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2007 in Review

Just a recap of 2007 AD.

Places I've been this year:
South Carolina.
North Carolina.
New York.

Favorite purchase of 2007:

Least favorite purchase:
The 2 corn dogs from Sonic that came back up...

Best Book:
The Brethren by John Grisham

Worst Book:
The Brethren by John Grisham

Books I've Read this year:
The Brethren by John Grisham


Nobel Peace Prize Nomination

At the risk of breaking federal privacy laws, I want to nominate a young teenager from Merritt Island for the Nobel Peace Prize. I don't know how you nominate someone for this distinguished, or as of late, dubious, award. But I'm seriously looking into it.


Because he did something that could change the world.

Yes. The WORLD.

At Publix, as in nearly every supermarket, there are Express Lanes. Their purpose is to keep our busy lives hectic, to keep us from slamming on the brakes behind nonagenarians trying to count change at the register with their feeble hands, or army-sized families buying enough food to survive nuclear holocaust. 10 items or less. 15 items or less. In some rare instances, 20 items or less. It's always been a considerate and brilliant concept.

With one flaw: discipline.

Supermarkets have always lacked the discipline to enforce the "10 items or less" requirements. They enforce their prices and laws about shoplifting, but not the Express Line signs. More recommendations than requisites, the signs are rendered meaningless as cashiers swipe 25 cans of Jolly Green Giant products all belonging to the same mother with baby in hand. No doubt that's where it started. "Well it's only 25 items, that's close to 20," the compassionate cashier would rationalize. Then the old man who can barely hold a loaf of bread long enough to place it on the conveyor belt. She can't turn him away after all that effort. It took him 20 minutes to put 11 items up there. And what of the person in the motorized cart who can't even stand? What kind of sick world would we live in if the cashier asked her to put everything back in the front of her cart, flip the motorized cart in reverse, and get in Checkout Line 6 just to go through it all again because the sign said "10 items or less?"

But at some point, in some distant land to be sure, the dark soul of some Tool abused the mercy of the teenage cashier. Taking advantage of her passive nature, he brought his 12 pack and cigarettes, tv dinners and ice cream, chips, salsa, queso and 20 other things and piled it on the conveyor belt. And from there, the innocence of the Express Line was lost.


Now all of us leer and cuss people in our heads. We have a pack of gum and peanut butter, and they have 3 weeks' worth of groceries. We start counting everyone's items around us. "The lady behind me has a head of lettuce and a 12 pack of corn dogs. That's 13 items." The cynicism consumes our whole shopping experience. We sprint to check-out lines trying to cut off the elderly or handicapped because they're slower. We won't hold a place in line for the lady who forgot to grab a carton of milk. "Tough break, Mother of Twins. Should've made a list." We grow frustrated with coupons, check writers, and Space Invaders--the people who have never heard of personal space, especially when in line behind you. Grocery shopping is now awful. And gruesome. And in some places, bloody.

It's War.

All because of the Toolbag who couldn't, or dare I say WOULDN'T, count his groceries and play by the rules.

That was, until, Travis came along. I was in line, frustrated as ever, over a guy who no doubt had well over 20 items. In a "10 Items or Fewer" line. You can't DOUBLE the total and expect to get away with it. That's like drinking the entire carton of your roommate's milk. A sip here or there, but chugging the whole thing is pretty blatant. But it's not like this is unprecedented either though. Who counts items? Who turns people away for excess in the Express?


That's who.

Proving that the youth of America do indeed have a grasp on Mathematics, or at least basic arithmetic and moxy, Travis told this middle-aged man, "I'm sorry sir. You're going to have to get in another line." The man, stunned by the taser-like demand, regrouped and responded with "What? I'm sorry? Why?" Travis, calm under fire, coolly replied, "Because you have more than 10 items, sir. This is an Express Lane." The man tried the whole "Well, I already have all my stuff here" bit, but Travis had none of it. And while it most likely made me wait longer in line for the crotchety man to move all his groceries back into his cart, it was worth it.

Well worth it.

For this man's ego check. For sensibility's sake. For civilization.

And that's why I nominate Travis, the Merritt Island Publix Cashier, for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Because he just might save the world.


Gaggle of Scavengers

There’s no more ominous sign than looking out your window to the sight of a flock of buzzards on your front lawn. Good morning, Gaggle of Scavengers. In the grass, on the road, perched on neighbors’ roofs. I counted 29. I started to wonder if I was dying. Aggravating those fears, I looked up in the sky, the one place I’d forgotten to check, and another 50 or more were circling above. And those were even harder to count. They don’t fly in a “V” or circle in the same direction—that many would have started a tornado.

I’m still alive. I think. Is this a dream, maybe? I’m waiting for a man with a sickle to show up at the door. Maybe a large bell tolling while I answer it. I think I’ll take that hint.

I know they aren’t hunters, like the predatory pterodactyl. But I work in an RV camper. What if they’re on my roof? 30 avian beasts on my roof would collapse the ceiling for sure. Then knocked unconscious, they’d see flesh wounds and rip me apart. I’m glad they eat dead things. Not unconscious things like a boa would do. Otherwise that’s just vicious.

Nosy Merritt Islandian: “So I heard Brent died. What happened? Did the bottle finally take him?”
Gossipy Merritt Islandian: “Oh, yeah. He’s dead. But he got picked apart by Vultures. They don’t normally hunt, but they happened to injure him and finished him off. And he was wearing black flip-flops with brown shorts.”

Well, I can see they’re fighting over what’s either a small mammal or large amphibian, maybe a frog. But 29 buzzards plus 50 reinforcements overhead? WHAT IS DYING?! Do Buzzards even eat amphibians? Maybe they’re omnivores and that Old Oak Tree has finally photosynthesized its last CO2 molecule.

I’ve had a bad cough for the past week. But I just thought it was an upper respiratory infection (Thanks for ingraining that rampant medical diagnosis into my vocabulary, Nurse Molly.). Maybe I have the Black Lung, Pop.

A kid just rode by on his bike (bet he’s wishing he didn’t skip today). I pictured one of those Disney cartoons where a lonely armadillo is walking by himself in the desert or something and dozens of buzzards line up on opposite sides of the road along his way to taunt him. All creepy and smart-alec-like.

I guess sicking vultures on absent kids is one way to stifle truancy.

One thing’s for sure. I’m not leaving work anytime soon.


Weight Watchers

So much goes into watching one's weight. Cardboard cookies, freezer-burnt rice clumps, and broth-flavored tofu can really take it out of you. Quite literally, in the case of some low-cal alternatives to existing God-made products like sugar; see sugar alchohols. And the tedious counting of calories and checking of labels is only good for those of us who thrive on checking and rechecking as it is; see my OCD. Then there's exercise, which most of us count walking to the kitchen to grab the Ben & Jerry's from the fridge as part of our 20 minute daily assignment. Then we walk to the car for work, and back from the car to the house at the end of the day. To the bathroom, and back to the desk. Getting out of bed in the morning, brushing our teeth, calling our mom on the cell. All of this exerts energy and burns calories. And it probably totals close to 20 minutes. But that's not enough. We have to remember how many miles we've walked, how many sweat beads have formed, how much blood we've shed, how many tears have fallen.

And lastly, but not the least exhausting, we actually watch our weight. We weigh ourselves. On scales.


In the morning, before we shower.

After we shower.

As if we could possibly have lost a whole pound in the 10 minutes we were grooming ourselves. We're not lathering up in saunas or jacuzzis. Then we go and eat a big meal and check again. "Why'd I add that last dehydrated blueberry?"

Publix, the supermarket of ageful people in Florida, has a life-sized scale at the entrance. It's big enough to fit the back-end of an elephant. It might be a tight squeeze, but it'd fit. I guess they didn't want to discriminate. But that raises an interesting dilemna for that one person who actually is still too big to even fit on this scale. What are his thoughts when he sees the giant scale? "One day, I'm going to lose enought weight to get on that thing..."

I'm a jerk.

All Publix(es?)(Publii?) stores have these scales too. But none are remotely close in their estimation of your weight. In Kilos or Pounds. Right now, if you asked my weight, I could confidently answer: 150-175 lbs. Depending on city and state. Maybe the elevation plays a factor. At least between here and Mt. Kilamanjaro's Publix.

So of course you pick the same Publix every time you shop, their way of bringing you back as a "regular." Instead of lowering prices which hurts their bottom line, they recalibrate their scales and lower your bottom line. It's ingenious, really. But I don't understand why there's such a wide discrepancy between stores. Maybe the Publix with the highest volume of sales for the quarter has to have the most accurate readings, something that can measure the difference between a mol of NaCl and mol of HCl. And those stores who suffer with meeting sales goals get to shed the unwanted pounds off their customers.

Needless to say, I too, go to the same Publix every time I shop. I found the Publix in the weight class I like. I like being a Bantamweight. Much less embarrassing than Featherweight.

Or Heavyweight, for that matter.


A Dose of Battery Powered Irony

My DVD player is 6 & 1/2 years old. I think that dates back to the Mesozoic Era. Or at least the Bronze Age. It's held up wonderfully, and coupled with my comfort with the remote, I haven't sought out or even desired a more modern upgrade. Not purchasing a DVD Recorder falls under this rationale--although its partly due to having no cable, or NBC, and Jericho being available online that leaves me with very little to record.

Well, I bought a new clock the other day. Antique looking. Really cheap. Matches my new desk. Takes a single AA battery. I hunted the apartment and couldn't find one AA battery. I found one AAA battery, but that does me no good. That does NO ONE any good. What uses a AAA battery anymore? Or EVER? Well I go to my DVD remote to unload a battery for an antique clock test-run. The DVD remote batteries said "Best if installed by Jan 2001"!!! What?! I have the original Duracell 2001 batteries in my DVD remote? And it still works?! I think the Energizer Bunny died in the tough winter of '03. I've gone through Barry Bonds breaking Mark McGwire's record and Hank Aaron's, September 11th, the Friends' Series Finale, my Graduation, moving into an apartment for the first time, moving to Florida, 5 church jobs (three were summer gigs), both of President Bush's inaugurations, the death of two Presidents (Reagan and Ford), 2 wars, a Cardinals World Series, a Red Sox travesty of a championship, mini-dynasties by the Spurs and Patriots, and the growth of my DVD collection from 0 to 150+ DVDs and 30+ various series' seasons. Minimally, 700 hours of DVD watching on my TV. 29 straight days worth. 1 month of non-stop DVD action. (And that's not including this 24-hour period.)

And still going strong.

So I put one battery into the clock--it only takes one. This means it's a simple enough artifact that it needs just a lone battery, yet that places all the weight solely on one battery. Life-span's much shorter I'd imagine. Well the clock worked, the second hand moved a few seconds, and then I pulled the plug. I put the battery back in the DVD remote.

I hit "play" to start up Season 6 of Frasier, but it didn't start. I thought maybe the DVD player was teasing me. So I hit it manually on the player. It played. I tried the remote again. Nothing.

It was over.

The streak ended with a fizzle. A few measly seconds in a faux-antique clock and it drained its last juices. Kind of like a pair of ancient oxen plowing the bullrush fields of Mesopotamia. Both old, but sharing the load. Until one ventures off to try its hand at Oxen Racing. The ox uses all it has left for the race, and upon return to work alongside its lifelong partner, Secretariat dies. Leaving the lonely, non-racing ox to shoulder all the weight. So then it dies too. Maybe the batteries were oxen in a previous life.

I mean, it had to happen someday, just like oxen don't live forever either. But the AA batteries from Jan 2001 had quite the life. Like winning the lottery and then retiring, or maybe more like being born a Hilton, the batteries only worked occasionally. When the need arose. Not incessantly like the second hand of a faux-antique clock. They lived long. They lived well. They landed the best job known to batteries (except AAA batteries that don't serve a purpose at all but are still produced and reserve all their power for some faint day when America runs out of oil or something.). And now they're gone. From battery acid to battery acid.

I'll remember these giants of the game. They surpassed records never dreamed of, and will probably never be supplanted. For they don't make batteries like they used to.

"Original DVD Remote AA Batteries of Jan 2001"
Jan 2001-Aug 2007.
Helped One Lazy Man Reach for His Daydreams.


Eating Towards Infinity

Joanna and I went to eat for our anniversary last night. We wanted all you can eat crab legs, so we found them. It wasn't a bargain, but it was worth it to me at the time. She just got a pound and a half. I, on the other hand, ordered the Glutton's Platter. The All-You-Can-Eat-then-Roll-to-the-Bathroom-for-a-Break-and-Come-Back-for-Round-2 Platter. Estimates coming in from last night placed the amount of crab eaten (in poundage) at minimally 3 lbs. Just me.


While her totals are sealed in the vault for my safety, I mean safe-keeping, here's the thing we realized. It's conceivable that this gladiatorial match between the Eater (me) and Eatee (the crabs) could be eternal. Like a circle. Or Pi. Endless. Theoretically, it could last until the death of the EATER, or the extinction of the entire species of EATEES. Either I die, or they go extinct. Because crab is one of the few foods when the effort you put into eating it negates any caloric intake. You burn just as many calories, and probably more, than if you DIDN'T eat. Basically, you're working out while you eat. Like eating a Twinkie on a treadmill. Or Doritos (gross) in the pool. With crab legs, you need the nourishment you're eating just to eat it! You replenish your body as you need to be replenished! I think celery and sunflower seeds are the only other foods where this is possible. And maybe eating a pineapple through its rine.

All the cracking, the bloodshed, the meat sweats, it all works in your favor to leave room for more. Look at Tom Hanks in Cast Away. He ate crab! And had -5% body fat too. Just look at him. It's a diet that works in your favor and tastes good! Alaska should run commercials: "Snow Crab. The Breakfast of Cast Aways. And Everlasting Skinny People." Eating crab legs is a perpetual feast; fatigue being the only defense the crustaceans have left in their deaths.

And that's what happened to this seasoned vet. Perfectly cooked, I was cracking without a cracker. Pulling out whole legs in one piece. But somewhere along Pound 3, out of nowhere, I was on the ropes. And not half a crab later, I was done.

Go back to Alaska, Snow Crabs!

I need to hibernate.


Slow: Exotic Animal Crossing

I asked over on Facebook, what is the most exotic animal crossing you've ever encountered? Deer? Moose? Armadillo?

Try a Peacock. Actually, try two of them.

It wasn't as if I was in the middle of the...wait, where do Peacocks even live? Where is their "wild?" Not a rainforest, although with as much rain as we've had here, that could be debatable. Not the desert or frozen tundra. I've only known them to wander the man-made temperate zone of the local city zoo.
Anyhow, they strutted their stuff across the neighborhood road, clueless, or careless to the rest of us. The day before I waited for ducks to cross the road. A mother and two ugly ducklings.
I wonder what today has in store.


Hail Mary, Full of What?

~According to this report, the NAACP will be ceremonially "burying" the "n-word." It credits youth for combatting the use of "racist and sexist slurs."

They should probably thank all the black rappers and athletes for their hard work while they're at it.

~This story notes the completion of the largest public restroom: 1,000 toilets. Some of the urinals are in the shape of crocodiles and "busts of the Virgin Mary."

I don't know about you, but something about peeing on Mary or even into a crocodile's mouth makes me a tad nervous.

~Speaking of tad, the discovery of a nine-legged frog is prompting discussions of what might have caused the mutation. Scientists believe it is not a man-made problem, but rather a parasite that causes cells to "rearrange" and grow extra limbs.

That's enough to make me wash my hands twice before dinner. Once for each appendage I want.

~The last news item reports that a gorilla baby was admitted to the intensive care unit of a hospital in Germany suffering from hypothermia.

It sort of gives new meaning to the idea of "universal health care."


How to Keep Off a Budha Belly

Every day I run across interesting articles online, so today I thought it would be a nice gesture to highlight them for you. Besides, I have all these smart alec things pent up inside me, so really this is a purely selfish and therapeutic gesture.

~The first article is about US Weekly Magazine not publishing any more stories about Paris Hilton. I know, it seems too good to be true. But it's real. They joke that they aren't even mentioning the city of Paris.

I'm torn: less Paris=more Tom Cruise.

~On the topic of Tom Cruise, this second article reveals that Tom Cruise's newest film shoot won't be happening, at least where he wants it to. His newest venture is about the unsuccessful assassination attempt on Hitler, and he and his production team wanted access to German military sites for a more authentic film. Well Germany banned them based on his religion, citing it as "a dangerous sect." Understandably his company is protesting their decision.

Those Germans--always causing trouble. First WWI, then WWII, now banning Tom Cruise from their country. Such bad aliens.

~I ran across this article the other day. Apparently a couple in New Zealand want to name their child "4real." Yes, the number 4 followed by the word "real." New Zealand won't let them, saying only letters are allowed. And no names that are potentially offensive; they then give some examples: Satan and Adolf Hitler. The parents claim there is no name that conveys the reality that they are really having a child any better than "4real."

That's funny. I think "Oops" would work.

~The last story is really two articles: here and then part two is here. Last year in India, this 4-year old boy, Budhia, attempted a 43 mile marathon. He only made it to mile 40. After the news spread, the government investigated to see if it qualified as abuse. They eventually declared it as "torture," and banned him from any further marathons until he was older.

This month, a year older, Budhia, now 5 years old, attempted to walk a 60 mile marathon. He was stopped by police under government order that it violated the decision from last year.

Budhia's starting to make me feel like I and every other 4+ year old American really is fat and lazy.


For Posterity

Some videos whose legacy I hope outlives Bill Clinton's.

And then they called her out!
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This is why I work INDOORS.
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I think sometimes, we can get a little too excited...
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This is a re-run. But I love it. It's a mother and her son. Hilarious.
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Early Retirement 2007: Europe

When in Rome...

Do as tourists.

Well, I'm back from Europe, and it was amazing. Irish Salsa does Europe. Early Retirement for 2007 is officially over. It was much shorter than last year's, and about as expensive. But so much better. After Paris we shuffled over to Florence, Italy. One of my new favorite places on the planet. I could live there. No lie. It was so neat. And laid-back. I mean it was touristy and busy in that sense, but the culture was so laid-back. I think I must have Italian in me. And on the topic of other ethnicities I have a hunch I am secretly composed of, I think I'm part Asian too. I could live off of rice. And I don't mean that in a mean way towards Asians. I just love fried rice!

Maybe I'll start a sister website...

Rome, Italy
Back to retirement. It was amazing. And I went to Rome! I loved it! The history always sucks me in. For two days I was re-living, re-treading old Roman steps. Monuments reduced to rubble and memories now paved under roads of asphalt and street lights. 2,000 year-old conversations still hung in the wind around places I walked, their owners once dancing the streets that are now ancient history. Rocks that were just rocks before Christ, are monuments to Time and History and Mystery now. A ruined city. A buried treasure.

I stood and watched the excavation of parts of The Forum. I could've stayed for hours. You could feel the city rumbling to life. The newest hints of light, the newest glimmer of hope. Like the Colosseum, neglected for centuries until it was rediscovered in the middle ages, what else is still hidden in the depths of Time? The Colosseum was by far my favorite. I wanted to stay all day. I hoped that if I sat long enough, concentrated hard enough, listened close enough, maybe I could still hear the faint bustling of the anxious crowd on its way to their seats. The distant clanging of gladiator swords. The thunderous cheers for their favorites. I found myself lost in entertainment, one last hoorah for the ancient arena.

I bought a map of the city as it was in its glory days, no doubt some archeologists' recreation. After I bought it, I realized it did me little good, because other than The Colosseum, I had no idea what or where anything was. But it's ok. I'll act like I do. And I'll trust that I walked those streets and climbed those hills and roamed those buildings now housed as only ruins.

Normandy, France
Paris was nice. Not my favorite, but it wasn't miserable. It was much busier than Florence, as any major city would be. But I think I liked Italy better because the language was so much easier. So much more like Spanish. French was very foreign. And the French weren't particularly friendly to foreigners. Except around Normandy. They love Americans; I even saw an American flag. And I loved Normandy; walking around trying to find old bullets or shrapnel or anything that whispered "June 6, 1944." I found nothing but abandoned bunkers and 60 year-old craters. And an endless playground for my boyhood fantasies.

Dover, England
I was even in England for a day or two. Dover, England. It's across the English Channel from France, and it had a huge castle. Right on the white cliffs of Dover. It had secret tunnels underground that were used during different wars. The castle and cliffs were mazes twisted with miles of tunnels. I wandered within the body of the cliffs, wanting to embrace the exhiliration of ending its lonliness. I never strayed too far from the tour-guide, but I never doubted I could handle the chambers' enticing echoes to go play. To explore. To find Adventure.

Secret tunnels. Abandoned bunkers. Ancient ruins. I found myself deep in the recesses of History's mind, indulging mysteries and memories so easily forgotten. But not by me.

Because it's History. And it's so good for the soul.


Early Retirement 2007: EUROPE


Just an update: I'm in Paris right now!!

And the keyboard is SO very weird; so I'm going to go before I make a bunch of typos. But if you were curious, the punctuation keys are all backwards and the "a," "q," "w," and "m" keys are all located in places that cause you to stop and think and waste valuable dinner time either concentrating about not screwing up or hitting the "Suppr" button which I can only imagine means "delete" or "backspace" or "quit screwing up!" in french.

So until later "aurevoire."

Or something that means "adios" in french.


Love Bug, No Punch Back

I've done alot of traveling for work lately, several trips to Miami and West Palm Beach. Crazy traffic conjestion. But crazier still was the newest weather phenomenon. On par with other natural disasters like blizzards, tsunamis, tornados and hurricanes, love bug swarms are taking the world by storm. Or at least I-95.

Someone once told me love bugs were a man-made experiment gone awry. That's enough to discourage cloning. These creatures are approaching the threshold of sustainable life within a species. They almost number infinity. If you sat and started counting how many exist, they would reproduce so quickly, exponentially, that tracking even their estimated number in existence would prove more difficult than tracking the estimated number of digits in pi. I think discovering the age of the universe and maybe even its location of origin would prove a simpler task.

I hear they're attracted to carbon monoxide. Maybe so. Another great job, scientists. Create something that reproduces faster than hair gel catches on fire, and then attract it to something we produce the most of. Maybe next year's federal dollars could go to finding a way to make cockroaches amphibious.

But that does explain why driving to Miami felt like a hail storm. Not quite as powerful as hail, but more clout than a rain drop. Split splat pitter pat, love bugs all around. The white truck looked like it grew a 5 o' clock shadow on the three hour drive. And the windshield looked liked someone tried to paint over a mirror. It was whiter than Tom Sawyer's picket fence. The whole truck was the Love Bugs' Battle of Antietam.

The Weather Channel should really come up with some sort of Love Bug Advisory. If they can warn of red tide and track El Nino, they can certainly track the black cloud enveloping all of Central Florida. "Now we're taking a look at the Doppler Radar. The green is rain. Yellow, severe thunderstorms. The red, hail. The black color on your screen is our newest feature. Love Bug Swarms. Partly cloudy today. 40 % chance of afternoon Love Bug Showers." Swarms of Love Bugs. Wasn't that the 11th plague?

Is there Love Bug Season? I don't remember winter being so dangerous. Do they migrate? Or do almost all die but a King and Queen Love Bug and once summer hits, they start living like their name says? And what a life. Insects whose sole purpose is to reproduce. To float around having sex, oblivious to their surroundings and any impending sense of doom. Sealing their fate and proving their love by smashing into whatever trouble their passion got them into. All in the name of love.

Or making it.

But what a way to go.


Happy Gilmore v. Bob Barker II

Adam Sandler stops by the Price is Right.

This next one was just funny.

Ladies, no lusting...


Gentlemen, Crack Those Knuckles!

I stumbled across an article this morning that while relieving many anxieties, will also leave me groveling at someone's feet for quite a long little while.

Apparently. Yes, apparently, cracking your knuckles does NOT cause arthritis. Or even encourage it. It's basically hereditary and lifestyle related. Popping your knuckles stretches out the synovial fluid, or lubrication, and air bubbles form and pop. I read this when I was in 7th grade, many moons ago, and started cracking. I've been a closet addict ever since. Yet somewhere along the way I lost faith in its health benefits and reasoned that there's no way on Earth air bubbles popping sound anything like bones cracking. It has to be the latter making the noise. When you blow bubbles from a bubbles bottle, they don't snap like fireworks when they pop.

Alas, I stand corrected. I guess popping joint bubbles is much the same as popping bubble gum bubbles. Loud, obnoxious, and so much fun. And except for the inevitable "I told you so's" I'll receive till I'm deaf, I'm very pleased by this discovery. I mean, it just feels so good. The popping. Well, and the liberty of popping and knowing I'm not snapping bones or eroding cartilage or chipping away at my youth. I'm no longer accelerating bed-riddenhood.

Now if they could just tell me that Ice Cream is good for your heart...


Lenten Season is Over

I'm a little late in this update, but nonetheless, I wanted you to know how it went.

Lent has ended. My fasting from sweets is now officially over. It really wasn't too hard. I only craved ice cream one time, at Busch Gardens when I was tired, hungry and weak. It was a good reminder of when we usually make dumb decisions though. After we're violently thrust through loops and hoops and pretzel twists like a Doberman's chew toy. It's always hard for me to exercise good judgement in those moments.

A couple of thoughts on fasting from sweets for Lent:

a. Don't do it if your birthday falls within the time frame of Lent. My birthday was March 4th. My birthday cake literally sat on the counter for a month. And yes, I know that's gross.

b. Don't do it if your mom is coming through and wants to take you to The Melting Pot, the land flowing with fondue and money. She wouldn't take me because she didn't want to tempt me. She's great.

c. You miss out on Dairy Queen's Blizzard of the Month. Now I have to be honest. After all, lying is bad. I don't typically get the Blizzard of the Month. I get a peanut butter, banana, and cocoa fudge blizzard 93% of the time I go. But when you drive past Dairy Queen everyday, and they are advertising a Kit Kat Blizzard of the Month everyday, it starts to lurch into your subconscience. Absorbs your every thought. You start getting the DT's. Sweating. Shaking. The withdrawl symptoms are exhausting.

d. You get to try ABSOLUTELY ZERO new "Limited Edition" flavors of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. I walked down the Ice Cream aisle in Walmart the other day. I think there were at least 3 or 4 new flavors. Grr.

e. If you need a sugar rush, or even just a boost, you have to use fruit. That's not any way to live. I want to know that at any point, bored or dozing, I can down a couple of Pixie Sticks as Pick-me-ups and twitch through the rest of my day. Instead, I found my tough days tougher; trudging through, I actually had to eat more, to boost my metabolism. Weird. And good, I guess.
f. Stands for no frappachinos.

g. No Dunkin' Donuts. I did crave those. The chocolate glazed kind. Not the white donuts with chocolate icing on top. The chocolate donuts with white glaze. Yeah, I'm craving one now. Thanks.

h. No wedding cake or fondue fountains at your friends' weddings. That was tricky too. Easter Eve and all I could think was "If Coach would've waited ONE MORE FREAKING DAY to get married, I could SWIM in that fondue fountain." I guess the world doesn't revolve around me.

i. No Andes mints from olive garden. That's almost worth making an exception to the fast. At least that's what your friends want when they're all chocolatey-minty fresh and you're all garlicy stale.

j. Lastly, a positive note on fasting from sweets. It's nice to exercise discipline. I lost 10 pounds. Partly the no sweets--I guess I was downing quite a bit of junk food--but also the discipline crept over into portion control and not eating late. It really wasn't that bad. For a couple of days after Easter, when I still hadn't eaten junk, I contemplated trying it for the rest of the year or until next Fat Tuesday.

Until thoughts of sugar plums danced in my head.


April Fool's Eve Miracle

In my last post, I mentioned I would be boycotting the Final Four this year, and that I would only unboycott the NCAA tournament if it meant rooting AGAINST UCLA. In my haste and hatred, I did not consider the consequences of such an action. A wise lesson I suppose. Rooting against UCLA in their next game would involve me rooting FOR the Florida Gators. And well, *insert hearty chuckle* that's just not gonna happen.

So there's only one real solution to my problem.

Pray for an April Fool's Eve Miracle.

And "What is that?" you ask.

Praying that they BOTH LOSE the game tonight.


Jayhawk Schmayhawk

Don't talk to me. I'm depressed. And yes, I know the gravity of that statement. Not disphoric. Depressed. I'm not eating. Then I'm over-eating. I'm sleeping like crazy. Crying like crazy. Cursing in my mind like crazy.

I hate college basketball.

Kansas thought it would be a great idea to shred my heart again this year. Brilliant season ending with another exit from the tournament. And no ring to show for it.

I'd almost rather lose in the first round for the third year in a row. Almost.

What a PITIFUL game. They played awful. Deserved to lose. And they deserve to lose my support.

But they won't.

But that's because I'm great, not them.

Why do I pick losers? Kansas. The Orlando Magic. The Kansas City Chiefs. Republicans. Rocky.

I'm boycotting the Final Four this year. Unless UCLA's in it.

Then I'll root against them. Like I'll be doing for THE REST OF MY LIFE.


Little Hair Shop of Horrors

I got my hair cut yesterday. It's always an interesting progression for me to get there though. My hair gets long and I start to like it long, and then I don't know if my neck gets tired of holding it all up or what, but the desire to shave it becomes intense. My better angel always convinces me not to, so I compromise with a simple haircut. Maybe I wait so long for a cut because I'm more financially sound than when I try to keep it continuously short. Or maybe it's because the haircut itself can be traumatic...

Like the time I had the Female Drill Sergeant. Her veins bulging from her biceps with every slice of my head with the clippers. The testosterone oozing off of her breath every time she shoved my head the direction it needed to be for her to slice my head with the clippers. The cancerous voice deeper than James Earl Jones. And all the emotions and tact of a sailor. Or Grizzly Bear. She asked my plans for the night. I said maybe that 9/11 movie, but maybe not because who's gonna feel good after that? Your night's shot because you're so depressed. She barks back my marching orders. "[expletive] that. That's history. That [expletive] happened. It sounds to me like YOU just don't wanna to see it. You need to be your own man, grow a pair and man up. Tell them you don't wanna see it. Or that what you really wanna do is get wasted and go out on the town." No. That's what you want to do. And I'm convinced you've already grown yours.

After rinsing out my ears and her mouth with soap, I mumbled, "Yeah. I guess you're right." Knowing full well she was. Lest she BREAKS ME IN HALF. Yes, Drill Ser-geant! Whatever you say, Drill Ser-geant!

I dont think she was ever a man though. In a past life? Now, maybe.

How about The Hair Shop of Clinton. All cuts: $5. At least when I was in school. With inflation, it might be like $5.25 now.

This place, this vortex in time, this hole in civilization, could easily be its own sitcom. I'm not lying. I won't do it justice here, and I try to do things justice here.

One time I had the man there. Strong, redneck, country man. Cutting hair. With a comb and scissors too small for his fingers. Quite dainty, actually. But it just didn't match. Piercing southern drawl, a rigid bellowing conversationalist. And a hair stylist. With his dainty scissoring technique down pat. He'd speak of 40 acre lots and smoking, chewing tobacco, guns, hunting and maybe even gathering. But he was gentle with the touch. It's as if the coarse exterior was the proof he had sublimated his inner metrosexuality. A Closet Redneck Metrosexual.

Or maybe he was just as good at oragami.

I had the woman once. Well there were two women and the Closet Redneck Metrosexual. The woman I ALWAYS got (and by ALWAYS I mean the two other times I went), was as big as the Closet Redneck Metrosexual and the other woman put together. She could've had them for mid-morning snack. Very big-boned woman. Very obese. Very hungry. One time I came in and she was eating in the corner. I stood and waited UNTIL SHE FINISHED before I was even greeted. Head down. Eyes focused. The hunger pangs were in control.

She was a treat of a woman though, and that's not a fat joke. It's a personality crack. She spoke very little, which suits me perfectly, actually. I mean, all the talking. Come on. It feels good to get your hair cut--unless it's by Closet Redneck Metrosexual Man--and all this jabber, this chatter, this interaction just ruins the moment. Just let me sit there and veg out. Zone out. Close my eyes and trust you not to jab me in the neck or snip my ears off. Nervous small talk for a tip makes me want to tip less. That's right. I will pay you to NOT TALK TO ME. I'm not a fan of hair stylist gossip, especially in the heart of Mississippi. I don't care about your kids. And you don't need to know where I work. I do my job just fine. Now do yours.

Anyway, so she has no personality, which suits my fancy. Except I don't want rude. Quiet is great. Gentle is nice. Rude sucks. Don't spin me without warning. Don't knock my head over when my eyes are closed. Don't RUB YOUR BELLY on me while I'm sleeping! It's really not a lot to ask. Honest. If you're morbidly obese, maybe cutting hair isn't a realistic option for you. Maybe it's time for a change of profession. If you can't reach my hair without lapping your gut into MY lap, then that's a sign of two things to me and hopefully you.
A. Immediately quit your job.
B. Immediately quit EATING! Take a WALK! Try and float a lap. Do jumping jacks! No. Scratch that. Don't do jumping jacks.

She was so large. She really spun me with her belly. And I'm not lying. I don't like to lie. Sometimes. But I'm not lying. She'd cut my hair on the right side, and then she'd do this Jabba the Hut move and all of a sudden I'm spinning around to the left. It was nauseating on several fronts. That I was a being spun around, one. That I felt like Princess Leia, two. That the entity forcing such violent centripital motion was years worth of meals stored away for a hibernation yet to be decided upon. Three.

And she had no personality. No apology for her technique. And certainly no warning. She was perpetually grumpy. And rude.

Maybe she was hungry.

I can't complain too much. I did go there three times. But I was a college student. A poor college student. It was pay $5 at the Hair Shop of Clinton or walk around with a mullet. And if you weren't careful going in, coming out you might just have one anyway. It's almost enough to make you want to be a Democrat, and that's a strong statement coming from me. Some kind of entitlement for haircuts, some stipend, some grant for college students. I don't care how we solve this problem. I'll be bi-partisan about it. A tax write-off for haircuts, if we're being Republican about it. Let's solve this National Dilemna before it eats at the fabric of our society.

Before SHE eats the fabric of our society.


Mere Reincarnation

I mean no ill-will by this post. I just don't get reincarnation. I'm sure people don't get me believing in the Hope I have in Christ, either. But reincarnation REALLY doesn't make alot of sense to me.

So you die. And live again. As something else. What or who decides what that will be? Karma? So if I live well, I get to be a Platypus or something equally fun? Live poorly and I'm a Dung Beetle or TsiTsi Fly? What's the moral compass that determines living well and poorly? Sure, Ghandi is probably whatever he wants to be according to this faith, and Hitler is probably a Herpe, but away from the extremes and into the gray areas of morality, how high is the bar of ethics? And who determines what's right and wrong? What those ethics actually are? With no absolute moral values, is it up to the individual to decide? And if so, wouldn't that make Hitler ok if HE thought so? If HE thought for whatever twisted reason that what HE was doing was for the greater good, then HE would have high morals still. Right? It's all relative?

I don't get it. Is it qualitative or quantitative? Is it more important to do a few really important and great things, or lots of little semi-good things? And again, aside from the extremes, what really is great vs semi-good? We know murder is probably not great, and finding a cure for cancer is pretty nice. But lying? Some don't think it's wrong. Some do. The same with gossip or cheating or cursing. Who decides? I'd say it's the difference between becoming a Mosquito and an Elk. You better know what you're doing.

What happens when the Earth is no longer suitable for life? What do we come back as then? Nothing? Where do we GO then? Is that when we finally die? I can see the incentive for protecting the planet. Do we come back as Rocks? Do we start over? Re-evolve into new creatures that we can take turns being? And if you evolve into a cool animal, does that mean you lived well previously? And if you can come back as a new species or newly evolved animal, why not come back as one that isn't around anymore? I mean, if you're in control, why not come back as a Velociraptor? And if it's how you live that determines what you come back as, then what does that mean about extinction? That people quit doing whatever it was that made them become Pterydactyls? If they figured that out, why don't they figure out how to quit becoming Anthrax and Spiders and Herpes.

What about life on Mars? Reincarnation can't be limited to Earth. If you believe it existed at one point on Mars, where is it now? Are they all grains of red sand forever blown by the winds of lonliness? Will they only re-evolve into new life on Mars if they live well as a grain of sand? Maybe it gives us a clue to the death of the planet. Everyone's resigned to this fate as a molecule of lonely red dirt because they all lived so poorly. Their pennance is to forever look alike and not move unless rolled over by NASA's Mars Rovers. Or maybe we are what Mars was. Maybe we were the life on Mars in our former lives.

Or at least Tom Cruise was.

Or maybe it's all chance. You die and are buried. You come back as dust and maggots? Gross. Sorry. Can you only become where you last were? Die in a field, become a red fern? Dying in Antarctica would really limit your chances of up-selling beyond a frozen Guppy. I'm moving somewhere exotic and diverse. There's a few more options in the after-life around Hawaii or the Galapagos than say the Yukon. Or Siberia.

It seems like it requires a lot of faith to believe in reincarnation. You get something wrong about your faith--flip off one too many people, eat one too many desserts, cuss one too many times--without a guideline, you're hovering around cow manure for the four-day life span of a fly. But then what? Sure we get from here to there. We murder someone and we're doomed in the next life as a Nutria Rat. From the Human species to species Tapewormia. But how do you get from there to somewhere less...crappy? A Dung Beetle for instance. How do they get from Dung Beetle to caterpillar? Living well requires WHAT of a Dung Beetle? Eating lots of crap really well? Not stealing from other Dung Beetles' piles of dung? Not cheating on your Dung Beetle life partner? Raising your Dung Beetlets to respect their elder chief Dung Beetles?

What about a Tapeworm? It's very existence is detrimental to life. Living well as a Tapeworm involves ruining people's lives. So what is the criteria for a Tapeworm to quit being a Tapeworm? If it lives well within its purpose, it's causing harm to the world. So it's only looking out for itself. That doesn't get you promoted to TsiTsi Fly-hood. If it lives for the good of the world then it's not living well as a Tapeworm. There is NOTHING you can do as a Tapeworm to help the world. No action you perform gives you the hope of a different life later on in the circle of life, unless you detach yourself from the innerlinings of the stomach and come out without incident. So basically, whoever sucked bad enough to be reincarnated as a Tapeworm is in a manner of speaking, stuck there for eternity. It's the same theology of hell, I suppose. So you perpetually reincarnate as what you already are, only varying in the degrees of your Tapewormness, i.e. size, stature, street cred, etc. Saddam Hussein is probably someone's Tapeworm right now.

But see that frustrates me. He tormented people as a human on Earth, why does he get that pleasure AGAIN?

Or is reincarnation only inner-species? You're no longer bottom of the Dung Pile, you reincarnate as Grand Master Dung Beetle? Tapeworms become bigger and badder? Mosquitos come back resistant to DDT? I mean, how many people do you know that came from the stench of dung piles to successful businessman in one fell life cycle?

So maybe it's gradual. First Tapeworm. Then TsiTsi Fly. Then Dung Beetle. Then caterpillar. Butterfly. Some other winged soul. Maybe Salamander. Maybe Garter Snake. Anaconda. Small Mammal. Dog. Billy Goat. Pony. Secretariat. Baboon. Janitor.

That's a lot of work. A lot of effort. A lot of striving. It's a lot of fear and misguided hope, if it's even hope at all. If you believe it's up to chance, then you're only hope is to find somewhere sunny. But all of this. For what? To find joy in maybe being a Dog instead of a Cat? Of being a Flying Squirrel instead of Road Kill? Of being a millionaire instead of a janitor? It's funny what people put their faith in. What they live their lives for.

I don't mean to mock reincarnation in that some people believe it's real. But I don't get it. To live this life in fear of the next, to find that you are the pinnacle of your faith, of what you believe, of what you strive for, and that it can only go downhill from what you are now. I choose not to believe in such a fraudulent hope. Such a pointless purpose.

I choose Christ.

Because He's real.

Because He's my purpose.

Because He is Hope.


Traffic Purgatory

I drove to Miami on Tuesday. On the way down, my side of the interstate was backed up in a traffic jam. Because of a wreck on the other side of the freeway. Cuss. I HATE traffic. Turns out their side of the road was backed up for 4 MILES.


Of sitting. And waiting. TO MOVE.

Behind them, another 4 miles later, traffic is backed up AGAIN. Another wreck. For TWO MILES. In other words, once these poor chaps get out of their 2 mile long wait, they have four miles of liberty before they're gridlocked again. In a FOUR MILE LONG WAIT. Unreal. It was so bad they were closing the interstate and redirecting off the exits for detours.

I prayed a sigh of relief that I was on this side. But it was a nervous sigh. One that praised, "Thank you, God, that it's over THERE." But at the same time pleaded, "Please let it be fixed by the time I come back through here. Please?" I might have even crossed my fingers a little as if God barters in the crossed fingers business.

He doesn't.

It wasn't fixed. I waded TWO HOURS through those 10 seemingly God-forsaken miles. Two wrecks. Two hours. 10 miles. That's 5 miles an hour on average. Of sitting. Of wasting my life. Of GROWING OLD. And that's not counting the four miles of freedom between the two Pits of Hades. But for simplicity's sake, it's 5 miles an hour. My horse and wagon could've made it to RENO faster. You can WALK 5 miles an hour. You know it's pretty bad when you're asking a hitch-hiker for a lift.

Ah I HATE traffic.

Needles, spiders, and traffic. And Verizon. I'm scared of needles and spiders, thus the hatred. I've explained my feelings on Verizon at great length here. But traffic is a different hatred. It boils your blood. Stands your hair on end, turns it gray, and then causes it to fall out. Makes you create NEW cuss words because the regular ones don't make you feel any better. The only thing that seems like it would help would be to break the law.

And that's why concealed weapons are illegal.

As is having an open container in your car.

Road rage.

I don't have it. Road rage that is. Well I don't have a concealed weapon or open container either, save my cap gun and daytime bottle of Robitussin. It really is Robitussin, Officer. I promise. I have a cough. See...

But I just wonder what it is about traffic that makes me want to die. The potential to be going infinitely faster than 0 mph, is a good start. The nauseating stop-and-go. The headache-inducing, brain-cell-killing, ozone-piercing exhaust. Oh, that's enough to make you vote for Al Gore.


And doesn't it always happen that as soon as you ENTER the traffic jam, the radio chopper flies overhead to inform you that you just entered the traffic jam? "Wreck on I-95 Northbound. Steer clear of this area. Heavy congestion. Gonna be backed up till after lunch tomorrow. Maybe FEMA can bring them some food while they're stranded. I'm looking at a Grand Am that's probably sorry his momma gave birth to him right now. He's bringing up the rear of this 4 mile wait. He should've tuned in to our traffic report. Well back to you, Bubba the Love Sponge..."

I cuss you, Chopper Dave.

My Dad used to do this thing, which he still might, where he would scream curse words at the top of his lungs and pound on whatever was closest, like a steering wheel for instance. I hated that like I hate Verizon until I found myself locked in Traffic Purgatory, stuck in Limbo. It took all I had to keep from cursing at the top of my lungs, from pounding on the steering wheel, and from firing two rounds at Chopper Dave with my cap gun. This all while I'd be chugging my daytime Robitussin.

It wouldn't have been pretty.

But it sure would've felt good.


It Must Be A Full Moon

A friend of mine said I should give up 24 for Lent.

She's crazy.


Maybe I'll give her up for Lent.


Fat Tuesday

It's Fat Tuesday, and that means Mardi Gras time. Woohoo [read sarcastically]. But for those unaware of Fat Tuesday's significance, it marks the last day befor Lent. So people binge on the thing they're giving up starting the next day, Ash Wednesday. Or at least that's their excuse to throw the biggest party of the year. Every year I try to fast during Lent, not because I long for the days before Luther's 99 theses, and not because I need another shot at a New Year's resolution, but because I think it's a good idea. To fast from something I grasp too often, and feast on something more meaningful. Over past Lenten (is that a word?) seasons, I've fasted from:

-Kissing. Me AND my girlfriend partook of Lent that year.
-Sarcasm. I was so dull no one talked to me for 40 days. I think I lost friends that season.
-Lying. It's harder than you think.

This year, I'm thinking desserts. Sweets. Junk food. Unless it's fruit, but that's not junk food. I thought about giving up cussing, since I don't really cuss all that often. Imagine me on Fat Tuesday if that were the case: bleeping expletive bleeping bleeps. I'd have to get it all out of my system. 40 days is longer than you realize. I thought about giving up myspace and facebook and blogging, but that wouldn't be fair to you guys. I thought about fasting from making fun of people, but that wouldn't be fair to me. I was dull when I lost sarcasm. What would I be left with if I gave that up?

The thing for me though, when I actually give up these things I need to, I am generally bitter about it. Frustrated. Resentful. And prone to re-indulge myself once Easter hits. So I want to have a better attitude this go-round. If I give up junk food, I want to eat healthy. I don't want to just fast from something; I want to feast on better things. And I don't mean that literally, in this case. Feasting on fruit literally, would still negate the fasting from junk foods. But figuratively, I want to replace that which I'm giving up. Like the kissing. Replace it with quality conversation, and intense hand-holding. Right. And the lying. Tell the truth. The sarcasm. Say nice things about people and situations. That one was the hardest. Except for the lying and kissing. I wouldn't say the sarcastic remark I was thinking, but I'd note audibly that there was one in my head for that moment. Same difference. Just not as many laughs.

All this to say, you should think about giving something up until Easter. And when you do, be happy about it. It really is a good thing.

Just don't give up kissing.

Now I've got some junk food to go gorge myself with. After all, it is called Fat Tuesday. And it's almost over.


Verizon's Inferno

I called Verizon today. I was working. I called their residential line, not the wireless/cell phone part of the company. I don’t mean to be sacrilegious or heretical, but if Hell is more than just fire, I think it will be filled with traffic jams, second-hand smoke (from cigarettes, not just the burning lake of fire) and an everlasting telephone conversation with Verizon. It’s the 10th circle of Hell Dante never could have envisioned.

They put you through this automated gauntlet of options. And it’s not even a human being. It’s not someone who can sympathize with your anguish or discern you’ve reached your boiling point. Just a voice that incessantly pursues its agenda: to never connect you to a live human being. I don’t even think it’s better than Pakistanis and India Indians trying to understand your problems through the language barrier. At least they have a pulse. Can sense tone. No matter the language, anger is pretty clearly interpretable. Americans complain about outsourcing. Yes, it’s a problem. But at least the social justice aspect is met in hiring someone in India to answer your Hewlett Packard questions. Verizon has outsourced to a soulless, lifeless, flash drive with a stolen voice identity of some shill that thought recording the vocabulary of a small genius for a few extra bucks would constitute a shrewd business move. Monopolies are shrewd business moves too. Doesn’t mean they’re great for society. This lady, who so effortlessly sold her voice to the devil, has in those same few breaths tarnished a nation’s pride, weakened its morale, sabotaged its moral stature, and inhibited its manifold destiny.

It’s not that The Voice is rude, quite the opposite. The Voice is polite and tries to be helpful in her way. Some things she says:

"Would you like to hear this in English?"
"Para espanol marke dos."
"What is the nature of your problem?...I’m sorry to hear that."
(After saying your phone isn’t working) "I know this isn’t likely, but are you calling from that number?...I didn’t think so."
"Let’s run through some options."

If you interrupt she stops mid-sentence and moves on to the next question in her spreadsheet. Not offended. She doesn’t pick up your sarcasm. Or rage. You also can’t charm her into going the extra mile for you. She’s a computer. Just a voice. And once you finally come up with a problem that doesn’t register within her expansive vocabulary, she connects you politely to an agent.

I complained to the agent—the living, breathing, eternal soul of a darling—that it takes SO MUCH time and effort, it’s only fun the first time, and that I’d rather wait in silence or listen to elevator music than interact with an invisible, imaginary person you can’t even flirt with if they HAD a cute voice. So she gave me a secret password. Because I charmed her into it, I suppose. (A perfect example of why Verizon made this ungodly business move in the first place.) If you say the word “agent” at ANY point during The Voice’s spiel, she is forced to connect you with an agent.

But boy, she really doesn’t like that.

I called back just to try it out. I mean, I guess I still needed to “talk to an agent.” I toyed with her. Went through myriad options. Repeated phrases, spouted numbers, spun in circles, jumped through hoops, slapped my mom and shot my dog. She was doing phone line tests from her cozy little hard drive, and just as she was getting warmed up, mid-sentence, I blurted out “AGENT.”

Almost in spite. For what she puts me through EVERY SINGLE TIME I CALL VERIZON.

Almost for rescue. Like a secret agent man would save the day.

Then there was silence. For about 5 seconds. I thought she hung up on me. Disoriented, and no doubt feeling played, she said something about finding my answers on the internet and “I will now try to connect you to an agent.”


Passive-aggressive little Voice, aren’t you?

She comes on in a much more business like tone, no more friendly, soothing, helpful overtures. “Your call is important to us. Your time is valuable. We will be with you shortly.” Or translated from cyborg to real life, that’s “Go sit in the corner. We’ll talk to you when we’re good and ready.” I waited 5 minutes. At least. On a silent phone. Like she was punishing me. You get an automatic connection to an agent as soon as you’ve trudged through her plethora of spreadsheet obstacles, but opt out of those options with the secret password “agent,” and there’s Hell to pay for it.

Or at least what I’m imagining Hell to be like.


For Kicks and Giggles

Funny stuff.

In case you were curious. That is a boy and his mother.

And yes. I'm a jerk.


A Fly-by Shatting

I parked under a tree the other day.

Birds are such racists.

And cowards.

Using Fly-by Shattings.


Welcome to Hip

As a trend-setter (What? I move. People follow. I like David Crowder and Shane Barnard before anyone's heard of them. They blow up. I watch 24, the world follows. No, JACK BAUER follows. I made ELVIS famous.) I sometimes sit back and wonder "What is the world thinking?" The Olsen twins for instance. Why did they take over the world? Why is "The Surreal Life" still on tv? Is Starbucks coffee really that much better? Worth that much more? It all tastes like piping hot bitterness to me.

Other times I wonder what will be next. I like to predict the next big thing. The new "in." I wish I would've predicted that Starbucks would take over the world, for instance. I'd be a genius. Instead I'm predicting a Republican-controlled Congress in the mid-term elections. So my guesses aren't always square on the money. But I don't let that keep me down...

I was thinking today about the health benefits of Sunflower Seeds. I have no factual evidence to back these claims up, but I'll propose them as confidently as if I did.

-I think they can't be fattening. They're way too small. Strawberry seeds aren't fattening. Sunflower seeds aren't THAT much bigger.

-It's also SO MUCH WORK to eat them. Unless you EAT the shells. But even then your body's gonna be working to digest those, so either way you're working up a sweat if not an appetite. It's like crab legs or corn on the cob. The calories you burn working for the food makes them low-fat. Probably negative fat.

-In all that effort, your mouth gets tired. Like chewing gum, your mouth and mind--not your stomach--feel like you've eaten a hearty meal. Really you've only eaten birdseed.

-And in all that effort, your mouth gets STRONGER! Heads up, Channing Tatum. You're not the only one with a jaw as sturdy as an ox anymore. I'm sure that's how oxen get their strong jaws. Sunflower seeds. Chew, chew, spit. Repeat. Voila.

-I've seen potato chips made with sunflower seed oil. I have no clue what that means. But it sounds healthy. More than transfat and vegetable oil. Tally another mark under "healthy" for the sunflower seed. Note: I've never tried these. Just seen the bags.

-Birds eat them. Birds aren't fat. Except turkeys. And they aren't eating sunflower seeds. There aren't turkeys roaming the plains of Kansas. Maybe that's the key to winged flight. Light, hearty, low-fat meals of protein.

On the downside...

-All that work only temporarily fools your mind into not being hungry. My stomach has kicked in loud and clear, reminding me that all I've eaten today is trail mix minus the m&m's.

-My mouth is STILL tired. I want to sip my next meal through a straw. I don't recommend spending a whole day chewing. We're not horses.

Or billy-goats.

-On the mouth topic and not being animals, a beak really would make this easier. Or a gullet so I could just shovel them down shells and all. But that would negate some of the perks. Like calorie-burning and mind-tricks and oxen-sturdy jaws.

-They're cheap. This is only a downside because all healthy food is expensive. So they might not be healthy after all. I mean, except for skim milk, which should be illegal (it's just water with white dye in it!), anything that doesn't clog your arteries or risk causing an immediate stroke or heart attack costs you your 2nd kidney. Or 1st spleen.

Overall consensus: Eat sunflower. It's the new "in." It's trendy, it's healthy, and it's even affordable.

Welcome to hip.



So we went to Taiho, Japanese cuisine at its highest price. My meal with WATER was $32 and change. Lucrative business. If I come into some big cash one day, I could see buying a Japanese Steakhouse. Name it something cool. Konichiwa. However you spell it. Or maybe “32 and change” in Japanese. That way it’s right there in the name of the restaurant exactly how much I’ll be ripping you for.

The only thing is finding the manpower. And not just any Joe Buck. You’ve got to have the Japanese cook. I’ve been twice, not here, but just around, where the cooks weren’t authentic. I guess it’s as stringent as Hooters and Flight Attendants. Japanese restaurants know it when they see it. You don’t see black men as Hooters girls—I hope, anyway. You don’t see fat flight attendants, and you don’t see white guys cooking at Japanese restaurants. It’s just not authentic. And I just realized you NEVER see women cooks either. I guess the girls that wanted to be Japanese cooks are now Hooters girls. Good for them.

Back to those two inauthentic cooks I had. One was Mexican. The other called himself an “Indian Redneck,” and proceeded to debut his country music tour right there at Ju-Jitsu’s. I’m not trying to discriminate against non-Japanese cooks, but who thought a cowboy Indian singing Willie Nelson while chopping dinner was a good idea? Who did HE know? That’d be like Yo-Yo Ma replacing Alex Trebeck on Jeopardy. Something about it just doesn’t quite say “Welcome to Japan. Yes, I know what I’m doing.”

But see that’s what I want. A cultural experience. The Japanese cook, preferably without a knack for Hank Williams Jr. The waitress that never smiles. The chopsticks with or without the rubberbands to make them work. The hostess that doesn’t even speak English. Lindsay The Ranew made the reservation for us last Friday. I showed up first and mentioned we had reservations. The hostess asked the name, I said “Lindsay or Ranew” and she studied the virtually empty reservation book for a moment. She then looked up as excitedly as if she’d solved that morning’s sudoku, pointed at the name she'd scribbled down, and said, “Ah, yes. Wyndsey.”

Nothing helps break stereotypes like reaffirming them.

I think I’d have an option though. For the customers’ sakes, and the cooks’. Well and all of us really. For those that don’t want the complete “Japanese Immersion,” for a dollar or two less, you now pay $30 and change, and can have the Un-entertaining, less death-defying, stare-into-space option. As in, “We know you’ve been to Japanese restaurants before, so if you just want your food without the commotion, no ‘choo-choo’ or volcano or ‘bad chicken’ comments or tossing-the-scalding-hot-shrimp-at-some-unsuspecting-Joe-Buck’s-face routine, then you can order the ‘Sukiyaki Steak Express’ or ‘Quicken Hibachi Chicken.’” No more Japanese versions of Show and Tell. It's an option I would most often select. And as the owner, I'd want to charge less for this feature because you’re not getting a full production of spinning eggs and fireballs, but it seems like the demand would be so great that it would require the higher price. And if more people are choosing the quicker option, more people are able to come in and out, and thus the turnover is better. It’s the brilliant business move, hands down.

I went with my friend one time, just me and her and a 12 person table. Well me and her and the empty 12 person table and the cook. Who STILL performed his show. A mite awkward. And a lot of effort. We’re trying to have conversation, and he’s trying to make us laugh or clap or cry or some emotion we’re apparently not showing enough of. Like McDonald’s with a full theater production of how they defrosted your processed Blueberry Chicken McMuffin and then deep-fried it in French fry grease and smothered it in a percent lifetime value of sodium and then lit it on fire for entertainment’s sake. You don’t need all that. No narratives. No presentations. No worries. Just you, your friend, and your little piece of heaven in a heart attack. Or stroke. Thoughtless, effortless, mind-numbingly simple meals.

For $32 and change.


Spy Dreams

Sorry for the gap between writings. I've been busy. Being Un-retired. Yes, Early Retirement is over for this season. I got a job.

A story for your entertainment...
(Based on a "true" story)

When I woke up this morning I was more mad than I've been in a LONG time. It wasn't true. It didn't really happen. I had one of the most realistic and fantastic dreams in my YOUNG life. Realistic like standing in front of a toilet and peeing the bed because you thought you were really in front of the toilet. THAT real. As fantastic as superhero comics are, as adventurous as little boys' daydreams. THAT is how fantastic this was.

For some reason I was in a school. It had a big opening in the front. Like a cafeteria. Tables for lunch. But it was early evening. And a ton of kids were sitting on the tops of the tables watching tvs. Some 50 yards away was the nearest teacher, except she was also a receptionist. I walked through the front doors past the children; I imagine they're 3rd and 4th graders. They looked away from the cartoon for a quick glance, realized I'm not that exciting, and returned to laughing and staring at the tvs. Some laughed at me. A few were curious. Still others gave the "whatchoo doin hur" look. But most paid me no attention.

Except the receptionist/teacher.

She stopped me in my untucked, yellow polo shirt and board shorts. "Excuse me, sir. I know you're with the Secret Service. I can tell by your outfit that you're supposed to blend in with the kids. But you'll want to go that way. Ms. Adrian Fletcher will be speaking in the auditorium." I instinctively lifted my left pointer and middle fingers to my left ear and mumbled something into the inside of my right wrist. I nodded. And walked away.

The rest of the dream is pointless. Kind of anti-climactic, really. But the point remains. I was a spy. Or at least to the receptionist/teacher lady. Well not really a "spy" per se. A Secret Service Agent. Well I mean, being the President would have been the BEST dream ever. But Bodyguard to the President still looks good on the resume. Admirable. Noble. Loyal. A few rungs down the ladder, but still. Basically, I was the man. Never mind that the only reason the old lady/teacher/receptionist lady knew I was a Secret Service Agent was because I was dressed like a 3rd grader, or that the person needing protection from the Secret Service was the President's brother's daughter and her family. Not quite the President's personal bodyguard, I realize. But the fantasy remains: for a brief moment, albeit in my Subconscious, I was as hard as Jack Bauer.

Thanks, Sub-conscience. Nothing rewards my diehard devotion to or relentless pursuit of Jack Bauer and all things heroic like starring in my sleep as the mistaken, 3rd-grade-look-alike-bodyguard of some guy's GRANDNIECES.

It's not even a word.


A Triple Crown of Sorts

I feel like my last few posts, while funny, have perhaps come across as whiny or impatient. So here's some happy news. Or thoughts. Or hopes. Or dreams. And they're all sports-related.

The Cardinals won the World Series. Rock on. I'm several months late, I know. But this doesn't diminish my excitement.

The Chiefs made the playoffs. Unbelievable, really. Everything that they needed to happen, did, and so they got in. I hate the Broncos. So to see them blow the playoffs like that, and then to have the Chiefs make it. Tis Sweet. I'm ready for them to go all the way now.

The Magic are doing well this year. They're fun to watch. It's great getting to see them on TV for a change. SO great, really. Even better in person. I've gone several times already. And it feels like home when I go. More than any place I've been in awhile. Weird, I know. But it's sentimental. Or something. The smells. Like the one-two punch of beer and urine in the bathroom after the game. Or the smell of nachos and hotdogs. The sounds. Like that of the Magic announcer 15 years later, with his booming voice only slightly less forceful. The sounds of sneakers squeaking and balls bouncing. The action. The annoying people in front of you that won't sit down. Or the drunk people behind you that yell incessant vulgarities. The cheering. I can cheer. Like a fan. A die hard fan. Not some distant psycho living in Mississippi rooting for a no-name team in Cenral Florida. There was a fat man at the games when I was little that would grab this huge Magic banner or flag and run around the whole arena during timeouts at the ends of games when it was really close and the crowd needed to be loud. I saw him the other night. The only die-harder fan than me. The fat man. And judging by his size and the Magic's poor recent history, he's slimmed down quite a bit. And so we keep cheering. Me and the fat man. For years it's probably been the two of us. He, here. Me, there. In Mississippi. But this year is brighter. I'm home. And with our powers combined, the Magic are poised to have a season they haven't experienced since 1995 or 96. My last Magic games. This year they started as the best team in the league; then they chilled a bit. They're getting their groove back. They'll be tough this year and will be for years to come. Dwight Howard's predicting a championship this year. Looks like it's not just me and the fat man anymore...

That would make it a Triple Crown for me. The teams I love never win. I mean the Yankees. But the Cardinals before they had McGwire, back when they had Ozzie. That was my team. The Chiefs before they had Joe Montana and Marcus Allen, back when they had Steve DeBerg. They were my team. And the Magic. Oh, the Magic. They toy with my heart more than January Jones or Scarlett Johannson. 1995. The NBA Finals. I still wake up in cold sweats.

This sports year has already been historic for me with the Cardinals win. But how much more so when Kansas City and Orlando win their championships.

I mean if Boston can win a World Series, I can win a Triple Crown.


Holey Jeans!

Just a quick anecdote.

I ripped my jeans today. Not an intentional ravaging of my clothes to fit in either. I reached into the back seat and heard a rip. Nervously, I rearranged to see where the rift occurred. At first I was relieved, as my two friends were with me; the tear was not in the most contoured part of the pants-the posterior. Whew. But then I grew irritated; it was my dress jeans. My one GOOD pair of jeans. The kind you wear with a coat. And they ripped in the knee. How fat do you have to be to rip your jeans IN THE KNEE? Too fat, I see now. They tried to reassure me that it's the cool thing now. Jeans with rips and tears, holes, patches and weirdly colored seams. But not good jeans. Not expensive jeans. Not dress jeans. I already have two pair that do that. One accidentally, much the same as these new fashion jeans, and the other I gave in and bought distressed. Or ransacked. Whatever they call it nowadays.

Three ragged pairs of jeans is too many. At least for me. It's one too many.