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When Black Friday Comes

Yes it is (Get Funny)

Yes it is (Get Funny)

Yesterday, people all over the nation celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday with family, friends, football, food and—most important of all—fellowship. They expressed gratitude for their many blessings, broke bread together and commemorated the meal shared between pilgrims and “Indians” centuries ago—if you buy into the elementary school version of the holiday’s origins, that is. And I certainly do.

Yes, there was love among men and even the most bitter of rivals put their differences aside to give thanks for all they had. Believe me, I know since we had both Steelers and Ravens fans coexisting at my own Thanksgiving table—a phenomenon rarely seen among die-hard NFL fans.

Unfortunately, all the love and grace of Thanksgiving ended and we now find ourselves in the midst of something dark and infused with evil and despair: Black Friday.

And I, for one, do not plan on leaving the house unless it is absolutely necessary and otherwise unavoidable.

The only lines longer than this were at the unemployment office (AP)

The only lines longer than this were at the unemployment office (AP)

In simplest terms, “Black Friday” is the name given to the Friday after Thanksgiving, arguably the biggest shopping day of the year. It signals the official start of the Christmas shopping season and retailers cash in by offering all sorts of sales and so-called doorbusters to entice consumers to spend obscene amounts of money on crap they can probably get any time of the year. Nevertheless, people turn out in droves and—if you’ve ever experienced a Black Friday sale or waited in a line for hours for a store to open—they aren’t always the nicest or most considerate people in the world.

Sometimes they can get downright vicious, as evidenced by some of the latest Black Friday news from around our great nation. Take a look at how some people are getting into the “Christmas spirit” this year.

ILLINOIS: Two suspects outside a Kohl’s department store were chased by police after allegedly shoplifting some clothing. During the ensuing struggle, an officer was dragged by a car driven by one of the suspects, who was subsequently shot in the shoulder by the other officer. Both the suspect and cop have been hospitalized and, thankfully, their injuries were not life-threatening.

Great selection, low prices and plenty of asskicking to boot! (Walmart/Wikipedia)

Great selection, low prices and plenty of asskicking to boot! (Walmart/Wikipedia)

NEW JERSEY: Police were called to Walmart after a shopper got into a heated argument with a store manager over a television set. When the cops arrived, the man became more belligerent and even attacked one of the officers. Needless to say, he was arrested for disorderly conduct and for aggravated assault against a police officer. Merry Christmas, dumbass.

CALIFORNIA: Apparently, Walmart is a dangerous place to be on Black Friday because violence erupted at their Rialto location, too. At least two people were arrested after a brawl took place outside the store. It seems that people kept cutting in line, which angered other shoppers and led to the brouhaha. An officer broke his wrist during the struggle, which unfortunately didn’t end there. Several additional fights occurred within the store later. I guess that’s the price you pay for offering so many bargains, huh?

VIRGINIA: Go figure, but two men outside a Walmart store got into an argument over a parking space and, once again, the encounter ended violently. In an effort to secure a better spot, 61-year-old Ronnie Sharp pulled a gun on his nemesis, 35-year-old Christopher Jackson. When this didn’t work, Sharp brandished a knife and sliced Jackson’s arm “to the bone,” according to an eyewitness. Both men were arrested, but are now free on $5000 bond. So please watch your ass if you plan on visiting the Tazewell County Walmart anytime soon… especially if you see Ronnie Sharp!

Beware the Grinch: Ronnie Sharp (WVVA)

Beware the Grinch: Ronnie Sharp (WVVA)

NEVADA: A Las Vegas shopper was walking through his apartment complex—his arms filled with the big screen television he just purchased—when an unknown (and armed) suspect fired several warning shots at him. The man dropped the television and fled, but returned to find the thief loading it into a vehicle. He approached the suspect and tried to get the television back. Instead, all he got was a bullet in the leg. Fortunately he wasn’t seriously injured, but his television is long gone.

These are just a few of the Black Friday “incidents” being reported today, but others continue to pour in from the most unlikely places: Jordan Creek, Iowa; Johnson City, Tennessee; Beaumont, Texas; Elkin, NC; Garfield, New Jersey. You name it. And there will undoubtedly be more since Black Friday often drifts through the weekend.

Hurray.

If you do venture out today, though—choosing to risk violent confrontations in exchange for bargain basement prices—I suggest taking at least one of two things: a working knowledge of hand-to-hand, close-quarters combat techniques or—if nothing else—pepper spray.

Odds are you’re going to need them!

IPhone 5 Users Beware!

Chargers can kill, so watch out! (courtesy of App Advice)

According to a number of news sources—including Xinhua, the state-run news agency in China—a flight attendant aboard a China South Airlines flight last Thursday was shocked and killed by her iPhone 5. Police are currently investigating her death and Apple has vowed to cooperate fully with authorities.

23-year-old Ma Ailun—who bought her new iPhone 5 in December from one of Apple’s official stores—was charging it and picked it up to make a call when the phone produced a shock strong enough to drop her to the floor. She was pronounced dead a short time later and, in the opinion of her father, had clear signs of electrocution on her body. And if her death wasn’t bad enough, Ailun was also preparing to marry. What a heartbreaking turn of events.

On average—and according to a number of experts—cellular phones output between 3-4 volts of electricity, far less than would be necessary to cause someone bodily harm. It takes at least 35 or more volts for someone to really feel a shock.

However, if there were some problem with the phone, the charger or even the electrical system in the plane, it would be possible for a whopping 220 volts to surge through the phone. And yes, that would be more than enough to kill someone.

At this point, no one knows exactly what killed Ma Ailun, but one thing is certain: under no circumstances should anyone with a cell phone try to use it while it is charging. Chalk this up as “better safe than sorry” and, by all means, do not take any unnecessary chances.

After all, whoever tries to call while your phone is charging can surely be reached once the power cord is disconnected. At least this way the only shocking thing will be what they have to say… and regardless of the news, at least you will be alive to hear it!

Live from DC!

Kicking it in the Capitol!

Kicking it in the Capitol!

Blogging can be fun, rewarding, exciting, demanding, confusing, overwhelming, frustrating, life-altering and a million other things. At least that’s what I’ve gathered in nearly a year of blogging daily, sometimes multiple times each day. Of course, blogging can also be extremely difficult. And I’m not even talking about the act of writing itself; I’m talking about finding the time to blog.

I actually touched on this in my April 23rd post entitled “A Blog a Day,” but it warrants repeating since this time around, I have a different obstacle standing in my way… one we all long for and, if we’re lucky, most of us get at least once a year: vacation!

When you finally get the time, money and wherewithal to pack up your shit, arrange for your pets to be cared for and head out of town for a much-needed break, the last thing on your mind—if your vacation is going well, that is—is blogging. Granted, I put tons of pressure on myself to post something daily, but that’s only because I set that goal for myself, at least in the beginning. My plan is to ease off at some point, though. Most bloggers I know average about a post each week, so I know I’m pushing myself a bit too hard. What’s sad is that I can’t help it. Blogging finally got me writing again on a regular basis, so I guess I’m afraid that if I do ease off, I may never return. Stupid, I know, but like I said, I can’t control it.

Things change a bit on vacation, though.

The Elephant of Natural History

The Elephant of Natural History

At the moment, I am visiting my sister and her family in our nation’s capital, the amazing Washington, D.C. Home of Obama, political bipartisanship, the Redskins, the Smithsonian, Watergate, lobbyist kickbacks… it’s got everything. And what’s more, my sister and her husband are likely the best hosts you will ever meet. My son and I have wanted for nothing—food, drinks, souvenirs, even basic household supplies. They covered all their bases and, since I make quite a bit less in my career—which is rewarding in many other ways, I assure you (even though some extra Benjamins here and there certainly wouldn’t hurt)—they’re picking up most of the tab. Sure, I try to contribute where I can, like buying lunch or helping out around the house, but they normally beat me to the punch. Family is great that way, isn’t it? Those who have the means cover those who don’t, at least until circumstances change. Too bad all people can’t do that more often, huh? After all, we are one big human family, at least from a species perspective.

Sorry. I tend to drift off a little more when I’m on vacation. I told you blogging under these conditions was tough.

So here I sit in Columbia Heights, a relatively affluent neighborhood in old Washington not far from the $27 million dollar Rockefeller compound and a hop-skip-and-a-jump from the Washington Zoo—a place we’re actually planning to visit in a few days. Tomorrow is a Nationals baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies—I’m a Yankees fan, so tomorrow I’m putting 110% behind the home team—followed by dinner at a nice restaurant and an evening of books, coffee and music at a little place where an African friend of my brother-in-law’s is performing. It should be awesome, especially since the evening activities include a babysitter for the kids—after dark is strictly for the adults.

As it should be, I think. Bear in mind, though, that this is coming from a man who hoofed around museums and crowds of Memorial Day tourists all afternoon, three young kids in tow the entire time, complete with all the bells, whistles and tantrums. Fortunately, moods and attitudes were easily improved with junk food from all over the world, as evidenced by the line of food trucks with international flavors supreme lining the streets around the national mall. Snowballs, chicken tenders, ice cream… that’s like crack for kids, let me tell you.

The perfect day for kiting... is that really a word?

The perfect day for kiting… is that really a word?

Today centered primarily around the Museum of Natural History—we had to see some dinosaur bones or my son would never let me live it down—as well as time outside on the mall, which was bustling with people. There was a carousel, tons of food (see “food trucks”” from a moment ago), lovely ladies—sorry, but I couldn’t help dropping that in—and construction, construction, construction. Not sure what that was all about—aside from the Washington Monument being repaired, of course, which I’d heard about—but it made for some tough moments when the wind kicked up and blew dirt everywhere. Felt like I was in a sandstorm or something, but only for a  few seconds here or there. Not enough to ruin anyone’s good time, and who am I to complain anyway? I’m getting the baby sister/bro-in law hookup here!

A few snapshots are obviously included for anyone who’s interested.

Uh oh. It looks like this evening’s festivities are about to commence. Some local friends I know from my sister’s wedding are here with their kids for a holiday cookout—steaks on the grill and all sorts of other goodies tossed in. And yes, plenty of wine and beer are on the menu, too, so it could be a long couple of hours for someone. I would say a long night, but let’s face it… we are all a bit older and when kids are involved, you have to squeeze your “responsible” good time into a few hours and then get the kids to bed so you can unwind, reload and start it all over again tomorrow.

But not me. I am on vacation and tomorrow, my first stop will be the ballpark. Let’s play ball, Nationals!

And if I happen to post a blog at all—or if I miss my first day in nearly a year—so be it. We all need a break, right?

Protecting the Family Jewels

Keep them under wraps (property of Fun Boxers)

“Guys, you know you better watch out. Some girls, some girls are only about that thing, that thing, that thing.”

These words appeared in Lauryn Hill’s 1998 R&B hit “Doo Wop (That Thing)” and helped launch the solo career of this former Fugees lead singer. The song is intended as a plea to young African-American men and women caught in “the struggle” and warns guys not to let “that thing” (between their legs) ruin their lives. Of course, they could also apply to the challenges men of all races face today, especially when it comes to the internet.

I am, of course, referring to the upswing in online sex scams. And yes, they affect men as much as they do women, maybe even more.

Let me paint you a picture.

Jim Williams was a 35-year-old man whose marriage was falling apart and heading for divorce. As such, he and his wife rarely communicated verbally, much less physically. And Jim was lonely.

He was also horny.

One night as Jim was cruising around his Facebook account, a friend request arrived from a beautiful young woman he had never met. Her name was Lynn and according to her profile, she and Jim shared several mutual friends. Although he normally wouldn’t accept a request from a stranger—especially a young woman—Jim trusted his friends and reluctantly added Lynn to his list. Within minutes, he received a message from her and the two began chatting on a regular basis.

At first, their exchanges were innocent: What’s your favorite film? How long have you worked in your current field? Where did you grow up? Eventually—and quickly—the two got closer and their questions became more personal: What do you look for in a woman? How much sex do you normally have in a week? What’s your favorite position?

Every time Jim communicated with Lynn, she mentioned some kinky interest or sexual need that aroused the sleeping giant in his pants. He knew that he wasn’t a cheater and hadn’t done anything wrong, but deep down he still felt a little guilty.

Fortunately, the feeling quickly passed.

The next day, Jim got a message from Lynn asking if he would meet her on Skype that night. She even provided her number and told him to call anytime, day or night, even collect if necessary. A week passed before Jim finally summoned the strength to do so, but eventually curiosity took hold and he couldn’t resist. Jim told himself that a little video chatting never hurt anyone. And since he would be single in a few months anyway, this could be a fun warm-up before he finally dove back into the dating pool.

So Jim logged into his Skype account, dialed Lynn’s number, took a deep breath and waited. Lynn answered quickly and a moment later, the two laid eyes on each other for the first time, alive and in person.

And they were both pleased.

Some great conversations followed, but so did some flirting. This quickly turned in to sex talk and within a few days, things started to get pretty graphic. Each time Jim logged in and contacted Lynn, she was wearing an outfit more revealing than the last. The more skin she showed, the more Jim’s pants rose to the occasion. And though he still felt a little guilty at times, he figured “What the hell?” So he kept on talking dirty and even encouraged Lynn to reveal more of herself, which she soon did.

The next time they Skyped, she was completely naked and extremely compliant. Whatever Jim asked her to do—regardless of how demented it might be—she did without question. There were oils, lotions, toys and even a few vegetables depending on their mood. In a short time, Jim had seen so much of Lynn that if asked to pick her out of a lineup, he could identify her from any angle or using any square inch of her body.

This is probably too much

He had a flexible webcam to thank for that.

Then came the inevitable request from Jim’s new and naked friend: “I showed you mine, so show me yours.”

Jim was hesitant at first. After all, by law he was still a married man. Sure, he suspected his wife of cheating on him in the past—maybe with several different men—but he couldn’t prove anything and certainly didn’t want revenge. This would just be an entertaining way to get his rocks off, not all that different from whacking off to a porn site or live sex show, both of which cost money. This was free and since he didn’t know Lynn—and she didn’t even know his last name—Jim knew he was safe.

So he dropped his pants, allowed Lynn to seduce him through his computer screen, played to the camera and ended his “show” with a finale so explosive it nearly shorted out his keyboard.

Seconds later, the call disconnected and Lynn’s screen went dark. Assuming it was nothing more than a bad connection, Jim spent a few minutes straightening up, pulled himself together and called Lynn to thank her for the “favor.”

There was no answer.

She was probably washing up, too, he thought to himself. So he made himself a drink, fed his dog, did a few other mundane chores and tried to call her again.

Still there was no answer, but Jim did receive an email. And he just knew that it had to be Lynn.

It wasn’t.

The message came from some anonymous source at an address Jim had never seen before. It was completely devoid of text except for the title of its only attachment, a video file labeled simply “Jim Williams.”

His heart sank, but he reluctantly scanned the file and opened it. And there he was in all his glory: recorded by Lynn while he “rubbed one out” in front of her.

Then the phone rang. Jim didn’t recognize the number on his caller ID, but answered it since it had to be Lynn this time.

It wasn’t.

On the other end was a man with a high-pitched voice who sounded Asian to Jim, but he wasn’t interested in accents. He was interested in what the man just told him: that unless he paid him $10,000, his video would be sent to all of his Facebook friends and family members.

One of whom was his wife.

Jim’s story is a tragic one because, for most of us, coming up with $10K quickly and then trusting some stranger to delete your naughty video—the same stranger who made the video and is now extorting money from you—would be extremely difficult. And with no real laws governing the internet, you couldn’t count on the authorities to help. Short of being tight with a skilled computer hacker—maybe one that owes you a favor—you would be screwed.

Just like poor Jim Williams.

Online sex scamming is a growing problem all over the world, and it’s only going to get worse. In 2012, fifty such cases were reported in Singapore alone, and even that was eleven more than the year before. And we’re talking about Singapore, a small island nation. Imagine how widespread this problem is in the United States or even Europe!

Don’t let identity theft happen to you (property of Kenney Hegland)

Incidentally, police in Singapore just busted a ring of scam artists who do precisely what I described in the cautionary tale of Jim Williams. And Graham Cluley of the web security firm Sophos points out that in cases like Jim’s, there is another danger.

“You can imagine how a man, believing he is being seduced online by a sexy woman, might be all too eager to click on a link she suggests or run a malicious program on his computer,” Cluley posted to his blog. “Before he knows it, his computer could be under the control of a hacker.”

And if that happens, a video of your wiener won’t be your biggest problem; identity theft will.

So the next time you get a friend request from a sexy young woman you don’t know, gentlemen, please think twice about accepting it. The same goes for exposing yourself to strangers online. It may seem fun and dangerous and erotic and thrilling—especially if you engage in true “cyber sex” (which doesn’t mean putting something in your computer’s USB port that’s more flesh drive than flash drive)—but the consequences could be devastating. Either keep your face and all distinguishing features, objects or furnishings hidden, or don’t do it at all.

You just never know who’s liable to see it.

Man in the Can

An unforgettable scene from “Trainspotting” (property of Channel Four Films)

Go anywhere that different generations of people regularly interact—like the campus of the small, private college where I work—and you will inevitably hear the same grumbling from one of the older folks: “I don’t know what’s wrong with the youth today, but we never…”

I’m sure you can fill in the rest.

Although I still consider myself to be a young man, the sad fact is that at nearly 42 years of age, I am no spring chicken (to use an expression from my neck of the woods… damn it, the clichés just keep on coming). In my mind, I’m still that young, idealistic go-getter with his whole life in front of him. Reality, on the other hand, is quite different. And all the warning signs are there: a habitually sore back and aching bones; a goatee speckled with white hairs and covering a double chin; an inability to stay up past 11:00 at night or to sleep past 10:00 the next morning, even during a vacation or holiday; a staunch refusal to turn the speaker to 10 (or 11 for all you Spinal Tap fans) and a preference for quieter tunes; and all sorts of other interesting changes.

If you’re a little older, then I’m sure you know exactly what I mean. And if you know what I mean, then we probably share another fundamental belief: AGING SUCKS.

Sure, there are those who would have you believe “The Golden Years” are wonderful, but even they know deep down in their brittle, calcium-deprived bones that it blows to get old. It’s like the Dread Pirate Roberts says in one of my favorite films, The Princess Bride: “Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

But I digress.

Accepting the fact that I’m older isn’t a huge problem for me yet—it’s possible I could only be at the mid-point right now—but I also find myself wondering (and worrying) about young people. Since I work so closely with them and tend to be more of a realist, I don’t find it tough to relate because we’ve all been there. Nothing shocks or offends or surprises me any more. And though I am always straight with them and try to steer them in the right direction—even if it means leaving college to follow their dreams or achieve their goals elsewhere—the reality is that some will succeed and others will not.

Where I come from, we have a name for this phenomenon. It’s called life. And yes, the place I come from is Earth, just like you. I hope.

Without much effort, I could ramble on about all the differences between “my” generation and the youth of today: What’s up with texting pictures of your junk to total strangers? Or going thousands of dollars into debt only to sleep all day and fail all your classes? Or loading up your Facebook page with pictures of you flipping the bird or dropping your pants? You think you’re going to land that kick-ass job once your prospective employer sees photos of you at some party with a beer in one hand and a bong in the other? Think again!

Don’t get me started.

Instead of wasting time with all of that, I would prefer to focus on a specific set of skills that seem to be lacking in our young men today. It isn’t pretty—and can often be quite stinky—but I am of course referencing BATHROOM SKILLS. And for a guy like me, who prefers neatness but is willing to lower the bar a little for public restrooms, the situation is worse than you can imagine. Consider my own workplace, the aforementioned small, private college.

Relief can be hard to find (property of Channel Four Films)

At most—and I’m sure someone will tease me later for not remembering the exact number—we have around 400 students on campus, the majority of them male. And since my building holds many of our classes, a lot of these students pass through each day. It’s a busy, high-traffic area.

Our young women have nothing to fear because there is a restroom on each of the two floors to accommodate their needs. Unfortunately, men only have one and it’s right there as you walk through the front door. Everyone uses it, and here’s where things get nasty both figuratively and literally.

I apologize in advance if I start ranting and raving. And if I happen to offend, I am truly sorry.

Whenever I walk in to this particular bathroom—and believe me when I say that I visit it as infrequently as possible—it’s almost as if I teleported to the School for the Blind. I’ve never actually seen it happen, but I envision students entering the lavatory with their business hanging out of their flies, spraying wildly and then fleeing the scene of the crime. In those terms, I would have to be the forensic expert who arrives later and attempts to piece everything together. The veteran forensic expert, I mean, given all my unfortunate experience with this public health issue [attempting to sound serious given the topic is pee pee].

It’s gross, but sadly that’s only the beginning.

Earlier today—and given that I only had number one needs, if you catch my drift—I reluctantly walked into this nightmare lavatory and found another horrifying sight: a toilet backed up with the “bad stuff” and in danger of crossing the threshold. As much as I hate to say it, this kind of thing happens so often that I barely take notice any more. Only this time was different.

Lined neatly along the toilet seat were little strips of paper towels, all of them roughly the same size and overlapping perfectly to prevent any skin-to-seat contact. As usual, the bathroom was poorly stocked and this poor bastard had to go all MacGyver on it. You older folks… I mean, more mature readers… should catch that reference. But he did it with class, spent some time on the details and at least started his business the right way.

Based solely on the evidence—which I hope has not been tampered with since I would be the only suspect—only two scenarios seem likely at this point.

In the first scenario, the subject starts off strong, but soon things take a turn for the worse. He pushes so hard that he blows out his O-ring. The shock slams his head into the wall and in a semi-concussive, even dream-like state, he simply forgets to flush and wanders away.

One can only hope that he remembered to wipe first, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Actually, scratch that because I believe I did hold my breath for a short time there.

Scenario two adds a bit of normalcy because for the first few minutes—perhaps for most of the movement—everything is fine and runs smoothly. It’s even possible that successful wiping took place before disaster finally struck. With his ritual complete and his clothes in order, our subject attempts to flush five “gallons” down a two-gallon toilet and quickly realizes that “it ain’t happening.” Did that make me sound young?

He flees. I walk in. There’s poo-poo everywhere. You get the picture.

2011's winner was The Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois

The Cream of the Crap: Chicago’s Field Museum restroom (courtesy of Business Insider)

I also feel impelled to mention the “put the seat up/put the seat down” thing despite the fact that only men use this particular restroom. We don’t like to admit it, but we have all used questionable facilities at one time or another. Sure, we seek cleaner, more private venues when they’re available. But on the rare occasion, a perfect storm converges at the most inopportune moment and despite our best efforts, there simply isn’t time to find a new toilet. You just have to make do, and that’s no easy task in most men’s rooms. All you can do is pray the guys before you lifted the seat before spraying—which often is not the case—or start cleaning.

Then you realize there aren’t any paper towels and the soap dispensers are dry. Confused, shocked and angry, you make the mistake of standing motionless for 15 seconds and the lights suddenly go out to conserve energy. Aaaahhhh!

I have some other examples that I could share—some of which are even more disturbing—but I think my message is clear. To eliminate all possible confusion, though, I now address the young men out there with deficiencies in the bathroom. And you know who you are.

I don’t care if you were poorly trained, have vision problems, suffer from vertigo or nervous urination—if there is such a thing—don’t pay enough attention or simply don’t care. When you use a public restroom, please try to be clean and considerate so the next guy will do the same (i.e. pee it forward). If you want to piss all over the place, sit in your own urine, flood your bathroom with sewage or even smear yourself down in unmentionable substances in your own home, please be my guest. Most of us will never use your facilities anyway. Just don’t impose your bad toilet habits on the rest of us. That shouldn’t be too much to ask.

Of course, we should all keep something else in mind: someday in each of our futures, we won’t be able to control any of these bodily functions. We may even hire people to clean up after us. Who knows? When that time comes, I say piss and shit all over the place if you like. You may not have a choice. But for now, while you’re here and we all have to live together, please do us all a “solid” and keep it neat in public.

After all, we don’t want the next health pandemic to come from our bathrooms, do we?

Stay Safe this Halloween

Trick or Treat

Trick or Treat (Photo credit: therapycatguardian)

Later today, millions of children will put on their costumes and venture out into their neighborhoods to trick-or-treat for Halloween, the spookiest of all holidays. Ghouls and goblins of all shapes and sizes will walk the streets like candy-craving zombies, anxious to stockpile sweets that will inevitably lead to the real-life horror of stomach aches and cavities. None of that matters, though, because everyone knows how wonderful this experience can be.

They also know how dangerous Halloween can be. When I was a kid, the urban legend that caused the most fear involved razor blades being hidden in apples. Fortunately, my friends and I never ate the fruit we were given and always shunned the people who chose to substitute it for Snickers bars and Sweet Tarts. We would normally heave the fruit into people’s backyards for them to discover later, always hoping they would “take the hint” and spring for real sweets the following year. I now understand why they did it—fruit is much healthier and causes less tooth decay, in most cases—but Halloween is supposed to involve junk-eating. It’s an important part of the tradition, for goodness sake!

Of course, more serious Halloween horror stories about kids being abducted, attacked or even killed always seem to garner headlines. Safety is important and there are tons of useful tips to be found online. Here are a few of my own to add to the collection.

Safety in numbers

The most obvious tip is to travel in groups rather than individually because it makes you less of a target. Thankfully, most people I know trick-or-treat with their parents or friends because face it, going by yourself is just sad.

Beyond safety, trick-or-treating with a group provides a number of other benefits. For one, you and your friends can mix-and-match your costumes and hit the same houses multiple times. This can quadruple your candy intake and ensure Halloween lasts well into November. Groups can also perform more elaborate tricks, especially on those people handing out the apples and oranges. Someone needs to teach them a lesson, after all. And if another group of costumed hooligans step to you—perhaps to try to steal the candy you’ve worked so hard to collect—then your posse can back you up. I would never endorse violence or any kind of Halloween rumble, but it never hurts to be prepared.

The right costume

When you select a costume to wear, there are certain precautions you should take to further guarantee your safety. Huge, plastic masks are fine—even though they cause excessive face and head sweating—but only if they allow for clear vision, especially peripherally. You never know who or what will be hiding in those dark corners or behind bushes. And if you can’t see threats coming, you stand little to no chance of avoiding them. Wearing a mask that allows for a clear line of sight—or that can be quickly removed at the first sign of danger—is always your best bet.

You should also make sure your costume is flame-resistant (or at least flame-retardant) and by all means, leave the capes at home. If someone does try to mess with you and you flee, having a long cape drifting behind you will make you much easier to catch, and potentially choke. It may also get snagged on a fence or tree branch, which could result in you choking yourself!

Candy!

Candy! (Photo credit: jeffadair)

Candy Land

One of the most dangerous aspects of Halloween involves the candy, and not just because it will fatten you up or rot out your teeth. You never know when some lunatic will tamper with their treats or even try to poison revelers, so checking each individual piece you receive is always a good idea. Look for the obvious signs first, like damage to wrappers, small puncture marks (needle-sized marks especially) or evidence it has been opened and re-closed. Once everything is clear and you start eating, pay attention to the taste and immediately spit out anything with a weird or unusual flavor. You just never know whether it comes from a bad factory batch or some psycho who dipped each candy into drain cleaner or liquid laxative.

One more thing about candy: Have you ever gone trick-or-treating and come across a house where the residents are gone, but where a huge tub of candy was left outside for the children? Normally, there’s a sign that says something like “please take only two pieces” or “make sure you leave some for the other children.” My advice in these situations is simple: ignore the sign. Do you think people really expect children to exercise restraint? They may hope for it, but I guarantee they have a better chance of meeting an actual vampire than having kids follow the honor system in these instances. And remember this: if you don’t take it all, then someone else will. And we can’t have that, can we?

Props sometimes hurt

My final Halloween safety tip relates to costumes and can be very helpful in preventing danger. It is never a bad idea to carry a prop that could double as a weapon if the need arises. Of course, it should match your costume because honestly, a werewolf with a Samurai sword just wouldn’t fly. But if you decide to be Harry Potter, why not grab a stick, call it a wand and then poke anyone who tries to do you harm? Wizards like Gandalf from “Lord of the Rings” carry long wooden staffs, which can also do wonders in terms of self-defense. Whatever the case may be, a sturdy prop can add a lot to your costume, but it can also keep the demons at bay. Something to consider, I think.

So there you have it: some rather unconventional tips to keep your Halloween safe and enjoyable. There is a lot of darkness in this world and the freaks definitely come out, especially since this is the only holiday where it’s acceptable to hide your identity. Take the necessary precautions, however, and you need not worry… at least not until your next trip to the dentist!

Happy Halloween, everybody!

The Benefits of Swallowing

Semen 1

The future of health food? (Photo credit: gusset)

If you’ve spent any time reading my blog, then you likely know that I rarely shy away from controversial or even seemingly disgusting topics. And this article is no exception.

For whatever reason, I keep finding information online about a rather touchy sexual subject: swallowing versus spitting. Obviously, this refers to the manner in which women (or even men, I suppose) help their partners reach completion following oral sex. And although most women I know shudder at the thought of ingesting man juice, there are some clear health benefits to doing so.

Most of us likely know that semen is high in protein, but did you know it can help sore throats and even diabetes? Granted, an over-the-counter medication, syrup or vitamin may do the trick, but swallowing a man’s salty discharge (as it’s been described to me) can kill two birds with one stone: pleasuring your mate while also reaping the health benefits. It’s definitely worth considering, ladies, and I’m sure your men will appreciate the presumably unselfish gesture.

In a number of different studies, semen has been shown to improve your mood. Most of these studies focus on intercourse, but the same may also be true of swallowing semen. Within this sticky substance are the hormones testosterone and estrogen, both of which can make women happier. Why not combat your seasonal depression with a nice BJ?

Another benefit of swallowing, which I admit makes little sense to me, is the fact that some women consider semen to be tasty and delicious. Much of it depends upon what their men eat and drink, but a diet of fresh fruit or juice can add all sorts of flavor. And since semen is roughly 20 calories per teaspoon, it has the potential to be a healthy, nutritious snack.

Personally, I think I’ll stick with potato chips and candy.

One final benefit doesn’t really involve swallowing, but could be enjoyed by anyone who gets “egg on their face” (and by “egg” I clearly mean spooge). A number of health gurus claim that a semen facial can be good for your skin. Whether or not this is true, I have no idea. But semen might be a good alternative if you ever run out of your favorite face cream.

I apologize if this is gross or offensive, but my job as a blogger (as I see it) is to approach every subject I feel may be interesting to readers. And despite being a semen producer rather than a semen user, I feel obligated to report these benefits because they might do someone good… especially my fellow guys out there!

Do Your Thing

As part of our extended orientation program for freshmen, the college brought in a speaker to talk to them about success in both higher education and life. It wasn’t until I entered the dark auditorium—a few minutes after the show started—that I realized the speaker was actually a comedian. A funny and sometimes vulgar comedian, but he was definitely the right person to connect with young students. Most of the ones I know seem to enjoy profanity and adult humor, perhaps a little too much.

The comedian, David-something, spent quite a bit of time doing material that didn’t seem to mention college success—or even college at all—and he drew some suspicion from our Dean of Students. Fortunately, he quickly moved past his “warm up” and jumped right into the tips and advice. David even made things interactive by asking questions of the young and sometimes unruly audience, but this was soon interrupted by an insulting student remark.

It was during a stint on “work” and David had just asked a young woman about her worst job ever. Before she could respond, some jackass chimed in with “she was a whore” or something to that effect. The auditorium immediately went silent—David included—and a swarm of student orientation leaders descended on the section of seats where the comment originated. Moments later, the offending student was escorted out by the dean and orientation leaders stationed themselves up and down the aisles. Finally, the show could resume.

David started things up again, but the mood in the place was much more restrained for a while. Students finally loosened up and I could tell David was hitting his stride. All of his “advice” was good—consider the future, get involved, go to class—and he punctuated it with hilarious personal experiences. My favorite involved his first-year advisor, who scared the crap out of him by yelling questions at him the first day they met in his office—“Whose education is this? Whose future is this? Whose life is this?”  Incidentally, the expected response to each question was “mine” or even “mine, damn it.”

The final computer-generated Yoda as seen in t...

His advisor sounded like quite a character. In fact, I believe his name was Dr. Yoder. David made a few jokes about him being Yoda, but the “Star Wars” reference went over most students’ heads, much to my chagrin (I love Star Wars). At any rate, Dr. Yoder must have made an impression on David, who used the same exchange of questions with our students several times, even at the end of his presentation.

Of course, David also told us what his advisor said moments later, once they both sat down to chat. He asked David about his dream career, his passion, and David told him it was to make people laugh. That’s when Dr. Yoder dropped three little words on him that changed his life: do your thing.

I know it sounds like some catch phrase or song lyric from the 1970s—“It’s your thang! Do what you wanna do!”—but this is great and powerful advice.

DO YOUR THING

David talked about the decisions he made that inevitably led to him standing on the stage before us. He used college to sharpen his skills, choosing to major in theater and English, and to get some experience, acting in plays and doing stand-up during open mike nights. He followed his dreams and now does something that he loves for a living.

To illustrate this last point, David shared a story about famed inventor Thomas Edison. In his later life, Edison was to be honored with a lifetime achievement award for his work. He attended the ceremony and when the appropriate time came, refused to accept the award. “I never did a day’s work in my life,” he said. “It was all fun.”

Personally, I thought this was some of the best advice college students—especially college freshmen—could receive: do your thing, follow your passion and work won’t even seem like work. It can be fun and also successful, even financially successful. A little earlier in his bit, David mentioned how Bill Gates’ one regret was never finishing college. And this is a guy who makes millions of dollars each minute!

I hope our students learned something valuable from David and take his advice to heart. I know he made me think about whether or not I truly followed my passion. Don’t get me wrong. I love what I do, but am I really doing my thing? Better yet, are any of us?

It makes you wonder…

Bad man! Bad man!

Property of ABC News

Chicago Man Saves Daughter From Abduction Attempt – Yahoo! News.

Kelly Davis is a resident of Zion, Illinois and the father of two beautiful daughters. Occasionally, they visit Chicago at night to enjoy all the city has to offer. But things took a turn for the worst during their last trip to the Windy City.

As Davis’ daughters were playing on the slide outside the Picasso statue in Daley Plaza, a strange man named James Gates approached.

Davis noticed that Gates was paying no attention to him, but instead seemed focused on his two-year-old daughter, Myla. Davis immediately got between Gates and his brood, but that’s when Gates attacked.

He tried reaching around Davis to grab Myla and kept insisting she was his daughter, who he nicknamed Goldilocks. As Davis’ wife rushed the girls to safety, Davis took a shot to the nose moments before Gates strolled away. A bystander immediately contacted police.

Davis followed Gates for almost half an hour until police arrived and arrested him. He will be charged with kidnapping with the threat of force (a felony) and a misdemeanor battery.

I’m a fairly new parent, my son is only five years old, but this is one of my biggest fears. When he’s with me, I keep a very close eye on him, but I won’t always be there to help. And although we’ve talked about what to do when a stranger approaches, my boy is still very trusting of everyone he encounters. So I find myself in a constant state of worry.

I commend Mr. Davis for doing what needed to be done to protect his family. And given the same situation, I’m fairly certain that Gates would have received the ass kicking of a lifetime, too.

Parenting is tough and I wasn’t prepared for the constant fear it brings. My advice to all parents is to take the steps necessary to educate your kids about these types of threats. And please do what I do: commit yourself to protecting children regardless of whether or not they belong to you.

3 guaranteed stress relievers

Stress Relief

Stress Relief (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Stress is a killer. Not only that, but it’s a killer that kills indiscriminately. We all face it at one time or another. Whether it results from work, family, traffic, hypertension or simply life in general, stress is something all humans share. And there is no escaping it.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to better manage stress. Some obvious choices might be breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, vitamins, physical activity or even hobbies. Sure, any of these could help, but I’m the last guy you’ll see doing the Farting Dog pose or popping St. John’s Wort pills like Tic-Tacs.

And while I’m no expert on stress relief, I am well-versed in the tension, depression and other side effects that accompany it. Over the years, I’ve developed my own, more realistic techniques for coping with stress. They aren’t scientific or flashy or complicated; they are simply time-tested, practical and blogger-approved… at least by this blogger!

The player driving towards the Grove Street cu...

Game time!

I know what you’re thinking. “Duh! We all know playing a game can get your mind off your problems!” This is true, of course, but I have something else in mind. Unfortunately, this might not appeal to all of you, especially the beautiful ladies in the crowd.

When I find myself at my breaking point, nothing relaxes me as much as cranking up my Playstation 3—I think I just identified myself as kind of a nerd—popping in a classic like “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas”—or something equally destructive—and just going to town on the fictional world before me.

I carjack innocent “game people” who cross my path, destroy tanker trucks with rocket launchers and lead the cops on high-speed chases all over the fake city. Property damage in the millions is no concern for me as I terrorize everyone I encounter. Women, children, firemen, businesspeople… no one is safe.

I realize this may seem rather demented, psychotic or, at the very least, pathetic, but it really helps. The guy who screwed up my order at Taco Bell becomes a driver I drag from his Ford Escort and leave lying in the street. And the lady at the cable company who gives me the run-around transforms into some jaywalker I mow down with said Escort. It all evens out.

And I always feel better. You should give it a try sometime. And no, Sony isn’t paying me to say this.

Walk tall and carry a big stick

Deep inside each of us is a primal beast just waiting to be released. And during times of great stress, unleashing this beast could be pivotal in returning to stable mental health.

The next time you find yourself with the weight of the world on your shoulders, head to the nearest wooded area, grab a stick and start beating the shit out of a tree. Feel free to scream and curse if you’re far enough from other people. I certainly wouldn’t recommend doing this in your neighborhood, unless you find scaring the crap out of your neighbors’ kids soothing.

And if you do find this soothing, I’m afraid stress might be the least of your worries.

Test_only.jpg

Wine is fine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pop the cork

Since stress relief is a health issue, I would feel terrible recommending alcohol as a way of combating the tensions of everyday life. As tempting as turning to a bottle of Jack Daniels or Ketel One might be, consumption of alcohol can eventually increase the amount of stress you experience.

On the other hand, wine has some beneficial health effects, which is a fancy way of saying it helps if you drink it. Granted, the recommended daily intake is something like one ounce of red wine, but it’s a start. If you don’t drink every day, then you could save up enough for a four-ounce glass later, or maybe a five ounce glass… whatever floats your boat. Sure, the health benefits might not be the same, but I guarantee one thing: your stress will just melt away.

So there you have it: three very easy ways to alleviate stress. “Easy” if you don’t have to buy a PS3, that is, but there are destructive games on all sorts of platforms you could substitute.  I hope at least one of these works for you and, by all means, feel free to share with your friends and loved ones. Stress is something we can only defeat by working together.

I’m willing to do my part.

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