No Refunds or Exchanges

A few days ago I posted a blog about stupid warnings. After reading that, a friend of mine stopped by to show me an interesting list. She had been shopping and received a long list entitled: We Do Not Offer Refunds or Exchanges For. You may be thinking, “What an insensitive business! We all have the right to return our purchases, regardless of the reason. Walmart taught me that!” Before you get upset and start picketing this fine establishment, please read on. Did I mention she was shopping at the animal shelter? Yes, they needed to make a list of reasons that is inappropriate to bring your pet back. Sad, isn’t it?

I have listed a few of my favorite reasons you are not allowed to bring your pet back to the animal shelter. These are real reasons on a real piece of paper from the Young-Williams Animal Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. I am not making these up, but I really did LOL while reading some of them. 

  • Dogs that bark.  Yes, they really had to make this a policy. Makes you wonder how many people brought back the dog saying, “Yep, this here mutt barks. Didn’t know a dog would do that.”
  • Cats that scratch. I am not a cat person due to allergies, but even I know that cats will scratch. They don’t like to be baptized either. I still have the scars from when I was 5 and tried that. The dog didn’t mind as much.
  • Children taunt or tease the animal.  How is this the animal’s fault? What you need to do is take the shock collar off the dog and put it on the brat who is pestering the pooch. Then make them run back and forth over the shock line in the lawn. Once they wake up, the shock treatment should have cured them of their antisocial ways.
  • You receive/buy/adopt/breed another animal and you return this one. Even my twisted

    mind is going, “WHAT THE (fill in the blank with your favorite word here)”. Do people really get a cat and decided they want to trade up, so they take the old one back? I write about serial killers and even I wouldn’t think of doing that with my worst villain. 

  • Divorce.  Yes, there is sometimes a custody battle over the pets. When my parents got divorced, there was more debate over who got the dog than the kids. In my divorce, I got the dog and the kids half the time. Sounds like there are times when no one wants the cat. I can hear it now, “Your honor, I will take Captain Fuffywillycomes if that cheating (again, please fill in the blank) will pay me $1,200 a month pet support for the Yorkie. Kind of makes you wonder who gets the pet python.
  • Animal ran away and you can’t find it. Wouldn’t it be really embarrassing if you went back to the animal shelter to get your refund, and the dog was already at the door, trying to claw its way back in? I don’t know about you, but it would be really damaging to my self esteem.
There are other reasons the animal shelter won’t take animals back like too big, too small, too old, too young, and too Pekingese. Okay, I made that last one up, but they should really consider adding that. I once heard about a boy who wanted to teach the family Pekingese how to catch a Frisbee. Apparently, you can knock out a dog and squash the nose of a Pekingese even farther with that little flying disc. The trick is waking the dog up before your parents get home. Not that I have ever done that no matter what my sister says.

Arguing With My Characters

If you have read my book, Shrink, then you have met Abby Chilton. She is the emotionally damaged FBI profiler who has an attitude about… well… everything. Sitting here, working on Reunion, Abby is talking to me. Unfortunately, she doesn’t like what I’m writing about her. She can be such a pain in the buttocks. Abby and I have gone back forth about Jonas, her love interest in the first book. She is mad that Jonas is off doing his Interpol stuff, leaving her all alone. I tried to explain to her that he is in his own book that I’m writing. Our conversation went something like this:
Doug: Abby, it’s ok. Jonas has a job to do and he’s in Europe.
Abby: Why does he have to go there? Can’t he be working in America for a while?
Doug: It’s not in his character to stay in one place for long. He’s in demand all over the world. I’m even giving him his own book.
Abby: Are there women in his book?
Doug: Of course there are. He’s in Europe tracking blue diamond smugglers. Who do you think likes the blue diamonds? Guys don’t care about diamonds, unless they are giving them to women.
Abby: I see.
Doug: Why does that make me nervous?
Abby: Because you know that I will run away if you put too many women out there to temp him.
Doug: You can’t run away. You’re in my head.
Abby: Ever heard of writer’s block?
Doug: You wouldn’t dare. Would you?
Doug: Abby?
Doug: Abby? I’ll make him be as good as he can.
Abby: That could be taken many ways. Do not play games with a profiler. I can see right through your little word play, buster. Don’t make me hurt you. I’m in your head. I know where the blood vessels are.
Doug: You are scary.
Abby: No, that would be you. I’m just a figment of your imagination. But I’m watching how you write about Jonas. He’d better behave for the most part.
Doug: How about I bring him back in Reunion for a chapter or two?
Abby: You would do that for me? How sweet of you.
Doug: Anything to keep my brains intact and my characters happy.

I may need some therapy.

Smart Answers to Dumb Questions

While watching TV, I heard an announcer ask a victim of a tornado what it was like. Really? What was it like?! “Well, there was wind going around and around and then suddenly my ding-dang house was gone. I think the roof was headed to Canada. I even saw a woman riding a bike turn into a witch on a broom. I’m pretty sure that was my mother-in-law.” The truthful answer would be, “I was so scared I wet my pants.” Just once I want to see someone answer a reporter like that and point to their damp crotch.
In the interests of doing my best to make fun of myself and others, I have made a list of dumb questions that I have been asked, heard asked of others, or made up from my fertile imagination. Some of them may be questions I have asked, but I won’t tell you which ones.

Q: Do you suffer from depression?
A: Well I don’t enjoy it, but it’s better than being an idiot who asks about it.
Q: How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
A: Just as many moose as a mini mouse could move if a mini mouse could move moose.
Q: Do these pants make me look fat?
A: Yes, the pants are an evil entity that has expanded to make your butt look bigger than it really is. Bad pants. Bad pants. Come here and I’ll spank them. (This one kind of got away from me. Sorry about that.)
Q: What are you thinking?
A: I was just pondering a way to make a stable cold fusion reactor out of paperclips and duct tape while contemplating the best way to create a wormhole to link us with countless other moss-based life forms in civilizations throughout the cosmos. I was also thinking about pudding.
Q: You don’t get out much, do you?
A: My mind is free to wander as far as it wants. My body can’t go anywhere until it get back. Please tell it to come home. The butt promises to fart less so it won’t be as tormented by noxious fumes.
Q: Are you ready for summer/winter/spring/fall?
A: No, and I would appreciate it if you would hold it off until I have had time prepare.
Q: Do you believe in love at first sight?
A: No, I’m love blind.
Q: How old do you think I am?
A: Woman: Twenty-four. (It is a safe guess. Anyone under 24 will be flattered that you think that look that mature. Anyone older will be flattered you think they look that young. My grandma said I was “a creative person whose canvas involved using fecal matter of a male bovine” when I said that to her.)
A: Male: Does it matter? She is still too young for you since you’re not George Cloony.
Q: Don’t you have anything better to do than write a blog about stupid questions?
A: Yes, but this is called creative writing that allows me to delude myself into thinking I am doing something worthwhile, when in reality I’m just procrastinating editing my new book.

I hope these help you as you face the mindless many who madden you. Just remember: Only you can be sarcastic when someone asks you a question.

Don’t Try This At Home

I was watching an old episode of Mythbusters the other day. They always begin the show by saying, “Don’t do what you are about to see at home.” Then they add, “Ever!” Personally, I’m a little insulted by that. I know that I am not supposed to blow up a huge concrete truck with more explosives than most third world countries have in their entire arsenal. I would never try that even if I could get my hands on that kind of ammonium nitrate without the friendly neighborhood agents of Homeland Security showing up at my door with a one-way ticket to Cuba. Everyone knows that C-4 works better.
The reason that disclaimer is on there is to protect the lovable goofs on Mythbusters from being sued by

Bubba’s next of kin, who thought that he too could make a model of the Hindenburg that would ignite without blowing him up, too. “Your honor, Bubba should have been warned that filling a tiny blimp with highly a combustible combination of hydrogen and moonshine could result in blowing his double-wide from Deerkill, Tennessee to a suburb right outside of Denver.” The show would be canceled immediately and the guys labeled as bad influences on the stupid amongst us.

I feel it is time that we get some laws out there to protect us from stupidity. I am hereby issuing a challenge to Congress to pass a law against suing because someone was stupid. I am calling it the “Survival of the Fittest Legislation”. Consider, if you will, a woman watching a show on Brazilian waxing. (My personal opinion is

that should be called an Australian Wax since it is getting rid of hair down under.) Since she is too cheap to pay someone to get rid of the hair down there, she goes to the Dollar Tree and buy fourteen candles and two rolls of duct tape. And hour later, she has third degree burns and an issue with wax in places that should never have wax. Dollar Tree and the TV show about waxing would be out millions in pain and suffering damages. Unless there is a law to protect them. With the “Survival of the Fittest Legislation” those fine institutions would be protected, plus the woman would not be interested in reproduction any time soon.

Another time this law would be applicable would be for any car commercial that depicts their vehicle doing something on “a closed course with a professional driver.” Of course it’s a closed course. A normal car can’t change lanes like that without being slammed around like a pinball by a SUV, two VW Beetles, a Yugo and a Pinto that bursts into flame. Anyone who wants to try to stand there, as car fly past at speeds nearing Mach 2, deserves what happens.
Now, of course this law would not apply to situations where there was a logical reason for the person to perform a feat that was displayed on America’s Got Talent. I don’t care what they say, I was really sure I could have my buddy, Jim Bob, break that concrete block on my belly with the twelve pound sledge. I’m going after millions since they encouraged me to try that.

On an unrelated topic, does anyone know someone who is a chest cavity donor? Mine has a hole it in.

To Tweet or Not To Tweet

As an indie author, I understand that there are certain things that I must do. Networking with other writers who have humor to complement and compliment mine is always fun. Yes, there are other people like me. I will dance the happy dance while you curl up in the fetal position, sucking your thumb and begging for an end to the visions of people like me invading your home, eating all your pistachio ice cream, wearing your socks on their noses, and doing the hip-hop version of “Singing in the Rain” to kazoo accompaniment. Well, I may be the only one who wears the nose socks. Networking is fun.

Another thing I have to do it keep up with my Facebook stuff. I know what you’re thinking: why is he still using Facebook. It is a great way to … ummm… it’s for… aahhh… I just do, okay? Chatting with my friends is a very important part of my day. Just ask my son who is sitting across the room. We chatted on Facebook for two hours. He even went to the kitchen and got me a drink. I’m trying to remember if we have actually heard each other’s voices today.
The thing that is making me lose sleep is Twitter. I have expanded my influence and following to include people from places like India, the UK, Russia, Senegal and some places I’m pretty sure I read about in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I think I tweeted with a Vogon yesterday. I’m pretty sure she was a Vogon because she liked my poetry which is some of the worse in the galaxy.
The problem is I try to say thank you to everyone that follows me. I was raised in Texas and we have manners down there. Even though I now live in Tennessee, those manners that mom drilled into my psyche are still part of me. Dad just threated to use a drill on me if I was rude, which I found loaded with irony. When I only had a few new followers a day, it was easy. I just said “thanks for the follow” and then made some kind of comment about their page. Now it is getting harder and harder to be a good Twitter citizen. I started losing sleep, wondering who I had forgotten to thank and would they be offended when they saw I thanked someone else and ignored them. Then I came up with a spreadsheet where I could keep track of everyone I thanked and then I could go back and catch the others I had forgotten. It was intricate.
All of that was on my mind, taking up my time, making me more neurotic than usual. I worked until noon yesterday, then I remember that I had forgotten something. I hadn’t written anything of substance (yes, I do count this as substance) that morning. It was at that point that I understood what I had heard on a podcast about limiting yourself on social media or it will take over your life. So what if my friends have more followers than me. It is not a competition. Really, it isn’t. Nope. Not at all. It doesn’t matter if they hit 2000 followers before I do. It has nothing to do with them being better than me.

My hands are shaking. My foot is tapping. I’m sweating. Arrggg! I’m losing the race. Gotta get back on Twitter!!!

The Greatest Scientific Breakthrough

Some people will try to list the greatest discoveries in the history of humanity. As I was channel surfing the other day, I saw a show on the History Channel about the wheel. It was tracing the origins of the wheel back through time as the narrator proclaimed it to be the greatest invention in the history of the world. Since I had to choose between Elmer Fudd tracking that wascally wabbit and the wheel, I never found out whether it really was that important.
One man was on the television the other night declaring that the computer was the greatest technological breakthrough of all ages. As he demonstrated all the things that can be done with the computer, it was beginning to make sense to me. I felt that this man must really have a point when he declared he had a dream to see computers in every home, not only in America, but also in the entire world. Of course, some of the people would need electricity first. All of this sounded like the work of a caring visionary, until I actually looked up from the Internet game I was playing and saw that I was listening to Bill Gates. So much for the credibility of that theory.
As impressive as those may be they cannot hold a candle to the greatest discovery of all time: Beano. This amazing medicine makes a preemptive strike against the natural gas found in the people who are always given the middle seat on flights of two hours or more. I cannot tell you how often that little pill has saved me from embarrassing moments. Before I discovered Beano I often found that I was sitting alone in church in my own pew. But now I have a pill that keeps flatulence at bay.
Looking back at my childhood, I wish I had known then what I know now. More accurately, I wish my father knew then what I know now. He had several foods that he loved; however, there was one food that he loved more than all others combined: Kidney Bean Salad. We called it Skunk Surprise. I lived in fear for two days after that. There was one thing my Dad would say that would make maggots for miles around squirm away to the perfume of a poop pile. He would point at me and say, “Come here and pull my finger.” After years of therapy I can once again bear the sight of an index finger without going into hysterics and falling on the floor in a fetal position, sucking my thumb and begging for the green clouds to go away. But I digress.
Thanks to a team of psychiatrists, a skilled nasal doctor and several surgeries, I recovered from my childhood trauma. Nevertheless, there are still children out there – mostly in Alabama – who still suffer from a father who can make himself levitate in ways that David Blaine never dreamed. With the proper precautions, they can avoid the hardships that so many of us endured during that less technologically advance age. First thing you kids need to do is to go to any store with a pharmacy. I’d recommend looking for a store with the word PHARMACY written on the side of the building. That is usually a good clue. Once you have entered the store, go to the section where they keep the Pepto Bismol. Get some of that to take care of your churning stomach from dad’s antics after the double-bean burritos he ate last night.
Now look a little further and you will see Gas-X. This is NOT what dad needs. That, kiddies, is for someone who is having gas pains and needs to find some way to get rid of the methane within. Just remember: you are the one in pain. Dad feels really good! Near the Gas-X you will see two little bottles with the name Beano on it. This is your Ark of the Covenant and Holy Grail all rolled into one, Indy. There is the smaller size that has only 30 tablets. This is fine for someone like you who may have an occasional toot. For dad you need the 60-count size. I have sent a letter to the Beano people requesting a slightly larger size for exceptionally gassy people. I received a rather terse and narrow-minded reply. They said that 50,000 pills is not a feasible size for shelving purposes.
Now take your purchases to the counter. You may notice that the Beano is roughly the same price as a year at Harvard Law School. Don’t worry about that. If you do not take care of the toxic fumes at home you will not live long enough to be rejected by Harvard. After taking out a student loan to pay for the Beano, take it home and hide it someplace safe. I’d recommend putting it where you put the cigarette loads you occasionally sneak into dad’s cigarettes and blame it on his best friend. By the way, never put three in one cigarette. I tried that experiment one time and discovered that those loads also work well as facial reconstruction implements. Perhaps facial demolitions would be a better description. Don’t worry, it only blew up while my parents were entertaining their new friends. Now that I think about it, I never saw those people again.
The next time your mother decides to punish you by fixing your dad her infamous New Orleans Red Beans and Rice casserole with boiled cabbage on the side, you will be ready. Take some of the Beano and palm it in your hand. The directions recommend three pills; however, I’d recommend using the whole stinking bottle for that explosive meal! If you have siblings you can trust – or who are suffering from the same maltreatment as you – have one of them cause a distraction. Some so-called experts in the field of distraction will tell you a spilled glass of milk is sufficient to distract everyone at the table. That has a slight chance of working, but dad may not even think it is worth crying about and will not even stop the scoop shovel going to his mouth with all of those beans and cabbage. I recommend a fire at the very least, but a small tactical nuclear warhead in the living room in even better. Little things like fires and massive radiation will get his attention and make him get up from the dinner table. While he is gone, put all the Beano you can into his beer. (Of course he is drinking a beer with this meal!)
The Beano uses space age technology to stop the flatulent one before he can become armed and dangerous. I think it uses enzymes, parasites or some kind of nano-technology to stop the gas. Just think of the pain and suffering we can stop with this life-saving piece of technology. No more children must suffer needlessly at the hands of a sadistic father who…Wait a second! That chili I had for supper is getting to me. Hey son! Come here and pull my finger.


Morning birds sing, waking me slowly.
Cool breezes blow, cooling me lowly.
Life is so wonderful, almost nearly holy.
Unless you’re extinct.
Running through fields filled with flowers.
Feeling the rain, soft gentle showers.
Holding the hand of a lover for hours
Unless she wants to talk about feelings then forget it.
Each day is a gift, giving for giving.
Each sin is a chance to be so forgiving.
Each year is another time for real living
Unless you died that year then nevermind.
Seeing the world as a place full of wonder
Can make your life joyful, never torn asunder.
Playing with kangaroos, way down under.
Unless you prefer giraffes.
These lines of poetry are me being silly.
They joke and they jest, going all willy-nilly
Written while drinking moonshine, made by a hillbilly.

Unless you’re my pastor reading this then it was lemonade.

Top Five Times NOT to be Funny

Warning: before you read this, please know that this is darker humor than usual. I got a rejection letter from an agent and am crabby. I have posted many blogs which are meant to make you laugh. Some of them may have actually achieved chuckle-hood. But there are times when you should be serious and jokes might not be the most appropriate. Since you probably already know these times, I am just going to share my top five times when I found trying to be funny was NOT the best idea.
5. You know that time when you are on a date and it just isn’t going well? It is wise to just shake hands and walk away instead of making a joke. Explaining to her that you have to go home and wax your nose hair instead of staying on this date can lead her to grabbing a handful of the aforementioned nostril plumage and yank really hard. The blood will eventually stop after an entire roll of toilet paper is shoved up there. Also, a guy crying on a first date under any circumstances is just wrong.
4. When your friends are explaining that their son has the rare disease known as Proton-McDonald Syndrome (before you get mad, I totally made that up), you need to sit still and listen intently, nodding with a sad look of understanding on your face. It is not appropriate to wait for a lull in the conversation to point out that Proton-McDonald Syndrome’s initials are PMS and their son could be famous as the first three-year-old boy who could say he had that. You really need to wait until he is twelve and then use that joke while handing him some cramp medicine and taking him to get fries.
3. Funerals are tricky when it comes to humor. Sometime you can say something that is incredibly funny, but laughing is just wrong. For example, my grandfather’s funeral was a sober affair due to the nature of his passing. He was shot at the age of eighty-three. It was tragic, really. He lived to be that age and a jealous husband caught him climbing out of the window of a twenty-eight year-old newlywed. Grandma said if he had missed, she was a good shot, too. That was really funny but I restrained my laughter. I’ve seen her shoot and she’s terrible.
2. I discovered that making jokes with someone right after major surgery is frequently not met with the hysterical laughter you were hoping. Hysteria can happen must more frequently followed by a mania that is not unlike a type of murderous psychosis that can be used as a viable defense at their murder trial. You make one joke about the doctor removing the wrong leg and people tend to get cranky.
1. Last, but not least, when your friend is telling you about catching his wife in bed with Enrique, the Columbian gardener, that is not the moment for levity. Trying to lighten the mood by discussing him “plowing her field” can get you punched in the throat. Later, after the divorce, you can make all the jokes you want about him grinding her coffee. But, save that for times when he is mad at her, which will be every moment for the first two years after the divorce. On an unrelated note, has anyone seen a young Columbian guy named Enrique? I have a joke to tell him. Yeah, a joke. Just a joke. Pay no attention to the cattle prod behind my back.

Well, I hope those will help you realize when you make jokes and when not to make jokes. Even if it hasn’t, let me know if you see Enrique.

Facebook Lessons

It has become apparent that there are many people out there who are blissfully ignorant of some of the basic rules when using social media. Since I hate it when someone has more bliss than me, I want to help remove your ignorance. Please don’t thank me. It’s the least I can do to improve the social quality of your social interactions with people you most likely never see in person.
A few mistakes have been made by yours truly that would be best not repeated by you or anyone else on Facebook. I made a list of basic Facebook Rules for you to follow as if your life depended on it… well, your cyber-life does depend on it. You can only change your name so many times on there before people wise up that you are the same doofus who made the comment on the Black-Eyed Peas fan page about preferring snow peas.
Rule #1: If you are chatting with a buddy about women in one window and your mom about her grandson’s grades in another, DO NOT MIX UP THE WINDOWS! The Oedipal issues aside, if either one is deserving of the title “buddy” or “mom”, neither one will EVER let you forget that.
Rule #2: Facebook is a great place to socialize sober. A bar is a great place to socialize over a few drinks. Facebooking while having too many drinks is a disaster waiting to happen. If you’re like most people, your inhibitions tend to be drown quickly in alcohol. Some of the things you say after a few too many shots of Jack may not be appropriate for the tender eyes of the kids who lie about their age to get a Facebook account. Plus, there is a good chance your mom is stalking your Facebook page. Some things you just can’t explain away.
Rule #3: Some posts sound much better in your head than on the screen. I saw one post that said, “BLANK is a total BLANK for BLANKING my BLANKING boyfriend in our BLANKING BLANKING BLANK BLANK!!!” As you can clearly see there were several missing commas and three exclamation points are not grammatically proper. Please consult a grammar checker before posting something like this.
Rule #4: If you are chatting with a member of the opposite sex, do not confuse the chat window with the status window. Or worse, do not confuse those windows if you are sending a picture you do not want your dad to see. It was so embarrassing for a buddy of mine that I will NEVER let him forget.
Rule #5: If you receive a friend request from a woman/man who is way too hot to be friending you, just say no. She/he is either a) after money; b) a fake pic and profile from your girlfriend/boyfriend to see if you are being good; c) a fake pic and profile from your buddy who is trying to make you look really stupid; or d) a sting operation by the cyber-crime branch of the FBI who think you are a pedophile thanks to the websites your buddy visited while using your computer to “pay some bills”.

I hope these rules are helpful.

Progress Verses Congress

I have finally figured it out. You have considered this very question as well, perhaps losing some sleep over it. It has been pondered by some of the greatest minds of the previous three centuries as well as many from our Twenty-First Century. Countless pundits and philosophers have asked the question, debating it over and over without coming to any conclusions, yet never seeming to exhaust the possibilities. The question that has plagued American life from the beginning of American life is: Why do we have Congress?

Don’t believe that we have had issues for a while? Let’s look back. Waaay back. Thomas Jefferson asked, “If the present Congress errs in too much talking, how can it be otherwise in a body to which the people send one hundred and fifty lawyers, whose trade it is to question everything, yield nothing, and talk by the hour?” Can you tell he was a farmer? He was also the man who wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” I think that last quote made it into some kind of governmental document. Yes, I know I took them both out of context to make a point. This is supposed to be funny in a sad, pathetic kind of way.

Still not convinced? Let’s look at the Nineteenth Century with a quote by Samuel Clemens. Mr. Twain wrote: “Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.” A thought that was first penned over one hundred years ago seems like it could – or should – have been written today. Just the other day I was half listening to the news when someone was referred to as “one of the smartest people in Congress”. That does not seem like much of an accomplishment.

Here is one more for you from the Twentieth Century. Humorist Will Rogers asked the question, “If pro is the opposite of con, what is the opposite of Congress?” You would think he was writing in this century, wouldn’t you? Now, to be fair, I have seen that Congress has been very quick to act on matters of fiduciary importance. When it is time to vote themselves a raise, they seem to be very prompt. Raising the minimum wage for millions of Americans takes a lot more time and committee meetings.

Larry Hardiman (why couldn’t I have been born with that last name?) explained politics in an excellent way: “The word ‘politics’ is derived from the word ‘poly’ meaning ‘many’, and the word ‘ticks’ meaning ‘blood sucking parasites’.” Truer words have never been spoken. That applied to business as well as government in my not so humble opinion.

In my lifetime, Carson and Letterman, Leno and Conan, Fallon and Kimmel, have all made very good livings poking fun at the antics and attitudes of our politicians. That is essentially my point. The purpose of Congress is not to pass laws and investigate things that are going wrong in the government. They are not really there to provide a system of checks and balances for the Executive and Judicial Branches. They are not even there to control the purse strings of the United States. Their job, their role, their sole purpose to exist – to make us laugh and realize that no matter how bad we screw up, Congress will do something even worse. They do their job frighteningly well.  Thank your Congressperson today for all they do to make us feel better about ourselves.