Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Headache

With the recent discovery of the Higgs boson particle, the tireless efforts of scientists worldwide have generated a blitz of media coverage. Such a breakthrough would serve to validate 50 years of physics and will likely prove to be the crowning achievement of the Large Hadron Collider. Sadly, this milestone could be overshadowed by a recently published case study entitled “Headaches Induced by Pornography Use.”

The authors, Kuljeet Singh Anand  and Vikas Dhikav, followed the case of a 24 year-old male software engineer who suffered from “episodes of severe, exploding” headaches upon “watching pornographic videos for the past two years.” The affliction does not affect any other sexual activity, nor does there seem to be scientific reason behind it. When the afflicted young man suggested he simply discontinue his adult viewing habits, he was “advised” to take ibuprofen “half an hour before watching, to which he reported significant pain relief.”
I am not sure what it says about males in general (or computers techs as a profession) that we would willingly submit ourselves to “severe, exploding” headaches for a solid two years before it occurred to us to just stop watching porn. Perhaps even more disturbing is his physician’s reaction to the young man’s long gestating epiphany. Instead of advising his patient to avoid a non-essential activity that causes debilitating suffering, he simply suggests that the most prudent course of action would be to schedule said activity in order to pre-medicate.

How do these people get medical degrees? Let me tell you something, if I tell my physician that the only time I lose control of my bowels is when I watch an episode of Matlock and his first response is “avoid sitting on the nice couch when it comes on,” I am going to shop around for a second opinion. That is like suggesting to my doctor that I should stop smoking five packs a day and he counters that taking a multivitamin would be sufficient.

While I agree it is a curious case, what exactly are we adding to the collective medical knowledge of humanity with this paper? This is literally the only documented case of this affliction on a planet of seven billion people. I feel like we have forgotten how to prioritize. Let’s cure cancer and then, if we have some spare time after developing a vaccine for turtle rabies, we can tackle this. Even if it wasn’t just one person, this sort of ailment isn’t exactly telethon-ready. A nerd with porn-induced migraines doesn’t exactly tug on the heartstrings. I can picture the Sarah Mclachlan-scored television ads now:

            Every year millions of young software engineers enjoy hours of high-quality girl-on-girl action, but not Walter. While the rest of the software programmers are free to enjoy solitary carnal recreation, Walter has no other option but to pursue an emotionally-fulfilling relationship with a member of the opposite sex. You see, Walter suffers from an exceedingly-rare genetic condition that makes it difficult for him to watch pornography without getting a headache. Sure, he could just take two Aleve before screening “Waffle House Hotties 3” but doesn’t Walter deserve better? Shouldn’t he have access to the freedoms the rest of us take for granted?    

Please call now, and with your generous donation we will send you a photo of Walter along with a list of his favorite stag films and signed copy of his internet browser history.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Like most of you, I was horrified to learn of the shootings in Aurora, Colorado. Since the news broke, the Internet has become inundated with people attempting to utilize the tragedy to reinforce their pre-existing worldview. This includes everything from gun control to Christian theology and I am not sure any of it is very constructive.

Those advocating tighter gun controls have used the incident as a rallying cry, insisting that it was guns that enabled a disturbed man to become an efficient killer.  They would remind us that no reasonable person needs 6,000 rounds of ammunition, a ballistic helmet, and an AR-15 to deter a burglar or defend their family.  While tighter controls could possibly infringe on civil liberties it is a chance we should take in order to protect the innocent and prevent these tragedies in the future.

Those advocating less gun oversight would counter that argument by pointing out that preventing law-abiding citizens from defending themselves would only give criminals the advantage. They would retort that this type of scenario is exactly why most Americans carry guns in the first place and that we cannot allow our Constitutional freedoms to be eroded simply because one mentally deranged person decided to commit a cowardly act of violence. Perhaps criminals will think twice if their victims can shoot back. 
Personally, I think they are both right and both wrong. If someone of Holmes’ intelligence and drive wishes to take innocent human life they can accomplish it with or without guns. We know that he was fairly proficient with explosives, so had his access to guns been limited it is likely that we would have simply fashioned an IED.

It is also worth noting that Mr. Holmes acquired all of his weapons, body-armor, and ammunition through legal means because he had no criminal record. It would be nearly impossible to effectively profile a pre-med honor-student with no history of violent behavior. How do you screen someone whose first crime is an unfathomable massacre? Until he fired the first round inside the theater James Holmes was, by any reasonable definition, a responsible gun-owner exercising his second amendment rights

Generally speaking Colorado is gun-friendly, allows undocumented open carry and issues permits for concealed carry. In fact, if NCIC background checks per capita is used to estimate gun ownership levels, Colorado is in the top 15.This places it ahead of traditionally gun friendly states like Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. This would seem to indicate that blaming gun restrictions is as baseless as blaming the guns themselves.

By the same token, I am not sure the threat of armed citizens would have deterred someone who has already lost touch with reality. Nor is it likely that a well-meaning patron could have effectively returned fire at an aggressor who was shielded behind ballistic gear and moving swiftly through a dark, smoke-filled theater, especially when that aggressor has the advantage of complete surprise.

Now I am sure that I will hear from people who would argue that they would be the exception to the rule. They will insist that while the rest of us mortals are taking cover and soiling our underwear they would be leaping sideways in slow motion as their implausibly well-placed rounds circumvented the shooter’s ballistic armor. While I will admit this is a possibility, no one can accurately predict how they will react to being shot at by someone intending to kill them (although I feel pretty confident about my own involuntary bowel evacuation prophecy).  

Perhaps even worse than the incessant bickering over firearm legislation is the attempts of mostly well-meaning spiritual leaders to explain the incident.

Evangelical pastor Jerry Newcombe responded to the tragedy this way:

I can't help but feel that to some extent, we're reaping what we've been sowing as a society. We said to God, "Get out of the public arena." Lawsuit after lawsuit, often by misguided "civil libertarians," have chased away any fear of God in the land -- at least in the hearts of millions.
Tens of millions of young people in this culture seem to have no fear of God. It's becoming too commonplace that some frustrated person will go on a killing spree of random people. If they kill themselves, they think it's all over. But that's like going from the frying pan into the fire. Where's the fear of God in our society?

Newcombe is not the only Christian putting in their two cents worth. The tragedy, along with the fact that four of those dead are active-duty military personnel, has not escaped the notice of Westboro Baptist Church who is planning to picket in Colorado using the motto “God Sent The Shooter!”

While many would agree with Newcombe’s assessment and recoil at Westboro’s, both are leading us to the same conclusion. In either case the implication is that our collective disobedience as a nation has culminated in the death of innocent people. That if we had prayed more at high school graduations, allowed the Ten Commandments in more state capitals, or been less accommodating to homosexuals God would have intervened and spared these families the anguish they now feel.

While I cannot speak for God, I can assure you that if I was mourning a loved one who died at that theater I don’t know that the “someone had to be murdered so we could all see the error of our ways” argument would sit well with me. The inevitable question would then become “Why would God chose my child to make an example of?” Following this thread can only lead to the inevitable conclusion that this young man was an instrument of God, an idea I am unable to stomach.

I understand the desire to apply reason to chaos or purpose to suffering, but the reality is that people died in that theater because one man chose to kill them. This tragedy cannot be elevated by reckless theological speculation or assuaged by the authoring or rescinding of gun control laws. We must simply offer the respect and sympathy these victims deserve and realize that all of our religious and political posturing fades in the presence of such senseless loss.      

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Power Chair

Recently, my wife and I were walking through a local furniture store when I started noticing that all of the recliners were advertising “free power upgrades.” When I inquired as to what this was, I was shown a pair of buttons on the side of the recliner that either elevated or retracted the footrest using a built-in motor.

Now I fully realize that the entire point of a recliner is relaxation, but if you are too feeble to manipulate the handle of a traditional arm-chair then perhaps the “power upgrade” you need is going to be a little more involved than just the footrest. How lazy have we become as a society that manual reclining is too taxing on our delicate bodies? Was there a public outcry concerning the “pull and lean” system I was unaware of? I was tempted to ask if they had a model with a bedpan so that I could evacuate my bowels without changing positions.

All I am saying is that if I pay extra to install an electric motor in a chair I own, it better have wheels and a speedometer. On top of that, who wants to arrange their furniture based on how close it is to an electrical outlet? I bet forty-five percent of divorces began with a disagreement over sofa positioning, so do we really want to throw the wildcard of being tethered to a 4-foot electrical cord into the mix?

I believe the entire thing is a conspiracy to sell consumers an “Extended Warranty Package” because the only thing more embarrassing that paying for a robo-chair is paying for one and not having the money to fix it. Can you imagine inviting people over for a Super Bowl party and asking them to bring camp chairs because half your furniture is “in the shop?”

Of course, some people would simply decline the extended warranty, buy a surge protector for the recliner, and take their chances.  Even with as little pride as I have, I draw the line at purchasing protective wiring for my ottoman. However, how embarrassing would it be to claim your loveseat on a lightning-strike homeowner’s claim?

“Sir, in addition to you television, DVR, and PC did you have any other damage from the lightning strike?”

“Actually, my sectional took a direct hit and I can no longer recline. Also, the infrared drawbridge armrest is stuck in the 2 o-clock position and my lumbar pre-sets are all screwed up.”

“Oh, I am sorry about that sir. I did not realize you were disabled.”

“I’m not. I was just tired of my electrical bill being unaffected by how often I use my living room furniture.”

Perhaps there is a demand for this type furniture, but I have never heard anyone sit down in a traditional recliner, lean back, and exclaim, “There has to be an easier way!” This is a slippery slope America. First we have remote control drones fighting wars for us, and then our recliners need a 20-AMP circuit. Pretty soon my LED TV will come with a “swivel engine” so I do not have to manually adjust the viewing angle while I am trying to upgrade the firmware in my beverage coaster. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Where There's Smoke...

Holyoke, Massachusetts Deputy Fire Chief Timothy Moran has given two decades of service to the city he loves, so the community was shocked when he abruptly retired after being disciplined for his role in a artistic endeavor. Apparently, he gave permission for a group of female bikini-models to utilize city fire trucks, equipment, and property for a photo shoot. The incident took place outside Fire Department headquarters and a local paper obtained photos of the girls clad in turnout gear and brandishing axes while posing in front of Holyoke Fire Engines.
A picture from the firehouse photo shoot
The Moran legacy doesn’t end there. On June 15, 2011, Tim and his older brother Will (then acting fire chief of Holyoke) were having lunch at a local restaurant when they spotted a couple of on-duty fireman walking into a nearby delicatessen. Chief Will called in a fake emergency to dispatch (so he could see the two firemen come scrambling out) and the firemen and the rest of their company were on the way to this false fire when they were involved in a four-vehicle accident that sent one citizen to the hospital. The prank resulted in criminal charges for Will and the loss of his position as acting fire chief.

It certainly sounds as if sound decision making isn’t a Moran family tradition. I fully understand that “no” was probably not the initial response that popped into Tim’s head when he was asked if scantily-clad models could bounce around the firehouse for the duration of B shift, but perhaps allowing all this to transpire in front of the public was not the best career move. Taxpayers know we are often getting screwed, but do us the courtesy of not beating us over the heads with it.

The public outrage was likely justified, especially because response times to a fire could be affected. I can almost hear the testimony now:

“Explain again why the Johnson homed burned down before you were able to get there?”

“Well sir, Tiffany & Sarah were arguing over who got to wear the haz-mat mask and the men were reluctant to break up what could conceivably evolve into a tickle fight. To further exacerbate the chaos, none of us realized that Briana was still bent over the bumper of the snorkel truck waiting for a makeup re-touch and we almost backed over her leg. We dodged a bullet there sir.”

As poor as Tim’s call to allow the shoot was, he will always be eclipsed by his brother. There is nothing wrong with a lighthearted practical joke to buoy morale, but dispatching an entire engine company just to see a couple of guys wolf down a meatball sub seems unprofessional. The town is lucky he wasn’t the police chief or for an encore he might have murdered a homeless man just to watch the on call detective truncate a bowel movement and dash from the men’s room.

All moral indignation aside, the least they could have done is made a little money from the shoot. After all, municipal coffers need all the help they can get nowadays and the program of attractive coeds with city owned property & equipment could become a real breadwinner through calendar sales. This could mesh nicely with Holyoke’s “City Parks After Dark” series. I have even taken the liberty of jotting down a few calendar themes:

  • Waste-bins & Perfect 10’s
  • Backhoes & Pantyhose
  • Porn Stars & Patrol Cars
  • Man-hole covers & Redhead lovers
  • Hot Blondes & Retention Ponds
  • Public Works & Wet Shirts
  • Traffic Stops & Halter Tops
  • Lingerie & Right-of-Way

Saturday, July 14, 2012


There are generally three techniques people use to address traffic-light panhandlers:
1.      Moved by their stated situation (homeless veteran, etc.), we donate and hope that they will wisely utilize the funds to turn their life around.
2.      Angry that anyone would have the audacity to beg for money while the rest of us manage to support ourselves we yell “Get a job!” or “I hope your curiously well-behaved canine turns on you!”
3.      We utilize the “stare-ahead” to avoid eye-contact and presumably remain neutral (or at least tacitly disapprove of the tactic).
I admit that it is difficult to validate any information supplied by a cardboard sign, thus making the decision to give or not to give dependent upon how honest you believe the person to be. For instance, it pains me to think that anyone who has bravely served our county would find themselves in such dire straits, but there is also the possibility that the panhandler is simply a shrewd operator who is taking advantage of the intrinsic sympathy many of us have for soldiers.

It is in this environment of motivational uncertainty we find thirty-seven year old Ohio resident Chrissy Lance. For the past few days she has been standing beside a red-light in Akron with a sign that reads, “Not Homeless! Need Boobs.” According to local media affiliates, Miss Lance is a single mother and college student who currently works as a barmaid; and while her job provides enough to support herself she has been unable to save the $5,000 needed for breast augmentation. 

So, inspired by other panhandlers, she acquired a permit from the city, threw on a bikini, and began requesting the needed funds from local motorists. To date she has acquired about $100 and her share of detractors. Because of the potential negativity, her friend Steve has agreed to be her bodyguard and when the 57 year old was asked why he donated his services for free he replied, “She's just trying to move on in her life and build herself up.” 
Chrissy & Bodyguard Steve
I must admit that her honesty is somewhat refreshing and even though a Roth IRA or college savings account might be a more prudent use of $5,000 I suppose she is free to use the donations for whatever she wants. Some have argued that if she has enough free time to stand around at an intersection she could get a second job to pay for her enhancements. While that may be true, there are a lot of upsides to bikini panhandling. After all, it would be tough to find another career with such flexible hours and minimal startup costs. Plus, think of all the creepy leering and suggestive comments she would miss out on if she were to only work as a barmaid.

I still cannot figure out bodyguard Steve’s angle in all of this. Does he have a job? Are they dating? Has he been stuck in the “friend-zone” so long that he couldn’t say no when Chrissy asked him to spend his waking hours watching her solicit money for her procedure? After all, isn’t he suffering all the indignities of begging without any of the financial gain? Perhaps I am selling Steve short and he simply wishes to help a friend reach a goal, but it is generally difficult for heterosexual men to be altruistic when boobies are involved. Five buck says he has already made a joke about how much he enjoys “supporting her breasts.”  

Maybe Chrissy’s blatant honesty will catch on and soon I will see people holding signs that say:

“While I would like a job, the cyclical nature of poverty precludes me from acquiring one since most of the perquisites for gainful employment are the very creature comforts that gainful employment provides. It is for this reason I have decided to discard my last remaining scrap of dignity and misrepresent myself as a paraplegic war veteran whose only immediate concern is treating the life-threatening chronic illness that ravages my body. Perhaps once you understand my motives you can forgive my deceptive practices.”

Of course, it is much easier to fit “Disabled, Diabetic, and Honorably Discharged” on a sign……