Excerpted from the upcoming book: “Diego’s life lessons: 99 tips for survival, fun, and profit in today’s baffling bric-a-brac world.”
#1: Hide in a cupboard
We start the series with perhaps the most important of all lessons: you should spend most of your life hiding in a cupboard.
The ever-growing focus on “safety” in our society, while laudable in its pervasiveness and intrusiveness, doesn’t go far enough.
Life is full of dangers: sharks, tigers, spiders, sharp-edged furniture, volcanoes, you name it. Consider: just being alive guarantees that at some point you’ll be dead! This is unacceptable. In my own scientific analysis, cupboards are the safest place to be. Here’s a few reasons:
- Cupboards are cool and dry, which coincidentally match the conditions required by most dried or canned foodstuffs to be appropriately stored. Good nutrition is important.
- Tigers mostly confine themselves to wildlife areas (zoos, your backyard)
- Sharks need water and can’t really travel far without it, so you won’t find them more than a few feet away from the bathtub.
- Spiders don’t like beer. Logic dictates, therefore, that they avoid the kitchen.
- Volcanoes exist in remote areas with weird names, like Krakatoa or Eyjafjallajökull, which is clearly not near your cupboard. Unless you live in Krakatoa or Eyjafjallajökull, in which case I suggest that first you move to another country, and then hide in your cupboard.
All in all, cupboards are excellent locations to retreat to, whether you want to avoid watching election results, ride out the apocalypse, or disrupt your phone’s cell signal so you can play Angry Birds in peace.
Note: In case of other dangerous situations (e.g., a highway nearby) I also recommend wearing a helmet and kneepads when in the cupboard, just in case.
#20: Own and use regularly at least one Windows PC
Maybe you switched to Mac a long time ago. Maybe you’re truly enlightened and run your own Ubuntu Beowulf Cluster in your basement. Whatever the case, not using Windows regularly is a crucial mistake. Specifically, a 2- or 3-year-old Windows PC running the latest version of Windows. (This ensures Windows will run, but just barely.)
A near-death experience will give you a new appreciation for life. Skydiving with a broken parachute, swimming with sharks in blood-soaked water, fighting a Kraken, all of these are good options for that. But using a Windows PC for a few minutes will achieve the same result with less than half the chance risk of death or injury.
And if you’re a real daredevil, having three or four Windows PCs and attempting to network them is guaranteed to get your heart pounding. True, it’s unlikely you will actually succeed at networking them, but the experience is what really counts. Another option for thrill-seekers is to start using the latest version of Office, sight-unseen, when faced with a non-negotiable deadline. If you do this, make sure to turn on Clippy, aka “Office Assistant”. He will be to you what Wilson the volleyball was to Tom Hanks in Cast Away.
Additionally, the original Minesweeper experience requires Windows, and if you haven’t played Minesweeper on a 200×200 grid, you haven’t really lived.
A corollary to this rule is that you should buy a new Windows PC at least once a year. You will engage in the thrilling process of figuring out whether you should get an AMD Phenom or an Intel Core 2, or find out exactly what the difference is between an nVidia GTX 550Ti, 560, 560Ti, 570, 580, 590, 670, 680, 690, or if you want to go retro and get one of the GT line, or GTS line, or the 4xx line, or even decide that what you really want is one of the many fine ATI cards. (Like choosing one of the hundreds of types of cereal at a supermarket aisle, choosing video cards in the PC world is a wonderful experience that is guaranteed to keep you entertained for days.) Once you order it and get it 6 to 8 weeks later, turn it on just to experience the blast that is the instantaneous update process, as gigabytes of mandatory updates download and install. Later (much, much later) peruse all the pre-installed software and offers. Sign up for as many offers as possible, including, if possible, AOL Dial up, and then attempt to cancel them. Spend some time talking to technical support, rebooting the computer, unplugging it and replugging it. When you’re done, return it. No need to specify a reason. The people at the return center already expect it. In the process, you will help the economy by keeping the service industry humming along.
#47: Avoid nuclear detonations
An important rule to follow — being far away from nuclear detonations when they occur is a must if you want to keep on commuting, enjoying non-fat decaf soy chai lattes, and generally breathing. You may be familiar with nuclear explosions from that documentary by James Cameron about killer robots that will take over the earth in the near future (the one he did before going to Titanic to find Kate Winslet’s necklace), as well as countless home movies made by the US Army of houses being blown away and generally left a complete mess. The sheer forces of destruction, surface-of-the-sun temperatures, and blinding flash of light (not to mention radiation) are bad enough, but here’s what they don’t usually tell you: nuclear detonations have a side effect called an EMP, which wipe out electrical equipment far beyond the actual blast radius.
That’s right. No TV. No internets, which means no Wikipedia, or videos of animals doing funny things. No phone (for AT&T iPhones, same lack of ability to make calls, however). No blender. No ice. No ice! If there’s a measure of how far civilization has come, it’s the unregulated, unlimited flow of ice in the dwellings of common folk. Without ice, you will lose the ability to produce many common cocktails, and you won’t be able to create any ice sculptures. And who wants to live like that? In a cocktail-less world with no ice sculptures? Seriously.
In short: if you see a very large, very bright mushroom cloud in the distance, board the nearest plane that works and get away from it. Preferably not traveling to Krakatoa or Eyjafjallajökull (see rule #1).
#68: Aliens do not come in peace
Less a “life lesson” than a straight-up fact of the universe, it’s something that should nevertheless be always kept front and center. When you find yourself (as we’re often wont to doing) in a typical Iowa cornfield in the middle of the night, after having run out of gas, and a shiny spaceship lands in front of you, the rule is simple: DO NOT TRUST THE ALIEN.
Here’s a handy guide of how to respond to various first-contact situations:
- If the alien majestically walks down from his/her/its spaceship, extends their hand/leg/tentacle and says/whispers/grunts “We come in peace”, shoot him/her/it.
- If the alien is a tiny crab-like thing that wants to attach to your face and has acid for blood, shoot it.
- If the spaceship looks like a car and the alien looks human, shoot it twice. Especially if they claim not to be an alien. Those are the most dangerous.
- If the alien has a bizarre mask and dreadlocks, distract him by placing a cardboard cutout of Arnold Schwarzenegger from the movie Commando to your side, then shoot it. Naturally, this requires you carry said cardboard cutout with you at all times, preferably on the passenger seat for easy access.
- If the alien is some sort of gelatinous blob that would not be affected by shooting, just run. Gelatinous blobs are never fast.
The one exception: when you find the alien in your backyard shed, and it likes Reese’s Pieces. In this case, attempt to confirm it’s peaceful by verifying the alien is pliable to cross-dressing and wearing Halloween costumes. Then place it in your garage so he can build some intergalactic phone equipment, and start preparing for unnamed government agencies to descend on your property, by, for example, heating up the coffee and getting some donuts. It doesn’t hurt to be polite.