481. Clutter

I spent hours yesterday sifting through clutter in my apartment: books, blowgun darts, office supplies, ocelot pelts, papers, outdated foreign currency, clothes, and centuries-old trinkets of carved stone and bone.

It occurs to me that my life is kind of strange.

My parents, who are missionaries, have used my apartment as their home base during their slow transition from working in Uruguay to working in Spain. Since they plan to depart for Galicia in a few weeks, we began sorting through their stuff yesterday in preparation for packing. It was an… interesting process.

My dad grew up in the jungles of Ecuador, and my mum loves antiques. Between the two of them, my family has accumulated a ton of awesome junk, much of it very old. I found a toucan beak, a stone axe head of incalculable age, an armadillo shell, and an ancient Incan figurine, among other things. I felt like I was reorganizing the office of Indiana Jones; I could almost hear him say, “This belongs in a museum!” (In case you were wondering, my parents are nothing like Indiana Jones; sorry to disappoint.)

My parents have spent time in the state of Indiana. Does that count?

Of course, these exciting souvenirs were merely sprinkled over heaps of modern, ordinary items such as clothes, books, and kitchenware. My apartment currently contains my stuff, my younger brother’s stuff, my parents’ stuff, and even a little bit of my older brother’s stuff.

My apartment is, um, a tiny bit cluttered at the moment.

Gathering my parents’ possessions uprooted some of my own, like unto the parable of the wheat and the weeds. This is actually a good thing. In a month, when my parents are bound safely for the rainy shores of Spain, I intend to take inventory of my worldly goods, and then to get rid of some.

Since my parents are missionaries, we moved around a lot. We never got a chance to accumulate much clutter. Every move to a new place stripped away all the stuff we couldn’t take with us. I learned to live light.

At any rate, that’s what I thought.

O’Hare International Airport proved me wrong. When I traveled from Ecuador to the US for college, I carried all of my worldly goods with me in a backpack, a carry-on, a computer bag, and two duffel bags the approximate size of adult male hippos.

Artist interpretation of Adam’s duffel bags.

On that day the air traffic controllers of O’Hare decided, in their infinite wisdom, to make my plane unload its luggage at one end of the airport, and its passengers on the other. This required me to walk approximately two hundred sixty extra miles along dingy airport hallways, and I had a bus to catch. Of course I did.

So I ran—well, I shuffled—dragging my carry-on, with my pack and computer bag slung across my back, and a duffel bag dangling from each shoulder. As I stepped, my duffel bags swung with the ponderous force of battering rams. Straps cut into my back and shoulders. I kept stepping—well, shuffling—wishing for a luggage cart, or a team of porters, or the sweet release of death.

That experience shaped my guiding philosophy for owning stuff: If it isn’t worth moving, it isn’t worth having. I want to live without clutter or extra weight. When I move somewhere new, which I’m sure I will sooner or later, I want moving to be as easy as possible. If I wouldn’t move something to a new home, I probably don’t need it right now, and should probably get rid of it.

For the most part, my clutter-free philosophy has worked well. (At any rate, it has left enough empty space in my apartment for my parents’ worldly goods.) A minimalist approach makes it easier for me to keep things organized, and helps me to appreciate my individual possessions. I feel lighter, freer, and calmer without so much stuff.

My friend JK wrote a blog post about tidy living. Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Simplify, simplify.” Even Jesus Christ said, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

It will be cathartic to take inventory of my possessions later this year, and to give away the stuff I don’t really want. I hope the nearest donation center doesn’t mind books.

478. Sick

Life is a funny thing. It can be sweet and gentle, patting you on the shoulder and handing you slices of pie or cups of tea. It can also hit you repeatedly with a sack of bricks, breaking your ribs and sending you to the hospital. It depends on the day, really.

My life today is leaning slightly toward the breaking-your-ribs-with-a-sack-of-bricks end of the spectrum. I’m sick. It’s just a cold, fortunately, unless it’s actually the early stages of Ebola virus disease, which it probably isn’t. My state of residence, Indiana, isn’t perfect, but at least it doesn’t have much Ebola.

No Ebola here… I don’t think.

Anyhowz, I had another blog post planned for today, but it shall have to wait. My eyes burn. My head feels like a cannonball, and my left nasal cavity is sealed tighter than Scrooge McDuck’s bank vault. (It’s always the left side that gets congested; why is it always the left?) Alas, I haven’t the strength for a longer post today, so please accept my apologies, along with a bullet list of my miscellaneous (and probably fevered) insights on sickness.

  • Sick days are like enforced Sabbaths: they compel a person, no matter how busy or determined, to slow down and rest. I planned to spend yesterday working on this blog, wrapping gifts, and doing housework. I actually spent it eating pizza, replaying Radiant Historia, and hanging out with my dad and younger brother: a day well spent.
  • All right, this is a digression, but Radiant Historia is easily one of the best JRPGs I’ve ever played—and believe me, I’ve played plenty. If you own a Nintendo DS or 3DS, you should look it up.

Great, great game.

  • According to one of his biographies, C.S. Lewis loved sick days. They allowed him to sit and read without feeling guilty for failing to be productive. Another fun fact: In his earlier years, Lewis read on walks, only occasionally glancing up to admire the changing scenery. How he never tripped and broke his nose the world will never know.
  • Do you remember the episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender in which Sokka gets deliriously, hilariously sick? You haven’t seen it? Go watch Avatar: The Last Airbender, then. It’s a truly great show. At any rate, I like it.

Poor Sokka.

  • Mild sicknesses like colds provide a great explanation for non-depressed people of what depression feels like. A cold leaves a person listless and tired, and occasionally sucks the enjoyment out of things that are usually fun. Depression does the same, but without obvious physical symptoms. What a cold does physically, depression does mentally and emotionally. Since depression has fewer physical symptoms than a cold, it’s generally met with less understanding and compassion, which is a shame. My own depression (which hasn’t acted up in a long time, thank God) comes and goes in phases, much like colds and other mild illnesses.
  • I found myself listening to this chipper song on YouTube yesterday. It seemed apropos.

Well, I should probably get some rest. Radiant Historia isn’t going to finish itself, you know.

476. Let’s Think of Better Fall Flavors than Pumpkin Spice

Summer is fading into autumn, and we all know what that means: pumpkin-flavored everything.

brace-yourselves

More specifically, autumn brings pumpkin spice-flavored everything. The difference is important. As certified snackologist Mike Fahey points out, pumpkin spice is generally a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice. These spices are carefully blended in order to mask the taste of actual pumpkin. Mr. Fahey puts it bluntly: “Pumpkin spice is the name for a combination of spices used to make pumpkin taste less horrible.”

I live in the United States, where the fall season happens every single year. It’s awful. The chilly weather, drab colors, and gaudy Halloween merchandise are bad enough; the pumpkin spice craze just adds insult to injury. Every year, as the weather turns painfully cold and Americans celebrate strange pumpkin rituals, I wonder why I ever left the tropics. Ecuador, my homeland, isn’t flooded by freezing temperatures and pumpkin spice-flavored products year after year. What self-destructive, Lovecraftian madness brought me back to Indiana four years ago?

What even started America’s obsession with pumpkin spice? I don’t know, but there are theories. Wikipedia tells me it started in the early aughts, and that Starbucks is to blame.

My favorite theory comes from Nerd Rage, a webcomic about angry nerds.

Seriously, though, this pumpkin spice craze needs to stop. It tinges everything from candles to Oreos to coffee—and when coffee is at stake, I can’t just sit and do nothing.

(For the record, I don’t dislike the pumpkin spice flavor. I’m just tired of it. We need something new!)

Here, then, are some suggestions for alternatives to pumpkin spice. Here are other autumn-appropriate flavors for candy, cookies, coffee drinks, and everything else.

Apple cinnamon

Apples are amazing. Since they’re gathered in the fall, and popular ingredients for cold-weather treats such as pies and dumplings, apples are a perfect flavor for autumn. Just add cinnamon for touch of spicy warmth, and lo! Not only is the apple cinnamon flavor delicious, but evocative of cozy kitchens and fall harvests.

S’more

Autumn is the perfect season for bonfires, which also makes it perfect for toasting marshmallows. As I grew up in Ecuador, marshmallows were a rare and delectable treat. (I speak of genuine, toastable marshmallows, mind you, not of the fake, dissolve-into-pink-syrup-upon-contact-with-heat “marshmallows” on Ecuadorian store shelves.) Yes, I love marshmallows. Add chocolate and graham crackers, two hearty ingredients ideal for chilly weather, and you have the s’more.

Nothing says autumn like s’mores.

Marshmallows and chocolate have the added advantages of melting in heat, making them perfect for cookies, brownies, and other baked treats. In cold weather, nothing beats a hot, gooey mess of marshmallows and chocolate.

Gingerbread

The taste of gingerbread is basically identical to the pumpkin spice flavor, but with a hint of molasses and no clichéd association with pumpkins. It’s a win-win!

Maple sugar

Maple is a strong, sweet, distinct flavor that lends itself beautifully to baking and confectionery. Since the leaves of the maple tree are famous for their stunning autumn colors, maple sugar (or maple syrup; take your pick) seems like a great taste for the fall season. And on the subject of maples….

Maple leaves

Maybe Japan has the right idea.

These actually look pretty tasty. I would eat them! (Of course, I’ve eaten such odd things as fried leafcutter ants, but that’s not the point.)

Fried leaves can’t possibly be worse than pumpkin, right?

Nuts

For some reason, nuts remind me of autumn. Is that a rational association, or am I just nuts? (Pun intended. I’m so, so sorry.) Maybe I’m weird, but in my mind, nuts evoke images of baked treats and fall colors. Nuts are not only terrific for baking, but underutilized for coffee beverages. Almonds, walnuts, or pecans complement coffee very nicely!

Fruitcake

Nah, I’m just kidding. Fruitcake is gross.

Colada morada

All right, I admit it: I just really want to drink this seasonal Ecuadorian beverage here in the United States. It’s tasty, and I miss it so much. My parents recently brought me back a bottle of the stuff from Ecuador, and I intend to cherish the heck out of it—and then to drink it, of course.

What are your suggestions for alternatives to pumpkin spice? Let us know in the comments!

475. Mario Kart and the Art of Not Giving Up

I’m really good at two things. Sure, I have minor gifts such as humor and writing, but they’re hardly worth mentioning. There are only two things in this world at which I’m really gifted.

The first is drinking coffee, in staggering amounts, at fairly high speed, with effortless aplomb. (I’ve had a lot of practice.) My second gift is winning Mario Kart races. Neither of these gifts are useful for professional success or intellectual fulfillment, but I consider them personal triumphs anyway.

Aw yeah.

Mario Kart is a series of racing video games by Nintendo, a company with an important heritage, rich history, and really weird controllers. Each Mario Kart game is packed with humor, color, whimsy, mayhem, and stuff that explodes. (For the record, Mario Kart: Double Dash!! is the best game in the series. Some people say that either Super Mario Kart or Mario Kart 64 is better. Those people are wrong.) I started playing Mario Kart in my teens, and after twelve or thirteen years, I’ve learned a thing or two.

One of the things I’ve learned is the importance of picking up speed. Every kart in the games is valued according to two statistics: speed and acceleration.

There’s technically a third stat, weight, but it’s not all that important.

Going fast is great, sure, but something is guaranteed to bring karts to a full stop. Inexperienced players drive off roads or into obstacles. Even Mario Kart veterans can’t dodge certain hazards. Consider the Red Shell, a projectile weapon that seeks outs other racers. Then there’s the dreaded Blue Shell, an unstoppable missile that wrecks the winning racer within seconds. It really puts the hell in Shell.

This diagram pretty much sums it up. (It comes from a webcomic with a lot of profanity. I guess its creator plays a lot of Mario Kart.)

Sooner or later, every Mario Kart racer ends up in a ditch… or submerged in a glacial ocean, or sinking into glowing lava. (Video games will be video games.) Every racer, no matter how fast, eventually ends up wrecked.

That’s when acceleration comes in handy. It allows players to regain their top speed quickly after obstacles or poor driving slow them down. Depending on the race, a slow kart with good acceleration might have the advantage over a fast kart that takes a long time to get moving.

I think there’s a lesson here. In nearly every day God gives me, I try to do my best. Sometimes I keep it up for days or even weeks at a stretch: making good decisions, working hard, keeping my faith, and being kind. In Mario Kart terms, I maintain a good top speed.

Then, inevitably, I wreck my kart. I make a bad decision, and swerve off the road. Some wrecks aren’t even my fault. The unstoppable Blue Shells of depression, sickness, or bad circumstances bring my kart to a grinding halt.

Aw heckles, I took a wrong turn. It’s going to be a long fall.

I really struggle to get moving again at such times. What good is a high top speed if I’m not even moving? If I’ve lost my momentum, what’s the point? I may as well just sit here. The race is lost. I doubt I can even make second or third place, so I may as well just wait for the next one… but that’s no way to live, is it?

Speed is important, but so is acceleration. It’s important to live well, but also to keep moving after living badly.

Losers sit around moping after wrecking their karts.

Winners keep driving.

473. Adam Turns into the Hulk and Rants about Poor Hygiene

Caution: This blog post contains furious ranting. Sensitive readers, and readers averse to things being smashed, are advised not to continue.

Cleanliness is next to godliness. Well, it isn’t really, but it’s important anyway.

When human beings share the same space, whether a workplace or business or restaurant, a certain level of hygiene is imperative to prevent the spread of sickness. Besides, keeping at least somewhat clean is a sign of self-respect, and also of consideration for others.

That said, why in heaven’s name don’t some people wash their hands after using the bathroom?

Worse are stinky people. If I’ve offended any sensitive ears by saying this, I can only remind them of how badly my nose is offended by people who don’t bathe. Sometimes a little stink is unavoidable, such as after exercising or working hard, especially in hot weather: I understand that. Some people, especially among the elderly, are incontinent: I understand that, too. I work in a nursing home; I’m used to it. Incontinence isn’t a choice.

What bothers me are those who choose to be consistently dirty or smelly due to poor hygiene.

How hard is it to wash one’s hands, and to shower occasionally? Seriously. It… it makes me… angry. It makes me… want… to… to….

BLOG SMASH!

SMASH! CAPS LOCK ACTIVATED!

HULK TRY NOT TO JUDGE OTHERS. HULK KNOW EVERYONE FACES UNIQUE STRUGGLES AND CHALLENGES. THAT OKAY. POOR HYGIENE NOT OKAY. EXCEPT IN CASE OF APOCALYPSE, POOR HYGIENE PRACTICALLY INEXCUSABLE.

NOT WASHING HANDS, ESPECIALLY AFTER USING BATHROOM, SPREAD GERMS AND MAKE PEOPLE SICK. NO JOKE. AT WORST NOT WASHING HANDS MAKE OTHERS SUFFER. AT BEST? EVERYTHING UNWASHED HANDS TOUCH—DOORKNOBS, SHOPPING CARTS, MONEY, OTHER HANDS—COVERED IN BATHROOM GRIME. BATHROOM GRIME IS WORST KIND OF GRIME. HULK NOT WANT TO TOUCH YOUR GRIME.

WASHING HANDS TAKE THIRTY SECONDS. THIRTY SECONDS OF YOUR LIFE NOT MORE VALUABLE THAN HEALTH OF OTHERS. WASH YOUR [HULK EXPLETIVE] HANDS!

NOT BATHING IS JUST AS BAD. ANYONE CAN BATHE. IF YOU LIVE IN MODERN CIVILIZATION AND HAVE WATER, YOU CAN BATHE. IT NOT TAKE HIGHER EDUCATION. IT NOT TAKE MUCH MONEY. IT NOT TAKE CLASS OR SOPHISTICATION. IT TAKE SOAP AND WATER. SIMPLE.

EVEN HULK BATHE, AND HULK BUSY SAVING WORLD ALL THE TIME.

IF YOU NOT BATHE, YOU GET SICK. IS BAD FOR YOU. IS UNPLEASANT FOR OTHERS. BATHING NOT HARD. EVEN HULK BATHE, AND HULK NOT EVEN FIT IN SHOWER.

RESPECT YOURSELF. YOU VALUABLE AND UNIQUE. YOU TOO GOOD FOR NOT BATHING. RESPECT YOURSELF AND RESPECT OTHERS BY NOT STINKING.

HULK ALWAYS PRACTICE WHAT HULK PREACH. HULK SMELL LIKE PEPPERMINT AND SPRING FLOWERS. EVEN GREEN MONSTER HAVE TIME FOR SHOWER AND DEODORANT. HULK MEAN, CLEAN RAGE MACHINE.

BE CLEAN. PLEASE. RESPECT SELF AND OTHERS. WASH.

HULK OUT!

…Whoa, I just—what? Sorry. I slipped into a daze there for a minute. Sorry about that. Wait, why does my room smell like spring flowers and peppermint? Was it the Hulk? Oh, that Hulk. He’s kind of a jerk, but at least he smells nice!

472. That Time I Got Saved

I’ve written about many of the strange events in my life, from an awkward stage kiss to a severed human arm, but not until now of the day I committed my soul to God. It was… I don’t remember what kind of day it was. It was probably muggy and overcast. I was indoors at the time, standing in line, waiting for a meal that was, in retrospect, soggy and terrible.

I speak of That Time I Got Saved, a tale of grace and burgers.

(For full effect, you must read the title of this story with a Southern Baptist drawl: “That Time Ah Gawt Saaaved.”)

Unlike some of my other That Time I _____ stories, this one isn’t all that exotic or sensational. Heck, it doesn’t even make for a compelling testimony. I got saved while standing in line for a nasty hamburger.

This happened nearly twenty years ago in French Burger, a sketchy fast food joint. For all I know, it’s still open for business. (I really hope it isn’t.) French Burger served beef patties on cheap buns soaked in some kind of milky fluid: probably mayonnaise diluted by the moisture from wet shredded lettuce. These mushy burgers were served in little mustard-colored plastic bags. The burger juice would collect at the bottom of the bag, along with stray wisps of lettuce and shreds of soggy bun. The horror! The horror!

A photo of the food from French Burger would have been too graphic, so I replaced it with a picture of some pretty flowers. I’ve got to keep this blog family-friendly!

French Burger was tucked in a corner of a parking lot in Santo Domingo de los Colorados, a city built to the west of the Andes Mountains in Ecuador. My family and I spent about four years there. My memories of Santo Domingo are few and faint, but I recall gloomy impressions of mud, concrete, overcast weather, and weeds.

Understandably, I spent much of that time indoors: watching VHS tapes of old cartoons, building with Legos, playing and replaying games on our Super Nintendo Entertainment System, dodging home school assignments, learning to read—subsequently reading with voracious interest—and trying to write a novel. (Spoilers: I quit after two paragraphs.) It was a formative time. I discovered Nintendo, J.R.R. Tolkien, Star Wars, C.S. Lewis, and coffee.

I did occasionally venture forth into the community: picking up fragments of Spanish, pestering the neighbors, riding my bike, and buying bread from the local shops. My family and I made regular visits to a local river, where I encountered a Giant Mutant Killer Jungle Ant. We also visited nearby restaurants, such as a French Burger and Kentucky Fried Chicken. (KFC is weirdly popular in Ecuador.)

Oh, Santo Domingo de los Colorados. I… don’t really miss you, actually.

It was during a visit to French Burger that I found myself waiting in line, and committed my soul to God. I could joke that I got saved just in case I died of my lousy hamburger, but at the time, I actually liked those soggy messes. (My tastes have much improved, I hope.) As I waited, I realized that I should probably be saved. I was raised in a Christian home, surrounded by Adventures in Odyssey and Sunday school lessons, with the Gospel of Christ rattling around in my head. It finally occurred to me that I should probably do something about it.

I… didn’t really do anything about it. I prayed a trite sinner’s prayer—which I repeated over the next few weeks just to make sure my salvation stuck—and then continued to live however the heck I wanted. My life continued to be as messy as those burgers.

That day in French Burger didn’t make an immediate impact, but it was a tiny step forward, and God is known to work wonders with little things.

It wasn’t until the start of high school that I became a proper Christian. It wasn’t exactly a decision, but more like a gradual movement toward Christ. I took prayer more seriously, began reading the Bible, and made a sincere effort to be less of a jerk. My faith has wavered over the years, but for better or worse, I’ve kept it.

The salvation of my soul wasn’t an event of dazzling beauty or splendid emotion, but it was a start. After all, redemption has to begin somewhere. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Neither bad burgers nor bad people can preclude the grace of God.

469. Be Wherever You Are

For years and years, I’ve been waiting for something.

Don’t ask me for what, because I have no idea. I can’t shake a subconscious conviction that I’m fighting to get somewhere, somewhere, and I’m not yet there.

Waiting

I’m waiting for… something.

When I was in college, I thought it was a career as an English teacher. After those plans crashed and burned, I assumed it was the publication of my book series. Those plans eventually wound up in the crash-and-burn category along with my ambitions of teaching English. At that point, I was waiting for a better job situation, or for my religious skepticism to go away, or for something beyond the grind of my day-to-day existence.

Waiting some more

Still waiting? Still waiting.

My job situation is much improved, thank God. I’ve come to terms with my decision not to pursue a career in education. I’m resurrecting my failed book series as a project for fun, and have decided not to pursue professional writing… for the moment, at any rate. My faith survives. I’ve faced my doubts, acknowledged them openly, and persisted in spite of them.

I feel fairly stable, settled, and contented, yet can’t shake a vague dissatisfaction. It’s a feeling of waiting for I know not what.

In other news, I’ve been watching a lot of Steven Universe lately.


Steven Universe is a television series about a boy who loves pizza, wears flip-flops, and protects the world from monsters and hostile invaders. He lives in a seaside town with the Crystal Gems: three survivors of an ancient, ill-fated attempt by an intergalactic civilization to conquer Planet Earth. When Steven isn’t helping the Gems clean up the lingering threats of the alien invasion, he’s probably watching cartoons or hanging out at his dad’s car wash.

Steven Universe

“We’re good and evil never beats us. We’ll win the fight and then go out for pizzas!”

Steven Universe is an amazing show. I could spend an entire post explaining why, but I have other things to discuss today, so I’ll keep it fairly short.

Steven Universe balances adventure with slice-of-life stories. It’s infused with magical realism, sincere positivity, and hints of geeky nostalgia. (When Steven is baffled by a VHS tape, his friend explains, “It’s like a DVD shaped like a box.”) An intricate narrative and compelling characterizations slowly emerge from the show’s charm and humor. Steven Universe has a gift for tackling serious subjects (grief! war! trauma!) without ever veering into the extremes of gloominess or false cheeriness. I could say a lot more, but will leave the rest to smarter writers than I.

Oh, and Steven Universe is just fun to watch. I shouldn’t forget to mention that part.

At this point, the show has become one of my all-time favorites. (It probably ties with Gravity Falls as my second-favorite, surpassed only by Avatar: The Last Airbender.) It has been incredibly fun and satisfying to revisit the world of Steven Universe over the past five or six weeks, and the show has often made me think.


Truth and wisdom turn up in unexpected places. There is truth in Batman and Doctor Who, and apparently in Steven Universe. Who knew-niverse?

At one point, Steven finds himself stranded on a deserted island with a pair of acquaintances, Lars and Sadie. Lars, understandably, freaks out. He can’t get cell phone reception. He doesn’t belong on the island. He needs to get home now.

Steven doesn’t panic. Instead, he finds the good in his situation, and asks his companions an important question: “Why don’t you let yourself just be wherever you are?”

Mask Island

I’d vacation there.

It takes a little while (and a chipper musical number) for Lars to realize it, but the island actually ain’t so bad. Being stranded is basically an extended vacation. He might not be in control. He might not be able to move on quite as soon as he wants. However, if he accepts his situation instead of fighting it, he can enjoy it while it lasts—and it doesn’t last forever. In the end, of course, Lars and Sadie and Steven make it safely home.

There’s a lesson there.

Instead of waiting for something to happen, living in faint unease and dissatisfaction… why don’t I just let myself just be wherever I am?

The Cultural History of Sneezing

There comes a time in the life of every blogger when he must write about sneezing. If you’re a blogger and haven’t yet reached this point, trust me, you’ll get there.

Sneezing has a rich and varied cultural history. In ancient Greece, sneezes were considered divine omens. (Of course, in those days, all kinds of odd things were interpreted as prophetic signs, such as animal guts and the flights of birds.) A timely sneeze was believed to be a thumbs-up from the gods.

Centuries later in medieval Europe, sneezes were regarded as potentially fatal. A person’s life was believed to depend on her breath. Since sneezing expels a lot of breath from the lungs, a person could sneeze herself to death, or so it was believed.

Calvin sneezing

Bill Watterson clearly understands the dangers of sneezing.

Superstitions linger around sneezing to this day. In Japan, for example, a tradition claims that talking behind someone’s back will cause that person to sneeze.

Although no one knows why “God bless you” is the standard response to a sneeze, theories abound. I’ve already mentioned the superstition that a person can sneeze himself to death; invoking God’s blessing may have been a safeguard against such a danger. Another theory claims the blessing was meant to prevent any sickness of which sneezes were an early symptom. According to yet another theory, sneezes were thought to exorcise unclean spirits, and the blessing was intended to keep them at bay.

In my twenty-something years, I have heard some truly thunderous sneezes. For example, a student I knew in high school—I’ll call him, say, Socrates—sneezed with the noise and abruptness of a gunshot. There was never any warning before his sneezes: no changes of expression, no sharp intakes of breath, nothing. Sitting near Socrates was like sitting on a landmine. You suspected an explosion might happen, but you never knew when.

Calvin sneezing again

In fact, Mr. Watterson seems a bit preoccupied with sneezing. God bless him.

My grandfather is a great man, and also the greatest sneezer I have ever known. His sneezes shake the very foundations of his house. They probably measure on the Richter scale. All jokes aside, his sneezes have made children cry.

Am I the only one to notice that looking up, especially toward bright lights, causes a person to sneeze? Why is this? Seriously, I’m curious and I want to know. Is it the light? Is it airborne irritants entering the nose at a particular angle? Someone should research this. For science.


This post was originally published on January 29, 2016. TMTF shall return with new posts on Monday, September 5!

468. Of Mice and Men (and Monkeys)

This blog is taking a two-week break, returning with new posts on Monday, September 5.

I had planned to work ahead on this blog during my recent vacation. However, in each of the places I visited, I couldn’t get the Internet working smoothly on my computer. Alas! This means TMTF is now behind schedule.

(It doesn’t help that my typewriter monkeys, my reluctant assistants for this blog, are currently in jail. It’s a long story.)

Instead of scrambling to write quick-and-dirty posts for this blog’s next few deadlines, I’ve decided to take a couple of weeks off. It was a reluctant decision. I really wanted to finish TMTF before this year ended, but at this point I’m not sure that’s feasible. By taking a break, I resign myself to ending this blog early next year, which will save me a lot of stress and worry in the long run. Now I don’t have to rush.

My sense of responsibility borders on the pathological, so I always feel guilty when I miss deadlines or neglect commitments. However, as I said the last time I took a sudden break from blogging, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.” Translated from the Scots language to contemporary English, this phrase by Scottish poet Robert Burns reads something like, “Stuff happens, yo.”

And it does.

“Stuff happens” is a recurring theme for this blog, actually.

The best-laid plans of mice and men (and monkeys) go often awry. We’re only human. (At any rate, I’m only human. My typewriter monkeys are… well, monkeys.) I suppose the occasional break is inevitable.

TMTF won’t go dark during its two-week break; I’ll republish old posts on the blog’s usual Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule. We recycle here; TMTF is very eco-friendly.

Before taking that break, I would like to share a few sneak peeks of what TMTF has in store for the months ahead.

  • I want to write one more Gabriel Green story: a last hurrah for the man whose star-crossed career has provided a couple of short stories for this blog.
  • I’m really excited for the next Adam’s Story post, which will include some concept art. I’ve already given one preview. Here’s another:

Paz follow-up concept

  • Do you know what irritates me? People who don’t wash their hands. They make me… angry. Really angry. Bad stuff happens when I’m angry.
  • I’ve written a lot of That Time I _____ posts, but there’s one important event I’ve never mentioned. It involves burgers.

There’s some cool stuff ahead… I hope. I should probably start working on it.

Louisa May Alcott once wrote, “First live, then write.” Solid advice. I have some living to do, but I’ll be back. TMTF shall return with new posts on Monday, September 5. Thanks for reading!

467. More Word Derps

My younger brother, John, has a talent for mangling the English language. Some time ago, I shared a list of his mispronunciations, titled John’s Word Derps.

Since then, I have updated this list meticulously—y’know, for science. It’s my privilege today to share (with his permission) more of my brother’s verbal fumbles. Please enjoy responsibly.

  • Setner for center
  • Vihjoe for video
  • Coids for cords
  • Detooler for detour
  • Hammo for hammer
  • Cass for task
  • Snay for say
  • Und for and
  • Wordst for worst
  • Beg for bed
  • Streep for street
  • Boke for smoke
  • Mast for fast
  • Appline for applying
  • Hiud for hood
  • Pervervy for perverted
  • Laoods for loads
  • Rook for root
  • Firth for first
  • Parasuit for parasite
  • Site for suit
  • Tunk for sunk
  • Light for right
  • Cronneled for chronicled
  • Butt wheat for buckwheat
  • Graining for gaining
  • Spannitch for Spanish
  • Shuringe for syringe
  • Electred for elected
  • Febluary for February
  • Reft for left
  • Releash for release
  • Stort for sort
  • Quaft for quick-fast
  • Trees for cheese
  • Smo for slow
  • Screezing for squeeze
  • Rall for wall
  • Mate for make
  • Gerfy for goofy
  • Ricken for written
  • Goo for grew
  • Owctually for actually
  • Shongs for songs
  • Bitter for better
  • Pless pray for press play
  • Crawl for call
  • Guvade for grade
  • Depreshing for depressing
  • Funz for tons
  • Sennger for single
  • Nodge for nudge
  • Quig for quick
  • Happity for happy
  • Glameplay for gameplay
  • Bun for bunch
  • Komma for camera
  • Bleen for beam
  • Fweequently for frequently
  • Klar for car
  • Brack round for background
  • Wattle for water
  • Bleared for beard
  • Woof for wolf