Hack This

Life hacks. Those simple tricks and strategies that help us move through life just a little bit easier and more efficiently. It’s hard to avoid the sea of life hacks as we wade through Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube videos.

Don’t get me wrong, some of these life hacks are pretty impressive and simple, and if neither of those, at least entertaining. I’ve learned that one can use a dustpan to help fill a bucket too big for the sink (although I don’t know about the state of your dustpan) or put pancake mix in a cleaned-out ketchup bottle to make for easier dispensing. There’s the “hack” of determining the doneness of spaghetti by throwing it against the ceiling. If it sticks, it’s done. Although, to be fair, that one’s been around for quite some time now. I’d love to know the life hack for getting stuck spaghetti off your walls, but there’s been no follow up on that to date.

There’s the classic “hack” of fixing a split flipflop with a bread tag (I learned that one on a beach years ago), using ice to remove gum (would’ve been useful info back in junior high), adding lime in boiling egg water to make shells easier to remove, or a hair tie to expand the waistline of your jeans. I’m telling you, the hacks are endless.

Did you all know that Doritos make good kindling? That one is decidedly disturbing, especially considering how many Doritos are ingested by us as a country.  Coca Cola is great for cleaning mucked up showers. WTF? Oh, hey! Maybe it will work on spaghetti walls. Did you know that ramen makes a great DIY filler for most projects? Who needs wood paste or spackle when you have a handy dandy packet of ramen lying around.

It seems everyone has a life hack for something. But do they?  Do they really?  Sometimes I think what people call a life hack is more like “that’s just how it’s done.”  Since when is folding clothes a life hack? In a long list of these tips, I saw one that explained how to more easily mulch a garden. The hack was simply using a bucket to transfer the mulch from the wheelbarrow to the plants. Seriously?

One video explained the “hack” of measuring for a bra. It’s labeled as a new and improved trick for finding the perfect fit when the person just describes how you’re supposed to measure for a bra.

It’s easy to find the humor in these videos, and sometimes I do find it funny that things are called a hack when they’re not really a hack. But when I really think about it, it’s also sad that whole generations don’t know it isn’t a hack. We’ve taken away life skills from our young people and then accuse them of laziness and ignorance. For so many years now, we’ve put so much emphasis on becoming specialized professionals that we’ve forgotten to teach the simple skills that can help everyone be more successful in life, not just a career.

So, when someone sees it done for the first time or they figure it out on their own, they think they’ve discovered something new.  Oh, I’m not criticizing these young people. It’s not their fault. We can’t blame them for not knowing something they don’t know. No one is teaching them these things to begin with. They’re left to figure it out on their own.

At one time, we had home economics in school. All kids had to take it, and it taught things like sewing a button, cooking a meal, washing laundry, and balancing a checkbook. Life skills, not life hacks.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to go back to the good old days. They weren’t all that good for a whole bunch of people. But maybe we should go back to offering life skills classes in school. Something.

In the meantime, YouTube and TikTok are a veritable feast of how-to’s, and I’m glad that young people can Google to figure things out, because the adults of the world certainly aren’t helping them out.

The Comment Section [insert eye roll here]

If the Trump era taught us anything about social media, it’s that people feel free to say whatever they damn well please so long as they can say it with their fingers from behind the protection of a screen. For a while, Facebook felt like an ongoing skirmish at the Mason-Dixon Line. Family members and old friends jabbed at each other across the line before retreating back to their sides unscathed. Shame the same can’t be said about the relationship, though. The space seems to have mellowed a bit (or maybe I’ve just unfriended and unfollowed enough people that I now have a curated page with little political chicanery). Unfortunately, this does not filter out ignorant, annoying, self-righteous commenters responding to benign posts and memes.

There’s always a person who responds to celebrity posts, whether positive or negative, with “who?” As if a person can survive in the present-day First World with social media and screens flooding our eyeballs everywhere we go, and not know who these people are. They act like they’ve never heard of Michelle Obama or Sandra Bullock, Oprah Winfrey or George Clooney. As if we’re going to believe them.  Of course they KNOW who they are. They just want to appear nonchalant and uncaring because they think it somehow belittles the celebrity and adds an attractive aloofness to their personality. The reality is that it makes them look like an ass. No offense to donkeys. I like donkeys.

Then there are the grammar police. Policing other people’s grammar is classist and ableist, and just plain rude. I hate the grammar police. But they do offer up humor once in a while. Using “I would of” instead of “I would have” when correcting someone else’s grammar is one of the more ridiculous examples of someone not quite grasping the irony of their behavior.

What about the people who respond solely with emojis? Modern day hieroglyphics. I haven’t quite decided how I feel about them yet. The advantage is that one leaves out the possibility of a grammar infraction by answering with an image. Perhaps that is the motivation.

I’ve seen them less these days, but there are still occasionally the “pompous agitators.” These are the people who respond to political or social justice posts with long lists of random statistics and references to their training and experiences (whether credentialed or imaginary is anyone’s guess) as facts for their viewpoint. These people may sometimes get the last word. Still, it’s typically not because they’ve used logic to claim the victory. It’s usually just a lack of interest from the others involved or exhaustion from trying to refute absurdity.

Of all the social media commenters, I relish most the distant family members and old friends who comment like you all share heart-to-hearts every week and go on vacations together every year. In reality, you may not have seen or spoken to this person in the last twenty years. The weaving of devotion and depth of intimacy into their comments may be fake or an exaggeration of an old connection, but in this day in age, when there is so much meanness on the internet, a little phony love is better than real hate, I guess.

Where Nature and Technology Collide

I woke up this morning and, in real-time, watched an elephant drink from a waterhole. A giraffe, haloed by the sun, captivated my attention. I didn’t even have to leave my home or change out of my oh-so-comfy pajamas to see any of this. The free website, africam.com, offers people all over the world the opportunity to witness the many intriguing and unique animals on their reserve. I am fascinated (and slightly obsessed)!

Sure, I could Google or search for videos of these animals on YouTube, but there is something magical about seeing these animals live and unedited. These magnificent creatures are doing their animal thing in the present moment, without humans around, and anyone with a screen and decent wifi connection can watch. It’s almost as cool as actually being there. Almost.

On this website (which accepts donations and does offer paid experiences), there are so many cool features. There are 8 live cameras set up around conservation reserves, and you can switch between them as you like. They even update the video snapshot every 30 seconds for the videos you aren’t watching. That way, if something comes onto the screen, you can switch over.

How cool is it to watch, in real-time, something living on the other side of the world? I once saw two lions that were covered in blood as they had just finished eating. I didn’t see what they had eaten (thank god), but I like to imagine it was poachers. I’ve watched baboons perch in a tree over a crocodile-infested river (though infested sounds harsh, doesn’t it?) to protect themselves from predators at night. Of course, I’m always afraid that one would get startled and fall out into the river. That’s a side of the animal world I don’t want to see! I watch them through my fingers as though Freddy Krueger might pop out at any moment.

Do you know what pure joy is?  Gazelle youngsters, that’s what. Gazelle youngsters are such a pleasure to watch as they leap around and play, not a care in the world. You can tell they are enjoying themselves and driving their herd crazy while they’re at it. It’s just a joyful thing to witness. No lions allowed, thank you very much.

The sounds of the birds and insects are very soothing as well. Usually. At times, it’s a raucous cacophony. Sometimes a mammal can be heard before it is seen. The camera pans around to find where the sound is coming from, sometimes finding it, sometimes not. The search, whether successful or not, is exciting.

africam photos slide

Once I heard a loud rumbling and expected to see a Jumanji style stampede burst into view. It turned out to be a safari-type jeep, tourists in tow, off on an adventure. Lucky them! I’ll admit, I’m just a little jealous. Okay, a lot jealous.

Don’t get too excited about seeing a rhino on live camera, though. When rhinos appear, the camera immediately cuts out or gets turned away (a sad but needed strategy to avoid alerting poachers to their whereabouts). I apparently turned on my screen at a time when the camera operator was taking a bathroom break or chatting with a co-worker. I watched the rhino for a few minutes before the camera was suddenly jerked away. I was left staring at a pole (an overcompensation, I imagine, before the operator caught their breath and shifted the camera again to a rhino-free grassy section of the view). I bet they didn’t leave their post again for a while.

If waiting around for an animal to appear on screen is not in your schedule, they also have video highlights. These play in a more digestible time frame for our present-day hustle and bustle culture. These are exciting as well, though they aren’t quite as suspenseful as the live cameras.

Still, the videos are a pleasure to watch; a hyena licking the camera (swear to god, you could see down his throat!), baboons and impalas sharing a waterhole inhabited by frogs, beautiful birds building nests, bull elephants trying to impress the ladies, and even a dung beetle pushing a ball of poop up a hill and comically tumbling back down with it.

You can take snapshots of anything you see, save them to your gallery, and share them with the Africam community. Or you can watch ranger videos to learn more about the animals. I also learned about the Black Mambas, the first all-female anti-poaching group. I know, right!?  Awesome!

With its roaming animals and soothing nature sounds, this site brings such pleasure to quiet moments. It helps remind me there is a whole, magical existence out there that I have yet to see. Someday I hope to (so long as I’m in a covered vehicle because, you know, lions…).

Give a Man a Fish…

I must say that eating sushi was never something I equated with my grocery shopping experience. I guess my concerns center round the whole aesthetics and hygiene thing, and you know, the raw fish. Admittedly, sushi is not something I would eat in general, let alone at the grocery store. But…

I recently saw a man eating sushi in the grocery store. Umm… eww?

Yeah, so I was at the local grocery store yesterday (not the fancy kind either, just your run-of-the-mill chain store), wandering the rows and trying to make my way through my list when I noticed a man looking at the sushi they have pre-prepared in the case. I noticed him because he made a big deal about hemming and hawing over the case as he took off his baseball cap, scratched his head, and eyed up the display.  In a loud manner, he pulled the seafood clerk aside to ask if it was fresh. Now, I can’t speak to the honesty of the clerk, but he told the man that ‘yes, it’s made fresh every day.’ He failed to mention what time of day. It could have been made first thing that morning, for all we knew, and here it was, 8:30pm. But the guy seemed satisfied enough with that answer, and that’s what matters, I suppose. I mean, he was purchasing sushi at the local grocery store, after all. Anyway, the guy made his selection and moved on. I didn’t see what he chose (I’m not that nosy.)

I returned to my shopping, and a few minutes later, I saw this guy again. Now he was down at the other end of the seafood counter (where they have cheese and pasta in a refrigerated section, which is where I was headed), and I kid you not, he was eating the sushi! With his fingers. Right there in the store. Eating. The. Sushi. He couldn’t even wait to get home or at the least to the semi-privacy of his car.  Eating sushi in the middle of the grocery store. Who does that? It’s not like he was trying to hide it either. You know, have your sushi but not pay for it. He was just sort of there, for everyone to see. Can you imagine taking up an empty sushi container to the check out? Do you even try to explain that or just stare silently at the questioning cashier?

I’ve seen some quirky behavior in the grocery store. Some of it is a bit more common than others, some of it not very sanitary. But… a sushi dinner? How badly must you need a sushi fix to pop open the container and just start shoveling it in while loitering in aisle 5?  

Most people love a good sushi dinner now and then. Well, maybe not most people. But a substantial portion of the population appreciates the delicacies of raw fish and their pairings with rice, veggies, and seaweed. Part of the reason some people like sushi is the pleasure of going to a nice restaurant where the sushi is freshly made moments before being served. Then, of course, there’s the ambiance of the sushi bar itself. 

For this guy, however, the assurance of “made fresh everyday” was more than enough… regardless of what time of day that might be.  And ambiance?  Who the hell needs ambiance when you’re downing grocery store sushi next to the pasta and cheese display at the Piggly Wiggly? If that’s where you are in your life, ambiance is probably the last thing on your mind. 

A Croc of Something

Picture this: It’s a warm summer evening, and you have a very attractive man coming to pick you up at your door to take you out for a nice dinner (who says chivalry is dead). You’ve got on your little black dress (every girl needs one, right ladies – insert eye roll), but you just can’t decide on what shoes to wear. You want sexy but comfortable, breathable but classy. Okay, forget classy; you won’t get that with these shoes. But comfort, a nice breeze on your feet, and a few inches to make those calf muscles pop… you got it! What you need is a stiletto croc designed by Balenciaga (whoever that is). For a mere $850, you too can have these fetching rubber disasters.

crocs with heels

Seriously, have you tried walking in crocs with wet feet? Say you step in a puddle, a light rain begins, or you start sweating profusely from nerves because while out on this date, you realize that not everyone accepts crocs as legitimate footwear. And who knew that particular shade of green would glow in the dark? All eyes are on you. Or, at least, your feet. What if he takes you to one of those fancy restaurants where men have to wear blazers, and they don’t let you in because your choice of shoes is more reminiscent of a day at the beach or a last-minute trip to Walmart? Now there you are, wet feet slipping and sliding around in your rubber shoes, and there is a 4-inch gap between your soles and the pavement.

I know I’m not up to speed on what’s considered fashion these days, but seriously? Is this really what fashion has come to? Yeah, no thanks.

Have you seen the see-through plastic jeans? Isn’t the point of wearing pants to cover up what you don’t want others to see? Where does one wear transparent, plastic pants? I would think you’d have to stay inside or reserve them for a cloudy day. Clear plastic makes for great greenhouse material, which doesn’t bode well for pale skin prone to sunburn. 

clear jeans

Of course, you could always go for the more conservative look… jeans with plastic knees. Just $95 at Nordstrom. Presumably they’re still available, though honestly, I have no idea. As I may have mentioned, fashion and I aren’t exactly friends.

plastic knee jeans

If plastic “jeans” aren’t your thing, there are always detachable jeans in the running for the most ridiculous fashion statement. These provide a denim coverage of the essentials (basically, shorts). The denim legs are attached to the shorts with garter belt-type straps, or in some cases, zippers. Why, people? Why?

garter belt jeans

Cowboy boot sandals, distressed tights (tights that look like they’ve barely survived a rough night of drunk dancing), grass-stained denim from Gucci, sweaters with the abdomen removed, and even jeans that come out of the factory with holes already there, the list sadly goes on.

What’s up with cutting holes in perfectly fine clothing? Why can’t clothes just be functional and not ridiculous? I want to shout from the rooftops, “Keep the clothes whole!” Just add pockets for God’s sake.

And crocs with stiletto heels? Thankfully they aren’t available yet. When they are, I’ll be the first in line to not buy them.

New Place, Same as the Old Place

A certain someone seems to be settling into the new place quite nicely. Shaylee has mellowed in her age… in the past, a move would have sent her into hiding for at least 6 months. Now, she’s out and about from the jump and doing quite well exploring and checking things out. And from the looks of it, she has claimed my bed. Because, I mean, of course.