Single use restrooms in all public venues must be made unisex because not doing so is stupid.

I would like to enact the following policy immediately:

All public locations with single use restrooms will hereby remove their male and female signs immediately, thus making both restrooms unisex.

There is absolutely no reason for single use restrooms to differentiate between male and female occupants. Not only will this make restroom availability more equitable amongst men and women, but for transgender people, this will make life a hell of a lot easier in many places. 

This does not solve all of the problems related to the struggles that transgendered individuals face with larger, multi-use public restrooms, but it's a start. And frankly, it's something that should have been done long ago.   

In fact, in some places, patrons have taken and stand and instituted this policy on their own. It is not uncommon for the female patrons at The Bitter End - a bar in New York where I frequently tell stories for The Moth - to simply begin using the single use men's room when the women's line is exceedingly long and the line to the men's room is nonexistent. 

So do me a favor:

Go forth and help me enact this policy. Forward this blog post to restaurant owners, museums, Turkish baths, municipalities, and any other public venue that has single use restrooms. Tell the owners and managers of these locations about this new policy when you frequent their establishments. 

This is one of those no-brainer, simple-to-accomplish acts that will improve the world in a small but significant way. Let's make it happen. 

“If you’re going to have a difficult life, it might as well be childhood, since it’s so short” might be the dumbest thing ever said.

Someone recently told me that “If you’re going to have a difficult life, it might as well be childhood, since it’s so short.”

I disagree. It’s the percentage of life that is difficult that matters most, and a difficult childhood skews that percentage for a long, long time. 

If you have a difficult childhood, that means that 100% of your life up until a certain age is difficult, and these are fundamental years upon which the foundation of our lives is often set.

This alone is exceptionally damaging to people. 

Equally important, it takes a long, long time for that percentage to even shift to a 50/50 split.

If you're life was difficult until the age of 16, for example, you won't attain a 50/50 split of difficult to not difficult until you're 32 years old, and that is assuming that none of the years between the ages of 17 to 32 were difficult, which is unlikely.

Even if that's the case, you've now only reached a 50-50 split. Half your life was hard. Half was not. You're still not looking back with rose-colored classes.  

You'll need to reach the age of 48 before two-thirds of your life wasn't difficult and 64 before three-quarters of your life wasn't difficult, and all of this is assuming that none of the years between ages 17 and 64 are difficult, which is, of course, a ridiculous assumption.

No, if you're going to have a difficult life, make it anything but childhood. I wish every person on the planet a childhood filled with love, joy, learning, productive struggle, and great success. 

If it's then followed by hardship, at least the foundation will be solid and coping strategies will be in place, and the person experiencing the hardship will be able to lean on the memory of those childhood years with a sense of what has been and could be again. 

Do you know what kind of person thinking that if you’re going to have a difficult life, it might as well be childhood, since it’s so short?

It's a person who experienced a childhood free of hardship and has no understanding of the long term impact that 100% of your life being difficult can have on the remainder of your life. 

Dentists need to tell stories, or they will end up with people like me in their chairs.

My dentist told me that I should have two of my wisdom teeth extracted. One of them has a cavity, and it's in a spot that is almost impossible to keep clean.

I asked what the extraction process entailed.

Dentist: We use some local anesthetic and some rocking back and forth, and that's it. Done in an hour.

Me: I have no idea what that means. Could you give me an actual account of the procedure? 

Dentist: What do you want to know?

Me: I don't know what I don't know, so I can't tell you what I want to know because I don't know what there is to know. But a step by step description of what will actually happen would be a great start.  

She looked a little annoyed. 

Me: Look, the entire bottom row of my teeth were knocked out in a car accident when I was 17, and then they were jammed back into place and wired down in the emergency room, which was the worst part of the car accident, and that's saying a lot since I went through the windshield and tore my leg open to the bone. And about five years before that I was stung by a bee and had to be brought back to life via CPR and about 50 shots of epinephrine over the course of a week, so now I have involuntarily associated needles with death, which I know is a little crazy but is how I feel and my therapist - who I don't see anymore - said it's completely understandable. So I'm a little squeamish about my teeth and needles. So I want some detail.

Dentist: This won't be a big deal. People have wisdom teeth extracted all the time.

Me: Yes, but for me, it will only happen once, so it will be a big deal. When someone wants to pull a part of my body out of my mouth, it's a big deal for me, even if it isn't for you

Dentist: I meant to say that we do extractions all the time.

Me: I would hope so, but that doesn't really help me understand the procedure.

Dentist: Maybe I should just refer you to our oral surgeon. 

Me. Great. Thank you.

Dentist: But don't look anything up on the Internet about the procedure until you meet him. 

Me. Why would you say that? That does not inspire confidence.

I know I can be difficult, and it may seem as if I was being a little belligerent, but in this case, I just wanted some information, which left me thinking this:

Dentists need training telling stories. Had my dentist told me a story that was reflective of what what I could expect when my wisdom teeth were extracted, complete with an arc, a splash of humor, and some clear but not graphic descriptions, I might have been fine.

But glossing over the removal of two of the largest teeth from my mouth deserves more, at least for me. And I suspect most people would appreciate a clear picture of the procedure but are unwilling to press the matter to the degree I did.

So dentists of the world:

I'm available for hire. Let me teach you some storytelling strategies that you can use to make your patients more relaxed and informed. Very few of us enjoy our dentist appointments, and while this may be inevitable, part of our dislike for our visits is the fear related to what may or may not happen while sitting in that chair. 

Alleviate some of that. Explain your procedures in engaging ways. Entertain and inform your patients. Tell stories.

Most of the time, your patients can't speak anyway. Instead of asking us how the kids are doing while we have a suction tube and an ice pick in our mouths, entertain and inform. 

We have a right to know, and wouldn't it be better if we didn't have to pry the information from you in the same way you want pry my wisdom teeth from my gum line?

If I ruled the world, here are 11 laws that I would immediately enact.

If I were ruler of the world, I would immediately enact the following laws in order to improve the quality of life for all of mankind:

1. Drivers who pull their cars alongside each other in the middle of the road and roll down their windows in order to chat (thus blocking the road for sane people) shall have their licenses revoked for a period of no less than 5 years. Get out of the damn car if you wish to speak to someone.

2. If a public building has two or more exterior doors, all such doors shall be accessible and open at all times. If a patron walks into a door expecting it to open and finds it locked, the business in question shall pay the patron a fee of $50,000. If said patron bashes his or her head on the door in the process (a feat I have accomplished several times), ownership of the business shall immediately be transferred to the bloody-nosed patron. Why install double doors if one of them is always locked?

3. Anyone wearing an article of clothing containing a brand name or any assemblage of words on the seat of his or her pants shall be required to remain seated for the rest of his or her natural life. This is the stupidest fashion trend ever.

4. Any parent who dresses or allows his or her child to dress in pants or shorts that contain a brand name or any assemblage of words on the seat of the child's pants shall immediately be removed from the home for psychiatric examination. Finding oneself staring at the butt of a twelve-year old in order to confirm that the word plastered across her butt is in fact “Juicy” is unnerving to say the least. What in God’s name are these parents thinking?

Side note: If I really had my way on all things, I would remove brand names from all clothing items and accessories, since the inclusion of these brand names are merely indicators of the approximate cost of the item and serve no useful purpose other than to advertise for the clothing company while making people who require such validation momentarily happy about their otherwise vacuous souls. 

5. It is hereby forbidden to congratulate a friend on the purchase of a vehicle if that friend exceeds the age of eighteen.  When the purchase of an automobile becomes congratulatory-worthy, priorities must be re-examined immediately.   

6. When going to the gym, one must drive to an open parking spot and park your car immediately. No more occupying the middle-of-the-aisle, directional flashing, minivan lunatics (its always a minivan) waiting for that prime spot ten feet from the doors. It’s the gym. Walk a little bit. Get some freakin' exercise.    

7. It is no longer permissible to refer to any article of clothing as “fun.” You sound ridiculous. 

8. If more than half of your social media posts pertain to your latest fitness or nutritional regime, you are hereby banished to Google+ for a period of no less than one year.  

9. Selfie sticks are immediately banned. It's bad enough that future archaeologists may judge our society based upon things like The Bachelor, Antonin Scalia, and hipsters who wear slouchy winter hats in the summer. We cannot allow the selfie stick to also define us. 

In fairness, Disney World Theme Parks have already banned these ridiculous and culturally embarrassing items, so I'm not the first to suggest this.

10. Movie theaters must be equipped with cellular jamming technology, effectively disabling the phones of every person within the theater at the onset of the film.

11. People who pay by check at the grocery store must take a mandatory class on the safe and effective use of debit and credit cards before being allowed to eat any of the groceries that they have purchased. 

There are so many things wrong with this sign.

The capitalization of Do and Not is terrible. Of course. I despise random and inaccurate capitalization.

The lack of punctuation is forgivable but still annoying as hell. 

But it's the existence of the sign that bothers me the most. Why taint a perfectly good table with a sign asking patrons not to move it and the adjacent furniture? It's as if the table only exists for the sign asking that it not be moved. 

Why have a table at all?

I would submit that a collection of poorly appointed furniture is far more egregious than this plastic and paper monstrosity. 

Dear Adam Cloud: “Yard Goats” is the definition of unique. Also, your argument that the name is offensive is absurd.

If you haven’t heard, the New Britain Rock Cats – the Colorado Rockies Double A affiliate – are moving to Hartford and have been renamed The Yard Goats.

The Yard Goats get their name from an old railroad slang term for an engine that switches a train to get it ready for another locomotive (thus harkening back to Hartford’s supposed railroad roots), but the goat will most assuredly play a role in the marketing of the team.

The naming was done via fan voting and revealed a couple weeks ago. 

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The Yard Goats is a great name. Perfectly befitting the kitchiness of minor league baseball. The Yard Goats will be perfect alongside such teams as the Savannah Sand Gnats, the El Paso Chihuahuas, the Casper Ghosts, and the Albuquerque Isotopes.   

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Hartford Treasurer Adam Cloud, who sits on the board of the Hartford Stadium Authority, doesn’t agree with me. He doesn’t like the name one bit. He’s not happy.  

I have no beef with Cloud for not liking the name. My wife doesn’t like the name, either. She was hoping for the Honey Badgers, and for good reason.

About a third of my students don’t like the name.

It’s admittedly an eclectic name.

What I take issue with is Adam Cloud’s comments regarding the name.

Cloud said the name is "neither creative, or unique."

We could argue the merits of the name based upon creativity (though it’s hard to argue that it’s not at least a little creative), but he couldn’t be more wrong in his assertion that the name is not unique.

It’s absolutely unique. No other sports franchise in the world is name the Yard Goats.

That, Mr. Cloud, is the definition of unique.

Cloud also said that Yard Goats is an “absurd” name and is insensitive to people in the city’s Caribbean community, many of whom at one time or another may have owned or tended goats.

That statement, Mr. Cloud, is far more absurd than the team’s new name.

How could using the name of an animal that a person may have owned at one time possibly be offensive to that former owner? The use of the name in no way impugns the current or former owners of said animal. In fact, if anything, the animal is being elevated to celebrity status by the naming.

Should owners of horses, which also eat grass, be offended by the Denver Broncos’ or Indianapolis Colts’ choice of names?

Should the owners of sheep, which also eat grass, be offended by the St. Louis Ram’s choice of name?

Should the parents of twins, which hopefully don’t eat grass (but might), be offended by the Minnesota Twins choice of name? Yes, the Twins are actually named after the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, but the Yard Goats are named after a type of train. If Cloud can conveniently ignore that reality, why shouldn’t the parents of twins also ignore the origins of the Twins name and feel similarly outraged?

There’s nothing wrong with hating the name, Mr. Cloud. My wife doesn’t like it either, and I don’t think any less of her for this opinion.

But the reason she doesn’t like the name?

She thinks it’s dumb. You probably do, too. But in defending her position, my wife doesn’t make any ridiculous claims about the name being offensive to goat owners or failing to be unique. It’s simply a matter of taste.

You don’t like the name. Too bad. Don’t spout nonsense. You sound ridiculous.

Yard Goats for life.

Ladies: Leave my choice of winter clothing alone. I’M FINE.

Over the course of the last seven days, I have been scolded by three different people – all women – for wearing shorts. In each case, I was either heading to or from the gym, but I’ve also been known to wear shorts in cooler weather simply because they are comfortable and I don’t require the warmth of a pair of pants. 

I was also repeatedly chided all winter long for wearing my winter coat of choice: a blue hoodie.

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I own an actual winter coat. More than one, in fact. But with the exception of a few New England Patriots games, I wore a hoodie all winter long and was perfectly fine. Warm and toasty. 

Except that wherever I went, friends and strangers – also only women – admonished me for not wearing something warmer. People at the grocery store and outside restaurants and in parking lots told me to put on something warmer. Stop being ridiculous. Act my age.

Many of them also warned me that I would catch a cold if I continued to dress this way, disabusing themselves of hundreds of years of germ theory and reverting back to a time before science when it was assumed that a cold was caused by the cold.

Honestly, I don’t understand this.

Who cares if I’m wearing a pair of gym shorts on a 38 degree day?

Why would anyone be concerned with my choice of outerwear on a winter afternoon?

How is what I wear in order to stay warm anyone’s business other than my own?

And why is this form of criticism exclusively female?

For the last year, I have attempted to avoid any negative comment about anyone’s physical appearance, regardless of their physical eccentricity. And I have become fairly adept – albeit a little smug – in doing so. In fact, I’ve reached a point where thoughts about a person’s physical appearance often fail to register as well.

When they do, I push them back, reminding myself of how petty and cruel and absolutely juvenile they are, even when said behind someone’s back.

I realize that scrubbing your mind and voice of all comments on physical appearance is a ridiculous goal, but can we at least agree these admonishments over seasonal appropriate clothing should be eliminated from our societal lexicon forever? If these women – and perhaps there are male critics out there, too, but I have yet to encounter one – want to go home and tell their loved ones about the man at the grocery store wearing shorts and a hoodie, fine.

They are heathen, unkempt trolls for doing so, but still. Who cares?

But why must they verbally reprimand me in public for not dressing to a standard that they feel is adequate?

I had a mother. She passed away in 2007. I miss her, but honestly, I’m fine. I don’t need any ladies – young or old – treating me like I ‘m a ten year-old boy in need of verbal reprimands about the warmth of the clothing that I’m wearing.

Even my mother didn’t do that.

Please leave me the hell alone. I’m fine. If I wasn’t, I’d put on a pair of pants and a warmer coat, jackass.

It’s easy to criticize what people do. It’s often what people don’t do that matters more, yet these inactions are often ignored. So leave me alone, you inactive, moronic toadstools.

I was recently sitting at my desk in my classroom, drinking a Diet Coke while correcting papers. A colleague walked in, and as we wrapped up our conversation, she commented on the soda that I was drinking. image

“You know, Diet Coke really isn’t good for you. You drink way too much. You should think about switching to something healthier.”

“Thanks,” I said. “I’ve actually cut back on soda quite a bit since the beginning of the year.”

My tone was warm. My response was benign. But beneath my calm exterior, I was annoyed. Completely and thoroughly annoyed. Here’s why:

People find it exceedingly easy to criticize a person for action taken but rarely consider the reverse.

Yes, I drink Diet Coke. And yes, despite the Food and Drug Administration's approval of this product and its 33 year history of consumer consumption without any apparent links to leprosy or tuberculosis, carbonated beverages – and Diet Coke in particular – is poison in the minds of many people.

I understand that water is probably better for me than Diet Coke, but that doesn’t mean that Diet Coke is going to kill me. Just like the coffee and alcohol that most people consume on a daily basis  (and I do not) probably isn’t going to kill them, either.

Nevertheless, I’m also able to see that too much of almost anything can be bad. Recognizing the excessive quantity of soda that I was drinking in a given day, I chose to cut back. As part of my New Year’s resolutions, I have almost completely stopped drinking Diet Coke in my home. As a result, I’ve cut my soda consumption by more than half, and other than the nights when we are eating pizza or pasta for dinner, I rarely miss it.

But here’s the thing:

I happen to know for a fact that the woman who commented on my soda consumption does not exercise. She doesn’t jog or play a sport or belong to a gym. Other than the occasionally stress-filled work situation, she may never elevate her heart rate beyond a resting position.

Yet how often does someone criticize or even express concern for her lack of physical activity? Almost never is my guess because it’s almost impossible to comment on something that can’t be seen. Unless you followed this person for a week, peering into windows of her home at all hours of the day, you would never know that she lives a relatively sedentary lifestyle.

But my Diet Coke consumption? That’s obvious. The soda is in my hand. On my desk. Stuffed in my refrigerator. It’s easy to comment on my soda consumption because you see it. It’s a positive action.

So people comment on it and criticize it all the time.

But who is living a healthier lifestyle?

The person who exercises on a treadmill or elliptical machine for 45 minutes at least four times a week, does push ups and sit ups every day, practices yoga (poorly) and meditates every morning, and plays golf and basketball and runs in the non-winter months. And drinks Diet Coke…

… or the person who restricts herself to water and all natural juices but does not exercise in any way?

If you don’t think that my lifestyle is probably healthier (and you should), can we at least agree that it’s too close to call?

I’m often criticized for my eating and drinking habits. The lack of vegetables in my diet. My somewhat limited palate. My choice of soda over every other beverage.

But I also know that I’m being criticized by people who never exercise. Who watch 30 hours of television each week. Who haven’t read a book in ten years. Who can’t name the three branches of government. Who spend hours on hair and nails and makeup but not a single minute maintaining a healthy heart. Who can name every member of the Kardahian family but don’t know the name of even one of their state’s Senators or a single member of the Supreme Court.

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It’s so easy to criticize the overt, public actions of a person, because it’s what we can see. We can point and frown and criticize.

But it’s often the things that people don’t do – their inaction and underlying stupidity – that ultimately mean more but go unnoticed because they are not conveniently wrapped in a plastic bottle or red label.

When do you allow your child to quit an activity? Also, entering into contractual agreements with your child is insane.

In the Washington Post, Katherine Reynolds Lewis writes about when it’s acceptable to let your child quit an activity and how do you handle the anger that children express when forced to continue with something that they don’t like.

She and her his husband have used a  strategy that I will call contractual commitment:

We agree with our girls on the length of the commitment they want to undertake. Whether that’s an eight-week soccer season or 10-week dance class, they agree that they’re going to continue the experience to the end, even if they decide it’s not for them. We put this agreement in writing and everyone signs it. We hope this teaches the importance of follow through as well as the reality that activities cost money, which we’re not interested in wasting.

Once this system was in place, the first time our daughter claimed, “I hate this! You made me sign up!” we pulled out the agreement. Argument over.

May I suggest that rather than signing contracts with your children over the length of time that they will pursue an activity, perhaps your children should just listen to whatever you are saying and obey because you are the parent?

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This may sound like a novel approach, but if your eight year-old wants to quit the swim team or piano lessons or the Boy Scouts, maybe it should the parent who decides. Perhaps the adult, with years of wisdom and perspective and the well being of their child in mind, should choose how long an activity should be pursued.

Maybe a parent should just act like a parent.

Signing a contract with your child is insane. It’s a perfect way to undermine your authority and your child’s respect for it. It’s a weak-kneed, lily-livered, short-sighted, helicopter-parenting solution to avoiding difficult decisions, temper tantrums, and the measures sometimes necessary for enforcing  rules. 

It will also never work.   

Once this system was in place, the first time our daughter claimed, “I hate this! You made me sign up!” we pulled out the agreement. Argument over.

Seriously? An angry, outraged eight year-old child shouts, “I hate this! You made me sign up!” The parent extracts the signed contract and hands it to the child. He or she reviews the document, takes a deep breath, and says, “Right. I forgot this binding agreement that we drafted n the back on my spelling homework. Apologies. I will cease my argument immediately.

No. I don’t believe it.

Adults break contracts all the time, and these are legally binding documents. Breaking them results in lawsuits and financial damages, and still, adults break them all the time. Am I really expected to believe that a piece of paper will bring an end to a child’s anger or disillusionment or a temper tantrum?

How about instead of a contract, you say something like this:

“Mary-Sue, we think that swim class is important for both your future safety around water and your overall physical fitness. I understand that you don’t want to go, but we all have to do things that we don’t want to do. There are many days when I don’t want to go to work, but I must because we have to pay for our house and car and food. You’ve made your argument. We listened. We disagree. Stop arguing and get in the car or I will begin taking away toys from your bedroom, and I will not stop until you are doing what you have been told.”

Instead of acting like a lawyer, may I suggest that acting like a parent is the wiser course of action?

The Play-Doh sex toy was a mistake, but making a big deal out of it is much worse.

Yes, it’s true. Play-Doh blundered big time with the design of their “extruder.” It’s kind of impossible to understand how this was produced without someone in the company noticing the problem. 

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Regardless, the outrage that parents have expressed is ridiculous. The complaints on Play-Doh’s Facebook page about how this phallic piece of plastic has ruined their Christmas would be amusing if they weren’t so annoying.

Everything doesn’t have to be something.

This is one of my favorite new phrases, and I’ve been using it a lot lately. In fact, most things don’t have to be something. If you’ve taken to the Internet to voice your concerns about how this Play-Doh sex toy has destroyed your holiday joy and damaged your child’s self esteem, I suspect that you are probably the one whose self esteem is damaged.

Find a hobby. Start training for a 5K. Go volunteer in a homeless shelter.

Do something productive with your time. And smile. Play-Doh has clearly made a mistake with this product, but it’s pretty hilarious, too.

Everyone is completely overwhelmed, except I kind of think that they aren’t and should reconsider their position.

It seems as if I hear someone say that they are overwhelmed or someone they know is overwhelmed or a certain segment of the population is overwhelmed almost every day.

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I don’t get it.

The average American watches 34 hours of television a week. Spends almost two hours a day on social media. Spends 40 minutes a day on Facebook alone.

They spend countless hours playing the latest version of Angry Birds or Words with Friends or Candy Crush and even more time complaining and gossiping.

These do not seem like the statistics of an overwhelmed population.

I’m not saying that people don’t feel overwhelmed. I’m merely suggesting that they aren’t actually overwhelmed.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, allow me suggest a little less Law & Order. Fewer Angry Birds. A little less Facebook.

The Boy Scouts encourages rank advancement by making the first three ranks embarrassing and pathetic.

I’ve said many times that Boy Scouts was one of the best things that ever happened to me. The education that I received in Scouting probably contributed more to the person I am today than the entirety of my high school experience.

As a result, I don’t have too many bad things to say about the Boy Scouts. Their policies regarding homosexuality are improved but appalling, and I was never a fan of camp cuisine, but otherwise, it’s a nearly flawless organization in my experience.

But here’s something that has always amused me:

The Boy Scouts is an extreme meritocracy that uses ranks to delineate a boy’s level of achievement. The highest rank that a boy can attain is Eagle.

Before I turned eighteen and graduated out of Scouting, I had attained the second highest rank, Life. I actually had all of the requirements for Eagle (in spades), but an unfortunate set of circumstances prevented me from achieving Eagle.

I remain angry about to this day. Perhaps someday I will write about it.

But it’s the first three ranks that amuse me.

The first is Scout, designated by this patch, which is worn on the breast pocket of the uniform.

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It is rank automatically conferred upon joining Boy Scouts, but it’s also not technically a rank. It’s a gift. A participation ribbon. So if you’re walking around with this patch, you’re a Scout without a rank.

You’re pathetic.

The first rank that you can earn is Tenderfoot. It actually requires that you demonstrate many useful skills, show measurable improvement in specific levels of  physical fitness, and learn many meaningful things related to first aid, wilderness survival, and more. Most of the requirements would never be taught in a traditional classroom but are at least as valuable.

For that effort, you become a Tenderfoot. A wimp. A wuss. A pushover. Unadventurous. A boy with tender feet.  

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The second rank is Second Class. It’s requirements are even more demanding. Learn how to use a compass and a knife. Build fires. Cook food outdoors using fire and propane. Learn invaluable first aid skills. Demonstrate knowledge of indigenous plants and animals. Demonstrate your ability to swim. Earn and save money.

It’s a lot. It’s impressive. It’s invaluable.

For that, you become Second Class. Quite literally a second class citizen.

And frankly, a much lamer patch than the Tenderfoot. A reminder of the Scout motto, in case you’ve forgotten. A bit of rope that almost looks like a noose. No eagle or stars or red, white and blue shield.

Just a banner with a noose.

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Finally you achieve a rank that does not make you sound like a loser:

 First Class. It’s not easy to earn, but once you do, you can proclaim your rank with pride.

Of course, the patch for First Class is simply a combination of Tenderfoot and Second Class patches, so even though you have put those embarrassing days behind you, a reminder of them lives on your breast pocket until you make the next leap to Star then Life and finally Eagle. 

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The St. Louis Police Officers Association have demanded an apology, which unfortunately has made them look like middle school brats.

The St. Louis Police Officers Association is upset with the St. Louis Rams  football players who entered the field displaying the "hands up don't shoot" pose.

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This seems like a perfectly reasonable response. The “hands up don’t shoot” pose has been adopted by protestors who accused Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson of murdering Michael Brown. The gesture has become synonymous with assertions that Michael Brown was innocent of any wrongdoing and attempting to surrender peacefully when Wilson gunned him down in cold blood.

If I was a police officer, I might be upset, too.

However, the St. Louis Police Officers Association demand that the players apologize and be disciplined strikes me as petty, purposeless, and ridiculous and only serves to cast the police officers in fragile, vindictive light.    

"The SLPOA is calling for the players involved to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a very public apology. Roorda said he planned to speak to the NFL and the Rams to voice his organization's displeasure tomorrow. He also plans to reach out to other police organizations in St. Louis and around the country to enlist their input on what the appropriate response from law enforcement should be.”

I recently listed the eight lowest forms of human communication. The demanded apology is first on this list.  

When you demand an apology, you are asking to person you have offended you to utter a set of words that may express regret but with no guarantee of sincerity. There is no way of knowing whether or not the apology was heart-felt, since you never allowed the offender the opportunity to apologize without prompting.

Besides, what is the value of a demanded apology? Will an expression of forced regret make the police feel better?

I hope not. It’s pretty pathetic if that’s the case.

A demanded apology is nothing more than an adult version of “Take it back!” It’s a form of passive-aggressive punishment that typically results in the petty, meaningless satisfaction in knowing that you made someone say something that they would rather not have said.

When I revise my list of the eight lowest forms of communication, I’ll have to add the cliché demand that an employee to be disciplined or terminated, because this is just as bad if not worse.

Will the punishing of these five football players made the police officers feel better?

Do they think that the punishing of these players for exercising their First Amendment right will somehow deter demonstrations by other football players or other groups in the future?

If anything, a punishment would only serve to incite additional demonstrations. It’s been a source of ridicule on social media and by people like Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. 

 

The St. Louis Police Officers Association go on to threaten the players and anyone who thinks that this form of protest represents freedom of speech under the First Amendment:

Roorda warned, "I know that there are those that will say that these players are simply exercising their First Amendment rights. Well I've got news for people who think that way, cops have first amendment rights too, and we plan to exercise ours.

Not only is there a veiled threat contained within the statement, but it’s not logically sound. The first half of the statement:

“I know that there are those that will say that these players are simply exercising their First Amendment rights. Well, I’ve got news for people who think this way…”

… seems to indicate that the police reject the notion that this demonstration is protected speech. The use of the word “simply” as a modifier implies that the players actions went beyond First Amendment rights, and the use of the phrase “people who think this way” implies that this belief is not universally acknowledged. It seems to express a belief that “people who think this way” are separate from what is right and just.

Yet the second half of the statement:

“… cops have first amendment rights too, and we plan to exercise ours.”

… seems to express a belief that what the players did was right and just under the First Amendment and the police plan on engaging in similar, legally justified actions.

You can’t have it both ways, St. Louis Police Officers Association.

There’s also no way in hell that the police will ever follow through on this threat. What do they plan on doing? Protest the NFL? Draw even more attention to their pettiness?

I doubt it.

The police are in a tough spot. They should not make it worse with ridiculous, illogical statements like this one.

How much would you pay for one more hour in your day. Hint: There is a correct answer, and most Americans got it wrong.

A new survey says that more than half (58%) of Americans are willing to pay cash in exchange for one more hour in their day, and that the average amount that these people are willing to pay for that extra hour is $2,725.

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From the TIME piece:

The fact that people are willing to shell out that kind of cash is, well, sad, but also indicative of a larger problem that is unfortunately hard to buy your way out of: An out-of-whack work-life balance.

Am I the only sane person left in this world?

Only 58% of people would pay money to add an hour to their day? What the hell are the other 42% thinking? Do they have any idea how valuable an extra hour a day could be?

Sorry. Stupid question. Clearly they do not.

Time is the most precious commodity on the planet. More valuable than oil or diamonds or fame or even cold, hard cash. Time is a tragically finite resource for which there will never be any replacement.

Time is the great equalizer. We all have 24 hours in a day. No more. No less. If you can get an extra hour on everyone else, you would be an idiot not to pay for it.

If given the opportunity to purchase anything in this world, you should always  purchase time first, and then time again and again and again.

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Yet 42% of Americans would apparently not spend even a single dollar for an extra hour a day.

Clearly traumatic brain injury is a more serious problem than I ever imagined. 

Next, let’s look at the amount that the average American would be willing to spend for an extra hour a day: $2725.

Have these people also been hit in the head by large objects?

An extra hour a day for the rest of you life isn’t worth the price of a motorcycle? Season tickets to your favorite baseball team? One-fifth of the average kitchen remodel in America?

I would pay as much as I possibly could for an extra hour a day. I would take out a second mortgage on my home for an extra hour in my day. I would forfeit a year’s salary for an extra hour every day. I would have another child with my wife just so I could trade my third-born child for an extra hour in my day.

An extra hour a day amounts to an extra 15 days a year. That’s an additional year of life every 25 years.

An additional year of life is worth less than $2,700?

People are insane. Stupid and insane. 

Lastly, let’s look at the rant of TIME writer Melissa Locker again:

The fact that people are willing to shell out that kind of cash is, well, sad, but also indicative of a larger problem that is unfortunately hard to buy your way out of: An out-of-whack work-life balance.

Sad? Has Locker been struck in the head by a ballpein hammer, too? Does she not understand the value of an extra hour a day for the rest of your life?

Sorry. Stupid question again. Clearly she does not.

The desire for an extra hour in the day is not sad. It’s not indicative of an out-of-whack work-life balance. Desiring an extra hour every day (and being willing to pay for it) is common sense. It’s logic. It’s an understanding of time on an economic level. A clear-eyed view on how short and precious life is and how valuable one hour a day, seven hours a week, and 365 additional hours every year would be.

Sad to be willing to pay for an extra hour every day? I don’t think so. 

What’s truly sad it how people don’t realize how fragile and tenuous our lives really are. How fleeting our days on this planet will prove to be. How much they will they will have wished for those extra hours when facing the specter of death.

An extra hour every day would be the greatest opportunity imaginable. And the greatest bargain of all time at $2,7o0.

Christmas seems to have arrived early this year, and shut the hell up.

I’ve heard a lot of whining, both in person and via social media, but the early onset of Christmas.

Santa is already at the mall. Christmas music is playing in shops. Holiday decorations are already going up.

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It’s true. Christmas has arrived early this year, and every year it seems to arrive earlier and earlier. But if you listen to the whining and complaining of some people, you’d think that twinkly lights and Jingle Bells are tiny stabs to their small, black hearts.

Get over it. Shut up.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not supporting the early onset of Christmas in any way. I’m merely coming out against whining and complaining about things that don’t actually matter.

Christmas has arrived early this year. It doesn’t matter.

That said, early Christmas gave me the chance to see my first Christmas commercial (from the UK), and it’s brilliant. Right up my alley given the books I’ve written and am writing.

Be sure to wait until the end for the payoff. It’s worth it.

Hunter Thompson once retyped The Great Gatsby just to feel what it was like to write a great novel. What a stupid waste of time.

Author Hunter Thompson once retyped The Great Gatsby just to feel what it was like to write a great novel. This fact is often lauded as a demonstration of his commitment to the craft and his desire for excellence.

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I can’t imagine a stupider way to spend your time.

Want to write a great novel?

Try writing one. Then try again and again and again.

Thompson did this, of course (and with great success, in my opinion), but perhaps if he hadn’t spent so much time doing what amounted to a popular form of punishments from my childhood (copying definitions from the dictionary), he would’ve had time to write one more story.

Or spent a little more time polishing one of his manuscripts.

I have far too many stories to tell to spend a moment retyping someone else’s story.

Frankly, I doubt that Thompson even did this ridiculous exercise. It’s the kind of story that a great writer like Thompson would make up, knowing its inherent appeal to the general public.

I hope he made it up.

My kids love each other so much, and you can shut your mouth about it.

It’s crazy how much my kids love each other.

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Even crazier is the number of miserable people who look at a photo like this and say things like, “Enjoy it while it lasts!” and “Sorry to tell you, my friend, but they’ll be at each other’s throats before you know it.”

My inclination, whenever I hear someone say something like this to me, is to stomp on their foot, and while they are crumpled in a ball on the ground, tell them how small and sad they are.

It’s difficult to imagine how much a person must truly suck at life in order to be able to tell a proud father that his children are going to be repellant, dissociative antagonists someday.

It’s even more difficult to imagine how stupid a person has to be in order to presume that his or her family dynamic is universal.

Why do people do this?

I was recently told by someone that in just a few short years,  my daughter is going to close her bedroom door and stop sharing her thoughts and feelings with me.

Thankfully, I’m immune to this nonsense. I simply assume that the person who is telling me this is an idiot.

But not everyone is as arrogant and condescending as me. These inconsiderate, hateful, and oftentimes inaccurate jerk faces are quite capable of ruining the day of an otherwise happy parent.

If you are one of these people, you suck at life. Stop it. Allow proud parents like me to enjoy the moment, expect the best, and remain hopeful about the future. Your apparently unfortunate reality is not the destiny of all, as much as you might wish otherwise.    

“Guess what?” You sound like an idiot when you say “Guess what?”

Request:

No. Check that. Demand:

Remove the rhetorical “Guess what? from your lexicon immediately.

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Not every “Guess what?” is bad. “Guess what?” is perfectly acceptable much of the time.

But the rhetorical “Guess what?” is never acceptable. 

“My boss wants us to do so-and-so? Well, guess what? It will be a cold day in hell before that ever happens.”

No. Stop it. Almost all rhetorical questions are annoying, but the “Guess what?” rhetorical question is especially so, since the people who use it seem to use it all the time.

Remove the “Guess what?” from the previous example and the only thing that changes is the perceived intelligence of the speaker.

“My boss wants us to do so-and-so? Well, it will be a cold day in hell before that ever happens.”

See what I mean? It’s a cleaner sentence. It’s more economic. But most important, it eliminates the cloying, under confident, needy sentiment that “Guess what?” brings to an argument. “Guess what?” implies that the listener needs to be more actively engaged than he or she already is. “Guess what?” suggests a false sense of audience participation. “Guess what?” hints at a speaker who is concerned with his or her ability to garner your attention.

“Guess what?” screams of desperation.

No more. Rid yourself of this verbal tick. This rhetorical blunder. This wasteful, purposeless, annoying turn of phrase.

No one wants to see your photos of the sunrise or the sunset.

On Saturday morning, I posted the following to Facebook:

At 6:38 this morning the sky turned an orange that I have never seen before. It was as if it was on fire. The whole world was bathed in an eerily beautiful orange glow. It lasted for less than ten minutes. I took my son outside to watch. Only people who rise before the sun know the full range of the sky's colors.

I posted a shorter but similar comment to Twitter.

The post received a large response on social media, including a question, asked about a dozen times.

Why didn’t I capture the moment with a photograph?

Two reasons:

1. Photographs of sunsets and sunrises never adequately capture the majesty of the moment. Frankly, they’re boring. While I am certain that many sunsets and sunrises are stunning and perhaps even breathtaking, if I’m not there, it looks like all the other sunsets and sunrises that I’ve ever seen captured on film

Photography never does them justice.

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And there are a million of the photographs taken everyday and posted to social media, making them seem even less majestic. They are akin to elementary school poems about the snow or dogs. I’ve read a million of them over the course of my teaching career, and even the excellent ones are marginalized by sheer volume.

So I don’t take photographs of sunsets and sunrises and post them to social media. Nor should you.

2. Had I taken the time to photograph the sky on Saturday morning, I would’ve missed some of the majesty of the moment. In less than ten minutes, the sky has transformed from singular and spectacular to ordinary and expected. I spent every moment soaking it in. Enjoying it with my son. Committing the moment to memory.

Not sticking an iPhone in between me and it in order to take a photograph that would never do it justice.