Current Events

COVID-19: Does Anybody Really Know What Day It Is?

Like most of the world, we are shuttered in trying to avoid the COVID-19 virus.  I don’t have any unique hot takes or thinky-thoughts that anyone else hasn’t already shared.  I just want to write something for future alien anthropologists that explore our post-apocalyptic planet to consume.

Although I started trying to write this weeks ago, we are now at week three of staying at home.  I work from home 100% so that is not a huge transition for me.  But having my wife and kids home 24/7 are.  I very used to having alone time.  I also used breaks between meetings and work to get some minor things done around the house.  Other than laundry that isn’t happening at the moment.   My kids are going stir crazy having watched all the screen content they can.  The biggest challenge has been trying to stay in some sort of routine.  I try to get the kids dressed every day and if the weather is nice, we can at least play in the backyard.

We self-isolated a bit early.  We kept Moose and Squirrel home from what would be the last day of school (March 16).  We didn’t let our daughter go to Martial Arts classes, even though she was training for a trophy.    We canceled the cleaning lady although we have offered to pay her for that first Saturday.  My wife has gone out for grocery shopping only twice since Social Distancing, and once since Sheltering in Place.  Fortunately, we were relatively stocked up before this all occurred.

When this first began, I was surprised to find I had friends on both ends of the political spectrum who were talking it very seriously and also not taking it seriously enough.  In the beginning, it felt to me like the Y2K scare.  We had to use worse case scenarios to get people to take this seriously enough and change their behaviors.   That’s not to say I didn’t take precautions.  I washed my hands, avoided touching my face (I’m an outlier in that I don’t touch my face as often as everyone else claims they do).   But I didn’t quite understand the need to avoid people as much as possible, at first.

Unlike my wife, I don’t work in the healthcare field so like many ordinary people I don’t realize just how easily disease can spread.

  • Some do not get it at all.
  • Some are asymptomatic and aren’t affected but can infect others.
  • Some get it and it doesn’t kill them but it sucks.
  • Some get it and die.

No one in your Facebook feed is an epidemiologist.  We’ve gone from Social Distancing to Sheltering in Place. If this keeps up, the next step is stasis chambers.

Why did they hoard toilet paper

I think the “logic” behind stocking up on toilet paper is that Preppers and Apocalypse COSplayers and others in the know, know that Step 7 of an impending doom says to hoard toilet paper. But by the time you are near Step 7, it is too late to hoard TP. (also, we should be using Bidets but that is another subject).

Stay tuned.

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Pop Culture, This Week on Facebook

What do you do with Dead Friends on Facebook?

I realize this is a somewhat macabre topic, but I’ve noticed that a few of my friends are in a different realm these days. I haven’t done an exhaustive search but I have at least 5 maybe 10 friends on Facebook that are now deceased. They range from people I was close with, partied with, or just somehow knew.

I’ve found that adding or subtracting just one person changes the FB algorithm and suddenly I’m seeing posts from someone whose posts I haven’t seen in a long time, even though a quick check of their profile shows they have been active on an almost daily basis.  Since I have pretty much met all the people I’m ever gonna met so the number of new friends is minimal. Hence removing deadweight is the only way to see friends I care about…or tweak my settings and hope Zuckerberg doesn’t screw with them.

This time of year, I tend to cull my friend list a little anyway. I keep a lot of people because of loyalty and whatever but fuck if we don’t interact anyway what is the point? And I know some of this is caused by the Book of Faces not showing you everyone’s status updates in your feed.  I really enjoyed it in the early days as a passive way to let my friends know what narcissistic me was up to, without carpet-bombing their inbox with my self serving emails. But now it has become more isolating.

So do I improve my feed by unfriending people who will never contribute to my feed again, or do I honor our friendship by keeping them in my friends list so that when alien anthropologists explore our post-apocalyptic planet they see that I was friends with some someone who would eventually know someone who was there when the revolution began?

One the one hand, it seems cold to unfriend them because when our AI Overlords take over, I want a message in a bottle that we were once friends or at least connected. On the other hand, the FB algorithms might not be showing me what my living friends are eating for dinner because Barbie has been dead for 6 years but none of her survivors have deactivated her page.

Stay tuned.

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aggregation aggregation aggregation, Becoming a Parent, Evergreen Content, Holidays, Parent of Twins, Pop Culture, Wacky World Wednesday

It’s time to separate Trick-O-Treat from Halloween

Two years ago,  I wrote about my well documented desire to move Halloween to a potentially better weather day in October.  I’ve argued that it is time to embrace the practicality of celebrating this holiday on a day other than the last day of October because it is almost always too cold in most parts of the country for an enjoyable celebration.  And any historical or religious associations with Halloween are vestigial at best, at least in this country.

When I was a kid, I recall the majority of Halloweens growing up as being cold, dark and rainy. Think how disappointing it is to a kid being told that you cannot go trick-or-treating because it’s freezing cold outside or raining cats and witches.  Fun fact: the advanced forecast for Halloween 2019 in Chicago is Snow!

And as Susan over at Looking for the Good pointed out that until recently, it was dark out every year because they did the time change before Halloween back then, which might be good for scares but not good for kids who are Trick-O-Treating.

Over the years, there have been petitions to move Halloween to the Last Saturday of the month.  So far none have gained the necessary traction.  People just don’t like extreme change.   So maybe the compromise is to decouple Trick-O-Treating from Halloween proper.

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Recently, the Halloween & Costume Association, the group that petitioned to move Halloween to the last Saturday of Octoberproposed a new holiday: National Trick or Treat Day. It would fall on the last Saturday of October and thereby extend the official Halloween celebration, rather than moving it.

This takes the kid portion of Halloween and moves it to a more parent-friendly timeslot while letting Halloween purists still enjoy the true meaning of the holiday: hooking with people at costume parties!

It definitely will help alleviate some unintended consequences that parents of school-aged children face.  If Halloween falls outside of the weekend, parents still have to go to work the next day.  What if you have an important meeting the next day?  Do you really want to be out on the streets until 9 am begging for candy?   Or trying to get your kid out of bed for school the next day is even harder when they are sugar-drunk.  Teachers don’t appreciate having to deal with students who are recovering from a chocolate bar bender either.

If you think about it, many communities already do this unofficially.  They will have special Trunk-or-Treat events, Family-friendly parades or weekend block parties to substitute for going out on Halloween night.  Look, the traditions we associate with Halloween didn’t arrive all at once or from day one.  They evolved over time.  There is no reason we cannot continue to fine-tune Halloween and make it more modern while still honoring the traditional aspects.   

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This Blogger Life, This Week on Facebook

What I learned from my impromptu Facebook Diet

Recently I went on a Facebook Diet. I know there are a plethora of blog posts about people giving up Social Media.   Don’t click away… I’m gonna increase the amount of insight, and decrease the amount of self-aggrandizement.  The ratio will be close to perfect.

While the timing overlapped with Lent, it was not something this heathen officially gave up for the Catholic season. I just, more or less, made a conscious effort to limit my Facebook activities about this time. It helped that my day job was so busy that checking Facebook first thing in the morning wasn’t always an option. I don’t commute to work anymore but my mornings are spent getting moose and squirrel ready and off to daycare.  Therefore I no longer engage in my commuter ritual of burying my face in my phone and ignoring all the unwashed masses on the Blue Line.

I still checked FB regularly for the distractions. Working from home, Facebook is my way of keeping up with friends Life Achievements and a poor way of interacting with people on a virtual level. Admittedly it is also the source of the majority of my news.   I still maintain that FB can be an excellent archival tool to remember what you did x years ago and who you did it with.

But I didn’t post as many status updates as I have in the past. By the scientific method of making shit up, I’d say I posted only 10% of what I normally do. I still checked into places, posted pictures of my douche nugget cute kids and tagged friends where appropriate.  Also, I didn’t make it Facebook official by ironically announcing it on any social media platform.

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What did I learn? The less you engage with FB, the less it engages with you. One of the few posts I did share during this diet was that one about “if you knew me in high school, ” I got a few comments but not nearly as many as some of my other posts if This Year in Facebook is to be believed.  That is even adjusting for all the people who have hidden or taken a break from me, and vice versa.

I don’t know much about the FB algorithm, other than it is evil and more regressive than the tax code, but it does seem to be based on interaction.

Facebook is a bit like high school in more ways than one. It mirrors my High School experience in that freshmen year we were all equals. Then the cliques formed and people factioned off. By senior year I had a handful of close friends and the rest were classmates that I use to know. On FB I have some friends who have never interacted with me and vice versa. SomedayI might purge them.  Or just leave them in the FB archive, a souvenir to prove to the world we were once friends.

 

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This Week on Facebook

Cleaning out my Saved Items on Facebook

If you don’t know, Facebook has this feature that lets you save things. Maybe it’s a video you cannot play at the office but want to listen to at home. Or an article you want to share but not from your phone because you want to type a lengthy paragraph that includes your Thinky-thoughts on the subject and a phone keyboard is just too new aged for your multi-decade hands.

captureI have 99+ items saved. most of them are things I thought would be good fodder for my Mysteries of Life Page. Others are things I wanted to have handy when someone attempts to sum up a complex issue with a MEME.

But there are problems with this feature. For one thing, There is no search feature.  It is very hard to find something unless you just saved it like 5 minutes ago. Organize things into Collections helps, but it is still a mess trying to find anything or scroll to the very end.

Also, UNSAVING is a bit of a challenge. I access Facebook from the website on a laptop, from my FB app on my iPad and from my FB app on my Samsung Phone. All three have slightly different user experiences.  Some of those experiences change weekly.

For instance,  if I’m within a collection, I cannot delete/unsave an item from my phone or via the website.  I have to find it in the general Save Items bucket.  On my iPad, I am able to unsave regardless of where I am, or at least I could last week.  Haven’t tried it in a while.

As I said, I’m trying to clean out my Saved Items.  So the one I have for Easter will be gone soon.  So will the 10 I have for Future Marvel Comics related posts.  Unfortunately, the 14 I have saved for Halloween and Christmas are gonna linger for a few months.  I also have to work through my Read Later bucket, although if I thought it was worthy of reading later, I probably also think it’s worthy of sharing.

I wish there were a way to Select All and delete and start over.  Luckily I will be on a long drive for Easter and can probably just delete them one by one to pass the time, as long as I have good cellular coverage.

Stay tuned.

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Forever House, Getting It Off Your Chest, This Week on Facebook, What I Learned This Week

Letgo is the Tinder of furniture selling apps

In a pre-move effort, or at least an attempt to light a fire under our butts and look for a new house, We have made the decision to start getting rid of the clutter. This was before I had even heard of Marie Kondo and we aren’t getting rid of things that don’t give us joy so much as things that we just don’t want to take up valuable space in a moving truck.

To that end, I’ve started selling things on Letgo and FaceBook MarketPlace. At first, it was kinda a rush because I’d post something and get some immediate responses and sold things within a few days. Then things started to settle down. Maybe it was the oncoming Winter, or maybe it was the junk I was trying to unload.

People will contact you at the strangest hours

It seems that LetGo is Tinder for boring, old people! We have two small children in this house and as such, tend to go to bed early. So in the morning when I wake up (or at 3 am when the Insomnia Fairy strikes) I am astounded by all the late hour messages from different people  Thrift Saling at 1 am, probably coming down from a wine-and-no-dinner or vodka infused evening.

Especially on the weekends! Do these people have a few adult beverages and then start trolling MarketPlace looking for sweet deals on desks, sofas and that elusive Barrister Bookcase?

You will get ghosted

I’ll respond and sometimes the person writes back. But a lot of times they don’t. Even when they contact me during Normal Hours, we will chat for a bit and then suddenly silence. You can usually see it coming. The graceful ones look for an out: what are the measurements? Oh, that’s too big.

People will try to talk you down on your price no matter how low you go

Pricing is more art than science. No one wants your Pottery Barn sofa that you are discounting by $20 when they can just buy a new one that doesn’t have your ass crack residue on it.  At the same time, no one wants to go across town just to pick up an item for $5 unless it is hard to find, or unique in some other way.

Still, there are some people who will try to talk you down even though you are practically giving something away.

People will not leverage technology

Too often people will reach out to me, ask me about it, and then realize that we are 14568 miles apart. Yet LetGo  and Facebook MarketPlace have built-in mechanisms that will tell you approximately how far someone is from you.  So you don’t have to drive an hour just to pick up some item you could just order off Amazon for $10 more unless you happen to be in that area anyway.

Too often, someone contacts me interested in an item and then they realize we are too far away to make this work.  At the same time, I have sold two large pieces of furniture to people who have driven in from Indiana, so distance isn’t always a factor if you price it right.

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Dark Matters, Evergreen Content, Wacky World Wednesday

Doxing is bad, but it’s even worse when you do it to the wrong person

Hey, didja hear the news? The guy who moved in down the street is a child molester who burned down an orphanage and kicks puppies. Kicks puppies! Let’s go give him a piece of our mind.  I heard it from a friend, who heard it from her brother’s girlfriend’s, uncle’s cousin’s, baby momma’s doctor who lived next door to an old class mate’s mail man, so it has to be true.

Mob burns down his house.

Oh hey, turns out we had the wrong Mr Nobody. Whoops, our bad.

Doxing: search for and publish private or identifying information about (a particular individual) on the Internet, typically with malicious intent.

 

People mean well but execute poorly.  After the shooting of Trayvon Martin, Spike Lee posted what he thought was the address of George Zimmerman.  The address in question, however, turned out to belong to Elaine and David McClain, who had nothing to do with the shooter.

“My youngest son, his last name is Zimmerman and his middle name is George,” Elaine McClain told Orlando’s WKMG TV.Apparently Lee obtained the address from one of his Twitter followers and as is par for the course with social media, shared it quickly without vetting it.  Now he is being sued for $1.2 million.

Remember Cecil the Lion?  He was hunted and killed by a Minnesota dentist named Walter Palmer.  This sparked an international outcry and greater scrutiny of trophy hunting wild animals.  The outcry lasted almost a month but I’m not so sure about the other part.  But lost in all that is the fact that many outraged individuals visited Palmer’s office and harassed his staff…who had NOTHING to do with their employer’s actions.

It’s hard to keep up but recently there were two other people who committed terrible and perhaps unnecessary acts against fellow world citizens and public opinion outrage ensues.

A Walgreens pharmacist refused to provide an Arizona woman with miscarriage medication, citing his ethical beliefs. I never understood why people with these beliefs become pharmacists. It’s not like you didn’t know you’d have to fill these prescriptions in pharmacy school!

I’m having trouble finding a legitimate news site to verify but someone posted on Facebook that a woman was kicked off a Delta flight at the Fort Wayne International Airport over a dispute about whether or not the woman’s phone was on airplane mode.  Honestly, the electronics causing interference on flights is a bit suspect,  but rules are rules.

Let’s not forget that revealing the identity of Wrigley Field’s most infamous fan sent him into hiding for the better part of two decades.

The point of all this is that even though your intentions may be good, your actions may help pave the Road to Hell.  Life is filled with unintended consequences and you just never know what might happen if you provide an angry crowd with the address of a person who had a moment of dickness.  Maybe their 4 year old kid has to learn about  bad words much sooner than any parent would like, or worse.

There are other ways to get back at these people.  Better, legitimate ways that are perhaps a little harder to implement but have much more satisfying effects with fewer unintended consequences as the byproduct.

 

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Pop Culture, This Blogger Life, This Week on Facebook

Reflections on my 10 year Facebook Anniversary

polyannaFacebook told me that it is our 10th anniversary. Apparently I signed up in June of 2008. That sound about right. I had come back from a trip to Europe and sent around my Prague Marathon story. Back then I did my blog posts and status updates the old fashion way: annoying emails that most people deleted without reading.

A friend wrote back, asking if I was on Facebook. I said no but would sign up as soon as I figured out what Facebook was. I figured it was something like MySpace and Friendster and whatever Microsoft was trying at the moment. I created an account and saw that I already had two friends, others who had invited me to join FB. One has since deleted her account.

Like the current commercial, I came for the friends, and stayed for the connections.  I saw Facebook as a place where people post photos of their grandchildren or their pets. They can post any mundane, fabulous, irrelevant, snarky, pointless, heartbreaking or remarkable thing they want to. It is what it is. Don’t overthink Facebook.

These days I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I enjoy seeing updates from friends near and far as they unlock life achievements or simply share an interesting item or anecdote of their day. And of course it helps me as a writer share my stories.  On the other hand, it is annoying to see otherwise intelligent friends share MEMEs that inadequately sum up or oversimplify an issue.

The thing is, your “Friends” have always been this way, you just didn’t realize it. Facebook just shined a light on it. You are likely friends with someone because you shared some time and space together not because you shared the same view of Roe v Wade.

My biggest pet peeve about FB, as with any technology, is that people feel that the way they use it is not only the right way, but the only way to use it.

Whose move is it?

Whose move is it?

Take the picture above.  What they are talking about isn’t really important.  What is important is that theoretically they are on the same side and want the same thing.  But Person_Who_Posted set their security settings so no one could share it.  Person_Who_Commented probably knows they could cut and paste but that is annoying and cumbersome.  They are perhaps, backhandedly, asking Person_Who_Posted to change security settings because it is easier to hit a button.   Does Person_Who_Posted not know they can change the settings on just the one post or do they have a very good but not obvious reason for not changing the settings?  Who should bend?

One of the Facebook Frustrations is the little realized fact that not everyone in your friends list sees everything you post and vice versa. If all your friends posted at 5pm and you logged in, you’d only see a snapshot of the postings. Part of it is technical but most of it is those lovely Facebook algorithms. Not to mention that what you see varies from device to device and web.

Remember the friend I mentioned above who asked me if I was on Facebook?  She never comments on any of my statuses, rarely wishes me a happy birthday and only reaches out when she needs something.  Still I haven’t unfriended her because….at least she’s not like many of my racist friends who I keep sound because I am fond of the time we spent together in a sleepy little backwater college town

It’s hard to predict what the future holds in store for Facebook but I think it’s safe to say Facebook is here to stay in one form or another.  Uncle Google tells me that tin or aluminum is an appropriate 10th anniversary gift.  I’d settle for peace and civility.

 

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Curb Your Enthusiasm star Larry David sparked some controversy when he joked about trying to get a date at a concentration camp while hosting SNL last Saturday.  The joke starts about 5:40 into the video clip but there is a reference to the recent fusillade of sexual assault allegations in the new at 3:40.

Whenever  controversy du jour like this occurs, I tend to see what my favorite pundits have to say about it.  It seems there are two camps.  The “It’s always too soon” to joke about The Holocaust Camp and the Remember to Add ‘to you’ When you say Something is Offensive Camp.

The Always Too Soon Camp feels that  the victims and the goings on in the camps should be treated with reverence. Making them part of stand up routines is not treating them with dignity.

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The Not Offended Camp think that finding humor is empowering and a way to take back power. That he wasn’t being disrespectful to the people who suffered in the Holocaust. He was finding humor in the situation, not in the suffering, the pain, or the trauma. If he was making fun of anyone, it was himself.

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I don’t think his joke was funny, but I don’t share the outrage everyone else is feeling.  I’m not Jewish (as far as I know) but my grandparents did spend time in a work camp in Germany, long enough for my mother and an aunt to be born there.

Honestly, I don’t know enough on this and addressing this topic right now feels like it would be sticking my head into a hive of angry hornets and why would I want to do that? Instead, my only question is, can he walk this back?

Back in the day, when a comedian told an off-putting joke, people responded by not laughing and the joke was quickly and unceremoniously removed from the routine.  In the Social Media Era of the Internet Age, the offending joke gains a life of its own and goes viral.

Can Larry David walk this back? If so, what is the path to do so?

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Getting It Off Your Chest, Wacky World Wednesday

Why I hate financial services online sites

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Financial Services Technical Support….how may we piss you off today?

Like many people, I have two retirement accounts: the one at work because of matching funds and the one that is the culmination of past jobs’ 401K accounts that got transferred once the job terminated.

About once a quarter I attempt to log into my retirement online accounts to see how they are doing. I say attempt because I always lock myself out of my account because I have so many Fucking userids and passwords to remember.

Unlike normal online accounts, you only get 1-2 chances with Financial Services websites for some reason. Fat-finger a password and they lock you out.  And once you reset your password you can never use a previous one again in this lifetime.  I’m pretty sure if reincarnation is a thing, they won’t let you use the same one in the next lifetime either.

Incorrect information was entered in an attempt to log into your account. To protect your account, we have disabled online access to your account.
You can restore your online access by following the instructions the next time you access Benefits OnLine®. Or you can call at your plan’s toll-free number and authorize a representative to restore your access. We take your online security seriously and will notify you of any changes to your login information.

They sing the “for your security” song but it’s really to protect their ass from liability mitigate risk.  I’m sure there is some Federal Regulation that mandates this. To which I say have your fucking lobbyist make their congressional whores change it.

Sadly, there isn’t anything the average consumer can do about it. I have to continue using the work one for the matching contributions and they all are gonna be the same movie. So I’ll call customer support and reset my password to something I won’t remember next week, let alone next time the friendly email reminder about quarterly earnings comes in.  But I can refuse to buy any of their other expensive add-on services like Financial Planning or Wealth Management.

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