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April 18, 2014
4:15am EDT

Rated: 18+ | Book | Comedy | #1805328
I have made the mistakes so you won't have to.
  Real world advice for the reality-challenged.

Always looking forward to what's around the next bend.

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October 24, 2013 at 11:24am
October 24, 2013 at 11:24am
Don't do this: Do not shove a beer zombie on a road
My wife is starting to catch on that I am unstable and approaching lift off. I think the gesturing and grunting tipped her off. Stress makes things worse, and we have had some very stressful events lately. Our 11-year old grand daughter ended up in the ER again last week with a major anxiety attack, and she had to be taken to the juvenile mental healthy unit in Portland a couple of days ago.

My wife and I are going to California next week. The last trip was not great, I having a collapse midway through. But, this one will be better. We are going to a birthday party that will be a lot of fun. This trip will be to the northern part of the state. The last trip was to an area further south having similarities to hell at rush hour, it being just as hot and smelling only slightly better. I don’t anticipate any problems with uncontrollable shaking and gibbering like a monkey as happened the last trip. It is impossible to hold a beer in that state, which increases my anxiety exponentially.

I have not been able to get out and hike due to a medical condition. Strenuous hiking helps with the anxiety. I finished the anti-biotics this morning which indicates I am cured. I am now free to hike almost to my heart’s content. To reach full contentment, I would collapse in exhaustion as I opened the door to my truck. I once came close several years ago, but I was about 1/3 mile short of the truck. My heart was not contented. It is much better to go a little long than a little short.

I learned a few things from that experience. First, if your legs can’t carry you, it is unlikely your arms will either, so cover your head instead of trying to stop yourself with your hands. Second, if is very hot, fall in the shade. Lying on a hot gravel road will not help that little over-heating problem you are having. Third, scratches on your face are irrefutable evidence of a failed quest for contentment, and your spouse’s will be in jeopardy as well.

All that aside, I am going to embark on a tour of my medications to see if any combination will render me able to function. It is a bit of a desperate measure because the failures can be dramatic, another thing which does not improve my wife’s contentment. The last thing I want is to be sent to the doctor a few days before a trip. Sometimes his little medication tweaks don’t work as intended.

I always have the Night of the Living Over-Medicated option in which I become a zombie in search of beer. Unlike a zombie, it doesn’t take a gun to bring down a beer zombie. Beer zombies can be defeated with a good shove, and my wife knows that. If I haven’t been a very annoying beer zombie, she will do it near a bed. If not, I just hope the gravel road isn’t terribly hot. And that I don’t spill my beer. Beer zombies hate that.
October 23, 2013 at 11:00am
October 23, 2013 at 11:00am
Don't do this:Do not repeat this mantra to your spouse
Don’t Do This is a source of valuable free advice (the best kind!) that you will find no where else. Lifestyle and preserving marital harmony are the two biggest subject areas, but there are other helpful guides as well. Mixing Reactive Substances Do’s and Don’ts, Ten Things to Never Say to an Officer, and How To Pass a Mental Evaluation are just a few. Today I want to address a crucial life skill, organization.

First, I want to refute the notion that I am not organized. I am organized, I just don’t over-do it. I have two models. One is “A place for everything and everything all over the place”. The idea is that since there is a place where something should be, but it’s not there, then it must exist somewhere. That is better than not knowing if you have something at all. Sure, it would be nice if it was where it is supposed to be, but if it was it would mean that someone one has been messing with your stuff because you would certainly not have put it back.

The other method is “Almost everything on this side, and everything else on the other”. That is how I organize my shop. It ensures a there is an open path through the middle of the shop. Finding things would be much harder if I couldn’t get to the back of the shop.

These simple methods will improve one’s happiness by putting things in perspective. It causes one to consider if they really want or need something so badly that they are willing to look for it. We are told we should simplify our lives. What better way than to say, “Aw, &*^% it” and put aside our need for material things?

That being said, there are a few exclusions. These are things so crucial to the happiness of all that they must be close at hand. As much progress as one may have made towards reducing their material needs, it is likely there are some with whom you live that still cling to material things such as counter tops, carpets, furniture, and flooring. Personal mantras such as “Aw, &*^% it” will not aid in their happiness should anything untoward happen. Here, then, are the three classes of things you must actually keep track of:

Cleansers – I’m not taking about a scrub pad and bathtub cleanser, I mean the real thing. Acetone, Trisodium Phosphate, Hydrochloric acid (also called muriatic acid), bleach, and ammonia. It would be a very good time to be organized while using these cleansers because they will do much more damage than they fix in a hurry. Don’t do this.

Touch up paint – Collect a complete set of samples from the paint store from which you can mix various colors. Your spouse has created a difficult situation by having all the wall colors mixed and it will not be easy getting one to match. Obtain enamel model paint for decorative pottery and dishes. A little car touch up paint might not hurt either.

Glues and adhesives – Buy every type you can find.

Using the justification that there are exceptions to every rule, a saying I live by, hoarding the above material things may be essential to your happiness and, more importantly, to those with whom you share matrimonial relationships. De-emphasizing the need for material things, concern for the happiness of others, maintaining one’s own health and happiness (except for the cleanser fumes), these are qualities of an enlightened person. Attaining this lofty goal is the mission of Don’t Do This. I’m glad I could help. Now put the Hydrochloric acid away before your spouse sees it.
October 22, 2013 at 10:48am
October 22, 2013 at 10:48am
Cell phones work better when thrown off an overpass
One of my favorite sayings is “Life is (…)”. You fill in the blank, because anything you put there will be correct. Today I am writing about “Life is (hard on cell phones)”. The piece could be titled any number of things, but what is puzzling me now is how many parts I thought had, and how many parts I actually had.

Cell phones are meant to be dropped. They probably work better if you do. It is one of the selling points listed on some phones. The net is full of smash resistant phones and how superior they are to less indestructible models. If the advertising is to be trusted, one might wing their phone from an overpass into the path of an oncoming semi and get nothing more than a scratch on the lens (if one hasn’t used a protector).

I don’t drop my cell phone often, but I sometimes do drop it, and when I do I am always amused at how the pieces go flying. I never fear that it will not pop right back to life because, after all, I hadn’t pitched out of an aircraft at 30,000 feet, as one would have to do before damaging it.

Today as my phone was charging while laying upon its precarious perch on a piece of furniture, I snagged the cord and pulled the phone onto the floor. Parts flew. I issued a mild oath but I didn’t mean it because who cares if their phone falls a few feet and explodes in pieces?

I scooped the remains off the floor and set them aside. I later made a call and my phone rebooted mid-call(!) I examined the phone and the back of the phone was missing. Not to worry, thought I, and I went to retrieve the missing piece, and it was actually missing(!!) A search did not turn up the back of the phone.

Not to worry, thought I. After all, life is (…). I reassembled the case without the back of the phone and went on my way. I was in town yesterday so I took the opportunity to order a back for the phone from our vendor. I was waiting in line and decided to remove the case so the salesperson could look at the phone. I took the back of the case off, and the back cover was on the phone(!!!) The salesman said “Next!”

I worked though all the explanations I could think of, such as, “I thought I lost the back cover, but I found it”, or “I couldn’t find this piece, but here it is”. I decided there was nothing I could say that would not reveal that I am too dumb to go into a cell phone store. So, I said, “What upgrades do I have available?” I listened carefully as he explained things I already knew, and when he asked if I wanted to take advantage of one, I told him I did not and left.

The only explanation I can come up with is that the back to the phone was stuck to the inside of the case, and when I put the case back on, it snapped the back in place. It defies logic, but as is well known, life is ($%^&). You fill in the blanks.
October 21, 2013 at 11:24am
October 21, 2013 at 11:24am
Don't do this: Rockets do not improve marital harmony
I have been looking for an image my daughter asked me to locate. There are a limited number of places it can be. I am pretty sure it is somewhere within the confines of the house. It is most likely on our computer, but I haven’t been able to confirm that. I am sure I will eventually find it. Probably some time next year by accident.

There are some useful tools one might use to find things such as remembering where one last used something, where one may have seen it last, or which dimension it is in (because if it isn’t this one, it is going to be tough). The short coming of all of these techniques is the word “remember”.

I do not have a bad memory. I have no memory at all. I have a solution of sorts in my detailed and complete organizational system. In my shop, for instance, it is “almost everything on this side, and everything else on the other”. There is a lot of stuff in the organizational areas, but there are only two places anything could be. Unless it is in another dimension.

I tried another before I settled on my present system. It was called, “a place for everything, and everything all over the place”. It was good in that it made me consider whether I really needed what I was looking for, but it was bad in that I often did.

It sometimes happens in the course of maintaining marital harmony that one should spare their spouse the frustration and grief of finding something they should not. My wife, for instance, doesn’t tell me everything she buys, and I am just as happy. I, on the other hand, do not tell her about all of my hobbies. I can guarantee her happiness would not be improved if I did.

I make a terrible sick person, especially when I don’t feel bad (mostly). This current little episode I am dealing with is uncomfortable, but it came with some very lax restrictions. I was told, in these exact words, to “take it easy”. Time to retrieve some items from the “everything else” side of the shop.

I quit playing with black powder along time ago. Potassium Nitrate is much better. It is available from many sources, is relatively safe to work with (compared to black powder), and is more versatile. Model rocket fuel may be made in the oven using common household ingredients from instructions available on line. And, one may “take it easy” while doing it. This is perhaps not as safe as doing nothing at all, but it is close.

Inexpensive model rocket igniters are required to launch the rockets. The down side is that they are small. They could easily be mistaken for an electrical circuit component, providing one is not a keen and suspicious observer with more than a passing familiarity with Don’t Do This. In that case, finding them would not improve their happiness. I brought them upstairs and now I can’t find them.

There are a limited number of places they can be. I am pretty sure they are somewhere within the confines of the house. I may have to disobey the doctor’s order and conduct a complete search, because if a keen and suspicious observer finds them, no one’s happiness will be enhanced.
October 19, 2013 at 2:04pm
October 19, 2013 at 2:04pm
Don't do this: Mowing the lawn cannot be done from bed
Warning: Tedious description of medical problem ahead.

I have been feeling poorly in a way and a place that only a man could. I went to the doctor and evidently misunderstood everything he told me, which is not unusual. What I heard him say was 1) you have (something), 2) don’t worry, be happy, drink beer (he said liquids, but of course, beer qualifies), and 3) you are lucky it is not worse because it can be very much so. He prescribed a lengthy course of antibiotics, which I assumed was retribution for the absurdities I present him with regularly. I recall that I was to, “take it easy”, and I resolved to limit my walks to less than five miles. Feeling both lucky and being advised to drink beer, I went on my way, albeit in a tenuous and careful way.

A couple of days ago I had the pleasure of caring for my 9-year old grand daughter. She enjoys the outdoors, so we went for a walk. It was not a difficult or long walk, but at the end of it I felt neither lucky nor did I want a beer. Something was clearly wrong.

I went back to the doctor to point out their remedy was deficient. They explained that it was I that was deficient. Had I paid attention, I would have learned that I had epididymitis, which is not at all what I thought I had, and that which I had thought I heard was in every way mistaken, which is not unusual.

It turned out that I should not have mowed the lawn, watered the garden, done several loads of wash, gone for a walk, and neglected to pay attention at the first appointment. They said I was lucky that I did not feel worse because I could feel very much so. Thus enlightened, I returned home feeling unlucky and revolted by beer.

I made the mistake of telling my wife of my mistake after forgetting that she had access to the internet. Being accustomed to the absurdities I present her with regularly, she looked up the condition. Any of you who have been in the position of having your spouse read about your maladies will agree that the description of any given condition on a medical information site blows things completely out of proportion. Upon interrogation I had to confess that, yes, the information did agree with what the doctor said to a minor degree.

My wife, after confirming my deficiencies in all things, consigned me to bed rest since that seemed to be the common thread. Today I shall pay for all of my mistakes of the last five days. All three grand children will be here today. My escape route (the shop) is cut off. I will be in the adolescent version of Clockwork Orange, forced to listen to the most insipid television shows imaginable. I hereby withdraw my assertion that the doctor’s assessment was deficient. When he said I could feel very much worse, he was right.
October 16, 2013 at 11:32am
October 16, 2013 at 11:32am
Don't Do This: Extra dimensional medical exams
Most of our efforts here at Don’t Do This are directed towards giving valuable free advice (the best kind!) in order to aid you in avoiding life’s pitfalls. But some of what we do is investigative work. The areas we explore fall into the categories, “What hell happened?”, and “How the hell did that happen?”

Some of these questions are easily answered. An egg that one has filled with food coloring will role off the counter due the vindictive nature of gravity. That is well known. The amount of fun that may be had beta testing home made helicopters indoors is inversely proportional to the damage that will occur. Hardly a news worthy item.

Some things that happen present more of a mystery. The explorations of mysteries at Don’t Do This are perhaps more complete than some others. Nowhere else will you find possible para, and extra normal factors influencing the behavior of waxed string when being adapted for use as a fuse, or the unpredictable interstitial gaps in space influencing them.

Obviously, items such as these require testing and forethought. For instance, the wax doesn’t have to remain on the string to burn. This is a good thing to know. Some other things, however, resist all efforts directed towards identifying the psychic factors influencing reality, and quite often, unreality.

Witnesses my recent medical condition. I won’t describe it in detail because of its indelicate nature, its effect on sensitive parts, and the ever-present need to be near a bathroom. As medical conditions go, this was a 2 on Dave Richter Scale of medical complaints. The doctor asked why I hadn’t come in earlier because he believed that it must have been very uncomfortable. A shoulder surgery is very uncomfortable. Pneumonia is very uncomfortable. The condition I was seeing him for was more an annoyance due to the lack of public restrooms. It was also somewhat expensive as I had to buy something in every store with a bathroom. Thankfully, most of them carried some form of chocolate.

What gave me pause was that the doctor couldn’t give me an account of how the condition had happened. They said that they could if I had engaged in acts which I never have and don’t want to. They said if I were younger, they would ascribe it to an STD. I told them that unless the under lying cause could lie dormant for decades, that was not it.

Then the doctor started on a rambling discourse about “naturally occurring flora that we all have, and “natural migration”, “things ending up where they don’t belong”, and so on.

It was clear that the doctor had limited himself to a single, fixed dimension, while I have not. The answer to the question lay somewhere in the para-, or extra-normal realms; or the inter/non dimensional universes. Were I a woman, the internet would inundate me with possible answers. As I have never seen any evidence of this in any inter/extra dimensional universe, or para/extra normal situations, I am left to conclude I am not.

And so, I am left with no usable advice to give, except that if are a man, don’t expect to walk out with an answer. Do expect to walk out experiencing a 4 or 5 on the Dave Richter Scale. I am pretty sure the examination would be much less uncomfortable in some adjoining dimension. Offering that as a suggestion will not shorten the exam, don’t do this.
October 14, 2013 at 10:11pm
October 14, 2013 at 10:11pm
Don't do this: A sewer is no laughing matter
I was surprised a few days ago to find nothing was wrong. That is not typical. If one can imagine the worst possible thing that could happen in any situation, that would be close to what usually occurs. Naturally, I was suspicious.

My buddy and I had planned a debaucherous weekend of drinking and fixing the sewer. Between staring dumbly into a hole, going to town for parts (read: beer), and trying to adapt reality to what we require in order to work, we would be left on our own for two days. Imagine our surprise when we couldn’t replicate the problem. We used so much water that we set a one-day record for water demand trying to get the sewer to back up. Nothing was wrong.

We were disappointed, but more than that we were worried about the psychic backlash. Don’t Do This is full of examples where nature balances itself by making up for anything good that happens with something going very, very wrong. A disappearing sewer problem is at the far extreme of good.

Still, we had all the necessary parts to mount a good defense, so we dropped our tools and took a defensive posture (feet up, beer in hand). That made for good day, even as truncated by good fortune as it was. Then things took a turn.

I feel one should change things up with their standard set of medical complaints. Oh sure, I have some good ones, but they are the same ones over and over. The sky is falling up! The sky is falling up! It is a hoot for everyone but it gets old after a (short) time. This weekend I tried something new.

Being delicate, the problem was not located above the waist or below the thigh. I had somehow developed a problem that is common enough, but a new one for me. It rendered tender parts even more so. I don’t understand medicine anymore. These days a younger person comes in and performs an examination, then they leave and give the doctor their diagnosis. The doctor comes in and performs another examination to see if the first doctor got it right.

Being delicate, the combined result of these examinations was a condition reproduced in countless funny videos around the world. I don’t believe they were hoping for a Funniest Home Videos moment, but they got one anyway. The solution was a good, healthy round of antibiotics.

This is all entirely my fault. I got nature annoyed by laughing at the sewer problem, so nature kicked me in the nuts. I am carefully sitting at home now. I am going to call my buddy and tell him to watch out, because it is much worse than we thought. If the pattern holds true, the sewer will back up.
October 11, 2013 at 11:09am
October 11, 2013 at 11:09am
Don't do this: Do not forget which direction is down
My wife and I have a formal agreement about ownership of our home. She drafted it, enacted it, and enforces it. It is a simple arrangement which states that she owns everything from the floor up, and I own everything from the floor down.

The arrangement has been modified over the years to include a lot of different things. The guiding principle is that if one can be electrocuted, bitten by a spider, attacked by mice, hurt, or entails complex plumbing (which is all plumbing), sheetrock, or appliances, and power tools, it is within my purview. It may sound complicated, but I know what my wife will and will not tackle, and she will not tackle sewer problems.

There are a few things that I own with the totality of an absolute dictator. Hanging out at the dump, loitering in hardware stores talking about the comparative value of various fasteners, leaning on the fender of a dead truck while someone swears at it, these are things that are my birth right as a man. High atop the very acme is working on sewers.

I remember well my amazement after being enlisted by my father to work on the sewer that one could do it without dieing. Further, one could do it in complete solitude because no one wants to linger around an open sewer. It is not a pleasant job, but neither is being closely supervised while trying to accomplish an impossible sheetrock patch.

Our sewer is backing up. It isn’t a Code-RED emergency yet. It is still draining slowly. We can both get a shower if we space them out a bit. Still, it is something I need to dig into (so to speak). The situation is: my buddy down the street is a retired plumber, it is not going to rain for the entire weekend, and sewers are very simple having only one guiding principle (that having to do with gravity).

This chore is a license to avoid any other chores or duties and drink copiously all weekend. There really aren’t any parts or supplies that are likely to be needed. There are three possible outcomes. The problem is simple and a snake will fix. The problem is stubborn and the line needs to be excavated, which is a simple matter in this case. Or, it is a catastrophic failure of the system. That would be much less fun.

The thing that could really screw this up is if it were to become a Code–RED emergency. Management of the emergency will then be escalated to the next higher level, and she will not be happy. If things go badly, the job could be outsourced, and that would cost a fortune. No need to worry about that now. All my buddy and I need to do now is keep our wits about us enough to remember the one guiding principle. With as much experience as I have with gravity, that should be easy.
October 10, 2013 at 11:35am
October 10, 2013 at 11:35am
Don't do this: Don't skip 333 pages
I have excellent qualifications as a forgetful person. I take memory disenhancing drugs daily, and they work well. I live in a bubble of time extending 10 minutes into past and 5 minutes into the future. It results in remembering what I was doing for longer than knowing why. Example: I need a big screwdriver. I takes me seven minutes to locate it. I return to the task five minutes later and can’t remember why I am holding a screwdriver.

Even as disorganized as I am, I still have some abilities left. I always know where the aluminum bar is that I use for breaking into my truck (it is in the bed of the truck). I know precisely what beer is in the refrigerator, and would know what chocolate is in the cupboard if it weren’t for eating it all immediately. I am good with trivia. I can quote freely from all Star Trek series, Monty Python, my Fortran 77 manual, particle physics theory prior to String Theory (which caused me to quit in disgust), and music theory. I almost never lose my shoes.

But, there are some things that I am not so good with. There are plants dieing in the foyer because I can’t remember to water them after walking out of the foyer. Anything my wife asks me to do vaporizes the minute she is out the door. I will occasionally remember doing things for her that in reality I did not do. As Don’t Do This advises, forgetting things is bad. Remembering things that never happened is worse. Don’t do this.

I had accumulated a number of guitar components. I had a neck, two fret boards, a set of redwood top plates ready to assemble, a set of sides milled but not finished. All of these things are labor intensive to produce. So, I pulled them all out to see what I could make with them. The answer was: nothing. I needed more of this, less of that, this didn’t fit that, and none of the wood matched. But, I had some of the hardest parts of two guitars on hand. Making a fret board will drive you insane, so med up before you start.

I decided to build two guitars at once. I bought the wood I thought I would need and began. The technical guide I use is 388 pages. Every page contains crucial and detailed information. I use about 50 pages of it. Everything else I make up as I go. The result is a lot of planning that wouldn’t be necessary if I would just follow the damn book.

So far during the course of work I have changed the design of both guitars several times. As one might expect, I can’t remember what I am doing or why with either of them. I am going to have to simplify and build one guitar. With the parts and pieces I have, I can make one of the following guitars:

Redwood top with mahogany back and sides

Redwood top with maple back and sides

All maple (archtop)

All mahogany

Mahogany top with maple back and side, or the reverse

Obviously, these considerations exceed all memory parameters. Making matters worse, I don’t have anyone to ask what I am doing or why. This is going to require more beer and chocolate than I have on hand. I need to go to town. I never forget what I’m doing when I am doing that. Maybe I should set a beer down by the plants in the foyer.
October 8, 2013 at 11:46am
October 8, 2013 at 11:46am
Don't Do This: Consciousness abatement via drinking
I’m feeling a bit worse for wear this morning. I had an excess of consciousness caused by this ever decreasingly minor upswing. It now appears I will be enjoying one of my least favorite dietary supplements in order to weather it. It is very good at reducing consciousness but not so good at improving life skills such as speaking or finding one’s clothing. All that aside, I will do well as I have no small amount of experience in the subject of consciousness abatement.

Has anyone ever told you that you think too much or are over-thinking something? After hearing that you may have wondered how you might think less. It isn’t as easy as it sounds. Compounding the problem is that it is quite difficult to think less about one thing and continue thinking about everything else. What is left is a systemic approach.

I am a chronic over-thinker. Almost all of my doctor’s heroic efforts are directed towards my proficiency at it. Like many people in my situation, I have times when my mental activity resembles a mollusk, but I am most commonly forever on the brink of an epic suborbital manic episode. Suborbital mania is characterized by a profundity of really very good ideas and prolific over-thinking (at a very respectable rate as well).

There are many things that deserve, even require, over thinking. For example, removing ear buds or compact florescent light bulbs from the packing can be both enraging and dangerous (ref. Stomping on the packing is counter-productive. Using sharp kitchen utensils is hazardous. These are attacks that the makers foresaw. Over-thinking will lead you to solutions the makers did not foresee. Use a lighter. Or a bandsaw. A good soaking in Benzene, Xylene or Toulene is effective (not around a pilot light!). In the absence of those, stomp on it and have the store clerk open the next one.

I have some very effective tools for reducing consciousness. If you lack such tools but require a break from (literally) maddening thinking, I offer the following:

Drinking. I am a proponent of drinking. However, it won’t necessarily reduce thinking. It will impair thinking, which is not the same as reducing. If you have consumed enough to inhibit consciousness, you will be over-thinking the subject of alcohol poisoning later. I am not a proponent of alcohol poisoning. Don’t do this.

Misery. Misery will reduce thinking to a single subject. If you engage in socially unacceptable methods such as hitting your finger with a hammer, you may be directed to people whose concerns are less about your over-thinking and more about preventing you from hitting your finger with a hammer. Try an endurance sport. Don’t injure yourself too often or you will end up in the same spot.

Give free rein to your imagination. This will work once. It might be worth it if you have a really very good idea. Don’t combine it with the other two points. You could end being directed to people who do care about your over-thinking, and that’s worse.
October 5, 2013 at 10:38am
October 5, 2013 at 10:38am
I would probably be no better at forms as a cyborg
It may not come as a surprise when I say that I am confused. Not only am I confused in general, I am confused in a fundamental way by some specific things. These are things that everyone has trouble with and I claim sanity by association due to that. The alternative is that you share an association with me that one shouldn’t admit to.

First, a word about confusion. Many people assume a person is in the grips of deep befuddlement when in fact they are considering things that others don’t. A common example is the question, “Paper of plastic?” Some of the immediate questions are 1) Are they referring to grocery bags? 2) What if they are not referring to grocery bags? 3) What if one is completely ambivalent? Store clerks will not make this decision for you. One is forced into a hasty decision such as choosing paper when it is raining. Or, worse yet, choosing plastic when one’s entire cart is filled with things that roll. My truck will deposit the contents of plastic bags full of rolling things to the floor and then distribute them in an even layer. Paper would be better, but what if it is raining? It is not so simple a question as the shoppers behind you might assume.

I am told I am eligible for Medicare. I could be eligible for cybernetic augmentation and know just as much about that as well. Still, I am assured that I should apply. So, I tackled the online application process. This is a process that has been optimized for befuddled people. I do not claim association with those as I was confused rather than befuddled.

The form asked in what city my wife and I were married. We obtained our license in Placerville, but were married elsewhere. The form did not have enough space for, “Nikki's house in an unincorporated area of El Dorado County close to Camino”. I entered “Placerville”. It was only page two and I was already guilty of falsifying Government documents. I had entered my name, address, and phone number on page one so there was no escape.

It didn’t get any better after that. When it asked if this application was being prepared by someone other than the recipient, I had to think twice. I probably wouldn’t know if it had been or not until later and the form couldn’t be revised then. The form insisted I enter a date that benefits were to start. I am not eligible for benefits because I am on a Government retirement system. Still, I couldn’t continue until I did. Then I was guilty of fraud as well. If they somehow decide I should get a check, it will be even worse. Cybernetic augmentation was looking better all the time.

At this point, I am hoping they will choose to have me help them optimize the form for those not associated with befuddled people rather than incarcerate me. I should probably alert my wife to the eventual raid on our hideout, but she would not be pleased. If I wait until the authorities arrive, they will take me away before things become unpleasant. Maybe if I volunteer for cybernetic augmentation I can get a TV remote control implant. There is a place on the form for comments. Maybe I will put in a request there.
October 4, 2013 at 10:52am
October 4, 2013 at 10:52am
Don't do this: Your characters can become cruel masters
This is a split that opened up in the guitar top I was shaping. An obscene declaration followed.

Does this sound familiar? You have idea, maybe just a story you tell yourself sometimes. It grows until it occupies your thoughts to the exclusion of everything else. Finally, all you can do is start writing. A world of characters unfolds beneath your fingertips as you type. Complex and real, you feel them. You grow to love them. The story draws to a close and you miss the wonderful beings that have haunted your sleep and dominated your days. Then you begin editing.

Editing is tedious. You go over and over the story ironing out inconsistencies. Whole sections are revised. It begins to wear on you, but at last it is ready for submission. When you get it back from the editor, they have made a number of suggestions as well as “editorial comments”. Back you go, over and over. You begin to loathe your beautiful work, and then to abhor it. By the time you resubmit the work, you are ready to revise the final chapter and kill off every one of the beastly characters that now haunt your sleep in an entirely different manner than before. Then it comes back for the final revision.

One might be driven to issue an obscene declaration to the effect that they are stopping work on the project and never starting again. A publisher may take umbrage at that. They may threaten to charge you for the editing they have provided for free up to now. So, you become the slave of the characters you once controlled. When the work is published, you want nothing more than to forget the whole thing. Sound familiar?

It is enough to make one resist ever having another idea. I have achieved that. I wouldn’t recommend my methods, but I haven’t created any horrid characters whose negative qualities only appear upon the third revision. Now, my ideas are limited to horrid guitars whose negative qualities show up earlier.

The editing is worse yet. Obscene declarations seem to have little effect on how the work progresses. A piquing guitar is much worse than an unreasonable editor. At least the editor will forget about you when the work is off their desk. A guitar will mock you for all its little blemishes and faults as long as it is within sight. My fondest desire at the completion of the work is to not have to look at it again.

My efforts to eliminate ideas have been only partially successful. I have a number of ideas. Some are connected with the guitar I am building. Others are aimed towards having fewer ideas. In the end I will somehow have created something with six strings that sounds and plays acceptably well.

I once create a character who was attractive, but just plain mean. That was the last guitar. I’m hoping this one will at least be nicer, but it sure hasn’t started out that way. Devilish things, ideas.
October 3, 2013 at 10:56am
October 3, 2013 at 10:56am
Don't do this (yet)
I am reconsidering my recent advice against stapling one’s skin on in order to prevent it from crawling off. My recent situation has led me rethink strategies. It might not be a good time to rethink, my abilities there being limited at present, but I am devoted to delivering real-world advice even if it isn’t the world one usually inhabits.

One the one hand, things might improve if it did actually crawl off, but it would probably make quite a mess. The situation would surely deteriorate quickly if it didn’t stop there. It is not pleasant to contemplate so a few precautions might be in order.

First, a word about discomfort. A person who is not entirely lucid might do something dramatic to demonstrate they are impervious to pain. I can testify that they are not impervious; they have simply learned how to not show it. Don’t do this. It casts serious doubts regarding one’s sanity, and well deserved doubts at that.

That being said, I have some advice regarding stapling. First, carpenter stapling hammers are quite large. Additionally, they are used by striking a surface as if with a hammer. If one is not adept at using a hammer, they are advised to keep their fingers well away from the intended target. Otherwise there will be no demonstrating one’s imperviousness to anything. I was lucky, if you could call it that, in that I missed my hand mostly. These staplers are not suitable for attaching skin. Quite the opposite in fact.

I may have mentioned that I was once much less stable. During one notable episode, I performed an amazing feat involving an office stapler. On the plus side, my skin remained attached. The downside was the unanimous voicing of opinions that did not confirm my sanity, manliness, judgment, or manners. Don’t do this either.

That leaves more systemic methods for cementing skin in place. However, that requires the immoderate slathering of balms, tinctures, ointments, salves, herbs, chocolate, and distilled materials. By the time one’s skin has ceased to be a concern, so has everything else. That is not all bad, but I have two guitars in pieces on the bench. That is unacceptable. A guitar laying in pieces will not shut up until it has been completed and given away. Preferably to someone living several hundred miles away.

I’m sure you can see my predicament and the reason for my reconsiderations. I still stand by my recommendation that no one attach their skin using any of the above methods at this time. I will report any breakthroughs (figuratively speaking) or significant developments as they occur. If things continue to deteriorate, I may have to go see the doctor and ask if he has any better methods than I do. I’m pretty sure he does. His reference books are not as complete as Don’t Do This, but still have some good advice. I just need to remember not to describe the methods I have already tried.

October 2, 2013 at 11:58am
October 2, 2013 at 11:58am
Don't do this: The basement is no place for brain damage
I once had an MRI that focused on my upper neck. A few days later, the doctor called me and my wife in(!) The MRI had detected “plaques” in my brain. He said they were consistent with MS, but it was unlikely I had it since I had no other symptoms. I was disquieted.

Then began an interview identifying things that could have caused the brain damage. Everything from being hit on the head by a tree (twice) to hitting a tree with my head (more than twice). The discussion became embarrassing, but was cut short when he asked if I had ever contracted scarlet fever. I had excelled at contracting scarlet fever.

Some twenty years prior, I had come down with strep throat. Then I became quite colorful. I don’t remember much after that. In an extensive five-minute phone interview with my wife, the doctor said to lay still and take aspirin. After couple of days of delirium, and a very interesting after-effect later, I was swell mostly.

The doctor I was visiting for the MRI results explained that presence of the plaques could be either 1) very significant or 2) completely insignificant. There could be some difficulties with motor and speech control (check), vision disturbances (check), and cognitive abilities (double check). He said I should get another MRI sometime in the future to see if they had grown. Now, 15 years later, I am debating whether I should.

Bipolar symptoms worsen over time, so my insightful writing could be entirely due to that. On the other hand, progressive brain damage is not known for improving lucidity either. Here are the issues surrounding getting another scan:

- My spouse will find out. Living with a lunatic is bad enough. A lunatic with worsening brain damage would be significantly more distressing. She is already talking about remodeling the basement so I can live down there. That would be the type of thing that would scare the living hell out of any young people wandering into the basement.

- I would discover that my condition is worsening. I don’t need a $2,000 brain scan to know that.

- If I could foist all my many and splendid symptoms onto brain damage as a causal factor. Bipolar sufferers are not media darlings. They usually do bad things on cop shows. If I could claim to have suffered brain damage due to an untreated illness, I would get much better press. Brain Injury Awareness has its own day. Bipolar Awareness has a warning label.

- I might find out my writing will be affected by worsening brain damage. The question that leaps to mind is, how would you know?

In the end, it doesn’t really matter. There isn’t anything that can be done for either of them. However it would be helpful to know if I should get started on the basement, it is a disaster now. It is frightening to more than just young people to be down there at night. Visual disturbances indeed.
October 1, 2013 at 10:00am
October 1, 2013 at 10:00am
Don't do this: Warning- let sleeping heros lie.
I have always had what doctors have euphemistically called “sleep disturbances”. The euphemism stands for “just as crazy when asleep as when awake”. One might think the equation balances, but it doesn’t. The difference is that one typically has less judgment when asleep. That is a significant difference in my case.

I have experienced a couple of incidents of lucid dreaming. I suppose everyone has. Except for those few times, I am completely at the mercy of whatever lunatics prowling my subconscious come out to play. I have developed a few techniques to keep things under control. They don’t work. But, I list them here in hopes they work better for you:

First, identify the types of dreams that seem to be the worst in terms of impacting the world outside of your head. Say, for instance, one often dreams that a wall is collapsing on their spouse and they selflessly sacrifice themselves by leaping onto their spouse thereby saving them from certain death. Instead of being praised for this heroic act, their spouse may react negatively to being pounced upon in the middle of the night. If this occurs nightly, it could get worse.

- Before falling asleep, repeat the phrase, “I will not perform heroic acts” until asleep. This won’t work, but you can claim that you are trying to fix the problem.

- Inspect all structural elements in the bedroom. Check out the walls, the ceiling, the floor, and anything else that has threatened your spouse with certain death. This won’t work either because the falling wall in your dreams is seldom the bedroom wall. Still, you are trying.

- Trying to engineer a restraint is not recommended. When saving one’s spouse from certain death, a restraint will inspire an even more heroic effort and produce an even more pronounced negative reaction.

It is quite likely that your monumentally poor judgment while asleep is mirrored by piteously poor judgment while awake. These factors will land you in a doctor’s office whose specialty is not treating physical maladies. The doctor is likely to be very impressed with your heroism while asleep. However, the continual sacrificing of one’s own safety will prompt him to concoct his own solution, which will work.

Lithium is my favorite metal. It is the first solid of the periodic table. It has the density of pine. It will float in mineral oil. And, it will evidently prevent one from saving their spouse from certain death while asleep by eradicating dreaming. My wife doesn’t seem any worse from wear after several years of freely-falling walls with no hero to save her. I can only assume she is getting a proximity effect from the lithium and is not aware the continual danger she faces. It is just as well. Had I continued to save her, it wouldn’t have been she that faced certain death.
September 29, 2013 at 11:09am
September 29, 2013 at 11:09am
Automatons don't provide enough engineering background.
I have a cold. That isn’t a big deal. The problem is that I am destroyed by colds. They are my Kryptonite. As I have perhaps too often mentioned, I have had a lot of surgeries. I have also injured myself in many and splendid ways. None of them were all that painful. They weren’t pleasant, to be sure, but for the most part I got through them fine. Colds are a different matter. I am reduced to abject misery.

I split wood one handed after my shoulder surgeries. I can’t split open a package of chicken soup when I have a cold. I have even less cognitive abilities than usual. Operating a remote control is perplexing and I end up watching infomercials about women’s undergarments (even more perplexing). The only thing that saves me is that I am too miserable to care. There are lingering questions, but maybe I can catch up this time around.

As I am sure you all know, boredom is the silent killer of the viral afflictions. When people say they might die from boredom while suffering from a cold, they aren’t speaking figuratively. If your body is the spaceship traveling to Jupiter in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the astronaut Bowman is the cold virus slowly removing your mind’s components until you are left singing, “Daisy, Daisy / Give me your answer, do” and contemplating how a bra can "push up" when there is nothing beneath it.

I am not that bad yet and I will hopefully not get there. I am still able to consume massive quantities of junk food, the only known antidote to both boredom and cold symptoms. I will retreat to my shop a little later to stare at the assemblage of guitar wood and parts with no clear idea of what to do with them. That is not markedly different from what I usually do, so it will feel like I am being productive.

It is Sunday and my wife is home. She is a caring, loving person, but I have sensitized her to moaning and groaning. It is essential I refrain from any such utterances while in her presence. That leaves unconsciousness as the best strategy for maintaining Domestic Harmony. A good avenue for taking this approach is provided by my wife who insists I take cold medication. I suspect she has dual motives here, but I am in no condition to resist.

I face a continual juggling of medications. Taking cold medication is not compatible with the other things striving to render me unconscious. It is manageable except for the hours between 2:00 AM and 5:00 AM. It all has to do with medications wearing off and getting my wife off to work. I am not allowed to be in the shop during those hours, and there is a long-standing injunction against using power tools while wearing a bathrobe anyway. I am left to the mercy of nocturnal invisible things (they like dim light) and the hypnotic droning of attractive automatons and their continual amazement concerning products they have been selling for decades.

The other alternative is composing blog entries. As you may have gathered, I can compose them while nearly unconscious. Astronaut Bowman will have to do more than disable my brain to stop my valuable free advice. If my condition deteriorates and I am up late, you will be the first to know when I decipher the engineering and emotional components of the Extreme Ego Boost Lace Push Up bra.
September 28, 2013 at 11:53am
September 28, 2013 at 11:53am
Don't do this: Do not render your muse unconscious
I picked up a quote from a Facebook post courtesy of Kari Simmons Tompkins. She wrote, “’There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.’ W. Somerset Maugham English dramatist & novelist (1874 - 1965)”. That explains it. I feel much better knowing everyone else is as in the dark as I am.

Lacking the necessary knowledge or inclination to write properly, I rely on my senses for guidance. If it becomes extraordinarily quiet, it means I am thinking too hard and have stopped breathing. The solution is to write what ever comes to mind and start breathing again. If I find that my hands are frozen above the keyboard, it means I was about to write something so abhorrent that my body froze in horror. In that case, I write something else. If I smell sometime unusual, it is not related to writing. I get up to see if I have inadvertently set fire to the house.

Writing is a matter of process and ritual here at Don’t Do This. First, I sit down at the computer and wait for my muse to show up. She has been missing for some time, so eventually I look to those other less helpful entities who have taken her place in absentia. It is thanks to them that I end up writing about one missing shoe and why one cannot produce a decent fireball with a ping pong ball (turns out they are hard to rupture, although I still think using a syringe to fill one with gas, lighting it on fire, and launching it with a slingshot could yield a few laughs. This is the kind of thing my ersatz muses tell me).

It could be that in an effort to silence the inane babbling of my “creative voices”, I have rendered my muse unconscious. I understand they can be rather flighty and I am a bit heavy-handed with the others. I hope she isn’t upset when she wakes up. I don’t know what worse she could do but considering her parentage, caution is advised.

I have done Mr. Maugham one better by not just simply being ignorant of the rules, but by additionally rendering unconscious that entity who might enable me to write in a lucid manner. I thought I might "get on her level", so to speak, and try to locate her while unconscious myself, but my ability to write is even worse at those times. I might attempt lucid dreaming, but unconsciousness the way I do it is not conducive to lucid anything.

I think I will go look for my muse in the refrigerator. Failing that, the shop. Being mythical makes her hard to find. But, I have the other yay-hoos at my shoulder and they have some passable thoughts. I think I have a couple of ping pong balls somewhere. Oh! One of them suggested trying the Flying Ping Pong Ball Trail of Fire. See? They do alright sometimes. I wish they knew the first thing about writing.
September 27, 2013 at 11:10am
September 27, 2013 at 11:10am
Don't do this: Avoid day four if possible.
As my hopes for a shallow manic event recede, I am pondering Don’t Do This: How to Avoid Impending Mania. I misnamed this chapter. It is more accurately about how to care less about it. It can’t be avoided. It is actually more useful to consider it from the future and look back at the detritus, flotsam, jetsam, disarray, and unfortunately difficult to clean messes that resulted from the episode.

Let’s start first with a few axioms and collories:

One must take a moment to consider what they are planning to do. It is a cruel conundrum that even though one’s first impulse is probably wrong, thinking twice will only make things twice as bad. Focus on what will have to be done to mitigate what ever ill-advised act is being considered. For instance – are you going to throw something at a corporeally-challenged person? Wait until they move from in front of the window to do it.

You skin will not actually crawl off your body despite the evidence. It is not necessary, nor advisable, to secure it in place.

Avoid mirrors. There is no information of any use to be gained. If one has inadvertently looked into the mirror from an angle and is out of view, they might deduce that they are invisible. Don’t do this. It is also possible to overreact if one looks into a mirror and their face appears to be melting. Remain calm. One can drink without a face. Go to the refrigerator.

Now a few tips on enjoying mania:

Precautions – read How To Pass a Mental Evaluation, Ten Things To Never Say to an Officer, and Ten Things To Never Say to an Emergency Room Doctor.

For those of us with the restraint and judgment of a rabid cat, and who lack Good Sense, and who have many thoughts on how to employ these attributes, mania is our native environment. Considering that we only visit occasionally, we should try to enjoy it. Doing anything else won’t improve matters. Give flight to your wild ideas and notions because they are flying away with or without you.

If you believe you are hiding your chaotic mental state from anyone, you are mistaken. If an invisible person deserves an upbraiding, deliver it. Note - Avoid gestures, swearing, keep remarks short, and most importantly, don’t mistake a visible person for a invisible one.

If you have been at this a while, there is likely nothing you can do that is any worse than your previous accomplishments. It may not be wise to consider this a challenge, but then again it may.

All the above encompasses the first three days.

There is only so much that medication can do to reduce the hilarity and fun that mania brings with it. And, there is only so much fun that one can tolerate. Aggravating matters is that the fun eventually transforms into something quite the opposite.

The weeks that follow that can be unpleasant. If things have become intolerable, one should remember that their doctor is in need of a break from less entertaining patients and would appreciate seeing you in a nicely developed mania. Mine called in two colleagues the last time I went (I think). We were all well entertained until they gave me an injection. That was OK, I was done with fun by then. I hope I am not headed back there this time. That was not a good day four.
September 26, 2013 at 10:24am
September 26, 2013 at 10:24am
Don't Do This: Avoid conceiving an impossible sandwich
It takes me a long time to get started on things. Years, sometimes. That is an improvement over my unmedicated past when I would start things in milliseconds. If there is one thing mania is good for, it is spontaneity. Follow through can be an issue, but starting things is a snap.

My wife tried to get me to build a deck for years. It took five years for me to conceive how it might be possible to level an already flat piece of ground. The results of my planning were quite acceptable. A badly injured thumb and possible concussion from dropping a 12-foot 2” X 6” on my head were the only mishaps. I ran a circular saw into my tennis shoe, but that doesn’t count.

I was gripped by the terrible fear that the house would collapse for ten years before I refinanced and had the foundation fixed. Even painting a room requires two years of careful consideration. My idea of spontaneity is planning on going to town the next day. The only things I will do at the drop of a hat are things I shouldn’t do at all.

My wife has developed a strategy for getting a room painted in less than two years. She buys the paint, takes it to the room, and opens it. An open can of paint in the house is a Don’t Do This burning red flag. A can of paint is only a fraction of a second away from being on the floor, the fixtures, the carpets and rugs, the adjoining room’s carpet and rugs, and all over painted surfaces for which there is no paint left for cover-ups (don’t do this). In the event of a tragic event, I will be conscripted to remedy any mishaps. That will result in even more tragedy. I am drawn to an open can of paint by the inextricable force of self-preservation. Having had ample experience in that, there is no planning required.

My planning window is expiring on several projects. I mentioned the washing machine yesterday. I have planned on fixing the deck next to the house so long that it has become dangerous. I had to make two ad-hoc repairs after staining it just to make it safe enough to walk on. The bathroom really needs a new floor covering because of tragedies occurring during painting the room twice. I have laid flooring in a bathroom before. Those of you who have laid flooring in a bathroom know the horrors. Those of you who haven’t, don’t do this.

I have long periods of time when I don’t believe it is possible to get up and make a sandwich. I liken this to an analogy: If a plane is flying at 2,000 feet and loses 1,000 feet, it continues. If the plane was flying at 1,000 feet, it stops. I never attain an altitude that will allow for a safe drop. When I drop, I crash. When I crash, the only ideas I have involve things I shouldn’t do at all. This extends the planning period for decks, painting, and sandwiches.

It is time to start starting. Since it is early, I will start with breakfast. I will need a little planning to get past that. Maybe I will start with something I shouldn’t do at all. Then I will see if I can conceive making a sandwich. If that goes well, I will move on to something larger, like a trip to town tomorrow. Planning is the key to good results. If only I could find the lock.
September 25, 2013 at 11:44am
September 25, 2013 at 11:44am
They use very big washing machines on starships.
I am accustomed to things going wrong. It is by far more usual than things going well. The ways in which things can go wrong are many and varied. Everything from a slow decline to a catastrophic failure, insidious decay to rack and ruin, explosive failure to failure to explode, I have experienced them all. I consider myself an expert at failing.

There seem to be two factors responsible for my success at failing. One is my inability to think. When I am able to conceive some solution to a problem or identify a cause, it is usually not right. Sometimes it is perfect in another dimension. One with less gravity and not so demanding of correct measurements. I am great in that dimension.

The other problem, and the worst by far, is thinking. I am a prolific thinker when manic. I not only have my best ideas when manic, it is also when I am the most motivated. I can put off patching the sheetrock for months, and then become manic and attack it with alacrity. The results of committing even small errors when patching sheetrock are a hideous blight on the face of an otherwise acceptable wall. When manic, the best solution may seem to be replacing the rest of the wall.

As crucial as thinking seems to be, the ability to control it is even more so. I am perpetually either unable to start or unable to stop. It isn’t hard to imagine the problems that arise from either having no ideas or having a hundred. I have heard it said that as a person ages, they rely more on experience to solve problems. That is a very bad thing for me. Additionally, I have no way of knowing if the experience I remember actually happened. In short, a project with a high degree of risk and accompanying potential for significant damage is not just merely bad.

Enter the washing machine. When our old washer died, we bought the model of washer used on the starship Enterprise. It is a dandy machine. The problem is that it is too big to allow the door to open all the way. It hits the bath tub. It needs to be raised at least ten inches. The starship designers engineered a solution to the vibration problem by filling the bottom with cement. The machine weighs 190 pounds.

I have avoided addressing the problem for two years. The reasons are obvious to any Don’t Do This reader. Thanks to my recent manic episode, I have one hundred ideas of how to do it. I am going to purchase a standard pedestal (because even in this state I know that anything I could build would not work) and either, 1) lay it over on its side and attach the stand, or 2) elevate the machine using jacks, levers, blocks, and liquor.

I estimate the odds of success to be 90%. In the other dimension. It is much less likely in this one. But, this is not an optional project. It is either this or remove the shower and stack a new dryer, which would weigh 130 pounds, on the relocated washing machine. If you just experienced a flash of horror, you reacted properly.

I am now in the planning stage of considering which first aid supplies I will need; and which construction tools I will need if the washing machine falls though the exterior wall, the interior wall, or the floor. I will need to remove the bath tub and it will certainly not go back in without a plumbing revolt. I can see a deficiency in my planning. I am amending the option of laying the machine on its side and including liquor in that one also.

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