Sunday, May 31, 2015

TV Shows That Got The Ax Far Too Soon.

Sometimes, there's just no saving a good television show. Many times in the past, I've unfortunately watched a favorite program get the ax, at times without resolving a cliffhanger ending. Here are three great examples of much-loved television shows that met premature deaths.


Ugly Americans - This half-hour animated comedy premiered on Comedy Central in 2010, only to be canceled after two seasons in 2012. Featuring a colorful cast of demons, monsters, wizards, beasts and devils, Ugly Americans wasn't your typical cartoon. The plots usually delved into the absurd aspects of real life, offering up commentary on how ridiculous modern living can be. Protagonist Mark Lilly is a social worker in New York City. He works for the Department of Integration, which seeks to manage non-human entities living in the city. Combine that with an on-again, off-again office romance with his boss Callie Maggotbone (a succubus none the less) and you've got the makings of a gut-busting show. Every episode is near perfect, especially the season one finale "The Manbirds" -- naked man-chicken hybrids compete in barbarian-esque "cock" fights. This is one cartoon you shouldn't watch with kids in the room. Ugly Americans was canceled due to not enough financing to keep it afloat -- animation isn't cheap!


Quantum Leap - Representing one of my favorite shows from my youth, Quantum Leap had a terribly sad ending that left its fans wanting more. The show featured Dr. Sam Beckett as he time traveled from one person to the next, leaping into their body and "righting what once went wrong". The show began in 1989 and ran for five seasons on NBC. It was a critical success and garnered decent ratings throughout most of its run. The last episode of season five was purposefully written to be ambiguous -- the network hadn't wholly guaranteed that the show would be renewed for a sixth season. Yet, once production of the fifth season wrapped, NBC re-edited the final episode, changed the content and left Sam to forever leap from one life to the next -- he never made it home. Talk about a bummer.


King of the Hill - Those of you who know me well are fully aware that KOTH is one of my all-time favorites. Over the course of its thirteen seasons, we watched as the Hill Family explored every nuance of American life. Patriarch Hank Hill started out as a somewhat close-minded, bland sort of guy. Yet, by the end, Hank was friendly, out-going and fairly liberal (by Texan standards). Throughout the life of the series, KOTH faced scheduling issues because of the Fox Network -- largely due to Sunday NFL football games. With pre-empted episodes, fans sometimes missed the show for weeks at a time (the entire tenth season was nothing but pre-empted shows from season nine). Yet, somehow, KOTH managed to survive year after year. The show faced cancellation multiple times throughout its run, but ultimately met its demise in 2009 (to be replaced by The Cleveland Show... blah). Four un-aired episodes from the final season were eventually shown later in 2010 via syndication. While the program didn't end on a cliffhanger, myself and other fans feel there was plenty of life left in King of the Hill. For a meager show that started in 1997, it managed to keep up with the changing landscape of television, technology, the internet and how people communicate. I miss it to this day.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Mixed Nuts.

There they sat -- motionless, without a care in the world. Their impenetrable shells turned every which way, jutting in all directions. Encapsulated in a clear, formless container, there was little that could prevent their escape.


An entire, unopened bag of mixed nuts... just sitting there.

Calvin Dekalb arrived home early from work that day. As he crossed the threshold of his overpriced, under-furnished apartment, that bag of nuts stared at him without pity. He dropped his work belt next to the door, removed his trousers and made for the toilet.

What a bastard, forcing his bag of mixed nuts to watch such filth.

After taking care of business, Calvin plopped before his television, belched like a yawning mule and realized he forgot his crappy beer in the fridge. Rising forth like the champion he thought he was, Calvin grabbed a few bottles of carbonated mediocrity and marched towards his throne.

But not before he grabbed his bag of mixed nuts.

Flipping through over four hundred channels of nothing can be hard work. Yet, our man Calvin had everything under control -- one hand on the remote, one hand tucked down his boxer shorts. Al Bundy would have been proud.

Flip-Flip-Scratch.

Scratch-Flip-Scratch.

Flip-Scratch-Scratch.

Calvin was the pinnacle of modern manhood; that much he clearly had going for him. Those mixed nuts would disagree, however.

Finally settling on a titillating presentation of women's beach volleyball, Calvin popped his first brew. Slamming the cap against the side of his end table, it flew gently through the air like a diving Olympian, ever so gracefully and elegant. The same couldn't be said for the river of beer trailing down his chin and into his belly button. That swirling yellow pit of bubbles brimmed with a fury of two, maybe even three sloths.

Oh no, Calvin reached for his bag of mixed nuts! The end was nigh!

But they were gone... where did Calvin's bag of mixed nuts run off to?

What lowly plumber Calvin Dekalb failed to realize was that his world was about to change forever... and he was grossly under-prepared.

Calvin popped up from his battered recliner and looked underneath. Only an empty bag could be seen. The mixed nuts were nowhere in sight. As the crack of his rump peeked over his boxer shorts, his television cast a mysterious glow over it. Like two hillsides nestled together under the light of a full moon, they wobbled back and forth. Lurching back into his chair, Calvin was too lazy to actually continue with his search. Better luck next time, right?

Wrong.

At first. the mixed nuts wiggled like drunken golf balls. They clanked together occasionally at first, then more often as the vibrating grew stronger. As the slamming rose in intensity, edges of the mixed nuts began to chip away.

Underneath their hard brown shells, no nuts were to be found.

Suddenly, the mixed nuts stopped moving. Calvin ripped a massive fart that would have stirred the corpse of Helen Keller. The eruption from below was loud enough to drown out the grunts of the girls playing volleyball. It also muffled the sound of the nut shells cracking wide open. Reaching for his second beer, Calvin was startled to see a crab-like critter perched upon his armrest. It was a bold blue in color, with four tiny pincher claws and a series of bristles ruffled down the backside. A cluster of knobby eyes bounced up and down, as if it was sizing up the boorish Calvin Dekalb.

It was.

Two more of the curious beings crawled up the chair, then two more. Eventually, Calvin was sitting face to face with a couple dozen of the miniature beings. Like any oaf would, he reached his hand out to slap them. Cursing their existence and swatting at them like mosquitoes, Calvin became frantic. Had he of been more civil, perhaps he'd have lived to see set point. Meh, his loss.

In unison, the tiny fiends engulfed Calvin's swatting arm. They surgically removed every ounce of flesh from his elbow to his fingertips, leaving nothing but his spotless, exposed skeleton. Calvin shrieked in terror at the vision of his unsightly bones. Unfortunately for Calvin, his screaming gave the blue beasts a direct entryway into his gullet. They launched at his throat like crickets in a bucket, leaving nothing in their wake.

Ten minutes later, Calvin Dekalb was nothing more than a hollowed out cadaver that didn't get to enjoy his last beer. Most of the tiny invaders finished their meal and split. They crawled back into their shells, engaged the automorphic reconstruction sequence, and warped back to their various cluster hubs floating somewhere above the frozen seas of Europa.

As two of the perplexing azure body-squatters sat nestled in Calvin's rib cage, they consumed the last morsels of meat on his sternum. One of the googly-eyed stragglers smacked his mandibles and nudged the other.

"Hey Morxplxya, good game. These ladies can H-O-P!"

*BUUUUUUUUUUUUUuuuuUUUUUuuuuRppppPPPPP!*

Wiping the last remnants of man-meat from his face, the other claw beast winked and giggled.

"Ghahahahar! Hey Vllllarsik, this schmuck missed out. We'd probably have let him finish watching the game if he wasn't such an ass."

And there they sat... a couple of mixed nuts.

Friday, May 29, 2015

States I Won't Reside In (And Neither Should You) - Part III.

Here it is, folks. This is the final part in my States I Won't Reside In (And Neither Should You) series. Here are Part I and Part II if you're catching up. I've combined my results from the previous two parts and come up with a ranking of all fifty states -- from least likely to most likely to reside in. Here's how I did it.

For each map (one climate based, one social based), I awarded points in the following manner:
  • A state marked as "no major reason not to live there" earns a +1 per map.
  • A state marked as "would only consider living in certain specific areas" earns a +0.5 per map.
  • A state marked as having only one specific problem as a deterrent earns a -1 per map.
  • A state marked as having "more than one reason not to live there" earns a -2 per map.

Behold, a compiled list of results! There are eight categories of point totals (-4, -3, -1.5, -0.5, 0, 1, 1.5, 2). We'll start at the very bottom and work are way to the top.

-4 Points (The Worst of the Worst) ~ Black
  • Florida
-3 Points (Pretty Bad) ~ Dark Red
  • Alabama
  • California
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
-1.5 Points (Fairly Objectionable) ~ Red
  • Georgia
  • Minnesota
-0.5 Points (Probably Not) ~ Orange
  • Arizona
  • Kansas
  • Massachusetts
  • Nebraska
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Utah
0 Points (It's a Toss Up) ~ Yellow
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • New Hampshire
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington
1 Point (Slightly Better Chance) ~ Light Blue
  • Alaska
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin
1.5 Points (Probably Would) ~ Dark Blue
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Missouri
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming
2 Points (The Best of the Best) ~ Green
  • Delaware
  • Nevada
  • Ohio
Wow, what a list! Who would have guessed that my top three states that I'd consider residing in would be Delaware, Nevada or Ohio? Each state affords its residents both wonderful natural beauty and a friendly climate. Ironically, all three are also key geographic hub locations. Ohio is an excellent starting point for traveling all over the Mid-West. Delaware is perfect for getting up and down the East Coast. Nevada is centered squarely in the West. If you like to travel (and I do), then each of these three states is a prime candidate.

As we go down the list of results, we can see that there's lots of other states I'd consider living in, but only in certain metropolitan areas. Arkansas would be a perfectly acceptable state for residence if living near a major city, as would Missouri.

Farther down the list, there are states where it would take some serious convincing for me to live there, like Vermont (beautiful and friendly, but terrible winters) and Utah (gorgeous landscape, but too many religious fundamentalists).

Then we have the dredges of the states, places like Alabama, California, Minnesota and Mississippi. I'd have to be under duress to consider living in these states. They are not appealing to me at all.

Finally, in last place, all by its lonesome... we have Florida. What a terrible, terrible place to ever live. Never in a million years would I even dream of owning a home in the Sunshine State.

Thanks for following along on this journey, my friends. I'd be curious to see your own results. Complete the two maps, tally up your points and share the results. Until next time!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

States I Won't Reside In (And Neither Should You) - Part II.

Yesterday, I wrote about the states within America that I would and would not choose to reside, based solely upon climate and potential for natural disasters. Today, I'll do the same thing, but base my selections upon only social factors -- population size, overarching poverty, predominant political conservatism, lack of progressiveness and religious extremism. Here's that map again, but it certainly looks different from yesterday.

(Part III of this series is available here.)


Each color symbolizes the following:
Blue - Too Populated
Brown - Would Only Consider Living In Certain Specific Areas
Green - No Major Reason Not To Live There
Purple - More Than One Reason Not To Live There
Red - Too Conservative

As you can see, the entire country is awash in brown. When it comes to selecting a state to reside, social factors are a much more specific qualifier to choose against. Most states harbor tangled social climates that are both ultra conservative and progressive - these are typically representative of rural and metropolitan areas, respectively.

I'll explain further, by color and the associated issue.

Too Populated (Blue) - Only one state occupies this color - California. There are simply too many people living in the Golden State for me to feel comfortable residing there.

Only Specific Areas (Brown) - This is the vast majority of the United States. More often than not, it boils down to living in a rural area (typically conservative) versus a metropolitan area (more progressive). One state that exemplifies this perfectly is Kentucky. Your major cities in Kentucky and their surrounding communities are fairly moderate and accepting of people from all walks of life. Yet, the rural parts of the state are highly conservative in nature. Other states like Michigan, Virginia and New Mexico represent a conflict of economics -- some parts are highly impoverished with little opportunity for growth, while some parts are full of chances for success.

No Major Reason Not To Live Here (Green) - These are states where the political and social climates are just predominately right. Such examples include Nevada and Vermont.

More Than One Reason Not To Live Here (Purple) - Such states where multiple factors would deter me from ever residing there. Places like Florida (highly populated, conservative, impoverished in areas) and Alabama (too religious, too conservative, impoverished) hold little to no interest for me.

Too Conservative (Red) - Two states fall into this category -- Utah and Arizona. I would not want to live here because their prevailing political attitudes are vastly different from my own. I'd be constantly annoyed by my fellow citizens, and that's no way to live.

With tomorrow's article (Part III), I will compile the data from my two maps and reveal the states where I'm most (and least) likely to choose for a residence.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

States I Won't Reside In (And Neither Should You) - Part I.

Presented below is a map of the United States. I have color coded each state to represent places I would and would not be interested in residing in long term, as pertaining to its respective climate and threat of natural disasters. This map does not represent states where I would feel uncomfortable to live because of the political and social climate, which is for another article entirely (Part II).

(Part III of this series is available here.)



Each color symbolizes the following:
Blue - Hurricanes
Brown - Would Only Consider Living In Certain Specific Areas
Green - No Major Reason Not To Live There
Orange - Seismic / Volcanic Activity
Purple - High Snowfall / Blizzards
Red - More Than One Reason Not To Live There
Yellow - Tornadoes

You might find this map to be peculiar, but I consider very seriously the climate of a region. As an intelligent, responsible adult, you must take it upon yourself to wisely choose a place to live. If you choose to live in areas where natural disasters strike often, then I have little pity for you should you lose your home or perish.

I'll explain further, by color and the associated hazard.

Hurricanes (Blue) - Many states along the Gulf Coast are hammered regularly by dangerous hurricanes. It seems senseless to have a home in such an area, especially when the land is so close to sea level (or in some cases, below it). If you live in New Orleans by choice, then you're a buffoon.

Only Specific Areas (Brown) - If a state is brown on the map, that means I probably wouldn't consider living in most parts of it. I only believe a specific area or city to be safely habitable. For example... Idaho is flush against Washington and Oregon, where seismic and volcanic threats are high. As such, I'd only consider living in the central or eastern region of Idaho. As with Iowa, the western portion of the state is in Tornado Alley, but the eastern side is relatively safe. With Georgia, I would only consider the very northern portion of the state, which is far enough away from the Gulf Coast. You get the idea.

No Major Reason Not To Live Here (Green) - These are states where potential natural disasters and climate present a low, manageable threat. Most (but not necessarily all) of the land in these states is habitable long-term. Obviously, areas near the coast line would be excluded.

Seismic / Volcanic Activity (Orange) - This is an area where the threat of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are the most severe. Obviously, states like California fall into this category, but Oregon and Washington do as well. Most folks are unaware of the danger presented by the Cascadia Fault, which runs through the Pacific Northwest. As such, this region is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.

High Snowfall / Blizzards (Purple) - I personally like snow, but I do not want to spend extended periods of time trapped without the ability to move around. High snowfall totals also present problems with driving, which many people are not skilled enough to handle. Along with snow and blizzards come prolonged power outages. Thanks, but no thanks.

More Than One Reason (Red) - States painted red are places I would never even remotely consider residing. California faces not only earthquakes, but also severe drought. Minnesota faces intense snowfall and blizzards in the northern part of the state, while the southern portion is within Tornado Alley. Florida is prone to hurricanes and extremely hot temperatures.

Tornadoes (Yellow) - These are areas that regularly suffer tornadoes. It seems year after year, folks rebuild their homes directly in the path of common tornado strikes. This is absurd to me -- why anyone lives here, I have no idea.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Possible Movie Remakes That Should Never, Ever Be Made.

These days, it seems Hollywood movie studios want to remake every old film imaginable. No matter the genre or how good (or bad) the original source material was, they'll remake it!  Just today, I saw the new trailer for the upcoming remake of Point Break, which was originally released in 1991.

That's right... they've remade Point Break.

With today's article, I will toss out some ideas for other old films that'll probably get remakes in the near future, but shouldn't.


City Slickers - Face it... this is a remake that has Seth Rogen and James Franco written all over it. Imagine our goofy duo from Pineapple Express testing their limits on an old-fashioned dude ranch. As to filling the shoes of Jack Palance's character Curly, why not shove Nicholas Cage into that role -- he's probably crazy enough to do it!


King Ralph - Featuring perhaps one of John Goodman's most under-appreciated roles, King Ralph would be a massive hit as a remake in today's shallow pool movie climate. Thanks to all the fervor over the British Royal Family these days, a film that channels that insanity would make big bucks at the local cineplex. Who better to star as a bumbling lounge singer turned royal pain in the arse than everyone's favorite comedic idiot -- Adam Sandler! (In all honesty, the movie would suck; but you and I both know it would make three or four hundred million dollars as a Sandler vehicle.)


Sister Act - As the sixth highest grossing film of 1992, Sister Act was an extremely popular film that shot Whoopi Goldberg to new heights as a mega movie star. Why not try to catch lightning in a bottle twice? This is a remake that has Lady Gaga written all over it. We know she can dance. We know she can sing. But... does she have the chops to pull off a lounge singer in witness protection? Here's the real question -- do we finally get to see a nun in an all meat habit?


Critters - Perhaps the last great (great?) horror franchise of the '80s that hasn't seen a possible remake, Critters is destined to become a PG-13 action/horror/comedy starring Kevin Hart (intergalactic bounty hunter) and Paul Rudd (blue-collar schmuck protecting his family). Those bouncing balls of bloody chaos would be prime candidates for some CGI-based tomfoolery. Toss in Melissa McCarthy as the head critter alien and you've got the makings of this decade's biggest film!

And now... the worst possible remake of all.


The Princess Bride - If you think this classic is off limits from being remade by the vultures in the film industry, you'd be dead wrong. Nothing is sacred in Hollywood... even such a beloved and cherished movie as this. The film will probably get a dozen rewrites, go through two directors and finally finish production way over budget. Of course, they'll want some young, suave sex icon to star as Westley, aka the dashing Dread Pirate Roberts. Who's that guy right now? Channing Tatum, without a doubt. Obviously, the remake's producers will seek out an equally as appealing, but slightly older, hunk with an alluring accent to play Inigo Montoya -- Jude Law, anyone? So what if Inigo is Spanish in the original film? By the time this turd of a remake hits the big screen, it'll have gone through more rewrites than Beverly Hills Cop III! Fezzik will be completely CGI in the remake, but voiced by the endearing goofball Zach Galifianakis. To really empower the villainous and sly Prince Humperdinck, producers will hire the living chameleon Sacha Baron Cohen. Look out for a surprise cameo by Neil Patrick Harris as Miracle Max! And let's not forget the music, which was so remarkable in the original (thanks Mark Knopfler). Who else to craft a new, modern soundtrack for The Princess Bride remake but John Mayer?!

I think I just vomited a little in my mouth.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Senseless Littering.

Over the course of the past few weeks, I've made a point to take notice of the litter people leave behind. In shopping centers, along major roadways and even in public parks, humans seem to leave a massive amount of trash wherever they go. This is seriously disturbing to me.


While visiting a park along the Haw River, the litter was egregiously scattered all throughout. Soda bottles, food wrappers, cigarette packs and used napkins were all over the place. There were trash bins easily reachable within walking distance. Yet, visitors somehow found it appropriate to throw their garbage on the ground.


Another troubling example was the amount of fast food waste left in parking lots. Upon finishing their meal, people would recklessly toss their used food bags, drink cups and wrappers out their car and directly onto the ground. Could you not take the trash home and place it in your garbage bin? Obviously, they couldn't -- that trash needed to leave their vehicle that very instant.

You'd be surprised at how many used diapers I happened across. I won't even go into the details. This was disgusting.


At a Lowe's Home Improvement store, I even found where someone had put old paint in the parking lot and left it. Really? You couldn't throw the canisters into the trash? Much less, couldn't you donate the unused paint to a local Habitat For Humanity or other second-hand store? Even an ad on Craigslist saying "Paint For Free" would have been more appropriate.


While stopped at an interstate off-ramp intersection, I looked out my window at all of the garbage along the road. Drivers had tossed out cups, bottles, beer cans, magazines and, above all else, cigarette butts. There must have been thousands of used filters along the edge of where the tarmac met the grass. It was simply repugnant. What callous smokers whom toss their butts on the ground fail to realize is that they are NOT readily biodegradable. Tobacco filters are made from cellulose acetate, which is a type of plastic. Depending on the particular manufacturer, those butts can take between two and ten years to break down, if not longer. When you throw your cigarette on the ground, you're leaving a piece of trash that lingers for a long time, just like plastic bottles. Astoundingly, this doesn't even take into consideration the threat of fires and the toxic effects on wildlife. Just because nearly every smoker does it, that doesn't make it right. You can litter your own lungs if you want, but leave nature alone.

Littering is an unrepentant slap to Mother Nature's face. When you toss trash on the ground without so much as an afterthought, you're representing the worst in humanity. Please respect yourself and your planet a little bit more. Put your garbage in its proper place.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Voter Statistics Don't Lie.


I recently came across a report concerning voter turnout in the 2012 Presidential Election. Information in the report was sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau, so I know it is fairly accurate. The numbers were somewhat surprising. Accordingly, I believe my readers should be made aware of these numbers, as to encourage voting on a broader scale.

No matter the candidates presented to you, voting is the last ounce of power left with the People of these United States. Don't like the candidates on your ballot? You can always ask for a write-in ballot. Either way -- MAKE SURE YOU VOTE!

In the 2012 Presidential Election, overall turnout was around 57%. Approximately 93,000,000 Americans failed to exercise their right to vote. That's pathetic.

Of the Americans whom did vote, the breakdown went as follows.

In households earning less than $50,000, only 62% bothered to vote. When compared to higher income households earning more than $75,000, that number drastically jumps to 77%.

The length of time a person has lived in their home also affects their likelihood to vote. 76% of those having spent five years or more in the same location voted. Of those in the same spot for a year to four years, turnout was 64%. Those at their location for a year or less were the least likely to vote -- only 61%.

Perhaps the biggest gap in voter turnout during the 2012 Presidential Election was in age. Of voters age 18 to 29, 45% cast a vote. That number skyrocketed to 66% when looking at voters over the age of 30.

Finally, ethnicity also played a key role in the election. 64% of non-Hispanic Caucasians voted. For the first time in history, the percentage of voting African-Americans eclipsed the turnout of Whites -- 66%. Alarmingly, Hispanics and Asians were astounding less likely to have voted. Only 48% of Hispanics did so, whereas 47% of Asians turned out at the voting booth. Overall, minority groups failed to surpass the number of White voters in total.

What can be learned from these statistics?

Older Caucasians with established homes and higher incomes were the most likely to vote. Highly mobile citizens, whom are often younger, earning less income and potentially of an ethnic minority group, were less likely to vote.

So where do we go from here?

The numbers don't lie. To improve voter turnout, we need to make it easier for citizens to vote. That means increasing registration periods, enacting same-day registration policies, making polling locations available to all potential voters (regardless of residence), making Election Day a national holiday, adding extra days to the voting period, increasing the number of voting locations and making the voting process less cumbersome.

In my personal opinion, taking a stance against these corrective measures indicates that you're opposed to all citizens having an equal opportunity to vote.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Sabotage For The Win.

Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses - John William Waterhouse, 1891

There once was a pair of devoted secretaries at the most prestigious accounting firm in the city. Gloria, age 48, was a senior member of the company; she'd been there since it was founded. The other secretary was Candice, age 25. Though only an employee for three years, she was a dedicated, hard worker. Both ladies were well respected within the organization. Just ask any of the other staff members and they would tell you -- without Gloria and Candice, the company would cease to function. They were the glue that held it all together.

Unbeknownst to Candice, Gloria had grown jealous of her younger compatriot. She felt threatened at the possible notion that Candice would soon replace her. This ate at Gloria's soul like a dark sickness, gnawing away at every last shred of decency. So, Gloria did what any threatened alpha predator would do -- she sabotaged Candice's latest slide presentation project. Instead of charts and graphs, there were naked photos of people in various positions. Needless to say, management was not thrilled when they saw the results. Candice was fired on the spot and told to clean her desk out by the end of the day.

As Candice gathered her belongings, she found a letter tucked within her desk and addressed to her. Inside, it said...
"Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill."
Knowing immediately that her fellow secretary had ruined her career with the company, Candice furiously stormed out of the office, never to be seen by Gloria again.

Twenty years later, Gloria was celebrating her retirement with the firm. She was leaving with a hefty retirement fund and accolades too numerous to count. In the span of two decades, Gloria had even managed to get her own daughter hired on with the accounting firm; she was now a senior vice president. Everything was coming up roses for the crafty old secretary. That is, until she fell out of a window on the eighteenth floor of the accounting firm's gigantic office building. She landed face first on a fire hydrant on the street below. Teeth and eyeballs blasted all over the place; it looked like a face salad. Strangely, the police found a note inside Gloria's jacket.
 "And where the offense is, let the great axe fall."
At this point, you may be thinking -- A-ha, Candice finally exacted revenge on the old witch!

You would be wrong.

All the way across the country, Candice sat in the lap of luxury. Soon after being let go from the accounting firm, she started a small bakery with a seed investment from her father. Over the years, Candice became very successful. With three locations along the coast, Candice evolved into one of the finest caterers in the lucrative wedding industry.

While working on a cake shaped like a baseball for her son's little league team, Candice happened to see a particularly interesting news segment on television. The reporter relayed information about the freak accidental death of a woman whom fell from a skyscraper, only to be found with a mysterious note. When Candice heard the name of the deceased party, a slight grin spread across her face. The news anchor continued their report...
"If you have any information about Gloria's death, please call the FBI at..."
Flipping the television off, Candice placed the last bit of decoration on her cake, slid it in the cooler, turned the bakery's lights off and went home to her loving family.

So what's the moral of the story, you're surely wondering?

Sometimes, the best thing that can happen to you is a setback.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Time To Pick Strawberries!


Oh, what a lovely day for picking strawberries! Crystal and I made a visit to Apple Farm, located in Gibsonville, North Carolina. This has become our go-to spot for strawberries.

Just a few of the endless rows of strawberries.

They have a vast strawberry patch where you can pick your own berries. We stopped by early this morning. Upon arrival, we happened upon an endless series of rows dedicated to the luscious red fruit. After only half an hour, we'd picked over ten pounds worth of strawberries. It was a real pleasure to get out in the country and pick our own, versus buying them at a grocery store. Much less, the knowledge that our fruit is completely fresh is very comforting. Who knows where the strawberries in grocery stores come from? They may not even be from America.

Just a few of the many gems I found hidden underneath the leaves.

At only $1.25 per pound, Apple Farm offers a substantial bargain on strawberries. You just have to be willing to invest a little bit of time and sweat to get what you want. In my book, that's a fair deal. If you're in the area, stop by Apple Farm and give them some business. They offer many other fruits and vegetables besides strawberries, as well as flowering plants. I'm sure they'd appreciate your support.

Apple Farm's NC Farm Fresh Profile

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Grinding My Gears! - Rubbernecking

Oh crap, it's...


In today's installment of my long running series Grinding My Gears!, I want to discuss the persistent thorns in my ass that are rubberneckers. On the way home from grocery shopping, I was stuck behind a long line of vehicles. Upon reaching the crest of the next hill, I saw the reason for my delay -- a police officer parked beside the road with his lights flashing. The closer I came to the officer's cruiser, the slower the person in front of me drove. When it came time for the driver before me to pass by the cop, they slowed almost to a halt, looked out the window at the officer and swerved nearly off the road.

WHY-WHY-WHY-WHY-WHY-WHY-WHY-WHY?!
WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!

After ceasing my screaming at the driver, they continued to putz down the road at a very slow speed. Why? I couldn't tell you. There was no reason for them to slow down while passing the police officer, that's for damn sure. I'll get to my frustration with the cop in a moment.

Oh look, a traffic jam. There must be a massive wreck up ahead.
Er, wait... it's just someone changing a flat tire.

I'm sick and tired of folks staring at things happening beside the road, all the while recklessly endangering the lives of other drivers. Whatever is taking place, there is no reason for you to slow down and look. Don't turn your head. Keep your eyes on the road and ignore the flashing lights. Every time I see some moron rubbernecking, this is what I imagine is going through their mind:

"Ooooohhh... pretty flashy lights. I must turn my head and look now. Doh, pretty lights!"

Congratulations! You helped cause a traffic jam because you couldn't stay focused on THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU SHOULD BE WORRIED ABOUT WHILE DRIVING... WHICH IS DRIVING!

Rubbernecking is a leading cause of motor vehicle accidents where a distracted driver is at fault. Current estimates place rubbernecking as being responsible for between ten and twenty percent of ALL roadway accidents. That's not just ridiculous; it's downright moronic. Shape up, American drivers! I'm tired of your crap. 

Now, as to the dumb police officer. Why was he stopped beside the road? I'll tell you. He was staring at a bag of what looked like fast food, mashed in the center of the road. Was he going to arrest the flattened french fries? Beats me, but he had his emergency lights on nevertheless. Here's a police tip -- if you don't need your emergency lights, DON'T USE THEM! Your lights do nothing but attract idiot drivers like the one who was in front of me. Turn the damn lights off, do what you got to do, and get the hell on down the highway!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Signs That You're A Spoiled Person.


For the sake of keeping your life in check, here are a few signs that you're living the existence of a spoiled person.
  • You smoke in your luxury automobile. Nothing drives me nuts more than some middle-aged house wife smoking in her BMW. I just want to grab that broad by her neck and squeeze until her head pops. Smoking does irreparable damage to the interior of a vehicle. Once cigarette smoke seeps into the upholstery, it's practically impossible to get it out. Want to light up in your '97 Toyota Tercel? Go for it -- you're driving a dumpster on wheels anyway. But to smoke in your brand new Audi? Get over yourself -- you just ruined a perfectly good automobile.
  • You will only purchase name brand food products. Give me a frickin' break. You'll spend nearly twice as much on a box of Cheerios (no coupon of course) when a store brand circular oat cereal is much cheaper -- and they're probably manufactured in the same facility. There's nothing wrong with name brand products, but there's also nothing wrong with store brands and generics. Guess what -- your colon doesn't know the difference! And speaking of stuff you put in your mouth...
  • You demand top shelf liquor at bars and restaurants. You do realize that the folks working behind the bar could care less about your standards. You might ask for Jack Daniels in your Coke, but you're probably getting Ancient Age... and your dumb ass can't tell the difference.
  • You scoff at the idea of attending a movie matinee. Seriously, I've encountered people that complain about seeing a movie early in the day. Apparently, films are only enjoyable at night time after the ticket price has eclipsed the ten dollar mark.
  • You will only date one specific type of person. When it comes to co-mingling with a potential lover, you'll only go after one particular type -- blondes, short girls, African-American men, rich guys, women with daddy issues, skinny, etc. Get the hell over yourself! Finding a partner or lover isn't like visiting a pet shop.
  • You depend on your parents for the majority of your meals. At some point, it's time for a child to leave home. That point is different for everyone, but it's a threshold that must be crossed. If you're in your mid-twenties and still living off mom's home cooking, then you're a lazy bum.
  • You think you're a princess. Nope -- you're not a princess. You're just a self-absorbed jackass.
  • You only use Apple products. This requires no explanation. You're an idiot.
  • You slather yourself in makeup and jewelry every day. Makeup is just another way of saying "I'm a pretty clown." Why cover yourself in layers of caked on foundation, mascara, eyeliner and lip gloss day after day? Who are you trying to impress? Much less, why are you trying to impress yourself? As to the jewelry, you're just trying to show off. Surprise! No one cares.
  • You will only drink coffee from Starbucks. Like a hamster sucking from a bottle of cocaine-laced water, you just keep getting back in line at that damn Starbucks to gulp down your calories and caffeine. Meanwhile, Starbucks makes seven dollars on a fifty cent cup of joe. Don't you realize that you could spend far less money making your own coffee? It would probably taste better and incur less weight gain, too.
  • You take photos with money. Guess what -- you're a spoiled prick
  • You drag your little dog with you everywhere. The grocery store, the mall, the doctor's office, the funeral parlor, the post office... seems like everywhere I go, some high-on-her-horse broad has stuffed a small dog into her purse and has it with her everywhere. Heaven forbid if you call her out on it -- that's her emotional support dog. Get the hell out of here with that crap! You're just a spoiled contessa trying to prove how important you are. Not going to work on me, toots!
  • Your parents pay for your automobile and/or rent. This is by far the most bold statement of being spoiled. You're living rent and/or car payment free... and you're not even trying to help out. That, by very definition, is being spoiled rotten. Sure, you might think it's a break now, but what happens when reality smacks you in the face? You're not going to know how to wipe your own butt, much less handle the responsibilities of adulthood!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Memories From 4-H Camp.

I just got in from taking my first swim of the season. I spent an hour stretching, moving my arms and legs, floating and generally just trying to relax. As such, I'm fairly tired. My blog will be brief today. I don't have much to say -- just a few random memories tangentially related to swimming that you might find interesting.

The beach at Holiday Lake 4-H Education Center

I first learned to swim at 4-H Camp, specifically the Holiday Lake facility in Central Virginia. It was during the summer after my fourth grade school year. The swimming instructor at the camp was a kind, patient man. Unfortunately, I don't remember his name. What I do recall is that he was covered in severe burn scars. Some of the other campers were frightened by his appearance, but I wasn't. He took his time to help me calm down. I'll readily admit that I am not a strong swimmer, even to this day. The vast majority of my swim catalog is encompassed by the doggy paddle! But, I know enough to get by thanks to the man who taught me.

The rest of my stay at 4-H camp was quite memorable. I've spoken of the abusive incident with the girl who attacked me before, but that's not all. While walking to the dining hall one afternoon, I found a fifty dollar bill on the ground. It was a good thing I did, because I arrived at camp to learn that my folks had only deposited ten bucks in my commissary account. Without that fortuitous fifty dollars, I'd have run out of money really quickly during my full week stay.

My favorite class while camping was first aid, which happened to be lead by a really cool college girl named Tina. She taught me the Heimlich Maneuver, as well as CPR. One evening, we sat by a fire and talked about college after all the other kids had gone off to enjoy their post dinner recess time. She treated me like an adult and didn't talk down to me. Maybe she was tired of being surrounded by idiotic kids and just wanted someone decent to talk to... who knows?

One of the days at 4-H camp was extremely wet -- a massive thunderstorm moved through the area. I got caught in a big downpour on the way to a camp wide event. All of the campers and the staff were gathered in a large outdoor covered arena. I was late to the assembly and the last one to arrive. As I did, all of the other kids had already taken their seats. While walking along a side aisle-way looking for a spot to sit down, I could have swore I heard someone call my name. Remember that rain storm I got caught in? Well, the rain water had run down my ears and completely clogged them. My ability to hear was heavily distorted. Upon believing I heard someone call my name, I shouted out "YEAH?!" Though, because my ears were blocked, I unknowingly shouted extremely loudly. The entire arena turned to stare at me and laughed profusely. Realizing that I had one chance to not make a fool of myself, I walked up to the stage and got on the microphone.

"Saved the best for last... now who is holding a seat for me?"

A couple of kids' arms shot up. Needless to say, I had a place to sit!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Shall We Play A Game?

No sentient computers hell-bent on world destruction were harmed in the composition of this blog.

Today's article is really more of an open dialogue for the friends and family in my life. I have an idea to run by you. Perhaps you'll like it, perhaps you won't. Either way, your feedback is encouraged.

Every year, I try to host my family and friends for a barbecue feast. It's nothing too fancy, but it fills our bellies and provides the opportunity for some much needed comradery. I always look forward to the event. With the weather now warm and the Spring allergy season over, I believe the time is right. This year, though; I was thinking about doing something a little bit different. Let's not just have a family meal...

What if we had an all-day Monopoly tournament?


My siblings will remember our rousing games of Monopoly when we were young. I can recall just how often Josh seemed to win -- he has a knack for slinging real estate and making deals. Why not continue the tradition? The deluxe edition of Monopoly can accommodate up to ten players. Should we have more than ten people participating, teams could be drawn. There would be no actual money involved -- we would play for glory. Because Monopoly has the potential to go on for a long time, we can set a time limit. Should more then one player or team still be solvent upon reaching the time limit, play will stop. Those players/teams will tally up their total assets, with the champion having the highest value.

Best of all, a trophy will be awarded to the victor. You'll have a whole year of bragging rights.

So, what do you think? Good idea? Have a different game in mind? Bounce some ideas off of me.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Success Of The Ant.

As a whole, humanity isn't as successful as we like to believe.


The next time you take a stroll through your yard, take notice of the lowly ant crawling along your path. No matter the color or size, that ant represents the single most victorious family of species on Earth (that can be seen with the naked eye, of course). As a whole, scientific estimates of the current global ant population place it somewhere around 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 -- that's ten quintillion ants. If you take into consideration the roughly seven billion human beings on the planet, that means...

10,000,000,000,000,000,000 / 7,000,000,000 = 1,428,571,428.57

That's right -- for every one human, there are nearly one and a half billion ants. To say we are outnumbered is a royal understatement. It doesn't end there, though. Not only are we outnumbered, but we're also outweighed. If one were to go by the average conservative weight of an ant, their combined biomass would be 3,000,000,000 tons. The combined biomass of humanity is approximately 350,000,000 tons.

Face it -- we mean absolutely nothing to the ants of Planet Earth. We may step on one or two of their ranks in any given day, but the numbers are beyond mind-boggling. We could each kill thousands upon thousands of ants per day and it wouldn't matter in the slightest.

I realize the common ant is seen as a pest. They infest our gardens and front yards. They hide in our flower pots and come to our kitchens for water. Yet, the next time you attempt to squash an ant, I want you to remember what I've said here. Show the common ant a little bit of respect. They've worked long and hard to make the best of their situation. Though small and insignificant they may be, their willpower and imperative to thrive has made them Earth's single greatest success story.

This information, along with much more data, can be pulled from the World Atlas of Biodiversity, a publication of the United Nations Environment Program / World Conservation Monitoring Centre. I suggest you give both a visit.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Salamander.

"I sure wish it would rain."

With a dirty face covered in ash, Sal brushed the hair out of his eyes and sat on a soiled log. For the past few hours, he'd been clearing brush behind his father's old tool shed. In that time, Sal had amassed a titanic pile of limbs, leaves and briers. Now set ablaze and properly stoked, Sal took some minor comfort in knowing that the hard part of his task was complete. Only some minor raking and clean-up was required to finish his undertaking. The summer had been inexplicably dry, so Sal knew to carefully watch the fire for any stray embers. Should the tool shed suddenly become a sacrifice to the rain gods, Sal's father would not be pleased.

Taking a gulp of water from his thermos, the disheveled lad let the coolness drip down his stubbled chin and into his shirt. For a moment, it was nice to take a break. He'd worked himself too hard and had started to feel light-headed. Behind him, Sal could hear the creatures of the forest scurrying about, tossing leaves to find acorns and insects. Though, a discernible pattern could be detected, should one's ears be properly attuned. Sal could tell there was something with intent moving through the woods. He turned around expecting to see a coyote or feral cat, but saw no such animal -- just a shaded, overgrown thicket. The smoke from the burning pile of brush wafted deep into the winding growth like a trickle of water pouring over a dimpled river rock. Steadily, it seemed to possess the entire opening, leaving a heavy haze.


In the fog of soot, Sal began to wonder if his eyes were playing tricks. As the white cloud of smoke began to settle, he could make out a figure standing inside the clearing. The dry, uncaring wind blew more smoke into the green void, thereby allowing the figure to take on increased clarity. It seemed to be walking from within the trees and entered the glade Sal had cut out. Rising from his log, Sal stepped into the murky fog. Each step let slip a swift crunching sound. Yet, the shadow that seemed to be coming towards him made no such noise. Sal was anxious; his hands became damp. Upon pulling together enough nerve to speak, he did so.

"May... muh-may I help you?"

Oddly, the walking apparition took on a more corporeal form. Its steps began to generate the same crunching noise. The foot steps were certainly softer, with less force. 

"Hello? Are you o-"

Before he could finish, the figure in the fog spoke back.

"Share some water, would you?"

As if the fog was a heavy set of curtains, an invisible team of stagehands parted the mist. Through the opening emerged a pale young woman. Her raven hair gleamed with a celestial starfall. Two of the brightest, most piercing green eyes opened on a face of pearl. The heart that beat in Sal's chest skipped a beat. Fumbling to unlock his thermos, he passed the metal cylinder to his guest. Raising the cold container to her peach colored lips, she seemed to endlessly swallow the liquid. Upon emptying the container, she passed it back. Sal took notice of her thin, elegant fingers. They were not adorned with jewels or paint, but nevertheless were the most delicate hands he had ever seen. As she returned the bottle, the two figures were drawn together in the smokey forest. They locked eyes; in that moment, Sal seemed to have known her forever.

"Aster."

The name escaped Sal's mouth before he even had a moment to think about it.

"Salamander."

His eyes widening, Sal was slightly perplexed.

"Only my brother calls me that anymore."

"Now, I do too."

Her words were comforting to Sal, but an empty pain rested in his uneasy stomach. What was happening, he wondered. As Aster wrapped her left arm around his backside, he squeezed her tightly. A stirring in his heart stabbed his brain like an icicle; another heartbeat was skipped. Her colorless fingers rose to grip his face, tracing Sal's cheekbones and the bridge of his nose.

"I have terribly missed you so. I thought I'd never find you."

She placed her head against his chest and motioned for Sal to begin walking.

The forest, now completely silent, was calm all throughout. The two figures twisted and merged in the haze, becoming one solitary union. They were lost in the fog -- together. As if inhaling the smoke from the fire, the woods seemed to swallow the white cloud and completely fill the gap in the brambles.

A young boy emerged across from the opening, rake in hand. He propped the tool inside his father's shed and grabbed another to stoke the fire. Fumbling through the glowing sticks of amber and crimson, he blew into the flame to increase its might. Once roaring, he returned his poker to the building and walked away from the fire. A lush field of wild lilies stretch for many acres before him. Walking a few hundred feet, the fellow stopped at two stones set erect in the meadow. Their facades began to glisten as a light sprinkle of rain started to fall from the dusky sky. As the water fell over the monuments, their words became epitaphs. Here rested two lovers, separated in life.

A brother, standing silent, softly wept for his kin... his best friend.

His dear Salamander.

-------------------------

I pass, like night, from land to land;
I have strange power of speech;
That moment that his face I see,
I know the man that must hear me:
To him my tale I teach.
-- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner [1798]

Friday, May 15, 2015

We've Run Out Of LEGO Video Games!


Thanks to some excellent teamwork from Crystal, we were able to finish our latest video game adventure today on the Nintendo Wii -- LEGO Lord of the Rings. It took us a few years to get around to finishing it, but we finally did. Overall, I believe it was a solid game. The quests and puzzles weren't overly complicated. Graphics wise, it looked as good as you can get on the now aged Wii console. The music was fantastic (especially once you unlock the 8-Bit Music Red Brick), as was the voice acting. Much of the dialogue was pulled straight from the movies, but some of it was newly recorded by the original actors explicitly for the game. The challenge was just right -- nothing too hard or too easy. My worst complaint about the game has to be the camera. In many instances, the camera angles were absolutely nuts. You'd have to take blind jumps facing towards yourself, not knowing where you would land. Other times, you'd be required to attempt leaps around corners without knowing what was on the other side to catch you. It was annoying at times, but overall it didn't bring the quality of the game down too much.

Now that LEGO Lord of the Rings for the Wii has been completed, Crystal and I have run out of games to play together for the system. Here's a list of the LEGO games we've 100% finished together:
  • LEGO Batman
  • LEGO Batman 2: DC Superheroes
  • LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga
  • LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars
  • LEGO Indiana Jones
  • LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean
Overall, I'd say our favorite LEGO game was Batman. Our least favorite has to be LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars. It was not designed very well and definitely not fun to play. In fact, it was so bad that Crystal told me to finish it by myself. I did, but just so I could say that I completed it. Otherwise, I would not recommend it to anyone.

The Caped Crusader chases down Clayface in LEGO Batman.

There are some great new LEGO games out now, as well as coming up for release. Unfortunately, none of them are available for the Wii. Publishers have stopped releasing games for the system, which I can understand. It may be time for us to obtain a WiiU system. Then we could play together:
  • LEGO Marvel Superheroes
  • LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham
  • LEGO Jurassic World
  • The LEGO Movie
It's hard to find co-op games for Crystal and I to play together, but the LEGO games fit the bill. I think I'll have to start hunting for a gently used WiiU console.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thanks Randy.

My brother James recently brought me some items that he found from my childhood. One such item was a paper wallet. Remember them? As kids, we used to make them back in the '80s and '90s. Unfortunately, I never had the dexterity with my hands to make them correctly. No matter how many times I'd try, I just never could get it right. Thankfully, my good friend Randy made one for me in third grade (1990-1991). This is it...



The things Randy wrote on this are enough to date it to the period. "Be rad like me" and "super cool radical dude" sure aren't phrases you'll hear come out the mouths of today's Millennials. He also gave me the code name "Mango", which I don't quite recall the origin of.

No relation to this Mango, which came many years later.

There's also a really cool iguana-type lizard on the side, as well as a secret code number -- 676 (which happens to be the prefix for Kenbridge, where we went to school). We never actually used the code for anything, it just looked neat.

Randy was a great guy who always looked out for me. As we grew older, he was always genuine and jovial, even though he hung out with a different crowd than I did (did I even have a crowd?). He knew how to make anyone laugh and was never a jerk. Unfortunately, Randy is no longer with us, but I do think about our childhood together. He is sorely missed. It's always great to find a little piece of your past, especially when it's something you thought was lost forever. I'm glad this relic has somehow survived for twenty-four years without winding up in a trash heap. It feels comforting to have something Randy touched. In a way, he's still with me.

Randy, wherever you are... thanks.

Randy is in the second row from the top, towards the left with the Bart Simpson shirt. Around that time, 'The Simpsons' were in their second season and had become a massive cultural phenomenon. I can recall Randy quoting Bart many times -- "Don't have a cow, man!" I'm on the right in the tie. Yes... I was the only kid who showed up in a tie for picture day. I guess I've always been a fastidious, scholarly knob!

If you're in the photo, feel free to share this blog. I know some of you will probably read this. Isn't it swell to see old photos of us?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Best Of What Video Gaming Can Be.

Even though I'm a life-long video game player, I'm not one of those guys who goes out and purchases every new console the moment it hits the market. Hell, the newest game system I own is a Nintendo Wii. That being said, it's not that I completely dislike the new systems, there's just little incentive for me to spend hundreds of dollars on an over-priced gaming console that'll be retired in a few years anyway.


Perhaps the biggest reason why I haven't purchased a new Playstation or XBOX is that I still really enjoy playing old games. My original Nintendo gets just as much use as any modern system would. There's just something about firing up an old console (now referred to as retro by the video gaming community) that gets me excited. Remember the first time you played Final Fantasy on the NES? I recall reading the warning label on the back of the game, which told you how to turn the system off carefully, as to not erase your save data. That made me handle that cartridge very carefully! Or what about the first time you shot at the birds in Duck Hunt? Of course, you'd try to shoot at the dog instead! Modern gamers might consider the games of my youth to be simple, but they've got it all wrong. There were no achievements to unlock. There were no online interactions. There was no downloadable content. It was just you and the game. Some were easy, but most were HARD (I'm looking at you Silver Surfer for the NES).

Another thing I prefer about old games is that they were on cartridges and not discs. I can buy used, beat up, heavily worn cartridges at yard sales and flea markets, yet they still function without so much as a hiccup. Some of those old games remarkably have the original owner's save data still preserved -- that's insane! The same can't be said for games released on optical discs. Once a disc is heavily scratched, it's done for. There's no coming back from that. Yet, a game cartridge can take a beating and still work after many decades. That's a mark of superior technology in my book.

Release the Kraken!

Video games have come a long way, but that's not to say the older generations of games and consoles are obsolete. Far from it, if you ask me. If anything, older consoles like the SEGA Genesis, Super Nintendo, NES and the SEGA Master System represent the best of what video gaming can be. Maybe consoles will return to that standard one day.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Humanity Is Crippled By Fear.

I sit alone in my home this evening. There's no one but my dogs to keep me company. My thoughts this evening turn to notions of mankind. What drives us? What makes us tick? Where are we going? How are we to ever survive the future? Most importantly, how are we to ever survive each other? It seems fear drives a great deal of what we do. We're afraid that foreigners will terrorize our cities. We're afraid of losing our homes, our loved ones. We fear being unloved. At the heart of it all, I believe we're most afraid of our own self.

Fear is a powerful tool; it's one that's been employed by tyrants and barbarians for countless thousands of years. Fear makes a man do something he wouldn't normally do, even when there's little at stake. We stop at red lights out of fear of being struck by another vehicle. The consequence of being burned by fire is another tangent of fear. In many cases, fear can be a positive thing. It keeps us from making repeated mistakes. Fear also makes us abuse our children. It can turn a loving husband into a jealous control freak. Fear can make us stick our head in the sand. It's funny how fear possesses multiple faces, much like a harlequin with a new mask for every performance.


I'm intrigued with the human condition, in so much as how it works with exploration. Mankind used to be very eager to break the bonds of this planet. We put men on the moon. We sent probes beyond our own solar system. Our desire to explore the outermost reaches of our own universe were once a driving force in technological development. Yet, here we are in 2015. The most highly anticipated piece of technology is the Apple Watch -- something none of us need. I'm deeply saddened at how mankind has taken two steps back from the future. What are we doing? Shouldn't we be thinking about expanding mankind's grasp of our universe? I realize Earth is our home, but just as birds, we can not stay in the nest forever. At some point, we must stretch our virgin wings and fly from the nest, seeking a new life. There's only a limited bank of resources at our disposal on this planet before we run out of options. I don't want to wait until the last possible moment to develop a strategy for future survival. The time to explore is now. Let us leave no star unseen, no distant planet untouched. Earth isn't just our home -- the entire universe is our home.

The only thing prohibiting mankind from sailing the vastness of our universe is fear. We're afraid to evolve our mindset, our field of scope, our willingness to think outside the box. Why couldn't we construct a terradome on the moon and establish a space colony? We have the materials at hand to withstand the diminished atmosphere of the moon. Supplies could be transported there, though admittedly the journey would be arduous. Yet, what ever came from not accepting a challenge? Are we not human beings? Are we not capable of overcoming adversity? Where is our sense of bravery?

Fear. I say to you again. Fear.

Fear chains mankind to the past. Courage is the key that unlocks our future.

Fear is the lengthened shadow of ignorance.
- Arnold H. Glasow (1905 - 1998)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Knowledge Is The Shield.

While standing in line at the post office today, I happened to overhear a woman, whom couldn't have been much older than me, speaking on her telephone. The fact that she was talking loudly on her mobile device in a closed public space didn't perturb me too terribly. What did bother me was the content of her call.

To paraphrase, she was speaking to someone about the status of her daughter's scholastic shortcomings. Apparently, her child was failing English class miserably, but barely getting by in her other classes. Appallingly, the mother didn't seem to be too concerned. She asserted that this was to be expected. Her daughter would fail at least one class a year, but always squeaked by in summer school. Everything was going to be alright.


No... that child's future is in the toilet, and it's all the mother's fault.

It's one thing to have a child that struggles with their studies. Not all children are born with the same mental aptitude. Yet, this isn't to say that all children don't have the ability to learn and apply themselves. For the most part, the largest portion of scholastic achievement is just showing up and trying your best. Even a mediocre student who tries hard can maintain decent, acceptable grades. Why? Because they probably have a parent, parents or figure of authority behind them, encouraging their success every step of the way.

When you have a parent that accepts failure, and in fact justifies it, their child is on the path to a lifelong deficiency. That child will earn less money, not go to college, never break free from the lower or middle class and probably have more children than they're capable of caring for. Hence, the cycle of poor scholastic achievement continues.

Even in the face of severe poverty, education is the one tool every parent and child can grasp as a way out. Knowledge is the shield against destitution and unanswered dreams.

And yet, here we are in the year 2015... and many parents still don't know any better.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

For One Day, I Was The Hot Sauce Champion.

I've had a terrible ordeal with my sinuses today. There's enough pressure in my face to turn coal into diamonds. Even after a steamy shower, a glass of vinegar, three tablespoons of very hot Tabasco sauce, a clove of garlic and even a dose of Claritin, my head is still full of pressure and pain. It stinks.

You know, it's funny... the Tabasco sauce reminded me of an old memory, which I will now share with you.

Let's journey back twenty years to 1995. I was in seventh grade at Lunenburg Middle School. We had a small cafeteria decorated with various students' murals. It was quaint, but adequate. On one particular day, I faced down a challenge that no other student had before, nor one probably since. I ingested not one, not two...

Not ten...

Not twenty...



...but twenty-nine packets of hot sauce on a dare! Sure, looking back, it was probably a stupid thing to do, but who cares? We all did something idiotic in grade school. Consuming that much hot sauce in one sitting was as close to living on the edge as I probably got. Let's be honest -- I was a nerd. Yet, for one shining day, I had my moment in the sun. I was the guy no one else could beat. I was somebody special!

It's a silly memory, I know. I can't enjoy hot sauce to this day without remembering my one moment of glory in grade school. All hail the mighty hot sauce champion!


Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Things We Leave In The Twilight.


My body trembling, I braced myself for what I was about to do. I knew if I didn't, I'd fall over in despair and ruin everything. Carefully, I pulled the blade from its sheath, letting every ripple of the hilt fuse with my hand. Weaving my fingers around the handle, I took one last look at Samantha. Her breath had grown shallow. The pool of blood beneath her, now massive, only fueled my anger. Rocks, dust and gravel had formed together in devious little mounds of regret.

She mustered the last ounce of strength left in her glorious lungs. Instinctively, I knew this would be the final time I'd hear Sam's voice.

"I'll be... okay."

I turned away just to process the moment. I couldn't have her watch what was coming.

"Yes, you will be."

Closing her weak eyes, I could just barely feel the breath escaping from her mouth. It was cold... colder than any January wind I've ever faced. I picked my spot carefully -- a point between her ribs that I knew the blade would easily slide through. The tip of the blade perched onto her skin, ever so gently... how could I?

And slowly, I pushed the blade in. It snaked through the cage of bone and found its target. Her heart gave way to the release only lifeless metal can provide. Thankfully, Sam's sense of feeling any pain was already beyond functioning. The behemoth had seen to that. Sam's insides... oh, I did not want to ever see so much... her insides were pulled across the mountainside. Those beautiful legs that I had so often marveled at... one rested half chewed beside a patch of thistle. The other was swimming in what remained of Samantha's torso. She used to kick those dazzling legs up beside the pool, letting them glisten in the sun. I would miss those days.

No sooner had the deed been done, she was gone. Thank goodness for that. She'd suffered enough. Her lifeforce coated my face, arms and chest. It surged all over my body like a rain of thunderous absolution. My hand, still welded to the knife, couldn't turn loose. My fingernails were cutting into my palm; her blood mixing with mine. I stood before the portrait of agony, not the same man I was just an instant ago. As the remains of the setting sun sliced through the pines, Samantha's body seemed to radiate a vibrant orange and red hue. Even in gruesome death, she was angelic.

Resting in boastful satisfaction, the beast's low, throaty rumble was rising through the evergreens. Here and there, I could ascertain rapid movements. Casting shadows and chaos, the crunch of leaves beneath its feet frightened me. What right did I have to be afraid? Poor Sam took the brunt of the attack. I should have never walked away for timber to start our campfire. This was all my fault.

"Finish what you started, you son of a bitch."

The sound of the creature's movement stopped all of a sudden. The forest, once alive with the sounds of nature, became hauntingly quiet. And then...

THUH-THUMP
THUH-THUMP
THUH-THUMP
THUH-THUMP

It was coming for me, just as it should have done to begin with. Every log, every tree limb, every flower petal shook with a quaking unease. A mighty shriek erupted from the forest, now completely blanketed in twilight. Taking the safest position, I put the deep valley below to my back.

A strike of lightning seemed to split the entire forest in half as a gargantuan form blasted forth. An unidentifiable mass of steel blue hair and rippling skin; its fangs exposed for all the world to see. There was no mistaking the beast's mission.

I was next.

Galloping on all four claws now, it shredded the soil beneath its stride. Still wailing as a banshee, the monstrosity flew ever closer. I pulled the blade behind my back, aiming to surprise my executioner. Mumbling beneath my breath...

"Come on... closer... closer..."

Engulfed by barbaric fury, this thing sunk its two front claws into my kidneys. Like fiery rail spikes, I could feel an intense blaze growing inside. It took everything in me to maintain consciousness. Swinging both of my arms over my head, I slammed the blade behind its neck and pulled with ravenous determination. I pulled harder... harder... harder! Finally, over the cliff we tumbled.

Once glued to the knife handle, my hand finally let go. Kicking my legs into the fiend's chest, I pushed away as we entered free fall. I could see it scrambling to retrieve the death sentence I placed in its back. That is, right up to the point the savage slammed face-first into a sharp mound of rocks, jutting from the side of the cliff. Exploding like a balloon of blood and viscera, a deluge of the once whole monster launched in a dozen different directions.

The light grew ever more rare as I fell. It must have been an eternity, or so it seemed. As I waited for my own release from this torment, I could see Samantha gliding through the eerie final moments of half-light. Glowing like the aurora borealis, she seemed enveloped in waves of blue, teal and green. Extending her hand to me, the sun finally disappeared.

But all I could see was the most glorious light.