Measuring the Minutes Stolen by the Time-Sucking Vampire that is the NFL

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This year I’ve been trying to make better and more efficient use of my time.

It might be due to the fact that I turned 40 this year, which statistically-speaking, is half-way to dead for most men. It might be due to a reprioritization of career choices that will allow for more family and free time, including focusing on my writing. It might be due to hitting some financial milestones in recent years that will finally allow me to ease off the gas, and maybe even start living life again.

Whatever the reason, I’ve decided to more closely scrutinize how I spend my time.

And that means likely having to drive a stake through the heart of the time-sucking vampire that is the NFL.

But how to do that? It’s easy to just say you’re going to try to make every second matter. It’s harder in practice without a concrete plan.

Sometimes the best way to effect change is to concretely measure what’s wrong, and then fix it with specific, actionable steps. Key word there is specific. It’s not enough just to realize how much time you’re wasting. But when you stop to measure out the minutes you’re pouring down the drain, it creates a much stronger picture. And that clearer, high-def picture has a much better chance of prompting a pivot toward a better direction than a blurry one.

The solution came to me earlier this year during a discussion at work. For my job, we drive company trucks. And one of the safety precedures we have to perform before we get in our trucks is performing a “360.” Meaning to walk around the truck to make sure there are no obstructions, and you’re clear to drive off. It’s meant to reduce accidents and damage to company vehicles. In theory, it’s a good procedure. If done properly, 360s can effectively eliminate unnecessary accidents. But a problem: No one likes to do them, and some think they’re a waste of time.

My solution to this was to point out how a typical 360 only takes about thirty seconds at most to complete. In a typical day we have up to about 20 stops to make. That means at the most, you’re looking at a grand total of only ten minutes to perform the 360s. That’s ten minutes out of a ten-hour day (600 minutes). So just about 1.6% of the total time spent working in the field. That’s a pretty low percentage for something that could achieve a very important goal: Eliminating accidents and damages to company vehicles.

Pointing out that mathematical reality helped shift the narrative because it destroyed the main argument against doing 360s: That they’re a “waste of time.” But that’s an impossibility when they don’t even take 2% of your whole working day. I guarantee you people check their phones WAY more than 2%, and nobody complains about that.

So what does any of that have to do with the National Football League?

A lot, actually. According to Mirror, the average NFL game lasts about three hours and twelve minutes, though that can vary depending on how the clock is managed. During an NFL season, games are scheduled three days a week, with some days seeing multiple games played. On Sundays, the NFL’s biggest day, games are scheduled for 1:00 PM, around 4:00 PM, and then a prime time game usually set for around 8:25 PM. All times Eastern Standard. So if you were to watch a game from each time slot, you’d be spending nearly 10 hours observing grown men chasing a ball around a field.

But you’ve also got Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football. Sometimes you even have games scheduled on Saturday, such as during holidays or the playoffs.

So, for the loyal NFL diehard who also watches Monday and Thursday, that’s at least five games a week, for a total of 16 hours of football. Sixteen hours. Nearly two-thirds of a full day. Almost ten percent of a full week.

Mind you, that’s just the total time spent watching the games. That doesn’t include all the time that might be involved in setting up watch parties, buying drinks, pre-gaming, or physically actually going out to a stadium to catch a game.

A few years ago I took my youngest half-brother to a Texans-Patriots game in Houston to celebrate his graduation from college. Due to traffic and time constraints, we decided it was best to rent a motel near the stadium to avoid the mess driving home. Between dinner, the game, and then returning to the motel, I estimate it was at least six hours, from about 6:00 PM to midnight. All centered around a game in which Tom Brady basically blew out the Texans defense by half-time. So thanks, Tom.

I’ve been a fan of the NFL for over twenty years. I’ve watched games pretty regularly, even ones with teams I didn’t care much for. And while the NFL has brought a great deal of enjoyment for me, looking at the numbers like that is rather sobering. I don’t like the idea of throwing away 10% of my time during NFL season. So, I’ve decided to pull it back this season.

Besides, there’s very little actual football played during a game of football, as strange as that sounds. According to FiveThirtyEight, which analyzed the NFC Championship Game between the 49ers and Packers in 2020, “107 total plays gave us 14 total minutes (and 16 seconds) of football action.”

You’re not watching football. You’re watching commercials. Which is a terrible waste of time by any measure.

Imagine how much you could accomplish with even some of the time that’s thrown away on football games every week. You could start a new hobby, read books, travel, start a side hustle, or write articles on Medium.

You can apply this Time Wasting Percentage Measurement Formula to other stuff. According to The Next Web, we spend almost seven hours a day surfing the web. That comes out to 27% of the entire year. Tech Crunch reports, “By the end of 2021, kids and teens were watching an average of 91 minutes of TikTok per day.” That’s 6.3% of the day spent on a single app.

The NFL isn’t the only thing I could cut out of my life to streamline my precious time-usage. Computer/smartphone screentime is another big clock-suck. But one thing at a time here (literally). Besides, I need all that screentime because I’m always only doing research and writing. So it’s always 100% justified. Yeah, right. Any writer knows the siren call of endless web browsing, and how it seduces over doing actual work. It’s a battle everyday to stay focused. But that fight is for another day.

This year I’ve decided to stuff the NFL’s vampire-fanged mouth with some garlic, and get my precious time back. It doesn’t mean I won’t watch any games. I love my team, the Philadelphia Eagles. And if they get into the post-season, you can bet I’ll be watching every playoff game. But it does mean I’m going to be more prudent with how I allocate my time. Using highlight reels on YouTube, for instance, instead of tuning in for a whole broadcast.

Of course, any time spent watching a game with loved ones or friends is not wasted. I realize that for many, the NFL is an important past time that brings people together. One of my favorite memories was being with my family while watching Nick Foles and my Eagles take down Brady and the Patriots in Super Bowl 52. I’ll cherish that night forever.

And sometimes watching football is just a great way to relax. We’ve all got to do that from time to time.

I’m by no means ending my NFL fanship, no matter how many B.S. penalty flags are thrown on my team. But like any good QB, I’ll be more mindful of the clock. You only get so many minutes in the only game that matters — the game of life — afterall.

How To Read When You Hate Reading, Have Become Smartphone-Faced, or Just Don’t Have Time

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It’s hard to read printed words these days. Who wants to crack open a boring old book when you’ve got an infinite scroll of the latest Twitter hatefest, non-stop booty-shaking TikTok videos, and Pepe Frog memes to look at? Now with Web3 out there, or the Metaverse, or Zuck’s Uncanny Valley, or whatever the hell they’re calling it, the days of reading plain old black and white text on dead trees are surely numbered.

Just look around you. Everyone’s become “smartphone-faced.” That’s when you hold your phone so close to your face it practically is your face. Ancient Hindu swamis once warned the youth of their day not to stare too long into the River Ganges, or else it would absorb their soul, and they’d spend eternity trapped underwater. The same warning could be applied to everyone today and their O.C.D. (Obsessive Cellular Disorder).

(NOTE: I made up that part about the ancient Hindu swamis, but the lesson still stands).

As a word-munching kiddo I used to read until I fell asleep every night. No Berenstain Bear book was safe from my crayon-smeared fingers. My mom would know I’d conked out because she’d hear the books thump against the carpet as they fell from my hand.

I loved to read. Still do. But even as a novelist and online wordsmith, reading sometimes feels like a slog to get through. I get smartphone-faced, too. I find myself falling into slumps, distracted by the circus of social media, or the impulsive need to Google stuff. Or I just get bored or don’t have the time.

Then comes the awul guilt for not reading from my inner finger-wagger. A cardinal sin for writers.

To be fair, not everyone has the time to get absorbed into a book as they’d like. And to be even more fair, there are a lot of bad books out there not worth even looking at. The New York Times Bestsellers list is less a list of quality than a ranking of which sales team did the best marketing for their product.

If you’re struggling with staying focused on reading these days, it’s important first to get over any guilty feelings you may have. Reading is all about learning, and there are a ton of mediums you can use to do that. Not just books. Losing temporary interest in reading could just be your brain’s way of saying it wants to try other means of data extraction.

When I was in college, I remember a student submitted a thesis asserting that people can learn history or other topics just as well through gaming as they can through researching books, using immersive MMORPGs, and historical-themed games as examples. His case study revealed that both the gamer and the reader retained information about equally. Which is great news, as I can finally call myself an Oregon Trail historian like I’ve always wanted.

Here are a few ways that can help you “read” without reading.

Audiobooks

Most everyone is aware of Amazon’s Audible program, which offers thousands of audiobooks on its platform. But there are also numerous audiobooks available for free on YouTube. Everything from classic books, to big name authors like Stephen King, to cult hits like Harlan Ellison’s I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. In addition, there are tons of nonfiction bestsellers on there, like The Richest Man in Babylon.

If you don’t have the time or energy to read a book the old fashioned way, just type in a title and enter “audiobook” afterward into YouTube’s search bar. Chances are it’s on there, and narrated by a professional.

Podcasts

Everyone and their grandmother has a podcast these days. Which is awesome, because it virtually guarantees there will be something out there you’ll be interested in, no matter how small the niche or audience. True crime stories are really popular. But you’ve also got scary/paranormal stories that are getting big.

One of my favorite types of podcasts are behind the scenes ones for shows I like. I used to listen to the Better Call Saul podcast after each episode until the series finale aired. If you’ve got a favorite TV show or movie, chances are either the cast or crew has started a supplementary podcast. Or fans are still talking about it. Even shows that have been off the air for years, like The Office, have ongoing podcasts run by some of the cast members, such as Office Ladies.

Another favorite podcast of mine is Inside of You by Michael Rosenbaum, the actor best known for playing Lex Luthor on Smallville. Rosenbaum mainly interviews actors and other celebrities in a kind of therapist-on-the-couch manner, focusing on the psychological impact of fame and the grind of Hollywood. He’s even interviewed his former Smallville co-star Tom Welling, aka Superman. Times are tough when Lex Luthor is counseling the Man of Steel.

YouTube/TikTok Book Summaries

Sort of the Cliff Notes version books. These channels are increasingly becoming more popular, as people are interested in learning about what’s out there, but may not have the time to get deeply invested in any particular topic.

TikTok’s “BookTok” community has actually become so large and influential that its creating New York Times Bestsellers. Madeline Miller’s book The Song of Achilles became a viral breakout hit this year. I wrote about BookTok in an article awhile back. It’s becoming the place to go to not only learn about new books, but get reviews and summaries for genres you might be interested in, and even market your own stuff. Sometimes the best part about “reading” isn’t the actual reading, but discussing what you’ve read with likeminded people.

Read Aloud Feature on Medium/MS Word

Automated, or “AI” voices have made some progress in mimicking human speech. Medium’s read aloud feature sounds close enough that it doesn’t throw you off that much.

MS Word also has a good AI voice under the “Review” tab. I find using that feature is a good way to proofread, or get a sense of the flow of a document. But if you’re a busy professional, let’s say, and you’ve got briefs and other docs to read, using the Review AI voice could be a good way to save time while you do other things around the house.

In addition, there’s been a growing number of YouTube channels that summarize the news or particular subject interests, creating condensed and quickly digestible pieces. Altcoin Daily, for instance, covers a wide swath of cryptocurrency news and distills it all into a nicely condensed daily video. Then you’ve got pop culture channels like YellowFlash2, that talk about current events, with some added colorful commentary.

Go Back to Favorites You’ve Loved

Of course, you don’t have to go the headphones-and-listen-electronically route. You can go right back to physical books, which still exist believe it or not.

If you’re in an anti-reading rut, or stuck in that bizarre fog where the very idea of reading seems impossible, it doesn’t hurt to go back to the books you once read and enjoyed before. The books that may have inspired you to get into reading in the first place. Many people credit the Harry Potter books with that. While I’ve moved on from the Berenstain books, I’ll always enjoy a good Stephen King or Ira Levin novel.

Try Another Medium of Writing

Such as screenplays. So many scripts of classic or popular films are available on the web. You can get scripts for The Terminator all the way up to the latest Best Picture winner. Every year a certain number of unproduced screenplays are chosen for the Black List, and they’re almost always available for download. The 2021 Black List selections are all available here, for instance. And if you’re reading this year’s unproduced scripts, you’ll be aware of new films coming out before anyone else.

It’s also really instructive to the creative process. Screenplays are basically blueprints. It can be really cool to see how a movie starts from the page and progresses through the filming process. You get to see earlier drafts of stories before they were changed for the screen. For instance, in the original Alien script by Dan O’Bannon, the entire crew was male, including Ripley.

You can also try fan fiction, which has become pretty huge. Fifty Shades of Grey started off as Twilight fan fiction, and that worked out well for everyone. Or not.

Join a Book Club (Online or In-Person)

This can be a good way to force some accountability into your regular reading habit, though it may be more time-intensive than the previous methods. There are many book clubs on Facebook, of course. But usually your local library will be the place to go for in-person clubs.

If there’s not one in your area, consider starting one yourself. It could not only be a great way to discover new books, but meet new people.

Hopefully, these seven methods will help restart your drive to read. The world’s unfortunately become filled with zombies addicted to glowing rectangles with vibrant flashing images. Time will tell the kind of damage that will do to the human brain on an evolutionary scale, though we already know attention spans have shrunk to microscopic levels for many.

Spending time deep in a book is an increasingly lost art. It helps strengthen focus, foster critical thinking, and can create an appreciation for language and imagination. Social media and video may provide a pleasurable jolt of dopamine, but the effect is superficial and temporary. Those forms of data distribution also tend to be passive. They deaden and hypnotize the thoughts and senses. Whereas a good book (fiction or non) can be like stoking a fire inside your mind. Massive movements, revolutions, whole empires, have sprung from written works like the Bible or The Communist Manifesto. I don’t see the booty shakers on TikTok inspiring a lot of meaningful social change.

Even if some of the above solutions aren’t technically “reading,” they may help to put you back on a better path toward active learning and data processing. And that’s something we could all use more of these days.

Three Ways I Save Money as a Cheap Ass Mofo (Not “Minimalist”)

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I put “minimalist” in quotes because I’ve always had a few issues with the term.

Firstly, a true minimalist possesses almost zero worldly possessions, other than the clothes on their back. That includes money, a 401(k) account, pension, etc. They live like a monk. They don’t fret about things like passive income streams or side hustles because they don’t have them.

Historically, true minimalists were pretty badass. Think Gandhi, Jesus, Socrates, or Jules Winnfield at the end of Pulp Fiction. The only things they “owned” were the thoughts in their head, and the loyalty of their followers.

But nowadays the term has been softenend, mainstreamed, watered down. Most minimalists today aren’t really minimalists. They just hate buying furniture, and evidently all choose to live in white-walled apartments, and make videos of themselves sitting on hardwood floors. Calling themselves minimalists in one breath while talking about their massive portfolios in the next. Hypocrites all.

You can’t call yourself a minimalist if you’ve got a half mil in the bank and make $3k a month from dividends, swing trading, or crypto staking. Even digital nothings like Bitcoin and the numbers in your WeBull account count as actual possessions.

I guess the term “cheap ass mofo” (CAM) is less desirable than the cleaner, more P.C. term “minimalist.” Though CAM is far more fitting.

To the degree that minimalism is about rejecting an excessively materialistic life of needless product consumption, I’m totally on board. But remember, if you own stocks, you’re still supporting the corporate power structure. You’re still an uber capitalist. So don’t try to pretend like you’re making some grand philosophical statement because you buy shit at Goodwill.

Most so-called minimalists are really just lazy capitalists under the surface. But rather than doing the hard work of building multiple income streams or a business — the real way to become wealthy — they’d rather ooze their way to F.I.R.E. (financial independence retire early) by cheaping out at every turn.

You want to be a real minimalist? Give away everything you have — I mean EVERYTHING — and go live in Kenya or Vietnam or somewhere. Most of the people in the world truly have nothing in the real sense of the word. Not the Western sense, where “nothing” just means you didn’t fill your apartment with IKEA junk. Until these so-called minimalists start doing that, they can just shut the hell up.

Being a cheap ass mofo is a little different. As a CAM, I don’t not spend money so much out of some compulsive pathological need to save dollars or virtue signal my empty apartment in the gentrified part of town. It’s more about not spending unless I believe I’m getting good value for my money. A rare thing. But also — it’s getting value while simultaneously hating the fuck out of institutions and businesses that are trying to rip you off. Which is ALL of them.

Here are a few ways I aggressively save money as a CAM:

Restaurants Suck

Restaurants are scams. Especially fast food joints like McDonald’s. They load their “food” up with sugar and fat, and then charge you a premium for an amount that hardly qualifies as “filling.” So you pay a ton for “food” that’s going to clog your arteries with Play-Doh, to sit in a dirty restaurant, and usually while getting shitty service.

That’s a trifecta of B.S.

It’s a terrible value for your money. It’s dehumanizing, too. I recently had the misfortune of having to go to a Mcdonald’s while on a road trip. You don’t even have to order at the counter anymore. You walk up to these giant smartphone screens, tap in whatever garbage you want, and then sit at a table and wait for someone to come plop it down. Supposedly this is done for “efficiency.” Yet every table in the joint was dirty and needed to be wiped down. The floor was sticky. The bathroom looked like a war zone. And this was during off-peak hours after the lunch rush, and before dinner. So even if Mcdonald’s is saving time and money, where is it going? The whole scene was near dystopian. Like something out of that movie Brazil by Terry Gilliam.

Next time, I’ll just eat tuna right out of the can in my car.

But my Mcdonald’s experience is hardly unique. This is why I rarely, if ever, eat out, and usually only when I have to travel. And even when forced, I still feel like some used-up whore who had to go back to the street corner because the rent was due, and I hate myself for days after.

Eating out is almost always a gigantic waste of money and almost never a good value either. It’s a total scam, wasteful, and unhealthy. I’ve saved probably tens of thousands of dollars by cooking for myself at home. I’m not a culinary genius. I have about ten to fifteen meals I cycle through. I even make my own pizza, because most store pizza or order out pizza sucks and is loaded up with sodium and preservatives.

Cooking for yourself is healthier, cheaper, filling, and even therapeutic. It’s the only way I fly, and it’s one of the best ways to stretch your budget.

New Cars Suck

Another HUGE way I save money as a CAM is by driving a senior vehicle. Notice I didn’t say “shitty car” or “piece of crap used vehicle,” or some other demeaning term. Older cars deserve respect, just like people. They’ve done their time, fulfilled their duty, and most importantly, survived.

New cars are like the douchebag frat party boys just out of their MBA programs that their equally douchey fathers paid for, who think they’re entitled to run your life because they once did a Powerpoint on Milton Friedman. They haven’t earned their place yet in society. They’re wet and shiny looking. They have no character. No authenticity. No humanity about them. They look nice. That’s it.

Senior cars, by contrast, have character. They’re like the grizzled combat vet who did two tours in ‘Nam, but still has the work ethic to be a Wal-Mart greeter, and shows up on time every shift. Or like my beloved grandmother, who renewed her nurse’s license at age 76, and then proceeded to work the graveyard shift reliably, without fail, for the next ten years, because retirement bored her. Senior cars rock.

I drive a stick shift 2006 Saturn Ion that has almost 180,000 miles, which I’ve had for over ten years. Saturn went out of business in 2010 after the Great Financial Crisis. So as far as I’m concerned, I’m driving a classic automobile, because they’re not making anymore of them. I call my car “Baby.” I give her regular oil changes and maintenance. She’s getting new shoes (tires) this weekend, and some brake work. I treat her right, and she continues to perform fine for me. She drove me across the country from Pennsylvania to North Dakota back in 2012. She took me on a West Coast road trip from Seattle to Los Angeles, then all the way across the country back to PA then back to ND back in 2013.

I love my car. And even though I make good money and could easily afford something newer in cash, I have no intention of buying anything. One day Baby will break down for good. And when she does, I’ll have to go out and buy something. And it’ll be fine, because Baby has paid for herself many, many times over. She’s probably saved me not just tens, but hundreds of thousands of dollars. She’s my Millenium Falcon. And when the day comes for her to take that final trip to the Big Scrap Heap in the Sky, I plan on giving her a Viking funeral with Scottish bagpipes.

You know what the average car payment is in the United States? According to Bankrate it’s $677. But there are morons out there who take out car loans that are as big as some mortgages. I saw a TikTok video recently where a guy was going around an office asking people how much their monthly car payment was. And people were giving numbers like $1,200, to almost as high as $2,000.

All that money for what exactly? A pile of shiny metal that literally shrinks in value by a third the moment you sign on the dotted line for it. Insanity. I will ride a bike or jog down the highway Forrest Gump-style than ever finance a car again.

I financed a car once. Baby, when I first got her. My previous senior car had locked up on the highway a few weeks earlier. At the time I was living in Philadelphia while commuting to work in New Jersey. I needed wheels, and I barely had any savings. So, like many unfortunate people out there, I was forced into financing a car. But even then, I had the good sense to buy something cheap and reliable. I struggled with the payment terms. I had a predatory interest rate of like 17%. I missed one payment one month when I was totally strapped. But eventually, about two years later, I paid the whole thing off, and swore never to have to go through that again.

When news reports come out about how most Americans live paycheck to paycheck, it’s no surprise why. If the average income for Americans is about $63,000 according to DQYDJ, and the average car payment s $677 as stated above, then that means the average person is blowing roughly 13% of their annual income on a vehicle. But remember, that number $63,000 is the average, and skewed by the higher earners. Most people make way less, yet still finance more car than they need. So the actual percentage in their budget people blow on cars may actually be way higher.

Alcohol Sucks

I already talked about my stance on alcohol at length in my article Why I Don’t Drink Alcohol. Check it out, it’s a banger. One thing I didn’t get into too much was the high cost of bar-hopping and clubbing. Two things that will quickly drain your account. Drinking alone or at home on a budget won’t hurt you much financially, though it’s still not something I do. But going out with friends to get smashed? Celebrating the end of the work week with a round of shots? That’s the kind of stuff that makes credit cards companies rejoice, and you cry in your vomit-stained carpet. It’s unhealthy and time wasting, of course. But also it’s usually ridiculously expensive. You’re paying hundreds for flavored liquid that will do nothing but make you make bad decisions for the next eight hours.

On top of that, people make all sorts of bad and costly impulse buys when they get drunk. Take me, for instance. Back in my Stupid Days, I had just finished my first novel, a crappy navel-gazing screed moaning about office work, and to celebrate, I got more lit than Chinese New Year. At some point during my revelry, I decided to finally act on my lifetime dream of owning an English Bulldog. So I clicked around online until I found a puppy mill, and plunked down a deposit of $1000 on a credit card. A non-refundable deposit, mind you. The whole cost was $3000. Because I couldn’t back out, I decided to hell with it and pressed on. Well, three weeks later “Bronco” was delivered to my doorway, and my “dream” quickly turned into a nightmare. That little beast chewed up every piece of furniture I had, shit and pissed everywhere out of spite whenever I left for work, humped me left and right to show dominance when I was home, and whined and complained for attention constantly if I so much as used the bathroom.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved the little dude, and I took care of him. But I had no business taking on a puppy. Especially not one that was a gremlin in disguise. Thankfully, I was able to eventually give him to a loving family with a big yard and kids. And a good lesson was learned. Don’t buy fucking animals you have no business owning when you get plastered.

I hope this article has spiked your enthusiasm for saving money with a little aggressiveness. Some anger is good, because the reality is that most of the world is trying to rip you off in one way or another. Most people inexplicably don’t guard their hard-earned money or seriously examine supposed necessities and requirements before plunking down a fortune on them. College, for instance, is mostly a scam, other than STEM degrees and the networking qualities. Almost everything you learn in college nowadays can be replaced with YouTube, online courses, coaching, apprenticeships, or books at the library. Just about entirely for free. So can most of public school for that matter. I was homeschooled myself for three years. And while I missed the socialization to some degree, public school is a ridiculously inefficient knowledge distribution system. The best kind of learning you’ll ever do is self-taught anyway, and you usually don’t do that until after you leave school.

Then you have houses. Which are not not always scams and don’t always suck, but they are certainly overrated. And the whole idea of “buying” a home is misrepresented, as you don’t actually own the home. The bank does. But even if you pay cash, you’re still paying “rent” to the government in the form of property taxes. And a house usually ends up as just an excuse to go out and buy more shit to fill it up with. Then you’ve got all the maintenance costs. Sure, you get equity. And if you live in a good area and hold for the right amount of time, you may just end up making out really well when you sell. But in the end most average home buyers just about break even with all costs factored in.

In summation, be careful out there. You don’t have to be a Cheap Ass Mofo like myself, but recognize that most businesses and instititions are not about providing you equal value for your money. They are wealth extraction systems designed to seperate you from the digits in your bank account. Too many people think it’s only carnival games or obvious boogeymen like Wall Street that are rigged. But actually everything is to a degree. So stay sharp.

What’s Worse: Having an Incurable STD or Unbankruptable Student Loan Debt? An Honest Analysis

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Presently, we are enduring two skyrocketing epidemics in the United States. The student loan debt crisis, and the explosive growth of sexually transmitted diseases.

President Biden recently promised to forgive $10,000 in student loan debt for lower and middle-income borrowers. But that’ll only help somewhat for the typical borrower, who holds an average of $32,731.

Meanwhile, according to a 2021 report by the CDC, STD rates climbed to an all-time high for the sixth straight year back in 2019. And while reported STD rates declined during the early stages of the pandemic, they came roaring back in the latter part of 2020.

An expected but unfortunate development I refer to as “lockdown libido.”

Check out these charts below and tell me you don’t feel a burning sensation.

First, one of the growing student debt load held by Americans:

Source: Federal Reserve via https://www.statista.com/chart/24477/outstanding-value-of-us-student-loans/

Now the rapidly climbing STD rates in the United States:

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/2021/2019-STD-surveillance-report.html

So, the average college graduate leaves their alma mater with an amount of debt about equal to the cost of a low-end BMW. That’s undischargable debt, mind you. Debt that can’t be whisked away by a judge in bankrupcy court. Debt that for most people follows them around for years, decades, maybe even their whole life, ruining their quality of living, hanging over their head like the Sword of Damocles, and maybe even ruining their relationships and sex lives.

Kind of like an incurable STD.

This got me thinking hard. What’s worse: Having an incurable sexually transmitted disease, or having an unbankruptable student loan?

This is not as easy a question to answer as it may seem.

It’s actually a complicated issue that depends on several parameters. How big of a student loan are we talking here? Six figs? And what kind of an STD? Obviously something like HIV is objectively worse, as it tends to kill you, unless you have access to primo medical care like Magic Johnson.

But what if you have six figures of debt from an undergraduate liberal arts degree? Then you’re basically fucked either way, and either option is equally terrible, I’d say. With an expensive degree in something ridiculous like, let’s say, sociology, you essentially have no real job prospects, and no free income on account of the high monthly payments even if you are working. Forget about getting a house, starting a family, or having any kind of a life. You exist solely to make a number in a government Excel spreadsheet get smaller.

At least with HIV you might have an awesome story about how you got it from that surf instructor Javier who blew out your back, or that chick Holly with the missing teeth you met behind the dumpster at Wendy’s that one drunken night.

But who wants to hear about the time you signed the FAFSA form in your bedroom at 18 years old while you were playing Fortnite? Nobody. How boring.

So, if you have high student debt from a shit degree, you might as well have HIV. Basically the same difference.

Meanwhile, for something more manageable like syphilis, you simply get a shot of antibiotics, and bam! You’re good to go for another weekend of barhopping at the Crotch Critter Pub.

So, while having a permanent STD comes out at about even if you’ve got massive debt, we’ve established that having a curable STD is infinitely way better than having a student loan. You can nuke that problem right away. However, for the majority of borrowers, who took money from the federal government, their financial STD is un-get-rid-of-able in bankruptcy court.

But wait a minute! A student loan, however onerous and burdensome, is afterall, just money. And health is more valuable more than money. By a lot. At least in theory anyway. Right?

Except for many, student loan debt is something that derails their lives in such a way that it’s almost like living with a crippling disease or a disability. A recent study revealed that 1 in 14 student loan borrowers even entertained suicide as a way of escaping their debt burdens. Some are even leaving the country. This guy Chad Haag fled to India to live in a concrete house next to a herd of elephants. And that was only over a mere $20,000 he owed. You can’t even buy a new Honda Civic for that anymore.

Then there’s this other guy also named Chad, last name Albright, with $30,000 in loans, who moved to Odessa, Ukraine to get out of the debtor’s noose.

Well, at lease he’s in a far better place now living safely in Ukraine.

:::sad slide whistle:::

I’ve never had an STD myself. But I have had $30k in student loans. And my name’s not even Chad. And let me tell you, I had to literally move heaven and earth to pay them off. I had to move across the country to take a job in the middle of nowhere in the Bakken oilfields in North Dakota so I could make enough to pay them off in a reasonably quick period of time.

Had I had a curable STD instead, all I’d likely have had to do is pop a pill or get a shot. Easy-peasy. No moving. No job-seeking. No living out of my car for three months at a rest stop in Minnesota during a heatwave in the summer time (true story) while waiting to hear back on job apps. No working my ass off in sub-zero temperatures or high heat in the dust. No working around dangerous fumes and toxins that the oilfield produces in vast quantities.

And that’s just me. God knows what else other people have had to go through to pay off their student loan debt. Virtual harlotting on OnlyFans. Shilling Cutco Knives door-to-door. Slaving for Amazon Warehouse. Writing for Medium. The list of indignities goes on.

Meanwhile, many people appear to live very normal lives with STDs, even permanent ones, judging by the commercials I see on TV all the time. They’re always running on the beach, drinking beers, wearing name brand clothing, and having a blast by a bonfire, even if they’ve got things like herpes.

I mean, just check out this Valtrex ad to see what I’m talking about. People are diving off boats, exploring canyons, and chilling by the fire. All while looking like upper-class globe-trotting vacationers. And they’ve all got genital warts.

You see anyone with heavy student loan debt doing anything cool like that? Yeah, right. They’re usually hunkered down in their mother’s basements eating Ramen, or working the late shift at Starbucks. And that’s when they’re not being interviewed in the media and talking about their debt trauma as if they were Venezeulan kidnapping victims.

Screenshot taken by author.

Based on those TV commercials, you’d think having an STD guarantes you a spot in the Cool Kid’s Club. If anything, it is near 100% verifiable proof that you had sex. Which totally rocks. Unless you sat on a toilet seat in Tijuana, you almost certainly banged if you’re dealing with a drippy drip. And even if you did get it from a witch’s kiss in Mexico, you could still say you got your bacterial BFF at an Eyes Wide Shut orgy. I mean, who could disprove you?

But what is student loan debt? Simply proof you wasted four plus years taking such crucial courses as Taylor Swift SongbookKanye Versus Everybody, and Wasting Time on the Internet.

Man, I should teach that last one.

Based on the sheer number of apolcalyptic-level media stories about student loan debt, you’d think all those negative net worths were the real threat to life and limb. It’s routinely referred to as a “crisis” almost universally, afterall. The president of the United States even had to step in due to years-long pressure to forgive some portion of the onerous weight crushing millions of Americans.

But to my knowledge, Biden has thus far said zip, zero, nada, about the exploding rates of STDs in the United States. Clearly he doesn’t care. So why should the rest of us?

Basically, the U.S. government considers student loan debt a far worse threat than exploding rates of incurable STDs that can actually kill you. The media, advertisement, and pharmaceutical industries practically consider student loan debt a humanitarian crisis, while all but “celebrating” the mere inconvenience of killer STDs with beachside barbecues.

Then you have the general public, who almost certainly consider sex WAY cooler than boring old school, even if the ol’ in-out results in getting creepy crawlies.

So, let’s summarize this debate with a little bulletin point list to see which side comes out more favorable.

Downsides of Having an Incurable STD

  • It could potentially kill you (but probably not with today’s medicine)
  • Having to tell your next partner your situation. Awkward.
  • Could be pricey to manage without good insurance.

Upsides of Having an Incurable STD

  • You likely have a steamy hot sex story for how you got it that you can share with friends and family.
  • Get to go on cool vacations and chill by bonfires.
  • Could star in a herpes commercial. And maybe you parlay that into a serious acting career. Hello, Hollywood.
  • Most importantly, you can still have sex (just very carefully).

Now let’s look at the student loan debt side of things.

Downsides of Having Undischargable Student Loan Debt

  • Boring origin story nobody wants to hear.
  • Putin could kill you (RIP my homie, Chad Albright).
  • You’re definitely not having sex (not living in your mother’s basement anyway, loser).
  • Might have to move to North Dakota (something I don’t wish on anyone).
  • Media trots you out for doom and gloom porn. No chance of getting a Hollywood gig out of that, sorry.
  • Paid actual money to hear Taylor Swift whine about her exes. Embarrassing.

Upsides of Having Undischargable Student Loan Debt

  • President Biden cares about you?

Well, that settles it. The verdict is in: You’re better off banging Susie Rottencrotch than Sallie Mae.

The Weird World of Chick Tracts

Source: https://chick.com/products/tract?stk=1&ue=d

There was a brief time in my life when Chick tracts were my obsession. I was 12–14. It was the early ’90s. Michael Jordan was dunking on fools in the NBA. Bill Clinton was sneaking thots in around the back of the White House. The color red fell out of fashion in Russia. And some nerdy goober named Bill Gates was trying to sucker everyone into using “doors,” or “hatchways,” or some software program named after a type of building opening. “Trapdoors?”

Marvel and DC Comics were still considered silly little children’s picture books, save for the big league film adaptations of Superman: The Movie and Batman. Big props to those hipster OGs who were into Iron Man and Thor before the MCU made it cool.

But while every other kid my age was into normal things like Stan Lee’s stuff, Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vanilla Ice, learning how to put condoms on bananas in school, and this new music subgenre freaking out all the white parents called “gangster rap,” I was the cool cat on the block who was into these little prosletyzing booklets called Chick Tracts.

What are Chick tracts? They’re little comic books that spead the Gospel of Jesus Christ from an evangelical Christian perspective. Each features a fictional story about a lost sinner learning about Christ dying on the cross for their sins, and then either repenting and entering heaven, or foolishly following Satan, and then being tossed into a lake of fire forever for their disbelief.

Suck on that, Stan Lee.

During my Chick tract fetish, I was growing up in a fundamentalist Christian family, had just been pulled from the evil public school system to be homeschooled, and was eagerly awaiting the day I’d get to pick out my mansion in heaven. That was after getting whirlwinded up into the sky during the rapture, of course. An event I was sure would happen before I reached adulthood.

Look, I’d love to say I was a secret doubter the whole time. An undercover atheist. But the truth is, I was super hardcore. I made a poster of the ten commandments and hung it up in my school (before I was taught at home). I stood outside the bus stop so I could preach to all the neighborhood kids when they got back from their Satan-clutched classrooms.

Dude, I refused to even wear shorts one summer during a heatwave because I thought it would be “immodest.”

Yikes. Cringe. Ugh. Jeeeez, man.

I’m an agnostic now, I guess. I don’t claim to know and I don’t deny the potential validity of religions, no matter how outlandish they may be. Even Scientology, despite Tom Cruise man-spoiling my ’90s crush, Katie Holmes. If a belief or faith can help keep someone going through all the drudgery, and it’s not harming anyone, I say go for it. It’s all entertainment to me now. Spiritual Netflix binging for those who need to believe in magic.

I’m not embarrassed about my former fundie life. And certainly not Chick tracts. I used to pass them out to strangers, hide them in places around stores, and obsessively read through the mail order catalog (this was pre-internet) so I could get the next edition.

I was a Chick addict. Happily hooked. Totally sucked into the weird world of Chicktopia.

I even drew my own Chick tracts. Two of them, in fact. I sent them to Chick Publications in the hopes of getting them published and earning a few more jewels in my heaven robe, and even got a letter back from the founder and artist himself, Jack T. Chick. He didn’t accept them.

Chick tracts are actually pretty awesome. It was a nifty idea to help spread a belief system through cartoons with a moral. And some of them, especially the earlier ones Jack Chick put out, are actually pretty well done, if not entertaining. As a middle-aged adult, I see them more now more as a good marketing tactic than as religious devices. Jack Chick himself admits to having been inspired by the Chinese Communist Party propaganda comics Mao put out during the glorious revolution. Mao as in Mr. Planned Famines and Deaths of Millions. That Mao. Something I always thought was an odd thing for Chick to admit. That’s like saying you started a mustache grooming kit company because you were just totally rocked by Hitler’s toothbrush stache. But whatever.

Most of my favorite Chick tracts are from the creative heyday of the company — about the late ’70s through the ’80s. Prime Moral Majority time. During which Chick also had a line of comic books called The Crusaders, which featured two missionary best friends, a black guy and a white guy, going on adventures spreading the Word, and confounding outlandish criminal and evil global conspiracy plots. It was actually pretty progressive and fun, with a racially diverse set of characters, international locations, ’70s-era slang, and occasional twists and turns. Like if The Fast and the Furious were written by Jerry Falwell. The themes and messages were of course predictably sermonizing, a lot of the characters leaned stereotypical, while institutions traditionally held as “evil” by the Christian Complex (Hollywood, academia, the media, etc.) were always depicted as cartoonishly sinister.

Oh, by the way, Jack Chick hated, hated, hated the Roman Catholic Church, and viewed it as one big Satan-powered institution to ensare unsuspecting people into a false hell-bound perversion of the real Christian faith. He even had another comic series based on a former Jesuit priest named Roberto, who revealed the Church’s evil underbelly history of persecution and nastiness.

All guys have a crazy chick story. But I’ve got a crazy Chick story.

:::ba dum tiss:::

Anyway, here are a few favorite tracts I used to pass out and read back in the day, in no particular order. You may find them laughable, quaint, and even offensive. I still like them. They gave me an appreciation for the power of compact storytelling, and they no doubt influenced my own writing.

1. This Was Your Life

Source: https://chick.com/products/tract?stk=1&ue=d

Aww man, This Was Your Life. My Chick gateway drug. A bonafide Christian soul-winning classic. This tract is to Chick what Nevermind was to Nirvana.

This Was Your Life is a two-part tract with a mid-point twist. The first half shows a guy who suddenly dies of a heart attack and is taken before God to be judged. His whole life is shown, including moments where he committed such immoral atrocities as telling a dirty joke in front of his friends, and even lusting after a woman. Then, in a scene surely meant to cathartically satisfy oft ignored gospel spreaders, our protagonist is shown rejecting his (apparently) one chance to get saved in a church service and avoid his hell-bound fate. When his name is not found in the Book of Life, he’s tossed into a lake of fire. Afterward, a frightening warning appears declaring, “This can be your life!” The second half shows our hero instead repenting in the church, accepting Christ, and then later dying and going to heaven.

Even though the copyright on the tract reads 2002, I believe this was the first tract Chick ever wrote back in the ‘70s, and one he first used witnessing to prisoners. As a “proof of concept” tract, it works phenomenally well. Structurally, it’s pretty clever. Like nearly all Chick tracts, it uses fear as its main motivator. Fear of burning in hell. But also the fear, in this case, that God acts as Big Brother, recording every bit of your life, to be played and judged later. So basically China’s social credit system. Man, Chick really dug the CCP.

2. Somebody Goofed

Source: https://chick.com/products/tract?stk=3&ue=d

If I had to pick a favorite Chick tract, Somebody Goofed would probably be it. Mainly because, like many earlier Chick tracts, it has a good twist. And this one has a Shyamalan-level one. It also has some humor, and features a meta reference. In one panel, a preacher hands out a gospel booklet that looks suspiciously like a Chick brand tract. Which goes to show that it’s not just sophomoric rappers who make references to their first album in their second album, but evangelist cartoonists as well.

I won’t spoil the fun twist ending by detailing out the plot here. You can check it out in the link above.

3. Back From the Dead?

Source: https://chick.com/products/tract?stk=96&ue=d

This tract legitimately scared me as an impressionable adolescent and young teen. In it, a man clinically dies in an operating room, goes to hell, only to miraciously come back to life. He recounts his terrifying ordeal to a preacher, being tortured by demons, and almost thrown into the lake of fire, before escaping at the last second. It uses Chick’s fear factor trademark quite effectively.

Back From The Dead? also has a certain cinematic quality to it. Like I could see it as a horror movie. You think of the demons from Ghost that drag Patrick Swayze’s killers to hell. It also taps into the zeitgeist of near-death experiences that were popular back then, especially in many Christian circles.

4. The Long Trip

Source: https://chick.com/products/tract?stk=9&ue=d

Sometime around the early to mid-90’s, Chick’s creative wellspring began to run dry, matching similarly to horror director John Carpenter. The Long Trip may very be the last of the “classic” era, as afterward his tracts began to become overly simplistic and one-dimensional. Even this one recycles the twist from Somebody Goofed. Though it adds something more in the way of its “road of life” metaphor. Sticking with the Carpenter comparison, The Long Trip is sort of Chick’s In the Mouth of Madness, which coincidentally premiered the same year as this tract.

5. Doom Town

Source: https://chick.com/products/tract?stk=273&ue=d

This tract recounts the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities God destroyed for their extreme wickedness, and offers a “compassionate plea to repent of homosexuality.”

Doom Town begins at a gay rights rally where activists are threatening to committ “blood terrorism,” if their funding demands for HIV research are not met. A TV journalist/Christian who’s almost a dead ringer for Tony Dalton’s Lalo from Better Call Saul starts talking with a young gay man, and eventually converts him to the faith, and presumably to heterosexuality. Because obviously sexual preference can be turned on and off like a switch just like that. Of course.

Chick seemed to save his best artwork for the tracts that showed scenes from Bible stories. And Doom Town has some remarkable renderings. I’m not sure Chick himself actually drew this tract, as his style was more Sunday funnies than near-photorealistic.

6. Boo!

Source: https://chick.com/products/tract?stk=58&ue=d

Some Chick tracts are pretty fun. Including this one, Boo!, which is a Christo-parody on the Friday the 13th seriesChick liked to emulate pop culture, and then repurpose it in his own way. Like many Christians caught up in the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, Chick had deep abiding concerns about the demonic origins of Halloween. Which is why I find this tract’s anti-corn candy messaging so uncomfortably yet nostalgically familiar — I myself wasn’t allowed to celebrate Satan’s supposed birthday growing up. In fact, I didn’t go trick or treating until I was like 21 or something, and only as a plain clothes chaperon for my younger non-faith affiliated cousin. I’m sure it’s not quite the same tagging along as an adult. But that’s okay. I missed out on God knows how many Hersheys and Snickers-induced cavities, right?

7. Hi There!

Source: https://chick.com/products/tract?stk=76&ue=d

I was initially all set to leave this list at six, until I remembered that six is Satan’s favorite number. One of the many things Chick tracts taught me. I also remembered this tract, which probably ranks as my number two favorite behind Somebody Goofed, so I was thankfully able to get to seven (God’s favorite number). So we’re all good now.

Hi There! is another early Chick classic, and it’s remarkable for its bleakness and sadism. The story centers on Charlie Connors, a Charles Bronson look-a-like construction worker who dies in a tragic workplace accident and goes to hell. Or at least a section of hell. It’s just a dark cave without air conditioning. There he meets an angel with some rockin’ ’70s sideburns who casually lays out to the blue collar worker that he’s doomed to an even worse fate —burning in the lake of fire, after he’s judged by God on the Great White Throne.

This is a haunting, creepy tract that’s stuck with me. Not just because the main character is hopelessly condemned. But also that his death is apparently caused by Death itself. A Grim Reaper-type demon/angel/spirit causes a wind to blow while Charlie is working atop a building scaffold, and he plummets to his grisly death. A plot point that introduces a disturbing question — why would God purposely cause someone’s death just to send them to hell? Why not at least give him a near-death experience, like the guy in Back From The Dead? Divine morality and “fairness” in Chick World are perplexing things.

Honorable mentions could go to rapture-themed titles like The Beast, and The Last Generation, a sort of 1984-inspired tract where Christians are hunted down in a totalitarian world. Then there’s the humorous How to Get Rich (and keep it), a good you-can’t-take-it-with-you-themed tract about money. Though I’d contend you could technically take Bitcoin with you to the afterlife, assuming you memorize your seed words (and the afterlife has internet). Another good one is Holy Joe, set during the Vietnam War.

Love them or hate them, Chick tracts rank among the best-selling forms of “literature” in the world, having sold over 800 million of the booklets according to the company. That’s pretty incredible, and worth examining from a marketing/publishing perspective.

I suspect if Chick tracts had been created today, it would involve social media. Like Tik Tok, the Chinese short video app. Something I’m sure Jack Chick would have loved to use.

Men’s Struggles with Online Dating Masks a Deeper Problem

Photo by Lukas Rychvalsky from Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-standing-near-lake-670720/

Online dating is weird, (mostly) pointless, and quasi dystopian.

All those supposed “success stories” those websites like to post? Probably fake. Or extreme outliers. Like blue lobsters. Marketing gimmicks to keep you subscribed.

The only real winners in the online dating world are the conglomerate websites. The proverbial picks and shovels sellers in this modern romance gold rush. They’re literally making billions off your yearning hearts. Cock teasing men is big business.

We already know that online dating is a venue that mostly benefits hot guys. For the uber attractive (top 5% of guys?), online dating is a fun playground. To which I say, good for them. Everyone leverages their advantages where they can.

But if you’re like most men, online dating is just a vast time suck. An exercise in futility. You shoot dozens of messages into the cyber void. Then don’t hear back. Even after spending whole minutes on messages, crafting them with attention and care. You’re not going to be like those other guys who just write things like “‘sup?” or “DTF?” You’re going to put actual thought into what you say.

Of course, the reality is most women receive dozens of messages a day. Or even hundreds, if they’re hot. Shakespeare himself couldn’t craft a sonnet steamy enough to overcome that kind of inbox inundation.

So you get depressed. You give up. Only to return, like a relapsed crack addict, back to the seductive siren call of the online dating world, weeks or months later. You think this time it’ll work out. This time your magical pixie sex-loving soulmate will appear. The cycle of failure begins again. And another dating service gets a billion dollar IPO on Wall Street.

Here’s the deal. If you’re relying on online dating to find a mate, that’s like relying on fast food for nourishment. Yeah, you can do it for a short time. But any longer and you’ll just end up killing yourself.

Online dating is stupid. Online dating has become a crutch for too many men. Online dating has become a poor substitute for actual, genuine communication and interaction. It’s fundamentally anti-human nature, which is why it really doesn’t work.

It’s also retarding the personal growth of many men. It’s helped to create a generation of poorly socialized incel losers.

In the quest for a mate, there are two factors that matter most. PROXIMITY and PERSONALITY.

Proximity. Meaning your physical social circle. Your friends and acquaintances. The people you see and talk to in-person throughout the week. Your neighborhood. The people you live near. Go to school with. Etc.

I used to work with a guy who grew up in a super small town in North Dakota. He married his high school sweetheart at 18. He has one kid, and another one on the way. Now, do you think he was able to get married and build a family at such a young age because he’s some charming swooner? No. Dude is below average-looking at best, beer-bellied, and has a mullet. But he was able to pull off the gig purely because he and his future wife graduated in a high school class of like 12 people. There was nothing special about him particularly. But he was familiar and known to her. He was one of the few candidates in close proximity to her. So, by default, Mr. Mullet Man won out. Put any other dude in that position, and the results would likely be the same for that other guy.

Personality. This is obvious. The better personality you have, the bigger net you’ll cast. Especially if you have a good sense of humor, or just put off a good vibe. There are few things better than finding out you click with someone over the course of a conversation.

Here’s the problem. Online dating eliminates those crucial features of proximity and personality that are so essential to finding a mate. Instead, it puts a digital gate up between you and everyone else via a computer/smartphone screen.

It’s much harder for your personality to shine through in a mere profile summary. Inflection, tone, subtext, and your overall vibe often get lost in translation.

Photo by vjapratama from Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-holding-baby-s-breath-flower-in-front-of-woman-standing-near-marble-wall-935789/

I had a girlfriend one time who I was initially attracted to because of her voice. She had this sweet but firm “museum curator” like tone of voice that I really liked hearing. And when she talked, the tip of her nose bounced up and down in this really cute way that I loved watching.

How in hell does a dating profile convey one’s voice or something as uniquely attractive as the way the tip of one’s nose bounces when they talk? It doesn’t. Those were things I only noticed because I knew this girl in person.

Online dating has unconsciously trained men to be lazy, and take an easy short-cut to find a potential mate. The failure of online date is not a bug; it’s a feature.

It also dehumanizes people down to a scramble of pixels. And it’s very easy to dismiss (swipe left) a mere digital specter on your screen.

I found myself realizing this some time ago as I was scrolling through a gallery of women on a dating app. I caught myself mindlessly nexting one after another. Dismissing potential mates for the most superficial and silly of reasons. Reacting to visual stimuli from my lizard brain with guttural caveman responses. “Me not like her hair style.” “Ugh, shoulders too broad.” “Too tall, me not like.”

No doubt the same has been done to me hundreds of times.

I did a thought experiment. Out of all the women I’ve messaged who never responded, how many of them might have been more receptive if I was in their proximity? What if I was like Mr. Mullet Man above, so to speak?

I suspect the answer is I would fare much better. Any time I’ve ever been in a social setting — school, workplace, church, etc. — I’ve never had issues with meeting or attracting women. I don’t have a standout personality or anything. And looks-wise, I’m average at best. But I’ve never lacked for admirers when in a good, diverse social environment, as I suspect is the case for many other men, too.

And how many women have I nexted on a dating app that might have been good partners in real life have I missed out on? How many cute nose tip bouncers have I potentially overlooked?

So why waste time with online dating apps that don’t allow the average man to play to his strengths?

As I’ve gotten older, and my social circles have shrunk, or in some cases, disappeared, so have the opportunities for finding potential mates. This is one of the struggles with adulthood post-college, and in entering middle-age.

In response, many have turned to the dead end of dating apps as a supposed solution. But for most that’s really just setting yourself up for failure, because it causes you to ignore the two primary factors of proximity and personality mentioned above.

So men who continually fail at online dating start to give up hope, and feel like failures in life in general, when that is not the case. Really, social media overall has caused people to be far too hard on themselves in judging their social status.

The problem is not online dating. That just masks a bigger issue. It’s poor social skills. It’s not having a good circle of friends. It’s the modern problem of becoming trapped behind a computer screen, and everyone’s digital avatar becoming the substitute for their actual being.

So many men have become dependent on online dating, that it’s crippled their ability to function in real life.

The reason why incels exist, and why there are so many lonely single men these days, is not because women’s standards are too high. It’s not because hot chads are out there dominating, making it impossible for the common uggo to have a fighting chance. It’s because so many men can’t communicate or socialize properly at even a basic level. It’s like they’ve forgotten how.

This is not an endorsement of the pick up artist lifestyle. Nor am I saying that online dating is a total waste. It’s a supplement at best. It can work.

This is about simply being human and interacting with other people in healthy social environments. Something that has become harder to do these days. The pandemic only made it worse.

I think if men focus on building genuine social networks first, then the opportunities for finding mates will quickly follow.

Afterall, no matter who you are, or what you look like, you possess some unique nose-tip-bouncing quality that someone finds endearing. But it’s going to be almost impossible to find that someone if you never actually meet in real life.

Three Oilfield Jobs That Pay $80k+ With Little or No Experience

A detailed breakdown of three little known but well-paying oilfield occupations.


Photo taken by author.

Since moving to North Dakota in 2012 to get in on the oil boom, I’ve spent a cumulative 7 years in the oilfield. I’ve held a number of different jobs in the industry, some of which I had no idea even existed until I moved up here. 

While the fracking boom that kicked off the explosive growth in the Bakken region back in the mid-2000s through the 2014 has settled into maturity, oil prices currently remain high. As do many job opportunities. And some fields like the Permian Basin in West Texas remain active and growing.

The unique thing about the oilfield is that there are many entry-level positions that pay extremely well, but don’t require much, or even any experience. Whereas many other industries are prone to gatekeeping, requiring a degree or specialized training, the oilfield is generally very open to newcomers.

The pay is usually well above average. Just be willing to work hard and (possibly) get dirty. You may also have to move to a new state. I had to move 1,700 miles from Philadelphia to North Dakota myself. A difficult adjustment for sure, but it’s proven financially rewarding. 

The jobs I’m going to talk about here can mainly be found in North Dakota, Colorado, West Texas, and New Mexico. Though there are many other oilfield and natural gas plays throughout the country, like the Marcellus Shale, that cuts through eastern Ohio into Pennsylvania up to New York State. And even California, which is dotted with hidden pump jacks throughout Los Angles.

If you’re looking for work, or looking to make a career change into the energy industry, these three occupations might provide you with a good place to start. Each of them potentially pay above the U.S. average and median income. The first two are jobs that I’ve done myself. 

It can be really scary and daunting to get into a new industry. But it doesn’t have to be. Hopefully, this article will be a helpful guide.

Lease Operator (aka “Pumper”)

This is an entry level position that’s part tech and part mechanic. A pumper is given a route of oil wells to oversee. Basically, your job is to make sure everything runs smoothly, safely, and that the oil gets sold.

Pumper was my second job in the oilfield. A postion I held for two and a half years. For people looking to procure long-term employment in the oil industry, but don’t have a degree in something like geology or engineering, this is a great place to start.

The training process is mostly hands-on, though there are some schools that might offer classroom instruction in pumping that can help prepare you for working live in the field. But it’s mostly something you’ll learn on the job (as are many positions in the oilfield).

As a pumper, you’ll not only manage your own route of wells, but most likely assist other pumpers in the field, coordinate and oversee roustabout projects, act as a liasion between operations in the field and management back in the office, and communicate the status of sale tanks with oil buyers. There is quite a bit of communication required in this role, and sometimes it can feel like you’re a customer service rep at a phone center.

You’ll also be a meter reader, and collect data from a large piece of equipment known as a LACT. That stands for Lease Automatic Custody Transfer. Basically, a LACT unit automatically samples and ships the oil down through the pipeline directly from the tanks. Oil companies are increasingly using LACTs as a form of automation, especially on sites that produce significant quantities of oil. 

You’ll be the first one on the scene to a site, and the one primarily responsible for detecting any mechanical or safety concerns.

Pumping can at times be taxing, requiring a lot of late days, nightly call-outs, and overtime, especially when you have a lot of active wells. Sometimes it can be messy, especially if you have an oil spill or some kind of clean-up to deal with. There’s almost always something to be done on a site.

But pumping can also be rewarding. It offers a lot of freedom and independence. You largely work on your own, in a company work truck, without any bosses hovering over your shoulder. You’ll also work outdoors in all sorts of weather. So if you dislike working in a cubicle farm like I do, pumping might be a good option.

Schedule

I worked an 8×4 and 7×2 schedule during the daytime, and I’ve found since that that is a very typical schedule for many companies. Basically, you work eight days straight, then have a four day weekend. When you come back, you work seven days straight, then have two days off. Then you restart the eight-day portion again. So you get a four-day weekend every three weeks. This makes vacation time longer, too, as you can stack your PTO days at the end of you four says off, in-between your two days off. Gaining an extra six days of vacation on top of your paid days off. Not a bad deal. 

I’ve also seen schedules like 7 days on, 7 days off, 10 days on, 4 days off, and even the normal 5 days on, 2 days off deal you typically see in your traditional 9–5 type office job. Every oil company is different. 

Pay

This is largely dependent on what area of the country you work in, and the company, as well as what level of experience you’ve achieved. But even entry-level with little to no experience in the oilfield you can see a starting salary around $50-$70k+ base, with overtime. That’s a pretty remarkable starting salary for little experience relative to many other positions.

Pay also depends on the state of the oil industry overall, and whether a particular region is growing or has reached a plateau. Right now, with oil prices high, it’s a great time to look for opportunities as a pumper, as many companies have started drilling new wells again. But remember that price swings can work against you. If oil falls, companies can start to tighten up spending and hiring, and that can eat into your overtime and other benefits.

Lease Operator/Pumper is a good starting position in the oil industry that can lead to a lot of opportunities. It isn’t as physically demanding as a roustabout or a workover rig position, positions that often have long hours and grueling physical work. During my few years as a pumper, I saw people of all ages and backgrounds in the position, including single moms, college grads, and even a retired chiropractor.

Many times people think that to work in the oilfield you have to be some tough guy roughneck or something. Rest assured, that is not the case. Many positions in the field, including pumping, are very much accessible to everyone. 

Photo taken by author.

Gauger

If working as a pumper sounds too intense and involved, then the gauger position might be perfect for you. This is a very niche position that few people know about. 

A gauger generally works for a pipeline company, and is mainly responsible for shipping the oil sale tanks on a customer lease site down the pipeline. 

You’ll also coordinate alongside the pumper, who will usually be the one notifying you about tanks ready for shipping.

But before shipping any oil, there’s a little chemistry involved. First, an oil tank has to be measured, sampled, and secured. The gauging aspect refers to the important steps of collecting the necessary data about the oil.

A gauger uses a gauge tape (like a long tape measure) to measure the height of the oil in the tank. Afterwards, they collect a few ounces worth of samples from the top and bottom of the tank. During this, they’ll also be collecting the gravity (basically the density of the oil) and temperature. This data is crucial to determining the oil’s quality, as well as determining the proper barrel count. At about $90+ a barrel currently, being off even a little bit can cost quite a bit of money.

A typical oil tank can hold around 400–500 barrels of oil, but generally a pumper will close off a tank when it’s no more than 2/3rds full. So let’s say you have 300 barrels of oil. At the current price, that comes out to about $27,000.

As a gauger, you are basically creating the company’s bottom line. So it’s vital to collect accurate information.

To test the oil, a gauger will use a centrifuge and a solvent mix to shake out any base sediment or water. This is done to ensure the oil has a certain standard of quality that’s acceptable to ship. It’s a simple process, but an important one.

Next, after determining that the oil is good to go, a gauger will prepare the tank for sale by opening up the proper valves, and activating the pumps. Generally, there will be a pump, or set of pumps, installed on site alongside the tanks. These pumps help ship the oil miles underground through a network of pipes, until it reaches a gathering station. It becomes a bit complicated from there, but basically the pipeline company is helping the oil company ship their oil into the market.

Like the pumper, gaugers also check on LACT units, record data, and perform any maintenance required. 

Shipping through an oil pipeline is actually the most efficient and safest way to transport oil. It beats rail and truck quite handidly. There are thousands of miles of oil and natural gas pipeline all across the the country, moving millions of barrels around every year. As a gauger, you get to be part of the nations energy “cardiovascular system,” so to speak. A task that’s especially vital these days with higher oil prices and tighter oil availability.

Schedule

A starting gauger will, just like a pumper, generally work on a rotating shift. When I was a gauger, I had a fantastic schedule. Eight days on, then six days off. However, I’ve also heard of some places that offer two weeks on and two weeks off. That can be a great set-up for someone who has family living elsewhere, giving you plenty of time on your days off to enjoy time at home. 

Pay

Also like the pumper position, this will vary depending on where you work. In the Bakken region, I saw gauger positions start off at around $60k+ a year, and depending on the amount of OT, that could get you to the $80k mark or even higher. As I mentioned above, the gauger position is pretty niche. I like to think of it as a diamond in the rough. It generally comes with a great schedule, and the work load is pretty low-key. During my time as a gauger, I also saw all types of people come and go. Though I noticed that the position tended to skew middle-aged or older. It’s a great job for someone who doesn’t want a lot of physical demands, while still making good money.  

Flowback Operator

This last job is not one I’ve done myself, but as a former pumper and gauger, I’ve interacted with plenty of people who do it. When a recently fracked well opens, it can produce massive and unpredictable amounts of oil, gas, and salt water.

A flowback operator watches a new well site, makes sure the oil stays flowing into the tanks, closes tanks off when they are ready for sale, and ensures the safe and efficient flow of the well.

A fracked well typically does its biggest production numbers right after it opens, but falls off quickly after a few weeks or months. This early busy period oftentimes requires 24/7 oversight by a flowback crew.

As a flowback operator, you may possibly work with someone else if it’s a big enough well. But most likely you’ll be working alone. You’ll spend your time inspecting equipment throughout the site to make sure everything is functioning properly, and of course checking on oil tank levels.

The most important aspect of the job is to prevent oil spills

If the oil you’re overseeing is pipelined in, you’ll be coordinating with gaugers and other personnel on the pipeline side to ensure that oil is shipped as it’s ready. If there’s a LACT unit on site, you’ll check to make sure it stays running as needed. If it’s not a pipelined well, you’ll be working with CDL-A oil haulers, who will be coming in and out constantly to pull oil.

Schedule

A new well is a busy and sometimes dangerous place. Flowback watch requires attention to detail and focus. Entry level base pay can range, but you make up for it with tons of overtime. Flowback operators often work on 12-hour rotating shifts. So you may work day side on one hitch, then work nights on the next. It’s not generally a laborious position. It can even be boring because you’re often just performing the same checklist activities again and again. But it can be very busy and the excess hours can wear you down.

Pay

As a brand new flowback operator you may not make that much per hour, but you will often work lots of OT. That can put you at the $40k-$50k range at base possibly, but up to $80k or even higher with the extra hours. 

It’s also important to point out that the position of flowback operator comes with certain hazards. This is not the safest job. Even with safety protocols, the gases and vapors coming out of a well are unpredictable. Oil wells, especially new ones, produce all sorts of toxic gases and fluid, and as the person overseeing the production, you will potentially be first exposed to these dangers.

Also, like the gauger and pumper positions, you’ll likely be required to work in lots of adverse conditions and environments. In North Dakota for instance, the winters get brutally cold, with wind chill temps in the negatives. Texas has the high heat, of course. While places like Colorado have the snow.


Finally, this list is not exhaustive. It’s a good starting point for anyone who’s looking to get started in the oilfield, and has little experience. There are some positions that pay as well or even higher. Jobs such as CDL driver or wireline operator. I didn’t include those, however, as they require either specialized training or certification, or usually some measure of experience before you make the bigger $80k plus money. 

A CDL-A frac sand hauler can make $100k+ as a company driver. An owner operator can make substantially more. As can a qualified wireline operator. But that job sometimes requires a CDL, as well as some additional training and experience. 

There are other gigs that can pay well with little or no experience, such as workover or drilling rig crew, or roustabout, as mentioned previously. Depending on the territory and demand, pay can be pretty decent for those positions. They are way more physically laborious than the three positions I talked about above. But if that’s something you’re okay with, then you could also explore those.

The oilfield is pretty accessible at the moment. So if you’re considering a change in careers, now would be a good time to make the jump. Hopefully, this article has helped. 

TikTok is Trying to Kill You

Photo by Mitja Juraja from Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photo-of-skull-970517/

TikTok is like some kind of fictional mind virus from a dystopian sci-fi novel. 

Except the video app with the psychedelic logo is quite real, and it often targets people with completely insane and sometimes even deadly hashtag trends. 

Like almost every social media app, TikTok operates on an algorithm, curating videos based on a user’s interests. 

But this is an evil algorithm. 

It targets the young. It targets children. The ones who make up most of TikTok’s user base. The app is quite intuitive at collating communities around addictive hashtags, which can lead users being exposed to all sorts of crazy shit. 

Sometimes, this can be a productive thing. For example, “BookTok,” TikTok’s highly active army of book worms, is transforming the publishing industry. I wrote about it in article here.

But goodness on TikTok is purely accidental. There’s also a very dark, very deadly, and very weird side to an app that seems to have sprung straight out of Satan’s asshole. 

Here are just a handful of ways TikTok is trying to kill you:

The Blackout Challenge

Originally known as the equally ominous “Choking Game,” this viral self-strangulation trend has claimed the lives of numerous children over the last few years. 

The idea is simple as it is ghastly. Participants are encouraged to choke themselves in order to to get high, or to fall unconscious, all while on video. People have used belts, ties, ropes, and other devices to purposefully hang themselves in the hunt for internet points. And it’s costing them their lives.

Last July, 2021, an eight-year old girl named Lalani Erika Walton hanged herself with a rope from her bed after absorbing hours of TikTok videos of others attempting the challenge.

Earlier that February, a nine-year old girl named Arriani Jaileen Arroyo also fell victim to the trend. She had used the family dog’s leash to hang herself. Her father found her unresponsive.  

Then later in March, there was a 12-year old boy named Joshua Haileyesus who was rushed to the hospital after being disovered unconscious by his twin brother. He spent 19 days on life support before finally passing away. 

As a child growing up in the ’90s, I remember learning about how you can purposefully choking yourself to get high. But back then you generally only found out about that stuff word of mouth, and usually from some weird kid in a torn up Metallica t-shirt who sat in the back of the class. 

But with TikTok , a bizarre and risky trend like that can spread faster than Covid on a NY subway. For many kids, who are highly impressionable, it seems thrilling and fun. They do it without knowing the enormous risks. And it’s killing them or injuring them for life.

The Fire Challenge

Scratch what I wrote above about TikTok being a dystopian mind virus. It’s more like a digital demon that possesses people.

This trend started from a user who sprayed hairspray onto a mirror, and then lit it on fire to create different designs. Imitators quickly spawned, including Nick Howell, another 12-year old, who wound up burning 35% of his body in March of this year, when he accidentally ignited a bottle of rubing alcohol.

In June of last year, a 13-year-old Oregon girl wound up in the hospital with severe burns on her body due to exploding a bottle of isopropyl alcohol in an effort to mimic the mirror trick. 

But if manipulating people into lighting themselves on fire isn’t ghastly enough, how about — 

The Eye Challenge

Which got people to put bleach in their eyes, which supposedly changes eye color. 

This one, like many of these TikTok fads, started off as a joke from some kid named Greg Lammers trying to show off his cool video editing skills. In his video, Lammers instructed viewers that if you fill a plastic bag with jelly, hand sanitizer, bleach, or shaving cream, and place the bag against an eye, it can change their eye color. After performing the deed, Lammers then cut to a new shot, showing off his supposedly changed eye color. Except he had actually used a contact lens (duh). 

While Lammers never expected his video to go viral, it did. To the tune of 300,000 likes, 25,000 chares, and 3,000+ comments. Imitators then started posting their own attempts at the technique, which only resulted in them burning their eyes. Big surprise. 

The Milk Crate Challenge

This trend blew up about a year ago. People made videos of themselves trying to scale pyramids of milk crates they had cobled together, which often resulted in them falling down and getting injured. Hospitals saw an influx of patients with cracked ribs and other broken bones over the course of the hashtag scourge.  

Like in all the previous deadly and dangerous trends, TikTok made sure to issue a statement about how the app supposedly:

Prohibits content that promotes or glorifies dangerous acts, and we remove videos and redirect searches to our Community Guidelines to discourage such content.

Right. “Prohibits.” Totally. 

The problem is that by the time a trend has become big enough to cause real damage, it’s too late. TikTok was the most popular app in 2021, having been downloaded 3 billion times, and having garnered a mind-blowing 1 billion users. 

One freaking billion! That’s one seventh the world population. 

About a quarter of TikTok users are children or teens ages 10–19, and the kiddos are spending roughly 75 minutes per day on the video-sharing app. Another statistic of note is that the majority of TikTok’s successful ads communicate their message or product immediately. As in like 3 seconds. 

In other words, TikTok is custom built for short attention spans. And because of its ravenously-obsessed youthful users base, a trend, however absurd or dangerous, can spread at the speed of human stupidity (which is WAY faster than light, contrary to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity). Millions of clips are posted daily, and users are often sucked into a rabbit hole of algorithmically curated videos designed to keep them hypnotized. 

There’s no logistical way TikTok could realistically govern or filter out a questionable trend because of the speed at which they grow through the app’s multiverse-sized ecosytem.

So, what is the solution, if any? 

I’m reminded of the thematic summation in the classic Mathew Broderick-starring 1983 film War Games about the Cold War threat of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction.”

“The only winning move is not to play.”

The only way to beat TikTok is to delete the app, and make sure gullible kids can’t see it in the first place. 

Yeah, good luck with that. TikTok and all its poison, is here to stay.

Hot Blonde Bimbo Teachers Can’t Stop Fucking Kids

Source: Screenshot from Marka Bodine’s YouTube Channel

It’s become a real epidemic in this country. Worse than Covid. Worse than Monkeypox.

In U.S., we are currently suffering an outbreak of super cute, model-quality, bimbo, usully blonde, usually married teachers who can’t stop fucking their male students.

What the hell’s going on?

Now look, as a red-blooded American male, I could sit here and make the obvious joke, all while chortling like Beavis and Butt-head, “Herr-durr, why couldn’t I have had a teacher like that? These boys today are so lucky, heh-heh-heh.”

But this is no laughing matter. This is serious. Chris Hansen, where are you?

The latest episode of As the Hot Femme Pedo Turns completely blew my mind. Check out this summary from Breitbart about 32-year old Marka Bodine:

A former Texas sixth grade teacher will spend two months in prison for having a three-year relationship with one of her students, who was between the ages of 12 and 15 at the time. She will be given until June 2023 to surrender for her brief prison sentence due to the recent birth of her child.

The screenshot source above is no typo. Ms. Bodine has a YouTube channel. There are only a few videos, but it seems she did some for online learning during Covid lockdown. In the video I took the screenshot from, “Week of 3–30–20,” she instructs her students to come up with a “hashtag summary that describes your week.”

Hmm, wonder what sort of hashtag would best describe Ms. Bodine’s last few days. How about #pedoteachergetsoffeasybecauseshesfemale? Too long?

The case against Ms. Bodine started last year. According to affadavits, she went to the principal at her school, Tomball ISD north of Houston, to complain about a 16-year old student of hers who was harassing her and threatening to harm himself.

During the investigation, the student admitted that he’d had a sexual relationship with the teacher that had started when he was 12. The two initially started messaging through Fortnite, then progressed into texting. The relationship turned sexual sometime after the child’s 13th birthday, and continued for several years afterward. She sent 40 nude images to the child, and even moved into the same apartment complex as him. The two had dalliances in her classroom and her car.

Source: Spurstalk

Prosecutors were seeking a minimum of 20 years in prison for the teacher. But in a bad M. Night Shyamalan twist, Ms. Bodine was only handed TWO MONTHS in prison and ten years probation. She doesn’t even have to go to prison right away, due to the recent birth of her child.

Oh yeah, she was preggo, but NOT with her victim’s child. Her huband’s. Who is now her ex-husband.

Damn, imagine getting cucked by a 13-year old. If that ever happend to me, I wouldn’t just get divorced, I’d change my name, get plastic surgery Michael Jackson-style, and move to Brazil.

Ms. Bodine has until June of 2023 to report to prison, giving her a whole year to destroy another innocent life. A ridiculously light sentence when you consider that some of the male perverts snagged on Chris Hansen’s classic To Catch a Predator, and the reboot Hansen Vs. Predator, served years in prison for visiting a decoy after sending explicit texts, without ever having had a physical relationship with an actual flesh and blood minor.

Ms. Bodine banged this kid for three years and only got two months and probation. WTF?

What’s disturbing about this case isn’t just that Ms. Bodine preyed on this child starting from the time he was 12, it’s that she evidently fucked him up so badly psychologically that he threatened to harm himself. There are few intimate details about the nature of the relationship, but it’s not hard to imagine that the kid became helplessly infatuated. Might she have even put off the relationship due to her pregnancy, resulting in the boy’s subsequent mental breakdown? Who knows.

Source: Spurstalk

Of course, this isn’t the first time a blonde bimbo teacher has shagged a minor. It’s become somewhat of a cliche at this point. The website Zimbio has a article titled, “The 50 Most Infamous Female Teacher Sex Scandals.”

Probably the most famous scandal is Mary Kay Letourneau, a Seattle elementary school teacher, who began a relationship with a 13-year old boy way back in 1996. She became pregnant from the teen and gave birth to a girl the following year, after the illicit affair had been discovered. Then she got pregnant again in 1998 with a second daughter from her underage lover. After serving a prison term, Letourneau then actually married her former victim. The couple even threw a “Hot for Teacher Night” at a Seattle bar.

Then there’s the case of Debra Lafave, a 23-year old former model turned Florida teacher who got arrested in 2004 for having sex with with a 14-year old boy. This one gobbled up a ton of media fenzy. Ms. Lafave tried to plead not guilty due to insanity, as she evidently had bipolar disorder. When that didn’t work, her defense attorney even tried to argue that his client was too pretty to go to jail. She later received house arrest, probation, and was forced to register as a sex offender. Later she would whine to Matt Lauer on a Dateline interview about how, like, it’s so hard for her to accept the fact that she’s a predator teacher.

Years later, Matt Lauer would himself get fired from NBC for “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.”

Which means that Dateline interview may mark the first time where a major network TV report took place in which 100% of the people shown on your screen were psychosexuals.

Source: Dateline NBC

Who knew pervs were such camera hogs, too?

Marka Bodine is just the latest episode in an ongoing sordid trend that’s been largely marginalized and humorized from late night talk shows to Van Halen songs.

For sure, some of the teachers caught for raping minors receive just sentences. But for the most part they get far more leniency than a male predator ever would. And this is even after flagrant and prolonged relationships with minors.

Why the double standard? Why does society put female predators, especially attractive ones, on a pedastal? Why are female child rapists like Lafave given comfortable TV interviews, while male child rapists are treated like a dangerus virus under glass?

Part of it probably comes from a broad societal inability to perceive women as anything but victims when it comes to illicit sexual activity. Obviously, in nearly all sexual assault cases, women are the victims. Women simply “can’t” be the aggressors due to the biological aspect of sexual intercourse.

This makes the cases of female teachers banging minors outliers. They’re seen more as a curiosity than as a legitimate crime.

But there’s another aspect. In many of these cases, I noticed that the female teachers often maintained an ongoing “normal-esque” relationship with their underage victim, which makes it seem like both parties were fully consenting. Of course, a child cannot give consent, even if it is a horny willing male with raging hormones.

Rather than being perceived for what it is — a horrendous sex crime, these female teachers are often excused for falling victim to temptation.

Why I Don’t Drink Alcohol

Photo by Marta Dzedyshko from Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/cognac-on-cut-glass-bottom-placed-on-table-6341420/

Except very rarely, as in once a year.

The Acceptable Poison 

I could probably count on one hand how many alcoholic drinks I’ve had in the past six years. Drinking is like my Halley’s Comet.

I remain steadfastly unswayed by the festive environments of Christmas, New Year’s, St. Patrick’s Day, and my birthday. 

Even watching my beloved Eagles win the Super Bowl four years ago was a dry affair. I only had one beer — the East Coast favorite Yuengling — the next day, during lunch, and only because a family member paid for it.

This is apparently “bizarre” and “abnormal” behavior, even for someone middle-aged like myself. Commercials (especially during NFL season) constantly tell me how freaking AWESOME it is to drink, and how good-looking drinkers are, and how it’s maybe even actually healthy. Every once in a while some article pops up touting the benefits of drinking a glass of wine a day. No doubt paid for by Big Grape.

Maybe drinking alcohol in moderation is healthy. It’s no doubt a good social lubricant. You see all those happy couples out there strolling down the sidewalk and holding hands? I bet half of them are only together because of alcohol. According to Jerry Seinfeld, it’s the only way ugly people can date.

Guess that means there’s no hope for me. 

::sad slide whistle::

The “Twilight Zone Realization”

It wasn’t always like this. Seven years ago, I used to drink strongly and regularly. Brandy was my drink of choice. I liked it because it’s heavy and warm. I find beer too fizzy, stimulative, and inconsequential. Beer is like the fast food of drinks. Mixed drinks like rum or vodka are too “party mode” for my liking.

But brandy. VSOP. Middle shelf quality. The honey-brown bottle with the blue label felt like a little trophy in my hand on my twice-weekly trips to the liquor store. Occasionally I’d sample the top-shelf cognac buys when I felt my liver needed something higher class. 

Brandy was perfect for me. It felt right. Classy. Aristrocratic, even.

Said Benjamin Guggenheim on the Titanic: “We are dressed in our best and prepared to go down like gentlemen. But we would like a brandy.”

One of my favorite movie quotes. Though soon it would prove a sad metaphor for my life. Guy, sitting there alone, enjoying a drink, while everything around him sinks. 

Unlike beer, which intoxicates you incrementally. Or party drinks, that bomb you into submission. Brandy’s effect is subtle, cumulative, and compounding. Almost tranquil. It sneaks up on you.

You can sip brandy and gently coast away into oblivion. 

But after a while I came to one of those “Twilight Zone realizations.” You know, where the main character finally figures out what’s really going on, and their whole world gets upended.

I realized I was using alcohol as a crutch. As an escape hatch from reality. And that rather than it enhancing my life in any way, it was actually causing me to atrophy and isolate.

In low moderation, alcohol can be a fun spice. But for the most part, it’s like a garrote slowly squeezing the life out of you.

Alcohol deadens the senses. It distracts you from improving and adapting your situation.

So, I quit. Not gradually. Immediately. 

I’m a good quitter. I had quit smoking cigarettes almost ten years before, cold turkey. Believe me, it wasn’t easy giving up my Lucky Strikes. 

At the time, I couldn’t exactly articulate why I needed to quit. I just knew I had to. I don’t think I was technically an alcoholic. I would sometimes go on “purges” for days or even weeks, before eventually returning to Inebriation Island. And once I started back up, it never stopped at just one drink. 

But I could have “quit anytime I wanted.” I mean, sort of. 

Alcohol no doubt was exerting far too much gravity in my life. But not all the reasons I quit were noble or life affirming. Some were just practical. Some were even vain. But here they are:

Seven and a Half Reasons Why I Don’t Drink (except very rarely)

1.) I’m cheap as hell.

I don’t like spending money on frivilous things. And for me, alcohol is about as frivilous as you can get. You’re blowing wads of cash on bitter-tasting flavored water that will just give you a headache. I think my brandy used to cost me $16–$18 a bottle. At twice weekly, that was almost $40. $160 a month. Not big money, sure. Some people spend that on porn subscriptions. But it’s money for which you get nothing of value back in return. At least if you throw money away on lottery tickets there’s a microscopic chance you jump a few tax brackets. But booze? It’s guaranteed waste. 

And that’s even if you’re a budget-conscious drinker, like I was, and you imbibe at home. If you go out to bars and clubs, the costs can balloon ridiculously.  

2.) I don’t like feeling like shit.

Maybe alcohol doesn’t agree with me on a genetic level. Some people mix with it, others don’t. Alcohol doesn’t make me want to party or hang out with people. It generally just makes me tired, and when drank to excess, it is guaranteed to make me feel like terrible the next day. Who wants to feel like they got run over by a steamroller when they wake up in the morning?

In addition to the physical side effects, there are the mental ones, too. Drying out during the day always made me feel anxious and volatile. Because drinking dehydrates you, the whole next day you’re playing the hydration catch-up game to get yourself back to equilibrium. And since you’re technically in chemical withdrawal, you tend to rush through things so you can get back to the bottle. It’s a cruel cycle. Even though you know it’s wrecking you, you have to keep it going in order to feel “normal.”

3.) I like to (try) get a good night’s rest.

Alcohol interrupts your brain’s ability to get deep sleep. The brain needs that serious downtime in order to “wash” itself. No joke. The brain emits cerebrospinal fluid like a car wash all over your cranial lobes while you sleep. Think of it as cleaning out the gunk between the gears of your mind. But even small amounts of alcohol can blow up that cycle, and make it impossible for your brain to scrub itself clean. What happens when you don’t change your car’s oil filters regularly? Your engine eventually locks up. It’s the same idea with your brain. When it’s never given the chance to clean itself, it malfunctions. This is why alcoholics are often so irritable and can’t think straight. They’re literally working with a busted machine inside their head.

Good sleep is hard enough to come by, for me. I’m lucky if I can get a solid 6 hours of quality shut-eye. I don’t need booze wrecking what little sleep I might be able to get. Plus, I like a well-scrubbed brain.

4.) I don’t like being dependent on chemicals or drugs for anything.

That goes for medications, also. I don’t even like taking aspirin or cold medicine unless I really need to. It’s not a macho thing. It’s a control thing. I like to remain sovereign over my mental faculties at all times. I think it’s why even when I did drink heavily, I had a knack for toeing up to the line, but rarely ever going full-blown Chernobyl. Even as a habitual drinker then, I stayed in the driver’s seat as much as possible.

5.) I just don’t have the time for it.

Looking back, I don’t know how I ever made time to drink. It’s funny. When you’ve got a good buzz on, time just melts away, and before you know it, it’s 2 AM, and you’re realizing you have to get up that morning for work. As in like four hours.

Alcohol is like a black hole. It sucks up everything in your life, and suddenly, everything revolves around the bottle. You plan your whole day by it. Work is just something you do before you can drink. Eating is just something to be gotten out of the way so you can drink. You ignore healthy, productive activities and hobbies and even people in order to reserve time for drinking. 

It’s a pure time suck. And a life suck. It’s a true vampire. Life is short enough not to spend 20% of every day (or more) half-conscious. When I think back to how much of my life I wasted avoiding reality behind a bottle, it honestly hurts.

6.) Alcohol withdrawal is a motherfucker. 

It can actually kill you. While I never got to the point where not drinking was a threat to my life, I had some uncomfortable experiences during my occasional cessation periods. A burning sensation in my chest. Heart palpitations. Sweating. Inability to sleep. Anxiety. Cold symptoms. Even hallucinations. I remember one night tossing and turning in bed, and seeing an owl, or some kind of bird, perched near the ceiling, partially hidden in shadow.

None of that shit is appealing whatsoever, obviously. 

It’s crazy the heavy toll alcohol extracts, even when you’re not drinking and making the effort to clean up. It’s like trying to get out of the mob. Better be ready to take a beating. It’s no wonder so many get sucked back in after sobering up for a short spell. 

7.) I value my health, and…

Alcohol is basically all sugar. And when you drink, you usually eat like shit on top of it. Or you lose your appetite the next morning because of the hangover. You’re throwing your body’s chemistry and digestive rhythm out of whack. You’re packing on excess calories. It’s why so many guys (and gals) get that gross fanny pack gut the more they sling those six packs around. 

And if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s the sad sack potbelly look that frankly too many fucking middle-aged dudes are bizarrely okay with having these days. 

Can’t be me, man.

7.5.) …drinking ages you

I don’t get it. Aging already degrades your appearance no matter how well you take care of yourself, or how evolved your genes. But alcohol puts rocket thrusters on the whole crypt-keeper look-a-like deal. 

It dries out your skin. 

It can give you diabetes. 

It ruins your internal organs. 

It eats your brain. 

It chews up your heart. 

And it ravages your biochemistry, until your body thinks it actually needs alcohol to function.  

Life is short enough. You’ll lose your youthful bloom and looks fast enough already. Why the hell would you hasten the process?


Nowadays

Life is better now without alcohol. I don’t miss the sickness that drinking ultimately became. I value the ability to think clearly and cleanly. When you’re younger there’s a tendency to want to run and hide from life. To cope somehow with raw reality. I think this is why binge drinking, drugs, bad relationships, or sex, can become such pitfalls. They’re escape portals from the scary real world. 

But as you get older, and the patterns of life become more familiar, you start to lose that hopeless lost at sea feeling that oftentimes plagues you when you’re just starting out. You start to appreciate things as they are. You care less about what others think. You learn to value what actually matters. And you start to lose that fear and anxiety and angst that powers a lot of bad decisions. 

Sometimes, you even look forward to dealing with problems, rather than running saway from them. You start to see them more as puzzles or opportunities rather than evil afflictions. 

This doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process.  

I’m not an anti-alcohol born-again evangelist, or something. There’s nothing morally wrong with drinking. I still enjoy an occasional beer, usually with family, or for special occassions. It’s just alcohol is something that doesn’t jive with my programming. I realized that for me, it’ll always be a net negative. 

Plus, and this was hard to accept, but it’s too much of an addictive temptation. When I drank regularly, I could never just have one glass of brandy. It was at least three to four, until it knocked me out. It’s not easy to recognize a weakness in yourself, but eventually I had to admit the truth. But fortunately, one of my strengths is being able to pivot strongly once I’ve (finally) realized I’ve taken a wrong turn, and then learning from the mistake.

I’m glad alcohol is out of my life. Lucidity really is an underappreciated state of mind.