Archive for the ‘Rants/Tips’ Category

Dear Sesame Street: Please stop teaching kids it’s OK to feed wild animals

Not even the squirrels. That's how serious this is, folks.

Not even the squirrels. That’s how serious this is, folks.

Though I know I’m not “supposed to,” every once in a while I break down and let my toddler watch a limited amount of TV, because sometimes it’s the only thing that keeps my sanity intact on a day that involves multiple meltdowns and outfit changes.

I make myself feel OK about this by putting on Sesame Street, since hey, at least it’s educational! Or so I thought.

Recently we watched an episode in which Elmo and Friend go on a camping trip. Elmo’s incessant need to piercingly narrate every damn thing they do apparently attracts all the woodland creatures within a 12-mile radius, and soon Elmo is inviting them to stay for dinner. Before you know it, a beaver, some turtles, a few raccoons and an entire flock of ducks are on their second helping of dandelion soup in what is clearly the start of their never-ending dependence on humans to provide basic sustenance.

All right. I know some of you might think I’m blowing this out of proportion. They’re not even real animals, for chrissakes. They’re puppets. PUPPETS. And it’s not like every toddler who watched the episode immediately started using Goldfish crackers to coax some new fluffy friends to live in their garage, dooming them to a life of human-fed captivity.

But hear me out. Less than 24 hours after watching this episode, I saw this unfortunate news:

Yellowstone

Think this is mere coincidence? Think again. It’s quite clear Sesame Street is at fault for each and every stupid tourist-wildlife encounter in recorded history.

OK, that’s a mild exaggeration. But sadly, it’s not unusual to hear a lot stories like this in Montana and other Western states, where it seems residents and wildlife intersect more regularly than in other parts of the country. Most of us grew up learning it’s not OK to try to feed or touch the wildlife.

Apparently, some idiot tourists don’t understand that Yellowstone National Park, et al., is not a goddamn petting zoo, and the animals don’t need you to feed them a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in order to survive. And that by doing these things, you’re actually risking both your and the animals’ lives.

Obviously, Sesame Street is not solely at fault for people thinking it’s OK to feed and/or touch wild animals. (And I admit, I’m making quite the cognitive leap by even trying to connect these two specific incidents.)

The thing is though, you also can’t only blame the idiots, either. When it comes down to it, most of them just don’t know any better. Where many of these tourists are from, close encounters with actual wildlife happen next to never, and when they do, they actually are in a goddamn petting zoo.

It’s kind of like when a tourist from Montana, who may or may not write a blog that rhymes with “Thuirrel Proughts,” stops in the middle of the sidewalk in New York City to stare up and take a photo of a skyscraper, because it’s something she doesn’t see every day at home. Doing so is apparently Extremely Annoying to resident New Yorkers (albeit slightly less Life Threatening than sharing a s’more with a wolverine, but I digress.)

Ya know what though? At the time, she just didn’t know any better.

You know what could’ve helped her know better? An episode of Sesame Street in which Big Bird’s country-born cousin Pudgy Pigeon comes for a visit, and someone with a thick Bronx accent yells “Hey, I’m walkin’ here!” after she abruptly stops to take a selfie in front of the restaurant from Seinfeld. Then she would’ve known better.

(Or a quick Google search. That probably would’ve done the trick, too.)

Anyway, the point I’m getting at is that while the premise of this Sesame Street bit seems innocuous, who knows what seeds it’s already planted in the heads of tiny city-born tots who might try to hug a grizzly bear in Alaska a decade from now. Because according to a beloved children’s program, befriending wild animals and inviting them over for pizza and a sleepover is just a normal part of experiencing the Great Outdoors.

So, in a feeble attempt to counter the damage already done — and with that air of smug self-righteousness you’ve come to expect on Squirrel Thoughts — I’m offering some tips for any potential tourists who still might not know any better:

  1. DO NOT TOUCH THE WILDLIFE.
  2. DO NOT FEED THE WILDLIFE.
  3. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO BEFRIEND THE WILDLIFE. NO MATTER HOW CUTE AND FLUFFY IT LOOKS. YOU ARE NOT MOTHERFUCKING SNOW WHITE. THE ANIMALS DO NOT WANT TO BE YOUR FRIENDS. THEY WILL MAUL YOU AT THE DROP OF A HAT. OR CHEETO. ESPECIALLY A CHEETO.
  4. ENJOY THE MAJESTIC CREATION THAT IS NATURE FROM A SAFE VIEWING DISTANCE.

I apologize for the stilted Internet yelling, but it’s the only chance I have at drowning out the children’s media behemoth that is Sesame Street.

Also, if you prefer information from legitimate resources, here are few:

Four reasons not to feed wildlife

Wildlife safety in Glacier National Park

Yellowstone visitors place bison calf in SUV; newborn euthanized

(FOR THE RECORD: I realize that other states, even on the East Coast, have wildlife, and that not everyone who visits from those locales are completely oblivous about how to interact with wild animals. I also realize that many of the tourists who commit these transgressions are from other countries, and who knows what kind of access they have to Sesame Street. In turn, I hope anyone offended by this — including but not limited to Elmo, Big Bird, Cookie Monster and, especially, Snuffy — realizes that it’s all in good fun. Unless you have tried to caress a mountain goat. Then you should read that shit a few more times.)

 

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Squirrel Tips: The only cure for hiccups you’ll ever need

I have decided to embark on a new series here on Squirrel Thoughts in which I share some quirky tips that will undoubtedly improve all your lives by at least three-fold.

(I’m going with that measurement because I’m not entirely sure what “three-fold” means, and I figure it’s probably pretty hard to measure life improvement by it, so no one can blame me later if my tips don’t work for them. This should head off any angry commenters saying their lives only improved by one- or two-fold, at most.)

(Also, I’ve only come up with two tips so far, so this series might only run once a decade.)

So here it is, my first Squirrel Tip … The Cure for Hiccups that Never Fails: peanut butter.

Peanut butter

Yep. Next time you have the hiccups and are within arm’s reach of a jar of peanut butter, just scoop out a big ol’ spoonful and eat it. Simple as that. Your hiccups will be gone momentarily.

Crazy, right? All this time, you’ve been holding your breath until you passed out or balancing upside-down on a chair while sipping water through a corrugated straw to try to rid yourself of those pesky hiccups. Well, your days of looking absolutely ridiculous are over!*

*In this scenario. I can’t help you with the rest of your life. I’m not a miracle-worker, folks.

 

My mom used this remedy on my brother and me when we were kids. Lucky us, huh? Can you think of a more delicious medicine than peanut butter? Sure beats Children’s Tylenol, aka that Nasty Grape-Flavored Chalk Crap. Anytime I got the hiccups, I’d get all giddy and run toward the kitchen, grab a spoon and a chair because I am was still too short to reach anything in the cupboard otherwise, and get me a big ol’ spoonful of the good stuff. I fantasized about discovering a way to purposely cause the hiccups, because being a grubby little ragamuffin eating spoonfuls of peanut butter is pretty much as good as it gets. That’s living the dream right there, kids.

Anyway, because of this, I grew up assuming this cure was common knowledge. But whenever I mention it to someone currently afflicted by the little annoyance, they look at me like I’ve grown a second nose. And if you Google “cure for hiccups,” you’ll get all sorts of nonsensical remedies in the results, but peanut butter rarely pops up.

Well, search no more, loyal Squirrel Thoughts readers! Now all you have to do is keep a jar of peanut butter in your purse or wallet at all times, and the The Cure for Hiccups that Never Fails will always be within reach. Hic-hic-hooray!

This badger clearly has the hiccups. Why else would he be eating peanut butter?

This badger clearly has the hiccups. Why else would he be eating peanut butter?

Images: Wikimedia Commons

Squirrel Rant: But seriously, Facebook ≠ your g.d. diary

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of an occasional series on Squirrel Thoughts in which Squirrel effectively, and hopefully humorously as well, blows her top about some inconsequential matter. Enjoy.)

If you think I’m talking about you, you’re probably right. Stop it. Seriously.

OK kids, here’s the deal. I posted this on Facebook a month or two ago, hoping that my “friends” guilty of the implied transgression would assume I was targeting them (I was), get the hint and knock it the eff off.

Unfortunately, they didn’t get it it. My feed is still bombarded with people musing about some dream girl they met but who will always be afraid to talk to, random hipster song lyrics that are vaguely directed toward someone whose life the perpetrator inevitably believes will be forever changed because they read them on Facebook, and a bunch of other personal shit that I really don’t care to hear from my best friend, let alone some random person I met at a party in 2005 who had the urge to become Facebook BFFs with me two hours later.

Let’s be clear here: the random family/pet/baby updates I enjoy. Especially the cute ones. It’s the “I’m really hurt by what you did but I love you and want to work it out and get married!” crap Facebookers post that blows my mind. Lock it up, people. Tell that shit to him, not Facebook.

Most of the time, I just defriend or “unsubscribe” from these people so I don’t have to put up with their moping B.S. But I want to do them a favor here that will help them out not only on the ‘Book, but in real life. Seriously, you’re only creeping everyone the eff out, which, judging by the diary entries you keep posting, is not going to help you out. You’re pissing us off, and you’re bringing us down. Stop it. Now.

And really, you’re life isn’t that goddamn bad. If you’ve got a goddamn roof over your head and you know where your next goddamn meal is coming from, you’ve got it pretty goddamn good. (Sorry, it’s the Christmas season, which obviously compels me to say “goddamn” all the time. My sincerest apologies to Jesus/God/Holy Ghost/Tim Tebow.)

Seriously, next time you have the urge to update the entire Facebook community (that’s some 800 million-plus, keep in mind), pick up a piece of paper and pen (hey, remember those?) and write it down. It might seem a little archaic , but try it. I bet if you take a good, hard look at what you wrote down, you’ll realize you don’t actually want those some 800 million people to think you’re that pathetic.

Do you suck at softball? Try The Allison Squires Method For Sucking Slightly Less at Softball!

It’s OK. Only everyone here saw.

Hey, you. Yeah, you. The one who just struck out for the third time in your podunk intramural league softball game. I feel your pain. Back in the day, circa 1995-97, I was just as non-awesome at softball as you are. Like, I was really, really bad. I was (am) scared of the ball, and I don’t like doing things I suck at. But my parents wouldn’t let me quit the team, because apparently doing something you suck at over and over again builds character.

It’s clear you’re also not playing because you’re good at it, so I’m sure you have a similarly ridiculous reason for continuing to embarrass yourself (your buddy’s team needed more girls to avert a last-minute forfeit, most likely).

But I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be like this. You don’t have to suck this bad. There is another way. And you seem nice enough, so I’m going to let you in on a little secret that will solve all your softball-related woes: The Allison Squires Method for Sucking Slightly Less at Softball. Yes, you heard that right — The Allison Squires Method for Sucking Slightly Less at Softball.

The Allison Squires Method for Sucking Slightly Less at Softball guarantees to bring your strike-out percentage down to 90 percent, if not better. And you know it’s not a scam, because a person has used it with unwavering success. And because it’s on the Internet.

I promise you right now that if you employ the following three tactics in your next game, your days of being known as “The Absolute Last Girl On The List To Call And Hey Wait Charlie’s Kinda Small So Maybe We Can Dress Him Up To Look Like A Chick Instead Oh Wait We Already Tried That And Got Disqualified So Yeah Call Her” will be over:

a) Be really short (under 5 feet, ideally) and crouch your elbows really close to your knees, so your strike zone is as small as possible. This throws the pitcher off, and you’ll have a good shot at getting walked without having to swing the bat once. This has worked for me at least four times. I like to call it “Crouching Squirrel, Hidden Strike Zone.”

2) Bunt. Bunting gets a bad rap because it’s actually pretty lame, so I want to share a little story with you: When I moved up to the 14-and-under league, I was still really awful and always batted last. Plus, I was on a really good team (Western States Insurance: 1997 Helena City Champs! What what! Wait … I sat on the bench for the whole tournament). This only magnified my lack of raw skill and talent.

But one time, the game was on the line, and I was up to bat. There was a runner somewhere on one of the bases. I think. I wasn’t really paying attention. That may have been another factor contributing to my suckiness.

Anyway, I was up to bat, and the coach — who had clown hair and whose intensity far surpassed that required to lead a team of rag-tag middle-schoolers — told me to bunt. So I did, not realizing it was basically to advance the runner, not to get me on base. But the other team was so shocked that I actually made contact with the ball that they couldn’t react in time to throw me out, and the ump called me safe.

Now, the details of what happened next are kind of fuzzy, but I’m pretty sure that my little bunt maneuver won the game for the team, and everyone lifted me over their heads and carried me around the field. It was my one shining moment in kiddie softball. Just like Rudy, but way cooler, because it was me.

(Ironically, my parents — who had attended every single other softball game I played, just to watch me strike out and cower in fear whenever a pop fly headed my way — missed this one.)

I can’t guarantee bunting will work for you, because that I managed to do it successfully that time was pure luck. In fact, my coach told me to do the same thing in the next game, and I struck out. Have you ever seen anyone strike out by bunting? It’s truly shameful. But hey, let’s not pretend you’re not already making an ass out of yourself. What do you have to lose?

d) When all else fails, take advantage of the third-strike drop rule. As in, if the catcher drops the ball on your third strike, you’re technically allowed to make a run for first base. A lot of people don’t know about this rule because it’s rarely invoked in leagues for people 6 and older. But rest assured that 20 percent of the time, it works all the time.

Now, because I truly believe in The Allison Squires Method For Sucking Slightly Less at Softball (and since the rest of us just can’t bear to watch you do this to yourself anymore), I’m going to let you use it, free of charge. You can call and thank me from first base.

Easter egg hunts = humanity at its worst

Probably because you pushed him down, you little shit.

“I’m gonna push people out of the way and run over them.”

That’s what a 5-year-old at the egg hunt I planned said to a newspaper reporter yesterday. Apparently, these are the sorts of values I’m instilling in our young people by putting on this event.

I mean, I’m not really into the whole Jesus thing, but I’m pretty sure “pushing people out of the way” and “running them over” weren’t what he had in mind when he sacrificed himself for the good of  the order, or whatever.

And it’s not just the kids who have this mindset at the Eggstravaganza. Many of the parents aren’t afraid to block or push other kids out of the way just so their offspring have a better shot at getting some crappy Easter stickers and diabetes-inducing candy (and, some years, inappropriate tattoos). And apparently, before I took the helm, organizers would put the bike-winning coupons in special gold and silver eggs easily distinguishable from the rest of the field, and — I swear I’m not making this up — some parents would bring binoculars so they could spot these special eggs beforehand and tell their kid where to run.

Simply put, mass Easter egg hunts bring out the worst in humanity.

As you can imagine, this incites some conflicting feelings for me. On the one hand, I’m indoctrinating America’s future with the values of greed and selfishness. On the other hand, it pays the bills. (And hey, at least a convicted sex offender wasn’t arrested at MY egg hunt …)

Fortunately, yesterday’s event was the last that will cause this crisis of conscience plaguing my mind. That’s right, I have  a new job! Well, sort of. One of my co-workers is retiring, and I’m transitioning into her strictly writing/editing position that involves only minimal participation in events. We’ll hire someone else to replace me, and I’ll transfer this crisis onto that poor unsuspecting soul.

I hope whoever that is has the best Easter of their life this year, because it’s going to be a long, loooooong time before they enjoy it again.

Facebook needs a Bozo Filter

Hey, you know that person you’re friends with on Facebook? The one who you kinda-sorta know because you went to the same high school/university/clown college, but who you’ve never had an actual conversation with? The one who, despite not really knowing you, finds it necessary to comment on Every. Single. Thing. you post?

Yeah, that guy. Don’t you wish you could make him stop doing that without having to block him from seeing your posts, because, well, he seems like a perfectly nice guy, just with some FB boundary issues, and you really have no interest in hurting his feelers?

Well, I have just the solution: Bozo Filter for Facebook.

Resident bozo/clown college graduate

“’Bozo Filter’?” you inquire. “Squirrel, just what is this ‘Bozo Filter’ you speak of?”

Well, I’m glad you asked! The Bozo Filter (at least the one I’m speaking of) is an amazing tool many media outlets use to control unruly users on their comment boards.

See, sometimes people have absolutely nothing better to do other than troll their local newspaper’s website and post obnoxious comments that manage to insult people of every race, creed, nationality, gender, political belief, sexual orientation, dog vs. cat preference, dancing ability, etc. He or she also manages to do this in the most obnoxious way possible by CAPITALIZING random WORDS and LetTeRS, blatantly mispeling werds over and over again, not knowing the difference between “you’re” and “your” and launching personal attacks at other users that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

For example, when I worked at the Great Falls Tribune, there was a guy who posted under the moniker “RedneckHippie.” As you can tell by his username, he was a real charmer. He disagreed with just about everything anyone ever said in any Tribune article and also with just about every other poster on the forum. Basically, if it  didn’t come out of his mouth, it was wrong.

When someone didn’t agree with RedneckHippie, he’d reply using his comeback of choice: calling them a moron. Except he spelled it “maroon.” And capitalized and elongated it, so the published result usually looked something like this: “You don’T agree wIth ME, so your such a stoopid MAROOOOOOOOOON!”

Now, what can you do about someone like this, who basically ruins any semblance of civil conversation possible in these comment forums? Apply the Bozo Filter to him, of course!

When applied, the Bozo Filter still allows the offensive user to post, but – and here’s the absolutely genius part – only he can see that post; no one else need be bothered by such nonsense. Basically, he’s under the impression he’s still posting and people simply aren’t responding, which no longer provides the fuel needed to feed his fire of obnoxiousness.  Ta-da — problem solved!

Now, imagine how you could apply this mechanism on Facebook. That guy you went to clown college with who happens to think Glenn Beck is the greatest philosopher of our time? BOZO’D! The girl you barely remember from middle school who apparently only knows how to communicate via acronyms and emoticons? BOZO’D! The possibilities are endless!

I’m sure we can all agree the Bozo Filter would be an invaluable addition to Facebook, and much more useful and less creepy than the “poke” feature. Are you paying attention, Marky Z.?

Squirrel rant: ‘Reply all.’ Oy.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of an occasional series on Squirrel Thoughts in which Squirrel effectively, and hopefully humorously as well, blows her top about some inconsequential matter. Enjoy.)

All right, party people. The Internets have been around long enough that we should all know the difference between “reply” and “reply all” across the various means of communication (e-mail, Facebook, YouTwitFace, etc.), and when it’s appropriate to use one or the other. But, sigh, we don’t. So many of us don’t. Approximately 92 percent, according to my estimations.

Like when someone sends out a mass Facebook message asking for people’s addresses because they want to send them Christmas cards/invite them to their wedding/generally stalk them. Five minutes later, I have 600 messages containing the addresses of people I’ve never met, nor ever care to meet because, frankly, their lack of technological savvy/social awareness frightens me.

And, because I’ve unwillingly acquired all these addresses, I’m seriously tempted to snail-mail handwritten directions on how to simply “reply” to the individual who sent the message, who is, in fact, the sole person who wants them to.

It would probably look something like this:

I want to make it clear that I don’t blame the senders of mass messages for this epidemic. They have every right to simplify and save time by sending them. And, obviously, “reply all” can be very handy when you need to keep many people in the loop about something.

I also don’t mean to patronize reply-all-ers. But let’s say you had your pants on backward at work. You’d want someone to tell you, right? You wouldn’t just want to walk around all day with your pants on backward, with people snickering behind your back, would you? No. So you’re welcome, reply-all-ers.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me so I can run to the restroom. Someone just told me I have my pants on backward.

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