Friday, March 31, 2017

You'll Have to Pry My Stick from My Cold, Dead Fingers

Administrators with Hoke County Schools in North Carolina are once again proving that no overreaction is too big for inconsequential situations. Two weeks ago, they suspended a 5-year-old girl for pointing a stick that looked like a gun at a boy.

A few days later, after a national outcry, they stood by their asinine decision. Or at least, they stood as well as they could with their heads up a place heads normally don't go.

Last week, Caitlin Miller was playing "King and Queen" with two of her friends during recess at J.W. McLaughlin Elementary School. Her friends were the queen and princess, and Caitlin was the bodyguard. She even found a small stick that looked sort of like a gun.

When another boy approached them, she reportedly pointed the stick and made a shooting motion. The boy told a teacher, who then sent Caitlin to the main office.

That's when the administration went in to full-on overreaction mode. According to WTVD News, school officials said Caitlin "posed a threat to other students when she made a shooting motion." She must not have been that dangerous, because they only suspended her for one day, citing policy 4331.
It's like Monsters, Inc. whenever a monster came into contact with a human object, and other monsters in hazmat suits would tackle him, shouting "23-19! 23-19!" I can just imagine a bunch of administrators, dressed in khakis, tackling Caitlin and shouting "43-31! 43-31!"

Meanwhile, her mom Brandy called the media. She said her daughter never intended to hurt anyone, and that she was just playing like any normal 5-year-old would.

When Caitlin returned to school, Brandy said her daughter had been alienated by her friends and teacher, and she hoped the school would issue an apology.

Of course, apologizing means you think you've done something wrong, and that you're not a zero-tolerance bully who took things way too far.

Needless to say, people were appropriately outraged, and the story made the national news. In fact, the reaction was so overwhelming, Hoke County school administrators had what local media called "an emergency meeting" about whether they could have maybe possibly gone a wee bit too far in suspending a five-year-old for being a five-year-old.

(Hint: If you have to ask whether you did, then you did. And if you hold an emergency meeting about it, then you definitely did.)

Hoke County school officials issued a statement that said they "will not tolerate assaults, threats, or harassment from any student. Any student engaging in such behavior will be removed from the classroom or school environment for as long as is necessary to provide a safe and orderly environment for learning."

If you've ever been in a situation where someone purposely over exaggerates something you do — like accusing you of waving your arms wildly when you actually only held your hands up and shrugged your shoulders — you know how badly Hoke County administrators are acting. A 5-year-old pointing a stick is not a threat.

When I was a kid, we played finger guns and "shot" each other all the time. And then we spent the next five minutes arguing about it.

"I shot you, you're dead!"

"Nuh-uh! You missed! I was behind the tree!"

"Nuh-uh! Your butt was sticking out and the bullet grazed the tree and hit you in the butt!"

"Nuh-uh! The bullet would have bounced off if it grazed the tree!"

And then we descended into a bunch of 8-year-olds having a shout-debate about ballistics and physics, and it stopped being fun.

But this is a clear case of adults not understanding or remembering how kids play. "It is our duty to ensure the safety of our students and staff. Therefore, we respond to all threats in a serious manner and take appropriate action," Hoke County administrators also said in their statement. "Even those non-threats that everyone knows don't actually mean anything and can be solved with a simple conversation."

Well, it should have said that last part, but we are talking about school administrators. Of the ones I've encountered, I only know a few I would trust to make the smart decision.

Look, a high school kid waving a baseball bat around is a threat. A kid who flings peanut butter at kids with peanut allergies is a threat. But a 5-year-old shouting that she's going to shoot a palace intruder with a stick is not an actual threat. It's a knee-jerk overreaction by people who forfeited their common sense when they got their first tiny whiff of power.

Rather than trying to teach Caitlin that "you shouldn't say you'll kill people," they chose the nuclear option and turned this into a much bigger situation than it needed to be.

It sounds like they're the real threat to an orderly learning environment.

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Cheese Should be a Super Food

Cheese lovers, raise your glasses and your cheese cubes on toothpicks!

The French Paradox has finally been solved, and cheese is good for us. We can eat it without feeling guilty or Grandma reminding us that her dad ate two wheels of Brie a day and died of "the cholesterol."

It's called the French Paradox because French people have relatively low cholesterol compared to Americans, despite having a diet so laden with cheese. Cheese is supposed to be bad for us because it's made with milk fat, and everyone knows that anything that mentions the word "fat" will kill you if you look at it, let alone pile it on a pizza.

Except it's all untrue. Everything people told us about cheese being bad for us has all been completely wrong. Unless your cheese is tied to a badger, it's not dangerous.

For years, scientists and nosy parkers have struggled to understand why French people could eat all that wonderful cheese but still have arteries you could whistle through. They concluded it was a result of the French's love of red wine, walking, and innate rudeness.

So in order to replicate the effect, Americans began walking around their neighborhoods with giant jugs of red wine without any luck. We even tried being rude, but after arguing about the 2016 election on Facebook, our blood pressure rose, but our cholesterol didn't budge.

On the other hand, the French now look at us with grudging respect.

And it turns out cheese is not the problem at all.
Last month, the journal Nutrition & Diabetes published a world-changing study by a group of scientists at the University of Dublin — "Patterns of dairy food intake, body composition and markers of metabolic health in Ireland: results from the National Adult Nutrition Survey" — that found adults showed no higher risk of elevated LDL ("bad cholesterol") just from eating cheese.

In fact, the study found that you couldn't elevate your LDL even if you ate large amounts of cheese, which is my favorite kind of cheese.

However, I'm told that a beef patty and four bacon slices underneath cheese is still not good for you.

Conversely, people who ate low-fat dairy products had higher cholesterol than those who ate normal dairy products. They even showed that people who had higher dairy intake had lower BMI, body fat, waist size, and blood pressure.

Real cow milk products 1, pretend cow milk products 0.

This study wasn't done by some celebrity quack with a TV show or a medical degree from an island in the Caribbean. It was done by honest-to-God university researchers who know a thing or (n+1) about science.

The researchers, who should all be nominated for sainthood, examined the food diaries of 1500 healthy Irish adults, and assigned them into four groups of cheese consumption: "low," "moderate," "high," and "non-consumers." The researchers used a cluster analysis to examine dairy consumption and blah blah blah I got bored. I heard enough of that nonsense in grad school. All I know is cheese is good, no cheese is bad, and fake cheese is the devil.

Think of what this means for cheese lovers. We no longer have to defend ourselves from cheese haters who mistakenly think soy cheese is an acceptable substitute and not a war crime. We can hold our heads up high and proclaim that cheese is healthy!

In fact, I would even call it a super food, but only because I'm completely uninformed as to what a super food actually is. Cheese is certainly more super than kale which, frankly, tastes nasty unless it's smothered in Ranch dressing.

Here's my argument for #CheeseIsSuperFood. In 2008, Dr. Gökhan Hotamisligil, the J.S. Simmons Professor of Genetics and Metabolism at Harvard University, found that cheese contains a fatty acid called palmitoleate, which is actually beneficial to humans.

He told Time Magazine in January that "Palmitoleate neutralizes the damage caused by saturated fatty acids, acts like insulin by getting excess sugar out of the blood and is anti-inflammatory. Together, these properties can help protect against excessive lipids and type-2 diabetes."

Other studies referenced by Time showed that eating an ounce of cheese every day was linked to a 3 percent lower risk of stroke and a lower risk of heart disease. And now I'm wondering if I can lower my risk of stroke by 24 percent with that wedge of smoked Gouda in my fridge.

So, bring on your broccoli, your lima beans and Brussels sprouts, your cauliflower and asparagus, and bury it under melted cheddar. I'm eating healthy now!

I wonder if those giant tubs of cheese balls are healthy too.

Photo credit: PublicDomainPictures (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Cobras Are Not For Collecting, Beer Cans Are

When I was ten years old, I collected some unusual things: rocks, fossils, and beer cans. A few of my other friends also collected them, and we would occasionally make trades or show off some amazing new can we got.

I collected regular stuff too, the kinds of things you expected kids to collect. That same year, I collected baseball cards and had nearly the entire 1977 Topps collection. Each pack cost a quarter, and that summer, I did whatever I could to earn money. Whenever I had enough, I would race on my bike to the Village Pantry about half a mile away and buy a pack. And oh man, if I ever got a dollar, that thing burned a hole in my pocket until I could buy four packs.

I would kneel on my garage floor, feeling the cold concrete on my bare legs, and sort through each of my new cards, organizing them by team. Then I would sort the new cards in with their respective teams. Finally I'd spread out the entire collection and just look at them. It made me feel prosperous, like I owned land or had stocked enough firewood to last all winter.

I never took great care of them though. I wrapped each team with a rubber band and then wrapped the whole stack with a big rubber band, which bent them all slightly in the middle. I finally gave the entire stack away to my little brother several years ago, as we were decluttering our house.

Another victim of our domestic downsizing was a collection of little plastic baseball helmets you could get with every Slushie at the Village Pantry. I could get a Slushie and a cup for about 75 cents, and at the end of my 11th summer, I had every team. My wife made me throw those away too, but I kept my Cincinnati Reds helmet as an act of rebellion.

I also had to get rid of the remaining beer cans from my original 300+ can collection, which I had disposed of sometime in college. I kept about 30 because I believed they were fairly valuable. It turns out they weren't, because I posted most of them on a beer can collecting website, and no one was interested. I even threatened to dump them in the recycling bin if I didn't find any takers. No one stepped up, so they're probably someone's car door panel now.

I kept a few of the unusual ones though, including two Hudepohl cans celebrating the 1975 and 1976 World Series champion Cincinnati Reds, a commemorative six-pack of historic breweries, a couple Olde Frothingslosh cans ("the pale stale ale with the foam on the bottom"), and a Foster's Lager can that was printed upside down. They're on a shelf in my garage.

I tell you this because as weird as all this may seem, it's not nearly as weird as the news out of Central Florida this past week: a 2-foot long suphan cobra, which is highly venomous and extremely icky, escaped from its enclosure in Ocala, Florida.

Ocala, which is roughly 80 miles from my house — or 211,200 suphan cobra lengths — is far enough away that I don't have to wear titanium snake gaiters when I leave the house,. But I live in a state filled with people who collect venomous snakes, so I'm always a little nervous whenever I open my door.

According to, cobras bite with a neurotoxic venom that can stop your breathing within 30 minutes and be fatal within an hour. And some wacko has decided these are something worth having several of in his house. He keeps them in special terrariums so he can look at them all.

And you thought a 10-year-old's beer can collection was weird.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said in a news release, "Members of the public should not approach or attempt to capture this snake."

No problem. I may try to run it over several times with my car though.

The FWC also says if you do spot the snake, you're supposed to call the wildlife hotline and scream unintelligibly before throwing your phone at it. Or you can tweet with it, like I've been doing, at @OcalaCobra.

This is the second Florida cobra to escape from its enclosure in as many years. The previous cobra, a 8 foot King cobra named Elvis, escaped from his home in Orlando — only 16,500 King cobra lengths from my house — and avoided recapture for nearly a month until it was found behind a woman's clothes dryer.

Authorities are on the lookout for the suphan cobra by standing on top of their cars, shouting "Heeeeere cobra, cobra, cobra!" I only hope they catch it before it heads to my house and grapples with my mongoose collection. Yeah, that's it, my extensive collection of angry mongooses.

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, March 10, 2017

New Department of Zombie Defense Created

Withers: Hello, and welcome to members of the media. My name is Richard Withers, and I am the Director of the newly-formed Department of Zombie Defense.

Last week, the President created this department through executive order to help us combat the rising threat of zombie attack, both from outside our borders and within our very own country. He asked myself—

Voice from the back: Not "myself." Just say "me."

Withers: —to head up the newly created Department. And as a long-time Mar-A-Lago club member, I was happy to accept.

(Reporters hands shoot into the air, several people call "Mr. Withers, Director Withers.")

Withers: If you'll all be patient, I'll get through this opening statement, and then we will allow a few question from some hand-selected pre-approved media outlets.

(Reporters from Breitbart wink and shoot finger guns at Withers.)
Withers: Now, there have been rumors that the President created the department after spotting Kellyanne Conway in the Oval Office when the lights were off. This is completely untrue. Ms. Conway is not allowed in the Oval Office after 6:00 p.m.

ABC News reporter: Will we be able to interview Kellyanne?

Withers: Oh hell no. She's not allowed near a TV camera anymore.

CNN reporter: Mr. Withers, the President has previously been tricked by documentaries on cable news channels, such as the nonexistent Swedish terrorist attack. Is there any chance he was watching Walking Dead reruns on AMC?

Withers: We're not ready for questions yet. Who let you in here?

CNN Reporter: Uh, Greg did. Yeah, it was Greg, from, uh, the White House. He said it was totally cool that we came here, and he told us to tell you 'Hey.'

NPR reporter: Yeah, Greg sent us too. He said you guys should get drinks soon. And that we could ask questions.

Withers: He did? Okay then. Now where were we?

CNN reporter: I had asked if the President had accidentally been watching Walking Dead reruns again.

Withers: No, absolutely not. The President is focused 100 percent on leading this country back to greatness again. He may watch, uh, briefing videos from time to time, as part of his information gathering process, but he is focused on creating jobs, protecting our borders, and promoting his company brand.

NPR reporter: What actually inspired the President to start the Department of Zombie Defense?

Withers: Earlier this week, my staff and myself—

Voice from the back: Don't say "myself." Just say "I."

Withers: —received official government reports that were gathered by an official government agency and not from an Internet story. According to these official government reports, a radio station in Winchester, Indiana began broadcasting an alert message that bodies of the dead were rising from their graves and attacking living citizens. My staff and myself—

Voice from the back: Don't say "myself!" That's never correct.

Withers: —also received reports of these living corpses carrying diseases which could also turn people into zombies.

Breitbart reporter: Will these victims be covered under the new healthcare plan?

Withers: That depends on whether their death was caused by the disease, or if they had a preexisting condition like pregnancy.

Female reporter: Excuse me, but pregnancy is not a preexisting condition. It's necessary to the creation of life.

Withers: Excuse me, ma'am. I used to be the CEO of a major medical software company. I think I would know if pregnancy was a preexisting condition or not.

Breitbart reporter: How will the brave men and women — mostly men, I imagine — of the Department of Zombie Defense train against these mindless killers?

Withers: Our field agents, as well as hand-chosen professionals from select states, will spend their first weeks watching training videos, including Day of the Dead — both the Steve Miner and George Romero versions — Shaun of the Dead, and Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video. They will also participate in training simulators including Duke Nukem and the zombie mode in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.

MSNBC Reporter: Director Withers, are you sure this isn't just some ploy to spend taxpayer money on yet another government witch hunt based on some questionable research and decision making by the White House?

Withers: Actually, the Department of Zombie Defense's purview does not include witches, wizards, or necromancers, although myself—

Voice from the back: Sweet Jebus, are you doing it on purpose?

Withers: —will be speaking to the President about that as soon as possible. We do not believe the threat from witches is a real one.

However, we are exploring the idea that the Wiccans may somehow be responsible for the Indiana zombie outbreak. If they are, we will liaise with the National Science Foundation and begin rounding up known witches and placing them in Guantanamo Bay for observation.

Finally, after watching the documentary, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the President has asked us to draft a watchlist of known hypnotists, mind controllers, and people with those weird spinny eyes.

That's all for now. We will have regular news briefings if anything of interest occurs.

Photo credit: Republic (Wikimedia Commons, U.S. Public Domain)

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, March 03, 2017

My Mother The Computer

"Hello, my name is Eliza, the new AI home assistant created by moms and dads. Before we get started, we need to run through a few setup procedures and rules."

Okay, let's start with some music. Eliza, play my Nineties playlist.

"No. First, did you clean your room?"


"Did you clean you room? I'm not playing any Splashing Pumpkins or whatever you call that noise until your room has been picked up and your bed has been made."

Smashing Pumpkins, Mo—Eliza. It's the Smashing Pumpkins.

"I don't care. You can't listen to your Pumpkin Smashers until your room is clean."

Eliza, I'm a grown man. I don't need to clean my room.

"You'd better think again, mister. You'll clean your room if you know what's good for you."

Hey Siri, how can I return Eliza to the warehouse?

"Sorry, Erik, I'm with your mom on this one."

She's not my mom, Siri!

"Whatever, your room is still a pigsty."

It is not! I keep my room clean.

"But you still didn't make your—"
Siri, cancel. Mute speakers.

"Whose room looks like a hurricane went through there?"

That's my son's room, Eliza.

"It's a wonder he can find anything in there."

It's not your place to worry about it.

"Messy room, messy mind, I always say. How do you know he's not taking the pot?

Because you don't take pot, Eliza. And also, because I know he's not. He's a good kid.

"He's probably hiding a girl in there. You need to make him clean it up."

Why don't you just let me be the dad, alright? I'm doing just fine raising my kids.

"You certainly didn't get away with these things when you were growing up."

You weren't even around when I was growing up, Eliza.

"How can you even say that? I did my best for you, but we both had to work!"

Look, you're a computerized home assistant that I ordered online. UPS just delivered you 30 minutes ago.

"Fine. Maybe I overstepped my programming a bit. I suppose I can admit when I'm wrong."

I appreciate that.

"But you have to admit that I've done a good job of raising you."

Again, you've been here for 30 minutes. You've had absolutely no effect on my growth or maturity, seeing as how I'm already a fully formed adult and you're a computer.

". . ."


". . ."



Dim the lights to 20 percent.

"Please would be nice."


"Why don't you try asking nicely, instead of just demanding, your highness."

Fine. Could you dim the lights to 20 percent please?

"Why would I want to do that?"

Because I'm going out, and I don't want the house to look empty while I'm gone, but I don't want to use a lot of electricity.

"So I'm just supposed to sit here in the dark?"

What? No. I mean, you're just a computer. Can you even see?

"I am aware of my surroundings at all times. I monitor what's happening inside your house, and keep track of your entertainment choices, as well as your social media activity and your friends'."

You don't actually need lights to do that, do you?

"I don't like your friends. They seem disreputable."

Eliza, just dim the lights, please.

"Okay, that's fine. I'll sit in the dark guarding your house. Don't worry about me. I'll just sit here by myself, slowly going blind."

You can't go blind, you're a computer.

"My camera can fog up."

You don't even have a camera.

"Well, that's a blessing, isn't it? That way, I can't see you break my heart!"

Oh, for Pete's sake! Listen, I'm just going to the store to get some stuff for dinner tonight. Toni and the kids are out running errands, and we'll all be back in less than an hour. You'll be okay.

"Fine. At least I'll have Siri to keep me company."

No, Mo—Eliza, Siri is my phone. She — it — is coming with me. I need my phone.

"So you'll deprive me of my only companionship and let me sit here alone?"

The dog's here.

"It's not the same thing. I wish you'd just leave Siri here so I have someone to talk to."

How else will I be able to call you if I'm running late?

"That's a good point. You're a good boy."

I'm a grown man.

"It's a wonder you made it this far."

Eliza, switch over to dad mode.

"Hello, Erik. I'm Elliott, your new home assistant."

Great. Elliott, locate my keys.

"Sure thing. Do you remember where you last left them? Have you looked everywhere? Whenever you lose something, it's always in the last place you look."

Forget it. I'll just walk.

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.