How To

How to Hang a Picture (In Three Nail Holes Or Less)
You splurged on that garage sale velvet Elvis; now share it with the world.

Adding beauty and attractiveness to your home and apartment with new artwork is easy when you know how. Unfortunately, we only know the hard way, so here we go. First, you will, of course, need something to hang on your wall. If you don’t already own a picture, you are probably a guy, in which case we suggest obtaining Dogs Playing Poker or Albert Einstein Sticking His Tongue Out. If you are married, the picture has already been sitting in the den for three weeks waiting for you to put it up, so get to it already.

[pullquote type=”right”]Choosing the best place to hang your picture is your first challenge, unless this picture hanging project was precipitated by an “Accidentally Put A Hole In The Wall With The End Of The Ladder While Trying To Put Up A Different Picture” project.[/pullquote]Choosing the best place to hang your picture is your first challenge, unless this picture hanging project was precipitated by an “Accidentally Put A Hole In The Wall With The End Of The Ladder While Trying To Put Up A Different Picture” project, in which case you know exactly where to hang it. Having a helper, such as a wife or husband, will help immensely, as they will be well-practiced in telling you exactly where to go. Most experts recommend hanging the picture about 60 inches from the floor, but since most experts usually have a tape measure handy, you’ll probably have to just guess. Just figure that 60 inches is about as tall as that torn place on the wall where someone tried to remove one of those totally nonremovable Removable Plastic Sticky Picture Hangers (As Seen On TV). Mark this spot with a sharpened pencil or piece of masking tape, making sure to spend at least 5 minutes rummaging in your junk drawer to find either of them.

If you are hanging a group of pictures, congratulations! Your work frustrations are about to quadruple. Now may be a good time to retake that physics class you bombed out of in high school. Using a laser level for this type of project is a great idea, because it comes with these cool glasses that make you look like Cyclops from the X-men. Laser levels create a perfect horizontal line (or vertical if you live in Australia) which you can use to align the tops of all your pictures. The most fool-proof method for arranging your pictures is to make perfect paper cutouts of your pictures and arrange them using low-adhesive masking tape, but who really has time for that?

Once you have chosen the position for your new picture or pictures, it might be time for a break, because when you were looking for your low adhesive tape, which you didn’t have anyway, you noticed your junk drawer was really messy, and had all kinds of bent paper clips, old coupons and dried-out bank pens cluttering it up, and you were about to straighten it out when you found one of those old games where you try to roll the BBs into the holes on the clown’s body, and you spent 20 minutes trying to get the hard one that goes into his hat before you realized you totally forgot what you were originally doing. (Note: You were hanging a picture.)

Now comes the part where you actually have to pound something into the wall. If your picture has just one hook holder on the back, breathe a sigh of relief, because you are now 50% less likely to screw this up. Pound in a picture hanger holder into one of the spots you marked previously, making sure not to mistake that smashed gnat for your pencil mark. (We’re assuming you have drywall walls; if you have plaster walls, your house is Old and may be worth a lot of money. Consider selling it.) Make sure you use the only hammer you could find, the one with the huge head on it in the garage so that you can smash at least one of your fingers while pounding in the hanger. If your picture has two hooks on the back, you are in for a treat of perpetual OCD-inducing exasperation, as it is physically impossible for anyone short of Stephen Hawking to place two picture holders perfectly level with each other. You’ll need a measuring tape, a level, a calculator with the cosine function and the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland in order to calculate exactly where to place the two holes so the picture will hang level. Proceed to hang your picture. Take extra precautions on where you decide to hang something heavy, such as a mirror, because it can cause depression and anxiety when you walk past it every day and realize you really need to get back on the treadmill.

Now you can step back and enjoy your new picture with a mixed sense of accomplishment and unease, as you’re still not sure if that Dogs Playing Poker With Einstein painting is the best choice for the bathroom.

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”book”]This column is featured in the book Home Improvement Survival Guide for Men[/feature_headline]

6 Christmas Decorating Styles To Avoid
The dubious adventures of Dancing Hula Santa and Bam Bam Baby Jesus

One of the unspoken rules of home ownership, such as “never shovel your snow into your neighbor’s open car window”, is that you must decorate your yard every holiday season. For most of us, this consists of tastefully hanging a string of icicle lights over the garage door while sacrificing a few extremities to the sub-zero weather. However, some of you may be tempted to take it to the next level this year, so we’re providing a helpful guide to 6 types of decoration styles you may want to avoid in order to keep your neighbors and save your marriage.



[pullquote type=”right”]’Tis better to not have brought down the property values of your neighborhood than ever to have decorated at all”[/pullquote]These decorators just throw up a bunch of random multi-colored LED lights they just got on sale at Target on the nearest pine tree, then stick their traditional rotating mechanical Laughing Santa in the yard and call it good. There ARE bowl games to watch, after all. However, to mangle Sir Alfred Lloyd Tennyson, “‘Tis better to not have brought down the property values of your neighborhood than ever to have decorated at all”. Do not emulate them.


Meticulous Decoration Extroverts

These people spend all fall poring through Christmas design catalogs looking for just the right shade of blue twinkling stars to match the hand-made Austrian icicle lights they got last year. Each wreath and bow are meticulously placed to accent the overall theme of “See? I Should Have Been An Interior Decorator Instead Of A Bank Teller”. They are usually women paired with slump-shouldered husbands with depleted credit cards and a little too much attention to the liquor cabinet.


Historically Inaccurate Junk Lovers

Most of their decorations have been collected from yard sales in July which are then stuffed into the garage attic. They consist of singing beavers with candy canes, 18th century carolers with colors so faded they look like anemic ghosts, animated Santas from the 70’s so broken down they look like they’re frantically beating their reindeer, placed next to puzzling Flintstones-themed manger scenes with half the bulbs missing and Bam-Bam as baby Jesus.


Vomitous Eye-Abusing All-Out Holiday Extravaganza

These are the rare neighbors who have made a career out of annoying everyone else on the block by going all out. Their main goal is to get on the local news and say, with a tear in their eye, how special it is to them that people enjoy all of their hard work, because their daddy, who was an electrician and started all of this couldn’t help this year because a 400-pound plaster Abominable Snow Monster fell off the truck onto his bad leg he hurt the year before when he fell off the roof inflating the Dancing Hula Santa.


Traditional Or Die!

Forget these garish “LED” light monstrosities; give us the old days, when christmas bulbs were the size of kumquats and your resulting electric bill made you eat bologna sandwiches all January. These folks will either be your kindly old grandparent neighbors who have been lovingly replacing the same 30 bulbs for 50 years, or the hipster couple who just moved in and like to blare their vintage vinyl “Andy Williams Christmas Album” while decorating their Earth-Mother Holiday Topiary with free-range tinsel and beeswax candles.


The Inflators

These citizens have decided to utilize the latest advances in inflatable decorations to turn their front yards into a discombobulated, puffed-up holiday horror for four weeks. Watch as Rudolph does vain battle against a snowman having a seizure. Marvel, as you never knew Yoda was one of the Wise Men. Expect to get little sleep as their yard will sound like two scared jumbo jets fighting with their tails tied together.

If you happen to fall into one of these categories, we apologize. Just be ready for our exciting life-size inflatable Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria on Columbus Day.
[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”book”]This column is featured in the book Dubious Knowledge (Book One)[/feature_headline]

Photo Credit: drp cc

How to Wallpaper a Room in 8 Curse Words or Less
Being driven up a wall by poor wallpapering metaphors? Let us help.

Anyone can paint a room, or a room and a carpet, or a room, carpet and dog, but it takes a special skill to enhance your decor with that unique, insoluble glue that only wallpaper can bring to your rug. Adding wallpaper is an easy way to add spice to a space, or, as we prefer to say, an easy way to an involuntary mental evaluation. You can take a room from dull to dashing, with a brief stop at Xanax, in a matter of hours, or even minutes, if you own a staple gun. Although it may seem intimidating, like performing brain surgery with gluey, sticky fingers, these simple tips can help anyone can master the art of wallpaper hanging without having your house end up on a ventilator for the rest of its life.

Choosing your paper

[su_pullquote align=”right”]We prefer a solid, flat, white pattern, which, albeit boring, makes it a whole lot easier to match the seams.[/pullquote]

First, you must choose your pattern. We prefer a solid, flat, white pattern, which, albeit boring, makes it a whole lot easier to match the seams. You, or more accurately, your spouse, will prefer a more whimsical or cozy pattern, such as can be found at your local Home Improvement Giant Metal Cavern. Patterns for living rooms will have elegant names, such as “Prussian Quilt (Act Two: Under the Chestnut Tree) Damask”, or “Oxfordshire Penmanship Improved Harvard Law School Crosshatch”. Bathroom patterns generally include stripes, as these are the hardest seams to match and Wallpaper Manufacturers are cruel jerks. Wallpaper designed for kitchens will have more practical names, such as “Chocolate Pudding Toddler Splatter”, “How Did The Dog Accident Get That High?!”, or “Traditional Tuesday Night Spaghetti and Meatballs Rug Trip”.

Preparing for battle

As with most home improvement projects, such as arson for insurance purposes, preparation is the key to success. Make sure you always wallpaper in one direction, left or right, in order to keep your pattern consistent. If you have already started papering up and down, congratulations! Your involuntary mental evaluation is just around the corner. However, no matter how good your technique, the end pieces will never match, because, if you haven’t learned by now, your house hates you. For this reason, you should start papering from behind a door, so that anyone entering the room to tell you that you’re cursing too loud and the children can hear you can knock you off your ladder, and also so that the mismatched last pattern will end up above the door, where it can cover the hole left by the smoke alarm you tried to install last year.

The nitty gritty

Now, cut the sheets 4 inches longer than the balustrade, or cornices, but not less than 3 inches if the inseam is recumbent to the cosine during daylight savings time, 3 hours before swimming, unless you are using the metric system, which means you need to convert to hectares and move to Canada. Next, using a paint roller, consider that this is your last chance to just paint the room and save yourself a lot of grief. Now, using a barely damp sponge, mop your brow; this is the last time you will feel good today. Then, using a 6-inch taping knife, whatever that is, carefully wallpaper your room.

Dealing with the aftermath

After a few hours of wallpapering, you may experience a disturbing sense of disorientation, much like being stuck in an M. C. Escher sketch, where patterns fold in on patterns, and seams dare you, laughing, to match them. Now is not the time for panic; that can wait until your spouse gets home. Now is the time to step back, probably pulling some wallpaper with you, and reach for the piece of paper with the phone number on it of the Professional Wallpaper Hanger your spouse wanted you to call.

Whichever way you choose to paper your home, whether by using a professional wallpaper hanger or a professional therapist, you can rest assured that you have added value and style to your home, which will last at least until you realize the cat is missing and there’s a strange lump in the wall.
[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”book”]This column is featured in the book Home Improvement Survival Guide for Men[/feature_headline]

Photo Credit: Raccatography cc

4 Tricks Your Dog Can Train You To Do
If I'm the one with the college degree, why am I picking up poop?

There are two types of people in this world; dog owners and people who have never had to willingly pick up another creature’s fecal matter in a thin plastic baggie. You think you’re so smart, human? Well, here are four things your dog has probably trained you to do.


Wake Up Early on Saturday Morning

Ah, weekend mornings, the one time of the week you can sleep in a little and catch up on must-needed rest. This, of course, is the exact time a large, wet, cold nose will inform your bare skin that, “As a dog, I have an extremely limited ability to read a clock,” and they either want their water, their food, or, more likely, to remove the previously digested version of both from their system before it becomes a permanent part of your new carpet. If you try to ignore them, they usually resort to noises. Our big dog tells us sleepytime is over by thumping the floor as he scratches his chin with his hind leg, which becomes so loud it sounds like a military helicopter is hovering over the house with commandos ready to crash through the windows.


Become an Amateur Vet

[su_pullquote align=”right”]If you are a dog owner, especially if you are a puppy owner, you will eventually be forced to become an expert in Dog Biology, usually in the area of gastrointestinal distress, usually in the area of your carpet.[/pullquote]If you are a dog owner, especially if you are a puppy owner, you will eventually be forced to become an expert in Dog Biology, usually in the area of gastrointestinal distress, usually in the area of your carpet. You would think that dogs, who normally can eat anything from a dead toad to a dead toad they just threw up, should be able to allow anything to pass through their digestive system without too much distress. This is true, except that sometimes, their digestive system is set for warp speed, and the distress is then found all over your kitchen tile. Cleaning up is the obvious part; now you must decide, as a responsible pet owner, whether to call The Vet and ask if you should bring Buster in for a full workup, or whether he just got hold of an exceptionally bad toad, and the worst has passed (literally). Your dog obviously can’t tell you, unless he is this dog, so it is up to you. But not to worry, as most Vet Receptionists are well-skilled at handling calls from frantic, inexperienced pet owners. Your Vet Receptionist will guide you through a series of helpful questions, most ending with the words “stool sample.” As much as you would like to offer to pay a thousand dollars for them to come to your house to collect this, you know it is up to you, 5 pairs of rubber gloves and 14 nested plastic bags to make it happen. Sometimes, they may encourage you to clarify any unusual sounds your pet has been making. This has no practical application, but since a Vet Receptionist’s job involves occasionally looking at dog poop under microscopes, it provides them with much-needed humor to hear you imitating your dog’s whooping-cough.


Become a Poop Disposal Expert

If there is any area that is more humbling and comically disturbing than having to collect a poop sample for your vet, it is having to collect those poop samples every day, sometimes in public. Your dog has a seventh sense (their sixth sense is knowing what visitor’s crotch to nose-poke for your maximum embarrassment) of knowing when the most awkward time to void their bowels will be. You can squeeze them like a tube of toothpaste before taking a walk to make sure everything is out, but the moment they hit Old Man Wabersheen’s finely manicured front lawn they decide it is Time, and you are left trying to look nonchalant, hoping Old Man Wabersheen is reading old copies of Popular Mechanics, or whatever it is Old Men do, but of course he isn’t, and there he is, frowning through his window curtains, and you have to smile weakly and wave, and do a sort of shoulder shrug as if to say, “Nature is varied and wonderful, isn’t it, but don’t worry, I’ll clean up after it.” You will wonder why there isn’t such a thing as dog diapers for these situations, but what a ridiculous thing that would be. You are now left, literally, holding the bag, and unless there is a Legally-Defined Green-Friendly Ground-Water-Safe Atomic Pet Fecal Waste Receptacle Bunker available, you must carry around Nature with you until such time as it can be disposed of, all the while thinking “What has happened to my life? I was going to have such an impact on the world.” Your dog, however, is probably smiling.


Talk Like A Gibbering Idiot

What is supposed to separate us from the lower forms of life, such as cats, are such things as having opposable thumbs and the ability to communicate with speech, yet hand a 60-year-old English Professor with double majors in Snootiness and Tweed a 4-ounce bug-eyed Pekingese in a clown suit and they are reduced to rhyming like a toddler who just made his first doody in the toy-toy. Pretty much every dog owner is eventually trained to say words such as “woggy”, “snoogums”, and other unintelligible gurgles, by a creature who is more interested in the 6-month-old Cheerio it can’t get to in the crack by the stove. What makes this even more ludicrous is that there is no way, no matter what sc-fi-movie-style speech-converter devices we hope are invented someday, that this hairy bugger will ever return the favor, and, even if he did, his only response would be about how glorious that toad tasted.

But we will continue to cater to these goofy dudes because we love them, their wet noses, and their licks. But I am definitely going to check out this diaper thing.
[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”book”]This column is featured in the book Dubious Knowledge (Book One)[/feature_headline]

Photo Credits: anneh632 cc James Callan cc

3 Tips to Understanding International Sports (If You’re a Clueless American)
How to tell your cricket bat from your vuvuzela.

If you’ve ever visited a foreign country, you’ve probably wondered why airlines use such terrible food to get you there. In addition, you may also have to encounter a sporting event with which you are unfamiliar, but which the locals seem to love with all their hearts, to the degree that they will beat each other with vuvuzelas to prove it. But you need not feel like a total tourist-infected rube if you let us help you understand how to relate to the world of International Sports.


International Sports Are Not All Weird

[su_pullquote align=”right”]In the USA, we prefer our sports to be time-honored and traditional, as is found in typical American sports such as baseball, lawn-mower racing, or Wall of Death Lion Racing.[/pullquote]Your first challenge, if you are an American, is that sports in other countries are bizarre. In the USA, we prefer our sports to be time-honored and traditional, as is found in typical American sports such as baseball, lawn-mower racing, or Wall of Death Lion Racing. Most Americans assume sports in other countries are played with only your feet and a disturbing lack of extra equipment to help you be a “champion” and stay “on top of your game” and “spend stupid amounts of money.” However, we must understand that any sport is worthy of respect, given the fact that they’re all pretty much kind of weird when you think about it. For example, consider the poor alien culture trying to decipher why, if we want the little white ball to go in the hole, we just don’t make the hole a lot bigger and the grassy area smaller; or why that guy with the pole in the boat can’t figure out what genus of ichthyosaur will finally satisfy his strange, unmet need; and why those guys going around the track in their primitive combustible transport vehicles go so fast when all they do is end up where they started.


Learn The Local Language Idioms

There also is the challenge of “regionalitiveness”, a new word we made up just now that we intend to own the patent to in case it becomes popular. A sport with the same name in one country can have a different style of play, or even be a totally different sport than in another country. In England, “soccer”, as we Americans know it, is called “football”, and American “football”, as the English know it, is called “A Session of Parliament”. Australia has their own “Australian Rules Football“, which we assume has something to do with kicking a wallaby down a field of poisonous snakes while simultaneously trying to avoid being eaten by land-walking sharks.


Learn Some Sample Phrases

And all of this is even before a particular sporting event has begun. To actually understand the game you may need a translation guide. Here are actual phrases you can hear in commentary on the sport of cricket, provided you are awake long enough to hear them:
“A leg stump half volley”
“It’s holed out down at long leg”
“Uh oh! There goes another malted herring up the batsman’s googly!”
Ok, we made that last one up, but I bet you couldn’t easily tell it from the others. And American sports are not much better, as you can see when your mother-in-law keeps interrupting the Super Bowl to ask, usually at crucial moments, why they have to wear such tight pants.


Three Final Tips

Here are three bonus tips to help you when dealing with an unfamiliar international sport.

  1. Always pretend you don’t understand the language of the current country you are confounded by. That way, when a local asks you if you prefer the Torino Ultra Maroons or the Fiorentina Super Lilies, you can respond with a ready phrase, such as Sono un americano muto che è ancora in attesa per noi di adottare il sistema metrico. Ti piacciono i Packers? (“I am a dumb American who is still waiting for us to adopt the metric system. Do you like the Packers?”)
  2. If you are in a country that speaks the same language as you, such as an American in England, you will probably still be okay, as most of the teams will be named something like “The Biggleswade-South Puttdonkey Copsewood United Exeter Roving Wanderers”, or “Cockfosters“, in which case, you will be doubled over in laughter and unable to respond anyway.
  3. If either of these methods fails, you are probably already at the event, possibly unwittingly, wondering why there are so many angry bulls running loose around you, some of them with cricket bats. At this stage, your best bet is to start a fight and hope that the local police will take you a safe distance from the event, where you can whisper that you are part of a secret CIA operation with the code name “Viper”, in hopes they will take you the American consulate, where they may have the Cubs game on TV. At least, that’s how it works in the movies.

With this information in hand, you should be well on your way to tolerating, if not understanding, and possibly still being incredibly bored by, any unfamiliar international sport. Now, excuse us as we get ready for an onslaught of vuvuzela beatings.
[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”book”]This column is featured in the book Dubious Knowledge (Book One)[/feature_headline]

Photo Credit: twicepix

The Grassed and the Furious: 5 Dubious Lawn Tips
Get your turbicles in order with these 5 almost-helpful tips.

It’s summer, which means it’s time to look at your sad, weedified, dead-patchy lawn and mentally kick yourself for not taking care of it in the spring when you were supposed to, but you were too busy fixing the snowblower which you put off in February because you were still getting your Christmas decorations off the roof which you put off in January, which, etc. But it’s never too late to get ready for next year, until next year is here, of course, so let’s take a look at 5 ways you can improve your lawn’s chances of making you look like a competent homeowner next spring. For those of you in drier climates, such as Arizona or the moon, you may return, laughing, into your air-conditioned bunkers, free from having to learn such words as “crabgrass”, “pre-emergent herbicide”, and “looks like another mower toe laceration, doctor.”

Cutting the grass

Mowing the lawn is a somewhat existential rite of passage for many home owners. Consider the fact that we purposely plant, fertilize, water, and nurture a living thing whose created purpose in life is to happily thrive and grow, only to have its head cut off every Saturday by surly teenagers who want to get this over as soon as possible so they can get back to playing “Death Drive Decapitator 4 (Extended Version)” in your basement. And no sooner is it mowed than it seems the lawn has re-junglified itself, and we have to get out there in the heat again and dodge the dog poop. But you came here for useful facts, so: regarding grass length, experts say never cut off more than one-third, or 33%, or approximately nine-twenty-sevenths of the turbicle of the blade (measuring from the root shank, near the vesicle), unless your lawn pH is a sub-cultivar of 7.8 and is batting below .200 at home. Cutting any more than this shocks the grass, and it will retreat, embarrassed, into its shell, waiting for winter. Make sure your mower blades are sharp, as using dull blades may cause your old shop teacher Mr. Jorgensen to show up and lecture you in front of your kids about taking care of your tools.


[pullquote type=”right”]The difference between a fertilized lawn and an unfertilized one is about $200.[/pullquote]The difference between a fertilized lawn and an unfertilized one is about $200. Fertilization also helps the grass grow strong and confident, so it can get into Grass College and maybe someday get a job as a golf course instead of embarrassing its parents by just hanging out in front of the bowling alley. Using the right type of fertilizer is important, so make sure you find out what that is. Really, you may have to ask a professional; we can’t be expected to know everything.


There are two schools of thought on watering at night. One says it’s okay and the other says “we don’t really think it’s a good idea. Come to think of it, we’re going to say we strongly feel you shouldn’t do it. Is that okay with you?” Watering at night may produce fungus, and not the good kind you can put on your steak, but the bad kind that will have you out in your yard with a huge tube of Lotrimin and some Q-tips. The best time to water is either pre-dawn, before cockcrow, but after the first blush of early morning; in other words, when you are asleep.

Mulch your grass

In the olden days, as we fired up our ozone-killing coal-powered earth-kill mowers, we used to have to collect the grass clippings in saggy attached mower bags that seemed to fill up and fall off about every 10 feet. Not so anymore, enlightened suburban ecologist! Today’s Lawn Scientists recommend you mulch your grass, which allows natural nutrients such as Death, Stench and Decay to invigorate your lawn organically. As long as you mow your yard every two days this is great, but if you’re like us, your mulching session creates mounds of dead grass that turn your yard into a hay field, suitable for baling, but, more hopefully, to just blow into the neighbor’s yard.

What about weeds?

Every year they return, no matter what preparations we made in the fall, or how diligently we spray them with herbicides the moment they appear. How we wish they would just die already and leave us alone! We’re talking, of course, about Reality TV Shows. But you may have noticed a close relation to another suburban curse, which is weeds. For those of you who have desire to take your lawn to the next level, or just have a jerk of a neighbor who likes to make clever jokes about you starting a dandelion farm, here are some weed control ideas:

  1. Use that old flamethrower your Uncle brought home when he got dishonorably discharged from the Army.
  2. Check to see if concrete or asphalt prices are decreasing in your area.
  3. Put up a sign in your front yard that says “Abiotic Prairie Eco-System Reclamation.”
  4. Leave them alone until you sell the house, when it will be the next guy’s problem.

If all of this seems like too much work, you may just want to wait until winter arrives and kills it all off again, and you can get back to fixing that snowblower you never finished repairing last February.
[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”book”]This column is featured in the book Dubious Knowledge (Book One)[/feature_headline]