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Guitar MikeWelcome to the online home of Erma Bombeck award-winning humorist Mike Ball. Mike's column is a syndicated weekly feature that pops up in newspspers all over the United States. If your local paper doesn't carry What I've Learned So Far... call or email the editors, give them a link to this site, and tell them to get with it! We also have readers from around the world who subscribe online. Join them - it's free! 

And if you want to meet Mike, check out the Schedule Of Appearances for a book signing, concert by Dr. Mike and the Sea Monkeys, or writer's workshop near you.

USA TodayIn another life, Mike is the founder of Lost Voices, a nonprofit group founded to bring creative writing and roots music programs to incarcerated and at-risk kids. He was recently named USA Today Kindness Community Hero for this work.

Scooby-Doo, I Facebook You

 

Facebook is fantastic. It gives us an unprecedented opportunity to appear in public in our underwear. Unfortunately, for most of us this turns out to be brightly colored Scooby-Doo boxer shorts.

I mean that metaphorically, of course.

One Sunday evening not too long ago I came across a Facebook post by an old friend. He said: “Started watching the Super Bowl while eating supper, and am still waiting for a truly creative commercial.”

This woke me right up. Here I was, chowing Twizzlers and finding out (with detailed photographic evidence) whose grandkids had spent the day making snowballs, and at that moment I was supposed to be at a Super Bowl party, chowing hot wings, watching the most important sporting event of the century, and finding out if we were going to be treated to a Halftime Wardrobe Malfunction with somebody more interesting than Janet Jackson.

I hate missing out on hot wings.

Fighting off a surge of panic, I looked below my friend’s post at the comments from some of his other friends. The gist of what they were all saying was, “The Super Bowl is next week ... you’re watching the Pro Bowl.”

What a relief!

Fighting the Resolutionary War

 

It’s New Years! Time to write up your List!

We all know pretty much how this resolution thing works. You approach the coming year with good intentions, so you write down a bunch of stuff like, “I hereby resolve to tighten the screw in the downstairs door frame.” 

As your List grows, so does its variety; you want to lose 30 pounds, write a historical novel about the turbulent days of The Captain And Tennille Show, and maybe find out exactly what is in that drawer in the kitchen - the one over by the window that’s got something jammed in it so that you haven’t been able to get it open since 1997. 

By the time the ball falls on New Year’s Eve, you have your List stuck on the refrigerator under the Little Bear with Skis and a Santa Hat refrigerator magnet, ready to fuel your all-out assault on all those personal priorities. OK, maybe it did take you longer to write down most of the tasks on your list than it would have taken you to do them, but still...

Now And Then

 

When I was a kid I had a sort-of girlfriend called Catnip Catie. Her name came from the fact that she always kept her personal supply of Whacky Wonder Weed hidden in her cat’s toys. Mind you, this was back in the olden days, before you could get a Prescription for legal Whacky Wonder Weed to treat your case of Restless Leg Syndrome. 

I met Catie working in the hospital, where she was a Licensed Practical Nurse and I was a Certified Bedpan Technologist. She was also an artist, so she painted peace signs, and flowers, and variations on those cool Keep On Truckin’ cartoon guys on my guitar. She lived in a very colorful little Catie-decorated house trailer parked out in a field behind an old gas station.

Catie didn’t turn out to be a huge part of my life. I knew her for a couple of years, then we drifted our separate ways. But sometimes, forty years later, I like to just shut my eyes, and drift back, and hang out for a while in Catie’s trailer, inhaling the scent of her patchouli, and her paint, and fresh coffee, and last week’s bacon, all laced with just a hint of Whacky Wonder Weed and kitty litter.

Siri & Me

I finally got an iPhone. Mind you, I didn’t get the trendy new iPhone 5 - the only model I could afford without hitting the lottery was a creaky old iPhone 4s. This means I will have to make do with a severely antiquated phone that lost its status as most advanced technology in the world nearly three weeks ago.

I had to replace my old smartphone, Kierkegaard, because his battery died, and it was going to cost me more to replace the battery than to get the new phone. Besides, Kierkegaard kept pushing me over my data plan by sending me an endless stream of text messages going on and on about stuff like “...truth as subjectivity,” or “...the fluidity of social identities”  - sometimes in Danish. I figured it was time to move on, before I snapped and went all Hegelian on him.

My new iPhone is pretty nice. No, let me be slightly more precise - this thing is the greatest material addition to my life since the day I discovered beer and barbecued ribs.

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