Friday, December 13, 2013

One Easy Way to Make Everyone's Commute Better

There's got to be a better way.

I think just about everyone from all walks of life can agree that there are too many idiot drivers on the roads these days. Many believe it is their God-given right to have a car and to use it no matter how poorly they drive. These people are wrong. We would all be much better off if there were less people on the roads. One way to do that would be to toughen the requirements to be a driver.

Some of you may still be on the fence about the bad effects all these cars on the road have on our quality of life. The abundance of motor vehicles leads to countless deaths every year in the United States: over 32,000. That makes it the leading cause of death due to injury (according to the CDC).

Also, according to the EPA, approximately half of all air pollution comes from motor vehicles. If that is still not enough evidence to convince you that motor vehicles are the devil, Americans owe over three quarters of a TRILLION dollars inauto loan debt. And, driving cars is associated with a sedentary lifestyle contributing to record obesity rates in the United States.

So, to summarize, our love affair with motor vehicles is leading to

  • Our death, through accidents
  • Poor air quality
  • Financial instability
  • Fat asses
Despite all of these negatives associated with driving, the majority of Americans still consider car ownership a necessity. What can be done to get them off the fossil fuel teet?

Courtesy of

What Can We Do to Improve Our Quality of Life

One solution to getting cars off the road is to make it incredibly hard to own a car. For one, we could raise the safety standards that potential car drivers must meet. The road tests could be more difficult. The written test could be harder to pass with tougher questions and a higher number of correct answers needed to pass. As it is, you can pass most states’ tests while still making errors that could kill someone down the road.

If the fees for obtaining and renewing a driver's licence were increased, it would become cost prohibitive for some. More people would reconsider driving. The surplus money collected from these fees could be funneled into subsidizing public transportation.

Finally, there need to be harsher penalties for people who break the law while driving. When you operate a motor vehicle, you are essentially moving around in a two-ton bullet. If someone misuses a gun, which has much smaller bullets, they lose their right to own a gun. That right is protected by the Constitution. You do not have the right to own a car.

I propose for “minor” offenses - not using a turn signal, speeding, running a pink light, etc. – that do not lead to accidents, there should be a one-year suspension for the driver and mandatory retesting. For worse offenses – driving under the influence, causing an accident, driving without a valid license, etc. – the penalty will be permanent suspension of driving privileges as well as jail time.

In summary, to decrease the number of drivers on the road, we should

  • Increase the difficulty of both driving and written tests
  • Increase the fees associated with obtaining and maintaining a driver’s license
  • Introduce much harsher penalties for unsafe driving
Courtesy of

What Fewer Drivers Will Look Like

The benefits will be many and profound for those motorists who are responsible enough to get and maintain a driver’s license. One of the more superficial benefits that will appeal to most of us is shorter commutes. This means more times with our families or World of Warcraft.

For those who are not privileged enough to procure a license, there will be public transportation, which will be getting much more funding and thus providing better services. When you are on the bus, subway, or train, you are free to read, surf the web, or just kick back and relax while someone else does the driving. You could also take up bicycling to work and crank out your workout during your commute.

By removing the more unsafe drivers, it stands to reason that there will be fewer accidents. Plus, those who are driving will drive safely and responsibly to keep their licenses. Darwin may get upset about this, but you know, the families of the potential innocent responsible folks who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time will be happy…or at least will not experience the pain that would have occurred. Or something.

With fewer cars on the roads, there would be less need for traffic cops. This will free the police up for going after the real criminals: pot smokers (kidding!)

Overall, with decreased motor vehicle usage, we will lead healthier, happier lives. With less pollutants clogging up the air, our air quality will improve. Hell, maybe cancer will be less common.

So, in summary, by reducing the number of drivers through increased restrictions and fees, we can expect:

  • Shorter commutes for drivers
  • Improved public transportation
  • More enjoyable commutes
  • Fewer accidents
  • More cops focusing on real crimes
  • Less pollution
If you disagree, please explain why. If you agree, please share this near and far.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Emerald City Roller Girls Donate $700 to Womenspace

The Emerald City Roller Girls chose Womenspace as their 2013 Charity of the Year.

The Emerald City Roller Girls donated $700 of its proceeds from the 2013 season to Womenspace, the “primary provider of intimate partner violence services.”

ECRG fiercely supports community involvement and giving back to local nonprofit organizations. ECRG chose Womenspace as its 2013 beneficiary after learning Womenspace had to close its walk-in services due to budget cuts earlier this year. In addition to providing financial support, ECRG also provided Womenspace with the opportunity to table at each of the bouts in 2013. You can learn more about Womenspace by visiting their website.

The Emerald City Roller Girls are busy training for the 2014 season. The season opener will be February 8th at the Lane Events Center. For the complete schedule, visit the ECRG website. Season tickets go on sale next month. Stay glued to the ECRG Facebook page for information on ticket sales. ECRG has not yet decided who will be their 2014 Charity of the Year.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Emerald City Junior Gems Open Registration to Boys

What Junior Gems being awesome may look like. Photo Credit: Jeff Boerio /

For the first time in Eugene/Springfield history, boys will have an opportunity to participate in junior roller derby. The Emerald City Junior Gems are opening up registration to boys ages 10-17 to play roller derby this season. This pilot project comes with support from various places from veteran Junior Gems all the way up to the greater trend of mutual support for co-ed derby from the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association and Men’s Roller Derby Association, governing bodies for their respective genders.

“We would like to invite boys to skate with the girls this year.  Our hope is that things will go smoothly, and we can grow the league to include boys permanently.   This is in the very beginning stages,” Junior Gems Director Cold Hard Crash said. “The only details we know for sure are that the boys will start in the modified division just like the girls and will have to be evaluated for skills and safety prior to moving into the full-contact division.”

The Emerald City Junior Gems are under the umbrella of the Emerald City Roller Girls. The Emerald City Roller Girls do not currently have an official place for men’s players, though they regularly practice, scrimmage, and bout with members of the Lane County Concussion men’s team. It is unclear what the Lane County Concussion’s involvement will be with the Junior Gems, though they have often lent a hand by officiating and helping out with Gems practices in the past. The inclusion of boys will likely lead to more Lane County Concussion volunteering in Junior Gems practices.

Registration takes place Monday, September 23rd at 5pm at Willamalane Center in Springfield and is open to all boys and girls ages 10-17 interested in playing roller derby. Skaters should be sure to arrive with skates, elbow pads, knee pads, wrist guards, helmets, and mouth guards. For more information, visit the Facebook event.

Monday, September 9, 2013

12 Reasons Why Quitting Facebook Was the Best Decision of My Life

I salute the red, white, and blue.

I offed myself in the social networking world. I justified spending hours on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. by insisting I needed to do it for my public relations work. But, one day, I noticed that the vast majority of my time was spent browsing inane minutiae. Half my interactions on Facebook were uncomfortable at best and paralyzingly depressing at worst. I also caught myself getting discouraged when various posts weren’t being viewed as much as I wanted. Who cares?

I decided to be done with the whole thing. And, life has been great ever since.

It took a little weaning. To me, all social media pales in comparison to Facebook, where I was most active. So, I was able to dump everything but Facebook cold turkey. With Facebook, for the first week, I vowed not to post anything at all. I deleted the Facebook app from my iPhone. Each morning, I would browse my notifications on my laptop then no more Facebook for the rest of the day. If I got messages, I’d try to move the conversation to email. If I didn’t have the person’s email address, I asked for it. I didn’t make a big fuss about quitting Facebook because I didn’t know if I could quit.

After making it a week, I knew I was in the clear. Using dry erase marker, I wrote “For a good time email jamesbrains55@gmail” on my bathroom wall. I took a picture of it and made it my Facebook profile picture hoping people would get the hint that email was the best was to contact me. I then privately bid adieu to Facebook.

After about a month away and many awkward conversations where people asked me about things they posted on my wall, I decided to officially announce my canning of Facebook.

“It's been about three weeks since I last used Facebook, and I think I'm going to continue to avoid it for many reasons. So, if you tried to contact me via Facebook or plan to do so in the future, you will not hear back from me. Instead, shoot me an email at”

I don't often let people use my bathroom, but when I do, I get emails about it.

People are very understanding. I think it may be because they secretly hope to do the same. It is a parasitic relationship Facebook has with us. It can’t live without sucking the life out of us.

I did not completely delete my Facebook account. I don’t believe in burning bridges. And, I’m lucky enough to have other people doing the social media work my public relations job requires. It’s nice.

Why My Life is Better

So, now that I’ve given you the how, let me tell you the why:

1. Face-to-Face Interaction is More Rewarding
When I communicate with people, I don’t have some Facebook status update in the back of my mind telling me what to talk to them about. I don’t have to feel like I’m making some faux pas for not having checked their Facebook profile before talking to them. The conversation can progress in a natural way with both parties communicating topics of interest. In essence, I’m getting my information in a much more interactive way.

2. Less Drama
The time between someone thinking something and then posting it on Facebook for the world to see is excruciatingly small for many people. Few people have a filter. Even fewer take the time to consider the consequences of posting various things. This leads to drama. I’m not into drama. It’s why I avoid “reality” television.

3. No Longer Bombarded with Stupidity
My wife is still on Facebook. She will be forever. And, she likes to show me various things she finds on Facebook. And, my reaction is always a sarcastic, “Wow, I really miss Facebook.” It just reinforces my reasons for leaving. I just can’t help but wonder about all of the awesome words on a picture I’m missing.

4. More Time to Do Things That Matter
I love writing, and I run two tiny blogs (Urinal Gum and Eating with Jerome and James). I have so much more time to generate content. I have more time to read books and news articles. I have more time to spend with my family. You may wonder how promoting my blogs works without social media. It’s a little bit harder. I promote subscribing to my blogs. And, if an article is truly good and worth sharing, then subscribers will share it. I’m really not too concerned about this.

5. Less Rubbing on Your Phone
On the hit comedy series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Dennis is messing with his new smart phone when the technologically clueless Frank snatches it from him saying, “What are you rubbing on your phone? Let me rub on it!” I bring this up because we all spend waaay too much time rubbing on our phones. “I need my happy buttons!” as Tom Green calls the phenomenon. Without the social media, it will be a lot easier for you to respect your time and others by putting the damn phone down.

6. You’ll Be Considered More Mysterious
It’s pretty rare these days, but we all know people who don’t use Facebook. They are intriguing in a way. It’s kind of like traveling to a remote jungle and discovering a new tribe. It’s much harder for people to learn about you without actually interacting with you.

7. Friends Will Be More Apt to Include You in Discrete Adventures
This one surprised me. These days, if you do anything noteworthy, it is photographed or videotaped and posted on social media within seconds. So, if you want to do more risqué, legally-questionable things, you don’t want people around who will be blabbing about it on the internet. You’d be surprised how many homeless people I’ve seen murdered in the last month.

8. One Can Live in the Moment (Instead of Living in the How the Facebook Crowd Will React to My Hilarious Update in the Future)
For a week or two after dropping Facebook, I had to deal with an odd reflex that tried to drive me to share particularly noteworthy events or thoughts on Facebook. “Oh man, that fat Hispanic woman licking ice cream off the pavement needs to be brought to the attention of Facebook!” Now, I just enjoy moments for what they are, and if I happen to remember it, I have an interesting anecdote to share with whomever I interact with thus making me a more rewarding person to talk to face-to-face.

9. Less Unpleasant Interactions
People can be real jerks over the computer. This isn’t a license for everyone to be mean. I’m just pointing out a psychological theory that the further away people are from each other, the easier it is to be a total ninny to them. I had a good friend say some rather hurtful things to me in a public arena. This could be avoided with face-to-face interaction.

10. Ability to Be a Self-Righteous Prick
Now that I don’t use Facebook, I can look down on people who do. As groups of people rub on their phones, I sit there enjoying a book or the pleasant coo of a pigeon. I smile at a baby. I can enjoy life without the parasitic social media sucking me dry. I am a better person for it.

11. Get News Delivered From Unbiased Sources
Based on some fact pulled directly from my butt, most Americans get their news from links posted on social media. These links typically come from very biased news sources and are accompanied by the sharer’s views on the topic. Wouldn’t it be nice to get your news without the bias? You can. I visit a variety of good news sites for this purpose: NPR, BBC, Salon, Fark, Slate, etc.

12. Less Incriminating/Embarrassing Things for Others to Dig Up
People have lost jobs because of things posted on social media. Your Facebook profile is even more likely to prevent you from landing a job. Why not keep your job while still living the life of a crazy son of a gun?

These are just a few of the positive ways in which my life has improved since leaving Facebook. Go ahead and share this article on Facebook and enjoy the civil, well-thought-out arguments your friends provide for why I’m wrong.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Letter to the National Security Agency

Why won't they acknowledge our friend Jack Turklesson's letter?

Recently, our friend Jack Turklesson wrote a letter to the National Security Agency. Here is the letter in its entirety (minus taint shots). As of press time, he has yet to hear back from them.

June 18, 2013

National Security Agency
9800 Savage Rd.
Fort Meade, MD 20755

Dear National Security Agency,

I recently learned about your spying program from arrogant people in the Guardian and the Washington Post. These articles stirred some strong emotions in me. Thank you for doing this to protect us from terrorists. Only through keeping a close eye on your own citizens are you able to stop terrorists. By my count, there has only been one successful terrorist attack on US soil since the Tragic Events of September 11th, 2000. That’s a 10,000% reduction in terrorism. And, even that thing in Boston is allowable because it needed to remind us that terrorism is still a real threat.

Now, the paranoid people out there think you are taking away Fourth Amendment rights. To them, I say: “What does it matter if you have nothing to hide?” To prove I have nothing to hide and to aid the NSA in their spying program, I am giving you the passwords to my email and my social media accounts:
  • My AOL email password is Ronald88Reagan.
  • My MySpace password is Prodigy5ux.
  • My Friendster account is LAWLZbbq2.
  • And, you can access my LiveJournal with 4321Password.
In addition to these passwords, I have enclosed naked pictures of myself, including taint shots, to prove I have absolutely nothing to hide.

I feel it is important to explain some things you may have seen while “datamining” my information.
  • My use of the phrase “that is the bomb” is not a reference to an explosive device. It is popular vernacular for “I approve of the quality of that.”
  • You may have also seen “I’d like to perform a terrorist attack on her!” This is not a reference to wanting to cause terror in anyone. It is just a particularly crude way of saying that a woman’s appearance aroused powerful feelings of lust within me.
  •  I may have also said, “Do you want to come over and smoke some marijuana?” This is not an invitation for cannabis use. Drugs are bad and illegal and wrong. I don’t do them. Drugs could ruin one’s ability to write meaningful letters. No, “smoke some marijuana” is code for “eat massive amounts of perfectly legal cheeseburgers.” My wife doesn’t like me eating a lot, so I have to use code when I want friends to come over to binge. I am very fat.
  • We use “having a safety meeting” to mean “smoke marijuana.”
  • Now, you may have read an email about destroying an abortion clinic. That email was pretty straight forward, but we aborted that before the planning stages. We found out my buddy’s daughter was teen pregnant and needed to visit the clinic. Woops. Either way, it would not be a terrorist attack because none of us are Muslim. We’re Christians. The attack would be “God’s Will.”
I hope the above clears some things up and makes your job easier. If I can ever be of assistance, do not hesitate to contact me (you have my contact info). I’m currently unemployed, so if you need me to fill any jobs for you, please contact me about that as well. As you can see, I already have a strong understanding of how the NSA works. I look forward to hearing from you.

Openly Yours,

Jack Turklesson

Sunday, June 23, 2013

ROLLER DERBY: Skatesaphrenics Slaughter Sick Town, 294-121

Medusa Harm graced the official bout poster.

The Emerald City Roller Girls’ travel-team Skatesaphrenics (ranked #67 in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association) were not supposed to play the Sick Town Derby Dames (#135) Saturday night. Originally, they were going to compete against the Bellingham Roller Betties (#97). But due to injuries and other conflicts, Bellingham only had six charter skaters available. Consequently, they put together a team of unchartered skaters to play Emerald City’s B-Ward in the opening bout Saturday night. A bout the B-Ward won 202-171.

The unsanctioned headlining bout was marked by the triumphant return of Phrenics’ Rex Havoc, one of the most feared blockers in the Northwest. This was Rex’s first travel team bout of 2013 after receiving shoulder surgery during the off season.

The Phrenics individually came in with a lot of experience with Sick Town. All three Emerald City home teams played Sick Town this season. The Andromedolls won 206-171 last weekend. In April, Church of Sk8in beat Sick Town 228-189. And in February, Emerald City’s 2013 Champion Flat Track Furies lost 188-145.

After a 2-0 jam, a costly cut major by Jala Pain Yo on the second jam of the bout gave Sick Town their first and biggest lead of the game 19-2. The lead didn’t last long as the Phrenics’ Medusa Harm tallied a 25-0 jam after Sick Town jammer Hot Boxxx picked up a cut. Medusa scored 51 of the Phrenics’ first 58 points before giving up the star for the night due to penalty trouble. Medusa was dominating with her blocking until she was ejected for an egregious high hit midway through the second half.

Sick Town clawed their way back with a 20-2 power jam by ILL-Ninja. Twelve minutes into the bout Sick Town led for the last time 39-34. Miss Kitty La Rue earned Sick Town’s first lead jammer nod of the bout on the following jam but was promptly whistled to the box for cutting. This allowed Medusa Harm to collect a 24-4 jam and give the Phrenics the lead for good. The Phrenics were masterful at getting lead collecting it 25 times to Sick Town’s 8. The Phrenics continued to build upon their lead going into the half up 130-61.

The Phrenics dominated the second half. In the first sixteen minutes, they outscored Sick Town 96-12 to put the game out of reach. In a game that featured ten jams of 20+ points, Sick Town’s jammer penalty trouble made the difference. Sick Town’s jammers were in the box for sixteen jams while the Phrenics were there eight. For the most part, the Phrenics’ offensive blockers engaged Sick Town blockers on the power jams. Phrenics’ blocker Coop de Grâce was dominant on the power jams using perfect timing to sweep away the Sick Town blockers leaving gaping holes for her jammers.

When the dust settled, the Phrenics proved to be the superior team, 294-121.

After the bout, Sick Town named Phrenics’ blocker Killin Sicilian the MVP of the bout. The Phrenics picked Stitches N Bones.

The Skatesaphrenics’ next travel to Boise, Idaho to play in the Spudtown Knockdown July 20th and 21st. Sick Town plays Lilac City on July 27th in Spokane, Wash.

For more coverage and pictures of this bout and the opening bout, visit Lane Today.

Jammer Stats

Emerald City’s Skatesaphrenics (Lead – Total – In Box – Points)
Jala Pain Yo (3 – 4 – 1 – 61)
Wonder Dread (8 – 11 – 0 – 56)
Medusa Harm (2 – 4 – 3 – 51)
Ogden (4 – 5 – 0 – 49)
Neel (2 – 3 – 2 – 39)
Psychotic Rage (3 – 6 – 1 – 24)
Rex Havoc (3 – 5 – 1 – 14)

Sick Town (Lead – Total – In Box – Points)
ILL-Ninja (2 – 13 – 7 – 55)
Stitches N Bones (1 – 6 – 2 – 26)
Miss Kitty La Rue (1 – 4 – 1 – 21)
HotBoxxx (2 – 4 – 2 – 12)
Syd Rock (2 – 8 – 2 – 7)
Swagger Jackie (0 – 5 – 2 – 0)

This recap is brought to you by cowbells. Cowbells: For when you absolutely must let everyone in the arena know who you are rooting for.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Social Conventions We Can Do Without

America uber alles.
To steal from Wikipedia, social conventions are “a set of agreed, stipulated, or generally-accepted standards, norms, social norms, or criteria, often taking the form of a custom.” In other words, it is stuff we do because everyone else is doing it. These conventions are generally steeped in tradition. And, often times, they are wasteful, harmful, and just plain stupid. Below are the ten worst social conventions scientifically ranked based on their wastefulness, harmfulness, and stupidity.

10. Those Tiny Little Lies We Tell Everyone

These are the canned responses we blurt out many times a day without thinking. “I’m fine.” “You’re not fat.” “No, I really am interested in your dream.” Etc. We do this to make interactions go more smoothly. If we aren’t “fine,” then we need to go into great detail about why we are not. Anorexia is propagated by our inability to tell people they are fat. We tell everyone from the obese to the super skinny that they are not fat. It is an obvious lie for the obese, but those suffering from anorexia cannot tell if it is a lie when applied to them. This, of course, is not the only factor leading to anorexia, but our inability to be honest about our bodies certainly does not help.

9. We Must All Dress Nice for This Funeral, Wedding, Bris
This is never appropriate attire no matter how comfortable you may be.
Here, in Eugene, we’ve moved on from this convention. At any given event, one sees the entire spectrum of casual-to-formal wear, from the banana hammock (only kind-of kidding) to the three-piece suit. But, elsewhere, there is the expectation that we honor those who have died, married, or had the tip of their penis lopped off by wearing incredibly uncomfortable clothing. Let us dress as comfortably as we’d like, and we won’t rush off after the ceremony.

8. Not Taking the Last Deviled Egg

At any social gathering where food is offered, we see these sad platters with only one food item left on them. Take it! Don’t let the food go to waste! There are starving children in Africa! If it helps, psychology studies show the alpha male is usually the one who takes the last food item on a tray.

7. Awkward Hand Gestures
This hand gesture required zero synchronization with a second person.
It used to be that the simple hand shake with a firm grip was the standard. Nowadays, it’s a bit more complicated. There are way too many variants of hand gestures that require both parties be on the same page to pull it off. And, both parties are rarely on the same page. We can’t even do the hand shake right these days. Half the time, some guy squeezes the ends of our fingers. Maybe that’s an alpha male thing too. Perhaps, we should just stick with saying “hi” and not touching.

6. False Chivalry

We’re going to focus on holding doors here because that is where we encounter the most stupidity, but there are other acts of pseudo-chivalry that just as easily follow this pattern. With door holding, if there is anyone within fifteen feet of us when we open a door, we are almost expected to hold it for them. This holds true even when the doorholder has her hands full and is 87 years old and the physically-capable “holdee” has both hands free. Half the time, the doorholder is on his phone or otherwise preoccupied, and he will block the entrance into the building through his “chivalrous” act. Let’s keep the door holding to situations where it is actually needed.

5. Expected Pleasantries: Thanks Yous, Happy Birthdays, etc.

On one’s birthday, we are expected to say happy birthday. If someone does something, no matter how small, we say thank you. Both of these gestures have lost all meaning. We say happy birthday to companies now. We thank cashiers for selling us things. We do these things because there are guilt mongers out there who will attempt to make us feel like crap if we don’t engage in these trivial acts. Avoid these people! And, avoid thanking someone or wishing them a happy birthday out of obligation! Only do it when truly moved to do so!

4. “God Bless You”

When someone sneezes, we are expected to acknowledge it. This is an archaic practice based on superstition. But, let’s humor the “God bless you” for a moment here. For the sake of argument, let’s imagine there is a God. There are people working their asses off to help the poor and needy who are rarely offered a “God bless you” for their work. Why do we give the fat slob double-fisting Big Macs and contributing nothing to society a blessing from God for merely sneezing?

3. The Playing of the Star-Spangled Banner before Events

We perform the Star-Spangled Banner before events to promote nationalism. It’s to beat the drum of America uber alles. It’s to program us to mindlessly follow the crowd. And, if we don’t stand up and remove our hats for this ritual, we are vile scum of the earth…and not citizens of a free country enjoying said freedom.

2. Gift-Giving Events

This is so entrenched in our society that it is unlikely to go away anytime soon. Around Christmastime or birthdays, we give thoughtless,obligatory gifts to loved ones and acquaintances alike because that’s what we’re supposed to do. We get stressed out about it. Only a small fraction of the gifts we get are useful to us. The rest is waste. The wrapping paper is waste. The mass-produced greeting cards are a waste. If we are truly moved to give a gift to someone, why not just give it to them regardless of the time of year? If we can’t think of something to get someone, don’t get them anything. Spend some time with them instead. We’ve shit on this planet enough: we don’t need to continue with this insane parade of wastefulness.

1. Tipping

Tips exist to keep employers from having to pay their workers a living wage. Let’s get rid of tips and increase the pay and benefits for service workers. Sure, this will lead to increased prices, but it evens out. “But, what incentive will servers have to provide good service?” They’ll have the same incentives the rest of us have: taking pride in our work and wanting to keep our jobs or get promoted. Unfortunately, this is not a practice that one person can act on alone.  Do not stiff the waiters!

What social conventions annoy you? Please share below.