Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Best and Worst of 2008

Best Thing I Said to a Child: "Don't eat that crayon, it's yucky."
Worst Thing I Said to a Child: "Herpes!" (Babies find that word hilarious)

Best Restaurant Meal: Cashion's Eat Place with Refugee and Lemmonex.
Worst Restaurant Meal: One in which my companions monopolized the waitress, asked incessant and nonsensical questions, and agonized over each plate as if they were defusing bombs made of glazed chicken.

Best Karaoke Moment: Drunkenly singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" with J.'s family in his dad's living room on Christmas Eve.
Worst Karaoke Moment: Getting up on stage at Recessions and realizing the only part I knew of "It Takes Two (to Make a Thing Go Right)" is the chorus. "It takes two to make a thing go right, it takes two to make it out of sight..." followed by mumbling and baffled silence among me and my singing companions.

Best Dating Advice Received: "You scare the crap out of people. And that's OK."
Worst Dating Advice Received: "Boys worry less about dating girls inferior to them in intellect, since it is generally expected that a girl won't be as intelligent as the boy she dates." (from 1958's best and most enlightened book, "The Art of Dating.")

Best Show: The Swell Season
Worst Show: Aimee Mann (tip: Don't go to a show of all breakup songs with someone you recently broke up with)

Best Film: Wow, 2008 was kind of a dead zone for this. But Wall-E was awesome and thought-provoking.
Worst Film: Synedoche, New York. Move past the pretentious title for a moment, and take in the sort of drear-fest that doughy male middle-aged film critics lose their minds over. Then note the rest of the audience, who are mostly saying, "Since when is 'life sucks, then you die' a novel premise for a movie?" Then count the number of people sleeping through this exploration of how it's hard out here for a wimp.

Best Day at Work: The day I got laid off, and spent the afternoon drinking champagne with Lemmonex. Way better than an afternoon of filing.
Worst Day at Work: When I found out my hours got cut, and I still had to finish out the day.

Best Date: Beer and sausages, followed by a jazz festival, followed by pool.
Worst Date: The one where not even I could get a word in edgewise.

Best Thing About 2008: All the wonderful, cutely flawed and overwhelmingly kind new friends I made.
Worst Thing About 2008: A falling out with one of my oldest friends.

Happy New Year, all of you. And remember: nothing says New Year's Day like Dramamine, Gatorade, and maybe a McMuffin if you're in real pain. See ya next year, LYLAS, KIT, and all that other abbreviated yearbook sincerity. Take care.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Get Your Helmets On, I'm About to Take Myself Seriously

I always get a little introspective at the end of the year.

Maybe it’s the deluge of Christmas letters, telling me who bought a house, who changed jobs, and the progress of Little Sally’s rehab. Maybe it’s the cold, and all the corresponding time spent indoors. More likely, it’s because I realize I’ve closed out yet another year without the faintest clue what I'm doing. So things get a little sappy while I try to sort out my messy little life.

That's also because the end of the year is my blogiversary. I began this site in December 2002, as a platform to rail against the blatant sexism and haphazard plotting of 7th Heaven. Since then, it’s had four names, 380 posts, nearly 100,000 hits (since I started keeping track in '07), hundreds of comments, one forced hiatus (the Great State Shutdown of ’06), and several voluntary ones. Those 380 posts correspond to six years of a life lived in the silliest way possible: bad television, an impulse marriage, a life of empty leisure overseas, a divorce, new beginnings, several jobs, multiple breakups, amazing friendships, and busting ass in front of a Popeye’s. This site has seen me at my most self-absorbed (er, like this post), philosophical, outraged, silly, unapologetically feminist, and, of course, happiest.

I am both pleased and appalled to say that this blog is my most enduring and intimate adult relationship.

I wouldn’t be who I am without this site. Part of that is my need for a creative outlet: I doubt I want to be a professional writer, as I would find that sort of life very lonely. But I have somewhere safe to go where I can mouth off. I can try out those meaty, fun words I love so much, like “ignominious” and “gawp.” (Sad piece of Shannon trivia: as my vocabulary comes from crossword puzzles and reading, I can’t actually pronounce the majority of the big words I use here.)

I’m even more grateful for my readers. You people who click over to see what I’m up to, whether they’re friends, old classmates, random Swedes, hopping in via DC Blogs, or folks who found me by Googling, “my boyfriend thinks I’m high maintenance.” And I’m even more grateful for those of you who comment, who choose to be active participants in this site. I’m amazed by your humor, your support, and your ability to be both classy and crass all within the same sentence. I still get a little thrill every time a new comment pops up.

Moreover, some of you have hopped out of my keyboard and joined my real-life circle of friends. Thank you for enduring my bad karaoke, endless chatter, and inability to hold my tequila.

I’ve had a few trolls, some hate mails, and some dramas. I’ve dealt with some people who, frankly, suck. I’ve had to pay a price, here and there, to speak my mind and keep this little corner alive. If I had to do it all again, though, I wouldn’t change a thing.

I realize this sounds like a commencement speech, like I’m about to hang up my blog hat and bid you farewell. Fat chance. I’ll be here as long as you stop by to see me. And when you’re gone, I’ll type alone in the dark.

I am filled with gratitude and thrilled by my fantastic luck. Thank you, and I'll see you in 2009.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

TMI Thursday: Non-Instant Karma

Fine, LiLu. You got me. For you, a TMI tale of embarrassment.

Long ago, in early 2002, I was dating (my now-good-friend) Simple Math. One Saturday, we decided to drop by the now-defunct Cozy Corner Cafe for a diner breakfast. And, boy, I needed it. I'd spent the previous evening double-fisting single-malt scotch and cheap beer.

Our food came, and I broke the Cardinal Law of the Hangover: don't ever reach for the eggs first. Start with toast. I turned shades of green unknown to Crayola or Pantone. My face was a rainbow of sickly fruit flavors. I lurched out of my seat and dashed for the upstairs restrooms.

I imagine my fellow diners heard something like this: tap tap tap tap tap tap...(pause for turning at the landing)...tap tap tap tap (I clearly remember exactly four stairs)...STOMP STOMP STOMP (running down the hall)....SLAM! (restroom door closing)....Bleeeeeeeeaaaaaarggggggh! (no explanation necessary).

I expelled the contents of my digestive system (in what turned out to be the men's complete the humiliation). I staggered downstairs, and returned to the table to find that Simple had settled the check. Before I had a chance to warn him, Simple headed up to the men's room. After he left, two waitresses sidled over.

"So, how far along are you?"

Forgive me, oh, forgive me for this....

"About two months."

They looked to my ringless hands, and clucked sympathetically. Word of my ignominous illegitimate imaginary pregnancy flew about the restaurant. Simple returned to find a collective Waitress Death Stare. It's a good thing we'd already eaten, or he might have gotten some DNA with his omelet. At any rate, he never got good service there again.

But that's not the punchline. More than four years later, I was road-tripping around the South. I realized I was close to Simple's hometown, so I rang him up and badgered him until he told me some fun places to go.

"Oh, go get a burger and a soda at this one diner. You'll love it."

I went to Simple's "diner," sat down at the counter, and wondered why I was the only woman there. I also wondered why all the locals were staring at me as if I was wearing a fedora made of human entrails.

That's because it wasn't a diner. It was an illegal off-track betting parlor.

You win, Simple. You win.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Hell That Is My Safeway

I go to the market several times a week. And several times a week, I waste a few more of my precious hours on earth, grinding my teeth and forcing a smile like a Valium-addled 1950's housewife.

Problem one? The customers. I am surrounded by the sort of people who have never bought groceries before. They dicker over prices, they run back for "just one more item" right as they are being rung up, they fail to notice when their purchase is complete and gawp at the cashier. Note: in our capitalistic society money is exchanged for goods and services.

Moreover, every line has the Complainer. This person sighs loudly, shifts, nestles their way into your personal space, and whines their way through the entire grocery purchase procedure. The Complainer often fails to realize that their actions are having the opposite effect of what they intended: instead of speeding things up, time slows to a slurping crawl.

Problem two? The cashiers. Now, I believe all honest work has dignity. And anyone who can wear a smock and stand on their feet all day is worthy of my respect. But heavens.

Thursday, I was stuck with a Food Molester. This woman, who was clearly new to the grocery game, felt she had to manhandle every item in my basket. I spent my walk home imagining a sort of vegetative group therapy, in which the produce section wept over its collective deflowering. The cilantro accused the cashier of date rape, the tomatoes got a sultry spanking, and the green onions will never be the same.

Sunday, however, was a topper. Wow. I ran in for some flour, saw a short "Express" line, and was ready to go. However, just as I was about to be rung up, a uniformed Safeway employee butted in front of me. "Oh, I was here before," she said, breezily and to the opposite of all evidence and logic. She then spent ten minutes arguing with her fellow cashier over the prices of various products. (I would think someone who worked there would already know this stuff.) I had lemon bars to speed-produce, my boss' party to attend, and a boyfriend waiting patiently in the parking lot.

"Look, I'm sorry, but I'm in a terrible rush, can we speed this up somehow?"

Answer: a synchronized pop of gum, two sets of rolled eyes, and the sarcastic slowness of four hands doing a Happy Hands Club wave of helplessness.

My options are pretty limited. I could stop eating entirely. That's the cheapest route, for sure. I could go to a different grocer, except for that whole thing where I don't have a car. I could order groceries for delivery. Or, I could complain about it on my blog, ask for your stories, and feel just a bit better.

I think I'll take the last option. In the comments, tell me your most painful tale of grocery woe.

PS - As some of you know where I live, please avoid giving out the name of my neighborhood. Stalking is not very awesome. Also, if a flood of would-be stalkers comes to my Safeway, the lines will be that much longer. Thanks.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Thoughts: Career Trajectory Edition

I wonder if my (highly variable, largely downward) career trajectory might not be completely due to outside forces. Maybe I have a little, tiny bit to do with it. Take, as one example, the following phone conversation with my staffing agency handler.

Me: Good afternoon, Shannon speaking.

Handler: Hi, just wanted to let you know your job site will be closed from Christmas to New Year's.

Me: Thanks for the heads up, my supervisor had mentioned something about that.

Handler: So we'll try to find intermittent work for you that week.

Me: Great! Just please don't schedule me for New Year's Day. I'll be hungover. (sound of colleagues cackling in the background)

Handler: ...

Me: Have a great weekend! I'm off to happy hour.

Then, a one-woman version of the sort of fights couples get in on their cab ride home from parties:

Shannon's Brain: Hey, Shannon's Mouth, please don't ever take a call while assembling a coatrack with your bare hands, on Friday, fifteen minutes before closing time. Also, could you please consult me once in a while before activating?

Shannon's Mouth (to colleagues): Hey, guys, check it's beer o' clock!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Con Artists Have All the Sweet Ideas

Ever feel like all the good scams are taken? I mean, really, my creativity is shot and I just don’t know how to fleece people any more. Let's look at the evidence:

First up, the Bogota Money Inspectors. Those guys rock – they come up in pairs, and claim they have to “inspect your money” to see if it’s counterfeit. Then they declare that it is, in fact, fake, take your money, and even give you a receipt. It’s genius.

Another genius? Anyone who has ever smuggled a monkey.

I remember being disappointed in Sarajevo, because all the Roma really managed to do is pick pockets and aggressively squeegee my windshield. I felt like I’d come all that way, at the very least they could do a few tricks before separating me from my wallet.

Next up is the New Orleans Classic: “I bet you ten dollars I can tell you where you got those shoes.” “You’re on!” “You got them on your feet. Pay up.”

Back home in Washington, we have the Fleece the Tourists Game. A cursory review of Craigslist tells me that I could rent my piddling studio for amazing sums to people willing to pay any price for a slice of history. Then I could fly off to the Maldives, and return to…an enormous clusterfunk jam of four million of the sort of people who stand on the left side of the escalator. No, thank you. I think I’ll spend the upcoming Touron Apocalypse under my bed, nibbling on my Economic Apocalypse supply of canned goods and gold bullion.

Also, a further review of Craigslist tells me I could significantly boost my income via a boob job and some yodeling lessons.

Politics is the heart and soul of the con. My first political consulting client was a man by the name of FoFo, who was implicated in a gay prison phone sex scandal in which his uncle reaped millions and a judge turned up dead. (The incumbent, however, was miraculously sleazier...he refused to support his illegitimate mentally handicapped son on the grounds that, "The boy ain't retarded. He's just lazy.")

And now, we have Governor Blagojevich, the man who makes my heart sing and my spellcheck explode. This guy tried to sell a Senate seat, use the Cubs as leverage to bully journalists, and set his wife up with some sweet corporate board gigs. The breadth of the accusations against him aren’t that shocking, really, when you consider it’s Chicago. But it does tell me that it’s all been thought of. It's all been done.

The world has run out of ways to fleece people. It’s sad, really.

In the comments, reaffirm my faith in humanity. Come up with a fantastic scam.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In Which I Seek Meaning, But Find Unflattering Separates

I don't share. I'm possessive, jealous, meticulous, controlling, and downright scary.

I'm not talking about men. I'm talking about closets. The two are closely related, however, and in more than just the Larry Craig sense.

That's because one of the biggest moments in a new relationship is when you offer up a small portion of turf: say, a drawer, a shelf, or Herzegovina. I went upscale and gave J. his own little closet corner, with hanging shelves and a basket for sundries (hey, if I'm gonna give up turf, it's going to be under my own exceedingly anal-retentive terms).

But first, I had to make space.

I disposed of a collection of button-down blouses. I don't know why I even bought those, as nothing creates a boob plateau on the already A-cupped like a button-down. Blouses make me look like John Edwards, except with a snappier haircut. So, no real loss.

But then we got to the weird stuff: my mother's wedding gown, which is a hand-embroidered hippie monstrosity. I wear it on Halloween sometimes. My wedding gown, which is lovingly preserved in such a way that it looks like Headless Me in a Box. A shoebox of my sister's old school reports, helpfully labeled, "Skye's Crap." My old school reports, including one from kindergarten claiming I have "issues with spatial relations." Coats I never wear. Dresses that don't fit and probably never did. Dresses I wore once (like, the, gown.) And more, and onwards. The absurd jumble of a life lived in the silliest way possible.

A more insightful blogger would find meaning in all this: "making room" in a literal and figurative sense, to allow a new relationship to grow. She'd find symbolism in these bits of family, past relationships, and prior selves. She'd set up her little Boyfriend Corner with a weepy sigh, a sense of purpose, an exploding heart, and a wry smile. Then she'd tell you all about it and you'd each come away feeling like you've learned and grew and changed. Like dandelions on a sunny field, while the cows do their cowlike mooing in the gooey twilight. Or something.

But that ain't me. So, instead, I'll tell you how I announced the Grand Opening of the Boyfriend Closet Corner:

"This is where your stuff goes. You have shelves! This is your basket. Now I don't have to look at piles of stuff everywhere. Cool?"

Clearly, I haven't learned a damn thing.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Bah, Humdrum!

I'm not a holiday person. Christmas music is the auditory version of the world's most boring cocktail party: all small talk, repetition and tiny thoughts. I've never seen It's a Wonderful Life. Travel, crowds, and lines give me panic attacks. I can't bake cookies, as I lack counter space, a reliable oven, or the inclination to swan about my tiny kitchen, measuring and sifting like some sort of prissified dork.

The only hooray of the season is that I can put on a pretty dress, swallow up huge portions of free booze, and call it, "networking." I have several "networking" events this weekend, for which I will need a pair of shoes.

And that's the tragedy of it all: I can't find the shoes I need. I went to the DCUSA complex in Columbia Heights with an ample budget of $25, and hit Target, Marshalls and Payless. All had satiny party shoes.

Let me correct that statement: All had satiny, strappy, OPEN-TOED party shoes. Because what I really want is to run around in 35-degree weather in sandals and no stockings, with my pasty white winter skin on full display. (My deeply tanned summer skin is a slightly less flourescent shade of white, more of a bony ecru with a hint of shimmer.) Why can't these emporia of holiday cheer stock something, I don't know, wearable during the holidays?

Garghhhh! Thanks for ruining Christmas, Target! Or, rather, thanks for being a minor logistical hiccup in my master plan to slosh my way through the weekend, lurching at people and hopefully attempting something godawful-but-hilarious, like licking my boyfriend's boss.

In the comments, please tell me I can wear Chuck Taylors with my party dress. The high-tops are dressy, right? Or are low-tops classier?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Netflix Says I Should Watch Better Movies

I have long thought that the worst job ever (even worse than elephant washer or P. Diddy’s personal waxer!) would be "film summary writer" for DVDs. You know, the guy who writes that blurb on the back of the box that says, “Come join the adventure as these two kooky garbagemen/repo men/space aliens do stuff no one cares about, and learn valuable life lessons as a result!”

I believed this, until I took the time to read the blurbs from Netflix. These guys are having the time of their lives. They’re also performing a public service by steering you clear of the truly dreadful.

Just check out these samples, taken from my actual Netflix queue (shut up).

Red Dawn:
A group of high schoolers witnesses Soviet and Cuban paratroopers descending on their small Colorado town, setting off World War III. The teens -- led by Jed Eckert-- take food and whatever weapons they can find and hightail it into the hills to wait things out. But with the communist invaders on their trail, Jed and his young compatriots decide to launch a guerilla campaign and strike back.

There’s the factual aspect of it, the mention of “Jed Eckert” (one of my favorite character names ever), AND the political statement of refusing to capitalize the word, “Communist.” Lovely.

And, now, Xanadu:
Concerned about angst-ridden artist Sonny Malone, Zeus dispatches winsome muse Kira to Earth to inspire the painter. Kira hooks Sonny up with wealthy Danny McGuire -- a musician Kira buoyed decades earlier -- and the trio revamps a vacant building into the world's coolest disco roller rink. Blending nostalgia and 1970s glitz, Xanadu includes tunes by Newton-John and the Electric Light Orchestra.

Do you not want to run out, right now, and rent Xanadu? You don’t? That’s because the brilliant minds at Netflix created a mashup of all the worst things about this film, and about film in general: “world’s coolest disco roller rink,” “winsome muse,” and “includes tunes by Newton-John and the Electric Light Orchestra.”

But, really, the genius reaches its pinnacle here:

Programmer Kevin Flynn's video games are stolen, and with help from his friends, he tries to hack the Master Control Program to prove CEO Ed Dillinger ripped him off. But the MCP pulls Flynn into its world, where enslaved programs fight on the "game grid." An amazing mix of Alice in Wonderland, Star Wars, Ben-Hur and German expessionism.

Amazing? Mix of Alice in Wonderland, Star Wars, Ben-Hur and German expressionism? Throw in a Mr. Belvedere reference, and I’m sold. Also, I had always thought of Tron as more of, “That really inadvertently funny computer movie with a distinctive visual style approximating that of the world’s most boring rave club.”

So I have a new career goal: blurb writer for Netflix! I mean, after all, I have a knack for this sort of thing. Just yesterday, I told a supermarket cashier that Wall-E was a, "post-apocalyptic robot love story where even the cockroach is cute.”

Friday, December 05, 2008

Fake Pregnancy Friday: My Dream Self Strikes Again

Months ago, a friend of mine dreamed about me. Not in any sort of hot or sexy way, no, he dreamed that I stole a bunch of groceries.

That day, we learned that my dream self is kind of a selfish beeyatch. And it's gone downhill from there. In my latest nocturnal adventure, I faked a pregnancy.

I didn't do it as some sort of grand social experiment. I didn't do it to con a man into proposing (from personal experience, all it takes is a huge bottle of Baltika). I didn't do it for attention, for the maternity leave, or even to use the Stork Parking or Metro Priority seats.

In my dream, I faked an entire nine-month, barf-and-bloat pregnancy to compete on a reality show. I lied to my boyfriend, family, friends (you were there, and you, and you, and you!), coworkers, landlord, and pretty much anyone else I could sink my claws into. I sat through an interminable imaginary baby shower for my unfit unwed motherly self, where I had to play appallingly embarrassing games, all while surrounded by cameras (the cameramen pretended to be from that Baby Story show).

The worst part is that I didn't even win. My fake pregnancy wasn't sufficiently convincing, and I lost to a woman who could make her navel go from innie to outtie with sheer willpower.

Come to think of it, losing was the best outcome. The prize was a Chinese baby and I'm clearly an unfit mother.

In the comments, I dare you to make sense of my dream.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

First, Let's Kill All the Thesauri

One of the most thrilling aspects of administrative work is my happy fun time in the Customer Service Vortex.

That first sentence wasn’t sarcastic. It’s really very fun. I spend all day calling people, being transferred to people, and having those people transfer me to other people, until I’ve met 200 new friends and wound up back where I started. It allows me to put on my “Secretary Voice,” the cheery/don’t mess with me “ain’t my first time at the rodeo” attitude.

My favorite people are the postage meter people. People who know postage meter people? The luckiest people in the world. These guys turned chaos into art. It’s a rabbit hole, a mirror, a funhouse of spectacular and cheery incompetence.

Amazing Feat #1: The super-special “high priority” customer service hotline. Which sounds suspiciously like a click, dead air and a dialtone.

Amazing Feat #3: The ability to continue to list our account as Cleveland-based, no matter how many times I explain that I am not, in fact, in Cleveland.

Amazing Feat #4: They split our (very simple) account into three separate accounts, with different account numbers, none of which seem able to interact with any of the other accounts. (People with disassociative identity disorder know that they have alter egos. Postage people, however, lack those necessary alter-ego communication skills.)

Amazing Feat #5: They have totally different setups (and hotlines, and account numbers) for “Renting” and “Leasing.” Yes, folks…ignore everything the thesaurus ever told you. Renting and leasing are totally different concepts.

Amazing Feat #6: That none of their staff would have noticed that there was no Amazing Feat #2.

At this point, I’m thinking that if I start flashing people, it might get us a postage scale. Or a restraining order. Either one.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Etiquette Guide for the Modern Holiday Mooch

Thanksgiving ranks high on the Shannon apathy-meter. It's not that I'm hostile to the concept, or that I have anything against turkeys or gratitude. It's that if I cared any less, I'd slip into a coma. And die. And then what would y'all do? Oh, right, you'd assume I was on hiatus again. And then you might have a tasty sandwich.

Put your sandwiches down, and let's get back to me. When you're a hearty puree of Eastern Cherokee, Welsh Aussie, and Hessian mercenary, the Pilgrims aren't too big a deal. My family celebrates the holiday by ignoring one another from our opposite coasts and multiple nations...except for the occasional inappropriate text message exchange.

Me: Happy Thanksgiving. Now go celebrate the annihilation of our ancestors!

Skye: Nothing says yay genocide like turkey!

From there, I usually either get drunk and play Grand Theft Auto, or I get adopted for the day. I can't remember the last time I spent Thanksgiving with a blood relative.

Over the years, I've become something of an expert at spending holidays with other people's families. Here's the summation of all my wisdom. I like to call it the Etiquette Guide for the Modern Holiday Mooch:

DO: Bring booze. I usually bring a bottle of wine, and maybe a specialty beer like Chimay. If your hosts are vehement nondrinkers, bring a generously-sized, yet discreet, flask. You know, just in case things get gnarly and you're reduced to hiding under a table and taking a few nips while you play with the dog's favorite bouncy-ball.

DON'T: Wear boots if there's any chance your hosts will ask you to remove your shoes at the door. It is impossible to look dignified while simultaneously shaking hands, avoiding the hyperactive dog, and shimmying your way out of a pair of three-inch knee-high boots. However, if you face-plant, most people are nice enough to find it endearing.

DO: Bring a gift for the hostess. A batch of fudge in a festive drugstore tin is easy and cheap (10-oz bag Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate chips, can of sweetened condensed milk, melted together in a saucepan over low heat, stir in a tablespoon of vanilla, pour it all into a 9 by 9 pan, chill overnight, chop it up, and you're done).

DON'T: Get visibly drunk. You want to spend the day with a faint glow, not a full-on radioactive liver. Pacing, my dear, pacing!

DO: Offer to help. Bonus points: Time your offers so cleverly that you, oops, never quite get that chance to help.

DON'T: Mediate family disputes, even when asked. ESPECIALLY not when asked. As the referee in more than one onion riot, I can vouch that there are no winners. There are only people with onion bits in their nostrils.

DO: Try a taste of everything, even if it's not necessarily what you'd normally eat. No one likes a picky eater. However, if you have allergies, discreetly ask the cook if any of your Dreaded Ingredients are there - if they are, good-naturedly eat something else.

DON'T: Play fetch with a toddler. Apparently, this insults their innate personhood. (Children aren't people, but I digress.)

DO: Find and befriend the Drunk Uncle. This person may actually be a Mormon teetotaler fourth cousin, but he'll still be the guy who finds everything amusing and wants a heckling buddy for the day.

DON'T: Engage in political or religious debates, even when pressed. Aside from being tacky to discuss either at the dinner table, it's bad for the digestion.

DO: Take off a whole bunch of time off from blogging and expect your readers to squeal like Japanese schoolgirls upon your return. I'm back, bitches.