Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Why College Athletes Shouldn't Be Paid.

Quite often, I see fans of college sports commenting about student-athletes and the need to provide compensation to them. Essentially, they believe that college athletes should be paid like professional athletes. By all accounts, this seems to be the most popular sentiment among the college sports viewing audience. A continuous yearly survey from Harris Interactive shows that 45% of all Americans watch college sports, chiefly men's basketball and football. The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) pulls in nearly $800,000,000 in revenue annually.

I say they're dead wrong. College athletes don't deserve a penny.

But whoa, Jared! These kids play their hearts out. They take bumps and bruises. Plus, they earn the NCAA millions upon millions of dollars. Why shouldn't they get a little piece of the action?

I'll tell you why...


When you go to college, the goal is to broaden your mind, take in knowledge and become a smarter, more mature human being. You're not going to college to bounce a ball or throw a piece of leather. Sure, you might participate in a collegiate sport while in attendance at an institution of higher learning; I've got no problem with that. Sports are fun! Personally, I really enjoy baseball and hockey. But, that's not the reason why you're in college. Sports are merely an extracurricular activity, like playing on a chess team or participating in a book club. You don't go to college to become a professional athlete -- there's no class or degree for that.

Here's the other, and perhaps much larger, dilemma. If you decide to pay one set of college athletes, then you legally have to pay all of them. No matter what sport they play or their gender, all student athletes would be required to receive compensation. Whether the men's basketball team or the women's volleyball team, if you pay one, then you have to pay them all -- no exceptions. How does that work? It's simple. If the NCAA and colleges decided to pay their athletes, then those athletes would have to be classified as employees under the institutions they play for. By law, that places them under the jurisdiction of the Equal Pay Act of 1963. This requires that all employed persons be treated equally and fairly by their employers, no matter their gender or position in life. Title IX also enters in the picture, declaring that...
"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."
Essentially, if you have a collegiate sports program, both men and women (and, by proxy, all people whom fall at various points on the gender spectrum) must have equal access and be invited to participate. Even if it's a private college or university that doesn't receive federal assistance, they're still bound to the law under the Equal Pay Act. Though, the reach of Title IX could even be argued in court if a student uses federal aid to attend a private institution... but that's a whole other discussion.

There's just no way around this issue -- Equal Play, Equal Pay.

To put it simply -- all college students get to participate in sports programs. If those students are to be paid, then all sports programs and their players shall receive remuneration.

Therein exists the problem for the NCAA and colleges -- they're fully aware of this issue that I've just described. As much as they might want to pay their college football and men's basketball players, they also know that they'd be forced to pay the men's golf team, the women's lacrosse team, the fencing team, equestrian team, and so on. College football and basketball teams earn the NCAA and colleges millions. On the other hand, college water polo teams (one of many examples) don't earn squat.

But I'm not done yet...

If student athletes were to be classified as employees and receive compensation, there's another law that would drastically change the realm of college sports -- the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. By law, no employer may discriminate in employment against a qualified individual with a disability. Thereby, all students with a disability would have just as much right to play a sport as anyone else and receive the same pay. If a paraplegic wanted to play men's basketball in a wheelchair (and I've seen some awesome guys and gals who play basketball in a wheelchair), the NCAA would have no choice to but to accept that individual and accommodate their disability. What if a blind girl wanted to be on the women's field hockey team? Sign her up! How about a guy with Down's syndrome who wanted to be on the football team? By golly, get that man a helmet and let him play! Personally, I believe there's no reason why any student, no matter their gender or disability, shouldn't already be playing any college sport they choose!

In the end, all of this highlights a much deeper cultural problem with college (and professional) sports. Sports are taken way too seriously. The NCAA rakes in endless piles of cash as a titanic profit machine, fully leveraged on the backs of students -- many whom wouldn't even make it to college based upon their poor scholastic ability.

These are just games being played, folks. One team wins, another loses. Numbers go on a board. Balls are hit. Pucks are slapped. Weights are lifted. That's it. Nothing of real importance is born from a game being played. It's just for fun... but it seems everyone has forgotten that part of the game.

Full disclosure -- I do not watch college sports of any kind, so I have no dog in this fight.

Monday, March 30, 2015

I Was Nearly Attacked By Trashy Disc Golfers.

Crystal and I took a routine walk just a few moments ago with our dogs, Mellow and Echo. We normally walk every day through Burlington-Springwood Park, which is right next door to our community. Today would have been just like any other day, except...

I nearly got attacked by a pack of frisbee-throwing, white trash jocks.

As we're passing through the entrance to the park, I noticed a group of guys were playing frisbee... excuse me... disc golf. A rather poorly designed course was installed in the park last year, much to my dismay. Just as a few of the guys are wrapping up their tosses at a nearby basket, I noticed one of them staring extremely hard at Crystal, following her with his eyes. It was extremely creepy and very obvious. He then proceeded to stare at me. We were walking in front of him, no more than ten feet away. As I passed by, he locked eyes with me, following my path as I walked.

Enough was enough.

I asked him if there was anything I could do for him. He gave me a puzzled look, to which I replied "Because you're staring pretty hard at us." Of course, Mr. White Trash Frisbee Chucker wants to get in my face. The way he approached me, he must have figured I'd either throw a punch or run away. I did neither, not moving an inch. He proceeded to toss a string of curse words and insults at me, which I promptly told him to step away from my person that instant or I'd be on the phone with the cops. Thankfully, he backed off after I said that, but not before he called me (and please excuse my language folks) a "fat fuck."

My reply :"Oh yeah... good insult. I haven't heard THAT one before."

Seriously, I heard that insult more times than I can count in middle and high school. When you're a big guy with red hair, you get picked on extensively. It doesn't phase me at all; I'm numb to it. It just goes to show that morons will resort to the lowest common denominator of insult.

As Crystal and I walked ahead, his 'bros' of course wanted to get in on the action. They shouted and cursed at me, but it was to no avail. They didn't get to kick my ass. Nor did the creep get to stare without someone calling him out on his behavior.

Crystal isn't mad at me, but she said I shouldn't instigate matters by saying something. Tell me, what do you think? Say something when someone is being a creep, or don't say anything? I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sailing the Seven Seas of Cheese!

Ahoy matey! This be yer captain, ol' salty Yellowbeard! This evenin', I be takin' you sorry scalawags on a journey 'cross the roughest o' waters. In fact, they not be filled with water at all! This cruise-a be o'er...

The Seven Seas of Cheese!

Ahem... as I was saying. Tonight, I'm counting down my seven favorite types of cheese in no particular order. It couldn't be any simpler than that. Let's cut right to the heart of the matter, shall we?
  • Mozzarella - You can't go wrong with this choice. Mozzarella is so easily applicable to a wide range of dishes. While not only tasty, it's also one of the healthiest varieties of cheese produced. If you're looking to cut some calories in your diet, this is the cheese you want!
  • Muenster - In terms of sheer flavor, Muenster is hands down my favorite. It packs a plethora of punch - it's sweet, salty and a little bit tangy. It's not exactly diet-friendly, so eat it in moderation. Annatto is the spice that gives it such a unique and easily distinguishable flavor. If you need a cheese that melts easily, Muenster is perfect.
  • Havarti - This cheese originates from Denmark. It encompasses a buttery and salty flavor, making it great for crackers or hamburgers. Again, this is not a type of cheese that you should eat a lot of, so go easy.
  • Edam - What's amazing about Edam isn't necessarily the flavor, though it's still perfectly edible and flavorful. Edam shines because of its tendency to not spoil. As it ages, Edam merely hardens and develops a sharper flavor. It was the world's most popular type of cheese from the 1300's on through the 1700's; Edam was suited perfectly for long distance travel on ships. This cheese has a comparatively low fat content, making it a healthy choice among other varieties.
  • Cottage Cheese - Yep, this is an actual cheese and not just a play on words. It's like a prototype for standard cheese; the curds are not packed and a bit of whey remains. No aging is involved in the creation of Cottage Cheese. I like how versatile it is, though my favorite way to eat it is with some fresh fruit -- pineapple and cherries, preferably.
  • Monterey Jack - This lovable cheese originated with Mexican friars in California during the 1700's, long before it earned its name. Leave it to a Scotsman to make it famous, though. During the California gold rush of 1849, a wily immigrant from Scotland named David Jack emigrated to America. He made a fortune selling it to miners and other Californians in the Monterey area, hence where it got its name. The rest, as they say, is history. The flavor kicks you in the tongue and is absolutely delightful.
  • Red Windsor - I've only been lucky enough to try this type of cheese twice in my life, but boy is it worth it. It has a very similar consistency to American Cheddar, but with an added twist. The cheese is surprisingly marbled with a Bordeaux or other red wine, giving it a strange internal pink glow. The flavor is what you'd expect -- cheese and wine rolled into one. Though, it's more mellow than your tongue might anticipate.
Avast, we passed through the Seven Seas of Cheese to calmer shores! Did ye see those harpies callin' out on the rocks?! How about those whales -- they be all yellow! ARGH! 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Yu, Me and the General Tso's Chicken.

I have to admit, I had been itching for a bowl of General Tso's chicken all day. Thankfully, I was off work and ready to tickle my insides with something spicy. There's only once place that could satisfy my craving...

Mung Fu's Exotic Eatery (and Tax Preparation).

As I pulled into the dimly lit parking lot in front of Mung's, my headlights pierced the smoky windows of the restaurant. I could make out a few customers swirling through the interior lobby, but it didn't look busy. It was no problem, though; I called my order in before leaving the office. Swiftly, with the speed of a tiger shark and the hunger of a starving crocodile, I slipped out of my vehicle and through the front door.


That entrance door bell was probably the only thing I didn't like about Mung Fu's. Everything else was absolutely divine. I approached the front counter and spoke to the ever-present Yu Jie. The funny thing about Yu was that I could never tell if she was flirting with me or not. Not once had I ever worked up the nerve to ask for her number. Perhaps my luck was about to change.

"Yu, how are things?"

"Very nice. It's a warm evening. Santa Ana's are strong today."

"Indeed, don't start any fires you can't put out!"

(Doh... you idiot, why did you just say that? Stupid, stupid!)

"Oh, don't you worry. I have absolute control. You had the General Tso's?"

"Sure did. Been craving it all day."

Yu stepped away from the register and vanished into the kitchen. A few seconds later, she emerged from the always mysterious back room with my order. YES!

"That'll be $10.76."

I fumbled through my wallet for my debit card and passed it over to Yu. She looked at me with those eternally wet almond eyes. We locked our gazes onto each other for a moment. I could feel her thumb touch mine.

"Enter your PIN number."

"Oh yes.. sorry. I'm such a goof."

(Goof? Who says goof anymore? It's 2015!)

As I watched Yu fiddle with the register and prepare my receipt, I knew tonight was the night. I was finally going to ask for her phone number.

"Here you go. Hope dinner is good."

"Ugh... say Yu... I have a question."

"Don't worry -- we have the best reviews in the city. I promise you, that's chicken."

"Oh yes, I know. I love your food as much as my mother's cooking. I just wanted to ask you a question..."

She stared at me blankly for a moment, much like a jaguar watching its prey from the cover of night. Calm, collected, silent... her lips ever so apart, waiting to say "No."

"Yu... maybe we could grab dinner sometime? Could I have your phone number?"

"That's two questions... which one do you want me to answer?"

(Oh no... I fumbled already. So stupid!)

"Sorry, could I have your phone number?"

"You already have my phone number. You called in the order, remember?"

"I mean... could I have your number? I would like to take you out sometime."

Yu stepped back from the counter once again, but never took her eyes off of me. I felt like a TPS report being run through a copier for the millionth time.

"I see. You want MY number. Tell me... why should I give you my phone number? The right answer gets you the number."

Great... she had a riddle for me. My brain suddenly slammed against my throat, searching for a decent answer. I looked behind me at my car... nope, my Toyota Camry wasn't the right answer. Darting my eyes to the left, I saw myself in a hanging mirror. Ahhh... my pudgy belly wasn't the answer, either. Then, as if an angel swooped in wearing a cloak of invisibility, I heard a voice in my right ear.

"Tell her you like watercolor painting."

Yu's eyes lit up with the fire of an exploding gasoline tanker.

"Papa... get out of here!"

And there was Mung himself, slapping me on the back. He had a devilish grin that split his face like a canyon.

"My boy, you've got courage. Did you know Yu could murder you with one finger in five different ways? It's true -- I taught her myself!"

"Go away Papa! Don't you have some soup to stir?"

Mung slinked back to the kitchen, still grinning like a hyena. My eyes shifted back to Yu, who was obviously embarrassed.

"I'm s-s-sorry Yu. I didn't mean to upset you. Just forget it..."

Before I could finish, she reached over the counter and grabbed my tie. Yanking me forwards like a slot machine arm, I stumbled and nearly ate the counter top.

"I still expect an answer. Right answer gets my number. Wrong answer gets you nothing but disgrace."

Closing my eyes, I went blank for a moment. Space and time seemed to fall away into nothingness. Then, it hit me...

"You shouldn't give me your number. I'm crazy for even asking. Yu... you've got better things to do than go on a date with me."

A single, fluttering butterfly escaped from my mouth. I gulped in defeat.

"Yes... I have better things to do. Practice my violin, go jogging, watch old reruns of 'Get Smart'. But... I was looking for something humble to spill out of your mouth, and it did."

Yu released my tie, to which I promptly stopped holding my breath and rocked backwards. She hurriedly scribbled on my receipt, then placed it carefully in my right palm.

"Don't lose it. You only get one chance at this. Call me tomorrow before 9 PM. No later."

Glancing down, I could make out a series of ten digits. Ten... glorious... digits.

"Close your mouth. It's not polite."

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror once again. My jaw needed a set of suspenders. Turning to look at Yu, she was already gone. It didn't matter, though. My bravery had paid off. Not only was I walking out of Mung Fu's with some kick-ass General Tso's chicken, but I also had the ten most valuable numbers on Planet Earth. Reaching for the front door to leave, that blasted bell sounded again.


"Hey, you..."

Yu peeked her head out of the kitchen, just enough for me to see her face and one hand grasping the frame of the doorway. It looked like she was about to say something, but bit her lip instead. Batting her eyes at me, she paused for a moment...

Then she just winked at me and retreated into that magical gallery of Mung Fu's Exotic Eatery...

(and Tax Preparation).

Friday, March 27, 2015

Hungry? Have an Apricot!

Just a few moments ago, I turned to Crystal and asked her...

"So, what should I write about tonight?"

Her answer... apricots.

How wonderful! I absolutely love apricots. They're tasty, versatile and incredibly healthy for consumption. Though, apricots seem to get lost in the global cornucopia of fruits. Between all of the apples, bananas, pears, peaches and grapes, the delightful apricot seems to regularly be forgotten.

Not today, my friends!

Where the apricot originates from is not completely known, but we have a few clues. Archaeological sites have found apricots in Armenia which date as far back as the Copper Age. Apricots are also known to have been in use in the Middle East and Persia since ancient times. The fruit quickly spread to other parts of the Mediterranean region, where they are still cultivated. The beauty of the apricot tree is how versatile it is. They can survive in temperatures as low as -22 °F. As long as their blooms don't receive an early spring frost, they can make it through just about any other type of weather.

A batch of dried apricots that haven't been preserved
using Sulfur dioxide gas. Note the darker color.

One of the best ways to consume the apricot is after it has been dried. The most prominent global producer of dried apricots is Turkey, where they have a nearly perfect climate to grow in. Consuming dried apricots is a great way to intake vitamins A and C, potassium, antioxidants and fiber. Always remember -- Can't take a squat? Eat a dried apricot!

Conversely, here's a batch of dried apricots that have been preserved using Sulfur dioxide. This process causes the fruit to have a bright orange color. The use of Sulfur dioxide is completely safe for consumption -- except for certain asthmatics with a sensitivity to sulfiting agents.

Whether dried or fresh, the apricot is the perfect snack. A whole fruit is less than ninety calories and they pack a wallop. It's so easy to slice an apricot up and top off a bowl of plain, low-fat yogurt with it. Or, gently sauté a sliced apricot and garnish some grilled chicken. Lightly drizzle honey on top and you've got a mighty satisfying dish that's sure to delight!

Move over peach, your cousin the apricot wants some of the spotlight!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

We're Coddling Our Children To Death.

I was flipping through my local Target sales paper yesterday evening and came upon the following ad.

After pondering the intent of the items described for sale, I found myself asking...

Do parents really need to watch their baby via a constantly streaming video feed twenty-four hours a day?

After laughing at the Big Brother like nature of the video baby monitor, I couldn't help but be concerned. Is this sort of Orwellian surveillance necessary for the survival of our children? Humanity (Homo sapiens) has been on Earth for over two-hundred thousand years. Our most ancient ancestors have been here for nearly six million years. In all that time, no matter by which method you choose to measure, did children not survive without being constantly monitored? Were children not able to sleep in a cradle without being video recorded non-stop? Are we so pathetic as to require perpetual inspection and control of our offspring?

Let's think about it from another perspective. Consider the situation from the child's point of view. With constant spying, they'll never experience a world where their every action isn't being recorded. They'll never know what it is to enjoy actual privacy. They'll never comprehend the need for personal space and solitude. They'll never be able to make their own decisions. Most importantly, your own child will never know if they can trust you (or anyone else really).

What sort of life is that? Do we really want this for our children?

I realize this is just a single ad in a department store circular, but it reflects a much deeper societal problem that hardly anyone is considering.

We're coddling our children to absolute death.

You can let your child...
  • sleep at night without watching their every breath
  • play outside and get dirty
  • defend against a bully, even if it means throwing a punch
  • fail at their classwork, sports or any other personal endeavor
  • do their own homework
  • spend time alone without constant interaction
Believe it or not, little Johnny can go on the swing without you watching them.

You see, the more we hover over our children and watch their every move, the more we make them less independent. Spying on your child while they're an infant is the first step in a long journey of forming a defective human being -- one that's prone to dependency and needing constant approval from others. This type of helicopter parenting is ridiculous and detrimental to your child's health. And for goodness sake... the last thing this world needs is a populace comprised of attention-starved brats with no sense of independence.

Now cut the camera off and go to sleep.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My 200th Blog Article - A Look at How Far I've Come.

Ladies and gentlemen... this is my two-hundredth blog post.

I never thought I'd reach such a high number of articles, but I have. Over the course of more than two years, I've made an immense positive transition. In the beginning, I wrote about my own anger, doubts, fears and emotional problems. Throughout the first 18 months, my articles were sporadic -- typically one or two per month. They pertained to my personal dilemmas and emotional pain. This generally related to my abusive upbringing and conflict with my father. I spent the majority of my life bottling up my pain and feelings, to my detriment of course. Through writing, I was able to let my anger go and heal. Today, I exist as a man that used to be angry. I'm proud of my accomplishment; no one can take it away from me.

Six months ago, when I realized that I wasn't mad any more, the content and focus of this blog changed. I set into motion a new habit of writing every day. Writing had been so therapeutic for me -- why let that end? Thereby, I began writing about anything and everything that struck my interest. I didn't realize it at the time, but the daily act of writing would become a positive habit. I haven't missed a single day since then. Sometimes, I even compose two articles a day.

In thinking about the process of forming a habit, I thought I'd share with you some tips for putting one into place.
  • A habit is generally formed if you do something every day for a month. It can take as little as two weeks or as many as six, but a month is a perfect block of time to formulate a habit. It's also easy to remember.
  • Make sure you perform your habit on a daily basis. No skipping days or using an asymmetrical schedule.
  • Most habits begin with something easy. The more complex you try to make your habit, the more likely you won't continue to do it.
  • Most people give up on their habits within two to three weeks. For example -- that's why there's such a large push for people to purchase exercise equipment only in January (New Year's Resolution - Lose Weight). Every mass retailer in America is trying to get your fitness dollars. But, by the time February rolls around, it's all over and people have forgotten about their resolution. Time to sell Valentine's Day candy!
  • Try to complete your daily routine at the same place and time. Make it a zone of comfort and familiarity.
  • If you're the type of person that enjoys company, find a partner to complete your habit with.
  • Create some sort of mental reminder to trigger your habit. For me, I usually write after dinner in my office. If you're very forgetful, write your habit down and paste it in a place which you'll see all the time. Seeing is believing.
  • Allow yourself to make mistakes. No matter what habit you're trying to form, you're not going to get it right every time in the beginning.
  • Remove excuses from your life. Don't allow yourself to weasel out of your habit.
  • No matter what you want to create a habit of, make sure you do it for yourself.
I appreciate each and every one of you that's stuck by me on this journey. Hopefully, we can celebrate again when I reach five hundred articles!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

When You're a Cop, Following the Law Is Optional.

Back in January, I featured a blog as part of my Grinding My Gears! series entitled Lane Thieves. I discussed the tendency of many drivers I encounter at intersections to steal the lane, thereby occupying one lane as if there were two. I also discussed the potential danger this creates. Today's blog is a small addendum to that original article.

This past Saturday, I encountered a local deputy sheriff whom performed this very act. While stopped at a four-way signal light with a single lane, a deputy in a marked police cruiser passed me on the right, occupied the edge of the lane and part of the shoulder at the intersection; he obviously wanted to turn right. He was so close to the right side of my vehicle that I could see the images on his laptop screen. I was turning right as well and had my turn signal activated. A vehicle was coming from my left towards the intersection (they had the green light), so I was yielding to them before turning right. Before that vehicle could pass through the intersection, this deputy had pulled beside me and whipped ahead. In doing so, he not only illegally passed me on the right, but also cut the oncoming vehicle off and caused them to have to slow down. This deputy did not have his emergency lights activated, nor did he engage a siren. In short... he was just being an impatient douche bag with no regard for the law he supposedly upholds.

What if I hadn't seen the deputy and attempted to complete the turning maneuver to the right? He would have caused me to hit his vehicle, hence why you're not allowed to pass a vehicle on the right in the United States. What if the oncoming vehicle from the left couldn't slow down in time and rear-ended the deputy's car? This officer of the law created the potential for not one, but two vehicular accidents.

It's no surprise that drivers in North Carolina are so terrible. Even police officers fail to follow the rules of the road; neither do they enforce the law. The cops are bad drivers. The citizens are bad drivers. Nearly everyone in North Carolina is a bad driver!

To put it mildly -- many cops are just vulgarians with a badge and a superiority complex. You know it, I know it and they know it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Utah To Allow Death By Firing Squad.

The news just broke late this evening that Utah will once again make execution by firing squad an option for inmates on death row. Congratulations to the land of honey bees and Mormons! They just stepped into the Nineteenth Century!

Salt Lake City, Utah

This move comes about as the deadly cocktail used to administer death via lethal injection becomes increasingly scarce. The chemicals typically come from foreign producers. As the world has progressed past capital punishment, these same manufacturers have stopped selling the chemicals to the United States. On a global scale, the United States is the last first world nation in the west that practices capital punishment. It's a shameful reflection upon our society; most other civilized nations vehemently object to it.

Utah intends to use the firing squad in cases where lethal injection is not possible due to a lack of the proper chemicals. The lethal injection drugs must not be available at least thirty days prior to an inmate's execution for the firing squad option to be possible.

No matter how terrible a crime someone commits, we can not lower ourselves to murder in the guise of justice. As if the lethal injection option wasn't bad enough - a gallery of people watch you die behind a glass window like it's a television show. The firing squad, while effective, is barbaric. It speaks of a time in our past that was chilling and brutal; blood flowed freely in the streets as recently as the Old West era. To see Utah take a big step backwards is simply disappointing.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Why I Don't Ride Carnival and Amusement Park Rides.

There are two reasons why I will not get on carnival and amusement park rides. Besides generally being unsafe and not fit for humans, I had a couple of terrible experiences in my early childhood. In short, I refuse to become a statistic.

The first incident involves a type of ride that's known in the carnival industry as an Octopus (SDC Polyp Variety). A half dozen cars hanging on beams are positioned around a center axis. The cars will go up and down as they spin around. The speed at which the cars travel steadily increases. To make matters worse, at some point, the cars slow down for only a brief moment, then go quickly in reverse! I had the displeasure of riding this sort of attraction with my parents. I must have been four years old because my brother Joshua hadn't even been born yet. We were at the South Central Fair in Chase City, Virginia. I sat between my mom and my dad in a ride car. As the speed got faster and faster, the centripetal force of the ride caused me to get squished like a sandwich. It took all the air out of me and I simply couldn't breathe. When the ride was over, I tumbled to the ground and immediately vomited everywhere. If I remember correctly, my dad lost his glasses as well. All in all, it was a terrible evening.

The second incident involves the long defunct Smurf Mountain ride at King's Dominion, just outside Richmond, Virginia. This was a train-style ride that carved its way through a man-made mountain. In the tunnels that the train passed through were various animatronic scenes depicting the Smurfs in a plethora of scenarios. I would have been approximately eight or nine years old at the time. As the train pulled its way through the tunnel, it suddenly came to a screeching halt. Myself and the rest of the passengers sat motionless in the dark for a few minutes. Eventually, a park attendant told us that we'd have to exit the ride and walk out of Smurf Mountain. It wasn't as simple as it sounds, though. Because of the way the ride was designed, there weren't any escape doors or hidden passage ways to leave the mountain. I had to walk on a tiny ledge along the train track pathway in the dark. The attendant told us not to fall onto the track because it was electrified. With my back against the tunnel wall, I walked sideways ever so carefully. All along the way, the robotic Smurfs, evil wizard Gargamel and Azrael the cat were moving and reaching towards us. I was the very last person in line and absolutely terrified. Eventually, I made it outside and into the light. It was one of the most horrible things I ever experienced as a child. Afterwards, I learned that the ride had a major mechanical failure, never to be repaired. This was partly due to the declining popularity of the Smurfs -- it just wasn't worth returning to operation. As such, I hold the distinction of the being the last King's Dominion visitor to ever ride Smurf Mountain. It sat dormant for a few years before receiving a total upheaval. Smurf Mountain became what's now known as Volcano, the Blast Coaster and is still in operation to this day.

Here's a video that illustrates what Smurf Mountain looked like on the inside. Please excuse the poor image quality -- this is obviously a promotional video recorded in the 1980's.

So there you have it. My two reasons for not ever setting foot on a carnival or amusement park ride ever again (except for the reasonably secure carousel or bumper cars).

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Next Caller Please!

A river of scarlet trailed down my forehead. Gritting my teeth together, I checked my rear-view mirror for signs of that thing. All I could see was a bloated fog speckled with dust. I settled into my seat and looked off in the distance. Beyond the rolling mounds of dirt was nothing. Nothing for all the world to see. Nothing for me to see. I pressed my foot deeper into the gas pedal. Why not? There was no law in this place. Justice was a naive concept humanity had abandoned ages ago.

I carved my way through what must have been a half dozen valleys before reaching Nampa. Already low on gas, I pulled into the nearest all-night gas station and set to filling my tank. What was it? 3... 4 AM? I wasn't sure. After what seemed like forever, I capped my tank off and lodged the gas pump back in its mount. Eye-checking the battered old clerk behind the counter, I dashed for the restroom to wash the blood from my eyes. Long since dried, it had formed a crust over my left eye-lid. I looked like a battered husband before wiping it clean. After securing a few barely edibles and a pop, I got back in my car and pulled away.

As I came near the edge of town, the lights of the city began to flicker and fade. Before long, I was tossed back into pitch darkness. No moon hung overhead to cast a warm glow on the landscape. Nor were there any other cars on the highway. Just me... alone... in the dark.

It was then I noticed my radio quiver to life. I could faintly make out an old Glenn Miller tune, but the static was terrible. Loathsome old radio... I should have tossed it ages ago. I flipped the dial and found a classical station. How ironic for it to be playing Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique.
"Yes. Ironic."
A crackled voice ripped from the nothingness. The words scraped by my eardrum like the scales of an alligator brushing against a tree. In my rear-view mirror, staring at me... piercing my being...

Two relucent orange eyes -- locked onto me.

I couldn't see it's face, nor did I want to. For a moment, I considered flipping my cabin light on, but that idea quickly vanished. A mangled claw slipped out of the murkiness in my backseat and gripped my shoulder.

"Pull over. We need to talk."

Whipping the steering wheel in a large circle, I spun the car out in the middle of the highway. My headlights cast their glare upon the never-ending edge of empty land.
"Pull. Over."
Slowly, I managed to get the car off the road and onto the dirt. As I did, the hand pulled back from my shoulder and disappeared. A bead of sweat dripped down my nose. Or was it blood? Maybe it was both. Trembling in fear of what was about to happen, I put the car in park and let my foot fall limp in the floorboard. What had I just done?
"Your little stunt back there cost me precious time. Time I don't have. You must balance the scales. Make this right."
What was I to say? It had given me little choice in the matter. I didn't want to kill it's partner... at least I think that's what it was. How could I know?
"You petty humans. So quick to pass judgment. What if I were sent here to elevate you? To remake you as a towering behemoth? Your kind sickens me. Now, you must make a sacrifice."
The last thing I saw was its toothy grimace appear next to my face. I could feel its stench rolling over my collar and up my nose. A warty tongue gnashed and whipped over my cheek, occasionally licking my eye and ear.

A river of scarlet rippled down my face once again.


"This is KXXU, Victor Klute Investigates... next caller please!"

"Klute, this is Cam in Twin Falls. That last caller was full of crap. Man-eating gargoyles in Idaho? For goodness sake... I can at least partly believe the wacko alien abductees. But this was just nonsense. Hang up on 'em next time, would you?!"

"I think you might be right Cam. Something tells me that fella was off his meds. Next caller!"

"Hi. First time caller, long time listener. My name is Pete. I find it ironic that he would call your show and claim to have seen a gargoyle, but got miffed when you didn't believe him."

"You nailed it Petey Boy! Ironic is an understatement. Next caller!"

"Yes. Ironic."

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Recall (Now You're Worried?!)

News broke this week that Kraft Foods is recalling over 240,000 cases of their Macaroni & Cheese product due to small pieces of metal being found inside. Obviously, no one should be eating metal in their food. The outcry over the recall has been massive. More so, the calamity has been terrible for Kraft; their stock price took an almost immediate 2% hit after the recall was revealed.

And yet, I find myself asking...

Only now are people worried about eating Kraft Macaroni & Cheese? That stuff is terrible for you!

In only a single cup of prepared Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, there are:
  • 400 calories
  • 1.5g of saturated fat
  • a whopping 570mg of sodium (over 30% of your daily intake)
  • 48g of carbohydrates
  • 3g of fat
And to think... that's only a single cup. One box makes three cups! This tally doesn't even take into consideration the potential dangers of Yellow #5 and #6 -- the two artificial food dyes that give Kraft Macaroni & Cheese its distinctive hue. How many of you have eaten a whole box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese? I know I have in the past when I was less conscientious about what I ate. Good grief! No one should eat this stuff, let alone kids (whom Kraft loves to market to)! If you regularly consume Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, there's no reason for you to suddenly get upset about their product having metal in it. You should have already been upset about what was inside the box a long time ago!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Your Advertising Makes Me Want To NOT Buy From You!

There's just something about really terrible advertising campaigns and commercials that riles me up. Here's an example.

Click for full-size to see how much it sucks.

I received the above local ad in the mail today. It's one of your typical coupon fliers that try to grab your attention with silly antics. Haha... look at that fat cheerleader. Teehee... that so makes me want to buy tires from you.

Unfortunately, I'm one of those people that are completely deterred by this sort of nonsense. Such advertising speaks to a lower caliber of individual. If you feel the need to look like a fool in your advertisement, how can I feel comfortable knowing that you'll provide me with a quality product and/or professional service?

I can't.

Another trend in advertising (especially in rural areas and smaller cities), is to use children in television commercials. I HATE THESE TYPES OF COMMERCIALS MORE THAN ANY OTHER. If I see a child in your commercial attempting to sell me a car, sing me a jingle or generally just try to be cute, I will NEVER... and I mean N-E-V-E-R buy anything from you. Trying to sell your business with children is just, well... for lack of a better word, childish! This method gives me ZERO confidence in your business. Instead of showing me what you do or what you sell, you just assume shoving some cute little kids in front of me will garner my trust. Nope - it makes me assume that you're pathetic. It's also insulting. Expect better of yourself and your potential customers. Look at it this way...

Would you buy a car from a little kid? Of course not. Then why would you use a little kid in your commercial to sell me a car? YOU SHOULDN'T!

Hell no I'm not buying something from you. Get off my television screen!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Guess Which Absurd Personal Story Is Fact or Fiction!

I'm genuinely curious if anyone is reading this blog as of late, so I'm going to run a little test.

Below, I will detail three possible truths about myself. They'll all be ridiculous... but only one will be true. You have to guess which two are fiction and which one is fact.

Here goes!
  • When I was in third grade (1990), I had a massive crush on a fellow student in my class. Because I was a total bonehead when it came to social interaction and didn't know how to talk to girls, I devised what I now recognize as a terrible plan to win this girl's heart. When Valentine's Day rolled around, I bought her a giant card and wrote a silly poem in it. I also placed nearly five dollars in change inside the card, figuring it was a proper reflection of my sincerity. When I gave her the card, all of the change spilled out of the envelope. The rest of the class looked at us strange. She grimaced, handed the card back and told me to pick my money up.
  • While at 4-H camp in 1991, I got beat up by a girl whom was also in attendance. One of my counselors saw the incident and was telling me throughout "don't hit her back". Later on during my stay at the camp, she approached me while in the pool. Sneaking up on me like a ninja, she jumped on my back, dug her claws into my chest and held me under water. When she let go of me and I rose to the surface, there she was just staring at me. I was bleeding profusely. Before swimming off, she told me that I'd never find a girl as nice as her. Unfortunately, I never got her name.
  • After I graduated high school, I had a string of girls whom failed to show up on dates. They stood me up like the ignoramus that I was. In a fit of depression and anger, I consumed two large pizzas, a bucket of chicken and a whole chocolate pie over the course of a night. I was sick as a dog for two days straight and didn't eat anything else. It was nearly four days later before I actually felt hungry again.
Now... guess which one is the genuine story!


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Oklahoma: Atheists and Gays Not Welcome.

There's some outrageous bigotry going on in Oklahoma, but that's no surprise.

A stone monument depicting the Ten Commandments
sits outside the Oklahoma State Capitol Building.

House Bill 1125, which essentially bans atheists from being married, recently passed the Oklahoma State House of Representatives. It is now headed to the Senate, where it will most likely be approved.

How does it work? Well, it's like this. For any new marriage to be recognized, a member of the clergy must approve any and all marriage licenses. Judges and magistrates would have ZERO say in the matter. That means that the power of the legally binding contract of marriage would be solely under the discretion of priests and other respective church leaders. Of course, conservatives, Republicans and religious organizations are jumping for joy over this bill. If approved, it would mean that any clergy member whom did not see fit to wed a couple (meaning homosexuals and atheists) would not have to.

This is a crafty work of legalese meant to circumvent the potential for homosexuals to receive the same marriage benefits as heterosexual couples. They're essentially tacking it onto the backs of atheists as a way around any forthcoming federal legislation. In essence, they get to kill two birds with one stone.

One of the chief supporters of the bill, Republican Dennis Johnson, has been quoted as saying...
"Marriage was not instituted by government. It was instituted by God. There is no reason for Oklahoma or any state to be involved in marriage."
I find it ironic that Mr. Johnson wants to prohibit the bounds of marriage via legislation, but finds that government has no place in the matter. I wonder if he can see the total hypocrisy in that? Have the supporters of this bill even considered that, without a legally binding marriage license, many couples (gay or straight, religious or atheist) would lose health benefits, death benefits, access to community property and child custody? Obviously not.

Perhaps more troubling is the immense power that would be granted to non-elected religious officials whom would act as de facto magistrates of the state government. By officiating the state law in a method that's clearly filtered through religious doctrine, they'd be blatantly violating the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Should House Bill 1125 be passed by the Oklahoma legislature, it will surely make its way to the Supreme Court.

Oklahoma -- a great place to live... unless you're not a heterosexual Christian.

Monday, March 16, 2015

For Your Viewing Pleasure.

Good evening everyone.

You'll have to forgive my brevity this evening. I've been experiencing some heart palpitations and severe chest congestion, so I'm feeling a bit under the weather. I just thought I'd link you to a few interesting articles from around the web for your viewing pleasure.

McDonald's Employee Told to Treat Burn with Mustard:

Death, Baby Boomers and the Oncoming Cemetery Space Crisis:

Does the Octopus Make a Good Pet?:


Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Fool's Guide to Escaping Poverty.

You struggle from week to week just to put food on the table. Your light bill is a month behind. Your car payment is two months behind.

And let's not even mention your rent.

If this sounds familiar, then you're broke.

My blog today is going to address a certain segment of the population -- those whom always seem to be strapped for cash. More often than not, there's a fairly obvious reason as to why you're poor. I firmly believe that most people are directly responsible for whether or not they remain in poverty. You can escape from the lower class if you use your brain and make a few sacrifices. I'm going to cover a few of the reasons as to why you're still poor. Perhaps you can learn a thing or two about where and how you're making mistakes.
  • Stop Breeding: One of the most costly things you'll ever own is a child. Data from the USDA shows that kids are frickin' expensive! For a child born in 2013 and up until they turn eighteen years old, the cost for care averages to nearly a quarter of a million dollars! Multiply that by two, three or even four kids... well, you've screwed yourself already. Use birth control or get an abortion before the damage is done.
  • Drive Something Reasonable: You're already broke as hell, but you're driving an Infiniti with a weekly payment plan at an interest rate over 20%. This is one reason why you're broke. Instead of driving a car you can't afford, why not invest in something cheaper, but just as dependable? You're not fooling anyone with your pricey sedan or SUV... especially when you park it in front of your trailer.
  • Quit Smoking and Drinking: This one should be obvious, but you boneheads still do it. Currently, a pack of name brand cigarettes can cost you between $5 and $15, depending on the state you're in. If you plow through a pack a day, that totals up to $1,825 on the low end and $5,475 on the high end annually! WOW! That has to be the most expensive way to commit suicide ever. Just think of what you could do with a couple thousand dollars extra in your bank account. The same train of thought can also be applied to alcohol. Cutting back on one six pack of beer a week can save you between $260 and $520 annually. That alone is worth one or two car payments.
  • Cut the Cord: If you're broke as a joke, you've got no business paying for television. Get yourself a decent digital antenna and watch television for free. Sure, the channel selection isn't as diverse, but you don't have to pay for it either. Television is one luxury you just don't need when you're poor. Better yet, take advantage of your local library and read a book!
  • Stop Eating Out: Believe it or not, you can actually eat food at home! Shocking, I know. Seriously, instead of eating nearly every meal out of a drive-thru window, try going grocery shopping and preparing your meals at home. Instead of spending forty dollars on take-out, put that cash towards a cart full of groceries. It'll last longer and you won't get so damn fat.
  • Put It Back: You don't need a new purse, shiny shoes or a pair of blinged-out sunglasses. If you spend more than $75 on a pair of sneakers (and that's me being very generous), then you're a total idiot. Unnecessary spending on clothing and personal accessories is an easy way to watch your money go bye-bye.
Unfortunately, the victims in all this nonsense are children. They have no control over how wretched their parents' choices are. If anything, consider making some changes to your personal finances so your kids have a better shot at succeeding in life. They didn't choose the world that you've placed them in. That's right -- I'm guilt-tripping you. You suck as a parent and your kids will be shitty because of your bad decisions.

There you have it -- some simple tips to keep money in your wallet. Though, it's probably all for naught. As the old saying goes...

A fool and his money are soon separated.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Tonight, I'm going to test a theory. You're now a participant in an experiment.

More often than not, I write about subjects that aren't what you'd consider popular. Let's just call a spade a spade, am I right? This evening, I'm going to flip the table and deploy a devious tactic.

I'm going to blog about celebrities!

But why would I try such an absurd method? The answer is simple. I want to see if writing about celebrities will increase the amount of web traffic my web site receives.

That being said, I'm going to cull a handful of recent events from various celebrity gossip sites from around the web. I have no prior knowledge about these events and will be relying solely upon the sources I'm going to use -- chiefly, Us Magazine, TMZ and People Magazine. In all cases, the people I'll be mentioning bear no importance to me. Rest assured -- I dread writing each and every word of this. Okay, here goes...
  • Kourtney Kardashian recently took pride in her massive weight loss, even going so far as to celebrate reaching 120 pounds via Instagram. Considering she just had her third child, that's quite an accomplishment (especially with all the personal trainers probably involved)! ~ via Us
  • Speaking of Kardashians, Kim and husband Kanye West recently went to Taco Bell for food. Yes, that's the news report. Celebrities apparently eat. ~ via TMZ
  • Sarah Palin congratulates her daughter Bristol for becoming engaged to Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer. The proposal apparently took place at a Rascal Flatts concert. That's Rascal Flatts -- your go-to band for country style proposals! ~ via People
  • Little... excuse me... Lil Wayne says he did not order a prostitute which recently showed up at his mansion in Miami. He claims that someone has been pranking him for weeks, with this just being the latest stunt. ~ via TMZ
  • Britney Spears is apparently working on a new album, but it will be a long while before it is finished. She's quoted as saying "There's a lot going on with my kids and schools and, you know, adding new sports and stuff like that." That's right, you heard it here first. Britney is adding new sports. I'm very eager to play her very first new sport -- Puckball! ~ via Us
I'm done now. Yuck. I need to go take a bath and scrub this filth off of me.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Oh No... Spring Is Coming!

The Springtime Cherry Blossoms (Sakura) outside Himeji Castle,
Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan

As I sit down to write this evening, I must confess that I'm a slight bit under the weather. For the past few days, I've been dealing with some chest congestion and sneezing. Thankfully, I don't feel too ill; it's all in my chest. No fever. No chills. No sore muscles.

I'm crossing my fingers. Let's hope I don't feel any worse.

With the season of Spring coming on March 20, I enter into the time of year that I dread the most -- allergy season. Besides being allergic to most all types of plant-based allergens, I also have asthma. It's a double whammy!

The oncoming of Spring is a double-edged sword. I'm eager to see all the flowers return. Just this week, my daffodils flowered. A few crocus also opened their flowers. Before long, my peach trees will be in bloom, as will all the iris in our garden beds. It's a real blessing to see the flowers return year after year... but with that luxury come the allergies.

Like any great allegory, Spring reminds me of a valuable lesson. There are positives and negatives to all things.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Preserving the Freedom of Speech.

The March on Washington -- August 28, 1963

Racists are real assholes.

I have no tolerance for bigots -- racists in particular. The color of a person's skin serves no importance. Skin color is merely a reflection of genetic heritage and where our ancestors originated from on this planet. We're all from one race - the HUMAN race.

All this being said, if you want to say some really horrible crap about a certain color of people, then that is your right. The First Amendment, which protects our right to freedom of speech, allows for all American citizens to say what they want.

What does all of this have to do with each other?

My brother (thanks James) recently highlighted a case where a group of fraternity brothers at the University of Oklahoma were caught on video singing a racially charged song of hate. They repeatedly used the word "nigger" in a manner that was not only insensitive, but spiteful.

And no, I do not use the term "n-word". To do so is ridiculous. We're all adults here. You can plainly see that I'm not employing the word "nigger" at someone. It's merely for context. Saying "n-word" is not only childish, but it's disrespectful to the proud men and women whom fought against its common everyday use. You can't deny the past with a linguistic loophole. We must never forget.

You can watch the racist chant here:

Back to my point...

The University of Oklahoma suspended the involved fraternity. The institution also expelled two of the students caught on camera singing their racist song. Here's my problem...

Those students caught on camera absolutely deserve all the negative attention they're receiving. What they did was horrendous and without merit. But, what they said is protected by the First Amendment, no matter how repulsive. The lesson here is simple.

To protect the freedom of speech for all citizens, you must also protect all types of speech.

You can't pick and choose which words can be spoken and which can not. If you do, then you upend the very foundation of the First Amendment. No matter what crap those University of Oklahoma students said, they should not have been expelled from campus. If anything, they should have had the opportunity to return to class and face the ire of their fellow students. I'd bet good money that they would have soon left anyway.

To preserve the freedom of speech for you and I, those same racists must be allowed to say what they want. Otherwise, how long will it be before we'll be censored for our own words -- whether hateful, compassionate or otherwise?

Also, look at it this way. Letting the racists spew their indignant philosophy makes them all the more easy to pinpoint! When a racist opens their mouth, it makes him or her pretty darn easy to spot.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Benefits of Olives.

There's nothing like a big, tasty bowl of olives. I could eat a whole bowl all by myself. Whether black, green or any color in between, I love them all!

Olives are one of life's little bundles of joy. They're cheap and easy to obtain here in the United States. You can put them on sandwiches, place them on a pizza or just enjoy them as a quick snack. Yet, what are some of the actual health benefits of the olive? Let's cover them!
  • Eating olives before a large meal will help to control your appetite. This is because of the monosaturated fatty acids found in olives. These fatty acids trigger the release of cholecystokinin, a hormone involved with digestion. It tells your brain to stop eating.
  • A few olives every day can lower your blood pressure and help to control your cholesterol.
  • Oleic acid is also found in olives. This is an excellent component for keeping your heart healthy.
  • Another benefit of oleic acid is more readily apparent. It's been proven to maintain the health of your skin, reducing both the propensity for wrinkles and keeping your skin color vibrant.
  • Olives are generally considered a super-food; they contain high levels of iron, potassium, magnesium, Vitamin A and phosphorus.
  • Because of the high levels of iron they contain, olives are definitely recommended for people whom suffer from anemia.
  • Polyphenols, which improve memory function in the brain, are also found in olives. Eating a handful a day can noticeable improve your ability to recall data.
  • Those whom want to improve their physical health and lose weight should incorporate olives into their meals. When you consume olives, they stimulate the production of adiponectin. This extends the amount of time your digestive tract will burn the fat found in your food.
  • Perhaps the most important factor of all -- olives contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory chemicals which fight against chronic oxidative stress. In simple terminology: olives help to prevent the development of cancer!
The next time you want to reach for a bag of potato chips or cookies, reach for a cup of olives instead. Your body will thank you.

Also, don't forget to wash those olives down with a cup of tea. That's a guaranteed knockout combo punch to poor health!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Who Isn't Invited to the Pity Party?

Here's a short list of people of which I don't have any inherent pity for.

  • Bull Riders
  • Disabled Veterans
  • Police Officers
  • Firemen
  • Coastal Homeowners
  • Professional Athletes
  • Drunk Drivers
  • Farmers
  • Acrobats
  • Motorcyclists
  • Miners
  • Surfers
  • Racecar Drivers

This isn't to say that I couldn't under certain circumstances, but there's no reason for me to feel pity by default.

You know what you're doing. You accept the risks associated with your career, hobby or personal venture. You don't get a free pass.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Why Tea Is Better Than Coffee.

I am an unabashed proponent of drinking tea. It's easy to make and tastes great. On top of that, it's just so much cooler to drink than plain old coffee.*

Plus, coffee tastes and smells like spoiled skunk meat. How all you people consume it, I have no idea. When I was a kid, my mom would brew coffee. The wretched smell would emanate throughout my house. On numerous occasions, the odor alone made me nauseated enough to vomit profusely. As I grew into an adult, I was brave enough to try coffee twice just to make sure I wasn't crazy. Both times, I upchucked.

Screw you coffee. You taste horrible.

Besides tasting great and coming in so many different flavors, what are some other benefits of drinking tea instead of coffee?
  • Tea has nearly the same amount of caffeine as coffee, but without the giant energy drop-off that you experience with drinking a cup of joe. The caffeine from tea is more mellow and sustains you longer.
  • Antioxidants are abundant in tea. This is a good thing; antioxidants are essential to preventing free radicals in your body from damaging cells. Essentially, it keeps you younger and healthier.
  • In terms of fluid intake and staying hydrated, you ingest more water drinking tea over coffee. Coffee is thicker and contains more of the actual bean, whereas tea is nearly all water. 
  • When most folks make coffee, they load it down with various creamers, flavors, sugars or whipped toppings. This adds an enormous amount of sugar and calories. When making tea, you just add tea leaves, boiling water and perhaps a single pack of sweetener (I use Splenda) for taste. BAM! A zero calorie beverage that gets you going without all that crap to pollute your system.
  • Tea doesn't stain your teeth nearly as bad as coffee does.
  • Drinking tea in moderation is beneficial to the health of your skeleton thanks to a component called catechins. It improves the strength of your bones!
  • Regular consumption of tea has been shown to improve the response time of your immune system.
So instead of pouring yourself a cup of disgusting coffee, next time try a piping hot cup of tea. Your body will thank you!

*This is my personal opinion. If you don't like it, oh well.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Why Does My Local TV News Suck?

Have you ever really payed attention to the quality of your local TV news?

The next time you're catching a televised news broadcast before or after dinner (5-6 PM), or resting in bed before going to sleep (10-11 PM), pay attention to the types of stories your local news station reports on. It doesn't matter which affiliate you choose -- CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox. Just pick one and focus.

Yep... local news sucks.

Since I live in a suburb of Greensboro, North Carolina, I have over-the-air access to local television news from a few different sources.

  • WFMY CBS News 2
  • WGHP Fox 8
  • WXLV ABC 45
  • WTVD ABC 11 (Raleigh-Durham)
I'm in a unique location where I'm out of range for my local NBC affiliate, but pick up the ABC station out of Raleigh to the east. Go figure.

No matter which broadcast I might happen to see, the routine is always the same -- lead off with the supposed "big news" of the day, then follow it up with ten minutes of fluff pieces. Finally, close the broadcast out with ten minutes of sports scores and highlights. Fluff pieces are stories that bear little to no importance, but are trumped up as having pertinence for the sake of dramatization. Here's an example that one of my local stations recently reported on:

(click me)

Now please explain to me -- HOW IN THE HOLY HELL IS THIS PERTINENT TO MY LIFE? Is it a sad thing that an old couple had their wedding rings stolen? Of course. Is it important enough to put on the evening news and consume nearly 7% of the entire broadcast? No way! This is one of a near endless stream of fluff stories that pad out the local news. Here's another example:

(click me)

Yet again, another non-relevant story that doesn't deserve two minutes, let alone two seconds, on an evening news broadcast. Basically, someone got paid a check. If that's evening news-caliber content... hell, I process tons of financial transactions every day. Let's do some reporting on my life.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Local news is filled with very little actual news -- it's all fluff about weddings, automobile accidents, cops arresting someone unimportant, donuts, celebrities, how to find the best deal on tennis shoes, what apps you should be downloading and much more useless garbage!

Concurrently, the national news broadcasts from the major networks are terrible; I wrote them off ages ago. They're bought and paid for by their sponsors. The only "news" you'll see there is what they want you to see -- just more mainstream crap lacking content and with little substance. Yet, local news actually has the opportunity to break away from that sour tradition. News stations, especially those in smaller television markets, have the chance to do groundbreaking journalism that actually digs deep into important stories. Why not provide information on:
  • local political movements
  • city or county policy measures
  • zoning changes
  • law updates from the state legislature
  • uncover information about crooked politicians
  • send reporters abroad for international events
  • cover environmental issues and accidents
  • investigate corrupt businesses
  • breakthroughs in science, technology and medicine
There's a plethora of relevant information and events that can and will influence our lives -- the leg work just has to be done. The problem? Program directors and station managers don't want to invest the time, energy and resources into fulfilling the promise of actual journalism. They want their reporters to pass along the same tired crap that every other news station will recycle... what's on the local school lunch menu, celebrity sightings, pointless cooking segments. Of course, let's not forget how important all those high school or college football and basketball scores are -- how dare I speak ill of it!

Guess what -- your local sports scores are crap. They mean nothing. NOTHING! If I want to check on the score of a sporting event (whether local or professional), I have this little thing CALLED THE INTERNET!

And don't even get me started on weather reporting. Around these parts, a few inches of snow puts an absolute grinding halt to everything. We recently had some fairly substantial snow fall in the area and that's ALL the news broadcasts covered. Why they felt the need to do satellite remotes with reporters freezing their asses off in the snow baffles me. I don't need to watch douche bags sledding down interstate ramps or building snow men.

The one part of the local news that I don't place any blame are the reporters. They got into journalism to do actual, groundbreaking work. I can only imagine the look on the face of a first-day reporter. Surely, they wonder why they spent many years in college and many thousands of dollars on a journalism or broadcasting degree to report on a local housefire. Talk about draining the life out of your own soul.

At this point, why do they even bother to call it "news". Instead, just call a spade a spade -- its merely a local pop culture magazine.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

eBay Buyer Scam Artists.

Nothing like a crappy eBay buyer to ruin my Friday night. Here's the rundown.

A few weeks ago, I sold an original Transformers Beast Wars Transmetals Megatron action figure (seen above). It was complete with the box and all parts. I shipped it to a customer in Texas. A few days after receiving it, this customer (whom will remain nameless) wrote me and said that it was broken. Quickly, I responded that I would file an insurance claim with the post office and get them their money back. All I needed from them were some photos of the damaged item so I could complete the insurance claim.

Instances like this are exactly why I put insurance on the high-value items I sell in the first place.

Leap forward to last night. After going a week without contacting me, the buyer finally wrote back. They said that "their customer finally brought the broken Megatron back to them."

Their customer? Oh boy... this sent me into full-on raging detective mode!

Come to find out, my buyer operates one of the largest vintage toy stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. They have nearly forty thousand followers on Facebook. They also regularly host appearances by professional wrestlers and comic book artists in their retail location. Needless to say, they're a big deal.

After a series of intense questioning, the buyer/store owner revealed that they received the Megatron figure, placed it for sale in their store, then RESOLD it to a customer in their establishment. That customer then took the Megatron out of the store, only to return the next day and say it was broken. It took that customer nearly a week to return the broken Megatron to the person whom bought it from me!

Yes, that's right... they conducted a totally new transaction with the item that I had NO connection to, only to expect ME to correct the matter.

Instead of them telling their own customer that they couldn't take a return on an item that wasn't broken when they sold it, they want me to commit insurance fraud to cover their butt! How absurd is that?!

Obviously, I told them that I could not do such a thing. My responsibility for the item ended when they received it in good condition. Once they placed it for sale in their own store and resold it, the responsibility was on them. Ugh... and to think, I had to spend two hours explaining this to a person whom just wanted to play dumb and rip me off. On top of that, I spent another hour on hold with eBay customer service just so they were aware of the situation. Thankfully, my service agent was really nice and completely understood the situation (thanks Omar) -- my responsibilities as the seller were met and satisfied.

What irks me the worst is that there are shady businessmen in this world whom would even attempt to pull such a scam. This isn't the first horror story I've faced in my role as a vintage toy and collectibles retailer. Undoubtedly, it will not be the last. When it comes to doing business with geeks and nerds, that's just the nature of the beast.

Friday, March 6, 2015

We're in the Midwest. Now What?

Crystal and I are planning our next big vacation for 2015. After such a successful journey out west to New Mexico last year, we'd like to replicate those results. This time, I think we're considering traveling through the Midwest.

The basis of the idea is simple; we can do a big loop through Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. I know right off the bat that we can go see a Cardinals baseball game (which Crystal is only ever-slightly excited about), but I'm trying to think of other ideas for things to see.

This is where I turn to you, my readers. Can you provide any suggestions for sites to see in the Midwest? Our loop would take us through Louisville, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Chicago and St. Louis. We both like to see natural things -- parks, mountains, lakes and gardens. I enjoy cultural landmarks, art and museums. Crystal likes animals and nature. Your suggestions would be greatly appreciated.