Sunday, July 18, 2010

#12: Image Is Everything

Recently I’ve done a fair bit of travelling, most of which involves flying. When preparing for a flight I keep a mental checklist of items I need to bring: Government ID, tickets, toothbrush, underwear, et cetera, et cetera. While these items, listed in order of importance, are critical, none of them could be considered the number one essential item. In my book, it is most crucial to bring along something that lets everyone else know that you are an asshole.

Long ago there was a time without cell phones. I know, many of you just blasted cheerios and root beer all over your monitor, but I tell you it is true. During this time, people were forced into unconformable situations such as having face-to-face conversations with strangers. Can you imagine having to interact with people?

Luckily someone invented the cellular phone and the misery of such interactions went away. In the beginning the cell phone was great for people who wanted to show the world how important they were. A guy could stroll through an airport aimlessly shouting “SELL! SELL!” into the business end of an electronic brick and everyone would ohh and ahh over his importance.

But soon, lots of people had cell phones and the image began to dwindle. The decline culminated with the advent of the Bluetooth device, which I blame for killing the importance factor of the cell phone.

For a while I could not turn around without running into a Bluetooth-sporting cell phone user. I thought to myself, “How lazy has the world become that a person cannot take an extra second to pull that gadget from their hip pocket and pop it in their ear?” I then realized that these people were simply striving to convey their significance in the order of world affairs. Unfortunately for them, the image was greatly diminished when truck stops started selling fake Bluetooth devices.

Like the Bluetooth, the image factor of the cell phone has diminished over time. Now nearly every 8 year old on the planet either has a cell phone or programs one for their parents. Such technology saturation has created quite a quandary for the man who still desires to look like a jackass at the airport.

Ironically, cell phone technology has actually provided a solution to this difficult problem. With the advent of the smart phone, actual printed newspapers are a few and far between. People are inundated with constant e-mails, texts, and tweets about what is happening in the world. While the influence of printed news has been reduced, the novelty of newspaper reading has increased.

Nothing conveys arrogance and self-importance like someone parked at an airport gate furiously flipping through the pages of a newspaper. And that is why I rely on my trusty Wall Street Journal to create the ambiance of arrogance that I have grown accustomed to projecting.

My preferred method is to read for a bit, flip a few pages, sigh loudly, and turn to the teenager next to me and say, “Have you seen this?” To which he responds by glancing up from his texting frenzy and muttering something about old men and assholes.

As a smile grows across my face, I sit back and think, “Mission accomplished!”

Use #12 – Creating an ambiance of arrogance

John Hansen has employed his arrogant attitude and high level of self-importance to co-create the megahero novel The Power of Zahn. The story, chocked full of tasty characters, is guaranteed to delight and, when printed, will quickly replace newspapers as the median of choice for image enhancement.

Monday, March 29, 2010

#11: Cool Down

Today I decided that the coils on my refrigerator needed to be cleaned. Don’t think I’m entirely crazy; after all it is advisable to occasionally clean your refrigerator coils. Doing so makes the unit run more efficiently and last longer. A prime example of this fact is my parent’s avocado green Kenmore refrigerator. From the time I was born until well after I had kids of my own the green beauty was the only coolerator to be found in Mom and Dad’s kitchen. By the time it had made its run it was well over 30 years old, which is one helluva a return on a depreciating asset.

I’m sure the main reason it graced the kitchen d├ęcor so long was my dad’s routine cleaning of the coils. Every year he pulled the box in front of the garage door and went after it with the air compressor. When he finished, the coils were like new and the garage looked like a sand storm had just rolled through.

My father is fanatical about routine maintenance; me not so much. I am obsessive about changing the oil in my cars on time (see Use #1) but go too far beyond that and the curve drops sharply. I tend to lean more towards panicked obsession when doing routine upkeep. Case in point, cleaning the refrigerator.

This morning I noticed that the food didn’t seem “as cold” as usual. I quickly decided that it most certainly was the coils that I hadn’t cleaned in at least three years. Immediately following that decision I went into a panic routine. I knew instantly that I had waited too long to clean the coils and that the refrigerator would have to be replaced at a cost of no less than $15,000. I also realized that not only the food in the refrigerator would spoil, but all food in the house would have to be tossed. And finally, I recognized that because the jelly jar felt slightly less cold two of my kids would not be able to get a college education. Not once did I consider the fact that the refrigerator was packed full like a debutante’s suitcase.

So this evening I broke out the Kirby and went to work vacuuming the refrigerator coils. One thing I have noticed about vacuum cleaner attachments, specifically the long narrow one, is that they are long enough to do everything but what you want them to do. It seems every time I use that extension I can reach about half of what I want vacuum. Fortunately, I entered this fight with a plan! With the help of the Wall Street Journal and some duct tape I made a clever extension and went to work. Using the attachment and a masterfully formed Marketplace section, I was able to thoroughly clean the coils and do a job that would make the old man smile.

Now I have a clean refrigerator, a calm mind, and food that is the same temperature as before.

Use #11 – Vacuum Sweeper Attachment

John Hansen enjoys ice cold beer from his garage refrigerator, which has never had the coils cleaned. He is the co-author of the Power of Zahn, a cool megahero novel that expounds the virtues of an ice cold six pack and a hot shower.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

#10: Collections

Like most Americans I tend to accumulate junk. I don’t know how it happens, but it just does. One day you graduate from college, load everything you own in the backseat of your car, and set out on the great adventure known as life. Two years later it takes a tractor trailer and three former college linemen to move all of your crap across town.

As a society we have devised several “feel good” terms for this disease. We label ourselves as collectors, enthusiasts, and aficionados. But in the end it all comes back to one simple fact; we have too much stuff. There are some collections that have at least a shred of usefulness, such as tools, dishes, and books. These are all practical items, but even they often just sit and take up space. On the other hand collections of figurines, rocks, and bottle caps are simply the result of some neurological disorder.

Recently I discovered my most useless collection of all - airline miles. For the past several years I have slowly accumulated miles on every major airline, traveling just enough to keep them from expiring. Finally last summer I hit the magic number: 50,000 miles! That, according to the airline, is enough for two free tickets “anywhere in the continental United States.” That’s right, for nothing more than my loyal patronage I was going to be rewarded with free travel.

I soon sat down to book a trip. I was so excited that my years of collecting miles would finally pay off. I quickly realized, however, that unless we wanted to catch the 2:30 a.m. flight to Bozeman on the second Wednesday in October the dream of a 25,000 mile ticket was shattered. I thought to myself, “Well, at least I can still book one ‘anytime’ 50,000 mile ticket.” Unfortunately, I was about 12 miles short of the magic 50k number and the old “1,000 mile grace factor” had gone the way of free bags and honey roasted peanuts. A chipper airline representative named Earl (who resides in Mumbai) informed me that I could simply by another 1,000 miles for around $50. Then on top of that it would only cost me $30 to cash in those miles and after paying $40 dollars in taxes and fees I would be all set. At that point I decided that I had nothing more than a collection of shit.

About the same time I clued in that the Wall Street Journal was no longer showing up in my front yard. Apparently it had not been showing up for about two weeks, which explained my empty trunk and recycling bin. So in the grand spirit of collecting things I don’t use, I decided to renew my subscription.

In the process perhaps my largest collection, useless information stored in my brain, flashed something across my conscience thoughts. I remembered seeing something about cashing airline miles in for magazines. So after digging through 17 layers of the airline’s website, I uncovered the Magazines for Miles program. At the top of the list was the Wall Street Journal!

Use #10: Redeeming Airline Miles

John Hansen cannot fly without the assistance of an airplane and having worked around the flying crafts for nearly 12 years he remains absolutely amazed that they ever actually get built. He is the co-author of the Power of Zahn, a novel which will make the hearts of every reader soar like a 747.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

#9: You Say Ax, I Say Axe

Few tools wield the mystical power of an axe. Grasp a screwdriver or a pair of pliers and you are simply holding a tool, but hold an axe and you’ve got something special. It’s a feeling that cannot be explained; only experienced. So if you’ve never felt the majesty of the axe, stop reading this now and go to your local hardware store (or axe store if you are Canadian) and take one for a spin. Then you’ll know.

For hundreds of years the axe has been a symbol of power. In Medieval times axes not only served to cut wood but they were also used to bust open heads, making the axe perhaps the first true multi-tool! Nowadays axes are used to save lives rather than take them. In addition, the axe is still used to cut wood and…well that’s about it. Nonetheless axes mean power.

Look at any group of guys and the man with the axe is generally in charge. Unfortunately, society tends to frown on carrying an axe any place but into the woods, so this is only a scene from the history books. I think the negative stigma associated with axe brandishing is a major reason for the breakdown of society, but that’s a topic for another day.

I somehow managed to live 36 years before purchasing my own axe. I was amazed to see how modern axes differ from those of my youth. There are some things I thought just could not be improved, namely the hammer and the axe. Well, when it comes to the axe I was wrong.

Modern day axes are equipped with a built in wedge to facilitate wood splitting. Such technology is only rivaled by the artificial heart and microwave popcorn. In addition, the hickory handle from days of yore has been replaced with fiberglass, which is not just unbreakable but “indestructible”. Seeing such a claim stamped on the side of the handle implies that there is someone out there who can actually destroy an axe handle. All I can say is that I want to be on that dude’s good side.

My “premium log splitter” has one final improvement, a blade cover. I was formerly ignorant to the modern marvels of axe advancement and thought that blade covers were made strictly from old newspaper and duct tape. Every axe my dad owns has exactly that covering the blade. Apparently there is new technology that gives axe makers the ability to mold a piece of plastic to fit over the blade. There are some sharp people out there! Of course, I have already lost the cover so I’m back to folding up an old copy of the Wall Street Journal and wrapping it with tape. So much for technology.

Use #9: Axe Blade Cover

John Hansen has cut and stacked many cords of wood. He has also enjoyed central heating and thinks turning up the thermostat is much easier than splitting wood. He is the co-author of the Power of Zahn, a mega-hero novel waiting to split the literary world with an axe.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

#8: Creating Future Scrabble Champions

Christmas break is a month past, and except for a few snow days, school is back in full swing. As far as I can tell the girls are learning the required subjects like math, science, reading, and social studies. I hear occasional fussing about homework and see piles of graded papers and tests which indicate that there is indeed something happening at the school house. I assume they are doing this work, or at the very least have hired someone to write a bunch of random stuff in cursive and complete multiplication tables. One subject I have no doubt they are learning is spelling.

I vaguely remember taking spelling tests in grade school, but that is about the extent of it. I also recall my spelling score on the 11th grade achievement test being “Below 8th Grade Level”…but we won’t let the kids know that little secret.

I am amazed how much the teachers push spelling these days. In fact, I am convinced that there is an underground movement to put the spell check guys at Microsoft out of business. Teachers have dreamt up dozens of methods for learning 10-15 words a week. Activities such as writing each word five times, alphabetizing the words, and using them in a sentence are all logical spelling activities. These methods foster basic memorization, or as we old-timers like to say, old-fashioned learning.

I guess I am behind the times, because there are apparently new learning techniques. Some classics include hiding the words in a picture, painting the words, and rainbow writing (don’t even ask). I am told that these are a “hands on” way of learning. The last time I checked, spelling wasn’t like plumbing. I cannot wrap my head around the “hands on” aspect of spelling like I can with the concept of making a toilet flush.

The absolute worst of these projects is what I like to call the ransom letter method. The kids have to cut letters out of old magazines and newspapers (enter the Wall Street Journal) and then use the letters to create their spelling words. The newly created words are then pasted onto a sheet of paper. Who in the hell thought this was a good idea?

Basically what I end up with is scraps of paper strewn throughout the house and random crap glued to my kitchen table. When the two hour spelling debacle is over, the girls have fifteen haphazardly glued words forming a ransom note written in monkey-speak.

gentle people injured unless poodle arrives underneath bleachers.
leave million outside window before tuesday arrives.

What exactly are they learning from this? I guess if any kid has aspirations of becoming a kidnapper he will look back fondly on grade school and remember the “hands on” experience he gained in his spelling lessons.

Use #8: Spelling Homework

John Hansen owns multiple dictionaries as well as a thesaurus. He is capable of looking up words in these books on his own and has been known to expand his knowledge by doing so. Along with Zak Hathaway, John has co-authored the Power of Zahn, a mega-hero novel featuring over 90,000 properly spelled words.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

#7: Wrap It Up

Last week my wife turned 39. Tell anyone that you are thirty-nine and their first thought is “Right…looks like we’ve got us a liar.” Same thing goes for 29. A person can claim 28, 33, or 37 all day long and no one will question it. But if you toss out that you’re 39 everyone instantly assumes that you are no less than 43.

I guess there is some validity to the disbelief. Women especially have problems with letting their age be known. Just last year my grandmother informed me that she was no longer celebrating her 29th birthday…she was born in 1922. My wife’s granny went so far as to have a different birth date put on her driver’s license. You could get away with that in the 1930’s. You could also get away with driving yourself to the DMV to take the driving test.

The coining of the term “cougar” has helped this touchy social issue simply because it is now awesome to be a woman in her 40’s; and by proxy, being a man at that age is cool too. Unless you still live with your mom, drive the same car you did in high school, and think macaroni and ketchup is fine dining.

I have always welcomed turning another year older. If nothing else it means one thing…I am not dead. I see that as a mostly positive thing.

A major part of celebrating birthdays is receiving gifts. This year I gave my wife the classic “gift promise”. This is a strategy I employ when I cannot come up with a good idea before it’s too late. Now, I know what you are thinking, but it’s not like that. I am taking her to a show and the tickets just weren’t on sale yet. Nonetheless, it is a brilliant strategy.

Along with birthday gifts comes wrapping paper. Long before I was domesticated I thought the store bag was sufficient for gift concealment. Now I have learned that proper packaging may be the most important part of any gift. It is a scientific fact that “pretty” packages up the value of a mediocre gift by a factor of eight.

I think back to birthday parties when I was a kid. I would guess that at a standard 9 year-olds birthday party 53% of the gifts were wrapped in the previous Sunday’s funny papers. That got me thinking: Why don’t I start using the Wall Street Journal to wrap presents?

Think of the message sent by a package wrapped in the nation’s premier newspaper! It screams that the giver is a person of the world, well read and well informed. And obviously an educated man such as a Wall Street Journal reader would give nothing but the finest. With that kind of up front presentation I could give a box of rocks and the recipient would be flabbergasted at the majesty of the gift.

With a daily supply of wrapping paper being tossed into my front lawn, I need only to have a dump truck load of gravel delivered and I will have my shopping done for the year!

Use #7: Wrapping Paper

John Hansen accepts all forms of gifts, including cash and precious metals, and is willing to act humbled by the generous acts of kindness. He is the co-author of the Power of Zahn, an unopened gift to the literary world.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

#6: Electrified Glory

Today I finally got around to taking down the outdoor Christmas decorations. That’s right; we’ve been one of “those” families this year. Our plastic Santa and Rudolph (from the 1950’s) waved to passersby until January 17th! In my defense it has been unbelievably cold the last few weeks. Granted, I’ll change my oil when it’s 17 degrees and the ground is covered in snow, but there is now way I’m going to take down lights until it’s sunny and warm. My motto is simply, “Let it ride…let it ride.”

What is it about taking down Christmas decorations? Dragging all the stuff out and turning the house into a gaudy display of holiday cheer is a blast. But taking the crap down and hauling it back into the attic is like signing up for a root canal. This year was made worse because I also had not cleaned up the celebration fodder littering the yard since New Year’s Eve.

As one would expect, our New Year’s Eve was a rockin’ good time. We overate and played the Wii until 10:15 when my wife and I notified the kids to wake us up at 11:40. What went on during that hour and a half remains a mystery, known only to the kids.

Like a cheap alarm clock, the girls woke us 5 minutes late. We gathered our senses (kind of) and at the stroke of midnight bolted into the arctic tundra, formerly known as Oklahoma, wearing nothing but pajamas. We quickly fired off several confetti poppers and hosed each other down with silly string before darting back inside for the usual round of toasts and late night phone calls.

I have a few words about these articles of celebration. First, who in their right mind designed silly string to be non-biodegradable? That garbage has lay on the sidewalk for two weeks without even moving. It’s so unnatural that the wind doesn’t even affect it.  The foil confetti isn’t any better and definitely is on Earth for the long haul. My front yard looked as if we had dumped chaff out the windows to ward off some heat seeking missiles. How can 8 confetti poppers have so much stuff shoved into them? What it boils down to is that 3 minutes of celebration resulted in two hours of cleanup. Man, I love celebrating New Year’s.

Back to the matter at hand…The worst thing about taking down strings of lights is storing them. Regardless of how you put them in a box, they will come out as one giant wad of green wire and broken glass. But this year was going to be different for one simple reason; the Wall Street Journal.

I took several old editions and, using a little duct tape, made a pile of paper tubes which I then wrapped the strands of lights around. Now I look forward, with great anticipation, to unwinding the lights next November and hanging them for another month of electrified holiness in my front yard.

Use #6: Storing Christmas Lights

John Hansen is a full grown man with a man sized appetite. He always cleans his plate and usually eats much more than he should. He is the co-author of the Power of Zahn, which is sure to cause reading gluttony to all those who purchase the someday professionally printed novel.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

#5: Steward of the Earth

Today was recycling day. Curbside recycling is an extra city service that, for some reason, we pay two dollars per month to receive. Basically, we pay Company A to pick up our recycling. Company A sorts it and sells it to Company B who turns it back into raw materials and sells them to Company C-Z. These companies convert the raw materials into goods that are sold back to guess who. That’s right, me. Someone is getting screwed in this deal and I think I know who it is.

Nevertheless, as I dragged the heaping tubs of aluminum cans, glass bottles, various plastics, and papers to the curb I felt good about myself. There I was, doing my part to be a good steward of the earth; one beer can at a time. We could have just as easily chucked all of that crap in the trash. But that’s not us. No, we have chosen to let the would-be trash pile up in the garage until the empty bay looks like the cab of a Peterbilt truck after a month on the road.

In all honesty, I think recycling is a great thing, even if in some cases it expends more energy to recycle old than to create new. And on top of that, I get be a pompous ass whenever people are over to the house. “Oh, don’t throw that away. We recycle.”

Then a thought hit me; getting the Wall Street Journal actually allows me to recycle more. Recycling more makes me a better caretaker of Mother Nature, and in turn a better person than my neighbor. And as we all know, it’s all about outdoing our neighbors.

Every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month, I drag a tub full of newspapers to the curb, and those papers are primed to be turned into…newspapers. It all became so clear to me on this cold, January morning. In order to SAVE trees I must KILL trees!

How is that for an oxymoron? Needless to say, I am destined for Washington D.C.

Use #5: Filling Recycling Bins

John Hansen always wears a belt with his pants. This functional fashion accessory lets his father know that he raised a fine son. John has co-written the masterpiece The Power of Zahn, which will make a fine leather bound keepsake.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

#4: Spa Night

After a long day of work, there is nothing better than coming home to the smell of a good, home-cooked meal. Many nights this is exactly what I get, but not always. This is especially the case when the kids are out of school.

The other night I hit the door to the tantalizing aroma of jasmine and acetone. It smelled like I had just walked into an Indonesian sheet metal shop. I soon discovered that it was “Spa Night”, which usually occurs about the time my wife forgets about the giant mess produced by the previous spa night.

My den had been transformed from cathedral for worshipping the television gods to a full-blown, half-star parlor of pampering. At the Hansen Spa one can be treated to a back and foot massage, both with copious amounts of smelly lotions, a paraffin dip, and a facial. I’m sure the girls would love to start a roaring fire (see Blog #3) and treat us to a hot stone massage as well. However, my wife and I are not fans of third degree burns and have not suggested this addition to the menu.

The high end luxury service offered at the spa is the nail salon, set up at the kitchen table. Here one can have their fingernails and toenails painted in hundreds of combinations. How can I make such a claim? Simple, we own nearly every color of nail polish known to man.

As much as I hate to admit it, even I am a nail salon customer. Usually I can get away with sporting the polish for a few hours and then quietly remove it, but occasionally I end up wearing it longer. The girls once convinced me to attend church with my nails painted. I thought I could keep my hands folded and ease through service without anyone noticing. That plan didn’t work.

First, our babysitter and her mother saw them and commented. Then it turned out that on this particular Sunday we were doing communion by intinction. For those unfamiliar with this method, it is like the hurry up offense of communion. In one sweeping motion, the communicant receives the sacrament, dips it directly into the chalice of wine, and returns to their seat. There is absolutely no way of doing this without showing your fingertips. When may turn came up I reluctantly approached the altar, bared my decorated digits, and heard the words “nice polish” from the pastor. I am a defeated man.

Obviously, letting a 10 year-old and two 9 year-olds have carte blanche access to fingernail polish is a recipe for disaster. The possibility of it being spilled on the table and floor is extremely high. This threat is neutralized by a good, disposable table and floor cover. Nothing works better than the Wall Street Journal. An innumerable number of disasters have been circumvented by the Marketplace section.

Our salon may be the only place where you can get the entire end of your finger painted red and detailed with orange stripes and green dots while reading the latest financial news. And you walk away not only beautified but prepared for when someone at the grocery store exclaims “Oh my God, did you cut your finger?” To which you can quickly reply, “No, it’s my nail polish. However, I did read in the Wall Street Journal that the economy is still bleeding jobs.”

Use #4: Nail Polish Pad

In his spare time, John Hansen enjoys eating and breathing. He is the co-author of The Power of Zahn, an eventual New York Times Best Seller (provided someone publishes it and it sells A LOT of copies).

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

#3: Fire Starters

Something strange happened on December 24th. I went to bed the night before in Oklahoma and managed to wake up in North Dakota. I guess Old Man Winter decided to take a trip south and something along his route made him angry. The weather Christmas Eve day started out bad and got worse. We even had a blizzard by the time it was over!

Everyone dreams of a white Christmas. It has been ingrained in our heads that snow for Christmas is the ultimate in Yuletide jubilation. Well, we got one and it was nothing but a mess. Bing Crosby can kiss my snowy white ass.

Two weeks have passed since the Great Blizzard of ’09 and we still have a significant amount of snow on the ground. Tomorrow we will face wind chills of -10 to -20 degrees. What the hell is going on?

I originally hale from northern Wisconsin. It gets cold there; very cold. When I was a younger I used to be one of those a-holes who would walk around and say, “This is nothing! Back in Wisconsin…” You know the rest. Now I’ve hit my mid thirties and have decided that the cold is no fun. Oklahoma winters are just fine. They are cold enough to bust out a new wardrobe but not so cold that we have to worry about frostbite. Apparently this year is going to be different. Yesterday my kids even asked for ski masks!

When man first crawled out of a cave one cold January morning and grunted, “Cold sucks,” he looked for a good way to stay warm. Finally, he banged enough rocks together over a pile of wood to discover fire.

It’s hard to beat a roaring fire on a cold winter night. For that matter, it’s hard to beat a fire on any night. Staring at the orange flames is cathartic. A friend of mine refers to fire as caveman T.V.

Unfortunately, my fire starting skills are subpar. Setting a pile of wood ablaze is usually an ordeal and unfortunately my wife frowns upon using gasoline to ignite an inferno. So that leaves me searching for the perfect fire starting material. Well, as we all know, I have to go no further than the trunk of my car to find the ideal catalyst. Newspaper is one of the best fire starters known to man. I firmly believe that if primitive man had a subscription to the Wall Street Journal the industrial revolution would have happened 500 years earlier.

Tonight I plan to embrace the subzero temperatures and sit in front of a roaring blaze. What a perfect way to relax and do some reading. Too bad I will have burned up my newspaper to get the fire going.

Use #3: Starting Fires

John Hansen has been issued a driver’s license by the State of Oklahoma where he has free reign to drive on any public road he desires. Along with Zak Hathaway, he has penned the mega-hero novel The Power of Zahn considered by some to be too dangerous to publish.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

#2: Guinea Pig Cages

Last summer my kids managed to Shanghai their way into getting a Guinea Pig. I am not going to go into the particular details of the process, but it involved pig-sitting for a week, a guilt-ridden neighbor boy, and lots of tears and pleading. I reluctantly agreed to the transfer of custody on two conditions; I will never touch the animal and I will not take care of him.

Now a Guinea Pig named Pete and I live two distinct existences separated only by a bedroom door and a wire cage. For those of you who have never cohabitated with a Guinea Pig, there are a few unknowns. The first is that they are incredibly noisy, especially at night. Pete loves to drink from his water bottle between the hours of 1:00 and 4:00 a.m. One would think that drinking from a bottle is silent. Wrong. The first week he was in the house I woke every night thinking that the air-conditioning unit was about to explode.

Guinea Pigs are also very needy. Pete is incredibly spoiled and expects to be carried around and loved on constantly. If he catches a glimpse of a human he begins grunting, squeaking, and pawing his cage, all of which are intended to draw attention to his isolation and free him from the confines of his cell. I will admit that the little guy is pretty smart. Not only has he figured out what works for his personal gain, he also knows that attention does not come from Dad. Apparently he also understands the terms of the “agreement”.

Finally, Guinea Pigs crap…a lot. The only animal I have seen crap more is a cow, and that is only in quantity not frequency. Needless to say, Pete’s cage has to be cleaned often. Efficiency is the number one priority for my wife and kids when cleaning up after their buck-toothed companion. The most important component for facilitating a quick cleanup is a good base layer of absorbent material. What better material than old newspapers? So, while I may not take the time to enjoy my $130 yearly subscription, I can rest assured that I have a well informed Guinea Pig.

Use #2: Lining Guinea Pig cages

John Hansen is six feet tall and wears glasses. He owns a lawnmower which he is fully capable of operating on his own. John and his brother-in-law have co-authored the mega-hero novel The Power of Zahn. This literary masterpiece is to date unpublished and sits on the vine like a perfect apple waiting to be picked by a discerning pie chef.

#1: Oil Change

I have gotten the Wall Street Journal for two years. In the beginning the love affair was strong and I was a faithful reader. As time went on other things took precedence and I fell to just reading the Opinion and Editorial sections. Now I just pick up the paper and toss it into the trunk of my car where I warehouse it until recycling day.

The biggest reason I don’t read the paper is that I cannot simply relax. There is always something that needs to be done and if I don’t do it right away the world could end within the next four hours. God forbid that I have to put something off for a few days. In those cases I obsess about the task until it’s checked off the list. A perfect example is the oil in my car.

Last week I “had a feeling” that the Suburban needed an oil change. Sure enough I was a couple hundred miles over the prescribed 2500 mile oil change. It was Christmas weekend and I knew better than to try and knock it out then. So I had to put it off. And putting it off meant obsessing about it.

This morning I woke up exceptionally early and lay in bed running through the list of things to worry about until my brain locked onto the unchanged oil. I lay there for awhile until I finally had to get up and take care of it. I rolled out of bed at 7:30 and got dressed; choosing to ignore the fact that it was 19 degrees and New Year’s Day.

I need to digress and explain that when I do work around the house I have different levels of old clothes. The bottom of that list is oil-changing clothes. If my neighbors had not seen my attire before they might think a bum had fallen asleep under my car. In fact a bum would probably say “Hey, look at the bum sleeping under that car.”

So there I was, dressed like a hobo preparing to perform a “quick” oil change. Being a modern man, I can admit when I have a problem. One continual issue I have is judging where to place the drain pan so that I can catch all of the oil as it pours from the engine. I have progressed to stacking blocks of wood in an oil-soaked Jenga-type pile in an effort to get the pan as close to the plug as possible. Sometimes I get it right and sometimes I don’t. Today was a day that I didn’t.

The initial pour was dead on and was a beautiful black stream pouring into the precariously perched drain pan. Unfortunately, I was so proud of that initial alignment that I forgot to account for the reducing stream as the oil level dropped. In a matter of seconds my driveway looked like the latest parking spot of the Exxon Valdez. So began phase two of the oil change; clean up. Enter the January 1, 2010 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

I quickly grabbed the unread newspaper and went to work sopping up the oil. Fortunately, we were nearing recycling day and I had an ample supply of unread papers stored in my car. Moving past my frustration, I had to chuckle as I watched the header disappear into the growing black blob. I thought to myself, “How many people use the Wall Street Journal to clean motor oil off a driveway?” I would venture to guess that very few high-powered executives and real estate moguls are outside on New Year’s Day, donning a wardrobe consisting of two jackets found alongside the road, and scrubbing their driveway with unread Wall Street Journals. I will go so far as to declare that I am the very first person to ever perform such a feat. Please disregard the fact that I have absolutely no research to back up this claim and rest assured I am not about to collect data to substantiate it. After all, I cannot even make time to read the damn paper I was using to clean up the mess. You will just have to trust my “gut feeling” on this one.

As I amused myself with comparisons to Peary reaching the North Pole first, I was stricken with an idea. There are probably hundreds of uses for my unread Wall Street Journals. In fact, I bet I can find a use for each one of my 300 plus unread papers throughout 2010.

So in the spirit of every other useless blog out there, I am undertaking the task of documenting the many uses for the Wall Street Journal.

Use #1: Cleaning up spilled motor oil.

John Hansen is a self-proclaimed genius and one of the coolest men to walk the face of the Earth. He wears very awesome western shirts and has lots of remote controls. He is the co-author of the unpublished mega-hero novel The Power of Zahn, available as soon as someone decides to publish the greatest story of modern times.