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Things That Go Bump Under The Bed

Things That Go Bump Under The BedErik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2010, 2004

Erik is out on vacation this week, so we are reprinting one of his columns from 2004, mostly to see if we can scare the bejeezus out of him.

My oldest daughter is afraid of basement noises.

She told me this a few days ago when she raced upstairs from the basement after hearing a noise.

"I'm afraid somebody is in the house," she cried.

I assured her there wasn't, and we talked for several minutes about how there was nothing to be afraid of. She said she had watched a movie with my wife, and some bad guys were sneaking up on the heroes who were trying to solve a mystery. So she thought there was a Guy In The Basement.

"I know no one is there, because the dogs are calm," I said. "They'd go nuts if anyone was in the house."

Actually, my dogs are to home security what a tripwire and a cowbell are to Fort Knox. I'd be better off with an ill-tempered hamster.

My dau…

Karl the Curmudgeon Hates, Like, Whatever

Karl the Curmudgeon Hates, Like, Whatever"OMG," said Karl. "Did you see the list of the most annoying words of the year?"

Did you just say 'OMG,' Karl? I asked.

"I was being ironic," said Karl.

Yeah, ironic. Whatever, dude. I took a drink of my beer. We were sitting in Holv Utca, a Hungarian bar and grill, enjoying a couple rounds of Dreher, a Hungarian beer. We were watching the Hungarian national soccer league on satellite TV. Fradi was playing Ujpest, and the score was 2-1 — a real barn burner.

"No, seriously," he protested. "Didn't you hear about the new Marist Poll that covered the most annoying words and phrases of 2010?" "'Like' was second with 28 percent, and your. . . 'whatever'" — he said it with a sneer — "was first with 39 percent."

Muh-huh.

"Don't give me that, Kid. I know better than to actually use 'like' as a verbal filler.

You said 'OMG.' What are you,…

Wikileaks' Julian Assange Doesn't Like Info Leaked About His Case

I'm not sure how I feel about the whole Wikileaks disaster. On the one hand, he has put out some important information that people ought to know, like the fact that the Chinese government ordered the hack on Google in early 2010. On the other hand, they gave out information about how the US military can more easily detect roadside bombs in Afghanistan and Iraq, which means the Taliban can figure out how to hide them better.

While I think it's important that some information needs to be put out into the world, a la the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, I don't think information that can lead to death and maiming should. Hence my confusion.

However, what's done is done, and Julian Assange may be to blame for the deaths of more soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq.

His belief is that information needs to be made readily available, no matter the cost. "Information wants to be free," he has said in the past.

Unless it's information about his pending rape tr…

British Bureaucrats Are Trying to Kill Santa Claus

British Bureaucrats Are Trying to Kill Santa ClausErik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

It must suck to be British.

I'm not saying British people suck. I love British people, and am something of an anglophile. I read British mysteries, drink British tea, watch British television, and enjoy writing sentences where I say "British" at least four times.

No, what I mean is, the British bureaucrats can suck the fun and common sense out of anything they put their fingers on. They're like King Midas, only everything they touch turns sucky.

And the British citizens are forced to live under these rules being foisted on them by people who wouldn't know Common Sense if it kicked them in the googlies wearing a pair of sensible shoes and a crash helmet.

This month, as I write about all things Christmas, I'm wagging a finger at Dr. Franco Cappuccio and Dr. Michelle Miller, who work at the University of Warwick Medical School.

Dr. Miller and Dr. "Skim Milk" …

Phone It In Sunday: Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer Meets the Police

Kris Kringle meets Der Stingle, thanks to Callron's brilliant mashup of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Roxanne. Anyone who grew up with both will appreciate the sheer hilarity of the whole piece.

If you only watch one stop-animation children's Christmas TV special set to an 80s pop song, make it this one.




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Karl the Curmudgeon Meets a Jolly Stranger

Karl the Curmudgeon Meets a Jolly StrangerErik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

"Man, I'm tired of the TSA," said Karl, my friend and part-time curmudgeon. "The groping, the full body scans, the loss of personal freedoms."

We were sitting at Njáls Saga Bar & Grill, an Icelandic bar, after a particularly hectic day of Christmas shopping. Harold, the bartender, had just set two mugs of Egils Premium, an Icelandic beer, in front of us.

"You're telling me," said a stranger sitting nearby. "It's getting to the point so I can't do my job without a big hassle."

"I don't even like traveling anymore," said Karl, raising his mug of Egils to the stranger.

I don't even fly when I can help it, I said. If my destination is six hours away or less by car, I might as well drive.

"I've at least got my own transportation," said the new guy, tugging at his beard. "But even so, I still have to go throu…

'Baby It's Cold Outside' is Actually a Little Creepy

Baby, It's Cold Outside
When you think about it, "Baby, It's Cold Outside" seems like a date rape song disguised as a Christmas tune.



I really can't stay
(but baby it's cold outside)
I've got to go away
(but baby it's cold outside)

This evening has been
(been hoping that you'd drop in)
So very nice
(I'll hold your hands, they're just like ice)

My mother will start worry
(beautiful, what's your hurry)
My father will be pacing the floor
(listen to the fireplace roar)

So really I'd better scurry
(beautiful, please don't hurry)
but maybe just a half a drink more
(put some records on while I pour)

The neighbors might faint
(baby it's bad out there)
say what's in this drink
(no cabs to be had out there)

I wish I knew how
(your eyes are like starlight now)
to break this spell
(I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell)

I ought to say "no, no, no sir"
(mind if I move in closer)
at least i'm gonna say that I tried
(what's the sense in …

My Son Has a Few Questions

My Son Has a Few QuestionsErik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

"Sure, Buddy, you can ask me anything."

"Wait, you don't want to have THAT talk, do you?"

"Okay, you had me worried. You're only 8."

"Christmas will be here in about 21 days."

"Well, he comes down the chimney."

"No, I guess we don't have a chimney, do we?"

"The front door."

"No, we can't leave the front door unlocked."

"He'll still be able to get in."

"The way my father, your Opa, explained it to me is that he has a magical key that lets him into the front door of any house."

"I guess because chimneys are faster than doors."

"Because he wears mittens. It's hard to dig a key out of your pocket when you've got mittens."

"Of course I think he's real."

"What do you think?"

"Then if you believe he's real, that's all that matters."

"I don&…

UK Councils Sink Common Sense Pool Safety

UK Councils Sink Common Sense Pool SafetyErik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

Personal safety devices violates health and safety laws in England.

The Wokingham Borough Council in Southeast England recently banned all personal flotation devices from their swimming pools because they pose a threat to health and safety.

You read that right: a device that's supposed to keep you safe violates health and safety laws.

Harpers, a private company that runs swimming pools and sports centers around southeast England, banned the floating devices after a child nearly choked on one. So they implemented a policy to only allow the floating devices during supervised swimming lessons. But they never made the policy public, and from all accounts, would not have told people about it if they didn't have to.

The fact that you're reading it here pretty much tells you how that plan worked out.

Sarah Swain, 31, was swimming at the pool in Wokingham, when she decided she wanted to use a flo…

Olives and Zingers: A Thanksgiving Tradition

Olives and Zingers: A Thanksgiving TraditionErik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

Thanksgiving has always been one of those weird holidays.

I mean, it's a real holiday, because the post office is closed. Families gather together, nobody goes to work, everyone eats themselves into a coma, and somebody invariably gets upset with someone else and gossips about them to the rest of the family, parsing their argument down to the sub-atomic level, until Christmas.

But I never thought of Thanksgiving as a holiday when I was growing up. There are no gifts, no Thanksgiving carols, no Great Turkey, no decorations, and no gifts. (I thought it was worth mentioning the gifts twice.)

The only thing we ever really looked forward to on Thanksgiving was A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special ("brought to you by Dolly Madison snack cakes!"). That, and wedges of pumpkin pie you could jack a car up with.

Pumpkin pie was my consolation dessert since my parents would never let us get Dol…

A Zoo Visitor and His Finger Are Soon Parted

A Zoo Visitor and His Finger Are Soon PartedErik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2004

Erik is out of the office this week, so we are replacing his current column with one from 2004. Let's see if anyone notices.

Although I try to pretend otherwise, anyone who knew me will tell you that I was a rabble-rousing little terror who got into all sorts of trouble.

"A heller!" my grandmother shouts during one of her flashbacks.

My father is a psychology professor at Ball State University, and he was sometimes able to subtly control my behavior. Of course, this lead to some unfortunate incidents. Like the time I was four years old, my dad got me to stick my finger in a rat cage.

He did this by taking me to his department's rat lab, looking me straight in the eye, and with all seriousness and concern, said, "Whatever you do, don't stick your finger in the rat cage."

At that instant, any thought of not sticking my finger in the rat cage was replaced with "wh…

Dear Politicians, Please Shut Up Now

Dear Politicians, Please Shut Up Now
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

(An open letter from average citizens.)

Dear politicians, political consultants, activists, and pundits,

The election is over. The votes have been cast. You won or lost.

So shut it. Just shut up.

We're tired of it all. Tired of you. Tired of the anger and the hatred and shouting and the yelling and the lies and the half-truths. We're tired of all the whining and pouting and finger-pointing.

This election was not a confirmation on your way of life. It's not a reflection of whether the country agrees with you. The Republicans took control of the House of Representatives. That is not a referendum that the country agrees with your assessment of the President. The Democrats kept control of the Senate. That is not a message to the country that we agree with your assessment of the President.

It means your side won or lost. Period. It does not mean we wanted some Governor 1,000 miles away to also win o…

Marriage Advice for the Newlyweds

Marriage Advice for the NewlywedsErik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

My little brother is finally getting married at the ripe old age of 29. And as his older brother — someone who got married when he was a 12-year-old punk — I have several pearls of wisdom that I can offer after nearly 17 years of wedded bliss.

I also owe him some advice, since at my wedding, when the videographer asked if he had any advice for his older brother, stared at the camera for a few seconds, like a deer in the headlights, and then said, "don't fart."

So here is my advice for Andrew and his new bride, Michelle. They apply to equally to both (except #4. That's all for him.)

1. Never let the sun set on your anger. That is, don't go to bed mad at each other. Stay up late and play Ghost Recon on Xbox instead. This way, you can nurse a good long grudge, going over every nuance of the other person's argument, before finally coming up with that one stunner that will prove you…

New York City Principal Uses Bad English, Faulty Grammar to Show Why His School Shouldn't Use Textbooks

I thought you could only find this kind of story in Catch-22 or on 30 Rock.

According to a story in the New York Daily, News, Andrew Buck, principal of an East Flatbush middle school, sent out an error-laden email to teachers explaining why he thought they didn't need textbooks in the middle school.

Apparently, Buck thinks that because his students have lower reading skills, they shouldn't use textbooks to teach the students. He talked about how he didn't like textbooks in high school and college, and as a result, he doesn't think his already-poorly educated students should have to use textbooks.

Personal experience aside, which surfaces a concern about the potential adversarial affect of textbooks to students learning, let;s return to the essential question of learning and how it is best achieved.

Huh?

Other you ought-to-know-better errors included misspelled words, missing letters, repeating words, rambling and incoherent sentences, and of course, misspelling the word tex…

Food-Related Assault in Dover, Maine

The Florida-style food related assaults, once thought by experts (me) to have finally died down, have cropped up again, this time in Dover, Maine.

According to a story in the Foster's Daily Democrat (official motto: We got Fosters.com! Suck on THAT, Fosters Beer!!), Thomas Goulet, 40, had ordered a few sandwiches at the Duston's Bakery & Deli, and then got on his mobile phone. The woman preparing the sandwiches had questions about his order, but since he was on the phone, she went off to do other things.

The woman said that when Goulet finally got off the phone, and saw that his sandwich wasn't finished, he called her a "vulgar name," took a sandwich that had already been made for Goulet's son, and then threw it at the woman.

Best line in the whole story: "The clerk was struck in the face, but unhurt by the flying sandwich, which police have yet to identify."

I have an image of Horatio Caine looking at the remains of the sandwich, and he says, "…

Phone It In Sunday: The Social Network Spoof Trailer for Scotty's Brewhouse

Scotty's Brewhouse is a small restaurant chain with places in Indianapolis, Muncie, Bloomington, and West Lafayette. A lot of us in the social media industry have made it our restaurant of choice.

A few weeks ago, Scotty Wise had a special midnight showing of The Social Network, and shot a spoof of the popular movie trailer that had been making the rounds. (Tim "That foreign guy with the mole" Hashko shot it in just a couple hours.) I was lucky enough to have a very small part in the trailer, with the second biggest word in the whole thing — "Millions?" (Smiley stole the honor of biggest word with "billion," but I'm not complaining.)

You need to know that two of Scotty's signature items are fried dill pickle chips (which are awesome) and the Shewman Burger (even more awesome), which includes peanut butter and bacon. (And before you say, "ewww, peanut butter!" let me tell you that it's one of the best hamburgers out there.)



Every mas…

You Can't Spell Winter Without 'Winner' & 'Tea'

You Can't Spell Winter Without 'Winner' & 'Tea'Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

I used to enjoy the cold weather. I don't mean "Winter is so beautiful after a snowfall" or anything namby-pamby like that. I mean, I used to love the cold. The biting chill, the howling winds, the icy blasts that froze my cheeks and made my boogers freeze.

I don't know if it's because I'm getting older, or if I just don't have the youthful vigor I used to, but I don't enjoy Indiana's arctic blasts the way I did 20 years ago.

When I was in college, I was notorious for loving the cold weather. According to a classmate, during one class when the winter was hammering Ball State's campus pretty hard and many students were skipping their classes to hibernate in their rooms, the other students were discussing how much they all hated the weather, and the professor asked, "does anyone even like winter?"

Several classmates all…

Animal Liberation Front Frees Deer Into Forest During Hunting Season

The Animal Liberation Front is not too smart. According to a story in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, the ALF is taking credit for removing a large section of fencing at a deer farm in Molalla, Oregon.

Their intention, said the cowardly vandals', was to allow the deer to escape into the forest surrounding the farm.

The problems are two fold:
Farm owner Richard Bentley said there were no deer on the part of the land where the fence was cut, hence no deer were actually freed.
Had they been successful, ALF would have released tame deer into the forest during deer hunting season.

If you want to release deer and try to save them, try not to save them during the time of year when other people want to shoot them. Also, make sure there are really deer to be saved.

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Phone It In Sunday: Will It Blend meets the Old Spice Guy

Blendtec created a huge hit with their viral "Will It Blend" videos. Of course, they're never one to shy away from current events either. They've blended iPhones, iPads, and vuvuzelas. Now they're going after a bottle of Old Spice!



The only thing they've never been able to blend? Chuck Norris. Because nothing can blend Chuck Norris.

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Squirrels Refuse Medical Care, Blame the Economy

Squirrels Refuse Medical Care, Blame the EconomyErik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

"Squirrels Refuse Medical Care."

Yes, that's a real headline. No, it wasn't from The Onion. It was the Washington Post. The Washington "We Broke Watergate" Post.

In late September, in Alexandria, Virginia, someone called Animal Control about an injured squirrel on the sidewalk in a residential neighborhood. When an Animal Control officer showed up, the squirrel scrambled up a tree.

The Animal Control officer saw another squirrel nearby, also on the sidewalk, but it appeared dazed. He took it back to the Animal Welfare League to examine it further, but the squirrel woke up and "resisted attempts to be handled." So the officer returned the squirrel to the area where it had originally been found.

An extremely slow news day nowithstanding, I was intrigued at the idea of squirrels who would refuse medical care. The AWL is supported by taxes, so it's more o…

My Knees Are Killing Me

My Knees Are Killing MeErik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

My knees are killing me.

I'm either suffering from Old Guy Knee or Big Guy Knee. I like to think I'm suffering from Former Athlete Knee, which is usually a combination of both. I was an athlete of one form or another for nearly 30 years, playing soccer, Ultimate Frisbee, football, bicycle racing, and running — sports that wreak havoc on an athlete's knees, and I was never very careful about where or how I hurled my body.

Unfortunately, I also have the same build of a former athlete, which is a big part of the problem. Imagine putting a truck on a car suspension. The car slows down, the shocks make an awful grinding noise if it tries to goes too fast, and the car grunts whenever it sits down on the couch.

I'm working to lighten the load, watching what I eat, and going for walks with my wife on a daily basis. Plus, the nearly one-mile walk from my car to my office has been helping. However, my exercise…

Karl the Curmudgeon Finds Facebook

Karl the Curmudgeon Finds FacebookErik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

"Kid, why do you insist on playing on that Facespace," said Karl, grabbing my mobile phone from me.

It's Facebook, I said, grabbing it back from him. You don't 'play' Facebook. Besides, I wasn't on Facebook, I had to check a text from my wife.

"But I don't even see the point of it," said Karl, plonking his beer on the table. It was Saturday afternoon, and we were sitting at Boudica's, a Scottish restaurant, eating lunch and having a beer. The waitress brought an order of Scotch eggs.

Ahh, look at that, I said, marveling at the egg-and-sausage dish, rubbing my hands together in gleeful anticipation. Scotch eggs are hard-boiled eggs with a sausage coating. The sausage ball is baked, and you cut it into pieces, eating both the egg and sausage together. These eggs were the size of my fist.

"Aye, those are mighty fine eggs," said Karl, slipping into his …

In Defense of Humor Writing

In Defense of Humor WritingErik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

It's the killer question that every writer dreads:

"When are you going to write your novel?"

Novel? Do people still even read novels? It's like we're not real writers if we haven't written a real, big-boy novel.

Never mind that I've been a newspaper columnist for nearly 16 years, that I helped write Twitter Marketing for Dummies, or that I have a second social media book that will be published in December (by a real, big-boy publisher). Never mind that I'm a paid professional writer who gets money for stringing words together.

"So you aren't writing a novel then?"

Mignon Fogarty, author of Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, said she's frequently asked when she's going to write her novel. She's not, she says, because she's a nonfiction writer.

A best selling nonfiction writer. A New York Times best seller list nonfiction writer.…

I Need a Nap

I Need a NapErik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2010

I'm a big napper. I need a nap to function, especially on Sundays. In fact, with my work schedule some days, I need a nap just to make it to dinner time. I'll come home from work, turn on the TV, and pretty soon, I'm snoring on the couch.

This nap will recharge my batteries enough that I can stay up until 2:00. Then I wake up around 7:00 the next morning, go to work, and start all over again, promising that tonight, for the first time in months, I will go to bed early.

Instead, I sleep in on Saturdays, which means I end up staying up until 2:00 again. Then, when I have to get up early for church on Sundays, I'm right back where I started. This explains why most atheists are so well-rested (the agnostics are never sure if they're tired or not).

This pattern makes Sunday afternoon naps crucial. If I don't get one, it throws my whole schedule off for the week, and I'm never quite refreshed.

I was never …

Special Ticket Price for They Call Me Mister Fry

Several months ago, I had a chance to see They Call Me Mister Fry, starring Jack Fry, a teacher and actor. Jack is the star of a powerful one-man show about his experiences during his first year of teaching in a Los Angeles school.

Unlike most one-man shows, which are usually just a standup routine with a couple of voices, Jack puts a lot of thought, expression, and mannerisms into his characters.

Jack is having a preview week Monday – Thursday, September 13 – 16, at the Indy Fringe Theater building on the corner of College Ave & St. Clair in downtown Indianapolis. Jack emailed me and said my readers can get a ticket for half price, or $10 apiece. These shows start at 7:30.

Just email Jack at jfreidog [at] yahoo [dot] com, and he'll put you on the $10 list for the preview week only. The rest of the time, you can see the show for $20, $10 for teachers (with a valid teachers ID), and kids are $7.

If you are a teacher, an administrator, or are involved in education, I can't reco…

Today is Opposite Day, Nyah, Nyah, Nyah!

Today is Opposite Day, Nyah, Nyah, Nyah!

Erik has been dealing with a sick child this week, so we are running the best column he has ever written. Oh wait, it's Opposite Day.

Every kid has their favorite day of the year. And because they're greedy little capitalists, their favorites are Christmas and their birthdays. They also have a few least favorite days too. Like the day after Christmas, dentist day, and the first day of school. And the second. And the third. And so on. But when I was a kid, one of my least favorite days of the year was Opposite Day.

I'm sure many of you remember Opposite Day. That's the day that could be declared by any kid who wanted to be mean and nasty to another kid. They would say, "You know, Bobby, I think you're one of the smartest kids in school. Oh, and today is Opposite Day."

Then the little brat would run away, having made the other child feel the stinging rebuke of Opposite Day.

Opposite Day was the day that whatever you said,…