Monthly Archives: January 2017

How to Win a Debate on Facebook (or anywhere)

Just the facts

The national debate is on! Not that we haven’t been embroiled in a ginormous rhubarb for the last year or so, but now women have upped their game and for some reason that has gotten under the skin of the new president in a yuge way.

Three to five million women, children and men gathered all around the world—depending on sources—to protest Donald Trump’s policies toward, well, pretty much everything. Comprised predominantly of woman, people in pink hats called dibs on stuff that effects them, their children, mothers, sisters, families and future generations. Advocating for the human race in general, they demanded clean water and air, access to medicine, healthcare and family planning, enough food to feed their families and freedom from oppression in all its insidious forms.

According to Mr. Trump, between three and five million dead people, undocumented immigrants and Mr. Trump’s own political operatives voted illegally to give Hillary a three to five million-person victory in the popular vote.

Each time the estimate of protesters rose in the immediate aftermath of the Women’s March (it took some time for the feminists in InIttoqqortoormiit, Greenland to get word of their numbers to the mainland), Trump made that poor Mr. Spicer go out in front of everyone and lie about the number of people who attended his inauguration. Once Spicer established his willingness to do so, the poor schlub was doomed.

Sean Spicer spews alternative facts and swallows gum like a malnourished python, while his body language suggests he would rather not become a bloody footnote in a 3-part History Channel series called The Rise and Fall of the Trump Realm. The mic goes hot, Spicer’s shoulders go up and he repeats what he’s been told to say while his testicles retract into his sternum.

It seems there is consensus even among the Trump faithful that he may be a tad out of his depth both politically and psychologically. For example, during a discussion with my cousin who voted for Mr. Trump, he trumpeted the standard line, “People wanted something different,” but when “something different” was elucidated categorically by the crackpot ideas our new leader has put forth, and which have terrified only our allies and not a single enemy anywhere in the world but for perhaps an angry Kim Jog-un whose shipment of Trumpsteaks thawed in transit and went bad, my cousin said simply, “Oh, Trump’s a tool.”

It was off-handed and casual, like, ‘We’re so over him. Let’s move on.’ I think anyone who voted for Donald Trump because they couldn’t stand you-know-who has to own this guy until the bitter end when Greenpeace takes over and runs the U.S. government from a dinghy in Cape Cod Bay where they protect endangered whales and our constitutional rights.

Simply changing the subject when things get sticky or because you don’t have facts to back up your assertions is dishonest, yet this hooligan style of debate has swept America. Looked at Facebook lately?

There are only two kinds of honest intellectual debate:

  1. pointing out errors or omissions in your opponent’s facts
  2. pointing out errors or omissions in your opponent’s logic

Interjecting “Benghazi!” or “Remember the Alamo!” into a debate about climate change or women’s reproductive rights does little to persuade the other person of anything at all, and is more likely to make them want to join a protest group, donate to a protest group or start their own protest group, which I’m guessing is not the desired outcome.

Red herrings bang against the aluminum hull of truth like Asian carp on crack. “Oh, Lordy! Our poorest most violent cities are all run by democrats!” THWAP! You’re smacked in the head by a riled-up cyprinid.

First thing I did upon hearing about the liberal mayors from hell…for the seven millionth time, was to find out who runs our richest cities. Lordy! They’re all democrats! Every single one. Turns out the mayors of almost every big city in America—rich, poor, violent, peaceful and prosperous, from Salt Lake City to Houston—are all democrats.

I implore you not to take my word for it, or to take anyone’s word for anything. #fakenews is the most horrifying thing imaginable to this former journalism student, and I beg of you to do your homework before spreading, sharing or repeating information, memes and factoids you pick up on the internet or overhear at Hobby Lobby.

Using the example, “Our most violent inner cities are the product of liberal mayors,” allow me to show you how simple it is to obtain verifiable, unbiased facts:

We know Chicago and Detroit have big problems, and I think everyone is aware that the mayors of those cities are democrats, but did you know that Detroit, St. Louis, Memphis and Oakland top the list of American cities with the highest crime rates? According to Forbes, Chicago isn’t even in the top ten.

Lo and behold, our most crime-riddled cities are indeed run by democrats. The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore is #7 of the most violent cities in America) proclaimed in a recent headline, Urban America Should Give up on the Democrats.

Yikes! Whatever the democrat mayors are doing isn’t working, so I wanted to know who was running the most prosperous cities in the nation. I googled “richest cities in America,”  which resulted in a Bloomberg map highlighting the top 20 most prosperous cities in America accompanied by the average person’s income in that city.

In an effort to be unbiased, I googled the mayor of each city and not only the ones on the west or east coast—cities in traditionally blue states. (The list included cities in Texas, Utah, North Carolina—a broad spectrum covering the entire United States.) Once I had their names, I googled each mayor to learn to which party he or she belonged. Democrat. Democrat. Democrat x 20.

So while it is true that democrats run the poorest cities with the highest crime rates, the other half of that truth is that they also run the cities with the greatest wealth and prosperity.

News flash: the largest cities—rich or poor—have the most crime, while smaller cities and towns have the least.

The safest cities in America, regardless of income, are evenly split among mayors who are democrats and those who are republicans. The mayor of the #1 safest city—Irvine CA—is a republican, while the Chairman (the elected official who runs the city) of Arlington VA (the second safest city in the country) is a democrat, as is their Sheriff, btw.

All the way down the list of safest cities in America, we alternate between republicans and democratic mayors.

If the assertion is that poor, mostly minority groups vote democrat and that is the crux of urban crime, what do we say to the prosperous Americans in large cities who are thriving at the top of the heap under democratic mayors? Likewise, if the safest cities are split between democrat and republican mayors, what does that tell us?

I think it indicates a deeper discussion is needed—one with facts at the core. No matter how strongly I believe in some value or other, I am not allowed, by conscience, to present my opinion as fact unless it is actually, you know, true. Not half true. I hold all of us to the same standard. I hope you do the same.



You’ll never win a debate on Facebook, but I believe it is incumbent upon us to call people on their shit using the greatest weapon we have – let’s say it all together – FACTS!


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How to Survive the Next 4 Years (regardless of party)

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Let’s face it, no matter which side you line up on the next four years are going to be brutal. Every action, tweet, deal and decision will be met with unprecedented scrutiny and subsequent calls for impeachment, censure, tar and feathering. Other folks will show their unwavering support regardless of the charge, action, tweet, deal, decision or whether the President of the United States has indeed shot someone in Times Square. It’s going to be four years of hell for people who would rather not hear their own surging blood pressure pounding in their ears.

There are the obvious solutions, albeit perhaps inconvenient for many of us, such as joining a religious order of cloistered contemplative monastics in remote Uganda. To toil tirelessly beside the Trappists or Trappestines for four years without speaking a word wouldn’t be all bad, however, as they are world renowned for brewing some wicked beer. Suddenly four years doesn’t seem long enough.

People love to say, “If your candidate wins I’m moving to Canada.” It’s no use burying your head in Canadian sand. Don’t think Prime Minister Pretty Boy doesn’t have an opinion about our recent political hostilities that he is willing to share, as do all Canadians except for maybe the Aboriginal peoples who think similarly to our indigenous peoples—that white people lie like hell and are not to be trusted.

Nope, there is nowhere on earth you will be able to avoid ugly current events. Example:


Amid the dead, frozen bodies of their fellow mountain climbers, a guy from Japan and a Trappist monk take turns breathing from an oxygen tank.

Japanese Mountain Climber:

“Did you see that that Vladimir Putin is on Dancing with the Stars this season?”

The monk removes his jacket then flogs himself with belay equipment.

It is going to take some Yankee ingenuity to survive the next four years without killing ourselves or one another. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Have chapped, cracked lips (or a nagging hangnail), a small piece of sandpaper and a lemon on your person at all times.

The instant you hear or see anything that looks like it could lead to political discourse, rub a little sandpaper across your mouth or give the hangnail a nice tug with your teeth, then squeeze lemon over the affected area. You will turn red, tears will flow. It is possible you’ll pass out. One thing is certain and that is you will not care whether the Sequoias have been cut down to make golf clubs or the White House has been gold plated.

2. Learn to scuba dive then get a tank that holds four years worth of oxygen. Assuming your skin doesn’t rot off and you are able to eat while submerged this is a fine plan for avoiding pretty much anything for the next 48 months.

3. Hypnosis.

If you get a good hypnotist, he or she will be able to convince you that you live in Canada with that handsome Mr. Trudeau, or you may opt for the Denmark plan, which will have you believing you live in the happiest place on earth, are blonde and 6’3” tall.

Either way, you will enjoy a great deal of salmon.

4. *Bunkerize.

It is not necessary to DYI a bunker when you can easily commandeer one from your local survivalist by simply standing outside his shelter and shouting, “Hooters has gone topless!”

Once the militiaman hightails it for Hooters you can move into the bunker and bolt the door behind you.

*It will be necessary to prep for this contingency by acquiring a taste for food that comes in “handy serving buckets” labeled simply “breakfast” or “dinner.” There’s a place called Wise Food Storage that offers 4320 servings of emergency food in buckets for the low price of $6,999.99. (There are only 495 left so “order now or take the risk.”) Think it’s a coincidence that 4320 servings is a 4 year supply? Nope. That is called planning ahead.

5. Visit your friendly pharmacist.

As of this post the FDA has not approved the following medications, but by the end of business today all regulations on drugs and everything else will be waived in favor of corporate profits. The following drugs will be available without a prescription, but one will be needed in order to obtain a library card.

Lobamax, a topical ointment that you rub on your temples until your brain goes completely numb. (Street name: November Surprise.)

Naplongesta, in gel cap or tablet form, this medication will help you sleep tight for 48 months. Side effects may include death, constipation, oily discharge and really nasty morning breath.

*Lafablavin, a nasal spray that delivers a wallop of glee as it shoots directly to the temporal lobe. People might be going berserk around you, but you won’t care.

*Lafablavin is contraindicated in cases where the patient is also taking Despondozine, the medication for people who have it so good they feel bad. When taken in combination, these two drugs cause a spike in not giving a shit. You may want to double both doses.

Rectisol, in suppository form, is an effective bullshit blocker. Speeding delivery of misinformation blocking drugs to your central nervous system via immediate absorption into your bloodstream, both politicians and teenagers will be on the hook each time they open their mouths.

“It’s not my weed.”

Upon hearing this all the fingers on your right hand will begin to tingle and you will think of Barbados, the shrubbery outside Johnny Depp’s house or Ray’s Liquor and Wine—wherever your “happy place” might be.

“President vows giant dome over United States. Martians to pay.”

Your undies won’t be in a twist when you read this headline if you’ve applied Rectisol, or taken the med in its generic oral form, Lyalotium. The purple pill of prevarication detection will have you right as rain, fly fishing on a river of pleasantness, unconcerned with headlines, tweets and the Russian Army amassed at our northern border.

Milk of amnesia, taken orally by the cupful once every four years, come November 2020 you will not remember a thing. Also available in injection form as a vaccination under the name Stuporivir, this is the surest way to survive the next four years without engaging in fistfights, blood vessel-exploding arguments, public altercations and familicide.

Whatever your political views, if you wish to remain engaged and human for the next four years:

  • stay calm
  • be cordial
  • be vigilant
  • hold your representatives’ feet to the fire. Remember, they work for you.


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8 Ways to Tell If You’ve Lost Your Mind


I’m no medical professional, but I know crazy when I see it, particularly as it pertains to me. Following is a handy list of the reasons I know bats are flying the freak flag in my belfry. If you exhibit three or more of the following symptoms, then you are likely nuts as well, and should seek immediate hugs, spa treatments and cabernet.

1. I rush into a room and immediately forget why I am there.

This happens to people all the time, and it doesn’t mean they’ve gone bonkers. In my case, however, I sing a little song to remind myself why I am hurrying to the room because I know otherwise I will forget, except that the ditty I make up has a faintly familiar melody, which by the time I get to my destination (literally—the very next room) has morphed into I Dreamed a Dream. My mind wanders to a time when hopes were high and life worth living, and I wonder what has changed because today people are so angry all the time. Next thing I know, I’m standing in the kitchen crying and I have no clue what I came in for, but this is where the wine is kept, so all’s well that ends well.

2. I hide things.

This is not the same as misplacing them (see #4).

I hide things from bad people who might come into the house when I am away and steal from me. Many years ago when I was a child, my parents hid stuff for the same reason. One night we were out to a birthday party and when we returned we found we had been robbed. The crooks took everything that was hidden, and left the cash, jewelry and electronics that were in plain view behind.

Back then my parents were very young, and they could remember where things were hidden, so the instant they saw the freezer was left open, the toilet paper rolls had been disemboweled and the bag of potting soil in the garage had been sifted, they knew the good stuff was gone.

Those are pretty ingenious hiding places, we thought. TodayI am much better at squirreling stuff away. So good, in fact, I can’t find any of it. Yesterday, before I left for an appointment, I figured I should hide an envelope of cash I had just brought home from the bank. I didn’t want it in my bag in the event someone (I’m talking to you, Yvette – the dental hygienist with the twilight anesthesia and Dolce and Gabbana smock) at the dentist’s office picked my pocketbook. So I stood there, cash in hand, thinking…

Ah ha! I envisioned the perfect hiding place. I set the envelope down so that I could arrange a pile of dirty clothes to camouflage the money. I became distracted by a sock. Its mate was nowhere in sight, which gave me pause because I had always believed errant socks went missing in the washer or dryer, not the laundry hamper.

The instant I noticed I was humming I Dreamed a Dream I stopped myself and focused on the task at hand. Creating a nice soft nest within the folds of sweatpants and a t-shirt with a bloodstain on it from god knows what or whom, I was reminded of the Jerry Seinfeld bit; “If you’re worried about how to get blood out of your clothes maybe laundry isn’t your biggest problem” and again, I reeled myself in. Proud that I hadn’t succumbed to utter distraction, I went to retrieve the envelope of cash.

I still haven’t found it, but am sure that if I were to engage the service of a villain, he or she would locate it in a flash.

3. I delete things.

I take exception to this one, but geeks and geniuses assure me I am the one who deletes photos, emails, texts and voice messages…it is not the handiwork of witches, gremlins, woodland sprites, demons, imps or the guy down the street who stole our WiFi for three years before we finally caught him.

By deleting things I also mean the crumpling of vital pieces of paper, the garbage disposalling of the apple whilst the core remains in my hand, and the general dispatch of wine.

4. I misplace things.

When I can’t find something I’ve hidden I don’t freak out. I figure I’m just a  crackerjack hider. When I walk into the house and set my keys down and ten minutes later they are nowhere to be found, then I question my sanity. I also wonder how witches or gremlins, woodland sprites, demons, imps or the internet bandit got into the house and hid my stuff.

Every so often the dogs walk around looking guilty as sin. I wouldn’t put it past them to mess with me. I know they don’t appreciate having to go out when it’s 7 below zero just to pee. I wouldn’t be happy either, but it’s not my fault they’re dogs. I’ve tried explaining this to them, but they seem to think if they have to pee, barefoot, on the frozen tundra, then so should I. They are further irritated that I eat different food than they do.

5. I anthropomorphize like a motherf*cker.

(The dogs hate it when I cuss. They think is diminishes me.)

6. I forget who I’ve just called on the phone.

Multi taskers everywhere will be able to relate to this one. My special twist on the cowpie of cray cray is the creativity with which I try to cover my ass. When the person on the other end answers, I panic for a brief moment as my mind goes completely blank. Back in olden times you could have just hung up—there was no caller ID. Today, we’re screwed. I pray whomever answers the phone does so in a helpful manner, “Hello, Framistat Framing, how may I help you?” This is a best case scenario.

In the event I am met with a simple unidentifiable “hello” the next step is to buy myself some time. “Hey! How are you? God, it’s good to hear your voice” I chirp in the most upbeat tone I can muster given my brain is in overdrive and is conflicting with my mouth. “It has been too long! How the heck are you? How long has it been, anyway?” Babbling relentlessly, I scan the surface of my desk for some clue as to whom I’ve called.

Without any solid leads, I pray that when the person finally speaks their voice will be familiar and it’ll be smooth sailing until I forget why I called. (In February I will be conducting a workshop with tips and tools for dealing with that eventuality.)

7. I am easily distracted. 

I once spent three hours while I was supposed to be cleaning the house googling ways to combat distraction. After fifteen minutes I found an entire YouTube channel dedicated to videos of dogs saying ‘I love you.’

Note to self: invent a reverse caller I.D. thingie that will tell me who I’ve called. Clean under the fridge. Find out if cats say ‘I love you.’

8. I am constantly confused.

I will be 25 minutes into a vintage Law and Order before I realize I’ve seen it at least half a dozen times. I leave the grocery store with $300 worth of groceries, not one item of which is on the extensive grocery list I forgot at home on the counter next to my mittens. It is -50 outside.

The world is a mess, there’s too much to do and never enough time to do it, and my dogs are plotting against me. Is it any wonder I’ve lost my marbles?

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4 Best New Year’s Resolutions


1. Be like Dame Helen Mirren

When the 70 year old was asked one piece of advice she’d give her younger self, the glorious Dame Helen answered, “It would be to use the words ‘fuck off’ much more.” She went on to explain there is no value to being polite at all times, especially as women, and that it is empowering to tell people “no,” “get lost” and well, “fuck off.”

I can’t count the times I’ve been held hostage at a meeting, in a corner at a party or once in the waiting room at my gyno’s office where I was corralled by a total stranger into agreeing to distribute pamphlets on behalf of the World Help Organization, which sounded like it would be an organization of worldwide helpers, of whom I thought I should be one.

Once I had a chance to look at the material I saw the organization’s motto; “Uniting People and Maximizing Our Authentic Selves.” Uh oh. The lady who runs the thing has written a book, “Living Your Chosen Eulogy.” I’m sure this is a very worthwhile group, but it is not really me. But there I was, walking out to my car with a box of pamphlets and too much conscience to toss the damn things into the trash.

Had I the cojones to channel Dame Helen when the woman with crazy eyes and mismatched shoes asked me if I’d like to “help people who need help” (which always seems more productive than helping those who don’t need help) I would have said, in my most authentic voice, “Fuck off, and I hope someone mentions this in my eulogy because it is how I wish to be remembered.”

A lot of people adhere to the old adage “you don’t ask, you don’t get.” In 2017, they should expect to hear the new adage, “Fuck off.”

2. Go all in on friendships.

We’re busy, we’re telling people to fuck off, we’re saying “no,” “I can’t” and “I won’t” more this year in an effort to guard the precious commodity of time, but what are we saving all that time for?

Willhelmina’s accordian recital is important, sure. And Exley’s squash practice is right up there, but some day your family will desert you and you will need friends.

As we learned in kindergarten, to have a friend you must first be a friend, so in 2017 we are going to be the best friends possible. Of course there are degrees of friendship—many people whom I consider friends are the same people I will tell, in 2017, to fuck off (but I will say it in a friendly, helpful manner).

I’m taking about that handful—if you’re lucky—of real true blue friends; the ones who would rescue you at 3AM if you needed rescuing, who are fully present when you have the chance to get together or chat on the phone, the people you wouldn’t hesitate to give a kidney.

Big heroic gestures of undying friendship are rare occurrences in real life, but being fully present is every bit as difficult as donating an organ—maybe more so. When a friend calls and we are only half paying attention because Exley wants to know how poop is made and Willhelmina has decided that next to you is the best place to practice her ‘bad touch’ scream, we are not fully present for the person on the phone. (I frankly don’t understand why people with children even have phones. Awake or asleep, there is nothing that gets a kid going more than the sight of a parent on a phone. It is the universal beacon of “wait until you hear ‘hello’ then unleash the Kraken!”)

So in 2017, whether we’ve got children, dogs in heat or a mate to whom hearing “Hello?” is a signal to inquire about missing socks, we will go all in on friendship by making sure we give our friends our undivided time.

Even if it’s just a minute or two, knowing that someone is right there with you—fully present and fully engaged—is a wonderful gift, and lets that person know they are important to us, that what happens to them matters to us.

Oh, and saying, “I love you.” It’s awfully good to hear and feels wonderful to say.

3. Write a note and mail it.

Texts and emails are great for instant communication and convenience even if we are losing language as we know it as a result. wtf. Schools no longer teach cursive writing, which (age alert! age alert!) just feels wrong. Receiving a hand-printed letter or card (you cannot call something printed hand-written; that would be like serving fish boil and calling it fish fry) is a delight like none other.

When I sift through the junk mail, requests for donations and bills, and I see a hand-written envelope my heart sings because someone thought enough of me to take the time to organize paper, envelope, a pen that works and a stamp and put that all together in a fashion acceptable for the United States Postal Service to deliver right to my mailbox. My cousin Colleen has five children and a massively weighty full-time job, and yet she drops a note in the mail every couple of weeks. I feel loved.

Note: If you fear Exley and Willie-girl won’t give you the time to jot a note, simply pull out paper and pen and tell them you want to teach them something. You will have time to write and enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee or bottle of wine. If hubster pokes his head in, tell him you are writing a to-do list of household chores. You will not see him again until he wants sex or a sandwich.

4. Floss daily.

Every time I go to the dentist I am reminded this is a critical gingivo/odonto ritual that I generally neglect by January 3rd.  2017 is gonna be different.

On January 1st we have every intention of getting healthier, quitting something or someone who is bad for us and beginning a regimen of something or someone who is good for us. Less than .2% of the population adheres to their resolutions past January 3rd, but telling people to fuck off, well, it seems like that one could last all year, if not a lifetime. And being fully present for the people we love…that’s about the best use of time imaginable.

If we keep a stack of note cards and stamps in a place other than where the dental floss is stored, there truly is a good chance we’ll write a note now and again, and the absolute certainty that in doing so we will have made someone’s heart sing, if only for a moment. In 2017, as at all times, those are the moments that mean the most.

Happy New Year!

Wisconsin Public Radio has rerun my essay “Wisconsin Tough” so if you missed it the first time and you need a good laugh, check it out!

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