Tuesday, May 31, 2016

When Cats Attack!

Cats are not to be trusted. Sure, they're cute and fluffy and full of playfulness... but they have a dark side.

A side that wants to eat your face.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Celebrating The Jack Of All Trades.

What do all of the following have in common?

MacGyver, of the classic eponymous TV show.

A crow, one of nature's most ingenious creatures.

Roger Smith from 'American Dad!'.

The red mage from 'Final Fantasy'.

Mike Rowe, star of 'Dirty Jobs'.

Painter, inventor, writer, scientist and poet Leonardo da Vinci.

Each and every one of these is a highly adaptable Jack of all trades. They are able to do a lot of things reasonably well, more so than the common person or being. And yet, none are considered experts in any particular field. Their success stems from an ability to do many tasks and perform multiple skills proficiently, thereby granting them great value for their flexible utility. Concurrently, they also possess the ability to pick up new talents and hold an interest in a diverse range of subjects. In short, a jack of all trades is the personification of a Swiss Army knife.

I want to take the opportunity with today's article to celebrate the jack of all trades. Often chided as negligible or untalented in our culture, the truth couldn't be more different. Jacks of all trades are highly important within our society. They can complete a multitude of jobs without difficulty. Their malleability allows for transitions between different areas of work that most people simply couldn't pull off. Most importantly, when life has you backed in a corner and you're facing utter defeat or even death, the jack of all trades is the man or woman you want to have your back. They're the best defense against the worst-case scenario. Their resourcefulness is their key to victory.

As I've grown older, I have come to accept the fact that I'm a jack of all trades, however unlikely I initially thought I would be. When I was a younger man, I assumed I was destined to just be an artist. A jack of all trades? Humph! That was just a loser whom couldn't do anything right. Then I discovered I could cook. Then I was a medic. After that, a banker. Later on, I realized I could write reasonably well. Heap on a load of interests so diverse that I couldn't even begin to list them all here. Yeah... a jack of all trades for sure. As time went on, I started to cherish my versatility and ultimately embrace it. Of course, I'm not the best at any one particular thing, but I'm pretty darn good at a lot of things. I'm not going to write the greatest novel ever written. I'm not going to discover the cure to cancer. I won't ever win an Olympic medal. Nor am I going to draw the most realistic portrait ever put to paper.

But you know what? When the going gets tough, I'll survive. I'll make sure those around me make it through the night. And then... I'll cook breakfast.

So remember, folks. Support your local jack of all trades. Give them your business. Thank them for their uncanny knack for doing just about anything. And, if you discover you're a jack of all trades, don't fight it. You're more significant than you realize.

This guy gets me.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Draw Something: The Wrong Angel

Many of us ask for the help of angels.

What if the wrong angel showed up, though?

A fate cloaked in scarlet. Contracts signed in blood and sealed with a kiss. A vision not quite clear, breaking from the darkness. It overtakes you, leading you through rotten fields where no map can guide you home.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Boxer And The Bear.

A child and cub born side by side
Bushy eared and eyes thrown wide
Parents thought no harm to fear
Brothers helpless as a dear
Growl and cry and play all day
Never apart would they stray
Each drank milk and slept a lot
Decide the cuter one could not
Up they grew so far so fast
Each day bigger than the last
Cub turned bear, boy turned man
Time blew by the years they span
Too large to call the indoors home
An outside pen the bear did roam
Boy became quite strong and tough
A boxer skilled and really buff
The fighter loved his fuzzy friend
Not foreseeing childhood's end
Defenses down the boxer screams
Tears he wept in soggy streams
Brother bear he took a bite
Off the boxer's face of fright
Soon to be the beast's cuisine
Death delivered unforseen
What he failed to comprehend
Bears are wild to the end
As boxer faded to the light
Truth revealed with every bite
All a bear can be is all its born to do
Eat fish and squirrels and me and you

Friday, May 27, 2016

Why The $15 Minimum Wage Doesn't Work.

Historically, skilled laborers would go on strike -- welders, steel workers, mechanics and so on. Now, unskilled workers that flip burgers and work cash registers all day think they should strike, too.

As a follow up to my article yesterday, I want to extrapolate further as to the insane nature of a $15 minimum wage, especially in regard to unskilled service industry workers. The arbitrary nature of such a number ultimately detracts from the economy, causing more unemployment and greater competition between unskilled workers. It's something I've spoke about more than once. A big thank you goes out to my brother James for sharing the following video with me. In this video, Don Boudreaux, a highly-regarded economist at George Mason University, explains the pitfalls of the 'Fight for $15' movement and why such a financial policy simply doesn't work. I encourage you all to watch. You just might learn something.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Waitresses... At McDonald's?

Earlier this month on May 12, I wrote about the forthcoming automation at Wendy's restaurants. This is a cost saving measure to counter the ridiculous demands by employees to be paid $15 an hour. Obviously, if the price of staffing goes up, a business must find a more reasonable method of administering their product to offset the increased overhead expense. Long story short... here come the robots.

Today, McDonald’s Chief Executive Officer Steve Easterbrook spoke to shareholders at the company’s annual meeting. He expanded upon the notion of kiosks and other robotic methods of serving customers, as well as their potential use in the house that Ronald McDonald built. Easterbrook said:
“I don’t see it being a risk to job elimination... Ultimately we’re in the service business. We will always have an important human element.”
Easterbrook further explained that any automation that takes place inside their restaurants would largely result in employees being shifted from the kitchen to the dining room area in a service capacity. Essentially, if you carefully read between the lines, the CEO is forecasting a major shift in what kind of employees will be hired by the company. So, what will that new status be?

They'll be waiters and waitresses. And what do waitresses make per hour? On average, less than $3.

Think about this for a moment. McDonald's employees will no longer flip burgers or bake apple pie crisps. Those jobs will be fully automated by machines. Instead, they'll bring customers more food and water, much like any other sit-down restaurant. As such, those employees will be compensated as waitresses, whom are legally allowed to be paid much less than the standard minimum wage. Customers will then tip these employees, thereby absorbing the increased cost of doing business.

In no simpler set of words, McDonald's shall put the burden onto its customers, at the same time paying less wages to their staff and making more profit. This is a classic win-win scenario.

Mark you calendars, my friends. I'm calling it now. At some point in the near future, you'll see waiters and waitresses at McDonald's.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Just Floating.

Earlier this evening, I took my first dip in the pool for the year. The water was brisk to say the least. Yet, the days are getting longer and the water a little bit warmer with each passing sunrise. It's nice to sit back, relax and just float for a moment. Sometimes, not doing anything is the best decision you can make. With quiet repose comes perspective. That, my friends, is something we can all use a little bit more of.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Well Hello There American Toad!

Last month, I wrote about the discovery of a common Fowler Toad living in my back yard. It was certainly a welcomed sight; I'm always eager to invite as much biodiversity as possible into my landscape. With all the dozens of species of birds that live in my yard, also having a cute little toad was quite delightful. Today, I was lucky yet again.

While mowing the grass around my garden area, I happened upon this stout American toad (Anaxyrus americanus). Sure, it's just a toad you might say. And yet, this specimen was hefty, roughly the size of my palm. I didn't want to touch it for fear of stressing it out, but I did guide the toad towards a more inviting residence within a garden bed filled with Asiatic lilies. There, it would be safe from my mower. I took note of the area surrounding the American toad. All around were various insects and worms, of which one was crawling out in the open nearby. I suspect the toad was hunting for some lunch. Who can blame him? I'm certain he found a tasty earthworm or grub to snack on while resting among the lilies.

The American toad is a certified success story within the animal kingdom. It has spread all over the North American continent, ranging from the Atlantic coast to the Midwest, then northwards into Canada. They're of the hardy and resilient sort, easily adaptable to almost any environment -- flatlands, forests, mountains, open fields, brush-filled areas and yes, even back yards. With a secure hunting ground for food and a stable hibernation area for the cold winter months, the American toad can live a long and happy life. The oldest known American toad lived well into her thirties. Typical though, an American toad can easily live for 5 - 15 years in the wild, with life expectancy much longer in a healthy captive environment.

Just think... the toad I met today may have lived in my yard longer than I've owned my home.  Perhaps the toad looks at me and thinks "gee, who is this guy on my property?"

Monday, May 23, 2016

VA Secretary McDonald Likens Veteran Wait Times To Disneyland, Says They Don't Matter.

Some people just don't get it.

Earlier this morning, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald made an appearance before the Christian Science Monitor breakfast event. In speaking about the wait times many veterans suffer experiencing to receive medical care from the VA, he had this to say.
“When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what’s important? What’s important is, what’s your satisfaction with the experience? And what I would like to move to, eventually, is that kind of measure.”
Expanding further upon his assertion that wait times don't matter, McDonald stated that he does not believe an evaluation called the "create date," which assesses a veteran's wait time by counting from the day the veteran first asks for treatment, is a "valid measure" of a veteran's level of care.

Clearly, Secretary McDonald has no earthly idea what the hell he is talking about.

Just last year, an in-depth report (read it here) published by the Veterans Health Administration Office of the Inspector General discovered an egregious backlog of over 800,000 veteran records trapped in a waiting status. These records were various applications by veterans for health care of all different types, shockingly going as far back as the 1980's! Of the total, over 300,000 records were linked to veterans whom died while waiting to receive care. Just think about that number, folks. Out of every 100 veterans seeking care trapped in that pending status, 37 died before they received treatment.

So no, Secretary McDonald, wait times for veterans are a massive problem. Much less, to compare the frustration that many veterans experience in receiving care to waiting in line at Disneyland? That's beyond insulting... it's inflammatory. This isn't some ride on Space Mountain. It's a matter of life and death! Of course the quality of care that is delivered to veterans is important. No one disputes that. And yet, if veterans have to wait an eternity to receive said care, what's the point at all? Because of the long wait times and lack of system cohesion, many veterans seek out healthcare from sources other than the Veterans Administration, or they simply go without care altogether.

Why is Robert McDonald so out of touch with the men and women he's charged with caring for? His career speaks for itself. A lifelong businessman, McDonald has not once done anything remotely related to the military. He joined Procter and Gamble, initially managed the Tide brand of laundry soap, in the 1980's. Over the course of the next three decades, he hopped the globe managing various facets of Procter and Gamble's business operations. By 2010, he was the company's chairman of the board; he retired in 2013 a very wealthy man. President Obama nominated him to be the new Veterans Affairs Secretary in 2014, met by unanimous confirmation by the Senate.

That's right... our President and Senate selected a man that made his fortune selling laundry soap to lead the Veterans Administration. How could we ever be surprised that McDonald considers veterans to be as important as amusement park rides?

Waiting in line for the Little Mermaid Undersea Adventure or to get healthcare? To Secretary McDonald, what's the difference?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Draw Something: Ocular Astro Zombie

Coming soon to a theater near you. Something so terrifying, so disgusting, so obviously a guy in a rubber suit that you'll crap your pants (but you'll probably laugh hysterically).

Attack of the Ocular Astro Zombies!

Oh man, this would be a terrible movie. That's just my kind of flick!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Short Ray Bradbury Documentary.

I just don't have it in me to write this evening. I'm not sick by any means... I just seem to be trapped under the rubble of the world's biggest wall of writer's block. Those of you that read my article about writer's block a few week's back will certainly be able to understand. I always promise to entertain you on the weekend, though. As such, here's a fantastic little self-produced documentary about my favorite author -- Ray Bradbury. Enjoy!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Brown Sugar Pie - The Fattest Recipe Ever?

Americans are fat as hell... and recipes like this are why.

I found this recipe for a Brown Sugar Pie in my local newspaper today. Take a look at those ingredients and let it all soak in.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon of hot water
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1/2 pound of light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla
My immediate response was "Where is the pie?" This is an entire dessert essentially filled with sugar and butter. No pecans. No walnuts. No cinnamon or cloves. No fruit of any kind.


Just to prove to you how terrible this recipe is, here is the nutritional data.

(Click to enlarge)

Mindblowing, right?! Brown Sugar Pie has a total of 1321 calories and 227 carbs (all of which come directly from sugar). You might as well stick your face in a sugar bowl and lick it out, because that would produce the same result. If you cut this "pie" into six slices, you'd be eating 37.8 carbs in one sitting. Keep in mind that you shouldn't eat more than 50 carbs in a day. By the time you swallow a slice down with a glass of milk, well... you've gone over your carb limit plus some. Most people would probably cut this dish into four slices.

Oh, who am I kidding; this is America. They'd just eat the whole damn thing!

Notice I left the pie shell out of the nutritional data. Why? Because there was no point. The pie shell just adds more carbs and more calories. I think you get the picture.

Crappy recipes like this, passed off as 'good southern cooking', are why we're bursting at the seems with fat. Instead of eating some terrible slop like Brown Sugar Pie, why not bake an apple pie or some pumpkin pie? Sure, no pie is outright good for you, but at least other options are somewhat better for you. This, though? It's just a pie pan filled with sugar. Yuck.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

What's The Difference Between A Violin And A Fiddle?

What's the difference between a violin and a fiddle?

Until I researched this answer for myself this evening, I was completely in the dark. I don't know how to play a musical instrument (other than a terrible rendition of Yankee Doodle on the piano), so the fact that I was unaware shouldn't come as any surprise. As much as I love music, I haze zero musical talent.

Believe it or not, there is no physical difference between a violin and a fiddle.

Apparently, the two terms relate more to how the same instrument is played, versus its actual construction. A 'fiddle' can technically play the same music that a 'violin' plays, and vice versa.

So where's the difference? It's all in the music! Fiddles are typically set up and handled for fast and rhythmic traditional folk music. A fiddler wants you to feel the song and dance to it. Alternatively, a violin is geared for orchestral, sweeping music, full of romance and intrigue. Fiddlers possess skills that are drastically different than those of a violinist. While either artist can attempt to play the musical style of the other, they would encounter difficulty succeeding. And yet, the instrument would be largely the same, except for different strings and any accommodating modifications to the bridge of the violin / fiddle.

Here's a short video which better illustrates the difference.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Eat More Pollock!

I ate pollock fish for dinner. It was quite tasty. Crystal prepared some fresh tartar sauce for our meal. The pollock was baked in the oven at 350° F for thirty minutes. I coated it with butter, garlic, parsley, seasoning salt and black pepper. The result was quite enjoyable. As a white fish, pollock fillets deliver a flavorful meal without any unpleasant bones to speak of.

Yes, I am slightly inebriated. I just wrote about pollock.

Did you know that pollock is the chief ingredient in many fast food establishment's fish sandwiches? I now, right?! How versatile! Pollock has become a popular choice for fishing in recent years, largely due to the over-fishing of other species like haddock and cod. Pollock is native to the North Atlantic Ocean. It is the common name for two separate species -- Pollachius pollachius and Pollachius virens.

Americans should eat more fish. Overall, we're a pretty fat society, with too much of our daily food intake coming from processed foods. Fish is an excellent source of nutrition. Over a long period of time, ingesting fish as a key component of your diet can lead to increased longevity. Specifically, pollock is a fantastic source of lean protein and low in saturated fat. It also has plentiful amounts of Vitamin B12, phosphorous, and selenium.


Though, a pollock fish might disagree. Screw that pollock. We're going to eat you. Nom-Nom-Nom.

This pollock is dead. It is no longer living. You should eat it... before the bear does.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Is "How Do You Do" Creepy?

When I encounter a stranger in passing, say at the grocery or in a gas station for example, I'll often make eye contact and greet them. A person that walks immediately by your person should be spoken to politely, simply out of being respectful. Earlier this afternoon, I was in a store and had to walk past a person. Being that we were in close proximity, I made eye contact and said...

"How do you do?"

The person responded in a normal manner and we went our separate ways. Believe it or not, this article isn't a rant about someone being rude to me. Instead, it's very personal in nature. The questions is...

Is it weird or creepy to talk to a stranger in such a proper manner?

Crystal and I have discussed the manner in which I speak to other people in the past; today was no different. In her opinion, I speak too formally with people in this modern age, especially with those whom I do not know. Instead of greeting others with "how do you do," I should say something like "what's up" or just "hey." By using "how do you do," I am potentially creeping people out, while at the same time sounding very old-fashioned. Another suggestion was for me to not say anything at all and avoid making contact altogether.

Apparently, I am an 80 year old man trapped in a 30 year old's body. While this news doesn't really come as a shock to me, I never considered the notion that my method of relaying language was terribly outdated. Though, I'm hesitant to use such contemporary jargon. Won't I come off has rude or unintelligent? I don't want to sound like a blockhead. Yet, by using a more stately introduction, I could be doing just that -- creeping people out.

What are your thoughts? Should I be a hip, cool dude and say "what's up?"

Monday, May 16, 2016

Baby Bison Euthanized After Yellowstone Tourists Kidnap It.

Humans suck. I mean we really s-u-c-k.

Officials from Yellowstone National Park released the sad news today that they were forced to euthanize a recently born bison calf. Last week, two brain-dead park visitors thought it was a bright idea to load the calf into the back of their vehicle, then drive it to the closest park ranger's office because it 'looked cold'. What these numb-skulls failed to consider is that close human contact with the calf would cause its herd to abandon it. Essentially, they kidnapped the baby calf from its mother and sentenced it to death.

A bystander took this photo of the calf after the visitors put it in their vehicle.

Over the course of this past week, rangers tried to get the baby's herd to accept it back, but they wouldn't out of pure instinct. The calf was reported as being left behind repeatedly, often approaching other visitors for comfort or begging for food. If ever there were a sad wildlife story, this is it.

Since the baby couldn't be reacclimated with its herd, it was put down as to not suffer from starvation and abandonment. Wild bison mothers are commonly known to leave their young if humans interact with them, as was the case in this instance. Had the animal been allowed to live, its high level of familiarity with humans would have surely been a safety hazard upon reaching maturity.

Yellowstone National Park makes it very clear that all visitors should abstain from approaching bison, much less touch them. The park rules state that all visitors should keep 25 yards from all wildlife and 100 yards from bears and wolves. And yet, year after year, people are injured or killed by bison in Yellowstone. Last year alone, five people were severely gored after getting too close.

A little common sense goes a long way when it comes to wildlife. Unfortunately, the visitors probably didn't learn anything from their disastrous actions. Their punishment for killing the baby calf? A paltry $110 fine. It makes me sick to my stomach.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Draw Something: Hungry Zombie

In keeping with the macabre theme from my poem yesterday, I thought I'd doodle a hungry zombie. Unfortunately, it seems he has lost his jaw somewhere, along with a few of his brain cells. AAARGGGHHH!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Lust.

What crawls from 'neath the bubbling muck
Renouncing oblivion to ravage amok
Oozing stale gasps of long captured souls
Dropped deep below to bygone holes
Bursting through forests and deepest of lakes
Terrors to give you the chills and the shakes
Encroaching the fields of our schools and homes
Flesh intended to fill catacombs
Nothing is safe and nothing is sacred
From shambling horrors rancid and naked
Teeth and claws left dripping with gore
Entrails aglow on the moonlit floor
Life reduced to fleeting ephemera
Death endures to dance in the viscera
An unholy fable formed by acrid chrysalis
Fetid revulsion with a stench limitless
Plunging the surface to rip at the hide
Sloughing off layers no relief implied
Encircling putrescence denies your escape
Hunger unbound their mouths all agape
Piece of you here and a piece of you there
Truth be told there's plenty to share
Rest easy tonight the struggle is over
Better to die than live without closure
A burden to walk the black earth eternal
Cursed to feed a lust most infernal

Friday, May 13, 2016

To My Mother-In-Law, On Her Birthday.

It's not often that we meet a genuinely compassionate and understanding person. Someone that forgives your shortcomings and accepts you just as you are. We've known each other for nearly twelve years. And yet, since the moment we first met, you've treated me like one of your own. Like I was family.

Over the years, you've done what you could to make me feel comfortable in your home. You've fed me and given me love. You always ask how I'm doing and if I need anything. Most importantly, you've never judged me for the person I am. And trust me... I know I can be difficult. My middle name should have been prickly.

I'm not always the best to reciprocate your affection. Hell, I'm not that great at being warmhearted with anyone. Don't think for a moment that I don't notice what you do, though. Each and every tailored sleeping accommodation, the freshly-cooked meals, the birthday and Christmas presents. The hugs and words of encouragement. I remember them all because they're important to me, just like you are.

There's a lot to admire about you. The dedication to your family. The drive to succeed without help. The lovable stubbornness and selfless attitude. You're someone that doesn't let her boat sink in even the roughest of seas. For you, giving up simply isn't an option.

I've gone through a great deal of emotional turmoil in the decade plus that you've known me. During that time, you were a genuine mother to me. Now that I consider it, I've probably spent more time talking with you than I did my own biological mother. That speaks mounds, if you ask me. I might have come from a different womb, but you are as much of a mother to me as anyone could be. I say if the shoe fits, then wear it.

Thank you for being a constant source of support in my life. On this day, your birthday, there's no gift I can give you that can represent just how thankful I am for knowing you. Much less, for being my mother. With much love...

Happy Birthday Ann!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Wendy's Self-Service Kiosks Signal Bad Times Ahead For Teenage Workers.

The future is here, folks.

Wendy's has announced that they'll be doing a nationwide launch of self-service kiosks in their 6,000+ restaurant locations. Instead of a thirty-something mother of five with a neck tattoo taking your order, a robot will do it with much less complication (and no mistakes).

Executives with Wendy's point to rising wages as the reason for the self-service kiosk expansion. In states like California and New York, the minimum wage has recently gone above ten dollars an hour (with some cities at $15 per hour). Since we've yet to learn how to grow money on trees, the kiosks are a natural alternative for offsetting labor costs. Less employees and more kiosks help Wendy's meet their bottom line and turn a profit. It's as simple as that.

Of course, there's a downside to this whole turn of events. The short-sighted fast-food employees that have been pushing for a $15 minimum wage will soon see themselves without a job at all. For teenagers whom are looking for their first job, they'll now find themselves competing with a computer. Guess who is going to lose 99% of the time.

Idiots like this are why teenagers will soon be competing with robotic self-service kiosks for jobs.

While I'm actually thankful to see a large corporation move towards self-service for order taking (something companies like Sheetz have done successfully for many years), I'm also sad to see the realm of teenage employment shrink even further than it already has. Working at a fast-food restaurant is not a career. It's a pit-stop for young people to learn how to be responsible and earn a paycheck. And yet, fast-food work has been held hostage by grown adults unwilling to do anything else, much less better themselves for more reasonable employment opportunities. These fools have demanded $15 an hour to do menial work meant for young people. You reap what you sow.

I guess you can call this progress?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

When Hard Work Pays Off.

I just dropped almost $700 on a new computer. In the past few months, Crystal and I have been hustling hard, as to not have to put out a single dime of our own money to pay for it. I feel pretty damn good right about now. Very literally, we made money appear from right out of the trash. Could we have just bought a computer at any time? Of course. But this... oh it feels so much better.

We spent all evening determining the specs on the new PC. Now that the order has been placed and I have to wait three weeks to get it, I'm just going to sit back and relish this moment for a bit. Let's watch some videos of computers being destroyed. Ah, so satisfying.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

I Climbed A Mountain Today.

Yeah. Read that title one more time. I climbed a mountain today.

As I type this article, my body is weary and tired. I'm going to keep this brief. Crystal and I traveled to Hanging Rock State Park today in beautiful Stokes County, North Carolina. After hiking a long and rather strenuous uphill climb, 1.3 miles in length and 780 ft. of elevation gain, we arrived at the top to see some absolutely magnificent views. I'll let the photos do all the talking. Was I exhausted after climbing all that way? You bet I was. The path was S-T-E-E-P. The Hanging Rock trail path is gravel for most of the way up, but towards the end we encountered jagged rock steps. Oh man... I did some climbing.

If you ever have the opportunity, I highly recommend you visit Hanging Rock and check it out for yourself. Photos can't do it justice.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Can Cruise Control Solve Traffic Jams?

I want to begin this article by asking a simple question about your driving habits. If you own a vehicle with cruise control, do you use it regularly? I'd like to garner feedback from my readers about how and when they employ their car's cruise control feature, all to be used for a future follow-up segment. Or, if you don't use it at all, I'd like to know that as well.

Unfortunately, I'm one of those drivers that can be prone to bouts of road rage. Poor driving really gets under my skin. The single highway sin that bothers me the most are drivers that can't maintain a consistent speed. You surely understand what I'm referring to. One moment, a driver is ten miles below the speed limit. The next, they're blazing down the highway many miles over the limit. They just can't seem to drive along at a steady pace. Numerous variables can be at play -- fiddling with their phone, doing their makeup, eating, etc. Obviously, these same drivers are not using their cruise control.

I came upon some very interesting information concerning phantom traffic jams. These are bouts of severe slowdown on the highway caused by no reason at all. There's not an accident, nor roadwork, nor even a police officer pulled over beside the road. Mind you, these things shouldn't cause a traffic jam either, but folks like to rubberneck too much!

Here are some great videos that easily explain more in depth about phantom traffic jams.

With a phantom traffic jam, research has shown that drivers moving at inconsistent speeds are the largest contributing factor. When one driver brakes hard or slows down too much, they cause the driver behind them to do the same. This pattern repeats in succession, causing a chain reaction of sudden braking. Before long, a domino effect occurs and everyone comes to a crawl, or stops altogether. A giant traffic jam is born, all because someone can't drive worth a damn.

Please, relate your personal data about cruise control to me. I'd like some anecdotal context to better understand how and why traffic jams happen.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Draw Something: Mummy

That fact that today is Mother's Day is complete by coincidence. I just felt the urge to create a mummy today (probably because I played Castelvania last night). Literally... no pun intended.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Dividing Line.

Slicing the air with joyful fingers
Each one dancing to its own beat
The slightest stretch pulsating with life
Cupping the full-blown blast of the highway
Neurons firing eager trumpets of triumph
Easing my mind as I barrel along
Packs of roving bison and leopards
Mechanized behemoths of the new world
Boxes brimming with unbridled meat
Steel automaton docking complete
Open roads the only elixir
Punch-drunk bender full of techno innuendo
Solar streak goes west from east
Hues of violet usher the glow of lanterns
Guiding us to a forlorn pit stop in the fog
Endless layers scanned and wiped
Glossy flickers of nocturnal guardians dashing over
Atonement unlocked in these vivid reflections
Photon mass swirling in the metallic paint
Release the discord with miles piling high
A question not of whom or when or even why
Where does the human end... and the vehicle begin?

Friday, May 6, 2016

Random Suds Review: Anderson Valley Blood Orange Gose Ale.

Happy Friday everyone! I'm back with a random, on-the-spot review of a new beer for you. Served up this go round is the Anderson Valley Blood Orange Gose Ale. My regular readers will know that I've reviewed multiple brews from Anderson Valley Brewing in the past, all with great success. Let's hope this latest ale will continue that trend!

The Anderson Valley Blood Orange Gose Ale is 4.2% Alc. by volume and brewed with an extra special ingredient. During the fermentation process, blood oranges are added to the mix. As such, the final result should have a fair amount of citrus flavor. With this being a gose ale, it's brewed slightly different than other beers. Sea salt and coriander are employed in the brewing process, producing a much different flavor than one would expect. I've never had a gose ale before, so here goes nothing!

As with all of my reviews, I'll break it into two different parts. First, I'll taste test it while cold. Then, I'll drink it at room temperature. Some beers are better warm. Others are better when frosty. Let's get started!


  • No head upon pouring it into a pint glass.
  • I can't detect anything citrus-like by the beer's odor.
  • Lots of carbonation and fizz.
  • WOW! Extremely bitter upon immediately hitting my tongue.
  • One of the most bitter beers I've ever tasted.
  • The flavor has a dull, highly muted lemon quality.
  • The bitterness overshadows the citrus notes, almost to the point of eroding them completely.
  • If there are any blood oranges in this beer, I can't taste them.
  • I am amazed at how the bitterness continually smacks me in the mouth, gulp after gulp.
  • Thankfully, the bitterness is all front-loaded, and the ale goes down quite easily upon swallow.

At Room Temperature:

  • The bitterness nature has become more sour and funky, much to my chagrin.
  • The fizz has all but disappeared.
  • Flavor profile is completely bland and lifeless.
  • Honestly, it's not really enjoyable at all.

Bummer. I was looking forward to trying another beer from Anderson Valley. Sadly, the Blood Orange Gose Ale was a complete failure in my book. I don't think it had anything to do with me not having experienced a gose ale before, either. Ultimately, the beer was just lifeless and awkward. If I wanted to taste something bitter, I'd suck on a radish.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Writer's Block And Humility.

There's one universal trait shared by all writers, no matter how proficient, successful, mundane or awful. We experience a moment where we simply can't think of anything to put into words. Hence, the eponymous writer's block. This is one of those evenings for me. I've stared at my computer monitor for nearly forty-five minutes, lacking any real sense of inspiration for a subject. I've scanned US and international news reports. I have spent ten minutes researching duct tape. Hell, I even watched a video on juggling flaming knives. Sometimes, you have to admit defeat and walk away from the keyboard. There's no shame in failure.

Writing is essentially an exercise routine for the brain. Like any other muscle in your body, it can grow strong and healthy. Using your brain regularly has actually been shown to stave off Alzheimer's disease in your later years. Day in and day out, a writer drags their brain into the proverbial gym. Ugh, let's lift bro! Five hundred word reps! Bench press a thesis! Ride an elliptical around your opening paragraph. WORK OUT!

And yet, just like going to the gym, some days the gears in your head don't click into place. Something is off. You can sense it in your gut. That's writer's block, standing in the corner next to the frozen smoothie stand with his overly damp Strawberry Shortcake towel in hand. He's yelling at you in a high-pitched voice, doing his best imitation of Gilbert Gottfried on bath salts and too much Red Bull.
"Give it up clown! You suck!"
You know what? He's right. You suck... today. Not everything a writer pieces together is a masterpiece. In fact, most of the time, a writer creates something that's already been done. Or, they craft a work of complete crap. Worse yet, there are some moments when nothing is written at all. That's the way writing goes, though. For every Wuthering Heights and Brave New World, there are hundreds of terrible novels like Fifty Shades of Grey. Writing, like anything else, is an exercise in humility. Fruitful writers are honest with themselves and their readers, confessing personal shortcomings and working to improve them. They know when to throw in the towel and submit to writer's block.

So what's the take-away from all this? The persistent writer will rise to fight another day. He'll walk into that mental gym and kick writer's block squarely in the nards! Na-ah. Not today, buddy. On this day, I say "You suck, clown!"

Huh... I guess I didn't have writer's block after all.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Origin Of The Foot Long Hot Dog.

Let's face it. Everybody loves a tasty wiener.

Even better... a juicy hot dog that's much larger than your normal size. Traditionally, a regular-length hot dog measures six inches, per industry standards. And yet, what about a frankfurter that measures upwards of twelve inches in length? That's a massive amount of sausage at twice the delight of well... EVERYONE!

Hot dogs are clearly a guilty pleasure food. They're synonymous with America; as patriotic as apple pie and baseball. Whereas the standard hot dog has been made for centuries (as early as the 13th Century in Germany), the foot long dog has roots right here in the USA. And yet, their origin is a sad one.

In the 1930's, America faced the Great Depression. Proven to be the worst economic downturn our fair nation has ever faced, millions of Americans struggled against poverty and starvation. A man named George Schmidt, whom operated an amusement park in Chicago, took notice of the hungry visitors that came to his park, but couldn't afford to eat in his restaurants. Realizing that these very same people typically ate the cost-effective hot dogs sold in the park (sometimes sharing one dog between three or four people), he created a longer hot dog that would serve as a cheap meal. Visitors enjoyed the larger hot dogs, which didn't cost much more than the standard length original version. It was an immediate success, with sausage packing plants the nation over beginning to produce foot longs to meet demand.

There's an old saying about necessity being the mother of invention. In this case, it gave birth to a perennial American classic, the foot long.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Deconstruction Of Friendship.

There's nothing quite like seeing an old friend. Someone that you know is trustworthy, kind and actually wants to see you in return. That's the funny thing about friends these days. The invasive nature of social media has given the definition of friend such an ambiguous connotation. A friend can be a movie superstar or a brand of soap. It can be an Instagram diva that you've never met in your life (and never will). It can be old acquaintances from high school that live in different states and don't even have your phone number.

And yet, this pervasive deconstruction of friendship has even seeped into our very real lives. The bar for friendship has been set so low, that we often let people into our lives that don't deserve to be there at all.

So why all the talk on friends?

I saw an old friend earlier today completely out of the blue. Calling a few hours in advance of my unexpected arrival, they quickly took the time to see me for even a few minutes. Though having dinner together wasn't in the cards, she at least had the time to say hello and catch up. After four years of not seeing each other, it was just like yesterday. You see, that's what a friend does for someone.

Friends make time for each other.

Thanks for catching up Brooks. It was great to see you. Hope you weren't inconvenienced by stepping away from your office for a moment. And seriously, what fountain of youth are you drinking from?!

The lesson I learned today? When it comes to genuine friendship, I need to raise my expectations.