Thursday, October 31, 2013

Recent Observations



  • While handing out candy to trick-or-treaters, I observed a young boy (probably around 7) whose costume consisted of jeans and a Miller Lite t-shirt. More disturbing that the parent’s decision to place their offspring in a beer t-shirt was the fact that the shirt was appropriately sized for a child of his age. Who at Miller Brewing said, “Does anyone see an issue with licensing our logo to Gymboree?” and got no response? There is always the possibility that what I attributed to laziness and sub-par parenting was an ingenious dig at the boy’s father. Had I asked, the mother might have responded that the boy was disguised as her ex-husband since he was jobless, sloppily attired, and asking for handouts.    
  • A few weeks ago I found myself following a car with a personalized license plate that read “AMERICA.” While the owner’s patriotism did not strike me as particularly unusual, the fact that he chose to affix this license plate to a distinctly foreign sedan was somewhat ironic. Generally speaking, if you are of the mindset willing to expend the money and effort necessary to become the only person in your entire state that has “America” on their tags you would likely purchase from a domestic manufacturer. Of course, there is also the possibility that he confused the “Country” and “Desired Tag” fields on the form and has been too embarrassed to correct it.  

  • While recently attending a downtown event geared toward children, I was treated to the sounds of a local rock band. Their musicianship was admirable, but they kept playing Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash and placing extra vocal emphasis on the “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die” section. There was something disconcerting about witnessing a group of grade-school children clapping along. Much to my chagrin, I was unable to break away long enough to request Creeping Death by Metallica.

  • I have reached my limit on being forced to carry “loyalty keychain lanyards” for every business I have ever patronized in the continental United States. Every bookstore, restaurant, pet store, grocery, pharmacy, gym, and pawn shop has a “rewards card” program where you are forced to divulge your home address in exchange for the ability to hand them your money without being hassled at the register. If you don’t possess one, you are subjected a variation of the following exchange:

“Are you a secret VIP rewards zone member?”
“No”
“Wouldn’t you like to become one? It’s free and it qualifies you to receive bi-monthly 10% coupons for quarterly purchases of yearly merchandise. Plus, you get a newsletter with special promotional pricing for holiday items”
“No thanks; just the Sprite and what I owe on pump 5 will be fine”
(Cashier’s face becomes a mask of disbelief as if you have just refused eternal salvation) “Oh…if you’re sure…”

There are probably Colombian drug cartels asking coke mules if they have their “narcotics loyalty card” on them at this very moment. When did it stop being acceptable for me to simply pay for my merchandise and leave the premises? No offense, but I am not sure I am going to accumulate enough points at participating Nevada-area BP stations to justify 45 minutes of paperwork.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Distopia



I recently had the pleasure of perusing the 2013 World Happiness report which attempts to ascertain the level of “life satisfaction” experienced by a particular country’s populace and then compare that to other countries. The study utilized a fictional sovereign nation called “Distopia” to which they attributed the lowest worldwide average of 6 key variables: GDP per capita, years of healthy life expectancy, social support, perceptions of corruption, prevalence of generosity, and freedom to make life choices. They then ranked the 156 countries to decide which sovereign nation was the happiest.

Out of all the nations to appear in the report, Denmark received the study’s highest marks for happiness while the United States wasn’t even the happiest country in North America (Canada and Mexico were both ranked higher). Aside from making our fight against illegal immigration seem ironic, the report highlighted some interesting aspects of our country.


The first sub-category is GDP per-capita (or the total value of all goods and services produced by a country divided by country’s population) and according to the International Monetary Fund, the United States is consistently ranked lower than Denmark or Canada in this category so that would contribute to our 17th place overall finish. Using this economic metric, Denmark generates an average of $6,000 more per citizen per year and Canada generates about $2,000 more per citizen per year. Mexico wasn’t even in the running. 

The second sub-category is years of “healthy” life expectancy. I assume this means that they adjusted the regular life expectancy for people who are vegetative or enjoy Taco Bell on a regular basis. The United States was again ranked below Denmark and Canada but ahead of Mexico. This could also be partially explained by the fact that America’s obesity rate is almost double of those in Canada or Denmark.


The last three sub-categories are much more difficult to quantify as they are generally the result of responses to “yes” or “no” questions like, “Do you have someone in your life that you could count whenever you need them?” and “Are you satisfied that you have the freedom to do what you want with your life?" It appears that several countries scored lower because their populace is prohibited from answering questions about freedom.

Mostly, I was disappointed that they did not further elaborate on what Distopia would look like in practical terms so I took it upon myself to create some specifics on this depressingly unhappy country.

Governance –Revolving monthly dictatorship based on height.

Geography – 12,452 square miles of treacherous ravines bordered by a half-dozen active volcanoes. Area is prone to flooding, drought, and holiday landslides.

Education – Compulsory repression classes until the age of 12 followed by six months of mandatory self-loathing seminars.   

Climate –High risk for arctic tornadoes and drought lightning. Sun is visible only between 11:42 and 11:46 AM during the month of June.

Economy – Carcinogen manufacturing and Maury Povich transcription services provide the majority of household income. Individual tax rates are determined by zodiac sign.

Military – Standing army is comprised of 150 nearsighted middle school children armed with T-shirt cannons. Navy consists of 3 decommissioned “bumper-boats” and one Nerf N-Elite RapidStrike CS-18 Blaster.
 
Religion – Charismatic Scientology (85%) / Militant Quakers (14%) / Orthodox Agnosticism (1%)
 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Do You Poop Enough?



While browsing the web last week I was presented with, what I felt to be, a rather impertinent question. A web page ad asked me if I “poop enough.” The question appeared next to a picture of what is either a snuggling ferret or an unfortunately-shaped bagel. Eager to discover whether or not the frequency of my bowel movements were cause for concern, I clicked the link and was taken to the Toxic Belly Bug Fix website.   
Apparently these nefarious microorganisms are responsible for everything from cancer to failed relationships. Fortunately, the site includes a list of risk factors associated with infection. You could be stricken if you have ever been exposed to the following:
  • Sugar
  • Antibiotics
  • Pollution
  • Toothpaste
  • Alcohol
  • Processed Foods

Clearly, my digestive system was on the brink of disaster so I navigated to the “symptoms list” to ascertain my level of infection. Symptoms of Toxic Belly Bug include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Headaches
  • Skin Problems
  • Trouble Sleeping
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Overall Sickness

Just as it appeared that all hope was lost, the site revealed that registered dietician (and VP of Research and Development at BioTrust Nutrition) Brett Hall had a solution. For $50 per bottle, I could receive doses of a pro-biotic supplements guaranteed to put an end to my lonely, sleepless nights spent fighting the squirts. It was almost too good to be true.
Brett Hall
Although I was unable to independently verify Brett’s credentials (or existence), he is referenced by a number of reputable websites like “thefutureofhealthnow.com/double-your-fatloss-without-diet-or-exercise-really” so there is little doubt concerning his legitimacy.Plus, how could you doubt the sincerity of anyone with a head-shot like that?

How many people fall for this? I can just imagine some poor soul saying to themselves, "What are the chances!? I use toothpaste AND experience occasional headaches!" Of course, the key term in all of this is "belly fat." They know full well that their target demographic is a self-conscious woman whose tireless struggle with her midsection has dramatically reduced her sales resistance.This product (and those like it) exist simply to exploit the superficiality they help create.

That being said, I must admire the marketing strategy and it has inspired me to launch my own pseudo-medical product. First I needed an appropriately horrifying ailment to cure. I have settled on “Parasitic Gastrointestinal Pneumonia" (or PCP for short). Its effects are as vague as they are devastating:
  • General Malaise
  • Chronic, Intermittent, or Occasional Physical Discomfort
  • Recurring hunger and/or thirst  
  • Sensitivity to light, heat, cold, or racism
  • Irregular sneezing
  • Fatigue associated with exhaustion

You may be at risk if you satisfy one or more of the following risk factors:

  • Biological parents with a history of sexual activity
  • Past consumption of sodium
  • Exposure to suspected carcinogens
  • Contact with carpeted surfaces
  • Family history of illness and/or death
Fortunately for the afflicted, they will be able to purchase my BioWeave Intestinal Drops with X5 Technology. Taken just twice daily two times each day, they can restore your vitality and mitigate the effects of PCP.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Shutdown



I once heard someone say that Democrats are elected to implement mistakes and Republicans are elected to ensure that those mistakes are never fixed. I find such a sentiment apropos given the events of the past several weeks. While our elected representatives continue to draw a paycheck for petty bickering and shameless brinksmanship, the vast majority of Americans found their lives adversely impacted by the partial government shutdown. As bitter partisanship becomes more commonplace, our country takes on the appearance of a deferred hostage situation with the livelihood of its people being consistently exploited as collateral.

The effort to partially close the Federal government was spearheaded by Texas Senator Ted Cruz who is himself a walking dichotomy. He catalyzed an unpopular government shutdown with a speech in which he bemoaned that once people get to Washington “they stop listening to the American people.” He rallies against government interference in the free market, but is married to a Goldman-Sachs executive whose employer received billions in Federal bailout assistance as a result of the AIG settlement. He maintains his eligibility for president (despite being born in a foreign country and fathered by a non-US citizen) while enjoying the support of voters who fervently maintained that such a configuration would render Barack Obama ineligible for the very same office.

That is not to say Senator Cruz’s criticisms of the Affordable Care Act are unfounded. While I believe the ability to receive medical treatment should be a right and not a privilege, I am far from convinced that Obamacare is the most effective or responsible methodology for achieving that end. Trying to arrest healthcare costs while maintaining a profit-driven health insurance marketplace is a fool’s errand; there is simply not enough money to go around. That being said, I am not na├»ve enough to believe that unfettered capitalism will lead us to the promised land of fair and affordable healthcare. The solution lies somewhere between these two ideologies; sweeping reforms operating within the confines of a fiscally-responsible framework.

Soon enough, the conversation shifted toward entitlements and government overspending. Again, these are legitimate concerns being clouded by oversimplification. Some would point to an “entitlement society” inundated by lazy non-contributing zeros whose only goal is discovering the most efficient method of relieving hardworking taxpayers of their income. Others would insist that anyone who openly criticizes the long-term viability of such programs is a heartless racist hiding behind a veneer of fiscal conservatism. Both assumptions are unfair, insulting, and factually incorrect.

Many programs have been proven unsustainable in their current incarnation and voicing concern doesn’t make you elitist or racist it makes you responsible. Conversely, food stamp usage amongst military families is set to hit a record $100 million this year (in addition to the $31.2 million in WIC entitlements) so let’s not pretend that everyone who accepts government assistance should be dismissed as parasitic.

Inevitably, our legislative branch will reach a symbolic agreement that does nothing outside of validating their already plunging approval ratings and reinforce the need for term-limits. Both sides will claim victory in order to validate their obstinacy and issue statements congratulating themselves for “standing with the American people.” I recently saw a statistic that claimed only 1 in 5 congressional seats are in reasonable danger of changing hands at the next election. Perhaps we, as voters, should take it upon ourselves to eliminate congressional job security.