Saturday, September 20, 2014

Defending My Choice to Give to Charity

A couple of weeks ago, I was nominated to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Now, I am sure that most of you are familiar with what this is, but for the few of you who may not be, I'll try to explain.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. It basically causes the muscles of the body to stop receiving nourishment.

Sometime within the last couple of years, someone came up with a genius idea and the Ice Bucket Challenge was born. It involves a person dumping a bucket of ice water over their head and then challenging someone else (usually three others) to do the same. This is usually captured on video and posted on the internet for everyone to see.

A person who has been challenged is to donate $100 to the ALS Association ( However, many people do not have an extra $100 laying around, so they have another option. If they dump ice water on their head and post a video of it on the internet, they can give a smaller amount of their choosing. They are also to nominate three more people for the challenge. This is all supposed to happen within 24 hours.

Whether the people nominated donate the full amount or a smaller amount, the cycle lives on as long as the nominees continue to keep nominating more people. As of the time of this posting, the ALS Association website states that the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised over $114 million dollars for the cause.

After being nominated myself, I sprang to action that same afternoon. Here is my video.

I wanted to do something different from the thousands of other videos that have been uploaded to YouTube and have a little bit of fun. It took some courage for me to remove my shirt in front of a camera, but I was happy with my video and glad I did it…for a few days.

Before long, I started noticing posts on Facebook and Twitter that seemed to condemn the practice of participating in this challenge. Anti-Ice Bucket memes started popping up all over my feed.

People were posting about how they had been challenged, but chose to just donate in private and not make a public spectacle out of their generosity like all the attention whores. 

Others ridiculed the people who participated in order to get out of having to give. This one had a little bit of a point since there were a large number of people who had completely misunderstood how this was supposed to work. People willing to dump the ice were not supposed to do this to get out of donating. It was to be able to give a smaller amount and pass the challenge on to others to raise even more money.

Now, these posts may have already been there before I participated and I was only now noticing because I had recently done it. Also, none of this was directed specifically toward me. Since I was seeing it on Facebook, that means it was coming from my friends. People who I love and I know love me, so I did not take any of this personally, but it did bother me a bit. Suggesting that me participating in fundraising for a worthy charity was bad or self-serving in some way just didn't sit well with me.

First of all, suggesting that the people who participated in this challenge are a bunch of greedy attention whores* is completely unfair. It is true that I only donated to ALS because I was nominated for the challenge. Sure, I could have donated without participating or even without having been nominated, but there are literally thousands of causes out there. No one knows which causes or how many causes I may already be contributing to. They also don't know how much or for how long I have been giving. The fact that I put a video of my dumping ice water on my head does not prove that I only give when it is a game. A person's generosity (or lack of) is in no way indicated by whether or not they chose to participate in this phenomenon.

*The attention whore part I will concede to. I am and always have been an attention whore.

In fact, there are literally thousands of very generous people out there who have not contributed to this cause. They have been giving to other causes that they are passionate about. It may be to feed starving children, prevent animal cruelty, raise domestic abuse awareness, clean up a city park, elect a political official, protect the mosquitoes, bring back bell-bottom jeans, or an infinite number of other possible causes. Once again, whether or not a person participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge will tell the observers absolutely nothing about the generosity of that person.

That's a lot of zeros
I will even take this a little further. Participating in the challenge and participating publicly contributes more money to the cause than giving privately. If I privately contribute $100 to ALS, then ALS has $100 they didn't have before and that is a good thing. However, it stops right there. On the other hand, if I give $50 and then challenge three others to do the same, the $50 each of them contributes (plus my $50) adds up to a total of $200 instead of just the original $100. This doesn't even add in the money that will get contributed by the people that they challenge and then the people that they challenge. Even if people only contribute $10 instead of $50, it is still vastly more than the original $100. However the numbers deviate, it cannot be denied that in whatever way people participated or contributed or even completely misunderstood the point of how this is supposed to work, $114 million dollars has been raised with this challenge.

That's a lot of zeros.

If we had relied on the adage of people should just give more, then this money would not have been raised. I salute the person or team who came up with this idea and I am sure it will not be the last time that people are looked down upon for doing something good.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

I Think I'm Back

You know, it's really easy to maintain a blog when you are only posting once every few months.

I feel that I owe you all an apology. My writing has really slacked off in the last year. I do have a reason for this, but most people don't want to hear excuses. That doesn't mean I won't offer any, it just means most people don't like hearing them and fortunately for me, I am not most people. I am only me and me has been busy.

However, I have reason to believe that my writing is about to start up again. Mainly, because the thing that has kept me so busy has just come to an end. After several years of hard work, I finally completed my Master's Degree. This means that I have a lot of spare time now as compared to the last 30 months.

DISCLAIMER: It's pat myself on the back time.

Plus,  I graduated with a 4.0 GPA. I got straight A's through the entire program. This means the very thing I am always telling my family, neighbors, co-workers, and students:

Since I am a genius, I have a social responsibility to share my intellectual insights with the rest of the world. Therefore, I will start writing again this week. Plus, a woman at my new church just discovered my blog and I need to produce some new stuff for her to read. I wouldn't want to give her the wrong impression before she gets to know me personally.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Mr & Mrs Transformed Nonconformist

Four months! 

It's been over four months since my last post. A lot can happen over four months. A lot has happened. I've really dropped the ball. Let me try to give a quick recap of what I have not written about.

My daughter left high school with a bang.
Valentine's Day has come and gone, as well as St. Patrick's Day. I got a job in the Indianapolis Public School system. Spring Break is over. Summer vacation has started. My daughter graduated high school. Orange is the New Black has released season two onto Netflix. Russia invaded the Ukraine. An 18 year old girl in New Jersey lost the case against her parents when she sued them for college tuition. The Big Bang Theory got picked up for three more seasons. Casey Kasem died and I got married.

I'm not going to try to cover all of that in this post. One thing at a time. Let's start with the last item on the list. I got married.
I am sure that I have lost some followers since my writing has drastically slowed in the last year, but my long-time readers know that on May 2, 2012, I met face-to-face with Red of Doesn't Speak Klingon. Before that, we met through our blogs, we conversed in the comment sections. We traded emails and eventually started making phone calls. We then dated for almost two years while living 200 miles apart.

Last December, I moved to Indianapolis to take advantage of some educational opportunities to finish up my degree. I moved to a big city for these opportunities. I chose Indianapolis because that was where Red lived. We had already seriously discussed marriage, but there was nothing official. I thought it would be nice to get to date while living in the same town. Those bi-weekly commutes were hard on both of our wallets.

It didn't take long before we knew marriage was in our future. We just needed to decide when. Neither one of us was interested in the ceremony, but didn't want to exclude family either, so eloping or just going to a courthouse was out of the question. We had the end of the summer in mind. I would have just finished my degree and she would be moved into a bigger place ready for me to come join her.

Once we got her moved in, we were just waiting for the time to pass. I had my place, she had hers, and we knew we would be married in 3 to 4 months. However, no one else knew that. We had decided to keep it quiet so it could be ours and no one else's. We wanted no family input on how it should be done, what food should be served, what should be worn, or who should be invited. We just wanted to be married. We didn't know when it would happen, but we did know we wouldn't be giving much notice to anyone.

One Saturday morning, Red was discussing the travel plans of her sisters. They were both going to be in town the following weekend. Her family is so spread out, they are very rarely all in the same place. Her brothers aren't even in the country. So, I suggested doing it the following Sunday.

Red: "Are you serious?"
Me: "Sure. Why not?"
Red: "OK!"
Me: "Great! We're getting married in eight days!"

I quickly called Chuck, a local minister friend of mine, to check his availability. We then called Red's parents to tell them our plans and get permission to do it in their backyard. We called our immediate family members and assured everyone that nothing was needed but their presence. For the people who like to stress about these types of events, we had provided them with the gift of only getting to stress for eight days.

We did get some questions.

"Would you like me to pick up some ___________?"

"Hey. Should I bring a ____________?"

"How about if we get a few _____________?"

Red and I had decided that more "stuff" and involvement would just make the event bigger and more stressful with things to plan. We were going to show up at her parents' house after church with some pizzas and soda for everyone and when they all got there, get married. That was a simple plan and we wanted it to stay that way.

We only put effort into three things.
  1. Red SOLO cups - we specifically had red SOLO cups simply because someone told us that we couldn't (not one of the guests or family).
  2. We purposefully mismatched the plates we used. I had a 10-pack of Happy Birthday, 10-pack of sports themed, 10-pack of underwater themed, and 10-pack of Disney princesses. This was done to demonstrate that we were not concerned with protocol or appearance.
  3. We begged everyone to not mention the ceremony to anyone or put it on social media. We wanted to announce it after the fact. Everyone respected our wishes.
Red's mother did get us a beautiful cake and one of her sisters bought items for the best man, maid of honor, and cheerleader to hold (we had a cheerleader instead of a flower girl).

Notice the casual style.
(Except for the cheerleader's tiara and my tuxedo t-shirt)

It occurred to us after picking the date that May 4th is Star Wars Day.

"May the Fourth (force) be with you."

Get it? Plus, since Red is a huge Star Wars geek, it turned out to be the perfect day to do it. That's why there were light sabers. Thank you, Hestia.

We had 15 guests (plus the minister and his 6 kids), a day that could not have been more beautiful, and every family invited was able to make it. Plus, our main goal for the day was accomplished. We were married.

I only met this wonderful woman because
I started a blog in October 2010.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

At Least Nothing Fell Off

Two weeks ago, I hopped on a plane with my beautiful girlfriend, Red of Doesn't Speak Klingon, and my daughter Kirsten. Red was headed to Delaware to participate in her tenth Polar Bear Plunge and since I had participating a Polar Bear Plunge on my Bucket List, she asked if I would like to join her.

*Although, I suspect she had an ulterior motive. I think she likes me.

We reached Delaware two days before the plunge, so we had time to see the sights. Red had lived in this area for 12 years before moving to Indianapolis, so we met up with some of her friends, had some great meals and did some shopping.

Things are done differently from state-to-state. There were several times that I wasn't sure what was going on. For instance, I saw these signs all over the place.

Something is to the left

I would be driving through the city, trying to find my way to whatever we were headed to, so I carefully kept my eyes on the signs. Signs are useful for telling you what is around and how to get to things, but in Delaware they aren't really sure where things are either. As you can see above, the Historical Society and alternate parking are to the right and something is to the left, but the city planners aren't really sure what it is. These signs are all over town with no clue as to what they are directing you toward.

Delaware is also very liberal with how numbers work. Walking around town, I was having trouble deciding what to buy for a souvenir. I got excited when I stumbled upon a store with a sign in the window advertising that everything was under $9.95.

They had some cool stuff in there, but I was afraid to give them any money because I didn't trust their math skills enough to know if they could count change.

The day of the plunge arrived and a wonderful thing happened. The temperature started going up. We had been dealing with sub-zero temperatures in the Midwest for the last month and Delaware had experienced similar temperatures. However, the day of the plunge, the temperature rose. It was up to almost 60 degrees an hour before we jumped in the Atlantic. The water was still 34 degrees, but at least we wouldn't freeze once we got out. That was the part I was most concerned about. I was ready to brave the water, but thought I might die afterward.

The beach was packed with over 2,700 participants and hundreds of spectators. Two hours before plunge time, people were already running around in swimsuits. You expect bikinis on the beach, but not in the middle of winter. There was still snow on the ground!

The Polar Bear Plunge is done to raise money for the Special Olympics and all these people showing up to jump in the frigid water raised over $425,000 at this one event. The excitement was in the air and it was time to jump in. They started the countdown and 2,700 people ran for the water.

This entire time, I had been amazed at how I was not freezing despite having only worn swim trunks for the last 15 minutes. As soon as my feet hit the water, I understood why more people don't do this. Thirty-four degrees is not exactly a comfortable temperature, but I had flown 900 miles for this 'privilege.' It felt like little needles stabbing into my feet, but it was too late to turn back.

My plan was to run in far enough that I could jump in to go totally under and come out. However, the surf pulled away soon after my feet hit the freezing water. I had to chase after the water and soon saw a large wave coming at me. I tucked down enough that it washed over me. Thirty-four degree water on my feet was a shock. Over my entire body really had my attention. 

After this time on the beach enjoying a few days outside, I came home to this. We've had a high averaging 15 degrees ever since.

My car the day after I got back. Thank you, Indiana!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Traveling Entertainment

He quit talking to me for some reason.
Before moving to Indianapolis, I had a job as a courier (which is just a fancy word for deliveryman). I mostly delivered office supplies, but I had a few contracts that involved me delivering blood for the Red Cross and the occasional biopsy sample for a medical firm. The office supplies were always delivered around town, but when I had medical deliveries, I was on the road for a while.

I usually had to deliver to St. Louis (90 miles from my house), but I didn't always make the pick-up in my hometown. Sometimes, I had to drive for a few hours to even get the product. These trips varied from 180 to 450 miles round trip. In addition to these trips being long, they were always done in the evenings after I had already gotten off my regular route. For this reason, I was usually tired before I even started the trip and often needed help staying awake.

Apparently, it is illegal to talk on the phone while driving and my Candy Crush scores tend to suffer when I can't give the game my full attention, so I am always looking for ways to pass the time. On road trips, this is not an issue because I can pull over at any time to look at anything that catches my eye. When making deliveries, I was on a schedule. It didn't take me long to learn that texting passed the time fairly quickly.

NOTE: My phone is voice activated and the texts are read to me over my stereo system. So, I am not looking at my phone. My eyes are on the road. Sometimes I drive with my feet to entertain myself, but I am always looking at the road.

Recently, while going through my phone, I found one of those texting conversations. It was getting late and I needed someone to talk to. So, I shot a text to my brother Kyle. It turned out he was on the road also and even had other people in the vehicle with him, but I was not deterred. Despite the fact that he didn't stay in the conversation for very long, I tried to keep it going since I had an audience.

That conversation is included on the right.
I didn't feel bad about it. Kyle has a long history of trying to tie up people's time on the phone. Back in the 80's when answering machines still used miniature cassette tapes, Kyle would talk long enough to use up the entire tape. If the machine had a 30-second cutoff, he would just keep calling back until it was used up. He still does this today, but in today's digital world, there is an almost unlimited amount of time. I have received many voice mail messages from him that lasted longer than the Lord of the Rings trilogy (extended versions).

Now that I don't have that job anymore, I have to find new ways to be annoying. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Evil Urban Empire

This is NOT the view from my house.
For a little over a month now, I've been living in the big city of Indianapolis. This is the biggest city (844,000) I have ever lived in. I was in San Juan, Puerto Rico for a year, but it only had 400,000.

There are some major differences between living in the country and living in a big city, but I'm proud to say I have always made the transition fairly well. It's true that I can't pee in my front yard anymore. In fact, I don't even have a front yard. Or a back yard for that matter. Also, as much as I don't like people, I have found it very easy to ignore the multitude of them I am surrounded by. Actually, this is easier to in the city than it was in the country.

Growing up, I really didn't give big city life much thought, but there was one thing I knew. All country people and small town folk know.

You just aren't as safe in the city.

Before leaving my hometown (pop. 400), the worst actual crime committed against me involved someone stealing my garbage and dumping it on the side of the road a mile away. I still don't know what that was about, but I cleaned it up while the police watched. I never found out who did it and the police didn't believe it wasn't me.

Years later, on my first trip to San Juan, I got mugged.

Now, I was in a bad neighborhood and we had been warned to stay indoors after dark, but Dave and I couldn't bear our first night in the Caribbean locked inside someone's house. We just wanted to take a walk. It didn't end well.

Years later, when I actually moved there, someone broke the window on my SUV and stole my wife's purse, which happened to have her wedding ring in it as well as all her identification. These things didn't happen back home in small-town Southern Illinois.

When I moved to Indianapolis, (less than 5 weeks ago) it took all of eight days for my apartment to be robbed. They didn't just rob me, they took something very personal. My pet.

That is a python named Dr. Finklerstein that
we have had for over three years.

When I first moved in, I was told the entire complex was getting new windows. Management would send me a note the day before so I could prep my apartment by moving everything away from the windows.  They didn't send me that note. I left my apartment one day to discover they were putting in windows downstairs. I asked if they were doing the upstairs as well and discovered that I needed to go move some of my things. I then left for the day.

Get in the POT!!!
When I came home, I had beautiful new windows, but later discovered that Dr. Finklerstein was not in his terrarium. I searched all through the house as Kirsten cried on the couch, "That dirty Mexican took him." 

I don't know how she became so racist.

"He took him home to eat him! Snake is a delicacy in Mexico, you know?"

Um...actually, I don't know if that's true.

I searched through all the dresser drawers, behind the shelves, in the boxes that were only half unpacked and as much behind the water heater as I could see. He was nowhere to be found. And my apartment isn't very big.

I finally relented and did what Kirsten was begging me to do. I called apartment management.

The immediate reaction of the woman on phone was of concern for a loose python in the building. I gently tried to reassure her that this was not the case. I've had this snake for three years and he has never gotten out of his enclosure. I told her that I didn't want to accuse anyone, but it seemed odd that he just happened to disappear on the day someone was in my apartment. I understood they couldn't really do anything about this, but I wanted to make a report in case others reported things missing. I also told her I would not be letting people in my apartment unsupervised anymore. Apartment employees included.
While Kirsten was tweeting her rage, I continued looking. Every day for the next week, I expected to see him stick his head out from behind the water heater. I think I got obsessed with the water heater because it was a heat source. I just expected him to gravitate toward it. I finally gave up. Kirsten must be right. Someone fried him up into python nuggets. Or took him home to give to their kids like I did. We're a strange house.

Almost three weeks later, I discover him sleeping on a pile of clothes in a box I had yet to unpack.

I immediately call management to let them know the snake has been found. She responded, "Great. I'll let your neighbors know."

Wonderful. They notified all my neighbors.

At least we'll have something to talk about in the spring when I actually venture outside.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Moving is Stressful

As I stated in my last post, I have moved to Indianapolis. I've been a Hoosier for almost a month now, but it wasn't easy getting here. In my head, I had a plan, but things don't always work the way you want.

The whole reason behind this move was for my schooling and I planned this move to happen during the winter break so it wouldn't interfere with my classes. My last class in the fall was ending on Saturday, December 14 and I would not start up again until January 13. My plan was to move as quickly as possible once school was out, so I could be completely set up (unpacked, internet installed, etc.) once school started again. I didn't want to have to go to the library to write papers and dig through boxes to find my books.

I scheduled my moving day for Tuesday, December 17. I quit my job and told them my last day would be Friday, December 13.

So, my last day at work would be Friday, I wold have my last day of class the next day and then move the following Tuesday. I would be moved and unpacked by Friday and still have three weeks left before school starts. Sounds great, doesn't it?

All of these dates were met, but it didn't happen the way I wanted it to. A major part that I hadn't considered was all the things that have to be done on the weeks leading up to a move. Now, I have moved several times and am familiar with the process. Cable, phones, utilities, and tons of other things have to be taken care of. Lots of phone calls have to be made to prep the new place being moved to. Preliminary packing is useful instead of doing it all in a couple of days. Like I said, I am more than familiar with how all of this works and how much time and effort it takes in that last week to get it all done. What I hadn't considered was what else I had going on that same week.

School is hard
Since my last class was three days before I was to move, that meant my final project was due that day. Being the final project, it is the big BIG one for the class. And this one was huge. I had to put together a month-long lesson plan for an ESL camp with complete lessons, projects, extra activities, explanation of resources, and rationale accounting for every minute. This was no small project. Plus, it was part of a group project. I was teamed up with another person to get all this done. Since I take online classes, we had to try to figure out how to coordinate (e-mail, Facebook, phone calls) to get everything done. This project took up massive amounts of time.

Next, I was in my very last week at work. I had to train my replacement which really wasn't bad except that the first wave of the winter storm hit us on Friday, December 6 (one week before my last day). I have a delivery job. I deliver office supplies all over town. Bad roads make my job miserable and adds a lot of extra time to my day. And since I do not get paid by the hour, extra time makes me cranky.

That first snow fall was so bad, our delivery truck couldn't even get to us. Not that we could have done anything anyway, but not working one day means having double loads brought to us the next day.

So, now, we are a full day behind and having to try to catch up on roads that were still almost impassable. Plus, my job that normally gets knocked out in four to six hours each day is taking up about sixteen hours of my time…and I'm not even getting caught up. There was just too much product and not enough good roads to make all my deliveries. I really needed to get caught up before the week was over, so I wouldn't be dumping this mess on my replacement. However, I needed to be prepping for my move and had this huge project due on Saturday.

In the middle of the last week, my van decides to completely crap out. The $200 I thought it would take to fix the problem turned out to be $1,500 and once they got inside, they told me I would soon need to spend another $2,500 on another major issue. I paid them $50 to just put the vehicle back together and then ran out to buy another car. I just prayed my van would hold together for the last two days of my job. I use my own vehicle to make the deliveries.

The van made it, but just barely. It quit running the very next day. I survived on two hours sleep for three nights in a row and got my project done. On my very last day of work, I delivered every piece of inventory, so my replacement would not be starting off behind. Then packed like a madman for the next two days so I could still leave on schedule.

Since getting here, I have caught up on sleep, but I've received a moving violation, my new car broke down, and my apartment got robbed. However, I think I will save those stories for my next post. I've griped enough.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Around the World (not quite) in 80 Days

80 DAYS!!!

Eighty days is how long it has been since my last blog post. That's a long time considering that shortly before that post, I vowed to post at least twice a week. Let me try to catch you up on my world a little bit. Some major changes have happened in my life since I last wrote.

I have mentioned many times that I'm working on a graduate degree for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. I am now sixty percent of the way through my degree and should graduate in August. However, there has been some concern over my graduation date for the last several months.

In addition to my classes, I am required to do 100 hours of practicum in this field. In other words, I have to find a place to start teaching English before I graduate and start doing it. I have now been in this program for a year and have yet to acquire a single hour. But this is not for lack of trying.

My problem was due to living in a small town with little cultural integration. My hometown has a small population of Spanish speakers and a Chinese restaurant whose employees who do not seem to have a decent grasp of English. There are virtually no English language classes anywhere in the area. I called the local community college to see if I could assist in their ESL (English as a Second Language) courses. They told me they only offer one ESL class every year and no one ever signs up.

Only one high school in the area had a foreign student. That one student had moved from India with his family and only spoke Kashmiri. In the entire world, less than 6 million people speak this language, so it's not easy to find translators for this language. Especially in Southern Illinois.

When I went to the high school to offer my assistance (my FREE assistance, by the way), it was met with much excitement in the counseling office. They basically had no system in place to help this kid who was months away from having to take his ACT and could not speak a word of English. My daughter said he just sat in class and nodded when anyone spoke to him. There would be some legal hoops to jump through, but they were very excited that someone from this field was offering to help. One of them even said that my walking into the office was an answer to her prayers for this kid. Since I was already certified to substitute teach in the school and had been doing so for over a year, I didn't expect it would take very long. However, after a few months, I still couldn't get into the classroom.

Not again!
I finally gave up and talked to the district office for the elementary schools in the area. They showed the same exuberance as the high school. They had a few students who really needed help and were excited to have me available. They even contacted my college advisor to properly coordinate and be sure I would get my credits. However, they never actually made it happen either. Every time I checked in, they would tell me to come back later or explain that it was taking longer than expected. Once again, I had lost several months and was running out of time.

Not long ago, I was sitting in Red's apartment in Indianapolis when someone knocked on the door. He wanted to know if there were any Spanish speakers in the apartment. They were starting an English language course at the apartment complex and wanted to make sure anyone who might be able to benefit from it was aware.

Unbelievable! I had been unsuccessfully struggling to get into one of the extremely limited courses back home and in Indianapolis the opportunities just come knocking on the door. The only thing keeping me from getting my hours was where I lived. A few weeks earlier, my advisor had jokingly made a comment suggesting the same thing. I had just become convinced that she was right.

It took some effort to pull it off, but two weeks ago, I moved to Indianapolis. Two days later, I found a place to start teaching three blocks away from my apartment. It took almost no effort and there are teaching opportunities all over this city.

Plus, I now live in the same city as my girlfriend! No more 200 miles commutes every other weekend.

For those of you who have been following our story, I guess this is our next big step. We started out 900 miles apart. Almost two years ago, it dropped to two hundred miles. And now, she is a 10 minute drive from my apartment.

Life is pretty good right now. Now, I just need a job.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fortune Cookie #9 - Whistling in the Dark

Once again, like I do so often, I visited my favorite local Chinese restaurant China Buffet #VI. On this visit, I received the following fortune.

You will always have good luck in your personal affairs.

I blocked out the numbers so no one can win on my fortune.

Now, I do have some things going for me. I am dating a beautiful, intelligent, funny woman. I have great kids. And I am less than a year away from completing my Master's degree.

However, it has been a rough week and I love picking apart these fortunes. So, here goes.

First, I lost a follower after my last post This Crap Stays Between Us. I finally hit the 200 followers mark excluding me from ever having to receive the dreaded Liebster Award again. Immediately after this post, it dropped to 199. I guess some people just don't find poop jokes funny.

Next, two of my favorite shows have ceased to exist. Breaking Bad and Dexter have both aired their final episodes. I'll never be able to see Michael C. Hall as anything but a serial killer. I'll be curious to see what he and Bryan Cranston do next.

My last bit of bad luck, despite what my fortune said, happened just today. Let me give a bit of background first.

I have a bit of a problem with public restrooms. Without going into any gross details, I will try to explain it.

I don't have an issue with urinating. As a man, I don't have to touch any public usage areas to do my business. However, if I have other business to attend to, it involves sitting on a toilet that is not my own. This is not for me, except under the direst of circumstances.

Direst?  Most dire? I don't know which is right. Only in the most extreme circumstances. There we go. I know that's right, because extremist means something else. I guess you could say I'm a fecal extremist.

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the idea of someone smelling 'me' is petrifying. I just can't handle it. It gets even worse if the people know me. For example, I would never, NEVER do this at work. I will leave and go someplace else if for some extreme reason I just can't wait until I get home. On the rare occasions when I have no choice, I have been known to hide in the stall after my business is done for up to half an hour to ensure that anyone who may have happened to wander in will be long gone before I show my face.

Second, there is the ick factor. What we use toilets for is disgusting. It must be done, but it's pretty gross. Now, my toilet is my toilet. Only a very small number of people use it and I know exactly who they are. I also know how often and how well it has been cleaned. The same cannot be said for any public restroom. The idea of parking my naked rear on the same seat that ANYONE could have sat on before me is unacceptable. They could be carrying any disease, may have any degree of uncleanliness, or possibly even came in contact with one of the cast of Jersey Shore. I just can't take that chance.

My mother tells me I've always had this issue. As a kid, I would get sick when we went on vacation because I would try to hold it until we got home again. Even if that was a week away. I just couldn't do it.

Today was one of those times I was caught away from my house. I had a delivery on the fourth floor of a sparsely occupied office building. When I realized it would not be practical to drive across town to go home, I headed for the sixth floor. The sixth floor only has one office and it is only used during local emergencies, so it is presently vacated. Despite not being at home, this gave the extra privacy I required.

I located the restroom and fumbled for a light switch. Before I found one, the motion activated sensor turned the lights on for me. The stall and bowl looked clean. There were two full rolls of toilet paper and no one around, so I did what I came there to do after giving the toilet a once-over quick cleaning.

Upon finishing, I reached for the paper and heard a click, immediately followed by complete darkness. After a couple of seconds, I remembered the motion activated lights. Apparently, sitting on a toilet is not a high motion activity. At least, not if you're doing it right.

I waved my arms and kicked my legs to no avail. I decided that my movements were not being picked up because the sensor was justifiably outside of the stall.

I quickly pushed the door open to activate the sensor. It didn't work.

I leaned out and waved my arms. Still darkness.

I removed my jacket and waved it outside the stall door. I think it got darker.

I fumbled around and removed the extra roll of toilet paper and tossed it out into the room. Total darkness.

Now, I am not afraid of the dark. That was not the issue, but it was beginning to occur to me just how dark it was. I was in the middle of an office building with no windows. It was total darkness, and the worst part was…I hadn't cleaned myself yet.

Have you ever heard the joke, "How does a blind person know when to stop wiping?" I can now answer that. They don't!

I knew I was not going to get the lights back on without getting up, but I needed to take care of this first. So, I did the best I could. However, without knowing for sure, I wasn't about to pull my pants back up.

With my pants around my knees, I stood up and started out into the room. I got to where I thought the door was, but couldn't feel a wall. The first thing I did find was the automatic hand dryer. For some reason, those things seem much louder when you are deprived of vision.

After walking into three walls and having no idea where the door was or why the lights were not coming back on, it suddenly occurred to me. I have a flashlight app on my phone.


Using my phone, I was able to locate the sensor. It was right by the door and there was a wall separating it from the rest of the room. Only motion going in or out of the room would activate it. Serious design flaw.

I waddled back to the toilet. Now that I had light, I needed to ensure that I had, in fact, cleaned myself properly.

I took one swipe and checked…I was clean!

I'd be an awesome blind guy.

Next time, I think I will try to make it home.

Monday, October 7, 2013

This Crap Stays Between Us

Due to my job of delivering office supplies around town, I spend a lot of time in my car listening to the radio instead of playing Candy Crush Saga or watching Big Bang Theory. It's amazing the things you learn if you just pay attention. Yesterday, the radio got my attention when I heard the phrase "poop in a pill."

Yes, the reporter actually used the word 'poop.' I always thought 'feces' was a more professional word, but he said 'poop.'

Apparently, medical scientists really have made a pill full of poop. You can read about it here.

If you are like me (or like any normal person), you are probably asking yourself, "Uh...why?"

Believe it or not, there actually is a medical reason for this. According to the news story, there are some intestinal infections that make a lot of people really sick and can even be deadly, but don't respond well to antibiotics. What do they respond to?


After being told our entire lives to wash our hands after going to the bathroom, doctors have started treating certain infections with poop. For the last two decades, doctors treated these infections with fecal transplants. 'Fecal transplant' is the medical way of saying that they took someone else's crap and stuck it in your butt.

These fecal transplants work because…well, wait a moment.

Try to remember I am not a medical professional and will do my best to explain this, but will be using layman's terms.

These fecal transplants work because, healthy crap (HA HA) has the bacterial enzymes needed to fight the infection. The doctor would normally select the crap of a close family member to attempt to recreate the intestinal environment the bacteria are accustomed to. You know, because a happy bacteria is more effective than unhappy bacteria. Apparently, one-celled organisms are temperamental. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that playing soothing music into the rectum afterward makes them work even more efficiently.

If you happen to be the recipient of one of these 'poop surgeries' and are bothered by the fact that someone else's crap has been inserted into your mudhole, you can take some comfort in knowing that it is not a stranger's turd in your butt, but your mother's. Not much will bring a family closer together.

However, regardless of whose crap is now invading your intestinal tract, it is still a procedure that most doctors and patients would like to avoid. This is where the poop pill comes into play. Scientists have found a way to extract the necessary enzymes directly from the donor turds so they can be prepared to be taken orally in pill form. They are made into pills because a suppository would sort of defeat the purpose.

Now, a pill may be less invasive than an enema, but you can't deny that this is still the eating of crap sanctioned by the medical profession. In fact, I can already see how the next Thanksgiving would go at my house if this happened to one of us. Right after filling our plates, I would lean over to my brother and whisper, "Remember that time you ate my sh*t?"

 Nevertheless, they are seeing great success with this new product.

Since it looks like this just may be the intestinal infection treatment of the future, it only stands to reason that the price of crap is about to increase. I haven't been able to find any crap investments to buy into, but I do have plenty I could sell and I make more all the time.

When I was in college, I used to donate plasma. They gave me $25 every time, but I could only do this once every six weeks. If someone established a donor center to accept Fecal Donations and paid the same rate, I could make a deposit every day. That's $750 a month! That would pay my rent and my power bill! A family of four could make enough money that no one would have to work. Or at the very least, their crap donations might be enough to supplement their Obamacare health plan.