On July 4th, we will once again celebrate our independence from the tyranny of England. Those British monarchs can be so oppressive. If it were up to Queen Elizabeth, we’d all be forced to drink Earl Grey tea with every meal.
Every year at this time, Americans proudly mark our independence with fireworks, burgers on the grill and binge drinking. And why shouldn’t we? Ours is the greatest nation in the solar system. I’m a patriotic American – something my wife will never understand because, sadly, she’s Canadian.
When it comes to being great, no country on earth is better than the U.S. of A. We’re NUMBER ONE! Look at the Olympics – God almost always backs the Americans – except in soccer – because he knows that Americans love God more than any other country. Every time a U.S. athlete wins, the first thing he does is give thanks to God. The Czech Republic (ranked the least religious nation on earth) never thanks God. And do you remember the last time they won a gold medal? Me neither. Because they hate God.
Oh sure, I’ve read a few misleading statistics about how the USA ranks 12th in college graduates, 27th in life expectancy, 37th in healthcare, 47th in press freedom and 53rd in ability to locate Mexico on a map. (I’m pretty sure it’s somewhere west of France.) But most of those statistics came from CNN’s World Desk Editor Fareed Zakaria. And that sure doesn’t sound like an American name to me. He probably has an axe to grind about his visa status.
I don’t care what statistics you want to throw in my face. It doesn’t change the fact that the USA is #1 in the world. Finland may rank first in education. And technically speaking, the Netherlands’ first place ranking in broadband access just nudges out our 23rd place finish. But in many other categories, the USA is Numero Uno. For example, America ranks …
- 1st in guns per capita
- 1st in cocaine seizures
- 1st in obesity
- 1st in percentage of the population that’s incarcerated
- 2nd in carbon emissions – but we’re coming after you, China! So watch your back!
My plan to become a millionaire and retire by the age of 40 is a little behind schedule. Personally, I blame it on a combination of factors: the recent volatility of the stock market, global warming, and the shrinking market in publishing for humor writers who are paid $500,000 / year for working eight hours a week. But mostly I blame my financial situation on China. Those ruthless bastards.
I tried starting my own business, with dreams of launching the next Facebook or Instagram. But after several weeks, I‘ve concluded that my mail-order business, Rent-a-Snake.com, is probably doomed.
Turns out being an entrepreneur is way harder than it looks. It requires a clear vision, years of hard work, unyielding persistence, and a willingness to take intelligent risks. My train pretty much left the tracks at “a clear vision.” Besides, who has the energy for all this hard work? There must be an easier way to become a multi-millionaire – and it’s called “Kickstarter.”
I’m excited to announce my own Kickstarter campaign to make yours truly a mega-millionaire. What is Kickstarter, you ask? It’s a web-based fundraising service intended to help bring projects to life by means of “crowdsourcing” the financing. What is crowdsourcing, you ask? Well, it’s the process of using the internet to get a “crowd” of people to help produce a project collaboratively, like Wikipedia. What’s Wikipedia, you ask? Stop reading right now. Just stop. You’ll never get the rest of this piece. I suggest you go online and Google it. Oh wait. Never mind. You’ve probably never heard of Google either.
Last weekend I did something new and different. I tried a new adventure called an Escape Room. For the uninitiated, escape rooms are the latest fad activity in which they lock 8 to 14 people in a room. The group is given clues and puzzles to solve in order to make their escape. I’m a puzzle person. Sounded like a fun outing.
I invited thirteen of my closest, soon-to-be-ex-friends to join me. The theme of our escape room was Jules Verne’s classic novel, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. Our mission: Find the key to escape before our submarine, the Nautilus, ran out of air.
Being a natural-born leader, I assumed the part of legendary Captain Nemo and immediately took charge of this mission. I’m not sure precisely when the mutiny began. It might have been when I ordered my crew to report every five minutes with any new clues they had unearthed. Or maybe it was when I ordered them to swab the decks. Group morale is such a touchy thing.
Turns out escaping from an escape room is an extremely difficult challenge. We had to solve a myriad of puzzles to unlock boxes, only to find inside even more enigmatic puzzles. As the Captain, I quickly came to two important realizations: 1) getting out of this escape room was going to require enormous brain power and concentration, and 2) I did not bring nearly enough money to bribe the staff to tell me what the clues meant.
When I was first learning how to color in 1st grade, my art teacher taught us about red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black and white. Pretty much all the colors I’ve needed ever since. Then I got my first box of 64 Crayola crayons. It blew my mind. So many colors I had never imagined. One called Reddish Orange. Another one called Orangish Red. And Indian Red, which I could not in clear conscience draw with until they renamed it Native American Red.
Recently I learned that Crayola has actually retired 34 colors – including Lemon Yellow, Teal Blue and Thistle. Did you know that for the rest of eternity there will never be anything drawn in either Burnt Umber or Magic Mint? And yet for reasons unfathomable to the normal brain, they continue to crank out that annoyingly wimpy color, Periwinkle.
They’ve replaced the retired colors with nouveau-sounding ones like Asparagus, Bittersweet, Inch Worm and Tumbleweed. What the hell color is Inch Worm?
It’s hard enough for my 8-color-palette brain to grasp the difference between Sage and Mint. More astonishingly, for all the colors in Crayola’s 64-color box, I’ve discovered there are literally hundreds of shades of white. When did that happen?
My artist wife and I were discussing what color to paint her art studio. Apparently, it’s important that artist studios be painted in neutral tones like white – I have no idea why. I had suggested Bubble Gum Pink, but apparently that’s not quite neutral enough pour ma femme artiste. No, she insisted, it had to be a shade of white. A shade of white? Hmmm….
Recently my wife Michele and I started a new chapter in our lives by moving to a lovely, somewhat remote island. We also decided to start working together. We thought, what better way to strengthen our marriage than to spend every waking minute of every single day together – eating, playing, sleeping and now working? What could possibly go wrong?
Okay, I know what you’re about to say: What were you thinking? But before you question our wisdom, I should point out that our skill sets are remarkably complementary. On the one hand, my wife is an extremely talented portrait artist. And on the other hand, I am the husband of an extremely talented portrait artist.
My job will be to market my wife’s portrait business. I am an experienced professional marketer. For example, remember the pet rock – a crazy, fun idea from the 1970s that generated millions in sales simply by packaging an ordinary rock in a box with funny instructions about how to care for it? Brilliant marketing. No, that was not actually my idea. But the idea for selling a 25-pound box of litter for your pet rock was mine. Sadly, it never made it to market. Okay, perhaps this isn’t helping make my point about being a marketing guru.
My wife wanted someone to oversee marketing so she could spend more time painting – and shooting down every marketing idea I came up with. (I still think my idea for her to parade the sidewalks of Seattle in a sandwich board handing out coupons for $10 off a portrait would have worked. But alas, we’ll never know because she squashed that idea, too.)
When it comes to parenting, I don’t always make the best decisions. I’m not always sure what the right thing to do is in a difficult situation.
Like the time our elder daughter begged and pleaded with me to let her drive the car to the mall. It was a sunny day. Traffic was light. And she had behaved extremely well all week long. So against my better judgment, I said okay. Two minutes later, she smashed the car into a stop sign barely 100 yards from our driveway. A part of me can’t help but wonder whether in retrospect I made a mistake giving in to the incessant pleadings of an eight-year-old to drive my minivan.
Sometimes my wife questions my ability to make the right call. Heck, she rarely listens to any of my opinions unless at least four complete strangers tell her the exact same thing – which got me to thinking: maybe the way for me to make better parenting decisions is to poll the opinions of total strangers.
In the most recent presidential election, the polls were incredibly accurate forecasters of people’s voting preferences. Nate Silver’s 538 blog accurately predicted the Electoral College winner in all fifty states. Politicians use polls all the time to help them decide how to vote. Should we legalize gay marriage? Poll your constituents. Should we cut defense spending? Do a poll. Should we ban hurricanes during the last week of a presidential campaign? (97% of Republicans resoundingly voted yes.) Read More…
Exciting news from Match.com, the world’s largest online match-making service. Since our launch in 1995, our goal has been to help men and women find their perfect someone. To date we have found matches for several million people – and successful matches for over 50 of them.
But why should humans be the only ones supported in finding their soulmates? That’s why we are proud to announce our newest service: CatMatch.com, the first online matchmaking service for cats. No longer will your favorite feline need to prowl the alley for a suitable mate. Check out some of our hottest kitties and subscribe your cat today. Who knows? Perhaps the kitten she’ll be smitten by is just a mouse click away.
Dusty7045 – 11-year old female, Portland, OR
Seeking male kitty for spooning on couch and cleaning fur
Relationship: Single – one owner.
Body type: Furry, light shedder – mostly on my master’s pillow.
Have kids? Yes, four, but they all disappeared at 8 weeks and I have no idea where they went.
Litter box trained? Absolutely! (But sometimes I forget when I’m tired.)
Favorite hobbies: Chasing red laser pointers, licking myself in my privates.
Favorite food: Ants, dust, rubber bands – pretty much anything I find on the kitchen floor. Oh, and my own vomit. But no one else’s – that would be gross!
More about me: If you like curling up on the bed for 18 – 20 hours a day, I may be just your girl. But don’t ask me to go outside. It looks terrifying out there.
THE SCENE: Pre-dawn on a rainy Sunday in the disheveled office of Detective Drake Marlboro of the Seattle Police Department, 9th Precinct. For the past 3 hours, Marlboro, a chain-smoking, grizzled, no-nonsense gumshoe has been interrogating a middle-aged man with no fashion sense by the name of Tim Jones. Jones was picked up on suspicion of maliciously harassing innocent civilians by posting offensive commentary on the web about parenting, politics and other topics. Detective Marlboro suspects that Jones is holding back the truth. And so our story begins…
It was another dark and stormy night in Seattle. The clock on the wall read 3:04 am. And there Tim Jones sat – if that’s even his real name – sticking to his story that all he could be guilty of might be hackneyed writing. But there was a problem. The guy’s story just didn’t add up. I’ve been a detective for 30 years. I knew it was just a matter of time before he would spill the beans. I was going to crack this case before that snake Lieutenant Jaworski in Homicide could spell “collar.” I was sure I was close.
Jones was fidgeting with his plastic Casio watch – the guy had as much class as a cubic zirconium unicorn. He was looking confused and anxious, wanting desperately to flee the confines of the cold, windowless interrogation room so he could return to the cushy comfort of his suburban living room recliner and watch another episode of The Big Bang Theory he’d TIVO’d. Not tonight, fella. Not ‘til I get some answers.
I offered him a cup of coffee. “Thanks, but I don’t drink coffee. Do you happen to have any Diet Mountain Dew?” he asked a little too eagerly. What law-abiding adult in Seattle doesn’t drink coffee – and asks for a teenager’s soft drink instead? Now I knew he was a two-faced liar. I was done playing “good cop,” waiting for his innocent, deer-in-the-headlights façade to crack. This had gone on long enough. It was time to tighten the screws. I lit another smoke.
Our girls are grown and living far from home now. So a few months ago, my wife and I decided, somewhat impulsively, to sell our suburban house and move to a quirky but lovely island 75 miles from the world we had known for a quarter century. We now live in an idyllic setting on Camano Island, overlooking Puget Sound and snow-capped mountains. Ah, the island life.
Camano Island has a well-earned reputation as a haven for artists (one reason my artist wife was drawn here). In our brief time in this new community, we’ve met dozens of people. The one constant among them: They are all exceptional people – which is starting to get on my nerves.
Seriously, it’s really starting to annoy me. Apparently, in order to live on this island, you must be the next Picasso or Santana or Hemingway – and you must swear an oath to spend at least 30% of your time volunteering to protect the rain forest or bottle-feed orphan kittens. Don’t ask me how I managed to sneak past the island’s security. Some border guard must have called in sick the day I arrived.
Everybody on this island seems gifted in some way. If you haven’t published a book of sonnets or are unable to play the lute, you’re viewed as, well, a bit of a disappointment. Last week, I met a novelist, a painter, a sculptor, and a quilter – and that was just in the checkout line at the grocery store. By contrast, my biggest artistic achievement was playing Frère Jacques on the recorder in the 6th grade orchestra. Not to brag, but I totally crushed it.
If there is one thing I’ve learned as a parent, it’s that in the end, your kids will crush your dreams, ignore your advice, join a biker gang, and blame you for everything.
But if there is a second thing I’ve learned, it’s that you need to be positive. As you know, outside of my immediate family, I am considered a parenting expert. My latest book, A Positive Parent’s Guide to Loving Your Child, even if They’re an Evil, Twisted, Unmotivated, Narcissistic Demon Seed Hellion Who Will Never Amount to Anything is helping millions of frustrated parents around the globe deal with their challenging child. The key? Remain positive at all times.
This week, I dip into Dr. Tim’s Mailbag, to share how you can successfully apply my powerful patent-pending positive parenting process to help your own challenging child blossom to almost one quarter of their God-given potential. Read More…