Category Archives: humor

8 simple tips for effective web design

Web design has come a long way in recent years, and the many varied themes and templates can make much of it easier for the casual web designer. But before you get started, it’s still helpful to know a few basics of web design that can lead to a more effective web site.

  1. Clarity: Probably the most important element of web design is clarity. The strands of content should be clearly highlighted, and easy to discern and interpret.
  2. Simplicity: too busy a web design can make it difficult to find the critical content, and visitors may not even know where to land.
  3. Effective use of space: A more effective web design makes better use of space put the content in focus, and make the navigation structure clear.
  4. Integrated designs: Another type of web design is for smaller sites that are integrated into larger sites. This clever design makes use of a small space in a larger layout. Its sparse but elegant lines integrate well into the aesthetic of the larger site.
  5. Background: One simple but important detail of good web design is background color. In this example, the web designer tried to make use of too bright and bold a background, making the important details of the design hard to spot. Designs like this are more likely to draw attention to the web designer herself, rather than the web content, which is a deterrent to most website visitors.
  6. Visual elements: Choosing the right images for your web design is also key. Choosing a unifying theme, repetition of design elements, and subtle use of color can give pleasing harmony to the web design.
  7. Stickiness: One of the main goals of good web design is to get visitors not just to fly through, but to land and stay. This web design may not look like much at first, but its structure has great elements to get visitors to really stick.
  8. Upkeep: One also must not forget to maintain one’s web design. It doesn’t take long for a web site to start to look dated. Even if a web site has compelling visual elements to attract visitors to the site, multiple broken links will guarantee that visitors will take off soon and land on more frequently updated web sites.

When you start out on your own web design, try to keep these points in mind to make your site more effective. Of course, never lose sight of the ultimate goal of web design: to trap visitors and drain them of their bodily fluids.

Welcome Back, Pants


The Pants Institute is pleased as pants to present: The Classic Pants TV Lineup!¹

From the conservative black & white pinstriped pants of the 50s to the colorful polyster prints of the 60s and 70s bellbottoms and on through the high-waisted peg-legs of the 80s, this look back at the golden era of Pants TV will bring a smile to your pants.

  • I Love Pants: This classic show from the 1950s features a young married woman’s antics, which frequently involve trying to sneak around in her husband’s pants.
  • Growing Pants: A family learn that as the kids get older, they must wear larger sizes of pants, or be increasingly uncomfortable.
  • All in the Pants: A 70s show about the life and family of a middle-aged middle-class white man who struggles to adjust to changing societal norms for who wears the pants in the family.
  • I Dream of Pants: An astronaut happens across a pair of magic harem pants that can fulfill his wishes, but only if he wears them in secret.
  • Three’s Pants: In this madcap 70s comedy, 3 single young adults sharing an apartment are always getting their pants mixed up in the laundry.
  • The Pants Boat: Each weak, different styles of pants are paraded on the decks of the Pantsific Princess, a cruise ship that promises to pair up pairs of pants.
  • Pantasy Island: Each week visitors arrive on a tropical island to act out their wildest fantasies of wearing different pants.
  • Diff’rent Pants: 2 young boys from Harlem must trade in their worn-out jeans for new fancy pants when adopted by a man with millions of pants.
  • The Facts of Pants: A group of teenage girls in a boarding school learn about love, life and pants.
  • The Golden Pants: 4 older women live together in the 80s and wear 4 distinct styles of pants.
  • The Pants Bunch: When 2 families merge their wardrobes, how will they ever fit all their 70s polyester pants into one dresser?
  • Welcome Back, Pants: A high school teacher and his students teach each other lessons about changing pants fashions and returning classic pants styles.

This post is for Mary, who requested a pants post when I asked for suggestions on things to post about. This post is also dedicated to my dear friend Elizabeth, who first introduced me to the comedic power of pants, and who should have been wearing her birthday pants today. I still miss her every day.

Can’t get enough pants? Try these on for size:


¹ I had just about finished this post when I had a nagging memory that my blogging buddy Painted Maypole had years ago done a pants-TV-themed post, as part of a challenge to write a post in the style of another blogger. (She chose me!) Happily, there is only a wee bit of overlapping in the pants shows. And these are rerun pants, anyhow…

Quick Home Organization Projects from American Hovel Magazine (with before and after photos!)

It’s been some time since I’ve posted content from American Hovel Magazine, the magazine dedicated to lowering neatness standards in the American home. The publishers have graciously granted me permission to reproduce one of the features from the upcoming June, 2013 edition.¹

Quick Home Organization Projects
Other popular home magazines are full of helpful hints on getting organized and staying clutter-free. The photos from these beautiful homes suggest lives of calm and beauty in which calm and beautiful people live and exude calm and beauty from their very pores.

People who live with Real Families and Real Clutter™, however, often find those home organization projects to be completely out of reach. After first sighing in envy at the neatly partitioned closets and gleaming clutter-free surfaces, real people will choke back sobs of despair when looking up at the disarray of their own home. They will then tear the pages out of the offending Magazine of Impossible Ideals, stomping them into a crumpled mess on the floor, and then drink vodka and/or eat chocolate until they pass out under their kitchen table.

We here at American Hovel know that feeling well. After recovering from our last magazine-shredding-chocolate-eating-vodka-drinking rampage, we solicited photos from our readers on their own home projects. You will agree that the scope of these projects is far more attainable. Share in the joy of being able to see a project from concept to completion in a matter of minutes, leaving you much more time to enjoy your vodka or chocolate with self-satisfaction instead of self-pity.

Project 1: Kitchen Counter
Competent cooks know the importance of clear work space for creating inspired and wholesome meals. This is why you so often have cereal for dinner.

Before: It’s covered with mismatched containers and lids, tools, toys, swag, and a basket full of lord knows what other crap. Problem: you can barely tell what’s what, let alone find room to make lunch.

After: Putting the dinosaur toy front and center focuses your attention on the dinosaur toy. Look at the dinosaur! Dinosaurs are cool. Raawr!

Project 2: End Table:
End tables can be beautiful accents to a living space, giving room for guests to set a drink. Assuming that you ever have guests, or that they could find room to set a drink.

Before: This end table is an elegant antique piece. The lovely wood surface is visible between sketch books and art supplies, various toys and craft projects (is that a paper Tardis?) and whatever the hell else is all over it. (Is that a jar of foot cream?) Problem: there is no real focal point. All you see is pile.

After: The robot Matrushka doll has been turned around and given a prominent place, using the lantern as a pedestal. The owl craft is now on top of the paper box. What once just said “pile” now says “pile with Matrushka robot doll and cheery owl.”

Project 3: Kids’ Toy Corner
You live in a reasonable sized house, without a dedicated play room for the kids. What you have is a living room which has a lot of toys in it. Often all over the entire floor. Sometimes the toys get “put away” into a corner like this one.

Before: The toys are vaguely sorted into bins and stacks. Some might find this level of chaos distracting,though, with all the clashing colors. Problem: There is no unifying theme.

After: Covering the pile with a throw quilt from a nearby couch turns the chaotic pile into a lump of pleasing simplicity. Further, it adds a feeling of warmth and comfort to the room. (Quilts are warm and comfortable, you know.)

Bonus idea: Put a stylish pony on top and it’s now Imperial Fantasy Mountain, a home suitable for the Princess of all the Ponies.

Project 4: Kids’ Craft Corner
Your kids love to do art, and you have amassed an enormous collection of craft supplies, not to mention a never-ending flood of projects and papers coming from their schools. You’ve started tackling this roughly 27 times over the past 3 months, using boxes to sort artwork, schoolwork, and other miscellany, but have been interrupted each time. The pile has seemed to explode and expand daily whenever you look away. (You look away as often as possible).

Before: A massive, heaving, seething pile of headache. Problem: the throw quilt from the couch is already in use in the living room, plus it’s not nearly big enough for this pile. Your king-sized comforter would do, but you’d have to go upstairs to get it, plus you’d be cold tonight.

After: Move a couple of things around and call it a day. Then stop looking at it. You have more important things to do. Go have some good quality chocolate or a strong drink.

Can you spot the difference?

We hope you have enjoyed this American Hovel Magazine feature. Please feel free to contribute your own organizing project ideas and tips.

¹Note: American Hovel Magazine is a completely fictitious magazine that exists only in my head on and on the pages of this blog. I was flattered to hear that a friend of a friend actually once hunted for the magazine at news stands a few years ago, after seeing my cover. Perhaps the magazine will come to life one of these days, but for now I will just have to live the dream of living in that dream world of clutter. For back issues of American Hovel Magazine, please visit the archives:

Who’s who?


With the excitement building for the new episodes of Dr. Who to start¹, there has been a lot of who-buzz. But Dr. Who is not the only Who who is out there. I offer you this list of whos: a sort of Who’s Who of Whos.

  • who: an English interrogative word a relative pronoun used to stand in for a person².
  • WHO: The World Health Organization
  • who: the sound made by a hooting owl
  • Dr. Who: A British sci-fi/fantasy TV show that has been on for decades, about The Doctor, a time-travelling alien who gets to have a new body every so often.
  • Whovians: Fans of Dr. Who (you know who you are)
  • The Who: A British rock band, originally formed in the 1960s
  • Who Are You? A hit song by The Who. (And the title track of the album “Who Are you?”)
  • Who am I? A 1998 Jackie Chan movie where he plays an amnesiac spy. (It features this very memorable fight scene with a man with very long legs and very good balance. [youtube])

  • Who dat? A phrase used to show support for the New Orleans Saints (a football team)
  • Who’s Who: a type of publication listing biographical information
  • Whoville: a fictional town (or possibly two towns of the same name) in two Dr. Seuss stories: Horton Hears a Who and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
  • Whos: Inhabitants of Whoville. Cindy Lou Who is one such Who.
  • Who’s on first? Abbott and Costello’s famous comedy routine of name/pronoun ambiguity. (If you don’t know it, you can read the full transcript. Better yet, watch this clip from the 1945 movie The Naughty Nineties on [youtube])
  • whodunnit: a nickname for a type of story where the reader (or viewer) tries to solve a mystery along with the protagonists
  • Guess Who's Coming To Dinner

  • “Guess who?” Something sometimes said by a person sneaking up behind another person, often while preventing that person from seeing by covering the eyes.³
  • The Guess Who: a Canadian rock band best known in the 60s and 70s
  • Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?: A 1967 drama/comedy movie starring Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier and Katharine Hepburn. (It’s not actually about dinner with a Canadian rock band, but about a family coming to terms with an interracial relationship.)
  • Who can it be now?: A song by Men at Work
  • Who’s that girl?: A song by the Eurythmics
  • “Who’s a good boy?” Something often said to dogs.Cf this Onion article:
    Nation’s Dog Owners Demand to Know Who’s a Good Boy

    With canine-cuddliness levels at an all-time high and adorability-boosting ribbons and chew toys plentiful at pet stores across the nation, no resolution to the good-boy-identity issue appears to be on the horizon.

  • “Who cares?” A question sometimes asked by someone who doesn’t⁴

Who’s got more whos?

¹Season 7, part 2 starts this Sunday, March 30th
² Prescriptive grammarians will say that who is only to be used in cases where the pronoun/interrogative is in the subject, or nominal, position, and that whom is what you must use in object positions. However, contemporary usage allows for use of who in object positions.
³ I’ve never enjoyed this game.
⁴ I care.

Whose whos are whose? (image credits):Horton Hears a Who!, Whoville from the 1966 animated movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas (based on the book), Who Dat, The Guess Who Greatest Hits album cover, The Who logo, Jackie Chan’s Who Am I?, Who’s On First? screenshot from youtube clip from The Naughty Nineties,Tardis, World Health Organization logo, and Introspective Pug.

The Oscars

Tonight, much of the world is tuning in to watch The Oscars. As for me, I’m not sure which of these Oscars has the Best Picture. I think it’s a tough call between Oscar Wilde and Oscar the Grouch.


image credits: Oscar from the Odd Couple, Oscar the Grouch, Oscar Mayer, Oscar Wilde

(I almost didn’t this post, as in the search for an Oscar Madison picture, I found this other post along the same lines. But I decided to go ahead, anyhow.)

cheesy valentine


Heart of cheese.

Roses are red,
Roquefort is blue
Actually, it’s more of a green
But this photo’s of provolone, anyway.

The Republic of Pants: Election 2012


It’s once again election season in the Republic of Pants. Four years ago, we were gripped by the tight pants race between Corduroy O’Bloomer and Trousers McPants. Today, the pants of the Republic are still split.

The media’s bias-cut stretches the fabric of the truth, tailoring the fit to either the Left Pants Leg or the Right Pants Leg. For those fully comfortable dressing on one side or the other, the choice may seem an easy fit. For those caught between the legs, however, the decision remains an uncomfortable one, and many concerns chafe.

After wearing O’Bloomer for 3 years, many are ready to try on a new pair of Pants. Some complain that O’Bloomer didn’t fit the way they’d hoped, that they’d been deceived by overly flattering dressing-room mirrors. Others never thought he was a good fit, and are pushing to go back to older pants styles. Yet there are still many who support O’Bloomer, and argue that his sturdily constructed pants are only beginning to be broken in.

O’Bloomer and his Vice Pants, Bootcut BiDenim, seek to publicize benefits of The Affordable Cleaners Act, a law by which all pants should be given access to adequate laundering. They claim that better fabric care for all pants will positively impact the well-being of the Republic, as well as addressing the rapidly rising costs of laundry. Critics argue that the dry cleaning companies will clean up while the pants of the Republic are hung out to dry.

Corduroy continues to be hemmed in by threadbare rumors, including that he is a Muslin, or just like Linen. Rumors that he was manufactured abroad persist in spite of his display of his “Made in the Pants Republic” labels.

Opposition styles, though, are also far from universally appreciated. After one of the most awkward and embarrassing fashion shows in decades, Tweed R. Moneypants was selected as challenger to O’Bloomer.

Few would call the Moneypants campaign seamless, with evidence of it being patched up on the fly. Many claim that R. Moneypants is really a pair of reversible pants, showing whichever pattern of his double-face fabric better suits his base. Some dispute his claims that he pulled himself up by his belt-loops, saying that he was braced by his father’s suspenders. Moneypants has further been criticized and for pocketing his assets in offshore Bermuda shorts, and for being in the back pocket of powerful suits with a vested interest in seeing him wear the Pants.

The uncomfortable stiffness of Tweedy’s material has been the butt of many jokes. Hammerpants Rayon, running mate of Moneypants, seems to be cut from a more comfortable pattern, but many doubt that his flashy cloth has enough substance to adequately cover the seat of the Pants Government.

Every fiber of the candidates is being examined for stains, holes and other defects, whether or not they are material to the issues. In this straight-legged race, neither side has the option to be a relaxed fit. Both must stay up on their briefs or risk being caught with their pants down. As the old adage goes, “He who slacks off gets sent to the cleaners.”

Both O’Bloomer and Moneypants are expected to be neatly pressed for the upcoming debates, with carefully tailored responses under their belts. Questions likely to be addressed include: How will each address the continuing strain on the fabric of the Pants Economy? How will they protect the National Pants from the looming menace of international Powerbritches? And finally, and most controversially, do leggings really count as pants?