Complacency Insults My Intelligence

The park contains hidden treasures.  (Photo credit: Gabriel Saldana)

The park contains hidden treasures. (Photo credit: Gabriel Saldana)

Walking through the park, I found a message in a bottle lying in the grass.  How romantic!  Realizing that my heart was in for a profound experience, I uncrumpled the note and took a peek:

My premonitions were correct.  (Photo credit for the original uncropped version: Arpingstone)

My premonitions were correct. (Photo credit for the original uncropped version: Arpingstone)

This moved me to tears.  I had just eaten at my favorite BBQ restaurant and I rushed back to bring the grillmaster this horrifying news.  Maybe he can start boiling the ribs instead.

Junk Food Insults My Intelligence

Photo Credit: Elana's Pantry

Photo Credit: Elana’s Pantry

My greatest
Junk food weakness
Is salad.

Luscious lettuce,
Tantalizing tomatoes,
Crunchy cucumbers.
Poetic Pomegranate dressing
(lowfat, luckily)

But no croutons.
They’re too fattening.

Celery will suffice.

I eat this
to indulge,
to send my soul swooning,
to beckon my inner Bugs Bunny.

But not too often,
or else…
I’ll have to call doc.

Therefore, I suffer
under a restrictive diet
of ice cream,
fried chicken,
and liverwurst.

Public Restrooms Insult My Intelligence

Welcome to the men’s restroom.  You may empty your bladder and/or colon here.  Or your stomach if you’ve been drinking…

The toilet looks clean, but how safe is it?  (Photo credit: Dmitry G, public domain)

The toilet looks clean, but how safe is it? (Photo credit: Dmitry G, public domain)

We have nifty toilet seat covers here to protect your butt from uninvited bacteria.  Hygiene is important.

When you are done emptying your insides, please flush the toilet and pull up your pants.  Don’t forget to refasten your leather belt.

And now that you have contaminated your clothing, you may go wash your hands.  We’re glad that your belt can never enter a washing machine…

Self-Esteem Insults My Intelligence

Self Esteem Shop in Royal Oak, MI http://www.s...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By now, I’m sure we’ve all heard the complaints about today’s educational practices.  Them kiddies are constantly told how wonderful they are and everyone gets a trophy and they feel all warm and fuzzy inside until the flu arrives.  That practice may improve results in the classroom but I’m lazy and I don’t want to belabor the point.

Instead, I’d like to tell a tale of how a subset of these kids all live happily ever after.  These are the honors students and I belonged to this group, as did many of my friends.  I consider myself lucky to have been horrible at sports because no coach in his right mind would have given me a self-esteem trophy unless it had been made of dog poo.  I really was that bad, but my ineptitude bred positive results.  Honors students don’t survive (and arguably thrive, at least psychologically) through extended unemployment unless they’ve had a few bumps along the way before that.  Failure keeps me sane.

Otherwise, we honors students were constantly told how we were the smartest, the most talented, the most wonderful person in the class, in the room, in the world.   This caused many of us (fortunately again, not me) to assume a superiority complex as our identities.  Woe to the college teacher who has to burst that bubble.

Been there, done that, never going back.

Unfortunately, some honors students are idiots and they only grow stupider with age.  And thus begins today’s tale…

Once upon a time in a college not far away there was an honors student with overly inflated self-esteem.  At meals, he regaled his peers with how he was the smartest in his class.  His term papers never turned out well in college, but that was never his fault.  He blamed his high school… even though he always waited until the last minute to start researching.  And then he’d confidently inform all of us how the professor told him he’d done well for a [insert one: freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, fifth-year senior, sixth-year senior, billy goat, etc.] when the horrors had ended.  And we’d hear story after story of these words that Mr. Self-Esteem couldn’t recognize as not-quite-praise.

And he didn’t graduate on time because, as I understand it, he wasn’t finishing his work as he was supposed to.  Nevertheless, he dutifully edified us on how he was outperforming all those freshmen and sophomores in his courses.  Impressive!  I’m sure his wife couldn’t contain her pride.

You read that correctly.  He married early in life and the couple had a pair of sons.  His wife had been the college sweetheart who always defended him when others would point out Mr. Honors Student’s poor time management skills.  I’m sure you don’t need to know the physical details on how those sons came into existence.

Or maybe you do, because the happy couple is fighting again and I’d be shocked if they don’t get a divorce this time.  I suspect he and his wife will immolate each other in the process, perhaps making the court decide that the sons would be better off in foster care.

I know enough about divorce to realize that soon-to-be exes often discount the amount of fault they hold for the relationship’s collapse.  But adults who were educated in the art of honors self-esteem face different problems.  My friend thinks he’s being insightful when he explains the situation but he reveals his incapacity for seeing that things were crumbling years ago.  He praises himself again but, as in college, he tears himself down in the process.

But…

This time he can’t escape or ignore the criticism coming from so many quarters because it so intimately affects his future life.  I visited him recently and he seemed to be litigating the case against his wife.  (Truth be told, the wife is another can of worms and she may have bigger problems than he has, again because of inflated self-esteem.  Maybe I’ll write about that another day.)  He also seemed to be litigating against me and occasionally against others he thought might testify against him in the event of a divorce.

Subtle…

This is rage.  This is realizing, perhaps all of a sudden, that people don’t hold him in as high esteem as he was trained to hold himself, realizing that so many people think he’s not quite there psychologically, remaining unable to let go of his self-esteem training and perceive things more clearly.

Then, add a dose of paranoia.  I had (and have) no intention of testifying against him in any future divorce proceeding because I’m not convinced the wife is any better.

Oh, and I think he may now believe I’m his sons’ biological father.

Newborn on scale

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I suppose I’ll never know what inspired him to question his paternity so late, but I have a hard time believing he’d bring up the issue if he hadn’t already been tested.

In case you were wondering, I am not the father.  But thank you for asking and for your vote of confidence.  (His wife is rather lovely, so it’s a show of confidence that you think I could be the culprit.)

And now it’s time for the moral to the story.  If you feed a child a steady dose of empty self-esteem, the world becomes a binary of praise and the rare catastrophe.  In the end, criticism becomes more than criticism; it is the stripping of an identity someone has had for their entire life.  And just as a kitten presumably screeches if you try to skin it with a pocket knife (presumably, I said…), these no-longer-so-young people take these negative words as an affront to their entire being.  And then they claw and bite and pee on you until you put away the knife.  And so you learn to remain silent and gracefully permit the status quo.

There may be more than one way to skin a cat but there aren’t many ways to skin an honors student who can’t let go of the past.  As for me, I’m just annoyed because potential employers see my educational credentials and often assume I’ll be like my friend.  They tell you in school that hard work allows you to become anything you want but they fail to mention that you’re tattooing your own scarlet letter as you build yourself up.  You are judged by the company you keep and hard work doesn’t win you great company.

And so…

The next time your children want to do their homework, tell them to play outside or try a video game.  And make sure they lose sometimes.  Badly.  Being unemployed is also a great way to catch up on some fun, but it’s not such a positive experience for the wallet.

Diseases Insult My Intelligence

virus III

Don’t get infected.  (Photo credit: twenty_questions)

Bra. coli (n.):  A dangerous food-borne organism that can induce vomiting and damage the tongue.  Victims are usually children, but prominent adults such as George H. W. Bush have also been infected.  Unlike E. coli, Bra. coli does not originate from fecal matter and, therefore, proper sanitation cannot reduce its threat.  Constant vigilance is encouraged.

If the Bratwurst Ain’t Deep Fried, It Insults My Intelligence

In our diet-obsessed culture, the mere mention of bratwurst normally gives people stomach convulsions.  If you listen closely, you can probably hear the collective squirming of my readers’ gastrointestinal systems.

And there’s nothing quite like that sound to whet your appetite.

Deep Fried Bratwurst Wrapped in Bacon Chili Dog

This isn’t my version of deep fried bratwurst, but it’s the best picture I could find. (Photo credit: lysinewf)

When you read “deep fried bratwurst,” you probably thought of the heart attack on a bun in the picture.  You see, I care about health and authenticity.  Deep fried bratwurst is supposed to be healthy and German.  And let’s face it: the chili ain’t exactly German… although I’ve had chili in Germany and it’s not too bad if you aren’t expecting anything spicy.  (However, you should steer clear of the “curry.”  It resembles applesauce.  And the currywurst is a wiener with “curry.”  Yum!)

But I digress.  Let’s get us a pic of a typical German bratwurst.

Thüringer Bratwurst

This bratwurst brings back memories. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Notice the nice dark color and lack of breading.  The bun, as usual, is undersized by American standards but it allows the discerning glutton to appreciate the bratwurst in its bratwursty goodness without the interference of bread.  The bun makes a nice handle, though, and is rather tasty too.  The mustard, on the other hand, is an oddity within German culture because it’s spicy.  In Germany, an overabundance of parsley might be considered overly spicy, so the mustard will shock your system if you’ve been there longer than a few days.

However, you didn’t visit this post to read about mustard.  So let’s talk wurst.  I’ve had them grilled, smoked, and boiled in various liquids (beer, etc) in Germany and all forms tasted most excellent.  Unfortunately, American bratwursts don’t stack up to their German counterparts and this becomes especially conspicuous when you’re feeling lazy and try to cook them in a frying pan.  The reason Germans can eat so much sausage and remain thinner, on the whole, than Americans comes partly from the fact they use lean meat.  The symphony of grease that passes for German food in the U.S. pales in comparison.

I shall skip over the gratuitous flabby wiener jokes.  You’re welcome.

So how do you improve these lesser goods, other than by going to a specialty butcher?  (I highly recommend the specialty butcher, by the way.  Their stuff is better and cheaper, at least at the one near me.)    Deep fry the suckers!  I like to fill a saucepan with vegetable oil (because it’s cheap and less unhealthy than lard) until it’s an inch or two deep.  It saves oil because I’m cheap and unemployed and it suffices.  The bratwurst goes naked into the hot oil and comes out after spending 5-7 minutes on each side.  It comes out dark brown, almost with a crust on the outside, and healthy by bratwurst standards.   It’s kind of like a supermodel in a tanning bed, but without the healthful connotations.  You can put the bratwurst (not the supermodel) on a plate, cut it into pieces, eat it, and notice that the bratwurst leaves no oily residue.  Your arteries will thank you.

So finally you may be wondering why I’ve skipped over this minor detail:

Thüringer Rostbratwürste

Spiffy!  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve never seen anyone cook bratwurst in leather, unless you count the grillmaster’s shoes.  However, it’s quite the fashion statement and it would go over interestingly at the next county fair.  Give it a shot!

Obamacare Insults the Unemployed’s Intelligence

ORBIS flying eye hospital - recovery room

These tubes are somewhat more straightforward than Obamacare.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may remember that I’m unemployed and single.  Being unemployed, young(ish), and without health insurance, you might think I’m thrilled about the implementation of Obama’s health care scheme.

I am not.

The legislation was sold as something that would extend health coverage to people who don’t have it, as a warm and fuzzy legislative accomplishment that would ensure basic services for everyone.  And so I thought to myself that I’d visit the website to see what I’d have to pay.  I may not have an income, but I was always pretty frugal and parting with a few saved dollars to get insured might not be a bad idea.  Emphasis belongs on the word “few” because few is a euphemistic term for how many dollars I have.

Fortunately, the website links to a rate estimator (“subsidy calculator”) that asks for some basic information (age, income, number of dependents, etc.)  and spits out some numbers.  As it turns out, my income isn’t high enough to qualify for low-income assistance (Medicaid).   The webpage explaining options for the unemployed offers up this little gem on other reduced rate possibilities:

You may qualify for lower costs for monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs on private insurance based on your household size and income. Some people with very low incomes may wind up paying very small premiums. You can apply for Marketplace insurance now. Coverage can begin as soon as January 1, 2014.

You can click on that link in the quote if you like; it provides no new information.  And I’m hardly surprised.  The quote admits that “some” low-income people “may” pay very small premiums.  Nothing concrete is promised, and that doesn’t match Obama’s lofty political rhetoric.

So let’s assume I’d have to pay full price.  For the least expensive option, I’d be spending over $2,500 per year.  As you might imagine, this is why I don’t presently have health insurance.

But fear not!  I have discovered the silver lining.  Although Obamacare assesses a penalty to people who don’t enroll in health insurance, the website explains what I can do if I can’t afford the premiums:

If you feel that any Marketplace coverage is unaffordable and you don’t qualify for other exemptions, you can apply for a hardship exemption. If you get an exemption, you don’t have to pay the fee paid by other people who do not have health insurance. Read more about exemptions.

So, for an unemployed person like me, Obamacare expands my health care options by allowing me to apply for exemption from a fee that wasn’t previously required.  Brilliant!

Incidentally, the non-enrollment penalty is “sometimes” called the “individual responsibility provision,”  which accurately describes things.   The mandate to enroll is what Tea Party (radical conservative faction, for my non-U.S. readers) have opposed most vociferously.  However, the requirement was originally a conservative invention in the early 1990’s that was devised as an alternative to Hillary Clinton’s proposals for reform.  Back then, conservatives were selling the mandate as a way to make sure people who could afford it were paying into the system.  After all, hospitals don’t turn away people without insurance or cash; insurance holders end up eating the costs for their uninsured neighbors through higher premiums.  The conservatives didn’t make any attempt to sell this provision as “universal healthcare” and I laud them for their honesty and their recognition that people who can afford it ought to be contributing.

As for me, I look at Obamacare and see a massively expensive government program that in no way accomplishes anything it was promised to do in a country that is too far in debt to afford much of anything.  Low-income assistance (Medicaid) already existed.

Shutting down the government and risking a debt default were rotten tactics, but now I understand the Tea Party’s continued opposition to Obamacare.  I only wish someone on the liberal side would stand up and proclaim some objections that are more damning than what the Tea Party puts forth.  In the meantime, I’ll have to grudgingly respect the Tea Party for having the sense to oppose this law… even if the ideological reasons they offer don’t resonate with me.

Drumming Up Business Insults My Intelligence

man-o-lantern

(Photo credit: j l t)

I would like to take a moment to inform you that funerals suck, although not as much as dying, I suppose.

There was a death this week caused by a massive heart attack.  The whole thing reminded me a of a catalog I had recently received in the mail for some reason.  I don’t remember the company’s name but it specialized in products for larger-than-average people.  I only saw the cover and it featured some products that could be useful.  There was the plus-size clothing (a necessity for overweight people who don’t want to walk around naked), oversized chairs with extra weight capacity, and a triple-basket deep fryer.

Yeah, an oversized deep fryer for fat people.  Normally I’d gripe about the stereotyping but I think I’d rather nail the company for trying to drum up business.  If all those overweight people buy the deep fryer, they’re going to need to buy additional oversized products.  If they buy the more sensible vegetable steamer (which wasn’t advertised on the cover and probably wasn’t in the catalog), the company can lose some customers.

Fortunately, I think vegetable steamers sell better these days than triple-basket deep fryers.  The people buying the deep fryers probably don’t need vegetables because they are vegetables, or will become vegetables (or vegetable food) soon enough.

American Bread Insults My Intelligence

Russian black bread

(Photo credit: BryanAlexander)

I’m one of those types who rarely eats in chain restaurants and can cook for myself instead of eating a lot of prepackaged meals.  On a typical day, you might find my food snobbery obnoxious.

Today, I’m going to change course and recommend a thoroughly unfresh packaged food to my American readers: bread.  Although one can occasionally find good fresh bread in this country, the offerings are few and far between.  You may not know this, but the flour used in much of our bread is heavily processed and, as a result, the product turns out insubstantial and probably a lot less healthy.

Bread should be like a brick or thereabouts.  Think of bagels, naan, and pita bread.  These pack a lot more density than the standard loaves we normally find.  So when I have the opportunity, I like to buy a packaged eastern European bread that’s heavier than overcooked meatloaf and it’s shipped in from over 1000 miles away.  And I take it home and put it in the refrigerator where it lasts a while… even without all the preservatives in the standard grocery store fare.

I’m sure a refrigerated brick must sound really tasty to you.  Thing is, the toaster revives it.  It doesn’t come out tough either.  (My teeth are all still in place.)

This must be why so few Americans can tolerate whole wheat bread and other healthy options.  The substance (especially the flavor) has all been processed away.  And it’s not just dark bread that’s damaged over here; I get a great loaf of French bread from my local farmer’s market that in no way resembles what you would recognize as “French bread.”  It’s also less expensive than what the grocery store sells.

So do yourself a favor and expand your bread horizons.  Your tongue and colon will be glad you did.  And if you don’t want to be too health conscious, try some fatty cold cuts on it.   The toasted bread melts a lot of the fat and the result is unbelievable.  I’m not adventurous (or brazen) enough to try lardo (which is almost entirely fat), but a good pancetta, Polish bacon, or Russian ham works great.

Disclaimer: the blogger is not responsible for any heart attacks resulting from following this culinary advice.  However, he will take credit for your improved digestive health.  You’re welcome.

Justin Bieber Insults My Intelligence

English: Justin Bieber at the Sentul Internati...

This is not the image of mental health. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mental health is…

…not wanting to see the newly released nude photographs of Justin Bieber.

…wondering why those nude photos were featured as an important news story.

…understanding why they were featured but not understanding why people would care more about that than about anything that could legitimately be called “news.”

…understanding how people’s priorities became misplaced but wishing they hadn’t been.

…not understanding why anyone would get naked to perform for their grandmother.

…not understanding why anyone would get naked to perform for their grandmother.  (This one deserved to be repeated.)

…wishing it had been Betty White instead of Justin Bieber because she probably would have thrown in a really funny joke.

…realizing that Betty White’s grandmother is probably dead by now.

…being thankful not to have any late-teenage daughters right about now.

…not being like Justin Bieber.

…being thankful to not be like Justin Bieber.

…ending this post right now because “Justin Bieber naked” is the last thing I wanted to write about for the Weekly Writing Challenge.

Listerine Insults My Intelligence

You’re in the hospital waiting for surgery, but there’s a delay. The nurse gives your family the reason for the wait: the hospital staff is scrubbing the operating room and doctor’s instruments so they’ll give you a great feeling of clean. 

“But wait,” says your sister.  “Who cares about how clean the scalpel and operating table and everything else feels?   Don’t those things exist to serve a different purpose, you know, like to create a medical benefit?”

“But we want you to be satisfied with your purchase of hospital services,” says the nurse.  “Surgery should be a pleasure.”

“But will the equipment actually be clean, or just feel clean?”

The nurse goes silent.  This wasn’t in her script.

And so it goes with Listerine’s new products.  They changed the name (got rid?) of a lot of their old “advanced” heavy-duty stuff and replaced it with new varieties that, as the advertisements go, give users an intense “feeling of clean.”

Okay, it feels good, but does it work?   I don’t remember the commercials saying too much about that.  Listerine isn’t the only dental product company to give us this feeling of clean BS.  But then, most people are too dumb to know the difference between clean and feeling of clean.  And Listerine encourages consumers to forget this distinction; why else would they name the new product Ultraclean instead of Cleaning Party? Doesn’t the name Ultraclean imply that your mouth will end up being cleaner than clean?

Being clean, in a medical sense, is a lot like being dead.  Once you’re clean or dead, you can’t get cleaner or deader.  I bet tainted pool water feels clean before you catch e. coli and die from it.   After that happens, your corpse can get cleaner but it can’t become ultradead.