Hands Free Driving

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It’s sad that whenever I go out I see a nearby driver swerving, braking late, or stopped at a green-light, and I can no longer assume that person is drunk. Now, when I drive I have a carefully manufactured formula for discerning who is a drunk and who is texting. Worse over about this epidemic is the large majority of people who take part don’t feel it is even remotely as dangerous as driving drunk. Some of these individuals actually think they are “good” at it, and it’s OK for them to do so! They always say, “I’m a good multi-tasker.” I am here to let off a little steam, and present some facts that you “in-text-icated” drivers with the virtuosic driving skills may not be aware of.

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The majority of drivers we see texting today are a part of the younger generations. If I were making a guess on my own observation, I would say people in their twenties or younger. I think this is attributed to these generations having grown with the technology that is available today. Interestingly enough, the gender stereotype doesn’t really live up to the latest studies. In the study, Gender Differences in Psychosocial Predictors of Texting While Driving, conducted by Dr. Cindy Struckman-Johnson it was found that women may text with more frequency while driving and men may text less, however, women’s texts were typically less than a sentence while men averaged one to five sentences per text. Considering this information it would appear gender does not make much difference at all.

So why do people text and drive? A common question that comes with many answers. Most of the reasons I have heard include temptation, anticipation, convenience, and false confidence. Being one of these adults having grown up in a world where gratification has become more and more instantaneous, I have a bit of an understanding. I remember being a child and listening to the dial up tone for AOL, but now I have a faster internet connection via my phone than my home internet. I get the latest news from around the world at the tip of my fingers in a fraction of a second, and when there is a free moment where my mind is not engaged it seems to gravitate toward the use of my phone. As a society we have distanced ourselves more and more from personal interaction to the point where we abbreviate or otherwise pervert our own languages. Writing in a short sentence via text versus a vocal conversation for the sake of convenience and selectability of these engagements. We have become absorbed with ourselves and only embrace the outside world in the ways we choose to. This to me is best described as the electronic hermit.

As we become more disconnected with one another we become more self-interested. Now add in the fact that we have already naturally selfish young adults absorbed in a phone that blocks out the rest of the world, we will encase them in a metal box engineered so well that outside noise is but a hum in the background. Hell, people are afraid to pull directly beside one another at a stop light for fear of a millisecond of eye contact with the driver next to them!

This shell of technology and engineering is what makes us so comfortable with doing such dangerous acts. We have become oblivious to the real world, under the childish assumption that it will never happen to me. Well, I’m here to tell you the statistics say otherwise. In 2011 the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) found that of the 3,331 fatal car accidents involving a distracted driver, 385 people died in an accident involving the use of a cell phone. Enter the argument about being a good multitasker. I have no tolerance for this, as anyone who has read even the slightest bit of information knows that multitasking is a myth. We can merely switch from one task to another quickly, but cannot perform more than one task at any given moment. If you don’t believe me check out the proof from NPR. In fact, the DOT says the average time your eyes are away from the road to text is 5 seconds. The DOT states,”When traveling at 55mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.” How is that not dangerous?

I know none of the shocking facts I lay out here is going to make a difference to the self-absorbed young adult out there. This blog is more of a plea for the salvation of the generation I am perilously a part of. I am begging you for my life and my families life that you re-evaluate just what kind of impact you make on the driving world today. As harmless as your intentions are while you text and drive, if you injure or kill someone close to me so you could text the word “OK”, I’m not sure I will forgive you. We are all human and we all make mistakes, but accident or not, every action has consequences. Please, think about what it is you are doing on the roads today. We all deserve love so let’s not cause unnecessary pain…

I hope you guys had a great Thanksgiving. Happy holidays to everyone, and as always I love you all!

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Why I Can’t Decide

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Anyone who has read my previous posts knows I never seem to pick a side on any topic. This could appear cowardly, but this is just not the case. Many things, including current events, are just not black and white (pun intended). Everywhere I look I see people so quickly jumping to a decision based upon a news article they read. They effectively create more conflict by taking the words of a journalist, who is spinning a story for the purpose of selling said story, and taking it as the gospel. Therefore, you end up missing facts and hearing, more often than not, one-sided story based upon the media outlets agenda and influences.

I have only recently made this change in my approach to societal issues with my return to education. After high school I joined the military and spent about 5 years of my life experiencing the real world in a trial by error manner. I have been to 11 countries and experienced a plethora of cultures. I have experienced much in my short time on this Earth. I don’t say this to boast about my life, but to back up my point. Through all these experiences, I still held a very much black and white approach to the world and would quickly embrace a side based upon the first set of facts presented. This would lead me to being biased and closed-minded to any other contrary information. When returning to education life started to appear to me in ways hadn’t imagined before.

The point is that without both education and experience you never have the full picture and cannot knowledgeably speak on a topic. Take for instance, the riots in Furgeson; I am a white mid-twenties male who has never experienced racial discrimination. I have studied on ethical and sociological aspects of race, but this doesn’t make me knowledgeable. This makes me informed, but not wise.

I try in most instances now to look at the very basics of a conflict. I acknowledge the common ground one can find between the two opposing forces. I have found that often there is a fair amount of agreement within every disagreement, yet, we so often pass over these details. The details that could allow for civil discussion. Well, civil discussion in an ideal world at least. I also find the very basic arguments from both sides, and ignore the fluff added for dramatic effect. Once I do that I realize I cannot truly make an informed decision, and find that both sides have significant validation. This is the reason we have conflict, because the reality is that there are no immediate solutions to the problem. Each conflict takes an approach that requires a large amount of time, something most people don’t have nor want to spare in the first place.

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This doesn’t make me infallible. I by no means follow this advice as closely as it would appear. Often the best advice we give is the same advice we don’t follow. Being human means we are going to collide and be in some way contrasting from everyone. What makes us good is our ability to tolerate differences and work through these problems. With all things, it requires practice and admittance of fault in our self-reflection.

 

Thanks for reading and as always I love you guys!

Consumer Culture Swallowing Family Values Whole

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 ^^^Burnt turkey picture credited to SF Station

By the time I post this it will be Thanksgiving, and the most obvious topic to be discussed is the plague of Black Friday.You hear complaints from retail workers all the time toward the end of November. Figuratively and sometimes literally, protesting work the day of Thanksgiving for the commencement of Black Friday. Who is really to blame for the social phenomenon? What issues arise from it? Can we see any good coming from Black Friday?

A little history about Black Friday is in order before we go any further. According to Snopes.com the earliest known use of the term was in 1951, and the origin of its meaning, while mysterious, has two popular stories. I found these stories via blackfriday.com and snopes.com. The first story, and the one I favor, is that Black Friday meant the time where Christmas shopping began and retailers would be able to write in their account books using black ink, indicating money gained, instead of red to indicate money lost. The second story states it was used by Philadelphia police the day after thanksgiving as a complaint about the high volumes of traffic marking the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. While I have no doubt deals were available during this time, I suspect the level at that time would pale in comparison to today.

So often society places the blame firmly on the backs of businesses for the degradation of the Thanksgiving holiday, and in the same turn of generalization refuse to take the responsibility for their role (society) in the problem. In the simplest of business terms, to be successful means giving the customer what they want. Which means the only reason that retail stores are opening up on Thanksgiving day is for the same reason you are camping outside of Macy’s three days in advance.

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^^^ Picture credited to The Huffington Post

In America, everyone is a customer. We live in breathe by consumption. We are in every sense of the word a consumer culture. Our economy relies heavily on the purchase of goods, and we are subconsciously taught to enjoy doing so (to some extent). We get so wrapped up in the idea of getting deals on goods purchased that often, on Black Friday, people will purchase items not even on sale under an assumption that everything is marked down. This was explained to me by several friends of mine who did or currently work in retail.

While the loss of money may not be too significant a problem, there are others we really need to address. In large groups people tend to assume the “mob mentality”, in which we lose our self-awareness and feel comfortable breaking social norms. With the excitement seen on Black Friday it can easily turn dangerous. In an interview done by South Source with Tamara Avant, the Director of Psychology at South University, she states,”Groups can generate a sense of emotional excitement, which can lead to the provocation of behaviors that a person would not typically engage in if alone.” A very simple explanation and sad reality of society’s emotion towards others, when people are being trampled to death for the sake of ten dollars off that new car stereo. Self-interested behavior, and more specifically greed rears its ugly head, not even, a day after giving thanks for all that we enjoy. The conundrum leaves me nauseated and morose.

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^^^ Picture credit to Sensei Marketing

But is that the most un-nerving part? Possibly. What concerns me is where the breakdown begins, at home. At first the trend seemed to be just the disassembly of a family event in the name of cheap goods, but it is becoming more and more of a family event to participate in Black Friday. This at first appears to be a positive adaptation to the turkey that has gone cold, but have we forgotten the main motivation behind such an event? Greed spread across a jumbled line of people de-individuated by the sheer volume of participants, fighting amongst one another for the last action figure on the shelf. Is this really what we as Americans want our quintessential family day to be redefined as?

I am a broke college student, and could be defined as cheap by some of my friends. I could definitely enjoy some of the deals found on such a day. However, I refuse to participate based upon the importance I hold for my values, morals, and ideals. No amount of money saved is acceptable for me to step foot on such a slippery slope, built around a sin that runs our country. While I understand the basis for saving money, I ask if it is worth contributing to the perpetuation of people blinded by green.

I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving, and as always… I love you guys!

Political Correctness; Poison to Spare the Masses

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It all started from an article referenced by my girlfriend via a mutual friend of ours, that I am just going to assume doesn’t want his name mentioned. The article explains exactly what I couldn’t put my finger on when it comes to political correctness. First of all, political correctness (PC) has its place in the world and does bear a bit of a necessity. What we don’t need is an overuse of PC to the point where we are no longer exchanging ideas, but rather ignoring them.

Being politically correct is defined as, “agreeing with the idea that people should be careful to not use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people,” according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. In theory, this is an exceptional idea. We don’t want to go out of our way to offend anyone when it is not necessary, necessity being the keyword. As usual we should take everything with a grain of salt and understand that nothing is truly black and white.

In order to survive in our society with relative peace we, as a whole, moderate the things we say and do to minimize conflict. This is a healthy and natural social instinct of ours. When your significant other asks you if their outfit makes them look fat you obviously know what the wrong answer is. A simple enough lie and exclusion of possible truth to keep the peace, without serious detriment to the relationship. In the valley of intellectual discussion though, our thoughts are meant to be reverberated on the mountainous walls that surround us.

Like with many things in life, to grow means to struggle; to cause damage and then repair. When an athlete goes to the gym he lifts weights, which injure his muscles. He then returns home eats food and rests, coming back stronger and more confident. Our intellect works in much the same way. We open our mind to ideas that shake the very values we hold dear. We absorb these ideas. We contemplate, and then we contest them. We are strengthening our minds by allowing our values and ideals to be tested. In essence allocating time to be damaged and come back with a stronger and broader understanding of the topic.

If we allow PC to rule our ability to intellectually grow we have in effect closed our minds. Not entirely because we feel so strongly on a topic, but rather it scares us that our views could change. By that concept, one could be interpreted as cowardly. We all experience fear and naturally wish to be comfortable. A conscious decision to take yourself out of the comfort zone, to me, is a sign of intellectual bravery. For that same reason, I don’t think anyone can live in constant discomfort hence the need for PC.

Time and place are the dictating factors for which we should discern whether or not to use PC and at what level PC is appropriate. Understand that if we follow logical debate and avoid argumentative fallacies we can negate a large amount of offense in the first place. Maintaining a level of neutrality in your communication will also limit the amount of turbulence. When discussing sensitive subjects, how you approach a topic is important, and blatantly ignoring sensitives is just plain lazy. Being upset that you have to put forth effort in your communication to me appears childish. It, of course, takes time and practice in order to more effectively and efficiently follow these guidelines, which means we have to engage one another. I don’t claim to never commit the crime of fallacy, I do try my best not to, but like I said it takes practice. Be fearless people, and accept the challenge ahead of you. Be offended and engage those who challenge you. Open your mind and embrace a discussion, but do not initiate this with an individual disinterested in such a discussion. This in my opinion is the best way to guide yourself through the overuse of PC in our world today.

Time and Place…

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^^^^ What I consider to be the top ten logical fallacies.

Again, thank you for reading! I love you all!

Pay Attention to the Facts not the Broken Glass

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The Micheal Brown case has found its verdict via a Grand Jury, and our police officer, Darren Wilson, was found innocent. Whether, the verdict is one of true justice or not could be heatedly debated for days, as I’m sure the protestors of Furgeson, MO would agree. Are the violent protests taking place right now justified? Probably not, but the use of a communities outcry of anger is not how we should be dictating our thoughts (strawman argument). However, if we are to find common ground and a resolution I wish people would acknowledge these simple truths;

Stupid

^^^^This is a classic example of the Straw Man logical fallacy.

Police brutality is, in fact, an ongoing problem in AMERICA, not just Furgeson, Mo. This affects all races, cultures, and creeds. You may also be allowing yourself to be disillusioned if you believe African American citizens are not targeted more that Caucasians with cases of brutality.

No one wants to be beaten by the people who swore to “Serve and Protect”. We have seen a huge online movement of cell phone videotaping of police officers to keep them honest. If you search for these videos you see people of all different races being improperly treated. The Furgeson family is trying to make a movement towards the accountability of officers who feel assault is a charge they are immune to. Regardless of their motivation and regardless of Micheal Brown’s guilt or innocence, the proposed solution of body cameras is a great one! This benefits everyone and could have far-reaching impacts on limiting abuse of power within the police force nationwide.

Rioting is by no means acceptable and only serves to destroy what you as a community member are a part of. This, however, does not mean that the protestors of Furgeson do not have a legitimate reason to feel anger. Using the terms black and white for comparison on riots are ridiculous, because white people have never rioted before right? This riot is an outpour of frustration, and the Michael Brown case was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” I must digress that there is no relevancy to his guilt or innocence rather a relative theme of distrust built around existing police brutality, profiling, and injustice.

Furthermore, if we don’t attempt to find common ground we will continuously stretch the racial divide in America further and further apart. We must look at the foundational issue before we address race. We must acknowledge this is an American citizen issue not an African American or Furgeson, MO. issue. If we can all agree there, then we can work toward understanding the smaller intricacies that lie within (such as race).

The moral of the story is if we do not seek to understand our fellow American citizens we are effectively destroying our country. We must unite as one in understanding that we all face different challenges and need to help one another through the extraordinarily complex web that is our social world. We do this by overlooking each other’s flaws and mistakes and see the real issue and offer help not resistance.

The Political Scapegoat of Minimum Wage

I don’t even know where to begin on this topic. I can tell you that I didn’t always feel this way, and it took time and research to see things in a different light. I get red in the face hearing people use military service members as a political ploy to argue things such as minimum wage. I am not discussing what military members get paid, and I am not entirely for raising minimum wage. I do, however, feel some things are being purposely left out for the sake of perpetuating propaganda. I am going to use a screen snapshot to highlight the main issues I have here.

.Jennifer

  • Comparing an hourly wage employee to a person being paid a salary is difficult to do from the start. (Hence it is so easy to skew this to either side) The factors that are very much different are as follows (I’m almost certain I’m leaving some out);
    • Medical/Dental benefits
      • Tricare (standard-prime)
      • Free (but limited) care for active-duty
    • Housing
      • Single BAH/Dependent BAH
      • Government Housing
    • Incentive Pay
      • Imminent Danger Pay
      • Combat Pay
      • Dive Pay
      • Jump Pay
      • Sea Duty Pay
      • Yearly pay increases
      • Enlistment and Re-enlistment Bonuses
    • Education
      • Tuition Assistance
      • G.I. Bill
  • The monthly pay increases over time for military members, and as of January 1, 2014 an E-1 gets paid $1,531.50 with less than 2 years of service according to the Defense Finance Accounting Service. Which means that per year for the first 2 years that E-1 makes $18,378.00 per year. The average minimum wage employee makes per year $15,080.00, according to the research done by UC Davis Center for Poverty Research. For that minimum wage employee there is no guarantee of getting that pay to increase either.
    • Note: The service member’s pay is only the base pay, and does not include all the aforementioned benefits and incentive pays. This doesn’t mean the individual will be able to take advantage of all of them, but it helps prove my point on complexity, as well as highlights many of the things a “McBurgerFlipper” is not afforded.
  • Another defining point is that many enlistees would be a minimum wage employee based upon their socioeconomic standing had they not joined the military. Due to economic stratification many individuals join the military to gain skills as well as an opportunity for a higher education which translates to upward mobility. Something that those working at a minimum wage job are typically not afforded the opportunity to receive either.
  • Just keep in mind the middle class can barely afford a college education and often lives with an inordinate amount of debt, and usually includes familial assistance. How can you tell someone of a very low economic class not to have minimal skills when many of them cannot afford to expand their knowledge or skill base in the first place. This personally makes me heated, because of the large amount of arrogance spewed by a woman who obviously enjoys white privilege, which like it or not plays a large role in upward mobility and economic standing.
  • The people able to join the military also had to have a means to do so in the first place. That means they had to have no children or have a way to have their children cared for until after boot camp. These individuals also had to meet certain medical requirements. They also had to be within a certain age range. Of course, this is only but a few of the factors that play a role in the reason as to why your “Baconator” isn’t in the military himself.

So ignoring the fact that comparing an active duty service member to a minimum wage employee is like comparing apples to oranges, don’t use us as your political scapegoat for the over generalization of such a complex socioeconomic issue such as this one. It only portrays you as someone with an inability to read more than the cover of a book.

Note: I do not necessarily believe raising the minimum wage will change anything. I also don’t believe service members get paid enough in imminent danger areas. I, also, realistically understand we can’t afford as a country to properly pay that amount anyways. I hope if this does nothing else it serves as a starting point for other to see past the top layer of dirt in this filthy fight for money.

The Unpopular Veteran

To get this blog started right, I will slap the core value of political correctness in America directly in the face. All of you need to stop thanking veterans and active duty military. I say this as a veteran, and someone tired of hearing you say it. Every time I hear the obligatory words, “Thank you for your service,” I cringe. I cringe because for every disingenuous thank you that you dispense, I have to say an equally meaningless and politically correct thank you. Although, as of late I have adopted a sarcastic, “thank you for paying your taxes,” response. The credit for that goes to an old friend named Christopher. Thank you itself only becomes useless because of the numerous times it is used. I will tell you now, I have never done a thing for this country, and patriotism was one of the least motivating factors to joining the military, as it is with many other veterans. Don’t get me wrong I love my country and I love the men I served with. I, however, refuse to lie to myself about the reasons for my service or act as if I deserve any thanks in the first place. There are plenty of military men and women in this country who deserve it, but the majority of the time you wouldn’t know who these individuals are. The fact of the matter is; we have allowed the pop-culture patriotic bandwagon to tumble out of control. We have effectively become the polar opposite society of the Vietnam era. We have retained the ability to distance ourselves from what service members have done and are going through, but instead of spitting in their face we hide behind a smile and a public courtesy.

I want to explain my position; I was a Navy Corpsman for 5 years. I served in clinical settings as well as operational settings. My first operation technically was and wasn’t a deployment, and my second was 8 months of movement from one country to another with no combat, some training, and some binge drinking. The biggest sacrifice I ever made for this country was my time, which is the standard minimum for anyone who serves. I was never shot at and no IEDs exploded even remotely close to me. I look back on my time in the military with a very confused euphoria. The service members I knew ran the gambit from angels to manipulative deviants. I knew some men worth every bit of a thank you and others I am ashamed wear the same cloth. This is indicative of the fact that this organization is made up of people, not robots, and not heroes. We are human and by association fallible.

We have a myriad of problems that arise with the broad use of the word hero. I want to make one thing perfectly clear; the term hero is a relative term and consequently involves a level of opinion, so feel free to tell me I’m wrong. When we blanket the entire military populace with the label hero we blindly state that everyone is noble and courageous within that institution. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics states that enlisted personnel as of June 2013 totals up to 1,162,185. Just from a probability standpoint we can obviously say that not everyone within the institution could embody characteristics that are meant to be a rarity and something to celebrate. This doesn’t mean we should disregard all members or label them useless, but rather tame the way in which we approach them, which I will go into more detail on later.

Of the many problems that arise from under the hero blanket is stolen valor. We so often have people who never served a day in the military claiming high honors and wearing the uniform improperly out in public for the hopes of a thank you and a free meal, or many other offers. This has become such an issue that we now have groups dedicated to the exposure of these frauds. One such group, Guardian of Valor, is starting to gain a large level of notoriety. Their “Hall of Shame” boasts 47 cases of proven stolen valor cases. This doesn’t include pending cases, and others they have yet to start. If we turn back the clock again to the Vietnam era I don’t see it being a popular decision to line up and make false claims of service.

On the flip side, I fear the potential that more and more of the younger generations entering our military are looking for nothing more than the prestige and a handshake for serving. The fear that the ones capable of entering the military doing it for no other reason than to appear to be a celebrity in small towns, and have a free meal when they wear their dress uniform. This from a personal perspective degrades the culture and professionalism I have come to love and respect about the military. It also concerns me from a commitment point of view. As I mentioned earlier we don’t always join the military with a sense of patriotic duty, but when our motivation is for limelight I fear this is a fleeting and diminishing ideal. Leaving those who join for this reason less committed and a bad apple in the basket. I have, unfortunately, witnessed two marines, one sergeant and one corporal, at a breakfast establishment late at night displeased and belligerently complaining about their meal not being free, while wearing their dress blues. This is exactly the kind of rude unprofessional behavior I fear will be an increasing trend with the continuation of such labeling.

I will reiterate the fact that heroes do exist in our military. They become that hero by their actions, whether that be in a singular instance or over an entire career. These men and women embody the very definition of a hero by those actions. This does not, however, make them perfect. Veterans and active duty military come from all walks of life and some are not even citizens. Many are escaping poverty, bad lifestyle, and the like. We are not infallible and may have done terrible things in our past. We can be called hero one minute then we can be destroyed by even the slightest mistake the next. Many of us did not join for a thank you or limelight, but rather a means of escape or maybe adventure.  We are human and merely ask to be allotted our mistakes just as many others are.

So you may or may not be onboard with me, but either way you’re done hearing me complain. I understand, however, don’t leave me just yet, I have a proposed solution. What if instead of saying, “thank you for your service,” ask something meaningful, such as; Whats your best story? Why did you join? Do you miss anything about it? Things you shouldn’t ask include; Did you kill anyone? Did you go to Afghanistan or Iraq (or any other combat zone)? Did any of your friends die? These questions can be painful and only illustrates a lack of caring for the individual. The individual you talk to will bring up these subjects if they deem it worthy or acceptable. I suggest engaging in a conversation with them. I must remind you that if you hear the same thing over and over again it loses its meaning, and the same goes for the person who vocalizes it. I understand that this sounds petty, and I should really let it go, but there is much more than a compliment that creates the issue. We hear, “thank you,” but so often are discriminated against or misunderstood. What if you, the employer, were to see past your misconceptions of post-traumatic stress disorder and realize our leadership skills? What if you, the anti-war guy, asked him about his thoughts on the war? What if you, the fellow drinker at the bar, just bought him a beer and talked about useless things? The biggest problem with being singled out is that no matter what your words say we are not considered to be a part of your society, we are an outsider. Whether it be good or bad, we have been isolated. Please see us as human beings, not a uniform, a hero, a killer, or a soldier.

Note: Everything I write is an opinion, and I in no way wish to discredit those who truly care. This is merely the rantings of a veteran offering a different perspective to the popular thought. I love my country, her people as a whole, and the veterans I have served with.

Introducing myself…

My name is Brian Laverentz, a mid-twenties college student and military veteran. I created this page with my new found enjoyment of writing mixed with my sarcastic out loud thoughts on the world I constantly am attempting to understand. I expect to at some point offend someone, but this is not my intention. I also expect that some of my thoughts may be wrong, just another drop in the bucket of wrong turns as far as I’m concerned. I am here to merely express my thoughts and search for truth. My writing may go from paragraph on top of paragraph to nothing more than a mere statement or quote. I wish to write as things come to me, and in the exact form by which they inspire me.