Die, suits. Die.

I’m going to buy a new suit today,.

It’s a little crazy, since I don’t wear suits, Or ties. Or anything formal at all.

I’ve been know to throw a sports coat over a tee shirt if necessary, but I completely abandoned neckties about 15 years ago (because they are stupid) and stopped wearing suits unless I’m working as the DJ at a wedding or officiating a ceremony wedding and am asked to wear one.

On Saturday I’ll be officiating the wedding ceremony of one of my very first students, so I’ve decided to up my game a bit. The suits that I own now are all too big for me, so if I must wear one, I’ll at least get one that fits.

That said, the suit industry is cratering. Suits are less expensive today - about 25% cheaper than back in 2000 - and overall sales of suits have steeply declined.

In 1950, the average American man purchased 0.5 suits per year.

In 2018, that figure was down to .07 suits per man.

The suit is dying a slow death, and thank goodness. Like the necktie, which is little more than a decorative noose, the suit It serves no earthly purpose, and in most cases, simply represents a barrier between those can afford a good suit and those who cannot.

The sooner these unnecessary ornamentations of the fashion industry die, the better.

Good riddance, you wasteful, pointless, stupid convention.

That said, I’ll buy my suit today and happily wear it on Saturday because I’m thrilled and honored and overjoyed to be officiating the wedding of a person who I first taught to read and write way back in second grade.

A young woman who later became the very first babysitter of our children.

A person who we have thought of as a member of our family for a very long time.

Though I admittedly become obstreperous and grumpy when I’m forced to wear something because of silly social conventions, this time it’s different.

I’m not wearing a suit because anyone is expecting or demanding that I do. I wearing a suit because I’m excited to do so for Allison, whose wedding day deserves to be perfect.

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Many traditions are kind of stupid. Some are epically stupid.

Residents in the town of Nejapa in El Salvador have been commemorating a volcanic eruption in 1658 which destroyed the town by hurling fireballs at each other.

Yes, that’s right. Residents take to the streets with gasoline-soaked rags and hurl them at one another.

Check it out.

If you like this video, go to YouTube. There are many more. Each is equally terrifying.

The annual event has been a tradition since 1922, and the fireballs are said to represent the local Christian saint, Jeronimo, fighting the devil inside the volcano with his own balls of fire.

Is it culturally insensitive for me to say that this is a very stupid tradition?

I understand that lots of traditions are kind of stupid in that they are illogical, inane, or represent some truth from hundreds or thousands of years ago that is no longer the case. When viewed objectively, many traditions - both religious and cultural - make little sense.

I get that.

But when you’re throwing fire at another human being and allowing fire to be hurled at you, I think we’ve move beyond the realm of quaint or outdated or nonsensical and into the realm of epically, historically, supremely stupid.

If that makes me culturally insensitive, so be it.

Then again, I also stand firmly against the traditions of female genital mutilation, cannibalism, bullfighting, and all traditionally patriarchal institutions and customs of any kind (I’m looking at you, Catholic Church amongst many others).

Also two stupid traditions that I have written about before:

Spain’s baby jumping and Vrontados’ Rouketopolemos, the tradition in which two rival church congregations in the town perform a "rocket war" by firing tens of thousands of home-made rockets across town, with the objective of hitting the bell tower of the rival church

All of those traditions are epically stupid, too. Far stupider and more dangerous and destructive than most.

I don’t think it’s culturally insensitive to identify certain traditions and customs as stupider than others, and I’d like to think that fireball throwing makes that list.

YOLO is not new

A twenty-something explained on a podcast that her generation doesn’t believe in allowing things to pass them by.

“You know,” she said. “YOLO. That’s where that word comes from.”

Just for the record:

YOLO is an acronym popularized by Drake in his hit song “The Motto,” but it’s certainly nothing new. “You only live once” is a sentiment that has existed for a long, long time. Simply because the current generation of young people have affixed an acronym to an age-old expression doesn’t make them any more daring than previous generations.

When my friend, Bengi, and I decided to drive overnight from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Myrtle Beach, SC to avoid losing a day of vacation to traveling after having already been awake for nearly 24 hours (and ended up seeing identical delusional clowns on the side of the road in South Carolina), we certainly could’ve been shouting “YOLO!” through our car windows.

When I agreed to compete in an underground, middle-of-the-night arm wrestling gambling ring in Brockton, MA , I could’ve shouted “YOLO!” upon descending the stairs in that abandoned elementary school.

When I decided to dam a river to see if I could cut off the supply of water to The Basin, an ancient rock and water tourist attraction in the mountains of Laconia, NH (and succeeded), I could’ve shouted “YOLO” when the first tree fell across the river.

When so many of my friends decided that it was better to work two or three jobs, sleep on couches, and eat ramen rather than living for a single second more with their parents, they all could’ve been shouting “YOLO!” from the windows of their cruddy apartments.

Simply because my generation and the generations before me didn’t apply an acronym to the sentiment or speak incessantly about the importance of living your life like you only live once doesn’t mean we weren’t doing so.

So just stop.

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Am I a jerk because I think this way?

This sign is affixed to the side of a local school. It’s got a lot of problems.

There is the obvious and tragic punctuation problem, of course.

“OWNERS” is missing a possessive apostrophe. Presumably someone (or hopefully many people) working at the school have noticed the mistake and decided to accept the error rather than ordering a new sign and having it replaced.

It’s not what I would do, but fine. I get it. Bigger fish to fry.

I just believe in frying a lot of fish, both big and small, and I can personally fry a lot of fish at the same time.

Also, “snow storm” is one word. I’m not sure if breaking it into two words is incorrect in the eyes of a grammarian, but it looks strange to me. I don’t like it.

But here’s my bigger problem with the sign:

Isn’t it always “prior to or during” a snow storm? I know I’m diving into semantics a bit, but as I write this, near the end of July, am I not “prior to” a snow storm?

Yes, the next snowstorm might be half a year a way, but still, this moment in which I currently occupy is prior to a snowstorm. In fact, haven’t I spent every single moment of my life either “prior to or during” a snowstorm?

I know. I’s a silly argument. We all understand what the sign means. The makers of the sign could’ve added an adjective to denote a specific time period prior to a snowstorm in order to appease someone as annoying and pedantic as me, but why bother? We all get it.

Even I get it.

Right?

Still, it annoys me. When I parked in front of this sign last week, it was prior to a snowstorm, damn it.

I think this line of criticism really says more about me than it does about the need to change this sign based upon this semantic complaint, but here’s my concern:

Is the thing it says about me positive or negative?

I worried that it’s the latter.

Either way, fix the damn apostrophe. You’re a school. The first thing a visitor sees can’t be a punctuation error.

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I'm going to criticize you and then stop listening to you because I'm stupid.

Mike Pesca, host of Slate’s podcast The Gist, was responding to emails and tweets on Friday after listeners wrote to him in response to a segment he did on the likelihood of the pronoun “they” becoming a universally accepted, commonly-used singular, gender-neutral pronoun.

Mike’s argument was simple:

It’s unlikely that a word as commonly used as “they” to indicate a plurality of people will ever become the gender-neutral singular pronoun that so many desire. It’s simply too ingrained in our lexicon as a plural pronoun for it to be accepted in a singular form.

Mike wasn’t opposed to “they” becoming a gender-neutral singular pronoun. In fact, he uses “they” as a singular pronoun when asked. He’s also not opposed to gender-neutral pronouns in general. He simply doesn’t think that a noun as ubiquitously used as “they” will shift its meaning in the direction that some people would like.

Some listeners who failed at listening thought that Mike was standing in opposition of gender-neutral pronouns and wrote angry screeds to him in response.

This is fine. Misunderstandings happen. Confusion is common. Feedback is always appreciated and helpful. Perhaps these listeners were doing the dishes, changing a flat tire, or operating heavy machinery while listening to the podcast and missed his point.

But what annoyed me was the listener who wrote to falsely criticize Mike for opposing gender-neutral pronouns and then informed him that she would no longer be listening to his until-now excellent podcast.

I hate this.

I hate it so much.

Why tell Mike that he is wrongheaded and then not bother to continue to listen to a podcast that you liked at least enough to be listening to in the first place to see if Mike responds?

When you tell someone that they have made a mistake, it’s only right and sensible to offer a chance to respond.

This annoys me because it’s stupid. But it also annoys me because it happens to me, too. In its most benign form, it's a follower on Twitter who is angry about something I tweeted. He fires off an angry tweet in response and then blocks me, preventing me from defending myself or clarifying my opinion.

It’s similarly happened in regards to a blog post. Someone doesn’t like an opinion that I expressed and writes to me in response, informing me that she is no longer subscribed to my blog nor will she be returning to my website ever again, offering me no opportunity to explain, expound, or clarify.

In its worst form, someone actually says to me, in person, “I’m going to tell you how I feel, but I don’t want to hear your response. I’m not in the mood for your logic or rhetoric. I just want to be heard, and then I’m moving on.”

Admittedly this does not happen often, but it’s happened often enough that I’d need more than two hands to count the number of times it’s been said to me, by colleagues, friends, a boss, my former step-father, a college professor, and an ex-girlfriend who said it to me quite often.

Not Elysha Dicks, of course. She is more than willing to listen to my stupid excuses and and bat them away.

Shutting off discourse and debate is stupid, but shutting off discourse and debate after you’ve engaged in discourse and debate is super-duper stupid.

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As a Disney shareholder, here are a few improvements that the parks needs now.

As a Disney shareholder, I spent much of our recent vacation to the Magic Kingdom and its surrounding parks looking for ways to enhance the customer experience.

I found a few.

Many were related to specific rides.

My philosophy on a Disney ride is simple:

It needs to make my heart skip a beat, either through the sense of magic, wonder, excitement, or nostalgia that it creates. Many do. Most, in fact, do, making the failures even more pronounced.

The Tomorrowland Speedway, for example, is simply an inferior version of the go-karts that you can ride in my town. In fact, because they are affixed to tracks and are therefore limited in terms of movement, I would argue that they are aggressively inferior.

The Under The Sea ~ Journey Of The Little Mermaid is an uninspired slog through scenes from the film, absent a single moment of wonder or magic. I can’t believe that money and time was spent designing and building this ride. And this need not be so. The similarly themed Frozen ride in Epcot, Frozen Ever After, is a similar journey through scenes from the film but contains moments of genuine magic and wonder that would send me back again and again.

The Jungle Cruise is an astounding display of missed opportunities and possesses a level of un-wokeness that will undoubtedly cause problems for Disney at some point. It is a ride for another time, and that time has passed.

I won’t go through all the problematic rides that I encountered, but if Disney would like to hire me to infuse every moment of the Disney experience with magic, wonder, excitement or nostalgia, I await their offer. I am perfectly suited and uniquely talented for this position.

In fact, perhaps I’ll write a letter.

Four things unrelated to rides that also need improvement:

  1. The paper straws are an abomination. They fell apart with great rapidity and became useless fairly quickly. It took me 2-3 straws to finish every frozen drink that I consumed. I understand that straws are made of plastic and eliminating them helps the planet to some infinitesimal degree, but I also know that these paper straws sucked and the carbon footprint of 2-3 of them might outweigh that of a single, plastic straw.

  2. Disney is in serious need of better drinking fountains or - even better- water filling stations. It was exceptionally difficult to find reliable water sources in the parks. I understand that a sad, relatively inoperable drinking fountain means more purchases of water in the park, but having ancient, inoperable drinking fountains makes the parks look bad. Un-magical to say the least. Also, if you’re going to take away plastic straws to help the environment, how about all the plastic being used in those water bottles? Update the damn drinking fountains.

  3. Disney needs more buses. The most significant pain point for most customers was the wait time on buses and the number of people jammed onto every bus. And since most customers start and end their days on a Disney bus, this is a moment you want to get right. Small children and older folks often did not have seats on buses in an effort to pack as many people onto them as possible. More buses would make the start and end of every day a more positive experience and would go a long way in making folks feel great about their vacation.

  4. Disney misses out on easy opportunities to make the place a little more magical. The bus depots at our resort, for example, were named after the points of the compass even though they hardly corresponded to the actual compass points. The West Depot? Is that the best you can do? Give that depot a real name. Something that causes vacationers to think or imagine or wonder. Maybe name them after exceptionally minor Disney characters and encourage folks to figure out in which films these characters appeared. Or dedicate each one to a Disney employee who made a significant difference to the park. Put a plaque on the wall honoring their achievement. DO SOMETHING. West Depot is uninspiring and sadly pedestrian. Look to make every moment significant and memorable and magical.

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Stand up, damn it.

This shouldn’t need to be said, but based upon recent experience, it apparently needs to be said:

If you’re a healthy adult sitting on a bus or subway, and there a small child in your vicinity who does not have a seat, stand up and offer your seat to the kid.

How any adult can sit and watch a small child cling to a pole or to his parent’s leg as a bus or train lurches around a bend is beyond me.

Last night I watched a teenage girl offer her seat to Charlie while a bunch of grown-ass men and women remained comfortably seated around us.

I was furious. Elysha was apoplectic.

I’m also inclined to offer my seat to a woman in these situations, but I also know that doing so implies that she needs a seat more than I do, which is almost always a sexist thing to think. After all, I’ve been arguing for years that women should be eligible for the military draft based upon my sincere belief that they are just as capable as men, yet something inside me always wants to offer my seat to a lady.

I avoid this internal struggle but always standing. My default position on any bus or train is to stand unless there is an empty seat after leaving the station.

If you’re a young, healthy adult, maybe you could adopt a similar default position.

But at the very least, make sure all the small children have seats. Otherwise Elysha and I will spend the entire trip attempting to publicly shame you by repeatedly telling our children - in voices slightly louder than necessary - to “Hold on tight!” and “Be careful” and “We know this is hard, but we’ll be there soon!”

The best part:

We did this both simultaneously and absent any planning. Our instincts - and hatred for these grown-ass seated adults - was the same.

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The standing ovation has come to signify nothing.

Elysha and I attended a play last night. I won’t mention the name because it wasn’t good, and I don’t want to publicly denigrate the effort and art of the people involved.

I’ll leave that to the theater critics.

Instead, I’d like to denigrate the audience.

At the end of this tragically bad, objectively bad play, nearly the entire audience rose to their feet for a standing ovation. It was immediate, rousing, and loud.

It was also ridiculous. Undeserved. Nonsensical. And this wasn’t the first time I have witnessed this bizarre behavior. Standing ovations were once reserved for work of outstanding quality. The best of the best.

Now they have become fairly standard at a performance. Almost an expectation.

Elysha, who also found this standing ovation ridiculous, thinks it’s the result of people who want to make others feel good about their effort. To refuse the standing ovation would be cruel to the performers.

She might be right. In this world of participation trophies and everyone feeling good, maybe the standing ovation has become the theater’s version of the white ribbon.

Congratulations. You stood on a stage and tried hard. Let us make you feel good.

I argued that it might also be the result of people who are so desperate to stand in the presence of greatness that they are using the standing ovation in order to will things like this terrible play to undeserved heights. No one wants to announce to the world on Instagram or Facebook that they just wasted 83 minutes of their lives on a terrible performance, so why not turn it into something great, thus making them seem smart and savvy in the process.

Whatever the reason, it must stop. I saw Hamilton a few months ago. That performance deserved a standing ovation. It was the best thing I’d ever seen.

I saw Rent a couple weeks ago. The play itself deserved a standing ovation, though the performances did not. Perhaps I’m spoiled by having seen the original cast of the musical in New York in the 1990’s several times, but the recent rendition of the show just isn’t as good, and some of the songs are sung at lower keys to accommodate the singer’s limited range.

I rose to my feet that night, not in recognition of the performances but in recognition of the writing.

Last night’s play did not deserve a standing ovation. The writing was bad, and the performances were bad. Even the sound design and sets were bad. Enthusiastic applause in recognition of the company’s effort would’ve been more than enough. Generous, even. But a standing applause?

That audience looked ridiculous.

As they leapt to their feet, I remained seated. After a few moments, I rose, too, but I started putting on my jacket as I stood, avoiding an additional clapping.

I wasn’t standing because I loved the performance. I was standing so I could exit the theater as quickly as possible.

I reserve my standing ovations for greatness. You should, too.

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The middle finger is just a finger

Good news!

By unanimous decision, a federal appeals court in Michigan last week upheld an American’s unalienable right to extend her middle finger.

A Michigan woman gave the middle finger to a police officer after receiving a ticket. The officer pulled her over again and upgraded the ticket to a worse offense.

It turns out that this is a violation of her First Amendment right to free speech.

For the record, I think it is so incredibly stupid that human beings consider the raising of a single digit to be so vulgar and offensive that it can’t be shown on television or would cause a police officer to even think about upgrading a traffic ticket.

It’s stupid, but it’s also weird.

I can raise my index finger. I can raise my pinkie finger. I can raise my arm. My elbow. My knee. My big toe. But the extension of my middle finger - absent any other digit - is so offensive that it must be blurred on television in the same way networks must blur genitals and women’s breasts.

That’s crazy.

According the FCC, the middle finger is just as inappropriate on television as an exposed penis. Both cannot be transmitted across the airwaves without blurring or pixilation.

It’s crazy. And stupid. And weird. Right?

It’s my middle finger. I should be able to raise it whenever I damn well please. This should not be an offensive or vulgar gesture.

Rude? Sure. Insulting? Yes. As long as the gestures continues to convey the same sentiment that it does today, I’m not arguing that the middle finger should be considered polite.

But so vulgar that it can’t be shown on network television?

That’s stupid.

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I have opinions on a suggested 30 percent tip

When it comes to dining out, I am a good tipper. My standard tip is 20% rounded up, and if I am especially pleased with the service, I’ll add a dollar or two.

I don’t have a problem with tipping for service at a restaurant.

I also tip on the total bill, including tax, because I’m not an insane person.

On Saturday night, however, Elysha and I went to dinner with friends, and at the bottom of the bill were some tipping suggestions. I hate the mere existence of these suggestions, since calculating 15 or 20 percent of any total should not be difficult for any grown-ass human being.

Even if calculating 20 percent is challenging for you, we can all calculate 10 percent of a number, so at worst you can just add half of that amount for 15 percent or double it for 20 percent.

I find these tipping suggestions slightly insulting both especially unsettling. I worry that people actually need them.

But the suggestions offered on Saturday night were insulting for a whole new reason.

30 percent? This restaurant has added 30 percent as an option to the suggested tips?

Frankly, I think 25 percent is a little presumptuous, but 30 percent?

I often suggest that folks purchase my books by the dozen, but I’m not serious. I’m making a joke. I don’t ever expect anyone to do it, but these suggestions are not meant to be funny.

Someone somewhere thinks that a 30 percent tip should not only an option, but it’s an option so common and obvious that it’s worthy of suggestion.

It’s not.

For the record, I tipped $12 that night, making my tip a little more than 21 percent of the bill. A tip like this would normally make me feel good about my tip. Generous, even.

But not when the stupid restaurant presents 30 percent an option.

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The “Let's do it” button

I worry that human beings, adults and children alike, are spending too much time staring at screens and not enough time communicating face-to-face.

Rather than engaging in the messiness of human interaction, people simply send text messages.

Rather than speaking directly to a colleague who has upset you, a scathing (and oftentimes cowardly) email is written and sent instead.

Rather than telling the person that you’re dating that it’s over, it’s become perfectly acceptable to ghost that person.

Just imagine: You have dinner with someone on Monday, have sex with that same person on Tuesday, visit the farmer’s market together on Thursday, and then just stop answering their text messages and phone calls forever.

This was not the way we did things back in the day. Break ups were never fun, but the expectation was always that it would be done face-to-face. Breaking up over the phone was the coward’s way out.

Now the coward’s way out it to simply disappear.

We’ve devolved quite a bit in the last decade.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, it did.

Introducing LoveSync, a two-button system where you and your partner each place a button on your respective bedside tables. If you’re hoping to have sex that evening, you push the button.

“Anonymously push the button,” according to the Kickstarter video, which is bizarre, since theoretically there is nothing anonymous about the person sleeping alongside you.

If your partner has also tapped the button, your respective buttons will both light up.

It’s time for sex. The buttons said so.

If only one of you has tapped, no light notification, and therefore, no sex for you.

The draw here, according to LoveSync’s description, is that you won’t feel the sting of rejection or embarrassment should only one of you want to have sex.

The truth is that communication between you and someone you theoretically love (or at least like a lot) is sanitized and depersonalized. Rather than suggesting sex or enticing your partner into sex or putting on some Barry White and hoping for the best, simply press a button and wait for the light.

Hope for the light. Pray for the light.

I know what you’re thinking:

Who would buy something as stupid as this?

So far, 428 people, who have invested more than $20,000 on Love Sync’s Kickstarter campaign.

Not an enormous number, thank goodness, but about 428 people too many.

856 if you count their their presumably agreeable partners.

The worst thing about Valentine's Day

It’s Valentine’s Day.

I know that a great number of people can’t stand Valentine’s Day.

They reject it as a fabricated, commercialized Hallmark holiday

They protest the inflated flower prices and packed restaurants.

They are offended by the reminder that they are still single. Or newly single. Or endlessly single.

These are the folks who say things like, “I don’t need the calendar to tell me to give my wife flowers” and “Our love doesn’t wait for February 14th.” They snipe at happily married couples and blossoming romances.

Ask one of these folks what they have planned for Valentine’s Day, and they might stab you with their ballpoint pen.

Some of these complaints might have some validity, but here’s the real worst thing about Valentine’s Day:

All those people who complain about Valentine’s Day.

If you don’t like Valentine’s Day, just treat it like any other day. Ignore the roses and candy and hand-holding. Walk right past the boundless romance and starry-eyed attraction. Pretend it never happened, because complaining about Valentine’s Day has three significant problems:

  1. It attempts to ruin the joy of others for entirely personal reasons.

  2. It makes you look like an unpalatable, sour-puss jerk face.

  3. Worst of all, complaining about Valentine’s Day is wholly unoriginal. It’s been done so many times already, and I assure you, it’s been done better than you will ever do it. We’ve all heard the complaints before. You’re not saying anything new.

    And trust me, even worse than being alone on Valentine’s Day is being unoriginal.

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No straw but plenty of lemon? Absolutely stupid.

Elysha and I went to dinner on Saturday night with friends. I ordered a Diet Coke. When it arrived, it was adorned with an unrequested wedge of lemon but no straw. When I asked for a straw, I was informed by our server that the restaurant had eliminated straws in an effort to be more environmentally friendly.

I was annoyed.

In fairness, I was already annoyed. This was a server who ignored us for 15 minutes, and when we finally asked another server to find our server, he finally returned, explaining that he hadn’t wanted to interrupt our conversation at the table by coming over to take our orders.

In other words, had we wanted to eat. we needed to all sit silently as a signal that we were ready to eat.

That was stupid. But so is this straw policy.

I am not opposed to the reduction of plastic waste. Even though the elimination of straws - a popular movement about a year ago - has been shown to be one of the the least significant actions a person can take to reduce plastic waste, and even though straws can be easily recycled, and even though a paper or even a washable, reusable, metallic straw could easily replace the plastic straw if needed… here are two even larger reasons why this restaurant’s policy is stupid.

STUPID REASON #1

Elysha ordered a mixed drink, and it came with a straw. Not the larger straw typically used in soda but a smaller, thinner straw. Yes, in addition to being a straw, it also serves to stir the drink, but still… IT WAS A STRAW. Don’t tell me that the restaurant has adopted a no-straw policy when there is a straw sitting in the drink beside me. That stirring straw could easily be replaced by something more environmentally friendly.

STUPID REASON #2

Removing the straw from my glass but garnishing it with an unrequested, unnecessary wedge of lemon is really, really stupid.

That lemon was grown in a location hundreds, if not thousands of miles from that restaurant, which means that it was picked from a tree, packed in bubble wrap or foam padding to prevent it from bruising during the journey (according to the United States International Trade Commission), then wrapped in a sealed box in brown packing paper. Then it was shipped north using fossil fuels by train and truck until it finally arrived in the restaurant’s kitchen, where it was probably placed in refrigeration, burning more fossil fuels until it was finally cut into wedges for my soda.

Want to save the planet?

Stop jamming meaningless wedges of lemon and lime onto the edges of your drink glasses, particularly when the patron didn’t ask for or even want any lemon.

That wedge of lemon was probably worth five hundred straws in terms of its environmental impact. A ban on straw is a lovely way of virtue-signally, but it’s also stupid when you’re making egregiously environmentally- unfriendly decisions in the same damn glass of soda.

By the way, do you know what happens when you place a wedge of lemon on the side of a glass but don’t also give the patron a straw? That lemon wedge falls off the glass when the glass is tipped forward into the patron’s mouth. It falls forward, bounces off the patron’s nose, turns, and falls again, eventually landing on the patron’s wife’s foot.

Yeah. That’s happened, too.

To be clear:

I’m not entirely opposed to the elimination of plastic straws. I’m opposed to stupidity. Illogic. Virtue-signaling without any real thought.

And I’ve been arguing against the meaningless, unrequested, lemon wedge for years, because unlike the straw, which serves a function, the lemon wedge is oftentimes a simple garnish, designed to make the glass look lovely while doing little to enhance the flavor of the drink.

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Hurting children because you are stupid

Elysha bought me a new Quip toothbrush. I am very excited. If you don’t have a Quip or don’t know what a Quip toothbrush is, find out.

It’s fantastic.

While I’m thinking about how clean my teeth are going to be, consider this:

In 2013, the city council of Windsor, Ontario voted 8-3 to stop putting fluoride in the city water supply.

Libertarians argued that they should be able to decide what they put in their bodies.

Far stupider people argued that fluoride is bad for you in the same way vaccines are supposedly bad for children.

So the fluoride was removed, and between the years of 2011 and 2017, the percentage of children with tooth decay or requiring urgent dental care increased by a staggering 51 percent.

Then, in 2018, with far less fanfare, that same Windsor City Council voted to reintroduce water fluoridation by a vote of 8-3.

Good news, unless of course you were unfortunate enough to be growing up during the six years that fluoride was absent from the water. In your case, you have more cavities and tooth disease thanks to libertarians. dumbass conspiracy theorists, and do-nothing politicians.

It’s one thing to hold back progress because your conservative values cause you to like things just the way they are. It’s usually done to preserve the dominance of the white patriarchy, but not always. Sometimes conservative values are far less sinister than the ones on display in today’s world.

But it’s entirely another thing when bigots, religious zealots, anti-vaxxers, and other dimwits try to force society back two or three steps.

That’s the worst. Eroding progress is disgraceful and must be stopped at all costs.

Also, go get yourself a Quip toothbrush. It’s fantastic.

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Roman numerals are stupid

You know what’s really, really stupid?

Roman numerals.

Americans have an alphabet . It consists of 26 letters and is derived from the original Latin alphabet. There are other alphabets in the world today, including Cyrillic, Arabic, Greek, and Braille. but here in the United States, we use just one.

We also have a system of numerals. It’s called the decimal numeral system, though the actual figures that represent the numbers are Hindu-Arabic or western Arabic. These are the numbers that children begin learning at an early age in order to understand and practice mathematics.

One set of letters. One set of numbers. As it should be.

Then, at some point in your life, probably in the fourth or fifth grade, a teacher or parent informed you that we also use a Roman numeral system, too, mostly when people want to make something seem more important or more stately than it really is.

  • Labeling Super Bowls and movie sequels

  • Differentiating Kings and Popes

  • Copyright dates on films, television programs, and videos

  • Clocks designed by jackasses

So in the midst of learning to multiply or balance equations with one set of numbers, you’re suddenly asked to learn a new system of numbering that you’ll never actually use in mathematics but will need to decode about twice a year for the rest of your life for reasons that almost never matter.

You may inquire to the benefits of Roman numerals, rightly expecting that there must be some advantage to learning this new system, but you will quickly be told that there are no benefits to this system at all.

Essentially they just look pretty. So learn them. You will rarely need them, but every now and again, it will be good to know how to decode them.

All of which makes Roman numerals so very, very stupid.

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The worst part of the Christmas season

Every year it’s the same annoying thing:

Sometime before Halloween or perhaps just after, Christmas decorations begin to appear in the stores. Lights and baubles and candy canes are placed on shelves. Commercials for holiday gift ideas begin to propagate on television and the internet. Even Christmas trees, some already lit and covered in ornaments and tinsel, appear in town squares.

Every year it seems as if Christmas starts earlier than the last, and with it comes the most annoying and persistent of all holiday traditions:

The people who feel the desperate need to make the early arrival of Christmas a topic of conversation.

Far worse than finding Christmas ornaments alongside Halloween candy or wrapping paper alongside Batman costumes is the person who must point this out with a combination of outrage and confusion. It’s as if they think they’re saying something fresh and new instead of something we’ve all heard ad infinitum.

Bits of brilliance like:

“Can’t we just enjoy Halloween before thinking about Christmas?”

“Isn’t it a little early for Christmas sales?”

“Can you believe that they already have Christmas lights and ornaments on the shelves?”

Why yes, I absolutely believe it. They did it last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. Also, you commented on this phenomenon last year, and the year before that, and the year before that.

It’s like an odd version of Groundhog Day played over and over again every year. The script is the same. The sentiment is the same. The outrage is the same.

Nothing ever changes.

I’m not sure how objectively annoying it really is to see Christmas paraphernalia on store shelves in October. Personally, I have this incredible ability to ignore inanimate objects on store shelves and move on with my life, but perhaps not everyone is so gifted.

But what is especially annoying and not nearly as avoidable is the repetition of conversation, the annual outrage over these holiday atrocities, and especially the misbegotten idea that these ideas are somehow new or desired or interesting.

And it’s not over, of course. Immediately after Christmas, the Valentines Day paraphenalia will appear, and once again, these masters of conversational mediocrity will reappear, asking why we need to see these romantic baubles in January and declaring that its seems as if Valentines Day starts earlier every year, which we of course know is true because we’ve been told this one million times before.

Piñatas suck.

I’m going on the record saying that piñatas suck.

Watching children at a recently birthday party bash this candy-filled monstrosity to pieces, it occurred to me how awful these things really are.

A few truths about piñatas:

  1. Two or three kids at best get to whack the thing before it breaks open, leaving the other dozen or so children standing around, never getting a chance to swing the bat and smack the damn thing even once.

  2. Allowing children to swing baseball bats, clubs, broom handles and the like in the vicinity of other children is a tragic accident waiting just waiting to happen. Go to YouTube and type in “piñata accident” and you’ll see hundreds of kids getting smashed in the head by wayward bats and poorly aimed sticks.

  3. The more horrible the child, the more candy he or she will acquire. The piñatas punishes the patient and polite child. It discourages civility and honor. There is no room for decency and decorum once the candy has fallen from the piñatas. The most aggressive, most rude, most selfish, most physically intimidating children always scoop up the bulk of the candy, leaving the more gentle souls to gather the discarded Werther’s Original or perhaps a bit of stomped-upon peppermint candy.

Want to know if you’re raising a monster? Inventory your child’s candy after a piñatas. If he or she has a large percentage of the candy, you’re child is probably a jackass and quite possibly a future felon.

There are also always crying after the piñatas is finished. Some cry because they didn’t have a turn at bat, and others cry because they see some future inmate with nine pounds of candy compared to their measly four pieces.

Why bring something to a party that is guaranteed to make children cry?

As a parent, I also feel stress during the piñatas. I worry. Will my child have a chance with the bat? Will he or she collect enough candy to be happy while not running over and shoving aside the smaller children in order to make that happen? Will my child be disappointed after this nasty affair is complete? Will it put a damper on the day? Will my child see herself as weak, vulnerable, or ineffective when this bloodsport is finally finished?

Piñatas suck. They must go the way of lawn jarts and croquet. They are a horrible, nasty bit of business that have no place at moments of festivity and joy.

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New Jersey is different and dumb.

I’m a nonconformist. I am not opposed to doing something different if the difference comes from a place of logic, efficiency, or common sense.

I don’t wear neckties because they serve no purpose other than acting as floral nooses.

I refuse to respond to anyone who has checked the restroom door, determined it to be locked, but then knocks on the door anyway.

Stupidity of this level should never be rewarded.

But there are times when doing something different is simply stupid, and New Jersey has cornered the market on this in two particular areas:

STUPID THING #1: You can’t pump your own gas in New Jersey.

This ban is a holdover from a 1949 law that was passed because lawmakers were worried that Americans didn’t know how to handle gasoline safely. Given that 48 states now allow their citizens to handle the pumping on their own and do it well, this myth has been effectively debunked.

The ban also offers no economically discernible benefit. While the ban admittedly creates low wage jobs, it also increases the cost of gasoline in the state by several cents, which is money that businesses could theoretically use to hire employees.

Also, on a recent stay in New Jersey, I noticed an unintended consequence of this ban:

Many of the gas stations in New Jersey are simply that:

Gas stations with an occasional garage attached. In states like Connecticut, where drivers exit their vehicles to pump gas, the gas station has grown into a small, well-appointed, well-lit grocery store, complete with clean restrooms, hot food options, and oftentimes restaurant franchises like Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway.

I went out for milk in NJ one night and ended up at a Stop & Shop because none of the gas stations that I passed had a convenience store attached.

Those people pumping gas in New Jersey could easily be the workers in these convenience stores, and the people of New Jersey could be getting their milk and Snickers bars a hell of a lot easier.

STUPID THING #2: You can’t make a left turn in New Jersey.

If you want to make a left turn in New Jersey and you’re on a major roadway, you’re out of luck. To take a left, you need to turn right onto something called a jughandle, which is an exit off the roadway that brings you above or below the opposite lane.

Think highway exit ramp but for a two lane road that would never have an exit ramp anywhere but New Jersey.

These jughandles theoretically reduce accidents. Studies have shown that they move cars efficiently in heavy traffic and reduce accidents that lead to death or serious injury by as much as 26 percent.

The problem is that these jughandles force motorists to spend more time on the roads overall, thus increasing their chances of an accident and wiping out any safety benefit they might offer.

This is because you often need to drive half a mile down the road, turn around at a jughandle, and drive half a mile back in order to stop at the store you just passed on the opposite side of the road five minutes ago. Do this often enough, and the additional time spent on the roadways adds up quickly.

For a state that has already artificially jacked up it’s gas price, forcing drivers to travel additional miles is ridiculous, and all the additional driving can’t be good for the environment or the roads or cars.

Also, many of New Jersey’s jughandles are now deteriorating, and repairing them is expensive and time consuming, because they are everywhere.

They are like dandelions.

Like I said, I’m not opposed to doing something differently if it’s logical or sensible.

Actually, I’m not opposed to doing something differently even if the result is neutral. No gain. No loss.

Being different is a good thing. A beautiful thing.

But New Jersey is being different to the detriment of everyone driving on its roadways.

That’s dumb.

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The worst

Nuclear weapons
Unannounced pickles placed on plates without warning or permission
The Trump Presidency
Dress codes
Identity theft
The second and third Matrix films
Dance school teachers who perform in their students' recitals
The end of summer vacation
Incarceration for minor drug offenses
Parents who disown their children for choices of spouse or religion
Semicolons
The gun show loophole
Off-brand Pop Tarts
This sign

Things that should not exist in this world. 

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Goggles

Each of my children own a pair of goggles, and I hate them so very much. 

Most of the children who frolic at the lake where we are spending many of our summer days are wearing goggles, and I despise every pair. 

I did not own goggles when I was growing up. As far as I can recall, no one did. One weirdo owned a clip that pinched his nose shut, but that was it. We all learned to open our eyes underwater - in pools and lakes and even the ocean - and then we moved on. Life was simple. We donned a pair of swim trunks, perhaps remembered a towel, and jumped into the lake. 

I watch these kids - mine included - fidget and fuss with these damn things constantly. They adjust, clean, remove, and replace. They ask parents to tighten or loosen. They become upset when water sneaks through and touches their precious eyeballs.  

It's insane. 

Yesterday I saw a kid crying because he forgot to bring his goggles to the beach. He told his mother he couldn't swim because of this. 

Simplicity. This is what I prize above most things.

It's why I've never owned an umbrella.
It's why I threw out all of my ties.
It's why I wear the same pair of sneakers almost every day of my life.
It's why I've never owned a watch or a single piece of jewelry save my wedding ring. 

Simplicity. Streamline life by requiring as little as possible to get through my day. 

It's why I don't own goggles. It's why I wish my kids didn't own goggles. Every item added to your life complicates your life in some way, so unnecessary and burdensome items like goggles should be avoided at all costs.   

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