn’t like the aftermath … it really messed him up for the entire rest of the day. Myself, I hate the idea of any drug (even alcohol) messing with my memory. My brother mentioned that some people need colonoscopies somewhat frequently, and opt to skip the Versed. So I asked my doctor about this before the procedure, and he said they don’t use it anyway, and that the anesthesia I’m getting wouldn’t have any post-op aftereffects. “You could go for a run two hours afterward,” he said.

What is the actual procedure like?

They had me roll over on my side. This was probably the worst part because my ass was hanging out of the back of that backwards gown they make you wear, and it was kind of cold. The anesthesiologist warned me that it would hurt a bit when he injected the drug into my IV, but the pain was ridiculously minor, like being whacked lightly with a flower.

I lay there, deeply doubting that I would in fact fall asleep, because no anesthesia could be any match for the cold air hanging over my tuchus. So, preparing to be bored, I let my gaze fall on the patterned curtain a few feet from my face. The curtain seemed so unfamiliar. I wondered, did my wife buy new curtains at some point, and if so how am I just noticing? Moreover, why am I still in bed when I should be heading over to the—oh, shit! I overslept! I missed my colonoscopy and now I’ll have to reschedule and go through the GoLytely purge all over again! Total disaster!

Then I thought, wait a second here. Those are not bedroom curtains. That’s more like a hospital curtain. Oh, and I’m not in bed. I’m … oh, right, I remember where I am. This is where the nurses and anesthesiologist and doctor were getting ready to do the procedure. Meaning it’s over. I must have … slept through it. Just like I was supposed to, duh!

Is there an aftermath?

There was so little indication anything had even happened, I had to take the doctor’s word for it that the procedure had actually been carried out. I was handed a bunch of paperwork, which I only remembered to leaf through a few days later. It covers what they did, what they found, etc. My favorite sentence? “The patient is competent.” That’s the nicest thing anybody has ever said about me. I won’t comment much more about the report or the findings because that’s really none of your business. Plus, there are possibly (sometimes? often?) lab results that have to come back before one can conclude anything for certain.

I expected some physical discomfort after the procedure, but in fact there was none. They’d advised me to break my fast with a small, light meal, but I ignored that. I was starving and had a giant lunch, which went down without a hitch. I will say I was really, really tired for the rest of the day. I highly recommend taking the whole day off of work, as I did, for your colonoscopy.

How do I get home?

This is the one time I won’t tell you to get around by bike. This is also no time to get an Uber or Lyft, or even a cab (if you’re lucky enough to live in a place where you can just hail a cab from the sidewalk like in the movies). The clinic I went to requires that you show up with a chaperon to drive you home. Great idea, because you won’t want to hang around waiting for a ride, trust me.

Do I get a trophy?

What do you think this is, a kids’ soccer team where everyone gets a trophy, even the kids who just stood around? No, you don’t get a trophy. But you can get a certificate from Dave Barry; as he describes here, “If you, after reading this, get a colonoscopy, let me know by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to Dave Barry Colonoscopy Inducement, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Miami, FL, 3317. I will send you back a certificate, signed by me and suitable for framing if you don’t mind framing a cheesy certificate, stating that you are a grown-up who got a colonoscopy.” Now, I don’t know if this offer is still good, or if it’s transferable from “Miami Herald” readers to albertnet readers, but you can download the certificate here and just forge Dave Barry’s signature. I won’t tell!

How long until my next colonoscopy?

Wow, you can’t wait to get back, huh? Well, the rule of thumb is every ten years until you’re about 75 or 80, after which they just put you on an iceberg and give you a nice push. That said, your future colonoscopy schedule will depend on what, if anything, they found the first go round.

This all sounds like a lot of hassle. Are you sure this is really necessary?

I watched a man die of cancer. He discovered his the hard way. Trust me, you don’t want that.

Damn dude, I thought this post was kind of funny until just now. What the hell?

I know too many 50-somethings who have been putting this off. Don’t be one of them. Just get this done, and then we can share GoLytely stories and have a good laugh!

For a complete index of albertnet posts, click here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

albertnet Frequently Asked Questions


Well, I’ve been at this blogging thing for over eleven years, and have posted more than 500 times. For better or for worse, that’s some traction. Now, I’m well aware that blogging is an audacious act. It takes a lot of cheek to assume that anybody cares to read what I care to write. (But if everybody erred on the side of modesty, nobody would write anything.)

As long as I’m being audacious, I’m going to assume that my readers are curious about how it’s gone, what’s working, what isn’t, and so forth. That what this post is about. (As a special bonus, a good number of these are real questions from real readers! And at least one of these questions has been asked at least twice!)

albertnet Frequently Asked Questions

How many posts have you written?

524, including this one.

How can I quickly peruse all the posts you have on offer?

Check out the albertnet index here. All my posts are listed and categorized, with the newest at the top.

It’s been said that your average post is 15 pages of single spaced comic sans text. Why are they so damned long?

The guy who said that was my (okay, our) dad [this question being from my brother]. That was his calculated figure. For a guy with a 170 IQ, Dad sure could be sloppy with his math. This supposed average post length was one of his excuses for not reading my blog; in reality the average post is more like 5 or 6 pages.

Okay, 5 or 6 pages is still pretty damned long, I’ll admit. I write that much because I can, because nobody is making me shorten my essays. If I wanted to write shorter stuff, I’d just be a journalist and get paid for this.

Have you ever met one of your readers in real life?

Good one. But that’s enough now. Bloggers have feelings, you know!

I did meet a guy at a party once who, when I introduced myself, knew my name already, from my blog. In fact, after reading my “Ode on a Double-Edged Razor”, he said, he bought an old-school Merkur razor just like the one I touted in my post. (No, Merkur didn’t pay me for this. I wish.) Full disclosure: I probably knew this reader already and just didn’t recognize him. I’m terrible with names and faces, and in fact I wonder if I might actually be face-blind.

At what point in the writing process of a post do you feel that you’ve met the goal, that you’ve “struck fire from the heart of man, and brought tears from the eyes of woman” (as Beethoven said of his music)?

Well, I wouldn’t say my goal is anything like that. (My mission statement is “Increasing shareholder value since 2009!”) I’d say my feeling of general satisfaction begins when I have that first rough draft complete and the basic bones of the post have been assembled. Then I know I have something, and I’ll polish it until I run out of time or figure I’ve reached the point of diminishing returns. (Occasionally I’ll discard a totally finished piece, but that’s pretty rare. Posting an essay here that fails to strike fire or bring tears is—I’ll own it—a largely victimless crime.)

What blogs do you follow?

Well, I could list them, but there’s no point because five of the six have gone under. (One is entirely extinct, and the others haven’t had a post in three years.) The only active blog I follow is The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog and I confess I don’t check it that often. Next time I’m in the Smokies I’ll be all over it, though!

If you don’t read blogs, why write one?

Fair question. The problem is, too many blogs are too specific. I have no particular interests, so why would I narrow my focus like that?

As far as other media I could try to publish in, that seems like a lot of hassle. Plus, I hate being hemmed in. I considered publishing my vasectomy story in something like “Men’s Journal” but they had some guideline like “Under no circumstances can a story run more than 500 words” which was a show-stopper. I cannot tell that story—and nobody could, not properly—in fewer than 2,000 words.

How do you manage to keep politics out of your blog? Do you ever want to just rant?

Honestly, I’m just not very interested in politics. Where I live, this topic strikes me as a pissing contest around who knows the most. To my mind, the differences among parties and candidates aren’t subtle, and we only get one vote, so I see no point in anybody devoting that much attention to them. Besides, why would I want to alienate half of my readership and attract a lot of hateful comments?

This isn’t to say albertnet never brushes up against politics, in a non-partisan way. Check out “Glutted by Campaign Signs” (a relatively popular post), “My Brief Foray Into Politics,” “Election Follies - A Proposal to Change Daylight Savings Time,” and “Election Follies – CA Prop 7, One Year Later.”

You have this incredible platform to spread important messages. What do you want all seven of year readers to know?

Ouch! Well, I guess I asked for it.

I don’t consider this blog a public service, and my goal is really to entertain, not so much to educate or inform. That said, I guess I could take a swing at a few life lessons you could read about on albertnet:
  • Eat well
  • Ride your bike
  • Laugh a lot
  • Read a lot
  • If you’re a parent, be earnest about it
How do you promote your blog?

I don’t.

How can I provide feedback on a post?

You can leave a comment below the post, or email me at feedback@albertnet.us.

What are your top three most popular posts ever?

The most popular ever is “New Cycling World Record Set in Berkeley!” which racked up many thousands of pageviews within just a few days. I gather there are blogs with hundreds of thousands of pageviews a week, and good for them, but this was a fairly big deal for me.

My second most popular is “Everything You Wanted to Know About Getting A Vasectomy - But Were Afraid To Ask” which was one of my earliest posts. For many years, it carried the distinction of being the very first search result when you Googled “california vasectomy law.” (It’s not in like the first hundred hits now … a lot has changed in eleven years I guess.)

Third most popular is “Highbrow vs. Lowbrow,” also with many thousands of pageviews. I’m not sure exactly why it’s been so popular. I mean, I like it—I like all my stuff, or I wouldn’t post it—but it’s not like I poured my heart and soul into it. You tell me.

What are your three least popular posts ever?

That’s kind of a tough one, because obviously anything I posted quite recently hasn’t had time to accrue many views. To answer this one, I had to go back and figure out what posts have very few views despite hanging out there on the Internet for years. I did a rough calculation of how many pageviews per year I see among the loss leaders. Here’s what I came up with.

The very least popular is “London – Part Four,” which has received a grand total of 39 views in roughly a decade, for a paltry 3.8 views a year. Pretty pathetic! Why so poorly received? Well, anything that’s fourth in a series deserves what it gets. (You hear that, “Star Wars” people?) Also, this is one of the “bloggiest” posts I’ve ever done; it was back in the early days of albertnet when I thought it was enough to report on something interesting that happened to me (like a web log, you know). I’ve since decided that there ought to be a point to my posts and they should hang together better. Anyway, I reread this one and it’s actually not so bad … I chuckled a few times.

Next is “From the Archives – My First Cell Phone” with only 53 views over 10.5 years. I just skimmed it, and it’s really not such a bad essay … it’s just that it’s a bit too sincere and nerdy, without the good sense to be comic. But how could anybody know that going in? Anyway, who cares.

Finally, we have a short story, “Doctor’s Daughter.” It’s seen 50 readers over about 8 years. Pretty sad.

Is your blog mainly popular among Americans?

I wouldn’t say it’s mainly popular among Americans, because it’s not popular at all, duh!

As far as my audience, about 47% of my pageviews are from the U.S. Fully 16% are from Russia, and just behind that is the Ukraine with 14%. Isn’t it ironic that foreign enemy bots aiming to swing U.S. elections should be targeting a decidedly apolitical blog?

What do you most commonly blog about?

What a great question! I myself had no idea until I researched this a bit. It’s a bit hard to tell because many posts fit more than one category, but here’s a rough cut of the leading realms: 
  • Polemics/opinion                                                                      108
  • Bits & bobs (i.e., impossible to categorize)                            87
  • Advice & how-to guides                                                             86
  • Cycling – My first-hand experience                                        81
  • Cycling – equipment, technique, & culture                           60
  • Parenting                                                                                      59
  • Cycling – pro race coverage                                                      56
Obviously if you add the cycling tallies together that would be the biggest category, but there’s a lot of overlap there. This truly is “a blog about nothing” [in particular].

What posts have occasioned the most comments?

I don’t get a lot of comments, except from bots, and I delete those as fast as I can. Here are my top three. 
What post got the most negative comments?

Did you mind that?

Not at all. Pageviews across my blog went way up after that post. I think I got some new readers!

What’s the nicest comment you’ve ever received?

My “Book Review – Cowboy Sam” post got this nice comment from the granddaughter of the book’s author: “Dana, I have to say that I enjoyed your post about the Cowboy Sam series. Very entertaining, well written and definitely brought a smile to my face! Edna Walker Chandler was my Grandmother and passed away in 1982. Her son (my father) passed in 2014 and I inherited copies of most of her books. Would you mind if I copied your post to my family history book for personal purposes only? Thank you! Celeste Chandler”

What’s the meanest comment you’ve ever received?

That would be in response to “Velominati’s ‘The Rules’ – Brilliance or BS?” with this acidly sarcastic remark: “Hilarious. I've have never seen the point of something missed by such a large amount, and then written about to such a great length. Bravo!”

What’s the angriest comment you’ve ever received?

In response to “The British Faucet Conundrum” I received this comment: “Tim Berners-Lee INVENTED THE INTERNET WORLD WIDE WEB AND HE IS BRITISH NOT AMERICAN... so stick that in your hat and smoke it. In typical fashion of most americans you try to take credit for most when you don't have a creative bone in your bodies.. give credit where credit is due.. not to mention the fact that you stole most patents off of the Brits when you decided to pathetically decided to pitch up for the tail end of ww2. thanks.. wankers.”

I got a good laugh out of that one. Plus, it brought about two other comments, both supporting me. At least one was presumably British, as he referred to the U.S. in the third person: “Tim Berners-Lee did indeed invent the world wide web, which is a system that runs atop the internet, which predates it. The Americans can quite legitimately claim the internet.”

How much money have you made from albertnet?

Let’s see … factoring in subscriptions, residuals, passive income, royalties, and referrals, that would total about … um … zero dollars. And zero cents. On a positive note, I’m supporting the US economy by paying for server storage space and all my domains.

Domains, plural?

Yes. Just in case would-be readers can’t be counted on to remember albertnet.us, you can reach my blog via danaalbert.com, danaalbert.net, danaalbert.org, danaalbert.us, albertnet.blog, albertnet.com, and albertnet.org.

Part of why I snapped these up is to prevent anybody else from creating an “evil twin” blog. I guess I should have grabbed the Instagram handle “albertnet” which is rendered on the site as “Альберт Нет.” That’s in Russian, which perhaps explains why I get so many Russian pageviews?

At least they’re cool photos, mainly of beer. (Kind of a neat coincidence since I like to blog about Beck’sting.) Maybe I would have that many followers if more of my photos looked like this:

So, if you aren’t making money, and you’re not famous, why continue blogging?

Keeping this blog alive keeps me writing, and that’s my main criterion for success. Details here.

What would you say is the most useful essay you’ve posted?

What’s the opposite … that is, your most frivolous post?

Has albertnet ever gotten you in trouble?

After a careless motorist caused me to crash my bike and break my femur, I found a lawyer and looked into filing a lawsuit. He immediately asked me to disclose anything on social media that could jeopardize the case (e.g., by making me seem like a daredevil who got what he deserved). I coughed up several cycling-related posts including “Diablo Ex Machina” and “Death Ride ‘99,” both of which mention descending fast. These didn’t help my cause, but they alone wouldn’t have mattered, as I’d previously published “Five Seconds on a Mountain Pass” in the Daily Peloton, which concerned high-speed wobble.

(Ultimately, I didn’t pursue the lawsuit because the whole episode made me too angry. Dragging that anger over a long term and involving lawyers just would have extended it.)

Im a bit behind on albertnet ... how long will it take me to catch up?

If you read a post a day, it would take you a little over a year and five months to catch up to today. But by that time, I will presumably have posted another 69 times, so you’d need another couple of months ... so, a year and seven months total. You better get cracking.

Do you ever do podcasts?

I’ve done 26 of them. If you’re interested, you can email me for details.

What’s the hardest part about blogging for you?

Obviously finding the time to write is a perennial problem, but what’s even harder is coming up with decent topics. (To the extent this post hasn’t done it for you, you can see the problem!) So, if you have any good blog post ideas, please send them my way!

For a complete index of albertnet posts, click here.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

New Year’s Resolutions - Let’s Get It Right This Time


There’s a lot to hate about January. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, it’s probably cold. Meanwhile, the holidays, though they can be a grind, at least represent a slowdown at work—but now they’re over, it’s a new year, and corporate leadership is all gung-ho about plans and quotas and everything. And on top of it all, everybody is talking about New Year’s Resolutions.

Okay, that last statement was untrue—not “everybody” is talking about Resolutions. But if just a few people are, especially in the media, it can sure seem like everybody. Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. In this post I’ll provide some strategies for grappling with this annoying ritual. Don’t worry—I’ll try to be more snide than sanctimonious.

Recycling old resolutions – fair game?

When I bothered to research New Year’s Resolutions for a previous post, I found that most goals were pretty predictable: lose weight, exercise more, drink less alcohol, get out of debt, spend more time with family. Probably not a lot of first-timers, then … more like recidivism, people renewing their resolve to improve in ways they failed at the previous year. No wonder these Resolutions are such a drag! So what is to be done?

Well, one obvious solution is just to give up. I often tell my kids, “Look, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that anything difficult isn’t worth doing.” (This isn’t my own idea; I think I’m quoting, or at least paraphrasing, Homer Simpson.) Face it, if you’ve been in debt for ten years, you’re probably not gonna suddenly make it into the black just because it’s January and you’ve resolved to do so. And if you want to spend more time with family but both your kids are teenagers, good luck with that, too. I’m not trying to be defeatist … but maybe you should scale back or jettison the perennial good intentions if they just frustrate you year after year. Be compassionate with yourself!

Did you see what I did just now, when I said that I didn’t want to be defeatist, even though I was totally being exactly that? That’s a sophisticated literary technique called “bullshit.” If I were a Ph.D. I’d probably call it “being slightly disingenuous.” But I kind of meant it. I really, actually don’t want to be defeatist, not when we’re still only in the first week of January. Let’s try harder.

Improving your approach

Just because you’ve failed at a Resolution before doesn’t mean there’s no hope … maybe your approach was wrong. A friend of mine sends me articles he writes for his Counseling website, and the thing is, I don’t mind because they’re actually useful. They’re also really brief. (I could probably learn from that, but I refuse.) He writes here, in his article on Resolutions, that it’s really helpful to “create a social accountability network” by enlisting friends to help cheer you on when you make progress and/or shame you when you fall off. I think this makes tons of sense.

I’d been employing the accountability strategy to some degree already, in my effort to lose weight. I have always used the buddy system when tackling my watered-down version of the South Beach Diet (click here for details). But after reading Ceely’s article I doubled down and looked for ways to “gamify” my program. So now my Sloth Beach buddy and I have a new tab on our shared spreadsheet where we summarize our meals (Good vs. OK vs. Crap) and color-code them red or green. We even have a rudimentary scoring system: 2 points for a Good meal, 1 point for an OK meal (only two meals a day count), plus we subtract a point for Crap, add 2 points for a Large workout, add 1 point for a Medium workout, and tally it up. On a good day you can score six points. On a bad day you may come up negative.

Is this working? Hell yeah! I applied the scoring system retroactively to last year so we could compare our results. So far this year, my average score is up 31% and my buddy’s is up 80%—no  joke! Yes, the year is young, but we’re off to a roaring start.

A low-tech approach

Obviously the above example only applies to nerdy people who don’t mind infusing yet another aspect of their lives with high-tech tools. So for the rest of you, here’s another case study: I’ve resolved this year to manage stress better, and (given my poor track record in this area historically) I’m trying two new methods: focused breathing and a mantra. (You can’t get much lower-tech than a mantra.)

You might think I’m joking, or that I’m a joke, but the thing is, as I researched stress reduction I kept stumbling on articles expounding the virtues of a mantra, and I’m willing to try anything. I’m pretty early in the process and am still deciding what my personal mantra should be. Apparently it doesn’t really matter what the word or phrase is; many that people select (e.g., “Aum,” “Namah Shivaya”) aren’t in their native tongue, and some are almost like babble. It’s the repetition that does the trick, I’m advised. So last night, when I was tossing and turning in bed, stressed out after a hard day, I started trying out different phrases. Nothing worked until the edges of my consciousness became ragged and my subconscious started to take over. Then a suitable mantra suddenly popped into my head: “Kick your ass, kid!”

This is a phrase dredged up from my past. When I was like ten years old, I got into an altercation at the roller rink with a bigger kid. He was a total stranger to me. His name was like Shane or Shaz or Shalom or something and he was a friend of one of my schoolmates, Brian Bogart, whom I’d previously gotten in a fistfight with during a slumber party. Now, at the roller rink, Brian essentially sicced Shane on me, seeing an opportunity for revenge. I baited Shane a bit, even though I was kind of scared, because I knew my big brother Max wasn’t far away. Sure enough, Max showed up in the nick of time, he and Shane started pushing and shoving and mouthing off. “Kick your ass, kid!” Shane shouted a couple of times. Max threw this phrase back in Shane’s face, mocking him. Just as they were about to start throwing punches, we all got thrown out of the roller rink. That really sucked because Mom had dropped Max and me off there for the whole afternoon, so we were basically standing around in the parking lot for the next hour. Needless to say this incident made “Kick your ass, kid!” part of our family lore.

I totally get that “Kick your ass, kid!” seems like the wrong tone for a mantra, and you probably think I’m being facetious here, mocking the whole mantra concept, but really I’m not. I’m not against finding a new mantra that’s a bit calmer, but the thing is, “Kick your ass, kid!” really did the trick last night. I just kept working on my breathing—this “square breathing” technique where you inhale for four counts, hold your breath for four counts, exhale for four counts, and then pause again for four counts to complete the cycle—while saying (in my head), “Kick your ass, kid!” over and over in a very non-threatening way, kind of droning it. Four counts per breathing step, four steps in the cycle, and a four-syllable mantra ... perfect. I’d breathe in, with the phrase counting off the beats for me, then hold my breath through another iteration, then breathe it out—“Kick your ass, kid!”—before completing the cycle with one more (albeit silent) incantation of it during the pause. It was like magic … I was asleep in no time.

(Even upon reflection I find that “Kick your ass, kid!” holds up well as a mantra. Had I been better educated at age ten, I might have summed up that roller rink altercation, and the parking lot purgatory it begat, and in fact all the fights teens get into everywhere, and how that turns into posturing and one-upmanship in later life, by quoting Ecclesiastes: “All is vanity.” That was one of the candidates I’d come up with when first casting about for a mantra. But phonetically speaking, “All is vanity” is just not as satisfying as “Kick your ass, kid!”)

The brain-dead simple approach

Okay, this breathing and mantra regimen—though low-tech—isn’t exactly easy either. You want a super-simple way to be more successful in your Resolution? Employ an “affordance.” My wife came across this term in some book. It has to do with a change you make to your environment to encourage and facilitate a desired behavior. (Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it.)

An affordance can be extremely basic. For example, if you want to work out more often, and are looking for a way to hold yourself accountable, that doesn’t mean you have to keep a really complicated training diary complete with heart rate and power data. You can just get a fresh wall calendar and record your workouts with a check mark. This is positive feedback, and by hanging the calendar where you’re sure to see it, you make it into an affordance. My family has a shared workout calendar posted in our phone room. This is perhaps the simplest “social accountability network” imaginable.

What if you’re too perfect to need a Resolution?

Look, I know there are people out there who so totally have their acts together, it’s impossible for them to formulate a single New Year’s Resolution. Maybe you’re just too perfect and there’s no need to change a thing!

I’ll confess, when I look at my life every January and think of what to fix, I don’t see a lot of low-lying fruit myself. Though I chafe at having a belly where there was none before, my actual body-mass index is spang in the middle of normal. I exercise a lot and I’ve never smoked. Medical studies suggest I should perhaps drink more alcohol than I do. I’m no further in debt than anybody fortunate enough to own real estate. But to assume everything is fine is simply a failure of the imagination. If nothing else, I’m a year older and that automatically suggests some Resolutions:
  1. Get a colonoscopy … it’s time
  2. Work with a physical therapist – learn some spine exercises I can do regularly, to lower my odds of randomly throwing out my back
  3. Research 401(k) catch-up contributions (which I’m entitled to now that I’ve turned 50)
I’m lucky enough that if I’m ever tempted to leave well enough alone in January, I have my brother Max for inspiration. Most years he comes up with new fewer than a hundred Resolutions, many of which could easily apply to me. Here are some highlights from his fresh 2020 batch:

9. Be alone with someone else who likes to be left alone and leave each other alone.
11. Mom
19. Stop lying to the universe.
21. Stop dripping oil. Period.
49. If I see something, say something, and vice versa.
62. Increase popularity among non-college-educated white males.
65. Don’t eat hot dogs because dogs are sentient beings.
68. Become more sly, selfish, and manipulative but in a good way.
71. Be boring, but with a twist.
72. Learn to ignore impulses by fashioning a quick list of possible outcomes until the moment’s gone.
78. Go easy on myself. I’m a stupid dumb-ass, I make mistakes.
79. Take it easy on all stupid dumb-asses who make mistakes.
93. Scratch ear lobe in a way that doesn’t make it look as though I have bugs or mites. Make it sort of suggestive.
94. Find my secret talent and use it to exploit myself.

My brother sure makes it look easy, doesn’t he? If you’re lamenting (as I am) not being nearly that clever, well … maybe 2020 is the year you finally do something about it!

For a complete index of albertnet posts, click here.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

From the Archives - Starving Little Student


I just paid for another quarter of tuition, room, and board for my older daughter, a college freshman at UC Santa Barbara. I find it impossible to lay out that kind of cash without reflecting on how different her scenario is from my college days. About 31 years ago, I was also heading into my second quarter as a UCSB student, and realized that after paying for my tuition and books, I was basically out of money. I’d been saving for college since I was a kid, working all kinds of jobs (mostly in bike shops but also at a factory and a radio station) and now those savings had run out. Distraught, I wrote this little poem, perhaps as a hint-hint to my parents.

The Poem

Starving Little Student – January 1989

 Ooh, starving little student:
 Who’s toiled hard, and cries for rent.                  2
“Not I,” said the Dad. “I won’t share my
 Fortune with no stupid kid. I was just
 Doing fine now that I’m of you rid.”                    5

 Ooh, starving little student:                               
 And who will pay his college fees?
 “Not I,” said the Mom. “The entire idea              8
 Is utterly absurd. I’d be laughed at
 And scorned if your damn father heard!”

 And who will take pity in his heart,                     11
 And who will feed a starving student?               
 “Not I,” said the government. “I would
 If I could but I cannot I know; I need                  14
 All my cash for my missile silos.”

 Ooh, former starving student:                            
 Will no one give the kid a job?                             17
“I will,” said the Shop. “For all bikes                  
 Created return unto me; a wrench
 You will hold, a mechanic you’ll be.”                  20

Footnotes & Commentary

Title & line 1 – Starving Little Student

My poem is a rip-off of, or (as I saw it at the time) a tribute to, the Simon & Garfunkel song “Sparrow.” At the time, I thought the first line of that song was “Ooh, lovely little sparrow” but I have just learned it’s “Who will love a little sparrow?” I guess my error made this line easier; the more direct ripoff/tribute— “Who will starve a little student?”—wouldn’t make much sense. Not that “little student” really fit either; I was 6 foot 3 and about 180 pounds and had a very high—and thus expensive—caloric need.

Line 2 – cries for rent

This is a little joke: the original line was “cries for rest.” Speaking of rent, it was definitely my biggest expense: to share a one-bedroom apartment with two other guys cost me $250 a month, and tuition back then was only about $500 a quarter.

Line 3 – “Not I,” said the dad

Actually, if my dad had only refused to give me money, that wouldn’t have been so bad. But as I discovered when I applied for financial aid, he was meanwhile declaring me as a dependent on his taxes (even though I hadn’t lived in his household in over four years). Thus, I couldn’t get any need-based financial aid because it was assumed I was getting support already. Nice.

Line 4 – stupid kid

I realize these are ungenerous words to put in my dad’s mouth, and to be honest I don’t think he found me stupid. (That said, there is a long-running family dispute about whether or not, after I’d done a 130-mile bike ride as a teenager and got caught in a thunderstorm, my father said to me, “You’re not very bright, are you.”) What frustrated my dad was my choice of major (English). He was kind of ahead of his time in promoting the incorrect notion that anybody who possibly can should study STEM.

Line 5 – now that I’m of you rid

This clunky word order is a classic failing of my early poetry. I grasped at some point that poets are technically allowed to put the verb at the end of the sentence, after the object. In fact, I probably thought this made me sound all fancy and literary. Don’t worry, I do realize now how terrible it sounds. It was just a convenient way to get the rhyme and meter right. I should have tried harder … for example, I could have written “I won’t let you have a free ride—God forbid!” It’s tempting to just go back and fix it now, but that would be cheating. Plus, I want you to give me credit for progressing as a poet. (I know—like you care!)

Line 8 – “Not I,” said the mom

In my mom’s defense, she had remarried, and my stepfather—whom we called “the landlord” because that’s how she met him—was kind of a dick. She was loathe to ask him to help me out financially and no longer had her own income. (He was pretty loaded so she no longer needed to work.) To his credit, he did end up supporting me to the tune of $120/month for nine months out of the year. Not a huge amount of money, of course, but it was better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, and it obviously wasn’t his duty to give me anything.

Line 9 – scorned if your damn father heard

It was a very bitter divorce and in fact the idea of being my sole financial supporter did inflame my mom. It wasn’t uncommon for my brothers and me to fall into this parent-vs.-parent chasm. My brother Geoff never did get money from our parents, and was almost literally a starving student. He got by on meals that a friend of his would filch, daily, from her sorority house.

Line 11 – who will take pity in his heart

I lifted this line verbatim from the Simon & Garfunkel song, which is laziness at best and borderline plagiarism at worst. And as you’ll see, it makes no sense in context.

Line 13 – the government

This is easily the weakest stanza in an already unimpressive poem. It’s not like I was trying to get food stamps or something; government student loans would have been more appropriate to mention in the second stanza. And since when does the government—any government—have a heart? They operate based on policy, not feelings like pity. This is all great evidence of why I didn’t deserve a merit-based scholarship.

Line 14 – missile silos

And here it is, ladies and gentlemen: the very worst line of the poem. It’s a disgrace. First of all, common sense tells us it’s the missiles themselves, and the airplanes and aircraft that launch them, that make military spending so high. Silos can’t be a big part of that expense. Meanwhile, the meter is all screwed up here, obviously, because “silo” is trochaic (i.e., the stress falls on the first syllable) rather than iambic (i.e., stress falling on the second syllable) which is what’s needed here. Instead of lazily settling for such weak phrasing, I should have written, “Big funding for schools? A bad stratagem. We need all our budget for ICBMs.”

Line 16 – former starving student

I guess the idea here was that I would have to drop out of college. That’s a bit of exaggeration, of course. I just needed a part time job. God, what a drama queen.

Line 17 – will no one give the kid a job?

Factually, it really was hard for me to find a suitable job. I managed to get a bike shop job in Montecito, but my commute was 17 miles each way by bike, just to work a four-hour shift. For the first week I had the job, it poured rain every day so I’d show up drenched. My boss seemed to take pity on me and simply took me off the schedule without formally firing me. I passively declined to complain and the job just kind of ended. I really needed a job on campus, but those were mostly reserved for kids on the Work Study program. I was not eligible for this program because of my dad’s income level. Thanks again, Dad! I wonder how much he saved on his taxes with that little make-believe dependent trick. Probably like $100. (Note: I am not bitter.)

Line 18 – Shop

Why is “Shop” capitalized here and not “Government” in line 13? I guess it’s because I was trying to make “shop” a proper noun since I couldn’t make “bike shop” fit in that line. So, so sloppy. Please—don’t judge. I was under a lot of stress. I was broke.

Line 19 – return unto me

Another ripped-off line from the Simon & Garfunkel song, which of course doesn’t really fit because the job I ended up getting was at the Associated Students Bike Shop, which didn’t sell bikes. That is to say, the bikes were created elsewhere, so being taken to this shop for repair wasn’t a return in any sense. I should have worked with the idea that I myself was returning … as in, returning to my roots since this was the sixth bike shop I’d worked at.

It was a pretty cool job, though. Because this was through the Work Study program, the shop was required to be really flexible about my class schedule. Like, if I had a midterm or something I was automatically given time off. And I could be in the middle of a repair and when it was time to head to class, I could just walk away. I was also permitted, and to some degree encouraged, to show customers how to fix their own bikes. Why “to some degree”? Well, my supervisor hated it when I spent more time with the good-looking coeds than with our male customers. (This wasn’t just personal preference; for reasons of ego many of the dudes didn’t like being shown anything.) My supervisor bawled me out a lot for this attention imbalance but he wasn’t my manager so I just smirked.

“But wait,” you’re thinking (if indeed you’re still reading), “I thought you couldn’t get Work Study?” Well, my manager cut me a deal. He said the shop is supposed to pay half my hourly rate, and the University the other half. Since I didn’t qualify for the program, I couldn’t get any money from the University, but if I was willing to work for half the normal pay, he’d take me on. Score!

Line 20 – a mechanic you’ll be

What did I mean “‘a mechanic you’ll be’”? I already was a mechanic! That’s why they were willing to hire me! It’s a good thing I didn’t try to recycle this poem as some kind of class assignment…

For a complete index of albertnet posts, click here.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Online Holiday Gift Guide!

NOTE: This post is rated R for coarse humor and pervasive profanity.


It’s gift-giving time! Let’s go gifting! Or better yet, let’s stay at home in our fuzzy slippers and gift from here! Then we won’t even have to touch the godawful shit we’re foisting on friends and family! All we gotta do is pay! We don’t even have to come up with our own ideas, because it’s not the thought that counts—it’s the money! So here is my online gift guide … all the crap you wouldn’t want for yourself but will gladly—for some reason—give to others!

How about a Keurig?

A Keurig coffeemaker is the gift that says, “I know you can’t figure out coffee filters, French presses, Mr. Coffee, or any other normal way of making coffee!” For the hapless, clueless, or just plain lazy, here’s another giant hunk of single-purpose plastic appliance—the Death Star of coffeemakers—to clutter up that kitchen counter!

It even takes little cartridge pods so your loved one can create maximum waste! And when he loads the pod he can pretend he’s slapping a magazine into some hi-tech weapon! But wait, there’s more! Your lucky recipient doesn’t have to make do with plain old coffee: with specialty K-Cup pods he can enjoy blueberry, caramel vanilla, and even French-toast flavored beverages, and pretend he’s one of those loser kids in the Willy Wonka movie! And that’s not all: this little coffee-brewing jewel comes with a 30” cord so if your gift recipient still manages to screw up his coffee—perhaps by running out of K-Cup pods—he can just strangle himself!

Wow, a nostalgic candle!

Look, you can send that former Texan in your life a fabulous scented candle that says “homesick” on it! That way his friends will know he wishes he still lived there instead of wherever he ended up! Kind of like celebrating the lack of agency in his life!

But it’s not just a statement, it’s an actual candle! It smells like dark leather, fresh pine, fish bones, thick lemon slices (which smell different from thin lemon slices for some reason), combined with cyclamen and a touch of sage to summon the big, bold aura of the Lone Star State! And you what else? Since a big Texan man might think it’s a bit wussy to have a fancy candle in his home, it also smells a lot like an old dried-out cow pie! But just in case that seems kind of dirt-baggy, the label informs guests that this candle is “Made in small batches in the USA!” Holy shit, this big-hearted, big-hatted dude is gonna love it! It’s the elegant home furnishing that says “Don’t mess with Texas!”

Internet-connected, voice-activated smoke detector!

This hot little number is for that special person who is good and fed up with standard smoke alarms that, when they go on the blink—and they always do—are impossible to silence. They shriek and howl, as does anybody in earshot, and no little button can ever stop the sound, nothing can, not until you’ve clawed at the alarm, banged on it, and eventually ripped it out of the ceiling, taking those stupid little molly-bolts and a bunch of drywall with it, and smashed it on the floor. Well, those days are finally over for the person lucky enough to be on your gift list! Finally, when this thing goes off—announcing in a computer voice (that is somehow even more excruciating than the standard shrieking) exactly what dangerous vapor is supposedly threatening her home—she just can scream at it, “ALEXA: SHUT THE FUCK UP!

Macho coffee!

Give your boyfriend, husband, father, or son the gift that says, “I’m all about turning every aspect of my life into a pissing contest!” It’s badass coffee in a black package with a daring skull-and-crossbones logo!

And in case that’s not enough to impress his guests, it even has a warning label on the back!

Oh my god, this shit could kill somebody who isn’t ready for a big, bold taste and gobs of caffeine! And you know what? If you bought this poor bastard a Keurig coffeemaker last year and he’s still trying to fish his male ego out of the gutter, this strong-ass coffee will be perfect!

Electric roller skates that are also Segways!

You know that nerdy friend who actually wanted a Segway, but couldn’t afford one? And wanted the Google Glass but couldn’t get on the list? The friend who wishes there was a such thing as a wireless Internet-connected fanny pack? Well guess what? Segway makes “Electric Hovershoes” which are like roller skates you get to stand on instead of wearing! And they’re electric! And they have headlights and taillights!

These things are so fucking weird your friend will think they’re a hoax, until he tries them! Who’s laughing now!? He’ll be so thrilled he’ll almost die, until he finds out you don’t have a pair yourself so he’ll have to go skating all by his lonesome! But guess what? That’s just more babes for him! Win-win!

The Sweetgrass Boxed Set!

That sensitive—and literary—soul in your life probably can’t get enough books about humility, our sacred earth, and how to rebuild our relationships with plants, animals, and humans alike, learning from our plant-based elders. She also can’t get enough beautiful words like “meadow” and “compassion.” So give her the gift of sweetgrass—a treasure trove of books on the subject!

Included are Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, The Road Back to Sweetgrass: A Novel by Linda LeGarde Grover, Sweetgrass by Jan Hudson, Sweetgrass Basket by Marlene Carvell, Sweetgrass by Mary Alice Monroe, and—just for the hell of it—Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything by Elizabeth Gilbert! And they’re all packaged up in a beautiful faux-sweetgrass box lined with—you guessed it!—satin.

Camouflage bedding!

There’s a certain kind of man in your life who doesn’t have the time—or the headspace—for humility, for our sacred earth, for rebuilding relationships, or for plant-based elders. He’s a glowering, brooding type … and you know what he’s brooding about? Security. Protection. He doesn’t pretend for a minute that there aren’t threats—very real threats, clear and present dangers—and being prepared for them always falls to him since the little woman has her head in the clouds over satin-lined gift boxes and journeys to authenticity and belonging, shit like that. Who’s gonna keep this family safe during the most vulnerable time—when everybody’s lying in bed, fast asleep? Well, those dangerous would-be burglars and kidnappers will have to find this family first, am I right? And just try it with these badass camouflage bed sheets.

And guess what? If that intruder bastard’s tactical flashlight does foil the camo, there’s another little surprise in store: this comforter is an American fucking flag! Just so that bitch-ass punk knows what kind of patriot he’s dealing with! If he doesn’t just absolutely shit himself on the spot, he must be blind or something!

Sloth tea infuser!

There’s nothing worse than giving a humdrum gift, right? It’s always better to give your loved one something that causes utter bewilderment. Imagine your mirth when the lucky recipient unwraps this flabby figurine and resists the urge to blurt out, “What the hell is it?!” Well, she’ll figure it out. It’s a (pretend) sloth that your friend or cousin fills with her favorite loose tea and hangs on the end of her mug—or better, on the edge of her glass, so she can watch the lazy mammal appear to pee in her hot water!

And not to worry, this clever little sloth is made of food-safe, BPA-free silicone so it’s soft, non-toxic, and (obviously) tasteless! Your friend can stop worrying about teabags clogging up landfills or compost bins … clean-up is a cinch! She just discards the loose tea leaves, and hell, while she’s at it, the whole damn sloth as well! Throw its arboreal ass out into the street!

Star Wars cookbook!

The perfect gift for that rare, rare breed: the Star Wars fanatic who knows how to cook, or wants to learn! Inspired by Disneyland and the almost incomprehensibly venal cynicism of Hollywood, this actual hardback book is full of recipes for such made-up non-foods as Roasted Kajaka Root, Fried Endorian Tip-Yip, and Parwan Nutricakes.

The recipient’s dinner guests will have no basis to evaluate the authenticity of these dishes, so it’s a can’t-lose proposition! Maybe you’ll get invited over for Laser-Fried Deep Space Oysters (yes, that does mean wookie testicles)!

Freak his shit out!

OMG, do you have one of those boyfriends who’s totally insensitive about others’ crippling emotional problems? The kind of guy who learns that a mutual friend is in therapy and says something coarse about it behind the person’s back, like “Get a backbone”? Well, no time like the holidays to turn the tables! Get that callous motherfucker a pair of custom-printed boxers with your face right in the crotch! 

He’ll be freaking out and sweating bullets even before you insist, quite forcefully, that he put them on! Drag him over to the mirror and say something shocking like, “Look babe, you’ve got me where you want me!” Hold his damn eyelids open like in A Clockwork Orange and make him look at that shit!

When he stammers out some incredulous protest, you’ll be like, “What’s the matter, honey? Don’t you like them?” He’ll be so emotionally shattered he’ll lose his sex drive altogether! He’ll wake up in the night screaming! And then you break up with that insensitive prick! His New Year’s Resolution will be to try to put the pieces of his psyche back together!

Incongruous t-shirt!

Everyone on your list could use a new t-shirt—and this isn’t just any t-shirt. It says “Unicorns are born in July” on it because, well, God, who the hell knows? I guess that’s kind of the point, right? Unless I’m missing something? Damn, this thing is perfect!

Imagine your joy watching that friend, daughter, or sister do the math, trying to figure out when exactly those unicorn parents had sex to give birth in July. Except how long does a unicorn gestate? That’s an easy one—340 days!

Now, you might think this gift is only appropriate for someone born in July who identifies as a unicorn, right? Wrong! Everyone else can wear this shirt ironically!

Vanity beard comb!

If your man not only has a beard that’s so long he has to comb it, but is willing to actually take time doing this, let’s face it: chances are he’s a bit of a narcissist. But that doesn’t mean he’s not vain, too! Make sure you stroke his ego along with his beard, with this beautiful walnut-wood beard comb engraved with “DANGEROUS MAN.”

Yes, he’s not only a hipster, but he’s a bit of a rogue! Kind of a blackguard, really, and not above a bit of savagery—you gotta keep an eye on him! This little folding comb suggests those straight razors that certain murderers like to cut throats with, but don’t worry, these teeth don’t bite! Your man’s beard has never been so soft—and his heart so hard! Are you getting hot yet?

Just a shit-ton of batteries!

You know what’s harder than finding the perfect gift? Charging those stupid nickel-metal hydride batteries! What a pain in the ass. Those stupid chargers with the little colored lights that make no sense—like, why does it light up green when I plug it in, when I’m pretty sure these batteries are dead? Does the light go out when they’re charged, or does this mean the battery is already charged? Is this charger fucking stupid? Well guess what? Your lucky friend or family member doesn’t have to worry about that anymore, because you just gave him a shit-ton of old-school, single-use batteries!

And it’s all guilt-free because he didn’t choose them and it’s too late now to worry about it! For once he won’t be secretly bummed about his gift and thinking, “What am I gonna do with this?” With this inarguably useful gift, you’ll be a damned hero!


In case you’re wondering, all of the above are real products except the Braiding Sweetgrass Boxed Set. All the books listed are real but you can’t actually get them in a boxed set (at least, not yet).

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