We All Love Useless Junk

CC-BY-3.0-Self-published work-Shadwwulf at en.wikipediaWe live in a world of useless things. Every single person in every single home in America has at least one item sitting on a shelf somewhere as “decoration.” They purchased this item solely for it to sit on a shelf that is somewhat at eye level with the complete intention of no one ever using it under any circumstances for anything. If you don’t believe me, try to dish up a meal on someone’s limited edition Thomas Kinkade collector’s plate sometime.

Yes, we all own a great deal of useless crap. For some reason, though, getting rid of this is nearly impossible. I think that is the inner-hoarder in all of us. We are all just one step away from finding ourselves on A&E weeping over the thought of parting with our collection of 1700 used left shoes.

Inside of a closet in my guest room, you will find all kinds of baseball memorabilia items from my childhood. Now, there is no reason for me to hang onto a Mark McGwire 70 Home Runs Wheaties Box from 1998. The cereal inside that box was eaten many years ago and since the time I got that box, McGwire has retired, denied using steroids in front of congress, admitted to using steroids on national television, and become a hitting coach. Meanwhile, the value of that empty cereal is now at an unbelievable $5.00. That is more than enough for me to buy a new box of Wheaties that actually contains cereal I suppose, though eating the box itself would provide the same flavor and more than twice the fiber.

That is not all that is in that closet. There is a great multitude of things that will likely never see the light of day. Some are childhood mementos that my wife and I think we will want to revisit someday, though it seems that the only times we remember they exist are when we are moving or when we are looking for something we actually need amongst the pile of useless artifacts we have accumulated. Outside of the closet, we have numerous trinkets, doodads, and whatsits that serve no purpose but to demonstrate just how quickly dust accumulates in our apartment

I suppose these useless things are to comfort us. I think that everyone would be very comfortable if they found themselves spending an extended period of time in a room with blank walls and empty shelves. If I went to visit a friend that lived in that sterile of an environment, I would be quickly looking for a way out of there. I don’t know much about serial killers, but I would imagine this is how they live and being a serial killer’s victim seems like a very unpleasant activity.

Plus, if we didn’t have these things on our shelves, where would people look when they were in our apartment? They would have no choice but to stare at our blank walls and, attempting to break the awkward silence that is sure to accompany someone who has wondered into a curio-free zone, they would say things like, “Your walls are a lovely shade of eggshell. Or is that more of an Ivory? Either way, it sure is off-white.”

The inevitable fate of all of this junk is that someday in the very distant future, our children will have to figure out what to do with this stuff when we die. They will look at our useless junk, shake their heads, and begin to divide it up amongst themselves. As it was our stuff, it will have sentimental value, so their house will soon be filled with our useless things until someday in the even more distant future when they die. Then the cycle will continue.

At times, I have thought it would be nice to live like Buddhist monk. I could give up all of this useless stuff and live a clutter-free life with just the bare essentials for survival. I would also have to wear a robe, though, and that seems unpleasant.

Besides, if I were to live like that, what would I do with all of my stuff? I certainly can’t throw it away. You never know when that stuff will come in handy.

Stop Being Creepy Google

Yesterday, I wrote an amusing little vignette about an email I had received. I am, of course, using the word “amusing” very loosely. I guess you could say the same thing about “vignette.” Really, most of that last sentence was a large pile of crap.

In this email I referred to, the Republican National Committee had offered me the very rare opportunity to receive a pair of comical socks endorsed by a former president in exchange for a $35 donation. It seems to me that they were really just offering to sell me an expensive pair of socks, but they were pretty adamant that this was a donation.

When writing, I do my best to be a professional. That means that I spend a fair amount of researching. In this situation, a fair amount of time is equal to the amount of time it takes for me to stop reading articles like “The Top 25 Product Flops of All-Time.” (Spoiler Alert: Number one is New Coke. Number one is always New Coke.)

In an effort to write the most well-informed post I could, I spent time Googling these socks. I read people’s reaction to them, I mocked people’s reaction to them, I even learned that George H.W. Bush does, in fact, love socks. I stopped researching and I began writing. 9 to 10 distractions later, my post was finished and I thought I would never hear about these socks again.

Then today, I began to notice something strange. Every single website I visited was displaying an ad for these socks. That’s mighty peculiar, I thought. And yes, I did think it in that exact wording.

Then I began to notice something else. When it was not an ad for George Bush socks, it was an ad for P.F. Flyers, a shoe that I had just purchased online. Other times it was an ad for vacationing in Colombia, coincidentally a search I had made the night before while Anthony Bourdain’s “Part’s Unknown” tried to convince me that a trip to Colombia will not end with me being murdered.

Now, I have known for quite some time that Google tracks my web history to provide me with what they call “interest-based ads.” That is the sacrifice I make when I choose to use Gmail and Google Chrome over, say, Yahoo mail and Netscape.

Now, though, I am beginning to be concerned about what Google may think of me. In my mind, there is one individual responsible for tracking my search history. He looks at everything I do. Now, based on three searches, he thinks I have some weird preoccupation with my feet and that I am headed to Colombia for no particular reason. He is probably sitting there thinking “Oh good. Nathan finally ordered his shoes for Colombia. Those will be very comfortable on his trip.”

I began to think about other things that I might have searched for. Immediately after looking at Colombian vacations, I remembered comparing prices to several other South American countries. There is a strong possibility that Google thinks I am attempting to flee the country for some reason. In the mind of Google, I have to get out of the United States quick. Just me, my P.F. Flyers and my colorful socks.

I suppose I should be more concerned about this than I am. Fortunately, I never attempt to buy anything nefarious online, so these ads are likely to consist of guitars and the occasional nerdy DVD set. I do want to make sure Google knows one thing, though.

I am not that concerned about my feet. Please do not peg me as an individual fixated on my own feet. Please.

The Republicans’ Technicolor Dream Socks

George Herbert Walker Bush: sock aficionado

As an independent voter in America, I find myself constantly being courted by both major political parties. It is like I am the prettiest girl at the ball and everyone wants a spot on my dance card.

Somehow I have ended up on the email list for both the Republican and Democrat parties. A day does not go by that one of the two parties does not email asking for my support, my signature on some sort of petition, or, more often than not, my money. As usual, one of these emails arrived today. This email, though, was an extra-special one: it was an email from President George Herbert Walker Bush. Eager to see what a former leader of the free-world had to say to me, I clicked the message.

Nathan,

I don’t know what your guilty pleasures are in life, but one of mine is socks.

I was very caught off-guard by this. If I had to guess what George Herbert Walker Bush’s guilty pleasure in life was, it would not be socks. In fact, I am not entirely certain why socks would be a guilty pleasure. Is there a reason I should be ashamed of my socks? Is it uncouth to cover one’s foot inside of their shoe?

I very self-consciously pulled my pants legs down to hide my terribly offensive foot garment and continued.

I’m a self-proclaimed sock man. The louder, the brighter, the crazier the pattern — the better! It’s usually the first thing people notice I’m wearing whenever I’m out in public and that’s the way I like it.

Now I understood why socks are a guilty pleasure. As it turns out, all President Bush wants is for people to notice his crazy socks. I would feel guilty about my love of socks too if I was shamelessly trying to draw attention to them all of the time.

“Yeah, that’s great… by the way, did you notice my socks? They’re purple with orange polka dots. Pretty crazy, right?”

The best way, I suppose, to draw attention to your socks would be to walk about without pants on. Nothing draws attention to your brightly colored socks like partial nudity. I imagine that his bare legs covered only by a garish pair of socks were very distracting when he was in the middle of a diplomatic negotiation. Maybe that is why he did not get elected for a second term.

So when Chairman Reince Priebus asked me to write to you on behalf of the Republican National Committee (RNC), I told him I’d be happy to do it. But on one condition: my letter to you had to involve socks.

Far be it from me to suggest that maybe President Bush is not quite with it at age 89, but it seems to me this would be a strange demand for a person to make. I imagined the conversation in my mind.

“Excuse me, Mr. President. I was hoping that perhaps you would be interested in addressing the Republican National Committee. It would be an extreme honor.”

“Absolutely Reince.”

“Great. I was hoping maybe we could discuss finance reform or…”

“I have a better idea. What about socks?”

“Socks?”

“Yeah. There is no way I will ever write anything to the RNC unless I get to talk about socks. Say, Reince, did you notice my socks today? Aren’t they crazy?”

I’m proud to say the RNC has commissioned a limited-edition pair of socks in my honor. Embroidered with the Republican elephant and my signature on them, they’re sure to get you noticed.

And now we had reached the actual point. It seems that for the low low price of $35, I can be the proud owner of a pair of Republican George Herbert Walker Bush socks. And they are… something.

GHWB Socks

Apparently, President Bush likes socks that look like they are directly from a Dr. Seuss book. It did seem odd to me that a pair of Republican socks are a couple of colored stripes away from looking like a rainbow flag, but I suppose when George Herbert Walker Bush tells you what socks should look like, you say “Yes, sir” and get your sock people on it right away. He is a bit of a sock connoisseur.

So now the ball is in the Democrat’s court. $35 will get me a crazy pair of socks from the Republicans. What can the Democrats get me? I think their best bet to win me over would be a limited-edition Coogi sweater with Bill Clinton’s signature stitched on the sleeve.

CC-BY-SA-3.0-Self-published work-Photos by SarahStierch

Who could turn that down?

What To Do With Those Leftover Easter Eggs

© Toelstede / Wikimedia CommonsOnce again, the Easter Bunny has come and laid his weird mammal eggs and gone on his way. You have done your part in celebrating Easter, eating the required amount of hollow chocolate rabbits and helping your child dye eggs fun and vibrant colors. The only problem is that you now find yourself with two dozen blue and green boiled eggs that you really need to get rid of. What should be done?

I am happy to say I have your back. Here are four fantastic ideas for how to dispose of these eggs. Or at least four ideas. I may have been a bit hasty with the word fantastic.

 

Funky Egg Salad

Everyone has that fear that someone at work will mess with their food. No one wants to head to lunch only to find that the Prosciutto and Pesto sandwich they spent a solid 15 minutes building the night before was eaten by Karen from HR. Karen is such a pig!

This is your chance to avoid having to worry about this at all. Simply peel your colored eggs. You will notice that a fair amount of dye has soaked through the shell and into the egg white creating an illusion I like to call “Salmonellay.” Use these eggs to create an egg salad. Due to the varying colors of the egg whites, this egg salad will appear to be egg salad that has been around since the Reagan administration.

If you take this to work, you can rest assured that Karen will take one look at your sandwich and pass it by, possibly even dry heaving at the thought that this egg salad was made with what appears to be rancid moldy eggs. Then she will move on to your coworker’s yogurt, leaving your sandwich right where you left it. Your coworker may be upset about this arrangement, but Karen is their problem at that point.

 

Free Salad

Maybe you do not care for the idea of egg salad. That’s fine. Studies show that 85% of Americans hate egg salad. Do not ask me where I got that statistic. You just read it on the internet, so it must be true.

For those who are looking for a nice healthy salad, this is your opportunity to get one completely gratis. First, take one of your salmonellay eggs and dice it up. Place that egg in a plastic bag and head to your local salad bar. Build the exact salad you are wanting to have, pay for your salad, then sit down with it. Next, dump your egg out onto the salad. Take your salad to the manager and repeat the following as loudly as possible:

“YOUR EGGS ARE BAD! LOOK AT THEM! THIS ONE IS BLUE AND I THINK I SEE GREEN SPECKS! I WILL SUE FOR LARGE UNTOLD SUMS OF MONEY IF MY SALAD IS NOT COMPED THIS INSTANT, MR. MANAGER! ALSO, I WOULD LIKE ONE OF THOSE BOTTLES OF TEA FOR FREE TOO! THAT IS UNLESS YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR LAWYER WOULD DO A FANTASTIC JOB IN COURT!”

Not only have you gotten rid of an egg, but you have successfully given yourself a free lunch. It is important to note that you should probably not try this scheme at the same salad bar more than once. I do not know this for a fact, but I would bet they would think it is kind of fishy.

 

Punish Those Neighbors

So you have a next door neighbor whose idea of a good time is a loud party every Wednesday night? It is not a very neighborly thing to call the police on them just because they happen to think Electronica music should be played at maximum volume for their guests to have a good time. Instead, you should share your eggs with them.

Take a few of your finest colored eggs and head to their front door. Then find a place near that front door to hide them, making sure you crack the shell slightly before hiding them. This may not stop their terrible behavior, but while you are sitting there unable to sleep through Skrillex’s greatest hits, you can smile knowing that every guest had to walk through a cloud of rotten egg stink to get to that music and that they will then tell all of their friends how disgusting your neighbor’s home really is.

 

Save Them For Next Year

This is just a terrible idea. There is no reason to do this. I just thought I would throw it out there, but I heartily recommend not doing this.

I Relish Naps Oh So Much

Ahmedabad, India. January 2007. I have the permission from the subject on the image.I love naps.

If I were to list all of my favorite activities in life, I would list naps in eight out of the top ten spots.There is just something about sleeping in the middle of the day that is the ultimate gratification.

As a child, I hated naps. For some reason the thought of having to sleep and missing out on something was a fate worse than death. I wish I had a time machine to go back to that child and tell him to stop being an idiot and take as many naps as humanly possible while he was still able to. He would probably still whine about napping, but taking any further steps to convince him might cause a Butterfly Effect situation, so I would just jump back into my time machine and leave him alone.

In honor of my favorite extracurricular activity, I have expressed my love in the most beautiful form imaginable: haiku.

 

I Relish Naps Oh So Much

My ultimate dream:

Nap after nap forever.

Wait…isn’t that death?

Coffee Can Be A Real Troublemaker Sometimes

Seconds later, this woman found herself in the same position I was in.

I like to start my day off with a cup of coffee. Scratch that. I NEED to start my day off with a cup of coffee. Caffeine is my drug of choice and a necessity for me to function in the morning. If there was a way to directly mainline caffeine into my body, I would be very tempted to adopt this method. As far as I know, though, this has not been a marketed idea at this point, so a cup of black coffee will have to do.

For my birthday a few weeks ago, one of my gifts was a travel mug. This is an ideal gift for me as this allows me to work on developing a debilitating chemical addiction on the go. As usual, I put the dog in her pen, ignored the pleading pathetic looks from the dog, grabbed my mug, and headed out the door to work.

Out of all of my travel mugs, this particular mug looks the nicest. It has a lovely gleam to it that, when looking inside my cabinet, stands out amongst all of the others. It is a sleek mug with streamlined sides. Looking at it, you would assume that it was designed by the top scientists NASA has to offer. There is just one major flaw to this cup.

It does not dispense coffee.

When I attempt to drink out of this cup, it is like a child’s sippy cup. The only way to get a full drink of coffee is to tilt the cup towards the ceiling and hold it there for a several seconds. This is not an ideal situation, particularly for a person who is desperately craving a caffeine fix in the morning.

It was this situation I found myself in as I drove down the road today. After several sips, I began to question this system. It seems that drinking out of a cup like this could be detrimental while driving as it can be very distracting. More importantly, though, I needed that caffeine. I needed it then.

That is when I tapped into my knowledge of physics. I began to think about the sleek design of that cup and how tightly the lid fit on. Looking at it, I had a sudden thought. As tight as that lid fit on that cup, it could be creating a vacuum seal inside. Perhaps the coffee will not come out because of science. If only there were a way to slightly loosen the seal, the coffee should pour out freely, bringing me that sweet, sweet caffeine.

Now, I must reinforce the fact that at this point I had only had four sips of coffee. My brain was still in that early morning fog. What happened next is to be blamed on this and not faulty thinking. I loosened the lid slightly and lifted it to my lips.

The coffee did come out much more quickly. I was very happy, thinking I had solved the problem. That is when I felt a warmth on chest and then dribbling down to my stomach. See, as it turns out the lid was sealed that tightly to prevent a person from ruining their shirt. My shirt looked like a Jackson Pollock painting, my light blue polo now speckled with brown.

I had a decision to make. I could not possibly go to work looking like I had been attacked by some sort of hot beverage tossing scoundrels. At this point, though, I was too far from home to go get a fresh unscathed shirt. As it was casual Friday, the thought briefly crossed my mind that I might be able to get away with working shirtless, but I figured the constant ogling of the women in the office would be far too distracting.

I came up with a third solution, one that did not involve either home or partial nudity. I turned my car sharply into the parking lot of the nearest gas station and headed to the bathroom. As I walked through the doors, I could feel each pair of eyes staring at me, each of them wondering why that guy in the filthy clothes had just walked in, passed by every single thing in the shop, and headed directly to the bathroom.

Using the sink, I rinsed the stain out of my shirt. Having not thought about this as clearly as I should have, though, I now realized my shirt was soaked. Not damp, not moist, but fresh from the washing machine soaked. As luck would have it, though, this particular gas station was equipped with hand driers.

I spent the next five minutes meticulously combing over the shirt, trying desperately to dry it. Eventually it went from soaked to soggy. Looking at my watch, I had another tough decision to make. I could either head to work with a soggy shirt or be late and risk the wrath of my boss. Being the devoted employee that I am, I chose option a. I put my moist shirt back on, left the bathroom, ignored the people wondering why the guy with the dirty clothes was now very wet, and headed back out to my car.

That is why I spent the first two hours of my day at work with a soggy back.

I guess the moral of the story is to be happy with what you have. If I had been satisfied with the amount of coffee I was given each drink, I would have been able to drink the entire cup instead of washing the entire cup out of my clothing. It’s a very important lesson.

The other take away: I should start carrying an extra shirt at all times. Apparently, it is a very real need for me.

Death Of A Slushie

Photo by cyclonebill from Copenhagen, Denmark

A slushie in a much better state than the one I encountered. Also, it has two flavors. I don’t know what they are, but I cannot think of a blue and orange flavor that would go well together. It was probably not a great slushie.

It was there on the sidewalk. At first glance, I thought nothing of it. My dog and I kept walking to her customary pooping area. Then it registered.

It was an upside down cup, its resting place in the very center of the walking surface. The fact that it was a cup did not catch me off. In fact, at any given time of any given day, dozens of cups can be found lying about my apartment complex. This is due to the fact that a majority of the people living near me are disgusting. Not an average level of disgusting, but the level of disgusting that would probably get them on some sort of TLC reality program. They have no idea where trash does and does not belong. I have thought about hanging signs throughout the area that read “Trash in dumpster good, trash in piles throughout my stair well bad. Also, it does not make it any better if you hide it behind my bicycle.” They would probably just rip them down and leave them in my stairwell, though.

No, the sad thing was the stream of formerly deliciously frozen slushie now slowly melting and streaming down the hill. It was a miniature river of artificial orange flavoring and tiny chunks of ice crystals desperately clinging for life against the warm pavement of the sidewalk. This poor slushie had been abandoned by its owner and was now suffering the inevitable slushie fate. It was one of the gloomiest drink related sights a person can have.

I glanced around looking for the culprit. Maybe I would see a child crying, his sugar rush now just a mess in the way as I try to walk. Odds are, though, it was not a child. A child would lovingly care for his slush, savoring ever last bit of the fake fruit essence. He would hold it close until the moment he finally slurped the last remaining bit of it up. No, this was someone else with something much more heinous in mind.

This individual wanted the slushie to suffer.

I looked closely. Maybe there was still hope. If I tried, maybe I could scoop up the remainder of the treat and rush it into the safety of my freezer. I would have to move the bag of frozen chicken and the weird cubes of crushed garlic my wife seems to buy on a weekly basis, but I could find room. I glanced down to my dog who was giving me that look.

“Nathan,” she seemed to say. “It’s over. There will be other slushies to save. Just let this one go peacefully into the great slushie beyond.”

Who would throw away a perfectly good slushie? There is no reason to waste a delicious beverage like this. Even if that drink gave you a brain freeze, that is all on you. You need to learn how to pace yourself when drinking something that is made up of ice crystals and artificial flavors. There is no need to take it out on the drink.

Someday, this person will order another slushie and when they do, I hope they spill it all over themselves. I hope the slushie ruins their t-shirt just like they ruined this slushie today. They will sit in their car desperately trying to get the stain out of their shirt, but it is no use. The vengeance of the slushie is swift and very sticky.

Being the good citizen I am, I picked the cup up and placed it in the dumpster. The last thing the slushie would want is for the world to see its cup exposed like that. Plus, it’s not like anyone else would pick it up. They would probably just hide it behind my bike when I was not looking.

What a bunch of slobs…

 

Fun fact: This post contained the word “slushie” 12 times! Now I can’t look at the word without wanting to pluck my eyes out and throw them across the room! Isn’t repetition fun?

Ship In A Bottle: The Only Transportation That Can Be Measured In Ounces

From time to time, my mind tends to wander. I like to blame it on the media. I once read an article online explaining that TV is responsible for people’s ridiculously short attention spans. I’m not too sure how it ended because about four paragraphs in I remembered that there were a lot of YouTube videos I hadn’t caught up on yet, but the headline was pretty clear that it was all TV’s fault.

When my mind begins to wander, there is no telling where it will end up. It’s like spinning a giant wheel with everything single I have ever heard on it and it rarely ever lands on something logical.

Today I found myself drifting off and, naturally, my thoughts landed on the classic ship in a bottle. For those who have never seen a ship in a bottle, I will try to explain it clearly and succinctly: it is a ship inside of a bottle. That is it. I guess there wasn’t really a need for explanation there.

I have no idea who dreamed up the ship in a bottle. It seems like the strangest idea a person could come up with. The best I can figure out, someone a long time ago had a decent sized bottle of liquor. As there was no television or internet in that day, he did not have much else to do but to drink that liquor and soon the bottle was empty. The very intoxicated man looked at the bottle.

“There should be a ship in that,” the man stammered, wildly gesturing in the general direction of the bottle. His first attempt failed as he soon vomited all over his tiny ship, but soon enough the man’s drunken dreams had come true. He had put a ship in a bottle.

Making a ship in a bottle can’t be an easy task. I have devised a plan, though, if I decide to ever venture into the ship in a bottle world. First, I will build something much easier. I think I would start with a kayak in a cup. Then, once I had mastered that, I would move onto something like a dinghy in a jar. After I am able to perfect the air boat in a mug, the catamaran in a glass, and the yacht in a canteen, I would finally be ready to put a ship in a bottle.

Of course, then I would have to figure out how to brag about my new hobby. I am not too sure exactly how you would tell a person that you have built a multiple number of these things. You can’t call them ships in a bottle as that implies that you have put several ships inside of one single bottle and, trust me, I am not advanced enough for that yet. Ship in a bottles sounds like I took a single ship, broke it into pieces, then placed each piece into a separate bottle. That would not be an accomplishment at all, but it would a much easier hobby to take up. I suppose you would call them ships-in-bottles, but I also suppose it doesn’t matter as no one would want to hear you talk about that hobby anyway.

I think it’s high time we update the transportation we put in a bottle. No one has traveled by ship since the 1800’s. I think I should be the first person to build a Nissan Altima in a bottle. Of course, I don’t know if a standard bottle would work for a Nissan Altima. I might need to have a custom bottle made for this.

Maybe I should take up glass blowing…

A World Of Hate

There are some things you never expect to see. Yesterday, in between goofing around with friends and a relaxing afternoon spent with my couch and trusty Netflix account, one of those things happened. My CNN app alerted me to breaking news. I assumed that, like the last 50 or so, this would be regarding the fact that the missing Flight 370 had still not been located. It seems that CNN can be quite liberal with the phrase “breaking news.”

Instead, it was something much different. In Overland Park, Kansas, a city adjacent to where I grew up, where I had attended college, where I had met my wife, a man had opened fire outside of a Jewish community center killing a grandfather and his grandson, then killing a woman who was visiting her mother at a nearby assisted-living facility. The suspect was apprehended at a nearby school where, once arrested, the man would sit in the back of the patrol car shouting “Heil Hitler!”

The suspect is known to have founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party. This man was so filled with hate for another group of people that he saw nothing wrong with aiming and firing indiscriminately (the grandfather and grandson were Methodist, only at the Jewish center for a talent show audition). For years, he had devoted time to hating, even being discharged from the army for distributing racist propaganda.

This post is not about gun control or the lack thereof. There is no government regulation that could have prevented this tragedy from happening. This happened because of one terrible human attribute: hate. The end results of this man’s years of hate are shattered families and a devastated community.

It would be nice to think while reading this that this was an ideology that is dying off. My generation, after all, is supposed to be the generation of “post-racial” thought. We should be far removed from this 73-year-old and his unfounded animosity. I would like to think that, but in an imperfect world there will always be hate. And this world is certainly imperfect.

There is a person I have spoken with every day for the past few months. He is very quick to label certain ethnic groups as “trashy” or “not classy.” When I ask him about this, the response is always the same shrug of the shoulders. Not only does he not see this as a negative outlook, he says that these thoughts are not racial but, “just the truth.”

While he is a far cry from the man who headed to a Jewish community center the day before Passover with gun in hand, this is an example of the thoughts that can lead to drastic actions. Thoughts like this may seem harmless to some people, but all it does is continue to foster the hate that has destroyed so many lives in the past.

And it is not just race either. Raised in a post-911 world, there are many who see all Muslims as violent terrorists. There is hate for people with differing opinions, Democrats and Republicans blindly hating the other group, calling them all idiots or, ironically, “hate-mongers.” There is volatility to the internet with cyber-bullying leading to multiple teen suicides. Hate appears to be everywhere we go.

I wish I could say that I was immune from this, but I have felt hatred as well. Growing up in eastern Kansas, I was witness to the group called The Westboro Baptist Church. Led by Fred Phelps, this group of individuals spends every waking hour planning protests against views that they deem sinful. Their website is a monument to groups that they say God hates, from the entire country of Mexico to the Catholic Church. They even wrote a post thanking God for “sending the shooter to the Jews.” Their main target of disdain had been the homosexual community.

For years, this was the living vision of hate for me. They would be seen with their signs declaring God’s hate for various groups. When their leader Fred Phelps died last month, there was a part of me that said “good riddance.” This man had been hate incarnate for years and now he was gone.

Then I thought about it. I was celebrating the death of a human being. I was behaving just as he would have and it made me feel a bit sick. For years, I had railed against this church and, in the end, I was thinking in a very similar way. I had involuntarily begun to hate.

But how could this be stopped? If people were to stop labeling groups, it would help. We could work towards a better understanding of each other and appreciation of the differences that each group brings to the table. Unfortunately, though, I do not think there is a solution. I wish that I could see a time in the future where people’s hate would disappear or at the very least not lead to death. I would love to view the world through rose-colored glasses and think everything is going to be okay, we can all learn to peacefully coexist, and the world will one day be a harmonious place.

The truth is humans are imperfect. Until that stops, hate will continue. There will be more senseless killing and people will be destroyed physically and emotionally. Maybe I am pessimistic, but it seems that this is the sad truth.

The truth can really suck sometimes.

Penny-farthings And Pony Rides

Ordinary bicycle, Skoda Museum, Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic, photo by: Agnieszka Kwiecień Nova, date: 2003, permission: GFDL

It was early afternoon when I drove home. Having just finished a meal of egg casserole and fruit with friends, I sat in the car contemplating whether eating eggs at noon constitutes a brunch or whether I had just participated in a very confusing lunch. My wife, sister, and I were about halfway home when I noticed something outside of my window.

In the bike lane was a biker. He was clad in the usual spandex biker attire, his helmet strap tightly fastened around his jaw and dark sunglasses protecting his eyes from the brightness of the midday sun. If you were to just look at the man in the bike lane, nothing would strike you as unusual. It would only be if glancing at his bicycle that you would find something off kilter.

This man was peddling away as if he were just another biker. The only difference was this man was on an old-timey bike, the kind where the front wheel is taller than a small sedan. This man, seeing that the weather outside was fantastic, had decided to dust off his Penny-farthing like it was 1885 and gone for a nice ride along a busy city street.

Having never seen a person ride a bike like this, I was quite taken aback. I excitedly pointed out my window, shouting “Old-timey bike! Old-timey bike!” Then we continued on our way.

At the next stop light, the car had grown very quiet. Suddenly, my sister broke the silence.

“Why are there pony rides at the Hardee’s?”

To the right of the car, there was a red and white tent set up outside of the fast food restaurant. Inside the tent were several horses all walking in a circle. The cars continued through the drive through as if this were an everyday occurrence. After all, who would not expect to see a tent full of farm animals while getting an X-tra Bacon Thickburger?

Between the bike and pony rides, I began to get a strange feeling. It seemed that somehow on our ride home, we had driven into a dimension where we live in a carnival. I expected to see Ferris wheels and a cotton candy booth at the next turn. I glanced at the cars around us, wondering if they were filled with clowns and exactly how many clowns would fit into the blue Honda Civic to my left.

That’s when I remember that I had not had a single glass of water today. My liquid intake had consisted of coffee and juice, but no water. Maybe I was severely dehydrated and these were just hallucinations. Worse, I was so dehydrated that somehow I had sucked my sister and wife into these hallucinations with me. It was a bizarre Inception type of dehydration where people were able to travel into my thoughts.

When we got home, I drank a cup of water. I still do not know if the bike and the pony rides were real. I also do not know if any of the cars near me were filled with clowns. In all of this, though, I did decide on one thing.

If it happens after noon, it is lunch, not brunch. Also, I should probably have some water regardless of the meal’s title.