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So, I feel like my ears are being raped by CNN right now.  OK, that is a weird way to start a blog, but it is true.  I am in transit to a conference in Portland, Oregon and blasting through every speaker of O’Hare and also in the Minneapolis airport is the trial of the mother that allegedly killed her daughter.  I think her name is Casey.  Apparently it is a “Developing” story, but so far it has been a “Will someone please stick knives into both of my ears” story.  I am seriously in agony right now.

Which brings me to today’s blog topic:  When did travelling begin to seriously ‘Suck Ass’?  I actually thought seriously about the appropriate description of the state of travelling today, and after serious mental deliberation, and considering the numerous options, I finally settled on ‘Suck Ass’ as the best label for United States travel today.  A major part of the negative experience are the travellers themselves.  I understand that in a ‘Post 9-11’ world, as everyone calls it, air travel is especially an arduous experience with long lines, heightened security and scanners that reveal your private parts.  On a side note:  I am proud to say that the woman who did my scan at O’Hare gave me an especially bigger than usual smile upon seeing I was not concealing anything dangerous and allowed me to move forward to the air terminals.  I thought the pat down in the private room was a little over the top, but everyone is asked to turn their head and cough.  Right?

I digress.  the problem with travel these days are the travellers.  I am telling you, the workers at O’Hare went out of their way to be super nice.  I got ‘good mornings’, ‘how are you today sir’, ‘let me help you with that’, ‘you need a bin?’, ‘have a great day’, from just about everyone.  Now, if you read my blog, you know that people are nice to me where ever I go, it must be my face or something, but this was beyond just my ‘entice people to talk to me in spite of my desire to NOT talk to them’ personality.  These airport employees were genuinely trying to make the experience as pleasant as possible.  So why are people so cantankerous?  Here is a list of behaviors that I simply think are uncalled for:

1.  Employee – “That will be 25 bucks to check your bag.”
Traveller – “What?!?  That’s highway robbery.  This is an outrage!”

Guess what?  You’re right, but you know what, the person at the counter is not going to disobey their company’s rules because you think the baggage charge is unfair.  Unless you have been living under a rock, you knew that you were going to be charged, so don’t act so surprised.  So, shut up, pay your 25 bucks, and get out of line so I can get my boarding pass.  Next time fly Southwest and then you can complain about not having a seat assignment.

2.  Employee – “Sorry ma’am, but your carry-on is too big, we are going to have to check it for free.
Traveller – “What?!?  It fit on the other plane!  You guys suck.  Huff and puff.  Give up bag begrudgingly.

Part of the reason these things bug me is because these travellers never make their complaints private or quietly.  They want everyone in ear shot to know that they have been wronged by the system.  What makes it even worse when they look around for perfect strangers to join their cause.  They look at you, or even say to you, “This sucks right?”  Don’t involve me in your tirade.  You want to start a revolution?  Pick a better topic and just thank your lucky stars that you have the means to take an airplane in the first place.  You can literally go across the country in FOUR FREAKIN’ HOURS!  How awesome is that?  Chill out.

3.  Travellers rushing to the door and waiting in long lines and ‘protecting’ their spot.

If you are a frequent traveller of the skies, I have a secret to tell you:  Whether you are first in line or last in line, your seat is the same and the plane will not leave without you.  You are rushing to sit down and wait for everyone else.  This is also true on the other side.  No matter how quickly you get off the plane, your luggage will arrive the same time as mine.  You are rushing to wait at the baggage carousel.  Chill out.

4.  Flight Attendant – ‘Please turn your cell phone off.”
Traveler either does not turn off their cell phone right away or does so with an attitude.  Your phone call or text is not that important.

5.  My favorite traveler annoying behavior only occurs during the winter.  People pissed off because they have to wait for the wings of the plane to be de-iced.  Seriously?  A similar version of this happened to me in Paris, France.  A bomb threat was called in and they had to unload every plan at Charles De Gaulle.  Most people were patient, but there were a number of travellers that were openly complaining about the delays.  Do you want to take a guess to what nationality these people were?  You guessed it, Americans.

Well, travelling does suck ass, but I bet it would be a lot better if people were a little less angry about it and took a moment to realize how convenient we have it here.  As long as turbulence is low, landings are safe, flight attendants are cute, and I get my ginger ale, I’ll be happy.  I do miss free food and a higher percentage of flights with in-flight movies, but what are you going to do.  Besides, if you really hate flying, there is always the bus.  You think the people on plains are bad, wait to you see the freak show on Greyhound.  In the mean time, chill out.

In order to make my flying experience tolerable, I have a few rituals/beliefs.  You see I am not afraid of flying, but I am a nervous flyer.  Here is a list of my flying rituals/beliefs (Not a single one of these is exaggerated):

  1. I believe if a cell phone is left on it will cause the plane to crash
  2. I’d rather pee on myself than get up while the fasten your seatbelts sign is illuminated
  3. If someone else gets up while the fasten your seatbelts sign is on the plane will crash
  4. I think take off and landing are the most likely times the plane will crash
  5. I am most nervous during takeoffs, planes rarely crash when landing.  Not true, but I believe it which is all that matters.
  6. Once I hear that first ‘ding’ I believe everything will be OK
  7. Once the plane is at cruising altitude, it should never go down for any reason.  It can go up to a higher altitude, but not down until landing.  Going down to land is OK.
  8. If I don’t drink ginger ale, the plane will crash.
  9. If there is a baby on board the plane, the plane is less likely to crash, not impossible, just highly unlikely
  10. I have the same rituals and prayer on the tarmac to takeoff and I never miss a part of the ritual or prayer.  If I forget something, the plane will crash

I especially hate turbulence.  If I am not sitting next to my wife or my kids, I need two things to happen for me to remain calm during turbulence, and they both involve the flight attendants.
1.  Flight attendants need to be unphased by the plane shaking.  If they show any fear on their face whatsoever, I will FREAK out.  The only exception to this are clouds.  I understand why a plane experiences turbulence in clouds, and therefore I am OK with cloud turbulence.  My brain soothes me with knowledge.
2.  Secondly, and linked to the first, is that the attendants must be good looking.  They have to be a minimum of a 6 on the flight attendant beauty scale.  This is also true for men.  When it comes to flight attendants, I am bisexual.  If I am going to obtain solace in your calm face, it must be a face that I do not mind looking at.  Being a good looking flight attendant should be a requirement for the job.

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I am not anti fat people.  I am overweight myself, but is there anything more demoralizing than needing a seat belt extender when you fly.  I guess it could be worse, you could need to buy two seats.  I’m just sayin …

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So, I think being a father is hard.  I have been thinking a lot lately about what it takes to be a good father.   With my two youngest, I am SuperDad.  I just show up and they give me a smile as if I am the greatest thing since sliced bread.  My oldest son has higher requirements of greatness.  It makes me wonder what it takes to be a SuperDad, but more importantly, what does it take just to be a dad.  For example, is there a recipe for being a good father?  I would imagine it is similar to cake.

There are a couple of essential ingredients that are required to make a cake, and then the rest of the ingredients will just determine how good or bad the cake tastes.  Every cake needs, flour, sugar, butter and eggs. You don’t even need water to make a cake.  As a matter of fact, you don’t even need the flour, but unless you have a gluten allergy, no one should eat a flourlesscake.  It’s just wrong.  Bottom line, if you have these simple ingredients, a cake is what you will eat.

Many ingredients make a good cake

So here is my Essential Dad recipe:
1.  BE THERE:  The most important ingredient to being a dad is just showing up.  It is sad the number of dads that are not around for their kids.  I do not understand this.  I am part of my kids and they are part of me.  If I were to leave them, it would be like leaving my arm, or my leg.  A lot of people think all you need is sperm to be a dad.  This could not be farther from the truth.  Donating sperm is the easy part.  It’s like sticking your key into a car ignition, turning on the car, and saying, “Look at me!  I can drive.”  No you can’t.  So, a shout out to my dad, who in spite of divorce and not always living under the same roof as me or my brothers and sisters, he has always been there for support.  My oldest brother and sister and I do not share the same biological father, but my dad treated them as if they were his own.  Was he the perfect dad?  Of course not, but he had an abundance of this essential ingredient, he was and always will BE THERE.

2.  GOT YOUR BACK:  In my opinion, fathers should be the definition of “I got your back”.  There should be no greater safety than in the presence of your dad.  Just last Saturday I went on a 3-hour canoe trip and the boys came with me.  It was Isaac’s first time in a canoe.  It might have been his first time in a boat period.  We went on this trip with colleagues from work, and two people in particular, Bruce and Linda were an awesome help and support.  You see, Brett Jr. got in the boat first was going to sit at the front, and Isaac sat in the middle.  However, to Isaac, as we were about to push from shore, the boat rocked way too much for his taste, and he felt strongly that he was going to fall in the water.  With every sway of the boat his cried out, tears streaming down his fear-stricken face.  I thought for certain that we were going to have to go back to shore and forget about this trip down the river.  Bruce and Linda (in kayaks) straddled the boat to steady it, and they helped Isaac walk to the back of the boat to sit in between my legs.  It was better, but he was still afraid.  I could feel his whole body shiver as I started to row the boat forward.  He held tightly to my legs for the first 15 minutes.  I just said over and over again, “You are safe with me.  I WILL protect you.”  He would ask me, “Is the boat going to tip over Dad?”  “Not today” I said, “Not today.”  About an hour into the trip, Isaac found his courage and moved to the middle of the boat, and even helped row.  He was very proud of his rowing accomplishments, and so was I.  “Dad is going to keep me safe.” He said.  “You got that right buddy, you got that right.” I told him.  We survived the three-hour trip down the river and had a great time.  Upon putting Isaac to bed that night, he said, “I had a great time with you Dad.”  I said, “So did I buddy.”  It was a great day.

Man of many quotes.

3.  TEACH:  I sometimes struggle with this ingredient, and wondered if it was essential, but this may be the most important job of being a father.  Otherwise, as a father, what is my purpose?  So, I take teaching very seriously.  Unfortunately, as my oldest son gets older, I am discovering that I am becoming less intelligent.  As Mark Twain said, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to  have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at  how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

Although Brett Jr is a very compliant child, I am beginning to notice more and more that

Money or humor that enabled him to marry up?

he does not worship the ground that I walk on.  Luckily for me, I still have Isaac and Violet to remind me of how great I am.  I must cherish these years, for one day I am sure that Violet will bring a boy home one day that I will hate.  Is it too late for me to buy a shotgun?  Maybe I can convince her that dating is evil until age 30.  When I look at my daughter, I think about one of my favorite Chris Rock quotes, “Keep my baby off the pole!  I mean they don’t grade fathers but if your daughter is a stripper you fucked up.”

Well, that is my recipe for being a father.  Of course there is more, but I hope fathers every well include the basic ingredients.  Of course there is always icing, sprinkles, and decorations, like bike rides, canoe trips, camping, talks about life, golf lessons, playing catch, shooting baskets, wrestling, fishing, etc. etc. etc.

So many thanks to my dad for taking me fishing, teaching me how to use a hammer, providing me a foundation for my faith, and etc. etc. etc.  Essentially, the icing on the cake with lots of sprinkles.  Happy Father’s Day.

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It would simply be impossible for Superman to become a father unless he discovered a female Kryptonian on Earth or super heroine.  An Earth woman would not survive the process.  The problem?  One word: Orgasm.  Superman’s orgasm would kill Lois Lane.  I’m just sayin…

Marriage, maybe. Kids, no way.

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So, I have decided that I am officially old.  I don’t think I am old because of my age, although turning 40 in just over three weeks doesn’t help, but it’s official because of my son.  Last Sunday I picked up my son from his mom.  He was playing a game on her cell phone in her car.

A Very Addictive Game

The game was Angry Birds.  I had never played Angry Birds.  I had never seen Angry Birds.  I heard about the game, but had no idea how to play it.  Brett’s mom suggested that he show me how to play the game.  He did, and he was quite good at the game.

Do you know why this game made me feel old?  I have always been up to date.  ALWAYS!  I am up to date on pop culture and I am up to date with technology.  I was creating web sites before there were programs to make web sites.  That’s right, I know how to write HTML code.  Of course, no one does that anymore, but when I did, very few knew how.  Did it make me cool?  Of course not!  But that’s not the point.  The point is, if you were to ask me about anything a 10 year-old to a 25 year-old would know about, I would know about it.

I have always felt that I would feel old when my children did things that I thought were stupid.  Isn’t that the definition of being old?  I feel like sitting on my porch and yelling “Damn kids!”  The first sign of me getting old was when my son and I were at a movie and we saw a preview of ‘Justin Bieber: Never Say Never’.

Would it be wrong to forbid any Bieber CD to exist in my house?

My son turned to me and said, “I might want to see that.”  WHAT!?!?  I am sorry, but I just can’t support that.  Now, I did not actually say that, but I thought it.  I felt like saying, that’s not music, I will show you some real music.  And that is exactly what an old person would say.

I have always prided myself in being up to date, being hip, cool with the kids, and down with the homies, but no more, I am outdated with no chance for an upgrade.  I wake up with aches and pains, I am nowhere near the shape I used to be, and my favorite activity is golf.  I practically have one foot in the grave.  So, what am I going to do about it?  I plan on embracing it.  I have no problem with getting older.  I will break 80 in golf this year, I just bought a brand new bottle of Ibuprofen, and I am delusional enough to believe that I am capable of getting my 25 year-old body back, and if I don’t, “Choice Man!  Choice.”

Remember this movie? Then you are old too.

I like my life.  I am getting older and that’s OK.  Besides, what’s the alternative?  If I am not getting older, I’m dead.  So, it’s you and me Father Time.  Bring it on!  Besides, I just completed Angry Birds and I am only missing three stars.  Take that Brett!

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I am a fan of Justin Timberlake.  You read that right, a huge fan.  I think everything he does is brilliant.  I love his music, his acting, and he golfs.  If I ever meet him, I will ask him to be my new BFF.  You may think I am crazy or pathetic, but I have a JT man-crush.  He just looks like he is having fun.  If I ever become famous, I plan on handling my fame the same way that he does.  He is awesome.  Did I mention he golfs?  I’m just sayin …

This may be my new look. What's not to love?

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I LOVE Golf!

I love golf.  If I could play golf every day I would.  If golf was a woman, I would have a love child with her and name her Eagle.  If the child was a boy, the name Eagle would be brave and majestic.  If a girl, the name Eagle would be a symbol of courage and how she will fly above the fray.  Regardless, the child would be named Eagle, because Birdie or Par would be ridiculous.

Unfortunately, I can’t play golf everyday.  The problem is I have a wife and three kids, golf also costs money, and finally, it gets rather depressing to golf by myself all the time.  The interesting thing is I play golf by myself all the time.  It’s not because I want to, it is that unfortunately, I do not have many friends, and the few friends that I have that do play golf do not have the same flexible schedule that I do, especially in the summer.  So, what do I do?  I play golf by myself.  Now if you know me, the idea of playing golf by myself is no shocker.  I do not fear taking a dip in Lake Me.  What will surprise you is how often I will go to a busy course knowing that they will add me to another person or group.

That’s right, I have no problem playing golf with strangers.  If you are reading this and you have known me for more than 10 years, the previous sentence has just shocked you.  I LOVE golf.  I have even invited strangers to play golf at a future time.  I have asked for phone numbers, I have given my number, I have made future golf dates, I have put my self out there.  When my hatred of strangers gets in a fight with my love of golf, golf always wins.  As my buddy Terrence once said to me, “I am the friendliest non-friendly person he knows.”  I don’t like people.

The sad part is, I have yet to get a steady golf ‘boyfriend’.  If you are a single reader and you are on the dating scene, God help you.  Last year, I played golf with this guy name Brian.  His cell number is still in my phone.  After a round, I gave him my card and made a date to play another round on a future day.  We agreed upon the day and time.  When I arrived at the golf course he was not there.  I waited in the clubhouse and many thoughts went through my mind:  “Is he going to show?  He is probably laughing at me right now and telling his friends about that idiot that asked him out on a golf date.  Should I go home, or should I play a round by myself, again?”  He was late, but he showed up.  We had a great time.  Or I so I thought.  I texted him a few times after that outing and he could never get together again.  It was near the end of golf season and he was heading back to work, so he suggested we start up again next season.  I wasn’t sure if he was blowing me off or not, but the season was over anyway, and I thought nothing of it.  I thought maybe I said something, or did something to offend him.  I thought we had a great time.  Maybe I am not his type.  I would love to say that I a making all of this up, but I can’t.  There is not a single lie nor embellishment in this blog.  It gets worse.

During the winter, at our local YMCA, I saw him again.  I wasn’t sure if it was him, so I said nothing, and he said nothing to me.  Later, I approached him and said, “Hey Brian, is that you?”  It was super weird.  It was like running into an ex that dumped you.  AWKWARD (sing songy).  We had a brief conversation and that was the last time I saw him.  We are in a new golf season, and I am not sure if I will call him.  Is this what it is like to be dating and wonder if you are going to call someone or not?  It sucks.  Does this feeling of, “Why doesn’t he like me?” ever go away.  That’s right.  I’m pathetic.  His number is still in my phone.  I need to move on.

The other problem with golf is that I truly believe that if I quit my job, I could play the game professionally.  I hit a drive on Monday that would have made the Golf Channel instant replay.  It would have been a top 10 on ESPN.  It was that good.  I can’t drive like that every time, but the fact that I can do it at all, makes me think I have a shot on the Pro circuit.  If only I had no other responsibilities.

So, if you are waiting for that phone call from that guy or girl that you like, hang in there.  There is definitely someone out there for you.  One day you and I will find our soul mate.  Or at least in my case, my golf partner.  Maybe it will be my wife.  I did buy her a set of clubs for her birthday.  It will either solve my desire for a regular golf partner or end my marriage.  Either way, I would be playing more golf.  That’s what I call a win-win.

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I find it fascinating that humans believe that they are smarter than any other animal on the planet.  Here is an interesting fact of life, dogs, dolphins, apes and birds can learn our human language, but we can’t learn theirs.  I’m just sayin …

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So, I was planning on playing a little golf today, but I did not.  Do you know why?  I didn’t play because it was too cold and windy.   That’s right, too cold.  Do you know what today is?  It’s May 26th.  In less than one week it will be June.  If I could punch Wisconsin weather in the face, I would.  Annoying as Wisconsin weather can be, even this is an abnormal May for Wisconsin.  It could be worse.  I could have a tornado going down my street.  I’ll say this much, if one was to predict the Rapture, this was certainly a good year for it.  Sheesh.

Complaining aside, the weather was not what I wanted to blog about.  I am about to get on my high horse.  Ye be warned says I.

About a week ago, the big wigs of McDonald’s decided not to ban Ronald McDonald.

At least he is not obese.

You may be asking yourself, why would McDonald’s consider banning their icon of 50 years?  I’ll tell you why.  Over a year ago,  the same corporate watchdog group (Corporate Accountability International) that got rid of Joe Camel set its sights on getting rid of Ronald McDonald.  The argument is simple:  McDonald’s is trying to target your kids and convince them through the magic of advertising that McDonald’s is where they want to eat.  If you have kids, you know as well as I do that McDonald’s has succeeded in their goal.

Here is the problem I have with stories like this:  Who’s responsibility is it to make sure that your kids are eating properly?  Because the last time I checked, five-year-olds are not driving to McDonald’s and ordering a Happy Meal.  It’s McDonald’s job to get your kids to want to eat at McDonald’s.  It is the parent’s job to monitor what the child eats.  Am I to believe that it is now McDonald’s job to be a fast food restaurant and a parent?  I don’t think so.  When I was a kid I didn’t eat McDonald’s every day.  You know why?  Because my mom wouldn’t allow it.  My wife takes our kids to the McDonald’s Playland without ordering food.  She can do this because she is in charge of our kids.  What a concept!  A parent in charge of the kids.

I hope Ronald McDonald does get fired.  Not because of his influence on kids, but because I hate clowns.  If a restaurant wants to get rid of trans fats, or give happy meals a fruit option, or if an owner wants to put caloric information on menus, fine, but don’t make it a law.  You know who makes the laws in my house?  I do.  And if you can’t keep your 3-year-old from eating a Happy Meal, the problem isn’t a big, floppy red boot wearing clown, it’s you.  Parent your child and make the right choices for them, so that when they get older, maybe, just maybe, they will know why having a daily Big Mac may not be the best plan.

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I am not a sushi guy.  I don’t hate sushi, but I would never travel to a restaurant for the sole reason of eating sushi.  If you are a sushi person, this is what you would do and have done.  Nonetheless, the best sushi I have ever eaten was from a restaurant in Vancouver, Canada.  First of all, Vancouver may be the best city I have ever been to, EVER, and I have been to a lot of different cities on this planet.  I went to a Japanese restaurant on a recommendation and I was not disappointed.  I knew it was going to be good, because 90% of the people eating there were Japanese.  Most people were talking in Japanese, including the restaurant staff.  The sushi was so fresh that my fish begged me not to eat him, telling me this crazy story of how he was trying to find his dad.  He was delicious.  Best sushi and best Japanese restaurant I have ever been to.  You may not be aware of this, but the West coast of North America has a long history of Japanese immigration.  This was especially problematic during World War II.  Over 100, 000 Japanese were placed in internment camps.  I bet you didn’t know that the US had internment camps.  Well, we did.  I bet you won’t find that in your 8th grade history book.  I’m just sayin …

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So, according to a dude in California, Judgement Day, the Rapture, Jesus returns on May 21, 2011.  Now, if you live in the United States, that means Jesus returns tomorrow.  Of course, if you live in Australia, He is already here.  I always find it fascinating that when it comes to world revelations, it is always in US time.  I wonder if Americans realize that the planet is quite large and contains many more people and land than just us, but I digress.

First of all, when anyone claims they know the day of Jesus’ return, it pretty much guarantees that it will NOT be that day.  Simply put, if you are a Christian and believe in the Rapture, then you know that the Bible is quite clear that no one will know the time nor the day of Judgement Day.  Of course that has not stopped every crazy Rev, Pastor, and church fanatic from claiming they have figured out the ultimate secret, the End of Days.

Let’s for the sake of argument that tomorrow is indeed Judgement Day.  So, at bare minimum I plan on having sex tonight.  I generally don’t need trickery to get laid, but how can I resist the ultimate line, “We need to have sex tonight, for tomorrow we die.”  Go ahead and use this line tonight.  If it is successful, I want to know.  Also, if it is the Rapture tomorrow, I hope it is AWESOME.  I want craziness.  I want a ship or chariot the size of the alien ships from Independence Day and I want Jesus bare-chested standing tall on the bow of the ship.  I also want Jesus to be black, and as soon as I see him, I will yell triumphantly, “I KNEW IT!”.  There is no way a man from Bethlehem looks as white as does in 90% of the pictures and drawings you see of Him.  I want angels flying everywhere, the dead rising from their graves, and I want there to be a killer sound track to be playing from unknown heights as if a heavenly stereo.  Now, this probably sounds pretty sacrilegious, but make no mistake, if IT happens, I want to be impressed.  Finally, I will have a list of people who I will need to call, just to rub it in their face, and say “I told y’all.  Say it.  Saaaaaaay it.”  Then they will reply, “Brett, you are right, you are always right.”  “Now, come on over, and maybe I’ll hook you up with the Big Man.” I’d say.  Nah.  Just kidding, I wouldn’t rub it in like that.  Or would I?

The thing that really surprises me about this whole claim is how much media attention it is receiving.  Are people really that stupid?  Don’t answer that.  I even heard the story on ESPN radio.  This does not bode well for the gullibility of humans.  It pretty much means, if you say anything loud enough, long enough, and forcefully enough, you WILL get the attention of the masses.  Sad really.  Just think politics and it is enough to make you cry.

I refuse to discuss the validity of the Bible, the truth or lie of Jesus, and whether or not there will or not be a Rapture one day.  This is not what this blog is about.  But this blog is about how easy it is to get the masses to pay attention to what you have to say, and even get a large group of people to believe in what you have to say.  No doubt, there are many that believe that is how most, if not all religions began, and perhaps there is some truth to that, but what must be done to get people to think critically.  Believe or not this is true of hard-core scientific atheists.  They too gather in groups talking as one mind and pat each other on the back for believing in the same thing.  Add a few songs to their books and discussions, and you have church.

So, what’s my point?  Don’t really have one, other than the fact that tomorrow is likely to come without any fanfare and be no different from today.  And if you are like me and get some sex tonight, well then, Praise Jesus!

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My son invited two of his friends over tonight.  They had a great time and played very well together.  He has invited these friends of to our house about 20 times.  You know how many times they have invited him over to their houses? Zero.  To my surprise and jealousy, it does not bother Brett at all.  He likes to hang out with them, and it is clear that they like to hang out with him.  But here is the kicker, this is not normal thinking, but it SHOULD BE.  I wish I could be more like him in this respect.  Think about it, if you invited someone out to lunch, dinner, coffee, or any kind of excursion multiple times, and they NEVER returned the invite, wouldn’t you stop inviting them?  I know I would, and have, but it shouldn’t bother me so much.  You see my son has it right: If you want to hang out with someone, and they enjoy hanging out with you, but never return the invite, well, that;s their problem, not yours.  At least that’s how my son lives, and I could not be more proud.  I’m just sayin …

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So, if you want to piss me off, tell me what I can’t do.   I may not even want to do it, but if you tell me that I can’t, I will have no choice but to not only do it, but do it well.  This characteristic is both a blessing and a curse. 

I not only think I can, but I know I can.

On one hand, it has inspired me to excel in a number of things, especially academics.  For example, although I did not grow up in the civil rights era, I still had to contend with teachers that automatically assumed that I could not possibly be as smart as my white or Asian counterparts.

In middle school, we had a special day with our teachers to discuss future classes in high school.   I had a teacher tell me that I shouldn’t take AP (advanced placement) classes because it would be too difficult for me.  I took AP history and calculus in high school, and did well in both.  As a matter of fact, I was given a C in AP history, despite the fact that according to my records I should have had an A.  I talked to the teacher about it, showed him my records, showed him his grade policy and made it clear to him that my grade should not be a C, but an A.  The teacher changed the grade.  After he changed the grade, it pissed me off.  How could a teacher make an error in judgment that allows him to change a grade from a C to an A?  I have been a teacher now for approximately 15 years, and I have NEVER made an error that big.  As you can tell, this event that happened to me almost 25 years ago still bothers me.  It was clear that I was treated differently than my other classmates.  Another example occurred in high school, when for one semester, I was demoted to remedial English.  Granted, English was not my strongest subject, but remedial?  Even the teacher of the remedial English class did not understand why I was enrolled in her class.

I could easily turn this blog into a social commentary on how racism is alive and well and has held many students back simply based on the color of their skin.  I graduated from high school with a 3.9, I am in my high school’s hall of fame for track & field, and I graduated from UC Berkeley, and I still have multiple stories of people telling me that I was not smart enough to do things.  What about the black students that were B students, or C students, or even D students?  If as an A student I still faced obstacles, I can’t imagine what other students faced.  But this is not a blog about race, or not just about race, but about the obsession people have with what can’t be done.

Don’t tell me what I can’t do.  I can do anything, and just because you have chosen to limit yourself, don’t dare put that small thinking on me.  But, why are so many people concerned with other people’s opinions on what they can and can’t do?  And why am I not?  The easiest answer would be my parents, as I believe strongly that they instilled in me my “don’t give up” and the “don’t you dare tell me what to do” attitude.  But I want to go a little bit deeper.  In many ways it reminds me of ‘cultural legacy’ as described by Malcolm Gladwell in his book ‘Outliers: The Story of Success’.  I actually blogged about this book in My First Book Review.  In other words, do I have this attitude because of my culture?

In his book, ‘Outliers’ Gladwell describes a famous psychological experiment by Nisbett and Cohen.  They monitored reactions of people to being insulted.  Students were asked to answer a number of questions and then walk down a long, narrow hallway where unbeknownst to them, another person who was also part of the experiment would whisper the word “asshole” as they walked passed.  The researchers found that it did not matter if you were black, or white, rich or poor, a nerd or a jock, you responded to the insult the same, except for one surprising variable.  If you were from the South, regardless of your background, you reacted strongly to the comment, but students from the North actively calmed themselves when they heard the comment.  The author suggested that the “Culture of Honor” was passed down through generations of Southerners irrespective of almost any other environmental or genetic factor.

I think about the history of African-Americans in this country and wonder if I am the recipient of a “Culture of Rebellion”.  I think about the long list adversities that black people have suffered in this country, but yet have been inspired to create music, poetry, innovation, and various forms of success in spite of the obstacles placed in the way.  Although I would never compare my obstacles to slavery, lynch mobs, nor laws of discrimination, but the fact remains, I have a strong visceral response to people trying to prevent me from doing things.  Can culture be inherited?  If you have a cultural history in which the ‘sky was the limit’ or your ancestors had many options, maybe limitations would not be such a bad thing.  But if your ancestors were oppressed and limited by the dominant culture, self-imposed limitations would be counter-intuitive and very maladaptive to an oppressive environment.  As a matter of fact, under oppressive conditions, a spirit of rebellion would be necessary for upward mobility.  Quite frankly, if you examine history, some of the greatest innovations and social movements have come out of great adversity.   Maybe it is from my parents, maybe it is genetic, or maybe I have inherited a “Culture of Rebellion”, but I am glad I have it and I hope my kids will have it too, because no one should limit their potential by telling them what they can and cannot do.

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A couple of months ago Taco Bell was sued.  The lawsuit claimed that Taco Bell was wrong for calling their beef burritos, well, beef burritos because the burritos only contained 35% beef.  Taco Bell responded to the lawsuit by stating that their beef burritos contained 88% beef.  Soon after the news of the lawsuit became public and Taco Bell’s response, Taco Bell put their burritos on sale for 88 cents.  Don’t think this new price was lost on me, what about you?  Nonetheless, I have accepted the fact that their burritos are 88% beef.  It also makes me better appreciate McDonald’s for stating that their burgers are 100% beef.  Especially since I used to think that this was as stupid advertisement.  I often thought why would they tell me that their burgers were 100% beef? 

Remember this commercial?

What else would it be?  Turns out there are other options.  But here is my problem:  I actually don’t mind that Taco Bell beef burritos are not 100% beef.  But why won’t Taco Bell tell us what is in the remaining 12%? I haven’t eaten there since.  I’m just sayin …

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