Cone Shell High

The three teenage girls walked together along the west Florida beach, combing the strip of sea shell littered sand between the placid Gulf and the palm trees on the sand dunes behind them. They had just left school for the day and gossiped amongst themselves as their eyes scanned the flotsam left by the tide.

"Is this one?" asked Camille, stooping over a multi-colored, fist-sized conical shell in a shallow tide pool.

Beth stooped to look as well and then glanced at the image printed on a piece of paper in her hand. "That looks like it," Beth reported.

Camille carefully picked up the shell and said to the moist slug that occupied it, "Hi, guy. You wanna get me high?"

Beth and Caroline laughed.

"Put it in the bag," Caroline commanded, holding open a plastic grocery bag into which Camille deposited her shell. "Don't get stung before we find a couple more for me and Beth."

"Beth and I," Beth corrected her.

"Actually, I think 'me and Beth' is right," Camille said.

"Whatever," Beth said, making a dismissive gesture with her hand. "Fuck English, let's get fucked up."

A few yards further down the beach, Caroline found another cone shell similar in size and appearance to Camille's and tossed it in the bag. It took longer for Beth to find an appropriate shell. She picked up several but found them all empty. Eventually, she plucked one off the side of a rock. It was smaller than the shells the other girls had found, but it had a creature in it.

"The shape is right," she said, comparing it with the two snail shells already in the bag. "But it's colored differently."

The other two girls compared and contrasted. "Kathy in first period said the color can be way different," Camille said. "I'm sure it's a Magician. It says those are the most common around here."

"It's so funny they call them Magician snails," Caroline commented.

"Magician cones," Beth said. "Alright, let's find a place to commune with the little buggers."

The girls jogged up to the dunes where Caroline took three beach towels from her backpack and laid them out in the shade of a palm tree, forming a triangle with a patch of sand in the center.

"How long does it last?" Caroline asked the other girls, glancing at the sun, still fairly high in the sky.

"Kathy said it acts fast and lasts about an hour," Camille said. "We should be able to walk home before dark."

Caroline dumped the three shells from the plastic bag onto the patch of sand and the girls each sat down on one of the towels, facing each other.

"How do we make them sting us?" Beth asked.

Camille replied, "I think you just hold one in your hand and poke it until it gets mad and stings you." She picked up the shell she had found and the other two girls followed suit, mimicking her actions. She held the mollusc on the palm of her left hand and began poking at its short pink probiscis. As she did so, the snail tipped back its shell slightly and a tiny whiplike appended flicked out from the underside of the shell.

"I think it got me," Camille said, looking at the other girls. "Oh, yeah...it got me," she said. The snail fell from her hand and Camille's eyes rolled back in their sockets as she fell sideways onto her beach towel.

"Mine too," said Caroline, also succumbing a couple of seconds later.

Beth had more difficulty getting her snail to react to her poking and prodding. "C'mon you little dick," she said as she grew increasingly frustrated. She looked at her two friends who lay beside her with slight smiles on their faces, their eyes glazed over and seeming to stare at the palm fronds overhead. "Don't leave me hanging."

Caroline awoke from her trance first and slowly pushed herself to a sitting position. "Wow, that was freaky," she said as Camille showed signs of consciousness.

"My skin feels tingly," Camille said. "Like pins and needles."

"I was like fully aware the whole time but like totally paralyzed and feeling nothing," Caroline said.

"Yeah. I could see like every little detail of the palm leaves, but it was almost like I was floating and I had no body," Camille said. "I had no feeling. It was awesome."

"You want to go again?" Caroline asked.

"Totally," Camille replied. "Let's wait for Beth to wake up."

The two girls looked at Beth lying on her towel.

"Oh my God, Beth!" cried Caroline, pushing herself toward her prostrate friend.

Beth's lips were blue and she was trembling slightly. Her face bore a terrified expression and her eyes bulged from their sockets, the whites heavily bloodshot.

"She doesn't look good," Camille said.

"No shit," Caroline said. "What do we do?"

"Is she breathing?" Camille asked.

Caroline lowered her cheek to Beth's partly open lips and felt no air movement.

"I don't think so," she said.

Camille grasped Beth's forearm and placed a finger on her wrist. "I feel a pulse, but it's weak," she said. "We should call for help."

"I'll call 911," Caroline said, fumbling for her smart phone in her pocket. "Should we give her CPR or something?"

Camille put her lips to Beth's and gently blew. Beth's chest rose as air filled her lungs...

"Is my daughter alright?" Maude, Beth's mom, asked the doctor in the ER.

"She'll live," the doctor said. "But you can't cure stupid."

"What happened?" Maude asked.

"It's some new teen craze," the doctor replied. "We've seen a handful of these cases over the past few weeks. The kids sting thenselves with a type of venemous cone shell - an invasive species from Australia - and it knocks them out in a sort of catatonic state. Not usually lethal unless they get a big dose of venom."

"My daughter did that?" Maude asked. "My Beth?"

"Tried to, according to her friends," the doctor replied. "It looks like she might have confused the Australian snail for our much more poisonous native species. That one is pretty rare but can be easily confused with the Magician cone - that's the one the kids are getting their kicks on."

Unsolicited Advice for Hillary Clinton

Does Hillary Clinton know that her favored suit style is very "Dr. Evil-ish?" Yes, even the red ones.

I think she should consider not wearing these particular cuts.


Just my $0.02 cents.

An Open Letter to the Noobs

The school year is about to begin at the University of Wisconsin - Madison and new faces, most of them fresh out of high school, are appearing in Madison for the first time. The newbies (noobs) are likely to be overwhelmed at first and it will take them a little while to get the swing of things.

For example, bicyclists rule on Madison streets. If you are a noob from somewhere bicycle unfriendly that lacks a bike culture and doesn't have bike lanes all over the place, learn this fast and pay attention while driving or you might be a victim of the infamous "Psycho Biker Bitch." If she catches you violating the rules of the road or the absolute rights of cyclists, you will be pooping out of the new asshole she rips you.

It's OK to be a noob. We all have to start somewhere. But don't be a douchy noob thinking you are better than everyone in your noobish way of doing things, because that will very rarely be true and everyone hates an arrogant noob. If you are a brand spanking new college student, be humble and accept that you have a lot to learn, not only about Madison, but about life. College is the transition period between your sheltered adolescence and the brutality of the real world. Embrace and absorb new knowledge. Take your lumps when necessary and learn from them.

I was a noob in Madison once. When I first arrived here, I accidentally rode my bicycle in the pedestrian lane of the bike path through campus and a little old lady wagged her finger at me so sternly that I think she inflamed her arthritis.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin's Anti-Homeless Campaign is Solution Worse Than Problem Claims Public

At about 7 PM on Tuesday August 16, a swarm of riot gear-clad Madison police officers descended on State Street in the vicinity of Elizabeth Link Peace Park, closing off a section of Gilman Street for over 30 minutes, snarling traffic and drawing a huge crowd of gawkers to the area.

What was the great emergency that drew this massive fire power to the bustling downtown of shops, restaurants, and boutiques? Hard to tell if you scan the police blotters from around that time, since there is nothing there.

In fact, there was no emergency at all.The police were implementing a city ordinance authored by Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and endorsed by the City Council to ban homeless people from an eight block radius around the State Capital, sources told me. Peace Park is a popular area for the homeless to congregate that is within that radius.

The excessive use of police power to disperse the usually passive homeless in the area was met with derision by local residents, pedestrians, and drivers who were trapped in the cordoned area, some of whom believed there was a real emergency and were panicked, only to discover the threat was virtually non-existent. In fact, the homeless in the area were also terrified (and there can be no question that this action constituted terrorism by police, considering many homeless consider Peace Park their "home"), which apparently caused one or more homeless individuals to resist the police.

While the police may use this resistance to justify their massive show of force, it is certain there would have been no resistance had the police not descended on the area the way they did. There are more constructive ways to encourage the homeless to move elsewhere that are less traumatizing to citizens. Furthermore, using over two dozen police officers to handle such a minor thing as the presence of homeless people means these officers were not available to respond to real crimes elsewhere in the city. The resultant snarling of traffic in the downtown led to accidents and disgruntled drivers.

Clearly, Mayor Soglin's solution to the homelessness problem, as exercised to date, causes far more problems than it solves. The terrorizing of homeless people in downtown Madison has forced some homeless into surrounding neighborhoods that did not have many homeless people before, potentially increasing the risk of homeless related crimes and pan-handling in those neighborhoods. Many have noticed the increase in pan-handlers at busy intersections in outlying areas that did not exist before, yet the Madison police completely ignore these individuals (notwithstanding city ordinances that ban pan-handling). It is this kind of behavior by police and the city that breeds public resentment for cops and politicians. I hope Madison policy makers rethink their current strategy, otherwise incumbents are likely to be voted out come November.

Troy

The Trojan brand of condoms is a bit of an irony when you think about it, which is probably why you shouldn't.

As I understand the history of Western Civilization, the Greeks attacking Troy hid themselves inside an enticing wooden horse and once the city took it inside their walls, the Greek soldiers burst out of the horse and sacked the city.

The condom branding metaphor suggests that while Trojan condoms appear safe, they may actually be deceptively leaky.

Disdain

I met a fellow Uber driver in the cell phone lot of the airport the other day. He was complaining to me about an unruly passenger he had had the night before.

"She wanted me to put on the radio," he said. "I was like...no way! I didn't invest $300 for Sirius [satellite radio] to put on the radio."

That's when I realized he held nothing but disdain and contempt for Uber passengers. He went on to complain that his driver rating was low and he didn't know why.

I knew why.

When I Uber, I treat my passengers with respect and try to accommodate their needs as best I can. I drive Uber to help people get where they need to go. I keep my car clean. I assist with lifting bags for people going to the airport or coming back from shopping. If they prefer to get to their destination via an alternate route, I am fine with it. I offer bottled water and peppermints as a convenience. I definitely have no problem with requests for music on the radio.

Uber driving is basically a small business of one. I registered myself as a limited liability company in Wisconsin (Uberman LLC) mainly for legal and tax reasons, but the success of any small business franchise depends on customer satisfaction. Happy Uber customers will use the rideshare service again and even though they will probably have a different Uber driver next time they use it, everyone benefits from a satisfied customer base. Alienating customers may push them toward competing entities (such as Lyft or taxi cabs). Uber's business model is based on giving greater customer satisfaction at a reduced cost with greater convenience compared with other options. All Uber drivers should take this to heart. If they don't, they shouldn't drive for Uber and they'll get lower ratings from customers that may ultimately result in their being disenfranchised from Uber driving entirely (that's the value of Uber's rating system). I seldom have a "bad" passenger that I have to give a low rating to. Most are super nice. Many are talkative. Some are quiet. 5 star ratings are the norm for my passengers. My passengers seem to give me high marks as well. Rare is the rude or unruly passenger that I have to rate low.

I don't often take Uber as a passenger myself, but when I am driving, I try to always think about how I'd want the experience to be if I were reliant on rideshare to get around. I'd want it to be as pleasant and stress free as possible, definitely not adversarial. The bottled water and mints I offer as free perks cost me almost nothing compared to what I make Ubering and most passengers don't even partake of these offerings. The advantages of being nice to people far outweigh those of being a selfish dick. I wish more people understood this because the world would be a much better place.

What Most People Aren't Getting About Donald Trump

People like to say, "If Donald Trump gets elected, we are doomed." Let me tell you something. America was doomed long before Donald Trump. Trump is just the byproduct of many years of slow, creeping destruction perpetrated by corporatist oligarchs and an irresponsible corporate mainstream media. The system is actually responding the way it was designed to. This is exactly what you should expect when you dismantle public infrastructure and education. People get dumb, then they get angry, and dumb angry people make bad decisions.

So the piper is now being paid. The chickens are coming home to roost. Other cliches.

I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but Donald Trump is going to beat Hillary Clinton in November. The DNC betrayed true progressive Democrats by coronating corporatist neoliberal Hillary Clinton, against the will of the people. Some of these people won't vote. Others will vote 3rd party. Some may write in "Bernie Sanders." Many will vote for Clinton, even as the "lesser of two evils." But there are enough of butt hurt Bernie voters to significantly lower Clinton's chances of beating Trump.

The two party system's drawbacks will become very apparent after the November election.

A friend of mine recently had this to say: "I have been voting for the lesser of two evils in every election for 20 years, and what has it ever gotten me?" That's a common feeling. People can only be lied to so much. They do what they are supposed to and reap none of the promised rewards. So why would you expect them to do anything other than say, "Fuck it!" in this election?

In a rational, reality-based world, Clinton should crush a buffoon like Trump in a landslide. But we live in a fabricated reality TV world where belief drives behavior, not facts. Consider that the measles virus has had a resurgence because a handful of people, some of them college educated, believed (against all evidence to the contrary) that vaccines cause autism and harm kids. It's irrational behavior. But that's the world we live in now. Donald Trump will destroy that world, but make no mistake...it's already a fucked world.

"Live life like you're gonna die...cuz you're gonna." -Ben Folds/William Shatner