How to Be Wildly Successful

It was a problem I’d never anticipated: My brainy daughter was having trouble in school. Katie began teaching herself to read at 15 months and tested at a “post–high school” level in almost every subject by fourth grade. Yet her middle-school grades were dropping like a lead balloon, and her morale along with them. I cared more about the morale than the grades. I knew Katie was quickly losing something educational psychologists call her sense of self-efficacy—her belief that she could succeed at specific tasks and life in general. People who lack this trait tend to stop trying because [...]

Lame Animal Totem: Hamster

Few hamster owners realize that their pets carry the powerful energy of intense passion and artistic aspiration that for some reason always ends up being considered amusing and adorable. If you doubt Hamster’s depth, please click this link to observe the moving death throes acted out by these talented little nuggets of cuteness.

If you actually watched the video, you now know how hard hamsters work at the craft of acting, bringing depth, energy, and true pathos to their performances. As if that isn’t enough, consider the piano prodigy at this link.

True, the Hamster isn’t playing the piano, because that’s [...]

Lame Animal Totem: Pacu

Take a look at your teeth. If they resemble those of the pacu fish, pictured here, the pacu just might be your animal totem!

The pacu played a starring role in an episode of River Monsters, a television program featuring intrepid angler Jeremy Wade. The aptly-named-Wade went right into bodies of water in Papua New Guinea where the pacu is found, despite the rumor that this fish lives by biting nuts it finds floating on the water. Any nuts, if you catch my drift. Yes, the pacu, also known as the “ball cutter,” is said to accidentally geld men who, [...]

Buddy Up and Giddy Up…

I’m learning to ride a horse, which is a lot like driving a car, if cars were nervous and unpredictable and expressed their anxiety by leaping suddenly sideways and accelerating uncontrollably whenever the breeze picks up. Also their shock absorbers were made out of jerky. And they bit.

So I sit on this huge beast named Buddy like a fruit bat clinging to a human’s scalp, and I’m supposed to make him do what I want without reinforcing his suspicion that I’m a serial killer. My options are limited: I can tug on the reins, tap with my legs, or [...]

Lame Animal Totem: Hagfish

Hagfish, also called “slime eels,” are similar to (follow closely, here) extremely slimy eels. Some experts call them “a degenerate type of vertebrate-fish” because they have skulls but no vertebrae. Others just avoid them.  

In addition to its degeneracy, Hagfish energy is spineless, squishy, slithery, and rank. If Hagfish is your totem, don’t assume you must necessarily become a politician. You could also start your own religion, marry a series of rich, aging spouses and drop them off at no-kill shelters, or produce a reality show—whatever requires the least backbone.

If Hagfish shlurps its way into your life, first ask [...]

How to Find Joy That Lasts

It was the bottom bottom of the ninth inning in game seven of the 2001 World Series. The New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks were all tied up. As Arizonans, my family and I were thrilled to see our state getting attention for something other than sun damage, so when Luis Gonzalez hit a bloop single to drive in the winning run, we went bananas—screaming, punching the air, jumping like jackrabbits on crack. Now, ordinarily my beagle Cookie (may he rest in peace) loved human celebrations. He’d howl along and do a little tap dance, castanet toenails clicking [...]
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