The 12 Days of Christmas Don't Cost That Much

It's the middle of November, which means everyone is talking about Christmas. It's mostly people whining about how everyone else is already talking about Christmas, but with good reason. As soon as it hit 9:00 on Halloween night, the Christmas marketing season began.

It's also when the PNC Financial Service Group trots out their annual Christmas Price Index, as they have for the last 33 years. This is the report where they calculate the cost to buy everything from "The 12 Days of Christmas," or as I call it, "99 Bottles of Eggnog on the Wall."

In 2017, PNC says it will cost $34,558.65 to buy everything in the song. That's a .6 percent over last year because of a spike in gold and pear tree costs.

I think the index is overinflated because as one of the largest banks in the country, PNC doesn't understand true entrepreneurship. I've worked in small businesses for 22 of the last 24 years, including nearly nine years as a small business owner, a…

My Kids Won't Lie For Me

I've made a terrible mistake with my kids. None of them will lie for me.

Don't get me wrong. I'm pleased that they value honesty so highly. But I can't get them to lie on my behalf even a little bit.

When I was a kid, I didn't like lying, but I did it out of a sense of self-preservation.

"Yes, I was at Mike's all day. No, we didn't go to the mall. No, we didn't get Mike's mom to buy us tickets to Caddy Shack. I'm only 13, and that would be wrong."

Then I would get found out and get grounded for lying. So I only ever did it when it really counted. Like denying that it was me who stuck 15 or so For Sale signs in front of my high school for a senior prank. (I still got caught, and was grounded for an entire month.)

As I grew older, I learned to value honesty and to tell the truth even when it hurts. I hold other people to that same standard. If you can't be honest with me, and be a person of integrity, I'll have nothing at all to …

Facebook in the Middle Ages

Mildred posted: "Leprosy effects 1 in 10 people, and is the leading cause of death in this country, more than scurvy, dysentery, and political assassination combined. If you know someone with leprosy, copy and share this post with your friends."

Raymond: "Well, actually, the Black Death has killed more people than leprosy.

Lyman: "#AllDiseasesMatter! ;-)"

Heloise: "My mom had leprosy when I was a little girl and I was never allowed to sit too close to her when one of her fingers had fallen off. All I can remember of her is her shape when she had to wear a burlap sheet to cover her disfigurements."

Judson: Leprosy is a sign that the Lord is displeased with the sufferer. These people should be rounded up and put on an island.

Mildred: We live on an island already, ass!

Laila: We could end leprosy if our kingdom would just adopt a standard healthcare system, where each physician charged the same number of eggs, chickens, or goats for different maladies.…

Misery and Disappointment: Adventures in Almond Milk

You know what I could go for? A milkshake.

I was sitting with my friend, Karl the Curmudgeon, a friend and fellow writer who is known for being argumentative and grumpy. We usually met for drinks at First Editions, our favorite literary-themed bar, but we were in the mood for lunch that day, and decided we needed some cheeseburgers.

We were at Disco Burgers, one of the best burger joints in the city. We had each polished off a Frankenstein Burger — a two-thirds pound burger with bacon, a fried egg, and a giant onion ring — and were just sitting, letting our food settle. We had been looking longingly at the ice cream counter, and a milkshake sounded pretty good right now.

"I'd better not," said Karl. "Alexis says I should cut out dairy." He looked so sad when he said this. Alexis was his 26-year-old daughter and the family's organic vegan anti-chemical evangelist. She had been living at Karl's house because her Gender Studies degree from a small liberal …

Dover Sole Almost Kills British Fisherman

I've done so many embarrassing things in my life, it's my signature go-to move. And based on my Facebook news feed, I'm apparently friends with dozens of klutzes, clods, and goofballs who are just as bad as me, if not worse.

You know who you are.

There was the time in grad school when I was speaking in front of a group of more than 40 foreign students at the Ball State University International House. Several people were giggling, pointing, and not paying attention, so I nudged one of my friends and said, "Hey, this is important."

He said, not quietly, "Your fly is open."

I turned beet red, ran out the back door, and raced around the house pulling up my zipper. Then I burst in the front door and said, "Now, as I was saying!" to much applause and laughter. They appreciated that I was a good sport about it.

As I was writing this column, I was trying to think of other embarrassing stories to share, so I texted my wife for some ideas.

"Oh Lord…

Science Finds the Best Way to Dump Someone

One of my family's favorite jokes goes like this:

A man calls his brother for their weekly phone chat, and asks about the family cat: "How's Hector?"

"Hector died," says the brother.

"Holy jeez!" shouts the man. "You don't just blurt that out. You have to ease into it. Like, you should have said, 'Hector's on the roof.' Then, the next time I call, say 'Hector fell off the roof and isn't doing well.' And the third time, say 'Hector didn't make it.'"

The brother agrees this could have been handled better and apologizes. After the guy calms down, he asks, "How's Mom?"

The brother thinks a moment and says, "Mom's on the roof."

I was reminded of the joke last week when I read that researchers at Brigham Young University have determined the best way to break up with someone, according to science: despite what our guy from the joke wanted, most people prefer to receive bad news…

Don't Worry, Oklahoma, Everyone Hates Veggie Burgers

Hater is back in the news again, this time with a state-by-state rundown of the food America loves to hate.

You may remember Hater is the dating app that helps you find that special someone based on how you love, like, dislike, or hate specific topics. And unlike those "unicorns fart rainbows" optimists at eHarmony, Hater matches people specifically on the things they despise. Because nothing connects you to your lifelong soulmate like a mutual hatred of Vladimir Putin.

You can rate things like zombie movies (hate 'em), staying up late (love it), headaches (who doesn't hate these?), and sleeping with a lot of pillows (hate it).

I would like to see them include my own pet peeves: people who pronounce jalapeño "hal-a-peen-o" (hate it), children misbehaving in restaurants (OH MY GOD!), and people who try to tell me how hot dogs are made so I won't eat them (I will fight you).

A couple months ago, I wrote about Hater's findings about the things each sta…