Sunday, November 02, 2008

I heard a joke the other day. Was it funny? No. But that’s not the point; it was the subject matter of the joke that really bothered me. Here’s the joke: Who loses if Barack Obama and Joe Biden are stranded on a desert island? The answer: America. Take a moment to not laugh at that.

The real problem with that joke is that it represents the kind of blind (or, most recently, obsessive) political party support that shows up unwelcome every four years. Would America really lose if those two were stranded on an island? I don’t know. I’m unaware of how the scoring works in this game. I don’t even know what game the joke is referring to, in which the entire country is a participant. Perhaps it’s Greco-Roman wrestling.

I remember when politics were cool. It was for about three months, from December 2007 to February 2008, when the primary elections were on everyone’s mind and there were about two dozen candidates running around so you couldn’t really get sick of any specific one. Each would pop up here and there for a quick message: Obama wants change, McCain has experience, and Ron Paul is wasting everyone’s time and money.

The race was exciting. There was nightly coverage of the hundred and twelve primary elections; all sorts of charts and graphs and statistics plastered across every newspaper and magazine in the country. It was like my TV screen was the back of a baseball card. Everything was all fun and games. We were still months, even years, away from the actual election so everything that happened was more for America’s entertainment than for America to actually use to form an educated opinion. Remember, though, that we are talking about average Americans here, so educated opinion can and should be regarded as an oxymoron.

Not that it’s really anyone’s fault. There is no way to form an intelligent, unbiased opinion about any of the candidates these days. It’s impossible. When every news source is biased and the candidates themselves are obviously lying about the majority of their claims, the only way to sort out heads from tails in this thing is to, well, flip a coin. Theoretically, the only way for there to be an unbiased news source would be for a reporter to descend from Mars in an exotic spacecraft. But there would likely still be bias, as he would favor whichever candidate pushes higher subsidies for Space Fruits and Space Grains.

Even I fell victim to believing politicians during the last few months. Here’s the story of my political opinions, presented in an easy-to-read bulleted, chronological list. You are very welcome. Seriously; my pleasure.

· Summer of 2007: I get all of my political news from the Internet, and thus I think Ron Paul is the man.

· December of 2007: I realize, much later than I should have, that the Internet is obviously the worst place to gather unbiased information. It dawns on me that comments by SigurRos6969 about Ron Paul’s brilliant economic strategies aren’t credible sources, evidenced by the variety of ways he spells “there.” I notice that most Ron Paul supporters are in high school or college. I remember that the vast majority of high school and college students are complete idiots, and my support for Ron Paul collapses shortly before his campaign does.

· January 2008 to June 2008: Just like most other people who won’t actually be eligible to vote in November, I hop aboard the Obama bandwagon. It’s cozy for a little while and I feel comfortable amongst others my age. We all know Obama is the best candidate, obviously. He’s the change Washington needs. He’s hope incarnate. He’s a phenomenal speaker, a prophet, a leader. He’s the messiah. Wait, what? Can you stop the bandwagon? I want to get off.

· July 2008 to Present: I finally come to realize, for reasons that will follow, that there is no reason to worry, or care, about who wins this election.

It seems that recently people have forgotten there’s still an incumbent President in the White House. And he’s still going to be there for almost three months after the election. His name is George W. Bush and everyone seems to hate him. I, too, was once on this bandwagon. The trajectory of Bush’s presidency mirrors that of Napoleon Dynamite: Everyone loved it for two years then all of a sudden people decided it’s not funny anymore. Just like everyone else under 30, I once thought it was cool to talk about his bad decisions, his gaffes, his general lack of intelligence. Then I realized that no one has any idea what they’re talking about and shut up. Most people who spend their days, nights, and weekends bashing Bush couldn’t name ten things he’s done. They probably couldn’t even name ten things they’ve done in the past year, besides bash Bush and work at Kinko’s.

Bush has been in office for almost half of my life. With the hatred he attracts and his record-low approval ratings, it would seem that my life went from carefree days of a fat wallet and smooth rollerblades under Clinton to current times of eating dirt and being verbally harassed by terrorists. How has my life changed since 2000? I now have armpit hair. That’s about it. My personality hasn’t changed, I haven’t really matured in any way, and my personal well-being and standard of living are every bit as stable as they were when Clinton was in office. Of course, plenty of people have been negatively affected by Bush’s decisions, but unless he has personally come to your house and clogged your toilet or siphoned your gas or used up all your monthly text messages, chances are you have nothing to complain about.

Sure, people have problems with his decisions on the war and his handling of various crises, but come on. What is all that complaining going to accomplish? Not much. Think of all the energy you used complaining. Energy expelled through your mouth and flailing arms as you stomped or marched in protest. Now who’s the one responsible for global warming?

Before I discuss the current candidates, I have a few problems with the way the election is run. First up: Polls are as useless and don’t even make sense, like most bass guitarists. Every night the news presents new polling data and every night it’s completely different. On Monday: “McCain up 10 points! Victory close enough to grasp!” On Wednesday: “Obama leading by 15! Let’s call it now!” They forgot to tell you that the first poll was conducted on 18 people and the second was done at Barack Obama’s mother’s house. There are infinite ways to interpret and analyze that useless data. “Woah, Latino Jews in west Florida favor McCain! Stop the presses, boys, we’ve got a winner!” The polling targets often get too specific for their own good. “Let’s see what former Milwaukee Brewers batting coaches think!” “Who do Filipino dogs wearing bandanas in novelty postcards favor?” “What about six year-olds? Obama is targeting the key six year-old demo! They’re gonna turn out in droves this year!”

It’s interesting that people only mention polls when they support their candidate. Actually it’s not that interesting, but not much is in this election. “You see Obama’s up ten points? McCain doesn’t have a shot!” But the next day McCain’s up ten. “What? Oh, polls don’t matter, man. Pointless.” Then they put on their black-rimmed glasses and return to their protest chanting. “Fox News is faux news! Fox News is faux news!”

Second, the attack ads. They’re incredibly uninteresting. These two are attacking each other about vague ideas and concepts, like experience and hope. How about specific events that people can relate to? Things real people can hate. Obama plays dirty basketball and has really big nipples. McCain forgot to leave to a tip at an Oklahoma Applebee’s in 1994. Obama owns Reba: The Complete Second Season. McCain sometimes forgets to flush. I don’t understand the big deal with experience in this campaign. What does the McCain camp expect Obama to do? Stroll into the Oval Office and realize that he doesn’t know what it takes to get a bill passed? He’ll have to track down his 9th grade Political Science textbook to figure it out? No cabinet members will offer their assistance because they’re too busy playing NBA2K8?

If we’re so concerned with experience, look at the Chicago Cubs. They’ve got plenty of experience, but when was the last time they won a World Series? On the other hand, experience is necessary in most situations. I wouldn’t let a homeless man examine my prostate, unless I really needed some money or that homeless man was Danny Glover. I’d let him do it.

Third, the entire concept of campaign signs doesn’t make sense. How effective can these possibly be? “You know, I used to think Obama was an unpatriotic, Muslim terrorist. But now that I see his campaign logo uses a blue font, I think he’s got my vote.” Then there’s the law prohibiting people from wearing campaign logos to voting sites on Election Day. If anyone’s opinion is swayed by a t-shirt while they wait in line to vote, they don’t deserve to vote. They don’t even deserve to stand in lines. For someone’s opinion to be swayed at that point, they must have gone to the voting site undecided, which means they either just woke up from a coma or got lost on the way to a 2:30pm dinner at Golden Corral.

Fourth, the debates. There were three of them, in which the same two guys said the same things in response to the same questions. Actually, I’m just assuming that because I didn’t watch them because I (correctly) assumed they would be incredibly boring and pointless. Instead of debates and constant speeches, here’s how elections should be operated: Each U.S. citizen receives one piece of paper in their mailbox one week before Election Day. On that sheet of paper is a bulleted list of each candidate’s position on ten key issues, from the War to abortion to taxes, and maybe even a fun one like their favorite ice cream flavor. That’s it. No speeches, no debates, nothing. Because those don’t matter. But couldn’t the candidates lie about their positions? Absolutely; as they should. They do in their speeches and ads anyway, so why not? Say you approve of gay marriage even if you protested one last Tuesday. Who cares? They need the votes. Tell us your father is a Komodo Dragon. I’d probably vote for that guy.

I wish the debates weren’t as planned. The candidates obviously have their answers prepared ahead of time by a team of speech writers and campaign managers. What I want is a real, spontaneous debate; meaning that at least half the answers would be, “Uhh…” and an awkward silence for thirty seconds, like when you don’t know the answer at school. And the real sides of those two would come out; not the fake polite sides. There would be cussing and shouting; fingers pointed and, hopefully, legs broken. They would insult each other’s children and claim to have had intercourse with each other’s mother. It would be much more entertaining that way. Actually, why not just put them on Springer? Each debate needs a moderator, and Jerry Springer has been doing that every day for over a decade. Let them throw some chairs at each other, rip off each other’s shirts, and expose their genitals. Then bring in the transvestites. It’ll be fun.

The whole concept of a debate doesn’t really make any sense. They argue, but it’s not like one participant is going to say, “Wow. You know what? I was wrong. Completely wrong. This guy knows what he’s talking about way more than I do. I am a moron.” Nothing comes from the arguments. It’s like last week when I argued with a boa constrictor for hours about how large lizards aren’t tasty. He refused to agree, so I walked away from the argument, located my machete, and cut off his head. I just dropped it. That’s what the candidates should do. The TV networks would probably be annoyed when the debates end in a handshake after forty-five seconds.

Everyone running for office all have one thing in common. They love the middle class. Well everyone who has ever lost the Presidency has supported the middle class. Coincidence? Possibly. Why not try something new? I’d like to see a candidate despise the middle class. Announce in a thirty-second commercial to air during According to Jim, “If you make under $30,000 a year, I will fight for you. If you make over $250,000 a year, I will do everything I can for you. But if you’re between the two, you better watch your step. Because when I’m in office, it’s to the gulag with you!”

Since we’re on the topic, here are a few more things related to the election that have been bothering me. What’s up with kids suddenly thinking they’re intelligent? They watch the news for the first time in their lives and suddenly they think they’re political experts. They read one newspaper article and talk incessantly about it for the next three weeks. The main outlet for this is Facebook. Seriously, kids, any time you mention your political affiliations on Facebook you just look like an idiot. There is a 100% chance you don’t know what you’re talking about, whether it’s a membership in the Nobama 08 group or a “…is selling my blood and kidneys to raise money for Obama!” status. Most people who do this won’t even be able to vote. That’s like if the AARP magazine published a monthly column on beer pong and text messaging. Be aware of the demographic you fall into, and please limit your FB talk accordingly. What if the candidates talked about Facebook? It would be out of line and you would be offended. “Shut up, McCain. Maybe I think your bumper stickers are stupid.” Kids who can’t vote who care about the election (meaning most kids over 13) are really wasting their time. You might as well get invested in the race for the governorship of Puerto Rico; you also will have no effect on that election. Why not concern yourself with issues that you can impact? Like begging your mom for more trendy skirts or protesting the increased prices at your favorite hookah bar.

Speaking of young people pointlessly getting involved in politics, why are there Young Democrat and Young Republican clubs at school? Only a fraction of seniors will be able to vote. That’s like having an Extreme Sports Club at a school for the blind. What could possibly go on at those meetings? “Well I support abortions, do you support abortions?” “Yes, I support abortions, do you support abortions?” “I, too, support abortions.” “See you next week!”

The Young Democrats have a poster up that warns of Big Brother watching over us and if we have a problem with it we should attend a meeting. That sounds productive. What could come from that meeting? A letter to the White House?

Dear White House,

Shame on you! The Patriot Act is Big Brother! That’s contradicting the…well, one of the Amendments! It’s probably somewhere in that Bill of Rights! Scott was supposed to look up which one but he left his book in his locker. But it’s a human rights offense! It’s near genocide! It’s almost as bad as when Facebook changed layouts! Stop the Patriot Act now!


The Young Democrats

Another thing that’s stupid? Anti-Obama chain emails. I’m very familiar with these; my mother forwards them to me on a regular basis. Of course they’re filled with lies and of course people are stupid enough to believe them. Remember, this is the same country that has purchased a million copies of Buckcherry’s album. But if you’re going to make up things about a candidate, why not go all-out? Accusing him of being a Muslim? Irrationally hating someone based on his or her religion is old news; we’ve been at that for thousands of years. How about accusing Obama of being a sorcerer? Say he had a hand in throwing the 2003 World Series. He slaughters ducks for fun. He operates a bed and breakfast that offers discounted rates for rapists. Any of these would do; I just want to see a little creativity in those emails.

Enough about people who won’t be affecting the election at all. Let’s get into the candidates. Actually, let’s get into the candidates for Vice President, whom the media apparently thinks are running for President considering the coverage they give them. First off, Sarah Palin is a name I hope I never hear again in my entire life. I would estimate I’ve heard her name fifteen times a day since she was chosen by McCain. The only name I want to hear fifteen times a day is my own, and I want it coming from a stripper’s mouth. Obnoxious liberals think Sarah Palin is the only human alive dumber than George W. Bush, but you have to realize that she was swept up into the race in a span of about a week. Anyone would look like an idiot with that little time to prepare for constant scrutiny by the entire country. What if she only had a month to train for Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest? She could probably only get six or seven dogs. Apparently Sarah Palin is a popular choice as a Halloween costume this year. You might as well just tape a sign to your head that says, “I (A) am not creative, (B) think I’m hip and smart, and (C) get my Halloween costume ideas from USA Today.”

Joe Biden is the plainest man I have ever seen. I’ve eaten grains of rice more interesting than Joe Biden. I was at the grocery store three days ago and I said, “Why won’t this box of plain bran flakes scan?” and the clerk said, “Because that isn’t cereal. That’s Senator Joe Biden of Delaware.” Joe Biden can barely hold my interest longer than an issue of US News and World Report. He has the rare ability to make Coldplay sound interesting, if you listen to them immediately after a Biden speech. He’s as generic as they come; the Kroger brand Old White Politician. If Obama and Biden win, the only way people will remember Biden in a hundred years will be if, on inauguration day, he changes his name to Jiggly Tits Joe. Otherwise he will be forgotten; a mere brushstroke on the grand tapestry of Plain White Guys Serving as American Vice Presidents.

John McCain seems like the guy who works with your dad that you meet at some company family outing and he pulls you aside to tell you a creepy joke about condoms. I can’t really criticize him for anything else, since every time I’ve come across a political article about him in a magazine or newspaper in the last few months I’ve skipped it because it looked boring. From what I’ve seen on the tube, though, McCain is a lot funnier than Obama.

Obama is supposed to be the coolest of cool. But realize that he’s cool for a politician. Would I want to hang out with Barack Obama? Play a little RB2 or throw down on the ping pong table? No, I wouldn’t. Because I don’t want to get lectured at for a half hour on hope and responsibility. From what I’ve seen that’s all he does, and if I wanted to be yelled at about responsibility I’d go back to Virginia and talk to my daughter’s mother. People need to stop obsessing and realize that Obama is a normal person. Three years ago he didn’t even know he’d be in this campaign, let alone be considered the savior of humanity. Not that I have anything against him; I just mean, come on, people. You act like he has some book of country-saving secrets he’ll crack open January 20th and suddenly everything will be fixed. If that book existed the current Bush administration, as well as McCain’s campaign, would be on a whirlwind global hunt for it. And then this wouldn’t be a presidential race, it would be the next National Treasure movie.

So it comes down to this: I don’t really see any reason to like either candidate. But there are reasons to dislike them. Here’s why I don’t want Obama to win. First of all, when I type Barack Obama/Joe Biden into Microsoft Word, 75% of those names get a Red Squiggly. On the other hand, John McCain/Sarah Palin sees a 0% Red Squiggly rating. Do I want to put up with at least four years of Red Squigglies? No, not really. I also want Obama to lose just to annoy liberals. There’s nothing more obnoxious than someone who sits at Starbucks all day working on their horrible screenplay on their Macbook and talks nonstop about how Obama is literally the savior of humanity. This is how I picture all Democrats, and I wish terrible things upon them. The worst thing they could imagine is an Obama loss. Or the next Animal Collective CD getting cancelled. Hopefully both happen on the same day.

Why should McCain lose? So I never hear about Sarah Palin ever again. That’s pretty much the only reason I have. I know people frequently cite things like his policies and stances on issues and Senate record, but I really don’t care. It’s not like he, or Obama, will actually do anything in office. I admit that I’ve lost faith in politics over the last several years, but nothing Bush did ever affected me, and unless McCain makes Xbox Live illegal or puts a huge tax on Publix-brand yogurts, nothing he could do will either.

A political election is really just choosing who’s going to spend your money. The candidates are all about the taxes. They both say they’re going to lower them and are both lying to you, so it doesn’t really matter. The problem with the whole taxes issue is that the candidates forget about that whole national debt thing. The U.S. is currently over ten trillion in the red, and according to something I saw on the news, both candidates’ proposals will only increase it. Since the debt obviously doesn’t matter, here’s my plan: The federal and state governments eliminate all taxes: income, sales, property, whatever. No taxes on anything. But we set a date, one hundred years from now, when this will all end. The country keeps operating at its current level by getting fat loans from other countries, but without taxes of any sort. Everyone experiences wild prosperity and fun, while the national debt grows at an insane rate. Then, in 2108, the U.S. defaults on its loans and ceases to exist. That’s it; the country just ends. We have one hundred years of crazy fun, and then call it quits. Whomever the U.S. owes the most money to (likely China) will receive the largest share of American land. Each country we owe will take a proportional slice of the country, to be used as colonies or prisons or opium farms. I think that’s a solid plan.

With money on everyone’s minds lately, I also don’t agree with the assessment of the current state of the economy. Obama is quick to call it the worst times since the Great Depression. Is that true? There’s not really a way to tell, considering how radically different the country has become over the last century. You know how I know it’s different? Because hardly anyone takes dumps in the street anymore. People are too quick to label events as major crises. Since Vietnam there hasn’t been an event that united an entire generation. Our grandparents had the Depression and World War II, our parents had Vietnam, and we have, what, Pokemon? People want that event to happen and anytime something slightly serious happens they jump to label it as being larger than it is. I mean, yeah, if you have a lot of money in stocks you’re probably not feeling so hot these days. But I don’t have money in stocks, I have it in a hollowed-out book in my room. Most young people have nothing to complain about concerning the downturn. Honestly, the only way it has affected my life is that Riverside pizzas now cost six dollars.

It’s the same thing with people thinking this is a monumental, historic election. No it’s not; it’s a monumental occasion for your television station or magazine to get viewers and readers. Remember when it was the biggest election of our lives four years ago? It’s just like the Olympics: every four years it’s touted as being such a big deal so NBC and their sponsors can rack up fat cash, but after two weeks you realize you could watch people dive at the neighborhood pool and don’t care anymore. It’s not possible to have any sort of historic election anymore. The last one was probably FDR’s third term. Up until everyone bought a TV politics were the only thing to talk about and were a big deal, but nowadays for every political story people read they look at three humorous pictures of cats. That is why there will never be another historic election. Because people are more interested in Internet fads than politics. As they should be.

What really bother me are the people who are completely, blindly, mindlessly in love with their candidate. Sure, the presidential question is an odd one; but we can’t flip to the back of the book to find a definitive answer. (What an incredibly clever sentence.) They think the other guy is wrong about everything, from his ideas to his speech to the way he ties his shoes. And they believe their candidate is perfect to the extent of being able to fart on-key G sharps every time. And that’s just not true. Obama could barely hit a D the last time I saw him.

I hope people know that in our current society of hyper-scrutiny, by the time 2012 rolls around there’s a high probability that no matter who wins everyone will hate them. Some little mistake like sagging his pants Ja-Rule-style during the State of the Union Address will be blown up into a world-changing disaster, and soon enough whoever is President will be reduced to being just another in a series of jokes running the country. It’s one of the worst times to lead the country. There are a lot of problems out there. If I could vote, I wouldn’t, because there’s a 50/50 shot that I’d be responsible for a bad President. Actually, that’s not true. I might vote if you could vote in the DVD section at Fry’s or if they gave out a free taco or something. Well I can’t vote, so in four years when everyone is laughing at our country’s leader, I’ll face no responsibility. So to all you suckers who can vote, good luck, and enjoy waiting in line. This thing’s a coin toss, and hopefully it works out in your favor.

I know what you’re thinking. “What an incredible waste of time. It’s like you wrote a really long, unfocused persuasive essay in which you argue for people to do nothing.” Yeah, pretty much. This election has been going on for almost two years now and it will end in one night. That’s like starting today with daily in-depth research to prepare for a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors in 2010. “If everyone didn’t care like you, no one would vote!” Okay, cool. “Your whole point was that you’re sick of the election, but you seem to be willing to write plenty about it.” You’re right. This is the last I’ll ever talk about the election. From now on I will exclusively talk about the Twilight series.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Competing in any sort of competition nationally is an accomplishment reserved for those who are the most dedicated, the most passionate, and the absolute best in their field. So imagine my surprise when I found myself competing at the Future Business Leaders of America National Leadership Convention in the Entrepreneurship category, a topic which I know absolutely nothing about. It was a strange two days.

My journey began a few months ago when I decided to enter the Entrepreneurship competition because I felt that, as Vice President of the club, I should probably participate in it and Entrepreneurship seemed to be an easy category. My previous experience with entrepreneurship was Maromi Movies, a company that produced some of the best films of all time and pulled in $300 in profits. That seems impressive for a bunch of sixth graders, but realize that all the cash came from my and my friends’ parents, which I’m pretty sure is not how Starbucks did it.

The Entrepreneurship test varied from common sense questions to ones about specific dates for turning in specific tax forms, which I have never done in my life. I fully expected to fail the test miserably and be comforted knowing that I do not possess the mental capabilities to start my own business, which is kind of a relief because that seems like a huge hassle. I would have had a better chance taking a test on 19th century Liberian woodwork, which, sadly, was not one of the possible categories. But I received an email a few weeks later saying that I had scored high enough to advance to the state competition. This in itself really wasn’t much of an accomplishment because the test was taken on a computer, so anyone living south of Atlanta could not participate.

I chose not to go to state because I didn’t really want to. I think that was the extent of my excuse; I didn’t have much of an actual reason to not go, but I really didn’t want to. I figured that was the end of my run in the Entrepreneurship competition and I’d have to wait until next year to randomly guess answers on the test again. But I wasn’t done just yet. I got an email after the state convention saying that my score on the initial test was so high I would advance to Nationals automatically and be put on a Super Team with two other high-scorers. What I found odder than advancing to Nationals was the fact that the organization was childish enough to call something a Super Team. I decided to go to the National convention because I had already skipped the State one for no good reason, it would be interesting to see FBLA kids from across the country, and, most of all, it was held in Atlanta this year so I could leave at any time I wanted.

Day 1

I arrived at the Marriott Marquis around noon on a Thursday to find the lobby throbbing with students from all parts of the country (I later found out there were over 7,000 people attending the conference). Occasionally I could spot someone not affiliated with FBLA who was clearly confused at the sight of so many teenagers. They probably thought this was some sort of shoplifting convention or massive drug deal, or maybe that the pay-per-view porn was free that week. I briefly met the three other kids from Alpharetta there, including my roommate, before I went up to my room to drop my bag off. For the planned four-day event I brought two outfits and enough boxers to last three days because I was planning to leave early and also because I wasn’t too concerned with impressing anyone from North Dakota with an extravagant variety of t-shirts.

The planned events for the first day were a Georgia FBLA meeting at 12:30, my Entrepreneurship multiple-choice test at 4:00, and the National Opening Ceremony at 7:00. With my half hour to kill I went to my room, moved a chair in front of a window, and stared outside like an insane person. On the roof of the office building adjacent the Marriott was a man sitting underneath an air duct, likely hiding from the police. We looked at each other for a while and eventually he left, probably to begin work on his mission to murder me.

The Georgia meeting was my first real taste of what serious FBLA kids are like. It seems like kids who are interested in becoming business leaders would be somewhat intelligent, but realize that the club’s only requirement is a twenty dollar bill and you can get one of those for masturbating in a cup. It’s clear that at the Alpharetta High School chapter not many people care about it because of the 100+ members, maybe 15 show up to the meetings. But there are kids who pursue FBLA with all their heart; kids who would rather spend an afternoon studying up on business ethics than having any sort of fun. Some of these more serious kids were running for FBLA southern regional offices and had to awkwardly converse with everyone as if they, or the listener, cared at all. They could have saved a lot of time by saying, “I’m from a county in Georgia you’ve never heard of. Vote for me, because if I don’t get this regional office I’ll probably slaughter hogs on a farm for the rest of my life.”

A good example of the senses of humor these kids have came during the meeting when the State FBLA director said, “Girls need to wear hose with skirts. If you don’t have any, ask me and I’ll buy you some hose.” There was a brief pause while the kids put it together. You could imagine the whispers: “Hose is like hoes, which are like prostitutes.” “Oh, I get it now.” A small pocket of people began laughing, then another, and another, until it was spreading like the wave at a sporting event and the whole room was in stitches. Those south Georgians hadn’t had that much fun since baseball got desegregated.

After the wake of hilarity subsided, each student was given a gift bag from FBLA along with $25. I still have no idea what the money was for, but I was handed a twenty dollar bill and a five dollar bill and I didn’t ask any questions. Inside the goodie bag were schedules, and FBLA magnet, and some items to welcome out-of-towners to the fine state of Georgia. We got a paper fan that said, “Georgia FBLA Welcomes You to HOTlanta,” which is interesting because nobody calls Atlanta that. We got a pin of a peach holding up a sign saying, “Y’all come back now, ya hear?” because that is exactly how everyone from Georgia speaks. And we got a bunch of salt water taffy because someone apparently thought Atlanta is located in the northeast.

The FBLA Convention program included an example of the unintelligence of many FBLA members. It said there were people at the convention from the Virgin Islands. Leaving the Virgin Islands in the middle of June to come to Atlanta can be seen as nothing but an enormous mistake or a massive blunder. The only rational explanation is that they were under the impression that the convention was held in the lost city of Atlantis.

Once the meeting ended I got to meet the third member of my Entrepreneurship team. The Super Team was me, another kid from Alpharetta, and a third mystery person from another school. I imagined the mystery member would be Jessica Alba, perhaps taking a break from the movies to enroll in a few courses at South Forsyth. I was disappointed to find that instead of Ms. Alba my teammate was a black kid named Chris from Riverwood. He was a solid guy, but he did not look much like Jessica Alba.

Our other teammate suggested we eat lunch together and instead of saying, “What? No. That’s going to be really awkward,” I went along with it because I had nothing else to do. We walked over to the Peachtree Center Mall to find somewhere to eat. My teammate and I chose Atlanta Bread Company. To that, Chris said, “I’m just gonna go to KFC,” which caused me to almost laugh out loud because stereotypes are funny. I can’t blame him, though. I did choose perhaps the world’s third whitest eatery after the ill-fated Bull Connor’s Corn Dogs and California Pizza Kitchen.

After our meal we went back to our rooms to get ready for our competition. We had to wear formal business attire for it, even though we would be taking our test huddled around a computer and hardly anyone would see us, but FBLA is more interested in having kids look like they’re businessmen than having kids know anything about business. I put on my dress shirt, tie, and coat, looked in the mirror and thought, “Wow, that guy looks like a moron.” I have no business wearing such clothing. The outfit that I have worn every single day this summer is a white t-shirt and black athletic shorts. If I go somewhere fancy like a grocery store then I’ll throw on a different t-shirt. Dressing up makes me feel like I’m wearing a costume, like I went to a Party City and said, “Yeah, the scary demon is okay, but I really want to look like a 50 year old man.” But, nevertheless, I went down to the lobby, my too-big shoes flopping along with each step, to prepare for the test.

One of my teammates brought some notes on Entrepreneurship for us to review. Stuff about S-Corporations, angel investors, and market penetration, which I thought was a pornographic film about the New York Stock Exchange. Finally it was time for us to take the test. The competition had two parts: first a 100 question multiple choice test; then the top 10 teams advanced to the next round in which they were given problematic entrepreneurship situations and had to give presentations about them. Before we entered the Imperial Ballroom to take our test a friendly black guy working at the convention said, “Where y’all from?” “Georgia,” I responded. “Ooh! Is Georgia gon’ bring it home?” “Georgia is going to bring it home,” I assured him with the confidence of someone who has no idea what he’s talking about. We entered the ballroom, an enormous space likely used to house elephants in their off-season, sat down at a computer and started the test, making all sorts of assumptions, guesses, and inferences. Occasionally we would disagree on a question and have a small argument that would end when I realized I had no basis for my position and I would give up because I wasn’t that concerned about it. We were the third team to finish and felt confident. The same guy from before was outside the doors waiting for us and said, “Did Georgia bring it home?” “Georgia brought it home,” I said. He happily shouted, “The trophy is not gonna leave Georgia this year!” I can only imagine the look on his face when he found out the next day when results were posted that the trophy would go far, far away from Georgia.

The next event of the day was the Opening Ceremony, which turned out to be perhaps the strangest thing I have ever taken part in. All 7,000 attendees were bussed over to the Georgia World Congress Center, which, I suppose, is where the World Congress would meet if it existed. We were a little early, so my group stood in the lobby and I watched the behavior of other FBLA kids. Some of them wore jackets covered in pins, up to forty of them, from various FBLA events, but from the looks of the kids I could assume each pin symbolized one point of their SAT score. Eventually everyone was funneled into a huge, dark convention room that was full of smoke and terrible music. FBLA officers walked around handing out glow necklaces because the organization wanted to prove just how much money it could waste. The seats were arranged by state, and behind Georgia was Washington, a collection of kids who chanted their state’s name over and over again for no reason whatsoever. I thought that was strange, but then the ceremony began.

I have never been to either, but I can assume this ceremony was somewhat like a mix between a Hannah Montana concert and a disturbing cult meeting. There were flashing lights and loud music and even an announcer who sounded like he wanted desperately to leave. Someone sang the national anthem for no apparent reason, unless, maybe, to assure us that we hadn’t been part of a David Copperfield illusion and were still, in fact, in the United States. The National FBLA officers each gave speeches that floored me with how generic they were. One of them wanted everyone to cheer for “anyone who has had a dream or goal.” You might as well cheer for anyone who has ever breathed or eaten bread. Just when I was about to completely tune out the ceremony, they brought in the motivational speaker.

Motivational speakers are an interesting breed. Whereas homeless people have given up on life, with motivational speakers life has given up on them. The motivation most speakers achieve is just by being on stage; listeners think, “Wait, she’s getting paid for this? Anyone can do that. I can do it!” Her presentation mostly consisted of defining the terms hope and believe. She also referenced Beanie Babies, Mike Tyson’s ear, and “Who Let the Dogs Out?” letting us all know she has been giving this same speech for eight years. Then there was a weird call-and-response portion, where she would say, “I am not average!” and everyone would chant back, “I am not average!” and I thought, that’s correct; most of you are below average. Then came the dance contest.

I have never been affiliated with any business, or employed at all for that matter, but I’m fairly confident dance contests have nothing to do with business unless your business runs dance contests. But anyway, the speaker called five kids on stage and had a dance contest. The winner, determined by audience applause, won a t-shirt with the speaker’s “Children are the Future” message that he is never going to wear.

The ceremony ended and on the way back to the hotel I witnessed something absolutely extraordinary in its stupidity. While walking with Mrs. Davies, my FBLA advisor, a girl, looking distraught, said, “Excuse me, ma’am. Do you know where the Hyatt is? I’m so lost.” It seems like a legitimate question, that is until you consider that directly across the street from us, maybe 20 feet away, was a large building with a big sign on it that clearly said Hyatt. As in, THIS IS THE HYATT HOTEL, YOU IDIOT. The girl found her way to the hotel, and once inside probably asked her own roommate if she had seen anyone who looked like her roommate.

It was past 10p.m. by the time we were back in the hotel and every restaurant in the mall was closed. I was hungry and figured I’d get room service. My previous experience with room service was a positive one. It was at a Holiday Inn, where I received a decent meal at a reasonable price. What I did not realize that night was that the Holiday Inn is a really crappy hotel when compared to the Marriott Marquis. If you’re trying to impress someone you’d take them to a Marriott Marquis. If you’re trying to murder someone you’d take them to a Holiday Inn. So I went to the room and ordered some chicken fingers and a fruit plate. The person on the other end of the phone didn’t tell me how much it would cost, only that it would be up in 45 minutes. I expected it to be expensive, which for chicken fingers and a fruit plate is around $12. An hour and a half later the food showed up. The hotel employee who brought it asked for $32. No, no, I thought, I ordered the chicken fingers, not the lobster fingers. I was so stunned I paid the ridiculous amount and stared at my meal in shock. It was a good thing FBLA gave me $25 or else I would have had to rob the hotel employee just to pay for it. I took a picture of the plate to remember it because it was probably the most expensive meal I’d ever eaten. The picture looked like it belonged on a children’s menu at a restaurant near a beach called something like the Crazy Crab and the meal should cost $3.99. The chicken fingers looked and tasted exactly like the same chicken fingers served in restaurants and school cafeterias across the country, which is to say they were incredibly delicious. They gave me a decent amount, six tenders, and the fruit was good. Was the meal worth $32? Maybe if it had included a rare baseball card or ticket to the moon. Was it tasty? Very much so.

Day 2

My roommate and I woke up at the crack of 11 to catch The Price is Right. The other two kids in our group woke much earlier so they could attend a seminar on business etiquette. After the seminar they called my roommate to say they were surprised to find the seminar boring, which is like getting hit in the crotch with a motorcycle and being surprised it hurts.

We all decided to get lunch at Quizno’s and I was looking forward to a meal that didn’t cost as much as a back-alley kidney transplant. We walked down a few Atlanta streets in our business attire, probably looking like the results of some failed Georgia Tech experiment to turn children into adults. While in line at Quizno’s, a girl, a fellow FBLA member, asked us where we are from. “Georgia,” I said. “Where are you from?” “Arkansas.” After a lengthy pause I said, “Cool…” This is interesting because being from Arkansas is not cool. If Bill Clinton was never President most people probably wouldn’t even know it’s a state. But that’s how pretty much every conversation went at the convention: bland statements of locations. I wish there were something at all for us to talk about, but what am I going to say? “Hello, I’m from Georgia. Business is the best. Perhaps we could have a lengthy discussion of U.S.-China trade relations?” The problem with that is I don’t know anything about business and most FBLA kids couldn’t locate China on a map.

After lunch the two kids who attended a seminar earlier tried to convince my roommate and me to go to one that afternoon. I declined because I don’t think anyone has ever left a seminar thinking anything other than, “Well that’s an hour I’ll never get back.” My roommate and I instead chose to go to the Peachtree Center Mall. It was a standard mall, meaning there really isn’t much to see inside. There was a store called Georgia Electronics and Gifts, but, based on the merchandise and unsettling employee, should have been called Electronics and Gifts that were Stolen in Georgia. Located downstairs in the mall was a small convenience store that sold a range of items from school supplies to t-shirts to lottery tickets. The lottery tickets were located right by the entrance to the store away from any employee, which is why a particularly speedy man so easily stole one. He walked right by the store, reached out a hand, and helped himself to a lottery ticket. It caught me so off-guard that my only response was to think, “Well okay. I’m pretty sure you have to pay for those.” You have to wonder what the point of stealing a lottery ticket is, considering the slim odds. He could have stolen a hat with Atlanta written on it. At least then he would have been guaranteed a hat.

Before leaving the mall I picked up a copy of the New York Times because I wanted to read the news and I wanted to feel like I was better than everyone else while doing it. I don’t often get the chance to read such a publication in an environment where I don’t care if people see me and think, “That kid probably doesn’t understand half the things in there,” which is true. I only wanted to read the movie reviews. I went up to my room, flipped through the paper, was disappointed with the lack of comic strips, and decided to head down to the lobby to attempt some summer reading. I found a comfortable chair and tried to read but was continually distracted with watching FBLA kids. You could identify them by the nametags they proudly displayed for no reason. Did they expect someone to approach them saying, “Well hello there. I wasn’t going to introduce myself but now that I see your name is Mitch I’d like to offer you a hundred dollars.”

Just when I was really enjoying the sights of the Marriott lobby I received word of how the Super Team did in our competition. The news came from my advisor as a text message, perhaps the coldest form of communication, and read: Just posted. I’m shocked! AHS is not in top 10. You may have been no. 11. I’m so sorry!

I waited for the rush of emotions to strike: shock, disappointment, embarrassment, maybe even a stream of tears. I waited and waited, preparing myself for the emotions, until nothing happened and I realized that I wasn’t really that concerned about the loss. I gave it my best shot and wasn’t expecting much. At least I’d get to go home early and use my own toilet.

I checked the score sheet to verify the results. I scanned it up and down, looking for my name like a 6th grader hoping he made the basketball team, but my name was not on the list. Several kids from California advanced to the next round, probably due to their entrepreneurship experience running surf shacks. I went back up to the room to tell my teammate. “Did you hear the news?” “Yeah,” he said, looking dejected. I looked him in the eyes and said, “The dream is over.” It was true. The dream of taking home the Entrepreneurship trophy was gone, which for me was less of a dream and more of a lukewarm interest. But the convention was far from over. We still had to attend a Southern Regional meeting, which, considering the Southern region was essentially the old Confederacy, I assumed would include planning secession from the rest of FBLA. Sadly it did not. It only included a brutal assault of boring speeches.

Each of the kids in the running for an FBLA Regional office delivered a speech. There was a one-minute time limit, which makes you wonder if the speeches are really necessary at all, except for the students to prove that even though they’re from Kentucky they can form simple sentences. But if they eliminated the speeches, the people in charge of FBLA would probably then realize that the regional meeting was unnecessary, then they’d realize that the state meetings were unnecessary, and so on until they realized the entire convention was kind of a waste of gasoline. In one of the speeches a kid compared FBLA to hunting by saying that they both require planning. With that logic you could say FBLA is like ordering a pizza or kidnapping someone.

The speeches went on for almost two hours, becoming more and more boring. I was forced to amuse myself by thinking that instead of Future Business Leaders of America perhaps this club should be called Current Boring Speech Givers of America. After the speeches came a question and answer session. One person asked for the candidates to state their greatest strengths and weaknesses. Instantly some FBLA employee rushed to the microphone to say that the candidates could point out their strengths, but mentioning their weaknesses would be too negative. It’s true, though. Those candidates would have had a hard time getting any votes if they revealed their true weaknesses of dental hygiene and operating automobiles that were manufactured after 1945.

After the regional meeting we walked over to the CNN Center to eat dinner, which is an idea that really shouldn’t make any sense. But odder than finding restaurants in the building was noticing that also inside was a hair salon. One can imagine the conversation that lead up to that idea.

“Sir, we have everything we need to build our hair salon. We’ve found a great location in a new upscale suburban development. Research has shown a strong demand for a hair salon.”

“A suburban development? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Let’s put it in the lobby of a cable news channel.”

Who knows; maybe they do plenty of business there. But I can tell you that personally when I need a haircut my first choice isn’t the headquarters of a television network.

After the CNN Center I went back to the hotel, my parents picked me up, and I was out of there. The journey was over. My only regret was that there was no sort of climax to the story. I knew I would share the events of FBLA Nationals and once I found out we didn’t make it to the performance round of the competition I realized that the story would just kind of end. That’s why Hollywood screenwriters should organize conventions: so there’s a nice structure and big climax at the end and everyone has a story to tell. Oh well, maybe next year.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from FBLA over the years it’s that I don’t have any interest in business. I appreciate businesses for providing me with cuisine and entertainment, but it’s just not for me. And if there’s one thing I learned from the FBLA National Convention it’s that if those kids truly are the future business leaders of America, I advise that you never invest anything into any sort of company. Because it will be run straight into the ground.

Monday, June 09, 2008

I was going to write an entry about how nothing seems to bother me that much anymore. Back when I first started writing this it seemed like everything pissed me off. But these days if I see MTV I don’t get mad, I can enjoy it for its entertainment value. If I see a douche bag I’m not furious at how stupid he is, I just laugh at his ridiculous wardrobe and imagine seeing him as an assistant manager at Sports Authority twenty years from now.

But then I realized that I just haven’t seen anything lately that has really infuriated me. I don’t put myself in those situations too often anymore. But then earlier this week I found myself at Wal-Mart, the melting pot of everything that is awful about the human race.

I saw a commercial for Wal-Mart the other day. It was for a patio furniture set. A family was just loving every inch of the thing. They were smiling, laughing, and having possibly the greatest time of their lives since little Marky got a B+ on his spelling test. And why were they smiling? Because at no point in the commercial did any member of the family set foot inside an actual Wal-Mart. They wisely had the set delivered. If they had gone to a store, the commercial would have featured crying, screaming, and at least two showers. You could tell they hadn’t been inside a store because they weren’t covered in filth or attempting to commit suicide.

I had to go to Wal-Mart to look for a new Wiffle Ball bat (their selection was limited and did not yield a good bat). As soon as I stepped in the doors I regretted the decision. The fact that they pay a person to stand at the door and remind you to have a pleasant experience says a lot about how confident the store is in itself. Then I saw the customers. It's not like I was expecting a crowd of well educated professionals, but I was still taken aback. I'm just not around people like that often. They probably passed just as much judgment on me. Upon seeing my glasses I’m sure someone declared that I was from the future. Just assuming based on appearance, a Wal-Mart at any given moment has the second lowest IQ per square foot of any area, just behind the entire state of West Virginia.

Wal-Mart somehow makes Toys R Us seem clean. The floors are dirtier than a Vietnamese barber shop that caters to the homeless. So imagine my surprise when I heard a woman say to her child, “We can leave as soon as I find my shoes.” I turned around to verify it, and yes, she indeed was walking around a Wal-Mart barefoot. You might as well wash your feet in the runoff of a hot dog factory. The only semi-rational reason for walking barefoot at Wal-Mart is if you have already contracted every single disease known to man and are thus immune to anything more. But this woman looked reasonably healthy. She probably isn’t anymore, though. If a deranged murderer were chasing me through a Wal-Mart and my shoes fell off I would not continue running. I would rather take my chances with the murderer’s rusty kitchen knife than whatever is on the floor. It’s odd Wal-Marts don’t sell beekeeper’s or Hazmat suits, because those seem to be the safest way to shop there.

At the end of my terrible trip to Wal-Mart, my brother bought a cable for his iPod, so, as is customary at the store, he had to pay for it. Luckily for us there were some self-checkout stations, which are up there with the light bulb and the Game Boy Camera as the greatest inventions of all time. Why? Because you don’t have to deal with store employees. There’s no awkward exchange of pleasantries. There’s no strange moment when you have to stand there putting bills back in your wallet while the clerk just looks on. And, in Wal-Mart’s case, there’s no dealing with inbred mountain people behind the register spitting teeth at you. But, it being Wal-Mart, there was an issue with the self-checkout lane.

There’s a pretty clear order of operations there. Four registers, one line. The person at the front of the line goes to whichever register opens. When my brother and I were at the front of the line a woman, whom I will assume is named something like Mallika or Birju and whose purchase included some form of curry, decided to step in front of us. Who knows why. We looked at her, she looked at us, there were some hand gestures exchanged, and she got back in line. None of that should have happened. If I wanted an awkward exchange I would have asked a Wal-Mart employee for his dental records.

As I left the store I had one thought: How do Wal-Mart employees spend eight hours a day there and not blow their brains out? The only explanation is that they don’t know how to take the safeties off anything in the rifles department.

Or, who knows, maybe they love it. They get up every morning with a smile on their faces, looking forward to stocking bicycles and lots of Mexican CDs. Maybe there are whole families of Wal-Mart employees, who value and respect their profession like coal miners or doctors.

This could have been cleared up if I ever spoke to an employee. But I didn’t because I didn’t want to contract whatever disease they have that led them to a position at Wal-Mart.

Or maybe they’re perfectly fine. What I can conclude is that the Wal-Mart on Windward Parkway in Alpharetta does not carry good Wiffle Ball bats and has some strange customers. That’s good enough a conclusion for me. For further study you'll have to experience it firsthand.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Two posts in two days? What’s the occasion? I’ll tell you what. I had a dream last night that was so spectacular I need to share it. It's just like when I had pneumonia. I feel like I should share it with everyone. I’ve had a few strange dreams before. In one of the more memorable ones I woke up with a twenty-four inch penis. It seemed great, but then I discovered it had the girth of my pinky finger and a 135 degree bend in it. For most of the dream I just stood in my room and stared at that disgusting spaghetti-like monster in shock and disappointment.

Last night’s dream was even odder than that and didn’t involve my penis. What it did involve were a President from the 1860s, crayons from the 1900s, and a band from the 1970s.

It started with me standing on stage playing guitar in a band. We were in some sort of huge arena with thousands of screaming fans. I was confused because A) I don’t have thousands of fans and the ones I do aren’t of the screaming sort, and B) I didn’t recognize any of the people I was playing music with. I was especially confused when I looked at the banner behind us and discovered that the band I was playing for was Iron Maiden. I have to wonder why my mind put me in that band, because I’m not a huge fan and haven’t heard their music since I last played Tony Hawk 4 a few months ago. But anyway, it got more confusing when I saw all the band members were dressed in the same red blazers and checkered-yellow pants. We looked nothing like Iron Maiden. I was wearing someone else’s glasses and couldn’t see very well. It was perhaps the most confusing situation I’ve ever experienced besides the time when my parents revealed that Pancho, the Panamanian boy who I thought was my brother, was actually an undercover DEA agent and was forty-six, not eight. And that’s before the wind monster showed up.

In the middle of all the confusion there was some commotion on stage and everyone ran outside. At some point during my escape I noticed that we were all fleeing from a wind monster, like that face that came out of the sand in The Mummy. I don’t know how quickly the thousands of people in the arena could have funneled through the doors, but suddenly I was outside where everyone was standing around. No one was panicking anymore. I guess we all figured the wind monster wasn’t smart enough to follow us out. How wrong we were, because suddenly I felt a breeze on my back. It was the wind monster making his second attack! Everyone grabbed a handful of sand off the ground and threw it in the air so we could see what the monster looked like. That’s when things got really weird.

The sand settled on the smoke monster and it solidified into a shape. It was a large house, which my mind immediately recognized as the United Stated Capital Building from Abe Lincoln’s presidency. It looked like a large plantation-style house, but maybe that’s what the Capital Building looked like in 1862. When it comes to historical facts I like to trust my dreams over books. Everyone was furious at the smoke monster so we all ran to the building and broke all the windows. I’m now realizing that the smoke monster didn’t actually harm anyone. I guess people just love ganging up on smoke monsters and breaking their windows.

We all climbed inside the building and it was more like Abe Lincoln’s house than the Capital Building. There was a very old bedroom and everyone immediately started raiding the drawers. I found a box of Crayola crayons. Each crayon was about a foot long and looked like a candle. I guess that’s how they made them during the Civil War. A dresser was full of Garfield merchandise. Not the president, but the cat. There were little figurines of Garfield. Maybe Abe was a fan. I noticed a friend of mine was there rummaging through Lincoln’s stuff right beside me. I joked to him, and I remember these specific words, “I bet Abe’s going to walk in here and shoot me in the heart.” Why the heart? I don’t know. I envisioned Abe Lincoln as a pistol-carrying gunslinger who aims to kill. From my knowledge of American history, though, he was not.

We all left the house and it was over. Nothing was really concluded. Maybe that wind monster/Capital Building is still out there haunting Iron Maiden concerts. But then the dream morphed and I was in a store, where apparently I worked along with that same friend who was in Lincoln’s house with me. We were standing around when a very old man walked in. Note that the man looked absolutely nothing like Teddy Roosevelt. He was a skinny old man wearing an apron from Lowe’s. But my mind told me that he was, in fact, Teddy Roosevelt. My friend and I followed him around the store, laughing at the idea that Teddy Roosevelt works at Lowe’s.

And that’s the dream I had. Pretty strange.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Another school year is over. The books have been turned back in, the chairs have been stacked, and the calculators have been put to rest. The pencils have been retired to kitchen drawers and my drawers have been retired for the season. The summer is much more enjoyable without undergarments holding me back. The ability to wear nothing at all or as much clothing as physically possible is just some of the joys of summer.

But there are also horrible parts of summer. For example, family gatherings. This year’s Memorial Day gathering wasn’t out of the ordinary. There was swimming. There were hamburgers. And there was a deranged Pakistani man who tried to convince everyone to buy his Swimming Hamburgers, literally hamburgers that can swim. No one bit on his offer. My aunt almost did but she declined upon hearing that the hamburgers can do only the butterfly and not the backstroke.

During this gathering I was asked a question that seems simple but is in fact virtually impossible to answer. My grandma said, “So what do you plan to do this summer?”

My answer sounded fine to me. “Relax and enjoy summer.” That seems to sum everything up. She seemed to have expected more.

“Oh,” she said. Just kind of an “oh” that acknowledges that I have responded; the kind that means, “You have not impressed me. Perhaps the value of your Christmas gift will reflect my disappointment.” But honestly what could someone asking that question possibly expect to hear?

“In June I plan to scale Everest, throughout July I’ll construct a particle accelerator in my garage, and during the first few weeks of August I’ll catch Osama bin Laden.”

Maybe I should have just turned the question around. “What did you do during your summer vacations? Go to Washington to meet President Taft?”

I suppose I could have shared with her some more specific plans. I could have told her about the potato launcher I constructed yesterday. Here’s the problem with that, though. To anyone under the age of thirty the idea of a spray-deodorant-propelled potato cannon is pretty spectacular. But to people of an older generation, such a device would give them so many questions they very well could develop Alzheimer’s on the spot. “How far do they go?” “Why are you launching potatoes?” “Are you working for the Germans?”

Nothing good could have come from telling her about specific events or plans like the potato launcher. I would have been answering questions until school starts again. Having the time to make such plans and build such vegetable-firing cannons is perhaps the greatest part of summer. There are no longer any time constraints. Just one week ago I had a scant ten minutes built into the morning routine to relieve my bowels. But what if there was a great article in Entertainment Weekly that required fifteen? Then I’d have to save it for later. What if my bowels were full to the brim and required fifteen minutes of birth-like pushing? I would also have to save that for later. Now I can spend as much time as needed, or wanted, on the bowl. But having no time limits is a pleasure that extends outside of the bathroom.

I can read the newspaper without having to stop to do schoolwork. I can watch TV without having to pause to study. I can rob the local gas station at my leisure without having to be in bed early to wake up. Earlier today I spent a good twenty minutes eating an apple. Just sitting in silence, enjoying that apple, and thanking Johnny Appleseed for his work. During the school year there’s no time for such enjoyment.

And there’s also not enough time for things like trying to throw a baseball faster than the speed of light. Or trying to eat a whole can of green beans including the can. Or growing a third penis.

I probably won’t end up attempting any of those things. I’ll split most of my time between the newspaper and the waffle ball field. But knowing that I have the freedom to, at any moment, decide to eat all the leaves in my yard is a comforting feeling.

This summer is going to be a good one. Maybe I’ll run into you when I’m breaking the sound barrier on foot.

News Update!: I made a new blog for fictional things. Why? Because fiction doesn't have to be real. I can literally just make anything up and put it on there and no one says it's fake. I wonder why no one thought of this before.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Here’s a bit of personal advice. Look for oncoming traffic when making a left turn out of your neighborhood. Obviously to prevent your car from being destroyed and to prevent anyone from being injured, but also to keep you out of a 7-hour Defensive Driving course on a Saturday almost five months after the accident. It was not a fun experience. Here’s what happened.

8:45 a.m.: My dad and I arrive in the parking lot after searching for the building for ten minutes. We locate it as a large, grey concrete establishment hidden behind a line of stores and completely free of identification. There are three unmarked doors. One of them has a metal 7 hanging from it, I assume to alert deliverymen where to drop off the firearms, because this place looks like the set of a snuff film. The inside isn’t much more promising. It’s one dirty room with a computer, TV, long plastic table, and some folding chairs. Surprisingly the floor is not sticky with blood. The sole employee, sitting at the computer, is textbook old man. You can tell this man spends a lot of time looking at stamps through a magnifying glass. He asks for my information and needs clarification several times. The last thing this man heard clearly was probably Ronald Regan’s Inaugural Address. I tell him my street name: Greatwood Court. After three rounds of: “Great-what?” “Wood. W-O-O-D,” he writes down “Greatward.” A guy has to be a frequent customer at the hospital to misinterpret wood as ward. Finally he tells me, “All you can do is have a seat and make yourself at home.” I’m the second person in there so I hear him repeat that exact message to the next 6 people.

9:00 a.m.: Time for class to begin. The teacher hobbles to a desk in front of the TV and puts in a DVD. He handles it like an artifact from another galaxy. The DVD contains a PowerPoint presentation, which he reads to us for 45 minutes. It includes pointers along the lines of “It is illegal to not wear a seatbelt.” When he finishes I’m exhausted from the excitement and caught off guard when he throws a pop quiz on road signs at us. I shift to pop quiz mode and begin reviewing in my head. Have I ever driven a car before? Do I know what road signs mean? And, most importantly, just in case there’s an emergency, does the obese man sitting next to me look knowledgeable? I feel confident and whiz through the exam. Of course I peek at my neighbor’s answers. I’m not risking taking this class again because I was too proud to be sure that the triangle means yield. Our answers look similar and I score a 90. It’s easy to calculate my score in my head because there are 20 questions and I missed 2. The guy next to me also missed 2, but he multiplies 18 by 5 manually on his paper to determine his score. Maybe he’s not the genius I was hoping for. Things are going well. It’s time for the first 10-minute break.

9:50 a.m.: A few of my peers go outside for the break. I don’t know what they’re doing out there. Smoking? Sitting in their cars? Robbing local shops? I spend the time clearing out the old text messages from my phone and staring at the poster near me featuring spirited students at a Milton High School football game. Wow, I think. Their douche bags look just like our douche bags. I wisely brought the new Entertainment Weekly with me. I flip through it for a few minutes and decide to ration it off. I need to save the good stuff for later in the day.

10a.m.: The break is over and class begins again. This hour is more of that superb PowerPoint I got to enjoy some of earlier. The teacher reads it out of a binder with a the kind of slow southern drawl that makes me think he is likely the direct descendant of a plantation owner. His rolled-up jeans support my theory. The PowerPoint is more of the same. I notice time has begun to move more slowly, like a wounded pirate hobbling along in the Boston Marathon.

10:50a.m.: The second break. I bust out my magazine and browse through it, taking my time. It’s a decent issue. I notice a sign on the wall that reads: Crackers 50¢ Candy 60¢ Soda $1.00. It looks like it was hung during the Coolidge administration. I don’t know who would want to put anything from this room in their mouth, although I am tempted to find out how candy from the Great Depression tastes. And the soda was likely made with cocaine.

11:00a.m.: Surprisingly enough, class begins again. But this time something’s new. There’s no PowerPoint. Instead the teacher puts in a DVD called Extreme Driving Quiz, and boy is it a treat. It recommends fighting back against kidnappers if they try to shove you in the trunk of your car. Excellent tip, I think. I’ll be sure to sue the makers of this video when I’m shot in the kneecaps for doing that. I also learn that someone’s car breaks down on active railroad tracks every 2 hours in the U.S. I spend the remainder of the movie trying to comprehend how slim the chances of that are and how badly that statistic is exaggerated. While I’m doing this the teacher is filling out forms on a typewriter. Not surprising, considering the nature of this man, but a little odd considering there is a computer less than a foot from his typewriter. I suppose this man isn’t a big supporter of electricity.

11:50a.m.: It’s lunch time. We’ve got until 1p.m. to be back in the dungeon of a classroom. I walk to Nantucket Sandwich Shop and am suddenly put in an odd situation. I’ve never been in this restaurant before. There is one table of people there: three teenagers who aren’t eating anything, which means some type of exchange is going down there, either baseball cards or drugs. I don’t get close enough to find out. There are two people behind the counter watching my every move. I approach them and have no idea what I want. The only intel I have is that this establishment makes sandwiches, which could mean a lot of things. Sub sandwiches? Hot sandwiches? Knuckle sandwiches? There’s a menu posted on the counter but it would take at least 10 minutes to go through it, so I have to take a risk. “Can I just get a turkey and cheese sandwich?”

“Yeah,” responds the teenage clerk. I’m in luck.

I request it on wheat bread, pay the $7.25, and take a seat. While I wait I realize I haven’t specified anything more about the order. What if it’s with Swiss cheese? I’m strictly anti-Swiss when it comes to cheese and textiles. What if it comes with some odd sauce or other crap on it?

The sandwich arrives and it looks good. I see nothing strange on or around it, although the cheese remains a mystery. I take a bite and find it to be delicious. Nantucket Sandwich Shop hereby receives an official recommendation.

12:15p.m.: I’m done with my lunch. What am I supposed to do for the next 45 minutes? I take out my EW and read most of it, even the stuff I usually wouldn’t touch. The restaurant is filling up and I feel a little odd to be sitting alone reading about Cashmere Mafia being picked up for another season, but whatever. If it means not having my license suspended I’d publicly read about anything. (Unless it’s in Oprah’s Book Club. I have to draw the line somewhere.) I leave $2 in the tip jar and head for the bathroom. There’s a sign saying 10¢ Pay Bathroom. I can’t tell if it’s just part of the restaurant’s beach d├ęcor or real, but I take the risk even though I don’t have any dimes. If the sign is true, there’s got to at least be a garbage can back there. I find the door and I’m good to enter unpaid. My pee is free. I leave Nantucket and head back to HQ. Three hours to go. I can’t wait.

1:00p.m.: I go back inside the door marked 7 and wait in my seat. The other people file into the room. I have no idea where any of them went for lunch, but I do hear the man sitting next to me tell the teacher that he spent his hour purchasing a sweatshirt at Walgreen’s. I also find out he has a Scottish accent. After the chitchat class starts again. The instructor gives us a sheet featuring some gas-saving tips including: “Driving with the windows down increases drag and wastes gas.” A hot tip that very well may save me half a cent over the course of my life. Once we’re done with the sheet there’s more PowerPoint goodness. How they managed to fill this many hours with a slideshow of text about changing lanes and seatbelts I don’t know. My attention is waning and I look around the room. There are shelves full of items like compressed air, blank CDs, and napkins. It looks like the stash of a criminal who steals from Office Depots and keeps to a $5 per item limit.

1:50p.m.: Another break, more Entertainment Weekly. I also text message a friend who had to endure this class one week ago to ask about the final exam. I’m worried because a) I don’t want to screw up and have to take this class again, and b) I’ve had bad luck when it comes to driving exams. It took two tries to get a Learner’s Permit and three for a license. I swear half those tests are trick questions. But those things are in the past. This upcoming exam is soon. My friend assures me it’s all common sense, but I’m still a little worried. That’s what they said about the other tests.

2:00p.m.: More PowerPoint. I’m trying to pay attention to be absolutely sure I don’t fail the upcoming exam, but it’s difficult. The instructor has the charisma of a roll of toilet paper. Single ply. I zone out and stop listening. I know he’s talking, but I don’t hear it anymore. I feel like a deaf person at a symphony. I glance up at the TV every now and then to read what he’s talking about, which is currently speed limits. A peer asks about speed limits on Georgia highways and tells us a funny story about being pulled over for going 80 in a 55 in Ohio. He’s an entertaining guy, about 25 and wearing a large coat with the hood up. He seems like he does crystal meth. When his story ends the class again becomes the time-warp of boredom it has been for several hours. Hopefully something exciting will happen soon.

2:30p.m.: The TV suddenly turns off! Right in the middle of the slideshow! A mystery is afoot. The teacher investigates as quickly as his horribly slow legs allow while the students look around at one another confused. Was this planned? Is it part of the show, like a haunted house? Will a man dressed as a zombie bust out of the bathroom and terrify us while roller skating? Sadly none of those things happen. One of the phones is dead and something near the computer beeps every minute. Being the trooper that he his, the teacher soldiers on without the assistance of the television. Paying attention is now much more difficult without the visual. Two of the older guys in the class try to get to the source of the beeping at the computer but neither is successful, not even the hotshot Starbucks drinker who’s been on his BlackBerry since class began. He seemed eager to please us with his computer skills, but he comes up short. He is visibly disappointed with himself. The instructor continues reading the slides out of his binder.

3:00p.m.: The teacher tells us we’re supposed to watch another movie now, but we can’t since the TV is out. I thank whoever the kind worker is who chainsawed through the power cable. Or maybe someone is being tortured next door and ripped out some wires in a desperate escape attempt. We’ll never find out because we get to take the final exam now, instead of at 4 as was planned. This is an excellent surprise. The exam is fairly easy but of course I make sure my answers look similar to the guy’s next to me. It never hurts to be sure, even if the questions are to the tune of “When is it illegal to back up on an expressway?” We grade the tests together, so really I could have just waited to hear the answers and marked them down. But it doesn’t matter because I got a 95. Truly an impressive performance. I’m good to go; the class is over. Or is it?

3:05p.m.: The teacher hands out surveys for us to grade him and the location in 6 categories on a 1-5 scale. I score random numbers from 2 to 5. When it comes to surveys I find confusion is the best strategy.

3:15p.m.: My dad picks me up and I’m home free. What a terrible way to spend a Saturday, I think. But thankfully it’s over and my record at the courthouse will be wiped clean. I’m looking forward to next Saturday, which will hopefully be free of PowerPoints and old southern men.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

It's been a while, but I've kept busy with school and purchasing unfinished furniture. I also recently was kidnapped by a Colombian drug smuggler and he told me to update this with some of those year-end lists everyone does and I said, "But mine won't be just for this year, they'll be more general stuff," and he said, "No funny business, mistah Pistachio," which is what I told him my name was, "or those words will be your last." He later told me he was kidding about everything but I really did need to give him some kind of lists or he would kill my family. So here they are: one list of things that suck and one list of things I hate.

Things That Suck

1. Multi-part problems

It’s exciting to be assigned problems 31-32 for homework. It’s not exciting to find that each of those problems has parts a-j. It’s like expecting an easy day at your job of bagging groceries only to see the cast of Phat Girlz waddling through the door. That’s a lot of extra work.

2. Having homework in 5 classes, so you take home 5 notebooks and books, but each assignment will take less than 10 minutes
3. Turning the alarm back on on Sunday night
4. Noticing a lack of toilet paper after the dump

It’s a bad time no matter which route you take: screaming for mom or hobbling into the hallway, hoping nothing too big drips out.

5. Noticing a lack of shampoo once in the shower

The disappointing “pfff” and light spritz of goo from the bottle is far too similar to an old woman’s flatulence for my taste.

6. Getting out of the shower and there’s no towel

Lurking around nude is great, but doing it while dripping wet is awful.

7. Under-ripe bananas

Seriously, Del Monte, if I wanted to eat chalk I would have purchased it.

8. Over-ripe bananas

C’mon, Del Monte. Where was my reminder to eat it? It looked fine on the outside, but looked less like a Costa Rican banana and more like a Magic Johnson banana on the inside.

9. Hard pears
10. Hard peaches

It’s disappointing not only because they taste like tennis balls, but because you know it had the potential to be tasty if you had just waited two more days.


Just loading this site requires a $6,000 computer and two days. Then navigating it takes a team of 15th-century cartographers, all to watch The Hills. It’s still worth it, though.

12. Thinking you have a huge turd, but it’s just a series of farts

Perhaps the world’s ultimate disappointment. It is bittersweet, though, as the bowl provides excellent acoustics for said series of farts.

13. The Real World
14. People who summarize episodes of Family Guy or South Park
15. Having to download drivers for computer components
16. Crocs

Shoes made of Styrofoam? Yeah, that’s a good idea.

17. Teachers who justify assignments with, “This is an honors class”

That’s good to know, teach. If anyone actually cared they would probably have done the work in the first place.

18. Sitting on my testicles
19. Being asked to save the changes to document 1
20. When nothing good comes in the mail
21. Annoying girls who think they’re funny
22. Drivers who follow too closely
23. All-text pages in history books
24. Females with bangs

It’s never looked good on any woman. I have no idea why they try this.

25. Getting into an incredibly hot car that’s been in the sun all day
26. Writers born before 1900

Why am I discouraged from run-on sentences when those are the only kind of sentence these guys knew how to write?

27. People who aren’t good at Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater

Everyone’s been playing them since 1999. If you can't pull of a 100,000 point combo easily there’s something wrong with you.

28. When Microsoft Word asks me if I want to save changes to a document I haven’t altered
29. When someone orders a beverage other than water when splitting the check at a restaurant
30. Magazines wrapped in plastic at grocery stores

I’m not supposed to try it out before I buy it? What’s next, wrapping up food so I can’t eat it at the store?

31. Dane Cook
32. Double issues of magazines that mean next week’s issue doesn’t exist
33. Wide-ruled paper

Especially wide-ruled composition notebooks, which seem to be the only ones stores carry. Office Depot thinks I should be writing lab reports in crayon.

34. Amy Winehouse
35. When reading Newsweek, being assaulted guerilla-style by that ad with the kids with the screwed up lips
36. People under the age of 18 who care about politics or think they can make a difference in the world

Your school fundraiser will not solve anything and you’re wasting your time.

37. Hardcore liberals
38. When the mainstream media discusses videogames and has no idea what it’s talking about
39. The environmentalist fad
40. Teachers who take classroom games too seriously

I’m referring to the ones who make students say “What is…” in Jeopardy. They’re awful people.

41. Gamestop employees

I was there the other day to buy Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX 2 and an employee started talking to my brother and me about how he’s embarrassed for owning Outlaw Golf. He was a nice guy, but I didn’t really care about his videogame collection. The problem is with all the other employees, who collectively know less about videogames than the world’s oldest man knows about Webkinz.

42. Movie theaters that don’t show "The 20"
43. Non-stadium seating in movie theaters
44. When people leave the speakers on on school computers

Does everyone need to know that I have mail? Yes. Do they need to know I use AOL? No.

45. Rolling Stone magazine
46. People who hold up cell phones at concerts

It’s embarrassing to watch and will be embarrassing for whoever does it in a few years.

47. Getting out of the shower only to notice a patch of soapy skin left un-rinsed
48. People who use the acronym APUSH
49. Holly Hunter’s voice

Good god, please pick a gender.

50. People who think it’s funny to act gay

According to the almanacs it stopped being funny in elementary school.

51. The Secret
52. Raven Symone
53. Capri pants
54. The annual shortage of book covers
55. Freakonomics

Some startling statistics that were left out of the book: Most Americans own a television; ears are usually used for hearing; and serial killers are more likely than regular people to commit murder.

56. MAD Magazine
57. People who call other people “buddy”

If you’ve ever been called “buddy” by someone, you know that they’re not a friend of yours and never will be. If you’ve ever called someone “buddy,” realize now that you don’t have any real friends and you’re the only person who thinks you’re awesome.

58. When pockets get stuck on kitchen drawer knobs
59. Shirts that are supposed to be funny
60. Having a boner while doing the V-sit

I guess having a boner at any inopportune moment usually sucks. I recall sporting one at least before the V-sit, but it might have gone into hiding during the act. I also recall doing some presentation in 6th grade health class with a pelvis-stalagmite. That was the last time I ever wore athletic shorts to school.

61. Comedians who talk about Indians working tech support
62. Crappy chain restaurants

This includes Applebee’s, TGI Friday’s, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and anywhere else that serves mozzarella sticks. Chili’s is excluded because it’s okay.

63. Peeing with an erection

A faulty grip while doing this once resulted in a bathroom floor covered in urine.

64. Capture the Football
65. Unwanted people who tag along
66. Paper crusties
67. Unintelligent kids who get mad at other students for doing well on tests
68. 0.5 pencil lead

It’s more brittle than Betty White’s bones.

69. Group members who want to present last

Anyone with a brain will tell you that going second is the best way to do it.

70. Red Lobster
71. iPod headphones
72. Math and science word problems that contain multiple sentences of completely unnecessary information.

Unless they’re silly, like most physics problems. Specifically those with curious kittens, the world’s largest salami, or a highly skilled and trained elephant named Sammi. I really like the ones written by Billy Rochester.

73. Hyphenated last names
74. Parents who give their children untraditional names
75. Bicyclists on the road
76. Awkward car rides with friends’ parents
77. Stuffy noses
78. Changing the channel to a good show right as it goes to commercial
79. When Microsoft Word randomly screws up the format of a document
80. Having to walk without the bike in Pokemon
81. Frequent random battles when trying to go somewhere quickly in Pokemon
82. Starbucks, specifically its customers, specifically the ones who drink it at school

Are we supposed to be impressed you went to Starbucks? Nothing impresses me more than someone waking up extra early to wait in line for expensive coffee that she finishes before first period but keeps the cup until the end of the day.

83. Holding in farts

Our society will reach its zenith when people can fart in public at their leisure.

84. People who say “Present” when a teacher calls role

These kids tend to expect a laugh afterwards and are usually met with rewarding silence.

85. Kids who correct substitutes or tell them their nicknames when she’s calling role

These kids tend to be the same ones who wear Crocs, put pencils behind their ears, and say “present” during role.

86. Being asked a question in class that you don’t know
87. Having to flip the page over to complete a problem on a worksheet or test
88. Non-pornographic websites that have pornographic ads
89. Most stop signs in Windward
90. Tests with fewer than 25 questions
91. Arriving at traffic lights just as they turn red
92. Multiple choice questions with more than one correct answer
93. When people do a trivial task for you, like picking up a pencil, and rudely say, “You’re welcome.”
94. When your calculator decides to not work at the beginning of a math test

Or when you type in a problem before noticing that it’s not on.

95. Awkward conversations with relatives you barely know
96. When people show you something they made or wrote, expecting a compliment, and it sucks

It’s an awkward spot that could have been avoided if that person didn’t write such an awful poem.

97. Opening PDFs without realizing they’re PDFs

Almost no PDF is worth the 15-minute wait.

98. Cars that speed up to pass you for no apparent reason
99. When the person sitting in front of you doesn’t pass back the worksheet
100. When your pen explodes while playing with it during a lecture
101. Spilling things

Especially food.

102. Teachers at lunch who yell at students for not throwing away their lunches
103. Being completely out of clean boxers or undershirts
104. Doing all the work on a group project
105. Forgetting things
106. Realizing you got a question wrong on a test immediately after turning it in
107. When the school blocks non-pornographic websites for pornography
108. Teachers who justify homework on weekends saying that you have more time

Yeah, more time for eating peanut butter sandwiches and watching America’s Next Top Model.

109. When cleaning people re-arrange all your stuff
110. Waiting at restaurants

Especially at crappy chain restaurants that hand out flashing coasters. Those are never worth it.

111. Accidentally shitting your pants
112. Waiting rooms
113. Blood tests

Why do they take so much? How many steaks do they have to marinate?

114. When the doctor asks your mom questions about you when you’re perfectly able to answer them
115. Sticky boxers after a wet fart
116. People who talk while the teacher is talking
117. Shorts without pockets
118. Frozen foods that melt way too fast

Especially DiGiorno pizzas.

119. Hearing a teacher say, “You don’t have to write that down,” immediately after you have
120. Typing entire URLs

It seems the USA Today and many teachers are unaware of Internet searches.

121. Food melting in a car or pocket
122. Realizing the note you just wrote down is completely useless
123. Braces
124. When the section of the newspaper you want is no where to be found
125. The “ae” combo in words like “Caesar” and “daemon”

I run into each of those words at least four times a day and I still have trouble.

126. When the Internet doesn’t work

In fact, as I write this, it currently does not. The next best thing to do with the Internet is down is play Xbox Live, but that doesn’t work either. So you’re left with newspapers, magazines, the phonograph, and Microsoft Word. Life without the Internet is terrible. I often wonder how people in the 19th century downloaded movies.

127. The school’s online databases

Librarians, it seems, are unaware of most things on the Internet. Those databases are about as useful to my research paper as a donut covered in barbed wire and deep fried in whale blood. What? I don’t know.

128. Stop signs or red lights at the bottom of steep hills
129. Long telephone conversations

30 seconds should be the universal limit. That’s all that’s ever necessary.

130. When girls you don’t particularly like instigate conversations that aren’t particularly interesting
131. Being instant messaged by someone you don’t like
132. Long instant messenger conversations

Everyone knows it’s just for reading away messages and finding MySpace and Facebook links.

133. When you can’t find the remote
134. Commercials that are much louder than the others
135. When you can’t hear the person on the other end of the phone
136. Microsoft Word’s incorrect grammar corrections
137. Waking up with a dry mouth
138. Being woken up by a ringing phone
139. Waiting at the bus stop
140. After getting your hopes up, the waiter carrying a big tray of food walks right past your table

Unless it’s at a crappy chain restaurant, in which case I can wait a few more minutes for my steak fajitas to be microwaved.

141. Squeezing a testicle when holding in a fart

Holding in farts is never a good idea. It leads to squeezed testicles, stomach aches, or a build-up of pressure that results in projectile diarrhea. Only one of those three things is desirable.

142. Stopping for school busses
143. When every channel is on a commercial at the same time
144. Unsatisfactory dumps

If there’s not at least three big cigars and a cup of beef stew in the bowl, I leave unfulfilled.

145. Having to move the TV to get to the inputs in the back
146. Hearing a sexual reference when watching TV with your parents
147. Having a really itchy cornhole in class
148. Sitting behind a desk that doesn’t have a footrest
149. Desks without armrests
150. Getting bits of food (specifically peach fibers) stuck in your teeth
151. Awkward nipple hairs
152. Noticing stains on clothing several hours into the day
153. When you rip off a piece of tape and it pulls some paper off with it
154. Staples that don’t go all the way through
155. Rug burns
156. When the phone rings while home alone and taking a dump

You have to either risk it not being important and ignore it or waddle to the phone and risk leaving a stained trail of drippings that will last a lifetime.

157. When guests don’t get the hint that you want them out of your house
158. Noticing a good TV show is on and it’s got 2 minutes left
159. Walking with an open backpack
160. The unclean feeling from being outside for a long time

I mean when you don’t do anything physical; you’re just outside for a few hours and feel dirty. I don’t like that.

161. Briefly feeling like you’re the only person who doesn’t know what’s going on in math class
162. Thinking a woman is attractive from afar, but upon closer inspection she’s either very young or very old
163. Spilling water everywhere when filling a cup and eating out of the fridge at the same time

The left hand is on the cup, the right hand is in the fruit bowl in the fridge, and your focus is on the tasty fruit. This can result in disaster.

164. How the most interesting pieces on the news are shown last
165. Waiting for things to arrive in the mail
166. Eating a sandwich and thinking you’re half done, then opening your lunch bag to discover both halves have been eaten
167. When your locker doesn’t open
168. Getting a long string of the same answer on a multiple choice test
169. Hard taco shells

Eating out of a vessel that will shatter after the first bite doesn’t seem like a good idea.

170. Half-sheets of paper towels

Our culture has adapted to the standard size of paper towels. When a roll of half-sheets suddenly appears, it confuses everyone and causes a lot of spills to go half-dry.

171. Holidays that we don’t get off from school, but the mail doesn’t come
172. Flies
173. Most bands whose names start with “the”
174. Pleasantries
175. Bumping into people and then juking each other in the halls
176. Timers on lamps

When you’re trying to go to sleep they stay on too long and when you’re staying up they go off too soon. They shouldn’t exist.

177. People who sit completely upright in theater seats

It’s not even comfortable, so they’re just doing it to piss everyone off.

178. When the toilet flush is really loud at night and lasts for a while making it difficult to hear the TV
179. Emergency alerts that interrupt television
180. People who assume you always have gum
181. Crumbs
182. Double-sided worksheets
183. Going past the desired input on your TV, forcing you to click through them all again
184. Sunburns
185. Seeing people you vaguely know from school at their workplace
186. When people start to say something then stop and refuse to say what they were about to

Man, that’s annoying. When they do eventually reveal it, it’s always a let-down.

187. Awkward stopping and starting with another car at a four-way stop
188. Burps that feel like there’s vomit following
189. Commercials with doorbell noises

How is it any different from that amendment about shouting “fire” in a theater?

190. Accidentally tearing a sheet out of your binder
191. Car accidents
192. Buying a car
193. Car salesmen
194. When your mom cooks bacon in the microwave and it smells like bacon all day
195. Driving with your parents in the car after you have been awarded a license
196. Pears that seem fine until you bite into them and find that they’re completely rotten
197. Interviewers who go out of their way to note that the subject laughed at one of the questions
198. Misplacing your glasses
199. The obsession with the term “fresh” in food marketing

Do they think I assume all food that isn’t labeled as such is spoiled?

200. When people offer you food that you don’t want or you aren’t hungry and they make a big deal about it
201. People who dart out of classrooms without looking to see if anyone is about to run directly into them
202. Realizing your calculator is in radians after re-doing a problem ten times
204. When your parents talk loudly on the phone in the same room in which you’ve been watching TV for 20 minutes
205. Family gatherings
206. Interviewers who think they’re funny, especially when interviewing a comedian and forcing him or her to give a pity laugh
207. Websites that expect you to pay for content

There are few things in the world worth $4.95, and a 117-word New York Times article from 1971 isn’t one of them.

208. How clothing stores only carry pants in circus tent sizes
209. Extra dumps

The standard one per morning routine seems to work fine six days a week, but there’s always that extra day when my body feels like bothering me and I have to get rid of any left-overs in a second round.

210. Running a banana peel through the disposal

If you’ve never done this before, don’t. It’s the most horrible noise there is. It’s like Satan is laughing at you while playing Sounds of the Holocaust, Volume II.

211. The overtype feature in Word

I can’t think of a single time when this would be useful.

212. Being stuck walking behind someone you don’t want to talk to while knowing that if you walk in front of them they will spring a conversation on you
213. Websites that split one article onto multiple pages
214. Learning about bills that never went into effect in History

Things I Hate

1. The word “comedienne”

Why is this necessary? There are, what, eight female comedians who actually turn a profit? (Nine if counting Paula Poundstone) Why have this word? At least the only time it’s ever used is in magazine articles written by someone who had obviously never heard of comedy before being assigned the article.

2. Viral marketing

Since the entertainment industry recently found out people use the Internet, they decided to make a bunch of fake crappy websites that are supposed to be cool or something, but usually only hold the viewer’s interest for six seconds. I guess the term viral makes sense because they’re really annoying.

3. Gears of War

What a terrible videogame. If there’s anything I like more than Halo it’s a worse version of it that has two playable online maps.

4. “Dani California”

It was cool the first three hundred times.

5. People who don’t understand basic concepts in on-level science classes

I suppose this category could be extended to include all stupid people, but these ones are particularly obnoxious.

6. People who put pencils behind their ears

These people are usually really stupid and need the pencil behind their ears to either attempt to appear intelligent or they just missed when trying to stab themselves when trying an on-level science worksheet.

7. Mischa Barton

Eh, not for me.

8. People who use Comic Sans

I think the comic it’s referring to is something out of Highlights for Children. Choosing this font tends to be the most creative things its users have done in the last decade.

9. When USA Today italicizes song titles

Students are taught these rules almost every year and they aren’t challenging in the first place. I should also include the Associated Press’s policy of listing series as: thing 1, thing 2 and thing 3; instead of: thing 1, thing 2, and thing 3. If thing 2 and 3 are as separate as thing 1 and 2 are, why aren’t they separated with a comma? It doesn’t make any sense.

10. Laptop keyboards

Some people prefer these, but some people also eat hair for a living. It you like typing on a flat surface, you should make a computer out of floor.

11. Crankshaft

Not the comic strip; the art is good. Just the character Ed Crankshaft. That guy is a prick.

12. Apple fans

I think everyone hates them. Supporting Apple is like supporting a 5” black and white analog TV that costs $15,000 because it’s expensive.

13. The Big Lebowski

It’s not a very good movie.

14. The Big Lebowski fans

It’s really not funny at all.

15. Having my glasses fog up when stepping outside on a humid day

Of all the bad things humidity is responsible for, this is the worst. Seriously, water, I’ve got things to see.

16. People who dislike an entire genre of music without a good reason

You never hear someone say, “No, I don’t like comedies,” when talking about movies. At least have a reason for hating a genre of music. Personally, I hate country music. Because it’s annoying.

17. Sarcastic sentences than start with “I love how” or “I love it when”

These are a simple way for a very stupid girl to think she’s funny and force pity laughs out of her friends. It benefits no one and wastes a few seconds of everyone’s time. These are usually the same girls who say, “Just kidding” after getting a question embarrassingly wrong in class.

18. People who misuse apostrophes

At least it’s a quick indicator of that person’s intellect.

19. Jewel’s snaggletooth

Good god, that thing is disgusting. A moderately famous singer should be able to have that thing tamed, caged, and sent far away. Instead of having a piece of spinach stuck in her teeth, it’s like she’s got a head of lettuce permanently crammed in there.

20. The verb “to bogart”

I heard it on a TV show and it infuriated me. I think it means “to keep for oneself” but it’s much hipper. Because Humphrey Bogart used to keep stuff? I don’t know.

21. The term “fro-yo”

I’ve only seen this used once, but that was plenty. Why not abbreviate other trendy foods? Grilled chicken will be “grill chick,” pizza will be “piz,” and baked Alaska will be “bakal,” which sounds just like bagel and will confuse everyone.

22. People who misuse “ironic”

People tend to use it to describe coincidences, which are not ironic. At least it’s a quick indicator of whether or not someone is as smart as they think they are.

23. Unrealistic Christmas gift recommendations that pop up in magazines and newspapers every year.

The USA Today has been running a series of these guides all through December. Now, USA Today is a very common newspaper that costs 75 cents; it is by no means an expensive publication. But its writers are still under the impression that the paper’s main audience is a club of oil tycoons and antebellum aristocrats. Let’s take a look at their recommendations for a gift for a grandson. I fall into this category, and I have received Christmas gifts from my grandparents for multiple years, but I have never been given a $230 crappy iPod portable media player. According to the industrialists at the paper, $230 is a mid-range gift. The bargain gift, to me, implies something purchased at CVS for less than $10, but to the Today it is a $30 Transformers chess set, an easy way to make a grandchild quickly lose the few friends he had. The expensive gift is a $625 tweed blazer. The problem with that is that any kid who would enjoy that is already such a spoiled idiot that he probably already has one.

After I realized the USA Today’s unreasonable obsession with wealth, I decided to read this week’s Newsweek, a fine magazine. It was a good issue (Mike Luckovich hit another home run!) until I got to a certain Ms. Linda Stern’s article. Entitled “De-Stressing Christmas,” it paints Ms. Stern as Cathy from the comic strip, a stereotypically obese 30-something who freaks out when she realizes she just downed her sixth sleeve of Oreos. Linda Stern seems like she often grabs her hair and shouts frazzled exclamations like “Oh my gosh!” when it’s completely unnecessary.

The first section of the article is “Give time, not things.” It recommends “taking nieces or nephews on an outing to a museum or skating rink, with an ice-cream or cocoa stop.” Wow, what a horrible idea. It seems Ms. Stern never had a childhood, because if she did she’d know that unwrapping a trip to a museum on Christmas morning would be awful, mainly because it isn’t possible. A museum? Maybe if the tour ended with a Toys R Us shopping spree or something, but otherwise we have field trips for that kind of thing, Aunt Linda. I’d rather sit at home crying about not getting a real gift from you than go to the museum.

The next section recommends “skipping gifts for adults.” Nothing cements a friendship like ignoring kindness and tradition. She reminds us we can donate to a charity in someone’s name, which is a good idea, but she also suggests taking a day trip, which is what I guess 30-year old friends who don’t really know each other but just hang out because they don’t have anyone else call hanging out.

Next up is “Make a game of giving,” where Linda essentially summarizes Secret Santa. She says, “Set a $5 or $10 limit and see how creative everyone can get.” What kind of person would unwrap a dollar store figurine with some pipe cleaners and googly eyes on it and appreciate the creativity?

Finally, Linda tells us to “pick and choose” activities instead of getting bogged down and crying like Ms. Stern seems to do. She recommends eliminating the harsh burdens of the holidays with fun, like a “multi-generation photo labeling session.” Incredible. I would rather have Linda Stern read me more of her zany ideas for an hour while a polar bear eats off my face and my genitalia is attached to a medieval stretching device in a room full of rotting animal carcasses during the Spanish Inquisition than that.

The December 12th edition of the USA Today featured perhaps the most illogical gift recommendation ever written. Here’s the question:

I have an 18-year-old granddaughter who lives more than 300 miles away, so I don’t get to see her much. She plays and views all sports. Since sports are not my bag, I have no idea what to get her. Can you suggest something between $20 and $40?
-Dot Hanson, Skippack, Pa.

It’s a pretty standard question and most of the five suggestions make sense. But Amy Tara Koch apparently isn’t much of a reader. She’s the style and beauty editor of, a site you know is hip because it starts with a lower-case I (she’s listed as a “gift expert” in the article, a title that applies to anybody who can form opinions and look at stuff). Here’s her answer:

Buy your daughter four tickets to a University of Pennsylvania basketball game. Package the tickets with $10 worth of snack to eat at the game. Tickets are $5.

So let’s tally that up. Four tickets at $5 each is $20. $10 of snacks takes the total to $30, which is right in Dot’s zone. Now let’s just factor in four 300 mile plane tickets to take the granddaughter to Pennsylvania, and the grand total is a Christmas bargain at $1446, practically a stocking stuffer.

Okay, Mr. Escobar, is that sufficient? You said you wanted it long, right?

"Like a dong."

Long like a dong?

"Is that so wrong?"

As wrong as playing Pong in a thong, Mr. Escobar.

"Enough with the funny business. For that, you owe me three New Year's resolutions."

Okay, okay, just please put the knife away. Here are three New Year's resolutions for you, sir:

1. I pledge to grow at least six inches taller. People could save a lot of time if they just grew taller instead of trying to lose weight.

2. I'll try, no, I will eat an airplane in one bite.

3. A thousand more wishes. This genie severely underestimated my smarts.

That's all for now.