Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Why Being an Adult Sucks

"I can't wait 'til I grow up! I'm gonna do whatever I want!" --Every Kid Ever, at some point

I'm reasonably sure that I'm 28 years old.  I don't have a copy of my birth certificate, though, so for all I know I may have been born in Kenya and only told I was born in Scranton.  For the sake of this post, we'll say that I am, in fact, 28 years of age.  That's 10 years as a full-fledged adult by legal standards.  (By other standards I'm not sure if I'm a full-fledged adult yet.)

I can remember plenty of times from my childhood when I got angry about being 'mistreated'.  How dare my mom only allow me to eat five cookies instead of the whole package!  What gives my dad the right to call me a lazy slob just because I haven't cleaned my room in six months?  Why shouldn't I be able to take 45 minute showers?  I'm an American citizen!  This is an outrage!  I have rights!!

So many times as a kid I swore the whole world was against me.  It seemed like my parents could do 'whatever they wanted' because I wasn't there with them when they worked 8 or 10 or 12 hours a day.  I didn't notice them cringing as they opened bill after bill they had received in the mail.  I was ignorant to the reality that some schemer had figured out a way to yank every dollar and cent you earned away from you.  Through student loans, credit card interest, taxes, etc. etc.  The list is endless.  For all intents and purposes, let's just say that our society and the wonderful handful of CEOs who run it extract the money directly from your soul, by putting on a metal gauntlet and reaching up your anus for it.

Here's a (relatively) short list of some of my childhood expectations of what adulthood would be like and the soul-crushing, headache-inducing, metal-gauntlet-anal-fisting truth I've discovered now that I'm all growed up:

Misbelief #1: Having a car will be rad!

Cool people have cars.  Sometimes cool people get away with having vans, if the van is used for solving mysteries or transporting your mutant-turtle brothers into battle with The Foot Clan.  Heck, even my mom and dad have cars, and if you look up "not cool" in the dictionary I bet there's a picture of my parents there.

It'll be so radical when I have a car, dude!!  I'm going to drive all over the country and maybe talk to girls.  I can go wherever I want, whenever I want, with whoever I want!  My life will be an early-period Beach Boys song!

Shitty Truth #1: Car ownership sucks!

And I mean that literally.  So much time and money gets sucked away when you own a car.  For starters, how 'bout them gas prices?  I was at the pump a few weeks ago and I said to myself, "3.49? That's a good price!"  Immediately I found myself wishing I could create a shadow clone of myself using dark magic, so I could command my shadow-self to beat the crap out of me for thinking idiotic thoughts.

Even if you're like me, and you drive a teeny car that looks like a doll sneaker, you're still shelling out piles of cash to afford to be able to drive the thing.  If you drive a large vehicle because you have a job that requires one, you wanted something that was arguably safer, or you just have to have a giant truck (because you ain't no faggot godammit!), you might be donating plasma or secretly harvesting and selling organs just to put gas in your ride.

Once you factor in all of the other expenses, such as routine maintenance (which most likely includes an alignment every year or two if you have the misfortune of driving in NEPA regularly), car insurance (which is a bogus scam of scams that perhaps requires its own post), and air fresheners to hang on the mirror because you fart in there a lot, we're looking at big effin' bucks you have to spend just to afford the luxury of being able to drive to a job.

Most cities, even the small ones, used to have viable public transportation, but once upon a time the car manufacturers of America conspired to buy up and destroy all of the railroads.  In the sequel to that story, after practically creating a transportation monopoly, these companies failed big time but were 'bailed out' thanks to your tax dollars.  Because life is fair.  If you're a CEO.

Misbelief #2: I can eat whatever I want!

Man oh man, when I'm grown up I'm going to eat a bowl of cookies with milk-shake poured over it instead of cereal in the morning!  I'm going to eat a whole canister of Slim Jims (or like five of the little boxes) for lunch!  And pizza will be the only dinner, except maybe hamburgers every now and then.  But yeah, mostly just pizza.  I'll be so happy because I'm eating awesome food, and I won't be fat because I don't get fat from eating junk now, and that will never change because I am genetic perfection!

Shitty Truth #2: You can eat whatever you want, but you'll look like Jabba the Hutt, and you'll feel like that little guy who lives in Jabba's fat-crevices

Pizza was once magic.  My ears perked up when I heard my mom say, "I'm too tired to cook dinner tonight" on the occasional Friday night.  I knew that, most likely, it meant we were having pizza for dinner.  Yes!!  And as a child I was certain that I would just order pizza every night of the week.  Why would anybody want to waste time making dinner when somebody else can make you stacks and stacks of pizza?  Man, my parents are uncool and kinda dumb.

When I landed my first job as a teenager, I worked in a grocery store in a plaza that also had a pizza place.  So for a while I got to live out my childhood fantasy.  I worked four or five nights a week and I ate pizza on most of those nights.  Alright, all of those nights.  Then I noticed the correlation between my pizza intake and my sudden need to go poop like eight times a day.  Whoops!

I still binge on junk food every now and again, just because I'm an adult and I can.  But I always suffer the consequences.  If I go overboard too often I start to look like I'm totally preggars.  That coupled with working in an office (which always had birthday cake and cookies, it seemed) and I had to start an exercise regime just to keep my basic human shape.  I wasn't in great shape to begin with, so I was essentially spending a good chunk of my free time doing enough exercise just to keep my somewhat-lousy form intact.  Yikes!

And the pooping! By god, the pooping!  As an adult with children, I consider time in the bathroom an enjoyable little quantity of quiet, personal time.  I do most of my reading in there.  When I don't feel like reading, sometimes I play a game on my cell phone.  And if any small person is bold enough to knock on the door while I'm taking care of business, they get a curt "I'M IN THE BATHROOM!!!" as a reply.  The sound of little feet pitter-pattering in retreat is the sound of victory.

But when I start consuming junk food in excess, my "me time" becomes an itchy, uncomfortable reading of a Kurt Vonnegut novel instead of a relaxing, enjoyable reading of a Kurt Vonnegut novel.  Sure, the reading part is still great.  But not even excellent fiction can distract one from an irritated butthole.

Misbelief #3: I'm gonna be a party dude, dude!

The coolest dudes are the party dudes.  All I will need is a Hawaiian shirt and some sunglasses.  And a rad attitude!  Maybe I'll learn to break dance.  I'll definitely own a boom box so I can take the party with me wherever I go.  Society will not be able to hold me back from being a mondo party animal!

Shitty Truth #3: All parties come to an end, and a lot of them are lame to begin with

The Berenstain Bears tried to warn me about overdoing it in Too Much Birthday.  But those were just foolish bears.  They're not conditioned to be party machines like humans.  Who could ever party too much?

By the time I was a college-age lad I was wise to this one.  I wasn't much the drinker at the time, so attending parties wasn't all that much fun.  There was always at least one girl who didn't drink at the party, but I almost always found her to be one of those preachy types who just wants to rag on everyone else because they need to drink to have a good time.  Because nothing says "good time" like sitting around discussing how much fun everyone else is having.

Even when I got a little older and started partaking in the consumption of more grown-up party substances, I still preferred to avoid the whole party scene.  Mostly because I often found myself surrounded by what seemed like extras from every party scene in every college-life movie ever.  These people had nothing to talk about, no personality, besides getting "totally fucked up" and then falling asleep on ratty couches while gazing up at posters of Jimi Hendrix.  Also, the parties never actually had Jimi Hendrix music.  Never.  Not one time.

Sure, I've been to some really fun parties that I enjoyed the hell out of.  But there's unfortunately no way to know in advance if a party is going to be 'off the hook' or... 'on the hook(?)'.  The good events I can probably tally just using my fingers.  The bad ones, where I either left after an hour of boredom or suffered through the whole crappy night because I was with a friend who was definitely finally going to talk to that girl he liked, are far more numerous.  The most fun I've had at (what you could call) parties any time in the past few years are the times when I got together with a bunch of old friends.  Whether there was drinking (or what have you) or not, it didn't matter, because I was with a group of people that I knew I already liked going in.

But say you live in an area with mad, mad parties.  Or you just know all the right people, so you always know 'where the party at'.  The problem with trying to still be a party dude (or dudette) when you're an adult is the money situation.  It's always money.  If you don't want to live in your parents' garage, don't want to have to borrow their car or ask for rides from friends, and/or if you want to own more clothes than just your Hawaiian shirt and a stained pair of sad sweatpants, you'll need a job.

In order to maintain this job, you'll have to show up and be able to perform it reasonably well (unless you're a CEO of a major corporation).  This means less partying and more sleeping, because falling asleep at the wheel and driving into a gulley on your way to work is not usually fun.  And a lot of the money you'd spend on booze (to make it a real party) and pizza (if you want your party to be awesome) is unfortunately going to be spent on the costly maintenance of your car, your utility bills, your rent, and the late payments and interest charges on the credit cards you got to help finance the whole mess in the first place.

Yeah, it sucks.  The only thing that lived up to the expectations I had (as a teenager in this case) is sex.  But as you get older sometimes the stars have to align just the right way for that to happen.  You and your partner both need to not have a tummy ache that night (unless you're a poop fetish person), your kids need to be soundly asleep or at a friend's house (because they all have an alarm that goes off the instant your skin touches your lover's skin), and you need to have taken care of that awful, awful rash.  Definitely take care of the rash.  GOOD LORD, WHAT IS THIS RASH!?!?

Upon a bit of reflection, I guess the moral here is "all things in moderation".  Meat lovers pizza is fine, but don't scarf too much of it.  You can bust out your boom box and backwards baseball cap (those things are still cool, right?) when you feel the urge, but you can't be like Eddie Murphy's girl and party all the time, party all the time.

Okay, so I'll enjoy those things in moderation...

Now, how the hell can I get away with paying my car insurance and buying gas in moderation?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Things I Wish Would Disappear From Facebook

Ah, facebook.  A great way to stay in touch with loved ones and people we sort of know from high school.  An excellent way to spread messages we feel are important and promote events.  And a word that is always lower-case for some reason and hasn't been added to spell-check databases yet even though people say it practically more than they say "hello" or "fuck!"

If you have a facebook account, logging in and scrolling through your feed is almost certainly a daily thing.  For some it's a compulsion that must be fed every twenty minutes.  When I didn't have internet access at home and would only check facebook when visiting my parents or a friend, I didn't miss it at all.  Not one bit.  Yet since getting the world wide web in my own dwelling, I find myself 'liking' and commenting for a hefty chunk of time most days.

A lot of times facebook is fun.  Oh! A clever meme!  Ooh! A funny comic!  Yay! George Takei is posting a lot of stuff today!

But sometimes a quick scroll down my feed leaves me dissatisfied - or worse - feeling like I wasted my time!  "There's nothing good on facebook today!" I'll lament.  I used to say that about television back when I only had five channels.  Also that was back when I used to actually watch television.

While I never fully expect to be enlightened or entertained by facebook, there's almost always at least something that makes me think, makes me chuckle, or at least makes me click 'like' because that only takes half a second.  But there's some things I constantly see in my feed that I wish would just go away.  I'm sure many reading this feel the same way about:

1. The Grumpy Cat Meme

I laughed the first time I saw it.  Chuckled the second time I saw it.  By the third, fourth, and fifth I was indifferent.  Now I'm fucking sick of it.

In the 80s or early 90s, a photo of a grumpy cat would be printed on a poster with something like "Oh great! It's Monday again!" on it, and people who worked in offices would buy it and put it up in their cubicles.

But this is 2013.  We have the internet now, and we refuse to let jokes die!  I must have seen the same meme - with the same picture of the same cat! - about 200 times in the last few weeks.  Yeah, it's a funny picture of a miserable-ass cat.  But do I really need to see it every damn time I sign on to facebook?  Most of the time it's just a similar joke to what I've already seen with slightly different wording or a slightly different grumpy cat.  Enough already!  There's other pictures of other animals, and there's other jokes to be made!

2. Like if You Love Your Mom/Grandma

Yes, I love my mom.  She's one of the best people I know (and I'm not just saying that 'cause she's my mom).  My grandmothers are both dead, but I love the memories I have of them.  Step-grandma Betty is still alive, but she's a drunken bag of gross so I don't count her as a grandma.  Naturally the first time I saw a picture of a motherly type nurturing a non-motherly type with the phrase "Like if you love your mom!" underneath it I clicked 'like'.  Of course I love my mom, facebook, and now you have proof.

By the eighth time I saw the same thing (two days later) my response was more akin to "YOU KNOW I LOVE MY MOTHER, FACEBOOK! SHUT UP ABOUT IT ALREADY OR I WILL LOG OFF SO HARD!!"  It's bad enough that so many people were asking me to prove that I love my mom or my dead grandmas by expressing it through clicking a word on a social network, but then people started adding twisted catches...

"Like if you love your mom -or- keep scrolling if you want her to die in a horrific blimp explosion."

I don't think any of them were actually rad enough to include the phrase 'horrific blimp explosion', but this was the general idea.  Somehow, if I scrolled past some crap I've seen reposted hundreds of times it meant that I wish my mom was dead.

When my daughter started insisting that if I step on a crack it would somehow break my mama's back, it got on my nerves after a while.  "Look, kid!  My feet are three times as fucking big as yours!  I've stepped on millions of cracks and not once did it result in Nana's back being broken!" I screamed inside, while outside I mumbled a non-committal "Uh huh."  This "keep scrolling if you want your mom's face to be burned off by boiling acid" nonsense is the equivalent of a silly rhyme repeated thoughtlessly by children (because it rhymes!).  The problem I have with it is that it's being repeated over and over again by adults, most of whom I know are capable of rational thought.

On the plus side, this did lead to the creation of a meme that I actually love, which shows a typical mom-and-child picture with the usual "like this OR ELSE" message on it, while underneath there was a picture of Captain Picard - looking agitated - with a caption that went something like "Who the hell thinks of this shit?"

Thank you to whoever created that!  Sometimes the internet needs a good jab to the nose and/or gut.

3. Using the Latest Tragedy as a Jumping-off Point for Your Political Views

Boy that (insert latest tragedy here) was sure sad...





Look, horrible things happen every second of every day.  People get murdered.  Possessions get stolen.  Creed songs get played on 'classic rock' stations for some reason.  Sometimes something so terrible happens that it's enough to briefly snap you out of your zombified internet scrolling mode.  (I hope you didn't dare scroll past something that may cause your mom to be death-punched. You could have prevented it!)

From my observations, here's the three phases of a national or world-wide tragedy:

A. The people of the nation (or world) band together to mourn the lost and provide comfort to one another in a time of need.  This phase usually lasts for about a day and a half.

B. Now that the initial shock is over with, people grab hold of the tragedy and use it as a basis to make political rants.  Mind you, I've never ever seen one of these rants start with something like "You know, I used to have this opinion, but the recent tragedy has changed my mind. Here's why..."  Rather, it seems that anyone with a half-formed opinion will relate whatever horrible thing happened to his/her cause, and use it to rationalize beliefs that he/she already firmly holds.  This phase lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on when the next shocking event unfolds.

C. The tragedy is forgotten.  Sure, nobody will ever truly forget horrifying images they see on the news when something awful goes down.  For the really big ones (like the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01 or the time Janet Jackson destroyed the morality of America because her breast popped out) we even remember where we were and what we were doing when we first heard the news.  But most of these tragedies seem to slip right out of the public consciousness (faster than Janet's boob popped out, haha... ha...), perhaps as a mental defense for all of the idiocy that comes spewing out of people's faces in the wake of the events.  Besides, that next big terrible thing is just waiting to happen.  And I bet it will prove that my political views were correct all along, and everyone who disagreed with me will now be shamed into accepting my beliefs!

If any of your beliefs - political or otherwise - are that well thought-out and that sound, then you shouldn't have to use shock factor to convince people.  You should be able to explain your thoughts clearly, in a manner that people can understand, and you should hope for discussion as a result.  Nobody is ever going to jump on board with your bat-shit crazy theories just because something horrible happened on the news.

When people stop thinking for themselves and become 'Yes Men" the Salem Witch Trials happen.  Nazi Germany happens.  Star Wars prequels happen.  I'm sure nobody wants these kinds of horrors unfurled on society any time soon.  Think before you post!

These are just a few of the beefs I have with facebook behavior.  I'm sure I'll think of more to write about in the near future.  I'm also sure that these things won't ever truly go away, yet won't stop me - or anybody else - from spending gobs of time on facebook.  Not even the abundance of ads on there now can do that.

Happy scrolling!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why Welfare Drug Testing Won't Happen

Okay, this blog is not supposed to be a political blog.  That is not my goal.  My intention was to create a space where I can lob complaints/criticisms that turn into full-on rants that are too long to post on facebook.  But since my standpoint comes from a place of observing things as logically as I can, naturally there are going to be posts that take aim at politics (where logic goes to die).

Today I won't be calling out Congress.  They're doing a fine job.  (Feel free to pause to laugh at that, then cry.)  What I will be writing about today is something I keep seeing on facebook, which sometimes turns even the best of us into amateur political commentators.

I've seen quite a few facebook posts lately in which people express the opinion that welfare recipients should be drug tested.  In theory this makes plenty of sense.  Why should you have to submit to a drug test to have a job, when those who don't can stretch out on the couch and smoke their drugs all day?

The problem with the theory, however, is that reality shoots more holes in it than Warren Beatty as Dick Tracy shoots holes in villains.  Or 1930s sedans.  Or any prop or building or whatever that's anywhere near Warren Beatty as Dick Tracy.

For starters, not everyone who is on welfare is a bum who sucks up drugs and pumps out babies.  True, there are (and always will be) those who take advantage of the system, suck up drugs, and pump out babies.  But go ahead and name one thing ever that was designed to help people that some seedy people didn't figure out how to take advantage of.  It's just an unfortunate truth that humans are greedy schemers.  Blame evolution.

The reality is that a lot of welfare recipients are people who have jobs. They just have jobs (created by the wonderful "job-creators" politicians speak so fondly of), but the jobs don't actually pay them enough to get by without assistance.

We are a capitalistic society, and capitalism rewards people for being greedy schemers.  At the company I worked for before my job was outsourced (I guess you're still technically a "job-creator" if you're creating jobs in India and the Philippines), I did a quick calculation once and determined that if I worked for the company for my entire life I'd never make as much money as the CEO received as a bonus in one year.  The same CEO who had sunk the business into bankruptcy and got booted off the stock exchange.  He was rewarded for being a schemer, not for doing his job well.  This type of behavior is why the poor are getting poorer, and the rich are getting richer.  And the middle class is getting disappear... disappearier?

Before this turns into a rambling tirade about something else altogether, let me try to locate the focus and wrangle it.  Ah!  There it is!

What nobody who is demanding welfare drug testing seems to have thought about is cost.  It always boils down to money, doesn't it?  And money is something that our government seems to have trouble not having negative amounts of.  According to Statistic Brain there were 4,300,000 receiving welfare benefits as of November 15, 2012.

How much money would it cost to drug test that many people?  Let's say a urine test costs $30 (I tried to find an actual amount and found claims they cost anywhere from $25 to $140).  At thirty bucks a pop this would cost 129 MILLION DOLLARS.  Not to mention the cost of hiring people to administer the tests and collect the samples and people to file all of the pee-related paperwork.

The government does not have this money.  So where would it come from?

Option 1: Raise taxes.  This would be extremely unpopular and could quite possibly result in more people being on welfare.  So that wouldn't work.

Option 2: Slash budgets.  This is one way the government attempts to reign in the budget.  Unfortunately for your children, and for the future of our country, one of their favorite targets is education.  So let's say the education budget gets slashed again so the government can afford to drug test welfare recipients.  This means education suffers.  Undereducated people tend to get jobs with lower incomes.  People who receive lower incomes often end up on welfare.

A pattern seems to be emerging.  The government spending more money it doesn't have to drug test welfare recipients will cause them to pass the tab onto tax-payers, which will cause more of these tax-payers to end up on welfare, which will force the government to spend more money drug testing more people, which will... Alright, you can see where this is going.

So maybe it's not "fair" that hard-working, job-having Americans have to take urine tests, while welfare "bums" are free to binge on box-wine-and-PCP cocktails.  But it's up to your employer if they want to have you pee in a cup, and it's up to the employer to pay the bill.

Of course, if these employers, er, "job-creators", took it upon themselves to take a pay cut from a fuck-ton-million a year to a shit-ton-million a year, they could pay their employees more, meaning the employees would be less likely to end up in the welfare office.  Or they could afford to keep the jobs in America, rather than going the route of outsourcing to save a buck.  Once again the result would be fewer Americans on welfare.

But fuck that.  Let's not demand more of the rich.  Let's point our fingers at the poor.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Foreign Cars Are Tampons

Today on my way home I stopped at a red light behind a very LARGE, very MANLY Dodge Ram.  There were three decals on the back window. Two were of Ram logos with sexy, sexy women caressing them.  The centerpiece was a decal which read "Imports are like tampons, every pussy has one."

This did not offend me as a person who prefers Japanese cars. However, it did offend me as a person who possesses the ability to use intelligence and logic.  The makers of this decal, and any person who chooses to purchase it and affix it to their very manly truck, have drawn two idiotic conclusions.

One: Every female, from birth through death, has a tampon inserted in her vagina at all times.  This, I can only assume, would mean that each female, from birth through death, is constantly having her period.  This begs the question, where do babies come from?  (If you're unfamiliar with where babies come from or what periods are for, please consult a health book or Google.)  If every female was constantly having her period, there would be no babies who grow up to be manly men who own manly AMERICAN trucks.  For that matter, there would be no babies who grow up to create poorly-thought-out decals and bumper stickers.

Two: Every person who could be considered a "pussy" (meaning they have a lousy physique and/or enjoy classical music) not only owns a car but a foreign car.  This means that a third grade wimp owns a Toyota or a Saab.  By this same logic, if Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson drives a Honda he is, in fact, a pussy.  You can tell him that to his face, decal owner.  I'll just assume the decal is inaccurate.

These are the thoughts I had before the light turned green.  As I continued my drive home I also had this thought: Does the logic displayed on this decal only apply to automobiles?  Since your manhood (and the size of your manhood) is obviously based on your decision to buy an American-made car - you know, made by the industry that went belly-up and had to be bailed out by our tax money - shouldn't this also apply to all the products you buy?

I can only come to the conclusion that the owner of this truck lives in a home filled with only American-made products.  He has no television.  He has practically no appliances, for that matter.  Certainly no computer or video game systems.

So what do you do to pass the time, manly American-made goods man?  I'll go ahead and say you don't have, or have never had, a girlfriend since you are unfamiliar with how vaginas work.  (And obviously you're way too manly to be a -gasp!- homosexual.)  That's one possible activity off the list, and the only one I can think of that's an alternative to playing video games and watching movies.  So I suppose the only form of entertainment you engage in is driving around in your truck, showing off how manly you are, and how good at buying decals you are.  Sounds like fun!

But... what country does the gas come from?