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Charlie Hatton
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{Hi|Howdy|Hello}, You're a {Moron|Chowderhead|Boob}!

(You can't slow down science. And that includes Secondhand SCIENCE. This week, the topic is double-slit experiments.

No, seriously. It's a physics thing. I didn't make a single sex joke in the whole piece.

I know. I can't believe it, either. Go see.)

Spammers are such a bunch of weenies.

I think of people who barf spam into the world in the same way as a greasy old guy with a combover hitting on every young chick who walks into a bar. I mean, sure -- there's a shot at a big payoff.

A minimal shot. Infinitesimal. Like, a girl would have to walk in, be struck blind, down a party ball full of peppermint schnapps and swallow the keys to her house before she's going home with this hosebag. But technically, yes, there's a piddly-assed tiny chance.

Fine. That makes it "possible". But it doesn't make it right.

The problem is, these things take so little effort. Some sleazeball can leer, "how you doin'?" to a dozen skeeved-out women, without even breaking a sweat.

Although let's face it. He's probably sweating. Only for... other reasons. Ew.

At the same time, some other sleazeball can push a button and send fourteen million sweaty email ads for peener stretchers or Albanian sex pills or naughty iguana chat lines, with no exertion whatsoever. He doesn't even need to stop to towel off his mouse.

Though he might, anyway. Because, ew.

Both forms of assholishness work on the same principle: if you throw enough darts, eventually you'll hit something. And since the analogy sadly doesn't include the possibility of all those "missing" darts getting shoved their ass, there's little downside. And so we get spammed.

(And some people get hit on. Not me. But people. I've heard stories.

Combover stories.)

Because it's so simple, spamming is (obviously) wildly popular. It's the ultimate low-risk, low-reward, nearly-no-effort, don't-even-bother-putting-down-the-joint kind of work. And it's idiotproof. You'd have to be practically brain-dead to cock it up.

"Sex sells, I guess. And if all else fails, there's always knockoff Prada."

Which makes it so much fun when they cock it up -- bless their greasy shrunken little idiot hearts. And the cock-up I got today might be my very favorite.

I get spam comments on my sites all the time. These work like spam emails, more or less, only they're not particularly designed to get people to click the links in them. Rather, it's part of a Goldbergian plot to get links (to porn sites, mostly) onto blogs (which aren't porn sites... mostly), which will then entice Google to index those (mostly porn sites) higher in searches (which are, obviously, for porn sites, mostly) than the other (mostly porn) sites who don't do this sort of insane tangential marketing.

(Also, handbags come up a lot. I don't know why purses are, like, number two with a bullet, right up there with the wang pills and "loose lady bus drivers waiting for you!" ads, but there it is.

Sex sells, I guess. And if all else fails, there's always knockoff Prada.)

Anyway, this shady sham shit is years old, and apparently Google has figured out the game and wipes these jerkholes out of search results already. Of course, that hasn't stopped the spammers. Because it's so easy.

But to try and get around the Big Goog's algorithms -- and to fool spam filters that blogs put up to weed them out -- the "spammenters" do rely on a couple of tricks. The big one being: sound conversational. Surround those website links with something that seems genuine, and has reasonable words in most of the right places to plausibly be a real message typed by a person, rather than some subhuman smudge of genetic filth programming a spambot in a dark alley.

Also, don't say exactly the same thing in every message. Mix up a word here and there, so the filters don't get too wise to a certain phrasing and ban you. These are the things spammers think about, and eventually they build little templates for themselves, to make things even easier. All they have to do is plug these snippets of chatter into some script, and it will chop up the phrases, parse some options and blat semi-coherent spam onto millions of servers.

How do I know?

Because some godforsaken idiot couldn't even do that, and left a comment with the template.

(I sincerely hope that spammer is out there somewhere, wearing a very well-padded helmet.

Also, I hope a bus runs him over. But until it does, I think his clearly-soft skull deserves a little protection. It's not well.)

Here's a sample of what this thing looks like:

{I have|I've} been {surfing|browsing} online more than {three|3|2|4} hours today,
yet I never found any interesting article like yours.

I've gotten spam comments crafted out of this stupid template -- thousands of them. In the right (sweaty, combovered) hands, it looks like a sentence. One option out of each set of brackets gets printed, and it becomes more-or-less English. Usually followed by a link to growyourjunktilitdragsontheground.com. Or worse.

But this failwipe couldn't manage that. He just spewed the entire set of hundreds of sentences -- a whole spammers' playbook, in one heaving hurl -- into my comment section. Gems like:

I'm {bored to tears|bored to death|bored} at work
so I decided to {check out|browse} your {site|website|blog} on my iphone during lunch break.

(Hey, screw you, man. You know three kinds of "bored", but an iPhone is the only device in the world? Shove a turtleneck in it, spammo.)

Also:

{I'm|I am} not sure where {you are|you're} getting your {info|information}, but {good|great} topic.

(At a certain point, it's impossible not to read these as choices on a T-1000 Terminator screen. Spamma la vista, baby.)

And for the geography fans:

Greetings from {Idaho|Carolina|Ohio|Colorado|Florida|Los angeles|California}!

(This seems about right. Any time Ohio and Florida show up in a list together, you know it's a shitshow.)

I haven't been this entertained by spam since a certain Viking-filled Monty Python sketch. It ain't Shakespeare -- but it's better than Canadian Viagra ads.





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Non-Proudly, Non-Presenting...

(Snap it up, science fans. This week's Secondhand SCIENCE super-informational snippet is about micelles, which are very important biochemical doohickeys.

So obviously, the words are mostly about Tom Cruise, Waterworld and Frosted Mini-Wheats. Because science, duh.)

I have one goal in life.

That may not sound like much. But for a lot of years, I didn't have any particular goal in mind. So it's basically a one hundred percent increase. Maybe if I live until eighty, I'll have two goals.

Or one and a half. There's no need to rush things.

Anyway, my goal. It's simply to be present.

Okay, so now it really doesn't sound like much. Shaddup, I'm new at this.

Of course, I don't mean "present" in the sense of physically present, like showing up at roll call for first-period math class. Trust me, that is not a goal. A thing I wake up in a cold sweat from, maybe. But not a goal.

Rather, I mean "present" in the same way as the people who sit pretzel-style in pajamas and listen to sitar jams and eat hemp burgers and massage their chakras with shaman-blessed healing crystals. Only I'm not into any of that other stuff.

(Except the sitar jams, if there's a nice breakbeat to back them up.

Though frankly, I prefer the oud.)

Let's put it this way: all those things surrounding the simple idea of being present (or mindful, if you're a buzzword bingo fan) -- all the aura lotions and energy sweatpants and tantric needlepoint retreats -- require some semblance of belief. And I don't have any. Fresh out. Gave it up -- for something other than Lent, obviously, since that would also require belief, and like I just said, I've got none.

Who knows. Maybe I'll grow some one day, to go with that second goal.

In the meantime, all I want is to be more aware. To pay attention to whatever it is I'm doing, notice the thoughts and sensations I'm having and to fully experience the unique and bewildering umwelt that only I have access to.

Not for any grander reason. Not to commune with daffodils or to moon the astral plane or to have sex like Sting for four and a half months at a time. Just because it seems better than the alternative. That's my goal, and it's utterly and entirely simple.

"I'll spare you the philosophy and the struggle and the practice techniques you could get out of any dime-store fourth-grade self-help book or neo-hippie patchouli dealer."

Also, I'm freaking terrible at it.

I'll spare you the philosophy and the struggle and the practice techniques you could get out of any dime-store fourth-grade self-help book or neo-hippie patchouli dealer. Instead, I'll just give you an example of how terrible I am at paying attention, and then I'll go back to walking into closed doors and forgetting where I left my pants.

Yesterday, I was at work -- the hardest place to be "present", outside a Middle Eastern prison cell or possibly Cleveland -- and I got some bit of fluff underneath my contact lens. It stung like hell, so I popped it out and stumbled to the office bathroom to rinse it off and jam it back onto my eyeball.

Somehow, it doesn't sound so bad when you've been doing it for thirty years. You good-eye people have no idea.

Anyway, I reached the sink -- and I should explain here that our company has a semi-automatic mens' room. Which is to say, the urinal flushes itself, though the toilet doesn't. The lights come on automatically, but the paper towel dispenser is manual. And the water in the sink is motion-activated, while the hand soap requires a quick push-push on a plunger to squirt it out.

Those last bits are important. Because one gets in the habit, in this half-facilitated facility, of doing things a certain way. Like using the sink. Every time I use the bathroom, I wash up -- and it's push-push-squirt the soap into one palm, wave the other hand under the faucet, water on, rub-rub-rub and grab a towel. It's a routine. I've got the muscle memory burned in. You might even say I do it... mindlessly.

And that's what I did yesterday. Single goal be damned, I charged into the bathroom without thinking, contact lens in hand, and push-push-squirt-ed soap all over it. I didn't even realize it until I was rub-rub-rub-ing under the water, and realized there was something between my fingers. Something small and plastic, and kind of important.

That's how a ten-second trip to the bathroom for an eye adjustment became a twenty-minute ordeal of wiggling a hand under the faucet to keep the water on, furiously bathing the lens in water, sticking it in my eye -- and realizing, nope, not quite all the soap is gone yet. And then clawing it out in considerable pain, resisting the instinct to push-push-lather, rinsing some more, and repeat.

It could have been avoided, with just a sliver of presence. But the brain took a nap, habit took over and Softsoap poured in, ruining my day. And my goal. And possibly my cornea.

I'm starting to wonder whether my "simple" goal isn't maybe too difficult to handle. If I can't be fully present, maybe I can at least have the goal to avoid a permanent eye patch.

Either that, or I need to start burning aloe incense and find a nice healing-crystal monocle. And I'm afraid I don't have the dreads for that.





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An Idiom's Guide to Idiots, or Possibly Vice Versa

(This week's dip into the science pool over at Secondhand SCIENCE is all about hypervelocity stars.

No, it's not about Shia LaBeouf speeding down the PCH on a tricycle. It's definitely not about that. Maybe it should have been, but it's not. Go see.

Speaking of things that are both quick and stellar, there's still time to catch our sketch group Always on Deck at the Somerville Theater on July 3rd or the Magnet Theater in New York City on July 7th. Have at it.)

Some people tell me I'm too literal. But that's not true.

Well. Not literally true. Maybe hypothetically, I'm too literal. Or figuratively. Or allegorically.

Now I'm just confused.

Here's the thing. I don't ask that people say literally what they mean. Where's the fun in that? (And how many thousands of posts here would I have to retract? Exhausting.)

I only ask that what people say makes some kind of sense. And often, it doesn't. That annoys me -- and apparently fazes no one else. It's kind of a problem.

Take, for instance, the last time I argued with someone that they weren't making any sense. I got a little snarky, and they commented on that. But because it was a person who isn't in the habit of making sense, the comment didn't make any sense, either. It was like an Abbott and Costello routine, where nobody is on first, the rest of the infield is abandoned and both dugouts are on fire.

That person had plenty of ways to tell me I was being snarky. "You're being snarky," just for starters. Or "angry", or "loud" or even "crabby".

See, crabby is fine. It's not literal, but it makes sense. Obviously, I wasn't growing extra legs and a shell and delicious claw meat up my sleeves. But crabs are naturally nasty creatures, so "crabby" is easily equatable with "upset".

"Try fitting Ray-Bans on a couple of corn dogs, and see how you like it."

(Not that I blame the crabs, mind you. I mean, look at life from their perspective. First, they've only got those fiddly little pincers to work with. You're never going to work a TiVo remote or make a decent martini with those things. Then, you're in the sun all day, but you can't wear sunglasses because your eyes are on stalks, of all things. Try fitting Ray-Bans on a couple of corn dogs, and see how you like it.

And sure, you live at the beach, which seems nice. But you're so close to the shore, the ocean slaps in twice a day and washes away all your shit. People get pissed when a hurricane or tsunami or something floods their house once; these crabs are doing it every twelve hours.

So no, I don't blame the crabs. Don't hate the pincer, man; hate the pinc. Or the pinch. Whatever. Screw those guys.)

The point is, "crabby" works. I don't need literal. I get it.

Likewise, I get, "who pissed in your Wheaties?" That indicates upsetness. If someone had actually urinated in your bowl of breakfast, you'd probably adopt a very particular attitude about it. You wouldn't be happy. You wouldn't be relaxed. You sure as hell wouldn't be hungry any more. You'd be pissed. And you might never look at Chex Mix with quite the same fondness again.

This person said none of those things. When this person saw that I was getting grouchy, this person instead asked:

"Hey, what crawled up your butt?"

And that makes no sense. It's not appropriate to the sentiment, is all.

Think about it. If something crawled -- yes, literally -- up your butt, right down the old shaft in the Death Star, you'd likely be many things.

And again, none of them would be happy. Or relaxed. Or, very probably, hungry.

(Unless the thing crawled very far up your butt. And neither of us wants to think about that.)

Let's make this a little more concrete. At the time, puzzled as I was, I tried to imagine: if something were to crawl up my butt, what would it most likely be?

Anything is possible, as they say. But some things are less possible than others. I don't expect a wildebeest, for instance, could profitably crawl up my butt. Maybe some butts. But not this one. Nor could an armadillo. Nor an Olympic gymnast. I don't care how good they are on the vaulting apparatus. I just don't see it.

I figured it would be a spider. Some say that in our sleep, we swallow something like eight spiders a year.

(Some are lying through their spider-stained teeth, it turns out. I wasn't thinking about that at the time.

I may have been hung up on the wildebeests. I'm just saying.)

Anyway, I figured if spiders were crawling in the front door that often, then they must occasionally be using the basement hatch, too. So more likely than not, that's what would crawl up your butt if something had, literally, crawled up your butt.

(Of course, since spiders don't actually creep inside us with any sort of regularity, maybe it's more likely to be something else. My money's on the vaulters.)

I tried to imagine how I'd feel if I knew some critter, arachnid or otherwise, had just strolled up my outhole to set up shop in Chez Pooper. And it was different. Not crabby. Nor golden shower-Cheerio'd. In fact, I don't think "angry" was anywhere close to what I'd feel in that situation. It's not a "get mad" kind of thing.

It's more a "getitoutgetitoutgetitout and kill it with fire and let me take a four-day shower" kind of thing. Like I said: different.

So our conversation went nowhere. I pointed out the logical fallacy in "what crawled up your butt", the other person doubled down on me being too "literal", and it devolved into a whole bunch of messy snarking back and forth.

Which we could have completely avoided, if that person would just back their idioms with a teeny bit of logic. Seriously. People like that drive me up a wall.

An, uh, annoying wall. Obviously. Otherwise, it would make no sense. Literally.





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Always on Deck, on Deck

(This week's Secondhand SCIENCE silliness concerns the polymerase chain reaction -- or, as you laboratorial-type folks know it: PCR.

Hop on over and see what polymerase -- and combovers and psychedelic drugs -- can do for you.)

I've got family in town right now, so this will be short -- though I'm hoping to find time later in the week to talk about personal-space-invading spiders, or possibly two of my toes. Because those are topics that normal people think about, and write about in public on websites.

No, you shut up.

Anyway, for now I'll just leave a reminder that sketch group Always on Deck and I will be performing a trio of shows in the next week-and-a-half or so, starting manana noche at ImprovBoston. Here's all the deets:

Thursday, June 26, 9pm: Always on Deck in SketchHaus at ImprovBoston
Thursday July 3, 8pm: Always on Deck in Awkward Compliment Presents... at Somerville Theatre
Sunday, July 6, 9pm: Always on Deck in Test Drive at Magnet Theater, NYC

And here's a clip of the most recent Current Eventuals show from a couple of weeks ago:

Our upcoming gigs feature mostly the same people, but mostly different material, so come have a looksee. The World Cup can watch itself for one night, amirite?





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Hoop Dweebs

(Jonesing for some mid-week science? Well, if you missed the latest Secondhand SCIENCE word on Sunday, then it's your lucky hump day! Hop on over and check out a bunch of dubious facts, odd analogies and Andre the Giant references about exoplanets. It'll send you to the moon.

"Hello? These are Topsiders, man. Top. Siders."

Or some other lifeless hunk of rock. Any old planetoid will do.)

The Summer of Sketch -- ideally followed by the Autumn of Sketch, the Winter of our Sketch-content and a Very Sketchy Holiday Season -- is in full swing. Or swelter. However a summer rolls, exactly, that's what it's doing now. Fully.

Next up is a trio of shows with the group Always on Deck, starting with a SketchHaus appearance at ImprovBoston on June 26th.

(We're currently billed as "TBA", which clearly stands for "Tasty, Bronzed and Awesome".

Hey, there are, like, eight of us in this thing. Surely collectively we tick one or two of those boxes. Shaddup.)

Anyway, the theme for this particular night of nonsense is "lovable loser" -- where, if I understand correctly, the "lovable" part is highly negotiable.

With that in mind, I've put together a quick piece that maybe we'll do. Or we won't. There are a lot of good skits clamoring for a spot, and we can't accommodate them all. This group has standards, man. What are we, "TBD"? No. And screw those guys.

We'll figure out the details soon. In the meantime, hoop it up, ballas. And rest assured, "mipples" is not a typo. Swish.

PICKED LAST

[JOE and BRAD stand on one side of the stage. On the other stands MORTIMER, awkward but scrappy.]

JOE: (to BRAD) All right, man, let's ball. You pick first.

[MORTIMER shoots his arm up. BRAD ignores him and points offstage.]

BRAD: I'll take the tall dude.

MORTIMER: Him? Man, come on! I'm better than that guy.

JOE: Dude with the Chucks.

MORTIMER: Are you kidding? Hello? These are Topsiders, man. Top. Siders. Brand new. Pick me up.

BRAD: Red sweatbands.

MORTIMER: What?! With those socks?

JOE: Lakers jersey.

MORTIMER: Nick Young? Seriously. Yo, right here. I'm a "buh-LAH".

[BRAD looks at him for the first time.]

BRAD: You're a what?

MORTIMER: A "buh-LAH", brother. I ball!

[BRAD looks at JOE, confused. JOE sighs.]

JOE: He means "balla".

MORTIMER: I've heard it both ways.

BRAD: Blue shorts.

MORTIMER: Guy's got no arms!

JOE: Chick with the vest.

MORTIMER: That's a Girl Scout!

BRAD: Kid in the bubble.

MORTIMER: Why are these people even playing pickup ball? Who understands this?

[JOE looks around frantically.]

JOE: I'll take...uh...

MORTIMER: There's nobody left! Come on, dude.

[JOE politely addresses someone offstage.]

JOE: Oh - ma'am? You wanna play? I think you're allowed through the second trimester. ...No?

MORTIMER: I'm the man, bro. Hook me up. I'll dribble out a four-pointer.

[MORTIMER awkwardly mimes terrible basketball moves. JOE groans.]

JOE: Fine. You're in.

[MORTIMER celebrates doofishly and runs over to JOE, taunting BRAD.]

MORTIMER: Yes! I'm gonna send these fools into a classroom. Like, at a community college or vocational school. Maybe on a scholarship, or a need-based aid program!

BRAD: Whatever. You guys are skins.

[BRAD walks off, shaking his head.]

MORTIMER: Skins? Like, shirtless? Oh... no, no, no. These mipples don't see the light of day. I'll go get that pregnant lady.

[MORTIMER runs off. JOE shakes his head.]

JOE: Man. We have got to stop ballin' at MIT.





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If at First You Don't Pen, Pen, Pen Again

(Two things first.

Thing first the first: check out this week's Secondhand SCIENCE lowdown on Turing tests. It's all timely and shit. For trues.

Thing first the second -- or second the first, or whatever: the Summer of Sketch is heating up! At least, mine is -- and yours can, too. If you'd like to see me on stage, saying silly words -- some of which I wrote! -- come check out one (or all!) of the following shows:

Saturday, June 14, 11pm: Current Eventuals at ImprovBoston
Thursday, June 26, 9pm: Always on Deck in SketchHaus at ImprovBoston
Thursday July 3, 8pm: Always on Deck in Awkward Compliment Presents... at Somerville Theatre
Sunday, July 6, 9pm: Always on Deck in Test Drive at Magnet Theater, NYC

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Well, the tip, and then some of the ice under the water, and a lot of the floaty bits that have chipped off. But it's not the whole iceberg! Stay tuned for updates, more shows, schedule adjustments, venue changes, emergency substitutions and everything else you might expect when bearing down hard on an iceberg. In summer. Ahoy.)

Now. About pens.

I have exactly two pens in my office at work. Here are those pens:
Two pens in a pen-pod.
Now, I don't want to be culturally pen-insensitive here, but those two pens look the same to me. Twin pens. Pen and penner. Two pens in a pen-pod.

I'm sure one of them is a big jazz fan, and the other has some interesting ideas about fiscal responsibility, and if I just got to know them, it would be clear that all pens are unique and special, like inky widdle snowflakes. But I don't care. I want one thing out of pens -- to write.

(For that matter, I don't much care what sort of different-from-each-other rich inner lives snowflakes have, either. All I want from them is to smoosh together into a neat little ball and smack the neighbor who doesn't clean up his dog turds in the back of the head.)

(I think I just tore some infinitives a new one, there. Grammatically, that snowflake thing was a mess.

Much like that asshole's poodleshit on the sidewalk. Youknowwhatimeant, dammit.)

Again, back to pens.

The point is, I can't tell these two pens apart. Not by looking. What I can tell you is this: one of these pens, I've been taking notes and scribbling Post-Its with for the past two years. It's reliable, smooth-writing, and has never given me one inksquirt of trouble,

The other pen, I grabbed an hour ago on the way to a meeting -- because the first one was hidden under a taco wrapper or shoved under a stack of half-baked sketch idea printouts or something.

My desk is an adventure. I won't apologize for that.

This second pen doesn't behave quite like the first, despite the striking resemblance. In fact, I spent the first twenty minutes of the meeting I was in furiously scribbling with it on the back of my notebook, trying to get a usable stream of ink to emerge.

I've had problem pens before, and I've learned a few tricks along the way. I tried all of those tricks. The sweeping circles to engage all parts of the ballpoint -- or whatever the hell's at the tips of those things these days. The savage back-and-forth to build up friction. The wetting of the tip in the mouth -- which, naturally, I always try immediately after the friction thing, so as to burn my tongue in the process, because WHY SHOULD ANY PART OF LIFE BE COMFORTABLE ANY MORE?

None of these things worked. Tiny drips of black would slip out here and there, the merest arcs and segments of the circles and lines etching inklessly into the cardboard. After twenty minutes of trying to take notes, I gave up. And immediately forgot whatever it was I was supposed to be taking notes about.

Then I fumed about the pen for the next twenty minutes. So I forgot those notes, too.

The last twenty minutes, I fantasized about torturing the people at Bic who made these pens -- one working, and the other some cruel pranking facsimile of the useful one, like a birthday candle that can't be blown out, or Stephen Baldwin.

So basically, I don't remember anything at all from this meeting. I hope it was about buying new pens. Because that would be nice.

When I got back to my desk, I searched out the good pen, and made sure it still worked. And I resolved to never lose it -- or get it mixed up with its apparently brain-damaged brother -- ever again.

And then I put the two side by side, to take that picture above. And now I have no idea which stupid pen is which. And I have another meeting coming up.

Screw it. I'm taking a magic marker in there and writing notes on the wall. Frick these Bics, Jick.





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At the End of My Wrap

(Heyo! The news over at Secondhand SCIENCE this week is all about mycoplasma. They're the littlest bacteria.

Just don't mention it to them. They're kind of sensitive.)

Now, I have a question.

I'm a fairly coordinated guy.

Not "wardrobe coordinated", of course. I've never in my life matched my socks to my belt or chosen a tie to complement the hue of the elastic band of my underpants. This is not the "coordinated" we're talking about. Clearly.

"I can type sixty words a minute -- even more, if they're all 'a' and 'I' and 'ooo'."

What I mean is, I'm not entirely undextrous. I've done jumping jacks without giving myself a hernia. I can type sixty words a minute -- even more, if they're all 'a' and 'I' and 'ooo'. I can even juggle three balls at one time.

Well, not all balls. Not basketballs, for instance. Or bowling balls. Or wrecking balls with weird naked toothy chicks riding them. Those are all above my clown college pay grade.

The point being, I'm pretty good with my hands. There are all sorts of things my fingers can do, some of them better than most people, and not once have my digits broken, fallen off or tied themselves into a cartoonish knot.

So why the hell can't I wrap a goddamned package?

Yesterday was my wedding anniversary. Like a good husband, I bought my wife a present. And like a smart husband, I put a lot of thought into the gift.

Oh, not about whether it was something she wanted. Or needed. Or had asked for, emailed about or possibly taped a note to my sock drawer to "hint" that I should buy her. No. I put an enormous amount of thought into this gift to make absolutely sure it was... rectangular.

And it was. Whatever the hell I ended up buying her, it came in a nice rigid cardboard box, squared off, flat on all sides. It may have been a clock radio, or a case of birdseed or a do-it-yourself home vasectomy kit. I don't remember. I just know it was the ideal shape for wrapping.

And then I horked it all up.

It's not hard to wrap. I know this. My wife -- who fumbles her phone more often than I do, can't hit a softball as far, and loses at least seventy percent of our thumb-wrestling matches -- gives me presents that look like the wrapping paper was airbrushed on. Not a crease or a rip or an unsightly scrap of plain backing showing on the outside. You'd think she had one of Santa's elves chained to a shoe tree in her closet, gussying up gifts in exchange for candy cane scraps or ten minutes with a snow globe.

Then there are my gifts, like the one I gave her yesterday. I gave myself every opportunity in the world. The box wasn't too big, it wasn't tiny, and there were no angles greater or less than ninety degrees to deal with.

And by the time I handed it to her, it looked like a one-armed chimpanzee with a methamphetamine habit had wrapped it. And then run it through a laundry dryer, and dragged it through a parking lot behind a car.

(No, I don't know how the chimp got a driver's license, or who loaned him the car. For that matter, it's unclear how he lost an arm, and what kind of monster would get him hooked on meth.

Sadly, it appears that animals were indeed harmed in the making of this analogy. Our apologies to proverbial PETA.)

I think it's finally time to give up. I admit that gift wrapping is something I'll never be good at, no matter how little sense that makes, and so I'm just not going to attempt it any more. I'll feel better about myself, I can buy gifts again based on criteria other than geometric shape, and I can give presents to my wife in brown paper bags or swaddled in old newspaper.

Which sounds ghetto, I know. But trust me -- it's an improvement.

So forget my question, I guess. I'll just be happy with all the other things my hands can do, and I'll forget about trying to wrap presents. It doesn't make me less of a man. And it doesn't mean that my wife has one up on me now.

But I swear, I am going to kick her butt at thumb wrestling for a few months. Just on principle. You can stick a bow on that, sunshine.





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