Monday, August 31, 2015

When Unlimited Data Doesn't Mean Unlimited Data.

Ah, the golden age of mobile telecom. Remember when mobile phone plans came with unlimited data... and meant it? That's right, having unlimited data meant you could use as much data as you wanted, without any fear of being penalized. Those days have long since gone the way of the dinosaurs, but the use of the word unlimited has not.

Everywhere you look, major mobile providers like Verizon and T-Mobile love to advertise their unlimited data plans. I'm amazed at their amorphous use of the word unlimited though. Their data plans are in fact not unlimited -- they have various levels of data caps depending on your chosen monthly fee.

So... when did the definition of the word unlimited come to mean anything but?

Obviously, providers employ unlimited as a selling point to encourage customers to use their service. I find this grossly negligent and disingenuous, though. Instead of actually providing an unlimited amount of data, they insert some weaselly bit of fine print into the whole deal. For X rate per month, you'll receive an "unlimited" amount of data... up to X GB.


T-Mobile's CEO, John Legere, recently went on a tirade against thousands of his own customers. Why? Because this crafty group of T-Mobile subscribers has found a workaround for their mobile data caps, whether by custom-coded applications, rooting their phone or writing programs to hide their actual data usage from the network.

In other words, the CEO of T-Mobile is mad about his own unlimited data customers having unlimited data.

I can't make this stuff up, folks.

To be quite honest, I say bravo to these smart individuals whom refuse to be taken for a ride. They have the skill and know-how to receive what they so rightfully are paying for. Considering the actual cost to provide data is obscenely cheap for telecom giants like T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and others, I feel absolutely zero pity for them. It's not so pleasant when the shoe is on the other foot, now is it?

If you're going to advertise something as unlimited, make sure it's actually unlimited. Otherwise, be up front about what you're selling. It's only the right thing to do.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Draw Something: Dinosaur Dracula

As an ode to one of my favorite websites on the internet, here's a portrait of the one and only Dinosaur Dracula! If you're a fan of the Halloween season like I am, head over to and check out the 2015 Halloween Countdown. It just started, so you can follow along until October 31! The head ghoul in charge, Matt, is a master of the macabre and always delivers a fantastic smorgasbord of content during the spookiest time of year. You won't regret it!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Typical Saturday Night.

An aromatic waft of cheap beer and loneliness fumed from the toilet as Harold took what must have been the longest piss of his life. His urine, a staunch nuclear yellow, highlighted the workload his liver was currently processing. When you're a single man with poor social skills, you wind up like Harold.

This is his story.

Tucking his miserable sausage back in his underwear, Harold then ignored the sink and decided the germs were better left on his hands. Returning to an all night marathon of b-grade horror movies and nachos, he had little else to do with his Saturday night except sit in his skivvies and vegetate. It's not like Harold had any friends to hang out with, nor a woman to spend his money on. Sure, there was Ziggy at the Gas N' Sip, but who hangs out with their porno magazine supplier? Hell, the last date Harold went on was in 2009, though by complete accident of course. A girl mistook Harold for her blind date at the mall food court... and he just went along with it.

Harold shoved a block of cheese in his microwave in preparation for another batch of nachos. He could smell the warm, savory goodness of the processed yellow food product seeping out of the ancient appliance. Perhaps if he cleaned the microwave every once in a while, it wouldn't look like a relic from a serial killer's estate sale. Inside the unit were layers upon layers of burnt food caked from years of abuse. The interior of the microwave was an unsettling mixture of brown and black detritus, with the occasional sprinkling of green gunk for good measure. Harold didn't care, though. As long as it melted his cheese and warmed up his toaster strudel, Harold was a happy camper.

Turning his head for a moment to watch the black and white monster movie on his television, Harold caught glimpse of a hapless teenage girl being consumed by some grotesque insect creature. Sure, the flimsy rubber monster suit looked terrible, but at least the producers were trying to do something. Harold though? He was a loser. No job. No life. No hope. If not for his Aunt Pearl, he'd have no place to stay. In exchange for Pearl's basement, Harold had to cut the lawn and maintain the property. Harold sucked at it, but his aunt was a nice woman whom overlooked his numerous faults.


Harold removed the steaming bowl of golden cheese from the dank microwave, spilling some on his hand. Yelping in agony, he dropped the bowl and rushed to the bathroom sink. Once there, he washed it off. It was a good thing the cheese got on his hands, honestly. That was the first time Harold had washed his hands in days. Looking in the mirror above the sink, Harold took note of the pathetic man-child staring back at him -- grizzled, tired and pale. There were bags under his eyes. His hair, uncombed and strewn with grease, jutted every which way.

"You look like shit, Harold."

He mumbled callously to himself. Turning to leave the bathroom, Harold was alarmed to find his foot sticking to the floor. Rubbing the crust from his weary eyes, it all become shockingly clear.

The nacho cheese, having grown many times in size and shape, was pulsating in the doorway of his bathroom. It... WAS ALIVE! A deafening moan escape from the quivering glob of yellow ooze, with obvious intentions of making Harold its next meal. Part of the cheese slime lurched forth and grabbed Harold by his underwear, easily ripping them off. Harold, being the pronounced coward that he was, promptly started to urinate on himself.

The trickle of urine streamed down Harold's leg and began to drip on the outstretched mass of cheese, still clutching his tattered tighty-whities. As the amber liquid splashed on the monstrous tasty sludge, it shrieked in horror. The more Harold pissed himself, the more urine that showered the cheese creature! Harold suddenly had a brief, and altogether surprising, moment of bravery.

Standing proudly before his toilet, Harold pissed all over the cheese.

Aiming squarely at the center of the frightening mass, the sad-sack zero let loose more beer-tainted kidney juice. Drenching the cheese beast in his own discharge, it shriveled and squirmed until nothing was left.

There, standing naked in his bathroom, Harold peered blankly into the puddle of urine on the floor. The only thought in his head was... I wish I had more cheese. Sprinting back to his kitchen, Harold promptly found a hammer and bashed his microwave to bits. Slamming and banging with delight, he couldn't help but giggle with sheer abandon. The charred appliance splintered in a million tiny pieces, creating quite the mess.

At the top of the stairwell leading into the basement, Pearl creaked the rickety door open and inquired as to all the noise.

"Are you all right down there, Harold? Got a lady friend I take it?"

On the television, the insect monster promptly devoured another teenage co-ed. Harold smirked and then shouted.

"Something like that, Aunt Pearl. Just your typical Saturday night."

Friday, August 28, 2015

Social Media And Idiots: A Dangerous Combination.

Social media has made it really simple for people to spread their stupidity. Before websites like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter ever existed, internet users had to actually research their data and verify its authenticity. Remember meta-crawlers and digital editions of encyclopedias? Those were in high demand between ten and twenty years ago. If you wanted to know about a particular person, place or event, you had to look it up for yourself.

Nowadays, any jackass with an internet connection or mobile device can make up whatever lie they want, then post it to their Facebook wall. Lies and disinformation can spread like a virus, with other internet users helping to spread the deception. Without so much as a single ounce of due diligence, morons will post any fabrication that suits their particular religious or political slant. Who cares about honesty, right? It's all about making reality fit your narrative.

The scary part? Foolish dopes regularly share incorrect information via social media and don't even realize it's false. They're that bloody stupid.

I realize that not everyone is a journalist. Hell, I don't expect most internet users to have half a brain cell. Yet, the least you can do is uphold your own sense of honor and integrity, both in the real world and online. If you share a comment or factoid with other internet users, shouldn't you make damn sure that it's the truth first?

Obviously, I'm asking too much. Why verify any information? It doesn't matter. So what if it's not true? It's just the internet! Newflash -- the real world and the internet are not two separate entities. They are one in the same. This is why I don't maintain anonymity on the internet. If I've got something to say, then I'm going to stand behind it. Why hide behind illusions and falsehoods? Integrity and honor are important to me, as they should be to you.

So... the next time you want to share some bit of "information" with the other morons connected to your social media account, ask yourself the following questions:

To the best of my knowledge, is this the truth? Did I verify this information? Do I stand behind this information? Am I accountable for what I'm about to say?

If you can't answer yes to all four of those questions, then reconsider what you're about to share with the other lemmings of this world. One idiot with the wrong map can send a lot of people over a cliff.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Why Does New Orleans Still Exist?

Can someone please explain to me why New Orleans still exists?

Ten years ago this week, the Gulf Coast and New Orleans in particular were struck by the powerful Hurricane Katrina. Massive amounts of damage was incurred. As many as 1,800 people were killed or left missing after the hurricane. In total, over $100 Billion in damage was caused. And yet, people returned to New Orleans and other coastal towns along the Gulf to rebuild, with little to no precautionary measures against future hurricanes. Why? Because they're complete morons.

New Orleans suffered such a traumatic blow because their poorly designed and maintained levee system completely failed. Katrina created 53 distinct breaches in the levee system, which put over 80% of New Orleans under water. Because the city sits as low as two meters below sea level, it's a prime target for severe flooding. And flood it did...

When your city exists below sea level along a coast known for being struck by hurricanes, what exactly do you expect is going to happen?

Yet, ten years later, New Orleans is still a sitting duck. Many residents stayed after Hurricane Katrina. Others actually moved to the city and settled after the catastrophe. As of 2015, the population of the New Orleans metropolitan area is approximately 78% of its pre-Katrina numbers. I'm left scratching my head at the illogical behavior of the city's residents. Why remain (or move to) a known danger zone with little to no protection against another hurricane?

That's right -- nothing has been done to prevent such catastrophic damage from happening again. The same inadequate levee system is still in place as New Orlean's only method of defense. The Army Corp of Engineers (the original builders of the levee) merely patched the 53 breaches. That's it.

I can't help but laugh.

Please, someone tell me why New Orleans should still exist. Is all of that "cultural heritage" really worth salvaging? At what point does common sense enter into the conversation? Right here, in this very article, apparently.

There is nothing inspiring about New Orleans. If anything, the city exists as a testament to mankind's stupidity.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I'm Not Going Deaf, I Just Have Auditory Processing Disorder.


That's something I commonly say when people are speaking to me. Only those that are closest to me know of my problems with hearing. For years, I've dealt with hearing loss and the inability to understand what people are saying.

Today, I finally got some answers.

For the first time ever, I had a consultation with an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. After a vigorous hearing test and examination, I learned that my ears are perfectly normal. Their hearing capability is excellent. Other than some eczema in my ear canals that make them itch terribly, my auditory system is in tip-top shape.

So why can't I hear properly?

Well, the answer was far more boding than I expected. I have a rare condition called Auditory Processing Disorder.

In the simplest of explanations, Auditory Processing Disorder is an umbrella term for a malfunction in the central nervous system which incorrectly processes auditory information. The sensory data that my ears provide to my brain is perfectly captured, but my central nervous system has trouble translating that data into usable information.

When I speak to people, I usually have to be looking at them to understand what they are saying clearly. I can physically hear the sound of their voice, but often times their words are garbled and run together into one long, confusing series of sounds. If I'm not reading their lips (which today I realized I've been doing for a long time), I experience difficulty in separating the sounds and understanding their words. I also have trouble understanding what people are saying when there is background noise present -- televisions, radios, music, a crowd in a restaurant, etc.

Imagine trying to listen to a lecture by a very soft-spoken professor during a loud concert. That's what I deal with... all the time.

Honestly, I've never spoken about this publicly because it was slightly embarrassing. To think... me with a hearing problem! Did I need a hearing aid at such a young age? That's absurd... but I was worried it was true. Maybe I was going deaf.

At least now I know that I don't need a hearing aid. But, what do I do about the problem in my brain? Here's what I know so far.

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is a problem which scientists and doctors are still trying to decipher. It shares many characteristics with symptoms of other disorders like Autism, ADD/ADHD and Asperger syndrome, but there's a major difference. Whereas language interpretation with those other disorders is a result of the conditions themselves, APD is its own condition not directly resulting from any physical or mental impairment. APD is literally in a class of its own. Because intensive research on APD has only taken place in the last twenty years, there's much that isn't known.
"APD can manifest as problems determining the direction of sounds, difficulty perceiving differences between speech sounds and the sequencing of these sounds into meaningful words, confusing similar sounds such as "hat" with "bat", "there" with "where", etc. Fewer words may be perceived than were actually said, as there can be problems detecting the gaps between words, creating the sense that someone is speaking unfamiliar or nonsense words. Those suffering from APD may have problems relating what has been said with its meaning, despite obvious recognition that a word has been said, as well as repetition of the word. Background noise, such as the sound of a radio, television or a noisy bar can make it difficult to impossible to understand speech, since spoken words may sound distorted either into irrelevant words or words that don't exist, depending on the severity of the auditory processing disorder. Using a telephone can be problematic for someone with auditory processing disorder, in comparison with someone with normal auditory processing, due to low quality audio, poor signal, intermittent sounds and the chopping of words. Many who have auditory processing disorder subconsciously develop visual coping strategies, such as lip reading, reading body language, and eye contact, to compensate for their auditory deficit, and these coping strategies are not available when using a telephone."
Item for item, the above paragraph fits me exactly. It's depressing, but enlightening at the same time. So many of the problems I've experienced in life now actually make sense. I just wish there was more research on APD. It's such a new disorder that it's not even included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV). In fact, APD is so rare that there are no statistical numbers on how many people actually have the condition, which is usually diagnosed in children to begin with. Perhaps if my parents had taken me to a proper doctor in my youth, I'd have learned about my condition a long time ago.

Adults with APD experience many symptoms, such as:
  • talking louder than necessary
  • prefer quiet places
  • perform better with written material
  • have poor memory retention of auditory information
  • have trouble remembering a list or sequence
  • often needing words or sentences repeated
  • have a poor ability to memorize information learned by listening
  • interprets words too literally
  • need assistance hearing clearly in noisy environments
  • rely on accommodation and modification strategies
  • find or request a quiet work space away from others
  • asks for directions to be given one step at a time
How did I get APD?

Well, there's a couple of possible explanations. It could be linked to a genetic malfunction or heredity. Or, it could be a result of a developmental problem in my early youth. Clinical data has shown that isolated children with poor socialization may develop APD due to a lack of consistent auditory input from other people. In other words -- to hear people correctly, you must learn how to listen correctly in your youth, when development is most crucial. I definitely did not have that. Alternatively, APD can also result from a mixture of both developmental and hereditary problems.

I swear, it's like doctors wrote the textbook description of APD after reading about my life.

Where do I go from here?

Well, there's no surgical or medicinal solution to my problem. The best thing I can do is train my brain to work around the problem. This involves the use of higher-order brain functions to compensate for the problems in my auditory translation capability. In fact, I've already been doing that for years by unconsciously learning to read lips. Now that I know my hearing problem, learning to concentrate and use logic to reprocess what I hear is crucial. I need to be patient with myself and what I hear, then think about what is being said -- even if it takes me a little while to process it. In the future, if you speak to me and I don't immediately respond, it's because I'm working in my head to decipher what you said, even though my brain didn't translate it correctly.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

(Extra) Large And In Charge.

I'll have what she's having.

Just a small tidbit of information to post today, but I felt it worthy to highlight in my weight loss journey. It's been forever and a day since I've worn a size XL (extra large) shirt. I must have been in middle school the last time I wore one. When I was at my heaviest weight of 343 lbs. towards the end of 2012, I wore a XXXL shirt. Yeah... I was huge. Over the course of the past two years, I moved back into a XXL shirt. In the past few months, they've become increasingly big on me, though.

Today, I fit into a size XL button up shirt. It made me feel damn proud of myself.

Mind you, I don't fit into all XL shirts just yet -- it changes from maker to maker. But, I can at least wear some size XL shirts and I'm increasingly finding myself being swallowed more and more by XXL size shirts. At some point, I hope I can completely transition to the XL size and leave XXL behind.

Is this a monumental achievement? No. But, it does reflect the hard work I've invested into improving my quality of life. Plus, it makes me happy. One day, I hope to have a collection of fat clothes that can remind me of how far I've come.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Potential Mass Shooting Averted at 2015 Pokémon World Championships.

Boston Police provided this photo of the weapons, ammunition and personal items found in possession of Norton and Stumbo, the accused attackers at the 2015 Pokémon World Championships.

A lot of nerds take their various hobbies and interests way too seriously. Dressing up in fur suits, getting My Little Pony tattoos, standing in line for hours to obtain free comic books... the list goes on an on.

But these two geeks? They take the cake.

Two morons from Iowa were arrested on Saturday at the 2015 Pokémon World Championships in Boston, Massachusetts. Before arriving at the tournament, Kevin Norton (18) and James Stumbo (27) allegedly made threatening comments to other tournament attendees via their social media accounts. They also shared photos of various guns with those remarks. These threats were then provided to security officials at the convention center where the event was being held. Within hours, the pair of Pokémaniacs were in custody. They were found to be in possession of a 12-gauge shotgun, an AR-15 rifle, several hundred rounds of ammunition and a hunting knife. Thankfully, the duo was apprehended before they could sneak the weapons into the event.

The terrifying part? Norton and Stumbo were both official attendees of the tournament. They were to take part in the Masters Division and were invited to participate in the tournament by its organizers. This was clearly not a case of two strangers raiding an event -- they had the proper credentials to be there. If not for the convention center officials being tipped off, this could have gone horribly wrong.

I've played video games in the Pokémon series for as long as it has been in existence -- since 1998 to be exact. In that near twenty-year time span, not once have I ever taken the games this serious. Sadly, this is yet another example of socially-inept geeks not understanding how to process reality, nor communicate with other humans beings. We've made it too easy for such people to exist in modern society.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Draw Something: Morphing Decapitated Head

The title of this entry pretty much speaks for itself. Perhaps it's an offspring from the creature in John Carpenter's The Thing. Either way, I just let the art flow.

I assure you, I'm not twisted or fiendish in any way. ;-)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Skull Ring.

There it was, shimmering with the ethereal glow of an abandoned moonbeam. It caught my eye as I attempted to rake leaves in my backyard. Having just recently purchased my home, I was still becoming familiar with the intricacies of the property. As my rake grazed over the pale object, I was immediately curious as to what it was. Setting the rake aside, I bent over and stared at the ivory treasure peaking forth from the soil. I began to claw and dig at the item using my bare hands. Thankfully, the ground was soft from a recent rain and the mysterious discovery was soon turned loose by the dirt. Gripping the clod in my hand, I washed it off under the water spigot.

It was a ring.

This wasn't just any ring, though. No diamonds or precious stones were set upon it. The front of the ring was emblazoned with an altogether peculiar skull. It flowed continuously with the band, as if the whole ring was formed from one solid material. Rubbing the front of the skull with my finger, I took note of how tactile the carving was. It was so detailed and distinct. Stepping into the glimmering blasts of the sun's setting haze, I marveled at how the ring seemed to instinctively glow. If I didn't know any better, I'd say the light was... pulsating.

After a few minutes of cleaning, the ring was finally unblemished and free from dirt. Holding it in my palm for a moment, I wondered if it would fit. Such a prize to be had from my own backyard... how lucky! Bringing the ring to my right hand, I slid it down my index finger.

The sun finished it's journey across the sky and came to rest behind the western gate of forever. Dusk took grasp of the world without so much as a whisper. I raised my right hand to the sky, taking note of the stars peaking through the blanket in the darkness. Engrossed by the skull on my finger, it seemed to come alive with the shimmering stars behind it.

Hypnotized by the opalescent ring, the entire world seemed to fall away. No sooner had I fallen into the abyss of eternity, staring at the ring... did reality rip me back. 

A pair of hands took hold of my ankles.

Coming to my senses, I looked down to glimpse a rotten face gaping at me. The flesh, peeling from this creature's face, seemed to bubble and twist from the bone. A pair of hollow eye sockets revealed a churning swirl of worms and maggots. Erupting from the soil beneath my feat, the corpse groped and clawed at my legs. Almost immediately, a chasm spread under my feet, knocking me off balance. Crashing backwards into the wriggling grime and dust, another putrid carcass lurched over my torso. Through it's gaping chest cavity, I could see the last flicker of starlight between the decomposing rib cage. Tugging at me, my attempts to fight back were useless. I'm certain I could feel more hands ripping into my skin, pulling me towards an eternal eclipse.

I awoke in a black fog. There I sat on a throne of branches and roots, caged in a tomb of earth. If not for the glowing ring, I wouldn't have been able to see anything. I could feel multiple pairs of skeletal hands gripping my feet and hands, but my captors' festering countenance was not visible. My clothes had all but been ripped from my body. Trapped in a dome of under-worldly terror, the decomposing soil writhed and engulfed my bare skin. Things were alive in the dirt, lurching and squirming over me. As a star made of flesh, I was spread apart in every direction and lay bare. Abruptly, a blistered hand pushed through the soil to slide against my inner thigh. Using my leg as leverage, another decomposing arm burst forth. Dripping sludge plopped off the arm and landed on my stomach. Rising from between my legs was a face, not so different from the others I'd seen. Though, in the place of orbital sockets filled with maggots and worms sat two piercing eyes. With no eyelids to blink with, the slime-encrusted eyes just stared at me. Its mouth, absent lips to hide the yellow and black teeth, chattered and chomped disgustingly. Locking eyes with me, the aberration spoke. Words pushed through the gargled ooze in the creature's throat.

"Solve my riddle, your life is spared. Fail... and we shall feast."

The power to speak had all but left my battered body, but I somehow muttered an affirmation to my demonic host.

"I am not real, but to you I am near. Never to be seen, but expected to appear."

My mind flew into a glut of directions. Near? Seen? What was the answer? I must know! Simply must! The hands around my limbs squeezed and wrenched. They were hungry hands, for sure. A scramble of thoughts clouded my head, but suddenly, I knew the answer.

"Tomorrow! The answer is tomorrow!"

The phantasmal inquisitor gnashed its tongue against moldy teeth, obviously upset with the answer.


My hands and feet were immediately released. The vile face before me hissed, ejecting a stench most foul. I started to claw at the ceiling, shoving aside the roots. I must have been buried under three or four feet of earth. With great haste, I worked to free myself from the pit. Yes... there! I could see the twinkling stars above through a tiny hole. Almost there...

Without warning, a claw most dreadful launched into my stomach. Ripping my skin apart like a jagged saw blade, I could feel it squish my intestines and yank them free from my abdomen. The strength that I'd found just a moment ago vanished. Those eyes... that face... it came to me again. Gushing from the black dirt, the head seemed to gape open and float. I could taste the fetid breath as it spoke again.

"Human flesh tastes so much better... when it's seasoned with hope."

Dozens of haggard hands pushed through the tangled earth to play in my entrails. I could feel my organs being passed about; my life force being slurped and slathered across their chomping maws. As a cord tied between two opposing forces, my body viciously snapped in half. One set of demons pulled my legs off my frame, taking the hips with them. I could see my viscera trailing downwards, forever to be consumed by the monsters within the depths. The creatures continued to slash and chew at my insides, while simultaneously pulling my arms farther... farther... farther... clop! The bones in my shoulders caught fire as the arms popped out of socket. My body was but a buffet for these fiends. As the last ounce of light from the ring left my eyes, I passed into nothingness.


There in the earth, a ring once again found itself gripped by the blackest of dirt. Tide and time shall reveal it... when the time is right...

When those that creep through the darkness grow hungry once more.

Friday, August 21, 2015

My Top Six Favorite Generation II Pokémon.

In April of this year, I featured an article that detailed my top six favorite Generation I Pokémon. We're moving forwards to Generation II with today's article. Below you'll read all about the six pocket monsters from this generation that I appreciate the most. I began Generation II with the Pokémon Gold cartridge on the Nintendo Game Boy. Overall, I was impressed at the time with the new creatures. Let's get this started!

6. Octillery - Perhaps the most versatile choice on the list is this Water type Pokémon. It has a wide range of attacks at its disposal, so you can easily customize it to your liking. While definitely not a popular choice among most players, I rather like the little octopus monster. If you use the move Focus Energy with an Octillery that has the Sniper ability, then it can really dish out some damage in a battle.

5. Meganium - As always, I typically select the Grass type Pokémon when starting any new game in the series. Meganium is the final evolved form of the starter Pokémon Chikorita. It's very sturdy and can sustain a beating, making it a fine choice for defense. Its move set isn't too diverse, but it gets the job done when you need it to. Luckily, Meganium has a large selection of moves which can be learned from various Move Tutors.

4. Noctowl - My preferred flyer from the second generation, Noctowl is a no frills Pokémon that simply works. There's nothing flashy about it. Most players scoff at the idea of even using Noctowl, but not I. It carried me through many battles when I first completed Pokémon Gold. Both of Noctowl's abilities (Insomnia and Keen Eye) are highly advantageous. Even better is its hidden ability (Tinted Lens), which doubles the power of "Not Very Effective" moves. Though it may be a common Normal / Flying type, it has access to some keen Psychic type moves. Don't sleep on Noctowl -- it's a keeper!

3. Mantine - A well-rounded Water / Flying type with a very high Special Defense rating, Mantine is indispensable when faced with a non-physical attacker. I like Mantine simply because it's durable when employed with the proper strategy. Plus, you can teach Mantine the moves Surf, Dive or Waterfall, all of which are great HM's which can also deal out substantial damage.

2. Crobat - One of my favorite Poison type Pokémon, Crobat is fast and lethal. With solid offensive and defensive ratings all around, it can easily become a powerful weapon against any opponent. I like to stack it with the move combination of Toxic and Venoshock, which can take down almost anything if used correctly. Since it's a dual type Poison / Flying, don't be afraid to teach it the HM move Fly, which earns Crobat the STAB damage bonus.

1. Furret - At this point, you're probably scratching your head. Why Furret? It's a common Normal type Pokémon with no real advantages or disadvantages against other types except Fighting. Furret's base stats are not all that impressive, either. I'll tell you why -- because no one suspects Furret. It's non-threatening nature makes it a great secret weapon if trained properly. Teach it moves like Retaliate, Me First or Hyper Beam for maximum damage. Even better, keep Furret happy and you can employ a move like Return, which increases in damage the higher its Happiness rating is. All that being said, Furret won more Generation II battles for me when things were at their most grim. I love the little guy!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The North Carolina Museum Of Art... Well That Was Disappointing.

Crystal and I took a nice drive to Raleigh, North Carolina today. After enjoying an extremely tasty (and quite healthy) lunch at Guasaca Arepa and Salsa Grill, we made our first visit to the North Carolina Museum of Art.

Let me tell you... our lunch was much, much better than what we saw at the museum.

The NCMA West Building. This was perhaps the worst art museum I've ever been to.

I'm an art guy. Those of you that know me personally are well aware of this fact. But, there's one thing I have little tolerance or admiration for -- abstract art. I colloquially refer to abstract art as lazy art. Not much effort, time or talent is needed to produce it. Unfortunately, I discovered that one of the two buildings which comprise the NCMA is almost completely filled with abstract art. That was a major bummer. We walked through the entire East building perturbed at how little art there actually was on display. Had you been a fly on the wall following us, you would have heard as we looked at all of the abstract pieces...

Jared: "Crap."

Crystal: "Crap."

Jared: "Definitely crap."

Crystal: "Was that painted with feces?"

'Blue Panel' by Ellsworth Kelly.
I kid you not... this piece of crap is hanging at the NCMA and is labeled as 'art'.
So easy, a blind three year old could do it.

On to the West building of the NCMA, where we were greeted by more uninspired and generally repetitive art. There were walls and walls and even more walls of classical paintings representing Jesus Christ and other biblical figures. While I am well aware of the importance of religion in classical and European art, it was by no means the only subject ever painted. The collection held by the NCMA would lead you to believe otherwise. I lost count of the number of paintings depicting Christ or other Christian events. Even beyond the endless walls of Bible paintings, there were rudimentary and altogether uninspired pieces. Very few quality landscapes or portraits were on display, nor any examples of etchings, engravings, pen and ink illustrations or charcoal works. The number of 19th and 20th Century American works was absolutely pathetic. The collection of paintings was so boring in fact that Crystal and I often marveled at the intricacy and construction of the frames instead -- they were of more merit in many cases!

All in all, I could count the number of works I liked at the NCMA on one hand... and there would be fingers left over.

Thank goodness the price of admission was free... or otherwise I'd feel robbed. If I could suggest any sort of improvement to the NCMA, it would be this. They need more diversity and less repetition. Get off the Biblical theme and eliminate a large portion of their abstract and modern works.

In terms of art in general, I must reiterate a simple, but stark point -- just because something is old does not necessarily mean it is good. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

More Than Just A Game.

For those of you that have used practically any version of the Microsoft Windows operating system since 1990 (Version 3.0), you're most certainly familiar with the game Solitaire. We've all known it as a simple card game -- shuffle through the deck, create chains and complete the four foundation piles. But... there's something you don't know about Solitaire.

It was never intended for entertainment or fun.

Windows 3.0 included Solitaire as a tool for easing computer users into the new computing paradigm. On through the late 1980's, many computers functioned via command line operating systems, like MS-DOS for example. There were no windows or screens to click, nor a mouse to point at what you wanted to do on the screen. The user would type a command and enter it into the computer, which would then run whatever task or program that was asked of it. It looked much like the image below. I'm fondly reminded of playing the DOS version of Battle Chess. Man, I loved that game!

Old school computing at its finest.
If you don't remember using a command line operating system, then you're young.

As a way of introducing computer operators to the new functionality of a graphical user interface, Solitaire was included as a means of acclimation. That's right folks, there was a time when computers didn't use a mouse. For you youngsters out there, that must seem ridiculous... but it's totally true. Solitaire, which relies solely upon the computer mouse to be played, did just that -- it taught computer users how to use a mouse. With Solitaire as a simple disguise, you would learn how to click, drag and drop, and so forth. It was all quite ingenious really. And to think, that was a meager twenty-five years ago. Operating a computer mouse is instinctive at this point; we all know how to use one!

Just for laughs, here's a game play video of Battle Chess on DOS. Those sure were the days!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What Not Being Quite So Fat Has Taught Me.

Over the course of the past two years, I've lost a total of seventy pounds. I believe I still have thirty to fifty pounds to go, but I'm definitely over the halfway mark on my journey. In that time, I've grown to understand what I was doing wrong with my body -- little to no exercise, non-existent portion control, eating when I was angry or sad, etc. As I've relearned how to eat and manage my weight, certain aspects about life have become apparent to me. Here's a few observations relating to weight and food that I've witnessed along the way.
  • I don't become angry when I go clothes shopping anymore. I have an easier time finding clothes that fit me. Going shopping for clothes used to be an activity I absolutely dreaded. I knew I'd just end up feeling disappointed because nothing fit me. Now, I can find items that readily fit, without having to try the slightest. Though, locating a pair of shoes that will accommodate my wide feet is still a dilemma -- one that losing weight will not fix.
  • We are literally surrounded by processed sugar. I can't walk through a grocery store without seeing aisles of products that are loaded with sugar -- canned fruit, dry cereals, soda pops, snack crackers, breads, peanut butter, candy, cake, cookies, soup, yogurt, pasta. Many things that I used to purchase as recently as three or four years ago I won't even touch today. Why? Knowledge is key. Until you actually start paying attention to what's in your food, you'll never see the insane amount of sugar and calories they hide. Sugar is the phantom villain that's ruining the lives of countless millions.
  • No one cooks anymore. Sure, people purchase raw meat and vegetables on occasion, but the vast majority purchase food-like products that require little to no effort -- processed dinners, boxed side items like macaroni & cheese, pre-made pasta, and so on. One of the most sincere ways we could combat the weight epidemic in this nation is to have a cooking revolution. Let's get back to actually preparing our meals.
  • Eating has become an activity for our society. This isn't to say I personally don't enjoy a good meal out at a swanky restaurant. Yet, eating at a restaurant has become more than merely seeking tasty nourishment; it's become something for people to go and do with their friends at random. They do it too often and consume too much.
  • My feet get cold. What the hell?! Is this what most people deal with? Is it normal for people to experience the sensation of cold? I used to never get frosty... though I was carrying many, many, MANY more inches of fat on my body.
  • The Fat Acceptance movement is pure laziness; it is a cop out to avoid making a positive change in your life. This has nothing (I repeat NOTHING) to do with beauty standards -- people of all shapes and sizes are beautiful in their own way. This has everything to do with improving your physical health and living a longer, more fulfilling life. I was going to die young if I didn't start getting the excess weight off. When I came to understand how being obese was slowly killing me, that's when things clicked in my head. I WANT TO LIVE!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Denying Citizenship To The Children Of Illegal Immigrants Is A Slippery Slope.

It's around this time every four years when you start hearing Republicans spouting off the same tired old dialogue...

"Illegal immigrants are ruining our country! We should deny citizenship to babies born from illegal immigrants."

A line of "illegal" immigrants waiting to leave Ellis Island around the turn of the Twentieth Century. They were just inspected and granted citizenship.

It seems every presidential election cycle, this is one of the tent-pole arguments conservatives want to harp on and on about. Obviously, this is a tactic to shore up conservative base support before the first primary elections are held. The only way to win the Republican primary process is to go extra hard-line conservative.

Sure, our nation has an issue with illegal immigration; I readily admit that. But the problem doesn't exist with the immigrants... it exists with our nation's muddling and inadequate immigration policy.

I take great issue with conservatives, the so-called protectors of liberty and limited government, trying to place qualifying restrictions on childbirth. This is one of those 'give an inch/take a mile' scenarios. Let's play it out, shall we?

First, citizenship will be denied to the children of illegal immigrants, even though they were born on US soil. Then, they'll edge even further into the murky waters of citizenship. You'll have to be of a certain race. Then you'll have to be of a certain religion. Before long, you'll have a nation where only a select few are allowed citizenship from birth. For everyone else, they'll have to earn it -- enlist in the military, become a civil servant, etc. All others will be considered as outlaws and bound for deportation. Of course, they'll tie the right to vote to this matter. Eventually, we'll have a nation cherry picked for conservatives and by conservatives.

No one wants that reality, do they? Well, other than conservatives.

Let's look at another perspective in this immigration debate. How would the United States, both strategically and morally, deport defenseless children and infants? Besides being a regulatory nightmare, we'd knowingly be sending innocent children into war zones. Effectively, to the rest of the world, we'd be saying our children are more important than your children. I might not be a religious man, but I know that's flat out wrong.

I would never say that our nation's immigration policy is perfect -- it is far from that. An endless wall of bureaucratic red tape prohibits most immigrants from ever attaining citizenship. Those lucky few immigrants whom have the time and resources to jump through all the hoops to becoming a citizen truly do not represent the masses. Many immigrants, especially those coming from Mexico, Central and South America, are fleeing from lands of violence and death. They don't have years to wait for citizenship -- they're just trying to survive. America, that shining beacon upon the hill, is their last and best hope for a future.

Look at it this way -- millions of people are dying (literally) to join Team America. They love our nation and our way of life. Why wouldn't we want them to join up with us? That's more voices in our corner; more support when we need it. More Americans to do... well, what America does.

I'm not saying open the doors and let everyone in. Yet, we assuredly need to expedite the immigration process and cut the red tape. The Republicans are fans of cutting red tape and limiting the power of the federal government, or so they try to convince us.

Or maybe... Republicans are just a bunch of xenophobic, regressive crybabies.

If they're good enough to tend to OUR fields and harvest OUR food, shouldn't they be OUR neighbors?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Draw Something: The Tortoise And The Cactus

The majestic beauty of the American Southwest is something everyone should see at least once in their life. When I think of a happy place, it is often where my mind wanders. Here to is a lonely tortoise, doing a little wandering of his own.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Inari Takes A Holiday.

"When I was a boy, no more than eleven or twelve years old, a fox came to me one day. I was walking through the woods, gathering kindling for my camp site. I came upon a clearing in a field. There, I discovered an overgrown path. As I stepped onto the path, a silvery grey fox appeared from the brush. It walked down the path towards me. In no way was it menacing, nor did it make a sound. There it stood, just a few yards away. For what seemed like an eternity, the fox simply stared at me. It was the oddest thing. Before it walked away, I could have swore it winked. Just like that, it returned to the brush and disappeared."

Taking a gulp from his shot glass, the young man then bent backwards and exhaled. The bartender asked if he wanted another. Motioning yes, she filled his glass once again.

"Ivan... you never saw the fox again, I take it?"

An older man with a tiny white mustache swiveled gently on his bar stool, ever interested in the young man's story.

"Not once. Honestly, it's the most peculiar story I've got. I know... I'm not hitting on much."

Finishing his cocktail, the older gentleman slid some cash along the bar. He readjusted his tie and tidied his white sport jacket.

"No, no... don't sell yourself short, kid. I asked what your strangest memory was from your childhood. Don't mind me. I'm just some old guy at a bar. What do I know, right?"

Ivan patted him kindly on the backside.

"Don't sweat it old timer. Everyone's got a story to tell when drinks are involved. Say, I didn't catch your name."

"Call me Inari."

"That's a peculiar name for Eugene, Oregon. I take it you are not from around here?"

Inari stood from his bar stool. As he did, his shoes made a distinctive ringing sound, much like a tiny bell being struck. Ivan looked down in awe at this feet. The shoes must have been shined recently, he thought.

"Oh, I'm just cruising through. On my way down the coast. Might stop in San Diego for a spell. Maybe catch a baseball game. Down a few chili dogs. Who knows? Either way, I'll see ya 'round."

Ivan spun on his stool as Inari headed for the door.

"Have we met before? You seem familiar."

Pausing only for a brief second, Inari glanced and smiled.

"Perhaps, in another life."

Casually gliding through the various tables in the bar, Inari proceeded outside. The air was brisk this late September evening, much to his pleasure. Stepping to the curb of the street in front of the bar, he began walking down the sidewalk.


Running from behind came Ivan. He caught up quickly and began walking along.

"I swear we've met before. I don't recognize your name, and I realize you're not from here... I can't put my finger on it."

Inari put his arm across Ivan's back.

"My boy, how's your sister?"

Ivan stopped.

"She's okay. How did you know I had a sister?"

A half smirk spread over Inari's face.

"I'm glad your sister is well. She was a cute kid. I didn't think she'd pull through that night the rattlesnake bit her."

A flood of images flashed through Ivan's mind: the camping trip, gathering firewood, the path, the fox, his sister Allanah stepping on a nest and getting bit by a Western Rattlesnake. How did...

"I don't... you couldn't... how?"

Inari hugged Ivan, squeezing him tight. Whispering in his ear, Inari said...

"I was with you two every step of the way. Like I said, I'll see you around."

Suddenly, Ivan awoke in his own bed. The first rays of the morning sun were peaking through his blinds. The night before was somewhat of a blur, though he wasn't sure he'd earned himself a hangover. Ivan rolled over on his side and looked at his alarm clock. A few moments later, the radio alarm flipped on.

Like the fox... like the fox... like the fox... on the run.

Friday, August 14, 2015

You Can Pick And Choose Your Family.

Freedom From Want -- Norman Rockwell, 1943

Famed author Harper Lee wrote in To Kill a Mockingbird...
"You can choose your friends but you sho' can't choose your family, an' they're still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge 'em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don't."
Harper Lee couldn't have been farther from the truth.

Family goes beyond whom you share a blood relation with. Life isn't about predefined boundaries with some people being your kin and some being your friends; some your enemies and some strangers. If you step back and look at the big picture, we're all technically related as the one giant family that is the human race.

So no, sharing a blood relation isn't enough to qualify someone as family -- at least in my opinion.

You can pick and choose your family. Your family is whom you surround yourself with. A friend can be closer than a sibling. A nanny can be closer than your own parent. The support group that enriches and improves your life is your family. Alternatively, people whom you might share an immediate blood relation with could be wholly destructive and detrimental to your well-being. These people are not your family. The sooner you accept this fact, the better off you'll be.

Often times, we want to organize people into specific roles within our family. This person is my mother. This person is my sister. This person is my nephew. I find great fault in this. Being a part of a family isn't solely about filling a certain niche. It's an all-or-nothing scenario in my experience -- either you're in, or you're out. Family... not family... it's that simple.

Think about the people you love the most in this world. Do those people return your affection and make a difference in your life? Good... then that is your family. Hell, this goes beyond human beings, even. My two dogs, Mellow and Echo, mean the world to me; they are part of my family. I know I'm going to be devastated when my dogs pass away. It'll be as if I have lost a dear family member because I will be losing a family member.

Believe it or not, family is important to me. I'm deeply loyal to my family, appearances be damned. Yet, my family isn't some alley bar where everyone can come in for a drink. Instead, I treat my family like a highly exclusive social club. The membership isn't open to just anyone. You have to meet certain requirements and I simply must know you're in it for the long haul. Being "related" to me (whatever the hell that means) doesn't make you family.

Being a part of my family makes you family -- nothing more, nothing less.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Let's Talk About Passing Gas.

In my article from yesterday, I discussed how protein shakes have been integrated into my meal plan. With that comes some readjustment in my digestive tract, along with a slight bit of stomach discomfort. Though, my article today isn't about that. It's more so a side story.

Today... let's talk about flatulence.

When I purchased my new Jeep in February of this year, I made a commitment to myself -- no passing gas in the new vehicle.

Go ahead... laugh. Get it out.

Feel better? Okay. :-D

So far, I've kept to my promise. Not once have I let one rip inside my Jeep. This isn't just for the comfort of any passengers, but also to prevent any leftover odors from lingering in my driver seat.

You're laughing again. That's to be expected. I'll continue.

My digestive tract has been particularly bound up the past few days, with little action on the backside, if you catch my drift. All of that changed today. While out shopping, I noticed some activity stirring in my undercarriage. Lo and behold... I developed a hurricane strength level of flatulence while walking around. It took everything I had to bottle it! Upon getting outside, I finally released some pressure. A moment later, I thought I was done.

Oh no, things were just getting warmed up.

As if a massive turbine suddenly sparked to life, I couldn't stop breaking wind. When I made it to my car, I thought I was finished. As I was about to sit down in my driver seat, I felt another wave of gas hit me. I jumped from my cabin with a flash and did my business outside. Taking my seat again, I was about to start my car. NOPE! More gas! I hopped out again and kept my promise.


You may be asking yourself...

"Jared, why in the hell are you talking about passing gas?"

I'll tell you why. It's because we all do it. You. Me. The dog. Your mother. Your wife. Men. Women. Kids. Birds. Alligators. Dinosaurs.

We all fart. I'm not ashamed to admit it and neither should you. That being said, I believe we should all try a little bit harder to not pass gas in our vehicles.

What's the point of this article? Honestly, I have no idea. Maybe I'm trying to improve the resale value of automobiles. Maybe I think farting is funny. Either way, I hope I made you smile just a little bit.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Stomach Pains.

I've been making a hard push to reach the low-to-mid 270 lbs. range for the past week. So far, I'm on the right track. When I've weighed myself over the course of the past few mornings, I've been as low as 278. I'd like to accomplish my goal by the end of the month, so I've got to keep pushing. That being said, the manner through which I've readjusted my eating schedule has not been easy.

Up until recently, I would eat a solid breakfast, lunch and dinner. Now, I eat a liquid breakfast and dinner. Only my lunch is composed of solid food. At breakfast and dinner, I'll consume a protein shake (either a strawberry or peanut butter recipe). Lunch is now my largest meal of the day; I treat it like I normally would a dinner meal. My stomach hasn't been so fond of me eating only one solid meal a day. For the first time today, I experienced true hunger pains. It felt as if caterpillars strapped with razor blades were churning through my stomach. Boy, let me tell you... I think I know how starving kids feel. Accordingly, eating only one solid meal a day has made it difficult for me to ingest a large amount of food. My stomach simply can't stretch to accommodate the load like it once could. A typical dinner-size meal I could once eat now gives me a stomach ache. As I readjust, I believe I need to reduce the amount of solid food I eat for lunch, but consume food that's higher in nutritional and caloric value.

I must reiterate -- my daily routine includes vigorous exercise. No diet plan is complete without some form of exercise, obviously. Over the course of an entire day, I net between 750 and 1100 calories with my exercise being taken into consideration.

I'm thankful to finally hit 278 lbs.; I haven't weighed this much since my freshman year of high school. That was nineteen years ago! In the short term, I'd like to reach at least 260-265 lbs. by the onset of the holiday season. Of course, trying to lose weight during the holidays is next to impossible, but I am experienced in how to maintain my weight at a steady level.

65 lbs. down... Onward to the next milestone!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

New Methods Of Marketing Pumpkin Spice To Women.

Let's face it -- chicks love pumpkin spice.

With Autumn right around the corner, women everywhere are crying out for the perennial Fall favorite. From the local coffee shop to donut shack and every retailer in between, pumpkin spice is a virtual gold mine in the lead up to the holiday season. This got me to thinking... other than air fresheners and candles, what other products could be blessed with the flavorful goodness of pumpkin spice?
  • Pumpkin Spice Shampoo: Imagine lathering up your hair with some inviting orange shampoo. Instead of the typical bland stuff that smells like rain or tsunamis or some crap, what if your shampoo left you smelling like a Starbucks in October?
  • Pumpkin Spice Pizza: I know you're probably saying yuck, but listen to me. What if Pizza Hut or some other major pizza retailer developed a pumpkin spice dessert pizza? The crust could be made of the same dough used for cinnamon buns. Layer a pumpkin spice creme with caramel and bits of cinnamon. Top it off with warm streusel. Oh man... that's making me hungry!
  • Pumpkin Spice Toothpaste: Brushing your teeth never tasted so wonderful!
  • Pumpkin Spice Christmas Trees: This would be pretty easy to pull off. Many faux Christmas Trees these days come with pre-installed lights. Using that same technology, scent-releasing oil warmers could be built into the branches and release the alluring aroma of pumpkin spice. Oooooh, but I'm not done yet. Want your real Christmas Tree to smell just as lovely? Use a special pumpkin spice mixture in the water you pour into the base of your tree. The tree will absorb the scented water and release it into the air. Genius!
  • Pumpkin Spice Tampons: This one is pretty much self explanatory. Moving on.
  • Pumpkin Spice Fabric Softener: Screw Fresh Cotton and Lavender Loft... let's get your laundry a scent upgrade!
  • Pumpkin Spice Sugar Wafers: We all grew up with the regular chocolate and vanilla flavored wafers. Kick things up a notch with an explosion of sweet pumpkin spice creme. BAM!
  • Pumpkin Spice Fireball Whisky: When it comes to drinking alcohol, college girls love them some Fireball. Really want to move some bottles off the liquor store shelves? Create a pumpkin spice variant of Fireball that the frisky co-eds will absolutely LOVE! Imagine the excitement that will ensue with a bottle of Pumpkin Spice Fireball and a group of your favorite sorority girls!
Tell me what you think. Do you have any ideas for pumpkin spice?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Southern Cooking Will Kill You.

Approximately 735,00 people have a heart attack in the United States every year. Of that total, roughly 120,000 die.

You may be asking... what does that have to do with anything? Well, it has a lot to do with how you eat. Specifically -- traditional Southern Cooking is absolutely terrible for you.

I know fried food is tasty, but go easy on it.

A recently released study completed by the University of Alabama-Birmingham reveals just how bad Southern Cooking is for you. Their study collected data from over 17,000 participants over the course of six years. The participants were age 45 or older and came from all parts of the United States. During that span, the researchers were able to identify five distinct patterns of diet for their participants.
  • Sweets, candy, breakfast cereals, chocolate, ice cream, items high in sugar
  • Beans, vegetables, fruit, fresh meat, fish and poultry
  • Fast-food / take-out eaters: pizza, hamburgers, Mexican, Chinese
  • Alcohol and Salads: those whom ingested large amounts of beer, wine and spirits, along with a steady stream of leafy salads
  • Traditional Southern Cooking eaters: fried foods, processed meats, organ meats, sugary beverages (soda, sweet tea), dishes high in fat
Of the five food trends, the results were highly conclusive. Participants whom regularly fell into the Southern Cooking pattern of eating had 37% more heart attacks -- many of the participants even died. The other four eating patterns had little to no increased risk of heart attack -- though that's not to say they were healthy, either.

This should come as no shock to anyone familiar with traditional Southern Cooking, which is loaded with all sorts of fried foods. Fried food can wreak havoc on your cardiovascular system if consumed day after day. It's okay to partake of fried foods in moderation, but you can't eat them constantly. Heck, I'm the first to tell you that I love fried chicken. How often do I eat it, though? Maybe three or four times a year, if that.

This new set of data clearly supports information we've seen in the past. A comprehensive research study published in November of 2014 illustrates the role geography plays in a person developing heart disease. See the two maps below.

You guessed it -- those whom live in the South have the highest risk for developing heart disease in the United States, whether male or female. Numbers don't lie, folks. The Southern Cooking diet is not sustainable for a healthy, prolonged life. Sure, there are some great Southern dishes that taste amazing.

You just can't eat the Southern way every day without causing yourself harm.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Draw Something: The Silent Samurai

After glancing through some old art block print books, I decided my subject for today would be a samurai. Resting in silent repose, the samurai contemplates his place in the world. Mt. Fuji stands majestic and powerful in the distance.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Trio of Poems.

Today's edition of my Saturday Night Stories series will be a slight deviation from the norm. Tonight, I'll share a trio of poems that I wrote between ten and twenty years ago. They have never before been published.

Love and the Sea Turtle

A dozen young turtles swam out to sea
Looking for calmer shores
Eleven came back, sad as could be
One turtle found love that was yours

The lonely young turtle swam all alone
Pushing onward at the fall of night
Heaven lie ahead on a whispered tone
Moonbeams on the ocean glowed bright

Through blankets of fog and blasts of rain
Our small hero gave it his best
The love of a maiden shielded the pain
This proved to be his true final test

Miles lay behind the weary voyager
He'd proved his worth as a knight
Warmth from a goddess' power
Her love made the journey alright


The Lost Nightingale

Born of winter's premiere frost
Out to touch the darkest of night
It holds me -
Like the warmth of my mother
Like the stern hand of my father
It grips me -
With ever-open arms
That wrap around me - Inside and Out
This feeling flows through my heart
As the sweet nectar of life itself
Never has this stunned me
Never has this enveloped me so...
It changes midnight to sunrise
Death to Life...
It is your presence that draws me in
And never lets go
But tugs at the strings of my heart
As a puppet
Dances for his master
But I will not dance!
I will sing the song of life
And return my song
To the lost Nightingale
That chirps in the forest of compassion



Monsters are real...
Oh don't you know
Lurking and stalking in basements below
Watching and wondering with eyes lit 'round
Waiting to prance at the slightest loud sound
Without a thought or moment to lose
They jump on little girls
With the toughest of ruse
Using their wit and brainy might
They lure their prey deep into the night
And forever shall be
And long after more
The monsters shall prey on victims galore
So watch your back
And keep your guard high
And leave your ears open
Lest you miss their ghastly cry

Friday, August 7, 2015

Thanks For Eleven Great Years!

We snapped this photo during our third date on the
Virginia Beach Boardwalk -- August, 2004.

Wow... eleven long years. Tonight marks the eleventh anniversary of my first date with Crystal, the absolute joy of my life -- my partner in crime, my better half, my boo (inside joke)! We'd spoken all throughout the Summer of 2004 via text messages, phone calls and the internet before ever actually getting around to going on a date. Thanks to my father, I was nearly late to our first date on Saturday, August 7, 2004 -- he suddenly had a giant pile of rocks for me to shovel (I can't make this stuff up, folks) just moments before I was about to leave home. I don't think I've ever worked a shovel so fast in my life, either before or since.

Thankfully, Crystal was more than understanding and waited for me to show up. We watched The Village and heckled the theater audience because the plot was so predictable. We spent hours on end just talking, each too nervous to actually touch the other one. Finally, at 10:20 PM that night, you pulled me close. Our eyes locked and you gave me this grin... that was our first kiss.

At the beach in 2005.

These past eleven years have been quite the journey. What started out as two innocent kids on a date turned into more than I could have ever imagined. A full decade later, we own a home, have two wacky dogs and don't have to worry about living paycheck to paycheck. We're able to travel and move where we want, when we want. I'm thankful for all that we've worked for and accomplished. Though, I'm probably most thankful for you sticking by me in what was certainly the toughest period of my life. Only in the past few years have I really come into my own as a man. I've been able to put a lot of anger and sadness behind me. I have you to thank for that, Crystal. You made possible a loving relationship that allowed me to heal, even when I wasn't a very nice person to be around.

Taking silly pictures in our apartment in 2006.

The first year of our relationship was great -- the honeymoon phase as many folks call it. The next few years after that weren't so hot -- you came to understand how closed off and emotionally guarded I was. I would lie and hide things about myself from you. I wasn't always the most committed man, either. You came to understand how nutty my family can be. And yet, you hung in there. The years after our move to North Carolina were filled with grief and fury -- my internal strife and depression nearly drove me insane. But there you were, still fighting the good fight and supporting me. You were there through the death of my mother and my family being torn apart. You were there when my sister needed someone to depend upon. You were there when I finally decided to take better care of myself, both mentally and physically. Some days were good; some were bad. Living with me was like riding a roller coaster without a seat-belt. I guess spending all those years with horses taught you how to rope a wild beast.

You were there, over and over and over again.

Christmas of 2012 -- I was at my heaviest weight and about to make a change in my life thanks to you.

The past couple of years have been our best, in my opinion. I finally got my head screwed on straight and much of the anger in my heart defeated. Crystal, you've been there in both good times and bad, for better or worse.

When I had no place to lay my head, you gave me a bed to rest on.

When I had no one to call my friend, you gave me your hand to hold.

When I needed someone to help me get better, you were there to patch up my wounds.

Off for a hike in 2013.

Words simply can not express how much you've done for me, Crystal. All I can say, with every cell in my body, is thank you for loving me -- especially during the years when I wasn't so lovable. I was a miserable monster for the bulk of my 20's, but somehow you found a way to love me. It baffles me, honestly... but it's not something for me to worry about anymore. The finest way to repay your love and kindness is to be the best man I can be, thereby loving you more completely in return.

Crystal, I love you. You're the funniest person I know. You're wise beyond your years. You know how to lead and you've never, ever been a follower. You're stunning and graceful in more ways than I can relate. You are the best of humanity all rolled into one sublime package. I hope the next eleven years are filled with more success, happiness and peace for the both of us. You deserve it for loving a difficult man like me. We've stuck together through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Without you, I am but a hollow ghost left to wander this world. To be honest, for all that you've done for me, I think it's about time I started calling you my wife. Considering we eloped in 2008, it's long overdue anyway.

I love ya, pretty lady.

P.S. -- I know you're going to yell at me for sharing photos of us, but hush. You're gorgeous and I'm proud of us. ;-)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

I Have The Lungs Of A 51 Year Old Man.

My lungs are 51 years old.

I had a routine visit with my doctor today. Chiefly, I needed to renew some medications that I take daily for asthma; I was officially diagnosed with the condition in 2005. While there, I partook in a Spirometry test. A computer measures the functionality of my lungs while I blow multiple times into a special tube. This test measures how much air I can inhale and exhale, the force with which I can blow air out, and from which areas of my lungs I can store air. Essentially, the Spirometry test measures how capable my lungs are at respiration. After compiling the results, the test then determines an "age" for the patient's lungs. As I stated above -- I have the lungs of a healthy 51 year old man.

I'm only 32 years old.

So why are my lungs twenty years older than I am? I've never smoked cigarettes or any other substance ever. Nor have I ever worked around asbestos or some other lung-damaging air particulate. My doctor explained the results to me thoroughly, as well as provided a likely culprit.

You see, my mother smoked while pregnant with me. Smoking while pregnant has definitively been linked to the development of asthma in children -- I probably dealt with the condition for years before ever being properly diagnosed. Decades of research has also indicated that a fetus will almost certainly have improperly developed lungs with a smoking mother. Strike two for me -- my lungs have nowhere near the capacity of a normal adult my age. The trauma didn't end there, though. Here comes strike three...

My mom also continued to smoke while I was a child. In fact, I can't think of a time when my mother didn't smoke while I was growing up. My father sporadically smoked off and on for many years in that same time. Being surrounded by all that second-hand smoke continued to harm my lung functionality. Imagine being trapped in a house with smokers, or being inside a sealed car with smokers. A vulnerable, developing child has little say in the matter. Spout what you will about your right to smoke, but harming your child in the process of slowly killing yourself is shortsighted and deplorable. If you learn anything from this article, it's this -- please don't smoke while pregnant, nor around your child after they are born. If you do so, you're doing irreparable harm that your child will have to deal with for the rest of their life.

So, how does all of this affect me? First, my lungs have a hard time bringing in a normal amount of air. Imagine what a balloon looks like when it's full of air -- robust, tight and ready to pop. Now, imagine what a balloon looks like when it's only half full with air -- limp, deflated and loose. That's what my lungs are like. Physically, my lungs are healthy looking (no black lung), but they're simple not able to fill up like a normal pair. Why? Because the alveoli in my lungs are either damaged or undeveloped.

Alveoli are the branching cavities in the lungs where the body's gas exchange takes place. They act as little portals that deliver oxygen into the blood stream and take out carbon dioxide. The Spirometry test determined that my alveoli, depending on their various locations and size, operate at 25-50% of their normal capacity for my age. To put it in the simplest of analogies -- for every one breath you will take, I have to take between two and four.

My long-term outlook isn't grim -- I just have to be careful. Continuing to lose weight is a big step in the right direction. The less I weigh, the easier a job my lungs have at delivering oxygen into my body. I also have to avoid allergens that cause me pulmonary distress. Watching my physical exertion is also key. When my body tells me I'm tired, I have to listen and take a break.

There is good news, though. Other than my asthma and decreased lung capability, I'm a very healthy man. I have no diseases to speak of, nor do I have heart or blood pressure problems. I'm probably the fittest overweight man you'll ever know. I plan on being around for a long, long time.