Never Learn

There are some lessons in life that we'll just never learn. Over and over, we make the same mistakes, wondering all the while how we manage to repeatedly be so stupid.

Even when we recognize our own poor judgment in time to prevent potential mistakes, we often find a way to rationalize going ahead with foolish behavior, as if we have no self control.

Some mistakes are big mistakes, like driving drunk, having unprotected sex or getting into a knife fight. Although we sometimes get away with those mistakes, there are long-term consequences when we don’t, so there is greater incentive to correct those types of behavior.

The damage caused by small mistakes, however, can exist only briefly -- maybe a matter of minutes or hours. Even though we regret what we’ve done, it's easy to do it again and again, because there is no lasting scar.

Take, for example, burning your mouth. How many times have you done that? Anyone with even a shred of intelligence should have figured out by the age of six that hot soup scorches the human tongue.

Yes, there is immediate gratification in not waiting an extra two minutes for your pizza sauce to cool. But that gratification is quickly lost, along with layers of skin from the roof of your mouth, if you don’t have patience. We all know that. We've all made that mistake before, probably hundreds of times. When are we going to learn?

Another food-related mistake is overeating. Just because there's a lot of food on our plates, and it's delicious, doesn't mean we have to hurt ourselves and ruin the experience. But, for some reason, we do it over and over again. We even look forward to special days like Thanksgiving, when we can gorge ourselves sick.

Maybe there's something deep in our animal mind that remembers hunting and gathering and how food can be scarce, so we stock up whenever possible and cram it down quickly.

That's obviously irrational, though. We've all had a few French fries swiped from our plates, but when was the last time someone came sprinting by and stole your burrito while you waited for it to cool?

Paul Lundgren is a newspaper columnist and a very nice man. Getting sunburned every spring is his favorite little mistake. Buy his book, “The Spowl Ribbon” at the Electric Fetus or online at paullundgren.com.


The Greatest Inventions of All Time

It's difficult to pick one invention to stand out as the greatest of all time. There are so many man-made wonders that enrich our lives every day and make us question how we ever lived without them. For example: the wheel, the flushable toilet, the bikini, beer, Velcro, eyeglasses, the atomic bomb and plastic storage containers.

The printing press and the Internet are certainly great inventions, but they make it just as easy to spread lies as the truth, so I can't rate them high on my list. They certainly don't rate above plastic storage containers, which have brought society nothing but positive outcomes.

It wasn't long ago that people had to go to grocery stores and beg for flimsy cardboard boxes whenever they needed to package their belongings. It was difficult to get a good grip on those boxes and you never knew when the bottom would fall out and all your Smurf glasses would smash at your feet. But plastic storage containers are lightweight, sturdy and stackable, with easy-to-grip handles on the sides. They are one of the greatest inventions of all time.

I think there are only maybe a dozen inventions I would list ahead of plastic storage containers, and all of them are forms of contraception. I'd even put the withdrawal method near the top of the list. I know it's not very effective, but it was a good start.

Computers might rank high on many people's list, but not mine. I know computers often make our lives easier, but they also drive us nuts.

There is a computer-related invention, however, that I think has potential to become the greatest of all time. It's the keyboard command "Control + Z." That is the magic key combination which allows you to undo your previous action. Say, for example, you are composing your master's thesis and accidentally delete the entire text. All you have to do is simultaneously press the Control key and the letter Z to restore it.

The most impressive thing about Control + Z is that it is still in its infancy. There are countless other real-life uses for this technology that haven't been perfected yet. We're only a few years away from being able to take back the stupid things we say out loud with Control + Z.

When that spurned ex-lover of yours cries out, "I thought you said you loved me," you'll soon be able to reply, "Sorry baby, Control Z" and wipe the slate clean. You could undo a whole relationship -- so it never existed.

It's along those lines that Control Z will one day become the greatest invention of all time. It will put any other form of contraception to shame.

Paul Lundgren is a newspaper columnist and a very nice man. His book "The Spowl Ribbon" is available online at paullundgren.com.