How To Choose the Best Motel

This post first appeared on The Monkey Bellhop

motelcaliflower

 

Hello friends.  If you’re like me, you live for family road trips.  If you’re not, don’t read any further and go do something productive.  I’m the last guy to want to force you to stick around and read about something that you couldn’t give two hoots about.  I’m not being magnanimous here, I’d just expect you to do the same thing for me when you write about something on your blog that’s of no interest like “The Art of Blacksmithing is Alive and Well in Skokie, IL!” or “I Went to the Mall. It’s Crazy There!”.

Road Trips

There is nothing more rewarding or adventurous than a planned or spontaneous road trip. The exhilaration and feeling of excitement you get simply by locking up the house and yelling across the street to the neighbor you get along with that you won’t be back this way again for a few days, maybe more!  The opportunity to dust off some old organizational skills and call upon every working cell in your brain to successfully fill your car with your spouse, children, suitcases, duffel and sleeping bags, beloved pillows, stuffed animals, coolers and 275 pounds of iPods, iPhones, iPads, computers, navigation equipment, cameras, headphones and charging chords — all while leaving a postcard size space in the center of the rear windshield so you can identify whether the driver who is tailgating you is a headcase or not and whether or not you can safely give him “the look” the moment before he hurtles past you.

And of course, the steel will and determination required to not leap from the vehicle you are driving at 72 miles an hour when, 15 minutes in,  everyone begins arguing about when, where and what kind of food they will or will not eat and what type of motel they will or will not stay at for the night.

I’ve stayed in hundreds of motels across this great nation of ours, from smog encrusted California to the pristine, oil sheeny banks of the mighty Arthur Kill in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.  From the Pat O’Brien’s tourist trapped, sticky red Hurricane rum soaked streets of the New Orleans French Quarter to the pristine, oil sheeny banks of the mighty Arthur Kill in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.  From the Canadian owned and operated, how could they possibly be that friendly, I bet they say sarcastic things about me when my back is turned, jagged and slippery rocked Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, to the pristine, oil sheeny banks of the mighty Arthur Kill in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.  Yes, I always return to NJ.  It’s not because I love it.  It’s because I’m on probation.

Why Motels?

On long trips of 500 miles or more, the need to spend a night at a motel often arises. When I travel long distances by car, outside of knowing the ultimate destination, I don’t always plan ahead.   I like managing my vacations the same way I manage my life and as far as I know, it’s sort of worked out very well.  Depending on who you ask.  Do me a favor and don’t reach out to anyone direct.  If you’re that interested, I’ll get you a list.

Selecting the right motel is never easy as the motel industry, as a rule,  has its share of nebulous characters and nefarious practices.   Or is it nefarious characters and nebulous practices?  I don’t have time to look it up.  My wife has decided we need to get the house in order today and I’m already in trouble as it is.  Anyway, while you sleep — scratch that.  While you toss and turn at night or feign sleep so you can ignore the tossing and turning and complaints of your loved ones, the motel industry plots and schemes against you.  If there was such a thing as reincarnation, and such a thing as karma, and such a thing as the entire motel industry dying and being reincarnated, it would come back as a Venus Flytrap.  Most likely a national, loosely affiliated chain of Venus Flytraps.

What to Watch For and Consider When Selecting a Motel For the Night

On road journeys, there are two types of motel “environments”.   You have what I refer to as the “Major Chain” clusters that exist in larger towns and cities and are located directly off the highway exit — your Holiday Inn Expresses, Hilton Garden Inns, Marriot Courtyard Suites, Comfort Inns, etc.  They are often situated conveniently near six or seven major chain restaurants and two you never heard of but will check out to see if there is any local charm before heading over to Ruby Tuesdays.

The other motel environment is what I refer to as the “OK, I’m Getting Off At the Next Exit” category, situated in the, “For the love of God, the kids and I need to eat something and get some sleep!” part of the country which is two towns past all the major chains you flew past in spite of the whimpering and begging of your family.   Generally, these motels are located on the outskirts of unincorporated townships where people who have faked their own deaths for the insurance money live.

Since this is not a large market area, these motels are often unaffiliated with major chains but will give themselves names that sound vaguely familiar and reputable like “Motel 6 1/2″, “Hollandaise Inn”, “Marionette Motel Suites” or “Hitler Garden Inn”.  If you end up staying in a motel in this environment, whatever happens is as much your fault as the motel’s.

Restaurants in the “OK, I’m Getting Off At the Next Exit” category are practically nonexistent so I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of “Zagat’s 2013 Vending Machine Ratings Guide” before padding down the hall and deciding whether or not to spring for a microwavable cheesesteak sandwich with a picture of Artie Shaw on the label.

To be fair, the opportunity, though slim, exists that you may stumble upon a quaint, charming, independently owned motel in a remote corner of the world which is operated by a kindly, conscientious caretaker who has never stood in a lineup or spent weekends waiting on top of a large hill, mountain or garage roof to be picked up by extraterrestrials.   Regardless, always keep your wits about you when assessing motel options.  Legions of crafty proprietors across tourist trap communities all over America have learned that an enticing sign, facade and check-in area are the only investment needed to convince weary and road worn guests to sign on the dotted line.

It is only after, upon entering their rooms while pondering the limitless depths of their exhaustion and anticipating the good night’s sleep that will restore them in the morning, that the guests realize they have have agreed to pay $119.99 plus state, local, special occupancy, tourism and variable sundry taxes to spend the next eight hours in a room so sketchy, the Joads would have walked out to spend the night in their truck.

After years of staying in bad motels, I have assembled a list of experiences to remind me to look around and ask questions up front before deciding to check in or not.   I hope this list will help you as well:

How to Tell You Are In A Bad Motel:

  1. The night clerk is also the day clerk
  2. The majority of the signatures in the guest book are signed with an X
  3. When you turn on the television all the programs are in Kinescope
  4. The shampoo and conditioner comes in soy sauce sized packets
  5. The water pressure in the shower is so low, there’s no need to dry your back when you get out
  6. When the towel you wrapped around your waist brushes against the dresser two coats of varnish rub off
  7. A sign on the air conditioner warns that if you turn it up to “high”, you must inform the front desk first and sleep under a table or doorway
  8. The desk clerk comes to your room for coffee
  9. When you hear the couple in the next room moaning and banging the bed against the wall, it’s because they’re scratching themselves
  10. When you call the front desk, the clerk says, “We’ve already been made aware of the situation” before you have a chance to speak
  11. When you meet a fellow guest in the parking lot or reception area they ask. “How long are you in for?”
  12. You can hear your spouse or kids trying to fall asleep by repeating the mantra, “What ever doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.
  13. You are visited by ghosts in the middle of the night and when they scream at you to get out, somehow you can just sense they are good ghosts
  14. The outdoor, in ground pool has a 1974 Dodge Dart “play station” at the bottom of it.
  15. You’re almost 100% certain that the brown eyes in the mounted moose head above your bed were blue the day before.

My recommendation is whenever possible, to always select a nationally recognized motel within a major chain cluster area.  While a four star hotel and an advanced dinner reservation will enhance your marriage and delight your children, and a night at a clean and pleasant Holiday Inn Express will neither hurt or harm the marriage as long as there is some sort of pool to delight your children, a terror filled night in a joint called Eddie’s Hideaway Inn with an empty pool and a beagle with one eye snarling up at you from the bottom of it can lead to a request for separate vacations right in the middle of the one you’re currently on.

Negotiating the Motel Rate

The cost of any motel room is always 10% lower than advertised or stated over the phone.  In order to receive the 10% reduction simply say the following, “Do you have a?”  Before you finish saying the word “Do”, the check-in clerk will drop the rate 10%.  My understanding is that the discount could be associated with AAA or AARP but I’ve never been asked to show a card or prove membership.  I believe affiliation with AAA or AARP really doesn’t matter anyway because the motel clerk always marks up the room tax by an additional 10% .  It is widely known that there are only three people in the United States who understand how the hotel/motel room tax is structured in the first place and the odds of you being one of them are slim to none.

Using Motel Pools

An indoor motel pool is always the highlight for most children and normally the requests to go for a swim begin at the same time the clerk is jacking up the room tax to offset your AAA or AARP discount.  I have found the experience to be a mixed bag, with some motels going all out with large pools, free towels, attractive lighting and life preservers that aren’t actually bolted to the wall, while others seem to have “phoned in” their indoor pools, providing tiny, vaguely vat like cavities situated in gray, dimly lit rooms and located at the rear of the building where there is often a view of the highway you wish you were back on at that very moment.

While the shape, size and atmosphere may vary, there are two things that are common in every motel pool in every town or city in America.  The first is that there is some sort of chemical reaction that takes place between chlorine exposed skin and industrially laundered motel sheets and towels that creates the sensation that your body is either slowly being consumed by a low grade acid or being attacked by millions of tiny insects.  The second common aspect found in every motel pool in America is that no matter what time of day or evening you come in for a swim, there is a couple in the pool who are on their honeymoon.

So should you take the plunge?  I don’t see any lasting harm as long as you don’t try to soothe your skin afterward with the complimentary free lotion the motel provides.  I’m not a scientist or a chemist, but I will swear to you that there’s an ingredient in that skin lotion that reacts with the chlorine and industrial laundry detergent and believe me,  if you slather that stuff on after going for a swim, taking a hot shower, drying your body with one of those 80 grit towels and then climbing under the sheets,  you will wish you had never been born.

And as always, don’t go anywhere near the hot tub.

In Summation

Well, I hope I’ve provided you with some of the information and tools you need to choose the right motel for you and your family.  Finding decent lodging should never be a chore and road trips really are the only option people have these days if they truly want to get to those destinations the airlines say they can fly to but then don’t because God keeps messing with their weather.  If for any reason, after reading this article, you’ve decided motels are no longer an option, just remember there is always camping.

© 2013 The Monkey Bellhop and John Hartnett

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How To Stay Single in Your 30s

Today’s post is brought to you by Sean Smithson

‘Modern day dating tips for the single man’

They say: “Don’t worry. You’ll find someone soon, I know it.” “You should meet my friend. She’ll be perfect for you.” “Hang in there. It just takes time…”

I say: Fuck off. Maybe I’m actually okay being single.

Contrary to what many people think, being single in your 30s isn’t actually the end of the world. Sure Friends re-runs are better with company. But at least you have complete control of the remote.

Then there’s the fact that unlike your taken friends, you get to drink as much as you like and behave like a complete wanker at weddings and need explain your actions to no one. Except if you ruin the wedding of course – I’ve come close.

And finally, there’s sex. Whilst it does seem counter-intuitive that being single would actually result in you getting more action than your coupled-up chums. Ask any of your friends in long term relationships and I’m sure you’ll find that they’re ‘doing it’ less than you.

Hell, even if they do get the green light – usually on weekends or special occasions – it’s pretty shit.

holytaco.com

holytaco.com

Starting to think that I may be onto something (and that I’m not just a bitter, soon-to-be-proud-owner-of-a-parrot-to-keep-me-company, loser)? Well follow these steps and you too can continue to enjoy the single life.

Oh and the best thing about this advice? When you finally decide that you do want to be with someone long term, just do the complete opposite!

1 – Continue doing what you’re doing as that seems to be working just fine.

However like me, if you find that ladies are just drawn to you or that your friends absolutely insist on trying to set you up, then try the following:

2 – Be a mildly obnoxious asshole on dates. You need to get the balance just right so that she’ll sleep with you but won’t want you to call her ever again.

Talking about your junk and how great you are in bed = good

Offering to pay for dinner = bad

I also find that talking about your previous conquests, visits to strip clubs or general lack of direction in life tend to nip things in the bud fairly quickly. Though perhaps wait until after you’ve seen her naked before mentioning any of these.

If you’re still struggling for ideas, check out the ‘How To’ guide to being an asshole.

3 – Watch copious amounts of porn / jerk-off loads. Though rumoured that this can lead to blindness, you guys seem to be reading this just fine… badum tssssh!

masturbatingBut seriously, not only will this help to keep your urges for companionship in check. It also means that you will avoid potential ‘relationship creating’ contact with the opposite sex as this task is usually best performed alone in the confines of your bedroom.

If you’ve somehow managed to procure an elusive ‘friend with benefits’ then I doff my cap to you sir. Though if you ever get the feeling that you’re headed towards commitmentville, tell her how much you masturbate and this is likely to result in a swift U-turn.

4 – Move back in with your parents. As nothing says ‘he’s a keeper’ like a guy who still lives at home with his mum and dad at the age of 30+.

mameatloaf

And if you didn’t scare her off with (3) then mention that you do most of your ‘work’ in your old bedroom!

5 – Be unemployed. Or if you currently have a job, get fired. The effects of this should be fairly self-explanatory.

If you really must work, then try to find a job that is fulfilling but with little chance of progression/recognition and even less chance of a steady income.

6 – Don’t have a car. As if you can’t even pick your date up then what are the chances of collecting your future kids from football practice?

7 – If you are somehow coerced into joining an online dating site, really put some thought into your profile. Ideally, you want something that makes a woman think ‘I’d hit that but he’s definitely not marriage material.’

This guy knows what I’m talking about.

The Mathematician

The Mathematician

8 – Finally, if all of the above options have failed and you still find that women would like to have a committed relationship with you, set up a blog about what a massive douche you are and send them the link.

Mine’s www.seansmithson.com

LIVE THE DREAM!

I’m off to have a few beers with the Mathematician…

How To Piss Me Off With Email

The following was submitted by Pieter of Ah Dad. . . 

1. Send me an email from the office next door that does not have any document, spreadsheet, meeting schedule or other piece of useful information attach to it.  Only use a few cryptic words to make it sound important.

I just think that if you have something to say to me, it might be more appropriate to get of your fat ass and walk the four metres to my office.  It will be beneficial to your health.  Walking would allow those little red bloods cells to speed up and then you might even burn a calorie or two, which I’m sure the hinges of your fridge will appreciate.

2. Send me a chain letter.  You know those mails that you forward to eleven friends to prevent yourself from walking home and getting maimed by a falling ostrich.

First of all, when you’re in the habit of forwarding chain letters, I’m surprised you still have friends.  It’s that annoying.  Life has taught me: There is no such thing as a free lunch.  Let’s put it in perspective, it actually means: There. Is. No. Such. Thing. As. A. Free. Lunch.  If you think sending a picture of a crying girl to 11 people will open the heavens and make buckets of cash fall from the sky, well you’re just fucking stupid.  And the world doesn’t need to know that.

3. Send me a PowerPoint presentation with pictures of cats.

I hate cats.  They’re cunning and deceitful creatures.  As kittens they’re all cute and playful. Then they grow up to be bossy, toplofty, pompous and shit–Just like a teenager.  As the owner you’re only good enough to feed them, if they allow it.  Do this and I will go all chain letter and spam on your mailbox.

4. Send me a reminding email, forty seconds after the first one. 

I have a life and my only purpose on earth is NOT to sit and wait for your message.  I am sorry that I don’t climax and drop everything when your name pops up in my inbox.  I am also sorry that your concept of a reasonable reply time is out of tune with mine.  And if you have the balls to enlarge the font of the mail and write the word “reminder” on the top, then well. . . screw you.  Delete sequence initiated.

5. Send me a condescending mail with a smiley face.

We are not in kindergarten anymore.  Sarcasm is a science, a skill that I have worked on for many years to execute perfectly.  How dare you consider that adding a smiley face is enough to hide your initial intention?  Reading it gives me an uncontrollable urge to rearrange your face with a frying pan to resemble your chosen emoticon.

There it is.  Five easy ways to get my temper thermometer into crimson red by the click of a button.  Truth be told I am actually a real fun-loving, nice guy, but again that’s what they said about Dr Jeckyl.

 

How to Be a Tourist In New York City

The following post was written by Jenna Nobs.

1. Hold your iPhone at arm’s length from your face as you struggle to orient your direction on Google Maps. You might also consider carrying a sign that says, “Free mobile device, I won’t put up a struggle.”

2. Look right at the Empire State building and tell your friend that it’s not the Empire State Building. I mean it can’t be, because the other buildings around it look taller, right? Perspective, what’s that?

3. Buy a hotdog from a street vendor. Oh, this strange unwashed man is going to nestle this oddly pale dog into a bun with his bare hands? What a personal touch, isn’t New York City charming!

4. Run up to people in Elmo suits like it’s fucking Disney World. Walk away with a souvenir photo and a complimentary squeeze on the ass.

5. Marvel at people who have coated themselves in metallic paint to look like statues, then scream like a little girl when they jump at you. Natives, by contrast, never lose their cool. Twerking in the middle of the sidewalk, no problem. Body pulled out of the Hudson, another day on Law & Order. Remember tourists, always lose your cool.

6. Apologize for bumping into people, and I mean every single one. We live in a civilized society.

7. Point in a completely random direction when someone asks you where a major landmark is. It’s just so flattering, how can you not mask your ignorance in that situation?

8. Comment that you’re pretty sure this is the street corner where Ice-T called someone his bitch on SVU. It’s perfect because you can’t be wrong.

9. Hail a taxi like you’re sticking your hand into an open flame. New Yorkers do tend to bite.

10. Walk down the block in a random direction to determine whether you’re going uptown or downtown, then turn around because obviously you’re wrong. Again. Seriously do natives have an internal compass?

11. Make eye contact with pushy street vendors and listen to their ten-minute sales pitch/accept a lot of fliers you don’t want while native passersby snicker at your vulnerability.

12. Whip out your disposable camera every time you see a building that looks historical or a guy in a Spiderman suit. Feel free to block foot traffic as you do so.

13. Be in Times Square.

14. Don’t give up your seat on the subway, no matter how old, pregnant, or weak standing passengers may be. Jesus Christ you guys, I’m kidding– this is New York City, not Lord of the Flies. Have a fucking soul.

How to Lose Weight

Summer is nearly here and with that the arrival of banana-thong season:

bananathongAccording to every magazine, you are fat and you only need to follow “these 8 simple steps” to lose weight. According to every magazine, the ideal woman-shape is this:

idealwoman

According to every magazine, the ideal man shape is this:

idealmanshapeHow do you get to your ideal shape? Simple! By following “these 8 simple steps:”

1. Don’t eat food. If you start to feel light-headed, stuff yourself with packing peanuts. They’re only 7 calories a ton!

2. Exercise a lot. The optimal exercise program would combine using an Ab Roller®,  a Shakeweight® and a ThighMaster® simultaneously.

3. Move to the moon. You will automatically weigh less because of the weaker gravitational pull. That’s science, my friend. Only don’t eat the moon because it’s made of cheese and cheese is fattening–even on the moon.

4. Drink Slim-Fast® shakes to the point of nausea. This will take one sip.

5. Remove extraneous organs. Did you know your intestines are, like, 30 feet long! Think how much thinner you’d be if you slimmed that down by 10 feet. Not only would you weigh less, but you innards will be less cluttered and more attractive. And you will lose weight because you will feel like shit during your recovery. No pain, no gain–wait, I mean, more pain, less gain. Medicine!

6. If you’re struggling with the whole non-eating step, move to where a zombie apocalypse is occuring. Food will likely be scarce and hard to get because, you know, zombies and stuff.

7. More exercise. Are you shaking your Shakeweight® vigorously enough? It should be at the point where you’re beaning yourself in the head. Remember, if you’re unconscious, you’re less likely to eat. But don’t get too unconscious because then you can’t do your squats.

8. Get some muscular harpy-like thing to shriek “motivation” into your face. Something like this:

jillianmichaelsPeople seem to like it on that Biggest Loser show, and when has reality television ever been wrong?

9. This step doesn’t exist because there are only eight.

How To Have a Successful First Date

Your audition tape for The Bachelorette was rejected so now you must meet someone on your own and engage in an activity not pre-planned by television producers. That can be tricky. Our fast-paced, screened-in, text-messaging society can leave one’s real social interactions skills a bit rusty. You may be wondering: Do I make eye contact? Should I live-tweet this date? Is ‘gyro’ pronounced ‘gy-row’ or ‘hero’? This is why I am here to help. By virtue of possessing a vagina, I know all things all other vagina-possessing people view as dating do’s and don’ts.

1. Don’t mention how your other ex-girlfriends have been murdered. This may seem obvious, but I actually overheard a man say this to a woman on what was likely their one and only date. Even if you finish the thought with: “I hope things work out differently with you,” you still have likely made your date feel slightly uncomfortable and fearful for her life. 

2. Do select a nice venue. A picnic at the local landfill may not carry the same scent of romance as a picnic in the park. Other venues to avoid: Cock and/or dog-fighting arenas, Walmart, McDonald’s play palaces, slaughterhouses, the embalming room at funeral homes, sewage treatment plants and Brooklyn-based King’s County Bar on July 20 when it is hosting “The Smallest Penis” contest.

3. Don’t broadcast the entire date on a multitude of social networking sites. You’re tweeting how your date has an entire corn kernal stuck in her front teeth #awkward; you’re instagramming your KFC double down; you’re updating your enigmatic Facebook status update to read “Corn-tastrophe”; you’re creating surveys in Survey Monkey asking friends to gauge your chance of an end-of-the-evening handjob; you’re updating your bowel temperature on assheat.com every few minutes–you’re spending so much time on these activities that you have not spoken to your date in three hours, and KFC employees have asked you to leave so they can commence with cleaning out the grease trap #awkward. Stick with only one social network site so 35% of your attention can be on your date.

4. Do keep weeping to a minimum. I know Speaker John Boehner looks sexy as hell when he weeps because it’s a Tuesday, but it’s less sexy when you’re cryingly answering your date’s question about your employment or your thoughts on Dancing with the Stars.

5. Do ask about her interests. As sitcoms, commercials and movies have shown, women are objects that enjoy bright, shiny baubles. They love to talk about shoes, and they can barely contain their excitement around new and improved cleaning products. Do ask her about “woman things” like chocolate, yeast infections, and legitmate rape.

womanthings

6. Don’t ask her to join your cult. It’s better to lull her in by breaking her spirit first.

7. Don’t read how-to posts on dating advice. The author likely knows very little and is just trying to meet a deadline.

How To Put Together Porch Furniture

Spring is here, and with that the obligation to do things outside and make property look acceptable to judging neighbors.

A few months back, I purchased a home in a family-friendly neighborhood. My previous home fronted a four-lane state highway and was a block away from the local hospital. This passed for landscape design:

amazingdecorIt set the perfect backdrop for the time my neighbor’s daughter decided to pour gasoline onto my driveway.

But now I must keep up with the Jones’ or the Smith’s or whatever their names may be, I’m not very neighborly. So I ordered wicker porch chairs from Target. This is how they arrived:

This does not look like a chair.

This does not look like a chair.

And this is how my amazing how-to on How To Put Together Porch Furniture came into being.

Step 1. Open box and dump out all the parts. Weep.

chairinpartsStep 2: Look for the directions.

"Helloooooooo??"

“Helloooooooo??”

Step 3. After much kicking of empty box, locate a miniscule box with the words “Important: don’t throw away” under a heap of chair parts.

Now, we're cooking.

Now, we’re cooking.

Step 4. Read step 1 of the directions:

instructions

*click to enlarge*

Step 5. Ask the directions if they are fucking with you.

*click to enlarge*

*click to enlarge*

Step 6. Stare with envy at neighbor across the street who seems perfectly content sitting in a folding chair on his front porch.

neighbor

Step 7. Attempt to stick pieces together into a chair-like shape.

I believe this is the bottom or at least it is now.

I believe this is the bottom or at least it is now.

Step 8. Make a pact with God.

Dear God,

If you help me figure this out, I will stop taking your name in vain while I assemble this clusterfuck of a chair.

Amen,

TOHTB

Step 9. Question the meaning of life when no help is provided. Go inside an open a bottle of wine.

Soon it will no longer matter what the chair looks like.

Soon it will no longer matter what the chair looks like.

Step 10. Figure now is the perfect time to let Target know what you think if its product.

emailtotarget

Step 11. Dicker around some more and eventually get to this somehow.

I am a fucking chair genius!

I am a fucking chair genius!

Step 12: Revel in your amazingness and then notice the second box.

For fuck's sake.

For fuck’s sake.

______________________________________________________________________

The Official How To Blog is filmed before a live studio audience. If you wish to be a part of the show, drop us a line. 

How to Tell if Your New Followers Are Real or Not.

You may have noticed an uptick in new followers recently. This may have led to such thinking like:

“I have finally arrived.”

“That book deal is just around the corner.”

“Maybe I don’t need that job that pays all the bills?”

This is erroneous thinking–except in my case. Seriously, you should see the number of followers I have now, and I haven’t even written anything. People are really starting to get into what I’m writing, or in this instance, not writing. I have arrived, world!

But let’s get back to you. Your new followers. There’s a good chance they are not real. How can you tell?

This is why this blog exists, and why you’re following it, like all those other real followers who began following in the last few weeks. Follow these steps to determine if you’ve found a new loyal reader or soul-crushing robot bent on your complete annhilation.

1. The Blog Name

Sometimes you can determine real from fake simply by looking at the name of your new follower. Does it appear to have multiple consonants and strange characters like Zzzz*23ÖΦ¢zzzz? As far as I am aware, that is not the name of a human being. There are parents out there who live to give their children a unique (or you-neek) name so their children can forever be haunted by mispronounciations. For instance, I have seen this spelling for Jane: “Gn♥.” But Zzzz*23ÖΦ¢zzzz has yet to catch on.

Well then, you may be thinking: “Could my latest reader be a cat that has its own blog?”

Possibly, but cats are normally unreliable followers, and it’s best to avoid their overtures of friendship. Don’t kid yourself, if a cat has a blog, it wants something from you.

So what if your new follower has an actual name like my most recent follower: onlinedegreeonlinedegrees? I am suspecting that this may be some woman in her mid-40s writing about her personal journey toward learning how to play the saxophone or it could a diploma mill that offers bogus degrees.

When you’re uncertain the next step is to look at your new follower’s gravatar.

2. The Gravatar

Most people choose a gravatar that expresses a statement about their blog, like my gravatar of a nail being hammered into a brain. I’m saying “Ow. Knowledge hurts so let’s never learn.” Examine your new follower’s gravatar. Does it give off this kind of vibe?

spamblog

Then it is likely fake.

Some savvy spammers will use a picture of a human being to give the appearance of possessing an actual soul and conscience. Like so:

bullshitblog

Or it could resemble that tribal tattoo you got after a night of binge-drinking green beer with a weight-loss supplement that causes anal leakage.

Don't click on this. It likely has hepatitis.

Don’t click on this. It likely has hepatitis.

If you’re still unsure, then the next step is looking at the actual blog.

3. The Actual Blog

You’re sorry you did this. Yeah, me too. I noticed my computer has been acting funny. It’s requesting my social security number every time I launch Firefox, but if that’s what it takes, right?

A good indication that your new best bud is fake is your best bud’s blog doesn’t exist:

Did your one day of following me mean anything!?! I feel so used!!!

Did your one day of following me mean anything!?! I feel so used!!!

Or it appears to have little content:

Well, hello back at ya!

Well, hallo back at ya!

If only I could find a company family chicken dinner recipe somewhere...

If only I could find a company family chicken dinner recipe somewhere…

Or it appears to be a giant commercial for everything you’ve never wanted:

Hmm...seems legit enough. Sign me up, new friend!

Hmm…seems legit enough. Sign me up, new friend!

Uh...I'm sorry, you look exactly like a new follower of mine. Do you know iLoans, perchance?

Uh…I’m sorry, you look exactly like a new follower of mine. Do you know iloansdirect, perchance?

If you’re still unsure then the next step is to look at your new reader’s interaction with your blog.

4. Your follower’s interaction with you.

Does it look like this?

tumbleweeds

The barren blog landscape.

Then likely your new follower is following in incomprehensible name only.

True, 95 percent of your new readership was probably created in a dank cellar in some dark corner of the world, but keep in mind that only 10 percent of your followers actually read you anyway. And, boy, are your stats looking pretty dynamite right now.

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Unlike the majority of your new readership, the Official How To Blog is maintained by an actual human being. That makes you desperate to write for it, right?

The Official How To Blog is your one true source of all information and anal-leakage needs.

How To Tell If You’re Crazy

Today’s guest post is brought to you Victoria Sawyer of Victoria’s Angst.

Because I’m a certified crazy person myself, I am uniquely qualified to spot the crazy in others. Let’s start the assessment, no I said, let’s start the assessment. Listen to me…Do it. NOW!:

1. Your alcohol consumption. Does the alcohol actually talk to you? Does it beg to be sipped, delicately or does it demand to be chugged ASAP to drown out the fears?

2. Your tics. Do you feel the need to count stairs, or cracks or to have things aligned perfectly? Do you feel the need to organize things, control things, take control, be in control. CONTROL!

3. Your perception. Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought, “who is that person staring back at me? It’s certainly NOT me. I’m an 18 year old super model. In my head, I’m whoever I wanna be! I am not this gross crummy aging body. WHAT GIVES!”

4. Your insomnia. Have you ever had trouble sleeping due to “brain seizures” or what I like to refer to as the kind of brain that needs to STFU? Do your thoughts race? Is your brain far too crowded? Are there too many people in there? Do you think your brain is out to get you? Can you feel it plotting in the night about how to ruin your life? Does it shoot drugs when you’re not around? Does it get irrational and talk at you when you should be sleeping? Does it stand outside the shower like in Psycho waiting for the right moment to plunge in the knife? Are you afraid?

talkingbrain

5. Your emotional state. Do you get into rages that last for days while cursing the existence of everyone around you? Do you feel that the world or your co-workers are “out to get you” and constantly plotting your downfall with every email? Are you having a bad day? Is everyday a bad day? Do you want to curl up in bed and never leave except than the thoughts begin to molest you and everything is 100 times worse?

6. Your heartbeat. Have you ever had a racing heart? No, not that one time you got on the Stairmaster by accident at the gym. That doesn’t count. I mean…like, for NO reason whatsoever?! Like, you’re sitting there at work, typing a boring email to a coworker (who you swear is plotting your demise by typing one word answers, like OK! with annoying exclamation marks) when suddenly out of the blue a full blown heart attack throttles your neck until you’re gasping for air like a beached whale?

7. Your hobbies. Do you have the desire to take “drugs” to escape from your life? Have you ever wanted to enter a fantasy land populated by unicorns and leprechauns or by people who have perfect sex all the time, like tandem triple-axel orgasms (which by the by, we know NEVER happen in real life)?

8. Your interpersonal relationships. Do you no longer venture into public? Sometimes when you are at the grocery store and you see that person you haven’t seen in oh about 100 years, do you think, “OMG, I can’t talk to them. HIDE. HIDE! The conversation would be too long, I don’t want to talk, can’t talk. CONTROL!!”

9. Your hypochondria.Do you fear that you could be “dying” or that you have some kind of terrible illness? Have you ever been sitting in your living room watching Doomsday Preppers and suddenly noticed that your arm hurts, like at the wrist and your first thought is of your everyday garden variety carpal tunnel syndrome due to excessively typing out your thoughts to get them out of your head, but then your mind gets the better of you (damn mind!) and you’re convinced you have a very rare form of wrist/bone cancer and the only cure would be eating a whole tube of ice cream?

10. Your hygiene. Are you afraid of germs? Do you build a bird’s nest in the bathroom? Do you wash your hands obsessively? Do you realize that if you wash your hands it HARDLY MATTERS because within moments your hands are as disgusting or worse than whatever happened in the bathroom? Do you realize that WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIEEEE!!

11. Your tolerance. Do certain words of phrases bother you? Have you ever wanted to kick someone in the teeth who said LOL. Or OMG or panties? Do you obsessively correct grammar in others? Are you hyper critical of yourself and others? Have you ever…JUDGED? Have you ever realized that you made a mistake and then spent the rest of the day thrashing yourself, wishing you had a hair shirt and a whip to beat yourself into submission with?

12. Your brain. Is your brain your worst enemy and your best friend? Do you have a closet full of scribbled journals with words like, Let ME OUT, TOO many thoughts! Characters talking, must transcribe conversation, because your mom always said, “write that down so someday you can take it to your therapist!”

 Interesting answers. Hmm…yes. I see. Ok. Fascinating. Let me tally up the responses. Now this is strange, give me a moment. Stop harassing me. I’m thinking. LEAVE me alone. Ok.

My judgment analysis deduction conclusion diagnosis educated guess is that you are either a Writer or you are certified Crazy. Congratulations! We’ll be mailing out certificates for your wall shortly, a la the ones your psychiatrist has that say P.h.D which we all know stands for Phuddy- duddy. Yea! Join the crazy train as we twirl around the room to Love Shack! 

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The Official How To Blog is your one true source of all stuff and things.

How to Talk About Game of Thrones If You’ve Never Seen Game of Thrones

You’re out and about, living your life. You’re looking to post a cute and snappy status update on Facebook like “Sunday? More like Wineday, amirite ladies” when your newsfeed is suddenly inundated with updates like these:

gameupdate

Oh Wildlingballs! Another season of Game of Thrones has started, and once again you will have nothing to talk about at Friday’s happy hour. You don’t get HBO. You attempted the books, but the pages and pages of the various Houses were enough to make you turn to Honey Boo Boo for brain sugar.

But not all is lost. Winter isn’t coming yet. These following steps will help you carry on a Game of Thrones conversation like a Dothraki Khal with a 48-inch long braid.*

*Full disclosure: I’ve read the first two books and just started the third and have no idea what the godswood is going on half the time or who anyone is.

1. The story. I’m not going to lie to you, there are about 700 to 14,256 storylines. There are the Seven Kingdoms, and that has imploded into civil war. Everyone hates everyone and is just stabbing with knives all over the place. About six guys think they should be king and the King’s Landing king is the worst person fictional or living. There’s the Wall and the world beyond the Wall, which is creeping with zombies and giants and rotting zombie horses and wildlings who wear camouflage animal skins, and snow, just shitloads of snow. Oh, and the wildlings, et al., want to war it up with the Seven Kingdom people. And then there’s this woman–she basically birthed some dragons–who also believes she’s entitled to the throne because her crazy-ass now-dead father was king. She wants to get her war on too. Your best bet is to say something like: “War, what is it good for?” and then hold up your hand for the inevitable high-five.

2. The characters. Okay so there are a lot of characters, somewhere between 175 to 134,562. There are the Starks, the Baratheons, the Lannisters, the Targaryens, the Flintstones and the Crawleys to name a few. They all have ancestors and long involved backstories. Unless you’re an avid fan, you spend much of the time saying “Oh it’s that guy! You know, the one who was kicked out by King Rat Face? Now he’s joining up with blondie!” There are really only two crucial things to know about the characters:

You hate King Joffrey.

kingassface

You love Tyrion Lannister. He is the only Lannister you like.

tyrion

3. The Geography. The Seven Kingdoms is made up of seven places…I think. You need to know Winterfell, King’s Landing and maybe Harrenhal–only because there’s so much torture and killing there. You can seem really knowledgable if you say something like “Jesus, sometimes I’d rather be a cook in Harrenhal than work in this office” and hold up your hand for the inevitable high-five. It wouldn’t hurt to toast “To Winterfell!”

The Wall is an actual wall that protects the Seven Kingdoms from the “wildlings” and “the others” and “Frosty the Snowman.” When men “take the black,” they give up everything including the figurative and literal Snooki to patrol a giant block of ice. Do not confuse these men with the men in black and mention anything about loving Will Smith’s sunglasses.

The dragon lady Daenerys Targaryen is in the east in some desert lands that have various names that I can neither spell nor remember. You’ll be fine if you say something like “Wow, just wait till she shows up with those dragons, huh? High five.”

4. Catchphrases. Believe it or not, they exist. Many of the characters are very long-winded, but some are known for their brevity like Ned Stark (when he had a head). He liked to say “Winter is coming,” which loosely translates to “Shit is going down.” It might be a cool thing to say if layoffs are rumored. You will look really deep. “A Lannister always pays his debts” is good to throw out when picking up the next round.

5. King Jerkface. This may be the best subject to stick to in a Game of Thrones conversation. He is a repugnant turdball cesspooled assjerk. I feel bad for the actor because I imagine he’s a nice fellow who would seem moderately attractive, but now represents everything that is awful about humanity. Just merely saying you wish for Joffrey’s slow and agonizing death will win you a friend for life.

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My suns and stars, do you have a desire to write for The Official How To Blog? Drop me an email and watch your winter turn to summer.

The Official How To Blog is your one true source of all information and dothraki.